Monday, September 28, 2015

Be a Book Rebel Banned Books Week 2015

September 27th thru October 3rd celebrates those books that some thought too dark, too racy, naughty language or thought to be just plain unsuitable for bookshelves. Hundreds of books are challenged each year by readers who believe they're doing the right thing.

But... is it right to censor readership? Is it right to say Alice in Wonderland is unsuitable, or Harry Potter? Yes, those are just two of many books that have been and still are brought up for challenge to be banned. Gone with the Wind, To Kill a Mocking Bird, The Color Purple, Lord of the Rings, The Call of the Wild, The Great Gatsby, Lord of the Flies, 1984, are but a few of the classics that have come under attack. 

No one should have the power to say, "you can't read that." Some of the books on the banned book lists have influenced presidents, inventors, great thinkers of our time and more. What could we have missed out of our lives if these great individuals hadn't read a banned book that made them think about something or see something more clearly. That's why I am a book rebel, I read banned books! 

So this week I challenge YOU to read at least one banned book from one of the lists on the bottom of this

page during Banned Books Week. Then bling out your social media with banners and avatars showing that you're a book rebel. You'll read any book you ding dang want to! 

Want to know more about Banned Books Week? Just visit Show the world you are a book rebel with some ALA Banned Books merch such as tee-shirts, bookmarks, posters, and even socks! The funds benefit the American Library Association.

My reading list for Banned Books Week 
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause

Now go forth book rebels and READ BANNED BOOKS! 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Autumn Signs

Quiet was the day, the only sounds being the rustling of trees in the wind, the soft crunch of leaves underfoot. Autumn the season of change had begun.
These woods have changed since his first walk through them so long ago. Saplings now become tall trees, their leaves turning golden as they fall to the earth.  The sun peeked through the wood setting the trees a glow.
The hollow of a pine filled with acorns, a woodland creature’s winter store. Soon the mild temperatures would turn into bitter cold winter. Snow replacing yellow and orange leaves on the branches.
The sound of a heavy branch falling caught his attention. His heart sped as he stepped off the trail to inspect. Such paranoid caution had kept him alive for so long.
Creaking of wood in the stiff breeze led him to the source. A large oak, trunk blacked and split from a summer storm. Lightning had carved a dark line down the thick trunk to the roots.

As his fingers traced the scared bark it felt like a sign, a sign of dark days ahead. With a sigh, he turned back to the trail perhaps he can pretend the earlier peace of his walk was never disturbed. Change was coming but not yet, he would enjoy the quiet autumn day.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Is good or bad in your character's DNA?

It’s been a busy couple of weeks trying to get everything back on track between all of the real life craziness that buzzes through. I’m working on a novel I love, a western titled Outlaw Born. I want this thing to get finished so the world can meet Ben Mason.

Ben is a complicated fella. He’s grown up hard and tried to be what people think of as a good man, despite his family legacy. There’s a darkness that runs through his blood thanks to his outlaw father.

The idea is based on an old argument. Can DNA dictate whether a person can be good or bad? Does your family history or bloodline really affect the outcome of your life or is it a series of choices that an individual makes?

For Ben, it’s been a series of struggles to deny his papa John Mason’s dark legacy. He wants to be a good man, a good husband, and father, but… that’s just not in his cards. As I write his story I wonder if some of his decisions re influenced by that dark legacy not just his anger, loss and the situation. Would a truly good man really make these choices? Is he still a good man even though he’s taken this path?

I’m enjoying his journey though he might not be. (Sorry Ben) I can’t wait to see how it ends and the answer to his struggles… if there is one.

That brings me to this week’s goals
1. Write every day
2. Write one article a week
3. Blog at least 3 times a week
4. Start brainstorming for NaNoWriMo (it’s never too early for NaNo Planning ;)

Last week’s goal update
1. Write every day: Check! Something was written every day even if it was just a sentence or two in the chaos of goings on.
2. Write one article:  Tanked! I have one started but not complete.
3. Blog 3 times: Um nope. Tanked here too. I got one complete post in then nada. *hangs head.

That should keep me busy and out of trouble… well busy anyway J I’ll leave you with a little excerpt of Outlaw Born WIP.

*scene set up: Ben, a union solider has been wounded in battle and is recovering in the field hospital*

Outlaw Born Excerpt
He took her hand to make sure he had her attention. “In my coat… a letter… Ellen Mason, my wife…“ He couldn’t say more though he tried.

Sarah placed a gentle hand over his to reassure him she had heard. “Save your strength. You can post the letter when you’re on your feet again, Lieutenant.”

His eyes slipped shut once more.  Ben’s dreams drifted from sweet memories of his wife and son to horrible nightmares.

Ben woke with a gasp; it had felt more like a vision instead of a dream. His wife and son trapped in fire. He could feel the heat of the flames as he reached out to them. “Ellen… Joseph…”

Sarah sat up in the chair next to him. “Lieutenant Mason, just lay back, your fever broke, you’ll be alright now.”

It ached to take a breath, recognition set in and so did the ache of his heart. It had just been a dream but he had waked back to the nightmare of war.  “How long have I been here?”

The nurse gave him a gentle grin as she checked the wound. “Four days, not so long.”

Ben sighed as he took the offered sips of cool water. Not so long, but it felt like an eternity. He couldn’t shake the nightmare; it had been a long time since he’d gotten a letter from home.

The nurse left him to assist another. The soldier next to him rose from his cot and took the nurse’s chair. The older man clutched his arm to his chest careful of it as he sat. Something about the old man put Ben on edge.

The man grinned and offered his only hand. “Jorge Wilson, Boston.”

Ben shook the hand, “Ben Mason, New Mexico.”

Jorge looked at him for a moment as if he seemed familiar. “New Mexico… I knew you had a familiarity. Benjamin Alexander Mason, Johnny’s boy?”

Ben’s expression went blank almost cold. “No. No John’s on the tree.”

Jorge chuckled. “No sense denyin’. You got your ma’s eyes. I remember you hidin behind her skirts in the saloon.”

Ben glared at him and forced his weak body upright. He reached out and gripped the man’s wounded stump. “You remember nothing, old man. The laudanum has you seein things not there. No, John Mason in my tree.”

The old man’s eyes widened with the sharp pain as he gave a brief nod. Ben let go and leaned back, his breath came in pants with the effort. He didn’t want to hurt the old man, but the past needed to stay as dead as his father.

What do you think can a man be influenced by DNA or a dark legacy or is it the choices he makes that sets him on a course of good or bad? Or can a man do bad things and still be good? And don't forget to stop by the other ROW80 bloggers on the hop. 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

8 Sentence Sunday: Outlaw Born snippet

Finally getting back into a writing groove and Ben Mason has been demanding attention to his story. I'm joining other Weekend Writing Warriors in sharing an eight to ten sentence excerpt of our WIPs. So here is a snippet from my work-in-progress Outlaw Born.

Orphaned young and raised by a preacher's family Benjamin Mason became a good man. He wanted to forget and erase his real father's legacy of blood and violence from their name for his own son.

Then tragedy struck. The law wouldn’t give him justice, so he would take it. After all, wasn’t he born to be this kind of man, an outlaw filled with hell and vengeance in his blood? Ben Mason is outlaw born.

8 Sentence Excerpt
The battle felt as though it had gone on for days, instead of hours. The day had faded into dusk when they heard the Confederate officers recall their men. Once Johnny Reb is out of sight, the men cheered. More for the joy that they still took breath than for the victory.

Ben surveyed the damage. He was thankful the cannon had dulled his hearing. This night he would get a reprieve from the cries of those fatally wounded, as they called out for someone to take their final words home.

Ben took count of his men as they began to emerge from the trenches. Their numbers appeared reduced, but most were still with him.

To read other great Weekend Writing Warrior excerpts go HERE

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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Keeping the plates spinning and new goals

Have you ever seen the plate spinners at a circus or carnival? They start by balancing one plate on a thin long stick, then making it spin. Then they pick up another and another balancing and spinning all these plates on sticks.

Sometimes one will warble and the spinner has to very carefully adjust to make sure it stays spinning and even or… CRASH and the show’s over. Writing and life can feel like that. There’s a plate on a stick for everything we need to do and all the projects we have waiting to be written on.

They warble and sometimes crash to the ground. The key is to not worry about picking up all those shattered pieces. That plate fell, it’s broken beyond repair so just kick the pieces out of the way and put a new plate in its place.

As writers we know that not every project is going to go smoothly, there might be several plates that fall shattering our plots and a bit of our determination as that novel is written. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad book or that it’s not worth your time. It just means that we have to make adjustments. Change the plot, setting or character. Maybe even let the manuscript set for a day or so, then dive back in with a refreshed muse.

Life can interfere with those projects too. That’s been my biggest hurdle as of late. RL making all those plates warble and tip, more than a few have crashed to the ground. Instead of worrying about all that broken china, I’m going to put new plates on my sticks and get them spinning. All the glass on the floor is from yesterday, it doesn’t matter anymore. It’s a new day and a new set of plates and a chance to keep them spinning with a new set of goals.

So my ROW80 goals for this week are:
Write daily. Word counts are out the window for right now. Even if it’s only a paragraph that day, it’s forward progress through the RL chaos.

Write one article. I need to work on picking up the pace of some of my freelance work. Consistent paychecks can help keep some of my plates from warbling so much lol.

Write three blogs. Gladiator’s Pen is in need of new content. I don’t want to have a huge gap again in posts. I know it drives me batty when I subscribe to a blog and then… they stop posting. My apologies for making any of you nuts too J I’m going to try and prevent any more long lapses.  

There we have it a set of goals and all the plates spinning with a few minor warbles but mostly balanced…. For now. :)

What do you do when your plates start warbling and crashing? How do you keep your write life balanced with that real life stuff? 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

4 tips to break through writer's block.

When it hits writer's block can feel like a Rubix Cube. An unsolvable puzzle that makes you want to give up and see what series is next on Netflix to marathon.

There is only one way to break that block and solve the puzzle. Write. That's right, you have to write your way through it, around it, over it or under it. Instead of giving up and watching all nine seasons of X-Files in one sitting on Netflix, try one of these ideas to wake up your muse and get back to the story. 

Get Nosey
We all have looked in someone else’s medicine cabinet, so why not your main character?  Write about what they find in there. It could be mundane everyday stuff, something tawdry, or a hidden secret.

It doesn’t have to be a medicine cabinet. He/she can look in a drawer or the glove box in a car. Just open something up and take a long gander at what’s inside. You will be quite surprised at what he or another character is keeping stashed away. Somewhere, hidden in the back of the junk drawer of your character’s boss’ desk is way back on track with your manuscript.

Lost and Found
A lost object is another great way to trick the muse into walking around that block. While searching for lost keys, phone, cigar clipper, or the hamster that escaped his cage you can find all sorts of things to fluff your plot. Use it to explore a bit more of your character’s personality, or, that of another character helping in the search.

All else fails have disaster strike. It’s amazing how much a lightning strike or freak tornado ripping across the front lawn can get the creative juices flowing again. In real life, these things can come out of nowhere so why not use a cyclone to drop a house on your writer's block.

Background Check
Open a new doc and pick any character but your hero/heroine. A background character such as the guy in the parking garage, the waitress with the great smile, someone who is mentioned but really isn’t a player in your story.

Now take that person and write a page about them. What were they doing before meeting your MC? Do they have a cat or is she slinging hash until she’s discovered as the next Marilyn Monroe? Once you’ve gotten a few paragraphs or a page you can go back to your WIP, you’ll find your muse is now ready to take off again.

Writer’s block can be a wall that falls in front of our muse. Looking up it seems impossible to get over that wall. Put your fingers on the keyboard and write until that wall crumbles.  When it does the sun will shine, the forest animals will surround your desk in song…. Okay, not really but you’ll be celebrating with your muse as the story picks up speed again. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Hungry: Friday Flash

A deep rumble woke Ben. He sat up and looked around the loft of the stable thinking he’d been caught by old man McKeen.

The rumble came again only louder. It wasn’t the old geezer tossing him out, it was Ben’s stomach. Four days, it was four days ago his mama had left him at the station.

She left him behind, telling him to sit and wait. She would be right back with the tickets. They’d go to Virginia to live with his aunt. Mama never came back from the ticket booth. Her carpetbag was gone. All Ben had was his small pack and the Bible she gave him.

Dawn was breaking. He needed to get out before the old man really did catch him. Quietly Ben made his way to the street and around the backs of the buildings. Maybe he could find a scrap of something. Anything he was so hungry.

His insides felt like they were shriveling up as he stopped at the rain barrel by the inn. Cupping his hands he took a few long drinks to try and fill the void.

As he splashed water on his face a scent drifted down the alleyway. Ben’s stomach clenched with hunger as the scent filled his nostrils with one of his favorite things in the world.

Fresh baked bread was somewhere close, very close. He sniffed at the air and turned down the alley. He followed the smell, stomach growling loud enough to make the stray dog napping in the shade raise his head.

Ben stopped at the window there they were. Three fresh baked loaves of bread. The steam was still rising off the tops. His tongue licked along his bottom lip as he took a step forward to get a deeper breath of it.

Something hit him on the back. Mr.Grove the owner of the inn shook the broom he’d just walloped Ben with. “Get, you urchin. Take your filthy self back to the gutters.”

Didn’t he recognize him? His mama had done some work at the in. “Mr. Grove, sir… “

Before Ben could finish the broom was raised again. He raised his little skinny arms and ran back down the alley.

The innkeeper satisfied the boy was gone went back to sweeping the stoop.

Ben sat behind a barrel and rubbed his lower back. He could still smell the bread. It made his mouth water. If he didn’t eat something soon he’d turn to dust and blow away.

He tried to drink some more water to fill his gut, but, that only made his stomach groan and ache worse. The bread smelled so good.

He could feel it in his hands warm with a crispy crust and soft fluffy inside. It would melt in his mouth as he took a bite.

The sound of the inn’s back door closing made him open his eyes. Mr. Grove had gone back inside. There wasn’t anyone in the alley.

He crawled on his hands and knees to sit under the window so he could smell the bread. His belly ached to the point of tears now. Ben was so hungry. He could take it. There were two more loaves. They surely wouldn’t miss one.

No, he couldn’t take it. He didn’t have no money and stealing was a sin. Ben’s mama always told him to be good. Be a good boy and grow into a good man. He couldn’t do that if he stole. That would make him bad.

Lifting his face up he could feel the warmth from the fresh loaves. If he didn’t eat soon he wouldn’t make it past the age of eight to become any kind of man.

Stomach tight with hunger Ben raised his arms up and grabbed the edge of the cheesecloth. Slowly he pulled it toward him.

Mrs. Grove called out to her husband startling Ben. He jerked his arms back and hugged his knees waiting for the innkeeper to come back with the broom. Nothing happened.  Mrs. Grove went back to humming.

Sitting there had become torture, he didn’t want to make his mama angry. What if she came back and found him with the stolen bread. She’d have his hide for sure.

Ben looked up at the loaf. It had been four days since he saw his mama last at the station. She wasn’t coming back, no one was going to help him. He had to help himself.

He stood stomach aching and growling as his breath panted with fear and excitement. Before he could change his mind again Ben reached out and grabbed a loaf of bread. He took off running as fast as he could behind the buildings.

Turning a corner he ran to the ladder of the livery loft and climbed up. Hiding behind a stack of hay bales he hugged the loaf to his chest. It was still warm and smelled so good. He was panting still from his run. Waiting for someone to catch him.

When there were no shouts he began to relax and looked down at the bread. Ben licked his lips as his
fingers dug into the crust and it apart. Steam flowed out as he pulled a hunk of the soft white fluff into his mouth.

Tears rolled down his face as he ate. His belly hurt from not having anything this solid in so long then it started to feel full. That feeling was the best thing he’d ever felt. He wasn’t a good boy anymore. Maybe he wouldn’t be a good man but he wouldn’t be hungry again.