Day 1: Open Your Eyes

Monday, October 31, 2011


DAY 1 of NaNo is here!!

WAAAAAKKKKKEEEE UUUUUUUPPPPPPPPPP!!!!!!!

:D

Open your eyes.  Get outta bed.  Go turn on that computer.  Get coffee.  Get breakfast!  Let's get this party started!

And we need some MUSIC to get that party started: so ~WSMG~ brings you the NaNoWriMo Video Songfest! 

First up, this great tune from Snow Patrol.  I chose this video--not only because it's an awesome tour of the early morning streets of Paris and it's an awesome song--because it's the best video representation of writing a novel I could uncover--with all the twists and turns and the switchbacks that come from tackling a project of this magnitude. 

The trick to finishing NaNo strong, right?  Always remember that there's a prize at the end: the chance to look yourself in the mirror and say with great pride that YOU DID IT! (Which means you have to watch the video all the way to the end to understand--and no cheating by skipping ahead!).  :D  Enjoy!

OK.  Done watching?  Then what the heck are you still doing here?

Go kick some wordcount booty!!!   :D

Video Songfest Kickoff: Unearthed

HEY GANG!

First: Happy Halloween!  You know what I'm going as this year?  A fiction writer.   :D  What about you?

So tomorrow's the big day, eh?!  NaNo 2011.  I'm brimming with excitement!  Are you?

Got your game face on?  Do you know where it is at least?  I do.  :D  I am all atwitter with excitement and ready to get writing on this bad boy.

And if you're not doing NaNo, find a fellow writer and lend them a little support.  You know they'd do the same for you!  ;)

But enough of my chatter.  You have until November 30th to get in on the Video Songfest fun.  Go here for the detailsClick here or on my sidebar to find the Master Playlist.  (This is the only video so far, but it'll start filling up over the next few days.  Feel free to bookmark it if you like!).

The below totally awesome video--which many of you might know as the Cold Case TV-show theme--was actually off  E.S. Posthumus' first album, entitled Unearthed.  Incidentally, all the songs on the album are named after ancient cities that were late discovered in the modern era--thus the title.  Just the way you'll be excavating the action in your MS, eh?!

This amazing tune, paired here with stunning Planet Earth footage, is the perfect cocktail to get us all in the mood for awesomely epic world-building, off-the-hook character development and total bada$$ery.

***The world is a blank canvas, just waiting for our paintbrushes.  Now, let's go get 'em! ***

LET THE GAMES BEGIN!!!  :D

Casting Call Character Bloghop: FIRST PERSON SHOOTER

Friday, October 28, 2011


Hiya folks!

This is my post for the Casting Call Character Bloghop!  The point of this bloghop is to share images and other media about the characters and settings in my NaNo project.

As you may have gathered, my story for NaNo this year is one I've been thinking about for several years now, since my return from a year in Baghdad in February 2010, but this is the first time I have collected images to try to solidify the pictures I've been carrying around in my head all this time.

To orient you to my story, I offer my logline:

When a shy and diffident U.S. Army soldier fighting in Iraq guns down a local shopkeeper and suffers a loss of confidence, a fellow soldier with the innate ability to pacify the aggression of others aids him as he strives to defy his intolerant squad leader, bring the fight to the enemy, and restore his own sense of self worth.

Next, a few shots to give a sense of the setting.


The story takes place in a fictional district of Baghdad in 2005, when the fighting against the insurgents was at its worst.


We've seen a hundred and one war movies--many recent ones about the Iraq war in fact--so the challenge as a fiction writer will be making my descriptions as vivid as the explosive realism of current films, while also capitalizing on the advantages of fiction: better visibility of characters' internal conflicts.


Now let's talk characters.  My MC is PFC Jared Christianson.


Caucasian, Scandinavian descent. 24. Blonde hair, blue eyes. Built like a marathoner.

He's a bookworm, and very intelligent. His heart is in the right place, and he tries to do the right thing when the circumstances call for it. He doesn't always succeed. Considered a nerd and minor player by the rest of the squad.

The 'fellow soldier' of my logline, the one with 'the innate ability to pacify the aggression of others', is named PFC Michael Sedo.


PFC Sedo is from Utah. Caucasian, vaguely Nordic. 26. Almost like an albino in appearance, with piercing gray eyes. Narrow waist, broad shoulders, trim but muscular.  He's very quiet--almost never speaks, except to those he trusts--but supremely calm and confident. He remains so unruffled in difficult situations that it's downright scary.  His influence over the people around him is a major catalyst to the action of the story.

Finally, we have the antagonist, Staff Sergeant Richard 'Gut Punch' Brody.


He's an Army careerist who's been around the block a few times. His outlook, which once was "We have a hard job to do. Ain't no use in bitching about it." has morphed over the years into "You're either with me or against me." He believes sincerely that dissent within the ranks endangers the unit's ability to execute the mission.

He demands unconditional loyalty and respect, and cuts anyone who does not give it to him down to size.  He rules the squad with an iron fist.

So I'm pretty excited about this story, so excited that I spent some time putting some cover/splash art together.  I thought I'd share it with you:


Did that in MS Powerpoint, yes I did.  All those hours doing slides at work isn't a complete waste after all!  :D  And that tag line is MINE!  Came up with it myself.  You take your hands off!  ;)

So that's my line up.  I have plans to spend the weekend tuning up my treatment/outline and will be an 'up round'--ready to charge to 50k+ words--on Tuesday Morning.

How go preps for NaNo?  Are you ready to go?  

For the non-NaNoers among you, do you select pictures for your WIP characters? What else do you do to get your characters clear in your mind?

Have a totally groovy weekend, and thanks for stopping by!

I'm A Lumberjack (Part Two)

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Hey Guys!

This is Part Two of a two post series.  Here's Part One.  Tuesday we spent a little time discussing loglines: what they are, the requisite elements, and we looked at a few templates.  Today we're going to apply that knowledge.

An obvious question we didn't talk about the other day is why worry about constructing a logline?  Why is it important to me as a fiction writer?

Understanding Your Story

Here's my argument: drafting a solid logline will mean you have a solid understanding of your story.  If you haven't written your story yet, then the logline provides the destination.  If you're story is already written, then doing a logline after the fact can help you identify the story's weaknesses.

Let me give you an example from my own experience.  My project last year for NaNo was a MS entitled Daisy.  When I started out writing the first draft, everything was copacetic.  I felt I had a clear sense of the story and where it needed to go.  But about 30,000 words in, something weird happened: Of the two primary characters, I was suddenly unsure which of their stories I was telling.

Now I did put together a synopsis last year (similar to a logline, but 1-3 sentences), and so I thought I had things nailed down, but when I went back to look at it, it became clear that there was a problem.  You guessed it: my logline didn't clearly outline who's story I was telling.  I never really had it clear in my head which character was leading and which was support.

The thing is that writing your story in one sentence forces you to make hard choices.  It forces you to define the overall dramatic action of your 100,000 word WIP in one or two verbs (struggled, strives, overcomes), which becomes mighty useful when you get half-way in and lose your way.

Advanced Tips

External vs. Internal:  In the best stories, the MC has both an internal and an external conflict.  In Star Wars, Luke struggles with the Force, and is also chased by the Empire.  In The Hunger Games, Katniss must fight to stay alive within the game, but she also struggles in her relationship with Peeta.  If the best stories contain both an external and an internal conflict, then the best loglines do too.

Offensive vs. Defensive: Avoid loglines where the MC is essentially on the defense, because this makes for a weaker hero, and may mean the stakes of your story are unclear.  Stories where the MC initiates the action are more dramatic--because a choice means the MC is chasing a goal.  So looking back at my Daisy story, this was another problem.  Even though Kodi's choice to 'kidnap' his daughter and flee looked like a strong choice, the reality is that once they got away, it became unclear to me what they still hoped to attain?  You can't run away from cancer, after all.

Goal vs. Opponent: Well-written loglines (and well-written stories) pit the MC's goal and the opponent against each other (which results in the battle).  In other words, stories where the opponent doesn't stand in the way of the MC's ability to reach his goal aren't very dramatic.  Even though a goal isn't one of the key elements I originally listed, it's inherent in the idea of the life-changing event, which forces the MC to accomplish an objective to either take advantage of new circumstances because of the life-changing event, or put his life back the way it was. 

Putting These Techniques To Work

So I thought I'd quickly walk through the basics of how I came up with my final logline for NaNo this year so you could see blow-by-blow how to apply these techniques.  Here's the original logline I came up with, based off the template.

When a meek and alienated (flaw) young soldier (hero) fighting in Iraq befriends a soldier new to the unit who possesses the power to calm those around him (life-changing event/ally), he finds the courage (battle) to defy the domineering soldiers in his outfit (opponent) and lead the battle against the enemy to prove his sense of bravery.

I don't think this is a bad first try, but note that the verbs are weak (befriends, possesses, finds), as is the conceptual link between the life-changing event and the overall arc of the story.  In other words, how does the befriending of the new soldier give the MC a problem to solve?

Also note that the MC's flaw is not in opposition to the main arc of the story, since being alienated really doesn't keep him from being brave in the end (which, by the way is his goal).  On the  positive side, I did manage to allude to an internal and an external conflict.

Here's try two:

After a meek and disaffected (flaw) U.S. Army soldier (hero) fighting in Iraq guns down a local man under questionable circumstances (life-changing event) and befriends a soldier new to the unit with the secret ability to pacify the aggression of those around him (ally), he finds the courage to defy (battle) the intolerant, narrow-minded soldiers in his outfit (opponent), lead the fight against the enemy and restore his own sense of self worth.

This is an improvement, IMHO.  By separating the life-changing event and the ally, the story begins to come into focus.  Also, his flaw is now sorta opposite of what he's after in the long run, right?  A meek guy trying to go up against his squadmates makes for good conflict, at least on paper.  Still, this one is a little wordy for me, and I felt the connection between the two soldiers was too tenuous.  Plus, battling a group is less specific than facing one antagonist.  Based on those notes, here's try three:

When a shy and diffident U.S. Army soldier fighting in Iraq guns down a local shopkeeper and suffers a loss of confidence, a fellow soldier with the innate ability to pacify the aggression of others aids him as he strives to defy his intolerant squad leader, bring the fight to the enemy, and restore his own sense of self worth.

This is the one I'm happy with.  With the MC being shy and suffering a loss of confidence, he has a real problem to solve if he wants to "restore his own sense of self worth."  What's more, it's clear that he must overcome the obstacle presented by his squad leader--with the assistance of the fellow soldier with the strange powers--if he wants to achieve his end goal.  Note also that both the internal and external conflicts are clearly defined and conceptually linked--since he must overcome his own flaws to succeed in the external battle and triumph (hopefully) in the end.

So, that's it in a nutshell!  A logline is a powerful tool for helping you zone in on what's important in your story and give you the direction required to stay on the character arc until you type "THE END".  It's something I've added to my writer's toolbox and I hope this post series has helped you find a use for it also.

BUT, with a title like "I'm A Lumberjack", you didn't think I'd let you get away without some Monty Python (I'm a huge Python fan, BTW).  Watch at your own risk!

Have you played around with loglines before?  Any tips to share?  

*****

Check back tomorrow for my Casting Call Character Bloghop post!  Have a groovy day!

The Leopard's Spots: Rule of Three Blogfest Finale!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Before we get started today, some shameless self-promotion!  If you haven't yet, please consider stopping by and checking out the NaNoWriMoVideo Songfest, hosted by yours truly throughout the month of November.  You don't have to be doing NaNo this year to participate!  So swing by and see what you think!  :D

*****

We can't always what we want.  What I wanted for this blogfest was a great finale post under 600 words--but I didn't get it!  :D

What I did get--on this post and the others--was an enlightening experience trying my hand at a shorter story.  There are various definitions out there about what length story is considered flash fiction, and I'd say a 2,000 word story is right on the outer reaches of that category.  But 2k words is much shorter than just about any of my other projects.

So for me, this was a departure from my writing norm, an excuse to stretch myself and see what I was capable of.  During this blogfest, the challenge of cutting the fat, paring things down to a pure distillate, of still conveying the point without the luxury of endless blank pages taught me volumes.  Even though I vastly exceeded the wordcount for this installment (~1200 words), which likely puts me out of consideration--if I was ever a serious contender--for any prizes, this Blogfest has been a true blast and helped me continue to grow as a writer. 

And I'll say it again: if you haven't made it around to see what the other participating writers have cooking, you are truly missing out.  (I have some getting around to do myself!  :D)  Some great work has been done by great writers, and I'm happy and honored to be a part of this effort.
 
So I want to take a moment and give massive unadulterated thanks to the #REN3 Blogfest sponsors: Damyanti, JC, Lisa and Stuart for setting up this totally fun event and keeping it going throughout the month.   It was truly a blast!

*****

The Leopard's Spots
by Jon Paul
(c) 2011

Wordcount: mumble mumble :D
Prompt: Relationships are torn asunder.
Link to Part One (Magnus McGrool, 596 words)
Link to Part Two (Theodora Ravelstein, 597 words)
Link to Part Three (Calvin Rumpus, 600 words)

Part Four:

     CALVIN ARRIVED EARLY. On his desk he found a 5x7 photo of himself, distant and serious on the rock at the Heriot Pass trailhead, the words "Stay cool!" inscribed on the back in Theodora's expressive hand. He was still grinning when Magnus arrived ten minutes later.


*****


     The next hour passed in a blur. Readying the Conference Room. Copying and organizing various forms. Magnus grimacing and cussing. Briefing security personnel who would be posted nearby, in case of trouble.  Calvin tried to stay focused, but a strange anxiousness made him feel out of place in his own skin.
     "You're running the show," Magnus had told him. "Time to step up and show what you're made of."
    Calvin took the news in stride, nodding in what he imagined to be a professional way. Magnus even hinted that a good performance over the next several days might earn him a shot at becoming HR Director permanently. Calvin watched his boss carefully. Did Magnus really think he had it in him? If so, then the vote of confidence felt like a real affirmation, and a wave of pride surged through him.
     At 9:00 a.m. Gladdis ushered in the first employee: an older man wearing a wrinkled avocado-colored suit. The three of them--Calvin, Magnus and some flunky from Legal--sat behind a long mahogany table.
     Calvin cleared his throat and gestured for the man to take his seat. In a quiet voice, he began to explain that the man's services were no longer required at Barchadelli Marketing, Inc. The surprise in the old man's eyes turned first to dismay, then decayed gradually to a bitter, tight-lipped bemusement. Calvin continued on, ignoring the ticks gnawing the insides of his stomach. This is just business, he reminded himself. Magnus looked on as well, his face a mask of blank acquiescence.
     One by one, two more employees were brought in. A woman whose left eye twitched when she was nervous. A long-limbed man with acne. Calvin went through the motions, explained their rights, conveyed the company's regret.
     Throughout it all Magnus looked on, as cold and emotionless as a machine. How does he do it? Calvin wondered. He never betrays his emotions. Calvin had to admit it: despite Magnus' bad reputation, he had earned Calvin's respect in the time they'd worked together for just this kind of detached professionalism.
     Feeling a flutter of edginess as the man with acne was shown from the room, Calvin girded himself and tried to follow Magnus' example. Being professional is a skill, Calvin reminded himself. One I can master.
     The next employee entered the room. Calvin was scribbling on a legal pad when Magnus nudged him gently and knocked him from his reverie.
     In the interview chair, Theodora sat eyeing him in profound disbelief. His mouth fell open. When he looked toward Magnus, he expected to find a cruel smile there, expected Magnus to admit to the joke. Instead Magnus' hawk eyes articulated absolute tranquility.
     He tried to compose himself. "This is business," Calvin mumbled, but when he began to speak out loud, he was sure his voice would falter. Theodora sat cross-legged in her chair, her face a manifestation of open defiance.
     He couldn't look her in the eye, so he continued to scribble on his legal pad instead, going through the motions. The economy had suffered, he explained, and Barchadelli's revenue had fallen as a result. Management's decision to reduce the workforce was unfortunate, but it had to be done, for the survival of the company.
     "Calvin?" Theodora intoned. In the emptiness of the room her voice rang like a bell and cut through his thin words, stopping him in his tracks.
     Magnus looked over, surprised at her familiar manner. Sensing his boss's concern, Calvin chose his words carefully. "Mrs. Ravelstein, let me urge you--"
     "No," she said, the corners of her mouth curling into a vicious grimace. "I'm not going to play along. I'm not going to go quietly."
     "I can see you're very upset, Mrs. Ravelstein. I'm very sorry--"
     Theodora clamored to her feet, pointing at him. She spit words at him like daggers. "This is just what we talked about. Can't you see? It's flat out wrong, and you should know it!"
     Strangely, amid the chaos, Calvin caught himself noticing the graceful curve of Theodora's jawline, the elegant slant of her nose, the way the corner of her mouth always seemed on the verge of an animated smile, even when she was angry. She was beautiful, Calvin realized. Why hadn't he noticed this before?
     He shook his head, tried to dispel these thoughts, yet her kindnesses kept coming back to him: her compliments on his photography, their conversation over the weekend, the photo she'd put on his desk that morning. She'd warned him he was being set up. She'd said he was too nice for his own good. She'd said a lot of things, but why?
     Theodora railed at him, shook her fist, called them every name in the book. One of the security people appeared at the door. Magnus was smiling now, enjoying the show. Calvin caught his grin out of the corner of his eye and wondered again if this was all some sort of joke, wondered if Theodora had been right about Magnus' intentions all along.
     It came clear to him in that moment that he had a choice. In his mind's eye, Calvin saw himself standing up from the table, straightening his suit, walking toward the conference room door. He'd tell the security guy to take his hands off Theodora, offer her a winning smile. When Magnus asked him what the hell he was doing, Calvin would say it to his face, without equivocation: "I quit."
     News of his revolt would spread through the Barchadelli offices like wildfire. Walking through the hallways toward the exit with Theodora at his shoulder, he'd call out "Who's with me?" over and over again. Mobs of employees would materialize from cubicles, given permission to quit, freed suddenly of the yoke of responsibility, happy to be a part of something profound and brave and real at last. He'd lead the mob out the front doors of Barchadelli, leaving Magnus and the other Directors behind to pick up the pieces.
     "Calvin?" Her voice broke the spell.
     Two Renaissance PD officers had appeared from somewhere and they were hand-cuffing Theodora. He had said some things, he realized, but he didn't know what. The storm of Theodora's anger had broken, and she stared at the carpet, looking as if she might cry. One of the security people was holding a handkerchief to his cheek, a smudged rose of blood soaking the white fabric where she had scratched him. The guy from legal was nowhere to be found.
     His eyes locked on hers. Her confusion about him had given way to an unwavering clarity. When she spoke again, all generosity had fled from her voice. "Things didn't have to happen like this. You know that, right?"
     He looked away, scrutinizing a picture on the far wall. As it turned out, it was a photo taken long ago of the Roundeli Mountains. It was funny what people said about them: you could never really tell if they were real or an illusion.
     "It's business," Calvin said at last, his eyes on the photo. "Nothing more."
     After they took Theodora away, Magnus patted him on the back and spoke at him--some chatter about the interviews that afternoon and the fine job he'd done and how he'd known Calvin had it in him all along--but the words sounded garbled, muffled, like whalesong. Then Magnus was asking him something else. What was it? Lunch? Executive Boardroom? CEO?
     Calvin told him to go on; he'd follow in a minute.
     When finally he was alone in the room, the silence hung in his ears like the persistent ring of artillery fire. He looked at the photo on the wall again, ran his eyes along the snow-crowned summits, the rocky saddles between outcroppings, the overhanging cornices frozen still like thousands of white horses.
     From his pocket, he withdrew the photo Theodora had given him that morning. I should have realized all along, he mumbled to himself as he tore the photo into neat 1-inch squares and let them flutter to the floor. The peace he had felt that morning, the strange sense of happiness and contentment he had found in those spare moments before the day started now seemed like a distant dream, a vacant event, a carelessly scrawled fragment of another person’s life.

~fin~

Thanks for stopping by!  :D

I'm A Lumberjack And I'm OK (Part 1)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


 Author's Note: Part 1 of this two part series covers the basics of loglines.  On Thursday, Part Two will cover the pros and cons of the different templates I've discovered on the interwebs.

Loglines: What are they good for?

You ever tried to tell the story of your WIP in one sentence?

No, I'm serious.  Have you ever tried to sit down and capture some of the nuance, the complex penumbra of your story in a short collection of words that begin with a capitalized letter and ends with a period?  (I suppose you could end with a question mark, but that might raise some questions...)

It ain't an easy job, as I've recently discovered.  And there's quite a bit to know--AND quite a bit of benefit to your story if you figure it out too.  

So, let's talk about loglines:

For the uninitiated, a logline is a film industry term for a single sentence that captures the essence of a screenplay.  This concept has since been co-opted by writers in other genres, such as fiction.

Here's my logline from a WIP I first began developing three summers ago (this is the same story I'm doing for NaNo this year, incidentally):

It's 2005.  Staff Sergeant James Carlson and his men are losing a vicious war in the streets of Baghdad.  As summer wears on, Carlson begins to wonder how to clutch victory from the jaws of defeat.  Then Michael Sedo, a young Private with the ability to ___________________, joins the fighting.  With Sedo onboard, can Carlson turn the tide of battle, or will Sedo's strange ability tear Carlson's unit apart? (I chose at the time not to reveal Sedo's ability).

Sure, it describes a story, but knowing what I know now, it doesn't do the greatest job of making us really understand what the story is about.  And it violates a number of loglines rules.  A single sentence.  Less than 25 words.  Suggest and inner an outer journey for the MC.

Back when I wrote this I really hadn't played with loglines much, and I sorta winged it, hoping it would work.  Turns out there's a science to the whole thing.  After all, every story has certain elements.  Manage to get them all in or allude to them and you have a strong logline.  Leave elements out, and your logline will suffer.

Logline Templates:

To construct a logline, you have to first understand the elements of your story. The best loglines include as many of these elements as possible: hero, flaw, lifechanging event, opponent, ally, and battle.

Here are some common examples I found on the web:

  • E.T.:  A meek and alienated (flaw) little boy (hero) finds a stranded extraterrestrial (lifechanging event/ally) and finds the courage (battle) to defy authorities (opponent) to help the alien return to its home planet.
  • Rocky:  A boxer (hero) with a loser mentality (flaw) is offered a chance by the world champ (opponent) to fight for the title (lifechanging event) but, with the help of his lover (ally) must learn to see himself as a winner before he can step into the ring (battle).
  • Casablanca: A jaded (flaw) WWII casino owner (hero) in Nazi-occupied Morocco sees his former lover (opponent) arrive (lifechanging event), accompanied by her husband (ally) whose heroism forces the hero to choose between his cynicism, his feeling for his ex-lover, and his once-strong feelings of patriotism (battle).

I've also seen this template floating around:

When [MAIN CHARACTER] [INCITING INCIDENT], he [CONFLICT]. And if he doesn't [GOAL] he will [CONSEQUENCES].

Kind of a plug and play sorta thing.  (Who remembers Mad-Libs?)

But putting a quality logline together, even with a template, can actually be quite a challenge.  Sometimes it's hard to see the forest for the trees.  For example, can you tell me the movie this logline describes?

A suicidal family man is given the opportunity to see what the world would be like if he had never been born.

If you said It's A Wonderful Life, you're right!  But look closer and you'll realize that the action described in this logline really only occurs in the third act of the movie.  A much better logline for this movie would be:

When a family man's constant struggle to escape small town America for a more successful life in the big city fails, he contemplates suicide, but his guardian angel visits and the man experiences what the world would be like if he had never been born.

Maybe a little wordy, but it certainly captures much more of the overall arc of the story.  Remember: the more story elements you can fit into your logline, the better it will be.

That concludes the first half of our discussion on loglines.  Check back Thursday for Part Two--where we talk about a few handy logline rules, and take a close look at my NaNo WIP logline!

References:

*****
  • DON'T FORGET: Tomorrow is the final installment of the #REN3 Blogfest!
  • HAVE A FAVORITE SONG OR VIDEO?  Go sign up for the NaNoWriMoVideo Songfest hosted by yours truly.  You don't have to be playing in NaNo to participate!
  • FRIDAY: My post for the Casting Call Character Bloghop goes live.  Don't miss it!
P.S. If you don't know what comedy sketch the title of this post comes from, you'll just have to wait until Thursday to find out!  :D

NaNoWriMoVideo Songfest

Monday, October 24, 2011


This is my second year participating in NaNo. Last year, when I awoke at 5 a.m. on November 2nd to commence my second day of writing, this is what I found:



Needless to say, a flooded house tends to put a crimp in the writing process, and NaNo 2010 ended up being quite a bumpy ride for me, as a result. If you want to have a laugh, go take a gander as I tell the tale of the whole sordid adventure.

One of the downsides of all the real-life drama in the midst of trying to bang out 50k+ words is that my blog presence really suffered. I didn't put up a single post between the 5th and the 26th last year, a mistake I was anxious to avoid again.

But obviously, if I'm contributing every last word to my manuscript, how will I find subject material for blog posts, and will I have the energy to even think about it after a long day of fiction writing?

So I was toying with this dilemma the other night. At the same time, I was also concocting a set of music playlists on my laptop to have at the ready for NaNo (music is a huge part of my writing process).  Then it hit me: Why not post video/music during here at ~WSMG~ during NaNo?  I can share songs from my playlists with you groovy folks, and maybe you guys will want to join in the fun too!

And like a bolt of lightning from the blue, the NaNoWriMoVideo Songfest was born! :D


Each day in November, I'm gonna put on my NaNo Video DJ hat and post one of my favorite videos here at ~WSMG~.  The songs will be chosen from my collection of writing music to help inspire you guys, help us stay sane during the craziness that is NaNo, and totally rock out!  Sound groovy?  But it gets better: I'd love nothing better if you joined me. 

If you're interested in being a part of the Songfest, here's what  you need to do:
  • Go to YouTube (or the video site of your choice), pick one of your favorite videos, then put together a post featuring the video.  To participate, post AT LEAST ONE video sometime during the month of November.  If you want to post more, knock yourself out! (Here's a tutorial on how to embed a video, if needed). If you put up three or more posts during NaNo, I'll list you as a DJ!
  • Comment (*details below) or send me an email at jpcircusboy@gmail.com, subject line 'VIDEO' with the details of your post, including your link information. LATE EDIT: Of course, you can send me a Tweet too (@skymeetsground)!
  • Alternatively, like a real life DJ, I take requests!  Tell me a video you love and I'll share it here on ~WSMG~ myself, giving you full credit, of course.
  • Each day, I'll announce new videos, highlight the high points, and add them to the Master Playlist.
  • DISCLAIMER: You do not have to be a NaNo participant to contribute!  Just follow the directions above and you can support your fellow writers!  :D
Below you'll see a second post entitled NaNoWriMoVideo Master Playlist (or click this link).  The Master Playlist is where I'll link participating blogs and add videos throughout the month, listing the artist name and song title, with a link to the person/blog who sponsored the tune(s).  *Leave me a comment on this post or on the Master Playlist post if you want to be a part of this effort! (You know you wanna!)  :D   

The Goal of the NaNoWriMoVideo Songfest:
  • Have a total blast!
  • Share some awesome NaNo writing music, and get a chance to hear the tunes everyone else finds groovy.
  • Give everyone one stop shopping for a right rockin' video playlist throughout the month.  With any luck, the combined energy of all that awesome music will help us get across that 50k word finish line just a little bit faster!  Who knows, maybe that really moving snippet of music posted by a fellow writer helps you nail a difficult scene or understand a character better.
  • Even if you're not doing NaNo this year, why not throw one of your favorite videos into the mix to support your fellow writers and let everyone else benefit from your good taste!
Help Get The Word Out:

You'll find a badge on the Master Playlist post below for sharing, so feel free to put it up wherever you want to help get the word out.  Please let folks know about this if you have a chance--and let's rock out!

I'm tapping my foot just thinking about how fun this Songfest is gonna be.  Thanks, and stay groovy!

*****

Stay tuned later this week as there's more pre-NaNo excitement in store.  Carrie Butler, Melodie Wright, and Lisa Regan are sponsoring the Casting Call Character BlogHop.  I'm playing.  It's sure to be a blast!  Check my sidebar for details!  I'll also have some fun with loglines--especially the one I've been writing for my NaNo novel.

Also check back on Wednesday for the final #REN3 Blogfest post.  Have a rockin' Monday, ya'all!

ONE LAST THING: You DO NOT, under ANY circumstances, talk about WRiTE Club!!!!!

NaNoWriMoVideo Master Playlist

HIYA!  WELCOME!! 

Here's the badge.  Grab and post as you see fit!




NaNoWriMoVideo DJs (three or more songs):


JP @ ~Where Sky Meets Ground~


NaNoWriMoVideo Playlist

If You're Lost

Thursday, October 20, 2011

I stumbled across this today. I love the simplicity of the arrangement. Thought you might enjoy it.



Have a great weekend! ;)

The Leopard's Spots: Rule of Three Blogfest (Part Three)


When it comes to irons in the proverbial fire, I have a few.  Of course, we are now eleven days from the kick off of National Novel Writing Month, or NaNo as the Pros from Dover call it.

I, like half the fiction writers in the World, have spent countless recent hours preparing, making sure I'm ready to get my game face on, trying to remember where I packed my game face, wondering if it still fits, rifling through numerous boxes in the crawlspace upstairs that is our attic looking for the game face, executing repairs on said game face--made necessary after the time during last year's NaNo when I chucked the game face across the room in a fit of reprehensible, unadulterated frustration.

I haven't found it yet, but I will.  :D

And I'm working on a post with all the details for how I'm playing NaNo this year--but if you're impatient, you can click on my sidebar and check out my profile.  If you're looking for a NaNo writing buddy, let me know.  The more the merrier is my motto.  Also, Sommer Leigh has put together a linky tool so we can champion our fellow writers doing Nano.  Check it out--and sign up if you're in.  BTW, are you in?

(Plus, don't forget, Monster Fest 2011 runs through the end of the month.  There's still plenty to see and do over there, so don't miss it!).

Last, but certainly not least: go check out this totally groovy interview my friend Lola Sharp did with Hilary Wagner, featuring her new book THE WHITE ASSASSIN.  The title sounds downright fascinating.  Plus, Lola's running a contest with free stuff!  Go check it out at once!  :D

***** 

But now to the real business of the day: Part three of the #REN3 Blogfest.  This has been a ton of fun to write, and to also get around and read everyone else's stories.  Don't forget to check back for the finale next week!

The Leopard's Spots
by Jon Paul
(c) 2011

Character: Calvin Rumpus
Wordcount: 600
Prompt: Betrayal is in the air.
Link to Part One (Magnus McGrool, 596 words)
Link to Part Two (Theodora Ravelstein, 597 words)

Part Three:

MAGNUS STOOD AT THE WINDOW watching employees dash to their cars in the rain. "Calvin, you moved into Carl's office yet?"

Calvin appeared. "Not yet."

"By Monday, Ok?"

"Ok." Calvin turned to leave.

"One more thing." Magnus pawed a stack of employee dossiers on the desk. "These are the first folks we let go. Monday morning."

Calvin reached for the files.

"Nope. Leave them. Decision's been made. Gladdis will set everything up."

"And I just need to show up?"

Magnus smiled. "Yeah."


*****


They hiked up the path, making the final turn into the clearing. Calvin led, Theodora followed.

"Wow!" Theodora lifted her sunglasses. "You weren't kidding. This is some view."  All of Renaissance was visible: Old Town; the Schiavona Desert; the River Espadon. But scads of strip malls had materialized over the last few years, disfiguring the landscape.

Near the trailhead, they unearthed an archaic sign with rusted letters: "Renaissance--Pop. 333". Calvin pitched it aside and sat down.

Theodora took out her camera. "How'd you find this place?"

Calvin didn't speak, his eyes on the horizon.

"Calvin?"

A narrow smile illuminated his face, then vanished. "My grandfather used to bring me here."

"I'm surprised more people don't know about it."

Theodora explored the clearing, snapping pictures until Calvin's silence became uncomfortable. She scrutinized him for a long moment. "Listen," she said finally, stuffing her camera back in her pack. "I think I invited myself along today. And you clearly have plenty on your mind, so--"

Calvin frowned.

"--I think I'll be going." Theodora zipped her pack and started down the trail.

"Theodora?"

Theodora kept walking.

Calvin jumped to his feet. "Just...wait. Ok?"

She turned, eyed him skeptically. "So?"

He chose his words carefully. "I...I've been distracted...the office has been crazy lately..."

"And?"

They stood face to face, staring at each other for what seemed like forever. Calvin blinked twice. Theodora gazed at him through her sunglasses, waiting. Finally, Calvin ran one hand through his auburn hair and chuckled. The situation suddenly felt silly, absurd.

He squinted at her. "Please? Accept my sincerest apologies?"

"Whatever." She strolled past him with a wry grin, placing her backpack next to his. "So what's the story, Calvin? I hear you've been promoted."

" If we're gonna talk about work," Calvin said. "You have to keep it under your hat."

"Ok."

"I'm just filling in until we hire someone new."

She laughed.

He cocked his head, baffled. "What?"

"Word around the watercooler is you're being set up."

It was Calvin's turn to laugh. "Yeah, well people've been watching too much Law and Order: Renaissance. Don't believe everything you hear."

"I guess it's none of my business, anyway..."

"But?"

Theodora sighed, then smiled. "Office politics makes for good rumors, sure. But that McGrool guy, there's just something not right about him."

"When it comes to bosses, Magnus doesn't get high marks. I get that. But it's part of the game. I can't just quit every time I don't like my boss."

"So you feel invested. Is that it?"

"Sure. I worked hard to get where I'm at. I put in my time. I can't just walk away now."

She studied his face, a flicker of uncertainty coloring her eyes. "You're too nice, Calvin. For your own good, I mean."

Calvin stood up, shouldering his pack. "Come on," he said, a strange new distance surfacing in the space between his words. "I have to get back."

She walked after him. The guttural crunch of gravel beneath their boots rang in her ears. She gazed out to the horizon, troubled. Had she said too much?

~fin~

Thanks for stopping by!  :D

Now Cometh The Kraken

Monday, October 17, 2011

 

Let's take a moment from all of our very busy lives and talk about something extremely important: sea monsters.

Yes.  Really.  :D

Actually, I'd like to talk about one kind of sea monster in particular: The Kraken.

(This is my entry for Sommer Leigh's month-long Monster Fest 2011.  You should go check it out immediately.  It's fine.  I'll wait here.  :D)

Afternoon snack?
Now when I say the word Kraken (Krake is singular), I see half of you--the Clash of the Titans fans!--nodding in profound understanding, while the other half are giving me the "What-on-earth-is-that?" raised eyebrow.  I'm with you.  On the list of imaginary, sea-vessel-crushing creatures of myth and legend (yes, such a list does exist), the Kraken don't really rank highly, do they?

I've always been a big fan of mythical creatures, the ones that lay on the edge of reality, that have a place both in the lives of our ancestors and in our own dreamscapes.  The belief in monsters lends a certain mystery to the world.  Isn't it the easiest thing to believe that rationality, common sense, reason--all that is scientific and easily derived--are the ways of the universe?  But where's the fun in that?  So much remains unexplained.  Much more of the world is born out of our fears and irrational obsessions than from a common understanding that two plus two equals four.

And you might be surprised to discover that ancient mythical sea monsters like the Kraken are still a part of our everyday lives.  Don't believe me?  Well, lemme tell ya 'bout it.  From Wikipedia:

Kraken are legendary sea monsters of giant proportions said to have dwelt off the coasts of Norway and Iceland....Later versions of the legend may have originated from sightings of real giant squid, which are variously estimated to grow to 13–15 m (40–50 ft) in length (including tentacles). These creatures normally live at great depths, but have been sighted at the surface and have reportedly attacked ships.

Numerous references to the Kraken exist in popular culture.  For example, as I touched on, the Kraken showed up in both versions (1981 and 2010) of Clash of The Titans, but do you remember it in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest?

Jack Sparrow: "Open up and say ahhh...savvy?"
The list of books that feature Kraken runs to several dozen as well, including Jule's Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, Terry Brooks' 1985 novel The Wishsong of Shannara, even a sonnet by Alfred Tennyson, among others.  And the Kraken have even shown their ugly mugs in comic books:

My copy is still in mint condition, in my underground vault, the one I won't tell anyone about.
There's also a rollercoaster that bears the name, at Sea World in Orlando.  Check out the review!

The scary part is when the coaster barrels through his ear canal.
Finally, and what I find most interesting, is there is a high-end spiced rum named--you guessed it!--The Kraken.

Goes extremely well with the "other other white meat."
Mmmm....what was I saying?
According to an article about the kit that the drink comes in:

The kit is set up as a "proof" kit, each element inside is one piece of proof that the mythical Kraken sea monster exists. It includes a Kraken tooth, Kraken ink, a log book, a scroll, a feather, movies of the Kraken, and lastly a bottle of The Kraken.

See?  There's proof.  That the Kraken exist, I mean.  Or, it's mostly proof...?


OK, well, let's say there's a bit of a academic tussle over whether the Kraken did in fact exist.  But who are they kidding?  They're just a bunch of scientists.  They don't understand one jot or tittle about myth and legend.  They can't even wrap their over-reasonable brains around the concepts of fear and irrationality.  Not like we fiction writers can, right?

:D

*****
It's not too late to get over and check out all the posts for Friday's Pay It Forward Blogfest.  Plus, the Rule of Three Blogfest is entering it's 3rd week, so stay tuned, and have a blastin' groovy Monday while you're at it!

Paying It Forward

Friday, October 14, 2011


*****
I GOT THIS REALLY CRAZY THEORY: We all live multiple lives. 

Every single one of us is totally walking around with multiple personas, which can be drawn out and utilized on a daily basis, put on like a business suit or a T-shirt and weather-worn blue jeans, when the need to face a different set of circumstances arises.  Each of these lives come with a different set of priorities, a different approach to challenges, a different way in which we see the world, and that makes all the difference.

For myself, in seconds I can easily glide from the professional life of a Naval Officer to the familiar, low-stress life of a doting father and faithful husband.  It's as easy as changing my clothes.  This process is one of the ways we learn to cope at an early age, and it's as natural and effortless as breathing.

For most people, their various lives are defined by external influences: jobs, families, friends, dreams.  But for fiction writers, it's not so simple.

In my opinion, a fiction writer's life is defined first and foremost by internal influences: imaginary worlds, compelling main characters, life-altering stories that move the writer to such a degree that he has no choice but to transmogrify the nothingness of an idea into concrete, palpable reality by getting words on the page.  In some sense, the fiction writer lives his own internal struggle, but he also spends hours, days, months--years even!--breathing, raging, crying, triumphing, failing, as he experiences the lives of the characters in his fiction.

If you're like me, it's a strange kind of worry that--more than anything--drives you to write: fear of the life unlived.

As a beginning fiction writer (just getting my feet wet really), the manifestation of that fear takes odd forms for me.  Not having lived the life of an Ishmael or a Robert Jordan or a Nick Carraway, I sometimes sell myself short or feel inadequate.  Sometimes I try to overcompensate and work on five projects at once.  Sometimes I catch myself in meetings (living one of my other lives) troubling over a certain turn of phrase or sticky fictional situation, only to emerge an hour later having forgotten everything I uncovered during those moments.

In short, I'm still finding my way in this fiction writer's life, but there's one thing I've learned: we can't make it on our own.  That's why signing up for this Pay It Forward Blogfest was a no brainer.  Picking three blogs to represent the legions of folks who've been a significant part of my writer's journey was a big challenge, however.  So many people have lent their support, while they've asked for very little in return.  Such generosity of spirit really is quite humbling.

But if it had to be three, then these are them--and I hope you hop right on over and pay them a visit.  In no particular order:
  • Liza @ Middle Passages: Liza was one of the first writers and fellow bloggers who gave me a leg up.  She reposted a goofy post of mine where I intereviewed myself, and has been a stalwart supporter and friend of WSMG ever since.  Her own blog is full of wonderful prose and pictures, shared in a quiet, thoughtful way, and well worth a visit.
  • Lola @ Sharp Pen/Dull Sword: Lola is one of the grooviest folks around, and one I've been lucky enough to get to know outside of the blogosphere as well.  Her infectiously positive attitude, warmly supportive vibe and razor sharp writing and editing style have been a real influence on me, and she's really helped shape my views as a budding fiction writer.  Go on over and join the Wolf Pack if you haven't already!
  • Donna @ Donna Hole: Donna has been one of those long-time bloggers that you can tell really enjoys getting around and visiting everyone.  She's one of the most frequent visitors here at WSMG, always taking the time to provide in-depth, well thought out comments, and she's a unique, generous person who brightens your day every time you come in contact with her.  Hang around her blog for awhile and I'm sure you'll see what I mean!
Anyway, thanks a million, ladies!  Thanks for helping me along on this writing journey and for being such a good friends! 

BTW, as a quick aside, I'd like to thank Matthew and Alex for setting this blogfest up.  It certainly is an inspired idea--and you should go visit everyone else too as I'm sure there'll be plenty of fiction-related lauding and high-fives to go around.

Now I'm off to see who everyone else is recommending!

*****

Check back on Monday where I'm gonna talk some about the Kraken as part of October's Monster Fest.  Get all the details here!

The Leopard's Spots: Rule of Three Blogfest (Part Two)

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Hey gang!

Sorry, I'm a little slow out of the starting gates for this second in a four part series of posts for the Rule of Three Blogfest (#REN3 Blogfest for the Twitterati among you).  :D  Turns out, though our trip to Paris was mostest spectacular and will breed a few future posts, we--meaning me and the family--contracted some strange illness on the plane ride home that has had us all down for the count.  Upper respiratory tract stuff mostly, but the kind of knotty-headed scourge that makes it hard to see straight.

And typing fiction stories, well that's right out!  :D

But alas, the fog of illness is finally clearing and I can get this part of the story finalized.  Good thing I wrote a good chunk of it before my departure.  I'm not usually so well organized, but in this case, this fluke of luck worked in my favor!

So, thus, and without further ado, here is Part Two.  Make sure to get around and read all the other entries, as they are really quite charming, and I have been nothing but impressed at everyone's ingenuity and daring-do.  Goes to show, a lot can be done with a blank page and a 600 word limit!

A brief note of thanks to the organizers who've done a bang up job, and to the authors and supporters who have donated prizes.  It takes a village, as they say, and, well, this one is called Renaissance.  :D

*****
The Leopard's Spots
by Jon Paul
(c) 2011

Character: Theodora Ravelstein
Wordcount: 597
Prompt: A relationship becomes complicated.
Link to Part One (Magnus McGrool, 596 words)

Part Two:

THEODORA RAVELSTEIN tucked a strand of crimson hair behind her right ear and frowned. "They just don't get me, Lorna. You know?"

Lorna napkined her mouth, grinning. "I don't get you either, Theo."

"Stop kidding around. This is serious."  Theodora slumped back from her half-eaten salad. Sure, Junior Photo Editors weren't due a lot of respect, but her supervisor repeatedly rejected her hip, artistic photo-editing suggestions--and that bothered her. Most Barchadelli marketing campaigns looked as vanilla as Renaissance Geographic Magazine.

"That your boy?" Lorna nodded toward the end of the Employee Lunchroom. Calvin Rumpus, tray in hand, took a place in line. Within seconds, several associates shook his hand, struck up conversations, patted him on the back. Others said hello in passing. Calvin, entitled to eat in the Executive Lunchroom, often lunched down here instead, making him popular among rank and file employees. Plus he was just a nice guy.

A mischievous smile bloomed on Theodora's lips. "When I bumped into him this weekend, he told me about an old trail above Heriot's Pass where the views are amazing."

"You 'bumped' into him? Girl, you'll do anything for a good picture!"

"Well...let's just say I know where he spends his Saturday mornings."

"Shutterbugs of the world, unite?"

"Something like that..."  A year ago, at a Renaissance Museum exhibit featuring local photographers, shots of the ice-capped Roundeli Mountains had blown Theodora away. She soon identified the photographer: Calvin Rumpus, a Barchadelli employee and fellow shutterbug with an eye for landscapes.

Lorna folded her napkin. "Listen, gotta get upstairs, hon'. Catch you later?"

"Sure."

After Lorna had gone, Theodora emptied her tray. Calvin sat eating at a far table, uncharacterist-ically alone. Theodora approached, gave him a little wave.

"Calvin! Fancy meeting you here!?"

At first, he hardly noticed her. Then he smiled sadly, a drawn, faraway look on his face. "Theodora. Hi. How are you?"

"Hi. I, uh, I won't keep you. I just wanted to stop by and say I really enjoyed chatting this weekend."

Uncertainty clouded Calvin's brow. "This weekend?"

Theodora glanced around. A few bystanders were beginning to stare. "Uh, up at Heriot's Pass? You know?"

Calvin cocked his head to the side, eyes tracing a pattern on the ceiling, trying to remember. Finally, nodding, he said: "Ah, yeah. OK."

"Yeah. Anyway, if you're going again this weekend, I was hoping you might show me that trail you talked about."

Before Calvin could answer, an uneasy stillness swept the lunchroom.  Magnus McGrool materialized, hawk's eyes searching the crowd. Calvin stood robotically, picked up his tray.

"Got to go." Calvin’s words were clipped and business-like.

"Calvin?"

He turned back, seeming to focus on her for the first time.

She tried to keep the sheepish tone out of her voice, but failed miserably. "Saturday. Ten o'clock. Ok?"

"Sure thing," he said, his mouth hardening into a tight smile.

Theodora watched him go with a trace of confusion. That was weird.

The eyes of half the lunchroom were now on her. She scurried toward the exit, feeling suddenly stupid and confused. She could hear Lorna already: He's one of the elite, the chosen. Ain't no way he’ll give you the time of day, not really.

And there was something Lorna didn't know.  Theodora’s interest in Calvin had mushroomed, over the last several months, into something far beyond simple picture-taking.  This new inkling felt grounded, genuine. But when she caught sight of her own scruffy reflection in a window, a tide of uncertainty rolled in, until she was suddenly, inexplicably, not sure of anything at all.

~fin~

Thanks for stopping by!

My Buried Life

Thursday, October 6, 2011



“Yet with these April sunsets, that somehow recall
My buried life, and Paris in the Spring,
I feel immeasurably at peace, and find the world
To be wonderful and youthful, after all.”
                                                   ~~T. S. Eliot, "Portrait of a Lady"

Hiya folks.  How's things?  I'm a little excited right about now.  Packing.  Big trip planned this weekend.  To Paris!  Yep, we're pretty stoked.  This little break in the action has been planned for awhile--a chance to knock the dust of Sicily off our boots for a few days, do a little exploring, sightseeing, maybe even visit a cafe or two.

We visited Paris once before and it was a real nice time.  We stayed in a hotel adjacent to the Arc de' Triomphe, which was beautiful in it's own right, and also close to many of the best known sights.  There's a kind of energy there that's hard to describe.  Even during the winter, an effervescence hung in the air, and walking around the city was like touring a dreamscape.

We were lucky enough to stumble on a great restaurant or two, where the waiters were haughty and high-minded, but with a twinkle in their eye that told you it was all part of the show.  The view from the Eiffel Tower was amazing, and even with the cold wind blowing, it was almost like you could feel the heat of the city in the updrafts.

The Louvre is one of the Seven Wonders of The Modern World, IMHO.  You could wander there for days, go missing, lose oneself, and never cross back on your own path.  The art was amazing, and I still remember us sitting in a little cafe at the stop of a long marble staircase--Furnacegirl and I were not married yet--and thinking to myself: This is the stuff of legend.

I wasn't really writing seriously back then, but I still felt inspired to jot notes in journal.  I even got to see in person a statue by Michelangelo--called The Bound Slave--that I had sketched from a picture years before.  It was one of those surreal experiences, and to walk up and put my fingers on the cool marble was a kind of revelation.  Here's my primitive sketch.  Thanks for asking.  :D


It really is true what they say: a unique magic inhabits the streets of Paris.  There's a reason why writers like Hemingway and Fitzgerald and Stein made it their second home.  Something hauntingly alive dwells in this place, and until you've been, it sounds too much like a fairy tale to be believed.  Who knows? Maybe on this visit, some of that writing magic will rub off on me.

Anyway, this time out, it'll be a little more low key, more of a vacation and less of a tourist routine, relax, enjoy the sights--but that's how we like it.  And I'll bring back a few photos too, just for funzies.

A few quick admin notes before I sign off:

1) If you haven't stopped by and checked out all the groovy posts for the Rule of Three Blogfest, get your butt over there!  Some really awesome writers turning out a ton of top-notch work.

2) If you stopped by to check out my story, see below, or click here.

3) I won't probably have much of an online presence this weekend, back on Monday.  So you know the rules: You can have one cookies and milk before you go to bed, but lights out at ten o'clock, no excuses.  :D

Hope you have an amazing weekend, and stay groovy while you're at it!


VINCENT: ...You know what they call a Quarter Pounder with Cheese in Paris?

JULES: They don't call it a Quarter Pounder with Cheese?

VINCENT: No, they got the metric system there, they wouldn't know what the fuck a Quarter Pounder is.

JULES: What'd they call it?

VINCENT: Royale with Cheese.

JULES: Royale with Cheese. What'd they call a Big Mac?

VINCENT: Big Mac's a Big Mac, but they call it Le Big Mac.

JULES: What do they call a Whopper?

VINCENT: I dunno, I didn't go into a Burger King.
:D

The Leopard's Spots: Rule Of Three Blogfest

Wednesday, October 5, 2011



Hiya, all!  Today's the day we've all been waiting for: The first post for the Rule of Three Blogfest!


Careful observers will also note that today is the day we are supposed to blog for the Insecure Writer's Support Group.


For me, these blogfests actually dovetail quite nicely.  You see, one of the things I am the most insecure about is sharing my work.  I always have a feeling that a piece is not done, it needs to be polished further, or I simply feel nervous about whether it's "good enough".

So, as a way to get over this insecurity, I have been working on a set of writing rules for myself (more on that later), one of which is: "Be more willing to share your work, even when you're not sure it's perfect." 

That's where the #REN3 Blogfest comes in.  I've worked hard on this first post.  I feel it's ready to go, but in my heart of hearts I know I wouldn't have shared it without an event such as this blogfest pushing me toward the finish line.

Thanks to Alex for setting up the Insecure Writer's Support Group, which happens the first Wednesday of every month (check my sidebar if you want to sign up).  And thanks also to Damyanti, JC, Lisa and Stuart for setting up the Rule of Three Blogfest.   This'll no doubt be tons of fun!

So here's my first entry.  And be sure to go check out the other entries.  There's plenty of fiction to go around today, so enjoy!

The Leopard's Spots
by Jon Paul
(c) 2011

Character: Magnus McGrool
Wordcount: 596
Prompt: There is fear of impending misfortune

Part One:

CALVIN RUMPUS stood at the conference room door, ushering the Directors to their seats, trying to shake a feeling of nervousness. All morning, his boss, Magnus McGrool, Operations Director for Barchadelli Marketing, Inc., had been on a rampage.

Magnus kept his cards close to his chest, so even Calvin didn't know why the staff meeting had been called, but an anxious buzz infected the office. Falling stock prices. Rumors of layoffs. Trouble on the horizon. With the recent economic downturn in Renaissance, companies were tightening their belts. Perhaps it was time for Barchadelli to do the same. Or maybe something else was going on.

Chit-chat came to a standstill when Magnus strode into the room and took his seat at the head of the table. Calvin followed him in, steno pad in hand, careful not to meet anyone's gaze. He was not a favorite with senior management because Magnus' iron-fisted management style irritated most Directors. That resentment no doubt colored the way they viewed Calvin.

Magnus surveyed the other Directors with hawk's eyes. "For those of you who returned my calls this morning, I thank you. We are entering a critical period. It is essential we stick together."

This conciliatory language relaxed the group. Attendees stopped squirming in their seats. A few even dared to glance in Magnus' direction.

Magnus went on. "But we are only as strong as our weakest link. I was on the phone with the CEO this morning. Earnings are down. Our stock price is falling steadily. Now Gauche Mining wants to cancel their contract."

A buzz rippled through the room. As Barchadelli's biggest client, Gauche's departure might spark a mass exodus if other customers acted on the same fears.

"We're too fat," Magnus continued. "Too many people, not enough productivity." At this comment, Carl Sturmfels stiffened, put his coffee cup on the table. The Human Resources Director was widely considered the most considerate of the senior managers. Calvin liked him, but that sentiment was not shared by Magnus, who thought the man was an idiot.

"Somebody's to blame. But who?"

The question hung in the air like an accusation.

"Whose fault is it?"

Calvin bit his lip, waiting. What was Magnus playing at?

At the other end of the table, Carl searched the far wall. The other Directors inched their chairs imperceptibly away, like a herd scattering, offering up the weakest among them just before the lion pounces.

"What do you have to say for yourself, Carl?"

Carl looked up. Unblinking placid blue eyes calmly met Magnus' withering gaze, but he remained silent.

Magnus chuckled. "Tight-lipped to the end, eh Carl? You should have more common sense, man. Even Calvin here has more common sense than that."

At the mention of his name, Calvin snapped to attention in his chair.

"Well, no point in beating about the bush," Magnus said, proffering a half-smile as if sharing a friendly anecdote. "Effective immediately, consider yourself on unpaid leave, Carl, until we sort things out."

Calvin sat glued to his seat, thunderstruck. The misgivings he had stifled until that moment bloomed into full-fledged alarm. Magnus was using the crisis as a pretense to get rid of Carl.

"In the meantime," Magnus said, "Calvin Rumpus will be the interim Human Resources Director. That is, until we find a suitable replacement."

Calvin froze. All eyes were on him. Animosity swept the group's faces. Even Carl gave him a quizzical look, like Calvin was somehow to blame. An abrupt, unbidden stillness permeated the air, and Calvin, suddenly unable to breathe, wondered how on earth he was going to get out of this one.

 ~fin~

Thanks for stopping by!  :D

Trailblazing

Monday, October 3, 2011

Just a quick drive-by post, as I have a lot of irons in the fire at the moment, many of them related to writing (and this last bit makes me happy :D).

I've been working feverishly on my Rule of Three Blogpost entry--going up Wednesday--and if you haven't signed up yet, you're still in luck.  Check the link on my sidebar.  Submissions close at the end of the evening, so go on over and check it out.  I think it promises to be a nice event, and I'm certainly looking forward to it--not only because we'll get to read a ton of great stories, but also because I'm using it as a kind of writing exercise to get my feet wet, get my sea-legs back under me.

Also, I've also just learned that the Literary Lab is featuring its 3rd Annual Writing Contest and Anthology, which I am likely to enter also.  Submissions are due by December 31st, 2011, if I'm not mistaken. 

I am thoroughly enjoying stepping back into the world of a fiction writer--spent this weekend getting more organized, in fact--but I had forgotten how quick the pace of time can go when one is so busy.  Not to worry: I am loving every minute!

And I am starting to go through a lot of my old writing, re-reading, evaluating.  We recently combined files from several different computers into one master file, and I can now review a number of different pieces I've written, some very old.  I am looking for strengths and weaknesses, trying to understand where I still need to grow as a writer.  And trust me, there's plenty of room for growth!


Just one day at a time, right?  What about you?  How are things in your world?

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