Sunday, August 11, 2013

How to Write a Legend

The Legend of the Devil's Racetrack, Part I

My first youtube video is up! This is my example of how easy it is to write a legend. The second video (coming soon) will illustrate the following tips for creating a believable legend.

1. Choose the correct time period. There is no sense in creating a legend that took place anytime since the advent of television or the video camera. In fact, the farther back in time you can go, the better since no one can fact check your story. I recommend setting it before/during/after the "War Between the States", or near the battle for American independence. If you are feeling adventurous, place it before the New World was discovered!

2. Place is also important. It's easier to use your imagination (as I did) in how a place got it's name or for an unusual geological formation (Devil's Tower, Pilot Mountain).

3. While you can have as many characters as your heart (or your muse) desires, one particular type of character is important: a villain. Male or female, young or old. That is not important. What you truly must have is a despicably evil, mean, lazy, greedy, or otherwise easy-to-hate character.

4. Remember to use suspense and plenty of descriptions to build that suspense too! You can't simply jump from the beginning to the cause of the legend without a little backstory to create a great picture in your audience's mind. Beware of too much telling, though! You want to SHOW the story through dialogue and action!

5. If possible make a modern connection. This is that "legend has it" ending where the audience discovers how they can be part of the legend by visiting your location during a full moon or on a dark and stormy winter night.

So, think of a place and a time, and then recall those ghost stories you liked to hear at camp or at a sleepover. Remember the feelings a really good story brought out in you and then recreate those feelings with your original legend!

*Disclaimer for my legend: at no point in time have I or will I claim my story is the reason for the naming of Devil's Racetrack Road. I'm sure there is another legend out there they may even come closer to the truth. My legend is my own creation and is for entertainment purposes only.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Coming soon

Over the course of the next few weeks, I will be creating a series of videos about writing! Why? For a lot of different reasons but primarily because it will be fun!

The first video will be a legend my students are familiar with. For the last seven years, they have been able to participate in a story-telling adventure with "The Legend of Devil's Racetrack Road." (This road runs through the eastern portion of my county.) The video will be titled "The Legend of Devil's Racetrack, Part I." What I've never told my students I'll reveal to you now:

I made it up.

Yes, for seven years I have fooled Cub Scouts, Webelos, Girl Scouts, and countless third graders with this tale of "old". Seven years ago I was taking my son to Webelos camp, and I knew I needed a new legend to tell at the campfire. I had been "elected" official tale-master when he started scouts, and the boys had a few favorites I told every camping trip. But what could I do differently, I wondered...and then I turned onto Devil's Racetrack Road. Hmmm. Inspiration struck and the legend was born!

The funniest part is the number of students who tell me they have "read" the legend in a book, or the ones who swear they have "seen the hand" (watch the video and you will know what I mean). You have to love their enthusiasm for a story that isn't true!

Now why will this be a part one video? Because part two will reveal my thoughts, opinions, and suggestions on how to create a legend! Think of it as a step-by-step guide to believability, or quasi-believability. If the response to this one is good, I might even record the second legend I created for the next summer's camping trip: "The Legend of Lizard Lick." (And it has NOTHING to do with a tow truck company.)

Monday, August 5, 2013


It seems impossible to believe I have not updated this blog in, well,  in WAY too long. I apologize for that!

I could make excuses like "I've been busy" or "My body hates me and has had me under the weather with all sorts of weird ailments and it's still acting oddly", but excuses don't matter.  However, I will be adding to this blog each week from now on.

Last year gave  me some great ups and a major down for my writing. A publisher asked for the full manuscript of J.T. Middleton: Time Traveler! What a rush! The publisher liked it and sent me great emails. Then the senior editor contacted me and let me know HE loved it and was sending it to a focus group. I was thrilled and hopeful that publication was in sight when the marketing director asked for my ideas to add to his marketing plan! WOW!

Then...they decided abruptly not to publish. The whole process from the request to the rejection took seven months. To be honest, after all the encouragement I was crushed and took a brief hiatus from writing everything, including this blog. (I know that doesn't cover the ENTIRE time I've been away. Oh, well.)

Now, thanks to NaNoWriMo 2012, my book is published. Sort of. And not the way I want it to be in the long run. You see, I wanted my free copies of my book, and winning NaNo gave me the ability to get 5 free copies. Oh, to hold my book in my hands! The culmination of my dreams and six years of working with J.T.'s story! So I combined book one and book two and uploaded it to Createspace. What I didn't realize is that it would suddenly be available on! (I had read several NaNo discussions where some people received their free books without having it for sale. Obviously I didn't figure out how to do that.) Once it was up on Amazon, I had a few people ask if it was available as an e-book so I uploaded it to Barnes and Noble through Nook Press.

My next goal? To market this book and sell some copies!

I have been back at writing, and the trolls are well into their quest with Airam the sprite. The dwarves are getting involved and so is the black unicorn. Due to an opportunity that has arisen, however, I am resurrecting The Curse of Josiah's Orchard in anticipation of entering it into a first crime novel contest by the end of this year. I wrote Josiah back in 2001 and sent it to a publisher a bit too early...however, the publisher liked the idea and made suggestions for some changes. Those changes were MAJOR and took me awhile to figure out how to make them work without losing the essence of the story. By the time I finished, the editor had retired and his replacement was not accepting manuscripts without agents. That's okay, because I refuse to give up my dream of being an author! That is why Josiah is being dusted off, edited a few more times, and readied for the contest. I am looking for some readers to give me honest opinions. If you're interested, then let me know!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

What were they thinking?

Here is another round of scenes from life I can think about putting into a future book (not to be confused with a futuristic book!)

"Do you have your rewards card?" The stunningly beautiful cashier smiled at the young man. (Hey, it's MY life turned into a novel...I can make myself look anyway I want!)
"Can you look it up by my phone number?" The devilish gleam in his eye should have hinted at what was to come.
"Of course, sir. What is your phone number?"
"It's 919-867-5309."
The cashier struggled not to laugh as the song began to run through her head. "I have 15 people listed with that number, can you tell me your last name?"

Hint to the public: if the number is famous, people have used it on their rewards card applications. You are not being original.

Then there was the guy who looked about 22-25. He gives me a VA benefits card as "proof of age" to buy his wine. Ummmm, there's no birthdate and you can enlist at 17 so I need a different ID...he gets angry, demands the manager accept the ID, and storms out yelling how he'll buy his food at the rival grocery store instead. Hmmmmm. Can we say I now DEFINITELY believe he's under age?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

More lessons for the checkout lane

So what is the result of my time as a cashier? Well, I can think of some great happenings for secondary characters. Then there are some ideas for new characters or new situations for some current main plate being used for samples + clumsy boy +ice's a scene in progress based on real life!!!!

Meanwhile, my son is writing his book. The first scene takes place in a small grocery's nice to be thought of as an "expert" for someone else's research! He's taking his time really fleshing out the plot and characters as he develops the story. Hopefully he won't finish before I finish Troll Quest! Which reminds me...must charge laptop before family reunion so I can hide out and type another chapter.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Tales for the Register

When you come to the store, what are you thinking about? Do you, as one woman does, think about what fellow shoppers are buying? Do you ask your cashier, "So, I bet you see a lot of strange things being purchased when you check people out, don't you?" (Now, honestly, how can I respond to that?)

Then there are the alternative payment plans:
1. When writing a check, do you really need to split the bill between two checks when those two checks are consecutive checks written from the same account? If there's enough in there to cover the entire bill, does it matter how many checks you write?
2. Then there is the customer who wants everything rung up in $25 increments. She pays for every portion with the same credit card. Then, when you are on the 8th or 9th transaction, she tells you to just "ring up the rest together" whether that amounts to $50 or $75, it doesn't matter.
3. If you have to use 2 or 3 different credit cards to pay for your beer or wine, you might rethink the necessity of purchasing alcohol at the present time.

Others just don't think. If produce is being purchased, don't fit three different vegetables into one produce bag. Since they are purchased by weight, I must remove them all from the bag and ring each type up separately. This is the same for fruits and vegetables. Or, handing me the bag with your child's half-eaten doughnut that is smeared on the outside. I do have to touch the rest of your groceries, you know. Not to mention everyone else's groceries. And if you are purchasing some food that your child has had in his/her mouth, I'd prefer you hand me the candy bar in your hand to scan twice...rather than have your child's germs and slobber on my hands.

Most customers are fabulous. I am keeping in my prayers the woman who is getting her cochlear implant on Friday...she is hoping to hear for the first time in 25 years out of that ear. I love what she said: "I am so looking forward to knowing if my husband says he did or didn't do something!" And to all those 30+ year olds I've must be living right because you DON'T look your age!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Is plastic okay?

Do you have your rewards card? Would you like your rewards card? Do you need any help getting your groceries out to your car?

I am sure I can work these phrases into a book...don't know which one, but working at the front end of a grocery store part-time has to help my writing! Hmmmm.....maybe I can find some great characters from:

The elderly customer who vocally started dissing tattoos and people who have them, then questioning the woman in line behind him about her tattoos before asking me, "So where are your tattoos?"

The grandmother who was giving a basket of ingredients and the "secret" recipe for her signature cake as a bridal shower gift for her granddaughter.

The VERY pregnant woman hosting a party and buying the legal limit on cases of beer and bottles of wine.

The kindergartner who decided to play hide-and-seek as his mom struggled to get her shopping finished at the self-checkout aisle.

That was just from one short shift as I bagged groceries for the first time in my life (professionally, at least!). As time goes by, I'm going to keep my eyes and ears open for inspiration and, at the very least, interesting phrases that will make a story better.

Meanwhile, on my writing front, no news is...just that, no news. Of course, it's only been a week so I have to be patient. Troll Quest has taken some different turns, and the overall format is changing. Airam and Gurg (yes, the dwarf FINALLY has a name I like) will have sections of the book with their stories interwoven without having to use flashbacks anymore. Those were too confusing. Now, as I finish it, I am determined to prove the writing contest judge wrong...who says trolls are only good in fairy tales? Trolls, especially mud-dwelling trolls who should never be confused with their much larger, distant cousins (the mountain trolls), can emerge in any story! As can sprites, dwarfs, and black unicorns (who are viewed as mythical, magical creatures by the sprites, but who are ostracized by other unicorns for being too "different"). Who knew there was so much prejudice and animosity towards those who are different from society's norms? Oh, wait. How did my fantasy novel start turning into realistic fiction?