30 April 2013

U is for Underestimating the American Spirit

I saw this photograph on Facebook a week or two ago and I immediately snatched it for this post. I didn't even have to read the story to understand the meaning of the photo; it spoke volumes to me. It says to me, "My life isn't over, I'm in control. Bring it."

However, when I read this story about one victim of the Boston Marathon bombing, I didn't want to leave it as just a "share" on Facebook. I wanted it to be an addition to my post about underestimating the American spirit, because that is exactly what the world has witnessed here.

This isn't the only photograph which has touched me in the past year. There have been a few. I don't know how old these photographs are, but they each reached me at a pivotal point in my writing journey, so I want them all here in my compilation of this article about progress and inspiration.

As most of my friends and family know, I come from a military background. My father was a retired Marine. My husband is a retired Marine. My son is an Army veteran who served in Iraq and who is now medically retired. So, it shouldn't be a surprise that this photo also inspires my post today.

Here I see this super sexy guy, and he's confident, determined, and very much still in the game. This is the American spirit I see and appreciate. It reminds me of what this country stands for. Not what it has become. There are still some who will never give in, who will always remain hopeful for our future, and who, despite their own setbacks, will continue to inspire and give hope to others.

Sometime last year, a regular mammogram revealed an area of concern and my doctor scheduled a punch biopsy. I wasn't sure what to expect, but immediately I began thinking of my options, my husband having gone through a cancer diagnosis 2 years earlier.

That is why when I saw this photograph for the first time, I was filled with hope and I thought, "If I come out of this with a double mastectomy, I'm going to finally give in and get that tattoo I've always wanted of the fire dragon wrapped around a castle." I don't care if you think it's lame, Diane. Getting back to the nature of this post.

We are divided by many things. Politics gets us pitted against one another. So does religion, racial inequalities, gender inequality, and so many other divisive elements for which we refuse to enter into dialogue for whatever reason. Maybe it's a tool for those who benefit from the division. Remember when your kids did it? Divide and conquer.

We parents knew how to deal with it: the united front. Let us not turn our heads to the divisive, but see it for what it is and move along. Let us see the truly beautiful in people who still believe. There is hope. You just have to step toward the side of positive and let's create many instances of this type of media, rather than accepting the feed of those nuggets which divide and conquer, because what are we trying to conquer here anyway? Share and re-tweet positives!

The inclusion of these photos into my post today is my way of sharing what I believe is important in healing as a nation and reflecting as individuals. It's important that you know, regardless of your need to be right, your need to win, or your need to be on top of any situation, there are people who have won while our eyes have been shut.

Take a moment to reflect on what it means to truly win at life. What strengths in people have you witnessed in the past? Have they inspired you to look beyond the bleak and foreboding obstacles which threaten your happiness?

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26 April 2013

S is for Self-Preservation and Sharing

by B. Lynn Goodwin

Wouldn’t it be great to have a place where you could rant, vent, process, analyze, evaluate, and discover hope?

If therapy is too expensive and support groups are not working, try something else. Relieve stress and find hope by journaling.

James W. Pennebaker, Ph.D. pioneered research in writing as a healing tool. He has found that “writing about emotional upheavals in our lives can improve physical and mental health.” Do not underestimate its power.

Patricia A. Farrell, Ph.D., who is the author of How to Be Your Own Therapist has said, “The effort of putting something down on paper forces you to really consider what you're writing and in that simple act, you begin to think more about the content.” Even the act of writing a “to-do” list can be more effective than thinking about what you need to do.

A journal can be a simple record of daily events. It can also be a place to look at your thoughts, feelings, reasoning, and reactions to those events. It’s a place to dig deeply, when you want to, but it’s also a safe place to simply tell your story without interruption or contradiction.

Journaling offers perspective. It restores the emotional balance. In addition to being a record, my journal is a place to:

  • vent
  • imagine and record my journey
  • sharpen my craft, and figure out what I really mean to say
  • find story ideas
  • make lists and cross off what I accomplish
  • record my reflections

I write my journals in longhand. I like the smooth flow of a pen on paper. I like the progress of moving from left to right, line after line, traveling down one page and on to the next. The rhythm of longhand soothes me.

Here are a few other reasons to journal:

  • I write to share
  • I write to pull out secrets locked in place in my brain
  • I write to see what happens if I release my private truths
  • I write gratitude lists to feel better

When you write in your journal, it can be all about you. The journal validates your worth. There is no wrong way to keep a journal. Go wherever an image takes you. Explore fearlessly. 

Not sure how to start? You’ll find encouragement, instructions, and over 200 "sentence starts" in You Want Me to Do What? (ISBN# 978-1-60696-297-8).Though the subtitle is Journaling for Caregivers, journaling is for everyone. Jot your ideas down, using whatever "sentence starts" appeal.  Come back later, if you want, and continue the piece, or move on.

Writing saves lives. Get out of your own way and just do it. Your truths are dying to come out. 

Though it does not always seem like it, journals have the power to pull you off the hamster wheel of obsession and into action. They are a safe place to heal. Healing does not wipe out old problems or past actions. It washes over them, helping you to cope, change your attitude, and move forward.

Heal your spirit by writing in a journal. You never know where an entry might take you.

B. Lynn Goodwin is the author of You Want Me to Do WHAT? Journaling for Caregivers, available on Amazon. Her stories and articles have been published in Voices of Caregivers; Hip Mama; the Oakland Tribune; the Contra Costa Times; the Danville Weekly; Staying Sane When You’re Dieting; Small Press Review; Dramatics Magazine; Career; We Care; Thickjam.com, Friction Literary Journal, and The Sun

A former teacher, she conducts workshops and writes reviews for Story Circle Network, and InspireMeToday . She’s working on a YA novel and brainstorming a memoir. She’s the owner and editor of Writer Advice, which is in its 15th year.

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24 April 2013

T is for Transformational Character Arc

I'm thanking my fellow blogger, randi, over at The Emotional Process of Writing a Novel, for inspiring this blog post. She had mentioned the transformational character arc in one of her comments on a blog post, and I was immediately struck and wanted to share this post and one of my favorite character arcs.

From Dictionary.com
trans•for•ma•tion  [trans-fer-mey-shuhn]


1. the act or process of transforming.
2. the state of being transformed.
3. change in form, appearance, nature, or character.

In the physical sense, when you watch one of those shows where they take a homely looking, frumpy person and transform them into a more attractive version of themselves, you get an idea of what transformation is. You can visually see it.

An ice cube is solid. Apply a process of heating the ice, and it is transformed into liquid form. It's still the same element, only in a different state of being. In a character arc, this transformation is internal, so how do you show this?

In a physical transformation, you have a start, a process, and a product. Why can't we just use this as a model for our character transformation?

  1. We start with a basic concept of self, outlook on life, attitude, etc.
  2. The character is pushed through a process in the course of the story.
  3. We reveal a newer concept of self, outlook on life, attitude, etc.

  1. My character hates men and thinks they're all sexist pigs. 
  2. She is pushed through a process where a man treats her exceptionally different.
  3. She has developed a deeper respect for her fellow man.

  1. My character rebels against an institution which discriminates against his people.
  2. He infiltrates the organization and is pushed through a process and becomes enlightened about the real internal workings of the organization.
  3. He helps to cultivate a new culture in the organization, which can now help his people more effectively.

No matter how complex the story, there are these basic steps in transformation. We can apply it to the transformational character arc. These are generic, but to me, it seems simple. As long as the model exists, the story can be anything, and your character arc will be complete.

Are there other examples of character arcs using this model that you can think of? My favorite was Maverick in Top Gun.

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21 April 2013

Lying To Tell The Truth

Every one of us who must write has a truth to be told. You know it; I know it. There's that itch inside that won't go away, those characters who won't shut up, and the places to where the mind escapes in order to get away from this world, one which refuses to see our collective truths.

I have had the occasional friend or family member ask the question, why write? All I can say, is because I'm dying inside. If I don't write, my soul will wither away, and everything that I am, and everything I thought I'd ever become, will be nothing.

So now, I'm left with my fiction. It's the story I need to tell. And that is why I'm lying to tell the truth. It's the only way I can get you to know me and understand this story which needs to be told. If I have to lie to make you see it, maybe it's my revelation that the truth must be told, or I shall perish.

Not everyone turns to fiction. Some will remain in hospitals and drink the juice of the day, and others will take the high road, and continue accepting the cookie cutter world around them, without question. Then others just give up and look for another truth, one which fits their need, with less struggle.

Do you know why you're lying to tell the truth? Why do you write fiction?

17 April 2013

R is for Roles In The Writer’s Dreamkit

Think about the roles of the characters in your novel. Do you have a balance in the types of characters you depict? I was curious about my own novel and poured over the plot to ensure I had a healthy balance of these types of roles found in Writer's DreamKit, a novel writing software application my husband purchased for me as a gift last Christmas.

The Protagonist – This is the character who will journey forward through crisis and change.

My protagonist, Kelly Cooper, definitely encounters crisis and she develops from a rebellious, down trodden detective into a fighter of justice for the dead.

Antagonist – This is the bad guy, and not necessarily the villain.

Though I have a serial killer on the loose in my novel, he's not clearly the main antagonist. Lyle Adams is an egotistical and proud detective who seeks to keep Kelly from performing optimally. He keeps information from her and he even lies when he has an opportunity to help her. The reason for his actions will be revealed later, but yes, he is definitely the main antagonist in Precinct 9.

Guardian/Mentor – This is the voice of change for the protagonist. This is the character who unveils the weakness in our protagonist and who challenges her to surpass her obstacles, driving her toward her goal (change).

Captain Grant Elliot, Kelly's new boss, is definitely the mentor in Precinct 9. He believes in her, even though all evidence indicates she murdered her ex-boss. He, at times, and without his knowledge, provides her with all the tools and opportunities she needs to fulfill her tasks. He has a duplicate role as the reasoning character, the one who takes action based on logic, not emotion.

Tempter – This is the character who sides with the antagonist. He also does not want the protagonist to succeed, though his reasons are completely different from that of the antagonist.  He and the antagonist do not have to team up, nor must they know each other.

The killer in my novel doesn't want Kelly to succeed. He'd rather her remain impotent,  keeping her from discovering his identity and bringing him to justice. He tempts her, in a fashion, leaving his digital prints all over the Internet. However, Lyle's antagonism stems from pure pride and ego, having missed opportunities in capturing the killer years ago.

Sidekick – The best friend, the loyal brother, the doting mother, they can all be sidekicks. This character is so close to the protagonist that they at times become frustrated and accrue angst over their loved one’s fate or future.

Do I have a sidekick? Yes. Kelly has Benjamin at her side. He is a large, Belgian Shepherd she acquired during her years serving as a K-9 handler. He's very loyal and protective over his master. He has a duplicate role as the emotion character, one which responds with feeling, whether angry or joyful. Can an animal character be an emotion character? They can in MY novel!

Skeptic – This character does not believe in the importance of the overall goal of the protagonist. The skeptic has her own goals and will protect those over those of the protagonist.

Kelly's mother is the main skeptic. She thinks Kelly needs to find a man and settle down. You know, have children. Kelly has no intention of continuing with the awkward, casual dates her mother insists upon. How else is she to find a man? Besides, men are scum. Read about the minor skeptic next.

I do have a minor role for another skeptic. It is Kelly's ex-boss. The reason she'd been transferred out of his precinct is because she had lodged a complaint against a fellow officer and the boss didn't want an embarrassing scandal on his hands. He eventually gets murdered, because skepticism has no place, long term, in my novel. His murder quickly becomes an obstacle for Kelly, since all evidence points to her as the suspect.

How many of these archetypes fall within your current work in progress? Which is your favorite archetype?

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14 April 2013

Help My Blog - Book Giveaway!

Contestant Palettes are at the bottom!

I've been wanting a change for the blog, but thought it might be a good idea to get some input. What I've done in the past is upload a favorite picture to an image to color palette generator and produce a color palette for my basic theme.

Just to show you how this works and what I get back, I used this photo of my current main blog page:

I paste it into the input field and click on "Get Palette":

I get back the following suggested palettes:

I guess what I would like to do, if anyone is interested, is have a book giveaway! Okay, here's how it will work. You do the following:

  1. Find an appealing photograph on the internet.
  2. Use it to generate a color palette. It's easy!
  3. If you like the colors, enter the giveaway by pasting a link to the original photograph in the comments section below.
  4. Don't forget to tell me which of the following books you would like to have and if I use your palette, I will send you that book!
  5. Leave your email address in the comments as such: diane (at) comcast (dot) net so that I can make contact and get a mailing address.


Oh, and don't fret if you don't win. I will be doing a drawing as well. The winner of the drawing will receive their pick of the remaining books. 


*Note: All of theses books belong to me, so you are looking at their actual conditions. Four are pretty new, the King and Mosley ones, Comedy Writing Secrets, and Threat Warning. The other two are in okay condition.

The Desert Rocks

11 April 2013

Writing What You Don't Know

This morning, I discovered an article which prompted a comment from me, but I never finished the comment because it got to be too long for a comment. I decided instead to create this blog entry and link back to the article at the Florida Writers Conference Blog. Chris Hamilton's article reflects on the use of words which are hurtful, yet can be powerful in provoking thought. I think my response went off on a different tangent, and so, rather than detract from his article with my comment, here exists my post for today.

The protagonist in my first attempt at a novel was a lesbian. However, the story wasn't about her being gay, rather her struggle to gain her mother's acceptance was the underlying subplot, all while her best friend's wedding unfolded into a complete disaster.

I shelved it after chapter five simply because I had no clue with how to move forward. It got to a point where I couldn't write anymore because it didn't feel like my story. I think if you're going to write a gay character, especially a protagonist, you need to understand the struggle itself and not make attempts at including the character just to be all inclusive and risk exacerbating stereotypes, which would not have been my intent.

I began to question myself as a fiction writer. Would I be able to write from the perspective of a racist character, or one of royalty? I could make it up, but how convincing would I be and how effective the story? I found myself wanting to explore and write about things I don't know, rather than write about what I know.

When I got to chapter five and started developing the mother/daughter relationship, I discovered the story wasn't about my protagonist needing acceptance; it was about a daughter helplessly struggling for her mother's love and guidance. If you take the fact that the protagonist is gay completely out of the picture, this scenario could apply to anyone. So then I had to ask myself this question. Why did I make my character a lesbian?

Maybe we have these grandiose ideas of telling that deeper story, the profound thing too difficult for ordinary people to express in words. We want to be that artist who exposes the truth and realities of our evil society through the smoke and mirrors of political correctness, and then we, the artist, will provide that redemption to the rest of the world, who will now see through the glorious eyes of their savior. Not really.

You're welcome. That's what we want to say at the end of our stories. When people finally get it, the just and the righteous, when all prejudices have been lifted, when your inner critics have been silenced in your minds, and when you see your fellow humans as yourselves and you cry those tears of joy, know it is our intent to educate.

Why do you want to write the story you've chosen? What drives you? Is there a point you want to make with your story? If there is, let it be genuine, so that it is real and not gratuitous.

09 April 2013

Under Cover Waitress: Guest Post by Diane Carlisle: Working for Mom

I'm guest posting here today. Have a look and leave us some love!  =)

Under Cover Waitress: Guest Post by Diane Carlisle: Working for Mom: I am so pleased to have fellow blogger Diane Carlisle compose the post for today! When she says she worked for her mother, she does mean in...

05 April 2013

Q is for Quality Assurance

We all make mistakes, right? I don't just write fiction. I write computer code, where many mistakes can and will occur. These are 5 things I've done in my programming career, none of which I'm proud or ashamed. However, they will remain memorable until the day I rest in peace. I will not do these again and you shouldn't either.

1. I will never leave debug messages in my programs.

When I was in college, I'd left a debug message for myself in the code, completely forgetting it was there. I turned in my project without commenting it out. The reason I'd forgotten about it was because the condition for which I'd created the message never occurred during testing, and therefore, it never popped up to remind me of its existence.

The error message was:

Apparently, my instructor met the condition for which I'd intended to test. He docked me a letter grade.

2. I'll never try to implement bright ideas into my code when I'm drinking and have a deadline the next morning.

Yes, I did this, without a backup copy of my source. For some reason, when you've been drinking, you think you're smarter than you really are. So the next time all these ideas that you come up with for extra credit start poking you in the brain...STOP. Don't do it. The program meets specifications and it's due in the morning. Just let it be.

I couldn't do that though. The narcissist in me drowned out my inner critic, "Come on! You know it would be cool,” she said. “Ten lines of code...tops."

In the morning, I didn't remember what I was thinking or what I’d changed. My program wouldn't run, and I had 30 minutes to get to class.

3. I will never again breach security in order to play an online, text based role-playing game.

I got busted for playing +Threshold RPG, an online text based role-playing game while at work. I had connected to the AS400 firewall with the knowledge that it came pre-packaged (circa 1999) with a user profile: anonymous, and a default password: anonymous. The system administrator of the AS400 never changed this default.

But, Diane, how did you know that? 

I didn't. I just tried and it worked! After I logged into the firewall, I was able to telnet to the game server and play. Little did I know that port 23 access, along with my IP address, were being logged and because of the constant back and forth from the game server, the firewall log would fill up and crash several times during the day, alerting the system administrator, who remained puzzled for about two weeks.

4. I will not hard code place holders.

I have a bad habit of leaving in hard coded place holders like my own name and address so that I can see the format that a user would see. After testing and before implementation, I would write code to retrieve the web user's name and address for display instead of my information.

Once implemented, I was called back into the office, after hours, to fix a problem. Everyone logging in to see their information received a message of "Welcome, Diane Carlisle!" Yep, I'd forgotten to remove my hard coded personal information.

5. I will not create programs which change security settings on any system.

I created a CL program to include changing the job user's profile to have all object authority in order to perform a task. After the task was performed, the program would do a cleanup routine and put the user profile authority back to its original setting.

A week later when reviewing the dump queue (where error reports go when a program crashes), I realized that my program had error-ed out after the all object authority was granted to the user, thereby never completing the cleanup routine. When I checked the profile of said user, sure enough, they had all object authority. I had to contact the administrator, profusely apologize,  and request he fix the user's profile before they accidentally delete all objects on the system.

I hope you've enjoyed the letter Q. If you did, hop over to my other A-Z entries.

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04 April 2013

P is for Passing Gas and Everyone Poops

The Gas We Pass - The Story of Farts
Hardcover for $10.07 at Barnes & Noble
Published by Kane/Miller Book Publishers (January 29, 1994)
Average Rating 4.5

Everyone Poops
Hardcover for $15.44 at Amazon
Published by Turtleback (October 1, 2001)
Average Rating 4.0

I'm not one to criticize children's books, but I found these in a small gift shop while vacationing in Jacksonville Beach, FL last month. I didn't know how to take the hardcover books, supposedly educational in nature. I didn't purchase either one. The urge to do so just wasn't there, and trust me, I'm a compulsive buyer. Instead, I took a photograph of each to share with my writer friends and ask a question of you all.

I've read the reviews, and there seems to be two camps on this type of educational material, which also contain graphics of not so fine art, according to Publishers Weekly.

Do you believe there is a message in all this? Yes, it's natural. We all do these things. But, is it appropriate educational material for the intended audience (18 months - 4 years)?

Which camp are you in, Camp Kudos or Camp No Go (pun intended)?

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