Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Lost and Found

I'm relieved to report that I found my missing pages. I had them saved, but for some reason I hadn't added them to my main manuscript file. Lesson learned - scavenger hunts are way overrated.

So, not only did I actually write what I remembered writing, I found it again. Hoorah! And, since the chunk was around 30 pages long, it's an extra relief to have it back. The next CWC meeting is just around the corner, and I'm up for submitting.

In other news, I'll be doing the Thanksgiving thing over the next few days and have decided to officially bail out on NaBloPoMo. It figures that I'd decide to do a blog post challenge during a month when I have no internet hookup at home. Hopefully, that's a second lesson learned.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

What I Learned From Harry Potter

One of my biggest problems in writing is going too fast. I speed through scenes I should take my time on and my readers always give me grief for it, as well they should.

One thing Rowling definitely doesn't do is write things too fast. I mean, we're talking about a seven-book series filled with thick, chunky books. And, aside from a spot or two, I didn't really notice the length. Nor, obviously, have hordes and hordes of kids, adolescents, and adults.

It's reassuring and a good example of why I need to slow the heck down. Now, knowing it and doing it are two different things.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Deathly Hallows

I finished reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows this morning. I have to say, it was well done. I won't go into it much, 'cause Harry's been plenty talked about already.

I will say I think Rowling did a beautiful job of bringing the series to a close and I really enjoyed seeing all of the characters & plot threads come together. I also liked her overall tone and emotion.

As a writer, it all makes me wonder about which parts Rowling always had planned and which parts she came up with as the series went on. It also makes me wonder what Rowling will do next. How do you follow up a seven-part series that's been so gigantically successful? There's no way to top it, so how can it be matched? She's got a tough job ahead of her. I'll be very interested in seeing what she does next. I know she's already got the Beedle the Bard book out, but I dunno how much I count that as a force of itself.

Any bets on how well Rowling will (or won't) live up to herself?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Lost Marbles

I think I'm losing my mind. For the second time, I seem to have lost a chunk of Oracle. There are two chapters, the two most recent chapters, that I know for a fact I wrote and now I can't find. What the heck?

Have I been saving pages in a weird place, or accidentally deleting them? Ugh. It's exceedingly frustrating to have spent the time to write two full chapters and now be unable to locate them. I mean, seriously, how did I manage to do this not once but twice?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Riffing on Goodbye

"Gwyn," Sedge started. Her name came out of his mouth as clumsily as a pile of rocks.
All of the years he had spent knowing her, all the nights of lying beside her, breathing in the smell of her skin, they slipped away from him. He felt like a stranger in front of her, trying to hold on when he was already letting go. Only for a time, yes, but letting go nonetheless.

"Don't," Gwyn said. Her arms went straight down from her shoulders, straight and stiff. That, more than anything, hurt him. More than anything else in that moment, he wanted to soften her. "Don't say you're sorry. Don't say any of the rest of it. I don't want to hear it."

He reached out to her and felt like his hand traveled a hundred miles before it found the warm curve of her waist. The insults and hurts of the past that had spurred him to take up the sword seemed blurred and faded. What did it matter what had happened so long ago? Here, in front of him, stood everything he wanted in the world.

Gwyn yielded to his touch. She wrapped her arms around him and tucked her face into the crook where his neck met his shoulders. Her breath made her chest push against his with gentle, insistent pressure with each inhalation.

"I'll stay," he whispered.

"You won't," Gwyn replied. "You can't."

Even as she said it, he knew it was true. Even now, he felt the tug. If he stayed here, he would always be that little boy who ran away. A flash of anger heated his face. Rellin would win if Sedge stayed. Involuntarily, Sedge's hand went to the hilt of the sword on his belt. He had to leave and confront what was ahead of him so he could face his step-father as a man.

He had unfinished business and in a week, in a month, he'd feel the need leave again. Just as he'd felt it so often in the past years. It had grown stronger the nearer he got to the moment of taking the sword and he knew it would never let him rest until he heeded it. When he got back, he would tell her everything. Every last secret he had been keeping from her for the past seven years.

"I love you," he said.

Her hold on him tightened as if she were trying to keep him firm to the spot. "I know," she murmured. After a minute that felt like a year, she loosened her grip. Gwyn lifted her head from his shoulder and kissed him. At the touch of her lips, he felt his eyes grow hot and wet. He blinked the tears back furiously.

"I'll be back as soon as I can," he said.

Gwyn put her hand against his cheek and he turned into the caress. Without saying a word, she nodded and turned away.

He climbed in the saddle and looked back over his shoulder as he left the yard. Just before he was out of sight, Gwyn looked up one last time. Their eyes met. She smiled sadly at him and raised her hand in a wave. Then he rounded a turn in the road and the branches of a pine tree slid across his view and hid her from him.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


In Lyon's book, she discusses a trend that she's seen of under-writing. One exercise she puts forth is riffing. It's a pretty simple concept:

You take a passage that you've written where you move through a scene or image really quickly. Then you take out a fresh piece of paper or do a hard return and you just start writing. You write on that passage and instead of having a paragraph, you go write a page, two pages...

The exercise especially caught my attention because I'm someone who's often heard my readers say, "Slow down. Where's the fire?"

With Oracle, one scene where the CWC crew were especially displeased with me was the scene where two major characters, lovers, say goodbye to each other. Yeah, they're totally right, I went way too fast. So, it seems a good spot to use for an expansion exercise.

First, the scene as it is now (and yes, this is the whole scene between the two characters). Next post, the riff.

“Gwyn,” Sedge started.

“Don't say you're sorry, or any of the rest of it, 'cause I don't want to hear it.”

“I love you.” He kissed her. She kissed back. Now was his last chance to call it off. He held her tight for a moment, then released. “I'll be back as soon as I can.”

“You'd better be.”

He climbed into the saddle, gave her one last wave, and headed south. A few days ride south was Selm, his destination. It was the nearest Nyman temple with an oracle. He hoped to get answers there about what he was being called to do. When he got back, he would tell Gwyn everything. All the secrets he had kept for the past seven years.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Manuscript Makeover

I'm not much of a one for writing books most of the time, but in light of my search for writing exercises, I've been digging through a few. So far, I've found one I really like, Manuscript Makeover: Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer Can Afford to Ignore by Elizabeth Lyon.

If you're in the mood for checking out a writing book, take a look at this one. She's got really strong, practical suggestions and she uses a lot of examples from both classic writers and contemporary folks. She totally got bonus points for using a passage from one of Sherman Alexie's stories as an example.

Lots of good stuff, and I'll be coming back to her in the next few days as I do a couple of the revision exercises she suggests.

What's a writing book you'd recommend? Why do you like it?

Saturday, November 13, 2010


You know what the problem of doing NaBloPoMo is? Not having an internet hook up at home.

I've been able to do the writing part okay, but it's the putting it together with the posting part that's problematic.

Right now, I'm wrestling with a technology issue. What issues do you have to wrestle with when you're working on a writing project?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Oracle Prologue, Part 3

For a moment, all thought of the pain from her injuries was eclipsed by surprise. Pink, mica-flecked quartz swarmed together to form a rough oval. Two large cabochons of labradorite crawled in toward the center and Jalena was struck with the impression of eyes. Carnelian lips added to the impression and shadows made by the shifting tiles completed the image of a face. Azurite hair streamed back from the head, twitching as if blown by a breeze.

Jalena shook her head. Was she still in a dream? The lapis lazuli eyes met hers. Stone lips curled up in a welcoming smile. Using her good hand, Jalena pushed herself to her feet. This time she did not slip. More tiles cascaded across the wall, this time coalescing into a hand. It gestured for Jalena to approach.

After a moment's hesitation, she did as the mosaic bade. If this was really happening, as the pain of her injuries testified, it could be no less than a miracle. If she was dreaming this, and the pain with it, then she had no reason not to. She looked down at the stream in the floor. Everything she believed told her that to cross the stream was sacrilegious. Decades of respecting the goddess' sacred space were difficult to overcome.

On the wall, the mosaic beckoned again. Jalena closed her right hand into a fist. The cut burned, spurring her to raise her foot and jump across the gap. She landed roughly on the other side, heart speeding at the thrill of being somewhere she was not supposed to be.

Jalena walked slowly toward the wall. She closed the distance with just a few steps and stood almost nose to nose with the face. She stood mesmerized, holding the goddess' gaze. Tiles scraped against each other as the mosaic hand raised with the palm facing Jalena. She raised her right hand. Blood dripped off it to splatter on the floor. Acting on instinct, Jalena pressed her own palm against the wall. Despite the chill of the morning, the stone felt warm. A jolt like electricity ran through her. Carnelian lips parted. The goddess spoke.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Oracle Prologue, Part 2

The pre-dawn gloom lightened to a hazy shade of blue. Soon, the other clergy would begin stirring. Jalena should prepare for morning prayers. No more at peace than she had been when she woke, Jalena rose. As she did, her foot caught on the hem of her robe and she fell to the floor, slamming her knees on the stone with a shock of fierce pain. Her right hand struck the corner of the stone stream, breaking her skin across the edge. Jalena bit back a cry of pain. A rivulet of blood ran down the stone to mingle with the water. The blood darkened the water in a cloud that looked black in the low light.

Knees and hand stinging, Jalena struggled to rise. Blood slickened the stone. Her hand slipped as she tried to gain purchase. Her knees hit the stone again. Agony rushed through her legs. Frustrated and hurt, Jalena felt tears force themselves into her eyes.

In front of her, something scraped. Jalena blinked back tears. Another scrape. The noise came from the other side of the stream. Scrape. It was the sound of stone on stone. Jalena took a deep breath and rocked back on her heels. She held her injured hand in front of her. Blood streaked down the front of her robe. The scrape came again.

Sight blurred, she looked ahead, trying to find the source of the noise. Something was moving on the wall. The scraping grew quicker, like the shuffle of a card deck. She blinked to clear her vision and saw that the sound came from the mosaic. Tiles of blue, green, black, and every other color on the wall squirmed against each other, struggling to go in different directions.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Honey, Part 2

In the sun, his eyes saw a brighter color than the one inside, a hue more yellow and white instead of gray. That was another reason he liked the bright summer, when the light was this bright, he could see dim blurry shapes. He craned his head up to look above him. A wobble in the solid color told him he must be looking at her face. He touched a finger to her face and felt the curve of her smile before she put him into the van.

S-A-N-D-Y was one of the people who looked after him. The others were mostly fine, though sometimes they came and went so quickly that he never had a chance to really get to know the texture of their hair. Hair had such nuance, sometimes. The complexity of how it felt near the scalp, still warm from its closeness to skin, then cooled as it reached out from the head, and the butterfly wing edges of where it was cut. Three separate and distinct stages that told him more about a person than the letters they clumsily finger spelled into his palm.

The van slowed to a stop, pulling him away from his thoughts on hair. He felt the shift as she got out. Hot air whooshed in when she opened the door beside him. The smells were different here. More overtones of brick and sickness. He began to feel uneasy. Breezes brushed his cheeks as people hurried by, walking to either side of them. He put his hands to the wheels of his chair, skidding to a halt. He signed, “No, no, no, no, no, no,” over and over again. He remembered now what the sign earlier meant. It had meant this place. “Home,” he signed.

S-A-N-D-Y took his hand and held it in her warm palm. It was what she did when she wanted him to know that it was okay. “Doctor,” she signed into his hand.

Monday, November 8, 2010

No Visuals

On my drive home from CWC last night, I started thinking about the exercise you can do where you write something without using visual description. It made me think about someone I saw recently who is both blind and deaf. What would that be like? How does the world work if you can't see it or hear it? When I got home, I started writing a story.

Here's the first chunk of my rough draft:

He felt the vibrations of her steps on the floorboards as she approached. Her shampoo smelled like a flower he had held with petals wrapped around each other tight like a secret. The smell of hot pavement came from her shoes, stale coffee wrapped around her, combined with the lingering aroma of bleach. Best of all, underneath it all, was the natural smell of her. Her skin smelled the way honey tasted, sweet and smooth on the tongue.

When she came close enough, she reached out and lifted his hand. She touched his fingers to her nose and then to her hair, which was short and coarse under his palm. This was her hello, to let him know she was there. Her name, S-A-N-D-Y, was an abstract concept to him. But her smell, and the coarseness of her hair, these were the ways he knew her.

She cupped her hand in his and signed against his palm. Her hands, so rough, were always gentle when she touched him. The signs were familiar, but he could not remember what they meant. It was hard to remember meanings. It always had been for him. Sometimes, he did not remember the letters to his name, B-R-Y-A-N. Letters tended to run away from his brain, leaving him grasping at nothing, like trying to catch the water in his bath. Numbers were the same. Slippery, slimey things. A while back, it had been his birthday. Someone had signed “32” into his hand over and over until he realized that was his age.

He did not have to wonder for long what S-A-N-D-Y's signs meant. She helped him into his wheelchair and pushed him outside. Summer's heat burned down on him, pulling sweat to his skin the moment they went through the doors. He liked the heat after the chilly air of the center. The heat was what told him he was moving, going somewhere, instead of day after day after day of cold air that smelled like bleach, plastic, paper, urine, and all the other chemicals that went along with people who couldn't take care of themselves.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Exercise Hunt

So, with my goal of doing some writing exercises this month, I'm having a difficult time finding exercises. I went to my new local library and found one book with actual exercises (but, about 15 books on how to get published).

In light of my difficulty, I want to ask you if you've got any good exercises to share?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Exercise: A Single Moment

Raindrops tap danced on the windshield, tappity, tappity, tap. Lorena's hands were stuck to the steering wheel like they were glued there. Her lips were sealed like there had been extra glue left over from her hands. Her eyes pointed straight ahead.

Sitting in the passenger seat, Meg eyed the car radio, hesitating. She wanted to turn it on, to have some sound in the car other than the beat of rain, the periodic swipe of windshield wipers, and the silence.

Meg reached out her hand until her fingers were nearly on the radio's volume knob. Was that her imagination, or did Lorena's jaw just clench? Meg let her hand fall to her lap and she wrapped it around the strap of her backpack. The fine wrinkles around Lorena's eyes smoothed slightly as she relaxed.

Tappity, tappity, tap.

“I'm sorry,” Meg said.

Lorena said nothing.

Tappity, tappity, tap.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Oracle Prologue, Part 1

Jalena woke to blue-black morning. The air, still cool before the summer sun warmed it, tasted sweet in her mouth. Creaky stiffness in her joints from her decades of life was not so sweet. She sat up in bed, mentally grasping at the last shreds of the dream that had woken her. The dreams were more and more frequent lately, pulling and tugging at her like nettles. They always faded as soon as she woke, leaving her with nothing but a feeling of restlessness.

She rose from bed, walking toward the public area of the temple. Stone tiles cooled the soles of her bare feet. She passed through the dorm area where the clergy lived. This was the place she had called home for over four decades. Jalena knew her way so well, she could navigate by touch alone. Her footsteps sounded like a whisper. No one else stirred.

Moments later, she reached the main area of the temple. Carved stone pillars raised from the floor to hold the ceiling. At times, they gave the space a feeling almost like a forest with grooved white trees. Many other mornings of late had found her here, in the sacred space of her goddess. It soothed her when the dreams came.

Jalena walked toward the focal point of the temple, an expansive mosaic-covered wall opposite the public entrance. A few yards away from the wall, she stopped. Here a channel in the floor carried water from one side of the temple to the other, a small stone river in the marble forest. The water started in the mountains of Tryne and flowed south as the Illyan river, reaching all the way south to the sea. The water that flowed in front of Jalena were diverted from the river on its way from mountains to sea. Like an artery, it connected vast expanses of the body of the continent.

Kneeling, Jalena dipped her fingers in and sprinkled herself with moisture. A quiet prayer tumbled across her lips, asking the goddess for guidance. These dreams troubled Jalena, though she did not know why. Slowly, a feeling rose in her, a yearning to cross the stream and walk on the other side. She resisted, as she had on the other mornings when the feeling came to her. The space opposite the stream belonged to the goddess alone. Humans were too impure to enter it.

The mosaics on the other side of the stream were dark in the time before the dawn. Jalena did not need to see them to know them, though. Images of the goddess Nyma and her forms covered the expanse of the wall. A lapis lazuli ocean that turned into the blue hair of a serene woman who watched out from the wall with shining labradorite eyes. Jade and malachite showed the shades and shadows of a wide river that held a woman running. A howlite blizzard blazed with a furious gaze. On and on, the images stretched. All the forms of water echoed with the many faces of Nyma.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Productive Use

I've been thinking of NaBloPoMo and ways that I can use the challenge in a way that's more productive than simply getting words out. Posting every day just to post every day invites tangents and ramblings. I can't say that's really an important use of my time.

So, I've decided to focus my posts by doing some writing exercises and writing bits of my current writing projects in them. I'm not sure how much of each I'll end up doing, but my goal is for each post after this one to be creative. A scene, a description, dialogue, etc.

I'll give a bit of intro for each bit, and if it's an exercise, I'll let you know what the goal of the exercise was so you can play along if you'd like. I hope you'll join me for at least some. If you do, put it up on your blog and let me know so I can link to your post!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I Am Spartacus. No, I'm Spartacus. No, I'm Spartacus!

This past weekend, most of my time was spent doing one of two things.
1. Unpacking my worldly possessions
2. Re-watching the first season of Spartacus

I find I'm totally in love with the show, even on a second go-'round, which is good, since I shelled out the buckaroos to buy the first season. There are a couple of fun extras on the DVDs, one of my favorite being seeing two of the actors getting ready to do a scene in what is basically a sewer/trash pit. The crew has some live cockroaches to add to the set and both of these very muscle-bound men are jumping around, crying, "Is there one on me?"

Aside from that, another interesting thing was when the show creators were talking about their line of thought in making the show. One aspect was wanting to create a show that had a very graphic novel feel in its visuals (think Sin City) and wanting to explore this larger-than-life character. It's an interesting journey, going from a pretty ordinary guy to a slave, to an epic legend.

Loads of our famous heroes started out as ordinary people. We've got loads of biopics and historical novels about the historical characters who fascinate us. It makes me wonder if our fascination comes from a desire to understand where we've come from? A desire to create identity and connect with the past? Some of it has to do with current political/cultural movements. What about the way that the past seems so exotic to us in the modern world? I mean, the Romans had many, many cultural norms that are completely out of our own context as Americans - I mean, just look at their perspective on sex relative to ours. Two very different animals.

So, here are two questions for you. What makes you interested in fictional stories about historical figures? Or, why do you think people in general are interested in the genre?

Oh, wait, one more question.

What do you think is the best movie/TV series/book you've encountered about a historical person?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Harry Potter

In September, when I was doing my long, long drives every day, I started listening to Harry Potter. I know, I know, I'm way behind the 8ball here, but whatever. Better late than never, right?

This morning, on my way to a training for work, I heard the last bit of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and I'm liking how it's all getting dark now. Not that there haven't been dark themes throughout - something I really like about Rowling.

One of the things I like a lot, and which loads of others have liked before me, is the fun of the magical world and creatures she's created. There's plenty of fantasy that has either a world overlaid with this one, or a separate world, but Rowling is somewhere in between. That's cool.

When I get back to the library, I'm on to book six.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Writing Advice

Jenny wants to know what the best piece of writing advice I've ever received is. How do you like that for a question?

I've got loads of good advice. Things like:
Show, don't tell
Don't rush
Blind re-writes
Just write it
Look at other writers as models

All good, good stuff.

However, if I had to peg the one thing that's most important, I'd say it's, "Write for yourself first." I use it in the context of thinking that anything I write had better be good enough that I'd want to read it, and I'm a picky reader.

This advice also helps tie some other bits of advice together - especially things like using other writers as models. If I love the way someone else does an action scene, I have to ask myself what makes me like it and figure out how I can do something like it. Then, I'm in a better spot to hold myself to my high reading standards when it comes to my own work.

Who do you write for first?