Sunday, October 4, 2009

NaNo Prep

Ah, Fall that wonderful time of year when thoughts turn to warm fires, soups, changing of the leaves and cooler temperatures (here in Southern California cooler means 70˚ or below). However, there is another thing I look forward to - writing 50,000 words in 30 days. Yep, it is that wonderful time of year again when people all around the world plant their butts at their desks (kitchen tables or even the local coffee shop) and pound out a novel.

Thanks to Chris Baty, the founder of National Novel Writing Month (aka nanowrimo or just nano for short), for giving millions of people the deadline and the drive to undertake this auspicious event every year. This is my fifth year (the last three years I have crossed the finish line). You can join up for free at and join the rest of the crazy wonderful writers and make new friends along the way.

So how do I prepare for this marathon? I start “training” early in the year when an idea pops up and takes the muse (or monkey) by storm - this year it started with a name and last year’s writing playground - and only small tidbits are written down while I continue forward working on non-fiction stuff (which is another great play to mine for ideas). This will continue until October comes around. Then I will give myself two weekends to shape all my notes into a semi-cohesive mess that only I can understand. The work is very rough and wide open to play in, but at least it gets me going in the right direction.

Now that all the pre-work is done, I start collecting and gathering everything else that I will (or think I will) need. These include, but are subject to change based on whims:

1. Making sure that my desktop computer passes a system check;

2. Making sure my Neo (by Alphasmart) batteries are full. This little device is great for writing away from computer (This was my “me” prize when I validated my 2008 word count and saw winner [still trying to figure out this year’s prize]);

3. Pens. Lots of pens. Sometimes just changing to a different pen sparks something new;

4. One special notebook for organization or at least keeping my notes in one specific location;

5. Copious amounts (as Mr. Baty states) of munchies and drinks in all forms from the Snacker’s Food Groups - salty, beefy, sugary and liquids;

6. A writing totem (something to help me keep focused) which is a fedora hat (yes, I wear it when I am writing and get stuck) and a pair of gold plushie dragons that are twins.

I think that is everything, so now I just have to wait until 12:01 a.m. on November 1st to start my caffeinated ride. I better stock up on naps now. If you are interested in trying your hand at writing a novel in 30 days, I suggest you visit the National Novel Writing Month website ( and pick up a copy of “No Plot, No Problem” by Chris Baty and then you too can check off “write a novel” of your life’s “to do” list or like most of us - anxiously await next year to do it all over again while revising your new novel during the year.

See ya at the 50,000 word finish line.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Writers and Coffee

Yep - even though it is Friday - this is truly needed.....heck it is needed all the time. Off to work and try to keep cool. (Thanks to LOL Cats for this true picture of a writer's life)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Death of the Laptop -- Praise for Flash Drives

It was a pleasant Monday morning (I know, I know, three words that do not belong in the same sentence, but one can try) and I was still feeling the slight buzz of caffeine when my day went horribly awry. My laptop of 10+ years decided that it wanted to take its retirement early and found a virus that could help it get its way. Enter panic mode.

The virus took the form of a protection program allows a free scan of your system. Having fallen for that ploy before, I cancelled and dropped out of the net. The virus had other plans though. Since I refused to fall into its steely cyber clutches, it was not going to allow me access to any of my programs including Word and my own virus protection program. Every so often, the virus taunted me with a brief glimpse of the net before rearing its ugly head.

After a few hours of trying to get some sort of response from my computer to allow a fully system restore – I gave up and allowed my laptop to go into retirement (I will one day conquer that virus). I bought a new desktop with a large monitor to let my eyes rest easier.

I was still in panic mode even after all of my programs were installed – all of my writing work from blogs, articles to even short stories and novel notes would have been lost EXCEPT for one thing – USB flash drives. Panic eased a little. Yeah, I am talking about flash drives. Years ago before flash drives were even a glimmer in the inventor’s eye, I had a similar mishap, but all of my work, including two novels, was stored on my system’s hard drive. Computer went boom and my work went bye-bye. That was when I learn the hard lesson of not keeping important documents or pictures on your system’s hard drive.

USB flash drives can be found for as little as $10 for 2GB of memory. They also come in a wide variety of shapes, styles and colors. Mine are simple black and I am still trying to fill 2GB with my writing. So some serious advice from me to you – get thyself to a store…be it an electronic store (i.e. Best Buy) or your local office supply store (i.e. Office Depot or Staples) or even your local mega-mart that has an electronic section (i.e. Wal-Mart) and purchase your own USB flash drive. Go home and transfer all of your important work there, then keep saving your work on the flash drive. You will be glad you did if your system goes into its own retirement – you will have lost no work.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Jack of All Trades

As I sit staring at the hundreds of non-fiction articles that I have written while I ponder my next day’s article, I came to a realization. I am a “jack of all trades, yet master of none”. From making your own soy milk to cleaning concrete – it appears that I know just about everything. Alas, I wish that was true, but no – I am good a research and can put my research into a simple, easy to understand article. I love research. Be the research from a book, the internet or just talking to someone – there is always something to learn.

A funny thing happens when one researches (and not I am not talking about losing brain cells) – call it your muse or a tiny little demon that lives in the back of your mind or whatever – you can get some good ideas for fiction. Think of soy milk not really made out of soy beans (think of the movie Soylent Green) or a character had made a new dog treat that the dogs just love, but it is turning the dogs against their owners because they now want the fresh version of the treat (their owners) – okay, my mind is a little perverted and warped, but you get the idea – everything is fiction fodder.

Writing non-fiction and instructional articles offers the fiction writer a wealth of ideas. I am off to go learn something new. Who knows, the next non-fiction article that I write will be the next short story coming soon to a magazine or anthology near you.

Friday, August 7, 2009

When Ideas Attack

UGH! Well that got your attention now didn’t it? The ideas are attacking.

Most writers’ say ideas are all around us, which I will admit is true. Newspapers, magazines, TV and even snippets of other writer’s work will invoke something deep inside. But for me not so much – my ideas attack from different sources and they are the internet and junk mail.

The internet has so much information that to take it all in could make one’s head explode, but you google a word or phrase that interests you and you are sure to come up with thousands of sites that are sure to spark the makings of an idea. Writing generators are also a big help. My two favorite are Seven Sanctum ( and Chaotic Shiny ( Even though Chaotic Shiny is geared towards gaming, it is a massively fun play toy for writers. On both you can choose how many random bits of information to review at one time and they offer up the little things that may get over looked like books and what taverns are serving. They never fail to spark something. Even Seventh Sanctum’s links help inspire plot twists that you may have never thought of. Check out the Nine.Frenchboys link which will take you to the Serendipity site and there you have many more options and goodies to choose from. Generators such as these have never failed to spark something in me when I feel that the idea tank is running low.

Now on to junk mail. I am not talking about credit card offers (they always seem to find their way to the shredder before I get a chance to open them), bills (I just cringe as they laugh) or even your local store ads (Hey, 2 for 1 on dog biscuits – have to keep that), I am talking about catalogs and advertisements from places such as Danbury Mint and The Hamilton Collection (you buy one dragon [okay several] and you are forever on their mailing list). Shiny pictures on everything from jewelry to statues draw my attention and those who hold it longer than a passing glance get cut and added to my “special book” (My “special book” where all of the wonderful pictures from weapons to statues and furniture reside is nothing more than a large perfect bound sketchbook that sits close to my desk) where they wait until the time is right. You can now get catalogs on just about everything from the mystical to the mundane and a good place to start is where you can order different catalogs and have those all shipped directly to you. Just remember, that after you have harvested the catalog for its vital pictures – make sure you recycle so the catalog can find new life as a new object.

So do not limit yourself to the ordinary, look towards your mail – you may never know what waits within that next flyer or catalog.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Toy Squeaks For Thee

A quiet Saturday morning and I am outside enjoying the cool air and the sounds of birds as well as the sound of distant traffic. All of a sudden a loud noise rips the stillness asunder. The sound is hard to describe, but if you are a dog owner you will understand, it was an unreal squawk. This was followed shortly thereafter by the sounds of crumpling plastic and low growls. Looking up from my working in progress, I see my dog, Toby (part American Eskimo and part Chihuahua); fling a hot pink plush octopus towards me. I had to duck but thankfully it was not that hard of a toss and it only landed at me feet – staring up at me with is wide open eyes. Toby looked at it for a moment and turned his attention back towards his toy box.

The toy box itself is a large wooden and metal chest that has a hole cut out in front for easy access as well as the lid has been propped open for air circulation. Toys overflow – all plush. Toby noses around trying to find the next object of his attack – pulling out one toy at a time, giving it a few chomps before dropping it to get the next. Ten toys later and he finds what he is looking for – a grey stuffed hedgehog that is two steps away from visiting that great doggie toy shop in the sky – no more squeak and its stuffing is starting to fall out. Toby grabs that poor hedgehog by its nose and thrashes it about, the toy slapping his ears and then he runs and places the toy in my lap. He barks, he wants to play.

After a few throws, Toby jumps up on the couch to catch his breath. I had to ask about his obsession with plush squeaky toys. His response, “bark, bark, woof, growl, bark, yip, woof, bark.” His head cocked to one side and his ears fall forward as if I understood the explanation.

Maybe he is trying to say that they don’t fight back or he just like squishing things between his teeth…Nope, did not understand it and probably never will. But it is all good, he is happy and just wants to play…

….Time Lapse…It is all quiet now. Toys have fallen, scattered on his battlefield, the front yard. I know I will have to go behind him and pick up the fallen, only to have the battle played out again…maybe not today, but for sure tomorrow.

When the toys squeak, it squeaks for thee and the dog wants to play.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Tarot for Writers - A New Way to Gather Ideas

As writers we are able to find ideas in even the most mundane of items such as the wagging of a dog’s tail, but there are times when you just want to apply your forehead to your desk and bang repeatedly – this does not work…it only damages your desk and hurts your forehead (I have the bruises to prove it).

A snippet flies around, elusive and hard to grasp, but it can…no, it must be caught – but how? Your idea net is in the shop for repairs and the idea snippet does not like the smell of those sticky flytrap thingies (as a matter of fact, neither do I) – the answer is quite simple, bring out a tarot deck, they are not just for divination anymore, but windows to a creative soul, and the ideas seem to really like them.

As writers we live in a world of symbols – well at least some do. We delve deep into meanings and sprinkle them in our prose for our enjoyment as well as the enjoyment of the reader. But, I digress – back to making that idea snippet stick and grow. Tarot for Writers by Corrine Kenner is the trap for that snippet.

Ms. Kenner introduces the writer to the tarot cards as well as their meanings and how to read the symbols located within each card, but that is not all. Tarot cards can also be sued to help with a character that will not behave and put your plot in line. Ms. Kenner walks you through the classic tarot patterns and how they can be used from a simple three card layout to the larger, more in depth Celtic Cross.

The tarot cards can also help you through writer blocks as well as give inspiration when you are feeling down. So if you want a new direction to go in your writing or help solve, visit Corrine Kenner’s website at or your local bookstore to pick up this book of 325 pages of idea gathering goodness.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


I really just like this photograph - it inspires and causes awe.... a good way to start a blog.