Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Recommendation: The Wide World of Plants with Teri Dunn Chace

I'm not the only one doing stuff – other people have great stuff, too. That’s why every so often, I'll give a Recommendation of something you should read, see or do. Recommendations like this...

Friends, I know you probably don’t like to admit it but if you’re like me, you’re a little bit of a Kingdomist when it comes to plants. I can wrap my head around vegetables, but aren’t all the rest just… plants? 

For example, in my mind there are only three kind of trees: Christmas trees, palm trees and regular trees. I believe there are only three kind of flowers, too: roses (the good ones), carnations (the crummy ones) and the other ones (???). And don’t get me started on decorative plants: back when we were married, my ex planted a lovely garden around the house, but I’m always a nervous wreck trying to weed it in the spring because I have no idea of what’s a weed and what’s a plant that hasn’t budded yet.

Pictured here: A "regular" tree.

Fortunately, Teri Dun Chace, is here to help.

Teri is the co-founder of our writers group, and had written over 35 books (!) on plants and plantlife and planting plants. Looking for a picture book of the best perennials? She’s done that. Want to see seeds in a whole new light? She’s done that. Looking to eradicate some evasive plants? She’s got youcovered there, too.

Personally, I’m a fan of The Anxious Gardener’s Book of Answers. This book plays out like a giant FAQ for idiots like myself who would otherwise do very bad things to his garden. 

So if you’re looking for a deep dive into gardening or for a gift for that special person in your life who knows what a ficus is, then I’d happy recommend any of Teri’s books (available for purchase here).

I searched for "ficus" and this is what came back. See? Even Google doesn't know what a ficus is.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Write On: Can You Dig It?

The Shoveler: He shovels well. He shovels very well.

It’s a bit ironic that while everyone is finishing up school, I’ve been digging into my own homework.

I may have morphed from writing silly reviews of bad movies to sincere novel-length fiction (although “morphed” may not be the best word to use – it’s not like I came out of a cocoon), that was really only the first phase. The next phase in this fantastic journey is to get some representation.

Granted, I don’t really have to get an agent. There are plenty of publishers that accept unsolicited material, and self-publishing is an affordable way to go -- something I know from personal experience. The thing is, I promised myself that I would make a real, wholehearted go at it with this project. If I’m going to chase a dream, I might as well go big, right? Besides, if I start thinking about how I don’t have to get an agent, I could then argue about how I don’t have to write this blog or write much of anything or bathe every day or wear pants with zippers. It’s a slippery slope.

So, where does one get a literary agent? Google?

Well, I guess that would work. I just did a Google search for “literary agent” – you know, for science – and I got a mix of articles about how to find an agent (as if they’re leprechauns), data bases (at least one I recognize as legit) and big box agencies (at least one of these looks legit, too). I also received a link to image results for “literary agent,” which largely consists of people smiling in front of a book shelf.
Oh, did I mention that Google came back with 37,900,000 results? Yeah, that’s not going to be very efficient.

Instead, I went out to Publishers Marketplace, which is a big ol’ online market for publishers, editors, agents and more. I put in some vague criteria for my agent search (while my story has the set-up of a mystery, I don’t know that it fits neatly into that genre – just one thing I could use an agent to help me sort out)  and dug in… to build a spread sheet of possible agents to query. Because even from that list of results, there were plenty of agents to scratch from the list: agents who specialize in nonfiction, agents who aren’t accepting submissions right now, agents who are specifically looking for diverse voices -- something I wholeheartedly support but, as a middle-aged straight white guy, doesn't help me get my story published.

Then I got myself a copy of ye olde Writer’s Market, a famed annual tome that is kind of the same thing as Publishers Marketplace but specifically targeting writers and in book form. I grabbed a fistful of sticky notes and built out my spreadsheet some more.

Finally, I swung by Manuscript Wish List. I forget how I heard about this site, but it’s essentially a place where agents and publishers can post about the kind of stories they wish they had sent to them. I had feared that this was largely a Twitter thing – I’ve gone this far Twitter-free and am NOT AT ALL eager to dip into those waters – but the site has some handy search tools. I even had results come up for “90s missing war vet.” Imagine that.

As it stands, I’m at 65 agents and counting. It’s true that I can submit to multiple agents at the same time, but 65 at once would be just a bit over the top. No, I’ll have more research in front of me… but this post is long enough, so we’ll talk about that next time.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Video Essay: The Last Jedi and the 7 Basic Questions of Narrative Drama

Hey, remember when The Last Jedi threatened to break the Internet in half? Me too. It was an odd sensation: our country’s politics and culture has become increasingly polarized over the past couple years, but it looked like somehow a Star Wars movie would be the thing to set us into full-on civil war. In hindsight, it all seems so adorable.

None of that stops Sage from Just Write from carefully – carefully – making an argument that The Last Jedi is a roaring success when it comes to the narrative structure. He does this by applying seven basic questions of narrative drama developed byFilm Crit Hulk (in a lengthy and worthwhile deconstruction of Man of Steel) to the story lines of The Last Jedi

In case you can’t view the video or you just don’t wanna for some reason, those seven questions are:

  1. What does this character want?
  2. What does this character need?
  3. How do those wants and needs conflict with each other within the character?
  4. How do they conflict with the outside world?
  5. How do they conflict with the other characters?
  6. How does the character change through those conflicts and how does the resolution affect him/her?
  7. What impact does that change have on the other characters?

Many of these themes are echoed in John Truby’s The Anatomy of Story (look for a recommendation on that book sometime soon), and right around 6:40 you realize that The Last Jedi has done a masterful job of this. Yes, even if you hate the movie for some reason…


First Post: The Story So Far

Hallo. I’m Scot Nolan, though you might know me from reviewing and discussing bad movies over the past ten years as “Nolahn.” But this ...