Archive for October, 2011

Halloween Movie Festival

It’s Halloween==or very nearly. It’s been years since we had trick-or-treaters here, so celebrating Halloween has come to revolve around two things.

I almost always make a pumpkin pie. I’ll make one later today.

And I go through the drawers that house the dvd collection and set up my own private Halloween movie festival. I never get through all the movies I pull out, but that’s another story.

Already watched:

  1. “Little Shop of Horrors”: I almost always start with this one. It’s one of the few absolutely required movies.
  2. “Rose Red”: Have to have at least one or two haunted house movies. (Well, this was a mini-series.)
  3. “Young Frankenstein”: Also required. You wouldn’t want to take everything seriously, now would you?
  4. “Van Helsing”

Still in the stack (and there’s no way I’m getting to all of these in the next two days):

  1. “The Mummy”
  2. “The Mummy Returns”
  3. “IT”
  4. “Wolf” with Jack Nicholson as a werewolf.
  5. “The Relic”
  6. “The Haunting”: The remake. I wish I had the original. This is one that was actually more effective without all the special effects.
  7. “Bell, Book, and Candle”: Jimmy Stewart bewitched by a witch played by Kim Novak, with Jack Lemmon as her brother.
  8. “Ghost Rider”

That should provide plenty of diversity. “Rose Red”, “IT” (both of which were mini series) “The Relic” and “The Haunting” are the only horror movies in the stack. No slasher pics. A decent dose of comedy and adventure. Even one comic-made-into-a-movie.

Happy Halloween everyone.

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Blog Awards

Rebekah Loper passed these awards on to me, so now I have to fulfill the requirements and pass them on. Kind of like a chain letter.

The Blog on Fire Award requires me to tell you 7 new things about myself.

  1. I live in an old house. The original house was built as a sort of Mother-In-Law unit in the 1930’s. It’s been added on to at least three times and it’s still only about 1500 square feet, so you can imagine the original house must have been tiny. Old houses have quirks. For example: both the front and back doors open onto the front patio. There is no door directly to the back yard. You have to walk around. Old houses also require maintenance. Living in an old house without either the skills or the money to take care of it is no walk in the park.
  2. For a small house, it has a huge yard. In fact, the yard is too big. I love to garden, but I’ve had to reconcile myself to the idea that I will never have all of the yard looking nice at the same time. It’s like a giant game of whack-a-mole. Concentrate on cleaning up one area and three others get weedy and overgrown. A yard this size is very close to a full time job in itself. Right now, I’m concentrating on getting the vegetable garden cleaned up and planted for the winter.
  3. The garage is huge and I need to put that space to better use. The detached garage is probably larger than the original house. It has three rooms! The first is an oversized one car garage. The other two rooms are a workshop and a storage room. The workshop is currently full of Dad’s old wood-working tools. Dad’s been dead for twelve years last week and I’m definitely not going to use the table saw or the jig saw or that monster drill press that’ll take two men and a boy to move. I think it’s time I got rid of some of that and put the space to better use. Maybe this winter.
  4. I come from a long line of pack rats. I’m the fourth generation of my family to live on this property, so we’ve had plenty of time (and space) to accumulate stuff. Example: Among the things I know are in the storage room, there is a set of cast iron cobblers lasts. Heaven only knows where those came from. I’m gradually trying to weed some of that out and not just in the garage. Not nearly fast enough. Alas, I also come from a long line of procrastinators.
  5. Although I live very much in the suburbs–in many ways more urban than sub–there’s plenty of wildlife around here. Sometimes too much. I’m not talking just about the birds and the bees and the butterflies. Not sure about now, but I have found salamanders in a couple of places. You wouldn’t expect that in a fairly dry climate, but there they were. There are a few ground squirrels who do a high-wire act on the telephone lines and drive the dogs and cats nuts. In addition to those, we have semi-resident opossums. Raccoons, too. Usually, they’re just passing through, but before I had dogs, we had at least two litters of raccoon kits born on the property. One was under the house. I know because we opened up one wall to find out what was making the scratching noise. Imagine our surprise when a raccoon kit climbed up to check us out. Lately, we’ve also had a couple of skunks move into the neighborhood. Those aren’t so welcome. For a couple of days, the skunks tried to move in under the house, which forced me to take steps.
  6. I’m a lousy housekeeper, but a good cook. I hate to vacuum. I’d rather go to the dentist. I can always find something better to do, like writing. Which means that my dust bunnies have time to grow into dust dinos. My fondest wish is to rip up the carpets and do something with the pine floors underneath. I don’t mind sweeping. I like cooking, though–most of the time. I make a vegetable beef soup that’ll stick to your ribs. It’s almost cold enough to make that. And I can bake. My traditional contribution to the family Thanksgiving dinner is the pies.
  7. Writing is my third “career”, if you can call something a career when you haven’t made any money at it, yet. I was trained as a financial analyst and currently live on a small pension from that job. Then I became a Visual Basic programmer. Now I write stories instead of code. Writing was almost my fourth career, because I’m also trained as a paralegal. But I’ve never worked in that field–yet. 

The 7 x 7 Link Award requires me to choose some of my posts in certain categories. This was hard.


  1.  Most Beautiful: I don’t generally use a lot of graphics. I’m going to go with the story for this one.  Check it out.
  2. Most Helpful: Two related posts Harsh Critiques and The Sandwich Method
  3. Most Popular: According to WordPress, this is Powering Through with 79 views. No idea why.
  4. Most Controversial: E-Publishing How much has changed in less than a year. Probably wouldn’t be even remotely controversial now.
  5. Most Sccessful: Since I have no way of gauging this, I’m going to go with Agents Day
  6. Most Underrated:  This one is a pure stab in the dark. Procrastination
  7. Most Prideworthy: A sentimental favorite, here. Something Exciting 

Pass it on:

  1. Robin Weeks
  2. Michael McDuffee
  3. Karen T. Smith She hasn’t posted recently, but there’s some interesting stuff about her e-publishing experience.

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I came across this problem last week. I’m not talking about the main conflict of the story, of course. That would mean I’d completed the story in eight chapters. Trust me, it’s not close.

No, but no novel (or very, very few) lives on a single conflict. There are always others–internal conflicts between mutually exclusive desires or fears. Conflicts between characters, even when they’re on the same side in the larger conflict. Sub plots. A dozen other kinds of conflict that enrich the story.

And I acknowledge that I have a problem. I have a desire to end a particular kind of conflict too early. It’s the conflict between my two romantic leads. I have no problem stringing this out before they come together. It’s after they’ve become a couple that I tend to want to smooth over their little differences. I want them to be happy together. But the course of true love never does run smooth–certainly not in fiction.

BLOOD IS THICKER is the sequel to my paranormal romance BLOOD WILL TELL. The central conflict hits very close to newly-weds Rolf and Valeriah. And there’s a conflict between them in how to deal with it. Rolf wants to run around trying to fix it (typical male). Valeriah is driven to protect . . .  well, you’ll just have to wait and read it to find out what she wants to protect.  Can’t give too much away.  (Besides, it’d take too much backstory to explain in this post.)

Rolf is basically clueless and occasionally puzzled by Valeriah’s reaction. For Vallie, it’s a sort of hot and cold conflict. Sometimes she’s really pissed off with Rolf. (And she’s half werewolf.  You really don’t want to make her mad.) Other times, she’s merely annoyed. Which, of course, only makes Rolf more confused. He’s trying to be strong for her and she’s reading it as detached.

I had the scene in my head where Rolf finally gets it and they get back on track. So, I wrote it. Nothing wrong with that. But I’d only gotten a couple of chapters further before I realized my mistake. It’s a good scene. I’m going to keep it. It just can’t happen for about a dozen more chapters, bringing them back solidly together just before the climax.

So, I’ve spent the last few days redoing chapters 7 thru 9. I don’t usually allow myself to go back during a first draft. I try to make the first draft forward only and keep the infernal internal editor switched off. But when it’s a conflict I need to pull forward in the story, well, I didn’t think I had any choice.

Even better, this conflict allows me to draw two characters closer together and set up a separate conflict which will probably continue even when the first is resolved. Don’t you love it when that happens?

Back on track, now and almost done with chapter 10.

In other news, Rebekah Loper has passed on a couple of blog awards to me.

The Blog on Fire award, which requires me to share seven (more) facts about myself and pass it on.




And the 7 x 7 Link Award, which requires me to choose one of my posts in each of seven different categories and then pass the award along.



Thank you, Rebekah. I’ll be taking care of the requirements in my next blog post.

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As a fantasist, this isn’t something I deal with all the time. Usually, I get to take bits and pieces from all over and fit them together in new and interesting ways, glued together with a little imagination. That’s how my world-building usually works.

I did a bit of research on my very first (now shelved) novel, because the protagonist was a blacksmith. I needed to know at least enough about blacksmithing to not make any really obvious mistakes, like setting the forge out in the open. (Always at least partially enclosed so the smith can see the color of the heated iron he’s working on.)

Now, however, I have two projects on which I need to do a bit of research. One is a current project and the other is a future project.

BLOOD IS THICKER is the sequel to BLOOD WILL TELL. As a paranormal romance/urban fantasy, it’s mostly set in either a world I created out of whole cloth or the world I actually inhabit. However, there’s one element in this story that’s going to force me to do a bit of research into, of all things, geology. That’s because the central conflict of this story revolves around someone’s attempt to import geothermal energy technology to Chimeria without proper safeguards. It’s endangering something very near and dear to the protagonists’ hearts and they have to find a way to fix the problem. Obviously, I’m going to have to know enough about geothermal energy to not make an idiot of myself. Not there yet.

The other project is THE BARD’S GIFT. This one will be an alternate history, so the need for research is pretty obvious. Actually, I don’t need to research any historical figures and I don’t need much more than the broad brush of (then) current events. This story will take place far from the centers where such things are happening. But what I do need to know is the daily-life stuff about these people: What kind of houses did they live in? What did they wear? What did they eat? Who was in charge and why? What would their relationships have been like? Basically, all the stuff I usually get to make up to suit myself.

In this case, there really isn’t a lot of information available on my real target (the original Norse Greenland settlement). But there is information on the next-best surrogate–Iceland of the same time frame. Most of the Greenland settlers came from Iceland, so it’s a reasonable assumption that they at least tried to establish the same way of life.

I got lucky and found a book that is intended to document Icelandic life during the saga age. That’s about as close as I’m likely to get. Will it be enough by itself? Maybe not. But at the least it will point me in the right directions and tell me what further questions I need to ask.

By the way, THE BARD’S GIFT does not actually take place in Greenland (although it will probably start there). It actually takes place in a Norse settlement of Vinland (or possibly Markland) in the New World that never actually happened–at least as far as we know. Of course, it’s a fantasy, so there will be some elements that no Norse explorers would have encountered. Dragons, for example.

It’s amazing how dragons of all different kinds seem to show up in so many of my stories. Couldn’t be those three dragons surrounding one end of my computer desk, could it?

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I’ve posted about this before, but it really does bear repeating. There is nothing in writing more valuable than beta readers and insightful critiques of your work. You simply cannot, no matter how long you let it rest, ever really see your own story objectively. You need somebody who will read it and be honest with you–brutally honest if necessary. Especially someone who will take the time to really analyze exactly where you’ve gone off into the weeds.

I’m fortunate to belong to two great writers’ forums–Hatrack River Writers Workshop and David Farland’s Writers’ Groups (the Pied Pipers). Links to both forums can be found in the sidebar.

MAGE STORM’s history goes something like this:

  1. I wrote it last year (2010) and submitted for readers in the Pied Pipers (a group on David Farland’s Writers’ Groups specializing in YA, especially fantasy YA). I got some good ideas, incorporated them, and started querying. I had a crit partner from over on Hatrack River read through the revised ms.
  2. MAGE STORM has been queried moderately lightly (37 queries). Of those, it’s gotten one request for partial and one request for the full, but neither went any further.
  3. However, the agent who requested the full did give me some feedback. Boiling it down, I decided that the main problem was that the central conflict wasn’t clear enough. (She complained that a certain event hadn’t happened soon enough. But that event was the second try/fail cycle, not the central conflict, and it happened pretty much right on schedule.) Well, partly that was a fault of the query and synopsis, for highlighting the wrong thing. But it was also true that there were things I could do in those first three chapters to really make the central conflict more clear. One way and another, I’ve been working on that since last June.
  4. I went back to my first readers to kick around some ideas and then revised the first three chapters. I submitted them back to the Pied Pipers for critique.
  5. Those revisions weren’t entirely successful. Basically, I’d managed to mess up the progression of Rell’s magic. It should have gotten scarier and scarier in order to propel him into the rest of the story. Instead it had done the reverse and so his decision didn’t make much sense. This, I find, is a pitfall of piecemeal revisions. It’s too easy to lose sight of the bigger picture.
  6. I made an attempt to fix that and asked for critiques over on Hatrack River. This is where having more than one critique group can be invaluable. It’s easier to find fresh readers who have never seen the story before (or never more than the first 13 lines) and can look at it with fresh eyes and no expectations of where the story is going to go from there. (Thirteen lines is all you’re allowed to post on Hatrack River. Anything else is handled through emails.)
  7. Well, I got some good critiques and one really extraordinary one. That one–that’s the one you’re always hoping for–really showed me where the problem was. What I had added that really didn’t need to be there. And where I needed to go to raise the stakes. (Thank you, MattLeo.)
  8. I’ve just submitted that revision back to Pied Pipers to see what they think.
  9. I’ve still got one critique on the whole ms outstanding. We’ll see what that turns up.

The point is, I can’t even begin to express how much stronger the story is for the input of all these wonderful critique partners. Thank you all.

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With Wolf Tracks

This is one of those days when it’s just really hard to think of a topic to blog about. Nothing much new is going on with my writing–it’s going, just in the same directions as in my recent posts. I haven’t had any revelations or discoveries to report.

I guess I’ll just have to revert to a status report.

BLOOD WILL TELL: I’m still waiting to hear back from the agent who has the full ms. It hasn’t really been that long (though sometimes it feels like it). I’m still playing around with ideas for the cover, just in case. I really want to try to insert a wolf into the oval made by the dragon’s tail. I have a couple of

With Background

images to play with, but I’m not sure whether my skills are up to it. Won’t know until I try, I guess.



BLOOD IS THICKER: Just starting Chapter 9. This story and these characters are just fun to work with. I have to think up more trouble to get them into, though, besides the main conflict. I have a couple of ideas. (Possibly one of my characters may get to thwart a kidnapping attempt. That could be fun.)

MAGIC’S FOOL: Still going slowly, but going. I’m just about to start Chapter 6.

MAGE STORM: I need to get serious about those revisions. I’d like to be ready to start querying it again at the beginning of next month. Too much later, and it’ll have to wait until after the first of the year. (A lot of agents shut down for submissions over the holidays.) I’ve identified one scene that either needs to be cut or expanded. As it is, it doesn’t serve enough of a purpose. How did that one escape the last revision? Oh, yeah. I like the way it ends. That’s not enough.

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Cover Art

Well, in the midst of all my writing, I’ve spent some time playing around with what might be cover art for BLOOD WILL TELL in case I decide to e-publish it.

As stated in my last post, I’m no graphic artist. And the gyrations I’ve had to go through to get to this point would take far too long to catalog.

Since I don’t know what I’m doing, I spent some time studying the covers of some successful books. In particular, the HUNGER GAMES trilogy and, more within the correct genre, some of Sherilyn Kenyon’s books. (BLOOD WILL TELL is a paranormal romance, but the only thing it has in common with Sherilyn Kenyon’s books is that there are werewolves–or, more precisely, one particular half-werewolf.) These are novels that got the very best covers their publishers could create, so it seemed like a reasonable place to start figuring out what makes a good cover.

So, what I took away from that: A solid color background with some interest–a lighter highligt across a dark bacground or some geometric shape in a color only slight lighter or darker than the background and a single image or symbol.

I’m nowhere near that, yet. But, here’s what I’ve got so far:

 No text yet, obviously. I’m going to have to go through another whole step for that.

In the end, of course, I may opt for having an actual artist do the cover–if I can afford it. But it won’t hurt to have some ideas to talk about in any case.

The beauty of this cover design is that with minor variation in color, it could pretty much work for all three books in the series.

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I got so busy writing I forgot to blog.

So, here’s an update on my progress:

  1. I finished this round of revisions to SEVEN STARS and closed the file. I intend to leave it closed for about six months. Then I’ll come back, read it through, hopefully do only a polishing edit (but who knows what I’ll find after six months) and then get ready to start sending it out. I may start the query and synopsis during those six months. It’s not too early.
  2. I got through Chapter 5 of MAGIC’S FOOL. A tricky chapter because one of the characters dies. And getting to that point made it clear to me at least part of why I wasn’t happy with the first 4 chapters. It’s a first draft. It doesn’t have to be perfect or anywhere close at this point, but it is comforting to know what I need to fix in the second draft. I think (well, I hope, anyway) that I’ll be able to move along faster, now.
  3. I’m hard at work on Chapter 6 of BLOOD IS THICKER. The central problem has been set up, but the characters aren’t yet agreed on a course of action. In fact, there’s a certain amount of conflict over Rolf’s choice. Conflict is good.
  4. I’ve just started looking over the early chapters of MAGE STORM. So far, it’s just tinkering. There are more significant problems in Chapters 2 and 3 that I have to resolve. Chapter 2 is not giving the reader a good enough sense of Rell as the main character. Chapter 3 isn’t setting up Rell’s decision to go off and seek an answer “out there” nearly well enough. I’m anxious to get this back out there.
  5. I’ve just about made a decision on BLOOD WILL TELL. I think its time is now or very soon. I haven’t heard back from the agent who has a full manuscript, yet. (It’s still really early for that.) But, if this one falls through, I think I will go ahead and e-publish this one. I even started a mock-up of the cover art. I am not nor will I ever be a graphic artist.
  6. I’ve started research for THE BARD’S GIFT, my YA alternate history. This story will ake place far enough (physically) from the main events of its time that I’m not too concerned about historic events or people beyond what I already know. But I do need to have a feel for what daily life would have been like for these characters.

Whew! I guess that’s why I was too busy to remember to blog.

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Reading List

Time to report on what I’ve been reading recently.

I dipped into the world of mainstream (non-YA) fantasy for a while. Patricia Brigg’s CRY WOLF and THE HOB’S BARGAIN (both purchased at Borders Going-Out-Of-Business Sale).

CRY WOLF is good, but Anna just isn’t and will never be Mercy Thompson. And Charles isn’t Adam, either. I love a story with a broken main character who has to overcome their past (witness my love of just about anything by Lois McMaster Bujold). But I need more of a sense of the character’s struggle. I didn’t get that much from CRY WOLF. If you do read it, be sure to get a copy of the novella “Alpha and Omega” to read first. It’s available cheap as an e-book. CRY WOLF starts up directly after “Alpha and Omega” and the reader really would be lost without that.

THE HOB’S BARGAIN was also good. A little tough for me to get into. The cataclysm right at the beginning before I’d had a chance to get a feeling for the main character was actually a little off-putting. Then the story took a little while to really get started. Once it did, I really liked Aren as a main character. Much more than Anna.

I picked up SUPERNATURALLY, the sequel to PARANORMALCY by Kiersten White at the brand new Mysterious Galaxy bookstore just a few miles from me. I loved PARANORMALCY.  SUPERNATURALLY has the feeling of being the middle, though. It didn’t have enough of a central conflict of its very own to real drive the story forward for me. I had more the feeling that this was setting up the third book in the trilogy.

Now, I’m finishing up GOLIATH by Scott Westerfeld. I cannot say enough about this steampunk trilogy (LEVIATHAN, BEHEMOTH, and GOLIATH). I wish there was going to be a fourth book just so I don’t have to say goodbye to these characters. Deryn Sharp who pretends to be a boy so she can join His Majesty’s Air Service (flying around in a helium-filled bio-engineered whale) and Alek, secret heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire on the run from relatives who would kill him to make sure he never takes the throne. Great fun.

I’m also reading Lois McMaster Bujold’s MIRROR DANCE. I stalled out on this one because part of me really did not want to read the part where Miles gets (temporarily) killed. Now I’ve past that, I expect to speed up and finish the story more quickly. Even more than BROTHERS IN ARMS, in addition to being a roaring good tale, it’s an interesting study in Miles and his clone, genetically identical, yet raised very differently. Mark is not Miles and fails utterly at trying to do something Miles would do well. But Miles is also not Mark.

Next, I expect I’ll read Maggie Stiefvater’s LINGER. I enjoyed SHIVER, despite the blue ink. LINGER is printed in dark green ink. Just whose brilliant idea was that?

More about what I’m writing on Wednesday.

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