Sunday, March 31, 2013

Red Dots

Do you remember, back during NaNoWriMo, when I agonized over writing a short story for my writing group? This was the assignment: Write a short story about [Firefly, Star Trek, getting lost in Nebraska, etc.] and include [Galway hooker, ninjas, pirates, plot bunnies, etc.] that will entertain our former ML while she heals.

I spent some time thinking about the assignment. I know Firefly. It is one of my favorite shows. And I'm pretty familiar with plot bunnies (little things that happen solely that destroy - or at least temporarily derail - a planned out plot). I decided to make that work. A few days into the competition, it hit me- the Reavers in Firefly are plot bunnies!

I spent a few days examining each of the characters from the show and deciding what animals their personalities matched the best. Mal was a wolf. Shepherd Book was the sage turtle. Kaylee was a squirrel. Wash was a raccoon  Jayne was a ferret. The Tams were parrots. Zoe was a jaguar. Inara was a cat. The animal characterizations made perfect sense. From there, I just needed to decide if I would rewrite an episode from the show (because Lord knows I pretend Serenity never happened) using my anthropomorphic animals, or if I'd write a new episode in that way.

I went back and forth on this idea and they both sucked. It was a time of amazing self-discovery. I learned:

  • I am not a fanfic writer.
  • Rewriting some else's stuff is hard and boring.
  • I dislike writing short stories.

I almost gave up on the entire assignment. It just wouldn't work. But the Reavers = plot bunnies idea just wouldn't go away. I knew there was a story in there. I sat down again, a week before the project was due and decided to do my go-to when I'm frustrated with my work in progress- I started drawing.

In my drawing, I drew a Reaver/bunny as I saw it in my mind. Broken. Savage. Reconstructed with metal and scar tissue. My Reaver bunny came out amazing. I'm not an incredible artist by any amount but I was proud of my drawing.

So a new idea hit me. Use the bunny but set it in the real world. And that is what I did.

What started out as a Firefly fanfic turned into a dark tale that even I was surprised with in the end. Click after the jump to read the short story RED DOTS and see the picture I drew. I hope you enjoy it because it was hard as hell to write. *Caution for adult language, descriptions of gore and violence, general scary-ness*

The Cloud Wall

Click the jump to read the first chapter of my children's fantasy novel THE CLOUD WALL. This is a current work in progress so I'm sure Chapter 1 will need a more extensive editing and revision down the road but I think it serves as a good jumping point.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Free College Level Courses for Writers?

No way! Right? Wrong!

Coursera and a growing list of other companies are making college level courses available for free. Colleges from around the world getting involved and their professors are making classes web-friendly for students everywhere. Are you creating a complicated religious system in your work in progress? Consider taking a history course on the ancient Greeks from Wesleyan University or a course on Greek and Roman mythology from UPenn. Need a refresher on basic writing skills? Writing Composition 1 from Duke is available for your current needs. Or, Crafting an Effective Writer from Mt. San Jacinto College could help you too (this one starts May 13th).

All participants that meet a certain standard (ie. do all the work as presented on the course syllabus sufficiently- you know, like real college courses) get a certificate of completion. Don't count on being able to use the courses from Coursera or any of the growing number of companies like it to pad your transcript. But your resume? Definitely that.

Love is love, no matter the back story. <3 DS

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Do Something!

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. ~Benjamin Franklin
It is my sincere hope that everyone finds a passion that is worthy of writing. Books (and blogs and websites and podcasts and fanclubs) about every subject imaginable abound. Find your passion and start making history!

Love is love, no matter the back story. <3 DS

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Free Resources for Writers #1

This is the first post of many regarding free resources for writers available online. Today's post has only one link and I'll tell you why. This link directs you to the complete 2012 lecture series from Brandon Sanderson's college class on science fiction and fantasy creative writing from Brigham Young University. Brandon Sanderson is the writer that finished Robert Jordan's WHEEL OF TIME series after Jordan's death. He is the author of the MISTBORN series, the ALCATRAZ series, and has been credited for creating Sanderson's Laws of Magic (in relation to magic systems in stories).

This series of videos is long. Not just a few hours long. It took me days to get through all the videos. They range from 10 or so minutes to over an hour long and there are nearly 80 videos. The background commentary by the students is sometimes hard or impossible to hear/understand but Brandon does well to answer so that the question is understood. The 9th series of videos were especially useful to me as I was in world building mode when I found them.

Want even more cool free stuff? When you go to the site, check the page for the 2013 interactive web class coming June 1, 2013. It is free and as far as I know, there is no limit on enrollment so share the information with your friends! I will definitely be signing up.

Love is love, no matter the back story. <3 DS

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Breathing in the Words

The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt. ~Sylvia Plath

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. ~William Wordsworth

Writing, even in fiction, is so much more when the writer is allowing the story to be honest. I won't say it is easier, because it is still difficult to make connections and transitions between main plot, sub-plots, character motivations and agendas, rising and culminating actions, dialogue and description. Writing a scene is difficult. Writing an entire novel is even more so. But the story is more cohesive, more fulfilling  and more consuming when the connections and transitions are allowed to happen naturally rather than being forced to conform to A, B, C, D rules of form.

Love is love, no matter the back story. <3 DS

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Wizard of Oz

OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL is enjoying a very strong run at the box office right now. Headed for its 3rd weekend, it doesn't really look like its going to fall out of the top spot any time soon. I've heard really good reviews and I've heard really bad reviews. I haven't seen it yet so I'm holding off judgement until I get the time (and money) to see it for myself.

Did you know that the first Oz book, written by Frank L. Baum, came out 1900? Baum wrote a total of 14 books set in the world of Oz and near dozen other related written endeavors. The publisher (Reilly and Lee) published another 26 books set in Baum's world of Oz. Many other books have been written, adhering to the Baumian canon or completely deviating from Baum's story aside from names and some descriptions (such as Gregory Maguire's WICKED). I'm sure someone- somewhere- has collected the names and links to all the books, plays, movies, etc. created from Baum's story that started with THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ. I'm not going to do that. However, I think it is important for people to read the original stories! So here are the 14 original books by Frank L Baum (in order by publication) with links when possible to download them from the Gutenberg Project.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
The Marvelous Land of Oz
Ozma of Oz
Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz
The Road to Oz
The Emerald City of Oz
The Patchwork Girl of Oz
Tik-Tok of Oz
The Scarecrow of Oz
Rinkitink in Oz
The Lost Princess of Oz
The Tin Woodman of Oz
The Magic of Oz
Glinda of Oz

Other books published by Reilly and Lee came out after Baum's death. They chose writer Ruth Plumly Thompson to write 19 more books from 1921 to 1939. Her style took the stories back into a more fairy tale style than Baum wrote the originals. John R. Neill, the illustrator of 13 of the 14 Baum Ozian books and all of Thompson's books tried his hand writing about Oz from 1940-1942, penning 3 books. His style was a little sketchy and described as manic in comparison to Baum's. A Baum "scholar" Jack Snow penned 2 Oz books in 1946 and 1949. Reilly and Lee published two more Oz books, one in 1951 and one in 1963 by author Rachel R. Cosgrove and authors Eloise Jarvis McGraw and Lauren Lynn McGraw respectively.

Over time, other books have come out based in Oz. Some have stuck to the cannon fairly well such as PARADOX IN OZ by Edward Einhorn (1999). Others have deviated from the story so much that it is pretty much just an Oz book in name like THE DARK TOWER IV: WIZARD AND GLASS by Stephen King (1997) and all of Gregory Maguire's Oz books published from 1995 to 2011. Baum's family attempted to continue his stories as well. His great grandson Roger S. Baum wrote two Ozian books in 1989 and 1995.

In 113 years, Baum's stories are still read over and over again. Writers often name the Oz books and Baum in their lists of favorites. Thanks to the countless movies, each new generation is introduced to the Munchkins, Glinda, and Dorothy. Some of those new fans will take time time to read the original stories and I really hope they enjoy them as much as I have.

Love is love, no matter the back story. <3 DS

Monday, March 18, 2013

CD is Growing!

Creative Differences is a collaborative blog but I'm really starting to call it my own. Finding prompts that aren't childish is sometimes difficult but I'm having a blast with it. I hope Steven is as well. Have you visited CD yet? You should go now, check it out, and leave some love!

Love is love, no matter the back story. <3 DS

Saturday, March 16, 2013


When I was a little girl, I was a pathological liar. I lied to get out of trouble. I lied to insert myself into someone else's conversation. I lied to get other people in trouble (sorry Bro). If Mom knew 1/8 of the lies I told, I'd still be burping up bubbles. I learned when I was 6 that this penchant for lying was not worth it.

Friday, March 15, 2013


The past 24 hours has been an emotional roller coaster and I can honestly say that I can't imagine a worse feeling that that which I have felt in this time. However, I got a fantastic gift today that I couldn't wait to share with you.

My friend Rene (Steven's wife) is featured in the latest Chicken Soup for the Soul book called Raising Kids on the Spectrum: 101 Inspirational Stories for Parents of Children with Autism and Asperger's. This title is due for release on April 2, 2013 and can be pre-ordered on Amazon here. As part of her publishing contract with Chicken Soup, Rene was given 10 copies of the book and those books arrived a little bit earlier that we expected. They arrived today rather than near the end of March.

Like I said before, I have had a really, really bad day. When the box arrived, Rene didn't hesitate in pulling the first one out, writing a beautiful inscription and signing it to me. I'm super freaking stoked. I already flipped through to read Rene's story (and laughed my butt off!) and can't wait for the kids to go to bed so I can read the other 100 stories!

If you are a fan of the Chicken soup franchise, know of a family that is raising or has raised a child with Autism/Aserger's Syndrome, or need a really thoughtful gift for a loved one, teacher, etc., you should consider pre-ordering this book.

Love is love, no matter the back story. <3 DS

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Discourage the Writer

It is impossible to discourage the real writers - they don't give a damn what you say, they're going to write. ~Sinclair Lewis

This quote is particularly relevant this week. Despite criticism, despite set-backs, and despite everything the Universe throws at a writer, she will eventually find a way to write what is in her heart and mind. Remember that when you read Saturday's post about storytellers.

Love is love, no matter the back story. <3 DS

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Art with my Students

My long term subbing position ended today and I can honestly say that I am going to miss that place! The kids were wonderful little critters. They were a challenge at times, but I always left with them on my mind and in my heart and I always returned the next morning ready and happy to see every single one of them. The teachers and faculty at this particular school are an incredible exception to the rule that when you get a bunch of women together, all you'll have is back-stabbing, nagging, and constant bitching about everything. Those ladies (and men) are fantastic educators- professional, caring, intelligent, and ready for anything!

I thought I'd share some of the art-type things I did for a few of the kids that were interested during the last 3-5 minutes of the day. I have mentioned before that I'm not exactly an artist. I can cartoon in a passable manner and if I try really hard, I can make something look decent. Check out the pictures. The drawings are ones I did for my kids and the painting was made for my little nephew PL.

 for a kindergartner

  for a kindergartner

  for a kindergartner

 for a 5th grader

 for a 5th grader and a 4th grader

 for a 5th grader

 the first bunny I did for the 5th grader

 the picture that started it all (and that I forgot to post originally)

 for the baby!

Love is love, no matter the back story. <3 DS

Monday, March 11, 2013

More from CD

We've found some pretty awesome "quote-ables" over at Creative Differences this past week. Check the blog to see what I mean. Get in on the action by writing your own response to the prompts this week. I might choose a favorite and give a shout out here on Dee Declares...!

Love is love, no matter the back story. <3 DS

Saturday, March 09, 2013


If you ask Mom, I have been writing since I could hold a crayon. I don't remember it. I know that I took to handwriting well. The mechanics of holding a pencil, making the dots, bars, lines, and loops, and the connections between printing and cursive came easily to me. Creating a story, though...

I remember going out of my way to write during the school year after that refrigerator box of books arrived at my home. I was obsessed with reading at the time. When I was invited to join a writing group, I jumped in thinking we'd be writing books. Not so much the case as it happened. I joined a club called Power of the Pen. It was a competitive writing club. The kids competed against each other during each meeting, writing to a prompt in a short time frame following a set of rules (ex. don't write outside the box). Later in the year, we went to a meet where we competed against other kids from other schools. The winners got trophies and ribbons. Our essays were judged on a scale of 1-5 based on grammar, spelling, answering the prompt, creativity, etc.

I don't remember getting higher than a 2 on anything except creativity. I remember a 4 once in creativity. It was disheartening. I didn't want to write essays. I did that in school. I wanted to write books. Books! Glorious books! After one particularly awful showing, and snappy hateful words by the teacher leading the group, I decided I would never be a writer and left the group. That was in 8th grade.

In 10th grade, one of my friends decided that she was going to be a writer. She wrote poetry. I'm pretty sure I got an itch up my butt and decided that we were going to be writers together. I tried to write poetry like she did. She was pretty good. I was definitely not. I understood rhyming. I wasn't as up to scale on similes,  metaphors, idioms, and other figures of speech that made up a large part of my friend's early poetry. She used symbolism and alliterations and allegories. I used Shel Silverstein as my compass. Oops.

I remember asking my French teacher (who was also an English teacher) to read over the rough draft of one of my poems. It was a very visual depiction of... what I can't remember. Maybe it was an asthma attack? I remember the line "flopping on the ground/lips flopping open like a dying fish" and writing tough as tuff, rough as ruff, and enough as enuff. This woman hated the poem and she wasn't nice about it. She pointed out that my simile was stupid (like a dying fish). I didn't tell her I wasn't trying to write a simile. She pointed out that my "ironic" misspelling of tough, rough, and enough wasn't actually ironic. I didn't do it for comedic effect or irony. It was pointless to ask her what irony meant. This was before digital spell check and I just didn't know how to spell those words. She told me that the entire concept was ridiculous and that I needed a new hobby. Yeah, that was a teacher. Ah, the good old days.

It seems like, from early on, I kept returning to writing in a cycle of high hopes, dismal attempts, crushing failure, and utter contempt for the art. It took a very special (or stubborn, whatever) man to bring me back to writing in a serious manner. I was 18 when I met Steven at a bookstore at the mall. He was the manager then. It was through his friendship, advice, and support that I finally found the courage to try writing again. I was hesitant, resistant even, but over a period of years, I finally accepted that the universe has always meant for me to be a writer. Not short essays penned to the tune of a writing prompt. Not poetry. Books, yes. Novels! It only took 1/4 of a century, but I can now proudly say to the nonbelievers: I am a writer, dammit!

Love is love, no matter the back story. <3 DS

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Consumed by Writing

You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you. ~Ray Bradbury
Writing is my time machine, takes me to the precise time and place I belong. ~Jeb Dickerson
I don't write to empty my mind, I go mad. ~Lord Byron
If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don't write, because our culture has no use for it. ~Anais Nin
There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed. ~ Ernest Hemingway

These quotes really struck me as honest depictions of a writer. Hemingway said it the best I think. Writing is hard. To say that it is easy, that there's "nothing to it" is lying. If a writer doesn't have a catch in her throat as her character faces the cliff, then she isn't writing the best she can. She isn't allowing the story to be honest.

Love is love, no matter the back story. <3 DS

A Birthday Surprise

It is my birthday this week. I am 29 years old. So guess who got a new nephew for their birthday? This girl did! My brother and sister-in-law welcomed their first child yesterday at 6:11 pm. He is named after my maternal grandfather and the s-i-l's maternal grandfather, neither of whom lived long enough to see their grandchild. Baby PL came into the world almost a week late at 8 pounds 13 ounces and 20.5 inches. I have so many pictures (but I will not post them out of respect for bro and s-i-l), including one that was captured at just the right moment so he is sticking his tongue out at us! So freaking cute. I'm over the moon and can't wait to go see him again. Momma and baby are doing just fine. Daddy is still a little stressed out, but I expect he will be until they finally bring PL and Momma home after Thursday.

Love is love, no matter the back story. <3 DS

Monday, March 04, 2013

New Posts on CD

Creative Differences has 40-something posts to date and that number will continue to grow each week. I hope you'll take the time to go visit the blog, show Steven some love, and maybe even get in on the action yourself! If you find a writing prompt that grabs your attention but in a way different from Steven's response, feel free to write your own response to the prompt in the comments. We both love connecting with other creative types and welcome the interaction. :)

Love is love, no matter the back story. <3 DS

Saturday, March 02, 2013


I have written before about my first memorable experience with reading. It was the summer between 6th and 7th grade. It was before I discovered that some boys were attractive. It was during a very emotionally tumultuous time in my life. Mother Nature and I fought very bitterly over my body. My brother and I fought just as bitterly over why, all of a sudden, normally activities like jumping on the trampoline and going swimming were out of the question [for me]. For the record, my brother just didn't understand. Mother Nature, however, is just a bitch.

A friend of my mother's needed to unload a refrigerator box full of books. I was a good student so she assumed I liked to read. Until then, I read what I had been required to read without complaint, but never for fun. This woman brought this box of books to me. That box changed my life.

I was so desperate to escape my own life that once I cracked the cover on the 1st book, it was a done deal. I started with the easy stuff [aka age appropriate]. GOOSEBUMPS books were popular then and I found a few in the heap. "CHOOSE YOUR ADVENTURE" books were next. I always cheated by reading every page option before making a choice, yet somehow my character still always died. After that, I moved onto NANCY DREW. That chick could do anything! I read every single one of the Nancy Drew books, something around 50 of them, in the box and found a handful of Hardy Boys books too.

By the end of the summer, I only had a few books left in that box. Most didn't look like something I'd read. The men didn't wear enough clothes. Neither did the women for that matter. Instead, I picked up one called FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC. The cover made me think it was a horror story.  I guess I was partly right. The story probably traumatized me- or at least, it was responsible for good portion of nightmares. I read the entire series.

After V. C. Andrews, I decided to give the Harlequin romances a chance. I blame them, 100%, for my terrible taste in men, my unrealistic views on beauty and love, and my penchant for erotica.

Despite all of this, to this day my most beloved book is NOT NOW SAID THE COW, a reworked version of "The Little Red Hen" folk tale. I bought the children's book at a Scholastic book fair during Junior High. For years, I remembered the story but not the title until a student jogged my memory a few weeks back. Little Golden Books published a version of THE LITTLE RED HEN that the classroom library had and my student chose to read aloud. I knew then that my story was based on this story. After speaking to a couple teachers during lunch and multiple Google searches on our parts, we finally discovered the title I had been missing for almost 20 years. The reunion almost made me cry.

For such a little thing, a book elicits powerful emotions and memories. Some fond, some not so much, but always strong and honest reflections of time and place, real and imagined and remembered.

Love is love, no matter the back story. <3 DS