Tag Archives: writing

2nd Annual Epeolatry Contest

Gold Apple ( small  and without seed ) .... Tr...

Gold Apple (Photo credit: Vietnam Plants & America plants)

Last year, inspired by a list of obscure words being removed from one of the major dictionary publishers, I held a short story writing contest for anyone who wanted to participate.  The deadline was my birthday, and three handmade prizes were awarded to the winners.

It was so much fun, I’ve decided to do it again, and in order to encourage more entries, I’m posting it here.  This is an all ages contest, purely for the enjoyment of the exercise, and the full details can be found at my LiveJournal page.

Brush up on your iambic pentameter, because this year I’m accepting both 600 word short stories AND sonnets from eager epeolatrians!

. . . and I really need to make a banner or official image for this contest.  The Golden Apple captivates viewers with its xanthic radiance, but what, pray tell, does it have to do with writing contests or the word epeolatry?


Norwescon Cometh

Michael Jackson dancing with the living dead.

Image via Wikipedia

For the first time, I made the deadline for this year’s Fairwood Writers’ Workshop at Norwescon.  For the first time, I will also be attempting to make a costume to enter in the Masquerade (something my daughter did for the first time last year, and she asked me to try this year).

Thanks to the help of a wonderful woman named Erin to schedule my three writing critique workshops — two novel excerpts and one short story round robin session — to accommodate all of the mandatory Masquerade meetings, I get to do both!  I guess this mean I’d better get started on my costume . . . only 27 days left.  Eep!

One of the things we do to prepare for Norwescon each year, is to remind ourselves of dance moves.  After last year’s successes, my daughter feels it’s especially important to learn the moves of the more popular ones.  If you’re a con-goer, too, and you’d like to brush up on your moves or learn them for the first time, here are some of the songs played at Norwescon dance and similar events filled with sci-fi/fantasy geeks:

Early in the dance on Saturday, we’ve tended to hear “Doctorin’ the Tardis” by The Timelords.  This is a filk of Gary Glitter’s “Rock & Roll Part II”, with an alteration to the lyrics.  Instead of the singers shouting, “rock and roll, hey!”, we hear, “Doctor Who-oo, hey!”  Most dancing is freestyle until the chorus, when everyone throws their hands high into the air for the “hey” part, and occasionally, people do a “run in place” move with elbows bent at 90 degree angles.  Sometimes.  Not always.  Not everyone.  Maybe just me.

The classic Michael Jackson “Thriller” is a frequent favorite, but unless you’ve been practicing since the 80’s, chances are, your moves mostly involve casting zombie glances, and holding your arms up like claws.  All well and good, but if you really want to get the group moving in synch, take a look at the inmates of CPDRC in the Phillipines, whose dance steps are much easier to see than those in the original video, although watching both are recommended (both for authenticity and fun, Jackson’s theatricality is legend).

At midnight, you can be fairly certain you’ll hear the “Time Warp” from the Rocky Horror Picture Show.  A classic I was taken to see at the tender age of seven (and I can assure you it didn’t affect my sexuality at all, and I certainly never enjoyed dressing up my boyfriends in fishnets and make-up, then . . . uh . . . anyway . . .).  I became a regular RHPS-goer at 15, and choreographed several numbers from it in my high school dance classes (much to my instructor’s irritation).  Thankfully, the song itself includes its own instructions, even from the narrator known as the Criminologist (Warning: the man you are about to see has no f*@%ing neck).  However, because the chorus includes different movements from the Transylvanians at “Let’s do the time warp again!”, there’s some slight confusion as to how to execute the move in synch.  Your best bet is to either jump or turn (my knees require the latter) 180 degrees three times during this portion of the song, and at each pause, either extend both arms, or one.  Free style dancing during the verses is typical, although the Columbia bit has seen a few purists kneeling and clapping to the beat.  But seriously, you’ll learn it best by watching the video, and don’t forget to melt at the end!  It’s a great way to make new friends!

Anyone who’s seen RHPS can attest that immediately following the group-favored Time Warp, “Sweet Transvestite” comes right after, introducing our protagonist (or antagonist, depending on your view), the venerable Frank-N-Furter, dressed in lingerie, platforms, and . . . just watch the video.  What to do during this song?  Most people free style, but others, dedicated fans, might be seen playing different characters. Once in a while, someone will be seen enacting a perfect Frank to set the gents and ladies drooling.

One of our favorite requests for con is “Smooth Criminal”, and these days it’s my daughter trying to learn the moves as best she can, because not only is this one of Jackson’s biggest and most theatrical of numbers, it also includes a diminutive form of her name.  However, if you find Jackson’s dancing too hard to follow, especially given the frequent scene changes, and the difficult “lean” sequence, take a look at these performances by a friend of mine.  Her group, Dangerous, can be seen full-bodied from the front in this performance, and at a 3/4 angle in a different performance, allowing us to benefit from seeing easy and moderate moves (given practice) to use in the dance itself.  Yes, those are all talented, fabulous women.  Also, as an aside, why in the original video upload do they insist on cutting off the last few seconds?  You know, when the woman turns around, and we see her eyes have changed to those of a cat?

Anyway, no one of sound body and insane mind should avoid the next dance.  There’s nothing quite like being held up by two hairy, sweating men in kilts as you dance and hop wildly in a ring to Boney M’s “Rasputin”, which honors the late, great tall and mysterious Russian.  While the dance isn’t available, the music is available to help you prepare for the pace.  The dance involves people gathering in concentric rings, usually one large outer ring, and one smaller, inner ring.  As you move (usually to your right as you face in), you place your arms around the shoulders and backs of the people on either side of you.  Now the fun ensues . . . with the beat, you hop, supporting yourself with your left leg, and raising your right knee perpendicular to your torso.  Without setting down your right foot, hop again, this time, extending your leg forward in a low kick.  Hop again, this time switching your weight to your right foot and raising your left knee.  See where I’m going with this?  Repeat these steps until the end of the song, “Oh, those Russians!”, or until you collapse, because you haven’t spent the last year training for a dance marathon.  These days, I stand on the outside, give a few good kicks to remind my daughter of what to do, and clap on the sidelines.  Maybe I’ll get back in the ring someday, but for now, I prefer breathing and remaining upright.

Last year, I was surprised by a couple of songs I don’t recall hearing at the convention dances before.  Maybe I just wasn’t in the room when they’d occurred, but I hadn’t danced to them since high school.  Specifically, the Macarena and the Hand Jive.  Not expecting them, I had to fumble a bit the first few times to remind myself, but thankfully they’re designed to be easy for people to copy and follow along.  Watch the dancers in the original video of the Macarena and the Hand Jive from Grease.  In case you have trouble with the latter song, the hand motions are these: slap the tops of your thighs twice, clap them together twice, wave your left hand over your right hand twice, switch the motion (right over left), make two fists, and bring them together vertically four times (twice with the left on top, twice with the right on top), then extend your thumbs one at a time, and thumb over each shoulder two times.  Between this and the visuals, I hope I’ve explained it!  Also, as you can see (or remember) from Grease, the dancers embellish a bit.

This isn’t a complete list, but it’s the one we’re working with.  Convention dances contain all sorts of music including goth rock, popular and geeky dance songs like the ones above, techno/club music, psuedo-country (e.g. “Cotton-Eyed Joe” and “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”), and pagan/spiritual songs such as Rumors of the Big Wave’s “Burning Times”.

I’m really excited (and somewhat nervous) for all that I’ll get to do this year.  It will require a lot of strength and perseverance to get through the weekend, especially Saturday, but with planning and practice, I’ll be able to celebrate at the dance.

It’s Been a While


It’s been a while since I posted a phone photo.  Oops?  Ok, so I’m not feeling as guilty as I look in this (whistling innocently?), but after seeing this post from a year ago January, I decided it was high time to post something.

Though I liked my hair shorter (surprise!), I’ve been growing it out in anticipation of Norwescon, at which I might be entering the Masquerade competition, requiring longer hair for my chosen costume.  Assuming I can find time to cut the fabric, sew the basic shape, gradient dye the dress, and then alter it to take on the desired shape.  Not likely to happen since I’ve neither the money, nor the experience dyeing fabric, and my writing workshops have been scheduled in conflict with the pre-Masquerade meeting times (although I haven’t given up entirely, my writing comes first) . . . and I’m babbling again. 

Now to figure out which ONE writing sample sums up my ability to write fabulous web content.  Why did I have to use “that” so many times?

Reviewing 2011


Should I say it was inevitable?  Should I talk about all the projects I never followed through on?  Should I call the Improving Raven Project of 2011 a failure?

No, because I am not self-defeatist.  No, because I’ve proven many times now, I can see a project through to its end, and even have good results.  No, because I learned from what I accomplished, and even from what I did not attempt.

I had a whole plan laid out for what I’d begin doing each new moon, and how I’d progress. It didn’t happen.  I even slid back on some of the good habits I’d begun incorporating.  However, I am more and more returning to the healthy habits I initiate.  I brush my teeth daily now (I used to forget, or get tired, or get too busy, and ew, I know.)  Most days I still remember to take my supplements and get enough water to drink.  Some nights (not tonight) I remember to go to bed before midnight.

Also, thanks to a bit of luck or readiness or some divine force, I have a friend in my life who is a certified trainer, who is helping me regain some of my mobility through simple stretches and exercises that re-train my brain.  Although my health is far from perfect, I finally feel like I have hope again for the first time in a long while.

Thanks to 2011, I have learned how to garden a little, how my body responds to certain vitamins and enzymes, what certain pains in my body mean, what my limitations and potential are, and how much better it feels to stop eating foods my body finds toxic.

I also learned how important it is to me to make my writing a priority, not just in the creative process itself, but in sharing those stories with the public.  I am, at this very moment, quite giddy and nervous.  After years of considering submitting excerpts of some of my writing projects to a critiquing workshop at the local sci-fi/fantasy convention (and failing to the make the deadline), I actually put forth the effort, and submitted pieces, which I will then have the opportunity to improve thanks to the work of people already succeeding in the field. I’ve also submitted short stories to several publications. While nothing’s been bought, thus far, I’ve received helpful feedback from several of the editors, some of whom encouraged me to submit for future collections.

As for 2011, it wasn’t the failed end of the Improving Raven Project, it was just the beginning of what will be an on-going journey to dance again, minimize the obstacles created by chronic illness, add beauty to the world through art, and take all the other steps to get me from where I began to the person I want to see in the mirror every morning.

In Defense of Adverbs

Cover of "Twilight (Twilight, Book 1)"

Cover of Twilight (Twilight, Book 1)

Several months ago, I read among many, a scathing review of the Twilight series in which someone had actually counted the number of adverbs in a given chapter.  There were an appalling 26.

Reading famous authors’ books on writing, including Stephen King’s brilliant On Writing, mentions again and again how writers should eliminate any and all adverbs. At least, that’s the impression that’s stuck since reading said books.

I’ve become paranoid about adverbs.  I feel guilty when I see one, give an internal groan, and berate myself for using them as a writer.  When I churn another one out, I assume I will only need to find some more inventive way to write the same phrase without the offending word.  It’s as though the use of adverbs is seen as a form of laziness in writers.  I’m starting to have nightmares that soon they’ll be coming after my adjectives and commas next. DMS is especially unhappy with my standard usage of commas, double spaces after periods, and character in my writing voice. I do not conform to their AP style!

At what point do I cross the line into an obscene and unforgivable number of adverbs?  Is Meyer’s 26 a number to avoid?  Or is the cut off a bit earlier, say, around 15 or 20?  Is there a ratio of adverbs per page that’s acceptable?  And how will I be viewed by readers who count adverbs in any given chapter and find I’ve come up with a surfeit of such descriptive words?

So, here I am reading through Eila, Book 1, during what I hope will be our final editing pass before we send off query letters (and stalk) editors to get in good with some big-named publishing house, and I’ve been circling and keeping count of adverbs. The introduction is ok, there are only three.  The first chapter has a more worrisome number: 17.  But chapter two has an unacceptable 37 adverbs, and the third contains an obscene number: 43.

Near to hyperventilating over these numbers, I began thinking about what I had read through.  The content is standing much stronger than it did in draft zero several months and two previous editing passes ago.  I am able to see the characters and their actions better due to the clarity of the writing.  What’s more, as I circled adverbs and considered them in context, I began to realize that not every adverb needed to be removed.  Oh sure, there were the superfluous words ending in -ly that did not add to the flow of the text, but there were, as I found, good reasons to keep a number of adverbs in their current places.  They supported and enhanced the text rather than detracting from it.

I questioned why adverbs were considered so heinous by a great number of people, and started to see the good adverbs from those that tugged at readers eyes and hindered the enjoyment of the story.  Why do we have adverbs if they are considered malignant to effective storytelling?

It dawned on me, as I am certain others have discovered, that like profanity, every word has its place.  Some may have spawned from the laziness inherent in verbal communication, but when used in a way that gives a story greater vitality and nuance, how could we not use them?

Cover of "Zero History"

Cover of Zero History

And in this mindset, I picked up Zero History by William Gibson on the paperback shelf at the library and read two pages, engaged in the complexity of his language.  I stopped at the end of page two and counted: ten adverbs in two pages. There were two adverbs on the first page–a sin to have any in those first, crucial paragraphs–and here he has two!  Eight on the second, with two so close they might as well be in the same sentence together. Ten adverbs in two pages.

If the father of the cyber-punk novel can use adverbs, deftly and in moderation, then so can I.

Adverbs in this post: 4.


Quick Writing as a Lesson

strunk and white have a posse

Image by lauraholin via Flickr

Daughter has the writing bug (can you say “Mary Sue?” I knew you could), in part because of inspiration from our Reading Selections mentioned over at Willow and Birch.  Unfortunately, she has very little awareness of how writing is formatted, and her first short story for our reading selections group came out as a series of pages-long blocks of text without differentiation between speakers or actions.  So tonight, while she was working to correct paragraph indentation–and still struggling–I began writing in a .txt file for her to see how to do it in process.  What I wrote:

“Hi there,” said the editor.  “Let me see your manuscript.”

“Oh, uh, hi.  Well, I’ve got a copy here, just ignore the coffee rings on the corners there, I, uh, well, you know . . .”  The writer ran a nervous hand through his hair, and clutched his valise.

The editor took a three second glance before lifting his eyes to the writer.  “Thank you for presenting this manuscript to us, but it’s not right for us at this time.  Good luck finding a home for it.”

“That’s it?”  The writer gripped the discarded first chapter of his magnum opus.  “Aren’t you even going to tell me what’s wrong with it?”

The editor was already on another task and did not look up to answer.  The writer stood over the editor’s desk for several angry breaths before deflating.  He quietly stuffed his unwanted story back into his valise, gave a nod and a half-whispered note of thanks to the editor for his time, and left the building.

While I was in the midst of writing the editor’s last line, Daughter said, “That’s what an editor said to you recently, didn’t he?”

*cough, cough* “Yes, dear.”

I have recently submitted five poems for a book publication, but was not one of the three poets selected to be published, as well as two erotic short story contests, one of which received a reply similar to the one above.  As I’ve said before, I receive very polite, handwritten (or personalized) rejection letters.  The erotic anthology, to which I am still looking forward to reading, received a reply that read (with various edits of my own out of respect for the editor and his privacy):

This was a hard decision, as there were a number of things I liked about your story.  Unfortunately, it just didn’t have the right feel for what I was seeking.  It’s a well-written, erotic story, but I don’t think it would fit in with the anthology as it’s come together.  Thus, I’ll have to pass on it.  Good luck finding a home for this elsewhere.

So polite, but wait.  Was that a back-handed compliment at the end?  Ouch.  Ah well . . . maybe I wasn’t cut out to write erotica.  I’ve been told the hot parts are HOT, but I’m wondering if I’m not giving enough lead in.  Of course, word count restraints like the ones at SEAF (I didn’t enter this year, because I had nothing I could reasonably cut down to 1500 words and still retain a sense of progression) do make things more complicated.  I like the 2,500-5,000 range most of the time, although my most recent submission to a different anthology barely made the word count mark.  Now I’m worried I didn’t add enough lead in, didn’t seduce the audience enough before getting to the yowsas.  Eventually I’ll learn.

Meanwhile, my mom has made some suggestions on where to send a long-time lonely short sci-fi story I wrote years ago that’s gone through several revisions.  I finally think it’s ready for print, it feels right, it gives a bit more to the audience I had taken for granted (knowing everything about the world as I do) in the first few rewrites, and I’m finding myself shy of sending it out.  I want someone to like it, know what I mean?  But it’ll never get published if I don’t dress it up and send it out to play with the other shorts in the world.

Unless I take over the publishing world . . . mwhahaha– Uh.  But that would be cheating.  Right.  Then.  Um . . . back to work.

Oh, and by the way, I’m feeling awfully good about my recent education articles over at eHow (see Facebook, Twitter, or LiveJournal for updates).  It’s nice to have things out in the world with which I’m proud to have my name associated.  (It’s just weird having to play comma shy as required by AP style.  Much prefer Oxford and APA and MLA styles of comma usage.  Comma!)