Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Cookie therapy!

We had a little cookie therapy at the Niederkorn yesterday. It sounds like each one of us has a solid grasp on what we are going to write or what we're going to edit. It's been a rough year for the gang, but a new one is around the corner!

See everyone in 2016...

P.S. Here's the recipe for the Yuletide Kisses.

3 egg whites
1/8 teaspoon of salt (or a little less)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 1/4 cups of powdered sugar OR 1 cup of extra fine baking sugar
2 cups coarsely chopped pecans

Preheat oven 275 degrees.

Whip egg whites and salt until foamy. Add Vanilla extract, orange extract, and cream of tartar and whip it up until peaks stand upright when the beater is pulled out.

Continue beating. Slowly add in the sugar (I do a slow count to 10 per cup full as I pour it) until very stiff peaks form.

Fold in the pecans until (more or less) evenly distributed.

Drop by rounded spoonfulls on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet (the cookies will adhere and shatter if parchment is not used). Bake for 15 - 20 minutes. Allow to cool 5+ minutes before removing from parchment.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Just a quick note...

Writer's Block out at the Niederkorn library in Port Washington will be on the 14th and 28th for December. Happy holidays and remember: wine and cookies taste better with writing!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

NaNo Week Number 1 is...

in the books!

Doubled (tripled?) our numbers this week at the Writer's Block. The coffee was hot and the shortbread cookies were appreciated. Thanks to all who came out!

The gang talked about a lot of stuff.

We compared editing programs, with AutoCrit being the nominated favorite. I've attached the link over their on the upper right hand side of the blog.

We talked about time travel and temporal novels; specifically When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead.

Also, we had a back-and-forth about online publishing and teasing the audience with future works. Scribophile came up, and the interesting take-away was the fact that having faceless denizens critique a piece leads to a kind of erosion of the writers spirit.

Elevator spiels came up. If we had to sell our book in a 30 second elevator ride to a publishing executive, what would we say?

Yes. I failed on that one.
However; I've been thinking about it EVERY DAY since. I think I'm ready now.

Again, thanks to all who showed up. It was a big shot in the arm and fuel for the NaNo month!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Trudging Through the Characters

Yesterday, I was in a discussion about plotting novels. One of the things that came up was character generation / concepts. As we all know, having a rich, deep, realistic character that intrigues us as readers is the mechanism that carries us through any story.

Last year, I had the opportunity to go through some workshops and came away with the below 'worksheet' for character creation. The idea behind the below checklist is that you do one step each day, giving yourself time to sleep on the next step (to give it a chance to really set in). I tend to run with the inspiration and knock out multiple steps each day, out of fear of losing important elements.

The down side to the below 'worksheet' is that it is dry and mechanical. The up side is that dry and mechanical inspires the brain to want to escape; allowing for some really creative thoughts to creep up. Use it and let the inspiration blossom!

-- Character Build Period --

Day:    Task:

1.      Character Core: Write 5 (single) sentences about Life Aspects of his / her life.


2.      Each Life Aspects: For each (of five) life aspects, do two things:

A.    Write in 2 Life Experiences.

B.     Write 1 Thought, with 3+ (single) Thought Aspects.

3.      Spin Life Aspects: For each Life Aspect denote one Problem Aspect.

4.      Expand Problem Aspects: For each of the Problem Aspects:

A.    Write in 2 Problem Experiences.

B.     Write 1 Thought, with 3+ (single) Thought Aspects.

5.      Second Character Core: Repeat steps 1 – 4 today for this one.

6.      (Goals) Character 1 and 2: Determine (simultaneously) personal goals.

A.    1 Long-Term goal (for each character).

B.     2 Short-Term goals (for each character).

7.      (Fears) Character 1 and 2: Each of the above goals will have fears and / or obstacles.

8.      Third Character: Now is the time to think in triads. Each of the three characters will conspire from time to time. Ultimately, one character will ascend, one character will stagnate, and one character will fall / fail.

A.    Repeat steps 1-4.

B.     Repeat step 6.

C.     Repeat step 7.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Hammering Down A Story Concept

Here it is: October 1st.
This morning, to prep for NaNoWriMo, I picked a framework to write a story. That framework is the Grail Quest of Percival. From that, I plunked in the concepts into my nifty one-page Chapter Theme file, and this is what I got:

(fantasy / contemporary fiction)
Setting / Arc

Present day Wisconsin. It is the end of being a “little kid”. (Planned reading level 9-12)


Being the creative one in middle school (early year, grade 7). Coming of age.

13 Chapters
(Chapter Themes)

C1 Intro hero. Saying goodbye to the only friend. He is raised in the ‘wilds’ by his mother and sister; ignorant of the ‘manly ways’.

C2 (pp1) Main Problem appears (and is misunderstood). “I have to fit in”

C3 The research period.

C4 (pinch) Main Problem challenges hero. Which cliché to choose?

C5 Cleaning up the mess (no / part success)

C6 (mid pt 1) Main Problem goes public. A school event.

C7 (mid pt 2) Main Problem escalates. Tempo change; having to choose between…

C8 Public outcry against escalation and the hero, true friends are defined.

C9 (pinch) Main Problem shatters hero. Can no longer be creative; trashes their work.

C10 Walking through the wasteland, even friends seem distant / uncertain.

C11 (pp2) Main Problem resolution clarified. Receives an email from old friend.

C12 (climax) Everyone back together (even reluctantly, for the common goal).

C13 (mop up) Main Problem overcome. The threat of lost Love / pet results in Erin finding the strength to confront his darkness. Meets the ‘fringe’.

RAMBLE:  “There are a lot of ‘me’ out there; but one of me has to be in charge. I have to have my place… not to let any of the others to dominate. My anchor is my craft. It is my spirit given form. Therefore I must be the knight errant; I must seek out that which is dubious, so that I may understand violence and temptation and therefore reason through it. When I have faced my final fear, will my time here end or will I simply diminish into the obscure? I will trust in and follow my habits, I will pass my judgements and I will illuminate my thoughts and habits as an avatar to those who have no voice. I am truth and I will wander among you. I have been saturated into this body, Emotion, Instinct, Ethics.
Creation, atonements, blasphemy, love & contempt, Desire & Deception, and ultimately Truth… truth found in the embrace of personal responsibility. Not a single event, but a single task. The present is merely activity at a standstill. Duality.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Cleaning House for October NaNo Prep-o

Good day, all!

First of all, let me point out that one up side to being the only human in the house during the day is that I can blog at 2:31 in the afternoon (rather than 4 a.m. in the morning).

I feel all caffeinated and organized.

Secondly, I re-wrote the intro to my weird fiction novel from last year: Blocgarten: Under the Green. The opening FINALLY feels right. If any of you folks wouldn't mind, I'd like to shoot out the first chapter (60 pages) for a proofread and hatchet job.

Before I do, I should point out that this book written to be a mosaic of short stories that ultimately tie together in the final two chapters. The first chapter is something of a 10,000-foot overview of the madness that is going on in the valley under Green Mountain.

Also, you'll notice that the book is written by "Ian Kenneth". This is a couple of names from my background that fit nice and tidy-like into the weird fiction elements of the story. I've even gone so far as to create a blog site by Mr. Kenneth that will eventually blur the lines between the book and his life...


Yah, the Kenneth blog is a work in progress like the book series. I've fleshed the series out to a total of 5 books, should it ever take off.

Thirdly, NANOWRIMO prep month is almost here! Once you are all signed up, I'm Black n Blue Knight out in the Wisconsin Elsewhere group. Let's join forces and make November a win!

OK, off to get more coffee.

Write on!

Friday, September 25, 2015

NaNoWriMo Prep (If you're going for it)!

Just in case anyone wants to go for it...

NaNo Prep season is rolling, which means there are plot bunnies proliferating, light bulbs going off, and baby-name books being perused. As we prepare together to enter "The NaNoWriMo Library" this November, here are a few questions you may be asking:

Where do I create my novel for 2015?
You'll have to wait until the site relaunches to officially create your 2015 NaNo-novel. On Monday, October 5, go to "My Novels" under the "My NaNoWriMo" tab, and you'll see a space just calling out for your 2015 book.

What happens during NaNo Prep season anyway?
So much stuff! Check out the NaNo Prep page for a full schedule, a list of great resources, and a guide to deciding how you'll approach NaNoWriMo (planner or pantser?). What's coming up right away?

Tuesday, September 29, 2015, 2 PM PST: Authors Rachael Herron, Darynda Jones, and Kelly Loy Gilbert join NaNoWriMo staff to share advice about how to prepare for NaNoWriMo during our #NaNoPrep tweet-chat!


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

NaNoWriMo looms...

Hi everybody!

I've been doing some pre-holiday tidying up on my writing projects and there are a few things to pass on to everyone...

First off, National Novel Writer Month (NaNoWriMo) is revving up for the November challenge. The long and short for NaNoWriMo is this: Write 50,000 words in the month of November. It's a free site, you create a log in and a writer-oriented profile, then track your work in November. There are forums and an in-site email where words of wisdom / encouragement abound. There is also a NaNo store to buy swag or to make donations. I've done it for three years and have had 2 successes and 1 failure.

Here is the link: https://nanowrimo.org/sign_in

Second, we had some good discussions about the heart of the story (Act II), but I found my mind wandering into how to make a killer intro. Especially after reading Rose's intro of a phone conversation. Coincidence being what it is resulted in this dropping into my email box from David Farland's site on Tuesday:

Your story begins when you have a character (likeable or not), in a setting (interesting or not), with a problem (and it darned well ought to be a doozy). My mentor Algis Budrys said that as a rule of thumb, if a writer doesn’t have that by page two, then the story most likely isn’t sellable. He’s right.

Farland's site link is this: https://mystorydoctor.com/powerful-openings/

Lastly; from the realm of self-publishing, below is a link to what appears to be a self-publishing site that is growing in popularity...


It is called Wattpad. The idea is that you can write anyplace / anytime on any device and upload it for the vox populace to read. What makes this different from other sites is that it appears to be the 'new hottness' for aspiring authors to gain a following prior to dropping a physical book. What I was thinking about doing was to create some short stories based upon stuff I'm working on right now. I'm going to drop the short stories out on Wattpad to serve as teasers to the (future) physical book.

That's all I've got for now!

Write on.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Getting into the heart of the story...

Good morning all!

Next Monday, how about we talk about the heart and soul of our current projects: Act II. I'm planning on coming at it from the Hero's Journey structure and the literal changes it makes in brain chemistry when the right story 'clicks' within the reader. I did a little research this week, and it boiled down to the following:

A compelling story must do two things:

1. Capture our attention enough to transport us into the character's world.
2. Follow a structure (story arc) that allows us to intuitively feel 'trust' with the story.

A reader's attention has been described by science as something like a flashlight. It will 'illuminate' on a single element until something more compelling comes along. This is why 'good' stories become more compelling as the tale unfolds; our attention span requires metabolic energy, so we give it sparingly. A great hook is what carries readers into Act I of most stories.

However, if we can maintain a readers attention long enough, the 'transport' occurs and the reader becomes emotionally invested. At this stage, the readers 'older brain region' begins to simulate the emotions on the page. A chemical called Oxytocin is produced, allowing humans and other mammals to reach deeper levels of trust, compassion, and empathy (social / group bonding).

The 'transport' is not indefinite. Narrative theorists have found that an established story foundation; the "story arc" / hero's journey is a structure that allows our brains to create relevance to a story. In short, our brains require crisis to be overcome (story resolution / Act III). This is where TV and film has books beat: there is audio and visual stimulation that further draws a person into the story.

However; books have TV / film 'beat' in the narrative voice and deeper complexity allowed by a budget-free medium (word count not withstanding). Books are 'slower' than TV. We can pull a reader in deeper, safely working them through more complex elements... if the 'transport' is maintained.

Enter the elements of the three-act play and the tried / tested / established Arc Structure. At the heart of this structure is Act II. It begins with the hero leaving the 'old world' for something 'new'; it ends when our hero looks back on all that has happened and asks "Why did this happen?"

I've broken down Act II into the basic, fundamental steps. We'll talk about that on Monday. I've got handouts for all!

Also, feel free to bring in a sample chapter for us to dig through and critique!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Looking ahead...

Good day one and all!

I just wanted to take a moment and plan out the next few months of Writer's Block.

Our next get-together is this coming Monday (Aug 24) from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. After that, I've locked down September 14th and 28th as well. I skipped Sept 7th due to Labor Day.

Annie is offering to lock down the months of October, November, and December for us as well. Before I do, I was wondering what would work best for each of you. Here are some options:

October 6th and 20th? October 13th and 27th?
November 2nd and 16th? November 9th and 23rd? Would the 30th work better?
December 7th? 14th? 21st? 28th? It's a crazy month for everyone. Let me know if any Mondays look possible.


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Here's A Post From David Farland...

This spring I attended a writers’ conference in Utah. When I walked into the conference center, I noticed their sign said “Welcome to the Tribe.”
Now, I know what a tribe is, but the word used to be limited to aboriginal groups in far-flung eras or countries. I know it’s become a buzz-word in social media though, and seeing it on the conference sign got me thinking, “Why is finding your tribe important?”
Of course it didn’t take me long to figure it out—writers need other writers. They need like-minded people to learn from, to share with, and to relate to.
Bestselling author and blogger Seth Godin says,
“A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. For millions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.”
So what does a tribe of writers look like? How can you find yours, and why should you bother?
Your tribe should consist of writers who have similar goals as you and, hopefully, a similar schedule as you.
Your tribe should be there for you to run word sprints (you can do this online, via Twitter, Facebook or a chatroom). They can provide a group to whom you’re accountable for your daily word goal. They might encourage you and brainstorm with you when you’re stuck, or offer feedback on manuscripts.
Many “tribes” give tips to one another on how to promote their work.
Some tribe members go much further. I know writers who have influential friends in the book industry who help set up book-signing tours. I know some writer who create “writer’s circles,” where the authors gladly help promote one another’s books on Facebook, Twitter, and so on. I recently heard of one group of romance writers, for example, where each woman in the group was making an average of over $200,000 per month this way.
If it’s not obvious already—finding and growing your tribe is worth it. Because having like-minded friends you can share your writing journey with is priceless.

Monday, August 3, 2015

What to expect...

Greetings one and all!

I got back from Gen Con about eight hours ago and have some stuff to pass on from the "What to expect as an author begins their career" seminar. It might be a day or two before I put up the various tidbits, but it WILL happen.

See everyone on the 10th!


Wednesday, July 8, 2015


Hi all! I've been asked to make a homework assignment, so here it is:

Tell me about your character (real, made up, major or minor, family pet, anything goes).
But don't make it a list.

I am curious about their happy place.

H-A-P-P-Y. Even if they are drooling and sedated in a padded cell, they must have had a moment of joy at some point in their lives. That moment / place / person / event that would be pure bliss. If they have 1,000 such moments, you may pick the one YOU like the most.

So here it is:

  • How (if at all) does / did your character prepare for this Happy Place (or did it just happen)
  • The first moment of their Happy Place was...
  • How did (or does) the Happy Place play out?
  • How or why must they leave this Happy Place?
  • What do they think of when they are on their way to the next 'place'?

Again, I don't want a list. Make it a scene. Play it like it is a TV, Movie, or event caught on someone's camera phone. Set the scene. Make us smell it, hear it, and see it (as your character does).

Post the scene below!

Yes... that means I have to do one as well...

Monday, June 22, 2015


This blog is dedicated to all those writers who have (or want to) visit the Monday morning Writer's Block at the W.J. Niederkorn library. I've made this for all of YOU! We all know the rules; play nice, be patient with each other, and keep the dialogues rolling!

Even though each of us has unique plans / genres / audiences for those words that we are going to wrestle with, we all have one thing in common: We are authors.

Also, I'm playing around with a signature code that will enable each of us to have an idea what you are currently working on. Granted, writing is like cooking; there are probably a number of different 'spicy' ideas in your mental cupboard. So the 'signature code' is more for what you are working on or concerned with today.

Here's the Signature's breakdown:

How Far Along Are You:
Published (and back for the next book in the series)

Genre Type:
Non-Fiction (type)
Fiction (type)

(Working Title)

Book Type:
Short Story
Young Adult

Here's how the Signature Code might look:
Dave (Editing / Weird Fiction / Blocgarten / Series)