Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Prompt-a-Palooza: An Insurmountable Challenge

Thanks to the upcoming A-Z Challenge, the prompt for today is to make your characters face an Insurmountable Challenge

Of course YOU know that they can face it and tackle it. YOU know what they're capable of. YOU as the author know everything that's about to happen in this story of yours, right?

Right?

If you've been writing for ANY length of time, you know that you DON'T know everything. Stories have a life of their own and many times we can put something in and our characters take it in a completely different direction than we'd initially hoped. That's the beauty of writing. We're guides, suggestion boxes. Once our characters become flesh and blood, ink and bone, we have no more right to tell them what to do. We can gently suggest, we can steer, we can even bribe, cajole, or blackmail. Time and time again, however, I find my characters doing things I never EVER had planned for them.

And that's one of the reasons I keep writing!

This prompt is two-fold. First of all, come up with something terrible, awful, something that you yourself have faced or something you fear. Something that you'd move heaven and earth to avoid. Throw your characters in the mix and let 'em at it. Guide them to the summit. Lead them to victory! What did they learn? How did they change? How did they act, interact? What did you learn about them and the story?

Second, put them up against the same situation and have them fail. Yes, you read that right. Let your characters fail. Everyone loves a happy ending. Quite frankly I've read books where almost everything goes wrong and everyone dies except one character and I'm left feeling like I've wasted the hours that went into reading the gosh-awful mess. Resolve is kind to the reader and there has to be SOME sort of prize at the end. But to add realism there has to be some things that happen your characters did not intend, things that bring them closer together or pull them apart. It's just scene, a season, but it's imperative to add a dose of reality to your stories, no matter how fantastic they are. 'Cause let's face it: things happen and we don't always get the brass ring. If we pay attention, however, learn from our mistakes, from the failings, we'll tackle the next challenge with greater grace and poise.

That's what we want from our characters. They start out as one thing and end as another. Growth is one of the most enduring themes in any story. Putting your peeps up against some pretty crazy odds and having them fight, lose, fight and win will really give them the edge they need to triumph in the end.

Cheers!
xo

Monday, March 21, 2016

The 2016 A-Z Challenge Theme Reveal Blog Hop!


Hello! Welcome!! Today across the Blog-verse, intrepid bloggers like yourself are waking up to a most anticipated blog hop: The A-Z Challenge Theme Reveal!!

photo found HERE

Today is the day those of us with themes behind our A-Z Challenge posts get to unveil our chosen subjects. If you are unfamiliar with the A-Z Challenge OR if you have yet to take the plunge and sign up, there's still time! CLICK on over, read all about it, and join in! I promise you'll enjoy it! And you don't have to have a theme. It just makes things a bit easier :)

**DRUMROLL PLEASE**

This year, my theme for the challenge is:


*** MORE Confetti***

For twenty-six days in April (every day except Sundays) I'll post an alphabetical reference for some of the world's most interesting, familiar, and not so familiar plants. I'm learning a lot going through my old gardening books and herbals and having a great time doing it. I hope you'll join me for my posts and I hope you'll dis cover some fun and curious facts about just a few of the botanical marvels we share our planet with.

I can't WAIT to see what YOU guys are writing about!! Here's to a fun and awesome challenge!! 

Cheers!
xo

PS: for those of you who have been reading my recent posts, the challenge will take over this blog for the entire month of April! I will put my folklore and my prompt posts on hold until after the festivities are over :D Cheers!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Prompt-a-Palooza #1

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, I thought I'd give our first prompt a distinct Irish flavor!

***

photo of the Forsyth Park Fountain in Savannah, GA  found HERE
Yep, that's my city!!

Imagine your main character (MC) walking home late at night after his car runs off the road during a thunderstorm. As he walks, a distant singing catches his attention. The voice comes from a large hawthorn tree growing on the side of the road. There, an old woman sits, scrubbing a bloodstained garment in an old bucket with an old-fashioned washboard. When your MC gets closer, the washer woman - a fairy known in Irish folklore as a ban sidhe (or 'banshee' if you prefer) - whispers to him a name and he recognizes the garments as belonging to the person she mentions.

What name did the ban sidhe whisper?

And why?

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!! Stay SAFE, wear GREEN, and have FUN!! Oh, and if you're in Savannah, enjoy the parade then get the heck out of downtown! And don't forget to share if you decide to follow this prompt to a conclusion :)

Cheers!



Monday, March 14, 2016

Are you going to Scarborough Faire?

I admit: I picked a rotten time to announce a shift in blog focus. I'm only going to have two weeks of posts before the A-Z Challenge. But I needed to put it out into the Ethernet before I chickened out :)

Let's call this post and the post on the 28th experiments. Heck, let's call the posts for the rest of this month experiments! Sometimes you need to play with words before you get a feel for them, before you can get a handle on style. Oh! And don't forget - The A-Z Challenge Theme Reveal Bloghop is Monday the 21st!! I can't wait to see what fun and interesting themes you guys come up with this year!


Simon and Garfunkel may have made this old folk song famous but the herbs mentioned in the verses were well known and revered even before the old folk song was first sung. We'll start our folklore wanderings with four of my favorite herbs. The first two we'll examine today.

1. Parsley : petroselimum sativum



Good old parsley. That unassuming garnish that accompanies many a fancy dinner plate. Oh, but it's much more than a way to add color to a dull dinner. Parsley is a traditional breath sweetener and digestive. It has also been used for kidney stones and bladder disturbances.

The Greeks associated parsley with Hercules and awarded wreathes of the herb to the winners of their athletic competitions to be worn as crowns. Also in ancient times, our fair garnish would have never been let near the table; it was sacred to oblivion, death, and funeral rites! Hmm, the insurmountable task of Hercules' venture into the Underworld anyone?

If you decide to grow parsley, make sure you keep it away from your pet canary. Parsley is fatal to small birds and a deadly poison to parrots. Polly does NOT want this cracker (sorry...I had to.)

Now, how can this knowledge help you as a writer? Use it at a dinner party. Have your main character focus on while asking a very difficult question or listening to another round of arguments between her brother and over-bearing father. Perhaps Great Aunt Harriet swears by it for her reoccurring bladder infections or a body builder always eats a few sprigs before every competition. It could be used as a harbinger of death to a discerning detective or perhaps a malicious murderer knows Grandmama will go mad if Chirpy the goldfinch kicks the bucket. Maybe she'll even die before she can change her will...

dun, dun, DUNNNN!!!

2. Sage : salvia



Sage has many reputed curative properties. In the Middle Ages it was widely known as a cure-all. The most well-known traditional use for sage is for mental clarity and improved memory. The Old English word "sage" meaning "wise man" comes from this traditional usage.

Superstition tells us that if all is well in the house, sage will flourish in the garden. If things are amiss, the plant will droop and wilt. Sage is said to carry powers of wisdom and longevity. Bundles of dried sage, called smudge sticks, are burned by some to clear the air of negative energy and spirits.

Any character that gardens must have sage in the garden. Have a struggling college student turn to traditional remedies out of a desperate attempt to get good grades on his midterms. Have it work! Throw in a wizard, a "wise man" and give him a fondness for sage herb. Use sage as an ongoing barometer to give clues to the emotional weather throughout a novel. Perhaps an eccentric, a paranoid classmate, a desperate homeowner burns it in a vain (or not so vain?) attempt to get rid of a poltergeist. A demon. The moody old spirit of Uncle Ross.

***

Have fun playing in the garden! Even if you just use them to help get those creative juices flowing, dig deep and see where they might lead you. Don't every be afraid to wander down an over-grown garden path to see what ideas might be planted there.

Ramble on!
PS: Never, never, never experiment with herbs unless you are 100% sure you know what you're doing and/or have a marvelous herbalist/natural health practitioner you can call upon for advice. I'm not a doctor. I'm a folklorist, a garden rambler, and Entwife. That's all the disclaimer I need.

References:
The Book of Herbs by Country Home Books - Meredith Books, 1994
Herbs: How to Select, Grow, and Enjoy - Norma Jean Lathrop, HP Books, 1981
The Little Herb Encyclopedia - Jack Ritchason, ND, 3rd Edition, 1995

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Prompts? Yeah, I Got 'Em!



Hello! Welcome back!

With all my excitement about the folklore for writers and the first series (botanicals) I ran out of room in Monday’s post to talk about something else I’ve been working on. Not only do I collect random bits of knowledge, facts, and folklore, I also collect writer’s prompts. Oh I’ve found them everywhere: magazines, websites, while reading books about writing, while reading books in general! Seriously, this brain don’t stop!

And it’s cluttered to the attics and I’ve GOT to get rid of some of these piles of papers.


Every Wednesday I’m going to post a new prompt (huzzah!) and perhaps a few ways that prompt could be used or misconstrued or redesigned to fit a myriad of tales. This prompt-a-palooza is two-fold: 1. I want to share the load, the love, and the ideas; 2. I want a way to keep myself accountable with my writing and prompt (YEAH!) myself to put words on paper and screen.

After the prompts are posted, I’ll move them to the tab you see at the top of the blog (Prompt-a-Palooza) where they shall stay for all posterity so you can browse them at your leisure and grab whatever strikes your writing fancy.

And please, if you do use any of these prompts, I'd LOVE to hear/see what you've come up with! My main goal for this is to bring people together with new and I hope interesting ideas.

Am I taking advantage of the vast space on the Internet to unload all these files and mounds of paper? You betcha! But I’m excited to be sharing them AND putting them all in one, easy to access space! Hooray for the Ether!

Have an awesome week! Look for the first prompt next Wednesday!!
Cheers!


Monday, March 7, 2016

An Old Love Revived


Now if you've been paying attention you've noticed a new theme oozing in here. It crept in through the cracks in the old floorboards and tiptoed in with the cold, winter winds. It's nothing new, well, not to me at least, but it's new HERE and I'm excited to rekindle this odd little passion of mine.

I grew up in a garden. My mother has always grown herbs and flowers and she and my father always had vegetables and fruit trees going full force every summer and fall. Plants have always fascinated me and I long to have my own little patch of yard again in which to cultivate my own. 

About ten years ago I started getting interested in herbs in terms of herbal remedies. I grew up knowing that chamomile was good for upset tummy and would help you sleep (thanks Beatrix Potter!). I knew peppermint was good if your stomach hurt and apple mint tasted real good with a boat load of sugar in it. But I wanted to know more and I got a job at an herb shop and found myself in a new and lovely world.

Fast forward those ten years and here I am, working again in a natural health food store, stoking those fires of botanical love. But it's not just the health remedies and benefits I'm interested in. I have also discovered that there is a vast sea of  botanical folklore and I've been itching to dive in! 

If you're a careful Reader (and I know you are) I've dropped a few hints about my A-Z Challenge theme in the past three posts. You'll get the full announcement on March 21 but for now let's just say that it rings close to the changes taking place here. Having rediscovered my love of folklore AND my interest in botanical folklore I thought it would be fitting to start my new blog theme off in that vein.

SO!

For the next couple of weeks we'll be exploring botanical folklore and how it can relate to your writing. Sure you can have characters who are gardeners or murders that take place in rose gardens or quote Shakespeare about Rosemary. But about the more subtle hints that we as writers are known for sprinkling in our tales? What about those bits and bobs of lore that aren't necessarily sign posts but more like ghosts that haunt the corners and dust bunnies that hide under the beds. I LOVE subtle references, especially those that I don't see the first time I read something but, once I discover them, make the story richer and more profound.

I hope you'll join me! The first Botanical Lore for Writers Post goes up next MONDAY!! I'm excited to share this bizarre little hobby of mine with you and I hope you'll find something in my ramblings to use in your next story or poem! 

Oh, and stay tuned for the second part of this new blog theme. I’ll be posting on Wednesday about my second little project!



Friday, March 4, 2016

Folklore for Writers and Other Curious Souls

I've always been in love with folklore, legends, mythology, and fairytales. They're intriguing and spooky and lend themselves as endless mines of storytelling gems. Many of my story ideas stem from old folklore. Every time I come across a new tale or myth I jot it down and my mind begins sifting for ideas.

The result has been too many ideas for me to use! I love brainstorming, list making, and researching new topics. I am a master of creating rabbit trails and can think of few things I'd rather do on a rainy day than rummage through the library or the Internet in search of new and tantalizing potential stories. To be quite honest, I will never use all these folktale inspired plots and characters. I cannot, however, put a stopper in my overflowing idea bank.

So.

I'm going to share them here.

Please take them, run with them. Twist these tales to your own devices. Every book, every story, stems from a theme already explored. The trick, the fun, the joy, is taking them and making them your own.

Of course I'll be keeping a few to myself and I could never hope to explore the veritable universe of lore human kind has created. But I love to learn and collect ideas and brainstorm them over tea with fellow writers, readers, and thinkers.

I suppose what I'm really saying is THIS is the direction I'm taking this little blog. I've enjoyed speculating over it since December and (spoiler alert!!) in light of my A-Z Theme this year, I feel this is where this little blog belongs! I'm excited to see where this journey leads. As it progresses, let me know what you think and what you've used and how it benefited your work.

Just remember me when the Pulitzer committee comes calling :)

xo

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Insecure Writer's Support Group: March 2016 Edition WHAT MAKES YOUR CREATIVE JUICES FLOW?


Good morning! Welcome to another posting of the Insecure Writer's Support Group. If you aren't familiar with the Group, go HERE to learn more and sign up! A huge THANK YOU to our fearless leader Captain Alex and all the fabulous co-hosts this month :)

Oddly enough, I'm not feeling insecure today at all. I've spent the first two months of this year doing some random plotting on a series but mostly I spent January and February reading. Every moment I could, I read - no - devoured book after book. I read 16 books in two months which is a feat even for a voracious bookworm like myself. And you know what it taught me? There really is a time for everything in our lives and there is absolutely nothing wrong with taking a "time out" and enjoying something simply because you love it!

Other things came out of all this reading. I was able to better develop my plotting ideas. I got a better handle on what this new series is really all about. I've FINALLY owned up to my horrible habit of trying to make my main characters waaaay to "good" because, let's face it, that's not believable. Lastly, I've made peace with a writing/blogging issue I've been fighting for the past five years. More on that to come....

So no, I haven't been writing away the first months of 2016. I've been resting and reading and basically trying to stay warm! Seriously, though, I've learned that my creativity needs a dormant period to flourish. Now that the sun is out and the nights are no longer freezing, I think I can finally feel it starting to push out from the frozen ground.

Don't be afraid to take a step back, breath deeply, and let yourself replenish your creative stores. If you never take time for yourself, your creativity (as well as all areas of your life) will suffer. Your work is YOUR WORK. Period. If you need a break, take it! If you need to fill the well with the words of others, do it! Know that your work won't be and shouldn't be like anyone else's. I know it's frustrating to see the books and art that come out and how it can sometime look the same and nothing like what you're doing. But smile and know that this is GOOD. YOUR WORK is unique to YOU! Your time, your tastes, your plots, your stories, your blogs don't belong to anyone else. They're YOURS.

So make them the BEST that YOU can!

Happy IWSG Day!! Now get out there and CREATE!! Or just read a good murder mystery. You know, whatever makes you smile :)