Saturday, December 24, 2016

Happy Christmas Eve!

There are so many beautiful Christmas songs out there that it makes it hard to choose. But here are a few of my favourites:

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Happy Solstice!

Just to warn you, there probably won't be any writing related posts until the New Year. Between baking and crafting and the enforced visiting, there's not much time for writing or writing related things. You know, like getting An Elemental Earth read through for the last time and sending it off for formatting and publishing.

Soon, my pretty new book, soon ...

In the meantime, here's some Christmas cheer for you, starting with the traditional tree picture. Aside from the Hello Kitty on the top, the lights, and the two cats jockeying for space underneath it, all the ornaments are hand made. This was a tradition started many years ago by my daughter and I - we'd make a new craft each year and sometimes we'd even make enough to give to friends.

Next we have some traditional Christmas videos. And by traditional I mean my tradition - I always start with the funny ones. Next post will be more serious Christmas videos, and on Christmas day I go with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Writing Versus Christmas

I’m sure there’s a way to balance the writing and the holidays, but I haven’t found it yet. NaNo’s finished and then all of a sudden, EEEK! Christmas is just around the corner!

I still have one big scene to write before I can call the NaNo draft done, but it’s being very illusive. And after making a list of stuff I have to get done before Christmas I’m pretty sure it won’t get done any time soon. And while I’d like to think that once the holiday madness is over I can settle into a routine, I’m already starting to feel like I’m losing my momentum.

I guess it’s time to start putting my money where my mouth is, eh? I give all this advice on finding time to write, and making time to write ... and by writing I don’t mean letters, emails, and blog posts. I mean actual writing.

The time I was hoping to have set aside for writing every day isn’t exactly working the way I expected, so I’m going to have to find a new time. Maybe even a new story as well - something shorter perhaps that I can fit in between all the baking and crafting and shopping.

You know, it’s kind of like the exercise thing. It seems like it takes forever to get into the habit of doing it every day, and it doesn’t take long at all to get out of the habit again. I fell off the exercise band wagon back in the summer when it was so hot and humid, and my last check up with the doctor has proven that I need to get back into it again. But it’s hard.

Baby steps. Instead of 45 minutes a day on the bike, I’ll start with 15. Maybe even 15 a couple of times a day, just to get me back in the habit. With the writing, instead of looking for those big chunks of time I’ll try finding smaller ones spread throughout the day. It sounds good in theory, we’ll see how well it goes in practice. ;-)

Meanwhile, for the rest of the month I’ll probably still post at least once a week, but I’m not going to do a wordage report per se. There’s just no point when my writing schedule is so up in the air. I spent the weekend going over the notes my editor gave me on An Elemental Earth and making the editing lama face as I made changes. You know the face, this one:

At least I think it’s a lama. Whatever. The point is, that was the face I was making as I read her notes and realized she was right. There may have been a bit of fist shaking and a few “Damn you!”s in there as well. ;-) But I only have one more read through, just to make sure the changes I made make sense, as well as one last check for typos, and then I can send it back and the wheels of publication can be set into motion.

Which is, I think, a blog topic for another day.

In the meantime, here’s another excerpt from my NaNo novel, just because. :-D

“A day at the beach?” Maykayla repeated thoughtfully. “I used to love the beach as a kid - I can’t remember the last time I spent any time at the beach. It sounds great.”

“Did you say beach?” Jeffy’s voice came from the door to the kitchen. Jonathan cursed under his breath. Abraham appeared behind their little brother and spread his hands wide, mouthing “I’m sorry.”

“Can I come too?” Jeffy wheedled.

“No, you can’t,” Jonathan said forcefully. At the same time, Makayla said, “Sure you can.”

They looked at each other. Jonathan barely managed to keep his ire in check. Couldn’t she see the beach was just a ploy to get her alone again? They’d had a great time out on the island and even if they weren’t soul mates he saw no reason why they couldn’t repeat the experience.

But there was Makayla looking surprised at him turning Jeffy’s request down, and Jeffy looking all woebegone, and he had the feeling he’d just gone down a point or two in her estimation. He glanced over at Abraham who studiously ignored him, helping himself to breakfast instead.

“Fine,” he said with a long-suffering sigh. “You can come with us. But you have to promise to stay out of trouble.”

“Great! I’ll go get my stuff.” Jeffy was about to take off, but Makayla snagged him by the arm. “Breakfast first, young man.”

  To Jonathan’s surprise, his little brother acquiesced immediately. Apparently he was quite taken with Makayla. It made him almost wish they really were soul mates, she fit into the family so well.

“Why don’t you come too, Abraham?”

Jonathan almost choked on his coffee. Was she going to invite the whole damn family?

“Oh, I don’t think...”

“C’mon,” she urged. “The more the merrier, right Jonathan?”

They all looked at him and he mustered up a weak smile.”Sure,” he agreed, really having no choice. Then it occurred to him that if Jeffy started getting tired or too annoying, Abe could just take him back to the castle and he’d have his alone time with Makayla. This just might work out after all.

“Kay’s right,” he said with a little more enthusiasm. “The more the merrier.”

“Well, I really should...” Abraham waffled, but Jonathan gave him a faint nod to let him know it was all right.

“You can’t spend all of your time squirreled away in that lab of yours, you’ll turn into a mushroom,” Makayla said.

“Well, we wouldn’t want that now, would we?” Abraham said weakly.

“What’s a mushroom?” Jeffy wanted to know.

“It’s a kind of fungus that grows in dark places,” Makayla said with a smile.

“What’s a fungus?”

“Oh, how do I explain that one? A fungus is a living organism, like a plant, but it’s more like a soft, white, spongy mass, usually attached to trees in the woods. Mushrooms usually have stems and rounded tops to them like hats.” She sat back with a laugh. “If I had my sketchbook with me I’d draw you a picture of one. Remind me later and I will.”

“Okay,” Jeffy said happily. “Hey, Abe, Makayla thinks you’re soft and spongy.”

She sat up straight in her chair, looking alarmed. “No, that’s not what I--”

They all laughed, and Makayla reached over to tweak Jeffy’s ear. “I can see where I’ll have to be careful around you!”

They finished their breakfast and went their separate ways, agreeing to meet in the main hallway in half an hour. Jonathan was already making plans on how he could salvage the day.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Is It Over Yet?

There were times, over the past few weeks, that I didn’t think I was going to finish the NaNo challenge. Times like when I got sick and had a zero word count for four days in a row, or when Netflix just had to release the Gilmore Girls reboot the last weekend in November.

If you’re registered with the NaNoWriMo site, you can look me up (I’m Lady Cat) and check my stats. Apparently my usual pattern is to get off to a slow start and then halfway through the month I start catching up. This year was no different.

What was different for me this year was the way I wrote my story. I started at the beginning, but then I had an idea for the ending so I skipped to the end and wrote that. Went back to the beginning and fleshed it out a little more, but got an idea for the scene just before the end so I wrote that. Worked a little on the beginning again, and got an idea for the scene before the last scene I’d worked on at the end. And so on, and so forth.

At some point I made a list of what was supposed to happen between the beginning and the end and I looked at this list and didn’t think it was enough to make it to 50,000 words. I think there was like three or four scenes listed. But surprisingly, these scenes ran really long.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure I was going to finish the challenge, but I liked my story enough that I really didn’t care as long as I was able to finish the book. And I think the thing that surprised me the most about it was how there are no plot holes. This is almost unheard of for me during NaNo, especially given the way I was jumping around in the story. I have one more scene to write and then it’s done. It may not be pretty, but it will be complete.

So that was the best part about NaNo. The disappointing part was the local NaNo experience. When I learned we had a couple of official Municipal Liaisons I was really excited. And that excitement lasted for the first couple of write-ins, but went downhill pretty quickly after that. The MLs had a lot of enthusiasm, and they used their own money to book places for write-ins and provide snacks, but they weren’t very well organized. And the one was pretty chatty during the write-ins.

Seeing as I haven’t been doing any blog posts lately, I didn’t see the point of doing a wordage report - as you can see by my NaNoWriMo widget on the right, I got over 52,000 words written for the month of November, so that should be enough for anyone.

And because you’ve been such a lovely audience, here’s an unedited excerpt from my NaNo novel, The Eros Portal. This is near the beginning where my main character is out looking for her friend’s cat (that she’d been looking after while her friend was away) who’s escaped from her house:

Makayla trudged on for another twenty minutes or so before she could no longer see where she was going. Had she been able to, she would have seen how the tracks circled back towards her house about fifteen of those twenty minutes ago. What she thought were tracks were really just the indentations made when small clumps of snow fell off of the tree branches in the faint wind that had sprung up.

“Damn it!” She looked around and realized the sun had set. With no clear idea of how far she had come, she could be in serious trouble here. She’d always wanted to live out in the country, so the surrounding woods had been a big selling point of her house. And while it was great in the summer to have the privacy and few neighbours, in the winter it felt very isolated.

Everything looked the same in the dark. If she was lucky, she’d be able to retrace her steps. If not, she’d be as lost as Mittens.

“Stupid damn cat,” she muttered under her breath.

A flash of blue light off to the right caught her attention. It flickered, like the light bulb was about to burn out. It couldn’t be from the highway, could it? She’d been walking for a while but she didn’t think she’d walked that far. And she hadn’t been going in that direction, unless she got turned around somehow.

Didn’t most people walk in circles when they walked without something to guide them? But that didn’t really make sense either, she didn’t have a blue light in her house. Shrugging, she made for the light anyway. Light meant people, so even if it wasn’t her house it was bound to be one of her neighbors, not that she had many of those.

The light was further away than she thought and she was getting dangerously chilled. Her fingers were totally numb. What kind of an idiot took off in the dark in nothing but a sweater? No hat, no gloves ... But the sweater had been right there and she would have lost precious time going back through the house to the back door for her coat. This is what came of being in such a rush. She was probably going to end up frozen to death while Mittens was curled up on her porch having a nap.

The light was still ahead of her, and the woods were growing denser. Had the trees been this close together on her way in? She pushed through some shrubbery that still had a few dead leaves attached to it and stopped to stare. A doorway of iridescent blue light filled the space between two slender trees.

“What the hell?”

Makayla took a single step forward and stopped again. Then she took a couple of steps to the side and the door seemed to disappear. Moving back to her original position, the door shimmered into view again.

As curious as the cat she’d been looking for, Makayla moved forward, one step at a time. A ripple went through the shimmering blue and she paused for a second. The light settled back into a staticky glow, like the snow on the TV when the cable went out.

Another step closer and the snow turned blue again and seemed to clear a bit. It was almost translucent. One more step and she could see vague images in it. It wasn’t the woods in behind it, it was something else altogether. Some place else.

Maybe it was some kid’s science project - holograms or something like that. His parents probably made him set it up out in the woods in case of accidents. Like, if something shorted out and set fire to something. It was pretty advanced looking, if that’s what it was.

One more step and she was able to reach out and touch it. It tingled on her fingertips, a ripple effect spreading out where she touched. It wasn’t until she tried to pull her hand away that she realized what a stupid thing it had been to do. She appeared to be stuck fast.

Makayla yanked her arm back but her fingers remained glued to the shimmer. In fact, it actually seemed like the shimmer was pulling her hand further in.

“Oh, no no no!” She twisted and turned her hand and her fingers turned easily, but they wouldn’t let go. “Hello? Is anybody out here?” What kind of person set something like this up in the middle of the woods and then just abandoned it?

“Hey! I could use some help here,” she yelled. Surely whoever made this couldn’t be too far away. Wouldn’t they need to monitor it or something? “Look, I’m sorry I touched your experiment or whatever, but I need you to shut it off.”

There was no answer. Millimetre by millimetre her hand was being enveloped in the glowing light. No matter how much she pulled it refused to let go of her again. Digging her heels in she tried to wrench free, but slipped on the damp ground and only succeeded in causing her whole arm to become enveloped.

Panting from the effort, she glanced around but she was surrounded by darkness. It was getting really cold out. It was starting to hurt to breathe. She didn’t bother calling out again, if there really was someone out there it was obvious they were only going to watch, not help.

While the point of contact with the light tingled, the rest of her arm didn’t seem to be affected at all. She tried wiggling her fingers, but the rippling effect made it impossible to see through the door. Looking at the ground where the light made it easier to see, she looked for an electrical cord or whatever was powering the thing. There was nothing that she could see.

There weren’t many options here. Maybe she should just get it over with. Steeling herself, Makayla took a deep breath and then stepped through the doorway. She was aware of light and heat and then nothing at all.