Forever a WIP

RE: my absence. Let me explain. No, there is too much. Lemme sum up: lost my job, went on vacation, now back to writing.

Yesterday, my boyfriend (who composes music) and I were having a discussion about our creative processes. He’s been writing music for nearly as long as I’ve written stories. During that time, he’s gone and re-recorded/remastered older tunes. My version of this is to edit the living hell out of an existing document. Kind of like making a layer cake, but instead of something yummy, half the time I felt I was covering the errors with prettier words. Anyway, I thought, ‘Hey, why not take a scene from an early version of a story and rewrite it?’ For this, I went with my much loved, yet much edited sci-fi RENEGADE. I have always liked how I introduced Simon’s character, even if the original version is pure 80s action movie camp. So here they are for your reading pleasure. Intro to Simon 2005 and Intro to Simon 2016. I am presenting the 2005 version in its original form. This is to better compare the two scenes. Let me tell you, I was damn wordy back in 2005. On with the writing!

Intro to Simon: 2005 version

Autumn reached her car, where she unlocked the back door to place her tote bag on the seat.  She closed it, readying to open the driver’s side door when she heard footsteps behind her.  Autumn glanced over her shoulder, catching sight of three people slowly making their way across the level.  There was something odd about them in spite of the casual way they were dressed.  The one in the middle looked around as if seeking something, while the other two moved in perfect unison.  After a moment Autumn relaxed.  They looked like they had lost track of their car, and were simply looking for it.  She hoped they would find it and turned away.  Just as she went to get inside the car a hand appeared over her arm, placing gentle but firm pressure on the door.  She whirled around, surprised and angry at the intrusion.

“Excuse me, but this is my car,” she said, glancing at the three who now hovered close to her.  Uncomfortably close, actually, and Autumn stepped aside to give herself room.  The man on the left followed her, blocking her way. 

“Autumn Welles,” the man in the middle stated in a crisp yet strangely accented voice.  Autumn held her car keys close to her, silently thanking her sister Samantha for talking her into buying the can of mace that hung from them.  It looked like she was going to need it very soon.

“Yes?” Autumn replied, trying not to sound as nervous as she felt.  The man on the left stepped closer to her, forcing her to retreat until she stood before the driver’s side door again. 

“You must come with us now.  Your presence is immediately required,” the middle man continued, reaching for her.  Autumn jerked out of the way, her hand tightening on the can of mace. 

“Come with you where?” she asked warily. 

“That is unimportant.  If you will just follow us-“

“I don’t think so,” Autumn replied shortly, surprised by her boldness.  The three looked at one another, as if their expressions alone conveyed what was on their minds.  Autumn knew she was trapped, and the need to say such a thing was nothing more than a stall tactic.  If she continued with the ploy, then perhaps she’d find reason to use the mace.  One spray was all it’d take to ward off the three strangers. 

“You can’t expect me to go with you without telling me where we’re going.  There’s also the fact that I don’t know who you are.  And another thing-“ Autumn’s words died in her throat then, for the man on the right leveled a strange-looking weapon in her direction.  She swallowed nervously, fear paralyzing her mind. 

“We are not asking you to come with us.  We are telling you,” the man with the weapon declared calmly.  Autumn shook her head, wanting to speak when the middle man laid a firm hand on her shoulder.  She jumped, suppressing a cry of protest before she was dragged away from the car.  Autumn tried to pull free but to no avail.  The man yanked her forward so that she was walking before him, his hand locked on her shoulder with an unyielding grip.  Her eyes darted to and fro nervously, hoping someone, anyone would see her and come to her aid.  But the parking level was empty. 

The three men led her toward the stairwell, the one holding her forcing her through the doorway as soon as it was opened.  Autumn went inside, nearly tripping when the man hauled her up the stairs.  She was literally dragged the whole way until they reached the top floor.  The man on the left pushed open the door, Autumn’s hair whipping about her face thanks to the wind that passed over her.  Upon scanning the immediate area she saw no waiting car.  In fact she saw nothing but scattered lamp posts and empty spaces. 

“Where are you taking me?” Autumn demanded.  Her captors said nothing; they merely walked across the level in the direction of the far edge.  They had cleared the center when all of a sudden the one on the right stopped, bringing an arm out to halt the others.  He glanced over at his companions, speaking in an odd, guttural language that Autumn could not understand.  It was then she saw what they must have seen materialize across the way.

A tall figure draped in black was casually leaning against a lamp post, his arms crossed over his chest and right leg propped up.  His head was angled down, the shadow of his hair shielding his face from view.  After a moment he lifted his head and slowly turned his gaze toward the men, allowing Autumn to see that he wore a pair of sunglasses. 

“I believe you’ve got something I want,” the man said, his voice also slightly accented but not as mechanical in its delivery.  Two of the men approached the black-clad one slowly, while the third remained behind to keep Autumn still.  Her fear steadily grew as she watched.  Suddenly she wished she had gone home earlier, if only to avoid this strange confrontation.

The black-clad man watched the other two with nonchalant disregard, yet when he uncurled his arm one of the men made an exclamation.  A firearm slid into the black-clad man’s hand, the light from above gleaming off the barrel.  Autumn recognized it as the same as the one that was pulled on her, but she had little time to reflect on the coincidence.  She was shoved to the ground by the one who held her, and as she scrambled to her hands and knees she saw the weapon barrel glow with an eerie yellow light.  What could only be described as a laser beam shot out, catching the man on the right in the shoulder.  As soon as the man dropped in a heap the other two advanced, leaving Autumn alone.  She was too transfixed by what she saw to think to escape.

The stranger darted away from the lamp post in a half-spin, his other hand producing a weapon.  He hoisted both guns up, firing several times.  The lasers burned through the second man, and after his body was sent spinning awkwardly he collapsed.  Autumn felt her stomach heave at seeing the blood pooling around the man, prompting her to cover her mouth to keep from retching. 

In the meantime the third man came at the stranger, an angry cry escaping his lips.  Autumn watched, amazed, as the stranger sheathed both weapons before reaching out to halt the other’s forward progress with the flat side of his palm.  The man staggered back from the hit, yet before he could muster a counter the stranger grabbed his head and slammed it against his upright knee.  When the man fell onto his back his attacker stomped on his neck with such force it severed the head from the rest of the body. 

Autumn cried out and scooted backwards, pushing herself away from the carnage in a frantic attempt to escape.  She kept going until she backed against a wall, causing her to jump to her feet.  The moment she did she found herself face to face with the stranger and screamed.  He brought a gloved hand up to cover her mouth, an expression of distaste coming to his lips.  Autumn watched him with wide eyes, her nostrils flaring as she heaved.  Her hand tightened around the can of mace in spite of the paralysis the situation cast over her mind. 

“If you scream again I will kill you.  Understand?” he said coldly.  Autumn found herself nodding, and he removed his hand from her mouth.  The instant he did she brought the can of mace up, emptying the whole thing right in his face.  She had the sudden urge to smile; this man had single-handedly killed three others only to be felled by a can of pepper spray.  Autumn was on the verge of laughing her triumph when she realized the stranger did not stagger back to wipe at his eyes.  Instead his expression turned more grim as he reached up and slowly lowered the sunglasses so they rested at the end of his nose.  Autumn pulled in a breath at the glowing intensity of his blue eyes.

“I’d appreciate it if you refrained from doing that again.  Your types have no idea how foul this smell is,” he remarked.  Some of Autumn’s fear faded, replaced with annoyance.  It suddenly didn’t matter that he displayed immunity to mace, only that he had insulted her. 

“What do you mean by that?” she demanded angrily.  The stranger dutifully ignored her as he wiped his sunglasses clean of the pepper spray using the sleeve of his coat.  After replacing them he reached for her.  Autumn jerked out of the way. 

“There’s no time for this,” he said in an annoyed tone. 

“I don’t care.  Who the hell are you anyways?” Autumn snapped, moving aside each time he attempted to grab her.  At length he took hold of her forearm, bringing her forward with such strength it caused her to gasp.

“If you don’t keep quiet and come with me, you won’t be alive long enough to learn the answers to those questions.  Now come on,” he insisted. 

***

Intr0 to Simon: 2016 version

The stretch of road featured a fair amount of traffic. Overhead, the stars were blotted out by the distant glow of the city to the north. Autumn picked out a few constellations as she walked, her thoughts drifting to the times her grandfather took her stargazing. He’d taught her how to identify Polaris, Rigel, and Sirius. She knew the best times to view Venus and Mars thanks to him. His desire to see these places was so strong her grandfather reassured her that once he passed, he would use the time to explore the universe. Autumn smiled faintly at the sky, wondering, not for the first time, if her grandfather was still traveling, and what he had seen.

The buildings to either side grew closer together as she walked. Dark, narrow passages marked the boundaries between them. As Autumn passed one, she heard footsteps. She expected to be overtaken by whoever was behind her. But the steps kept time to hers. And they were gaining.

Overcome by a sense of warning, Autumn hurried her pace. The Mexican restaurant was still a few blocks down. Autumn quickly scanned the buildings, hoping to slip into a convenience store or something. It was too dark and quiet for her to feel comfortable. But when she neared the corner, a man appeared in front of her. It was the same one she’d seen at the hotel.

Frightened now, Autumn tried to go around him. He cut off her escape.

 “Autumn Welles,” he said. His pronunciation was strange, as if English was not his primary language.

Autumn gulped. She gripped the purse strap at her shoulder. If he tried anything, she might be able to hit him and run.

“What do you want?”

The man withdrew a black object from his coat. Two more men appeared to either side of her. Autumn flinched at their proximity, but it was the strange handguns each aimed at her that stilled her movements.

“You must come with us now.”

One grabbed her shoulder. Autumn’s panicked cry was muffled when he covered her mouth. Her thoughts frayed, only to reform as the instinct to escape. Despite her efforts to twist free, the man dragged her into the alley. The rancid stench of garbage invaded her nostrils. It was such a sickening scent, she felt momentarily dizzy. Tears burned her eyes. Who were these men? What did they want with her? She hastily looked around, hoping someone, anyone would help her.

And then, almost on cue, a tall figure with long, stringy blond hair and wearing what appeared to be armor inspired by TRON: Legacy appeared at the far side of the alley. His eyes, while a striking shade of blue, were cold as he stared at them. Autumn’s belief he was associated with her kidnappers fled the minute he opened fire.

His using the same gun as her kidnappers was lost as what could only be described as a laser beam shot through the air. It struck the first man in the chest. He screamed in pain and dropped. Autumn cried out as her keeper thrust her toward the wall. She sank to the ground, trembling all over. The scent of rotting food nearly made her pass out. She pressed her hand to her nose to reduce its effects. Fear, however, kept her transfixed on the scene unfolding before her eyes.

The other two advanced. The man in black fired again, hitting one of the two in the neck. Blood spurt forth to coat the wall. Outraged, the remaining man raced toward him. The knife was a flash of silver as he threw it.

Autumn watched, speechless, as the stranger holstered his weapon before extending his hand. The knife collided with an invisible force. It spun away into the distance. The stranger finished his enemy off by shooting him in the head. When he looked down at Autumn, the gleam in his eyes freed her from her paralysis. She screamed and scrambled toward the street.

The man in black caught her by the arm and dragged her back. She struggled against him as he spun her around. His hand was like a lead weight across her mouth.

“Don’t scream again,” he said. His voice was as cold as his eyes.

Autumn found herself nodding, and he removed his hand. The instant he did, she attempted to swat him with her purse. He gestured. The purse was torn from her hands so fast the strap snapped. It landed between a pair of overflowing garbage cans.  

Heart pounding, she stared up at his face, all sharp angles and lined with faint scars. In her terror, she swore she saw another face pass across his.

Her voice shook as she did. “Who are 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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Dedication vs Denial: Are You Beating a Dead Horse?

Last night, I had an unexpected idea cross my mind: what if I was to make the male lead in my sci-fi, Renegade, a female rather than a male? And keep the human name because Simon is from a mono-gendered race, and therefore doesn’t understand what denotes a human male name from a female one? It sounded pretty brilliant- for about five seconds. Swapping Simon’s gender has no benefit to the plot. It is the literary equivalent to a publicity stunt. A cheap tactic to gain interest on a property that, perhaps, might not grab everyone who comes across it. And it shames me that this thought even crossed my mind. I have a deep love for this story and the characters that inhabit the world. A friend read the book and liked it. Two others have agreed to read it as well. I recently re-read its latest version. Barring some minor changes (some parts could benefit from more character interaction), it flowed well. I enjoyed it. It stands as a good doorway into the other two books in the trilogy.

But I’ve also been working on this story since 2005. It has seen dozens of revisions. Simon himself has changed with it. The narrative was, at times, dreadfully wooden. Uninspired. Dull. My sister likened it to reading a historical book. She hated the female lead. My antagonist was as multidimensional as your standard 80s action movie villain. Even Simon came across as sadly one dimensional. There was no heart in it, only cold, hard facts. And she was right. So I took it to the editing desk. Again, and again and again. Part of me wonders if wanting to inject such a radical change into its makeup at this stage is sounding its death knell. I don’t mean that it is destined to share the same shelf as other ideas that I couldn’t make work. Maybe I have done all I can for it. Adding or taking anything away now will only make it worse. It must be allowed to stand on its own two feet and I, like an anxious mother, must let it. This is a good example of beating a dead horse.

Here’s another example: I had a friend who once thought I was addicted to editing. I had just finished my immense epic fantasy (found here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/184758572/The-Last-Hero), but my work was far from done. What she defined as an editing addiction was just the natural progression of a story’s life. However, at the time, I thought she was right: that it WAS done, and I couldn’t let it go. So I did. I turned my focus to other things. The Last Hero languished for years. My firstborn novel receded into the background to make way for its siblings. Given the fact that I devoted three years to its creation, letting it waste away on my hard drive is a cruel fate. That’s why I made it available online.

Sometimes I think about that story. I even debated on dusting it off and taking it through a revision. Its biggest problem isn’t anything plot-related (though I can think of a few scenes that can be cut). It’s the length. It clocks in at over 200K words in length. That’s at LEAST a trilogy, if collected in one volume. Were I to cut it into multiple pieces now, I’d need to make certain each part I selected had a definitive beginning, middle and end. I’d probably spend another three years working on it. Hell, had I not stopped when I did back in 2003, I might have a fantasy trilogy on hand already. Revisions for the first book would probably be done, or close to done. I’ve learned so much about myself as a writer and what works versus what doesn’t. It could really benefit it. Alas, it is a project for another day. Perhaps I’ve resigned myself to its fate. Or I’m not willing to put all that work into an old idea when I could turn it into a new one. A fine example of not beating a dead horse if I saw one.

Letting a project go is a true test for any writer no matter the skill level. We’re not just faced with questions related to the plot, pacing, characters, etc. We’re faced with being able to identify when it’s time to hold on, and when it’s time to let go. Sometimes we become so involved in our stories, we lose the ability to disconnect from them and observe from a distance. I think that’s what happened to me for Renegade. It’s time to let this one go.

 

Holy inspiration, Batman

I’ve recently started watching The Walking Dead (four years too late, I know- I am very good at hopping aboard the caboose of the Trend Train). My sister swore up and down that I’d like Rick’s character, which I do. But the character I really, really, really, REALLY like is her.

Michonne-Danai-Gurira-Walking-Dead-Season-3-premiere-Seed-AMC

A woman who needs no introduction.

Awesome skill with a sword aside, by the time she’s introduced, we have no idea what she’s been through, or how long she had been alone. All we know is what she’s willing to share with us, and that is very little. She’s also the first one to smell bullshit in Woodbury. As someone with a heightened sense of suspicion (which really helps my job as an investigator), I can definitely relate to her. But I didn’t bring Mishonne up to gush about how great I think her character is. I’m doing it because she’s helped to inspire a new character for the sequel to The Shadow Conflict.

The character, a twenty-something young woman I’ve named Dareen (Dari for short), is set to play a major role in my character Braeden’s development in the book. Her job is to basically whip him into shape. Smart, stealthy, and observant, she’s the perfect one to help Braeden emerge from his emotional, physical and mental state at first meeting. Dari is not affiliated with the Shadow element, like many of the others in her village, or her adopted father. Her home had given its allegiance to Wind. Dari, however, has no allegiance to anything other than her personal code. This code has her give up everything for the sake of the preservation of the happiness and well-being of others. In her, I have presented Braeden tangible proof of what he can accomplish once he gives up the things that are holding him back. Namely, his hatred for his family. Only then can he remember what’s important.

So, in conclusion, I think Dari has more than just Mishonne in her makeup. There’s also a little bit of Sailor Venus (her manga variant, anyway). I am really looking forward to writing her.

sm_venus032

 

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!

 

Learn by doin’

I recently reread William Martin’s Citizen Washington (I am a big, big, BIG Washington/American history fan) and one of the characters, Hesperus Draper, has a motto that we all can live by: ‘Learn by doin’.’

Why do I bring this up? Well, it applies to writers too, no matter the skill level. I am of the belief that every time I craft something new, I get that much better. What I wrote last year could very well suck in comparison to what I write today. It can go the other way too; last year’s hot idea might just burn that much brighter than today’s. Again, passion plays a huge factor in that. But I’m focusing on skill levels this entry, particularly the methods used to maintain them.

I mentioned my older sister’s experiences with Publish America in my Writer Beware post. She’s moved into screenwriting since then, even has put together her own small show– public access of course, but hey, it’s a start. Now, I don’t doubt her passion for what she does. She’s been submitting pieces to various contests, and has received rejections for all of them. Rejection is a part of life in this field. It sucks, hell it can be a knife to the heart for some, but I believe each rejection must be taken as a learning experience. I also understand it’s not an easy concept for all to accept. My sister is a perfect example of what happens when rejection is taken as a personal attack on her idea. I recommended that she take another look at what she’s been submitting to see if the content needs to be updated, that sort of thing. I also stressed the importance of research. If she is truly serious about her work, this is a vital part of it. It could also be what makes or breaks it. Any writer worth their salt can smell an under-researched product a mile away. Look at how Fifty Shades of Grey was ripped into by people actively practicing the BDSM lifestyle. Its commercial success aside, it’s still a poor representation, and those people have every right to criticize it.

Let me give you an example of how I use research. I was working on a story where my main female character was pregnant, and I had wanted to describe what happens during childbirth. Now, since I don’t have any children of my own, and I didn’t want to utilize what I had seen in movies (which tend to be overly dramatized anyway) I took to the internet. I asked mothers what they experienced. This helped me craft a realistic scene, and readers could tell it’d been researched.

Another example: Gabriel, the MC for my current project, is as different from me as can be. He’s shaped by all he’s endured, including time spent in a psychiatric ward during his youth. Me? All I know about psyche wards are from the movies. Sarah Connor and Randle McMurphy aren’t the kind of source material I wanted. So, once again I turned to the internet, and it did not disappoint. If you’re interested, please check out A Day In the Life of A Mental Hospital Patient. While this particular section of the story wasn’t large, I still wanted to convey a sense of understanding.

Research is my favorite part of the process. I love to learn new things, and nothing feels better than applying new knowledge to something, be it my writing or another aspect of my life. It shows dedication. I’ve browsed material for a lot of fellow indie writers, and I can tell that most share this same feeling. We’re all eager to showcase our talents. Let’s be honest here: if you’re not serious about your project, how do you expect others to be? Learn by doin’, friends. Your efforts will be noted. And they may be just what you need to make it over the finish line.

 

 

Evolution of writing

Ah, writing. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved the idea of creating whole worlds inhabited by amazing characters, all with stories, dreams, and desires of their own. Back then, the fervor was what drove me to create so, naturally, things like details, continuity, and other factors fell on the wayside. That’s one of the things I love about NaNo: it reminds me of what it’s like to write just to write.

At least until I look back at my older writings and cringe at how truly awful it is.

We’re all guilty of this; anyone who says otherwise is a liar. Learning to accept it as part of ourselves isn’t always easy. I know, for I have destroyed pieces from my high school days in an attempt to forget it existed. Lately, though, I am becoming more open to the idea of the ugly bits, as well as the good and bad, of my writing. It’s the best way to track your progression, and stands as a reminder of what not to do. Take this example from the 2005 version of Renegade (then titled Key of the Zabeldi) I am about to show you. It’s a scene between the two lead characters shortly after they meet:

“Who are you?” she asked. He slowly turned to look over at her, his features revealing nothing of what he thought of the question. After a moment he glanced away again. Autumn frowned.

“Hey, I asked you a question. Who are you?” she repeated. The stranger said nothing, seeming perfectly content to ignore her. This Autumn did not like so well. All the emotions she had regarding her situation bubbled to the surface, which echoed in her next words.

“All right, you’re going to answer my questions. Who the hell were those strange guys who wanted to kidnap me, and who the hell are you? It’s pretty obvious you don’t want to be here any more than I do, so why don’t we save ourselves a lot of frustration by going our separate ways. I’ve got a lot of work to do tonight and it certainly doesn’t include spending time on a rooftop,” she snapped irritably. Her outburst seemed to attract his attention, for he glanced over at her.

“How remarkably observant you are. Yes, I have no wish to be here with you, but unfortunately it looks like it’s going to be that way for a while. Before we can go our separate ways there’s still the Zabeldi to contend with.”

“Wait a minute- what are the Zabeldi?” Autumn asked, confused. The stranger heaved a sigh, looking none too pleased to be forced to explain himself.

“They’re an alien race who live in a parallel world alongside the human one,” he began. Autumn stared at him blankly. He spoke the phrase as if he were commenting on something entirely normal, like the weather! She knew she was not safe with this man.

“An alien race. Right,” she murmured, then attempted to run. His hand came out with inhuman speed, closing around her forearm and forcing her onto her backside. She struggled against him, but he ignored her attempts.

“An alien race that needs something you possess to carry out their plans,” he continued. Autumn glared at him.

“And what do you need of me?” she demanded. He jerked her forward so that his face was inches from hers. She gasped softly, for it looked as if his eyes were glowing brightly behind the sunglasses.

“Only your silence as I answer your questions,” he replied. Autumn gave a slow nod of understanding, indicating she would not interrupt him again. He released her with a curt gesture and leaned away. Autumn idly rubbed at her arm as she listened.

“As I said, those Zabeldi need you for something I’m not aware of, nor do I care to know what it is. My orders were to find you and bring you to the Nureni high council. Apparently, they need whatever it is you possess as well. Now that I found you, we have to leave this city immediately. Before we go, there are two things I want from you: silence, and your cooperation,” he finished, a note of command following his last words. Autumn gaped at him.

“You’ll find no such luck in keeping me quiet. As for cooperation, you have yet to prove to me that I’m safer with you than those Zabeldi guys,” she retorted. The stranger regarded her silently.

“I suppose the fact I saved your life wasn’t enough to convince you,” he said simply. Autumn shook her head.

“How do I know that wasn’t an act? You could be planning to do something to me the moment I trust you,” she reasoned. There was a tense moment before he reached up to remove his sunglasses. Autumn again was mesmerized by the brightness his eyes, yet she saw a coldness in them that made her wish he kept the glasses on.

“Do you remember how I dealt with those Zabeldi agents? Had I wanted to kill you, you’d already be dead,” he replied shortly.

Now I will share the same scene from Renegade:

She watched him touch a few keys. “Who are you?” Autumn asked warily.

He glanced over at for a moment, then went back to playing with the calculator.

Hey, I’m talking to you!”

Nothing.

Out of patience, confused and, most of all, scared, Autumn blurted out, “Okay, it’s pretty obvious you don’t want to be here anymore than I do, so why don’t we just go our separate ways. I’ve got a lot of work to do tonight and it doesn’t include being with you.”

You can think and see,” he drawled at last, still refusing to look at her. Before Autumn could do more than stare he shrugged. “You’re right, I don’t want to be here. It looks like it’s going to be that way for now. There’s still a lot of Xabeldi out there.”

Wait a minute what are the Xabeldi?” Autumn asked, her confusion replacing her anger.

The stranger scowled. “A lot of things,” he replied testily, his fingers flying across the glowing panels. “Aliens to you.”

Autumn stared. He said it as if he were talking about something entirely normal, like the weather! She knew she was not safe with this man.

Aliens. Right,” she murmured, and attempted to run.

His hand came out swiftly, closing around her forearm and forced her onto her backside. She struggled against him, but his grip was like iron.

They need your power,” he resumed, as if she hadn’t tried to run.

What power? I don’t understand

Suddenly he jerked her toward him so that their faces were inches apart. She gasped softly, for it looked as if his eyes were glowing brightly behind the sunglasses.

Shut. Up,” he hissed.

Frightened now by the intensity of his eyes, and the fact the weird calculator was now floating at his shoulder, Autumn gave a slow nod of understanding.

He released her with a curt gesture and took the item out of the air. “The Xabeldi want your power, too. I’m here to make sure they don’t get it.”

Autumn rubbed at her arm and shook her head. Nothing about him, or any of it, made sense. “How do I know I’m safer with you than those other guys?”

His fingers flew faster. “They’re dead, you’re alive,” he answered bluntly.

The casual way he spoke of death bothered her. “You could be planning to do the same thing to me.”

There was a tense moment before he removed the sunglasses. Autumn again was mesmerized by the brightness of his eyes, yet she saw such coldness in them it made her wish he kept the glasses on.

If I was, you’d be dead already,” he stated.

Casual readers might not recognize it right away– hell, they might wonder why Simon isn’t as wordy in the second example. The answer to that is simple: I hadn’t quite mastered Simon’s character yet. He’s not very verbose. He was never meant to be verbose. The narrative, like him, is straight and to the point. He doesn’t have time for pretty words or observations. Simon sees in stark black and white. He’s also kind of a dick, to quote my friend. The truly sad thing is that it took someone else to point out how off his dialog was. But hey, if we didn’t make mistakes, we’d never learn from them, right?

Moral of the story here is to embrace your talent, from its rocky beginnings to the pinnacle of perfection it will/has become. As for me, I believe my writing evolves with each new idea. It becomes what it must in accordance with the story it is helping to build. So it shall for whatever it is you are working on.

Happy writing, all!

Titles: Elusive Prey or Staring You in the Face?

I apologize for the silence of late, everyone: between continuing to think on ideas for NaNo and causing havoc on Grand Theft Auto v, I haven’t been giving this blog its due. So let’s change that with today’s topic: titles.

Ah, titles. The selling point of your novel. The eye catch. The word or group of words that will make a prospective reader think, Hmm. This looks interesting. I might want to read that.

Whether the story is original or fanfiction, a title is a very personal thing. Books are like children; you don’t want to send them to school with a name that doesn’t fit them, or ends up costing you years in therapy. It should reflect what the story is about, be it on a grand scale or directly associated with a character.  There is no scripted, right or wrong way to title a written work. In fact, I can almost guarantee that book titles we know today probably entered the world under a completely different moniker. Renegade was Key of the Xabeldi for years. A title can be as much a balance as a means to point the way. Or, if you’re looking to capitalize on concepts like foreshadowing or irony, it can be a curve ball to throw the reader off, or a cleverly disguised clue. Whatever best works for the story.

I bring this up because one of the pages I follow on Facebook, Writers Write, recently posted a guide to titles: Eight Points To Consider When You Name Your Book  I personally disagreed with the suggestions the article presented, but I don’t think looking to outside inspiration is bad, either. I’ve used songs more often than not for my titles (music is a huge part of my writing process, a topic I plan to expand on in another entry) I’m of the opinion that a true title will be born within the story itself. Again, it doesn’t always happen. I think all the planets have to be aligned, you need to be wearing the right color, and come up with it as the right time of day/year– at least, that’s how it seems for me. Titles, like summaries, have proven somewhat difficult for me. Granted, I don’t fret over a title as much as a summary. But in a perfect world, I’d have the summary, title and story written without breaking a sweat.

Bottom line is don’t worry if your bouncing baby remains unnamed during those early stages of creation. He just might tell you his name.

My first review, and thoughts on the process

My friend recently finished reading Renegade, and posted a review on the Amazon page.  It’s always fascinating to read how someone else interprets your writing.  I mean, we all go into the process with a basic plan.  I approach all projects with the following list: 1) who’s in it, 2) what’s the conflict, and 3), how is it resolved.  Early on in my writing career I had been so focused on those core elements I actually lost touch with my characters.  I began looking at them as tools in order to move the plot forward, nothing more.  That in itself is bad; if the writer cannot convey what the character is feeling, how can the reader be expected to empathize? Fortunately this flaw of mine was pointed out in enough time for me to make the necessary adjustments to the story.  If these changes hadn’t been made, this might be a totally different review.  Here is what she had to say about it:

This is good, believable science fiction. I find that a lot of science fiction tries too hard – with hard science as the foundation for much of the description. In “Renegade”, we take several different character POVs, both from some of the alien races that the author introduces, and from the human who is pulled into the action. Being as such, we have a really diverse set of perspectives – both an insider’s perspective and an outsider, that felt very solid and believable. One thing many authors forget is that the individual POVs do not always have all of the information that lies in the backbone of their story. We are not all rocket scientists, and we do not all know how everything works. This was well executed in the various characters – and the “science” felt solid without being overbearing.

Without revealing too much of the story, I’d say that what we have is a very good beginning for a longer work. It includes a lot of theatrical elements: subtle character progression and well written action sequences. Though admittedly the beginning feels a bit awkward (this is her first published novel – so don’t be quick to judge!) the story really transitions well and you can really feel that the author became more comfortable as the story progressed.

The Alien races introduced are believable and interesting, and the main characters are quite relatable while still holding on to the transitions needed as they go through their action-packed (and sometimes stressful) journey.

I’m definitely going to pick up the next volume when it comes out. There are a lot of unanswered questions that are well placed for a sequel. I strongly suggest this, especially to those who enjoy the more fantastical elements of sci-fi, and to those who wish to support our new and self-published authors! Writing is hard work!   

The best part about this is not only have I received an honest critique (anyone else I asked didn’t seem able to define strengths/weaknesses of my writing) it helps get my creative drive into high gear.  Whether a writer has one fan or millions hanging on for the next installment, it’s one great motivator.  Thank you again, my lovely, for the honest review and for the support! 🙂