Tag Archives: writing

One day more. . .

Okay, not quite. Maybe two.

I just finished reviewing the last round of Snow Job edits from Fae, and naturally did some more revising while I was doing so. I forget from session to session just how exhausting editing is. I always feel happy when I’m done with a round of it.

Another revision, I think. Check the continuity again, make sure I spelled everyone’s name consistently throughout.

I probably look ridiculous to the casual observer while I’m editing (my darling Nexx, bless his heart, leaves me alone when I do this). There are times when I curse thoroughly, there are times when I laugh out loud. Occasionally I give the manuscript a blank stare and say, “What the hell did I mean?” And more often than I care to admit, there are times when I bang on the keyboard with incredible force and then lift my hand as if I’m conducting a symphony orchestra.

This may explain why my wrists hurt.

I don’t have a publication date yet. I have a mental target, but a few things have to happen first, and I do still have a full-time job with a crazy commute.

Thanks for sticking with me.

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Yes, and? Or what gaming has taught me about storytelling

I belong to a gaming group I dubbed the Overthinkers. We meet irregularly and play a wide assortment of games. Poker, Setback, various version of Fluxx, board games that can involve fighting Elder Gods (Hastur, Hastur, Hastur! See, nothing hap . . .) or traveling around the world retrieving relics and collecting Fortune and Glory.

D&D is probably our most popular role-playing game (aka RPG). Four out of six of us so far have put on the DM hat. Currently, it’s myself. Last night, however, because it took everyone a while to be in the same place at the same time, we started putting characters together for Fate (by the wonderful people at EvilHat), which recently completed a Kickstarter. 

We’re putting together an adventure in a future world where the galaxy is run by an Empire that is  trying to  quell a rebellion before it gets out of hand. We have an interesting assortment of characters. A suave dashing covert operator who is fantastic with guns, but horrible with hand-to-hand. A paranoid who was recently liberated as a cosmetic lab test subject. A space pirate. An arms smuggler who runs a casino. A ninja so unobtrusive, few people remember they saw her, unless she pulls out a weapon (this last would be me).

Part of the character building besides concepts, skills and aspects of our personalities was putting together some back story where our characters have met one another. We started with a few sentences about an adventure our character had. Then the game master, with unholy glee, shuffled our stories and handed them out to different players. From there, we would write ourselves in as a supporting character in a quick adventure.  My ninja ended up being rescued by the covert operative, aiding in the paranoid’s escape and convincing the space pirate that a certain area of space was off limits.

An exercise like this taught me, once again, the value of, ‘Yes, and?” Instead of rejecting a concept outright, take it and run. I was ready to discount one one of the stories because it wasn’t in my concept of my character (her name is Onyx). When I realized the error of my ways, I apologized. The Overthinkers are a good-natured group, thank goodness.

When I started writing Bloody Murder, I started with a character concept, then started playing, “What if?” What if someone who always thought she’d lived a startlingly normal life learned some things about her past she’d never suspected, and got involved in a murder. 

This weekend’s gaming session, and also running a game of D&D has given me a chance to feed off of other people’s ideas, and I think has opened up my mind a little bit. Hopefully, I”ll be able to bring it into current and future stories. 

Even the creative mind can have limits. It’s good to push them.

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Reading the Obituaries

This is a bit of a rambling post and it is going to be a little morbid. Consider yourselves warned.

Research for murder mysteries means a certain amount of time spent in the obituaries. They’re a great resource, even if it’s a bit on the creepy side. I’ve found popular names at different ages, a person’s history, various ways to say “died.”

When I worked in a hospital, the nomenclature was “expired.” It’s a pretty clinical word on one hand, but on the other it sounds like someone went past their “best by” date. Makes one want to look for a bar code, maybe on the bottom of the foot. There was also the expression “celestial discharge.” Medical professionals can have a pretty bleak sense of humor.

So far in my research I have seen:

  • entered into eternal rest
  • in her own time and on her own terms, she spread her wings and took her flight home (I think this is code for suicide during a terminal illness)
  • passed away (gotta love the classics)
  • went to meet her Heavenly Father
  • departed this (earthly) life
  • passed into eternity to join her other family members

No matter how you dress it up, it still means the same thing.

I can only read them for so long without getting a little twitchy. I believe I’m glad I won’t be around to read my own. One life, summed up in just a few words. How do you do that? Pick what matters about a person, especially when they’ve lived for generations? How many people’s lives have they touched?

Some of these describe family connections, whether by birth or marriage. Some go on to describe a person’s hobbies or organizations, but you really can’t get the essence of a human being in just a few paragraphs.

This gives me a new appreciation for short stories. I spread out my character descriptions and development through a couple hundred pages. A short story writer has to condense that, give you a character you can identify with/sympathize with/be fascinated by.

One of my favorite short stories is by Somerset Maugham. It’s called The Verger. It’s about a church caretaker  who is let go because it is discovered he can’t read. Never mind that literacy was not exactly commonplace at that time, never mind that his job didn’t require him to read, out he went because of someone’s misguided ideas of “improvement.” If you can find it, read it. It’s a wonderful story.

I may put a short story together about Zofia and Dodson. It’s a challenge and I’m not sure I’m up to it. I’ll keep you posted.

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Just call me Hamlet

I’m dithering, I admit it.  I think I’m done with the next Bloody Murder mystery and I find myself as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs (if you’re reading this out loud, make sure you do that last part with a Southern accent).

I’ll be announcing the title and the publication date on 7/29. Stay tuned!

Where the dithering comes  in is a lot of internal pressure. This is my second published work and all kinds of questions fill my brain, but the biggest one is:

“What if it’s not as good as the first one?”

Bloody Murder has a five-star rating on Amazon, and I promise you I didn’t ask a single friend to write a review.  I am proud of my work and very grateful to anyone who took the time to write a review. Reviews are not easy to write. You want to say what’s good, but you don’t want to give away the really nifty stuff. If you hated it, was it simply not to your taste? Or perhaps the subject matter wasn’t your cuppa? Or was it so technically bad, as Dorothy Parker put it, “this is not a book to be set aside lightly,it should be thrown with great force.”

Anyway, since people have liked my work, I want to especially give  those readers something special. I want them to want to continue following Zofia’s adventures without getting bored or having me suspend their disbelief too much.For example, with Borders out of business, and Amazon being so prevalent I have had people ask me how I can rationalize an independent bookstore breaking even in the twenty-first century economy. I’ll save that for another entry, because there are a host of reasons, and I have a surprise coming in book 4 that will also help.

And now I’ve been dithering about dithering. The book is almost ready to go.  It’s been professionally edited (and if you need a book edited for an affordable price, ping me and I will introduce you to Kimberly), and tweaked to within an inch of its life. But I’ve been putting off the date because I’m afraid of disappointing my readers especially because the size of the novel. It’s considerably shorter than Bloody Murder  (and  will be priced accordingly).

I never realized the tremendous pressure involved here before. Is it good enough for the people who’ve taken the time to read the first one? I owe them. I earned some cash on that first novel (and promptly spent it on novel-writing software). It’s a little awe-inspiring, even if I’m not selling like James Patterson’s books do.

Taking this to my cohorts at the Indie Exchange, I got some excellent advice: When it’s done, it’s done. After letting that stew in my brain for a bit, last night, I finally decided to pick a date to announce the title at the publication date. I’m hoping to generate a little anticipation.

I also realized that while size matters in some cases (I liked the expanded version of Stephen King’s The Stand better than the original, for example), being an indie author and publisher I am not locked into a contract that says, “you must produce X novels at 100K words between now and 2020.” There’s a certain freedom in that. A dear friend of mine, and a fabulous writer, JD Rhoades, has put up shorter works and they’ve gotten some great response.

So I think I’m done with dithering, at least for right now. My current Project Management class wraps up in two weeks, which gives me time to find a cover design, do any last-minute edits and decide on the shotgun vs laser publishing approach.

Thank you for reading and staying with me. Knowing there are people out there waiting for the next novel makes me ready to take on the third one.

Cheers!

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Risk Assessment in Novel Writing

Like a lot of writers, I have a day job. I work for a software company that makes a learning management system for hospitals. I help our customers implement the software and get ready to deploy it. These implementations are what led me to pursue a certificate in Project Management, and I’m partway through my fourth course of six.

Risk Management is, simply put, hedging Murphy. You try to predict what will go wrong, figure out how much of a disaster it’s going to be, what you’ll do to prevent it and what you’ll do if it happens.

So, instead of doing my homework, I’m thinking about how I might be able to apply some of these principles to writing. I’m having a hard time, because I tend to use a pretty free-form approach to writing. If I know I have a few hours uninterrupted, I get comfortable–sometimes on a couch, sometimes at Cafe Oo La La which is a few blocks away. Then I write until I can’t. 

This approach contains a lot of risks. Distractions, for one thing. I use the internet for research, and I don’t have to tell anyone reading this how easy it is to go from a news article to another news article and suddenly, you’ve spent an hour goofing about on YouTube watching kittens. If I work on my couch, there’s the TV. If he’s home, my boyfriend is quite distracting, in many happy fun ways that don’t get writing done.

Basic activities of daily life also need to be attended to. I plan meals out about four days in advance and have gotten myself and my sweetie on a schedule where we eat out of the freezer on the nights my homework is due. This means I have a resource risk: Time. I have to figure out how to work 8 hours M-F, manage meals for two, do my homework, research and write new novels, marketing, and still see my friends once in a while. Oh right, sleep, too.

I don’t think I’m going anywhere with this, but it was fun to think about for a while. Thank you for reading!

 

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