Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Hoarding the Magic

Remember that excitement that comes along and takes up residence in your every waking thought at the prospect of a new story? New beginnings always hold an incandescent magic that sweep us along. Our characters rush through our everyday thoughts like adrenaline attached to a forbidden love. Plotting when we should be driving. Daydreaming in the shower and not bothering to stop and dry off before you can capture words in the spiral before they're lost. Living in the new world you've created in moments where you appear to be doing nothing more than waiting in the carpool line like every other parent.

Pure magic.

But as with falling in love, the bruises begin to show. Holes in plot or research. Character issues you'd not anticipated. For many years, I'd mourn the loss of the first stage of exuberance and allow it to mire my passion for the story until I could go no further. The dreaded "sagging middle"; where like all of us in the real world, our imperfections can keep us bogged down.

Stephen King believes in having one "ideal reader." Someone whose opinion you crave and desire to please above all others. This person, whom you trust completely with the very essence of yourself you've poured onto the page, can only enter the love affair after it's finished. He believes writers should resist the temptation at all costs to give into the part of your internal editor that seeks reassurance and praise along the way. In doing so, we give away a glimmer of the magic. Words from our critique partners are no longer our own. Well-meaning readers can steer a story off-course as quickly as gale-force winds in what you thought was a solitary journey.

I'm in the infatuation stage with my current work, filled with hopes and anticipation of getting to each and every morsel that seems predestined and ready to write itself in my mind. I know the day will come when the bruises show, but this time I will hoarde the magic. Savor its every last breath until the time I can present my ideal reader this ultimate gift--a story uniquely mine, untainted by the fingerprints of other's thoughts and opinions.

And ultimately, isn't that what resonates with the reader?

Who is your ideal reader? When do you turn over your writing for others to see?

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Time Machine ~ Week of August 27, 2007

This week ::

~Highland Press seeking Time Travel
~Hugo Nominee : The Walls of the Universe
~DVD release: Heroes
~Bumper Sticker, anyone?

Highland Press celebrates its first anniversary as one of the premier trade paperback and downloadable e-book publishers on the internet. They are dedicated to high quality fiction and offer complete editing and cover art services with royalties paid based on retail sales.

Submissions are open for a Time Travel anthology (word count between 10K-15K). For more information, visit their website.


2007 Hugo nominee Paul Melko offers up a novella entitled The Walls of the Universe about a man who can hop timelines to alternate universes. Originally published in Asimov's Science Fiction, you can read the story in its entirety on their website.


Tuesday, August 28 is the release date for season one of the hit television series Heroes. Features on the DVD includes backstage looks at stunts, special effects, the making of Heroes and 73 uninterrupted minutes of the unaired, extended pilot featuring a never-before-seen character.
Lastly, if this time-travel bumper sticker speaks to you, you can order it here.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Everything Beneath the Kitchen Sink

All I ever find under my sink is the blue residue from SOS pads and those plastic sealers from the milk jug my cat likes to chase...

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Word Spritz

I want to be a writer for Bath and Body Works. Have you noticed they've taken description for their scents from the garden variety "let the sweet, juicy scent of Mango Mandarin give your spirits a lift" to "Sweet wild honeysuckle dance in spring rain. Soft. Airy. Alluring." Poetry and enough fru-fru juice to cloud even the most potent body odor.

Somehow, in the land of BBW, flowers are capable of a minuet, taking on weighty verbs of their own and fruits couldn't own any more action tags unless you placed them under your arm and squeezed. Does any woman read this when deciding to purchase a scent? Helpful online maybe, but in the store, I doubt anyone is swept away by the descriptive Harlequin-esque prose.

Along the same lines, have you seen the commercial for the new "5" gum? At the beginning an announcer states, "Want to know what it feels like to chew the new "5" gum?" Okay, how hard is that, really, to experience the sensation a piece of gum gives you when you put it in your mouth by watching television? Almost impossible, right? So the actress drops into a wind tunnel, burglar-skydiving-style, while thousands of wind-generating heat lamps keep her suspended by their air current. Perfect example of show, don't tell.

To have to write tight enough to convey the entire essence of a product in a few, sometimes less, words is a talent we should all aspire to. Every word on the page should impact the reader in some way. Every adjective a subtle nuance to the emotional state of the POV character. Every verb a shade of universal truth we've all shared. Writers have the power to manipulate the story world for the reader, just as the marketing writers manipulate us into purchasing their products. Consumers of body lotion are buying into an experience as much as our readers.

Make sure every spritz of language leaves a lasting impact.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Time Machine ~ August 20, 2007

This week::
~Heliotrope E-Zine
~Time travel stories for children and young adults

Heliotrope, a speculative fiction E-zine, is now open to submissions for their Winter 2008 issue to be published in March 2008. Submit your science fiction, fantasy, mystery or horror short story (not to exceed 5,000 words) to Jay Tomio, editor. Stories that fall between these genres or ones that can't be easily labeled are also welcome. Payment is $.10 per word upon publication. Submission guidelines and Heliotrope back issues are available on their website.

~ ~ ~

Want to turn a young reader on to time travel? Here are some suggestions:

Reginald Pepper is Out of Time by Neil Sorenson

The son of a world-famous paranormal troubleshooter uncovers a strange family secret hidden in a forgotten wall is plunged back in time to 1905 where he must twart the evil deeds of a vengeful vampire. (256 pages, recommended age: early teen)

Betsy Ross's Star (Blast to the Past series) by Stacia Deutsch and Rhody Cohon

Awarded Learning Magazine's Teacher's choice award for 2007, this eighth book in the series takes Abigail and her history class on an adventure to set the record straight about who really sewed the first American Flag. (80 pages, recommended ages: 9-12)

Time Warp Trio : The Seven Blunders of the World by Jon Scieszka

Follow Joe, Fred and Sam as they travel back to ancient Babylon to recover The Book and discover cuniform and the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. (96 pages, recommended ages 9-12)

What was the first book you read about time travel?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Fact or (Great) Fiction?

On September 16, 1943, the Navy destroyer U.S.S. Eldridge set sail from its commissioning port, the New York Naval Yard, to Bermuda, where the ship underwent training and sea trials.

According to legend, scientists aboard were carrying out experiments to test Einstein's unified field theory, which demonstrates a connection between gravity and electromagnetism, to render objects invisible. Large cables attached to high-power generators engulfed the ship's exterior. Some believe that on October 28, an electrical current sent through these cables rendered the U.S.S. Eldridge invisible and steered the ship through an electromagnetic field capable of warping the space-time continuum. This incident became known as the "Philadelphia Experiment" because the ship supposedly dematerialized and teleported from Philadelphia to Norfolk, Virgina and back to the Philadelphia Naval Yard. The effect on the crew was said to be horrific, causing some to burst into flames, some to become embedded in the ship's metal and some to simply vanish in a fit of madness.

The Navy denies such an experiment ever existed and claims that the ship's war diaries not only place the U.S.S. Eldridge in a convoy of Navy ships to New York on the alleged day, but that the ship was never in Philadelphia during that time frame. They contend the measured electrical current installed around the circumference of the ship's hull is a process known as "degaussing", which makes the ship "invisible" to magnetic mine sensors, but completely visible to the human eye, radar and underwater listening devices. Lastly, the Office of Naval Research states that the use of force fields to render a ship and its crew invisible does not conform to the known laws of physics; and that although Einstein was a part-time consultant with the Navy's Bureau of Ordnance from 1943-1944, no such experiment ever took place. The official statement from the Naval Historical Center also debunks supposed eyewitness accounts of civilian ships in the area.

This story is a mixture of truth and speculation. Fact and fiction.

Conspiracy theorists point to the many experiments our government conducts, many of them secret, in order to find military use for the latest scientific theories. With such a disastrous outcome to an experiment, the Navy would no doubt deny the event ever occurred. The truth is: they were experimenting with invisibility at the time, a way to gain an advantage in a time of war.

After many decades of non-fiction accounts, Hollywood movies and supposed real-life Fox Mulder-type investigations, people's opinions on what really happened come down to the level of trust citizens place in their government--a common thread running through my novels. Are there some things the government should keep quiet? Does their responsibility in protecting the lives of their constituents take precedence over the human quest for truth? Are legends like the Philadelphia Experiment created by those who wish to push their own anti-government agenda or is there something completely believable about our desire to capture science, understand its laws and transcend everything we thought was possible?

What do you think?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Between Mind and Heart

Between Mind and Heart

As a writer, this painting hits me on a deep level. I see reams of paper, failed attempts and a reflection of myself in my work.

Sussan Afrasiabian creates spellbinding modern expressionist paintings and sculptures. She's received multiple awards, both in the United States and abroad. To view her amazing collection, learn more about her inspirations and find links to her art shows in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, visit her website.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Time Machine ~ Week of August 13, 2007

This week::

~The Reincarnationist : A Novel of Suspense by M.J. Rose (Mira-hardcover)

~Writers of the Future contest

~Time travel at ComicCon

The Reincarnationist hits bookshelves September 1. It's the story of a skeptical photojournalist who begins to have disturbing flashbacks to a life as a Pagan priest in Rome 1,600 years earlier. A modern-day thriller infused with historical fiction and a love story, critics are saying, "Rose makes time travel believable, romantic, and terrifying. Forget CSI – In THE REINCARNATIONIST, time is the only evidence that matters." Read more about it and view a trailer and author interview on Rose's website.

The Writers of the Future contest, established by L. Ron Hubbard in 1983 for aspiring writers and illustrators in the science fiction and fantasy genre, begins another quarterly submission period October 1. One of the most prestigious forums in recognizing new talent, this contest assembles a judging panel of professional authors, publishes winner's entries in a yearly anthology and awards substantial cash prizes to the finalists. If you have a novelette or short story manuscript that falls into the speculative fiction market, check out the contest rules.

Last month at ComicCon, Marvel comics assembled a panel to discuss the new Captain Marvel by Brian Reed and Lee Weeks. It's about "[a man] coming back to the present and finding out that he's remembered as the superhero who died of cancer and how he deals with this idea." This mini series picks up where the previous time-traveling hero left off, as the appointed warden of File 42 prison for unregistered heroes, just before his death.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

A cartoon Einstein worthy of a Scooby Doo Episode

Today's physics lesson: Is Time Travel Possible?

What do you think?

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The "Writer's Eye"

I'm finishing up the second article in my Deep Prose series, this time tackling description and imagery. Stephen King has some amazing quotes on imagery, several of which are in the article, but one stood out to me in particular:

"Open your inner eye as wide as it will go and trust the reader will do the same."

This "inner eye" he's referring to I call the "writer's eye". It's the quasi-self-hypnotic state where the writer sees--really sees--what's happening in a scene before pen touches paper or fingertips fly across keys. It's the deep breathing, close your eyes, sit back in your chair kind of meditation that puzzles our families when they walk in the room and assume we're screwing off.

In high school, I did a research paper on self-hypnosis that's helped me more than just about any paper I can remember in college. When I have a bad headache or I'm caught without pain killers, I close my eyes and visualize the pain. The texture. Subtle changes in the color. How the shape changes and morphs with each passing second. The idea is simple. Focus so completely on something--this creative painting of pain--and you trick your mind into forgetting about the pain. Sound crazy? Try it next time--say a full five quiet minutes. It works.

Self-hypnosis used as a relaxation technique can also help writers access their "mind's eye". Using these techniques, the walls dissolve and your mind is fully transported to the place of the image you're creating. Sounds like writing, doesn't it? Two techniques:

1) Imagine you're alone in a large building on the tenth floor. The temperature on your skin is just right. Stretched out before you is an escalator, humming quietly. Beneath your toes, cool, slick marble that offsets the warm sunlight spilling over you from the ceiling atrium above. The walls are textured. A vibrant, red number "10" inside a large white circle is painted on the wall to indicate the floor. A potted fescue near the revolving banister tickles your knee. Did you see the ornate iron bench behind you? What about the black smudge on the pristine floor from someone who walked here before? Now, step onto the down escalator. It's moving at a comfortable speed. As you descend you see another lobby laid out in much the same way, this time with an orange number "9" painted on the wall. Is there another bench? How has the light changed on your shoulders? Step onto the next escalator and breeze downward to floor "8", each time noting how warm, abrasive textures and colors and details change to cool and relaxing. Maybe some of the floors have murals, each with an increasingly peaceful scene. This is your world. Paint it how you wish as you progress to the first floor. What's on that first floor, you ask? Your "writer's eye". The next scene of your story. Deep sleep (this works SO much better than counting sheep). This exercise should take about ten minutes to allow time to properly slow your heart rate, so spend some time on each floor.

2) Some people refer to the next exercise as your "happy place". This is no joke. You construct in your mind the most relaxing, peaceful place you can imagine. For some, it's in a lush forest near a waterfall pool. For some, it's a wide open, green meadow. Set rules. For me, there cannot be bugs (CPs--no laughing). The last thing I want is to be sitting near an enchanting waterfall and have a waterbug crawl over my fingertips. Rule number one: like the previous one, you must be alone. This is not the time for Oded Fehr to show you his rapture. Like a photographer capturing this place only you know about, for ten minutes enhance the image with details. The next time you return, the parameters will be set and relaxation will be easier to access. And in this place, you'll find your "mind's eye".

A few more tips about self-hypnosis: Make sure you're in a place you cannot be interrupted. We're doing deep relaxation and slowing the heartrate, so your husband walking in to ask you, "Where's the mustard?" could cause a bad start--for you (and him) :) It's important to know you're as alone in your physical environment as you are in your spiritual one. Also, no music. You don't want your mind to become dependant on hearing certain sounds to become relaxed. You want to be able to do these exercises anywhere, anytime.

Doesn't finding your "writer's eye" take longer to get a scene written? You bet. But the payoff is a deeper, richer environment for your character to play out his emotions and goals in.

Oh, and until then, check out Stephen King's article. It's as amazing as his prose.

Try one of these self-hypnosis techniques. Post here and let me know how it works for you.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

The Time Machine ~ Week of August 6, 2007

This week ::
~Time travel-friendly short fiction markets
~NBC's Fall show: Journeyman

By no means an exhaustive list, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America consider these the most professional short story science fiction markets in the industry:

Analog Science Fiction and Fact
Asimov's Science Fiction
Baen's Universe
Cemetery Dance
Dark Wisdom
The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction
Odyssey - Adventures in Science
Pedestal Magazine
Realms of Fantasy
Strange Horizons
Subterranean Magazine
Writers of the Future Anthology

Speculations, once a bi-monthly SF magazine that has changed exclusively to an online format, lists additional markets on their site, along with feedback from writers who have submitted to these publications.
NBC's Fall show "Journeyman" is being plugged as a romantic mystery-drama. Dan Vassar (Kevin McKidd, "Rome") plays a San Francisco newspaper reporter and familyman, who "inexplicably begins to travel through time and change people's lives. Along the way, he must deal with the difficulties and stress at work and home brought on by his sudden disappearances. However, his freewheeling travels through the years reunite him with his long lost fiance, Livia--which complicates his present life with wife Katie and their son."
Will you tune in?

Thursday, August 2, 2007

The Migration of Our Voice

When I first began writing seriously, it was in a small-town diner in Kansas. Brown stoneware mugs. Mirrored birds in flight making their daily migration across the back wall. Retired farmers in vinyl seats clogging up the entrance with stale cigarettes and manly gossip. And two of the most amazing writers sharing a booth with me.

These two women had been writing for a time, one trying to break into literary short fiction, the other inspirational, but each participated in the most elementary of writing exercises in an effort to become stronger writers and to help me find a writing direction. I still have the journal we filled that year in the diner. One day I wrote about a murder on a river barge. The next, a woman whose obsession with her plumber rivaled that of her love for eclairs. All of them were seeds from a random garden. Mystery. Suspense. Self-indulgent literary character studies. The common thread? Love.

My two writing partners encouraged me to read romance novels for the first time, declaring it was absolutely the direction of my passion, as it had come through in almost everything I'd written. They were right. Like many romance writers, I began with Kathleen Woodiwiss, found my greatest admiration for LaVyrle Spencer and a true respect for Nora Roberts. For eight years, I never doubted the genre path I chose. Not until I looked up one day and realized I'd taken a less-traveled road. Just over the hill, where I could share the same breeze and inhabit the same woods, I'd written something that no longer followed that path. No amount of backtracking and re-writing would ever feel right. Straight romance was no longer the gravity of my passion that pulled me along. I'd migrated.

More times than I can count, I doubted the direction I'd taken. Were the dead ends and rocky drop-offs worth the effort it took to forage an unfamiliar path? Was it wrong that river barges and eclairs began to invade my work again? And the most stinging concern of all: Was I writing to write or to be sold?

Then, one day, when I found I could no longer see the smooth road so many others had taken, I realized my path had been inevitable. No sense of pseudo-control of my thoughts and emotions and voice would ever last. What comes from that nebulous place within us is inevitable, impervious to market demands and sales concerns. Success for a writer is when that honest and raw place within us aligns in the galaxy with others who recognize a new, undiscovered path can become an exciting place to be lost in. A place where words take flight alongside mirrored birds and seeds in a random garden take root.

What's the strangest path your writing ever took?