Friday, December 27, 2013

December Reading Blitz

With NaNo over and my brain fried from the even busier than the usual work rush before Christmas, I've decided to get some reading done. I need a little escape from reality.

Unfortunately, I stumbled upon some book crack while sifting through book donations and totally checked out of the real world for a little while. You have to appreciate a writer who can torture her men so well. I really enjoy the fact that there is an overarching plotline that pulls all the books together rather than just featuring romance stories from a shared world. Here's what I read in seven days:
Dance with the Devil by Sherrilyn Kenyon
Night Embrace by Sherrilyn Kenyon
Night Pleasures by Sherrilyn Kenyon
Acheron by Sherrilyn Kenyon

And then I came up for some air and got some work, holiday shopping and decorating done and remembered to get some full nights of sleep.

My daughter handed me a YA book from her school bookclub that she really liked. I have to say that it's interesting fiction set in the 1860s based on some actual caged graves that the author ran across. The story kept me turning the pages at a rapid pace.
The Caged Graves by Dianne K Salerni

My Mother-in-Law passed The Town That Forgot How To Breathe by Kenneth J. Harvey to me. She said it was "very weird". I have to second this statement. It is has a very Lovecraftian feel. While the first third moved rather slowly as we are introduced to all the pov characters, it gets rolling in the middle and entered the can't-put-it-down stage in the last third. Set in Canada, we get to visit a small town afflicted with a mysterious illness and some of the characters have really trippy scenes which described vivid detail. Of all the horrific images that are so graphically described (drowned bodies, decaying bodies, living dead bodies, psychotic wishes to murder people in great detail), I admit, the one that really grossed me out, was of a little girl picking her nose. Just euw.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

To Be Published: Taking a Breather

It happens that this one weekend I hadn't been stalking my inbox and that's when an acceptance arrives. Maybe this means I should take a break from stalking more often. Easier said that done.

Taking A Breather will be published in an upcoming issue of STUPEFYING STORIES. While I like all of my stories, this one was a favorite so I'm so happy it found a home.

And now it's back to cleaning up the house after a weekend of purging a kid's messy room and putting up the Christmas tree. At least I'll be smiling while cleaning.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Nano 2013 Progress - Wrap up

After reaching 40K NaNo seems like a downhill run. Writing 2 to 3K a day wasn't a problem. I reached 50K of new words on the 29th. After so many months of not having time to write, that felt really good!

The middle of this novel that had given me fits so many years ago just fell into place. It came in at 71,000 words - only 22K of which were written this November. The story still needs a few scenes and a good deal of cleaning up. Not to mention some seaming between the point I ran full force into last night and the ending I'd put in the there the first time around. The points meet up, but, yeah, need a little smoothing out.

I'm happy with the novel and the plot bits that I managed to pull together in my flurry of words. It's a simple story, which perhaps made it fun to write because it was so different than the last three novels I've wrapped up. This is one girls journey. The subplots are minimal. I'd like to get closer to 80k during the edits and polishing but we'll see where the story leads me when I get that far. I'm excited to finally introduce Sahmara to my crit group. Eventually. At least she's a lot closer than she's been for eight years.

There's a special feeling to finishing NaNo, but an even more special one to actually producing a completed story. Even if that story wasn't all written in one lump.

As to my first half of the month, Into the Blue could still work. It needs some time to percolate. Maybe even an outline so I can locate the ending and go there.

It's stalled out at the point that I've come to call "eating crackers" aka: stagnant. It's when my brain is overloaded with outside crap that eats up all my creative thoughts and turns them into drooling mush. I know what I want to write, but the words and flow just aren't there. And so, just like in last year's Jackson, my characters spend momental amounts of pages doing something trivial (which in that case was eating crackers) in the hopes that a brilliant flash of creativity will strike and the story will lurch back on track.

No flashes. Story go splat.

But all is not lost. As I learned this year, some stories just need time to work themselves out. Lots and lots of time.

Good luck to everyone still madly racing toward 50K today.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Nano 2013 Progress - Week 2 and 3

Day 13 - Work, mom taxi duties, meeting dry wall contractor, and family time = no time for writing.

Day 14 - So tired. Managed 1000 words before eyes demaned to stay closed. Word coutt: 19,004

Day 15 - Online write-in. Thank goodness. Word Count: 22,086

Day 16 - I planned to have most of the day to write. Bwhaahahah. Plan flew out the window. House stuff and work took over my day. Word Count: 23,070

Day 17 - Okay today I'm really going to buckle down and pump out the words. Oh but we have more paperwork to fill out for the house? And then focus flew out the window and it took me three freakin hours of slaming my head on the keyboard to get my daily word goal? Blarg! Word Count 24,746

Day 18 - Well the weekend sucked for writing and the story was like pulling teeth. I was more excited by the prospect of cleaning toilets than writing more of it. Stress level on other fronts is at an all time high. As much as I like this story, I need to give myself a break somewhere. This is where. I can go back to it when my percolator is again functioning correctly. Instead, I wrote a short story and then switched to working on my first NaNo Novel that I've always wanted to get back to finishing. Total new words for the month: 27,309

Day 19 - 26 - Life was too busy to even get in here to document progress. In summary:
I enjoyed my last weekly write-in not so much for the writing (of which I didn't get much done at all) but for the human interaction beyond work and house. I laughed, I laughed so hard I cried, ah, I so needed that.

I think I just might finally finish Sahmara's Sunset (my first NaNo Novel from 2006). I tried to dig into it a couple years ago and had most of the rewriting done up to chapter 5, but it had a gaping lack of a middle that intimidated me beyond words. Surprise! The middle is flowing this year. I guess some things just take time and my percolator was in for the long haul on this one.

The best NaNo decision was to switch novels. Words are flowing without the gnashing of teeth or bruising of my forehead. I'm actually enjoying what I'm writing. That's a huge step above last year and the first half of the month this year.

We're finally supposed to close on our our construction loan next week. OMG, what a long and stressful process. Also next week, a possible closing on the sale of our current house.

Writing has happened despite life also happening at a rapid pace. Current word count: 44,176. Reaching 50k looks to be on my plate after all. Maybe right next to some leftover turkey on friday. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

NaNo 2013 Progress - Week 1

Day 4: Wrote a couple hundred words in the morning and didn't get a chance again until spewing out almost 2k at last night's write-in. WooHoo! Still behind though. However, that's pretty usual for me.

Day 5: Planned on writing in the morning as night is going to be busy. My plan was derailed with signing a contract for a short, receiving a rejection on another and then submitting it to another magazine on my list, and answering/reading regional forum posts. Darn you derailing writing related activites! At the end of the workday, I had to run to our Sunday write-in venue to sign contracts and get a key, then it was off to the used book store to drop off donations from Kickoff...and then to the store to buy supplies for the write-in and donations for the venue. Family stuff ate up my night. Ending wordcount:7282

Day 6: The bank's underwriters took hours of my day with all their extraneous needed details. I did manage to stop and get extra chairs for the weekend write-in and then got them and all the stuff that had slowly filled the back of my car loaded into the big van that will be transporting everything to the write-in. Then there was lots of work, dinner, followed immediately with a meeting with our builder. Then family time. Oh hey, there was finally forty minutes for writing. Go! Word count: 8003

Day 7: Got a couple hundred words in in the morning, then it was off to prepare bidding sheets for our silent auction this weekend. And, of course, work, and email subcontractors for our house. Had dinner with the electric contractor and then managed to get some words in. Word Count 9332

Day 8: Wrote a bunch of words. Worked a lot. Got bad news about our builder from our bank. Swore a lot. Word count 11,328

Day 9: Met with new builder. Got the unmarked creeper van loaded for the write-in tomorrow. I sure hope I come home with a lot less stuff. That van is backed. And its a big cargo van! Wrote a lot of words in the hopes of eventually catching up. Word count:  13,681

Day 10: Big write in day! Woke up at 4am and started thinking about all of our house drama. To sum up: Because we're within 500 feet of a county drain, we were notified we have to file a bunch of extra paperwork and pay more money for permits. This lead to discovering that the majority of our land is actually wetland. Thankfully this is not the area we'd planned to build, but we still have to pay another fee and file a bunch more paperwork because where we intend to build is right next to the wetland. ARG.

Left at 9:30 am for the write-in got set up, wrote about 2k, ate lots, had fun, and cleaned up. Got done at 6pm and then spent the rest of the night with family.

Day 11: Weekly write-in night. Had a busy day, but managed to get words in at the write in. Ending word count: 18,010

Day 12: Work, running around with kids, and then a lovely evening migraine. Word Count: 18,328

Monday, November 4, 2013

Progress Report: NaNo 2013 - First Days

Due to a total fail on my part, progress is slower than I expected. Two fails, really.

Fail #1: Ambitious plan to submit a short for critique the week before NaNo, secure in the knowledge that my NaNo project was suitably prepared after locating my file titled: Into the Blue Notes. This plan would have been successful if not for the meddling new house project that ate up a ton of my time that I had planned to be revising the short after receiving critiques. Revisions didn't mostly wrap up until the afternoon of November 1. There's still the middle section that needs work, but I'm mulling over suggestions on that yet.

Fail #2:  That Notes file that I assumed contained the character and chapter information that I usually compile as I write...yeah, not so much. It contained the two articles I'd used for inspiration, but nothing else. *headdesk* So the rest of November 1 was spent compiling those necessary notes. I ended the first day with a big word count of 37.

Day two sat at 387 words for a long time due to the fact that I was still editing my way through the notes compellation part of the project. I added...I tooketh away. Evening saw a major rush of progress as one of my lovely wrimos, who was also lacking in words, challenged me to word wars until we were both on track

Day three brought our regional Kickoff Party. Lots of loading the card, driving, set up, hosting, posting pictures, counting donations and putting everything away, along with prepping next Sunday's supplies for the next event and then spending time with family to make up for being gone all afternoon, meant I didn't get much writing in. Ending word count 4117

Friday, October 11, 2013

2013 NaNo Project

November is fast approaching and I'm buried in work and house planning. In light these facts, I've decided to give myself a chance of getting to 50k by continuing a story I started months ago. Into the Blue was intended to be a novelette, but at 20K, I still had a lot of story to tell. Someday I'll master that novelette word limit. Just not today, or next month.

Into the Blue is the story of Dalmont Tibido, a sixteen year old boy who wakes from incubation in a deep space traveling ship to learn the AI has chosen him as the commander of their mission. Given that he has an entire crew of well-trained youth just like him eager to colonize the planet their ancestors have chosen for them, plenty of supplies and an AI to guide them in all things, what could go wrong?

Oh, pretty much everything.

Hence why 20K just wasn't near enough.

This is why I'm so happy that I made myself write notes about all those additional bad things I hadn't gotten to yet. It will make November just a little easier. Assuming I can make time to write, that is.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Getting Crafty: More Book Pages

NaNoWriMo is fast approaching and while I ready regional emails, event locations and details, and the pile of prizes I've stockpiled over the past year, a few more projects begged to be created. Who am I to say no? Okay, I probably should have said no rather than staying up late to make time to do them, but who needs sleep? Yeah, I know. I do. I also need to create something once in a while or I become a very unpleasant person, so I guess that's important too.

One night I made flowers from book pages. Henry the Eighth to be specific. The poor book had lost most of its binding. After doing a little origami, the first chapter makes a nice bouquet.


This project took a couple nights, but I ended up with three of them - sort of by accident. I was mindlessly making page cones when I realized that what I'd thought was enough to make a full flower wasn't. Well, not exactly. They were all the same size cones. It made for a nice stack-o-cones, but it didn't have the flower effect I was going for. Rather than throw them away, I made lots of the other sized cones I needed and ended up with three complete flowers.
It's hard to tell here, but they are fifteen inches across. It's a big flower! I only managed to burn myself once on my old malfuntioning glue gun. I new one might be in order soon.

In other news, a veggie picking expodition into my garden, yieled a black swallowtail caterpillar which is now happly muching carrot leaves in a vase on my kitchen windowsill. It's nearly doubled in size in the past three days. Very hungry caterpillar, indeed!
While clearing trees over at our property, my husband brought home a friend for my daugher. A brown snake. I am not a fan of snakes. At all. Yet, she was very excited about it and am I going to say no? Yes, except that it's a very small snake and it's now behind glass on my kitchen counter, where I can see it and know it's behind glass. Knowing is half the battle, right? 
I won't be holding the snake any time soon. Or ever. But I was nice and found worms for it. Worms don't bother me. A tad ironic, I know.
And so, with two new animal charges to watch over, it's time to ponder what I'm going to attempt to work on this November.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Juggling, Folding, and Hauling

I'm happy to say that one of the short stories in my juggling routine has found a home. A Little Thing Like Death will be in an upcoming issue of Isotropic Fiction. In the midst of all the non-writerly stuff taking over my waking hours, it feels good to know that productive things are still happening on that front.

This is what my weekends look like.

I did manage to find a couple hours to pound out some book page crafts after a long day of branch and log hauling last weekend.

Did you know that you can turn a tattered paperback into an ornament?
Outdated financial and internet books can become artwork for your walls.
Getting up two hours early on the weekend and ten minutes here and there throughout the day allowed me to draft seven NaNo preparation emails for my region. They will be appearing here as well in the upcoming weeks if you're interested in joining the November novel writing frenzy. I guess that also proves that I can find time to write as long if I don't sleep much. However, I'm not sure how many days I can do that in a row. This is the first November that I'm seriously doubting my ability to reach 50K in a month AND get everything done that I need to do every day. Time will tell.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Stuff and Things

Life is still hectic, but I wanted to check in to prove I'm still alive--for my sake as much as yours. I'd hoped to have a good news post here, but that's taking a little longer than expected so I'll get to that another day.

Life in writing land looks like email submissions instead of characters and plots. That's not all bad, at least I feel like I'm doing something with what I did have time to write.

House plans are back from the designer and pricing has commenced. We met with a General Contractor who is willing to let us do a lot of the work so we can cut costs. It's now a matter of time for us to get the pricing package together as we can for him to finish up and then go to the bank for money. Clearing the land is progressing at a weekend at a time pace. My poison ivy has mostly cleared up. Yay, for that!

NaNoWriMo planning is in full swing, at least as far as my ML duties go. I don't know where I'm going to find time to write this November, especially if we're mid-house, but at least my local writers will have their regional events, weekly write-ins and lots of prizes.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Waiting

Insert house here. If only it were that easy.
Sounds like a gripping suspense novel, doesn't it? Sadly, it's my life right now. Waiting to receive any good news on submissions. Waiting for what was more likely going to be rejections on submissions. Waiting to get elevations on our house plans from the architect. Waiting to get quotes to see if this house is even feasible with our budget
...after we finally get the elevations.

I got sick of waiting over the weekend and spent most of it over at the property, clearing out stumps and dead shrubs. This involved a lot of walking back and forth from the wood pile to where I was working, using the claw end of a hammer as a pick axe and lots of swinging of the machete. Now I'm waiting for my muscles to stop aching and the itch to stop from the poison ivy I encountered.

While I'm doing all this waiting, I decided last night, at around 9pm, to do some book page folding. It's a new crafty thing for me. There are boxes of books in my garage that the resale shop didn't want. They're just waiting for me to having another garage sale before eventually becoming a charitable donation.

Now I'm waiting for this work day to be over so I can get back to some folding fun.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Thoughts on rejection

Yes, I'm still alive. I'm not writing. I'm not even editing. I'm working. Lots. And submitting, so hey, at least there is that. With two novels and six shorts bouncing around, I've been gathering a sizable rejection collection.

In general, the size of my collection doesn't get me down. I have only to look at my submission spreadsheet to see that rejection after rejection after rejection does sometimes end up with a big, cheery SOLD. Yes, it's in all caps in my file. I need them to stand out and remind me that there are happy endings. Okay, probably not for many of my characters, but for my writing.

The fun...should I really consider it fun? Probably not, so we'll put that in air quotes, shall we? The "fun" part is the rejection of short stories, many of which make the rounds to the same magazines over time.

A few things I've discovered:

I'm probably not alone in taking some small comfort in hearing, "I'm glad to have read your story, but it wasn't a good fit for us." At least they were happy to have read it, right? It wasn't torture. Hooray for that. Except multiple submissions have revealed this is a form rejection. Goodbye small comfort.

There really are awesome magazine editors out there that offer feedback. I haven't hit upon many of them, and they all specify not to email them back to thank them, so I'll say it here: Thank you! While it doesn't light up my day like an acceptance, at least I have some pointers on how to hopefully, eventually get one.

There is one story that I really like that no one seems to get. Why can no one see my brilliance? Come on. people! Yeah, yeah, fine, it might be time to set that one aside for now.

One day rejections are far less annoying that two month long rejections. If the story isn't right for you, yes, thank you, I'd love to move on as soon as possible. All these no simultaneous submission markets are killing me.

The rejection updates on The Grinder help us all remember that we're not alone. Most of us are getting rejections. And then there's that game we like to play / torture ourselves with: That market I submitted to has eight reported rejections today and I haven't received my response yet. Maybe they're considering my story. They must be, right? Aaaand, there's the rejection email. Never mind.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Well that was interesting

I was standing on my driveway, painting a screen door we'd recently purchased, when I overheard the commment, "She looks skinny enough."

Now, I had no idea what to make of this when I glanced way from my Sunday afternoon project and spotted the neighbor's house sitter tentatively creeping down my long driveway. My first thought was that I hadn't considered myself skinny for a good fifteen years, so I was rather nice to hear. Then I realized it was kind of all a matter of persepective. She was far less "skinny". The woman still standing in the neighbor's driveway across the street was of the same build.

Our lovely neighbors, you know the sort, the ones that leave their trash can at the roadside for half a week, their Christmas wreath up on their front door for years on end, and who only mow when the weeds are done flowering in the front yard...uh huh, those ones, well, they had been gone all week. I was rather enjoying this fact, except that the garbage can had been out all week and there was no hope that the weed field would be mowed down, and the wreath, well I was used to hating it by now. At least their loud pickup truck was only heard a couple times a day when the house sitter showed up to care for whatever she was caring for. I hoped it was their three dogs that I'd not heard or seen in quite some time.

House sitter lady crept closer and shouted, "Could you help me?"

I set down my paintbrush and went to see what this was all about.

"My key doesn't seem to be working. I think I did something to the lock when I was here earlier," she says through panting. Sweat beads run down her face. She's standing next to me now, pointing at the house across the street. "I got a window open, but I can't get in."

Well that explains the skinny comment.

"I got stuck," she whispers. "I took me a while to get myself out. I need to get in and don't know what else to do."

Telling a complete stranger that you managed to wedge yourself in a window has to be a sign of her desperation. She's got their truck and I've seen there there several times all week so I'm pretty sure she's legit. There must be a pretty serious reason why she needs to get inside, like three dogs bursting at the bladder.

"Sure. Which window is open?"

"It's on the side. I have a ladder all set up."

It's a single storey house. Does one really need a ladder?

Then I see the window, it's small. We're talking an eighteen inch by two foot opening. No wonder she got stuck. And it's no wonder she needed a ladder. It's either going to take a front dive through the space or a contortionist wriggle to get inside.

I get up couple steps and peer through the opening. There are no dogs, only a typical messy kid's room complete with piles of toys and scattered laundry. And it stinks like a confined space with too many pets.

With one leg through and the woman babbling her thanks beside the ladder, I take a deep breath and wiggle the rest of my body in. Thank goodness for the stack of photo albums on the floor that served as a step or I would have ended up on my face.

"Can you open the front door?"

"No problem." Having prior knowledge of the house from the charming and neat previous owners, I make my way through the house to the front door. On my way down the hall, also littered with toys and laundry, I get to the kitchen to find a large aquarium with a snake in it. I nearly trip over more clothing before I get to the front door. There's no one there. Wouldn't the front door be the logical one to be waiting at? Alas, no, the house sitter and her daughter are knocking on the back door. I fight my way over the mountains of dirty laundry in the space I can only describe as the-place-where-they-throw-all-their-stuff-that-also-contains-a-washer-and-dryer to the back door and let the knockers in.

"Oh thank you!" They both plow inside. "We'll be sure to tell them how kind you were to help us."

There is no sign of the dogs. Maybe they got rid of them? Maybe their buried out back? There the definite odor of small furry creatures in cedar bedding wafting from somewhere and it's making my eyes water. I make my way back to the kitchen. Dirty dishes are piled all over the counters. I am by no means a fastidious person, but whole place makes me shudder and grit my teeth. I consider asking this outside source about the dogs, but I don't want to breathe in any more of this stench than I have to and the more I stop of focus on the mess the more my skin starts to crawl.

Will the neighbors be thrilled to know I helped them out, or will they be mortified I saw the inside of their house? Then again, judging by the state of the exterior of the house, they probably don't care. We're not on the neighborly chat level with these people so I'll probably never know, and that's okay.

Anxious to get back outside into fresh air, I remind them to lock the window and close the doors before they leave. I escape through the tall grass, spotted with yellow hawkweed flowers. By the time I get to the empty garbage can at the end of the driveway, I come to a full stop. Why, oh why, hadn't I taken down that damned Christmas wreath while I had the chance?

Monday, July 1, 2013

Short vs. Long

Short stories or novels? Both, please.

Novels give me the opportunity to sink into a whole new world (even if it's this one), to live life through someone else's eyes and to know everything about them. I get to let the character lose in a world, through obstacles at them, give them subplots and secondary characters, to watch them grow and learn and adapt. Apparently, I get to like them so much that I'm mostly inclined to grant them a happy ending.

Shorts give me the chance to walk a bit more twisted path. I get to focus on one big scene, one character, one big obstacle. I can tell the story in ways I'd not typically use for a novel, experiment, and try new genres or methods without a big time investment. The challenge is to pack a lot of bang into far fewer words, without the sinking into the world, without the getting comfortable with the character, without meandering through the plot idea to wait for it to really get rolling. Shorts really help me focus on the story itself, and that in turn gives me better focus when I'm working on novels.

Writing shorts helped ease me into the idea of writing shorter novels. I'd always been a long involved novel kinda girl until the short story bug bit me. They gave me the freedom to admit that I only had to write the story that needed to be written without having to complicate things with additional subplots and characters. I like to write complicated. I still do if the story needs it. But I don't need to every time. Sometimes a beautiful story is a simple one.

One of these days I'd like to venture into the novella zone. That's one length I've not tried yet. Who knows what I'll learn there?

What about you? Short or long?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

In This Corner: The Juggler

My juggling act is in high gear after May's short stories joined in. At least I feel like I'm accomplishing something writing related while the rest of my life spirals into long days of work and a new major time sucker: we may finally be building our dream house.

After six long feeling-like-we're-throwing-money-into-a-black-sucking-pit-of-disappointment, (aka: our land payments and extra property taxes) the stars aligned and we found a buyer for our current house that will let us live in it while we build our new house so we can maintain our home business until the new location is finished. Now the "fun" of meshing our dreams with the available funds is in full swing. While that's all going on behind the scenes--or in front, depending on where you're standing--I'm busy submitting stories.

Two novels are in submission along with eight shorts. At least with multiple balls in the air, when one falls, there's still optimism for the rest. It makes it easier to pick that one up and get it back in the air. It's definitely less painful than hinging all hope on one project at a time.

The Grinder has been great fun, as much as researching markets and sending your babies into the fray can be such a thing. I particularly love the feature that appears immediately after entering a rejection update: Find a new home for this story. It grabs your hand, hands you a tissue, and points you back toward the action. Get back in there!

One of these days I need to update my writing page with the new additions. Until then, here's the list:
The Boy
A Little Thing Like Death
Sunset Cruise
Taking A Breather

Speaking of which, I have a ball to pick up.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

This is the end

After my last post, I got curious about how I really do end my short stories. Killing people comes to mind, but is that true? How do I actually end my stories? Let me count the ways:

May story 1: sad
May story 2: happy
May story 3: killed MC
May story 4: happy
May story 5: killed MC
May story 6: killed MC
May story 7: killed MC

Hmmm, *wipes fictional blood from hands* let's try my published short stories. (in no particular order)

Story 1: killed MC
Story 2: killed MC
Story 3: killed MC
Story 4: happy

Darn. Umm. Let's not go into the attic okay? And those fresh dirt piles in the yard? Gardening. I swear. So, how does this compare to novels? (in no particular order)

Novel 1: happy
Novel 2: happy
Novel 3: killed MC
Novel 4: happy
Novel 5: happy
Novel 6: happy

Whew. That's not so bad.

And, my dear characters, what did we learn here?
1. You want to be in a novel rather than a short.
2. If I don't kill you, the odds of living happily ever after are pretty damn good.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Putting on my writing shorts

After this focus on short story month, I thought I share my process on the difference between pounding out 2K of promising story and 200 words of suck.

There are couple factors at play with each story:

The Idea - The spark, the thought, the lightbulb that illuminates it all. This is the thing that breathes life into the story. Sometimes this is just an idea that pops into my head, a simple line or two of dialogue, an interstesting situation, a quick character sketch. Othertimes a prompt will light my creative fires. I have the most productive ideas from prompts, especially during May, when I attempt to get out my short story urges for the year. Thankfully for A Story A Day In May, prompts are supplied each day by email. Sometimes those caught my interest, some days they didn't. Short story markets will sometimes have a themes or first line prompts. Then there's the file of ideas I jot down when the mood strikes but time doesn't allow for writing.

The Conflict - The thing that makes this all interesting. While a novel can have lots of main characters and conflicts and resolutions, a short usually only has one of each of these. This requires a bit more planning so words aren't wasted and the story stays on track. Yes, novels need that too, but a short can't afford to wander off on subplots and characters can't take their time to find out who they really are. There's no big plot breakthrough in chapter twelve that pulls everything together. Identifying the thing that makes the story tick from the get go is important. If all you've got is an interesting character there's not much to write about.

The Ending - Be it happy, twisted, or killing everyone, we need resolution. I've noticed I'm more inclined to kill people than have things end happily. I'm sure that says something about me, but we'll save that analysis for another time. It's great to have an idea and a conflict, but if you write yourself into a corner or a plot so twisted that the resolution can't be found, the story goes splat.

These are the big three that I have to have a grasp of before I can embark on a short story. At the beginning of last month I seemed to have my thoughts in order. However, as the month progressed, life intruded, thoughts scattered, and I'd get one or two of these things down, but the rest just didn't fall into place. Over the years I've come to know when something is going to (probably) work, be it a novel or a short. Sometimes I have to push through some rough patches but it works out, other times I'm just spinning my wheels and I need to walk away. I wish I could put my finger on that deciding factor, but it's just a gut feeling learned by writing lots of different stories of lots of different lengths.

Monday, June 3, 2013

It's Q & A time

Thanks to the lovely Sidonie Helena for nominating me for the Liebster Award. We connected a couple months ago during the April A to Z challenge. Whew, that was a busy month! So was May, but now that short story month over, I finally have a chance to graciously accept my shiny award and join the fun.

What fun you say? Well, it seems that this reward entails me stating 11 facts about myself. Let's start there.

1. I haven't had a chance to color my hair in months. It's currently a rainbow of brown, blond and faded magenta.
2. Notice how I didn't call it pink? No sir, I'm not a fan of pink.
3. Spring and Fall are my favorite seasons. I love how they smell.
4. I used to be really good at sleeping. I miss that.
5. I write exclusively in MS word.
6. I've reached a place in life where I realize more stuff is just more stuff I have to clean, display, store, and move around. Less stuff is good.
7. I have two new dime-sized angel fish. (Two large palm-sized ones recently died and I missed them.)
8. A Jack Russel mix named Toby keeps me company during the day.
9. When not talking to my discarded characters, I resort to talking to myself. Working at home alone has its privileges.
10. My favorite flower is the Iris.
11. My wardrobe is mostly gray. It used to be mostly black. I'm fashionably fading.

Now I must answer 11 questions posed by Sidonie.

1.What is one thing that you can not live without?
Gum. Specifically Trident bubblegum, though I also like cinnamon and mint.

2.What was your least favorite subject in school?
Math. We have calculators for a reason.

3.Do you prefer talking over the phone or face to face?
Phone. Though, even better, email. Unless we're really chatty, then the phone is easier.

4.What is the last dream that you remember?
I'd have to have a good night of sleep to actually answer that one. Most of the time I'm dreaming about working.

5.Who is the most famous person you have met?
The only person I've actively sought out was Jacqueline Carey at a local book signing. She was very tolerant of our small gang of giddy fans asking writerly questions.

6.Where did you grow up?
Same place I live now, except about four minutes away. I'm comfortable here.

7.If you could live anywhere on earth, where would you live?
About five minutes from here on the property I've been paying on for six years. Did I mention I'm comfortable here?

8.What was the last thing you bought?
Oranges for the red-bellied woodpeckers and orioles

9.Your favorite film is...?
The Princess Bride.

10.Apple or PC?

11.Do you even like questionnaires? 
Sure. They are much easier to answer than to come up with my own questions and answers.

At this point, I'm supposed to nominate 11 other bloggers. But you know I don't play by the rules. Mwahahaa! I mass nominate all of you! If you're interested, here are your questions:

1. What is your favorite color of socks?
2. What is your current creative project?
3. Dogs or Cats?
4. Beer or Wine?
5. Where is your favorite place to relax?
6. What is the last book you read?
7. What was the last show you watched on TV?
8. Where is your favorite place to walk barefoot?
9. What is your favorite flower?
10. What is the last movie you saw in a theatre?
11. Are you a fan of organization or chaos?

Now go forth and answer.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

What to do with all these new short stories?

AKA: How easily distracted I am (in a productive way this one time)

Not even quite halfway through short story month (May) I received a rejection on a short currently featured in my juggling routine. This led to some brief mourning the loss of Duotrope as a free site, and a resigned sigh as I referred to my own market spreadsheet hurriedly gathered in my final days on Duotrope.

This then led clicking on a link for a market to which I'd never submitted. There, a listing of tracking sites on which they were featured on caught my attention. So I clicked through to find a new site very similar to Duotrope. And there was great rejoicing.  The Submission Grinder has all the features I've been missing since January. I'm excited about submitting shorts again!

There's a joke about shipping my shorts in here somewhere but my brain is too fried to formulate it.

If you're a short story writer and are also reluctant to spend the few bucks you happen to make on a short story sale on a couple months of Duotrope membership, I highly recommend The Submission Grinder. They also have listings for novels and everything in between. Go on, check it out. It's free.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Writing Hard(ly) in May pt 5

Day 23: Using the idea I got over the weeked, I was off to a good start first thing in the morning. Then, 450 words in, I realized that my awesome idea wouldn't work in the pov of the person undergoing the physical change I'd implimented. It's hard to be the pov character when you're unconscious for a couple weeks while the interesting stuff is happening. So I had the idea to switch the pov to a new character observing the change. Just over 660 words in I was staring at a page of "meh". The light had gone out. Story fail.

Day 24: I still like the seed I had started with yesterday but it needs a new pot to grow in. Using a secondary prompt, I'm giving it a second go. Blarg 200 words in and this isn't working either.

Day 25: Gave up on the not-so-awesome idea. Tried something completely different. That didn't work either.

I think I've reached the point in the month were my brain is too focused everything else I have going on. When I sit down to write, I play out the story in my head enough to find out that: a) there's not enough conflict b) there's no spark of life in it, or c) nothing really interesting is happening. At any of those points, my fingers freeze on the keys and I realize I'm wasting my time that I don't really have to write as it is and I should just stop for the day so I can get done what I really need to get done.

Not that I'm giving up entirely, but unless something really grabs me, I'm going to focus on getting done what needs to be done so I don't have to be up working until 10pm.

I've ended up with what I think are a handful of fairly good stories and two full revisions that will allow me to get a couple more submissions into my juggling act soon. Yay for that!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Writing Hard(ly) in May pt 4

May is short story month for me for those of you just tuning in. In an effort to keep myself motivated, I'm reporting my daily progress.

Day 17: Was out on installation work most of the day so I wasn't even near a computer to get words in at lunch. In fact, I didn't even get lunch. Then it was a frenzy of packing and getting on the road with the kids for a Boy Scout family camping trip across the state. Though, I did brainstorm on the ending for yesterday's story.

Day 18: Figured I owed the kids some one on one time and I really needed a break from work so I didn't bring my laptop. There's no urge to check email that way. Of course, that also meant there was no writing. I don't to writing by hand. It's just a mess even I have to struggle to decipher.

Day 19: While watching an imax movie about butterflies with my daughter at the Henry Ford mueseum, I got an idea for my next short story. Spent the three and half our drive home outlining it in my head. Now I just have to find time to actually get it written.

Day 20: Playing a major round of catch up at work. I take a couple days off and work piles up. Boo! No writing. No breathing either. My allergies are awful right now.

Day 21: Okay, this is getting really frustrating. Allergies are better, however work is completely overwhelming and stressful.

Day 22: FINALLY. Thanks to some rain, an afternoon installation got cancelled, allowing me to catch up on some other work...which allowed me to sit down and finish the story from Day 16. It took me nearly until midnight to do it, but coming in at 3k, my character prompt story is done! Hooray!

Current monthly effort summary:
5 new shorts
2 shorts revised

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Writing Hard(ly) in May pt 3

May is short story month for me for those of you just tuning in. In an effort to keep myself motivated, I'm reporting my daily progress.

Day 11: Um. No.

Day 12: Received two rejections on a couple shorts in my juggling routine. Spent some time researching new markets. While on one publication website I found a link to a new submission tracking site. Huge yay! Then I found some new places to send work to and submitted four stories. Oh yeah...writing. Not so much, but least this was the productive kind of distraction.

Day 13: Devolution wraps up at 6,000 words. Just in time, because here are some fun prompts this week that I want to try.

Day 14: A migraine morning. Monitor brightness turned down low. Using the write for a market spec prompt. One new 1,800 word short completed.  Hooray!

Day 15: Migraine still here. Blarg. Character prompt effort today. Got 1,000 words in before work took over.

Current monthly effort summary:
4 new shorts
2 shorts revised
1 new short in progress

Friday, May 10, 2013

Writing Hard(ly) in May pt 2

May is short story month for me for those of you just tuning in. While I'm not doing so well with the whole: write a new short story every day, I have been making some progress. I like progress.

Day 6: Got everyone out the door at 8am. Checked email, saw there was a prompt for the day...and never even got a chance to see what it was. Work took over, allowed me fifteen minutes for lunch, run required errands and finally was done with me at 9:50pm. Loooong day. No writing. :(

Day 7: I didn't sleep well, and after a long day yesterday, decided I deserved a little downtime in the morning. Work would be there in a couple hours. I wrote. My brain, being a bit fried from all the long days lately, suggested today would be a good time to rip into finishing up one of those rewrites I'd been meaning to get to. Mission accomplished. Coming in at 5,400 words, Healer is back in working order.

Day 8: Please refer to the previous long busy days where no writing happened. Though, I did do some thinking about another short that needs some plot redirection, so hey, that's something.

Day 9: Editing and revising of Devolution got underway to the point of deciding where I want to take the story. The original ending got a big "meh" from crit partners so I need to find a new spin on this thing. 2,300 words in and I finally was able to outline where I intend the story to go. This one might take a day or two to reach the end.

Day 10: Added 1000 words to Devolution. It's still needs a lot of words, but I'm still liking it and I can see the ending in my head.

Current monthly effort summary:
3 new shorts
1 short revised
1 short revision in progress

Monday, May 6, 2013

Writing Hard(ly) in May

So yes, May is short story month for me in case you haven't been following along. I'm attempting to follow some the supplied prompts this time, mostly because I only had time to gather a few ideas in my folder before May hit. With this challenge, prompts arrive in my inbox each morning. Gotta love that.

While I won't be sharing the fruits of my labor (they're not ripe yet, trust me), I will share my progress throughout the month.

Here's how week one is shaping up so far:

Day 1: 100 word story. Done during breakfast. Feeling accomplished today.

Day 2: Use a Flicker Photo for a story prompt. I found a picture of a cute little boy. Wheels are turning. 200 words in, work starts to pile up for the day. Then there's picking up kids after school, and a track meet that goes until 7:30pm. Out to dinner. Finish up some work. Oh crap, it's time for bed.

Day 3: Set aside today's prompt in the hopes of finishing up yesterday's. Can't decide on creepy, happy, sweet, horror, fantasy? Where the hell is this thing going? Screw it, get work done. Pick up kid 1, remember I have to create new parade props before next week wednesday. Take prop inventory at school. Go home and deal with customers for three more hours. Pick up kid 2 at 7:30pm. Make dinner. Go to store to by prop materials. Do some Google research for prints I need to make for props tomorrow. GAH! It's 10pm already! By midnight, a 1,500 word story is done. I went for happy and sweet. They can't all be dark or creepy.

Day 4: The weekend strikes. This means my normal morning quiet writing time does not exist. Ponder today's supplied prompt. It doesn't strike me to so I consult my own prompt list. Inspiration hits! Oh, but husband wants to work on the new garden fence right after breakfast. Damn. Okay, work on fence. Kids want to go play laser tag with their cousins. Arg. Spend three hours chatting with my sister while kids play and spend too much money on stupid arcade prize candy. When I return home, the fence project is still waiting, as is the parade prop project. Both those and dinner wrapped up and its almost 10pm. Again. I just start writing and the local festival fireworks begin. My writing room (on the second floor) is invaded so we can all watch the fireworks from the comfort of home (through the trees...almost a mile away, but without bugs, jostling for a good spot and annoying people). 1,100 words in and my eyes were closing.

Day 5: I spent an hour and a half in bed finishing up the short I feel asleep on the night before. It came in just over 2,500 words. I'm happy with this one, though it needs some smoothing out in places, as my mind informed me throughout the day as I was working. I did glance at the day's prompt, but then it was off to work for a couple hours, then the rest of the day went to completing the garden fence project and planting flower seeds. The day ended with yet another late dinner and some well deserved tv time with the husband. At least I got yesterday's story done.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Closing thoughts on the April A to Z Challenge

I've already launched into A Story A Day In May, but thought I'd pause my short story frenzy (aka: extreme headdesking as I try to pull something together in a day with very little time to write), for a little retrospective.

Taking a tour through a smattering of my characters served to light the fires of want. I want to work on these stories and play with these characters again. Some were from published works and some from works in submission right now, but others have been languishing on my hard drive for years. How unfair of me. Of course, they're going to be put off for another month while I bring some new characters into the world, but I do want to get back to them sometime soon before those fires turn back into embers.

In visiting some of my A to Z neighbors, I found some fun new blogs to follow. Yes, they're all writers. Surprise! As much as I tried to expand my horizons...well, I didn't.

A big thank you to those of you who came back day after day with comments. I love comments. They make me get excited to check my email. It's not so exciting to check it when you're generally just waiting for rejections to come in. Not that this prevents me from obsessively checking it. It's just nice to get some positive things in there too. So thank you for that.

What surprised me most was how many people dropped out throughout the month. I moved almost a hundred places on the list. A big cheer to all my blog neighbors who snuck up through the ranks with me. None of the blogs I'd been visiting dropped out. Virtual high fives all around!

The feature I enjoyed most was the category listings on blogs. It made it much easier in my limited time to hunt down blogs that had a possibility of being something I'd find interesting. While I did regularly visit several of my blog neighbors who were not writing oriented, those who reciprocated visits (both neighbors and otherwise) were mostly in the same category. In that regard, I wonder if it would be even more effective for those, like me, who are in specific category to have category lists rather than one giant one with everyone together. I admit that after the first week, (other than returning comments) I skimmed the big list and sought out only those with my category tag. I probably would have visited more of my category if they were all in one easy to access place.

I would like to do the challenge again next year. Obviously I will need a new theme. I can't very well share another twenty-six characters who just happen to have names starting with every letter of the alphabet. It would be intentional this time and that just sucks the fun out of it. Good thing I have a year to come up with something. The ideas are already forming.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

May is short story month

It's May, and that means it's time for my second attempt at A Story A Day in May. This is where I set out with the intention to write a short story every day in May. Which means I should end up with 31 short stories. In theory.

This didn't work out quite so well last year, but I did end up with a handful of stories that I was happy with and have sold, or still have out in submissions. Because of my somewhat sucess, I'm giving it another go.

Will I write 31 short stories? Most likely, no. I will try each day to make something happen. That's the best I can do. If I end up with another handful of stories that work, I'll be happy.

As a back up plan for days when the ideas just aren't coming, I have a couple shorts that need revising. I'll pull those out and make some progress, or at least attempt to. I prefer to call it: Focus on Short Stories Month.

Well that's the plan. Wish me luck. In fact, even better, join me. Go on. Do it.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

April A to Z Characters: Z

Z is for Zephros.

Zephros is a seed wizard from Solitude, a short story published in Tales of the Talisman. He must work the magic that the twenty-five wizards before him were unable to work. He is, as you will know if you read the story, is totally fitting character to end this month of alphabet fun with.

The lives of thousands depend on him doing what others before him were unable to do. Being a savior is a lonely endeavor and he must use all his wits to solve the problem his predecessors have had with the spell or the remnants of humanity will sleep forever.

No one wants a nap that long.

Likes: Fresh air, success, conversations with the food replicator.

Dislikes: Failure, being alone, endless meals of fortified oatmeal.

Thank you to everyone who shared this challenging month with me. It's been a fun ride through characters past and present.

Spending a little time with all of them has got my percolator working hard on fixing stories I haven't giving much thought to since setting them aside. Now if only my cloning machine worked I'd have time work on them all at once.

Monday, April 29, 2013

April A to Z Characters: Y

Y is for Yanis.

Yanis is an army captain from Sahmara's Sunset. In the rough draft he was simply Captain, but he quickly grew on me and earned a name for himself.

Yanis is a noble and honorable man though disheartened and angry at the world. He lost most of his men to an attack on an Altherian held town that went wrong thanks to a traitor. He has been trying to gather enough Revocheki stragglers to make it home ever since. The men ate his beloved horse in order survive, and while he knows he made the necessary choice in that matter, he's never forgiven them or himself. Yanis takes the MC under his protection and does his best to keep her safe from the others help her make it home.

Likes: His father's sword, his horse, and dead Altherians.

Dislikes: Traitors, being stranded in a country swarming with enemies, and live Altherians.

See all the A to Z challenge partcipants here.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

April A to Z Characters: X

X is for Xander.

Xander was once one of the Victims of the Knife, but was recently recycled back into Trust.

He once had a big role as a young man that the MC mentors, but it turned out that angle wasn't necessary for the character's growth so Xander, the conflicted and struggling kid, got whacked.

The Xander that returned has a tiny part, but at least he lives on. He is one of the men that works for Gemmen in the guild that takes from the tech wealthy, repurposes and sells to the highest bidder. Some might quaintly call them space pirates. It certainly cuts down on the long description.

Xander works closely with Gemmen as a trusted guard. In his one scene he pulls a gun on the MC due to his questionable loyalties at the time--the MC's not Xander's. He then stands there, being all threatening until being called off and sent along on his duties.

I meant to get Xander into Chain of Gray as well, but the right situation where he would be required never came up. Alas, Ms. Wildstar lost her fawning boyfriend for the benefit of one little scene. Does Xander regret getting pulled from Victims of the Knife for his bit part?

He says, "Hell no."

Likes: Getting back into a novel, getting to pull a gun on the MC, working for the Pirate Guild again without having to go through all the awkward proving himself that he had to endure in his original role.

Dislikes: His tiny part in the story (Not that he's really complaining. Honest.), not getting to do more than escort the MC into a room and then get ordered out of it. (No really, not complaining.) and not actually getting to fire his gun. (Not that he'd want to kill the MC, that's going a bit far, but would getting to actually kill someone be too much to ask? I mean he never really gets to have any fun. Women don't take him seriously in this role. Did that sound like whining? It wasn't. He's fine with everything. Wouldn't change a word. Nope. It's great.)

See all the A to Z challenge partcipants here.

Friday, April 26, 2013

April A to Z Characters: W

W is for William.

William is from A Broken Race. William is one of many, the leaders of the fortress that holds the best of the survivors of humanity. "Best" being a relative term.

Williams may be impotent, but they compensate by screwing everyone over when it comes to sharing the workload. They give the orders and sit back to watch them carried out. They control the breeding and who eats when. They hold they keys to the fortress and all it's punishments and rewards.

They even hold the say in who lives and who dies, right down to the hour old infants who don't meet their standards. As long as the wildmen don't get inside, the Williams are confident they have everything under control. But even infants can tell a secret. All it takes is someone to find the wrong one.

Likes: A big meal, a comfortable chair, loose clothing

Dislikes: Simples who don't listen, Jacks who learn too much and women who think for themselves.

See all the A to Z challenge partcipants here.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

April A to Z Characters: V

V is for Vayen.

Vayen is the MC in both Trust and Chain of Gray. If you won't tell my other characters, I'll admit that he's my all time favorite. We've been together for a very long time, have grown up together and gone through a lot of life changes (and name changes on both our parts).

He shares my humor and my love of a good drink after a long hard day. That's where I have to set myself apart though, because I haven't killed anyone, nor am I attracted to my boss even though I know it's a bad idea. (Nor have I ever been. Euw. I need better looking bosses or at least one I respect.) He might not be a nice guy, but he likes to think he does bad things with good results for the population at large. After all, someone has to get their hands dirty to make a difference.

In Trust, he starts off as a naive young man with an overwhelming job. He manages to grow into it and by the end of the story, make a name for himself. In fact, he might have done that job a little too well.

In Chain of Gray, his actions come back to haunt him. All the things he thought he'd tidied up so neatly have unraveled, dragging him and his family into chaos. Chaos comes in the form of Arpex amongst others. He really, really hates Arpex and the feeling is mutual.

Likes: A strong woman, good sex, having an important position of his own

Dislikes: Being manipulated, being a lab rat, and his family in danger

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

April A to Z Characters: U

U is for Ulrich.

Ulrich one of the Captain's men from Swan Queen. Brother to Timo and friend of Thin Henry, the three men follow the Captain of the Guard into an exile he didn't realize he was sentenced to until after he'd left. Eager to help the Captain clear his name and remove Kenric from the throne, Ulrich and his friends use their skills with swords to protect the Captain as he tries to secure a force to return the princess to her rightful place.

Ulrich and his two friends were originally very minor characters that grew entertaining personalities of their own. They became well-rounded secondary characters over the course of the first half of the plot and will now require me to go back and alter their introductions to make them a more complete part of the storyline. Darn them. Though really, I love when that happens so I'm not complaining too much. At least not this time.

Likes: The Princess back on the throne, the Captain welcome in his homeland and a warm and willing woman in his own bed.

Dislikes: Eating even one more meal of fish anything, the whore tax Kenric implemented, being far from home.

See all the A to Z challenge partcipants here.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

April A to Z Characters: T

T is for Timininious.

He insists you call him Tim while visiting Not Another Bard's Tale so you don't keep stumbling over his name. Tim is a wizard who accidentally cursed himself to sneeze golden glitter and things have never gone quite right since.

Tim is between jobs when he sees the Evil Overlord is hiring. Though Tim isn't evil, he does need to eat. In the slow economy caused by the oppressive overlord, he can't be too picky. When he wins a round of 'Do you think your evil' by causing, instead of deadly lightning, a heavy rain of blackberries, (thereby forcing the evil overlords minions to set aside their usual fare of boiled kittens for a healthy meal of fruit. Woo. Evil. ), Tim finds himself favored in the eyes of the Evil Overlord. However that might not be the promotion he'd dreamed of.

Likes: Spells that work the first time, women without mustaches, free black hair dye

Dislikes: Going gray, sneezing glitter, and the thought of eating kittens no matter how long they were boiled in baby's tears.

See all the A to Z challenge partcipants here.

Monday, April 22, 2013

April A to Z Characters: S

S is for Sahmara.

Sahmara is from her own story, Sahmara's Sunset. How nice of me to name the story after her, isn't it? This is the first novel I've ever written that I had the title before the story. That's usually one of the last things that comes to me. In fact, I had both the title and the last line. That's also something that is on my last thing list, though more appropriately so.

Sahmara also has the distinction of being the most misspelled character name that I've plagued myself with to date. I've lost count of the different ways I've spelled it. Usually one spelling sticks with me for several chapters before I take a break for a few days and go back to work on the story, thinking, hmm, does this look right? Was I spelling it with the h here or at the end? Some headdesking occurs. Thank goodness for find/replace.

When invaders from Altheria invade Sahmara's country, they rip her away from her sheltered life and take her to their home as one of their many slaves. Lost and alone in a foreign country, she turns to her mother's goddess for help. Her prayers are answered. Sort of. Help comes in the form of a bow, men's clothing and a rag-tag band of soldiers from her own country also trying to get home. There's also the small matter of payment to a blood-thirsty goddess for services rendered.

Likes: Warm furs, sweet confections, being safe and home.

Dislikes: Altherian slavers, blood on her hands, and moldy biscuits.

See all the A to Z challenge partcipants here.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

April: Behind the scenes

So while my character parade is happily plodding onward, I thought I'd share what's going on behind the scenes.

1. During the flooding last week, despite $200 pump I ran to three stores to finally find one in stock in the pouring rain, getting covered in mud several times and becoming one with the worms in my dirt crawl space, my furnace went underwater just far enough to die.

2. After the days of  rain finally ended, we did not go directly to our long delayed spring. Instead, we reverted back to winter. It's been snowing intermittantly and not above 40 degrees. And I have no heat other than a space heater in the living room.

3. Work is busy as hell. Being self-employed means if it's busy, I'm working. There have been 10 - 14 hour work days (and there have been for the past couple weeks and that includes weekends). Okay, so working like mad has sort of kept me warmish. There is that. Sort of.

4. While all this is going on, it was time for my LAST school carnival yesterday. This means, that while working crazy long hours, I was also at school (where there is at least heat) for 11 hours last week setting up and running the darn carnival. It went very smoothly thanks to some wonderful volunteers from a local church, but I'm soooooo glad it's over. Another last for this can't wait to be done with PTO duties mom. Now there's just a parade, a big field trip and graduation to plan. Deep breaths. It's almost over.

5. Progress on my Camp NaNo novella has screeched to a couple hundred words here and there. I am at 13k of my 25k goal. Will I get there by the end of the month?

6. I'm way behind on crits. Chapters are piling up of some great stories I'd love to be reading.

7. All this culminated in a lovely migraine yesterday that is still with me today and I have a ton of work to do.

Monday will be better, right?  At least the furnace guy is coming in the morning now that the water has drained out of the crawlspace so he can tell me how much fixing my furnance is going to cost. Yay?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

April A to Z Characters: R

R is for Roy.

A priest of Hasi, Roy hails from Samarah's Sunset. Roy is a devout man and he's got little patience for Samarah while she struggles to find her place in his group of soldiers. And really, there is no place for her. A woman amongst lonely men makes for more trouble than either of the them want to deal with. Religion only holds not-so-devout men in line so long.

Second in command to Yanis, Roy leads the band of men toward home though enemy territory. He's more adept at wielding sermons and the words of Hasi than a sword, but he gets by enemies attack. He holds control over the food supply, usually meaning moldy biscuits, and the spiritual wellbeing of his charges. At least until they get really hungry.

Likes: His god, order, clean robes and a good meal.

Dislikes: The temptations of a woman, ungrateful men, wondering if his brother is still alive.

See all the A to Z challenge partcipants here.

Friday, April 19, 2013

April A to Z Characters: Q

Q is for Queen.

I know it probably seems convenient for this whole A to Z challenge, but seriously, she doesn't have a name of her own. Maybe she never will. She's simply known as The Queen in Swan Queen. And no, she's not the Swan Queen.

Mother of Princess Maribella and sister to Kenric, the Queen is ailing. She chastises her procrastinating daughter for delaying in her choosing of a husband. The longer Maribella delays, the more chance Kenric will have time to work his way onto the throne. The wedding must take place. The problem is that Maribella's choices are slim. She can't picture herself with any of the menagerie of men her mother has chosen for her.

When the Queen inconveniently dies shortly after their conversation, Mari finds herself without a kingdom and her people under Kenric's heavy hand. Now she has to live long enough to find a suitable husband and convince Kernic to step down without tossing her country into war.

Thanks for dying, Queen.

Likes: The thought of her her daughter on the throne, servants, being queen,

Dislikes: Her brother, her daughter being so damn indecisive, dying.

See all the A to Z challenge partcipants here.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

April A to Z Characters: P

P is for Paul.

Paul is the husband of Marion from Devolution, a short story currently in need of some extensive revision and possible expansion into novella territory. He's a good guy for the most part. He makes sure his wife has a nice home in their Plex. They even have a window. Thanks to all his work, they want for very little. The one thing he can't give his wife is a child. Not that he's unable. She's the one who can't clear the approval process. Mental unstability runs in her family and the last thing their orderly world needs is a drain on resources by caring for those who had no right to be born in the first place.

Paul does his best to get Marion counseling and find something more useful for her baby-craving mind to do. If she doesn't quit with her silly dreams and take her medication, he could loose his job and with it, the apartment with a view. He's not a bad man and she's not a bad woman but if you ask either of them, they'll probably tell you different.

Likes: Variation in his evening meals, a wife who comes to bed with him, and his job

Dislikes: Headstrong women, the uncivilized people who live out in the wilds, the thought of moving from his apartment.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

April A to Z Characters: O

O is for Olga.

Olga travels through the land of Not Another Bard's Tale. She wants nothing more than to protect her sister, the chosen of the Sheep God, and to find a man who loves her for who she is.

Her sister got the good looks, but Olga got the brains of her Elven mother and brawn of her Dwarvish father. She also has a big sword and she knows how to use it. Unfortunately, the men in town see her as a more of a friend than a lover. In fact, most of them are scared to death of her. When her father sends her out of the country on a business trip, Olga learns that when the quaking men of her town said it wasn't her, it was them, they just might have been right.

Likes: Men who aren't afraid of a strong woman, supportive yet flattering swordswoman wear, and sharpening her sword.

Dislikes: The knight who deflowered her sister, cowards, and men who don't take her swordsmanship seriously.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

April A to Z Characters: N

N is for Nickoli.

Nickoli is the station commander in Trust. He is a long-time friend of one of the MCs and both MCs work to stay on his good side by not bringing the trouble that follows them near everywhere to his station. They both use him for information on the star system where he resides as well as using the location itself for sanctuary when they need to get away from their otherwise hectic lives.

He is the father of teenage twins, which he juggles between managing the station and keeping trade routes open within the star system by making sure his station remains neutural territory. Nickoli offers some tidbits to the MC when he is searching out information on his bosses past that allow him to understand her a little bit better.

Likes: Peace, friends that visit regularly, and a good Verian meal

Dislikes: Anything that endangers his station, dangerous people who hang out with no apparent reason, and information that causes him to worry about his long absent friend.

Monday, April 15, 2013

April A to Z Characters: M

M is for Merkeif.

I seem to have a lot of characters with M names. It was hard to choose which one to feature. Seniority had to be taken into account and, Merkeif, long time character from both Trust and Chain of Gray won.

Merkeif's orginal name, way back in the early versions, was Matt. As the story twisted and grew, that didn't work anymore and he needed something with more flavor. Merkeif is the MC's best friend and co-worker as well as a welcome face from home, Artor.

In Trust, Merkeif offers a sympathetic ear to the MC, watches his back, and mediates for him with their Jalvian co-worker who isn't fond of the MC on any level. Their boss may be the force that keeps the three men from killing one another when things get ugly, but Merkeif is the glue that keeps them together on a day to day basis. He's the guy that everyone trusts.

Then comes Chain of Gray. Merkeif gets to explore his dark side. It was fun getting into his head and seeing just what made this dependable guy crack and how far he would go once he had. It really is the quiet ones that you have to worry about.

Likes: A night out with the guys, finding a woman of his own, everyone to get along.

Dislikes: His family getting killed, his best friend deserting him, and not knowing what the hell is going on.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

April A to Z Characters: L

L is for Leoric.

Otherwise known as the Mouse, Leoric hails from Swan Queen. Son of Kenric and fellow victim of Kenric's overbearing ways, Leoric is a dimwitted teenager who has sorely disappointed his father by not capturing the affections of the princess and securing his place as her husband.

Fed up with his father's verbal abuse, Leoric convinces the princess to avoid marrying his father by seeking out the banished captain of her army in the hopes of ridding the country from his father forever.

Leoric was never meant to be more than the Mouse, but he became one of the more emotionally powerful characters I've written. It turns out the dimwitted thing is just his way of coping with his father. He's really a good kid.

Though taking a break for my Camp NaNo project this month, I'm in the midst of a total rewrite of this story and happy to be back in this fantasy world with these interesting characters again.

Likes: Playing with his puppy, getting the Princess to smile at him, hiding from his father

Dislikes: His father, having to try to get the Princess to marry him, and feeling inadequate at every turn.

Friday, April 12, 2013

April A to Z Characters: K

K is for Kenric.

Uncle to the princess in Swan Queen, Kenric wants only what is best for his country. He'd also prefer if the princess made things simple and married his son, but she seems strongly opposed to his preferences. That includes not marrying him instead.

When the princess fails to marry before her mother's death, Kenric elects himself as regent to give the princess time to grieve. In fact, he'd be thrilled if she never got her act together so he could actually expand the country that had been just riding the waves of mediocrity during his sister's rule. He's got his eye on a neighboring country that produces fresh fruit year round and wine of great renown. Now, if only he can get rid of that princess, Togarth might go somewhere great.

Likes: Young beautiful girls, good wine, people who do what he tells them to.

Dislikes: His son, the princess, and anyone who stands in the way of his vision of Togarth coming to fruition.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

April A to Z Characters: J

J is for Jonquil.

Thank you to all the A to Z visitors who have joined me for this alphabetical parade of my characters. I hope you enjoy it.

Half rock troll, half fairy, Jonquil is looking for love in Not Another Bard's Tale. Her mother said Jonquil was big boned but that didn't make her arms long enough to rip the stupid little fairy wings from between her mammoth shoulder blades. Being a half-breed makes finding love difficult, but that all changes when she spies the most handsome little troll man with a glorious mane of thick, curly hair. He even been brought tasty sheep. (This is Bruce, the not-so-valiant-knight "enjoying" the hairy blessing/curse of the Sheep God for those of you who visited on B day.)

Despite the wreath of roses on her head and her dress of furs tugged low for maximum cleavage, the troll man didn't seem to find her beautiful. His sword hurts and so did his words, but she'll find a way to make him see that they are meant to be together. She just needs a little time. And maybe a new dress.

Likes: Handsome male trolls, flattering dresses for big boned figures, true love

Dislikes: Course hair that no amount of conditioner will help, hearing how she was conceived, pointy swords

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

April A to Z Characters: I

I is for Ikeri.

Ikeri is from Chain of Gray. Daughter of the MC and his soon to be official wife, Ikeri is two years old at the beginning of the story. She embodies the telepathic gifts of both her parents in a unique package, one they will all exploit out of necessity. Her older brother gets the benefit of her sweet side, and though he maybe stronger physically, she wins on the mental strength.

Telling the story through the eyes of a father, allowed the MC to showcase his softer side as well as flesh out the difficult relationship he and his bonded partner must work through. Throwing kids into the mix coming out of Trust, opened up a whole new assortment of terror and stress for two people used to seeing death, guns and blood everyday.

Likes: Building towers, playing with her Daddy, using her ablities to make her brother and mother happy.

Dislikes: Anything that keeps her Daddy away, when her brother destroys anything she builds, sleeping alone.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

April A to Z Characters: H

H is for Hemina.

Hemina is a tree dweller from Children of the Trees, published in Liquid Imagination Magazine. Her people are peaceful and live as one with the trees their goddess has given them. They trade with the ground dwellers from time to time to get things like cloth and grains they can not get from the trees and sky.

When the ground dwellers are insprired by their god to find the female who will give birth to his physical body among the tree people, they invade. Hemina prays for help. If she is to save the world she knows from the god the ground dwellers seek to bring to life, she'll have to rely on her wits and the trees around her because her goddess isn't answering.

Likes: A soft rain, the gentle whisper of the trees, spending time with her father

Dislikes: Axes, fire, and Gods who call her Sweetling.

Monday, April 8, 2013

April A to Z Characters: G

G is for Gemmen.

Gemmen is from both Trust and Chain of Gray. He is the fatherly figure at the helm of the pirate guild (which is a quaint title for the people who take from those who have advanced tech and modify for those that don't). He gives the MC good advice to better his standing at his partner's side.

Not the typical young, volatile, glory-seeking Jalvian that the MC is used to dealing with, Gemmen's maturity offers the hope that the MC's people and the Jalvians can find a beneficial middleground in their efforts to keep the star system at peace.

In Chain of Gray, Gemmen becomes more of a father than a mentor and the emotional depth surrounding the relationship between he and the MC is much deeper. Throughout the storyline that spans both novels, Gemmen helps to shape the MC into the man he becomes.

Likes: A good glass of liquor, seeing the MC squirm a little, knowing that his people are taken care of

Dislikes: His nagging wives, that crazy look the MC gets when he's about to do something reckless, and not hearing from the people he cares about.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The story is coming alive.

In the midst of all this A to Z blogging, I'm happy to say that my Camp NaNo story is coming along nicely. Work kept the words at bay for a few days, but after a word splurge of 3K this afternoon, I'm back on track.

Ideas are flowing. I love when that happens. Let's hope it continues to happen.

6k words into it my 25k goal and I haven't killed anyone yet. Don't worry (or sigh with relief), I plan to. Soon.

Wendy (thanks to Wendy from the A to Z challenge for putting her name out there) has become a main character.

If anyone else has a name they'd like to toss into the mix, shout them out. I have a lot of nameless faces running around in this story at the moment.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

April A to Z Characters: F

F is for Fa'yet.

Fa'yet is actually Isnar's last name, but it's how he's known for the majority of Trust and the name by which the MC calls him on into Chain of Gray.

Isnar Fa'yet works for the High Council along with the MC. He's a good friend, confidant and ally. In a rough spot, he's the guy the MC turns to. However, that might not always be the best move.

Fa'yet is a surgically modified Artorian, set apart fom the genetic ideal of the majority of his race by blue eyes and light brown hair. He is a good ten to fifteen years older than the MC and has been a close friend to his boss for the entire length of her employment with the High Council. He is a fount of information on her past and ready with a nerve-balming glass of liquour when she rubs the MC the wrong way.

In Chain of Gray, he grows even closer to the MC, becoming the one he can trust in a world full of confusing changes in loyalites. It's not often you can still be friends with a man you nearly killed, but the MC and Fa'yet make it work despite all the crap the known universe throws at them.

Likes: A good glass of liquor, a neat house and his own space

Dislikes: Long-term house guests, people who try to kill him, being ordered in to compromising positions by the High Council.

Friday, April 5, 2013

April A to Z Characters: E

E is for Emily.

Welcome A to Z visitors. I hope you enjoy this alphabetical parade through some of my characters.

Emily is a two year old kidnapped girl from my short story, Healer, which is currently in the virtual 'to revise' pile.

Emily was shot at a streetside playground by teen gang members doing a drive by. Her new mommy is afraid to take her to the hospital because they might figure out Emily has been kidnapped. When her new mommy hears about a healer named Jillian from the wife of a patient who has just been miraculously cured, the solution becomes clear.

But Jillian has just performed a major healing and she can't repair all the damage the two bullets have wrought on Emily's little body. Her new mommy is going to have her baby back and she won't take no for answer.

Likes: Her real mommy, learning to use the potty by herself, sugary treats.

Dislikes: Her new mommy, getting shot, driving long distances in the car.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

April A to Z Characters: D

D is for Darkious Maximus, Evil Overlord Extraordinare, Master of the Nine Darknesses.

The Evil Overlord himself, straight from the dark depths of Not Another Bard's Tale. Well, not straight exactly. He's probably crooked, really, really crooked, but you get the idea.

You can call him DM. It's embroidered on all of his clothing and the uniforms of his minions in case your memory gets foggy while basking his gloriously evil presence.

From the pointed tip of his neatly-trimmed black goatee to the bottom of his black souled boots, he's evil through and through. Don't let him hear that you doubt his evil rating or question the actual existance of nine levels of darkness. He'll have his wizard, Tim, turn you into a corpse frog. You don't want to spend the rest of your days hopping about and croaking "Riiiibrains" do you?

Likes: News that the people of countryside fear him, interior decorating with skulls, finding his long lost son and heir.

Dislikes: Interfering knights, incompetant minions, Sheep Gods.