Archive for the ‘Fun Stuff’ Category

Making a Wish

Posted: April 14, 2015 by writingsprint in Fun Stuff
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I’ve been trying to explain this to family and friends but nobody seems to get it. I hope that you do.

This past weekend I was lucky enough to get “dragged” into being a stage hand on a community theater production of “Into the Woods” by Stephen Sondheim. I say “dragged” because they didn’t know they needed help until last week, and I’ve never been into musicals. I grew up rolling my eyes every time someone broke into song in old movies. Real life isn’t like that! People are awkward, not beautiful! You get the idea. Well, even if it’s not my thing, I support the arts and artists, and I was happy to help.

Well, I’m hooked now.

I’m sure that there are theater companies where the actors don’t like each other, where the directors are mean, where dueling egos and deadlines drive everyone to the verge of stabbing each other to death with anything they could grab off the prop tables. I was brought in too late to get to know everyone, but I can tell you that the performers were wonderful, dedicated, friendly, and talented beyond belief. I knew that people in theater worked hard, but I didn’t know how hard.

For three nights, I helped move Rapunzel’s tower on and off stage, including a gaffe on the first night where we started pulling it off too soon. I could barely watch the show because it was obscured by curtains and actors running on and off, but I could listen, I could look at their faces and feel the energy that they brought to the show. I feel… tremendously… lucky, and blessed, to have been there. For three nights in a row I shed tears during “Children Will Listen” and “No More.” You have to understand, for the past twelve years I’ve worked on various projects in my day job that have involved hard work and teams coming together on their best days. They didn’t involve singing, and music, and people putting their hearts out there and creating something beautiful. Even if it was just for three nights.

At 46 and never having been on a stage in my life, not to mention having a serious writing addiction, I don’t know where I’ll find the time to make it on stage, even as Villager #4 or Spear Carrier on the Left. But I want to.

Careful the wish you make,
Wishes are children.
Careful the path they take,
Wishes come true, not free.

Into the Woods, “Children Will Listen”


Sometimes, It Works Like This

Posted: April 7, 2015 by writingsprint in Fun Stuff
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I thought I’d share a fun story about how one of my characters is developing. I’m not insane, but sometimes it looks that way.

"Corso Riggs" from Star Wars: The Old Republic

“Corso Riggs” from Star Wars: The Old Republic

He was originally inspired by Corso Riggs from Star Wars: The Old Republic, a gentlemanly hired gun who’s a bit of a country guy. My character won’t look or act like him, but he’ll be just as tough, good-hearted and loyal. First, I needed a new name. One Google search later, I picked the name “Kahlil,” nickname “Kal,” which means “friend.”

I was writing a “get to know you” scene where everyone on the ship is having dinner together for the first time. At first I had Kal’s boss, Raffa, cooking chili, but then I realized that Raff was making dinner, and had put on the music (blues) and was a musician himself (guitar player). He has plenty of things that make his character interesting, and I wasn’t leaving anything for Kal. Switch over to Kal doing the cooking. At first I kept the chili, but then I thought, let’s follow the ancestry of his name and make it Middle Eastern. I mean, it’s the year 3000 or who knows (not even me, yet), so he could cook anything, but I wanted to make it simple.

(My characters break the 4th wall and look out at the audience. This is simple?)

So he’s a hired gun who likes to cook. How good is he? I decided he’s very good at it. When you’re stuck in space traveling all the time, you might as well try to eat as well as you can. I even made a gag out of it, saying that the rest of the crew often does his chores for him so that he’ll cook for them.

Dinner was kebabs using meat from an animal he shot in the field, the local version of an onion, and spices that they picked up on other planets. He also improvised hummus using some alien rendition of chickpeas. So not only is Kal a gunfighter and a cook, we also know that he’s resourceful, persistent or stubborn, and takes pride in what he does.


Don’t mess with the Zohan

My pop-culture-addled mind jumped from hummus to Adam Sandler’s Zohan. Do I want to play Kal for laughs, too? Make him listen to disco, have 1980s hair? No way. If I can work in having him and Raff play hacky sack to build up their coordination — maybe Kal’s a martial artist too — that’s fine, but no more than that.


To get a visual of what this feels like, watch the “Script in Development” sketch from Saturday Night Live :).

"Script in Development," from Saturday Night Live

“Script in Development,” from Saturday Night Live

All images used without permission.

Two Broke Girls with Guns

Posted: March 30, 2015 by writingsprint in Fun Stuff
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Actually they’re not broke, but they’re starting out with the clothes on their backs. And guns. 2,107 words tonight, about 900 of which came from a scene I wrote a few months ago when I was jumping ahead. Risha and her best friend are on their own now.

Having 900 of today’s words was a huge shot in the arm, but even without it, I can’t get over how much better the writing feels now than it has before. I think it’s because I’m getting to know the characters better and I’m taking my time with the story. Originally I had expectations of what had to happen when and when the story should look like. To be blunt, f*** that. Let the characters tell you what they feel like. Listening to them, exploring the story, is opening it up more than I ever dreamed.

Do you eat dinner with your friends with expectations of what they’ll say and when they’ll say it? Hell no. You sit back, have a few drinks, and let the night go where it does. Never mind that an evil empire is chasing after you. That’s a whole ‘nother problem.

Two days until Camp Nanowrimo officially begins!

Who Said Anything About a Deal?

Posted: March 29, 2015 by writingsprint in Fun Stuff
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1,325 words today, putting me 122 words ahead of schedule. Today Risha and Raffa had to think on their feet, in a scene that I wrote while waiting to get a haircut. The scene went pretty well. The haircut, not so much. Pfffft.

Fear Helps

Posted: March 28, 2015 by writingsprint in Fun Stuff
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fear will find you

“Why do we write?”

* * *

“You do not fear writing. You think this makes you strong. It makes you weak.”


“How can you write more than possible, imagine more than possible without the most powerful impulse of the spirit: the fear of writer’s block.”

“I do fear writer’s block. I fear that my stories will never be written, while I stare at the page every day, and my voice will never be heard.”

“Then write your story.”


“Pour the words onto the page. Then fear will find you again.”

1,366 words today: an argument, a revelation, and a touching family moment. Also some scenery and a little bit of jumping ahead as a seed for a scene in the future. Fear helps.

It’s funny, I feel a little guilty having success while writing several days ahead of the official start date. I do this to make it easy on myself. I started last November’s Nano several days ahead, too. If this was a competition I’d certainly wait until Wednesday to get started, but it’s not. This is all about the writing and encouraging people to write. Writing is hard enough without deliberately making it harder. I’m going to pour it on.

And thank you, Batman.

Camp Nanowrimo Inspiration

Posted: March 28, 2015 by writingsprint in Fun Stuff
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flawed diamond

Photo of a flawed diamond from the Wikipedia page “Perfect is the enemy of the good.”

My good friend Steve Phillips sent me some inspirational quotes for Camp Nanowrimo — which starts on Wednesday, in case you’re interested!

“A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” George S. Patton

“The perfect is the enemy of the good.” Voltaire

“Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.” Confucius

“Striving to be better, oft we mar what’s well.” Shakespeare, King Lear

The Pareto Principle: it takes 20% of the work to complete 80% of the work. (And believe me, that last 20% of the work really does take 80% of the effort.)

“Give them the third-best to go on with; the second-best comes too late, [and] the best never comes.” Sir Robert Watson-Watt, the developer of early warning radar for the British in World War II.

I’m all about making the story as good as I can, but now is not that time!


Posted: March 27, 2015 by writingsprint in Fun Stuff
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1,557 words tonight. I’m caught up and 63 words ahead of goal. Yay! The caper wrapped up and now we’re dealing with aftermath.

Lesson #1 for doing Nanowrimo: write your face off. Describe settings in detail. And characters. Wander. Try out ideas. Backtrack. Hop. Skip. Jump. Did I say wander? Otherwise, unless you have a rock-solid plan to write, or you have a talent for free writing, you’ll run out of gas halfway through or sooner.

Lesson #2: Even if the scene isn’t what you thought, the essence of it, your desire to write it, is burned in behind the words. You’ll kindle those embers when you edit it later. I’m finding that what I thought were holes in my story weren’t holes at all–they were undeveloped ideas that I’d refused to explore because I couldn’t see them working. Want to go for a swim? Dive in. Yes, I’m going to have to rewrite this entire thing later. So what. DIVE. IN.

Lesson #3: Discovering a character isn’t about getting inside their heads. It’s about letting them inside yours. (I’ve tacked this one up on my wall.)

Halloween Howls! Shadow and Shade on Sale!

Posted: October 31, 2014 by writingsprint in Fun Stuff
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For the next 24 hours only, dark fantasy Shadow and Shade will be on sale at Smashwords for only 99 cents!

Halloween wolf

Photo credit: “Halloween 2010” by Katie Brady at Flickr
Photo is unmodified
Shared under Creative Commons license

Here We Go

Posted: October 30, 2014 by writingsprint in Fun Stuff
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sticky notes

Risha took a cigar out of the maintenance panel and lit up. Money in the bank. She’d been in space for two weeks. It would be good to finally get home after this job was done. She thought the atmosphere on Nehol smelled funny. A little too much trace helium, people said. Cigars didn’t taste as good on the planet’s surface. She still thought real gravity beat fake gravity any day of the week.

556 words tonight. Soon that’ll only be 25% of my goal for the day. Whew…

I’m starting to make a run on using up all the sticky notes in the house. The picture above is a collection of different ideas for The Lost Princess that I came up with yesterday. They came to me while listening to Risha’s iTunes playlist. It’s a little Diana Krall, a lot of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, and some selected songs by Alicia Keys. Risha’s a sophisticated lady who knows how to get her hands dirty. I love using the stickies, but I need a better place to put them than the back of my laptop.

And So It Begins

Posted: October 26, 2014 by writingsprint in Fun Stuff
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I wrote a total of 1,281 words tonight, not counting this post — planning for Nanowrimo, National Novel Writing Month, which will hit in six days. I don’t know what if anything I’ll be able to post here while I’m working on it. Most of it will be summaries of how it’s going and the challenges I’m facing. I’ll do what I can to keep it interesting. If all goes well, I’ll be completely buried in the worlds and characters I’m creating and the daily posts won’t even scratch the surface.

The story is called “The Lost Princess,” and it’s the first book in my version of Risha’s story from Dubrillion Burning. We see her sent into exile as a child. She learns to survive and nurture her inner badass. As she comes into her own, she takes steps to retake her throne. I’m not too hot on the title but the story will tell me what that is. No worries there.

Tonight I wrote down 30 or 40 scene ideas that I came up with a few weeks ago. They’re a collection of scenes I’d like to see in the story. Some of them are based on ideas for the plot. Others are inspired from songs and scenes from movies or TV shows. Even quotes. One of my favorites is “Fire and Rage.” I don’t know what the scene looks like but I can’t wait to find out.

Then I took a movie that I thought expressed similar themes for this story, and I wrote down a quick list of every scene in the movie. is a beautiful thing. Mine won’t be the same structure. I’m not completely shameless 🙂 . There’s a saying: steal from the best, but make it your own. I’m going to take a good look at something someone did very, very well, and use it as inspiration for my own. That’s what I’m doing here. The movie is a story of a young hero taking his place on the stage where he belongs. His journey is darker than he imagined. That’s Risha’s story, too. She’s walking into a blackening storm.

If you want to track my progress in Nanowrimo, my ID is mattsd454. Happy writing!