Friday, September 24, 2010

Trouble at the End

I have a problem.  I'm nearing the end of the first draft of my novel, but I'm not exactly sure how to end it. 

My story has become a trilogy in my head, which complicates my writing a bit.  I have an outline of the high points of each book, but I have to find the happy balance between keeping the first book as a stand-alone novel so that it will actually be publishable, and making sure that the second book is appropriately set up to continue the story without becoming boring filler as so many second-in-a-trilogy books tend to be.

So this brings up a good question: what makes a satisfying and complete ending?  When you, the author, know that there will be more than one book and know what's going to happen next, how do you keep the story self-contained, while still leaving the right number of loose-ends to bring people back for the next installment?

One of my first posts was about the book Ariel, by Steve Boyett.  I hated the ending of that novel.  Now, I don't know if he originally intended it to be a multi-book series (a sequel was published just last year, though the original was published in 1983), but regardless, the ending was dissatisfying and now I have no desire to read the sequel.  I want to avoid that if at all possible with my own readers.

I also recently read the first two books in a trilogy by Celine Kiernan, and I thought the ending of her first book was wonderful, but I'm pretty sure she sold the books as a trilogy, so the ending of the first book is left wide-open.  The heroine is literally walking down a road, beginning a new adventure as she searches for the truth.  Unfortunately, I can't really bank on the fact that I can sell all three of my books in one go.  From what I understand, as a debut author, it's often easier to sell the first one, see how it does, and then sell the remaining two books.  I need the ending of my first book to be a little more conclusive, a little more definite, with just a hint that there could be more to come, in case it ends up being the only one that gets published (sad, but possible).

There are people that will argue that writing is an art and I therefore shouldn't be concerned about the market or whether the books will be published.  They will say that I should focus on achieving my own vision, not appeasing "the man".  They're right to an extent.  I should be focusing on the story, and I should be working toward the vision in my head.  I need to make the book as good as it can be before I worry about the business end of things.  That's all true.  However, those of you who know me, know that I'm too darn practical for that.  I was a business major after all.

Writing is a business, whether you like it or not, and I want my books to be published.  Yes, I'm working hard to make my novel the best that it can be.  Yes, I am striving to achieve the vision in my head and tell a fantastic story.  But I want people, beyond my immediate friends and family, to have the opportunity to enjoy that story, and the only way to do that is to get it published.  I'm not cutting corners, I'm not pandering to the market, I'm simply trying to consider the business angle while I polish and progress.

Which brings me back to the original point: how am I supposed to end this thing?  I suppose I'll figure it out eventually.  I'm going to have to.  I just have to keep writing, polishing, and perfecting.  It'll get there.  I promise.  Seriously.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Laws of the World

World-building is an integral part of any good work of fiction.  It is the author's job to make the world feel real, so that the reader can live in it for the period of time that they're reading the work.

"But realistic settings constructed from memory or research are only part of the challenge, for an intensely created fantasy world makes new boundaries for the mind...Obviously this does not absolve the writer from the necessity of giving outer space its own characteristics, atmosphere, and logic.  If anything, these must be more intensely realized within the fiction, since we have less to borrow from in our own experience." 
Much of world-building is done in the head of the writer through research and planning prior to the actual writing of the story.  The author always knows more about the novel than the words that end up written on the page, especially in science fiction or fantasy.  Meanwhile, the reader needs to feel part of the written world without being overwhelmed with information dumped all at once. 

Benjamin Tate, author of Well of Sorrows (which I'm currently reading), posted not too long ago on Magical Words, saying that,

"The main to let the reader settle into the world and live in it without the world itself becoming overwhelming. Make the world familiar enough and expose the differences from our world in slow and steady stages, and the reader won’t even notice that they’ve snuggled deeper into their chair and are turning the pages that much faster."

I bring this topic up now because of my summer writing class.  We were required to submit a final piece, either a complete short story or the first chapter to a novel.  During the last two classes, we critiqued each other's work.  My final short story was set in the world of my novel, but occurred approximately sixty years prior.  Ironically, the short story's protagonist is the antagonist of the novel: Sarah, the current werewolf pack leader.  In any case, one of the primary criticisms was that I hadn't provided enough information about the rules of my fictional world. 

My goal had been to follow Benjamin's advice.  I wanted the reader to slowly become aware that the story was about a single battle in a werewolf war.  I tried introduce the rules of the world more or less evenly over the ~5,000 words of the story.  Unfortunately, by the end the readers still didn't have enough information to fully understand what was going on or feel satisfied with the conclusion.  My classmates asked about the identity of the werewolf pack, the reason for the war, and why the protagonist was so brutal.  We ended up talking about my world more than the story itself, which was fine by me since I had so much information to share.

Nearly everyone in the class thought that my short story was part of a longer work.  In a way, I suppose it was.  It was a piece of back-story for my novel.  But it made me realize that world-building is a balancing act.  You need to bring the reader into the world slowly and carefully, but you also have to give them enough to chew on or you'll lose them.  Every word, every sentence, needs to function on multiple levels to keep the reader interested, entertained, and ultimately satisfied.  If you don't give them enough, they feel incomplete, but give them too much and they'll either be overwhelmed or feel patronized.  The sweet spot is hard to find.

Now that I'm beginning the revision process for my novel, I'm reading with an eye for the "reality" of the world.  I've already noticed spots where I've given an information dump, or areas that need more description.  Revision is a wonderful thing.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Farm City

As many of you know, gardening is a significant hobby of mine.  Particularly vegetable gardening.  I grow tomatoes, zucchini (which unfortunately have done very poorly this year), cucumbers, beets, arugula, bell peppers, hot peppers, and strawberries, plus an assortment of herbs and random veggies that get thrown in the ground once in awhile.  So it's not surprising that I picked up a copy (rather, I downloaded on Kindle) Farm City by Novella Carpenter.

I don't often read non-fiction, but I'm glad I chose this one. 

Novella's urban farm is located in downtown Oakland, CA.  She starts out with a few pots in her own backyard, but quickly realizes that the empty lot next door would be a fantastic site for an urban farm.  She becomes a squatter - at least with her garden.  Her first addition beyond the regular veggies is a "poultry pack": chickens, turkeys, geese and ducks.  After several adventures and one fantastic Thanksgiving dinner, she adds bees to the mix.  Then it's rabbits.  Then pigs. 

Not only informative, Farm City is entertaining and Novella's voice comes through loud and clear.  She has a great sense of humor, even while performing activities that modern day urban dwellers might not find the most appealing.  I, on the other hand, found the book inspiring, and hope to one day have a little farm of my own.

Rating: 4.5/5

Monday, August 30, 2010

Light at the End of the Tunnel

Last week, as I was writing on the train as usual, I had a real Ah-Ha! moment.

He escapes!  Duh!  Why didn't I think of that before?  It's so simple, so clear - undeniably the right road for my characters to follow.  It was the turn I needed to move the plot one step closer to the end of the first novel in my trilogy.  (Did I mention that I've decided my story needs to be a trilogy?  Yep, lots of work ahead of me.) 

I suddenly felt as if a tiny pin-prick of light had appeared before me in the dark tunnel that I've been imperceptibly moving through for the last...nine plus months (ouch). 

Don't get me wrong, I'm nowhere near finished.  I'm not even ready for serious critique yet.  I still have to get to the end of the story, and then I have oodles of edits waiting on the other side.  It's a pin-prick, not a beacon.  But the story has now opened up for me and I can clearly see the path ahead.  I've been muddling through the dark for so long, I'm actually anxious to get to the revision part.

I've learned a lot in 50,000 words, which will help with the revisions.  Hopefully I won't have to rewrite too much of the beginning, although I already know I need to start in a different place.  But now I'm getting ahead of myself, so I'll leave it there for the moment.  I need to get back to writing.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Butt in Chair

Last Friday, Jane Friedman quoted a bit of wisdom from writer and professor, Michael Martone:

Only 10% (if that) of writers keep at it, and because they do keep at it, they are successful and known—even if not talented.

This got me thinking: how many people get discouraged by criticism and stop writing?  I don't have the answer, but I can tell you that I was one of them.

It was my tenth grade English class that thwarted my own early creative writing.  We were given an assignment to write a short story for class.  Meanwhile, the twelfth grade creative writing students would edit and critique our work.  At the time, I had been reading a lot of fantasy, particularly epic fantasy, so I decided that I would write a story about elves.

Before you ask, I no longer have a copy of the story, nor do I remember what it was about.  All I remember was that there were elves and there was a fight scene.  I couldn't keep the word count down to a reasonable short story length, and in the end, I'm not sure that I really ever finished it.  The story just stopped.  It was BAD.  But I had to submit it for the class assignment.

The senior that read my long piece of you-know-what absolutely tore it to shreds.  I knew it was awful, but she nit-picked through the thing and sent me running home in tears.  Okay, not really, but still. 

I was absolutely mortified by the experience.  In retrospect, the senior was just fulfilling her class assignment as well, so I can hardly blame her for tearing it to bits, but nonetheless it caused me to believe that I was terrible at creative writing in general.  Since there were other things that filled my time that I was already good at, like softball and volleyball and piano lessons and jazz band and AP classes...I decided it wasn't worth the effort to get good, even though I'd had a lot of fun with the writing.

I didn't write any other creative works until I got the itch a couple of years ago.

What gave me the itch?  I think it was a lack of a creative outlet.  There were of course other outlets that I could have turned to -- like playing piano, in which my loving parents invested thousands of dollars from the ages of 6 through 18 -- but I wanted to tell stories.  I wanted to give a reader the escape and the enjoyment that I had always received from books.  I wanted to write.

So I tried again.  The difference is that now I'm choosing to write because it's fun, not some class assignment that's required of me.  I'm choosing to learn and develop my creativity.  I'm choosing to put in the practice time so that I can become a great writer.  Anyone that's read Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers can tell you it will take 10,000 hours of practice to master a complex skill.  Well, my butt is in my chair and I'm sticking with it.  Practice makes perfect and only time will tell if I'll ever be successful and known.

Of course, I hope to be successful, known and talented.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Chocolate Surprise

I know it's been awhile since my last post, but here's a little treat for you all...

Chocolate Surprise
by Megan P Haskell

     He approached from behind, sliding one hand along her long, exposed white neck. The skin beneath his fingers shivered as the tiny hairs on the back of her neck lifted. He loved the first seduction of the last fatal kiss.
     “Mmm, that feels nice,” she whispered, her sultry tone asking to be caressed.
     She had no idea what he really was. He had picked her up in an exclusive and expensive bar downtown.  She had eyed him from across the room, as they all were wont to do, but it was her neck that had made his final decision. He couldn't resist the translucent skin that gently pulsed in long blue lines beneath the surface. They had talked.  She was a business woman, far away from home, looking for a little adventure.  He had invited her home with him.  No woman had ever refused.
     “Would you like some dessert? I have some wonderful imported chocolates that would taste lovely with a little red wine,” he whispered into her ear. The chill that shivered down her spine was tantalizing. He almost took her then and there, but decided to make the evening last. At least a little while longer.
     “That would be lovely,” she replied turning into his arms.
     He let his hands slide down her shoulders, then quickly left the room, moving to the kitchen where he stored his bait. He had no real food, just dessert, liquor and wine. It was all he ever needed.

     He pulled the red box of chocolates from the cabinet, selecting a few choice pieces and arranging them artfully on a plate. He poured what was rumored to be a fantastic wine into his favorite crystal goblet.  It was thick and had a deep red color that looked remarkably like blood. He enjoyed the irony with every pour. He carried the bait back into the living room.
     “Here we are,” he said, offering the plate and the goblet.
     “Aren't you going to have any wine?” the woman inquired. “I hate to be the only one drinking.”
     “Never mind that,” he replied. “Try the wine with the chocolates. They're truly divine.”
     The woman took the plate from him and they sat on the burgundy couch, knees touching lightly. She picked up one of the dark brown morsels and placed it on her tongue. Her eyes closed in pleasure. He let his eyes trail down her light blue dress shirt and black pencil skirt. So proper on the outside, yet clearly so deviant on the inside.
     “Here, let me give you a piece,” she said, a chocolate held out toward him.
     “No, no. They are all for you, my dear.” 
      She frowned.  “Please, let me feed you.” She leaned forward, her blouse framing that lovely neck and opening wider across the bust. No matter how hard he tried to look away, his eyes were drawn back to that little pulse point. He was hungry. He closed his eyes, inhaling her scent but keeping his desires in check.
     “Don't worry. You'll feed me a little later, my darling.”
     “I don't think so.”
     His eyes flew open. Her voice had changed: no longer warm and sultry, it was cold and hard. But it was the wooden stake that rested between his ribs that was the real surprise. She had much better bait than he did.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


As some of you know, I'm taking a writing class through UCLA Extension this summer.  Today's post comes from a twenty minute exercise that we wrote at the beginning of class a few weeks ago.  After re-reading it a few days later, I thought to myself, "This is kinda good.  Maybe you should keep working on it."  I took my own advice, and here it is, an original short short story by Megan P Haskell!


By Megan P Haskell

    Mary opened the window in the front room.  A gentle breeze ruffled the sheer curtains and washed through the house as she finished preparing dinner.  The evening would be perfect.  Everything was planned down to the tiniest detail. 

    Earlier in the day, Mary had carefully unwrapped the small frozen wedding cake, unable to believe that an entire year had passed.  The sugar flowers still looked lovely.  The cake now sat proudly on display as the centerpiece of the table, her grandmother’s prized silver candlesticks framing it with perfect white tapers. 

    Jacob was due home from work at seven.  His favorite dinner was almost ready; the only thing missing was the garlic bread, which would be broiled at the last minute. 

    At 6:55 Mary lit the candles so that the flame would be big and beautiful, its light dancing on the lace tablecloth, and then returned to the kitchen to finish the last of the dishes before he arrived.  She didn't want anything to interrupt their evening. 

    At 7:02 all the dishes were done.  Mary stood looking out the window, hoping every pair of headlights belonged to Jacob’s big pickup truck.  She was disappointed each time they passed her by. 

    At 7:17 Mary paced the room, her little black dress flowing gently around her.  She had purchased the dress especially for this evening, spending more than she probably should have.  It was a special occasion; their first in what she hoped would be many.  Surely Jacob would be home soon.  The flash of light sent her running to the window, but it was just the neighbor's red Nissan.   

    At 7:23 Mary put the bread under the broiler.  A late husband was a hungry husband and she didn’t want to make Jacob wait. 

    At 7:26 the bread was finished, and Jacob still wasn't home.  Mary nibbled a small buttery slice while it was still warm before wrapping the rest in a cloth and placing it in the basket.  She set the basket on the table and sat, her knee jiggling. 

    At 7:38 Mary's stomach growled loudly and her arms were riddled with goosebumps.  She called the main office, but no one answered.  She called his cell.  It rang twice, then went to his voicemail.  The food was getting cold and Jacob was ignoring her calls.

    At 7:51 Mary ate a small serving of the perfect homemade lasagna, but put the rest away.  He was an hour late.  He hadn’t called.  She blew out the candles and put away the unused dishes.

    At 8:28 he still wasn't home.  Mary stood in the front room, staring at the empty street.  Cars no longer passed; all the husbands were home.  All but her own.  She felt like a peeping tom watching the shadows move behind the blinds of her neighbors' houses. 

    At 8:39 Mary tried calling his cell phone again.  There was still no answer.  She decided she might as well get out of her dress.  The store might let her return it since she hadn’t spilled anything.  She didn’t want to - it was a beautiful dress - but she couldn’t justify the cost.  There wouldn’t be another chance to wear it.

    At 9:03 Mary returned to the kitchen wearing her oldest and most comfortable pair of pajamas.  The beautiful cake taunted her from its seat on the table.  She succumbed to the temptation and cut a slice, carrying it with her to the couch.  Mary turned on the TV, flipping through the channels until she found a prime-time soap opera that wouldn’t require much thought.  

    At 9:07 Mary took a bite of the cake, but could barely swallow the small mouthful.  It tasted like cardboard and chalk, not the decadent vanilla and sweet butter cream that she remembered.  She set the plate on the coffee table, deciding to deal with the rest later.

    At 9:19 Mary heard a car approaching the house.  Her husband’s blue Ford was finally pulling up the drive.  She watched him open the truck door and stumble out onto the cold gray cement; his slurred curses echoed against the house.  Mary closed the window and went to bed, pausing only to throw the leftover cake in the trash.
I hope you liked it.  Please feel free to post comments.   I've also posted it up on Scribd, so if you're feeling generous and have the time, please rate it and post a comment there as well.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

False Truth

What is fiction? Well-crafted lies? Imagination run wild? Real-life condensed and amplified? Social or political commentary? Escape from reality?
I think it can be any or all of these, and sometimes all at once. My personal definition is that fiction is a "false truth".  The story is false - either entirely made up or exaggerated in some way - but there also has to be some truth to it.  
One of my favorite books of the last few years was One Second After, by William R Forstchen. Part of what made this book so fascinating was that it was based on a very real threat to the US: an electromagnetic pulse or EMP. In a nut shell, an EMP kills anything and everything electronic, sending the victim country back to the dark ages with no transportation, no power, and very few means of communicating. The characters in the story were imaginary, but their reactions to the threat and behaviors after it occurred were true. The story is made-up (false) but it's based on reality (truth).
But Megan, you write fantasy!  It's all made up, its only point is to provide an escape from reality, so it can't be real and it can't be true.
Just because fantasy isn't real doesn't mean it isn't true.  And just because it isn't real doesn't mean that there's no value in it except as an escape. Every great fantasy has truth and meaning.   
Aristotle went so far as to say that a 'probable impossibility' made a better story than an 'improbable possibility,' meaning that a skillful author can sell us glass mountains, UFOs, and hobbits, whereas a less skilled writer may not be able to convince us that Mary Lou has a crush on Sam.”
~ Writing Fiction, by Janet Burroway
The characters of the story might belong to a fictional race of elves, trolls, werewolves, vampires, hobbits, orcs, goblins, angels, get the idea...but their personalities have to be based on something or someone we know or can relate to in some way, even the bad guys.  Frodo was the boy next door, forced to step up to a responsibility he didn't really want and wasn't really ready for. And at the most basic level, Sauron was an evil dictator, living far away, that wanted to take over the world.  Remind you of anyone?
The key here is that though they weren't human, these characters had personalities, backgrounds, quirks, and pet peeves that defined them and were true to their stories.
Then there's the setting: depending on the subgenre, the setting can be both real and true, or just true. My novel is set in the mountains of Colorado. I've been there. It's real. Promise.
Oh, you want a published example? Look at the Sookie Stackhouse series (or True Blood for those that watch the show but haven't read the books) – Sookie lives in modern day Louisiana, it just so happens that the vampires have come out of the coffin and revealed their existence. So long as Charlaine Harris maintains the rules of her world (vampires allergic to silver, for example), the world she's created feels real.
However, even an epic fantasy adventure can take place on a non-Earth world and feel as real as the suburban neighborhood I live in, so long as the author follows his own rules and stays true to the characters. If the planet has a purple sky, it needs to stay that way (unless there's some kind of catastrophic event that changes the color of the sky for a reason...but I digress). If the protagonist is the daughter of a Duke living in a castle, she probably shouldn't be a weapons expert or inadvertently break the rules of etiquette.
Fantasy is definitely false, but it can also be true too.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Colorado Research Trip

View of Lake Dillon from the Mesa Cortina Trail
My novel is set in the wilderness of Summit County, an area that I've visited every year for the last six years or so.  Unfortunately, the majority of my time has been spent during the winter months, when skiing is great, but hiking is not really feasible unless you have snowshoes and feel like walking in below freezing weather (not something I particularly enjoy).  Since my characters start out hiking in early August, I needed to learn more about the mountains in the summer.  I needed to know what the trees and rocks and ground really look like.  I needed to do some research.

I'm lucky; my parents live in Colorado and have a vacation home in Breckenridge.  All I had to book was a flight to go out there and visit.  I arrived last Friday, spent a day at their house near Denver, and then up the mountains we went.

Fantastic bakery in Silver Plume.

First stop was at the town of Silver Plume, a teeny, somewhat run-down town right off the highway.  There we discovered the cutest (and tastiest) little bakery, Sopp & Truscott Bakery.  This will be a future frequent stop whenever we pass by.


Georgetown Loop Steam Engine.
      The Lebanon Mine tour.  I look pretty good in a hard hat!

Saturday afternoon was spent riding the Georgetown Loop Railroad, a three mile trip between the towns of Georgetown and Silver Plume.  Halfway through the downhill trek, we stopped and took a tour of the Lebanon Mine.

On Sunday, we hiked the Iowa Hill trail in Breckenridge.  Not only did the hike have fantastic scenery, but old mining equipment, pipes and buildings dotted the trek up the hill and plaques explained what they were used for in the placer mining operation that operated on the hillside in the late 1800's.

A water cannon from the place mine operation on Iowa Hill.
We got a late start on Monday, but drove down to Silverthorne to try out the beginning of the actual hike that my characters take in the novel - the Mesa Cortina trail.  Unfortunately, mosquitoes ran rampant, and we had to turn back after about a mile.  We had forgotten to bring bug spray.  (Bug spray is now going to play a minor role in my novel.  I had thought that at that elevation there wouldn't be many mosquitoes, but apparently I was wrong.)

Section of the Mesa Cortina trail.
After cleaning up the cabin and getting everything packed, it was off to the airport on Tuesday, where I almost missed my flight.  For some reason I thought it departed an hour later than its actual listed time.  I had 30 minutes from checking my bag to make it through security and onto the plane before take off.  I was also informed that my bag might not make it home with me.  After literally running to security and then from security down the terminal to the gate, I managed to make it with a few minutes to spare.  I thought my lungs were going to implode.

But I made it, and so did my bag, and now I'm home enjoying a relaxing down weekend with nothing to do but incorporate the scenery and mining operations into my novel.  Here's to a productive writing weekend! 

(More pictures posted on Facebook.)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Genre fiction can still be literature. Honest.

As I stated in my post a few weeks ago, sci-fi and fantasy - and practically all of their sub-genres - are my cup of tea when it comes to books I love.  I make no bones about it.  When you ask me what I'm reading, 95% of the time it will be something within this realm of literature.  However, as we all know, genre fiction is often looked down upon by academics.  It's considered "low-brow" and unsophisticated; inappropriate for an educated person to be caught reading.  Of course, as a well-educated woman who gobbles up the stuff, I have to politely disagree.

However, I do agree with what Laura Ann Gilman said this on the other day:

"... in my experience, urban fantasy—more to the point, modern fantasy—is at its heart not about the fantastic, but the everyday: the intensity of the real world drawn in the most vibrant colors possible, so that what was mundane and ordinary takes on a new depth and meaning."
To me, taking mundane things in our everyday lives and making them new and exciting is what makes fantasy so fun.  So, okay, you have an adventure set in some alternate medieval period, with talking cats and ghosts.  I get it, some people can't suspend their disbelief that far.  But what's the story really about?  It's really about a young woman making her way in the world, falling in love, and finding her destiny.   (Note: I just finished reading The Poison Throne and The Crowded Shadows, the first two books in the Moorehawk trilogy by Celine Kiernan, and they're fantastic.  Highly recommended.)  There are swords and crossbows, court politics and adventure, but the fundamental story is not about the action, it's about the journey and the relationships that are developed between the characters.

Misty Massey, from Magical Words, had this to say: 

"Some of the genre fiction I’ve read is more well-written and brilliant than any ten literary doorstops, but kept from the eyes of the literati merely because of the genre label."
Genre fiction sells, which means people are reading it.  Considering that one in four American adults failed to read a single book in 2006, shouldn't we consider this to be a good thing?  Shouldn't we celebrate the written word, in whatever form it takes, and encourage people to find the value in it for themselves?  Better yet, why don't we take a closer look at genre fiction to understand the power of escaping the real world through a good story?  Maybe it will even teach the literati a thing or two.

(Side rant: isn't "literary fiction" a genre in it's own right?  Sure seems like one to me.)  

Woo Hoo! 
Word count on the novel: 40,221  !!!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Reading habits of the average American

I read today on Pub Rants, one of the many blogs I follow, that the average American only reads 2-3 books each year.  Mindboggling!  So I decided to do a little research to see if this statistic is true, or if it's one of the 80% of statistics that are made up on the spot.

While I didn't find that exact statistic, I did find this horrifying article from the Washington Post back in August 2007: One in Four Read No Books Last Year.  

Personally, I read at least 15-20 books per year just for fun.  There was a period of time before I started writing when that figure was even higher.  That's not counting all of the articles, news, manuals, presentations, etc. that I read for work or school.  As a kid I was grounded from reading because my mom couldn't get me to do my chores.  I can't imagine what my life would be like without good novel.

But apparently 25% of the American population doesn't even read one book each year, and the average person "claimed to have read four books".  (By the way, "books" includes the Bible and non-fiction as well as novels, and doesn't differentiate between personal and business/work-related reading, so we're talking about a pretty wide range of material.)  I know that TV, movies, and the internet take up increasing amounts of our time and provide plenty of entertainment, but is it really possible that the written word is being ignored by such a large proportion of our population?  If so, how sad!!

What about you guys?  How much do you read for fun?  How many books have you read this year so far?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Why oh WHY am I not making progress?

The last few weeks have been busy to say the least.  From my anniversary, to a work trip to London that required 12+ hour days, and Venessa & Ryan's upcoming wedding this weekend (hi guys!), plus a large amount of regular work, there just haven't been enough hours in the day.  Add to that a minor case of writer's block and you have a recipe for slow progress on the novel.

Very slow progress on the novel.

But I think I've finally figured out my real problem.  I'm too Type A.

See, here's the thing, I don't really have writer's block, it's more like writer's overload.  I'm getting to the big scenes in the novel: my hero's first shift to her new furry form, her brother's realization of what's happened to her and the ultimate betrayal.  I'm at the good part!  I know where I want the story to go and I should be writing like mad, unstoppable as my fingers fly across the keys.  But I'm not. Because I want it to be perfect.  And it's not.  At least not yet.

I keep changing my mind on the details of the scene.  When do I want the brother to show up?  How should he react?  What's the scenery like?  Where is everyone standing?  Etc. Etc. Etc.

As one blogger friend wrote after I commented on her post about the causes of writer's block; "Leave the scene alone and work on another! If you re-write to much to early, you can be in danger of deleting some gems."

I need to take her advice.  It's good, solid advice.  I need to sit down and pound at the keyboard for a few solid hours and move past this hurdle.  Edit later.

Unfortunately, that's much easier said than done.  First I need a few solid hours to work.  And I don't mean the 30-45 minutes sitting on the train, even though I'm often productive during that time.  What I really need is a complete afternoon or evening to put on the headphones and do nothing else but write. 

Once I manage to set aside the time, I need to force myself to keep moving and stop looking back to edit what's just been written.  It may not sound that difficult, but there's an emotional element to this particular scene that has to be expressed correctly or the whole thing is going to fall apart.  Of course I'm now justifying my own perverse need to get the scene just right and therefore not move past it.

I don't think I've entirely solved my issues yet, but the first step is admitting you have a problem, right?

Interview with Carl Franklin, author of Bloodlines

As part of my review on Bloodlines, by Carl Franklin, I had the opportunity to ask the author a few questions about himself, about his novella, and about the charity that he will be supporting. 

1. First, please tell us a little information about yourself...
I'm 23, obviously enjoy writing and reading literature- From poems to book reviews and most fiction. I do like some non-fiction, but there's nothing like escaping reality!

2. Where did find the inspiration for Bloodlines?
I found the inspiration for Bloodlines from God himself! It was my yearning to see the message get across to the world that being hateful is wrong. No matter who or what anybody believes in, I'm humbled that they have "something" to believe in or worship; and most assuredly that "something" is unity and love driven just like the honest, true words of Jesus.

3. How long did it take to complete the novella, and what was your writing process like?
It didn't take very long to complete given that my imagination and writing is fast paced. It includes most of my premature writing as an Author, however, so a span of a couple years combined into one manuscript. My writing style, you could say, matured since Bloodlines.

It was a bit difficult in some ways, because I did share two personal events that affected my soul. 1- the death of my own mother, even though I put fictional characters around the story... it hits close to home. 2- the death of my only supportive grandfather, again with fictional characters around the story... it as well is close to my heart.

4. Why did you decide to self-publish in a digital format instead of going through the traditional publishers?
It isn't just in digital form. While it can be found on the Amazon kindle, now with perfected formatting without the errors with chunks wrongfully italicized. The print version is of course the longer process and should be publicly available through several cataloging outlets and beyond just the USA store.

I have done every bit of work myself for Bloodlines- writing, publishing, marketing legwork, public relations. Except thank goodness, distribution. I wouldn't want that task. I self published my first Novella because regardless of its content or structure, I wanted to be one of the first to tackle the subject that being Gay doesn't discount one person from another in God's eyes, rather it is what a person does in their lifetime that makes them the person they are. God wants people to love each other- and the other message is as prior mentioned, being hateful is counterproductive and unnecessary. Love is the most powerful energy in the universe, so why not strengthen it even more?

5. Can you tell us a little about your current project(s)?
I am in the works of my adult and much matured works of writing. It is Book 1 of 4 in my suspense series. "Monetary Discretion" and I also beta read for other writers. "Monetary Discretion" is a suspense filled work following the interesting protagonist (main character) Henry Waterstone, who suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder (multiple personalities) with a quite diverse slew of alter egos. Aside from the basics, I can't share much further information until readers have the chance to find out for themselves. :)

6. What is Smile Train?
Smile Train is an organization that is multi-national centric and holds the basic mission of correcting the cleft palates of several children. May they be in third world countries or here in The United States, clefts hold many challenges both health-wise and personally as well. Children with cleft lip and cleft palates, if gone uncorrected, live unhealthy and scrutinizing lives. They cannot eat or drink properly, they are more prone to bacterial infections and autoimmune diseases and they don't have the luxury of what you and I have- a smile!

7. How did you become involved with the charity and how will your sales support their work?
Several months ago when I decided to link my work and all future works of fiction with charities so I could help give back to the world, I came across one of the Smile Train commercials and was so affected, I did further research on their website to see what they stood for. Being further moved to want to help put a smile on those children, I decided that they would be my first charity to work with.
A percentage of each royalty from my Bloodlines work will go toward the benefit in putting a smile on hopefully more than a few children. It takes as little as $250 and 45 minutes to correct a child's smile. That in itself is enough to put a smile on your face, I hope!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Bloodlines by Carl J Franklin

Amazon Description:

Join Kyle Montana, reserved humanitarian, on his journey through tribulations of his tumultuous life through self exploration and the seeking of acceptance in a loathsome society, in this eye opening self narrative novel. Being a man of several talents and touching the lives of many, Kyle struggles to find solace from nearly everything life throws at him. He stares death straight in the eye, faces rejection from every direction he turns, and bears witness to several wicked measures.  Kyle moves on to further successes after living through abhorrent conditions and finds reasoning with his life’s true purpose. This is a tender story of epic morals not only intended for simple reading pleasure, but also a profound view of real-life scenarios.

Review:  Is it better to live your life with love and compassion, or pursue morality within the strictest confines of religion?

Bloodlines, by Carl Franklin, begins with a glimpse at the end, quite literally.  In fact, the prologue describes the death of the main character, Kyle Skye Montana.  It was a shocking entry into the story, but it stood up to the rest of the novella, which chronicled the trials of its hero as he seeks his own happiness.

Kyle is a gay man living in a family that abhors his sexuality.  After his mother's death, his father and extended family make it known that they can not tolerate his preference despite the fact that he is reserved in his behavior and lives his life with love and compassion.  On top of it all, he's dealing with physical pain and trouble at work.  As a result, he becomes increasingly alienated and depressed, but all the while, he works to keep a positive attitude and a smile on his face.  One bad thing after another hits him, but he keeps on moving toward his goal of making it to Hollywood and becoming a screenwriter.

For a first effort by a self-published author, Bloodlines was a good story with potential.  However, there were a few areas that I felt were lacking and negatively affected my reading experience.

1. The language used was stilted and formal when it didn't need to be.  In some cases, the word choice pulled me so far out of the story that it was hard to keep reading.  It almost felt like the author picked up a dictionary or thesaurus and was trying to use the biggest, most formal choice possible.  While I don't think this was actually the case, I do think that further editing of the language would have benefited the story.

2. Kyle Montana lives in Colorado, and says that he's lived there most of his life, yet his dialogue is littered with British colloquialisms like "bloody hell", "posh", "sodding", and so on.  It made it extremely difficult to make a real connection with the hero, since I couldn't figure out where he was actually supposed to be from!  Not only that, the dialogue was weak in general, and didn't flow like a normal conversation, often providing way more detail than was actually necessary for the story. 

3. For a commentary on morality and what it means to find happiness, Kyle's final successes were far too focused on the material things he had acquired rather than the love of his family and final acceptance achieved.  I didn't care that he was wearing a Dolce & Gabbana shirt or that he was worth $240 million.  I didn't care that he drove an Escalade or lived in a mansion in the Hollywood Hills.  The redemption of the story should have focused on the life he had built and the relationships that were the foundation of his happiness, not the material wealth he had acquired.  It undermined the underlying meaning to all the pain he had been through.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

If you want a quick read that explores some real issues, this story is a pretty good one.  At $4 on Amazon, it's not going to break the bank, and it will support an aspiring author as well as a worthwhile charity (more on that later). 

Stay Tuned!
In a future post I will be interviewing the author, Carl Franklin, and learning more about his background, writing process, and the charity he's supporting with the sales of this book. 

Monday, June 21, 2010

Reading outside my genre

Last week I took a trip to London for work.  Thanks to long waits and longer flights, I actually had time to get some reading done.  I finished Ariel a few weeks ago and needed something new, so I went on my Kindle and downloaded a bunch of samples.  I ended up buying The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks

Nicholas Sparks is well-outside my normal genre.  However, some writers and publishers advise reading outside your genre to learn new voice techniques, writing styles, character development, and world building techniques.  Since I've been reading science fiction and fantasy almost exclusively for the last ten years or so, I decided to branch out on this trip and try something new, hopefully learning a thing or two in the process.

Since my novel is told in multiple first person, I wanted to learn how to avoid confusing the reader in regards to which character is speaking.  The Last Song is written in multiple third person, so I thought it might be a good choice.  Granted, being told in third person instead of first makes it easier for the reader to remember who's speaking, but Mr. Sparks does a wonderful job of changing the tone of voice depending on the character that is being followed. Each character is distinct.  You can tell from the language used that the father is older, while the daughter is in the midst of teenage angst.  However, as she grows and matures through the course of the novel, so does her voice.  Word choice is critical, helping to develop the character while also engaging the reader.

As is typical of a novel by Nicholas Sparks, the ending was a tear-jerker. I even cried a little.  I'm going to re-read some of the novel to try to understand how and when I became so emotionally involved with the characters.  I want to learn how to create that same emotional tie between my characters and the readers.  I'm sure there's an element of innate ability, but I hope I can learn more from a master by reading his books.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Reader's choice publishing

"Even great books can be overlooked. And authors with great potential often struggle to connect with the larger audience they deserve to reach. We’re fortunate at to have customers who know a good book when they read one, so we've introduced AmazonEncore to help connect authors and their books with more readers."

The publishing industry is at a crossroads.  Everyone is talking about it.  It's the new revolution.  Change is in the air.  And it's not just affecting the traditional publishers.  The career path of an author is changing along with the industry, but even more important, the reader experience will change.  They will be able to more easily connect with an author, find the books they want to read, and ultimately participate in the publishing process.

That's right, I believe readers will be participating in the publishing process in the not so distant future.

When opened its metaphorical doors, it changed everything, and now it's poised to do the same again.  Amazon gave readers access to a practically endless supply of books.  With the Kindle, readers can now buy these books for a (usually) lower cost and have them downloaded in 60 seconds, available to read immediately without taking a trip to a physical store.  Then those same readers can post comments and reviews about the book, giving Amazon (and everyone else) a fantastic insight into which books are worth reading (or not). Now Amazon is getting into the publishing business with AmazonEncore, helping under-appreciated authors reach a wider audience.

Traditionally, publishing companies are the gatekeepers.  They decide which books have market value and which don't.  They make guesses about which books will sell, and then count on the fact that the blockbuster novels will make up for those that fizzle out in the market.  In the past this service was necessary because books were expensive to produce.  Publishers helped ensure that only high-quality books were sent out into the world so that readers didn't waste their time, money, and shelf space on books that didn't warrant it.  But with modern technology today, when books can be published quickly and easily in an electronic format, do we still need gatekeepers?  

I believe that modern society craves customization, individualization and connection.  We don't want people telling us what to like or how to do something.  We want to share our ideas, contribute to the wider world.  We want options.

I found this blog post not too long ago that sums up where I think the publishing industry might be moving.  The author (switch11) posits the following:

"New Publishing = More Efficient Publishing

  1. In the new model of publishing, anyone can publish, and you can publish as many books as you like.
  2. Actual end users vote for books, with their hard earned money, and decide which books succeed.
  3. In the new model of publishing, you can scale up the quality of the product, and the number of copies printed, at any time."
This new model for publishing makes a lot of sense when authors and publishers have virtually instant feedback about the book.  Readers suddenly have the power to decide what's worthwhile for themselves and then share that information with their personal network.  With modern technology, this data is easily captured and relatively quickly identifies the popular titles that are going viral online.

Once a title has built up some sales, a publisher may offer to work with the author to distribute the novel through additional book formats and improve the marketing.  At that point, the agent has the ability to negotiate rates and services, giving the author exactly what they need to make their book a real success.  Meanwhile, the publisher also benefits because they have a better understanding of the market and can pretty much guarantee their own profit on each book. 

In this new publishing world, should it come to fruition, readers participate in the decision-making process by voting with their pockets, authors choose how and where their books are published, and publishers provide real value-added while still making plenty of profit.  It's a win-win-win situation.


Word count on the novel: 38,027

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The end

First of all - I have to apologize for taking so long to post.  I was trying for a two-post-a-week regimen, but work, as in that thing I get paid to do, has taken over my life!  Well, that and I went to Napa for my 3rd Anniversary over Memorial Day weekend (pics up on Facebook for my Facebook friends). 

I have not fallen off the planet and I have not abandoned my blog.  Promise.

On to bigger and better discussion topics.

Today I'd like to talk about endings.  In particular, bad endings.

I just finished reading a book that I had read somewhere was a classic contemporary fantasy novel.  The premise sounded interesting, if a little odd, and it was cheap on the Amazon Kindle.  So I bought it.  The book is called "Ariel" and was written by Steve Boyett, published in 1983.

The novel is set on Earth after a cataclysmic change; a change that altered the laws of physics and brought magic to the world, including mythical creatures like unicorns and griffins.  Technology no longer works,  not even bicycles (which I thought was a little weird considering bicycles are powered by human movement, not any kind of fuel combustion, but supposedly no modern technology could function under the new laws of physics.  Bows and arrows were fine.  Gravity functions as you would expect it to.  Just nothing with a gear or engine I guess.  Anyway...)

The story follows a sixteen year old boy named Pete who's caught at school at the time of the change.  He walks the several miles home to find his house being invaded by a policeman-turned-thug (in less than 24 hours mind you), his friend is raped and killed, he's beat up and left for dead, but survives by the skin of his teeth or some other miracle.  So life on Earth is turned upside down.  A few years later he is bathing in a lake when a unicorn walks out of the bushes.  The unicorn can talk.  Her name is Ariel.  They become friends and go-a-wandering.

All right, there's the set-up.  Why did I choose this book, you ask?  I thought it might be educational.  It's considered by some to be a classic.  So I read it.  It took me awhile to make it all the way through, but I did.  I regret it.

Unfortunately, the story ended on a sour note, at least for me.  A lot of the primary supporting characters end up dead, Ariel runs away from Pete despite the fact that he's just saved her from an evil sorcerer who wants her horn, Pete (who's 21 at this point) runs after her but is seduced by a woman who knows that if he has sex he won't be able to touch Ariel ever again (unicorns can only be touched by someone who is "pure".)  So the story ends with Ariel crying and leaving forever, Pete angry with himself and depressed at losing his "familiar", and the woman who took his virginity living with him even though he mostly ignores and mistreats her.

The ending to this novel has haunted me since I finished it almost a week ago.  For whatever reason, I just can't let it go.  Someone should have been happy at the end.  I understand that it's a coming of age tale and Pete had to have sex at some point, so there was going to come a time when he couldn't stay with Ariel anymore, but did have to end with everyone depressed?  What's the point of becoming an adult if there's nothing to look forward to?  Why does taking on responsibility have to mean that you lose what you love?  It left a bad taste in my mouth.

So what's the lesson here?  People in your story can die.  Sometimes they should die.  Bad things can happen, and your hero doesn't have to be (probably shouldn't be) perfect with everything turning out all right.  But the story can't end on a down note.  There has to be hope.  There has to be love or loyalty or some other redeeming quality.  There has to be something to look forward to.  Without any of those elements, who's going to want to read the sequel?

Current word count on the novel: 35,024

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Exiting the Closet - or - I write what I read

I am a huge fan of fantasy, urban fantasy, contemporary fantasy, paranormal romance and science fiction. 

There.  I've said it.  I'm out of the closet and there's no going back now.  What freedom!  What sweet relief!

For some of you, this is no surprise, but others may be shocked to realize that looks can be deceiving.  I look nice, normal, sometimes professional, and (dare I say it) sophisticated on the outside, but in the privacy of my own Kindle, I disappear into stories of vampires, witches, werewolves, aliens, angels and demons.  I lose myself on foreign planets and alternate realities.  I love stories with sex and violence, blood, sweat and tears.  I am a secret goth.  I am a not so secret nerd.

They say you should write what you know.  Well, I'm writing what I read.  My current work in progress (WIP for those that like abbreviations) is the story of a woman forced to join the paranormal underworld of modern civilization or die in the process.  It's a story of change.  It's a story of betrayal.  It's a story of redemption and the bonds of family.

At least, that's what I'm aiming for. 

Major milestone in the word count: I've surpassed 30,000 words!!  One third-ish of the way done.  Man, I've got a lot more typing to do.

Current Word Count:  30,625

Friday, May 21, 2010

First Rejection...Sort of

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I recently entered the Writer's Digest "Your Story" contest.  Today they posted the five finalists on the WD Forum for voting.  Unfortunately,my story was not included.  Oh well.  I thought it was pretty good, but I'll let you judge for yourself.



You wake up to find a dead body on the floor – and a bloody knife in your hands. You can't remember exactly what happened, so you piece together the clues.

I blinked and stared into crystal blue eyes. It took me a minute to realize they were my own. My face was sticky, spattered with red liquid. The stinging pain across my back suggested the blood might be my own.
I sat up and stared into the mirror that was the wall in front of me, eyes wide with shock. I was naked and chained to the floor by both ankles, a six inch kitchen knife held in my right hand. Two additional chains swung gently from the ceiling above me. Blood trailed down my face, neck and left breast, startling red against the porcelain white of my skin.

I stared at my reflection as the man unfurled the long black leather. With a crack, the whip snapped a ribbon of skin away from my shoulder.

The room was mirrored on every surface but the floor, the macabre scene reflected thousands of times over. A series of long slashes covered my back, oozing blood. The man lay behind me, long whip still clenched in his right hand.

The face hovered closer, an evil smile baring a perfect set of brilliant white teeth. He unchained my arms. I collapsed to the floor.

The man had a key. He used it to free my hands. If I could get the key, I could unchain my legs. It took me a minute or three to gather my courage, but I was finally able to do what was necessary. I scooted closer and pushed the body over with my bare foot. An angry red line stretched across his neck. Blood slid down the drain set in the floor next to his body.
I fought not to scream and broke out in a cold sweat. The blood drained from my face. My stomach heaved, producing clear bile that mixed with the blood on its way down the drain. I leaned over, propping my body up on both hands. Took a deep breath and threw up again.
When there was nothing left in my stomach, not even bile, I was able to think a little more clearly. I found the key in his pants pocket, but I couldn't leave naked and covered in blood. I struggled with the dead weight, gagging as I pushed and pulled, finally getting the body to cooperate and flip over onto its stomach. I pulled the right arm back behind the body at an angle that would have been painful if the man had still been alive. The jacket slid off, and I prayed that it would be long enough; I didn't want to remove his pants. It was short, but the jacket covered my important parts, which was what mattered.

A knife appeared in his gloved left hand. My right hand shot out, pulling it from his grasp.

I lifted the knife from the floor where I had dropped it in my initial shock. The door was camouflaged in the mirrored walls, but the silver doorknob finally gave it away. No window looked out into the hallway.
I pressed my ear to the door, but I couldn't hear a thing over the sound of my pounding heart. I placed my hand on the knob. I pushed. I pushed harder. The door was locked from the outside, leaving me trapped until someone else entered. I exhaled a whoosh of air that I hadn't realized I'd been holding.
What was I going to do? The mirrors would give me away as soon as the person looked in. There was nowhere to hide. My only chance would occur the second the door opened.
I waited patiently, standing immediately to the side of the door. If there was one thing I had learned sitting in therapist waiting rooms, it was how to be patient. I waited until I heard the muffled sound of high heels on the linoleum floor. With a deep breath I prepared myself. The doorknob turned.

I twisted, sliding the blade across his neck.

“How are we...” the woman's voice cut off with a small cry of surprise. I grabbed her arm, pulling her past me into the room. Her five-inch stilettos gave her no purchase on the slick floor and she stumbled to her pleather-clad knees. Thankfully no one was with her and I easily slipped past, quickly pulling the door shut behind me. I ignored the muted thumps on the door, silently tiptoeing down the hall to the door marked 'Exit'.

Lay it on me...what do you think?

Current word count on the novel:  28,832

Sunday, May 16, 2010


I've been thinking a lot recently about how you make a connection with your audience.  It started with a conversation about Lost.  I started out really liking the series, but eventually lost the connection with the story and the characters.  Meanwhile, Adam loves Lost.  He was very upset when I tired of it because it meant he had to find time to watch the show alone.  (His brother has been coerced into watching the series finale here at our house so that he can share it "with someone who will appreciate it"). 

But what was it that Lost me?  (Sorry, bad pun intended.)  The plot was intelligent, well researched and carefully designed.  The characters were well-developed, each having a distinct back-story.  Each episode was exciting, almost always revealing new information, but never quite answering your questions.  With all it had going for it, why did I fall off the bandwagon?  Better yet, how do I keep from losing my own audience, once I have one?

Magical Words, one of the blogs that I read every day, had a very timely post by a guest blogger, Carrie Ryan.  In it, she describes her theory about how every story has a certain number of credibility points that are spent whenever you ask the reader to suspend their disbelief.  Just by picking up a book, the reader is agreeing to suspend their disbelief, but only to a point.  Certain genres will start out with a higher number of points automatically, because the reader knows that the subject requires it, but the author is still limited to that point value.

I would actually take this a step further, to say that it's not the book or the genre that dictates the point value; rather the reader is granting the author the credibility points.  The reader is participating in the story by suspending their disbelief.  Each reader has a different starting value, but no matter what, once the points are gone, the reader loses interest and puts the book down or the audience stops watching. 

Going back to Lost, guess when I started to lose interest?  It was right around the time the smoke monster made a significant appearance on the island.  My points were spent.

Novel Word Count: 24,384

Monday, May 10, 2010

It's nice to have a plan

I'm embarrassed to say that I did absolutely no writing this weekend.  I know, I know...I just announced that I would have and meet a daily word count goal...but I failed.  For this weekend at least.  Honestly, I've been stuck at this one point in my novel that I just can't seem to move past.  The section is BORING.  I don't want to write it.  But I need the background and character development that the scene will provide.

Some time last night, as I was tossing and turning in bed, I finally recognized that if I'm bored writing it, the reader will probably be bored reading it.  I realized that I am probably going to have to tear apart the scene and re-work it, maybe even delete the whole section.  I also realized that I needed to organize a timeline to help pace the novel better.

So what did I do, you ask?

Today at lunch, I worked on a new plan.  I printed out blank calendar pages and plotted the major story events as actual days.  I'm sure I got the idea from someone else - I can't imagine it's an original - but it's a process I hadn't completed for my novel.  I was working from nothing; no outline, minimal research, and very little in the way of written background or character bios.  I have a story with specific plot points that I want to hit, but they only existed in my head until now.

(Side note: I think I'm doing things slightly out of order seems that most writers spend some time plotting and doing research for their work before they actually start writing it.  What can I say?  I'm a newb.)

Anyway, the exercise was extremely helpful.  I even came up with some new plot points and ideas for where I want the story to go.  I kept it all in pencil though, so that I can easily erase and change the timeline.  For future reference, I will be making my story calendar before I start writing.  It's nice to have a plan.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Art of War for Writers

Yesterday I bought a book that was recommended for new writers.  Thanks to my free trial of Amazon Prime, and good luck that I live close to one of their major distribution centers, the book was delivered today.  Oh happy day!

As I'm sure you could tell from the title of this post, the book is called The Art of War for Writers, and you guessed it, it's sort of an adaptation of The Art of War by Sun Tzu (which I've never read, but am thinking I probably should).  The author, James Scott Bell, keeps the themes limited to three main subjects: Reconnaissance, Tactics and Strategy.

I've only read a few pages so far, but here's a quote that I already love:

...write what you love with your eyes wide open. 

Another tip that I shall be enforcing on myself is to write a quota of words each week and record what you've written each day.  Quotas can be adjusted as necessary for times when there's a heavy workload at the day job, or there's traveling and things, but by setting quantitative goals, I'll be forcing myself to get my butt in a chair and just write.  To further enforce my goals on myself, I'm going to post my weekly word count here every Friday.

Current count on the novel: 23,780 words

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Writer's Digest Contest

I am entering a new phase of my creative writing career.  I'm actually going to let someone outside of my family read my work!!  GASP!!!!

Writer's Digest runs a short short story contest for each issue of its magazine.  The winner receives...da da da money.  BUT the winning story will be published in the next issue of the magazine, which makes it worthwhile.  The story is limited to 750 words, which is a challenge in and of itself.  Here's the prompt for May:

Your Story #26: Bloody Knife in Your Hand
You wake up to find a dead body on the floor—and a bloody knife in your hands. You can't remember exactly what happened, so you piece together the clues.

After the contest is complete, I'll post my story - Reflections - up here  for you all to read too.  I can't post it before then though; I don't want to violate the rules of the contest, which give WD first time publishing rights.

Wish me luck!

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Beginning

I've been actively writing fiction now for more than a year.  Not that anything's been published yet, but hey - you have to start somewhere right?  So this particular story begins sometime in January, 2009.

After whining and complaining for months that I wanted to write, my wonderfully supportive husband, Adam, encouraged me to start with a blog.  Not this one.  No, I had another blog that I refuse to think about, because even though I started it, I only posted three times.  It was a blog on gardening, and I found that while I enjoyed being out in the garden and thinking about the garden and reading other people's blogs about gardening, I had no desire to write about gardening.  I had nothing original to say. 

However, the process got me thinking about what I did want to write about.  In the summer months I realized that I should write what I read; primarily urban fantasy and science fiction.  We bought some plain ol' spiral bound notebooks and I set off to use my daily commute more productively.  A few ideas were rolling around in my head for stories that I wanted to read, but no one had written.  The words appeared in my little notebook, and each night I transcribed them into my computer. 

To save me some time, and end the new round of whining about having to do everything twice, Adam bought me a netbook for my birthday last December.  I told you he was incredibly supportive.  The little laptop is small enough and light enough that I can use it on the train, plus it has a solid-state hard drive and a battery that can last 9 hours between charges so it's incredibly convenient to carry practically everywhere.  It is my super sexy writing computer. 

Now that I have the tools I need and I'm getting serious about my writing, I've decided to start a new blog that will chronicle my progress, discoveries, challenges, and (hopefully) my triumphs as I attempt to write a novel and ultimately navigate the publishing world.  For my wonderful family and friends who are supporting and encouraging me, I hope that this helps you keep track of what I'm doing.  For new-comers, followers, and soon-to-be friends, I hope that you enjoy reading what I have to share and learning along with me.