Thursday, June 28, 2012

Flash Fiction Challenge: Shine On You Crazy Diamond

This week I am participating in Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction challenge. It is awesome, and you can find the details here.

Without further ado, here is the story:

Shine On, You Crazy Diamond

Wanking Caffeine?”
“Yep.” I said, tuning my Fender.
“But, uh, shouldn’t you, uh, you know, name the band something more…” Jake paused. “Something different?”
“Like what?” For now, the amphitheater was empty. No one in the seats except ghosts.
“Anything. Anything more than ‘Wanking Caffeine’.”
I picked out the opening notes to “Shine On You Crazy Diamond.” David Gilmour was some serious shit.
He stepped in front of me. “I knew you weren’t going to the funeral, but you could have gone to the memorial service.”
Jake could be a real ass.
“Or the viewing at least.”
I didn’t need to go to the viewing. I already knew what Daniel had looked like.
 “I mean, what does that even mean? ‘Wanking Caffeine.’ Is that some kind of joke? It’s a joke, isn’t it?”
“You want our band named after a joke? After everything that’s happened?”
I’d read in some book somewhere that in “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”, David Gilmour got sadness down in four notes. Almost four minutes into the song you could hear it clearly: B flat, F, G, E.
“Everyone at the service said he was a great guy. I thought you should know that. They weren’t just being nice, either, I could tell. He was honestly one of those people everyone got along with.”
Now that I’d read that, I couldn’t get it out of my head. I strummed each note, B flat, F, G, E.
“You’re being completely unreasonable. Completely and utterly.”
B flat, F, G, E.
“We’re about to play the big time, for crissakes.”
B flat, F, G, E.
“I thought you wanted our band to be taken seriously. We can’t be taken seriously with a band named ‘Wanking Caffeine.’ There’s just no way. None. No way at all.”
B flat, F, G, E, and now the rest of the band would come in. Back up guitar, synthesizer, and drums if Jake wasn’t currently wanking caffeine himself. The entire time, that four note theme playing over and over.
Jake sighed. He picked up his drumsticks. “Wanking Caffeine?”
“Wanking Caffeine,” I said.
“Are you at least going to tell me what it means?”
“Maybe someday.” I smiled.
“Remember when you were young,” I sang, “You shone like the sun. Shine on you crazy diamond.”

***Special Note: The book mentioned is called Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly. It just didn't fit to put it in the flash fiction, but I still wanted to give Ms. Donnelly credit where credit is due.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Ever-Popular Rewrite Playlist

So it's that time again folks. 

Yes, the time where I go into a second or third draft and completely rewrite the entire thing. Why? Because I am a masochist, that's why.  No really, I must hate myself.

Really it's because I've finished revision and it's actually better to rewrite it than to try and add in and take out all the stuff. This is probably the third complete rewrite I am about to embark on, and I am noticing a disturbing pattern. Hold me.

Last night, while my brain was doing it's normal "NOOOOOO" panic attack, I thought about Libba Bray's Ever-Popular I Suck Playlist and figured rewriting would make a good addendum to that post. So here it is. If the stages your brain goes through when you're about to embark on a major revision/rewrite was a playlist, this is what it would look like:

Playlist Titled: Why I Am I Putting Myself Through This Again?

1. It's Time to Rewrite the Book, Hide the Gun
2. Maybe This Time It Will Be Better
3. It's Not Better; It's Worse
4. Why, God, Why? (stuck on repeat one)
5. Maybe I Should Write Something Else
6. OMG I Have the Best Idea for the Rewrite!
7. Happy Dance
8. It's Not Better; It's Worse (DJ Sally Remix)
9. Shiny New Idea Syndrome Breakdown
10. Maybe I Should Write Something Else, Part Two
11. No, Really, I Should Leave This Book Out In the Cold to Die (of Exposure)
12. Major Breakthrough Anthum
13. It's Not Better; It's Worse (Special Duet with Crit Partner Who is ALSO Rewriting)
14. The Internet Has the Answer
15. The Internet Does Not Have the Answer--Oh Look, Twitter
16. Where's the Chocolate?
Hidden Track: If I Hide Under My Desk Maybe the Book Can't Find Me

So that's going to be on my iTunes the next couple of months.

How about you? Any new tracks to add to the Revision/Rewrite Playlist?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Guest Post: Charity Bradford on How to Get Blog Followers

Back in December, I asked my friends if they wanted to write guest blog posts for me while I was busy giving birth. Charity very kindly stepped up to the plate. She's a wonderful person and one of the first people who followed me on this here blog. If you're not following her yet, I highly suggest you check her out. I loaded her post into my queue.

I then went into the hospital to have my baby, and hasn't slowed down since. I just checked my archives and realized this has yet to go live. It's a shame, because this is an awesome post. So now I give unto you: 

 How to get blog followers

How do I get more followers?

Here's my first piece of advice--
Stop stressing about the number of followers you have. Yeah, I know. Considering I just had a 500+ giveaway makes me sound like a hypocrite. Watching the numbers go up is a form of validation.

And we all need that, but I'll let you in on a little secret--I was looking for an excuse to give away some books. And hitting a milestone seemed like a good excuse.

And the slightly crazy side of me really needed the likes to match up with the follows. 500 and 100 look so much nicer together than 500 and 63. You know what I mean?

However, you'll drive yourself crazy if the numbers is the only thing you concentrate on with your blog.

There are lots of posts out there that talk about ways to pull in followers, but I'm just going to talk about the three things that have helped me get followers.

1. Know your purpose as a blogger. This will help you know your audience. For example, my blog is about my writing journey. I talk about what I'm learning about the writing craft and industry, share story bits, review books, and interview other writers. My purpose is to learn and grow in the area of writing. My audience is me, and people like me.

2. Find similar blogs that you will enjoy reading and follow them. Once you follow make thoughtful comments. Participate in the discussions on those blogs. People will notice you and visit your blog to learn more about you.

And yes, I'm getting a D- in this area right now, but I hope to do better soon. Don't give up on me yet.

3. Participate in blogging events that are relevant to your blog content. For me, this means writing blogfests. Over the summer I didn't participate and my numbers stayed the same. Now that I'm getting involved in the social aspect of blogging, my numbers have started going up again. And you know what? I've met some new people that I have a lot in common with.

Just make sure you don't get so involved that you stop writing. You know that WIP or project that you started a while back?

That's it really. There are a few cautions that will help you along this path.
1. Be patient. Followers will come--and go. It doesn't mean you aren't a great blogger. Life is just that way.

2. Be as positive as possible. Don't bash people in the industry or other bloggers. Remember that what you post is out there for all the world to see.

3. Don't kill yourself trying to do it all. For most of us, blogging is not a paying job. You can't comment on every blog. You can't read every blog. I schedule time to write my blogs (usually a weeks worth at a time) and to scan the blogs in my google reader. Although I can't comment on each blog I follow every day, I do scan them. (Think 200+ blogs a day and you'll see why scanning is the only option.) When a post really speaks to me, I make a point to click over and comment. I wish I could comment more, but I've learned it isn't possible.

Remember, as wonderful as blogging is, the one thing that will improve your writing the most is living life.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Kindness Project: The Kindness of Strangers

 About The Kindness Project
Too often kindness is relegated to a random act performed only when we’re feeling good.  But an even greater kindness (to ourselves and others) occurs when we reach out even when we aren't feeling entirely whole . It’s not easy, and no one is perfect. But we’ve decided it’s not impossible to brighten the world one smile, one kind word, one blog post at a time. To that end, a few of us writers have established The Kindness Project, starting with a series of inspirational posts.

The other day my friend Liz told me about the Kindness Project, and it seemed like the universe answering a question I hadn't yet asked out loud. I knew I had to join.

Because lately I've been thinking about how even small things make a big difference. On the Internet, it's really easy to forget how many people you come in contact with every day. I don't usually think about how my actions affect other people, but I've certainly noticed how other people's actions affect mine.

For example, I read The Bloggess's blog and bought her book. It's funny and sad and awesome. You should read it. I follow her on Twitter, and occasionally reply to her tweets. A few weeks ago, she started to follow me. I was blown away. One of my writing heroes was following little old me on Twitter.

Then just Sunday, I posted a comment on James Scott Bell's blog asking about writing a road trip novel. He very kindly replied within a few hours, despite his ridiculously busy schedule. I've been through Plot and Structure so many times I've had to buy a second copy, and my copy of Conflict and Suspense is already showing the love. It meant a lot to me, that another one of my personal heroes took the time to reply to my question.

These are just two very small examples of how a small thing can have a big impact. I am sure both The Bloggess and Mr. Bell see themselves as regular people going through their daily motions. I'm sure they didn't know how highly I think of them, considering I try to keep my Internet stalking to a bare minimum. But that small gesture completely made my day. 

I've got to be honest here. Most of the time I don't consider my Internet dealings as a big deal. I am just a tiny, tiny fish in a very big ocean. I send out my tweets and posts because I enjoy doing those things, but I assume that they're going to be largely unread. When I read a blog post, and see that fifteen people have already commented, I think my own comment isn't that important. 

But I'm wrong.

When people leave comments on my posts, it makes me inordinately happy, so why wouldn't the reciprocal be true? It does matter, and for me to assume that it doesn't...well, that's just sad when I really think about it. Words and actions have power, and mine are no different. In fact, part of the reason why I am a writer is because I believe words have power.

From now on I'm going to be more mindful of my actions, and I hope you will too. You never know what something might mean to another person, and after all, isn't that why we're on the Internet? To make a connection?

Please check out the other wonderful people in this blog chain and spread the word. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Avatar: The Last Airbender vs. Legend of Korra

I am just going to come out and say it: Avatar the Last Airbender is one of the most tightly written TV shows I've ever seen. EVER. 

Quick explanation: Avatar is set in a world where people can "bend" the four elements (water, earth, fire, air)...

You know what? Just watch the opening intro. It explains everything. Plus, PICTURES!

Spoiler: the Avatar was reborn into the Air Nomads. He gets frozen in an iceberg for 100 years. He wakes up to discover the Fire Nation at war with the rest of the world, and all of the Air Nomads dead at the Fire Nation's hands. They were trying to find the Avatar.

Talk about a bad morning.

The series is about Aang trying to master all four elements and defeat the Fire Lord. Awesomeness ensues. 

Okay, so now you're with me. We can proceed.  

The show writers consistently produce high quality episodes. Even the so called "filler" episodes advanced the main plot or a subplot in some way. From the very first episode of The Last Airbender, you can tell they had their end game in sight. Prince Zuko's character arc is still my all time favorite in anything. Ever.

So when the show writers announced they would be doing a sequel of sorts, centered on the next Avatar called the Legend of Korra, I was elated yet frightened. I've been burned before, and I wondered how they could possibly write a sequel and still do the original show justice.

My husband and I have watched all the current episodes of the Legend of Korra.

Here are my thoughts:


Korra does an excellent job in the first episode of quickly establishing how this series is going to be the same, and how it's going to be different. The Order of the White Lotus, a callback from Airbender, find Korra in the southern water tribe. She's bending earth, fire, and water as a toddler, so there's no doubt she's the next avatar. From the opening intro we're told "Avatar Aang's time came to an end", but before that, he and Fire Lord Zuko brought the four nations together and founded the United Republic of Nations.

We also see Airbender Tenzin, Katara and Aang's son. He arrives on a sky bison (unnamed, so probably not Appa) with three kids who are all airbending, and his pregnant wife.

So, that answers some questions, mostly about the airbenders. 

See, an earth bender never gives birth to a water bender, so with Aang being the last airbender it is up to him to single-handedly repopulate the airbenders. Bending isn't directly genetic either, so it's a good thing Aang and Katara had an airbender, and that Tenzin is having lots of airbenders himself. I'd wondered after the Last Airbender ended what would happen if the last air bender died. The avatar cycle would be broken, because the next time the avatar was supposed to be an airbender, there would be no airbending TO be born into. 


This setting is very different from Last Airbender, and I at once love and dislike it. I love the setting in general. LOVE IT. It's very steampunk, and reminds me of the roaring 20's. There's radios and cars and a professional sport in bending. It's awesome. It's fantasy and urban and the art style is gorgeous. 

That said, I'd prefer it if they'd kept the setting a little more fantastical for Avatar. One of my favorite things about The Last Airbender was the setting. It wasn't pseudo-medieval Europe (or pseudo-feudal Japan), but there wasn't a bunch of high tec gadgets either. It was one of the best high fantasy settings I'd run across.

Legend of Korra goes the urban fantasy route. I know it sounds like hypocrisy, coming from the urban fantasy author. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE the setting they've created. I just preferred the other setting for Avatar. But that's just my preference. The setting doesn't ruin the series, and in fact brings an interesting angle to the show.

*The demographic:

Legend of Korra is definitely for older viewers and I love it. They took some of their more adult concepts of The Last Airbender (*coughcough* blood bending anyone?) and ran with them. I love it.

*The Avatar State:

I am sort of disappointed Korra is having a hard time accessing the Avatar State. I think the writers have it this way because there's a secret with Aang that they don't want to reveal, but my favorite part of Avatar is Aang dealing with the spirits and the Avatar state. Seriously, every time there was something with the Avatar state in The Last Airbender I got goosebumps.

I also wish they would deal with the Avatar more during peacetime. See, the Last Airbender deals with Aang trying to bring peace to the world. I've always thought it would be cool to see an Avatar in action during peace time, acting as a bridge between the spirit world and their world. 

Korra both shows us what it might be like, and not. There's a lot of politics involved, and dealing with an anti-bending movement, which is pure genius. I love the politics and the vision of what it would be like to deal with bending of all sorts living together. 

There's not a lot of Avatar mediating yet, so I am waiting to see what's going to happen.

They've done an excellent job so far. I love how it's both it's own show as well as a sequel to the original show. 

What do you think?  

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

When Zombies Really Aren't About Zombies

I am currently slogging through my zombie book. It's been like threading a lemur through a needle. And the lemur is hopped up on cough medicine. I kept trying to up the ante, to increase stakes, but it all felt boring. What's the world coming to when zombies feel boring?

Until I had an epiphany.  Zombies were boring because after the first encounter, it was more of the same. I mean, sure, the characters were worried about dying, but a constant "Oh crap we're going to die" gets stale, quick. It seems like it should be exciting, but in reality it's repetition.

I started to think about the zombie books I'd read, and the movies I'd seen. I realized that zombies were part of the initial conflict, yes, but they existed more as a setting conflict. Zombies caused conflict in the same way a character in a war zone was in conflict. The setting is actively trying to kill the characters, but that's not the only place conflict needs to come from.

In fact, it's not even the primary place. 

Because the setting throws the character out in the cold, and forces them to survive. Your story might be about their survival, or some internal flaw brought to the surface, or maybe both. Because your story isn't about war, or zombies, it's about your character.


I know, right? This sounds really obvious, but when you're in the thick of writing it seems like you should be able to throw some zombies in there, and presto, conflict. But no. That's not actually how it works. Even stories without zombies in them (yes, they do exist--I've even written some!) aren't just about the main conflict. They are about how the main conflict affects the main characters.

That's what matters. That's what raises the stakes. It's not the zombies, but the fact that zombies are forcing the character to hide in a locker room and consider eating each other like a bunch of stranded soccer players. 

So the next time I get stuck, I'm going to try and remember that it's not really about the zombies: it's about the characters the zombies are trying to eat.

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Great Juggling Act

My friend Linda mentioned that she can't juggle more than a few things at once without feeling frantic, which got me thinking.

I can juggle several things at once. I used to pride myself on my abilities to multitask. But I looked at my daily practices, really looked at them, and now I wonder if we as a society should attempt to juggle a bajillion things at once.

Granted, in some cases it's necessary. I know that for a fact trying to juggle a baby with cooking and housework, and oh yeah, dinner, and let's not forget Elizabeth needs to write at least a few times a week if not every day to maintain basic sanity.

But when did we start feeling like not only we had to do it all, but all at once?

In some cases multitasking is a boon. Last night I loaded the dishwasher, cooked dinner, and cleaned out the fridge at the same time. With the time saved, I finished watching season four of Heroes with my husband (more on that train wreck later). 

In other cases, multitasking actually hurts. Imagine trying to write a novel at the same time as reading one. Or walking in the park. I'm not saying that people aren't capable of it (although walking and writing at the same time strikes me as hazardous to your health). But why would you want to? Shouldn't some tasks be awarded your complete attention? I don't know about you, but I want to get lost in a book. When writing, I want to be completely in the zone. When walking, I want to pay attention to the birds and the trees and the breeze on my face.

Some things deserve no less than your complete attention.

What about you? Do you prefer to try and get it all done at once, or one thing at a time?