Wednesday, August 31, 2016

When Words Fail...

Project: Fury of the Falcon

That moment when you realize you should have written down the amazing, natural-sounding, perfectly-flowing dialog you thought of weeks ago. Because now you have arrived at that very scene, fingers poised over the keys, and you have no idea what to write.

I know better than that! I know to scramble for the nearest scrap of paper and sketch out at least some of the dialog that surfaced in that brief moment of clarity and genius.

Now it will likely take me the rest of the week to piece together something that sounds crappy and stilted in the end. Ugh. Writers, commiserate! Readers, I really need some comfort food.

Something like this will do...

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Progress Diary: Character Overhaul

Project: Fury of the Falcon (Falcons Saga, Book 5)

Character expansion = extricating a neglected, flat, blurry character from the obscure corner where they are lurking and bringing them into the spotlight, giving them new roles, bigger page-time, deeper significance.

The alternative is murdering them, according to William Faulkner (and other writers who know what they're doing).

So I decided to save a darling from gruesome, bloody deletion and overhaul him instead:


Those who have read Sons of the Falcon know who Kethlyn and Carah are. Turns out that their father had a fling in his youth (alluded to in Book 1) which resulted in these siblings having an older brother whom they didn't know about. In the ancient, deplorable original draft of the story, this older brother serves little purpose. He comes along in time to cause some scandal and heartache, then manages to save the life of the younger brother who despises him, then he happily fades back into his old life.

Well, many, many years ago, my mother said, "I thought he would play a bigger part." I could tell she was disappointed. So, at last, I have heeded her advice and expanded the role of this illegitimate brother. I didn't expect to have so much fun with the process. There has been brawling and verbal battling so far. Lots of fun tension. And it turns out this older brother (who has no filter, no understanding of the term "politically correct" when speaking to a noble) is now key in helping Kethlyn get over himself and face up to his treachery in a more honorable, mature fashion. This illegitimate brother will now actually have a motive for saving his younger brother's life, which can only be a good thing.

However! I haven't yet decided if this illegitimate brother is on the list of characters to knock off. (He just overheard me say that and is giving me a startled sort of look. I smirk back. The scissors hover, and the thread is thin.) I guess I'll be as surprised as he is, when the time comes.


Point is, readers are generally right when they voice their expectations and disappointments. Good to heed them.

* * * Would love to hear about the characters or plots that have disappointed you, and how you would rewrite them, if you could.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Planar Scars, Winged Outcasts, and Mad Scientists

Okay, to me, the elements in that title sound like a delectable cocktail. Am I wrong? Pff, of course not.

Over the last couple of years I've determined to broaden my reading scope. I had gotten into a rut of reading and (re-reading) about three authors, and so I started collecting books and collections by authors whose names I knew but whose work I hadn't taken a chance on.

I'm one of those people who is afraid of "new" and "spontaneous" and "change." So it felt like a risk peeking into some of these covers and seeing what words lay inside. Like peeking down someone's shirt. What the heck is in there, and do I really want to know?

Some time ago, my writer-friend Brian Fatah Steele (who has had so much influence in pushing me in new directions) suggested China Mieville's novels, so last time I was perusing the book store shelves (yes, I still prefer actual physical bookstores) I picked up the only Mieville novel I could find (sad, but selection is dwindling on store shelves), and it happened to be The Scar.

Reading this novel was like wallowing in stellar energy comprised of colliding words. Gah! Never mind that the story, that the world-building, that the characters were utterly magnetic, grotesque, gritty, and unique. I'm a sucker for a beautifully turned phrase. I will sit paralyzed by a startling combination of words for minutes at a time.

Because there is so much to savor in The Scar, it took me a long time to finish reading it, then I sacrificed everything else that needed doing to finish the last third in about three days. Point is, I am utterly in love with Mieville's writing. The dude's a poet, and the words themselves are as delectable as the world and characters they describe. They are a pleasure in and of themselves. (Isn't it a shame that this isn't usually the case?)

So now I've moved on to Perdido Street Station. Yes, I'm reading the "series" out of order, which I hate to do, but the novels seem to be standing well on their own.

How does a single brain come up with all this stuff? It feels like walking into a banquet hall and being surrounded by unrecognizable and tantalizing dishes, and where does one begin? At the same time, that description doesn't fit at all, because most of Mieville's inventions belong in slimy gutters and underworld sewers, but these are your dinner guests. Steel your stomach, grit your teeth, and wade in. Beauty in the ugliness, ugliness in the beauty, and all that, but often things are just downright freakish. 

Refreshing. Fabulous.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

So ... how did the book signing go?

I survived! My first book signing event is under my belt, and I'm so proud. The event took place in the La Vergne Public Library in La Vergne, Tennessee, which is just outside of Nashville. A beautiful building with wonderfully friendly people.

At six o'clock I began my presentation, talking about how I got into writing fantasy, when that genre wasn't my first choice. When I first started writing, I intended to be a historical fiction author instead.

The presentation led into the reading. For two months I practiced and practiced reading my selection aloud, and I'm so glad I did. I rocked it.

After the reading we did a brief Q&A and was offered some wonderfully insightful questions -- which I could actually answer in an intelligible manner (mostly).

All the while, there was a cameraman from a local station filming me. But did that shake me? Pff, never.

I learned several things:

1. I can present myself with confidence and poise, even despite a "disaster" that shook me badly right before I had to begin. (my biggest worry was that I would crack and my brain would go blank at the worst possible moment, but that didn't happen. Not even close.)

2. Do not expect loads of people on a first signing. (I prepared myself for this anyway, having heard this many times before, and it's 100% true.) I read for 8 people and signed for 3.

3. Do not expect your venue to do enough (or appropriate) marketing on your behalf. (A writer-friend warned me about this, and I saw it in action. You must do marketing yourself, if possible. Take your own posters/billboards and have them set up at the venue in obvious places an hour or so before the event begins. Make sure the posters point visitors in the right direction, especially if the venue is large. One of my guests got lost looking for me and missed half the presentation.)

4. It's going to take a LOT of signing events, swallowing a LOT of pride, and exposing myself to potentially humiliating situations to push my books effectively. (But it's all for the art, right?)

Overall, the trip was wonderful. In addition to the new experience, I got to see a new city, just as Nashville was kicking off the CMT Awards, so visiting downtown on Tuesday morning was like going to a festival. Just too bad all those people were there for country singers to sign stuff instead of my books, right? LOL. If only I could have snuck a booth in there ... ah, well.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Progress Diary: When Laptops Go Haywire

Entry #3

I am ahead of schedule. Hurray for me!

Week one: completed drafts of chapter 1 and half of chapter 2. Quota: one chapter per week. Diagnosis: success.

I might have nearly finished two chapters this week, but my computer was abducted by aliens and reforged into a new version of itself, which put it out of commission for most of Friday's writing period.

Alien abduction, not cool
Wait, literally aliens? No, not literally, but it was invaded and taken over by the un-American, freedom-of-choice-stealing Windows 10 update. I didn't see it coming. I had been ignoring those "Update now?" windows for so many months that when the window changed and told me (apparently) that the update would happen that night, I didn't notice it or read it and x'd out of it instead of clicking the option to postpone. So here I am, home alone, without my computer-guru husband within 800 miles of me, and this stupid process kicks me out of Guild Wars 2 near midnight and takes over my computer and changes it utterly and forever, without my permission. MY COMPUTER! MINE. MY WORKZONE. Not yours, you evil devs and the eviler people giving you orders.

Yeah. Pissed.

Worst of all, some setting that came with Windows 7 was moved over to the new OS instead of being reset properly. This caused my beloved laptop to lock up any time I tried anything. Yeah, I couldn't even SAVE MY EFFING NOVEL DOC without my laptop going haywire and locking up. What do I have to do? Reboot it. Again. Like 7 times. But did that fix it? No! I LOST CONTENT!!!

Fortunately for the Windows devs, I lost all of two sentences. If I had lost more than that? Oh, yeah, I was going to mail 100 rabid monkeys to Windows HQ and have them set loose on the tyrants who fucked up my baby.

But, like I said, lucky for them. I was (sorta) able to reconstruct those two lost sentences THE NEXT DAY after my husband worked a miracle. He's doing training in Ohio, right? When he learns of this situation, that he must know has me in a panicked state of banshee-shrieking madness, he spends his evening (when he's already exhausted) downloading this software that allows him to access my laptop from half the country away. After a couple hours of poking around, he found the screwed up setting, fixed it, and voila! Miracle. Laptop back to normal. NO THANKS TO DEV TYRANTS IN SEATTLE WHO DON'T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT MY WORK OR ME AS A PERSON WHO CAN'T FIX THIS STUFF HERSELF. (and now, thanks to them, every time I turn CAPS on or off, there's a stupid/pointless window that pops up and tells me that  CAPS is on or off. No shit?!)

Point being, goal for next week:

* complete chapter 2
* start chapter 3
* slander Windows' name forever
* drink less because my husband is awesome and I don't have to be shrieking like a banshee from hell.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Progress Diary: Writing Magic

Entry #2

I've broken ground on Fury. Day 1 is an immense success with a final tally of 2,745 words. My usual quota is 1,300 words, on a good day, so I'm ecstatic. Also, greatly surprised that I was able to connect with these characters as deeply as I did after having not written on them since last November. The morning was rough, I doubted every word and wondered how the hell I was going to express all that needed expressing, but then ... MAGIC. The faucet turned on, and my brain poured out the words, and this is what every writing day should feel like.

What a world away from the rough start that Cry suffered. The two writing experiences don't compare at all. If the rest of Fury goes this well, I'll be in writer's heaven.

God, I hope I didn't just jinx it.

"Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy, then an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, and then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant and, in the last state, just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public."
Winston Churchill (1874-1965) - November 2, 1949

Ah, the brutality of writing. Reflects what will happen to some of these characters as well. And what should happen to others, but doesn't. Delicious...

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Fury of the Falcon: The Work Begins

This week I began work on Fury of the Falcon, Book 5, and the last installment, of the Falcons Saga. Which means that I dragged out the last block of paper that contains the Saga's original twelve-yr-old draft and am giving it the once-over, so that I can remember what happens and why. Since I don't. I've slept since then. A lot. Like if I add it up, I've slept almost six years, and written other things for the other six. So yeah... I need the reminder.

This has led to a couple days of outlining, brainstorming, groaning, and swallowing puke, since the old draft stinks worse than last week's garbage. It's 12-yr-old garbage.

It's so gross it's like sucking lemons till your teeth fall out.

So to begin, here's this writer's account of manuscript overhaul:


Entry #1

In only two days, I've gone through the entire ms and marked all the main events with stickies. The block of paper now thinks it is a porcupine's cousin. Have read through the first 100 pages or so and discovered what I feared -- the text amounts to a massively detailed outline. It's almost all tell and almost no show. It's atrocious. It's beyond atrocious. It's puke-worthy. Some of the dialog is fun, but that's the extent of the text's usefulness.

To attempt to remedy this pukiness, I've brainstormed the opening sequence, to completely reorganize the info, increase emotional tension, and cut the boring CRAP that plagues the ms like boils on a monkey's ass.

So far, I've found elements to cut, and scenes to add:

Spoiler Warning! (I'll try to leave things vague and cryptic, regardless)

Old content to cut:
* the Great Summoning, whatever the hell that is. Something that tries to sound significant, but isn't.
* Ice Elves. We don't need no more damned elves, okay? We got enough already. Give all dialog and action to Daryon, Miragi, or Dagni.

New content to add (spoilers, really, stop reading now):
* Thorn must test his invention on an unlucky test subject. Evil scientists, beware. There's a pissed avedra on the loose.
* Thorn and Daryon must put their inventions together, which makes foes even more unlucky.
* Kethlyn must deal with the rebellion on his hands, but he's drunk, so it won't go well. Where's Mum when he needs her?
* Valryk must get out of that dungeon cell. Old lovers prove useful after all. He then must go on a journey of twisted self-discovery and vengeance. I mean, it's everyone else's fault that he tried to have them murdered.
* Lothiar must expend his rage against his own people.
* Dax must try to sway Alyster to do nefarious things.


And that's not including all the content that remains (like Carah's storyline) and must be overhauled to match a more mature, sober tone.

Just to add, I've realized that this is the volume that will read like a George RR Martin episode. If a character is slated to die, they will mostly all die within the same hundred pages or so. (Yeah, I can think of 5 main or side characters that have it coming. Don't curse me, it's not my fault.) It will be over-the-top drama and bloodshed. Delightful.