If it doesn’t work…

Hey, everyone. I had this lengthy and elaborate post concerning the YA fantasy I’m working on, but I find this gif sums it up better.

anigif_enhanced-31448-1412633156-1

So now that I have cleared the board, I’m ready to fill it with newer and better things. I’ve spent the past few days writing up its history before transitioning to the outline. And let me tell you, I’ve never been more fucking excited about this idea since its inception back in 2005. Every other iteration is utter garbage. But it’s garbage I had to write in order to get to where I am right now.

I’m also convinced this surge of creativity means I’ll be employed very soon. I’m only ever this inspired when work is involved. So may this be a peek into things to come!

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Crushing Self Doubt

Oh, hey there. Forgive my consistent inconsistency with this thing. But there is a legit reason as to why I’ve been away. And since it directly ties in with my entry into the Positive Writer’s Writers Crushing Doubt contest, I thought it was the best way to bring my blog- and my confidence- back from the dead.

This past month or so has been trying for me. Why? I’ve spent all this time trapped in that oh-so-dreadful state of mind that befalls even the best of us: extreme self-doubt. I’m not talking about the kind that results from a scene you have been debating on eliminating and trying to convince yourself why you should keep it. This is the kind that encompasses your whole identity as a writer. Nagging questions start rearing their ugly little heads:

Is what I’m writing even any good?

Does anyone outside of the three or four people I know even want to read this?

Who the hell am I kidding? I’m not cut out for this.

I keep getting rejected. Maybe I’m not that good of a writer as I think I am.

Fraud.

Untalented hack.

Unoriginal.

Might as well quit.

I couldn’t tell you why I started feeling such incredible dissatisfaction. It doesn’t really matter what set it off. When you’re in the grip of self-doubt, everything looks bleak. For me, characters that jumped off the page now appear lifeless. Words lost their punch. Plot lines started looking worn and cliche. I couldn’t bring myself to look at anything I’ve written. It all looked the same to me: bad. Uninspired. Insipid. Worthless. I had seriously considered abandoning all attempts to revise or complete projects. I had hit a struggling writer’s rock bottom.

So what did I do? I cried. A lot. I tried to rediscover my passion through fanfic. When that didn’t pan out, I pushed all writing to the wayside. I turned to books and video games in the hope that something, anything, would break me out of this funk. I read and finished two awesome books, I advanced in the latest Batman game. But still I couldn’t seem to shake the darkness of self-doubt. This went on for weeks. And then, oddly enough, playing Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits proved to be the catalyst. For those not in the know, it’s a JRPG released on the PS2 back in 2003. What was it about this old PS2 game, you may ask? The realization that it was chock-full of every bad trope you could imagine. It didn’t do anything new or earth shattering. It took what was familiar, gave it a new name and look, and ran with it. The end result? A mostly forgettable JRPG in an era that was replete with them. The only reason this particular title got any notice was because of its association with the Arc the Lad series.

I put the game controller down and took a long, hard look at my current project. New thoughts started coming to my mind:

You are better than you think.

This is not going to be just another manuscript condemned to someone’s slush pile.

You CAN do this.

You WILL do this.

You are a writer.

Embrace it.

Never quit.

And, just like that, the elusive spark to ignite my creativity was back. I’m ecstatic about getting back to work. The steps I’ve taken are small, but they are meaningful. And it’s all thanks to some JRPG nostalgia wanted me to revisit. So, thanks, Arc the Lad, for providing me with an example of what I don’t want to become. Thanks for being the splash of ice water I needed to free me from this most dreadful of emotions.

If you ever find yourself in the stranglehold of self-doubt, just remember, fellow writers: you ARE better than you think. You CAN do this. You’re NOT going to quit. And, most importantly, you’re not alone. You have legions cheering you on. I’m one of them. So crush that writer’s doubt and keep going.

 

 

 

Submission train keeps rollin’

Back in early May, I had submitted Renegade‘s first chapter to WILDSound Writing Festival for a review. While it didn’t make the cut to be performed at their festival (which I did not expect anyway), their comments about it were also not surprising. Comparing the plot to B grade science fiction is not only spot on, but a huge compliment because, duh, it’s pretty much the end result of my own love for the genre. Cheesy 80s sci fi GO. They did invite me to submit a revised draft at a lower cost (I paid $45 initially) but I’m not pursuing anything with the story as of now. I am keeping the option open, however.

Lifeline’s edits continue. I submitted the first 15 pages plus a short synopsis to Writer’s Relief. Every few months, they extend invitations for writers to submit projects for their personal client list. Last time, I submitted The Shadow Conflict and it was rejected based on limited markets. I feel better about Lifeline’s chances, but I also have to maintain a sense of honesty here: it runs just as much risk of getting rejected.

With Mermaid’s Courage tied up in the New Novel Contest for the Historical Novel Society until next month (long list winners will be announced them), I am focusing all efforts on getting Lifeline up to snuff. I’ve spent some time reflecting on the thoughts I outlined in my previous entry. I think it may be time to start getting serious about an author website. I may dislike the marketing aspect, but I can’t sit back and rely on luck or random searches netting me any notice.

Write on!

Body models + new material= gooood

Some stories, you just go into knowing what your characters look like. I’ve known Simon’s face since day one. The funny thing is I didn’t realize I had modeled him after anyone until recently. His antagonist, Arxon, however, went through at least three different ones before I found his face. It clicked while I was watching Last Days on Mars. Coincidence? I think not.

brett scallions

Simon: Brett Scallions, former lead singer of Fuel

Liev-Schreiber

Arxon: Liev Schreiber, actor

The following is new material I wrote up today. I have plans to revise Renegade‘s sequel, and this scene may or may not be the bridge that gaps events between the two books. The scene is heavily influenced by nearly every sci-fi movie out there, plus all the hours I spent playing Mass Effect 1, 2, and 3. Got me a fun world to play with. Might as well enjoy it, right?

***

Yshmar hated Xa’Benth Station. As a native of Aldab Caye, an open, lush planet, the station was an affront to his senses. It was overpopulated, dark, noisy, and always on the brink of civil unrest, or worse, a battleground for warring merc factions. Charxun Sector was no exception. Despite its unpredictability, Charxun was good for one thing, and one thing alone: covert meetings.

Eateries, shops, clubs, and pleasure houses were numerous here. It seemed no matter where one looked, digicreds exchanged hands. As an intel specialist, Yshmar was no stranger to deals of this sort. He’d met plenty of surly characters- and had lived to tell about it thanks to his ability to sniff out a bad bargain. Yshmar’s code was simple: if the reward did not match the risk, make it worth his while, or walk away. Today was no different. Today, he had chosen to wait for his contact inside a dingy, little place that afforded him a nice view of the exits. Should things go awry, he knew the fastest route back to his ship.

Yshmar laid his hands on the triple-enforced steel case on his lap. Rare was it he dealt in physical pieces. He preferred the intangible aspect of information. But between his lackey dying during the retrieval, the secrecy employed by his contact, and the want to dump the piece quickly, Yshmar had set aside his usual caution. Better to cut ties now than let it sit in his private vault. There was no telling what this tech could do.

Someone pressed a pistol to the back of his head. Yshmar, accustomed to receiving greetings worse than this, kept his tone neutral.

“My contact, I presume?”

“Turn off your bioscan, or I shoot.” His aggressor’s voice was muffled, indicating he was either masked, or wore an environmental suit.

Yshmar tapped a code into the wrist communicator on his right arm. Bioscans were a necessary evil in his line of work, particularly if he needed to know how to slow a foe down in the event of a quick escape. The fact his contact had him deactivate this failsafe made Yshmar glad he hired two mercs when he arrived. They waited in the shadows across the way.

After showing him the scan was off, the contact spoke again. “Do you have it?”

Yshmar gestured to his lap. The other retracted the pistol, and joined him at the table. Yshmar studied his contact for a moment. He wore black and red armor, its exterior scuffed and chipping in places. The way the pieces fit together suggested it had been crafted by hand. It wasn’t like any armor he’d seen before. No insignias identified him as part of any gang or faction. His face was hidden beneath the darkened visor of his helmet.

At the other man’s prompt, Yshmar set the steel case on the table, only to slide it just out of reach. The armored figure stiffened in his chair.

“The fee we agreed on is insufficient,” Yshmar said. He caressed the case with idle fingers. “Tech as dangerous as this is worth far more than five thousand. I feel its value is closer to ten. Don’t you agree?”

As he spoke, the two mercs appeared in the entryway. The few patrons sitting at tables quickly fled, much to the owner’s chagrin. However, his demands that the diners pay was cut short when a merc aimed a rifle his way. The owner dove behind the counter.

The armored stranger said nothing for some time, nor did he seem bothered by the mercs. Yshmar waited with the patience born of his profession, and the guarantee that need would be greater than outrage at price.

What happened next, Yshmar had not counted on.

The chair flew from beneath Yshmar, just as the table was swept away. As he crashed to the floor, the steel case launched into the air. The armored stranger snatched it with expert timing. Two pistol shots took out the mercs. Next, Yshmar became intimate with the same gun barrel. Heat blasted him in the face.

He stared up into that black visor, and knew at once he was not only dealing with a Xabeldi, but a Xabeldi unlike any other. Yshmar held up his hands in a pleading gesture. “Did I say ten? I meant three. Three will do.”

The Xabeldi knelt beside him. When he pried open the case, a sector-wide alarm sounded. Yshmar glanced about in fear. Possessing tech of this sort was illegal in all sectors. Xa’Benth Station security would be here any moment. The Xabeldi did not seem the least bit concerned about that, for he upended the contents with measured calm. A single circuit board spilled out to land on Yshmar’s chest. Horrified, he shifted in place to be rid of it. Wild stories of the tech’s capability to embed itself within flesh sent shivers down his spine.

“You wanted ten thousand for this?” the Xabeldi said in a low hiss.

Yshmar’s smile turned nervous. “Please, understand,” he said, trying very hard to ignore the alarms, the gun in his face, and the sense that the Xabeldi would shoot him at the slightest provocation. “Acquiring Nureni tech proved more difficult than I had expected. Even knowing of its existence breaks dozens of interplanetary laws. I had to recoup my losses.”

“Then you chose the wrong way to do it,” the Xabeldi retorted.

“Ah, yes, I did,” Yshmar replied, shrinking as the gun stabbed him between the eyes. The circuit board slid along his chest. The pins poked him, making him more nervous. “Perhaps we can arrange something else? Something equally beneficial. You require more of this tech? I can get it for you.”

The Xabeldi leaned closer. “Why should I believe you?”

At this, Yshmar indicated his need to access his wrist communicator. The Xabeldi gestured he do so with a sharp wave of the gun. Yshmar keyed in information as quickly as possible. A map appeared in the air between them.

“See? A gesture of good faith,” he said, speaking rapidly. “Here are the coordinates. It’s in a secure vault beneath an old mining facility. Let me send—”

The Xabeldi tore the communicator from Yshmar’s wrist, removed the memory core and slipped it into a pocket on his belt. He then let the communicator drop to Yshmar’s chest. It landed close to the circuit board. Yshmar swore he saw the pins stretch outward to connect to the comm. However, when he tried to sit up, the Xabeldi hauled him to his feet. The objects fell to the floor.

“Wait,” Yshmar said, fearful. “Don’t kill me.”

“I’m not going to kill you,” the Xabeldi told him. “You’re taking me to that mining facility. I don’t think you want to stay here with that,” he said, indicating the Nureni circuit board. Yshmar heard the smile in his voice. “Security is already on the way.”
Being caught with the Nureni tech was not on Yshmar’s agenda today. Neither was a forced trip to the same place where his lackey was killed. It was then he knew which Xabeldi he was dealing with. It couldn’t be any other.

“I know who you are,” he said, his fear giving way for desperation. “What if I tell them the tech belongs to the infamous Xargun?”

“They wouldn’t believe you.”

The answer confused him. “Why not?”

The Xabeldi lifted the black visor. Yshmar stared into a smiling face that was definitely not Xabeldi.

Amusement shone in his piercing, blue eyes. “Because Xargun died three years ago.”

Back from the proverbial dead

I know I have said this before, but I am the absolute worst when it comes to keeping track with this thing. It might be due to the fact it’s not my go-to springboard into the internet, or I’ll update only when I have something worthwhile to say. Given that we are approaching the April Camp NaNoWriMo, I’m gonna go with the latter.

As I was not able to participate in April’s Camp last year thanks to some writing doldrums, I am looking to do something this year. At first I thought about dredging up an old middle grade fantasy to work on. I’ve a great fondness for fantasy adventure (sans political wrangling), and MG is the best place to do it. However, I think I am going to stick with Mermaid’s Courage, my July Camp project. Aside from the love I have for the story and characters, I have spent the past month or so readying it for entry into the 2015 HNS New Novel Awards contest. Participants have until April 1st to enter the first 5K words, along with a 500 word synopsis. Because I was looking to make more of an impact for this contest- my YA fantasy didn’t place in the contest I entered it into late last year- I knew professional editing was a must. I chose Scribendi because their prices were far more reasonable than some of the others I came across. One writer wanted close to $500 for their services. This was pretty much my reaction.

haha-gif

After receiving the results from the free sample edit, (the suggestion to make the opening sentence really shine helped immensely) I sent the first 5K over. The suggestions the editor provided were very helpful, and the story is all the better for it. I have way more confidence about the story’s chances. Now all that’s left is to get my submission to the required word limit and away it goes!

For April Camp, I will be working on the second half of Mermaid’s Courage. I don’t foresee any difficulties in getting back into the story. I still have a lot of love for the characters, and they still intend to have their way with me. I’ve already changed some plot elements because of them. Just goes to show that you are never truly in control of your creation.

To all those planning to join Camp this April, good luck, and I look forward to hearing about your progress!

Preparing for November

Turns out my focus for this year’s NaNoWriMo project has shifted to the sequel to my YA fantasy. This was spurned on in part of the writing contest I entered, and the thought, Well, I think I might want to close this story out. It’s only been needing it for years. To prepare for it, I turned my focus to organizing the high speed train collision I call an outline into something more legible.

It's dangerous to go alone. Here, take this rough outline.

It’s dangerous to go alone. Here, take this rough outline.

Even in its current format, I know the narrative is going to involve multiple POVs. Its predecessor certainly did. A story like this needs to be laid out that way. It’s not like Harry Potter, where the reader finds out about key things from Harry being someplace he shouldn’t be. I almost let one person’s opinion sway me about the inclusion of a set of scenes that took the story focus off the main characters. One of the things that turned me off from A Game of Thrones was the chapters devoted to characters I didn’t care for. But all those scenes served a purpose, even if I didn’t care what they involved. It’s the same with my own writing. I reinserted the scene and moved on. I need to stop treating other people’s opinions as gospel, especially since it was just ONE person. Now, if I had multiple readers who shared similar thoughts, then that’s the time to re-examine a scene.

The outline also revealed that the character arcs for my leads will be a little different from the first book. I left them both in a state of uncertainty that stays with them for most of the plot for the second one. I also discovered two antagonists experience redemption arcs. Can we say character development? Can we also say unexpected? Yes, we can. I love that even after all these years, characters continue to impress me. They count on me to be their representative to readers. I owe it to them to make sure they get the best. Even if it sometimes forces me to rethink subplots. But then, writing wouldn’t be half as rewarding if everything went according to plan.

Speaking of plans, outlining for the second half of Mermaid’s Courage has also resumed now that Sven and I agreed on a happy ending. I thought I would be upset over the ending change. Couldn’t be further from the truth. The story is supposed to bundle everything I love about romance into one package, which just so happens to include happily ever after. Oh, I don’t make it easy to get there. But the journey’s resolution is sure to resonate with readers. I don’t always need to capitalize on grief to earn a piece of immortality. Plus I can give them their seaside cottage and six kids because dammit, they deserve it.

I approach NaNo with great anticipation. Last year broke the lose-win-lose-win curse that’s been hanging over me since 2009. 2013 was especially refreshing since I won on a completely original idea rather than a rehash of an existing one. 2014 might drop me into familiar territory, but every word I type will be new. Bring on November!

 

Looking ahead

With November on the horizon, I have decided to breathe new life into an old idea. It’s a fantasy adventure that follows a boy, Lucas, and his younger sister, Jewel, as they fight to protect a strange girl from her brother’s forces. For the rewrite, I am reducing Lucas’s age from 17 to 12, and Jewel is going to be 10. This plants the story in middle grade territory, which is a genre I have never attempted before. It’ll be fun to do. The plot remains the same, except without the romance. I will be focusing more on filial bonds.

Speaking of romance: After surpassing the 50K mark, I have taken a brief break from Mermaid’s Courage. The second half requires a bit more historical research. This also changes the overall tone for the story. I’m pretty sure this is why I dreamed about getting into a heated argument with my male lead. Some characters go wherever a writer steers them. Others, like Sven, are more rebellious. He wants a happy ending with his wife. Well, tough, I say. So maybe this break is more for them than it is for me. I do admit to wishing I could give them that happy ending, though.

I also submitted The Shadow Conflict to a writing contest hosted by Authors First. Winner receives a 5K cash prize as well as a contract to publish the story with The Story Plant. It ends on September 30th, so anyone with a submission-ready novel should enter. Winner is to be announced in December. Renegade was ineligible due to its previous self published status. It’s fine. It’s not the stronger of the two as far as writing goes. My one concern is should it win, I don’t have a single word of its sequel typed up. Whoops.

I should probably look into more writing contests in the future. I know most of them have a fee attached ($45 bucks would get your first chapter critiqued in one contest, WTF) but so long as it’s a reasonable fee, I can swing it. Definitely be something to sink my teeth into.

 

The show must go on

I received a sincere and honest rejection for Renegade yesterday. She said that while she found the story interesting, she didn’t fall in love with it. I value honesty about my work over anything else. It’s arrogant to automatically assume everyone will adore your story, and they’ll be falling all over themselves to sing its praises. I certainly haven’t fallen in love with every book I’ve read over the years. I think I’ve spent more time lamenting books rather than recommending them. It’s all a matter of taste.

Progress on Mermaid’s Courage is slow but it’s definitely going. I have taken to writing in my notebook or using the Notes option on my phone during the work week, and I dedicate my weekends to adding this content to the main document on Word. I have just over 12K words now, which would probably send me into fits of panic were this November. I do enjoy the relaxed atmosphere for Camp NaNo. I don’t feel like there’s a clock following me around ticking off minutes while watching me eerily.

I always feel like somebody's watching me...

I always feel like somebody’s watching me…

I’m also not worrying too much about reaching my goal (35K) by the 31st. I fully expect to continue working on this until November. The natural progression would be, ‘Hey! Let’s write a sequel to it!’ Yeah, no. This is a stand alone project. I have no idea what my November project will even be at this point. All my focus has been on cramming this with as much sugary sweet cliches that both satisfy and frustrate me because of the joy they bring. It’s so freeing to let go like this. Sometimes a writer has to indulge in literary pleasures. Finding satisfaction in other books usually doesn’t work the same way. Sure, there’s plenty of tragic romances out there, but none of them are mine. We as writers need to remind ourselves that trying to write for everyone usually ends up in disaster. Write for you. You may find a very receptive audience.

Not dead, only sleeping

I have this nasty habit of making regular appearances online before I drop off the radar like some eccentric actor compelled to try life on an island, or some such thing. The truth is my reasons for vanishing since late April aren’t quite as fantastical as that. That thing called Real Life and the Stress It Sometimes Brings is largely to blame. Between difficulties at work, home, my family, and feeling very underwhelmed by my own writing, I took to other pursuits. I watched some movies (Old Boy, Frozen, The Lego Movie, among others). I re-read my fave book (Gone With The Wind) I played Skyrim. Lots and lots of Skyrim. It’s amazing how therapeutic games are. I can stop being me for a few hours and traverse a wild, untamed land aided by my wit, skills and my trusty follower (who may or may not die in a blaze of glory, but I digress).

I haven’t been totally sitting on my laurels regarding my writing, however. Probably right around the time of my last post, I submitted Renegade to an agent. I haven’t heard anything back from her thus far (she says it takes at least six weeks for a response), so I tried my hand at working on its sequel. But wouldn’t you know it, all the changes I made to its predecessor rendered over 80% of its existing content null. Frustrated as I was with my writing at the time, I didn’t think I had it in me to more or less redo its entire plot, so I shelved it for the time being. Then I turned to Lifeline, and while I fared better with the revisions I made, I wasn’t feeling it any more than I was Exile. So it, too, was shelved. Now, I’m the sort of person who feels a day without writing something is a day wasted. This led me to trying my hand at one shots, maybe craft some of Simon’s earlier exploits, or a flashback for Gabriel. Nothing. I went back and re-read some of my older writing in the hopes that, hey, maybe something would snag my attention. And lo, one did.

Back when I first wrote my Voltron fanfic (I say this loud and proud), I wrote a series of little, romantic spin-offs that were as sugary sweet as they were tragic. The two characters, my own Azura and Voltron’s Sven, became something of a guilty pleasure for me, as well as my go-to couple when I had the urge to write sappy romance. While the piece I wrote wasn’t great, they provided the outlet I needed to get my writing back on track. I was content to go on writing one shots where I could let all my romantic impulses go wild. But there I was at work one day, when inspiration struck: I was going to write a completely new, completely original story about them. Not as they were in their original forms, obviously, but alternate versions. Best of all, I could work on this idea for July’s Camp NaNoWriMo. The subject matter for the idea, which pits my two lovers against the backdrop of World War II, also lets me indulge another passion of mine: research. Double bonus because it’s for history.

The excitement I have for this project is like a tonic, and also a reminder that sometimes all I need to get the juices flowing again is a new idea. That energy sustained me through Lifeline all throughout its creation. I have no doubt it’ll do the same for Mermaid’s Courage.

First draft in the books

This past week’s burst of inspiration and creativity, while shunning things like sleep, has yielded results. It is with great pride that I announce I have finished Lifeline version 1. I imagine there will be multiple versions for it in the future. There always are. But the real excitement here is that it’s the first entirely new idea I’ve completed in years. Before this, I was alternating between Renegade, its sequels and The Shadow Conflict and its follow up. It’s a good feeling.

Lifeline ended up coming in at over 90K words. Granted, the majority of it will be removed/altered (it began life as my NaNo 2013 project), and I’ve already decided to drop one of the sub-plots. While I like the idea, I thought it was starting to cross over into a universe on par with that in Supernatural or Sandman. The heart of the story dealt with Gabriel’s inner turmoil. Introducing a society of the dead or something similar would have taken that away.

The general rule of thumb encourages some distance between a writer and a finished draft to ensure an objective approach. My eagerness would have me rewind to chapter one to begin revisions now, but I think a well-deserved break is in order. Getting my sleep schedule back on track sounds like a great idea.