Month: December 2014

Writing for Charity

The L.A. Times ran a great article this holiday season on charities writer’s can volunteer their talent at, and this got me to thinking: what other ways can writer’s contribute to charities? It’s almost a new year, and what better way is there to start off a new year than by contributing your talent to a charity in need?

No matter what you write – poetry, short stories, novels, literature, fantasy, science fiction, horror, etc. – you can always focus or create a story centered around an important cause that you believe in. Want to fight ALS? You don’t need to dump a bucket of ice water on your head.

Instead, you can write a poem about it, or create a supporting character struggling with it, or make it the inspiration behind the struggles of your protagonist. This way you can exercise your craft and spread awareness through your writing as well. It also never hurts to include a dedication page that includes information about charities that are linked with the subject you are writing about.

J.K. Rowling: A Draco Tale

If you’re a fan of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, then you probably already know that her interactive site, Pottermore.Com, had a special Christmas present for all the Draco Malfoy fans out there. In Chapter 27, The Lightening-Struck Tower of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, if you click on Draco Malfoy this description pops up:

Draco Malfoy is a Hogwarts student with white-blond hair, cold grey eyes and a pale, pointed face. A Slytherin whose family has been linked to the Dark Arts, Draco often taunts Harry and his friends.

Under this simplified biography, a new story has been posted by J.K. Rowling that gives readers more insight into this pensive, pale, and often times pestilent adversary of Harry Potter’s.

While I won’t give away any spoilers about the story for those that haven’t read it and intend to, I will talk about J.K. Rowling’s comments on why she wrote the story and who the story was intended for. Rowling wanted to give more depth the boy that was the bully of the series.

Snow

It’s cold.
It’s pure.
It’s white when it’s new and fresh.
It’s brown and yellow and a mess when it’s been down for a while or falls in a city.
It doesn’t happen all the time.
Some places don’t get it at all.
Sometimes it’s considered a miracle.
Sometimes it’s a threat.

It's light enough to be carried by wind.
It’s light enough to be carried by wind.

It’s fast.
It’s dangerous.
It’s slippery.
It’s moist.
It shimmers.
It melts.
It hardens.
It destroys roadways.
It replenishes the wild.

It covers mountains.
It covers mountains.

The Things We Do Instead of Writing

With no papers due and no pending deadlines for any of my writing projects, I find myself unmotivated to write on a regular basis. Even when I sit down to write – pen in hand or keyboard under finger – I start to create this long imaginary list of other things I should be doing. Soon, it’s too late for me to write, or I’m too tired, or I want a break after doing said list of things. There are some very specific things that pop into my head that prevent me from being a good writer and actually writing. I know I’m not the only writer out there to do this.

One of my professors commented that, anytime she has a book to write, she suddenly remembers that she has dirty dishes in the sink, and that her floor sure could use a mopping, and man, when was the last time she vacuumed? We all have our little ticks that prevent us from doing the writing we set out to do.

The holidays, for example, easily break up our normal routines. Even if you have a normal writing schedule, it’s hard to stick to it with the obligations of the season. It’s hard to say “listen, family/wife/kids/friends, I know we’re supposed to be opening presents right now, but I really have a writing schedule I need to stick to. It’s not that you’re not important, it’s just that if I break my schedule it might be really hard to get back on it. You understand, right?” The answer to that would probably be no.

Unless you plan to give your family disappointment for the holidays, you should probably not use writing as an excuse to skip out on the festivities.

For me, most of the gifts I give during the season are handmade or homemade. I love to crochet and bake cookies, and both activities tend to occupy my hands and my mind so soon writing is completely pushed out of there. Even after the holidays, my brain is still in crochet mode – I’m working on two bags and one hat, at the moment, instead of my poetry or my short stories.

Repost: A Post-Holiday Book Shopping List

The new year is around the corner, and the holidays are coming to an end. If you’re anything like me, I’ll bet you have a few gift cards to spend. My post-holiday shopping list consists mainly of books, as well as some more warm clothes to get me through the rest of winter.

During my time interning for Dark Discoveries Magazine, I read a lot of dark, short stories. Aside from that experience, however, I haven’t read much in the horror genre. My father’s a pretty big Stephen King buff. When I visited him on Christmas, the shelves in his living room were filled with many of King’s books. I left with a stack of them, along with a few old collections of poetry.

First Edition Cover (Credit: Doubleday)
First Edition Cover (Credit: Doubleday)

1. The Shining by Stephen King

Even if you haven’t heard of Stephen King or read The Shining, the title should sound familiar, as Jack Nicholson starred in the 1980 film version. Or maybe a friend screamed “Here’s Johnny” while pretending to chase you with an ax, and that’s all you know about the film/book. You had no idea why they kept calling themselves Johnny, because your parents wouldn’t let you watch a movie about a man who gets more than a tad stir crazy and, well, I won’t give it away. But now you know. You’re welcome.

2. Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

Doctor Sleep is the sequel to The Shining and was just released earlier this year in September. The book follows a now middle-aged Dan Torrance (the young boy protagonist in the first novel) as he attempts to save a young twelve-year-old girl in a fight between good and evil. Judging by what i’ve heard from others, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to read The Shining before starting Doctor Sleep. Even if you’ve watched the movie, give the book a read. Movies often leave parts of the novel out, and in the case of a psychological thriller like The Shining some things are difficult to transfer to the big screen.

(Credit: NorthJersey.com)
(Credit: NorthJersey.com)

3. Mañana Means Heaven by Tim Z. Hernandez

Tim Z. Hernandez is an award-winning poet and author. His writing is beautiful. You can read an excerpt of Mañana Means Heaven here to check it out for yourself. A big draw to Hernandez’s book for me is that it features a little writer some of you may have heard of: Jack Kerouac. If you’ve read On The Road, you may remember the “Mexican girl” that Kerouac has an affair with in California. Her part in the novel only spans fifteen pages, but Hernandez spent years searching for Bea Franco, the real-life “Mexican girl” from Kerouac’s novel. Mañana Means Heaven is the result of that search and Hernandez’s conversations with the elderly Franco.

Zoe Sugg: How Stars Are Diminishing an Art Form

Image via cc.

When celebrities start “writing” literature, most of us understand that these books are being ghostwritten. In fact, ghostwriting, as many novelists will tell you, can be a nice side job—in most cases paying even more than a midlist author can hope to make from royalties on their own titles.

But when YouTube star, Zoella, published her debut novel, Girl Online, this November, breaking the all-time highest first-week sales record, fans were devastated to learn that the book was ghostwritten. Zoella, whose real name is Zoe Sugg, is an English fashion and beauty vlogger with millions of followers. And because this is the clearest way I know how to say this—her books sold more than freaken Harry Potter. Harry. Potter. Okay then. The actual first week sales total was 78,109 copies.

Sugg’s publisher, Penguin, issued a statement in which they wrote “Zoe Sugg did not write Girl Online on her own. [She] worked with an expert editorial team to help her bring to life her characters and experiences in a heartwarming and compelling story.” In other words, they helped her write a book. The Young Adult novelist Siobhan Curham was mentioned in the book’s acknowledgements. Sugg wrote that she was with her “every step of the way.” Though no one has come out to say it, all evidence points to the fact that Curham did, in fact, ghostwrite the book.

A Book Lovers Guide to The Holidays

Ah yes. It’s the time for cheer and celebration and family.

“Why don’t you put down the book and join us?”

Joy! Or…you know, not joy if you like to be by yourself and with a book. But don’t fret! There’s a way for you to be part of the festivities and still read.

Pro tip 1: When people ask what you want for the holidays, be sure you tell them books. Be specific, because if you just say you like horror novels and you mean H.P. Lovecraft, you’ll probably end up with a bunch of Stephen King. Now, this doesn’t mean that you’ll get nothing but books for the holidays, but chances are vastly increased that someone in your family will have listened to you and will get you a book. Now it’s not rude if you’re reading said gift-book during the holiday get together because it is you enjoying the gift that someone got you.

Pro tip 2: If you’re not from the kind of family that asks you what you want for the holidays, keep a list anyway. Start an Amazon or Borders wishlist. Post hints on Facebook. Bring up the books you want to your significant other or one parent so they can team up and get you the books you really want for the holidays. Again, this isn’t full proof, and you’ll still probably get an ugly sweater or two, but chances are you’ll end up with one book, at least, that you’ve hinted about and, again, spend the majority of your family gathering reading your gift-book.

Story Shots: Choice

SS_Circle

Choosing is never an easy task. For this month’s Story Shots, our short nonfiction series, we asked our writers to think about choice.

Here’s the thing about choices: they’re never easy. If a choice was easy, it wouldn’t really be a choice, would it? Robert Frost plays with the idea of choice in his poem, The Road Not Taken.

Choice isn’t picking the better option, for all options in a choice have equal value to the chooser at the time the decision is being made. Choice is a struggle. Choice is regret. Choice is convincing yourself that you didn’t make a mistake or accepting that you have. Choice is about telling yourself, after you have chosen, that there really wasn’t an option to begin with. Choice is a fork in the road where both roads ahead have equal wear, but as time passes we convince ourselves and others that one road was more unique or special or different than it really was.

Here are the stories our writers told about their choices.


A spectacular demonstration of comedy and codependency:
“Are you sure?” Him.
“Yes.” Me.
“But you hate Taco Del Sol.” Him.
“No, I don’t.” Me.
Him.
Me.
Him.
Me.

A close call with war buddies and lovers:
My personal crisis.
His personal crisis.
A breakup.
A reunion.
A lost election.
A death.
A won election.
Two years of long distance.
An experiment.
The same choice every day.

A looming, breathing thing:
Friends, parading through weddings and babies and china cabinets and Easter egg hunts.
Him, brilliant and sweet and coveting the American dream.
Me, happy and alone in my tiny apartment.
Us.
Us.

– Missy Lacock


Next episode playing in 15 seconds

I should stop. Netflix, you fiend, you temptress. I have three papers due this week. Three!

But I’m a good student. I deserve a break, don’t I? I work and go to school for over nine hours a day. I have graduate applications I work on when I get home. For the month of October, two of my Saturdays were dedicated to graduate testing. The rest of my Saturdays were spent studying, along with my Sundays.

On the other hand, I have to keep working. I can’t let my grades slack or I might not get into a good graduate program. I have to work hard. I don’t have a choice.

Next episode playing in 10 seconds.

Literary Paraphernalia: A Book Lover’s Holiday Wishlist

If you have a loved one who’s an avid reader or writer and have been searching for that perfect, last-minute gift for the holidays, you might want to check out some of the bookish items we’ve listed below. Or, you know, if you just want to treat yourself a little bit. You deserve it.

Around this time of year, people ask what’s on my wishlist. And let’s face it, sometimes holiday shopping involves a little “One for her, and one for me.” So I got to thinking about some gifts that any book lover could appreciate. We have vintage book clocks, scarves and clothes, mugs, and–behold–a personal library kit. Now when your friends borrow books you can give them a due date!

Personal Library Kit

Vintage Book Clocks

Vintage Book Dictionary Heart Pins

Novel Teas

Throwback Thursday: How to Write Bad Metaphors

Let’s face it, metaphors (or as Wikipedia defines it: a figure of speech that describes a subject by asserting that it is, on some point of comparison, the same as another otherwise unrelated object) are all over the place and while great metaphors can be awe inspiring pieces of literary genius, bad metaphors are more prevalent and, honestly, a little more entertaining when you are bored and looking for something to fill your time.

They aren’t just fun to read, however, but they are fun to write.

How dare you Zoidberg, how dare you.

Some of my favorite T.V. shows are full of bad metaphors, like Futurama (if you can’t tell from the picture above), and these bad metaphors are what make the shows funny.

Here’s how to write a bad metaphor.