Author Archive

To Not To Be: Eschewing Passivity-A Writing Prompt

Passive verbs are like Bilbo Baggins, (Paraphrased) “To be! We hates it, we hates it, we hates it forever!” (The Hobbit: J.R.R. Tolkein)  Though perfectly good words, they act as literary parasites sucking the life from our prose.

Recognize Literary Parasites
Wanted “TO BE”
DELETED or “RARELY” useful: “RARELY” useful:

“DELETED: Hunt these words in your prose and DELETE them with a sharp stick.
TO BE verbs are WAS, WERE, IS, ARE, AM, BE, BEING, BEEN, BECOME, BECAME

The Zombie Test

The Zombie Test taught me in a creative writing class provides a simple test for passive sentences.
Adding “by zombies” after the verb.
Example: Joan was kissed (by zombies). Disgusting, but it makes sense.
(If you like zombies go for it. I don’t judge.)
Example: The Zombies kissed Joan (by zombies). Still digusting, but it makes no sense.

“RARELY” useful.
(Case 1) When writing the first draft, it is often the philosophy to throw words at the blank screen until “THE END!” At that point, real work begins.
A Second Draft forges a book. Like a Sword; tempered your prose in fire and blood. (Plese do not stab people with sharp verbs. )
PRO TIP that can be used by anyone.
Try writing actively in a first draft. Deleting “to be” before writing it develops literary efficiency.
(Case 2) THE DIALOG EXCEPTION
Real people use passive constructions in a dialog.
I’m = I am (to be)
It’s = It is (to be)
Use them as necessary. Dialog is about characterization.

The Prompt: write a piece of Flash Fiction or a brief article of no more than 500 words without using “to be” verbs.

Writing a short Flash Fiction piece or a paragraph provides a simple exercise and develops active literary muscles. My solution appears below:

My Solution to the No To Be verbs.

Women’s Magic by Frank Darbe ©

Ghana sat cross-legged in a circle of oak roots illuminated by a sunbeam holding a red rubber ball and five jacks. No memory of arrival touched her mind. No concern for leaving shadowed her heart.

She examined the objects in her hands. A red rubber ball nestled in her palm. Ghana squeezed and found the ball between hard and squishy, bouncy. The jacks, parts of a game from her great-grandmother’s storied childhood “before them computers and phones stole your mind.” And with spoke words, grandma appeared between two of the trees.

Ghana tilted her chin up and glanced down her nose, not comfortable with Grandma standing. “Really?”

Grandma entered the circle and sat cross-legged. “Never talk to me that way!”

She bounced the ball. “Sigh! This a dream?” 

“Why you think so?”

“Uh, sitting on the floor without your electric chair.”

“Dreamtime, not a dream. Learn the difference.”

Ghana tossed the ball and jacks in the dirt and walked off between the trees. Just like Bam, she sat cross-legged in a circle of oak roots, ivory die in one hand and five nubby bones in another.

Grandma smile and sipped her tea. “Hot chocolate, sweetheart?”

“Bones and dice, really?”

“The magic child.”

“Please?”

A cup of hot chocolate appeared beside her knee. “Knucklebones and dice, like jacks but old, child.”

“Like you?”

“Ha-ha-ha-ha, you tickle me green sometimes.”

“Another of your magic tricks, Grandma.”

“Leave if you think you can.”

Ghana knew better. Grandma talked about Dreamtime and her childhood. Talked about women’s magic old as time. Remembering sparked feelings, wonder, joy, awe.

“Why teach me magic, now?”

“Birthed three daughters and four sons. Two of my girls died in childbirth. My youngest, Sheila, disappeared with some traveling man and never came home. My sons fathered grandsons.  Thought I would die without passing the skills. Your mama said you started bleeding?”

“Menstruation, grandma.”

“People make up all kinds of words. Simple ones work best.”

Ghana faced palmed Grandma. “Yes, I bled. Why teach me now.”

“Doctor gave me six months and not good ones.”

Ghana dropped the knucklebones and threw her arms around her Grandmother. “No. No!”

“We come and go, hon. Life. Now, I pass it on.”

Ghana rubbed her face dry. “Women’s magic.”

“Throw the knucklebones, Sweetheart.”

Pro Tip by Emma T. Gitani

Creator Emma T. Gitani Editor and Author.

Emma T. Gitani is a writer and editor of my acquaintance. As a warrior in the eternal conflict between telling and showing, she provides professional tips for the Author-Warrior.

Remember: SHOW don’t TELL!

Emma T. Gitani, Editing Services

Emma T. Gitani Author Page

A Writer’s Bootcamp and Other Exercises

JaCol Publishing‘s Bootcamp for Writers

My publisher, Randall Andrews, and his company JaCol Publishing hold boot camps for writers. I’ve taken done this before, twice. I wrote my first novel, Shift, during a boot camp, and the wrote the bulk of my WIP Shadow Walkers in another. Having the means, and recognizing that I spend more in coffee in a month that than the cost per month of his course I chose to go through this again.

Of course, I will write the sequel to Shift (Title will be a single wort, but I haven’t a clue yet.). Apart from the novel, the boot camp puts me in contact with a group of talented writers and provides an excellent workout to remove those unsightly flabby adjectives from my prose.

An Author’s Platform

This morning, Toni Crowe’s excellent ‘“When Does This Get Easy?” — The Myth Of Author Platform‘ documented the frustrations of building an Author’s Platform, provided a primer to follow her successes and left me envious as hell of her drive.
When I published Shift, I had no idea what an Author’s Platform might be. I dreamed of writing and publishing a book and waiting for the accolades to roll in. I should have realized that books, being oblong with edges did not roll all that well. I am playing catch up without a guide.
Her article comes with a series of steps that I intend to follow. I will report on those efforts as they occur.

Elon Musk’s Stainless Steel Starship (ExtremeTech)

If you ever read or enjoyed images of ships from the Golden and Silver Age of Science Fiction, you would have seen silver rockets sitting on their fins.
Elon Musk’s BFR/Starship resembles those designs, but not our of engineering nostalgia. Stainless steel is their go-to material for good reasons, as Ryan Whitwam of Extreme Tech Explains.

“SpaceX is working on the initial prototype of the Starship rocket (formerly BFR) that could eventually carry people to the moon and Mars. However, CEO Elon Musk recently announced a significant design revision that seems counterintuitive at first. Instead of aluminum and carbon fiber, the company has decided to build the Starship out of stainless steel. Now, he’s explaining why. “

“Elon Musk Explains Why the Starship Will Be Stainless Steel” By Ryan Whitwam on January 24, 2019 at 8:17 am (https://www.extremetech.com/extreme/284346-elon-musk-explains-why-the-starship-will-be-stainless-steel

Do I Need to Redesign My Website?

Went looking for writers on WordPress, the agenda being to follow them, and when it is appropriate, quote them on the site to get exposure for my website. I found “26 Best Minimalist WordPress Themes for Writers,” which indicates websites that are better for reading and easy to manage.
I suspect that I need to research writers’ websites and make mine more like theirs.

What am I Waiting For?

I have four complete novels, along with my writing, I am going to edit them and get them ready for Beta Readers and publishing.

Not Never on Sunday, but Almost

Writing on Sunday’s is difficult. Family, you know. The pull your heartstrings, drag you this way, that way. My wife, tried of the entire family, minus the dog (herself include) spending time our time in different rooms on different computers doing different things is unhealthy.
She is right, of course, but don’t tell her I said.

A writer, has all this stuff in his brain, the story threatening to blow out his forehead if he does not release the pressure through his fingers.

I did a bit, pecked through the screen on my tablet. I wrote a poem this morning, “A Writer on Any Given Sunday.” I added five hundred words, give or take, to Shadow Walkers.
Not enough to please my restless mind.
Now, late at night, I can work for a while, now that the call of the blog has been answered.

A Writer on Any Given Sunday

Photo by Plush Design Studio on Unsplash

Wake, and …
Suspicion creeps down my neck.
Not a thinking day. No!
A lark day.
A play day.
A crawl back in bed and mess around day.
Chores, wait till tomorrow.
Hobbies, paint yourself.
Writers deserve days off.
Right?
No stress.
No worries.
Hakuna ma watch-u-ma-call-it
And all that jazz.
So what if …
I left a character
A breath from death
No clue how to live.
An alien shadow
Outside of time
Creeping through the pores in his skin.
I stopped yesterday, not knowing how to save him.
Should I kill him?
Why not?
Abel Ruse, not real.
Not breathing, hoping,
I know what color of underwear he wears.
I know he has the hots for Gaia,
And thinks he is in love.
Not old enough to know
Love from lust?
Or is there a difference.
And he’s changing.
Oh, my!
And the change scares him
More than the knife
Literally at his throat.
How can I desert someone
Living in my head for months
When I know his hopes, dreams,
That his frozen thought
“What color of panties does Gaia wear?”
Not knowing if he will ever know.
Because real people never know
Until the knife at their throat
Cuts.
And then, nothing…

Hard-Earned Writing Wisdom

Does this owl make me look wise?
Photo by Jessy Paston on Unsplash

“Good things happen to those who work at it, but never in a hurry. “
Frank Darbe expressing his sense of frustration by paraphrasing an old proverb.

“Hurry up and Wait is a thing.”
Old Navy saying Frank Darbe relearns every freaking day of his life.

“If at first you don’t learn something, bash your head against the wall a few more times. Wisdom penetrates thick skulls only with encouragement.”
Coined by me, Frank Darbe, while taking three Ibuprofen after a learning experience. 

“Avoiding work is the quickest route to failure, but it proves I, too, can be spectacular at something.”
Anonymous, but really, we all know anonymous is Frank Darbe.

“Coining fake hard-earned wisdom proverbs is avoiding work, by pretending to work and takes more time and effort than work. “
Refer to Frank Darbe’s previous Hard-Earned Wisdom Snippet concerning the avoidance of work.

“A writer pours out both heart and soul for his audience. Though it may only be an audience of one, the writer himself, one can be a damned appreciative audience.
By (applause, applause) the Writer himself. Frank Darbe.

“A 100-word logline is a thesis, not a logline and proves that the writer requires remedial courses in grammar and salesmanship.”
Paraphrased from words spoken by an agent to Frank Darbe at his first Writers and Editors Convention. To which, Frank answered, “What’s a logline?”

“If you never failed at something, you never learned anything. Do you think coming up with good pithy phrases is easy?”
Said by Frank Darbe to his wife when he failed to carry out the trash while coining pithy sayings. Trust Frank, leaning that was painful. He doesn’t sleep well on couches.

“Do not wait for success as a writer. Throw words at your keyboard until the screen vomits, and then self-publish.”
Frank Darbe says, rescue me, I am trapped by a deadline set by monkeys forcing me to write words at random until they become wise.

“That’s it. That’s it. You’re perfect, said no writer ever after penning the first sentence of a fantasy epic for the thousandth time.”
Frank Darbe didn’t say that, and it wasn’t a thousand times really.

“Lists of Hard-Earned wisdom are like goodbyes spoken to visiting relatives, they go on too long but are sincere.”

Just Finish the Darn Book

Photo by Brittani Burns on Unsplash

Walking Shadows

At fifty-four-thousand words, Walking Shadows is close to the end. It has been a long trip, starting, stopping, starting, stopping due to depression, grief, doctors, medicine, and recovery,. Better, I see it within no more than two weeks of “The End.”

I’ve avoided picking it up again because of a bad habit. Hit a rough spot in the book or emotionally, and I start something new. Chasing the new and shiny story is my worst habit as a writer.

Worse, I avoided it because I lost the narrative thread, and because the ending no longer made sense to me. Realizing last night, I was being both unprofessional and a fool, I dusted off the data file. After dithering, I realized that I know how it ends, I just was not sure how to get there from where I last wrote. I started the novel project of writing the last three or so chapter from back to front. It sounds backasswards (one of my favorite words form my Oklahoma childhood) but I can set down and write the last chapter without a hitch, and once I get that done, I will extrapolate backwards until I reach the point where I stopped writing.

And there is something very comforting in writing the last chapter of a long work.

Walking Shadows: After Able Ruse’s mother dies, he is forced to leave the religious community where grew up and live with his strange Grandfather in Scapula, California, haunted by Walking Shadows that stea the souls of children and and and take over their lives.

Things to Do. Stories to Write.

Yesterday, I wrote “How Jimmy Dees Ate the World.

Syinopsis: A who is driven to atheism by mommy issues accidentally swallows a splinter removed from under his fingernail and forced by the thing in his stomach to eat. After emptying his fridge, he eats the refrigerator followed by his house and moves on to the rest of the world only to find his Mother’s stingy and vicious God chose Jimmy to end the world because Jimmy never asked God for so much as a pissant.

The story was fun, but so far the few who commented on it treat it like some odd dog left in in a lump on their porch by a stray dog. Ohe well, I write for myself, and it is rough.

Things To Do

01 – Work on novel daily.
02 – Write a story to submit to Whortleberry Press, for Strange Mysteries 8 with a theme of “A More Perfect Union,” and a max length of 3000 words.
03 – Write a story to submit to Serial Magazine. They have a “Pulp” editorial policy and are looking for 500 – 10,000 words stories. The 7,500 – 10,000-word range is serialized. Genres are action-adventure, science-fiction, mystery, fantasy, horror, thriller, romance, and westerns.

Writer Zaide’s: Advice for Wayward Writers

Zaide Himself

My Main Character Dies Halfway Through the Novel. Can Lesser Conflicts Bring Adequate Tension to the Plot?

In Empire, Orson Scott Card wrote a novel where the POV character in the first half of the novel is shot in the head by an assassin and dies midway through the book. After his death, other characters carried the POV. The Death of the main character did not conclude the crises that started the novel.

In Card’s Novel, the plot was not solved by the death of the main character. It was a political thriller where other characters picked up the plot and conflicts. The novel did not hinge on the Main’s character’s conflicts.

Whatever your central conflict might be, it should work like a relay race, where the next person takes the baton and runs with it. Dealing with the death of the original main character became a subplot for his friends, wife, and children.

I do not think that “lesser conflicts” will work. Your readers bought into your main characters crises and conflicts. The death of the main character should be a failure in the novel’s core conflict that others must rise to face.

A Delicate Truce by Ben Douglass

Ben Douglass, A Delicate Truce is a brief report of a generational collision between a father and a daughter, both anchored by their own experiences that leave them unwilling to cross the generational divide. The adopted daughter Lisa lives in a world informed by revolutionary youth, a young woman seeking to understand her roots in a world she does not remember, having been transplanted into a middle-class Jewish household. Arnie Sussman, a father who loves his child, is lost in the face of the young woman she has become and find himself unable to understand how the world he sees filtered by nuance and gray tones is for her slashed with jagged lines of black and white.

Their truce for the duration of a family evening at the theater proves difficult to broker. More of difficult cease fire, and their clash though not epic is familiar to parents who often look at their children in dismay.

I enjoyed this Flash Fiction, and found its portrayal of two very different people, both blinded by a version of privilege but unwilling to see past their blinders.

Ben Douglass and Mercury Flats Publishing

Indie writers and publishers go hand in hand. They range from small, boutique publishers providing editorial and publishing services for a price to sole proprietor publishing houses created to handle the works of one writer who serves as Writer, Editor, Publisher, Artist, Book Designer, Bank, and chief cook and bottle washer.

Mercury Flats falls under the later description, operated by author and owner Ben Douglass. His works are available from Amazon.
Konstantin’s Birthday: 4th Revised Edition
Inmate DET-3
Confession of a Former Zombie: A Memoir
This Ain’t The Waldorf Astoria, Honey!
Raw Beginnings: An Omnibus