Saturday, April 30, 2011

I'm pleased to announce that my flash fiction story "Tribute" has been published in the British e-zine Motley Press, volume one, issue three. To view the issue in PDF, click HERE. My story begins on page 10.

This piece is a cutting-room-floor rescue. It's one of six novel openings that I tried and discarded. But while it didn't fit the flow of the novel itself, I felt this short scene had something important to say about family communication. So I reworked it as a stand-alone and started shopping it around. The editors at Motley Press liked it (perhaps because of the cross-cultural issues) and the scene got new life.

Don't be too quick to give up on your "killed darlings." They may find second life if you're willing to give them some attention. Small victories like this one can be a great morale booster when novel writing feels hopelessly slow and unrewarding. I say more about the topic in the post Giving Life to Peripheral Stories.


Have you tried your hand at short fiction? Have you ever rescued a "killed darling"?
10:57 AM Laurel Garver
I'm pleased to announce that my flash fiction story "Tribute" has been published in the British e-zine Motley Press, volume one, issue three. To view the issue in PDF, click HERE. My story begins on page 10.

This piece is a cutting-room-floor rescue. It's one of six novel openings that I tried and discarded. But while it didn't fit the flow of the novel itself, I felt this short scene had something important to say about family communication. So I reworked it as a stand-alone and started shopping it around. The editors at Motley Press liked it (perhaps because of the cross-cultural issues) and the scene got new life.

Don't be too quick to give up on your "killed darlings." They may find second life if you're willing to give them some attention. Small victories like this one can be a great morale booster when novel writing feels hopelessly slow and unrewarding. I say more about the topic in the post Giving Life to Peripheral Stories.


Have you tried your hand at short fiction? Have you ever rescued a "killed darling"?

Friday, April 29, 2011

Unable to find a really fresh Royal Wedding-related bit of silliness, I bring you instead some Austen silliness for today's Friday fun.



If the embedded video isn't appearing for you, click HERE.

I think Quirk Books ought to consider Mansfield Park and Mutants for the series. It could be quite an exciting story--X-men for the nineteenth century.

What classics would you love to give the Quirk Books treatment?
7:08 AM Laurel Garver
Unable to find a really fresh Royal Wedding-related bit of silliness, I bring you instead some Austen silliness for today's Friday fun.



If the embedded video isn't appearing for you, click HERE.

I think Quirk Books ought to consider Mansfield Park and Mutants for the series. It could be quite an exciting story--X-men for the nineteenth century.

What classics would you love to give the Quirk Books treatment?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Many of us have suffered great difficulties and hardships, and as a result we've developed an internal organ for processing pain I call The Inner Fist. The Inner Fist clamps around that set of hurts and keeps it "safe"--unprodded, airless, always raw.

When anything comes at us that feels like the clenched pain--rejection, violation, terror and the like--the Inner Fist hits back. When it hits inside, it punches holes in our confidence, pummels our joy, hammers home the thought that, as usual, the universe and its creator are against us. Sometimes the Inner Fist hits outward, making us lash out at others or become pleasure-chasing addicts.

The Inner Fist strengthens itself by drawing around it expectations that we believe will make the hurt inside magically dissipate. As writers, some of our fist-builders are thoughts like these:

"I will get published and...
...I will have honor instead of shame"
...I will have worth instead of worthlessness"
...I will have abundance instead of deprivation"
...I will be popular instead of ignored or bullied"

Can any publishing experience bear the weight of expectations like these? Not likely. So the Inner Fist goes on punching us inside.

Unclenching the Inner Fist is the heart work of a lifetime. Until you grant access to the pain--to God, yourself, others--the Inner Fist will remain a destructive force in your life. It requires great courage, grace, faith and hope. It is the only path to peace and to creating great art that changes lives. That changes the world.

What unclenches the Inner Fist are ordinary graces--things like delight, wonder and play; learning, mentoring and teaching; communicating with open honesty; freely giving you time, skill, creative output and praise with no expectations simply because it's fun and makes you feel alive. Above all, the gracious work of love--God's, your family's, your friends', and yours for them--builds skin over the raw places.

At times these winds of grace may feel like a tornado. They may feel like self-immolation. Like tossing your possessions out the window. Like standing yourself before a firing squad. Who am I without my defenses after all? You'll never know unless you let light inside.

You might just find that the place of your deepest pain is a well of great beauty--your truth--which when drawn out, has the power to unclench other Inner Fists. I think of Anne Lamott's raw honesty in Traveling Mercies and Operating Instructions. Of Donald Miller's meandering hunger in Searching for God Knows What.

Have you felt the Inner Fist in your life? What ordinary graces have unclenched a finger or two for you? What books have encouraged you in your own heart work of healing and maturing?
9:59 AM Laurel Garver
Many of us have suffered great difficulties and hardships, and as a result we've developed an internal organ for processing pain I call The Inner Fist. The Inner Fist clamps around that set of hurts and keeps it "safe"--unprodded, airless, always raw.

When anything comes at us that feels like the clenched pain--rejection, violation, terror and the like--the Inner Fist hits back. When it hits inside, it punches holes in our confidence, pummels our joy, hammers home the thought that, as usual, the universe and its creator are against us. Sometimes the Inner Fist hits outward, making us lash out at others or become pleasure-chasing addicts.

The Inner Fist strengthens itself by drawing around it expectations that we believe will make the hurt inside magically dissipate. As writers, some of our fist-builders are thoughts like these:

"I will get published and...
...I will have honor instead of shame"
...I will have worth instead of worthlessness"
...I will have abundance instead of deprivation"
...I will be popular instead of ignored or bullied"

Can any publishing experience bear the weight of expectations like these? Not likely. So the Inner Fist goes on punching us inside.

Unclenching the Inner Fist is the heart work of a lifetime. Until you grant access to the pain--to God, yourself, others--the Inner Fist will remain a destructive force in your life. It requires great courage, grace, faith and hope. It is the only path to peace and to creating great art that changes lives. That changes the world.

What unclenches the Inner Fist are ordinary graces--things like delight, wonder and play; learning, mentoring and teaching; communicating with open honesty; freely giving you time, skill, creative output and praise with no expectations simply because it's fun and makes you feel alive. Above all, the gracious work of love--God's, your family's, your friends', and yours for them--builds skin over the raw places.

At times these winds of grace may feel like a tornado. They may feel like self-immolation. Like tossing your possessions out the window. Like standing yourself before a firing squad. Who am I without my defenses after all? You'll never know unless you let light inside.

You might just find that the place of your deepest pain is a well of great beauty--your truth--which when drawn out, has the power to unclench other Inner Fists. I think of Anne Lamott's raw honesty in Traveling Mercies and Operating Instructions. Of Donald Miller's meandering hunger in Searching for God Knows What.

Have you felt the Inner Fist in your life? What ordinary graces have unclenched a finger or two for you? What books have encouraged you in your own heart work of healing and maturing?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Dear Editor-on-call,*

I got this comment in a critique of mine and I have NO idea what it means. Could you shed some light? I feel so stupid, but I just don't get the terminology: "Misplaced modifiers. I’m seeing this phenomenon all the time with my clients! You do this just a little, but watch your antecedents."

Sincerely,
Mystified about Modifiers

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Dear Mystified,

Your knuckle-rapping English teachers were trying to break you of this problem when they made you diagram sentences. You might have vague memories of identifying sentence parts as subject, verb, object. Each of these sentence parts can have modifiers--words or phrases that tell details about them.

Problems arise when those details are not close enough to the word they describe. The resulting sentences can be confusing at best, and inadvertently hilarious at worst.

Let's look at some examples.

Subject modifier misplaced

Example: The boy chased the cat who had asthma.

Whoops--Asthmatic kitties are not too common (though there's a recording label by that name). The modifier needs to move closer to the subject, "the boy."

Revised: The boy who had asthma chased the cat.
Alternate: The asthmatic boy chased the cat.

Example: Growling and snapping, Melody was stalked by the werewolf.

Whoops--Is Mel trying to confuse the predator? More likely the writer doesn't realize the subject and object are in the wrong order.

Revised: Growling and snapping, the werewolf stalked Melody.


Example: Walking along the bridge, a ship suddenly appeared.

Whoops--Is The Ship Who Walked related to Anne McCaffrey's The Ship Who Sang? You've got either some really wacky personification or a sentence with an unclear subject. I chose the latter.
This example is what's usually called a "dangling modifier"--the part of speech being described is actually missing. This sentence needs an actor walking and seeing that ship appear. Here are three ways to resolve the issue:

Revised: Walking along the bridge, the captain saw a ship suddenly appear.
Alternate: A ship suddenly appeared while the captain was walking along the bridge.
Alternate 2: As the captain walked along the bridge, a ship suddenly appeared.

Verb modifier misplaced

Example: He kept a black book of all the girls he had dated in his desk.

Whoops--It might get a mite crowded in there among the paperclips! That directional "in his desk" needs to be closer to the verb "kept."

Revised: He kept in his desk a black book of all the girls he'd dated.
Alternate: In his desk, he kept a black book of all the girls he had dated.
Alternate 2 (with a shifting emphasis): There in Jason's desk drawer was his black book--a list of all the girls he'd dated.


Example: Larry told me he was getting married that afternoon at night.

Whoops--When the heck is the wedding?? Oy vey. Please separate the time of the telling from the information told. "That afternoon" modifies "told," describing when Larry gave information.

Revised: That afternoon, Larry told me he was getting married at night.
Alternate: That afternoon, Larry told me about his plans for a nighttime wedding.

Object modifier misplaced

Example: You need someone to carry that load with a strong back.

Whoops--It the load is so strong, why can't it carry itself? The modifier "with a strong back" needs to move closer to the object of the sentence, "someone."

Revised: You need someone with a strong back to carry that load.


Example: I showed my dog to the veterinarian with the fleas.

Whoops--That poor, itchy vet! Sounds like he's been infested. In this case, it's the object "my dog" that needs to be closer to its modifier "with the fleas."

Revised: I showed the veterinarian my dog with the fleas.

Word order problems

Limiting modifiers can change the meaning of a sentence depending on where they are placed. Some words to beware of: only, not only, just, not just, almost, hardly, nearly, even, exactly, merely, scarcely, and simply.

Below are examples of how a sentence's meaning can change when one moves around a limiting modifier.

Subject modified:
Just Evan drank a Coke.
(No others drank Coke, only Evan did.)

Verb modified:
Evan just drank a Coke.
(Others had a big bar brawl while Evan sat there sipping his cola.)

Object modified:
Evan drank just a Coke.
(Others had vodka tonics, but Evan? Just Coke.)

Squinting modifiers are modifying phrases that could modify more than one part of a sentence. Clarity problems arise when you place them near to both possible choices.

Example: She said on Sunday she would call.

Whoops--Did she say it on Sunday? Or is she going to call on Sunday? We don’t know. The phrase “on Sunday” could modify “said” or it could modify “would call.” Revising sentences like this usually requires adding words to make clear who's doing what and when.

Revised: On Sunday, she said she would call me soon.
Alternate: On Sunday, she said, "I'll call you."

To capture the other possible meaning, try these revisions:
Revised: She just said she would call me Sunday night.
Alternate: She said, "I'll call you on Sunday."


Hope that provides the clarity you were seeking.

As a side note, your editor friend was misusing the grammar term "antecedent" to mean "a thing referred to." The term should only be used when discussing pronouns. The correct grammatical term for something being modified is "headword."

*this is a repost from June 2010.

Which of these areas trip you up? Any other helpful pointers for correctly placing modifiers with their headwords?
7:11 AM Laurel Garver
Dear Editor-on-call,*

I got this comment in a critique of mine and I have NO idea what it means. Could you shed some light? I feel so stupid, but I just don't get the terminology: "Misplaced modifiers. I’m seeing this phenomenon all the time with my clients! You do this just a little, but watch your antecedents."

Sincerely,
Mystified about Modifiers

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Dear Mystified,

Your knuckle-rapping English teachers were trying to break you of this problem when they made you diagram sentences. You might have vague memories of identifying sentence parts as subject, verb, object. Each of these sentence parts can have modifiers--words or phrases that tell details about them.

Problems arise when those details are not close enough to the word they describe. The resulting sentences can be confusing at best, and inadvertently hilarious at worst.

Let's look at some examples.

Subject modifier misplaced

Example: The boy chased the cat who had asthma.

Whoops--Asthmatic kitties are not too common (though there's a recording label by that name). The modifier needs to move closer to the subject, "the boy."

Revised: The boy who had asthma chased the cat.
Alternate: The asthmatic boy chased the cat.

Example: Growling and snapping, Melody was stalked by the werewolf.

Whoops--Is Mel trying to confuse the predator? More likely the writer doesn't realize the subject and object are in the wrong order.

Revised: Growling and snapping, the werewolf stalked Melody.


Example: Walking along the bridge, a ship suddenly appeared.

Whoops--Is The Ship Who Walked related to Anne McCaffrey's The Ship Who Sang? You've got either some really wacky personification or a sentence with an unclear subject. I chose the latter.
This example is what's usually called a "dangling modifier"--the part of speech being described is actually missing. This sentence needs an actor walking and seeing that ship appear. Here are three ways to resolve the issue:

Revised: Walking along the bridge, the captain saw a ship suddenly appear.
Alternate: A ship suddenly appeared while the captain was walking along the bridge.
Alternate 2: As the captain walked along the bridge, a ship suddenly appeared.

Verb modifier misplaced

Example: He kept a black book of all the girls he had dated in his desk.

Whoops--It might get a mite crowded in there among the paperclips! That directional "in his desk" needs to be closer to the verb "kept."

Revised: He kept in his desk a black book of all the girls he'd dated.
Alternate: In his desk, he kept a black book of all the girls he had dated.
Alternate 2 (with a shifting emphasis): There in Jason's desk drawer was his black book--a list of all the girls he'd dated.


Example: Larry told me he was getting married that afternoon at night.

Whoops--When the heck is the wedding?? Oy vey. Please separate the time of the telling from the information told. "That afternoon" modifies "told," describing when Larry gave information.

Revised: That afternoon, Larry told me he was getting married at night.
Alternate: That afternoon, Larry told me about his plans for a nighttime wedding.

Object modifier misplaced

Example: You need someone to carry that load with a strong back.

Whoops--It the load is so strong, why can't it carry itself? The modifier "with a strong back" needs to move closer to the object of the sentence, "someone."

Revised: You need someone with a strong back to carry that load.


Example: I showed my dog to the veterinarian with the fleas.

Whoops--That poor, itchy vet! Sounds like he's been infested. In this case, it's the object "my dog" that needs to be closer to its modifier "with the fleas."

Revised: I showed the veterinarian my dog with the fleas.

Word order problems

Limiting modifiers can change the meaning of a sentence depending on where they are placed. Some words to beware of: only, not only, just, not just, almost, hardly, nearly, even, exactly, merely, scarcely, and simply.

Below are examples of how a sentence's meaning can change when one moves around a limiting modifier.

Subject modified:
Just Evan drank a Coke.
(No others drank Coke, only Evan did.)

Verb modified:
Evan just drank a Coke.
(Others had a big bar brawl while Evan sat there sipping his cola.)

Object modified:
Evan drank just a Coke.
(Others had vodka tonics, but Evan? Just Coke.)

Squinting modifiers are modifying phrases that could modify more than one part of a sentence. Clarity problems arise when you place them near to both possible choices.

Example: She said on Sunday she would call.

Whoops--Did she say it on Sunday? Or is she going to call on Sunday? We don’t know. The phrase “on Sunday” could modify “said” or it could modify “would call.” Revising sentences like this usually requires adding words to make clear who's doing what and when.

Revised: On Sunday, she said she would call me soon.
Alternate: On Sunday, she said, "I'll call you."

To capture the other possible meaning, try these revisions:
Revised: She just said she would call me Sunday night.
Alternate: She said, "I'll call you on Sunday."


Hope that provides the clarity you were seeking.

As a side note, your editor friend was misusing the grammar term "antecedent" to mean "a thing referred to." The term should only be used when discussing pronouns. The correct grammatical term for something being modified is "headword."

*this is a repost from June 2010.

Which of these areas trip you up? Any other helpful pointers for correctly placing modifiers with their headwords?

Monday, April 18, 2011

I'll be taking a blogging hiatus for Holy Week, peeps. (And no, I don't care for that particular confection--my faves are coconut-filled dark chocolate eggs and the small white chocolate malted-milk eggs.)

In the meantime, feel free to leave me your ask-the-editor questions. I'll do my best to tackle them upon my return after Easter.

What's your favorite Easter treat?

Any editing questions for me? Grammar, punctuation, style or usage quandaries?
7:11 AM Laurel Garver
I'll be taking a blogging hiatus for Holy Week, peeps. (And no, I don't care for that particular confection--my faves are coconut-filled dark chocolate eggs and the small white chocolate malted-milk eggs.)

In the meantime, feel free to leave me your ask-the-editor questions. I'll do my best to tackle them upon my return after Easter.

What's your favorite Easter treat?

Any editing questions for me? Grammar, punctuation, style or usage quandaries?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Finally, a manufacturer really gets it! REAL heroes for our daughters to emulate!

For today's Friday Fun, I give you the Bronte sisters as you've never seen them before, performing daring deeds that broke through the chauvinist hegemony in the publishing world.



Having trouble viewing this? Click HERE.

Thanks to my awesome teen beta-reader, Connor Grace, for telling me about this video.

It's hard to imagine the world without Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights or The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. The Bronte sisters took the risky move of publishing under male pseudonyms: Ellis (Emily), Currer (Charlotte) and Acton (Anne) Bell. They eventually had to reveal their female identities because of a copyright dispute (US publishers thought the "Bell brothers" were one person). By then, their books were big hits and publishers began to rethink their anti-authoress stance. If you're a girl and you write, you have the Brontes to thank that you have a chance of actually getting your work published.

What's your favorite book by a Bronte? What other literary history heroes need to be remembered with an awesome action figure?
7:14 AM Laurel Garver
Finally, a manufacturer really gets it! REAL heroes for our daughters to emulate!

For today's Friday Fun, I give you the Bronte sisters as you've never seen them before, performing daring deeds that broke through the chauvinist hegemony in the publishing world.



Having trouble viewing this? Click HERE.

Thanks to my awesome teen beta-reader, Connor Grace, for telling me about this video.

It's hard to imagine the world without Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights or The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. The Bronte sisters took the risky move of publishing under male pseudonyms: Ellis (Emily), Currer (Charlotte) and Acton (Anne) Bell. They eventually had to reveal their female identities because of a copyright dispute (US publishers thought the "Bell brothers" were one person). By then, their books were big hits and publishers began to rethink their anti-authoress stance. If you're a girl and you write, you have the Brontes to thank that you have a chance of actually getting your work published.

What's your favorite book by a Bronte? What other literary history heroes need to be remembered with an awesome action figure?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

In her nonfiction book on writing, Escaping into the Open, Elizabeth Berg makes an interesting assertion I'd never seen anywhere else:

While drafting, avoid reading books on the same topic as yours.

(Notice she says topic, not genre. I don't think she'd pooh-pooh knowing your wider genre well.)

Her reasoning? "...no matter how aware or sophisticated or experienced you are, no matter how determined to write your own story, there's a very real danger that you will start to copy. It may be unconscious, but it can happen. And if that happens, it's a shame...because it denies the reading public the pleasure of your originality."

My initial thought was WHAT? If I don't know how others have tackled this, how do I know if my ideas are original? How do I avoid just repeating what has been said before if I'm ignorant of it? How do I not end up leaning on tired clichés?

Berg seems to argue here that clichés crop up because you read others' takes on your topic. Huh. It hadn't occurred to me that this might be an actual danger. Berg would call me naive, I suppose.

I kind of get what she's saying, and agree somewhat. However, my reasoning is different. Knowing how others have treated a topic might constrain me to try too hard to take a new direction in order to seem original. In so doing, I risk creating an inauthentic experience with inauthentic emotion. Some overlap is simply natural, especially when it comes to universal truths.

What do you think? Should you avoid reading books on your story's topic? Why or why not?
9:09 AM Laurel Garver
In her nonfiction book on writing, Escaping into the Open, Elizabeth Berg makes an interesting assertion I'd never seen anywhere else:

While drafting, avoid reading books on the same topic as yours.

(Notice she says topic, not genre. I don't think she'd pooh-pooh knowing your wider genre well.)

Her reasoning? "...no matter how aware or sophisticated or experienced you are, no matter how determined to write your own story, there's a very real danger that you will start to copy. It may be unconscious, but it can happen. And if that happens, it's a shame...because it denies the reading public the pleasure of your originality."

My initial thought was WHAT? If I don't know how others have tackled this, how do I know if my ideas are original? How do I avoid just repeating what has been said before if I'm ignorant of it? How do I not end up leaning on tired clichés?

Berg seems to argue here that clichés crop up because you read others' takes on your topic. Huh. It hadn't occurred to me that this might be an actual danger. Berg would call me naive, I suppose.

I kind of get what she's saying, and agree somewhat. However, my reasoning is different. Knowing how others have treated a topic might constrain me to try too hard to take a new direction in order to seem original. In so doing, I risk creating an inauthentic experience with inauthentic emotion. Some overlap is simply natural, especially when it comes to universal truths.

What do you think? Should you avoid reading books on your story's topic? Why or why not?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

"Write what you know" sometimes spills into our approach to scene writing. We stick to the scene format that feels most comfortable to write, whether that's action, dialogue, description, narrative summary or internal monologue. This, my friends, is not good. Can we say "one trick pony"?

Have you picked up a book with too much dialogue and thought, "Would these people shut up already and DO something?" or read something that's action, action, action and felt completely exhausted within 10 pages? Presenting scene after scene in exactly the same manner can become tiresome to read. It can also hamstring your pacing. Tension that's never released tends to fizzle rather than build.

Self-editing for Fiction Writers addresses this particular problem well. The authors' remedy? Mix it up. Avoid putting the same scene format back-to-back. I'd say perhaps an exception would be when there's a chapter break. Example time. I revised a chapter that opens with a dialogue scene. (And by golly am I entirely too addicted to dialogue scenes.) In it, the MC's grandfather drops a large family secret in her lap. Narrating the event would have sucked away tension, so the dialogue is staying. My problem was the follow-up scene. What I shouldn't have is more dialogue, at least not a scene that's driven by it. But alas, that's what I'd drafted. My fix? Rewrite that scene as narrative summary--not telling it in flashback, but reporting the scene events in story "real time." I also included some action to pick up the pace.

If I wanted to slow the pace, my best option would be an interior monologue section. Slower yet? Interior monologue with flashbacks. Narrative summary doesn't come naturally for me. But craft trumps comfort. The more I banged away at it and read writers who do it well, the more the scenes flowed.

So, my friends, get out the carrot or the whip, but by golly, teach that pony some new tricks.

What scene format do you use most frequently? Which is hardest for you and why? How might revising for scene variety improve your story's texture and pacing?

This is a repost from November 2009.
9:36 AM Laurel Garver
"Write what you know" sometimes spills into our approach to scene writing. We stick to the scene format that feels most comfortable to write, whether that's action, dialogue, description, narrative summary or internal monologue. This, my friends, is not good. Can we say "one trick pony"?

Have you picked up a book with too much dialogue and thought, "Would these people shut up already and DO something?" or read something that's action, action, action and felt completely exhausted within 10 pages? Presenting scene after scene in exactly the same manner can become tiresome to read. It can also hamstring your pacing. Tension that's never released tends to fizzle rather than build.

Self-editing for Fiction Writers addresses this particular problem well. The authors' remedy? Mix it up. Avoid putting the same scene format back-to-back. I'd say perhaps an exception would be when there's a chapter break. Example time. I revised a chapter that opens with a dialogue scene. (And by golly am I entirely too addicted to dialogue scenes.) In it, the MC's grandfather drops a large family secret in her lap. Narrating the event would have sucked away tension, so the dialogue is staying. My problem was the follow-up scene. What I shouldn't have is more dialogue, at least not a scene that's driven by it. But alas, that's what I'd drafted. My fix? Rewrite that scene as narrative summary--not telling it in flashback, but reporting the scene events in story "real time." I also included some action to pick up the pace.

If I wanted to slow the pace, my best option would be an interior monologue section. Slower yet? Interior monologue with flashbacks. Narrative summary doesn't come naturally for me. But craft trumps comfort. The more I banged away at it and read writers who do it well, the more the scenes flowed.

So, my friends, get out the carrot or the whip, but by golly, teach that pony some new tricks.

What scene format do you use most frequently? Which is hardest for you and why? How might revising for scene variety improve your story's texture and pacing?

This is a repost from November 2009.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Not when it's Beaker, the lovable Muppet. I've always been exceptionally impressed by his ability to communicate so much with a one-word vocabulary. We writers could learn a lot from Beaker.

For today's Friday Fun, I give you Beethoven, joy and, well...Beaker blowing things up.




Have a great weekend, friends!

Which are your favorite Muppets? What can you learn from Beaker's communication style?
7:03 AM Laurel Garver
Not when it's Beaker, the lovable Muppet. I've always been exceptionally impressed by his ability to communicate so much with a one-word vocabulary. We writers could learn a lot from Beaker.

For today's Friday Fun, I give you Beethoven, joy and, well...Beaker blowing things up.




Have a great weekend, friends!

Which are your favorite Muppets? What can you learn from Beaker's communication style?

Thursday, April 07, 2011

While washing my hands at work, I realized my left hand looked a little strange. Naked. The spot where my engagement ring and wedding band usually sit was empty. Stranger still, the now-exposed skin was shiny with scar tissue. The finger seemed atrophied below the knuckle, slimmer than its neighbors. Over a decade of ring wearing had left its mark.

I'll return the rings to their rightful spot this afternoon; my dry skin is better today. Seeing that strange indentation and scarring got me thinking. Long habits mark us, and absence can become as palpable as presence.

A powerful way to portray a character might indeed involve showing the traces of what is not there. Virginia Woolf ends Jacob's Room with a pair of empty shoes, a powerful image of loss in wartime. Artist Sophie Calle photographed places in Berlin where the traces of its communist history had been effaced. Her book Detachment: A Berlin Travel Guide catalogs those images, as well as remembrances--real and imagined--from those who pass by the spots where monuments of the GDR (East Germany) once stood.

Where have you seen in books or life the traces of what is not there? Have you used this idea in your own work? Where might this idea deepen one of your characterizations?

This is a repost from December 2009
7:04 AM Laurel Garver
While washing my hands at work, I realized my left hand looked a little strange. Naked. The spot where my engagement ring and wedding band usually sit was empty. Stranger still, the now-exposed skin was shiny with scar tissue. The finger seemed atrophied below the knuckle, slimmer than its neighbors. Over a decade of ring wearing had left its mark.

I'll return the rings to their rightful spot this afternoon; my dry skin is better today. Seeing that strange indentation and scarring got me thinking. Long habits mark us, and absence can become as palpable as presence.

A powerful way to portray a character might indeed involve showing the traces of what is not there. Virginia Woolf ends Jacob's Room with a pair of empty shoes, a powerful image of loss in wartime. Artist Sophie Calle photographed places in Berlin where the traces of its communist history had been effaced. Her book Detachment: A Berlin Travel Guide catalogs those images, as well as remembrances--real and imagined--from those who pass by the spots where monuments of the GDR (East Germany) once stood.

Where have you seen in books or life the traces of what is not there? Have you used this idea in your own work? Where might this idea deepen one of your characterizations?

This is a repost from December 2009

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Today I welcome author Jessica Bell, whose debut novel String Bridge will be released in November, to share her story about creating her book trailer.

In case you haven't yet seen this amazing multimedia presentation, here it is for your viewing pleasure:

Now, onto our Q&A!

Q: How was your publisher, Lucky Press, involved in the creation and release of your book trailer? Was there a permissions and vetting process? What was that like?

JB: Well, originally Lucky Press told me to purchase photos from iStock send them with a text and that they would put it together for me. But when I voiced my vision for the trailer and said that I would do it myself, they said, "go for it," but to send a rough in for approval first. So I sent in my mother's original song (didn't need anything other other than my mother's "yes, use it" for permission), and the changes to the lyrics I was going to make, plus an accumilation of photos I wanted in it (some are from iStock and some are mine from past live performances of mine). The photos from iStock are purchased, so I didn't need any special permissions for those either, as permission comes with the purchase. All good so far.

Then I put together my first draft. I originally had VERY minimal text, and my publisher was concerned that it looked too much like a music video, so I added in more text at the beginning as per their suggestions. I hadn't intended to include moving images until I'd done a few drafts and realized it was missing something. The moving images really brought the trailer to life for me. I cut and pasted sections of my mother's music clip into it (full body shot of woman against white wall, and distorted piano keys), and some sped up shots of people walking in Athens streets. The other videos where purchased at iStock. Again no permission difficulties there.

Q: Your trailer focuses on the atmosphere and emotions of String Bridge, rather than the plot. What was your decision-making process in how you approached choosing the style and content of your trailer?

JB: Well, my book really is ABOUT emotion, so it just felt natural to try and make a trailer like that. I want my book to make readers "feel," so naturally I wanted my trailer to give readers a taste of what they might feel when reading the book. Being a musician, and knowing how much music can invoke emotional responses, I figured, "Hey, let's let the music do the talking." The lyrics of the song pretty much summarize the struggles and questions my protagonist faces throughout the story, too. So again, I didn't want to draw attention away from the vocals. The lyrics needed to be heard.

Q: What technology tools did you use to create the trailer?

JB: The videos I used were already made, so I just used Windows Movie Maker to cut and paste it all together. It was quite easy. Regarding the song, well, that was what was the most work. Hours in the recording studio, singing and then letting the music engineer do his magic! The instuments were recorded with a program called Cubase, in my mother's home studio first. The guitar, bass and piano were recorded manually, and drums and strings electronically. I grabbed the data files, put them on a disc, all raw and dry with no dynamics, gave them to the engineer here in Athens, sung to the guitar track, and then let him produce it until it shined.

Q: What unexpected hitches did you face in creating the trailer? How did you overcome them?

JB: Actually, it all ran really smoothly!

Q: Are there any special considerations other authors should think about before composing and performing their own music? For example, should original soundtracks like yours be copyrighted? How can they achieve the best sound quality on a limited budget?

JB: Well, the song hasn't been copyrighted legally. Yet. But it will be. But I can't reallly talk about that right now. I have a bit of a surprise when the book is released. Let's just say it includes a lot more than one song! ;o) I don't think copyright would really be an issue. Once something is out there, with a date on it, you have a legal right to it no matter what.

Regarding sound quality, if you want to produce a song with the least amount of fuss, time and money, do it at home on your computer with Cubase or some equivalent music program. But if you're doing it at home, you need to realize that you won't have sound-proofed walls like proper studios do, so it would be best to use digital instruments to avoid all sorts of static, pops and background noises creeping into your recording. It's a lot more complicated than just "recording it at home"--you have to learn how to use the program and purchase other equipment, etc., but if you already know what you're doing, go for it!

Thanks so much, Jessia, for sharing your experiences with us!

Jessica Bell is a native of Australia who now lives in Athens, Greece. She writes women's literary fiction and poetry. She makes a living as a freelance fiction editor and a writer/editor of global English language teaching materials. She blogs at The Alliterative Allomorph.

What do you admire about Jessica's trailer? What helpful tips did you learn?
8:00 AM Laurel Garver
Today I welcome author Jessica Bell, whose debut novel String Bridge will be released in November, to share her story about creating her book trailer.

In case you haven't yet seen this amazing multimedia presentation, here it is for your viewing pleasure:

Now, onto our Q&A!

Q: How was your publisher, Lucky Press, involved in the creation and release of your book trailer? Was there a permissions and vetting process? What was that like?

JB: Well, originally Lucky Press told me to purchase photos from iStock send them with a text and that they would put it together for me. But when I voiced my vision for the trailer and said that I would do it myself, they said, "go for it," but to send a rough in for approval first. So I sent in my mother's original song (didn't need anything other other than my mother's "yes, use it" for permission), and the changes to the lyrics I was going to make, plus an accumilation of photos I wanted in it (some are from iStock and some are mine from past live performances of mine). The photos from iStock are purchased, so I didn't need any special permissions for those either, as permission comes with the purchase. All good so far.

Then I put together my first draft. I originally had VERY minimal text, and my publisher was concerned that it looked too much like a music video, so I added in more text at the beginning as per their suggestions. I hadn't intended to include moving images until I'd done a few drafts and realized it was missing something. The moving images really brought the trailer to life for me. I cut and pasted sections of my mother's music clip into it (full body shot of woman against white wall, and distorted piano keys), and some sped up shots of people walking in Athens streets. The other videos where purchased at iStock. Again no permission difficulties there.

Q: Your trailer focuses on the atmosphere and emotions of String Bridge, rather than the plot. What was your decision-making process in how you approached choosing the style and content of your trailer?

JB: Well, my book really is ABOUT emotion, so it just felt natural to try and make a trailer like that. I want my book to make readers "feel," so naturally I wanted my trailer to give readers a taste of what they might feel when reading the book. Being a musician, and knowing how much music can invoke emotional responses, I figured, "Hey, let's let the music do the talking." The lyrics of the song pretty much summarize the struggles and questions my protagonist faces throughout the story, too. So again, I didn't want to draw attention away from the vocals. The lyrics needed to be heard.

Q: What technology tools did you use to create the trailer?

JB: The videos I used were already made, so I just used Windows Movie Maker to cut and paste it all together. It was quite easy. Regarding the song, well, that was what was the most work. Hours in the recording studio, singing and then letting the music engineer do his magic! The instuments were recorded with a program called Cubase, in my mother's home studio first. The guitar, bass and piano were recorded manually, and drums and strings electronically. I grabbed the data files, put them on a disc, all raw and dry with no dynamics, gave them to the engineer here in Athens, sung to the guitar track, and then let him produce it until it shined.

Q: What unexpected hitches did you face in creating the trailer? How did you overcome them?

JB: Actually, it all ran really smoothly!

Q: Are there any special considerations other authors should think about before composing and performing their own music? For example, should original soundtracks like yours be copyrighted? How can they achieve the best sound quality on a limited budget?

JB: Well, the song hasn't been copyrighted legally. Yet. But it will be. But I can't reallly talk about that right now. I have a bit of a surprise when the book is released. Let's just say it includes a lot more than one song! ;o) I don't think copyright would really be an issue. Once something is out there, with a date on it, you have a legal right to it no matter what.

Regarding sound quality, if you want to produce a song with the least amount of fuss, time and money, do it at home on your computer with Cubase or some equivalent music program. But if you're doing it at home, you need to realize that you won't have sound-proofed walls like proper studios do, so it would be best to use digital instruments to avoid all sorts of static, pops and background noises creeping into your recording. It's a lot more complicated than just "recording it at home"--you have to learn how to use the program and purchase other equipment, etc., but if you already know what you're doing, go for it!

Thanks so much, Jessia, for sharing your experiences with us!

Jessica Bell is a native of Australia who now lives in Athens, Greece. She writes women's literary fiction and poetry. She makes a living as a freelance fiction editor and a writer/editor of global English language teaching materials. She blogs at The Alliterative Allomorph.

What do you admire about Jessica's trailer? What helpful tips did you learn?

Saturday, April 02, 2011


Thanks to Vicki Rocho at Rambles & Randomness for hosting today's blogfest! Vicki asked participants to answer the following questions.

When did you start your blog?
July 12, 2009.

What is first denomination (price) of postage stamp you remember?
13 cents. The image was something bicentennial related.

How old were you when you learned to ride a bike?
I was six. Bike riding was much easier to learn than shoe trying.

What was the first concert you attended without parental supervision?
My junior year of high school, I went to an all-city youth event featuring a bunch of CCM rock bands who performed covers of Petra and Stryper songs. I also attended plenty of school concerts without my parents. They were in their late 50s by my teen years (in other words, tired) and gave me a fair amount of freedom.

How old were you when you got your first kiss?
I was a month shy of 14, about to start ninth grade. On a youth group trip to Florida, I met a nice guy from the church that hosted us, a dark-haired, freckled, Irish-looking kid with the sweetest Southern drawl. Our two youth groups had a swim party together at a local pool and I'd spent most of that particular evening on his shoulders. We were an almost unstoppable "chicken fight" team. He decided to celebrate our victory by laying one on me during the walk back to church afterwards. I've had a nostalgic fondness for the taste of chlorine since then. ;-)

What is your earliest memory?
I remember climbing out of my crib and wandering around the house late at night searching from my rubber duckie. For some reason I was sure it would protect me from the bad thing I had dreamed about. I was at most 3 years old, because we moved from that house just before I turned four.

How should I celebrate my second blogiversary this summer? Any ideas?
8:41 AM Laurel Garver

Thanks to Vicki Rocho at Rambles & Randomness for hosting today's blogfest! Vicki asked participants to answer the following questions.

When did you start your blog?
July 12, 2009.

What is first denomination (price) of postage stamp you remember?
13 cents. The image was something bicentennial related.

How old were you when you learned to ride a bike?
I was six. Bike riding was much easier to learn than shoe trying.

What was the first concert you attended without parental supervision?
My junior year of high school, I went to an all-city youth event featuring a bunch of CCM rock bands who performed covers of Petra and Stryper songs. I also attended plenty of school concerts without my parents. They were in their late 50s by my teen years (in other words, tired) and gave me a fair amount of freedom.

How old were you when you got your first kiss?
I was a month shy of 14, about to start ninth grade. On a youth group trip to Florida, I met a nice guy from the church that hosted us, a dark-haired, freckled, Irish-looking kid with the sweetest Southern drawl. Our two youth groups had a swim party together at a local pool and I'd spent most of that particular evening on his shoulders. We were an almost unstoppable "chicken fight" team. He decided to celebrate our victory by laying one on me during the walk back to church afterwards. I've had a nostalgic fondness for the taste of chlorine since then. ;-)

What is your earliest memory?
I remember climbing out of my crib and wandering around the house late at night searching from my rubber duckie. For some reason I was sure it would protect me from the bad thing I had dreamed about. I was at most 3 years old, because we moved from that house just before I turned four.

How should I celebrate my second blogiversary this summer? Any ideas?

Friday, April 01, 2011

Good news! Google is coming out with an interactive version of Gmail that will help us all combat writer's butt--at least when we're catching up with correspondence. Check it out!



Awesome, right? I especially love the motion to send a message. It's so...inexplicably stylish.

If you think this is serious, check the date. :-)


Any good pranks planned today? What's your best memory of an April 1 trick?
8:01 AM Laurel Garver
Good news! Google is coming out with an interactive version of Gmail that will help us all combat writer's butt--at least when we're catching up with correspondence. Check it out!



Awesome, right? I especially love the motion to send a message. It's so...inexplicably stylish.

If you think this is serious, check the date. :-)


Any good pranks planned today? What's your best memory of an April 1 trick?