Friday, October 27, 2017

Nano Prep?

Ghost Story Night
We read, we told tall tales and we drank coffee. Thanks to all who came to the adventure last night, and thanks to Stellar Coffee Co. Wahoo. We writers, we shy introverts got out and out of our shell.
I enjoy ghost stories for many reasons. I enjoy the whimsy of earlier fables, with faeries and elves, goblins and anthropomorphized creatures. I don't much care for gore, but, if it's a good story, it's a good story, and we shared some good ones last night. I told my story, but stay tuned. I'll write it tomorrow and share it here.
But next week ... ah, next week begins National Novel Writing Month. I am excited to pull up an old story, a bedtime story I told my son. I will be turning it into a novel at long last. I've made a few stabs, but nothing stuck, so I'm starting over and pleased to be working on middle grade fantasy once again.
So this year I've found many offerings for nano prep. Hum. In this post I wanted to look at the idea of preparing for a romp, the romp that is nano. Is that a good idea?
I'm of two minds. My novel Gabby Care came out of nano, but I worked on it for a long time afterwards in edits and rewrites. I see that a bit more outlining and structure would have helped pre-nano, but I also know that the outlining as I went helped keep me focused during the month. I had a rough idea of the book and where it was headed, but the sequence and mystery evolved as I wrote. I wonder now, if I had a stronger system, would I have eliminated edits and confusion? Surely I would have. But would I have had as much fun? I doubt it.
This year I plan on using Scrivener. We'll see how that goes. I like bulletin boards and poster boards and index cards, basically anything I can touch and see, but so many folks recommend the software that I thought I'd finally try it.
I will dedicate a portion of this weekend to nano prep along with Monday and Tuesday. I am cutting it a bit close, but I think it will be enough. Basically, I'm slicing the nano-prep-pie down the middle. A little prep, a little Scrivener, a little ghost story. It's shaping up to be a great weekend.
Let me know what you think. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017


Prickly Smiles
One more day until Fright Night Superb. I was thinking about how ghost stories are told rather than read. Reading is fine, but there is a different element when someone knows her story and seeks to entertain. I aim for raconteur and seldom reach it, but the well-told-tale is a rich tradition in my family. All of my brothers and my sister also know how to speak a tall twister. It's a gift. As they spin, I sit silently taking mental notes, smiling, often jealous, usually enthralled in a strange dance of family solidarity, history and unexpected love - the kind that clots your throat and makes you want to run from the power of it. I truly love a good story.
Today, my son and I spoke of character driven story. He had read Eudora Welty's, A Worn Path. He said it had little or no plot but the character ... the character ... the character. "Yes," I said. "The character."
What about character in ghost stories? Is there much chance outside of a sketch, or is it all character and man's decay is the frightful part. From a Christian standpoint, so many characters are doomed, already in ghostly decay, save for the blood of the lamb. In the secular wold the picture is even grimmer for its superficial nature, and doing right for ... why exactly. A good feeling in my bones, perhaps. Admittedly, I'm not good with the secular end of the argument, so I'll stop here.
I think in a longer work character is central to a good tall tale. In a short work I am not convinced. By tomorrow, however, I may change my mind. Thanks for reading.

Sunday, October 22, 2017


Since we're leading up to an evening of ghost stories at Stellar Coffee Co on Thursday night, and since my son asked, "what makes a good ghost story," I thought I'd ponder the subject of terrifying tales and frightening fables over a cup of coffee and a blog post.
As I perused the internet for ideas, fear or the unknown kept cropping up. Let me argue this one a little. I don't like the unknown, and, yes, I fear it, but when I, the reader, know something that the protagonist doesn't, I get to fear for them. Don't hide in that shed Veronica, that's where the madman hangs out and he's just fashioned a new garrote from a piano wire and a steel plate. Yikes.
In the Masque of the Red Death, Poe tells the reader much of what Prince Prospero doesn't know. The nobles are indifferent to the suffering of others and it will be their undoing. This isn't the same as Veronica in the example above, but it is similar in that the reader knows something the main character doesn't. The fright comes in the form of the Red Death, but the greater fright is the charge to the reader, be compassionate, remember those less fortunate and those who struggle, lest you also become entangled with a similar specter.
When the author wants to upset the reader's balance, fear of the unknown is a singularly useful tool. For the real scary stuff, the author doesn't want a whole new world, but a parallel creepy one, complete with my not-face in the mirror. Remember the Shining? I never could get my footing watching that movie and I've seen parts of it several times. And what about the Twilight Zone?
When I was very young, I saw a Don Knotts' movie, The Ghost and Mr. Chicken. In it the organ begins to play at midnight. It plays a horrible discordant tune that still scares me to this day. I covered my eyes and ears for this silly movie from the time the organ played until the ending credits rolled. The point for me was that discord. I could handle the minor key, but the jerky rhythm and harsh tones put me so far off center that I had to close it out. Though it was a funny movie and the girls I was with enjoyed it, I couldn't finish it. It scared me.
What else? Senses or lack of them, can be useful to heighten tension. If a narrator hears things only he can hear, as in the Tell-Tale Heart, or can't see, or maybe smells something that triggers a memory, especially if it is a memory of someone long gone. For years I kept a bottle of my grandmother's perfume in my dresser. I could open that bottle and instantly return to a childhood afternoon in her garden. Any afternoon with Granny was filled with wonder and adventure. The smell of freshly turned earth can signal spring or a new grave, author's choice.
On to setting. No place to run, or escape. Boxed in or, alone in the middle of a vast nowhere, both work to signal despair, no one is on the way. Turn and meet your fate, narrator.
Well, my coffee cup needs a warmer, so I'll leave off for now.
Let me know what scares you, reader. Until next time, mu ha ha.
This is also published at

Friday, October 20, 2017

Fiction University: Day Twenty: Idea to Novel Workshop: Developing You...

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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Fiction University: Get Ready for NaNo! At-Home Workshop: Idea to Nove...

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