Sunday, July 29, 2012

Twitterstories: Interview with Darren Cormier

Darren Cormier is a talented writer from the Boston area. I'm honored to be able to introduce you to Darren and his recently released A Little Soul: 140 Twitterstories, which are all under 140 characters in length.

Tell us about A Little Soul: 140 Twitterstories:
The book was started in May 2011. I had been reading a lot of Lydia Davis at the time: she writes stories that are sometimes no longer than one line. I tried to write a few stories in her style and decided to post one per week to my blog as a means to drum up interest. The idea actually worked and I started developing a little bit of a following and generating a lot of positive feedback. So I thought, “Why don’t I compile 140 of these and self-publish it as an eBook.” I presented the idea to my editor, and I didn’t shoot it down. About a year later, upon first coming up with the idea for a recurring blog entry theme, “A Little Soul” was born.

What made you decide to write Twitterstories?
I started practicing writing under constraints a few years back. It started as an effort to hone in my natural tendencies as a vomit drafter and rambling style. I started with trying to write a story in a page and it would morph into experiments without using certain letters. Writing under constraints forces you to choose all your words very carefully. The 140 character constraint of Twitter was just a natural evolution.

Any big plans for release date? Any rituals, parties we should know about?
I decided to have a soft release for the eBook portion, which was released on June 14. The print version should be available by the end of July. It’s going to be a print-on-demand version. I am strongly considering a reading at a couple of small venues in the Boston area, but I haven’t decided yet.  Everyone within a 5000 mile radius of the Boston area will know about it, though.

What are you working on now?
Right now I am revising a novella which was the centerpiece of my MFA thesis. I have also started a few short stories and essays, but those are only in the nascent stage.

Why do you write?
There’s a lyric from the song “The Origin of Love” by John Cameron Mitchell from Hedwig and the Angry Inch " that summarizes exactly my intentions as a writer: “I could swear by your expression that the pain down in your soul was the same as the one down in mine."
I’ve always been the person who is most interested in knowing your ugliest feelings, in being someone who everyone confides their shit to. You always feel better after you’ve talked things out with someone. And part of me wants to take those emotions and use it to show the pain inside each of my characters (and us) and, hopefully, by showing that pain, help them (and us) heal.
Also I’m not really good at much else, and I’m not awful at writing. And I love the sound of typing.

Other than writing, what is your claim to fame?
I invented the giraffe. And I’m also the only person to win the Triple Crown in baseball and horse racing.
Honestly, I’m not sure. I once got kicked out of a Crate & Barrel because I fell asleep on one of the beds.

What is life with Darren like right now?
From the outside it’s not terribly exciting. I spend a lot of time either reading, writing, or working. I work a lot. But to me it’s actually exciting, as over the past year and a half I’ve slowly been accomplishing a lot of personal goals that I’ve always wanted to do: publish a book, have semi-regular work as a writer and reporter, run my first marathon—I’m training for my first in October.  I ran my first official half marathon Memorial Day weekend. And I’m going sky-diving later this summer. Achieving personal goals, however you define it, doesn’t always result in the most exciting stories and can actually be a very solitary endeavor, but as long as it means something to you, then it’s an achievement.

What turns you on?
Intelligence; glasses; a love of books; a slightly offbeat sense of humor; eyes; I had a thing for short hair for a long time; confidence; ambition; honesty.

 Visit Darren's Website

 Follow Darren on Twitter @DarrenCormier 
 Buy A Little Soul: 140 Twitterstories

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Sculpt Those Flabby Writing Muscles! Guest Ciara Ballintyne

Wait! This is not about exercise! At least not the Olivia Newton John in fuchsia tights and a headband exercise. It is, however, about exercising your writing muscles, and no-one is in better shape (yeah, corny, I know) than my favorite fantasy writer, lawyer and Aussie (not Olivia) Ciara Ballintyne. Thank you, Ciara, for taking the time to share this:

When we begin to write, we know nothing. Our writing muscles are weak and flabby, having never been exercised. Or, it may be you have toned them in a specific way, to write a certain way, such as technical papers, and now they need to be trained to write fiction – like a sprinter training for a marathon.

We can learn a certain amount from watching, and writers do this by learning from what they read. The problem with this is:
  • ·Not everything you read will be quality and you may not (in the early days) be able to distinguish; and
  • ·Eventually you will get to the point where you know what you’re reading is better than what you’re writing, but you don’t know why.
Like an athlete trying to learn from watching, we can observe the effect, but we can’t always observe all the technical detail, or understand it if we can observe it. Why does a runner warm-up? Why does he run in a certain way? What is the strategy that goes into a marathon? None of these are things you can observe.

As your writing skill improves, you will know the sentence you are reading is better than yours but not why. And the why can’t be observed.  Through trial and error you may eventually figure out the why, but this is the long, hard way.

There is an easier (and much faster) way.

In my own learning curve, there have been three key events that accelerated my writing skills:
  1.        Joining a critique group;
  2.        Taking advantage of the advice of a freelance editor; and
  3.       Workshops.
Workshops – aerobics for your writing muscles!
These days, they are easily accessible online and often inexpensive as well. I mostly do mine through Savvy Authors, but there are plenty of others to choose from. In fact, if you want to see how serious I am about workshops, you can find the complete list of workshops I have completed on my website.
Workshops will teach you the technical details, the why you can’t learn from observation. Why does sentence length matter? Why are adverbs bad? Why are saidisms bad? How do I improve my sentence? Why does POV matter? How do I write better descriptions? How can I create better plots How do I create more conflict?

Even if you have been doing some of these things right before, a workshop may help you to better understand what you have been doing intuitively or unconsciously, and then you can make an effort to do more of it consciously.

As an example, I am plotting an outline for my next book at the moment. I’ve started from an outline I did previously, because when I plotted my last book, I plotted its sequel at the same time. Now I remember the last time I did this, when I went to write the book, I realised I had half a book badly in need of subplots.

This time, as I am writing it, I’m thinking:
  •   Has it got enough subplots?
  •  Why are the characters doing these things? Do they make sense?
  •  Is there enough conflict/tension?
  •  What do each of the characters want?
I couldn’t easily answer any of those questions just looking at the outline, but I simply thought ‘I will do a Goal Motivation Conflict’ chart. And that helps me to see what characters should be doing, what’s stopping them achieving their goals, and any other areas of potential conflict. Such a simple tool, but one of which I was unaware last time I outlined. In fact, I wasn’t even consciously asking the questions last time.

Now you may be aware of GMC charts already (or not), or you may not like to use structured tools (I do, because hey, let’s face it, I’m a lawyer and that’s how I think) but I assure you there is more to learn that just GMC charts, and you can apply the knowledge without using the structured tools if that’s your preference.

After all, the important thing I really took away from that workshop was not the GMC chart, but the knowledge to ask the questions I asked. Answering the questions can be done in a multitude of ways, in whatever manner best suits your writing process, but you can’t answer a question you don’t know to ask.

So if you haven’t already done so, go! Study! And learn. If you have used workshops, what did you study, and did you find it valuable?

For a list of the workshops I have attended, please visit my website!


The cracks in our souls bleed darkness. High fantasy. Poignant. Immersive. Gripping.


And I couldn't resist: 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Who Died and Made You an Expert? By Lorca Damon

If you’re ever unsure of the intelligence of the average human, go check out the comments section of any article on Yahoo or video posted to YouTube. It’s like the internet has given people the necessary anonymity to say whatever dumb thing pops into their little minds. Sadly, the same thing is true for book reviews.

Everyone who’s ever read a book is now an expert on writing, thanks to the ability to post reviews on the online sales pages of books. Whether you actually read the book cover-to-cover or if you just walked by the display in your local bookstore, you’re now able to write your comments for all the internet to see.

In the interest of full disclosure, here is the most aggravating review of my own book on autism:

“This book was okay if your child is younger. My son was diagnosed at age six and I had already put into place most of the practices discussed and was past other stages. If your child is older than 2, I recommend books by Ellen Notbohm and Paula Kluth instead.”

Let’s dissect this: first of all, her child is older than my child. HOW WAS THAT MY FAULT? You gave this book a 3-star review, thus dropping its status, because you squeezed your kid out before I did? Then you proceeded to completely shanghai my Amazon page with a COMMERCIAL FOR A DIFFERENT BOOK. That’s like me going to the Amazon page for THE HOLY BIBLE and writing, “Y’all should totally read The Torah, it’s way better.”

Now, I realize this sounds like me just venting some anger at a pointless review. Let me be the first to assure you that it’s not the case. I have two UGLY one-star reviews from people who absolutely hated my book and I respect them for having strong feelings about a topic and trying to share those feelings with others. I don’t like what they had to say, obviously, but I respect their opinions. This crappy review above, however, was just unnecessary.

As readers, we should make our points clearly and succinctly. I agree that having forked over some of my hard-earned cash to purchase a book does give me some right to voice an opinion on it. But as writers, we should stick to an honest evaluation of the writing in a book we review. I can read a book on a topic I don’t really care about but still be able to intelligently appraise the book’s value. I am literate enough to understand whether or not other readers will be able to appreciate the book or if they will have to put on their hip waders to muck their ways through its poor editing and outright rape of the English language.

Reviewing a book is an awesome responsibility. As a reviewer, I may unwittingly encourage one to spend their money or worse, stop someone from reading a life-changing book. It’s not a job I take lightly, and I would hope that other writers feel the same way.

 Lorca Damon is a teacher in a juvenile correctional facility and staff writer for Her first non-fiction title, Autism By Hand, is an Amazon bestseller and her first fiction title, The Earth is for Dancing, was recently published as well. She is also one of the funniest people I know.  You should stalk her at

Her website:
Twitter: @LorcaDamon
Good E-Reader

Sunday, July 8, 2012

You Wrote A Book? You? Justin Bog?

There have been a few strange and funny reactions to the news that I published a book, Sandcastle and Other Stories -- finally. I know my friends are happy for me, family too. If you're following my life writing, I grew up in a family that usually doesn't praise good news. We move onto something more worthwhile to speak about when together, like the state of the world, the evening news report, eschewing graciousness like pros. 

I don't take this personally -- it's a stolid Midwestern trait; don't toot your own horn, and don't express any emotion when someone does toot his or her horn. Boy, am I guilty of that now. I've toyed with the idea of constructing a sandwich-board sign so I can walk the downtown Seattle streets on weekends with the words, in all caps, saying: BUY MY COOL BOOK -- don't think I haven't thought about it more than once. Maybe I could write off the expense, add a bell to ring. It is what it is. But, WHOA, my little brother, for the first time I can recall, wrote me an email saying what a great accomplishment the book is. Loved that. Goes into the saved email folder. Yin and yang. 

My father, who is the artist who created the painting the Sandcastle and Other Stories book cover art is taken from, couldn't even see the book because he has a Nook, but he was really happy; he is my number one creative influence, and he understands all the long hours that go into creating a work that someone will look at for a second -- read in my case (or not) -- and form a quick opinion, good or bad, and then keep on moving to the next bright and shiny bauble. 

Usually people love to share negative thoughts more than positive. Why is that?

Thank you, Kelly, for giving me a space on your blog to speak about writing, my writing life, Sandcastle and Other Stories, and the reactions people have to the news. I love this saying: If you want to clear a room, a French cafe, or a crowded beach, yell: "I've got a manuscript!"

I've said this before on my own blog: it's hard to get someone to read short fiction. Most people, readers, wouldn't think about choosing a collection of short stories to read; to them the novel rules. Time to read must be found too, and in this busier Social Media world, fewer and fewer people sit down to read books.

One of the first people I told, one of my closest family friends, even said this to me the next split second, putting my news off immediately, when I was calling to tell her about Sandcastle and Other Stories finally being available at Amazon. The first response to my happy news was, "I'm also getting my photographs ready to go to form my own book this Summer. It'll be a collection of the best floral photos from my blog paired with great quotes. Isn't that wonderful?"

"Yes, that's terrific."

She went on, "I can't wait to get this book out." Now she was completely oblivious to the fact that I had just called and said, hey, I just published my first ebook.
I steered the conversation back, "It took a lot of time to get Sandcastle and Other Stories out, get all the behind-the-scenes things like formatting, book cover, final copyediting run-throughs finished."

"Well, you know, Justin, I don't like reading short stories." All I thought was: Thank you for being a friend. And that song played in my head all day.

I listened some more and nodded and hung up with the dazed expression of the blindsided. I have longtime friends through Twitter, Facebook, Triberr, who have never replied a word about it either -- too busy. Everyone is on a separate journey, and I don't take it personally, even if I'm sharing these quirky response stories here -- I'm a follower of The Four Agreements, its philosophy, a book I recommend to everyone. 

I do get wonderful reactions as well. A tennis mate just told me he finished reading the stories. He only reads the classics, is on a Sinclair Lewis binge presently, but he took the time to read the ten tales. He said, "The short story Sandcastle..." ~then he mimed a WHOA~ "Your writing has a good cadence."

The other funny reaction came from a couple who I met not too long ago, from Southern California. Steve, took a photo of his wife, Sharon, in a nice nightgown (all proper!), holding up her kindle; her shocked expression was hilarious. The photo caption: Reading the end of Sandcastle.

The best to you for reading, and I hope you enjoy the tales if you end up reading them. I highly recommend them. If you have your own stories out, please let me know so that I can congratulate you; just point me in the right direction, but, please, don't tell me on a beach or in a Paris cafe.

Find me on Twitter @JustinBog 

Visit my blog at

Buy Sandcastle and Other Stories at Amazon by clicking here.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

What's a Writer Without a Few Issues? by D.C. McMillen

The fabulous D.C. McMillen:

Thanks for letting me take up a bunch of space on your blog today, Kelly! I am so happy to be here. The change of scenery suits me, I think.  ;)

As I’m writing this, I’m sitting on my sofa willing my boyfriend to shut the television off so he’ll stop distracting me with inane questions like, “Did he just say RPM’s? What’s rotating on that machine? NOTHING, that’s what! How big of an idiot is this narrator?” Of course I assume the question is rhetorical and so I don’t bother answering. Instead I offer sort of a murmur that will likely be construed as agreement.

What’s that? Why don’t I bother to move my ass off the sofa and go write in another room, you ask? Well, the boyfriend and I live in a 630 sq ft unit. Short of forcing the dog and cat to share the prime real estate that is our bed or locking myself in the washroom, there is not really anywhere for me to hide away inside this apartment. Yes, I’m aware I could go to the coffee shop downstairs and partake in their free internet but that would involve showering and running a brush through my hair. Besides, the boyfriend will leave for work, sooner rather than later if my Jedi mind tricks work their magic.

Okay, it’s time to fess up. Life’s distractions that often hit me in the form of an angry boyfriend yelling at Myth Busters or How It’s Made, an hour long conversation with my mother about whether or not going together for Botox injections could be considered a good bonding experience or just a fun night out, and my as of yet incurable Twitter addiction are only part of my writing problems. I’m in a mood for baring my soul, people, so now I am going to confess my real issue:

I am not an efficient writer.

Don’t get me wrong, I consider myself a talented writer (I say with only a hint of egotism). I simply go through phases that involve an extreme lack of discipline.

My stories usually start with a spark. I see a man on the subway, a picture in a magazine, or perhaps overhear a ludicrous conversation at the dog park and my creative mind cranks into overdrive. I reach for my laptop and the fingers start flying across the keyboard. After a thousand words or so, I look back over what I’ve written and begin formulating a plot, notes, and developments. Or not. Sometimes I dismiss the writing as pure rubbish. Sometimes I genuinely like the beginnings of my story but I am distracted by another prompt that turns me in a new direction. And then another. By the end of, say, a month I may have half a dozen stories saved on my computer that are nowhere near completion.

Obviously, this lack of follow through can make one feel a little discouraged. Now, if I was writing this confession even just a year ago, I might have replaced discouraged with utterly fucking hopeless. Thankfully I have learned a thing or two since I first started down this road. I may start several stories that go nowhere, yes. But then I write something that somehow grips me to the point that the characters will not let go until I have finished their story. I launch into a writing frenzy, barely popping up for air, and I don’t stop until I’ve typed the words The End. And then I delete the words The End because who really ends a story with that these days?

Luckily my lack of discipline does not extend to the editing phase. I’m not sure why this is but my current theory is that my brain does not consider the story truly complete until it’s out of my hands and sitting in the inbox of a publisher.

So, dear viewers, now that I’ve revealed my serious issues with writing, why not reveal a couple of your hurdles? Come on...we’re friends now, right?

D.C. McMillen lives in Toronto, Canada. She enjoys writing about dirty sex in questionable places but has been known to write about other subjects, on special occasions. D.C. is featured in MuseItHot’s Short & Spicy line up with The Rental and the upcoming story A Decent December. Her debut novella, The Rusty Nail, was recently published through Rebel Ink Press, and she is featured in several sexy anthologies.
D.C. is obsessed with Twitter and invites you to look her up at @mcmillendc, her blog, or on Facebook, where she goes sometimes.