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.