Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Power Washer.

I bought a Power washer the other day. Tried it out yesterday. It was just a cheap model from Wal-Mart. $47.00. I only need it for small jobs. The green bin, the garbage cans. I also needed to wash the grease from the bottom of my van, stuff that comes from the undercoating. It usually covers the rocker panels and a few inches up the door. Good enough machine for that.
Winter seems to be coming fast. Cold in the mornings. I had to turn on the Heat Pump on for awhile. Warms up in the afternoon.
I should call my mechanic to make arrangements for an oil change. Normally I do it in Oct. and Apr, but next month I'll be away on my cruise.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Shopping At Sears

Last week I bought a new lawn mower. End of the season, good time to buy. Saw a sale at Sears Clearance Center. 20% off and another 10% off with their card. I knew what I wanter before I got there. 6.5 hp, large rear wheels, rear wheel drive, and rear bag.  It used to be that the grass shot out the side, then it was a bag on the back. Now they come with both.
They had a whole bunch there and I found one I liked. Had everything I wanted plus a hose connection for cleaning under it. That's something new. Good idea. I wonder if I can install one on my other mower. I have two mowers. The other one just shoots out the side. Good for my back yard. Don't need to bag, easy to push, don't need auto drive.
So the original price with tax was $ 575.00. marked down to $196. less 20%, less 10%, no tax. Total price was $160.  So I wheeled it from the store. Used it yesterday, works great.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Yearly Visit

Yesterday I went for a blood check. Once a year thing. It took two hours, almost to the minute. Later on, someone asked me why I didn't go to the drug store and get it done for $15.00.  I asked why, I have nothing better to do. It would be like wasting $15.00. I took my Kindle with me and read 30% of a book.
You can't eat after midnight the night before, so when I got up, I just went to the hospital. Even at that time of the morning there was 35 people ahead of me.
The one thing you notice is the number of overweight people. I can't critize overweight, most people are in that state, especially older ones. Some have trouble walking, probably have diabetes, and you know they don't want to be in that shape. But it takes a lot of willpower.
So, you sit there and watch, and it's like a sideshow. Some of those characters. It amazes me. I sometimes wonder how they have been able to survive so long.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

10 Writing Exercises to Break You Out of Your Creative Rut

by Chris Robley

Writing exercises that will help you surprise yourself and the reader

You don’t have to be suffering from writer’s block to feel like you’re in a creative rut.
Maybe you’re wildly prolific, but all your material is starting to sound the same. Maybe you’ve written a short story you love, but just can’t find the right way to end it. Maybe you’ve been working away on a sonnet that really wants to be a villanelle.
Oftentimes, plot (or what we could call direction/momentum/impulse in a poem or piece of experimental fiction) can open up in interesting ways when we leave it alone for a minute and simply listen to the tone or voice of the writing itself.
Here are a number of writing exercises you can use when you’d like to experiment with voice, strengthen your writing muscles, and take your poetic or storytelling skills in surprising new directions.

1. Use an unreliable narrator

Nabokov had Humbert Humbert. Frank Bidart had Herbert White. Randy Newman has… hell, almost every song he’s written is from the perspective of someone you just can’t trust.
And here’s the thing about unreliable narrators: when you know you can’t trust them, you believe in them all the more!
So next time you write, step into the mind of someone evil, someone painfully insecure, someone shady, someone with a mansion-sized ego, etc.

2. Harness the power of ambiguity

On the one hand, I feel this way. On the other hand, I feel that way. Yin/Yang. Day/Night. Ebb/Flow. Winter/Summer. Life/Death. Dualities (or multiplicities) pull us in all different directions, but you don’t need to be loyal to any one force. Stay in the middle and let yourself feel those competing tensions. Write it!

3. Toy with tone and create surprise

Alternate your style and diction. Disagree with a statement you’d just made a moment before. Include a couple mundane details and then hit them with the whopper of all confessions. If you can surprise yourself and it still feels true — that’s good writing.

4. Parataxis Vs. Hypotaxis

Well, I could use a whole blog post to talk about Parataxis vs. Hypotaxis — so I’ll just point you HERE instead. Related to this, try alternating the length of your sentences or lines. What happens?

5. Consider rhythm

If you tend to write rhythmically, succumbing to the music in your mind, resist that urge and write against the rhythm (which is, of course, its own new rhythm!). If you don’t have innate rhythmic impulses in your writing, try to hear the lyrical nature of your words; play with repetition; and imagine yourself singing your sentences out loud.

6. Directness vs. obfuscation

What are you really trying to say? Is it more interesting if you come right out with it, or is it better to write around that subject or theme? Should your reader feel the quick punch or thrill at the slow reveal? Both methods can yield interesting emotional results. Try ‘em out!

7. Got rhetoric?

Rhetoric is the kind of speech used to persuade or motivate. Think of Mark Antony’s speech in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar for an excellent example. For less impressive examples, turn on CNN or Fox News and listen to our elected officials. Rhetoric is not ordinary, everyday speech. Often it’s aim is to tug on your heart strings and appeal to your reason, while at the same time, it maintains a certain aloofness.
Rhetoric often assumes authority — and that’s where it can be particularly interesting as a device in fiction or poetry. You can say something banal in an authoritative tone. You can experiment with how rhetoric alters emotional impact. You can make a statement in a high-flying fashion, and then swoop low to undercut it. Play around. If it doesn’t work in your writing, you’ll at least be honing your skills for the next Town Hall meeting you attend.

8. Compression and expansion

Think of an epic storyline — something that would take 500 pages to tell. Now compress it into 1000 words without it reading like a book report. If you find it difficult to maintain a musicality to your writing while compressing a storyline so dramatically, read some prose poetry for inspiration.
Conversely, think of a single idea — it can be something that fascinates you or something that seems totally unassuming — and then obsess on it! 5 pages. 10 pages. More. What did you discover? Where did it lead you?

9. Embrace the tropes of another genre

Oftentimes, when we attempt to ape elements from other genres, we end up with something uniquely our own. For instance, what do you get when you cross the archetypal hero’s journey with Samurai films, Buck Rogers, Westerns, and the Grail Quest? You probably know the answer: Star Wars!
So set your next romance novel in the world of LA Noir/crime/mystery. Write a vampire book in the form of a self-help memoir. You get the idea.

10. Use “uncreative” writing

No, I’m not talking about Kenneth Goldsmith’s version of Uncreative Writing, though that could open up some new creative possibilities for you too. What I’m referring to is the writing you have to do AROUND and ABOUT your main creative writing projects: website copy, press releases, blurbs, bios, pitches.
By writing THAT stuff before (or alongside) your creative writing, you might learn some interesting things about your project, voice, approach, inclinations, etc.
And yes, I know writing bios and press releases and copy CAN be creative.

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Thursday, May 16, 2013

5 Ways To Stay Motivated in Your Writing Career

As humans, we all struggle at times to stay excited about certain tasks at hand. We get bored; we get frustrated; we get distracted (ooh, cat gifs!) and our art suffers for it — we stop writing our novel, we stop writing our next song.
Sometimes you just have to stop and remember why you are doing it in the first place.
But seriously… we recently dug up an old article on Lifehack that reminded us of some simple ways to stay motivated. The article is mostly focused on general life motivation, but it can easily be applied to your creative career as well.
You can read the article in its’ entirety here, or check out our summary below.

How to keep your writing life fresh and active

1) Remember the reason(s) you’re doing it in the first place: A feeling of accomplishment? Personal gain? Cold hard cash? One little step closer to your bigger goal?
2) Have fun: Ask yourself, “what can I do to make whatever it is I am doing more enjoyable for myself (and maybe others)?”
3) Take a different direction: there is likely more than one way to do whatever you are doing, so try approaching your task from a different angle. Ask yourself how other people do this same thing. Try it that way.
4) Baby steps: In order to not become overwhelmed by the larger task at hand, split tasks into smaller goals and celebrate each goal once you reach it. For example, if your goal is to write an entire novel, set a goal of writing one chapter at a time, or just writing for one hour at a time, and celebrate when you’ve done it. You’ll be stoked that you reached your goal and be motivated to move onto chapter two (or hour two).
5) Reward yourself: once you’ve reached a goal, make sure you take time to reward yourself. Whether it’s something as simple as taking a break or buying yourself a lil’ sumpthin’ sumpthin’, it’s important to recognize progress to stay motivated.

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Monday, April 29, 2013

Three Keys to Writing Memorable Fiction

From Ruth Harris on Anne R. Allen’s Blog:

Social, cultural, and political history are powerful tools no writer should ignore.
  • John Le CarrĂ© used the Cold War, the Berlin Wall and the real-life unmasking of a double agent to create a compelling setting in The Spy Who Came In From the Cold.
  • Isabel Allende’s The House Of The Spirits, a family saga partially inspired by the PInochet dictatorship, is set against decades of political and social upheaval in post-colonial Chile.
  • Alexander Solzhenitsyn drew on his experiences in the forced-labor camps of the Soviet prison system to create world wide bestsellers in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and The Gulag Archipelago.
However, writers do not need vast cultural and political disruptions to write powerful fiction readers can relate to. Ordinary, everyday details add enormous power to fiction and bring your story to life.

Whether your book is set in the conservative Eisenhower Fifties, the stylish Kennedy Sixties, Nixon’s Watergate and the gloomy Carter Seventies, the glitzy Reagan Eighties, or the Anxious-Age-of-the-Present, each period offers the writer its own specific backdrop and sound track. Trudeau’s Canada, Thatcher’s England, de Gaulle’s France, Ho Chi Minh’s China, Mubarak’s Egypt, Stalin’s Russia and Hitler’s Germany—all evoke powerful memories and feelings years after the events took place.

Characters need to be firmly anchored in a specific time and place. Even sci-fi and fantasy need social, cultural and political specifics to engage the reader. George Orwell’s 1984, Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale and JK Rowling’s Harry Potter draw their power from their authors’ ability to create credible details of an invented world.

If you research and then judiciously set up the specifics of time and place, you will expand and enrich your fiction. Invoking the relevant cultural, political and social details will draw your reader into recognizable settings against which your characters can act out their dilemmas, frustrations and successes.

You shouldn’t give your reader a history lesson—that’s Doris Kearns Goodwin’s job—but you do want to give your characters a relatable world in which to live. Your characters can be—and should be—shaped by the attitudes of whatever period you choose to write about.
  • Peggy and Joan in Mad Men deal with the casual sexism of the 1960’s.
  • The characters in Downton Abbey are caught up in a long-gone post-Edwardian upstairs-downstairs world.
  • Patsy and Edina, the fashion victims in Ab Fab, booze it up, get high and keep up with nutty trends as they attempt to recreate their younger, glory days in Swinging London.
  • Carrie and Brody in Homeland are enmeshed in a paranoid present complete with bi-polar disorder, psycho-active drugs and a hero who might also be a terrorist.
  • Elizabeth Moss’s character in Top Of The Lake searches for a missing and pregnant twelve-year-old in a remote, misogynistic area of contemporary New Zealand.
The writers’ skillful use of these various eras bring the fictional characters who inhabit them vividly to life.
By using cultural history, high or low, past or current, your characters will become dimensional as they reflect the world around them. They can be limited by it—or they can rebel against it. Some will choose to drop out, some will learn to manipulate it, others will challenge it, some will be defeated and still others will triumph despite the barriers they face.

Are you writing about a period in which people feel positive about the future and confident about their prospects? Or are your characters coping with the Depression of the Thirties or the financial crisis or downsizing of the recent past and present? How they think and feel and what they do to deal with opportunity (or lack thereof) offers a potent way to explore and expand the inner and outer lives of the people you’re writing about.

Early Elvis, swinging Sinatra, Abbey Road Beatles, Motown Soul, Latino Salsa, Madonna’s Material Girl, Gangsta Rap, Lady Gaga’s and/or Rihanna’s latest immediately evoke times and places your reader will find familiar.
  • Did your heroine’s first serious romance—maybe with her tweedy, pipe-smoking Literature Professor—begin and end to Mozart?
  • Did your MC come of age when Michael Jackson was moon-walking?
  • Did that bad-boy rascal of a boyfriend give your heroine heartache only Patsy Cline could express?
Selecting just the right song and just the right singer can illuminate the emotional life of a character in a memorable way. (Anne here: Just remember to use the title, not the actual lyric--unless you're prepared to pay. Here's a recent blogpost on how to do that.)

Then there’s wardrobe:
  • Garter belts or Spanx?
  • Turtlenecks or bustiers?
  • Lip gloss or va-va-voom Marilyn Monroe red lipstick?
  • A natural Fro, an old-fashioned perm, a blow dry bob or a Gwyneth dead straight ‘do?
  • Punky pink streaks, Bergdorf’s blonde or let-it-all-hang-out grey?
  • A hedge fund titan in a five-thousand-dollar suit?
  • A dude in jeans and a pack of cigarettes in the rolled-up sleeve of a T-shirt?
  • A genius techie billionaire in hoodie and sneakers?
  • Are their clothes worn ironically? Or un-?
Choices in clothing, makeup and hairstyles telegraph different personalities and different attitudes. A wise writer will make use of each telling detail as s/he creates characters readers will relate to.

Writers don’t need to know everything but they do need to be interested in everything from the Mau Mau uprising in the 1950s to today’s California surfers.

Research used to mean trips to the library, flipping through card catalogs and then waiting for the books to be pulled from the stacks. Research once meant slogging through microfilm, piles of old newspapers and magazines. It was time-consuming and often frustrating. Now, thanks to the web and Google, just about anything we want to know is instantly available.

Our world—past and present—is rich in incident, personality and conflict. It’s an oyster with a different pearl for every book, each character and every writer. An open mind and lively curiosity, a habit of reading widely, your own unique memories, passions and interests, plus basic research are your friends.

Embrace them and use them thoughtfully. Your readers will love you for it.

What about you, scriveners? What details do you use to anchor your book in time and place? Are there books that have more detail than you'd like? Do you read for setting as well as story?