Character building

One of the things I’ve been working on with the short stories I’m writing is trying to improve my character work.  Without characters, after all, a story doesn’t go very well.  Actually, I suppose it can, but that sort of writing is way beyond my skill.  I’m willing to go a pretty long way for a good character, and let’s be honest.  More often than not the character is what catch us for a good adventure.

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Photo credit: Marvin (PA) via Visual hunt / CC BY-NC

I’ve been coming across some fantastic characters recently, both in books and in real life.  While I’m considering how the books I’ve plowed through showed these characters— the craft part of writing— I’ve also been trying to capture the characters I’ve been seeing in real life.  There’s the young man who is always reaching out to touch his friends.  It’s not anything aggressive or needy, but a hand on a shoulder or a laughing hip-check seems to be a constant thing for him, and his friends not only don’t mind, they seem to support this tactile young man by reciprocating.

There’s the grizzled older man in fatigue pants who turned to reveal that his black t-shirt is, in fact, covered in sequins.  The woman with the amazing lilac leather jacket and vinyl rainbow purse.  I see these people and want to know their stories.  I want to hear about the amazing adventures or heartbreaking tragedies they’ve got hidden behind the surface of what I can see while sitting at the cafe table. There are amazing characters everywhere if you’re paying attention, and my goal recently is to be able to do them justice when I put them down on the page.

words words words

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svenstorm on Visualhunt / CC BY-ND

Okay, I’m not a fan of Hamlet (really, don’t start me on it,) but it’s got some good quotes to steal and use as post titles.

I’ve been having a lovely email conversation with a fellow writer, and we got onto the topic of motivation and actually getting that first freaking draft written.  It’s tough, I’m not going to lie, slogging through something that is mostly pretty ephemeral in my head and getting it onto the page in a way that makes sense.  I’ll get stuck, then I’ll mess around on Facebook, or play a video game, or hide in my room and read… but none of that gets a book written.  So, in order to actually make forward progress, I’ll to set myself daily goals because I am a firm believer in momentum. (I can still hear my high school physics teacher chanting momentum is a vector in my head.  It’s a weird memory to have, but was clearly an effective teaching technique.)

I try to hit my word count every day, and I’m not terribly ambitious so it’s not a huge number of words.  NaNoWriMo has a goal of writing 50,000 words in November to finish your novel, and I use that as a basic goal for my books.  That translates into 1667 words a day and I’m not in so much of a hurry, so my personal goal is 1000.  On a good day when I have an idea of where I’m going, I can get that done easily enough, and often sprint past the NaNo goal as well, but on days where I have to be on, or have too much Adulting to do, or even just am not happy with the scene and how I’m getting from A to B within it, I have difficulty dragging even a handful of words out of my brain.

The other end of it, of course, is that I seem to have trouble stretching my books out toStockSnap_XAZG2TR9PW actual novel length.  Granted, the definition of ‘novel length’ itself is pretty unsettled.  NaNoWriMo defines it as a story of 50,000 words or more.  Writer’s Digest seems to advocate for 80,000 words.  Many books in Kindle Unlimited list their word counts and I see 90,000, 100,000, even use to 140,000 on a pretty regular basis.  Makes me feel a bit self-conscious about my short books.

But, I always remind myself that it’s not the word count that’s important.  It’s the story, and if I can serve the story best by using fewer words, then so be it.  I’m not writing epic fantasy.  For one thing, it’s not my strong suit and for another, I’d never make it to the 100,000+ words that those stories tend to take.  NaNoWriMo has set a bar at 50K and that’s been pretty generally accepted, so I aim just slightly higher at 55K.  I might hit that and I might not, and then editing changes everything.

For now, I’ve got about 10K down, 45K left to go on this one.

Hardcore adulting

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Photo credit: rachelkramerbussel.com on Visualhunt / CC BY

This month has been brutal so far.  So much going on that I can’t even get my brain around it at this point.  My last show closed, and that was way more emotional than I was expecting it to be.  I got started on Brewing Trouble, and managed to get a good chunk into it, which makes me happy.  The first peek at chapter one is up for my patrons, even!  I re-edited and reformatted Sarah’s Inheritance in preparation for the paperback edition (which, I think, is available now?  I have to check Amazon…) and Spirit’s Kindred is looking to get the same treatment before the end of the month!

Then this past weekend I saw a friend of mine who’s in DC for vacation.  I haven’t seen his family since one of his kids was brand new right out of the package, and oh man is she a force to be reckoned with now.  Both his kids are bright, and sharp, and poised and between them IMG_9063.JPGand The Boy, I just hope that our future overlords remember that we used to buy them ice cream and stuff, cause dang.  We hit the Smithsonian Museum of American History and then swung by the National Archives for good measure.  It will be one of the things I truly miss about this area.  The museums and just general access to such important things.  We got to see Jefferson’s writing desk, the Swedish Chef, and the Constitution of the United States, all in one day.

Of course, that meant I was not only physically tired by the end of it but as an introvert, that was a lot of being social and ‘on’ in public all at once.  I was basically useless on Monday, which held up my plans to get our visas in order for the move.

Which means that we ended up heading to the Embassy of Japan to get our papers in order on Tuesday instead.  Which would have been fine if I hadn’t failed as an adult and left the one document I needed— the one my husband waited on in Tokyo for about 6 weeks— on the tray of the copy machine in the office at home.  So.  We had to trek back home, then all pile back int he car to take it back to the embassy.  The lady who helped me was very nice, but I have no doubt at all that she was mentally rolling her eyes at the lunatic American lady she was about to allow access to her country.

Ah well.

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Photo credit: quinn.anya on Visual Hunt / CC BY-SA .    Words to live by!!

Beyond that there’s been the packing and the ordering stuff that I need for the packing, and then getting medical records and prescriptions and all sorts of other exciting things and generally pretending that I’m a functional adult when all I want to do is hide in my bedroom with a few thousand books and a very large margarita and pretend everything’s gonna fix itself if I ignore it long enough.

Instead, I got a summons for jury duty the Monday after we leave the country.  Guess I have another phone call to make.

Dead now. Try again later

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I spent seven hours at museums and the National Archives with two very energetic kids, a remarkably poised teen, and two good friends who’re in town for touristy stuff yesterday and I’m a little dead at the moment.  Check back in after a bit and see if I’ve dragged my decaying carcass to the keyboard and actually formulate the blog post I had planned for today.

Tea, anyone?

The next book in the Los Gatos series is in progress, and I seem to be spending more time in the Apothecary than I have in the past.  It’s fun, actually, since I really enjoy herbal teas myself.  Yes, I have dabbled in herbalism, and though I have made salves and syrups for various ailments, I would never claim to be any sort of expert.  But the teas have always stuck with me.

So I’m having a bit of fun with this, looking up various tea blends, and the magical properties of plants, and what have you. There are a number of amazing resources out there for those who want to get deep into the health benefits of plants (and yes, a lot of it is Science and is borne out by Studies in Laboratories, but I’m not here to argue about it,) and if you want, I’ll list a few of the resources I myself have used.  But for today, I’ve been poking around online, finding recipes that sound delicious or adaptable.  Rosehip and mint tea.  Mint and ginger tea.  Citrus or apple peels and cinnamon chips.

Today, I’ve made my kitchen smell bright with lemon peel and mint fresh from our garden.  A spoon full of rosehips have added a lovely blush to my drink, and I’m thinking it’s going to be a good day to take my tea outside and read a good book in the shade of our patio.  It’s a pleasure I should afford myself more often, I think.

You may have noticed a new tab up there on the navigation bar.  I have a Patreon page now!  Want your name on my website or even *gasp!* in my books?  Or maybe you just want the sweet loot, and by ‘loot’ I mean ‘even more stories.’  Head on over to the page and check out the rewards.

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Showcase

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Photo credit: piermario via VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC-ND

One of the last shows I worked was a student showcase.  A bunch of college students— maybe 25 of them or so?— had a few weeks of master classes and what have you, and I got to run a spotlight for their culminating performance.  There were a number of excellent voices and some very, erm, interesting choices of songs, and frankly a few terrible monologues, but then the kids didn’t write the things themselves so that’s not on them at all.  One of the songs came from a show I helped to premiere, and the young lady did a fine job on it, so that was fun!

The thing is that shows like this always leave me feeling unsatisfied.  It could be a string of history’s greatest divas, and I’d still feel weird about the whole show, and I finally figured it out halfway through the tech rehearsal.  It’s that every single number in the whole show was written specifically to support a story, and it’s been ripped away from its foundations to attempt to stand on its own.  There’s nothing to hold it up, and it doesn’t much matter how amazing the voice of the singer, or the acting abilities of the performer, the song is just going to hang out like a flag on a windless day, limp and kind of sad.

It’s a shame, really.  Since these kids deserve to get the experience under their belt and a chance to prove themselves as performers.  But I’m willing to bet that the audience isn’t going to care at all about my concerns.  They probably go home humming their favorite tune from the concert, and perhaps when that show tours through town or is put on by a local theatre, they’ll get tickets. And really, in the long run, it’s all just for fun, isn’t it?

Just a reminder that Finding Insight is still at the $0.99 launch price.  If you’ve picked it up, please consider doing me a gigantic favor and leaving a review! 

Into the wild!

Finding Insight E-bookToday is Release Day for Finding Insight, the story of Sebastian finding a street kid with a secret that could threaten them all.  I admit that I’ve developed a soft spot for Gabriel, the street kid in question.  He never belonged out there, but you know how it goes.  You do your best with whatever your author throws at you.  I’ve been seeing foxes everywhere lately: my front yard, the corner of my street, on the drive home at night in a few different places…  I feel like Sebastian is trying to tell me that he’s excited, too.

I have a few other random things but man, my brain is bouncing around like a playground ball.  First, I guess, is that the paperwork is moving now for our move to Tokyo, so things are about to get interesting.  This, in turn, has prompted me to start thinking about a few changes in my work plans.  I am still ironing out Book Four but should start work on it in the next week or two.  I also have a few other goodies in progress, but more about them later.  I’ve got some plans forming and changes coming.

But I was listening to a podcast on the business of writing the other day and I was hearing about bookmarks and magnets and character art and maps and all sorts of other fun things, and it got me excited and thinking.  The question I have is what do you want to see from me?  Is there anything fun or fancy you’d like me to work on?  I can’t promise anything, but I definitely want to know if you guys have any requests!  Let me know!

Ambiance

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Photo credit: Sander van der Wel via Visualhunt / CC BY-SA

Yeah, motivation is still a problem.  I feel like I’m dragging words out my fingers rather than letting them flow naturally.  Some of that is stuff I can’t really help: the way my theatre job is affecting my mood (it’s hard history, you guys.  And it’s depressing.  The more things change…) the speed at which various governments work.  Organizing for the move is endless details of crap and tiny things.  I can’t control my kid’s mood, or my energy levels, or whether I catch this damn cold again.

But there are a few things I can very much control: the relative healthiness of my meals, getting up in the morning and actually sitting down to work, and to some extent, I can control my surroundings.  You see, I prefer these days to work in the dining room, which has a wonderful view of our backyard, but also has a wonderful, direct-shot to our neighbor’s leaf blower compulsion every day when she gets home from work.

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So I do what I can.  I grab the earbuds and plug into my laptop and pull up something to drown out the noise.  Often it’s a Pandora station.  I have a few that I started from things like Carbon Leaf or World of Warcraft soundtracks or the Yoshida Brothers.  They’ve all gotten pretty eclectically weird though.  Sometimes I pull up a ‘productivity radio’ website which seems to be mostly club music with a steady beat and few words.

Sometimes, however, I want something a little different.  So I dig up some ambient radio.  There’s a ton of ambient sound sites out there, and you can find something to suit just about any location you want.  Right now, for example, I’m listening to the vague distractions of a Medieval Town.  It’s full of sheep and distant cows, horses pulling wagons and the wheels gritting over the dirt road, kids laughing and people chatting as they walk by.  There’s some sort of metal clinking somewhere, maybe a blacksmith.  If I feel like a drink I can pop into any one of the nearby taverns— there are several options to decide between, from Alien Nightclub to Mountain Tavern.  I can go anywhere.

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Dude, move before the next cart comes by.  You’re blocking the market square!     Photo via Visualhunt

I love this site.  There are others as well, plenty to pick from.  Prefer something inspired by your favorite fandom?  This is a great place to check.  Want something more natural?  Mix your own here.  I find that this sort of thing is immeasurably helpful when I’m trying to get my mind onto my work and get the words flowing again.   What sort of thing do you like to listen to when you’re working?

Motivation

It’s summer.  I’m not sure if you’ve noticed where you are, and I guess it depends on IMG_8038where on Earth you are, but here on the East Coast of the U.S. that means it’s hot.  And sticky.  And kinda gross.  and man, nobody wants to do anything.

But I have a show I’m still helping to run every night, and I have stories to work on and a kid on summer break now and oh man.  All I want to do is hide in my room with a book or 50 and a cold drink.  So…  balance, I guess?

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The worst part about the heat and humidity, I think, is that it really saps my motivation.  Just completely.  I mean I’m getting things done, slowly, but its tough to convince myself to do things.  I will (I hope) have some news for y’all by the end of the month, or maybe early next month that you’ll find interesting.  And I’m working on sorting out the outline for the next Los Gatos book.  Basically, stuff’s happening, just slowly.  Because summer.

In current news, A Spirit’s Kindred is on sale right now, if you wanted to pick that up, and Finding Insight is still up for pre-order, ready to release next week.  For now, I guess I should get back to the story mines.  What’re you reading this summer?

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Sigh

The trouble with having Mondays off is that it messes up your internal calendar for what day it is.  I’m sorry I didn’t post yesterday, I thought it was Sunday.

I’ll get myself together someday, I promise.  In the meantime, I am actually working on some stuff that I’ll reveal to y’all soon.  Also, working on a post for Thursday…

 

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