Sunday, December 18, 2011

My Daughter's Rules to Tell if Santa is Real

So my daughter Olivia was born a skeptic of most things. She is not the child to casually take for granted every idle folk tale passed along the verbal pathways of older tongues. No, she is a child, rather, who will work her very hardest to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that what you tell her is real.

We have been to see Santa twice this Christmas season. Along our merry way Olivia has establish a set of five time-tested rules as to whether the Santa we are visiting is the real deal or not. The first Santa we visited passed with flying colors. The second Santa was 0 for 5.

So without further ado, here is Olivia's Fool Proof Real or Not Santa Test, 2011 version.

1. Does the baby cry when placed in Santa's lap?
    When visiting the real Santa last week, baby Erilyn was as silent as a mouse. We got a good picture. She was comforted in Santa's jolly red lap. That means he was a real Santa.
     The pretender that we visited earlier today had my little angel wailing like a siren. That means he's NOT THE REAL SANTA!

2. Does his beard come off when you pull on it? 
     Santa's beard grows into his face, and is not a wig. When you tug on it, it does not come off. BUT, don't tug too hard, because remember: if it is the real Santa, you don't want to hurt him this close to Christmas.
     Pretenders will either lose their beard, or grab their beard to keep it from separating from their face. Either way, NOT THE REAL SANTA!

3. What color is Santa's sleigh? 
     The real Santa will always be sitting in a sleigh. It must be red. If he's in a chair, or if the sleigh is, oh, say black, he's NOT THE REAL SANTA!

4. Does he refuse to give you want you want? 
     This test requires ingenuity. You must ask Santa for several odd items. "Can I get a lamp for Christmas?" "Can I have an icecream cone for Christmas?" Keep asking, trying to find something that he says no to. If he says he can bring you all of that, then you're in luck! If you get one no, he's NOT THE REAL SANTA!

5. Will he ever part with Rudolph? 
     Once your Santa passes the odd items test, you must ask him this one last question: "Will you give me Rudolph for Christmas?" This is the only present request that Santa may the refuse. The real Santa will NEVER part with Rudolph. That little old reindeer is far too important for old Saint Nick. If he says, "Sure, sweetheart, you can have Rudolph!" then you know for sure that he's NOT THE REAL SANTA!

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope all your Santas are real.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Congratulations, You're (not) a Winner!

A few weekends ago I participated in Robert Lee Brewer's Poetic Form Challenge: the Haiku. On his Poetic Asides blog, Brewer asked for people to write in (as many times as they wanted) and submit their best Haiku. I worked all weekend and studied the Haiku form, and by Monday I had a great set of Haiku that chronicled the seasonal year in four sets. I really, really like them.

Then, I waited for weeks for the winners to be announced.

And, you guessed it, I didn't win. Sad day, right?

While I admit it is a little disheartening to not win (well, I knew I wouldn't win, but I hoped for a spot in the top 10 at least...that didn't happen either), it doesn't mean I should quit. Brewer himself said that over 1,000 Haiku were submitted, and getting in the top 10 was a difficult choice and interesting feat in and of itself.

Which brings me to my point: LISTEN TO YOUR FEEDBACK!

When you submit, if you're lucky enough for an editor to give you some feedback, READ IT! Don't think a rejection means your work is worthless, take it for what it says and learn from it.

Also, please take time to check out the winners of the Haiku Challenge here. They all did a great job.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

My Daughter Takes Her First Steps!

Last night my daughter took her first step. It was, quite literally, a baby step. In fact, it was more like tripping while falling to the ground, but it was her first and my wife and I were there to see it.

I never thought I'd love a baby the way I love her. Before my children, I didn't think babies had personalities until they were, oh, about five years old.

Man, was I wrong! I saw her little personality the moment she opened her eyes. I love my girls so much.

On an interesting note, Erilyn's name comes from my book The Crown of White. Of course, one day it might actually be published and then the title might change, but for now that's what it is. She was named after my character Erilyn O'Shausen, and only time will tell if they end up having similar personalities. Still, it's haunting to read her name in my book. I guess it's pretty obvious she won't die. I don't know of an author out there who has the brass to kill off his daughter's namesake character! So I guess Erilyn is kind of a little bitty spoiler all by herself.

When I look back at the past eleven months, I can't believe all that my family has been through. I am so blessed to have my two little girls and my wonderful wife.

But I am not ready for Erilyn to walk.

But I don't really have a choice in it, do I?

Writing Prompt: 

Make a list of four made-up names. I made Erilyn by combining Erin and Lynn into one name. Try your own combinations. This tactic has worked for other authors as well (need I mention the ear-grating, nerve-pinching Renesmee from those books?). Create a few uncommon names and see what stories begin popping up in your mind. 

Then, write a story where all four of them meet. This may take some creativity because by this point, the four characters probably have already started developing differing backgrounds. But force them to meet, and see what happens.  

Start writing! 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Simplistic Verse?

Yesterday I wrote some poems to further my participation in the November Poem-A-Day Chapbook Challenge (hosted by Robert Lee Brewer's Poetic Asides blog). I joined this little competition late into November, so I'm having to work extra hard during December to catch up on writing while editing the poems as well. I sent a few poems over to another English teacher at my incredible new school, Liberty High School. She wrote back the following response:

Okay, I don’t know how to critique poetry except on a personal –taste level, so here’s what I think.  I really like the fact that there’s so much to wonder about on such short, easy-to-read poems. At first glance, a novice reader (like our students) might think that the poems are simple.  Simple and easy-to-read , to me, are two different things.  Your poems are not simple...I can’t say that I totally understand all the references and symbols in them, but isn't that the beauty of poetry?  When I have time, if I were to go back and re-read them, I’d walk away with more understanding, and that is, I’m sure, the standard that all poets aspire to achieve in their poetry.

So that got me to thinking. What is the difference in "simple" and "easy to read"? I tend to write short, concise poems (compared to my loooong, epic prose), but does that mean that I write "simple" poems? After reading the above response, I saw my poems in a new light. There is a difference in simple and easy-to-read poetry.

To me, poems should be like C.S. Lewis's Narnia in The Last Battle. The farther in you go, the bigger it gets. Sure, that's quite the grandiose view of poetry, but why shouldn't we dream? I'd love to write poems that get bigger with each reading, all the while remaining easy-to-read.

But never simple.

Writing Prompt: 

Write an easy-to-read poem about a person who seems at first glance to be quite simple. However, the more you examine him, the deeper and more complex he becomes. Write a poem that is easy-to-read, but one that deeply examines a simple subject. 

Here's my attempt: 

The bag in his hand 
Holds books. 
He is poor, but 
No one knows why. 
Years ago he was a movie star
Now, a beggar. 
He bought me an ice cream
last Sunday
just after 
He asked my mother 
for a five spot. 
Where did all his teeth go? 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Wheel of Time Theories 1 & 2

So, while it's on my mind, I should go ahead and placed down a few of my theories for the upcoming FINAL CHAPTER in the late Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series. While we patiently wait for Brandon Sanderson to finish A Memory of Light, I feel like we may suddenly one day turn around and, bam! the book is out and we've read it. And along the way we forgot to put our theories in writing, just so, you know, we could prove that we were right.

So, I'm just going to write down a few major ones that I've had for a while. If you haven't read this series, set aside the next year and grab books 1-13 and go to town! If you have read these books, you'll understand what I'm talking about.

Theory 1. Lan dies. Nynaeve gets with Valan Luca in her post-Lan depression. All's well that ends well.
Theory 2. Rand dies. Nynaeve finally figures out how to Heal death and brings him back to life. Why? You don't mention that "everything can be Healed except death" fourteen thousand times and then never do the opposite of it. Not when everything else that "couldn't be done" (cleansing the male half of the Source, Healing insanity, fixing someone who's been gentled or stilled, etc.) gets done despite the fact that it was "impossible."

That's it. Two theories. I'm done.

Writing Prompts: 

1. Take some time and think about what your readers are theorizing about the end of your novel or short story. Stop right where you are and think of five different endings for your book. Think of the exact opposite ending to what you have intended to write. Have you written anything to make your readers think you were going in that direction? Did you do it on purpose? Why? Why not? Are any of the theorized endings actually better than the one you've been planning on writing? (In my book The Crown of White, Moss Willimon used to go south at the beginning of the novel. One day I realized it would be far more interesting if he went north instead. So I changed it. Don't be afraid of change for the better.)

2. Have you ever written that something was "impossible" just so your readers would be amazed when you had a character figure out a way to do the impossible? Did the purposeful misleading hinder or help the story? Write a one-page story where the last sentence accomplishes what the first sentence claimed was impossible. What happens along the way to change the impossible to the possible? 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Prose vs. Poetry Writing Prompt

A while back, a man decided to make the perfect statue. So he sat on his front porch in winter and thought about the statue. He ordered the block of granite, and it lay in his front yard while he pondered. He planned it out in his mind, how he would strike each individual blow and polish it so well that the graceful arc of an arm would slowly emerge from the granite. He planned and planned for so long, that when he finally decided to make the statue, it was late into fall of the next year. The old block of granite was beginning to show signs of weathering and wear, but he knew still what lay beneath. So he began to chip and chisel and carve, and he worked till his sweat poured and he almost began to hate the block of stone. Almost. But he refused to let it win.

So he made it. Then, in the ignition of birth, the statue began to take a life of its own, growing. Growing.

Growing. Expanding, and snowballing into something better than he'd ever imagined. He polished it. He crafted it. And when he was finished: it was a novel statue indeed.

Another man I knew came behind that novelist and gathered the chips of stone that had fallen away, discarded. He pressed them firmly into place in a pool of mortar and lay them in the sun to dry. When he was finished, he took his mosaic home and placed it in his garden. There was something poetic about it there. The mosaic, made of the discarded chips and pieces of the novel, leftover words and fragments of sentences, gathered the sunlight and reflected it into the darker reaches of the garden. It was a beauty in and of itself as well.

Write a short short story in which a statue is the main character. Write the scene from the statue's point of view. See what she sees. Make the statue not human. 

Then, write a poem about the leftover pieces of wood after a carpenter finishes a project. What happens to them? Do they have any stories to tell? Where do the bigger scraps go? The smaller ones? Is there even a drop of jealousy among the various pieces of lumber? Why?