Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Writing Rhetoric.. (Strength to say "Hunk oo")

Confession time.  I'm a full time stay-at-home father. 

I know most of you know this already.. it's not a secret.  It's not that I'm some deadbeat Dad (not totally), I am edumakated.. and I'm licensed to practice law in the State of Idaho.. but unfortunately for my legal career I am not located IN the State of Idaho currently.

I'm about as far away as you can get from Idaho and still be in the contiguous 48 State. I live in Virginia for the moment while my wife is pursuing her PhD with aims of Professorship.  So, for the time being, I get to play Mr. Mom, which has been tremendously awesome.

One of the best things about being home is I get to spend my days with my youngest.  This is him------->
.. a chip off the old block, I was the youngest in my family, and now I understand why my siblings all complained that I got away with murder and got everything that I wanted.  It's true, there's just something about the youngest.

He's a great kid, super smart, with personality just oozing out of every pore.  He's the star of every dinner, every quiet night.. he steals the spotlight from every situation.  He's a a born ham.. like I said, chip off the ole' block.

Lately he's been starting to talk more and more.. he's smart as a whip, and will say "Hunk oo" when you give him something and 'Melcome" when you tell him "thanks."  However, I'm pretty sure he has no idea what those words actually mean.. he just knows that it is what everybody else says, so he mimics them.

My wife's education is actually in this very field, (Speech Language Pathology), and I've learned, (probably from osmosis cause I sure haven't tried to understand it much), that this is the proper speech technique. We learn by mimicking those who are around us who are successful and building up on that.  Seems pretty obvious, huh?

I thought of this last night when he thanked me for pouring him a drink of milk. I said, "You're welcome" and then the thought hit me as he pranced off to play with his brothers..
"He doesn't even know what he's doing when he says that, but he does it religiously because it's what was taught to him by those he trusts and admires, and we teach it because it worked for us . As long as he gets positive feedback from his attempts, he'll keep learning until he progresses to our level."
Then that got me to thinking.. 
"Wow, that's just like me with my writing. I quite often feel like I don't know what I'm doing.. but I follow the instructions and advice of those who have gone before me and who have had success.  My feedback has been generally positive so.. since it worked for them, it will probably work for me.. so I keep plugging along in the hopes of reaching their relative level."
I know I can't literally follow the exact procedure that authors like Brandon Mull, or James Dashner, or J.Scott Savage.  But I can use their example to model the steps that I do take, and I can use the advice that they so freely and supportively give in writing conferences or on their blogs. (And in fact I will soon, in an upcoming blog post)

Just like how my son learns slowly, through repetition and constant practice.. that's how we, as writers, learn as well.. or at least how I learn. I learn something new, either through lessons from those who know more than me, or feedback from those I trust, and then I learn to adopt it through repetition and practice.

Funny how that is, the things that come naturally to us as a child are the same things that teach us who to achieve our goals later in life.

I've implemented this into my own agenda, and I'm 'hopefully confident' I"ll see results.  And then.. when I land my agent and my first publishing deal in the near future I can write all those who helped me a nice note and tell them all, from the bottom of my heart, "Hunk oo!"

Monday, October 29, 2012

Monday's Keister Kick... NaNoWriMo or Ant Farming

So what's motivating me this week?

Easy.  NaNoWriMo is coming.,. it's like the old man, chewing on a stalk of wheat, sitting on a porch rocking in his chair.. "Ya'll ain't from round these parts.. are ya?  Best make yo peace with Gawd or be on yer way.. there's a storm abrewin.. figures to be a big un. Like to swallow you up."

This will be my first official NaNoWriMo.. and I'm counting on it to be the thing that powers me through my current obstacle of 10,000 words.  I know that might seem like too much emphasis on some outside source for an internal block, but honestly.. when I'm left alone to my own devices, the desire to self-edit is like an itch I can't scratch. It starts out slow enough, but builds until it is literally keeping me up at night.  So I take a couple days off, clear my head.. get away from it.  Then, when I come back, I tell myself, I just need to get my bearings, make sure what I'm writing now matches up with what I wrote then.  So I read a little, change one little thing maybe.. just a phrase here, add a paragraph there.. before I know it I've totally second guessed what I wrote, and I'm back down to trying to get a general feeling for where I was headed in the first place.

Usually by this time I'm so disgusted with my written 'voice' that I trash it and start anew.  I must have started a dozen or so different stories in the past year, some a variation on a general idea that I really like.. some entirely new.  None have survived much past 10,000 words.

What I'm gearing up for, and working towards is just the emphasis on going past, getting in my words each day without looking back.

I probably sound like I'm putting all my eggs in this NoNo basket, but I really don't look at this as the 'fix'.. merely a strict routine that I haven't tried. This has to come from inside me, I know that.. but if I can just get past this self-imposed block.. once I know I can go past it, that it won't have this hold over me.

James Dashner, author of the NYTimes Best Selling series 'Maze Runner', and 13th Reality series, and 'A Mutiny in Time' wrote the following back in 2007 (This was BEFORE he had even sold Maze Runner, back when it was still a draft that was rejected by multiple publishers/agents and he'd put it in his closet!)
Write a novel from beginning to end. I mean it. I don't care if it's the worst book in history, write a beginning, a middle, and an ending, and everything in between. You won't believe the magical power that will come over you once you've accomplished this task. Is it easy? No. Will it win the National Book Award? Probably not. Do I hate when people ask rhetorical questions over and over? Yes.

If you write and finish a complete book, you will suddenly find it much easier to do the next one. It's like a marathon, I suppose, though I've never done it. (Though I did come in 12th place in my neighborhood 5k. Yah, that's right.) I imagine the first marathon is brutal and full of wanna-give-ups. But once you KNOW you can do it, the 2nd time around becomes much easier. I'm guessing.

It took me 3 years to write my first book. The second one, 9 months. My last one, 7 weeks. I'm talking first drafts, here.

Write a complete book. If it's pretty decent, rewrite and rework. If it stinks, trash it and start another one.

This is what I'm looking for.. the 'magical power that will come once I've accomplished this task.

Hey, he never defined 'Magical Power'. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Damage A Nerdy Swan*... (Anagram Wednesday)

So, another week has come and gone and here we are at Anagram Wednesday. This week, I thought we'd take a run at some Classic Fantasy Books because.. hey, they're there. 

Well, ok this Swan is a little nerdy,
I mean, look at that neck.
(*And yes, the title of this post is indeed an anagram for "Anagram Wednesday".. I actually find swans anything but nerdy.)

So, to start off with.. lets decide on some Classic Fantasy books.  Obviously we're going to include "The Lord of the Rings" and "A Song of Ice and Fire" but after those,...?

I think that 'classic' can include some more contemporary stories as well, for example I think Harry Potter is a classic, but we just did Poor Harry last week.. so to change things up we'll throw in a couple more.  

I'm thinking..  "The Wheel of Time", "Name of the Wind", and "The Way of Kings".

So.. without further ado.. lets mangle some Classic Literature.

  • The Lord Of The Rings
    • Becomes... OK.. this one is just tremendous. There are so many great one's to pick, but the best has to be..
      • Shortened For Light
I mean.. come on.. Hobbits, fighting against the Evil Sauron.. spooky how that is.

Not bad.. there is definitely defiance, and while there is lots and lots of sin.. at the end a sin is foregone that could have saved a prominent character.  Not bad at all...

Again.. not bad. It does reuse "time", but it aptly fits the book.

OK, this one is just spooky. I won't give spoilers, but Kvothe is trying to Defeat 'them'.. and he owns an Inn and retells the story in that Inn.. and he doesn't know How to defeat them.. I like this one.. I like this one a lot.  Plus, it's just such a tremendous book, probably my favorite on this list.

Not too sure about this one.. there's lots of fighting so naturally there's lots of noise.. but not much Gawking. Pretty sure a person who Gawks would die. Course.. the magic used during the fights does create Gawking.. so .. 

.. tis but a flesh wound.
meh, we'll call it a draw.

The final thought for today... When they ship styrofoam, what do they pack it in?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Writing Rhetoric.. (You suck.. and that's OK)

So I had an idea for a new feature for the blog.. I spend a lot of my time looking at other, successful writers, looking at how they did it.. at what they struggled with when they were newbies like me, and more importantly, how they overcame it.  So.. I thought.. Why not share that with other aspiring authors?

So here goes.

Since this is the first 'Writing Rhetoric', I figured.. why not start at the beginning, the very process of starting to write.

Obviously the first step is to sit down at your computer, (or stand if you prefer typing on your kitchen counter like Kiersten White), and put characters that, when grouped together, form coherent words that, when grouped together, form coherent sentences that, when grouped together, form a narrative of something interesting.. all on a previously blank page.

However, if you're like me you sometimes experience a moment when knowing the above does nothing to aid in the actual performance of the above.

So.. I direct your attention to the following quotes, notes, and advice.

"Often, your prose won't seem like it comes from a masterpiece, at times you'll hate it, wondering.. "What on earth made me think I could become an author? My writing stinks!" Listen: the easiest way to fight procrastination is to sit on that chair and start writing one word followed by another. Repeat this procedure until you have at least a few sentences and you will find that you feel better. It's having to sit down, face the blank page and write those first few words that kills you. Then the rest gets easier." -- (Author unknown.. I found that on a blog I read, LOVED IT, copied it and printed it out to tack to my wall.. and forgot to include the author's name, I believe it is J.Scott Savage, but I may be mistaken, but nonetheless, the truth of it remains the same.)

"At first, everything I wrote sounded wooden. It wasn't until I was really warmed up, sometime in the middle of the novel, that things started to flow."  (Laura Bingham, author of Alvor and Wings of Light.)

"Write a novel from beginning to end. I mean it. I don't care if it's the worst book in history, write a beginning, a middle, and an ending, and everything in between.... I do not edit as I go. Never, never, never. I write the whole thing in one long burst of creativity, not worrying about how good or how cruddy the writing may be." (James Dashner, author of Maze Runner, 13th Reality)

So.. essentially, your just need to write the first draft knowing that it is probably going to suck at the beginning of your writing process, and then it's going to suck once it's all done.. but that's normal and OK and in fact.. the way it's been proven to work for countless successful writers out there.

Writing, it seems, is a series of stages of suckiness, from the opening 'ultra super mega suck' to 'really bad suck', to 'just plain ole' sucks' to 'not so much suck' to hopefully 'hardly any suckiness can be found.'

Now that we know, we can be fearless to go out there and not be scared to suck!

So.. hey there dear reader.. here's hoping that you suck as much as I do, and that some day very soon we can look at each other and say, with great affection and respect.. "You Suck!"

Ain't it great?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday's Keister Kick

So.. with KEISTER in full swing there's a couple of things that are helping to keep me motivated this week.

The first.. while I may not have found out until later this week.. I DID find out that one of my blogger buds, Morgan Shammy, was offered representation by Karen Grencik of the Red Fox Literary Agency.. so Morgan landed herself an agent.

Morgan has 'only' shopped 3 manuscripts.. so for those of us still struggling to throw one together, it IS possible to land an agent.. you simply need to keep plugging along with what you're doing.

Of course, it doesn't hurt to be incredibly talented.. as Morgan is. I've read some of her flash fiction, and it's good. Really good.  It's only going to be a matter of time until she gets a publisher and things start rolling...

Congrat's Morgan!

Can't believe it's been 10 years.
The second thing that kicked my Keister this week isn't nearly as nice.  Many know that I publish a Boise State athletics website.. ( - with Fan Forum and Team/Recruiting news).. I've been doing it for 10 years now and while it will never turn into a full-time gig, it's a fun little thing that feeds my obsession with Boise State Football and Basketball.

One of my longtime members suffered a severe stroke this past week and was taken off life support yesterday and his prognosis wasn't good.  He was older than me, and a heavier than me, but it's still shocking to see someone you've interacted with often in the past just suddenly go like that.. it's sobering and more than a little chilling.

If my friend had known 5 years ago that his life clock was winding down.. would he have changed his lifestyle?  I'd like to think yes.. it would have profoundly changed his life and possibly prolonged it.

That is the type of change I'm trying to make for myself.. not that I'm scared of the same thing happening to me, although it certainly could.. but just so that I can do all I can to make sure I'm here to watch my children grow and start families of their own.

Plus.. I figure in 10 years I'll have a string of best sellers.. and I don't wanna make the world miss out on that.

So.. that's what is motivating me this week.

**Random Thought of the Day** - Why isn't phonetic spelled the way it sounds?

Review: Monster Hunter Legion

Monster Hunter Legion
Monster Hunter Legion by Larry Correia

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Like All MHI books, the action is outstanding, great pacing, and non stop. One thing I like about Larry Correia's books also, however, is that while his characters are a little stereotypical, they're not wooden.

It can be hard to write a sympathetic action character who.. or a hot former stripper and make her actually have a personality beyond simply adjective laden descriptions.. but Correia pulls it off amazingly well. His characters have surprising depth and they always ring true to themselves.

True, you'll never finish one of his books and suddenly feel the urge to turn your life around and dedicate yourself to altruistic endeavors.. but you will enjoy the time you spend reading it, and isn't that why you should be reading in the first place?

View all my reviews

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Weeny Sad Grandma* (Anagram Wednesday)

*Sigh*.. it's Wednesday.. again   That day when you've already been in this week long enough, and yet you've still got an equal amount of time ahead of you.. (feel free to softly bang your head against your desk now.)

So, in the spirit of loosening up that tie, untucking those shirt tails, and allowing yourself to breathe a little more easily.. I present.. ANAGRAM WEDNESDAY!! We're going to take the titles of some of my, (or yours if you give some suggestions), favorite books, and smash them all around in the Anagram Machine.. and see what we come  up with.

I actually adore Grandmotherly peoples...
(*And yes, the title of this post is indeed an anagram for "Anagram Wednesday".. I do not have a problem with Grandmothers in general.)

SO.. for our inaugural Anagram Wednesday, I'm choosing books that either inspired me, or that I've read recently.. or that I just love reading.

We start off with one of the most influential books of modern times.. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone:  A little magic, and it becomes...

  • A Cad Teepees Northern Horror Trysts 
Not bad actually.. There are a few Cads in the story, and definitely some Northern Horror Trysts.  Well done Mrs. Rowling. Well done indeed.

What about a more local flavor?  (Or past local at least).. Utah author Brandon Mull's uber successful Fablehaven becomes.. 
  • Behave Flan
Again.. not bad.  If you have some Flan, then it should behave.. although I think in the story itself, any Flan that would have presented itself would have ended up gobbled by the silly satrys.

Next is a piece of fictional junk food.. Larry Correia's Monster Hunter International.. it is unabashedly pulp fiction, and some of the best out there. It's not going to teach you how to be a better person.. but it *might* teach you how to save the World from otherwordly Old One's.. and it will absolutely entertain you in the process. But even MHI can't stand against the Anagram Machine as it becomes...
  • An Ethereal Moron In Runt Tints
I think Larry would get a kick out of the idea of his book being a double for an Ethereal Moron. 

And now one last one, chosen at random, from my bookshelf..  a childhood classic, and probably the first book that ever made me cry from just the story.. and in fact one of the first books that ever made me think about telling my own stories, Wilson Rawls classic, "Where the Red Fern Grows", becomes... 
  • Refreshed Renew Growth
Wow.. ironic that such a beautiful story of childhood love and devotion would conjure words of hope.  

And with that.. I've found my fitting ending.

Cover Reveal..

The ever clever and funny Chad Morris is giving a peak at the cover for his upcoming release from Shadow Mountain Publishing, due out Spring 2013..

Check out the cover of the next Fablehaven.. and give Chad a huge 'Congrat's'!

Writing with Shelly and Chad..

Monday, October 1, 2012

Most Wonderful Time... Of The Year!

This road is about a 15 min. drive from my house.
Huzzah for the Shenandoah Valley!!
It's officially Fall.

Yes, I know it's been fall for a couple of weeks, but October is my unofficial 'Official' start to Fall.  My absolute favorite time of the year!

First off, October 1st is my lovely wife's birthday.. which is a GREAT way to celebrate the start of Fall.  We 'sorta' celebrated yesterday.. but I'm going to surprise her tonight with some Birthday Cake and a sappy card.. chicks dig that sort of stuff.  ;)  Her birthday present this year was a new laptop computer for her new School curriculum.. (My wife is pursuing her PhD in Communication and Swallowing Disorders).

That's enough to love Fall right there.. but then after a hot, (and for us, humid) summer.. the temperatures are finally dipping down. I'm the sort of person who LOVES sleeping in a cold room/bed.  I would leave the windows open all winter if my wife would allow it, curse her hot Hawaiian blood.. so while she sleeps with a sheet and 2 blankets, I have just the sheet and an old Blanket my Mom made from some Grade School curtains about 40 years ago. I LOVE my curtain comforter.. it's so heavy.. it's like sleeping with a sidewalk pulled up over me. Absolutely perfect for me.

Plus, the most beautiful part of the Fall is of course.. the leaves changing colors.  I have always been blown away by the varied colors of foliage... and I'm hoping that we get treated to a spectacular show here in the Shenandoah Valley.

Then.. COLLEGE FOOTBALL!  My passion, beyond writing, is College Football. I'm a HUGE Boise State fanatic, (I've got 2 undergrad degrees from there), so every Saturday, (or night of the week if that's the case), I can be found planted in front of the TV for about 3 hours while the Broncos are playing.  It's so fun when my kids come in and ask 'which team is Boise State'. even if they're not playing, they all know who we root for in this house.  :)

Then.. there's the promise of what lies ahead.  Halloween, now that I've got kids in the 4-10 age range, is just an absolute blast.  I never had so much fun when I was a kid. From costume planning and creation to mapping out our course, to the buildup of finally getting to eat some of their candy.. Halloween is far better as a Parent than it ever was as a kid, at least for me. Course, when you live 10 miles outside of a town of 2000 people, the chances of knocking on doors and finding candy is slim at best. Milk.. sure. Lots of raw milk.. but candy? Not so much.  Then, right after Halloween it's Thanksgiving.. the Universal day of overeating delicious food. The best part of Thanksgiving..?  The Leftovers!  I can eat little butter roll sandwiches with turkey, stuffing, and cranberry jelly for weeks and never get sick of it.  And then.. the Granddaddy of all Holidays.. Christmas.  In our family it takes on even more special meaning because of all the Birthdays around Christmas, 3 kids born around Christmas. April Anniversary.. do the math ;)

 Today is the start of the best time of the year in the Hiatt Household, so join me in pouring some hot spiced cider, grab a book and a blankey, and go sit on your deck and get in some reading while the kids play in the back yard.  *Tis the season.
A shot of our backyard from the deck.. we live right in town just minutes from campus..
 the house is older but easily big enough for our brood, and the lot is huge with incredible views!

Guess what time of year it is.... FIRST DRAFT TIME!!!