Archive for April, 2010

Saving Time

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

One of characters, a wizard who wants to remain anonymous for now, created spells to clip small chunks of time and save them in a time vault.  The chunks can be removed from the time vault when needed and used to add time to an event under way.  After I threatened him with a hideous death in my next story, he revealed the spells to me.

Clipping time is quite easy to do, especially during the boring moments in life: waiting at a red light, watching never-ending TV commercials, on a treadmill at the gym.  I have to be careful around others, because if overdone, the others notice something weird going on.

So far, I’ve accumulated three minutes and forty-five seconds.  Since the time came from boring moments, the ideal way to spend it is to lenghten pleasurable moments.

I want the wizard to develop a way to use the saved minutes by going backwards in time.  This would very useful after making a faux pas . Then I could go back and undo the mistake.  I could use this feature a lot.

My wizard is presently trying to patent the spells and to trademark the phrases “Saving time” and Time vault.”

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Chow Mein

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

An excellent way to use up left-overs.  This is not an authentic Chinese recipe because Chow Mein is an American recipe (according to a Chinese cook book I own)

Serves: 3-4

Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

2 cups shredded cabbage
½ cup bean sprouts
½ cup sliced mushrooms
1 med onion, sliced
½ cup celery cut into thin sticks
1 cup of cooked meat (chicken, turkey, pork)
2 tablespoons corn starch mixed with 4 tablespoons water
oil for cooking

Sauce:
2 tablespoon sherry
5 tablespoons soy sauce
½ cup chicken stock
½ teaspoon sugar

Preparation:

Heat oil in wok or large skillet
add cabbage, celery and onions. Stir fry until wilted
Add mushrooms and sauce. Cook 3 minutes
Add bean sprouts and meat
Thicken with dissolved corn starch

Notes:

Serve with white rice and Chinese noodles

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New Writing Contest

Sunday, April 18th, 2010

Visual Arts Junction has announced the next writing contest.  The deadline is June 30, 2010. Go here for a complete set of contest rules.

New Interview

Friday, April 16th, 2010
Today, I’m interviewed by Sheila Crosby on her blog.  We talk about my novel Fool’s
Fool's Gold Cover
Fool’s Gold Cover
Gold. Sheila is an author and a photographer.  She’s also a Brit ex-pat living in the Canary Islands.

Following a grandkids’s orders

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

My eight-year-old granddaughter is going away with her mother for a few days during her spring breakPumpkins 2009 087 from grammar school.  She told me to log onto Facebook on her mother’s account, go to the Farmville
application and feed her puppy, Cuddles.

To make sure I got it right, she wrote out a set of instructions (including sketches).  Click here to see the instructions.  Click on the second ‘puppy’ to open the file.  I programed my cell phone to send me an alert, just to be sure.

Subplots

Monday, April 12th, 2010
The following short essay is taken from Chapter Six in Build a Better Story.
Unless a story is very short, a single plot will have difficulty holding a reader’s attention.  If the story drives from the beginning to the end in a straight line, it lacks complexity.  If the story line zigs and dips and otherwise detours from its goal as secondary issues are explored, it increases the reader’s interest.  That is the purpose of subplots: to defer the ending of the story and increase the reader’s interest. BABS CoverSubplots do this by providing a break from the main plot and allow added complications, diversions and trickery to further entertain the reader.
There is a preferred arrangement for organizing the subplots; they should be nested within the main plot.  Thus, the story always starts with the main plot.  After the main plot gets established, subplot A is introduced.  Back to the main plot for a while followed by the introduction to subplot B.  The same technique is used for subplot C and subplot D, if necessary.  In this structure, subplot A is not as important as the main plot but is more important than subplot B.  Subplot C is of less importance than subplot B, but is more important than subplot D.  In fact, it is possible with a minor subplot such as D, not to show it at all, but to merely have the characters discuss its progress from time to time.
When approaching the end of the story, subplot D is closed first, followed by subplot C, then B, then A and finally the main plot is concluded.
Have a story that needs to be told?  Build a Better Story will help you get it done.  The trailer will explain more about the book.


Winners of the Visual Arts Junction Bedtime Story Contest

Friday, April 9th, 2010

Here are two short short stories that won this contest.  Enjoy reading them.

Professional Category: Donny’s Friend by Salvatore Buttaci

If Donny could’ve somehow unraveled the wires in his brain so that thinking came easily, he would have eventually forgiven them.

All those barren years they had prayed for a child, until finally in disgust Donny’s father had decided, “No more prayers.  What’s meant to be will be. No more knocking at Heaven’s door.” If Donny could have, he would have taken pity on the two of them: his proud, exasperated father and his brokenhearted mother.

“Keep this up, Tina, and I’ll get on the horn and call the ones in the long white coats and let them haul your skinny ass out of here!”  Then, realizing his cruelty, waved his hand as if to erase the threat, and said, “I’m sorry, Tina, but you’ve got to pull your pretty self together.  No kid?  Okay, we live with it.  We still have you and me, right?”

And Tina smiled at Milt, but they both knew it was insincere.

Autism.  Donny at three. The pediatrician explaining how it wasn’t the end of the world, but the diagnosis fell on Donny’s parents like a ton of lost dreams.

Donny sat still on the white table. When Tina walked over to the table and affectionately squeezed him, he did not react. His brown eyes scanned the room, jumping from the desk to the ceiling to the doctor to his parents to the white walls hardly visible behind the twenty or so framed degrees and awards that told the story of Dr. Peterson’s career. What those eyes saw never made it back to Donny’s tangled-up brain.

Dr. Peterson explained autism to them, but neither was listening.   All those years waiting.  Then this. It wasn’t fair. But what was even less fair came later. Milt and Tina gave Donny hardly any attention. He could not speak except for grunting whatever he was feeling but could not communicate. It especially unnerved his father while his mother would try to speak over those sounds till it got so that Milt did more and more overtime at work, not for extra money but for some quiet peace.

Most of Donny’s grunts were responses to the stuffed bunny Donny’s Aunt Meg had brought him, the one that suddenly one day had come to life.  “A troll in the woods knew some magic, so I asked him to change my cotton stuffings to flesh and organs, let blood run through my veins. You know, be alive!  And that little man made me real.”

Bunny paused and said, “Hey, care to be my friend?” Donny grunted, then held the white bunny against his chest, and grunted some more. “Yeah, kid, I know what you mean. Humans ain’t big on listening.  Things turn sour, they give up. But you and me, we got each other now.”

Without knowing why his eyes were filling up with wetness, Donny brushed the beads away and grunted. “Oh, that?” said his only friend.  “They call them ‘tears.’  It just means you’re one happy little boy!”

=====================================================================

Salvatore Buttaci is an obsessive-compulsive writer who plies his craft everyday. His work has appeared widely.  He was the 2007 recipient of the $500 Cyber-wit Poetry Award. His collection of 164 short-fiction stories, Flashing My Shorts, is available from All That Matters Press or from Amazon.com. He lives with his wife, Sharon, in West Virginia.

Judge Lillie Ammann
What I like about your entry:
The ending is a great twist and evokes emotion.

What could be improved: The first part of the story might be improved by changing some passive sentences to active.

Judge Aggie Villanueva
What I like about your entry: Excellent opening line. I enjoyed how Donny’s life parralelled that of The Velveteen Rabbit story. Loved your twist of clichés, to bring back reader attention, such as: fell on Donny’s parents like a ton of lost dreams.

What could be improved: Could eliminate the paragraph of Donny sitting on the doctors table looking around, in order to use those words to go more into Donny’s salvation: the velveteen rabbit.

Judge Cindy Bauer
What I like about your entry: I really liked how the stuffed animal was able to capture the attention of the boy with autism, though nothing else could reach him. It shows that while the disease is usually dibilitating, the cause and treatments are still left with much to discover as it shows the brain does function in some degree at a somewhat normal capacity and that perhaps, if explored more, each particular case could be treated focusing on the particulars that seem to reach out and touch that particular child, thus opening many new doors for both the child and the parents.

What could be improved: I was confused about the conversation the stuffed animal was having with the young boy. Was the animal speaking to him when no one else was around or was it within the realm of the boy’s mind, showing potential for imagination. I would’ve liked to have seen a different approach to that segment of the story so the reader is clear.

Judge Nanci Arvizu
What I like about your entry: I’m a big fan of stories that are similar to the classics, but instead take us down a different path. This is similar to the story of The Velveteen Rabbit (although it’s been awhile since I’ve read it), yet with its modern tale with autism.

What could be improved: Add in a little more about Donny and his new friends relationship

==========================================================

Amateur Category: Paint my Dreams by Lubna Kably

Ann’s eyes sparkled when she saw this book lying on a corner table in the attic. What was next to it? It looked like a magic lamp. A few other interesting bric-a-bracs lay scattered around.

Ann inched closer towards the table. Her grandmother had recently expired and she had accompanied her mother to this rambling old house. The assets were to be divided and the house sold.

She could hear Uncle Neil and Mama arguing again. Ignoring the shrill voices emanating from the living room downstairs, she looked closely at the book cover. “The Velveteen Rabbit”, it read. Ann always wanted a pet rabbit, but they lived in a tiny cramped flat in a crowded city.  A rabbit will not be happy in a tiny cage, her mother had patiently explained, over and over again. Yet, whenever she passed a pet shop, Ann could not help halting, even if, to just peer through the windows.

Ann dusted the book and opened it. The childish scrawl on the front page was faint with age, perhaps it said: Hazel. “Oh, this is Granny’s book”, said Ann to no one in particular. Hugging the book tightly to her chest, she ran downstairs. “Mama, Mama, I want to keep this book”, she pleaded. Uncle Neil roughly pulled the book from her, flipped open the pages, said it was a worthless piece of junk and that she could have it.  Mama had smiled and told her to run out and play.

Back home, tucked in bed, Ann began to read the book. It was about a toy rabbit who wanted to be a real rabbit and whose wish came true. “I wish my wish would come true, Mama”, she said, as her mother kissed her goodnight and switched off the lights.

Ann was lonely. Her mother caught up in her work and household chores was never around.  She used to meet her father over weekends, but now he had moved away to another city. Phone calls from him were getting less frequent. A silent tear rolled down Ann’s cheek as she fell asleep.

The days rolled on, the book lay on a shelf, quite forgotten. Till one day, Mama told her that they were moving to a large house in the suburbs. Some art which Granny had in her house had fetched a good price. Ann didn’t then know what art was, she didn’t care. She was so excited about the move.

She remembered that she had rubbed hard on the magic lamp in the attic and had made a wish – for a fluffy white rabbit.  Her pet rabbit – Velveteen and she would now play in the front yard of their new home.

Today, twenty odd years later, as a struggling artist, holding a temporary part time job to make ends meet, Ann looks back on the day she walked into the dusty attic. She knows there is no place for pessimistic disbelief in her life.

“You need to tread on the path of wonder, joy and trust and you don’t need a magic lamp to achieve your dreams”, she tells her friends.  She knows that someday soon she will be a success and she heads back to her tiny studio to paint her dreams.

========================================================================

Lubna Kably is based in the busy city of Mumbai, India. While she is a number cruncher by profession, she loves writing – especially travelogues which appear occasionally on various portals. One of her submissions was accepted by Traveler’s Tales in their compilation of funny gut-busting misadventures: The Thong Also Rises. She is currently experimenting with Haiku and this is her first attempt at writing something unrelated to travel or taxes.

Judge Lillie Ammann

What I like about your entry: Great storyline that entertains and inspires.

What could be improved: The story could be improved by using more conversational wording and avoiding stilted phrases such as “recently expired.”

Judge Aggie Villanueva

What I like about your entry: I like the symmetry of the story’s tie-in of the title and opening with the closing. A big chunk of the Ann’s life is revealed in very few words, her dreams, the divorce, her greedy uncle, going from poverty to comfortable middle class. Good use of the economy of words.

What could be improved: Don’t repeat information for the reader. Such as, “She could hear Uncle Neil and Mama arguing again. Ignoring the shrill voices emanating from the living room downstairs…” You could eliminate the first sentence and readers would still know there was an argument over money going on between the adults. Tie up the loose end of what happened with her dad and how that ties into her optimism 20 years later.

Judge Cindy Bauer

What I like about your entry: Shows much potential; suits the picture used for the contest; would like to read more – grabbed me right away and that’s difficult to do in a short story!

What could be improved: Dislike the use of the word “expired”, though I know it is commonly used in the health field. Prefer “gone to live with our Lord” or something along those lines. Passed away would be okay, too.

Judge Nanci Arvizu

What I like about your entry: As a believer in the power of positive thinking and dreaming big, the author is obviously writing from her heart.

What could be improved: The writer is so talented, I think the word count is what held her back from telling more of her story. I’m betting she could turn this story into a novella! .

VAJ Writing Contests Sponsors

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Cindy Bauer: Authors Resources http://authorresourcesbycindy.blogspot.com/

Nanci Arvizu, Page Readers: http://pagereadersbtr.blogspot.com/p/vaj-contest-winners.html

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Kim McDougall, Blazing Trailers: http://www.blazingtrailers.com/

Melinda Elmore, Pen to Paper: www.melinda.essentialwriters.com

Fran Lewis http://gabina49.wordpress.com/2009/12/20/congratulations-to-the-winners/

Fran Lewis http://bertha160.xanga.com/718608585/valle-pintado-writing-contest-congratulations-to-the-winners/

Amber Rigby Grosjean blog: http://amberrigbygrosjean.blogspot.com/

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Jhonny Thermidor, Unexplored Oceans of Wisdom: http://jhonnythermidor.webs.com/poemscontests.htm

Robert Appleton: Mercurial Times http://robertbappleton.blogspot.com/

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Jo Fulkerson: Writer’s Life http://www.freewebs.com/thedesertwriter/

Elena Dorothy Bowman, Book Blog:  http://elenadorothybowmansbooks.blogspot.com/

Mark Stephen Levy, Overland: http://authormarklevy.blogspot.com/

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Maggie Ball, Magdalena Ball: http://www.magdalenaball.blogspot.com

Sandman Slim: Richard Kadrey:

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

This entertaining book takes place in Los Angles a unusual world filled with monsters and bizarre creatures.  They come from earth, Hell, Heaven and elsewhere.  All trying to take over control.  One angle is a big shot in Home Land Security.  Sandman Slim is a human who survived eleven years in Hell without first dying.  He has been returned to Hell.  He believes Satan sent him back to do something, but he doesn’t know what it is but he’s sure it involves killing someone or something. Meanwhile, he plans to get revenge on the magician who sent him to Hell.

Definitely worth reading.  Four out of five stars

Iphones and Grandkids

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

These just go together naturally.  I have five grandkids from 8 1/2 to 2 and they all play games on my Iphone.  The 2 year-old will come up to me and yank on my pants, then say, “play game.”  He sits son my lap (I hold the Iphone!) and we play a few games I downloaded.  In one of them he has to match shapes.  Another teaches him numbers and colors.  My four-year-old granddaughter loves a game called Cookie Doodle.  She rolls out the dough, cuts it with a cookie cutter (the game has dozens of cutters) bakes it, decorates it and then “eats it.”  My seven-year old grandson likes to play battleships while my six-year-old grandson will play anything with movement: car racing, tank battles, Doodle Jump.  The oldest, 8 1/2 is the only one not very interested in playing games on it.

I think the Iphone games are marvelous. It is the best computer gadget I ever bought and I’ve had home computers since they first became available.  Except for the two oldest grandkids, the others can’t read or are just learning, but that doesn’t stop them from playing.  Everything they have to do is instinctive on the Iphone.  All they have to do is what feels natural to them and it works: no reading necessary.  Meanwhile, the young ones are learning skills while entertaining themselves.

I think the new Ipad will become, over time, an invaluable tool to teach kids many subjects while making it fun for them to learn.

Build a Better Story

Saturday, April 3rd, 2010

Build a Better Story is now available at Smashwords for download in EPUB, MOBI, LRF, PDB, and TXT formats.  It is available on my website in .PDF format.BABS cover

Have a story that needs to be told?  Here’s the best way to go about doing it.The book describes a process that eases the work involved in developing a story.  This reduces the time spent in reworking flawed and imperfect drafts. Following the process allows more time to be spent on the creative activities and shortens the time spent on less creative work.

Besides the process, this book takes a unique approach to character building and plotting.  It identifies problem areas that inexperienced writers struggle with and explains how to address those problems including character motivation and scene design.


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