Friday, July 27, 2012

FM Flash Friday # 1: Evolution



Lazette Gifford


Copyright 2012, Lazette Gifford

Gangs had fought their useless battle in the alley, losers dragging their dead and injured away as the winners jeered.  Then the conquerors passed so close to Alishin he could almost taste the blood on their clothing.  Rank emotion filled the air like the scent of flowers in spring.

He hungered.

They never saw Alishin; humans rarely did.  If the strutting victors had noticed the tall, dark-shrouded figure in the shadows, they would have known their true place as prey and not victor.  Humans, though, never willingly looked upward to see what stood above them in the evolutionary ladder.

The triumphant gang left the battlefield, their crass jokes and harsh laughter fading in the night.  Soon...

Alishin would have one of those tasty morsels tonight.  He knew the patterns of his particular prey. He waited, patient for his reward in the hunt.

As he knew he would, the prey -- reeking of blood and sex -- returned after midnight, sniffing around the killing grounds, looking for another battle and the addictive taste of conquest.  Alishin had laid the trap in a simple game of chance . . . as all hunts are games of chance, in one way or another.

The prey found the open door and swaggered inside, unafraid, his hand on the knife in his belt.  A table, draped in black cloth, stood beneath a flickering bulb.  Chance lay in the dice on the shadowed surface, and the boy picked them up, laughing.  Even though he didn't understand, the prey's heart beat harder.  Taking chances and gambling were part of his life.

Alishin closed his eyes, savoring the scent of adrenaline surging through the human and flavoring the blood and meat.  Oh yes, far sweeter than a dull kill in the shadows with no feel for the hunt.  The boy threw and his heartbeat soared as the dice rolled.

Trap sprung.

"Never throw the dice before you know the game," Alishin said as he stepped forward, the wisdom wasted on this one, of course. The dice stopped on double skulls.

They always did.

The boy's heart pounded, the pulse beating in the neck as the prey started to back away.  Alishin smiled and grabbed an arm, strength stilling any hope of escape.  His fingers caught and twisted the head, exposing the neck where the blood pumped, the scent of adrenaline intoxicating.  He bent close, his lips near the boy's ear.

"The game is called evolution, human," he said softly.  "The higher species is always the better hunter."

But as Alishin bit into the pliant neck he wondered if he would ever dare to look up. . . .
The End

442 words

Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here:

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Zette Vs. The Giant Green Grasshopper from Hell

Okay, first, I am not afraid of grasshoppers or many other bugs and insects. You can tell this by wandering through my picture a day blog and seeing how often I post pictures of the things, especially on the window beside my desk. ( )

However, when you happen to look up and see a huge green insect about as long as the palm of your hand clinging to the ceiling above your desk -- yeah, he's overstepped the line.

I did not want to kill him though. He was really quite lovely. And this was the second one this week, so I thought I'd just do what I did the last time. Got the broom, let him catch hold, and out we'd go. No problem.


After a couple pictures (of course), I put the broom up. He caught on. Cool!

I moved the broom.

Grasshopper panicked.

His first leap was onto Buffy.

Yeah, wish I'd had the camera in hand for that one! She leapt up in shock, grasshopper leapt to printer. Buffy moved. Grasshopper moved faster.

So for the next ten minutes I had a fun time trying not to trip over cat while grasshopper tries frantically to find some place away from broom and the increasingly crazed cat and her little cat buddies who are all now interested in the fun. Okay, this isn't working. I ditch the broom and go for a big plastic bowl and lid.

Come on little (or not so little) guy. Into the bowl -- yes!

No! Back out before I can get the lid on.

Across the light (did get a good shot there) and up the blinds. I knocked him down into the bowl. Got the lid on! YES! Success!

Out to the porch and out the front door and he's free! Yay!

Except he leaps on my arm and back into the porch.

Now, you know, it's a matter of honor. I'm not going to let this grasshopper win. The problem is there are boxes all over the porch and I'm not as good at climbing over and around these things as I used to be. I knock him down with a backhanded swipe of the lid. He's now somewhere I can't reach him at all. I tear away a box. He's glaring at me, I can tell.

I try appealing to him. "Outside. Grass. Grasshopper. You belong together."

He moves farther away.

But I'm ready for my big move now. Lid in one hand, bowl in the other; Leap forward, swat the grasshopper into the bowl, snap lid on!


Only I'm not sure I actually have him and I can't see inside.


Okay. I'm sure the neighbors are thinking I've gone insane by now anyway. What the hell. Outside. CLOSE PORCH DOOR BEHIND ME.

Open lid.

Grasshopper leaps straight up at me and I scream.

Now I'm positive he's on me somewhere. I start dancing around hitting myself on the back and legs. I do not look towards any of the other houses. I find no mutant huge green grasshopper on me so I leap back into the house, close and lock the door behind me and race into the house.

I've won!

Only . . . This was the second one this week. I don't know how they're getting in. I suspect the cats are behind it as a new way to drive me crazy. Or, given how the thing startled Buffy, maybe they're wise and thinking a nice live-and-let-live attitude is the best one here.

Or maybe it was the same grasshopper. Maybe he has a vendetta and now it's his honor against mine.

He's not going to win.

Well, not unless the neighbors have me committed.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Zette's Take: Outlines aren't creative?

     I was told something interesting today: People who use outlines are not creative in their writing.

I looked at the line for a few minutes before I finally asked the most obvious question.

Where do you think outlines come from if not creativity?

This the problem with authors who decide at some point that their way is the only way to write. They not only stop seeing possibilities for themselves, but they also stop considering how others might work differently and still do as well.

Do I really need to say this? Outlines are creative. They are the essence of a story, worked out in great or small detail, so the path from start to finish makes sense for the writer (and the reader, for that matter). They are not the book with the story complete, and all the wonderful little touches that make the characters come alive and the tale exciting. They are not set in stone and I have yet to work all the way through an outline without having a number of changes along the way. However, I am not stopped, time and again, by 'what happens next' or 'that doesn't work with what I had before, I need to make drastic changes' problems. I have (as I have often said) the road map worked out, but I don't know everything my characters will see and do, or what interesting detours and side trips might show up as the true details of the story unveil themselves.

The only real difference between pantsing and outlining is the amount of detail worked into the 'first draft' of the work. An outline is a very brief first draft of the overall story. It requires just as much imagination and creativity to work out as any other form of story writing.

Working out the major events or themes or whatever else you add into the outline does not limit your creativity; it only gives it a focus for the story you are already imagining. This also means you are committing to tell a specific story, and not the new one that kind of resembles it. That's a different story; write this one first.

Some lose interest in writing a story if they work it out, which makes outlines impossible for them to use. For others, the outline is the barest glimpse at a story they want to know far better and to share with others.

I have done, and will continue to do, both. I tend to pants shorter work, but I do the same with novels on occasion, too. I love writing outlines, though, with the fun ride through the basics of the story and then the rush of greater creativity with all the basic problems worked out and the ability to fly.

Whatever your system, keep two things in mind:

1. What works best for you will not work for everyone.

2. Never be afraid to try something new and experiment.

Find what works for you -- but never assume it is the only answer!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Zette's Take: Writing Experiment: Editing

For those who have read this blog for a while, you might remember that I sometimes talk about writing experiments, where I try something different with the way I normally would write or edit. Some of these experiments have helped, others not so much so. The one I found that really didn't work was limiting the writing on a single story to 500 words a day and focusing on those words. You'd think that would have worked better, right? Not for me. The book dragged, both in the writing and the tale. I still haven't been able to edit it because it is so boring -- page after page of detailed work that bogged the story down.
So that one was not for me. I write fast first drafts and then I work on what they need.

I've also adapted ideas from various books I've read. I've tried new genres (Westerns are not for me), and looked at new ways to create characters.

However, an odd discussion in the Forward Motion chat room led to an interesting experiment that has really worked well for me. Someone spoke about editing one line at a time, and the trouble of focusing on that single line. I didn't go that far, but I have found a way to edit one paragraph at a time, and it has made a huge difference in what I see.

First is setting up the work so you only see the single paragraph and nothing else around it. I do this by using the find/replace in Word and applying these codes:

Find: ^p

Replace: ^p^m

This places a page return at the end of each paragraph. You now have thousands of pages (for a novel) with each paragraph on it's own page. Don't use the Word trick where you hide the extra white space between pages. Leave those paragraphs completely alone on the page. Use the page down controls of your computer or the program.

(I am sure Open Office has the same sort of codes, but I'm not sure if they are exactly the same. If anyone knows if this words, can you please post?)

The first thing I began noticing was typos I had missed even in two prior edits. Weak description became apparent, as did odd word combinations. Sometimes I had to look at the next paragraph to make certain what I wrote worked with it, but for the most part, this editing went very smoothly. I've used it for two works so far, and I plan to keep doing so in the future.

When you are done, simply reverse the find/replace:

Find: ^p^m

Replace ^p

You may have to make certain of some Chapter starts at the top of new pages, but otherwise it works very well. It's also remarkably fast.

Try it out and have fun!

Welcome to Muse....

Stranded when his car breaks down, Killian Dain Fox overhears a cop and a gas station clerk discussing murder and the exchange of money. Although he tries to believe he misheard the conversation, by the time KD meets a few more of the locals, he's convinced the entire small town is inhabited by a gang of murderers.

Between the massive storms that threaten to flood the town, a would-be killer on the loose, and his growing attraction to the town's pretty mayor, Killian Dain Fox is on a roller-coaster of a ride. And when someone tries to kill him, he just hopes he can get out alive.

(Book contains mild sex scene.)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Why I am a Writer: Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour #13

This is a question I had to think about before I could answer it. I knew when I started writing. I knew many things which influenced my writing.  But why did I start? What pushed me that way?

And then I knew, in an odd sort of way.

When I was young, we moved every few months. We leapt from house-to-house, and school-to-school so that I was rarely anywhere for more than a few months. It seems as though I was perpetually the new kid in school, dealing with changed classes and expectations, different teachers and reminding everyone I was not Liz. (Though for awhile I even gave up on that part.)

Writing assignments in class generally went well for me. They won a bit of praise I wasn't used to getting. I started writing more. Some of the kids liked to read the stories.

This was something I could do; something that didn't require I be in a certain time or place, and didn't require anyone else to work with me. It was mine alone. It was, really, the first thing I had that no one else could claim.

So I wrote; I created stories through grade school and all the way through graduation from high school. By then, of course, writing was too much a part of me to stop. My parents had tried for a while (waste of paper), but I saved every scrap and used every bit of money I got for paper and pens. I kept writing even after a teacher told me that only people with college educations could be published. I was disappointed, but by then it didn't matter to me. I wrote the stories for myself because they were entertainment. They were companions from my brain, set down on paper where I could call them back up and share the adventures again.

I didn't consider publication again until after I married. In some ways, looking at others struggling to connect to their writing, I think I had the better path. I learned to write for the love of writing and not worry about the market. I learned to write better as I went along, and finally made the really big changes after I started looking at this odd pastime as a way to share with others.

There was another profound moment that influenced my writing, even though it somewhat died down after the statement by the teacher. It was the day when I found out one of my favorite authors, Andre Norton, was really a woman and she wrote science fiction and fantasy, which had been an Old Boy's Club for a long time (hence her name). This was what I wanted to do! I was already writing, after all. I wanted to share those adventures.

Even now, I think of her and her adventure stories as the underlying influence on the type of things I write. I'm lucky, because although the traditional market doesn't publish many of the types of stories I still love, the world of the indie author is bringing them back for me and others.

So in the end, I just get to write and enjoy what I love best.

It's a great world.

If you want to get to read about nearly twenty other writers, check out the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour. Be sure to read tomorrow's post by Sharon Kemmerer

Monday, July 02, 2012

The Resurrection Stories

I finished Resurrection: Chance and Change a few days ago. The novel flowed. I love working with Scrivener and a good outline. That was the easiest bit of writing I've done in a long time.

The book has four main characters and two parts. The first part, Chance is in the POV of Dabin and Lydyn. The second part, Change, is in the POV of Shandy and Kit. The book is almost 90k, so that worked out very well.

I intend to do more stories and I'll do them all in this 'paired' style, though the POV characters will trade off at times. For instance I have Plague and Pride. In this case, I think it's going to be Lydyn and Shandy (Plague) and Kit and Dabin (Pride).

I thought that was going to be the next set, but I think those stories should be a little farther down the line. They need to have done more of their 'normal' work before then. After that book comes Lies and Lindy, which will pretty much tie everything up.

So . . . .

What would come next?

Rebellion and Rival. I can see two nice stories there.


Chance and Change

Rebellion and Rival

Plague and Pride

Lies and Lindy

Only there's another story I want to tell. Disaster. I already have that one in mind, so what could I pair it with?

Disaster and Danger


Disaster and Darkness

Maybe. But not quite

Hold on . . . .

Disaster and Devlin

The crew of Resurrection get caught up with Devlin's Team on some case. Oh yes. I can see this one.

And they only thought the first half of the book was the disaster.

Chance and Change
Rebellion and Rival
Disaster and Devlin
Plague and Pride
Lies and Lindy

I have a five novel set.

Looks good to me.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

New Publication: Muse

Muse is not entirely new; the book was originally published by Holly Lisle many years ago. With the manuscript back in my hands, I did a much-needed edit and updating. I choose Muse as an 'easy' next publication and one I wanted to get back into print. This proved to be a really fun book to work on again. I hope you enjoy it!

For a limited time, you can get the book for $1.99 from Smashwords (available in all major ebook versions there, including Kindle, Nook, Sony and PDF).
Use this code: ZH59P

Welcome to Muse....

Stranded when his car breaks down, Killian Dain Fox overhears a cop and a gas station clerk discussing murder and the exchange of money. Although he tries to believe he misheard the conversation, by the time KD meets a few more of the locals, he's convinced the entire small town is inhabited by a gang of murderers.

Between the massive storms that threaten to flood the town, a would-be killer on the loose, and his growing attraction to the town's pretty mayor, Killian Dain Fox is on a roller-coaster of a ride. And when someone tries to kill him, he just hopes he can get out alive.

(Book contains mild sex scene.)

Here's part of Chapter One:

There were not supposed to be any hills in Nebraska, which is why he came this way.
Killian stomped on the gas pedal and listened as the engine revved like a grand prix racer . . . and the car continued to slow with the top of the hill a good ten yards away. Momentum alone kept them moving upward while gravity dragged at the back bumper. He didn't think old Rosie the Rambler could take this one.
And to make certain Killian knew all the world and God stood against him tonight, lightning flashed almost directly overhead. A heartbeat later, the first splotches of rain hit the dusty windshield as the car crept forward, so slow the speedometer didn't move. Thunder rolled through the air and a wind gust sent dirt and twigs rushing ahead of the car with a not so subtle reminder that everything moved faster than him tonight.
Row after row of corn stretched out on both sides of the road, the stalks waving back and forth like demented stick men drawings. A deer darted out of the cornfield to the right pausing to watch the car before he made a leisurely jaunt up the incline. The animal stopped at the crest of the hill to look back, probably laughing before leaping once more into the frantic cornfield.
By some miracle, Rosie reached the crest. Killian pulled over to the side and had a short-lived celebration. Very short-lived; in the next flash of lightning saw see an even higher hill ahead. He would never reach the top of that one, even with a good rollercoaster run down the far side of this one.
Rain fell harder as he shoved the car door open and stepped out. He welcomed the cold winds after the stifling heat and humidity of the long day, sweltering day. However, having grown up on the high plains of Colorado, he knew how dangerous storms like this could be.
Maybe lightning would strike him and he wouldn't have to go the rest of the way to Chicago and work for KKGO -- The television station on the Go! -- as their third shift news commentator. Maybe fate, God and Rosie the Rambler all conspired to keep him away from a job he hadn't wanted in the first place.
Lightning branched through the sky from east to west in a continuous line across the horizon. His breath caught at the sight, awed by the power of Mother Nature as the storm briefly illuminated the shadowed land between one hill and the next.
Gas station sign.
"Holy shit, Batman! We're saved!"
The glowing neon sign sat just a little off the road at the bottom of this hill. Rain already nearly obscured the location, but he marked the spot and jumped into Rosie, pulling the door closed against the wind and the sudden deluge of rain.
Killian stomped down on the gas pedal. The car inched forward, the tires slipping on the wet weeds at the side of the road. Stupid mistake to pull over, especially since he hadn't seen another car in half an hour or more. The last had been a black Corvette heading like a bat out of hell in the opposite direction. Probably an omen and he'd been too stupid to read the signs.
Rosie unexpectedly broke free of the entangling weeds, hit the pavement with a painful jolt, and started down the hill. And damn they were moving fast! Killian turned on the windshield wipers, for what little good they did in this deluge, and hit the horn in case the deer had wandered out somewhere ahead of him, thinking himself safe from a car it could out walk.
He began to brake near the bottom of the hill, desperately trying to find the turnoff through the deluge. Even if he didn't find the road, he wouldn't have far to walk. Then he saw the sign -- Welcome to something -- and turned the car sharply to the left and onto the side road. He could see the gas station on the right where a glowing red Quickshop sign illuminated a doorway that looked like the gates to heaven on a night like this.
Rosie coasted to the edge of the sloped driveway. Killian pulled off to the side, miring the car in mud and weeds once more, knowing the car would never take even such a small incline. She'd gotten him this far and he could walk the last half block to the entrance.
The rain hadn't let up. Killian pulled his hooded jacket out of the debris of food wrappers and discarded maps. Then, looking at the upward curve of the driveway, and considering the rain and wind, he wrestled his cane out as well. No use taking any chances.
The cane proved a wise decision. The asphalt from the street to the gas pumps looked like the cratered field in a war zone; potholes nearly put him down three times.
When he reached the pumps he could see two people inside and one of them was even a cop! He spotted the police car parked at the side of the building beside what might be a Gremlin. He didn't think any of those were still on the road. The sight made him feel a little better about his old Rambler.
If not the actual gates of heaven, he had at least reached help. The sanctuary included a coffee dispenser on the wall opposite the door. The thought of even bad hot coffee appealed to him after this drenching rain. Killian hurried the last few steps and pushed open the door to a flood of air-conditioned and coffee-scented air.
The tall, lanky clerk at the register glanced in his direction before turning back to the shorter, dark-haired cop who leaned against the counter.
"No, I can't, Tom," the clerk said with a remorseful shake of his head. "I did that with Angela. This has to be unique for George. Strange. Different."
"That's your problem, Don," the cop answered. "Maybe you should try for something less exotic this time."
Killian went past the two, grateful for the chance to reach the coffee before he had to deal with the car problem. The cop didn't look likely to go charging off at any moment, at least.
"Oh yeah. That's easy for you to say," the clerk answered, sounding desperate. "You don't have another five people to kill."
Killian, a plastic cup in hand, glanced at the clerk, thinking he must have misheard. He purposely turned away and poured the coffee, putting the lid over the top of the cup before he started back to the register.
The cop shook his head. "You're running out of time, Don."
"I know I'm running out of time! I've managed three unique murders already. They really can't expect more from me!"
"You took the money. You could try giving it back."
"You know I can't. And what would I do if I could? I'd have to change my name and start over, if I could even get a contract again. No. I have to come up with a good way to kill him!"
Killian took a step backwards, but the clerk looked up, suddenly startled as though he hadn't seen Killian walk in. "Oh! Sorry, I thought you were a snit when you came in!"
The cop slowly turned. Killian looked to the door, but he didn't think he could get past both of them.
"You didn't drive up. Let me guess." The cop shook his head as he waved towards the storm. "Car problems? Always happens on nights like this, doesn't it?"
Words froze at Killian's lips. He forced sounds out, trying to remain calm and ignore the wild speculation rushing through his head. At least he had the cane for whatever protection it might be. "Ah. Yeah. Car problems. I coasted as far as the drive."