Saturday, October 9, 2010

Hawthorn Bushes in the Valley

We haven't had the prettiest fall this year. Early on, the leaves on the hawthorne bushes turned brown and simply fell off. The aspens are trying to brighten the valley by turning yellow, but they're outnumbered by the varieties of fir trees around them. Valiant effort, though.

Many ranchers in the valley dig out the hawthorne bushes to get more land for growing grass for the cattle. We kept ours, as the amoung of land you recover for grazing is minimal and the bushes provide habitat and food for all kinds of wildlife. Also, in most years, the leaves turn a brilliant scarlet in the autumn, turning the valley into a picture worthy of the best nature painter's efforts.

The bears forage heavily on the berries, as they prepare for hibernation, and the birds also feast on them. I;ve been told the birds can actually get drunk on the berries and that could explain the lopsided flight patterns  several flickers, robins, and magpies have exhibited after dining on these dried fruits.

The hawthorn bush is indeed thorny and it's an excellent nesting place for the hummingbirds and other small birds who seek safety in its branches.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Moving Body Parts

Hope that title made you curious enough to keep reading. Today's post concerns itself with a little device writers use to break up chunks of dialogue. We're ever conscious of writing too much without pausing to let the reader digest (and savor) our words and so we look for interesting ways to make those text breaks. Conversation is linear but adding some motion into the mix can give more dimension to a paragraph. So what is this all about? Let's consider the face:


Eyes can stare and glare, peer and leer, glower or shine


Lift, arch, raise, narrow them


These can be pursed, parted, held firm, quiver, or tremble. They can be chewed upon, as well.

Creating the Passage

Now that I've got my moving body parts, let's see how this can work in a conversation.

"Jeeves," the old man glowered at the hapless servant. "Bring the brandy to the withdrawing room at once."
"Right away, my lord," the butler replied.
"Good help is so difficult to obtain these days," Lady Argyle said, narrowing her eyes and pursing her lips (a double use of the device here) as she spied a wilted rose in the vase next to the sideboard.
"Indeed," piped up Fauntleroy, glaring at the back of the hapless servant as he departed on his errand.

And so forth.

Question of the Day

Authors have pet expressions. One  British author's characters seem to be constantly "pulling a face."  I love Jayne Anne Krentz, writing as Amanda Quick. Many of her male characters spend some time "steepling their fingers" while they ponder what to say or do.

What pet expressions do your favorite authors use? Please share them with us.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

People Watching

Coffee isn't a food group, I don't think, but it should be - along with nachos, really good wine, chocolate, and perfect peaches. If I were to create my own food pyramid, it would look wildly different from the USDA's recommended ingredients. But I digress. What I really want to talk about today is the fine art of people watching as a writer's tool.

If you've ever been stuck for the right bit of dialogue, needed a boost for a character who lacked interest, or were hunting for a viable subplot, people watching is the way to go to solve all of your dilemmas. All it takes is removing your seat from the seat of your computer chair and venturing outside to the grocery store, local coffee shop, hardware store, or any of the places people gather for whatever purpose.

 Coffee shops are great people watching places. You can sit with your computer on the table and sip your grande two pump skinny vanilla latte and munch your cranberry orange scone while your nimble fingers record all manner of personality quirks, tidbits of conversation, physical descriptions, and intriguing plot possibilities.

People in shopping mode are great assets for a writer. Sit down on one of those mall benches and watch the parade of humanity stroll by just for your viewing pleasure. Note the way people walk, carry their parcels, juggle packages and children, yammer away on their cell phones. It's Writers University 101 without any tuition fees.

And then there's the random stuff that springs out of the blue. For example: We had a wood stove installed in the house this week. That involved some masonry, drywall renovation, electrical work, and painting. The first thing the electrician did was pull a screwdriver out of his toolbox and straighten all the little screws in the faceplates so they were all lined up horizontally. An obsessive compulsive trait even Monk didn't think of. That got me thinking about murder, of course, and how a small clue like that could lead.......

Where are your favorite people watching sites?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Evening Out

Well, things have evened out here at writer central. The mistake review rating has been rectified and another nice one added. It was a difficult day and my stomach was tied up in knots for most of it. So, what's the lesson here? There's always a lesson, it seems. "Don't care too much." Reminds me of a Buddhist saying  I vaguely remember. The first necessity is not allowing the vagaries of life to own you. In the end, nothing really matters all that much. I don't mean that to sound nihilistic, but rather that the things we worry about don't mean much in the grand scheme of things. It's a humbling experience.

Today I'll work a bit on marketing, clean house, do some writing, and wait for my girlfriend to arrive for a short visit. I'll try to put things in perspective and not care too much about the things I can't control. It's a tough lesson. I got too caught up in the moment and let it control me. I'll try to not let that happen again.

I want to write well. I also want others to enjoy what I write. It's just that simple.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

To the Valley of Despair

Well, it's amazing how quickly one's fortunes can change in this brave, new techno world. I've just received my first glowing review on Amazon. Wonderful, wonderful words, and then the reviewer got confused and hit one star instead of (hopefully) 5. So here I sit at the keyboard, helpless until it gets changed - hopefully soon. The book is just out and I've been torpedoed by a fan. Sigh.

Promotion and marketing are necessary evils for writers today, and it's not something many of us are comfortable doing. We'd much rather be sequestered, writing away, creating our fictional worlds. Maybe that's the best antidote for me today. I'm not going to look until tomorrow and hope not too much damage has been done. Sigh again.