Friday, April 30, 2010

I'm Not Funny

It occurred to me that my posts are not very funny. I read quite a few blogs and some make me laugh out loud. My posts? Nope. Boys and girls, I can be a funny person, and I do have a sense of humor, but my humor is more the random silliness sort of thing. When my kids were small, I used to imitate a Velociraptor, okay? I used my fingernail as the toe claw... I also have the Alien hiss perfected. Does "You remind me of the babe" strike a chord? Yes, my kids and I still trade those lines back and forth. And this song: Mana Mana? Yep, we do that one, too.

But my posts, alas, are not funny.

I wonder if this creates an image of me as a stoic writer who spends all her time in front of her computer, forgetting the outside world exists, living on coffee and nicotine, eating only when necessary... Oh, wait. Um, I think I have to plead the fifth on that bit.

I guess some people are just born funny. I know everyone remembers the class clown in school. Other people are meant to be on the more serious side, or they appear to be serious, but maybe they aren't really. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go perfect my Tyrannosaurus roar.

P.S. And if that Muppets video (because I know you watched it) didn't make you laugh, then you are a cold, heartless shell of a human. :D

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Poetry of Prose

Every writer has certain phrasings they use time and again, or certain words that flavor their prose. Throughout the years, I've written a tremendous amount of poetry. I've a fondness for mashing words together and using certain phrases and words, e.g.: whispersoft, rottensweet, notfair, the pale of her cheek, a handful of hurt, filled with empty. Poetry allows for this sort of creative wordplay, or at least, my flavor of poetry does. ;) Sometimes these are deliberate inclusions; at other times, I'm not aware of their existence until I start editing, and the discovery is similar to running into an old friend on a busy street.

But I've discovered some of these phrases and mashed-up words jumped out of the poet's toolbox somewhere along the way. They now show up in short stories and novel-length works as well, creeping in like untrimmed ivy. When I'm writing a prose first draft, the words simply flow; I don't spend much time worrying about sentence structure and the like. Once I start editing, I work line by line and word by word, chopping, dissecting, and adding along the way. The first time I found one of my 'crafted for poetic usage' phrases, I thought it a coincidence, but now I realize they are a definite part of the shape of my prose voice. Thinking with the poet side of my brain assists most with description--turning the mundane into pretty or, when needed, pretty ugly.

I make no claims to literary greatness, boys and girls. Let's be clear on that one. I've just spent so much time crafting poems that at times, even when I'm writing prose, my poet's heart is guiding some of the words onto the page. The manuscript I'm currently editing is based on a line in one of my poems--a paper tiger to swallow you whole. The original poem has nothing to do with the storyline of the manuscript, but the line stuck in my head and wouldn't let go. Until I wrote the story, of course.

I love the act of writing itself as much as I love telling a story, and I will admit, there are some words I never use because they aren't aesthetically pleasing to me. (Vapid. Ugh. Say it fast. It sounds like a bug spray.) Others I use because of their aesthetic appeal, whether that appeal is visual or aural.(Viscous, metronome, and chrysalis are a few I love.) This could simply be a Virgo thing--we're sort of funny that way--but I'm more inclined to think it's the poet inside.

Then again, maybe I'm just odd. (No need to answer that one, my friends. No need at all.)

So what flavors your writing? Is it a touch of poetry, a love of obscure words, or maybe just a recurring turn of phrase? At any rate, I'm a firm believer in write what feels right, even if it's a mashed-up word or two. Don't be afraid to be creative. That's what writing is about, isn't it?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Fiction Wars: Genre vs. Literary

I see frequent heated online discussions about genre fiction versus literary fiction. The fans of literary fiction often say genre fiction has no depth, it's just plot, narrative, plot, narrative. The genre fans say literary fiction is nothing more than a vague story buried in pages of beautiful, compelling prose.

What I hate most about discussions like this is that they invariably end up in 'my taste in literature is better than yours' arguments. In their need to be right, they forget that tastes are subjective. I doubt even the most die-hard fan of literary fiction likes every single literary book they've read, just as I doubt every fan of the horror(or insert any other genre here) genre likes every horror tale they've ever read.

I read a lot. I read both literary and genre fiction and have favorites of both. Sometimes I want to read a book filled with action and adventure; other times I yearn for a story that probes deeps into the human condition, but even with that statement, I'm painting a picture that isn't always accurate. Most of the best books I've read fall somewhere in between.

I like books that pull me in, make me forget about the outside world, and make me want to reread them again and again. In my honest opinion, a good book is a good book, regardless of what label it wears. Yes, my definition of good versus your definition may differ, but no, it doesn't mean I'm right and you're wrong or vice versa. There's no need for snobbery on either side of the fence.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Contest Winner!

Okay, boys and girls, you really made this difficult for me. Wow. All the entries for the contest were wonderful, and I wish I'd had the foresight to arrange prizes for a second and third place winner, but alas, there can be only one. Cue dramatic music here...

Did I mention this was a very hard choice? I read them all over and over again, read them out loud to various family members, and yes, yes, I know you don't want to read me ramble on, but patience, dear ones, patience (unless of course you've read ahead). Some made me laugh, some gave me goosebumps, some made me say, "Ooooh".

Okay, all this blathering on is annoying me, so I'll stop now. And the winner is...

Drum roll, please.

"I've come to believe that there are places in this world that collect lives."

Congratulations, Twisted! Please email your mailing address to me at dgrintalis AT comcast DOT net. Oh and if you want to include where exactly these life-collecting places are, I would be ever so grateful. I want to make very sure I avoid them. :)

Thank you all so much for entering the contest and best of luck with all your writing endeavors!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Contest, You Say?

I have in my hand a shiny copy of the Bards and Sages Quarterly - April 2010 Issue, which contains my short story, The Depository, along with works from other writers. But I'm not keeping this copy, boys and girls. Oh no, I'm not. I'm giving it away to someone, maybe you, along with a paperback copy of Joyce Carol Oates' The Tattooed Girl, because I am a tattooed girl, and well, because I accidentally bought two copies. I bought it in hardcover when it was released, but when I saw it the other day in Barnes & Noble in paperback, I wasn't sure. (No, this isn't the first time I've done this. I'm a bookworm. I have a lot of books. And sometimes I forget what I have and don't have.)

Anyway, I digress. You want to know about the contest, right? And what you have to do to win? Come now, did you think there wouldn't be a price? There's always a price, always something lurking underneath the fine print--

Sorry, the muse got away from me there. Seriously, though, here's what you have to do. Write a great first line and leave it in the comments section. That's all. One opening line. As a tease, here is the first line of The Depository:

The boy was reluctant.

Yes, it's short. Yes, it contains a 'was', but my hope is that it makes you wonder who this boy is and why he is reluctant, and that wonder entices you to keep reading. And no, I'm not claiming it's a great first line at all, but it worked on the editors at Bards and Sages. ;)

For this contest, genre is incidental. I read a lot, across many genres, so don't feel like you need to write something dark or creepy; just give me a first line I can't refuse. I will pick the winner next Saturday, April 17th, so that gives you an entire week to come up with something snappy. And if you win, I'll even sign the copy of Bards and Sages if you want.

Happy creating and good luck!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Once Upon A Time...

...there was a little redhaired girl who loved to read and wanted to be a writer when she grew up. Every week, her father would take her to the library and she would emerge with a stack of books almost too high to carry. In only a few days, all the books would be read, and she’d be anxious to return to the shelves to find new words and worlds to explore. When she was very small, her favorite books were the Jenny and the Cat Club series. A little later, E.B. White’s Stuart Little and books by Ruth Chew, most notably The Trouble With Magic and The Would-Be Witch took their places as her favorites. But after a few years, though, the allure of fluffy cats and silly witches wore off, and she turned to ghosts and ghouls and things that went bump in the night like Down a Dark Hall by Lois Duncan.

At the age of eleven, two things happened that turned the girl away from books written for children to those written for adults: she saw the movie Alien and read The Shining by Stephen King (given to her by a friend’s mother who knew she liked to read scary stories). That book made her terrified of closed shower curtains for years, and she could only imagine being able to write something so powerful.

The years passed and she wrote lots of things, some scary, some not, some finished, but most not. Then one day she decided she would finish writing a novel, no matter what. And she did. It was terrible. So she wrote another one, and another one, and along the way, she learned all the really scary stuff like editing and query letters and synopses and rejection.


But one day, she received an offer of representation from an agent, then she received a second offer, then a third. It took a few pinches just to make sure she wasn’t dreaming. A flurry of emails and phone calls ensued, and this is where that little girl’s story ends and mine begins.

I’m pleased to announce I have accepted an offer of representation by Mark McVeigh of The McVeigh Agency. The minute I spoke to him on the phone, I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, he was the right agent.

That little redhaired girl is jumping up and down for joy, and her grownup self is doing exactly the same thing.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Random Musings

No, this isn’t the super special news I mentioned in a post last week; for that, you’ll have to wait a few more days, and as soon as the Bards & Sages Quarterly April issue, which contains my short story, The Depository, comes out in print, I'm going to have a contest and give a copy away. Details will follow on that one, too. In the interim, I thought I’d post something, so I started writing and this is what came out:

Like most writers, I’ve been putting words down on paper for a long time. I remember when I was in third or fourth grade, I made up books and tried to sell them to the neighbors. I think my parents bought one; I can’t remember if anyone else did. I switched to poetry in my angsty teenage years, and I’m certain it’s a good thing that no copies survived the passage of time.

Later, I started lots of novels and short stories and finished none of them. In some cases, life got in the way; in others, the fear that my words were terrible did the job. Some of those are languishing on a dead hard drive, but the handwritten ones were disposed of with lots of glorious page-tearing. I do regret that I didn’t keep them, but I understand why I thought it best to destroy them at the time.

Once I decided to get serious, I made myself start and finish short stories and novels. Some were terrible and will never see the light of day, but I no longer get rid of the bad ones. I like to look at them from time to time and laugh while I cringe.

Despite all the bad stories, every single word I wrote played a part in my craft. I didn’t know at the time that I was developing my voice and storytelling ability or teaching myself how to write show, not tell. I also keep every draft I write, and one thing that amazes me is how much stronger my current first drafts are in comparison to some of my older work. My stories are much better as well; my characters have more life, my dialogue is stronger, and my descriptions are better. Every single day, I push myself to become a better writer, and I push hard.

In truth, I spend a lot of time writing. I have a job that allows me the time to do so and an understanding spouse. When the words need to come out, they need to come out. I’ve written on the back of an envelope while in a car (passenger, not driver), on a napkin at a restaurant between sets, in a note on my Blackberry (Before my dog chewed it to pieces, that is. Luckily, I’d already transcribed what I jotted down before the pit bull jaws of doom worked their magic, so not all was lost.), and once, I even called my husband and dictated the first part of a short story to him while I was driving. True story, I swear. It wasn't my fault, okay, let's be clear about that. My muse demanded it.

As the title states, this post is nothing more than a few random thoughts about my wordcraft. Are these thoughts interesting? I’ll let you answer that one, boys and girls, but even if they aren’t, they’re true, honest words, which has to count for something. And if this post comes across as a bunch of meaningless hubris, you have my sincere apologies as that was not my intention.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Blog Changes

I've changed both the name/URL for this blog and hope it will be easier for people to find. If you have a link to my blog on your site, please make sure to change it to the new URL:

Thank you all!