Wednesday, May 30, 2012

[Mostly] Wordless Wednesday - Birds at the Park & Helpful Links

Today, [Mostly] Wordless Wednesday will feature birds I saw at the park the other day while watching my son play t-ball.  It was fun to see such a variety.  It's mighty hard to catch those little buggers since they don't actually stay still!

It's not just cows that support Chick-fil-A...this magpie is a fan, too.

If you look closely at this crow, it you'll see its head feathers aren't black.

I believe this is a red-tailed hawk, but I'm no expert. It does have red tail feathers, though...

Now for some helpful links:

This is really last minute, but I only just saw it.  Big Pulp is accepting submissions on two different themes.  Submissions close on May 31st, though, so hurry if you're interested!

Rhemalda Publishing is open for submissions.  Click on their name to see what they're accepting.

Critique my Novel is running a Novel Writing Contest.  Deadline is July 1, 2012.

Harper Collins has a community for writers called Authonomy.  I've heard good things about it, including that it is a very supportive place for writers.  You can also post part of your work and get feedback.

Council of Literary Magazines and Presses is a helpful site, offering links to respected literary magazines.  They also appear to have some other great resources, so definitely worth checking out.

<b>Any links to pass along?</b>

May you find your Muse.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Things to Remember When Writing Post-Apocalyptic

You've envisioned a world where some large-scale event has wiped out hordes of humanity.  Your characters are alive in your head, probably struggling to survive.  You can see the blighted landscape all around you.  What do you need to do now?

There are a few things that must be part of your post-apocalyptic story, or you have no story.  Let's take a peek.

#1. An apocalyptic event.  That's right, you can't have a post-apocalyptic world without something that got them there.  What will yours be?  Viral, bacterial, natural, man-made, space-related or nuclear?  These are all options, and there are probably plenty more.  Did the swine flu get out of hand?  Was it helped by humanity or just one of those things that happens in nature?  Did the Earth tilt too far off its axis?  Did nuclear Hell flame rain down upon the continents?  There must be a reason the people in your story are stuck in this particular landscape.

#2. A time frame.  Are they living through the event or has it already happened?  Is it fresh or decades down the line?  You have to know when it happened and what stage humanity is in to really tell your story.  If it happened decades ago, the landscape is going to be significantly different than if it just happened yesterday.  Quality of life will also probably be very different.  If they've been coping for decades, they probably aren't struggling to find food or water sources as much as if it just happened and everything is tainted or burning.  If it's a new problem, there will be mostly individuals and small groups, whereas a length of time may mean there are established towns/cities.

#3. A fully realized landscape.  World building is important in any story, but you need to build this post-apocalyptic world so that people see your vision of what it looks like.  They must know what your characters' reality looks like.  Are there fires raging?  Or is everything underwater?  Are there bodies everywhere?  Or has nature reclaimed what once was solely hers?  Let us know what it is your characters are looking at.  Make sure it makes sense for passage of time and the particular event that occurred.

#4. Strong characters.  We need to believe that these people can make it (or not, as the case may be).  It must be a real struggle.  We have to care whether they can survive, one way or another.  Maybe we hate this guy so much that we question why he survived, when better people died.  Maybe we love this character and desperately want to see her rebuild her life.  Whichever characters you have, we must believe in them, and they must have a mission, of sorts.  Does Evil Guy want to take over what remains of the world?  Find natural resources to survive?  Or just be left alone?  Does Lovely Heroine have a child to fend for?  Is she just trying to find a home she can call her own?  What drives them?  What are they trying to accomplish?  This is important in every single kind of story you may write, but don't get so intent on your world building that you forget your characters.

#5. A purpose.  Alright, we get it.  The world has ended.  The apocalypse has found us.  Whoopty-doo.  What is so important about this world that you just have to tell the story?  What are we going to take away from this?  I'm not talking about a moral (necessarily), but just a life story that means something to us when we read it.  A violent post-apocalyptic world, where survivors are constantly under siege, does us no good if we don't come out of the story feeling something.  Perhaps you want us to know that humanity will always find a way to thrive.  Or that love will always pull someone through.  Whatever it is, make it part of your story.

There are many elements that are important in a story, but these are just a few of the top ones to keep in mind when writing a post-apocalyptic tale.  Now that those stories are becoming more popular, it's important to keep them high quality.  Want to read a story that takes something familiar and turns it on its head, all the while showing us the strength of humanity and the power of good versus evil?  Read Stephen King's The Stand.  Watch Book of Eli for another viewpoint.  There's also The Road, Mad Max, Water World (hey, I'm not saying these are all good), The Postman, Jericho and The Walking Dead for movies/television shows.  For books, this link should take you to a comprehensive list of classic post-apocalyptic stories.  Of course, The Hunger Games and Forest of Hands and Teeth should be on there.  Also, I read Without Warning by John Birmingham recently, on a whim, and I enjoyed it.  It was more a political/government/military-type book that took on what happened in those facets, so different than I'm used to for this genre, but also quite good.  I don't know how The Marbury Lens and The Maze Runner are qualified, but I'd consider both to be sort of post-apocalyptic.  We really aren't sure with The Maze Runner, but we get a sense something big must have happened, and in The Marbury Lens, the alternative world he visits via the lens seems quite post-apocalyptic.  Both are excellent books, though be aware that The Marbury Lens can be graphic or disturbing, despite being Young Adult.

The short of it is, fully realize your story so we can be drawn into it, feel for your characters, smell the fires, feel a sniffle coming on as everyone dies of the Hulk of flu bugs.  Watch some of these movies or read some of the books (or both) and figure out what you like in them, so you can duplicate that, in a sense.

In your opinion, what are other important aspects of a post-apocalyptic tale?  What books or movies might you recommend?

May you find your Muse.

* Four Horsemen of Apocalypse, by Viktor Vasnetsov. Painted in 1887; Viktor Vasnetsov [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
** Stalingrad after the battle; See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
***The aftermath of Hurrican Camille. Ruins of Texaco gas station with Rambler automobile, Biloxi, Mississippi, 17 August 1969

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

[Mostly] Wordless Wednesday - Yucca, yucca, yucca & Links

Hello!  It's Wednesday, and I have a mini-field trip for you for [Mostly] Wordless Wednesday.  I took the kids to Garden of the Gods on a drizzly spring day after a bit of a fail that was intended to be our actual "field trip."  Unfortunately, our visit was cut short when it became a thunderstorm, but I did snatch a few pictures before we had to get back to the car.

The last is a yucca plant in bloom, and the second to last is a hummingbird I was stalking.  It never got close enough for me to get a workable picture, but it kept buzzing the kids and I because we were near the feeder.  Waiting it out didn't work, so we finally gave in and agreed we'd come back on a warmer day and try again.

As far as the yucca plant (otherwise known as soapweed, as Native Americans of the area - Utes - used it to make soaps and shampoos, in addition to thread, needles, medications, etc.), for most of the year those blossoms are hardened and brown.  In fact, I love to find one full of seeds and give it to the kids as a rattle, of sorts.  I've never really seen it in blossom, and I loved the juxtaposition with what I'm used to.

I hope to have some great photos for you over the course of the summer!

Now for some links:

I read this post just in time to make sure I fit it into my link post today!  Andrew Leon, at Strange Pegs put together a book of short stories written by middle schoolers from a writing class he teaches at his son's school.  It's a fundraiser for the school, and just sounds like such a neat project that I wanted to pass it on to everyone.  

A friend posted this on Facebook and I was amused: S**t People Say to Writers

For you photogs out there, there's a local contest called Quintessential Colorado.  I'm tempted to enter, just for the heck of it.

Need inspiration?  Ghostwriter Dad wrote 34 Unexpected Places to Find Writing Inspiration

Cultural Weekly is having a Writing Contest.  It closes May 30.

I just thought this was interesting: 7 Authors Who Almost Died

Any helpful links to pass along?  Do you like a good fog or prefer you never have to deal with one?  What color are your hummingbirds?

May you find your Muse.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Monday Mayhem and Kreativ Blogger Award

Wow, guys, so sorry about the formatting!  I am used to writing it all in HTML as I go, and completely forgot that the new Blogger doesn't actually read spaces I make in HTML without doing the <br> code.  It's fixed now.  Many thanks to all who read it when it was so horrifically jumbled!

Feeling low and beat up at the moment, it was lovely to come on to catch up on some comments and find that I'd gotten an award. So how about I answer the reward questions? Thanks so much to Elizabeth Twist, writer and plague enthusiast for thinking of me! It couldn't have come at a better time.

1. Thank and link back to the awarding blog.
 2. Answer the following seven questions.
3. Provide ten random factoids about yourself.
4. Last but not at all least, hand this on to seven deserving others.  

What's your favorite song? Depends on my mood, the day, the weather, you name it. I love music. I should probably go play some music! Right now the first song that pops into my head is "Unforgiven" by Metallica, so we're going with that one. Man, that's a good song. Now I want to go listen to it.  

What's your favorite dessert? Yes. All of it. Just yes. Okay, if it involves chocolate and whipped cream, I'm in. Swoon. Great, now I want chocolate pudding with whipped cream.  

What do you do when you're upset? Depends again. On why, where I am, if I can go somewhere to be upset, so on and so forth. Last night I took a bath and watched a tear jerker movie after I put the kids to bed, which was actually quite cathartic, so I'll have to do that again sometime. Sometimes I take a walk and listen to music. Sometimes I immerse myself in play or reading or drawing with my sweet babies. Sometimes I pet my cat or play with her. Sometimes I write. Sometimes I lose myself in a movie I've watched five billion times (cough, Labrynth, cough, Goonies, cough, Breakfast Club, cough, Princess Bride, cough, The Replacements, cough, Pirates of the Caribbean, cough, Last Unicorn, cough, Ladyhawk, cough, crud I've got a lot of favorite movies...)  

Which is your favorite pet? I have one pet at the moment. Such a sweet girl. I just tried to upload a picture of her and Blogger totally refused me. Stupid super villain powers... Anyway, she's a cat. Cleo. My gorgeous black kitty, two years old, bright green eyes, and the sweetest disposition. Her full name, courtesy of my kids is...wait for it...Princess Cleopatra Baby Wonder. It's even on her collar.  

Which do you prefer, black or white? Purple.

What is your biggest fear? Sorry, folks, but I'm skipping this one today. I think it would be far too telling.

What is your attitude mostly? I'm an eternal optimist. But when I'm down, I'm down. Still, I will always come back around to the positive aspects, and the hope that things will get better. Which they will. Eventually.

 10 Random Facts:
1. Murg.
2. I love nature.
3. I'm mostly blind in one eye, thanks to macular degeneration. I'm in my 30's, which should make that slightly more interesting, LOL! Stupid flu. I've become okay with it. :)
4. I love listening to people tell their life stories, recount memories, etc.
5. Murg.
6. I very rarely cry.
7. I've been in two nasty car accidents, but was not the driver in either.
8. My first child was conceived via IVF (in-vitro fertilization). Fascinating stuff. I'm proud of it. I hope he will be, too.
9. Murg?
10.I love to dance. I love to sing. I love to lose myself in song and dance. I love to dance in the rain in the middle of the night. I used to blast the music in my van when I'd get out of work at the theater at 2am and just dance out under the lights in the parking lot, all alone and completely free.

It is bed time, so I will not be passing this along to anyone. Besides which I know so many fantastically "K"reative bloggers that choosing would be terribly hard.  

How do you pull yourself out of the doldrums? How do you get yourself to settle down to work when you're low? Do you do your best or worst work when low?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Post A-to-Z Road Trip & A Couple Links

Okay, I'm feeling like I will never, ever, ever, ever, ever catch back up with life again!  I'm fairly certain I can say definitively that I'm behind on every aspect of my life.  Except eating.  I never get behind on that...

In lieu of [Mostly] Wordless Wednesday, I'm going to do a quick post on the Post A-to-Z Road Trip that Tina and I started last year.  I remember being so excited when Lee (Arlee Bird, head honcho of the A-to-Z) contacted us last year in support of it.  If it wasn't for this follow-up to the A-to-Z, I would never have been a co-host on this year's A-to-Z, and if it weren't for Tina, I never would have had what we are now calling the Post A-to-Z Road Trip.  So thanks, girl!

For those who haven't heard of this yet, it was previously called the Post-Challenge-Challenge, or the Visitor's Challenge.  We never really had a perfectly synced up name last year.  From here on out, though, it is the Post A-to-Z Road Trip.

This Road Trip is pressure-free and rule-free. It is simply a means to visit all the blogs who participated in the A-to-Z Challenge, as the vast majority of us stood no chance at visiting all those blogs during the month of April.  You can visit using whatever time frame you prefer, in whatever order.  Do what works for you! 

If you like having company, come visit us on the A-to-Z Challenge Blog when we check in weekly.  You can also read more about the challenge there.  Sign-ups are available there, or you can sign up on this post or under the Post A-to-Z Road Trip tab here on my blog.  Feel free to ask any questions you might have.

Other than that, enjoy the trip!

For the week's helpful links:

Eden's Bookshelf is looking for books to review.  If you're published, go check out the requirements. posted 15 Tips to Get You Tweeting.  Very handy, especially if you're tweet-clueless, like me.

White Cat Publications, LLC has put out a submission call for a Steampunk anthology.  This is the first one for Steampunk I've run across, so wanted to pass it along, since I know a few of you write it.  Good luck!

How about a funny one?  David Farland wrote tips on how to keep your writer as a pet.  Writers, pass this one along to your loved ones!  It's amusing, but also quite useful.

Mandy DeGeit  posted a good warning that reminds us to check out anyone we're submitting to.  Her bad anthology experience should be a lesson to us all. 

Any useful links to pass along?  Have you joined the Post A-to-Z Road Trip?  Do you plan to?  Did you make it to all the A-to-Z blogs, if you participated?  Working on it on your own?

May you find your Muse.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Today is the First Loves Blogfest, run by Alex J. Cavanaugh.

First Movie-Ladyhawk

I decided to go with the first movie that wasn't a cartoon that I loved (The Last Unicorn was the cartoon).  What can I say about Ladyhawk?  Romance, the darkness, love unrequited, mysticism, Rutger Hauer, Matthew Broderick, Michelle Pfeiffer, adventure, magic, destiny.  This movie grabbed me by the throat then held onto my heart throughout my childhood and has maintained that power through my adulthood.  When my dad took a job in Maryland, moving us from Oregon, when I was seven years old, my grandma gave me this movie as my going away present, knowing how deeply I loved it.  The familiarity was a definite support when I moved somewhere so completely different and far away from extended family.  I still watch it several times a year.

First Music-Maneater by Hall & Oates

I struggled on this one. Do I go with DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, whose fun lyrics kept me sane during a rough time in my childhood? Do I go with Nine Inch Nails, who pulled me through my teen years? Those two were important to me, but the first song I loved was Maneater, by Hall & Oates. I can't really tell you why this one grabbed me. It creeped me out a little bit, but I liked the beat and the singing, the story. And, apparently, I like things that creep me out.  There was something about the way they performed the song that made it so haunting and intriguing to me.

First Book-The Hobbit

I had to decide between this, Anne of Green Gables and The Shining. Pretty random, huh? However, I believe I discovered The Hobbit first. They were all pretty close together. I remember exactly when and how I discovered The Hobbit, though, which I can't say for the others. It was fifth grade and I had a crush on the student teacher. During his student teaching stint he read a bit of The Hobbit each day. It drew me in immediately. I'd never heard of a hobbit, but it was Gandalf who really grabbed me. He was fascinating, powerful, mysterious. Would this odd little group make it through the myriad of dangers thrown at them? Would Bilbo get back home to his hobbit hole? Would he earn their respect. I was completely taken with the tale, and I immediately got it from the library after he'd finished reading it to us. Eventually, my parents bought the whole set for me, and I still have that set, plus an illustrated copy of just The Hobbit.

First Person-My One and Only

My first true love was, and is, my husband.  We worked together at a movie theater and happened to discover we were attending the same high school (he was a year ahead of me).  We were friends for a year or so before we dated each other.  He was friends with a guy I dated; I hooked him up with a friend at one point.  But we were always drawn to each other.  One day I looked at him and realized he was HOT!  I already enjoyed being around him, but now that final piece had clicked into place.  We got married straight out of high school, so I suppose that makes us high school sweethearts.  I still love to be around him, to talk to him, and I miss him when he's gone.  A phone call from him can straighten out a rough day.  He balances me out, calms me.  Plus, he spoils me rotten.  Who wouldn't love that??  He's my first and forever love.

This was fun; thanks, Alex! 

Before you go, please check out the Post A-to-Z Road Trip, which opens today.  I'll post more about it for [Mostly] Wordless Wednesday, but for now you can find details at the A-to-Z blog.

What were your firsts?  Did you have a high school sweetheart?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

[Mostly] Wordless Wednesday-Zzzzebra & Helpful Links

So many people posted about zebras as their "Z" post that I felt compelled to share Zeke here. This photo was taken at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo:

And now for some helpful links:

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers is having their annual Colorado Gold Writing Contest, which is for unpublished novel-length works. Deadline is June 1. I entered this last year and got some fantastic feedback, so I recommend it.

Windmill Networking is offering a free e-book about using LinkedIn in networking, entitled 30 Minutes to Maximizing LinkedIn. I have not gotten a copy, so can't tell you if it's any good.

Screenwriters, Amazon is having a screenwriting contest.

This sounds like fun: creates a word cloud from your text. Use it for fun or as a tool to see what words you may be overusing.

The Writing Network supports and encourages self-published authors.

Fiction 500 is running a short fiction contest with cash prizes.

Anyone else having trouble getting back into the swing of things? Any links to share?
May you find your Muse.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

My A-to-Z Expedition Into the Wild West - Reflections

I had such a rip-roarin' good time this year on the A-to-Z!  It was my second year participating, but it was a year for firsts, as well.  First time I had the privilege of being a co-host.  First time I worked with a theme.  First time I did this as an established blog, as last year I had never posted publicly or tried to get attention to my writing at The Warrior Muse.

You, too can grab this badge and stick it on your blog. Thanks, Jeremy!

There were also many people I got to meet for the first time, many who I gained a friendship with.  There were blogs I found for the first time, read for the first time.  Fabulous firsts!

Boy, did I have fun!  I loved poring through information about the Wild West.  I spent hours reading and researching before I sat down to write my posts.  Sometimes I got so lost in what I was reading that I'd come around at 1 AM and realize I still needed to put all that information into an at least vaguely readable post.  Then would come the image search, with some being easier than others.  That was cool, too, with sometimes some fairly gross pictures, considering I was looking at post-hanging and post-shoot-em-up photos.  Some of you out there are probably quite relieved I skipped posting those photos, while others have already stopped reading to go hunt down some of those photos.  Happy searching!

What did I learn this year?  I learned that I'm still a little kid when it comes to researching history.  I learned I still enjoy research and the Wild West immensely.  I learned that I was right to think that I should have pre-written my posts and had every. single. one scheduled to post.  That was my intention, but I completely underestimated how sucked in I'd get and how long each post would take me to write.  Next year?  Haha, yeah, we'll see...

Despite my girlhood flirtation with the Wild West, I learned a ton I hadn't previously been aware of during this Challenge. Wyatt Earp a pimp...whaaaaaaaaaaaaat?  There were things that didn't make it into posts, because something else came along, such as the fact that Samuel Clemens was out west as a prospector before he became Mark Twain.  I bet when he washed his face in the stream he found gold dust in his 'stache.

I had so much fun, in fact, that I'm considering doing some posts on historical topics, just for fun.  For now, I'm resting.  This girl is tired!  I'm already considering themes for next year, though...

If you'd like to post a Reflections post and have everyone come on by and see what you had to say, sign up below.

Are you already thinking ahead to next year's A-to-Z?  Got any ideas?  What would you do differently?  The same?

May you find your Muse.

*Censored stamp courtesy of Mohamed Ibrahim,
**Mark Twain/Samuel Clemens picture from Appleton's Journal July 4, 1874; See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

[Mostly] Wordless Wednesday - Squeeeeeee!

I'm taking it easy this week while recovering from the A-to-Z Challenge, and before launching the next steps, which you can read about here and on the official A-to-Z Challenge Blog in the coming week.  So today will just be the picture of me with Jeffery Deaver at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference.

Squeeee! Mr. Deaver was so cool, and such a gentleman. He served us our wine and kept the table entertained. His writing advice and his perspective on the craft were invaluable. Needless to say, it was a delight to get to have dinner with him!

What authors have you met that made you squee? If not an author, who have you met who you respected so much that it was truly exciting?
May you find your Muse.