You Wrote the Last Best Seller…CONGRATULATIONS!

I paid a short visit to the candy store that is Barnes and Noble this week and found myself, of all places, in the Philosophy isle. Okay, it was by accident that I ended up there but none-the-less I thoughtfully chose a book from the shelf with regard to intellectual growth. Yeah, that didn’t happen either. The cover of the Hunger Games did grab my attention though and when I pulled the book from the shelf, thinking that it was in the wrong section, I discovered that it was actually entitled, “The Hunger Games and Philosophy ” As I looked further I discovered that there were other books dedicated to the success of vampire stories and zombie stories. Why in the name of all that is warm and breathing are we so hypnotically drawn to the un-dead?

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Well, it’s nothing new. In fact, one of the first vampire stories, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, was written in 1897. The first feature length zombie film was featured in 1936, entitle, White Zombie. So why the resurfacing trend? One word, MONEY. But it’s not what you think. It’s more about the lack of money than the making of it. Society gravitates towards grim tales when times are hard. Basically recessions bring out the monsters. In the 30s monsters and horror films were on the rise and and our stock market was on the fall.

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So why blood sucking vampires and flesh eating zombies? Why not GODZILLA or the BLOB? It’s about meat. Yes, ground chuck, T-bone, drum stick, meat. In the past it’s been hard to come by during recessions and war time, even being rationed at times. People associate meat with strength and feel as though without it they are weak. So we invent immortal monsters that will seek it out for us as we live vicariously through them. It’s also a reason why we’ve seen a recent rise in vegitarianism and veganism (I being the latter.)

Vegitarians and Vegans are, on the whole, not the norm. Meat eaters, lets face it, you don’t get it, right? Why would you give up BACON?! Oh sweet bacon, how I miss thee….eh-hem, sorry about that. Well according to this philosophy, meat eaters seek meat for strength and the Vs seek veggies for the same reason. They abandon the ideas that meat is the only source of power and look for alternatives in hard times. They’re those few strange individuals that like to play against the odds.

So, congratulations! You didn’t know that you were the one’s who decided what the recent Best Sellers would be about ,did you?

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The Beast that is Your Query

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I’ve talked before about query resources. Frankly, I couldn’t have developed a query without them.Here is a link that sums up some valuable information for your query letter. It’s a animal all its own and if your pet is like mine it evolves into something a little more civilized with each batch of queries I send out.

What I learned from Query Shark.

Or if you want to go straight to the source you can visit Query Shark yourself at queryshark.blogspot.com/

I’ll leave you with a few of my favorites:

Immediately get into the story. Don’t start with an introductory paragraph; don’t put the title and word count in the first paragraph. Put this information in the last paragraph. Agents seem to be split about this, but according to Ms. Reid, “A quick drop into cold water is EXACTLY how you want to start a novel (and thus a query.)” She says the very first word in the query should be the main character’s name. Describe what he/she wants and what is preventing him/her from getting it.

– Don’t start with a log line––aka, a one-sentence summary of the entire plot.

– Don’t start your query with a quote or random fact. (i.e. “Did you know that a thousand elephants turn purple every year?” … Obviously this is just an example, and not actually true.)

– Don’t start with a rhetorical question. (i.e. “Have you ever wondered what it feels like to be a purple elephant?”)

– Don’t start with clichés. (i.e. “In a world …”)

It’s the end of the world. I think I’ll wreck the car.

endIt was an atypical start to a most significant day….the final day. (Play along , all right?) I can almost pinpoint the moment when I just gave up. I let go and thought, “It’s all out of my control now,” and then I must have closed my eyes because I remember darkness until after the impact. A whip of the neck and a crack to the head….jostle, jostle. It’s quiet…OH MY GOSH THE KIDS! My eyes open and I turn around. My son laughs, “THAT WAS AWESOME!” I assess the damages. We’ve carved ourselves into a deep ditch and we’re facing the opposite direction we were driving in. As soon as I know we’re all in tact the shaking starts and the only word I manage to utter is, “STUPID!” In my defense I was traveling 20 miles per hour on a straight patch. I’m blaming it on the wind. What a way to start a day…..possibly a harbinger of things to come? Eh?

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It’s not the first time we’ve predicted the end.

In 1954 predictions pointed to the end of the world in 1976, and Canadian psychic Winnifred Barton said the world would end on June 13 1976.

I’m a generation X-er so I remember 88 Reasons Why the World Will  End in 1988 and who can forget Y2K. What a clever label for our demise. Anyone seeing a pattern here? It seems that every 12 years society feels a strong desire to reconnect with mortality.

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This cultural obsession with the end  is truly a socio-indicator. It’s  the  way frogs show the condition of their environment because of their thin skin. (Yeah, you didn’t know that? They breath through their skin and if there are any contaminants in the water they’ll start mutating or dying off….true story.) So, our obsessions are like frogs, (stay with me) they indicate our fears, our desires and our needs. I believe that our advancements, as humans, have detached us from some of our most basic characteristics: a need for dependence on someone that controls the universe and a connection with mortality. In a day where super heroes are glorified, the un-dead and the immortal are  exalted, we’ve lost touch with a certain spiritual side of existence that has been a part of humanity since….oh, the beginning. We abandon the idea of our fleeting existence for the notion of permanence.  But our innate spirituality is involuntary, we can’t help ourselves. No matter how advanced we become we’ll continue to be drawn to our spiritual dependence.

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So be honest, how many of you are going to stay up to see if the 21st rolls in or not? I have to say I’m tempted. It almost seems like turning my back on the possibility of the impossible if  I don’t and I’m really hoping for the impossible in many aspects of my life right now. If I abandon this likelihood then I might as well walk away from the rest of my impossible notions. While I’m trying not to be too literal about it, January first will be  my one year anniversary as a vegan and my husband (who’s also vegan) says we should celebrate the end of the world by eating a big FAT juicy steak. Hmm….tempting. I think I’ll go out a vegan though.

So there it is, quite possibly my last blog ever. If it’s not I think I’ll start planning our next idea for demise 12 years from now and if it is…I’ll see ya on the flip side!

Beauti-FULLY Frazzled

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Just shy of two weeks ago I promised you greatness. I thought about feeding you some line about how good things are worth waiting for but decided to stick with the truth instead:  greatness was pushed to the side and logistic practicalities took its place. Poor greatness; there are so many things that need our attention that it is sorely neglected. For instance, I’ve been interrupted during this post 5 times to be enlightened about the art of stacking dominoes and by requests for the third after-dinner snack within the hour.

While I’m being honest I might as well purge. I’ve been in one of those moods. You know the one that makes you see the world through Eeyore colored glasses? The mood settled over me like a heavy grey cloud brought on by daily demands and the rigor of keeping up holiday traditions, all while selling and buying a house simultaneously. Ah….you know the mood?

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Well allow me to prescribe the antidote. First swallow a large dose of “don’t beat yourself up” then write yourself a prescription of “this is when I’m going to get back into the game” and finally boost your immunity by taking a little time to get together with a friend who will set you straight and get you back on track. Then you’ll be able to focus on the task at hand so you can get back to what you love to do. Say it with me: The chaos is only temporary!

My last post was about asking “What If.” My what ifs have been a wonderful place to retreat during the insanity of the season. The torture has been not being able to get them on paper. Today I got a chance to do that and it was like a great release. Maybe you have to stay up an hour after bed time or scribble on a napkin at lunch but DO IT!

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I’ll leave you with a what if concept and another promise. A friend gave me an idea, that I plan on trying once we’ve settled into our new home, for a what if dinner party. Get friends together to develop a short story over dinner, solely based on what ifs. If you’re not an entertainer do it around the dinner table. And finally, my promise to you: I won’t fall off the face of the earth again, I promise. Eh-hem….but if I do I promise to take the antidote.

 

What If Your Husband Was A Real Zombie (Part Two of The Land That Ideas Come From)

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You’ve been asked the question, “What are you reading right now?” and you explain that it’s this great story about a young alien prince with super vision who’s vacationing on the moon and out of everyone on earth, he spots one girl that he falls instantly in love with, despite the vast distance that separates them. The inquirer’s eyebrows narrow and a look of confusion overtakes his face. You want to defend the heart warming story that you can’t put down until 2a.m .every night but instead you tell him, “You’ll just have to read it to understand.”

Some of the most inspired and successful novels sound absurd when we try to explain the plot: a vampire falls helplessly for a girl whom he’s just met, a man meets God in the form of a large black woman in a shack where his daughter was murdered, children from the districts are forced yearly to fight to the death for the enjoyment of the colorfully painted and ridiculously dressed, members of the capital. WHERE does the inspiration for these stories come from? Would it be too cliche-ish to say, from all around us? It’s true.

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This sort of inspiration takes a wild imagination and two little words: WHAT IF. What if my husband was a real zombie? What if I fell into a black hole? What if my body could create its own food through chemical processes like a plant? Many times the ‘what if’s’ are inspired by real world events. For example,  weeks ago, Red Bull sponsored a deadly stunt, a free fall from the stratosphere in an attempt to break the sound barrier with a falling human. They sent some dude into space in a little steel pod lifted by a gynormous helium balloon and he jumped….he STINKIN’ jumped!

This is where the opportunity arises for your imagination to go wild. What if. What if traveling at mach-3 somehow rearranged this guy’s atomic structure giving him the super human ability to travel at the speed of sound? What if, while in the stratosphere, he witnessed something, something that shouldn’t be there, a government secret he shouldn’t have seen. It’s the “what ifs” that inspire sensational stories.

Practice what-ifing today and see what you come up with. If anything, it’s entertaining!

My next blog will be about some moving stories that might inspire you to ask some what-if questions of your own.