Friday, December 16, 2011

Provocative Phrase Friday – How low will you go? +11 other writing prompts

Here are your Provocative Phrase writing prompts for Friday, December 16, 2011:
Community Thrift Store (i)
Courtesy of Pete Boyd via Flickr

  • How low will you go?
  • Don't think much of it…
  • It's another reason…
  • They've made it easy to…
  • If she described yourself as…
  • How she got it…
  • That's a problem.
  • What would you do?
  • What it looks like…
  • He just got…
  • You need to prepare a girl for…
  • When you walk into the store…

Friday, December 09, 2011

Provocative Phrase Friday – She stuck her neck out +11 other writing prompts

Provocative Phrases for Friday, December 8, 2011:
Weather Necking
Courtesy of Mark Rain via Twitter

  • She stuck her neck out...
  • How well do you share?
  • You are going to…
  • I see you sitting erect…
  • How I did it…
  • I can deal the…
  • The man in my basement…
  • I can see how…
  • When the phone doesn't ring…
  • I am getting knocked around.
  • Only go there for a good reason…

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Muse Review: The Well-Fed Writer (2nd Edition)

The Well-Fed Writer: Financial Self-Sufficiency as a Commercial Freelancer in Six Months or Less (the revised edition) Includes heavily updated content from the original Well-Fed Writer (published in 2000) and The Well-Fed Writer: Back for Seconds.  This book includes everything that has made all of Mr. Bowerman’s books best sellers. The easy, conversational tone of the book, the numerous examples of how other writers have found their success in the marketplace, many links and resources for more information about the topics contained within the book. These resources range from other authors’ and successful freelancers’ websites, to recommended online newsletters and e-zines that you should be subscribing to, books that provide additional information about these topics and serve as essential desk reference material for any serious freelance commercial writer out there.

Don’t be fooled by the title of the book.  The book deals very little with the writing process or how to create specific written content. Bowerman provides links and suggested resources to get additional details about these specifics.  This book is about how to build a freelance commercial writing business providing information that I have not found anywhere else on how to set up your business, generating sales via cold calling, where to find customers, how to set rates and get paid, how to “adapt” your business to thrive in small markets, and how to take the business from part time (while you are still working a day job) to full time.
Bowerman’s practical advice in addition to the can-do spirit of the book can’t help but to motivate  you to take action today.  The numerous testimonials and side-bar articles written by numerous experts more suited to provide that specific information than Bowerman , is what makes the book truly unique and valuable.  He could have researched these topics and interviewed these experts, but instead turns them loose to provide the reader with first-hand knowledge and also gives the reader an additional resource to consult while taking on the challenges of the business.

This book addresses many topics of current interest to freelancers these days such as using social networking and how to push your business to earn more than $125 per hour.

The WFW is an essential resource for anyone who is serious about writing for a living or has dreamed of striking out on their own as a freelance writer.  Bowerman is a knowledgeable guide since he’s been through every step of the process himself, having started a writing business in the Greater-Atlanta area back in the early 90’s with no experience or industry contacts.  He knows how to build a business because of his experience, but also though the other writers and professionals that he has networked with over the years.  If you are looking for a way to make good money as a professional writer, then buy this book, read it and re-read it.

Buy it from Amazon here: The Well-Fed Writer

Rating ***** (Well Worth it at Full Retail Price)

About Ratings: ***** -- Well Worth it at Full Retail Price; **** — Buy on Sale/Discounted; *** — Buy Used; ** — Borrow It from the Library; * — Waste of a Good Tree

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Writing Topic Tuesday – The Holiday Nightmare Edition

Trees on Fire.jpg
Courtesy of Drew Geraets via Flickr
Many people look forward to December and the holidays especially, but the last few years, December has not been a lot of fun.  It always seems to be marked with turmoil and uncertainty at my workplace (not a problem this year), illness and death.

Last year I got pneumonia and was extremely sick for almost 6 weeks. I’m sure this is just a coincidence but it got me thinking.  The holidays are always portrayed in the media as happy times full of cheer and good friends, but the truth is somewhat darker. Are the holidays always wonderful and magical like a Very Brady Christmas? Probably not.

Here is a quick and dirty list of writing topics associated with the darker side of the holiday season:
  •     Riot at the shopping mall
  •     Dysfunctional holiday family gathering
  •     Hyperactive, out of control kids
  •     Eating too much
  •     Drinking too much
  •     Company holiday party
  •     Insane retail hours
  •     The all-consuming quest for the perfect Christmas
  •     Death of a loved one
  •     Shared custody of the kids during the holidays
  •     Not enough money for Christmas
  •     Finding out that Santa is not real

Friday, December 02, 2011

Provocative Phrase Friday – Where are they now? +11 other writing prompts

Here are the Provocative Phrases for Friday, December 2nd, 2011:

Where’s Wally World Record (where you there?)
Courtesy of William Murphy via Flickr
  • Where are they now?
  • How hot is…
  • Do you know…
  • How can I…
  • Would you please…
  • You got to take it.
  • I zoom in on her face.
  • Here I am with this…
  • Here's a look at…
  • There's nothing like…
  • You’re watching the… 
  • He's unstoppable.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Gift Ideas for Writers: 10 Years of Writer's Digest on DVD

It's that time of year again.  Time to figure out what to get the writer in your life.  You can buy them high-quality pens, fancy journals in leather-bound covers, or an Amazon gift card.  But here is a deal that I stumbled across that I just had to share. 

On the Writer's Digest website, as part of a warehouse sale, they are offering 10 years worth of Writer's Digest magazine, 100 issues originally published between the years 2000 and 2009. For less than the cover price of a copy of Writer's Digest on the newsstand today: $3.99.  All of the files in a searchable and printable PDF format. 

I bought a copy for myself and downloaded several issues to read on my Kindle Fire, so this is a great gift for a writer in your life.  Buy it here while supplies still last: 10 Years of Writer's Digest: 2000-2010 .

You can thank me later.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Writing Topic Tuesday - The Cliché Edition

Sorry that I’ve been out the last couple of weeks.  I think I just needed a little hiatus (or a couple of BYE weeks) to get my thoughts together and launch into the new year.  For more details on my thoughts and feelings, checkout this post on the 15-Minute Writer: The One Thing You Must Know About Writing

.I love cliché.
Courtesy of Adriana Santamaría P. via Flickr

Clichés: every editor and publisher loathes them, but everyone uses them. And you can’t escape from them, so here are a few clichéd writing topics for you to explore:
  • What are some of the clichéd descriptions that seem to appear in your writing over and over again. List them and when you tend to use them.
  • List as many clichés as you can in 10 minutes. Post your list here.
  • Write a story that uses a cliché as a starting point or as inspiration.  Look up the origin of the phrase if you need help getting started. Many clichés have very interesting origins and stories behind them.
  • Take one of the clichés in your list and see if you can change it slightly to give it a better meaning or twist the words slightly to give it a completely different meaning,
  • Write about a cliché that is perfect because there seems to be no other way to express a thought in any better way.
  • Take a cliché that reminds you of someone, maybe a parent, mentor or old friend.  They used this cliché all of the time which therefore attached it to your thoughts and memories of that person forever. Explore the how and why of it.
  • Clichés don’t have to be just written, there are many clichés on TV and film, list those that you can think of or that really annoy you.
  • Characters are also subject to clichés. For example: The dumb jock, the nerd with no social skills, the valiant knight in shining armor, the helpless princess, etc.  Make a list of as many clichés as you can come up with in 10 minutes.Take a couple of the more interesting clichés from the character cliché list above and twist them to make them more interesting. For example, the jock who pretends he is dumb in order to hide his obsessions with technology and his dream of creating the first self-aware robot, because he doesn’t want to be seen as a “nerd."
  • Write a story consisting entirely of cliches.
Plots are also victims of clichés. What are some of the plots that you see in the movies or on TV over and over again, and the results always seem to be the same.  Soap operas are infamous for using these: the evil twin, the amnesiac character, the character who fakes her own death only to return again later, etc.

Here is a specific example: Anytime that a character wants to adopt a baby on a TV show or movie, there is inevitably a problem with the adoption which (90% of the time) consists of the mother-to-be changing her mind and deciding to keep the baby after the adoptive family has made all of the preparations for the child. The latest example I’ve encountered: NBCs Parenthood.  I cannot think of a single time where a storyline has been presented where an adoption goes (cliché alert) off without a hitch.

Have fun with these topics and list some of your favorite (or most loathsome) clichés in the comments below.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Writing Topic Tuesday – Election Day Edition

election day
Courtesy of Peter Clark via Flickr
Here in the U.S. it is Election Day.  So many of us are going to the polls and exercising our right to vote.  It is considered to be an “off-year” because there are no major races for President, or members of Congress running this year, but there are a lot of local races and issues up for a vote.  And even though it is an off-year, the television is saturated with political ads (most of them negative), so it is hard to tell who is telling the truth and who you can trust. The approval ratings for the President are low, the ratings for Congress even lower, and there is a lot of dissatisfaction with local politicians as well. But that is the beauty of the process.  We can change things with a vote.  Many places around the globe do not have that freedom and many other places are experiencing this freedom for the first time.

So here are your Election Day related topics for Tuesday, November 8th, 2011:
  • Write about the first time you voted.
  • Have you ever run for office? For class president? Student Council? A local school board seat? Write about it.  Did you win? Lose? What was the campaign process like?
  • What are the qualities of a good elected official (at any level of government)?
  • What are your political views?  Be specific.  Which ones are the most important when choosing to vote for one candidate over another?
  • Where did you get your political views? Are they consistent? Or ever-changing?
  • I have to admit that I get a kick out of some over-the-top, mudslinging political ads.  I’ve always believed that I could really write one that was unbelievably bad,  but yet, hilarious.  Write an outlandish script for attacking an opponent or the “other side” of an issue. Have fun with it.
  • Since politicians are typically reviled, why do you think anyone would choose to run for office?
  • What do you see as ways that the existing political system in your area or country might be improved?
  • What do you see as the role of government in your life now?  What do you think it should be in an ideal world?
  • Are you suspicious of government or think that it is necessary, and perhaps even beneficial , to the average person?
  • Why do many people not want to discuss politics?
  • If you could be the leader of your country, what would you do? How would you prioritize resources to make it happen?

Friday, November 04, 2011

Provocative Phrase Friday – Cheaters can prosper +11 Other Writing Prompts

Provocative Phrases for Friday, November 4, 2011:
What the hell is a cheater pen anyway?
Courtesy of Suzy via Flickr

  • We’ve got to talk.
  • What can I do about it?
  • There are many reasons to run.
  • When the doctor is wrong…
  • Who’s on top?
  • When you really love…
  • I’m looking for a…
  • Why bother?
  • What does one need to do...
  • Why rob a bank?
  • Cheaters can prosper.
  • Here’s how to fix it…

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Writing Topic Tuesday – The Disappointment Edition

haha, Ali looks so dissapointed hereIf there is one true statement in the world, it is the fact that everyone at some point or another in their lives will disappoint you.  I’ve kicked the search for a new day job into high gear, and as it happens from time to time, I get hyper-focused on a goal.  Researching companies that I want to work for. Using my network to find new job possibilities and writing cover letters, reviewing websites and following up on contacts that I’ve already made.

I dropped the ball last Tuesday and failed to provide Writing Topic Tuesday content for my audience.  I am sorry.  In the spirit of NaNoWriMo, I am providing topics and going to keep track of word count again this month in an attempt to regain some footing and balance in my life.

So now here are your disappointment themed writing topics for Tuesday, November 1st, 2011:
  • List the biggest disappointments in your life.
  • Provide details about the biggest one of them.
  • Write about a time when you disappointed someone.
  • Write about a time when you disappointed yourself.
  • Forgiveness – What is your attitude toward forgiveness?  Are you a forgiving person?  Are you forgiving with yourself?
  • Write about a time where you had to forgive someone because you had the wrong information or were part of the problem.
  • Write about a time that you had to forgive yourself for one of those self-disappointments.
  • Make a list of actions that are unforgiveable.
  • Now make a list of ways that one might atone for those unforgivable actions (great conflict ideas for fiction)
  • Write about a time when a disappointment led to something much better later.
  • Write about the power of a heartfelt apology.
  • Write about a time where you were wrong. Very wrong.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Provocative Phrase Friday – You're getting hit +11 Other Writing Prompts

Provocative Phrases for Friday, October 28, 2011:

The Small Hand that Kills (41th/52)
Courtesy of Alexandre Normand via Flickr
  • You’re getting hit.
  • When he came back…
  • It wasn’t because…
  • When you check…
  • I can’t live…
  • We look forward to…
  • What can we do for you?
  • How can I tell…
  • What do you mean exactly?
  • How do I look?
  • If somebody said to me…
  • Do you know where you’re going?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Provocative Phrase Friday – Can you imagine... +11 Other Writing Prompts

Provocative Phrases for Friday, October 21, 2011:
Courtesy of Su Neko via Flickr

  • I’m in debt…
  • Don’t assume this means…
  • Why do we so often try to…
  • Did I want to…
  • Can you imagine…
  • You’ll also find…
  • You decide how…
  • There is nothing…
  • He used to be…
  • A shot at the…
  • Is there anything not…
  • He’s not the only one…

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Writing Topic Tuesday – The Walking Dead Edition

The Walking Dead on San Diego
Courtesy of Antonio Ruiz Garcia via Flick
For those of you who have been living in a remote commune somewhere for the last 20 years, the Walking Dead refers to the latest monster craze: Zombies. Riding the wave of zombie-rific popularity, one of my new favorite shows is back for a 2nd season.  I was a fan of the Walking Dead comic book series before it was adapted for television.  Even though it is a violent, blood splattered gorefest, the Walking Dead explores some very interesting topics: How do you remain human when all parts of civilization as we know it fails? How do you make decisions when faced with impossible moral dilemmas?

So since we are now in the middle of October, let’s explore some horrible zombie-related topics:
  • How are you preparing for the zombie apocalypse? Where will you go? What equipment and supplies do you think might be necessary?
  • What is the cause of the zombie apocalypse?
  • What do you do if your family or loved ones become mindless, savage zombies?
  • What are you the most afraid of? Why?
  • Your favorite horror movie (it doesn’t have to feature zombies).
  • Zombie Haiku: Check it out at
  • Write about the moment when you were the most scared in your entire life. What happened? Why was it so scary?
  • Make a comprehensive list of everything you are afraid of.
  • Ghosts: Have you ever encountered one? Explore a “haunted” place? Experienced something that couldn’t be explained?
  • Haunted house – A popular activity in the United States this time of year… Have you ever been to one? What was it like?
  • The best Halloween costume ever!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Provocative Phrase Friday - Love is NOT all that you need + 99 other prompts

Funny argument
Courtesy of Nathan Rupert via Flickr
This has been a crazy past couple of weeks and I completely forgot about last Friday's Provocative Phrase Friday writing prompts. But one of the reasons for the craziness was presenting a Creative Thinking for Creative Writers workshop at the Write-Now Workshop.

One of the exercises I had the group involved in was creating a writing topic pool.  They came up with 100 topics.  So to make up for missing last week, I'm giving you an extra 88 writing topics this week.  Enjoy:

  • A loose bull with horns in front of my car
  • A married man, who loves his wife, also falls in love with another, much different, woman
  • Aggressive helplessness
  • Aging well
  • Allergic to aspirin
  • Bedbugs in your hotel room
  • Before I ruined it
  • Bigfoot crossing a road at night
  • Blanket of flowers
  • Blue bumps
  • Brutalize
  • Bubblewrap
  • Cacophony
  • Can you cope?
  • Compound a lie
  • Coughing wheezing, like coffee grains in sand
  • Crush
  • Daily ritual
  • Dead flowers in the pretty vase
  • Destruction of the earth
  • Divided in two
  • Doing laundry on a Saturday morning, seeing endless piles of dirty underwear
  • Everyone has a story janitor who was a noted jazz pianist
  • Extemporaneous prestidigitation
  • Fetid
  • Finding alien roadkill
  • Flaming business cards
  • Flat tire on my way home from work
  • Friendly enemies
  • God made me do it! Becoming a sister.
  • Good stumbles
  • Hidden influence
  • Hide by standing out
  • Hilarious underachieving cousin becoming alcoholic
  • Hope: how to find it
  • Horny mom
  • Hypochondriac drama queen
  • I browse through dictionary
  • I wish I would have known that then
  • Identity theft
  • If I could have dinner with three people, living or dead, they would be…
  • If such a thing exists
  • Imaginary number
  • Immortality
  • It's all fun and games until someone loses an eye
  • It's dead
  • Job interview – I pooped my pants right before
  • Judgment makes me angry
  • Juicy
  • Kill
  • Knock a girl off a bike to ask her out on a date
  • Lemon lips
  • Life in 144 characters
  • Living after the Great Depression – learning how to save, conserve, appreciate
  • Long eyelashes, porcelain, creamy skin and radiant hair
  • Lost my e-mail account
  • Love is not all you need
  • Meaning of life after 80
  • Meltdown
  • My beloved autistic niece
  • My special sister with mental retardation
  • Natural hair
  • Never
  • Never let go for my hearts sake
  • Not me
  • Obliterate
  • Old cat, Sore hips, can jump
  • Online school that trains students to be…
  • Only the vampires can save us from the aliens
  • Paranoia as a survival trait
  • Philosophy of everyday things
  • Plus size modeling
  • Regarding Steve Jobs: death as a way to clear the earth
  • Set fire to the trailer
  • Sitting in a room temporarily, surrounded by style and class and fashion that doesn't exist in your normal world, with light streaming in a bay window, bittersweet moment
  • Sleeping in a tollbooth
  • smash
  • Some people will never get there
  • Sovereignty
  • Speed karaoke
  • Strange shadows on the moon
  • Sunken vegetable garden
  • Swallowing my pride, I apologized for my cruel insult
  • Tarot card reader in a Western saloon
  • Tattoos
  • The putrid odor he emitted was incredibly offensive, almost arrogant
  • Three friends playing outside find an anthill and argue about what to do with it, how to treat it
  • Torture
  • TV is my muse
  • Tweet the life of your favorite character as the book progresses. For example: Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice
  • Ugly face
  • What am I supposed to do with my life?
  • What made me a criminal do it? Reasons behind the unreasonable the unthinkable
  • What makes a hero?
  • What might you achieve if you just believe in yourself
  • Why
  • Why did this happen, God?
  • Why does this seem normal?
  • You start hearing instructions and advice from a voice no one else can hear
  • You wake up in a strange bed in a foreign country, (you don't speak the language) and you have no idea how you got there

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Writing Topic Tuesday: The RIP and VIP Edition

It has been a hectic week.  Job interviews and a speaking engagement at the Write-Brain Workshop has sucked up a considerable amount of time this past week, so I’m keeping this Tuesday’s Writing Topics theme simple and straightforward: RIPs and VIPs and topics surrounding them.  We lost a few important and well-loved people this week and a few of the living have made their mark so here they are:
Steve JOBS 1955-2011
Courtesy of COG LOG LAB via Flickr

  • Steve Jobs, 56, American computer entrepreneur and inventor, co-founder of Apple Inc.
  • Steve Jobs’ 2005 Commencement Speech
  • Think Different.
  • Fred Shuttlesworth, 89, American civil rights leader
  • Freedom rides
  • Al Davis, 82, American football coach and team owner (Oakland Raiders)
  • Just win baby!
  • Amanda Knox
  • Dr. Conrad Murray
  • Tim Tebow
  • Ashton Kutcher   
  • Michael Vick

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Writing Topic Tuesday – Patience Edition

Patience is an essential skill for a mature adult.  Without it we are little more than impulsive animals grabbing things and running around on whims, reacting constantly to every movement, stimuli and sensation.

Growing up, I hated fishing because it involved so much waiting, silence and staying still… I rarely caught anything and soon came to dread it completely.
Job hunting requires a great deal of patience.  Finding a place and position that is right for you, sending out resumes and carefully tailored cover letters, waiting for a response, getting an interview, then waiting to hear how you did on that interview, then the negotiation phase begins where you establish salary, start dates and ask questions about benefit packages.  This is the limbo that I’m in right now. Waiting to see if the company I’ve interviewed with sees me as a fit for them.  It has been a lot of waiting because the process is always a slow one with big companies, but hopefully worth the wait.

Courtesy of Romel Jacinto via Flickr
Here are a dozen topics with the theme of waiting and/or patience this week as I await a decision that has a major impact on my actions over the next several weeks:
  • Do you consider yourself a patient person? Why or why not?
  • What was the last thing that you had to do that required considerable patience? Describe how you remained patient despite the difficulty.
  • How do you know when you are starting to get impatient?
  • Describe a person or character who is impatient through actions alone.
  • Waiting builds tension not only in life, but in fiction as well.  Write a scene where you make a character wait for something he or she desperately needs. Drag it out as long as you can. Dangle relief in front of him just to snatch it away from him again.
  • “All commend patience, but none can endure to suffer.”  - Thomas Fuller. Thoughts?
  • What happened the last time you lost your patience with someone or something?
  • Have you ever waited and waited for something only to find that you shouldn’t have wasted your time? Why or why not?
  • What do you do to remain patient and distract yourself from the “elephant in the room?”
  • List all of the sayings that you know of that preach the benefits of patience. For example: A watched pot never boils.
  • Make a list of all the things that you’ve waited for at some point in your life.
  • What would your life (or a character’s life) be like if you didn’t have any patience or was incapable of it at all?

Friday, September 30, 2011

Provocative Phrase Friday – Been there, done that +11 Other Writing Prompts

Provocative Phrases for Friday, September 30, 2011:

Photo courtesy of Sam Javanrouh via Flickr

  • That was the perfect…
  • If you wanted…
  • I can do this thing…
  • The day you lied…
  • When you leave the office…
  • He asked.
  • Been there, done that…
  • He has it tattooed…
  • It’s ugly, but it works.
  • What’s wrong?
  • If he is proven guilty…
  • I told you, don’t…

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Writing Topic Tuesday – The Decision Point Edition

Courtesy of Christine via Flickr
Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken  is a classic poem that makes you think about the most universal behavior for all human beings: the ability to make a choice.  Ever since the days of Adam and Eve, we make hundreds, if not thousands, of decisions every day. Most of them quite inconsequential: Should I have a ham and cheese sandwich for lunch or PB&J? Should I take the back roads to work, or the highway? A few of them can be life changing or life shattering: Should I have a baby or not? Should I drive away from the party after a few drinks? Should I cheat on my spouse? Unfortunately, many times we put as little thought into the life changing choices as we do the inconsequential ones.

So here are the topics surrounding decisions:
  • List the 10 most important decisions you have made in your life?
  • What was the best decision that you ever made? Why was it the best? Did you know this at the time you made it?
  • What was the worst decision that you ever made? Why was it the worst? Were there any clues that it was bad that you should have noticed?
  • How do you make important decisions? What is your process?
  • Do you “trust your gut instincts” when making a decision? Why or why not?
  • If you could go back and take a “road not taken” what would it be? How do you think your life would have changed as a result of it?
  • What major life decision have you been putting off? Why? What needs to happen for you to take action?
  • During the next 24 hours or so, keep track of all of the decisions that you make during that period and list as many of them as you can.
  • Has a decision that someone else made had a significant impact on you?  How did it impact that other person?
  • Choose Your Own Adventure (series of books) and now an interactive website.
  • Have you ever had a period of time where you “threw caution to the wind” and “let the cards fall where they may?”  What happened?
  • What would the world be like if all decisions were made for you?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Provocative Phrase Friday – Take It to the Curb +11 Other Writing Prompts

Provocative Phrases for Friday, September 23, 2011:
Cat Fight!
Courtesy of LLewleyn Williams a.k.a. SCUD
  • I like it here.
  • Before you have killed…
  • I have faith.
  • Want to lie down in a quiet, dark room?
  • Fun things to do after you die…
  • Take it to the curb.
  • It’s true.
  • Since the day I started…
  • If you can say…
  • You win some…
  • What I’m doing…
  • He’s nice, but he won’t leave.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Writing Topic Tuesday – Torn from the Magazine Edition

Well, not torn from the headlines, but pulled from the most recent issues of Time, The Atlantic and Wired magazines:
  • Latchkey Parents (Time)
  • U.S. Postal Service on the verge of bankruptcy (Time)
  • The Shame of College Sports (The Atlantic)
  • America’s Smartest Cities (The Atlantic)
  • Obsession with musical nostalgia is strangling pop music (The Atlantic)
  • Antibiotic resistant infections (The Atlantic)
  • Reverse Evolution (turning a chicken into a dinosaur) (Wired)
  • Inside Google+ (Wired)
  • Advanced prosthetics for animals (Wired)
  • Social Media improves memory (Wired)
  • Back from Beyond (Wired)
  • Scare Tactics (Wired)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Provocative Phrase Friday – How many cars have you wrecked? +11 Other Writing Prompts

Courtesy of Omar Rodríguez Landeros via Flickr
Provocative Phrases for Friday, September 16, 2011:
  • Say, aren’t you…
  • When I was fifteen…
  • It is already tomorrow…
  • How many cars have you wrecked?
  • It’s dog eat dog.
  • I know of no one who is…
  • He has built…
  • I don’t know how many…
  • If you wait…
  • You watch the clock…
  • He wouldn’t talk to me.
  • Each time I try…

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Writing Topic Tuesday – The Maintenance Edition

ToolboxI wrote an essay 20 years ago for my college non-fiction writing workshop about the subject of maintenance.  I don’t remember the specifics about it now, but what I do remember was the theme that focused on the importance of maintenance within every aspect of your life. If you don’t change the oil on your car regularly, the engine will blow.  If you fail to clean out the gutters on your house, the roof will start leaking. If you don’t maintain your friendships, your friends will drift away.

In this crazy, hyper-accelerated, over-scheduled lifestyle many of us lead, it is no surprise that issues of maintenance or simply maintaining something often is forgotten or delayed indefinitely, many times until it is too late.

Here are your topics surrounding the theme of maintenance:
  • What do you think about the word maintenance?
  • Are you a good maintenance man or woman? Why or why not?
  • Maintaining one aspect of your life well often comes at the expense of poor maintenance in another. What are your areas?
  • How are you at maintaining your relationships with family, friends and co-workers? What do you do to keep them connected and strong?
  • What does a life well-maintained look like?
  • When you see something with a feature of “maintenance proof,” what do you see or expect?
  • Is it possible to go through life without maintaining anything?
  • What was the last maintenance task you performed? Why was it important?
  • What was the worst thing that ever happened to you as the result of poor maintenance?
  • Every good maintenance man/woman has a toolkit.  What is in your life maintenance toolkit?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Musings – Soundtracks for Books?

An interesting article in the Atlantic  has gotten me thinking about the future of writing and books in general lately.

ipod and books. the music and the words :)The e-book is here to stay. With the release of the Kindle and the iPad, e-books have now reached critical mass and are a mighty force in the publishing world.

Technology has steadily changed the way we write over the last 10 years. Social networking, the ability to easily create a platform for your book and attract fans for your project, makes it easier than ever to publish and distribute your work.  But technology has also created some interesting new ways to market your work.  For example, the advent of the book trailer. On the surface, this seems to be, well, a dumb idea.  A video trailer for a book? It makes no sense. But many authors have done it and their sales figures support increased interest and sales as a result.

e-books are game changers. For non-fiction writers, you can now embed links to other resources mentioned within your book, incorporate videos of how-to perform a difficult task, list other resources that might be helpful to the reader, and don’t forget about inserting ads for the author’s other products or possibly the products of other writers or services.

The soundtrack is a natural extension of the reading experience.  Our generation grew up with every movie having a soundtrack, which often included songs written specifically for the movie (by the hottest flavor-of-the-month artist) along with the musical score for it.  Musical cliché’s have emerged as a result of this (check out TV for examples). Writers sometimes forget that books ARE a visual medium. Writers use words to paint a picture in the reader's head, so why not include a soundtrack to help evoke a certain mood or feeling?  I find writing with a musical score playing in the background helpful, and many other writers also swear by this technique.

Jodi Picoult included a CD with her latest book Sing You Home  this spring. She thought that a soundtrack was a good idea because it helped the reader get into the mindset of the character, Zoe, who happens to be a songwriter.

This is nothing new.  Some audio books have featured musical scores and sound effects in their works for years now. Works dramatized for radio have been around for decades.

So what does this mean for writers? Do we need to go back to college and get a Masters in Music Composition to reach the best seller list?  No.  You can add a soundtrack to a book, put together an incredible book trailer, add interesting and informative links to your e-book, but none of these will matter if the writing sucks. Period.  Fancy bread, gourmet mustard and rare spices cannot make a crap sandwich taste like anything but a crap sandwich.

Everyone has seen an incredible movie trailer that manages to amaze and fill you with slack-jawed awe. You shell out $10 for a movie ticket, another $12.50 for popcorn, candy and soft drink, only to discover that the trailer contained all of the best scenes in the 2 hour suck-fest. You tell everyone you know not to waste their time or money on it. The word spreads and the movie plummets down the top box-office movie listings to fade away to an obscure DVD release 4 months later.

In a world where another book is published every 10 seconds, you must write a good book.  Good books get noticed. Authors who care about quality by providing good content, clean, spell-checked, grammatically correct prose will find an audience in this new marketplace.  Those that embrace technology and collaborate with others to make the message stronger will be noticed even more.

Writing a book has always been a collaborative process. Writers, editors, publishers, marketers, agents, and even fans contribute to the process.  But now writing a book may involve a larger cast: a web-master, a video producer, a composer, a social media consultant, and who knows how many more people to bring tomorrow’s books to the audience.

Bottom line: Write good books, and stay informed on how the latest trends and technology impact the publishing business. But good writing always comes first.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Provocative Phrase Friday – What she was made of +11 Other Writing Prompts

Provocative Phrases for Friday, September 9, 2011:
    finally summer
  • What she was made of…
  • I am a wild and crazy guy.
  • We hired spies.
  • I think I get on…
  • I don’t need it.
  • Do you still have family there?
  • He’s dead.
  • Have a drink.
  • I think I look like…
  • And if they weren’t…
  • Tell her to back off…
  • I’d like to, but…

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Writing Topic Tuesday – The Futurist Edition

According to Wikipedia futurists are:

scientists and social scientists whose specialty is to attempt to systematically predict the future, whether that of human society in particular or of life on earth in general.
The future

I’ve been reading a lot of near-future science fiction lately and just finished watching Terminator: Salvation (yes, I’m very far behind on my movie watching…) Books like Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and fiction by Cory Doctorow paint an often bleak picture of the world where big business and government has controlled the path of humanity and not always for the better.

I remember watching the Jetsons as a child, and then Star Trek when I was older, and had a very positive outlook on the future. Just waiting for the day when flying cars, servant robots and problems such as warfare and hunger are eradicated.  We are a long way from these outcomes, but I’m hopeful that we’ll somehow find a way to deal with the problems that we create for ourselves, and learn from the past to make the future better. It is slow going, and hard to see at times, but we are slowly stumbling toward a better world.
  • What is your view of the future?
  • What will the world look like in 10 years? 25 years? 100 years?
  • Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future? Why?
  • What are the biggest problems that we need to solve as the human race?
  • What did you think the future would be like when you grew up as a child? How has that changed?
  • What is the role of technology in the future? Will it be something embedded in the culture? Or granted to a chosen few?
  • What are the greatest dangers we face as the human race?
  • What is the key to making ourselves better?
  • What will a child born in 2111 be like? What kind of childhood will they have? What kind of world will they be born into?
  • Write a letter to yourself of 15 years into the future. What do you want you to remember? What hopes do you have for… you?

Friday, September 02, 2011

Provocative Phrase Friday – Don't give up +11 Other Writing Prompts

IceCreamForTwoProvocative Phrases for Friday, September 2, 2011:
  • Who lives…
  • I park…
  • A little more time…
  • Nothing works…
  • You're going to get kicked…
  • Then all hell broke loose.
  • Sure, they're tough.
  • It's one in the morning…
  • Don't give up.
  • Of course he didn't…
  • I'm serious.
  • That was all I had.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Writing Topic Tuesday – The Random Words and Subjects from My Bookshelf Edition

I’m sort of stuck for a theme today, so I just went with looking around my bookshelves to find a few topics that might inspire some writing.
  • Chaos Theory
  • Dungeons & Dragons
  • Attention Deficit Disorder
  • Ideas That Stick (a book about creative uses for Post-It notes)
  • Boomerang Nation
  • Generation X
  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  • The End of the World
  • Mythical Creatures
  • WordPress
  • Coaching 6-and-Under Soccer
  • 3 Minutes or Less

Friday, August 26, 2011

Provocative Phrase Friday – You must understand evil. +11 Other Writing Prompts

Provocative Phrases for Friday, August 26, 2011:
Batman kicking ass
Courtesy of Richard Herbert via Flickr
  • You must understand evil.
  • It's really best to…
  • Is it them for you.
  • What's a parent to believe?
  • Isn't technology great?
  • I won the lottery.
  • Where are all the rest?
  • As one, dad.
  • It's a sign from God…
  • I told you…
  • I won't do anything…
  • I stared at him.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Writing Topic Tuesday – Back to School Edition

That time of year is upon us here in the United States again:  When yellow school buses roam the streets, the school supply sales are over, and the kids are all decked out in clean, pressed new school clothes and tucked away in classrooms from 8am to 3pm. So today’s topic is back to school.
  • First day of school
  • Last day of school
  • Describe the first school you attended
  • Your favorite teacher
  • Your least favorite teacher
  • The playground
  • School lunch
  • Your best friend
  • First day of high school
  • Junior High or Middle School
  • Getting sent to the office
  • school busses
    Courtesy of Rupert Ganzer via Flickr
  • The school bully

Friday, August 19, 2011

Provocative Phrase Friday – What I learned about him +11 Other Writing Prompts

Who wants to live forever?
Courtesy Andrew Whyte via Flickr
Sorry that this is so late in the day, but better late than never.

Provocative Phrases for Friday, August 19, 2011:
  • What I learned about him…
  • Everyone is on the take…
  • Were we wrong to buy it?
  • I was sure if…
  • I live alone in my bed…
  • Do you dare…
  • She's fierce.
  • Say again?
  • My morning with…
  • When I learned about…
  • It was like a…
  • It's time you…

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Writing Topic Tuesday – The Working Stiff Edition

Getting laid off from my job last week has made me think a lot about work and the nature of it. The world demands that we trade our most precious asset, time, for money. And what we do with that time at our job often defines us and molds us. So this week’s topics are all about the life of the working stiff.
  • Workaholic
  • Blue collar
  • White collar
  • Your first job
  • The lessons you’ve learned on the job that you could not have learned anywhere else.
  • Retirement
  • Getting fired
  • Getting laid-off, downsized, right-sized… you get the picture
  • The worst boss you ever had
  • The best boss you ever had
  • Working lunch
  • The Protagonist
    Courtesy of Erin Nekervis
  • Cubicle

Friday, August 12, 2011

Provocative Phrase Friday – What's the Catch? +11 Other Writing Prompts

Provocative Phrases for Friday, August 12, 2011:
Courtesy of Kerry Lannert via Flickr
  • It was a set up…
  • He works alone.
  • And the winner is…
  • I stink!
  • Do I laugh or cry?
  • So who's your boyfriend?
  • It's alive.
  • What's the catch?
  • It's in the mail…
  • Remind me again why I married you?
  • Seems wrong somehow
  • He never ever forgets…

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Writing Topic Tuesday – The Dream Edition

Dreams are a powerful aspect of our creative selves and worth exploring.
Day 196 - Help
Courtesy of Christopher Verdier
  • What do you remember about your dreams each night?  Do you dream in color?  Do you remember feelings or sensations? Can you read in your dreams?
  • What are some of the common themes in your dreams? Do you have flying dreams? Dreams of being chased? Showing up naked at your high school?
  • Describe the worst nightmare you have ever had.
  • Can you control your dreams?  If so, how do you do it?
  • Have you ever had an important message sent to you via a dream? Or predicted something that came true?
  • Describe one of your favorite dreams.
  • Have you ever written a story inspired from a dream?
  • Create a dream sequence for one of your characters in a story.
  • What strange objects, people or places show up in your dreams again and again?
  • Many musicians use the word “dreams” in song and album titles. (For example: Dreams by Fleetwood Mac, Dream On by Aerosmith and, of course, Dream Weaver by Gary Wright) What songs do you associate with dreams?  Why do you think there is such a popular connection between dreams and music?
  • Keep a dream log for a couple of days and then use a dream dictionary, such as the one on Dream Moods and use it to interpret your dreams.
  • Write the word “Dream” at the center of a blank page of paper and then create a Mind Map surrounding it. For details on creating a Mind Map, go to

How to Write a Book in Three Days

Michael Moorcock, legendary fantasy writer, came up with a formula to write a book in three days, and this article at Wet provides some of the details. Check it out right now. Don’t worry, I’ll wait…

Notebook collection
Courtesy of Dvortygirl via Flickr
What does this tell you about writing? Regardless of how you feel about the writing process, whether it is art and should not be subjected to a rigid formula, or it is a carefully scripted process, this article states something important.

Preparation is the key. There needs to be organization in order for creativity to flourish. And if you are having trouble getting started, why not try a formula?

There is this myth that you can create fully formed original stories using some sort of mythical creative power. The truth: There are no new stories just creative twists on the old ones, and hopefully creative enough to keep things interesting.

Here are some of Moorcock's tips that I like:
  • Create a hero that a reader can relate with, and have them drawn into a conflict unwillingly because something happens that makes the conflict personal.
  • The hero needs an object of some sort in order to resolve the conflict, but many parties are also trying to get that object. Competing parties creates conflict for the hero. This desired object gives the hero a goal, and if you add a critical time limit for achieving that goal, it creates pressure to keep the story moving forward.
  • Take a total word count, in this case 60,000 words, and divide it into sections, such as four sections of 15,000 words each. Establish a general goal for each 15,000 word section then divide each section into six chapters. Then make sure that each chapter has action that moves your hero toward reaching his immediate goal.
  • Moorcock also generated a list of images, in his case fantastic images, that he could slide into the story when needed in order to create an obstacle, or to establish the atmosphere of the story. He often took an ordinary object he saw in the room and gave it a creative twist to create a desired effect in the story.
Sometimes seeing how something is done is just as helpful as doing it. It is OK to know exactly what you want to have happen next. It’s OK to know how everything ends. Having a plan gets you moving and helps you see where to go next when you get stuck. Having a plan doesn’t mean you have to stick to it. You can change it as you write the story to react to creative impulses or what makes more sense to you during the writing process. A plan is a guideline, not something that is written in stone.

Do you have a formula for writing? How does it work for you? Do you find yourself always sticking to the plan? Or does it change as you write? Comment below. Let’s discuss.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Provocative Phrase Friday – My mom's in there! +11 Other Writing Prompts

Courtesy of Pete Ashton via Flickr
Provocative Phrases for Friday August 5, 2011:
  • My mom's in there!
  • Each time I try…
  • You watch the clock…
  • If you wait…
  • I don't know how many…
  • He has built…
  • I'd be dead.
  • How can I eliminate…
  • Today I meet a man who…
  • He wouldn't talk to me…
  • Where was he from?
  •  I can't get up.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Writing Topic Tuesday – The Change is Inevitable Edition

Mark Twain once said that “The only person that likes change is a wet baby.”

the Book of Changes
Courtesy of Nikki L via Flickr
And I have dramatic changes coming up in my life.  So this week’s Writing Topic Tuesday is all about change.

  • How do you feel about change? Are you very resistant to it? Or find yourself embracing it?
  • What are some of your routines that bring you comfort?  What are the routines that seem to be engrained in you?
  • Do you have any bad habits?  What have you done to try to bring about change to break them?
  • What are some of your favorite family traditions? How did they come about and become traditions?
  • “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”  -- Leo Tolstoy What do you think about this quote?
  • What does it mean to “change a person?” Is this truly possible? Or is this a commonly held fallacy about human behavior?
  • Write about a period in your life that was filled with changes for the good. Even if you didn’t know it at the time.
  • Write about a period in your life that was filled with bad or challenging changes.  What happened? How did it change you?
  • If you could go back in time 10 or 20 years, what would be the one thing that you would change?
  • If you could meet yourself from 20, 10 or even 5 years ago, what advice would you give yourself?
  • If you could change the world in one little way forever, what would you do?
  • One of the expressions often associated with change is to “shake things up.”  Is this a good description of what change is like?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Provocative Phrase Friday -- What are you doing tonight? + 11 Other Writing Prompts

Provocative phrases for July 29, 2011
  • What are you doing tonight?
  • Keep your eye on the ball…
  • I say I want…
  • Can you handle it?
  • In school, you…
  • Can we contain it?
  • So what did he…
  • It's like he's…
  • When you unload the car…
  • 50 years ago…
  • You can start now…
  • I am off on my first…

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The First Five Pages -- The Most Important Pages in Your Fiction

Hardcover book gutter and pages
Courtesy of Horia Varlan via Flickr
There is an old cliché that you “never get a second chance to make a first impression.”  Never is this more important than when you read a book. The first round of the Reading Elimination Tournament going on over at The 15-Minute Writer illustrates this well.  I am reading the first five pages of 64 books to determine if I want to keep reading them.   32 of these books will be eliminated using the following criteria:
  • Back cover/Book flap cover descriptions
  • Critical acclaim and quotes
  • Design and layout of the book
  • Author’s name and reputationn
  • Writing and content within those first five pages.

Of the five criteria, the writing and content within the first five pages is by far the most important factor in deciding if the book goes onto the next round.

As any agent or publishing professional will tell you, the first five pages of any fictional work has to be great.   It has to grab the reader by the throat and force him to keep reading.

One of the greatest books of all time on the subject, The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide to Stay out of the Rejection Pile by Noah Lukeman, says it best in the introduction of the book:
"this book is not just about the first five pages of your manuscript; rather, it assumes by scrutinizing a few pages closely enough — particularly the first few — you can make a determination of the whole."
So if you have three typographical errors on the first five pages, you can assume that the book is riddled with them. After dialogue on those pages seems awkward or artificial, you can assume that it is the same in the rest of the book. If the plot or character bores you right off the bat, it's not going to get better from here. So as a writer you have five pages to get your best stuff on their to put the reader in and make them continue to read your book. This includes any reader not just agents or people who read books for a living, but the average the customer browsing the bookshelves, trying to decide between thousands of new books published every month which one she will read next.

The Fiction Writer’s Brainstormer, provides a checklist for what the first thousand words (about four double-spaced typewritten pages) should achieve. These pages should:

  • Introduce the hero character
  • Introduce, or at least allude to, the heroic characters worthy adversary
  • Present or strongly suggest the surpassing conflicts of the story
  • Deliver evidence of the danger, suspense or dramatic irony
  • Foreshadow crucial scenes
  • Foreshadow the climax
  • Demonstrate your ability to write at least one scene filled with action conflict imagery and dialogue
That seems like a lot, doesn't it? But try this: Get several books, read the first five pages of each, and see if the book meet some (or all) of these criteria. Chances are if it has met most of it, you‘ll want to continue reading the book.  Within the first round of the Reading Elimination Tournament over on The 15-Minute Writer, I analyze each book and determine why (or why they do not) make it to the next round, along with some other hints about making the first five pages of your story better.

This standard doesn't just apply to fiction, this can apply to any form of writing. So make sure that your first five pages are the best that they can be, because the readers are unforgiving judges with long memories.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Writing Topic Tuesday -- Money Edition

With all of the talk around the nation about debt ceilings, financial crises, bankruptcies, and the all-mighty-dollar, I think the time has come for a MONEY themed Topic Tuesday:
International Money Pile in Cash and Coins
  • What would you do if you received one million dollars in cash tomorrow?
  • For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. (1Timothy 6:10) True or false?
  • National Debt/Debt Ceiling – Does it really matter? Is it important? Or are we just kidding ourselves?
  • Monopoly – The business practice or the game.
  • Coins
  • "If you want to know what God thinks about money, just look at the people He gives it to." - Dorothy Parker Thoughts?
  • Bankruptcy
  • Your first paycheck
  • Get rich quick schemes
  • Budget/Budgeting
  • Taxes
  • Money and Relationships – According to this New York Times Article,  couples who reported disagreeing about finance once a week were over 30 percent more likely to get divorced than couples who reported disagreeing about finances a few times a month. What do you think?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Provocative Phrase Friday -- Her marriage was over + 11 Other Writing Prompts

Rome visit, June 2008 - 57 Photo courtesy of Ed Younkin via Flickr

Provocative phrases for July 22, 2011:
  • Her marriage was over…
  • How's that again?
  • Can you identify him?
  • Is it possible that…
  • He told me a week ago…
  • I have some bad news…
  • We have all the answers.
  • That was enough…
  • I'll tell you this about…
  • How to make a…
  • It's one less thing to…
  • You make me so mad!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What If - The Two Most Powerful Idea Generating Words for Fiction: Part 1

What if represents endless possibility. It represents all that will or can be. The first level of what if is to ask what if as it might apply to you, the writer.  These what ifs can be ordinary or fantastic. You know yourself and can create endless stories from pairing the words what if with an endless variety of interesting situations. 

Pick up any newspaper or magazine select a story and ask yourself what if you were entangled in that ordinary event or story?  How would you react? What would you do? How would it impact your life?
  • What if you lost your job tomorrow?
  • What if you were accused of murder?
  • What if you found yourself as a victim of a kidnapping on a family vacation?
  • What if there was a catastrophic earthquake in your town today?
  • What if you suddenly lost your hearing?
  • What if you witnessed a crime that required you to become part of Witness Protection?
You can also look at it as an imagination game, and ask yourself what if using fantastic ideas and events that don’t seem possible or believable.
Question mark sign
Courtesy of Colin Kinner via Flickr
  • What if I wake up tomorrow and the zombie apocalypse has begun?
  • What if you discovered that you could use magic?
  • What if you could go back in time and change one thing about your life?  What would it be?
  • What if you suddenly got a huge promotion at work, but it has a catch?
  • What if you won $200 million dollars in the lotto?
  • What if you encountered Bigfoot during a walk in the woods at a state park?
  • What if you had dreams that could predict the future at times?
  • What if your intelligence doubled overnight?
These are just a few examples of what if questions.  Come up with a list of your own with you in the starring role.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Writing Topic Tuesday – The Disaster Edition

I missed posting last week due to a severe thunderstorm.  A nearby lightning strike fried our cable modem and the cable company wasn’t able to replace it for several days. An inconvenience, yes, but annoying nevertheless.  This got me thinking about disasters.  (Check out Are You Ready for Disaster? Part 1 over at The 15-Minute Writer for tips on preventing writing disasters…)

Photo Courtesy of Qualsiasi via Flickr
So here are your topics this week:
  • Lightning
  • Flood
  • Nuclear meltdown
  • Wildfire
  • Riot
  • Mass panic
  • Earthquake
  • Tornado
  • Hurricane
  • Tsunami
  • Civil war
  • Explosions