Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Celebrating Survival: Breast Cancer Awareness

As some of you may know, October is breast cancer awareness month. Why, one might ask, did I wait until nearly the end of the month to post on this subject? I chose the third week of the month to celebrate breast cancer survival. A kind of "I made it to the end" theme.

Please take the time to learn a little about breast cancer and how we can all work together in hopes of someday alleviating this nuisance from our world. One can get started at this breast cancer awareness website.

We must all remember that breast cancer can affect anyone. Even if you do not get breast cancer yourself, you could be effected by a friend or family member with breast cancer. I'm sure that many of you, at least, know someone that has or has had breast cancer.

My Grandmother lost her battle with breast cancer, among other things, a few years ago. My mother-in-law is a breast cancer survivor.

Many folks you might have heard of have had breast cancer, including those listed below:

Kylie Minogue
Melissa Etheridge
Sheryl Crow
Olivia Newton-John
Nancy Reagan
Sandra Day O'Connor
Julia Child
And many others.

And women are not the only ones that can get breast cancer. Richard Roundtree suffered from breast cancer. Richard Roundtree, for those of you that might know him, played Shaft way back in the seventies.

So there it is. My tribute to breast cancer awareness month. I wanted to make sure I squeezed this in before all the Halloween festivities began and we got bogged down in elections, Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and the slew of other holidays bunched into the end of the year.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Shameless Self Promotion

I just received word that the audio addition of a story I had published with Eclectic Flash literary Journal was posted today!
The audio story posted is speculative flash fiction titled "The Sentient Soldier." It was narrated and produced by me. Click here for the audio story in mp3 format.

The story may take a few seconds or so to buffer as the mp3 is five minutes long.

Murdering Hiccup Girl

I just read this morning that the girl in Florida once famous for her uncontrollable hiccuping has been charged with first degree murder.

This poor soul originally appeared on the RADAR a few years back about the girl who could not stop hiccuping (click for link to original story.)

How does incessant hiccuping lead to murder? Well, after reading the related stories, one can understand that her issue is systemic to our entire society.

Thinking about it from a psychological aspect, the story becomes clear. Her hiccups were so bad that could not attend school regularly, this led to a poor education and limited employment prospects. Her desire for a means of financial security led to an association with unsavory characters, who misguided her into a life of crime. In desperation, she became involved in a robbery gone wrong.

Of course what is really typical of our society today that, instead of just being honest and saying "she messed up and must now pay the price" we look for some societal reason as to why people do these things. In other words, we end up blaming ourselves for failures of individuals.

Isn't it time we, as a society, allow for individual responsibility? If we continue to make excuses for individuals and allow them to push their failures onto the greater society, we will surely fall prey to a nation without individualism, bound by the shackles of dependence and perceived entitlement.

Link to the current story by clicking here.

Sometimes I just need a good rant.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Introductory Poem

As many of you know from my previous posts, I've completed a project (well, the draft anyway) and am now editing and shopping for beta readers. The reasoning behind all the insecurity? This is a project far-removed from what I normally write.

I will, as editing progresses, post excerpts of this work here before moving them to a permanent page in the tabs above.

Meantime, a friend and fellow member of a local writer's group wrote a poem that I just love. I would like to convince her to allow me to use this poem at the beginning of my story if published because it rapidly drills into the very consciousness of my main character.

The poem was written by Jennie Fiumefreddo and is posted here (as written) with her permission. Remember that name folks, as you'll likely be seeing it on store bookshelves someday.


Jennie Fiumefreddo

You don't even scream as I begin,

Bondage lies in the shackles of sin.

The smell of my skin makes your nostrils flare,

The pounding of lust blocks the danger there.

In a frenzy hands and mouth they defile,

You are losing control and that makes me smile.

As I straddle the heat your eyes open wide,

Its too late to stop the beast that's inside.

Draw your last breath; spill forth your seed.

Regret is tethered to the strength of need.

The seduction is brief but the ending the same,

You cease to exist so that I can remain.

Jennie says this poem came to her on a whim after I read an excerpt from my current work at a meeting of our local writers group, The Last Word. By the way, this is a writer that normally enjoys writing children's stories and poems. Wow, I didn't know you had it in you. I only hope that we can remain friends after you read my incredibly, embarassingly erotic (or is it simply pornographic?) manuscript.

Thank you, Jennie, for allowing me to post this.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Take Me to the River

... Dip me in the water.

A great song that many enjoyed through the stylings of The Talking Heads as recorded by them in 1979. But did you know that this song was recorded in 1976 by the band Foghat? Better still, did you know that it was originally written and recorded by Al Green in 1974? Al Green. Now there was a great Artist.

I have a tendency to just dive into certain things, full force. Call it adult ADD or whatever, but I still suffer from stagnation and overplanning/overplotting when it comes to new stories. I suppose I should plow ahead in writing as I do in other areas-that's the way I've always been.

Case in point.

I remember when I was young, my family enjoyed camping trips. OK, my father enjoyed camping trips and, since I wanted to be the next grizzly Adams, I enjoyed them too. I'm not sure anyone else in the family liked anything about camping except maybe sitting around a campfire listening for Uncle Bob's laugh (although I think he was a second Uncle.) His laugh always made others laugh, but I don't think we were laughing with him so much, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, it was on one of these ventures that I learned a valuable lesson - I needed to learn how to swim. We'd arrived at a great spot along the Skokomish river and all the kids - myself included -  were in as we stumbled across the large rocks to get to the river's edge. I'm certain now, that at least on of our parents told us not to venture into the river beyond ankle-depth. Well, I was somewhere between the ages of eight and ten so, of course I was not a very good listener. If one can even imagine the possibility, I was a worse listener than I am now.

Well, it did not take me long to venture just ever-so-slightly more than ankle depth - and down the river I went. I heard frantic screams as I bobbed down the river, carried by swift currents. I think that the screams were coming from my parents but I'm pretty sure that most of them came from me. I did not know how to swim very well, or at all if I remember correctly, and so I just fought against the raging currents the only way I could, by flailing and screaming.

Somewhere along my path I gain some superhuman sense about me, and managed to grab onto a small log that was affixed somewhere along the bottom of the river. I think I might have actually grown claws. I do remember a brief argument on the shore before my Father reluctantly made his way out into the river to retrieve me. I spent the rest of the weekend as the laughing stock of our entire clan although that was nothing new for me.

I did learn how to swim that year and, to this day, love the water. Of course I'm living in the south where we call the water cold if the temperature drops below sixty. Washington State rivers are normally fed by snow runoff and stays at a balmy thirty-four degrees all the way to the ocean.

Ooh, I just scanned a picture so that ya'll will have proof of my water confidence. Got a picture of me with my Grandson after a half-hour of paddleboating at the zoo. I peddled and he steered the boat, which meant that we spent an entire half-hour going around in circles ... But he had a great time!

Like Dora, the explorer says: "Lifejackets ... So we can be safe!"

We should all be so lucky as to be able to just dive right in without forethought with writing.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Flawless Rescue

I was going to post a personal story today of a time in my childhood when I did not listen to my parents and nearly drown in a river. Instead, I was moved by the news to post a short piece on the rescue of the thirty-three miners in Chile.

A rescue that was originally supposed to happen by Christmas at the latest, and with little hope that all would survive, ended in great triumph and emotion.

I must take time to applaud the Chilean President and his wife for sticking it out to the end and supporting each and every one of the miners as they emerged from the rescue shuttle. The President's wife shed honest tears of joy for every arrival right up to the last. This serves as a testament to the true good will in a position normally fraught with political maneuvering and positioning. All that seemed to be put aside while the entire Chilean country and government stood behind and pushed forward the rescue effort.

I know that I normally post about writing and satire, but I thought this event warranted a change of venue just this once.

I think that our own United States government could learn from the example set by this seemingly third-world country in how to conduct one's self both politically and personally. Maybe it is time that our own current administration take the opportunity to provide some of that transparency and bridge-building promised during the election campaign.

Monday, October 11, 2010

He Sailed the Ocean Blue

On this day we celebrate the great discovery of Christopher Columbus - America. So, of course, I feel I must post some obscure facts about the man, his family, and his discovery.

First off, I know that by all the school books you've ever read, you were led to believe that Columbus' journey was a well planned venture of discovery by the British empire to find a new world. In reality, that didn't happen until later.

You see, Christopher Columbus was actually charged with finding a sea route to India. He thought it would be quicker to use the an ocean route, therefore, hastening Spain's entry into the lucrative business of spice trading. Only thing is, when he finally gained approval (and funding) from his country's leadership, he launched quickly in fear they would change their minds.

He landed in the New World months later and immediately set sail back home to tell his country he had found passage to India. I'm sure that most of you know this fact.

I write this not to discredit the great achievements of this person but to express how every story can make for a great novel or movie.

The association that most school students are given is that Christopher Columbus was somehow tied exclusively to the Mayflower and the first settlers of America. In fact, Christopher Columbus' fleet consisted of the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria. The Mayflower came later, after Europe discovered that Columbus did not find a new route to India but a new land. Of course in the true spirit of the British Empire, they did not send their great explorers to the new world. They sent their religious zealots, criminals, and endentured servants, just like Australia.

But I digress, let me get back to Chris. I can only imagine the agony he must have felt when he realized his gross navigational error (he greatly underestimated the distance to India) but his elation when he found that, purely by mistake, he'd discovered a new land - well, kinda.

Actually America was first discovered, and settled, by Leif Erikson, a Nordic Explorer, nearly 500 years before the landing of Columbus. The difference is that, in the case of the latter discovery, the British Empire took advantage of the information economically and strategically. If Spain would have been just a little quicker on the uptake, we would all be speaking spanish today.

I guess the main point of this rant is that history can be fun. And, if one digs deep enough, true historical events can provide excellent fodder for story creation and story telling. Oh, and by the way, did you know that Columbus' wife, Filipa, died in 1485 from "Consumption?" Think about the fictionalized story implications of that.

Happy Columbus Day!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Moving in Shadows

I've seen much talk on the blogs lately of how one goes about writing a story. Some folks call themselves "Pantsters" because they start with a character or premise and just start writing. The concept here is that the character and situation will take on a life of their own and tell the story.

On the other side are the "Plotters" or "Liners." These folks create their characters and then outline the story they want to tell in as much detail as possible. Almost in polar opposite to a pantster, the plotter knows, right from the beginning, what will happen in the story and what the outcome will be.

I suppose that I fall somewhere in between these two extremes. I like to bounce an idea around in my head for quite some time before putting anything down on paper or screen. I then make a list, by character, expressing what major events will take place, what growth my characters will experience and whether their actions are part of the main plot or a subplot.

Of course, much of my thoughts change once I actually start putting in the scenes. What I end up with in the end is sometimes nowhere near what I started with. But usually, the main plot remains intact.

Why do I choose to work this way? One word, foreshadowing. I like foreshadowing so much that I will often go back and write in sentences, paragraphs, or even whole scenes in order to drop some subtle hint of things to come.  Let me tell a little story by way of example.

Earlier this year a single friend of mine decided to try the online dating thing. He had recently moved from Georgia, where he was a police officer. He met someone and, after some mild online flirting, made a date. Now, before I go any further, I must remind you all that I live in Southeast Alabama. Nuff said 'bout that.

After a forty minute drive that seemed to take him beyond the realm of civilization, Mike arrived at the address. A single-wide trailer sat squat against a backdrop of tall thin pines. The long rutty dirt driveway and unkept lawn brought memories of the movie "deliverance" to the fore as his car bounced and scraped toward the the decrepit trailer.

Ellen met him at the front door and brought him into the kitchen to meet the family.

"This here's Joe John. He's my Uncle," Ellen said.

Joe John stood at the counter, a case of Corona beer and a small bag of limes crowding the sides of a small wooden cutting board.

"Hello, I'm Mike." Mike extended his hand.

Joe John made no effort to shake his hand. He simply grunted some undeciferable greeting before grabbing a knife and slicing the limes into thin wedges. He then opened each bottle in the entire case, pushing a lime wedge into the opening, and putting the open bottle into an otherwise empty refrigerator.

Mike was already starting to regret the date. But then he met Darlene, Ellen's niece.

"Hey, I'm Darlene," she said as her mouth widened into a broad smile exposing red mottled gums, and no more than three teeth.

Mike had a sudden sense of deja-vu at Darlene's smile.

Ellen had prepared dinner for them and told Mike that they would eat "Homestyle" outside on paper plates. Mike filled his thin paper plate with a slice of ham, overcooked collard greens, and soggy field peas. By the time he made it outside, the paper plate was soaked through to his hand and rendered useless.

They sat at a rickety picnic table. There was little talking but plenty of noise. Mike winced as Joe John and Darlene gummed their food, making sloppy smacking noises. He could not help but notice that Ellen's teeth did not seem to move in concert with the rest of her mouth. Dentures. He suddenly realized he was in the middle of nowhere eating sloppy overcooked food with a family that did not have a complete set of teeth between them.

After dinner, they all stood around a barren firepit. Ellen and Mike made small-talk while Joe John drank his beer without offering any, and Darlene stared at Mike through the increasing darkness. Darkness brought a cool breeze so they decided a bonfire was needed for ambience. There was no wood for a fire so Joe John went to work chopping up an old dresser and pouring gasoline on it. When he threw a half-smoked cigarette into the pile, they had an instant bonfire.

Standing around the fire, light and shadows contorting their faces into odd grimacing shapes, Darlene finally said to Mike, "Haven't I seen you before? You look familiar."

A sudden realization raced through his mind. The previous recognition he'd felt surfaced again and he knew that he had, in fact, seen her before.

"No," he responded. "I'm not from around here."

"Me either," She said. "I'm from Multry County, Georgia. I spent ten years there while serving a sentence for drug possession and distribution."

Mike decided to make a quick exit before her slow memory revealed that he was her arresting officer.
Ok, I just made this story up so I can only hope that it will help explain what I mean by foreshadowing. I inserted statements into this story at the beginning that I hoped would give the reader a sense of future foreboding. I think this kind of foreshadowing elevates the level of tension and prompts the reader to keep going in hopes of answering some question.

Specifically, what I am talking about here is the very first statement by Darlene that she thought she knew Mike from somewhere. One can write a scene or story by the seat of their pants and possibly miss the opportunity to add to the tension with this foreshadowing. By having an idea of your outcome right up front one can write this foreshadowing in.

On the other hand, one could always go back and add this in later, if the thought comes to the writer after the fact. I personally believe that one's level of understanding of their story and its direction determines whether they should write as a Pantster or a Plotter.

So, tell me readers, what is your opinion? How do you like to write? Are you a Pantster or a Plotter? And, how do you add foreshadowing while writing your stories.