• Who We Are

  • Schedule

    Mondays ~ Kinetic
    Tuesdays ~ Snarky
    Wednesdays ~ Dreamer
    Thursdays ~ Wicked
    Fridays ~ Eerie
    Saturdays ~ Mighty and Ninja
    Sundays ~ Swamp Tales

  • Wicked’s Tweets

  • Snarky’s Tweets

  • Dreamer’s Tweets

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  • Mighty’s Tweets

“Write with the door closed…” Stephen King

“Write with the door closed…” Stephen King

 

We were discussing the other day the importance of writing with the door closed. How we need to not only shut out the daily distractions of life, but those voices in our heads. Those wee little creatures that tell you it’s not good enough. That tell you that last sentence you wrote was incomplete. Those people who look down their long pointed noses to remind you that your chance of success is nil.

Well, I say not only close the door, but slam it shut.

Write for yourself. Tell that story that only you can tell. We are all unique, and trying to be anything else is a waste.

Below is a poem from one of my favorite poets and creative genius, Shel Silverstein. It helps me remember “Anything can be.”

LISTEN TO THE MUSTN’TS CHILD.
LISTEN TO THE DON’TS.
LISTEN TO THE SHOULDN’TS.
THE IMPOSSIBLES.
THE WON’TS.
LISTEN TO THE NEVER HAVES,
THEN LISTEN CLOSE TO ME…
ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN CHILD.
ANYTHING CAN BE.

 

Anything can happen child

The Lamb

This story has come up enough times in the last few weeks that I feel obliged to share it online. On the crazy whirlwind immersion trip to Peru, the highlight of the students’ shenanigans was when they bought a lamb. Not lamb chops, but a baa-ing, bottle-drinking, week-old lamb.

Okay, a little bit of a set-up first. Near the end of the trip we stayed in Cusco, crashing for almost a week in a hostel owned and run by some local nuns. While going on a day tour, we say many tourist traps, including ladies dressed in bright, traditional clothes and carrying baby lambs (I know baby lamb is redundant, but I can’t stress enough how cute and young these things were). Tourists could take pictures with the ladies and lambs for 1 sole (about 40 cents). To get the ladies to leave us alone, the boys asked how much for the lamb. After a few surprised seconds, the lady said 80 soles (about $30). Of course we smiled, said no, and went our own way. 

That night at dinner, the boys asked how complicated it would be to buy an animal abroad and transport it home. Assuming the question to be based solely out of curiosity with no serious I’m-really-asking-this tone at all, the teacher-director told the boys about how his wife bought a dog and got it home after 40 days in quarantine. 

The next day, I was sitting in the lobby of the hostel when some of the boys walked in. They had big grins plastered on their faces. One said, “Ms. Mason, you’ll never guess what we just did.” I suddenly recognized their smiles as cat-that-ate-the-canary grins.

Cue gut-wrenching terror. That’s never what you want to hear from a teenage boy on a school immersion trip in a foreign country. A few more boys walked in, one carrying the baby lamb. 

For two days, the boys kept the lamb in the hostel – the nuns were surprisingly understanding. That thing peed and pooped all over the place. During this time, the boys tried to figure out a way to get the lamb back to Arizona. A little research revealed that it would be much more difficult than they originally assumed. After hours of internet searches and conversations, they decided the best course of action would be for one of the students to claim emotional dependence on the lamb as a comfort animal. 

Yes, I was officially living a teenage, after-school sitcom. 

The story has a good end, an ending that is not lamb chops. The boys went to a textile factory and took a tour. While there, one of the women at the factory agreed to take care of the lamb. She promised not to kill it, and even said she would send the first blanket made from its wool back to the school. 

I must admit, I did not foresee that chain of events happening. 

Haunted By Literary Ghosts of Horror

Greetings and Salutations noble readers of the blog,

Tonight we are in the unconsecrated graveyard of the old Catholic Church. If you’ve accompanied me to this location before, you know you are in for a special treat. Tonight’s guest is not specifically known as a horror writer. His vast body of work includes, travel logs, poetry, historical observations, letters, novels and short stories. His best known work is Treasure Island. With no further ado, please give it up for, Robert Louis Stevenson.

“Welcome Robert, please make yourself comfortable.”

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Our guest Robert Louis Stevenson

Robert Louis Stevenson's Grave on Mt. Vaea Samoa

Robert Louis Stevenson’s Grave on Mt. Vaea Samoa

 

“Thank you so much for having me. My impression was you wanted to talk about my more fanciful work.”

“That’s true, but I can’t begin without first telling you what an impact Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and The Black Arrow had on me as a boy. I’ve fancied myself a ‘Young Jim Hawkins’ on more than one occasion. Hiding in the apple barrel, or keeping a weather eye out for a seafaring man with one leg.”

“It’s kind of you to say sir.”

“To your point, we here are most interested in your tales as they relate to the unexplained. The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde for example.”

“A most interesting tale of a good man, who in the name of science, commits atrocities.”

“The doctor over reaching is certainly a recurring theme in literature. Mary Shelly’s Dr. Frankenstein is possibly the most well-known.”

“Quite, Mary’s concept of man subjugating the Creator has always been one of my favorites. How I would have relished a summer on Lake Geneva with the likes of Percy and Mary Shelly, Lord Byron, Dr. Pollidori.”

“The good Doctor Jekyll creates an elixir that separates good from evil in a man. Is this a discourse on the dual nature of man?”

“Exactly, it illustrates how our good, tempers our bad, by showing what our natures are like when isolated.”

“Some will point to this story as an example of an individual suffering from mental illness. Dissociative Identity Disorder, Manic Depression, Schizophrenia, and Psychosis are the most closely related diagnosis. Did you know someone who suffered from any of these illnesses?”

“Of course, we all encounter people in our lives who suffer from disorders of the brain. The earliest physicians recognized that there are illnesses that they could label, but not treat.”

“Speaking of doctors.  Dr. Jekyll is not the only antagonist doctor you’ve written about. Of course I’m thinking of Dr. Toddy Macfarlane. The Body Snatcher is one of my favorite short stories. One I often read  when the I’m moved to scare someone.”

“I too, am quite fond of that tale.” His broad smile reaches past his eyes lighting up the night. “‘Did you think me dead? We are not so easily shut of our acquaintance.’”

“Very nice Robert, I don’t suppose you’ve memorized every line of every thing you’ve written.”

“Hardly sir, but at least one telling line from all the fiction to be sure. And much of the poetry. It seems in my current state my faculties have remained sharp. Oh, but if I could only write something from grave, the stories I could tell.”

“What keeps you from it?”

His countenance darkens at my question. “There are powers to be reckoned with. Formal Federations that must be abided. They do not take kindly to one who would disregard their authority.”

“We had a visitor who simply walked away from here into the world of the living. That must be against the rules.”

“Yes, quite, to remark that the regime was distressed by that act of indifference would be to understate the obvious.”

“I’m getting the wrap it sign Robert. Can you stay a while after my guests have gone?”

“I’ll stay until I get the hook as they say on the stage.”

“Wonderful, give me a moment.”

“Folks I suggest you make your way from the cemetery while the spirits are protecting us. Mr. Stevenson has agreed to hang around a while for those who are willing to risk it.”

Next week I expect Mischievous Raven will be back from his business meetings on the left coast. in the interim be safe.

As is our custom, I leave you with this quote.

“hark, now hear the sailors cry,
smell the sea, and feel the sky
let your soul & spirit fly, into the mystic…”
― Van Morrison

Writ On,

Eerie Dwarf, AKA Dave Benneman

P.S.

Mr. Stevenson kept us through the night until dawn broke telling tails of his life on Samoa and sailing the South Pacific. I say this as an explanation as to why this did not get posted last night. My apologies for any inconvenience.

E.D.

 

 

Soldiers vs. Aliens…it’s Phoenix Comicon panels! #milspecfic #writingtips

The wild and strange phenomena whipped through Phoenix a few weeks back under the guise of the Phoenix Comicon. The Knight managed to snag a family photo op with the legendary Nathan Fillion, which we have since decided to use for our next Christmas Card. Seriously, we have NEVER taken such a great family pic. I’m going to have to insist Nathan be in EVERY family photo from here on out.

But I digress.  The Prankster Duo, the Knight and I did not don our costume apparel, but did wander the wild paths of comicon for hours marveling at other’s apparel. It’s a visual feast, one I firmly believe every individual should indulge in at least once. While we were there, I snuck into some writing panels, because, yes, that’s what I do. I haunt/stalk other writers hoping their genius shall some how drift along the winds of creation and flutter down upon me so I may enjoy the wonders of their creative minds.

I sat in two panels: Writing Rogues and Military in Spec Fic.

I’m going to hit the Military panel in this post. Check in next week, because I have a huge discussion point for Writing Rogues for next week. I just didn’t want to keep you here for hours. Again, we’re going off my notes, which were jotted down so they may be a bit scattered.

I picked the Military in Spec Fic because I’m getting ready to start the second PSY-IV Teams book and no matter how many times I grill…errr..ask politely, of my military friends, I’m always seeking more information. The panelists were: Daniel Abraham, John Scalzi, Myke Cole, Ty Franck, Weston Ochse.  Just so you know, until this panel I had read Myke Cole’s Shadow Ops series, had heard of John Scalzi (who hasn’t? Old Man’s War, Hugo winner for Redshirts…overall smart ass, in a good way), Ty and Daniel write as a team, and my note taking sucks because I don’t have their titles down, and Weston, well, he does SEAL Team 666 and his latest is Grunt Life.

I knew going into a series revolving around military I’d be taking on certain story elements I was going to screw up. After listening to these guys, I’m even more certain of it. But I’ll figure it out as I go along.

Myke is active Coast Guard reserve, Weston actively served, just recently got out to write full-time, Daniel and Ty have immediate family (lots of) who are active military, and so does John. It’s not like they’re unfamiliar with the world, and it’s filled with rules that have their own rules.  That being said, research is key if you’re going to write any story with military ties. It’s vital.

But more than research, you need to listen. Listen to those who’ve walked the walk, take the time to really listen to the stories they tell. Read between the lines at what is not said or how something is said.  Serve as a witness.

All of these writers weave the military with speculation on what happens when we run into an alien force more disciplined, more powerful, more massive than ours? How do the lowly humans survive?

They spoke to characterization, specifically what drives an individual to serve their country. How character decides their loyalty–to the authority, to their team, to those they protect. In actuality most soldiers are loyal to the man/woman fighting next to him, not for the country that sent them out unprepared, or the lofty ideals that won’t save an innocent, not the money or power. If you do a stereotype, you’re doing your writing a disservice because soldiers are just individuals who chose to serve.

The one thing that sung deep for me–there are no right answers to moral dilemmas. There is an entire universe in gray. What’s considered the right thing in an extreme situation varies on the point of view of the person making that choice–the Allied solider, the alien invaders, the officer, the lowly grunt. Each one will face the same situation differently.What you think is the “good” guys, may actually be the “bad” guys. Can a character be a traitor and hero at the same time–yes. Making a moral choice comes down to the individual and what they are willing to do/sacrifice for that choice.

These men were great, and I can’t express how much I appreciated hearing their take on this, because one of my biggest challenges is making sure each member of the PSY-IV comes across as an individual. As much I’d like them all to resemble GI Joe, it ain’t happening, and it would make a damn boring story if it did.

If you love Speculative Fiction with your military suspense, I would recommend any of these authors.

Do you have any others to add to the list?

Growing as a Writer

This past week, I’ve been editing a book I haven’t picked up for a year. In my mind, the novel was a handful of weeks from being ready to publish. But I found something interesting as I started reading; I’ve grown a lot as a writer since my last draft. The beginning of one of my chapters read something like this:

Three dreary months had passed since coming to the castle. During this time, I was trained by Emily and Sara. Both had vastly different teaching styles, but I also came to learn a great deal about them as people.

It goes on like this for two and a half more pages, recapping all my character learned over three months. I got to the end of this section and thought, I’m telling a lot, but I’m showing nothing. So, I rewrote it to sound more like this.

I loved the training room in the mornings. It was the one place I could be alone with my thoughts.

“You’re here early.”

I whirled to find Emily staring at me from the doorframe. My heart raced. She never instructed me without sending a missive first, her time was too valuable.

“I couldn’t sleep.”

She crosses her arms in front of her chest. “It’s been three months since you first arrived. Emily and Sara have trained you the best they can, now it’s time to test your new skills.”

These examples aren’t perfect yet, but they show a little bit about how my perspective has changed as a writer. Every time I write something, I try to ask myself if I am showing or telling my reader. Because if I am only telling them what is happening, they aren’t going to feel like they are in the story. And if they don’t feel like they are in the story, then I don’t feel like I’ve done my job as a writer.

What do you need in your office space? #AmWriting

Desk Area What’s your writing area like?

I have to admit that it took me longer than it should have, but finally this summer I set up my “Office Area”, LOL. First time in my life I have a dedicated space for writing :D even if it is in my bedroom.

One day, I’ll have a whole room.

Writing bookshelves and wallThe first picture is my desk area. It’s not full at the moment, but it will get filled up with notes and scraps and stickies soon!

The second picture is the wall right next to my desk. Pictures for inspiration, and shelves for… erm, *most* of my books on writing/time periods/civilizations for research.

I figure some things will be moved around as I settle in, and that’s okay. I’m going to love digging in :D

 

So, my Q4U: What is at least one necessity you NEED in your office space?

Feeding Your Muse

I love to write. I don’t know why anyone would pick this profession for any other reason. A month ago though, the dark monsters of the swamp came out to haunt me. You know the ones with those killer claws: stress, anxiety, and insecurity to name a few. And with writing content articles and editing my current novel, writing had morphed into some twisted self-deprecating job.

I needed a break. I needed to close my computer for a few days and feed my muse.

It was difficult at first to shut down the nagging voices telling me to be productive. But I closed my laptop, packed my bags, and escaped to the country.

I went for walks. Got caught in the rain. Read for enjoyment. Mother Nature calmed my soul and left my imagination free to play.Cabin sunrise

Not everyone is not able to run away, but we still need to make time for ourselves and, as Elizabeth Gilbert referred to it, Our Elusive Creative Genius. In this TED talks, she explained that when we see our muse, or creative genius, as something outside of us, then it is easier to maintain our sanity. It is worth the time to watch.

I enjoy thinking of my muse as a separate identity or creative genius. One we must feed and nurture in the hope that it’s won’t torment us.

How do you feed your muse?

You Have to Experience it for Yourself

Recently, I went out to dinner with a fellow black belt after a martial arts session. We talked about a lot of things over burgers and drinks (my chocolate milkshake was particularly satisfying in the blistering Arizona heat), and naturally, conversation included martial arts. We discussed training partners, tournaments, techniques, her excellent flip-kick to my head only 10 minutes earlier… yes, it left a mark.

Anyway, we also discussed the change in our mindsets as we each moved through the ranks on our way to black belt. Both of us agreed that by the time we reached black belt, we both realized just how much we didn’t know. That, for all intents and purposes, our real training was just beginning. Furthermore, both of us had been oblivious to how long the martial art’s path was until we reached 1st degree black. Throughout the lower ranks, we thought of black belt as the end. That by that point, we’d be kick-ass masters.

Wrong.

And we agreed that everyone beneath the rank of black belt is oblivious to how much they don’t know, or that reaching 1st degree black is just the beginning. It’s one of those things that you have to experience for yourself to really understand.

I started thinking about other things you have to experience for yourself to really understand. Those moments in life that hit you in such a unique way (sometimes good, sometimes bad), that only someone who has gone through the same experience can relate with you. We’ve all been there. We try to explain something to a significant other, family member, friend and then end up telling them “You just don’t understand.”

The reason for this random train of thought is two-fold.

First, it’s our (the writers out there) fun task to capture those you-have-to-experience-it moments and somehow write them in such a way that the reader feels like they did experience it. To ground those moments in emotions and relationship that they can relate to.  Then using those commonalities and building on them to relate a completely new experience.

Second, I’m curious what other you-have-to-experience-it moments exist. What are the times when you just think, “No one can understand this. Not unless they went through it themselves”? Both good and bad, big and small. The other one I have for my life is grad school. I’ve found that only other grad students seem to get the geeky jokes, absurd exams (orals, thesis, dissertation), and that grad school is essentially a return to a kindergarten lifestyle. So, what about for you? What are your moments that automatically bind you to others who have experienced it because they’re the only ones who can understand it?

Meet Guest Author Jami Gray

Originally posted on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog..... An Author Promotions Enterprise!:

Jami Gray

Hey Chris,

Thanks so much for having me over! It’s lovely to have a conversation with another adult without having it end with the words, “Because I said so!”

What is your typical day like? What is your writing routine like?

Very, very different than the “writer’s life” my younger self had created. Instead of inspiring natural landscapes of majestic mountains or idyllic, pristine beaches outside my window, there are stucco walls of my neighbors’ homes, rocks have replaced grass and sand, and those few trees who can survive the Arizona summer are trying desperately to grow on limited amounts of water. I share an office with my hubby and where as others may dream of the day they can retire, I dream of the day where I will have my own office…and it will be beautiful and neat!

When I was younger, I was convinced that as a writer…

View original 1,703 more words

The Monastery of The Werewolf Monks

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Greetings and salutations distinguished readers of the blog,

Please keep your voices down some of the intrepid visitors who joined us last week for our adventure into the Impenetrable Forest are still recovering. Sadly some did not complete the trip, but that’s what we call acceptable losses. If everyone made it through it wouldn’t really be dangerous.

last remains of one of our followers after the piranha hummingbird attack.

last remains of one of our followers after the piranha hummingbird attack.

This is the famous monastery of the monastic order of The Werewolf Monks. They have made us feel very welcome. As to the reason we’re visiting, to be honest, they weren’t as much help as I’d hoped. They won’t help with the horde of hungry, shambling, zombies. (I know too many adjectives, but every once in a while you have to cut loose.)So rather than go home to a bunch of angry neighbors, I thought we’d hang out here for a while. Brother Lawrence has agreed to give us a tour.

“Grrrreetings folks and welcome to the monastery, if you’ll all follow me. I hope you don’t mind stairs we have many of them. We’ll start with one of Eerie’s favorite places.”

At the top of the stairs Brother Lawerence opens a narrow wooden door banded with iron straps. Once inside the guests are treated to the stunning three-story library.

“We have books, manuscripts and scrolls that date back to 1,200 years BC. This room for example contains the renaissance period. A most prolific time for men to put their ideas down on paper. For instance we have the largest collection of Leonardo Da Vinci’s work including diagrams of machines that wouldn’t be built for two more centuries. Through that doorway is Eerie’s favorite room of study. It contains writings about vampires, witches, fairies, dragons, trolls, leprechauns, elves, dwarves, and all the creatures that are today thought to be mythological.” 

10404508_814719525212964_1708668224599247983_n“Excuse me Brother Lawrence, but shouldn’t you share these precious works with the rest of the world,” a guest asked.

“Grrrrrrrr, the rest of the world does not deserve these works. Nor would they take them seriously. You would do well to remember you are a guest here.” Brother Lawrence salivates.

I move quickly insinuating myself between my visitor and Brother Lawrence whose nails have already begun grow. “Sorry Brother Lawrence, they mean no harm they are only human. Allowances must be extended.”

“Of course you right, Eerie, but it’s been a while since I’ve fed, and I have no patience for such impudence!”

“Why don’t I finish showing them around?”

“Very well, keep them out of the basement. We’re pressing a fresh crop for the new wines.”

“Yes of course. No basement.”

“Bother Lawrence comes from a long line of Werewolves, his family name is Talbot.”

Folks if you’ll follow me, I show you to the chapel. Down that corridor are the monks sleeping quarters and the room where they take their repast. Silence once we enter the chapel. I’ll answer any questions you have when we leave.” The smell of incense is strong when we enter the chapel. The light passing through the stained glass windows is diffused into rainbows. The altar is simple and dominated by a stone carved into a large table with a depression designed to drain fluids to the end where a collection barrel sits.

“I hope you got a good look at the windows. Each one depicts the many stages of the moon throughout the year. Of course the best known panel is the Blood Moon that dominates the chapel at the center of the altar. The stain glass work dates back to the 12th century.”

“What was that table for on the altar?”

“That is where they prepare the Eucharist.”

“Which is what exactly?”

“You would have to make an application to become a monk and go through years of training before you will learn the secrets of the Holy Sacraments.”

“It looks like–”

“Like we’re almost out of time. This way. Come along. No stragglers please. This is the complimentary wine tasting area and gift shop. Please sample some wines and browse as long as you like. You can purchase any of the wines to take home with you. I’ll see you all next week.”

Whew, I thought that guy would never shut up. It’s been a long day, I think we better wrap it up and I have a wrap it up quote ready for you.

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear.” H. P. Lovecraft

Write On,

Errie Dwarf  AKA Dave Benneman

 

 

 

 

 

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