Saturday, December 31, 2011

Farewell to 2011

The last month has been a bit odd for me in many ways.  I've been rethinking Forward Motion and Vision, of course.  The moderators there have been working out some great ideas.  I think 2012 is going to be a lot of fun -- and work -- at the site.  I took time away from the sites, which was a good plan. 

I've been looking at my writing, which has made vast improvements in some areas this year.  Other problems I'm starting to identify.  I did come to realize one thing -- I am past the stage where I can write anything long without an outline.  Or maybe I should say where I want to write anything long without an outline.  I can do it.  It's just a hellish amount more work to write the story and then even far more work to edit it and make certain things work well together in the end.

So yeah, I'm not going to be doing that experiment again anytime soon.

Russ came home for the last week of the year.  Yay!

And the day after he arrived I got miserably, horribly ill and could hardly leave the bedroom for most of the week he's been here.  I feel better today.  Not great, but better.  I've lost a considerable amount of weight, and I'm annoyed that I missed out on most of the fun stuff with Russ.  We might try to go to Squaw Creek Wildlife Refuge tomorrow (January 1), which will be at least something fun for me.  He won't be back until April.

But, back to looking at the end of 2011.  I've done some interesting things this year, I've put a number of books out for publication and though the sales are not outstanding, they have been growing steadily through the months.  Next year, quite honestly, I hope to focus on me and my work for a while.  It seems as though I get moving on something, I'd get pulled off into some other work.

So, part of 2012 is going to be about focus again.  I'm real good at focusing on the small, day-to-day things like getting X amount written, or X amount edited.  However, things that spread out over time and that are not linear, will often get half done and forgotten until they happen to come into my view again. This is going to mean a schedule with things that slip off my sight on it.  Once some things become habit, I'll be better about them.  If I can work them into some sort of daily ritual, all the better for me.  I'm good at that sort of thing.

And the rest?

I am going to do more photography-related things.  I am likely going to buy a new camera this year, too, and I might move on to a DSLR, if I can truly save up the money.  That would be fun.

I will start writing Water/Stone/Light in a few hours.  The outline is about 2/3rds done and I'm just going to finish in the last part with a few notes as I see the storyline out as I think of them.  This should be interesting.  I'm looking forward to it.

So, happy New Year, everyone.  Have fun in 2012!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Project Report 5: Water/Stone/Light -- The Outline

First, let's talk about Write It Now, the program where I do most of my outline and background work.  That's the picture today.  I have actually put two different ways to work up at the same time.  I only use the story board view (the one with all the little boxes) when I have to move scenes around (rather than chapters).  With chapters, it's easier just to grab and move them around in the list view on the left and add scenes with the scene editor at each chapter.

I have also adopted the chapter list to show other things.  You'll see a basic timeline there with things called DAY 3 and such.  This makes it far easier to glance at the list and make calculations for when events (and news the events reaching other places) can happen.

This is a picture of the character area.  You can see all kinds of different tabs there like description, personality, etc. This is such a fun program to work with that it makes me want to go back and play with it more.

Okay, so what am I doing with it?

Putting together the steps of a storyline is fascinating work for me.  If I want this incident to happen in the future, then what do I need to do at some earlier point?  How will character a react to actions of character b?  How can things be misunderstood and so get worse before they get better?\

What can go wrong?

Oh yes, it's always important to find out what can go wrong, isn't it? 

I am in the midst of plotting out a public event for one of the MCs during which things go very wrong.  It's the new prince's first real public appearance.  He's figured out that he has to do well or he'll not like what happens later because the Queen (his grandmother) is not happy with his behavior.  He's going to do his best, but that doesn't mean other things are not going to go wrong.  Others want him to fail in small and big ways.

Prince Zuki is about to learn that life is not all adoration and fun for a prince.  He's been raised away from court by a doting (slightly, well, blonde) mother who is not heir because she's just too self-absorbed.  Her brother died in battle without any children of his own.  The queen has to either make this prince work or start looking outside her own blood line to those related to the king.  She's not happy with that idea.  Zuki is going to work, whether he wants it or not.

Zuki has another problem, but it's not apparent at first. There are hints, but it'll be a long ways in before that one's fully revealed.

I love plotting books.  Really.  Sitting here and going 'okay, little hint here' is good.  Then working along and coming up with something else . . . oh, go back about three or four chapters and make a note to mention X.  Start the buildup.

This story is complex.  All the different POV characters mean multiple timelines, too.  Where is X when this happens?  How long will it take Fatim to get to Kish from the temple?  What sort of understanding can he and Sefu come to with their sudden positions as companions to the Prince?

How are they going to get the prince to work with them when the boy (who is younger than either Sefu or Fatim) is resistant to be told he has to do anything at all.  The Queen can threaten him, but they have little they can hold over him . . . except, they can make him feel very much alone, even in their company.  Oh, now that might work.  If he wants to pull rank and give orders, they can get to the point where they ignore him.

And the Queen wants them to get the boy in hand.  Unless they really mistreat the boy, she's not going to give in to any complaints from the prince.  He had better figure out very fast who he wants for his friends.

There, have a nice little emotional subplot going about trust.  I think this might mean the chapter I am working on with the public appearance and problems needs more of a buildup as well.  That's okay, actually.  I have been thinking Fatim and Sefu don't have enough chapters yet.  Now I can build some around this emotional trust situation and bring in more information about the servants who arrived with the prince, since they are problems all in their own right.

So there I am, building up depth, intricate problems, a little piece at a time.  For each 'I can add this in' there is often a 'go back and start it earlier' bit to work in as well. This is why outlines work so well for me and why, quite honestly, it can take me far longer to write the outline than the entire book.

This is also why I didn't get enough of the Water/Stone/Light outline done to write the book for NaNo in November.  That's okay since I had plenty of other things to write during that time, and it worked out well.  This has given me more time to look at the storyline and make some important decisions.

For one thing, I realized I needed a storyline that takes place on the front lines of the battle.  Otherwise the ending was not going to work at all, coming as a sort of deus ex machina.  Even if some of the characters ended up at the battle scene, it would be far into the novel and with too little buildup of what is happening there.

So three chapters out of the first fifteen are now devoted to two characters involved in the battle.  I don't want a lot covering that area of the story, but enough to remind people of why the king is not at the palace and why this is important.  It's working so far, but I have to remove myself from the main storyline in order to do it, which is a bit more difficult since I am enjoying that part so much.  And yes, that means I need to find reasons to 'enjoy' this part as well, even though the type of storyline is different.  I've done that by introducing a new character.  He's a young, but highly placed, priest of water, who has just volunteered for a dangerous job. 

The only link between the two sections of the story will be in messages arriving, some pointing out what appears to be a minor annoying problem back at the palace.  It is, of course, far more than it first appears to be, but by the time word gets here to the battle . . . well, things will have changed drastically.  In fact, things will have changed drastically for both sides.

I have a larger than usual number of POV characters, some making only a couple appearances.  I don't usually write that way, but in this case, it is important to spread the story out so little clues can be brought in for the bigger picture -- without having someone tell someone else about some little, inconsequential (by itself) piece.  Later, after the first draft, I might find that I can combine some pieces.  We'll see.

I have 16 chapters outlined and notes on a few more.  I have the first third of the novel in place, more or less, so no matter what I can begin this on January 1, even if I am still writing the rest of the outline.  Again, not how I normally work, but we'll see how it goes.  I might surprise myself and get the rest of the work outlined before then.

However long the work takes doesn't bother me.  The time is not as important as getting what you want, both from the outline and from the story itself when it's written.  This will go well.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

More about Forward Motion and Other Things

Here are some Forward Motion things to keep in mind.

First, I have said that I will be gone for at least a few weeks and I'll make a decision during that time about if I am coming back or not.  I have backed away and told the moderators they can come up with things for the site. I noticed that my daily forum subscription email is filled with material from the moderator's board, so it looks as though this may have been what they needed to get moving on some ideas.  Since I'd already said I thought 2012 should be a time for change at the site, I suspect they were already thinking of stuff, but now they appear to be acting on those ideas.  

It's going to take more than changes though.  Not only acting on them, but taking care of new ideas as well, which means encouraging people to take part in whatever activities are up.  Not just posting about them, but going in and joining as well.  That's something I stopped doing when I got too busy, and that's another reason why I decided to step back and reevaluate all of this.  It wasn't just that people were complaining about the site -- I doubt a month has gone by without some complaint for whine about how things don't work the way they want.  9 years of that and a person can start seeing the 'delete site' option as far too reasonable.

However, bottom line, I still own the site so for the moment changes will still have to go through me, if for no other reason than I'm the only one who can make boards and move things around.  Yeah, I really didn't think that one through.  This does complicate things.  I can't push it off on Mar because she's busy anyway.  So I will try to come by the moderator's board on Fridays, see what needs to be done -- and yes, make final decisions on some of it.

Chat?  We'll see in a couple weeks.  Or maybe I'll get antsy as I get closer to finishing my last two big projects of the year and go there to celebrate.  Right now I'm spending more time on things like DAZ newsletters than anything else, but once this last one is out of the way, I will have some time to write again.  (The problem with the DAZ newsletter is that I have to go to the DAZ site and look at fun things.  I haven't bought much of anything there in months, but suddenly I have about $100 worth of sale stuff in my wishlist.  Ugh.)

I need to get Vision done as well! That's going to be on my agenda for today.  Contracts and payments.  Russ's check appears not to have turned up yet, but I've been holding on to funds so I can cover this.  I did not put in a Schwan's order (that's my main food delivery), but I have enough to see me through until Russ gets home, though I see a lot of macaroni in my near future.

(This is not bad.  I also have a hoarded jar of Ragu and some lovely meatballs.  It's a bit more than I usually eat!)

And Russ will be home the day after Christmas.  That's six days from now.  We'll be looking at more heating options.  I'm tending towards hamsters on treadmills at the moment. Also good cat entertainment.

I have discovered again this year, that the closer it gets to the holiday itself, the less I really care about the lack of fun stuff.  About Sunday was to the 'oh, just get it over with' stage which is actually okay.  I start focusing on the things I should be, like you know -- Vision.  I do have the workshop done and the basics of the layout in place.  Almost.

Story stuff?  I have the last of Istavia to finish (just a couple more scenes!) and the outline for Water/Stone/Light before the end of the year.  The outline has about 100 new note cards to add in and an entire new storyline.  What I have may be the wrong POV character, but the events are good.  I also figured out how to make the ending I want.  I don't know if I can get the entire book outlined before January 1, but I can have the first section done, and that will at least get me going for the new year.

First thing up to edit in January will be Set 2 of the 2YN classes.  I am still not as certain about fiction, though. What do I want to publish this year?

Oh, and I need to get some more ACOA stuff done, too.

Yeah, I'm still going to be busy. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Why I'm stepping away from Forward Motion . . . .

I'm leaving Forward Motion, at least for a while.  I might be back and I might not, but I almost certainly won't be back for at least a month.

Here is the situation:

For fourteen years, I've worked at FM trying to help writers find their way to publication (and these days that means traditional or Indie).  For nine of those years, I've run the site.  I even ran it off and on during Holly's rule, though most people didn't realize it.  I enjoy the work -- a person has to if she spends that many years at something without pay.  Oddly, this is not about income.  The site doesn't cost much to run these days since we moved to the wonderful Tiger Tech site.  Vision costs more, but that's been my choice.  Yes, I'm a bit low on funds now and having trouble dealing with the current Vision, but that's not the big problem.

The problem is a run of negative returns on my work.  Not income -- I would have loved to see more people support me as a writer, but that is something different.  In the last six weeks or so, I've had four different people tell me in various ways how I am doing things wrong, not helping writers and ruining Forward Motion.

So, I decided it was time to step away.  I have turned the site over to the moderators and now it's up to them to figure out what they think will work at the site.  If you are a member of the site, go ahead and talk to the moderators.  Discuss what you think the site needs.  Be helpful rather than complaining.

I suspect you guys can come up with some interesting things to do.  Good luck and have fun.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Bear on the High Shelf: Merry Go Round Blog Tour # 6

The Bear on the High Shelf

(A True Bear Story)


Lazette Gifford

The shelf was too high!

The teddy bear watched as people stopped to study the stuffed animals on the shelves below him.  They often took a lucky one home with them, but few patrons of the crowded, small shop ever looked up at the shelf far above their heads.  Certainly, the children never saw him, the only teddy bear on the shelf near the ceiling.

He knew he wasn't a very spectacular teddy bear; a good bear, by all means, but not a showy one.  He was a good size to hold, beyond a doubt, with a properly stuffed and fat little belly.  His neatly curled fur was a suitable bear-brown, and each paw ended with a soft, velour pad.  Round ears sat evenly above bright black and brown eyes, with his black-thread nose stitched very correctly at the end of an appropriate muzzle. 

He was, all in all, a very proper bear, as long as no one noticed that his mouth was a bit lopsided, and the placement of his otherwise perfect eyes gave him a permanently startled look.  Maybe his multicolored bow never folded down just right, but he held to the faith that a human hand could easily fix the problem.    

Luckily, no one down there could see his embarrassingly round tail.  He feared people might think he borrowed it from one of the stuffed bunnies.  Still, the tail did an admirable job of keeping him from falling over, so he considered it a proper teddy bear tail after all.

But that didn't matter.  No one ever looked up at him.

He became quite a philosophical little bear, sitting alone on that shelf.  After a couple months, when even the shopkeeper forgot to dust him, he realized he wouldn't make a very good child's toy.  He now spent too much time in introspection, often musing about the nature of the universe, the place of humans and teddy bears, and the verities of retail sales.  He became a very wise bear, watching everyone pass through the store.  He could, in fact, often predict sales during the long days.  This woman would take home a glass cat and that man one of the odd looking ceramic gnomes.  The couple would take home one of the other bears.

He didn't even mind so much. . . .

Except Christmas was very near, and the rows of stuffed animals beneath him began to thin out. He watched each go and wished them luck and a happy morning beneath the lighted trees.  That would be very nice, he admitted to himself, as he leaned back on his round tail and watched the hurried shoppers rush about the store. 

Very nice to go home.

But Christmas Eve came, and he still sat there, dusty and unsold.  In a few short hours the store would close, and the humans would leave for their own holidays.  The shop would stay locked and unlit tomorrow while they celebrated.  He didn't like the thought of that dark, empty day.

Maybe he would get lucky at the after-holiday sale.  However, being so philosophical, he doubted the humans would come looking for a bargain in bears.

Ah well.  Valentine's Day was a good holiday for teddy bears.  Unfortunately, he didn't think he was a very sweet looking bear and that was a real drawback.  Still, he could hope.

Teddy bears can hope very well.

A half dozen of the unsold clocks chimed the hour.  The store would close soon.

A hand caught hold of his leg and pulled him down.  He was so startled he could only stare as the human gently brushed the dust from the top of his head and ears.  The man even turned him over and looked at the tail -- oh dear! -- though he still smiled when he looked back into the bear's face.

"This is your lucky day, guy," the stranger said.  "You're a perfect Christmas bear for Zette.  And you look like you need a home.  I could hardly see you up there!"

So the little bear had his own morning beneath the lighted tree.  And Zette does think he's adorable, and a perfect philosophical friend with which to discuss life and writing.

She calls him Aristotle. 

They are both quite happy.

The End

Note on the story: 

When I got the bear Russ told me he had been sitting on a high shelf in the store, and Russ had almost missed him up there.  He'd pulled the bear down and told him this was his lucky day.  And yes, I went to the computer and wrote the story that day.

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, December 05, 2011

The Future of the Two Year Novel Course

I began the first Two Year Novel Course at Forward Motion ( in January, 2004.  The course covered writing a novel from the very first idea all the way through submission (or later, for Indie Authors -- all the way to publication).  The course is filled with information to help people at every step, and while some new writers found it useful, even those who had written a few novels found things to help them shift their thinking for newer projects.

I am ending the last set of the original classes in December, 2011.  I had also published two books (one for each year of the course) at Holly Lisle's store, but those are no longer available.

Since everything was closing down, I thought to give the course a break, edit the books in a year or so, and make them available again . . . later.

However, many people began asking me about the classes and the books.  I knew I didn't have time to edit the entire two (or even one) year course right now so I decided to put the material out in sets, which I could edit as groups, making the work a bit less daunting and giving people the ability to take the entire course or pick up the ones they want. 

There will be nine pieces in all:

Basics (this one) Weeks 1-5

Characters Weeks 6-13

World building Weeks 14-25

Outlines Weeks 26-33

Writing the First Draft/1 Weeks 34-45

Writing the First Draft/2 Weeks 46-65

Editing -Second Draft Weeks 66 -77

Editing - Final Draft Weeks 78 - 88

Submission and Publication Weeks 89 - 104

This is a total of 104 classes so if you do one a week (I always started the courses the first week of January), you will have completed everything in two years.  This is how I presented the 2YN course online for eight years.  I hope to have all the pieces edited and up for sale by the end of year one, though, so people will not have to stick to this timeline.

Each class includes the 'lecture' plus an assignment and examples.

Not everything will help you, and certainly not everything will help with every book you write.  However, the more an author is willing to look outside their usual patterns, the more likely they are to find the spark to write something new and different.

The first set will be out in the next few days so people can be ready to start the classes in January.  The sets will be $0.99 each and I will put them out as often as I can, but there is no schedule.  How often depends a great deal on the rest of my work.  While I don't intend to do extensive editing, the publishing world has changed drastically in the eight years since I began this course.  Also, the course was originally designed to run on Forward Motion, and I am removing those references so people will not be tied to any sort of on-line structure.

I will announce here and on Twitter (LazetteG) as the pieces are available.  Look for the 2YN tag.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

New Release and More

What happens when a young boy is accidentally turned into a mouse?  He has the adventure of a lifetime of course!
I have just released Joey Mousekin's Tale on Smashwords for $1.99. This is a delightful, fun little tale and with a few small illustrations.  I hope people will give it a try.

Writing news:

I am very happy to have Joey Mousekin's Tale out.  This is a fun story and one others have urged me to publish for years.  So there it is!

I am working on finishing the last three projects of the year and they're going fine.  I am making plans to release the Two Year Novel Course on Smashwords in sets of four, one per month and at $0.99.  I have the first set almost done, and I'll do a post about the classes when I'm about ready to put that set up for sale.

One of the projects I'm finishing up is the outline to Water/Stone/Light.  I was playing around with it last night and one of the characters just leapt to life for me.  I don't like his current name (Kontror -- and I keep typing it as Kontrol and getting all kinds of Get Smart images . . . that won't work.), so I'll be digging out the Character Name Sourcebook (this must be a new version -- different cover, slightly different title) and seeing what I can come up with.

I am also starting to work up a list of things to release next year.  This is really difficult.   Just glancing over what I have available and I've come up with 17 things:

1.      Xenantion: Draw the Line (SF)

An ancient and abandoned alien space station -- dubbed Xeno Station, and then Xenation -- brings humans and other species to learn its secrets, and draws Rafael into a dangerous link with something still there.

2.      Paid in Gold and Blood (Fantasy)

A man trying to escape his past travels to a new country, only to discover his patron Goddess has sent him to solve a murder and end the wrath of a dangerous, vengeful ghost that has now focused on him.

3.      Mirrors (Urban Fantasy)

Skye is half human and half fae, and neither male nor female.  He works as a small time detective, and stays clear of the fae who don't trust him -- until his human cousin drags him into a mystery involving the fae and a woman abducted just before her wedding.

4.      The Servant Girl (Fantasy)

Eliza had spent almost her entire life in the shadow of the Princess, serving and protecting her with secret magic, but when an invasion separates them, she must learn to be more than just the servant girl.

5.      Devlin's Team 1: Welcome to Forest (SF)

Devlin is a top Inner Worlds Security agent, and she had not expected the kind of trouble she faced on the backward, technophobic world of Forest.

6.      Beware the Wrath of Bunny Hopper (Urban Fantasy)

Bunny Hopper thought her life was odd enough, but then she leapt into help her brother in a fight . . . and found he wasn't fighting humans.

7.      Autumn Storm (Urban Fantasy)

In the sequel to Summer Storm, it's only a few days before Halloween and Summerfield once again finds himself caught up in dangerous fae trouble, right along with the bad weather they draw.

8.      Vita's Vengeance (SF)

Alsandor Vita is the spoiled, dissolute younger brother of Madame President Elisa Vita Daren of Kai, but when war comes to his world, he's given a chance to become someone else and help in ways he never could before.

9.      Badlands (SF)

Carmen del Santo Palo has lead the Calles for too many years, helping them survive on the dangerous world of Caliente and now she faces the biggest danger of all in the form of a drought and a pending war over the water rights.

10.  Rat Pirates (SF)

When the Lindy (from Vita's Vengeance) ask the Inner Worlds Council for their own port, they meet Lt. Commander Palman, who has come to ask help for the devastated Caliente (Badlands) -- creating a bond that is more dangerous than people at first realize.

11.  Glory (Urban Fantasy)

In a post-apocalyptic future, Gloryanna Del Mar has a secret that draws her back to the small town where her husband died -- and where she, as the avatar of the Goddess Isis, must set to right a problem that has been growing for years.

12.  Journey to Winter (Fantasy)

Prince Nishanon is kidnapped from his desert home and taken to the far northern court, where he must survive in a place of miserable cold, dangerous magic, and people he cannot truly trust.

13.  In the Service of the Queen (Fantasy)

Two young men come to apply for the post of the Voice of the Queen, the court poet, and find themselves caught up in a murder mystery and an impending invasion that could destroy the empire.

14.  Written in the Sand (Fantasy)

Gareth was a guard doing his duty when an attack destroyed the rest of the guards and he must make his escape with the dangerous desert tribe while protecting their holy relic and learning about the dangerous return of the gods.

15.  News from the Front (SF)

The last place Alyn Naevon wanted to go as a reporter was to his home world, where he had been a different person and caught up in the same battles he tried to escape several years before.

16.  Living in Caine's Hold (SF)

Cristos Hellena is the son of one of the most powerful men on Caine's Hold, but when his father unexpectedly dies and his older brother takes over the cartel, Cristos takes a dangerous path to escape his own 'unexpected' death as well.

17.  Singer & St. Jude: The Lost Cause (SF)

In the near future, after catastrophic quakes have all but ruined the west coast, Elias Singer and Nicolas St. Jude are teamed together on the police force, taking on a case that no one else is going to touch -- or help them with.

I'm not even certain how to decide which to do first at this point.  Or if there isn't something else I should be looking at instead.  And I have not even glanced at anything but novels.  I should be doing more novellas and maybe a few short pieces, too.

This is the backside of being prolific.  It can sometimes paralyze you just with the amount of choices available when it comes to Indi publishing or even when it came to submissions.  Even though I love editing and rewrites, by the end it's still easy to say 'oh, I'll think about this later' and go on to something new.

I've done well for getting things out in 2011.   I intend to do better in 2012.

Plus, of course, there will be lots of new things to write.

I hope the cycle never ends, even when it does lead to occasional frustation.

In other news:

We have snow.  Lots of snow.  I don't know how many inches we'll end up with becasue it is still snowing and has been all day.  In fact, it's snowing harder now.  There isn't more than 2 inches on the ground, but I expect to see more add up.  Still, I don't think we'll hav ethe 7 to 10 inches they feared.  I do not have to shovel the snow this year.  It nearly killed me last year (had those kinds of reactions where they say stop if this happens), so I am quite happy just to sit in here and watch.

We did have a power outage and the heaters kicked off for about four hours.  House was VERY cold when I got up.  Cats were not thrilled.  I wasn't all that happy, either.  So I turned them back on and crawled back into bed for about three hours.  Temp was up 15 degrees by then, so that was good. We're still sitting at about 57f (13c) in the main room I keep heated, so that's not too bad.  The rest of the house I don't want to know about.

I suspect we will have snow on the ground from now until March, but I could be wrong.  We've had annoying late December warm ups that melt all the snow just before Christmas -- annoying because you've put up with it that long so you might as well have a white Christmas out of it.  Also, a lot of snow-related toys around here, so it helps to have the snow on the ground when the kids (young and old) get them.

And now it's time to get back to writing!