Thursday, January 31, 2013

Breaking the Block: Magnetic Poetry

When I was a kid, we had a couple of refrigerator magnets shaped like cars; they were driven by little magnetic, plastic people.

I used to take them on wild adventures around the desert expanse of the door, over the raging river that ran between fridge and freezer, and occasionally alongside the great canyon that separated the refrigerator and the counter.

We had a terrible accident on one of those trips; the whole car was lost to the darkness of the chasm. I don't like to talk about it....


All of that's to lead to this: I've never quite lost my interest in refrigerator magnets. (Even if I no longer take magnetic cars for joy rides.)

So when I discovered Magnetic Poetry, it's really not surprising that it became one of my favorite things.

"Words on Whiteboard," 2013

There are at least three different poetry kits roaming about my home (and all shuffled together at this point) and I keep a supply of words on the whiteboard in my office. In addition to a dry erase marker because sometimes I'm too lazy to look for plurals, contractions and prepositions...

I use the kits to help manage writer's block and blank page anxiety - you know, those moments when you sit staring at your screen, willing words to appear on it only to realize you'll have to move your hand to make that happen and the idea of doing so fills you with so much dread you'd rather just go ahead and schedule that root canal you've been needing?

That's when I sit down in front of the white board and play.

I probably don't play enough these days.

Nearly every writing task I set myself turns into something chore-like and filled with drudgery. And while you need the chore-likeness to get things done if you ever want to publish (indie or otherwise), all work and no play make Homer something-something.

So I play.

I create strange sentences, funny fragments, odd metaphors, and come up with images I might never have touched on my own.

And as I play I realize I can put words together to make sentences and sometimes those sentences are even good and I walk away from my white board a little less anxious about facing that blank page.

Have you ever used magnetic poetry to jump-start your writing? How were the results?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Music Mondays: Xeno Edition

I've been on a procrastination streak (as if you couldn't tell from the lack of activity on the blog).

I'm supposed to be working on a short story for submission in May...and...yeah. I've got the idea. I have some notes. And I'm pretty sure I'm going to have to write/work out the ending first, but I'm having a hard time getting myself to sit down and do it.

Which has led to a lot of jumping between shows on Netflix, mostly Star Trek: Voyager, DS9 and repeats of Doctor Who.

Which is what's inspired this week's music choices.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

File In: "Things I'd Like to Get Over"

I dislike showing certain emotions in public. I'm not sure if that's all me
or if it's partly something I've been conditioned to do to avoid criticism.

Friday, January 18, 2013

[Six Sentences] When All Is Said and Done

There are 12 years of memories in their shared office.

Some more remarkable than others. The first picture they'd taken together, outside of the head shop where she used to work; some pie-eyed, waving cat he'd picked up on their trip to Japan; a clam shell—that he’d used to clack at her like a castanet to end an argument—from their two week fest of hedonism on the Gulf coast to celebrate their fifth anniversary. 

12 years of memories and he'd said he was moving them out today. 

She'd expected his side of the room to be stripped...and it was. 

Except for picture of the two of them, sitting exactly where it had been for the last decade.   

This was published last week over at Six Sentences. I am exercising my more creative muscles. Sporadically...

Monday, January 14, 2013

Music Mondays: Job Search Edition

So, over the last month, I've joined the job searching masses. I'm contracting for what looks like will be my final project with the company I've been with the last six and a half years and, in the meantime, looking about for a job that suits my interest. Which seems to be hard to come by in Knoxville.

It's always said that looking for a job is the hardest job you'll ever have.

Indeed. It's tiring, thankless, unpaid repetitive drudgery that can take weeks, if not months, to result in any kind of recognition, which may (nay, most likely will) ultimately end in disappointment.

I don't like this job.

Which may explain why this song has been on repeat in my head for the last few days.

And because no job related music list would be complete with out it:

Do you have some favorite job related music? "Searching for work" songs? "The hell with work" songs? Share them in the comments.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Write What You Know...Don'tcha Know?

He's not a Hemingway

"Write what you know."

I've heard this little sound bite in English classes, in formal writing workshops, and in informal writers' groups.

It's sound advice.

So long as you don't take it too literally.

Taken literally, we'd all be condemned to writing only what we personally experience.

Forget about post apocalyptic scenarios, demon summoning magicians, and lovers coming back from the dead, I'd be stuck writing about a 30 year old cisgendered, middle class white woman with a background in Instructional Design, a coffee obsession, and a penchant for fawning over the beauty of giant robots.

I got an Optimus Prime blanket for Christmas.
I can cuddle up with him anytime I want.

"Write what you know" isn't really about places or processes or things or events. 

The fact is, most of that can be covered with a bit of research, anything from reading travel guide descriptions to first hand accounts or actually talking to people who've been in said places or situations. (And with access to the Internet, that makes research a lot easier.)


"Write what you know" is about people. About our shared human behavior. Our common ground.

You may have never been in the situation of, say, firing a gun at an armed criminal. But you've no doubt been in other situations where fear and danger were prevalent. Maybe a car accident (or a near miss). Maybe a fight. Maybe you were diagnosed with a severe illness.

The point is: you know fear and you know danger. You've had adrenaline surges. You know how you react to a stressful situation or a pleasurable one. And, building on that, you can surmise how a character will react, what they will feel—whether they're in a car accident, breaking up with a lover, or discovering gold at the end of a rainbow—and write accordingly.

And when you write what you know - what you've felt - your readers will feel it too.

....human action cannot land before impulse, and impulse cannot land before that which triggers it. Each step is preceded by the step before it. You cannot shoot a gun without first touching it, nor take hold of it without first intending to, nor intend to without first having some reason, nor have a reason without first reacting to something, nor react to something without first giving it meaning and on and on. At many points before aiming a gun and pulling the trigger, particularly if the context is not unique, there are thoughts and emotions that others in similar situations also experienced. - The Gift of Fear, Gavin de Becker

What do you think? What are your experiences with "write what you know?" (Did it help? Did it hurt?)

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Inspiration Monday: Fighting Shadows

They’re watching.

She feels their gaze as soon as she steps over the threshold, out of warm summer light and into shadow.

The pale beam of her flashlight plays over the front room, unable to pierce the darkness growing in corners, but giving her enough light to see that most of the furniture her mother had been so proud of—antique end tables and Tiffany lamps and overstuffed couches—has been removed. In 20 years, she’s never thought to ask what became of it, just assumed it had gone to seed with the rest of the house.

Something skitters past her ankles. A quick moving shadow. Tiny, sharp claws scratching the hardwood floor. Could be a rat. But she knows better.

Further into the house now, down the hallway, past the coat closet, to stand in front of her mother’s bedroom.

The darkness seeps from under the door like oil, stretching toward the toes of her sneakers.

Her fingers are on the knob before she can hesitate; the door swings wide.

The beam from her flashlight disappears into the room, swallowed up by the black, before the light gutters, goes dead. And in the depths of the room, a long, thin shadow, the black-blue purple of a bruise, detaches itself from the surrounding blackness. Two rows of razor sharp teeth grin at her like an obscene Cheshire cat.

20 years ago she’d screamed at that grin hanging over the remnants of her mother’s body; screamed and dove into the coat closet where Mr. Phillips would find her hours later—after mom failed to show up for work—shaking and clutching a flashlight, battery operated lanterns keeping the tiny room lit as brightly as a July afternoon.

Today, she doesn’t scream. She ignores the soft, insidious, mice-like chittering, ignores the tiny claws hooking into her pants, cutting the flesh of her legs.

She reaches into her bag, draws out her BIC lighter, the stoppered bottle with a dirty rag hanging from its mouth.

The rag catches fire easily, flares sunburst bright and just for a moment she can see. See the things that make up the shadows, all teeth and claw and horrible, scaly, black wriggling bodies.

She throws the bottle into the bedroom. The wood floor goes up like kindling; those grinning teeth gnash in a snarl.

Beneath the roar of the fire, she hears the shadows shriek.

This is my first time writing for the Inspiration Monday Prompt.

Oy. I'm working on getting over what seems to be a case of "blank page anxiety" that's recently been exacerbated by the lack of a day job.

It's think if you didn't have a job you'd be able to spend all your time writing. But it never works out that way...I seem to lose track of my Muses when I have all this extra time on my hands. Well, here's to attempting to get myself back on some kind of writing schedule. 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Shieldmaiden I Am Not. But....

When playing DDR, every time I hear the announcer shout
"You're not an ordinary fella," I have an Eowyn moment and think
"I am no fella."

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Reel 'Em In: Opening Lines

One of my favorite exercises (especially on days like those I've been having lately, where writing is akin pulling teeth and I'm half inclined to just say the hell with it and collapse in front of the television or a video game) is to sit and come up with opening lines.

Do a Google search for opening lines in fiction and you'll see a number of lists and articles (Top 10, Top 100, What You Can Learn, etc.) singing the praises of the first words of novels and novellas.


Because the opening line is your first impression on a reader. It's what hooks them. Makes them curious. Makes them want to read further.

I like opening lines. I often pick up books, even if I'm not interested in reading them, just to see how they start and maybe file away some of the more unique intros for later inspiration and reference.


There's not much to this exercise. It simply involves writing five to ten opening lines. And just opening lines. Keep them simple or make them complex. Be as realistic or absurd as you like and don't worry about these lines leading to a story. (That's added pressure you don't need.) Though they certainly could. I've thrown many one liners into the morgue file for possible use in the future.

Here are a few of mine:

♣ The bed was shaking; it felt like an earthquake, but earthquakes didn't smell like fabric softener and cookies and they surely didn't whisper "Mama, Mama, Mama," over and over again.
♣ The cloud came suddenly and from the east, trailing lightning behind it the way a bride trails veils. 
♣ "Have you come to kill me?"
♣ I always needed a drink after a job.
♣ Lee woke from a dream about paneer burfi and thick aromatic coffee—so real she could taste the bitter and the sweet mingling on her tongue—to the smell of decay. 

Give it a try.

Share in the comments, if you're so inclined.

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