Archive for July, 2011

Jo March

It’s the question that always comes up in any writer interview.  What writers influenced you to take up a pen?  If you write literary fiction (please enunciate all syllables), your answer is Joyce or Fitzgerald.  If you write speculative fiction like I do, it’s King or Bradbury or Stoker or Tolkien.

But if I am thoughtful, I have to say the writer who first influenced me was Jo March.  Ah, yes, they nod sagely–who?  Jo March.  Jo of Amy, Beth, and Meg fame.  Jo March of Little Women.  In middle school, we still called it elementary then, I read Little Women innumerable times, always losing interest when Mr. March returned from war and the strong, capable women deferred to the men, and it dissolved into a love story.  But in every reading, I related to Jo, the tomboy; Jo, who was brave and strong, who cut her hair and sat by her dying sister; Jo, the writer.

Jo wrote genre fiction and made money doing it.  She started her career as a playwright and then moved on to write swashbuckling romances.  Jo wrote in a garrett with a nib pen while eating apples.  Jo’s manuscripts were hand-written, full of cross outs and blobs.  Her hands and clothing stained with ink like a surgeon finishing a cardiac operation.

Jo sold her stories to the serial papers and was almost willing to let Laurie think she had periodontal disease rather than admit she’d been to her publisher.  Jo, like many of us, feared critique, and when she finally gave her stories to Professor Bhaer who she respected and eventually married, he said:  “You can do better.”

And after recovering from that devastation, she did.  She kept writing and became better.  We never get to read any of Jo’s short stories or her novel that sold for $300 and garnered mixed reviews, but somehow I know they were fun reads.

Jo March, the epitome of all writers.

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Time magazine did a story this week on fan fiction. It actually was a nice article and the writer had done some research.  He knew that real writers often write FF usually under pen names, there are different types of FF, and the origin of slash was Kirk/Spock, but the focus was Potter. Of course, I understand: the movie is out and the profits need to be sucked in.  But, there was not a single mention of LOTR fan fiction, one of the biggest categories in the genre and my baby.  CBS news is now running a fan fiction piece: all Potter…and much lighter and less researched than Time: so much for TV journalism.

As a FF author, (published at Henneth-Annun.net, The Paths of the King, stories of Aragorn’s youth by SindarinElvish, if you are interested) I’d like to say there is a lot of great “continued stories” out there.  Authors restricted by copyright from traditional publishing, hobbyists, and teen fans write continuing stories of their favorite characters from Star Wars to the classics to Twilight to Lord of the Rings.  It’s fun to read and write. Some of it is very good.  And writing FF is great writing practice for aspiring writers.

If you are stuck for a writing idea, take your favorite characters and say, what if?  You are writing plot driven stories because your backstory is there, your characters are developed, and there is already an overarching theme.  You can have fun with plot and dialogue and sharpen those skills.  Give it a try.

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 There are characters for our stories out there walking around, desperate to crawl between the pages! 

Between the morning writing and the afternoon typing, I went out to run errands.  Starting at Kohl’s, moving on to Target, and finally ending at the real point of the adventure–Petsmart.  I was sent, and those of you who are cat servants know what I mean, for litter, the all-important crunchies, and food they would eat. 

Dog owners don’t understand the issues cat owners face with buying the proper food.  A dog will eat ANYTHING literally, dead opossums, deer spines, poop–it’s all good!  Cats:  not so much.  What worked yesterday is disdained today.  I have one who even tries to cover the offending food like litter box leavings.  If you think I’m daft, just check out the cat food aisle.  Pate, minced, slices in gravy, turkey, Atlantic cod (that’s why we poor humans can’t get good cod any longer), salmon, chicken, shrimp and crab, duck–duck!  I haven’t had that since the local French restaurant went belly-up.

Anyway, back to the writing prompt.  In the aisle bemoaning the same issue I had was a delightful, ancient couple who assured me their cats ran the household and they were the servants.  The lady told me the cats were absolutely disgusted with her anytime she went out and would ignore her presence the minute she starting dressing.  She confided her cats wouldn’t eat anything that contained fish; they only liked poultry.  Mine are the opposite–it must come out of the water to be palatable. If only the backyard birds knew that!

The mister was trundling along behind with the cart and giving unwanted advice.  He was obviously fed up with the cats and thought they should be grateful to eat anything that was put down. (Yeah, I’ve witnessed this attitude and then found the cats curled up on my personal cat dad, everyone asleep.) 

The lady was wearing a tee-shirt that proclaimed:  “Men are idiots, and I married the King!”  Bet the cats got it for her for Christmas.


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Camp Nano

July 2011 is another opportunity to participate in the Summer Camp version of National Novel Writers’ Month. Since the last third of If I Should Die was simply an after thought, I am working on that, calling it Swimming in the Lake of Fire.  Hopefully, I will finish Gryphon’s story and hit the 50,000 word mark.  Thank you, Mary, since I stole your chart.  🙂

Word Count
Word Count
July 1
1366 July 16
July 2
2116 July 17
July 3 July 18
July 4 July 19
July 5
4513 July 20
July 6
6788 July 21
July 7
7551 July 22
July 8
July 23
July 9
July 24
July 10
9544 July 25
July 11
10153 July 26
July 12
July 27
July 13
July 28
July 14
July 29
July 15
11434 July 30
July 31

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There are many valuable books on the art of writing but two of my favorite, probably because of my genre, are Stephen King’s On Writing and Orson Scott Card’s How to Write SciFi and Fantasy.  Among the plethora (love that word) of tips, both men exalt the need for exercise on their lists of what real writers do.  (We all know King almost joined the ranks of his characters squashed by Christine, so do exercise somewhere relatively safe)

Walking clears your head, gives you new perspective, and often supplies new ideas.  Why is that pink tricycle with the patriotic streamers wedged crazily against the mailbox post?  Why in that open garage are there no cars but one huge, green woodchipper?  And the tiger cat, sitting boldly at the end of the drive–just a cat or a time traveler here to fix a historical error?

I spend much of my daily walking time conversing (see, the word is NOT conversating) with my characters and working out scene details.  In fact, Gryphon and I just returned from a misty morning walk; he was looking warily behind every rose bush and yard gnome for a sudden zombie charge; he’s nervous, that way.  I was trying to work out the family triangle of him, his adopted daughter Cass, and Terri, his admin. adjunct.

By the time we finished the loop, Gryphon had found no zombies lurking in Lakota Hills and I still needed to smooth over the waters of jealousy, but we had a nice walk and I returned, more clear-headed, ready for another cup of coffee, and looking to return to the near future and pen a few more pages.

So, take a walk, or go to the gym, or take a swim (PLETHORA of ideas there)…you never know who you’ll meet!

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