Thursday Writing Prompt No. 140

It’s been some time since I posted a Thursday Writing Prompt. This year has been unfriendly to being productive, but it’s time to climb back into the driver’s seat and get some writing and editing done!

For today’s prompt, do an online search for cocktails and find one with a name that intrigues you. You’ll take that name and use it as a working title for a short story. “Tequilla Sunrise” would work as a prompt, and it already gives you an idea of the setting for your story. It might work well for a travel type of story, or perhaps a romance where a traveler meets that special someone.

“Dark and Stormy” is another name that is highly suggestive, but this time it makes me think of Gothic castles, haunted houses, or wild weather and large waves crashing against a rocky shoreline. Because who cares if it’s dark and stormy and you’re safe in bed in your urban apartment? Well, now … that would be a different setting, wouldn’t it? Write the unexpected!

And a search for weird cocktail names will give you even more inspiration. “Dances with Wenches,” “The Drunken Elf,” “Blue Lagoon,” “Twelve Mile Limit,” and “Green Ghost” are some fun names to start with, and there are more … adult-named beverages out there, too, if that’s your bag.

So, grab a cocktail recipe of your choice and be inspired — with or without the alcohol — that’s your choice. Just don’t blame me if you’re seeing twice as many words on your page as you’re actually writing!

Cleaned My Bookshelves, Discovered Treasure

Today I’ve spent some time rearranging books on my shelves. I purged a few things I don’t want either because I’ve read them and won’t read them again, or because I bought them on sale at a flea market in the hopes they would be useful for some of my history classes and found that they just weren’t specific enough or just not particularly useful for my purposes.

I also had a string of decorative LED lights that I bought from Big Lots and wanted to put on my shelves, so I needed to clear off the accumulated clutter and piles. Piles! Piles of stuff! Stuff in the form of way too many books for the shelf space available; a lot of knick-knacks, including Lego people, fossils, and some very nice mineral specimens; and steno books galore. Is there ever enough paper or art supplies?

Between shuffling books and dusting and sneezing, I came across some notes that I put together for a local writer’s group meeting on how to write atmosphere. And I thought, “Hey, why not turn that material into a blog post?” So in a few of upcoming posts, I’ll talk about some ideas for writing atmosphere, including setting, theme, word choice, and sentence structure. I initially wrote my notes with an emphasis on Gothic atmosphere, but after reading some of Ray Bradbury’s work for the biography and historical/cultural article I wrote for Salem Press’s forthcoming encyclopedia, I would like to expand my vision of what atmosphere is – although I have to tell you that Bradbury’s work has been compared to Gothic literature. For a man who is remembered primarily for his work in science fiction, Bradbury’s oeuvre included a great deal of horror short stories.

So, what is atmosphere in a story, and how does it affect the work? The term “atmosphere” is often used interchangeably with “mood,” but there is a subtle difference. Atmosphere is the external feeling that a place or setting projects to the reader, while mood describes what is happening with the characters in the story. That’s fairly easy to remember, isn’t it? Only the Earth can have an atmosphere, but only people and animals have moods.

Gothic literature was very good in creating atmosphere and relied heavily on tropes such as castles and secret passages. The weather in those Gothic stories was usually stormy, and the topography consisted of difficult landscapes that might include rocky terrain or dangerous cliffs. No flowery meadows! Gothic literature covered included spiritual and psychological topics, too, including religion, dreams, and ghosts.[1]

Creating atmosphere in your writing depends on the setting, theme, word choice, and sentence structure that you use. Your landscape can set the stage, but by using writing techniques such as foreshadowing, you will also develop atmosphere and give your readers an emotional context for your story that will draw them in.

Look out for the next blog post, where I’ll discuss setting. It’s going to be a lot of fun!

[1] For a good introduction to Gothic (fiction and otherwise), see Nick Groom, The Gothic: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), especially chapter 8, “The Descent into Hell.”

 

Getting Sorted

After my bout of frustration with my missing books (and mysteriously added one) on my Goodreads author page I wrote an email and asked for help. It turns out that Goodreads has a way to differentiate between authors with the same name, but when they import data from other sites, such as Ingram, that data can be overwritten. And so, mashed potatoes, my friends!

I got a quick reply, but I’m still in the process of sorting out what’s what, and making a file for myself with a list of publications and ISBN numbers so if this happens again I can hopefully get my information restored more quickly. In going over my list, I realize that I’ve been writing encyclopedia articles for something like eight years now. With the projects on my desk winding down (getting done!) that means it’s time to turn my attention to several personal book projects I have in the queue.

Corrugated Sky will be releasing its second anthology early this summer, so be on the lookout for it. It will be a collection of four short stories (actually, closer to novellas) with a Steampunk theme. I’ll post more about the anthology in the near future.

 

 

 

Just Another Brick in the Face

Somehow, someone(s) has/have pretty much trashed my author page on Goodreads and I’m pissed about it. I put a lot of work into setting up that page, and for what? So someone else can mess it up in an instant? Great. Just great.

Why the hell do I even try to do anything? I spend time setting things up, trying to make my life a little better, just to see someone else come in and screw up everything. I either have to do a ton of work all over again, or just give up. Guess what I’m leaning toward right about now? I’m tired of getting dumped on and I’m tired of getting bricks in the face; I get enough of them at work to build a library.

So, having coauthored two anthologies and entries in several encyclopedias, I’ve been slowly but surely setting up my Goodreads author profile and book page. I logged in today because I need to start doing some serious marketing. And that’s when I found that three of the books I’d set up were gone, but a book about a baby was there by some other Karen Garvin. I do not write about children or babies, nor do I pretend to do so on TV.

I couldn’t find a way to remove that book from my author page, but I could edit the listing, so I changed its title to THIS IS NOT MY BOOK and sent a help email to Goodreads. I’m still faced with the fact that three of my books are gone and I’ll probably get saddled with having to redo them.

But this begs the question: Is it worth it to go through all that work of setting up my author page again if it’s so easy for someone else to take it all away? At least I can keep my Publications list up-to-date here on Focal Plane.