Back on track- “Way of the Blessed”

I’ve been doing well, managing to push fan fictions behind me to focus on what I really should be working on, Way of the Blessed.   I’ve produced twenty pages in the past two days, and it’s walking forward under its own power again.   It’s bad news for those who are waiting for the endings of those three fan fics, even worse knowing that at least two of them are just a chapter or two away from being completed, but I’m always much more secure in what I’m doing if I’m working on my own original works.

And for this one, it means research.  While I love to do it, I always feel like I’m just scratching the surface and somehow, somewhere, I’ve gotten something desperately wrong along the way.   I think that’s one of the reasons why I am so insecure with “The Harder Right”, although I did as exhaustive a research as I could, given my limitations, I still feel that there is something in it that would be glaringly wrong to someone who has been there before, I just can’t see it.

Thankfully, Way of the Blessed’s research right now is strictly map based,  (Thank you, Google Earth!) plotting the path between Nathalie’s main home in the Arkansas Ozarks and her destination…her parents’ home in northern Texas.  That part of Texas, I am familiar with and don’t feel the same doubt about writing as I do when I put Nat and Gideon in places I’m only passingly familiar with or have never been before in my life.  But it can’t really be helped, I just have to do the best I can and accept the fact that I will get something wrong along the way.   Science fiction and fantasy are so much easier for me, and I miss always being right with them, but at this point, Way of the Blessed is still very close to here and now and it’s something I just have to deal with.

But, all of that angst aside, it’s good to talk to Nathalie again.  It’s good to be writing my own stuff again (sorry, fan fiction fans!).   And it’s good to be truly writing again.    (Oh, and it is an absolutely beautiful, clear blue day here in the wilds of SW Wisconsin!   I know we’re due for another winter storm later this week, but again, I’ll take what I have right now.)

Backlog, and a little summer cleaning

Like most authors who have been at it for awhile, I have started many stories that I just never got around to finishing.   I’ve  been going through them recently, and have finished and sent off to various publications. Cockleburs has had a full blog post devoted to it, so I won’t go there today.  It is a new story, completed in good time.

In Mysterious Ways is another short story that revolves around one of my favorite characters from a roleplaying game, Roan Lattimer.  Roan is a rather long in the tooth woman who was spaceship wrecked on a low tech world, where she used her high tech knowledge to rise to a position of power in their Church so that she could protect her new home.  This particular story really feeds (in my humble opinion) on the blurry line between accepting a deity’s existence and work in a character’s life and the fact that often miracles can be explained away if an observer wishes to.    This one sat around in my documents folder for a few years, it dates from early 2009 as does the other one I just finished today….

Trade Relations began in 2009.  It began very strongly, and for the life of me I don’t remember what came along to distract me from it. It is the weird love child of a sci fi/fantasy/speculative writer who is also involved in the Society for Creative Anachronism (a medieval recreation group)  Put them both together and you get a short story like this one.   I don’t want to even try to describe it, but I am very pleased I finally managed to get ‘er done, as they put it.

The Broker and the Fetch (the odd ghost story I referenced earlier) is also complete, and also springs from 2009.  Not sure what I was doing that year, I had three strong short stories that I let go dormant.

All four of them are completed as of today, however, and all four of them are out to various publications (What is up with horror markets only wanting tiny little stories?   I had to pass on several likely homes for The Broker and the Fetch because at 5857 words, it was considered to be too long.   They seem to really be buying only works that are under four thousand words… )

Cover art?

After spending 13 months in a weird sort of contract limbo, the publisher that wanted “Fall of the Old Guard” has suddenly popped back up into play, and their very first question is:  Do I have any ideas for cover art?

Er…  no, I must admit that I do not.   Sure, I see myself walking into a bookstore, going to the appropriate genre aisle, going to C and finding one of my books available there.  I see myself pulling it, shiny and new, from the shelf…but I don’t actually see it, except for the hint of foiled embossing on the cover for the title.    Maybe I’m just a bad author.  Maybe I don’t love my books enough.   Maybe my brain just doesn’t work that way, but none of them have ever tossed up a cover idea.    I think I’m just going to leave this one in their hands.

On another note, finished that quirky little ghost story I was working on (“The Broker and the Fetch”) and now I get to peruse ralan.com to see if I can find it a suitable home.   My usual go to places are all science fiction, so I’ll have to go outside of my box to see where I send it to.

When the Epiphany Machine works right, “Cockleburs”- present

I admit it, I’ve been writing fanfiction.   Bad me, but there’s a point to it, honestly.   Still going with the hope that I can convince a game company to let me write for them, and this seems like the best way to get my stuff out there.

However…..

 

People ask me the same question all of the time, “Where do you come up with these ideas, anyway?”   And my answer is always to just stare at them, and say, “They come out of nowhere.”

I see it as kind of like I have an “Epiphany Machine” in my head, a cantankerous,  temperamental fax machine that occasionally spits out ideas of an unknown source.   It worked perfectly last night, so I thought I’d share.

I’ve had the germ of a vague idea running around for a week or so, where it came from, I don’t know.   It sidled into my head and has been hiding in a corner for a bit, just a ‘huh, well…maybe…’ level of a thought about a sentient parasite.

Last night, the Epiphany Machine got  a hold of it, and started to throw out ideas.   These come as a mishmash of “Oh!  How about this!  And this!   And this!”   The first  was…to tell it from the parasite’s point of view.   Ooooooo kay.   Then to make the parasite extremely vulnerable, nearly sessile, and on the verge of death.   Oh….really, what?   I knew I was in trouble when it threw out the first line.   If I have the first line and the last, I can start writing a short story.   Sure enough, after a scramble, it threw out the last.  And then a title.  Which I didn’t like so I threw it back.   It threw out another.  I rejected that one as well.  It tried a third time, and that one I agreed with.     (How many science fiction short stories would work under a title like “Cockleburs”?)  So I had a first line.  A last line.  A basic idea.  And a title.   Then it started to throw out whole paragraphs, letting me know that my nameless little parasite isn’t truly a parasite, more of a symbiote.   And he’s a he.   (Important, yes.)  And that he’s an alien.   Wait…what?

Trust me.  I think this is going to work…

The first page is the worst- The Way of the Blessed.

I finished Clearing of the Way knowing exactly where the planned sequel, Way of the Blessed, was going to start at.   I have the scene locked firmly in my head, but as usual, getting it to start rolling has been difficult.   I normally get into the writing groove by rereading at least part of what I’m going so that when I reach the end, I step right into what I was working on earlier.   But with a brand new work, there is no ‘rereading at least part’, and I’m faced with a bright, blank screen.

Because Nathalie and Gideon are sulking in a corner for some unknown reason, hiding behind that killer whiteness of a completely empty page, I’ve been digging in those short stories that, for whatever reason, I let lapse or just stopped paying attention to.   I completed one “In Mysterious Ways” that has been sitting on a back burner for way, way too long, and started sending it out.   There’s another short story, “Dog Eat Dog World”  that I wrote a couple of years ago that came very close to finding a good home only to be rejected at the last moment.   I looked at it with fresh eyes and I know it would benefit from a rewrite.  Then there’s the story I placed as an Honorable Mention in the L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future contest.   I’m positive it would probably also be much better with some work now.   And I have one lonely and bizarre ghost story about halfway done.   It’s time to get cracking!

Titles: Why isn’t there an app for that?

I recently read a site dedicated to writing tips, and it lost me on pretty much the first line.   Apparently it is strongly advised that my books have a working title before I start them.  Oh, and it is strongly advised that I keep extensive notes and such… there’s an app for that now, you know.

Quite bluntly, if I waited for a title before I got started, we’d still be waiting for me to start anything at all.   Usually it’s the book itself that gives me the title, there’s some phrase that gets repeated, or just sticks out.   The first, The Emperor’s Finest…well, that was a struggle and I’m still not happy with it.  It’s cliche.  I know it.   It just never bothered to tell me another name, and I couldn’t send it off to publishers calling it “Arien and Niel.”  (As I’ve said before, works in progress are identified by the names of their main character(s) until they show me a working title)

Fall of the Old Guard and its unwritten sequel Rise of the New Guard are pretty self explanatory.  The Harder Right, my single solitary contemporary fiction, is entitled from a line out of the Cadet Prayer for the United States Military Academy (West Point) which reads “Make us to do the harder right, rather than the easier wrong) and it seemed to fit the work much better than just about any of the titles I’ve ever managed to come up with.

Why am I thinking of this?  Well, pretty simple… the sequel to The Emperor’s Finest, currently in editing, has a working title of seq.   I’ve been pounding my head here, because obviously ‘seq’ is just not going to cut the mustard when it comes time to actually do something with it.   My mind is full of ….of the Empire.   Daughter of the Empire…sorry, taken.   Scions of the Empire…ugh.   Harsh blunt instruments of the Empire?   Well,  yes but.  I’ve even contemplated doing the Richard Castle thing and naming it some takeoff of Arien’s last name, but that bogs me down as well.  While Arien does have a commonly used word as a last name, Noble, it’s always been an irony play because she’s not particularly noble, her boyfriend is.

So, as I sit here, staring at the little yellow post it notes clinging to my desk… (A list of the military schools that Gideon would have been through to have been what I said he was, and the cryptic “108 repeats on 188, 188 version stands”)  knowing that there’s an app for that…   I have to ask:

Titles.  Why isn’t there an app for that?

If an author crashes into a tree in a forest, does any one hear it?

Yesterday was one of those days.   On the good side, I finished the first draft of Clearing the Way, the first completed original manuscript I’ve managed since the stroke in 2010.  Even though it has some holes where I’m still trying to remember exactly which word I was looking for (only the right word will do), it’s a triumph and I am beyond pleased.   It’s currently in the hands of my main beta reader for it, and will go to the hubby for first edit this weekend, but the first part of Nathalie and Gideon’s saga is set down and ready for the nuts and bolts attack.

 

And then there’s The Emperor’s Finest.  My first baby, completed in 1999.   My dark, bloody epiphany, the first of these to develop legs strong enough to take it beyond the page 40 death mark.  And when it did, it did, topping out in its first draft at an unwieldy 490 pages. As you may possibly know, Emperor’s underwent a marathon editing session, cut down to 370 pages, and went live as an Amazon ebook not that long ago.   I’ve been purposefully ignoring it, focusing on Nathalie, and trying hard not to obsess over its progress or lack thereof.   But last night I finally dipped a toe in, and took a look.

I’ll be the first one to admit that Emperor’s Finest has a brutal ending.   On one hand, I am proud of it.   Neither of the main characters acts out just because it’s over.   Neither one of them does something they wouldn’t, shouldn’t, do just to give a sparkly feel good ending.

However, that’s easy enough for me to say since I’ve…read the sequel.   Yes, there is one, there has always been one.   Somehow, I came straight off of the 490 page first part and started the second the next day.  The decision was made at the onset of this to just see how Empfine went… if had all the flight capacity of a lead pigeon, then we weren’t going to disturb the sequel, we were just going to let it all die gracefully while focusing on the newer works.   Call it a learning experience, and carry on.

Except, Empfine is generally receiving quite positive reviews, except for that brutal ending.   So last night I began to look for just where I’d squirreled the back ups for the sequel.  (Hey, it was completed in 2000, it’s a bleeding miracle I thought I still had a copy somewhere!)  And finally, after some confusion, located my back up.  Then converted my back up to a format that my current word processing program will read.  Then, for the first time in years, opened the sequel to the Emperor’s Finest.

How bad could it be?   I vaguely remembered it as being ‘complete’, so my worst nightmares were over.  I found it, it was intact, converted and shorter than Empfine….right?   Some editing, and we’d be back in business.

Apparently my ability to keep a file for twelve years is better than my ability to remember something I’d written.  I had found it.  It was  intact.  Converted.  And… 539 pages long.   And that’s when I hit that tree at top speed.   This is more than ‘a little editing’.  Although I wrote much cleaner prose then than I do now, more precise and time consuming, I am still not willing to bring a 539 page monster to the table.   I guess it’s time to start whupping this one into shape, while I take a breather from Nathalie.

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