Monthly Archives: August 2013

Bagua and Blockages

So, stress is still eating my energy, which means I haven’t written more than a hundred or so words this last week. I have thought about it, though, which is a plus. Things should be getting better soon. I hope. I miss writing. I miss the free flow of creative energy…

Hmm…

“…the free flow of creative energy…”

“…free flow of energy…”

I have a book called Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui by Karen Kingston. (Yes, I am a pack rat and I do have a clutter problem. A recurring clutter problem, actually: it seems that every time I start to get it under control it fights back.)

Anyhow, the book basically talks about how clutter blocks the flow of energy and how clearing away the clutter will enhance not just your living space but all aspects of your life, and that clearing clutter will also clear blockages.

Hmm…

Too lazy to make a search of my bookshelves, I turned to Google for a graphic of bagua. (Bagua are the areas of a house (or room): each area governs a different aspect of your life.) (Not the best definition, but it will do for now.)

Anyhow, Google to the rescue!

I looked up bagua and discovered that one of the worst clutter piles in my room is in the creativity bagua. And, as some of you may know, I’ve been feeling really blocked lately.

bagua

(Click on the picture to make it bigger.)

Coincidence? Could be. But why take chances? I’m now on a one woman mission to clear that section. (And a couple others as well, but mostly that one.) I mean, it can’t hurt. And it’s a more useful way to procrastinate than liking and sharing a bunch of posts on Facebook.

Speaking of coincidence, just today I read a blog post  about being too tired to write, but unable to sleep. It gives tips for dealing with insomnia and for breaking through (or sneaking around) a writing block.

Once I’ve cleared the clutter and decreased some stress I just might give his ideas a shot. (I need all the help I can get at this point!)

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Things I’ve Learned This Past Week

1: It’s really hard to write about friendship when you are angry and want to murder the world.  (And homicide on a global scale has been an appropriate answer to a lot of stress lately.  Sadly I A) lack the means, and B) believe in the sanctity of life too much to actually do it.)

2: Probably the best time to write about friendship is when you are angry and want to murder the world.  After all, even friendships have conflict, although not normally of the homicidal variety.  But even more than that, writing about friendship when you are feeling anything but friendly will give your writing an edge, make it stand out, make it different.  And, lastly, writing about something that is so far outside of your current mindset can result in something unexpected, and that’s always a good thing when writing.  (Well, usually it’s a good thing…)

3: Writing about friendship when you are angry and want to murder the world is really hard – but in the end it makes you want to murder the world a little less.  This is especially true if the characters in your story are five years old. It’s a real struggle to reach the innocence of that age on a good day, but when you manage to find the magic of friendship in the eyes of a pair of children it makes the rest of your world seem a little less dark.   At least for a little while…

4: As soon as you want to murder the world a little less, someone will come along and make you want to murder it even more than before. (Life is a vicious circle sometimes…)

5: I don’t write enough violent scenes.  Seriously.  I should probably write something really dark and violent and vicious and brutal just to get it out of my system. Maybe if I murder the world in a piece of flash fiction I won’t feel like doing it in real life.

(Yes, folks, it’s been one of those days for a week now… And one of those weeks for the past month.)

Here’s to life!

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Sunday Excerpt — August 25, 2013

Taking a break from posting from Song and Sword this week to bring you a snippet of my current WiP:  Book Four of the Academy of the Accord series.

(The Academy of the Accord trains wizards, and the warriors that protect them.)

One student — an apprentice — has been subjected to some pretty intense bullying and the school’s leaders have just finished discussing the involvement of a cadet in the attacks on her.

The people involved in this snippet:
Marsden: the commander of the garrison at the school
Wellhym: one of the garrison captains and one of the seconds in command
Yhonshel: a Tuanae – both wizard and warrior, one of the school’s seconds in command

(Note: this is still a rough draft and I’ve had to fudge some punctuation to get to 10 sentences.)

Yhonshel rose abruptly.  “I’ve had enough.  I will deal with them.”

“Yhon,” Marsden cautioned, “they are still children.”

Fire smoldered in grey-green eyes as Yhonshel turned to him.  “It’s time that he – and the rest of those involved – learn what fear is.”   He held Marsden’s gaze a moment longer, then spun in a swirl of black robes and left the room.

“It will be all right,” Wellhym soothed, blocking the door as Marsden started to go after the Tuanae. “Yhon won’t harm them.”

 Marsden took a deep breath and nodded slowly as he sank back into his chair, suddenly weary and heartsick. When had the dream turned into a nightmare?

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

Song and Sword may return next week, but meanwhile, it’s available for Kindle and all other e-readers. 

Song and Sword cover

Available for Kindle at Amazon

and at Smashwords for all other e-readers.

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Holiday Eyes

Once upon a time, I was riding in a car driven by the late Dr. Ronald F. Smits, Professor Emeritus at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, the man responsible for rekindling my love of poetry, and of writing in general.  In the course of our conversation he mentioned a quote by Colin Wilson about poetry coming from “holiday consciousness” and creating a “holiday consciousness” in the reader.  The quote stuck with me, although it was mis-remembered as “writers look at the world through holiday eyes,” hence the name of this post.

Writing is my passion, my love, my creative outlet.  It lets me — encourages me — to look at the world in my own unique way. (And I’ve always had a unique — and slightly warped! — way of looking at the world.)

Writing encourages me to examine things more closely, to look at them as if seeing them for the first time — seeing through “holiday eyes.”

And not just seeing things as if new — holiday nose, holiday ears, holiday hands, holiday tongue are all just as appropriate.  As a writer, I strive to use all of my senses to explore the world around me, to notice it as if it were something brand new so that I can share the details of it with my readers.

The other day I was going through some old notebooks from various classes – I had a tendency to jot down notes to myself in them and I didn’t want to throw away anything important.  I will now freely admit that some of those notebooks have fewer words about class than they do notes describing other students or the view out the windows.

And I once admitted to an English professor that I hadn’t finished a reading assignment because I was watching a squirrel build a nest.  (And he admitted that the squirrel’s nest-building was probably more purposeful than the essay he had assigned – I think it was one by Michel de Montaigne.)

So the problem, for me, lies not so much in the observation of the world as in putting it into words for others to read:  the thing that I have the most trouble working into my novels is description — I get far too wrapped up in the people and the plot and end up with a lot of talking heads.   I’ve also been known to write entire scenes and leave myself a note in the rough draft: [WHERE ARE THEY DURING THIS?]  (Yeah, there’s nothing like a heart to heart conversation that takes place in the middle of nowhere.)

I am getting better.  (At least I recognize it when I do it – or don’t do it – now.)  It still doesn’t come naturally and I tend to leave it for the second draft, but more description is slowly creeping into my fiction.

Maybe someday I will be able to let others see through my holiday eyes.

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Oooohhhh! Shiny! (aka Stick-to-it-iveness)

We all know it happens.  We’re set on a project and are chugging along working on it when something else pops up.  Something pretty and shiny and new and we want to drop the current project and jump on this new one.

Why?

Because the new one is exciting.  It’s different.  It promises all sorts of things.  It is full of potential.  It is a new beginning.

But sooner or later that brand spanking new idea is going to stop being fun and is going to become just as much work as your current project.

Think of your novel as a relationship – a long term relationship.  You fall in love with the idea of it, you spend time getting to know it (plotting), and you commit yourself to it, to seeing it through, “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, until ‘The End’ do us part.” 

(Does anyone really type “The End” when they finish their novel?)

So, you’re in this committed relationship with a novel.  Or series.  Or trilogy.   And along comes this new little plot bunny and it is ooooh so sexy!  And it smiles and winks at you, and whispers sweet promises in your ear. 

And you’re tired of the current project.  It’s hit some snags.  You’re always fighting with it.

And this new thing is so sweet and nice and agreeable and doesn’t place any demands on you.

Except it does.  It demands your attention, your time, your energy.  And because it is new and sweet and exciting, you give them to it.  Happily, you let it distract you from the project you are committed to, let it lead you astray.

And sooner or later you abandon your current project and move in with this new one and set up housekeeping with it.

Or maybe you stay with your current project out of guilt and just keep seeing this one on the side.

But sooner or later the new wears off and it’s not as shiny as it was, and you’re right where you were when it wandered into your life, slogging along, trying to push through the rough patches, trying to stay together despite the fights…

And then another shiny bunny winks at you and blows you a kiss or maybe even buys you a drink.

And another commitment blows away in the wind.

And before you know it you have a string of failed marriages and relationships novels behind you.

And, yes, I’m as guilty of this as the next person.  I have a huge batch of WiP (Works in Progress) files.  I have an even huger (heh, what do you know? Word says that’s a word!) pile of plot bunnies with more being born as we speak.  (And having just gone through my Plot Bunny bag all I can say is they really need to start practicing birth control other than the Hoping Method.)

But I am working on clearing some of the backlog.

I did get one finished and self-published. (Song and Sword.)

And I am committed to getting rough drafts finished of all the books in the Academy of the Accord series by the end of the year, even though I’m in a rough sloggy bit in one of them right now that is throwing me behind schedule.

Then I’m going to finish and publish The Other Mages trilogy next year and then start the endless slogging through editing the Academy of the Accord books.

And I’m not starting anything new except during NaNoWriMo in November.  I’ll use the Camp sessions to finish rough drafts of things already started.

Why?

Because you can’t publish what isn’t finished.

And that is the ultimate shiny.

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Sunday Excerpt — August 18, 2013

Thanks to all who commented last week.  (It never occurred to me that one couldn’t talk to unicorns!)

Continuing with more from Song and Sword, picking up a bit later from where I left off last week, after Pashevel has explained to Marlia that unicorns can communicate with their riders.

“May I ask your name?” She was sure she had asked who he was before, but he had been trying to calm her and if he had answered she had missed it.

“My name is Pashevel,” he replied. “And may I ask who I have the honor of sharing my fire with?”

“Pash–!”  She broke off, staring at him, her mouth open, her eyes wide.  “Pashevel, son of Vellindrin?”  He inclined his head in acknowledgement and she gasped.  “My liege!” She tried to sit up again, clutching at the blanket as it slipped and falling backward, weak and unbalanced.  “Prince Pashevel…”

“No, please.  Just Pashevel.”

“But – but you are the Crown Prince…”

 

Um, yeah.  He’s the Crown Prince, Mar… the man that you pretty much accused of molesting you, and of letting you be attacked by a stranger, is your future king.  Great first impression you made there…

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

Song and Sword cover

Available for Kindle at Amazon

and at Smashwords for all other e-readers.

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Plot Bunny Bag

plot_bunnies_tote_bag

 

So I finally got brave and dove into my Plot Bunny bag.  It’s a canvas tote bag that I’ve been using as a catch-all for scraps of paper with writing-related stuff on them. (I got it from Cafe Press, if anyone is interested. Not affiliated, yadda yadda…)

Going through it was an all afternoon and half the evening project, but I finally made my way through all of the pieces of paper in it.

I found some incomprehensible notes, partly due to my atrocious handwriting, and partly because I had no clue what I was trying to tell myself. Of course, that’s not the first time I’ve done that, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

I found lists of names. As a fantasy writer, a good set of names is a good thing to have. Even better would be a good non-clunky way to organize them.  Any suggestions?

I found old fan fiction. Some of it made me cry. (Yes, it was that bad.) Some of it will be typed up, names will be changed, settings will be changed, and the words will become part of something new and different.

I found opening paragraphs, tentative outlines, starts of stories, and, perhaps most mysteriously, middles of stories. (Seriously — I found at least four different sets of pages that were the middles of stories. Two of them I think I have files for, somewhere. A third I really hope I have the start of.  And one — one I have no clue about.  (I think I vaguely remember starting it, once upon a time.)

Oh, and lists. Lots and lots of lists. Lists of names, of settings, of random events.. I think I’m going to put them on 3×5 index cards and draw a random of one of each for a writing prompt: woman on a horse at dusk in spring at a cemetery, anyone?

I found some things that I have added to the Plot Bunny Orphanage, in case anyone wants to adopt them and give them a new home.  I’m sure there will be more later, when I go back through it again.

I found a lot of stuff I’d forgotten that I’d started.  (That’s kind of sad, isn’t it?)

I think my favorite things that I found were the outlines of the novels from my month of insanity.  They bear… no resemblance… to what I ended up writing.

Sword Dancer… it took a sharp turn somewhere and I have no idea what to do with the rest of the outline. Maybe a sequel? I think I could see it as a sequel. (Why am I planning a sequel?)

The Sword and the Shield… Don’t ask. I should pretty much just trash the rest of the outline as it was based on a premise that flew out the window somewhere in the middle of the story. Pack rat that I am, though, I’ll keep it, change names, and use the plot for something else.

Anyhow, that was Round One.

Round Two should involve the stash of papers crammed beneath my monitor, but I’m slightly more afraid of it than I was the bag. (Besides, I think most of them relate to The Academy of the Accord.)

The next round involves going through what I haven’t thrown out and organizing it somehow. For instance, I noticed that I have notes for the same novel written on 3 or 4 different pages, usually with notes for other things included: I need to combine those so that everything is on its own page.

And then I need to get everything typed into a Word doc, saved, emailed to myself for back up, and printed to be put into a three ring binder.

I have no idea when or if I’ll ever get to any of these Plot Bunnies, but at least they’ll be tamed when it is time to wrangle them into a novel.

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I just don’t get it…

I’ve been… stuck… this week.  I’ve gotten very little writing done.  I just can’t seem to focus but I’m not sure why.  I want to write, but it seems that all I do is stare at the screen.  I can’t even seem to focus on paper, which is one of my tried and true ways around writer’s block.

At first I though that the problem might be that this book isn’t the one I want to be writing.  The events in this book are important in later books, especially regarding character development, but I seem to have lost my plot.

That’s not really the problem, though.  I’ve lost plots before and muddled through until I found them again.  In fact, I usually enjoy the search for the lost plot.

So, I thought that maybe it was the character, that this isn’t the character I want to focus on right now.

But I don’t think that that’s quite the problem either, although it’s getting closer.

I think that a large part of the problem is what I’m writing.  I’m writing about bullying, and having never experienced it I’m having trouble getting into the mindset of it.

I’m not having trouble connecting with the victim – it’s the ones that are doing the bullying that I’m having trouble with.

Granted, I don’t really need to be inside their heads or sympathize with them at all, but I do need to understand why, and…

I don’t.

I don’t get it.

I don’t understand why they are bullying Senzu just because she is different.

I understand that she is not human, that her race was created during the Wizard Wars, and that they do not mingle with humans so they are not something the average person is familiar with.

I understand the concept of “other” but what I don’t understand is why “other” equals “less than.”

And because of that I’m having a really hard time with the antagonists in this story. 

I can more or less understand the other antagonists in the series – the bad guys for the over-arching plot.  They are all about power – either wanting it or fearing those that have it.

But this…

I just don’t get it.  I don’t get prejudice or being afraid of something because it is different and unknown.

Come to think of it, that’s going to be a problem, as prejudice and fearing and hating things that you don’t understand are recurring themes in the series.

Looks like I have some research to do…

But I still don’t think I’ll ever “get it.”

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Sunday Excerpt — August 11, 2013

I’m continuing with snippets from Song and Sword, picking up where I left off last week, with Marlia having just regained consciousness in a stranger’s camp, cocooned in blankets, and minus her blouse which had not survived her fight or Pashevel’s tending of her wounds.

“I’m sorry,” she said as she calmed. “I – I …”

“I know,” he said softly.   “I saw what happened and I expected you to be afraid, but I give you my word, I did nothing untoward.”  

“You saw what happened?  You just watched?   Why didn’t you help me?”

“I give you my word, my lady, had I been there, I would have stepped in, would have protected you.” 

The gentleness and honesty in his voice deflected her anger and she stared at him, puzzled.  “But you said you saw it.  Are you a Seer, then?”

“A Seer? No, not I.  I am but a simple Bard.”  He smiled. “Your unicorn showed me.”

 

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

Song and Sword cover

Available for Kindle at Amazon

and at Smashwords for all other e-readers.

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Writing Sex Scenes

First, let me say that I enjoy writing them.

Second, let me say that I’m probably not very good at writing them.

Third, let me assure you that they are unlikely to ever make it into a final draft of any of my books.  (My mother might read them.)  (Plus, they’re probably not very good.)

So, if they are going to get cut anyhow, why do I write them?  Several reasons.

First, during NaNoWriMo they are cheap word padding.  Nice, mindless, fun… and they add lots of words.

But they do more than that.

Sex scenes can get you moving again when you’re stuck.  You know the feeling:  you want to write — need to write — but the story just seems to be going nowhere.  Use sex to kick start it again.

Maybe even mix it up — don’t use an established couple but switch people around.  Or have one them have a one night stand.  Don’t worry.  You can cut the scene out later — for now, just give yourself permission to have fun with it and let your (creative) juices flow.  Not only will you possibly gain a fresh perspective and renewed enthusiasm, you may just learn a few things…

About your characters, that is:  sex scenes can help with character development. 

An example?  In The Sword and the Shield (part of my month of insanity) there was a lot of sex.  Yeah, a lot of it was word padding since I was writing 100,000 words in one month while working full time, going to school part time, and being a Municipal Liaison for NaNoWriMo for the first time. But you know what?  Some of those sex scenes led to some character development and plot lines that I hadn’t considered when I made the outline.  (I had a fairly weak grasp of the characters when I started it, but they really grew on me.)  And out of it came one of my favorite bits of dialogue:

“If I love you and I admit it, does that make me a fag?”
“If you love me and you admit it, what that makes you is honest.”

That little snippet of conversation was a huge turning point for one of the characters.  (And it was a turning point that I hadn’t seen coming, and that I most certainly hadn’t planned!) (Damn you, Daniel! You were supposed to be a villain! A cold, callous, unredeemable villain! You were not supposed to be a soft-hearted egotist coming to terms with an unexpected aspect of his sexuality.)  (Erm, yes… Needless to say this book is in for a whole lot of revision. *sigh*)

Anyhow, moving on…

Even if you think you already know the characters, you can still learn a lot about them by how they relate sexually, either to an established partner, a friend with benefits, or a one night stand.   It can’t hurt to experiment, even if you cut it later because it does nothing for the plot.

And, yes, sex scenes can advance the plot, too.  (Just watch any soap opera.)  Why are they in bed together?  What does one (or both) hope to get out of it?  Are either of them cheating on someone else?  What if someone finds out they are together?  The scene itself may get cut, but its ramifications can echo through the rest of your novel.

In The Other Mages trilogy (due out next year), sex both harms and heals two of the characters.  It’s not heavily focused on, but it is a huge part of their histories, and a major part of overcoming their pasts and, for one at least, fully accepting her power. 

How will the scenes be shown in the final drafts?

One event is written about in a journal, and referred to later.  That has to stay:  it’s entirely too important to the character’s growth to cut it out, and the ramifications of that event echo throughout the book — even the entire trilogy.

Another experience is more hinted at than openly expressed or discussed, and it’s probably going to stay that way, too.  There is no need for me to be overly blatant about that one — the character’s realization of what had happened is enough.

The last one is still in flux.  There’s going to be a fine line between showing and telling:  too much will leave the readers wondering what happened to my normal writing, and too little will leave them what happened to change the characters.

(The scene is of major importance to the growth of the characters, but not necessarily to the plot.   However, without showing the importance of what is happening to the characters, the plot sort of goes “Huh?” and sits around with a puzzled look on its face.)

The scene is probably going to be a fade to black, though.  After all, it’s a fantasy novel, not erotica.

(There is nothing wrong with erotica (sorry, Mom!) but it’s just not what I write.)

But I do write sex scenes.

You know… just for fun.

And for the things I discover in the process.

After all, isn’t that what writing’s all about?

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