Friday, December 11, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015: Conclusion

I don't like to lose.

I am driven by competition. It explains the sheer number of board games I had growing up. It doesn't explain why I was terrible at sports.

It's what makes NaNoWriMo so useful to me year after year. I can say to myself, "I want to accomplish X by Y date," but if I stumble along the way, I'll usually sit down and give up because I feel like I've got nothing to lose. When I sit down for NaNo and see that I and thousands of others have 50k to write by November 30th, well then, bring on the words. I want that purple bar and the winners prizes that I never use anyway. In the past, that motivation's gotten me five half-finished novels. I was worried about this year though. You may recall my goal was just to finish two novels, no matter how short it left me.

So, the verdict?


Aww yiss. I was close on my guess for how many words were left in BoBD and TG. I finished the second one at 37,000. At that point, with only 13,000 left to write and still on schedule, well, why not keep going?

Starting goal: Finish The Business of Being Dead and Trickster's Gambit (estimated completion: 30k)
End point:
The Business of Being Dead - Finished 11/17 (NaNoWC: 29,466)
Trickster's Gambit - Finished 11/22 (NaNoWC: 37,160)
The Henchman, planned but unwritten short story - Finished 11/25 (NaNoWC: 42,524)
Queen of Bones - In Progress (NaNoWC: 52,372)

Two finished novels, one finished short story, and a third novel on the last scene. I can actually finish three novels this year. I still have to remove the excess and see what the final word counts are. At least one will probably end up in "novella" length. I'm sure I'm going to need a lot of buffing on all three. Plus I realized a lot of plotholes while finishing Trickster's Gambit that made my planned ending not work. But you know what? I still finished it. I wrote the planned ending knowing it didn't make sense. It was... freeing. All this time I thought I'd given myself permission to write badly, but I hadn't. I had permission to write bad sentences, but I had never let myself write bad scenes. That was my stopping block. I had to fix the plotholes RIGHT THEN NO CONTINUING UNTIL FIXED DO IT NOW. But I wouldn't know how to do it, so I'd give up. Or I was missing scenes I needed, but wasn't sure how to write, so I'd give up. Or I'd write myself into a corner and didn't know how to get out of it, so I'd give up.

This time, with my goal of finishing, I let myself back up and restart. I let myself continue knowing I'd have to cut what I was doing in the next draft. I made myself shove through it so I could write "The End" and mean it. And now I have almost three first drafts to clean up. It feels incredible. And terrifying. Very terrifying. I can't wait to get started.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Moments of the week: Florida and Alzheimers

Hello everyone! Are you still here? 'Cause I totally understand if you're not. It's been a few weeks. I don't even remember what my last post was. Hold on.

*goes back and rereads*

Okay. Wow, it's been longer than I thought. My bad. To say I've been extremely busy is an understatement. On top of NaNoWriMo (update on that to come), I had Thanksgiving traveling to two different states two weeks ago and a trip to Florida last weekend. Driving. Whee, 10-12 hours in a car. But I got to see old friends, make new ones, and have a fantastic time.

I also got to see my grandparents, which was difficult. My grandfather is 92 or 93 and in excellent health, but my grandmother... she's nearing 89 and has Alzheimers. Or something. Some kind of degenerative disease that's taken my grandmother away from me. They don't like doctors, so I don't think she has a diagnosis. All I know is that the woman I grew up with, the woman who loved nothing more than reminiscing, is mostly gone. She's still happy, still physically healthy, all giggles and smiles, but she didn't recognize me. It's the hardest thing in the world to sit down across from a woman who held you as a baby and have her say how nice it is to meet someone new.

But there's still something of her there. Grandpa and Dad insist that she's gone, but that's impossible. I know it's impossible, because while she babbled asking us if we were just looking in the neighborhood or were we moving in, when she said how nice it was to meet someone new, she hesitated. Like she knew something was wrong. She said we looked healthy, something she always worried about with me. And she kept saying how today was the best day in a long time. Maybe she says that every day, which would be nice. If every day can be the best day for her now. But I kind of hope it was because, somewhere, somehow, she knew her granddaughter had come to see her and was happy.

And then, just before we left, she looked at me. "I remember we used to play when you were little. Do you remember?" Then a smile. "Say hi to your mother for me." For just a moment, I think she remembered me. She knew who I was. She remembered me and Mom, her daughter-in-law. It was gone a moment later. Maybe it was just something in her mind running on autopilot because those were two things she always said to me, but that still means something in her mind recognized me. I broke down sobbing as we left the driveway. I hate goodbyes, but knowing that I will probably never see her again, that it's probably our last goodbye, it's the worst.

*honks nose*

Sorry. Emotions.

Anyway.

Other Moments in Florida:
The Altamonte Mall was busy, but we still made a stop by it. Lucky for me, because it was stuffed full of little moments.
  • A woman with a preteen daughter stepped onto an escalator going down. The girl hesitated, her face terrified, and stepped away while the woman went down. She noticed her daughter wasn't following after a few steps and turned to get back to her, but she couldn't climb against the stairs fast enough. Meanwhile, a woman perhaps in her late sixties came up behind the girl. She gave her a warm smile and said, "I'll go down with you, dear." she took the girl's hand and stepped onto the escalator with her. "Do you know how to get off when we get to the bottom?" the sixties woman asked. I couldn't hear the girl's answer, but when they reached the bottom, the girl was safely reunited with her mother, who thanked the stranger profusely.
  • A shaggy-haired man walking through Sears singing "Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me." 
  • Outside of the Santa photography area, a mother looked down at her son in his stroller and said, "How come you ain't scared of the Easter Bunny but you're scared of Santa?"
I'll be back in a bit with a NaNoWriMo update! Only, you know, ten days late...

Friday, November 13, 2015

Confessions of a Writer

It's only fair, I suppose. These tag posts go around. I hit someone up with a homework assignment of a blog post, it's only fair for them to return the favor. And talk about homework, this one's a doozy!

Courtesy of Anna Humphrey at The Muse's Lair, here's a little (a lot) about me.

When did you first start writing? Was being a writer something you always aspired to be?
I started writing in the 2nd grade. It wasn't intentional. Luck, really, is what did it. I loved books, was the first kid to read in Kindergarten, but I never thought about making my own story. Now, in Florida, we have a state standardized test called the FCAT, taken in 10th grade, but practiced every two years starting in 2nd to get us used to it. At least, that was how we did it then. You can't ask 2nd graders to write anything too complicated, though. They just don't know enough of the world to do an essay on economics or politics. "What I Did My Summer Vacation" is about the limit of 7 to 8 year old creativity. So we children were given one random prompt: a nonfiction one about vegetables or a fiction one about a door in the middle of nowhere. By the grace of where I was sitting, I got the fiction one, and I fell in love. After that, I knew all I wanted to do with my life was write.

What genre do you write?
I started in fantasy, and twenty years later, I still write fantasy. I also write science fiction and have ideas for horrors and thrillers, but the majority of what I do is some kind of fantasy.

Can you tell us a little about your current work in progress? When did you start working on this project?
I started my current WIP, The Business of Being Dead, for NaNoWriMo 2012. The idea came from a dream about being a grim reaper helping people pass on. Additionally, I'd always wanted to start a story with "I woke up dead this morning." I combined the two and ended up with a story about a girl who wakes up dead and is told by a sock-eating bogeyman that she's a grim reaper. Not The, just one of many meant to assist the Big D with the business of being dead: supplying blood for vampire, body parts for Frankstein monsters, keeping zombies from overrunning the Earth, that sort of thing. Unfortunately for her, she's arrived at a time of undead political upheaval, where the other undead are tired of being told what to do and where to hide. Caught on the wrong side of a revolution, she's going to have to run for her afterlife and figure out a way to save the world from the lich who would be the new Death.

What was your first piece that you can remember writing? What was it about?
I still remember that first prompt about the door (girl ran from bullies and escaped into Candyland), but after that, I wrote a two or three page story about a girl named Clarinet who was basically Cinderella but instead of going to a ball, she wanted to be a gymnast.

What’s the best part about writing?
The creating something from nothing. When you craft something, like building a clock, you have all the parts that will become the whole. When you write, it's just you and a blank sheet of paper, and it could become anything.

What’s the worst part about writing?
Having to clean it up when you're done. Being objective with your creation enough to slice it apart, find what's wrong, remove the darlings, and make it into something actually sensible and legible is difficult.


What’s the name of your favorite character and why?
Pick just one of my babies? Geez. Making me play favorites here.

I'm gonna have to go with Dave, the sock-eating bogeyman. His story is tragic; bogeymen are only formed when a person dies a gruesome, painful death. They're meant to be creatures of hatred and agony who feed on fear and children. But Dave's goodheartedness in life carried over despite his agonizing death. Despite living an afterlife of pain, persecution, and lots of hunger, he sees the good in the world around him and can't bring himself to give in to his animalistic nature. He's noble, loyal, creative, goofy, and kind, and god bless him, he tries so hard despite being a creature of nightmares. I love him.

How much time a day/week do you get to write? When is the best time for you to write (morning or night)?
I can write any time, although I prefer doing it during the day so I can have my evenings free. I do it where and when I can. It's difficult since I have a day job, but I just keep my WIP open in a Google Doc and if I have ten minutes during lunch, I do what I can.


Did you go to college for writing?
I did not. My major was in computer information systems with minors in graphic design and philosophy.

What bothers you more: spelling errors, punctuation errors or grammar errors?
Um, all of the above? Anything that disrupts the flow of the story bothers me.


What is the best writing advice that anyone has given you?
An online secret santa sent me a copy of Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman's How Not To Write a Novel. It's been the best writing book I've ever read. The advice in it has helped me become a better writer and a more observant reader.

What advice would you give to another writer?
Don't give up. When it feels like the story's crap and doesn't deserve to be finished, keep going. When it feels like YOU are crap and don't deserve to be a writer, keep going. When you haven't written in months and sit down and write that first bit of utter dreck, keep going. You can polish crap into a shiny diamond, but you have to get that crap on paper first. As long as you're trying to write, you're making progress, even if it's crap.

I'm sorry for saying 'crap' so much there. But I think I made my point.

What are your favorite writing sites or blogs that you turn to for help, tips or encouragement?
The Absolute Write forum, which has educated me in ways I never imagined. Through the people I've met there, I've started to complete and submit short stories, learned about all the behind-the-scenes stuff I never knew about, the things to look for and avoid when picking a publisher or agent, and in general become a more educated writer. Add that on with the support group of friends I've made in the chat threads, the world updates from the Politics & Current Events forum, the thousands of pages of general writing advice, and the Share Your Work section to practice critiquing query letters and chapters, I can't imagine a better place for a writer.

Besides writing, what else do you enjoy doing? What are your hobbies?
Video games, mostly. I'd like to pick up a more physical creative hobby, but I'm lazy and overly busy. When I have the time, though, I enjoy cooking, and I've always been fascinated by dollhouse props and furniture. I don't think I have the patience for it, though. I'm too much of an impatient perfectionist, not very good when you want to work with small, delicate objects.


What’s the best thing you’re watching on television?
I don't watch television, actually. Not Netflix either. The last thing I watched from TV was a few episodes of Agents of SHIELD, which rules. 

What’s the best book you’ve read this year?
Oh geez, I've read so many. Let's go with a non-Discworld book, since most of my latest reading has been that. Did I ever mention I finished? Yeah, October 5th, I finished The Shepherd's Crown. I might've cried. A lot.

Best this year, it's hard to pick one. I've read a lot of excellent books by my AW friends, like S. L. Huang's Zero Sum Game and Joshua Roots' Summoned Chaos (unsubtle plugs) but I think the winner for best this year will have to be Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I just absolutely loved it, if you couldn't tell by the blog post I made about it.


What is the best movie you’ve seen this year?
Another hard one. It's been a good year for movies. I'd have to say either Ant-Man (come on, I gotta pick at least ONE Marvel movie, and I think I liked Ant-Man just a wee bit better than Age of Ultron) or Mad Max: Fury Road. But oh, The Martian is so good too! I'm hoping, though, optimistically, that Star Wars: The Force Awakens will blow them all out of the water. Guess we'll see.


What is your favorite book or series of all time?
The Discworld series. Every single one of them.

Who is your favorite author?
Terry Pratchett

What are your plans for the rest of the year in terms of your writing?
Not much left for the rest of the year! Like I said before, I'm hoping to finish NaNo with two completed novels. They'll need to sit, soak up the new stuff in preparation for editing. After that, it's preparing for the annual Absolute Write Secret Solstice Science Fiction/Fantasy Story Swap, the short story gift exchange! We'll receive our prompts on Dec 25th, and then it's time to get writing.

Where else can we find you online?
Where CAN'T you find me online? Well, not on Facebook. I'm waiting to have something published before I make a FB page. And I have a Wattpad account, but nothing on it yet. I'll add it to the list once I do. For now, you can find me at any of the links on the upper right of this blog.

I'm guessing you all abandoned ship 17 questions ago. It'll be safe to come back next week. I promise it'll be shorter. Maybe I'll have more con pictures from this year's NC Comic-con.

Oh right, I'm supposed to tag people. Hm, who to victimize this time?

M. J. Ravenhill!
Lillith!
JR!
PK Baxter!

Y'all're it. And if anyone wants a tag and a link, please leave a comment! Happy Friday!

Just to make it easier on you, here are the questions:
When did you first start writing? Was being a writer something you always aspired to be?
What genre do you write?
Can you tell us a little about your current work in progress? When did you start working on this project?
What was your first piece that you can remember writing? What was it about?
What’s the best part about writing?
What’s the worst part about writing?
What’s the name of your favorite character and why?
How much time a day/week do you get to write? When is the best time for you to write (morning or night)?
Did you go to college for writing?
What bothers you more: spelling errors, punctuation errors or grammar errors?
What is the best writing advice that anyone has given you?
What advice would you give to another writer?
What are your favorite writing sites or blogs that you turn to for help, tips or encouragement?
Besides writing, what else do you enjoy doing? What are your hobbies?
What’s the best thing you’re watching on television?
What’s the best book you’ve read this year?
What is the best movie you’ve seen this year?
What is your favorite book or series of all time?
Who is your favorite author?
What are your plans for the rest of the year in terms of your writing?
Where else can we find you online?

Friday, November 6, 2015

Brief NaNo Update

So far so good. Six days in and, after a slow start, I've caught up to my daily 2k goal. I'll likely loose some of that tomorrow when my mother comes to visit. Sunday and Monday will be catch-up days. Whether I'll hit 50k or not is still up in the air, but the story is moving, at least. Current project is The Business of Being Dead and I'm enjoying the new direction a lot more. The characters are growing better as people. They've hit rock bottom. Now to start pulling them out of the hole they dug.

I'm having a slow wordage day, so no big posts today. Next week, look for a huge post about my writing on a tag challenge from my friend A. F. Humphrey. If you take a look and want to take part, leave me a comment and I'll hit you up!

Friday, October 30, 2015

What, What Do You Mean It's Oct 30th?

NaNoWriMo starts in two days.

I am not prepared.

That is all.

...

...

...

No, that's not all, really. True, I'm not prepared, but it's been difficult to get ready. I'm rebelling this year. You remember how at the beginning of the year- well, maybe not, you guys have better things to store in your long-term memory than my blog posts. So here's this post: Evicting Eventually. Goal 1, I completed on the last possible day. Goal 2, done. A day late, but done. Goal 3...

Flop. Flop flop flop. Like a fish on land. Floppity flop. Goal 4, I didn't even attempt. I'm the kind of person where if one thing gets away from me, I'm bad about getting the rest of the list done.

But I'm not giving up. Yeah, goal 5 is pretty far right now. Three novels completed in two months? And one of those months is December? Ha. Haha. No way. But I can still do two. At least, that's my NaNo goal. I've got two novels 50k done. One, Trickster's Gambit, just needs an incomplete scene completed, the climax, and the ending. Maybe 10k to go. The rest of it is pretty good, I think. Mostly on track.

The other, The Business of Being Dead, is going to take a lot more work. While writing it, I got lost. I rambled and hemmed and hawed and backtracked and ended up at a climax where the heroes couldn't win. They didn't have the knowledge to defeat the bad guy, and the bad guy didn't have the ability to beat the heroes. Stalemate in the last 2000 words. The current plan is to scrap it back to the "shit hits the fan" moment and go from there with a new plan. My problem is that the plan has only barely begun to come together. I'm likely going to end up plotting like the buffer bar on a slow-loading video: just barely keeping ahead of the work. With some luck and a lot of praying, I'll end up at a much better climax, where the bad guy has almost won, but the heroes seize victory from the jaws of defeat at the last second and get to a satisfactory The End. I suppose only time will tell now. If I can have two complete novels at the end of the next month, whether I wrote 50k or not, I'll consider myself a winner.

And I don't like to lose.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Moments of the Week: Greenville, SC

I went to visit my mother up in the mountains of NC last weekend. After weeks of cancelled events due to weather, we were finally, luckily blessed with a glorious weekend for spending it outside. Which is what my mother planned for us to do. Her local walking group had taken her to Greenville, SC for a trip, and she wanted to share it with me.

My friends, if you have need of a quirky city setting for a story, go to Downtown Greenville. Oh my gosh, we couldn't walk anywhere without seeing something inspirational, educational, or just plain cool.

I had no idea the place would be so cool, so I didn't bring my camera. Luckily, since our Maine trip, my mother upgraded her cell phone to one with a better camera. I commandeered it for a considerable portion of the trip.

Okay, so first thing about downtown Greenville? It has a river in it! With waterfalls! And a park around it!

(Look at that sky. What a beautiful day it was.)





















How gorgeous is that? All natural too. And as you can see from the second picture, there's a bridge that crosses the gorge, a suspension bridge! When you're on it, looking over, you can ever so slightly feel the bridge move under your feet. A gentle swaying as a constant reminder that you are very high, and the water beneath you only ankle deep. I stayed on longer than my legs wanted to, just watching the people climbing on the rocks below.









There are tons of paths around the park, leading to restaurants, amphitheaters, the local zoo (a two mile walk from where we were). Partway towards the zoo is a memorial to a U-2 pilot killed during the Cuban Missile Crisis. A local boy, the monument suggested that his untimely death led to the cessation of hostilities and the end of the crisis. All I could think while looking at the memorial was, "This could totally be a plot device." I mean, it's a decommissioned F-86, a Sabre, (a plane the pilot flew before he became a U-2 pilot) just sitting in a park. It just screams "potential conspiracy theory" or "what if it still works and someone had to take it to save the day?"








There's also inspiration in the form of tiny little mouse statues scattered, hidden around the town. You can walk right by them without noticing. Unless someone knits one a tiny little scarf for the oncoming cold. There's magic here, I tell you.










And in this tree too. Look at those roots. Can't you just imagine some kind of portal opening from that? It's practically a hidden doorway.












If all these don't convince you to visit Greenville, then maybe this will.

Neat huh? A little old courthouse, nice square out front. Actually, it's pretty standard from this point of view. Let's go inside.

SURPRISE! IT'S A BOOKSTORE! 

M. Judson's is a relatively new independent store, only open three months ago, and if you don't fall in love with it as soon as you walk in, see a doctor for your missing sanity. The aged courthouse architecture embraces the warmth and openness of the store. With plenty of space for spreading out with a book and a drink and baked good from the in-store coffee shop, or settling in with your laptop to do some writing (NaNoers welcome, they're hosting write-ins!), it's heaven in a store. Even the coffee bar is getting in on the whole "books" thing. 

Yes, those are real books lining the walkway in, and it almost looked like you could pull them out and read it right there. I didn't ask if that was an option.

Seriously, it all was almost enough to make me want to move, but my area's got it's own share of great bookstores. Sure, they're not in adorable ex-courthouses with gorgeous stairs leading up to it, and they don't have write-in space, or quirky coffee bars with book-lined halls, but...

Yeah, okay, I want this bookstore in my town. I want this TOWN in my town. All the above, plus potential characters on every street (from the girl with green hair and the man rocking out on his scooter as he drove down the street to the drooling boar statue), countless restaurants to try, and a zoo to explore, I will definitely be going back when the weather turns for the warm again.

Friday, October 9, 2015

By Order of Victoria Fry: I Must Share My Work

I've met a lot of lovely people through my Pinterest addiction, especially running a few group boards. I'm proud to call a number of women who are MUCH better bloggers than me friends, like Mandy Wallace, whose pins to her excellent articles for writers pop up daily on my feed, and Victoria Fry, who put a lot of effort into making a training video for writers who want to use Pinterest for their work, including myself, Mandy, Kristen Kieffer of She's Novel and Jenny Bravo of Blots and Plots as examples.

And then Victoria had to go and tag us to take the 7/7/7/7 challenge. It's a simple idea meant to encourage sharing of works-in-progress. The challenged pick their WIP, turn to the seventh page, count down to the seventh line, share the next seven lines, and then tag seven other writers to share their own. It's completely optional to the tagged, and it's okay to tag fewer bloggers. But I've never been one to step down from a challenge.

The only issue is, which WIP? I've got, well, many. I am not the best at reaching that fabled "The End." I get distracted or bored, or I realize things that need fixing that overwhelm me. It's bad. It's why I decided that instead of writing a new novel this NaNoWriMo, I'm going to work on finishing two of the old ones. I just can't bring another baby into the world while continuing to neglect the older children, so to speak. I decided to finish up my novels from NaNo 2012 and 2013: The Business of Being Dead and Trickster's Gambit. And since Victoria posted samples from two works for her 7/7/7/7 challenge, I'll go ahead and do the same.

So without further ado, please enjoy these samplings and hold the tomatoes 'til the end of the reading.

-----------------

The Business of Being Dead (this was the end of the chapter, so there were only 6 lines), a paranatural urban fantasy about Hannah MacIntyre, recently deceased, assistant grim reaper, and undead herder. Dave is the sock-eating bogeyman who discovered her dead:

“Okay, okay, let’s go,” Dave said, waving her over. She took one last look around before joining him in front of the open door. “Ready?” She nodded with a lump in her throat. Ready or not, she had no idea what she was doing. As Dave took her by the hand, she questioned the wisdom in trusting a strange, inhuman creature who showed up in her bedroom, told her she was dead, ate all her socks, and was about to lead her through a black portal to the unknown. She didn’t get a chance to change her mind as Dave stepped into the blackness, pulling her in with him.

-----------------

Trickster's Gambit, a fantasy western about James Proctor, conman and wizard/illusionist. Helen is the soon-to-be victim of an unfortunate magical accident:

“Oh it is now, ay?” Helen scowled. “I remember you now. You were running a Find the Lady stall and picked my pocket when I wouldn’t play. I thought they hanged you.”

“I didn’t break out from any jail, if that’s what you’re implying, Miss Helen. Hangin’ was the plan, but your kind sheriff took pity on a poor, old, desperate fool. Think you could ever find it in your heart to forgive me yourself?”

She continued to scowl.

“What was your name again, Mister Man of God?”

-----------------

And now it's my turn to pick the unfortunate victims dear friends whose WIPs I'd love to see samples of.

M.J. Ravenhill at The Ravenhill Express
JR at Bobo the Bard
A.G. Carpenter at A.G. Carpenter
Abner Senires at Abner Senires
Lillith at Eclectic Little Dork
and Anna Humphrey at The Muse's Lair

Tag, y'all!

edit: Updated JR's link to her new Tumblr instead of her old blog.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Requiem for a Happy Cat

Once upon a time, there was a little black cat with a white spot on his chest who lived outside. There were many houses around, but none of them were his. There were many people around, but none of them were his. He was all alone.

One day, he found a bowl of food outside a house. No one seemed to mind, so he helped himself. The next day, the bowl was refilled, so he helped himself again. Again and again, the food kept coming back, and eventually, a woman began to join him. He let her pet him, but he was too scared to let her pick him up. But she was nice and brought him food, so he kept coming back.

After a while, the food was in a box. How strange! But he was hungry, so he went inside. BANG! The box slammed shut behind him, and the woman came and took him somewhere where he saw a doctor who cut off the tip of his ear. Ow! Then the women took him back and put him in a dark, scary garage. But a man came out and opened the door, and the cat bolted out!

The woman was afraid she'd never see the cat again, but after a week, he was hungry, so he came back, meowing for food and attention.

It got cold outside, very cold, and one night when colorful lights were exploding is the sky, the cat came back for food. This time, the woman grabbed him and before he could fight her, brought him inside her house which was nice and warm and quiet. She stayed with him all night while the lights exploded outside. There were other cats, and eventually they liked him, and there were other people, but he liked the woman best, and there was always food and a warm lap and pets.

He had a house and it was his. He had a person and she was his. And he lived happily ever after to the end of his days.

RIP Brumus. You had 13 wonderful years as the happiest cat I'll ever know. What better life could a cat have asked for?

Friday, September 18, 2015

Moments of the Week(s): Crickets and Creepy Places

Hey everyone! Been a few weeks, I know. I haven't really had much to say. My Discworld reading is progressing (29/41) and I have no idea what I'll be working on come NaNo in a few months. I'm sure I'll panic as soon as I'm done reading. For now, here are the moments I've managed to scrounge up.

  • If you need to drive a character batty in an innocent way, I've discovered that a hidden indoor cricket or other mysterious noise does the trick a charm. There's nothing like storming through your house only for the sound to stop, start, step, stop, restart, step, etc. After a day of this, I caught the culprit hiding in our laundry room: a large cricket that was very happy to be let outside, and two homeowners happy for some peace and quiet. He was a fascinating little critter, with a body the length of a quarter and legs twice that. He also seemed to have his own kind of gravity, because after I'd caught him in a glass with a paper towel over the top, he hung around at the bottom for a minute, his front legs up on the side. Then he tipped over backwards and as soon as he hit the ground bounced up onto the paper towel. I never saw him flip over. It was just as if he'd decided Up was Down. He hung around there until I let him go.
  • I've talked before about my friend who invites us to her house in the woods for a writer's day every few weekends. This past Sunday, we took her dogs for a walk down to the small main road in front of her neighborhood. Out on the main road, we passed a pair of ivy-covered cement markers with a sign that declared the inside to be an arboretum. Sadly, my friend informed us, pointing out a newer Do Not Enter sign, it is now private property and entering would be trespassing. A block down the road, there were two other ivy-covered concrete columns. Atop each one was a large, detailed gargoyle, watching and daring anyone to enter. Shortly inside, the driveway ended in a small pile of rocks, making the path impassable. In the middle of the day, it was a lovely sight, but at night, by the light of a low moon, I'm sure the statues have scared many a roadside traveler.
Not much, I know, but I couldn't leave everyone hanging another week. I'm hopefully going to finish the remaining books in the next two weeks and then I'll be back to my writing and panicking. Have a great weekend, everyone!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Moments of the Week: Recollections

Another slow few weeks with not much in the way of inspiration. I've been reading and editing, mostly keeping my head down and buried in words. 20/41 for the Discworld reading frenzy. Halfway there! Ish. I guess halfway'll be when I'm halfway through the next one.

Although I don't have any current moments, I didn't want to leave you all for another week, so I've dredged up a few memories, recollections of times past that stood out as setting or characters.

  • Last year, there was a little old man outside my office, hobbling along with a walking stick in one hand and dragging an oxygen tank with the other. I expected him to head for the car in the handicapped spot, but he passed it by and turned at a spot with a scooter. At least, he rode it like a scooter, with his cane and oxygen tank tucked into an alcove by his feet. It LOOKED like a motorcycle, and when he started it, it sounded like a motorcycle. Time and age, it seemed, would not separate him from "cool."
  • Back in June, if you looked up the night sky, you may have noticed Jupiter, Venus, and the moon moving in close proximity of each other. In many stories, certain things happen when stars or planets align. On June 20th, the two bright planets and a crescent moon made a nearly perfect triangle, and if that's not a sign of some novel premonition, then I don't know what is.
I've got a few other recollections saved up, so in the event of uneventfulness, I'll have something to share. As always, I hope these moments can help inspire something in your stories, and if you encounter any yourself, please feel free to share in the comments. Have a lovely weekend!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Moments of the week: Red Runners

Hello everyone! It's been a rather uneventful few weeks these past two. I've been mostly buried in Discworld books. Two weeks and a bit in, and I'm at 12 books down after finishing Witches Abroad at 1AM this morning. It's fun to see the progression of character growth and the world around them. There are lines in one book that come into play a dozen more down the line. The depth of the Disc is unbelievable, and why I love it so much. But it's also so very stressful, because I'm a mathematical person. Not in great depth, but I'm the kind of person who will count heads in a room to know how many people there are, and then make assumptions based off that, like how long crit group will run if we have 3 15 minute readings and X# 1 minute crits where X is the number of attendees. I like to know X.

I like to know timelines, too. And ages. And let me tell you, trying to wrangle a timeline out of the Disc is not an easy task. There are almost enough events explicitly set or subtle asides to make a semblance of one. But it is VERY not easy.

Until Wednesday, it's been a slow time for moments. So I've only got one, but there's a story in it for sure.

  • The woman in front of me wasn't paying attention. The light had changed, the decent line ahead of us had all gone, but she just sat there, distracted by something, not moving. Just before I honked, she started to roll forward, slowly, then up to speed. But as we approached, the light changed to yellow. "Ugh, we could've made that," I grumbled. Would've been easy. At least she was slowing down. Her distraction had cost her the light as well. But as she approached the light, instead of stopping, she sped up, and as it went to red, she cut through. From the other direction, someone who must have just gotten there made a left turn after the light, hitting it just before the change. He just barely passed in front of the red runner as she sped across the road. The person trying to make a left on his tail didn't notice her. She was going too fast to stop. 

    Brakes squealed. Hoods crumpled. Glass and plastic flew.

    And in the back of the car that had been in front of me, a Baby on Board sign glared out.
I don't know what happened after that. I don't know if the distracted woman actually had her child with her, or if anyone was hurt or what. I do know a cop turned onto the road heading in their direction less than 30 seconds later and the accident was within walking distance of a fire station and two minutes driving from a hospital. If anyone was hurt, they were in a place to get treatment fast, whatever kind of treatment they needed.

I've never seen a crash happen before. My mind's absolutely boggled that someone who might have a child with them would be so careless and drive so dangerously. Or even just a child waiting at home or daycare. I'll never know what was so important that she decided to risk it instead of waiting one minute for the safety of the light. But I hope they're all okay.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Moments of the Week: Auto Shops and Traffic Stops

Happy Friday, everyone! Am I ever glad this week's over. It's been a long one. Plenty of work, plenty of running around, not much time to relax. But the only thing planned this weekend is a viewing of Ant-Man with a bunch of friends, so I can do whatever I want. Which will probably be "read." You see, on Friday and Saturday, the friends over wanted to watch our copy of The Color of Magic with David Jason, Sean Astin, and Tim Curry (with the late legend Christopher Lee as the voice of Death). Not the most faithful reproduction, but good enough for a short miniseries made out of two books. Then, Monday, with the desire to reread The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic already planted, I realized it was exactly one month until the release of The Shepherd's Crown, the very last Discworld book.

So I decided to do what any reasonable obsessive fan would do when faced with the end of her favorite series.

I decided to read them all.

It's only 41 books. Shouldn't take TOO long, right?

But what a way it'll be to say goodbye.

Moments!

  • It was time for an oil change. Well, my car was also making some unnatural noises, so first thing in the morning, I rolled into my usual auto shop and found myself looking down at an ambulance and a police car idling in the parking lot. Clearly, they were here on different business than vehicle work. I skirted the ambulance, parked, and headed inside to ask about the work and what in the world was going on. I'm nosy like that. Luckily, the men at the counter were happy enough to provide the story. A man had recently been released from the hospital. Or had walked out, as they said something about him still having a bag or IV. Either way, he'd just recently had bypass surgery and was ambling down the road probably a several mile walk from the hospital. Smoking a cigarette. He came down the hill the auto shop, finished his smoke while leaning against the building, then came in and said, "Call 911, I think I'm having a heart attack."
  • On the way into work, I was thinking how I hadn't seen much for moments this week. Aside from the oil change story, there wasn't much to see out and about. And then the light I sat at turned green and, with a number of other drivers, we crested the hill in front of us to a view of a veritable sea of flashing red and blue lights. The entire road was closed off by emergency vehicles, and as one, every single one of us U-turned as one solid swarm of "Nope." Despite looking it up when I got to work, I couldn't find a single report on what happened. It was as if there was no problem at all.
So that's it for this week! Hope you all had a good one, have a great weekend, and keep an eye out for your own moments.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Okay, This Looks Bad.

I've been reading a lot of trade paperback comics lately, particularly Hawkeye stuff. Mostly Matt Fraction's. I have a shameless girl-crush on Kate Bishop. I mean, just look at this chick.



She's a great character and Fraction just writes her fantastically. But this isn't about Kate and awesome female characters, although I certainly could write a whole blog post on Marvel's recent leading ladies and how people can take notes as writers.

This is about things looking bad.

I've got three of the trades, a dozen issues combined, and mostly, they have one thing in common: at some point, sometimes at the beginning, sometimes in the middle, the Hawkeye who is the POV will say "This looks bad." It's the first line in the series (pictured to the right, here.)

Midway through the third trade, L.A. Woman, and playing a few more games of "Spot the 'This Looks Bad,'" I realized something.

"This looks bad" is practically the mantra of a story.

At some point, whether it's the beginning, middle, or at the peak of the climax, there should be at least one moment where everything just looks bad. The hero falls towards the ground from far above survivable. The heroine finds the bloody knife in her bedroom. The couple's bridge of trust is seconds from collapsing. The walls of the trash compactor are getting closer. The bomb has a minute left.

It's that moment of seeming hopelessness. When the actions of the next few seconds or minutes make or break the entire rest of the story. And it doesn't have to be the climax, although that is the moment we tend to associate with things being just that bad. At the beginning, it's a hook. It draws you in and makes you wonder how the characters are going to get out of this. In the middle, it's a promise of trouble to come, keeping the reader moving. And at the climax, well, it's the climax. Everything we've been working towards is about to come together or fall apart

It's got to look bad. Where's the fun if it doesn't? Where's the tension?

Take a look at your works in progress. Where are your moments when the leads can pause the moment, look around and think, "Okay, this looks bad"? If you can't find one, why not? It might be that that's what's missing to bring the whole tale together. Find your "this looks bad" moments, and if you can't find 'em, add 'em, cause if things look bad, it's probably gonna be good.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Moments of the Week: Tires and Spiders

Happy Friday, everyone! Hope you all have had a good week. I'm still in "wish I were still on vacation" mode. It takes a few weeks to get back into the swing of things.

I spy a lot of moments in the car, I realize. It makes sense. If I'm not in my car, 90% of the time, I'm at work or at home. Life goes on usually where I'm not. Luckily, my route and my area are filled with eclectic people doing unique things and living unique lives.

This week's moments:
  • If you've been in a car, you've probably noticed other people's license plates, and if you've noticed license plates, you've probably noticed how hard it is to tell the difference between 0 and D, 1 and I, or 8 and B in the font they use. You may have even seen this comic:

    XKCD   
    Would someone actually do that, though? Make a purposefully impossible to read license plate? Answer: yes, they would and yes, they have. Somewhere in my town there is a red two-seater sportscar with the license plate BB8B888B. or something like that. It was kinda hard to read. 
  • Another encounter at the public school football stadium and track: At one side of the football field, a large, muscular black man was training with a giant tractor tire. It had to be almost as big as he was when it was standing. He started with the tire flat on the ground, then lifted it up onto its edge and let it fall forward. Then he'd lift and repeat, all the way down the field, I assume.
    Halfway across the field from him was a little girl, dressed in pink, girly clothes, her hair in two round pigtails, lifting and rolling a tire her own size, just like Daddy.
This week we've got a contribution from my friend Agent at God of Ephemera.
  • Says Agent: I was walking into my house when I saw what looked like a curl of smoke frozen in mid air between the wall and overhang.
    It was a huge goddamn spider web. And in the center was a giant black spider with big orange spots.
    You would have loved it, creeped the fuck outta me. (What can I say? She knows me.)
    A little bit of research into spiders in her area, and it sounds like she had an encounter with a Argiope aurantia, also known as a garden spider or, humorously, a writing spider.


That's it for this week! Remember to keep an eye out for your own moments, and as always, feel free to share. Have a wonderful weekend, everyone.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Dragon's Loyalty Award

I always like these little blog hop awards that go around. They're fantastic ways to find new blogs and share the ones you love, and a great reminder that people actually read this stuff and maybe even like what I have to say!



So thank you, Lilian Brennan at Petticoat Peddler for choosing the Quille as one of your recipients. Now you all get to find out some random facts about me that aren't all related to writing.

Here's how this particular blog award works:
  1. Visit and thank the blogger who nominated you.
  2. Acknowledge that blogger on your blog and a link back.
  3. You must share 7 things other bloggers may not know about you.
  4. Nominate up to 15 bloggers for Dragon’s Loyalty Award, provide a link to their blogs in your post, and notify them on their blogs.
  5. Copy and paste the award somewhere on your blog.
Okay, some things about me.

1. I love databases. Like, I was legitimately disappointed when I found Grouvee.com, because it meant I didn't get to design and implement the video game tracking database I wanted to make for myself.
2. I used to be the cartoonist for my school newspaper. I was not a remotely good artist, but I was the only one willing to do it because all my friends drew and I was jealous of their ability.
3. I am not picky about anything. I like every kind of music, I'll try most foods, pet most animals, read most genres. 
4. I'm a huge gamer. I worked for years at Gamestop before I graduated college. So did Mr. Maxwell. Between the two of us, our video game collection is as big as our book collection.
5. My first paid job was behind-the-scenes work on plays at the local theater. I helped the lead actress on quick changes between scenes for the first show, and ran the sound booth for the second.
6. I do not own a single pair of shorts or a skirt. Slacks and jeans only, dresses are special occasion only. This has been my wardrobe for years, and I grew up in Central Florida.
7. And for one writing-related one: my to-do list is currently 58 novel ideas long, with a few of those including sequels that I don't count separate. Some of them are WIPs, but mostly, it's a big to-do list. If I stopped coming up with ideas tomorrow, I'd probably still be set for life. One of these days, I'll finish SOMETHING.

So that's a bit more about me, probably more than you really wanted to know. Blame Lilian. And now for my nominations!

My buddy Lillith at Eclectic Little Dork
The wonderful AJ Clarkson at ClarksonPunk
My co-conspirator Agent at God of Ephemera
and the fabulous writing blogger Mandy Wallace

Tag, y'all, you're it!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Moments of the Week: Maine!

I apologize for not having anything last week. Friday was our busiest day of the vacation, and immediately after that was travel, night at a hotel, 5AM flight home, and two days of crashing. At home recovering. Not in the plane.

Also, I apologize for not having pictures as I said. Due to tight spaces with packing (checked baggage? Pbbt) and lots of planned time on boats, I decided to leave my camera at home. Do I ever regret it. The things we saw and experienced, I wish I could have documented. So much beauty and grace and-

Baby seal.

Yeah, that's really it. I wanted to take pictures of a wild baby seal. Don't get me wrong, Maine is beautiful and an experience I've never had before, but I really just wanted pictures of baby seal.

All the same, there were still moments which I am happy to share with words even if I can't back them up with pictures.

  • When you go whale watching, it's a gamble. The condition of the seas, the boat, the experience of the captain at the wheel, all of them can make or break your experience. On rocky waters after a storm, with all the whitecaps breaking around you, you wonder how you'll ever spot anything. How can you tell the whale's identifying spout from the break of a wave?

    When you see it, you know it. When you catch that first blast of water shooting out of the sea, you know. There's a rush of adrenaline when you spot it, a question of if you were seeing things. It was just a moment, but it had to have been a spout, and when you call it out, everyone on board rushes to your side, straining to see what you saw.

    For an hour, we tracked and watch a pair of fin (or finback) whales, a mother and calf. The fin whale is the second largest animal behind the blue whale and are endangered. While we never got to see an iconic tailflip as they dove or even managed to get very close, it was still amazing to see these giant, powerful creatures as close as we did. 
  • Baby seal! (Can you guess my favorite part of the trip?) Twelve miles out to sea, Monhegan is a small island of less than 75 people living there full time, 9 of which are children. It's a lovely little place with artists a plenty and walking trails leading all over the island to overlook the rocky coast from 175 feet above the sea. If you take the ferry out to it, you have a few hours to explore, buy, eat, and drink (Monhegan has its own microbrewery with amazing root beer) before the ferry offers a 30 minute tour around the island to see the small islets around it, often occupied by seals.

    As the boat took to sea, we were greeted with a completely different view of the island, outside looking in. The captain directed our attention to the various cliffs and a rescue boat long wrecked, and near the end, we finally started to see the islets. The first one, a gentleman loaned me his binoculars to see some seals, but the focus was too poor for my eyes, and I couldn't make anything out. On another one, the captain announced there was a bald eagle sitting on top, so we'd be slowing down and keeping quiet to not startle it. As we drifted by, the eagle sat unperturbed, barely noticing us. As I watched it, a seal swam by in the water, and just above it, a little seal face popped up from behind the rocks. Then it crawled out, and I realized it couldn't have been more than two feet long from head to flipper, much, much smaller than its swimming counterpart.

    I squealed. I squealed loudly.

    I MIGHT have startled the eagle away. But it went over to the island on the other side of us, so we didn't lose sight of the majestic bird. My attention, though, was on the baby as it flopped and wiggled its way down the rocks. My last sight of it was as a wave rolled up on the rocks, and the baby wiggled and flapped its flippers in glee as the water raced around it. The cutest thing I've ever seen.
  • On yet a third boat trip, we passed a small, privately owned island with a single house on it, engulfed by trees. But the bottom of the island was barren of trees, ending in a small plot of grass and tapering off to a rocky point. On the grassy plot, there was a single, empty bench, waiting for someone to come, sit, and watch the boats sail by.
All in all, it was a wonderful trip wherein I bonded with some cousins in a way I've never had the chance to because all our previous times together, I was a child and they were adults. Now, as all adults, we had a fabulous time. I've been back to the grind for a week now, and I miss them, and Maine, already. I can see why writers and artists make such a place their home. If it didn't have such abominable winters, I might actually consider it myself.

Next week, we'll be back to normal, everyday moments, as well as a response to an award from my long-time reader Lilian. Have a wonderful weekend, everyone, and if you've had some moments this week, please, as always, feel free to share.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Moments of the Week: Hero Worship

A small fraction of the HeroesCon Floor
I promised this week's Moments would be interesting, yes? I hope it will be. It certainly was a lifetime memory for me. This past weekend was the biggest comic con of the year in my state, and as has been the case for the past three or four years, I was there.

Mr. Maxwell and I drove to town the night before to stay with our friends Phil Coulson and Captain America. The next morning, we picked up their buddies Joker and Harley Quinn and headed off for a day of fun!

We arrived at the convention center the moment it opened and promptly got in the wrong line. After five minutes of steady moving, we realized this was the line to get into the hall, not, in fact, to get tickets. So we split off and split up. Coulson and Cap already had their tickets, I had preordered a three day pass, and the others had to wait to buy their day-of pass. Preordering was clearly the way to go, because in minutes, I had my pass and wristband while the rest still wrapped around the entryway. Much as I love Mr. and as nice as Harley and Joker were, I had to get into the hall. Another short wait in the right line this time and I was in... another line.

A long, long line that wasn't moving. But excitement was high, costumes were great, and we enjoyed getting to know the strangers around us as we waited. And waited. Moved. Waited. It was worse than waiting for a Disney ride. But it was worth it for what was at the end.


Yes, it's exactly what it looks like. This weekend, I met Stan Lee.

And nearly passed out from fangirlism.

We weren't allowed to take pictures unless we'd bought one, so I kept my camera put away, but as the line moved, we could all get glimpses of a little old man wearing a green sweater and an enormous smile. Around me, people carried rare editions of comics, enormous maquettes, trading cards, and various other things for autographing. I had my giant Marvel 75th Anniversary collection ready for its first signature. Who better to christen what I intended to make a signature collection book than Stan The Man himself?

No regrets.

Isn't this the most adorable Jurassic Park cosplay ever?
Well, aside from the fact that when I finally got to the front of the line, I forgot every single thing I'd planned on saying. I couldn't hear my thoughts over how loud my heart was pounding. I don't know if he said anything to me, even looked at me. All I could do was stutter out a feeble "Thank you, Mr. Lee" before gripping the open edges of the book so the ink could dry and scurrying off past the line of other people waiting to get their signature verified.

I've never met someone I so madly idolized before. Stan had come to this con before, but I'd passed it up, to my enduring regret. I thought I wouldn't get this chance again. And then, two weeks before the con, his image appeared on the con site with the words Special Guest. I had a second chance, and I took it, to my ongoing delight. I met my hero, and I have proof. I didn't care how the rest of the con went after that; my day was made.

A simple piece of reflective paper made an awesome effect for Cyclops
I spent most of the rest of the con waiting in more lines for more signatures (Matt Fraction, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Erica Henderson, and Kevin Wada all added their signatures to Stan's page, to their own delights. Apparently asking people to sign the same page as the father of their comics is flattering) and taking not nearly enough pictures of all the amazing cosplays. There was photobombing aplenty and so much creativity in the designs. Maybe next year I'll get off my butt and do some cosplay myself.

You can see the rest of the pictures on my ConGoing board on Pinterest.

So that was this past week. Tomorrow, I leave for a weeklong vacation with my mother in Maine to celebrate my aunt and uncle's 50th anniversary. With whalewatching and lighthouse tours on the schedule, I should have some more pictures for you next week!

Did anyone have any moments of your own this week?

Friday, June 19, 2015

Moments of the Week: Old Cars and Sandwich Bars

Good morning, everyone!

I am unnaturally excited for this weekend. If you know me from real life or the Absolute Write SFF Cantina, you will know why I'm excited, but I'm not going to say why here, not yet. I don't want to jinx it. But suffice to say, next week's Moments should be interesting.

This week, we've got our first contribution from a friend of mine, Kat! Well, by contribution, I mean she told me this story, and I asked if I could share it. But I'm counting it because it's not my moment. If you've got a moment you want to share, you can either drop it in the comments or email me at maggiemaxwellbooks @ gmail.com.
  • There was a man, young, late teens or early twenties, going around a high school track, but he wasn't running. He was hopping. Backwards. He had a soccer ball with him, and he was rolling it backwards with him with one foot as he hopped on the other. Hop, roll, hop, roll. I only drove by for a few seconds, but he kept it up the whole time I could see him. If it's a common soccer drill or exercise technique, it's one I've never seen before in my life.
  • Conversely, I encountered an older man, this one middle-aged. He had a long white braid down his back and looked to be of either Hispanic or American Indian descent from his tanned, wrinkled skin. But what caught my eye about him was his car: a rust red Edsel Corsair. Gorgeous old car, just out for a weekday drive. As we shared the road, he sped past a younger man in a modern green sports car, and as he passed, the man in the sports car rolled down his window and gave the corsair driver a thumbs up.
  • Kat's Moment: There's a sandwich counter downstairs from her office run by a man with a strange tick. When he makes a sandwich, once everything is on it, he pats it down, squaring up the sides of the bread as best he can. Once the sides are squared, anything that's left hanging off the side is removed. Then he squares it again, checks the sides, removes hanging parts. He repeats this until everything that is on the sandwich fits inside the bread. The end result is, ultimately, a sandwich with not very much on it.
And that's it for this week! Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Moments of the Week: Cotton Bugs and Unforgettable Music

It's been a busy week. Lots of business going on in the workplace, plans being made and falling apart, money being spent, money NOT being spent (ask me why I'm angry at my bank).

But it only takes a moment to make a moment, so I have a few things  for y'all this week.

  •  I discovered a species of bug I'd never seen before. One afternoon this week, I arrived home to bits of cotton flying everywhere. It looked like dandelion seeds floating on the air at first, and then I realized they were flying of their own volition, not on the wind. I managed to convince one to land on my hand so I could get a better look. (Have I ever mentioned on here that I like bugs? As long as they don't sting or bite or I don't know that they sting or bite, we're cool.) They looked like a mix between a fly and a mosquito wearing a cloak made from a piece of cotton ball and were no bigger than a centimeter. I'd never seen anything like it before, and they were everywhere, specks of white dancing in the air. I have not seen a single one since.

    Evidently, they're called Wooly Aphids. This blog, Nature Posts, has some fabulous pictures of them.
  • I saw a man riding a dirt bike the wrong way down a sidewalk. The dirt bike was bright green and probably made for someone 3/4ths his size. He was hunched over and just toodling along.
  •  There are some things that are so engraved on your memory that encountering it again can spark flashbacks to another time and place, or that are so attached to their topic that you immediately think of it. You can't help it. First the smell, the sound, the taste is there, and then the memory.

    I went to the movies yesterday with some girlfriends, a big group to see Mad Max: Fury Road, which, if you haven't seen, stop what you're doing and go. This post will be here when you're done. Go see it. Go.

    Are you back now? Cool. So the movie ended, and we left the showing theater, the whole group of us hanging right outside in the hall and talking about the movie. Well, I say talking. Mostly listening to the girl who arranged the trip, for whom Mad Max is to her as Disney is to other people: her childhood, her obsession, her favorite thing ever. We stood between the Mad Max theater and another one with a marquee that I couldn't see; it was one-sided and I was on the wrong side. There were sounds that could only be described as "violent" every now and then. Easy to ignore as my friend told us the making of Fury Road. And then we went silent, because we heard it.

    A swell of music.

    THE music.

    We shrieked. At least a few of us did, myself included. Because suddenly in the theater beside us there were dinosaurs and those gates opening and we were 7, 8, 9 years old again, sitting there as Spielberg revealed his theme park that was somehow more magical than Disney World. And we hadn't even bought a ticket yet. But with just a few notes, in a single moment we were there again. A few notes completely changed me from "mildly interested" to "I NEED TO SEE THIS MOVIE" because those iconic notes tapped into the well of childhood memory and magic and transported me to a place and time I barely remembered. I've got plans to see it Sunday.
So, dear readers, how was your week? Did you collect any moments for your stories?

Friday, June 5, 2015

Moments of the Week: Purple hair and fireflies

I got an idea yesterday.

Orson Scott Card once said, "Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any." It's true, really. Everywhere you look, there are scenes, settings, stories, characters, all waiting to be transformed. Working in a third-floor office with a full wall window overlooking a hotel, an apartment complex, and shopping center parking lots, hundreds of them pass me by a day. I've had many times when I've stopped and just watched as something interesting happens: fire trucks, construction, police officers, traffic back-ups, barking dogs, limos, dozens of stories happening right under my nose. All those moments are mine and mine alone.

And then I keep them to myself. I store the really interesting ones away, forget others, probably forget some of the interesting ones.

Yesterday, I thought, "Why not share them?"

So starting today and hopefully continuing each week, I'm going to report on my weekly inspirations. All those little moments that lit a small spark, and all of you, dear readers, are welcome to them. Consider everything a prompt that you are welcome to take and twist and develop as your own if you like. Because the moments may have been mine, but there's not reason I can't pass them on to you as well. Some weeks I may have many, some only one or two, but I'll try to have something interesting for you every week.

This week's moments:
  • There was a woman walking down the side of the road. At first, I thought she was wearing a purple headscarf that wrapped around her hair and trailed down to her waist, but as I drew nearer, I realized it was her hair, set in small violet braids.
  • As I parked in my driveway, a firefly landed on the windshield of my car. I had just been lamenting to myself that I'd yet to see one this season, so it was thrilling to have the first one so close. Only lightly illuminated by the single lamp on the front porch, it didn't know I was there, leaning in over my steering wheel for a closer look. In the minute we both sat there, inches apart, it didn't flash, not once, but there in the darkness, I could see the promise of light inside it, green and pulsating, flashing and roiling around inside it like lightning in a cloud. In that moment, I understood why they're called "lightning bugs."
So, dear readers, what moments did you have this week?

Monday, May 4, 2015

Book Recommendation: The Night Circus

Sometimes it's nice to be reminded that everything that's supposed to be a rule is really more of a guideline. To read a book, a well-loved, popular book filled with all those little "don't"s, and is actually well-written.

I read The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern this weekend, and it is just that kind of book.

"Don't write in present tense." - Erin Morgenstern did so, fabulously.
"Don't use second person." - Erin Morgenstern did, albeit only briefly at the beginning of chapters.
"Don't jump around the timeline." - Erin Morgenstern, again, did, taking the reader from mid to late 1800s to the early 1900s and back again as smooth as you please.
"Don't use adverbs." - Can you guess who did in plenty? If you said Erin Morgenstern, congratulations! You win a prize. That prize is me telling you to go read The Night Circus.

It's a tale of magic, mystery, and love, one that draws you in and makes you wish you were there, could be there, that it were all real. Imagine, if you will, a traveling circus. One day, there's an empty field, and the next, it's filled with circus tents, but instead of reds and yellows and blues, it's black and white. There is no trace of color inside the gates; even the fires and candles burn white. And it's only open at night.

Right off the bat, the place is a mystery, and once The Cirque des Reves opens, the mystery deepens in a mystical way as you explore each tent: an illusionist whose dresses change colors as she changes papers into doves, a garden made of ice, a tree covered in wishes, and countless more. And all this exists as a proving ground for two young magicians who have been dragged into a contest they don't fully understand the rules of. In telling their story, Erin Morgenstern makes her circus come to life in your mind in ways most books wish they could. It's a treasure for the senses, tantalizing you with all the sounds, sights, and smells of the circus (and oh, the food! I want a Night Circus cookbook so badly) with description so vivid, you feel you could be there. For the hours it took to read, I was undeniably at the circus, and when I closed the last page, I wondered why I wasn't still.

A little historical fiction, a little romance, and a lot of fantasy, The Night Circus is one of the best books I've read in a long time. Let me put it this way. I'm a HUGE Marvel fangirl. The day after I started to read this book, I saw Avengers: Age of Ultron. And I wanted the movie to finish up so I could go home and read more. So, final verdict?

Stop reading this blog post, go see Avengers: Age of Ultron, and then buy and read this book. In that order. Now. What are you waiting for? Here, I'll even help you. End of blog!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Retreat Review

I have found the perfect way to write.

Step 1: Get a whole bunch of writer friends.
Step 2: Get a house somewhere secluded.
Step 3: Insert friends into house with food, games, and computers.
Step 4: Profit. Word profit.

So, yes, the writing retreat with my critique group was a success. We rented a lovely cabin up in the Smoky Mountains and shoved fourteen of us in there. Everyone had a meal to cook (I haven't eaten so well in years), most of us brought board and card games, and we all had our writing utensil of choice ranging from notebook and pen to full gaming desktop with 25inch monitor.  Hey, you use what you got. All together, we wrote nearly 30,000 words, with additional progress on edits, converting a novel to a screenplay, squeezing two drafts together, and research.

Some folks mastered the art of procrastination with walks around the mountain, chilling in the outdoor hot tub, and playing 3-puck air hockey, pool, and Cards Against Humanity. Others wrote their butts off and topped their best one-day wordcount. My new count to beat: 5048. I could have kept going if 1) I wasn't so tired and 2) there was a game of CAH calling my name.

All-in-all, it was a fantastic, productive weekend that brought us all closer together, and we will be doing again. I can't wait.

Camp Wordcount: 24,166/30,000

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Camping Time!

On my March 4th update, I said I'd decided on the necromantic weed titled Queen of Bones as my next novel project. A little after my Terry Pratchett post, I finished my outline. An actual, honest to God 100% complete novel outline, a story ready and raring to go from start to finish. I'm still in shock about it. I've always thought I was a pantser, but after the last few short stories and this, I think I can no longer deny the facts: I am a plotter. I got lucky pantsing. Once. I finished one pantsed novel. Everything else is a mess of words I'm going to spend half the year untangling.

In any event, I got roped into doing Camp NaNoWriMo thanks to a bunch of friends doing it. The NaNo team has made a bunch of positive changes since my last one. No more "add friends and hope for a cabin together," now you can invite a whole group and be with up to 11 friends in one cozy cabin. It's nice. I'm shacked up with a wonderful group of Absolute Writers that, on day 2, are already destroying their word counts, and we've got a fun little competition going with another AWer cabin. It involves s'mores, so that's all the motivation I need right there.

I've set my goal at 30,000 words for the month, 1k a day and approximately half the novel. Mid-April, I'll be going to a weekend writing retreat with my local critique group. I'm excited to see what kind of word count I end up after.

What about you, dear readers? Is Camp NaNoWriMo on your April schedule?

Friday, March 13, 2015

Goodbye, Sir Terry Pratchett

Just because you see the sledgehammer coming, it doesn't make it hurt any less when it finally hits you.

Whether you look up and suddenly there's a hammer two inches from making contact with your cranium or you see the windup from the other side of the room before they shot-put it into your face, it still hurts, and there's nothing you can do to stop it.

Terry Pratchett died yesterday.

Of course, he'd been sick for a very long time. Eight years, according to the various obituaries. It was going to happen. It was unavoidable. A sledgehammer from across the room.

Around a decade ago, my then-boyfriend now Mr. and I took a look around a bookstore. In the fantasy section, he stopped and pulled out a book: Guards, Guards!

"Have you ever read Terry Pratchett?"

"No. I've never heard of him."

"I'm buying this for you and you are going to read it."

He did. And I gave it a try. It didn't work for me. I just wasn't really enjoying reading anymore. Oh well. But when we moved in together, he brought all his books. Many, many Terry Pratchett books. They seemed interesting. His father gave him a copy of Making Money, the newest book, as soon as it came out. So I sat down with it. And finally, on the second try, I fell into Discworld in a way I have never been able to escape, nor have I wanted to. I wanted it all. I needed it all. I wondered how I didn't love Guards, Guards! the first time I read it. I read it all. Then I started to read everything else again. And a few years later, I wrote again. Thanks to Terry and the Discworld. He didn't just bring me to the Disc; he brought me back to my muse, to myself. I wasn't dying, but all the same, he saved me.

I cried when I heard the news. In the middle of my office, when the words "RIP Terry Pratchett" settled into my mind, I bawled and prayed that no one would come by or come in. How could I begin to explain what was wrong? "My favorite author died"? No. That's not right. "My idol died." Stronger, but it doesn't quite work. Not exactly. No, the only thing to say is, "Terry Pratchett died." Because he was so much more than an author, an idol. Those who didn't know him wouldn't understand that it's not just saying goodbye to one man.

It's goodbye to Sam Vimes and Sybil, to Carrot and Angua and Detritus and Cheery and Fred and Nobby and Reg and all the other members of the Watch who've protected and changed their city and their world.

It's goodbye to Granny and Nanny and Greebo and Magrat and Tiffany and all the wee free men. 

Goodbye to Rincewind and Ponder and the Librarian and Ridcully and the Bursar and all the other wizards, to Two-Flower, Cohen, and the tireless Luggage.

Goodbye to Moist and Vetinari and Adora, to Susan and the monks of Time, to Gaspode and Foul Ol' Ron and his beggars and CMOT Dibbler.

Goodbye to Death and the Death of Rats and the Great A'Tuin.

Goodbye to the Disc.

Because, though we'll always be able to visit it, its story is done. Everything we have now is everything we will ever have. Other people can try to write it, but it won't be Terry's Discworld. It's time is over, too. We haven't just lost a great man with a kind smile, a black fedora, and a creative mind like no other. We've lost the future stories of a hundred great men and women, dwarfs and trolls and Nobby Nobbses. And just saying "My favorite author died" can't begin to explain that.

Goodbye, Sir Terry Pratchett, and thank you. For everything.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Brief Update

Just a quick fly-by update on my status.

1. I am alive. Survived the southeastern snow of last week, although the drastic temperature changes are causing havoc on my sinuses. Last Wednesday, we had snow that buried us for days, to the point where there are still patches today. Today, with our 77 degree high. Friday's high is 38. Welcome to North Carolina.

2. Following my last post, I copied out my notes on both the stories I was trying to decide between, one document each. I was expecting to work on both. Story 2, the teenage necromancer, shoved the superhero tax collector out of the way and has run away with my plans. So I guess that answers which one I'll be working on now. It's growing like a weed. A necromantic weed.

3. I spend a good amount of time during the last few weeks updating my Goodreads account. Hadn't touched it since 2012. It took a while, but I'm all up to date now, I think. Feel free to add me as a friend if you have your own account.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Goal 2: Done. Now about Goal 3...

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

A day late, but as of last night, the short story is off to the story exchange host. I had a blast writing it. I can't say too much at the moment without risking the person its for bumbling into this post. I can say that with the final addition of a few sentences to make the ending (hopefully) a bit more satisfying for my giftee, it's all done. I'm sure I'll find more to edit and clean later. For now though, it's time to focus on Goal #3.

About Goal #3...

When I wrote it, I made it specific: I was to outline and write the novel that tied in to Goal #1's short stories. It's a story I like with vibrant characters I'm looking forward to playing with, and there's a professional writer who's waiting for me to get off my butt, finish it, and do something with it. He's offered me a plug to his fans when I do have it complete. Pretty cool, right? Most likely, I'll see him at a convention in June, so I made Goal #3 with the intent of being able to see him there and say "It's done. Well, the first draft is."

And then I heard a knocking on the inside of my skull, and a plotbunny that's equally developed poked its head into my ear and said, "Write meeeeee."

So now my dilemma is, which one do I write?

Story 1, the misadventures of a superpowered tax collector who tracks down villains in their hideouts and the mad supervillain who moves in with him while he has his lair rebuilt. A comedy of Odd Couple proportions.

or

Story 2, the tale of a teenaged girl necromancer raised in a Death God cult going through a rebellious phase right before she's expected to summon said god's undead dragon to terrorize the world on her 16th birthday. Not your usual "chosen one/rebel teen" story.

Both heavy on comedy with romantic elements, they should be entertaining to write... as soon as I can choose between them. Currently, the plan is to outline them both and see which one goes further. It'll be a bit more difficult than I anticipated (only one week each to outline, equivalent), but no matter which one wins getting written now, I win overall, because I'll have a second story ready to go outline-wise.

So, readers, with those two brief descriptions, which story do you think you'd like to see?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Goodbye to an old home

I came home last night to a Facebook alert that an old friend had tagged me in a post. Curious, I proceeded.

"At the end of this summer, a very important place will be closing permanently. This place played a huge role in my life as I was growing up, and did the same for many of my friends. Friends I wouldn't have even met without this place."

I didn't even have to click the link she provided or look at the other people she tagged. I knew who they were. I knew where she meant. The place we met many years ago: Camp Ocala, our 4-H summer camp.

From ages 8 to 18, I spent a week every summer swimming in the lake, sleeping in the cabins, playing games around the campfire, and singing the silly songs engraved on the heart of every child who attended. I learned tennis, archery, line dancing, and arts and crafts. I was hurt, humiliated, loved, lost, respected, and educated at that camp. I caught every bug possible from six- and eight-legged (Bug Camp, fun) to parasitic and viral (chiggers, lice, colds, and flu, not as fun). I made some of the greatest friends I've ever known in the dining hall, and strengthened relationships with the ones I already had over candy bars at the canteen. Two of them were guests of honor at my wedding.

And at the end of summer, it'll be all gone, for everyone, forever. No more kids cannonballing off the floating dock. No more whistles lost to the lake's depths. No more singing for our supper (and breakfast and lunch) at the top of our lungs in front of the dining hall to be granted the privilege of eating first. No more first loves on the dance floor for Wednesday night's dance. No more Thursday night shaving cream fights in the cabins while the counselors were out having theirs, even when we weren't supposed to (everyone knew the good counselors-in-training smuggled in their own shaving cream.)

I remember the layout of that camp better than I remember some of my own houses or apartments. Many of the people and the places have inspired my own writing. I wouldn't trade a single memory for anything, not even the bad ones. I sincerely hope the 4-H can find another place for a camp so other children can experience what so many of us did, feel the same love and inspiration I did for many years to come, but wherever they go, it won't be Camp Ocala. It's closing its doors, and it's taking a part of my heart with it.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Killing Your Darlings

I can't remember where I first heard the phrase, "Kill your darlings." It may have been at an RWA meeting, maybe in Stephen King's On Writing. Most likely, though, I probably just found it online somewhere and didn't really understand it until King's book. It's controversial, well-debated advice. Some people will tell you it means if you're stuck, cut the parts that you're attached to because you're probably favoring them too much. They'll say your darlings hold you back. Others will say it's advice to ignore. Why kill something that's good? It's okay to have darlings, they'll say.

After the week I've had, I have my own understanding of "Kill your darlings."

You're probably sick to death of this song, right?
It means, "Be able to let go." For whatever reason, you have to be able to let go, no matter how in love you are with it. Whether that means keeping something from the readers because there's no easy way to introduce it, or completely destroying a line, a character, a subplot, or even a plot. You have to be able to take the red pen to it.

Let go of the hilarious but out-of-character line, the unbelievable character trait, and the Deus Ex Machina Band-aid over the plothole. Continuity, character development, and believability are more important. If it gets in the way, let it go.
 
Let go of worldbuilding and backstory if you can't make it fit naturally into your story. Let go of the idea of showing off everything you've made, no matter how cool or deep or interesting it is. If it doesn't fit, let it go.

Let go of the character, the idea, or the name that's been done by someone bigger and/or better than you. It's not worth the copycat accusations at best and lawsuits at worst. No matter how much you love it, no matter how long you've used it, let it go.

Yes, some of these are from experience. That last one definitely is. God, it was so hard to ax, but when it's your untried idea versus George R. R. Martin's published work, Martin wins. I had no idea he'd made a superhero world where the heroes are called "Aces." I'm counting my blessings I haven't published anything in my series yet. It would have been a disaster for my career simply because I didn't know. So I had to take a kryptonite ax to the name I've had for my heroes for four years. The Aces are dead, long live the Arches.

So commiserate with me, writer readers. What darlings have you had to let go in a particularly violent fashion?

Friday, January 9, 2015

Happy New Year!

Honestly, it feels like just yesterday we were freaking out over Y2k, and now it's 2015. Unbelievable.

It's been a busy few weeks for me, and it'll continue to be for a few more. However, I'm still working on moving forward. Despite the Christmas holidays involving much more than anticipated (including one very nice surprise) and leaving me with fewer free days, I scurried, forced myself to work, and knocked two thousand words out of the park to finish the four short stories I wanted done on 12/31. Goal 1, done.

As for Goal 2, the Secret Santa Story Swap? Oh my god, I love my prompt. It's been an adventure just figuring out how to include the desired elements, but I've done it in a way I'm excited to write. The story's plotted and outlined, the world is built. All that's left is write... and, well, edit, of course.