Friday, March 30, 2012

Sad Songs Blogfest

Last blog post before the A-to-Z challenge!

L. Diane Wolfe wants to know about the sad songs that inspire me, and since we share a first name I'm glad to... LOL, yeah, you all know me. I'll talk about music at the drop of a hat.

Click on the icon to go to the blog hop list while I pull some sad songs from my story playlists.

From the science fiction side:

"Gravity" by A Perfect Circle
This song shows up on all of my Jovian Frontier-related soundtracks because of its sadness and quiet strength. My characters live in rough, uncertain homesteads around the planet Jupiter and the void is just on the other side of the wall. There's a certain gallows humor that they embrace, as well as a deep stubbornness. They have to surrender to, as the song says, "gravity and the unknown," but also, "I choose to live."

"Little Black Heart" by a-ha
An obscure song by a nearly forgotten band -- but it magically came up in the middle of writing a dark scene and permanently attached itself to Tanner, who was confessing past sins at the time. "I never felt darkness/Like I feel it tonight/Little black heart."

"Never Wanted This" featuring Justine Suissa, by Armin van Buuren
This song makes Maggie cry over a particular someone who died in the course of the story. There were a lot of things she didn't want, but I didn't let her choose.

From the fantasy side:

"It's Been a While" by Staind
Let's just say there's a point in my fantasy monstrosity where Anders is crying into his beer and this song fits perfectly. Well, I'm fairly sure there's a point, that is. Haven't gotten there yet.

"Ascension - Nature Boy" off the soundtrack Moulin Rouge 2 
Magic, sadness, longing... touch of darkness... words of wisdom. Are you listening, my foolish characters?

"The Sky Is Broken" by Moby
Kiefan, lying in bed with Kate cuddled up and asleep, anguishing over his chances of keeping her. I don't know if he'll be able to put this in words while she's awake, though...

Here's a playlist of the tracks that I could find on

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Quick note before we're into the breach

I'm posting tomorrow in the Sad Songs Blogfest, so just a quick note today.

I have 17 posts ready for A-to-Z and ideas for four more... then again, I might be over-doing this a wee bit. Side effect of being a plotter, I suppose. And a closeted perfectionist. (hey, do I need something for P...?)

You're going to be seeing a lot of me in April. I hope you're not sick and tired of me come May!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Branding myself

It was this or a scarlet "W." Text effect created by me, use as you will to brand yourself for your sins.
I found this post on branding for writers by way of Roni's weekly links post (that's twice you've hit a nerve in a week, Roni... :) )

It hit close to something related to that Lucky 7 meme I posted a while back. The meme rules were to post your text as it was written, and I couldn't do that without editing it. I did the editing publicly, but I could not bring myself to post raw text. I flailed out a post trying to figure out why, but deleted it because it was just a bunch of flailing.

Now I can say clearly why I could not post that text un-edited.

I'm not a branding expert, but I've been a graphic designer for 15 years now and I've seen how it's applied. What's described in the Creative Penn post is the more theoretical side -- here's my take. Branding is about consistency. Consistency of language, style, of color palette, of associated images, visual motifs, etc.

I've done some of that. If you've seen me around the internet, you know I always use the same Jupiter icon/avatar. My name is always some variation of L. Blankenship or Louise Blankenship (depending on what's available for a user name). I have a color palette sketched out, but it hasn't come into play much yet.

Most importantly, I try to maintain a consistent level of language. And the reason I balked at posting that raw text for Lucky 7 was because it was not up to par.

I don't have a publisher. I don't have a marketing department. I am solely responsible for how professionally I present myself. And if I wish to be considered professional, I must present myself professionally.

As for the post that set this off, it talks about focus, having a core message, and using these to find your audience. I've heard advice that one should define one's audience as clearly as possible.

So far as this here blog-about-writing, I suspect I can say this much about my readers: they've been writing long enough that they're wrestling with the layer of questions that comes after the basic plot/dialogue/info-dumping questions. They're pursuing those answers that aren't easily defined or universally applied. Questions about voice, pacing, character arcs, world-building. I'm wrestling with them too.

We're all in pursuit of clarity.

So far as an audience for my writing, well, they're going to be readers who like grit and detail, action and consequences, a dash of snarky humor too. I don't know if I can put an age on them -- mature enough to appreciate that there are consequences.

How would you describe your audience?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A-to-Z update and what the hell am I doing anyway?

Back in my cave
Objectively, I'm making progress in revising Part III, but it doesn't feel like I'm getting much of anywhere.

Objectively, I'm making progress in writing posts for the A to Z challenge -- I've got thirteen now -- but that's not half-way yet.

Here's a quick run-down of posts you'll be seeing here during April (as of March 21st):
  • 4 posts on world-building
  • 2 interviews with my characters
  • 2 posts on writing in general
  • 1 personal post
  • 4 reference book reviews

So this is a filler post while I try to re-group my focus and get organized. I need to write something for Science in My Fiction, too...

Roni Loren's recent post hit close to home for me, so I've been going through a convulsion of what the hell am I doing? and it's not like anybody cares anyways. Of her list of five things, I'll cop to doing #1 (blogging only about writing). I don't think I'm guilty of #5 (constant self-promotion) -- what would I promote?

#4 (not weighing in on controversies) is something I hadn't thought much about because I don't spend much time formulating opinions about controversial things. Somebody got shot? Something blew up? Can I still buy porn on Smashwords? (I can't remember the last time I paid $ for porn, honestly.) I've got a sword-fight to choreograph, can I get back to you?

I don't think I'm guilty of #3 (too many theme days or memes) either, because I don't find out about theme days until everyone else is doing them. And I don't do that many memes.

Which leaves #2(niche blogging)... well, this is a writing blog and I guess I further niche myself in world-building. I did need something to talk about.

Maybe I'm hiding behind a wall. It's true that I don't think I'm interesting enough to blather about personal stuff -- I hate sounding like a broken record, and I often feel like I've spent my 15-year marriage being a broken record so why the hell would I want to do more of it in a blog? I'm writing to get away from all that crap. To pretend that people can do things and make a difference, somewhere.

Which of Roni's five points apply to your blog?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Fixing that hot mess

The scene I revised on Sunday night was a hot mess. I knew it was a mess when I wrote it, but I kept plowing on and figured I would fix it in revision. (definition of hot mess at, the "attractive" part being the long-term story elements I got to lay out in the scene.)

Well, there I was. Revising. Time to pay the piper.

By coincidence, part of this scene turned up in my Lucky 7 meme a few days ago. I thought I would blog some more about it, maybe talk about clarity or the revision process... but it was too much mess to just pull out a chunk and try to analyze it. On a sentence level, the writing was meh but the real problems were large scale.

Poorly structured event
This scene was supposed to take place at a parley between the king of the besieged city and an envoy of the enemy army outside. Both sides have to demonstrate a little trust -- however superficially -- and be polite in exchange for a chance to suss out the enemy's true situation.  My besieged city was not going to surrender, but it was a chance to talk to their inside man in the enemy's army. The army wasn't going to lift the siege, but it was a chance to see the situation inside the city and maybe slip an agent in.

Shuffling everyone into proper places as befitted a formal event changed most of the conversations, where the scene started and how the action played out. 

Extra character
Because of world-building details that were later resolved, I had an extra character who was unbalancing the scene. If he was there, he should've been involved in what happened. But I couldn't allow that, at the same time, so he was just noodling around in the background. Fortunately, I could edit him out entirely and other people could fill his shoes when it came to a few bits of information.

Missed lines of action
This made my hair curl. People just appeared when they were needed. The main part of the meeting wasn't the focus of the scene, but that didn't mean people could pop in and out at will. The king doesn't get to just suddenly leave the negotiating table, even if there's a commotion outside. He sends the captain, or he decides the envoy's trying to pull something and has him wrestled to the ground.

A lot of this came down to what I call "background tracking", too, those little notes of someone being here or there, doing something, that keeps the background of the scene in motion. Badly lacking in the hot mess.

Illogical dialogue
Dialogue is not usually a problem for me, so I'd like to take this opportunity to fall flat on my face.

“Am I part of the city’s mettle, then?”
“Let them wonder,” he said. “We’ve our own plans, in this. Are they always so late?”
Sir Theo, standing on my other side, said, “One’s client is never late.” 

What? >>delete<<

Meh writing

Kiefan set his boot on Dennode’s ruined chest, bones crunching further, and tore the man’s head off with a hard twist. He slung it and the envoy caught the bloody thing in his belly, falling back was knocked onto his ass from by the impact.

Kiefan took spun Bíden around by the collar and shoved him toward Captain Rostislav. “Put that filth on a horse!” The captain took the lead and was less than gentle in obeying hauled him off to the waiting palfrey without letting the old man catch his balance.

There was plenty more, but I forgot to copy out the previous text so I could show my edits. And now that I've rewritten it and written a post about it, I can barely see it anymore and I need to put it aside for a while.

What was the last hot mess you had to revise?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Character and their songs

I know I'm not the only one who's confessed to picking "theme songs" for particular characters. Well, "picking" is a strong term for it -- they notify me that a song is important to them, and I try to figure out why.

I mention this because I just got reminded of one of the oddest of these. It happens every time the song comes up on my iTunes.

Shen's a character in my science fiction. In non-universe slang, he's a freelance infiltration specialist with some demolitions and security on the side. He's internalized enough military-style discipline to keep from being the loose cannon that his past predisposed him to be. He does not do any of the following: play acoustic guitar, sing, or get mushy about women. He's not an "easy listening" music kind of guy, either.

But every time Gordon Lightfoot's "Sundown" comes up on iTunes, Shen pulls out that guitar, puts his feet up on the spaceship's dashboard, and starts singing along. And I know he's thinking of Lena as he does it -- not that the song describes her accurately at all. (Satin dress? Is this a scene I don't know about yet?)

I like that my characters can surprise me, though. I think it's important. Sometimes they tell me a story twist that solves a problem or creates a problem that improves everything. I took this song as a sign that Shen wasn't all tough-guy-badass all the time... which was good. I don't know if Lena would have stuck around him if he never opened up about anything.

To go in the other direction and tie into what I'm currently working on -- revising Part III of my fantasy -- this remix of Korn's "Make Me Bad" has always invoked Prince Kiefan's dark side. He keeps his anger buried pretty deep, and he's got a little berserker in there too when the battlefield gets rough... and being a bit of a hopeless romantic (relatively speaking) he sees Kate as his ray of light in the darkness.

(heh, and then YouTube distracted me with Korn videos... Korn and Skrillex? ooh, gimme dat...)

 What hints did an odd choice of song give you about one of your characters?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Lucky 7 plus a red pen

There was an open tag for the Lucky 7 meme and I need some blog filler, so... (CAUTION: violence ahead)

The rules:

1. Go to page 77 of your current MS/WIP
2. Go to line 7
3. Copy down the next 7 lines, sentences, or paragraphs, and post them as they’re written.
4. Tag 7 authors
5. Let them know

From Disciple, Part III: Embers on the Wind

Parselev spun the charm through me, sending it down my arm and into the captain. I watched his windpipe knit shut and the slash close before my eyes. Loshadsky went limp as the pain faded, eyes falling shut. My teacher pulled me to my feet by my hand.

“It was good work, nonetheless,” he told me.

“Let him keep his head,” Kiefan announced, turning to his father. The Arceal envoy sat on his knees before the king, hands spread and empty, disarmed. “He can return this one.”

Kiefan put his boot on Dennode’s ruined chest, bones crunching further, and tore the man’s head off with a hard twist and a pull. He slung it and the envoy caught it in his belly, falling back onto his ass from the impact.

King Wilhelm gave him a kick for good measure. “Get out of my city. You! What did you know of this?” He pointed with his drawn sword, at the remaining Suevi.

Sir Theo had pulled Bídon aside, leaning close with urgent eyes. The king’s demand turned them both, at attention. “He knew nothing, Majesty,” Sir Theo answered.

“You would say so.”

That's completely raw, unrevised text and I cringe at the sight of it. I can't help hitting it with some red ink.

Parselev spun the charm through me, sending it down my arm and into the captain. I watched His windpipe knit shut and the his slashed throat closed before my eyes. Loshadsky went fell limp as the pain faded, eyes falling sliding shut.

My teacher pulled me to my feet by my hand. “It was good work, nonetheless,” he told me said.

“Let him keep his head,” Kiefan announced, turning to his father [do something more interesting/relevant]. “He can return this one.”

The Arceal envoy sat on his knees before the king, hands spread and empty, disarmed. [add something to fill this out] “He can return this one.”

Kiefan put set his boot on Dennode’s ruined chest, bones crunching further, and tore the man’s head off with a hard twist and a pull. He slung it and the envoy caught it the bloody thing in his belly, falling back onto his ass from the impact.

King Wilhelm gave him a kicked him for good measure. “Get out of my city. You! What did you know of this?” He pointed, with his drawn sword, at the remaining Suevi.

Sir Theo had pulled Bídon aside to one side, leaning close with in urgent eyes discussion. The king’s demand turned them both, at attention. “He knew nothing, Majesty,” Sir Theo answered.

“You would say so.”

That's a start. Copy/paste into Scrivener and it will get more work as I revise Part III.

I'll make this an open tag, too. Everybody reading, consider yourself tagged. You don't have to revise what you post -- that was just me being self-conscious. Though it might make an interesting addition to the meme...

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Worthy of her love...

I love Waterhouse's paintings...
For the record,  I do not believe in  Love at First Sight. Well, not true love. Lust, yes. I might go so far as to accept Good Chemistry at First Sight, but not a life-long relationship. That takes time.

When one has godlike powers over one's characters, making them fall in love is as easy as typing -- in theory. If you treat your characters as fully independent human beings and they've grown into that role as much as possible, they can fight you on that. And you should listen to your characters when they fight you, but that's another blog post.

Convincing the readers your characters are legitimately falling in love is another matter, as well. In revising Part II of my fantasy monstrosity, I'm trying to address one aspect of that which my betas brought up: worthiness.

Worthiness, for me, is shorthand for the intersection of a number of factors: sympathetic character, dangers faced, and potential reward. I've gotten snagged on one particular part of it, this time.

Sympathetic character

Readers need to be on your character's side for at least one reason. Trying to understand this interplay of words, deeds, expectations, voice... is a how-to-write book unto itself, of course. The good news is that I seem to have managed this mischief, according to my betas.

Potential reward

In romance, this is true love and the happy ending -- however you're defining that within your genre. Or however your readers are defining it. Or what the readers are willing to accept. Maybe I should ask my betas about that...


There's no tension in having things handed to your characters on a silver platter, of course. If romance is a part of the plot, then it's either threatened by the circumstances or it's creating circumstances which are a threat.

(Because if your characters were to just punch out at the end of the day and go on a hot date with no worries, it would seem pretty irrelevant to the story, wouldn't it?)

Forces threatening the relationship

This isn't the issue in my story, but it can be done quite well -- it could be war tearing the lovers apart, their families, a jealous ex-spouse...

The relationship itself creating the threat

Forbidden love, secret affairs, the danger of losing all you hold dear... somebody get a spoon, we're eating this stuff up. Trick is, both of the characters need to face consequences for engaging in the relationship. Ideally, fairly equal and fairly devastating consequences. This was where Part II hit a snag.

Confession time: this part of the story has a distant root in Titanic. Somebody somewhere commented that if Jack and Rose's social statuses had been reversed, Jack would've been some asshole out slumming for tail with a gold-digging girl and there would've been no sympathy for either of them. Well, stupid me, I set out to see if it could be made to work. (Of course it can. Anything can be made to work, right?)

So the prince and the peasant-born healer cross paths and fall hard for each other. At risk for her: her ability to continue working and developing her magical abilities, her reputation and her future marriageability. At risk for him: um... well... stern disapproval? slap on the wrist? being told to pay her off and forget her?

To be fair, the disapproval of the right person can be devastating. I've created a prince who is essentially honorable and good -- or he's be some asshole out slumming for tail -- and he would be devastated by the disapproval of the right person. He'd survive, though. He'd be willing to take whatever lumps were required, but in the end the worst thing he could lose would be her. And that's not equal to her losing both him and her future.

Also, underneath it all is the very plausible solution that the prince could just reach into the royal treasury and apply sufficient gold to make the problem go away. Set her up as his mistress on the side and if anybody has a problem with that, there's a dueling field just over here...

I doubt that would satisfy the readers, though. It's not risky. It's not honorable, so it would be out of character for him. And it the prince still isn't worthy of her love if he doesn't have something real and tangible at stake.

(Heh, one of the supporting characters would like to point out that the healer's weight in gold coin is a perfectly real and tangible stake... shush, Theo.)

This post has run long enough, so I'll ask: what risks are you story's lovers taking?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Progress report

My commitments for the year continue apace...

A to Z Challenge

I'm already feeling the brain drain from this. I have a handful of posts written already -- F, O, Q (yup!) L, H and A -- but a long way to go, obviously. You're going to be seeing an awful lot of me in April, so I hope you don't mind if there's a little less in March and May.


I said I would  begin querying agents with Course Corrections in the spring. In my head, spring = March. Revisions had been done, query and synopsis written, and I worked up a list of about a dozen agents to target. In February I found out that four of those agents were participating in an online query contest at Cupid's Literary Connection, so I submitted, got through the first eliminations, and bit my nails for a week while the agents looked at the queries.

I won two partial requests... neither from any of the four agents I'd meant to target. (LOL!) But, hey, no complaints. The partials are in their hands now. We'll see what happens. I've still got eight names on my list to hit up, if nothing else.

Writing: Disciple

Part III has been written, and needs some work to finish out its first draft. This requires addressing the issues in Part II that my (wonderful, perceptive, owe-you-chocolate) betas brought up, because the emotional situation in III leads directly off the end of II...  even if this means bulking up Part II even more. I'm not going to worry about the size of these (obsessing is not worry, after all) and I'm just going to treat each Part as if it should stand alone. Each should be a complete story unto itself.

So what if I'm 153,000 words into it with at least two more Parts to go. (But not six more. NOT.) The first incarnation of this story -- which was far too bloated, bogged-down and meandering -- was half a million words. I'm still slimming it down considerably.

Half a million words, I kid you not. Has everyone heard of the 10,000 hours theory of mastering a skill? The writer's equivalent, it's said, is your first million words. I've put in my first million words -- and I'm not going to say I've mastered writing, because I don't think you ever do -- and yeah, they were shitty. But there was good stuff in there. Gems in the shit. I'm just trying to mount them in something more worthy.

How are your commitments for the year going?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Online personality tests, part 2

Continued from Part 1, in which I channeled the three main characters of Disciple in taking an online personality test to determine their Myers-Briggs personality types.

One of the monkey wrenches in Kate and Kiefan's relationship is Anders. His relationship with Kate moves much more gradually and faces a number of hurdles, but he's got an in with the readers (so far) so it keeps things interesting. 

Anders' profile

He's an ESTP, which is almost completely my opposite and one might think it's difficult to write a character who is completely different from yourself. In truth, Anders has been... well, not only easy to write but difficult to let go of. All three of these characters have been in my head for a long, long time and even when the other two have faded into the background Anders... never does. Psychologists, feel free to extrapolate and hypothesize. :)

Anyway, again, an accurate sketch of him. Kate and Anders will have their disagreements -- they've already begun, in the part I'm currently finishing up -- but they come from differing expectations and things left to rankle... not head-on collisions as between Kate and Kiefan. Intriguingly, the website's analysis backs me up again.

What 41Q says about their relationship (edited down a bit):

Your relationship type: "Symbolic"
This symbolic relationship is identifiable by one partner being exactly what the other partner sees when he looks into a mirror. It is not referring to a mirror of the physical self as much as mirroring the best qualities in each partner. While the good qualities are present in each, a different focus is placed on each quality. One partner is dominant in each quality. [...] In the early days of the relationship each will try to do what the other wants. Over time, this can become something that is not always agreeable. [...] If the stable partner tries to stifle the unpredictable one too much, the romance between them will flicker and die. On the other hand, if the unpredictable partner refuses to follow any practical plan for the relationship, the practical partner will grow disgusted with that refusal. That may destroy the relationship.

This is interesting for me because I had not thought in terms of Kate "stifling" Anders -- it could be that their relationship may not get to that stage in the context of the story, as stifling is a long-range, gradual thing, It's also a good question of how much of Anders' "unpredictability" Kate is going to put up with -- tying directly in to "how unpredictable is he, really?" In this re-incarnation of the story he did pick up a bit more bad-boy persona and the implications of that can be sneaky.

And now for the hilarious part: I plugged in Anders' profile with Kiefan's. They aren't "in love" with each other, but if you strip out that context the results still surprised me. 

What 41Q says about their relationship (edited down a fair amount):

Your relationship type: "Nominal-Congruity"
The nominal-congruity romance is made up of two partners who think of themselves as very different and individualized. However, others do not see much difference in them. It is true that they share the same interests and that is what draws them together as a couple. [...] Although this couple shares many interests and activities, each one has a different reason for doing so. They seem to adjust and accept the superficiality of their understanding of each other. [...] They do have great respect for each other and the romance they share and it is not unusual for them to go through life together, happily.

At the beginning of the story -- before Kate became an issue between them -- my gut kept telling me that Anders and Kiefan had a polite, rather "professional" relationship despite the fact that there were a dozen reasons for them to hate and/or avoid each other. I had no explanation for this. I worried that it would seem artificial. And I also had a sneaking suspicion that once Kate became an issue all those reasons would bubble up and make it very easy for Kiefan and Anders to get murderous about each other.

Maybe it's not so artificial after all. 

I'm not blogging this to say "Look how good I'm doing!" and I hope it doesn't come across that way. These are characters I've known a long time and I plugged them in because they're currently on the front burner. And I still got some interesting pointers out of it.

I should do this with my science fiction crew, too, because they are much "younger" characters than the fantasy gang. And now that I'm wrapping up Part III of the monstrosity, it's probably time to look at Orbital Shifts again...  
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