Monday, August 27, 2012

Music Mondays: End of Summer Edition

Though the Fall Equinox is still a few weeks away, this last week of August has been the unofficial ending point for the summer season.

Everyone breathes one last hurrah with the Labor Day weekend - one more cookout, one more boating session, one more road trip - before heading back to school and delving into work.

So here's my official unofficial end of summer nostalgia playlist.

1. Just A Girl - No Doubt
2. Black Hole Sun - Soundgarden
3. California Love - 2Pac & Dr. Dre
4. Santeria - Sublime
5. Santa Monica - Everclear






Thursday, August 23, 2012

100 Words: When It's All Said and Done

Working out the kinks.

This week's fiction is a two-fer, written for both Velvet Verbosity's 100 Word Challenge "Relief" and the Trifecta Challenge "Heart."

Via Bob Jagendorf, Flickr.

“What happened?”

Ignoring the question, Eve poured coffee into Ana’s mug and trudged to the other side of the counter to deliver a bill, pick up her tips. By the time she came back, Ana had drained her mug.

Evie refilled it, shrugged. “We fought. He left.”

“You don’t seem too broken up about it.”

“Heart’s not it.” Evie swiped at the counter with a cloth that smelled like old cheese. “It’d been coming for a while. The last half-year has been like tearing off a hangnail. We weren’t even sleeping in the same bed. It’s good that it’s done.”

Monday, August 20, 2012

Music Mondays: Summer Drive Edition

We're drawing toward the end of August and my mind's been on those lazy, late summer days I used to enjoy before school started back. By the second week of August, I was usually in the 'tween state of mourning my summer holidays and (though I'd never admit it) looking forward to school starting up again.

And, at the same time, trying to fit in as much laying about and general lazy shenanigans as I could. That involved a lot spur of the moment trips with friends as well as some final road trips and mini-vacations with family.

1. What I Got - Sublime
2. Blind Melon - No Rain
3. Spiderwebs - No Doubt
4. The Way - Fastball
5. Drive - Incubus




Wednesday, August 15, 2012

WWR: Haunted

“Am I walking toward something I should be running away from?” 
- The Haunting of Hill House,
Shirley Jackson

I've always wanted to live in a haunted house. Haunted by ghosts or by memories, I'm not picky.

I want darkened stair cases and turrets that stretch toward the sky; wraparound verandas, ivy growing slowly up brick siding, a family plot cemetery behind a wrought iron fence and a garden that has gone to seed and is slowly creeping toward the house.

I want 100 year old memories in every room I visit. The scent of violet perfume, so faint you'd think you dreamed it. Old tin treasures left under a loose floor board by some child years before I was born. A forgotten wedding photograph wedged deep inside an armoire.

Of course, the closest I've ever come to a haunted home was a-not-that-old apartment building in Oberkail, Germany where the basement hallways never seemed to get enough light and the wind whispered in too many voices beneath the eves on gusty winter nights when the darkness seemed like it might last forever.

But I still hold out hope for a ramshackle Victorian inspired house of my own one of these days, where I'll lock myself in a turret office to do my writing, occasionally emerging to have tea with the resident ghosts.

(Should you choose to accept it....)

Write a story about a haunting. 

via Stock Xchng

“Fear," the doctor said, "is the relinquishment of logic, the willing relinquishing of reasonable patterns. We yield to it or we fight it, but we cannot meet it halfway.” 
- The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson

Maybe there's a haunted house. Or, maybe, houses are not haunted but people are. Or perhaps there's a ghost with a lingering attachment to an item that has been passed on to someone else. Maybe a murderous scene plays out again and again with its spirit participants unable to break the cycle. The ideas are endless. 

But you have 50, 250, or 500 words in which to write one, should you choose to do so. 

And if you do take up the prompt, please take a button and share the prompt with your world. (Come back before midnight on Sunday to share your response in the comments and I'll tout them during the next Romp Round.)

Here's mine, in 50 words: 

The whistle of the kettle wakes them. 

They find the kitchen empty, as usual, but the table set, the tea hot, the milk jug out, a spoon balanced precariously atop the sugar bowl.

Bemused, they look at one another and sit down to enjoy what’s becoming a 5 a.m. ritual. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Music Mondays: Steal My Sunshine Edition

Lately that's all the weather can seem to do. And it's particularly grievous because when I've been feeling out of sorts (eyestrain most recently), I want sunshine. I want to be able to stretch out on my balcony and soak up the morning light and heat. It makes me feel better, even if it is just a placebo effect.

Luckily, this week's looking like it will offer a bit more sunshine than the last one has. So, if anyone needs me, I'll be imitating one of my cats and baring my belly to the sun.

1. Steal My Sunshine - LEN
2. Every Morning - Sugar Ray
3. Save Tonight - Eagle Eye Cherry
4. Escapade - Janet Jackson
5. Buddy Holly - Weezer




Friday, August 10, 2012

Red Writing Hood: "Rising"

It's been a long time since I've done a Red Writing Hood prompt. I've been pulled in so many directions over the last five months, I've had trouble keeping up with where I'm going.

This week's prompt was to take inspiration from the Phoenix - the fire bird of mythology. So that's what I did.

I'm not entirely sure I like it, but I've been wanting to get back in the groove of responding to prompts, so here we are.

It’s raining when the men come for Aurora’s roommate.

Her roommate hadn’t been in the hospital long. A few days. Maybe a week. Long enough to attend a couple of the group sessions run by the doctor, where she would always look at the doctor with the same unwavering golden stare when asked to share her thoughts and say, quite simply: “I am not insane. And I want to go home.”

Aurora jumps as thunder crashes and lightning highlights the paleness of her roommate’s skin, the blue smudge – like bruises – beneath her eyes, the fiery tip of feathers revealed by the gaping and rising of the too big hospital shirt, curving over her naked shoulders, her fragile ribcage

She’d shown Aurora the tattoo once – a red and gold phoenix that stretched across the canvas of her back – and just from the way her roommate spoke of it, Aurora knew it was no ordinary tattoo.

Just as now she knows her roommate isn’t dead – though the orderlies grumble about overdoses and inmates “tonguing” pills – but sleeping.

They carry her roommate away. Aurora watches through the window when they reach the grounds, slip-slide through the muck until they reach the hospital morgue.

Throughout the day, Aurora keeps watch. Slipping back to her room between meals and between her sessions – the nurses make notes about her behavior in their charts and surely her doctor we’ll want to speak to her about it later.

It’s only after evening medications have been forced down her throat – the night nurse always watches as she swallows and then checks underneath her tongue – after the lights go out and Aurora has slipped, drowsy and unsteady on her feet, to the window that it happens.

The rain on the window makes the world even fuzzier, but the morgue is outlined stark white against the grey night. Aurora stares it. Doesn’t look away. Doesn’t blink.

At first, she thinks the sparks may be her imagination, the pills playing tricks on her. But then there are two and four and six and then far too many to count, rising up from the morgue like 4th of July fireworks and pretty soon the whole building is ablaze and it reminds her of Grammy’s barn that she’d set alight last year.

And there, coming down the little stone path, is Aurora’s roommate, naked and pale and gleaming. The rain that’s been falling harder all day seems to arc around her, turning to steam that rises in curling tendrils as it nears the bright, flaming wings that emerge from her back.

What I was listening while I wrote this: 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Music Mondays: Eyeglass Edition

So, this past week (and still now, a bit), I've been battling with a bout of eye strain brought on by an eight hour gaming session. (I don't even know how I managed to play a game for eight straight hours...) Of course, this was the kick in the ass I needed to get myself in for my eye exam (which I've been putting off for the last 6-9 months).

I think my astigmatism got a little bit worse, but it's still in the mild category, so my new glasses are meant for up-close intensive work and astigmatism correction. (Meaning I can actually see out of them when I look away from the computer screen.)

I love when I'm asked if I use a computer.... My whole life is computer intensive. My whole existence is visually intensive.

So, I've been spending more time off the computer than on over the last few days and I'm trying to continue that pattern until I've been back to a feeling of normalcy for a while. (Okay. Normalcy for me.)

And since eyes have been on my mind a lot lately that's reflected in this week's music picks.

1. I Wear My Sunglasses At Night
2. She Blinded Me With Science
3. Smoke Gets In Your Eyes
4. Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You
5. Bette Davis Eyes




Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Three Tips for Self Editing

Every writer needs to be able to do a good sweep of their own work. After all, during the initial stages of a work, we’re all we've got.

Writers groups, peers, and/or editors tend to come in after the first draft has been worked, reworked, beaten, and bludgeoned into something that makes sense. (Or at least seems to make sense. Honestly, most of the time I’m so sick of looking at my first drafts all I want to do is ship them off to someone else.)

We need to have the tools at hand to be able to polish that draft before anyone else sees it.

These are three steps I take to help get me to that second draft stage.

1. Take A Vacation

I don't mean head off to the beach. (Though if you've got the time and inclination, who am I to argue? Bring me back a seashell.)

Just take a break. After spending hours or days (or weeks or maybe even months) working on something, you're too close to it to see its imperfections (and even its perfections).

You need time apart. Take a walk. Read a book. Have a drink. Listen to some music. Work on another project. Browse the Internet.

I’d recommend a several day break to let everything marinate. Of course that isn't always possible.

At the very least, taking 10 to 15 minutes away from your writing will refresh your eyes so you'll be able to catch some of those spelling, grammar, and continuity errors you didn't see. Then you can ship it off to your editor/writing group with the peace of mind that you don't look like a total illiterate.

2. Kill Your Babies (But keep the corpses handy for resurrection.)

Anyone who's been writing a while has surely come across the old saying: kill your babies. (Or "kill your darlings" as William Faulkner originally put it.) This is just a slightly macabre, eye-catching way of saying: cut to the chase.

Your babies may be clever phrasings that don't work, whole scenes that don't fit, or even a character that's out of place. You may really, really love them. They may be some of the best things you've ever created. But if they don't work for your piece, they don't work.

And they need to die.

But I do recommend keeping their corpses around. (I've had many moments where I've deleted something that was really well written but didn't fit the location only to find out that it worked perfectly in another spot.)

You can do this by keeping a separate document full of the cuts you make (a repository of verbal corpses). This works best when you're chopping out whole sections and scenes.

Generally, I find the "track changes" function in Word to be the easiest way to resurrect my smaller babies (sets of dialogue, turns of phrase).  I can make my deletions and edits and still have the material I killed right there on there on the screen for ease of return.

3. Listen to your story

I mean this literally.

I can read my writing numerous times and miss spots where I've repeated a "the" or left out a word because my brain knows what's supposed to be there and goes ahead and fills it in (or takes it out, as the case may be).

Hearing your story overrides what your brain intended to write.

Via Stock Xchng
So read your story aloud. (Other people might wonder what you're doing, but I tend to talk to myself anyway, so it's par for the course.)

Or get someone else to read it to you. (If nothing else, find a text-to-speech program such as "Sayz Me." It's a little stilted and robotic, but it does the job.)

Hearing your story allows you to more easily identify repetitive word usage and catch on to those clumsy sentence structures that muddy up your writing.

Do you have any tips on getting from that first rough draft to a semi-polished second?

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