Saturday, February 27, 2010

Redecorating Relearning, and Renaissance

By Keith Fisher
As promised, I stopped reading political science books, and I feel more relaxed. There is a lot of bliss in holding your tongue. As many of you know, I have an argumentative side, and I often talk too much, so, bliss is a new thing for me.

I’m reading three novels right now, one of them is for the Dead Authors society and I’ll be talking about it next time. I woke up this morning in shock. Realizing it’s Saturday, I wondered where the week went. On facebook the other day, I mentioned I was re-learning HTML, and trying to decipher CSS and XML. I was surprised to find my mind doesn’t concentrate like it did in the past.

Concentration hurts. I spent long hours in experimentation and went to bed each night with a headache. You may wonder why I’m putting myself through this, and I’m wondering too. I guess it’s a little pride. Back in the day, I put one of the first websites on the Internet. Well, that’s not saying much, because there seemed to be a billion pop up overnight.

I learned the hard way, through trial and error. When I got serious about writing I built my author's’ website from scratch. Now, there are drag and drop features at build your own places on the net. My friend used one of them, and it looks pretty good. I looked at mine and wondered if it looked immature.

There were always things I wanted to do with my website but could never figure out how. In those days the developers weren’t very forthcoming with secrets. But I built a site for the Greater Wasatch Dutch Oven Society and many people said nice things, but today, that site would look infantile.

Well, to make a long story short, I began to capture code. One thing led to another and I’m almost finished with my new website. I’m incorporating things I only dreamed of in the past. It’s just plain Jane, especially if you look at these two sites, (this one and this one), but I think it looks professional and I can say I understand the functions.

I started with a template and changed most everything. I’m still working on the languages and scripts, (hard to teach old dogs, you know). There are many sophisticated places on the net, even more so, than the ones above, but I’m figuring it out.

As a writer, I need a place to sell books, disburse information, and invite editors to learn more about my writing. I think I’m getting there. What do you think?

If you need a promotional website, there are many places to turn. As for content, Linda Formichelli wrote an article in the October 2008 Writer’s Digest, titled, the Anatomy of a Writer's Website. You can find it on the web, or in your public library. At least they have it in mine.

Leave comments and tell me which homepage you like best, and keep an eye out for the launch. My domain is or you can link to it on the left.

Conjecture, Tapping Into our Minds

By Keith Fisher

While cleaning the bedroom the other day, I stumbled across a pair of shoes I haven’t seen in a year. The shoes are made for river rafting and things like that, semi closed in but open enough to make your feet feel free.

To say, I hadn’t seen them, is only part of the story, however. I forgot I owned them. Perhaps my mind was protecting me. Well, let me explain.

As you might remember, we lost my father to a fast growing cancer in March of 2009. Several months before he knew he was dying, he gave me the pair of shoes. He said they were too big for him, they looked cool, and felt great. I wore them on cold, snowy days, because they were comfortable. I wore them at the hospital when Dad was dying.

Sometime after he died, I stopped wearing the shoes I don’t remember making a conscious decision. I just wore other shoes. Dad’s shoes ended up in the back of my closet.

When I found them, I sat down, to put them on. Thoughts of my father, his life, and the turbulent time during his death, flooded my mind. The reality of missing him hit me harder than it had before.

As I mentioned in a blog last year, I’m happy for Dad. He had a degenerative eye problem that was taking his sight. In 1986, he was the victim of an industrial accident, so his health had been deteriorating for years. I spoke to him before he died, and he was happy about the prospect of being able to see again.

Putting on his shoes, took my mind past the logical, and forced me into the emotional side of losing him. Dad was my best friend, and I miss him. I know a little about grief, and what I experienced was normal. I’m fine, but the incident pointed out a writing concept to me, and I wanted to share.

Did you ever notice how different objects conjure up different memories and thoughts? Like my father’s shoes, other objects bring back memories, both good and bad. Our need to stay connected, is the reason we keep trophies. We hold onto scraps of paper because our child drew a picture on it. I’m keeping a pacifier that reminds me of the day my daughter decided she was tired of sucking on her binky and gave it up for good.

My point, if you haven’t figured it out, is we carry an arsenal of experiences wherever we go. Nested in our computer hard drive we call the brain. We can retrieve the data anytime and insert it into a story, but sometimes it takes a little jog in our memory to recall the facts. That’s why writing prompts are so effective in getting the juices flowing.

My critique group told me I’m good at plotting. I can take a situation or object and build a story on it. I thought everyone could do that, but apparently we can’t. So, I suggest you pick up an object and try to imagine how you could use that object in, say committing a murder. Before you think you can drop the object in favor of a knife, or a heavy lamp, I want you to close your eyes and get on the floor. Pick up one of the scattered toys in your family room. Now, that is your murder weapon.

Adapt this exercise to different scenarios, and eventually you will tap into a place where ideas come from. This is a good writer’s party game, by the way.

Now I want you to imagine. You’re walking in the desert. Miles from anywhere, and you glance at the ground. Sitting on top of the sand is an old, rusty spoon. How did it get there? How old is it?

Here is another one. In a graveyard, you find a headstone with a unique signet inscribed above the name. It’s identical to the ring you purchased at a yard sale. You turn around and the signet is on another headstone. Ask your questions.

Imaging what it was like, coupled with known facts and a recent discovery, inspired the blockbuster movie, Titanic.

How many of you wonder what really happened to Amelia Earheart and Fred noonan? I can think of dozens of possibilities, starting with the fact of a faster jet stream.

Open your mind to conjecture. That’s where plots come from. The reason objects conjure memories for you, is the same reason you can write plots. If you tap into it, you might find you have too many plot lines to explore. Then, it’s just a matter of choosing the best one.

Good luck with your writing---see you next week.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Community of Support

By Keith Fisher

When I think of writers, and search my mind for examples, I think of hermits who disappear into a private world, like Thoreau, when he retreated to Walden. I think of mountain cabins, or beach houses that provide shelter, and solitude, while a writer breathes life into their creation.

Writers are people who set themselves apart from their group, while finding ways to document the culture of that group. We are observers, making mental notes, and extrapolating the rest. Yet, we jump at a chance to socialize with other writers.

Something inside us rejoices in talking to others who understand how it feels to take dictation from a character. To lend support and receive the same. If nothing else, to absorb the wisdom of many, who passed this way before.

Last week, I had the opportunity to dine at a restaurant with a large group of writers. I knew many of them, having met at writer’s seminars or workshops somewhere. The gathering caused me to reflect on my first writers’ conference.

I’d been laboring alone, kind of, sort of, like Thoreau. Alone, but full of mistakes and rejections. One of the editors had written a personal note, recommending I look into a workshop or conference. It took three years, and reading a book by Sol Stein, to convince me.

Stein talked about writers’ boot camps. (I think the idea originated with him). Anyway, while searching for publishers on the Internet, I found the LDStorymakers. They were holding a writer’s conference and doing a boot camp that year, so I signed up.

To say I was overwhelmed is an understatement. I’d read a lot of the material before. I hadn’t applied it, but I’d read it. The things that overwhelmed me, were the friendly camaraderie, the networking possibilities, and the sheer numbers of people with the same dreams as mine.

I came away from that conference with dozens of friendships I cherish today. Also, I became a member of Authors Incognito, an online support group of conference attendees. From which, other groups have sprung, including this blog group.

Much of my success as a writer has come, because of that first conference. I know other conferences would’ve been helpful too, but at Storymakers, I attended classes that increased my personal faith. Not many writers’ conferences end with a closing prayer.

There will be another LDStorymakers conference this year. It’s slated for April 23 & 24. I think there are still openings. Also, the first chapter contest deadline is March first, you have to attend the conference to enter, but look into it. I look forward to making more writer friends.

I still enjoy my romantic notion of a private secluded cabin by a lake, but I love my writing community, too. Having the whole gang over for a retreat once a year would make the dream complete.

Good luck with your writing---see you next week.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Hope Floats

By Keith Fisher

I'm sorry for my procrastination. I have not kept up my blog. I don't have a dead authors society report today, because I've been mired in political science. Something has driven me to the research and study of many political parties and thought.

When I was younger, I studied history, and followed politics. In history, I found certain trends that continued to repeat themselves. In an effort to avoid those trends, I argued for, and against political policies and candidates. Some time ago, I became discouraged. It seemed society was too blind to see where they were headed, or they didn't care, being driven by their pride and greed.

I gave up on the quest to educate, or at least motivate, my fellow beings. I was but one voice in a crowded room of shouting people, everyone wanting to be heard.

As I said recently, I've been studying beliefs and my research reignited the flame. I wanted so badly for my friends to see what I see, so to speak. I felt like the character of John Adams in the movie, 1776. I wanted to sing the words, Does anybody see, what I see?

I had been sleeping, if you will, with eyes closed, apathetically hoping for a reprieve from repeating history, but there is a new kind propaganda preached today.

one of the results, was stated by Bill Moyer, a news commentator on PBS, ". . .we've also been robbed of memory, assaulted by what the Nobel laureate Czeslaw Milosz described as a "fantastic proliferation of mass media." We live in a time "characterized by a refusal to remember." Inconvenient facts simply disappear down the memory hole, as in George Orwell's novel, "1984.""

Another result is the refusal to see anything positive in government. There appears to be a group intent on destroying hope in our government, and in the Constitution, No matter who is in office. This group preaches gloom and doom, under the guise of God, family, and patriotism.

I've commented frequently on blogs and in other places about patriotism, and how many there were, who refused to stand with me, when the flag passed by in a parade. Then after 911 so many of them began to call patriotism into question.

Since my political rebirth, I've heard so much rhetoric that flys in the face of common knowledge. It's discouraging because I've seen the historical facts. Even recent historical facts. I'm left with a hole in my hope.

So I refuse to get involved in the debate. I choose to be a preacher of positves I choose to foster hope, put my political science books away, and write fiction. If you get discouraged, you are welcome to join me in my quest for hope. Let us all, refuse to criticize our leaders. Shun those who would preach gloom and doom. Hold onto our core values and don't let anyone call them into question. Just think. If there were enough of us, we could Conquer the world with positive hope.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Finding Peace

By Keith Fisher

Wow! What a busy week, and to top it off, I’ve been attending Life, the Universe & Everything (LTUE) at BYU. If you didn’t know, it’s a conference for writers and illustrators of science fiction and fantasy. Held every February, it’s not all SF and fantasy, though. I’ve found plenty of writing tips and other stuff I can use. The class called, Establish Characters through Costume Design was helpful. I need to give more thought to what my characters wear.

It’s refreshing to hang out with the SF types. I admire anyone who writes in that genre because they’re intelligent enough to keep all the knowledge, and collected wisdom of whole worlds in their mind, then, using that knowledge, they write the mythical stories of their creations.

I wrote SF once. Let’s just say, as far as science fiction is concerned, I’m not a bad writer of general, and women’s fiction. (Thanks to the writers of a movie called Funny Farm for that line.) I am a SF fan, and I can hold my own, in the debate of Star Trek VS Star Wars, and I loved Battlestar Galactica on TV. Yesterday, however, I felt like a neophyte.

I sat in Richard Hatch’s presentation and watched the great movie trailers he showed. Hatch is the actor who played Apollo, in the original Battlestar Galactica series. He makes trailers to pitch his ideas (a novel approach). One of which was a ten year old proposal for a bridging series. In the, trailer, the Cylons have evolved and they’re stronger, and Apollo, who leads the whole band, takes his people on a quest to find Starbuck.

In the original series, the Starbuck character, played by Dirk Benedict, was marooned on a planet. In Richard’s trailer, there were many references to Starbuck. He is alive, and they are going to find him.

When the trailer ended, I asked Richard what he intended for the Starbuck character. He informed me that he’d written a series of books about it. People turned to stare at me, as if they were saying, “Well, duh, you should know that.”

Perhaps it’s in my best interest, at this point, to admit I haven’t kept up. There are many facts stuck in my head about the Star Trek world and Star Wars. I am familiar with much of the SF written today, but I write women’s fiction. I live, somewhat unsuccessfully, in the world around me.

Sitting at the feet of Richard Hatch, I felt like slinking out. Accepting my fate as a non-geek, and living my life in obscurity. God Bless those people who manage their lives, and cram all those facts into their heads. I have my hands full, trying to navigate the minds of women.

I did, however, find an hour yesterday, to work on my story. I wrote a fantastic ending to the sequel of the book I’m editing, then, I rewrote a part that needed to be tighter. I spent a few minutes on the first book, spoke to an editor about it, and I felt peace in being a writer. I sat back in the armchair, gazed out over the common area below, and counted my blessings.

Although, there are many frustrations in choosing to be a writer, I am grateful for the chance to develop a talent. I keep a growing project file of books in many stages of development. I hold the lives of over a hundred characters in my head, and I know how they will grow by the end of their stories. I’m sorry if I haven’t crammed the whole Galatica series in there.

I wish Richard had been allowed to make the continuation series, but he’s working on a new project that promises to be amazing. Its called The Great War of Magellan and the book will be out at the first of the year.

Good luck with your writing—live long and prosper, and may the force be with you. See you next week.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Dances with Wolves in the Future

By Keith Fisher

I took some advice and went to the movies last night. We saw Avatar and my daughter loved it. The 3 D was cool but it’s always difficult to see through the eye wear when you have prescription glasses.

With that said, I’ve got to admit I loved it. After Happy feet, I thought I’d hate watching movies with a political agenda, but this was good. It became obvious to me, however, that Avatar is basically, a remake of Dances with Wolves. That movie staring Kevin Costner, took us on an adventure where a lone army officer befriends the local Indians, learns their ways, and grows to love them.

Avatar is pretty much the same script, set in the future where a human, ex marine, learns the ways of the local people and literally becomes one of them. This time however, the locals win the war and kick the humans out. Also, if the story doesn’t leave you in tears, you’re not paying attention.

I left the theatre thinking about remakes. Nostalgia movies were big business in the early nineties. They even remake TV shows. Back in the eighties I watched a sitcom (I don’t remember which one). I recall, though, as soon as the episode began I knew what would happen from beginning to end. Not because the plot was hollow, but because I’d seen the same episode cast in another sitcom from an earlier time period.

As a writer I worry about developing a plot and finding out it was already done, or worse, being in the editing stages of a book, and I hear that a well known (published) author came out with one so similar, I could be accused of plagiarism.

You might think this is a little neurotic, and perhaps it is, but it does happen. I worked for the better part of two years on a book once, and the rejection said, the publisher already had a similar book, in house, in process.

If you were a publisher, and you had two similar stories with the same idea, who would you chose to publish? The well established author? Or would it be the untried writer? No matter how good the latter has written the story, the publisher is going to choose the writer with the track record.

That’s not to say that similar books are published close to the same time, in the same market, because they are. There’s even a pair of books on the market right now, with the same title. I haven’t read either one yet, but I don’t think they are the same premise.

We’ve all seen the same idea in two different books, at the same time. What happens, usually, is the second book gets accused of being a copy of the first, even though they were written about the same time. Also, critics judge the best, based on how it was written.

So, what do I do? How do I keep from wasting my time with a plot, only to discover someone else wrote it faster and got to market before me? Sadly, there is no way to prevent it, unless I write it quicker, but even that, won’t protect me from well-known authors with the same premise. Especially, if you take the inspiration factor into account.

What is the inspiration factor? Simply put, I believe there is a higher power who wants people to read certain themes, so He puts the idea into the heads of many writers at the same time, hoping, one of them will write the story and touch hearts.

There is hope, however. Sometimes a premise is so good, and so urgent, other publishers want to get on the bandwagon (pardon the cliché). Also, as in the case of Dances with Wolves, you could take the premise, write it better, with a different twist, and readers might like it more. Such is the case in the Cain and Able story. The Romeo/Juliet story, or even, Moby Dick. All those stories have been rewritten in different ways, many times.

I choose to write the great premise, and finish the book, because it gives me practice, and it proves to the “author of all great inspiration,” that I will listen. Then, when my writing is better, I will the one the publisher picks to tell the story.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.