Feb 26, 2011

What can Gustav Mahler teach you about writing?

Gustav Mahler,
by Emil Orlik

Gustav Mahler (1860-1911), second of fourteen children, approached his first piano at the age of four. He gave his first public performance at 10.
Gustav was 14 when he wrote his first original composition. It was dedicated to his younger brother, Ernst, who died after prolonged illness.

Mahler was, by some accounts, very high-maintenance. One of his girlfriends said living with him was “like being on a boat that is ceaselessly rocked to and fro by the waves.” He had a bit of a reputation as a womanizer, also.

Mahler’s conducting style was, you might say, a tad too lively, and he spelled authority with a capital A and an iron fist. Once, when he worked at the Vienna Court Opera, even the stage hands turned on him. The Vienna Philharmonic, where he succeeded Hans Richter as conductor, was none too pleased with his methods. They compared him to a lion tamer.

One thing he was not: a likeable person. Yet he achieved results. Would he have been more successful if he were easygoing, mellow, accepting? Yes, but he wouldn’t be Mahler.

So, how do the thoughts of a late-Romantic composer apply to your writing?

Feb 25, 2011

Feb 23, 2011

And the Emptiness Between Them

Gabriel looked away from Chiara, smacking his lips in disgust. “I can’t believe you slept with him,” he said. “He poisoned my dog.”
“You don’t know that,” Chiara said in a small voice.
“I found his wallet beside my dead dog.”

Six Little Girls in Red

Six little girls in red were dancing on the frozen lake. Cady doubted her own eyes -- the girls were too small, the choreography too perfect.

Feb 19, 2011

What can Michael Schumacher teach you about writing?

Photo by R. Dikeman

Michael Schumacher (b. 1969) is a German Formula One racing driver. When he was four, his father added a motorcycle engine to his pedal kart. Four-year-old Schumacher promptly crashed his kart into a lamp post. Rather than give him a scolding, his parents took him to the karting track at Kerpen-Horrem, where Michael became a member of the karting club. Yes, at four. At six, he won his first club championship.

He now holds more records in Formula One than you can shake a stick at.

Michael Schumacher is decisive and he knows what he wants. Out on the race track, you don’t waste your time. Every second counts.

So, what can Michael Schumacher teach you about writing?

Feb 18, 2011

Tools of the Frayed


troll. 4, originally uploaded by redtieguy.
There’s always this hand on my shoulder and I have no idea where it comes from, because when I turn around to look, it isn’t attached to a body. Hamish says I should see a doctor. But I know better. This is the doctor’s hand.

Chai on Callisto

Timmy wandered into the topless bar, his tiny antennas flailing, blushing Kelly-green with excitement.

Feb 17, 2011

First 50 Words of 6 Terrific Novels


It doesn’t take more than 50 words to establish your main character and a powerful motivation. That motivation may change as the narrative moves forward and your protagonist grows, but they need a strong, consistent reason to act from the word Go.
Today, we’re going to take a look at the opening lines of six novels and how they deliver the goods in a concise, effective manner.

Feb 16, 2011

Tracking the Priest

A bloody handprint on a tree trunk, still red, told me where the priest was headed. I sure as hell was not gonna let him get away with my chickens. 

Foster Kissed the Dragon's Lips

Foster kissed the dragon’s lips. The creature’s heart could be salvaged.

Feb 12, 2011

What can Duke Ellington teach you about writing?


Duke Ellington (1899-1974) was a jazz pianist and composer who wrote over a thousand musical pieces. At the age of seven, he began taking piano lessons from the wonderfully-named Marietta Clinkscales.

Ellington’s first job had nothing to do with music: He sold peanuts at Washington Senators baseball games.

“Soda Fountain Rag,” his very first musical composition, was fully formed in Duke’s head before he could commit it to paper--he worked as a soda jerk at the time, and hadn’t learned to read or write music yet.

As far as the Duke was concerned, he did not write jazz, but “American Music.” So, what can Duke Ellington teach you about writing a novel, story or play?

Feb 11, 2011

Bonus post: A Steampunk Romance. [Video]



The guy who built this has made other automata, which are as lovingly crafted as this one. I don't know about you, but it gave me two or three writing ideas. So I thought I'd share.

Mr. Newstead, hats off.

Cobalt & Persimmon

Persimmon snapped the highwayman’s neck as if it were a dry twig.

Feb 9, 2011

Down by Jilted Lovers' Lane

Down by Jilted Lovers Lane, the poet drowned his Sorrows. “Sorrows” was actually his knife; the blood was not his, either.

Never Be Cold Again

“The sky is full of stars,” the boy said. “Kill a star for me.” Micah shuddered.

Feb 4, 2011

Bring Nanocytes, Not Food

Send help. All women gone. Don’t trust the Preacher. Bring nanocytes, not food. Preacher sentries 2 AU beyond Kuiper Belt. Transmission ends--

Uncle Berry Bug Wants You

“Ms Powell?” The courier asked. One of his ears was abhorrently large.

Feb 2, 2011

Kill Two Thousand, Save your Girlfriend

“You have thirty seconds to make a decision. Press A, you blow up the building, two thousand people die, you save your girlfriend.

Beware the Tippling Cane

The blind man raised his eyes to Garrett as if he could see. Pursing his lips, he unscrewed the handle of his walking stick. The shaft concealed a tiny cylinder.