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Archive for May, 2006

Jason Evans – The Interview

Posted by Flood on May 29, 2006

Jason Evans is the mastermind behind the successful concept blog, The Clarity of Night. He took some time to discuss his writing and blogging with us, and explains his family's love of cemeteries.

Jason, thanks for taking the time. How did you come to start writing?

I guess I was born with the bug for writing and storytelling (Is that a genetic defect? Hold on while I query the Human Genome Project). My first memory of writing a real story was in the car traveling from my grandparents' house in Pennsylvania to my home in Buffalo, NY. I was about eight years old, and I "borrowed" some funky, long writing paper from my grandmother's desk (It was on a spool. You rolled off what you wanted then tore it with a rather dull strip of teeth). With a triangular marker, which I also borrowed (geez, I hope I got permission for all of this borrowing), I wrote a three foot long story about a mine disaster or some other gloomy subject. A few years later, I wrote short stories and poetry. Then, between 16 and 18, I tackled a novel. I had some success with the short stories and poetry, but the novel was a learning process.

I still wrote in college, but slowed down. In law school, I stopped. Cases and statutes are simply FAR too interesting to waste time on mere literature. Not. Honestly, I was just too burned out. I picked it up again after life settled down and I realized how much I missed creating and sharing stories.

You seem to write more than one genre.

My first loves were suspense, ghost stories, and horror. I've gotten my best reader reactions from my mainstream pieces, and that is my focus today. My current work in progress, The Backwards Path, is a novel about a 35-year-old man's identity crisis. It's not gloom and doom, however. It's quirky, funny, and plays with a touch of madness.

Who are your favourite authors or writers that inspire you?

Wow, that's a hard one for me. I enjoy so many different authors. But when I'm writing, I really strive to find my own, unique voice. Books which have inspired me are: The Shining by Stephen King, Dune by Frank Herbert, The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews, and more recently, the Life of Pi by Yann Martel and The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.

With so many writers starting blogs, what made you start The Clarity of Night?

Well, there are many writers' blogs about the craft of writing and the business of writing. I've learned so much from them (Kelly Para, Tanya Holmes, and Anne Frasier just to name a few). I wanted to do something different, though. The Clarity of Night is a window into where my mind goes in quieter moments. Atmosphere and mood are vital parts of my writing. The Clarity of Night is a reflection of that drive to build the kind of world I'd like to live in. It's a darker, more reflective place. And something extraordinary always hovers beneath the surface–like a dream or a promise, never concrete enough to touch. I try to weave a secret place for my visitors with color, pictures, poetry, reflections, and fiction.

The fiction pieces have also become an important element of my blog for me, especially serial stories posted over a couple of weeks. Doing those stories is how I experiment and learn.

What's the benefit to you in writing in such a public arena?

Toiling for years on a novel is gloomy business. The inevitable rejections are form letters, giving you no real guidance on how to improve. Sure, friends who critique are vital, but you still receive a very narrow view of your writing. By taking risks, sharing, getting critiques, and seeing what's praised and not praised, I see tremendous improvement in my skills. I spun my wheels in the dark. By putting stories in the bright light of day, I've received wonderful guidance, including the insights of published authors.

You've recently introduced another short story in installments.

My current serial story is Flashlight Tag. I wanted to do a traditional horror piece, but I always struggle with finding a premise which feels fresh to me. The idea came after I went downstairs one night because I forgot to close the back door. On my way back up, I had a flashlight, since my girls' rooms were open and I couldn't turn on the hall light. Sometimes, I let my imagination run wild in the dark, and that night I wondered what it would be like to see something monstrous and disturbing in the flashlight beam, something creeping toward you. But get this. When you pull the light away in panic, you realize that the thing only exists in the light. When it's dark, you are safe. Yet, darkness brings its own flavor of fear. From that premise, I began the story. As usual with serial stories, I didn't bother to plot out the whole thing or even decide how it ends. I approach each section individually and let the story unfold under its own weight. Comments along the way help me shape it. If one element seems to be working well, I'll be sure to strengthen that angle in the story.

My favourite of your past stories is Caroline. What's yours?

I have to admit it's my favorite also. I was reaching for a bit of magic there, and I think I got at least a finger on it. The inspiration came at a performance of The Nutcracker done by a local dance school. Ahead of me in the audience, I saw a striking young girl (about 7) with long black hair. I got to thinking about how some children can be "old souls." They have an uncanny ability to hold the attention of adults and speak and think on their level (I've been accused of similar traits in my youth). I wanted to explore a moment of that sort of interaction–the moment when a young girl captures the attention of a man and the two nearly switch roles. She becomes the adult, and he becomes the child. Of course, as usual with me, there's a twist at the end, but I won't give it away!
As for poetry, I really like "She Dreamed of a House," "The Piper's Gift," and "In the Shadow of Burnaby Light."

You have referred to your piece of the internet as a 'concept blog'. You also have a schedule for entries. Tell us about that.

I do give a fair amount of thought about what people want. I try to deliver: (1) strong personality and personal insights, (2) fresh content, but not updated so often people fall behind, (3) pictures (they really are worth a thousands words), (4) brevity, and (5) interaction–all comments should be personally answered. For me, I post 3 times a week to give time for folks to read each post, comment, and receive a reply. The types of posts are rotated so that if a person is not quite feeling one variety, the next will be something different.

You seem to spend a lot of time in cemeteries.

Hmmmm. Gravestones. Yep, I'm known for my posts on gravestones. A dubious honor, but one I'm proud of. They fall into a couple categories: insights, symbolism, and remembrance posts (where I share a grave I've found interesting and invite folks to give him or her a little more life by remembering them). You'd think I'd want to stay away from cemeteries, but I guess I'm just getting a feel for the neighborhood, since I'm destined to spend a bit of time there. They held a particular fascination for me as a teenager. Those bright, austere stones and statues reflect the best in people and the best in life, but tinged with melancholy and loss. I'm a romantic, I suppose, and cemeteries draw romantics like moths to an offering candle. I used to drive to a particularly massive and old cemetery in Johnstown, Pennsylvania and walk there on quiet afternoons. I took my future wife there. Of course, she has her own cemeteries in her closet.
By the way, the fascination appears to be genetic. After I ran out of old cemetery photos, I had to start generating more. Now, my daughters are known to shout, "Yay! We're going to a cemetery!" We'll see how they turn out (the kids, not the photos).

I am picturing a couple of little Wednesday Addamses running around your house. Haha. You recently hosted a very successful contest for other writers?

Yes, the "Two Lights" Short Fiction Contest was a wonderful, positive experience. Unpublished writers love to be inspired, to experiment, and to learn. People in general love to win prizes. Why not join the two? See my logic here? Folks do impromptu and spur-of-the-moment contests on blogs, but I wanted to offer a more organized contest. I posted an evocative picture from a historic inn my wife and I stayed at (no kids!!) this spring. The challenge was to write a short fiction piece of 250 words or less based on the photo. Any genre was welcome.

I really enjoyed you giving entrants a theme to work with.

My goal was give a strong inspiration, give enough writing room to accomplish something without scaring people off with long stories, and award real prizes (Amazon gift certificates mainly) a week later. The response was fabulous! 41 entries and over 5000 visits. I will DEFINITELY be doing more contests. Look for more prizes, bigger prizes, and new sources of inspiration.

What's next for you?

I'm continuing work on my first revision of The Backwards Path. Querying novels is exciting, and I can't wait to get to it! However, I'm taking the time to make sure the novel is the best I'm capable of at this point in my growth. In the meantime, I'm dedicated to keeping The Clarity of Night strong and meeting more fellow writers. I will help anyone who asks for it, and hope to receive similar support when I need it. Sharing the creative process with so many talented people has been an amazing rush! The world would be a much duller and isolating place without the internet.

*

Thanks so much to Jason Evans for sharing his insights, and his willingness to be the first gerbil in this experiment.

Next Week: Jaye Wells

FlashFlood interviews writers weekly, who blog. Any writer at any stage of of publication is interesting. If you would like to know more about your favourite blogger or want to be interviewed yourself, email me.

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Manly Pool Interviews

Posted by Flood on May 27, 2006

We had a chipmunk run through our house today, which was very exciting to the four children that live here. And the dog. And Mister, who got to be a stealthy hunter in finding the petit wildlife. Mister also troubleshooted a pool problem on his own and was very proud of himself. It lead to the quote of the day:

I am so manly it sometimes hurts my heart.

I hope to use that line in a story.

I don't have much else to report this weekend. I want to mention quickly that FlashFlood is introducing a new series called Bloggers – The Interviews. Watch this space every Monday for interviews with bloggers who share advice, victories and defeats. The point of this feature is to help us all feel less alone in writing. Monday, May 29th sees our first subject, Jason Evans.

I hope all American readers have a safe and happy Memorial Day.

 

May God bless the fallen and their families

Posted in Interviews, Personal Thoughts | Leave a Comment »

Internet Credibility

Posted by Flood on May 26, 2006

In the wake of the Agent vs. Writer's Forum scandal, I've been thinking a lot about internet credibility. I wanted to discuss it with you, but I am no expert. So, I googled around and found this internet credibility worksheet from a High School. I should probably keep it taped to my monitor at all times.

It's easy to spot a less credible website or blog by poor html, spelling errors, that kind of thing, but sometimes a site can make a claim that may feel true, but isn't. I have a feeling that the Writer's Forum has a right to be incensed, but I can't prove that.

I've become motivated to take a more critical eye to what I read on the net, lately. I know everything on the internet is not true. I never send back chain e-mails, I rarely read compilations of "Wacky World Laws" and I don't take everything I read at Wikipedia as gospel. Yet, I still catch myself repeating something I've read on a site that either I didn't confirm, or the author left little evidence that he did his homework. It just felt like the information was good or it suited a point I had to make. Maybe the site had no animated .gifs, which is a sure sign of total honesty. Maybe, when the page loads, a terrifying midi does not play. You know. Indications that the knowledge contained therein can be taken seriously.

The worksheet requires kids to ask themselves some serious questions when getting information online. I'm going to make it a habit to ask myself the same questions, every time I use the internet as a resource instead of a toy. While I become an cyber librarian who bogs herself down in proof that Snopes knows what they are talking about, can you describe a time when a website fooled you?

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Game Walkers

Posted by Flood on May 25, 2006

Game today is Answer/Ask. In comments, answer the question above yours, and ask one for the commentor below you. Play all day. Tell your friends. Make a new friend. Have some fun.

The weather has been pretty good so Mister and I have resumed our after-dinner walks. This is how one went recently:

M-"What's with all the bugs? Big enough to knock a kid of his bike"
F-"I could write a story about that"
M-"Can you develop a pollen allergy as you age?"
F- "I don't think Evil Editor would like a query about giant bugs though."
M-"Who?"
F- "Nothing."
M-"Look at that graffitti. Is nothing free from marring anymore?"
F- "That's chalk, honey. It's called 'hopscotch.'"
M-"Damn kids."
F- "I wonder about you sometimes."
M-"Why?"
F-"When we don't spend enough time together, you act very old."
M-"Maybe you are the fountain of my youth?"
F-"That's a nice thing to say. Can we walk a little faster?"
M-"Are you trying to kill me? I prefer a stroll to a power walk."
F-"This is like the hundred-yard mosey."
M-"It's peaceful though. Think the kids are killing each other?"
F- "Uh huh."
M- "People who don't clean up after their dogs disgust me."
F-"Where?" *concerned face for cute shoes*
M- "I am just saying."
F- "Let these people pass us, they have a stroller." *people zoom by*
M-"I don't know why everyone is in such a hurry these days."
F-"Well you just enjoy yourself, that's all that matters."
M-"You should write a story about me."
F-"Should I?"
M-"Why not? Am I not interesting?"
F-"Of course you are."
M-"Why do you take me out for walks just so you can tell me I am dull?"
F-"Did I say that?"
M-"The kids think I am interesting."
F-"The kids think you are their Grandpa."
M-"Aha! So you do think I am boring."
F-"I'm kidding you. You're very interesting. I'll write something about you."
M-"We should spend more time together like this."
F-"Only 17 years to go and it can always be like this."

It's weird when a week sort of separates you from you favourite person. A sense of humour is really all that keeps us together sometimes, with so many other things going on. When you are struggling with your big project, be sure to have someone you can lean on that will make you forget all about it for a little while. I mean, forget completely about it and stop beating yourself up. Later, it could be the key to fresh eyes and newfound motivation. That's Flood's Tip of the Day™. Thanks for laughing with me, Mister.

Posted in Game Thursday, Personal Thoughts, Writing | Leave a Comment »

Gee, A Curveball

Posted by Flood on May 24, 2006

I am trying to stick to posting only once a day but a couple of interesting things are happening.

First, The Curveball Conspiracy. Very exciting new project that brings together photography and flash fiction. (This should be right up Jason Evans' alley.) Writers are given photos to inspire a short piece. Have interesting pictures? Want to deviate from loving your major project to a brief kiss of fiction? This might be for you. Be sure to read manifesto thoroughly.

Second, from Fringes, via Schprock, I have the letter 'G' so I am celebrating my one month anniversary as a blogger with my first meme. Yay.

Gloria – I love the melisma in "Angels We Have Heard on High" I sing my little heart out.
Gatorade – Gross
God – He has a sense of Humour
Gravity – Of a situation, or as a matter of physics, gravity is not to be trifled with. Respect, yo.
Gravy – I make the best gravy after I have had a few drinks. I'm less stressed about it.
Ginger – My favourite castaway on Gilligan's island. She is the reason I first tried false eyelashes. It was not a success.
Gambling – Casinos are scary 'cause all the people are like zombies in there. Romero should do a film at one.
Gnostic Gospels – There is an gentle story in one of the gnostic gospels about Jesus, as a child, molding a bird out of clay and it comes to life. Beautiful.
Guitar – Mister cinched his pursuit of me with one.
Ghosts – We have some in our grandfather clock. The lady who owned it originally went mad, but I am not sure it was the ghosts' fault.

Want to play the game? Golly, I can give you a great letter.

Posted in Flash Fiction, Personal Thoughts | Leave a Comment »

RSS Personal Thanks

Posted by Flood on May 24, 2006

Anyone else use RSS feeds for blogs? I don't trust mine. The computer is just gonna magically tell me about someone updating? Suuuure.

Anyway, I've started the blogger interviews, watch for them to begin weekly, this coming Monday. If you haven't been contacted about your interview yet, but you showed interest by commenting on my post about them, worry not. The invasive questions are coming. If you are new to the blog and want to be interviewed or want more info, leave a comment or email me.

The interviews and the recent posts of my friend Fringes has me thinking about personal entries in blogging. Some of us rarely refer to our daily lives, children, job and keep the blog's theme strictly about writing. Some of us intertwine our lives with our writing and post about both. Some of us will rarely refer to writing, but use the blog as an outlet for fun essays or finger stretching before getting to work.

There is no right or wrong way. Sometimes I feel, though, that I am taking a chance when I post about something personal. I think I could be risking readers who want to read about what we have in common rather than what seperates us.

Yes, we all have some form of family and we all struggle through life (happily or otherwise). We have that in common. If I decide to use this as a personal diary rather than a way to connect with people in the writing community, then there's really little point in making it public. On the other hand, it's just not in me to keep it only to one subject. I want to do that, but it's a struggle. I'm not prolific enough of a writer to showcase my work all the time. I've got one big project and sometimes I get creative and do small ones. I want to learn more about writing, but I don't always have the right questions to ask to make a decent entry. I am still new so the blog is going to reflect that for a while.

So if I am going to do both, heavy on the writing, a little personal on the side, is it going to put my blog somewhere in the no-theme-zone?

Today marks one month since I started at blogspot. It's been informative, entertaining and, best of all, I am really enjoying the company. When you read my words, you affirm that I have something to say and for one minute of your day, it's important. Thank you. And thanks also for sharing some of you with all of us.

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Cheesy Adventures of Potential Proofreaders

Posted by Flood on May 23, 2006

There many ways to tell a story and I have experimented with a new one. This is a more personal story, but I have some ideas for telling some fiction this way. Check it out, and don't mind me for being a cheesy mom.

Sir Authur Conan Doyle is one of my favourite authors. I love Watson's retelling of his adventures with Holmes. I enjoy the humour and, of course, a good mystery is hard to put down. Yesterday was Doyle's birthday and there is no better way to celebrate than to enjoy his work. You can find The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes at Project Gutenburg in text here or in audio here.

Project Gutenburg distributes eBooks. Free and powered completely by volunteers, it is an online library of works that are public domain in the U.S., or with permission by the copyright owner. They accept monetary donations, but they also have a need for hard workers. If you want to help proofread a book, procure eligible paper books, or burn CDs and DVDs for people without internet access, the project is looking for you. Like you don't have enough proofreading to do…

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Something to Consider

Posted by Flood on May 19, 2006


Thanks to her Majesty, Queen Victoria, it's a long weekend in Canada. I will be taking the time to catch up on writing and cleaning up the garden. Pool opens next week! I won't be posting again until Tuesday, but it's more than likely I'll be visiting your blog when I am frustrated by my Inner Critic.

In the meantime, I have a question. Is there a blog that interviews other bloggers in the writing community? I've been thinking about doing this. Some of you are so interesting, that I would love know more about you and your work. If I want to know more, I am sure others do too.

If there is such a project, let me know. If not, would you consider opening up to share yourself with other writers on various roads in this journey? Interviews would be conducted by email or IM, and topics would include, blogging, writing, and your feelings on Canada's Head of State. (There will be a test.)

It would be up to you to decide if the interview appears here, on your own blog or both. One of the reasons I think this would be fun is when I fantasize about being published, I always think about the first interview. That will be when I know I've made it. I rehearse how I'll answer questions and think about how the interviewer will fall completely in love with my wit and joie de vivre. I will chuckle politely and define grace. I will not spill my chai tea on my carefully selected outfit…. Uh. Anyway, it's something that inspires me to write because I am looking forward to that experience. If we are all writers prior to publication, (and we are) why not practice the interview now? Plus, you never know; you might just inspire someone else.

Posted in Interviews | Leave a Comment »

Nothing New Under The Sun

Posted by Flood on May 19, 2006

Before Jaye left her readers to fend for themselves last week (thanks for nothin') she posted links to amuse us in her absence. The Writer's Cheat Sheet lists Polti's 36 Dramatic situations, and the 5 basic conflicts from same. We all know them:

1. Man against Nature
2. Man against Man
3. Man against Society
4. Man against Himself
5. Man against Fate

Or any combo of the 5, right? Pick one and the plot should write itself. Plug in the representative of mankind, pick a conflict and write. If only it were that easy. The ideas come slow for me, start as a mustard seed and grow in pain. Linear thinking is the enemy, as is the need to know the end before I begin.

Stephen King said that the book he most wished he had written was "Lord of the Flies" Having never met Mr. King, I can only surmise why that might be. A bunch of crazy kids fending for themselves, a message about the animal nature of man, and all the author has to do keep typing.

There isn't any one particular book I wish I had written but there are plenty of plots that I would love to tackle that have been done to death.

The Locked Room Mystery
Brooding Protagonist Gently Rides The Waves of Fate
Everything I Type On the Computer Comes True
Hostages In Closed Quarters Learn About Themselves and Are Rescued (Except the one that died)
The Anti-Hero Saves The World

It's not a matter of having a successful book as much as it is having fun while writing. At least, in the first draft. To me, the best work comes as you giggle to yourself or occasionally applaud your genius as you write. When it flows and you can see the entire work in it's glory and you are only on chapter 6. You wake up everyday excited to get to it or have to convince yourself to stop for sleep. Like they say, if it was that easy, everyone would do it, right?

What do you wish you had written? Not for the success, but for the fun in writing it.

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Feel Free to Comment

Posted by Flood on May 18, 2006

I am the Queen of Typos. If I can screw up a word, I will. A new IM pal suffers patiently through my brutal mangling of the English language. I am readying myself for her to hurl curses at me the next time I write,'woah! greta wrok on yor glob!' I have lots of excuses for why this is a problem for me, but the bottom line is that it has to be painful to read my words in real time.

Thankfully comments allow for time for re-reading before posting. Thus, one would think, I could correct all my typos prior to posting and come off as being a somewhat literate person. This is not so, gentle reader. My eye will not see my error until I've committed and pressed 'submit.' I'm thinking about pasting a header in each comment I make that reads "THIS POSTER IS MORE INTELLIGENT THAN HER WORDS WOULD HAVE YOU BELIEVE."

Another thing about comments is deciding what to say. For instance, I read a great blogger daily. Entertaining and intelligent, the entries can flow from moving to hilarious. (Yes, I am talking about you.) I want to comment, but I have nothing to add. Thing is, I feel that not commenting after appreciating a good entry is almost rude. People spend time sharing their stories or thoughts on things, and typically do so in the hopes of some related discussion. If all I have to offer is 'I read this entry,' that might be a disappointment and the blogger might feel I've wasted their time.

Sometimes, I have the opposite problem. The entry can leave me with so much to say that I don't know when to stop. I leave a 4 foot long comment that no one should have to read, especially if I miss typos. I'm considering drawing a line in the comment field before I type and making it a personal rule not to type past it. For someone who hopes to make a living at writing someday, I am neither concise, nor have I perfected my art when it comes to on-the-fly composition.

Do you have any bad commenting habits? Do you write too much or too little? What do you do when you read a great entry that deserves a comment, but you have nothing to add? Do you save comments for the best entries, or are you free with them?

As for me, don't be surprised if you see my comments looking like this from now on:

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