Monday, January 23, 2017

Is this the one?

A few years ago I wrote a book titled Beware the Wrath of Bunny Hopper.  When I was done, and after I had edited the book, rewrote parts of it, edited it again, I was very happy with the end result.  I thought This is the One.

You know what I mean:  This is the one that is going to sell well.  People will enjoy it!  The story had adventure and humor.  It was a good solid YA contemporary fantasy with a female lead.  It had huge mutant bugs.  What was there not to like?

But the sales never took off the way I had thought they would.

So a couple years later I had another book I was getting ready to go out there: In the Shadow of Giants.  This one was a real change for me -- science fiction/fantasy/mythology tale that pitted the Norse Gods against the Chinese Gods sometime in the future.  Loki was my main character.  I had written it long before the Loki craze that came with the movie version, but the timing of the release was good.

I thought This is the One.

I was wrong again.  The sales on both of these books have been okay, but you always hope for the one book that will take off and do better.

Last year I wrote, edited and published Raventower and Merriweather 1: Secrets.  I loved the book -- my first nudge into the world of steampunk but with a lot of magic added.  The characters were wonderful to work with.

Was this the one?

Not so far as I can tell yet.

So here is both a problem and a joy of being prolific:  You can have several books that you think are going to be something more popular than they are and go through this time of hope and then realize it is not going to happen.  You can go through this many times, unlike less prolific writers who might not have more than one book every five or so years. 

I could add other books to the list: Kat among the Pigeons (Contemporary Fantasy), Paid in Gold and Blood (Fantasy), Xenation: Draw the Line (Science Fiction) -- even more that I expected to do well.  When they do not, it can be disheartening.

On the other hand, I still have other novels to publish.  I still have hope that I will find The One that will catch enough attention that people will mention my work to other people.  I am not looking to make the New York Times Bestseller list.  What I want is to know that I've reached a good number of readers who enjoyed something I wrote.

And I have more to write, too.  I will write the third Raventower and Merriweather book this year.  The second is sitting in first draft status, waiting for me to do my very first read-through on it.  I'm excited still about the second novel and the ideas for the third.

Am I ever going to find The One?  Maybe not.  And you know, despite some disheartening moments, I realize that it wouldn't change things anyway.  I will still be writing, won't I?  If I am not looking for bestseller status -- which sounds like a lot of work AFTER the book is popular -- then what do I care?

My books do sell, all of them adding up to a nice little bit of money every few months.  I get to sit here and write more.  Should I really want more?

Well, maybe just a little bit more....

Friday, January 20, 2017

Flash Fiction # 234 -- Saving Everywhere. Part 18: Snow World


I blinked several times and saw where human-like creatures, though taller than me, thin, and with icy blue skin with whitish hair and clothing.  They looked like moving piles of snow, and they were far too quiet.

Edmond shifted, gave a slight hiss of sound at the sight, and went silent and still.  We were surrounded; I looked and found some even kneeling on the overhang, looking down at us.  Their eyes were only a slightly darker blue than their skin, and they blinked when they met my look.

I tried to stand, but my legs gave out.  I had gone as far as I could, and I wondered if Edmond could escape and get to Lord Snow.  I didn't know what I faced. They hadn't attacked yet, but they were moving in a little closer now.  I could barely hear the sound, like the faint whisper of snow-against-snow.

I thought they might seem more curious than dangerous.  They could have attacked me by now.  I watched, aware of a whisper of sound that must have been words between them.  They were quiet people, and I had the impression that they didn't like to be out in the open where they might draw attention.

I stayed seated, and they formed up in a circle around us, the first row kneeling so that they second had a clearer view of us.  Edmond was no longer hissing, and from the way his head turned from side-to-side, I had the feeling he might be rather curious himself.

They were whispering again.  I wasn't sure of the language, but if they were here, I had to hope I could talk to them.

"Are you from Elsewhere?" I asked.

Though I spoke softly, it still sounded like a shout compared to these quiet people.  I startled them, and even the kneeling ones started to scramble to their feet to get away -- but then they stopped as though they had only just heard what I said.  They all knelt this time, and the ones above on the rocks came down and sat with the others.  I felt as though I was on a stage and hadn't been told the name of the play, let alone what part I played in it.

"I feel like I should know what they are," Edmond said.

Oh, and that drew a strange reaction.  They were not surprised to find that the cat could talk.  There was even a nod of heads to him, as though he were something they understood far better than they did me.

I had no idea what to do.  We sat in silence for a few moments, but then I heard another sound and saw movement --

Lord Snow arrived.

The people did not panic.  I heard cries of surprise, but more of them stood and stretched out their arms to the snow leopard as though in delight.  Lord Snow came bounding through the snow and came to a sliding stop beside me.  I had to put a hand on the rock to keep from going down.

"My apologies," the big cat said.   He sat down and mumbled words that were not in English.  The others answered, a chorus of words that seemed to tumble over each other.  I thought Lord Snow looked pleased. 

"What are they?" I asked when they all went quiet again.

"Icelings, from Lord Ice's own realm. They know me, even though they've been here for a long time.  I'm not sure what happened.  I think they were exploring other winter lands and somehow ended up here.  I don't know --"

One of the Icelings began to talk.  Others joined in.  I could tell that whatever they said took Lord Snow by surprise.  He spoke a few times and then turned back to me.  Edmond, I noticed, had snuggled up next to the larger cat's long fur.  I wondered if I could shift a little closer myself.

"They have told me something I had not known," Lord Snow said at last.  "Mark, there is a second gate to Elsewhere, and it is located high in the mountains, but not too far from here.  The problem is that the gate is closed and they have never had the ability to open it, so they were trapped here.  If you can get it open, then it would be a better way back."

"I don't know much about gates, but I'm willing to try," I said.  I started to stand, but my leg gave out again.  Lord Snow reached over and put a paw against it, and I felt a wild surge of magic that made not only the leg but most of the rest of me, feel much better.  "Thank you!" 

"Dangerous," he admitted.  "I'm not used to applying magic to fae or human. But I'm glad it helped."

I picked up Edmond and draped him over my shoulders.  He purred since he didn't like to walk and I appreciated having a nice warm fur collar again.  The Icelings were excited now, some of them actually leaping as they bounded through and over the snow.  They had to slow for the rest of us, but I could sense the joy they felt.

I hoped I didn't disappoint them.  I wanted to say something to Lord Snow, to have him warn the others that I might not be able to do the work -- but then I suspected he already had done so.  It wasn't like him to give false hope to others.

I'd do my best.

We were heading farther up into the mountains and far away from the railroad tracks, which we crossed.  I looked up and down them with a bit of longing but didn't slow.  I realized that the 'not far' for the Icelings might be a long distance for me --

Lord Snow looked over his shoulder and nodded.  We were being followed. That wouldn't be good since it could be no one but Alsia.

 To Be Continued....

998 Words

Monday, January 16, 2017


Last week I injured my left wrist.  I have no idea what I did, but it suddenly began to hurt enough to keep me awake at night.  After a couple days it cleared up, but those were difficult days for writing.  I managed to get a little over 1k a day done each day, though.  That's my minimum writing count.

The wrist mostly cleared up by the third day and things began to look better.

Then Russ took me to a wildlife refuge which knocked that day's word count back down -- oh, but it was a lovely distraction.  Eagles, geese, owl!  I have been trying to get a picture of an owl for YEARS.  You cannot imagine how much fun that was, to spot him just as we were leaving!

And then the ice storm....

Actually, we got off easy on the storm.  Just a light bit of ice and rain most of today (Monday), but it is cooling off and turning icy out there now.  I was enthralled, though, watching the storm progress up towards us and seeing the videos of various places as it hit.  I find storms and storm news fascinating. 

So all of that cut into my writing time or just drew my full attention.  From last Monday through Sunday, I wrote 10,808 words.  Not a bad total, but not even half of what I would normally get.

And you know what?  It doesn't matter.  If you start making word count numbers more important than things like storms and wildlife refuges, you are going to have very dull writing.  Seeing the wild world helps reconnect with times and places where civilization doesn't always hold sway.  Weather brings you closer to the unpredictable nature of the world.  Even inexplicable pains can bring you closer to your suffering characters.

You have to learn and experience things.  I've pursued life-long learning long before that term came into general use.  Too many see it as a pastime for retired people with nothing to do with their time.  Get over that concept, especially if you are a writer.  Learn things.  Read nonfiction books.  Take courses.  If you can spare the $20 a month, I suggest you sign up for this:

I love these courses.  So far I've taken four history courses, four science courses (and found I have a true love for geology), one art appreciation class, and right now I'm learning about the Analects of Confucius, which is a far more fascinating book than I ever realized back when I read it years and years and years ago.

For people who don't like to read nonfiction, these are a fantastic second choice.  The classes are generally right around 30 minutes, and many of them are 24 or 32 total classes per course, so you can easily do one a night and have the entire course done in about one month.   Some of them are just as good as an audio class as a video one -- you can generally tell which ones after the first class, and you might choose just to listen to them while you do something else. There are courses in math, science, cooking, yoga, religion -- and more added so often that it is daunting to try and figure out how to watch all the ones you really want to see and still have time for things like writing.

Take time to learn something new.  Even take time away from your writing sometimes.  Embrace learning rather than thinking it's only suitable for school and retirees.  You deserve a better, richer life -- and this is an easy way to find one.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Flash Fiction # 233 -- Saving Everywhere. Part 17: Snow World


I grabbed a tight hold of Edmond, pulling him to my chest and caught hold of Lord Snow's fur by his neck.  A quick breath and then the snow was upon us.  Ice, rocks, and trees flashed past us in the wall of white, but I was determined to keep my two companions safe.  I pulled them closer and once again my magical power surged out around us. We were in a bubble, bouncing along the hillside.

It seemed like a long time before we finally came to rest.  Snow piled up on top of us, but we had a little magical light here.

The sudden silence was almost as startling as being still.  Edmond moved first.  He'd buried his head in my chest, and he looked up now with his ears back and his tail twitching.

"I do not like snow."

Lord Snow sat up and shook a bit of snow from his head.  He didn't look nearly as bothered as Edmond.

I was working very hard at not panicking, though.  All I could sense around us was snow -- very thick, very heavy snow.  The bubble of magic wouldn't last forever, nor would the light.  I didn't know what to do.

Lord Snow did, though.  He reached out and put a paw to the side of the bubble.  It slid a bit that way.

"Yes, this will work," the snow leopard said.  "We push like so, and simply keep moving until we are out of the snow bank.  It may be some distance, but we shouldn't have a real problem."

He sounded assured.  I reached over and gave the bubble a little push.  We moved some more.  There wasn't enough room for me to stand, so I just had to keep crawling forward.  I was getting tired of people trying so hard to kill me.

"Did you say something, Mark?" Lord Snow asked.

"Just mumbling to myself," I admitted.  "I am tired of --"

The bubble popped through the snow.  Unfortunately, we were on the side of a cliff, so the bubble began to roll downward, and we toppled over and around each other for about a hundred yards.  When we stopped I, of course, was on the bottom.


 "My apologies," Lord Snow said and twisted a bit and got off of me.  Edmond had been on my legs.  He was standing already and looking about as annoyed as I felt.  "We must be careful, my friends.  She was close when she sent that snow down on us."

The light he'd brought to the bubble disappeared.  I blinked and sat up.  The night was filled with snow so that I couldn't see back up to where we had been.  So much for following the train tracks.  I snarled a little but said nothing.

"The snow will be soft," Lord Snow warned, "and we risk the possibility of falling back in."

"I'll go first," Edmond said.  "If it's too soft for me, it will be for you two."

"I'll only use magic if I need to," Lord Snow added.  "We don't know where she might be.    Slide along the snow, Mark.  If it starts to give way, I'll use magic and hope she does not notice us."

We started moving across the snow.  It was a cold, dangerous path, and I had to wonder what my friends thought.  They'd barely joined me, and we were in trouble again.  As happy as I was to see them, I realized how dangerous it was just to be traveling with me.

We snaked our way across the white blanket that looked so calm now.  Lord Snow had to rescue Edmond twice. The little guy did not take off flying, which would have been far safer for him.  He stayed with us and helped keep us safe.

We rescued a dozen birds -- hawks, owls, and smaller ones -- that had gotten caught in the snow.  We also pulled out a fox who started to shake the snow off but took one look at Lord Snow and froze in fear.

The big cat chuckled.  "Go your own way, little fox.  I am not looking for dinner right now."

The fox backed up, turned and ran lightly over the snow.  I hoped he reached safety.

After the longest night I ever remembered, we finally reached solid ground.  The rock here had been scoured clear of all snow and debris, except for a small corner that was out of the wind.  We cleaned that space and settled in.  I ached, and I was cold.  Edmond crawled up into my lap.

"I am going to go hunt the woman," Lord Snow said.  "We need to know if she is still out there.  Stay here.  Stay warm.  You are in a protected area -- a little magic will not likely be noticed.  There seems to be much of it in the air, probably from what she did."

"Be careful," I told him.

Lord Snow gave a quick nod and then ran off into the pre-dawn darkness.  Edmond and I sat in the hollow, a little magic making enough warmth to keep us both content.

"We'll catch up with the others eventually," I said softly.  "Maybe we'll get lucky, and the battle will be over by then. I want to save thing, but -- but the idea of battle just seems wrong."

"You are a protector," Edmond reminded him.  "Of course battles sound wrong. They're the opposite of everything you are.  Sometimes, though, they're the only way to make things right."

"I was never trained for magic, Edmond."

"Neither was I," he reminded me.  "We've managed so far."

"Thank you for coming to find me.  I found out I am not good at the alone stuff."

Edmond gave a little laugh and moved in closer.  This wasn't so bad.  I even bowed my head and slept --

Woke up to light and an awareness of other things nearby -- and they were not anything natural, either.

To Be Continued....

994 Words


Monday, January 09, 2017

Progress Report

My first new novel for 2017 is Journey of a Thousand Truths.  I am over 17k into the story, and I'm enjoying writing this one.  The alternating chapters of first person (Mai) and third person (Zaron) are working out very well, though I do sometimes get mixed up and have to go back and rewrite a section to get it in the right POV.

Experimenting with writing is fun, at least when it seems to be working well.  So far, this is moving along nicely, though there are days like today where I can't quite make the connections I want as quickly as I would like to.  Still, I'm up to 1k for the day.

I have been using Grammarly on most everything I write these days.  I swear I have a block in the brain when it comes to commas.  Grammarly is almost always telling me that I have one I don't need and don't have one that I do need.  It's kind of funny, but I am slowly learning the 'where and when' of putting them in.  I see fewer errors overall when I run something through the program. 

The cold winter days are good for writing.  I keep my office toasty warm. The cats and dog come in here with me, being creatures who love their comforts, too.  The room has one window, but it's behind me and mostly covered in stuffed animals at the moment, so I don't see much of the outside world.  That's bad for the photographer side of me but good for the writing side.  Staying off the Internet is difficult some days, but if I can fall into a nice pattern of writing, then I can get a lot done.  I love when the story flows.

Journey of a Thousand Truths is moving forward through the mists of possible paths.  I think I needed this kind of story for the first book of the year.  It's an exciting story with demons and mercenaries.  I think I'm about to take them out of the city and into the wider world.

I am looking forward to getting out there with them and seeing what we can find.