Thursday, December 11, 2014

Evicting "Eventually"

Well, I won NaNo. Handily, for once. The story's nowhere near "the end," something that's rare for me. My 18 outlined scenes took me through almost all 50k, and by Nov 25th, I validated my wordcount and claimed my victory earlier than I ever have.

The problem is, now I have another novel nowhere near "the end." Just like almost every other one I've worked on that I'll finish "eventually." I've got a stack of half-finished novels where I neared the end but got lost along the way or stopped halfway through. After five years of NaNo and swearing I'm back in the game, all I have to show for it is one complete novel, and I've been "editing" it since 2011. I've been trying to build a readership on social media with nothing for anyone to read. It's shameful. I am ashamed. And I decided yesterday I'm doing something about it.

I wrote out everything I want to, need to do. Every story I want to edit, rewrite, outline. And I dated them all. Every single one has a deadline now, and I'm hoping that posting about it will hold me accountable. Make me cast out the procrastination monster, evict the word "eventually," and move "now" in to replace it.

So what are the goals?

Goal 1: Finish the next step of all four short stories for the Aces collection by Dec 31st, 2014. Two to finish editing, two to finish writing and edit.

Goal 2: Write and edit this year's Sekrit Solstice Science-Fiction Fantasy Story Swap (a holiday short story exchange) by Feb 14th, 2015.

Goal 3: Plot and write the main story #1's shorts tie in to. Plotting by Feb 28th, written by May 31st.

Goal 4: Finally finish the edits on my one complete novel by June 30th.

Goal 5: Replot and finish three of my five incomplete novels by Dec 31st, 2015.

So that's it, summed up. My next year and change in writing. I want 2015 to be the year I get my first agent rejection. Or maybe my first agent. Maybe I'll go the self-publishing route and get my first sales, who knows? But I have to have things done first. Wish me luck? And if I don't update, feel free to bring out the cattle prod.

Monday, November 10, 2014

NaNo2014: Day 10 - Ch-Ch-Changes

One whole week in, and the story's been through some major changes. After I said last week how the first few days were slow and the MC wasn't taking the spotlight, I knew I needed to do something different to make it work. The trick, apparently, laid in the perspective. On the fourth day, I started writing in 1st person present, a perspective and tense I'd considered when I started but decided against for one reason or another.

I was such a fool. A fool!

My character wasn't coming to the front on her own, so I went into her head instead. The difference is astounding. I don't know how well I'm really doing. I'm going to need to reread Hunger Games or Divergent again to study the perspective after I'm done, but for now, I'm much more connected with Syn and her thoughts and feelings, things I just couldn't express in 3rd person past. I'm going to have to completely redo the whole first 8,000 words, but that's for after November.

There have also been a few unexpected surprises in characters. I intended for one to be a mix of Jeremy Renner and Hunger Games' Cinna. The character was to be Syn's hair designer and makeup artist, and Mr. Renner has a history of makeup artistry. Unusual past for an action star. I loved it. And then, when the time comes to meet this man, this Hagrid-esque giant named Daedalus knocks down Syn's door coming into the world with a, "Rise and shine! It's 6AM and there's hair that needs doing!" He's enormous, Scottish, and keeps a beard that belongs in a grooming competition. He is nothing at all like I planned for him to be. I adore him.

The biggest surprise of all, though, is that I'm not halfway through the story yet. Usually, by this time, I'm starting to sweat. I'll have gotten through a dozen planned scenes and fear I'm approaching the end too fast. By now, I'm afraid I only have 30k in the story, 35k at most. I always hit 50k in the end, but I'm always in the final scene, too. But this one? It's barely begun. I'm on scene 7 of my outline, and I have 18 planned out. Those don't even cover the whole story! There's still more to come after! There's no way I'm going to be done at 50k. I'm actually going to have a novel long enough to publish. I'm not going to have to fight and claw for extra words. It's hard to believe, after four years of doing this. It feels good. Maybe this is it. It feels like it's too early to be so optimistic, but I can't seem to help myself. It's only been a week, but it's a good NaNo so far.

NaNo Wordcount: 18,020

Monday, November 3, 2014

NaNo2014: Day 3 - Rebel?

All around the world on Saturday, pens started scratching on paper and fingers started clacking on keyboards as the clock ticked over to November's first midnight. It's NaNo time.

I thought I'd be rebelling this year. After all, I planned on working on Potential, and I already had 2000 words of it. Everyone knows NaNoWriMo rules say it has to be a new project, otherwise you're a rebel.

Well, the rules DID say that. Until this year, apparently. Seems things have changed and the metaphorical belts of the guidelines were loosened. So I'm working on Potential. And I am NOT rebelling.

It's been a slow first two days. The plot points weren't as solid as I thought, and my main character tried to take a sideline so her best friend could have the spotlight. As soon as BFF was brushed out the way, things got a lot easier. I know in edits I'm going to have to pull MC to the forefront while hopefully BFF won't end up being a darling to cut. I really do love her and her quirks, she's a perfect foil for the MC. Any changes will have to come in December, though. For now, I need to keep progressing. Edit later, write now.

NaNo Wordcount: 4,392

Friday, October 17, 2014

Questions and Answers

It's that most wonderful time of the year again. The weather's getting cooler (ugh), leaves are falling (noooo), but it's October and that means NaNoWriMo is coming! I'll be working on Potential over the coming month. It's been growing well in the planning stage. As I go, I'll be trying to update the blog more, so keep checking in an November goes!

The Maze Runner trilogy and prequel
I've been reading The Maze Runner series and keeping an eye on James Dashner's style as a YA writer in particular. One thing I've picked up most from him is the idea, "Always leave an open question." Don't end chapters with everything neatly tied up. As a reader, you keep reading a book to answer questions. Re: Maze Runner - What is the maze? What's the way out of it? How did Thomas get there? What's going on when people get stung by a Griever? It starts off with many questions right at the beginning, fueled by the main character's missing memories and new situation. From then on, Dashner starts answering those questions, but just before or as one closes and a chapter draws near an end, another one opens, drawing you from chapter to chapter all the way to the end, where most, but not all, are answered. The remaining ones draw you to the next book.

As a result, I've added something new to my outlining notes: Questions asked and questions answered per scene. Every scene should add a question, even if it's one as small as "How will Syn do at her prospecting" that'll be answered in the very next chapter. Not every scene needs to answer a question, but there should always be an open question, all the way to the very last page, to keep the reader moving forward. It's not always easy to find these questions, and if I'm really struggling, I know I need to do something more with the scene.

And if you were wondering how the Maze Runner series is, I give it two thumbs up. The main trilogy grabs you and drags you in, although, as with most trilogies it seems, the first book is the strongest and most definitely worth a read if you like YA dystopian. I'm not quite as gripped by the prequel novel as the others, though. I like the characters and it's great to see the world as it starts to fall apart versus long gone, as it is in the trilogy, but it just doesn't hold my attention as well. I'm not as attached to the characters, most likely because I can already predict their futures. That's always been a stumbling point of mine. If you tell me at the beginning that you're recounting the history of the survivors of disaster or something like that, I've lost all the tension of wondering if they'll survive. The biggest question is answered. I'll get through it eventually, but it's a few weeks between readings instead of one or two sittings, and I might pick something else up in the meantime. I've had my eye on the Divergent series for a while now. It's probably next in line, though whether it'll be before or after NaNo, I can't say. It's coming soon, though, that's for sure.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Everything is Something to Learn

Something I've recently realized (a little too recently considering how long I've been writing) is that every experience, good or bad, joyful, sorrowful, humiliating, or strange, is potential. Every moment of life you experience is a moment you can accurately reproduce in your stories, should the need arise. The more you're aware, the more you absorb, the more real you can write.

I learned a lot this past week. Whether I'll ever need it or not, I don't know, but if I do, it's there now.

Now I know about the size and beauty of El Paso, TX, especially at night.

Now I know how a three-foot tall, 28lb toddler can KO a full-grown adult.

Now I know  the process of a military funeral.

Every little thing's a lesson for a writer. Every moment is potential. There's nothing quite like laying someone to rest to remind you to appreciate every single one.

And if for some reason you need a toddler to take out an adult, have said toddler lock their legs around the seated adult's legs at the last second while she tries to put the toddler on the ground in front of her. When the adult realizes too late that the toddler's feet are not where her center of balance said they should be, gravity and trying to avoid squishing the child will take care of the rest.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Two Feet Back On A Round Earth

As of yesterday, my ten-book reading spree is done. It's kinda sad, honestly. Part of me wants to keep going. It's been so nice, curling up with a book again and just letting go of the surrounding world, and there are so many books to read. But I can't stay on the Disc forever. My own work is calling and NaNoWriMo approaches. I learned something from this experience, though. Whenever I'm writing, I try NOT to read. It's that old fear of being influenced by the books I dive into, of my words turning into someone else's. But then I end up drained of writing and, well, the last month happens. So that's two extremes I can't take. I can't write everyday, and I can't write without reading. The muse just can't handle it.

So what now? I'm going to put more focus on that little list on the right. I'm going to learn to read and write at the same time, and to let myself do so. No guilt, no fear, I'm just filling the tank. Because letting it get empty is bound to leave me stranded.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Guest Post: Abner Senires on Speedbumps

Good morning! I hope everyone had a safe and enjoyable Labor Day weekend. With the last summer holiday now in the past, it's time to look towards cooler weather... eventually. What this weekend meant for me was the release of my friend Abner Senires' new book and the start of his blog tour! I'm honored to be a part of it and have him here as my first ever guest post. Please welcome him and look up his series, KAT AND MOUSE, GUNS FOR HIRE if futuristic pulp action with a pair of badass ladies behind the guns sounds good to you.

Now, over to Abner!

Before I start, I'd like to thank Maggie for hosting me today for this stop on the KAT AND MOUSE SEASON TWO book blog tour.

When she asked me to write about any "speedbumps" I might have encountered on the writing road, I decided, after some thought, to write about...

The Mother of All Writing Speedbumps

There are, of course, all sorts of speedbumps on the road of writing.

Sometimes they're called "writer's block." Sometimes, "not enough time." Sometimes, "uninspired." Other times, "self-doubt of our writing ability." Still others, "Real Life."

By themselves, they're easy enough to conquer.

Writer's block? Maybe it's time to recharge the creative batteries by reading, watching a movie, doing another creative task like painting or woodworking, or just getting out of the house and being active.

Not enough time? Schedule it in and stick to it. Even if it's just ten minutes a day. It'll add up.

Uninspired? Recharge, as I mentioned above.

Self-doubt about our ability? Positive self-talk can usually help. And it often happens that what we might see as negative, those around us might see as positive. That page of dialogue we thought sounded contrived? Your beta reader might think it was packed with dramatic subtext.

Real Life? Sometimes you just have to hold on tight and get through that dark tunnel to the light at the other end.

At least, those are my approaches to each speedbump above.

Your tactics may differ.

Sometimes, speedbumps double up. Writer's block plus self-doubt. Real Life plus uninspired. Not enough time plus uninspired.

And then there's the Mother of All Writing Speedbumps. The one in the title to this post.

I hit that one earlier this year.

It wasn't all at once, mind you. No. It had been building up for at least several months to a year and a half prior. Writer's block and being uninspired that was slowly not being solved by recharging the tanks, doing other creative things, or being active. Lack of time that was growing. Real Life that saw no sign of a light at the end of the tunnel. Self-doubt that started to become a gnawing thing that somehow latched on and wouldn't let go.

They came in waves during most of 2011 and 2012. Attack. Retreat. Attack. Retreat. One at a time. Then all was well. Then two at a time. Then all was well.

Over and over.

Then in late 2012, I hit four of those speedbumps. One after the other.

Writer's block. Uninspired. Not enough time. Self-doubt.

And suddenly I found myself in mental quicksand. Struggle too much and I'd start to sink faster. All I could do was move slowly to get myself out.

And moving slowly took time.

And when I did get out, I thought the worst was over. At that point, toward the end of 2013, things looked like they were starting to turn around.

Man, did I have it wrong.


Little did I realize that in those last few months of 2013, the speedbumps were massing for an attack.

Two weeks into 2014, an incident sent me careening into the Mother of All Writing Speedbumps.

All five speedbumps.

At one time.

Writer's block. Uninspired. Not enough time. Self-doubt. Real Life.

Crash and burn. Michael Bay-style.

When the crashing and burning finished, I found myself in a deep dark place staring at the abyss.

And the abyss was staring back at me.

And then the abyss grabbed me by the face and yanked me deeper into that darkness.

In that darkness I vowed never to write again.

I gave up on writing fiction.

In that darkness I closed down the website. Turned off the blog. Goodreads. Twitter.

And retreated into the darkness.

Never again, I thought to myself. Never again would I subject myself to the heartache, mental anguish, and depression the incident unleashed.


No way.

But the Universe has a funny way of making sure you're doing what you're supposed to be doing. Especially for those of us who've answered a calling. A purpose. A destiny. (Yeah, a little dramatic, but hopefully you get the drift.)

In my case, I had embraced being a working writer of fiction.

The Universe, in its infinite wisdom, was looking out for me, to make sure I did, and would continue to do, just that.

Sure I had shut down the website and the blog and the Goodreads and the Twitter.

But, and here's the important bit: I never deleted anything.

The website was still there but the links on the main page were just missing. The blog was there, too, but I'd made it private instead of public. I removed my Goodreads Author page but my personal account was still active. And Twitter was still there. I just didn't use it.

It's as if the Universe said to itself: "Okay, he's being an idiot. I know it. He doesn't, 'cuz he's not paying attention. So I'm just going to put in this hidden entrance. For later use. And not say anything to him."

Laugh if you want. Call it "woo-woo-out-there-crazy-talk" if you must. I firmly believe if you've embraced a calling or purpose or destiny with every fiber of your being, if you've internalized it down to your very core, it will never go away. To paraphrase a character from Robert Heinlein's The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, you might be cured of writing, but not of the need to write; you may end up sitting in a corner, trembling.

So while I thought I had given up writing fiction, I really hadn't.

Maybe what I needed at that point was distance from everything. Maybe I needed to not write for a little while. Maybe I needed to hibernate.

Maybe do a cold reboot.

Whatever it was, the Mother of All Speedbumps triggered it and it took place over the course of four weeks.

On the morning after those four weeks and four days, the Universe woke me up, grabbed me by the short and curlies, stuck its ugly mug in my face, turned into Gunny Ermey, and screamed: "YOU STUPID FRAKING IDIOT!!! WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING?!? NUKE IT FROM ORBIT, GET YOU HEAD OUT OF YOUR ASS, AND GET BACK TO WORK!!!"

I think it was a cold reboot.

Because shortly after that, I was ready.

Ready to kick writing ass.

Damn the speedbumps. Damn the torpedoes.

Full speed ahead.

Go time.

Abner Senires writes sci-fi pulp adventure and probably drinks far too much coffee. He lives just outside Seattle, WA with his wife and a pair of rambunctious cats.

TWITTER: @abnersenires

Things are heating up for near-future female mercenaries Kat and Mouse as they tackle even more hair-raising jobs for shadowy clients and run afoul of terrorists, freedom fighters, hired assassins, a Japanese crime syndicate, and warring punkergangs. And smack in the middle of this, an enemy from the past is back and wants revenge on the duo.

Now these two sassy sisters-in-arms must fight back and survive...and still get their jobs done.

Available from:

Monday, August 18, 2014

Vacationing on the Great A'tuin

Lost in Ankh-Morpork.

Don't send help.

I can find my own way out.


I aten't dead.

(You ever want to reread a book SO BAD but you also want to read the series in order and the one in particular you want to reread is near the end? My inspiration tank was running low, so my writing is on hold while I while away the days on the Discworld, working my way through the City Watch/Ankh-Morpork storylines in the proper order. So far, I haven't regretted the decision.)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


I just realized I promised to write about my latest WIP next post two posts ago. Whoops! First off, thank you so much for the responses to my last post. I am always open to suggestions for what you the reader wants to see, so please, don't ever think that was a "one time only" thing.

Sunday was the second write-in with my crit group. Fewer of us showed up due to weather, work, or plans, but the food was good and company delightful. And the writing, oh the writing. Potential has started, and it's coming alive.

So, what is Potential?

Imagine a world where children and teenagers are bought and sponsored by companies like they were Nascar vehicles, based entirely on the potential the youth show for future fame. What if Jennifer Lawrence had been introduced to the world sporting a McDonalds logo? Or Lorde? If you waited for people to get famous, the cost of sponsoring them would be much higher. Buy low, sell high. Sponsor a Potential, encourage their training, reap the rewards if they make it big. This is where the idea began.

Sixteen year old Synclaire "Syn" Ritchie has no talents, nothing anyone would want to sponsor at least. She's decent with a camera, but why sponsor a photographer when you could have an actor? A singer? An inventor? A politician? She's short, she's small-chested, her hair could be mistaken for a tumbleweed on a bad day, and she just has no talent. All she's ever wanted was to get a sponsor, enough for her to go to college and maybe make something of her life would be great, but to go to Promise Academy, oh how glorious that would be. To be one of the lucky few whose sponsor buys them the glamorous life on the west coast while they train for their inevitable fame. But that's even less than a pipe dream for Syn.

The prospectors come every five years from kindergarten to 10th grade to find students with potential for the sponsoring corporations. This year is the last time Syn has to suffer through being told she's not good enough to make her dreams a reality. Until she's sat down and told a sponsor has a proposition for her. The biggest designer clothing company in the country, Coolture, wants to see if it's possible to mold someone without potential into the star of the year. She's their girl. The impossible becomes reality, and in a few weeks, Syn's on the plane to Promise.

(source unknown)
With a little camera and makeover magic and clever marketing, Syn is transformed into a celebrity, but it's not everything she dreamed of. She lives every day in fear of being found out that she's undeserving of it all, of losing the friends she's made over a lie that an old rival who also came to Promise knows. And when a rash of deadly accidents start to point to her as the culprit, she wonders what exactly Coolture meant when they said they'd make her a household name. Syn and her friends have precious little time to find who's trying to frame her before her most famous picture becomes her mugshot.

So that's Potential. It's a YA dystopian that takes place about 75 years in the future. A flesh-eating contagion started in 2035, killed millions, crippled more, and is still active through transmission to each newborn generation in 2089. Prosthetic limbs are as common as smartphones and the world has changed to accommodate them. There's a lot more going on in the world than Syn knows about, but as dystopians are wont to do, she's about to get dragged into the middle of it all.

I know YA dystopian is a flooded market and by the time I'm done, selling it may not be an option, but this is my story. It is what it is and I don't dare change it for anyone but myself. Maybe I'll write it well enough that publishers will want it anyway, risks be damned. All that matters right now is to write it and have fun doing so.

In the words of Syn's best friend, "Personally, my lady, I am a walrus."

Fun indeed.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

What Do You Want To See?

After a year and a half, this is my fiftieth post. Doesn't feel like it's been that many, but I suppose the counter doesn't lie.

I've spent a lot of time thinking about this blog lately. Should I keep it on Blogspot or move to wordpress or some other site? Make a more author-page-y site? Update what I have, or leave it the same? And above all, what to post? It's been fifty posts, and while I haven't gone back over them, I'm fairly certain most of them are about, well, me. Talking about my writing, my journey down this path, and just myself. I want to make this blog something people want to read, something more than "me, me, me." So I'm turning to you, my current readers: What do you want to see?

More book reviews?
Samples of stuff I've written?
Tips and advice?
Links to other writing/authors blogs and sites?
Talk about or guest posts from other authors I know?
Something else entirely?
Or are my concerns unfounded and the stuff I post now is fine?

This isn't to say I intend to stop posting about my own progress to becoming an author. I just want to stop from being a constant flood of "me" posts. Please, be honest and tell me what you'd like to see from me in future posts in the comments.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

When Do You Just Start?

Still here, still plotting away on my next WIP. I have a good portion of it plotted, maybe a third? Hopefully at least 15,000 words worth. I'm not really sure. I'll have to see how much it comes out to when I start writing it, which is the question of the day for the last week. "When do I stop plotting and start writing?" Do I keep plotting until I get to the general "the end" of the story? Do I put on the brakes in a day or two and dive in, confident in what I have planned, and find out what I don't know about the story through the pantsing process to continue plotting later? I see the pros and cons of both. I'm afraid of running myself dry plotting and getting tired of the story before I even get to write it. But then, how good a story could it have been if I lost interest before I started? Ugh, this learning curve is a pain.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to a write-in with my critique group. One of the lovely ladies and her husband hosts lunch and writing at their beautiful wood-surrounded home. There's even a little creek with a path beside it for when you need to walk a block out. It's truly beautiful, and I'm going back for another next weekend. I guess I should try to figure out what I'm doing by then. Last time, I edited two short stories and part of my completed novel (oh lord, there was a not-as-welcome trip down memory lane. On the plus side, I've made enough progress in the last year to see what all I did wrong. On the other hand, I have so much work to do...)

Next post, I'll talk a bit about this WIP. It's not any from the list I posted of my projects last month and came out of nowhere to demand action. When a bunny wants to be written...

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Camp NaNo 2014? Not This Time

It's July, which means it's time for another Camp Nano. Another camp that I'm not doing. I want to, believe me, but also believe me when I say that, for my own sanity, I know better. Right now, my life is busier than I have ever seen it. Over a month without a weekend break from traveling and guests starting two weeks ago on the 21st and ending, finally ending, on the 26th. A month and five days before we have no expectations, no one either wanting our presence at their place or their presence at our place. I love friends and family as much as the next person, but when all friends and family are an overnight stay away, it wears on the psyche. And so, I'm letting Camp pass me by, for my own mental health.

But that doesn't mean I'm not writing. Oh no. I have a new story riding herd on me, demanding to be done, which is why I even considered Camp at all! It's not exactly new, per se, the idea's been sitting around in my head for a year or so, but the growth it's had the past few weeks has been exponential. Characters, plot, subplots, and romances, all the pieces are coming together and I know the time to stop plotting and just write it is approaching. So, if you're doing Camp, you may not see me around the boards or get me in your cabin, but I'll be at your side on the outside. Sometimes. When I'm not a ball of sobbing neuroses, knowing I brought this all on myself and am simply reaping what I sowed.

May God have mercy on my sanity.

Monday, June 16, 2014

"My Writing Process" Blog Tour, Maxwell Edition

Through a complicated set of circumstances (that mostly was me going "Hey,") I've been invited to participate in the "My Writing Process" Blog Tour & Baton Passing. Thanks to Carol Strickland for passing the baton off to me!

The rules are complex, delving into the depths of the human psyche wherein one may find monsters worthy of emerging from the mind of Lovecraft and where hellscapes do battle with rainbow unicorn lands for dominance within one's soul. It is a trip from which one may never return, with danger, drama, and-

Oh, wait, wrong blog tour. I'm just supposed to answer some questions about writing.

1) What am I currently working on?
Right now, I have three primary projects. The first one is the YA Atlantis story I talked about in this post so long ago. The world still needs some building, but it's fairly well-developed. What's not entirely developed is the story and the main character. I tried to start without them and got stuck on chapter 2.

The second project is a pirate-themed trilogy. The first book is the only novel I've managed to finish, but that was a few years ago. I looked at it again recently and realize I have a lot to fix: Long, dull "telling" paragraphs, adverbs and "very"s aplenty, far too much pirate slang (so many red squiggly lines...), and a dreaded "unconscious for far longer than is healthy due to head injury" scene. Whoops. I also realize that I may be missing an entire scene at the end. It ends of a bit of a cliffhanger, and after talking with some friends about it at a write-in, I think I have an idea of where it really should end.

And the third project is honestly the one with the largest scale and smallest potential market: a superhero series. Spanning three generations of various heroes, called Aces, from the 1980s to 2030, it's less a series and more a universe. Plots for each story follow anyone from the greatest heroes of the day to the small-time criminal and can be flash fiction to full novel. It varies from one story to another, and they all build upon each other between stories and generations. The world the Aces live in changes between each generation as forces for good and evil rise and fall. I've started with some of the short stories while I plot out the larger ones, and so far, I'm loving working inside this universe, especially with the little guys.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Mostly, because it's mine and no one else can write the stories in my head. I'm not trying to push any envelopes or break any molds. I just want to tell good stories of adventure and discovery, easy reads for the people who want to escape the real world for a little while.

While the overall concepts may not be mold-breakers, I try to make the individual stories have unique elements, though. Some of the stories for the Aces series focus on non-super characters in a super world (like the costume designer, the bank robber, or the henchman) or supers who choose not to use their powers (like the unstoppable Ace who's much happier doing tax audits than saving the world). The hero from the Atlantis story has asthma and a heart condition, making him be a hero while keeping an eye on his health and a very dangerous weakness. The pirate trilogy takes place in a world where metal is rare, requiring some major changes to the weaponry you'd normally find in the setting. Little things like that that come down to the individual story.

3) Why do I write what I do?
I write adventure fiction because I've always dreamed of having my own adventure. I've spent a lifetime daydreaming about climbing mountains, of finding lost treasure or forgotten bones, of myth and magic being real. My muse gives me story ideas that fit these molds to keep me sane and safe at home. I write speculative fiction adventures so I can live vicariously through my characters.

4) How does your writing process work?
My regular readers will know that I'm still figuring this out, really. I've tried pantsing, just slamming words down on the paper and going where they take me. It rarely worked out, although I did manage to put "The end" on one full-length novel. Kinda. It's more "to be continued." Now I'm trying outlining, and it's not exactly doing it for me either, although it's gotten me through two short stories. As it is, I'm just trying to make a schedule that won't burn me out and a balance of writing and plotting that will lead to more completed stories.

And that's it. That's what I'm up to and how the magic happens at the Maxwell house (Not to be confused with the coffee brand. There is no coffee at my house. If you come expecting any, you will be sorely disappointed.) Now I'm passing the baton on to a few good friends who'll continue the tour in a week! Enjoy!

Melanie Williams is an aspiring speculative fiction author. She delights in writing stories where the character are often both People of Color and LBGT+. A geek to her core, she can be found at her blog, Eclectic Little Dork.

My #1 writing buddy, victim of my plotholes, and the one to blame for many of my ideas, I'm making Agent Double Oh Zero resurrect her blog for this. She is a writer of science fiction and fantasy, metalhead, Whovian, and general geekian who can be found blogging at God of Ephemera.

Friday, May 30, 2014

I am the Zombies

Follow me, if you will, through a little experiment.

First, take a towel. The cleanest, whitest one you have. Then go outside and find the muddiest patch you can. Use the towel to wipe it up. Stray cat leave a hairball on your doorstep? Use the towel. Neighbor forgot the doggie bag in your yard? Towel. Clean up the entirety of the outdoors with that towel. Now look at your handiwork. Not the clean yard, the towel.

That towel represents how I felt last week, which is why there hasn't been a post until now.

There are stories everywhere you look. Every experience is research. As a writer, it's part of my job to pay extra attention to these experiences. And from my experience, I can now write a story about the ER of a hospital in Myrtle Beach. For the record, I do not live in Myrtle Beach.

On top of terrible sickness, I also realized I'd drained myself writing. Both my muse and myself needed a break. Luckily, I'd decided on that BEFORE my functional level was closer to zombie-buried-in-a-steel-coffin-before-the-apocalypse than human (and let me tell you, that's one grumpy zombie,) so I was able to avoid arguing with myself over getting my daily allotment done. I've allowed myself a break to heal physically and mentally, and that included the blog too. Over the past two weeks, I have recovered both and put the zombie away.

So maybe that whole "write every day" thing isn't for me. I can manage it during NaNos, but at the cost of my sanity for a month. Evidently, this is the way I am whether the word count is 1,667 or 250. So now I get to figure out a new schedule, a new plan to keep me working without slacking off. Find out a little bit more about me as a writer. You'd think after so many years, I'd know myself inside and out, and yet I still feel like such a beginner at times. As long as I keep at it, though, I'll keep learning. Eventually I'll know what I'd doing. For now, I just have to "do." 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Book Recommendation: Uglies

Cover image from Wikipedia
If you've noticed my reading list on the right lately, you've probably seen that it's been filled up with a couple of books by Scott Westerfield. I got the first one, Uglies, in a group of ebooks from a Humble Bundle sale (pay however much you want for a collection of books. Part goes to the authors, part to the site, part to charity. It's wonderful for discovering new favorites. John Scalzi wrote two articles about his participation in one.) My writing buddy J R read it before me and recommended it as "better than the Hunger Games." Now, I loved the Hunger Games. I thought it was great, and with it's popularity, how could there be a series better?

She wasn't wrong. It's got dystopia with a dark truth and a mystery of the old world. It's got a strong heroine who's manipulated by the system and fights it. And the basis for the dystopia is just fascinating: What if the world's obsession with beauty went too far?

From Amazon: "Scott Westerfeld ... projects a future world in which a compulsory operation at sixteen wipes out physical differences and makes everyone pretty by conforming to an ideal standard of beauty. The "New Pretties" are then free to play and party, while the younger "Uglies" look on enviously and spend the time before their own transformations in plotting mischievous tricks against their elders. Tally Youngblood is one of the most daring of the Uglies, and her imaginative tricks have gotten her in trouble with the menacing department of Special Circumstances. She has yearned to be pretty, but since her best friend Shay ran away to the rumored rebel settlement of recalcitrant Uglies called The Smoke, Tally has been troubled. The authorities give her an impossible choice: either she follows Shay’s cryptic directions to The Smoke with the purpose of betraying the rebels, or she will never be allowed to become pretty."

It's a three book series with a follow-up fourth book, and something more coming in September apparently. As soon as I finished the first one, I had to go buy the second and third. I'm halfway done with the third and love it just as much as the first. It just keeps digging deeper into how messed up the world is, how far the bad guys will go to keep their perfect world. The technology is creative yet believable for the time (hoverboards that work on magnetism, recyclable clothing), the touches of our world long left behind haunting (cars with corpses locked inside running through crumbling city ruins.) The language is just different enough to be understandable, but obvious that time has changed the slang. Westerfield has built his dystopia beautifully. If you want to fill the void left behind by Hunger Games withdrawl, pick up Uglies.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

And the Verdict is...

Rejection. Form rejection. As much as the little voices wanted to, tried to convince me otherwise, I'm glad I listened to the sensible voice in my head that said it was to be expected well before it came. I would have been setting myself up for crushing disappointment had I gone in expecting an acceptance. My first story, first submission, bought with no problems? Unlikely. I've been knocked down, but instead of sitting there crying about being on the ground, I choose to get back up, dust myself off, and say, "All right, let's try this again." I'll build up my callouses, collect the scars. I'm proud to have my first one.

I'm not going back in as blindly as before, though. Late last week, someone on AW mentioned a site called The Grinder, where submissions are followed and days out tracked. And I'll be damned if the ones for Asimov's weren't right on the nose. The last few responses were rejections at 52, 53, 54 days. I was at day 49 and the status had just changed to "Under Review" on the website. Yesterday, at 53 days waiting, my rejection came in, exactly as expected. So now I have a resource to track wait times, try to submit to the places that are responding faster. At the very least, I won't have to live in my email anymore. It's cold in there.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

On Coincidences

"The universe is rarely so lazy." That's what Sherlock Holmes says about coincidences, at least in the BBC show "Sherlock". Not sure if it's a classic Sherlock quote or not, but it gives you something to think about. But sometimes, there are things that you just can't explain, strange coincidences that defy reason because they don't involve anyone else but you and your mind.

When writers talk about characters and books, we can get whimsical.

"A writer is someone who has taught their mind to misbehave." - Oscar Wilde
"When you start writing, the magic comes when the characters seem to take on a life of their own and write the words themselves." - Alice Hoffman
"Writers aren't exactly people. They're a whole bunch of people trying to be one person." - F. Scott Fitzgerald

We end up talking like the worlds in our minds, our characters, our settings are real and we're just telling stories someone else is telling us from some other plane of existance. When we get stuck, it's our characters not doing what we want them to do. And then there's the idea of a muse, some non-physical entity that's the source of our inspiration, someone who can leave us at the drop of a hat if we're not paying them enough attention or listening to them. It's all silly, isn't it? When it all comes down to it, it's just us, sitting there in front of a computer or a notebook or typewriter.

Isn't it?

The universe is rarely so lazy. So why did I, alone, make a modern immortal based on Morgan le Fay and set her birthdate 12 years before the first mention of her name in fiction (1150AD)? I don't know the King Arthur legends, the era they spawned from, and yet I decided my Morgan was 874 years old, pinning her date of birth right on the metaphorical donkey's bum. I didn't realize the coincidence until after the charcter was set in stone.

Why did I, alone, name my hero and my villain for my Atlantis story the exact same names as Abraham's sons from the Bible? I like biblical references in my writing, but I will not claim to know the Bible beyond the basic stories. And yet, I named my main character Isaac after Newton and Asimov, and my villain Ishmael, for the hero of Moby Dick, completely unaware that these were the same names as the sons of the first patriarch of the Old Testament.

The universe is rarely so lazy, so how can you explain coincidences like these? Is there something in the idea that characters and muses are different people from us, with different knowledge than us, using us as a conduit to tell stories? No, that's crazy. The universe is rarely so lazy, but "rarely" and "never" are hardly the same. Still, funny little thought, isn't it?

Have you ever encountered strange coincidences in your reading or writing?

Friday, April 25, 2014

What To Do With 28?

My birthday was yesterday, and, like Stephen King used to lie to interviewers about doing, I gave myself the day off from writing. Not that I couldn't have written. I only went to dinner with Mr. Maxwell, but I chose to spend the evening buried in my new Marvel 1602 graphic novel (Marvel comics, written by Neil Gaiman, set in 1602AD. Yes, it's as wonderful as it sounds.) I've several other new books waiting for my attention as well as my own writing. So, the question of the day is: I'm 28 now. What am I going to do with it? What do I want my life to be like when I turn 29?

This year, I want to read even more.
This year, I want to write even more.
This year, I want to be able to slip a magazine into shipping envelopes with my mom and dad's addresses or compose an email with a link and, in either, a note that says "Look Mom, Dad, I'm published." An aspiration I never had before.
If I work hard, read hard, and edit harder, maybe, just maybe, by the time I'm 29, I can have an agent. That one's a longshot, though.

But then, that's all just words and desires. So what WILL I do? I really don't know. Do my best, I guess. I've been writing every day for the past 40-something days, 250 words per day (yesterday not included). In a few days, maybe on day 50, I'll bump that up to 500 per day. 15,000 a month until I bump the wordcount again. I should be able to finish a novel or a few short stories on that pace.

Six weeks, still no word from Asimov's. I'm practically living in my email now, just waiting to see "1 New Message," no matter what it says.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

All sub and no 'R' makes Maxwell a dull girl.

All sub and no 'R' makes Maxwell a dull girl. All sub and no 'R' makes Maxwell a dull girl. All sub and no 'R' makes Maxwell a dull girl. All sub and no 'R' makes Maxwell a dull girl. All sub and no 'R' makes Maxwell a dull girl. All sub and no 'R' makes Maxwell a dull girl. All sub and no 'R' makes Maxwell a dull girl. All sub and no 'R' makes Maxwell a dull girl. All sub and no 'R' makes Maxwell a dull girl. All sub and no 'R' makes Maxwell a dull girl. All sub and no 'R' makes Maxwell a dull girl. All sub and no 'R' makes Maxwell a dull girl. All sub and no 'R' makes Maxwell a dull girl. All sub and no 'R' makes Maxwell a dull girl.

All right, that's enough copy/pasting. Man, we have things so much easier than the days of typewriters.

They don't tell you the wait gets easier. Maybe it's worse when the wait is longer? I don't know, but I suppose I'll find out one day. For now, still waiting, but that anxiety, that "must check every hour every day" what-if  monster seems to have gotten bored and wandered off. There's nothing to do for it but wait. It'll come when it comes. If that's tomorrow, exactly 5 weeks after I sent it in, then hoorah. If it's longer, then the editor is busy, or she had a bigger slush pile than usual, or maybe, just maybe, my story's under consideration. Who knows? Not me, and oddly, that's okay now.

Still, maybe I should go check my email. Just in case.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

To the Wolves Went the Innocent

And the innocent emerged complete.

Yesterday, my story paid the price my mouth bartered for. In an overheated room filled with people in the back of a comic book store, I read it aloud for the first time to a bunch of strangers I'm starting to call my friends. I trembled my way through the first reader's technically perfect, highly enjoyable, funny story, trying to calm my nerves with Dr Pepper and failing. Not only did I have to read, but I had to follow an act like that? Sure, let's just have me perform my first concert following up a show by Journey. I sat beside the person manning the timer and watched as the clock ticked down, counted as every person gave their critique, which was mostly, "Wow, that's great, I want more." Oh lord, the critwolves are going to be hungry. They weren't fed for the first story. I was going to get destroyed.

"Time. Maggie, your turn. When you're ready."

Never ready, but everyone was looking at me. So I started reading. They laughed at the first joke. I read more. They laughed again. I stumbled at a few places, but just before my 15 minutes were up, I finished the excerpt I had brought. Nothing to do but wait to be torn to shreds.

It never came. They liked it. They wanted to read the rest and see where it was going. They hoped it would get darker because I had set it up well to get dark (it does). They got the references and enjoyed them. The editor of the group said, "If I'd pulled this out of my slush pile, I would undoubtedly read the rest of it." That was it, that was all he had to say. Oh, my god.

There were a few minor things people pointed out that I agree with, but otherwise, most of them were interested in knowing where it goes from there and even said hours later how much they loved the premise. I entered the wolves den and emerged with my story, spine, and skin intact. Now I can spend the next few meetings learning to be a wolf.

Friday, April 4, 2014

A Slowly Descending Madness

Dear blog,

It has been three weeks since I submitted my story. My patience wears thin. The first two weeks, I managed to resist looking in on my status but once or twice. Now, at the dawn of the fourth week, I can't hold myself back from checking multiple times a day. Deep down, I know there will not be a change, not yet. At 10PM, I know there will not likely be a difference from the 5PM status. I can't help myself. The niggling "Maybe Now" has my patience firmly in its clutches. I try to distract myself. I began work on my long-awaited (by me) Atlantis book. Then I scrapped it a few days later and started again, because the first version was shit. I shall attempt to distract myself further this weekend with Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I do not believe it will be successful. The distraction, not the movie. I'll just be grateful that, for the time being, I do not have a smart phone. Otherwise, I'd certainly be the asshole blinding everyone around me in the theater. Come on, "Maybe Now," it's the weekend. Editors take days off too, right?

Two more weeks. Two more weeks.

If at any point, dear readers, you come and see a blog full of "All sub and no 'R' makes Maxwell a dull girl," send help.

Ever yours in first submission madness,
Maggie Maxwell

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

My Mouth Is On Time Out

Do you want to know why I write?

I write because my brain and my mouth have a communication problem. My hands are much better at communicating with my brain. You see, when I have the chance, I think long and hard about what I want to say. I perfect it. Through my fingers, the words come out perfect, just as I envisioned them. But if the memo is supposed to go to my mouth, ooohh boy. It's like a game of Telephone happens somewhere along the way.

For example, I went to the critique group. Because I wasn't the only newbie there, we all went around the room and introduced ourselves. I was near the end of the line-up. I had time.

My brain thought, "Hi, I'm Maggie. I write whatever hits me, but what usually hits me is science fiction and fantasy."

My mouth said, "Hi, I'm Maggie. I write science fiction and fantasy when the urge hits me."

What? That's not right at all. Mouth, what happened? You make it sound like I'm not dedicated to this. Bad Mouth.

Later, after all the critiquing was done, the meeting leader prepared the crit line-up for the next meeting in two weeks. Newbies got first crack at it if we desired. We could present in two weeks, or be a backup and possibly present in a month unless someone drops out from the next one.

My brain thought, "Yeah, I'll be a backup. I'm not ready to dive into the pool headfirst, but I can if necessary."

My mouth said, "Sure, let's do this. I've got something out on submission I can bring."


Mouth, you're not allowed to work anymore. You lose talking privileges.

Welp, hope my Asimov's submission is ready, because in two weeks, the poor thing is going to be ripped to shreds.

(Note: I had a fabulous time, everyone was friendly and welcoming, and I'm happy to go back, even if I ended up diving into the pool sooner than I planned. I'm glad I pushed through the introversion and went.)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Socializing is hard!

There's that old fear again. The introvert putting herself out there.

I'm getting better about going to RWA meetings. I'm starting to make friends, to know people and make myself known. One of them gave me directions to a Science Fiction/Fantasy critique group she goes to. I signed up, put my name in the hat for attending one tonight and... my friend isn't going. She had to cancel, for one reason or another. Mr. Maxwell was going to come with me as a guest. He can't because of a contractor coming to the house late tonight. So I'm going by myself. To a group where I know no one, to do something I've never done before. I'm terrified. The anti-social side of me is trying to convince myself not to. "Stay home, write your own stuff, make dinner." I'm trying to ignore it. Deep breaths and courage to chase it away. It's not easy. I like being behind the glowing screen, having time to think out your words. No one judging you by other factors than your words. Little risk of foot-in-mouth.

It's okay. I've done it before. I can do it again. I just... need the next four hours to keep myself psyched up enough to get in the car, go to the store it's being held at, avoid the shiny, shiny comic book temptation (why oh why is it at my favorite comic book store?) on the way to the rented room, and say, "Hi."

Gonna be a long four hours.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Trying out an idea

My birthday's coming up next month. As a side effect, people are starting to ask me what I'd like for it. Like a good little bibliophile, my answer is, emphatically, "Books." And then comes the question, "But what specifically?"

Recently I saw the idea where someone, when having their own birthday party, asked their friends to bring their favorite book as a gift. I liked that idea. It builds your personal library, expands your own horizons with books you might not have considered. The givers get the fun of sharing their absolute all-time favorite book with someone. If I had more real life friends or was a party-throwing type, I'd do it. But I don't, and I'm not. Most of my friends are online. I'd be happy just to get recommendations for books.

And then I thought, "Well, you could do that on Pinterest."

So now I have my first open group board on Pinterest, here, based on the idea that anyone can join and pin books they recommend. Favorite books, their own books, books that aren't favorites but they really liked it, no preference. They can share it with a group of readers, discuss it, find people who liked it too. I'd like it to end up being an ever-growing library of recommendations. I'm still trying to settle on a name for it. I've tried:

  • Take a Book, Leave a Book
  • The Library of Favorites
  • and now The Expanding Library
Not 100% sold on any of those names, but I like the idea and hope I can generate interest in it. If you're on Pinterest and want an invite, just ask. I need to be able to answer "What do you want for your birthday?"

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Long Five Weeks Begins

In January, I said I was working on a short story for a gift exchange.

In February, I finished it and got positive feedback from everyone who read it.

Last night, I put one last spitshine on it and submitted it to Asimov's Science Fiction.

I double, triple, quadruple checked everything. I caught typos everyone had missed, tightened some sentences, and cut 100 unnecessary words. And then I sent it off to a complete stranger to read, judge, and deem worthy or unworthy. I'm expecting a rejection, but no matter what comes of it, I've finally put myself out there. Two decades after I wrote my first story, I finally did what I've been working towards my whole life. It's a surreal feeling. It's not the novel I always envisioned subbing first, but it's a story, it's mine, and it's out of my hands.

They say it usually takes five weeks usually to hear back. It's going to be a long five weeks. I'm going to distract myself by writing something else.

Monday, February 3, 2014

January Update

So, yeah, no posts in January. Barely any in December. I'm sorry. Bad blogger.

New Years Day came and went, and I, along with certainly thousands of others, made a new years resolution. Usually, along with certainly thousands of others, mine are doomed to failure. This year, I vowed to write, edit, plot, or otherwise work on my writing every day WITHOUT a NaNo to depend on. And yet here I stand, crossing into February, and aside from a small stumble, I'm still going. I missed one day due to being on the go from literally 8:00AM to 11:00PM. Driving five and a half hours hours, birthday party for my niece, short break spent with family, then back out for a hockey game. I got home and hit the pillow HARD. I barely had time to THINK that day, much less write. Didn't even realize I'd forgotten to do anything until we were on our way home the next day. But you know what? I got back on the saddle and picked up where I left off. As of yesterday, I have a finished, well, I don't think it's technically a short story. Based on the word count, it just squeaks into novelette territory. But it's mine and it's done.

I wish I could say I did this just because, but I have to admit there was a little NaNo-esque motivation behind it. Back in December, I signed up for a Secret Santa exchange, except instead of gifts, we were all to exchange stories. Give a prompt, get a story, and write one for someone else. The story's due in its final form on Feb 14th. It's still got some polishing to go through, but I have something, anything, for my promptee. I have just under two weeks to polish it until it shines, and then it's just a matter of hoping he or she likes it.

Once all the editing is done and the story is ready, that's when the hard part begins. I've written because I promised someone else I would. When this is done, I have to write because I promised myself I would. It's a lot easier to let yourself down.