Thursday, February 26, 2015

Just Write

Today I'm off to write something new and post it online before midnight. Everyone inclined to do the same is invited to join me.

My link: More on Club Denizen, with new material beginning on page 31.

For more details on Just Write Thursdays, click here to go to the original post.

Image credit: windujedi

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


Listen; there's a hell of a good universe next door: let's go. -- e.e. cummings

I doubt any writer has saved me more times than a former ambulance driver who considered words his paint and verse his canvas (when he wasn't actually painting a real one.) He was a soldier who hated war, and suffered from depression but despised fear; he was that kind of contrary -- and mysterious and gifted and more lyrical than any man I've encountered on this planet.

He wasn't perfect by any means. He looked a bit like a seedy ranch hand, and made some stupendously massive mistakes with his choices in love and politics. He could be pompous and unyielding, and probably rode his artistic high horse too often as well. He was brought up to be an aristocrat but lived like a bohemian and adored rascals and heretics. Even in death he had to be different; when he suffered a massive, instantly fatal cerebral hemmorhage, he was on his way to sharpen an ax.

great men burn bridges before they come to them -- e.e. cummings

So how can you be protected by a guy who died when you were in diapers? Edward Estlin Cummings left behind for me a bridge through time and space and life and death, built from the thousands of poems he wrote. And not just any poems. The man sculpted language and ignored rules and nose-thumbed spelling and grammar. He took the much-loved sonnet form and played Twister with it. He spoke from the page with ease and wonder and stunning candor. The first time I read this he had me for life.

Edward may have moved on to the next place, but he has never abandoned me. Just the other day, when I was again subjected to some unnecessary and hateful behavior, he was there for me in his work. I opened a book and retreated from this world into his, and on the other side of that bridge he reminded me once more of the many things he's taught me. When you embrace beauty like this, you make it impossible for anyone to infect you with their ugliness. And when I crossed back over the bridge into my reality, it was like the cruelty never happened.

To be nobody but yourself in a world that's doing its best to make you somebody else, is to fight the hardest battle you are ever going to fight. Never stop fighting. -- e.e. cummings

And this is why we should create instead of destroy, heal instead of harm, and love instead of hate. To build our own bridges for those who need us now, and those who will need us after we're gone. To be there as a sanctuary and a source of reassurance for someone in need of protection, even after we've moved on. Honestly, this is the only immortality worth having.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Thumb Rules

I'm not a fan of rules, but I do enjoy the folksy alternatives, such as rules of thumb. These are advice, estimates or predictions based on experience or opinion, such as "When the ink on a fountain pen flows more liberally than usual you are likely to have a storm" or "If it rains all summer here we'll have at least two freezes during winter" (one of mine). Rules of thumb range from utterly ridiculous (If you don't want a cat to jump into your lap, don't make eye contact with it) to totally accurate (Cook fish ten minutes per inch of thickness.)

You can imagine how entertained I was when I discovered there's a searchable web site devoted to rules of thumb on just about every subject you can imagine. You simply enter any topical word into the search box, and the site will offer you all the thumby wisdom it has on the subject.

Here are a few zingers about writing:

"If you feel that you need a thesaurus to write something, you are probably trying too hard."

--John Shed, language instructor

"Always figure out who your characters are before you figure out your plot. You can follow a good character through a bad plot, but you can't make a good plot out of a bad character."

--James Erwin, Editor, Des Moines, IA, USA

"If the erasers of your pencils wear out before the graphite, you're too fussy."

--Stephen Unsino, poet, Eastchester, New York

(Thanks to Gerard over at the Presurfer, who led me to the Rules of Thumb site via this helpful post.)

Monday, February 23, 2015

Ban Me Baby

Which banned book are you? Take this online quiz from Columbus State Library to find out.

My results:

So I'm a Utopian parody written by a smartass pacifist. Sounds about right.

Why should we ban you? Let us know in comments.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sub Op

Dragon's Roost Press has an open call for their upcoming romance Lovecraft-themed charity antho [PBW notes: Yes, you read that correctly; romance + Lovecraft.]: "For our new anthology, tentatively entitled Eldritch Embraces, we want to put the love back in Lovecraft. In order to be considered for inclusion in this anthology, your story must focus on two things. There must be an element of love or romance and the story must invoke the cosmic terror of H.P. Lovecraft. What We Want: Finely crafted works of Dark Speculative fiction which explore the connections between people or between elder gods or combinations thereof. Obviously, this topic lends itself best to horror, which is our wheelhouse genre, but science fiction and fantasy are also welcome, provided there is some element of fear involved. We have no restrictions on the setting of your work in time or space. We look forward to exploring ancient deserts, Depression Era alleyways, modern cityscapes, and even far off worlds. While we usually dwell in the shadows, we do enjoy laughter. Humor is more than welcome. Bonus points for fiction which explores some of the more Lovecraftian themes like the how humanity is influenced by forces beyond its comprehension, the quest for forbidden knowledge, and apocalyptic threats to the world." [PBW notes: I am SO buying this antho when it's published.] Length: up to 6K; Payment: "At this time payment is one cent per word ($0.01/word) plus one contributor’s copy and one digital version in the format of the author’s choosing. We will be running a crowd sourcing campaign with the goal of providing higher monetary recompense to our authors. As with our first publication, this is a charity anthology to raise money for the canine rescue Last Day Dog Rescue." Query on reprints, electronic submissions only, see guidelines for more details. Deadline: October 17th, 2015 or when filled.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Write Habits

Daily writing is not for everyone, but if you want to produce new work more frequently than once every blue moon you should consider making a weekly writing committment. I started this last year with Just Write Thursdays so I could get back to my old habit of trying some new ideas and having fun with story. Thursday is now my favorite day of the writing week.

I think the first step is decide what you most like to write. For me books are inevitably creative marathons, but writing short stories aren't. Short stories have always been my idea test strips, and I like that I don't have to spend months working on them before I reach the finish line. Blogging, journaling, and writing poetry are also fun for me and are even shorter than my short stories.

If you're not sure what form of writing would best fit as a new write habit for you, try prompts. I spotted this button for The One-Minute Writer over at Terlee's blog, and this gal offers daily prompts that are brilliant (and even better, brief.) The idea is simple, too: pick a prompt and write about it for sixty seconds. P.S., if you can't spare one minute to write, you should maybe stop calling yourself a writer.

Other habit-forming write exercises:

Carry a notepad with you the next time you leave the house, and when you see an interesting stranger, jot down a new name for him or her.

Compose your official author bio (and if you want it to sound professional, lie about everything.)

Describe a character with twenty-six words, using one letter of the alphabet for every word.

Make up a list of titles for stories you'd like to write (or that you'd never write.)

Open your dictionary to a random page, close your eyes, point to something on the page, and then write a story premise using that word.

Pen an acceptance speech for an award you'd like to win -- then write one for an award you'd hate to win.

Take five names from different random pages in your telephone book and make up a character for each one by inventing a description, occupation, and a conflict for them.

Tell a story using only one complete sentence.

Write down every word you can think that describes your favorite color, then do the same for your least favorite.

Do you have any tricks you use to get you back in the writing habit? Let us know in comments.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Wizards of the Wheels

Sometimes people do things that seem ordinary but when you slow them down they reveal an amazing, poetic magic to them; this short films shows how much there is in skateboarding (with background music, for those of you at work):

LOCAL from Sean Slobodan on Vimeo.