Monday, January 31, 2011

Vortexers of Awesome

There is so much I want to share this week; but, alas, Casa Mitchell is under heavy quarantine. I have managed to swerve free of strep and H1N1, but I developed a wicked nasty eye infection yesterday like I've never had before: half arrrg pirate wench, half MMA blow to the lids, and collateral ick Fabio could, no doubt, identify with. So until we turn this fort ship-shape, we'll just have to make this week's posts quick and potent.

Vortexer Erin is keeping it real regarding our resident creepy dentist. She writes:

" is a hoax - if you use the free domain tool WHOIS.COM, it will say that the author of the said website goes by the name of Andrea Natella - a guerrilla marketing specialist. The person is apparently advertises by means of making hoax stories,urban legends and other unorthodox method to increase traffic in a certain website. A year ago, this website was a hot topic for debates back in my hometown in Tampa. Internet marketing consultants suggest that this was another way for a site to go viral and receive a lot of hits for profit. Some say it was a trial site for a guerrilla marketing theory - which was proven later on. People thought they would really dream of THISMAN as disappointment filled the whole town of Tampa; Internet marketing specialists were actually impressed by the idea."

Erin, I am a fangirl and bestow upon you a red booth to travel whenever you choose. Be sure to let us know where and when it took you.

Vortexer Rick has launched a quarterly (paying! I know!) web-zine open to submissions starting in February from an impressively diverse genre pool. If you're interested in getting in on the ground floor of this new project, visit his blog, The Writer and the White Cat. I wish him enormous success-he deserves it after the rough year he's had dealing with overt and rampant plagiarism of his stories.

I'll be back Wednesday with more quick and potent. Until then, Arrrrrgh!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Focus, Man. Geez.

I put Focus Booster to the test today. Haven't heard the buzz? It's a free productivity software available for your desktop or smart phone that is beautifully simple in concept. Essentially a tiny stopwatch, it's based upon the pomodoro method of time management, developed in the 1980s to optimize brain function and concentration.

According to the site, "There are five basic steps to implementing the technique:
*decide on the task to be done
*set the pomodoro (timer) to 25 minutes
*work on the task until the timer rings; record the task status
*take a short break (5 minutes)
*every four "pomodoros" take a longer break (15-20 minutes)"

I didn't record my task status, else it would have been finish this (^*&^% book! ad nauseum, but I completed six pomodoros today. Oh, and if you think the 25 minute chunks are productive, just wait until you realize what you can squeeze into the 5 minute breaks.

C.J. Lyons has a great post on Focus Booster, specifically how it helps writers juggle projects and limit page-count-sucking social media. But remember, it's not just for writers. It's for anyone who wants to boost productivity.

Try it and let me know in the comments how it worked for you.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Creepy Photos, Vertigo and Sisterhood

While looking for theme-centered verbs to inject into my revision, I found an article entitled the Wonderful World of Early Photography. Some of the images I'd seen before while immersing myself in research on the front end of this novel; some images are deliciously haunting. I'm not a shutterbug by any stretch, but all this modern digitalization makes me long for sepia sometimes.

The article contains this creepy beaut, the world's first daguerreotype:
The world's first human portrait:
and the world's first underwater photo:

That's three stories right there.

To read more about each of these photos and see more firsts and notables in photography, it's well worth a click.
Planning a trip to San Francisco? Don't forget your self-guided Vertigo tour. Hitch would be so proud.
The Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood has been nominated for's Top Blog for Writing contest! Not only is it a great honor, but you might find other must-read writing blogs to add to your reader.

Have a great weekend, everyone!


Monday, January 17, 2011

The Dentist Epilogue

Remember this guy from last week's post?

He visited me about six am, Sunday morning. I kid, often, about Fabios and Hasselhoffs and time travel, but to say I am deadpan-serious about this dream would be an understatement. Therefore, I wish to change my theory to the "dream imitation theory" which states: "This is a scientific psycho-sociological theory which claims that this phenomenon has arisen casually and has progressively developed by imitation. Basically when people are exposed to this phenomenon they become so deeply impressed that they start seeing this man in their dreams."

Not that I'd go so far as to say I was deeply impressed.

I had tossed out a scenario in my previous post about a walking-down-the-street-in-a-bathrobe dream and seeing this man. For me, there was no bathrobe, just a crowded New York-ish city block. Dentist guy was ahead of me in a tan raincoat, like a flasher. He stopped, completely interrupting the heavy foot-traffic flow, turned and BAM. Exactly that face. I don't often wake from dreams abruptly, but I sat up in bed on this one. How powerful suggestion is, right?

Why doesn't this happen with other, more useful things? Like this:

or this?

or this?

Heck, why hold back?

3 (still)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Like My Dentist, But With Bushier Eyebrows

Before we move on to something entirely Vortex, I want to mention the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest.

CreateSpace still sends me notification about the annual event. If you have a full-length novel to offer up to public onions and orchids and your skin is thick, entries are accepted between 1/24 and 2/6 or until the 5,000 entries cap is reached. You can find my take on the contest here. Maybe we were all feeling our way its inaugural year-2007-but I don't think the inter-dynamics of the entrants have changed much. It is the nature of competition's beast and a months-long testimony to the drying up of lucrative publishing opportunities. It's not always a genre-friendly contest, so it's important to look at this year's panel of general fiction and young adult judges to see what writing realm they hail from.

Now for this guy....

Does he look familiar? Has he ever once walked through your dream world? Sat down at the next table in an outdoor cafe? Passed you on the street as you walked to work in your bathrobe?

According to, the goal of the site is, "to help those who have seen this man in their dreams and to foster communication among them; to understand who this man is and why he appears in an apparently pattern-less array of situations in the dreams of such diverse human subjects."

Some theorize he's a dream surfer, able to enter people's dreams through heightened psychological skills. Others subscribe to Jung's theory that he is an archetype that emerges in times of stress and hardship. Me? I'm sure it'll end up being some type of social experiment in some psychologist student's doctoral thesis. It is fun to read the testimonials, though. If you can speed read past the jokesters to the legit ones, it can get creepy.

What's your theory on this man?


Monday, January 10, 2011

Winter Writing Festival

Need a little writing motivation? Head over to the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood blog where we've kicked off the Winter Writing Festival. This writing challenge is (1)goal-driven (2)catered to each writer's needs no matter what work-in-progress stage or experience level he/she is (3) community-backed for those who thrive on accountability, and (4) guilt-free because it does not fall across any major holiday or have the inherent pressure of NaNo.

Throughout the festival, my blog posts will be signed with a point total (one for each day I reach my writing goals). I hope the back end of February brings fifty.

For more information about the challenge, head over to the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood blog or the site created specifically for the Winter Festival. Happy writing!

Monday, January 3, 2011

A Character's Touchpoint

I call it a touchpoint. If you know another term for it, do tell. In the mildly-insane-aren't-we-all? world my characters inhabit, they must have that one thing that grounds them. A connection to a place or a person that renders them the most sane person on Earth. The same route to and from work traveled for twenty years. A mentally disabled brother. A cactus he stares at every morning at breakfast. Therein lies moments of clarity and truth and rightness the character experiences nowhere else. Moments that belong to everyone and no one. A shared burden the reader buys into because she has her touchpoints, too.

The protagonist in my novel The Night Caller flirts with insanity. He is an agoraphobic, broken soul who is an unreliable narrator, at best. If I would have left him at this, the reader would have gladly poured that cup of crazy down the sink. I had to find a way to get the reader on-board with him, root out a growing interest in his goals, take ownership of their alliance to him, for that is when the magic of a psychological suspense happens. His touchpoint is restoring wood. Not merely a carpenter's hand, but that of an artisan who appreciates the way things were, how good they can be again. He sands with small, purposeful strokes of clarity in his otherwise crumbling reality. He strives for the simplicity in the way things once were. Who hasn't longed for that at least once?

In one of my favorite Peter Abrahams novels, The Last of the Dixie Heroes, the protagonist descends into the sub-culture of Civil War reenactors who have lost touch with reality. His touchpoint? A son. Ultimately, his savior.

What are some of your favorite character's touchpoints?