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A Letter to Santa…


Dear Santa,

I’ve been a good girl this year, so…

What?

Stop laughing!

Okay, fine, I’ll grant you that “good” is a highly subjective term.  But I haven’t strangled my hubby, I haven’t hung my children from the ceiling fan by their toes, and whatever the cats may have told you — I have not threatened to drop them off at a Vietnamese restaurant!  (Cats are crazy, you know that — don’t trust them!)

*ahem*

The point is, I haven’t done anything that should land me on the naughty list.  Surely you have bigger fish to fry there.  So, I shouldn’t have to settle for coal, or snowman poop, or whatever it is you’re giving out to the girls and boys on that list these days.

So… I have compiled a short, reasonable, eight-item list of presents I would like to see wrapped up under my tree this year.

1) A computer, impervious to viruses, that never crashes or inexplicably loses any of my hard work.

2) Dishes and clothes that wash themselves.

3) A magical elf who will finish my manuscript for me.

4) A microchip-implant that will enable my son to skip his “terrible twos”.

5) A gift certificate for one pain-free childbirth experience.

6) A one-year supply of chocolate (you could put this on a yearly subscription plan actually)

7) That Easy Bake oven that SOMEONE (I won’t say who) forgot to give me twenty-some-odd years ago.

8) Johnny Depp — wrapping not necessary.  (What?  I don’t want the guy to suffocate or anything!)

I’m sure there’s nothing on the list that’s too hard for Santa to make happen.  Miracle on 34th Street proved that you really can do anything.  And, it’s not like I’m asking you to walk on water or anything.  Although, if you DO decide to do that – have Mrs. Clause record that stunt, and shove the DVD in my stocking, would ya?

Pet the reindeer for me!

Thanks,

A. W. Omyn

 
11 Comments

Posted by on December 10, 2011 in All, For Fun/Just Because

 

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Pen Names… For? Against? Don’t Care?


Yesterday, I stumbled across an interesting blog post/article, written by a thriller author, who chose to go with a pen name, at the behest of her publisher.

I can’t say I agree with all of her/their reasons, but hey – it was ultimately her choice, and she picked a name she felt she could live with.

The article itself wasn’t what inspired me to make a blog post of my own though.  It was the comments that got me thinking.  Some of them were really harsh.  Some berated her for not sticking it to her publisher and refusing to change her name.  Some mocked her pen name choice, or her reason.  At least one even flat-out refused to read anything by her, because she had “sold out” by choosing a pen name.

I had no idea it was such a big deal to some people, or that one could be viewed as potentially weak for choosing to write under a name they weren’t actually born with.

Writers have all different reasons for choosing a pen name: so they won’t be confused with other writers or popular characters, so they can fit their name to their audience, book shelf placement, because their birth name is ridiculously hard to pronounce, because they’re writing both romance and horror but don’t want the audience to be confused or turned off, etc.

In the case of the author who wrote the article I’m referencing here, they felt her name wasn’t suitable to the genre she was writing in.  Basically, the main concern was that no one would want to read a thriller with “Alison Potter” on the book cover.

Personally, I don’t care what an author’s name is.  I’ll admit that I, like most, may make a purchasing decision based on the cover (though, the blurb on the back or online description is what does or does not sell it for me).  But, the author’s name has honestly never made a difference to me.  I’ve never said to myself, “Well, no one named Wendy Harper is capable of writing a good horror novel, so there’s just no way I’m going to pick that book up!”  And, I’ve never known anyone else who cared about that either.  I don’t even care if it’s chick-lit written by Frederick Humperdink.  What’s the blurb say?  What impression does the cover give me?

As I’m sure you’ve guessed, A. W. Omyn isn’t the name on my birth certificate.  So, why did I choose it?  Well, honestly, because I’m a bit of a smartass.  I’d love to say there’s some better, more serious, ethical, career-deciding, etc. reason for it.  But, in the end, it just boils down to my being a smartass.

I know that there are female authors who choose to go with initials, rather than their full name (whether of their own accord, or due to the advice of an agent/publisher/marketing consultant), in order to essentially hide their gender from the audience (at least until after the reader has read the book, or the author has gained a certain level of notoriety).

So, I thought it was funny to make a name with initials that not only does not hide my gender, but blatantly tells you exactly what it is.

Why did I choose to go with a ‘y’ instead of an ‘a’?  Is it some grand-standing political statement against the word “man” being within the title of my gender association?  Am I trying to push for the word “woman” to be changed to “womyn”?  Nope.  I just have a thing for ‘y’s in female names.  I think they make the name a bit more feminine and unique, generally speaking.

Thoughts on pen names?  Is there a bad reason to choose a pen name?  Is there a good reason to choose one?  Are you upset by authors who choose to go with a pen name?  Would the name on a book cover influence your decision to purchase, or read, a particular book?

 
6 Comments

Posted by on December 9, 2011 in All, Publishing, Writing

 

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From the Imagination to the Page: Character Creation


I recently read a blog post, on character lists, that got me thinking about how I (and other writers/aspiring writers) create and develop fictional characters.

If you’ve never seen a “character list”, it’s basically just a run-down of various traits, generally reserved for the main (and repeating secondary) characters in your story.  These sheets usually have everything from a particular character’s motivation, to the color of their underwear.

I’ve read the advice in favor of character lists.  So, I tried my hand at throwing a few together.  Epic failure on my part.  There was no way!  Maybe after I wrote the book and had a better understanding of the character, but no way before hand.

So, what happened?  I had the pleasure of feeling bad about my inability to determine what my protagonist most enjoys for breakfast, prior to beginning my rough draft.

But then I took a chill-pill (cotton candy flavored).  I reminded myself that no one method is the right method for every single writer on the planet.  And I realized that, for me personally, I don’t really know my characters until they pop out of my head and onto the page/screen.

Oh, I may think I know a particular character.  But, I’m usually wrong about that.  Everything I outline ahead of time, or am inspired to write about, or think about a particular character — all of it — is subject to change, as I pump out that first draft.

I suppose it’s a bit like being possessed or insane.  Yes, I hear voices (no, I don’t need medication thank you very much!).  The voices of my characters speak through me.  I actually hear them in my head as I tell a story from their perspective, or type out their dialogue.  I’ll get into a character, very much like an actor must have to, in order to play said character in a believable way.  Perhaps there is a certain level of insanity in any artist, of any medium.  But, it’s the kind of insanity that’s fun at parties, so I’m cool with it.

But, I can’t get into that character until I start writing him/her.  So, I never know, until after I’ve already started writing it all down (poorly or otherwise), exactly who a character is.  I need to hear them first, meet them, get to know them, be intimate with them (don’t make everything sound so dirty – that’s not what I meant)…. Until I start writing them, who knows if they even wear underwear, let alone what color it is!

Besides, people are complicated creatures.  There are so many different facets of our personalities, how do you summarize who someone is on a single sheet of paper?  Sure, I could tell you what my favorite color is… today. But, tomorrow, perhaps my mood will have shifted my favor in that department. My reactions, my motivation, my priorities could all change dramatically, based on my situation at the time.

If I want my characters to be believable, I have to assume they’re at least as complex as I am!  Maybe the antagonist starts with a particular motive in mind, and maybe that changes later on in the story.  What do you do with your character sheet now? Perhaps my protagonist will start off sunny, cheerful, and stuffed with grape-flavored bunny farts, then become pissed off enough to start cursing, hate everyone, and open a can of whoop-ass! What?  I’ve had those days.

So… character lists… are they worth the paper they’re printed on? Do they work for some writers?  I’m sure they do.  Like I said, no one method is the right method for every writer on the planet.

I can see the appeal of keeping an on-going, ever-changing sheet of character traits.  You know – something to keep track of what you’ve already written down about the character(s), just so you can remain consistent with certain things, for sequels and what-not.  Heck – I may even do that myself.  I haven’t yet, but I might.

But, do you really need to know every single detail about your character(s), before you’ve really met them?  I don’t know, to me that sounds a bit boring, honestly.  I don’t want to know everything about a person before I’ve met them.  And, I don’t want to know everything about a character before I start writing about them.  I rather enjoy the process of allowing them to speak through me.

What are your thoughts on the subject?  Have you tried character creation lists?  Did they work for you?  Did they maybe give you something to work with, even if everything on the list was subject to change as you wrote?  How do you handle creating your characters?

 
4 Comments

Posted by on December 8, 2011 in All, Writing

 

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Never Even Heard of Peter Pan… Really?


So, the other day, the kids had a play date with their younger uncle.  Yes, my girls have a “baby uncle”.  It’s a little weird, but I digress.

His nanny brought him over and I decided to put on the newest (to my knowledge anyway) Peter Pan movie.  It’s live-action, fun, visually striking, and did accomplish my goal of having at least one of the kids beg to read the book.

The kids started getting into the movie, gleefully watching Peter, Wendy, John, and Micheal ready themselves for their adventure.  To be fair, this was supposed to be a play date, and I hadn’t thought about the fact that the kids were enjoying the movie so much, they weren’t actually playing anymore. I was just hoping they’d enjoy it enough to read J. M. Barrie’s book!

Apparently, little mister baby-uncle couldn’t stay too long – he had another play date scheduled for later that afternoon.  So, his nanny (a middle aged woman, in her thirties or forties, who grew up in Europe, and has lived in the U.S. for quite some time now) asks me if the movie is almost over.

This is how that conversation went…

Nanny: “Is this movie almost over?”

Me: “They just flew off to Neverland”

Nanny: *blank stare*

Me: “You know… Neverland?”

Nanny:”Oh, I’ve never seen this movie before.”

Me: “Okay, but it’s Peter Pan.”

Nanny: *blank stare*

Me: “Peter Pan…. the story?  The book?”

Nanny: “I don’t know.”

Me: “Are you serious?”

Nanny: “I never read the book.”

Me: “I’m sorry, I’m just a little shocked.  Umm, no, it’s not almost over…”

We ended up turning off the movie, to encourage the kids to play outside, take a walk, and hang out before their uncle had to leave.

I’m still a little shocked.  I honestly had NO idea there was anyone who hadn’t heard of Peter Pan.

I mean – okay, you haven’t seen one of the movies.  Not a big movie watcher, they didn’t make any movies based on Peter Pan in your country of origin, you simply weren’t interested, whatever.  I can understand that.

You haven’t read the book.  Okay.  No problem, I can understand that as well.  Still makes me a little sad.  But, again, everyone’s tastes are different, maybe the book was highly unpopular where you grew up, maybe you thought the story sounded dull or weird, whatever.

You haven’t seen the play, and your school never did the play.  Again, I can get it.

But… you’ve NEVER even heard of Peter Pan… or Neverland… or J. M. Barrie… NEVER?

She’s lived in America (where I happen to know this is a popular story) for quite some time now, and she’s been around (on this Earth) for longer than ten minutes, so I’m having trouble wrapping my mind around the fact that NO ONE she’s EVER run into has even made a reference to something as classic as Peter Pan.

This is classic literature we’re talking about.  As I pointed out to her, this isn’t even an “American” book.  It was written in the 1800’s, in England.  So, America can’t be the ONLY place were this is still a classic.

And, she’s a nanny!  She takes care of an American child!  You’re telling me that some, even adapted, version of Peter Pan isn’t on the book shelf, the Disneyized version isn’t in the DVD player, and there’s NEVER been a conversation, in a house with a child, that so much as referenced SOMETHING to do with Peter Pan… really?  Seriously?

 
2 Comments

Posted by on December 8, 2011 in All, For Fun/Just Because

 

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He Who Walks Behind the Rose


It’s after midnight, the kids are in bed, and I was raised watching horror movies.  So, of course, I picked a horror movie to watch, while I should be doing a million other, far more productive, things — Children of the Corn.

While the psychotic children were going on about “He who walks behind the rows”, I started laughing to myself, reminded of the first time I saw this movie, as a child.

I remember spending the ENTIRE film thinking, Where is this rose everyone keeps talking about?  What does corn have to do with roses?  Roses don’t even grow on corn.  What’s wrong with Stephen King?  I’m a kid and even I know that roses don’t grow in corn fields.  I don’t get it…

I probably should have been scared.  It’s a horror movie, after all.  Kids who run about killing their parents should have shocked, or at least upset, me.  But, I just kept obsessing over that friggin’ rose — looking everywhere for it, waiting for some monster, hiding behind a rose, to pop up out of nowhere.  He never appeared.  There was no rose.

At the end of the film, I turned to my father.  I was very upset.  It was like false advertising!  How was anyone supposed to understand this movie, when the villain didn’t have anything to do with the supposed rose everyone kept referencing?!

So, I yelled, “WHAT ROSE? ALL I SAW WAS CORN!”

My father cracked up, after a moment of confusion, when he realized that I was talking about the flower. “The rows of corn,” he said.

“huh?”

“Corn rows — rows of corn in the field.  That’s what they were talking about.”

“OOOOOHHHH – ‘He who walks behind the ROWS’…”

Had I read the book, rather than just watching the movie version, I would have understood.  But, hearing it, without seeing the spelling, my child’s mind immediately jumped to exactly what it sounded like.  They kept talking about a rose that didn’t exist… stupid rose…

 
1 Comment

Posted by on December 7, 2011 in All, For Fun/Just Because

 

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Angel Vs. Spike


**Contains Buffy the Vampire Slayer (series) & Angel (series) Spoilers**

So, I have Netflix and they have most of the Buffy episodes available. Because I was a fan of Buffy when it originally aired (in fact, I’m a fan of Joss Whedon in general), I’ve been happily watching, or rewatching, the show.

Am I the only one who found Spike the more appealing vampire-lover character?

Here are my reasons…

One, Spike has a more heart-wrenching back story. I can completely understand how and why he relished in taking revenge on those who tormented him while he was human. I can also see why he’s so sensitive, with the overly macho exterior.

Two, Angel had a soul forced upon him. When his soul is removed (which happens more than once within the two series – Buffy & Angel), he instantly turns back in to a sadistically evil demon. That, it would appear, is his base nature. Spike, on the other hand, actively and willfully seeks out obtaining a soul (to “become the man Buffy deserves”). Even while being technically “evil”, Spike is able to better control himself and his vampire urges. He willingly deals with unmentionable pain, enduring multiple tests in order to gain a soul and become a better person.

Three, Spike’s accent is just hot. Come on, it had to be said.

Now, with all that said, I do like the character of Angel. I was a fan of the Angel spin-off series too. His character had it’s own tragic story: knowing that he could become Angeles (the evil twin) at any moment, having to live with the memories of what Angeles has done, constantly trying to redeem himself for those actions (without ever feeling as though he might be able to), and so on.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on November 24, 2011 in All, For Fun/Just Because

 

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Pantser… Plotter… What am I and What are You?


Poking about online, I found a post by another writer who mentioned that she was a “plotter”, not a “pantser”.  My initial reaction was to laugh, because being a “pantser” just sounds funny.  But, then, I found myself compelled to google these terms because, in context, I understood that they had something to do with writing style and I was curious as to which category I fell into.  I understood the basic premise of each, but didn’t have a clear definition in mind for either term.

I found this article (clicky), for anyone who is also wondering what these terms mean in the writing world.

Upon reading the article, I discovered that I am mostly a pantser (which is great, because it sounds a lot more fun than being a “plotter”, which kind of sounds villainous… hey, that could be fun too, come to think of it).  And, let me tell ya – there are plenty of times where I would love to pants those pesky, uncooperative characters… then run away giggling diabolically.

Plotting does sound like the “smarter” way to go.  Revisions would be easier I think, for one thing.  And, most of the advice you’ll hear as a writer, in my experience, tends to revolve around the idea of doing more plotting.

Unfortunately, that’s just not going to work for me.  I’ve tried it!  I’ll try to outline a project, only to find that I keep changing the outline, keep changing the work as I’m doing it, and find myself hampered more than helped by the process.  Writing the book, at that point, does become less enjoyable and more restrictive to the flow of creativity, for me personally (as was pointed out in the article linked above, as one potential con to plotting).

I’ve found that I work best by grabbing my notebook and filling each “subject” divided section with messy, hastily blurted out brain-stormey type notes on the idea I have in mind.  I may do some basic, preliminary, always changing, outlining.  I usually write a number of possible opening paragraphs.  I’ll ask myself open-ended questions on those pages.  I’ll often write out a few quotes that come to mind and that I think would work well somewhere within the project.  And, I’ll throw down important character information, as it comes to me.

I suppose some of that would fall into the category of plotting.  But, I don’t do character interviews or fill out concrete, detailed outlines or the like.  It’s never worked for me – all the times I’ve given that method a shot.

For me, the story doesn’t come alive until I start writing it down; the characters don’t feel real until I start writing about them, or from their perspective, or start writing their dialogue; the subplots don’t even come to mind half the time until I let the story start flowing of it’s own accord.  For me, it’s as though I can’t write the story, if I already know all the details.  Most of the time, that makes the process a lot of fun.  Sometimes, it’s very frustrating not to know what I’m going to write until I start writing it.

All that said, I also can’t let a rough draft sit unedited until the end.  If, while pantsing out my story, I decide to change something, or some sub plot comes to mind that would need to have been set up prior – I can’t just keep writing without going all the way back to the beginning and revising all the way back down to where I was, in order to get the logic and flow at least somewhat “right”.  I can’t just let sleeping dogs lie and come back to revise the entire thing later.

I’m sure that slows down my writing process.  But, call it an OCD thing, I will stay up ALL night obsessing, if I don’t go back to the beginning and revise the entire thing, even though I’m almost done, if I’ve changed or added even one little detail.

Now, were I writing nonfiction, I don’t think pantsing would work at all.  I would have to do the plotting thing, or give up on writing nonfiction.  But, maybe it DOES work for some nonfiction writers.  I don’t really know.

So, which are you – the pranky pantser or the precision plotter or somewhere closer to the middle perhaps?  Is either method a “better” way to write, in your opinion?  Whichever one you are, what are the pros and cons you’ve noticed, if any, with your particular method?

 
4 Comments

Posted by on September 19, 2011 in All, Writing

 

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