Doe – Rae – Meme

I was tagged by Kim Franklin with this handwriting meme at the beginning of the month and I guess it’s time I man up and pass it along. Nothing defines a writer better than their writing…or does it? Everybody tells me I have very neat handwriting…but I tend to disagree. When given a choice, I avoid cursive and print instead. Still, I commonly find myself blocking the same letter differently, sometimes within the same sentence. Any handwriting experts out there want to tell me what that’s all about?



Anyway, here’s how this works. On a plain piece of paper jot down the following:

1. Name/Blog Name.
2. Right handed, left handed or both?
3. Favorite letters to write?
4. Least favorite letters to write?
5. Write: The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.
6. Write in caps:
CRAB
HUMOR
KALEIDOSCOPE
PAJAMAS
GAZILLION
7. Favorite song lyrics?
8. Tag 7 people.
9. Any special note or drawing?

For the seven people I’ve tagged, I’m stepping outside my comfort zone a bit and selecting some bloggers that I’m relatively new to, or a couple blogs I’ve lurked on for a long time. Time to spread my wings a little wider. :) The lucky ones are Erica Mitchell-Spickard, Amanda Sablan, Liz at Cleverly Inked, Amber at The Musings of aLmYbNeNr, Sandy Shin, Lila at Lisa and Laura Write, and Jessica at The Alliterative Allomorph.

Also, don’t forget about the High Drama Blogfest/Giveaway scheduled for Saturday, August 7th as well as my Blog Recycle Station.

Have a great weekend!

Bump

If you’ve spent any time at all reading on-line forums, you’re probably familiar with the term Bump.  It’s a term used to describe the action of moving a topic back to the top of the page so that more readers will view it upon entering the forum.  You do this by simply adding a comment to the topic (usually just the word bump) and the entire thread slides to the top.  Why is this necessary?  Because as new topics are added and the interest in your subject erodes, it slides further and further back on the list of topics until it falls off the first page and into obscurity.  Bumping can sometimes rejuvenate awareness and generate more discussion.

I’m doing a bump…or at least the blog version of one.  I currently have three initiatives that I wanted to refresh in everyone’s minds…and maybe even garner new attention.

The first one is my quest to obtain a follower from across the globe.  I’ve been after this goal since early may and although I have a ways to go country-wise, I’m only lacking four US states.  They are Mississippi, Rhode Island, Tennessee & West Virginia.  I’m also keeping a log of which states all my ‘like-minded’ live (Georgia currently leads the pack).  So if you live in one of the states I lack…or in a country other than the US…or you just haven’t clued me in to where you’re from…please go to this link and help me out!

My second initiative is the High Drama Blogfest/Giveaway I’ve scheduled for Saturday, August 7th.  Just 500 words of dramatic prose are all I’m after…with oodles of prizes given away to boot.  There seems to be lots of interest in this (gauging by the comments) but precious few that have signed up.  Anybody else up to the challenge?

Finally, there’s my Blog Recycle Station.  This is my attempt to match up old blog post with new followers.  We’ve all missed out on some great blog entries because they were posted before we became followers of the blog owner, or they hit the blogosphere during a hectic time in our own schedules.  On the flip side, there’s also some great material we’ve all written buried deep in our archives that our most recent followers have never seen.  Pick out one of your favorite blog post from the past and go to the link above to put it out there for everybody to enjoy again.
 
That’s it…bump accomplished.  I was out-of-sorts last week and although I did read most of your blogs, I wasn’t able to comment much.  I hope to do much better this week.
 :)

The Blog Recycle Station

I had this great idea, and it was all because of a post by blogger buddy Karen Amanda Hooper, which you can view here.  Although the content of her post was awesome, it was the reason why she ran that particular blog entry that intrigued me.  You see, Karen was having a busy time last week and didn’t have time to write an original article, so she re-posted an old blog entry instead.  It was a great piece of writing that she originally posted a year ago, long before I’d found her blog.  That got me thinking.  All of us have probably missed out on some great blog entries because they were posted before we became followers, or they hit the blogosphere during a hectic time in our own schedules.  On the flip side, there’s also some great material we’ve all written buried deep in our archives that our most recent followers have never seen.  Let’s face it, who has time to comb through old blog entries in search of interesting material?

DL to the rescue!  Here’s my idea...each of us needs to remember back to some of your favorite blog topics you’ve posted.  It can be instructional, inspirational, informative, humorous, or off the wall.  Doesn’t matter.  What does matter is that you really care about it and you’d like to put it out there for everybody to enjoy again.  Pick one of those old blog postings and paste the link to it in the comment you leave here today.  Easy peasy.  Now it lives again, and what’s even cooler is that if everyone participates my comment section will become sort of a blog mix tape, chock full of our favorites.  How awesome would that be?!

For the less technical out there, here’s how you go about leaving the link.  First, find the blog you want to link and double click on it to bring it to the main page.  Now copy the address from the address bar near the top of the screen.  In the comment you leave here, paste in that address.  As an example, I’m going to paste the link to Karen’s blog entry.


Now type    <a href="    before the address, and    ">Link</a>    after.

What will appear in your finished comment, once its published, will just be Link.  Of course, if you wanted to preface it with some background information or a little blurb, that’s just fine too.  If anybody needs help making this work, just give me a holler and I’ll walk you through it.

Sound like a plan?  I’m pumped to see what you guys post.  What amazing gems do you have hidden in those archives? 

High Drama Blogfest/Giveaway

That’s right boys and girls, DL’s holding a Blogfest. And not just any Blogfest, this one comes complete with all sorts of nifty prizes. I realize we shouldn’t need extra motivation to get writers to…um… write, but I wanted this Blogfest to standout. In that same vein I’m hoping to encourage participation from some of us bloggers who tend to avoid posting work on-line.

So, what am I after with this Blogfest? Drama. The word is Greek meaning "action", which is derived from "to do". Though its more common usage speaks to a specific mode of fiction represented in performances, it has also come to refer to a specific genre of fiction (neither comedy nor tragedy) involving a serious mood and conflict. That’s all just literary speak meaning drama simply covers a wide spectrum of contention, action crisis and atmosphere designed to amp up the stakes in our stories. It is an element of writing that transcends genre, so everybody can contribute. I’m looking for a sample of your work that demonstrates those qualities.


High Drama Blogfest/Giveaway!
When: Saturday, August 7th.


That leaves you about a month to either fix up the appropriate sample of an existing piece of work, or create something unique. Write the date on your calendars! The only guideline is that you keep your post to 500 words or less. *Update - I've relaxed this restriction as it seems that good drama is hard to squeeze into such a small box, but please try to keep your submissions under a 1000 words so our readers can visit all of the entries.*

At the bottom of the page is the famous Mr. Linky. Please sign up! Spread the word! I hope you'll participate.

But like I said, there are gifts that go along with this Blogfest. Being a mystery/suspense writer, I’ve been able to obtain three excellent books from three outstanding novelists to offer as prizes. Just look and see.

Michelle Gagnon is the best-selling author of The Gatekeeper as well as two other gripping novels. She is a former modern dancer, dog walker, bartender, freelance journalist, personal trainer, model, and Russian supper club performer. To the delight of her parents, she gave up all these occupations for an infinitely more stable and lucrative career as a crime fiction writer. Michelle also contributes regularly to the The Kill Zone blog, the musings of 7 top thriller and mystery authors covering a wide spectrum of topics.


Rys Bowen's mysteries have been nominated for every major mystery award, including the Edgar for best novel, and she has won nine of them. She currently writes the Molly Murphy Mysteries, set in turn-of-the-century New York City and featuring a feisty Irish immigrant woman. Her book, In a Gilded Cage, Molly becomes involved in a suffragists' march which brings her into the high society world of Vassar graduates and leads to her being hired for two cases: to discover a young woman's true identity and to check on a wandering husband. When one of these young women dies, supposedly of influenza, Molly is again caught up in a murder investigation. Rhys has recently started her own solo blog: Rhys's Pieces. Check out her news and musings, some funny, some thought-provoking.

In addition to writing novels and short stories, Kelli Stanley likes fedoras, classic films (particularly film noir), Golden Age comic books and listening to cool jazz and big band swing. She is also an award winning writer of crime fiction who makes her home in Dashiell Hammett’s San Francisco. She loves to hear from readers, so drop her a line. Her latest book, City of Dragons, is a sprawling, visceral novel of San Francisco in 1940, a world of race wars and class wars, a world in which sexual threat is as casual as a five-cent cigar.

Each respective author has personally signed their novel and I can’t express how hard it will be to let go of them, but let go I will…to three lucky winners. But wait, that’s just in group A. Group B contains three $15 gift cards. One from Barnes & Noble, another from Amazon, and the final from Borders. Six prizes in all! Good golly Miss Molly!! Oops...sorry Rhys.  :)

Everyone who takes part in my Blogfest (actually posts a story) will receive two points if your a follower and one point if not. If you put a blurb about it in your sidebar, you’ll receive another point. If you tweet about it (make sure to use @dl_h) you’ll receive another point for each separate day you tweet (up to a maximum of five tweets), and if you a post a blog entry exclusively about the High Drama Blogfest/Giveaway…you’ll receive a whopping five points. That’s a grand total of 13 possible points to place into the virtual hat. On August 8th I’ll draw six numbers (three from Group A, and three from Group B) using a random number generator. If you forget to post your entry on August 7th, all points are forfeited.

Come on, show off your writing chops with some high drama. It will be a blast!!!

I’m a Hooker

Or so I’ve been told.  No, it doesn’t mean I hang out on seedy street corners dressed in tight leather pants and a muscle shirt, so get that mental image out of your head right now!  What it means is that I supposedly write excellent hook lines to close my scenes and chapters with.

My definition of a hook line is a bit broader than the one you typically hear, which involves a line that will hook someone into reading your novel.  I utilize the phase to explain lines that keep them reading.  I’ve already discussed pacing and momentum in our writing before (see The Scooter Method of Pacing), but I didn’t mention specific techniques other than using an illustration from my own manuscript.  One of my favorite and most effective means of maintaining momentum when transitioning between chapters is the hook line.  Think of them as teasers...on steroids. 

Most readers use chapter or scene breaks as a stopping point, choosing to put the book down and move onto other tasks.  Your goal here as a writer is two-fold:  1) to keep your reader engaged for as long as possible by influencing them to delve into yet another section, and 2) make the length of time the book sits unattended, short.  If they must put the book down, then you want them hurrying back as soon as possible to fall under its spell once more.  One way to accomplish this is through lean and compelling prose.  There is no substitute for good writing.  But another way to achieve your goal is by utilizing great hooks.   

I come up with hook lines when I’m still in the outlining phase of my books.  It can directly relate to how you structure chapters, what information you dole out and how much you hold back.  A hook line can be a light bulb event, where your reader is provided some key information explaining unanswered questions.  It can be a cliffhanger, where a character is left in peril.  But some of the best hook lines involve foreshadowing, where the reader is tantalized with possible future developments (usually of the ominous variety).  Myself, I’m an equal opportunity hooker.

Can you overuse hook lines?  Sure, but usually because excessiveness leads to lazy writing and terrible hooks.  A well conceived, perfectly executed hook line doesn’t leave a bad taste in our mouth (eyes?) when we read it. 

I’ll leave you with a quote from Stellan Skarsgard, a prominent actor talking about one of our most prominent writers today.  "I think Dan Brown (The Da Vinci Code) is a terribly bad writer, but he has cliffhangers after every chapter which makes you continue reading. It's like eating peanuts at a bar. You don't like them, but you keep on eating them anyway," he told Swedish broadcaster SVT.  Surprisingly, Mr. Skarsgard starred in the film version of Dan Brown’s Angels & Demons.

If being a hooker allows me to see even a fraction of that type of success, then sign me up! 

PS.  The day my book is published…I promise to take a picture of myself wearing those leather pants and muscle shirt.

The Prospect

One fall afternoon, several years ago, I was working the scoreboard for the JV football games as I did every home game. My son was a senior then and played on the high school varsity team, as was the case for most of the other fathers working the booth with me. We all volunteered our time and in return we received gate passes to every school sporting event. It was a nice arrangement and one I really enjoyed participating in.

Chuck, the father sitting next to me, controlled the 30 second clock and the two of us usually talked as much about the varsity team as the JV team playing before us. His son was an outstanding defensive lineman who led the team in every statistic; most tackles, most sacks, most recovered fumbles, etc. Chuck’s son was proud of his accomplishments, and everyone knew it. The father was proud of the son, and everyone knew it. Both of them were constantly being lavished with praise and high fives, all of it well deserved.

This particular afternoon our conversation veered toward our boy’s post high school plans. I told Chuck my son was probably heading to the University of Arkansas, and he replied that his son was also…if he received a football scholarship from there. At this point I fell silent. You see, Chuck’s son was a good player, a very good player, but he wasn’t scholarship material. Sure he dominated all the team statistics, but we played at an average size school in a mediocre conference. And physically the boy didn’t have the girth and/or speed needed to play that position at a division I college. Chuck’s son was the prototypical large fish…in a very small pond. And no, the boy was not a RUDY. There would be no recruiters scouting this prospect.

Looking back at that memory, it forces me to wonder about self-perception. When we look at ourselves, take the time to analyze who we think we are and how we stack up against everyone else, it’s really not like looking in a mirror. Instead, the reflection is refracted, like a straw sitting in a half-full glass of water that appears broken due to the bending light waves. There are so many factors that can skew our self-image, unconsciously painting ourselves in a more positive or negative light, rendering our self-assessment downright unreliable for some of us.

So, how can we trust what we see when looking inside? A writer’s self-doubt originates from there, sweeping across our moods like a mid-day summer storm.

Aren’t we all prospects, doing what we can to attract the attention of recruiters (agents) and land that scholarship to play for the college team (publishing house) of our dreams? I know that’s how I feel. But am I over-estimating my potential and better off applying to a local community college instead?

Can you tell that this has become a common theme with me recently? The closer I get to actually querying my manuscript, the larger this question looms. Is my work worthy? Do I belong in the club? Or am I like Chuck and his son, star-gazing into a refracted reality? But what about the positive comments I get from my beta readers and critique group, don’t they count for something? Then I remember all of the praise and slaps on the back Chuck and his son received, were those not sincere as well?

You really don’t need to answer any of these questions, or blow daisies up my shorts. I’ll have my answer soon enough. And when that happens I’ll adjust accordingly and move in whatever direction makes the most sense.
 

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