Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Living in the Otherworld

For the past few days, I've been in another world.

It's pleasant. I'm learning things. I'm meeting new people. And it's making me stretch my achy brain in new ways.

I'm spending four days at a workshop, learning how to think like a publisher.

Not focusing on writing, plotting, character development, but learning the other half; how to get your book or your writing into a form for people to read or hear. It's like that old question about a tree falling with no one around to hear...if you write the world's best prose (or poetry) does anyone know?

In today's world of communication, that question has become moot. Now, with the self-publishing platforms available, you can upload your book or short story or memoir to share with the world. And you can even make money at it.

There are 20 people at the workshop, way north on the Oregon Coast. This is beautiful area of beaches, driftwood, starfish-encrusted tidal pools, sea lions, cliffs and forests. And it's reached by only one two-lane highway, clogged like a bathtub drain with vacationers, campers, bicyclists and RVs.

So when I tell you that there are attendees from Maryland, Indiana, Utah, Idaho, Colorado, you know there are a lot of people who want to share themselves with the world.

Some of us are already professional writers. Some of us are beginning. Some of us are thinking about beginning.

Some of us are writing fiction, everything from fantasy and sci-fi to romance.

Some of us are writing non-fiction, everything from economics to wellness.

And we are all here to learn.

People talk today about multitasking and how many projects they can handle at the same time. I'm not sure multitasking is a good thing.

This four days has been with people from divergent backgrounds, with a wide array of interests, who put their "real" lives on hold an agreed to focus on one subject. Everyone hears the information from their own perspective, and everyone will use that information in their own way, but for four days of foggy mornings and glorious, crisp blue-sky afternoons we are together in the otherworld, creating new and shared experiences.

Wherever your otherworld is, and whatever you want to do there, I recommend visiting every so often. The "realies" are necessary, the "realies" are true, the "realies" ground us, but the otherworld lets us stretch our mental wings and soar for a time, unencumbered.

Michele Drier

Thursday, July 19, 2012

So Long and Thanks: a Tribute to Ray Bradbury

Picture from:  http://screenrant.com/ray-bradbury-obituary-sandy-177336/ 

Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.”
Ray Bradbury

Today's Topic is the great Ray Bradbury.
On June 5, 2012, Ray Bradbury, a poet, novelist, short story writer, playwright, screenwriter and essayist, died. He was 91 years old and during the 70 some years of his writing career, he left much behind for us to remember. Harper Collins Publishers said, “Bradbury inspired generations of readers to dream, think and create."
I know that’s true in my case. I’ve always enjoyed his stories, but my absolute favorite has changed. In my early teens I loved, “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” and “The Martian Chronicles.” Later, I adored, “Illustrated Man,” and “I Sing the Body Electric and Other Short Stories”. In my 20s, I found “Dandelion Wine” and now my passion is “Zen and the Art of Writing.”

Knowing there won't be any more of his stories, I feel the loss of his passing and I’d like to say, “Goodbye and thanks.”

In tribute, I’ll share 13 of his well-known quotes.

  1. Don't think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It's self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can't try to do things. You simply must do things.
  2. I know you've heard it a thousand times before. But it's true - hard work pays off. If you want to be good, you have to practice, practice, practice. If you don't love something, then don't do it.
  3. And what, you ask, does writing teach us?
    First and foremost, it reminds us that we are alive and that it is a gift and a privilege, not a right. We must earn life once it has been awarded us. Life asks for rewards back because it has favored us with animation.
    So while our art cannot, as we wish it could, save us from wars, privation, envy, greed, old age, or death, it can revitalize us amidst it all.
  4. I’m interested in having fun with ideas, throwing them up in the air like confetti and then running under them.
  5. People ask me to predict the future, when all I want to do is prevent it. Better yet, build it. Predicting the future is much too easy, anyway. You look at the people around you, the street you stand on, the visible air you breathe, and predict more of the same. To hell with more. I want better.
  6. That’s the great secret of creativity. You treat ideas like cats: you make them follow you.
  7. My stories run up and bite me on the leg - I respond by writing down everything that goes on during the bite. When I finish, the idea lets go and runs off.
  8. We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.
  9. Without libraries what have we? We have no past and no future.
  10. You fail only if you stop writing.
  11. When I wrote the novel "Something Wicked This Way Comes", the first draft was a hundred and fifty thousand words. So I went through and cut out fifty thousand. It’s important to get out of your own way. Clean the kindling away, the rubbish. Make it clear.
  12.  I have what I call the theater of morning inside my head, all these voices talking to me. When they come up with a good metaphor, then I jump out of bed and trap them before they’re gone.
  13.   Every so often, late at night, I come downstairs, open one of my books, read a paragraph and say, My God. I sit there and cry because I feel that I’m not responsible for any of this. It’s from God. And I’m so grateful, so, so grateful.
The Los Angeles Times credits Ray Bradbury with penning more than 27 novels and 600 short stories. That’s amazing.—he was an amazing author. Did you ever read his work? Do you have a favorite? Please share.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Of Anti-Block and Sea Monsters

Lately, I've been struggling to get any writing project completed. I can't say that it's writer's block. In fact, I think it's the polar opposite...anti-block. Lack of any focus. I have so many ideas and I am unable to settle upon one and diligently pursue writing it onto the page to completion. I must have fifteen projects in various stages of "finish".

So today as I sat down to write on a project called CEMETERY TREE I found myself researching sea and lake monsters such as that allegedly prowling the depths of Loch Ness. (*Photo credit to FreeDigitalPhotos.net and Victor Habbick).

As you can tell from the name, Cemetery Tree has nothing to do with monsters...of the water variety anyway. Nevertheless, I am researching "the surgeons photograph", plesiosaurs, and cryptozoology. I'm thinking of names for my own FICTIONAL lake monster (Messie is the current favorite) and I have a fictional lake name to insert into the Lake District of England for use as a setting. I'm plotting a romantic mystery where monster sightings spur murder.

Sound fun? Yeah. Now I just need to write the dang thing before the next idea comes into my head and I dart off in the direction of a newer and shinier plot.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Summer Time, Summer Time…Sum…Sum…Summer Time!

Here we are, in the middle of summer 2012. How about the crazy weather? Hot much? Drought. Heat waves. Wild summer storms. There can be no doubt that we’re experiencing a very dramatic shift in weather patterns. According to NASA, this summer will have record-setting temperatures and intense storms. Thank you, global warming.  Still, it is summer, the season of family road trips, camping, and s’mores. Every school-aged child dreams of summer, but then don’t we all?

Summer is the time of planting, of flowers and yard work and hummingbird feeders. It is the time of barbeque and family reunions. Lazy days at the lake or on the couch, summer is a time to kick back and re-charge your batteries. For me, this summer has been a season of productivity. I’ve been wrapped up in canning - canning jellies, jams, fruit butters, and vegetables. Not the easy, putting-produce-into-the-freezer canning, I’ve researched recipes and have tried many methods that have, happily, worked out. Summer means a variety of things to us…what does it mean to you?  Is it frantically sprinting for the Ice cream truck? Is it the family camping trip? Is it walking on the beach at low tide? Or is it volunteering at a Habitat for Humanity’s builds? Tell us about your summer.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Are You Ready? A Fourth of July Quiz

Happy Fourth of July!  Hope you had a great holiday. If you’re like most people, you grilled out, watched fireworks, and waved a flag or a sparkler -- but do you really know the facts behind America’s Independence Day?  And the American Flag?

            Here’s a quiz to find out.
  1. One of the main reasons American colonists were unhappy about British rule was? (Your choices: They wanted coffee instead of tea. It was John Adams’ idea and people just went along with his plan. [You remember lawyer John:  He was a founding father -- a champion of independence.]  Or, if they were taxed, and they were, Americans wanted representation -- a say in government.)
  2. Congress declared independence on ______. (July 2nd, July 4th, July 5th )
  3. The Declaration of Independence was approved on July 4th when the Continental Congress met in____. (Washington D.C., New York, Philadelphia)
  4. _____congressmen signed the Declaration. (32, 67, 56)
  5. The only signers of the Declaration of Independence to go on to serve as President were:_________. (George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin)
  6. The main author of the Declaration of Independence was_____. (John Hancock, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson)
  7. The person who signed his name the largest (biggest letters) was____.  He wanted England's King George to be able to see his signature easily. (Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, John Hancock.)
  8. The stars on the American flag represent____.(states, natural resources, or territories the colonists hoped to add.)
  9. There are ___stripes on the flag. (13, 12, 15)
  10. Colors: The stripes are _____ and _______. (black and white, red and white, red and blue)
  11. The stars on the flag are_____ (five-pointed, six-pointed)
  12. The American flag can never touch____(the ground, water, or both the ground and water.)
  13. The colors of the American Flag -- red, white and blue -- symbolize_____, _____ and ______. (courage, truth and honor; peace, joy and love; or strength, valor and brotherhood.)
Bonus Question: One of our Presidents was born on the Fourth of July. Which one______ (George Washington, Calvin Coolidge, George W. Bush)
Now, it’s time to see how you did. Please don't peek until you've finished The Quiz.


1.      One of the chief reasons American colonists were unhappy about British rule was they wanted representation, a say in government, if they were taxed.

2.      The Continental Congress declared independence on July 2nd, when the British Navy patrolled New York Harbor. They spent the next two days discussing the Declaration of Independence, which was approved on July 4th.

3.      Congress declared independence on ... July 2nd.

4.      The Declaration of Independence was approved on July 4th when the Continental Congress met in Philadelphia.

5.      Fifty-six congressional members signed the Declaration.

6.      The only signers of the Declaration of Independence to go on to serve as President are John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.

7.      Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence between June 11 and June 28, 1776. It turned out to be 17 days well spent.

8.      The person using the largest signature on the Declaration was John Hancock, president of the Continental Congress.

9.      The stars on the American flag represent the STATES.

10.  There are 13 stripes on the flag—one for each of the original colonies.

11.  The stripes are red and white.

12.  The stars on the flag are five-pointed.

13.  The American flag should never touch either water or the ground.

14.  The colors of the American Flag -- red, white and blue --  symbolize Courage, Truth and Honor.

Bonus Question- The President actually born on the Fourth of July was ... "Silent Cal": Calvin Coolidge.

Test Results

9-15 -- Kudos! Keep up the flag waving. You are a true-blue patriot and a history buff.

8-5 -- You have a ways to go, but you're making progress.

4-0- Hmmm. Maybe you're not from the United States. Or perhaps history wasn’t a favorite subject. Or maybe The Quiz just hit you in a sour mood.  Don't worry: just taking The Quiz is a learning experience.

Thanks, and I hope this summertime holiday finds you healthy and happy.



Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Social Structure of Krypton

Or why Justin Bieber is a convenient example

By Eilis Flynn

The Hub and I were talking about the social structure of Krypton the other day over dinner.

Yes, we do talk about things other than comic books. We do! But most of the conversation is boring and wholly not appropriate for the Otherworld Diner blog. But how much more otherworld can you get than a conversation about Krypton? The planet, not the gas. (If you don’t want to read about our speculation about Kryptonian culture and civilization, come back next time, when I’ll be writing about the terrible names that parents could bestow on their children, the fruit edition, or the terrible thing that Disney did to John Carter, a very good and fun movie. That mostly takes place on Mars, so that should be otherworld enough without actually being comic booky, although Edgar Rice Burroughs’ work has popped up in the comic books. But that too is another story.)

Anyway, we were trying to figure out what kind of civilization Krypton was while we were waiting for our food to be served. We’re always told that it was advanced, and it was filled with amazing things, and it gave birth to the greatest American of all, but how advanced could it be, when a bunch of politicians on a council (in some versions, a “science council”) rejected and ignored or jeered at a scientist’s warning that the world was going to explode?

In some versions of the story, Jor-El, father of Kal-El, is a top scientist, while in others he’s been ostracized because of his nutty ideas. Most of the versions, though, agree: Jor of the House of El and Lara bundle the baby into the rocket and send him off, leaving the kid when he grows up with serious abandonment issues. In the original version, not only does Kal-El’s parents die when the planet blows up, his adoptive Earth parents die as he approaches adulthood, originally of a quick, mysterious illness. These days, because the writers have their own issues, Jonathan and Martha Kent are either alive and kicking or at least Martha is, which is what they also did for the TV series Smallville.

Anyhow, before anyone brings up the Mayan calendar and our impending doom (isn’t it foremost on your mind? It sure isn’t on mine), I would think that Kryptonian society, and science, and the council and stuff would be advanced enough that a) they wouldn’t have immediately dismissed Jor-El’s claims or findings or whatever, and b) wouldn’t there have been paperwork or lots of evidence that they could have looked at and at least argued about? Think of how much we, in our decidedly non-advanced society and science and non-council (unless we’re referring to something local), argue about much, much, smaller stuff, like bicycle lanes and garbage pickup and even whether Justin Bieber is really a boy.

Yes, that’s right. We can argue the point of garbage pickup until the cows come home but the Kryptonians didn’t talk the point of DOOM until their version of cows came home? How’s that work? What kind of advanced society were they? (And I don’t really care about Justin Bieber. He was just convenient. Sorry, kid.)

Anyway, let’s just summarize here: Kryptonian society (so advanced, apparently, that there was only one culture. That’s pretty darn advanced!) and its science council were too busy arguing about their version of Justin Bieber to pay attention to Jor-El’s concerns about the planet blowing up.

Yeah, I don’t know about you, but I think Jor and Lara did the sensible thing when they rocketed their kid off the exploding world.

Eilis Flynn FESTIVAL OF STARS, finally out in print! Also STATIC SHOCK, available at Amazon, B&N, etc.

HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY! Also my twentieth-eighth anniversary. Hurray!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

What's your Sweet Spot?

A couple of years ago I took a course by Holly Lisle called "How to think Sideways". Holly imparts concepts in wonderfully illustrated detail. One of my favorite things in this course was her use of a mind mapping or bubble flowchart to create an exercise called the Sweet Spot.

I'm Drawn To...

I'm a very visual person and since I love color, I used an online free site http://bubbl.us for creating the chart. 

The idea behind the exercise is to take time to figure out all of the ideas, issues, entities, emotions, settings, etc. etc. that make up your core interests. Then use this information to create a grocery list of plot points, ideas or characters. 

She even had a us go deeper by creating a sweet spot map for each of these: I fear, I'm drawn to, I love, and I hate...

Here's a partial list of things in my sweet spot for I'm drawn to: moons, space, dragons, individual worth, fairness, humor, community, winter, rain, empowerment, color.

What would you have in your sweet spot as a writer? What things or themes do you gravitate toward as a reader?

Monday, July 2, 2012

Indie Author Spotlight: Time’s Fugitive

by Jennette Marie Powell

Book Blurb:

A past shrouded in mystery

Violet Sinclair remembers nothing of her life before the day she awoke several years earlier, drenched in blood that wasn’t hers. But since she met Tony Solomon, she’s been certain of one thing – sometime in her hidden past, she knew him… loved him… and did something terrible to him.

A present fraught with danger

Time-traveler Tony Solomon is sure he never met Violet before they were coworkers, yet she bears an uncanny resemblance to the woman he loved and lost decades before he was born. After an impulse encounter leaves Violet pregnant with his child, she becomes the target of killers from the future.

A future feared in jeopardy

Framed for murder, Tony will do anything to protect Violet and their child, even if their only escape is to jump into the past, something he swore he’d never do again. But when they jump back much further than planned, they find their troubles are only beginning—and secrets can get them killed.

Ms. Powell does it again!

She has created a world that is equal parts romance, suspense, and sci-fi that will keep you turning the pages. When I reviewed the first book in this series,  TIME’S ENEMY, I described it as “…if you take THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT, mix in THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE and sprinkle it with SOMEWHERE IN TIME, you’ll get this amazing book.” So, in keeping with the movie theme, TIME’S FUGITIVE is a combo of THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT, THE FUGITIVE, and TERMINATOR (minus the killer cyborgs).

People from the past are trying to capture and punish Tony for something he did to alter time. But then people from the future come after him too and he has no idea why they want to kill him. He’s not sure if it’s for his crimes of the past or for something he has yet to do. Regardless, when these same people target Violet, a woman who can’t recall her past, he knows that the only way to stay alive is to do something he swore he’d never do again – time travel. And this time he drags Violet along for the ride. Powell takes us to a time and place few (if any) romance authors have dared to tread – prehistoric America. Think 10,000 B.C,. only the tribal people aren’t nearly as good-looking or nice to strangers. I loved witnessing Violet and Tony having to “go native” to survive, learning how to make weapons and clothing from what little was available to them.

But even thousands of years in the past, they aren’t safe. With people from the past and the future trying to eliminate them, difficult sacrifices are made and their trust in each other is tested time and again. Powell keeps us on our toes as Tony and Violet race through time
sometimes together, sometimes apartin an effort to protect their child and stay alive.

One Caveat

I don’t believe this is a standalone book. I highly recommend that you read the TIME’S ENEMY before diving into this one. While the author does a good job of filling in the details without dumping huge chunks of backstory, a reader unfamiliar with Tony and Violet’s history will be missing major pieces of the puzzle. You won’t be able to understand why Tony and Violet are so drawn to each other, yet conflicted in their emotions. Their actions at the beginning of the book may seem rushed and out of character if you don’t know what happened between them “before.” IMO, you really, really need to know what happened "before." It is a journey well worth taking.

Learn more about Jennette Marie Powell at http://www.jenpowell.com/