Friday, June 29, 2018

The Janus Effect

dontravis.com blog post #291
  
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Sometimes it feels good to just indulge in writing exercises, and that’s what I’ve chosen to do this week. Let me know what you think.

*****
THE JANUS EFFECT

          In Roman mythology, Janus was the god of gates and doorways who gazed simultaneously in two directions, signifying a look at the beginning and the end… or a view of opposites. This writing exercise attempts to do just that.
        
  From Robert’s viewpoint:

          I slurped the last of my strawberry milkshake as Samantha exploded through the door and steamed across the black and white checkered tile floor directly to my table, bringing with her storm clouds and the scent of gale-lashed roses.
          “Hi, Sammy. Have a seat.” My voice sounded loud in the quiet atmosphere of the malt shop.
          “Don’t start with me, Robert. You know I hate being called that. And just what do you think you’re doing?”
          I could almost see flames from her flaring nostrils, although she looked nothing like a dragon. Not even a cute one. “That’s a dynamite hat. Looks great on you. You should wear it more often.”
          That threw her for a loop. Her blue eyes widened momentarily before returning to mere slits. “Answer my question. Just what did you say to Hank?”
          “Let me get you something. What would you like? No, wait. I know just the thing.” I got up and walked to the counter, feeling her eyes flay my back like a laser.
          A couple of minutes later, I returned to the table with her favorite… an old-fashioned cherry phosphate. She couldn’t hide a momentary look of pleasure. Some of the color faded from her cheeks. Guess I knew how to cool her down.
          After one dainty draw on her straw, Sammy stared directly into my eyes. “Answer my question? What did you say to Hank?”
          “Did you know he was two-timing you?”
          Aha, caught her off guard. Her eyes were ping pong balls for about a tenth of a second. And now, they weren't so squinty.
          “Don’t go spreading that nasty rumor,” she said, struggling to maintain her attitude, “And if you don’t answer my question right this minute, I’ll never speak to you again.”
          Time to bring this to a close. I rose, gazed down on her, and dropped my voice. “I told him that if he hurt you, he’d have to deal with me.”
          With that, I turned and walked away before I confessed something I ought not. Not right now, at any rate.

 From Samantha’s viewpoint:

I stormed through the ice cream shop door and spotted him at a table across the checkered tile floor, slurping the dregs of a strawberry milkshake through a straw striped like a barber’s pole. His greeting did nothing to improve my mood.
“Hi, Sammy. Have a seat.”
I saw red as I dropped into the white painted, iron curlicue chair opposite him. He knew that nickname infuriated me. “Don’t start with me, Robert. You know I hate being called that. And just what do you think you’re doing?”
He regarded me through dark chocolate irises. “That’s a dynamite hat. Looks great on you. You should wear it more often.”
Oh, no. That wasn’t going to work, although I was momentarily pleased he’d noticed my black Dutch boy with a brown brim. “Answer my question. Just what did you say to Hank?”
The idiot ignored me. “Let me get you something. What would you like? No, wait. I know just the thing.”
He bailed out of his chair and fled to the counter, most likely to escape my anger. I couldn’t help but notice how his broad shoulders tapered to a trim waist.
He was back a minute later with my favorite. A cherry phosphate. Damn, he would pick the one place in town that served the things. Well, he’s not going to coddle me out of my snit. Still, no sense wasting the drink. I took a deep tug on the straw, swallowed, and faced him again.
“Answer my question? What did you say to Hank?”
His face turned bland. Crap, he was good looking even while bland. “Did you know he was two-timing you?”
The dirty creep. That was a low blow. Play it cool, girl. “Don’t go spreading that nasty rumor. And if you don’t answer my question right this minute, I’ll never speak to you again.”
Something happened to his face. It closed up. He surprised me by standing and staring straight into my eyes. He smelled of the milkshake he’d just imbibed. “I told him that if he hurt you, he’d have me to deal with.” Then he walked away.
Audacious bastard! Who does he think he is? He’s not my knight in shining armor. I don’t need—
Still, it was sorta sweet of him.

*****
There it is… this week’s offering. Don’t know about you, but I thought the exercise was interesting.

Now my mantra: Keep on reading. Keep on writing. And keep on submitting your work to publishers and agents. You have something to say… so say it.

If you would like to drop me a line, my personal links follow:

Facebook: Don Travis
Twitter: @dontravis3

Here are some buy links to City of Rocks, my most recent book.


The next book in the BJ Vinson Mystery Series, The Lovely Pines is scheduled for release on August 28 of this year. It appears on DSP Publication’s upcoming releases page:  http://www.dsppublications.com/books/upcoming-releases-c

Abaddon’s Locusts follows on January 22, 2019. AND I have recently signed a contract for the sixth book in the series called THE VOXLIGHTNER SCANDAL. Publication date as yet undetermined.

See you next week.

Don

New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.


Thursday, June 28, 2018

Don Travis: What's in a Name?

Don Travis: What's in a Name?: dontravis.com blog post #290 Courtesy of Wikimedia common Enough of the school teaching thing. This week, let’s get back to som...

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Don Travis: What's in a Name?

Don Travis: What's in a Name?: dontravis.com blog post #290 Courtesy of Wikimedia common Enough of the school teaching thing. This week, let’s get back to som...

What's in a Name?

dontravis.com blog post #290

Courtesy of Wikimedia common


Enough of the school teaching thing. This week, let’s get back to some hot flash fiction. Don’t know where the following story came from, but it sort of wrote itself, so I suspect it's from some suppressed recollections from my past. Does it remind you of anything in yours?

*****
WHAT’S IN A NAME?

          Mirrian-Webster defines corker as something exceptional. If so, Aaiden Corker was aptly named. That described him right down to his toenails, and believe me, I’d seen him right down to those bare toenails. Not like I would have preferred to see him, you understand, but in the locker room at the pool or in the showers after a game of golf. To me, he was walking perfection. Handsome. Built. Bold. Smart. Considerate. And—unfortunately—totally heterosexual. I was so consumed by living on his fringes that I’d even looked up the meaning of his first name. Aaiden. English meaning a fiery young man. Nailed it!
          I had an unusual Christian name, too, although my family name of Smith was about as common as you can get. My first name was kinda symbolic, as well. Eban was likewise English and meant stone. And that’s the way I got around Aaiden… rock hard. My mind went sort of flinty, too. My tongue might as well have been stone because it didn’t function very well in his presence. If you get the idea I was awed by Aaiden, you’d be right.
          The summer after we graduated Rainsville High—me as valedictorian and Aaiden as salutatorian—I attended a scout camp in the mountains in the northern part of the state. To my delight—and terror—Aaiden was there, as well. I almost packed up and went home when I found he shared a bungalow with me and four other guys. But he made it easy, taking the time to talk to me like I was a regular guy, not a tongue-tied idiot. Before long, I could say “good morning” and “good afternoon” without stuttering.
          Halfway through the camp, the scoutmasters sent us on field trips, one of which was overnight. I enjoyed the walk among the fragrant pines and spruce and along ridges that opened to vast vistas across broad canyons. Jays and other birds flitted among the branches and chirped at us as we passed. I fed a chipmunk scraps from my mess kit before scouring the stainless-steel vessel with sand.
          Twilight found us on a flat piece of ground near the peak of a mountain at about 11,000 feet. It had been a glorious day, and I’d not given thought to sleeping arrangements. So I was surprised to find myself helping set up a two-man tent and horrifically thrilled that Aaiden was pounding pegs into the stony earth right beside me. We would share the tent. Wow!
          He was so casual about it that I soon put aside my apprehension and enjoyed his company. He really was a great guy… in addition to being handsome and sexy and totally desirable. Later, when we turned in, I watched out of the corners of my eyes as my tentmate stripped to his skivvies—black Haines briefs—and slipped into his sleeping bag. He did it in a hurry, not because he was shy, but because at this altitude, the nights were cold even in the summer. I wondered if he eyed my plain white jockeys as I crawled into my own bag.
          “Brrr,” Aaiden said. “Shoulda brought PJs.”
          “Yeah, they should have warned us.” I bit down on my tongue after that pedestrian reply.
          To my delight, we spent a few minutes talking about the day’s hike and a couple of the counselors before he doused the flashlight and settled down for the night. It took me a long time to go to sleep. I kept fighting the urge to reach across the couple of feet that separated us to make sure he was really there. If nothing else, I could always say I spent the night with Aiden Corker. Let them make of that what they will.


          I wasn’t really asleep. It was too cold for that, but I was in a stupor when a hand shook my shoulder.
          “D-damn, Eban, I’m freezing. How about you?”
          “Cold. Uncomfortable. But not freezing.”
          “Your fart bag must be better than mine. Can I crawl in with you? I’ll put my bag over the top of us.”
          My mouth went dry as I nodded my head before realizing he couldn’t see me. “Y-yeah. Sure.”
          Then Aaiden Corker, my idol, my wet dream, unzipped my bag, told me to turn on my side, and crawled into bed with me. I barely noticed how cold his flesh was, all I knew was that Aaiden’s chest pressed flush against my back and Aaiden’s basket was shoved against my butt.
          “Better,” he pronounced after a moment. “You all right?”
          I wasn’t. A vital part of me was mimicking the English meaning of my first name, and my sphincter was twitching like crazy. But I swallowed hard and mumbled, “Yeah.”
         “Kinda close quarters, isn’t it?” he remarked as he settled himself more comfortably, which involved pressing his package against me. Was it my imagination, or was something taking place down there? Whoops. Not my imagination.
          “You know,” he said, putting his arm around me and pulling me closer. “I’ve wondered what this would be like since we were both sophomores.”
          I didn’t have to do a thing while Aaiden lived up to his name. A fiery young man!

*****
Does this leave you casting around in your memory for something similar? I certainly hope so.

Now my mantra: Keep on reading. Keep on writing. And keep on submitting your work to publishers and agents. You have something to say… so say it.

By the way, I understand fellow author Mark Wildyr has decided to purloin the mantra for his website, as well. That’s okay. I encourage anyone and everyone to adopt it. It’s so true!

If you would like to drop me a line, my personal links follow:

Facebook: Don Travis
Twitter: @dontravis3

Here are some buy links to City of Rocks, my most recent book.


The next book in the BJ Vinson Mystery Series, The Lovely Pines is scheduled for release on August 28 of this year. Abaddon’s Locusts follows on January 22, 2019. AND I have recently signed a contract for the sixth book in the series called THE VOXLIGHTNER SCANDAL. Publication date as yet undetermined.

See you next week.

Don

New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.


Thursday, June 14, 2018

Manuscript Formatting (Part 3 of 3 Parts)

dontravis.com blog post #289

Courtesy of Public Domain Pictures
Before we start on this final post covering FORMATTING, let me repeat the warning I gave in the previous two posts. The format I am describing has worked for me, but I do not claim this is the ONLY format or the CORRECT format, but all publishers or agents or editors I’ve worked with found it acceptable.

The instructions for accomplishing some of the tasks named herein are performed specifically on Windows 10, Microsoft Word 2013. Mac users may find it useful but may not be able to exactly follow the instructions.

When you are ready to submit a manuscript, you will go to some source such as WRITER’S MARKET 2018 to select an agent or publisher. They ofttimes give specific requirements for formatting. For example, my present publisher requires manuscripts be spaced at 1.5 lines; many publishers require double-spaced documents.

Now let’s continue:

*****
FORMATTING MANUSCRIPTS

Justify

As noted elsewhere, justify your manuscript should be left justified only, leaving the right margin ragged. It may be appropriate to fully justify some portion of your interior verbiage (a note written to one of your characters, for example). In that case, go to Home/Paragraph/and justify it with the 4th icon showing uniform lines both left and right.

FORMATTING CHAPTERS

This actually covers Chapters, Prologues, and Epilogues. Setting up a chapter heading is a matter of personal choice. Ending a chapter is not. When you are finished with a chapter, use a page break to make certain the new chapter starts on a brand-new page. You can create a page break a couple of ways. The simplest is Shift+Enter. Another way is to go to Layout/Page Setup/Breaks. Hit the arrow to the right of breaks. This brings up options of Page breaks and Section breaks. Select Page under Page Breaks.

Many authors center their Chapter heading using CHAPTER 1 (for example), adding a title on a second line beneath it, if there is one. I use the format preferred by my publisher, which is to use mixed case (Chapter 1) simply indented (1/2 inch) and then begin the chapter right below it, e.g.:

Chapter 1

It was a dark and stormy night.

MINUTIAE

The spacing between words. Back in the typewriter days, we learned to put two spaces between sentences. Today, we use a single space following the period and the first letter of the next word. To do otherwise marks the writer as an amateur.

We also learned underlining as a way to emphasize words, phrases, thoughts, etc. DO NOT use underlining, use italics instead. Again, underlines broadcast the writer as an amateur. As noted earlier, use italics sparingly, as they use their impact if they are overused.

Most Word applications change two hyphens (--) into an emdash (—) automatically. If your operating system does not, then the two hyphens are acceptable.

Either way, the use of dashes sometimes causes the quotation mark (“…”) to misprint, especially in dialogue. For example, in case of interruption of dialogue results in the following: “Smith,” Jones said, “I’m not going to—" Note the difference between the opening quotation mark and the closing mark. To correct, simply type as shown above (…. “going to—“”), type two quotation marks and delete the incorrect mark to get: … “going to—”

Many thanks to Sue Babcock for her assistance in putting this together, and for providing the following links to a very good treatment of Formatting by her friend Rick Taubold. I suggest you check them out.


I hope this was helpful rather than stressful.

*****
At last, we’re finished! I hope I have some readers left. With any luck, these posts have helped a new writer or two to build the confidence to start his or her next writing project.

We’ll return to some short fiction for the next post.

Now my mantra: Keep on reading. Keep on writing. And keep on submitting your work to publishers and agents. You have something to say… so say it.

If you would like to drop me a line, my personal links follow:

Facebook: Don Travis
Twitter: @dontravis3

Here are some buy links to City of Rocks, my most recent book.


The next book in the BJ Vinson Mystery Series, The Lovely Pines is scheduled for release on August 28 of this year. Abaddon’s Locusts follows on January 22, 2019.

See you next week.

Don

New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.


Thursday, June 7, 2018

Manuscript Formatting (Part 2 of 3 Parts)

dontravis.com blog post #288

Courtesy of Public Domain Pictures
Today, I’ll continue to run the risk of chasing away readers by continuing my rant on manuscript formatting with the second part of the paper I prepared for my Wordwrights Writing class held each Monday (other than holidays) at the North Domingo Baca Multicultural Center here in Albuquerque.

Before we start on this week’s post, let me repeat the warning I gave in part one last week. The format I am describing has worked for me, but I do not claim this is the ONLY format or the CORRECT format, but all publishers, agents, and editors I’ve worked with found it acceptable.

The instructions for accomplishing some of the tasks named herein are performed specifically on Windows 10, Microsoft Word 2013. Mac users may find it useful but may not be able to exactly follow the instructions.

When you are ready to submit a manuscript, you will go to some source such as WRITER’S MARKET 2018 to select an agent or publisher. They ofttimes give specific requirements for formatting. For example, my present publisher requires manuscripts be spaced at 1.5 lines; many publishers require double-spaced documents.

Now let’s continue:


*****
FORMATTING MANUSCRIPTS

PAGE SETUP

Show/Hide Function

I always work with the Show/Hide function (¶) on so I can spot excessive spaces between words, before paragraphs, and at the end of paragraphs. This is especially useful in editing your own work. This does not affect what prints on a page, but for reading ease on the screen, you might want to turn off the function (Home/Paragraph/¶) before sending the ms for submission.

Header and Numbering

There are several header styles, but I find the one at the top of this page to be very common. Some people put the title in CAPS, followed by name of the author in mixed case, but I adopted the one at the top of this page as preferred by my current publisher. The page number is where editors and agents normally look for them (not as a footer, for example). Be sure your header is in SAME FONT AND SIZE (POINTS) AS THE REST OF YOUR MANUSCRIPT.

To set a header, go to Insert/Header & Footer/Header down arrow/click on a blank (I use first one). That returns you to your manuscript with your cursor in the proper place. Type in your title and author credit. Then tab so that your cursor is at the right margin. Click on Page Number at the top left of your ribbon/click Current Position/plain, and the proper number will appear. (You can do this on page 50, for example, and it will correctly number the preceding 49 pages as well as all subsequent pages.)

NOTE: You do not want a header or a number on your first (or title) page. One appears unless you prevent it by going to Layout/Page Setup/Layout and click on Different First Page. Then the header disappears and your second page is correctly numbered as 2.

Fonts and Sizes

Use a font with a serif. Times New Roman is commonly accepted, but it is not the only type with a serif. Don’t pick one that looks too different from what you see in other manuscripts. Home/Font/upper left, click the arrow to select right font/click the arrow on size and pick the size you want (12-point is commonly accepted).

Keep the manuscript clean. Never submit one with fancy fonts, colored fonts, page borders, etc. Minimize italics. They can be hard to read.


Indenting

DO NOT USE THE TAB KEY to indent ½ inch. Likewise, do not hit the space bar repeatedly to indent.

Work with a ruler at the top of your screen (View/Show/and click on ruler) to set a hanging indent. When the ruler is up, if you have correctly set your margins, there should be a shaded area to the left and right sides of the ruler. This indicates the area where your margins do not permit you to type. Just to the right of the left shaded area, there will be an up arrow with a down arrow directly above it. To set the indent, place your cursor on the top arrow, hold it down and move the arrow ½ inch to the right (the ruler is marked in inches and half inches). Now every time you hit the ENTER key, the computer will automatically indent the number of spaces you have set it for.

NOTE: Whenever your center something in the manuscript (titles, scene breaks, etc.), you must go back and remove the 5 points it will be off-center by moving the top arrow back in line with the lower one. This will affect only that line.

We finish this presentation next week... I promise.

*****
I continue to hope this was helpful to some and didn’t drive the rest of you away. As I’ve often said, I’m passionate about writing and believe there’s a writer in each one of us. Bear with me.

Now my mantra: Keep on reading. Keep on writing. And keep on submitting your work to publishers and agents. You have something to say… so say it.

If you would like to drop me a line, my personal links follow:

Facebook: Don Travis
Twitter: @dontravis3

Here are some buy links to City of Rocks, my most recent book.


The next book in the BJ Vinson Mystery Series, The Lovely Pines is scheduled for release on August 28 of this year. Abaddon’s Locusts follows on January 22, 2019.

See you next week.

Don

New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.


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