Wednesday, October 26, 2011

NaNoWriMo, year two.

I’ve been on the fence this year as to whether or not to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I did it last year; I didn’t finish my story, but I got to 50, 000 words. I had the greatest feeling of triumph as I danced around, listening to Aerosmith’s “Roadrunner,” singing “I finished NaNo, I finished NaNo…” on November 30th.

A couple of days later, it snowed. It occurred to me that if it had of snowed in November, the shoveling would have knocked me out for the night, and making my 1,667 words for the day would not have been possible. And wouldn’t you know it; someone told me that the Farmer’s Almanac had forecast snow for November.

When I shared these sentiments with my beautiful wife, she said “Why not? I mean how much could it snow in November?” By ph’kr, she’s right! It certainly could snow like a mofo, but more likely, we’ll get a couple inches, here and there.

When I decided to throw my hat in the ring, I got excited. Talk about following your gut; mine’s saying “buckle up, brother.” The thought of staying up for an extra few hours, with my music and my Starbucks – my buckle-down brew – it just seems like a great time!

But would it be cheating if I used the opportunity to finish my stalled work? Last NaNo, I wrote a prequel that has occupied the rest of my year. Now the original work has sat neglected for…well,long enough that a fresh approach will hold some surprises for me. I’m OK with it, since it’s a no-prize competition. The point of it being to inspire and build community.

Who else is doing NaNoWriMo this year? You can Buddy me as Will Burke93.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Breakthrough, by Steven Tremp.

Say what you will about Dan Brown, he does give us a nice point-of-reference when describing stories. When I say that a story is a Dan Brown style mix of science and murder-mystery action story, I can give you a pretty good idea of what to expect.

Recently, I had the opportunity and joy to read Steven Tremp’s “Breakthrough,” and it can easily appeal to the same audience.

The protagonist is drawn into a murder-charge of the scientist who discovers how to create a stable wormhole, making him able to get in and out of a place without the inconvenience of vehicles or doors. With this discovery comes the conflict of whether this will be used by benevolent forces, like candy-grams, or by the highest-bidder delivering bombs to crowded stadiums.

Immediately, I was impressed with the action. Mr. Tremp was able to portray a detailed fight without stalling the action. He plainly did some study of martial arts to deliver this really well.

For those of us who have been reading Breakthrough Blogs, the affinity for science is no surprise. This was also included in the story without losing the reader in jargon. Whether or not you have an interest in the science of the time-space continuum, the part of the story that relies on it will be interesting.

The protagonist, Chase Manhattan, has a history of CIA-style missions, but what he’s done and who he worked for isn’t spelled out. While I hope this is revealed in later books, it isn’t necessary to the story, and gives a backstory-texture to the work, without the dreaded ‘info dump.’

Chase also relies on the help of his friends more than the average hero. This added some colorful characters to the story, andI liked the ‘team’ feel.

I highly recommend this book for any fan of a good action-and-intrigue story. It spans audiences, and in the end, it’s a good story, well told. I really look forward to the next installment of the Chase Manhattan series.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Woman's Wrath.

This is a very amusing and somewhat frightening story about my niece, Emma. It begins eight years ago, when she was five. She was at my parents place, just her and Papa. After she went to the bathroom, she wanted Papa to wipe her bum. This is a boundary that Papa just won’t cross.

She was stubborn, but so was he. In an act of compassion, he brought her a small table with a coloring book and crayons. Nana came home (I think it was four hours later) to find her asleep on the toilet, sprawled over her coloring.

Flash-forward eight years. Papa’s routine involves going straight to the can after getting home from work. You guessed it – there was no toilet paper. Eight years later, Emma finally got her revenge. As an act of compassion, she left him a coloring book. For the coup de gras, it was open to a picture of a donkey.

Tune in Friday, when I’ll have a review of Steven Tremp’s novel “Breakthrough.”

Monday, October 10, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

This weekend, in Canada, it’s Thanksgiving. I think that we’re a month earlier than the US because of our earlier harvest season, but that’s just a guess. And why England doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving is beyond me – if getting rid of boatloads of religious Fundamentalists isn’t cause for a national holiday…

It’s pretty easy to remember to be grateful when I’m getting two turkey dinners. One was here, so I can be grateful now that the house is so clean, but it was a busy week to get it into this shape. With Saturday being “Showtime,” it was especially busy, and we were in bed by 8:45. That’s right, we’re hardcore.

With a family like mine, it’s easy to be thankful. On the nights when I’m home at 6:30, I’m greeted by a super-happy dog, and a little girl saying “Daddy!” She’s really more interested in playing with my travel mug, but she’s happy to start playing with my eventually. My beautiful wife will also have coffee ready for me. For many people, this is a nice gesture. For us writerly types, it’s more like communion.

Andrea and I realized years ago that it was important to show our gratitude on a regular basis, especially for the small things. “Thanks for putting laundry on.” “Thank you for doing the dishes.” And the all-important “Thanks for getting up with Chickerdoodles this morning.”

About twenty years ago, when I was going through a particularly religious phase, I heard a song by the Christian band Petra called “Grateful Heart.” At that time, I prayed for a such a sense of gratitude, and I’ve been lucky to sustain that since then. Not always, but often enough to keep from getting all Goth and self-destructive.

I’m glad that we have Thanksgiving. Though most of us have lost touch with the farming cycles that birthed the holiday, it’s very beneficial to remember to count our blessings every now and then. It’s quant and a little hokey, but the truth is that an attitude of thankfulness can balance out some rough times. What’s the alternative; complaining? That just makes me miserable and unattractive.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

"...but don't look like you're trying to write well...Idon't know; just write casual."

How sad is this; I knew what I wanted to write for my second Insecure Writers Support Group post about three days after I posted the first one.

In a Podcast, I heard this discussed, and someone asked if writers were a particularly insecure bunch. The interviewee said “I don’t think so; writers just seem to have more of a license to express it” (I’d love to give credit, but I listen to so many, I’ve lost the details).

Since, in reality, all stories have already been told, the key to writers’ success is “a good story, well told.” I have a TON to learn about story-telling, and I’m OK with that, but it’s the Good Writing that concerns me.
Sometimes, it’s obvious that writers are trying too hard to do Good Writing Adjectives abound, and it seems that at least three thesauruses were harmed in the making of the book. I once read part of a self-published philosophical booklet by a local proprietor of a used CD shop. No lie, it sent me to the dictionary about five times per page. I don’t think I got more than 15 pages into it. I like it when a book introduces me to a new word or two throughout the story, and I like it best when I can get the gist of it from the context of its use.

So, I worry about is writing well, without looking like I’m trying to write well. There certainly is a place for literary fiction, and I enjoy it every now and then, but that’s not what I aspire to. Like any other writer, I love words, and like any other insecure person, I cover it with my vast intellect (my IQ is at least in the triple digits). So, it’s going to be a game of trying hard to get out of the story’s way. Does anyone else worry about trying too hard?