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Thinkin’ on Thursday: Thinkin’ About Monstrous Creatures

Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB

I’m not actually all that “in” to Monsters ‑ though I understand  they’re very big with a lot of audiences right now.  I guess The Walking Dead or Zombies are popular with lots of teens and younger, not to mention all the adults who really eat them up . . . well, wait a minute.  That may be a little too much!

But I’ve always loved Fantastical Creatures, even from childhood. And  they’ve never lost their charm for me.  The trick for writers is coming up with new twists on “old” creatures.  To that end, when I went to the LTUE [Life, the Universe, and Everything] Conference last weekend, which caters to gamers, fans and writers of sci‑fi, fantasy, horror, steam punk ‑‑‑ any of the more “weird” genres ‑‑‑ I found myself drawn early on into the workshop touted as MONSTERS YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF.

The panel was made up of Larry Correia, Andrea Pearson, Mikey Brooks, Robison Wells, Shirley Bahlman whose stories range from shoot ’em ups, the grotesque, the fanciful, and the creepy (and I probably haven’t nailed ALL of them down).

The biggest thing I got out of it was to try looking at other ethnic groups than your own.  I couldn’t agree more.  I lived as a young girl in Hawaii.  The myths I read were filled with the Hawaiian hero, Maui ‑‑‑ the Polynesian version of Hercules, and Pele the goddess of volcanoes.  I loved a Loki‑like imp and the adventures (and troubles!) he got into,  And how funny were the Menehune ‑ Polynesian version of Irish leprechauns.

Every year when we got our “textbooks” for the year, I whipped through all the sections which had myths or fairy tales or any type of fantasy in the first couple of days.  Then I found myself bored when we had to read the “other” parts of the text with stories about children in a town, or on a farm, or in an “ordinary” school.  Loved it, though, when we would read all the ones I’d already read, as a “class assignment.”  I read them over and over.

So what did our illustrious writers recommend for a NEW look at OLD sources?

Mermaids, nymphs, dragons, fairy tales, etc., that were not western‑based.  Look at the Finnish Kalavalla, Atlantis, Eastern European writings.  What about Syria ‑‑‑ so much in the news now ‑‑‑ or the Japanese.  (You want dragons?  The Japanese have wonderful dragons!)

Or take a gander at The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures: The Ultimate A‑Z of Fantastic Beings from Myth and Magic by John & Caitlin Matthews, or Wikipedia’s mythology art books.  They even said there are free eBooks available from Amazon of other countries’ fairy tales.

How about letting your imagination run wild and make up some of your own? Or think about rare monsters someone else has made up:  Larry Correia’s wife told their small children about the Store Wolves ‑‑‑ I think they were located at IKEA ‑‑‑ that ran up and down the aisles looking for small children, presumably to eat!  That reminded me of a friend of mine years ago who told her children that our in‑ground trampoline was where we kept the alligators.  THAT kept them from going out there to jump alone!  Have you heard of the Moving Rocks in Death Valley?  Maybe it would be good to examine territorial urban myths for another source!.

Whatever you come up with, have fun, use your imagination, and Write On!

See you next for Saturday’s Spellbinder!

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Thinkin’ on Thursday: I’m Thinkin’ Read a Romance in February

Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB

I just ran across an email from Lu Ann Stahli which said she was making recommendations for reading in February. Valentine’s Day, hearts and flowers, all the sweet things of life, I guess.

 Here’s the thing: Lu Ann is a fabulous educator, an expert in the field of books, a voracious reader and an awesome writer, in her own write (sorry — I couldn’t resist the pun). Anyway, when she says she’s got an idea for some good reading, I perk up and pay attention. Take a look at some of her incredible kudos below and you’ll see what I mean.

This email she addressed to “Hey ladies” — it’s that February vibe again, I’m sure.

“I don’t often do this, but I have some friends who are trying to hit the USA Today Bestsellers list with their boxed set of 7 sweet romances: Romance Through the Ages. This is a great set of books and a SUPER great deal. Preorder by Feb. 1st . . . ”

. . . so you’ll have to hop to it, to get in on the best deal!

“ . . . and you get all 7 novels for only 99 cents! These women are New York Times best-selling authors, Award-winning authors, and top-selling Amazon authors. If you are looking for a great set of books to read yourself, or you need a gift for someone else, you can’t beat the price. Follow the link below to download for Kindle, Kindle apps for your iPad, iPhone, or other eBook devices, and to find out more about each book and author.

Thanks and enjoy!

Lu Ann

(P.S. Feel free to share)

http://www.amazon.com/Romance-through-Ages-Book-Boxed-ebook/dp/B00HFD5OEM/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1391012917&sr=1-1&keywords=heather+moore

(These are for adults, not students)

And I’m guessin’ from the names of the authors of these seven books, these are all Good, CLEAN fun!

“Lu Ann Brobst Staheli, M.Ed.Winner 2010 and 2011 “Best of State: Literary Arts Non-Fiction”Winner 2008 “Best of State: Education K-12″Visit: http://www.LuAnnsLibrary.blogspot.com”

Did I mention how AWESOME she is? I’m RIGHT, right? OH, yeah: ENJOY ! ! !

 See you next for Saturday’s Spellbinder!

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Tuesday’s Tutor: Learning Something New Daily!

Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB

International sales may seem like a dream somewhere far, far away in the future. But that’s not necessarily the case.

I’m active with an online group of over 900 authors called The Authors’ Think Tank. It’s filled with educators (like myself), editors, illustrators, writers of fiction—both published and unpublished—probably even some non‑fiction writers and many self‑published or ePub authors, etc. It gives all of us a great forum for finding out—and learning—all kinds of things.

We can check there to find out what’s going on and when, from workshops, to classes, to book launches and signings, and all things authorly! A good place to send questions, to share the pain and the pride found within the writers’ life.

One of the interesting postings today was about international sales of published works. It seems that Amazon has a branch in the U. S. of A. [amazon.com.us], of course, and I was also aware of Amazon.com.uk. Now they’re starting up an Australian unit , which I didn’t know about.

Here’s the thing: their “holdings,” if you will, can be shared from the U.S. to the U.K., and presumably—soon, if not now—to Australia. But not ALL of their holdings travel.

For instance, let’s suppose you are a U.S. author— let’s even assume you’re in Utah. You are published and selling on Amazon in the US. You may be selling on Amazon UK as well because your books are probably available in both (and currently, or soon to be, in Australia as well, perhaps).  But, guess what? Your Amazon author profile is NOT replicated in those places.

So, the lesson, dear “students”: check and see what materials you have for sale and where they are available. Also write up an author’s profile which will curry favor with those in the UK. Write up another one to appeal to those charming Aussies. And keep checking—there may be other innovations, too, which can broaden your interests and your “customer base”. And broaden the interest in you, that “American” author whose works are available to Amazon customers . . . where ever!

[P.S. ‑ An additional note later on the same Authors’ Think Tank said that not all of the Aussie Amazon is on‑line yet. And it recommended another good idea: suggest to reviewers that they set up reviews on all the possible sites. But be getting ready!]

See you day‑ after‑ tomorrow for Thursday’s 13!

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Saturday’s Softcover: A Girl Named Zippy

Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB

When I was a little pre‑school girl, I had a friend named Zippy. By thinking about it for a while today, I realized she had another name, a “real” one: Muriel. But to all of us, friends AND family, she was just Zippy. I never knew why‑‑‑but maybe I’ve found a reason:

I recently finished reading a book titled A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel. She was a little girl, in a little Indiana town named Mooreland. She had delicate health at the beginning, but eventually she zipped around the house: here, there, everywhere. Then she zipped around Mooreland, a town of 300 people in the 1950. And in 1960. And 1970, and 1980‑‑‑”and so on.” It always had 300 residents. When one died, another was born, through some “mysterious and powerful mathematical principle” at work there. When one was born, another one died. When “Zippy” was born, a “barber named Tony was taken away.”

There was more than the name Zippy which drew me to this book. The humor, the simplicity of life in the mid‑60’s and slightly beyond, the common, small‑town things it reminded me of, all came flooding back as I found myself in Zippy’s shoes. Or, actually, in her sister’s old “fabulous, long, fake fur” slippers, with fur which sprouted up from the top and hung down to the floor. I never had those slippers. But I remember wanting them.

Zippy didn’t grow much hair until she was three years old. Then she got a wonderful, marvelous wig. Well, not a wig, exactly‑‑‑but what was then referred to as a “fall.” I had one in my teens‑‑‑I had very fine, somewhat thin hair, and to have that long, dark hair hanging straight down my back‑‑‑I know I was as thrilled with mine as she was with hers.

Zippy tells‑‑‑as an adult, but with the most charming, delightful child‑like voice‑‑‑what it was like to live in Mooreland, which had one main street: Broad Street. Yours might have been named Broad, or Main, or State, or Center, but they were all about the same. One denomination had a church at one end of the fairly short “Broad” Street, another denomination at the other end. If 300 people need more diversity, you might have found another one just off “Broad,” near the center of town. Like Mooreland, you might have had one theater showing one movie (possibly for weeks on end), no department store, no stop light. Maybe there was a drugstore‑‑‑like Zippy’s which had a soda fountain, but no drugs.

A carnival came to town once a year‑‑‑I remember one too. Hers arrived at the end of harvest season every August, and people took their vacations to work during the fair in food tents or organizing evens like the Most Beautiful Baby Contest or the Horse and Pony Pull.

This delightful step back in time had me looking back at my “Baby Book,” starting school, trying to find a friend, into the local “haunted house”‑‑‑or at least as close to it as I dared. I saw my father through my child’s eyes‑‑‑he didn’t drink, smoke or gamble like hers did, but otherwise they were “brothers”: did anything they had to for their “little girl.” I endured a slumber party, my first funeral (and seeing a real, honest‑to‑goodness dead body), class pictures, and learning to read.

I remember sitting in my little class seeing a LONG word I’d never seen before. I puzzled over it for a few minutes, and began to see just a little piece of it at a time: “may”‑‑‑that was a word I did know. Then “be”‑‑‑that was another word I knew. All of a sudden, I realized I was reading the “long” word. I was awe‑struck that, even knowing what “may” meant and what “be” signified, here I’d discovered a brand‑new word which contained both those I knew, but meant a whole different thing! I could not have been more shocked if lightning had struck me‑‑‑and I felt elated, excited, thrilled, and knew I’d be a writer and a reader for life.

I’d recommend this step back in time to anyone who would like to know what it was like “back then,” and to EVERYONE who, like me, actually lived through it!

Published in 2001, you can still get Zippy’s memoire in libraries and on Amazon‑‑‑do it. You won’t be sorry!

See you day-after-tomorrow for Monday Moans!

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Saturday’s Softcover: My Mother was an “Elizabeth” Too!

Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB

My mother was named Margaret Elizabeth, but I never knew her to go by Margaret, or any of its wonderful permutations: Maggie, Meg, etc. In fact, she didn’t go by any of the changes to Elizabeth either—it was always full throttle: Elizabeth. And she loved movies. She felt very connected to two famous Elizabeths: Queen Elizabeth, who named her son Charles—my brother, almost exactly the same age, is named Charles. And she loved Elizabeth Taylor. So, when I saw Lu Ann Brobst Staheli’s book entitled Just Like Elizabeth Taylor, I knew I “just” had to read it.

The book is tender, frightening, angst-filled in part, funny, and ultimately— mostly—very happy,81N-fns-EuL__SL1500_ though I was in tears at the end.

Liz, named Elizabeth for the movie star, becomes Beth when she runs away from home. How will this young girl, not yet a teen, make her way on her own?  Actually, a lot better than she can do at home where her mother is too weak to give up the boyfriend who beats her, and Liz cannot fend off the boyfriend’s loathsome son.

Plucky girl that she is, she steals some money from the “boyfriend,” and runs away—but only as far as a fairly nearby town. She finds an abandoned shack at a winter-deserted K.O.A. place, where she manages to have bathroom/water/ electric amenities, ekes out her meager “savings” with school lunch and occasional lunch leavings from other students.

As the school year draws closer to an end, “Beth” must find a way to make a friend, save a lunch lady, let her mother know she is still alive, find a more permanent home, and bring justice to her “real” family, while maintaining a decent GPA so she won’t be “found out.”

At every moment, I was aware that the author had taught junior high school for years: she knew the angst, the failures, the desperation of some, the heartlessness of others, and the pluck of the brave. Just before the ending I was in tears: not because it was sad, but because I was so angry at what happened to “Beth” next: pulling all the threads together, the horrific scene had me crying for the unfairness, the drive, the caring this young girl exhibited. It was a fitting triumph, finally.

I know Liz, the lost girl. I know Beth, the loner. I know Elizabeth, the winner. I’ve taught those high school, junior high school and middle school kids too. Read it, and you’ll know them as well!

 See you day after tomorrow for Monday Moans!

A1YSS+kQ4cL__SL1500_BTW, the prolific Staheli also has a book, A Note Worth Taking, about “best” friends, surviving lost friendships, making new friends—you know, all those things we suffered in junior high or middle school. I’m reading it next—you should too: it’s on sale at Amazon for $0.99 through the end of July.

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Friday’s Friends: Lesli Muir, aka LL Muir

Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB

 During the writers conference at Life, the Universe and Everything (LTUE) in February, Lesli Muir (LL Muir on her book covers) gave a wonderful, inspiring workshop on How to Write a Novel in Three Days. Some of us who attended came out of curiosity, but came OUT as Believers. So, Welcome, Lesli—How did you first happen to come across such a radical concept as writing 60,000 words in only three days?
I read Michael Moorcock’s instructions and wanted to see if I could do it. I also knew I needed a little more energy in order to do it, so I talked my writer friends into doing it too.

And you have successfully tried this how many times?
Three myself. Many of the writers who did it have done it a second time since that first great success.

Could you give a brief run-down on the preparation necessary before the Three Day Event?
Make some short lists of things you expect to google. Do that kind of stuff ahead of time if possible. The point is to have a list to glance at if you get stuck. You don’t want your fingers to stop moving for long. You also need a very brief structure—kind of like a frame to hang your story on. It’s not really a plot. Just a list of scenes you are certain you want to have. It’s a simple list of 24 chapters, divided into four sections of 6 each. The last chapter of each section should have a killer twist. Each section also has a goal for the character to work toward. The twist is what will determine the goal for the next chapter. Once you start assigning your scenes to the chapters, the blanks almost fill themselves in.

What are the steps within the Three Days themselves?
You have to know how fast you write—words per hour. Divide the ultimate goal of 60k words by your production rate. That tells you how many hours of writing it will take. Divide that by three days. Whatever hours you have left over will determine how much time you get for meals and sleeping. It’s good to have a break mid-morning and mid-afternoon to keep the blood pumping to your brain.

What kind of shape is your manuscript in by the time you get to the end of Day 3?
ROUGH, rough draft. I have to do a lot of polishing, but having a finished first draft in so little time is worth an extra run-through, isn’t it?

Perhaps I should also ask, what kind of shape is the Writer in at the end?
Day one is exciting. Ending up a little ahead of schedule at night is the surprise bonus. That high gets you up and moving the next morning. Seeing all that writing behind you keeps you pushing through the day. The second night I’m always ahead of schedule as well. Day three is the trick. You want to reach out to other humans. You want a reason to have to stop, but you can’t let that happen. Day three is the test. But at this point, you’re already over the summit and headed for home. The home stretch is a great place to be. You just have to tie yourself to the chair, keep the keyboard in front of you, keep the distractions out. Stay in the book. The writer is freaking exhausted and unable to leap small words in a single bound, but you can always celebrate on day 4, with other humans around. It’s quite the reward—a book that didn’t exist on Thursday night is a complete being by Sunday night.

How many books had you written to completion before your first Three Day attempt?
Wow. I had written two screenplays and six novels and two novellas. My fastest first draft, prior to that, was 4 weeks. But you don’t have to be an historically fast writer to do this successfully.

How many have you written in Three Days?
Three now.

Which of your books, Three Day or not, are published? Please tell us their titles and where they are available.
Lord Fool to the Rescue and Not Without Juliet (a three-day book) are on Amazon.
Where to Pee on a Pirate Ship, Blood for Ink, Christmas Kiss, Going Back for Romeo, Wicked, and Somewhere Over the Freaking Rainbow are available just about anywhere.
Bones for Bread (the latest three-day book) is still in revisions. If you’d like to know the genres, etc., you can see them all on my website at www.llmuir.weebly.com.

(You can tell Lesli has a great sense of humor, just by reading her titles!) Will you continue to write whole novels in Three Days? Will you still write any novels in other ways too, or are you a complete believer in this method?
As often as possible. Sometimes the giant chunk of time is not an option and I just have to push my daily word count as high as possible. I’m hoping to get nearly a million words written in the next 12 months. If I hit half that, I’ll still be doubling what I wrote last year. The key is having another writer with similar goals who can play “push me, pull you.” This is just a way to get the clay. We need clay before we can start the real work of writing. Why drag it out?

Thanks, Lesli, for taking the time to enlighten us! I’m sure to give this another go this November when the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) comes around again . . . and may try it again as early as August, when they have the next “Camp NaNoWriMo”. This method certainly suits my preference, which is just to get in there and “get ‘er done.”

See you day-after-tomorrow for Wednesday’s WIPs!  And, as a Bonus, on next “Tuesday’s Tutor” I’ll give you more information on the Michael Moorcock information Lesli referenced at the beginning of this blog, plus info on another writer’s methods: Lester Dent and his Master Plot Formula.

Key Words:

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Friday Friends: Do You Know How to Act?

Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB

As writers, most of us have heard of the 3-Act Structure for films, and even for novels.  Though I seem to have heard more about it in film study, novels are fast catching up.

But what goes into Act I, Act II and Act III of a novel?

On Wednesday, Nov. 27, I visited the League of Utah Writers chapter at the Provo Library to hear the speaker for the Utah Valley Writers’ group: Elana Johnson, a fun and inspiring speaker (yes, I’ve heard her speak at other writers meetings too) who spoke on “Beat Out Your Novel.”  This is her adaptation to novel writing from the works of Blake Snyder, who wrote Save the Cat and Save the Cat Strikes Back, primarily for screen writers.

While a novel has only three acts, it should have, Elana says, 15 “beats,” which she also adapted from the “Blake Snyder Beat Sheet.”  This is a formulaic way of setting up your novel so that it will contain all the elements readers look for in a good novel:

ACT I

1.  Opening Image – a before snapshot of Main Character’s (MC) current life

2.  Theme Statement – what story is about

3.  Set-Up – things which need “fixing” along with intro of all major characters

4.  Catalyst – explosion of the “old” world

5.  Debate – MC battles himself: What should I do? Stay/go?  Act/step aside?

Act II

6.  Break into Act II – the moment we leave the “old” world

7.  B story – a secondary, possibly love (not necessarily romantic) side-story

8.  Fun and Games – promise of the premise (think: movie trailers) where MC learns something s/he will need to know at the end

9.  Midpoint – the pivotal moment with either a drastic MC upturn or downturn

10.  Bad Guys Close In – where MC is headed for a fall

11.  All is Lost – a “defeat” which feels absolute (add ‘whiff of death’), but isn’t

12.  Dark Night of the Soul – the Dark before the Dawn; MC “knows” he lost

Act III

13.  Break into Act III – B story and A solution join; synthesis of new “world”

14.  Finale – MC finally figures out what to do: showdown with the “evil”

15.  Final Image – proof change has happened; should be opposite to #1 image

Want more details? See one, or more, of Blake Snyder’s books (Elana most recommends the first and third books, listed above), and make your own adaptation to your novel.  Or check out Elana Johnson, author of  Possession, Surrender, and Abandon, the last of which will come out in June.  She is often a speaker at Utah’s writer conferences and workshops.  Go hear her for yourself!

Both Blake Snyder and Elana Johnson’s books are available through Amazon.

See you day-after-tomorrow for Sunday Snippets.

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