Monday, October 24, 2016

Changing Things Around

When a person writes a lot, it's important not to get bored just with the act of sitting down at the computer and pulling up the same old program to do the same old things.  This can get difficult if the story itself has slowed down or you've hit a difficult spot.  It's easy to get a feeling of dissatisfaction that has nothing to do with the writing itself.
If you write every single day (like I do), then you know that there are days when even the most interesting story is going to cause you problems.  There are interactions with the real world (Go AWAY!) that can make concentrating harder.  Everything on the screen starts looking the same and boring and -- well, it might be time to make some very basic changes.
If you have the ability, play with different programs.  I use both Word and Scrivener at different times.  (Scrivener is really good for keeping track of Blog Posts, by the way).  At other times, when I feel myself flagging with a manuscript on Word, I'll change the font, the font color, the background -- do all kinds of things just to change things up a bit.
It's easy enough to reformat everything to something normal when you need it to be less silly looking.
I sometimes just change the font color for a new day during the NaNo marathon.  If I'm working in Word, that makes it easy to go back and see where I started for that day and get an accurate word count.
Scrivener is easier for that, of course.  Just start a new entry for each day.  I do wish the PC version had a 'how many words you need per day to reach your goal' feature, but I manage that with my Excel sheet (which I keep year round) anyway.
Which reminds me about my NaNo Stats:
This is year 16
Over 2,800,000 words written
41 manuscripts completed
14 manuscripts published
That's not a bad bit of work. There are several more NaNo novels still to be published, too.  I just need the time to edit and prepare them.  Tales of Grey Station 9 should be fun to get done.  So should Written in the Wind.  And a half dozen others -- and those are just in the NaNo listing.
There's the downside of being prolific.  Suddenly there is stuff you want done NOW so that you can hold the book in your hands and share it with others.  Oh, and read it myself.  I enjoy my own work.  I think everyone should enjoy what they write and want to read it when it's done.  Otherwise, why do you think anyone else should enjoy it?
My big change right now is that I've moved from my spring/summer writing spot to my cozy little autumn/winter office.  The view isn't as good here, but the heat is much better, and my teas are at hand.  I live in snow country (at least some years), and it's good to have a warm spot and the tea maker and teas close by.  And the cats, of course.  I think they appreciate the warm room better than I do.
We're almost ready for November ... as long as no one asks about the outlines for NaNoWriMo.

Friday, October 21, 2016

New Release: Raventower & Merriweather 1: Secrets

Lord Micalus Raventower is a genius at creating clockwork creatures and tinkering with steampunk engines, but that doesn’t explain why Atiran assassins are suddenly intent on killing him. Lt.  Merriweather is assigned to protect Lord Raventower, a role she initially resents since it takes her away from the castle and any chance of advancement to the King's Guard.  

Trouble is brewing for the city of Kamere.  Atrian warships stand off the coast, and there are enemies even within the ranks of the nobility itself. Merriweather and the eccentric young lord will have quite a job keeping him alive as well as hiding his more unusual secrets.  She soon learns there may be very good reasons for the Atrians to want Lord Raventower dead.


Flash Fiction # 221 -- Saving Everywhere. Part 5: Camp Magic

I was too weak to walk far.  My mind was rolling with turmoil, too, because I wanted to see at least Davis.
I almost went to my knees, but I spotted a bench by some sort of scraggly bush, and a little out of the sun.  I stumbled over to it and sat down, my head bowed.  At least I had drank water earlier, so I wasn't bone dry.  I could feel the heat already sucking moisture from me.
I could get out of this.  I had gotten out of worse.
Where were the others?
I forced myself to look around, my eyes narrowed against the glare.  I didn't see any other cages and I had a sudden fear that none of the others, not even Davis, had survived.  The fear made me ill, so I lowered my head again and tried to shove that thought aside. There were other worries to take it's place. What were Darman and Potilia doing now that those of us who could have fought them had been taken away?
Which lead to another thought, one a little more comforting.  Why hadn't I been attacked during the long trip?  Both Darman and Potilia knew I had powers and that they could be dangerous for them if I ever got enough time to figure out what to do.
Maybe now was the time to start practicing to find out what I could do -- or maybe not.  I glanced at the people with the rifles and suspected that a show of magic might be dangerous right now.
I wanted my friends here.  I wanted them to show up so we could scheme our way out of this mess.  I didn't feel up to the work on my own, but at the same time I knew --
A woman with short gray hair and a scowl crossed to the bench. She held a basket and drew out a metal cup and a jug of water.  I sipped at her nod and said nothing.  I had the feeling the panic in my voice would not help right now.
She handed me some bread and a piece of cheese.  It looked like a feast since I couldn't remember the last time I had ate anything.  It hadn't even been in this reality.
"Thank you," I said, even though I wanted to devour it.
She gave a slightly friendlier nod.  "That's all you'll get today for food.  More water in the barracks -- they don't short us on it."
That was something, at least.
Then she leaned forward.  I thought I could feel a touch of magic in her, though not anything I'd remembered from anywhere else.  She looked into my face and gave a nod.  "Not all is it seems.  Get strong.  We re counting on you."
Then she turned and walked away before I could swallow the bite of cheese.  I almost snarled in anger and followed, but my legs didn't want to hold me.  She disappeared around the side of a building.  No one else came around.
I ate the food and drank more water, and felt a little better for it.  No one else came near me, but that was okay.  I had time to relax, to stretch out sore muscles, and to to watch the few people I did see moving inside the camp.  Some of them were not human, and those seemed to keep to themselves well off to the left, hardly even coming into view now and then.  Not that I  saw many humans, either.  However, I had a feeling of segregation here and didn't like it.  Some of my best friends were not human.
Were there fae here?  I let my mind wander a little and tried to see if I could sense something that truly did not belong to this world.  For a moment I thought -- but no.  Lord Cayman was not here, I was certain of it.  What about Davis?  I had never been certain of his origins, though he clearly wasn't one of the fae.  Maybe he was more like me?
If my friend were here, they would have come to me by  now.  I shivered, despite the heat, and hoped that didn't mean anything dire for them.
I couldn't just sit here.  I stood and limped towards the buildings, moving to where I could see down the path between one building and the next.  What I saw took me by surprise.  There had to be at least a hundred of the barracks, each about one hundred feet long.  Not pleasant looking places, with their flat, unpainted wooden walls, and worse yet the metal roofs.  They would be hot during the day and cold at night.
Then I noted how tumbleweeds had piled up around quite a few of them. So they could not have all been occupied.  I wasn't certain if that was good or bad.  If there was a lot of us --
I looked to the towers and the rifles again.
Do not do anything rash.  Do not do anything that will get others killed.  I needed to think this through and find a way to not only help these people -- because I was a Protector and I had to do that part -- but also to find a way to get free.
When I walked past the next row of barracks, I saw an area filled with plants and people working there.  Apparently they grew their own food here, or at least some of it.  A few chickens pecked away at the ground.  I thought I saw a couple children and that angered me where I'd been worried before.  I don't know that anger helped, but it gave me a little more strength.
A moment later I heard a sort of yowl and looked over my shoulder, surprised to see movement among the non-humans.  They'd gathered in a tight group, and they were looking at me.
And then they were running at me.

To Be Continued....
998 Words

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Office Move and NaNo

I've moved into my winter office.  This is always a big thing.  I often wait until too late, and it's cold and miserable.  I'm not certain why I wait, to be honest.  I like being in the office, which is a nice cozy little room with books and on the right and teas on the left.  I think it's just the idea of moving things.  It went better this year because I bought a $20 desk for the smaller room.  The room feels much larger without the huge L-shaped desk in here.  The cats aren't as happy and that's going to be a problem, but so far, I like it.

The temperature dropped down below freezing tonight and the rest of the house does not have heat.  So the little room with the heater is a must. While the temps are going to be much better for the next two weeks, it is a sign that Winter is Coming.  I wonder how much snow we'll get this year.  I wonder if I should start ordering in a lot more tea.  You have to be safe, you know.

I need to focus on my outline again.  There is just barely two weeks until November, and while I'm happy with what I have for Raventower 2, I know that I need to fill some areas out still.  Sometimes outlines just don't seem to flow as well as others do, and this is one of those outlines where /**////// (message from my cat Wind) I see flashes of things, and whispers -- and a bit of a scene here, but where does it fit in?  Oh, this has to happen before X happens, so set it here for now and see what is happening around it that influences -- oh yes, that could lead to this and this and this.

And gradually the story unfolds.  This is the difficult outline for me.  Most of them flow in a nice linear projection, with only a few pieces that I go back and add in (much easier in an outline than in a manuscript since everything that happens has to affect what happens later).  It all works out.  Not Raventower 2.  It's fun, though, to have things work in different ways.  This one is a puzzle, not a line.  I have all the big pieces at the corners and the middle, but adding in the parts to link them together is far more work than usual. 

I've started going through the outline and I have several chapters set in place, though some of them will still require a little more info.  I have notes that will be at least fifteen more chapters.  So let's say I have a total of 30 chapters for the book and each chapter averages about 4k words.  There is a lovely 120k first draft.  Raventower 1 is 131k, and that means the second book could be long enough to stand with it.  I didn't want a second novel that was noticeably shorter than the first.

Besides, there is a lot of story to tell here -- it's just difficult to sort it out this time.

I will have the outline ready for NaNo.  Having moved to the office means no move in the middle of my massive writing splurge.  I wonder how it is going to go this year, though.  I have two nice outlines already and the Raventower 2 one is almost finished.  I do not have a job this year.  I shouldn't have anything to stress over -- though we all know how well that kind of thought goes.

Really, though, I have good thoughts about this year's NaNo, which is a really important part of the whole challenge.  I've found it is best to go into it thinking you are simply going to have fun.  The moment I start thinking that I must have something important when I'm done with November, it stops being enjoyable.

Okay, so if I write so much already, why bother?

It's that fun part I was talking about.  NaNo is an intellectual marathon and you are taking part in it with thousands of others.  Some will be very, very fast and rush through the 50,000 words and stop.  Some will write words and words and words -- for them, it is about how much they can type in one month and less about the story they write.  There will be people who work out exactly how many words they need to write each day to get 50k exactly on the last day of the month.  Most of us, though, are writing to create a story we will be working with later.  We understand the power of first drafts, and how important it is to write the entire story, rather than (as too often happens) getting bogged down in the small details and losing sight -- and interest -- in the rest of the tale.

That's a part many anti-NaNo people don't quite understand.  Anyone who is serious about writing knows that you have to edit.  Whether you write very slowly or very quickly doesn't matter; you will still be going over it (often more than once) after it is done.  Enjoy the act of creation -- whether you write slowly or fast doesn't matter.  NaNo is not going to make you a novelist, nor is it a sign that you fail as one if you don't write those 50k words.  We are not all the same and we don't all work in the same way.

If you write slowly, don't sneer at those who are taking part in NaNo and pretend to some elitist perfection based only on how fast you create a first draft.  I've worked with authors for over a decade now and I can tell you that I've seen first drafts that took years to write that were no better than ones written in a few weeks by another person.  The speed of writing makes no difference.

In fact, nothing counts at all except for the final draft, and even then you have to take into account taste.

If a writer is willing to keep learning and practicing their art, they will get better.  Not everyone wants to work that hard and they write for fun.  This is true for NaNo and in the rest of the writing world.

In the end, the only thing you can judge is the final draft.  How it got from idea to that point should be no concern for the reader.  So if you judge a story by anything but the final published draft, then you are simply being pretentious.  You can read and point out errors, but if you haven't read it, don't make assumptions.

Reviews pointing out specific problems is a different matter.  Every author needs to learn what is wrong with their writing and some of them are too rushed to get to publication.  It's a difficult lesson to learn because even many beginning writers think that writing is easy.

This is hard work and there is always something more to learn -- but it is worth it in the end.  Besides, the work part is fun!