Tuesday, August 21, 2018

The Secret Is In the Timing

No great epiphanies this week I’m afraid, just some kinda interesting stuff going on. Probably more interesting to me than you, but hear me out and you can decide for yourself.

I actually spent more time reading blogs than playing games last week, and while it might not seem like much of an improvement (because I really should have been writing) at least there’s a chance I might learn something from a blog. There’s not much that can be learned from a game, other than the fact that on-line games cheat.

Anyway…on a whim I checked out a few of the early posts on my other blog, and by early I mean when I first started it ten years ago. Man, those were the days! The posts were short and random, and I had about three works in progress going at the same time.

One of those WIPs was something called “Magic” and I had no idea what it was referring to. Nowhere did I give enough detail as to what it might have been, just word counts and progress reports. And there was nothing titled “Magic” in my old files. It took several more posts before I finally had an “Ah ha!” moment that let me know what I’d changed it to and then all of a sudden I started thinking up all these details for the sequel that never got past the “thinking about it” stage.

So Friday, the illustrious Jamie had the day off (she had Thursday off as well, but the torpedoing of that day is her story to tell) so I challenged her to a word war. We actually did two of them, 30 minutes each, and I was pretty amazed at how much you can write in 30 minutes. The first one I started Magic 2 (for want of a better title) for 816 words, and the second I worked on Wandering Wizards for another 689. Pretty good for someone struggling to get her blog posts done on time, eh?

But Jamie and I both agreed that the secret is in the timing. It is far easier to accomplish respectable word counts when you tell yourself, “Okay, I’m going to write without stopping for 30 minutes” than it is if you set yourself a goal of X number of words.

That being said, I didn’t get any writing done on the weekend, but yesterday, despite being interrupted a couple of times, I still managed 526 words. And seeing as my daily goal is 500 words, that’s a pretty good way to start my day.

Of course that’s also why this post is a day late. Yesterday I sat outside on the deck for my breakfast, which kind of put me way behind everything else, and this post kept getting moved down the priority list. But, today I decided to get this done first, then do my word sprint, and now I’m done so off I go.

Look at it this way, I’ll finally have some words to report on next Monday’s post! ;-)

Monday, August 13, 2018

Epiphanies, Lists, and Routines…Oh, My!

I had another epiphany last week. I figured out where I was went wrong with Wandering Wizards. It wasn’t that I wrote the first 50,000 words during NaNoWriMo, it’s that I wrote it before the previous book was finished. I had no idea what was happening/going to happen to Jessica before the end of Lucky Dog so I really didn’t know what my jumping off point was supposed to be.

**Advice for anyone who wants to write the second (or third or fourth) book in a series before the previous book is finished: DON’T DO IT!!**

After mapping out where my characters have been, I did a second word map to figure out where they’re going, and while it’s not a pretty as one of the spiffy maps I drew years ago, it’ll give me an idea of what goes where (or maybe that should be who goes where). One of these days I may get around to doing an actual map, but it’s not a priority.

Anyway, now that I know what I’m doing (more or less), I’m starting over with Wandering Wizards. I have a clean document file in which I will cut/paste the sections of the previous version that are usable (surely some of those nearly 60,000 words are worth saving) while at the same time adding new stuff that will help the whole thing make sense. The only problem I foresee is having to edit as I go because the old stuff will need to be changed somewhat to fit with the new and that’s not a job I’m going to want to tackle when the whole thing is done.

As of the end of last week I’ve added about 1500 new words to the first couple of chapters and I must say – so far, so good. The section in between still needs some editing, but not too much (I hope). The old section was an entire chapter and I might have to split it up – actually, it might read better split up so I’ve got the old and the new twisting around each other so you’re not getting big chunks of either. Hmm….

I function better when I have a routine to stick to. I know this, and yet I continue to waste a lot of time that could be put to better use if I just had an idea of what to do with it. I’m not just talking writing, either. I’m talking about all the mundane things we have to deal with. I need to go back to making a list.

I like lists. I really like being able to cross things off of a list. But a list not only lets you see at a glance everything that needs to get done, it’s also a reminder that you have better things to do than sit there playing Bubble Mouse for hours on end (or is that just me?). I’m actually going to need two lists: one made on Sunday nights for what I want/need to accomplish in the week ahead, and one made at the end of the week for what I want/need to accomplish on the weekend.

But back to routines…. It’s just cool enough in my office that I can work in there for a couple of hours in the morning, Both times I worked in my office in the morning last week I got words done on WW., so office time is going to be part of my morning routine.

I was checking out some old files and I’m kind of appalled at the amount of flash fiction I have. Enough to fill a couple of volumes I’d say…if they were finished/polished. So as part of my new routine I’m going to pick one flash story a week, finish it, polish it, and – here’s the hard part – shop it around. If nobody wants it but I still like it, I’ll set it aside until I have enough to do an anthology. One way or another, these stories have to start earning their disk space.

So. We have spending mornings in my office, finishing up one story a week, and making lists. I’m sure it looks easier than it’ll be, but I’m going to give it a try.

Great ambitions for a Monday, don’t you think? :-D

Monday, August 6, 2018

Progress Report

Anybody still out there? Sorry it’s been so long but to be quite honest up until now there hasn’t really been much to report. Writing has been slow, when it’s been going at all, and it’s been mostly unfinished flash pieces for my writers group. In fact, if it wasn’t for my writers group I probably wouldn’t even have that much to report.

This has been one of the longest dry spells I’ve ever suffered (and anyone who writes will tell you that you do suffer when you’re not writing). It pretty much started right after NaNo. First there was the rush of having completed the challenge, followed by the inevitable let down when you finish a novel. Hard on the heels of that was the realization Christmas was only three weeks away and I was totally unprepared.

I had about two weeks over the holidays (Christmas and New Years) free from babysitting, but because my family is pretty scattered I spent most of that time still working on Christmas – baking, gift buying, wrapping, travelling. Then I got sick. Then life got kind of complicated and well, here I am, eight months into the new year with precious little to show for it.

So I thought this would be a good time to maybe take a look at some of the goals I set for this year. Maybe things aren’t quite as bad as I thought.

Write every day – at least 500 word: Fail
Most of the time I was lucky if I was writing 500 words a week.

Less time gaming and social media: Semi-fail
It’s an ongoing struggle – some days are more successful than others.

Shut down by 11 p.m., 12 at the latest: Semi-fail
The idea here was to give myself an hour to read before bed, but since I’ve started to go to bed earlier so I am shut down by 11, I can’t really count this as a win.

Spend more time doing crafts: Fail

Make better use of my Neo: Fail
When I’m using my Neo the writing seems to flow effortlessly, but it’s just actually sitting down to use it that seems to be a problem here.

Organize my poetry: Fail

Wow. No wonder I’m having such a dry spell. But hopefully that’s all behind me. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately, and I’ve been doing a lot of reading (old favourites for inspiration), and I decided it was way past time to fish or cut bait. So I pulled out what I had of Wandering Wizards (the third in my Moonstone Chronicles), skimmed over it to see what I had, and then took the time to figure out where it was going. Then I went through the previous book to track down where my character had been so I could figure out the starting point to continue on.

Moving forward, my goal is to write every day. Wandering Wizards has been sitting around long enough, time to get it finished. And if I need a break from the magic and mayhem, I have about a dozen or more flash stories in various stages of being done. I want to pick one a week and polish it up. Maybe even start trying to sell the darn things. What good is a story if no one reads it, right?

If all goes well, starting next week I’ll be able to post my weekly word counts again. If all doesn’t go well… *shrugs* Then I guess I’ll just keep trying.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Creation and Creator

As you may or may not know, I used to belong to a local poetry group. Aside from doing readings, the group would gather in the upstairs of a local pub once a month where we would read poems in progress, have a drink, and generally chat about poetic things. We also had “poemwork.” This is purely optional, but most of us participated because one, it was fun, and two, sometimes you end up with an unexpected poem. Today I’d like to share one of these assignments.

Poemwork: Make a poem out of a collection of dictionary definitions.

Merriam-Webster On-line dictionary
Family Word Finder – Reader’s Digest Books, 1976
Words looked up: underworld, creation, provident, fanatic, skeptic, heaven, hell

creation and creator

in the nether realm of the devil and the demons
lies the place of departed souls
a social sphere below the level of ordinary life
a place or state of misery, torment, or wickedness

it lies on the side of the earth opposite to this one
the nether world in which the dead continue to exist
the damned suffer everlasting punishment
in these regions of Hell

the Norse goddess of death
is bringing the world into ordered existence
the Deity’s all-foreseeing care over the cosmos
has her acting without a prearranged script or plan

other goddesses, whose worship involved frenzy
descend in one way or another
not seeing beforehand
the act of creating, the act of making

a person disposed to skepticism
can make ready for the future
but absolute knowledge is unattainable
and judgements must be continually questioned

with God, sin is absent over the earth
there is a spiritual state of everlasting communion
in the arch of the sky, the dwelling place of the Deity
the world under Heaven is a condition of utmost happiness

Friday, July 6, 2018

Fiction Friday - An Elemental Wind

I thought I’d switch things up today and instead of a flash piece or an unfinished piece, I’d share an excerpt from a completed work. In this case, that work is An Elemental Wind, my first book.

In this scene, the vehicle our heroes Nakeisha and Chaney were using has been disabled by a sand storm and they’re forced to spend the night out in the desert. This is one of my favourite scenes in the book. :-D

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

It was almost too dark to see by the time they settled themselves on the sand-filled hollow. Nakeisha lay with her head pillowed on Chaney’s shoulder. Together they watched the stars appear, then the moons of Anchyre started their journey across the night sky.

“Do you know the story of the moons?” Chaney asked.

“They have a story?”

“The large one is called Kandor and the small one is Shinandu. Early in its history, Anchyre was ruled by a powerful warlord in the North and an equally powerful queen in the South.”

“Their names wouldn’t happen to be Kandor and Shinandu would they?”

“Yes. Now don’t interrupt. The two were desperately in love, but a curse kept them apart.”

“A curse?”

“It was believed that should Kandor and Shinandu ever come together, a disaster of epic proportions would befall Anchyre.”

“What happened?”

“They may have been rulers, but they were only human after all, and eventually Kandor could stand it no longer and went to his beloved in the dark of night. She tried to resist, but was unable to withstand his charm. Their joining caused a cataclysmic explosion that blew them into the sky and caused Anchyre to become giesthenis.”

“You made that up,” Nakeisha accused, raising her head slightly to look at him.

“See for yourself,” Chaney said. “Every night since, Kandor has chased Shinandu across the sky. It’s said if he ever catches her, Anchyre will be restored to its former glory.”

“It’s a lovely story,” she said, laying her head back down. “I hope some day Kandor catches Shinandu.” She yawned and made herself more comfortable.

“Look,” Chaney pointed. “A shooting star. My people believe them to be good omens.”

“Hmm?” she murmured sleepily. “Mine make wishes on them.”

“What did you wish for, Nakeisha?” he asked softly.

There was no answer. He turned his head to look at her and her eyes were closed. The day had finally caught up to her and she was asleep. With a contented sigh, Chaney, too, closed his eyes and went to sleep.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

If I’ve piqued your curiosity and you’d like to read more, you can get your copy of An Elemental Wind by clicking on one of the following links:

Barnes & Noble

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Let America Be America Again

Though Langston Hughes is a somewhat more modern poet than the ones I usually enjoy, there’s no doubt that the man knew his way around a poem. I chose this particular poem of his in celebration of my American friends because today is their Independence Day. It’s a little long, but worth the read.

Let America Be America Again

by Langston Hughes

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed--
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)
O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek--
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean--
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today--O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That's made America the land it has become.
O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home--
For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa's strand I came
To build a "homeland of the free."

The free?
Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay--
Except the dream that's almost dead today.

O, let America be America again--
The land that never has been yet--
And yet must be--the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine--the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME--
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose--
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain--
All, all the stretch of these great green states--
And make America again!

Friday, June 29, 2018

Be Careful What You Wish For

This week’s fiction comes to you courtesy of something called an Archetype Card. This card belongs to a set of 80 cards, each with a different “archetype” or pattern of behaviour and shows both the light and dark aspects of these archetypes. They’re actually kind of fascinating and I think they’d make a really handy writing tool.

If you’re interested, you can find a description and walk-thru by Tiger’s Abyss HERE  or by Truth in Story HERE

Anyway, the card I drew was the Detective and the description was as follows:

Light Attributes:
Great powers of observation and intuition
Desire to seek out truth
Shadow Attributes:
Falsifying information

And here’s the story I came up with from the prompt:

Be Careful What You Wish For

I knew it was a bad idea from the moment the woman approached me. It was the same old story: girl meets boy, girl and boy get married before they really get to know each other, boy spends long hours at the office, and girl suspects he’s cheating and hires a detective to follow him. That’s where I come in.

I hate these kinds of cases but I have to eat and things have been pretty slow lately. So when the not-so-young woman (she had to be in her 40s) darkened my door one gloomy morning, I didn’t figure I could turn the case down.

“Money’s not a problem,” she assured me. “In fact, that’s why I need to be sure. My assets are, shall we say, considerable.”

“You never had him sign a pre-nup?”

“It was such a whirlwind romance,” she said, blushing slightly. “It just didn’t occur to me.”

I just barely refrained from rolling my eyes. Love is no excuse for ignorance. But a buck is a buck.

“All right,” I said. “I’ll take your case.”

She gave me his picture, where he worked, that sort of thing, and left in a flurry of patchouli.

He looked like a decent enough guy, a little younger than her but who am I to judge? Anyway, after two months of tailing him, I was kind of feeling sorry for the guy. She may have been holding the purse-strings, but he was the one who was filling that purse. He worked a lot of overtime, yes, but that’s exactly what it was – work.

He stopped for an after work drink once, maybe twice a week with the guys, but that’s all it was. One drink and he was headed for home to his “loving” wife. Funny thing though, any time he was at a bar he was approached by a woman, but he turned them down every time. Even the one who accidentally spilled her drink on herself and asked him to help clean it off. She was a real looker, I’ll tell you, but all he did was offer her his hankie.

His wife came to my office to receive my report, and just sat there in the chair, lips pursed, when I finished reading it to her.

“You’re sure he’s not meeting anyone? No encounters with a woman at that bar he sometimes stops at?”

“You seem almost disappointed,” I said, as she confirmed the suspicions I was starting to have about her.

“It’s just…” She turned all coy and demure, then after a slight hesitation for effect added, “How much extra would it cost to make it look like he really had been seeing someone?”

“You mean falsifying my report?”

At least she had the decency to wince. “I just want to make sure I come out of this with what’s mine. You know the old saying, marry in haste, repent in leisure.”

“Or maybe you’re the one who had to sign a pre-nup, only now you’ve met someone with even more money. You want to have your cake and eat it too.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about!”

“Interesting that you’d use the phrase “marry in haste, repent in leisure,” that’s exactly what your husband said when he hired me.”

I laid a series of pictures on the desk in front of her. Not only was the man she involved with older, he was richer too. “There’s another old saying that applies here. “Be careful what you wish for, you might get it.” And you’ll certainly be getting your divorce.”