Meet Dinah

Friday, November 18, 2011

3 Chiming In
Okay, so technically, if you've read this blog for a while, you've already met Dinah. She's the main character from PREMEDITATED, my first attempt at a contemporary YA novel (which is currently being shined to perfection by Super-Suzie).

I mentioned her here, and the original query was on Query Shark almost a year ago, here.

As I stutter and stumble through NaNo, blogging's been sort of falling off my to-do list on a regular basis, so I thought I'd remedy that by putting up a snip from Premeditated's first chapter. So, here you go; I hope you enjoy it.

"Your aunt and uncle really appreciate this," he said, rather than argue the point. "Having you around the house makes it easier..."

He let it drop, the way everyone did when they started to mention Claire. They all choked on her name, like she was ghost who hadn't quite caught on yet.

"Don't think you have to shoulder this, kid."

"I want to stay close in case something changes, and I don't want to go back to Ninth Street if I'm only going to be here a few weeks." That was the conservative estimate. Claire would either wake-up, or they'd stop expecting her to. "I'd just have to say good-bye to everyone again when Mom makes me come home. This way, I'll only be leaving strangers, and Aunt Helen and Uncle Paul didn't waste the tuition money."

"In a few weeks, they won't be strangers anymore."

Our truck melded into the flow of sedans and SUV's circling a paved drive with an ornate fountain in the middle. Stone deer and bear cubs played in marble flowers, while fairies poured water into a stream that emptied into the main bowl.

My old school had a flagpole and a dirt ring that, according to legend, held gladiolas at some point.

"People from a place like this will always be strange to me."

"I'm proud of you, D," he said.

D, which is short for Dinah, which is short for my great-grandmother, is my given name, and the first recorded instance of my dad protecting me from my mother. She intended to name me Diamond Rain or Rayne or Rhane – the spelling changes with each lament when she retells the story. Kind of like plain old Stacy became Stacia for the acting career that never was. Dinah, and all associated nicknames were rejected as too plain for her taste; they set off her allergy to the mundane. Thankfully, Dad still had a spine in those days, and filled in my birth certificate before her meds wore off.

Dad's hands tightened on the wheel again as he coasted into the "departing" area where other kids were climbing out of other cars. They gawked like they'd never seen a no-longer-quite-cherry red truck outside its natural habitat of the mechanic's shop before.

"Batter up, baby doll."

He may speak English, but sports analogies are my dad’s mother tongue.

"You haven't called me that since I was-"

"A real blonde?" he teased.

"Young enough to count my age on my fingers," I said.

"Same thing."

"Bye, Dad."

"It's nice to see the real Dinah again."

The real me, also known as the "me no one had seen since sixth grade", was how he referred to my choice of clothing before I actually had a choice. When my mother used me as her personal paper doll, and paraded me down every runway within a hundred mile radius.

"Don't miss your flight." I shut the passenger-side door as he shouted a last request for photographic evidence that I'd returned from the dark side to give Mom when he got home.

'Over my dead body,' I thought.

Lightning was welcome to strike me down – so long as Brooks went first.

Random Ramblings - winter cleaning edition

Thursday, November 10, 2011

5 Chiming In
My brain is NaNo fried at the moment (ignore the sidebar counters. They haven't been updated.). While looking for things to do other than write (things I could at least pretend were important enough to skiv off writing for...) I decided to clean out my closet. Not just any closet...

wait for it....



Terrifying as this prospect was, it yielded some interesting things. I found $65, my dog's walking harness, and a whole stack of old sketches stretching back to my high school days. Right in the middle of that stack, I came face-to-face with one of the earliest incarnations of what would become Arclight.

Now, I know I've said in another post that the original idea for Arclight came from a story about army ants on the news, and I'm fairly certain that I've told you that the novel was Frankensteined together from other things, including a screenplay I wrote when I was in high school.

The screenplay (which I also found) was nothing like Arclight on its face. It wasn't YA; it wasn't set on Terra Firma, and the main character wasn't a teenage girl. Ouroboros, named for the spaceship where the story was set, was a hard core sci-fi space opera with lots of Alien-esque jump-out-of-your-seat moments, conspiracies, and a rip-your-hair-out (cliched...) bait-and-switch ending.

I actually loved, and still love, that original incarnation, and if I could figure out a way to pare down some parts to a YA or MG level, I'd retool what I didn't use for Arclight and make something of it.

The main character was the ship's captain, and while his image wasn't among the ones I found, I did find these three (I apologize for the quality; these things are old and I hate my new scanner):


If you've ever "seen" me on Absolute Write, you'll recognize the name "Cyia" as my screen name there - this character is where it came from. I *LOVE* this character to pieces and bits. She's one of my absolute favorite that I've ever created, a sort of combination of Han Solo and Princess Leia, who is, actually a princess. But she's a princess in a duster coat and at the helm of a smuggling ship because her entire planet was pretty much overrun by the big bad villain, and this is how she fights back. (Firefly parallels are inevitable, but Cyia came before captain Reynolds and Zoe, so there :-P )


Cassandra was a half-human / half-Nari (my alien species) who ran what amounted to a galactic switch-house for travelers going different places, only via wormhole rather than train tracks. She died a noble and tragic death.

Somewhere, this image exists in full oil color painting, complete with the earth outside the funky-looking window arch behind her. You have to imagine her with silver-blue skin and black stripes. What looks like "dots" would be red or gold, and they're a part of a very detailed social order that went with the species. They're what hold that veil-like thing on the lower part of her face.

Take away the veil and the dots and the bone ridges, and you get the origin of the way one of the groups in Arclight looks. (Another part of that group came from a species called simply the Aether, because that's where they lived. They only appeared as a shimmer or smudge to most people, as they were trans-dimensional.)

And finally, there's this one:


These were the "ruling" aliens in my story, and I really don't remember much about them other than their name came from mixing the letters of "Jaguar", they were red-skinned with heavy tattoos, and while they appeared antagonistic at first, in one of the later installments (I wrote 3), they were actually a great help to the MC's.

Sadly missing was the schematic of the Nari ship, called a Hornet's Nest, which was basically a giant gyroscope with attack ships attacked on the upper and lower halves (Hornets). It was a sphere when in one piece, but the Hornets could break off into individual manned (and semi-sentient) vessels. The whole system was pretty cool - at least it was to me when I was in high school.

I could go on and on, but I'll spare you that torture and get back to NaNo now. Thanks for putting up with my silliness. :-P

Wherein I Answer a Question that Made me Laugh

Thursday, November 3, 2011

3 Chiming In
Question: Why are your profile pictures either cropped or distorted?

Answer: I suppose this is the nice way of asking if I'm hiding something horrible about my face, eh?

Just kidding - the honest answer is that I was having a vanity moment and wanted to hide the fact that I have a Spock eyebrow. :-P

With the "cartoonized" image I use for Twitter, you can't see it because it's in a color block:

But in the source image, you can see how my left eyebrow goes vertical in the middle. It's not always like that, but for some reason that day, it was being weird. When I uploaded the image to my computer, I decided to work around it, so I used a cartoon filter for Twitter and I cropped off the side of my face for my profile picture here.

There are very few pictures in existence with me in them - I HATE cameras. I realized I'd need a real picture of myself when Suzie sold my book, so I took this one. (Here's another secret - I took this in my bathroom mirror, myself, and photoshopped the pecan tree into the background.)

Sneaky writer is sneaky...

So... NaNo...

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

3 Chiming In
Well, it's day 2, meaning that yesterday was day 1, and so far, things are going okay.

I'm not doing NaNo in the traditional sense of starting a new project and finishing it in a month, but rather, I'm using the time to polish a project and finish out a draft of 2 others (yes, that's 3 projects, so I may be slightly nuts).


If you're interested, here's a snip of yesterday's progress:

1. Sing Down the Stars:

The sister reached up and took a chain from around her neck. It was long, and hung hidden inside her dress, and when she laid it in my palm, the gold medallion on the end was warm where it had touched her skin. It was much heavier than its delicate appearance hinted at.

“We can’t take anything else from you,” I said, and tried to hand the necklace back, but she curled my fingers around it into a fist and pressed my hand away from her.

‘It’s a gift, and it’s been given. There’s no returning it, now – and I think you have more need for it than I do. That’s St. Christopher; he’ll keep you safe on your way home.

I opened my hand and took a better look at the medallion. It was small and brassy, with a man on the face who carried a walking stick. He had a strange, etched halo around him, and looked a bit like Zavel - too old to do much protecting, but I was sure she meant well, so I put it on and tucked it into my dress. I’d been right about the weight; it wasn’t heavy, but it dragged down low.

Sister Mary Alban and I had burned through the excuse of talking about destinations and handing off gifts; I needed something else to create a conversation before she found more questions to ask that I didn’t want to answer. I went for the most obvious.

“Is there nothing mechanical here at all?” I asked.

2. Blue:

Early the next morning, when the sun had barely begun to shine, O’Keefe was no longer thinking about strange flames on candles. The rain had stopped and was well on its way to soaking into the ground, and the sky outside was clear. It looked like it might be a perfect day. (Though he was going to have to insist on new curtains. His father had hung the ones he’d used in Kindergarten, and he’d long since lost interest in cowboys and horses.)

Despite the hour, O’Keefe thought he might stay awake and get his first real look at South Avenue. He threw on his jeans, which had dried from the night before, but didn't bother with combing his hair or putting on shoes, as he'd always liked squishing his feet in muddy lawn puddles. There was really no better way to judge a new house than by the quality of mud it provided and there was no better way to judge a new street than to see if it contained others who felt the same way. He hoped maybe he'd be lucky and find some other children his age in one of the neighboring houses.

3. The Glower House:

From her seat at the head of the table, Madam Webb clapped her hands. Hundreds of spiders dropped down from the ceiling, making Leni jump. The spiders lassoed all of the large vases full of wilted flowers which ran in a line down the center of the table and pulled them up into the rafters.

Leni found this fascinating, as the spiders who occasionally found their way into her house on Mulberry Street were never quite so helpful, but seemed to prefer spinning webs at the precise height required to hit her face when she walked through them.

The spiders dropped onto the now bare table and skittered from one end to the other in a wide line. As they passed, a new tablecloth spun behind them until the entire tabletop was covered, and a knotted bridge had been built that crossed from the floor to the table's edge.

“Just lovely,” said Madam Webb. “Thank you. I'm sure our guest appreciates your effort.”

“Oh... yes, of course,” said Leni, when she realized the spiders were waiting for an answer from her. “I've never seen a better spiderwebbing tablecloth before... it's so grand, I really don't know what to say.”

Apparently, this made the spiders very happy, as a set of five hurried back to her part of the table and added a table-mat before disappearing into the ceiling with the others.