Nancy H. Doyle

Easy reading is damned hard writing. N. Hawthrone


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Dawn Mosquitoes are Swarming

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Hi ISWG members!  If you’re not a member of this wonderful group, click the linky to the right to join us.

As usual, I need help.

I’m still struggling with the synopsis for my second novel. I won’t start writing before I know where the heck I’m going. Honestly, I never thought my idea would collapse in the middle. Something is wrong. If my synopsis doesn’t start coming together, I may have to spend some time at the thirst aid center in Leadville, CO.

Does it really matter if my plot smacks of Indian Jones and Jake Sully twisted up in a mangled mash up of adventure? Three weeks ago, when I created the outline, I loved it. It felt right, comfortable, tellable. Like a plunge into cool water, or maybe a stroll in the early morning grass. Except, I forgot about the dawn mosquitoes,  the half-baked, hackneyed plot suckers.

So, what in heck’s the problem? We all know there is a finite number of plot templates. Right? Seven seems a popular number, but the exact amount is discussed ad infinitum on the internet if you’re interested.

  1. [wo]man vs. nature
  2. [wo]man vs. man
  3. [wo]man vs. the environment
  4. [wo]man vs. machines/technology
  5. [wo]man vs. the supernatural
  6. [wo]man vs. self
  7. [wo]man vs. god/religion

That about covers it.

As humans, I think our basic needs and desires predetermine the threads of our thoughts. Isn’t it  only the particular manner of telling a story that makes the difference? So obvious. But not so easy. Why is this so hard?? What am I missing?! Should I can my original idea? How about zapping my two wonderful new characters? Am I lacking conflict? Honestly, I don’t know what to do.

Enough whining. I’m heading for The Manhattan Bar:)

stars-th


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4 Good Legs

gallows humor

noun

humor that treats serious, frightening, or painful subject matter in a light or satirical way

The last six months I’ve learned a lot about the expression gallows humor.

Honestly, I used to cringe when I heard folks joke about disability, disease, or disaster. It took me a while to understand this dubious humor was a way of whistling in the dark, of making the inconceivable manageable. (Of course, I’m not talking about sick or cruel comments.)
My dog Abbie and I are disabled. My problem is temporary, but hers is not. My current pain is intermittent, and her initial pain was incredible. I still have my leg, and hers is gone forever. blue-rng-paw-print-th
Recently, I took Abbie for a walk – for the first time since last November. My husband watched us from the window, ready to rush to our aid if necessary. When we hobbled in, he was smiling. When I asked him why, he said, “Woman with cane walks three-legged dog. Between you two, you have four good legs.”
I burst out laughing and kept laughing the rest of the night. The relief was amazing. Suddenly, my problem was moving into perspective. Finally, after months of suffering, I began to understand how lucky I am and how courageous our beautiful dog is. She sets an amazing example for everyone, and I can only attempt to emulate her good nature.
So, in spite of hardships, keep your head up, wag your tail, and lick someone’s face every time you get a chance!
jason-edwards-dog-duke-lays-on-a-big-sloppy-wet-tongue-kiss-dog-show-in-morro-bay-10-may-2009-best-of-bay-pooch-pageant-is-a-dogs-mouth-really-cleaner-than-a-huma
How do you keep your sense of humor in tough times?
Photo by Foter
Art by Clkr


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xenophobia

x – Are you fearless? human-rights-day_l

Some events we never forget, and these experiences work their way into our stories. For me,  xenophobia, fear or contempt for foreigners or foreign cultures, is such a memory. Xenophobia is the vicious mirror-mage of racism. After years gave me distance,  I used my brush with evil as a template for characters and situations in my science fiction novel.

Science fiction is a perfect forum, with its diverse universe and varied species and cultures. Some of my people display xenophobia like badge of honor, others wear it with shame, and still others fight against it. Two of my main characters fall in love in spite of it. Sometimes, the lies of xenophobia  can be exposed with humor, helping everyone learn some compassion. But, usually, the truth remains as dark and brutal as watching the KKK  march  in  full regalia down the main street of the town I grew up in. Of course, that was then and now our town is  a bright, sophisticated destination for arts and entertainment.However, like everywhere in our 21st century world, xenophobia still lurks like a hibernating virus. When writers bring these dark impulses to the surface, it reminds us all no one is immune to these potentially destructive thoughts and actions.

Will you speak against the dark side through your characters?  What memories from your past, good or bad, influence your writing?

Are you fearless?stars-th

 

Photo credit: Catching.Light / Foter.com / CC BY


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Volatile Vortex

1194986475730032167air_stefan_bazelkov_01.svg.thumbV- After tonight, only four days to go! A to Z is a much needed exercise in discipline for me. I’m ready to start working on my new novel, thanks to this writing extravaganza.

I am an IT foot soldier on the front lines at a local community college. My coworkers, IT folks and professors, make sure computers remain our servants and not the other way around. We have two weeks left until semester end, and everyone is looking forward to the summer off. There is, however, an undercurrent of unease. For about two years now, software has evolved with pandemic speed and the hurtling vortex  of change finally caught up with us. Can we keep up? Will we wash up on the shore of progress, like some digital flotsam and jetsam? I’m not talking about changes to  the software, I’m talking about more and more new software, changes in the popularity of software and the looming power of the Cloud. These changes have profound effects on higher education.

And, to make it worse, the major software (Adobe CS6) we use in our classes has increased in price from $5,000 to $20,000 a year.12284211311154772712sheikh_tuhin_Label_Icon_svg_thumb Yes, you read that right. All the other softwares cost more now, a lot more. There may be a grassroots revolution brewing in freeware, but that’s a conversation for another blog.

These events make me wonder – how much new information can the human mind absorb before it balks? How many changes, adjustments, and slicker and better software can we afford? And, is this multitude of bells and whistles necessary to teach students the basics?

We’ll keep it current and cool with iMacs and Cintiqs but, really, how much fantastic new software is too much?


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Night Talk

N – It’s blog time. This nightly blog is becoming a habit, a good one. In fact, with this blog I’ve completed one hundred posts!stars-th

So, how did I end up blogging in the first place?

Several years ago I attended a course for writers given by a literary agency. I had promised myself I would NOT start attending conferences, spending tons of money I don’t have to listen to agents and authors talk about themselves. But, a friend persuaded me to go, and fifty bucks later there I was, crammed in a tiny room in a local synagogue basement.

It was an amazing two hours. The advice was invaluable. I asked about internet presence, and the agent said I absolutely needed at least a blog and preferably a website. That information alone was worth my hard-earned money.

Blogging has been a tremendous source of joy for me. Many writers and artists are solitary creatures, and a blog forces me to communicate. It opens an incredible world of creativity, opinion, and some really gorgeous travel photos. Blogging offers such a wealth of beauty and information, I’m proud to be part of it – albeit in a small way. I’ve made new friends all over the world, I’ve been amazed and charmed,  annoyed and offended. But never bored.

And the nameless agent who inspired my blog? She has the honor of being the first agent to reject my novel query! I don’t hold it against her, though. She opened a fabulous world of information for me, and I’ll always appreciate it.

And, she was the first dent in my new car. What a relief that’s over. 1206561194340298058Chrisdesign_Future_car_svg_thumbWho or what inspired your first blog?


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Mighty Mighty MOJO

M- Wow. Half way through A to Z Blog Challenge! Keep going!

Words, with their mysterious origins and myriad of meanings, have always fascinated me. My bookcase is crammed with dictionaries, thesauruses, combinations of the two, a battered copy of The Dictionary of American Slang and, on my iPod, Slango Lite lurks misfiled under weather apps.electric-book

So what does MOJO mean?  Lately, I’ve lost my writing mojo. I figure if I put its definition down in words, mojo will return to me. (Your basic magical thinking!)

Dictionary of American Slang – 1975 – mojo  n. Any narcotic. Addict use. (Yikes!)

Oxford America Writer’s Thesaurus - 2004 – noun - informal – magic, voodoo, hoodoo, wizardry; charm. (Pretty straightforward.)

Slango Lite - 4/14/13 - The word was not found in the database. (So much for apps.)

m-w.com – 4/14/2013 – a magic spell, hex or charm resulting in a magical power.  (I’ll settle for a magical power.)

But,  writing has nothing to do with magic spells.  The real magic is in the writing.  Loss of mojo only means you work harder. You stare at the screen, pound the keys and invoke the power of words. Eventually, you find the right combination of letters that will unleash the reader’s imagination. True that. Even so,  I would like to wave the wand over my words once in a while and watch them fall into place like flecks of gold leaf on the page.

What magic do you use to write your best work ever?


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Leisure List

L – Oops! I missed my target for L.

Friday night is our sit down and have an adult beverage time. We relax, laugh, and discuss the events of the week. My blog flew out the window.

But, that got me thinking. After such an enjoyable conversation, a good dinner and dessert, the subject of leisure came up. We work hard in our culture, don’t we? Early up, push all day physically and mentally, fix supper, work on writing or rest a weary body in front of TV, back to bed, repeat endlessly until that increasingly illusive part of life – semi-retirement dances just out of reach. Something is definitely missing.

So, here is my leisure list.

1. Take time to meditate, walk, or workout daily.

2. Garden, get dirty, and sit back and watch the beauty unfurl.

3. Take short day trips.

4. Work up to 3 day trips around Colorado. We’ve worked so hard for so long we don’t know our own state!

5. Read other people’s stuff. Read something outside my comfort zone, stories that make me think, stories that make me smile.

6. Laugh a lot more.

7. Pet the dog and catnap with the cat.

I didn’t put writing on the list. To me, writing is wonderful work and not a hobby.  Well, maybe there’s the occasional just for me story. Now that’s fun!

What’s on your leisure list?


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Knowing How

KFrom my notes two years ago:

Writing a short paragraph is like taking a family photograph. After assessing composition and deciding on exposure, the blink of the camera’s eye generates electronic memories. Fifteen minutes at the keyboard generates words that are eloquent and beautiful,  short and concise, and finished in one sitting.

Writing a novel, however, is like painting the Sistine Chapel. Create the first wonderful paragraph, and then repeat for 300 pages while telling a story and entrancing the reader. Unlike the quick photo or hasty half page, the novel’s plot must be crafted with passion . It is not enough to know the beginning, middle, and end. The writer must know everything.

lilac-pen-orange-writing-thToday:

Well, I can honestly say, my nervous musings turned out to be true. Hard, troubling, fun, frustrating and exciting – the descriptions of my new obsession were correct. But, I breathed life into my novel and, lo and behold, it staggered up as if from a prehistoric swamp, a living thing filled with drama and humor. I’m amazed that I want to do it again! Now that is a miracle. That is knowing how.

What is your before and after writing experience?


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Guys and Gals

G – Even before I killed a main character, I let two other characters fall in love.

I made a conscious decision that neither individual would say, “I love you.”  These three words alter everything in an instant, bringing our Western values and preferences for a happy stars-thending into a story.  Believe me, I wanted my folks to drift into the galaxy and live happily ever after. Instead, I described love in the actions of the characters as they helped each other in spite of almost insurmountable cultural and species differences. The plot, the action, and the fortunes of each character has to work for the story, no matter what.

How do you write it? Are your readers guaranteed a happy ending?

BTW, I’m enjoying this A to Z Challenge. Thanks to everyone who has responded to my blog. The variety of fascinating and beautiful blogs out there is amazing.


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Synopsis Success

Finally, my novel synopsis is complete. After struggling, revising, and obsessing for two weeks, I came up something I can live with. Writer friends helped me tremendously, and blogger friends encouraged me along the way. Thanks, everyone.stars-th I’m still not sure a synopsis, no matter how carefully crafted, ever does justice to a novel. For now, I look at a synopsis as a simple tool for prospective agents. My last barrier to querying is gone, and I’m ready. In fact, I emailed my first query today. I pressed the send button and, like a photon torpedo, the letter was off to cyber-land. Yikes! This takes guts, girls and boys!
mail-message-new-thOh, and I have a post revision reader. She’s an any genre gal, and I figure if she enjoys my novel then I’ve achieved my goal – creating an adventure that appeals to a variety of readers.

Tell me about your novel. Is it for general consumption or for a select audience?

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