A Week of Prompts: Sunday

The From the Heart chapter of RWA has a writing group contrarily called the Procrastinators. Really what we do is pick a week or two every month to post goals and encourage each other to move forward, with quotes, cheerleading, and tips. I’m the host this month, and I thought I’d cross-post the tips.

Today’s prompt:

Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day
April 6

\TAN-tuh-lyze\ verbContinue reading “A Week of Prompts: Sunday”



This is a sample of columnular basalt in the Field Museum in Chicago:

The famous place I’ve heard of this formation is the Giant’s Causeway, a cliff on the northern coast of Ireland. There’s a geological explanation and a legendary one, a tale I enjoy because the hero actually dodges the issue and defeats the villain with a trick instead of a fight. In Rite of Return the hero and heroine end up at Giant’s Causeway at a moment when the heroine is questioning why she’s in the country. It was a scene that took me a long time to write, and I did a lot of staring at photos of columnular basalt while I was trying to do it.Continue reading “Convergence”

Is It Really Fat, What They Tell You to Cut?

I clicked on somebody’s link on Twitter and found an interesting tool:

The Wasteline Test assesses whether your writing is ‘flabby’ or ‘fit’. The test works by counting percentages of words in five categories commonly associated with stodgy sentences: weak verbs, abstract nouns, prepositions, adjectives/adverbs and ‘waste words’ (it, this, that, there). For every writing sample you submit, you will receive an overall fitness rating ranging from lean to heart attack territory.

I read a lot of academese for work and wonder how this affects my writing, so I pasted in a chunk from my novel and clicked “Take the test.”Continue reading “Is It Really Fat, What They Tell You to Cut?”

Small Town Views

I made a comment a while back that it turns out I need to clarify. I said that when I went off to college in the Big City, I didn’t know how to use an elevator, and apparently created a vision of a youth spent among cargo cults or the Amish. “We went into a room and closed the door, and when we opened the door we were in a different place!” Nothing so dramatic: I though that when the elevator was on the upper floors, one pushed the down button to summon it, rather than the up button to tell it where I was headed. Fortunately the school had 40,000 students and those guys were German majors so I never saw them again.Continue reading “Small Town Views”

The Devices We Reach For

Karen Quah wrote about the stories we tell over and over in our work, and it got me thinking of what else we come back to in our creative work. Along with what kinds of stories we retell, do we reuse ways to tell them?

In my various projects, I’m going on my third or fourth Greek chorus: some peanut gallery of characters who rehash the action and set the context. In my Irish novel, my shorthand for the group is the Backbenchers. They’re a trio of guys who are always at the pub willing to join the conversation.Continue reading “The Devices We Reach For”

First Pages

My Monday morning writing club has an ongoing argument about the importance of a quick start to a novel: diving right in versus a slower reveal. The rulemeisters say it’s all got to be there on the first page: meet the hero, introduce the conflict, set the tone and genre. The first page makes a promise to the reader that must be fulfilled. “But I’m not writing a thriller,” one of the clubbers says, or “Surely that’s for genre fiction, not literary.”

I, for a change, agree with the finger waggers on this one. I finally took my own advice and pulled some books I’ve read—so I know the story—and reread the first few pages. I am blown away with what I see this time around. Here’s my short stack:Continue reading “First Pages”

Happy Birthday, Chick!

Today was my grandfather Chick’s birthday, and mine is in four days. It’s a great way to take the edge off whatever milestone you’re hitting: share the weekend with someone who’s sixty years older.

He put great store in education, broadly defined. He considered himself a dumb jock—he played football, basketball, and baseball in high school and college, and was seeded on the masters’ tennis circuit until his late 80s. But he also played piano, raised bonsais, read constantly, and taught himself to paint for something to do on trips instead of taking snapshots.

He covered a good part of my college expenses. His own tenure, at the University of Chicago, sounds straight out of Fitzgerald—he even had a raccoon coat—but he knew times had changed and he tried to view my path without comment. Tried—he arrived once while I was in the middle of cutting a friend’s hair, and I heard him ask my aunt, “People can make a living doing that, can’t they?”—whether or not I could type, I did have something to fall back on.Continue reading “Happy Birthday, Chick!”

My Alter-Muses

kids in costumeI’m taking a class with D. D. Scott about getting inspired, and we did a fun exercise where we named our muses. Pick out that spark inside ourselves that gives us ideas, and think about what feeds it. What makes him or her excited and what’s a total turnoff? What do they do for fun and what music do they like? D. D. calls her muses the Carrie Squad, in reference to the characters on Sex and the City—you don’t have to limit yourself to one. Here are some of my girls in the basement:

Ann the Intrepid. She’s a Tarzan for the snowy climes, who likes hiking, skiing, and adventures. Complications! Crisis! CousinsContinue reading “My Alter-Muses”

A Corpse, a Cop, and Canines

The story began at Alanna Coca’s blog.

Chapter 4

Anthony growled a low warning and hoped the wolves would keep their distance. It would be scary enough for any human to have the pack circling. And this one was a nonbeliever—if anybody decided to shift before taking on the cat, Jessica’s night was about to get even more difficult.

Unfortunately, a lot depended on Katherina. She backed off when she realized how many wolves there were but she hadn’t hidden her tail. The way she purred and spat as she taunted Anthony, he wondered how tight a grip she had on her form; she’d made it clear that she didn’t care about Jessica.

He mirrored her movement around the clearing, circling so Katherina was no longer between him and the human. Katherina’s eyes flicked from side to side, in counterpoint to her tail, locating the wolves who hadn’t yet shown themselves.Continue reading “A Corpse, a Cop, and Canines”