Friday, February 27, 2009

Small Town Inspiration

I grew up in a rural area near Dayton, Tennessee. One day, years ago, I stood in an acquaintance’s yard on top of a mountain. The house was nice, but it was the only one I could see. All around the place were woods. It was beautiful in the light of day, but all I could think was I’d be scared to death at night. Totally isolated, with who knows what coming out of the woods, one curvy road leading out of there. The thought creeped me out then, and still sends chills down my spine.

Years later a character named Kia Wolfe decided to move into an old house on top of a mountain. Totally isolated with one curvy road leading down the mountain to the tiny town of Mountain Shadows. You couldn’t pay me enough, but my character was determined. And Shadows of Evil was born.

The inspiration for the fictional town of Mountain Shadows was Dayton. I took the accompanying picture the last time I visited and I wanted to share it with you. Like many other small towns, downtown Dayton has become almost a ghost town, as strip malls and chain stores overtake the area. And that’s a shame. Towns like Dayton have charm and personality.

Not to mention, they make great settings for spooky novels.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Can You Guess the President?






Last week we celebrated Presidents’ Day and had a fun time working through a Presidential Quiz. But we’re not done! I’ve created another brain-teaser. To make it easy, I’ve given you three possible answers to each question. In all cases, only one is correct.


Header from samulli



Got your thinking cap on? Here we go. …




1. The only president NOT to live in Washington, D. C., during his time in office was? James Madison, George Washington, William Henry Harrison.




2. This president was born on the Fourth of July and was sworn in by his father. Calvin Coolidge, George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan.




3. This president was the first to visit China while in office. George Washington, Richard Nixon, William Howard Taft.




4. His Inauguration was the first known to have been photographed. James Madison, James Buchanan, Woodrow Wilson.




5. This president was the first to greet people by shaking hands. Before his term, people bowed to the president. Andrew Jackson, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison.




6. This president is famous for his “Fireside Chats.” Another hint: When he married his cousin, she was given away at the wedding ceremony by Teddy Roosevelt. Warren Harding, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson.




7. This president had only one tooth. It’s rumored he wore wooden teeth. Zachary Taylor, John Quincy Adams, George Washington.




8. He ran with the slogan, “A Chicken in Every Pot and A Car in Every Garage” and when elected he approved "The Star-Spangled Banner" as the National Anthem. Herbert Hoover, Harry S. Truman, Chester A. Arthur.




9. He was the largest man to be president. He was 6 foot 2 inches – not that unusual – but he weighed a hefty 350 pounds. William H. Taft, Warren G. Harding, Franklin Pierce.




10.This president’s hobby is jogging. His nickname is Bubba. Hint: His wife currently holds a political office. Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush.




11. Before he became a Senator, Governor and then President, he was a peanut farmer. He’s active in Habitat for Humanity and is an author and speaker. Zachary Taylor, Chester A. Arthur, Jimmy Carter.




12.This president was considered to be the most athletic President in office. He was born Leslie Lynch King Jr. and went on to star on the University of Michigan football team. He’s also the longest-lived president; he died at 93. Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon.




13.This president is the first African-American President -- America’s 44th president. Barack Obama, Jesse Jackson, Martin Luther King.


Please make your guesses in the comments. I’ll tell you if you’re right and then at the end of the day, I’ll give you all the answers. Thanks for playing.








Sources:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/about/presidents/
http://www.littleknownfactsshow.com/presidents.html
http://library.thinkquest.org/TQ0312172/potus5.html
http://library.thinkquest.org/11492/convention/requirements.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/President_of_the_United_States
http://inaugural.senate.gov/history/factsandfirsts/

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Name That Picture 2

I liked Lori's Monday geode so much I thought I'd do a "name that picture" entry as well. But you'd be amazed how hard it is to get good results when you Google for interesting photos to delight and confuse blog visitors! I tried mystery photo, mystery image, mystery picture, unknown object and finally "what the hell is that thing". I got a lot of sea creatures and UFOs but nothing really good. Either people online know what everything is or Google wasn't working tonight because I didn't encounter the smorgasbord of photos you might think you would.

I did find one fun object for you to ponder. To wit:


All I can say is, it's not what you think! (Because if it was, it wouldn't be on this blog.)

Jody W.
http://www.jodywallace.com/

Monday, February 23, 2009

Name That Picture

Can you guess what this is?



A. A meteor from outer space
B. A walnut on steroids
C. A gryphon’s egg
D. A pod person about to hatch
E. A rock

Well, if you guessed ‘C’ you’d be correct—at least for the purpose of my story. (OK, so technically you’d also be right if you guessed ‘E’, but who cares?)

This is a closed agate geode. My latest WIP is called TREASURE OF THE GRYPHON. And what’s a gryphon’s greatest treasure, you might ask? It’s not the nest she builds out of gold, although humans prize it highly and will do anything to get it. No, a gryphon’s greatest treasure is the egg she lays in it. A mated gryphon pair will only lay one egg in their lifetime, that’s why the creatures are so rare. And it’s not like any other egg. It’s made of agate. In the book I’m working on, my knight hero and time traveling heroine need the wise gryphon’s help to rescue a missing boy who may or may not be the hero’s son. But she’ll aid them only on one condition – they must find the egg that has been stolen from her and return it to her, unharmed.

After some trial and tribulations they find the egg all right. Unfortunately it hatches before they can return it to its parents and then they are stuck with the care and feeding of a baby gryphon. Dr. Spock didn’t write a handbook on that one, let me tell ya. *G*

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Medieval Heat - and news...

In spite of the mini-ice age they suffered during the Middle Ages, the times were smokin' hot.




What could be cooler than a knight fighting for your honor?




How about a group of them!











Castles are pretty cool too! The immense stone edifices designed for protection as well as living.




Castles do fascinating things with light. It would be inspirational for any artist.


























Then there are the knights and Lords which we feature as the hero of our novels. Nothing is hotter than a man in chain maille - in my personal opinion. If he knows how to handle a sword, so much the better. Of course, I have to admit I'm biased.






















So why am I feeling all Medieval today? Why are knights and Lords putting a smile on my face? Well, because on Friday I received some exceptional news!

My editor at Ellora's Cave emailed me with a contract offer for my medieval, paranormal erotic romance, Seeking Truth.

So for right now, Knights are the top of the mark for me. I'm thrilled and excited. When I have details, a cover and a release date - I'll let you know!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

How Well Do You Know Your Presidents?

picture from http://www.blackhillsportal.com/cnt/files/Image/News_Photo/Mount_rushmore__1.jpg



Monday, February 16th, was President’s Day -- a day we honor and reflect on our Presidents. But how well do you know these men who served and are serving as President?
What key facts do we remember? If you’re like me, not so many.
To remedy that situation, I did a little Web research and came up with a multiple-choice quiz. In all but one case, only one of the answers is correct.
Are you ready?
Header from samulli






How Well Do You Know Your Presidents?

1. Barack Obama is the 44th President of the United States, right? How many presidents have served before him? (This is a tricky question.) 42, 43 or 44?





2. How old do you have to be to run for president? 35, 21, or 40?





3. The youngest president was/is … Barack Obama, John F. Kennedy, Teddy Roosevelt?





4. Who was the oldest president ever to hold the office? Abraham Lincoln, John McCain, Ronald Reagan?





5. Most of the United States Presidents list religious affiliation as … Catholic, Episcopalian, Presbyterian.





6. The tallest president was 6 feet, 4 inches. He was: Ronald Reagan, Abe Lincoln or Barack Obama?





7. The shortest president was 5 feet and 4 inches. He was: Rutherford B. Hayes, Gerald Ford, James Madison?





8. Fourteen presidents -- John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Van Buren, John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, Chester Arthur, Teddy Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford and George H. W. Bush (the first Bush) -- all had the same job before being elected as president. What was that job? Vice President, Speaker of the House, Senator?





9. Which president never married? Bill Clinton, James Buchanan, Chester Arthur?





10.Who is the only president to be divorced? Richard Nixon, Calvin Coolidge, Ronald Reagan?





11. You may see portraits of Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, John F. Kennedy, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Franklin D. Roosevelt in your daily life. Why? You like to read about presidents? They’re all on U. S. coins? You surf the Internet a lot so you’re sure to see presidents eventually?





12. Who are the only presidents to sign the Declaration of Independence? Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, Martin Van Buren and William Harrison, George Washington and Andrew Jackson?




13. This president took the term pet-lover to the limit. Here’s a list of his pets: 13 dogs, 3 canaries, 3 cats; 3 raccoons, a donkey; a bobcat, a thrush; a goose; a mockingbird; a bear; an antelope; a wallaby; a pygmy hippo; and some lion cubs. This president was: Teddy Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Jimmy Carter.




Please make your guesses in the Comments. I’ll tell you if you’re right and then at the end of the day, I’ll give you all the answers. Thanks for playing.









Wednesday, February 18, 2009

When Memories Aren't Enough


I'm working on a story right now set in West Virginia, a place I have visited many times throughout my life. My mother was born in WV and most of her family still resides there.

It's been a couple years, but there are so many things that make this setting colorful and unique, including how many of the towns are situated in valleys, long and narrow and prone to flooding. The highways in the areas we went can be extremely steep and hairpin once you get off the interstates. Of course, not all of West Virginia is like that, but it is the most mountainous state in the union.

The above photo, located at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richwood,_West_Virginia, is from a town called Richwood, the current location of the campground where my mom's family hosts an annual reunion/camping trip. I don't recognize the angle, but the photo definitely evokes sensory memories. The Wiki page has a few more images, as does the official town website at: http://www.richwoodwv.com/gallery.asp.

That's one of the great things about the internet. Somewhere, somebody has probably posted a photo of it, if not more than one. I found all these and more when I let my fingers do the typing.

Jody W.
http://www.jodywallace.com/

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Dragon Digs



THESE are the digs of my latest hero, dragon shape-shifter, Gradon Black.
Now in the real world, it's located in Toronto, Canada and is called Casa Loma. But in my imagination, this castle sits nestled in the woods of bucolic NJ (and yes there bucolic parts of New Jersey) on the shores of (mythical) Lake Mystic.

It really is great when you find that perfect setting for you story. And I'm doubly lucky because I visited Casa Loma about seven years ago and have first-hand knowledge of the scale of the place. There are 90+ rooms in Casa Loma. I don't need quite that many. Oh and BTW, that picture is of the BACK of the castle. Yup, the back.
I started out with just your average run-of-the-mill mansion for my story, but decided that a dragon would prefer something made of stone and well...a castle harkens back to all that medieval stuff where mortals killed (or claimed to kill) dragons left and right.
The irony isn't lost on old Gradon.
Other kewl things about Casa Loma that I am borrowing: the great hall. I mean a REAL great hall with 60 foot ceilings and oak rafters and flags hanging from those rafters. Two turrets one in the Scottish design and one in the Norman (just like CL.) I'm also using the conservatory and the gardens. The gardens are needed in my story because my next tale features Tessia, the gardener, as the heroine.

Here's to old vacations!


Talia

Monday, February 16, 2009

Inspiration and Artistic License

This week here at the diner we’re going to be posting photos that relate to our writing. For my photo, I present to you the oubliette. It’s from the French word oublier, meaning “to forget.”

The oubliette is a dungeon with only a single opening at the top. Prisoners were lowered (or sometime tossed) down this hole and left to die. These unfortunate prisoners were, for all intents and purposes, forgotten. Since my heroine is a rock climbing instructor dragged back in time by a 13th century dragonslaying knight, I thought it would be a great scene to show off her skills and give her a chance to save the hero for once. Problem is, the earliest use of the word oubliette dates back to 1374 and my story takes place in 1213. So what’s a writer to do?

Well, sometimes we have to take advantage of a little thing called artistic license and bend things a little. I figure, just because the word wasn’t in use in the early 13th century doesn’t mean the "pit of the forgotten" was not. Note if you will that the oubliette looks very much like a deep well. They had stone-lined wells in 1213 (some date back to when the Romans occupied Britain). It reasons that a sadistic person (aka my villain) might use a well as an impromptu prison for my hero and heroine. Because of the time period I've set my book in, I can’t call it an oubliette by name, but I have no qualms about using the architectural principle for the scene. And a kick-butt scene it is too. *G*

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Guest Blogger: Mind Candy

Bonjour, mes amis. I'm Jacques Bond, the dungeon gourmet. The lovely ladies at the Otherworld Diner invited me to cook up a writing special for you this week. So, I share with you my favorite treats to tempt the creative mind.

1) Poetry

You can read it or play with your own words on paper. Let the words woo each other. When you need to fall in love with writing again, poetry can rekindle your romance with words.

2) Mood Drawings

Don't draw things - no recognizable objects or symbols allowed. Draw moods. Let emotion drive the lines, cast shadows, bloom in colors. Play with pencils or crayons or a child's paintbox. This opens the side of your mind where the metaphors hide.

3) Music

I listen to instrumentals with nature sounds in the background. An acoustic guitar with an ocean as backdrop carries me into the creative flow. A flute amidst night sounds in a forest turns the mind toward thinking in pictures.

4) Challenge

Nothing sparks my creative soul like seeing how far I can push a boundary without crossing the line. Trying to make a traditional storyline fit a new mold can get ideas sizzling. Sometimes a submission call can be a challenge. Deciding how you could write your story around a theme of ice cream or coffee sets up free association and parallel thinking. A strict form like 3-6-9 flash fiction will do the same while forcing you to pare your project down to its finest words.

5) Play

Above all, minds need to play. Play with words and ideas. Play with plot devices. Play with new ways to deliver a story. Choose a play project that is just for your pleasure. Write a twitter novel. Let one of your characters blog about your favorite hobby.

I share my creative playground with a ghost that tells her story through a chat-bot and a rabbit that communicates through ascii art. They remind me to have fun with words.

Indulge your creativity and it will love you back, mes amis. Play with your mind. Feed it all the candy it wants.

Bond

***

Bond is a character in Nara Malone's story, The Dungeon Gourmet. He doen't believe in confining characters or stories to the pages of a book.

Nara taught online courses in creativity for many years. She writes paranormal and erotic romance. Her first novel, The Tiger's Tale, won Passionate Ink's 2008 Stroke of Midnight Award for best paranormal romance. Her second novel, Mind Games, finaled in the East Texas RWA Southern Heat Contest.

You can find Nara blogging about immersive fiction at her author website: http://narasnook.wordpress.com Bond blogs at her experimental fiction site: http://narasnook.blogspot.com

Friday, February 13, 2009

Why I Love Writing


1. The commute. Come rain, ice, or middle of the night, to get to my writing space all I have to do is go down the hall. Of course, that also means no excuses.

2. Being someone else. I don’t have to be the slightly shy grandmother from a tiny Southern town. I can be a kick-butt heroine taking out bad guys, I can be a genius scientist making discoveries that will change the world, or I can be an evil villain plotting the downfall of the civilized world. The limit is my imagination, and I have a very interesting imagination.

3. Talking with imaginary people. My characters not only talk to me, they demand I tell their stories. And they are fascinating people. Strong, quirky, odd, beautiful, evil—they can be any of those things. I have a little too much fun sometimes.

4. Reading for research. Curled up with a cup of tea, a good book in my hand. I dare you to question my "laziness" I have to keep up with what’s being published. I have to see what makes a bestseller a bestseller. Yes, I love reading. Don’t you enjoy your work?

5. Cheap therapy. I’ve found out an amazing amount of things about myself while writing, the latest being that I hold my emotions inside—to the point where I didn’t allow my characters to let their emotions out either. While writing isn’t a substitute for needed psychological therapy, it’s a big help for a lot of folks.

6. No time clock. I write when I want, on my own schedule. It’s possible to write around a day job, small children, and other responsibilities. For someone like me, who has a chronic illness, writing allows for taking bad days off, for working shorter hours when need be, and for putting in more hours when good days happen. I like to take "grandchildren days" and go play with mine.

7. Dress code. Actually, the lack thereof. Writers Digest Magazine had "write naked" T-shirts available at one time (I haven’t seen a WD lately, so I can’t say if they still do). While I doubt many writers actually write in the nude, most are quite comfortable while they're working. Personally, I wear sweat pants and T-shirts that are one step up from pajamas. Helps the muse, you know.

8. The world is my office. Whether using paper and pen, Alphasmart, or my laptop, I’m not confined to one small space. I can write in the living room, out on the porch, at the library, at restaurants, wherever. Getting out of the house staves off boredom and feeds the muse. Win/win.

9. Meet wonderful people. It’s not only my characters who make my life more interesting. I’ve met my closest friends through this writing gig. I guess it’s true, only a writer can truly understand another writer.

10. Getting published. Get ready for some shameless self-promotion: My novella, Keepers of Legend, was released on Wednesday from The Wild Rose Press. Yes, I’m ecstatic!

Here’s a blurb:
Deep in the Smoky Mountains a strange creature sweeps through the air and captures the imagination. It looks like a dragon, but is it? Jessica Knight has her doubts, but can she protect the amazing animal long enough to discover the truth?
For an excerpt, go here.

Sorry, couldn't resist.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Thirteen Fun Facts about Valentine’s Day

This probably will come as no surprise to you:
Valentine’s Day is one of my favorite holidays. I love the cards, hearts, flowers and, yes, the chocolates. I relish being able to share my feelings with those I care about, but I must confess, I didn’t really know that much about Valentine’s Day. The solution? A bit of digging on the Internet.

I’d like to share what I found out.



1.People aren’t totally sure how Valentine’s Day originated. It may have its origins in the pagan celebration of … Lupercalia. Although the details of which gods were actually honored during this holiday are sketchy, the celebration centered around a cave called The Lupercal, where, as legend states, a wolf nursed Romulus and Remus, the twins who founded Rome. This holiday took place from February 14-16 and seemed to have several rituals, including a naked run, that were supposed to increase fertility.

2. Some experts believe February 14th is the day that birds choose their mates.

3. Probably the most widely held belief about Valentine’s Day is that during the 3rd century, Emperor Claudius II forbid his soldiers to marry, apparently believing that men without families fought better. A priest named Valentine disagreed and began to perform secret weddings for soldiers. Emperor Claudius found out and Valentine was executed.

4. However, an exact answer of who Valentine might have been is lost in history. Several saints who possess the name of Valentine were martyred and are recognized by the Catholic Church.

5. Ever wonder where the expression “Wearing your heart on your sleeve” comes from? In the Middle Ages, on Valentine’s Day, young people would put their names in a bowl. A person of the opposite sex would reach into the bowl, pluck a name and pin it to his or her sleeve. (That is, if they liked that person.) In that manner, they were claiming the person as their Valentine. I guess the modern-day equivalent may be the Facebook application: “Are you interested (in me)?” Or it may be something else. Please Facebook fans, let me know.

6. After Christmas, Valentine’s Day is the holiday where the greatest number of cards are exchanged. One billion – that’s billion, not million -- are sent in the United States alone.

7. Who receives the most Valentines? It’s not children and it’s not sweethearts. Teachers receive the most, according to one source -- followed by children, mothers, wives and then sweethearts.

8. Who sold the nation’s first mass-produced valentine cards? It was Esther Howland who lived in Massachusetts in the 1840s.

9-13. How do most people celebrate Valentine’s Day? According to the Hallmark/Retail Industry Leaders Association/NRF and the U. S. Census Bureau, the most popular activities are: Sending greeting cards, having a date night, buying candy, purchasing flowers, giving a gift card, and presenting a plush animal/ heart/ pillow to your sweetheart.

So, how are you planning on celebrating Valentine’s Day? Are you doing anything special? I’d love to hear about it.


Sources and Excellent Sites for Valentine’s Information
http://depthome.brooklyn.cuny.edu/classics/dunkle/romnlife/luprclia.htm
http://www.census.gov/Press-Release/www/releases/archives/facts_for_features_special_editions/006116.html
http://festivals.iloveindia.com/valentines-day/valentine-day-fact.html
http://www.mydearvalentine.com/valentines-day-facts/
http://www.history.com/content/valentine/history-of-valentine-s-day (This is my favorite. It has a Dating Through Time quiz which I failed, but enjoyed and all sorts of other fun things such as love letters from a president, and many video clips about Valentine’s Day.)









Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Quick Meals for Busy Writers

Tonight another culinary disaster nearly derailed a nice, family evening followed by an even nicer bout of mommy writing time.

Instead of questioning why this keeps happening--the reasons are as varied as my fiction--I am trying to develop a flexible strategy for quick and easy meals for when my original meal plan goes astray or I'm busy all day, preferably writing, and don't get dinner whipped together in time. Bonus points if the meal can be prepared by my long-suffering husband.

Here are our family's top meals for the crisis nights that happen more often the more time I devote to my career:

1) Breakfast for dinner. Eggs, yogurt or cheese, toast or pancakes (frozen!), a green salad and -- if the eggs aren't a veggie filled omelette -- a frozen vegetable or can of fruit.

2) TV dinners. Unhealthy but so easy hubby can make them! Supplement with green salad and/or fruit.

3) Canned soup and sandwiches. We usually only have peanut butter and jelly on hand (or eggs!) but it doesn't hurt the adults in the family to eat peanut butter. I love peanut butter. I also try to keep "healthier" canned soups in stock.

4) Easy black beans (canned beans, corn & tomatoes) and tortillas with a green salad.

5) Leftovers. This isn't as obvious as you might think! It takes preparing more than we need at some point during the week and then not gobbling them up for lunch the next day.

6) Newly discovered: stir fry and egg drop soup, both homemade.

Yes, the Wallaces don't have a lot of imagination compared to the number of times dinner goes mysteriously awry and we have an over-reliance on eggs. Hey, what can I say, the kids will actually EAT them and it's not fast food, pizza or hot dogs.

Here is a more inventive list of quick meals from various websites. I believe the trick is to make sure your pantry is stocked with SOMETHING, which, as we all know, is harder than it sounds.

http://archive.womansday.com/food/12656/10-minute-meals.html

http://busycooks.about.com/cs/easiestrecipes/a/easiestrecipes2.htm

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/18/dining/18mini.html?_r=1&em&ex=1184904000&en=c7b9dea42eb9cefa&ei=5087%0A

http://www.fabulousfoods.com/index.php?option=com_resource&controller=article&category_id=705&article=21177

http://food.ivillage.com/quickeasy/dinner/0,,9vtftfgt,00.html

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20081024000213AAXSRdJ

http://www.cooks.com/rec/search/0,1-0,5_minute_meals,FF.html

http://www.baptisteast.com/recipes/tenminmeals.cfm

http://www.baptisteast.com/recipes/moremeals.cfm

http://allrecipes.com/Recipes/Everyday-Cooking/Quick-and-Easy/15-Minute-Mains/Main.aspx

So, what does your family do when you need to get dinner on the table fast without drive through service?

Jody W.
http://www.jodywallace.com
A SPELL FOR SUSANNAH--In Paper, Samhain Publishing
LIAM'S GOLD--In Electrons, Samhain Publishing

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The language of flowers

Chances are you know there's a whole not-so-secret language that was used quite commonly in Victorian times. Here are some romantic sentiments and the flowers that represent them...in case you want to send a secret message to your favorite Valentine.



Bashfulness ....................... Peony

Be Mine.............................. Four Leaf Clover

Delicate Beauty.................. Hibiscus

Elegance and Diginity........ Dahlia

Fecundity............................Hollyhock

Fidelity in love....................Lemon blossoms

Goodness.............................Flowering Laurel

Lasting Love.......................Chinese Primrose

Love.....................................Rose, red chyrsanthemum

Mirth....................................Saffron Crocus

Modesty...............................White Violet, Lily

Partiality................................................Pink Geranium

Peace......................................................Gardenia, Olive

Protection..............................................Juniper

Remembrance......................................Rosemary

Sensuality.............................................Spanish Jasmine

Thoughts...............................................Pansy

True Love..............................................Forget-Me-Not

Virtue.....................................................Mint

Welcome................................................Mayflower

Wisdom..................................................Blue Salvia

Youth......................................................Primrose



As I was cataloging these, I started wondering if the song "Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme" meant more than "Find me a chicken to roast! Now!"



According to The Language and Sentiment of Flowers by James D. McCabe those ingredients would break down like this:



Parsley.............Feasting, Festivity

Sage..................Domestic Virtues

Rosemary........Remembrance

Thyme.............Activity or courage





I think there's the beginning of a plot in there somewhere.



Happy Valentine's Day, folks!



Talia

Monday, February 9, 2009

Top 10 Weasel Words

Before I begin my list, let me explain what weasel words are for those of you who don’t know. They’re crutch words writers use too often in their writing. In yet another attempt to trim down my last manuscript, here’s my list of overused weasel words out of a cast of 130,000:

  1. looked (189)
  2. even (195)
  3. about (233)
  4. down (310)
  5. just (355)
  6. up (421)
  7. over (469)
  8. could (606)
  9. had (914)
  10. that (1108)
‘That’ is obviously my worst weasel word. Now, it’s not realistic to get rid of all those words. Many times they’re necessary, but I think I can try to cut most of these by at least a third. That’s around 2000 words. Oops, just used another ‘that’. Crap, and another ‘just’. See what I mean? *sigh*

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Top Ten Songs on the Playlist for my WIP


My latest work in progress is tentatively titled Happy Howlidays. Yup, it takes place in my shapeshifter universe but it involves a completely new cast of characters and there are no dead bodies or blood. Well, there's some figurative blood because of family dynamics during the holidays, but that's it.

My hero, Joe Blackwolf, is a lead singer/lead guitarist in a rock band. The story opens on his fiftieth birthday where he's wondering what he's got to show for his life. Years of touring, but no home and no pups. Complications arise when he meets his True Mate, Mandy Goldwolf. He thinks she has a mate and he discovers she is the only daughter of two True Mated musicians in his new band, The Pack. Even worse in Joe's eyes, Mandy is only 35.

Mandy isn't mated, but she told her mother she was in order to get some breathing room on the ever present topic of "when am I going to get some grandpups?" Well, Mandy has some 'splaining to do because she doesn't tell Joe the truth right away. Instead, they do the wild thing in an empty office between sets. Now she has to straighten out the mess she created by lying to her mother and not telling Joe the truth before he found out in a very public way. On top of all that, Mandy has to convince the love of her life, he isn't too old for her. And all before Christmas.

So what do I listen to in order to get in the mood to write this? Well, I've created a Christmas mix for later. But right now, here are the top ten songs I'm using for inspiration and why:

Wanted Dead or Alive - Bon Jovi

Great guitar riffs at the opening and it describes life on the road really well. It fits Joe's mindset at the opening of my story. Tired, jaded, but loving the life he's led for the last thirty years. Like Bon Jovi - Joe's "seen a million faces and he's rocked them all."

Turn The Page - Bob Seger

Another song about life on the road. The mood of this song is mournful. I love the sense of "other" Seger sings about when going into restaurants. "Is that a woman or a man?" Joe's always had long hair so this is part of his background. Sometimes listening to the right songs, gets me inside the core of a character faster than anything else. This one helps a lot.

Sweet Child O'Mine - Guns and Roses

This one opens the concert at the opening of the book. One of the most recognizable opening guitar riffs ever. I can see Joe playing this clear as day. He hasn't met Mandy, but this is who she'll come to represent to him. (No, not his child - find the lyrics and you'll know what I mean).

Rockstar - Nickelback

This is just tongue in cheek funny. Joe's a working rock musician, not a rock star. He almost can't imagine the "Rock Star" life. He's good enough to have made it but wasn't really willing (as he feels ) to lose a piece of himself to make it. So he makes fun of the life by singing a cover of this song. Most of his band mates are influenced by the sixties and seventies greats. Joe is more eighties and nineties because he's always been the oldest member of a band in the past.

He sings this at the close of a concert, directed at Mandy. He's found out she isn't just the band groupie she pretended to be. She gets up to dance and lifts her blonde to assure him "no bleach" which he already knows. Intimately. He may be really ticked at her but she makes him laugh.

BTW, if you've never seen the video for this song, seek it out. It is hilarious. You'll see one of the guys from ZZ Top, Ted Nugent, Gene Simmons, Wayne Gretzky, and blond Playboy bunnies and many more in cameo appearances. Nickelback doesn't even appear in this video until the last couple of bars of the song. It is a killer video. (You can't tell I'm a Nickelback fan, can you?)

The Load Out/Stay - Jackson Browne

Encore time. More life on the road, but this is dedicated to the audience. Kind of a "thank you" for coming. I've always loved this song, and I'm sure a lot of bands have covered this tun through the years. Mandy's mom plays the keyboards, but Joe sings it. I love the way The Load Out just segues into Stay. It's a great encore tune.

Somebody's Baby - Jackson Browne
Joe catches sight of Mandy and he's sure she's already somebody's baby and would never want him. At the same time, because of her mother's pressure, she wants to be somebody's baby. Mandy wants Joe...right away. She wants to belong to him, so she steps out of character to be his. From that point on, they have to unravel the complications in order to get together.

Angel Eyes - The Jeff Healey Band
Joe's view of Mandy. He can't believe she could or should want him. I've loved this song ever since Jeff Healey was featured in RoadHouse. This song has a real blues flavor mixed with the rock and Healey's rough voice makes this song a must hear. It fits Joe's view of Mandy - untouchable - yet there's nothing he wants more than to touch her. Love her. sigh... Yeah, I love this one.

Angel - Aerosmith
Angel is Joe's nickname for Mandy. Great love song with good guitar riffs. He's crying and aching for her. He wants her to come and save him. Totally fits the story and the characters. I love Aerosmith. Between Steven Tyler's vocals and Joe Perry's guitar, they're gold practically every time they perform.

Wonderful Tonight - Eric Clapton

This song is bittersweet for Mandy and Joe because of the context of its appearance in the story. I've made up my mind to have it make a reappearance late in the story. I could even see this becoming "their song." I'll let you know.

Faithfully - Journey

Mandy has never liked life on the road, but Joe is a musician. He can't stop or he'll stop being who he is. In his past, long distance relationships have crashed and burned. But with Mandy, he's willing to try...Faithfully. Mandy is willing to give up some of her security to travel with him at times, while she provides him a home base to come back to. The love and passion between them is too much for them to ignore. Ah, HEA. I love romances.

***

Yeah, I know these songs are more geared toward my hero, but that's how I write. I tend to know my hero inside and out and learn about my heroine as he learns about her. I know others write differently, but this works for me. Hope you enjoyed my playlist.

When you are writing what do you listen to? Do you create a playlist? Do your songs have words or are they classical so they don't distract you?

If you're a reader, do you turn on background music when you're reading or do you prefer silence so you can immerse yourself in the story?






Friday, February 6, 2009

My Personal Top Five Writing Influences

Everybody is different. My friends have entirely different lists. This is my personal list of writing influences; the people who have helped me get to where I am today. Obviously there have been many other influences on my writing, but these five are the people I keep going back to again and again.

Margie Lawson
Ralph Keyes
Debra Dixon
James N. Frey
Jack M. Bickham

Margie Lawson—this amazing woman not only teaches amazing classes on how to make your work shine like new designer shoes, she also teaches a class on Defeating Self-Defeating Behaviors. She’s had a profound affect on my work and my life.

Ralph Keyes—the fact that I’m published can be attributed in large part to this man. I’ve read The Courage To Write: How Writers Transcend Fear several times, and each time I am encouraged to write, to submit, and to enjoy the ride.
Debra Dixon—her book Goal, Motivation & Conflict: The Building Blocks of Good Fiction is required reading in many circles. Following her guidelines has encouraged many writers to make their plots thicker and their characters more interesting.

James N. Frey—this is NOT the man who got in trouble recently with the autobiography that wasn’t. This James Frey is a teacher of writing and has written How to Write a Damn Good Novel, How to Write a Damn Good Novel II, and The Key: How to Write Damn Good Fiction Using the Power of Myth. His books are well worth reading, and rereading.

Jack M. Bickham—the late Mr. Bickham is another amazing teacher. I learned everything I know about point of view from his book Writing Novels That Sell. I’m reading the highly recommended Scene and Structure now. I can’t believe I waited so long.

I believe my biggest mistake was not continuing to learn and grow in my writing technique. I don’t intend to do that again. My goal for this year is to continually be either reading a craft book or taking a craft class. So far so good. Join me?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Library: One of my Favorite Things




Shades of “raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.” This week, at the diner, we’re talking about favorite things — all kinds of favorite things and how they help us do our jobs. What’s my favorite writing tool? you ask. (You were curious, weren’t you?) What must I absolutely must to write fiction? Answer: The local library. It’s more than a place to me. I have a passion for reading and researching. Writing is a learning adventure for me and what better place to pursue it than the library ?

This is actually the library at Trinity College in Dublin, but doesn't it look impressive?








Thirteen Things I Adore About My Library



1.You can check out MP3s, DVDs, magazines, audiotapes, CDs, book kits, computer software, puppets and all kinds of things.
2. And, of course, if you’re actually interested in finding a book, the library has tons of them.

3. You can read the local newspaper. Or scads of area and distant papers, too. My library even has cozy chairs, so you can really settle in. Careful, though, not to snooze.

4. You can make copies, use a computer or even reserve a study room.

5. You can request a book you want to read, either over the Internet or in person, and the librarians can help you hunt it down, if need be.

6. If the book isn’t in the local system, they’ll try to borrow it from other systems. A library patron’s “reach” is enormous.

7. You can access the Card Catalog online, making it possible to browse from the comfort of your home.

8. There’s always someone around who can suggest a good book to read. I always find lots of friendly people at my library, seldom reluctant to speak to a stranger. A love of learning is a great common denominator.

9. You can renew books online and keep track of your account. No need to get in the car and drive frantically to the library to return a book soon to be overdue.

10. You can download MP3 books.

11. Libraries have book clubs, perfect for those who love fiction as I do.

12. As a Mom, I appreciate the children’s story times, too -- always a part of each year’s program agenda

13. This certainly is a place for adults as well as kids. I look for adult classes, mainly evenings.
How about the frequent used book, video, CD, cassette and DVD sales? What better use for an extra $5, $10 or $15? I have a relative who spends $25 annually on U.S. history and how-to videos/DVDs that the library seeks to clear out.

What’s your favorite writing tool? What helps you do your job better? Do you have a favorite place or writing tool? I’m eager to hear.






Wednesday, February 4, 2009

5 Favorite Beverages for Writing

Here at the Diner this week and next, we have been (and will be) talking about favorites -- favorite books, favorite movies, and how these favorites affect our writing. I'm going to do a quick, snack-style post about my 5 favorite beverages for WHILE I'm writing.

1) Coffee

In the morning, I can't wait to sip the delicious nectar of the Columbian gods and infuse my body with the creative spirits of caffeine and more caffeine. I have writing to do and not much time to do it in! I have one cup, then maybe another, then....

2) Soda

At lunchtime or thereabouts, depending on what I had for breakfast, I like to enjoy an ice cold coke. Here in the South, they're ALL cokes, and then you decide what kind of coke you want. Coca Cola, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper... For me my favorite is the Coca Cola Classic, but I try to have sugar free sodas more frequently than the 140 calorie ones. Colas also have more caffeine, which helps keep my will to write alive in the face of great odds (that usually consist of toddlers and other disasters).

3) Tummy Tea

By mid-afternoon, I'm feeling a little squiffy after overdoing it with coffee and soda, both pretty harsh on the ole tum. So I tend to make myself a hot cup of Yogi's Stomach Ease tea, which contains anise, peppermint, ginger and a few other things that tamp down on the nausea that too many sodas and cups of coffee can cause. This is also a difficult time for productivity, because I don't feel so hot (I know, I do it to myself nearly every day!) and because the toddler is ready for some attention.

4) Water

When the cup of Stomach Ease doesn't quite do the trick, or even if it does, I feel guilty for drinking all that unhealthy crap. So daily I will try to dilute it by downing a liter or two of delicious (not really) water. You're supposed to have 8 cups a day or something like that. Then my writing gets interrupted a lot when I have to get up and have a pee.

5) Sleepytime Tea

Last but not least, night falls. Yet the caffeine I overindulged in is still buzzing through my body and my brain refuses to switch off, even though my body is as saggy as...well, as my body! So I return to my tea stash and brew up a cup of Yogi's Sleepytime tea, with chamomile and a few other mild herbs that relax me and help me wind down after what I hope was a day of high wordcount and much creativity.

So those are my 5 favorite beverages to write by. What about you?

Jody W.
http://www.jodywallace.com/

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Flix for Inspiration

One of the many great things about writing is that from time to time you get to indulge your muse with some cinematic inspiration. Here’s a list of movies (in no particular order) that always land on our “girls’ nite in”:

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy – No offense to Frodo and Sam fans, but when we sit down to watch this one, we fast forward through much of the angsty hobbit stuff. What I really want to see when viewing this is the interaction of the minor characters. The interactions between Merry and Pippin, Legolas and Gimli, and Eowyn and Aragorn. And if I need someone to get my heart pumping there’s Eomer, played by the ever-gorgeous Karl Urban. Lesson for writing: Minor characters count.

Pride and Prejudice – Mr. D’arcy as played by Colin Firth. Dancing. In period costume. Sometimes dripping wet. With his shirt open. And there’s all that other good stuff to like the amazing English countryside but we really watch it see Elizabeth Bennett royally diss Lady Catherine DeBerg and to see the look on D’arcy’s face when he watches his Lizzie play the piano. A masterpiece. Lesson for Writing: Witty repartee rocks.

Love Actually – I know some people have a problems with this movie but I am not one of them. I adore the ensemble cast and love the way storylines loosely intertwine. We love Kiera Knightley’s subplot (My daughter says she is definitely hiring a band to play ‘All You Need is Love’ at her wedding.), Hugh Grant as British PM dancing in his undies and seeing Colin Firth dripping wet only this time its in modern garb. Lesson for Writing: weaving a good story takes more than one thread.

Ten Things I Hate About You – A YA retelling of the Bard’s The Taming of the Shrew. Shakespeare really knew his stuff and it still rings true with remakes like this. A high school jock/jerk hires Patrick (Heath Ledger) to keep older sister Kat busy while he works on getting into younger sister Bianca’s pants. Only things get complicated when Patrick falls for Kat and Kat finds out the truth. Favorite part: Pat’s ‘grand gesture' to get back in Kat’s good graces. Nothing is as romantic as a man willing to make a fool of himself for his woman. Lesson for Writing: Great stories hold up over time.

She’s the Man – The Bard stirkes again with this loosely-based retelling of Twelfth Night. Set in the Illyria Prep School, Viola takes her brother’s place so she can play soccer with the boys and he can run off and play guitar in London for a few weeks. Lots of great comedy done by the lovely and wonderful Amanda Bines. Lesson for Writing: There's no such thing as an original story but there is an original way to tell it.

50 First Dates –When Lucy's car crashes permanently damaging her short-term memory, she relives the same day over and over since going to sleep wipes her memories clean. Too bad, Henry Roth didn’t know that when he fell in love with her. Now he must win her over again and again and again. Lesson for Writing: Sometimes love (like writing) is perseverance.

The Holiday - Two women on different continents swap houses to get away from bad relationships. They find good relationships but are they ready for them? Jude Law was great in this but Jack Black stole the show. Lesson for Writing: Be careful what you wish for.

Sliding Doors - One of my all-time favorites that asks the same question that writers invariably start out with: What if? This movies gives you both sides of the story but you can't take your pick. Lesson for Writing: Nobody ever expects the Spanish Inquisition.

P.S. I Love You - A 3-hanky watch but don't let that stop you. Love may never end, but life does. A woman works through her grief with the help of letters written by her deceased hubby. P.S. I love Gerard Butler. Lesson for Writing: Backstory isn't the story even when you think it is.

So there you have some of my picks.

Got any to add? Post away!

Talia

Monday, February 2, 2009

Lori’s Top Favorite Books of All Time

In no particular order...

1. Bewitching by Jill Barnett
The first humorous paranormal I ever read. It was the “ah ha!” moment for me. It defined what I loved to read and what I wanted to write.

2. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Time travel romance at its best. Who doesn’t love Jamie Fraser?

3. Dance With the Devil by Sherrilyn Kenyon
Zarek is probably one of the most tortured heroes ever. No one deserved a HEA more than that poor man.

4. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Amazing time travel romance (but without a HEA) by a debut author. It still boggles my mind how she worked all the back and forth time traveling so that it still made sense.

5. Flowers From the Storm by Laura Kinsale
I wept as Christian Langland struggle with the after-affects of a stroke, a proud man who’s mind and body were at war with him.

6. Simple Jess by Pamela Morsi
Another hero struggling with a mental impairment. I never thought I could fall in love with a hero who was ‘simple’ in his thinking. Ms. Morsi proved me wrong.

 
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