Monday, January 31, 2011

One Joy of Writing is Learning

Welcome to another week full of topics that make J.D. think harder than normal: Do you write what you know or what you feel?

Well gosh, the only answer for that is YES.

One cannot write well about that which one does not know. One can try, but one would fail miserably.

But J.D., you said you do both! Um, yeah. That’s because I’m capable of doing research and learning about the subject I want to write about. For instance, my first novel begins in Chicago, a city I frequent every summer, and ends in Lapland, Finland, a place I have never been but would love to visit.

Writing about the setting in Chicago – something I know well – is a breeze for me, and is often the setting of choice for most my stories. Writing the setting in Finland, on the other hand, would have been impossible if not for the extensive research I did on the area, the geography, the climate, the customs, the language, etc. I researched until every detail was solid in my mind and the image held in my imagination became second nature. Only then could I write the setting as well as I do for Chicago. But I have to be careful. I have to remember that I have not actually been to Finland and what I imagine it to be like might not be the truth. So I often check and recheck my notes to make sure I’m not filling too many holes with randomness.

Another example: My MC from my newest WIP is a body guard – a field I know absolutely nothing about. I’ve researched it and still need to research it further because I’m not quite comfortable with it yet. Now I bet most of you shiver when I mention the R word (research!), but the thing is there are certain habits and traits we, as humans, pick up after years on the job.

For example, I’m a grooming assistant by day (author by night), my job is to hold the dog/cat still so the groomer can cut the animals hair evenly. Well, after doing this for 2 years, I’ve developed a habit of fearlessly touching dogs that don’t like to be petted. After all, I know how to contain them without being bitten. This is a trait I’ve picked up.

Characters need to have traits like this, traits they learned on the job, especially if you are writing about a body guard. I need the shifty eyes, the self-assured stance, the kick-butt moves, the savvy speaking-into-the-mini-microphone thing …. See what I mean? I obviously don’t know enough about this field yet. But that’s where research comes in.

So, yes, I write about what I feel AND what I know. And if I don’t know it, I learn it.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Flash Fiction And The Necessary Ingredients For Great Story Telling!

Writing is writing in my opinion. I happen to like writing flash fiction. I've actually had ideas for a novel and for short stories too from very abreviated flash pieces.  Yes, I think it can work and work well. After all, flash has all of the story requirements: plot, characters--a beginning, middle and an end.

I think we can try out ideas and see how they fly with a flash piece. And actually if you think about it, flash fiction 'cuts to the chase.' It permits no wandering, no day dreaming or padding or beating about the proverbial bush. It works or it doesn't.

Here's a test I thought of! Take a good, well-written dramatic scene from a novel and see if it would make good flash fiction. The novel that immediately comes to mind for me is Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett.

You have a crippled, embittered RAF pilot and his love-starved wife living on a remote Scotish island. It is self-imposed exile for the husband, but it's more. It's a grim abyss he has sunk into. To all intents and purposes it's his brand of hell that his wife and child inhabit with him.

Also included in the story is the very best, most efficient killing machine in the shape of 'Der Nadel' who must get back to Germany with information that will wreck the Allied Invasion of Europe. Just one problem: before this master spy can deliver the goods to Hitler, he gets shipwrecked. I just set the scene okay? Now for the flash piece!

If this was flash fiction it would begin here. The reader would see this nazi spy collapsed outside this remote home. They would know from some good concise writing who he is and what the circumstances are. Just good sparse writing would be enough for the reader (without any 'telling' whatsoever) to understand the entire situation. Just from dialogue and good descriptions the reader would know what is going on and would naturally understand what is at stake.

I think that's a pretty good example of flash fiction working very well to tell a gripping story in a brief but powerful way. I've bared it down deliberately to make my point. So yes, this kind of fiction works very well, in my opinion for the writer.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Flash... and its all over

OK, dear readers, for those of you who thought I had forgotten the subject of my last post… I shall explicitly start with the question: “Does Flash Fiction work to your advantage as a novel writer?”

From my POV (Urrgghh, don’t you just hate acronyms?) the answer must be a most definite “yes” to FF (Urrggh, again!)

Flash Fiction is tool in our authorial tool box. Let me explain; though, if you will forgive me this week, my post is necessarily brief as I have some unexpected challenges to face. I will explain through a review of some earlier posts.

Those of you who recall my post from July last year, may well remember my thoughts on how useful Flash Fiction can be for the author. Of course, for those of you who don’t recall, may I guide you to the appropriate spot in our illustrious archive!


Oh, and before any of you say “Oi! Isn’t that CJ’s post?”, lest I be accused of plagiarism… Well, the vagaries of the systemic move of our blog from Wordpress to Blogspot – a feat undertaken by our hard-working friend – meant that most of the archived posts appear in her name…

Well, my Very Public Encounter made what I considered (to me at least) a novel (oops, Pun alert) use of my first ever piece of Flash Fiction:


When faced with a public audience: a book signing, a talk, a literary lunch, show casing a reading of a piece of Flash Fiction is a great ice breaker – as I did with Just a Thought… It also had the great advantage of of providing a reading that did not act as a spoiler.

And guess what? I have C.J. and all my friends here at WW to thank for that idea, for if it were not for WW and the blog topic of the week, I would never have written Just a Thought and I would never have ventured forth with its reading in public.

But, watch out for the unexpected…

My reading of Flash Fiction went so well at the literary lunch that I thought it would be great to do it on the radio. In September last year I got called in to do two Sunday Paper reviews within two weeks of each other, on two different morning shows. I did not want to be repetitive, so I suggested to one of the presenters that I read my piece “Just a Thought”. The presenter agreed – she thought it a good idea. I even e-mailed a copy of the text to her, so she could check through it.

The Sunday in question arrived. And I arrived at studios at the appointed thirty minutes beforehand, to collect a cup of BBC coffee and select half a dozen stories from the National papers before going on air…

There I sat, when, ten minutes before I went on air, the show’s producer came out to me and said:

‘David, we’ve run your story through the script reader and it’s too long…’

Not unsurprisingly, there was a pause…

‘…can you shorten it? By half?’ she said.

Bl**dy h*ll, I thought, ‘…of course,’ I said.

Ten minutes… TEN MINUTES! Just half a Thought?

Out came my printed copy and a pen, desperately looking to slash paragraphs. Try taking a 1000 word flash down to five hundred words in ten minutes. I was praying that, unlike a previous occasion when the producer thought one of my selected news stories was too political for the day, she would not also want me to find another story for the list I had given her.

Sigh of relief; the producer was happy with the list of stories I had chosen and I could concentrate the whole of the allotted time to my task of editing!

For me Flash Fiction is a challenge. A complete story in so many words. But it is also a great framework around which a blog post can be written. Writing Flash is good for practice. And I am with Greg here, Flash is around 500 to 1000 words. What is it with fifty words?

Give it a go!


And the radio show? Did I get the story short enough? Did I read it on air?
Yes! And there was me thinking this post was going to be brief… :)

Has anyone else used flash fiction in a public reading? Do drop me a note with me your story.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Hey Mikey, He Likes It

I can honestly say that I am a fan of flash fiction. Now.

Having just had some flash fiction published in the recently-released Farspace 2 anthology. On page 187, you will find my incredibly short piece of flash fiction called “Onward.”

Ironically, I wasn’t a big fan of flash fiction up until about two years ago. Whenever I saw FF (flash fiction) on, I would roll my eyes and bypass it. I like to write short stories, but I just couldn’t see myself being limited to 1000 words, much less 500.

Then, I got some real inspiration – free gift points.

But, boy was it tough. My first attempt at flash fiction came in at 3400 words. After some severe editing, I got it down to a more manageable 3100 words.

My next efforts gave me more experience and confidence and I was able to craft tales of just under 3000 words.

Clearly, I was not quite getting it.

So, I gave up and stopped eyeing those flash fiction contests so snobbishly. I figured that if I could craft a story within their prescribed word limits, then what might I be able to accomplish in longer form. Their structured form gave me something to aim for. Sounds normal until you remember that past admissions have pegged me as the man who used to write essays and theme papers in school without using an outline. I wasn’t particular to planning.

Now, I was. Because I had to be.

Using an FF contest known as “Short Shots” which used pictures as themes, I wrote and won my first Short Shots with “Feedin’ the Fishes.” Next came “Onward” and then one considered by fellow WDCers as one of my best – “The Farm” (and even that one caused me to regress somewhat when I wrote a longer form to flesh it out for the dozens of reviewers who asked me to).

I got a bit cocky and tried FF that limited me to 1000 words or less.

The result was “Onward,” the piece featured in Farspace 2.

I still do the occasional flash fiction just to keep myself fresh. Hopefully, our faithful followers will remember an FF Wicked Writers did back around Halloween 2010. My entry was “Top of the World,” my first foray into the world of zombies. I still get requests to flesh that out into a full-length novel.

Thus, my advice to all those who disdain flash fiction is to try it.

You might actually like it.

Unless, it's one of those 50-word FF pieces. You can keep those where the sun don't shine.

Monday, January 24, 2011

"Flash What?"

Why, Flash Fiction of course! I never heard of flash fiction when I started writing, but hey, let's face the simple cold hard truth: There are books filled with stuff I didn't know about writing when I started (and there still are).

I've read in multiple places a writer should have some short stories and flash fiction publishing credits under their belt before they can expect to get a full novel picked up. There are so many examples of this not being the case I'm not even going to list more than one: Stephanie Meyer

'Nuff said.

While I do enjoy writing flash pieces, I can say it's not something I do regularly or with any real expertise. Wendy Howard challenged us last year to do a 50-word flash-fiction piece and I spent about 20-30 minutes trying to work through one. It was fun, got my creative juices flowing early in the day, and like most of my work the first year, focused on the main character I've been writing about for so long:

Lush and skillful, the enforcer kills with no remorse. Always drawn to death's sweet embrace, she delivers yet another into its suffocating hold. Her sword bites deep, a whisper of sound escapes, and silence prevails. She bends to drink. No undead who preys on children can hide from Vivian's wrath.

Clear, short, and meaningful. I felt a sense of accomplishment when I posted it and no one laughed. Now, let's pick it apart and have some fun!

What do we know of this person in so few words? 

It's a woman, who kills easily. She has a dark side within and she uses a sword... hmmm... we go on to see she drinks blood - Oh! We have a vamp ;-) Lastly... her purpose: to right the wrong of vampire pedophiles continuing in their heinous acts. 

I thought it was cool, but hey, I wrote it.

How about you? I challenge you to a 50 word flash fiction piece. You game? Leave it here in the comments, I promise there will be no laughing. Unless your name is Greg, then all bets are off. :-D

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Solitary Life

This week’s prompt asked the question whether writing was a lonely proposition or not. Originally, I spent quite a lot of time trying to see the potential two sides of this subject. I looked at the traditional writer sitting at a table, pounding typewriter keys by candlelight. I pictured this person spending many hours in the quiet solitude of a library, doing research. I saw them walking the city streets with their head down, deeply lost in thought. Next, I began contemplating the other side of this. Soon it became evident that the first side was a picture of a time gone by. At least it should be….

Certainly, the creative part of writing is done alone. We might be alone with our laptop or computer, alone with our thoughts, alone with the muse or alone with music. I find classical music works best for me if I need to drown out home noise; my kid yelling into his Xbox 360 wireless microphone, calling in reinforcements, for instance.

I understand that sometimes we can be surrounded and yet still feel alone. Unless our spouse or other family members are writers, they probably don’t get it. Recently, I was told that I really didn’t need to reply to every comment that I received. Rather than argue against that opinion, I just let it go.

Personally, I really don’t see how one can expect to write well, if they do not interact with others. I think it’s important for seeing the world as well as to help build believable characters. It is certainly critical for support. With the rise of the internet, it is so easy to find groups of people with which to interact, and not only that, but to build great friendships.

Let’s take a look at the first point: seeing the world. There are some things that I can research on my own. I learned recently about the stages of light just before sunrise and just after sunset. I also learned about police equipment. For my second novel, I had to learn about fishing boats, about the real city that I was using as a location as well as other items of interest. Yet, current fashion and style of communication are examples of things that I can’t know, unless I get out and people-watch.

The next point: support. If you are blessed with a supportive family, whether they are blood or just great friends, you’re still going to need a group of folks that understand what can happen to the psyche when one’s work has been rejected frequently, what it feels to be sleep-deprived because of a deadline or perhaps what it’s like to have a fight with one’s muse. They can be local buddies or they can be like some of mine who are literally everywhere in the world (and many of you are reading these words now).

I have said this before and I will say it many times before I am through, but I have met some wonderful people in this writing journey that only began about a year ago; men and women across every spectrum. Some which sound as if they might be my long lost twin and some who I share only a writing life. They have been mentors, counselors, shoulders to lean against, a wall to bounce ideas off of and an occasional flirt (purely for research, I assure you). The point is there is a group of people out there who know what the writing life is like, and everyone is always welcome in that club. If a writer feels as if he or she is alone, it seems to me that it really is a shame-on-you kind of thing.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

WANTED: Lonely author seeking same for companionship...

“Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer’s loneliness, but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.” Ernest Hemingway

Alas – the lonely writer. A dying breed of the classic author. A throwback to the romantic writing era when one claimed to be a serious writer, would sequester themselves for days on end. Haunted by inner demons, the sober somber author of olde would draw down the shades, live off booze and cigarettes, and become one with the typewriter.

Ah, their stamina! Their power! Their ability to flail themselves upon the keys and churn out something worthwhile and holy! The mere thought of those stoic kindred spirits of the past make me want to grab my crotch, hock up some sinus phlegm and hope I get published.

You see, by today’s standards, I am in the minority. I am a lonely writer.

Even while using the plethora of writer’s community opportunities that are at my fingertips, there are those nights where I sit in my dark, studio apartment and cry in the isolation I find myself in. Yet, I ask for no sympathy because this is a path that I have chosen.

That’s right. I choose to be alone.

Perhaps it’s due to my bi-polarism. And the fact that I have the attention span of a Golden Retriever. I’ve never been one to fit in with my peers. I don’t get all excited to go to writer groups and workshops. I don’t get inspired working on my story in a clustered coffee shop. I am not a social creature. I loathe the social interaction of Twitter, Facebook and Skype. It steals my creative energies and takes way too much time away from my first love – my story writing.

I guess I tend to look at things outside the box. I love the solitude, the aloneness writing provides me. I love to squirrel myself away for days, weeks, doing nothing but typing, research, plotting, editing and occasionally taking time to sleep and eat. It exorcises my personal demons, it cleanses my soul.

I love the quiet bliss of a story unfolding under my fingers with no distractions other than the occasional furry ones under my feet. I believe solitude is a state of mind rather than an environmental state, and one that writers should realize and embrace. Not many do. And while I hold those quiet qualities with the zeal of a born-again experience, I have to accept the inevitable: loneliness will be a part of my life. And I’m okay with that.

For the most part, I have made peace with the fact I will have those pangs of author loneliness. My angst breathes strong on the nights where my labor has ended and I’ve birthed some beautifully written piece. Why? Simply because I would rather live in the world I created, where the setting, the characters and the plot are more appealing to me than my real world.

Sometimes I forget what it means to ‘have a life,’ not because I don’t get out and interact with society (I am very active when I choose to be), but mostly because my characters are not a part of it. You see, the voices in my head are so real, so genuine; it’s hard to remember they aren’t flesh and blood people. And when I feel nobody else can understand where I’m coming from, that’s when I get lonely.

Another time I feel lonely is when I think about the bigger picture. Since I share my thoughts, feelings, experiences and views to the world through story, I often ask myself: ‘What is the purpose of this story? What do I want to achieve by writing it?’ And, more selfishly, “Are my stories gonna touch anyone? Will it be worth all the blood, sweat and tears I have poured in?”

Take for example, Father McKenzie in the Beatles song ‘Eleanor Rigby.’ Many writers believe that their creative efforts will be in vain. No one will read it. Could this be what blossoms the loneliness belief – the fear of obscurity which then leads to a fear of mortality? I mean, when you really think about it, only a handful of writers live on in the infinity of their works. The rest of us only pray our stories don’t turn to dust in the wind at the same time our mortal bodies get pumped full of cold preservatives.

Whether my loneliness is brought on by self-imposed isolation, an overwhelming feeling of being insignificant in this world, or if it is magnified by a particular piece that touched my own heart, the fact of the matter is: I cherish my moments of loneliness, for the power of its yearning is what drives me to soar beyond the threshold of emotional stagnation and to challenge myself by achieving greater heights in my writing.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Magic World of Being a Writer

This weeks topic, about the seeming lonliness of the writing industry I think is left over from the days without internet. Like JD said in her post yesterday, I have SO many people I talk to on a daily basis from twitter, crit groups, blogs, writing sites, etc it's not even funny. I'm hardly alone by any stretch of the imagination.

So why do people still see writing as a lonely occupation? I think it comes from the idea - or illusion - of a writer, hunched over the type writer or paper furiously putting that story onto the page. Locked inside their office ignoring the world around them. Getting caught up in the story and the characters and forgetting there are real people around them too.

While that vision is still true to a certain point (I do lock myself in my office and I'm sure my husband sees me as all hunched over the keyboard typing away, lost in my own world) but is that really lonely or just a sign of pure dedication?

Then of course there are the non-writer's out there that don't GET it. They still see the writer locked away for days on end - alone - in their offices and lost in the world of make believe. They don't see the other side where we network, meet people, attend conferences, and actually come out of la-la land to talk with real live people. The side where we worry about trends and marketing and promotion. Because that takes away the magic of writing to them. It's a magical, awe inspiring vision of the writer plugging away at the typewriter/computer/paper, because as a non-writer they can't imagine doing it themselves. The energy it must take, the dedication, the imagination. Magic.

But in truth, no, writing is not a lonely occupation. I am always 'surrounded' by other people through blogs, writing sites, workshops, twitter, facebook - the list goes on.

Sure, there are times where I turn all that stuff off (surprising I know), I do lock my husband and son out of the office and I do nothing but write or edit on my own in some semblance of peace. I drift away to the lands of my stories and I'm no longer in my office. (And with all my character there I'm hardly alone either!)

I have never met an actual writer that seriously feels lonely in this industry! Even as a writer though, I still have the vision of the dedicated writer all hold up away from the real world - of course always alone. I never have the vision of the author surrounded by people cheering, offering advice, or just talking about every day silly things. It doesn't fit the image in my head of a writer is.

So is writing a lonely occupation? The magical mysterious side to the non-writer folks - perhaps. But to the actual writers, it's anything but. (Heck, even in la-la land we have plenty of characters to keep up company too!)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Writing is Lonely? Since When?

This week’s topic is “how to deal with the seeming ‘loneliness’ of being a writer”.

Excuse me? What is this about loneliness? Okay, pause for a minute. Let’s take a look at this writer’s life in the real world. You know, the one that exists outside the computer?

In the real world, one might categorize me as antisocial. Personally, I do not agree. I am not ANTI-social, I’m just naturally not a very social person. I go to family outings. I go out with my boyfriend. I go to my boyfriend’s family’s outings. But that’s about it. I’m a homebody and maybe even a bit of a hermit crab. I’m very comfortable alone in my own company. I have been since I was a child.

So, I can see how most people would think “antisocial” when they look at me, but, that’s just because they don’t know what goes on while I’m on the internet. While I’m writing. While I’m blogging, tweeting, and emailing.

As a writer, I spend most my time on my computer. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing – editing, researching, checking my facebook – no matter what I’m doing, I’m talking to my two best friends at the same time via Skype. They’re both writers – Ana and Charlene. They’re my beta readers, my number one fans, my support group in all aspects of life, my first line of defense, my dose of tough love, my source of motivation … heck, best friends just sums it up really. Not a single day goes by that we don’t chit-chat together.

Next in line are the magnificent writers you see on the right side bar of this blog. C.J. – who I secretly stock for promotional tips - James, Sharon, and George are all my friends who I learn from and share my own experiences with.

There are the friends I made on, Dawn Embers, SM Blooding (who is my unofficial mentor and query letter drill sergeant), Alex, Amy, Zoe, Kurt, Branli, Mireyah, Ashanty, C.J. … and many others.

People I’ve met on C.A. Marshall, Liz, Heather, Jenn, C.J., everyone on the Witty Crew, and a bunch more ….

People I’ve met via blogging: Loralie, Bree, Chris, Mia Hayson, Arlee, J.C., Lynda, N.R. Williams, Alex J., Elizabeth Mueller, Corey, Jamie, Roland …….and at least thirty more. I apologize now for any one I forgot to mention.

Not to mention my Twitter, which has close to 100 followers now ….

AND, since I’ve recently joined MuseItUp and MuseItHOT Publishing, I have over 70 brand new Muse brothers and sisters to add to the list!

Ladies and gentlemen, if you think writing is a lonely career, you’re doing something very WRONG. I am not lonely. In fact, I have never before been more overwhelmed with so many friends who share my very passion. I am not antisocial. I network.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Websites: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly!

First let me say hi to you all. I am going to be blogging here on a regular basis and I'm delighted! This is a great topic because websites and blogs should be good but very often they are bad or downright ugly. When they don't attract viewers they're bad because they aren’t fulfilling their potential. So why is that?

Speaking for myself, what often turns me off is what motivated me to create my own blog! Self-indulgent posts in a blog turn me off immediately as in:


You get the idea. No reason why the same information can’t be told in a more interesting way! I believe in using images, in slide shows. I’d put up a marching band if I could! Just wanted you to know where I am coming from. Both websites and blogs basically do the same thing. But blogs are not static that’s why I love them. I have seen authors’ websites that I find boring. I think the same thing can be done but with interesting text, presented possibly with some imagination.

I am working on my website now so I can’t really refer you to it YET! There again, I want it to be interesting. I can discuss my own blog, though. Blogs can make you want to scream or fall asleep—or they can hold your interest. I’ve had pretty good feedback about mine.

Before my book was released I had been blogging about the horror genre: books and films with the intention to garner general interest but to do it in a positive way. In the two months leading up to my book’s release (and I am still doing it) I have been blogging solely about my novel, The House on Blackstone Moor.

If you look at my blog:

Purely for educational purposes (!) you will see these posts that discuss the characters, themes and storyline in the novel. I have, I am happy to say, been getting very positive feedback. I am getting a lot of traffic and I am delighted. I put up information that I would wish to read if I were looking at a blog. My blog is my love child! I really am pleased with it. The next test for me will be if I can devise a website that I feel as positive about. Time will tell!

Until next time!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A short review…

I must have dozed off. All of a sudden, flashings lights appeared before me. A psychedelic whirl of colour challenged my senses, drawing me forward, inexorably. I felt as though a rushing, gushing river was carrying me down-stream. To what, I thought, to fall over the rock-strewn precipice of a white-water rapid?

It came to an end. I paused for breath.

From the corner of my limited field of vision there was a movement. I sensed it, rather saw it directly. It was dark and my eyes had not adjusted properly from the bright visual onslaught of the past moments.

‘Hello,’ said a voice. It emanated from the direction of the movement I’d sensed. The tone of the voice – for I still could not see, let alone focus properly – was inquisitive, the inflexion just so; it was not a frightened voice; neither was the voice threatening in any way, as if I’d invaded some sacrosanct space. ‘You are the fourth today.’

‘Fourth? Fourth what,’ I asked. Curiosity on my part was leading me forward, into the unknown. Not something I had ever been keen on in the past. I rarely took risks. I would even baulk at the thought of venturing from my small apartment, walking down the street to buy provisions. Such a potentially hazardous excursion required much careful thought, analysis and the plucking up of the requisite courage. But: “why I was here, now”, and “why was I taking such a bold step”, were questions that hadn’t entered my head.

‘You are the fourth visitor today,’ said the small voice. Yes, small; despite the fact I could not see the speaker, I felt able to add a size qualification. Small, yes. Small, as in quite squeaky! Indeed, if I had believed in talking mice, I could have easily imagined that the speaker before me, in the shadows, was a mouse.

The voice continued. ‘You can’t see me, can you?’

‘No,’ I replied, ‘…it’s dark here.’

‘That’s the idea,’ said Squeaky. ‘Just enough light to entice – no more.’

‘Where is here?’ I asked


‘Exactly, where?’

‘Exactly here, my friend.’

‘You’re not my friend. I don’t know you. I can’t even see you…’

‘But you’re talking to me!’

I had no quick or clever answer to that one. I changed tack. ‘I don’t like this place.’

‘Give it time. You will get used to it.’

‘What if I don’t want to?’

‘But there is so much here to see.’

‘Where, I can’t see anything at all.’

‘But this is just where you land… when you visit. Splash! So to speak.’

Suddenly a window opened in front of my eyes. The flash almost blinded me. A loud unwelcome tune struck up – discordant notes filled the air, distracting my attention. The window seemed to beckon me, to call me forward and the deafening music dulled my senses.

‘Go on,’ said the squeaky voice ‘…why don’t you enter that.’

I reached out. My fingers, as if detached, seemed to hover over the space the window occupied. Then it was gone. The music ended. Relief, I thought.


‘You call me friend… then Chicken?’

‘It’s my world you’re in here. I can call you what I like. I can be who I like and I can say what I like. You do not matter in my world!’

I didn’t like where this was going… It was a dark world. ‘I’m not going anywhere I don’t want to,’ I said in defiance.

‘Touche! Well you have a point. I can’t make you.’

‘Why should I go anywhere in here?’

‘Because there is so much to see and do; if you don’t look, you will never know. Go on, try it.’

I wasn’t sure what there was here, in this new world I’d never visited before. ‘Have you a map?’ I asked.

‘A map? Maps are for sissies… and chickens!’

I thought I heard laughing. ‘But,’ I challenged, ‘if there is so much here in your world, and if I can’t have a map, then how do I find my way around?’

‘See those?’

‘What?’ I peered forward into the darkness. Rubbing my eyes I concentrated on my peripheral vision… shades of grey lightened an otherwise meaningless swirling darkness. And in the shade there appeared a series of stepping stones. Or they would be stepping stones, if they had lain horizontally – perhaps in that river I had been carried here on.

‘What do you see,’ asked Squeaky.


‘Fourth today… and t’only one what chooses to call ’em rocks!’ The mock accent didn’t help matters – it was so false. ‘Well, you just go to one and look underneath.’

‘And then what,’ I asked. I wasn’t at all impressed with this: so little information to go on; so little to entice me. It was as if I had jumped down Lewis Carrol’s rabbit hole. I had an idea. ‘Are you a rabbit?’

‘No. And there’s no Mad Hatter here either. You’re not the first, you know.’

‘Not the first?’

‘Not the first to draw the Alice in Wonderland analogy.’

‘Not a little allegorical then?’

‘Not at all… the designer wasn’t that good,’ Squeaky said with a note of sarcasm.

‘Your world…,’ I started.

‘My world.’

‘So your world is not your own work then?’


‘Go on,’ I said, impatience beginning to strain my voice.

‘Go on what?’

‘What happens when I’ve got under a rock?’

‘More rocks.’ The smug snigger was a little too obvious.

‘So, no signposts? No real clues as to what lies behind all these rocks? I’ve been here… how long? And I’ve found nothing of interest, and been challenged by some Squeaky voice… not to mention being assaulted by loud tuneless music and enticed into further darkness. Not much of a trip this. For Christsake, you’re not even enticing me with some interesting allegory. Not much of a world, you’ve got here, is it?’

Then I did something I hadn’t thought of in the past minutes. I took a step backward. Light replaced dark. I could see again. Gone was the dark impression – the absence of light. My focus returned and I could see my outstretched hand. I squeezed the mouse.


Well, ask a fiction writer to write about web sites? You just don't know... :)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Website Attraction: Love Or Bust At First Sight

Honestly, I have not been able to pinpoint why I am attracted to certain websites and not others. I get recommendations to try different websites, especially those within my fields of interest – writing, science fiction, triple…eh, I mean mature entertainment.

I don’t go with most of them because they fail to catch my interest. Sorry, but at my age (43), MILFs has an entirely different meaning (and, no, I’m not going to show it -- a year ago, I might have, but I think I've finally given in to the invisible daggers coming from C.J., Ana and J.D.).

At the same time, intros to websites by well-meaning writers from New Jersey often get the precursory look (just to be civil) and then, bam, I block the site. Psst: Don’t tell the New Jerseyite I said that.

If I had to sit down and figure out some do’s and don’ts for website attraction, I’d sit down and figure them out. Well, actually, I am sitting down and figuring. Go figure.

Life does imitate art.

Anyway, a fellow Wicked Writer mentioned that she does not like to hear music on a website, such as the personal profile pages of MySpace. I agree with her, although I do have music on my page. The music reflects my tastes, but often leaves bad taste in the mouths of others. I guess a profile list of ICP, Annie Lennox, Norah Jones, Lena Horne, Sarah Vaughn, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Jaheim, Poor Righteous Teachers, John Carpenter, Doris Day, Jane Monheit, Sade and Jana Mashonee can be confusing for anyone trying to figure out my mental state.

Personally, I think you should either pick some neutral songs that will appeal to a wide audience or stick with one genre. That way your visitors won’t be jarred senseless when Into the West is suddenly followed by Hokus Pokus and then by Kristy McNichol.

Hint: I like my music the way I like my women – ................................hmm, don’t know where I’m going with this.

Where was I?

Secondly, the site has got to catch my interest almost instantly. Perhaps this reflects my journalism background where a story has to grab readers’ attention spans within the first two or three paragraphs. This is why many of my posts begin with some form of humor – not particularly funny, but light-hearted.

Third, the site has got to not overwhelm me. You know what I’m talking about. Those FB and MySpace profiles filled with so much art and background that you can’t see the words. Apparently, there are pros out there who will jazz up your web pages to catch attention. I would not go for it because they seem to throw everything in there. Even KISS would say it’s too much.

Trying to imagine what the page looked like before it got all tricked up is like comparing Lady GaGa with Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta. 

Finally, the website must be finished. I know this from experience as I tried to set up my own author page and even put the address on business cards. I no longer hand out those cards (fortunately, it was because the card company misspelled “Smith”).

But, how many times have you been directed to a website that said “Under Construction – Be Back Real Soon”?

Reminds me of the Luby’s Cafeteria just off Northeast Loop 820 and Beach Street in Fort Worth. There was a sign in a vacant lot that said “ Luby’s Coming Soon.” The sign was there for four years before any construction began and another year during construction. The IHOP on the other side of the freeway did gangbuster business with people frustrated by the delay.
To make a long story short (too late), in order to get my interest at a website:
1)      Either kill the music or go with something akin to Muzak

2)     Get my attention quick. Use humor, interesting pictures (like a guy being beaten to death with his own arms), etc.

3)     Don’t overwhelm me with useless crap, and

4)     Make sure the site is finished before advertising it

Oh, I forgot one thing:

Please, oh please, stop putting your kids on your website. They may be the cutest kids in the world, but, although I have no interest in them, there are those online who do. I keep dreading that “ripped from the headlines” storyline appearing on Law & Order: SVU.

Now on to reconstructing my author page so I can make up new business cards.