Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sound Effects in Writing -- Plus Some Nifty Steam Powered Motorcycles

How many sound effects do you include in your fiction writing? If you write comic books or graphic novels, probably loads. If literary novels, I'll wager not so much. Young adult and/or fantasy-- maybe some? How about steampunk? Which is kind of like historic This blog is for you.  :)

Sound effects can liven up a story. They are onomatopoeias- words that imitate the sound associated with them, like a hiss or a buzz. Here are some off the top of my head and ones I got from flipping through my graphic novel collection: ding-ding, Boom!, BLAM, Zap, blub-blub, BUDDA BUDDA BRAKKA BRAKKA (That last was machine gun fire.)

If you're serious about sounds effects, you may want to get KA-BOOM! A Dictionary of Comic Book Words, Symbols & Onomatopoeia by Kevin J. Taylor.

You must be clear with yourself what exactly you are describing. Let me explain. I committed an error recently in my work in progress, Twelve Keys. A character rides a steam powered motorcycle. I've read extensively about the history of these machines and studied pictures. I've ridden on the back of my husband's traditional modern motorcycle. Stupidly, I thought I was an expert. DOINK!

I pull up a YouTube video and watch a steamcycle in action and what do I hear? Not the Rumbly-Bumbly sound I described in my chapter, but more of tukkety-tukkety. I clicked on another vid of a different type of steam powered motorcycle and it was a chug-chug-chug-sss, almost like a mini train. Neither resembled my sound effect. (Yes, those are links to the videos embedded there. Take a gander.)

My point: do your homework. Go into the world (or at least YouTube) and listen. I'm sure, unlike me, you know the modern version of a thing doesn't sound like the old fashioned machine. Doh! (Darn that historic mumbo-jumbo.)Then, play around with the spelling of the sound effect. Read it, say it out loud, and ask somebody else to look at it and utter it. It's kind of eye-dialect* and the regular English spelling rules don't apply.

*Eye dialect, strictly speaking, is the representation of standard pronunciations by unconventional spellings, for instance- "sez" and "wuz." I'm using the term here because the sound effects do appeal to the eye as well as the ear.

1884 Copeland Steam Cycle (replica) The Art of the Motorcycle - Memphis
**Links for image sources embedded in image captions.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Towel Day and A Special Deal for You

Tomorrow is Towel Day- The day to celebrate the life of writer Douglas Adams, writer of The Hitchhiker's Guilde to the Galaxy, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, and so much more! To learn about this wonderful day, go here--->   We enjoy such activities as building the three word story, sharing where we've spotted the number 42, and displaying photos of our towels. It's hoopy and mostly harmless fun!


In honor of Towel Day I am offering a special deal on my urban fantasy, Syzygy. Buy it at for 42% off. Use the code UD35U  at checkout.

Syzygy is a story within a story. Before the end the two tales become one.

A young patient in a mental hospital, who won't reveal his identity, grows to trust a widow. He tells her the fantastic story of Finn Wilde, a computer geek who doesn't appreciate his incredible speed, strength, and agility. Finn is a super-mobster in a criminal agency made up of others like himself. When he's ordered to kidnap Bea Jones, he falls crazy in love and goes rogue, a choice that could cost him his life.

And Syzygy has 42 Chapters!!! How hoopy is that!!! :P

But get it now because after Towel Day the Vogons will eat the UD35U coupon code and the book goes back to the wallet-breaking price of $1.99.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Point of View and Age of Characters in Young Adult Novels

old typewriter
When writing a young adult novel, which point of view do you choose? First person seems to be the popular pick, but sometimes third person is the best for the story. I was well into my work in progress before I began second guessing myself. It's in third person and puts you alternately in two separate characters' heads. Of course I don't "head hop." A single chapter is devoted to one particular character's POV.

Poking around agent blogs, I found an old post at Pub Rants that eased my fears. She said to use whatever works best for the story. But do go read what she said for yourself. She's rather brilliant.

I'm still a bit worried because one of my main characters is older than the typical young adult main character. Okay, he's a lot older. But hey, Doctor Who is hundreds of years old and teens and young adults are clamoring to climb aboard the TARDIS. At least, I think they are. Maybe it's just the crowds I move in. LOL

the outside and inside of the Mother's Day card one of my daughters made me

I'm not claiming to be scripting the next Doctor Who and my character is no David Tennant (or Matt Smith, if you like). Heck, he's not even a Tom Baker. (Care for a jelly baby?) However, Rick (my character's name is Rick- Don't ask me why. My husband named him.) travels with a young companion who is rather naive to the ways of the strange world I've created for them.

But I've strayed off topic. How do you decide which POV to use to tell your story? Do you experiment and rewrite chapters until you get it right? I did that A LOT while writing Syzygy, my first novel.

Speaking of Syzygy, here I am in my Syzygy shirt. You can get your own at our Cafe Press shop. They look super in person. The shop pics make the images look dim- especially on the black. But in reality, the image is very bright and clear. Just thought I'd show off a bit! :) Anyway, link on my sidebar.

me in my Syzygy shirt- designed by my niece, Jasmine

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Dongly Thing Found, Photos Uploaded

I mentoned in my previous post that I could not find the proper dongly thing to connect my camera to my computer and upload the photos from our hike at Mangini Ranch in the East Bay Area of California. I've found it, so here they are:

Blue-eyed grass (sisyrinchium bellum) are little purple flowers with yellow centers, so I don't know why they're called blue-eyed grass. Perhaps there are some that are more blue than the ones growing around here. They are not true grass.
Blue Eyed Grass
 Blue Witch Nightshade (Solanum Umbelliferum) are in the tomato family, if you can believe it.
Blue Witch Nightshade
Anyway, it reminds me of Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas and her deadly nightshade. I have a jar kind of like hers! :)
Deady Nightshade jar- front and back
 The Hospital Canyon Larkspur is rare. I had never heard of it before the day of our hike. Our guide said that it no longer grows in place where it was discovered.
Hospital Canyon Larkspur

Hospital Canyon Larkspur
 Mustard grows everywhere. It's invasive and non-native to California.
 We have many types of oak trees in our area. I don't pretend to be able to identify them. It's nice to have a guide with you!
Blue Oak
 I like streams.
 No idea what this is. It's a big cement and metal structure.
A cement structure
  Sometimes poison oak grows in big bushes.
poison oak bush
 Here is our guide, George. He looks like the pied piper with all those kids following him.

Our guide, George, leading the kids
 I'm a sucker for rustic wooden buildings.
Wooden Structure
And narrow streams...
I hope you enjoyed the nature pictures. I might share them on wikimedia commons. That's where people share photos they don't mind others using. I've uploaded mine onto there and have borrowed some too. Check it out. It's like a global photo album.

And one more thing before you leave. In case you haven't noticed, I have a new Cafe Press shop on my sidebar. We sell clothing, bags, and stickers all with a Syzygy theme. So, if you've read my novel and you'd like to take a gander and our shop, here ya go. Syzygy Shop

Monday, May 2, 2011

Hiking, Little Dongly Things, and Plants in Your Writing

The kids and I went with our homeschooling group on a sunny hike today through a grassland area just a stone's throw from my house. Okay, maybe I'd have to throw the stone, run up to it, throw it again, run up, and throw it yet again. Mangini Ranch is owned and maintained by a conservation group called Save Mount Diablo.

I intended to offer you a beautiful photo spread illustrating purple needle grass, California poppies, live oaks, and the rare hospital canyon larkspur. But for the want of the correct "little dongly thing" (to quote Douglas Adams) I cannot show you these things. All of those photos will stay snug in my camera until I locate the cord that matches the camera.

The Writery Part of this Post
Apart from taking in the beauty of the East Bay area of California, the invigorating exercise, and the pure joy of back to back sneezes (yay allergies), guided hikes such as this one are research. For my WIP, I need to know the native plants of California, what plants where introduced by the early Spanish settlers, and what plants are recent additions to the landscape. I can look all of that up in books, sure- but to walk in nature is to walk into my novel. I can wander the rolling hills and be with Poppy and Rick (my characters) in their travels.

How about you, do you take your research on the road? Do you need to take plants and animals into consideration when you're writing? If you're writing historical fiction, you'll want to learn about the plants that grew in an area at the time you're writing.

If you're inventing a land in fantasy or science fiction, you can take ideas from real nature and "create" plants. Think about the climate on your fictional planet. Is it tundra? Research real life tundra vegetation. Is it desert? Go out to a desert and get inspired to create realistic yet fictional plants. Joshua Tree National Park would be a good start. If that place doesn't look alien, I don't know what does.

Joshua Tree National Park
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