Word-A-Day




Just a little quicky post today before heading off with my parents for a birthday lunch.

Off Topic...Is it weird that at 29 I want a Wii and Concert tickets for my birthday?

=p

My daughter and I could get some real fun out of the Wii (and not to mention the WiiFit could help me lose that last 10lbs) and my favorite band, Faith No More, is back from the grave and playing at the Coachella music festival this year.

Ok, back on point.

Today I want to talk about vocabulary! As writers we need a good vocabulary. We need an arsenal of words to combat boring and bland prose. What a better way to help expand your vocabulary than to sign up for one of those word-a-day emails. It takes 2 seconds to do and every day a new word is sent to you. It's a simple and easy, not to mention free, way to expand your vocabulary.

I've been signed up with one for a while now and I am always amazed by the words I've never heard before. Just to give you an idea of what I see. Some of this week's gems were:

asperity
MEANING:
noun: Harshness or roughness.

obscurantism
MEANING:
noun:
1. Opposition to the spread of knowledge.
2. Being deliberately vague or obscure; also a style in art and literature.

sedulous
MEANING:
adjective: Involving great care, effort, and persistence.

surcease
MEANING:
noun: Stoppage, especially a temporary one.
verb tr., intr.: To bring or come to an end.


I don't know about you, but I didn't know these words before today.

So, give it a try. Sign up for a word-a-day type of email and expand that vocabulary.



Proofreading Tips

Since I am in the process of proofing Immortalis, I thought I might pass along a few quick tips.

1) Print it! Always proof a printed copy of your work. I can't explain why, but seeing something in print somehow makes you look more closely at it. I can spend hours staring at a computer screen, reading my work, and still miss things. As soon as I see it on paper, I find more errors.

2) Read out loud! When we read silently, especially our own work, our brain plays tricks on us. We know what we "meant" to say and our brain substitutes the correct sentence or words in for the ones we might have goofed on. Reading out loud, stops your brain from this sort of "auto correct" function. You will find lots more errors this way. If your computer has some kind of speech function, you could also try having the computer read to you. Sounds kind of silly, but will definitely help you pick out any problems.

3) Have someone else read it! Hey, sometimes we are just blind to our own mistakes. A fresh set of eyes works wonders. When you have proofed and re-proofed, toss your work to a friend and let them read. I bet they still find things for you to fix.

Courage!

Trying to get published takes courage. Putting yourself out there for beta reader, editors, agents, and the public. It's enough to make one want to run screaming for the hills.

We all take different paths to get to that final step, a book in hand. But, that doesn't mean one path or another takes any less courage.

When I started this blog I said my ultimate goal was to have that book in my hand.

Whether by traditional method or self, that was my goal. I worked long and hard, spending more than two years on this first novel. Granted it wasn't the only project I was working on. I have a total of 5 stories I will eventually put out, but Immortals is my baby.

Once I had that first draft, I steeled my courage and sent it out to be critiqued and beta read. It takes a lot of courage to share your early drafts with others.

Those of you at this stage, give your self a pat on the back. That process is really nerve wracking.

Critiques came back and they were not always nice. There were times when I wanted to cry after reading particularly hard ones.

But, I continued, thanks to a lot of support from friends and family. I went back to the drawing board and revised.

Rinse and repeat for months on end before taking the next courageous step. Querying.

That step is one of the hardest ones to take. It is fraught with rejection and can really mess with your self confidence.

Pat yourself on the back if you have taken this step or are considering it. No matter what your results are in this venture, you have a lot of courage to take this step.

Though I did not get all I wanted from this process, I learned a lot. I would not trade that time for anything. It made me go back and take a closer look at my work. It forced me to work on other things and expand my writing.

Remember, I said my goal was to see Immotalis in print. And I will.

As you know, I lost my job last November. Jobs are few and far between right now and I am still sifting through the classifieds, with no luck. So, after discussing things with the hubby, we decided to take another frightening and courageous step. We are starting our own small publishing venture. Since I am home, I have the time to devote to writing, and promoting. I'm making good use of it. It's a bit of a gamble, but I have hopes that it will pay off, or at least break even. =) I am realistic.

As soon as all the paperwork is finished, we will be launching Rising Sign Books LLC, and publishing my first novel Immortalis.

You can see our website, still under construction. www.risingsignbooks.com






To all of my wonderful readers...

Remember, you have a lot of courage and should be proud of you work, no matter what path you take.

Say it with me!

I am a good writer!

Look at yourself in the mirror and say it three times. Hell, say it more if you need to. Say it until you believe it.

We have those days where doubt creeps into our minds. We think we are terrible. We think no one will ever like our stories. We wonder if people will laugh at us after reading our words. We hear whispers and think people are saying terrible things; calling us hack writers and suggesting a kindergartner has more of a vocabulary.

Don't allow those thoughts and feelings to stop you.

Look in the mirror and tell yourself you are good. Always keep writing.

Daybreakers

You all know by now that I am a HUGE vampire fan! Not only do I write about them, but I read and watch them as well.

I've been obsessed since I was a small child. I can't explain why, but out of all the Hollywood monsters out there, vampires never scared me. I was always intrigued by them.

Vampires have spanned the genres from horrific to romantic and everything in between.

Hollywood's most recent adaptation, Daybreakers, leans back towards the horrific and grotesque.



Set in the near-future, a disease of some kind has turned 90% of the words population into vampires.

Now, this is a wonderful twist on the standard theme. Rather than vampires hiding in the shadows, it's the humans who must do this.

For the most part I found the world believable. Vampires have adapted well, using technology to make a nocturnal lifestyle manageable. Inventions like subwalks, window shields, and daylight shields on cars allowed the vampires to function on some level during the daytime. Alarms and public service announcements warned the vampires of impending dawn, so they could prepare. It gave off a very realistic vibe! Kudos there!

Hollywood played on a few of the old themes with their vampires; no reflection, immortal, pale skin that sizzles and burns in the sun, etc...

They also seemed to burst into flames when staked. (I never did understand this but...okay, sure, I'll go along with it.)

Also, in keeping with the disease theme, they used a "once bitten" theory to transform humans to vampires. Every vampire you see has the tell-tale bite marks on their necks. Basically, one bite is all it takes to turn someone. Not one of my favorite theories but it works with the theme of a disease causing all of this.

My main gripe with the movie was the lack of explanation. I wasn't 100% sure of the rules of this vampire. It appeared they could still eat and drink regular food. Many times you saw them drinking coffee with blood in it. Also, they, the vampires seemed to love to smoke. (not a good thing to watch if you are trying to quit yourself.) The main character smokes in every scene through the first half of the movie.

I really wanted a smoke when I walked out of that theater.

Back on point...

I would have liked more details.

They teased the explanation about how this disease took over, but did not go into much detail about it. From what I understood, it all started with a bat, and the once bitten theory. One bite turns one human into a vamp, that vamp bites another human and turns them, and so on and so on...

The plot...

It's 10 years after the disease has turned the population. Humans are hunted and farmed for their blood. (the blood collection system kind of reminded me of the Matrix.) They showed it a few times during the movie and it was creepy!

At the time the movie starts, the vampires are almost out of blood. Without blood they turn into these crazed, bat-like creatures called subsiders (might have misspelled that). This will be the fate of all vampires if a blood substitute is not found.

While the vampires search for a blood substitute, the remaining "free" humans are doing what they can to survive, and they have found a potential cure for vamprism.

The movie follows a small resistance movement of humans (led by Willem Dafoe) as well as a vampire and hematologist (played by the sexy Ethan Hawk), and the corporation that supplies blood for the vampire population (led by Sam Neill).

There is a major survival theme in this movie. It comes from both human and vampires alike. Humans of course, are the underdog here because they are the hunted, but the vampires are given sympathy too due to the scary consequences of what happens when they don't get the blood they need.

Blood substitute or cure, it's made very clear that something is needed. The vampires cannot continue on they way they have. Something has to change. Extinction of the human race would mean the eventual extinction of all...

Of course, it's never just as easy as finding and doing the right thing. We cannot forget the inherent greed of some . Greed and deceit, play a big part in this as well. There is an underlying message to us, people in the audience; greed and deceit will lead to the destruction of humanity.


But enough about the plot. You need to see for your self how it all ends. Suffice to say, the ending felt right with the theme and general dark nature of the move. I'd like to see if they take this story further and make a sequel.

Just a warning to the squeamish...

Through the movie there are many bloody and grotesque scenes! Vampires burst into flames in the sun. Burning vampires flesh melts from their skin and their bones disintegrate into ash right before your eyes. During some battle scenes, bodies explode, sending gore and blood in all directions. in true vampire fashion, blood is everywhere in this film!

The end has a very bloody and violent scene where the screen is practically filled with blood as bodies are ripped limb from limb as vampires feed in a frenzy.

As far as I am concerned, this movie is a must see for all vamp fans. I'd give it 4/5 stars. It was very entertaining and I will probably go see it again. I only had a few gripes and that was mainly in the details and lack of explanation of some things.

If you've seen it, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Sneak Peak

At the start of the year, I asked what you, the readers, wanted to see on this blog.

LT at Dreams of Quill and Ink, asked me to share a little of my WIP.

I do hope you enjoy. Here is a sneak peek at my upcoming novel, Immortalis - Carpe Noctem.

1/2 of Chapter 1.



I hated waiting!

I shot impatient glances at my phone, checking the time displayed in green LED.

It was late, and I was restless.

Sounds of clapping in the background signaled another poetry reading had finished.

It was a busy night at Café Copioh, but then, just about every night here was busy.

Copioh drew in a unique crowd from the nearby college. It wasn’t one of those fancy, fru-fru coffee houses. It had bohemian feel; colorful, vibrant, and eclectic. Each wall had been painted in different colors; teal, maroon, sand, and sage. Reprints of various, famous artwork lined the walls including a large mural of Van Gogh’s Starry Night, in black-light reflective paint. A plethora of flea market-style furnishings had been strewn about haphazardly in the large space, completing the relaxed, homey feel.

Mike, the manager, a stereotypical beatnik-esque guy, complete with goatee and long pony-tail, set down a Styrofoam cup, filled with a dark, chocolaty drink. “You adding this to your tab, Alyssa?”

I smiled. “Yeah, I’ll pay up on Friday. Thanks.”

I was a regular here. Mike knew this and usually let me slide until payday. I could be found here almost every night. And so could my, currently absent friend, Fallon.

I shot another impatient glance at my phone.

“Ten p.m. C’mon Fallon, I don’t want to wait all night,” I sighed.

A loud, shrill voice spoke over the café’s speaker system. I cringed, hearing the start of another dreary poem. Someone was almost always on the makeshift stage. Reading poetry was the custom here. I sat back into the cushions of my favorite brown, threadbare love seat in the front window--far away from the stage—and tried unsuccessfully, to ignore the babbling. I never did care for poetry. Most of it was nothing more than nonsensical emotional ramblings. Too much use of words like: dark, black, emptiness and despair.

A hum of mumbling voices tempted me to listen. Eavesdropping here was like having a front row seat to a taping of my own personal soap opera. Tidbits of gossip about people I knew piqued my interest, momentarily stealing my focus.

The sudden jingle of my cell phone startled me. I jumped to answer it almost knocking over my mocha. I didn’t need the caller ID to tell me who it was. Fallon was well over an hour late.

“Please tell me you are close. You would not believe the day I had. I need to vent,” I blurted out, forgetting the pleasantries of a proper greeting.

“Sorry, Alyssa, I’m not going to make it out tonight.”

Great, what else can go wrong today?

“What, No! Oh C’mon, Fallon. Don’t leave me hanging. I need a friend today. I got fire-“

“Lyss, I don’t feel like going out tonight. I’m tired and it’s already late. Let’s just meet up tomorrow, Okay?”

I huffed, not wanting to answer.

“Alyssa, I promise, tomorrow,” Fallon said in her most sympathetic voice.

“Yeah, sure. Whatever.” I didn’t bother hiding my disappointment.

“Sorry, Lyss, I’ll make it up to you. I promise. We’ll go out tomorrow. You can tell me all about work then, okay.”

“Fine,” I grumbled. “Next time, don’t leave me hanging here by myself for an hour before you decide to cancel on me.”

I breathed a disappointed sigh and pressed the end button on the phone.

“Well, isn’t this the perfect end to the perfect day? Might as well pack up and go home.”

I gulped down the last bit of my mocha, waved to Mike, and walked out the front door.
The hot summer breeze greeted me; a mixture of coffee, car exhaust, and the lingering tang of grease from a nearby taco shop.

I set off across the street to the University. My apartment was on the other side of campus. Just a quick ten minute walk and I would be home.

Being a petite woman, I never did like walking home alone, especially at night, and tried to avoid it whenever possible. I’d heard too many horror stories about college girls-like myself-being raped or worse. This time though, I had no choice. There was no friend to take me home, so I had to hoof it. Reaching a thin hand into my bag, I pulled out a keychain of pepper spray. Old Reliable. Knives could be turned against you and do some serious damage. I knew pepper spray was a good enough deterrent without having the potential to be deadly. If someone managed to get it away and use it against me, worst I would expect is stinging eyes and that was better than a stab wound.

UNLV was quiet at this time of night. All the regular classes had ended hours ago and the walkways were all empty. My finger covered the trigger of the keychain as I took the pathway leading towards the theater and music halls.

Just walk fast and don’t talk to anybody. I took a deep breath, steeling my courage while attempting to calm my nerves. I hated walking home alone.

Sounds of distant chatter caught my attention. Echoes of raised voices reverberated off of brick buildings, sounding like a couple of men arguing in somewhere ahead of me. Tightening my grip on the keychain, I quickened my pace.

Almost home, just keep going.

Small lamps dotted the walkway, and flood lights hung from the corners of some of the buildings. Normally, there was plenty of light on the walkway but something felt different. Things seemed darker. A light on one of the buildings flickered. I noticed another building’s lights had completely burned out leaving a portion of my path in darkness.

I gritted my teeth and fought against the weak voice of my intuition telling me to go back to the café.

The arguing voices faded. An eerie quiet sent a shiver dancing down my spine. I stopped and looked around, checking for any movement in the shadows. Intuition, no longer a weak voice in my head, screamed at me to run. Something wasn’t right here.

Probably just some frat boys. Calm down Alyssa, No reason to get scared. My heartbeat sped, pounding against the wall of my chest.

“Excuse me, Miss,” a voice called out from behind me.

I stifled a gasp. My heart skipped a beat.

“Excuse me, Miss. Hello. Can you help me?”

Against my better judgment, I turned towards the voice.

“Sorry to bother you, miss. I’m new here and kind of lost. Could you tell me where the library is? I’m supposed to be meeting a friend there.”

The voice sounds friendly enough. Okay, just give a quick answer and leave.

I squinted, trying to get a better look at him as he walked towards me. He passed out of the shadowed path into the light. A wide-mouth smile covered his face. He didn’t seem intimidating. He looked like an average skinny college guy; short spiky hair, glasses, and generic sarcastic sayings t-shirt. For a second, I thought I recognized him from somewhere.

I took my finger off of the pepper-spray trigger. “Sorry, I’m a little jumpy tonight. It’s no problem. Just go down that…” I pointed in the direction of the library.

Something tapped me hard on the shoulder.

I turned around, seeing a blur of knuckles just before a fist slammed into my face.

Do you have a resume?

Character Bio's are important.

You have to know your character before you can write them. If you don't you'll end up writing a flat, cookie-cutter, person. You don't want that, do you?

Of course not!

So, how do we get to know these fictional characters we just pulled out of thin air?

We give them a life and history all their own.

And the simplest way to do this is to give them a resume. Pretend they are sitting down in front of you, applying to be a character in your story.

Start with the basics. (beyond the image stuff, which I assume you have already come up with; hair color, eye color, skin color, height, etc...)

What is their full name?
How old are they?
Where do they live?
How long have they lived there?
Did they ever attend school? If so, where? (I write vampires, so school could mean listening to the great Socrates, discus philosophy back in the A.D. days)
Any specialized degrees?
Previous work history? (the jobs we do help to shape us as much as our education. Did your character have to work some menial job they hated? Were they some high powered executive? For fantasy stories, rulers of Kingdoms and peasants count as well)

Now, once you have the basics out of the way. Ask your "applicant", what qualifies them to be a character in your story?


Are they applying for a main character or a secondary character position?
What special powers and/or abilities do they posses?
Ask them to list one good and one bad quality about themselves.


And finally, your character needs to provide references! What kind of friends do they have? What is their family like? Do they have any enemies that they wouldn't want listed on a resume? List a few of those people in their life, both good and bad.

If you (or your character) can answer all of these questions, you will be off to a great start. The goal is to have a character that not only feels real to you, but reads as a real person to your audience.

A background and history help to create that "real" feeling.

Blog Award!

Laurel from the fabulous Laurel's Leaves Blog, brightened my morning today with this lovely award!



I feel so honored! It's wonderful to know that sharing advice I have learned along the way, is helpful others!

Thank you!


Since this is a rule free award, I'm just going to pass it on to two other bloggers I think have wonderful advice too!

Susan Mills - A Walk In My Shoes. (excellent post on all subjects writing, plus some adorable shoes!

Roni Griffin - Fiction Groupie. Excellent posts on all things writing!


Thank you again Laurel!

Welcome to 2010!

It's a great new year!

I have good feelings about 2010.

I wanted to try something a little different. I want to know what you, the reader, would like me to talk about. What topics interest you most? What writing tips and tricks would you like me to address?

I'll still post my own topics as the muse strikes, but I want to give you something too!

So, post a comment and tell me what topic you would like to see a post on.