What makes good literature?

An extremely good conversation in my literature class about intelligence (Inspired by Ted Chiang’s The Great Silence). We talked about other species that fall under the definition of intelligence, which is “the ability to understand and apply knowledge.” parrot.jpgConsidering Alex the Parrot and Koko the Gorilla, and other species: crows are problem solvers and remember faces. We discussed dogs, cats, and others. Is love, as an abstract idea, understood and applied by animals? And then – is intelligence found in showing love?

This is what good literature should do. Teach, delight, and create wonder.

Read The Great Silence here

What’s So Scary?

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“Don’t be afraid of failure.  The reality is that most people successes rise out of the ashes of their previous failures.”

From a new documentary on Netflix titled Creativity. The narrator is talking to the creator of Game of Thrones. The creator is talking about how many times he’s failed.

I started this to say – what are you afraid of?

Then I wanted to ask – what if there was no such thing as fear? What would you do? What could you do?

I want you to think about that. What if fear was not in the human range of emotion or thought?

 

Friday Feature: Guest Author P.S. Malcom

I’m happy to have P.S. Malcom’s writing advice to offer today. Enjoy!

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Three Ways To Come Up With A New Book Idea

I’m so excited to be here on the blog today, and I wanted to chat about writing.

Us writers sometimes get the urge to write something—anything—but often find book1ourselves with a lack of ideas or inspiration. This is a really tough position to be in because you have the motivation to create and write, but nothing to work with. *Cue frustration*

Of course, this is worse when you have deadlines to meet or depend on a good portion of your book sales to pay the bills. You gotta keep those books coming! So today, I’m going to share three tips to help you come up with a new book idea:

 

1) Get inspired

I know, best advice of the year right?

book1It sounds simple and blunt, if you’re not giving yourself space to get inspired, you can chase all the inspiration in the world and still end up with nothing. Stress from work, family life, responsibilities and pressure can all contribute to a block in your creative energy, and if you don’t make time to relax, unwind, and just chill, you won’t be able to imagine and envision your next story idea.

So my advice?

Do something different, whether it means going for a walk or a drive, spending an hour reading at a quiet café, heading to the beach for the day, painting or playing a musical instrument for an hour, or sitting in a hammock with your earbuds in. Whatever it is, make sure it’s an hour of distraction free time, and don’t force yourself to think up ideas. Let them come to you in the flow of the music, or the visuals of the painting, or the concepts of the book you’re reading.

It might take a couple of tries, but if you stay consistent in giving yourself space, you’ll find your inspiration again. I always get my best ideas (such as the inspiration for my Ryan Rupert Series) while away on vacation or immersing myself in something new.

 

2) Ask yourself questions

I’m not telling you to sit there like a lunatic and talk to yourself. What I mean is ask yourself questions about your current WIPs, or journal your thoughts, and ask yourself what you don’t know about your budding story idea yet.

Quite often, we come up with a simple, small concept but fail to expand on this idea enough to turn it into a feasible, book-length story. This results in us sitting down to write with our amazing new story idea and being stuck on where to begin because we have no clue what the story is about yet or who’s involved and why.

book1.jpgWhile this is all a process undertaken as we write, it’s a good idea to get clarity on the bare basics before you begin putting pen to paper, so ask yourself what you don’t know, answer what you can come up with, and go from there. I use this method all the time for my own books, and it’s also something I teach my writing students too.

 

3) Pick a topic and expand on it

If you’ve got nothing—not even a concept to work with—this is where you pick something you’re interested in and expand on it.

If you love mythology, you might browse through some of your favourite stories until you find an idea or concept that interests you, and find a way to put your own unique twist on it.

Or, if you love a particular country, you might immerse yourself in it’s culture and think about how you can tell a story from the perspective of somebody living that lifestyle.

There are so many possibilities to choose from, and you can turn any personal passion into a story. Just try it! You might not end up with a book-length story, but even the practise can help you get back into the swing of writing and help you conjure a new idea for a full-length book.

 

I hope these tips help anyone struggling to write!

Also, thank you for having me on your blog Noreen.

P.S. Malcom (Webpage) (Facebook)

Ryan Rupert Series

Starlight Chronicles

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You’re welcome. And, Thank you. Simple reminders are the best.

 

Monday – a new food section on food on this blog. Who does not love food?

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A True Halloween Creeper Story

There was a challenge today in one of the writing groups to write 1000 word flash fiction Halloween story. This is a true story. It happened a few years ago. (It was written in an hour – so it’s not perfect)

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A True Halloween Creeper Story

 

Syd and I spent Halloween jogging in the rain. Our neighborhood doesn’t receive many trick-or-treaters, so this gives us a chance to see kids in costumes making their rounds. Sometimes the costumes scare Sydney; while dogs get the whole idea of doing crazy things for treats, they’re a little uncertain of masks and make up.

There are a lot of dogs in our neighborhood, which makes running difficult because of the social factor. The neighbors with friendly dogs stop and chat. So, toward the end, it’s more walk than run for us.

As I slow toward my own block, I run into Dan with his dog. Dan has a newfoundland; if the dog stood on his hindlegs, he’d be over six feet tall. A strong, powerful rescue dog, Dan said. “In case I ever need rescuing,” he joked.

“Where’s your wife?” The rain slowed to a sprinkle.

“Work trip. She’ll be gone til Saturday.”

“I didn’t realize her job required travel.” I’ve never seen one of them without the other. They walk their dog through our neighborhood on a regular basis.

Dan shrugs. “Yeah, once in a while.” His dog pulls him forward, and he yanks back. I smell the alcohol on his breath as he yells, “heel!”

Syd’s half the size of his dog, but the same color. She turns to look at him, even as his dog ignores him.

“What are you doing tonight?” Dan asks.

“Hiding from the kids. I didn’t buy candy.”  I laugh.

“Oh, yeah,” he says as if he forgot it was Halloween. “You can hide at my house if you want. I have beers.”

I laugh again. “No. I wouldn’t want your wife, or anyone else for that matter, to get the wrong impression.”

He shrugs and almost loses his balance. It becomes apparent, he’s had more drinks than I first assumed.

“It doesn’t matter. She’s used to it. I do photography in my spare time.”

I don’t know Dan or his wife that well. I only know them from our run-ins when walking the dogs, a few moments spent here or there chatting.

“You’re a photographer, right?”

I shake my head, “No, just pictures of flowers once in a while.”

“Yeah, I can see that. I see you covered in flowers.” His eyes shine as the last sprinkles of rain hit the ground and he pauses to look at me.

“Uhm, excuse me?”

“I photograph women, models. I’d like to photograph you.” He gets that half smirk that I’ve seen on men in bars when I was younger. A last ditch sales pitch that’s sure to hit. They, like he, doesn’t realize how incredibly silly they look. Dan’s older, he’s heavier. He has the appearance of someone who indulges in too much of everything except self-care. His skin is ruddy, hair unbrushed.

“No.” I say. There’s another block before my house and he’s heading the same direction. I hope another neighbor comes out to say hello.

“It would be strictly professional,” he slurs. “I’ve photographed hundreds of women, thousands. I used to run a website.”

“A website?”  He told me before he worked for the city; he’d retired early. I hadn’t believed that at the time, but didn’t care. Much like I don’t care about this conversation and I’d rather get to my warm, dry house and give Syd a treat.

He leans in, the scent of alcohol billows in front of us. “I don’t tell many people; it’s not something to be talked about in pleasant company.” He half laugh, half grunts.

I fall back a step, lean over to adjust my shoe laces. Maybe he’ll keep walking. When he stops and waits, I ask, “Does your wife know about the website and the photography?”

He shrugs again. The dog yanks at him and he yells louder than before. “Freaking, g’damnit, heel!” The giant, near panda bear, turns his head, seems to snub him, and pushes forward with less force.

Sydney slows down, lowers her ears, then she stays by my side as we start walking again.

“You know, I told my wife, it doesn’t really matter if we’re married or not. I mean, she could take one house, I could take the other. You know? Who stays married anymore, right?”

I see another neighbor, Jenny, coming toward us; I wave madly. She’s jogging with her little terrier, Fritzie. I hope she’ll stop, talk; I think, if she does, I’ll walk in the opposite direction with her.

“Hi, Jen!” I say loudly. She’s wearing her earbuds under her hoodie and I’m not sure she can hear me.

She waves, picks up Fritz and quickens her pace around us. I imagine she’s afraid of Dan’s dog. But when I see her sideways glance, I wonder if it’s more Dan that freaks out her. Suddenly, more things make sense.

“I could do the pictures very tastefully.” He half chuckles. “It’ll only be me; what are you afraid of?”

I decide to take the clear, hard line with him. “Well, I have children, and I’m a teacher. I’d be afraid to compromise my ethics and lose my job.”

We’re just a house from mine. I cut across my neighbor’s and my own lawn. The misty night has left my skin damp, but it’s him who makes my skin crawl.

“Well, if you know any young girls….” he calls behind me.

“I’ll be sure to warn them away from you!” I call back. Once in the house, I see him pause at the end of the drive, probably trying to make sense of what I said. I lock the door, turn out the lights, and give Syd treats; then we sit in the dark to watch someone a little less creepy, like Michael Meyers.

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