Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Track #4 for my novel....

Here's track #4...which I also consider the best music video ever. I love it. I love the lyrics too...they are so poetic. Very well done.

Tune in on Friday when my Snarky Muse gives advice on how to beat writer's block.
Other upcoming topics in April:
1-- the novel update [how dangerous am I?]
2-- the Snarky Muse on "How to Tell Your Writing Group or Writing Partner Sucks."
3-- part #2 of great writer resources
4-- chances to WIN...that's right. A chance to win a prize. Just for commenting on my blog. Details forthcoming. [yes, I'm that desperate to get blog followers. What can I say? I'm insecure and need validation.

Here's the video: "Her Morning Elegance."
Sorry N---no boobies to censor [Boobies? I haven't written that since fourth grade.]

Monday, March 29, 2010

Can the publishing industry learn from Blockbuster?

Another interesting "food for thought" in the e-publishing and digital publishing issue. I'm wondering if debating whether or not it is "good" or "bad" for the industry, authors, artists is really beside the point. I think, like digital cameras and the iTunes revolution, that it is coming, and whether or not anyone likes it is going to be beside the point. Sure, I have fond memories of my first Kodak disc camera that I thought was so cool at the time. Does a part of me nostalgically yearn for the old black and white darkrooms? Sure (esp. since my concentration was photojournalism).

But things have changed. Whether or not I like it is irrelevant.

That's why this article on "The Turkey Principle" caught my eye. Essentially, it presents the idea that innovation and businesses such as Netflix are running companies such as Blockbuster out of business, and when many realize this, the response is reactionary. Were the signs there really all along?

I think there are lessons here that are directly applicable...though I don't think I'm probably the best one to articulate it, considering the "C" on my college transcript from Economics 101.

Story is by Brett Arends from the Wall Street Journal. Here is the paragraph that really caught my attention:

"Blockbuster isn't an isolated example. A few days after the video store chain warned it may have to file for bankruptcy, smartphone maker Palm (PALM) announced "disappointing" sales. The shares, which had risen as high as $18 last fall, slumped to $4.

To hear some people tell it, Palm "surprised," "shocked" or even "stunned" the market with the news.


This suggests no one on Wall Street had walked into a cellular store recently. Or heard of the iPhone. Or even just looked around on any street, including Wall Street, or in any bar at what smartphones people were using."

You can read the whole article, The Turkey Princple, to get everything in context by going to this link:

New website coming soon

I'm in the process of redesigning my website [okay, I'm using a template, but you get the idea]. I was hoping to launch it as the same time as my short story collection I'm putting on Kindle (and even include a few free reads on the website) but a deadline for this novel contest is looming, and it seemed the perfect chance to go ahead and boot my "Australia" novel out of the house.

I have to have a deadline--and usually an unrealistic one--to kind of force me to stop obsessing over every word. Sure, I'd like for every word to be perfect (and I know writers who do produce every word perfectly), but if I did that, the book would never leave the house. Ever. Maybe it's my biological clock going off? (Like I don't have one for children, but I have one for books? Go figure)

So How Dangerous Am I, Really?

Kudos for my buddy, N who made the comment, that if I've censored the BOOBS of the woman from the Twilight Zone video, just how dangerous is this blog? Touche! Which is why I adore my buddy N -- and let me just say that he is an awesome writer. Seriously.

So, that brings me to a question, if I do have boobs on my blog, don't the Blogger dudes have to insert one of those disclaimers that this blog has "adult content" and you have to be over 18 and click okay? My niece is a follower, and probably some of her friends check it out, and while I'm sure "Aunt Dawn is posting porn" would definitely get me some more hits from everywhere in cyberspace this brings up the old art vs. porn issue that never seems to die. So, I must ask myself, why am I willing to put a picture of Michelangelo's David or "The Birth of Venus" on this blog but I hesitate to show some music video ta-tas?

Pretty hypocritical of me, don't you think?

Seriously, N really does point to a larger issue:

How daring are we willing to be?

I'm originally from Asheville, and I seem to remember that way back when everyone hated Thomas Wolfe because he basically aired everyone's dirty laundry in his books [didn't he use the name Altamont for Asheville?]. Anyway, the point is, if you've got something really, really, really, good, how far are you willing to go for it? I'm not talking about critics or feedback on'm talking about airing your dirty laundry--and remember that when you open the door of yourself, you open the door to everyone who had an impact on your life.

I generally believe you should go where the art takes you. You just have to be willing to realize that it doesn't always take you where you want to go. That scares the hell out of me sometimes. A lot actually. It's kind of like the dog that chases a car and then one day thinks, "what am I going to do with this if I catch it?"

[and for the record, I use initials when describing my friends on this because some folks-- particularly those with kids--are more careful / sensitive to what is out there about them in cyberspace. Just FYI. ]

SNARKY MUSE SAYS: Ignore Dawn's chatter. She's procrastinating.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Novel Soundtrack - Track #3 Twilight Zone

Listen for the opening voice that declares "somewhere in a hotel room there's a guy starting to realize that eternal fate has turned its back on him..."

That's what made this one a definite for track three...well, that and I'm such a fan of the Rod Searling classic. I love it when he's in the hotel then all of a sudden he's on stage. Great 40s detective feel to it.

PS-- This is the censored version of this video. I'm trying to run a family-friendly blog here, much to the chagrin of my Snarky Muse.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Favorite Writer Resources-- part one

This will probably have to be a two-parter. I just wanted to list several of the great resources that I use on the internet. Granted, there are a lot of resources out there, but I find myself gravitating toward a particular group over and over again. So here are several, in no particular order....

The OWL Writing Lab at Purdue-
I think this online resource is much easier to use than some of the others. Great MLA resources.

Fact Check -
Self explanatory. Mainly focuses on politics and whatever Democratic /Republican truth stretching went on that week.

Duotrope Digest -
Great resource for fiction, short stories, flash fiction markets.

Google scholar--I've found this is handy when doing research, and it seems to filter out a lot of the sites from "Bill and Earl who really aren't experts but just sit around on the porch and think about it a whole heck of a lot." No offense to anyone named Bill and Earl. and its thesaurus companion -- I confess, this is really just laziness on my behalf. I think it's easy to use and I like being able to just click on a tab and go from dictionary to thesaurus, to dictionary, to thesaurus...but then, I'm very easily entertained.

Absolute Write -
Resources, markets, etc.

Facebook - Ha, just kidding on that one. Facebook is my crack, though.

Preditors and Editors-
A guide to publishers, editors and writing services for serious writers.

More to come later on--and Track #3 to my novel will be posted in the next few days.

ASIDE-- Overheard=
okay, I'm sorry, but I'm distracted by the folks at the table next to me in the coffeeshop. The conversation is about buying vs. renting a wedding dress. It just caught my ear because the guy was like "dude, you're only going to wear it once." Then someone said, "It's the wedding of your dreams, you just have to return it." Then someone started talking about how a wedding dress is sentimental [true, true. My mother's wedding dress is sentimenal. But I didn't wear it because, weighed 95 pounds when she got married. Oh, and wait, I'm single.]

Sorry, had to put it there for what it's worth.
As for me, if he ever came along, I'd elope. Seriously.

Monday, March 22, 2010

How to find your writing 'voice'

As I spent a wonderful writing retreat weekend at B's house, I couldn't help but feel that the many, many, many years of working on the art and craft of writing are starting to [and I hate this word] synergize, into something that's even bigger than myself. I find my voice growing more confident and firm as a writer.

I earned my MA in creative writing in 2007 [returning to school after a 10+ years btw] and I learned a lot about developing my 'voice'--even though I'm not sure that's something that can be quantified, or even explained.

The writer's voice is what makes Stephen King sound like Stephen King and not William Faulkner. And what makes Faulkner in "Spotted Horses" different from Faulkner in "The Sound and the Fury."

I don't think there are any hard and fast rules, a lot of this falls into the category of "you'll know it when it happens"--it kind of creates an electricy in the air, it creates something where you feel you are connected to a vast host of invisible and daring artists...and I do not think I would have gotten here unless I felt called to "write dangerously" for a year.

There are no hard and fast tips or techniques [please note my restraint in not adding 'that's what he said' after this] ...but here are some things that helped me:

1) Remember what it was that drew you to writing in the first place.
This is particularly difficult for those of us who write for a living. Sometimes it seems like factory work, particularly if you're working on a newspaper. But remember the time when you enjoyed it for the sake of enjoying it? When you didn't feel like you HAD to be published? I think recovering your voice or finding it are intrinsically a part of that.

2) Experiment with different writing styles- particularly ones you have never tried before.
My graduate professor, Luke Whisnant ["Watching TVwith the Red Chinese"] made the comparison to running track . Some run cross country, some do the sprints, some do the long jump, and while every member may participate in every activity, you'll find there is one that seems to come more naturally to you. [or at least, that's the way I remember it- sorry Luke if I got it wrong.] Obviously, you'll never know if you don't try.

3) Don't try to force it.
While there are a lot of writer's I admire, my writing is stylistically very different from them and vice-versa. It's like the old story about the animals who were given jobs in the corporate world. They put the squirrel in charge of soaring over the sky, and the eagle in charge of foraging for acorns. You can't be what you naturally aren't made to be---well, okay, maybe you can. But it's not as much fun.

4) Keep on keeping on
When I took piano lessons, and I had to play a particularly fast piece (think "The Rustles of Spring"), I kept wanting to rush it, I was impatient with learning the notes and I wanted to get everything up to speed. Yesterday. My teacher told me to play each note slowly, making me plod through it at what seemed like an agonizingly slow pace. "The speed will come," she said (and I almost expected her to add 'grasshopper' at the end of it)
But one day, after slugging through the trills and 32nd notes, I found, quite surprisingly, that my fingers were almost naturally able to just find their home and and sing across the keyboard.

Writing is similar.

You can't find your voice if you're still struggling with basic spelling and grammar. I'm not talking about the typos that happen to us all [ fess up, folks]. But you obviously can't build a house if you can't swing a hammer. Ditto for writing.

Like I said, it's kind of hard to quantify. There's almost something intangible about it. But these are some suggestions that have worked with me personally.

Later this week, I'll post some of my favorite writer websites and some of the best websites for writers! Plus the highlights from some of the best writing advice I ever had. The Snarky Muse may even make another appearance.

>>>Hint for Track #3 on my 'Australia' novel. This song took its title from a TV show.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Do Novels Have Soundtracks? My novel - Track #2- "Turn, Turn, Turn"

Track #2 to my novel "Tomorrow in Australia" --

I think that some novels 'lend themselves' to 'soundtracks.' Movies have soundtracks--why not novels? In fact, some movies [I'm thinking of 'Dirty Dancing,' and 'Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?'] seem to lend themselves so much to the soundtrack, that the two are woven together in a manner where you can't picture one without the other. I'm wondering if, in the decade of digital media, it might be possible in the future for novels to have an additional option of a soundtrack to be downloaded for them...

At any rate, I'm lining up some guest bloggers, etc.

In the meantime, I've stumbled across this blog that touches on the subject:

There's been a lot of discussion on whether or not graphic novels particularly lend themselves to this.
Personally I think it has a two-fold purpose:
1) To inspire the author [and, as in my case, these songs are presented for discussion and education purposes only...these artists are in no way affiliated with my project]
2) They provide a bit of a 'good' distraction --if there is such a thing. I do believe that sometimes when we're headfirst into our novel, it's good to come up for air. Only bad thing is my 'air' seems to easily meld into checking out my facebook pages.
3) In the future, we may be able to actually have small soundtracks to novels--even if these are nothing more than background music that may 'set the stage' for reading. Before anyone jump my case for the 'end of the publishing industry as we know it,' let me just say that this is mainly because I view novels as almost living things, being reborn and reborn in the mind of the reader each time they read it or share it with someone else....

Now, presenting track #2 to my soundtrack. This song comes directly from my favorite book of the Bible. In fact, I wish we would actually sing this one in church [if you don't think it's Biblical, just read Ecclesiastes. ]

According to the dudes at Wikipedia, this was put to music by Pete Seeger in 1959, but wasn't recorded until 1962 and 45% of the royalties for the song are donated to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.

PS-- Roger McGuinn---lookin' good, dude.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Finish the Novel in 6 Weeks

Since my blog is taking a turn for the random, I thought I'd just kind of reiterate what my current project is.

As you know, this year, I've decided to take no prisoners as far as my upcoming fiction writing is concerned. I am blessed to have two novels out, but...well, Mama wants a new pair of shoes....

Okay, here's my writing dangerously goal for this quarter....

The novel: Tomorrow in Australia [until I come up with a better one, see posts]

I've been writing on this thing off and on for a long time. Time to birth this baby.

The goal: Send it to a contest.

The deadline: Must be postmarked by May 1.

The reason: Um...pressure for me is a great motivator.

Why? : Because I ran out of Prozac--what kind of question was that?

The team:
--My way cool writing buddies B and C, who will help me along this journey.
--My cool editing friend--aka--the Comma Nazi, who I'll just call K, who has agreed to go on dangling modifier patrol.
-- The images of David Tennat and Captain Mal, who will provide me inspiration. [I don't have to specify what kind do I?]
--Random cool cyberspace dudes who are cheering me on. I hope you're out there. I hope you're cheering. If not, well...I'll just assume you are.

Who will from time to time drop snarky comments because...well, that's what she does....

Right now I'm getting together a list of how many pages I've completed. Not sure how long it's gong to be---sometimes when writing fiction, it just is what it is.

I'll also regale you from time to time with excerpts from my novel soundtrack.

Calling guest bloggers: I'll also be hosting guest bloggers here...soon...hopefully....:)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Creating Great Book Titles, ideas and resources

Creating great book titles…(no fortune cookies required)

Disclaimer: I’m not an expert on this. My current novel I’m working on has a pretty pathetic working title (“Tomorrow in Australia”), but I feel I need to have a working title when I get a project started or else I just get derailed—I'll start obsessing over having an 'Untitled' in the forefront of my mind. So sometimes I take a title that strikes me at the time, even if it’s not the title I’ll ultimately use.

But good or not, it is a great illustration of how titles sometimes appear out of nowhere. Let me explain a bit about where it came from…

I had originally called it—“Ten Thousand New Year’s Eves” then got hung up on the grammar( is it Eves or New Year Eves’ or well, you get the point.) Then I got a little OCD about using Ten Thousand versus 10,000 or…well, at that point I just decided to do something else…

Then I got this fortune cookie that said:

Don’t worry about the world coming to an end…it’s already tomorrow in Australia.

Viola! Then “Tomorrow in Australia” was born---not that I think the title is that great, and it still may change…but…well, you get the idea. Some times these things can’t be predicted and they’ll hit you out of the blue somewhere.

I confess, I'm hoping to get some ideas and feedback on my 'working title' myself here...sometimes, like a good spaghetti sauce, you just have to let it simmer for a while. Am I right?

So, there are a lot of good resources out there on creating good titles. Writer’s Digest did a decent article on them in the past, and I’m sure you can search their website for reprints . I think from what I’ve personally experienced and seen, a book title should be:

1) Familiar but not too familiar
2) Different, but not so different that it’s not easily understood,
3) Not easily confused with what’s out there already
4) Demonstrate the ‘flavor’ quirkiness and tone of the book
5) The reader should be able to pronounce it. If not, incorporate some pronunciation marks into the graphic design of the title. “Gigli” [you remember, that movie with Bennifer?] I’m convinced was partially a flop because no one could pronounce that name. what? Is it Gigi?—which makes me think of the musical—or well, whatever. I digress.]

6) Personally, I'm not one for titles that are names, but I think that's just a personal thing (though I do like "Lolita" )...but God knows it worked for Dickens, so...I'm just chalking that up to personal preference.
7) I like titles that are contradictions -- "The Sound of Silence," "What the Deaf Man Heard," etc. though I do think they can be overdone.

8) Then have that, well, that ‘x’ factor that you don’t really know what it is until it hits you.

I read on Writer’s Digest that Fitzgerald was thinking of calling his novel “Incident at West Egg” or “The High Bouncing Lover” before someone [his editor?] arrived at “The Great Gatsby”

[SNARKY MUSE INTERRUPTION: “Dawn is writing the blog instead of her Australia novel and if she doesn’t finish her book on time, I’m hitting her with a 2 x 4]

Titles I think are AWESOME

I think the best way to learn about creating good titles are to look at some I think are awesome [and feel free to comment and share them].
In my opinion, some of my favorite book / novel / movie / short story titles are [in no particular order, save for my #1 favorite]

Reading Lolita in Tehran”

“Inventing the Abbotts” (movie – 1997) because “if the Abbotts didn’t exist, we’d have to invent them…”(shudder) Watch the movie to get that in context.

“The Mirror Crack'd” by Agatha Christie – granted, much better if you get the reference to the poem.

“The Spy Who Came in From the Cold” by: John LeCarre

“The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven” by Sherman Alexie

“Special Topics in Calamity Physics”…I confess, I have this book, and I haven’t read it yet. I have no idea what it’s about. Frankly, I don’t care. I love the title.

“An Arsonist’s Guide to Writer’s Homes in New England” by Brock Clark (I’d buy that one just based on the title alone.)

“Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand

“We Can Remember it for you Wholesale” by Phillip Dick (this was the inspiration for the movie ‘Total Recall”--another one of his titles, "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" is frequently on the all-time best book titles list.)

And my all-time fav?

1. “The Lathe of Heaven” by Ursula K. LeGuinn

Ironically, according to folks at Wikipedia, this title came about as a mistranslation of some writings of Chuang Tzu:

To let understanding stop at what cannot be understood is a high attainment. Those who cannot do it will be destroyed on the lathe of heaven.

Supposedly lathes weren't around in China at that time or whatnot---but who cares? I love the title. I'll go to more on this later. I read this book and watched the original PBS movie and the first time I read/ saw it I was so utterly, completely helplessly, lost, and I gave myself a hard time about that until I reasoned, well, I was only in sixth grade when I read / saw it, so maybe I was being too hard on myself. Saw it again this year and realized how BLEEPIN brilliant she is. I'm wanting to order a hardcover copy for myself [hint, hint for anyone seeking to give me stuff :)]

Other resources:

Goodreads has an extensive list of some of the best at this link:

The Abbeville Manual of Style adds their two cents worth:

I have to agree with Abbeville Manual on this selection: Raymond Carver, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

This is more of a marketing perspective:

And a shout out to Ironic Sans for an example of what happens when marketing and literature combine into an experiment that goes terribly, terribly, wrong….

The other week I talked about novels having soundtracks. Next week I'll place track 2 from the "Tomorrow in Australia" soundtrack [I'm hoping this is more inspiration rather than time wasting....]
Any guesses? Hint: It's folk rock, was recorded in the 60s and has been covered by a number of artists including Dolly Parton, Wilson Phillips, Amy Grant and Bruce Springsteen.

Oh, yeah, and consider this the legal disclaimer, all stuff I write on this blog is copyright to me unless it’s a link or a reference to another blog, in which case the copyright is owned by them (duh, like we knew that already) etc. and legalese, legalese, blah, blah…you get the point.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

My Novel Soundtrack and Alanis Morissette

I think that every writer, whether we admit it or not, likes to believe, deep down, that we'll be 'discovered' and we'll get to have a movie made of our books [sounds strange--we write books and hope that movies are made from them, but that's neither here nor there]. My point is, like movies, I many times feel like my books have a sound track to them.

Here's track 1 from my novel "Tomorrow in Australia."

"8 Easy Steps" by Alanis Morissette

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Heart Inside a Natural Seashell

I found this shell on the beach. Found it.

Didn’t buy it. Found it.

Wow. God’s handiwork, eh?

I’m not sure what to do with it. Right now I’m just carrying it around in my pocket with me everywhere I go, but knowing me, that’s always a great way of losing things.

I’m just posting a photo of this and letting the shell speak for itself. I knew no one would believe me if I didn’t post a photo of it. I’m tempted to make a necklace out of it, but feel somehow that it would cheapen the experience and make it feel too ‘canned’ or store-bought.

I can’t even tell you exactly what made me pick it out of the heap of other shells. I was just looking for one with a hole in it to make into a necklace. When I found it, I was ecstatic. This perfectly formed treasure was just there, as if waiting for me to discover it.

I don’t necessarily believe in omens, but I do believe God sends us little reminders from time to time to let us know that He’s there and He’s watching…

I’d like to say this shell means that I will find love in my life this year [esp. considering I haven’t had a decent date since the Clinton administration] . I’d like—even more—to say it means that an editor or agent will absolutely fall in love with my book I’m polishing up for this upcoming contest.

What do you think it means?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Amazing Thing I Found on the Beach

Anyone want to guess the way cool thing I found on the beach? n
Tune in next week to find out. I'll put a picture of it on this blog.
My only hints is that it was something ordinary that was also unexpected. Kind of like writing can be, eh?

Cool Clip Art Chick is Not Me

I've had a few comments about the cool clip art chick on this blog. No, she is not me. I only wished I looked that good. I've had a few people ask how I did this photo and who took it of me, and as much as I would love to take credit for it, it's not me. We do have the same nose and glasses...and hair [until I got mine cut].

But sadly, it is not me. but kudos to Cool Clilp Art Chick [CCAC].

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Christianity and Writing- cool quote from Doris Betts

I love this because it perfectly summarizes my writing philosophy. It's long, but please read--- from my UNC professor, and dear friend, and amazing writer Doris Betts

"In this film and video age...some think that if Jesus had wanted us to take heaven seriously, he would have brought along snapshots instead of telling stories...but those stories taught us the power and magic of words. The Bible taught us metaphor ("I am the vine, ye are the branches") ...though I am not an overtly devotional writer, I agree with ... See MoreCharlotte Bronte's assessment of Christianity's effect on her work--'It went all through me and through me, like wine through water, and altered the color of my mind.'"
----from Doris Betts "Everything I Know About Writing I Learned from Sunday School."