Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Hats in Your Stories

1904 Hat Man

Because my last hat blog still gets hits each day, I'm doing another one. Hats are a popular topic. Many young people wear them today, so you can put your modern teenage protagonist in a fedora and a reader won't be surprised.

If you're writing a historical novel, do a bit of research, making sure a particular hat is in fashion and which gender is currently wearing it.

Also, ask yourself why your character wears his/her hat. Do they need protection from sun, rain, or the blows of falling fruit? Is the hat a symbol of rank or status? Is it improper to leave the house without a hat? Must they remove it indoors, at the table, or before urinating on cats? Does your character think they look cute, cool, or beautiful in their hat? Science Fiction and fantasy writers, you too can consider these types of questions as you world build.

Not only can a hat tell much about a character, it can be a good prop in a scene as a character takes it off, smoothes the brim, or pulls a an alien rabbit-like creature from it at parties.

Let's look at some hats, shall we?

A bowler (also called a derby or coke hat), was a popular hat in the Old West in America. That's "the hat that won the west," according to author Lucius Beebe. Surprise you? It suprised me!

A porkpie hat has a flat topped short crown with a indentation all the way around. It was originally a women's hat and gets its name from looking like a pork pie. In Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows we read about an unnamed wizard wearing one at the wedding reception. "Charlie, Hagrid, and a squat wizard in a purple porkpie hat were singing 'Odo the Hero' in a corner."
Buster Keaton in Porkpie hat
Boaters are similar to porkpie hats, but have no crease. One example of these are the straw ones worn by barber shop quartets. Those are mentioned in Harry Potter too. In the Philosopher's Stone it's said that Smelting boys wear them with their school uniforms.

Dudley Dursley in his boater hat

The fedora was invented in the 1880's and today there are variations on this hat style. For writing purposes, it's probably fine to simply put your character in a fedora and let the reader imagine what she or he will. If you like, give it a color or tell us if it's wide or short brimmed. Though some, particularly in the U.K., a short brimmed fedora is called a trilby.

Now some people consider a trilby to be a different hat entirely. It has a short brim, shorter crown than a fedora, and the brim turns up in the back.


And just for fun, because I found this picture, here's Harry Truman's panama hat. It's made of straw, leather, and fiber.
Panama Hat Made for Harry Truman

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Deathly Hallows part 2, Magical Knitting, and a lot about Neville

Yes Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2 was all it could be and more. I think it stayed truer to the novel than any of the other movies. It was moving- both fast moving and emotionally moving. I walked out of there satisfied and anticipating when I could see it again!

There were differences between the movie and the book, to be sure. And I will pick at them, but I still LOVE it!


No idea why they put Snape and Voldemort in a boathouse instead of the shrieking shack for the death scene, but whatever. It worked. Though I think Snape needed more memory "tears." In the book one got the impression they were just oozing out of him- his ears and eyes.

I do know why they "shipped" (to use a fan fiction term) Luna and Neville. You know that wasn't in the books, don't you? And the nineteen years later epilogue clearly shows they don't end up together. However, it is a common pairing among fans.  A wizarding band, The Remus Lupins, even sing a song on the theme.


I got mixed reactions about the Luna/Neville pairing when I spoke to various friends who saw the movie and are great fans of the books. Some were happy and thought they always were meant to be together. One said there were hints in the books that Neville and Luna like each other. Others thought it was wrong to go against canon whether you thought they should be a couple or not. That sort of thing should be left to fan fiction. One woman I talked to, (and agreed with) said it was clear from the books that Neville didn't really like Luna at all and that they are all wrong for each other.

What do you think?

I know, I'm rambling on about a tiny detail.

They left out a bunch of background on Helena Ravenclaw. It was an interesting backstory, but it didn't matter much that it was cut. "The Prince's Tale" chapter was beautifully done. I'd have liked to see it longer and more of the details from the book, but again, not all of that was needed to move the main story forward.

I cried when Sirius, Remus, and Harry's parents appeared. Profoundly moving. The scene where Harry's walking through the great hall past the hurt and dead friends- amazingly sad.

Why did the Malfoys leave? I mean, I know their motive, but that wasn't in the book. They're supposed to be sitting in the great hall at the end. Oh well. No biggie.

Hey, Harry's supposed to repair his old wand with the Elder Wand. They forgot to do that! And he's supposed to put the Elder Wand back into Dumbledore's tomb. We don't see that in the book, but he says he's going to. He doesn't break it! Oh well, it's more final that way. But he should have repaired his old wand.
Elder Wand

Okay, other details I won't go into. I'll live with them.

And of course everyone cheered when Neville killed the snake. Everybody loves Neville. He's like the unsung hero. My niece told me J.K. Rowling should rewrite the Harry Potter series from Neville's perspective. Ha! I'd totally read it. :)

Hey, I loved how everyone cheered for Molly when she yelled at and then killed Bellatrix. Cool how Molly's the only one allowed to use naughty words. :) 

Moral of the story- Don't mess with a knitting mother's kids or you'll get your butt kicked.

Speaking of knitting- Lion Brand Yarn has some magical Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows inspired patters for the Molly Weasley in you.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Random Uprising- Exclusive (and nifty) Interview & News about Their Santa Barbara Show!

Today you're in for a treat. I've interviewed Larry Cazenave and Brian Underwood, the guys of The Random Uprising, an independent band in the San Francisco Bay area. I find it fascinating how these two put together such an amazing album, Mutiny on the Mayflower, all by themselves without a lot of cash. They call themselves a garage band, but nothing sounding this good ever came out of my garage.

Take a peek into their creative process, learn about the nifty cover, and find out what inspires these two musicians. But you will not learn why Larry calls Brian, "Floyd". That, apparently, is a story for another time.  Be sure to watch the video of the guys playing, which is located at the bottom of this post.

If you're in the Santa Barbara California area- be sure to see The Random Uprising in August. Details at the end of the inteview!!!

So, you guys are The Random Uprising. Tell me about the name:

BRIAN:  Basically, we opened up the newspaper, scattered it all over the backyard and threw lawn darts until we hit on a combination of words that we thought represented us well.  It was a moment of divine intervention…and when we found the title there was no way for us to move beyond it without being struck down by lightening or being swallowed up into the abyss.

The Random Uprising "Mutiny on the Mayflower"

Great CD artwork. Who design it the art cover?
BRIAN:  The idea for the artwork was driven by the album title…which in itself was something completely arbitrary.  Essentially we were looking to come up with an example of a ‘random uprising’ and a Mutiny on the Mayflower gave us both a good laugh. Larry and I tossed around a few ideas for artwork and I kept coming back to this image of the Mayflower with some graffiti.  Initial sketches had images of pilgrims hanging over the side in the act of anarchy but this didn’t transfer as well as I had hoped so I went for just the Mayflower on the sea turning away from the coast of the America’s with just a hint of graffiti.

How long have you two played together, and how much time did it take you to write this album?

LARRY: We started playing in December 2010, and we just got on a roll. I started sending songs to Floyd and he would come up with the lyrics and melodies right away. We wrote and recorded the album in 4-5 months, and have since started working on some new material for our next one.

BRIAN:  What is really cool is that by the time we sat down to record the vocals for the album, we had only really gotten together to jam maybe 3 or 4 times. 

Where did you record this CD?

LARRY: As a first album, we decided to record, mix and master everything at home with limited means. I recorded many of my own solo work this way before, using just a small digital 4 track, and throwing the recorded tracks onto Garage Band [A software application] for editing, mixing, and mastering. We're never going to get a million dollars recording studio sound that way, but giving our means, I think it turned out pretty good. All together, we just spent $450 to make the cd... that and a few hundred hours of work. The thought process was also to be able to offer people a quality CD they can buy at home from our website for the price of a Starbucks coffee, or buy at a show for the price of a beer: $5

BRIAN:  I think all of Larry’s blood, sweat and tears are evident in the album.  He squeezed more out of Garage Band than Apple ever thought it was capable of.
Ha! Even the CD is decorated. :)
Do you write the lyrics or music first, when composing a song?

LARRY: For this 1st album, we wrote most of the music first, then added lyrics. It's always been the way I've done it in my solo days. I first came to Floyd with the "Tiny Dancer" music I think which he liked and quickly came up with a great melody and lyrics. Floyd did write the music for "The Devil Looks Back" and "Playing Pretend" so he can answer for those. But for the other 13 songs, it was music first that i wrote.

BRIAN: With "Devil "I wrote the music first but with "Playing Pretend" the lyrics and music grew together as I sat down behind the guitar one evening.  With the other songs on the album it was amazing to sit back and essentially have 13 different sonic scenes for me to create a lyrical world for.  While I enjoy creating music, the best part for me is putting together lyrics that we feel really fit and fall into the theme and feel of each song.  Ultimately it falls into just riding out the inspiration and seeing where it takes you.

Did you guys have any major arguments about this project?

LARRY: Floyd and I have been on the same page since day one. To this day, if I suggest an idea, he will have thought of it at the same time. It's pretty crazy. The only other person I share that kind of "know what I'm thinking before I tell you" is my sister who've I've know for 30 years. Because I had experience making CDs, I took the lead on writing the music but always made sure Floyd had an equal say in all the decisions. We're in this for the long haul.

BRIAN:  I believe we’ve agreed to wait until we’ve gone double-platinum and had ten songs sit in the top ten on billboard’s singles chart for 6 straight months before we decide to start arguing. To Larry’s point, it has been cool to sit in my own little brain-world and think about an idea and suddenly receive an email or call from Larry sharing virtually the same idea.  I feel extremely fortunate to work in a forum that allows for open dialogue and the ability to explore ideas to see where they take us and I think it’s important to never mistake how passion manifests itself.

What inspires you to write a song? You just sit down and make yourself write, or does it just come to you when you're in the shower?

LARRY: Well I think it's different for Floyd and I. Perhaps he takes a more lyrical approach to writing the song. I play around on the guitar or piano, and when I find something I like, I grow that idea, and start building. You don't know really where you're going when you write music, but you eventually get there. The process and sometimes struggle of writing a full song is in itself the most rewarding part. You sit back and listen to the finished song after all the hard work and long hours, and that's the best feeling of accomplishment I've experienced. Then you just want to do it again.

BRIAN: For me, it’s my environment.  A phrase I hear on BART, or the sound a car makes when it slams on its brakes can sometimes trigger a flood of ideas to spill forth between my ears.  Larry’s music is a huge component of that and while a few songs (Oh to Be You, Finding our Way) took a bit longer to find the right words, some songs (Silhouette, Just Curious, Indian Trail, Live Ahead) basically wrote themselves and were written after listening to the music only once.

BART Station
What's the last concert (not your own) that you each went to?

LARRY: I don't go to nearly enough. The last one I really enjoyed was a Django Rheinhardt tribute band that played here in San Francisco called "The Hot Club de San Francisco". They were quite good.

S.F. Bay Bridge
BRIAN:  That’s a tough one and like Larry, I definitely don’t see as much live music as I’d like.  My wife, Cecily, dialed me in on the Strawberry Music festival which takes place in Camp Mather on Labor Day and Memorial Day weekends.  Going to this 3 to 4 day festival essentially fills my cup for a good 6 to 8 months as I listen to amazing bluegrass, folk, country and rock musicians doing their thing.  On the flip-side, I’m stoked to be going to see Soundgarden and The Mars Volta in Tahoe on July 20th.

What are you listening to right now?

LARRY: Derek Trucks, sick slide guitar player. Some old live GNR right now, Zeppelin always, Dereck and the Dominos, Django Rheinhardt always.

BRIAN:  I love the story-tellers.  Guy Clark is a god to me, as is John Prine, Willie Nelson and Tom Waits.  It’s funny because I tend to remember the worlds they’ve created less so than the words in their songs. But it’s the singers with the dynamic range and emotion that really draw my ear to a record – Larry’s got me back listening to Robert Plant and Led Zeppelin, but I’ve also been listening to Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder for some spiritual inspiration.  Cedric Bixler-Zavala (The Mars Volta) and Jeff Buckley are always on the play list and I also really like Ray LaMontagne’s voice on God Willing and the Creek Don’t Rise. 

Which musicians inspire you?

LARRY: I tend to keep going back to old blues, gypsy jazz, Zeppelin, gospel... and my French roots (Cabrel, Goldman, Brassens)

BRIAN:  I think all of the musicians I am listening to inspire me in some way or another.  Right now I’m listening to Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain – an amazing reminder for me that you don’t always have to tell a story with words.  For the most part though, I’m going to take the easy way out on this one and say that I find inspiration in just about anything.  You sit at an open mic and listen to someone poor their heart out, sharing the end product of hundreds of hours of practice …how can I not be inspired by this.  Conversely, walk through the Tenderloin, give change to someone who needs it, or share a conversation with someone who’s dialoguing with three or four spirits that can’t be seen…this is inspiring as well and there is music in the common experience of that moment and all its seemingly scattered yet orchestrated parts.


Okay, I have to ask because I'm stupidly curious. Do either of you just listen to your own music for pleasure, like, put it on your iPod or stereo as you would any other music? Or do you think of that as music you make and not music you yourselves listen to?

LARRY: When you write a lot of music, you're constantly listening to your songs over and over again as you're building them, especially when you make a CD. I listened to all the tracks many many times. It's listening for pleasure the first few times when you finish (sense of accomplishment) but since we've finished the CD 6 weeks ago, I haven't been able to put it on. I rather move on to new material, and practice the old songs for live which will sound different then the CD.

BRIAN:  I’m really proud of what we’ve created and do still listen to parts of it occasionally – less so for enjoyment and more so to revisit the phrasing or approach to certain melodies.  I think I become too attached to the music we created to listen to it in the same manner as I would listen to another musician’s music.  Listening through the album you remember the multiple takes, the long days, the work you put into the effort to bring it to completion and I haven’t been able to find a way to listen to the music as a stranger would.  I’m ready to start working on new music and our next album. 

If you had to pick a particular song from "Mutiny on the Mayflower" that epitomizes the entire collection, which song would it be and why?

LARRY: I think we tried to offer variety on this album, have songs that sound different from one another, so that's difficult. For me if I had to pick one it would be "Live Ahead", love Floyd's vocals and lyrics on there, and the way the music came out, you got a good beat on there with some rock, and Spanish influence.

BRIAN: Like Larry, I really like how "Live Ahead" came out. But, I think that "Tiny Dancer" may be most indicative of what we can and will do. You have the Fall version which was the first song we worked together and musically is still very true to our initial approach with the song. But the Winter version was a late addition as we explored our ability to bring more emotion to the music. 

You guys are performing soon. Tell us about that.

LARRY: We're doing a live show down in Santa Barbara the weekend of August 6th at our friend Sean's wine shop called Vino Divino. Probably will be a very casual atmosphere. It's only fitting we play our first show there since Sean is the one who introduced Floyd and I. We are rehearsing now for that show with most of the material from the first CD and 2 or 3 new songs.

That show is Saturday, August 6th, 2011
"The Random Uprising" will be performing an hour acoustic set from 6pm-7pm!
Vino Divino: 2012 De La Vina Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93105
(805) 682-7484

Here is the web site of Vino Divino in Santa Barbara. From their site you can get to their Facebook and Twitter.

Here's the web site of The Random Uprising where you can buy the digital album, Mutiny on the Mayflower for only five bucks. Take a listen to the song and read the lyrics. Mighty cool!  

Here are Larry and Brian playing "Tiny Dancer".

*Links to sources of photos not my own, embedded in photo captions.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

My Review of Another Fab Romance by Nicole Green

I enjoy a good love story and Holding Her Breath by Nicole Green fills the bill. Whitney and Chase seem like an unlikely couple. She has a great job at a law firm. He's an "ambitionless stranger who had an aversion to shoes." (He's actually a great photographer and a sweet guy!) But it's love at first sight for them and they are really perfect for eachother.

Meeting Chase moves Whitney to change her life for the better, though she seems to have it all when we first meet her. But she doesn't have love. She wasn't even looking for it. Isn't that often the way?

Nicole Green's characters are always very genuine and they stick with you long after the novel is read. I enjoyed this book very much. :)

**That was basically the review I gave this awesome romance novel on Amazon after I read it. You can read it too. Get it in paperback or for Kindle.

Visit Nicole Green at her web site.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Learning about Story Structure

Platform nine and three quarters

I want to share with you an amazing five part video of author Dan Wells talking about his 7 Point Story Structure System.

Interestingly, he begins with the resolution and goes from there. That makes a lot of sense to me. In my w.i.p. I know my resolution, so I'm already on the road to using his system. His focus is on the science fiction and fantasy genres and examines Harry Potter, The Matrix, and Star Wars, but he also looks at romance, horror and others.

It's well worth a watching and keep your notebook and pencil handy. I suspect he's tricking me into writing an story outline, something I thought I'd never do. But I like it!

My favorite part is when he says that our genre novel outline is supposed to sound cheesy. LOL

I first heard of his seven point structure on the Writing Excuses podcast. And I first learned of that nifty writing podcast at A Karabu Creation. I think Kara is the queen of podcasts. She knows all the good ones!
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