05 October 2015

Out of the Way, Nanowrimo, I'm Coming Through!

I mentioned a few weeks ago, that I went to the League of Utah Writers fall writing conference. It was lovely. Much better than I expected, and I learned a whole lot of little writing things. Or perhaps I needed reminding, and this was my venue. Either way, I'm glad I went.

As you all probably know, I Indie published a book called Fractured Memories at the end of May. It is the first installment of the Jagged Scars series. This is the story that's been kicking around in my head for almost twenty years. Wendy's been waiting to see the light of day for a long time.

I'm happy with the way the first book turned out. Most of the reviews the book has received have been positive, with people saying they would read the next book.

Well, I had a plan for the next book  to come out sometime next spring. I also had a plan for New Sight 2 to come out this fall and some short stories to go along with it that should already be out. If you read my last post, the short story plan mostly failed. And New Sight 2, while it's written, needs some serious revamping. Jagged Scars series was just a placeholder in the back of my mind.

While I was at the LUW conference, sitting in those splendid (sarcasm) chairs and listening to people talk, I had an idea strike me. Hard.

Like a kick to the jaw. I've taken a few of those in my time, so I know what it feels like. Yes, this felt like that. A wake up call of epic proportions that said, "What are you doing? Get off your duff and get writing what people want to read."

Yes, subconscious, I hear you. Please stop slapping me around.

Ouch! Cut it out!

Here's how it went in my head.

"You want these books to be around 60,000 words each, right? You can type 60,000 words in a month."
"Duh, of course I can."
"If you start on the first of September, you'll be finished with all four books by the end of the year."
"Yeah, and?"
"So, do it."
"Why not?"
"Because, I'll have to totally revise them all. I hate doing that."
"Okay, how can you prevent that?"
"I'm thinking."

Then it hit me.
What if I spent a month plotting. I mean, really plotting out the rest of the series? Plot arc, character arcs, bad guy arcs, cause and effect, world building, motivations, betrayals, love, hate...all of it.

I like to outline, but it's usually pretty loose, and I often stray from it.

I tried to ignore it, but this idea wouldn't leave me alone.

So guess what I've spent the last month doing? Plotting. Uncovering the puzzle pieces of my story and fitting them together in a way that I really, really hope will work.

The mad typing starts October 1st. 60,000 words (ish) each month through the end of January. I can do it.

For me, simply getting each novel finished will be satisfying, but I'm trying to figure out what kind of a reward I can give myself after each one.

Ideas? Please, fuel my insanity.

28 September 2015

Why Comic Con and PMS Don’t Go Together

I’ve been to conventions before. Star Wars, Star Trek, writing, reading, work related...but my crowning jewel is Salt Lake City Comic Con. I’ve been three times now. And once to FanEx, if you’re counting that.

Four glorious, stressful, feet throbbing, back aching, wallet taxing times.

I’ve never been to a different Comic Con, but I figure it can’t be that different. Size and shape may vary, but considering the subject matter, the basics have to be similar. Crazed geeks run around in caped costumes or funny t-shirts, looking at geeky merchandise like its gold, wading through the artist and author booths searching for a diamond in the rough, waiting in long lines to catch a glimpse of their favorite celebrities or doing their happy dance when they get 8 whole seconds with said celebrity for a photo op.

Yes, they can really do it in 8 seconds. I was there. I counted.

All of these things are wonderful. And terrible. And if you’re PMSing, you should probably bring a chocolate/caffeine IV and shove it under your Carmon SanDiego trench coat. And pop a pain pill every two hours. Ignore the warnings, the condition of your feet will be much, much worse.

First off, people touch you. Everywhere. Pretty sure no one was doing it on purpose, but frankly, who can tell?

My husband is a big guy—tall and wide. So I’m used to getting pushed around by his gut. (On the flip side, he’s great for parting a crowd, but I need to install brake lights.) I’m quite conscious of my own spatial footprint as well, and I do my best not to intrude on others.

Well, standing in line for one of the 8-second photo ops (there should be a rodeo reference here, but my mind is drawing a blank) there was a man of similar size and girth behind me. And granted, they did squish two lines together, and most of us were bigger people. But I’m pretty sure that it wasn’t necessary for the guy to be rubbing his gut on my back. For twenty minutes.

Each and every time I found some space to move forward, he closed the gap again. His wife said nothing, and I’ve determined that he’s one of those guys who doesn’t even think about it. He probably tailgates the person in front of him on the freeway, no matter how slow or fast they’re going. It’s his happy place.

Eventually I found a spot where I could take a few steps forward. I did so, then conveniently turned with my elbow out to speak with one of the girls I was with as he stepped in.

Take that buddy. I still have some ninja skills. He apologized (so did I, fake is it might have been) and he finally backed off. Of course we were only in line for another minute or so.

Other things that might send a PMSing woman over the edge are:
Teenagers, in all of their glory
Clueless adults
Vendors not listing the price of their items where you can see it
Having to turn left in the vendor booth area
Waiting in lines
The smell
The noise
The lack of anything resembling healthy food (this is okay for the first two days…)
Tiny seats and big butts
Costumes with tall hats
Your cape getting caught on something (Edna knows what she’s talking about)
Concrete floors
Yourself as you get more and more irritable
The bathrooms being nowhere near where you are (although the men lines were longer than the women lines, which was somewhat refreshing)

However, unless one of these things will actually induce you to violence, go anyway. Hide some chocolate in your pack and brave the crowds. It’s awesome. It’s annoying. It’s hysterical. It’s amazing. It’s geek life at its finest! Where else can you see a balloon AT-AT walker pointed at the T.A.R.D.I.S.? (Or close anyway.)

But don’t forget the drugs.

21 September 2015

Reporting Back

I just realized that I haven't reported on my crazy August plan for writing. If you didn't catch it the first time, click here.

The plan was to work on three short stories. One of them was mostly finished, the other two were in the rough to second draft stage. So not too stressful. Or so I thought. This is apparently what happens when I think too hard.

The first story, the one I thought was the closest to being finished, is now dead to me. I've rewritten the dang think four times, and the first chapter another three times. It still sucks.

Well, no, it doesn't suck, it's just not great.

A few months ago, my mean editor friend ripped it to shreds (which is her job) and told me the story didn't work for my goal. I needed to show the characters in a different light, having a fun adventure in their homeland.

Lalala, not listening.

I pretended she wasn't right. Figured I could tweak what I had to work. Which didn't work.

Sometimes I really hate her.

On the other hand, a friend of mine, quite successful in the Indie realm, actually told me that I should just toss the story up on Amazon. Who cares if it's not great?

Uh, I care. Which may or may not be a good or bad thing in the long run, but for now, that particular story has been put in time-out. The reason being (after my mean editor's comments and me trying to fix it) that too many of my beta readers said, "I don't really care about your characters until the second or third chapter."

Of a six chapter story.

Great. Just great. The whole point of these stories is to push people toward the novels that the characters are in. So I grumbled, tried to fix it again, and then tossed it over my shoulder and have ignored it for the past four weeks. Lalalalalala...

The other two stories went better. One is almost ready to be put out, and the other is in a solid, second draft stage. I need to do my own revisions on it and then beg for more beta readers. I wanted to have them ready to be put up on Amazon by the end of this month, but that's not going to happen. Maybe for Halloween.

Good idea. I'll see what I can do about that.

Technically I failed in my original plan, but August really propelled me forward. I got stuff written, I decided to write another short story for a horror anthology in a totally different style than my usual (it's in round 2 and going well so far) and it planted the seed for the craziest writing plan I've ever tackled. Ever. It's going to be awesome. Stay tuned for updates!

31 August 2015

Why I Am Unqualified to Write Serious Poetry

This past weekend I went to the League of Utah Writers fall writing conference.

I go to lots of conferences, but this is a first for me. The general consensus has been that this conference does not measure up to the others in the state. I'm happy to report that this is not the case. Not this year, anyway.

When I go to a conference, I usually look at the special things they're doing. In the past it has been the ones you have to sign up for that have really helped me. During my first Boot Camp at Storymakers, Lisa Mangum blew my baby writing mind wide open. And she was so nice about it! One year at CONduit I signed up for a manuscript review by a couple of local authors, as well as a first 13 line critique from a lady who looks stark raving mad, but is a writing genius. I was terrified, but I leaned a lot. And one year, Dan Wells finally explained passive voice to me. Bless him.

While signing up for the conference (which I decided to do last minute) I noticed they had a 3 hour poetry workshop.

Now, I'll start by saying that I don't love poetry. The teachers I had in school always drew these deep, often confusing and befuddling meanings from just a few lines of text.

Seriously, since when does the limp bag of a vacuum cleaner represent lung cancer? What if I say it represents the fact that they have dirty house? Maybe they haven't cleaned their dirty mind out for a while. Or maybe, just maybe, it doesn't mean anything.

Yes, yes, I realize I may offend a few of my friends who do, in fact, love poetry. Sorry guys.

So the instructor for this workshop was great. The class was wonderful, actually. I learned a lot of things about poetic writing and using the senses to an extreme I'd never considered before. We talked about how connections or disconnections are what cause emotions and that's where many people draw their poems from.

All of that stuff was awesome.

The instructor read a beautiful poem that she has published, and I thought the imagery was lovely and deep and conflicting and awesome. And then she pointed out that it was actually about her and her sister getting molested by a neighbor.



Sure enough, I read it again and found the clues.

Others in the group picked up on it the first go around.

Now I'm not actually dissing poetry, nor am I making light of abuse in any way. But to “Get it” is it required to have had some serious childhood trauma that you'll never recover from?

(That might be the offensive part, sorry.)

This is why I'm pretty sure I'll never be qualified to read or write serious poetry. I haven't been through nearly enough trauma.

Which I'm fine with, by the way. Totally fine.

The workshop had us draw an aerial view of our childhood home, and dredge up some of our earliest, emotional memories. Connections. Finding three good ones was easy. I had to really sift through my head to find bad ones.

I'm an optimist, and apparently that started from a very young age. Either that or I've lived a charmed life. Again, I'm fine with both.

I won't share the horrible poem I wrote. Which was great fun, by the way. I had a wonderful time.

But really, when we read this little poem by:

Margaret Atwood (click on the link and read it please, it's only 4 lines ling)

I was like, “That is one seriously pissed off ex-girlfriend.”

The rest of the group was like, “Abuse. It's about abuse. The barbs and the hook and the trust and the betrayal and the...”

Yeah. Okay. If that's how it makes you feel, then that's how it makes you feel. But don't try to tell me that that is how I should feel about it.

Because I don't.

And I hope never to.

However, if you need some sarcastic poetry, call me. I'm totally in.

24 August 2015

I, Frankenstein- Confessions of a Trope-Ridden Film

A few weeks ago, I was feeling especially down in the pretty-much-everything area. In order to cope, I flipped in Netflix. There in the queue to be watched, was I, Frankenstein. In a moment of weakness, I started the film.

Oh, I knew it would be bad. I was actually counting on it. I think I was certain that it would make me feel better about myself as a writer. Surely I can write something better than this.

And...I was so very right.

The story starts where Frankenstein leaves off--with the monster (in this case, called Adam) burying Dr. Frankenstein in his family cemetery. Once that is finished, he's attacked by demons. Lucky for Adam, the gargoyles on a nearby church are actually angels (of some sort) that are in an eternal war with the demons. Adam kills one of the demons, and the gargoyles come to investigate. They save him, then drag him to their leader.

Blah, blah, info dump, join us in our fight to save humanity, because it's the right thing to do.

Adam, "Uh, no thanks. What did humanity ever do for me? Naw, I think I'll go be angry and bitter for a few hundred years. Later."
Member of the Gargoyle Order, "Won't you take a weapon with our symbol on it? The demons might target you again, and only holy weapons can kill them."
"Don't mind if I do." Adam picks up a couple of heavy looking rods about two feet long.
Member of the Gargoyle Order, "Oh, don't take those. They're blunt and unwieldy and heavy."
Adam looks extremely satisfied as he whips them through the air with an ominous hum. "Thanks, this'll do."

Obviously that's an in-my-own-words recap. I was laughing so hard. It was like the writers opened the book of tropes and said, "Which one should we use here? We need something meaningful and *cough* deep."

Some other guy, "I got it! Let's have him choose the weapons that most resemble him. It'll be like symbolism. Fantasy fans love that stuff."

"Good. Do it. But don't make it too hard for them to figure out. Audiences aren't what they used to me."

Sadly, they skip the next 200 years and just give us a basic, Adam trudging through the world always being harassed by demons. He likes to kill them. And that's when the writers drop him in some crazy city where the headquarters of the Gargoyle Order is. Still not sure if the humans can see it or not. I somehow missed that tidbit. Adam is hanging around and he takes down a demon. The Gargoyles get all mad that he got a human killed (but not really) so they grab him and drag him in again.

Apparently the Queen knows he's important, but in 200 years she never tracked him. Can't be that hard when you have a bunch of minions that can fly wherever they want. Sheesh. Adam still refuses to join them, and at this point the demons really enter the story. They attack. The Queen is captured and the others are scattered. Including Adam.

The demons want Adam and/or Frankenstein's diary so they can duplicate the process that brought Adam to life, so that all of the demons the Gargoyles have banished to the underworld can be resurrected into bodies that the Demon Prince (king? Lord? Whatever.) has been gathering for a while. Everyone's got to have a hobby, right?

Seriously, the plot had promise, but the stringing of tropes like popcorn on one of those Christmas tree swags killed every bit of it.

So the queen is captured. Adam goes to get her back. She's all helpless and whatever. Stuff happens. She's saved and I think Adam gets caught by the demons. Doesn't matter.

Fast-forward to the end of the film. Adam goes and gets the Gargoyle's all riled up so they follow him to where the Demon Dude has the bodies stashed. At this point, the stupid queen reveals that she transforms into a bad a** Gargoyle that leads her followers into battle.

Why in the he** didn't she transform when her citadel was under attack the first time and kick the demons trash? Hmmm? It's like the writers didn't even bother to read the whole story at once so they could catch obvious (and stupid) errors like that.

There's plenty more.

I finished the movie, and since my expectations were low, I thought, "It could have been worse."

I'm happy to say that it did, indeed, make me feel better about my own writing. I have mean editor friends who catch that dumb stuff for me. I am more and more grateful to them every day.

Did anyone else spot a trope in the film that they'd like to share?

17 August 2015

Wow, I Really Do Know A Lot About Writing

The other week, a friend of mine asked me to come and speak to her women's group about being an author. They wanted me to share my experiences in publishing, then answer any questions they had.

I always get nervous before these things, because I never feel like I know that much about writing. There is always someone around who knows more or has more experience than I do.

In this case, I was the expert in the field.


These ladies fired all sorts of questions at me. Topics ranged from how to craft a story to how to create good characters to what's the best route for publishing to how did you get interested in writing?

As I was answering, I found out a lot about myself. Yes, it seems strange, but there you go.

One woman asked me how I learned to write a story. How did I plot?

Part of me remembered hearing wonderful writers saying very deep and moving things about plot and feelings and how the characters wove into the story to make conflicts and how the emotional payoff at the end had to be good enough to satisfy the reader.

None of this came out of my mouth. What came out of my mouth was this, "You know what, I follow the 15 point beat sheet. Go read the book Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. That's how I plot."

And it's true. I'm sort of helpless without those 15 beats. The 7 point plot system works as well, and I shared that with them, but in a nutshell, I'm a Save the Cat girl. I also mentioned that some people can't outline. They have to write themselves into a corner, back up and go again. Everyone's process is different.

Another question I got was "How do you go about writing a second book?"

Again, all sorts of deep and meaningful things about inner conflict and not letting the middle sag floated through my mind. But what I said was, "Go watch the Empire Strikes Back. Follow the pattern. It is perhaps the best and most successful second act of a trilogy that has ever been filmed. I find something like that and follow the pattern. My story will not turn out the same, but it gives me a direction for my 15 beats."

I said it, thought about it and decided that this is totally true. It's how I roll.

There were around ten women there. One had self-published one novel and was working on her second. The others merely had aspirations. Each one of them thanked me for being so honest and excited and knowledgeable about writing. They plan to start a writing group to see if they like it.

Now, I'm well aware that I have a lot to learn about writing, but it's good to take a step off of the path and look back at how far I've come.

The journey is long, and some parts are steeper than others, but like on any hike, glance over your shoulder and see the distance you've put behind you. You might be both surprised and awed.

10 August 2015

Something New

I'm always trying to do new things. I like new experiences because they broaden my mind. They give me a new perspective. They help me grow and learn.

Here is a small list of new and exciting experiences I've had in my life:
Did a clogging solo in front of like a thousand people when I was six
Tried out for the lead saxophone in the jazz band in high school.
Asked a boy I really liked to a dance.
Passed a black belt test for Shaolin Kempo
Went bungee jumping in New Zealand
Did the MS bike ride
Traveled to Israel
Wrote a novel
Learned how to get out of duct tape and zip ties
Drove down the sidewalk in my car for half a block
Volunteered to help with an art show
Star Wars speed dating
Saw the Dalai Lama speak
Hiked to Druid Arch
Learned to crochet

Most of these things I did  simply to try them.

Now, as I have just turned 40, I find myself attempting something that I never in my wildest dreams thought I would try.

It makes me shake my head every time I think about it.

You see, I have this writing buddy who has wanted to do a collaborative book since we both started writing seriously four years ago. I've always talked her out of it, because we have totally different styles, and we write for totally different audiences.

But a few months ago we were at a writing retreat (which consists of the two of us sitting in a condo for a weekend only speaking to one another in passing and typing for hours on end) and she brought it up again.

I was weak. It was way past my bedtime, and she pulled out this notebook and starts to jabber about how much fun it would be to try.

Pretty sure I was coming off a sugar high as well. So just to be funny, I started to help her outline a story...three hours later, we had a novel.

How did that happen?

So, my friends, in a few months time, you may hear that I have a new book out that is neither fantasy or science fiction. It's not even YA.

It will be a clean, romantic comedy. My solace is that I can be pretty dang funny when I want to be.

If anyone has a good pen name, now is the time to fire it over to me.