Tag: inspiration (page 1 of 2)

Inspiration struck and life sucked

As I sit here, sipping my second mug of Death Wish and wishing it would kick in, I find myself shaking my head. The liberals are still losing their shit over something the President may or may not have said. The MSM is treating it as a done deal, many calling Donald Trump the most racist president we’ve ever had. All the while, they ignore Dick Durbin’s rather dubious track record for truth when it comes to talking about what he supposedly heard in private White House meetings. Add in the local weather talking heads who can’t figure out if we’re going to see a few snowflakes overnight or face Snowmaggedon. All I can say is this is a great time to be a writer because you don’t have to struggle to find a story people will believe. Real life is so unbelievable, just about anything we write will fly.

Speaking of writing, I’m at the point in Light Magic where I’ve been writing so hard and fast that I had to come up for a breath of air over the weekend. I figured I’d play some video games, write a post or two for Victory Girls and just relax. Boy was I wrong. Saturday night, I got hit with the sledgehammer of inspiration. But, as sometimes happens, the process was different and, fortunately, it hasn’t taken me out of the mood to finish up Light Magic.

I’ll even admit, part of the inspiration came from current events. No, I’m not going to be more specific than that. But it hit and I had to put down the game controller and pick up the iPad Pro and make some notes.

I guess this is where I make another admission. I’ve known from before I finished writing Vengeance from Ashes where the current story arc would end. What’s given me fits is the opening chapters of the next book in the series. This book will end the current plot arc and lead into the next phase of the story. I had the middle and end but not the beginning.

And it was pissing me off.

Then inspiration struck and, with Apple pencil in hand, I started making notes. Except, unlike every other project before it, this was different. Instead of the kind of half-plotter notes I usually make before starting a project, this was more idea plotting. I didn’t open a new document in Word. Instead, I went to the Notability app. Using the Apple pencil, I’d make a note in one color, draw a box with an idea in another, and so on. Within 45 minutes or so, I had enough down that I had a feel for the opening section of the book, something I hadn’t had before. Better yet, it fit with the rest of the book as I have it outlined in my mind.

Now, there are probably a couple of very proper little old ladies at church who are still trying to figure out what I was doing before the service started yesterday because, once again, inspiration hit and the iPad Pro, along with the Apple pencil, came out of my purse. I made another couple of quick notes, saved them out and put everything away.

What that means is I am ready to begin writing the next book as soon as I finish up with Light Magic — YAY!

It also means I have finally found an alternative to having to turn on the light in the middle of the night to take notes when inspiration hits. It also means I don’t have to worry about losing the slip of paper or notebook — or having the cat chew on it or me spill coffee on it. Everything I do in Notability is backed up to Dropbox. I can email it to myself or send it/back it up to a number of other services as well. Best of all, I do my best plotting with pen and paper and Notability is the best app I’ve found when it comes to that sort of thing.

I hadn’t realized how badly I needed an app like this until this weekend. Before, I’d been making notes in Word or similar program. The problem with that is my brain identified it as “writing”. So the few notes I meant to take often morphed into a detailed outline of a chapter or three — or more. The problem is I then felt like I’d written it and didn’t want to go back and do it all over again. This is why I’ve never been a successful “plotter”. Now I can make my notes — and I do mean notes, complete with diagrams and such — and save them out. I can refer to them on my iPad Pro as I work or connect the iPad to an external monitor and have them “blown up”. There are even ways to print them out.

Cool!

Now it’s back to work, after doing a few chores around the house. Until later!

Inspiration can come anywhere and at any time

Part of my morning ritual is to check the internet for the latest news as I drink my first cup — or three — of coffee each morning. This morning was no different. Part of that included an online conversation about the verdict in the Kate Steinle murder case yesterday. Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, a 45-year-old “undocumented alien” was acquitted of murder and convicted on a much less serious weapons charge. There is another post, or two, in what happened with this case, but this isn’t it. However, the discussion of the jury’s verdict brought to mind another murder case, this one from the DFW area, more than 30 years ago. That, in turn, started the story wheels in my mind turning. In other words, current events led to inspiration for a new story.

And that sound you hear is my head beating against the wall because I do NOT need another plot running loose in my head right now.

The local case made an impact on so many of us living in the area at the time because it was so sensational and, at the same time, something we realized could happen right next door. The set up was simple. Two families had lived next door (or nearby) one another for some time. The wives were supposedly good friends. However, one of the wives, Candace Montgomery, was having an affair with the other husband. When the husband’s wife, Betty Gore, found out, she confronted Montgomery. They argued in the laundry room of one of their houses. During the course of the argument, Gore allegedly went “shh, shh” to Montgomery and that triggered her repressed memories of being abused when she was younger. The defense went on to claim that was why she picked up an ax and gave Gore something like forty whacks. There’s more, but you get the gist. If you want to read more about it, you can find the whole gory details here and here.

Montgomery was arrested and charged with capital murder. When the case came to trial, Collin County District Attorney Tom O’Connell tried the case. If I remember correctly, when it came time to submit proposed jury instructions to the judge in the case, no lesser included offenses were submitted. So, when the jury retired to begin its deliberations, it had one decision to make: did the evidence support the charge of capital murder or not? They decided it did not. Because there were no lesser included offenses included, Montgomery walked. The community was outraged. O’Connell wasn’t DA for much longer and Montgomery was free to leave the area and start her life over, leaving Gore’s family and children to pick up the pieces.

I haven’t thought about this case in years and years. But now, it is alive in my mind and I can feel the muse working to figure out how to turn the circumstances of the case into a story that would be uniquely mine. I hadn’t gone looking for inspiration this morning but a short conversation about one of yesterday’s headlines was all it took. Sometimes, your muse will grab a random encounter and turn it into a story for you.

Here’s the thing. Inspiration can come from anywhere. Learning to recognize it and control it so it doesn’t derail your current work in progress is the key. Here’s hoping I can manage to do just that because I have a feeling this latest bit of inspiration will be fun to write — once I get to it.

Old plots made new

Like most writers, I’ve been telling stories for as long as I can remember. Once I knew how to write, I started putting those stories down on paper. Some, I remember and others I no longer do. That’s like there are some of those old stories I still have in hard copy, whether written out long hand or typed or printed. Most of them will never see the light of day. No way and no how. However, that doesn’t mean some of those characters or the plots don’t come back to tickle my imagination from time to time.

That is exactly the situation I found myself in last night. I’d spent much of the day doing writerly housekeeping. I blogged about some of that yesterday. Maybe that’s why, when I finally packed away the laptop and relaxed for the evening, my imagination refused to settle down. But, instead of thinking about any of the titles I’d made notes on during the day, it turned to a “novel” (and I use that term loosely) I wrote probably 25 years ago.

I’ll be honest. There has always been something about the main character in that novel that’s intrigued me. Hell, let’s be honest, it’s called to me. But I knew the novel wasn’t anywhere close to salvageable, much less publishable. So it has sat and, unknown to me, it’s been waiting for me to figure out what to do with it.

So, instead of going to bed last night when I should have, I pulled up what what I have been able to find on old discs and read through it. Oh my, my instincts were right. The book is a mess. A very big, stinking pile of a mess. But there is some goodness in there as well. The biggest issue is that I tried to put too many plots and sub-plots into the mix. Even though I know the story, I got confused. But, there was some good stuff in it, more a feel and characters than actual writing and plotting.

Let’s face it, the story structure sucked eggs.

So, hoping I hadn’t just cursed myself with yet another book or — gasp — another series, I shut down the laptop once again and went to bed. I slept better than usual and woke with the main character and her backstory teasing me. I can almost see where my subconscious wants me to go and have already made three pages of notes.  I’m still not sure it will work, at least not in the way my mind is currently taking it, but I’m intrigued.

I know enough now about writing to understand this will be something where I throw out everything I wrote before, barring one or two scenes. But the main character and her backstory are awesome, or at least they have the potential of being awesome. She’s been broken and has worked hard to pull herself and her life back together again. She most certainly isn’t a superwoman or a Mary Sue. The scars are what makes her interesting and human. I love those kinds of characters.

Below is a scene from the original work. I think I’ve posted this before but, if I have, it’s been a long time ago. But this is what started me thinking about her again and that got Myrtle the Evil Muse thinking, which is never a good thing. At least not for my schedule. The only thing I have done today is change the main character’s name because, well, it will have to be if I actually move forward with this project. If I do, I don’t know if this scene will actually make it into the book or if it will only be referenced. Anyway, here goes.

***

Coarse ropes bit painfully into skin rubbed raw. Rivulets of blood, some dried and others all too fresh, traced a wild map of varying shades of red down her body. Lips, dry and cracked, bled onto the filthy rag that gagged her. Her mind screamed in fear and agony. Screams of silence. She no longer possessed the strength to even moan in protest. All she wanted, all she prayed for, was a release from her torment. Even death was preferable to what she’d been forced to endure the last few hours.

Had it only been hours? It seemed like an eternity in the Hell the village priest had warned them of when she was younger. That Hell where all your sins were revisited upon you in the most horrendous ways because you’d been foolish enough not to repent.

But this wasn’t Hell. This was all too real.

Eyes closed, she forced herself to breathe slowly, evenly. Through the fog of fear and pain, she knew one thing: she couldn’t let him know she was awake. If he knew, he’d hurt her again and she couldn’t stand that. She simply couldn’t!

Dear God, just take her before it begins again.

The rustle of leaves, the tread of a step and she knew her ruse hadn’t worked. But maybe she was wrong. Please, let her be wrong, let it be an animal, anything but him.

She lifted her head and forced her swollen eyes open. Despair washed over her. It was Hell. Hell on Earth and she could do nothing about it.

“Well, little one, have you been enjoying our time together this afternoon?” One finger lightly traced a pattern across her breasts and down her belly.

His voice sent shivers down her spine. A single tear tracked down her cheek, burning the cuts he’d so carefully inflicted earlier. Her stomach knotted and lurched and she struggled not to be sig. The small part of her brain that still worked knew that would be bad, very bad, gagged as she was. But what did it matter? She’d soon be dead any way. Did the manner of death really matter after all she’d been through?

“What is it, Meggie? Too choked up to talk?” he taunted. His hand cupped her right cheek, his face so close she could smell the stale odor of whiskey on his breath as well as the cigarettes he’d smoked – and used for things her mind flinched away from. “Surely that’s not the case. I’ve never known the time when you’ve not had something to say.”

Even if she hadn’t been gagged, she couldn’t have replied. She’d never have the words necessary to tell the shitehawk how she felt. He’d stolen apart of her that day, a vital part. One she’d never be able to recover.

Damn him!

When she didn’t respond, not that much of a response was possible, he laughed gaily. Then his hands turned rough as he once again sent them across her already battered body. If she could have, she’d have shuddered in revulsion. Instead, she moaned lowly as she realized the nightmare wasn’t over, not yet.

Not ever.

***

As I said, this was written years ago. My craft has, I hope, improved, but this character is one that keeps coming back to me. We’ll see where it goes, if anywhere. In the meantime, don’t forget that Nocturnal Rebellion is now available for purchase. You can click on the link above or the image to the left for more information. Or you can click on any of the images on the right of the page for information about those titles.

Until later!

Back to Work

Just a quick post this morning. Since it’s Tuesday, it’s my day over at Mad Genius Club. Today’s post is about inspiration and how it can hit when you least expect it.

To go along with the the posts I’ve written over the last few weeks about how we have to look at, and face, the consequences of our actions, Marvel had to do just that over the weekend. If you want to see not only an epic fail but what happens when you do something to alienate your core fan base, check this out. Click on through to the Twitter comments. They are perfect examples of consequences coming home to roost.

Today, I’m going to finish the final draft of Nocturnal Rebellion. I have the last scene already written in my head and it perfectly sets up the next book — which will be the final book in the current story arc. What that means for future books featuring Mac and company, I haven’t figured out yet. I doubt they are going away. But just how I’ll continue on with them and what the new story arc will be, I’m not sure. However, there will be one more novel after Rebellion. Hopefully by the time I get to it, I’ll know where the future books will go.

And, just to prove my muse is an evil bitch — as if we didn’t already know that — THIS is what kept me awake most of the night, trying to figure out where it is going and praying this isn’t the start of yet another series.

I was five when they came for my brother. Two men, one tall and thin the other short and stocky. Both wore uniforms I had never seen before with lots of medals shining on their chests. Mom cried. I’d never seen her cry before and Dad’s hands shook as he read the paper the tall man handed him. Then, with tears in his eyes, he told Mom there was nothing they could do. Before I knew what was happening, Aiden was gone and I haven’t seen him since.

I was thirteen when they came for me.

See, I told you my muse is evil.

 

 

Memories and Inspiration

Last night, I had the pleasure of seeing Garrison Keillor perform. I’ll admit, I wasn’t really looking forward to the evening. Lake Woebegone was fun — in small doses. This was NOT Lake Woebegone. The was Keillor at his best. For a little more than two hours, he gave a performance that left me gasping for breath and laughing so hard not only was I crying but I swear I might have broken something. There were stories about growing up, dirty limericks and hymns. Yes, hymns. That he managed to get the audience to join in on. A very fun and worthwhile evening.

One that go me thinking and you know what a dangerous thing that can be.

As a writer, I do my best not to draw on my own family for inspiration. For one, no one would believe me. For another, my family doesn’t just carry a grudge, it nurses it, feeding it and letting it grow. So, nope. Not about to write anything one of them might think they have a role in. Nope and nope and nope again.

Yet, as I was talking to a friend this morning, I was reminded of something that happened when I was younger, something that has stuck with me and still brings tears to my eyes and a sense of wonder to my heart. It is something that will, before long, become the basis of a story or, as he suggested, a prompt for an anthology.

My dad was born and grew up in Ardmore, OK. He and my mom met on a blind date. Mom had moved to Ardmore from Tulsa to work at the hospital there. When I was maybe 14 or 15, the three of us took a day trip up to Ardmore to see my grandmother and other members of our family. We stopped on the way to my grandmother’s house to visit a wonderful lady (in the truest sense of the word) my mother knew from her days working at the hospital.

This lady worked in housekeeping at the hospital. She was one of those people who made anyone she spoke to smile and feel better. No matter how hard her life might have been, she made the best of it and never let on that there might have been problems.

She also baked the cake for my first birthday and she loved my mother.

Anyway, Mom wanted this wonderful woman to meet me as a teen. So we parked in front of this small house, really nothing more than a cottage. It was old, like so many homes in Ardmore, but well maintained and you could tell by looking at it that whoever lived there loved not only the house but the neighborhood.

Inside, the house was as carefully maintained as it was outside. It felt like a home, not just a place where people lived. You could almost feel the history in the house, not only of the good times but of the bad. What we didn’t know as we walked through the door was just how bad some of those times had been.

In a place of pride in the front room was a tabletop display case. This wonderful lady showed it to us. Her hand lovingly touched the glass. Inside was a pristine copy of a Look Magazine (or maybe Life) from the Viet Nam War. On the cover was a photo of a GI, obviously seriously wounded, another GI holding him, reassuring him. It was the first of a number of photos that chronicled the death of an American GI in Nam.

That GI was this dear lady’s son.

Her good son.

The son who wrote home every day. The son who had worked hard to graduate with good grades. The son who had promised his parents he would come home and do them proud, helping care for them and his other brother. The brother who was the bad seed. The brother who did drugs and too much booze and who never met a law he wanted to obey.

The son who, one day, quit writing.

For a month, this dear little lady tried to find out if anything had happened to her son. She contacted the Red Cross. She contacted the Army and she contacted the Defense Department. Nothing.

And then, one day after work, she stopped at her mailbox and pulled out her mail. Inside was the latest Look Magazine and she suddenly knew what happened to you son.

That would have broken a lot of us. Me, I’m pretty sure I would have broken and then I would have wanted answers — and blood. But not this little lady. She and the rest of her family mourned the loss of her son. But she also honored him. He died doing what he thought was right — serving his country. Watching her as she told us what happened, hearing the pain and pride in her voice, I learned what grace was that day. This woman who, I would learn later, had suffered so much more than the loss of her son over the years, never let life get the best of her. She continued to give of herself. She put her trust in God and she honored those she loved and lost through service.

How many of us can say we’ve done the same?

This one memory, a visit of less than 2 hours, made a permanent impression on me. It is something I have told my son, more than once. It is something I hold close now that he is in the military. She is long gone now but I know she continues being a guiding light to others, just as she is to me and mine. The memory of her shines on and, in that, she continues to live on, continues to serve and to love.

She was and is an example of what any of us can be. God bless her.

Monday Morning Thoughts

Coffeeeeeeee . . . .

Yep, it’s going to be one of those days. At least I have the short story figured out and ready to push through to final edits. I also figured out how to get from Point A to Point D on the next book in the series. Of course, that has to come after I finish Nocturnal Rebellion and send it off to my beta readers.

In the meantime, as I was reading the paper this morning, inspiration hit. There was a story about a 90+ year-old woman on her final cross-country driving trip. The story itself was engaging and reminded me of my cousin Clarice. — full of life and wanting to live it to the fullest until she drew her last breath.

But it was a picture of this feisty little lady that caught my eye and sent Myrtle the Must into overdrive. She was sitting at a table on what looked like an outdoor patio for a shop or cafe. Her head was thrown back and she was laughing. There was a twinkle in her eye with more than a hint of devilment in it. You knew she had just managed to zing someone and loved it.

Making the picture even better was the youngish man sitting across from her laughing with her. Despite the probably 60 or more years difference in their ages, they had connected and were probably getting into trouble together. It’s an image you don’t see every day and it made an impression.

And this woman, Miss Norma, suddenly sprang fully formed in my mind as part of the Eerie Side of the Tracks universe. Whether it will be part of the fantasy side or the “normal” side, I don’t know. All I know for sure, is Miss Norma will be the inspiration for a character in the series. Well, to be honest, the character will be a mix of Miss Norma and Cousin Clarice, and probably my grandmother who was born either 100 years too early or 100 years too late.

Now to go make some notes, enough to satisfy Myrtle so she doesn’t decide I need to write that story right NOW! Then it’s off to finish the short story and move on to the next project.

Until later. Have a great Monday!

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)

 

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