Thursday, January 28, 2010

3 Chiming In
Today's date is not Thursday, January 28, 2010. Today is Thursday, Frustration 28,2010.

That's right. I just changed my calendar and gave frustration its own month. (Sorry Janus, take your two-faced self and scoot. You no longer get a month.)

The novel is being stubborn today. I don't know if it's lack of sleep, all those cold pills I chugged down last week and this week (no, not all in a row - it was a couple of days in each week. sheesh I didn't even make it through a whole box.), or whatever other excuse I find convenient at the moment, but the book in my head (which is awesome) is trying to stay in there instead of affixing itself firmly to the page as instructed. So, to that end, I give you this:

Dear Novel Mine,

I get it, Novel, I really do. It's cold outside. It's wet and grey and pretty well nasty, and you're nice and dry in my brain. (though if my brain were dry, I'd have a pretty big problem...) You're comfortable in there and you don't want to get out in the world where people will judge you and seek out your flaws. You don't want the hassle of having someone pick you apart because you aren't the way they'd prefer. You don't want them to look at you shiny on a shelf and pass by -- uninterested. You don't want to hear "no".

Too bad.

Suck it up.

Get your sorry keister off my synapses and into my PC where you belong.

I'll give you a hand, Novel. I'll make you shiny and pretty. I'll tell you you're perfect and fix you when you're less than you should be. Together we'll make people laugh at the silly moments and cry at the sad ones. We'll keep them so enthralled that they won't put you down until they're certain the outcome is one they can live with. We'll get them so wrapped up in your story that they'll see your characters in their head and forget their real lives for a while.

We can do it, Novel. I promise. But you have to cooperate. Okay?

No more moping. No more whining. No more trying to convince me I should work on one of those other things in progress on my computer. It's not their turn, it's yours.

Batter up, buddy. It's your time to shine.


Your Writer

First Taste

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

2 Chiming In
This was a writer's challenge to do a short story in 2nd person. I'd never written anything in that POV before, and "challenge" was certainly the right word for it. I know a few novels have been written this way, but I have no idea how the writers were able to maintain the momentum to do it.

By now, I'm sure you've noticed I like vampires. The topic here was a new turn's fist taste. Enjoy!

First Taste

Technically, your first taste of blood will be the one that took you over the threshold - your sire's blood - but that doesn't count. You won't even remember what that one was like. You were dead at the time, and the dead don't taste much.

No, your first taste will be real, live flesh and blood. The blood's the important part.

You see them, but you don't see them as human. Not yet. Not anymore. Whatever piece of meat your sire dredged up for you to cut your teeth on is food. They could be a stranger, a criminal, your best friend or your brother. You won't care... not 'til after. They're prey. Plain and simple.

Even if your sire's one of the good ones who paid for the meal rather than hunting it, the mortal's going to be scared. Feeding a new vamp is dangerous business - accidents happen - and after all, food never gets a vote. And if your "donor" is of the unwilling variety? He's going to be flat out terrified.

You're going to love it.

All that adrenaline pouring into his blood, the sound of his heart trying to beat out of his chest - it gets faster the closer you get to him, like there's a better than even chance it'll just wear out and stop by the time you actually touch him. It may seem like a good idea at the time, maybe even a fun game, but don't let it happen. If he dies first, you go hungry, and hungry fledglings are no fun for anyone.

You'll hear your sire's voice in the back of your mind, telling you what to do. Telling you to stay calm as he gives you step by step instructions on how to leech the life out of your snack without killing him.


The prey'll squirm, trying to get away - though there's no way he's getting out of a vampire's grip. The more he wriggles, the more you'll want him.

Everything else, all of those superhuman senses, fades to grey. You smell only fear. You hear only the song of rushing blood with the percussion of thundering beats. You see only the leaping pulses along the body before you, and the crisscross of red lines beneath the surface of his skin. You taste anticipation as your mouth waters. You feel what you truly are for the first time as your teeth shift in your mouth allowing your fangs to drop. You're ready to strike.

So you do.

Your hands replace your sire's restraining the mortal, and your sire's hands are now on you. Reassuring. Encouraging. The sweat slicked skin on the throat below your mouth is a jolt of unexpected salt. A final cue as to where, exactly, to enter the vein... and you're there. Your fangs don't slide through like a needle - though they're at least as sharp. No, you hear them enter his flesh. There's a faint "pop" as the skin gives way and folds into the wound.

Your dinner doesn't hear it, but he feels it. His eyes fly open, and your ears pick up the gurgles of a strangled scream - first time out, you don't know how to make it not hurt. You don't even try. You're in total sensory overload. Those first drops welling around your fangs to your tongue are all it takes.

Liquid life.

Your sire reminds you to retract your fangs. They've done their job, and now they only plugging the holes they made. Once they're gone, you lose it. Hot, fresh blood pours into your mouth, spurred on by a frantic pulse. There are no words to describe the taste, but you like it. You need it. There's no way you can keep up with the flow... but that doesn't stop you from sucking in for all you're worth trying to get more. A trail of red escapes - the overflow you can't contain - and you mourn the loss.

It's a rush beyond any drug - more than narcotic. Power. Strength. Flashes of images... memories... fill your mind as the blood fills your body - secondhand experience of someone else's past. You don't want to stop, though somehow you know you have to.

You feel your sire's hand on the back of your neck. You hear his voice, trying to calm you. He tells you to slow down and take your time - like he's talking to a baby. His hand rests between your shoulders, soothing the beast and warning you not to draw in so hard lest you collapse the donor's veins. Eventually it does the trick and you slack off. The red curtain veiling your eyes recedes and you start to think like your old self again.

But you're not the same. Not even close. You never will be.

You step away and wipe your mouth, relishing the last clinging drops from your fingers. You listen for the weakened pulse as your sire retakes possession of the prey. You bite your lip like a child, not sure if you pleased the one who made you. You want to know you did good, and you wait for some sign of approval. Your sire checks the donor - maybe he lived, maybe he didn't - either way... you did good as far your sire's concerned. He doesn't berate you or critique your performance. He just tells you it'll be easier next time... and that thought almost scares you. He squeezes your shoulder and you feel a ridiculous - almost embarrassing - swell of pride that you didn't disappoint him.

He does what's necessary to deal with your donor, then the two of you leave. You know now that you're a real vampire, and you just took your first step into an eternity of night.

Consider This

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

2 Chiming In
I've been sick the last couple of days, so I didn't post. Today, I give you this to think about.

Here's the situation:

You're given a backpack (nothing too fancy, just a standard, laptop safe, backpack like a student would use) to fill as you see fit over the course of 12 hours and told that at the end of that time you - and whatever you've put into your backpack - will be transported 10-15 years into your own past.

You will look the way you did at that time. The only thing different will be the backpack and what's inside it. There are no rules as to what you can or can't put into your bag, but you should use your best judgement as to what to do with it.

So, what do you take?

Do you go with the Powerball numbers for the last 15 years?

My state is a non-participant in Powerball (phooey!), so that's a no-go for me. I guess I could go with the state lottery numbers. writing would be a whole lot easier if there was a significant amount of back-up cash in the bank :-P Well, I guess writing would be as easy or hard as it always is, but the pressure would be off.

Do you load up a laptop with all manner of gadgets and widgets that would be state of the art 15 years ago?

I wouldn't know what to do with them if I did. :-P

Do you seek out the sports upsets from those years?

Ditto the last answer.

Do you redo all of your college essays / tests so you'll ace them this time around?

If there's a laptop in that backpack, I'd definitely keep all of the schoolwork/essays/tests I'd done so I don't have to do all that work again. I'd also keep all of my current writing (WIP, etc.) If nothing else, I'd be ahead of the curve - ha! It would have to be saved as .rtf to make it compatible with old computers though... bleh. (I don't guess there's any way to stash a decent laser printer and a few years worth of toner in a backpack, is there?)

Do you rule the stockmarket by knowing the history of the best trades?

Meh. Stockmarket.

Or do you take a more philanthropic view of things and use your unique perspective to try and change things for the better. Do you warn your friend/relative of the dangers of an impending car accident, make sure they're doing anything other than getting into their car that day, or something bigger like making sure someone gets an early screening for the disease they don't yet know they have?

This has possibilities.

Understand that no one on the other side will know (or most likely believe) that you have lived those 10-15 years they've yet to see, so telling them things you shouldn't know may have unexpected consequences - especially if that window puts you in an especially young age group.

So... what would you choose?

How much impact in how many lives does one person with the right information have the chance to make?

Lost in Translation

Sunday, January 17, 2010

2 Chiming In

Something odd has happened in a few of the queries I've sent out for a picture book. There's a bit of confusion about one of the particulars of the character's home.

Maybe it's my fault for not starting out with the spotlight on the right character, I don't know, but I didn't expect it to be this difficult to understand.

In the MS, the house is described twice:

"Turtletop house" - which apparently translates to "A house with a turtle shell on top of it for a roof".


"Turtleshell floors" - which apparently translates into "Your MC slaughtered a turtle and mounted his shell on the floor. Parents will hate you."

All I can say is that it's a huge, resounding NO! on both counts.

In another book of the series (Yes, I said series. I don't care if it's taboo, kids like series.) it's a bit more clear when it starts: "In a house on a turtle..." (There's a very simple, and plot-centric reason that the house is on a wandering turtle, but that's not important here.)

I can't convince myself that a kid would have these very grown-up hang-ups. So what is it that happens to most adults when they pass 25 that makes them terrified that every thing could be taken the wrong way?

To make it clearer, I'm going to include a visual aid in my next queries. I think he's a very cute house turtle. :-P

Confessions of a Serial Writer

Saturday, January 16, 2010

4 Chiming In
Hi. My name is Josie M (*Hi, Josie*) and I have ideas... lots of ideas. So many that I'm addicted to them.

My ideas' favorite pass time is popping up in the middle of executing another idea. I'll be typing away, fingers flying across the keyboard, word count climbing so fast I think I might be able to finish a rough draft in a matter of days (Ha!) and then... one stray thought will spark a tangent and a completely new story starts outlining itself in my head. If this has never happened to you (and don't pretend it hasn't) it's both exciting and highly annoying.

The phantom idea is a crafty thing - a truly brilliant military strategist that knows the precise moment it can strike with greatest efficiency. It searches out weak points such as the time it takes to delete a word and replace it with one where the letters aren't transposed or during the time I've set aside to stomp most of the "that" from my WIP. But the coup, that pervasive ambushing of the thought train that cuts all supply lines to the current WIP, comes when the phantom idea weasels its way into the natural flow of things. It's a sneak attack executed in perfect time so that I never see it coming.

While working on one story, I'll think "what if" _____ happened instead of _____, and that's all it takes. A phantom idea is born to fill those blanks. Like all newborns, this idea feels entitled to all of my attention and refuses to take a back seat to its predecessors. It interrupts me at all times of the day until I stop long enough to sketch out some semblance of the idea that may or may not be used elsewhere.

The partner to this sort of interruption is the "future" scene that's not due to be written yet. I'll write down what I believe is an insignificant piece of information, and suddenly, I'm getting ideas about how that piece of information is now vital in about eight chapters. There's nothing to do but write out a couple of paragraphs for that future chapter (Because these flares are never available for recall at will. They work on their timetable, not mine.) and wonder why my throw away character has developed his own voice, personality, friends, and emotional death scene. (Yes, I'm talking to you Nameless Guy in the 3rd Row who was supposed to bite it off screen and meant only to be referred to in the past tense after you died.)

I know this all sounds like I'm complaining, but I'm not. I'd never wish to be without new ideas (I might, however, alter their delivery schedule). Ideas are as essential to a writer as air and water.

For a long time, all of those stray thoughts and plot points were relegated to hot pink, neon yellow, and fiery orange Post-It notes stuck around my room. (World's ugliest wall paper. Seriously.) People gave me strange looks and tried to inch close enough to figure out what these odd slips of paper in chains that reached the floor could possibly mean. Most gave up when they realized it's easier to read Morse Code than my handwriting and backed out of my space just in case they were some arcane knowledge they were better off living without.

Now, I've found software that replaces all of those Post-Its (my walls were butter cream, who knew) and allows me to open "chapters" at will so I can file those random bursts of information for later use with little to know interruption in my concentration.

*brace for cheesy, cliched sports logic*

You know what they say "The best defense is a good offense."

Technical Difficulties

Thursday, January 14, 2010

0 Chiming In
That should have been the subtitle for yesterday.

***WARNING: This is me ranting. If you don't like to read rants, back away slowly***

Between my computer revolting on me (I am not a tyrant no matter what it says!) and the blackout at the restaurant Mom took me to... just GRRRRRRR. Thankfully the blackout was short lived, but the computer issues stubbornly refused to resolve themselves until this morning.

My computer isn't new, but I love it. It's a lovely desktop (yes, some of us still use the clunky things) that still runs XP. Yesterday, my CD/DVD-R/RW drive decided it wanted to drop the "R/RW" function. It would read, but not write. It wouldn't even recognize the drive as a functioning component.

This was a clear violation of my computer's contract. (It's a very simple contract. I type things, the computer displays them on screen and agrees to let me save them at will. It's not rocket science.)

I tried reasoning with it. I tried threatening it with physical injury.... nothing.

I un-enabled / enabled the drive... nothing.

I uninstalled / re-installed... nothing.

I hit Google and found suggestions on how to fix ranging from numerous 3 letter combinations that stood for things I don't know (DMA, PIO, CPR, DOA, ETC - all = TKO for my poor VAIO) to blaming it on Norton's firewall. Not sure why a firewall would affect a CD drive, but you don't argue with the Google Fu. (<--- sarcasm).

I looked for help on tech threads of a message board I use. The outlook was grim. Virtual lilies were on the way in the form of a lovely, yet somber, wreath with another 3 letter combo I did recognize - RIP.

But... it was just a baby. Not even a decade old. (That's 2071 in computer years, you know. Older than Methuselah and hopefully as resilient.)

By this morning, it was still no closer to functional and I was about resigned to wiping the hard drive. I HATE wiping the hard drive.

So, as a last ditch "why not", I checked Microsoft's site and what'd'ya know. My "automatic" updates have gotten lazy lately. They missed A DOZEN of them - apparently a new driver among them. So, YAY - crisis over. Bad karma purged. Life goes on.



Tuesday, January 12, 2010

6 Chiming In
Comments are better than lithium for lifting a mood. (Not that I've ever taken lithium to lift my mood, but that's what it does, right?)

I watched Julie and Julia, and one scene in particular struck me. It's her first entry on the "Julie and Julia Project" where she acknowledges that she's pretty much talking to herself, for herself. Then the next day she gets a comment... from her mother, telling her she's wasting her time and to stop blogging.

(Okay, that's two scenes, but they're about the same thing.)

I just have to say, it's a great feeling to have people comment on posts here. When anyone starts one of these blogs, they're talking to dead air and have no reason to expect that to ever change. Unless the person in question is a celebrity of some kind there's really no expectation that anyone would ever take interest in the ramblings of some random person on a free site. Seeing any number other than (0) beside the comment count is a surprise to me - a HAPPY one - and I'm grateful to those of you who have taken time to comment here. My highest count so far is (5), but every one of them is like an individual shot of adrenaline.

Will I ever get to the point that I'm getting 50+ per entry? Who knows? If I do, then that'll be a day I'm very hyper and my family will wonder what's gotten into me, I'm sure. And if my post the next day is slightly incoherent, then you'll all know you helped contribute to my lunacy. :-P

Thank you.


Monday, January 11, 2010

2 Chiming In
AKA - the bane of an author's existence.

You can plot a storyline. You can research location and vocation. You can come up with a great name for you main character and you can have a solid concept, but without "voice" the book falls flat. Most people mentally "hear" the words of a book as they read it. If you don't believe that, read a best seller then watch the movie made out of it and see if something feels "off" with the casting because it doesn't match what's in your head. Better yet, go to the library and check out an audio book version of something you've already read and see how long it takes you to cringe because the reader's voice sounds "wrong".

Voice is key, but no one really knows how to explain what it is or how to achieve the effect if it doesn't come naturally.

People who read my writing in progress tell me the voice is great, then follow that with an immediate "How do you do that?" I could very easily give them a toss-away (and egotistical) response about how it just "happens", but that's not entirely true.
The truth is, I borrow my voice from others.

People tend to think of writing as a visual medium, and to a certain extent it is, but it's also the current incarnation of the traditional storyteller -- a very audible medium. The bonfires and flash powder may not be part of the average reader's experience when he/she curls up with a novel to step out of life for a few hours, but the foundation is still there. If you're going to be a good storyteller (and you most definitely can be one without being a good writer), you have to be a good listener.

Cadence and rhythm are vital to good writing - this is why one of the most common pieces of advice for writers is to read their work out loud to see if it sounds like real speech. Readers will stumble over "do not" if they know it should be "don't"; it's a visual stutter of sorts.

What I do, and I swear it's as easy as it sounds, is pick a character from a movie or a TV-show and "cast" them as the narrator of a given passage. After it's written, then I read it back in the imagined speaking voice of that character and alter it to fit their speech pattern. For example, the short story a couple of posts down about the life of a wish. In my mind, that's written to sound like the voice over from The Lord of the Rings film (Galadriel's voice). Read it with that in mind and you can make up your own mind whether or not I succeeded.

Hopefully this makes some kind of sense, and hopefully it's of some use to someone out there.


Sketching Ideas

Saturday, January 9, 2010

0 Chiming In

Sometimes an idea takes the form of words - description or dialogue. Sometimes it's a little more abstract. This is an example of the latter. It's the beginnings of an idea for something that started with an image instead of character or plot.

Sure it's not quite perfect, and it's sort of lopsided here and there, but ideas are like that. They come out in various stages of completion and inspire further development of things that never would have been considered without them as a jumping of point.

In this case, it was part of the creation of a genie story. I had the idea for this pretty purple bottle, sketched it out and painted it in Photo Impact. (For full illustrations, I usually use Prisma Colors). Of course, words are necessary to make the story, but they're not always necessary to start it.

Outlining, or the Lack Thereof

Friday, January 8, 2010

0 Chiming In
After spending time on Absolute Write*, I've discovered that writers fall into 2 categories: Those who outline and those who don't. And the 2 don't always get along when the subject of outlining comes up. Tempers flare, middle ground disappears, accusations of little intelligence fly, mod-sticks come out... no one's happy.

For myself, I've always been in the "no outline" category. I like an organic approach to writing that lets the story happen as it happens. I might sketch out a summary/synopsis in advance, but beyond that, I don't like outlines. (I tend to think of them more rigid than they actually are.) However, yesterday, I located a Post-It pad that was apparently made for The Jolly Green Giant. (Technically it's made for those presentation easels, but come on... it's a sticky note pad. They should not be that big.)

I tacked the thing to my wall and started writing out notes on it about the scenes I'd already figured out. Suddenly, other things started filling in the gaps. The plot laid itself out in a somewhat structured path from beginning to end.

Gah... I was outlining!!!

About a month ago, I downloaded a trial of a program called Liquid Story Binder which lets you save each part of a book as a separate document. One of the functions is an outline builder. I plugged in the parts I'd put down on the Post-It and more plot points popped up. Not sure if I'll become a regular outliner, but for at least yesterday it worked pretty well.

* Absolute Write is an awesome resource for writers. One I'll promptly link to once (and if) I ever figure out how to make a link thingy in my side bar. If you have writing questions or need help hashing out a plot, that's the place to go. It's also got great information about specific agents and publishers to help you figure out which ones are good fits and which ones aren't quite so legit.

The Question of When

Thursday, January 7, 2010

2 Chiming In
Part of craft of writing comes when determining the best time to reveal information.

I say the "craft" of writing because it's inherently different than the "act" of writing. The act of writing, at least for me, is more like a system purge. You get all of the information out in whatever form it comes. The end of this process will probably resemble a narrative, but it's also most likely not complete.

Infodumps and darling passages overpopulate most 1st drafts because they're necessary components of creating the world and characters. When I type out hundreds of words full of backstory in the middle of a passage, it's usually because that's the first time I've thought of that particular aspect of the character's life. I realized this today as I was reading over 3 chapters of one of my WIP. There's a piece of very pertinent information in there that has absolutely NO business being there.

Not only does it slap the reader upside the head and shout "Look! You need to know this for later!", it interupts the flow of the narrative. So, it's being surgically removed for use elsewhere. The information is still required, but there has to be a better way to reveal it.

Drat those stories that know they can be better than they are. Once they figure it out, they won't settle for good enough, and they won't let me do it, either. Sometimes it seems like I read through something I wrote and passages almost highlight themselves, pointing out that they don't belong. No, I'm not hallucinating :-P, it's just a matter of them "sounding" off when I read them back. The only thing to do is tinker around until they sound right.

Obviously, I'm still a rambling blogger, so I'll stop as not to make anyone's eyeballs bleed from reading.


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

0 Chiming In

Dear Migraine,

Please take this as formal notification that you should vacate my cranium without further delay. You are no longer welcome on the premises. Your things will be left on the curb for you or the garbage man to pick up. Don't forget to take your stupid slobbering pet "Writer's Block" with you or I'll have it neutered and/or put to sleep.



Blogger the Terrible

Sunday, January 3, 2010

2 Chiming In
If I were a viking this would be my name. (If I were a Viking, I'd also be a foot taller and most likely blonde, but that's a different rant that I would be unable to make as a Viking because most Vikings are off having dinner at Valhalla and didn't speak English, so back to the blog...)

I've earned the name Blogger the Terrible because it's been almost two months since I posted a new entry. I even missed the perfect opportunity to turn myself around by making it a new year's resolution (unless I wait for Chinese new year and try and make this the year of the blog as well as the year of the ox, which could work I guess).

Once November hit, a few things aligned to keep me from blogging to mostly empty space. 1st, NaNo - I'm pretty sure I have a total of 50K, but not all on one book, so I disqualified myself. I can't turn off my internal editor and let myself write garbage no matter how hard I try. It's like trying not to sort my crayons by color as soon as I open the box - it's not gonna happen. Once I settled on NaNo - NoMo, the family tidal wave known as "the holdiays" hit. Vacation meant that I was suddenly not the only one who wanted my computer. Apparently writing is "playing" and someone else thought they could do just as much while busting brightly colored bricks on screen, so I was outsed. Once the TV found itself locked in the "on" position for weeks on end, it was time to give up on trying to think of anything other than the questionable dialogue on screen.

Yes, those are excuses. Deal with it. :-P

So, now that it's the end of Christmas break, I have the opportunity to reclaim my computer chair and try to hammer out those last 30K or so to finish my current favorite WIP. YAY *tosses confetti*

Hopefully, I won't be Blogger the Terrible for very long (it was horrible to come over here and discover I'd missed a comment from my favorite shark.)