Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Pre-writing: backstory

Pre-writing and all that it entails is actually a lot of fun, for me, anyway. To learn more about pre-writing in general, check out a couple of great podcasts from the Writing Excuses team. I love doing research and am one of those people who can take an hour to look up something in a dictionary because of distractions that lead down rabbit trails. The internet is even worse: global rabbit trails!

The guest post today over at Kristen Lamb's Blog is all about creating backstory as part of your pre-writing. Piper Bayard gives us license, nay, orders, to backstory the heck out of not just the main characters in our writing but pretty much everybody who walks across the stage and has a line. I can see this as a series of great warm-up sessions, but it's also just a really great way to get your characters and world fully realized. If anybody struggles with plotting like I do, this kind of world-building is going to help a LOT, because the more you know about the people and places of your creation the more naturally events and decisions are going to flow from your fertile imagination.

At any rate, it's another way to play "God", and writers are nothing if not control freaks.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

National Novel Writing Month is nigh

Recent events in my life have reminded me that if you don't do get moving and try to do those things that you really want to do ASAP, then you may get to the end of your life never having done anything. With that in mind, I'm going to jump off the deep end and charge into National Novel Writing Month, colloquially known as NaNoWriMo, in a few weeks. It's a personal challenge to write at least 50,000 words in the month of November: basically, get a book written. It's do-able, I just have to DO IT.

I took a stab at it back in 2006 but was derailed when the Spouse's computer died and I loaned him mine to keep him functional. I think I was about 18,000 words in when that happened. I probably still could have done it, but between writing challenges and other life stuff that November, I was pretty much doomed.

This year the decks are more clear, I have more than one machine to write on, and I'm kicking around an idea for what I think could be a fun, lightweight romance novel. I am "outlining" and casting it even now. Stay tuned...

Saturday, September 20, 2014

PSA: you're not alone

There is much darkness in this world. If you are hurting, deeply and profoundly, and it seems you'll never escape it, and if you try to it will just make things worse... those are the demons talking. Whether these demons are literal or figurative is not for me to decipher. The bottom line is that, whatever they are in a given situation, they LIE. They want you to suffer alone and hopeless and absolutely sure that nobody can understand or help. They are wrong. Your inner torment, your horrible secret, is never so extreme that it can't be shared and healed, but that knowledge is power the "voices" don't want you to have.

The real secret that those lying S.O.B.s don't want you to know is that you are loved by people around you and the Creator of the Universe, even if you can't see it. Those "demons" will do ANYTHING to stop you from understanding this. If you make a decision to get help, they will double their efforts to sabotage you. Someone once asked the great evangelist Charles Finney, "Do you really believe in a literal devil?" He responded, "You try opposing him for a while, and you see if he's literal or not."

It is very hard for most of us to ask for help, almost impossible if you're a man. It's part of the Frontier Code to be self-reliant. What we forget is that the Frontier Code also includes a lot of group support, like getting together to erect barns and houses, maple sugar boiling, harvests, childbirth, defending each other from bandits and other predators, and other events we should always be ready to help with.

If you have children, please, please teach them and model for them that there's nothing weak about asking for help, especially if it's with something serious. Tell and show the people close to you that you are always there to lend an ear if they need to unburden themselves. Will this end all personal suffering? Will it fix everybody's problems? No, but it might help somebody get to a place where they feel they can share the load.

Sometimes, no matter how much a person is offered help or told and shown that they have a "safe place" to find help, they fall under the constant onslaught from the darkness. Yesterday a friend of mine lost her spouse, and I lost a friend, to that oppression. I'm still in shock, but not so much that I can't be sad and angry.

Just remember: the darkness fears the light. The demons don't want you to know they're always, always running scared. [Mark 1:24] This is why they're so nasty. There's nothing like a cornered predator to show you a fight. You don't have to fight alone.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Chicken & Rice: the new, healthy version

And now, for something completely different: food!


Mom used to make a version of this that probably originated with a Campbell's soup ad in the 50s, since the principal ingredients other than "chicken" and "rice" were cream of mushroom and chicken gumbo canned soups. Oh, and a package of onion soup mix. I grew up on this and it's great hot or as a leftover (hot or cold). However.... packaged soups are full of really unhealthy ingredients. In the last few years I've noticed that I have serious GI issues after eating it, so I stopped making it. The other day I asked my spouse what some of his favorite foods were, and "chicken and rice" came up, so I decided to try to re-invent this thing without all the pasteurized milk, bad sodium, corn syrup, wheat thickener, MSG, and who knows what else. I think it's pretty darned good. Our local Costco is now carrying organic chicken, so it’s even better!

Remember: none of this is set in stone. Want to add peas? Hate mushrooms? Think it needs some celery seed? Go for it.

Oven to 350°

Ingredients:

2 cups of rice (I use brown, but you can use whatever you want)
4 cups of water & 1 tsp. bullion paste, or 2 cups of water and 2 cups of chicken stock
Half a large onion cut into chunks
2 carrots, diced
Some sliced mushrooms
2 celery stalks, diced
Some paprika
2 packages of onion soup mix (I use Trader Joe’s, because it isn’t full of weird stuff)
Chicken pieces, as many as you want to fit in there.

Directions:

In a 9x13 or equivalent baking dish/pan….

-  Stir up everything but the chicken and one of the packages of onion soup mix until distributed evenly.
-  Sprinkle some of the second soup mix on top.
-  Place the chicken in, pushing into the mix slightly.
-  Sprinkle the rest of the soup mix on top.
-  Cover with foil and bake for two hours. Take it out and let it sit for a few minutes before serving.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

"Monster Hunter Alpha" by Larry Correia

Monster Hunter Alpha (MHI, #3)Monster Hunter Alpha by Larry Correia
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The third installment in the Monster Hunter International saga takes us in a slightly different direction and focuses entirely on The Boss: Earl Harbinger. Artfully told in a real-time style and peppered with flashbacks that give us Earl's back story, this novel hits the ground running and doesn't let up. This is the kind of page-turner that will keep you up past your bed time. That's what it did to me, anyway: hello, three AM.

This story also introduces one of the most interesting origin stories for a particular type of supernatural creature that I've ever encountered.

Intelligent characters with plausible arcs, nail-bitingly intense running battles, and enough weapons tech to keep the hardcore gun guys entertained. Bonus: female characters you can cheer for, sympathize with, and admire. No screaming "arm candy" babes or "faux dude" chicks here.

Great Summer or vacation reading.

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Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Rising Tides (#5 in the Destroyermen series) by Taylor Anderson

Rising Tides (Destroyermen, #5)Rising Tides by Taylor Anderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This isn't much of a real review, but I'm happy to save that until after I've finished the last book in this series. I'd been way behind and made an effort a few weeks ago to catch up, and now I can't stop reading. This series is like candy for action-adventure or space-time FUBAR stories (whatever that means to you). The actual genre is "cross-time shipwreck", and this is all that and more. "Rising Tides" became a real page-turner for me at about the halfway mark. Power reading through these novels is exhausting, though, because the characters really get put through the wringer again and again. Still, the payoffs are good and the world-building is utterly engrossing. I'll be sad when I get to the end.

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