Posted in fantasy, horror, music, NaNoWriMo, Punk/Alternative/Indie, writing

NaNoWriMo – Day 3

So here we are, well underway with NaNoWriMo 2011. I’m ahead on word count and pathologically hell-bent on staying that way. We know one day at least is a complete loss (Thanksgiving Day), so I have to make up one full day (1667 words) squeezed in elsewhere. I got off to a screaming start, clocking in 2750 words the first day, but I can’t imagine I’ll be able to duplicate that word count too often.

The story itself is of course taking on a life of its own. I had intended to use this month and this NaNo to work up the backstory of a new character in the vampire novel. Well, it’s turning out to be pretty interesting. I wasn’t really expecting to get much out of it but this may claim a book all its own eventually. I’ve already decided to make this darker than the core story, so accordingly I am in search of new music to fit the mood. I just got turned onto a Goth/alternative band out of Johannesburg, South Africa, The Awakening (thanks to Submerina). YUM. This ought to help set the mood.

Excuse me while I go put on more black eyeliner and my boots.

Posted in books, horror, NaNoWriMo, Vampires, writing

NaNoWriMo Mock Book Cover

Thanks to a couple of Twitter pals, I decided to play around and make a mock cover for my vampire novel, which is still using the working title, Revenants Abroad. I hope Mr. Clemens doesn’t mind. Here are a couple of things, very different in feel.

Maybe this can serve as some inspiration for your own. I found the backgrounds at a free wallpaper site, I hope they didn’t pirate it from somewhere else. Just having some fun here!

Posted in fantasy, horror, NaNoWriMo, Quotes, Vampires, writing

To Plot, or To Pants?

Here we are, a scant two weeks away from NaNoWriMo 2011! As I announced on Twitter last night, I have arrived at a decision about the topic for my NaNo novel, with a nice margin of time to ruminate on it.

I read this post today on Tony Noland’s blog, and basically he’s got the finer points of getting through NaNoWriMo down. However, I am a dyed-in-the-wool pantser, meaning I never plot. Maybe I should, but I’ve achieved a 50-50 success rate with NaNo not plotting. However, that said, neither the year I didn’t finish, or the year I did, turned into anything salvageable. At least I don’t think so. Maybe plotting would help. If I start getting a lot of ideas about this character (and now that it’s fixed in my mind as my NaNo topic, I probably will) I may start some outlining. Or at least jot down some thoughts. I keep most of it in my head all the time anyway. (So that’s what those voices are!)

I’m introducing a new character into my vampire novel, and essentially what I’m writing for NaNo is the character’s backstory. I don’t intend to turn the character into a MC in a book, it’s a supporting part, but a good one. Mostly I’m using this as an opportunity to flesh out the character ahead of time. Then again who knows what bits might come up that would prove useful to the vampire novel? Speaking of which, I really need to come up with a title for it. I feel like Holly Golightly and her cat: No name until it gets a permanent home. I’ve been playfully calling it “Revenants Abroad” but I don’t know if that would fly when I get around to submitting it, although I’ve seen lots of punny titles recently.

But what if this character does work into something more? Could be. I expect in the course of the month I will find out if it’s got that much potential. I guess it’s really up to me if it goes that way or not, though, eh? A whole month to work on one character… yeah, it might earn a whole book to itself. And yes, I’m being purposely vague about the character. I have an image in my mind that I want to bring to life on the page, but I am superstitious about talking too much about a WIP. Suffice to say, I think I will end up liking this character very much.

Don’t write it right, just write it—and then make it right later. —  TARA MOSS


Posted in horror, NaNoWriMo, writing

I Shouldn’t Oughta Do This…

But, well, turns out I have no willpower to resist the pleas of a dear friend to wade once again into the fray of NaNoWriMo. Plus I stupidly logged into the site yesterday and started getting caught up in the excitement and preparatory events. My old author photo is gone so I’ll have to dredge up something. The raccoon again? Hmm. Perhaps for the time being I will use my Twitter avatar so people can be sure it’s me if they want to add me as a friend there. When they launch the “Buddies” feature, you can add me as buddy if you like.

So all that remains now is to come up with an idea for a NaNo novel. Umm… oh hell, I’ve got 18 days. Lots of time.

Posted in books, Halloween, NaNoWriMo, science fiction, writing


:::chewing fingernails:::

I found out, via Twitter, that one of my favorite sci-fi writers, Robert J. Sawyer, is taking part in NaNoWriMo, and has invited people to follow him. Yes, he tweeted it out. That in itself is almost enough to make me sign on. Argh. What to do, what to do?

I actually got a bit of revising done on the WIP so I’m feeling good about that. I really need to do some major surgery on it, though. It’s far too long for a first novel (nearly 107,000 words). I think I know what I want to cut, it’s a chapter I was never entirely happy with. The whole situation and things that come after it need to be excised (or exorcised maybe…). I really need to focus on making some progress on this.

But why in the world is Mr. Sawyer doing NaNo? Well, as I like to say, fortune favors the bold, so I actually replied to his tweet and asked him, not knowing if he is one of those famous personages (I don’t want to say ‘celebrity’ as that word has such a shallow, negative connotation to me) who responds to his followers. In short, he is (bless his heart). He replied and said he needs to get 50K words done to meet his deadline for his 21st novel. Yes, that’s twenty-first. Egads, I am SO behind in my reading :::cries::: I guess I had this idea that someone like him who has published numerous books is already into that groove and doesn’t need the sort of insane pace and focus that NaNo provides. Huh. Shows what I know. If you’re interested in following him on NaNoWriMo, he said his username is ‘Ergaster’ (for Homo ergaster, an early common ancestor of both homo sapiens and Neanderthal). I don’t think I’m breaking any code of ethics by mentioning that here since he did in fact tweet it out himself. The name doesn’t surprise me, his knowledge of human and earth history is extensive and is put to good use in his books. I used to tell people if you slept through science class, read his book “Calculating God,” it will just about make up for it.

Spent the day cleaning and putting up my Halloween decorations for any trick-or-treaters who may come by tomorrow. I might get a couple, although the last few years that’s about all I’ve had come by. But what the hey, it was fun and I like the decorations. Now, back to the WIP.

Posted in NaNoWriMo, writing

Anxiety Levels – Activate!

I’ve already decided to sit out NaNoWriMo this year, feeling my time is better spent working on things I’ve already started, rather than starting Yet Another Novel (henceforth referred to as YAN), and I think that’s the right decision. Plus the pace of NaNo, writing a minimum of 1667 words per day, is challenging for me even on a good day. The house goes to hell (Ok, further into the bowels of Hell than it already is), I subsist on sandwiches and frozen microwaveable food (i.e., cooking grinds to a halt), tv/movie viewing is nil, all forms of exercise become a dim memory.

Really, though, when I get into the writing groove and manage to block out all the distractions I surprise even myself with how much I can get done in a relatively short amount of time. The problem is getting into that groove, something that I have to say I can thank NaNoWriMo for teaching me. Sustaining it the other eleven months out of the year once the party atmosphere and excitement of writing along with tens of thousands of other people fades is difficult to maintain. How do others do it?

I recently started following Harry Connolly, author of the Twenty Palaces saga, on Twitter and I gotta tell ya he’s a scream. He put up a post the other day about why he doesn’t participate in NaNoWriMo, “NaNoWhaNow?” and it makes a lot of sense. However comma he also says 1700 words a day for a professional writer is no big deal, to wit:

That’s not a lot. Many professional novelists would consider that a Meh day, and many others would feel like slackers.

So my anxiety levels just increased by a magnitude of 10. Harry does admit it’s a stretch for him as well (he’s down here in the trenches with the rest of us working a day job) in which I do take some comfort, and it really is a nice, encouraging post. But there has to be a way to keep that focus going after NaNo, not just when smashing words onto the page to fill your word count. It needs to be corraled so we can shape what crash-landed on the pages in November into something more polished. Too bad we can’t just dump our first drafts into one of those rock polishers and turn the handle until the pages get all nice and shiny and the words are so smooth they almost slide off the page (of course it’s better if they don’t…)

So today I resolve to get back into that groove/zone/flow, whatever you like to term it. I wrote almost 700 words yesterday on a short story I started (I know, I know, shouldn’t be starting anything new just now but it popped up and I had to do something with it, didn’t I?).

Posted in books, NaNoWriMo, writing

I Boldly Went

Where everyone was going today: Back to the stores. I have never in my life ventured out on the day after Christmas, but I felt a burning urge to get out of the house today. The weather, while not idyllic, was not bad. It was a bit blustery and chilly, but sunny and dry. Good enough, I’ll take it. So where did I have to go so badly that I dared risk life and limb among the post-holiday shoppers? The bookstore. More specifically, my home away from home, Powells. I was on a quasi-mission, hoping to locate a copy of a Tarot deck that has recently become scarce, due to some sort of copyright war. Anyway, there were none to be had at Powells, but there were certainly more than enough books.

I treated myself to a book that Harlan Ellison has stated is “One of my favorite nightmare novels.” It says so, right on the front cover of The Book of Skulls, by Robert Silverberg. The edition I picked up is the 2006 edition (it was originally published in 1972 and won a Nebula Award), and the cover says “Soon to be a major motion picture” although I can’t find anything about it online. There is no information at the mother of all movie sites, Probably just as well, Hollywood would doubtless turn it into a splatter-flick, gore-fest. It tells the stories of four friends who discover a book, the titular Book of Skulls that leads them to a secret sect in the Arizona desert who, for a horrific price, will grant immortality to two of them. There’s been some criticism of the book’s classification as sci-fi (it was nominated for a Nebula in 1972, and both the Hugo and Locus awards in 1973), but sci-fi and fantasy/horror have long been lumped into one category. People still debate about the genre Frankenstein belongs to. Is it horror? The first sci-fi?

I also picked up Alastair Reynolds Revelation Space . This one is a hard sci-fi novel, originally published in 2000. Reynolds has a PhD in astronomy, and worked at the European Space Agency which informs his work. The story concerns a scientist who is on the verge of uncovering the reason for the annihilation of an advanced civilization 900,000 years ago. Sounds like someone doesn’t want him to find out what happened to them.

I finally picked up John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War after reading about it now for ages online and how Scalzi used the internet to create a fanbase, which aided him in getting published. The premise is a decades long war in space for the few habitable planets out there. In this universe retirees, senior citizens, are recruited to serve two years in the military, allowing the green troops to benefit from their wisdom and experience. In exchange for two years service in combat, provided you survive, you get your own little homestead on one of these planets.

And last but not least, I also took home Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair, which, while it’s not classified as sci-fi (it was in the Mystery section), I think it could easily fall under sci-fi, as an alternate universe story. From the back cover:

Welcome to Great Britain, circa 1985, where time travel is routine, cloning is a reality (dodos are the resurrected pet of choice), and literature is taken very, very seriously. England is a virtual police state where an aunt can get lost (literally) in a Wordsworth poem, militant Baconians heckle performances of Hamlet, and forging Byronic verse is a punishable offense. All this is business as usual for Thursday Next, renowned Special Operative in literary detection, until someone begins kidnapping characters from works of literature. When Jane Eyre is plucked from the pages of Brontë’s novel, Thursday must track down the villain and enter the novel herself to avert a heinous act of literary homicide.

I picked this one because I’ve never read any Jasper Fforde, but he contributed a Pep Talk to NaNoWriMo this year that I really enjoyed and thought I’d like his writing. It sounds almost Pratchett-esque, although I don’t really like comparing authors to each other all the time. Fforde even has introductory notes and material at his Web site.

Now I just have to decide which one to read first…

Posted in NaNoWriMo, Tarot, writer's block, writing

The Well’s Gone Dry

Or maybe it’s just frozen over. It was a whopping 8ºF at my house this morning about 6 o’clock.

But the point is, I haven’t been able to think of anything to say here for days. Maybe November and NaNoWriMo just drained me, but even during NaNo I was blogging and it almost seemed like I had more to say than usual. Perhaps the lesson here is the more I write, the more I can write. So to try to get the ball rolling again, I decided to fall back on that time-tested method of drawing a Tarot card and see if that sparks something. Sitting at my desk at work it was hard to shuffle my deck surreptitiously so I had to settle for a few hand over hand passes, when out fell

the Page of Swords. Pages are young people, usually messengers of some kind or another. As he grips his sword in two hands, is he in a defensive stance, or is he offering a challenge? I think I’m feeling challenged here. I think this little bugger, whoever he is, thinks he has a better idea and is defying me to prove him wrong. Well, we’ll just have to see about that then, won’t we?

It’s not as if I don’t have enough stories going on. I’ve also been looking around for markets to submit to, so I’ve dredged up a couple that I want to submit short stories to for anthologies that are coming up. I’m at a point where I feel I need to actually write and submit something, or all I’m doing is writing these stories that are never going to go anywhere and what’s the point of that? I keep thinking about an interview I saw with Ray Bradbury talking about how many stories he submitted that were rejected when he was young, and how awful he finally realized those stories were although he couldn’t see it at the time. I want to start that process of sending stuff out, even if it gets rejected, because somehow that feels like an integral part of the process. It’s not so much the concept of ‘paying my dues’ (as they say in show biz) but that with time and the more I write, the better (hopefully) I will get.

I found this on Biddy Tarot and I think it sums up nicely the vibe I’m getting from this card today:

The Page of Swords asks you to embrace a difficult situation and meet its challenge. You could think of these as trials designed to test your mettle. If you accept and prevail, you will become stronger and more resilient. In meeting these challenges, you are encouraged to use the tools of the Swords suit – honesty, reason, integrity, and fortitude.

All righty then. Back to it!

Posted in NaNoWriMo, writing

NaNoWriMo – FTW!

I’m celebrating this morning, I hit the 50,000 word mark at 9:06 a.m. PST. I marked the time, kind of like giving birth (ok, not really. Having done both, I can say the experiences are distinctly different). The 50,oooth word was “being.” Seems poetic somehow. After last year’s aborted attempt to tackle NaNo, I feel incredibly pleased by this, and finishing with days to spare. I amazed even myself by being able to crank out something like 2000 words yesterday, Thanksgiving Day, between cooking the turkey and everything else. We don’t have large family gatherings so that made it possible. Frankly I’m glad I had this to do to fill in the empty spaces during the day.

At the start of the second week I felt the elation and excitement of the first few days leaking away, like air out of a balloon. That’s when the real slog started for me. I was missing the characters in my vampire story that I was working on before November, and hadn’t really gotten to know my new characters. I’m one of those people who writes with no outline, and I had only the vaguest idea of what the NaNo novel was going to be. It took awhile before they really started to talk to me, and show me some glimmers of personality and gumption. Now at the 50k mark, they’re just beginning to become really interesting, which I guess means a lot of the preliminary stuff will be going away when I finish the first draft and start revising.  And I intend to finish this, but I think first I need to finish the vampire story. Even with all this going on, it’s never been far from my mind as if those characters are haunting me, but it’s a welcome haunting. There’s much work to be done on that as well, and I’m still not sure where it will end up but I have to get it out of my system I think before I can do anything else justice.

Evil Son #1 asked me yesterday what do I get if I win. Well, I had to explain there are no tangible prizes to be had, it’s simply the satisfaction of getting it done. As trite as this will sound, I learned a lot about myself, and my priorities in life. As many of you know, I don’t subscribe to tv cable  and haven’t for years (full disclaimer: Evil Son #2 just signed up for it, so it’s in the house again, but good GAWD, I am more astonished than ever that people pay to watch this crap), so I haven’t had that distraction. Nor do I miss it. My co-workers think I’m a freak because I read and don’t have tv. Maybe being a freak isn’t so bad.

To those of you still wandering around in your personal NaNo-Land, keep on truckin’!

Posted in NaNoWriMo, writing

NaNoWriMo — Week Three

Here we are, halfway through Week Three now. I’m done counting by days, I’m thinking in terms of weeks now.

Was it just me, or did the first two weeks whizz by like they had better things to do? I didn’t make it this far in NaNo last year, so this is my first time taking the week three corner on two wheels, full speed ahead. Those first two weeks were not nearly the challenge they were last year, but this is new territory for me now. Can I sustain this pace for another two weeks? (ok, week and a half) This, as they say, is where the rubber meets the road. My word count is maintaining, despite a small setback over the weekend but I’m still ahead of the daily minimum. I know some people have already hit the 50K mark (rather anti-climactic, no?), I don’t know what they do after that. Keep going, I guess?

I’ll say this: writing at this pace sure produces piles of garbage. If I didn’t have a day job, and had nothing to do all day but write, 1667 words a day should be a piece of cake. But trying to squeeze it in to a couple of hours in the evening when I’m almost too tired to think is not producing the level of writing I would like. Frankly, it’s pretty craptastic. Ah well, there’ll be plenty of time to clean it up later. How’s everyone else holding up?

Let’s have a little levity for the day, courtesy of the late, great, Douglas Adams:

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.