Thursday, August 30, 2012

Have You Seen This Bike?

I'm a devoted listener to NPR News during my commute. It is my only dip into current events and social commentary. I often find myself absorbed by their stories and last week, a very intriguing coincidence emphasized the importance of this connection between me and the world at large.

Halfway through my trip home, I caught the NPR's story about New York City's Ghost Bike Project. To recap, bike riders decided to take a page from the folks who post those white crosses along roads to commemorate the loss of a loved one in an accident. Their method is to take old bikes, strip them down, paint them white, and place them at the site where a bike rider died in an accident. Not only to remember a fallen friend or fellow enthusiast, but to help raise awareness about "sharing the road."

I thought about all the bike delivery folks in NYC dealing with/daring the NYC traffic and shared a moment of sadness for the riders who lost in that confrontation.

As I was driving down River Road toward the bridge, I noticed something on the road. When I got closer, I realized it was a ghost bike. A Ghost Bike here in Richmond?

I'm so sorry for all the folks this bike commemorates - rider, driver, family, friends. And I ask - Please folks, wherever you are, please SHARE THE ROAD.

Riders - please observe traffic laws just like any other vehicle on the road
Drivers - please be considerate of bike riders and give them plenty of room.

Monday, August 27, 2012


If your desires are not extravagant, they will be granted.

SNARKY RESPONSE: Okay, who's hedging their bets? So, if I don't get my desire, it'll be because it was too extravagant, eh? Fortune Cookie guru, you're leaving yourself a whopping big loophole there. And don't tell me that's the way the cookie crumbs.

If your desires are not extravagant, they will be granted.

Not only are you hedging your bets, Fortune Cookie Guru, but I think you're missing the point.

Desires, by their very nature, trend toward the extravagant. Needs are more modest, more fundamental – food, shelter, security. Nothing extravagant there.

But desires, desires are more often wrapped up in wish-fulfillment. And wishes are mostly all about big things, dreamy things, extraordinary things.

Keeping your desire small in order to have it granted is the waste of a good desire. Desires should be big, heart-pounding, pulse-racing, sweat on your brow big. In the case of desire, size matters.

If we limit our desires in hopes that fate will tip the scales in our favor, we always live in the shallow end of the life pool.

Don't do it! Dream big, desire extravagantly!

And if our efforts don't make the big leagues, at least we know we tried. We pushed ourselves. We took our shot and that is the point! The trick is that it's not the destination, but the journey that will make us more. (Okay, that's another fortune cookie saying, but it applies)

What say you?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Look! Show and Tell!

Blog Sister, Tracey Livesay tagged me for a fun game and explained it this way:

"My friend, Debra Kristi, recently posted a blog about a new meme making the rounds.  It’s called “Look” and the rules state that I do a search for the word in my current work-in-progress and paste the surrounding paragraphs. Afterwards, I tag others and the game is afoot."

I love a good game, so here's my section from my current Work-In-Process - "Aces Down":

He shook his head, though he dropped the cuffs into my hand. "You'd better hurry up with those. Hawkins won't stay down long."

"Really?" I muttered as I maneuvered one pair over Hawkins' feet and up around his ankles. I yanked them tight and then rolled Hawkins onto his stomach. He was heavy as a damned log. After I secured his hands behind his back, I pushed myself to my feet, stepped over him, and leaned over to look at Tristan's wound. As far as I could tell, the bleeding had slowed. Thank the stars for shapeshifter healing.

"How're you doing?" I asked, looking at him to make sure he was in full control of his wolf. We needed to get him inside, but I didn't think he could do it without a little help. Help that would put me way inside the wolf's personal space.

Thanks, Tracey for tagging me and I'm gonna tag the following talented bloggers/writers/poets: Shawna Christos, Joanna Lee, Erica Orloff, Meg Medina, Gigi Amateau, Shann Palmer. Check them out!

Tracey & I also blog with a group of Virginia writers of romantic fiction. the Wise Wenches. You can find the link to our blog here.

Monday, August 20, 2012


"A light heart carries you through all the hard times."

SNARKY RESPONSE: But a bottle of vodka will make you completely oblivious. Okay, so diving into a bottle is NOT a viable option, but this IS the snarky section, right?

"A light heart carries you through all the hard times."

The Fortune Cookie Guru needs a reality check. This reads like an oxymoron to me. Light heart/hard times? I would love to think that I could do this, but if my heart was light, the times couldn't possibly be that hard, could they? And if the times ARE that hard, how do I make my heart light? Denial might work, but it isn't useful.

Perhaps it's more about letting go of the attempt to control your life and trust that your higher power will get you through. (I make no stipulation as to what form your higher power might take, just that you trust it.) This is something that I've found amazingly comforting and empowering.

Additionally, metaphysics and religion aside, when facing "hard times, " I recognize that while there are things I cannot change, I CAN change  how I react to them. Okay, I admit I might spend a little time being angry, terrified, or overwhelmed, but then I try to  edge back from that ledge and take a long view.

I've been a very fortunate person in my life in that I've always managed to work my way through my "hard times" so far, knock wood. Perhaps that is the nugget of gold in this:

Recognizing that you've survived hard times before can give you the strength to survive them now.

If you're having hard times right now, I send you love and light AND the certainty that you will get through it.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

He Said, She Gasped, They Shrugged

Lately, I've been struggling with something in my work as well as in things I'm reading both for pleasure and critique. It's the eternal battle over dialogue tags. (For those who may not use that term, I'm speaking of the words you see preceding or following a character's statement, most commonly "said.")

Dialogue tags are like spices in a recipe. Too little results in blandness, too much will ruin the dish, and just enough  make that dish lively and delicious.

The standard "said" is a perfectly useful and reader-friendly dialogue tag - as more than one mentor has said, the reader's eye glide right over it. This is not a bad thing, but if all you use is "said" the reader will begin to notice and may become irritated.

Do not swing to the other end of the spectrum and try to jazz up your said's with things like said angrily, said sadly, said softly. Better choices would be shouted, sighed, murmured. These dialogue tags portray your characters and their dialogue actively.

More so than active tages, my personal preference is to use physical beats, gestures as often as applicable. Why? Because that's how we talk.

Think about it.

When we talk to someone we gesture, our face changes expression, we move around. Communication is as much body language as it is words. Sometimes it is more about the body language than the words.

Though it's often said in jest, it's true that some folks couldn't talk if their hands were tied down - gestures play a huge part in communication. Other folks are more physically restrained, but facially expressive - a raised eyebrow can convey a thousands words. And there is inflection - rise and fall of vocal tone as well as cadence (but that's a different blog).

The interesting thing is that these notations of physical movement or expressions can take the place of the dialogue tag. And they serve the dual purpose of helping to round out your characters, make them more 3-dimensional as they move through their space.

Mary shrugged. "I don't care." VS "I don't care," Mary said.
Barry scowled. "Don't you dare walk out that door." VS Barry said, "Don't you dare walk out that door."

Don't be afraid to have your excitable character jab their finger, jump up and down, or pace the room. Feel free to let your more physically reserved character glower, laugh, or stare.

Another way of looking at it is to consider the difference between a static comic and an animiated comic. Both will entertain, both will convey the message, but which one is more engaging?

Most folks would prefer the "moving picture," so make sure your writing gives them the same thing.

Monday, August 13, 2012


"You will be successful in everything."

SNARKY RESPONSE: Okay, first, Fortune Cookie Guru, you no longer "foretell" anything, instead offering only platitudes, and now you're pandering. Someone, pass me another cookie, at least I can get my sugar fix.

"You will be successful in everything."

No one believes that one, but I truly believe that you can be successful in anything you pursue with dedication and determination. Granted a measure of "realistic expectation" must be dumped into the mix, but you can't get there from here without hard work. This applies to all facets of your life, but here I'm talking about writing.

What is success anyway? Is it a measurable point in time or checkbook balance? To be successful, you have to determine first what it is, and then what is involved in getting there.

Does being a successful writer mean being on the New York Best-Seller List? Then, more than likely, you need to chart a course for one of the Big Publishers and build your platform to attract their attention. Very few folks get to the NYBSL without that kind of support.

Does being a successful writer mean being published, period? Then, determine what medium is best suited to your type of writing. Self-publishing doesn't carry the stigma it once did, but it doesn't serve the best interests of every writer. Small presses are carrying a lot of water now and could be just the team to take you over the goal line. ePublishing offers versatility and relevance in an electronic age, but is it your final destination or a stepping stone?

All of these venues are valid "end goals" and I encourage you to investigate them all as you plot your course.

For me, the goal is to see my story in print, be it on paper or electronic, and to be judged a good enough writer to be paid for it. Crass, yes, but think about it. If you've spent days/weeks/months/YEARS working on something, investing all that time and effort, you can't be blamed for expecting some recognition.  And what better recognition than to have someone exchange their hard-earned money for it. It's not crass, it's about a craftsman being recognized for his trade. And you, my dear writer, are a craftsman, be it prose or poetry, fiction or non, long or short.

Additionally, I would add that any goal you set for yourself (1) is not set in stone--you can change it at any point, it's YOUR goal after all; and (2) is a moving target in that the outside influences on attainment should be factored and adjusted accordingly. Regularly review your goals, check your target for validity, and then be flexible enough to adjust as required.

Finally, "they" say, "Success is a journey, not a destination." (I can't find a definitive citation, but it's bandied about regularly) While it may sound to the snarky like a cop-out, it's a valid point. Even if we don't attain that grand goal, the fact that we continually strive to attain it makes us different from those who don't even try.

That, my dears, is worth celebrating as much as the rest!

So, how do you measure success?

Monday, August 6, 2012


"Perhaps you've been focusing too much on that one thing."

SNARKY RESPONSE: One thing? No one can afford to focus on only ONE thing! Multi-tasking! It's the buzzword and definition of the modern life.

"Perhas you've been focusing too much on that one thing."

Now that I think about it. I have been a little too focused on that one thing and it probably is time to set it aside for a little while.

I've been working on a short story that I began in a workshop at RavenCon, a local science fiction & fantasy con. They have a wonderful writing track and the workshops always help me bring out interesting ideas and characters. This year's workshop produced an opening I'd found intriguing but the story I wrote to go with it has failed to make the mark. I labored hours on it and then inflicted it upon one of my trusted critique groups. They did their job and held me accountable. Hard as it was to admit, they saw what I felt was wrong and now I know it's time to let go. To give it some time, so that I can come back to it with fresh eyes.

Writing requires that we tell a story from beginning to end. That we FINISH. And then it requires that we revise it, polish it, hone it until it shines. However, sometimes, it's necessary to set a story aside and let it, ferment, percolate, age.

Plus we need time away from the story to let our unconscious mind, our creative mind, puzzle away at it while we work on other things.

That's one of the wild and wonderful things about the creative process. It doesn't  require our undivided attention to be productive. Sometimes--often--our muse will putter around in the dusty, dark recesses of our brain and then, when we're least expecting it, they lob a brilliant solution or a satisfying conclusion into our consciousness like a lightning strike or, my personal favorite, a "clue by four."

So, I'm going to put the mermaid story aside for a little while. Not forever, just while I release my focus to shift it onto something else. Maybe  several something elses.

What about you?

Writers: have you had a plot knot or character dilemma that you futzed with for far too long? How did you resolve your quandary? Did you keep slogging away at it or did you pry your unwilling fingers off so you could step back?

Non-writers: surely you've dealt with sticky wickets that plagued your waking hours and haunted your sleep? What worked for you--release or tenacity or both?