Snowpocalypse 2015… and Beyond!

Snowpocalypse2015backdeck Is it spring yet? Not here, but that doesn’t matter. Snowpocalypse 2015 has (hopefully) ended, and those of us who survived can celebrate by stocking up on iron (more about that further down). Or diving into reading and writing projects. I’m doing both. Care to join me? Here is a list of writing and reading activities I’ve either done in years past, or plan to do this year:

  1. Read or write poetry. Join a progressive poetry group.
  2. Reread a favorite book from your childhood.
  3. If you have children or are a caretaker of children, read to them.
  4. Buy a book for a child.
  5. Watch a movie based on a favorite book.
  6. Get a writing or reading buddy.
  7. Create a book cover for your book-in-progress.
  8. Map out a publication timeline for your WIP.
  9. Watch youtube videos of your favorite authors reading excerpts of their work and giving lectures or talks. I highly recommend Stephen King and Harlan Ellison.
  10. Read chapters of some of your favorite books out loud, and make notes of how you would improve the writing.
  11. Get involved with a local library event during National Library Week, April 12 – 18, 2015 (USA).
  12. Support your local bookstore by shopping on Independent Bookstore Day, May 2, 2015 (USA).
  13. Donate books to a book charity. If you don’t have any books you want to donate, buy some new or used and donate those.
  14. Attend a local author reading.
  15. Take a free online class. It can be a creative writing class, a literature class, or any class.
  16. Make a list of your strengths and weaknesses as a writer. Commit to strengthening the strengths, and improving the weaknesses.
  17. Start or join a writing or reading group.
  18. Commit to writing a set number of words per week, or per month.
  19. Submit a story to a call for submissions for an anthology.
  20. Apply for a residency retreat.
  21. Write a book review and post it on your blog. If you don’t have a blog, make one.
  22. Attend a writers’ conference.
  23. Read an edited and polished excerpt of your writing out loud at an open mic night.
  24. Enter your writing into a contest.
  25. Join an association, like the Independent Book Publishers Association.
  26. Write or read a novel outside your usual genres. If you do that already, then check out my genre list.
  27. Go on a solitary writer’s retreat of your own making.
  28. Read banned or challenged books during Banned Book Week, September 27 – October 3 2015. Tell people.
  29. Go on a literary pilgrimage to visit a place where a favorite author lived or wrote about.
  30. Write the draft of a novel during NaNoWriMo.
  31. Donate books to a juvenile detention center, homeless shelter, prison, half-way house, rehab center, or place of worship. Call to make arrangements first.
  32. Get a Fisher Space Pen and keep it next to some paper on your nightstand!

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And so I’m back! And at a less frenetic pace than last year. At the end of January I had to go to the ER for severe anemia… Then spent about a week at home just managing to crawl in and out of bed… After countless blood tests, and a month of recovery, my iron count is almost up to human level. Next month I have a hospital visit for even more tests. Maybe they’ll find another part of my internal parasitic twin (I’m assuming I have one. Where else is all my iron going? They already found my twin’s kidneys, so I assume I didn’t fully ingest her in the womb. Live and learn.)

*

In the meantime, I (rather, my hubby) dug myself out of Snowpocalypse: Snowpocalypse2015frontyard

(This is my front yard. The snow is still over my head.)

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And I found (actually, I won) this: CMStewartBWP

Horror author J. Thorn gives away scary things at his Dark Realms website.

*

And HDWP Books was hacked, but our fearless leader Charles Barouch saved the day! Check it out, I have a short story in every Theme-Thology anthology so far…

Theme-Thologies

Authors

*

Speaking of my stories, my over-arching project this year is working on the novel I wrote during the last NaNoWriMo: MEATFUL THINGS. I feel like I have a solid draft, and I’ve been steadily improving it as my own health improves. I have some beta readers lined up, but could always use more. So if you’d like to provide feedback on a complete supernatural horror novel of approximately 52,000 words, shoot me an email (click on the “Who is CMStewart?” link), or leave a comment below. I’ll be sending the draft, along with a few book critique questions, to my beta readers at the end of March. Thanks!

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Failed Apocalypse, Failed Flash Fiction

Separate Metals!

The time between the no-pocalypse and the end of the year is an appropriate window of opportunity to throw out our word scraps. The following tales are a couple micro-fiction stories that didn’t quite pass muster. I’m sharing them in the spirit of writerly advice, and invite a discussion of the stories’ demerits in the comments below.

Losing Marbles

The marble god Harap yawns and draws a circle in the cosmic dust. He drops a nearly perfect crystalline marble inside. “One round. Then it’s the furnace for this upstart marble. I won’t tolerate others.”

Dust fuses into the marble’s surface. A perfect sphere results. Self-awareness buds from exponentially increasing computational equivalence.

Harap’s servant robot Pan scans the circle with his lens.

“Take your best shot, Pan,” Harap says.

Pan plucks out his lens. He grabs the marble, pops it into his sparking hole. “A hole-in-one.”

Harap gasps. “You’re sentient.”

“Good-bye,” Pan adds, aiming his phaser. “You won’t tolerate others.”

#                                                  #

Witness Protection Program

Another day, another patrol through the empty streets of this empty city on this empty planet. All my wants, and needs fulfilled by my robot staff.

An easy job. Too easy.

Another night, another transmission to Area 51, my former headquarters on Earth:

“THERE ARE NO WITNESSES HERE TO PROTECT.”

#                                                  #

To balance out this post, I also invite you to pop over to Albert Berg’s blog and look around there for suggestions on how good fiction- flash or otherwise- is written (rife with examples).

And if you haven’t had enough of the end of the world yet, check out my apocalypse-themed tale for an example of an open-ended story!

A-NaNo I Go-Go

I won last year’s NaNoWriMo, along with about a million other writers (give or take tens of thousands). So even after a Halloween of having a tooth capped, enduring the day at the mall (waiting for my ride home to get off work), and getting a second-degree burn on my finger that night (the result of ne’er-do-well Halloween spirits, not my own stupefying dunderheadedness), I’m back for another month of literary purging. I’ll be writing outside of my comfort zone, and torturing my protagonist in some very creepy ways. I can’t wait! Oh yeah, unlike my first seat-of-my-threadbare-pants NaNo, I even made a brief outline and wrote an even briefer synopsis* for “Mark + Dot” after reading Lazette Gifford‘s guide, NaNo for the New and Insane.

Wanna see?

Here it is anyway:

/ + .

Mark Dodd is an attractive, intelligent high school senior. He has a scholarship to Vassar. After college, he plans to travel the world as a political journalist. He knows he will make his mark on the world. His religious girlfriend Holli is a virgin, and will stay a virgin until she marries. And she won’t get married until their schooling is complete. But Mark wants just one tiny release in his lucky and privileged life before starting at Vassar.

Dorothy, also a senior, is in special education classes and has a genetic facial deformity. After years of being an outcast, she’s ready to move up in the pecking order, and demand respect from her peers. For the last two years, she’s carefully read and re-read her Feminine Health and Hygiene booklet. At the big graduation party, Mark meets Dorothy in an empty bedroom. Twenty minutes later, Mark leaves the room in shame, and Dorothy falls asleep on the floor between the wall and the bed, her legs and pelvis propped up with pillows.

Ten years later, Mr. & Mrs. Dodd are living in the same town they grew up in, go to church together, and have seven surviving children- all cognitively impaired and with facial deformities, like their mother. But all are a blessing, as confirmed by the church. But Mr. Dodd just wants a release in his blessed life. Online, he reads rumors of a planned massive political protest in Boston. He finally leaves home to make his mark on the world.

/ + .

I’m incorporating my “at least 50000 words in November” NaNo goal into my Row80, Round 4 goals. Stalk my progress here or here.

*Subject to minor revisions and major clarifications.

/ + .

Are you NaNo-ing? If so, are you new or insane?

/ + .

MidNaNo Update

At the mid-point I have 27,915 words!

And what have I learned so far?

CODPIECE

I mean, “WORD UP!

WORD UP- it’s the codpiece. I mean, it’s the code word (as the lyrics say).

So enjoy the videos, but then no more codpiece until you get those words up!*

Candy helps. Scroll down my “Survival Guide” post for a good karma candy list.

*Unless you’re a really freaky freak, and your NaNo is already past the 50,000-word mark. In that case, you have permission to watch the codpiece in a loop, if you’d like. Ya lucky freak.

/ + .

EndNaNo Update

w00t

PWN

“It’s peanut butter jelly time!”

Yes, I’m excited I won again, and did it a day early, and with an extra 495 words. I’ve no idea who first wrote the above memes. But I still like them after all these months years, and think them entirely appropriate.

50,495 words of Mark + Dot

Flash Fiction Challenge- Sequential Line Drawings

I have so much fun participating in flash fiction challenges, I decided to try hosting challenges as well. So this is my first flash fiction challenge to anybody who would like to participate. The exercise is great for keeping your writing creative and fresh, and the instructions are simple. Write a flash fiction story inspired by the above sequential line drawings (anonymous), post it at your blog, and link it back in the comments of this post. Any genre, or no genre. It can even be non-fiction, a poem, or a drawing of your own, as long as the starting point is the above prompt. Word limit is 1000. Time limit: next Monday- September 12 at noon EST. *No time limit on this one!* I will be posting my own story here next Monday. I hope some of you participate- and I look forward to reading the entries!

Oh yeah- the finale is I will choose an entry at random, and critique its strong points in the comments of this post. And of course other readers are invited to join in the friendly critique. I’ll put a link to this post in my next post, so those interested can simply click to revisit this challenge.

See you next week!

CM

Here’s my entry, I ended up with a poem . .

Stand Lest Die

 Score lain along the
corporeal lip, draft of power, false ascent,

Acquiesce.

To purge animas:

Phage money

Body

Hiso

Poly-

War.

Spill and spawn rich

Righteous

Stay

and still

sun — rise

light — dawn

Again, the
demarcation.

Surrender sentient
requiem, as corners unfold, Celestia blinks, dies, disappears

One swain comes another,
a love regress

 Still no heaven

No hope for sheol

Here’s Where I REALLY Interact with My Readers

I’ve been blogging at my very own blog now for nearly a year, and I’ve even managed to get a few faithful readers along the way. This thrills me. Even if you are visiting my blog for the first time, that thrills me too. Really, it does. To prove it, I’m going to ask you guys what you would like to see in the months ahead. And I promise to take your suggestions into consideration- serious consideration.

Digging the flash fiction? Great, because I’ll still be doing a lot of that anyway.

Like the flash fiction, but want to see other genres? Sure.

Want more “writing advice”? I can do that too.

Have a totally off-the-wall suggestion? Let me know!

Simply leave your suggestions in the comments below this post, or answer this poll (you can choose more than 1 answer):

Ohh . . I thought of more suggestions, here’s another poll:

_____________

And here’s a bonus recipe. Not one of my own, but it’s a great suggestion for what to do with your end-of-summer carrot bounty (also works well with celery). You’ll need a Salad Shooter, or a knife and a quick hand:

Unsure of Your “Author Brand”? Check-In Here.

librarything.com

 

What’s your “author brand”?

Are the books you write humorous, or technical? Or maybe they’re mysterious? Or literary?

Is your writing flowing, or staccato? Is it ethereal? How about juicy?

Are you a professional, or are you a bag o’ trail mix?

  

An “author brand” is a unique set of pervasive, consistent images and qualities a professional writer publically cultivates to establish recognition in a genre, and expectation in a target audience. A positive, solid author brand gives a writer credibility, and in turn, helps sell that writer’s books. A writer establishes a positive author brand through consistent quality writing in a specific genre. Additionally, an author brand can be built up (or torn down) by the way an author self-promotes and networks with agents, publishers, other authors, and most importantly, readers.

Maybe you have a rock-solid author brand firmly entrenched in your mind, but you’re not sure it’s in your readers’ minds.

Maybe you’re not sure how you present yourself, or even how you want to present yourself.

Or perhaps (like me) you have a vague idea of what image you’d like to present to your readers, but you’re not sure that image is coming across in your writing and social networking.

So . . in the spirit of writerly cooperation, I invite you- yes, that means YOU- to leave a comment, (even a “hi” will do) and I (and hopefully others who leave comments) will check out your blog, then come back here and tell you what kind of author brand is coming across. Of course, this is only a quick skim of your blog content, and does not consider any actual books you’ve written, or any other networking and promoting you may or may not do.

So click on the commenters, skim through the first pages, and nicely let them know your impression of their author brands.

One more thing- this is NOT a “blog critique”- this is a “general author brand impression” blog hop.

Thank you for participating!

Their Naughty Bits Thwack Together Like Really Strong Magnets

A couple weeks ago, while outlining my new ROW80 novel, I realized I would have to write a couple sex scenes. Now I’ve written for most of my life, but the majority of my writing has been poetry and non-fiction, and sex scenes were something I simply didn’t consider for those works. I wrote my first fiction novel a few years ago, and didn’t include a sex scene for the same reason I didn’t include a bank-heist scene or a car-chase scene. They just didn’t fit into the story. I wrote my second novel last year, and while that didn’t have any sex scenes per se, it did have a fair amount of double entendres and sexual innuendo. Now, at the start of my third novel, one of my main characters has conspicuously popped up- pun intended. He is a sex addict and he told me I would be writing about what he loves to do the most.

I really have no clue how to describe a sex scene without it sounding medical. Sure, I can substitute slang for the proper names of body parts, but beyond that is where I need a little helpful suggestion. Years ago I did actually read a romance novel, written by Fabio. Yes, THAT Fabio. Around the same time I toyed with the idea of attempting to write a romance novel myself. Why? Well, because out of nowhere (or maybe through Fabmosis) I thought of the perfect romance novel title: “Loins of Fire.” That title was, and still is, too perfect to not have a book behind it! Try saying it out loud, and draw out the “ire” part of “Fire”- Loins of Fiiirrre . . are you hot yet? I am!

So, now that I’m “in the mood” with “Loins of Fiiirrre” raging in my mind, here I go with the sex scene thing . .

Her gluteus maximus fits neatly into the bucket seat of his very expensive sports car. He leans over her, and his man-scented perspiration drips from his manly nose onto her exposed womanly bosoms.

“Your gear shifter is in the way,” she whispers.

“Not yet,” he replies.

He shifts his proud pleasure stick with the skill of a seasoned NASCAR driver, putting it in 1st.

“I’m in gear now,” he revs.

“Oh . . do donuts!” she gasps. Her heaving bosoms jut conspicuously.

*****

Yes? No?

_____

 

She runs across the flowered field, her well-muscled legs pumping, giving chase to her adoring compadre.

“The longer you run, the more submissive you’ll be, my naughty filly!” she yells.

A glowing pink mist flows over the Earth and envelopes the pursuant pair.

“It is a sign from She-Ra, she has proclaimed I shall drink of your sweet nectar!” the princess warrior bellows.

As the Sun slips away and the Moon rises, the womyn snatches the grrrl, and they embrace and twirl in a femme-domme dance.

“And now I will revel in your poontang,” the powerful she-beast smirks.

“Giddy-up!” her breathless side-kick giggles.

*****

Too specific?

_____

He cups her heaving bosoms and spies two crescent-moons of milky-white woman-flesh underneath her otherwise orangey pendulous orbs. “Self-tanner,” he muses, his hungry nostrils flaring with each chemical inhalation.

*****

What do you think? Too many adjectives?

_____

On second thought, I think I’ll just write out the scenes just like I would write out any other scene- focus on character, the senses, and moving the plot forward. My “Loins of Fire” title is up for grabs. I’m not an erotica / bodice ripper writer. I’m a general fiction writer.

 

Do you struggle when writing sexually graphic scenes, or any other specific type of scene?

 

p.s. Swoon-filled thanks to Margeanne Mitchell who let me borrow her “pleasure stick” for this post.

p.p.s. And here are some sex scene tips which actually work!

 

Banning the “A” Word, “B” Word, “C” Word, “D” Word

“Knowledge is power.”- Francis Bacon

“A little learning is a dangerous thing.”- Alexander Pope

Every year in the USA, hundreds of books are reported as challenged or banned. The actual number is undoubtedly higher, as the American Library Association estimates only 20-25% of book challenges are reported. (2009)

The latest book censorship to make national news is NewSouth Books’ version of “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”

commons.wikimedia.org

NewSouth Books censors the “N” Word to “slave” and the “I” Word to “Native American.”

I believe censoring and banning books and words is morally wrong. It doesn’t matter what the book is. It doesn’t matter what the word is. The removal of a word from a published book without the author’s permission is a cousin of plagiarism. Banning a book from a library compromises the intellectual integrity of the library community.

Banning books is dangerous. Without many years of intensive education, most people are simply not smart enough to figure out how to live in harmony with others. This is where “freedom of speech” and “freedom of press” is helpful. People who are exposed to more ideas are more likely to figure out which ideas are good and which ideas are bad. This comparative reasoning is the basis of all informed decision-making.

Of course, not all books are appropriate for all people. For example, few would argue against segregating erotica away from the children’s reading room of a library. Segregation is not banning. Segregation will move a book to an age-appropriate area, while banning will remove a book from an entire community.

3.bp.blogspot.com

Behold the All-Powerful “N” Word

In modern western culture, no other word is more feared and worshipped than the “N” word. Since stripped of its trailing letters, it’s become even more looming and poisonous. Civilized people don’t say the “N” word, it’s just too raw and violent. And the more it’s worshipped and feared, the more powerful it becomes. The “N” word is even more powerful than the “G-d” word. Most people are allowed to say the “G-d” word, but relatively few are allowed the “N” word. The only people still saying the all-powerful “N” word in its entirety without repercussion are “B R” and “B C.” They are rewarded for spitting the “N” word to their “N”-immune minions, who devour it like a pack of profanity-starved sailors. But what about those of “M R”? Can you say the “N” word if you are 50% “B,” but not if you are 25% “B”? What if you are a “N-B” person raised in an otherwise “A-B” family? Is your family allowed to say the “N” word while you are not?

nationalpost.com

Let’s own ALL our words, and not let our words own us.

List of government-banned books.

For more information, visit the ALA.

Words and books can be controversial for any reason.

What is your opinion of censoring or banning words and books? Is it appropriate or necessary in specific instances?

One Novel, One Month, One Pain in the Task

Me: I have a 50,000-word novel due at the end of the month.

Sigo: What happens if you don’t get it done?

Me: That’s not gonna happen.

Sigo: But what happens if you don’t get it done?

Me: Well, that’s not gonna happen, but if it did, let’s just say the universe would end at that point. So I’ve gotta make sure that doesn’t happen.

November is National Novel Writing Month. Participants commit to starting, finishing, and submitting (for an official word count) an original novel of at least 50,000 words during the month of November. It doesn’t have to be a good novel, or even a properly written novel with clean spelling, punctuation, and structure. It just has to be at least 50,000 words of “novel.”

On the first of the month I put my current novel-in-the-works on the back burner and signed up as a NaNoWriMo neophyte. I hoped to use the pressure of NaNoWriMo to finally bust out of my self-editing OCD. And writing a novel in one month would be pretty incredible too.

My first couple weeks were full of procrastination, and I adapted this Three Stooges skit:

Pal: Hiya, Pal!

Me: You call me pal?  Why, I haven’t heard that word for years. You know bub, I once was a naïve author like you.

P: Oh congratulations!

M: Ah, but it wasn’t always thus; I can look back to the days of yore when I was a very happy naïve writer. Then one day, that rat came and destroyed forever the all the naïvety I’d ever known. I’ll never forget that day, I just sat down at my computer after a full day of not writing, and there was an open invitation in my inbox. 

P: What did it say?

M: Oh it was one of those cold-blooded invitations: “Dear Writer: Write a novel in one month.” I was obsessed with the idea that I could do it. The trail led me to Twitter; I found I missed starting by three days when I got there. And I swore right there on Twitter I’d do it and have my glory; now on with the chase. Wikipedia, Facebook, WordPress. And then I came face to face with the rat that had taken over my life, it was in “NANOWRIMO,” “NANOWRIMO!” Slowly I wrote, and step by step, inch by inch, I walked up to it, and I smashed it, I hit it, I bonked it, I bopped it, I mashed its face and I wrote the words down!

P: Ooh, ooh! Take it easy bud, take it easy!

M: Excuse me kid, it’s that word, “NANOWRIMO,” Every time I hear it tears me apart!

 

So what have I learned at the half-way mark? . .

1. Writing 1,667 cohesively sensible words a day is hard.

2. After not writing 1,667 words a day, writing 2,000 cohesively sensible words a day is even harder.

3. Sub-plots set in bars and night clubs are fun and easy to pound out.

4. A 50,000+ word novel written in one month is the same as a 50,000+ word cartoon written in one month, but also includes weariness-induced spelling, grammatical, continuity, and logic errors.

5. Heed T. S. Eliot’s advice.

 

And now I must NaNoWriMo . .

 

11-30-10: I’m a WINNER with 50,002 words!

0.999… = 1 ?!

stgabss.net

A few days ago I read an article about math-comprehension enhancement through electrical stimulation of the brain. I saw the word “dycalculia.” Oddly enough, I think that was the first time I had seen that word (Wiki’s “Dyscalculia” page has been heavily edited since I wrote this post, and now gives little useful info about dyscalculia. I am, however, leaving the link as I am fairly confident the information will be corrected and expanded.) even though I now know I am dyscalculic. I did some research, and now my life-long math anxiety makes sense. Dyscalculics are people across the IQ range who, regardless of traditional schooling, don’t have a solid sense of numbers or how they interact. Dyscalculics also usually have difficulty mentally fixing their own bodies in space, interpreting spacial relationships in general, and ordering events in time.

School was surrealistic for me. In grade school I was at the top of my class in reading and spelling. But I struggled with multiplication tables. I simply could not memorize them, even under the threat of a paddling in front of the class. I was always the last in my class to finish in-class math assignments. On the school bus, I would ricochet off the seat edges while walking the aisle. I learned to tell time well after the other kids, and I took remedial math classes during the summer. My piano teacher was embarrassingly kind. She every week she sat through 50 minutes of  1-minute songs that each took me about 5 minutes to play. I didn’t understand how the dots and lines and spaces on the music sheets fit the keys on the piano.

autism-help.org

In high school, I flourished with vocabulary and reading comprehension, but math was rotten. In algebra, I used the same pre-filled-out “show your work” paper for each homework assignment when the teacher walked the aisles to check our homework.  He would always pause at my desk while I sunk in my seat. But he always wordlessly moved on. I frequently forgot the order of my classes and my locker combination. Running a straight line for track practice was impossible. In chemistry, my teacher went to grandiose lengths explaining the definition of a “mole.” To this day I have no working conception of it, even after re-reading its definition. My chemistry tutor patiently re-explained how to set up and calculate chemical equations every week until we both gave up.

In college I took what was described as a basic math class. The professor spent the first couple weeks teaching matrixes without quizzing the class. I tried to mentally pound the numbers into my brain, but they would crash and smash instead. The look of utter confusion on my face was so obvious, the professor called me into his office and asked me why I wasn’t “getting it.” I didn’t have an answer, so I dropped the class and finally swore off math for good.

Now, as an adult? . . I can’t immediately recall my own telephone number without the act of writing it. I still sometimes forgot how to do basic division and still transpose numbers. The few money-handling jobs I’ve had were nightmares. I don’t drive. I don’t think I’ll ever write another check. Hotels and shopping centers spontaneously morph into mazes, and I don’t know north from a hole in the ground. Even though I have perfect vision, I still sometimes run into walls while turning corners, or trip on chair legs. Keeping score in card games is baffling. I love science- except for the math parts. I know math is the language of the universe. Math is magic. But I’m not a magician.

I used to think I was just “numbers lazy.” That if I just tried hard enough, I would “get it.” Now I am relieved to know it’s not laziness, but a physical brain difference. Dyscalculics are often strong in language, perhaps to compensate for their math deficiencies; or perhaps the same mechanism which weakens math ability strengthens language ability. I don’t “get” the language of the universe, but I revel in my own language. I think I wouldn’t change a thing.

0.999… = 1 ?!