Thursday, September 30, 2010

Things I Learned Along the Way Thursdays - Name Generation

Welcome to another edition of Things I Learned While Trying Not to Write My Query Letter (Along the Way) Thursdays.  This week's topic is name generation. You have a great character swarthy and mysterious, someone who can make people scratch their heads at how flawed they are, and yet still be cheered for. Now what to name them?  You can't use my name without paying me royalties.  Here are my tips for name generation.

1) Phone book: Not kidding. I like to go through the phone book if I'm blocked for a name and put interesting combinations together. Always look around the popular names like Jones and Smith for less common ones.

2) Yearbook: If that hasn't satisfied me I will get out old school yearbooks and see what I can pilfer. It's also nice to see a picture of what a John Maynard might look like.

3) Comment on blogs: Every time you comment on a blog there is a box for word verification so blogger knows you aren't a robot. Or at least you are a very efficient robot if you are indeed a robot. Anyway most of them would be good fantasy/sci-fi names. Just picture Lingulac, the mighty warrior lizard type man thing.  If you comment today be sure to share the word verification.
Here are some of mine for the week:

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tag You're it!

So according to Renae in a post entitled Tag You're it! I need to answer some questions.  Go ahead and do it too.

1. If you could have a superpower, what would you have? Why?

I would want super human strength. When was the last time you saw Spiderman or Wolverine work out? And yet they have a 30 Stones pack for abdominal muscles. Sounds good.

2. Who is your style icon?

Eddie Vedder. Flannel works if you are pretty and full of angst.

3. What is your favorite quote?

"I was sorry to have my name mentioned as one of the great authors, because they have a sad habit of dying off. Chaucer is dead, Spencer is dead, so is Milton, so is Shakespeare, and I’m not feeling so well myself."

—Mark Twain

4. What is the best compliment you've ever received?

My senior year I was trying to find a job for my work study business class. There was a job writing for the local news station and my mom said, "I don't know if he's a strong enough writer to do that." My 10th grade English teacher who taught next door and was in the room just nodded and said "yeah he is if he practices."

5. What playlist/cd is on your ipod/cd player right now?

Ben Harper, Sufjan Stevens, Ben Kweller, Drake

6. Are you a night owl or a morning person?

I am a mid-afternoon person

7. Do you prefer dogs or cats?

Dogs. Cats are uppity. They shed everywhere, only want attention on their scedule, and I'm pretty sure they think they are better than me.

8. What is the meaning behind your blog name?

One day the world will end and all of the mysteries of the universe, life, and God will be revealed. Then and only then will my blog name be fully understood.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Music to Write to

This week I'll throw out some Ben Harper.  I'm not a huge Reggae fan but this Guy is amazing.

I'll embed the studio version and the live because they are both good/different.




Friday, September 24, 2010

Sept 24th Great American Blogging Experiment

Welcome to my installment of The Great Blogging FEST Experiment. The topic for this blogfest is about writing compelling characters. So for this blog, let's look at writing characters as an experiment.  In the scientific method each experiment has several definable elements (I am an elementary school teacher so this is basic.  If I miss something tell Aristotle I'm sorry for me.)

The first element is a question. It's what we want to learn.  It might be, "What will happen when I put household items in a blender?"  For characters the question is simply, "Who is this person and how will they operate through the different situations I throw them into?"

A hypothesis is what we guess will happen in our experiment.  So if I'm experimenting with my blender I will make a statement as to which things will blend well, or not at all, or explode, or cry out for help before I close the lid.  As readers we all learned (from amazing teachers like me) how to predict based on what has happened already and who our character is.  Even as we write we move our characters along based on who we have made them and the things we know about them.  Reader predictions are based on it and they can feel off-put if our characters act outside of that.  Sometimes our characters acting outside of their usual parameters can be intriguing so long as a good explanation or background comes with it.

The constant is the thing in the experiment that we don't change.  For our blender experiment it is the blender itself.  We would always use the same blender at the same setting.  When writing characters it's the events in the story.  Ah the great blender of life!  Set er' on ice crush and let it go!

The variables are the things in the experiment we do change so we can learn and make conclusions. For the blender experiment it would be what we throw into the blender.  In character writing the variables are the characters themselves and their character traits and backgrounds. They are what we throw into the blender of life and circumstance.  It's what drives the characters, whether directly written or implied by the author.  Each new character reacting to the same kinds of pressures and events (constant) in different ways teaches us about them.  

Conclusions are what we learn.  Did the remote control blend or explode?  The things we learn about our character by the unique ways they approach situations give us conclusions to draw from and use to make new predictions (Hypothesiseseziz) about our characters.

For my writing I use characters I know to make them more compelling.  I am currently writing children's chapter books.  I like to use students I've had in the past as my imaginary framework.  Of course I move around names and details, but I try to think what a kid I knew would do and translate it into my story.  I use their quirks and the things I loved about them to help me translate the joy I have in my characters on the page.  Each situation in my story (constant) helps me define what my characters (variables) would do and answer the question of, "who is this weirdo?"  

That's my take on it.  I'm going to go put a sofa pillow in my blender now and see what happens.  


PB (post blog) I also have my Friday Morning Pump-Up Video posted below.  Be sure to check that out as well. 

Friday Morning Pump-Up Video

Oh my goodness! You can do the impossible today. I wouldn't have thought this was possible. Just watch:

Go get em,' tigers!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Things I Learned Along the Way Thursdays

As someone who is really new to the writing for profit industry I thought I'd take some time on Thursdays just to talk about what I have learned or am learning that has helped me understand things better.  For week one I thought it pertinent to go over resources I use diligently.  

This summer I forced myself to finish a manuscript and write consistently(ish.)  I felt extremely accomplished to be able to hold something I'd finished in my hands.  Now what?  Where did I go from there?  No idea.  Literally none.  I picked up a copy of Writer's and Illustrator's Guide to Children's Book Publishers and Agents.  It explained a query letter.  But who would I send it to?  The listings in that book are over 100 pages long and in alphabetical order.  My favorite irrelevant to me listing was a publishing house that listed itself as a children's book publisher for the gay, lesbian, and bi community.  A close second was a press that focused on Hawiian and Pacific Rim themes.  So it was good to have an example of a query letter and know what one was, but I wasn't going through all of those listings one by one.  So now what?

 Here are two resources a friend gave me that have been tremendous:


The left side box Labeled, "The Essentials" are a nuts and bolts breakdown of the author to book process.  Not only did I feel like I finally had some direction when I had finished reading those posts, I had fun reading them.


This resource is more amazing the more I look into it.  There are two parts.  The main website is a place to search for agents in your genre.  Once you have your search field there is almost a spreadsheet like format where you can mark that you've picked the agent to query to, set a reminder date for check in, write comments about what you sent or any other submission guidelines, and save a copy of the query you sent to that agent.  The agent listings also have side tabs with comments users can make about submissions and replies, stat reports of responses to rejections, clients lists so you can see the kind of people they are working with, and general contact info.  There are more features if you get premium for $25 a year.  That is just part one...

The second part is the forum under the resource tab.  You have to sign up separately but both are free.  The forum is a community that will look over your query, first 5 pages, and synopsis.  They are really helpful and also honest.  There are also forums to post blog links and discuss any aspect of the writing process you can think of.

These are the two main sites that have gotten me to the querying process.  If you have any others to share throw me a comment.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Music to Write to

Welcome to Music to make love Write to.  I don't know about you guys, but it helps me to have some white noise behind me while I write.  I have a box fan in the office and I always had one in my classroom that was never ever off.  I also like jamming out to youtube.  I never have to buy the music if I only want one song and I also get to find new things that other people might not have.  I'll throw out two this week that I like to have going. The first is from a couple of independents who do small shows and youtube videos.

The second is a guy named Jose Gonzalez. He did this cover of a song called "Heartbeats." AMAZING.

Have a good day and keep on rockin' in the free world.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Top 10 TV Shows Blogfest 2010

Today is Alex's J. Cavanaugh's Top 10 TV Shows blogfest. Narrowing the list down for me was super easy because I'm a TV expert and pretty much my picks are an accurate representation of what quality TV should be.  If you want to do it too, just list your fav's or just copy and paste this list, since it is correct.

1. Breaking Bad
 2) Sons of Anarchy
3) Soprano's

4) Lost (I hated the ending, but I was hooked for the entirety of the series.)

5) Grey's Anatomy

6) The Shield
7) Alf

8) Heroes Season 1

9) Prison Break

10) Arrested Development

Honorable Mention:
ESPN Outside the Lines, A-Team, Dr. Katz, House, One Tree Hill, Hoarders

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday Morning Pump-Up Video

Welcome to our new segment (this is my second post so they are all kind of new but carry on,) the Friday Morning Pump-Up Video!  I know it's Friday...  you are counting the nano-seconds tick by in hopes for the weekend.  You don't want to write, work, or whatever.  However, today is the most important day of the week.  It is your last chance to have some success at work and make something of yourself.  So let's get pumped!  Go get em'!  Are you with me?  Hello?  ...Anyone?

Without further ado our video this week is Joe Esposito's "You're the Best Around."  If you can't get pumped up after listening to an 80's movie music montage, then I can't do anything for you.

Have a good weekend!


Thursday, September 16, 2010

OMG I have a blog!

As if playing Frontierville on Facebook had not made me enough of a net-loser, now I have my own blog.  Bow before its glory. 

So basically about me:

I grew up in Kansas.  My wife and I met at a place called Sterling College.  It was a tiny <500 person college in the middle of nowhere that claims such notables as Clarence Gilyard, Wendell Middlebrooks, and Kansas Secretary of Agriculture Josh Svaty, (also me.)  We both transferred to and graduated from Kansas State (go Katz!)

I now live in Omaha, NE.  I was a teacher for five years.  I taught second and first grade but I also have English as a Second Language on my teaching certificate.  This year I am taking off to pursue that thing I kept talking about doing someday called writing.  I have written two manuscripts for children's chapter books.  They are the kinds of books I loved reading to my class and I often wished there were more of them to share.  Right now I am in the process of sending out the the dreaded query letter.  Basically the year will be spent producing writing and art and then hopefully when things go perfectly according to my master plan (like always!) I will be teaching next year and can spend my spare time sending out manuscripts and the such until agents come in raving hordes and bang my door down and carry me off into the sunset on my golden throne of literary genius.  Of course I'm just joking.  Golden thrones get way too hot in the sunlight.  It's more like a cheap office chair of literary genius.  But hey, at least it swivels.  If you have any advice or xanax for me let me know.    


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       PB (post blog) Go to Crystal Cook's site and enter to win a portrait.