Nocturnal Lives

Musings from the mind of Amanda S. Green – Mother, writer, and possessed by cats

Tag: inspiration

Gaming, inspiration and an update

I know. I know. The title of the post seems to be a little bit all over the place but there is a connection. In this instance, it is what I’ve been doing to get into the mood to tackle the final draft of Victory from Ashes.

I don’t know about other writers, but after I finish a project, I’m wrung. Mentally and physically, I feel like I’ve been on a marathon to end all marathons and I need time to recharge and make the mental shift for the next project. That has been doubly hard this time because I am not writing the book I thought I would be. After finishing Honor from Ashes, I planned to finish writing Dagger of Elanna, second in the Sword of the Gods series. Then came the debacle with the wrong file being attached to the title on Amazon and the week plus it took for Amazon to correct the situation. I won’t go back into that whole fiasco other to say that I knew I needed to do something to thank those who pre-ordered the book and stuck through the problems until the correct file could be downloaded.

I finally decided I would write at least one short story in the Honor and Duty universe and release it here for free for a limited time before taking it to Amazon. So the question became what story should I write and what character(s) should I focus on? That question has been answered and not one but three short stories have been drafted.

TAKING FLIGHTThe first, Taking Flight, should be ready to go up on this blog by the end of next week. It’s been drafted and the cover has been created. I will leave it up on the blog for a week before removing it and putting it up for sale on Amazon.

Taking Flight tells the tale of Ashlyn Shaw’s first assignment after receiving her commission. It isn’t all easy going nor is it exactly what she expected. While there will be explosions and gunfire — what space opera or mil-sf doesn’t have them? — there will also be some insight into her family background that hasn’t made it into the books. This is also a much younger Ashlyn, one who hasn’t learned some of the very hard lessons the older version has been forced to learn.

The next two stories, Battle Bound and Battle Wounds, will follow in one to two week intervals. As with Taking Flight, they will be offered for free here for a week or so before I take them down before putting them up on Amazon. Battle Bound takes place approximately 4 – 5 years before the series opens and involves Ash’s first command as a Devil Dog. Battle Wounds will give a look at the events that led up to Ash’s court martial.

So what does this have to do with gaming and inspiration? That is simple, at least this time. To get my mind away from fantasy-mode, necessary for Dagger of Elanna but not for the short stories or Victory from Ashes, I did what I normally do. I read. I reread Heinlein and Weber, Nuttal and more. But it was to no avail. My brain simply wasn’t making the transition back to the SF side. Music and movies didn’t do it either. That left one thing — gaming.

So I loaded up Mass Effect Trilogy — again. Despite the botched ending of ME3, this is still one of my favorite game series. It is highly replayable because of the different choices you can make during the games and the different classes you can play as. Because I haven’t played the games in some time, the game isn’t automatic. I have to think about what is coming next and plan my strategies and, in doing so, the switch in my head was turned on and the SF writing side came back to life.

Sometimes it takes doing something different from writing to get that switch to turn on. No, I’m not writing ME fan fiction for the next book or the short stories. There are no Krogan or Assari or any of the other characters anywhere in my work. It was the mindset, something about figuring out where to position my character and the NPCs in a firefight, as well as whether to let someone live or die, that seemed to do it.

So now the writing is coming fast and furious. The very rough draft of Victory from Ashes will soon become a workable draft that can be sent off to the alpha reader. The one good thing this inability for a couple of weeks to work in the SF world did was it gave me the chance to finish the very rough draft of Dagger of Elanna. That means I should only need two months or so to get it ready for publication after Victory comes out. If all goes as plans, that means I will be back on my publishing schedule by October.

Fingers crossed.

But to do so, I need to get off the internet and get to work. Until tomorrow!

Music as inspiration

A post linked on Facebook this morning started me thinking. I know. I know. That’s dangerous, especially when I have yet to finish my first cup of coffee. The post was an interview with John Carpenter in which he names the Top 10 Movie Soundtracks. It is an interesting list and it had me clicking the links to listen to a few of them. I think what surprised me the most was seeing one of the Quatermass movies listed as well as Horror of Dracula. Yet, as I think back to the last time I saw those movies, I did enjoy the soundtracks. Now I’m wondering if I need to make my way to Amazon to see if they have some of those listed by Carpenter available for download.

And that leads me to this next post I read this morning. Apple does a lot of things right but it does many things wrong as well. This post shows one of them — and it is something I would be up in arms about if this had happened to me. Long story short, if you subscribe to Apple’s music streaming service, it can and will reach into your hard drive to upload any music you might have (no matter where it came from) that is similar to anything already in its library. Then it will delete it from your machine. Oh, you still have access to that music — maybe — from the cloud but that means you either have to redownload it or stream it.

Now, as the post points out, there are problems with this. There is no guarantee you will get the right cover art, the right version of what you had, etc. It even, in this instance, removed original music the subscriber had composed. Because of the terms of service, Apple thinks it is unable to be sued because you, the subscriber, agree to this. However, I would love an attorney familiar with this sort of law to really look at the case. When original work is removed, that very well might violate the contractual terms. I don’t know but I would love for it to be tested.

It also makes me think about all the uproar when Amazon removed books from people’s Kindles. In those instances, the books had been sold by someone without proper authority. Amazon had no recourse but to remove the books. It would have been nice if better contact had been made with those customers involved but, in those cases, Amazon was protecting the rights holder. So where are those who cried “Foul” when Amazon did what it had to do? Why aren’t they complaining about Apple? Yes, it is a case of comparing apples to oranges — sort of. Still, do you really want Apple deciding what of your music it wants to remove from your hard drive and store in the cloud? Do you want to trust Apple to make the exact same version of the song available to you? Do you want to have to take the time to redownload your music just so you can listen without being online?

To me, it is just another version of the trouble Apple caused when it locked everything bought through iTunes to only iPods.

So, music for inspiration. Yes, please.

For me, it depends on not only the genre of what I’m writing but also what is happening in the book. When the action is fast-paced, I need music to match. If the action has slowed and it is a sad scene, yep. Give me a dirge. Just please, don’t ever make me have to write to ABBA again, especially not to the movie soundtrack of Mama Mia. One book did that and, trust me, there are only so many times you can listen to Pierce Brosnan “sing” before you want to throw something — or stick sharp objects in your ears to end your misery.

Now I am searching for the right music for Victory from Ashes. Techno shall be found and I have a vision there will be a lot of John Williams’ work played as well. Hmmm, I think a trip through the listings on Amazon is in order.

Monday Morning — Ouch!

I am doing my best to be good when it comes to the blog this morning. Good in that I am blogging. Good in that I am trying to keep it short because I have a ton of work to get through today. Good in that my friends Sarah A. Hoyt and Dave Freer have done much better jobs than I can in discussing the attacks on Kate Paulk and the fans who have decided they wanted a voice in the Hugo Awards. Good in that I already know what my Mad Genius Club post will be tomorrow.

So what am I going to blog about? That’s a good question because, at the moment, my brain is filled with edits for Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3). Then there is Dagger of Elanna, the follow-up to Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1). The plot is solidifying in my mind — which is a good thing. Not so good is it wants to be written NOW! It doesn’t care that I need to finish Honor nor does it care that I still need to write a somewhat coherent blog post.

So I am going to pull inspiration from my critique group.

One of our members is a great guy. He is new to the craft and is trying hard. In the time he has been with us, I’ve seen him improve by leaps and bounds. But, as with every writer who takes their craft seriously, he knows he still needs to improve in some areas. He doesn’t let it get him down, at least not for long, and he asks questions, takes notes and thinks about what we tell him.

The thing is, I worry that he doesn’t get that he has real potential. He has a story. There has never been any doubt about that. He isn’t one of those who come into a group with what is nothing more than fan fic without any of the serial numbers filed off. He gets, on an intuitive level, story structure. He simply has to learn the “rules” of writing and understand that a lot of his so-called issues can be handled by a good copy editor and proof reader.

Yesterday, we had a small group and only one item to critique. That gave us a lot of time to be able to just talk and brainstorm. More importantly, it gave me a chance to crawl into this gentleman’s brain and try to figure out why he is writing what he is. I’ve felt from the beginning that he is trying to write in a genre he isn’t all that familiar with. I’m convinced of it after our conversation yesterday. His reasons are valid and I even understand them. But they all come down to one basic thing: he isn’t confident enough in his abilities as a storyteller to write in the genre he really enjoys reading.

He isn’t confident enough that he can come up with a plot that fits the action suspense mode he likes.

And I so identify with what he is feeling. I sat on both the Honor and Duty (2 Book Series) as well as Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1) because I was afraid I didn’t have the ability as a writer to carry them off. Hell, let’s be honest, I didn’t let anyone see my writing for a very long time because I didn’t have any confidence in my ability as a storyteller. So I fully understand where my critique partner is coming from.

If it weren’t for Sarah Hoyt (and later Kate Paulk whom she brought in as backup), I would probably still be writing and shoving my work under the bed. Now I need to remember how it felt when they started pulling me into the light of day, so to speak. I hope I can be as good a friend and mentor for this gentleman in my group as Kate and Sarah have been to me. I hope I can find the right words and examples to give him to keep him interested and motivated. He has the foundation already, something a lot of folks who want to write don’t start with. The rest is stuff he can learn or hire someone to deal with after the story is written.

I guess this is all a roundabout way of saying that, as writers, we need to believe in ourselves. We need to trust our guts and give ourselves permission to write crap because that crap will act as fertilizer for better work.

Accountability Post

Like many writers, I belong to several writing related groups. Two are in-person critique (and support) groups. There are several on-line groups as well. One of those is a private group where we don’t so much critique one another’s work as we’re there to answer questions about the process, discuss what we’re doing and why, and brainstorm. Yet there was no accountability. Until this past week when my friend and fellow blogger at Mad Genius Club, Cedar Sanderson, challenged us to set a daily writing goal AND post our daily outputs. Judging not only from how my writing has been impacted but from how others in the group have responded, that daily accountability has helped most, if not all, of us.

I’ve never been one to set a hard goal for how many words I’m going to write in a day or week. The few times I’ve tried it, it backfired on me. Life interfered or the story dried up. Something would almost always happen to stop the flow. But not this time. Now the writing is happening and, with the exception of yesterday when I only had time to blog because I had to clean house and cook and do all the stuff you do to get ready for company, I’m meeting the goal of 1,000 words a day. More than that, I’ve been blowing past that goal most days.

That’s been a great feeling, especially because I’d been stalled on Nocturnal Challenge. Perhaps that has been the difference this time. I was stalled on Challenge and had finally given up and started working on something else. Then Cedar issued her challenge and, well, Mac and Company from the Nocturnal Lives series started clamoring for my undivided attention.

(Of course, so did at least six other stories, all of which have been told to hold on. I’ll get to them shortly.)

I will admit that Nocturnal Challenge is still presenting me with challenges. For one, I’ve completely tossed the last half that I’d already written. I realized pretty quickly that I’d forced it and had forced the characters to do things they wouldn’t normally do, at least not in the situations I’d thrown them into. That was my fault. I wasn’t listening to my characters and I wasn’t trusting my gut. I had it in my head that this series would end with Challenge and, being the stubborn woman I am, I was determined to end the series with Challenge no matter what.

Only, the series can’t end here. Not unless I wind up making Challenge three books in one. Which would be okay if it was only going to be digital but it’s not. So, I had to rethink what I’d done and, much as it hurt, toss the tens of thousands of words (don’t worry, they are in another folder. I have learned never to throw anything completely away when it comes to writing. You never know when something will come in handy later.)

I’m probably two weeks away form finishing the novel. I say probably because after I finish the ending, which will be another day or two depending on how much work I can get done this weekend, I will have to go through the entire thing, making sure I have the ending properly set up in the first half. Then it will be off to the beta readers and, as soon as they finish, final edits and out to the public.

After that? I’ll be finishing up Honor from Ashes, the third book in the Honor and Duty series, and Dagger of Elanna, the sequel to Sword of Arelion. After that, well, I need to put the finishing touches on Skeletons in the Closet (yes, Amber, it is almost done.) There are a couple of other standalone projects coming up and then it will be back to the series work. So, yeah, I need accountability to keep me on track.

Oh, man, who am I kidding? I need a keeper and someone with very pointy boots to keep me on track.

In the meantime, this image is acting as quasi-inspiration for Nocturnal Challenge. The storm clouds of rebellion have been sown and life for Mac and her family and friends will never be the same.

Attraktives Prchen ber den Dchern von Tokyo


(Image by Carsten Bachmeyer, Dollar Photo Club)


A few early morning thoughts

Let my start by wishing everyone a Happy Valentine’s Day.

Right now, I’m feeling a bit envious of my friend Cedar Sanderson who is attending LTUE this weekend. LTUE is a “con” I’ve wanted to attend the last several years but the stars just haven’t aligned. Maybe next year. You can check out Cedar’s post about what’s been going on so far over at Mad Genius Club.

Last night, sitting in the audience at the Dallas Symphony, my muse decided the music was a good influence. Either that or she thought it was a good time to torment me. Either way, the next part of the book, the part that has been hanging me up, suddenly broke loose. That’s the good news. I now know what needs to happen to move the story forward and how to get there. The bad news? I was in the symphony hall and not able to make my notes.

Before you yell at me for not following my own advice and keeping something to take notes on with me, I did. I had my smartphone. The problem is that in a darkened hall, it is kind of obvious when you are working on a device of any sort. Add in the fact I was there with a group of my mother’s friends and, well, note taking wasn’t going to happen.

So, as soon as I got home last night, I quickly scrawled the basic premise down on a sheet of paper. I was too tired to break out the laptop or tablet to do so. Now I’m hoping DK (Demon Kat for those not familiar) hasn’t done something exceedingly evil like eaten it or shredded it. At least the idea is still clear in my head. Maybe, by the time all the errands are run today, I will be able to sit down and get the next chapter or two written.

Other than that, I’m trying to figure out how to fit in a trip to Petsmart today for their adoption event. It’s been some months since Rocky died and Mom is finally ready for a new dog. We’ve been looking but haven’t found one we can both agree on. The problem with today is the event falls right in the middle of when we are supposed to meet a friend at the airport and take her to pick her car up at the dealership where she’s been having it worked on. So. . .said friend may be going with us to look at dogs  😉

Yes, I’m wandering, but I’ve decided that no matter what, I am going to blog each day. The entries may not always be deep, meaningful ones. Hey, let’s face it, it’s morning and deep and meaningful is hard to do before enough coffee has been consumed. But I’m finding out that a 400 – 500 word blog entry is a good warm-up to getting some writing done. That’s important.

Now, go hug your loved ones and wish them a Happy Valentine’s Day.

Real life really can be stranger — and less believable — than fiction

There are times — okay, a lot of times — when I see a news story and think to myself that if I wrote it, no one would believe it. The “characters” would be deemed “too stupid to live” or would simply be so far out of touch with reality that no one would connect with them. That’s exactly what I thought this morning when I checked the headlines. There really are times when I can only shake my head and be glad my parents were as grounded and caring as they were.

In this case, the parents of two children (ages one and three), decided it would be a good thing to take their kids on an around the world trip. Sounds exciting, right? Heck, I’d love to have a vacation like that. But this wasn’t on a nice cruise ship. Nope. This wasn’t even with other people. Oh no. This was mom, dad, and two very young kids on a sailboat.

Now, I remember my son at that age. He was a bundle of energy and into everything. No matter how carefully I watched, unless I had him in his playpen, he could slip away at the drop of a hat. Then he learned how to climb out of his playpen by stacking his toys — and the cat — and using them to get leverage so he could flip himself out. I lost him in the house and twice he managed to get out of the backyard — which was surrounded by a six foot wooden fence and the gate was locked. To this day, I still don’t know how he did it and I thank the neighbor who brought him and his dog home.

So the thought of raising not one but two young kids on a sailboat in the middle of the ocean frankly terrifies me. So many things could go wrong and, as these parents found out, did. First, the one year old fell ill. Then the sailboat lost navigation and comms ability. At least the parents had a sat phone or something similar because they were able to call for help. Help came in the form of a navy ship that rescued them hundreds of miles off the Mexican coast.

Now, think about how much worse the situation could have gotten very quickly. We are told every day how difficult the search for the missing Malaysian airliner has been because all they have to go on are general flight paths based on data taken before the jet went off radar. It is finally possible that searchers have picked up pings from the black box but that isn’t for sure yet.

Now consider that there is no “flight plan” for this family’s voyage. The one thing working in their favor was the fact they had the sat phone. So they weren’t completely out of their minds. But now, instead of saying that it might not have been the wisest thing to take two toddlers on a trip like this, they want everyone to understand this is the way they’ve lived for the last seven years.

Yep, seven years.

That means these adults — and I use the term loosely — chose this path before they were parents. After their first child was born, they didn’t look at one another, scratch their heads and think that maybe it might be wise to be close to medical treatments should something happen to their baby. They compounded the mistake when they had the second child. No, instead they thought it would be a great idea to undertake a major ocean voyage — around the world — because they wanted to.

That is the definition of selfish.

While I’m thrilled the family was found and the baby is recovering, I want to reach out and shake the parents for risking so much. We aren’t in the middle of John Ringo’s zombie apocalypse. (BTW, if you haven’t read his Black Tide Rising series, do. I’m not a big fan of zombies, but I love this series and can hardly wait for the next book to come out.) There is no overriding reason for the parents to take this sort of risk with the lives of their young children. They can’t even argue that this is a trip the kids will remember and cherish for the rest of their lives. Remember, the kids are one and three. Yeah, they’ll remember this — not.

Okay, maybe these parents could be main characters in a literary piece about dropping out. But most readers I know would react the same way I did to them as main characters. They’d be waiting for Moby Dick to show up and swallow the boat, hoping as that happened that some mermaid would save the kids. Now all we have to wait to see is if the parents will  be charged for having the naval ship come out to rescue them and if CPS will file to take the kids from them.

Edited to add:

I meant to include this earlier. My very good friend and mentor, Sarah A. Hoyt, has published her first indie novel, Witchfinder. I’ve had the pleasure of reading Witchfinder as Sarah wrote it “live” on her blog. She’s finished it, cleaned it up and has now put it out as an e-book with a print version to follow. This makes something like Sarah’s 25th (give or take a few) published novel but this is the first she wrote with the intent of self-publishing it. I highly recommend it. It is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble and, if not already, will also be available through Kobo and, I think, Smashwords.

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