Friday, December 28, 2012

A little more...

Hey,  everyone! ...getting ready for the new year?

Despite the decision to take a hiatus from writing and catch up on reading... I've only managed to devour 2 books so far... and write about 1,350 words on the new story, Project #6... which I have semi-jokingly titled 'SCARLIGHT' for the time being. Oh, I also wrote a fast blurb (now on the 'What I'm Writing' page) so the gist of the story is clear. And yes, the blurb completely sucks, but that's about the only kind of outline I ever write to keep myself on track. The blurb for Project #5 similarly sucks in a 'basic-statement-of-facts-and-nothing-else' kind of way.

Now, before I give you the next section of #6, here's a question:

...Would you guys be interested if I created a new page for first-draft work and just kept adding new pieces as I write them? That way, the new story would all be in one place.

I'm thinking that's a heck of a lot easier for me to take it all down when I want to... instead of hunting through the archives and removing the first draft material piece by piece (which I still haven't done for 'Brake Fluid' since I'm... lazy?)

BUT, if you really only want to read it once (or not at all), it's a moot point. After all, it IS just first-draft material... nothing great.

Anyways, your thoughts are appreciated :) Here's the next bit (repeating the final line from the last sample so it flows together properly)



Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

For those who celebrate it, both the religious side, and the secular side of this holiday.

No matter how you celebrate Christmas, with presents or with food, whether you're travelling great distances or staying home, I hope you all stay safe and enjoy this day off with your families :)

Take care, sleep in, and I'll be back in a few days... or maybe tomorrow.


...and yes, it's great to have internet again after going cold for nearly a week ;)


Thursday, December 20, 2012

No Internet until Monday

Sorry, in Vancouver now, so I will be offline until Monday when we FINALLY get Internet installed!

Have a great weekend, all!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Not much, but more than a first page

Seems it's going to be a real cheery story this time ;) Contemporary, for sure. Well, almost sure. Have to see where it goes :p

Kell is pretty clear in my mind, but Jay's still a mystery.

Comments/criticisms always welcome :) It's freshly written, so I'm sure it's packed full of mistakes, though I know I did throw in one made-up word... can you find it? ...and I know the tenses are a little messed up... started in past, switched to present, and don't think I caught all the necessary fixes.


EDIT: I added a little more, and now (for sure) I know this'll lean closer to the magical realism end of things. Somehow these characters merged with a story idea that's been skulking around in the back of my head for years.

I *get* Jay now. Like, 100% get him.

...and I hope he creeps you out, just a little ;)



Friday, December 14, 2012

I said I was taking a hiatus...right?

...then last night a single sentence kept rolling around in my head, and I couldn't sleep until I wrote it down.

"We were in the cemetery counting scars when the black car pulled up."

...what I know so far:

1) male protagonist, not sure of the age yet, but in the 14-16 range
2) secondary character Kell (female) same age/grade
3) both are covered in scars/old injuries
4) they are cutting class to hang out in the cemetery, but I don't think they go to the same school
5) no idea who gets out of the black car, but whoever it is, is visiting a grave, and also spooks the main character and/or Kell in some way


...and that's it.

That's how each new story I write begins. A single sentence, and a visual glimpse of the opening scene.

No title yet, so for now it'll be known as Project #6


Now, off to another decompression treatment!

...it's been interesting finding out how much damage there is from old injuries... ribs out of alignment, scar tissue on my ribs, and torn connective tissue around my left collarbone (re-healed incorrectly) are the latest finds.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Food & books: would you have it again?

Have you ever been out for dinner with someone, and you ask, "Is that good?" and they respond, "Yes!"

Yet you notice they are picking the meal apart, cutting it into tiny bites, and trying to hide it under the garnish at the side of the plate so it looks like they've eaten more than they actually have.

Has anyone else noticed this?  Is it just a Canadian thing to never say anything bad in a restaurant?

I'm really picky about food. I have no problem modifying my order until it's nearly unrecognizable from what's listed in the menu, or sending the food back if it's not cooked properly or if it's wrong. I figure, if I'm paying for it, they should serve what I asked for. Note: I'm not rude about it, or at least I try not to be, because I know the waiter/waitress isn't the one who overcooked my fish until it's turned into a piece of shale, or undercooked the chicken breast so it's a sickly, pink in the centre.

But let's talk about when it's not a matter of being poorly prepared. What about when something is over salted, or the mixture of flavours isn't to your taste? When it's a matter of like/dislike.

Do you tell the truth when someone asks you if it's good?

I'm notoriously honest/blunt, and I still have a problem answering "no" to that question, even if I hate what's on the plate in front of me.

So I've stopped asking.

Instead of the ripe-for-a-white-lie question, "Is it good?", I ask, "Would you have that again?"

And people are more likely to answer with a real opinion rather than a dismissive "yes".

Asking if the food is good is the same as bumping into someone you haven't seen in ages and asking how they're doing. Almost always, people respond with an off-hand, throw-away phrase, or a single word answer, then move on. It's a question that is asked out of habit/politeness, and rarely answered honestly.

With food, whether it's "good" or not is almost irrelevant. It's such a vague word that it's practically meaningless, but asking if they would pay to have the same meal served to them again...? That's specific and relevant to the person you're asking.

I've been thinking of this in terms of books/authors because I recently lent a couple books to a friend of mine. We have never exchanged books before, but she asked me to give her a couple of my favourites so she could see what I liked. I also recently cleaned out my book shelves and donated about half the books to the Salvation Army.

That's a very clear division between, "I would have that/read that/pay for it again," and, "No."

Since I'm also trying to catch up on my reading while taking a writing sabbatical over the holidays, I'm also thinking a lot about this question. Specifically, because I've read so many first, or first + second books in a series/trilogy... and am deciding whether to buy/read the rest or not.

So far, the first one I've bought (book 3 in a trilogy, I'm 2/3 of the way through) is so dishearteningly disappointing that I'm leaning more towards reading stand-alone books.

If anyone has any good suggestions, please leave a comment. I like weird, dark, and complex. YA, specifically, please. Someone mentioned "The Raven Boys" as a good one, so that might be next on my to-read-list.



...and when my friend brings my books back, I'm not going to ask her if she liked them.

Instead, I'm going to ask, "Would you like to borrow another book?"

Essentially it's the same question, but the way you ask it will usually result in a completely different answer.

...but then again, maybe I'm thinking too much about "spin"...? It wouldn't be the first time my over-analytical brain went flying off on a tangent :)


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Happy (belated) Chanukah

Nope, I'm not Jewish, but I'd still like to wish a Happy Chanukah to those out there who celebrate the festival of lights.

Last year, the husband and I went to the lighting of the menorah at the BC legislature, but yesterday we were in Vancouver en route to Seattle for the AWESOME Seahawks game today.

Just got home, and we're both bagged.

Time for a quick email check, then we're turning in.

G'night, all!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Dead monkey... month?

I know I've been MIA recently. There's been a couple factors.

First, the preparation to semi-move (part-time) to Vancouver, and all the holiday planning involved, including scheduling around 3 Seahawks games, several birthdays, and numerous dinners/get-togethers, some of which are business related, most are personal, but they are spread across both Victoria and Vancouver.

Second, health problems acting up. Yeah, that old stuff again. Including the high levels of pain.

Third, I've just started going for decompression* treatments for some old back injuries. I decided to go because muscle weakness, tingle/numbness, and pain through my dominant arm isn't making typing a heck of a lot of fun. I'm currently banned from running, or any kind of activity that jars the spine, which disappoints me greatly as I had plans to snowboard with my bro-in-law on Boxing Day (for those non-Canadians, that's the day after Christmas). That was going to be our gift to each other -> spending a day, just the two of us, having fun on the mountain.

Fourth, I'm kinda bummed/burnt out about writing right now. I was rather disappointed in my poor showing with NaNo this year, both the word count itself, and the quality of writing produced. It was a good, stiff kick in the ego, and my knee-jerk-response is to curl up and hide for a while while the bruises heal. This means less activity online, but it also means I haven't re-read 'Brake Fluid' (like I was going to when NaNo ended), or thought/planned any further about the possibility of querying.

So please forgive my sporadic appearances online for a while, and I may take a little longer replying to emails.

How's everyone else's December shaping up? Anyone travelling to see family/friends, or hosting visitors? For those who just finished NaNo, how'd you do? Did you meet your goals? How are you feeling? Full of energy/motivation, or burnt out like I am?



* Decompression therapy refers to decompressing the spine. The bones of the spine are separated by discs, and over time, the discs can become compressed which pinch the nerves, and, if untreated, eventually the discs can rupture and the spine can fuse. Decompression therapy pulls the spine apart, which forces the discs to draw in nutrients from the surrounding tissues, thus re-inflating the discs. It's similar to traction, but instead of simply pulling the spine apart and holding it, in decompression therapy, they use a computer to change the weight/pull, and control it in measured bursts. Basically, it's a pumping motion, which allows a greater draw of nutrients into the discs. Here's a link for further information, if my explanation was hard to understand.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

What is this strange, tactile sensation...?

...oh, that's right... it's "paper".

I did something I haven't done in about two or three years.

I bought books, like physical, made-of-paper-with-printed-words kind of books.

Generally, I'm pretty laid back with most things... but I have a few odd quirks where you'd swear I was a perfect 'A' type personality.

One of those things is I'm notoriously 10 minutes early for everything.*

Another is, if I have one book in paperback, I want the rest in paperback**. I'm not talking about something semi-normal like, in a series, you have the first two books in paperback, so you feel obliged to complete the set. Nope, I buy every book that author has written in paperback.

The same holds true for my Kindle. If I first purchased an author's book digitally... there are some pretty high odds I'm going to continue on with that.

So what did I buy?

Banana Yoshimoto's latest book, "The Lake". She would be in my top-five-all-time-favourite-authors list. I've got every book she's written (which have been translated into English), even though I don't have a favourite. Her stories have such a similar dreamy flavour, they all kind of drift together in my brain.

Jostein Gaarder's semi-latest-book, "The Castle in the Pyrenees". Same as above. There is only one more of his books I've been having difficulty tracking down... "Through a Glass Darkly". One day, I assure you, it will be on my shelf... (cue maniacal laughter...***)

Antonia Michaelis' finally-in-paperback, "The Storyteller". I read her first book, "Tiger Moon", after reading a review by a North American comic artist (from San Francisco) that I quite like, and got hooked immediately. "Tiger Moon" was awesome, and I'm hoping this one will be equally enjoyable. She has one other book out... but alas! Still only in hardcover!


Other than these three, there are probably a dozen or so authors whose books I will always buy a "real" version of rather than the much easier (an more convenient for travel) Kindle version.

Sadly, I currently have an entire double-stacked bookshelf of un-read-real-books... some gathering dust for several years, including a Jostein Gaarder book my sister kindly gave me two Christmases ago.

Oddly enough, the arrival of these un-read books seem to coincide with the purchase of my Kindle...

Strange?

Suspicious?

I blame it on aliens, personally. Since that conveniently removes all blame from myself :)

Perhaps, like changing your writing space can change your writing, changing from paper to digital and back again also has further-reaching-repurcussions than I logically could imagine possible.

...but that apparently hasn't stopped me from buying these paperbacks...


And yes, I am in complete denial that there are only 2 more writing days left until NaNo is over.




* ...and you'd never want to watch me eat waffles or popcorn. It will scar you for life.

** I never buy hardcover. Hate them. They weigh a million pounds and take up too much shelf space. Of course the weight thing is mainly because, when going on vacation, I would have an entire separate suitcase filled with books that I lugged around... 1 for every day I was gone, plus 2 spares... just in case.

*** This is why you never have to worry that I will someday take over the world. My goals are rather modest, even though I can still cackle with the best of them.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The fight of the year

I swear, I don't think I've fought this much with a first draft... ever.

I think it's because the entire story is "so-unlike-me". It's a battle, twisting these characters out of my brain. Nothing comes naturally. They think differently, speak differently, behave differently, and I'm constantly questioning myself... am I doing this right? Is this correct? Is that how they'd really act/choose/argue/etc?

Don't get me wrong, I'm still having fun, I'm still enjoying the challenge of working on something difficult and unusual (for me), and I think I finally can appreciate the concept of *writer's block* a little more, because I don't think I've ever really had it before.

Sure, there have been plenty of times when I didn't know what would happening next in a story, but I would always just take a break and wait until the words came again, or I would jump ahead and write scenes I did know, and would figure out how to connect them up later.

I can't do that this time.

These characters are so different, I can't jump ahead because I really don't know how they would act... I don't know how they will get to where they need to go, and how they will have changed by the time they have gotten there.

I suppose, since I don't fully understand them, I don't have a clear idea of their character arcs.

...which never happens. Normally, I only need to get a few pages into a new story, and their arc is clear.

This time... I'm closing in on 20,000 words (don't ask what I should be at to *win* NaNo...) and I still don't know what major change they will go through. I don't know what they will have to give up/sacrifice, what wounds they will endure, what hard choices they will make...

I think this is the first time I have a better idea of what the plot is than what the characters *are*.


Probably, some of this not-knowing is because this is an unusually stressful/busy month for me, where my brain is only putting about 5% of its total energy into this story, as evident by my absurdly low word-count... but hey, I'm typing this from the ferry... again... because I haven't had a moment to write at home all week.

Changing the conditions will obviously change the outcome. In this case, since I seem to only get time to write on the ferry, a very public, noisy place,  when I normally I write at home in perfect solitude/silence/no distractions, my concentration level, and my writing, are obviously not going to be the same.

Strangely, I think because of the constant distractions, I'm finding it easier to write quick/argumentative dialogue and action sequences... maybe because of all the nose/activity, but it's much harder to keep track of things like emotional/personal changes/connections/etc.


Where do you normally write? Do you switch it up? Do you find it's easier to write some kind of scenes in specific circumstances, and other scenes in other places? How do you find writing in public vs. private spaces? Noise vs. quiet?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Okay, NOW I'm back...

Until Thursday at least ;)

Thankfully, the furniture was delivered (with one major hitch), and I managed to get on a ferry last night (though 4 hours later than I intended). It was nice to sleep in a real bed again :)

While waiting around, I managed to get an almost-5,000-word-writing-day in yesterday, though I'm still about 12,000 words short of where I *should* be according to the NaNo schedule.

Half-insane with exhaustion, I managed to complete the crow-goddess scene I posted (part of) a few days ago and get a little further while on the ferry home last night. This isn't all of it, but I'm starting to get a handle on the temperament of the gods/monsters in this story, and I think this crow goddess is going to be a larger part of the story than I originally intended.

Right now though, too much of my own voice is coming out in the writing... a natural product of being overtired. The whole thing feels too distant, which I know is something I struggle with as a writer, this tendency to add too *adult-a-voice* in the wording/descriptions/etc... which is something that distinctively separates YA from adult stories.

I find it to be very difficult work, to go in and rip apart scenes like this to create a better connection between reader and characters. I think that's probably the biggest change between a fresh first-draft, and the single editing-pass I always make before handing it off to my CP's/beta-readers.


With heavy footfalls, Komil ran through the snow and stopped at my side. He bent low, using his spear to prop himself up as he tried to catch his breath. “Those bastards,” he exhaled the words between gasps, “attacking you out of nowhere.”
Mica circled around and fell on the birds I had cut, his teeth tearing the wings from their bodies as he devoured them.
The birds in the tree grew louder, their sharp sounds of displeasure resonating through the trees.
“Little human,” the crow lady spoke, “you would try to make a god?”
***
I wasn’t sure how to answer the crow goddess’ question. Yes, wasn’t right, but neither was no. To say it was a mistake, or an accident seemed vulgar, or blasphemous.
Komil was no help at all. He just shrugged, but kept the bow ready and an arrow notched.
Mica had already eaten the crows I had cut down, and was now ripping apart the ones Komil had shot. His paws held the arrows still as he crunched through their rib cages, then pulled their bodies free of the wooden shaft with a swift shake of his jaws.
“I’m sorry.” It was the only thing I could think to say that I truly meant.
A few crows spread their wings and slid through the air to a lower branch. I was starting to see it, how small groups of movements within the flock could nearly mimic the body language of a single crow.
“For what?”
I nodded at Mica. “For killing part of you.”
Clusters of wings beat the air, but not a single black body rose to flight. Their sharp claws held tight to the knotted bark, their heads turning left and right. They watched me with a hundred single eyes, but the intensity of their gaze felt like a thousand.
“I will breed and nest this summer. I will grow larger and stronger. Take heed, little human, not all gods devour their own to gain strength.”
Her words were strange, but then what did I know of gods? “Only the young and the weak?”
She laughed, in that off-kilter chaos of croaks and cackles. “And the foolish.” A section of crows side-stepped together, their beaks clacking in unison. “Or if the opportunity happens to present itself.”
“Ah.” I thought about it. “Like it did with me, just a few minutes ago?”
“You are not a god, little human.”
“No, but I still might taste good.”
There was another jarring laugh. “It’s a pity you had allies.”

Friday, November 16, 2012

Not yet

Still in Vancouver, posting from my phone, so ya know this is going to be short...

Yup, been away from home a lot this month, which is normal, buy this is a little different. Right now I'm sitting on a blow-up mattress on the floor. No, not one of those big twin/queen sized ones that are essentially the same as a real mattress... I'm talking one of those floaty mattresses you use in a lake, or pool. And I can now say from experience, they suck to sleep on.

No Internet, no tv, no furniture, hell, no food in the fridge, no glasses or plates, and I'm living out of a backpack.

Curious?

The husband and I have rented a condo in downtown Vancouver.

We're not moving away from Victoria, but we're going to be in Vancouver a lot.

...for many reasons.

So, we're here setting it up.

I'm hoping to get back to Victoria tomorrow sometime, but nothing is for sure at the moment. Sorry for not responding to email/etc, but since all I have is my phone and I've been running around like crazy, I hope you can understand.

Anyways, hope you all are having wonderful weekends and are getting a ton of writing done :)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

...and back on the rock

Home again.

Hoping to get some writing done tomorrow.

Now, it's time for sleep.

Hope everyone else doing NaNo (or working on other projects) were more productive than me this weekend... and I'm off again starting Thursday, back Saturday.

...I better use my time Wednesday as efficiently as possible ;)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

On my way out

Well, by my calculation, I'll lose somewhere between 10 and 14 writing days this month due to travel.

I'm just about to run for the ferry, and won't be back until sometime Tuesday, probably late evening.

This happened last year too, and the year before, which is why I've been sticking to half-NaNo's (25,000 words instead of 50,000) the past several years since I'm often away 50% of the month.

...did I catch up on my word count yesterday? Not a chance :) I don't think I even got a thousand words in...

BUT, I managed to get past the sticking point I hit a couple days ago with this scene:
(Mica's a dog... just so ya know)



Thursday, November 8, 2012

NaNo, first-drafts, and pantsing-process

It's been a while since I've worked on a first draft. I think I finished the 'Brake Fluid' draft sometime back in June (too lazy to check/confirm at this moment), and since then, I have been single-mindedly editing/re-reading/polishing/etc.

It feels a little weird to be working on a first draft again. Like, if you've injured your dominant hand, and have to use the other one for a while. You know all the motions, but the angle and strength are different. You have to think about what you do it instead of just doing it. Everything seems slower and less efficient.

Yup, that's what first-drafting feels like to me, as a pantser.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy writing them, because I get the change to discover new stories, new characters, new worlds. I write to find these things... which is why I get no pleasure from plotting/planning ahead of time.

But it's still difficult.

I still have moments (lots of them in fact) when I get so frustrated with myself for not knowing what happens next... when I'm stuck mid-scene with no idea what the next line of dialogue could be.

Today was full of moments like that. I took a lot of breaks, did laundry, washed dishes, brought in more wood and kindling for the fireplace. I read blogs, checked email... played solitaire on my phone (I may have a slight addiction...).

I barely scraped in 1,700 words. I'm still short by 866 words from being on target, but the word count isn't what's frustrating me.

It's not knowing how the very last scene I wrote connects with that 'lady of crows' scene I wrote a few days ago. I'm not sure if they are separated by a day, or a week of in-novel-time. I don't know if my characters head north, or south, or if they argue and go in two different directions.

So what did I do to raise my word count today by those measly 1,700 words? I went back and fleshed out earlier scenes, ones that were so sparse, they were little more than dialogue and a few transition sentences. I looked for parts I had written earlier than now needed to be changed. For where I automatically typed 'day' when what I meant was 'night'. I gave Mica some of the qualities that drive me crazy in my own dog (the beagle).

Apparently that's part of my process. Write sparsely, then when I open the file the next day, I go back over the previous day's scenes, fill them in, and get myself back into the head-space of the story that way.

Or that's how it should work, normally.

I didn't beat myself up, but I'm disappointed in my progress. I wish I had caught up and surpassed the 8th day word count goal of 13,333 words, especially since I'll be gone this coming weekend and will lose another 2 days of writing time, plus more later this month.

But I also think, maybe I did just need a break today, and that should be okay.

It has been a long time since I've exercised my first-draft-muscles, and perhaps this lull is a momentary rest for my brain.

Maybe when I wake up tomorrow, I'll know who Issa bartered with, and what they wanted with the snow-bear coat. Maybe I'll know if the crow-lady goddess will help, or hinder their travels, or what changes Mica is going to go through now that he's developed a taste for god-flesh...


How is everyone else doing? Do you find it hard to get back into writing first-drafts after spending time editing/polishing a story? How are you other NaNo-participants doing?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Gods & monsters

I've always been fascinated by the intertwining of gods and monsters in Indigenous cultures. For some, a wolf can be a deadly enemy, for others, a protective totem spirit.

I've never been drawn to human-esque monsters, like zombies, vampires, angels, demons, and things like that, because the impulse is to make them too human. Even with half-animal/human monsters (like werewolves, for example), the focus is usually on the warring sides: human vs beast.

I think I've always been more interested in just the beast.

Which is probably why I keep circling back to characters like the crow-goddess in this particular story. The gods and monsters in Project #5 are nothing like humans. A couple nights ago, I woke up at 2am to send myself this short email reminder: "Gods & monsters exactly the same, just humans give offerings to one, and the other take offerings on their own."

Whether it's a god or a monster is purely from the human's perspective, the gods/monsters stay true to their nature, which (for animals) is totally a survival of the fittest world. They're never concerned about what's right, what's wrong, or what's fair.

For a long time, even as I finished writing BF, sent it to my CP's, took it back, edited/polished it/etc, I have been itching to write this crow goddess, who is a single god, but whose body is made up of an entire flock (or murder) of crows. Even though she's 'a lady', I don't want her to have an ounce of humanity, I want her to be true to her calculative-nature where, if she sees an advantage, she'll attack without mercy.

Here's a rough scene I skipped ahead to write, the gaps are there because I haven't filled in the text in those spots. Yes, my writing completely sucks at this stage and I'm sure it's full of errors :P


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

2,500 words added

..1,900 more to catch up.

But I need a break now.

Time to haul the dog to the park for a good run.

Hope everyone else is having a good, productive day of writing :)


...also, I totally gave in and skipped ahead to write part of a scene with the lady of crows... and yes, I was channeling a little Hitchcockian flavour for that meeting ;)

I might post a piece of it tomorrow.

NaNo Day 6

Since Alcar asked for an excerpt (sorry, not at the lady of crows part yet), here's a taste of Project #5. This morning I've written about 1,000 words, but I've still got about 4,000 to go for me to catch up. Yesterday I was so exhausted I couldn't even write one sentence and ended up going to bed at 7:15pm, so deliriously tired that I set the alarm an hour earlier than necessary AND left two chicken breasts I had been defrosting in the microwave... in the microwave all night. Yuck!

Be warned, this will be sparse, and probably full of grammar errors and run-on sentences ;) Yup... my usual brand of gloriously problematic first-draft material :) For those of you out of the loop, I'm writing my own Northern fairytale this year, which is kindof a mash-up between Inuit/Eskimo/Siberian/N. European folklore. I've got an extremely rough blurb (which reads more like an outline) on my 'What I'm Writing' page.



Sunday, November 4, 2012

NaNo, day... 4?

Well, I lost 2 full days of writing.

Today was a Seahawks game (Woo-hoo: 30-20 win over the Vikings, and 4 sacks!). Since the husband had to work this weekend, I drove over to Vancouver yesterday and took my dad to the game today. Since I haven't seen my parents in... hmmm... about a month, I couldn't very well lock myself in the spare bedroom and type away madly.

Instead, I played *the good daughter* and chatted with them, watched a movie, and other expected social rituals for those who aren't crazy-shut-in-NaNo-writers.

So, tomorrow (after the 45 minute drive, the 40-60 minute wait, the 90 minute ferry ride, and the 40 minute drive home), I guess I have some catching up to do :)

How is everyone else doing? I peeked at my writing buddy stats and felt a few stabs of envy at their progress...




EDIT: oh, one cool thing, I got to point out to my dad the I-5 exit that my 'Brake Fluid' characters would have taken en route to dump Jackson's body ;)

Yes, it does exist.

Friday, November 2, 2012

...AAAAAAND, that feels good.

Can you hear the triumphant sound of angelic trumpets celebrating my victory?

Okay, I know, I know. My brain is a little screwy at the moment.

...what was my guestimated end-goal for BF?

60,000 words

...and what is my total after finishing the final page of edits?

59,678

...which means I have completed my edits, and managed to make my NaNo minimum wordcount goal for the day!

Waa-freakin'-hoo, this feels awesome.

Now I can finally get some new words in on Project #5.

Okay, here's the crazy story I promised

Halloween night, like 30-45 minutes after crawling into bed, right when I was on that tentative border between sleep and awake, I heard sounds.

...and these unidentifiable sounds snapped me awake in an instant.

After listening intently for a few minutes, I thought it sounded like a dozen people walking through our property, stepping on dry branches and breaking them. It was a staccato of very fast, very loud cracking/snapping noises.

I was confused as hell...

...and jumped out of bed to investigate.

I couldn't see anything out of the bedroom windows, so I wandered into the hall and looked out the back door/window.

Nothing.

THEN, suddenly a whirl of large, black shapes that appeared to be floating over the grass.

Creepy?

Yeah... Halloween night, the moon giving off just enough light to see basic shapes/dimension, and it was right around midnight.

Just as I'm thinking how this is very creepy and coincidental for Halloween at midnight, two of the shapes tumbled, one over the other, and then there was a tidal wave of water as they fell into the pond.

I think I swore at that point.

Then I flipped on the outside light.

...and saw two enormous bucks clambering out of the pond, one trying to stab the other.

They bolted past the door/window, closely followed by two more.

More loud clattering ensued as they fought on our lawn, their antlers clashing again and again as three bucks appeared to be ganging up on the largest one.

...and everything clicked in my head at once. Large black, floating shapes (it was dark, so you couldn't see their thin legs), the noise of their antlers as they fought, the fact that, up until last year, there were two older bucks in this area, each with their own harem, and in the last two years since we've lived here, we've seen more and more young bucks wandering around...

Guess it's *rutting season*... and the young ones were ganging up on one of the older bucks to take over his harem of does.

So, yeah. It Halloween was an interesting night, in the un-traditional sense.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Wow, I'm creepin' up

So far today, I've added 2,530 words to 'Brake Fluid', and I'm just about to start Chapter 17 (of 24).

My total word count is now over 58,500, and I'm pretty darn happy about the prospect of closing in on 60,000, as that was my original/guestimated goal for this story.

If I wasn't so tired right now, I'd share a crazy story with you... but the thought of typing out more words at this point... not in my top 5 of things I want to do, so I'll try to share the story tomorrow.

G'night, all, and a big "Congrats!", "Good job!", and "Well done!" for all those NaNo-ers who managed to get some words in today... even if you didn't hit the 1667 daily minimum :)

...you've started, and for many people, that's the hardest part.

Go to sleep early and wake up refreshed for another day of mad writing.

Self Defence Mode and NaNo

For all those NaNo participants writing your butts off today, I thought you could use a laugh.

I laughed myself silly about this. I'm not a hugger and I wish I had a self-defence mode like Mona.

Happy first day of NaNo!!!

EDIT: Oddly enough, even though I'm not a hugger, I have the peculiar habit of picking up the people I like. At 5'9", it's not as hard as it might seem. It's fun to pick people up when they're not expecting it, but also fun when they love it and run up to me with their arms spread wide open and laughing their heads off.

...yeah, I'm totally "an acquired taste"...

Either that, or better after a few drinks.


Ah, and I've already passed my NaNo word goal for today... working on 'Brake Fluid' edits. I'm almost done, I swear... then I can get going on the new story. So far, 2000+ words. I'm over 58,000 total now.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

...is it redundant to dress a black cat up in a costume on Halloween...?

Normally, at the husband's office, some people bring their costumed pets in at the end of the day and have a mini party. Unfortunately, the husband is in Vancouver for meetings today, but since I had already purchased costumes to participate, I'm going to dress them up for when he gets home as a surprise.
Berkeley, taking it all in good stride like the little philosopher that he is... I figured, a cat is pointy on 5 of its 6 ends... so a bee costume (with the stinger) would be perfect! Now he is fully armed to take on the world.

Eva, the beagle, is less tolerant and hangs her head and tail like she's been scolded... but, since she frog-legs on the floor (y'know, when dogs lay on their stomachs with their legs splayed out) a froggie costume seemed appropriate. If she was less of a baby about this, I would be able to take her to the dog park on rainy days... but as soon as I put her rain-coat on, she acts like this again... hang-dog expression and won't walk/move/etc, just sulks. BUT, if she doesn't have a coat to protect her sensitive ears, she shakes her head whenever a raindrop hits her head... and with the west-coast rain, she just stands in one place and shakes, and shakes, and shakes... and refuses to walk.

Either way, walking with her in the rain just doesn't happen. It's too bad since it's been absolutely pouring rain here the last 2 weeks and I've only been able to take her out once.

If anyone else is posting costumed pictures of yourself, your kids, your pets... post the links in the comments! I'd love to see them :)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Weirdness+

Voice comes out strongest in the way the characters view the world around them.

My nameless, genderless MC was already pretty strange in my first-draft, but I'd have to say that in this stage of edits, I find the weirdness keeps creeping higher every time I make a change.

...and I think all my favourite lines are the ones where the MC is hyper-sensitive about some things, and dumbbell-dense about other things, 'cause I love how lopsided/uneven this character is mentally.

Here's a couple of new/re-written lines from today:


She gives me a wicked grin, but it’s not quite right. She sounds normal, looks normal, but something’s off. I can’t put my finger on it, but the tension in my muscles cranks up another notch, the urge to fight or flee at a rolling, simmering boil. 

And my teeth clench, and my lungs clench, and I start to sweat and shiver at the same time. I want to bolt, and hide, and hug her all at the same time, but I can’t, so I slip a twenty out of her wallet and dash inside.

As the dirt falls away, I’m relieved to see that the wounds aren’t as bad as I thought they were, and I feel stupid for panicking, ‘cause it’s not like she was walking and running for hours on frozen asphalt and hobbling over gravel and broken glass. It was only bark-mulch, grass, and the width of one street. It was maybe ten seconds, not four hours. It’s 50 degrees Fahrenheit outside, not below 40, and she was fully clothed. Everything about this is different.
The one thing that’s the same is the shaking.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

My brain is tired

Out of 11 beta-readers/CP's, I received feedback on the full story from 9 people, and one partial.

Pretty good, eh?

As of a couple minutes ago, I've completed all the changes brought up by everyone except the two members of my local writing group, and I've finished about half the things they commented on.

I've added 2,000 words to my file, and I'll probably add about another 1,000 before I'm done.

It's 4:17pm now and I've been working, on-and-off, since 9:30am.

Now I have to shower, change, and go hang out with a bunch of friends while trying not to sound/look like my brain has turned into a gooey, sticky, icky, oozy, melty mush. Which it has. I now have grey pudding between my ears.

Tomorrow I'm going to be exactly where I am right now: flat on the sofa, a fire blazing in the hearth, the dog sleeping on the other sofa, the cat on his cat-tree.

I am hoping to finish the brunt of my edits tomorrow, then rest my eyes for a day, then go back and pick over the entire story for small, annoying things like comma usage, repeated words, varying the way sentences/paragraphs start, etc.


How is everyone else spending their weekend? Hopefully with a lot more pre-Halloween fun than I am.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Clean draft, clean attitude

'Brake Fluid' was the cleanest first draft I've ever written, which is strange, since it's also the most complicated story I've ever written.

And I admit I have conflicted feelings about that.

Go ahead and roll your eyes... 'cause you know what I'm going to talk about, right?

Well, you're only partially correct.

Yeah, I've talked before about how, since I'm dyslexic, I expect there to be problems with my writing. I expect things not to make sense, for description to be convoluted, for not enough of what's in my head to end up on the page.

I expect my first drafts (and even second or third drafts) will get shredded up by my CP's.

...and that's why my writing is getting better. 'Cause my CP's don't cut me any slack. Which is why they are good CP's.

A while back, someone who knows me well sent me a link about compliments. And along with trying to write a cleaner first-draft, I've also been trying to change my attitude, to take a compliment without assuming there's another shoe waiting to drop.

I've always loved writing, but there was always that voice in the back of my head saying, "not enough..."


While I've never explicitly stated it before, I've put a huge concentrated effort into not only becoming a better story teller, but becoming a better first-drafter. I pay very close attention to the things I'm bad at, the things I constantly err in (like, in BF, mixing up 'truck' and 'trunk' about 85% of the time, or in the case of writing this blog post, 'except' and 'expect').

...and this is the first time I feel that my efforts have paid off.

As I work through my edits on 'BF', I keep asking myself, why is this so easy? Why aren't there any huge problems that need to be re-written? Why do I feel like I'm being lazy or have been let off the hook in some way...?

And strangely enough... I'm trusting that my CP's caught everything major. That I won't be blindsided with something later on.

What is this strange feeling... is this confidence?

Honestly, I have no idea, but it feels damn good.

When I wrote that previous post (about the compliments link), I said I was searching for some kind of solid validation that my hard work is moving me forward, that it's getting results and my effort is not being wasted. And while I still haven't received any outward validation, somehow, I'm not worried, I'm not beating myself up, I'm not desperately analyzing every comment a CP sent me, looking for the hidden criticism.

I think I deserve to laugh at myself.

Did it really take me this long to figure out that validation has to start in my own brain?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

First 250 = done

After a nights sleep and another pass, I'm pretty happy with my new 250 word beginning. Well, 251 to be exact. I think I stripped away everything unnecessary and clarified the important stuff.

Comments/criticisms welcome :)



Thursday, October 18, 2012

What my edits look like

I'm a sparse writer when it comes to first-drafts. There's a couple reasons for this. First, I'm a pantser, so I'm just writing whatever I know in the moment. Second, I really like subtlety/layering. More than anything, I don't want to write a book that shakes the reader by the shoulder and screams, "Look, Jane, see Spot run!" I'd rather the reader get knocked over when Spot makes a flying leap at their throat and takes them down.

...and yeah, I'm aware that it's frustrating and annoying for my CP's.

Usually my edits consist of adding in more history/explanations, or clearing up the confusing ones that are already there. For 'Simon's Oath', my MS bulked up by 10,000 words between the first and second drafts.

One thing I knew had to change about 'Brake Fluid' was the unclear, choppy, awful, awkward beginning. Before I sent 'BF' out to my CP's, I tinkered with it a little (making it noticeably worse than the original) as I was trying to figure out what was wrong with it, but I had a sense that it was the right place to start.

Why? Hell if I know... I think I rely on my instincts most of the time and rationalize it later.

With no idea of where it was going, the very first words I wrote of this story were these:

I always forget that crazy is relative. That is, until someone new hitches a ride in the back of Triss’s car. 

Yesterday she offered to drop Dave and Sam at the mall, and when Triss spun the wheel and yanked up on the e-brake, Sam swore and clocked me in the head by mistake as he fought to stay upright. Maybe it knocked some sense into me, ‘cause at that moment I remembered it’s not normal to have to brace your elbow against the door of a car. My feet were automatically spread as far apart as they could go to keep me balanced, and then I noticed a slice of pain in my left hand. Turns out I’ve gripped the seat in the same spot through so many car rides that I’ve worn a hole clear through the seat-cover. My fingers had shoved through the stuffing and were clamped around a sharp piece of the metal frame as though it was the most natural thing in the world. I was surprised, but I still had enough sense not to let go until Triss stomped down on the brakes, hopped the curb, and the car lurched to a stop six inches from an old guy with a shopping cart. Hopefully he’d just stocked up on Depends.
Like I said, crazy is relative, but I always drive shotgun with Triss. Always have, always will. 
Even when there’s a dead body in the truck and Triss has slugged back enough vodka that she can’t shift properly and keeps grinding the gears of her old, yellow Volvo sedan.


There's a lot wrong with this beginning, but what's right about it?

These lines right here:

Like I said, crazy is relative, but I always drive shotgun with Triss. Always have, always will.

They reflect the core of this MC.

Being with Triss (and all that implies) is crazy, but the MC has chosen it. Why? Well, that's for the story to explain.

The point is, it's a choice. The ground-zero-choice, if you will.

I know there's so much advice online about beginnings, about first lines, and about the first 250 words. I'm not naive enough to think I've got it all figured out, but I can tell you why I chose to keep this particular starting-point as the beginning, and how I chose to edit it.

My re-worked beginning now looks like this:

It’s easy to forget that crazy is relative. Sometimes you need a punch-in-the-gut, other times a few thoughtless words can shake you straight and grind in how human and breakable you really are.
After a year of riding shotgun with Triss, it takes a pretty big hit to realize how weird it is to brace my elbow against the door and jam my knees into the dash. When she guns the engine, I shouldn’t notice how my hand instinctively burrows through a hole in the seat and clamps around a sharp piece of metal frame. My voice shouldn’t stall-out mid-sentence when she spins the wheel, hops the curb, and nearly takes out some old guy with a shopping cart full of Depends. 
I shouldn’t be thinking how easily we could crash, burn, and die, but today I am ‘cause something big hit me in the head. One-hundred-seventy-five-pounds-big.
Crazy really is relative.
Most of the time, I think we just don’t know better, but other times we make the choice to believe. Like Triss’ driving. No matter how fast and furious it gets, I’ll always ride shotgun. Always have, always will.
Even when things are more crazy than normal. When there’s a dead body stashed in the trunk. When Triss has slugged back so much vodka that she can’t shift properly and keeps grinding the gears of her old Volvo sedan.

It's different, but not a whole heck-of-a-lot different, right? Same actions, same thought process, same bad driving, and same (humorous) almost-hitting of a pedestrian.

What I said earlier was true. The line about choosing to ride shotgun with Triss is the core of the MC, but while I was on the right track with my undignified, messy vomiting-out-of-words, I wasn't focused in. I was talking around the point I wanted to get to.

I wasn't being clear.

The reason the MC is freaking out about Triss' driving isn't because s/he was literally clonked on the head by a screaming passenger. S/he is freaking out because of the situation, because of the corpse in the trunk, because Triss isn't acting normal, because there are bigger things at stake that are weighing on their minds, yet through it all, the MC is willingly riding shotgun.

Sure, it's multiple-layers-of-crazy all stacked on top of another, but it's one choice, and every choice we make that seems perfectly normal to us, can look totally crazy to someone else looking in.

And everyone knows that crazy is relative*.


For me, a beginning isn't about the setting, or even necessarily about the plot. What I want (as a reader, and a writer) is the taste of a complex character I can relate to, even if it's only a tiny bit, so that's what I put into my beginnings, and I strip away everything else.

With this MC, the way s/he lies to him/herself is something that runs all the way through the story. Call it a broken character, one with an extreme inferiority complex, or be blunt and say it's deliberate/willful ignorance. It really doesn't matter what exactly it is, but I wanted it to be clear on the first page. I wanted the abnormal-moral-compass to be apparent and the reader to know that self-preservation isn't the MC's top priority. I wanted a touch of dark humour, but most of all, I wanted the reader to connect, at least a little, with the MC and wonder why s/he is going along on this crazy ride.

Greedy**, aren't I? I want it all...

A few lines are still pretty clunky...but I did manage to trim a good chunk from what I had before.

Personally, I think the new beginning is better, but as always, I love to hear your opinions.

What do you think of the new opening?

Are there are 'rules' you keep clear in your head when starting a story? Have you ever written a beginning and though, "Nailed it!", or do you usually fumble around, unsure of where everything should start?





* Or that relatives are crazy. Yes I do have a lame sense of humour ...and yes, that's a bit of a sub-theme in the story. The relative thing, not my sense of humour.

** Or just hyper-over-analytical...


...and yes, I use a heck-of-a-lot of hyphenated words/phrases when I'm stuck in this character's head.

An interesting interview on writing

...the husband told me to search up the video of Jon Stewart interviewing writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson from October 11, 2012.

Sorry, I wasn't able to find it on youtube, but if you're American, you can watch it here.

If you're Canadian, you can probably find it on http://watch.ctv.ca

It was pretty interesting... especially the comment about how you can write something 50 times, and sometimes you're still not sure whether the first draft or the fiftieth was the right one.

Anyways, it's worth a watch.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

1:57am + insomnia = sloppy BF edits

Since I can't sleep, I'm editing.

No, I'm not tackling anything hard, like condensing one timeline from 6 months to 6 weeks, and the other timeline(s) from 5 days to 2 or 3 (still haven't decided if I can pull off 2 days yet...), and I'm not touching the awful, choppy first page.

I'm starting on a few of the little things... like a couple specific scenes that nearly every CP/reader has gotten the wrong impression from, so clearly these are places where I completely and utterly failed to properly project my thoughts into words.

No big deal, right?

...like the kiss scene (near the beginning), which had multiple small issues

...like Triss' explanation in the car, the *why* of their first meeting

...like fixing the horrible transition in the first scene of Chapter 3 where the timeline was super confusing and clearing up when everything started (for real), and settling the whole age/grade thing

...and once very specific moment where it shouldn't have been the hum of ready-violence in the air...

Little, easy things that somehow keep spinning around in my brain and keeping me from sleep.


I think I just know that I won't be able to start NaNo/November fresh if I've still got 'Brake Fluid' on my mind.

Yup, I totally suck at multi-tasking.

How about you guys? Can you work on multiple stories at once, or do you stick with one from first-draft to final polish before moving on to something new?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Those punch-in-the-gut critiques

I am a bit of a masochist when it comes to handing my work out and begging for it to get shredded, but here's a great article anyways about giving feedback time to sink in.

...I know, more than once, I've certainly thunked my head a few months later after re-reading notes from a writing partner...

I thought it would be timely to post this link since I met my writing group last night and got 'Brake Fluid' handed back to me, nicely minced and seasoned with a couple sarcastic jokes about how best to include merwolves* into the story.

Seriously guys, you're awesome :D

Thank you for indulging my love of writing creepy-relationships.

...and thanks again to all my online CP's who waded (or are still wading) through the miry abomination that is 'Brake Fluid'. I swear I'll put all your comments to good use :)







*Don't ask. Really, don't ask. Unless you've also read a certain published book and have already experienced the 'WTF??!?! I swear that was a NaNo-dare!' reaction. Then you don't need to ask.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

November can't come soon enough...

Right now, I'm waiting on the last few 'Brake Fluid' readers to send comments back. I hope to finish this next round of changes before November hits and I'm swept up in writing Project #5, the northern fairytale I started last year.

Maybe 'swept up' is downplaying it a bit...

I was actually laughing about this with my husband a few weeks ago when we had our loooooong week of driving.

Writing is something I've always done, on-and-off, since I quit playing the piano and needed a creative outlet, but it's only recently that it feels more like an obsession, a drive, an addiction. I just want more of it all the time.

No matter what else I'm doing, my brain keeps circling back, like a scavenger seeking carrion.

Pleasant description, I know*, but something about it feels dirty... this single-minded-focus that isn't waning with time. 'Cause I can feel it... this itchy, gnawing desire to throw myself into the next story.

...I won't lie, it freaks me out. But I'm a total commitment-phobe, so the sensation of sinking into something so deeply I'm not sure I can breathe... well, 'claustrophobic' might be a good descriptor.

Yeah, there's a reason I've always been scared of writing 1st person POV.

...for those of you who've read 'Brake Fluid' in its entirety...

"There's a point when something too far gone to clean up or save."

And I fear that line could be referring to my sanity...


Selka, the Lady of Crows, is clawing her way out of my head, so November better hurry up and come fast, 'cause I'm not sure how much longer I can last without my next fix.

I want to write her soooooooo bad...

...and does that 'carrion' simile make more sense now?


Please tell me I'm not the only crazy one out there...




*Hey, at least it wasn't another vomit reference!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The inevitable encroachment of NaNo...

I'm excited about NaNo this year, for a couple of reasons.

The first being, I really want to finish the northern fairytale I started last year, then quickly abandoned in order to finish 'Brake Fluid'.

Second reason?

Long-time followers (and writing group members) know I have been struggling with some pretty major health issues going on... 9+ years now. Yeah, I pretty much keep all that stuff off my blog 'cause I find myself annoying when I talk/write about it, but I did touch on it briefly before taking a couple weeks off from blogging earlier this year.

Good news on that front: the last couple weeks I've been feeling better than I have in years. Yes, I wrote that correctly. Years.

...and the bad-health-stuff is why I haven't *officially* participated in NaNo since 2006. Sure, every year in November I'm writing, but my depleted energy-stores pretty much guaranteed a big, fat failure if I attempted the entire 50,000 word goal. Usually, I've stuck to a goal of 20-25,000 for the month.

Since I'm nowhere near *all-better*, I'm still not going to pressure myself into completing a full NaNo, but I'm looking forward to not having to worry so much about limits, about not having to weigh and measure my options every day based on how I feel when I wake up. To not having to sleep away half-the-day if I want to be alert enough to get in the car and drive somewhere in the evening. To know I can walk the dog, and do other things in the same day without being exhausted.

It isn't just NaNo I'm excited about... it's the hope of being *me* again.

So if I've been quiet the last few weeks, and probably will be in the coming weeks as well... it's just me testing these new boundaries.

Oh, and if you're also a NaNo participant, feel free to stalk me here.


Monday, October 8, 2012

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

...we're being the typical-friendly-Canadians today and inviting our new neighbour (a professor visiting from Montana) over for dinner.

...and as not-so-typical-Canadians, we have already planned out American Thanksgiving next month.

My husband has American relatives, so since we've been together, it's become natural to celebrate both Thanksgivings. When we lived in Calgary, Alberta, we even drove all the way to Birch Bay, WA for American Thanksgiving... a 14 hour drive through mountains, snow, ice, with our cat in the car (who escaped at a gas station around midnight. Thankfully he is fully trained to stop/come back when I call him).

So, Happy Thanksgiving to all those celebrating today, and for those who aren't, I hope you'll take a few minutes today to reflect on everything you're thankful for in your lives.


Monday, October 1, 2012

I suck... forgive me?

I've been a terrible online-friend the past couple of weeks, double-y so since I have a full MS and a partial one on my desktop which I promised to read/critique for two of the wonderful people who read/critiqued 'Brake Fluid'... and I've barely touched them.

I just got home yesterday from being away a week, and I didn't take my laptop with me.

What was I doing?

Not touring ancient ruins, navigating bustling, modern cities, or lounging on a beach somewhere warm.

I was in Seattle for the Seahawks game on Monday (7 hour trip from Victoria to Seattle for that), then the husband and I drove up to the Okanagan (an 8 hour driving trip) Tuesday morning. The purpose was twofold.

The husband had a conference, and I tagged along because my paternal grandmother lives about 20 minutes from where the conference was going to be held.

She's my last living grandparent and I only see her once a year (at Christmas), so I thought this would be a good opportunity to spend time with her and help out with any chores she had that were beyond her physical means.

I also spent a lot of time just sitting and listening to stories.

My grandfather was a gunman in the Canadian airforce (where the estimated live-span for a gunman was 3 weeks) and completed a 3 year tour in India and Burma during the second world war. Due to his papers getting lost in London, he coincidentally met my grandmother. They knew each other 6 weeks, he proposed on a Monday, and they married (big church wedding and all) 3 days later on a Thursday, then moved to the Okanagan where his family was from.

As I was leaving, my grandmother gave me a gift. A khukuri knife given to my grandfather by a member of the ghurka regiment he fought with in India, which, if you're familiar with ghurkas, is quite the honour.


Apparently it was well used by its original owner... as my grandmother aptly put it, "I'm sure it took a lot of ears during the war."

And it seems like it was. The handle is worn smooth and it looks like the blade was repaired at some point near the hilt.

For anyone who thinks this is an odd gift... well, I've got a couple of machetes from Africa (Kenya), and a couple of small knives from the Philippines along with a small hunting bow/arrow set that's only about two feet long... supposedly to shoot with when you're lying on your stomach in the underbrush.

I'm not overly crazy about weapons, but I like pieces that I know the history of and have some kind of personal connection. The machetes were gifts from my sister and a friend when they went to Africa, and the bow/arrow set was a gift from an old woman I met while in the Philippines. She was part of a non-profit organization in Manila that translated English books into Tagalog.

So, yes, I've been a bad online-friend and critique partner by going MIA this past week or so, but I'm back now and plan to catch up as quickly as I can.

Hope you all are well.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Seahawks win!

...please tell me at least one of you is a fellow NFL fan and caught the Seattle Seahawks/Greenbay Packers game tonight...

Whether you agree with the final call regarding the Seahawks winning *touchdown* or not, it was a crazy game. On the good side of things, every moment was exciting and the stadium was charged-up full, on the bad side, there were so many bad calls on the field, which made the game messy and confusing.

Hopefully negotiations with the regular refs will be resolved soon.

...at least no one stepped on/slipped on a replacement ref's hat in the end zone during this particular game.

Okay, too much trouble typing on my phone. G'night all.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Edge of the earth + me + falling = no posts

Yeah, I've been MIA this week.

Some friends of mine do humanitarian work on the side (mainly involving fresh water projects) and are in Haiti for a couple of weeks.

...and I have their 9 month old, partially-trained, 50 pound rescue puppy staying with me.

In addition to having lengthy talks with a water-filled squirt bottle about how I don't like her barking at 2am, we've also been having multiple discussions about not chasing/barking/snapping at the cat, what is, and is not allowed to be destroyed, and how I don't much appreciate standing outside for 15 minutes in the pitch darkness waiting for her to go to the bathroom, then give up, and 5 minutes later have to clean poop off the floor.

Thursday night, after meeting with my local writing group, I was blessed with half-dried vomit on my leather sofa when I got home.

I've also been spending between 2-4 hours at the off-leash dog park every day, and my 4 year old beagle keeps trying to take refuge on my lap, between my legs, under my desk, behind the cat tree, wherever she can, because she doesn't much appreciate being stepped on/bowled over by a dog 3x her weight/size with about 6x the energy level.

We've also working on the leash pulling, the not-coming-back-when called, the biting, the barking/growling, the escaping out the front door (and then not coming back), and a few other things that will, overall, make her a better citizen while staying as a guest in my house.

Needless to say, while I'm happy to do a favour for a friend, this one is a little more taxing than expected.

Now, it's time again to throw on some running clothes and head to the dog park. Because I've been trying to write this post for the last 45 minutes.

See you guys when I'm puppy-free again :)


Monday, September 17, 2012

Fear & Connection

It's been a while since I wrote a post about writing...

I think the mental exhaustion of so many deaths/funerals is finally lifting a little off my mind.

I had a bit of an epiphany on the drive down to Seattle. Not one of those glorious, "Oh my goodness I understand completely how the physics of the universe works!" kind of thing... no, this was more of a Homer Simpson slap-in-the-forehead "Doh!" moment.

One of the kicking-off-points would be this post on whether the genre you're writing fits you.

Due to all the good feedback I received from agents when I sent out the 10 queries for Simon's Oath last November, I've been thinking hard about why I write the way I do, and why SO wasn't "enough".

And after reading that post on genre, a few things clicked together while on the long, 7-hour trip from Victoria to Seattle. The main being, I've always been scared of first person 'cause I don't want to connect too deeply, which is part of that whole emotional intelligence thing.

So the slap-the-forehead-Doh-moment was the realization that, if I'm afraid to connect deeply with my own characters, then obviously that will come through in the writing, and readers won't be able to connect deeply with my characters.

Yeah, it was a "Doh!" moment indeed.


Now, the funny thing is that I never used to write YA. I started my Project #1 (the one nearly permanently shelved) as a gift for someone else, specifically to write something that person would love. For example, there are a ton on horse/riding references/influences because that person loved (and still loves) riding. The school uniform was based on the traditional riding costume, one character's name is "Roan" (a term for a specific horse colouring), and many other things like that.

I was writing for someone else.

Before that, I used to only write short stories that were dark, twisted, and mired down. Writing was a way to get the bad stuff out of my head so the rest of the time, I could be upbeat and optimistic. Kind of like a literary-cleanse to re-set my brain/emotions ;) Even when I was a young teen, I wrote stories meant for adults with adult characters.

"Brake Fluid", although still a YA story, is certainly way closer to those short stories than to the first YA story I wrote. Unlike SO, I did let myself connect to the nameless/genderless MC.* While I didn't mind connecting with Hector (one of the reasons I started Project #3, to explore another innocent character), Simon was someone I wanted to stay far away from 'cause he just spirals down through the story and I didn't want to be there when he hit rock-bottom and didn't bounce.

While it's out with readers/CP's right now, I'm left wondering if my connecting to the character will make the reader connect more to the character.


Maybe, because I'm afraid to write in first person 'cause I know I'll connect deeply, this is a sign that I should be writing in first person.

Maybe this is a perfect time to feel the fear and do it anyways.


How about you guys? Have you analyzed how/why you write the way you do? Have you always stuck to a similar style/genre of stories? Have there been things you've held off from writing about?

And have you ever had one of those slap-to-the-forehead-Doh-moments that completely changes your perspective on writing?



* Just to be clear, I'm not saying that I'm nameless (well, kindof, at least online) or genderless (female=yes), or that I have been involved in twisted bets where someone ended up dead.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Fun comparison

Beth Revis has an awesome comparison post of YA, MG, and YA/MG crossover.

Calvin & Hobbes has inspired me on more than one occasion...

...and it also gave me hope that Project #3 (Left & Right) is a crossover, and wouldn't necessarily have to be re-written entirely 'cause of the subject matter. In fact, Project #2 (Simon's Oath) could also fall into that category, but only once the narrative has been re-written to be less distant.

Go check out the post and let me know... do you guys think it's an apt comparison?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Back next week

Sorry guys, been in bed for the last 2 days and I'll be gone all weekend (seeing my family in Vancouver and watching the Seahawks play the Cowboys).

Crummy way to spend my birthday today, eh?

Don't feel too sorry for me, the husband is going to cook tonight :)

...and we got a couple of really nice bottles of wine last Christmas from my in-laws, so I might crack one of those open when he gets home :)

mmmmmm... Ch√Ęteauneuf-du-Pape*






*To my writing group: aren't you glad I took out that super-nerdy wine joke from 'Brake Fluid'? ...the reference is still there in a much lesser form, though the nerdiness has certainly been toned way down.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Writer Therapy Contest

I know, I know... I've just handed off my first draft to eight fabulous readers for feedback...

But contests are always a lot of fun and the prizes are awesome:

Query critique from agent Sara Crowe, Harvey Klinger
Query critique from agent Molly Ker Hawn, The Bent Agency
1st Chapter critique from Nicole Resciniti, The Seymour Agency

The judging is on your first 250 words, polished or a WIP, so go here for the full details.

Monday, September 10, 2012

woo-hoo-done

I had an absolutely crazy week last week. It was a good week, but so many unexpected things piled up at the same time, which spilled over and took over my weekend as well.

BUT, today I finally saved 'Brake Fluid', and all my major/necessary changes have been completed, which scraped in at 54,172 words.

I also sent it out to... (hang on a second, my brain is a little fried...) ... SEVEN now EIGHT wonderful people who have agreed to read/shred 'Brake Fluid' into itty-bitty-scraps. ...and maybe three more later who (I know) are very busy at this moment and might not want to plough their way through this story until their schedules free-up a little.*

Now, this is a first for me. Sure, I've handed over full manuscripts to my local writing group before, and worked with online CP's on a dozen or more occasions... but I've never sent a single story to so many people at the same time...

And it makes me really excited :)

Before, I was always leery of sending out unpolished work 'cause that horrible voice in the back of my head would whisper that I messed up something big, and someone was going to laugh. Even though I've got a pretty good poker face, it took a long time to even be comfortable handing work to my writing group and getting feedback on all my idiotic, dyslexic slip-ups/mistakes. I could really only handle a few people reading my work at a time. I'd brace myself for impact, endure it, then suck it up and get to work trying to patch holes and blast-out unnecessary sections before taking a deep breath, and letting one or two more people shred it to bits.

I feel very grateful for this online community of writers who all let me in, were friendly, chatty, and encouraging, even when I posted first-draft-sketchy-writing.

Thanks everyone :) It's 'cause of you guys I managed to take this (bigger) step.

Sure, I'm still apprehensive that someone's going to find something huge, glaring, and un-fixable in 'Brake Fluid'**, but at the same time, I'm hoping all those wonderful readers will find all the awful problems so I can continue to improve. The desire to make my writing better now outweighs the fear of getting laughed at.

I'm up for the challenge :)

So slap me with a rolled-up newspaper and say, 'bad writer!' whenever I need correcting :)

You guys are awesome.

Thanks again (in advance ;p).



* I've sent it out, so if you think you should have received it, and didn't, please send me an email.
** ...or worse, tell me it's flat-out-boring

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Wow, that's embarrassing

I finally had a chance to sit down and read/reply to comments from the last couple of days, and do you know what embarrassing thing I noticed?

...the writing voice in the last few posts isn't *mine*. It's my MC's.

Yup, I think I need a straight jacket and some meds.

I've had this happen before... where I'm so deep into a story that the mood/emotions/voice of the characters leach over into my way of speaking, but not quite as obviously as in the last few posts.

Please tell me I'm not crazy...

...or at least tell me where I can get some professional help ;)

Alright... it's time to attack those 23 reminder emails and gets-to-workin'

Monday, September 3, 2012

Long weekend

Well, one more busy day before back to routine, hope you all are having a great long weekend!

Our long weekend started on Thursday morning, on our way to Seattle for the last Seahawks pre-season game, which was FREAKING AWESOME! Also, Fin, the Killer Whale mascot of the Vancouver Canucks made an appearance.


(click for full size)

For the half-time show, all the local team mascots (and Fin) played football against a local high-school team. The funny part was, since Fin was the only non-football mascot, he pretended he didn't know what he was doing and proceeded to lay down on the field, start fights, etc. Whenever he blew smoke from his blow-hole, the crowd went wild.



Oh, and if you're interested in a writing prompt, here's a picture I took on the I-5 going into Seattle:


(click for full size, yes I removed his licence plate number)

We couldn't figure out what the heck was going on... was he trying to contact aliens (note the giant antenna on the top) or were those fins bolted to the side of the car supposed to be solar-panels?

Also, what's with the fake *blasters* where the licence plate would normally go?

On the front there was even more weirdness, including more randomly bolted on parts, and an interesting paint job featuring the jolly roger (skull & cross-bones) that was obviously painted without using a stencil or professional materials. Seriously, it was literally just a matte black rectangle with the skull hand-drawn in white.

I think the oddest thing about the car was the age of the driver. Probably late 60's-> early 70's. I would have expected to see a teenager driving it. Maybe he was borrowing his grandson's car?


...as for finishing my edits? One of the best thing about long car rides is the brain gets a chance to roll around and made interesting connections it might not have before.

Long story short: I send myself 23 emails of reminders of things to change/check/add in 'Brake Fluid'. Luckily most are small things, BUT I did manage to finish the main chunk of edits and my document is now 23 words shy of 54,000 words.

Pretty close for my guestimation of 55,000 after the first edit... and after I clear out those 23 reminder emails in my inbox... who knows? I may just hit it!

How about you guys? Any wonderful log-weekend plans? Did you play or work? Writing? Travel? Camping? 48 hour X-Box marathon?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I can't quite do it

1/2 way through the final chapter... and I just can't stare at the screen any longer.

I've worked fast and hard for three solid days, but my tank is empty.

I need to re-charge. Hopefully I'll be able to come back to this later tonight and get through the last 1900 words.

If not, I'll be plugged-in on the ferry tomorrow morning as we head for Seattle.

I'm hoping for a Seahawks win to celebrate a completed round of edits ;)

I'll probably be offline (or near-offline) until Monday.

Take care and happy Labour Day Weekend, for those of you who get Monday off ;)

Winding down

For the three hours, I haven't been able to sit in my chair for longer than 15 minutes.

I keep getting up for more water, to crack the window open or closed a fraction more, to double-check that the dog doesn't have to tinkle, that the cat isn't nibbling on my newly sprouted papaya plants, and that deer aren't gobbling up my gladiolas or cleaning out the bird feeders.

I can't sit still 'cause I'm winding down. I'm on chapter 23 of 'Brake Fluid' edits and I know I can finish today.

I'm at the lake with Jackson's body.

...and I'm damn close to my guestimated post-edit-word-count of 55,000

(I'm at 53,298 and have one and a half lean chapters to go)

It's 3pm PST, and I know I've got at least two hours before the husband comes home.

Maybe an hour before the dog decides it's time to go outside, run around, and make a lawn sculpture.

Ten minutes before I need another glass of ice-cold water.


So why can't I stay in my chair and concentrate?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Chapter 19

Wow, I'd forgotten how tangled and messy this story gets... I've spent all day working and only just got into chapter 19.

There's the three different timelines, right? Well, through most of the story, it's just switching between two of them: the present where they're trying to get rid of the body, and the party six months earlier.

There are very few mentions/hints about the third timeline (the night Jackson died) until chapter 17, and the timeline with the party (6 months earlier) doesn't end until midway through chapter 18.

Which is why my fast & furious progress yesterday suddenly got jerked from third gear into first, 'cause for two entire chapters, I've had all three timelines to deal with, and they have to flow together, yet each one also has to be easily recognizable from the other two.

I'm on page 87/114 (single spaced), and my word count has inched up to 52,350.

Even though it's been a slow day, I'm happy with the progress I've made. Especially that I made it into chapter 19 where we're back to just two timelines.

You may not believe me, but from here on, the story gets much simpler.



...and with this post, I've probably terrified all the wonderful people who have agreed to read/critique when I'm done this major round of edits...

Sorry, guys... but at least I'm giving you a taste of what you've gotten yourself into...



...and seriously, someone whack me with a rolled up newspaper if I ever mention it might be fun to write another multiple-timeline-story.

Actually, scratch the newspaper idea. Make it a Louisville Slugger ;)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Fast and furious I speed along

It's been a good day :)

Now I'm on chapter 16 (page 71/113 single spaced) and my word-count has bumped over 51,150.

Before I completely stalled out last week, I had been fighting with a scene in the middle of chapter 12 where it seemed like every change I made was making it worse.

Today, to fully re-start my brain, I went back to the very beginning of the story and skim-read all the way through, making a few small changes as I went, but more just trying to get back into the flow of the story, to re-discover the voice of the MC.

...and it was just what I needed.

I find that, whenever I've taken a break from writing or editing, it's difficult to pop myself back into the character's heads, and the scene I had been fighting with includes a marked change in thought within the MC's brain. Like a minor epiphany that starts the ball rolling.

Which is why I was probably fighting with the scene, since I hadn't been working on it consistently with all the travel/funerals/etc that's been going on. I had lost my connection to the MC.

I'm heading to Seattle this Thursday morning for the last pre-season Seahawks game (did you hear they cut Owens?), and I'm hoping to spend the next two days solidly working through 'Brake Fluid'.

Ideally, I'd like to get this round of editing completed and send it to CP's/readers early, but that might be too optimistic a deadline.

I'm also seriously thinking of changing the title...  I know I've mentioned this before as a possibility, but I've almost convinced myself to *do the deed*

Currently the tile is:

Brake Fluid, Blood & Body Bags

I'm thinking of changing it to:

Butter-knives, Brake Fluid & Body Bags

What do you guys think? Say them both out loud. Which one sounds better to your ear? Which one looks better visually? Do you think one is harder to remember than the other?

Any thoughts/comments, I'd certainly appreciate it :)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Things I went back and added today

Editing-wise, I'm on chapter 13 of "Brake Fluid", page 54/112 (single spaced), and I finally crossed the 50,100 word mark. I also keep hopping around through the entire story so I can add-in, or double-check the consistency of a few things.

Things I added in today:

The Jack of Clubs

Smelling food before eating it

White bread instead of multi-grain

Eric Clapton, Louis Armstrong, Simon & Garfunkel, Miranda Lambert, Dierks Bentley, Little Big Town, Travis Tritt, White Town

Birch trees

A simile involving a refrigerator and the phrase "badly-Botoxed-wrinkle"

Many references to karma

A tall-boy beer can

3am, November, a pair of boxers, an old t-shirt & a chipped tooth

A few more 'unspoken rules of riding shotgun' and making sure I haven't repeated any

Making sure the term "charity-case" is sprinkled throughout one character's dialogue


I'm also trying to remember to hyphenate terms like, 'deliciously-evil-Triss-smile', though I know I'll end up doing a search/replace eventually to be 100% sure I've caught them all.

Oh, are there any music-nerds out there? Can you figure out what playlist I'm talking about here? As in,  every artist listed here each has one song with the same common factor.

Any guesses what that common factor is? I'll give you a hint, it's weather related:


I lurch forward and grab her phone off the console. It scares Triss enough that she pulls her hand off my knee. I scroll through the playlists. Different ones for different moods, and right now I want to just wash away the dead air in this car.
One playlist leaps out at me, and I choose it without thinking. One with hundreds of songs. I pick the first title, and hit play, but a few bars in, I click to the next song, ‘cause it’s not quite right. I can’t find what I’m looking for. Garbage, Billie Meyers, Counting Crows, Taylor Swift, Matchbox 20, Collective Soul, Creedence Clearwater, Pink, James Morrison, The Rolling Stones, Eminem, John Mayer, Fat Joe, Dianna Krall, Ashanti, Bif Naked, Mary J Blidge, Dire Straits, Ace of Base, Billy Joel, Dave Mathews. Finally I land on Guns N’ Roses. This one. This will do. It will blast the awkward weight away so I can breathe again.
Triss turns the volume down as soon as the first string of notes from the familiar song scratch through the old speakers.