Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Daily Workout Apps and writing

I am a happier writer when I am fit, but working as a teacher, parenting a teen, wifing a husband, running a household and writing often keep me out of my fitness loop.  However, once February hits, my time seems to be less congested.  I haven't quite figured out why this is, but every year it happens. So here I am about three days early getting back into my fitness routine.

Daily Workout App
The best source of quick fitness I have been able to find came after I got an iPod touch which I have since replaced with an iPhone.  But what I found was an app called Daily Ab Workout by Daniel Miller.  The free version is set up with a 5-minute workout that really works my abs.  I soon found several other Daily Workouts for other muscle groups by the same person and downloaded them all. Combined together, they form a good 20-minute workout and are individually set up to be extended to 7 1.2 minutes and 10 minutes for each workout focus area as I grow in fitness. (I did download the full versions in the end, which gave me a second workout for each and the ability to randomize or customize the workouts.  But the free versions are great.)

When I am fit, I feel good, and I write with more vigor because my mind is sharper. I am pretty happy with myself generally, but when I am fit, I am that bit more confident and comfortable with my self.  So now I am pleasantly sore and feel my muse gaining muscle.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tuesday Prompt: 2012 #9

Write a mythology.  
Possible idea: Why do giraffes have long necks and no voice, and what are those funny horn bobs for?
Possible idea #2: Why do mother cats carry their young by the neck?
Possible idea #3:  Why do male sea horses carry the eggs to maturity and not the females?

There are scientific explanations for all of these.  Come up with a mythological reason for your choice of biological mystery.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Precision in language

writing in circles
I am recursive in my process as a writer.  I often go several days between opportunities to write on my current project (short story anthology), so I always begin my writing session by reading from the last start to where I left off.  I edit, refine and basically work at being precise in my word choice, punctuation and description, etc,  while at the same time getting back into the voice, style and movement of the piece I am working on.  So my work tends to go through multiple editing, repeatedly before I put it through a start to finish edit once the first draft is done.  I cannot imagine writing along, never looking back, until I reach the end.  I am in a constant circling back process.
This makes the current story I am working on a new experience, not because I am not writing in my recursive manner, but because the writing style itself is different.  I usually rely heavily on dialogue, but this piece is dependent on place, mood and the internal lives of the characters.  There is dialogue in it, but I spend so much more time on the "where" and "within" than my book-length works.  Changing my writing to meet the needs of this story, when I have written in another style habitually, calls for a more intensive recursive approach.  I am on constant alert to remain in this other form that is so much more dependent on description, precise description.

Excerpt from book In Times Passed:

    Brent turned around and said,  "Hey, Ismar, you awake?"  Jove’s computer had been removed from the brackets which held her upright against the wall of Jove's old apartment and was presently leaning at a precarious angle in a distant corner of the room.
    "I'd answer you with a dignified silence, but you'd just think someone had accidentally turned me off and start saying unkind things about me."
    "Naw.” Brent laughingly denied.  “It's only fun when you can hear them.  I just wanted you to know it'll be at least a day before we can get you securely mounted in the lab.  Can you tell if you're safe where you are or should we make some adjustments.  Wouldn't want you falling on your pretty face in the middle of the night."
    "You just wouldn't want your sleep disturbed," she shot back at him.  "Perhaps some temporary mounts could be fastened here.  That way you don't have to feel rushed to get my place ready for me.  I know how careless you can be when you're in a hurry."
    Jove interrupted, "Qui and I will be setting up your framework.  It wouldn't matter if you weren't my pride and joy: Qui's just naturally careful.  We'll get you bracketed in for the night before we get started on anything else."
    Brent winked at Jove knowing Ismar's sensors would pick it up.  "What for?  If she falls now, it won't bother us:  we're already up."

Excerpt from short story tentatively titled "Scrapper":

     The boy lay on his mentor’s bunk and kicked one foot rhythmically against the shallow storage cabinet mounted on the driver’s side wall.  Sometimes the urge to kick out his frustration would send his foot with a great wallop into the image-shellacked wall next to it.  Pictures of the man’s family, whom he had long ago lost touch with, covered the space, and Moekaff had long since lost interest in the faces.  He kicked out again at them and heard a louder thump then he had created yet.  It gave him satisfaction, and he drew back his leg again readying it for a solid thrust into the transport's wall.  But the thump that resounded was oddly out of sync and out of place with his effort. 
     Moekaff sat up, tense and straining to listen.  A second thump resounded and the boy struggled between the seats in a rush to climb into the front of the cab.  Kneeling on the driver’s side seat, he shoved his cheek up against the window and attempted to look out.  Without result, he turned to the viewing system Uzzon had relied on for so long until Moe had provided him with another set of eyes and senses to jockey the rig against loading docks.  He flipped the switches, setting the view for the largest single image available then watched as the system ran through the available scenes.   He stopped it at the view showing the driver’s side door, but there was nothing. 

    The thump was repeated, and the boy thought it was less intense than before.  He resumed views until it returned to the driver side again. This time he manually shifted the focus inward toward the transport until he could see the side of the rig from cab end to the curved nose of the front end, just the edge of the undercarriage showing. The angle of view was as sharp as he could make it, and still he saw nothing. Uzzon would have told him to keep inside the rig, but he could not convince himself that delaying was the thing to do.  He finished preparing for going out into the still dazzling light of the desert route.  Dressed for the heat and exposure, he paused to glance at the view still stalled on the driver side image.  A sand-dusted and sun-sleeved arm rose up from below to strike a gloved fist against the rig side just behind the door.  It dropped weakly out of sight.  In that brief moment, he recognized Uzzon’s gear and took in as well the sure sign of bubbled flesh where the sleeve and glove should have overlapped.

Two entirely different styles, but both very much mine.  So circling back on my topic:  if I can only find time to work on my anthology.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tuesday prompt: 2012 #8

In the past I have often given my students a famous quote to think about and then write using the idea they drew from the quote.  So here is one from Helen Keller:
Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure.  The fearful are caught as often as the bold.

Give it some thought and see where it takes your muse.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Outside my usual reading habits

I’ve read several books recently, three from entirely different genres: Isaacson's Steve Jobs , Hamilton’s Pandora’s Star and Simon Haynes's Hal Space Jock, a slapstick Sci-Fi.  Each of these works is outside my usual reading habits. 

The Jobs’ biography caught my attention because I am interested in how other people evolve and grow from clunky teenagers with odd ideas to adults who build a place in the world for themselves and do it grandly.  They show the rest of us how it is done, mainly reiterating the adage Do what you love and give it all you have.  

Pandora’s Star received good reviews, but after reading about 90 percent of it (I refused to give up), I had to acknowledge that space opera may not be the type of Science Fiction for me.  If this is a good example of the sub-genre, then clearly I prefer novels that have a small cast, more characterization and have a plot that is connected far earlier in the progression of the work.  The novel had good writing, just is not my brand of Sci-Fi.   

Now Hal Space Jock was a Sci-Fi style new to me as well.  I have used the author’s software , yWriter and thought I would try to read one of his books.  It too fit a particular taste.  Whoever chooses to read it best be looking for a purely fun read, no philosophical views on life or demanding intellect to be found here, but fun, funny and relaxing. 

I am still reading Jobs’ bio, having only just started it, and I’ll probably not attempt another space opera for some time yet (at least not before summer when I can sit down for long runs at reading rather than the short bursts I only have time for during the school year), but more than likely I will read another Hal book.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Tuesday prompt: 2012 #7

In Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities, Mr. Lorry holds an imaginary conversation with Dr. Manette, who is newly released from prison. The imaginary conversation is tied around the question, "How long have you been buried?" It takes numerous twists and turns as Lorry considers all the variety of ways that Manette could reply, keeping in mind that the man may be suffering from madness after his long confinement and unable to maintain a coherent conversation.

"Buried how long?"
The answer was always the same: "Almost eighteen years."
"You had abandoned all hope of being dug out?"
"They tell me so."
"I hope you care to live?"
"I can't say."
"Shall I show her to you?  Will you come and see her?"
The answers to this question were various and contradictory.  Sometimes the broken reply was, "Wait! It would kill me if I saw her too soon." Sometimes, it was given in a tender rain of tears, and then it was, "Take me to her."  Sometimes it was staring and bewildered, and then it was, "I don't know her.  I don't understand."

So for this prompt, have one character ask a question that is open to metaphorical interpretation. The response to the question should be an imagined response, and like Lorry's conversation in A Tale of Two Cities repeated with slight variations so that the conflict is slowly developed.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

It's not the words, but the interplay of them

I have read A Tale of Two Cities numerous times and have made notations up and down the margins north, south, east and west.  The reading of it always mesmerizes me with the detail and development of character, setting and connection, of what has gone and what is to come.

"Do you particularly like the man?" he muttered, at his own image. "Why should you particularly like a man who resembles you?  There is nothing in you to like; you know that.  Ah, confound you! What a change you have made in yourself!  A good reason for taking a man, that he shows you what you have fallen away from, and what you might have been? Change places with him and would you have been looked at by those blue eyes as he was, and commiserated by that agitated face as he was?  Come on, and have it out in plain words!  You hate the fellow."

Oh, poor Carton, who loves Lucie but not himself enough to push aside his determined fate.

Or Monsieur the Marquis as he travels home from Paris, just late from his most recent evil:

The Monsieur the Marquis in red
The sunset struck so brilliantly into the travelling (sic) carriage when it gained the hill-top, (sic) that its occupant was steeped in crimson.  "It will die out," said Monsieur the Marquis, glancing at his hands, "directly."

Blood not just on his hands but all over him, "steeped in crimson" and "will die out."  And so his bloodline nearly does; he certainly does and almost "directly."

I love to get lost in Dicken's flow of words, so deeply knitted together as though the whole cloth of the story was life as he moves characters in and out of the spotlight until the reader is entirely uncertain who should be followed, main character and supporting shifting places constantly, just as life works, each of us moving in and out of the limelight with the people we most care about.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tuesday Prompt: 2012 #6

Highway heading of into the distance
Today write using a image or item as a symbol of something important going on is a character's life.  Bright colors on the beach may be indicative of the variety of choice a person has, or the image of a long road of twists and turns moving off into the distance may relate to the confused route the person is taking to get to a goal.  Pick an item off your desk or something you tripped over today and see what it can bring for symbolic value to a character you are working on.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Something new on my blog

Well, not really on the blog.  I added another page, Creative Ventings, to my blog site, a fiction corner of sorts.  I thought I would include some samples of my writing, but I didn't want to include anything that I am working on now as such things are in flux until I finalize them.  So instead, I have some mini writings that are inspired by pictures I have taken.  They might become something more, though not right away as I have enough projects to keep me busy for some time.
On this new page, I will add more scribblings from time to time as I remove those that have been setting a bit.  It is an evolving process much like this endeavor to write and publish my own books.  I am flapping as fast as I can.  So wander around, let me know what you like, what you feel needs improvement or give me ideas for my next creative venting.