http://bethanymaines.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Aug2016-Logo-op3-300x69.png 0 0 Bethany Maines http://bethanymaines.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Aug2016-Logo-op3-300x69.png Bethany Maines2017-03-23 01:45:302017-03-21 05:49:26Reading vs. Writing
by Bethany Maines On Monday night fellow Stiletto author J.M. Phillippe (visiting from Brooklyn) and I attended the local open mic night from Creative Colloquy. The evening celebrated Creative Colloquy’s third anniversary and featured the Washington State poet laureate Dr. Tod Marshall. Creative Colloquy’s mission is to connect writers with their community and celebrate their works. And in keeping with that mission, Dr. Marshall reminded us in the audience to both battle for the arts and to rejoice in our creative communities. As with every time I go to a reading event I'm struck by what different skills reading and writing are. It's difficult to differentiate the presentation from the work being presented. For every rushed reading, there’s one that gives space for the audience to savor the moment. For every mumbled poem, there’s one that echoes from the rafters. For every awkward and misplaced laugh in the middle of a story, there's one that ought to be a comedy special. Delivery, timing, and pronunciation, all take a reading from blah to amazing. Or at least important enough to make people stop talking to their friends at the table. Are the amazing readings better? Or just benefitting from better delivery? It makes me wonder: what could I be doing to present my own work better in live readings? Should we authors all be forced to take public speaking classes? Improv classes? Should we be forced to listen to recordings of ourselves (God nooooooooooo!!!)? Is there a secret trick that I could be using? What if I just I hire an actor to read for me? In all probability I shall simply have to rely on the very exclusive, top secret trick of practice and repetition. As long as no one makes me watch a recording of it, that will probably be fine.
http://bethanymaines.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Buffy.jpg 324 392 Bethany Maines http://bethanymaines.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Aug2016-Logo-op3-300x69.png Bethany Maines2017-02-23 09:00:002017-02-22 02:58:28The Long and Short of It
I watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer when it was first on television. It was the first time I'd watched a show that combined the episodic weekly tale with a long-form, season long story arc. Whether or not you enjoy fantasy and teenagers killing things, the inclusion of a "big bad" (Buffy slang for the seasons main villain) made Buffy a tremendous innovator in TV. It was an innovation that impressed and continues to impress me. The ability of the writers to maintain the critical pacing of the weeks mystery, while at the same time building a seasonal arc that culminates at the right point is a difficult writing feat. Most stories require that a character to fulfill a certain role to advance the story. But with multiple stories playing out at the same time the characters actions must serve several different purposes at once. Accomplishing these goals at all, let alone well, is something I aspire to. And while I have experimented with this type of writing before in my Tales from the City of Destiny, I have never tried to do a true over-arcing long form story across multiple novels. That is until now. Starting last December, I have gone headlong into plotting and writing a new five book crime series. I'll be excited when I can finally share more details about the series. But until then, I'm asking for inspiration to help keep my creative juices flowing. What TV shows do you love that combine short and long form elements and crime or action?
http://bethanymaines.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/122110-calvin_resolutions.jpg 305 400 Bethany Maines http://bethanymaines.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Aug2016-Logo-op3-300x69.png Bethany Maines2017-01-26 05:29:052017-01-25 05:32:46Resolution Failure
I don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions. Resolutions always seem to be negative statements. They pit the resolver against something. I resolve to lose weight, spend less, give up every fun thing ever, etc. I much prefer to make goals. Goals take aim and move toward a change. I want to write more, be more healthy, learn French, wake up later. I don’t think that last one’s going to happen, but it’s more of a lifelong goal. And then there’s the artificial time construct of the New Year’s that tricks people into waiting to start a change until January first actually rolls on the calendar. Of course, if I were resolving to do something horrible, I’d put it off as long as possible too. But if I want to change my life for the better, then why would I wait? Now is always the perfect time to start. Which is not to say that the turn of the year doesn’t cause me to reflect and take stock of how things are and how I would like them to go. Like a lot of people, I like to assess, predict, and then I make goals. At the end of December, I jotted down some notes, made some plans and felt good about myself. I’m usually pretty good at sticking to my plans and I didn’t expect this year to be any different. But then I didn’t expect to be struck by inspiration that would send me furiously typing down the rabbit hole of a new story. And now here it is the end of January and I feel like one of those people who’ve managed to blow up their diet and their resolution two weeks after starting. I mean, I feel guilty about not sticking to the plan, but not really that bad as a shove another chapter in. In fact, that chapter was delicious and really would it really hurt if I had another? I can always get back on the plan later, right?
Originally posted on The Stiletto Gang Blog 01.25.17
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The title of today’s blog is not facetious. I do swear. Kind of a lot. I try not to in public. Much like public displays of affection, I find it inelegant to be assaulted by profanity that I’m not participating in. I think keeping a lid on my foul mouthed habit is only polite and try to reserve it for private situations and friends who have known me long enough to not take offense. As a result, a few of my acquaintances have been surprised to find themselves on the receiving end of a periodic f-bomb. (Yes, I’m the person who should receive this paperweight as a gift.) In the past curbing my tongue has not particularly onerous, but since my child has moved into speaking and comprehending, you know, actual words, life as a purveyor of profanity has become more difficult. Now I can’t even swear in my own home?! Word swaps and humming the Star Spangled Banner do not really help. (Son of a goat monkey, keeping my swearing on the inside is hard!) In most of my books, I’ve minimized the swearing to a solid “hell” or “damn” because well, my grandmother likes to read my books. But recently, I’ve begun working on a story that moves my swearing habit to the forefront. Rather than really “messing some stuff up”, I am straight “f***ing some s*** up” for a change. And ooooh, does it feel good. Ah profanity, how dost though trip lightly off my off my keyboard and onto the page? Very lightly indeed. Many comments on profanity seem to insist that profanity is the crutch of mind unable to think of something else to say. I completely disagree. To correctly use profanity one must have an understanding of language that allows you to use the f-word as a verb, a noun, and an adjective. (Yes, it really can – see examples here). Will my completed manuscript stay chock full of profane goodness? I don’t know, but I’m sure as **** interested to find out.
http://bethanymaines.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/crediblehulk.jpg 539 600 Bethany Maines http://bethanymaines.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Aug2016-Logo-op3-300x69.png Bethany Maines2016-12-15 09:15:382016-12-14 17:21:54The Other Research
After reading Paffi Flood’s article about that new Beaver Bum smell, I don’t feel so bad about today’s google searches, which include best easy-open pocket knives, MAPP gas, and a variety of facts about the Tacoma Police Department in 1922. My search history may imply an interest in violence, safe breaking and the local politics of the early twentieth century, but at least I have not learned anything horrifying about ice cream. It has been noted on more than one occasion that mystery writers tend to have rather disturbing research patterns. But really, of course we do. No one wants to get that detail about corpse bloat wrong. So embarrassing – how could I face the other writers at the conventions? But the other, less disturbing, research rarely gets mentioned. What gets served in high-school lunches these days? Hint: tater tots are still going strong. What are the three laws of robotics again? (Answer here) What brand would a black, vegetarian, female computer hacker smoke? Turns out it’s either Newport Menthols or American Spirit Organics. What do ballet dancers do strengthen their feet? (Video here) My point? There’s a lot more research that goes into a work of fiction than just what happened to the dead guy. But that research isn’t particularly titillating. It’s simply the stuff we bore you with at cocktail parties. What I find interesting is that almost every person I’ve ever met has been an expert in something, from baking, bagpiping, needlepoint, and cars, to wood working, plumbing, or how the brakes on busses work. I never know when I’m going to need that expertise, but I like to keep track of my various experts. After all, I never know when I’m going to need to know how to crash a bus full of bagpipers. Not that I would ever publically admit to mentally cataloging my acquaintances by how useful they could be to future research… Originally posted at the Stiletto Gang on 12.14.16
http://bethanymaines.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/binary1.jpg 663 1024 Bethany Maines http://bethanymaines.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Aug2016-Logo-op3-300x69.png Bethany Maines2016-11-24 01:00:422016-11-22 22:14:57Binary Thanks
For me, Thanksgiving and the coming end of the year frequently combine to make me philosophical and prone to navel gazing. Just what have I been doing with my life? Am I grateful? Am I curating my life in the path of gratitude? Do I even want to? Why should I have to? Is this my problem? Is this my fault? Then I start humming Paul Simon’s “Gumboots” and then go shove some pumpkin pie in my face. Tuesday’s Stiletto Gang post from J.M. Phillippe discussed the nature of gratitude, particularly in the face of difficult times – When Gratitude isn’t Easy – and struck a chord with me. I thought she expressed beautifully the idea that gratitude is not a binary thing, it’s a plus thing. Gratitude can be added like a spice to any recipe. Even if I’m feeling other things, it doesn’t mean I can’t feel gratitude. But the very concept of binary got me to thinking about our radically non-binary human nature and how it is so very at odds with our consistently binary thinking. We all have that one relative who is “such a nice guy, except for (fill in the blank)” Fill in the blank could be anything from his random use of racial slurs, his insistence on patting the waitress on the behind, or the fact that he tells jokes about Asians. He doesn’t cheat on his wife (but maybe on his taxes), he doesn’t use drugs, he holds open doors for people. Except… So is this character a good person or a bad person? Binary says: yes/no. Non-binary says: depends on other factors – I’ll have to really think about this. I’ll have to think about my own moral stand on multiple issues. And also, does he kick puppies? Because that’s a deal breaker. From a writing standpoint, this is the kind of thing that’s fascinating to explore. But in real life, during an election season, it’s made Thanksgiving a cringe worthy holiday where we all go and wonder if Republican Uncle Bob is going to get more than his turkey sliced if he brings up Trump to Democrat Aunt Jane. I don’t have the answers. I’m not sure any of us do. That’s why binary is so attractive. Make the decision, yes/no, and then I don’t have to think about it anymore. Non-binary means I have to keep revisiting the topic – to keep thinking. If binary trims away the indecision, then it also trims away the additional factors – the pluses. Good/bad. Yes/no. Happy/sad. Grateful/non-grateful. Is that what we want the answer to be? If that’s the way it’s going to be, I’m going to call this whole thing to a halt. -- Gumboots, Paul Simon And now if you’ll excuse, I hear a pumpkin pie calling my name.
http://bethanymaines.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Aug2016-Logo-op3-300x69.png 0 0 Bethany Maines http://bethanymaines.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Aug2016-Logo-op3-300x69.png Bethany Maines2016-11-09 18:18:032016-11-08 18:21:53Dystopian Games
You’re stuck in a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean with 8 strangers and no food or water, who do you eat first? Dystopian novels have held a prominent place on our national reading lists for the last few years and while I occasionally enjoy a jaunt into the horrific futures that we could create for ourselves they don’t really speak to me. To me they frequently seem like the ultimate lifeboat game. While occasionally it’s fun to work through the logic of how to survive in a treacherous situation, the real answer to any lifeboat game is to not get stuck in the lifeboat in the first place. I was reminded of this principle recently when I visited a conference for my day job (graphic design). The conference was for public works personnel (AKA everyone who keeps your city functioning) and their lunch speaker spoke on how their department had handled an earthquake. From personnel rotation, calling in reinforcements, clearing roadways, reviewing housing safety, clean up – this department moved swiftly with the goal of maintaining safety and returning their town to normal in the shortest amount of time possible (and they did a great job). But having just read a dystopian novel I was struck by the realization that not one person in the room was thinking… “Bob, I’d eat Bob.” They weren’t playing the game – they were strategizing about how to not get stuck on the lifeboat. All of this led to four thoughts. One – I’m incredibly grateful for our public works personnel. From sewer maintenance, to bridge engineers, to water management, they deserve more recognition than they get. Two - All of you great public employees are screwing up a perfectly good dystopian plot line RIGHT NOW. We’re not supposed to be coming together to overcome a natural disaster and working for the common good! Come on, people. Where is the divisive hatred and the reaching for the shotguns? That’s it; I’m breaking out the zombies. Bob is going to be dinner if I have to have three plot contrivances before breakfast. Three – We as society need to invest more in infrastructure. And four – Because we don’t invest more in infrastructure we all need to have 3 days to 2 weeks of supplies on hand depending on where you live. Be prepared. Don’t let a dystopian novel happen to you.
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Writer’s Group: to gather with others to read and critique excerpts of written work Reading Group: to gather with others to read and critique books, drink and snack When done correctly, a writer’s group can operate as an auxiliary brain or a training ground to push a writer forward in her craft. They can be fun, inspiring and incredibly helpful. They can also be a sucking hole of negativity and wasted time. With that in mind, it was with some trepidation that I recently tested out a new group. The hostess had a dog (bonus points) and they had established a rule of positivity and compliments before critiques (nice). They had a time keeper and a word count on the segments we read (organized!). Each writer was doing different genres and styles, but that had the benefit of bringing diverse points of view to the table. In general, it was great. It provided very valuable feedback and I can only hope that I was equally helpful to the other writers. However, in specific, it was wee bit disappointing as there were no beverages or snacks. The reasoning – that hosting the group was enough trouble and that we were here to do actual serious work, not carouse – makes total, logical, absolute sense. But in the sense of “it’s been a long week, and Bethany wants a potato chip and a glass of something” it was less than I had hoped for. I think, possibly what I was really hoping for was a Reading Group. Every Reading Group I’ve ever attended came with crackers, cheese, and wine – the three low effort food groups. Now, in defense of the writer’s group, very few Reading Group’s I’ve ever attended actually stayed entirely on topic. There was a lot of… uh… digression, shall we say. And time keeping was absolute disaster. And learning was sort of ancillary by-product of reading a book I didn’t pick out, but gosh darn it, the artichoke dip was fantastic. So next month? I’ll be packing my own snacks to the writers group. After all, that group comes with a dog.
http://bethanymaines.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/HalloweenContest2016-403x403.jpg 403 403 Bethany Maines http://bethanymaines.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Aug2016-Logo-op3-300x69.png Bethany Maines2016-10-10 21:54:502016-10-10 21:54:50Halloween Contest!
http://bethanymaines.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Aug2016-Logo-op3-300x69.png 0 0 Bethany Maines http://bethanymaines.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Aug2016-Logo-op3-300x69.png Bethany Maines2016-09-15 15:00:392016-09-13 15:09:34The Dingbat Approach
This month at the Stiletto Gang we've been talking about transitions and how moving to a new stage of life can affect writing. But I have to admit that as I sat down to think about the topic all I found myself pondering was the actual literal transitions of writing. One of the primary tasks of a writer is to choose not just what to include, but what to leave out. There are very few (if any?) novels that are told in one long continuous stream of time. And every time the writer skips over the trip to the bathroom or the drive from point A to point B she must choose how to indicate that transition. Chapter 1 The Hard, Fast Break Some writers like to make each new location or time switch a new chapter. It's concrete. It's self explanatory. And pretty hard for the reader to get confused. But others like to the soft break.
Originally published at the Stiletto Gang on 09.14.16
***In the typography world those little asterisks are called dingbats. They come in all shapes and sizes and can be themed to the text. Karen Harris Tully's series The Faarian Chronicles is a sci-fi young adult adventure centered on a planet that was settled by Amazon warriors of Earth. This gives the featured culture of the planet a Greek historical context (and strong feminist heroines) and makes the transition dingbats of the omega symbol fun and appropriate. blank space The softest break of all is the extra space. As a graphic designer, I'm not in favor of these. It's far too easy, in a longer work, for the extra space to get buried at the end of the page. Then what does the designer do? Force the text to start lower down on the next page? That looks awkward and can lead to confusion on the part of the reader. Not to mention the fact that coding these for the e-readers and online is more than a little bit difficult. In other words, if I see these in a book I immediately think the writer is a jerk who doesn't care about how much extra work their designer has to do. Foolishly, when I first got into the publishing biz I found myself incredibly surprised when my layout manuscript came back for proofing that the designer had kept all of my transitions as I had typed them. Somehow I genuinely thought that I would send off my MS and somewhere out in New York someone would do something clever with my transitions. I was kind of sad. I didn't want to manage my own transitions - I wanted someone else to do all the work for me. Which when I think about it, is about what I think about life transitions as well. How unfortunate that there's no magic wand or designer to outsource those problems to. I guess I'm just going to put my lifestyle setting on "dingbat" and see what I get.
Originally published at the Stiletto Gang on 09.14.16