Posted in Featured, My Books, Writing

Nothing But Flowers

“Nothing But Flowers: tales of post apocalyptic love” is the second offering from Literary Mix Tapes (a quarterly crowd-sourced short fiction anthology inspired by music)…. and I am fortunate enough to have a story included.

Inspired by the Talking Heads song of the same name, Nothing But Flowers explores the complexities and challenges of love in a post apocalyptic landscape. From plague to fundamentalist governments, comets and war, from terra firma to outer space the people on these pages face up to what it means to love and be loved when you’ve lost everything.

My own story, “There But for Fortune” is included in the anthology.

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Posted in Featured, My Books, Writing

The Ying & Yang Book

In the international terminal of a large European airport, Monday morning is about to get a whole lot worse. At 7.35am Pangaean Airlines, one of Europe’s major carriers, is put into receivership grounding all flights, stranding thousands of passengers and impounding tonnes of luggage. But all is not as appears on the surface and the sliding-doors moment of one woman deciding to retrieve her suitcase will ricochet through the lives around her.

The combined anthology contains 22 original stories, including the prologue and epilogue.

My own story, “Providence” is included in the anthology.

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Posted in Featured, My Books, Writing

The Red Book

In a small North American university town ten lives are intersecting…

Miranda reaps what she has sown…
Mitchell understands there is no resisting fate…
Clint dreams of forging a violent destiny…
Elizabeth is about to make a discovery…
Robin hides a terrible secret…
Simon hasn’t slept in ten days…
Sam is pursued by nightmares…
Susie has lost everything…
David has just been found…
Jake atones for past evils…

Ten ordinary people struggling to keep their sanity in an insane world.

My own story, “Not Myself” is included in the anthology.

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Posted in Anti-Resolutions, Featured, General Silliness, Writing

My 2011 Anti-Resolutions

It’s time get the new year off to a creative start—and make some resolutions you’ll actually keep in the process.

The rules are simple:

  • List ten things you resolve NOT to do in the upcoming year.
  • Be as creative as possible.

To get this thing rolling, here are…

My 2011 New Year’s Anti-Resolutions

  1. I will NOT try to get my kids to use rechargeable batteries by telling them that every time they throw away a regular battery an angel loses its wings.
  2. I will NOT try to free up spaces next to me on the bus by reading aloud from my Kindle version of The Anarchist’s Cookbook.
  3. I will NOT lobby the local school board to teach the existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, even though String Theory teaches us that at the sub-atomic level we are all rather noodly.
  4. I will NOT, assuming I earn my Kilt this year, bedazzle it so as to make myself more visible.
  5. I will NOT found a new religion with a bovine deity in an attempt to deduct my over-consumption of Red Bull from my taxes.
  6. I will NOT sink my savings into an attempt to have MTV Games add Kazoo Hero to their stable of video games.
  7. I will NOT legally change my name to Inigo Montoya so that I have a unique pick-up line to use when meeting women.
  8. I will NOT pursue my loves of science and writing by completing my draft of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Nuclear Fusion in the Home.
  9. I will NOT announce myself at my friends’ doors with…Knock, knock, knock, “Penny”, knock, knock, knock, “Penny”, knock, knock, knock, “Penny.”
  10. I will NOT go an entire year without using question marks, while mocking my friends because of their use of mongrel punctuation.
Posted in Design, Featured, Writing

My Birthday Present

As my birthday present to myself I am giving myself a new blog. Those of you who may have visited lately will notice that the design is completely different (and in progress) and many posts have disappeared.

This weekend I am celebrating my birthday by moving from one apartment to another. But after that settles down, I’ll hammer out the changes to the blog. Then I’ll be concentrating much more on writing and much less and keeping the design up to date.

So for the time being, please pardon the mess.

Posted in Design, Featured, Writing

A Call for Ideas

I realize that over the last year or two I’ve essentially killed off any readership I had here at Rough Draft. There are many reasons for that—although whether they are reasons or excuses is up for debate.

However, in the past couple of months I have been writing more and more…but not on this blog. And I think I know why. I’m avoiding it. Almost everything in my life has been rewritten in the last six months. But this blog is the same. And I think it’s time to do something about it.

It’s time to redesign.

But I’m not sure what I want to do. As in the past I’m going to contract an artist to design some graphics, but what will they be.

So I’m tossing it out to anyone who’s still listening. Anyone have any bright ideas?

Posted in Writing

One Day at a Time

Fair Warning: This post will be less about writing, and more about life, than our readers may be used to. For this personal indulgence I apologize. But if I can, I hope to bring it around to writing—at least a little.

This is my first post in seven weeks. Sometimes real life rears it’s head and makes writing—and talking about writing—too hard to fit into the daily routine.

Before I continue I’d like to thank those that made my sabbatical possible. Jodi stepped in with only a hour or two notice to fill in for my first absence. Then Jodi and Annie sat me down—as much as that’s possible by email—and convinced me that I needed a break. All the regular writers pitched in to find replacements so that I didn’t have to worry about hurrying back. And of course thanks to those who filled my spot for the last six weeks: Jodi, Anne Whitaker, Annie, Icy Sedgwick and Joyce Mason.

So why the break? Well, much of it I’d rather not get into in a public forum…at least not the specifics. The last year has really heaped a lot onto an already full plate.

A suicide attempt by someone close to me, my step-kids moving away, worsening asthma, cluster headaches running out of control, stomach ulcers and depression (ranging from mild to severe, but never really going away), have all conspired not only to make daily life a challenge, but to make writing all but impossible.

My life today bears little resemblance to even two months ago. But changes can also bring opportunity. And those same friends who convinced me that it was OK to take a break from writing, have helped me see that by trying to get back into the habit of writing may help me rein in some of the chaos, but also help me deal with the thoughts and emotions that threaten to overwhelm me every day.

So that’s what I’m trying. Little by little I’m restructuring my life, with time set aside to do the things that are important to me, but for the last several years have gotten pushed aside. This blog is one of those things. My own blog as well. But even more important is simply giving myself time to write.

Maybe, someday, I can look at the events of the last few months with some perspective. Maybe I can use them, and the rush of sadness, fear and depression that I felt in my writing. Maybe.

For now, I’d be happy just to distract myself by getting back to the fundamentals—putting pen to paper—and actually writing something worthwhile.

Originally posted on where six writers talk about the trials and tribulations of their writing lives. And each Tuesday the soapbox belongs to me.

Posted in Anti-Resolutions, Featured, General Silliness, Writing

My 2010 Anti-Resolutions

It’s time get the year off to a creative start—and make some resolutions you’ll actually keep in the process.

The rules are simple:

  • List ten things you resolve not to do in the upcoming year.
  • Be as creative as possible.

To get thing rolling, here are…

My 2010 New Year’s Anti-Resolutions

  • I will not free up room to take in borders by convincing my kids to sleep in more “convenient” places—like the oven or bathtub.
  • I will not try to spice up the Winter Olympics in my house, by convincing each family member that they were adopted from various cold-weather countries.
  • I will not open job interviews by asking if I should have listed my RockBand Drum skills on my resume.
  • I will not try to push day-glo sombreros as the next fashion trend.
  • I will not hang around the seafood section of the grocery store trying to convince the patrons to throw their “catches” back.
  • I will not attempt to create balance in the universe by making only left hand turns.
  • I will not try to addict my kids to crystal-meth in order to take wagers on who can resist the longest.
  • I will not try use my old boxer shorts as material for a “more interesting” type of quilt.
  • I will not try to become famous by faking an Easter Bunny sighting by supplying a fake pelt as evidence.
  • I will not use the ridiculous number of Slurpees I buy as justification to initiate a hostile takeover of the nearby convenience store.

Originally posted on where six writers talk about the trials and tribulations of their writing lives. And each Tuesday the soapbox belongs to me.

Posted in Writing

Debugging Dialogue

dialogueDialogue is difficult to get just right. Most of the those I’ve worked with through my years of writing—whether it be through collaboration, writer’s groups or simple friendly socialization—have, at one time or another, wrestled with the demon that is realistic dialogue.

Right now, I’m working on a short story that’s giving me some trouble—for those of you playing along at home, this story is part of a compilation/collaboration with a few other authors on this site. The dialogue is tricky because…well, without getting into too much detail, it involves some characters that aren’t all there. This is all particularly maddening for two reasons. First, I usually have little trouble with dialogue. Second, this story relies almost entirely on dialogue, so if I can’t get the dialogue to work, the story will fall flat.

Generally, I don’t have too much trouble with my characters and what they say. Oh, the overall story may be giving me trouble, but that’s more of a story-direction problem than it is a problem of speech not sounding authentic.

So what’s an author to do? Aside from the most obvious solution—keep tinkering with the dialogue—I’ve come up with a few techniques to help myself out. Unfortunately, they’ve all fallen just as flat as my character’s voices. But a couple of days ago I stumbled upon a technique that’s helping quite a bit. And even if it’s not solving the problem, it’s making the tinkering much easier.

Several years back, someone in an online writing group I was part of posted an exercise: Write a short story of indeterminate length, with two characters, and nothing but dialogue—not even dialogue tags. The only attribution we were allowed was to write the story in play format—minus any stage directions (the results of that exercise can be seen here). I had quite a bit of fun with that exercise, and over the years I have tackled several writing prompts with the same approach.

So, a couple of days ago, on a whim, I decided to try this approach with my current draft. I spent a couple of hours stripping away everything except the spoken word. And once that was done, it was obvious why the story wasn’t quite up to snuff—the dialogue was flat in several places. Where I thought there was cute banter, there was nothing more than dry Q&A. Where I thought I was being circumspect, I wasn’t.

So now the problem is clear. My dialogue seems not-quite-up-to-snuff because I’m relying on exposition and narration to get me through the rough spots.

But now, stripped of all it’s cruft (it’s a techie term, look it up if you need to—call it a word for the day) not only were the problem spots apparent, but fixing them became drastically easier. Now, if I need to change what Character-X says I don’t have to worry about what it does to my precious sentence that I’m so attached to—that decision will come later.

So far it hasn’t been a panacea, but it’s given me an avenue of attack.

If you have a talk-heavy story that’s got you banging your head against a wall, try it out. I’d be terribly interested to know how it works for you.

Aside from fighting with the dialogue in his current story, Dale is also fighting a nasty bout of cluster headaches. If anyone thinks they have a future as a superhero who fights uninspired prose AND crippling headaches, he’s happily accepting applications.

Originally posted on where six writers talk about the trials and tribulations of their writing lives. And each Tuesday the soapbox belongs to me.

Posted in Writing

The Logophile

logophileRecently, while trying to explain the myxolydian scale to one of my kids, I realized that all of the hobbies I’ve practiced over the years have a very rich lexicon—that is to say specialized words that have evolved, or been created, to describe something specific to that field. All the hobbies, that is, save one—writing.

When that thought first sprung to mind I nearly dismissed it. It’s patently ridiculous to think that a practice about writing wouldn’t develop it’s own insular tech-speak. But after thinking more about it, it makes perfect sense.

I don’t think I’m going too far out on a limb to say that over the years I’ve dabbled in some obscure hobbies—Archery, Fencing, Role-Playing, Printmaking, Paintball, Bagpipes, Heraldry and most recently, the Harmonica. And each of these has a long list of specialty vocabulary. Truth be told, it’s one of thing I like about some of these activities…

Archery — riser, cresting, draw, doinkers, fistmele, fletching, quiver, tiller, nock
Fencing — florentine, coup lance, epee, parry, florentine
Printmaking — intaglio, gravure, pochoir, restrike, vignette
Bagpipes — birl, cran, chanter, drone, grace notes, leumluath, piobaireachd, taorluath
Heraldry — abatement, cadency, clarion, escutcheon, jessant-de-lys, rampant, talbot (I could go on for close to a thousand words as classical heraldry uses Norman French)
Harmonica — ionian, myxolydian, dorian, aeolian, glissando, pentatonic, tremolo, riff, trill

The specialized language of is a function of both small societies, and society as a whole. Fencers aren’t overly concerned about being understood by hundreds of thousand of people, because there are only a few thousand people interested in it. So if someone comes up with a term that is less than obvious, it will only benefit those who take the time to learn it. As a side effect it also helps create a camaraderie among those in the group.

With writing however the reverse is in effect. Our sole purpose is to be read and to be understood. To create specialized language is self-defeating, for who will take the time to decipher a story in a language that makes them feel alienated. Also, writers have a natural aversion to creating new words for things when a word almost certainly already exists.

Certainly there are exceptions to this. Writing has a few words we use more often than others, or words that have meanings more specific to writers than to general readers. There are also a few authors who we revere for their ability to make up new words—Shakespeare and Dr. Seuss, come to mind immediately.

What hobbies do you have (or have had through the years)? Do they have their own lingo?

The image at the top of the post was created with a free service called Wordle. With it you can create a similar picture using your website (or any text you choose) to create an image in a variety of different colors and styles.

Originally posted on where six writers talk about the trials and tribulations of their writing lives. And each Tuesday the soapbox belongs to me.