Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A-Z is Coming!

Busy working on posts for the A-Z Challenge....I hope you're ready to learn about some of my favorite 80s Culture tidbits.

Here are my fellow minions:
Sheri Larsen
Schwa Michaels
Deniz Bevan
Melanie Schulz

And our co-host, Matthew McNish

See you on Monday, April 1st!!!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Ninja Captain Alex's Top 10 Movies

Coming up with my top 10 for this blog hop was really tough. My love for movies extends to all kinds of genres, and mixing them up into one countdown was difficult. So I decided to think about which movies have made the biggest impact on my personally, and think about movies that I can watch over and over again...and still find something new from them.

So without further adieu, here's my Top 10 Movies of ALL TIME in descending order:

10. Saving Private Ryan (1998)...this is the first movie I got when I first bought a big screen and a surround sound system. The D-Day scene is incredible intense. Graphic, but so damn real, it's scary. And I'm sure it was more frightening in real life. One of the greatest war movies ever, Saving Private Ryan gives us just a tiny taste of what war is like.

9. Forrest Gump (1994)...I know, this movie is far-fetched and so incredibly sentimental. But I love it. I love the historical backdrop, and the loveable Forrest contrasted with the destructive Jenny. Personally, I think Lieutenant Dan steals the show. I enjoyed how episodic this movie is, and how Forrest unknowingly finds himself in the middle of so many important historic events.

8. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)...as a kid, this movie spoke to me. It had action and adventure, a touch of the supernatural, humor, snappy dialogue, some romance, plus Han Solo, um, I mean Harrison Ford. Little or no CGI here - so everything feels much more real. This is what a blockbuster should be like.

7. Gladiator (2000)...the battle scenes in the movie are epic and raw. No bullets, laser guns, or magic powers. Just a blunt instrument and strength. I loved studying Roman history, and this movie might not be historically accurate, but it does give the viewer a good sample of what life was back then. Lots of back stabbing and political intrigue, along with blood-thirsty gladiators fighting to the death. Plus, the soundtrack is astounding. Great music to write to.

6. Casablanca (1942)...Maybe it's all the quotable one liners, or the witty quips and dialogue, but I just love this movie. When I think about how to write good dialogue, I always come back to Casablanca. Every character in this film is so rich and three dimensional. It's a film ingrained in our culture, and I can watch it over and over again.

5. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)...science fiction and Westerns are actually cut from the same cloth, and this movie just kicks ass. Clint Eastwood is the epitome of the anti-hero. The story is compelling - you've got three dudes who want buried treasure. It's a Western with fully developed characters, and it's the seemingly mundane things happening during scenes that carry the most weight in storytelling.

4. The Princess Bride (1987)...reminds me of how I feel about Casablanca. I read the book, but I love the movie more. The sword fight scene between Inigo and the Dread Pirate Roberts goes down as one of my all time favorites. At first, I was annoyed with the story arc of the boy and his grandfather, but I find it a really sweet aspect of this movie. Plus, this movie includes the late Andre the Giant!

3. The Matrix (1999)...the style, the kick ass fight scenes, the Philosophy 101 injected into it, and of course the guns akimbo and bullet time! The sequels were okay, but the first film is absolutely perfect. Lots of allegory and existentialism in the movie, but just on the surface, it's fantastic eye candy. I think I read somewhere that over 90,000 bullets were fired in this movie.

2. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)...once again, a case where the movie exceeds the book (or short novella). The acting is phenomenal, and you begin to feel sympathy for the prisoners. This is a profound movie, and it's central theme of friendship and hope are inspiring. One of my all time favorites.

1. Star Wars (1977)...this movie impacted my entire life, and it's what drove me to become interested in mythology and science fiction/fantasy. Star Wars is more than just a movie. It's impact on our culture is pretty darn amazing. I still love deep and meaningful science fiction, but Star Wars allowed us to just have some old-fashioned fun while watching a sci-fi film. The special effects industry took massive leaps during the filming of Star Wars too. Of all the movies I can think of, Star Wars is the one that served as a foundation for what I do today.

My honorable mentions in no particular order:

Seven Samurai (1954)
Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003)
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
The Godfather (1972)
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
Inception (2010)
Alien (1979)
Batman Begins (2005)
Planet of the Apes (1968)
Kill Bill, vol. 1 (2003)
The Exorcist (1973)
Ip Man (2008)

Check out more at Alex's blog HERE.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Guest Post: Ellie Garratt

So happy to have Ellie Garratt guest post today. She's the author of Passing Time, an anthology of nine very spooky and haunting stories.

Finding Luna Black is the fourth story in Passing Time, and it happens to be the only vampire story. So here's Ellie's take on writing this great tale...

Finding Luna Black
Thank you for hosting me, Jay. I’m thrilled to be visiting with you and your readers today.

I’ve only written one vampire story. It’s not that I don’t like vampire stories – it’s just not my first choice. However, in late spring of 2010 I noticed a submission call for Pill Hill Press’s Fem-fangs anthology. The theme was simple – stories with strong female characters that allow readers to delve into the alluring lore of female vampires – and it immediately appealed to me. On top of the theme, I have to admit the cover seduced me.

The problem was I couldn’t think of a story. Like most of my writing problems, I pushed it to the back recesses of my mind and worked on other projects, hoping a solution would present itself in the not so distant future. A few weeks later one of the national newspapers featured vampires in their 10 Things You May Not Know column. In it they stated on average 417 people a year takes out vampire or werewolf insurance. As soon as I read it, I knew I had my story ‘what if’. What if a woman who doesn’t believe in vampires is seduced by an insurance payout? Two weeks later Luna Black, with a strong female protagonist and female vampire was submitted and accepted for publication.

I learnt two key things from this experience – given time a solution to a problem almost always appears and passing time doing activities other than writing can often lead to the most unexpected story ideas. In my case, reading the newspaper.

Where did your most unexpected story idea come from? What non-writing activities have inspired you?
Book Blurb
Nine dark fiction stories that may just give you nightmares.

A man lives to regret Passing Time. A father will do anything to save his son in Expiration Date. An author finds out her worst nightmare is back in The Devil’s Song. A woman gets more than the claim fee when she takes out vampire insurance in Luna Black.

In Dining in Hell, the Death Valley Diner becomes the wrong place to stop.

A serial killer wants to add another file to his collection in The Vegas Screamer. In Eating Mr. Bone, an undertaker could meet an unfortunate end. A con man meets his first ghost in Land of the Free. And will truth finally be set free in The Letter?

Book Links
About The Author
A life-long addiction to reading science fiction and horror, meant writing was the logical outlet for Ellie Garratt’s passions. She is a reader, writer, blogger, Trekkie, and would happily die to be an extra in The Walking Dead. Her short stories have been published in anthologies and online. Passing Time is her first eBook collection and contains nine previously published stories. Her science fiction collection Taking Time will be published later in the year.

Author Links

Monday, March 11, 2013

A-Z Challenge Preview

Yes, I am a glutton for punishment!

Last year, I joined the A-Z Challenge at the very last minute. This year, I signed up MUCH earlier and even volunteered to help out. I am one of the minions working under QQQUE's Matthew MacNish.

2012's challenge was fun and exhausting. I enjoyed sharing everything I know about Steampunk. But this year, I struggled to come up with a topic. I actually lost a little sleep over it, mulling various subject and ideas in my head.

I decided to blog about what I know - and I'm a big 80s fan. My first blog (way back in 2004) was centered around great TV shows of the 80s, but that blog lasted maybe two or three posts. These days, I still get my 80s fix from being one of the crazy contributors to a great website - Culture Brats.

So be prepared to revisit that wonderful time where bright bold neon colors ruled, and girls' bangs could double as CB antennas....you're gonna get A-Z of Everything 80s from yours truly!

If you haven't signed up for the A-Z Challenge, get over to the website HERE and do it. Yeah, posting nearly every day for a whole month is TOUGH, but well worth it.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Editing Cave

It's been awhile since I wrote about writing.

I finished a rough draft last week - a 108,xxx word novel I started during last year's NaNoWriMo.

Normally, I like to step away from a project before editing, but I decided to do some initial passes before setting it aside. Putting some distance between you and and a newly finished work is always a good idea, as I felt like it always recalibrated my perspective on it.

My first steps in editing are pretty simple: GET RID OF THE GARBAGE. Just from making my initial pass, I've cut 1,000 words so far.

What's garbage? It's a list of stuff:

1) Crutch words. These are words that I personally use too much. For a lot of writers, these crutch words include: that, really, just, suddenly, almost, nearly, felt (or his ugly cousin felt like) seems, could (could see, could feel, could - could - and MORE could), and for a moment.

My personal issue is when I use that instead of the proper relative pronoun. I do this A TON!

He was the man that knew everything. (Wrong)
He was the man who knew everything. (Right)

2) Crutch dialog tags or gestures. Are your characters doing a lot of head nodding, shaking, shrugging, shuddering, smiling, laughing, swallowing hard, catching their breath, gazing, and glancing? Nothing is wrong with using these sparingly, but take a look and see if you're overusing them. Sometimes, you can get rid of the gesture entirely and use dialog to give a vivid picture to your reader. You can also be a little more creative, just don't overwrite it!

Don't have your novel read like stage directions. Allow room for your reader to use your imagination. No need to spell every little gesture out. It gets distracting. If the gestures or character actions do nothing to move things forward, then don't write it. Unless it's vital I know a character takes a bite out of a sandwich, taking a swig of their tea, or whatever...get rid of it.

3) Adverbs. Anything with -ly at the end is a red flag. I will keep some, but maybe 90% of them go. Why? Because using ADVERBS is lazy writing. I learned this from Stephen King and my years as a freelance editor. It's a short cut that doesn't allow the reader to get engaged.

4) Passive voice. I search for forms of  "to be," the most common being was or were. Passive voice is weak, and again, boring and disengaging for your reader. If the subject of your sentence is being acted upon, that's a big hint you've got passive voice going on.

John was pushed by the wind. (Passive)
The wind pushed John. (Active)

5) Wordy suffixes. Anything with a -ness or -ize at the end of a word is going to be examined. Many times, suffixes are not necessary. Writers often add suffixes like -ness to a perfectly good word. I don't get rid of all of them, but I do zap most of them. They're unnecessary and make the reader stumble. Make sure you editize in order to get your manuscript to a higher level of perfectness.

These are easy and quick fixes I make during a first pass. If I see other stuff that needs more involved editing, I do it if I happen to see it. The FIND function in your word processor is your best friend.

Do you have any CRUTCH words or gestures you find yourself leaning on too often in your work?