Monday, June 27, 2011

What does the future hold?

A couple weeks ago, I started to write a post: 

Kristen Lamb started it all off with a blog explaining why writers should not blog about writing. More recently Roni Loren mused on the question too.

And it's all probably true: if you only blog about writing, your audience is limited to people interested in that. If I were a published author, would readers want to read my musings on character development and outlining? Maybe. I don't know.

Should I talk about my interests, like my knitting? I suppose, but I'm not doing much knitting lately. I'm writing.

Do readers want random anecdotes from my everyday life? To be honest, I don't want random anecdotes from my life outside of writing. If any of that was worth mentioning, I wouldn't be writing.

And then I remembered a recent Ninja chat (over at the Ninja dojo) where Scrivener came up. I use Scrivener, and I mentioned how it helped me organize all my notes -- which is a godsend, because I write a lot of notes. Never realized, in fact, exactly how much until Scrivener could tell me.

Course Corrections came out at 77K. Plus 28K in notes. Outlines, worldbuilding, conversation sketches, porny asides.

And there it ended. And there it sat with a little "draft" label while I flailed around looking for other stuff to blog about.

Voice in the back of my head kept saying: blog about world-building, silly, it's what you obsess about.

As if anyone wants to read about worlds that haven't seen publication yet. I can count on both hands the number of people who've read more than the samples I've posted of my work here.

(Note: to see samples of my writing, click on  "sample" in the label index in the right-hand column.)

Social media is all about self-promotion, right? Got to put yourself out there, right? But yikes, why put me out there? Put my work out there instead, it's got half a chance of being interesting.

Several people posted very kind comments on my MC blogfest about Tanner's voice and backstory (thank you so much, everyone!) and now I'm looking at Tanner... and Maggie... and the rest of the cast... guys? Care to do some more interviews? We could talk about back story. It would be a writing sample, world-building and character development all wrapped up together.

I also resolve to try to put more pictures in my blog posts.

BUT FIRST, you may notice that I'm posting less. I am not on vacation (don't get any of those) I am trapped in the black hole that is the climax of Orbital Shifts. This often happens when I hit the crux of it all: I lose what little ability to think outside the book that I might have had. Laundry doesn't get done, dinners simplify, I stop reading/watching anything else.

Probably won't be a Word Choice Wednesday this week. I got nothing. But I'll see you on the other side of the black hole. Could be a couple weeks.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Getting to Know your MC Blogfest

Another blogfest! This one is hosted by Elizabeth Mueller on behalf of Jeannie Campbell. Goal is to answer three questions in the persona of your main character.

If you're wondering: Brad Pitt in Kalifornia... early in his career.
So here goes: Tanner Sheppard, you're up. I'll put your ref photo over here...yes, I know, you trim the beard closer than that...

Question 1: What is your greatest fear?

When I shot my Pa, wasn’t one tear shed for the old bastard. Just a sort of relief, a “thank God he’s gone.” Don’t want that when I go. Don’t have to cry over me — a few good words’ll do. But something.

Question 2: What is your biggest accomplishment?

This (the events of the story), no question. Maybe you don’t like how I did it, but cutting a couple million people free? Touching off this fight to win our freedom? Stand by that to the bitter end.

Question 3: What is your biggest regret?

Those I turned on, back before… well, everyone knows the court didn’t make anything up when they called me a pirate and a killer. Can’t change that. Can’t fix it. If there’s more to pay for that, I’ll do it. Not going back to that life, that's not me anymore.


Tanner's co-MC of my hard science fiction WIP, Orbital Shifts. He's not the most talkative guy. Dark past. I may send him over to Jeannie Campbell's Character Therapist just to be sure I'm getting him right -- don't want to misrepresent.

Check out the other blogfesters and put the questions to your own MCs!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Word Choice Wednesday: Assert


Merriam-Webster says:
1: to state or declare positively and often forcefully or aggressively. 2 a: to demonstrate the existence of b: posit, postulate

Five cent word, maybe a little more. 

More specific than:
This word combines statements of fact with resolve, belief and some amount of courage. It's a particular kind of stating or declaring but more general than avowing (closest ten cent synonym?) It is not a synonym for said, unfortunately.

Word relationships:
It tends toward the abstract side, because it can involve action --  a lot of action, even, the nation asserted its sovereignty -- so it's not a word to use in a detailed action sequence. At the same time, it is often used in situations where it's reduced to passivity because it's indicating complex, abstract actions involving, say, a lot of paperwork or dull meetings. It's an element of legalese. This company asserts its right to serve its shareholders.

Which is a shame, because it would be more fun to send a squad of armored knights on horseback to assert the king's right to enforce the law of the land.

It's got more oomph than declaring or professing. Affirming involves more faith, though one can assert things without proof. Asserting implies some sort of evidence to back up the claim -- or maybe violence.

What comes to your mind?

Monday, June 20, 2011


I was thinking that I ought to post something just to prove I'm still alive (if you don't follow me on Twitter, that is, and see my nightly word count tweet) and then I read this blog post at The Other Side of the Story.

One book firmly attached to my brain is plenty, thanks! I realize that this makes me an oddity but, hey, I'm at peace with my oddness. Janet Hardy lists a number of symptoms of writerly multi-tasking in her post, and they're all good. Had a few thoughts of my own...

Distractions: They happen occasionally. The other week, I was broadsided by a new story arc that had been burbling for a long time (years and years) on the back burner... actually, I don't think it was even on the stove. Fermenting on a shelf, maybe, and it finally exploded. Anyhow, it was a huge distraction for a week while I was trying to get it all down in between puttering out words on my WIP. Now I've got my focus back and the new idea is on the back burner for real and next in line when this is done.

Because of the distraction, I'm coming back to my WIP with fresher eyes and I'm plowing onwards.

Hate the WIP: I usually go through this phase when I'm outlining. Maybe it's more of a "this isn't going to work" phase, for me. And I do put down an outline if the answer isn't coming to me -- see the example above. I really do mean years and years that it's been fermenting.

I wouldn't say I hate anything I've written, it's usually disappointment.

Boredom: If I'm coming to a scene and my gut is telling me it's boring, the scene gets cut. I do not write scenes that bore me, because if I'm bored, you the reader are going to be bored. For me, these scenes are one where the goals are muddled or the characters aren't getting anything significant done. Every scene has a little plot of its own, just like the overall plot for the book: a little goal, a little conflict, a little change.

I've talked about how my writing is therapeutic for me, how I send my characters to face my personal devils... it's the ultimate hook, for me. Keeps me from getting bored.

Mostly, I'm a monogamous writer but I don't judge my swinging fellow authors. :D

How do you deal with distractions, disappointment and boredom?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Word Choice Wednesday: Abide


Merriam-Webster says:
to wait for : await
a: to endure without yielding : withstand b: to bear patiently : tolerate
to accept without objection
to remain stable or fixed in a state
to continue in a place : sojourn

This is a ten cent word, I think. It's poetic, a bit archaic. It contributes to a distinct tone when used with other high value words. 

More specific than:
Wait, stay or continue. Abide is a very quiet word, for me. Full of stillness and patience. Zen.

Word relationships:
Endure, mentioned in the definition, is more a more active verb. Enduring implies resistance, suffering, and challenges. Waiting can be fidgety and restless, which abiding isn't.

Bear, in the sense of tolerating, is of similar value and tone to abide, but still implies more suffering IMO. Tolerate is a more common, lower value, word that can cover a wide variety of actual behaviors.  

Abide in the sense of residing someplace is even a bit more archaic. You're getting into sacred text tones when you say things like I will abide in the house of the Lord forever. Reside is the closest synonym I can think of, though it's far more current a term.

What comes to your mind?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

What the heck do I know?

Prompted by a blog post over at In the Jungle:

"Write what you know." We've all heard it said, and we've all probably thought but I don't know anything interesting and then forged ahead as best we could with research, interviews, and imagination.

Here's my take on it: you probably already know everything you need. An author somewhere (my brain saves stuff, it just doesn't label it well) said that by the time you're five years old, you've experienced every emotion you need to write a good story.

Because a story, any story, whether it's fantasy, science fiction, contemporary, historical, isn't really about the time or the place. It's not about FTL drives, horsemanship, or proper Victorian etiquette. It's about people. It's about emotions. And we all know those. We've got our fortes -- for me, a lot of darker emotions, thank you depression -- but we've all got a wide range to draw on.

Write what you know: hope, fear, despair, resolve, exhilaration. Everything else is just homework to do.

Unicorn Bell

I've submitted the first 250 words of Orbital Shifts to the first page critting and tiny contest at Unicorn Bell. Submissions close at 5pm CST today!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Haunted by visions

Mooderino blogged about pantsing (writing without an outline) and I found it very interesting because I am not a pantser. For the record, if you can do it then more power to you. I can't do it. If I put two of my characters in a room, you'll get ten pages of random conversation that might go somewhere, or might not.

I especially found this statement interesting: But the main difference between plotting and pantsing is that the writer who plots out the story needs to jump to the conclusion of each scene. In order to be able to say what happens next you have to not only say what the scenes about, but how it ends. For a pantser, you only find out how a scene ends when you’ve actually written the scene. 

Being a plotter, I never thought of that as odd or challenging. My thought, on reading that, is: if you don't know how the scenes link together, how will you get to that dramatic climax you had a vision of?

Ah, but do pantsers have a vision of a dramatic climax? 

Once upon a time when I was writing epic fantasy (epic in volume, if nothing else) I spent upwards of a year with a painfully clear vision in my head. One of my heroes, Kiefan, standing on the staircase above the castle's main hall with his sword in hand. The main hall was full of enemy soldiers who had just broken in. Kiefan stood there with a murderous look on his face because he was on his way to kill Anders (my other hero) and all these enemy soldiers were in his way.

Heck, it's been years and I can still see that moment clear as day. 

When I'm drawing my map, which I blogged a bit about here, I'm doing some connect-the-dots. I start with some number of visions of landmark scenes in my head and the function of my outline is to get me from one to the other in a reasonable and hopefully exciting manner. Often, I have to add landmark scenes because it's not unusual to start with only one or two.

Do you have visions of dramatic moments in your stories? Or do you start out with a problem and some characters and see what happens? Some combination of those two approaches?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Word Choice Wednesday: Balk


Merriam-Webster says:
to stop short and refuse to proceed : to refuse abruptly —used with at : to commit a balk in sports

I thought this was a five cent word, but when I used it in my 250-word blogfest post a number of people said that it didn't fit. Made them stumble. So maybe it's a ten cent word? I don't know, now.  It's not a common word, I'll admit, but I didn't think it was that strange or formal. 

More specific than:
Stop, resist or refuse. IMO, this word implies to a physical refusal and physical resistance: horses balk. When I try to put my cat in his carrier to go to the vet, he balks. I always see feet firmly planted and back arched away to shift the center of gravity, when I hear the word balk.

Word relationships:

Refuse, in the sense used when referring to animals is close -- the horse refused the bit. Maybe because animals can only act. There are several words such as foil, thwart, and baffle which involve failure, but they all strike me as being primarily mental or psychological in their action. Baffle especially -- wouldn't think of being physically baffled by something. Unless it's a baffle, which can be any number of regulatory devices.

Balking can involve struggling, fighting, twisting or thrashing, but all those words have multiple functions and aren't synonyms. Actually, I've been having trouble thinking of synonyms that encompass the brick-like (but with claws) resistance you get from a cat who doesn't want to go to the vet.

What comes to your mind?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Book Report: Kushiel's Dart

How to not endear a character to me: start out by describing how she's beautiful except for that one little flaw which would only matter to the sort of shallow, vapid person she was born and bred to be. Then spend the first five or six chapters watching her glide through a childhood where she never even peels a potato, sighing about how she doesn't "belong."

So the story shows signs of life around six chapters in (what do they tell writers about starting at the beginning, not before it?) and normally I would've tossed the book already. But this did make Tor's top ten list and my vocabulary is getting a workout, so I hang on.

Our narrator improves, and is surrounded by characters I came to care about. Did I enjoy it? ...yes, but Phedre's essential arrogance and martyr's attitude remained tedious whenever they resurfaced.

When I picked this up, I learned that it apparently has a reputation for being "about S&M." That's an element, true. As such things go, it's braided into the story better than most. But for all Phedre's carrying on about it, she always shifts to glossing over such scenes at some point. Which is a little like singing the glories of the hunt but skipping the part where you cut an animal's throat, hang it up by its ankles for the blood to drain, and eviscerate it carefully so you don't get excrement all over your meat. It's a bit dishonest to ignore the grim realities of what you're doing, IMO.

Just my opinion. But if you're curious about S&M, this is a good book for seeing if you're curious enough to go deeper into the genre. Or not. Back when I was curious about such things, I picked up The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty, which is really too much, too soon, and what-the-hell-does-this-have-to-do-with-anything for someone who's only curious.

I read Kushiel's Dart for the supporting cast, and because of the supporting cast I won't be reading the other two books in this trilogy. I may try the first volume of the second trilogy, though. The author writes a dense, lush prose that, as I mentioned, gives your vocabulary list a workout without losing you if you don't know the word immediately. (off the top of your head -- what's fustian?) That, I respect.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The middle of the map

What with all the blogfests, it's been over two weeks since I've actually written a blog post from scratch. Which is fine, since the WIP is devouring all available brain power. I've been writing (a little quick math here) an average of 960 words a night (wow, higher than I thought) since May 10th (let's call that 21 days). Plus the 6K-odd background story that drops in neatly, it turned out, as Chapter 6, that makes for about 26,300 words so far.

My target (highly theoretical target) is 85K. So I am rapidly approaching the dreaded Middle of the Story.

Dreaded for some. Some people dread beginnings, some dread middles. I seem to have some trouble with endings, personally.

I am a planner. Not a pantser. I start writing when I've got a pretty good map of where we're going and how we're getting there. That map is especially important in the middle, after the characters have gotten a good start and brought their own distractions and quirks into play. I need to keep them focused and moving toward the story's climax.

More importantly, I need to keep them moving toward the next set piece, the next landmark in the story. By getting from landmark to landmark, we'll get to the climax. I hit my first landmark in Chapter 3, 4 and 5 deal with the results and mention the climax, Chapter 6 is the flashback to provide some context for that climax, and now I'm starting 7 with the push toward the next landmark.

Side note: chapter numbers mean nothing, to me. Some people plan by chapter numbers, but I don't.

My map has three major landmarks before we get to the climax. Each landmark is a fairly direct and logical result of the previous landmark and puts my characters in position for the climax.

Since I tend to have a problem with endings, my map peters out around the climax. To some degree, I need to see the lay of the land once I get there, and to some degree I'm trusting my characters to tell me how they're going to resolve this. After writing umpteen novels, I can be confident in that much.

I used to be more of a pantser and I wrote lots of rambly stories that ended up in the weeds. Mind you, the weeds can be fun when you're the writer... but as a reader I've come to appreciate how important the underlying plot skeleton of a story is. And thus I draw maps.

Do you dread the middle? What part of your map tends to be sketchier than the others?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Music blogfest!

Did somebody say music blogfest! Woohoo! This one is hosted by East for Green Eyes and I know I'll be listening to lots of playlists today!

I joined for their ability to create embeddable playlists... their available tracks leaves something to be desired IMHO, but at least I can get the gist across here.

I'm an enthusiastic builder of playlists for my writing, so I was ready for this blogfest. My WIP, Orbital Shifts, currently has a playlist of 22 songs and here are some of them.

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

It's a combination of what's available on and what's a good sample of the tracks. There are a couple I wish I could have put in here, but they're not available. Namely:
  • "Little Black Heart" by a-ha. My iTunes has a way of throwing up random songs that really hit me while I'm writing. This one happened last night, in the middle of a dark scene. It's been in my head all day. 
  • "Never Wanted This" by Armin van Buuren. 
  • "Pax Deorum" by Enya. Apparently she's not hip enough for or something.

Those are all sad songs -- the sample playlist runs on the angry side and the playlist actually has a good dose of sad.

Now off to tour other playlists... I love finding new musicians that I like...

Word Choice Wednesday: Slough


Merriam-Webster says:
to engulf in a slough : to plod through or as if through mud : slog

Which was not what I was expecting. I could've sworn there's a verb form of slough (rhymes with tough) that's used in conjuntion with off to mean: a layer coming off the underlying structure in chunks. As I drove down the highway, the layer of snow on the roof sloughed off. Spectacularly.

There is, of course, also the noun version of slough (rhymes with plow) which is a deep, thick mud-pit. A mire. I remember it well from reading Pilgrim's Progress -- the Slough of Despond. 

So I went to and there it was: to be or become shed or cast off and to dispose or get rid of; cast (often followed by off). Merriam-Webster fail.

There are several pronunciations and spellings listed for this word. I really want to hear from people on this. Please comment with your thoughts.

I'm calling this a ten cent word, both as a noun and a verb. Since it's not that common, it needs to be surrounded by similarly unusual/semi-archaic/poetic vocabulary. My example above isn't so good. 

More specific than:

As a verb, more specific than erode or shed. As a noun, it's a specific kind of marshy/boggy place. Not much different than a mire, but it might be deeper.

Word relationships:
Cast off, mentioned at, is more about discrete things -- casting off clothes, or casting off bad habits. Peeling specifically requires layers, whereas I've always thought of sloughing off as chunky. Possibly rotten. Molt is listed as a synonym, but it's not how I would expect to see it used.

What comes to your mind?
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