Thursday, February 27, 2014

7 Fun Facts From That Time I Met Bigfoot

This is my "I kind of hate myself, but had
 to see" look. Strangely enough, it's a little
blurry, like most Bigfoot photos.
Tuesday evening I went to the Alamo Drafthouse for the tour stop of Bigfoot hunter Rick Dyer's alleged Bigfoot corpse. Dyer is not well-liked, to put it nicely, by most of the Bigfoot community, but since I have a middle grade novel manuscript about a girl with cryptozoologist parents, I pretty much had to go. You know, research. And one of the characters in the book, Jethro Muggins, wants to hunt down and kill the Lake Champlain monster, so attending a presentation by someone who claims to have killed Bigfoot (with no regrets) seemed especially appropriate.

(So, I was there as a curious writer; I'm not a bigfooter or any kind of expert on cryptids, and there are plenty of people who are knowledgeable about the field who've written about Rick Dyer and his antics, and those are easy to find through an online search if you want to learn more).

The Q&A session was quite entertaining, lively, and unintentionally funny. Here are just a few of my favorite moments from the night:

1. I knew we were in for a good night when an announcement on the screen advised us that the presentation was "...strickly for educational purpose's." [sic that to infinity]

2. The manager told us before the show that few members of Dyer's Team Tracker weren't able to attend this leg of the tour, since they're in Dallas protecting a woman's house from a Bigfoot attack. This is probably the greatest thing I've ever heard.

3. Dyer says he was wearing only boxer shorts when he shot the Bigfoot, which was running away from him after taking the rack of ribs that he'd bought as bait from Wal-Mart.

4. Dyer's new Porche and his $100,000 RV are proof that his Bigfoot is real, because why would people pay him to see something fake? I don't see how any of us can find anything wrong with that logic.

5. When asked how he moved the 800-pound corpse after killing it, he says that he carried it to a rented freezer truck with the help of "several homeless people." Since he'd claimed an investor paid him $9 million for the body, the interviewer said that maybe it would've been nice to have used a little of that money to buy a house for those homeless people. Dyer thought that was pretty funny. On another note, those are the most ripped homeless people ever.

From there the corpse was hauled to a university for DNA testing. No word on what university or when he'll reveal the results of that DNA evidence.

6. An audience member asked Dyer why anyone should believe his claims, since he's been involved in hoaxes before, like this one in 2008 in which the Bigfoot he'd captured turned out to be a costume. He said that he really did have a Bigfoot body back then, but "the government" confiscated it. Then he got caught up in the hoax-y part, purchasing a Bigfoot suit so he'd have something to show people who'd been waiting to see the body.

Oh, and if you're wondering what branch of government shows up to take your Bigfoot corpse? "They arrived in black helicopters, and they wore black suits. So, The Men In Black."

Wait, does this mean Bigfoot is an alien? I'm confused.

7. After the presentation we got to view the body in its glass case. A man in front of me asked why the
fingers of the hands seemed fused together, and the Team Tracker attendant said that it's because of the resin used in taxidermy. "You know, like when you get a deer stuffed." I admit I'm no taxidermist, and I'm no hunter, but, um, what?

I heard later that Dyer tells a different story about the unifinger: Bigfoot uses friction to start fire with his hands, and his hands are scarred from catching fire. I imagine that incident going something like this:

So there you have it, just a few of the evening's highlights. Here's a parting shot from the big guy himself:

Darn you, honey BBQ sauce

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

6 Writing Lessons From Dogs

Comparing the dogs I've had reminds me of how different we writers are. Our goal is the same—craft stories that readers love—but how we reach that goal varies wildly.

I think we all know how smart dogs are and what great examples they offer about how to live. So let's look at a few lessons we can learn from them about how to be better writers:

1. Get out and play, but don't get lost
I will not leave your sight, human.
Some writers are like my last dog, Lacey. I could walk her without a leash, because she was never going to stray from the path. (She'd been a street dog, so maybe she was over the need to wander). But, she didn't know how to play. I tried introducing her to different toys, only to be met with blank stares. If Lacey were a writer, she'd outline every detail of a novel before starting the draft, and she'd stick to that outline until “The End.” She'd also miss out on some fun discoveries she might have come across if she allowed herself to explore new paths.

I'm a writer more like my current dog, Holly. She's the same breed as Lacey, but they couldn't be more different. Holly's an escape artist, always looking for a chance to take off and run free. If I let her off the leash, I have no idea where she'd end up, and neither does she. And she sure can play.
Yes, I do need all the toys out at once

When I first took her to a dog park, I thought she'd take off like a greyhound as soon as she was off the leash. To my surprise, she wandered around the park, played in a mud puddle, then came back and sat next to me when she was ready to go. The fence provided just enough of a boundary that allowed her to explore and have fun without getting lost.
Wait, I see a puddle I missed

I also enjoy long walks
on the beach, as long as
I can see my people
Spike, the bulldog I grew up with, struck the right balance. He'd play soccer with us in the front yard, but he wasn't going to stray from home.

I'm not at all an outliner; I love seeing the story unfold as I write it. When writing CHAINED, I stumbled across some of my favorite plot points while researching or brainstorming new scenes. But, I can get lost if I have no structure. One reason the book took me so long to write is that I had no idea what was going to happen from one chapter to the next (and I'm easily distracted). Now when I write, I plan a few turning points. I still have the freedom to explore and discover the story as I go, but the stepping stones keep me from ending up lost in the wilderness.

2. Treat yourself
Find your own bacon bone
This is pretty self-explanatory, right? Anyone with a dog knows how much they enjoy their treats. It's a lot of work to get a book written, and finding ways to celebrate the small successes along the way can help us stay motivated. When you finish an especially difficult chapter, knock out a first draft, or finally hit "send" on a manuscript, treat yourself to a cupcake, a movie, or even a bone made of bacon if that's what you're into.

3. Form a pack
Dogs know the importance of traveling in packs. The wisest thing I did as a new writer was acknowledge that I couldn't succeed alone. My extended group of writer friends celebrates the successes of each member and offers support through the tough times.
As authors, we have the unique opportunity to let our readers know that they, too, are not alone. Reading is a solitary activity, yet stories make us feel less isolated. In the right story, we find our pack.

4. Do a little dance when your family comes home
Okay, maybe you don't have to dance, but at least look up from your work and say hi. I don't know what dogs are doing while we're out. For some reason Holly likes to Houdini her way into the garage as soon as I step out. For all I know she's building a flying car out there, but whether I've been at work all day or I've just stepped out to check the mail, she runs to the door to greet me and then does a few victory laps around the house when I get back. We won't be around forever, so it's nice to let our people know we're happy we're together for now.

5. Enjoy the moment
There's a lot about writing and publishing that we can't control. The story we're working on might not sell, and even if it does, some people won't like it. The only thing we can do is write the best book possible. And let's remember to enjoy the process along the way. There's a reason you started writing. Even though we have our struggles, we get some joy out of it too.
Dogs are great at living in the moment. Throw them a stick and they're not worried about what happened yesterday or what they're going to do tomorrow. They're just going to chase the stick for now. Holly had been neglected and was in pretty bad shape when she was turned in to a shelter last year, but as far as I can tell she's put that all behind her and seizes every opportunity to run around with a squeaky football.

6. After your hard work, get some rest
I know, you have more words to write today, but remember to take care of yourself. Your brain won't work as well if you're exhausted.
Stop and take breaks, and get plenty of sleep. Those squirrels aren't going to chase themselves, and you'll need your energy.

Yes, this is an acceptable mentor

Any other ideas, dog people? What else can writers learn from dogs?