Monday, August 15, 2016

[Music Mondays] Travel/Post-Travel Edition

I spent most of the week before last in Las Vegas (and this past week recovering from the trip). Yes. Las Vegas. In August. The last time I was in Vegas was (16 years ago and) in November. The last time I was there in the summer was circa 2000.

That said, I'm pleased to report that the Strip, while it has changed a lot, has also....not changed at all. Sure, some casinos have fallen and risen, some go by different names, but the Strip itself still feels the same.

The heat wraps around you like a living thing as strange, engineered scents blow from the mouths of the casinos. People on the sidewalks try to sell you on everything from Uber to Two-for-One drinks to girls who will be delivered right to your room like items from a mail order catalog and if you stay up and out late enough you encounter a number of people who are incapable — whether by birth or intoxication — of properly queuing to go up an escalator (or a set of stairs) and who gather in groups at the bottom of pedestrian walkways, minds lost in the miasma of heat and car exhaust, liquor and sweat, bovine eyes catching the colorful array of lights.

It's my kind of city.

For about four days...and then I'm ready to retreat to hide in my hotel room with headphones on until it's time to fly home.

Here's some of the music that kept me company when I was done dealing with people.

 When You're Evil - Voltaire

 Intertia Creeps - Massive Attack

Istanbul Not Constantinople - They Might Be Giants

Friday, August 5, 2016

Everybody's A Critic: Responding to Criticism

Depending on the type of criticism and the way it's provided, a response may not be invited, such as with negative reviews on a book or commentary from an editor who hasn't invited either a response or an opportunity to re-submit.

Of course, with today's technology we are more capable than ever of responding to our critics.... Which isn't really a good thing. I've seen more than one online meltdown from an author when people left negative reviews. It doesn't do much for one's reputation.

So how do you respond to criticism?

Well, we've already taken care of the first steps: determining the difference between good and bad criticism. And, as I've said previously, if it's truly bad: chuck it. Don't respond to it beyond an "I'll take that into consideration" or some variation on that that theme.

 If it's good criticism or if you're not entirely sure if it's good, try these steps.

Remain Calm and Don't Be Defensive

The first instinct is to react. Ignore that instinct. 

Allow the person to finish what they're saying and then acknowledge the criticism and repeat it, putting it into your own words: So, what you're saying is, it wasn't clear to you why Diana was holding the man captive after he'd kidnapped her cat and set her apartment on fire?

Putting it in your own words helps you to make sense of it and allows the other person to clarify, if needed, what they meant. (And in my experience sometimes that clarification is necessary. A lot of people are really bad at saying what they actually mean.) It also gives you the opportunity to take some control over the conversation without leaping to the defensive.

Bonus! If the criticism is over something something ridiculous (hey, it happens), repeating it may shine a light on that and give you the peace of mind needed to move on.

Open a Dialogue

If, after you've remained calm and not gone on the defensive, you don't feel like talking about the criticism anymore, move directly to Step Four.

However, I know that sometimes I want to explain why I chose to do something. If nothing else, it helps me clarify points that might have been muddled in my writing and allows me to rethink my presentation. It might also open the floor for new ideas, that is, one of my critics might offer me a better suggestion for getting from point A to point B.

Say "Thank You"

How heart-felt that "thank you" is will, of course, be entirely up to you based on the kind of criticism you get. It might be as simple as a "Thanks for your time," if the criticism you've received indicates that the person read your story but - maybe - didn't put as much thought into it as they might have or simply isn't the kind of person to offer constructive advice.

If you do get some good critique, be sure the critic knows you value that (as you should).


This last step is key and deals with your response to yourself and your work.

Having your work critiqued is difficult. I think it might be particularly difficult for fiction writers because we often work in such isolation until we have something of a final product. We don't get to show off half completed drawings or the sketch before the paint goes on.

We work, alone in our rooms - or, at least, alone in our heads - making draft after draft (sometimes not even completing those first drafts because they're so awful) until we come up with something that - finally - we think we can present to the world at large. The culmination of our sweat, and our tears, the a.m. caffeine binges, the midnight chocolate runs, the showers interrupted by arguing characters or insistent plot lines.

So after you've put yourself out there and had your heart skewered, take the time to relax and step away. Don't beat yourself over the head with the critique. Let it settle for a day or even more. When you're refreshed and not feeling so raw, you can come back to the critique - and any notes you've taken - review the points again and determine your thoughts.

If you think the critique has some merit, make note of how much and which parts. If you think it has no merit? Set it aside. Let it go. 
Remember, while it's important to consider critical viewpoints, particularly viewpoints of people who might be similar to the audience you're writing for, when it comes down to it: you are the final arbiter of your work. It's your work and you need to be true to it and yourself.

And there we have it. The final piece in the Everybody's a Critic series. And it only took me two years to get to this point.... Hey, I was waylaid by higher education. But now that my M.S. degree is almost done, I'm hoping to put more time into this blog with fiction (including a continuation of The Work - if you like ghost stories, go check that out) and prompts and the occasional breakdown and discussion of various writing logistics.

Until next time.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Saturday Shorts 7-30-16

Write 100 words for this prompt:

A man has been murdered. The only witness is the cat. What did the cat see? 

Come back before midnight on Sunday and leave a link to your response in the comments. Visit, read, comment on other people's work.

Monday, July 18, 2016

[Music Mondays] Transitions Edition

I was wondering what music might accompany a couple of the short stories I'm working on (writing in my head counts as working!).

These two stories both share a theme of ocean and water, transition. I needed music that has the quality of water. Calm and cool, inspiring, beautiful to listen to and also easy to let fade into the background.

I'm finding that with the Life Is Strange soundtrack, even the tracks which have vocals, I can easily do that. Concentrate on the pace and rhythm and lyric of the song or let it filter through my head, inspiring but not distracting.

I'm going to get back to my characters now.

To All of You - Syd Matters

Crosses - Jose Gonzalez

Obstacles - Syd Matters

Monday, July 11, 2016

[Music Mondays] Soundtrack Edition

This week I'm all about music without lyrics. (Because lyrics can be distracting, you know? You're trying to write and all of sudden you're transcribing a song because it's taken over your brain.)

I like writing to movie soundtracks. It's usually easy to find a piece that works for whatever type of scene you're creating.

Practical Magic - Main Theme - Alan Silvestri

The Winter Soldier Theme - 
Captain America: The Winter Soldier; Hal Jackman

Up is Down - 
Pirates of the Caribbean Soundtrack; Hans Zimmer

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

[Poetry] The Death of Passion

here we lie,
our bones crumbling beneath the weight of our skin,
re-enacting youthful passions
(hot embraces
on forgotten white sands)
with the restless movements of our too-thin hands,
long ago mated at the altar,
as they make a mad scramble
for the remote

Monday, July 4, 2016

[Music Mondays] Where Did June Go? Edition

I did a cross country move in mid-May, from Tennessee to Colorado. I'm still getting used to my new house and the local area. I'm going to blame this lack of familiarity, the near consistent need to run around get things done (whether that's getting another item to restock my pantry or picking up some home improvement/decor item to improve our storage), for the fact that June seems to have disappeared on me.

Well, I'll blame that and the final class of my graduate program, which is keeping me - more often than not - glued to my laptop as I write and submit storyboards and look for graphics to accompany those storyboards once they're made into online modules. (But I'm almost done! And then I can actually look for a position where I get paid to do these things.)

But I'm making a pact with myself right now: I will get out and enjoy the summer days before they pass me by completely. Even if all I do is sit on my back porch in my deck chair, reading a book (or scribbling on a story) and soaking up the sunshine (with appropriate protection, of course).

And accompanying me - either in my head or on my mp3 player - will be music.

This week I'm kind of all over the place. A little new and somber, a little old (it pains me to say that) and poppy.

What are you listening to this week? 

The Sound of Silence (Cover) - Disturbed

The Devil's Backbone - The Civil Wars

3 Small Words - Josie and the Pussycats

Sanctuary - Darling Violetta


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