Thursday, April 26, 2012

13 Reasons Why I Hate Jet Lag

1. I become a Zombie...but not in a cool, action-adventure way.

2. My feet swell (and smell).

3. I wake up way too early.  I want to sleep during dinner.

4. And vice versa.

5. There is no semblance of normal digestion.

6. The cultural differences can be trying.  (For example, even though my body has excused itself from consciousness, I must endure the five-hour European dinner.)

7. My stomach growls at weird times during the day and night.

8. I simply cannot think.  How do I set this hotel alarm clock?

9. I can't exercise without feeling drunk...not in a good way.

10. On a business trip, I end up working both shifts.

11. I can't sleep in the cramped economy seat on the nine-hour return flight.

12. Yhw si it os fidfuictl to froodpear hwne oyu'er ejtalgged?

13. I swish a gallon of mouthwash and yet, my breath still smells like I've been eating fermented animal intestines in a Turkish prison for the past twenty years.

What do you hate about traveling?

Thanks to jhhwild on Flickr for the picture!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

How To Write Fiction

This image originally appeared in my Don't Over Think It post.
If you don't know what you're doing then everything seems impossible.

Take the Rubik's Cube.  When you open the package, an "instructional booklet" will fall out.  It may as well be a booklet on Quantum Theory printed in Aramaic.  Really, it's supposed to be a booklet of hints to make solving the Rubik's Cube achievable.  Fun even.

It won't take long to realize that booklet is useless.  If you persist and don't smash the cube into a million tiny pieces, then you will eventually discover a "Beginner's Method" to solving the Rubik's Cube.  These are all over the Internet.  These methods actually used to appear in book (you know, those paper thingies).

It may seem awkward at first, but the instructions provide a series of tried and true steps and before you know it, Viola!  You have a solved cube.  But there are many different ways to skin a cat.

I have studied many different methods over the past few years.  This gives me a lot of flexibility to adapt different tricks and techniques for each situation.  I achieve the same end state, a solved cube, but I'm not forced to do it the same way every time.

The same is true for writing.

If you don't know what you're doing, getting published may seem impossible.

When you first become serious about being a "published" author, it's natural to start with the tried and true.  What did Stephen King and Nora Roberts do to get published?  The real question to look at is what did they do to create fascinating stories for their readers?

But don't get too confident too soon.  Learning about character development is one thing, but don't expect to be able to put 20-30 three-dimensional characters into your story right away.  You'll need to focus on the craft at first.

What works for King or Roberts, might not work for you.  And that is just fine.  Don't just try to emulate their processes either.  There's a lot of talk in the writer community about outlining or not outlining.  Writing every day or only on the weekends.  Editing as you go or not looking back until you have a completed draft.

The truth is.  It really doesn't matter how you get there.  You need to allow yourself to understand what works for you.  For any given situation.  You may be experienced writing romance but trying to sell thrillers.  You need flexibility.

So, whether you use a "Beginner's Method" straight out of a writing craft book, or an "Advanced Method" gleaned from the likes of King or Roberts, you will find some basic and universal truths.  These truths are what makes writing worth reading.  That's why Nora Roberts has published more books than I have probably read in my lifetime.

What is the best writing lesson you have learned?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Death and Taxes

With Tax Day looming in the U.S., I thought it would be fitting to write about something more certain than taxes:  Death.  

Today I bring you thirteen actual ways people have died.

Of course, this is the Internet, and I also write fiction, so don't believe everything you read here – at least not in this post.

Although I do write fiction, I certainly did not make up any of these stories.  True stories are often stranger than fiction.  And these thirteen were the most interesting to me.

If you don't agree, well, what else would you rather be doing – your taxes?

13 Tales of Death Stranger Than Fiction
  1. In 1919, twenty one people died during the Boston Molasses Disaster.  A storage unit released over two million gallons of molasses creating a massive wave as high as 15 ft. devastating more than three city blocks.
  2. Jimi Heselden, the owner of the Segway company, died after careening over a cliff while on his – yes, Segway.
  3. Jogger, Robert Gary Jones, was killed when a small airplane making an emergency landing struck him from behind.
  4. In 1953, Frank Hayes became the only deceased jockey to win a race after he died of a heart attack while on his horse.
  5. The war between humans and robots began in 1979 when Robert Williams became the first known human to be killed by a robot.  He worked at a Ford Motor Company assembly plant.
  6. In 1980, Monica Myers, the mayor of Betterton, Maryland, drowned and died in a tank of raw sewage.
  7. In 2009, Vladimir Likhonos died after dipping his chewing gum in explosives that he mistook for citric acid.  He suffered massive injuries to his face when the chewing gum exploded.
  8. In 1995, a persistent man in Canberra, Australia shot himself three times with a pump action shotgun before he finally died.  He first inflicted a non-fatal shot to the chest.  Reloaded and blew away his jaw and throat.  Not quite dead, he finished the job firing the final shot with his toes.
  9. This death was like a Rube Goldberg Suicide Machine.  Jacques LeFevrier of Normandy, France, attempted the most convoluted suicide I've ever heard of.  He intended to hang himself with a rope by jumping off of a cliff over the frigid ocean.  But first he drank some poison and set his clothes on fire.  Oh yeah, he also had a gun and planned to shoot himself the moment he jumped off the cliff.  Well, he missed himself with the bullet and it shot through the rope.  He splashed into the water below putting out the flames.  The impact, or the intense cold of the water, apparently induced vomiting, saving him from the poison.  Witnesses on the beach rescued him, but he later died of hypothermia at the hospital.
  10. We have another winner in death!  In 1927, J.G. Parry-Thomas, set a new land speed record of 171 mph despite being decapitated by his car's drive chain during the attempt.
  11. In 2001, a Memphis Darwin Award Winner rushed to the Post Office to file his taxes before midnight.  He attempted to beat a train and coincidentally collided, head on with another reckless driver also rushing to beat the train.  Fortunately, nobody on the train was killed.
  12. I will conclude the list with two writers who also died strange deaths.  (I don't have nearly enough room here for writers who committed suicide.)  The first is Sherwood Anderson.  If you have studied writing as I have, you probably have read his short story, Hands.  He died from a punctured colon after swallowing a toothpick at a party.
  13. Since the US Tax Code is so convoluted and mysterious, I thought it would be fitting to conclude with the death of Edgar Allan Poe.  Poe died on October 7, 1849.  Many theories have been postulated, yet the mystery of his death remains unsolved.
Please share this post if you found it interesting.  Thanks for stopping by!

Thank you, Faerie Girl on Flickr for the surreal photo.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Funny 13,000 Word Blog Post

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then today's post should be worth at least 13,000.  Enjoy!

Fabulous writer and blogger, E.C. Stilson
(She's their left boob. Go check out her other work!)

Yes, those are baby carrots!

Mr. Disney, just what are those mice doing?

Harry Potter vs. Twilight
Birth Announcement
It's a boy!

If you found this amusing in any way, please send people my way!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Bigger Doesn't Mean Better

Tony Fisher - Modifies Rubik's type puzzles
(Somebody who's actually more obsessed with the Rubik's Cube!)
 Once you conquer the Rubik's Cube, you'll keep your eyes out for the next big thing in puzzling. 

First it will be the Rubik's Revenge, or the 4x4.  Then it will be the Professor Cube, or the 5x5. 

Next, feeling particularly confident, you'll send away for a 7x7x7 cube.  This puzzle has seven layers of tiny pieces in every dimension.

It's so large, it bulges.  You'd have a hard time convincing your Geometry teacher that this is in fact still a cube!

I actually have a 7x7 cube.  What I quickly learned was that Bigger isn't always Better.

Turning this puzzle is difficult because there are so many layers to deal with.  It jams when the layers are not perfectly aligned and some of the small pieces can pop out.  But the dramatic size is really the problem.  It's simply too awkward and difficult to hold.

Once you get past the novelty of yet another variation on a similar theme, this enormous cube doesn't seem worth the hassle.

The same can be true with your writing.  Bigger doesn't mean better.

As writers, we are inundated with all sorts of advice and it's difficult to know which lessons to heed.  One piece of advice I often hear is along the Go Big or Go Home theme.  You've got to hook readers and keep them hooked.  That won't work with boring stories or boring characters.

The problem is that unpublished writers often interpret this to mean grandiose stories and characters.  They err on the side of melodrama rather than creating compelling drama.  So they will introduce more plot complexity.  They will bring you bigger explosions on Page 1.  They will bring you more stuff happening to characters we can't identify with.

A car explodes on a busy street in the first chapter.  A house explodes later.  Eventually, you decide, there must be a nuclear explosion before it's all over.

But really, your stories don't have to be grandiose.  Readers can see right through gimmicks.  When a reader abandons an action-packed story, it's usually because it's just become too awkward and unwieldy.

Now, there is nothing wrong with explosions.  But you can wow your reader with subtlety too.  Think about how much more powerful it is for the reader to experience tension and suspense, rather than having their hair blown back.

How would you make your story better than that last best seller?  It's easy to think Bigger.  But the reality is that publishers (and readers) want "the same, but different".  By the same, this means doing what is tried and true for a genre.  By different, this means original, but not melodramatic.

Tony Fisher (shown above) has been successful modifying Rubik's type puzzles because he is able to tap into what was successful with the original puzzle and still keep that essence with his various inventions.

What do you think?  Is bigger better?