Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My 4th Publication!

Well, my 4th fantasy flash story, Blessed Curse, was published today!  Yeah!!  Anyone interested can check it out at Yesteryear Fiction

I'd love to know your thoughts on it - good or bad - so please leave a comment either on the ezine's site or here. 

Thanks so much for your support & encouragement these past months, faithful followers!  Much appreciated!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Show & Tell

And of course, I don't mean the kind we do in grade school.

It's a huge debate on the writing forums I frequent - the whole show don't tell thing.  Well, Writer's Digest has a great article this month called, 'Tried & True, Timeless Novel Advice'.  Here's Fred East's quote from June 1944:

"If you tell the reader that Bull Beezley is a brutal-faced, loose-lipped bully with snake's blood in his veins, the reader's reaction may be, 'Oh, yeah!'  But if you show the reader Bull Beezley raking the bloodied flanks of his weary, sweat-encrusted pony, and flogging the tottering, red-eyed animal with a quirt, or have him booting in the protruding ribs of a starved mongrel and boy, the reader believes!"

That about sums up any other blog I could possibly do on this subject.  What are your thoughts on show vs. tell?  Have you found such a statement to make this clearer?
Happy Monday, all.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Active Voice vs. Passive Voice - Who Gets the Championship Belt?

 You sneak into the Grammar Arena.  It's packed full to capacity, and the spectators are screaming, waiting for their favored fighters to appear.  You wander down to ring-side where I have seats.    
"Care to join me?" I ask, patting the empty chair beside me. 
"Who's gunna win?" you wonder while sitting down. 
"Who knows?" I reply.  "But, as an avid reader I can say that a scene written in the active voice is more enjoyable."
"Why's that?" you ask.
"Because the active voice creates conflict and drives a story forward.  It keeps me turning pages late into the night.  The passive voice on the other hand is flat, uninteresting, and has no conflict."  I yawn, my jaw cracking. "The active voice is stronger than the passive because it's more direct and cuts unnecessary words.  That's especially helpful if you're writing micro or flash pieces. 
"Here." I hand you a brochure.  "It gives you a bit of information on today's fighters."

Active voice – When the subject is causing the action.  
Passive voice – When the subject receives the action expressed by the verb.  
1.     Jack was loved by Jane.  -passive 
      Jane loved Jack.  -active    
2.      The boat was driven by Jack.  -passive
            Jack drove the boat.  -active
3.   Dust was kicked up by the horse's hooves.  -passive
      The horse's hooves kicked up dust.  -active
4.   The barrels were stacked in the cart by John.  - passive
      John stacked the barrels in the cart.  - active

Ways to recognize the passive voice
1.       It will often include a form of the verb ‘to be.’  Examples:

The flowers were being picked by Jane.
The car had been washed by John.

*Using these verb forms does not always make a sentence passive. 
  Example:  I am understanding the concept.  – Here the subject ‘I’ is doing the action, thus       
it’s in active voice. 

2.      The sentence will include ‘by the’ after the verb.  Examples: 
Jack was bit by the dog.
Heat was thrown off by the furnace.
The gurney was pushed by a nurse.

Fixing the passive voice
            It’s easy.  Put the character / subject (doer of the action) up front.  Here’s the above examples in the active voice:
            Jane picked the flowers.    
            John washed the car.
            The dog bit Jack.
            The furnace threw off heat.
             A nurse pushed the gurney.

Use of the passive voice is not always wrong
Here are some times when it is better or necessary to use the passive voice:
  1. If the subject is purposefully being kept a secret / you wish to create mystery in your sentence.   When you want your reader to say, “Who did it?”  (You'll notice from the first example that politicians are fond of doing this.)
A mistake was made.
Shots were fired.

  1. Highlighting the object because it's the focus of the story.  If 'what' is stolen is more important than 'who' stole it, you would write:  

           The files were stolen by the intruder.

  1. When you wish to stress the victim of the action rather than the doer.  If it’s more important to the story  that we remember who Jane kissed, you would write:
John was kissed by Jane.

You re-fold the brochure, your brow furrowed.

"Still not sure who's gunna win?" I ask.
"It won't matter who wins.  There's bound to be a rematch."   
I nod.  "One last thing - I've read that the active voice shows the reader what is happening and the passive voice tells it.  You've heard about the 'Show vs. Tell' fight, right?"
"I have," you say, "but we can discuss that on another day.  Here comes today's fighters."

Which voice do you gravitate toward in your writing?  In your reading? 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Fantasy Subgenres

     "Write what you know." 

     We've all heard that one, right?  Well...

     I submitted four flash stories in the past three months through Duotrope, and wondered every time if I was choosing the proper subgenre category they belonged in.  Subgenres?  Isn't fantasy just fantasy?  Dream-like lands with funky beings that can fly or chant magical spells?  I mean, what the heck is Steampunk?  An 80's band with rockin' hair?  And, Dystopian?  Is that some sort of lost Tokien language? 

     I started looking up the subgenres in the drop down box.  Wow.  Was I ever behind the times.   

     If I am going to write fantasy - which I've been doing for years - then I ought to know the genre inside and out.  God forbid I write a query letter a year from now and categorize my epic fantasy novel as magic realism. 

     So, here's the list I compiled.  I hope it helps if you are even half as confused as I was. 

Epic  -  A book or series that revolves around a quest.  The first example that comes to mind is Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.  In my opinion it doesn't get any better than that.

High  -  Set in parallel worlds wth magical creatures or elements.  Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series is by far my favorite, although Goodkind's Sword of Truth series runs a close second.  These stories are oftentimes limited to one character's viewpoint ie  R.A. Salvatore's The Legend of Drizzt. 

Sword & Sorcery  -  This genre focuses more on personal battles than world endangering matters like Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian stories.

Heroic  -  Tales of heros in imaginary lands that tend to have intricate plots involving many people, nations, and lands.  HBO's A Game of Thrones has brought George RR Martin's heroic series to life.

Dark  -  I found two different explanations for this one.  First, supernatural horror - told from a monster's viewpoint ie Anne Rice's The Vampire Chronicles.  Second, it could be a story that has is anti-heroic or has a protag with no clear morals.

Magic Realism  -  A story where magical elements are depicted as normal or reliable occurrences / presents the fantastic as mundane instead of with a sense of wonder.  The films Being John Malkovich and Edward Scissorhands are excellent examples.

Urban Fantasy  -  Takes place in an urban setting and has aspects of fantasy, ie Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere and Cynthia Hand's Unearthly.

Contemporary  -  Modern fantasy set in real-world, present-day with magic or magical creatures leaking into it, like Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files.

Dystopian  -  A futuristic setting where society has degraded and lives repressed in a controlled state, charactereized by authoritarian or totalitarian governments.  Remember Lord of the Flies by William Golding or The Running Man by Stephen King?

Steampunk  -  A re-imagined past in which modern technology developed earlier in history.  Moore & O'Neill's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, or the film Wild Wild West are great examples.

Paranormal Romance  -  A romance with fantasy elements - usually has a modern setting involving humans or other fantasy species.  Need I say Twilight?  We have Stephanie Meyer to thank for this media craze.

Low  -  Typically takes place in real world settings with less emphasis on the fantasy element, ie Stephen King's The Green Mile.

Historical  -  Generally takes place before the 20th century with contrived plots based loosly on historical events, mythology, or legends.  Think Susanne Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.

Comic  -  Fantasy stories primarily humorous in intent and tone.

Medieval  -  A medieval era high fantasy, not necessarily in a real world setting, ieTerry Brooks' Shannara Series.

     Many of these overlap - some have subgenre after subgenre.  What is your favorite to read and write?  And have I missed any? 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Monday's (one day late) goals for the week

Ah Tuesday.  So much better than Monday.  I didn't accomplish a whole lot last week, but this happens.  Especially in spring.  Here's the goals for this week:

1.  Hear back from the 2 flash pieces I have submitted.
2.  Get at least 2 chapters done on the short story I started last week. 

That's it.
Happy writing.

My 2nd publication is online!

"An Infinite Snare"

Monday, April 4, 2011

Stretching out the weekend's stiff muscles.

Ah, Monday.  Dreary, rainy Monday.  How I hate thee.  Let me count the ways...
Bet enough of my ranting.  Let's set some goals, shall we?

1.  Start a short story.  ANY short story.  Move on from flash for a little while.
2.  Hopefully hear back from Every Day Fiction about 'Heart's Wish'.
3.  Start back up on Pool of Souls, my ongoing WIP I started 3 years ago.
4.  Keep on networking away, but put a time limit on it already!  I'll try to only check on meaningless stuff 2-3 times a day.  Try being the key word.
5.  Get some of the books I requested through the interloan library system here in the boondocks. 
6.  Encourage at least one unhappy / despaired author-to-be.
7.  Learn at least one good lesson in the writing business each day & share it with you all at the end of the week.

That's it.  Besides get some sleep, clean the house, do laundry, get groceries, cook yummy meals my toddlers will eat, etc.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

First Publication!!

Here's the second Flash Fiction story I had accepted - it's my 'official' first publication!!!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

7 R's of Positivity for the Unpublished Author

Here's a guest post on Writer Unboxed by Lydia Sharp that really encouraged me today.  Published or unpublished, this is great advice to live by!  Print it out.  Hang it above your desk.

Monday, March 28, 2011

A dream realized

On March 18th I heard back from one of the two online magazines considering my looped reality story, "An Infinite Snare."  The editor liked my style, action, and characters, but felt that the readers would feel cheated by the ending.  He wondered if I could think of a way to make the vignette into a story.

What to do?  Change the story to please him, and in the process change the point of my story?  Was I that desperate to get published?  Once again I sought wisdom from my forum-ite friends.  I was told that I needed to consider what I wanted this story to be – that I should continue submitting (my original work) until I found the right fit. 

Ah, the arrogance of the young in this business.  I didn't listen.

I added another scene and completely changed the story my muse intended.  But, I wasn't happy with it.  It felt forced.  I decided to hold off on resubmitting till I heard from the second online magazine.   
Thank God I held tight onto Mrs. Impatience's reins.

I now wear a hat other than that of wife, mother, daughter, and friend.  I am a published author!  Or rather, I will be in a few days.  On March 21st I received word that my original "An Infinite Snare" was accepted for publication.  On April 3rd my flash fiction story will appear in Lark’s Fiction Magazine.

The editor had this to say:  “Your twist of light hearted adventure and just a touch of horror was fascinating. Few authors would be able to pack so much into such a short piece. I would usually offer a constructive critique but nothing stuck out at me.”

I laughed.  I cried.  I wanted to jump on a trampoline till I collapsed.  I’m still smiling.

Granted this isn’t a paying online magazine, but it is the first feather in the publication hat I now wear.  I plan on adding many more in vibrant colors until it looks as though a ruffled parrot sits atop my head.


Listen and learn from those who have been after similar dreams longer than you. 

Remain true to the stories that your imagination creates.  Don't force the hat to fit. 

And, of course, keep submitting.   

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Submission made!

I'm very proud of myself.  I have officially sent in two submissions to online mags for one of my flash fiction pieces.  They're my first submissions in over five years & I should have word back within four weeks. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Quote of the day

I wasn't planning on blogging again so soon, but I came across a great quote that I had to share.

There's an English word for a beginning writer who never gives up. Published.  - J. Konrath

Monday, February 28, 2011

This scribbler's sojourn

This scribbler’s sojourn began in 1987 when I was in the 8th grade.  It was my first year in a public school – it was this farm girl’s first time in a real library.  I fell in love with the ‘choose your own adventure’ books that were all the rage back then.  I decided to write a few of my own and shared them with my two younger brothers and any friends who could be talked into reading the jumble of lined papers. 
That same year I completed my first “novel” titled Gundi’s Great Adventure.  It was about a little gnome and his friends who took to the mines and rescued the poor people of their land from the clutches of an evil villain.  It was written in pencil and stapled to death.
The following year I made a submission for the first time.  I don’t remember the name of the magazine or the competition they were holding, but my short story was about a unicorn.  My reaction to losing was that of a typical confident, cocky thirteen-year-old – I felt they were totally wrong to choose another as their winner.  My story must have been the best.  I’d been reading adult novels since I was eight for crying out loud! 
I pouted.  The pencil was put down.  I didn’t attempt writing again for sixteen years.
In 2004 I met Pulitzer Prize winner, Anne Tyler.  I shared my hopes of becoming a published author someday and she encouraged me to follow that dream.  I took up my pencil with renewed vigor, and she graciously mentored me through the writing of my first real novel.
The confidence from my childhood returned and quickly morphed into arrogance when Anne said I would someday be signing a book for her.  She wrote letters of introduction to a few agents who agreed to look at my soft romance manuscript. 
Of course Laura Langlie and Amy Berkower didn’t understand the big thing they decided not to get in on.  Donald Maass’ critique of was off the mark – he certainly didn’t know what he was talking about.  So I thought. 
The fourteen agents who agreed that my writing was ‘jarring’ and ‘sloppy’ cracked my self-confident shell.  My arrogance was shredded by each till all that remained was a woman who realized she had a lot to learn.
I set aside the romance and settled in front of my laptop to write what I know.  Fantasy.  I researched for a few years before beginning an epic story of a young woman’s flight from inner demons and her supernatural powers that she despised.  It’s still a work in progress.
I joined a critique forum two years ago and met a group of helpful, humorous, and encouraging people.  Lydia Sharp,  one of the forum’s moderators and a published author, reviewed my first chapter and offered advice that completely changed the way I write:  Show don’t tell.  Other critiques from my fellow forum-ites have helped me hone my skills and rebuild my confidence enough to begin submissions once again.
I made an attempt at flash fiction last week and had an editor from Every Day Fiction magazine review it for me.   It was my first step toward submission in five years.  Unfortunately, my story wasn’t something he thought they would be interested in, but he told me I’ve got the tools to write a good story.  Those words took the sting out of the set-back and encouraged me to continue my journey. 
The determination of the thirteen-year-old farm girl has doubled.  But this time I’m willing to learn and glean from those who know what they’re talking about.  Stop in once in awhile to see how my journey progresses.  I hope I’m able to impart some knowledge of my own and help you on your scribbler’s sojourn.