Monday, April 26, 2010

Get a Routine? Me?

I always thought that was for - you know - THEM.

I was the free spirit who shuddered at the thought,
I lived behind the Eight Ball, over-whelmed.
Until now, it seems.

Not that I'm one of those awful SCHEDULED people.
I just have, you know, a day set aside for - stuff.

It's just the same day, every week.
It's not a rut.
It's not!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Antagonists – Identifying and Strengthening

I believe that biggest weakness in both Fantasy and Romance novels today is the Antagonist, or Villain. Poor character development in this area may not be the 'kiss of death,' but it is the 'kiss of mediocracy.'

Which may be a 'fate worse than death.'

Hannibal Lecter, without his Chianti, is just another Leather Face.

I think it is important to acknowledge the genius of Thomas Harris in creating the character of Hannibal. Though I often disparage one-dimensional villains as the type that 'eat babies for breakfast' I do so with a nod to the man who created Hannibal Lecter, because in many respects, Hannibal is so deliciously scary because he's NOT just another Jason or Leather Face.

So, having credited Harris for one of the greatest villains in modern film, we must also credit Anthony Hopkins for bringing this incredible, frightening man to life on the screen. Take your bows gentlemen; I salute your genius, even as I seek to learn from it.

Your Villain may be your best character.

Wouldn't you LOVE to have a villain who stands in a shining spotlight of his/her own; the Master Mind behind it all, who brings your readers back, book after book? I've given it my best shot creating Van Man Go for 'Swallow the Moon.'

I'm not too shy to admit that I had help. Nor am I afraid to admit that I'm going back to the same place to work on my villain for 'Tempest'. Which brings me back to Donald Maas and his 'Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook.'

Maas has an outline specifically for Antagonists. He breaks it down to six steps. (I quote the following word for word.)

Step One: What is your Antagonist's main problem or goal?

Step Two: What does your antagonist most want?

Step Three: What is the second plot layer for your antagonist?

Step Four: What are the five most important steps toward your antagonist's goal, or toward solving her central problem or conflict? A different way to ask this is: What are the five events, actions or high points, with respect to your antagonist, that you could not possibly leave out?

Step Five: What are the three most important steps toward, or away from, your antagonist's greatest need?

Step Six: Using the material from the above steps, outline the novel from the antagonist's point of view.

Mind you, I won't pretend that I follow all of Maas' suggestions. (This is far beyond my abilities at present.) What brings me back to this workbook, time after time, is that he suggests things that I've never considered. These suggestions always challenge me to add more to the story.

I shall close this post with another quote from Maas:

"Conclusion: We are not accustomed to thinking of villains as being on an inner journey, but what human being is not? Humanize your villain. Motivate his actions with kindness. Let her be heroic, helpful, and principled. Hannah Ardent wrote of the "banality of evil." For fiction writers, that means creating, not passionless cruelty but evil that wears a compassionate face."

One day, I will 'break out.' I hope you do as well.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Great Fence Project

I survived, in spite of the expense - I still have problems writing checks that size.

They did an excellent job. Which was a relief - 'once burned, twice shy' takes on a whole new meaning when it applies to contractors.

Here is the view from the porch. Strong corners and a four panel wooden fence in the front. There will be no more retrieving stray horses in the pre-dawn hours. (Knock on wood.)

We have a hot (electrified) top wire to keep the horses from pushing down the fence or chewing the board fence in front. The wire mesh fence is stretched as tight as piano wire. I'll bet Emma could play guitar on it.

They used a tractor with some kind of hammer attachment to install the fence posts. The ground is soft, so it took only a couple of hammer blows to drive each 8 foot pole 3 feet into the ground. They re-hung the gates on end supports. I doubt the gates will sag in my lifetime.

The view from the porch has changed, and I'm happy to see it. Spring is the most beautiful season. I even love dandelions.

One thing I've missed this year is the vetch flowering. Usually, the rolling fields are painted a lovely red-violet by crown vetch. I can't describe the beauty of it - hundreds of acres of purple rolling hills. It's enough to have me singing 'God Bless America' every time I drive by a field of it. This year there wasn't any. I suppose that all the spraying they do now has killed the vetch.

What a shame.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Poppet Interviews Queen Tantrum

Greetings y'all, I'm back long enough to relay this link for you.

We, the ladies of cyber-space need to stick together, and promote one another's work. This is a two-fer, I get to plug both Poppet and Emma. 

Poppet Interviews Queen Tantrum

This was a revealing look at one of the most interesting ladies I met on Authonomy, by another of the most interesting ladies.

A hard rain and a cold snap has set fence construction back a day. Therefore I had time to track down a Face Book link. I'll update the Great Fence Construction Project when I've got more time. Like when it's over. Until then, enjoy.

Monday, April 5, 2010

I'll be Back - Really

Well, farm life has become a priority for me.

If it appears that I've dropped off the face of Cyber Space, I have.

It started when the neighbor called to tell us that the old gelding was in the neighbor's yard. I'm not sure how he got out of the fence, the old boy wasn't telling.

This week the old fence is coming down - I'm have a heart attack just thinking about it! - So new fence can go up. I've got the round pen to contain the horses. They won't like it - but they will survive for a week in a confined space. Should the mares get cranky they can't corner the old gelding.

 There will be the 'new grass' issue, once the the fence is up. Water to haul and other details to handle.

I'll be back - soon enough.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Spring Chickens

Yesterday was a big day for me. Really, no joke.

My incubated eggs started to hatch, signaling the beginning of spring.

In early March, I brought a bunch of eggs in the house, even though I've had no luck hatching eggs these last few years. I'm serious, I'm talking zero chicks out of five batches.

Last fall, I managed to hatch out a few, but only two survived the winter - both roosters that I gave away. The duck hatched out more chicks than I did.

Yesterday my luck changed. Five chicks hatched out.

Why is this important? Purchasing chicks sets me back anywhere from $3 to $5 per chick. I start with a loss, need to feed them all summer, they start laying in the fall. It takes all winter to make my money back. If I hatch them, I get a head start.

If one of the hens would hatch them, I'd make money. So far, only Smudge has hatched any eggs. She hatched three chicks, three years ago. Not a good track record.

I'm afraid that I picked a breed that isn't very fertile. The Dominique or Dominiker may have fallen out of favor as a production chicken for that reason.

I thought my old rooster was the problem. But he's been gone two years now. His son, Sony, is a fine looking rooster - the current flock of hens is all Barred Rocks. I'm going to have to candle the eggs that are left to see if chicks formed. If I get a lot of 'clear' eggs, I'll know there is a fertility problem. Since this flock of hens is only a year old - I don't really need a replacement flock.

Since they are banded, I can tell the hens apart. It's been handy. I know that Seven likes high places. Six is currently sitting on a nest of duck eggs. If Six keeps it up, I'll give her a nest of chicken eggs. She can try her luck at raising chicks.

I'm not so good at it.