Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Plot vs Story

Posted: April 12, 2016 in Uncategorized

I was watching a movie last night, one that I love, and I found myself contemplating some of the complaints people have had about the movie.  I mainly thought about the people who had complained that the plot reprises the plot used in an earlier movie in the franchise. Of course, that plot was taken from elsewhere as well…as all plots are. Because, you see, when you get right down to it, there are no new plots. None. You may think you have devised some new, unique, amazing plot, but I promise you, you have not. What you have devised is a new, unique, amazing story. Please do not confuse the two.

I can hear you thinking, “But aren’t story and plot the same thing?” No, they definitely are not. Think of it this way: plot is the framing—the two-by-fours, the cement foundation, the beams—for the house; story is everything else—the paneling or drywall or hewn logs, the cheap vinyl flooring (or Berber carpet), the shingles and tar paper…and also the carpets and rugs, the draperies, the furniture, the fixtures, and so on right down to the velvet blacklight posters and hot pink lava lamp and scary fuzzy beanbag. The plot is just a basic premise on which to build your story.

Experts (and non-experts) disagree on how many basic plots there are and what they are. Personally, I think it works like this: you have a very few basic plots and then you have a double handful of directions for those plots.  Lemme break it down.

Basic plots, also defined as types of conflict (because you can’t have a plot without conflict):

  • Man vs Man
  • Man vs Himself
  • Man vs Nature/the Environment
  • Man vs Society
  • Man vs God/the Supernatural

Note: Some have replaced Man vs the Supernatural with Man vs Technology. I say technology can fit into different categories depending on the situation. For instance, in Stephen King’s Maximum Overdrive where the technology appears to have become sentient, I think that can definitely be classified as Man vs the Supernatural. If you want to think of Man vs Tech as a separate basic plot, by all means, do so.

Now, once you have your basic conflict, or plot, you can go many different directions with it. These directions, as put forth by Christopher Booker (who calls them basic plots), are Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy (comedy of errors, not just anything humorous), Tragedy (the hero falls), Rebirth (or transformation), Rebellion, and Mystery.

Perhaps your story is a rags-to-riches tale in which a man must overcome his own deep-rooted issues to triumph. This is a Man vs Man plot with a Rags to Riches direction.

A hundred thousand writers could write a rags-to-riches tale in which a man must overcome his own deep-rooted issues to triumph. They would all be using the same basic plot, the same direction. However, no two writers would tell the same story. Some tales would be humorous, and others serious. Some would involve magic and other fantastical elements. Another might be a space western. Some might feature a fantastical creature such as a vampire or werewolf as the protagonist who must overcome. And even the stories that managed to use similar elements would be written in different styles and voices.

They say the devil is in the details, but in this case, the story is in the details. What makes one book (or movie) stand out from the next isn’t the plot, but the story—the characters and setting and mood, the dialogue and the worldbuilding, ever y big and little detail that fits together to form the big picture.

So if you’re afraid your plot is too basic, don’t be, because when you break it down far enough, plot isn’t a very big piece of the pie. Concentrate instead on your story, on the details that flesh out the skeleton of the plot and make it the unique and beautiful work that only you can write.

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Playing Charlie Cool (Trager Family Secrets Book 3)

Laurie Boris has done it again. She’s delivered yet another powerful, character-driven story. Don’t be fooled by the fact that, at it’s core, this is a story about a relationship–this is not a romance novel. There are no ripped bodices or throbbing manhoods or trite storylines here. Instead, you see a stripped-down, honest, emotional look at two people trying to successfully navigate not only a romantic relationship but all of the other interpersonal relationships in their lives.

So if you’re looking for tawdry, overblown romance, look elsewhere, but if you prefer stories with heart, you can’t go wrong with Playing Charlie Cool.

Break the Blog

Posted: October 4, 2014 in Uncategorized

Every Friday, my buddy JD Mader invites the world to come play on his blog. In fact, he invites us to #breaktheblog. And every Friday a bunch of folks head over to JD’s blog to participate in a timed-writing sprint (now known as #2minutesgo). Some fine writing comes out of the two minute sprints. You should definitely check it out (and check out his blog in general; there’s good stuff there.

For the past couple of weeks, my posts there have featured a character from a project I’ve just started but am hellaexcited about. Those posts are below. Enjoy. 🙂

____________

He’d have run if he’d been able to. Run and never stopped. He’d have screamed if he’d had the breath. But all he could do was struggle to keep breathing…and bleed on his mother’s carpet.

He’d fought. He hadn’t known what she’d intended, but he knew she was crazed. The crazy shone through her tears, and he’d known a fear unlike any he’d ever experienced before.

He’d been right to be afraid.

____

He lay the bike nearly on its side as he turned into the parking lot, flinging himself off before letting the riceburner hit the asphalt and skid. He rolled and came up on his feet, a little disoriented, but he only hesitated for a moment before he took off running, aiming for the shadows. He didn’t want to be out in the open when they caught up with him. When, not if.

____

Finn gained the shadows of the building and turned to watch for his pursuers. He had no idea what he’d do when they caught up to him. He wasn’t even sure what they were. What he did know was that they could throw magic around like kids hurling Nerf balls…and he couldn’t. He didn’t have any special powers. He didn’t have any weapons. All he had was his brain.

He was in deep shit.

It seems like there is always something new to discover in Galveston, Texas, and my two most recent discoveries are well worth talking about. The first, I’ll address in this post. The second…well, you’ll have to come back and read all about it!

The first of my two newest discoveries in Galveston is the Beef Jerky Outlet. There are franchises of this store scattered across the country, but I’d never heard of the place until I stumbled upon the one on the Strand in Galveston.

I’d been toying with the idea of going inside for a while, but every time I happened to be in the Strand area, the shop had either closed up for the night or I was running low on funds. Finally, though, I had money and time, and I went inside.

The Outlet in Galveston is a small shop, but it isn’t like Jerky requires a lot of space. The walls are neatly lines with packet after packet of jerky of every type imaginable (and some I never would have imagined). There are also “barrels” set up around the room that hide open packets of jerky and tongs that the staff is not only willing but eager to let you sample. Not all of the types or jerky are available for sample, but many (15 or so) are.

Now, the jerky itself. This place has a wide, wide variety. There were all sorts of beef varieties, including Blazin’ Cajun, 3 Beer BBQ Rub, Cherry Maple, and Peppercorn. There were also quite a few turkey jerky varieties. But they don’t stop there; the Beef Jerky Outlet offers some interest types of jerky: chicken, crawfish, bacon, venison, duck, buffalo, elk, salmon, alligator, and even kangaroo!
My partner-in-crime and I opted to try the Slap Ya Mama crawfish jerky (which mostly tasted like the Slap Ya Mama Cajun seasoning –hot!) and then the maple-glazed bacon jerky (which tasted exactly like you’d think it would…heavenly). We also tried the PB Crave products that they carry. Erin opted to try the chocolate and peanut butter version, which she really liked, and I tried the kind with banana, which I found disappointing (the banana part tasting like banana flavoring rather than actual banana).
After much, much perusing and discussing, Erin and I made our selections and took them home. Erin bought a 4oz bag of the maple-glazed bacon jerky and I bought three jerky sticks (venison, buffalo, and elk).

We had a little taste-testing party later, and our opinions of the three flavors actually lined up (a rarity).

    The venison did not win any points with us. It had a decent flavor, but the texture was dry and crumbly. It made me feel almost like I had a mouth full of tobacco or tea leaves. Not something we will purchase again (though we might try the actual jerky instead of the jerky stick).

    The elk had a much better texture, and a wonderful flavor. It was juicy—unusual for jerky of any kind—and absolutely delicious. It’s a type I definitely will buy again and will share with my foodie friends.

    The buffalo had an even better flavor than the elk, though it lacked the juiciness. It also had a very nice texture. Again, I will buy it again and share with friends.

Overall, although the products are a little pricey (as all jerky is), I’m very glad we stumbled into the Beef Jerky Outlet. I love that you can try many of the products and that the staff is friendly, enthusiastic, and helpful. Whether, like me, you just like to try new things or you’re a die-hard jerky enthusiast, this place needs to be on your “to visit” list when you’re in Galveston.

Inspiration

Posted: July 30, 2014 in Uncategorized

The bizarre way in which the creative mind works constantly amazes me. Inspiration, idea, and motivation can come from anywhere at anytime. While you can force yourself to sit in a chair and tap keys, sometimes you just can’t kick your brain into the right gear to really get rolling…and then one little thing can change it all.

For the past several months, I’ve been in a writing slump. I’ve done a little writing here and there, but I haven’t been able to get into that place where the world falls away and there is nothing but me and the story and the character–the magical place that makes me love what I do. I’d tried the “butt in chair” approach. I’d tried changes of scenery and listening to mood music and all sorts of things designed to open up my mind and kickstart my writing.

None of it worked very well.

Then last weekend my partner-in-crime and I took a road trip to see the family up in East Texas. That’s about a 3 1/2 hour drive each way, so that left us with a lot of time to talk, listen to music…and come up with story fodder. Bits and pieces that I needed for my current novel in progress finally clicked into place. Back story for a novel I intend to start soon began to coalesce. And, most amazingly to me, an idea for a short story for the upcoming Halloween anthology Boo Too! came almost fully-formed into my head.

With the novels, I was trying to discover the bits and pieces I needed. Learning more about those stories didn’t surprise me much. But the short story…that one took me by surprise. I was driving along, mind on the road and the music, and a song came on my iPod that I’ve heard many, many times. I wake up to it every morning, and I very rarely skip it when it comes up on my iPod. I know every word, am familiar with every note. But when the song came on that day, it was like someone flipped a switch in my head. In a flash I knew my characters, my story, and how it tied in with Halloween. The whole story just appeared in my brain.

Now, I’d been dealing with some fairly debilitating pain – tendonitis in my shoulder and elbow. I hadn’t gotten a lot of sleep over the past several days. My allergies and sinuses were driving me batty. And I had to work my day job.

For once, I didn’t let any of that stop me.

I began to write the story at work, laying a framework that I would expound on and polish once I got home that night. After work, I cooked and ate a quick dinner, chatted with the roomie a bit, and then sat down to write. When my arm hurt, I threw a heating pad on it or took more Advil and kept writing.

I wrote for about four hours. Maybe five. I wrote until invisible anvils forced my lids over eyeballs that felt as if they had been sandblasted. I wrote until I lost all objectivity or ability to figure out what needed to happen next. I wrote six thousand words –six times more than I’d written on any single day in the past several months and at least as many as I’d written in the past six weeks.

All because of one song, heard in the right place at the right time. Amazing, isn’t it?

Opinions – Everybody Has One

Posted: October 19, 2012 in Uncategorized

Borrowing a theme from my friend and fellow author Ed McNally, I’ve decided to compile a list of one-star reviews of really awesome books.  He recently compiled reviews for the books listed on Daniel S. Burt’s “The Novel 100: A Ranking of the Greatest Novels of All Time.”  Ed’s list can be found here  (and while you’re over at Indies Unlimited, you should look around a bit.  Lots of good content over there).

The point of these posts about one-star reviews is simply to illustrate the fact that people have vastly different tastes and opinions and that one person’s opinion should not break or make a writer’s opinion of him or herself (or a reader’s opinion of a writer or book).  That said, here are some real one-star reviews of books that I loved, drawn from internet resources.  The reviews remain the property of the reviewer, blahblahblah.

Note: I did not set out to find reviews with poor grammar, spelling, or punctuation; there’s just a plethora of one-star reviews with such issues.

  1.  The Stand – Stephen King
    I heartily agree with the reviewers who find this book, too long, too dull and too boring. Luckily the bookshops on Khao San Road do trade-ins. Am I the only person in the world to think that Randall Flagg is the most tiresome bad guy ever to appear in print. What is King’s obsession with this guy ? Let’s have more psycho nurses with blow-torches Mr King and less adding another 500 pages of drivel to an already drivel filled book. Riveting, is something I’d rather do than read this again.”
  2. Sandman Slim – Richard Kadrey
    “Gritty doesn’t mean good.  And in this case it might be translated as terrible. I have a few issues with the book, and the first is the characters. Whatshisface (I forget his name and am too lazy to hit a button on my browser) is an entirely forgettable bad-ass who loves cars, violence and drinking. That’s about it. A quest for revenge doesn’t make a person compelling on it’s own, and the added qualities of being allegedly gritty as hell don’t make him any less one dimensional.

    Next is the dialogue. It is written like a eight grade play buy the kid in the back of the class wearing a Slipknot shirt. Pretty bad. the guy does not talk like real people talk, and it only adds to his blandness.

    Lastly, the setting wasn’t anything fun, original, or new. I know it’s splitting hairs, especially when it comes to urban fantasy, but usually you can shove something original in.”

  3. Changes (Book 12 of the Dresden Files) – Jim Butcher
    “This is the book that killed my enjoyment of the Dresden Files.

    It continues the darkening trend seen throughout the series, but accelerates it to maddening, breakneck speeds; in the process, destroying pretty much every one of the touchstones that make up the quirky, pulpy Dresden that I cared about.

    In addition, the book just doesn’t feel well written. Despite the number of “How could he DO that?!” moments, nothing in here is actually new; it’s either cliche, or worse, a specifically Dresden cliche. He’s amped up Dresden’s catchphrases “Stars and Stones!” and “Hells bells!” get quite a workout), and brings in every backup character he can think of, if only to kill them off or to ignore them. The few places where the book surprises, it doesn’t do so with cleverness, but with blunt brutality; it’s not that you never could have guessed it, it’s that you wouldn’t have assumed Jim Butcher would do something so pointlessly cruel, yet boring.

    This is a horrible book in the most pure sense of the world; it evokes a feeling of horror and despair, that something that once was fun and positive to you has been turned into something almost viscerally disgusting.”

  4. Soul Music – Terry Pratchett
    “I was told that this was his best. Perhaps this is true, but I will not be wasting my time reading any of the others. “Cult” writers are often over-rated, yet I cannot understand why apparently intelligent people want to read this trash. Most science fantasy is terrible. Even Tolkien was much more enjoyable when I was 9. “The Silmarillion” is shockingly bad at any age. The only joke I laughed at (and not out loud) was the one about Thelonius Monk. Also, I think that Susan’s character has definite paedophile connotations, and is generally implausible. Watch some bad TV instead and save your money.”
  5. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl

    “I read this book when I was young and was disturbed by it. It is not a kid’s book. It is a book by an adult ABOUT children, not FOR children.

    This book paints a very negative picture of children. With the exception of the main character, all of the children are bad and are punished in cruel ways for their faults. Are most children fundementally bad and deserving terrible punishment, at the moment they least expect it? This book suggests it (especially to a child who might be reading it and cannot understand what “social commentary” is yet). This book fits right in with the Omen and Rosemary’s Baby. It is a child-exploitation story.

    I recommend this book to adults who do not like children.”

  6. The Prestige – Christopher Priest

    “Woe betide the person who reads this book looking for a coherent narative. I slogged through this, hoping beyone hope that the ending would make up for endless pretentious pages of diaries & nonsensical plotting and was rewarded with . . . nothing. A guy runs off into the night & the story ends. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”

  7. The Time Traveller’s Wife –A udrey Niffenegger

    “I let myself down, and I didn’t have to travel through time to do it. If I could go back in time, I would tap myself on the shoulder and say, “Find another book.” That’s not entirely true. I did take some things from the tale.

    I was so excited to dig into the concept. I couldn’t wait to find out about this love affair which wouldn’t be tamed by time. I was even interested in the concept of being a “close” friend with one’s self. Most of the hiccups readers complain about in this book didn’t faze me.  I believe I set myself up with such a high expectation for Ms. Niffenegger’s execution, perhaps something no one could fulfill. I’ll take the blame for that one.

    However, I put all of the blame on the author for delivering a betraying conclusion. I have no problem with real life over fluffy love, but don’t sell me fluffy for 97% of the book and then bait and switch me.  I was so betrayed and hurt by the ending, I carried the bitterness with me for weeks. You can ask my wife.

    If you are still intrigued to read this story, let me warn you of Ms. Niffenegger’s abuse of one-liners, a cheap reference to 9/11 which had nothing to do with the plot, and ethic characters who portrayed racial stereotypes – such a weak effort. It’s a shame a different author couldn’t have gotten a shot at this plot.”

  8. The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett

    “This is without a doubt the worst book that has ever been written. I cannot even begin to describe the sappy, stupid, pointless characters and plot. Please do not ever read this book, it is absolutely awful.”

  9. Anne of Green Gables – L.M. Montgomery

    “In a word: Trite. I know that sounds snobby, but come on. Anne is the epitome of a Mary Sue character. Awh, poor thing, she’s too skinny, and her red hair is too unique, and she’s just so quirky! Isn’t she just the perfect little flawed heroine!? Actually, no. She’s obnoxious. Even as a child I couldn’t buy in to this garbage.”

  10. A Game of Thrones – George R.R. Martin

    “I read all kinds of books, and I’m in no way an expert on the fantasy genre. However, I found this book depressing on many levels. All the characters are unlikeable, except for a couple of the children. I guess I really like a good protagonist because I found myself wanting to ROOT for someone, but I just couldn’t. As the author kills of character after character, I discovered that I just didn’t care anymore.

    Also, I have NEVER read a book with so much rape in it, and I really just don’t need those images in my head. At one point, a raiding tribe pillages a community and a group of soldiers are raping a woman from behind while she is bent over a pile of corpses. I should have just put the damn book down at that point, but I was determined to finish it. I wish I hadn’t. Never again George R.R. Martin. People ought to be ashamed to compare this writer to J.R.R. Tolkien. About the only thing they have in common is the R.R.”

25 Random Things

Posted: September 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

There was a meme that went around Facebook ages ago in which the poster listed 25 random things about himself/herself.  Since I’ve recently made a lot of new friends on Facebook, I thought I’d revisit it here.

  1. I’m the youngest of 6 kids (and have 18 nieces and nephews…and I’ve lost count of the great-nieces and great-nephews!).
  2. I once drove 2,000 miles (from East Texas to Los Angeles) for a concert.
  3. I love working at and visiting amusement parks, but I don’t ride rollercoasters…or much of anything else.
  4. I love being near or on the ocean.
  5. Someday, I want to co-own a piano bar with my evil twin.  Preferably somewhere near the ocean.  Maybe a piano bar and grill, attached to a nice little inn with a kickass bakery.
  6. I believe in God and spirituality, but am not a fan of religion.
  7. I believe in love, but am not a proponent of marriage (not an opponent of it, either).
  8. In the past 14 years, I’ve lived in 7 different cities in 3 states.
  9. I believe you can tell a lot about a person by how they treat service workers (like store clerks and, especially, restaurant servers).
  10. hate being tickled.
  11. If I were to go on a culinary tour of the places I’ve visited, my ‘must visits’ would include Perkins Restaurant (Memphis/Orlando), Steak N Shake (various), Umami Burger (LA), Origami Sushi (Round Rock, Texas), Earl of Sandwich (Orlando), and White Castle!  (I’d also get a Cuban sandwich and some key lime pie in Key West – something I didn’t do the last time).
  12. I love dressing up (formal wear, club wear, or costumes), but I also love t-shirts and cute sleep pants or PJs.
  13. I want to dye my hair Aqua.  Or maybe blood red.
  14. I have an unnatural affinity for Vegemite – especially in a grilled cheese sandwich or mac n cheese.
  15. I don’t have ‘favorites’ because what I like is always in flux.
  16. I love playing board games, especially trivia games, Risk, and Axis and Allies.
  17. I love watching flight demonstration teams (like the Blue Angels or the Thunderbirds or the Black Diamonds) at airshows.
  18. One of the most awesome things I’ve ever done is climb Dunn’s River Falls in Jamaica.
  19. I once lived in a hotel room.  For three weeks.  Without a job.  And had to share the full-size bed with my best friend.
  20. I don’t usually eat breakfast for breakfast.  In fact my favorite time to eat cereal is in the middle of the night.
  21. If I were to win a huge sum of money in the lottery, I’d take a world cruise.  A year on a ship visiting lots of new and exciting places sounds amazing.
  22. I tend to go barefoot as much as possible, but I love shoes and boots.  And ridiculously cute socks.
  23. I love all kinds of movies – animated movies, kids movies, chick flicks, screwball comedies, action-adventure, drama, war movies, and just about anything else.  As long as it’s believable (which is not the same as realistic) and well put together – a good story told well – that’s all that really matters.
  24. Scorpions freak me out.  The creepy crawly kind I mean, not the band.
  25. Gross inaccuracies in books, TV, or movies drive me absolutely batshit crazy.