Sunday, October 16, 2011

Home Decorating = Writing Prep

Originally posted at Demon Hunting and Tenth Dimensional Physics (

We are visual creatures. 30% of the brain is devoted to processing visual signals. So, it stands to reason that we need a space with visual signals conducive to writing and creativity. In other words...'s an excuse for a total room makeover...or two...or three!

There are certain things that seem to work.

1: You want a clean workspace. Clutter does not good books make. It's perfectly fine to be an angsty author (or pretend to be an angsty author) while you're writing--throw balls of paper all over and chuck pencils into the ceiling--but it should be clean when you start every day.

2: Limit the amount of time you have to leave the condcuive space. Yes, this is that excuse you've been looking for to buy a mini-fridge for your office. Definitely keep reference materials and notes as close at hand as is humanly possible. This include baby name books, dictionaries, thesauri, and other research things you got your hands on. It also means, if you can, keep the internet close, keep foods and drink close, and keep your friends and family as far away as humanly possible, if not further. I promise that, without fail, as soon as you get on a roll with your writing, they're all going to need you, do if you can put distance between them and your office, it buys you some time before they can get to you.

3: Cut distractions. Yes, you want the internet close--but only for research! Research, I'm afraid, rarely involves Facebook (not never, but rarely). Unlike most people, I don't reccomend complete isolation from the phone, however--but you should stick to your guns if your friends want to hang out or what have you. Say no unless you really need that break--and then keep your writing with you anyway--inspiration can strike in the oddest of places.

4: Surround yourself with writing. If you have, say, a map, tack it to the wall...and put your ouline beside it...surrounded by your character sketches and weapon schematics...which are across from the giant banner that says "You can fix it!" and kitty corner to the "Hang in there" poster. Anything to keep you immersed in the project.

5: Have a woobie. Or two. Or three. Or four. Have a woobie army, if you must. A woobie is just a general term fro something soft to use for comfort. Personally, I think lazy, fluffy cats make the best woobies, but if a cat isn't available, use a blanket, a dog, a stuffed animal, or a rather fuzzy (and quiet!) man.

6: Make it private. Whatever it takes. I write in my bedroom quite often and, as such, have an official "Do Not Enter" sign on it...gotten through less than honest means by my sister so many years ago. We need that privacy--sometimes the stress gets too much and, should anyone make the mistake of coming into the office, they may not leave with all of their limbs. Forewarn people and keep it cordoned off. If a door isn't available, use a thick blanket and just nail it up there--whatever it takes. Not only will it save the family, but it makes it sort of a developmental cocoon--you go in with nothing but a seed of an idea and leave with a brilliant (if slightly deformed) butterfly.

7: Make it yours. Many writers have children, and they love them, but it behooves you to train them that "When mommy's in her office, the Devil possesses her and she might kill you." You need to be able to do what you want in there. If that means you have to stage a mock battle with the dresser as a stand-in for your opponent, or put up pictures of mostly unclad people to inspire that brilliant erotica (why didn't I think of that before?), you not only should, you must--and you must have the space that allows you to do such thing without judgment or ridicule from anyone but yourself.

Of course, this is just my opinion--it works for me, maybe not erfectly for you--but it can't hurt to try, right?


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

SpoCon 2011

Well, myself (Voss Foster), Jaleta Clegg, Frances Pauli, and Adriane Ceallaigh are headed off to SpoCon.

Why should you care? Simple--the writing glory we'll bring back to you wil be...glorious!

We plan to bring back water from the holy font of the SpoCon author-dom, including C J Cherryh, Patricia Briggs, John Dalmas, and Alma Alexander.

The best part is, we'll give it up to you for free! Isn't that incredible...okay, bad sales pitch. On top of it all, our own Frances Pauli is joining said list of names on the panels, so applause for her.

Now, if we don't post on this one, which I plan to encourage over the course of the weekend, you can find our information on the con on our own personal blogs, listed below.

Frances Pauli: Speculative Friction
Jaleta Clegg: The Far Edge of Normal
Adriane Ceallaigh: Adriane Ceallaigh
Voss Foster: Demon Hunting and Tenth Dimensional Physics

We'll see you at the end of the weekend,
The Muses

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Punchy Fiction

For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.
--Ernest Hemingway

In those six words, Hemingway said more to us than many modern authors say in ninety-thousand words. Now, while I don't suggest that we all start trying to write novels with that same open-endedness (although some novels written that way are brilliantly successful), but you have to acknowledge that Hemingway did something amazing with that story--that's why people still publish it as an example of brilliant fiction so many years past his death.

The words pack a punch--yes, the story is pretty manipulative, but it takes long enough to realize that it's manipulative that you're not upset about it. You don't see where he's manipulating you--that's where many attempts at strong fiction fail is when you see where the author is guiding you. It has to be more like fishing--there's a nice, shiny lure and a hook, but you can't see where that thin little filament leads until it's too late. You want your reader flopping around on the floor of the boat, gasping for air--in some situations, you may literally want to achieve that, but let's keep it at a metaphor for now.

Now, once you realize that, you'll see where you can toss in those shiny punches (too many metaphors, right?). In fact, you can throw them in anywhere in your manuscript--please don't. True, a sea of fish hooks will catch fish at first, but then you reach that point where the fish figure it out--there's a whole heck of a lot of danger in this here sea (book)--let's stay out and warn everyone else to do the same. If you throw too many punches, they'll entually be unconscious and, again, will stay away from your work and tell other people to stay away too.

You have to put in a few fish hooks, just throw a handful of punches at the reader. You start with the offensive--throw out something big in the beginning, then let them mull it over after the initial shock goes away. When it comes back up later in the story, that scar will twinge and they'll be pulled back--and then another hook, another punch, comes at them while they're looking away. You don't let them relax for too long--that way they need to keep reading.

That's punchy fiction. Fiction you don't necessarily have the capacity to follow along with--fiction that drags you behind it rather than letting you ride the wave.

One line, one word can make it punchy enough. I talked about first lines on my blog, Demon Hunting and Tenth Dimensional Physics, and the main thing is that they slap you 'round. Find any memorable first line and look at it--if it sends any wave of emotion through you, if it sticks, remember it--that's a good bit of punchy writing.


Absolutes like never, always, or anything else simply final
Power verbs like kill, die, torture--anything that just exudes a certain chill of power through you

Also, those punchy lines should never, ever have passive verbs or structure--it loses a lot to have a was of has in an otherwise brilliantly artistic sentence.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Problems with blogger and Google comments

This was posted in the blogger help forms.
The other way to fix it so your readers can comment is to go into your settings and click on comments then click full page comment form placement instead of embeded.
hope that helps since the company isn't fixing this problem these are ways to work around it.  
You may have a problem with authentication, and with cookie filtering.  

First, try a different login procedure.
1. Login to Blogger using "".
2. Do not check "Remember me".

If that does not help, try a second time..
1. Clear cache, cookies, and history - then restart the browser.
2. Login to Blogger using "".
3. Do not check "Remember me".

Alternatively, you can enable "third party cookies".
To enable others to comment on your blog, you can temporarily modify your comment form to either pop-up or whole page comment form until this issue is resolved.

Writing a Serial Story

Guest Blogger Jaleta Clegg, reporting for duty today.

For the last few years I've been playing with a serial blog story. It's just for fun, Star Trek fanfic sort of, based on a character I play at work. Read it here, if you want. It's a different exercise than writing a short story or novel. Those I plan out. I know what's going to happen and where the story is going. With a serial story, I make it up as I go along. I have no idea where the story is going to end when I start writing. Each week or so, I sit down and write another episode. I guess it's like writing a tv show, but I wouldn't know. I only watch those, I've never written one.

For those who like to write by the seat-of-their-pants, this process will sound very familiar. From what I understand, those authors make it up as they go. I respect them for that. It's a tough process when you give yourself that much freedom. I write from a loose outline, nothing too specific, except for my serial story. That is truly seat-of-my-pants.

It's a weird feeling and more than a little scary to write an episode at a time and post it before you write the next one. What if the writing isn't polished? What if I made mistakes? What if I change my mind and want to rewrite to take the story in a new direction? What if it isn't any good? What if no one reads it? Wait, that last one is a good thing. Sort of.

So why do we write stories if not to share? And what's more fun than sharing that scary but exciting first exploration draft? Serial stories can be lots of fun to write and read. You have a new chapter every week, if the author sticks to a schedule (sorry, I don't do that very well with my story. I post as I write which can be very hit and miss but the first two stories are up and story #3 is started). Writing them is usually done just for fun. There is no real plotting or planning, at least the way I'm writing. The story is free to wander wherever it wants. Scary, but exciting. The story and characters can take surprising twists. For those who believe that the author is in charge and decides everything, you've never really written stories. The characters come alive and do things different than the author may want. The story may wriggle itself in brand new directions. Ideas rise from your meta-consciousness like the kraken from the deep, mysterious and unexplained.

Do you write a serial blog? Post a link and share! For those of you who've never read one, go try one.
Adrian Stevens, Quartermaster

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Convention Addiction

I just returned from Norwescon in sunny Seattle. It was sunny while I was there. It's my second event of the year. I've got three more scheduled and I'm open to adding more. I'm addicted to attending conventions. It's hard to explain but here are some reasons why I attend cons.

Why attend a con? It costs money to get in, money for the hotel room, money for travel, money for food, lots of money. It takes time away from work and family. It can be nerve-wracking if you're an introvert or hate large crowds. The people can be very weird, especially at an SF/F convention. Those are all reasons not to go. But those same weird people are fun and very interesting to talk to. The money really isn't that much for most cons and there are ways to reduce the bill by sharing with friends. The crowds can get to be a bit much, but it's only for a few days. Norwescon had well over a thousand people attending. But even with that number, there were enough different things to do that the congestion never really got too bad. If the crowds got too thick, I found somewhere else to hang for a while. I split my room with two friends, and we stayed up way too late talking and pretending we were on an extended slumber party. Yes, even middle-age grown-ups need to get in touch with their inner child at times.

Why go? To meet up with friends you don't see very often. To make new friends, sometimes with people you would never cross paths with in your normal life. To learn new things. The panels and presentations can be very entertaining and informative. I loved the panels on art aerobics (stretching your creative muscles in new and fun ways) and early 20th century ribbon work. I talked with people about costumes, writing, space travel, horror novels, needlework techniques, therapy dogs, children, books, and lots of other things.

A convention can renew your inner fire and spark new ideas. A convention can introduce you to new areas to explore in your writing or hobbies. A convention can connect you with new friends from all over.

A convention can also help readers find you and your books. I sold a few copies of my books and handed out a lot of bookmarks, but I wasn't there to be a pain-in-the-butt marketing idiot. I was there to relax and enjoy and stretch my mind. I was there to meet new friends and connect with old ones.

I was also there to escape from my job and my kids for a weekend, but that's another story. Norwescon was a much needed vacation from my normal routine.

If you haven't ever thought about attending a con, why not do some research and see what your area has to offer? SF/F cons are loads of fun, even for those who are only casual readers or costumers.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Word Choice

No one wants to use the same word over and over again. It's easier to repeat "walked" every time your characters move, yes, but there's also "stumbled", "galumphed", or a plethora of other words to replace it.

Now, varying word choice is a topic that has been beaten to death, revived, and beaten to death again. I don't intend to cover it anymore than it already has been. This is all about drugging the little brain demon that throws out words like "emerged" and "tympanum" because you've been taught to vary your words as much as possible.

That little demon really does need to be drugged, I promise.

I really promise.

There are certain words that just don't belong. I can't actually tell you there are words not to use - everything has its place - but I will tell you that certain things need to be avoided.

1: Anything technical can probably be explained in a way that isn't foreign to everyone without a doctorate. No gluteus maximii or canis lupus or anything else no one normal can understand.

2: Nothing that makes your commoner sound like royalty (unless that's the effect you're looking for). Nobody needs to emerge from their barracks (I am guilty of that).

Those are the two big things that amateur writers tend to do (and professional writers are guilty of it too, I'm sure). if anything just makes you laugh to read it (unless it's a comedy), change it to something more appropriate.

Blessed be,

Sunday, March 20, 2011


A dear friend edited me recently and we had a bit of a tiff over it to put it mildly, and it’s because she used a form of edits I’ve never seen before and I thought she was putting me down. But for her they are an everyday thing because that’s how editors in the real world edit you. Apparently when ?? Bracket a section of your work?? It means the editor didn’t know what you were going for, or how to fix it they are asking for clarification of the passage.
This experience leaves me to wonder how many other secrets of this industry are floating around that the layman trying to break in doesn’t know about.
The purpose of this blog is to share things like this with you so you aren’t caught by surprise and act badly with and editor, or friend who is trying to help, but is used to a different editing style then you are.
Also you are communicating with an editor through written notes instead of voice, so there isn’t any body language, or voice inflection to base your conversation on.  It’s important to remember that edits are there to help and never meant to be mean.
My advice is to learn all that you can about the type of editing to expect as well as terms and references that you will need to be fluent in, because that’s what will be expected of you to survive in the industry and to hold conversations with them without staring at them blankly feeling dumb.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Dancing the Manuscript Tango

The tango, historically speaking, is a dance of power and fire between two men. I know it has become a sexual, sensual writhing, but in its origins it is purely a combative and dominance-seeking display of peacocking.

I'm dancing the tango with my manuscript.

And it's a bloody fight.

I wrote this novel in May or something like that. Then I let it sit for a while. Then I edited my first round through. I got rid of a lot of the adverbs (thank GOD for that) and did some shimmying (and murdering) within my storyline.

Now I'm in the second round of edits - my lovely M. Baker is editing me for flow and other general crap I didn't notice and, thanks to her, I was directed to Frances Pauli’s passive verbs workshop. I am not ashamed to admit that a fair bit of this information is going to be paraphrased from that marvelous workshop. Also, if you’re super-nice to her she might even send you a copy…

Now I'm dancing the manuscript tango.

Manuscripts do, in general, none of the following:

They don't "ing"
They don't "ly"
They don't exist
They don't do
They don't have
They don't tell

Okay, I know that sounded completely illogical - hear me out.

They don't "ing" - It is in your best interest to get rid of present-tense participial phrases.

Example: I watched the smoldering fire.

This is not nearly as strong as it could be. By putting in the present participle “smoldering” to describe the fire you cut out a fair bit of emotion.

Strong Example: I watched the fire smolder down to charcoal.

By having the fire doing something while the character is doing something you increase the action in the scene, but it doesn’t necessarily seem action-packed.

They don't "ly" - Adverbs are the spawn of Satan more often than not. They lead to a mass abundance of weak verbs, weak adjectives, and all around weak writing. Adverbs are, when push comes to shove, the easy ticket away from effort.

Example: He walked lazily.

Now, this is a technically fine sentence – show it to any grammarian and they should have no problems with it. However, why should you modify the verb that way when you could say any of the following to achieve the same effect?

He galumphed.
He meandered.
He sashayed.
He loped.
Et cetera, et cetera, ad nauseum.

They don't exist - this is when we get to the passive verbs of death. A story where things exist and do nothing else is boring (thank Keri for putting it that way.), so eliminating 99.98% of "was", "were", "be", "been", "being", "am", and "are" is not a bad thing at all.

Example: They were running away from the freakish monster.

Yes, I suppose that they could be doing that…but why? That “were” is completely extraneous and makes it all sound like some show that you’re watching. The idea of reading is to be fully immersed in the story and the world.

Strong Example: They ran away from the freakish monster.

It’s a simple change that will heal your writing’s wounds.

They don't do - The verb "to do" is very weak. People can run, walk, fly, glide, or scream - why should they have to be resigned to doing things?

This one tends to not be as simple a change as for the “to be” verbs.

Example: They did the dance.

Yes, I’m very certain that they did the dance. More likely than not that has already been established. How did the whole thing happen, though?

Strong example: Maria flung herself through tight twists and clutched her partner’s hands in a death grip. Their shoes clacked on the hardwood floor with every step.


They don't have - again, "to have" is not the strongest of verbs, but this refers more to the use of "had run" or "have received".

Example: He had run into the building.

Yes, eliminating “to have” verbs requires a lot of reworking – you often have to change the tense of an entire paragraph or, if you get really unlucky, an entire chapter that was written as a flashback or a story.

The important thing, though, is for the reader to be pulled in, so if that means changing everything in your book from “had killed” to “killed”, it should be worth it.

(As a side note, people and things shouldn't "go" very much either - verbs are all about specifying.).

They don't tell - Yes, you can use "to tell" in your writing still - calm down. I mean showing vs. telling. Why? Which of these is more powerful?

Example: Georgio ran through the halls, cursing his lateness.


The paint blurred into a solid, encroaching wall as Georgio cursed his lateness.

Admittedly, yes, there is telling in both of those sentences, but the point is that giving the visual of him running is far more powerful to the reader than just saying he ran.

Back to the tango.

The "find" function is my new best anti-hero. I love that it's there to find these hideous little words hiding from me, but I hate the fact that it shows me these errors (if that makes any sense).

Go on and pull up your manuscript in your favorite word processor – it’s okay, go on and do it now, I can wait. Now, type the word “was” into your “find” search box – I recommend you have a box of chocolates nearby when you hit enter – or some Prozac, either one is fine.

Hit enter.

Go ahead and scream now – you’re entitled to it. Throw the chocolate/Prozac into your mouth, take a deep breath, and laugh at yourself – trust me, if you can’t make a joke out of your passive verbs and whatnot you’ll turn into a moody drunk and you won’t write ever again. Eliminating all of those is your goal – and you will fail. It’s okay to fail on this, but if you set your sights on eliminating every passive word you will have a stronger novel/story/what have you, and that’s the goal of writing.

Okay, well, happy tangoing…

1 - and - 4
1 - and - 4
1 - and - 4
1 - and - 4


Thursday, March 17, 2011


We will be putting together a for the love antho....  as soon as all of the details are worked out I'll be posting the information to the Current Antho Page.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


The Moses Lake Muses Writing Group was founded June, 2006 out of a love of the written word and a desperate need for cheap therapy.  In Washington State’s Columbia Basin, particularly around Moses Lake (in case the name didn’t give that away).

We have writers of all different experience levels, styles, and genres. Each member sets his or her own personal goals for their writing. The Muses are there to support this writing addiction with advice, coffee, hugs, coffee, and coffee.

This blog came about because of a desire to help aspiring writers by saving them the trouble of learning the hard lessons themselves. Each Muse brings a different set of skills, experience, and knowledge, to the blog.
In short, we welcome you to read these “musings” in the hopes of helping you slog through the writing jungle that we all navigate.

Happy musing,

The Moses Lake Muses