Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Writing Prompt: Obama Lets Texas Secede!

What if President Obama decided to address all the White House Petitions out there, including those asking that certain states (Texas) be allowed to leave the union?

Sounds like a great writing prompt for speculative fiction writers.

I know, it's definitely fantasy, modern fantasy, to think that any of these petitions could ever turn to real action. Here is where fantasy writers step in. Craft a story where the impossible happens. 

Yahoo has an interesting piece on the "11 ridiculous White House Petitions."

Set your timer for 15 minutes, and write about it. You never know, you could have a story.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Is There A Battle Between Good And Evil?

My Mall Demons stories are based on one basic premise: There is a battle between good and evil.

The ultimate good is God. The ultimate evil is Satan. That is my universe as far as my writing is concerned. What is funny is that any fiction since the beginning of time deals with the same basic premise: Good vs Evil.

Think about it.

Writing Prompt: Death Speaks

Try this on for size:

Set your timer for 5, 10, 15 minutes. Then write about this:

A character walks into a room filled with people. The character makes an announcement:

"This is a fact: Within this room there is a 100 percent mortality rate. Everybody here will die. And in case you were wondering... I am Death."

Up for the challenge? Post your story here.

Can You Write A Science Fiction Story in 120 Words?

My students hated this assignment. But, the other day I showed up to class and presented this task:

Write a science fiction work with a beginning, middle and end in 120 words.

OK, on the fly the first draft of the story may be crap, but it's a great exercise. While I was in front of the class spurring my class on, I had a clipboard, paper and pen in hand to create my own 120-word science fiction piece.

Eventually, most of the students wrote, then read aloud their stories. I did, too. I figured I would share the pain. Although, the students didn't think it was fair since as they put it "I'm a writer who's used to such exercises." 

LOL.

For what it's worth, here's what I put together "on the fly."

"I win!" Johanna shouted.
"Again!" John demanded.
They restarted the game.
Two spaceships flew towards Earth. The fugitive's ship was heavily damaged. The Galactic Officer targeted the fugitive's engines. The fugitive's ship went dead. He reached for the transportal device on his wrist. Like a shooting star, he fell.
"I win again!" Johanna pressed the controller button.
Flash!
They were trapped.
"What happened!?" John, Johanna and the alien were in the video game.
"We need that device thingee!"
"Never!" The fugitive ran.
The intergalactic officer stared into the computer screen.
"He's too fast!" Johanna said.
"Who's that?"
They saw the face.
"It happened when I pressed the key! Like Omega13!"
The officer understood.
"Reset."
Click!
Flash!
"I win!" Johanna shouted.

Writing With Your Eyes Closed Takes A Good Memory

I must confess I was feeling pretty lazy today. But, it's hard to feel lazy when you have a story in your head. I'm an expert at it, though.

Part of my problem today is that I'm struggling with a cold. I'm a major wimp when I'm sick. All I want to do is get under the covers and do nothing. I can't just lie there, though. I must create. So, I run through scenes in my mind with my eyes closed.

Maybe you're brain doesn't work that way, but I've been able to develop a skill of working out my next scene with my eyes closed. This only works if you can remember what you've done during such a session. I've learned enough about memory to understand that I must create a well-worn path so that I can remember my scene. 

If you're interested in terminology, what I'm talking about is a neural trace. I teach this to my freshmen students. Bottom line, it takes repetition. How's it work with my scene development? Like this:

In my mind's eye I create the scene I'm working on. I place my characters where they need to be. I construct the setting and then press play like I'm watching a DVD. I only go so far. I keep it to one scene. No scene changes. 

Everyone has their moments of dialogue. I throw in some narration, etc. Then, I press replay. I run through the entire scene again. Then, I press replay again and again and again and again. I may fall asleep pressing replay, but when I wake, I have the scene still in my head because I've developed a neural trace to come back to by repetition.

Over a week of being lazy, I might run through the same scene dozens of times. When I see something new to add, I do it. Eventually, I must write this down, but this mental skill has helped me keep working on a story when, for example, I'm lazy or sick and just don't want to sit at the keyboard.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Number One Question for Writers...

Here it is:

Are you a wimp?

Are you afraid of what your friends will say about your story? Maybe you're worried that your mother, father, children, cousins will recognize a character or situation in your story. Here's my response:

Who cares!?!

You can't free yourself as a writer if you're constantly thinking about how your words might offend someone. Here's what you must do: Accept the fact that your writing will offend people. Then, write anyway. 

Looking For Stories About Angels and Demons

Do you write stories that include angels and demons?

My Mall Demons stories focus on the classic battle between good and evil. Warrior angels battle against demons and their Army of the Night.

Anyone who writes similar fiction is welcome to submit their stories here. I'll post them all. For those who wonder, no payment, and I'm not demanding any publishing rights. You keep it all. I just want to share stories that match those I'm writing.

Is The Shopping Mall An Instrument of Evil?

Setting is very important in a story. When you're writing, consider setting as a character in your story.

In my Mall Demons stories, setting is crucial. Most of my action takes place in a shopping mall. My story deals with the classic battle between good and evil.

As I thought about setting, I figured demons nowadays would gravitate towards a mall. Why do you think? 

What do shopping malls have that demons might find attractive?

Death: Good or Bad as a Character?

Is Death good or bad?

As a fictional character, which is it? The Grim Reaper seems evil. But, could Death be a good character? Could it be that the kiss of Death is God's way of welcoming you to Heaven?

Which way would you write Death in your story?

Modern Fantasy and Allusions

I love allusions. They can pack a great punch for writers who want to lay out a great deal of meaning in a few words. I use them quite a bit in my writing of the Mall Demons Urban Fantasy stories.

What is an allusion? Basically a casual reference to a historical or literary character, event, or something. Some of the most powerful allusions - especially if  you're writing spiritual fiction - come from the Bible. Here's an example from one of my Mall Demons stories. Can you guess what story it comes from in the Bible?

From Chapter Four in the Mall Demons stories:

"We have roamed through this shopping center and have found it suitable for our needs," Sargas said.
At Sargas' words, the imps drew nearer again so that their evil faces appeared to be hovering in the darkness. Sargas continued.
"We have gone back and forth," he said. "Its inhabitants willingly belong to us."

And a little later:

"One has been chosen to prove he is blameless and upright. The chosen fears God and shuns evil. The fate of this ground shall be decided through him. The hedge around him shall be loosened."

Some of that dialogue is nearly word for word from the Bible. It is from a story that parallels what my protagonist is about to go through at this part of the Mall Demons story. My hope is if readers make the connection with the Biblical reference, they will then understand what my protagonist is about to go through.

Do  you use allusions in your writing? Whether you're writing Fantasy or another genre, give it a try.



Wednesday, November 28, 2012

How Often Do You Revise Your WIP?

Funny how random things are.

I was formatting a booklet of one of my Mall Demons chapters for my students. I was having problems formatting the pages. I ended up having a space in the text box needing to be filled. It was a paragraph-sized hole. In other words, an extra paragraph of dialogue, narration, something would make the document ready for printing.

So... I added a paragraph. But after printing, I couldn't stop there. I scrutinized the chapter, grabbed my favorite red pen and began marking up the print out.

I was still adding red marks on my 45-minute subway ride home. On the couch - once I'd changed into comfy night clothes - I pulled out a clipboard, and marked some more. 

I put the chapter down because I had to ask myself, "Was I changing it needlessly?"

I don't have an answer, but I wonder if anyone can relate?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Stephen King and Film Adaptations

Have you ever read "The Body" by Stephen King? Maybe you've watched the movie, "Stand By Me."

It's a good place to begin a discussion on whether movies should be faithful to the original works of fiction they get their stories from.

We've all seen movies that we've thought were pale comparisons to their original literary works. Why is that?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Fantasy Stories: The Perfect Venue for Moral Questions

I recently read a quote by Paul S. Kemp, the New York Times bestselling novelist and creator of Erevis Cale:
Fantasy's ability to serve as a perfect venue for moral questions is (among a few other things) what gives the genre its enduring strength.
Some basic moral questions are at the heart of my Mall Demons Urban Fantasy Series.

In another bit of reading going back to 2001, I recall a foreword written by Anne Perry in "Writing the Breakout Novel," by Donald Maas:
Sometimes I am asked, "Is it true you should write what you know about?" I say, "No, write what you care about. If you don't know, you'll find out. But if you don't care, why should anyone else?"
The moral questions behind the Mall Demons Series are some I "care about." Questions, I dare say, I lose sleep over; questions I contemplate in the middle of the day, as well, leading me to stare into space for minutes at a time.

I begin the Prelude to Book One of the Mall Demons Series with a quote from "Paradise Lost."
Millions of spiritual creatures walk the earth Unseen, both when we wake, and when we sleep.
I follow it with the line: "Your mind is your greatest enemy." And then with this: "WARNING: The spiritual battle is real."

The questions I ask all my characters (and possibly ones my readers may ask as they spend time with my stories) are these: Which side are you on? Who do you serve?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Mall Demons Book Cover In Progress

I'm excited to report that my book cover for "The Chosen Must Fall" is moving along nicely. I just saw three sketches, and they looked pretty good.

"The Chosen Must Fall" is Book One in the Mall Demons series. It has taken longer to get the book finished than I had expected. But it's all been a great learning experience. 

Many who have read the prelude, which is available for Kindle users, are eager to read more of the Mall Demons story. That has been very encouraging. Thanks to all who have read it and liked it.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Mall Demons Is Young Adult Fiction

The more I tinker with my manuscript, the more I'm convinced that it is Modern Fantasy or Urban Fantasy, depending on which term you like. It also fits in the Spiritual/Religion genre since at its heart is a spiritual battle between the forces of Heaven and Hell.

However, it is written for a Young Adult audience. Because of that, I've changed the description to the already-published Prelude to the Mall Demons Series. I applied the first change to my book description on my GoodReads.com page. It goes like this:

In this Young Adult/Modern Fantasy with a spiritual twist, catch up with demons who have been waging a war against humanity for thousands of years. In their latest effort to create a Hell on earth, the demons have targeted a shopping mall outside of Washington DC. The leader of the dark forces has arrived and is training an apprentice. But the Army of Heaven has noticed and is mobilizing in expectation of the Chosen One. Meet an extraordinary warrior angel, Evangeline, who is eager to get in the fight. She and a mysterious hooded figure named Watcher are looking to pay back an age-old wrong. This prelude sets the stage for Book One of the Mall Demons Fantasy Book Series. Readers will be introduced to the shrewd master demon as he shares a valuable lesson with his apprentice about tempting mankind. Can a man run from his own death? The master demon has the answer, but will his apprentice listen?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Contemporary or Urban Fantasy?

What is the difference between contemporary and urban fantasy?

Just two different terms for stories with magical or supernatural elements set in the real world.
Do you agree? Subgenres are a topic of debate.

But "contemporary" and "urban" as terms are fairly synonymous.

Now as far as setting is concerned, contemporary or urban fantasy sticks to the present day. I was just reading through E.M. Forster's classic, Aspects of the Novel. He offers an explanation of fantasy that is as good as any for its simplicity: "It implies the supernatural."

In another section, Forster compares nonfantasy works to fantasy, saying that the writer of nonfantasy says, "Here is something that might occur in your lives." Forster then points out that the "fantasist" says, "Here's something that could not occur."

Combining what could occur with what couldn't in your life is the realm of contemporary or urban fantasy. It is what excites me about the subgenre. That is why my Mall Demons series is set in a modern-day mall.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Why I Like Urban Fantasy

Imagine you're at the mall in the middle of the day. You're hungry. So, you head on over to the food court for some noodles.

What if...

While you're standing in line for a bite to eat, something is stalking you, and you don't even know it. Hidden in plain sight is a demon intent on taking your soul. He's attacking you this very minute. You just don't feel it. You can't see him because this demon exists in a spirit realm your eyes can not penetrate.

And the story begins. It's an urban fantasy with a spiritual twist because the setting is a modern day mall. It could be any mall. They are all basically the same. But spirits roam here. They're demons who hope to create a Hell on earth. You're the first target.

Of course, that's the basic premise to my Mall Demons Urban Fantasy story. I like the sub-genre because the setting is familiar to readers. It's the mall in my story. For Harry Potter, it was mostly modern-day England. And yet, there's more to the setting. There's a dual reality that categorizes such stories as fantasy - and because that reality (or those realities) includes a familiar cityscape, we have what is known as urban fantasy.

We're not talking Tolkien's Middle Earth here. Since I often take walks around the nearby mall in between classes, my setting in Mall Demons resembles a typical urban American mall. I can make quick references to the food court, for example. An image immediately pops into the reader's mind of the food courts he or she has frequented.

I've colored my fictional setting with the sensory memories of my readers by simply mentioning two words: "food court". That's what I find comforting about Urban Fantasy. The way I see it, I don't have to spend as much time with description - unless it's necessary to the plot. That might cause a problem if one of my readers has never been in a food court. But since I see my core audience as middle school/teens, I feel pretty safe assuming my readers won't draw a mental blank when I say "food court."

Of course, I could be wrong. What do you think?


Friday, July 27, 2012

Stress-related Writer's Block? A Solution For Releasing Pressure So You Can Write Again

Do you know how to make origami cranes? How about paper airplanes? 
Crane or dragon?

When I am feeling stuck in my writing - which usually happens when I am feeling stressed about something like grading a mountain of papers, my daughter asking about dating, or ... nope, the dating thing is the big one. It usually sends me into a wicked stress spiral... like right now. It has me all knotted up.

I'm sure other parents can relate. 

During such times, I have a lot of nervous energy that must be released. Think tea pot that's reached a boil. The steam whistles out with a shooting force that can't be held back. Unfortunately that nervous energy hasn't helped much with writing. Actually, it has produced some frenzied speed writing sessions, but mostly describing fantastical plans to turn my home into a fortress guarded by dragons or some of my mall demons with an appetite for overly-curious teenaged boys trying to get my daughter's digits. 

Yeah... 

So, I have resorted to other ways when I need to expend that nervous energy: origami and paper airplanes. Especially origami. 

It's hard (well, harder) to dream up tortures for teenaged suitors when you are making paper flowers and cranes. The cranes do resemble dragons though. Hmmm...

The point is I am able to get back to writing that essay, short story, etc., once that nervous energy has been released. Do you have ways to de-stress so that you can get back to your writing? Find what works for you. Take a break from that manuscript. Water the garden. Re-arrange your sock drawer. Get rid of all that junk mail. Then come back to your writing.

Maybe it is as simple as taking a walk around the neighborhood - especially if you also want to see where that boy lives. 

Just kidding.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Writing Prompt: Alternate History for July 4th

What if July 4th wasn't what we here in the United States know as Independence Day? What if history had turned out differently?

That's what writing Alternate History fiction is all about. I've been watching old episodes of "Sliders" lately. With the 4th of July holiday fast approaching, it got me to thinking about writing an Alternate History short where July 4th is quite different from what it is now.

I don't know yet what that means, but I'll be exploring that concept over the next week. Have you ever tried writing Alternate History? If not, why not give it a shot - even if it's a flash fiction piece. Set a timer for 10 minutes. Then speed write. Simply ask one basic question to get you flowing: "What if...?"

What if the American colonies had never revolted?
What if Rome had never fallen?
What if a famous person's grandfather and grandmother had never met?
What if a young Bill Gates had decided to move to L.A. and start a hair band instead of go into computers?

Whatever. Just start with "What if...?" You never know what intriguing story you might stumble upon.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Random Thoughts – Writers Are Like Everyone Else


Source: MicroSoft

I'm talking about writers. We make poor decisions every day. We’re egotistical, narcissistic, too. We are stubborn, selfish. Gosh, we’re lazy, as well. Let’s not forget moody – talk about drama queens, lol.

We don’t like taking responsibility for our actions. We are conflict avoiders, which ultimately turns us into bitter, complaining (or maybe grumbling is a better word) cowards at best, or scheming backstabbers at worst.

We love to point out the bad in others without ever looking at the bad in ourselves (because obviously they are worse than us). We hate whiners but love to whine. Of course WE have good reasons.

Having said all that, I mean to say writers are like everyone else on this planet. Yes, there is good in us, too. But it’s all this other junk that I’m thinking about now. Why? Although we are like everyone else in that we’re flawed, creative writers are different in one way: we can take all this ugliness and create stories.

We use the brain’s power of creativity to put last night’s bad decision into context. Somehow, if we’re lucky, we may then come to some sort of closure regarding our foolishness. If we're really lucky, we learn from our mistakes (Still working on that one).

Hmmm. I don’t know. Just free writing. Now, back to being lazy…

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Chance To Win Pass To ThrillerFest in NY

I figured I'd pass this item along. If you like thrillers and can get to New York next month, give this a shot.

I saw this on WritersDigest.com: Win a pass to ThrillerFest, featuring Lee Child, Ann Rule and more. The event runs July 11-14. The free day pass is for July 13. To enter, you have to go to the Writer's Digest blog and in the comments section tell them who your favorite thriller author is. Hurry, though. Deadline is 2 p.m. Friday.


The winner will be announced next week (Week of June 18,2012).


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Mall Demons Series Returning

As I mentioned in my previous blog entry, I have been on a writing sabbatical over the last few months. That kept the Mall Demons series on hold.

Over the next few weeks, I'll be working on the series again. Beginning Tuesday I'll republish the previous chapters in preparation for the release of new chapters in the coming weeks.

The plan had been to publish "The Chosen..." in January 2012. Although I don't have a firm date for it, I'm now looking at publishing late this fall or winter. The biggest hurdle is finding the right cover art. 

More on that later.

You can still find the prelude to "The Chosen..." as a Kindle e-book on Amazon.com 

Friday, June 8, 2012

Time To Write Again

Earlier this year I decided to take a break from writing. I'm not working as a full-time journalist anymore, so it's a luxury I can afford. Yes, I thought about writing every day. I read about a dozen books during my writing sabbatical. I did some free writing using writing prompts a few times. But for the most part, I didn't write much over the last few months.

All my major projects remained on hold. Don't know if the inkwell was empty. Why the break? Just because. I kept teaching, kept living. 

Recently during a 27-hour road trip, I listened to my thoughts in the way that a person can only do on such a trip. Your wife and children are all asleep in the van. It's 2 a.m., and you're still two states away from your destination. Nothing much on the radio holds your attention. The landscape is a running silhouette of trees, farm houses and corn fields. The words started trickling out.

Two states later we arrived. Still in the middle of the night at my mother's home. We transfer sleeping zombie children from the van to the house. We unpack the van, chit chat a bit with mom. Then off to feel the comfort of a bed. My wife is gone a few seconds after her head hits the pillow. I've only had four hours of fretful sleep during the trip - taken in 30-minute to 1-hour increments.

Yet my mind is racing. I doze off only to be roused an hour later by words aching to break free. I form sentences in my mind - appease them. Then, doze again. Half an hour later, the words shake me to consciousness again. 

I form more sentences in my head. Paragraphs, too. I create mental outlines. I repeat the outlines several times. It's how I sear topics to memory when I either don't want to jot them down, or don't have materials to jot them down. My way of not losing material.

I close my eyes. Futile. This time the words only allow me about 15 minutes. I'm exhausted, but the words wake me in a way coffee, Red Bull or 5-hour energy drinks could never do. By 7 a.m., I've outlined three ideas for personal essays. 

My brain is overflowing. Sabbatical's over. I have no choice in the matter.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Vacation! Well, Mini-vacation

One more day and I will have five days off. I am looking forward to it. I'm a little tired and overwhelmed with life. I could use the break.

I am unfortunately behind schedule in the release of the first Mall Demons book. Classwork has kept me far busier than usual.

Good news is that I have five days off until I must report to class again. Let's hope I can use these days to the utmost.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Editing and Learning About Cover Design

It takes a lot to write a novel, edit it and then self-publish it. I'm in the final stages of working on "The Chosen Must Fall." It is the first book in my Mall Demons Series. I published the prelude, "Death Speaks Loudest To Those Who Flee," in December 2011. 

The part I'm stuck on is a new cover design. So, I'm in the midst of a crash course in graphic design. It includes learning how to use the software necessary to get the job done. Good times (not really).

This has delayed the publication of "The Chosen Must Fall," which I had originally scheduled for the end of January.

Well, just another chapter in the life of a self-publishing writer.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Sometimes You Just Gotta Dance

This weekend I felt like I was 20 years old again. My wife and I went out for a night of dinner and dancing. We got a babysitter so that we could go out. Yes!

It was amazing. I realized over the last decade or so that I have been holding back. Do you know what I'm talking about? Before we had children, my wife and I used to know how to have fun. We were party animals. Then.... we were domesticated, so to speak. On Saturday, I didn't think of myself as a father. I thought of myself only as a man on a date with the most beautiful woman in the world.

She is by the way.

And the most amazing thing happened. We forgot about being a dad or a mom. We forgot about all that responsibility. We just had fun. We let loose. And it was awesome!!!! As a writer, this was a wonderful experience. 

The more you experience, the more you can write about with authority. This weekend I experienced firsthand how a character can change. This is important if you want your protagonist to evolve through the story. 


So... my advice is to live! Pay attention. And if you're in a rut in life, be brave enough to make a change. It will help your writing.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Read 50 Books in 2012

As I've shared here before, I have set a goal for myself: I will read 50 books in 2012. Some will say, "That's a lot!" Others might say, "That's all?!"

Well, it's my goal. I'm happy to report that I've put 9 books to bed so far. And my GoodReads.com profile shows that I'm currently reading seven more books. I'm ready to add two more books to the pile.

One is a work of fiction; the other is nonfiction. What have I learned so far?

I read fiction far slower than I do non-fiction. Doesn't that make sense? It does to me. When I'm reading a work of fiction, I scrutinize every decision the writer has made in telling a story. I don't know... Maybe I'm biased, but reading fiction should go slower. 

OK... back to reading. I'm so excited!!!

Flash Fiction Again! Do It In 100 Words

My creative writing club at school is venturing into flash fiction territory again. This time we're going to work on 100-word stories.

If you've never tried it, flash fiction (especially the 100-word variety) is a nice, as well as challenging, change. Think about it this way: you must wrap up an entire story in 100 words. I always tell my students that it's harder to write short than long.

Writing short is a great way to work on the elements of fiction. More on this tomorrow. Do you write flash fiction? If so, what have you learned from the experience? Has it helped with your longer works?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Reading, Or Writing?

So, I'm about a month and a half into my reading goal for the year. Read 50 books. Simple. I've digested five so far.

I read slowly, so it consumes a good chunk of my time - time that could be used for writing! There's my dilemma. I've been tossing it around in my head. I hear the voices kind of like the old Looney Tunes cartoons where the angel and devil appear on a character's shoulders.

"Do it!"
"Don't do it!"

I believe that my reading will pay off. I mean, seriously, if you're a writer who doesn't read, what's the point? Still, I have been battling with the nagging voice in my head that says I'm spending too much time on reading and not enough on writing.

Anyone else feel the same pull? Just wondering. OK, back to my Kindle...

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Unexpected Sabbatical Is Over

So, I'm watching "Die Hard" right now. I think about it now... I realized this blog will not die without a hard fight. I feel old. This was when Bruce Willis had hair. Lol.

OK... So, let's get it all out in the open. I'm so glad to say that I'm able to write consistently again. Over the last few weeks I have gone through some illnesses that are finally running their course. 

Much to do. I've released my prelude to the Mall Demons Series. Now, it's time to release the first novel in the series. Lot's of editing to do. I feel inspired. The kind of inspired that requires only 3 hours sleep after a full day of work. Time to rock.

Monday, January 16, 2012

5 Things To Do When (and if) You Are Not Writing

You should write all the time. 

Having said that, I know sometimes we just won't be writing. If you are at one of these rare moments as a writer when you aren't writing, then there are by my count 5 things you should be doing besides writing. These are the only 5 activities I don't feel guilty doing instead of writing.

OK, maybe I feel a little guilty, but I get over it...usually.

So what are these five things? Fine, here they are:


  1. Researching - Got an idea for a historical thriller set in biblical times, but you know nothing about ancient civilizations? Doing a little research on the times, how people lived, etc., is essential. In my second book of the Mall Demons Fantasy Series, I take readers back to the time of the biblical Noah. Although I know the story, I did research on everything from what ancient people wore, what they ate, how they farmed and traded, as well as, when they married. WARNING: If you're researching, set a time limit or deadline. Once you reach that limit or deadline, stop researching and start writing. The temptation is to keep researching until you know EVERYTHING about your topic. You'll never know everything. If you try, you'll never stop researching and start writing.
  2. Reading - This is the activity I do most when I'm not writing. Why? You can't truly grow as a writer if you don't read. Makes no sense to want to write (a craft that relies on words), but not want to read (an activity that familiarizes you with words). This is the one activity that I will schedule in my day, like writing. I must read every day: fiction, nonfiction, newspapers, magazines. This helps me learn how to be a better writer. I often see how another writer describes a tree or someone's face and it gives me ideas how I can do the same. Can't stress how important reading is for writers. Reading is fundamental.
  3. Living - I'm a big fan of experience. The more you do in life, the more you can write about with authority. Reading and research can compensate for experience. I'll admit that. However, experience will go a long way towards giving you confidence in your writing. I can set a story in Austin, Texas, describing the city or a neighborhood park with confidence because I have experienced many, many years of life there. I can create a character who is an Army veteran, knowing I will make him realistic because I was a soldier for eight years. I can write a scene showing the birth of a child because I witnessed the birth of all my children firsthand...and I did not faint. My advice: don't forget to live. write a lot; read a lot; but don't sacrifice life. Get out of your house or apartment. Turn off your computer. Take a walk outside. Meet real people. Live.
  4. Resting - On December 1st last year, I didn't bother to write one sentence. I didn't write a sentence the next day or the next. I was resting. It was my sabbatical, if you will. I had just spent all of November writing a novel draft, 50,000 words. I was drained. After such a frenzied period of writing activity, I felt I needed a well-deserved rest to recharge. That was OK. Don't abuse this. I do not allow myself to say, "I wrote today for 10 minutes. Now I can take tomorrow off."
  5. Thinking - If you're not writing, you should be thinking of writing. Bottom line. Whether you are researching, reading, living or resting, you should be thinking about writing. End of discussion. If you are a writer, you must write or be thinking of writing. Human nature is too easily corrupted. We will compromise in a heartbeat. You can't compromise your craft. If you're not writing, you're not a writer.
What do you think? Agree with these 5 things? Have your own activities to add to the list? Share!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Free Urban Fantasy E-Book

There's still one free gift copy of 'Death Speaks Loudest To Those Who Flee', the extended Kindle version. For a chance to win the free Kindle e-book, simply enter your comment below. Then I can message you back if you're the winner. The Kindle version differs considerably from the flash fiction story I published on Wattpad.com during the summer of 2011.

The Kindle version serves as a prelude to my upcoming Mall Demons fantasy novels. I am currently editing the first novel in the series, 'The Chosen Must Fall.'

The free gift copy of 'Death Speaks...' includes a teaser chapter from 'The Chosen Must Fall.' This has been fun to write. It is amazing how stories begin to tell themselves, and how characters beg to come to life. In writing this tale of good vs evil, I have been introduced to a strong, heroic warrior angel named Evangeline. 

She is joined by a tortured character who despite all the trials he has been through is able to see the good in life. Watcher definitely is one of those characters that surprised me. He demanded to be born, and quickly started living his own life in the stories.

I believe I will be writing about Evangeline and Watcher for quite some time in 2012.
Pedro Ramirez's Amazon.com Author Page
Pedro Ramirez on Goodreads.com

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

First New Year's Resolution For Writing

Writing something every day whether I'm in the mood seems like the obvious choice, but that is not my #1 New Year's resolution. Putting my butt in a chair and writing for at least 10 minutes - regardless of how complicated life is -  is something I already know is essential. See any of my NaNoWriMo blog posts for that.

No, I figured I would look at something I am not doing enough. Pick at least one thing. I had a lot to choose from, but I figured I would kick it off with one thing or else I'd get overwhelmed by "all" the things I need to change or improve on. Pick one, get the ball rolling. Feel victory in one small area, then surge forward in another area.

So, first for me: My first New year's resolution to improve my writing is to read more. Simple, but effective. As I look back on 2011, I realized I did not read as much as I should have. I read maybe 9 books between January and March. Then I slowed down the rest of the year. My goal for 2012 is to read at least 50 books.

Reading for a writer is so crucial. You learn how other writers are playing with words. If you're writing genre fiction, it's good to read examples of that genre to understand its conventions. Reading books on the writing craft can help you, too. And I love reading from other genres, as well.

Set your own reading goal for 2012. A good place to do it as at Goodreads.com. Great community of readers and writers sharing about the books they love. You can see my book list on Pedro Ramirez's Goodreads profile page. Let me know if you have a good book suggestion.

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