Sunday, October 31, 2010

Chickens in the Hizouse (is that how you spell it?)

We've been trying to hatch another clutch of chicks, but the timing has been off. We've been getting one a week, and in the melee of bodies in the hen-house, they're not surviving. So Pat decided to bring the latest one inside. It's living in a cage behind my desk, sprawled out on its belly beneath a red heat lamp like you'd see at a fast-food restaurant. It has a hard time staying awake. I think it even falls asleep standing sometimes. It twitches a lot while it sleeps, and I wonder what a day-old chicken could be dreaming about.

I'm worried to death about it, so I keep looking over my shoulder, and my neck is getting stiff. It also breaks my concentration, but we have nowhere else to put it right now.

In other news, I got to see a mock-up of the cover of All Along the Pacific this week. Quite thrilled since I have started booking some blog dates and interviews to promote it.

This should be available within the next month or so for order, and then after some logistics are figured out, it will be for sale in some shops and galleries on both the Central Coast of California and in New Orleans.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Miss Huckabay's Thoughts on Descriptive Writing

Why is descriptive writing important? If there were no descriptions, any and all writing would be horrendous. Essays, short stories, poems, letters, song lyrics, and plays would have no substance. Audiences and readers would have nothing to look forward to reading.

It is so important to first understand that descriptions in writing create pictures in the readers’ minds. Some characteristics of descriptive writing include the use of figurative language, imagery, and rich details. All three of these characteristics combine to construct a mental picture of the person, place, or idea being described. Of these three, the use of imagery, appealing to the five senses, is one of the most important to note. By using all of the senses in describing a certain object or idea, the writer can easily captivate and involve the reader in a strong way.  In addition to using imagery and figurative language, I enjoy nothing more than to pull up an online thesaurus while beginning a new short story or essay that I want to write and continuously find synonyms for overused words and verbs. Variety in word usage creates more descriptive and vivid paragraphs that engage and involve the reader. It is strong descriptive writing that breathes life into otherwise bland, dull observations and narrations.

What would happen if people stopped challenging themselves to describe in detail daily activities and observations? How could cops solve cases of burglaries and murders without the help of witnesses’ vivid memories and descriptions? How could scientists develop new cures to diseases without precise, detailed observations? Could engineers design new structures without a creative mind and vivid details for their goals?  In a first glance, descriptive writing may not seem all that important in the grand scheme of life. However, if you just start asking yourself what would happen in the world if there were no descriptions of anything, its importance will become much more clear

Saturday, October 23, 2010

What a Weekend

The weather here has been outstanding. As a result, I've been following up on my fitness routine. What is that, you say? Well, it involves hacking away at old stumps in my back yard for twenty or thirty minutes at a time. These are stumps that are left over from Hurricane Katrina. One in particular is a thorn in my side, because it is write where I want to put a table in chairs, smack dab in the middle of the yard. I think I managed to reduce its mass by about a quarter today between levering chunks off with a breaker bar and using the Sawzall to cut away at the roots.

It's probably best that I got quite a bit done on that today, since tomorrow I'll go to the Saints game. This is going to be a bittersweet game. Sweet in that we'll probably win, bitter in that it will be Scott Fujita's first game in the Dome as a Brown and not a Saint. I love Fujita when he played on the Saints, and I still love him. He's a great guy and an asset no matter where he is, both to his team and the community in which he lives. I think we all miss him down here. He will definitely not get same reception McNabb got in Philadelphia. We feel too happy to welcome him home.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Verb Repetition

Now that we've moved beyond using weak verbs, passive verbs, and any use of "to be," we can go on to the next thorn in my side: verb repetition.

Let's say you got assigned this picture to describe:
My nephew
 You  might write something like this:
I see a little boy. He wears a white shirt. He wears a sweater vest. He has reddish blond hair. He has his fist raised. He has blue eyes.
Here's the problem:
I see a little boy. He wears a white shirt. He wears a sweater vest. He has reddish blond hair. He has his fist raised. He has blue eyes.
There is no verb variety in this paragraph at all. Sure, I'm not using weak or passive constructions, but the paragraph still reads like a boring list because I have made no attempt to add variety. Variety is the spice of life, they say, and that definitely holds true when it comes to writing.

Your latest challenge when it comes to verbs? Try to only use a verb once in each paragraph. Twice if absolutely necessary. Forcing yourself to find new and interesting verbs, and using them only once, will definitely improve your writing.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Model Writing

Recently in class, we wrote descriptions of this picture. I thought I'd upload mine for you to have a look at:

Her gaze pierced me, and I could see a thousand stories living behind those hazel eyes: bare foot treading through landmine-laced fields, boiling away the last of the lamb fat to make it through the winter, work-cracked hands raised in dubious surrender to Soviet troops.
Old before her time, she pauses, the green of her dress visible through the tattered shoulder of her robe. I could brush past her in the marketplace and never take a second look, but here, now, she captivates me, draws me in with her stoicism, her willfulness. She will not bow to any man's boot.Will not pick crops for any man. She would die beneath the lash before lowering herself to that. Strength lives in this woman, inhabits her as if she herself were merely a tattered suit of clothes, still just able to serve its purpose.
And here's an example from one of our first period students, Kristen (minor editing done):
She looks at you with such intensity. The blazing red cloth raps around her delicate skull. A splash of green adds variety to the palette of colors. Her cloudy gray eyes tell stories you wouldn't believe. They witness more than one lifetime can hold. The dark smudges of filth hold proof of those tales. Her lips look like they belong to a Greek goddess. Her nose sites proud on her face. To some she may hold salvation and hope. To others, a life lesson.
And another from Kayla:
The Afgani woman's pebble eyes widen at the sight of the camera, full of confusion. Her caramel skin coats her face, showing no trace of any flaws. The woman's lips zip closed with no sign of opening. Blood red blankets cover her entire body. She stares at the camer man, startled by the picture he took of her.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


I'm writing a steampunk short story right now. It also happens to be a detective story. While I have dabbled in the steampunk genre -- my first novella was a steampunk story -- I have not written mysteries or detective stories. Steampunk seems like a good setting to dabble in with mysteries, since it sort of harkens back to Sherlock Holmes in the style.

So anyway, I have about a week to finish this short story. I was hoping to make it a short-short, but the set-up is taking a bit longer than I hoped. Maybe I'll cut it later, but probably not.

In other news, I only have seven votes in the Honest Lie Volume Two contest. If you haven't voted please do so here:

And if you'd like to buy your advanced copy, check out and click on the heart to earn me 500 votes and order your copy today.

And next month, we should finally see All Along the Pacific, so I hope you've saved some money for that!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Screenplay finished

I completed the first draft of my screenplay today. Of course, I have no idea how it will work out in the long run. It's eighty-nine scenes in 121 pages. That means nothing to me. I told the story, yes, but did I tell enough of it? Am I missing vital elements?

It's quite a different process from writing short stories or novels, that's for sure. Things I would never do in narration are fine when describing action for a shot, I think. I hope so, because I did a lot of it.

Now for edits. I think I'll feel better after one readthrough. I know stuff is missing and inconsistent, but going in knowing that makes it a lot easier to work with later.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


Today, I found a blossom on my banana tree. This is only the second time I've ever had blossoms on my banana plants since I started growing them several years ago. Problem is, bananas take something like six months ripen. It can't be rushed. In addition to that, bananas don't hold up to frost at all. And the Farmer's Almanac is predicting a colder than normal winter for the Deep South, with "above normal" snow fall.

So while I have this lovely, massive, strangely sexual blossom hanging from all that verdant green now, it will probably end in heartache. Some day in January, frost will cover my tree, and then within a few days, the leaves will be brown, the potentiality of fruit destroyed.

I wonder if I can take sick leave if my excuse is that I stayed up all night, keeping a fire burning bright beneath the fronds of my tree in order to keep the cold at bay. I doubt it.

Such is the plight of those of us living in the sub-tropical region.