Exceptions and Traveling Turkeys

The holidays are the time for exceptions, and an exception is a good excuse for missing a day or two of writing. Last Saturday I went down to Los Angeles to help a friend. She has vision problems and can’t drive a car. In California that’s major inconvenience. One time it took her two hours by bus to get a pound of butter. California was built around cars.

So I spent the day driving her around to five different stores so she could get the fixings for Thanksgiving dinner and enough supplies to last her a month or until I came down again. I don’t mind doing this, even if it takes all day, I’m going to get a Thanksgiving dinner out of it and I won’t have to do the dishes. She has a big fancy dish washer machine.

The last thing she wanted to do was to go to another grocery store and have the butcher butterfly a turkey. She does this every year. By butterfly I mean the butcher cuts the backbone out and break the breast bone so the turkey will lay flat in the pan. Doing it that way cuts the cooking time way down and ensures all the turkey is done. It avoids the top or breast meat being over cooked and dry while the bottom is raw.

By the time she got to the butcher counter the main butcher had left for the day. No one else was qualified to run the saw to cut up the bird. Panic time. She had visions that on Sunday she would be hauling a 20 pound bird on the buss back home. Not easy.

Here I come to the rescue. I told her I would get the bird and have it butterflied up where I live and bring it down on Thursday in time for her to cook it. She was worried I would not know how to dry brine the bird. So, I had her write up the brining instructions. She even made up a batch of salt and season mix to cover the bird with. It’s like she thinks I can’t cook. I do occasionally make a mess in the kitchen, but I can cook.

So Thursday I will load up the bird and drive down to L. A. I will also be carrying a couple of home made pies (I can cook). Nothing like a home made pecan pie and maybe a couple of dozen home made chocolate chips cookies.

Write on, draw on.      Professor Hyram Voltage.
Have turkey, will travel.

The best tools to write with

Artist are often asked what they use to draw with. Authors are asked about their writing process. People want to know what is the best paint, pencil, or brush to paint with. While budding authors want to know what the best time, computer, program, or method to write with.

You want to know the secret. It doesn’t matter. And it all depends on you.

Here is a link to an artist that proved it by drawing a drawing with a charcoal briquette (like you use to barbecue with) on an old fashion brown paper grocery bag.

It’s not the tools, it’s the artist or the author making the story or drawing with what he’s got. That doesn’t mean having good tools makes the effort go faster, but you shouldn’t wait till you can afford the most expensive computer, the $200.00 pen, the finest art paper. A number two pencil and copy paper, even the back of a five year old financial report will do for a first draft. Here’s a YouTube video showing the first Harry Potter was written with a cheap pen on whatever paper or note book was handy. You have to watch about half way through to get to where they show the writing.

But it has to be typed on the finest paper you scream. Maybe not. Several years ago I was at the world science fiction convention. The top editor of a leading science fiction magazine gave a talk. In the talk he mentioned how every month they received a hand written manuscript from an author on the east coast. Like clock work these thing would arrive. After a while he tried to read one. It wasn’t a story. He wasn’t sure what it was. He got other people on the magazine staff to read different manuscripts that this author sent in. No one could figure out what the author was writing, but they read it. I don’t recommend doing this, but they read it.

The point of this is that magazine editors will read hand written stories. They don’t have a lot of time and your chances of this happening are near zero, but it can happen. Don’t do it. There are $200.00 laptop out there. You can use McDonald’s or Starbucks for a internet connections. There are public libraries that will let you use their computers.

The problem is you have to write a story. The editors want stories, I want stories, the world wants stories. And the authors have to write stories, not rants, not dialog, and not gibberish. You can find help for spelling, proper English, but you  have to make it a story, even if it’s written on a 7 year old third hand computer. Been there, done that one and I have friends that are doing just that.

Stay strong, write on.                 Professor Hyram Voltage

Pen Names – Why Use One?

You’re afraid.

You’re afraid you’ll fail.

You’re afraid the book will be no good.

You’re afraid they’ll make fun of you, especially that mother-in-law that’s determined to show the world what a loser you are.

You’re afraid the internet trolls will track you down, tear the skin off your soul, and drive a stake through your heart.

Well they, whoever they are, don’t have to know you wrote a book. Just use a pen name.

A pen name is not like an actor changing her name. You don’t need a court order to write under a pen name. Have you every noticed how many actors have changed their name?

Many famous writers use pen names. Mark Twain comes to mind. In recent (before ebooks) times publishers only wanted authors to come out with one book a year and to release that book at a certain time. If the author wanted to or had another book to publish the author would publish the book under a pen name.

Pen names are good for people that have names that are hard to spell or pronounce. Or they have last names that start with Z or one of the other letters at the end of the alphabet. Authors with last names starting with Z end up on the bottom shelf of the book rack and are the last to get their book reviewed if the reviewer doesn’t get burned out by the time they get to the bottom of their reading stack and doesn’t review their book at all.

So stop worrying about what people will think of your book and write it under a pen name. If the book doesn’t  do well change your pen name and write another one. Decades from now a researcher will wonder who wrote the first book and no one will ever know.

The worst that can happen is that you become a famous author and have to make up some excuse for why you write under a pen name. And that is a problem every writer would love to have.

So choose your pen name carefully. Make it unique. Make it easy to spell and pronounce. Make it start with one of the first letters of the alphabet. Now go write that book.

Stay strong, write on.     Professor Hyram Voltage

Pen Name An author’s pseudonym.

Pseudonym A fictitious name used when the person performs a particular social role.

Nom de guerre A fictitious name used when the person performs a particular social role.

Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction or science fantasy that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery. And a great place to use a nom de guerre.

Where to find ideas, The five step method, Step Five

Step 5 – Recycle but don’t be boring;

Recycle good ideas, that’s how series are born.
A. Figure out why the idea was a good idea?
1. Why did it resonate with you and/or audience.
2. Can you expand on the points that makes the idea resonate with the audience? That’s even better if you didn’t use all those points in the old story.
3. Can you use the good idea in a story that will  resonate with the audience of another genre?
4. Can you mashed up the good idea with something that is going on now, or other not so good ideas?

B. Is the good idea, that you used before, bordering on cliché?
Make the recycled idea the opposite of the cliché (the weak do not inherit the earth, they mine the garbage pit that earth has become, sell the valuable recycled material and leave for another planet).

C. Use the idea in another story, but tell it from the point of view of another character.
1. Tell the story from the villain’s point of view. Explain why the villain made the decisions she did from her point of view.
2. Tell the story form the view point of a character that doesn’t understand the good idea behind the story or what’s going on.

D. Change the hero the idea was destined for to a hero that lacks the critical knowledge needed to over come the idea’s obstacle.
1. Change the critical features of the hero, her; height , weight, skills, luck, abilities, gender.
2. Don’t forget to explain why the hero didn’t know the critical knowledge.

E. Don’t be a hack.
1. Don’t be lazy or predictable, don’t repeat the same idea, plot, story line, over and over.
2. Do incorporate current events with your good but used ideas.

Stay strong, write on.       Professor Hyram Voltage