Thursday, May 31, 2012

Entertainment on Duval Street, Key West

At night, Duval Street in Key West is bursting with entertainment. This guy sets up shop nightly on the sidewalk with his dog and plays the flute. I'm always curious about how people end up where they end up. I'm sure there are some fascinating stories.

While visiting Key West I got a chance to see the Cuban American Heritage Festival Parade. 

Don't miss:

Hemingway House in Key West
Key West sunsets
Key West Pinterest board

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Hemingway's House in Key West

I recently visited Ernest Hemingway's home in Key West. Here are some photos I took via Instagram with my Droid. Also, check out these Key West sunset photos. And all of the Key West photos I took via Instagram can be found on my Key West Pinterest board. 

Hemingway Home

The street view of the Hemingway house at 907 Whitehead St. in Old Town
 Key West.
 Asa Tift, a marine architect and salvage wrecker, built the
 house in 1851. It became 
Hemingway's home in 1931.

This is where Hemingway made magic. A catwalk connected
the study  to the second-floor porch outside his bedroom. He could walk
 out of his bedroom, across the catwalk and be in his delicious writing world. 

Outside of Hemingway's study. 

Semen dialogue made me laugh

I just wrote this dialogue in my WIP, and it made me laugh. Nothing like two girlfriends keeping it realz.


I called Sue to thank her for the flowers.
“So I think I settled on the semen."
Sue laughed. “Do you know how funny that sounds?”
“OK then, the donor. He’s tall and thin, strawberry blonde hair, like me, and smart. No. 424.”
"He's got a number?"
"Yeah. No name. Just a number."
 “And the sperm's been tested and all that?” Sue asked.
“Yes. I mean he’s been tested for all kinds of crap. But I’m sure the sperm's good or they wouldn’t use it. Those little suckers have to be good swimmers.”
“But not as good as if you were having regular sex, right?” Sue asked.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

I believe that...

  • God is great
  • good overcomes evil
  • the strong should help the weak
  • there's power in prayer
  • little things mean a lot
  • success is a journey
  • you should laugh every day
  • dreams are meant to be lived
  • respect is something a person earns
  • actions speak louder than words
  • it's OK to fail as long as you learn from your failures
  • smiles are exclamation points
  • everyone deserves a hug
  • words can lift up and tear down  
  • no matter what, you should always try
  • family is everything
  • 99.9 percent of success is not because of talent but because of perseverance
  • life is too short to stay angry
  • when we belittle others, we belittle ourselves
  • my children are the greatest gifts I've ever received
  • being a teenager is tough
  • it's OK for a grown man to cry
  • friends are priceless
  • life is a gift
What about you? What do you believe?

Lunchtime observations

I was eating a slice of pizza in the mall when I noticed:

1. A tall man dressed in black pants, white shirt and red tie sitting in the corner. He did not eat his pizza crusts.
2. An Indian woman pushing a blue stroller with a barefooted baby gnawing a colorful plastic toy.
3. Two mall walkers wearing sneakers and holding hands. The man was talking on his cell phone. Loudly.
4. The dude at the Cell Fun kiosk eating an apple while reading his laptop. After finishing the apple, he got paper towels and Windex and wiped the glass counter tops.

Why is it that no matter where I go or what I'm doing I notice everything. Hubs never sees what I see. It's maddening. If I said:

 "That man in the corner doesn't like pizza crust."

 He'd say, "You're actually spying on the guy's plate?"

"No, I'm not spying; I just can't help noticing things and he has two crusts sitting on his plate."

Are you like this?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Things I never thought I'd say

Sometimes there are things that come out of my mouth that I'd never thought I'd say. They've included over the years:
  1.  No. You cannot bring those worms into the house! 
  2. Let me check your hiney.
  3. You got a booger hanging out of your nose.
  4. Please wipe the pee off the seat.
  5. What are these stones doing in your sock drawer?
  6. I love smelling baby feet.
  7. Aim for the Cheerio when you pee.
  8. Quit breathing your stinky breath on your brother.
  9. There's a reason why boys and girls are made differently. When you're older, you'll learn why. 
  10. You can't have sex until you're married. It's not good for you.
  11. Make sure you know how to put on a condom. Practice on a banana. 
  12. Oh. My. God. I sound like my mom! 
 What about you?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Literary love slideshow

Three words that describe your character

I've been asked in interviews: What three words would you use to describe you?

It's a tough question because I can come up with more than three. But here are the top three:

  • Organized
  • Driven
  • Problem solver  

What about you? Try doing this for your characters. I've found that it forces me to think about my characters more deeply. For example, if my character is a problem solver he should be able to get out of whatever situation I place him in. If he needs a bridge and doesn't have a bridge he'll figure out how to build one.

So, what are the three words that describe you and/or the protagonist in your story?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Writers are observers

I think that writers are naturally observers. We drink in the world around us.

For example, I noticed that when the clerk at the convenience store talks, none of her teeth show.  And I noticed that a co-worker shuffles when he walks.

Of course, being a writer, I file all this great stuff away for later use. Here are some recent observations about people in my world:

--picks at cuticles and makes them bleed

--always chewing gum

--wears ring on thumb

--scrapes bottom lip with front teeth

--voice drops at end of sentences

What about you? Do you collect mannerisms and movements like baseball cards, filing them away until you need them?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Creating believable characters

In my WIP, I switch between two characters. It's challenging to make sure that each character sounds different. I want the reader to hear each of their voices, to be able to tell who they are not only through their physical details but also through their mannerisms. I want the characters to be believable. I also want them to be memorable.  

How do you make memorable characters? I've been thinking a lot about this lately. One way to make them memorable is through physical details. Take Harry Potter, for instance. When we think of Harry, we think of his scar and black glasses. When we think of Princess Leia, we think of buns covering her ears and a long, white robe. 

Also, we make them memorable through their mannerisms. Remember Violet Beauregarde, the girl who was forever chewing bubblegum in "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?" Violet was memorable.  

In one of my middle grade novels, a character is forever wiping his nose on his shirt sleeve. Gross, I know. But his shirts always look like a slug has slithered across them, leaving a slimy trail behind. It's something that sets him apart from the other characters in the book. It's also something he's teased about. 

So think about your characters. How do they sound? Do they speak in short, choppy sentences or do they go on and on? What are their physical details? Their mannerisms? Have you made them memorable? Distinct? 

If you were to describe your character in five words, what would they be? Please share in comments.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Writers, watch redundancies

    Writers, watch redundancies. I often find redundancies in stories I edit. And, I find them in mine.
 Find the redundancies:    
  1.   a number of examples
  2.     all-time record
  3.     broad daylight
  4.     best ever
  5.     eat up
  6.     ever since
  7.     completely untrue
  8.     commented to the effect that
  9.     merge together
  10.     not at all
  11.     join up
  12.     over and done with
  13.     old adage
  14.     meet together
  15.     vitally necessary
  16.     strangled to death
  17.     polish up
  18.     pare down
  19.     whether or not
  20.     true facts
        How did you do?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Finding the perfect word

I know I’m a word nerd, but I get super excited when I find the perfect word or phrase when writing. It's like finding a sweet something hidden in an already delicious bowl of ice cream. 

What about you? Do you find joy in something so simple? 

One thing I encourage my writers to do is to look for precision in their writing. For example, I suggest printing out the story and circling all of the verbs. Are the verbs strong? Or, are you relying on adverbs? If so, find a stronger verb and eliminate the adverb. 

Do you mean run or sprint?

 Piece or chunk?

 Looked or glared? 

You get the idea, always look for precision in language to convey what exactly you're trying to convey. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Let's hear a Wild Thing roar

Are you a Wild Thing? In memory of Maurice Sendak, I'd love to hear your best imitation of how a Wild Thing sounds. Just call 717-467-1898 and shout or growl or roar or do whatever you think a Wild Thing does. Come on peeps, let's hear those Wild Things. Arrrrrrgh! Also, check out my Maurice Sendak Pinterest board.

Maurice Sendak dies

RIP Maurice Sendak. And thank you for all the wild things you gave us. Read story.  

Also, check out my Maurice Sendak Pinterest board.

Remember smell when writing

Yesterday, as I was leaving the YMCA, a sweetness hung in the air. Carried by the evening breeze, it was the perfect exclamation point to my day. I inhaled the flowery scent, stopping to look around to see if I could determine its origin. The smell took me back to childhood springs when honeysuckle vines twisting and turning up a neighbor's fence lured me with their rich scent.

When I got into the car, I thought about smells in our writing. I've talked before about the importance of uses all of your senses when writing, but I find that smell (along with taste) is often overlooked.

What do you think?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Writers see things others often miss

Writers see the world differently. Every voice we hear, every face we see, every hand we touch could become story fabric.

Just yesterday I ran into:
--a man with a faint chicken pox scar on his cheek
--a woman who showed more gum than teeth when she smiled
--a wrinkled hand covered with sun spots

Writers are observers. We're thinkers and dreamers. We weave our real world into our fictional world in a way that brings our stories to life.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Meet author Mimi Johnson

Meet Mimi Johnson. I met Mimi through her husband, Steve. We work for the same company. Mimi's an incredibly talented writer, and I found myself staying up way too late to read her novel, "Gathering String." I asked Mimi if she would answer some questions and she agreed to be featured on my blog. I hope you enjoy the Q&A and read "Gathering String."   

Name: Mimi Johnson

Lives in: Herndon, VA (Suburban Washington, D.C.)

 Family: I've been married to journalist Steve Buttry since I was a teenager. We have three grown sons, two daughters-in-law and two adorable granddaughters. After all these years, the females finally outnumber the males when the family is all together.

Mimi Johnson's debut novel 
 Book: "Gathering String" 

How long did it take you to write "Gathering String": About 6 years. The journalism business kept changing. Lots of rewriting was involved.

  In one sentence, what is the book about? "Gathering String" is about the difficult choices people face when love and values conflict.

  Who is your favorite character in this book and why?: Sam Waterman is my favorite character, probably because he is the strongest willed. He actually gave me a hard time when I made him do certain things he didn't want to do. I never realized I could struggle with a product of my imagination before Sam. He's a difficult man.

  What did you learn from writing the book? I learned that the biggest obstacle I had to overcome was my own insecurity. I still have to fight it every day.