Sunday, October 4th, 2015
I had a kind and generous friend beta read the manuscript I’ve been working on. It’s something I’ve worked on for awhile and yet very quickly–at a couple writing retreats mostly, and then a little more. She made a comment on something that a character does and it totally messed with my whole plot. First, she was right. Her question was essentially–if that can happen at this point, why didn’t happen earlier when a similar situation occurred? My first reaction was to stick my tongue out and say Cuz! in that snotty voice of eleven year olds everywhere.
Obviously my first reaction wasn’t actually useful. The problem was I didn’t want to change my plot. Except for that one nasty little inconsistency, it works and it builds into a really good story. At least, it entertains me, and of course, I do this to entertain myself. But what to do about it? I considered. And pondered. I showered, where many solutions arrive. I made the bed. I folded laundry. I did dishes, walked the dogs, drove my kids to school and picked them up, and I couldn’t come up with anything. I attempted writing out some ideas, because that often jars things loose. Nope. Days passed.
I got entirely distracted from the problem by last week’s shootings. I don’t think even my lizard brain was thinking about solving this conundrum.
I got a brilliant idea to solve the plot issue on Diamond City Magic book 4. (I’m attempting to plot it out). This was NOT the knotty problem I’d been struggling with, but it was a problem. It’s a really solid idea and I don’t know if I can make it work, but it would solve all kinds of issues in terms of tension and stakes and developing the ongoing plot and deepening characters and conflicts. Obviously tremendously important, but not really an impact on my current dilemma.
I’m not entirely sure what the moment was when the solution arrived on the first manuscript problem. I trusted that would. I trusted that my head and my creativity would work on the problem and the solution would arrive. It has. It’s only a small change, maybe a sentence. It’s elegant and completely within the plot and characters.
My point here is, there are two somewhat contradictory truths to writing. One–you have to push and make yourself write and get words down. Persevere and make words. Tw0–you can’t force it. Sometimes you have to wait for ideas to flow out on their own time.
Now that said, I think you can court creativity. Woo it. Encourage it. You can’t wait forever and sometimes you have to prime the well. That might be through creative exercises, brainstorming, freewriting, and so on. Whatever it takes. Sometimes you write on something totally different, but encouraging the creativity on one thing can get it running on another. It’s like love: the more you have the more you make and can give more.
The main thing is that you have to trust yourself. That you can do this. That the logjam will break and the words will flow.
Thursday, October 1st, 2015
I am weeping. Ugly crying. A mass shooting occurred at a community college south of here. A good friend teaches there. He is okay. Others are not. One paper reports a student eye-witness saying she saw her writing teacher get shot in the head.
Too, too close to home. A friend. A job I used to do. Students who are children and brothers and sisters. So much tragedy, so much hurt. I have no words for how awful this is.
I have just learned that my friend’s best friend was the first shot. My heart is broken.
Tuesday, September 29th, 2015
First, a qualifier. I know Laura Anne Gilman and I got an advance reader copy of the book from her because I whined and moaned. I’d heard her read from it at an SFWA reading and I so wanted to have a chance at it as soon as possible. I wasn’t disappointed. In fact I already want to read it again.
What’s the book? Titled Silver on the Road, it’s the first in The Devil’s West series. Here’s description of it:
A heroic fantasy by an award-winning author about a young woman who is trained in the art of the sinister hand of magic, but at what price?
Isobel, upon her sixteenth birthday, makes the choice to work for the devil in his territory west of the Mississippi. But this is not the devil you know. This is a being who deals fairly with immense—but not unlimited—power, who offers opportunities to people who want to make a deal, and they always get what they deserve. But his land is a wild west that needs a human touch, and that’s where Izzy comes in. Inadvertently trained by him to see the clues in and manipulations of human desire, Izzy is raised to be his left hand and travel circuit through the territory. As we all know, where there is magic there is chaos…and death.
Now first, don’t go making the mistake that this is YA because Isobel is 16. It isn’t. It’s a coming of age story, a story of becoming (and not just for Isobel) and a story of change and exploration.
Set in The Territory, where magic is normal and the world is very dangerous, Isobel travels with her mentor, Gabriel, to learn about the territory and The Road. On their journey, they uncover something dangerous and evil and must attempt to deal with it, for Isobel is the Devil’s Left Hand, and while she doesn’t know what that means at first, she has to learn.
There’s so much I love about this book. The characters have such depth. The writing is deft and rich and I could smell and practically touch everything inside. It’s well researched, which you only notice because you can immerse so deep into the world and the story. The deftness of the story-telling left me a little breathless with envy. Especially conversations.
There’s not a lot of religion in the book, though the devil is there, as are some monks from Spain. It’s more about the west and the Territory’s own peculiar rules and habits. It turns history on its head and makes it both utterly familiar and entirely new.
I’ve read Laura Anne’s other books. I like them. A lot. But this is a whole new level of writing for her and it’s truly stunning. If I sound like I’m gushing, it’s because it’s one of those books that you want to pass around to everybody you know to read and you want to put it up for awards because it’s just that good. So do yourself a favor and get a copy. Read it. Savor it. I did. I will again. It releases on October 6th. So go get yourself signed up. I promise you won’t regret it.
Friday, September 25th, 2015
The new title for the third Diamond City Book is . . . Are you ready?
Whisper of Shadows
The release will happen sometime in January, maybe February. More on that when things get definite.
Meanwhile, I’ve been working on a side project. I’ve been working on it for a long time in my “spare time.” I totally love it. I’m going to be self-publishing it. It’s called The Ghost Job and here’s a little bit (rough–not been revised yet) of the beginning:
I got the fish-eye stare from the concierge when I walked past him into the lobby. I passed through the security net, feeling it ripple across my skin like seeking fingers. My lips tightened smugly. I could go out and come back again and totally change my aural signature. It might remember this version of me forever—and it probably would—but it wouldn’t do it a damned bit of good if it never saw this me again.
Effrayant was a mashup of the Bellagio and the Bates Motel, with a little dash of old school English castle for flair. The outside was brick and tile with a few thousand windows and a mansard roof that went up six or eight stories on top. The rooms up there were probably long-term residences. The central tower was a good forty stories high, with the four wings sprouting like spokes from its shoulders. Their rooftops boasted pools, clubs, restaurants, and helipads.
I wasn’t there for the entertainment; I was on a job.
Inside was dark wood, modern furniture, soft lights, and museum quality art. Muted opera music wandered through the cavernous lobby. The staff all wore Italian wool uniforms in gray, burgundy, and navy, while customers dressed in designer glitz and blue-collar chic.
I couldn’t blame the bellman for looking at me sideways. Wearing Levi’s, a longsleeved cotton shirt from the Goodwill, a pair of knee-high leather boots that had seen better days, and a blue ball-cap, I definitely didn’t look glitzy or chic.
Add in the fact that my luggage was nothing more than a ratty backpack, I was a little surprised that the security guards inside didn’t stop me. With force. Given how obcenely expensive it was to stay at the exclusive and highly discriminating Effrayant, I figured these guys should have been all over me. Sure, the ghosts make people want to turn and head the other way and let me be someone else’s problem. Security guards ought to be better trained. They shouldn’t let the heebie-jeebies get the better of them. I get that it’s not every day that you get the ghost push-off from someone made of flesh and blood, but Effrayant liked to brag their security was the best of the best.
I walked in and all six of thick-necked best of the best got busy picking lint off their coats, making me the check-in clerk’s problem.
Poor thing. I could tell she wanted to be anywhere else. That’s Tabitha’s fault. She can put the fear of Jesus into just about anyone without hardly trying.
Tonight she was trying.
She didn’t want to come into Effrayant. She thought it was too dangerous. She was right, but that didn’t change the job. I wanted to tell her to suck it up and settle down, but she was only a thirteen year old girl and dead or not, her hormones were raging. She wasn’t going to listen to me, of all people. Plus she still had a lot of PTSD issues from how she got killed. Or so I assumed. I had no idea how it had actually gone down. I only knew she was pissed as hell and she had nightmares that occasionally leaked into my dreams. If any of what happened in those nightmares had actually happened to her, she had a right to her attitude. Hell, she had a right to have gone right over the edge into insanity-land. I didn’t think she had, but it’s not like she talked to me. Another issue she had going on was that she didn’t trust anybody and when she got scared, she killed first and asked questions later.
Monday, September 21st, 2015
I only remember dreams sometimes, and most of the time they are strange and I don’t really interpret them to mean much of anything, unless I can get a story out of them. Last night I had an odd dream about one of our dogs getting taken. Right out of our car. The thing is, this dog has been dead for about seven years now. She was a full blood malamute and it’s unlikely that anybody in actuality could have taken her in real life. She wasn’t so trusting of strangers and she was big. Right now we have two little dogs that would probably go with Freddy Krueger if he came by. The dream was quite upsetting because we didn’t get her back. Course I woke up before the dream ended. It was a constant disappointing search. What I can’t quite figure out is why my lizard brain decided to freak me out about a dog who’s been dead for years. I mean, huh?
I am also catching a cold. My daughter has had it for a week or so and I’m downing vitamin C and Zicam in an effort to avoid it, plus drinking lots of tea. Sleeping soundly would be a good thing. Sadly last night was not such a night.
I need to start tinkering with chai recipes again and see if I can make one I really like. Oh, yesterday we picked and smoked a bunch of red jalapenos, which turns them into chipotle peppers. I ground some today. They are delish. Plan to grind it all in the mortar and pestle. Next year will consider canning some. I also picked a lot of other peppers. Need to fire roast them and freeze them.
Friday, September 18th, 2015
Another week of school down. That’s two weeks. And it’s wonderful. I think I’m getting closer to a title on book 3. I’m excited! More when it’s finalized. I’ve also started planning out book 4. Hoping I can write it much more quickly than this last book. I’d like to get back into my groove and not be doing so much medical junk. Wouldn’t that be fab?
I spent a lot of time at the end of this book cutting stuff. I found that I’d inserted some funny stuff that just didn’t fit. Sadly I did the cutting without keeping anything really amusing to share. How’s that for an obnoxious tease? Sometimes I get asked how do you know what to cut. I look for redundancies–as in, beating the dead horse. Saying the same thing over and over. Repeating myself. See what I did there? Uh huh. I’m in one of those moods.
I look for things that simply don’t fit the scene. They don’t forward the plot, add to character, raise tension, and so on. Sometimes there are little bits that actually do one of those things, but actively undercut one of the others, and I’ll cut it for that reason. Like a little snarky aside that loses tension or pacing at a moment when I need to sustain or build it.
I look for wordiness. Places where I’ve used three words where I might use one, or more likely, ten words where I can get away with one. I want to speed the reading process. In that same sweep, I’m looking for repeated language and echoes–I want to get rid of as many of those as I can. I also happen to like using There is or There was constructions. Like: There was a bookshelf near the fireplace. Instead of something like: A bookcase loomed near the fireplace. It’s both more active, and less wordy, and more to the point, which makes for a better book.
I look for things that are out of place. Stuff I tossed in that doesn’t fit. It seems to, but then the more I look at it, it doesn’t. Or there’s backstory that doesn’t need to be there.
I comb through pretty carefully and it’s a balance between keeping the flavor that I want while revving up the story and making a good reading experience.
And now, I’m thinking about a demon divorce story. I’m going to go poke at it.
Wednesday, September 16th, 2015
I need a title. I’m scrounging in the couch cushions and finding nothing. Here’s the thing. It’s got to be set up like this:
Noun of noun, where the first noun is a measurement of some kind, no matter how you might interpret that (trace, edge are not traditional measurements by any means).
Word I like is Skim. A skim of something. That may not go anywhere.
Anyhow, I could use help if anyone wants to take a crack at it. The themes in this book are betrayal, family, loss, courage, discovery.
I shall now go think and hope you come up with something good. There may be prizes.
Friday, September 11th, 2015
It’s been quite a week as the kids go back to school and I can finally dig into writing again. It’s crazy how soothing it is to be alone in the house. I never knew until I didn’t have it how much I needed not just time alone, but also alone without the risk of intrusion or needing to keep the antennae up just in case. It is, in a word, lovely.
Both kids seem to be enjoying school, For this I am grateful. Both started new schools, which was anxiety-provoking for both, and yet both seem to be embracing it. Except for getting up early. They are none too enthused about that. I’m not either, but on the other hand, the sunrise with Mount Hood in the distance has been terrific. The dogs have been positively joyful that I’m back into my routine, though they find that I’m not spending near enough of my time on the couch petting them, or on the floor petting them, or anywhere petting them. They are, however, delighted by the extended driving to and from school. Me too, in that I have this collection of paranormal stories on cd that I’ve never listened to before, and I’ve begun to do that. I find that part quite wonderful. Though it’s a drag to have to turn off the story partway through when I get home.
It’s getting to be that time of the year where I eye all the stuff I meant to get done this summer and realize I’ve barely touched any of it. Hopefully as it cools, I can actually dig in and get a few things done. Such would be nice. Plus I noticed there are a ton of weeds in the yard and I suppose I should attack them as well.
I’ve been trying to get out walking. Unfortunately I did something weird to my wrist just before coming home from Sasquan. Weird because I have no freaking clue what happened. One minute it didn’t hurt, the next it did. Luckily when I type on my Kinesis keyboard, I don’t have pain, otherwise I’d be a lot more worried. The pain is in the outside of my right wrist, and hurts most when I twist it at all (say to open a door or a jar or stir a pot) or when I lift anything at all. I’ve been wearing a brace to immobilize it, since I figure that’s what a doctor would say, and rubbing some Badger Joint Rub into it, which does help. Still, it’s not back to normal yet. Improving some, but not normal. Anyhow, this means I’ve avoided riding the bike in the case I make it worse, but I think I’m going to say screw it and get out on Sunday with the fam. If they let me, which they might not.
A friend of mine turned me on to this paper, which is something I’ve been looking for for a long time. It allows you to take notes on the right, and then go back on the left and add things. A really nice tool for plotting. I’d found it many many many moons ago and at that point I thought it was something that lawyers used, but I’d not been able to find it again. Now Levengers has it. So I ordered some and as soon as I’m done with the current thing on my desk, I’ll start using it to plot some things.
I got a Fitbit Charge Hr a little bit ago. I wanted to use a fitbit, and I wanted a strap that buckled on and came in extra large. It also comes in purple! It’s like it was meant to be. Anyhow, I do like it and I like that it tells me how I sleep. Which is crappy this week because I’d rather stay up late and get up late, but since I have to get up early, I’ve been going to sleep early, and sleep has not really been something I’m doing a lot of until later because my entire being rejects going to bed at 10. Or even earlier. I shall overcome. Possibly. Or not.
This weekend I am going to see if I can smoke some peppers in the smoker, and maybe do some flame roasting of others and see about either canning or freezing them. Also we’re going to try to make some ice cream.
Tuesday, September 8th, 2015
Ring the bells! stomp your feet! School as begun!
I got up stupid early (for me) which means before 7, and got the kids up and ready and out the door on time. Take approximately an hour to get them both to school and home again. That’s because the boy’s school has o bus and is across town, which means traffic. I’m still hoping to figure out a carpool with some other parents.
Both kids had a fabulous day. Both were quite happy. More importantly, I got work done. I mean, I ended up running some errands with my folks, and yet still got work done! Overdue work. I finished a beta-read that I owed and it was awesome. Tomorrow I finish revising a story for an anthology and then I go back to work on some revisions I want to do on Book 3 of DCM and also try to figure out a title.
And then get to work on the next thing. It’s crazy to think how much I can get done in this week. I hope I can get into a major writing groove. Oh, and I need to clean my office. But that could take awhile.
Sunday, September 6th, 2015
I got snubbed at Sasquan by someone who I’ve interacted with online and I thought was a very nice person. The circumstances were thus: We were in the greenroom getting some food one a.m. and I thought I’d introduce myself and say hello. He waved me out of his way and continued about his business without saying a word.
Now here’s the thing. He could have been in a hurry. He could be a terrible morning person. He could be shy and I could just have been one more person at the wrong time. I get that. It still hurts my feelings. Yes, I’ll get over it. He’ll never remember me in that situation and one day we may meet again and it may be perfectly nice. The more petulant side of me keeps thinking that it wouldn’t have taken anything to give me a little smile and a hello and then keep going. Or a sorry, but I’m in a hurry.
Anyhow, I don’t really know why I’m posting about this except it still bothers me and if I just get it off my chest, maybe I’ll be done with it and get over myself.