Saturday, December 31, 2005

My three favorite new sites for 2006

There are three things I discovered this last year that I absolutely love.

The first is DAZ (, a site dedicated to digital 3D art. Daz Studio (a Poser-like program) is free, and so are some of the models. The store is addictive, but I was lucky in that I joined the Platinum Club early (back when we had money) so that I can pick up things for a couple dollars every now and then.

This site has allowed me to explore an artistic side otherwise lost to those of us who cannot draw or paint. It's really, as the site explains somewhere, like setting up a studio session. You get to choose the models, setting, lighting, clothing, makeup... and no one argues when you put them into awkward positions and leave them there for a few days while you work on background material. Science fiction and fantasy scenes are as easy to do as historical or modern day work. There are anime-like settings, and even animation for those interested in going that far. Daz also bought the Bryce system from Corel, and have offered some very nice items to go with it as well. Bryce is still a bit over my head, though, and I haven’t had the time to really sit and play with it the way I would like.

There is also the forums, the contests, the challenges.... A person could devote quite a lot of time to this if they had it!

The second site is LibraryThing (, which is another very addictive site, especially for anyone who loves books. I hardly entered half my own collection before I had to go back to real life for a while, but I'm going to be back at it in 2006. You can find my library here:

LibraryThing includes all kinds of fun stuff like ratings, reviews, and tags for your websites. There are profiles of users, lists of books broken down by most popular, highest rated, most reviewed -- as well as lists of the largest libraries. You can search through other people's libraries and if you find things that you have, you can just drop it into your own collection. Or you can enter your books yourself. I found that ISBN works best, and the site goes off and finds all the info it can, including cover art. A new feature allows you to upload book covers of your own.

You can view libraries in many styles and orders. You can download the data (good for an Excel file!) and you can print out your library, including cover art.

There is one last site to mention: PreClick ( This is a photo organizing program. If you have a big collection (like say, some 20,000 pictures just from the last camera, never mind the stuff that needs to be scanned in, or the disks from the old camera....), this is a really great way to organize. But it takes time -- something I just don't have a lot of these days. You can copy sets of organized work off to cds, though, and I'm really looking forward to getting to that part. Eventually.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Working toward the end of the year....

I haven't been doing many posts lately, which you obviously can tell. Part of it is that I just have too much to do, and this is the bottom of the list -- that point I never actually reach. But today I decided to just leap over here and write a little anyway.

Things are somewhat better here at the house, though we are still looking for those checks that people owe us. My camera has virtually died -- it won't turn on more often than not. I'm getting my 'picture fix' by playing more with Daz Studio and doing pictures like the one above. I'm going to try and work on the camera myself and see if a good cleaning will help. Hey, it can't hurt! If I can keep it going for another few months, I might have a chance at a new camera.

I took the first picture with the trusty old Sony CD1000 on March 6, 2001. It's produced over 20,000 pictures since that time. I've absolutely no regrets with this camera. In fact, I kind of fear that a new one won't hold up as well as it has.

Yes, I am still obsessing over cameras. It's always been an important part of my life, and until recently I had made more money in photography than in writing. It's hard to not grab the camera every time I look outside and see a squirrel doing something silly.

In other news....

I have put up the post to sign up for the third round of the two year novel class. The first group is just one week from completion, and the second group is half way through their first year. There seems to be a good turn out. Russ thought I was going to take this year off, but this is really going to be the first relatively simple year since I will have both parts already written. That's over 200,000 words for the combined two years.

I'm trying to get Such Gifts as These done (and maybe come up with another title). I need to finish it up this week and get it into the mail next week.

Other than that... nothing.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Ah. Umm... Well....

First, I checked out the astrology link from Holly's current page:

pisces: Instead of blowing with the next creative breeze, try and establish some structure, even if it is around the holiday parties. Routine and boundaries can be useful, especially now, so set it up and see how insanely productive you become.

How insanely productive I become? Are you JOKING? I just wrote over 200k in November and I've gone over a million new words again this year. I don't think I need to be any more insanely productive, do I? Of course I could probably turn that to something other than writing... but still. I laughed.

The car is still in the shop. It's too cold to go anywhere anyway, so I don't mind. And I'll continue to feel that way right up until we run out of Diet Pepsi. I'm drinking tea today, so that should help.

My poor trusty digital camera is dying. About half the time it develops an error when it turns on, and I know that one of these times it's going to be permanent. The idea of being without a digital camera bothers me a great deal. I have film cameras, but I really can't afford to go back to film again. As expensive as the digital camera seems up front, it pays for itself quickly when you start looking at film processing. I take a lot of pictures. I love it, and I'm going to be very sorry when I lose that ability.

I can't afford a new camera, of course. But I keep looking at THIS ONE, which would be my camera of choice. I have several lenses and two film bodies that I could use with it. It would probably need about a gig storage compact flash card, which just means more money, of course. But... I long for this camera. I go and look at it once every couple of weeks. The price has dropped quite a bit over the year, but it's now farther out of my reach than it was earlier this year.

Well, I just keep hoping my lovely old Sony CD1000 holds up!

Friday, December 02, 2005


So, it's one of those days...

First was the email from the SBWC. Asking me to take part on a panel. Me. ah. Eek! Great honor and all.. But me?

So... That can kind of warp your day. I really didn't get much done after that. Estand update and found that I couldn't upload it. Web work for a friend and screwed up something and now have to redo the Index page, which is graphics intensive and I'm not really certain I'm up to it right now.

We went to a NaNo meeting tonight. Unfortunately, the woman had canceled right before we left and I hadn't checked the NaNo board. Russ had his computer with him and found the note posted on the NaNo boards. So we packed up to head back out... And the car wouldn't start. I'm back inside. Russ has gone to meet someone to take us home. Tomorrow we'll have the car towed to our repair shop. Don't know how long it will be there because none of the people who owe us money has paid us. Not one of them. The only money we could even count on over the next week requires the car tomorrow night. Not going to happen.


I could use a break from reality. No hold it -- I just had that. It was called NaNo. I don't think I could take another break like that.

Of course this could have been much worse. We'd been talking about going down to DeSoto to see the geese. Far better to have the car break down here than 100 miles from home.

But still....

I'm back home now. I think I'm just going to go hide myself in some writing for the rest of the night and not think about anything too drastic....

Thursday, December 01, 2005


Yes, that is the total number of words I wrote in November. It was an interesting month! I don't quite know how I managed that much, but there it is -- one long novel and two short ones over 50k each.

Now I'm back to the real world again. I've posted material and updated the links for FM for this month.

December already. I'm having trouble with that concept. This year has gone too quickly in many ways. It's not been my favorite year for a number of reasons, but we're getting through it.

But NaNo is over and now I have to re-order my life again and get the last few things done for the year. It's always such a shock to suddenly hit 12:00 am December 1 and realize that you're not really racing to get anything done. Suddenly you have free time again. Well, maybe not, really. I know there are a number of htings I need to get done. In fact, I'm going to write out my nice little list now and start working my way through them.

We have snow, by the way. A lot of snow, in fact. We haven't had this much snow this early in the year in a long time, and it doesn't look like it will go away any time soon. I expect a warm up before Christmas -- we almost always get one -- but right now we have knee deep snow and a very happy dog. She loves it.

Friday, November 25, 2005

The End is Near!

NaNo is nearly over for the year. The general feeling runs from either 'Thank God!' to 'Not yet!' I'm dropping slowly through the last few days because I did something that I never thought I would do. I have already written over 200,000 words in November, and I really don't need to push for much more. The third novel is at 47,314, and I just need to bump it up over 50,000 to officially count it as a NaNo novel.

I am also about 13,000 words short of one million this year. Aside from The Time and the Place (the third NaNo Novel), I have one other novel to finish the rewrite on -- Such Gifts as These. I also have an outline to work on, and that's going to be my major work in December because I would like to do some research with it and get it all nice and pretty for 2006 writing.

So today I'm back to real world work. Opened up some DTF stuff and started back on it. If I can get it all cleared up by the end of the month I won't have to do any work in December for it except for the new marketing stuff. Sounds like fun.

Russ will be home in a few hours. The house is in pretty good shape, despite that I barely left my office. I seem to remember walking around picking things up whenever I got stuck. Or sweeping. (grin)

But that's it.

Here are the graphics to my three NaNo novels:

Total words: 102,619

Total words: 50, 191

Total words: 47,314 (and still working)

It was a good NaNo year!

Saturday, November 05, 2005

The First Wondrous Days of NaNo

Yes, we are five days into NaNo. I'm mostly posting snippets and such over on my NaNoblog from last year, so you can find what I'm doing there.

I'm doing well. I've just crossed the 54,000 word line and I'm a little over half way through the novel.

As I often do with NaNo, I'm trying an experiment, and I think it's working better than I could have hoped. When I outline I usually give each phase of the outline a word count number that will help me make certain that I reach the proper length for the type of book I'm writing. In this case I was aiming at a 90k novel. I gave myself 450 words per phase, and 202 phases, which would have put me just a little over what I wanted.

But I rarely make the exact count on each phase. Usually a few go over, and some go under. This time, though, I'm making myself do at least 450 per section. Nothing under. I'm doing it by adding... yes... far more detail.

And it's working. I think this is working very well. I can't be sure yet. It may be that my First Person POV MC is spending way too much time inside her head, but I think overall this might be exactly the kind of change that I've needed to make. It's forcing me to add in the things that I usually skimp on in the first draft, and I really can't say that it's slowing me down any -- not when I can do 50k in 4 days.

So we'll see. It might be a fluke. It might be that this isn't working at all and I'm just having far too much fun to tell. I'm not going to back to read it, though I did check out the opening. It was rough, but better than usual, I thought.

But that's all my news for the moment. I'm doing great. A few more days and I'll drop back to a more normal madness, rather than the 10k a day I have been doing. I'm going to have fun while I can, though.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Author Versus Character

Outline and Notes

Chapter Five

‘The night passes quietly. Character sleeps soundly and wakes up at first light. Rooster crows. Climbs down from the hay loft and stretches, pleased to see that the fog of the night before has cleared and he can now see the town -- a couple dozen buildings, including a travelers’ inn. He'd found refuge in their stable. Grateful for the chance to sleep so comfortably --‘

You know, I've been quiet and gone along with you for the previous four chapters without a complaint, but this is too much. I've spent six days sleeping on leaves, huddled by a tree in the rain, and half-drowned and miserable. And now you think leeping in a hay pile is comfortable! I tossed and turned all night. Hay isn't down feathers, you know -- it's dried twigs. They stab. And what the hell is this? (holds up something between his fingers)

(peers closely) Looks like a needle to me.

Right. What perverted person would put a needle in a pile of hay? It jabbed me.

Did it? (looks hopefully at the needle, then glances at research books) Is it rusty? Tetanus... severe muscle spasms, also called lockjaw... that might be interesting. I hadn't thought of an illness like that, before the shots and everything. Let me see it.

See what?

The needle!

(brushing hands) What needle? There's no needle here. Can't be. This is pre-industrial. No needle... and no tetanus.

(reluctantly puts aside the books) Oh well. Okay, where were we?

New day, no fog, etc.

Right. Okay. ‘Character makes his way through the stable yard and past the open door to the inn's kitchen --‘

‘His stomach growling --‘

If you're hungry, eat the journey bread in your pocket.

Are you joking? That stuff's so hard I could chip rocks with it. A caveman with this journey bread could have ruled the world.

‘Character walks past the door and out into the street where he sees something that makes him shut up and forget everything else. There, on the hill top overlooking the village, is the black stone castle that has haunted his dreams for the last five years! He anxiously turns that way, heading toward the distant castle gate --‘

Are you crazy? Or do you just think I'm stupid?

What's the problem now? That's the castle -- your goal in sight --

Yeah, the castle. Those dreams would be the ones where I wake up in a cold sweat, screaming because the castle sucked me in and buried me alive. And now you expect me to blithely head straight up and walk in? To hell with that. I'm heading the opposite way on this road, just as fast as I can --

Back toward the toll gate and the guards you so carefully avoided last night? Oh, good plan.

Damn. I forgot. What's to the right?

‘A fetid swamp still curling with the last tendrils of the fog from the night before. It must once have been part of a lake and port. Character can even make out the masts of ships buried in the muck, vines twining up across tattled sails.... and the bleached bones of men, trapped within those ropes of green, as though the plants had suddenly reached out and grabbed them --‘

I get the idea. Thank you so much for another new level of nightmare to add to my others. What's to the left?

‘To the east’ -- left for Characters not paying attention to where they are --
‘he can see a few more buildings, some of them obviously abandoned. Beyond that
are rocky fields and small plots of dying plants. Less than a mile away is the
shadow of the forest --‘

Excellent! Oh, and may I say that five chapters is a bit long to be waiting for a name?

I want it to be the right name, the perfect name. I'll know it when I see it.

Fine. Whatever. ‘Character casts one worried look at the brooding black castle and sets off on foot past the falling buildings and into the fields --‘

‘Almost immediately, Character hears the baying of dogs and looks worriedly toward the castle. He can see the pack that is pacing beneath the walls, he thinks waiting for the morning meal. But now they've seen him moving in the empty land below --‘


Don't worry. They're only poodles.

A pack of poodles? Toy? Miniature? Standard?

A mix. And actually they're only half poodle.

(eyeing them cautiously and trying to guess if he can reach the forest and get away from them) Half poodle and half what?


(stops and shakes head) Wolves. You crossed poodles and wolves. And the reason was...?

Wild killers, less fur to clean up. ‘They have spotted Character, and the woodle pooves bay -- or maybe yip -- again.’

Woodle pooves. I'm getting an image of the dogs here.... oh man, that's just wrong.

Are you trying for the trees or not?

Can I make it?

Probably. They're kind of inbred woodle pooves. Not entirely bright.

Okay then. Better than the castle.

‘Character jogs along the broken path between the rocks as the woodle pooves gather at the top of the hill. He's more than halfway to the cursed forest before they --‘

(stops) Cursed forest? You didn't say anything about the forest being cursed!

Let's see: Deadly swamp, dying fields, big brooding black castle.... of course the forest is cursed. Duh.

Good point. My mistake. What kind of curse?

(flips through notes) ‘A century ago a major battle was fought at the village. A mage-king, seeing all about to be lost, cast a desperate spell to save his throne. He brought not only the plants of the lake but also the trees into the battle. They won, but unfortunately, the trees developed a taste for blood. They on't kill you... well, not right away.’ You can escape in a couple years. You won't be sane, of course, but I think you might be an interesting character if you were insane.

I don't need a cursed forest of vampire trees to drive me crazy. I've got you. ‘Character, sensing something evil from the forest -- or maybe not wanting to risk his luck with the woodle pooves -- turns around and hurries back to the village.’

‘Character soon reaches the street and turns toward the castle.’


What do you mean no? You've found out there is no other direction. Now start up for the castle --

I am not going to that frigging castle!

Do you know how long I've been setting this moment up? That castle has been in your dreams --

Nightmares --

For five years! You’ve been pursuing it since you came of age!

I had dreams about Daisy from the Bread and Barrel for ten years! Why couldn't I pursue her instead?

This isn't that kind of book!

Like I haven't noticed!

‘Character, reluctantly realizing he has no choice, and that this is his destiny, heads for --‘

The privy. It has to be around here by the inn somewhere.

You're just putting off the inevitable.

Where is the privy? Or we're going to have something else inevitable happen.

‘The privy is at the opposite side of the stable. Character can see the swarms of flies and flinches at the stench as he nears --‘


I don't think bulls have anything to do with this problem.

Look, this is stupid. The world has magic. The first thing they're going to use it for is to fix the stink from the outhouse! ‘Character heads for the privy, nothing the faint scent of lilacs and roses. Butterflies dance in the air.’

‘As he slips in and closes the door --‘

A little privacy, if you don't mind. Out.




Character steps back out, looking toward the door to the kitchen again.

Too bad you don't have any money.

Character digs into jacket and pulls out shiny silver coin.

You've been holding out on me.

I got it off one of those five bandits who tried to kill me back in Chapter Three. You know, right before the bridge -- the one that had borne the weight of a thousand peasants and their wagons -- gave way under me for no apparent reason and I nearly drowned.

Yeah, but you lost the bandits who were trying to kill you.

I'm going for breakfast. Then I'm going to lay low for the rest of the day and escape the way I got in. Don't even bother to say anything. ‘Character goes in and orders food, has a quiet leisurely meal, lingering over bread and honey. The local serving wench isn't bad looking, either. She reminds him of Daisy, the girl he left behind. They might have a pleasant day together. He finishes up the food, pushing away the plate --‘

‘And the guards, having been relieved of their posts at the gate, come in for their own breakfast. They immediately spot Character and know he's a stranger who didn't come through their gate. Worse, though, is that they recognize him.’

What? I've never been here! They can't --

‘The guards fall on him, and he's soon beaten to his knees --‘

Beaten? But -- but --

Loter, Captain of the Guard:
Another one! You look like your great-grandfather, boy! We're not going to have any more mad mage-kings!

Selis, Another Guard:
I didn't think that dream crap would work, but hell, what is this? Fifteen of them now? Up boy.

‘Selis grabs Character by the arm and hoists him to his feet, taking him outside. Captain Loter loops a rope around his arms and ties it to his saddle --‘

But --

‘Loter kicks his horse into a trot, heading toward the castle gate, and only barely slows when Character stumbles and falls, dragged along the rough road. Bloody, bruised and panting, Character gets back to his feet and tries to jog along behind the horse.’

Look, it doesn't have to be like this --

I gave you the chance to come here quietly. You really shouldn't argue with your author. It just gives me more time to come up with something more interesting to do.

Maybe the woodle pooves wouldn't be so bad --

‘The group slips through the gate and into the shadows of a courtyard where it seems the sun never reaches. People scurry for the shadows and hide at their approach. Somewhere a man bellows in rage. Loter doesn't pause, as though the place unsettles him. The three head straight into the building -- cold, damp walls, mold in corners, the sounds of rats running. Salis pushes open a door and the head down the first set of stairs, then another... down and down and farther until it seems...’

‘The castle has swallowed him alive.’ Yeah, I get it.

‘Finally they reach a hall lit by a flickering torch, obviously magically fueled because the cobwebs are so thick that no one could have been down this way in a long time. Salis grimaces and uses his sword to cut through them. Decay and death scent the air, and the only sound is hysterical crying from behind a door they pass. "Can I go home now? Please, can I go home?" Loter stops at another door and nods. Salis pries up the rusted metal bar.’

I hope he gets tetanus.

‘The door comes open with a loud wail of unused hinges and Loter shoves Character inside and down to his knees again.’

What's your name, boy? We need it for the records.

Character looks plaintively at author.

Author grabs name books.

Guards, anxious to get out of this hell hole,
look at author.

Yes, fine. Right. Okay! I found the name: Varyn!

(looks back at the guard) My name is Varyn.

We'll write it in the book, Barren --

No, no. Varyn, with a V and a --

‘The guards slam the door closed. Varyn can hear the bar dropping into place and the guards hurrying away, and the hysterical whisper of someone else: "Can I go home now? Can I go home now?" Varyn leans back, ignoring blood, scrapes and bruises. He knows -- having seen the cobwebs -- that no one is going to come back for a long, long time.’

(bangs head on door a couple times) This is great. Wonderful. Do you have any clue how you're going to get me back out of here?

Well... Do you still have that journey bread?

Thursday, October 13, 2005


Well, yes, I have been busy. And crazed. Moving from one computer to another has been more trouble than I expected, but I'm mostly getting it sorted around. I can't believe, however, that it's nearly the middle of the month. Do you have any clue how much work I have to do before November 1? I have a list of about 12 real things that need to be done. I finally got one of them completed yesterday.

I even read Holly's post where she tagged me -- and then forgot about it. Just too damned busy, and not having much fun at all. But I have November coming up, so I have something to look forward to, at least.

Other pieces are falling together, at least. I have contracts in hand for my copyeditors, but I'm trying to get a final clarification on how this works from Deron. Then those go out with the next three projects and all is well there until January.

I have most of the outline for my main NaNo book. I'm happy with it, too. I think it's going to be a fun book to write.

I am trying to get Vision put together. Last issue of the year -- #30! I would like to have something on NaNo, but I'll probably have to write it myself since I didn't think to put out a request before now. The big problem at the moment is that the articles are spread between two machines. Many of them are already copyedited. I'm just having a hellish time pulling it all together.

Ada Nish Pura is within 100 pages of completion. I want to just sit down and work with it, and get it done, let it sit one more time -- too many changes to trust it just to go off without another rest and read, and probably an edit. But I feel good about it.

I want to send Muse to someone for submission... and I can't find a place. I just can't. I keep trying to look, and I bounce off of everything, and I'm not even certain what sort of publisher or agent I should be looking for -- and quite honestly it's making me very frustrated and crazy. I shouldn't write anything that isn't sf or fantasy.

I have 183 points on my outline for Kat Among the Pigeons. I want a 100k book out of this, and that's just not enough to get me there. That would be about 550 words per 'point' which... well, that's not really that bad, I guess. I would prefer to get something down to about 300 words per point -- really easy to make those words and the writing flies. But that would mean about 335 points, and I just don't see that happening -- not unless I find an entire subthread hiding in the story somewhere. This is a first person POV, too, so I'm not going to be adding in secondary characters with their own chapters. I could -- I've seen some nice work switching between first and third lately -- but I'm not comfortable with it. Besides, there are no characters who would add to the story, since it's staying pretty tight to what Kat is doing.

Gah. I don't have a connection to the Internet.

I think I'll just go do some work now. And keep a copy of this in my files so I don't have to type it up again.

Friday, September 30, 2005

The Truth in Writing

There have been variations on this question going around lately. There are several levels and types of truth. I'm going to deal with only one type here and that's about the 'truth' of writing realistically. It's all pretty obvious stuff. Most of you are just going to nod and say it's obvious. But sometimes I write this stuff for myself because I need the reminders that I say to others.

The question is what you owe the reader.

You don't owe the reader anything because in this case 'the reader' is a mythical creature that writers imagine reading their books, nodding at every nuance, thrilled with ever scene, and following the plot and the characters with understanding and excitement. That reader does not exist and never will, no matter how hard you work on your novel. There are, instead, groups of people who like your work to varying degrees. Some will love the stories, and they are closest to this 'mythical reader,' although there will still be times when they let you know that something just didn't work right for them. However, the majority of readers will like this part but dislike that part; some will think you were too harsh on your characters, and others who think you didn't put your characters through nearly enough hell.

Some will tell you that your world was too simple, and others will tell you that you spent too much time on the details and not enough on the plot and characters.

You cannot please everyone. We know this on one level, and yet people still sometimes look at the idea of owing the reader as though if you are 'truthful enough' you will somehow win them all over and no one will ever have reason to complain.

It doesn't work that way. People who have never even read your books will complain about your writing skills. Plots and characters that you love will be trite and childish to others. That's all right. Get used to the idea. You are not writing for them. Don't try to adapt your work for someone who complains about the very things you love.

You owe nothing to that reader or to the mythical reader.

However, there is one reader for whom you absolute have to write the best book, not skimp on any of the emotional levels, or turn aside from the hard decisions your characters have to make. You have to do the absolute best for this person, who is your first reader.

That first reader is you.

Many of us fail ourselves on some level because we don't try hard enough. I often fail because I don't put enough depth on paper compared to what I see in my mind. It is an easy laziness, and I try to overcome it as best I can.

Tamara Siler Jones is one hell of a writer. I've read her first book, Ghosts in the Snow. The depth of her world is amazing. Everything is 'real' in ways that are extremely difficult to achieve. My only problem with her books (and I've told her this) is that I don't read horror, and that's what she's written on one important level. I don't get a shivery reaction to horror -- most of the time I either get a 'shrug' or a 'yuck.' That made reading Tamara's first book an interesting experience for me because I was in absolute awe of the writing and the world, but parts that others talked about didn't catch me the way they did for most of her readers. It's just not my type of book. If I didn't know her through FM I wouldn't have read it, and that would have been my loss, over all.

Holly Lisle is another hell of a writer, but with a completely different style. Looking at Midnight Rain in comparison to Tamara's book is interesting. There is terror in Midnight Rain, but not horror. There are scenes of blood and gore, but they are not the key parts of the plot like Tamara's book. There are even ghosts, and far more dangerous than those in Tamara's book.

Holly's world building is less obvious, mostly because the story takes place in modern day and she doesn't have to create the entire structure of society and build the castle floor by floor. What she does show us is easily woven into the plot and understandable without much extra because we know places like these. She walks us through a world with enough detail that we are never lost in it.

But if I didn't know Holly, I wouldn't have read this book either. Romantic suspense is not a genre I usually look at, either. Romance novels in general just don't interest me.

If I hadn't read this book, however, that would have also been my loss. This was another one that I really enjoyed. Yes, I know that means there are likely thousands of books out there that I would enjoy if I gave them a try, but despite having liked these two, I'm still not interested enough in the genres of horror or romance to look for much more.

Both of these writers don't pull any punches with the truth when it comes to writing, and comparing the two shows that there are many ways in which you can approach telling a story. Some of the basic elements are the same -- crazed killer, ghosts -- but the way in which the novels turn on these things is completely different.

What I mean to point out is that you can be truthful with your readers in different ways. Murder need not be about gore, and just because one writer creates a scene that shows every gruesome detail to show a murder doesn't mean that, for instance, a simple dead body with a splattering of blood can't be as effective in the right story.

Write what you want to tell, not what someone else has done for her story, especially if it doesn't fit yours. You need to be truthful with yourself about what is needed for your story. Would a scene like one of Tamara's fit into your book, or would it stand out and draw attention more because it is so different rather than being 'truthful' about the murder scene? There is at least one such scene in Holly's book as well, but we are led up to it in ways that make it a natural step in the story process. It shocks the reader, and raises the sudden level of terror. Tamara's murder scenes are a mirror of her murderer, filled with clues that include the 'gore' itself. But her novel is not about gore, and these scenes aren't as shocking after the first one. They are detailed, graphic examinations of brutal murders and they are done to a purpose and for a purpose.

Use the tools needed for description wisely, but don't do it to mimic. Find your own path that may be like one or the other, or neither. And it may -- and should -- change from book to book. (Though probably not within a series, of course.)

Those are the truths you owe to any reader -- to be yourself and write in your own way. Don't write things that you don't like just because someone else said that you aren't 'truthful enough.' At the same time, though, you can't be lazy and skip things just because it's easier.

Be truthful in what you're doing. Be truthful in what you want to create and what readers you want to draw.

Be truthful to yourself about what you want this story to do and learn the best ways to do it.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


Sunset on the road

As many of you hanging around FM have seen, we're going to a new chat system. It's not something I really wanted to do, but it's what we really don't have a choice. Margaret Fisk has done a wonderful job of working with the one that is 'the choice.' We are 99% certain this is the one we'll be going to.

Some people are going to have problems with the new chat. We're testing it out right now and seeing what accommodations we can make for different people with problems. The great thing is that this chat has different skins, and you'll have a better chance of finding something that works for you for the 'look' but there is only so much that can be done with the actual set up.

The chat will likely not work at all for some people. The same was true of the one we have now, and the one before that, and the one before that. No system will work for everyone. We're going to try to do what adjustments we can to get it working for the most people, but we all have to face the fact that at some point it just will not work. It's unfortunate, but it's also the reality of the internet with the myriad computers, OS systems, connections, programs, security systems, etc.

We'll just continue to do the best we can and see what we end up with. My hope is that eventually everyone will be able to get in and will find the best set up for their computer.

Oh, and for those who are waiting for the changes at FM that I said were going to happen, I put them aside when I found out about the chat. Not that I've had to do a lot of work for it -- Mar has done virtually everything -- but that I knew there would be some problems with a change of this size, and I didn't want to add FM board changes in at the same time. So that will be happening either in October or in December. (We all know that nothing but NaNo happens in November, right?)

In other news…

Two of my publishers have started 'stores' through, which means some of my work will have print copies probably by the end of the year. I am oddly looking forward to this. As I've said before, Lulu does not nice work on the printing side. I just don't recommend that anyone self-publish if they have a chance of getting a 'real' publisher to look at their work. But these books of mine have gone through copy editors, and while they may not be perfect, they've at least had a chance at improvement. (grin) I'll be curious to see how this goes, though.

Russ will be leaving in the morning for the East Coast. He'll be gone for a week. We're pretty much all set to survive here. I'm probably going to spend some time in the other house cataloguing books while he's gone. This will be about the best time to get that place done since I won't be disturbing him as he works.

I have 'things' to get done tonight. Lots of things. So, off I go… probably to mess around some more!

Saturday, September 24, 2005

And more nice stuff!

I've had two bits of good news in the last couple days. First this:

I love this cover! (grin)

And second good news was the arrival of a copy of the Misfit Studios Treasure Trove # 1: SpirosBlaak Aresenal, which includes my short story, Blood of the Clan. The story can also be found on line. I wrote this years ago for them, based on cover art that was dropped before the game went to print. The SpirosBlaak game hit quite a few snags before it came out from Green Ronin, and now Misfit Studio is producing some of the extras for it. I'm glad to see it finally, really out.

So, there are two nice little publications -- one out, and one upcoming.

The new computer is wonderful, too -- but I'm having a horrible time getting caught up on everything as I get it up and going. I still can't find a couple programs, too. Russ leaves for the East Coast on Wednesday and won't be back for an entire week. I sure hope we get everything sorted out before then!

I have added 1700 books to my listing. I still haven't gotten to house #2. I think I have about 200-300 more here... as long as I ignore the paperbacks on the porch. I know some of them have been ruined (we had a leak and didn't know it), and I'm really not looking forward to sorting through them.

But, overall... nice fun stuff. I'm working on the 2YN class right now, and then I'm going to do some other writing (I've been getting between 4-5k a day lately), and then I'm going to play with Daz/Bryce. After all, it is the weekend!

Thursday, September 22, 2005

I have a new computer!

Back at the zoo....

I have a brand ndw IBM computer. This was purely by chance -- the place Russ works accidentally got an extra one and couldn't return it, so they agreed to sell it to Russ. A really good deal.

My pictures look different! And the Daz stuff works the way it's supposed to!

It will, of course, take me days to get the computer set up properly and get back to normal. But it has a lovely flat screen that's wonderful to use. I've been working with 24bit color for so long that I am having trouble adjusting to the 32bit.

I can't find my FrontPage disk at the moment, so my journal is taking a vacation until I can. It shouldn't be more than a day or so.

Is this going to screw up my 'nearly caught up on work' stuff? Of course. But I think it's kind of worth it.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Bad Zette -- Bad, Bad Zette

Bali Mynah

Have you ever found yourself doing something that you just know you shouldn't be doing? But you keep going back to it, just because you're having fun. You don't get other things done, and suddenly you look up and it's the 15th of the month.... is my addiction. I have 868 books added into the database so far. I should be doing any number of other things. Well, besides writing, which is about the only other thing I'm getting done outside of this madness. I have started a reworking of the FM site, moving things a few at a time late at night. And I'm editing Freedom and Fame and working on the nonfiction chapter. Ada is up to 26,000 words, so I've not completely lost track of that... but there are people waiting for things from me. People in the 2YN class whom I promised to critique. I've only done half the Vision payments -- but there's a reason for that, at least. I got the PayPal ones done, but the checks have to wait a little longer until I get a check, which should be in the next few days. So I guess maybe I haven't completely abandoned the world.

The LibraryThing is addictive to someone who loves catalogues and lists and things, and who always wanted to get her books in a database, but didn't see any easy way to do it. Since LibraryThing goes and finds them in the Library of Congress or, a person doesn't usually have to type in much. I've found that ISBNs will do the trick 99% of the time, and even for the older books, title and author will pull up the right one about 60% of the time. The others you just enter manually.

I'm going to get most of the hardcovers in without much trouble. I don't know if I'll ever get to the boxed paperbacks (30 some boxes of them). I have added a few of the paperbacks that are just hanging around here in my office -- recent buys or reads, mostly. In hardcovers I think we're going to hit about 3k. That's actually less than I thought we had, but still not a bad number. (grin)

I should be working on other things. I know I should.

The only good thing is that eventually I really will run out of books to catalogue.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Darkness and Looking Back

I spent a lot of time today considering 9/11 and Katrina. How long will it take until some of the scars go away? I don't think it will happen in my lifetime. And that's made me wonder about the term 'civilization' and when you realize the one you grew up in is not the one you are living in now. I don't like a lot of our world. Oh, it's not completely without its charms, but there is far too much dark here these days. There's nothing that I can do to change it, except on a one-on-one basis, which I try to do as best I can.

You know, everyone mocks the sixties, but at least in those days we believed that there could be a better world if you tried. The sixties were filled with optimism, and that's certainly lacking in the world of today. Yeah, we believed in a lot of unrealistic things from peace on earth, the true brotherhood of mankind, and colonies on Mars. None of it happened. So what? At least we didn't (despite the Cold War) spend all our time staring at every stranger, wondering if we could trust him.

I'd take back the naive optimism any day.

Thursday, September 01, 2005


Like nearly everyone else in the world, I've been watching the news on New Orleans and the area surrounding it. Unlike most everyone else, I am not going to point fingers and shout about how it's someone or others fault. Maybe some of it is. It's too late now to make any changes and we are faced, instead, with the reality of the event. I don't care what fanatics on both sides are yelling about fault. It's long past that stage.

I've been through a few sites the last several days and saw an outpouring of sympathy and offers of aid from people all over the world. What their governments are saying isn't important to me. What Bush says on a number of things does not reflect how I feel -- and I don't expect any other government to fully represent the beliefs of all it's people, either. I certainly don't expect the fanatics of any group -- the ones who are bound to draw the attention of reporters -- to represent an entire people, either. I don't give a damn what they're saying. They've no control over the events any more than we have. They're just talk.

As for countries sending physical aid -- I don't know that the US would allow it in. Whom do we trust any more? Who would we let in with plane loads of equipment and people, and believe that they are all carefully checked, no terrorists here. Would we trust it from a country that doesn't back us on the war with Iraq? Would we trust it from Great Britain, which obviously has some problems with their own terrorists. Is there a point at which we are ever going to trust anyone again?

I hate living in this age.

My decision is to do what I can on an individual level, and for the rest to keep moving forward with my own work. The world has changed again -- there's no doubt about it. But I'm still here, and I intend to go on with my life and appreciate what I have, because once again I've seen how quickly and easily everything can be lost. Today I have my home and my office, and all my cats, dog, teddy bears, books, computers -- my life. I am not the kind of person who is now going to go into a depression because I've seen how quickly you can lose everything. I've seen it before, on a smaller scale, living in an area with tornadoes every summer. I will continue to appreciate my good fortune, and do what I can to help others. And I don't care whose at fault for any disaster of this kind. It's done. My feeling toward the people who are yelling and pointing fingers on both sides is just to shut up and do what you can to help, in whatever small way that can be.

And appreciate that you're in a position to look on from the outside, not be caught in the middle of this horrible tragedy.

Today I am starting the rewrite of Ada Nish Pura. I'm now printing out various versions of the chapters that I had edited already, trying to find the spot where I still really liked what I had. I think I've finally let it sit long enough because I'm actually excited about going back to work on the novel. A couple months ago I couldn't look at it without cringing over the entire experience. It's time to separate the experience from the novel and get it finished.

I am going to treat Ada as though it were a much older novel. I'm going to print it out and rewrite it from scratch. I know that there are major changes that I want to include on almost every page that include cultural and worldbuilding material. I think the changes and stress has to be at such a basic level that editing it in won't 'feel' right for me. I want to throw myself completely back into the story and feel it grow again. I love this novel, and 'writing' it again is going to help me rekindle the fire for it.

I also have in front of me several pages of notes for the closing chapters of Glory. It's time I finish that one up as well. I know what I want, but I keep bouncing off the chapter when I try to insert it. I have the manuscript open and I'm just going to find the best spot and start putting the new material in and reworking everything after it to fit.

So that's my look at everything on the first day of the month. I hope to have Ada done this month. I hope to have Glory done within the week.

And that's how I'm dealing with my future -- by reminding myself that I have a very lucky life, and it's time I get back to appreciating it and doing the things that I love.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Moving Onward

Chaco Canyon Ruin

Sometimes all you can do move forward and do the work. I've never had much of a problem doing that, really. The last four days were not terribly difficult for me once I turned off my email and just threw myself into the novel. I wrote 36,605 words in four days. If we hadn't gone out of town on Sunday I might have done 40k, though some of it would have had to have been on something other than Serendipity Blues -- because I finished it today.

The first draft of the novel is done. Is it any good? Some of it. Some of it is very good, in fact. The plot is great, and the parts that I picked up on during the writing just made it better. I am, however, lacking a lot of the depth I want to place it in the proper time period. Russ is going to help me out with some of the historical/cultural material because it's a time period he's really more knowledgeable on than me. I also realize that I short changed one of my characters in the second half of the book, and maybe worked too hard to make certain things happen that might be handled better.

Right now, though, I'm going to let the book sit for a while. Probably the rest of the year and have it on the rewrite list for 2006. That will give Russ plenty of time to go over it and help me out with some background material, and not put any rush on him. He's kind of a busy guy.

In fact, he'll be back in Georgia for a week starting on Thursday. Sigh. Well, at least we had a few days where we spent a little time together. I'm sorry he felt so ill for some of it, though! And he's going to miss his three day weekend by being out of state again. I wish he could have spent it at home.

I just turned my email back on for the first time in two days. Oh dear. I have a LOT of work to do. On the good side, someone wants me to adapt one of my pieces for the cover art to an anthology. We'll see what I can do. On the other hand, I have the county agenda to get done RIGHT NOW. I've been doing these agendas since 1998, and you know they still take me by surprise when they show up. I can never figure out the pattern to when they meet! It also doesn't help that they've had a couple extra meetings the last two months.

In the next couple days I'm going to try to finish up the final draft of Glory. This includes a reworking of the final confrontation, which I realize missed several important points. I've listed them out and now I'm going to look at the battle and see how best to rework it with these factors in mind. I hope that it won't take me more than one rewrite of the last chapter to get them into place.

And then on September 1 I am going to begin work on Ada Nish Pura.

For those of you who read the previous post, you might realize what an important step this is. Ada is a good novel. It's one of the best I've ever written. What it isn't is literary science fiction. I don't write lines that are meant to stop the reader to exclaim how lovely the wording is. I don't want to throw the reader out of the story to admire pretty words just for themselves. But that is what the publisher wanted when we went into the rewrite. And that came as a real shock to me, because before I signed the contract I had asked specifically what the rewrites would entail. Her answer had been that it would be working in more cultural detail in the story as well as expanding some of the details about the world's makeup, and I agreed completely with both parts. That is, in fact, what I am going to be doing on this rewrite. What I couldn't do, after five months of reworking the same three chapters, was write in a way that I -- to be quite honest -- rarely like. There are some writers for whom the beauty of the words themselves will get me to read anything they writer. Samuel R. Delany is one of them. Ellison is another. I love their words and I don't care what the story is about. They can make me stop and read a passage with delight.

But I am not that kind of writer. I won't even pretend to be. And I could not rewrite myself into one. Once I understood that the rewrite had changed from worldbuilding to style, I backed out of the contract. I hated to do it, and it left me with a very anxious and annoyed feeling, and that is what has affected my writing for most of the year. I had spent five months (and a bit more, from the year before) trying to reach a satisfactory rewrite, only to learn that the entire rules had been changed and no one told me.

I've had hundreds of rejections, and some of them rather sharp. I've had a few bad reviews. I've looked them over, learned something from some of them, and kept going. What happened with Ada Nish Pura was something completely different. It was not a rejection or criticism. The editor, even after we parted ways, said she liked my novel, but it was not going to be what they wanted.

Yes, I'm spending way too much time looking this over, rethinking it, trying to find if there was something different I could do. I know there wasn't. I was not going to be the writer they wanted, and five months of trying to fulfill that role was more than enough. But the entire incident left me reassessing what I was willing and able to do to get any single publication. I'm still working through that process. In the meantime, thought, I'm going to get back to work on Ada and get it back out in submission.

It's obviously way past time to move on.

And while I was writing this up I suddenly remembered an entire little side thread toward the end of Serendipity Blues that I forgot to tie up. Oops. Well, I'll note it and do it... later today. It's nearly 5am. I have to get to bed for a few hours so I can start fresh and get to work on Vision.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Thinking things through....

I've been spending the last few days working up a little post about the problems I sometimes have with first person and third person stories. Nothing too drastic, and I wasn't in a hurry to get it done. Just as well. Holly's post about her problems with Hawkspar made me sit down and admit something to myself -- the real reason I'm not getting a lot of fiction writing done for almost the entire year. It is an annoying and, in the end, stupid reason.

Yes, I've been busy with a lot of things that, while writing related, are not exactly writing. Vision, DTF, Forward Motion -- they do take a lot of time. I've had some serious nonfiction work to get done for a couple projects, and that takes a great deal of concentration that doesn't allow for little imaginary fluff. But still....

The problem I'm having is because of the trouble over Ada Nish Pura. I know it. I had very high hopes for that book, and I thought it was the best that I've ever written. I was willing to do the edits -- but I could not make myself into a literary science fiction writer. I couldn't make those changes, and I had to drop out of the contract. (First chapter of Ada Nish Pura can be found here. I still think it's a damned good chapter, and the rest of the book will be the same....) It's a good story. It's better for the editing we did -- but I could not make that final change that they wanted. I couldn't write lines intended just to draw attention to the words.

I have barely finished anything since that trouble. I have not put a single novel out in submission this year. Even material that is virtually done has been sitting on my hard drive while I make myself too busy to do anything about it.

The sale of Mirrors, and the request for a book a year with those characters, has started to change my attitude again. I'm going to try to finish Serendipity Blues over the challenge at Forward Motion this coming weekend. Chances are that I won't get that far, but I should get a good chunk of it done -- if I can keep myself focused on the story and forget both other work and the feeling that it just won't be good enough, so why bother?

That is not a usual attitude for me. It's the measure of how much depressing news has come at me this year, from Ada to my mother's death -- and even the growing problems with my camera. Even stupid little things start to add up.

I haven't stopped writing. I don't think I can. I have written quite a bit of fluff these last few months. Fluff is alright. I even made a quick 'give away' sale of $5 for a little cat Christmas story. Those can be fun and there's nothing wrong with the occasional fun. But there are still a number of novels sitting here, waiting to go somewhere, or waiting for the final edit.

I still have several months left in which to pull my act together and get some novel material back out there. If I have to, I'll start looking for help with some of the other work around FM. I'm going to start doing less intensive rejections for DTF, at least until I get caught up there. The 2YN classes are still going, but I have the new ones roughly decided and worked out, and there are only about 20 left.

Maybe next year will be less trouble.

So, obviously, I have to get focused on the real material. And I'll do that... right after I finish up the edits and formatting for Vision, work my way through some of the DTF submissions, and maybe get the rest of these pictures scanned in. (Okay, to be honest, the pictures are really wonderful and have put me in a great mood. And that's important too.)

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Me Post

The last week or so has been filled with one project after another, almost all of them nonfiction, and nearly all of them taking longer than I had expected. And I'm still not caught up, but I'm closer to the point where I can just sit down and write again.

I've been working on my outlines, though. Once I get other things cleared out, I'll be able to just leap in and work. I'm looking forward to it. The little bit of fiction I've gotten done in the last week has not been enough to sustain me for long! I want my characters and stories back!

But today I have a couple other things to do again, and a few more outline notes to type up. Last night I had a glimmer of how to add some material to Kat Among the Pigeons, too. I can see one good scene, and there will have to be several things that happen leading up to it. I might be able to get another day's worth of material there.

I'm looking forward to the end of the month and our annual 'Labor of Love' and 'Unfinished Business' five day writing dare at Forward Motion. At the rate I'm going, I think I'm going to be doing Unfinished Business and see if I can get Serendipity Blues completed. If I did Labor of Love it would be one of three outlines that I have sitting here -- Kat Among the Pigeons, I'm Not Who You Think, or Wind and the Sand. Oh, and there's the Resolutions of Trust outline still here, too.

I would really like some writing time! (grin) I can't even find time to do this blog very often lately, and that's kind of pathetic.

I think Russ is, unfortunately, going to be out of town again during the Dare. That gives me more time to write, but really I'd rather have the company and a little cheering on during the dare. Not to mention the Taco Bell food. Hmmm... Maybe I'll stock up on some bean burritos and throw them in the freezer.

I keep joking to Russ about going on a writing retreat to some hotel for a few days. It is a joke because I can't retreat much more than I already have. My office is at the back of he house, I don't keep a phone here at all, and except for the cats I rarely have anyone back here. Russ has his own office next door, so he doesn't use my computer very often now. I keep clearing the stuffed animals away, but somehow new ones seem to take their place. There is usually one or two cats stretched out on the left side of the desk, too. I have my own little stereo system and all the books a person could want. (Practically. I still lust after a couple sets of nonfiction way-to-expensive sets. Someday....)

All I need is more time.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Working with Writers

I'm involved in a good many projects -- Forward Motion, Dragon Tooth Fantasy Ebooks, Vision, Estand -- and all of them involve writers to one degree or another. Those writers are obviously a varied bunch. That's good. After all, if we were all the same, we'd all be telling the same stories in the same way. Personal experience and personal preferences will always influence the material and even how we write it.

All writers are different.

That's not a negative statement or an attack on any writer. It's certainly not an excuse of any sort. It is a statement full of wonderful opportunities because it means no writer has to work in a certain way to achieve success. We can look at various methods that others use and experiment with the results. I often try to give writers ideas of how I work, and sometimes it even helps them. More times it does not -- but it's the few that find something helpful that is the only reason to give ideas at all.

If you ignore that you have helped some people in preference of those who didn't find your suggestions useful, then you're never going to be happy working with other writers. If it bothers you to see others working in their own ways, having their own opinions on what works for them, and sometimes even making sales, then you should absolutely stay clear of writing groups of any type.

Writing groups are full of people who not only have questions, but also have a few answers of their own. The people in these groups celebrate each other's good fortune with a sale and sympathize over a rejection. And they offer help where they can, without expecting anything in return.

The pooled knowledge at FM amazes me. And it's all there because others were willing to help. Now that I'm starting my third year running the site, I feel a little less anxious. The site works. No, it's not for everyone, but nothing is. And some people are just not going to fit into any group like this because they don't know the difference between a disagreement and an attack.

Forward Motion is a testament to the willingness of writers to help others, even if they are technically trying for those same few spots in the publication line up. It's an amazing experience to be part of. But not every answer will suit every person.

However, there are answers that suit you, the individual, and will help you write in the way that works best for your background, your mind, and your habits. I've been posting things in this blog lately that are more writing-centered than usual, and it's been great to see the people who say that something works or doesn't work for them. It points out the variety of ways in which authors can achieve what they want. If someone doesn't agree with the way in which I work, is that wrong? Is it an attack? Of course not. It only becomes an attack if they say that no one should work in that way and should only work in the way that they proclaim as The Answer.

Sites like Forward Motion work because people see a variety of answers from different people at different levels of their careers. It also works because people are, for the most part, truthful in their posts. It is not sugar-coated, and no one is told that there are guarantees. All people can do is help new writers explore the possibilities and help teach them the few true fundamentals.

Forward Motion is about 150 people short of 8,000 registered members. Almost half of those members are regular visitors, many just to read posts without adding information. About 2000 post at least once a month, and several hundred post almost daily. That's a considerable amount of information available. (And I'm working on a slight restructure of the site to try and make it easier to sort through!)

We have the 'rejection contest' in which writers get points for rejections (and more for acceptances) in a little on site game. It's silly and fun, and takes a little bite out of the inevitable downside to being a writer. We have a large section on creating query letters and synopsis proposals to help writers though that difficult hurdle. Classes, dares, challenges, crit circles, chat rooms -- there are a number of different ways in which the people on the boards can interact.

What we don't have is a rule that there is only One Way, or that people have to agree on writing rules. Disagreement is not negative in itself -- it only becomes so if one side can't accept that the other might have their own points and makes disagreement into an attack. I've seen dozens of those people during the last nine years at the site. Many of the people grow up and grow out of that attitude. Some don't. Some people just can't work with other writers and find nothing positive in the experience. That happens, and there's nothing inherently wrong with it. We are not required to help one another or listen to each other. But some of us still try to help -- at sites, in blogs and in books.

And I'd like to say thank you to all of them. I've learned a lot from those who are willing to help without expectations or demands that it be more than aid offered to a fellow writer along the path.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Character Versus Plot

Linda brought up another aspect of writing -- the character driven writer versus the plot driven writer.

Anyone who has read my material on FM and Vision will know that I am absolutely character driven in my writing. Everything I write starts with the vision of a character, sometimes in a situation that needs explaining and sometimes not even with that much. They just appear and before long I start to see more of the world around them and begin exploring what ifs and how did they get there. But I build the world, and then the novel, around that character and the others who happen into range. The world is built for them, and it is the characters who shape the story. I know who they are, and I know what I want them to be and do, and so the world conforms to what they need to tell that particular story.

I've tried to write a plot driven story, and it just doesn't work for me. It's not that I don't care about the events, but they're not what draws me. I want to know what the people are doing -- and not just any people. They have to be people I'm interested in, for one reason or another.

But it doesn't matter if you're character driven or plot driven when you write a story. And it doesn't make a difference in whether or not you use an outline. It's an individual preference and it really doesn't have anything to do with plot first or character first. One person might start with 'A city falls into decay and revolution is coming, with a series of horrific events that drag the city to near ruin' and another starts with 'A young woman scrapes together a living in a dangerous town, and finds herself involved with revolutionists and their dangerous ploys to get control.' The plot might turn out to be remarkably alike as they both work out the steps of the revolution and the horror of the events, but they will have come to the idea from different perspectives.

Now the truth is that the plot driven writer is probably more likely to write out an outline of the events that take place because those events are the focus of his interest. But it's not really much different than the character driven writer who works out a page or two of background for the character. It's just where the initial focus starts. By the time the story is written, the readers won't be able to tell if the author used an outline, character sheets, started with the plot or started with the characters. Well, okay... sometimes you can tell a plot driven novel from a character driven one just because of the focus of the story. If a novel jumps from person to person and rarely sticks with anyone for any length of time, you are probably looking at a plot driven author who is more interested in the events than the people.

But generally they all combine and you really don't know. It's not that plot driven writers dislike characters and will never create a truly great one, or that character driven writers don't come up with fascinating plots. It's just the point where you dive into the story.

And some writers might be both, depending on the project.

I have found that I like outlines, but I write them after I've created the character and have a number of plot points where I want that person to go. Sometimes my outlines are just a few quick notes, and other times they are massive with even bits of dialogue dropped in so that I don't forget it by the time I get to the scene.

Oh, and yes -- I am a linear writer. I may see random bits and pieces in the planning phase, but the story itself unwinds like a movie for me, and I start at the opening and go to the closing. That part doesn't matter if I have an outline or not. Even if I later add in a subplot, I'll still start at the beginning and work the new material in from front to back. The idea of writing out of order is absolutely foreign to me, I suppose akin to reading the end of the book before you start. I want to take the journey from start to finish. And having an outline doesn't make a bit of difference in that respect. I study roadmaps before I go on a trip, too -- but it doesn't mean I know what I'll see there or what I'm going to say and do. That's what outlines are like for me -- even the more intensive ones I write. They're just roadmaps, some with more directions than others. Chances are that I might end up taking a few detours and skipping places I thought I would head to, but I'm always aware of where the path to the final destination is, and that I will always work my way back to it rather than wandering off and getting totally lost.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Working toward the new novel

Aletta from Kat Among the Pigeons

Kat Among the Pigeons is about ¾'s of the way toward ready to write. I'm really pleased with how well the material is going together for this one and excited about the story. I like the characters, the setting (Rocky Mountains, and areas I've been to several times over the years!) and the plot. The head of the 'bad guys' is really turning out to be fascinating, and the woman on his side just made an appearance for me and I have a good idea of her attitude and feelings.

I've written about 10k in notes and collected almost twice as much in information from the Internet. I need to sort through my own pictures still, and I fear that I'm not going to get a chance to do that before I start writing. I could put off the start and spend time sorting through boxes of pictures, but somehow that doesn't seem like such a good idea.

I not only know about the 'real world' things, but I also know motivations, weaknesses, plans and the way in which it all falls together. I could probably start writing today, but I'm going to hold off for a while longer so I can get a few other things out of the way and then have a straight run at it. And I want to work on the outline, which is still nebulous. Well, all right, less than nebulous. I have a 'start here' and 'finish here' sort of layout with two minor scenes written out in the middle.

Many people don't like outlines. I worked for years without them, but I learned that I do much better at keeping the story in line and making it readable and interesting if I have a good 'roadmap' of where I want it to go. Letting the characters wander all over and do what ever happens to come to mind that day was always fun, but it also made vast tracks of boring story line that went no where and didn't help the novel move forward.

My later novels don't suffer much from that problem, though there are still times when I write in scenes that I think are essential only to realize on the read through that I can cut some big (and usually dull) scene and summarize it better.

Many writers don't need outlines. They have the ability to plot and keep the story on line without directions. Many new writers working on their first novels don't think they need to outline when they really should have a roadmap, or at least a few cue cards, to keep them heading in the right direction. It's easy to get lost out there, especially if you make the mistake of believing that your characters are talking to you and telling you what needs to be done. Your imagination is a wild, untamed power and it's job is, in many ways, to lead you astray. Your imagination leaps from what you are working on to 'imagine' something different, and if you trust it without question -- and without any controls -- it's going to move off into directions that can sometimes ruin the story because there is no logical way back and no logical end. So the writer gets there, sees no way out, and abandons the novel.

The important thing to remember is that every great idea does not have to go into THIS book. Even if you imagine it with the current set of characters, chances are that you can adapt it to a different story later. Just make a note of it somewhere (I keep notebooks and files just for this purpose) and go back to keeping your characters moving along the plot line you want to tell.

It's hard to see that some ideas are not good to throw in while you're writing without an outline, though, because every idea seems a logical outgrowth of what you've already done. And since you have no idea where you want the story to go, there's no reason not to move off into another direction. I've worked that way and sometimes you get really great material. Other times you end up out in the Mojave Desert without a trail when you thought you were heading for Key West. The only way to get there is to retrace your steps, cut the material that took you off into an area from which there is no storyline resolution, and cut it out of the manuscript.

A shame about all that wasted time, of course.... (And I've done enough of it to know!)

Outlines won't automatically make a novel perfect. I've certainly written plenty of bad novels both ways. It won't even guarantee that you'll get through the novel without problems. I just look at it as a little extra insurance.

Some people are not going to do well with outlines at all. But if you're like me, and your imagination likes to run rampant at the worst times, having a sheet of paper with a few lines of directions on it is not going to hurt.

Monday, July 25, 2005

The myth of writing every day

Rhino head from Ashfall, Nebraska

Anyone can write every day. It's not difficult. You just have to sit down and do it. A few hundred words -- it's easy. There is no reason why anyone here can't find that much time to work on material.

But it's not what everyone should do. There is no rule that says you can't be a published writer if you don't work every single day. I know many published authors who take time off, either in huge chunks or a month or so, or a few days a week. Writing every day is not the sign of a successful author. It's a choice, and there are other choices that will work just as well.

Some of you may find that you work best if you think about your story for a week, work up everything in your mind, and then sit down on Saturday night and write a few thousand words. Others may find that they work best if they can get away from everything distracting for a day, and that may not always be possible, so their work is sporadic. Writing the rest of the time is dull, annoying work interrupted too often by other people, which can cause them to lose their enthusiasm for the novel.

Writing everyday is fun for those who think writing is more important and exciting than anything else they could be doing. It means giving up something else in life -- an hour of TV, gardening, knitting, or maybe even family time. Maybe you can write for a little while during your lunch break at work -- but that might mean cutting yourself off from time with your co-workers, and that's not always good or wise. Some people get up an hour earlier each day and write before they get ready for work or before the rest of the family is up.

If you want to write every day, don't let anything stop you. If you aren't used to writing often, start with a small word count and work your way up. You don't have to leap into 2000 word days. The truth is that your brain probably isn't going to be able to supply you with enough writing ideas to keep you going. Start small. I started at 250 words and my goal now is only 1k a day, though I usually do much more.

It is far better to give yourself a lower word count goal and exceed it than to give yourself a high count and often fail. Continual failure doesn't help you write your novel. In fact, few people will keep coming back to the work if they have this idea in their mind that they keep failing in some way. In this case the failure would have nothing to do with your actual writing, but only in an unrealistic goal you set for yourself.

This is just a game you are playing and there are no other people in it with you. It doesn't matter if someone in your critique group is writing 2k a day or if I am writing 5k a day. We are not you; we do not have your ideas, your free time or your mind. You don't have to worry about what any other writer is doing. You are giving yourself goals just to keep yourself moving forward. Those goals can be daily, weekly or monthly. Yearly goals only work if you keep a short term goal that will build up to that yearly goal.

But the real goal is to finish your work. It doesn't matter how long it takes you as long as you do the best you can with it. Some of us write more than others; that is not a sign of talent, just that we have more time to write and really don't want to do other things. (grin)

Friday, July 22, 2005

Moving from novel to novel

I have finished Silky 2! Yay! This one took longer than I expected -- mostly because of person a life stuff -- but I'm happy with the reworking of the tale. I even have some very solid thoughts for the last book in the trilogy, which I really think it's about time to write. Though not right now. Just soon. Although 'soon' for me is probably not what other people think. It could be sometime in the next four or five years.

I have turned more of my attention to the background material for the next novel on my list. This one is Kat Among the Pigeons. I know a good amount of the 'who and what' but I'm still working out some of the 'why' parts. And 'how' -- the plot line -- is nebulous still, with hardly more than a few key points jotted down. As I learn more about the others I find that pieces of the story are dropping into place. I will probably take the last few days of this month and work on all the material. I think I'll write a few short stories as well. I've been rather lacking in those this year, and I love a quick writing adventure now and then!

However, I can't remember a time (at least after the age of 13) when I was not working on a novel. I start a new one every January 1 so that I get my year going right -- sort of a good omen and a lot of fun. I spend more time working on outlines and background material for upcoming novels than I do on writing short stories. I like short stories and I enjoy writing them, but over all I'd much rather be working on something more substantial.

Novel writing was my first love, and it still draws me in. I love the depth of novel writing, and the amount of research and worldbuilding that goes into developing a really good plot. Kat Among the Pigeons is one such story. Once I had a clear idea of whom my antagonist is, and what he wants, the amount of research I needed tripled -- but it's going to make this a much better story for taking that time and for doing the homework. It would have been far easier to just leap into the story at almost any point since the idea hit me, but this way I am far more assured of having something that holds up.

Stories aren't just about the characters, of course, but the characters had better be interesting enough to carry the plot and keep the attention of the reader. In this case I'm going to have an array of human and animal characters and a lot of conflicting personalities. I love this set and working out who they are has been a lot of fun. Since my main character can understand certain animals, those creatures are developing very specific and comedic voices. When I started telling Russ about one of the small birds with a very tough attitude, Russ suggested I call him Harlan. (grin) I think I'm going to call him Harley, in fact.

My antagonist is a historical figure. One of the great joys of having several thousand books at home (and about half of them nonfiction history) is that I was able to look up nearly all the information that I needed for him. The only problem I have is that I haven't sorted out my books and arranged them properly since Russ took his stuff to the second house and I spread out onto his shelves. I just pulled things from various places and shoved them into the shelves. I know I have a couple more books that will have pertinent information -- I know because I read them. Finding them.... eek.

I may have to take some time to arrange books just so I don't go nuts. It might be a nice change, in fact. Maybe I can even get some of the trim up on the bookshelves. Hmmmm..... Not that I really need something else to do, but the idea of physical work while letting my mind play with the story development at the same time could help out.

My mind hasn't quite moved fully from one project to the next. My projects are distinct pieces and it's not always easy to leap from one to the other, especially after working on a novel. Novels are not like short stories (duh): They have far more 'world' to live in and longer time spent with the characters. They take more time in the set up as well as in the writing and they linger even after I'm done.

If you're writing for yourself (which I do sometimes, just because it's fun), you needn't worry so much about the background working right, or the characters being fully fleshed before you leap into the work. However, if you are working on something that you hope to publish, the more work you put into the set up, the better the chances of creating something coherent and interesting, with characters who have depth and a storyline that pulls the reader along. Usually the best plots are the ones that have some amount of preplanning. It doesn't have to be an extensive scene by scene outline, but a few steps written out that will lead you from the first chapter to the last line can be helpful.

Doing the pre-work to a novel can take a lot of time. There's no reason to rush. Let your mind work on the story and the characters, and do whatever research you think you need. Planning ahead will allow you to make certain interesting things are going to happen to your characters and they are not going to just go wandering around clueless looking for trouble. Chances are that you'll end up researching more as you get into the novel, but getting the obvious stuff out of the way is helpful!

Not everyone works this way, obviously. And some do quite fine without much planning. But I've worked both ways and I know my weaknesses in this area. I know where not planning a novel and getting most of the background worked out ahead of time can lead. And I've seen a lot of new writers fall down and lose interest in their novels because they don't have enough information to keep them moving to the next step. Even if they finish, they often find that their characters have wandered around doing nothing of importance for large stretches, or they took off into storylines that could have been saved for another book.

Sometimes you just have to experiment to find out what works for you. However, the one thing I think is true -- it never hurts to know more than you need, even about your novel. (grin)

Monday, July 18, 2005

And a nice sale

Happy Cricket

Mirrors, one of my two NaNo Novels from 2003, is going to Zumaya as soon as I get and sign the contracts. I've already seen the contract, so I don't think there will be any trouble there! This will be an ebook and print version, due out in 2008.

Zumaya is one of those new style publishers that I'd been looking at for some time, trying to get a feel for what they might like. I had wanted to try one of the publishers who do both print and ebook versions to see how well it works, and I knew at least one person working at this publisher, so I had some trust in them from the start.

They are also interested in making this a series of books. Good thing I had one or two more ideas, though I haven't written them.

It's a good day, in general. Russ is home, at least for a few days, and Princess Cricket is back from the vet after her weekend stay. She's better now, though not really happy with us. She is finally sitting here half blocking the screen and purring like mad. It's good to see her in such a better mood.

As expected, getting the news of the sale set me off on other things and I haven't gotten nearly enough writing done yet today. I'm going to be getting to that in a few moments... though maybe I should just wait until after dinner now.

I'm almost through Silky2. I think I might have another 10-15k to go, so I don't expect it to take too much longer. I'm working on my nonfiction chapter for an upcoming book on fantasy writing, though most of that is still in the planning stage, working out the listing and what I want to say. I'm still working on the notes for Kat Among the Pigeons, too. That one, I think, is going to be a lot of fun to write.

It's going to be another week of madness here. We've barely recovered from my mother's death and the visit by my sister and niece! Russ's sister will be here on Thursday or Friday, then the two of them will go out to visit their other brother for a couple days, come back, and she leaves on the following Monday. Russ will leave again the following Friday or Saturday.

It would be nice to have a weekend with Russ, or at least a day. There hasn't been one in quite a while for one reason or another.

Still, all in all, I can't complain too much. I think we'll go out and have a nice celebration dinner tonight. I'm looking forward to some time with Russ again!

Friday, July 15, 2005

I love writing

I love writing. I really do.

Some of you have known me for many years, so you're pretty much aware of how much of my life I dedicate to writing. In the last few years that hasn't been just for my own work, either. So far I've had five wonderful years with Vision, and while DTF is quite a handful, I really enjoy it.

And there is Forward Motion, of course. Overall it is filled with very good people who are interested in talking to others about writing and learning what they can from each other. Writers are really lucky in one respect: they know how to communicate via written words. Not everyone can.

The Two Year Novel Course has been a real challenge for me. I'm currently reading yet another book on editing to glean more material I can offer. This is very difficult because there are at least four fiction books on my shelf that I want to read RIGHT NOW. Only 22 more class posts to make and we'll be done. Then I get to rework the entire 104 classes into something presentable and see if someone would actually like to pay me for this. (Laughs)

I like talking to new writers, finding things that can occasionally help them, and seeing them finish their first stories and make their first sales. That's a really wonderful experience. It makes all the work at FM worth it.

There is, however, nothing better in my world than writing. I don't care if it's a short story or a novel, articles or even an occasional bit of poetry. I started out thinking I was a natural novelist and that's what I would stay. I wrote at least forty novels before I managed anything shorter -- but one day the art of short stories came to me, and now I write both without much worry. (That's not to say that the stories all work, of course!)

I've written long novel series of eight books and I've written flash fiction -- which, by the way, is often considered a vignette -- a moment in time, not a full story. Some of them are complete stories, but many are just brief looks into an event. They're mood pieces. And they are fun to write if you can. I have not had a lot of luck getting them right, though I did get a couple published at Ideomancer a few years ago. I've added a flash fiction section to the two month dares since a number of people wanted to try their hands at them. I think they're fun!

I write words every day, despite all my other side interests, including photography and the interesting work with 3D rendering programs. I love setting up scenes in Daz and Bryce. It's a whole new way of looking at the material I've written. Character's faces are coming clearer now. I didn't expect that of 'people' I've lived with for years.

My sales have not been spectacular, but they've been pretty steady. Since June of 1999 I've had about 75 sales and 81 publications (with a few of those still upcoming). The difference in the numbers is because I have given some stories to a few of my favorite online ezines that didn't pay. Dark Moon Rising was one such. Shadowkeep was another.

My rejections, of course, are well more than triple the number of sales I've made. I have, however, averaged about a sale a month since my first publication. I've accepted the rejections for what they are -- an indication that I'm a writer trying to make sale, and that if you don't try, you aren't going to get anywhere. Rejection is a part of the job description for writers. It's nothing personal, and quite often it isn't even a condemnation of the work. Stories sometimes just don't fit, or the magazine is overstocked in a particular kind of story, or that this particular editor just doesn't like that kind of work. Sometimes, of course, it also means the story sucks and the writer is too blind to realize it. I've had a few of those, too, of course. We all do.

My climb has not been spectacular, but it has been steady. And I've learned a great deal from the copyeditors I've worked with over the years. I've seen changes in my writing because of it.

The way I have worked has been good for me. It is, however, the long way around to a career. Many people consider electronic publication in much the same way as pulp fiction was viewed back in what we now call the golden age of sf and fantasy. (grin)

I like being part of a new frontier. I find it rewarding in ways that do not include money. But that's just me. Like everything else, I don't expect it to work for others. In fact, I tell new writers that they should always try for the top first. If you want a career you have to go for the money and fame.

I make my own submissions to various places all along the spectrum of publishing. I submit to places that interest me. Sometimes I think I have something that I'll try at the places up top, and sometimes not. People have even occasionally come to me asking for material. I wish that would happen more often. (Laughs.)

I make two submissions a month and I have for years. Sometimes I make far more. I find that if I have a real schedule of that sort that I hate to break a record. This one goes back nearly ten years now.

In all of this there are some things I've learned, and the most important is that people have to find their own paths to whatever they consider success in writing. Some people who have tried to write every single day have burnt out on it and others have thrived. Some people work well with outlines and others don't. The only way to find out what works for you is to try.

And keep trying until you find what you are comfortable with -- what allows you to work without losing that creative spark by making it too much of a factory work feeling.

Most of you are going to do far better than I ever have. But I think I can guarantee that none of you will ever love writing more than I have had. (grin)