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Archive for December, 2009

Gator Bait

On a fifteen mile hike in the Everglades we saw over a hundred alligators.

Some were solitary.

Some were more social.

Sometimes we hit long stretches of wetlands full of wading birds like this Great Blue Heron but devoid of alligators.

Sometimes we glimpsed the top of a gator’s head and back before it disappeared underwater.

But this was our coolest alligator sighting:

I’m no alligator expert but I do know that they are one of a few reptiles that care for their young. Still, I hadn’t expected to see something so intimate, so loving.

Reptiles are often stereotyped as cold-blooded and unemotional. Years ago when I worked as a naturalist in California, I was observing a group of baby garter snakes next to a pond. They slithered all over each other. Then one baby garter snake ate another baby garter snake. It was fascinating and gruesome, but stereotypical reptile behavior.

I’ve taken a break from my writing this past week. Tomorrow we fly to New York. It’s still over a week before I return home to Alaska, but I hope to ease back into my WIP. And when I do I’m going to keep that mother/baby alligator photo in mind because it’s a great combination of taking something that we think of as dangerous and pairing it with a nurturing action.

Take a look at your characters. Are you showing their uncommon, unexpected sides? Have you complicated them to their potential?

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Happy Solstice

Tonite we head south. First to Florida and then to New York.  So check back for some alligator stories from the Everglades!

Anyway, I just wanted to leave you all with this: A photo of a subarctic sunset I took a few days ago.

Enjoy the holidays. And, thanks for visiting my blog. I just started this adventure a couple months ago and am amazed at all the great people I’ve met and continue to meet.

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Like most dogs, Sasha spends a lot of time with her nose to the ground.

Sniff. Sniff. Sniff. In search something to eat, or something to pee on. But just yesterday, on one of our romps, I caught her doing this.

She’d obviously found a tasty treat. A treat that became her whole world for a few minutes.

Later, back in the world of my WIP, I thought about this. I don’t have any tree-licking dogs in my story, or any dogs at all, but what about my characters? No, I’m not going to have any of them licking trees either.

But, am I pushing them to their limits? Do I need to redefine their limits? Or even remove them?

Sasha was just doing what any dog does, looking for something yummy to eat, but where she found it and her appearance as she checked it out was new and interesting for me, and redefined her character.

 

Take a look at your characters. Can you push them into new territory while still maintaining who they are? Can you take something one of them does and twist it?

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Right Place Right Time

We’re taking care of Sasha for a couple of weeks. She needs at least one walk per day, and I prefer to take her when it is light out. These days the sun rises around 11:00 am, then slips below the horizon around 2:30.

By 2 pm I’d already walked for several hours while rewriting my WIP, but that hadn’t done Sasha any good. I tried to coax her onto the treadmill with a dog bisquit, but she didn’t want any part of it.

So, off we went. She snuffed her nose in the snow at 10 below zero, hunting for voles I think, and peed anywhere the snow was already yellow.

Toward the end of our romp, we were coming down a hill. We broke out of the woods and had a view of the Alaska Range. It cut a jagged line on the horizon about a hundred miles to the south. The sky was clear and the sun was just starting to set. Sasha whined while I stopped to watch.

Just after the sun slid below the horizon, a half-sun of bright green appeared, hung in the sky for several seconds, then vanished. The photo below will give you an idea of what I saw, except the green I saw was brighter, and contrasted by the white of the snow.

 

I’d heard about the Green Flash, an image of the sun created by refraction when conditions are right. I spend a lot of time outside, had hoped to see the green flash plenty of times, but had never seen it until today. (It’s like my one and only mountain lion sighting, but that’s a story for another post.)

Anyway, thanks to Sasha, I just happened to be in the right place at the right time for the Green Flash. And, I was paying attention.

Do you have a right place at the right time story? Or a wrong place at the wrong time story? What happened?

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Two Cool Things

I normally don’t post mid-week but wanted to draw your attention to these  links.  They are not related except that both were penned by experts.

The first is a crafty piece by Betsy Lerner on voice. I can always count on Betsy’s posts to be entertaining and thought provoking. It is the exception if I don’t laugh out loud at least once when I read her posts. Today she wants your thoughts on voice.

The second is a piece by Noah Lukeman. His thoughts on how long it might take an agented writer to land a book deal. He shares his thoughts on various submission strategies.

Both of these experts welcome questions from readers, so if you’re wondering about something publishing or writing related, drop them a line.

Happy Writing to all!

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I own a pile of writing books. Some I’ve read just once. Others I come back to again and again.

The newest addition to my library is Nail Your Novel by Roz Morris.

 

Nail Your Novel is about how to take your idea and turn it into a novel, and about how to breathe new life into abandoned projects. It is not a craft book, but more of a process book.

I’m in the middle of rewriting a novel from a different POV. When I finish my first draft, I’m going to try Roz’s method for taking a close look at my scenes to see how they fit together. She’s taken the Hollywood beat sheet concept and adapted it to analyze the scenes in a novel for purpose, mood and pacing. Pages 80-84 in Nail Your Novel.

Roz says, “A scene must be interesting in its own right, but also because of what came before and what comes after it.”

I read Nail Your Novel in a couple of hours. It’s a short book (122 pages). And, it’s free. You can download it. You don’t have to log in, or give your email address, or register for anything. As far as I can tell, it’s just plain free.

I’m excited to have a new tool that looks at big picture issues in novels.

What is the most recent thing you’ve found or read that has helped you as a writer?

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