Archive for November, 2012

Well, I promised to share a part of my first attempt to record my novelette, “Becoming Lioness”. Here it is:

Becoming Lioness, First Try

It’s a long way from perfect, yet. There are still a couple of places where you can hear me stumble–over my own writing. That can be fixed with some editing. (Another skill I’m going to have to master if I intend to do this.)

Also, the last third or so of the recording you can hear my voice starting to get hoarse again. Don’t know quite what I’m going to do about that. Frequent breaks, probably. Or recording in small bursts several times a day. That’ll be interesting. I’m not sure how many times a day I can make the house quiet enough for that.

It’s a good thing I’m starting with something relatively short, before I attempt a full novel.

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One of the things I’ve been considering for a while now is audio books–specifically recording audio of some of my stories, building up to a full version of BLOOD WILL TELL and eventually BLOOD IS THICKER. It’s a great exercise for finding flaws in the writing, as well.

I have some recording equipment. I could do it. Mainly, I’ve been waiting for allergy season to end so I won’t sound nasal doing it. In fact, I was going to record a short section of the next story I plan to e-publish, “Becoming Lioness”, and include it with this blog. It’d be a good place to start. The story starts with action. It’s not too long (just over 10,000 words). And It’d give me a chance to use the technique of reading aloud–and listening to the recording–as a final edit on the story. Unfortunately, the experiment proved that I’m not in good voice today. I kept getting hoarse in the parts that shouldn’t be. When I do get a decent recording, I promise to post part of it. I’ll keep trying, as I want to do the read aloud anyway.

Audio books would be another way of getting my stories out to readers (or listeners). Even a way of connecting, since it would be my voice in the recordings. Unfortunately, if I can’t get through a 10,000-word novelette (and I didn’t even get through the first scene this morning) I don’t stand a chance of reading an entire novel ten times that long aloud. I’ll have to keep working on that.


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Well, tomorrow is Thanksgiving here in the U.S., so it seems like a good time to think about all the things I have to be thankful for. Hard as things are sometimes, I realize I could go on and on, so I’ll confine myself to my writing.

I’m thankful for the critique partners that have helped and are helping me to hone my craft and make my stories better with every one I write.

I’m thankful for online writers’ groups that make it possible for me to connect with those critique partners and to learn and share information about the writing and publishing process.

I’m thankful for all the agents, industry professionals, and published authors who take the time to blog or podcast or tweet to share their knowledge with those of us still struggling.

I’m thankful for the incredible research potential of the internet which made writing my current WIP, an alternate history, possible and even reasonably easy.

I’m thankful to be writing in an interesting time with all of the new options available to authors.

I’m thankful for eveyone who has read my stories, but especially for the ones who’ve taken time to review them.

And, last, I’m thankful that last night I finished the second draft of THE BARD’S GIFT. It’s not done yet, but it’s closer than it was when I typed “The End” at the bottom of the first draft.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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As I work through the second draft of THE BARD’S GIFT (now about 75% complete), I’m starting to think more and more about my side characters. Minor characters can add depth, conflict, and realism to a story. After all, would HARRY POTTER be as good without the Weasley twins or Luna Lovegood? Or LORD OF THE RINGS without Faramir and Eowyn?

My first drafts tend to be very protagonist-centric. Minor characters and even the antagonists tend to be underdeveloped in the first draft. That’s not a problem–as long as I realize it and fix it.

Through the second draft, part of what I’ve been doing is strengthening the antagonists. I’m not nearly done with that. There’ll be more to do in the third and maybe even in the fourth draft.

There are other minor characters, too, though. And they all have to be real, three-dimensional characters in the final draft. That’s one of the main things I have to work on in later drafts.

In particular, I’ve got my eye on a very minor character. Well, she was minor in the first draft. A friend of Astrid, my main character, who isn’t always on her side. She’s a friend, but she has her own issues and goals, too. And her own ideas of what is in Astrid’s best interest. This is good. It makes her more real. It’s also a potential (and currently untapped) source of conflict in the story. Next draft, Gerda is getting a lot bigger role.

Who are some of your favorite side characters?

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Today, I’m joining in Krystal Wade’s Wildest Moments Blogfest celebrating the publication of Wilde’s Meadow, the third of her Darkness Falls trilogy. 

Now, I haven’t exactly led a wild and crazy life. Tame, really, in many ways–especially right now as caregiver for my elderly mother. Still, there have been moments. And those moments seem disproportionately to have happened away from home. Hmm.

When I started thinking about this post, I thought I’d write about a certain cruise to Southeast Alaska I took a number of years ago. No, it wasn’t that kind of cruise. This was on a really little boat, the MV Sea Bird (run by Special Expeditions) and we got off the boat, usually by zodiac and then wading ashore at least once every day.


This is an example from that cruise. We had to cross the river on this bridge, which was really only a log. The crew did put the rope up for use to hold onto. Among the things I did on that cruise:

  1. Take a helicopter up to the top of a glacier and walk around on it (miraculously without falling). By the way, there is absolutely no color like the crystaline, aquamarine blue in the depths of a glacier.
  2. Go ashore on Admiralty Island to look for brown bear. We did watch a three-year-old fishing for salmon. That is also the place where I did fall into the river.
  3. Go out in a zodiac among humpback whales.
  4. Go ashore in Juneau on a Saturday night. It gets rowdy in Juneau on Saturday night.

Lots of inspiration there. My current story involves fjords and glaciers. I’ve been in fjords (although we call them inlets on this coast) and I’ve seen and even walked on glaciers.

By the way, the photo at the top of this blog was taken on another cruise with the same company, this time aboard the MV Sea Lion, in Princess Louisa Inlet, British Columbia. That’s someplace the big cruise ships can’t go. Even the Sea Lion, with a draft of less than ten feet, can only cross the sandbar at the mouth of the inlet at high tide. Once we were in, we were there for twelve hours. That place was the inspiration for the world building for my third novel, DREAMER’S ROSE. (Someday, I’m going to go back and rewrite that story.)

That’s what I was going to blog about, but thinking about that reminded me of an earlier trip. This one wasn’t a cruise. It was a trip with the Nature Conservancy to Santa Cruz Island. One day, we boated from Prisoners’ Harbor to Pelican Bay (no not that Pelican Bay), where we climbed a trail up the face of a nearly vertical cliff. Eek. (I have a more than moderate fear of heights, carefully instilled by my mother.)

We spent an interesting morning at Pelican Bay and then had a choice either to boat back to Prisoners’ Harbor (from which it was a short jeep ride or walk back to the ranch, where we were staying) or to walk back. I still can’t say whether I decided to walk back because I really wanted to see more of the island (I did) or because I didn’t want to go back down that cliffside trail. (Down is always harder than up. You’re looking right at where you’re going to fall.)

What I didn’t know at the time was that the “trail” we’d be taking had been created by feral sheep (which had all been removed from the island by that time) and was maintained by feral pigs (which hadn’t). Both four-legged creatures with a low center of gravity and little imagination. There were places on that “trail” that really had my heart pounding. Places where I had to scramble over rocks with nothing to hold onto where a slip would likely have sent me over the cliff into the ocean. Places where I could look straight down and watch the bright orange garibaldi’s (California’s state marine fish) swimming in the rock-strewn cove below.

I don’t think I relaxed once until we got back to the jeeps. And yet, I have seldom been more aware of my surroundings and I saw a side of the island I would never have seen otherwise. I’m glad I did it. (I don’t think I’d do it again, though.)

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Just a quick progress report today.

I’m trying to finish up the second draft of BLOOD IS THICKER, now about 98% complete. It’s that last two percent, which is actually turning into a new chapter, that’s taking the time.

Then I want to concentrate on finishing the second draft of THE BARD’S GIFT, now about 40% complete. I’ve got this scheduled for first readers in January and it’ll need at least a couple more passes after I finish the second draft before it’s ready for them.

This month, I also want to get to revisions on at least one of the three shorter works that need some revision, specifically my novelette, “Becoming Lioness”, which I want to e-publish in December.

Meanwhile, I’m still querying FIRE AND EARTH.

I also need to dedicate some time to figuring out marketing. I want to do a lot better job with “Becoming Lioness”. That’ll require some preparation and coordination this time around.

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There is so much to say about reviews.

In my continuing quest to figure out this marketing thing, I’ve come to almost a full stop at reviews. They make a huge difference to people actually buying books these days, especially self-published e-books. This, I think, is the next nut I’m going to have to crack. I’m going to have to actually try to get some reviews from independent book bloggers, etc. Eek! Why is that almost as scary as the first time I submitted a query to an agent?

Reviews are so important that some authors have even resorted to paying review mills to put up good reviews of their works. Once again, I’ve lost the link, but this was a big deal on the web–at least among writers–a couple of weeks ago.

The reaction to that is another story I saw in the last few days that Amazon is now deleting reviews by authors of other authors work. That’s unfortunate on so many levels. There’s a long-standing tradition of authors writing blurbs for others’ novels in traditional publishing. Why should it be any different for e-books? 

I’m not even going to mention the trolls who seem to enjoy writing bad reviews just because they can. This new Amazon policy does nothing to address that. How about, instead, blocking people who only seem to write either disproportionately positive or negative reviews? I’m pretty sure their database could handle that.

But that’s only part of what I want to say about reviews today. Some author–and I’m sorry that I’ve lost the link–proposed an alternative to NaNoWrMo this month. Instead of trying to write a novel in a month, help fellow authors out by writing a review for a book every day in November. What a great idea!

I’m not taking part in this mainly for two reasons:

  1. Lately, it’s taking me a lot longer to finish books because I just don’t have the time to devote to reading. I love to read. But sometimes it comes down to reading or writing. I can’t always do both.
  2. Frankly, and unfortunately, I just haven’t loved most of the debut novels I’ve read this year. Not that the only novels worth reviewing are debut novels, but that’s where the reviews probably make the most difference. For the record, the big exception for me this year is SERAPHINA by Rachel Hartman. That one I loved. And I wrote a review saying that I loved it on Goodreads.  (As a matter of principle, I’m not going to tell you the ones I didn’t.)

If you want to help an author–and you really did like their work–write a review somewhere that will be seen.

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November is National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo for short or sometimes just NaNo. Thousands of people commit to write 50,000 words in a month or an average of 1667 words a day. They virtually disappear from any other writing communities for the duration. November is a very slow month on most writers’ forums.

I have never done NaNoWriM0–and no, I’m not doing it this year either. I don’t feel I need to. I proved to myself a few years ago that I can, in fact, write a novel in that space of time if the story is ripe and ready to be written. BLOOD WILL TELL was actually the first novel that was like that for me. It’s a heady feeling when a story comes together that way and writing it feels like opening a spigot and just letting it flow out onto the page (or the screen). But the truth is not all novels flow like that. And, even when they do, when a story is ready to just pour out, you have to write it while it’s hot or risk losing it (been there, done that, too). Somehow, those times when the story is just ripe for the picking never seem to happen in November for me.

In any case, I’m pretty firmly stuck in revisionville this November. I’m working on the second drafts of both BLOOD IS THICKER (about 90% done) and THE BARD’S GIFT (about 33% done). I also have three short stories that need revisions–“Becoming Lioness”, “The Seeker”, and one I can’t tell you the title of because, if I ever get back to it and find a better ending, it may be my next Writers of the Future entry. That one could use some polish but what it really needs is a good ending that doesn’t feel like it just sort of fades off into the sunset.

I expect to go back to writing a first draft at the beginning of next year. I’ve got a few stories brewing in the back of my head to choose from. Will it be the story I already have outlined (and I never do outlines)? Or the shiny new idea that twists all kinds of fantasy staples around and sets them on their heads? Or the fairy-tale retelling? I’ll have to wait and see what’s calling to me when I get there.

So, to all my writer friends out there who are doing NaNo: good luck. And I look forward to hearing from you and reading some of your novels on the other side.

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