Sunday, April 24, 2011

Sample Sunday: The Hunter and the Hunted

From My Cover Art

A couple words of explanation:

This is the sequel to a novella published some years ago by Yard Dog Press. The original is called For the Honor of the Hunt and explains how Britta and Teon got together. The biggest part of the background is that the world, Andradora, was settled as a matriarchy, but has recently given up that status to join the Inner Worlds Council. That means men are, technically, equal.

It's not been an exactly smooth transition.

Britta is one of the top Bounty Hunters, licensed by the government to hunt criminals. When she took Teon as a partner, it upset a few people.

I hope to put the two stories, For the Honor of the Hunt and The Hunter and the Hunted out in ebook format. I hope you enjoy this piece!

The Hunter and the Hunted:

It was just our luck that Teon Delphison and I were out to dinner -- together -- when all hell broke loose in Elegis.

We were not on a date. This was a business meeting and we held it at the nearest decent restaurant. We had spent all day on a Hunt in the city and tracked down two out of three of our quarry. With the Elegis transportation system down for the third day in a row -- they said restructuring -- it had been case of hiking all over hell, and then waiting while Andradora Force sent out someone to pick our catches up. Payments were late on three earlier bounties and even Teon looked annoyed about working for nothing.

Everything was going to hell on Andradora. I wanted to blame men -- our usual scapegoat -- or the interference of the IWC.

But I knew the truth. We all did. Drought in one area, flood in another, bad management of government funds and general bad luck had fallen on the world. We asked the IWC to come in because we needed their help, and we were willing to give up the matriarchy and go to them as equals, rather than beggars. They would have sent supplies anyway; The IWC doesn't let humans starve just because we don't agree politically. We went with our pride intact and accepted their rules, admitting to our own mistakes. Otherwise it would only be a stopgap, and we'd be back begging again in a few years. We had to believe that joining the IWC and sharing in the common community would help.

Things could have been worse than they were now. That still didn't make them good.

Teon and I were tired, bad-tempered and hungry. Winda turned down having a meal with us and decided to go home instead, which proved the better choice. She's office help. She wouldn't have done well when things went bad.

"Brought your boy in for some food, did you?" Kashin smirked as we came in. She sat with three other hunters over at the side of the room. I looked their way and shook my head. My luck to find them here.

"Actually, I'm buying," Teon said and met Kashin's look.

I almost stepped in and protested. This wasn't a date. But hell, that got such a startled look from the three women it was probably worth it.

I glared at him when we sat down, though. "You want to ruin my reputation?"

"Hell, Britta -- you have me for a partner. What worse can they think?"

He really didn't have to remind me.

We ordered and went back to work, sorting through lists of potential jobs, looking over finances, considering new equipment. I still wanted to get Teon set up with an implant and linked into the comm system, but the medtech said his injured ear wasn't ready for it, and she didn't want to risk the hearing in the good one. I'd give it another month and we'd try again. He seemed willing --

A loud beep came from the screen behind me. I spun and watched the vid go from the mindless drivel that passes for entertainment today to a flashing Emergency Emblem.

It couldn't be good, of course, but the fact they interrupted --

Annette NiRose's face appeared on the screen -- the top local reporter -- and that meant something drastic. All other sound in the room stopped. I glanced once at Teon and saw the same worry in his face that I felt. I don't know why I expected some other look.

"Approximately twenty-three minutes ago, a half dozen men in masks, broke into the office of Councilor Agila NiShalla and killed her --"

People began to shout.

I looked around and back at Teon. "Pay the bill. Let's go."

He nodded, already shoving a cred chit into the slot. I saw Kashin look our way, her face red.

"Damn bastard men --"

She started our way. I shoved Teon towards the door, but he didn't go far. I turned to growl something impolite -- but I found him guarding my back because we had other trouble heading our way.

He could have made it out the door without me. He could probably run for cover fast enough to get clear. He stayed and guarded my back.

I almost hit the spot behind my ear to tell Winda to get us some help, but she had left the office when we did. We were on our own.

"Don't be so damn stupid!" I suddenly shouted as someone took a swing at me. I blocked the blow and kicked -- hard enough I might have cracked a knee. I didn't care as the woman went down yowling. I needed to lessen the odds here. "We had nothing to do with that stupidity!"

"The hell you didn't!" Kashin said. She got in my face, but she didn't swing, so I held back, and backed up a step, nudging Teon that way, too. "It's freaks like you, working with men and giving them weapons --"

"Or maybe its women like you, taking your anger at the world out on the wrong people that are pushing this." I looked back at the screen. "No, there's something more going on. Hell -- I hate to speak ill of the dead, but Agila NiShalla was the most useless, lazy councilor to ever sit in the government, and even you said something about it the other day, Kashin!"

She stopped and blinked, but the anger came back. "Just proves the men are stupid --"

But someone else took her arm. Some of the others backed off in haste.

"Get your boy out of here," the restaurant owner said. He had a laser pistol in hand. "Go now."

We had a clear way out. I wanted to stay and argue with these bigots. But we headed out into the late afternoon heat. Andradora Force aircars swept over us. I could hear shouts elsewhere.

"This is crazy. What the hell --" I turned on Teon ready to snap at him.

He was leaning a little to the right, a hand on his side. Blood spread against the cloth while I looked.

"Oh hell." I caught hold of his arm and started away from the door. "Who did it?"

"One of Kashin's friends while they had your attention." His breath caught. "Damn good with a knife."

"Anka. We should have --"

"Gotten the hell out of there," he said and turned his head a little to look at me. He'd gone white and clammy. I needed to get him to help. "That was a place ready to explode. I didn't want to be caught . . . caught in the middle, unable to --"

"We need to get to the clinic," I said. I caught his waist because he was starting to go down.

"No. Office."

"Teon --"

"Not the clinic. Not on a day like this."

His words made me rethink the situation. He might be right -- a clinic run by women would not help. But hell -- I wasn't qualified to take care of a wound like this, and I didn't want to see him die.

Even so, I headed for the office. It was closer. I could get someone to come there. He might be right -- because I could hear sounds out there already that didn't bode well for any well-known male on the street. Right now, Teon Parason was about the best known up-and-coming male in the city, outside of a few government flunkies.

It was probably going to get him killed. And me, too, for being stupid enough to take him on as a partner. This wasn't going to work --

More government vehicles swept over us as we headed up the hill toward the office building. I didn't pay much attention until one swung back around and dropped down so quickly it startled me backwards a couple steps. Teon and I almost went down, and I was ready to curse whomever --

The door opened part way and Milisin's head popped out.

"Son of a dog," she said, shaking her head. "I feared it was the two of you."

"Need to get him to help --" I said, panting.

"Damn. What happened?" She stepped out, grabbed Teon from my hold and had him into the aircar before I could answer.

"Knifed down at the Digs," I said. I threw myself into the car with him, afraid she would take off without me.

"Bad day to be out, sister." She snapped the door shut.

"It wasn't when we went for dinner." I saw the way she looked back at me. "Business, Milisin. Business. You people will drive me crazy. Need to get him to help --"

"Not clinic," Teon whispered. Still conscious, then. Good.

"Not the clinic," Milisin agreed. She'd taken us up and turned. "Port. Get him off the streets and out of the reach of these people."

I almost protested. The port was a long ways off -- but I was thinking in terms of traveling on foot. Milisin was asking for entrance to the grounds and medical help for a wounded male before I could have gotten Teon up to the office, let alone gotten him any help.

Medtechs were already waiting when we got out. I turned to say thanks to Milisin but she slammed the door closed and headed up again. By the time I turned back, the medtechs were talking in words I didn't understand and taking Teon off. I followed and one of the people stepped back to talk to me. A woman, tall and short haired, and of a rank I didn't know since I don't pay any attention to such things.

"Do you know his name?" she asked, taking out a pocket comp.

"Teon Parason. He's my -- we work together."

"Teon -- Oh hell. He's the hunter, then? And you must be Britta NiGwen?"

I looked at her, both startled and uneasy. "Yes."

"Explains why they brought him here." She stopped and looked back at the city. So did I. I couldn't see the trouble, but I could feel it. "This isn't going to go well."

She was damned perceptive for an off-worlder.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Kat Among the Pigeons Sale

From My Cover Art

From Saturday April 23rd until the end of Monday, April 25th, Kat Among the Pigeons will be on sale at Smashwords for $0.99!  You can find the link here:

Use this code at check out for the discount:


Katlyn is a member of a fae clan whose job is to stand the line between human and magical lands, a secret she has trouble hiding from her new human boyfriend even before she unexpectedly finds the fate of the world in her hands.

She isn't magically strong, and unlike other fae who understand all animals, she only caught birds and cats -- not a good combination. However, when she isn't able to reach other fae for help, Kat and her boyfriend frantically fight the enemy with the aid of a lazy tom cat, an African gray parrot who only speaks in verse, and a wise-cracking cockatiel with a bad attitude.

She's trying very hard not to think the world is doomed.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Looking ahead

I am down to the very last bit of Waiting for the Last Dance -- if I can get a chance to do it. Kind of busy day with other things going on. Then the book goes off to be edited and back to me to check over and finally it will be ready for publication. I have the cover art done -- I did that before I started editing this time.

But this brings me to the next problem. What novel shall I do next? I think it might be time to do one of the science fiction novels, but there are a few to choose from and I'm not sure yet which one might appeal most to me.

This, apparently, makes me different from a lot of other people. They see the end of a long project as a chance to sit back, relax and not think about writing. I see it as a chance to move on to something else fun.

We all know I love writing. I have written every day for several decades (I don't like to think about how many, to be honest). I have over 80 finished novels, well over 100 short stories and more than a few articles. (Yes, Vision is coming up. I am trying to get the funds together to pay for the articles! Had fun with Russ home, but, umm. . . costly.) I am enjoying getting the material out, and I think if I can get more notice, the sales will pick up again.

My 'artistic' side says the sales are not as important as finding the few readers who really enjoy the stories I write. My 'practical' side (which, granted, is kind of a squeaky, quiet little thing, only darting out of the shadows now and then), says that if I could find the way to market stuff, I wouldn't be here gnawing my fingernails and trying to figure out how to pay for contracted articles for Vision.

There has to be a balance here somewhere.

Then there is the last point. I have had a lousy last four-and-a-half years. Most of it has been because of things I had absolutely no control over. Writing is the one thing that I have held to since grade school and enjoyed when everything else went to hell. Kat Among the Pigeons is selling well (not great, but well), while it had been rejected by several agents. I had to weigh whether I wanted to keep sending it to agents or go to Indie publishing with it. There were far more agents out there whom I hadn't approached. I had faith the story would find a market eventually.

Eventually was not what I needed right now. I seriously needed a step forward in some way that was not related to Forward Motion or Vision -- not related to the things I do for other writers. I love them both, but I need to focus on my writing future for a while, too.

So, here I am. I have things out. I have more things almost ready to go out. I have several things in the lineup, and as soon as I find the time, they will go out. This is my future. I just need time to focus on it.

Here is where you can find info on my latest work:

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Zette's Take: Getting Unstuck, 3

From For Blog

The material I've been posting here the last few days is from the Two Year Novel Course. While I have stopped doing the live versions, the ebooks are still available from Holly Lisle's book store, if anyone is interested:

This is the third and last of the sections on getting unstuck. I hope they've helped some of you!

Problem # 4: I'm just stuck

You've not been led astray by bright shiny new ideas, but here you are, stuck anyway. You are the lucky ones in this group. You don't have to worry about what changed, and how to fix it all. You just need to get moving again.

Being stuck can have an outside cause, but this isn't something I can answer for you. If you are under stress from other causes, it can affect your writing. Some of us are lucky and can use writing as an escape from stress, but it might be you need to step back from the novel and relax for a while. It will be there when you're ready to go on again.

However, if being stuck is writing-related, there are two things you should consider here.

1. What is missing?

Is the story not falling together properly? You may have reached an important point, and realize something missing. It might be a piece of the plot, or it might be a character motivation, or something as illusive as the proper attitude for one of the characters. This can be a difficult problem to solve. If you have gotten this far without the illusive piece, then it's likely not going to be easy to find.

Go back two or three scenes from where you became stuck and start carefully examining the steps you took to get here. Was the last scene absolutely thrilling and this scene dull in comparison? This will happen when you write one of those important scenes. It's hard to slip from that to something more mundane.

But you still need tension, even in the lesser scenes, and it may be all that's missing. You might use an otherwise quiet scene for your people to show their emotional fragility (if it applies). If you can't add in action-related tension, then look at other possibilities, like tension between people on the same side.

However, there may be another reason why this scene isn't working and you're stuck....

2. Do you really need this scene?

Sometimes the problem is that the writer is trying to tell every step of the journey when really all you sometimes need is an indication the story has moved to a different place. You may be trying to write a full scene when all you really need is a transition.

Make certain the scene is needed. Analyze what it does for the story. Is anything important learned from this scene? Or is it a placeholder which might be better done in a shorter version?

If, for instance, you have had your people go up against the antagonist and barely slink away, the next scene could be how they made their way through the alleys and back to their hidden HQ. Unless something dramatic happens on the escape, you don't want to write every twist and turn they take. Concentrate on the high points -- stop to bandage wounds, rest near the church, and reach their home ground.

If there is important information delivered in an otherwise unimportant scene, you are going to have to give the readers a reason for sticking with it. If a character accidentally gives away a secret in a conversation, don't try to bury it in pages of otherwise useless dialogue. One thing you can do is give it away along with a lesser secret which draws attention. Or give it away in the midst of a big important scene rather than creating a lesser scene to carry it.

Transition scenes are often the most difficult to write. Getting from 'here to there' -- whether in time or place or both -- often annoys and stops a writer. They don't want to run from one battle to the next because it wouldn't be realistic. However, those down times between can seem boring compared to the battles, and the writer (never mind the reader) can have trouble getting through them.

There are a couple ways to handle such scenes. You might make certain something significant happens between the battles. If you have a love story intertwined in a larger tale, this is the time for something significant to happen between the characters, especially if one or both are going to be in danger. A fight is as good as a consummation in this case. Both will add tension to the upcoming battle. Deliver a bit of information, kill off a minor character -- there are a number of things which can be done between major scenes. However, don't force it. If there is nothing you want to add to the scene, then write a short transition and move on.

While the general rule of 'show, don't tell' is important in most cases, there are times when the opposite may be what you need. Instead of showing the scene I talked about earlier, where the group makes their way from escaping the antagonist to the HQ, you can do something far more dramatic. In this case, you wouldn't write even the highlights of the escape. Instead, you would leap from a point where they're on the run and then start the next scene/chapter with a verbal statement summing it up:

Martin slammed the door closed behind them and spun on the rest of the group. "David, if you ever take off running like that again, I'll shoot you myself. We're damned lucky we made it back without half Freeman's madmen after us."

You don't have to see the problems of the race back to safety in a case like this, and you can create a sense of tension here, especially if David has a legitimate reason for running. He could have been charging an enemy Martin didn't see, or trying to reach the next corner because he saw a taxi go by, and hoped to grab it, or any number of things.

But the important point here is you do not have to show David running. Or you can, and cut at this point and then leap ahead to the confrontation over it.

The rest of how the group got back to their place of safety may be entirely unnecessary.

The problem you could be facing is making something exciting and important when it is not. If you are stuck, ask yourself if you really need the scene.

If you do need the scene, but still can't write it, jump ahead to the next point on your outline. This is one of the great parts of having an outline: you know where you are going. Sometimes moving a step or two ahead on the outline can help break up a block. Seeing where the characters will be after the problem scene can often help you see what the problem scene needs.

If you are stuck, experiment. Try leaping ahead, or if you are doing a multiple POV novel, try writing it from a different POV. Tell instead of show, or cut the scene entirely if necessary. But move on.

Keep writing.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Zette's Take: Getting Unstuck, Part 2

This is a continuation of yesterday's blog. There's one more section to go!

Problem 3: Stuck at a Bad Spot

Maybe it's not as bad as the pictures I painted in the last class. Maybe you're stuck at a bad point in the story. Sometimes the best written outlines can have problems, because stories grow and change with the telling. A subtle change here, a slight shift there -- and suddenly, you face some step you had planned in the outline realize it doesn't quite work.

Ask yourself why it doesn't work. Did the change in plot improve the story? Or is it a change just for the sake of change? Often when an author reaches the writing part of the work, they have lived a long time with the story from the initial idea through the outline. The writer may change things because knowing the story makes it seem too common. If you do this, but you don't get stuck, it's not going to matter. However, you may find you're making changes which substantially affect the story, rather than adding new layers to it. If you are suddenly stuck, step back and examine the work and see if these changes caused the problem.

And, having found these changes, there are some things you should consider:

1. Looking over the changes, you decide they have stopped your progress and are not a real improvement to the story. At this point you can (a) go back and rework what you've already changed and get the story back in line with the outline or (b) you can put a note in your manuscript explaining what you need to change in the first part of the work and then move on as though you have already made those changes. (This works, of course, for any plot problem, including when you followed the outline closely and it still didn't quite work.)

This last method is the one I use, and the one I picked up from Holly Lisle. One of the things I've found helpful is to put notes at the top of the manuscript reminding myself of changes to make in the rewrite as well as at the point where the changes are incorporated into the story.

2. You may, instead, decide that this is the better story to tell, despite being stuck. If that is the case, you can either (a) abandon your outline and move on hoping the story doesn't continue to produce road blocks or (b) you can sit down and rework the rest of your outline so you can keep moving ahead with new goals in sight.

Every time you go off the outline, you run the risk of having to repeat this process of evaluation and change. It can become very frustrating, and it can ruin a story as it goes off in a different tangent every few chapters. There is also the real danger of the story hitting a dead end rather than just a road block.

Be careful of going too far off the road map you made. You can always make notes to come back and examine ideas and places with other characters. In fact, this is a great way to generate future writing projects. Right now, however, tell the story you intended to and save the other stories for later.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Zette's Take: The Art of Moving Ahead

Let's talk about moving ahead in a plot when you seem to be stuck. This is part of the material in my 2 Year Novel Course (now on hiatus). You will see references to the 2YN course in it, but ignore those and see if anything else helps you. I might post a couple more parts to this this week.

I hope it might help some of you.

Getting Unstuck, Part 1

What to do when it doesn't work

If you have reached a point with your story where you want to scream, tear up and erase everything remotely related to it and never write again, then the next three classes are for you. The rest of you can go merrily along in your novel creation, and worry about these next three if you hit a problem spot like I describe here.

If you are having trouble though, realize you are not alone. At some point every writer will hit that wall. For some people, it translates into Writer's Block, stopping work on every other project as well. It may not be possible to figure out which bit of writing is the culprit, because getting blocked on one story can freeze up the entire creative conduit. For others, it might result in a bad mood and a general dislike of writing, and a voluntary break from the work -- but in the end, the result is the same.

There are a number of factors which might have brought you to this stage. I'll go over some of them, but there can be personal reasons and no one but you can find those answers. It may be in the nature of the story you are telling -- either not interested enough or far too personal are two likely culprits. Sometimes recognizing the problem can be the best step to getting past it.

If you reach the point where you think you hate everything about your 2YN project, there are some things to consider which might help you move on as we prepare for year two. First is the realization that at some point you have to commit to doing the work, and not only apply yourself to the fun parts, but also determine to work through the difficult parts as well. Every novel has points where the story stops, the path becomes muddy -- even with a great outline -- and it's hard to decide which way to go, or how to get to the next important step.

The first thing to do is take a step back from the story and remember this is a single story, and work or fail, it will not be what makes your career. At the absolute worst, you'll realize this story is not the one for you. The chances are you will still have learned a few things about how to approach a novel which can help you in the future.

But let's suppose you aren't going to abandon the novel. You've only hit a bad spot, and there may be a way to get past it.

Problem 1: Trying too hard

2YN is a huge undertaking. For some, it is a first attempt at a complete, original novel. You may feel it lacks perfection, and you don't have a reason to go on. You can't make this work into the story you want to tell.

No story will ever be perfect. You cannot possibly recreate the vision in your head just by using written words. Accept this truth from the start, and then do your best to work within the parameters of the art.

Your 2YN story is no more or less important than any other novel you'll write. It's a learning experience, as all novels are. If you give up, rather than finish and fix the problems, you are not going to learn some of the things you need to.

Get the story written down. This is your most important job at this point. Don't worry about whom you are going to please. This is the first draft.

Problem 2: The time factor

In November, many people take part in NaNoWriMosm -- National Novel Writing Month, the hardest single event for writers ( A novel in a week or even the three day novel writing events are not as difficult because it's easier to keep your attention focused on intense writing for a short time. The actual word count is less important than the amount of work the person puts into it. Some people write faster than others, but someone writing 200 words an hour can be working just as hard at it as someone writing 1000. NaNo, even if the word count is about the same for the shorter events, is sometimes far more difficult for people to maintain.

This may be the problem you are facing with 2YN. It might not be the actual work itself, but rather the time it has taken to get here. I like to leap into a story as soon as I have a good idea of what I want and need for it. Not being able to do so with this class meant I had to find other projects to work on as well. And this, in turn took me farther from the initial rush of excitement that comes as a story idea emerges from the morass of possibilities.

There is something else to consider at this point. Sometimes when you get into professional levels of writing, what you write and when you write is no longer completely in your control. Publishers will expect you to write material to their timelines and often with their input on what you can create. Prepare to work under those conditions by not allowing yourself to be stopped now.

What can you do now to get moving again?

Go back over all the preparation work for the novel. Tweak it; play with the characters, re-examine the themes and read anything you may have already written. Do so with the intention of finding the spark that started you on the path to writing this story.

Don't worry about pleasing anyone but yourself. At this phase all you have to do is tell a story you enjoy.

And beforeI forget, I should mention that all three of the Silky books are now available at Smashwords for $1.99 each. These are YA fantasy, about which author Holly Lisle wrote:

"Exciting, complex and richly textured, with a world you'll believe and a protagonist you have to cheer for -- Silky is wonderful." Holly Lisle (Quote from original 1998 Embiid Publishing release of book 1)