Self promotion time!

Hello, everyone! Some of you might be familiar with my 2013 NaNoWriMo project, LIFELINE. Most of it probably consisted of frustration, joy, and glee because of my character’s chosen face and body model.

chris noth 2

Cue the smolder.

Well, I revised the content and have released it as PANDEMONIA on Channillo Right now, I have plans to release chapters on a monthly basis. This could change depending on its popularity. All proceeds are being donated to Grief Haven, which offers services and support to those who have lost a child. Also, special thanks to Joshua Jadon for the awesome cover. Check it out! Link below the image! Hope you enjoy it!

2016-09-09

Pandemonia

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Sample Chapter Sunday: Fallen Star

As I am notorious for letting this blog fall off my radar (a lot- I am forgetful at worst, scatterbrained at best), I thought to start a weekly thing. Give myself something to stick to schedule-wise, and possibly provide readers with some stories. So welcome to Sample Chapter Sundays, friends!

BwdTPLv

Today’s sample chapter comes from my incomplete YA fantasy titled FALLEN STAR. It follows the adventures of siblings Lucas and Jewel, who are tasked with bringing Star to the Celestial Knights to protect her from the machinations of her brother, Lord Sirius. I had plans to tweak it a bit to make it MG instead, but I haven’t gotten around to it just yet. In the meantime, allow me to present the first chapter for your reading pleasure. Hope everyone enjoys!

lucas star jewel

Star and Lucas in the back, with Jewel in the foreground. Art by my sister.

FALLEN STAR: Chapter One

“Jewel! Don’t go ahead so fast!”

Jewel waited until she crested the snow bank before turning and beckoning her father. Gradually he appeared, a heavy pack slung over his shoulders. He gripped the tightly wound tent against his side, both ends drooping so low they nearly touched the ground. His other hand held a medium sized electric generator. Upon reaching her side, he dropped his burden with an audible sigh, then placed his hands on the small of his back and stretched.

“Hurry, Daddy,” Jewel insisted, taking hold of his sleeve and tugging it. “We won’t be able to get a good spot!”

“Yes, yes, I know,” he said, smiling indulgently. “But we must wait. Can’t watch the meteor shower without my telescope, can we?”

“Why didn’t you let me carry it? I can set it up and everything!” Jewel reminded him, scowling.

“Because it’s twice your size and weight,” her father reminded her, and she pursed her lips. He chucked her on the chin. “Don’t worry, you can help set it up. I’m sure Lucas won’t mind.”

Mention of her older brother brought a smile to Jewel’s face. Just then she heard the crunching of boots on the snow and looked past her father. A hooded figure appeared behind them, his steps slower. Tall but skinny for a seventeen year old, Lucas looked like he was about to fall over because of the telescope. Jewel raced down the snow bank to Lucas’ side, reaching out to take hold of the folded stand clutched under his arm.

“Jewel, don’t do that,” Lucas admonished, his voice muffled from the scarf wrapped around his lower face.

“I wasn’t going to break it,” she informed him tartly before taking it off his hands. He released it with a sigh. Falling into step beside him, careful not to let the legs drag in the snow, she asked, “Will the meteors hurt anyone when they fall?”

“No. They’ll burn up in the atmosphere way before they reach the surface. It’s actually what we’ll be seeing.”

“Oh,” Jewel said, relieved. She stared at the snow, thinking how it sparkled like diamonds in the sunlight. “What time will it happen?”

“Late tonight,” Lucas replied after a moment. “Hmm, I think we’ll see the Northern Lights, too.”

“Really?” Jewel cried excitedly.

“Yep,” he confirmed, looking down on her and smiling. All she could see were his cheeks rising to make his eyes appear smaller. “That’s why there’s so many people here.  See?” Lucas gestured around them. Jewel followed his motion, seeing that a crowd had begun gathering. Many had already set up camp, and stood clustered together talking.

“Lucas, Jewel! Over here!” called their father. He stood just beyond the snow bank, the pack once again resting on his shoulders and tent tucked beneath his hand. “I found an excellent site.”

Lucas surged forward, his longer legs giving him an unfair advantage over Jewel as she struggled to keep up. After a moment he paused and turned, offering his gloved hand. She took it, laughing as he half dragged, half carried her away.

***

Once they had erected the tent and the siblings arranged the telescope outside, their father went to visit neighboring camps. As for Jewel, she looked forward to the time she’d spend with her big brother. But Lucas hooked up the radio, opened a book and began doing homework. She remembered he was studying to take the entrance exams into a top astronomy school, so, a bit crestfallen, sat just outside the tent to stare at the sky.

Dozens upon dozens of stars streaked across it, and for a time Jewel amused herself with trying to count them. She had reached forty when the tent flaps shifted. Lucas plopped down onto the snow beside her, his head hung low. Strands of his tousled, light brown hair fell over his brow.

“I didn’t make too much noise,” she protested, thinking that maybe her counting out loud had disturbed him.

“What?” Lucas said, somewhat surprised. The way he looked at her, it seemed he had forgotten she was sitting there. “No, it’s not your fault,” he sighed, reaching to push up his glasses further onto his nose. Jewel prodded him in the arm with her finger. When he didn’t react, she did it three more times.

“Hey, stop that,” he groused, attempting to mimic their father’s sternest glare.  Jewel ignored it. She jabbed him in the side, once, then, at seeing a smile winning its way on his face, began tickling him with reckless abandon. Lucas latched onto her, his exclamation of, ‘That’s it!’ a half growl, half hiss. He overpowered her, leaving Jewel laughing and breathless in his arms.

They sat in silence for some time, Jewel happy that she had made him smile. She gazed up at the stars, thoughts of their mother, gone seven years now, abruptly entering her mind. Jewel’s memories of her were fairly dim, but Lucas remembered her so vividly Jewel sometimes believed she existed in him. Aside from that, her only link to their mother was the necklace she wore. Lucas had one just like it, and more than once Jewel had seen him toy with it when he was worried. At feeling his arm shift, she rolled over onto her back, and, sure enough, his hand had strayed to the necklace.

“Why aren’t you studying?” she asked.

Lucas’ chest heaved against her as he exhaled. “Father has such high hopes for me getting into this school,” he murmured. “I’m afraid I’ll disappoint him.”

“Why? You’re as smart as he is when it comes to stars.”

“I know,” Lucas replied, though he didn’t sound convinced. He bowed his head. “But I don’t think he looks at them the way I do.”

“Huh? What do you mean?”

Lucas’ hand stroked the long crystal on his necklace, then coiled around it. “Mom used to tell me stories about stars when I was young. She made it sound like she believed every word. I wanted to learn astronomy in the hope that I’d find out if they were true.”

“I remember those stories,” Jewel said. “You told them to me all the time when I was little. I really liked the one about the star visiting Earth and finding a new family.”

A wisp of a smile appeared on Lucas’ face, but it quickly faded. His hand fell away from his throat, coming to a rest on his knee. “I want to tell Dad about how I feel, but he’d probably think I was being silly.”

“Nuh-uh,” Jewel said, shaking her head. “He likes stars, too.” She brightened. “Maybe he believes and can’t tell anyone cause he’s a grown up.”

Lucas gave her a wan smile and ruffled her hair. She giggled, swatting his hand away. “I doubt that. Anyway, thanks for trying to cheer me up. But,” he sighed, his eyes drifting skyward. “Mom’s stories were just that. As much as I like to believe them, they’re not real. Stars are just massive bodies of energy millions of miles away. Nothing romantic about them at all…”

Jewel watched him, unsure of why he said that. She didn’t remember ever seeing him look so…so sad before.

His brow furrowed. “What the…?” he murmured. He shot to his feet, sending Jewel sprawling in the snow. Pushing herself to her elbows, she glanced over her shoulder. Lucas stood totally still, his eyes narrowed as he stared ahead.

“Lucas? What’s wrong?”

“I just saw something streaking toward the ground,” he answered after a long pause.

“The meteors?” she asked. Their father would be disappointed if he missed them.

“No. It’s too soon,” Lucas told her. Turning and ducking into the tent, he soon returned with a pair of binoculars. He peered through them, his expression turning grim. “Kinda hard to tell what it was from here,” he muttered. He lowered the binoculars swiftly and glanced down at his sister. “I’m going to check it out.”

“Not without me!” Jewel exclaimed, following him into the tent. She grabbed her goggles and scarf from the suspended net to her right. After donning them, she took her gloves off the table set before the generator.

So busy gathering his own things, he did not realize her intentions until she stood ready. “Jewel, you can’t go,” Lucas said, doing his best to sound firm.

“Daddy wouldn’t want you to leave me here alone,” she countered. He looked as if he wanted to protest, but after a moment he sighed in resignation.

“Get the flashlights.”

Jewel hurried to the toolbox. After taking the larger one, she grabbed the maglite for herself. She turned in time to watch Lucas bring the telescope inside. She handed him the larger light, then shadowed him as he left the tent. He zipped the entrance shut, checked to make sure the supports were secure before nodding to her. “Let’s go.”

***

Darkness had settled around them, broken only by the narrow cone generated from Lucas’ light. He made certain to walk slowly, not about to challenge whatever dangers lurked beyond. This he had to remind Jewel of, for more than once she had tried to venture ahead. Her enthusiasm was typical Jewel, but Lucas, feeling the weight of responsibility upon his shoulders, did not want to think of something terrible happening to her. If only she’d waited at the tent!

But, if she had, she would have followed him anyway. Better to have her on hand than wandering somewhere alone.

Seeing that his sister had finally decided to heed his warnings, Lucas focused on what the object could have been. Speculations ran rampant in his mind- a felled satellite? Debris from a piece of spacecraft? He searched his memory for recent happenings that could lend credence to his ideas, but he drew a blank. He just hoped whatever it was, it didn’t bring trouble with it.

“Lucas, look there!” Jewel cried, halting in her tracks. She thrust her arm forward. Lucas lifted the flashlight higher, seeing first the chunks of snow, then the hole. Clamping a hand on her shoulder to prevent her from tumbling headfirst into the crater, Lucas had her switch her light on to better illuminate it.

“Careful, now,” he advised.

She nodded, and together they made their way toward the edge.

Standing over it now, Lucas could see the heat of the impact managed to penetrate the ice, revealing the scarred earth below. He trained his light along the corner closest him, studying the ground intently when Jewel gave an astonished cry. Fearing she might have seen a wild animal, Lucas drew her closer as he turned on his heel. The light arced wildly in the air.

“Look in the hole!” Jewel urged. “There’s someone in it!”

“No, there isn’t,” he said as he glanced around. “You’re letting your imagination get away with you.”

“Am not!” Jewel snapped. Then, taking firm hold of the hand that held the flashlight, she forced it down. Lucas nearly lost his balance due to how ruthless her movement was. But sure enough, his light passed over a figure almost completely hidden by long, dark hair. He stared, dumbfounded, before realizing that the person was naked.

“Hold this,” he said, thrusting his flashlight at Jewel. Once his hands were free, he unzipped his heavy coat, then dropped down. Twin lights followed him as he knelt and wrapped the body- an adolescent girl’s, he noted with sudden embarrassment- in his coat. Gathering her slight frame in his arms, Lucas arranged her so that her head lay against his shoulder. Strands of her hair hid her face from view, making it difficult to identify her.

“Is it an alien?” Jewel called excitedly.

Typical for her to latch onto the fantastical. But Lucas could hardly fault her for that, not when he himself secretly believed stars were like people. “I don’t think so,” he replied, rising to his feet. The woman weighed no more than Jewel did, despite the fact she was twice her size. As soon as he climbed out, she was beside him, her curiosity having gotten the best of her.

“She’s pretty,” his sister acknowledged. She leaned closer, her eyes widening. “I think she’s waking up!”

Lucas quickly looked down, his eyes meeting hers the moment they opened. His breath stilled at how time seemed to slow, then eventually stop under the power of her gaze.

The girl studied him, her brow furrowing in confusion. No, not confusion, Lucas realized. She was concentrating.  But on what?

…gel…

Lucas blinked and looked down. “Did you say something?”

“No,” Jewel said, staring at him quizzically.

The girl weakly reached for Lucas’ collar. Her bare fingertips brushed the spot of his neck that wasn’t concealed by the scarf, and his necklace. A spark seemed to come alive between them, though he wasn’t sure. Her fingers were ice cold.

…Ri…gel…?

Lucas gaped at her, unbelieving what was happening. However, before he could officially declare that she was telepathic, she fell slack in his arms.

“What’d you do?” Jewel asked worriedly.

“Nothing,” he answered, hearing the quiver in his voice. He paused to gather his thoughts, still unable to comprehend what happened. “But I think she tried speaking to me telepathically.”

“Really?” Jewel asked. When Lucas nodded, she spared the unconscious girl a fascinated glance. “Wow.”

“Come on, we need to get back to the tent,” Lucas stated before walking away. Jewel trailed after him, dutifully lighting the way back. It was a good thing she did, for much of Lucas’ attention was fixed on the girl.

Just who was she?

***

They had been walking for some time when Jewel stopped. She squinted ahead, unsure of what she saw. Something, or someone, had moved just beyond the light surrounding them.

Lucas went past, causing her to reach for his sleeve. “We have to keep moving,” he reminded her, pulling away. Warily, she started walking again. Their trek took them past a sparse collection of trees. Jewel glanced around, relieved that the trunks were much too thin for a person to hide behind.

Until she saw someone peer from around a tree.

She yelped and dropped back, her hand going to Lucas’ sleeve once again. “There’s someone hiding over there,” she whispered.

“Where?” Lucas asked, then looked over. “The trees?” Jewel nodded furiously. Dropping to a knee, he gently laid the girl down. After zipping the jacket up, he then touched her throat and nodded to himself. Jewel couldn’t help but notice the way his hand lingered there before he rose to his full height. “Keep the light on me,” he instructed as he walked away. She watched, tense, when he came upon the tree she’d seen the person hiding behind.

After a moment he rounded it. He spread his arms to either side. “There’s nothing here.”

“Look again,” Jewel insisted.

“I don’t really think there’s-” He paused, his head jerking to the right. Jewel went to ask what he heard when a figure appeared behind Lucas and grabbed him.

“Lucas!” Jewel shrieked, taking a step forward.

Lucas’ shout for her to stay back was cut off when his captor clamped a hand over his mouth. Five others manifested seemingly from mid-air, three taking positions near Lucas while the other two advanced for Jewel. Their movements were jerky, like robots with stiff joints. Each time they took a step, the snow melted around their feet. Jewel’s attention was momentarily drawn to this when she realized they were practically on top of her. Now that they were so close, she could see their faces. Oval-shaped with wide, round eyes and sharply angled brows, both leered at her with disturbing grins. They wore dark purple, form-fitting armor, their surfaces so shiny she could see her distorted reflection on their chests. The first one reached for her.

Suddenly a bright, white column shot down from the sky, spreading bands of light overhead. Distracted by this, the one holding Lucas eased his grip just enough to allow him to escape. He pulled free, shoved the nearest one aside before rushing for Jewel. She called his name as he dropped to his knees and swept her up in a tight hug.

“Are you all right?” he asked breathlessly. When she nodded, he positioned himself in front of both she and the unconscious girl. Peering over his shoulder, Jewel watched what happened next.

A large, armored figure emerged from the light, what looked to be a spear in his hand. Four of their attackers reacted with shrill cries and advanced, only to be sent sprawling by a single, mighty swing. The lone one emitted what sounded like an aggravated hiss before flinging its arms down. A pair of glowing, sword-like weapons instantly replaced its hands, and it spun round. Jewel cried out. Lucas, however, jumped to his feet. He ducked and jammed his shoulder against the other’s chest. It was sufficient enough to knock it back; as it did, arms flailing, a spear pierced its chest. White energy flared in brilliant flashes before the body faded.

“Toss me the halberd!” the man shouted, his deep voice like thunder.

Lucas quickly did so. He lobbed the weapon with all his strength- so much in fact he stumbled forward the instant he released it. The man caught it effortlessly, set it in his hand and aimed the end at the closest of the remaining enemies.

There was a tense moment before they pounced. Jewel didn’t get the chance to gasp in shock; the man stabbed each one in the chest well before they reached him. The final one faded in a blast of white light, leaving the man standing alone. He glanced around once, then, shouldering his halberd, turned on his heel and approached them. Jewel stared at him in awe. He was easily the tallest man she’d ever seen. When he passed into the ring of light from her felled maglite, his armor gleamed bright copper. It reminded her of a new penny.

“Has harm befallen the new star?” he demanded.

“You mean her?” Jewel said, looking down at the girl. “Do you know who she is?”

“Yes,” he answered briskly. He dropped to a knee before her, closing his hands over her shoulders. “I ask for silence now,” he requested, though it sounded more like an order due to his tone. Jewel had heard it often enough from their father when he felt she was being too noisy. She glanced at Lucas, but her brother’s attention was solely fixed on the girl. He swallowed uneasily, as if something bothered him. Jewel could not place what it could be.

The man cupped the girl’s face, turning it this way and that. He mumbled to himself, seemingly upset over something when the girl’s hand moved. He reached for the pouch attached to his belt and removed what looked like a crystal fragment. Jewel gasped. It looked a lot like her necklace!

Holding it close to the girl’s face, he waited. A moment passed before she leaned forward. The crystal came into contact with her forehead, flashed, and faded.

“She is safe,” he said, relieved. Leaning back, he removed his helmet and looked over at the two. He had straight copper hair pinned back in a ponytail at the nape of his neck, like the man in the Revolutionary War picture at school. His eyes were bright white, deep set in a stern face with a strong, square jaw. When he smiled, it softened his entire face. “I thank you for looking after her, and for your aid in battle.”

“Were those men after her?” Lucas asked, sounding angry.

“Indeed they were,” the other sighed. He gestured; the helmet in hand trembled, then looked to melt into his forearm. The halberd also disappeared the same way. Afterward, he gathered the girl in his arms and stood, towering over the siblings. “We must go. Sirius’ minions will return, and most likely in bigger numbers.”

“Sirius?” Jewel echoed in surprise.  “But who’s-”

“There is no time to explain now, little one,” the man interrupted. “If you can provide us with sanctuary, we will be on our way.”

Lucas gestured for Jewel to start walking. “Come with us to our tent. It’s not far from here.”

The armored man nodded. “Then I shall follow you.”

More on my NaNo project

My project for this year, Shadowfall, is the direct sequel to my YA fantasy, The Shadow Conflict. This is the bare bones, off-the-seat-of-my-pants short synopsis:

The ambitions of Shadow tamer Sable have been put to rest, but the war is not over. The mad desires of her ancestor live on within her son’s very powers, resulting in Lord Jett’s glorious return. With Harmony, the heiress of Light, as his prisoner, he sets out to make the Council of Elements and all of Caeher his subordinates. To do so, he plots to infect the sources of all elemental power with darkness, thus tipping the balance in his favor. Only Braeden, Hadrian’s twin brother and fellow Shadow tamer, has the power to stop him, but first he must come to terms with his past if he’s to fight for his future. A future he still longs to spend with Harmony at his side.

I face a slight challenge with this despite it taking place in a world I am very familiar with. Until recently, the events from the sequel have only ever been in my head. There’s no early draft to reference. All I have to go on is events described in The Shadow Conflict. Shadowfall‘s outline is complete, if a bit scattered. I can see my thoughts at work as I rearrange events to suit the story’s flow. Because this is a story told through multiple POVs, I expect to do a lot of sorting. That’s the norm for this type of story, so I don’t feel too badly about a little disorganization.

Speaking of disorganization, I’m also reminding myself that this will be nowhere near the polished piece The Shadow Conflict is. It took me years to get that story to where it is now. Shadowfall is going to be messy, it’s going to be ugly, and it’s going to make me cringe. First drafts aren’t meant to be pretty (and if you say yours is, you’re lying). They’re meant to be something you hammer away at until you discover the real story beneath the mess of inconsistencies, dead end subplots and typos.

Still stumped on an idea? Lack an outline? Don’t know your MC’s name yet? Self-doubt threatening to kill your joy? Don’t fret, fellow WriMos! This is the best time to flex your creative muscles and go hog wild with whatever feels right. It’s all about doing something you love, and having fun with it even when it does its best to try your patience. So CHAAAAAAARGE!

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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.

 

Attack on Writing

About the best physical representation of obstacles a writer faces.

About the best physical representation of obstacles a writer faces.

Writing success for me tends to come either in waves of glorious inspiration, or spurts of occasional brilliance peppered by an otherwise lackluster attempt. I’ve been a victim of the latter these past few days, which is nothing but frustrating. I’ve got a solid outline to go from, I know what has to happen to get me to the end. But sometimes the words don’t come, and what words do show up to the party are just phoning it in. Some days, I just didn’t bother writing. I knew whatever I came up with wouldn’t satisfy me anyway. Other times, I stumbled my way through scenes, all in the desperate hope that eventually I’d overcome the difficulties. Success came to me last night, so I feel confident with my future endeavors.

Before NaNoWriMo, I used to fret over things like this. I mean, I’d go over every little detail. Finding the root of the problem became more relevant to me than pushing forward. This typically stalled the story, and sometimes even my desire to continue working on it. I’ve abandoned entire projects in favor of rewrites because I felt the underlying problem spelled doom. At times this turned out to be true- switching up main characters, for example, provided me better means to telling the story- but mostly, it was because of my personal desire to make everything awesome the first time around. Back in high school, I never wrote a rough draft. It was always the final draft. I didn’t accept the concept of a first draft until writing became less a hobby and more a career, or even side career. While I was annoyed with my recent problems, it didn’t sound the death knell. It’s a first draft. This is the time to make all the mistakes, to throw words at the screen no matter how well or poorly they stick together. The story must always come first. Second, third, fourth drafts, etc. will be the time to fatten the story up. Make those bland scenes stand out like the rest of the narrative. I’m content with that.

Another acceptable error in first drafts is errors resulting from little to no research. Case in point: one of my characters confided in another that he can count cards, and this skill helped him win money to fund his honeymoon. Now, for the sake of finishing the scene, I said he did it by playing poker. I brought it up during a casual conversation with my boyfriend, who proceeded to look at me and say, ‘Poker is a game of chance. You don’t count cards in it.’ He proved this further when we sat down to watch 21. I made a mental note to go back into the scene to make the necessary change to blackjack. Yet another reason why I love research. It gives you knowledge you may not have had in the beginning. I mean, who doesn’t love learning?

RESEARCH, DEAN

RESEARCH, DEAN

Well, Dean Winchester may not like combing through books like Sam, but you get my drift.

Banging your head against the wall over your current project? Don’t panic if scenes are clumsy or characters are veering into OOC territory. The first draft is all about the story. Revisions (and rejections, for that matter) are a natural part of a manuscript’s life. I can guarantee your favorite book by your favorite author has underwent countless ones, in both avenues. Keep writing, everyone!

 

Passion: The Heart of it All

Everyone in my house is an artist: I write, my younger sister draws, and my boyfriend composes music. We’re all talented in our chosen fields, but we can also be described as skilled in these areas as well. But skill alone won’t improve on an innate ability. There’s one other factor here, one that could be what makes or breaks you. That’s passion.

We’re all passionate about something: food, music, clothes, TV shows, books, pets, families, sports, scrapbooking, whatever. Our passion for these things is brought on by feelings of love. Generally, the more positive we are about something, the more we love it. It can be heard by how we talk about things, or shown through our actions (an avid I Love Lucy fan collecting anything and everything Lucille Ball, for example). These things make us happy.

It’s no different for a writer. I know many of my followers are either writers themselves, know writers, or are just passionate about the written word. Those of us who are writers can (and have) talked friends’ ears off about projects. Everyone who knows a writer has been that friend. Everyone passionate about the written word would take over any conversation the former two started. Again, passion is the driving force.

But what happens when you’ve got an idea, and despite your best efforts, it fails to engage others? Common sense has the writer take it back to the drawing board for revisions. Yet even this version fails. What’s wrong?, you may ask yourself. Is my main character not sympathetic enough? Is my plot not interesting? Did I miss something in my research?

Is my friend finally sick of hearing me yammer on about this idea?

The solution to this problem isn’t always in plain sight. When a writer digs his/her heels in, it’s until the end. This tunnel vision often blinds us to a simple truth: maybe, just maybe, somewhere along the way, you lost your passion for the idea.

No way!, you say. I didn’t spend hours researching, rewriting and re-reading something I didn’t enjoy!

Except you did. And it’s doubly frustrating, because not only did you waste all that time and energy on something that, ultimately, you fell out of love with, but it could have been used for another idea.

This isn’t an easy thing to swallow for most creative types. We are, as a whole, an emotionally volatile lot given to extremes. Someone loves what you do, you shout your joy to the heavens. Someone hates what you do, you howl your rage. And then you cry in a corner. Crying will almost always be involved.

Don’t be discouraged. It happens to the best of us. It took me a long time to realize that sometimes, it’s just better to let ideas go and move on. As a writer, you can (and have) created ideas with good intentions, but executed them poorly. It doesn’t mean you’re not talented at writing, or your skill level has dropped because you took time off from the craft. If you are truly passionate about what you do, you can count on it to get you through the toughest situations. The key here is take what you’ve learned of the experience and put it to good use for the future. We’re all waiting to read your book!

 

 

 

 

My course is set

First off, I’m very glad my previous post has been such a big help to fellow writers. It’s very important we be on the lookout for one another!

My recent hiatus allowed me to go back and examine old writings, even as I contemplated what I wanted to do about new or current projects. I’ve always been one of those writers with a full plate. Each project usually dealt with a different genre or sub-genre; if I grew distracted, frustrated or downright bored with one, there was always another to reinvigorate the muse. The only problem with this approach was ideas sometimes blended, and not in a good way. For example: trying to focus on a budding, romantic relationship between two characters from one story while wanting to describe an action-oriented character taking names didn’t make for much success on either project. As the hiatus reached its conclusion, I was left with one very important question: what next?

I still had Lifeline, my NaNoWriMo winner. I also wanted to improve Renegade‘s content, and I still needed to smooth over Exile, plus finish Savior, the winner for my 2012 NaNo. Let’s not forget the second book to my YA, The Shadow Conflict. Taken together, I had enough projects to keep me busy for months, perhaps even years, to come. Unfortunately, given my tendency to yo-yo between ideas (and ultimately despair over every little detail) I couldn’t see the finish line with any of them. I just loved all the characters from these stories. I felt they deserved an opportunity to be shared. But it was also love that blinded me from the truth. I had to make a choice, and stick with it. The time for spreading myself thin was past.

To this, I have since decided to shelve all existing projects in favor of Lifeline. I’ve been working on it non-stop since November, and I don’t see this train stopping anytime soon- especially since I have plans for it. It’s not enough to get a workable draft out, set it aside and work on something else until I’m ready to go back to it. I became a manuscript mother in November, and now I must raise my story so it will be the best it can be. These characters not only reflect how I’ve grown as a writer, but how I’ve grown as a person. It’s become a story that’s as much a journey of self-discovery for me as it is for them. I owe it to the story to stick with it, for better or worse. And if that means I live, eat and sleep Gabriel and Company for all of 2014, I think I can handle that.

After giving the manuscript a surface edit, I started tackling the outline for the third act of the book. I’m amazed by how readily the ideas are coming together. I’m also reminded by how truly screwed up Gabriel is. It only makes me love him all the more. I hope others who read his tale feel the same way.

New look, same content

Back when I first created this blog, it was meant to be a one-stop source for all things pertaining to Renegade. As my posts started to delve more into the writing craft itself versus book-specific content, it became apparent that changes needed to happen. I present my revitalized blog, The Writer’s Parlor. It better reflects what this blog is really about.

I have spent the past week or so giving Lifeline an editorial facelift. It’s minor maintenance at this stage: continuity error fixes, replacing, deleting and/or adding sentences as I see fit. I’ve also reduced the repetitive motions/expressions born from the NaNo fervor. Let’s face it: nobody constantly nods/sighs every time they speak. Those have been reserved for more specific scenarios. These kinds of errors are fine in a first draft. They should be gone or reworked by the time you’re ready to self-publish or submit for publication.

Which brings me to some of the resources I have come across in the past month or so. Twitter has been the go-to when it comes to tips, do’s and don’ts from published authors, both indie and traditional. I strongly urge you all to check out Rayne Hall’s Dark Fantasy Fiction page. Aside from offering books focusing on improving the craft (writing fight scenes, writing about magic, etc), she has a very active Twitter page. If you’re looking for someone to talk to in the field, she’s a great place to start. I also recommend visiting Helping Writers Become Authors. It’s run by author K.M. Weiland. She offers writing advice similar to Rayne Hall, and has a few books available for purchase. Signing up for the free e-newsletter will also net subscribers a free copy of Crafting Unforgettable Characters. I read through it, and it’s a great resource for those of us with troublesome characters. It’s a very interactive community as well. Good place to network, make friends, whatever. Just don’t bombard them with requests for reviews of your work. Editors are paid to do that.

Getting back to Lifeline: I still have plans to start querying potential agents when it’s done. I’m at the last part of the second act, which will open up the third and final act very nicely. In the meantime, I’ve been thinking about what The Snowflake Method has taught me about this story. I’ve already got a hook and working synopsis that can be improved upon when it’s time to send queries. I can’t begin to tell you how eager I am to get this out there. Even if it gets rejected by dozens of agents, I’ll keep trying. The market seems ripe for mystery/thrillers. I hope to be counted among those already available.

 

 

To query or not to query, that is the question

Back when I decided to look into self-publishing, it wasn’t just about maintaining complete control over what I produced. It was to avoid that one, crucial step in obtaining representation in the wild world of publishing.

I hated query letters. Hated them with a passion. One of the biggest things that held me back wasn’t the technical aspect of a query letter. I’ve written a few of them over the years. It was selling myself to the agent. As writers, we expose our very souls each and every time we offer up our writing to the public. To some, this is on par with being forced onstage without any clothes on. To others, it’s a chance to browbeat show others what our story is made of. It’s a precarious balancing act, one that comes with lots and lots of closed doors before one opens. This is the bottom line for publishing. Some just get tired of waiting, or maybe he/she begins to believe hey, maybe his/her skill isn’t worth banking.

My reasons could be distilled to a distinct lack of pride in what I produced. How could I be expected to sell something that a few people enjoyed but couldn’t tell me why? There was also a time when even I had trouble answering that question. Maybe that’s why I clung on to my fanfiction writing; there, I was receiving praise, and praise is like ambrosia to the gods for a writer. All creative types feed off recognition. I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with actor Ty Olsson at a paranormal convention in September of 2013. He said that to him, there wasn’t anything greater than hearing people cheer after a play, or meeting fans at cons in order to get that ambrosia in his veins. It’s also somewhat addictive. Then again, who doesn’t enjoy knowing something they created/did touched another person? Isn’t that why we create? To develop a connection with others?

Why am I talking about querying agents now, when I have set myself up as (I think, anyway) an indie publisher? I admit, I haven’t done much in the way of promoting Renegade. I could cite recent life-changing events, my focus turning to other things, my belief that the story isn’t as good as it can be, or lack of know-how, not when I have self-publishing resources at my fingertips. The reason here is I don’t believe I’ve given up on wanting to be traditionally published. Not entirely, anyway. I’m not the same person who excitedly carted off an 800 page plus story to DAW Publishing Group back in 2003, or the one who fired off a few queries for Renegade over the years. I’m not afraid of query letters anymore. I have way more faith in my talent and skill level than ever. I’ve adopted the belief that whether or not I make it in traditional or indie publishing, it’s worth trying. And I do so enjoy a challenge.

This doesn’t mean I am shelving any future plans for Renegade. I am taking a step back from improving on its content (it was driving me batty, and one of the reasons for my hiatus), but it is still available online for the interested. If sci fi isn’t your thing, check out my Scribd.com page. I have recently added a tragic romance piece entitled ‘To Be With You’ to my collection. The synopsis is as follows:

3,000 years ago, Pharaoh Menmaatre lost his beloved wife, Aurelia. Unable to cope with her loss, he makes a bargain with Osiris to be reunited with her in another life. Now reborn as Dante Taylor, the heartsick pharaoh’s search continues. Just as Dante feels he will never find peace, Celia Rourke walks into his life. But now he must decide if he wants Celia for herself, or because she was Aurelia in her past life.

Celia has been haunted by dreams of a man from a time and place not her own. The feelings her dreams inspired find life in Dante. Even as she is drawn to him by some inexplicable force, she questions if her feelings for him are her own or a product of those dreams.

As always, thanks for stopping by! Happy writing!

Fanfiction: Writing’s Dark Horse?

My writing hiatus has inspired me to take a trip back in time. The subject of this scrutiny is not reserved for incomplete original ideas. It’s aimed right at something that has given me as much love as grief over the years. What I speak of is, friends, fanfiction.

Ah, fanfiction. I admit, I’ve got a love/hate relationship with it. I should love it more, considering it was a Final Fantasy 7 fic that helped cure me of my fear of sharing writings with strangers. It’s easy to forget the little things. As the years went on, and more of my fanfiction was gaining in popularity, I was beset by the sense that I think afflicts all creative types. I didn’t want to be known only for fics. I wanted to put all that passion and love for a fic subject into an original idea. This led me to semi-retire from fic writing (I say semi because I was eventually pulled back in thanks to Supernatural) so I could focus on my own stuff. It worked, too. I was able to see why original stories lacked passion versus their fan counterparts. I injected new life into all the characters, from Renegade to The Shadow Conflict to Lifeline and beyond. Fanfiction has helped me in so many ways, I feel rather silly for shunning it like I did. It has always been an exercise for me, something to keep my skills sharp. But at the same time, it made me feel like I wasn’t a ‘real’ writer. It’s a ridiculous assumption, of course. When you stop and think about it, all those assignments you did in English class or history was just your personal spin on events. Fanfiction embraces this core belief and lets writers run amok in established universes. So there is that.

Of course I know not everyone loves this idea. Best selling authors such as Terry Goodkind and Anne McCaffrey forbid their books from being given the fanfiction treatment. That’s their right. I’m the last person to call judgment on what a creator does with their creation. I’m also fairly certain some indie writers scorn the idea as well. Others, such as S.E.Hinton, embrace it. Word is she’s actually written some Supernatural pieces- under an assumed name, of course- but she participates in the fandom. I think that’s awesome.

My sister has often cited how I’d feel if someone were to take Renegade’s lead character, Simon, and write him in an unrealistic setting with a fan-created character. I’ve had readers throw suggestions at me about my fics, too. My response to those scenarios can be distilled to a shrug. Fans will take something different away from every media they encounter. If someone wants to write an over-the-top fic where Simon is a mere shadow of himself, so be it. Creativity is in my blood. To strangle it in others, despite skill level, is a crime in my eyes.

Fanfiction or original, my passion is for the writing craft itself. I have written great fics. I have written not-so-great fics (looking at you, Transformers fandom). My topics run from tragic romance to comedy to angst. I’ve always prided myself on my ability to maintain characterization, and it shows in the reviews I’ve received for those stories. These same reviews helped me to understand that while I might feel my stuff is lacking in certain aspects (mostly technical), it’s still hitting the mark. People don’t engage in group discussions over how accurately punctuation is used in a story. They talk about the story, the characters, and how it made them feel. And this is what it all boils down to, isn’t it? Because it’s feelings that will make a reader recommend something to their friends, family and everyone they meet. It’s feelings that will make them hotly debate character interpretations. It’s feelings that will make them complain how something can be so popular when its subject matter is questionable.

And yes, that was a thinly veiled jab at certain popular titles. But those titles are spot on in the feelings department.

I’m going to close out this entry with links to some of my favorite fanfic pieces I’ve written. All have a special place in my heart. Maybe they’ll find a special place in yours. If fanfic is you thing, of course.

Two Worlds -Voltron- The Voltron Force has sworn to defend Planet Arus from King Zarkon. But when Pidge’s discovery of five young girls coincides with Haggar’s new robeast, they must unite to see it stopped. (This also features the protagonists from my YA fantasy, The Shadow Conflict) Written circa 2007.

Behind Blue Eyes -Final Fantasy 7/Kingdom Hearts crossover- Two years before Sephiroth’s fall into madness, he was commander of SOLDIER, dedicated to nothing but duty. All that changes when he becomes romantically involved with the head nurse, Jeanette, and gains the interest of Professor Hojo. Written circa 2003.

Behind Blue Eyes: Famous Monster  -Final Fantasy 7/Kingdom Hearts crossover- Having found happiness with one another, Sephiroth and Jeanette enjoy some time alone. It is not long before Hojo’s intentions are revealed, forcing Jeanette to flee Midgar to protect their son, Riku. Written circa 2003.

Behind Blue Eyes: Storm  -Final Fantasy 7/Kingdom Hearts crossover- Jeanette raises Riku on Destiny Islands but ensures Sephiroth’s memory remains strong in his heart. Yet tragedy strikes, and Riku makes a promise to both himself and his mother: he’d find his father, no matter what. Written circa 2003.

Behind Blue Eyes: Atonement  -Final Fantasy 7/Kingdom Hearts crossover- Sephiroth returns to take vengeance against Cloud, but is defeated again. It allows him to remember Jeanette, Riku, and the happiness that was his before madness struck. Written circa 2003.

Shadow of Fate  Final Fantasy 7/Kingdom Hearts crossover- Set during the events of Advent Children, Sephiroth and Riku leave The World That Never Was for Wutai in the hopes of soothing the hurt from Jeanette’s loss. Soon after their arrival they are caught up in Kadaj’s scheme, threatening to drive them apart. Sequel to ‘Behind Blue Eyes’ series. Written circa 2004/2005.

The Harvest -Mass Effect- A month has passed since the end of ME2. Kaidan Alenko’s surprise visit takes a mysterious turn when both he and Shepard vanish. Garrus Vakarian must track them down lest he risk losing her again. Written 2010.

Reunited -Batman: The Animated Series- Set after the events of the Batman/Mr. Freeze movie ‘Sub-Zero’, Nora Fries, newly revived after spending years in a cryogenic state, longs to see her husband again and requests that Batman locate him. Written 2011.

A Night In Purgatory -Supernatural- When a freak wavelength zaps Dean from Purgatory to a post-Apocalyptic reality, he must ally himself with some familiar faces- plus a few, unexpected ones- in order to get back to his world. There’s just one problem: everyone thinks he’s Michael, and Castiel has been tagging souls on Crowley’s behalf for years.  Set prior to season eight. Written 2013.