Wednesday, July 23, 2014

New Design Launch and Snow Leopard Excerpt

This is not the story I'd promised with the launch of my new look and feel for Are We There Yet? Instead, I'm sharing with you the things which keep me captivated in this world of reading and writing fiction: a world where our protagonists, villains, antagonists, and other supporting characters spring from the imaginations of writers who use nothing more than mere words to engage us and suck us into the madness.

Madness?! What do you mean madness?

Freaky mad!!  Or just freaky?

What else would you call it when you block yourself off from the rest of the world to drink in the surroundings of some fictional tale involving murder, mayhem, and chaos? Or a futile fair tale romance that could never be because, in reality, we're not as perfectly beautiful, wealthy, and flawless as our fictional heroes and heroines?

The things that captivate me while reading a fictional story is the imagery. The way a writer can describe a sound or color.  I like Steven King's description of the sound made by a hungry stray dog while ripping hair from the scalp of a dead man. It was in his book Gerald's Game.  The scene was hideously gruesome, and so vividly clear that I could actually hear the sound itself, even though I would never have imagined it before.

Another thing that I like is the bringing together, in an artistic way, events which trigger a particular emotion. Sort of like in Enchantment, where Orson Scott Card describes the villainous witch, Baba Yaga. She is brushing her hair in front of this magical mirror which makes her look young and beautiful. She hums a tune while her husband watches in disgust. Through his own eyes, he sees a witch-like, wrinkled, and hideously grotesque blob. It makes you kind of forget how evil and awful she is for a moment, and you feel pity for her.  Amazing, isn't it?

Yes, it's madness, sort of. Who in their right mind would feel sympathy for an evil, villainous, sub-human monster? If written well, I would.

And since I didn't share with you a story, here's an excerpt from one of my first short stories published on Amazon, Snow Leopard. But first, a one sentence blurb to put things in context.

A human specimen is prepared for the surgical removal of her scalp, which will be transfused onto the crown of a tribal leader, King to a subhuman species of feline crossbreeds.

The surgical lines outlined the subject's forehead with a path leading toward the nape of the neck. Fiona placed both hands in the middle of the subject's forehead. She sank two nails into the flesh and dark droplets of blood seeped onto the clean surface of the skin, one droplet meandering down the slope of the nose, sinking into the crevice of the nostril, and finding its way to the lips, where it emptied itself like a creek into the mouth of a river.

They worked better than a scalpel, moving to either side of each temple and then around the ears. Fiona continued with the incision until she reached the endpoint at the back of the neck, not missing any strands of the precious red mane. When the incision was complete, Fiona looked at Franz and nodded.  
He reached over and pinched the edges of the subject's exposed skin at the top of the forehead, careful to maintain a grip, the blood slipping between his fingers. He was not a surgeon, yet grateful for not having to maintain his nails like Fiona. 
He pulled the bloody skin away from the skull. It peeled much like the skin of a grape. He maintained the integrity of the incision by following along the slit, pulling the skin away from the thin membrane protecting the skull. When the entire scalp was free, he plopped the newly acquired piece onto the slab of ice. He would later wheel it into the adjoining room, where lay Han, the tribe leader awaiting his prized mane of red human hair. 

What captivates you and keeps you engrossed in a fictional world?

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Coming Changes to Are We There Yet?

To all the readers and writers out there in the blog-o-sphere, I've been exploring options for revamping Are We There Yet? Why I write is important in the design I choose for this blog, so I hired a graphics design artist who has been phenomenal in working with me to help improve upon my theme as well as reveal a little about me in the process.

I sought a professional because the current signature graphic of my name is lame and amateurish, but hey, I'm no graphics designer. And yes, the pen would indicate writing at some level, but really? You would think I could have come up with something a little more suited to a theme of making progress.

Writing is instrumental in revealing the soul of an author, and as such, my soul should be splattered across the header of this blog, not some flamboyant scribbling from a ballpoint pen which screams "pink ego." Besides, I don't write with a pen, I type on a keyboard! But, Diane, you're being a bit hard on yourself.

I'll just slap myself with a wet noodle. Soon I will be unveiling a fresh look and feel. With the new blog design, I will share a short piece of fiction to accompany the launch. I hope you will enjoy both, the graphic and the story. See you soon!

When was the last time you felt the need to revamp your little writing nook out here in the blog-o-sphere, and how drastic a change did you make?

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Monday, July 14, 2014

The American Dream - Coming Together

This weekend I opened my heart to America. I had no idea this movie existed until Tim said he wanted to go see it. It came out of nowhere. Was he bored? A documentary? Who goes to the movies to watch a documentary? Why didn't they just put it on television like other historical documentaries?

I didn't have the energy to argue. I didn't want to watch anything about America. I had grown tired of America and the back and forth bickering and debating between the left and the right. I didn't want to be affiliated with any political party, but I've been saddened by how polarized we'd become.

Polarization. I had no idea I would discover this to be a deliberate strategy, that America had been and continues to be subliminally strong armed into voting the way of shame. But I wasn't ashamed of anything and neither are many of my friends and colleagues. However, the narrative unfolding in the media demands we listen and pay attention to it. I'll call it the shaming of America. We're racist thieves and we must be reminded at every opportunity.

Photo I took when visiting Washington D.C.

In truth, I wanted to watch Melissa McCarthy in her new movie, Tammy. I needed the comedic relief, but no. Okay, I conceded after Tim reminded me of its scathing review by USMagazine, calling it a career intervention for McCarthy. How wrong is that?

The hell?

The movie we watched instead is based on Dinesh D’Souza's new book, America: Imagine the World Without Her. I won't go into the details, but the movie is very well put together, inviting far left views as well as representing another narrative which shines a different light onto America and who she is.

We are reminded of the untold stories which make us strong and proud to have come from such a great country. We are reminded of the horrors, also untold, which would show the unjust in the way we approach society today. We are all equally at fault for the America we are building for the future if we cannot come together and build a narrative that is just and accurate.

You cannot fix a problem if you're not willing to have that dialogue. Mr. D'Souza seems to have brought some issues to the table. I'm just not so sure America is ready to have that dialogue. We'll see.

If you're like me and have been feeling a little beaten up by the political pow wow in the media, go see this movie. You'll feel much better!

Everyone in the theater applauded. It was the first time I'd ever witnessed such a thing and it made me feel good about America, whereas before entering, I'd felt indifferent and a little depressed.

I love America. What are your thoughts? Has America disappointed you? Are things that bad, or are they promising?

From our recent visit to D.C.

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Monday, July 7, 2014

Making No Progress, Suggestions are Welcome!!

Okay, I apologize. I submitted this photo while in Tampa this afternoon. I thought it expressed exactly how I felt at the moment. I experienced this urge to write something and all I had available as a conduit to the blog-o-sphere was my iPhone and iPad.

I snapped this photo from my Bitstrips app over a week ago. But, today is when I realized my block, so I posted the photo from my iPhone and then ventured back to address you folks with one question.

What do you do to overcome severe writer's block?

I need your help!! :(

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Top 10 Character Flaws That Don't Work For Me

I read once (or maybe more than once, but who's counting?) that characters are more likable when they are flawed, and to some extent, I believe this to be true. I have my favorite characters who are all flawed in many ways, but there are those characters who are beginning to pick at that last nerve. They're so cliched and I wonder why they are chosen over and over again as the favored protagonist or one of the main characters. I don't like them any more because I see them everywhere!

The Millionaire Philanderer

I don't understand this. Why is it that the guys who have money must be portrayed as weak when it comes to women in pursuit? Stop letting these women drape on you like a cheap suit! Sling them to the side and show some self-respect. This is similarly done with the rock stars toting around their posse and loyal groupie bangers. And why are they always extremely handsome? Ever see Donald Trump or Hugh Hefner? For real...

The Deep Dark Secret Sufferer

A great way to expose a flaw for a character who has a secret is for them to perform some odd behaviors like visit a secret grave on the 3rd of each month, or something equally odd. Stop giving them permission to be emotionally erratic toward others with no explanation whatsoever only to have character A tell character B, "Oh, his mother died in a freak accident back in 2010 and he's never really recovered from it. A year later his sister was ate up by some flesh-eating bacteria she got at summer camp."

Of course, this sort of thing might work in a comedic rendition of some reality shows I watch for pure entertainment.

The Damsel In Distress

I'm tired of distress getting rewarded just because it is the more attractive option to the male ego. What about the woman who refuses to be rescued and this causes a man to leave her side and ultimately results in his saving a bus load of children?

Yea, women understand sacrifice, too. We know other shit is going on out there other than ourselves. Some of us can save ourselves. We can also help save others as well. Go save yourself a puppy or something! Readers will LOVE you. I promise.

The Chip on the Shoulder

This dude needs to get out of his own way. Nobody likes this anymore! The bad guys are losing steam because there are too many of them. You know, the opposite of this flaw is the shy guy. I  love me a shy guy, too. Please let's do away with the wise-cracking assholes and invite the John Nash's into our stories, because you can't have enough of A Beautiful Mind.

The Jealous Woman

Jealousy has always been an ugly thing to me, especially in a woman. If you're going to make your character a jealous one, at least give them some redeeming quality like having them internalize it rather than going all out ninja on a bitch. I guess what I'm saying is that jealousy can make a character vulnerable, therefore likable, just don't let it shine in all its ugliness by having your character act upon her jealousies, because then it becomes completely unlikable.

A "like" plus an "unlike" kind of cancel each other out, so what's the point? Unless you're building a villain, in which case all out ninja would be just fine.

The Pained Drunkard/Addict

Sometimes this is done well and I feel bad for the character. Most times I think the character deserves what's coming to them. I'm unsympathetic to these characters. Yes, even though I drink beer and one might consider me an alcoholic for doing so, I still abhor such characters who cannot rise above their addictions.

I want to sympathize, but at the same time it's hard not to want to punch this character in the face and shout. Come on already! You have to get up and be at the courthouse first thing in the morning, you oaf. Put the vodka away for Christ's sake!

The "I  Lost My Entire Family" Victim

I know what it's like to lose a loved one. I lost my father in 1992, my mother in 2006, and my grandmother in 2009. Trust me, putting them all together at the same time doesn't make the pain worse; it makes you more an asshole trying to get a bigger reaction from your reader. How can it be even more painful? Kill the grandmother too!

Trust me tragedy is fine if you do it right. But, if done wrong, the author comes across as trying to make double and triple sure that the reader sympathizes with their character. The character is devastated. He didn't just lose his beloved wife. He lost his daughter, their two dogs, the cat, and their pet goldfish. How could you not feel horrible for this guy? STOP it!

The Washed Up Hero

This always happens in sequels or starts out the very first scene with the hero, washed up and ready to commit suicide. Don't worry! You'll soon find out why he was so miserable. Hello Mel Gibson, Lethal Weapon. Loved the movie. Suicidal would be lost in translation in the written form, IMHO.

The visual is a different story though. The tears, red eyes, shaking hand with gun self-directed at his head. Don't do it! Aw, everything will be okay. Whatever it is bothering you, it will work out. It's the beginning of the movie and we have another hour and a half for things to get better. Plus, you're the star of this movie, so you can't die just yet. There, there, put the gun down.

The Arrogant Entrepreneur/Estate Owner

I just read a post today and found out that there is a romance novel "genre" (?) which caters to this situation. I believe it's called Regency Harlequins. I'll research it more and make an addendum here when I have the chance. But honestly, I don't see the draw to such a thing. There's nothing particularly romantic about having to deal with an estate. Been there, done it. It's a huge pain in the ass.

The Stubborn Rebel

The romance novels I've read years ago were not the same as they are today. The men in those books were men. Pure men. They were arrogant, not stubborn. They were righteous, not rebellious. They were businessmen, doctors, professors, and pilots. The romance was written for a different culture back then.

But, I've tried to read romances these days and I can't. It's too painful. The men are like boys. Stubborn, like when a mother tries to get her son to eat his veggies. Yeah, that kind of rebelliousness is not romantic to me. I want a man in this story, not a two year old. Dammit, I'm dating myself.

Are there character flaws that just don't work for you? Did I point out a character flaw here that you actually like and felt that I didn't do it the justice it deserves? Well, come yell at me about it! Or just leave a polite comment. :)

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