Monthly Archives: June 2014

Thinking About Writing? Think Again.

 

This is funny – because it’s true!

 

DorkTower1179

 

Turning over a field in your mind isn’t the same as just getting up off of your butt and putting a hand to the plow.

Crack that whip, buddy.

Get on it.

Get writing, right?

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

PS: If you haven’t read much of DORK TOWER you really ought to start – especially if you are a fantasy gamer or if you KNOW a fantasy gamer or if you are RELATED to a fantasy gamer or if you get most of the jokes on BIG BANG THEORY!

Oh heck – just go ahead and start following DORK TOWER, would you? I guarantee a giggle.

Tarzan, Paddington and Dragonflies and Writing

Okay – so I spent yesterday and last night and this morning at my sister-in-law’s home. My wife had offered to look after her sister’s kids while her sister (my wife Belinda) went camping with HER OWN husband.

I tagged along to keep my wife company and to help her with babysitting duties.

While I was staying there I found out that my sister-in-law, Bobbi-Jo, has a thing for dragonflies.

Dragonfly

Yellow-winged Darter

She has got ornamental dragonflies throughout her entire house.

“I wonder just how many there are?” I wondered aloud this morning.

“I dare you to count them,” Belinda said.

So – in the interest of statistical science – I took a notepad and walked methodically around the house counting each and every dragonfly.

There were 51 dragonflies in the living room and dining room.

There were 9 dragonflies in the kitchen.

There were 45 dragonflies upstairs.

There were 14 and 1/2 dragonflies in the treatment room – (Bobbi Jo is a trained and licensed massage therapist).

The half a dragonfly was a husk of a dragonfly nymph attached to a small piece of driftwood.

Which I think is really freaking cool.

A dragonfly nymph has got to be one of the gnarliest-looking ugly-bug in history. The thing lurks in the bottom mud and sticks out its lower jaw to catch wandering water bugs – or “beetle-bugs”, which is what we called almost ALL water bugs when we were kids.

I mean think about that. Imagine being able to sit and eat, just by extending your lower jawbone. Snatching up your food without any bother of fork or knife or etiquette?

I believe I’ll have to practice that.

Take a look at that Youtube video. Isn’t that one seriously ugly bug? It is hard to imagine that a bug that looks like that might actually grow up into something cool and weird and wonderful and beautiful as this.

Kirby's Dropwing Dragonfly - found in South Africa.

Kirby’s Dropwing Dragonfly – found in South Africa.

Isn’t science wonderful?

But you’ve got to ask yourself where did she get all of those dragonflies? Did she buy them all at once? Did she hire a dragonflying service?

No!

She picked them up – one dragonfly at a time and gradually arranged them in her home in a manner that pleased her immensely.

And that’s just how you go about writing a novel as well.

You pick up a novel – one word at a time, one sentence at a time, one paragraph at a time – using your imagination to lay them out in a manner that pleases you immensely.

So go forth now and write a page in whatever project you are working on – whether it is a poem, a song, a story or a novel – just write that page one dragonfly at a time.

I expect the first dragonfly was lost in the clutter. Then, a few dragonflies later they began to stand out a little bit. Then, as the dragonflies began to multiply it began to look as if somebody ACTUALLY knew what they were doing.

Just like the dragonfly nymph – ugly and forlorn and hiding in the bottom-muck snapping up unwary mosquito wrigglers and eating them with their lower jawbone until the moment at which the nymph crawls up along the side of a reed or a cattail and then moults out of its skin and turns into a beautiful dragonfly.

Just like I was saying in my last blog entry – WRITING BLINDLY – sometimes a writer just has to trust to the magic of evolution. Your manuscript – as ugly as that first draft seems to look like – will one day metamorphose into something as beautiful and unique as a dragonfly so long as you clamber up onto that reed and hang on there long enough for the sun to feed you with enough of its solar power.

Like Superman, you will soar.

Superman soaringTrust in the magic of evolution.

Trust in the gift of time.

If you don’t believe me – remember, that it took me THREE freaking drafts to get this blog entry exactly where I wanted it to be.

Don’t get stuck in the swamp.

🙂

*********************

Speaking of science I thought I’d say something about CGI films.

I saw a trailer for a new version of Tarzan filmed in the same style as James Cameron’s AVATAR.

It looks to me to be a dud.

On the other hand, I also watched a trailer for a new live action film of PADDINGTON BEAR.

That one made me laugh out loud. It looks like a real winner for grown-ups and children alike.

Unlike TED – which truly sucked out loud. I know some of you folks really loved that movie – and I am a BIG fan of The Family Guy – but Ted had almost as much laughs in it as my last rectal examination.

So – with all of the uber-cool CGI techniques that we have at our disposal for the making of movies that could be best described as potentially magic – what is the one thing that Hollywood STILL continually forgets?

A writer.

An honest-to-Hemingway writer.

Get it right, Hollywood.

Hire somebody who knows how to tell a story.

Yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

Writing Blindly – When You Don’t Know Where A Story Is Going

blind-cartoon

We’ve all been there.

That point in the story where you are NOT sure where you are going.

That’s when doubt creeps in.

That’s when you begin to second-guess yourself.

“I’m no good,” you say.

“I don’t know what I am doing,” you say.

“I ought to rewrite. I ought to give up. I ought to take up needlepoint or knitting or counting itches at the flea circus.”

flea_circushigh

Remember the first line (roughly translated) in Dante’s Inferno?

“In the middle of my life I found myself in a dark wood for the right way was lost.”

Keep on writing. Remember, your words are nothing more than steps in the wilderness. You might feel lost – but keep on going – and step by step you’ll find out that you were right where you needed be the whole time.

Write blindly.

Let your pen be your compass needle.

Have faith that your story knows where you are going.

Remember the words of my Uncle Bob – “When you are waist-deep in alligator it is important to remember that you set out to drain the swamp.”

What does that mean?

You set to write the first draft of a story.

Don’t let that second-thought alligator talk you out of completing that first draft.

So never mind that gator.

Keep on draining the swamp – one Solo cup at a time.

Remember – it is AWFULLY hard to revise a blank page.

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

Alligator

 

 

 

Selkie in a Bottle

Dear Jost Vineyards –

My wife and I were in the liquor store last night, here in Halifax, looking for some wine for the weekend.

All right, so I’m lying right off the bat. I was looking for beer – SHE was looking for wine.

She spotted a tall display of your brand new Selkie Wine.

“Oh,” I said. “That looks good.”

It DID look good, too. My wife and I have enjoyed Jost wine in the past – even though I am a beer drinker by preference. And we ALWAYS enjoy shopping from and supporting local industries.

“It DOES look good,” my wife said. “But I’m not buying it.”

“Why not?” I asked.

“Take a look at the label.”

So I did – fully expecting to see some foul additive that my wife might be allergic to. Only there were no additives. There was something worse.

Jost – you goofed up big time.

The name – Selkie – is a perfect name for a summer wine. Just looking at that name makes me think of something deep and mysterious, yet as refreshing as a splash of ocean mist. I can smell the tang of an Atlantic morning, I can hear seabirds calling – heck, the name gets me so darned excited that I briefly consider forswearing my allegiance to the noble ale and converting to wine.

Only briefly, you understand.

Because Jost – you goofed up big time.

The Selkie is a favorite mythological sea creature of mine – so much so that I have included it in THREE of my folklore collections.

It isn’t a commonly known myth and I absolutely LOVE that you folks are giving the old story a new life by naming your undoubtedly tasty wine after it.

But WHY – after coming up with so wonderful a name as Selkie did you go and put a MERMAID on the label?

JOST_SELKIE_Glass_600Okay – so I can hear you rolling your eyes right now, Jost.

I know that you are thinking Steve Vernon is being a picky old sock – but I deal in folklore and legends of the Maritimes – and what I am looking at is a serious misrepresentation.

I don’t hold it against you folks. I still you think the Jost Vineyards make a darn fine product and are a credit to the Maritimes – even if you don’t make beer.

🙂

And I likewise admire the artistry of the label design – and I can clearly see some graphic designer put some world-class effort into coming up with your label – but I really wish you would consider going back to the drawing board over the winter and coming up with an equally spiffy label for your Selkie Wine that actually has a for-real honest-to-golly Selkie on it – and NOT a mermaid.

A mermaid has that big fish tail – like you show you on the bottle.

A Selkie is a seal creature and does not look a bit like a mermaid.

Here’s a couple of illustrations from my children’s picture book MARITIME MONSTERS (Nimbus Publishing 2009) to give you a little bit better of an idea of the two mythological creatures.

This is a Mermaid!

This is a SELKIE!

This is a SELKIE!

Both of those illustrations are the work of talented BC artist Jeff Solway– and, as mentioned, come from my children’s picture book Maritime Monsters.

Maritime Monsters

Finally – I am NOT suggesting to anyone that they stop drinking Jost Wine. This just isn’t that big of a deal. All of us Nova Scotia folk ought to support our local industries any way we can – ESPECIALLY if it involves imbibing alcoholic beverages.

🙂

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

 

Bubba, Buy My Book

After my last couple of entries I wanted to put up something a little more on the light side and a little more true to what I created this blog to be.

Only problem is I am supposed to be writing, right now. So I don’t really have the time to sit down and come up with something new – so I thought I would put up a blog entry that was originally a guest-blog on another website.

Hope this gives you a giggle to get your day back into the funny waters.

*********************************

RG2E FEATURED AUTHOR STEVE VERNON
“BUBBA, BUY MY BOOK!”
All right.
First off, I’d like to thank D.D. Scott for having me here today.

Secondly, I’d like to thank Bubba.

Finally, let me make a confession.

I am lousy at parties. Heck, I can’t even spell the word shmuu…shmoos…schmoozing.
(thank you Spell Check)

I’m the kind of fellow who will sort of slide in through the back door and drift over to the munch table and stand next to the pizza dip for the rest of the evening.

(mmmm, pizza)

I’m just not that good at small talk. I’m more comfortable with writing. Way more comfortable. You get me behind the keyboard and I’m as smooth as silk and nearly twice as dangerous. I’m a writing fool – but I’m foolish when it comes to selling these books. Which is why I started hanging around D.D. Scott’s WG2E in the first place.

It’s simple, see. I read about how D.D. Scott was selling books faster than goose grease through a short puppy. I read how people were just lining up to buy her books and I figured if I hang around her long enough then some of her marketing brilliance was going to rub off on me.

And, of course, D.D. being the wonderful host that she is invited me to hang around even longer than she ought to have. We’re talking the stray dog syndrome – you see that mangy old yellow something-or-other Heinz-and-a-half wet dog that you just have to throw a ham bone to?

That’s me.

“Steve,” she told me. “Why don’t you get involved in my FEATURED AUTHOR program at RG2E?”

Well, first off, I had to go and Google to make sure the RG2E wasn’t really some sort of a Star Wars character – but then once I found out exactly what the RG2E FEATURED AUTHOR PROGRAM was, I became mildly interested – but oddly cautious.

“D.D.” I said. “I want to learn how to sell more of my e-books. Are you sure this will help?”

“Well Steve,” D.D. said – thinking to herself that she really ought to be writing her next book. “Why don’t you tell me what all you have done in the way of marketing?”

“I was hoping you’d ask me that.” I said. “Let me tell you what I’ve done. I think it’s brilliant. I started out my advertising campaign by writing BUY MY BOOK on a hundred different men’s room walls – in a hundred different shades of marker – along with leaving my phone number.”

“And how did that work out for you?” D.D. asked – looking around hopefully for some sort of an exit.

“Not so well,” I said. “I did receive an awful lot of interesting phone calls and enough lurid and sticky phone talk to paint about three hundred and sixty-two more shades of grey – but other than that I didn’t sell so much as a copy.”

“So what did you do then?”

“I diversified,” I explained, after making a quick run to the Spell Check to figure out how to spell the word diversified. “I tried leaving similar messages on the walls of a hundred different women’s rooms – which brought me to my first arrest.”

“Say what?”

“My arrest. I tried to explain to the security guard that I was only marketing in that ladies room – and then I tried explaining to those two policemen that the security guard telephoned – and then I tried explaining to the judge why those two policemen had brought me to his courtroom – and then I tried explaining to Bubba – and he told me that he understood – that he wasn’t guilty either.”

“And then what happened?”

“Well, that led me to a ninety day intensive hands-on seminar on life in the local jailhouse – which I believe will come in useful in writing my upcoming prison novel entitled A PEN IN THE PEN – A WRITER’S LIFE BEHIND BARS.”

“Well Steve,” D.D. said – discretely fumbling through her pockets with the hopes of discovering a ninja escape smoke bomb – or at the very least a can of pepper spray. “Maybe you ought to try some social networking. Have you tried Facebook?”

“I tried it,” I said. “But Mark Zuckerberg said my face looked funny. So then I tried twittering, but the birds asked me to kindly get out of their tree. So then I tried spamming on message board forums – but that spam looked so good I just had to get out the fry pan and slice me a few slices and…”

(this interview has been interrupted while the author Steve Vernon puts on his pants and goes down to the kitchen to hunt for Spam)

While I was out in the kitchen D.D. went through her pockets again. She still couldn’t find that ninja smoke bomb but she did find a slightly-used peanut butter cup that she tucked back into her pocket.

“You’ve got some Spam on your beard, Steve,” D.D. helpfully said.

“What, did I miss some?” I asked, discretely trying to lick the Spam from off of the corners of my beard.

“What else did you do?”

“Well, I thought about buying some five star reviews – but there was that whole money thing – so instead I decided to try writing some sock puppet reviews – only all of my socks were in the wash – so I tried ventriloquist dummy reviews – but then the dummy told me that my lips were moving – so I give it all up as a bad idea.”

“And then you came here,” D.D. said.

“No, not then,” I said. “I had one more brainstorm. I filled out five hundred message in a bottles with notes that read BUY MY BOOK and I corked them suckers up and I threw them one by one into the Atlantic Ocean.”

“Why the Atlantic Ocean?”

“Well you see the book I was trying to sell is called SUDDEN DEATH OVERTIME. It’s a fast and funny novella that asks what if a team of old fart hockey players from the shores of Northern Labrador decided to challenge a tour bus full of vampires to a sudden death hockey game.”

“Why would vampires want to play hockey?”

“Well that’s just it,” I said. “These old boys did something to the vampires that peeved them off so much that there was no way on earth that they could do anything else besides take up the hockey challenge.”

“Well what did they do to make those vampires so mad at them?”

“I can’t tell you,” I said. “You’ll have to buy the e-book,” I said. “But that’s why I chose the Atlantic Ocean. Because Labrador is on the Atlantic.”

“That’s brilliant,” D.D. said. “Very creative.”

“Yeah, the judge thought so too, after he give me another ninety days for desecrating the environment – which is way worse than littering.”

“You’re back in jail?”

“Faster than you can say hello Bubba,” I explained. “Which is why I really want to take part in your FEATURED AUTHOR program here at the RG2E. You see, my lawyer is pretty sure that this qualifies as some sort of community service…”

At which point D.D. threw the peanut butter cup onto the floor, performed a couple of kung fu side-kicks that would have made the spirit of David Carradine sit up and grin – before she performed a triple somersault backwards and belly-flipped through an open window.

The last I saw of her she was running for her keyboard.

**************************************

If this post moved you to pick up one of my books why don’t you start with SUDDEN DEATH OVERTIME? I guarantee you that little yarn of vampires and hockey will please fans of hockey, vampires and just plain good old-fashioned storytelling.

It is available on Kindle for a measly 99cents - and if you still aren't certain just click this picture and check out all of those solid reviews.

It is available on Kindle for a measly 99cents – and if you still aren’t certain just click this picture and check out all of those solid reviews.

 

I know. I know. Most of you are thinking to yourself - why buy this when it is just another vampire/hockey novella? I mean I'm sure you have already read about a billion vampire/hockey novellas. I'm certain that you have got cases of them stored in your attic. Well don't you see that if you grab this copy it will make your collection complete. Pick it up of Kobo just by hitting this picture. With your mouse clicker, not your fist.

I know. I know. Most of you are thinking to yourself – why buy this when it is just another vampire/hockey novella? I mean I’m sure you have already read about a billion vampire/hockey novellas. I’m certain that you have got cases of them stored in your attic. Well don’t you see that if you grab this copy it will make your collection complete. Pick it up of Kobo just by hitting this picture. With your mouse clicker, not your fist.

Keep on grinning. Life looks better that way.

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

 (And – in the interest of full disclosure – a VERY different version of this blog entry was originally posted at the Readers Guide to E-Publishing)

Follow-up on Moncton

Well, they caught him.

They cornered him and he put up his hands and dropped his guns and said “I’m done.”

If you want to read about it here’s a link to the Globe and Mail. They seem to have a good solid coverage of the event.

It will be all over the internet as well if you really want to dig into it.

As for me, I have said my say and I’ll let it all go. Like I said, I am not a politically minded man. I just felt moved enough yesterday to put it down in words.

I will say this.

I don’t believe my words should be treated as any sort of gospel. It is just what I felt and what I figured.

I am no Solomon.

I think that’s where most of the problems of this world begin. Once you begin treating any one person’s thoughts as a gospel or a creed or a reason to live you are beginning to court trouble.

Once you begin taking those thoughts and opinions as gospel enough to warrant the outright enforcement of such a belief you step right into the realm of the deep doo-doo.

That’s how Crusades and jihads and Holy Wars in all their many evil forms get started. Just as soon as one person says something along the lines of “You don’t know what you are talking about and I’m going to make you see it differently” you are asking for a nuclear arm wrestling match.

The truth is we won’t ever step out of this dark age until the entire human race can figure out how to just do their own thing without hurting other people or worrying what other people are doing – just so long as nobody gets hurt.

I know this is naive.

I know this isn’t realistic.

Too bad.

I am just a dude who has figured out how to make a half of a half of a half of a living off of my ability to make stuff up.

In my opinion the pagans come closest to getting it right when they say “Above all else do no harm.”

But even then, I have heard way too many pagans going on about how mean and twisted and misguided those poor foolish Christians are – and right away we are back in that trap of “maybe if I hit you on the head with this stick you will change your way of thinking and agree that I most certainly have the only way of looking at things.”

So I am going to close the door on this discussion and let it go. Thanks to all those good folks who took a look at my blog and heard me out.

Keep a grin on. Life looks better that way.

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

Tragedy in Moncton

For those folks who don’t know, I live in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Halifax is one of those cities that almost qualifies as a town. We are the biggest city in a very small province.

Moncton is in a similar situation – being the biggest city in a likewise small province.

Cities like Halifax and Moncton don’t expect to face the sort of situation that they are facing today.

Since yesterday police officers in Moncton have been on a region-wide manhunt for a shooter who has killed three RCMP officers and seriously wounded two others at last report.

Here’s a photo of him.

It is the kind of situation that you would expect to see in a 1970 grindhouse movie with one man taking a stand against the powers of authority.

Only this isn’t a movie.

This is real life.

Those RCMP he killed and those he wounded are real people who spend their days making sure that society runs the way it ought to. This simple-minded asshole who is playing war really ought to get his head on straight.

Violence does not solve anything.

Whatever he thinks he is accomplishing – he isn’t.

I’m not a news sort of fellow. I generally read the funny pages and do the crossword and maybe the Sudoku if it isn’t too difficult. I try not to read the more serious pages because it just depresses the heck out of me – but this whole situation is terrifying and real.

I’ve just got one thing to say.

It isn’t politically correct.

It isn’t pretty.

What this fellow is doing is a bad thing.

Going around playing war games with real weapons and real people is not a sane thing for anyone to do.

I hope they catch this fellow soon and I hope they put him down hard.

He killed three good men and wounded two others. The way I see it, the time for psychoanalysis is long past.

Stay safe, Moncton.

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

Top 5 Asinine Excuses For Not Writing

I probably ought to be writing right now – so instead of writing up a brand new blog entry why don’t I just point you at Tara Sparling’s informative blog.

I have got to agree that the whole procrastination thing is awfully seductive sometimes. It is a like a big old shady tree on a hot summer day that whispers to you – “Come on over here and sit down under this shade and just rest a while and maybe I’ll drop a few ticks on you while you are resting in that patch of poison oak and maybe if you’re lucky you might catch Lyme Disease and then you’ll really have a reason to just lie around and not do anything.

Either that or I might just fall on you three or four times before you even get the chance to write down the word “timber”.

Tara Sparling writes

Good Friday, gentlepersons.

I’m ending this working week with my top 5 excuses for not writing. Perversely, they include, well, work. But that’s not the point. Because I have so many writing projects I intended to have finished by now, and my success rate is only marginally better than that of an Irishman at a speed dating event for taller-than-average Dutch people.

And although not one of these excuses is allowable, I attempt to defend each of them because if I didn’t, I would actually have to write something useful.

1. The Day Job

I spend 97.985% of my working day at the moment buried in spreadsheets which contain thousands of teeny tiny moving parts. My eyes are like Cookie Monster’s by the time 5pm lopes around. I can barely focus on TV property shows at night, let alone a pile of text.

2. The Blog

My creative brain only appears to work in short bursts right now. So if…

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How To Be A Professional Writer

So you want to be a professional writer, eh? THIS is how it’s done!

Melissa Holden, Writer

If you want advice on how to be a professional writer, and you’ve been on Google looking for tips: STOP!

Yes, there are ways to improve your productivity, or your technique, but you can’t learn how to become a professional writer/poet/blogger – it just happens. I didn’t sit down and say “Oh, today I’m going to start becoming a real author” – I just did it.

But, if you really want a list of things that will help you become a professional writer: stick around.

Be Prepared For A Lack Of Sleep: 

Garfield Sleep

Writers write when they have to, but more so when they are hit by random inspiration. So be prepared for an idea to slap you around the face at 3 am, and you’ll have to write it down!

You’ll have a lot of late nights because you’ve got home from school/work and needed to finish that chapter, so when…

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Image

An Evening Giggle…

Flinstones Cartoon

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon