Monthly Archives: October 2013

Less Than a Week

And it’s all starting to come together and it’s all starting to fall apart…

At this week’s NaNoWriMo prep session on Saturday I was looking over my outline and story notes and realized that I had to make a major change – not in the outline, but in the personality and back story for one of the main characters.  The way the story has developed, her original version just didn’t work anymore.

Yes, folks, less than a week to go and I am scrambling to create an entire new history for one character along with still scrounging names for races and organizations and places and…

Deep breath.

At least I discovered the need to make the change before I started writing, courtesy of my outline and the character development exercise that I am doing.  (The last time I had a character make this kind of change on me was my first NaNoWriMo and I was working without an outline and the character had a complete alignment change halfway through the book, which is one of the reasons why it hasn’t been edited yet – it needs an almost total rewrite.)

(That character development exercise, by the way, has given me a great deal of insight on my main character. I’m still struggling to find her voice, but I understand her a lot better now and am even starting to like her.)

But back to the problem at hand: Luz.

She’s a spoiled little rich girl.  But unlike the cliché of spoiled little rich girl who becomes sweet and caring, she’s still a spoiled little rich girl at the end.  She’s a taker and a faker and more than a little two-faced and a definite snob and she is going to be so much fun to write.

But there is no way that Taliya, my main character, would ever have formed a relationship with her.

When I originally started planning this novel and developing the characters, Luz she was a good person: she got thrown out of her house and disowned for going against her parents’ way of thinking and standing up for a slave that they were going to either beat or kill, sustaining a serious injury in the process. (Yes, it’s sci fi, but rather dystopian.)  This made her a great partner for Taliya –their shared values gave them a common ground… it made sense for Taliya to be attracted to her.

But as the story and the character development proceeded, Luz underwent a change. I’m not sure how or where or when it happened, but she became jealous and vindictive and cold and calculating and cruel.  She also turned out to be a bigot and a classist.

In short, she became everything that Taliya isn’t, and everything that Taliya stands against.

I can’t just eliminate her from the novel – her relationship with Taliya is an important part of the story and plays a large role in the inciting incident.  But in order for that to happen she can’t be the bitch that she has become. (Where’s the Excedrin?)

I suppose I could just have her be a lost love type of thing and not actually bring her into the story at all… Except that creates a domino effect that destroys at least two, maybe three, other plot points, not to mention ruining my idea for a possible sequel.

Or maybe I can find a way to keep the original version of Luz.  It would make more sense relationship-wise, and it would also make for better tension and for a bittersweet ending.

But this version is so much more fun!

I think that what is going to end up happening is that I’ll just have to wait and see how it plays out in the writing.

Or write two or three different versions and see where they take me.

Or scrap this story and write something else…

I have time…




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Sunday Excerpt — October 27, 2013

More from Sanguine, a science fiction novel (still in progress) with elements of semi-paranormal M/M romance.

(This is still a work in progress and the following lines have been hacked and recombined and creatively punctuated to fit into 10 sentences – and I still went over a bit.)

Gregor has just finished doing a walkthrough of the new refitted starship with the captain, Kaen Yblis, and Kaen has transferred the funds for the final payment.  He looks up to find Gregor still standing in his office.


Gregor took a deep breath and Kaen raised an eyebrow:  this was the first time he had seen the young man look nervous or uncomfortable in his presence.

“Captain, sir,” he said hesitantly, “have… have you given any thought to crew for the ship yet?”

“No, I haven’t,” Kaen replied, surprised by the question.  “Are you offering to sign on?”

“Yes, sir, I would like that, sir.”

“In what capacity?”

“Maintenance, sir – I was part of every bit of the refitting and I know this ship inside and out.”

“Yes, you do indeed,” Kaen murmured thoughtfully.  “Very well, Maintenance Chief.” 

Light blue eyes widened at the title and Kaen shrugged, an amused smile playing over his lips as he asked, “Who among your crew will know more about the ship?”

He studied the blond for a long moment.  

“There is something else, isn’t there?”

“Yes sir.”  Gregor hadn’t wanted to bring this up this soon, but maybe it was for the best:  gathering his courage he drew a deep breath and met the Captain’s gaze.   “I know what you are.”  

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

My other novel, Song and Sword is currently 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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One More Week

By this time next week I will be charging into my 2013 NaNoWriMo novel. My outline is looking pretty solid, but I still have a fairly large number of names to come up with (although the list is getting smaller).

Ordinarily I would be champing at the bit right now, eager to get started.

But I’m not

And that has been bugging me because I love NaNoWriMo. I have ever since the first time I did it.  I remember winning – hitting 50k and finishing my first ever novel and sitting back and staring at my laptop and thinking, “Wow. I just wrote a novel.  A novel!”  And then an odd sense of letdown from the euphoria… sort of a “Now what do I do with myself?”  And then a sense of loss:  “It’s eleven months until I can do this again.”  (That was before there were Camp Sessions.)

It is because of that first NaNoWriMo that I now write year round.

But despite that, despite writing year round, there remains something special about November and NaNoWriMo.  (The Camp Sessions are pretty special too, in a different way.)

I’m not sure what it is – maybe it’s the challenge of writing 50,000 words in 30 days.  Or maybe it’s the rush, the mad push to get those 50,000 words out of my head and into a word doc.  Or maybe it’s the sense of camaraderie, of knowing that there are over 100,000 other people from all around the world involved in the same endeavor.

Whatever it is, there is something special about NaNoWriMo.  Something wild and inspiring and addictive and fun and crazy and energizing…

So why are my fingers not twitching to start?

Because I’m not in love with my story.

Oh, I don’t hate it (and I’m already seeing the possibility of a sequel) but I don’t love it, either. I’m pretty sure that the plot is solid and free from holes (although I’ll be going over it at least twice more between now and the stroke of midnight that signals writing time).  I’m hoping that I can maintain the intrigue and danger while still focusing on the interplay of the characters, although that’s going to be a tough juggling act.

I think the problem is the characters.  I’m not in love with my main characters, and that’s why I’m not in love with the story.  I don’t hate the main characters (well, I sort of hate one of them but she’s a spoiled brat so hating her is permitted, even encouraged) but I’m just not really looking forward to spending every moment of the next month with them.

And since my writing tends to be very character-driven, this is presenting a problem.

Not to mention that if I don’t love them, no one else will either.

So, I foresee myself doing some heavy-duty character work in this next week. I’ll start tonight when I do my 750 words using a technique I read about last year and tried out…  When I tried it, it was with characters that I had been working with for over a year, and I learned so much about them…  I’m curious to see how it’s going to work with characters that I don’t know well.

Here’s the technique:

Writing in first person point of view, have each of your characters describe the others.

So, I have five main characters – Taliya Swan, Jad Nidral, Luzita Fronen, and two aliens that have names that I haven’t figured out how to spell yet – so each night for the next five nights one of them will describe the others.

(One of the aliens doesn’t even have a physical description yet, and the other has an almost complete description.  The one without a physical description is from a race that is genderless, which is going to make pronoun usage tough.)

So now my problem is…. who talks first – or who gets talked about first…

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To Do

Anyone who knows me knows that I am fond of lists.  In fact, it’s something of a running joke.  (That, and my addiction to tote bags and other “things to put things in.”)  So, it should come as no surprise that I have a list of things I need for my novel, hopefully before November.

Mostly what I need are the things I hate dealing with the most: names.

My outline is looking pretty solid (it’s currently coming in around 2000 words, well, outline and some background notes) and I think that I have the plot holes all patched, at least for now, but things still aren’t looking pretty.  This is what happens when you start world-building from scratch three weeks before NaNo…


mob boss(es)
person who owned the ship before Taliya bought it
name(s) of crime syndicate(s)
name(s) of their legit business(es)
names of law enforcement agencies
— planetary, intrasystem, interstellar
name of “police” lieutenant who questions Taliya and then goes after her
family (grandmother, father, brothers)
Taliya’s lover
Need home world and race and name and description for person in cryo chamber
Need home world and race and name and description for alien slave
name for M’s organization/business
name of company that trained CCG
— name of facility he was at (it was on an isolated asteroid)
Taliya’s company
broker she bought ship from
company/ies that Taliya transports for

Yeah, I think that about covers it.  *sigh*

The trouble is, every time I think I’m getting something knocked off of my list, 2 more things replace it.  It’s like trying to kill a hydra with a spork.  I have the feeling that this draft is going to have a lot of things in it like [PLANET ONE] and [STAR SYSTEM THREE] or even [ASTEROID THREE OF PLANET FIVE IN STAR SYSTEM TWO.]

But hey, I still have ten days!  And I have managed to name one secondary character who doesn’t even show up until the end of the book.  That’s progress, right?



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Sunday Excerpt — October 20, 2013

More from Sanguine, a science fiction novel (still in progress) with elements of semi-paranormal M/M romance. With the ship’s refitting complete, Gregor has volunteered to do the final walkthrough with the Captain, as all of the other members of the refitting crew were uneasy around him.  Gregor has just entered the Captain’s ready room.

Kaen Yblis looked to be about forty years old, tall and strongly built, with features that bordered between rugged and delicate.  Shaggy black hair framed a pale face, and his deep set eyes were a dark blue if you got close enough — which few people ever did —  otherwise they seemed to be as black as his hair — or his soul, some said.

“What is it, Gregor?”

“We’ve finished the refitting, sir, if you’d like to do a walk through?”

Kaen frowned.  “Isn’t that normally the foreman’s job?”

Gregor shrugged. “The others are all afraid of you, sir.”

“And you aren’t?”  

“No, sir.”

Kaen held the man’s gaze for a moment, and smiled slowly.   “No,” he murmured, “you aren’t, are you?”  He stood up and stretched, his eyes never leaving the young man in front of him: he couldn’t say that he was displeased with his tour guide.  “Very well, let’s go.”

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

My other novel, Song and Sword is currently 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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NaNoWriMo 2013 Outline

Two weeks to go!

And, of course, other plot bunnies are now starting to move in, but I’m ignoring them.  (Yes, this means you, sequel to Song and Sword —  I don’t care how pretty you look or what kind of puppy dog eyes you give me – I am not changing stories again.)

Ahem, yes.  As I was saying…

Two weeks from today I and will be throwing myself into a new novel, one that is a break from the series that I have been working on for… a very long time.  I’m excited and eager to get started, and yet feeling a little guilty for abandoning The Academy of the Accord.  But it will be there when the month is over, and I will return to it, rested and renewed and ready to finish another book or two of it.

Meanwhile, prep work for Tales of the Onyx Sun continues. I’ve made a good start on my outline, the promised scans of which are below.

outline page 1 001 outline page 2

I didn’t start with that, though. I started with a word file in Which I put notes such as:

“FMC buys a star ship — small, can be crewed by just one person, but also can carry cargo — from a place that buys them at auction and resells them. The place that she buys it from later goes boom. 

The ship was previously owned by a pirate or smuggler or something who worked for what is basically the mob and there is something hidden in the ship that they want.  But what?  Illegal drugs?  Illegal gems?  Illegal something…  Maybe even information that can cripple their operation?  Ugh.  Deciding on that is going to be a major problem.

If I want a 2nd character, FMC can discover a stowaway?  Maybe an alien? Or the alien might be what the mob type organization is after?  But how would she or he have escaped detection (and lived) while the ship was being auctioned and then sold?  He or she was imprisoned in a hidden hold and had food and water? Suspended animation?”

Yep, pure stream of consciousness rambling, usually done in

I also include notes from the exercises in Ready, Set, Novel! or other plot building exercises.

There are also lists (I love lists!) of things I need to know or need names for.

Once I get a couple pages in my Word file I print it out (on scrap paper that I’m recycling since it’s just going to end up getting tossed anyhow) and sit down with more scrap paper and start a rough outline.  I have to do it on paper – as you may have noticed I draw arrows and ask and answer questions as I go.

The next step is to type the outline up in a Word doc, print it out again, and go over it with colored pens making changes and more notes and drawing a lot more arrows.

Then I type up the changes, print, and repeat. It’s not unusual for my outline to be over a thousand words.

I also try to have at least 10 plot points on it, with a goal that each one will account for 5000 words.  I usually end up with more than 12 points just to make sure I have enough to get me through the month.

This cycle pretty much continues until 11:59pm on October 31st.

Actually, it continues after that – I have a printed copy of my outline with me when I go to write ins or some place where I’ll be writing by hand, and I continue making changes as I write and new things pop up – either questions or answers.

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No More Scratching

Progress on Tales of the Onyx Sun since Friday’s post:

My main character now has a name: Taliya Swan. She still doesn’t have a physical description.

She has a friend who helps get her out of a bind by doing something… um… not legal… to her ship.  His name is either Josel or Josul – I haven’t quite settled on a spelling yet.

Josel/Josul is a bad influence on her. (A good friend, but a bad influence.)  But then, Taliya is a bit of an idealist so a bad influence is not necessarily a bad thing.

And I think she may be picking up some relatives that she didn’t know she had, although I’m not entirely certain how, or what role they play yet, or even if they’ll be in it at all.  They are just one possible plot point to pull out and play if my outline looks like it needs more to get me to 50,000 words.

Ah, yes.  The outline.  That’s my next step.

But even without an actual outline it is coming together quite well so far.

I have a starting scene and I’m eager to get started, although I have a long way to go before I’m ready to start writing.

I have lots of bits and pieces – I just need them to start falling into place, and an outline will do that – and will make sure that I don’t forget anything.  It will also let me see what I have so far so that I can see what I still need.

An outline should also help me figure out how the story ends.  I do know how Taliya changes by the end, so that’s a plus, but I don’t have any idea how the story itself play out.

(Oh, and I was right.  This thing is turning out to be a lot more serious than I had originally intended.)

By Friday I hope to have the rough draft of an actual outline, and maybe some scans of the process to show you.  (No, I’m not worried about anyone stealing my ideas from seeing the scans – first they would have to read my handwriting…)

By the way, I’m not doing all of the exercises in Ready, Set, Novel! but the ones that I am using have been amazingly helpful, and I highly recommend this book to anyone who is struggling to get your story together. 

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Sunday Excerpt — October 13, 2013

Moving on to something different for a while.  I tried to come up with some more posts from Book 4 of The Academy of the Accord series to introduce Senzu, Vinadi’s daughter, but there was just no way to break it down into 10 sentence snippets,  matter how creative I got with punctuation, so…  For a while at least, we’re going to move to Sanguine, a science fiction novel (still in progress) with elements of semi-paranormal M/M romance.  (Confused yet?)

This is from the opening:  the crew refitting the Sanguine (a space ship) has just finished the job.  The foreman is speaking.

“Who wants to do the final walk-through with the Captain?”

The men looked at each other in an uneasy silence: the final walkthrough was usually done by the foreman, and on the rare occasion that the honor was offered to the crew there were usually a lot of volunteers, but no one seemed to want the task this time:  for some reason that none of them could explain, Captain Kaen Yblis made them uneasy, even frightened.

All but one of them. 

“I’ll do it.”  

The speaker was the newest member of the team, a young blond haired man who said he was twenty two although most of them had their doubts. 

 “All right, Greg, the job’s all yours – we’ll see you back at the shop.”

 Their relief at not having to walk through the empty ship with the Captain was palpable and Gregor watched them go, smiling in amusement.  If they only knew…

 “I think young Gregor has a thing for the Captain,” he heard one of them say as they filed out.  “He’s always been the one that volunteers to take messages to him and what not.”

 Gregor’s full lips curved in a smile. 

 If they only knew indeed…

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

My other novel, Song and Sword is currently 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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“Starting From Scratch” Has Been Scratched

Well, the idea that I talked about on Monday’s post just isn’t going to take off in time for November.  I still like the idea of it and think that it has a lot of potential, and I’d hate to think that I put all that effort into creating a secret society for nothing, so it will probably be written someday, but… well… it’s just not going to happen in November. At least, not this November.

So, with three weeks left before the start of NaNoWriMo, I have switched gears – and genres, moving from a dark fantasy in a modern setting to a science fiction novel.

Tales of the Onyx Sun has been kicking around in my head for a few years, ever since I bought a Volkswagen from a place that bought cars at auction and resold them.  You could also tell them what you were looking for and they would try to get it for you at auction, which is how I came to own Onyx.  (Yes, I name my cars: my current vehicle, a Scion xB, is named Clyde.)  Of course, buying a used car, especially one from an auction, you know nothing about its history, and the “what ifs” started.  And when “what ifs” start in a writer’s mind, magical and mysterious things can happen…

So, my purchase of my VW underwent a bit of a metamorphosis and became:

A young woman buys a used space ship from a broker and finds herself on the run from both the law and an organized crime syndicate. (The ship was formerly used by an independent trader who smuggled things for the syndicate, so I’m pretty sure that it’s because of something that is hidden on board, although I haven’t figured out exactly what that is just yet.)

My main character doesn’t have a name yet.  (But her mother does. Go figure.) Nor does she have a description.

I do have quite a bit of background coming together for her, though, and hopefully something in that background will spark some plot points and twists for me. (My plots tend to be rather heavily character-driven.)

I am hoping to keep this a light fun story, somewhere along the tone of The Witches of Karres by James H. Schmitz, but, knowing me, it won’t stay that light and humorous.  (But at least it won’t get as dark as the secret society novel that I’m not writing.)

But we shall see.

So, stay tuned and follow along on the edge of insanity that is a writer’s mind when said writer is developing an entire world and novel outline in the space of three weeks.


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Starting From Scratch

So, you know that plan I had?  The one where I was going to finish rough drafts of all 12 books of The Academy of the Accord series this year?  Well, it’s not going to happen.  I’m too far behind schedule, for one thing, and for another, I think I need a break from it.  Oh, I still love the characters and the story, but I’ve been working with them for a very long time and I think I’m getting a little burned out.

Yet, I hate the thought of not working on it, too.

And then, of course, there’s the fact that NaNoWriMo is just a little over three weeks away and I have half an outline already in place for Book 12 of the series, so if I don’t write it I need to start over from scratch.

But you know, that might be fun.

Except I have no idea what to write…

(It’s not that I don’t have lots of ideas that are clamoring for my attention, it’s just that none of them are really screaming louder than the others yet.)

So, I thought I would do the exercises in Ready, Set, Novel!* to help me decide what to write and to create the story, especially since I’m using it as the basis for a series of workshops at the Ford City Library to help people get ready for NaNoWriMo.

The brainstorming exercises were great and gave me three possible novels.  One I scratched right away as it didn’t really give me anything to grab onto as a hook.  The other two both got a short synopsis written, and then I started working on a longer version of each of them.  One stalled out but the other is showing a lot of promise.

I’m not entirely in love with the idea, though.  For one thing, it’s set in modern times and for another it’s… not my usual style.  It’s very dark and so far the only character with any redeeming characteristics is either dead when it starts or dies within the first couple chapters.  (My outline isn’t that detailed yet.)

We shall see.  Hopefully by Friday I’ll have actual characters to work with – and to introduce.  If not, well… there will still be three weeks left to start over… again.

* Ready, Set, Novel! is available from the store at

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