Monthly Archives: June 2013

Sunday Excerpt 6-30-2013

(Apologies to anyone who popped in before now.  Somehow the snippet didn’t save before this posted.)

It’s Sunday again!  That means time for another excerpt of some book or other.

This week it is from Sanguine, and old WiP that I hope to finish someday.  It’s a science fiction/fantasy novel.  The title is the name of the luxury star cruiser that is owned and captained by Kaen Yblis – a Vampire.  The first Vampire.   But he’s not a Vampire as we know them.  The ones that we know are (in my world) called Ferrastin, and they are… well, they are vampires as we know them.   Gregor is Kaen’s Blood Slave.  Kaen has been missing for generations, and Gregor’s family has kept the old ways alive, waiting for their Master to return.

Gregor and his uncle were held captive by a Ferrastin who wanted them to surrender to her, to give her their blood line.  Kaen has just killed one of her minions and learned where to find her, and Gregor, not knowing that Kaen knows where she is, has asked if they are going to return to Earth now.

 “No.”  Kaen’s voice was curt.  “We continue to the Kirril quadrant. I have some unfinished business there.”  He turned and looked at Gregor.  “I know where to find the Ferrastin, and she will pay for what she has done.”  As he spoke he crossed the room to Gregor.  “She will pay for hurting my people, for hurting you.”  Gentle fingers stroked Gregor’s cheek as his rage was replaced by the love that had driven it.  “I promise you, Gregor, she will pay.”

(That seems like an awfully long set up for a short snippet… Sorry ’bout that!)

Check out Weekend Writing Warriors and Sunday Snippets for great stuff from other writers.

Camp NaNoWriMo starts on Monday, so for the next month my Sunday snippets will be from whatever I’ve written that week.

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Insanity

I have defined NaNoWriMo as “a month long ascent into insanity.”  It is also addictive and demanding – it drives you to write, to create.  As proof I offer the following:

In November of 2011 I became officially insane.  I was a brand new ML (Municipal Liaison) for NaNoWriMo — a volunteer organizer of local write ins, etc. I was also working full-time and going to school part-time.  And I was writing two novels in one month.

Why?  Because I had two story ideas and a stunning lack of decision-making ability.  One had more plot, but the other had a couple characters that had been kicking around for a while, and, no, they would not fit into the other plot.  So, since I couldn’t decide which to write, I wrote both.

And they both hit 50k.

How did I do it?  Beats me!  Shameless word-padding was part of it.

And planning.   I had a series of small papers due for a class.  There was no deadline other than “before the end of the semester” so I got them done and turned in before the end of October, freeing up loads of time in November.  I was happy. The prof was happy.  Everyone else thought I was a brown-noser.

And not being critical of what I was writing – that came later.  I let odd things happen.  I got silly.  I got dark.  And out of the silliness came some things I loved, and out of the darkness came some massive changes.  (Yeah, both books are waiting for a re-write.)

Writing in every spare moment was another:  I had scheduled a lot of write-ins and I went to all of them, except two.  One I missed because of an asthma attack triggered by potpourri in the bathroom at the library, and the other one…

The other one was the first write in of the month.  On the first of November, no less.  I had to miss it because the hot water tank declared war on the carpeted basement floor, my roommate was an hour and a half away having lunch with her mother, and the shut off valve was stuck.  (Yeah, that’s the way to get NaNoWriMo off to a good start… )

So, yeah: working full-time, going to school part-time, ML’ing for the first time… 30 days, 100,000 words…

And, sadly, no men with white coats.

I needed the men with the white coats.

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Writer’s Block

Some people say that there is no such thing as writer’s block.  They say that it is just laziness, an unwillingness to do the work.  And maybe sometimes it is.

But whether or not you believe in it, there are times when the words just won’t flow, when you can’t seem to think about what happens next, or, if you know what happens next, you still feel “stuck” in trying to get there.

One thing that helps me is to have a plan.  It doesn’t have to be a formal outline like they teach you to make in school, just a general list of things to do and places to go.  In my current WiP (Work in Progress) I was stalled out, completely unable to write more than a couple hundred words a day despite my best intentions and best efforts.  I knew what the characters needed to do (the climax) but I kept stalling at getting them to it, mostly because I wasn’t sure what all had to happen between where I was and where we were headed.   So I sat down and came up with a brief (very brief!  it only had three things on it) list of things that needed to happen and put them in order.  Then I reminded myself that it’s a rough draft and the (nearly non-existent) segue could be fixed later.  And I started writing.  It’s choppy but it’s forward motion.  I added 1546 words in one day.

Another recent case in point:  I was at the climax of a novel — a large battle scene — and, even though I had a very detailed outline and knew what needed to happen, I was resistant to writing it.  It wasn’t that I was coming to the end of the book and didn’t want it to end.  No, the problem was that the upcoming scenes were massive and were looming in front of me like some sort of monster from a B movie.  (By massive, I mean that there were about twenty characters involved — and that was just on the protagonist side.)  I tried reminding myself that I didn’t have to have all twenty involved in each paragraph, that they would, in fact, only need to be dealt with in pairs, quads at the most. But I still couldn’t get a handle on how to start it, so I avoided working on it.  (It didn’t help that I hate writing fight scenes.)

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, inspiration struck and I knew what I was going to do.  At least, I knew what I was going to do for two of the pairs of characters, and that was enough to get me started again.

So, what led to the breakthrough?  Beats me.  I do know that I was only half thinking about it, that I was not at my computer or sitting somewhere with pen and paper.  (I was on my way to take a nice long soaking bath, if you must know.)

And that is how I usually break through the wall that is blocking me.  Not necessarily a bath, but doing something completely non writing related.  Sometimes counted cross stitch frees me from it, but sometimes I need something more mindless.

Like housework.  Housework is a great cure for writer’s block.  My apartment loves it when I get stuck.  (My apartment needs me to get stuck more often.)

A change of venue can help.  If you usually write in your room, go somewhere else: another room in the house or another place all together — the library, a coffee shop, the food court at a mall… Any place that can break you out of your routine.

Change your writing method.  Do you normally write on the computer?  Get a pen and a notebook and write.  (Just make sure you can read your handwriting, unlike yours truly.)

Some online games are good for helping, too.   I like jigsaw puzzles, so I’ll go to Jigzone..  Or play Screwball.    Sometimes I’ll log into Materia Magica and mindlessly kill things for a while.  Or engage in another hobby.

And Write or Die.  Write or Die got me through a really rough patch in my first NaNoWriMo novel.  It was a scene that was necessary to provide background information, but it was boring to write. (And probably even more boring to read.)  I used Write or Die to force the words out and get through that scene.  (The whole bit is getting trashed in the rewrite, but at the time it was needed.)

Want a really weird suggestion?  Write sex scenes.  One can be a lot of fun.  But keep going.  Writing sex scene after sex scene after sex scene can get really boring really fast and you’ll be desperate enough to move on that you’ll write anything else just to get the plot moving again — and that’s the whole idea, isn’t it?  (Just don’t forget to delete them later.)

Other suggestions I’ve heard are: go for a walk, watch TV, or do something else creative.  (Some people find that drawing helps them:  since I never quit mastered stick figures, I figure I’ll stick with counted cross stitch.)

There is no one size fits all cure – find what works for you.  And feel free to share your methods in the comments.

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Sunday Excerpt 6-23-2013

Sorry the post is a bit late this week.  I thought about getting it ready on Friday, but Sunday seemed so far away then.  And work last night sucked the life out of me, so…  Anyhow, here is this week’s excerpt.  It’s from my current WiP (Work in Progress), which is Book 8 (probably) of the Academy of the Accord series.  It’s still a bit rough — this is the first draft. 

Jidahn is Vinadi’s uncle, and a rogue wizard, out to destroy the Accord.  Marsden is a Warder, a warrior with an instinct to protect wizards (at least, ones that haven’t violated the Accord by using magic to harm others).  More than that, though, Marsden is Vinadi’s Warder– the two of them have formed a deeper bond, and have been friends for more years than either one wants to admit to.  

“Oh, it can be destroyed,” Jidahn smiled. “And it’s quite simple. All we have to do is destroy you.”

As he spoke his arm shot forward, hurling something unseen at his nephew.

“Vinadi!”

“Marsden! No!”

 A black blur passed across his field of vision and Vinadi could only watch in horror as his Warder put himself in the path of the spell, and then Marsden’s arms were around him, surrounding him with the sense of security and love and protection that always came from the warrior as Marsden tackled him to the ground.  Vinadi grasped him instinctively, holding onto him as he fell backwards, a shriek of pain blocking all other sound from his ears.  Marsden twisted to take the brunt of the fall, rolling as they hit the ground to pin Vinadi beneath him, covering him with his own body.

Check out Weekend Writing Warriors and Sunday Snippets for great stuff from other writers.

 

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Inside the Mind of a Writer – Conversations with Characters – Pashevel

I already wrote about using my drive time to “write.”   One of the things that I do while driving is hold conversations with my characters. 

I know that there are some writers who say that your characters aren’t real, they can’t tell you things, that they only do what you tell them, etc, and that those of us who say otherwise are delusional, or not serious about writing, or a host of other put downs.

If that mindset works for them, so be it. 

But me ?  I prefer to think of my characters as living breathing beings.  And who knows?  Maybe they are real in another dimension of the multi-verse . 

Or maybe the conversations are just my subconscious giving me information.  Whatever.  But I hold conversations with my characters while driving, and sometimes the conversations are unexpected. 

I was on my way to work one day while working on Song and Sword, and suddenly Pashevel was in the passenger’s seat.

“What are we going to do with the captured Orc?” he asked without preamble.

Captured Orc? There was no captured Orc in my outline.   “What captured Orc?”  I asked.

“We captured an Orc,” he explained easily, as if it was the most natural thing in the world.

“What are you going to do with a captured Orc?”

“I don’t know, that’s why I’m asking you.”

For a brief moment I considered strangling him – Pashevel, not the Orc – but, well, Pash is a hard character to get mad at and even harder to stay mad at, so I sighed.  “What do you want to do with the captured Orc?”

“I want to set it free.”

“Of course you want to set it free.  What do the others want to do?”

“Marlia and Dakkas want to kill it.”

“Of course, Mar and – Wait a minute?  Marlia and Dakkas are agreeing about something?”

“Yeah.  So what are we going to do with the captured Orc?”

“I don’t know.  I didn’t even know there was an Orc.”

And so it went.  The captured Orc stayed in and led to a whole subplot that I hadn’t been planning or even aware of.

And for those who would put me down for letting things happen this way, I think I’m in pretty good company.

… If you wanted to go on from the end of The Hobbit I think the ring would be your inevitable choice as the link. If then you wanted a large tale, the Ring would at once acquire a capital letter; and the Dark Lord would immediately appear. As he did unasked, on the hearth at Bag End as soon as I came to that point. So the essential Quest started at once.

But I met a lot of things on the way that astonished me. Tom Bombadil I knew already; but I had never been to Bree. Strider sitting in the corner as the inn was a shock, and I had no more idea who he was than had Frodo. The Mines of Moria had been a mere name; and of Lothlórien no word had reached my mortal ears till I came there. Far away I knew there were the Horse-lords on the confines of an ancient Kingdom of Men, but Fangorn Forest was an unforeseen adventure. I had never heard of the House of Eorl nor of the Stewards of Gondor. Most disquieting of all. Saruman had never been revealed to me, and I was as mystified as Frodo at Gandalf’s failure to appear on September 22. I knew nothing of the Palantiri, though the moment the Orthanc-stone was cast from the window, I recognised it, and knew the meaning of the ‘rhyme of lore’ that had been running in my mind: “seven stars and seven stones and one white tree”. The rhymes and names will crop up; but they do not always explain themselves…

The Letters of JRRT 163 #216-7 

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Writing vs Other Hobbies

Writing is my passion, but I do have other hobbies.

I’m remodeling a doll house.  It’s slow going, because I need to make more room to work on it, but I am slowly collecting the stuff I need for it.  (And even it is writing-related — one room is going to be a writer’s loft/studio/office.)  And every once in a while I attack the chaos in my craft room in the vain hope that someday I can work on the doll house down there.

I have lots of stuff for scrapbooking.  (I seem to have a paper addiction.)  Like the doll house, though, there is a space issue, but I long for a time and place to spread it all out and create pages.  (I want to make two poetry scrapbooks – one of my poetry and one of favorite poems from other writers – and a ScrapBook of Shadows.)

I also love houseplants and am hoping to create some fairy gardens soon.  (Thank you, Pinterest — I needed another hobby.)

I can crochet and would like to do more of it — maybe this winter.  (I just got a book of crochet motifs and some of them are just so neat… They make me want to start hooking again.)

(Erm… that didn’t come out quite right…)

And there are lots of other things I want to learn: beading/jewelry making, spinning, wood-burning, leather-working, wood carving… pretty much anything that involves working with your hands and creating something.

But my main addiction other than writing is counted cross stitch.   I will not reveal the amount of floss and fabric I own, or the number of projects that I have started, or the number of charts that I haven’t started.  Let’s just say that I hit S.A.B.L.E.)  (Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy) a long, long time ago (and probably in a galaxy far, far away).

A conversation with Warrior Poet of Writers Two reminded me of a realization that I’d had once before:  counted cross stitch is a lot like writing.   You start with a blank piece of fabric (paper) and with needle and thread (pen and ink) you create something.  At first it’s just a blob of color on the fabric, but eventually it takes shape and becomes something recognizable — just as a novel forms from a few nebulous ideas for characters and scenes.

My only real problem is balancing my hobbies.  Granted, during NaNoWriMo months there is no balance needed:  word count clearly trumps stitch count.  But the other nine months?  Yeah.  Things get tricky there.

I want to write.
I want to stitch.
But unless I learn to do one or the other with my toes I can’t do both at the same time.

One of the nice things about counted cross stitch is that it does require concentration and focus.  It provides a break from thinking about the novel and lets that part of me recharge.

But I can (and do) keep a pen and notepad in my stitching nest.  You know… just in case…

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Sunday Excerpt 6-16-2013

It’s Sunday again!  That means time for another excerpt of… something.

This week’s lines are from Song and Sword.   Dakkas has been captured and is being tortured, as is Kashrya, the young woman used as bait to capture him.

In the darkness of the dungeon, there was no time, only alternating periods of fresh pain.  Dakkas wasn’t sure which was worse:  the times that they were both dragged from the cell and he was forced to watch her be brutalized, or the times when she was dragged out and he was left alone to hear her cries.

He was grateful for whatever kindness it was that made their captors put them in the same cell, grateful for the chance to talk to her, to get to know her, to let her get to know him:  futile, perhaps, and bittersweet with the knowledge that they may not live to see the next day, but he counted it as a blessing all the same.

They had not yet raped her: from the Orcish conversations he overheard, they seemed to be waiting for something – or someone. But the torture was taking its toll on her:  she grew weaker with each passing session, until she was barely conscious. Dakkas could do nothing but hold her, let her know he was there, that she was not alone. He resorted to singing to her, old songs from his childhood. It seemed to soothe her, so he sang until his voice gave out, until it became harsh with overuse and unshed tears.  And then he could only hold her, and rock her, and feel his soul die a little more with each barely felt breath she took.

Check out Weekend Writing Warriors  and Sunday Snippets  for great stuff from other writers.

Song and Sword is available for Kindle and all other e-readers.

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Bridgng the Worlds

I can’t speak for writers of other genres — or even for other fantasy writers — but sometimes I truly understand what it’s like to walk between the worlds.  I live in so many of them, especially when I’m writing.  (And I’m always writing.)

There is the world of home:  housework to avoid, laundry to do, hobbies, etc.

There is the public world: writing groups, shopping, errands to run — anything that requires that I put on a bra and something other than baggy sweat pants.

There is the world of work.  I’m a nurse at a jail and my job requires a completely different mindset than the “outside.”  More security conscious, disciplined, alert, focused, deadlines/time frames, dealing with people, setting and enforcing boundaries and rules.

And then there are the worlds of whatever I am writing.  Those worlds become as real and vivid to me as my apartment and the jail and the road between the two.  (And I have been known to have three of them sharing space in my head at any given time.)

I have a long drive:  roughly an hour each way, most of it on a four lane highway.   This could be considered lost time, but it isn’t:  I use it for writing.

My journey begins and ends with bridges.  I cross the Allegheny River as I start off on my way to work: shortly thereafter I am on a four-lane highway, and except for a construction zone (or two or three or four – this is Pennsylvania and it is summer…) my drive becomes fairly mindless and home reality drifts away and novel reality takes over.

Until I cross the Allegheny River again and have to bring myself back to the reality of the city and of work.

I do a lot of “writing” while driving:
planning novels
working out plot issues
talking to my characters
working through scenes that play out in my head like a movie superimposed on the reality of the road

But even with the bridges as boundaries it can be hard to switch from one reality – one frame of mind – to another.  The world of work is the hardest one for me to break free of.  It is stressful and frustrating and draining, and a large part of my drive home is spent trying to wind down, to step out of that world and into the one of home.

Writing helps form a bridge between the two.  It’s hard to get out of the jail mentality and the worlds of my novels help.  I can’t stay in them as well on the way home as I do on the way to work – work is more intrusive than home – but they do help me switch gears.

Writing is not just my passion, it is also my escape from jail.

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I know why Vinadi’s alive! (And why they want him dead.)

It’s funny how the mind works, especially when it comes to the creative process.

The weekend was not as productive as I had hoped, word-count-wise.  But I did have a major (I hope!) breakthrough on a gaping plot hole/massive logic-fail in Book One of the Academy of the Accord series.

It was written during NaNoWriMo, and at the time it had seemed like a good idea for Vinadi’s family to be trying to kill him.  But later, looking back, I had to figure out why they wanted to kill him.

I knew that it had to do with them wanting to destroy the Accord, and somehow killing him would do it – but how and why?

And, more importantly, why was he still alive?  If they wanted him dead it would have been a simple matter to do it when he was an infant.

At one point I had a huge convoluted series of step-parents for him, complete with a tangled plot line that would have done any major soap opera proud, but that stopped making sense before it started.

So, it’s been bugging me, as I can’t really sort out everything in the rest of the series with this massive bit of illogic at the start of it, since it’s tied into the overall story arc of the series.  I’ve talked to myself about it on 750words.com.  I’ve handwritten notes and ideas.  (And I’ve crossed out most of them.)

And then while working on a later book in the series it suddenly all seemed to come together and make sense.   I not only know why he’s alive, but why they want to kill him.  (At least, it made sense at the time and I wrote myself a lengthy note about it.)

And with any luck, all the rest of my plot issues throughout the series will fall into place now that this problem has been solved.

Now all I can do is keep my fingers crossed that it still makes sense when I sit down to re-write a large chunk of Book One.

That’s not going to happen for a while yet, though:  I’m trying to finish rough drafts of all the books in the series by the end of the year, and then I want to work on getting the Other Mages trilogy ready to publish.

But for now, life is good.

And I’m off to feed peeled grapes to my Muse.

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Sunday Excerpt 6-9-2013

This is a new feature.  Every Sunday I’ll be posting 8 lines of… something.  Either a current WiP, a WiP in waiting, or maybe lines from something that is already finished.

This week’s lines are from Song and Sword:

It was hot, and silent, and she felt a sense of timelessness, then the presence that was Arithen filled the room and she was granted a vision and she heard His voice that was not a voice.  “Victory will be yours.  You will be sorely tested and you will make powerful enemies, but you will also find true friends.”

Friends?

Had the word not come from her God she would have scoffed.

Friends…

She had no friends – not anymore…

She closed her eyes but that only made the scene more vivid: mutilated bodies, victims of a Drow raid on her village, left to rot in the summer sun, a feast for scavengers.

Check out other writers’ excerpts at Weekend Writing Warriors.

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