Monday, November 17, 2014
I will no longer be posting on this blog, but will be posting on TheSuccessfulWriter.blogspot.com. Please go there for future posts and feel free to comment, guide conversations, post reviews, and promote your own work there as well in the comments boxes.
Wednesday, November 5, 2014
In the meantime, I have a new book of short stories and dark poetry, which is available on Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com. It's called The Box Under the Bed and it's filled with haunting tales and tidbits pulled from under the bed that are sure to steal your breath and chill your blood right before you sleep. These compelling little poems and stories explore the dark side of the human psyche and the ghostly side of death.
This is an eBook, and you can download it to your Kindle or Nook device. Click on one of the links below to go to the version that works for you!
The Box Under the Bed on Amazon.com
The Box Under the Bed on Barnesandnoble.com
If you do not have a Kindle device, you can download a FREE app to be used on your computer, tablet, or phone. Here's the link:
Download Your Free Kindle app
Check out a FREE preview of the book on Amazon.com. (Barnes and Noble offers a free preview as well, but the Amazon preview is more extensive.) If you like what you read, the book is only $3.99! I would also love it if you would write a brief review of the book, whether it be on Amazon.com or on Barnesandnoble.com, as reviews help give the book greater search presence. A five-star review is a wonderful way to promote a book on these sites, and as an author, promotion of a book is exceptionally cumbersome, so every little bit helps!
Thank you for following me through my various projects. Please leave a comment, and if you have a book, I encourage you to promote it here!
Sunday, October 18, 2009
For those of you who are following my blog about the process of the writing of my new novel, The Tire, the Rope and the Tree, it now has its own special home at NovelWritingFromScratch.blogspot.com. I tried to have the blog set up so the oldest posts are at the top of the page, so newcomers could read about the process in order, but I can't figure out how to do that :( However, I have archived the blogs from oldest to newest on the sidebar to the left of the blog. Hopefully that will help!
I am not actually posting my novel on the blog, simply taking you through the process of writing it as I go, allowing you insight into the obstacles I face and how I overcome them. I do use examples from my novel when it enhances what I am trying to convey. I am also giving you formulas that have made the writing process not only easier, but much more fun! So, follow me through this exciting journey of writing a novel from scratch at NovelWritingFromScratch.blogspot.com.
Friday, June 19, 2009
A nameless, beautiful, feminine calico sweetheart of a kitten was dropped off at the Newington Animal Shelter the day she turned nine weeks old. Those were the rules, the attendant of the shelter had said, they don’t accept animals younger than nine weeks. So, the moment the clock struck two months and seven days the humans shoved the kitten in a crate and carted her off to the pound. There just wasn’t enough room in the house for another kitten, the human donors proclaimed. The attendant promptly scooped up the orphan and plopped her in a cage.
Right above her, a skinny, frightened tabby named Freddy hunkered down, his hopes for adoption diminishing with each new day. Now into his third month at the pound, Freddy was lonely and worn out. But things were about to change.
As Freddy tried to sleep, a little white puffed paw slapped against his cage. It was the calico saying hello. Freddy couldn’t see her face, but he liked that she was making an attempt to meet him. Deep in his heart, however, he knew that she would be gone in a matter of days. The kittens never last long. They have the adorable factor in their favor, something that had long faded from Freddy's sunken face.
“He looks scared,” the man said. “Poor thing. No one adopts the older ones.”
The woman by his side looked into Freddy’s eyes. “He looks sweet.”
“He is,” the attendant responded. “He’s the nicest cat you’d ever want to meet.”
“Hmm,” the woman moaned softly and followed the man around the room of cages.
Ten minutes later, the woman and man circled the room again, pausing once more at Freddy’s cage. The kitten below him had been sleeping, and Freddy secretly, selfishly hoped she would remain that way. If she showed herself to the couple they would surely take her. Just walk away, he thought, before she wakes up. Yet, throughout the day, the couple continued to survey the room of cats and kittens, pausing each time before Freddy's cage.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” a voice over the loud speaker announced. “The Newington Animal Shelter will be closing in five minutes.”
“Have we really been here for four hours?” the man asked the woman.
“Apparently. Wayne?” she paused. “What do you think about adopting him?" She pointed to Freddy. "The lady said he was a really nice cat.”
“I know, Eileen, but adult cats have history. I don’t know.”
Just then, in the cage below the orange tabby, a little white bit of a thing with orange and black spots arched her back in a massive kitten stretch. Sauntering to the front of her cage, she reached a fluffy, scruffy paw up to Freddy’s door and gave it a swat. Freddy reached down with his skinny orange striped paw and reciprocated. Wayne and Eileen looked at each other, and without saying a word, nodded in agreement.
“Miss?” Wayne beckoned. “We’d like to take her.” He pointed to the calico.
Freddy tucked his paw beneath his chest, knowing his friend had charmed the humans and that she would be leaving him. The short reprieve of sadness that had come only as a result of the calico’s presence had vanished.
“And him,” Eileen said, pointing to Freddy.
“They look like they’re friends,” Wayne added. “We’d like to take them home together."
The attendant removed Freddy from his cage and handed him to Eileen. Then the calico, so tiny she seemed weightless, was placed in the palm of Wayne’s hand. But she wasn’t about to stay there. In a flash, she leapt from Wayne’s hand and onto the table. With a graceful leap, she practically flew onto the top of a cabinet where she sniffed and explored her new surroundings.
“She looks like trouble,” Eileen said.
“But I bet she’s no trouble at all,” Wayne replied with a smile. “By the way,” addressing the attendant. “What are their names?”
“She doesn’t have one. This fella’s Freddy, after Freddy Krueger, you know the evil dream demon from that movie, A Nightmare on Elm Street.”
“That doesn’t sound like him,” Wayne said. “He’s too sweet to be a demon. He’s more like someone’s buddy.”
So that is the story of how Trouble and Buddy were adopted by Wayne and Eileen. They all lived happily together for more than twelve years. Trubs and Buds remained best friends, hanging out together, tussling, cleaning each other and sleeping side-by-side. Buddy grew plump and content, while Trouble grew strong, yet gentle. Life for the two cats and their parents had been joyous and playful, harmonious and peaceful for all the time they were together. For animals, however, time can be an enemy, robbing the little creatures of their lives when they are just at the peak of living.
For Trouble, her time came on June 16, 2009. Cancer had attacked her intestine, not allowing food or drink to enter. The kind doctor did everything he could, but in the end, the cancer won. Trouble died at the tender age of twelve.
Today, Buddy, Wayne and Eileen all mourn her passing and miss her dearly. She remains in their hearts and her sweet chirp and compassionate purr will always be a song left lingering in the air around them.
We love you, Trouble. Thank you for being our friend and for allowing us to love you the way you loved us.
Buddy and Trouble
Monday, November 10, 2008
Don’t be the author that might have been because starting a story is too cumbersome to master. The blank page (or in modern-day vernacular, the blank computer screen) is your friend, not your enemy. Too often, writers get stuck even before they start, and because getting unstuck seems impossible, the starts never happen. Is this you? It’s been me many times, but I’ve learned a few things in the 30 years that I’ve been writing, and I never get “stuck” anymore. I am going to share with you a few skills and practices that will help you unlock that great story brewing in your mind, and allow you to put to the page those all important opening words, the words that will grab your reader and thrust them into the heart of your story. Notice I said “skills and practices” and not “tricks.” There are no tricks to successful writing. Each author has her own style, her own impetus to write. However there are a few fundamentals that every writer should know and practice BEFORE beginning the writing process. By learning and then following these fundamentals, the process will not only become easier, but far more enjoyable.
Arguably, a writer’s most important practice is to read. Seems rather rudimentary, but it is surprisingly the one thing of which many writers do too little. Reading is, as the axiom goes, fundamental. For the writer, it is nothing less than essential. Perhaps one of the reasons the simple act of reading seems so daunting to writers is that the volume of choices is so astronomically grand. Therefore, the question becomes, “What do I read?”
Many successful authors would answer that question by asking you in return, “What do wish to write?” If you wish to pen mysteries, then you should read mysteries. If your desire is to write historical fiction, then you should read historical fiction. Are children’s stories your style? Then, of course, read children’s stories. Makes sense, and the advice is sound. For whatever genre you are looking to specialize in, you should be an avid reader in that genre. Go to the bookstore in your local mall, or check out Amazon.com and see what the best-selling, best-reviewed books are in your genre. Then read them. Ask your friends, family, co-workers what they are reading, and if they answer they are reading something in the avenue of which you wish to write, then borrow the book.
The advantages of reading are many. First, reading helps the writer define exactly where his passion lies. If you think you would be a great mystery writer, but find reading well-received mystery novels less than pleasurable, then you must ask yourself, “Why do I want to write mysteries if I don’t enjoy reading them?” If the answer is, “Because I think mysteries will sell,” then you are writing for the wrong reasons, and you will likely not become a successful mystery writer. On the other hand, if, while reading your forty-third romance novel, you look up at the clock to discover that it’s three in the morning, and you’ve been reading for six hours and you have to be up at seven, but still can’t put the book down, well, you might be on to something.
Once you determine that you in fact do have a passion for the genre in which you wish to write, then reading serves another purpose. You have already perused a plethora of well-written novels, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Now, reread the ones you loved best, and study the format, the structure, the formula perhaps. Take notes on language and characterization, transition and plotline. Denote the balance between description and dialogue, action and rest. How much time does the author dedicate to the start, rising action, climax and denouement? Are there twists, red herrings, subplots, and subtexts? How many characters are there? How many settings? Etc. Etc.
Another benefit is that in reading you expand your mind. By reading, you open yourself up to experiences that you never thought imaginable. You take in ideas that could not have been perceived without having read a particular book. You expand your language and vocabulary, learn new dialects, patois, and other regionalisms. You discover what works for you in a certain story and what doesn’t. Even the best-written and most notable novels don’t appeal to everyone. Soon, you will find that you can decipher specifically what holds your interest and what slows down your reading. The more you read, the more your mind grows. The more expansive your mind, the better equipped you are to write.
Now, you’ve read enough books to know you want to write certain kind of story. You have studied the genre to a point where you believe you should be ready to start, but as you click on your computer screen, you still find yourself staring at a blank page. Where to begin? I could say, draw an outline. Many authors do. But, some award-winning, highly successful writers simply begin at the beginning and make notes as they go. Again, each writer has a different style, a different motivation, a different approach to writing. No one approach is more correct than another. All that matters is that it works for you. So, then, where do you start? How do find those elusive all-important first words that are essential in grabbing your reader? You sit, alone, pondering, wondering, thinking, “What to write? What to write? What words are the right words to write?” And those words don’t come. Why? – The answer likely lies in your plot sentence. Do you have one? While explaining to a friend what your story is about, you find yourself digressing and rambling in many directions, unable to formulate a cohesive description, it then becomes evident that you don’t have a clear understanding of your story at all and therefore are not ready to begin writing it. Even if the story changes, you should have an initial plot sentence before entering the story. Formulate one sentence that, in a nutshell, effectively describes the main plot, the main story arc, and more often than not, the protagonist of your story. The effectiveness of your story’s beginning depends largely on the structure and specificity of your plot sentence. Make certain the action of your story in your plot sentence comes before the noun or the mention of the main character. And by all means, avoid being vague. Ask yourself the necessary questions that will fill out your plot and your main character. For example, let’s say this is your plot sentence: “The story is about a college student who comes against life-altering obstacles that threaten to destroy his dream of becoming a professional football player.” Ask yourself these questions:
- Who is the college student?
- What is his name?
- Does he actually play college football?
- If so, what’s his position on the team?
- What year student is he?
- Is he any good at the game?
- What are the life-threatening obstacles?
- Are they chance obstacles, like he develops cancer or his house was washed away in a flood, or are they purposeful threats – someone is out to get him to intentionally hurt him.
- When deciding on the life-threatening obstacle, how did it happen and when?
- Why does he dream of being a professional football player – prospects for fame and fortune - love of the game - his father was a pro ball player - his father is pushing him to be a pro ball player - He was a 90 pound weakling who proved himself to be a powerful force on the football field.
Sounds like a lot for one sentence, but it really isn’t. You can condense all of your answers into one or two words and it is not against the rules to have more than one clause in your sentence (But be careful to not have too many as you may fall victim to the run-on sentence.) Once these questions are answered, then structure your sentence so the action is up front. Instead of “The story is about a college student…” turn it around.
“After a violent and suspiciously purposeful rogue tackle from rival Jack Snow, Blue Devil’s running back and senior college football favorite John Foxworthy is paralyzed from the waist down, left to struggle with his broken dreams, more importantly his father’s broken dreams for him, of becoming a professional football player.”
OK, it’s not perfect, but you get the idea. Now you have your plot sentence. So, how do you turn this into the opening lines of your book? Easy. The opening lines of your story should directly connect with the core or your plot. If you are writing about a college football player who dreams of being a pro, then start the story on the football field. If your story is about a town threatened by deadly forces from outer space, then begin the story with a spacecraft crash landing in the middle of a Midwestern town. If the plot of your novel circles around finding a serial killer who preys on college women with long dark hair, then open your novel with the murder of one of these women. From there you can either flashback or move forward. It’s up to you. Notice that in each example your story is opening with an action. It isn’t a student sitting at his desk in World Geography class, or a Midwestern family gathered around the dinner table in prayer or the young woman primping to go out for the night. That all may have a place later, but right at the start, jump into the action!
There’s one more element that is vitally important in creating that all-important opening scene, and that is the picture that you paint. How vivid is the scene, how specific the action. How clear is the scene. Will the reader be confused about what’s happening? What is the mood that is being set? Don’t be overly comic if the genre is literary drama, or draw out a graphic death scene if the book is a comedy. The mood must be instantaneously set. Later you can add comic relief, or dramatic reinforcement, or whatever you need to round out your story. At the start, the mood should be set. But how do you create a mood with words? How can you paint a picture with text? If you weren’t having fun before now, then here’s where you’ll start. This is where you begin the real creativity in your creative writing. And it all comes down to poetry. POETRY? Yes, poetry. As a poet, I have mastered many of the rhetorical devices used in writing verse and applied those devices to my prose writing.
Think about it. What is poetry? Poetry is taking one moment in time, one tiny slice of life, and presenting that moment to the public in the least amount of words possible. That is the opening of your book. Successful poetry concentrates on the concrete images and pictures that depict the emotions of the poet. By focusing on the concrete and eliminating the abstract, the poet is able to pinpoint the precise emotions they are trying to convey. If a poet were to do the opposite, that is focus on the abstract, then the meaning of the words would be open to too broad of an interpretation. By turning emotions like love, hate, fear, anger, frustration, depression, etc. into concrete images, the poet is able to more clearly and accessibly convey what she is trying to say. Take the emotion of the scene, the rush the football player feels as he’s racing for the goal, the disruption of peace in the sleepy Midwest town, the fear of the young woman walking alone at night, and turn it into an image. I will help you through that process in my next blog.
For now, send me your comments or questions regarding what you’ve learned or read so far in this blog, and I will be happy to answer you. Let’s make this interactive. You may know something I don’t regarding how to successfully write the opening pages of your novel or story. You may want to add to what I’ve already said or contradict some ideas. You may want to send some examples of what you’ve written for critique or just to share. Remember, if you are critiquing someone else’s work, be as constructive and kind as you would wish others to be to you. The purpose of critique is to enhance an existing work, not to interject ideas of your own or to simply say you like or don’t like something. We are looking for positive reinforcement and constructive advice.
Don’t worry, if you are eager to continue with the use of poetic rhetorical devices and concrete imagery in the writing of your prose fiction…It’s coming! In the meantime, I am looking forward to your comments and thank you for reading my blog!
Eileen Albrizio - Author: Messy on the Inside (poetry), Rain: Dark as Water in Winter (poetry), On the Edge (a recitation of poems on audio CD), Perennials: New & Selected Poems (poetry), Alision’s Weight (young adult novel), Dragonfly Net (mystery novel), What’s a Mother For? (one-act play –co-authored by Connie Magnan-Albrizio &-recognized by Writer’s Digest in 1996), Rain (one-act play – recognized by Writer’s Digest in 1997), The Blind Side of Night (compilation of short stories – in progress)
Winner of the 2003 and 2008 Individual Artist Fellowships from the Greater Hartford Arts Council. Former award-winning news anchor and journalist for NPR and its Connecticut affiliate.