Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

It’s All About the Writing

February 6, 2019

How About A Recipe For Apple Carrot Salad?

This last week I invented a lasagna recipe, because I didn’t like the ones in my various cookbooks.  It turns out that, for me, writing and cooking are quite similar.  I write.  I review.  (In the case of recipes, that means eating what I made.)  I edit.  And then I tighten and refine.

I also visited the Albuquerque Museum and learned (among other things) about how New Mexico played a role in the American Revolutionary War.  If you think the reason for the participation was an awakening idealism toward democratic ideals, well…  Let’s just say it’s a lot more complicated than that.  We also enjoyed the refurbished display about Albuquerque from its founding (well before the United States was a nation) to the present.

I also spent a tremendous amount of time working on Wolf’s Search and Wolf’s Soul.  When I had a moment, I checked on the Kickstarter for DreamForge magazine.  It’s moving along very well.  There are just a few days to take advantage of the cool incentives, and I hope you will.

I also did a bunch of the sort of business-related jobs that people, who imagine writers as simply sitting dreamy-eyed with pen in hand (or fingers on keys), are continually astonished to discover are part of being a published writer.

Wolf’s Search is more or less done but, as I mentioned a few weeks ago, I’m not moving it into production until Wolf’s Soul is complete, because that’s the best way for me to produce high-quality novels.  I’m still reviewing what I’ve written on Wolf’s Soul.  Since much of this was written while Jim was recovering from knee replacement surgery, there are places where I need to stop and double-check details or insert descriptions, so this is slower going.  However, I am moving along.

Now, I think I’ll go back and immerse myself once more in writing.  Which, it now occurs to me I do for much the same reason I invent recipes: because only I can tell the stories I want to tell.

Advertisements

Bedtime Stories

January 30, 2019

Sweet Dreamers

I was fascinated by the varied responses to my comment in my most recent Friday Fragments that I need to take care what I read before bed, because it will have an impact on my dreams.  As I’ve mentioned before, I dream very vividly, enough that I’ve been known to occasionally double check with Jim whether or not something actually happened or if I just dreamed it.

Most of the time, I don’t mind having such an active nightlife.  I’ve written stories based on dreams and figured out plot elements while I’m ostensibly sound asleep.  Sometimes, though, especially when I’m stressed, my dreams turn into nightmares.

Soon after we set up housekeeping, Roger Zelazny commented that he’d never seen anyone have as many nightmares as I did.  He promptly went out and purchased me the largest dreamcatcher he could find.  It still hangs by my bed, but I can’t say I’ve seen any influence on my tendency toward dreams and nightmares.

What is more effective is moderating what I read before turning out the light.  If I’m already stressed – as I will admit to being these days – I need to be particularly careful.  I had to put aside The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate for daytime perusal because the mood of tension that pervaded the book (pretty much every adult is either against Callie Vee’s aspirations or clueless) and the frequent death-of-pet chapters (interspersed with the odd dissection or so) gave my subconscious too much food for unpleasant thought.

Re-reading can work better for before bed because, even if a plot becomes tense I can reassure myself that I know how it works out.  Books with wonderful language also can be good bedtime reading.  It’s as if my subconscious fastens on the prose, independent of the content.  Poetry is a “sometimes,” but not often.  Sometimes I’ll read graphic novels or manga.  The illustrated format can sow seeds for interesting dreams .

I don’t read anything that’s meant to be scary, unsettling, or that might stimulate too much thought and keep me from drifting off.  I don’t read anything that’s directly tied to work or research for the same reason.

Do any of you read before going to bed or had that gone the way of the television and electronic device?  If so, I’m curious about whether you read before going to bed and, if so, what gives you the best sort of dreams.

Oh…  What am I reading before bed now?  Terry Pratchett’s Maskerade!

Dream Become Reality

January 16, 2019

Ogapoge Signs and DreamForge

This time last year I received a letter from a longtime friend that – although I didn’t know it at the time – was the beginning my signing on to be part of a new, ambitious, and very exciting project.  That project is DreamForge Magazine: Tales of Hope in the Universe.  This February 14th – yes, Valentine’s Day – that dream is going to become reality.

Did this take me away from the novels you want me to be writing?  No.  Actually, any of you who are looking forward to the new Firekeeper novels should give DreamForge a vote of thanks.  From May of 2018 on, Jim and I met with personal challenge after personal challenge.  I really think these would have dragged me down if I hadn’t had Scot’s enthusiasm for impossible dreams as an example.

What’s exciting about DreamForge is that it’s a truly visionary magazine.  It’s about hope and vision.  Let me quote Scot from the essay he wrote for the rare Issue 0: “Why a magazine?  The simple answer is this: in fiction and the world in general, we’ve seen the novelty of dark and grim perspectives grow to a commonplace expectation.  Everyone, it seems, assumes that the world has already gone to hades in a handbasket and a good apocalypse might be what’s needed to freshen it up.  We disagree.”

And Scot really does disagree.  I might have been the first person to tell him he was insane, but I’m certainly not the only one.  But he kept pushing, and in July when we met up at Congregate in North Carolina, Scot handed me and Jim copies of Issue 0.  I melted.  The paper felt like ultrasuede.  The colors were lush.  The art – by Scot’s wife who is another person who has caught Scot’s insanity – was rich and beautiful.  Even better, this artistic approach wasn’t reserved for the cover.  This whole magazine was a jaw-dropping reminder of why I’d fallen in love with Science Fiction and Fantasy.

David Weber had come to Congregate so we could visit.  I introduced him to Scot, who, of course, showed him Issue 0.  We didn’t even have a chance to ask Weber if he would maybe someday be interested in contributing.  He read the banner, looked at Scot’s introduction and said very, very seriously: “When you’re ready to take stories, contact me.  This is the sort of thing we need – not more dystopia.”

Worried that DreamForge will be cotton candy, feel-good, empty of content?  Well, those of you who know my work may have read my short story “Born From Memory.”  I wrote that originally for a contest Scot ran, and reprinted it in my short story collection, Curiosities.  It’s not cotton candy.

Scot talks about DreamForge with even more enthusiasm than I do.  I want to encourage you to check out the DreamForge website.  Even better, check out their new Kickstarter.  Some of the limited offerings are mind-bogglingly great.  Scot wants to create not just a magazine, but a community for those of us who believe in dreaming big – and there is room even for those of you who don’t think you can spare the money for a subscription.  That’s the sort of person Scot is.

Wolf’s Search (and other projects) Update

January 9, 2019

Dandy Climbs Mount Manuscript

In case you’re wondering, the stack of paper you see in today’s illustration is indeed related to the new Firekeeper project.  Please keep reading…  There’s a lot more to tell.

When I started writing the book I called Wolf’s Search, I honestly thought I could write a Firekeeper novel that would be manageable as a self-published work.  I still think so, but there have been some changes to my original plan.

Change number one should make most of you who like Firekeeper and her world happy.  The original novel was going to be about 100,000 words – or roughly half the length of one of the longer novels in the series.  Now it’s going to be something in the region of 200,000 words, but published as two separate novels.

Why?  Several reasons, most of which have to do with self-publishing.  As I learned when I produced the e-book reprints of the first six Firekeeper novels, proofing a very long manuscript takes a considerable amount of time.  Even a small handful of changes mean the entire book needs to be reviewed from start to finish because, as anyone who has ever done computer formatting can tell you, glitches repaired may reveal glitches yet unseen.  Trust me on this.

Another reason has to do with the price point on a physical copy of the book.  As I discovered when I produced the print-on-demand versions of Changer and Changer’s Daughter (formerly known as Legends Walking) through CreateSpace, the longer the book, the higher the price per copy.  There is a point where – and Changer and Changer’s Daughter come pretty close to this point – I can’t afford to do a print-on-demand and make back my investment.

When I realized that the story that had started out to be 100,000 words wanted to be a typical Firekeeper novel – that is roughly twice that length — I considered simply putting out a single, longer book.  However, for the reasons mentioned above, I was reluctant.  Moreover, when I reviewed the first six Firekeeper novels, I realized that if they were published today (or forty years ago), each would have been published as two novels.  However, since they came out in the heyday of the Big Fat Fantasy Novel, they came out as one.

As I was anguishing over whether to produce two books or one, something weird happened.

 As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I’m an anime fan.  When the first new episodes of a story I am irrationally fond of came out, I pounced.  I didn’t care that there were only twelve episodes.  (A typical season of this series is twenty-four.)  I wanted more of the story.  I didn’t want to wait until all twenty-four were done.

It occurred to me that maybe Firekeeper’s fans felt the same way about a Firekeeper novel.  Maybe they would be happy to get a shorter Wolf’s Search sooner, and a bit later Wolf’s…   Well, I haven’t settled on the title, but I’m thinking about calling it Wolf’s Soul.

So that’s what I’ve decided to do.  Step number one will be writing the entire 200,000 word manuscript.  What you see above is 145,000 words, so I still have a lot more writing to do.  Right now, I’m reviewing what I have written before going into the final writing splurge.

When the entire rough draft is done, then I will polish only the part that will be Wolf’s Search.  While that is in review and production, I will start polishing Wolf’s…  as yet untitled.   I hope you’ll enjoy reading Wolf’s Search and speculating on what is to come, just as I’ve enjoyed watching the first twelve episodes of my anime, and speculating (I’m still waiting and hoping that there will be more) about what is to come.

For those of you who have read this far and are wondering about other projects.  Yes.  As far as I know, I will be writing a new Star Kingdom novel with David Weber.  That is one of the reasons I’m so passionate about making sure that the new Firekeeper novels are written at least in rough draft.  I’m capable of writing prose for one project and editing another, but I find it difficult to write two new projects at the same time.

And, yes, there are other works I want to do.  So very many…  I’ll tell you about them as they come closer to reality.

Planning vs Dreading

January 2, 2019

What Creature Do YOU See?  (My Answer At The End)

As everyone knows, the big question at the heart of Science Fiction – and even most Fantasy – is “What if?”

Humans are certainly not the only creatures who plan.  Many animals store food for the winter. Many animals build nests and dens not only as residences, but also as protection from both predators and the elements.  Many types of animals live in small groups during the “fat” times of the year, then band together for mutual support during the harsher seasons.

In contrast, I’m tempted to say that humans are the only creatures that dread.  Then I remember how often I’ve seen domestic animals hide or cringe when they know they’ve broken rules and are dreading the repercussions. Let’s take this one step further.  Would so many dogs fear the sound of thunder if they couldn’t dread in the abstract?

Humans do seem to cross the line from practical planning into crazed dreading more easily than do other animals.  Where I live, the weather reports over the last week or so have provided an excellent example of this.  Meteorologists have luxuriated in predicting snowfall of record levels.  In most cases, this dreaded event has not occurred.  Anyhow, even if we did get a foot of snow, is there a need to keep harping on it?  Once you’ve laid in supplies, made alternate arrangements for social events or jobs, what difference is there in how much snow actually falls?  What will be will be.

As we begin the New Year, I find myself trying hard to balance planning and dreading.  Jim and I are going into 2019 with a host of unpredictable elements regarding ill or elderly family members.  Although the most difficult part of Jim’s recovery from his knee replacement surgery is completed, we’ve been told that he will need to work on rebuilding strength and flexibility for the next nine or ten months.  He also will be facing the challenge of how to arrange his new post-retirement life.  For someone who has been working one job or another since he was in his late teens, this is not a minor challenge.

Me?  Well, I have a host of writing projects to balance against each other, to the point that my planning is verging on dreading.  Every day I don’t move forward feels like moving backwards.  My “What If?” brain is surging full speed ahead, and not always in a very helpful fashion.

At times like this, I realize just how close are planning and dreading.  While I don’t want to do without the former, I realize the latter can be paralyzing.  Why do anything when you’re going to fail?

So, as the snow drifts down, as the cold causes the water in our pond to creep up the fountainhead, as I wonder just what unexpected complications the New Year will bring, I also try to remind myself that I’ve planned as far as I can.  Now is the time to stop asking, “What if?” and focus on “What next?”

I think that “next” just might be trying to write down some of the material I’ve been tossing around in my brain whenever there’s been time to think during this busy holiday season.

But I’ll also take the time to notice that the ice around the fountainhead has formed into the shape of a turtle.  And I’ll remember to smile.

Reclaiming Writer Jane

December 5, 2018

Mayhem and Chaos: Emblems of the Past Month

This week I made an effort to reclaim some of my identity as a writer.  It wasn’t easy and I deliberately did not keep track of my word count because I knew it would be a struggle to get anything written.  But I did write.  Even better, I finished the scene in the new Firekeeper novel that I’d been working on when everything was interrupted by Jim’s knee replacement surgery.  This week I hope to move beyond that scene and get into the next plot arc.

A lot of elements contributed to my writer brain starting talking to me again.  One was Jim becoming increasingly mobile.  Right after Thanksgiving, he was told he could start using a cane.  Almost immediately after that, he started forgetting to use his cane.  This awareness on both our parts as to how much more confident he felt about his ability to walk really freed me from keeping a metaphorical ear cocked in case he needed me to get something, remind him of something else, or any of those myriad jobs that go into being a caregiver.

Don’t get me wrong.  Jim’s not “healed.”  Yesterday marked the end of Week Five since the surgery.  We’ve been told to expect at least three months before he is anything close to “recovered.”  Even then he’ll have further work to build his strength and endurance.    So we’ve not even reached the half-way point.  Jim’s not driving nor doing any chores that involve crouching, lifting, walking on uneven surfaces, carrying heavy objects, or…  Well, you get the picture.  But life is no longer a series of problems to be solved.  We’re accustomed to our new routine.

I guess I must love to tell stories because as soon as my imagination was freed up even a little, I found myself musing about aspects of the Firekeeper novel I’d been working on before Jim’s surgery.

Here’s a trick that might be useful for those of you who write longer works like novels.  If you know you’re going to be interrupted for whatever reason – and remember to include “good” interruptions like trips, holidays, and the like – then stop in the middle of a scene where you have a good idea what comes next.  Doing this makes it a lot easier to start again.

If you write yourself to a stopping point, you may find it a lot harder to get your mind back into the story.  Even though I don’t outline or plan out in advance, still I usually have a sense of the overall arc a book is going to take.

(My subconscious is calling me a liar, reminding me of a plot twist that just hit me this weekend.)

This sense of certainty increases the closer I get to a specific scene, so not finishing that scene gives me a place slide back into the story again.  It also can help to go back and polish about a page prior to that scene, just to get back into the flow.  Even with this preparation, starting up again was not perfectly smooth.  There were fits and starts, but eventually I came to the end of the scene in question.

Various events led me to not writing over the weekend.  However, because I’d primed the pump, I found myself thinking about where I’d take the story next.  By Monday, I was eager to get writing again.

Last week I also had a phone meeting with David Weber regarding the next Stephanie Harrington project.  This was followed by a bunch of e-mails as we refined points.  Rather than this new project dampening my enthusiasm for Firekeeper, I found that brainstorming with Weber encouraged me to brainstorm with myself.  I’m sure part of the reason I didn’t feel added pressure is that we won’t be starting the new Stephanie book until well into 2019, since we both have other things to finish.

Then, just because I’m insane, I’ve started a complicated new plotline for the RPG I’ve been running for almost seven years now.  Yep!  It seems as if my writer brain is trying to make up for having been on “hold” for the last month.

So, I’m feeling pretty cheerful, looking forward to writing more, and spending time with Firekeeper, Blind Seer, and the rest.  Of course, there’s Christmas looming, and my mom’s coming to visit, but as with Jim’s surgery, I’ll plan for the interruption.

Now, off to write fiction!

My Current Story (Life AND Fiction)

November 14, 2018

Thinking Wolf Thoughts

Yesterday, Jim had the staples removed from his knee.  Today the work begins on having the tub in the front bathroom converted into a walk-in shower.  In case you were wondering, life here has not settled down.  And that means I’m not doing much in the way of writing.

Since Jim’s knee replacement was to his right knee, he won’t be driving for at least another month.  This means that, for the next month, I’ll be not only running routine errands, but also taking him to his various out-patient appointments.  Definitely a change from my preferred hermit lifestyle.

Still, as the unpredictable elements diminish one by one, I find that my “writer brain” is slowly coming back into play.  A long time ago, I learned that it isn’t being busy that gets in the way of my writing, it’s when my imagination is occupied solving other problems.  As someone who solidly shoulders personal responsibility, I tend to address each problem as if it’s a logic tree: If this, then that.  If not that, then this.  And so on, often out to several branches.

That’s sort of how I write, too.  Not logic trees, but immersing myself in my characters and living the story with them – including weighing various choices as they would.  So, right now, I guess you could say that the story I’m writing is that of how Jim and I coped with having his right knee replaced.  As that story moves closer to being completed, I have more room in my imagination for other stories.

That includes the new Firekeeper novel.  A few weeks back, I left Firekeeper, Blind Seer, and some folks you don’t know newly arrived in the ruins of the original university in Azure Towers.  Why?

Well, that’s a bit too complicated to go into here.  But maybe, just maybe, I have time to go write a few more sentences about what they encounter before Jim’s physical therapist arrives.  Shall we see?

Not Teasing

October 10, 2018

Growing Obsession

Somehow I doubt that if you’re reading this, you want to know how much rain we had on Sunday (about two tenths of an inch) or how many tomatoes we picked yesterday (about a quart of cherry tomatoes and another quart or so of romas), or how the pomegranates are doing (very well, we’re harvesting two or three every other day).

These things are very important to me.  Weather and the garden are two of the foundations of my life in autumn.  Another is pet care.  Another is…  Well, the point is, what I figure you check these Wanderings out for mostly is news about my writing.

This impression is confirmed by how “hits” go up markedly when I talk about some aspect of my work.

I’ve been writing a lot but, since I’m not one of those writers who wants to share every detail along the way, I’m caught in a bind when it comes time to write a Wandering.

Some people have commented that I’m a “tease,” when I comment that I’m busy writing or that I just finished an exciting scene, but don’t share anything about the content.  The reality is, I’m not teasing.  A tease is trying to get a rise out of those teased.  I’m not.  I’m just reporting the facts.

Why don’t I like to talk about a work in progress?  Because the story is evolving as I write.  Unlike, say, my good buddy, David Weber, who had a pretty firm idea where the Honor Harrington story arc would end way back when he started the series over twenty years ago, I really don’t know where Firekeeper, Blind Seer, and the rest are heading.  I’m on the adventure with them, a ghost chronicler hovering along behind, transcribing like crazy.

But the process isn’t that linear.  Sometimes while I’m writing a scene, I realize something about a character that gives him or her a lot more dimension.  When I’m polishing my rough draft, I’ll slide in some of this information.  This is one reason I don’t workshop works-in-progress, and rarely do readings from unfinished works.  Until the exploration is complete, I myself don’t know what’s going to happen.  What happens later may change the details I preserve.

When I stopped writing last Friday evening, I had no firm idea what Firekeeper, Blind Seer and the rest would encounter next.  On Monday morning when I sat down to answer the weekend’s accumulated e-mail,  I suddenly realized what Firekeeper, Blind Seer, and their companions were going to see when they moved along a particular passageway.

Sound crazy?  I guess it would to some people, but I bet it doesn’t to everyone.  The creative process is as varied as are those who create.  Mine has worked for me for a good number of books now, so I hope you’ll bear with me.

Ask me about the teppary beans!  I can tell you all about those.  Maybe next week?

The Pleasure of Process

October 3, 2018

Go For It!

This past weekend, I finished my first kumihimo beaded bracelet and started a new one.

You can see the finished bracelet in the picture above.  What you can’t see is how close that bracelet came to never existing.  When I wrote about beading last week, that beaded piece was about three inches long (the finished coil is seven inches) and I knew it had flaws.  By the time I was done, there were a few more errors.  And the bracelet was too long because an unclear element in the instructions led me to use too many beads.  I have fairly small wrists, so after I attached the findings (fasteners), the bracelet slide right over my hand.

So I thought “Why not just cut it up, salvage the parts, and start over?  You’ve learned a lot about doing kumihimo from this.  Now you can make one that’s the right length has fewer errors.”

And another part of me said, “This is the first time you’ve done one of these.  It’s not as if you plan to sell it or enter it in a competition.  No one but you is probably ever going to notice the errors.  As for the length, you can work with that.  Get rid of the findings that came with the kit, and see if you have any smaller ones.”

That’s what I did.  One advantage of having done beading for so many years is I have an extensive kit of findings.  I also know what options are available.  The faster I eventually used was a magnetic clasp scavenged from a different bracelet that I’d meant to repair for years.  That bracelet was a little snug (which is why it had broken), so I put a new set of findings on it.

Tah-dah!  Now, not only do I have my very first kumihimo project to wear and enjoy – flaws and all – I finally fixed the other bracelet.

While I was sorting  through my kit, I found myself thinking about how easy it is when focusing on what you hope to achieve to forget the pleasure of the process.  Another project I’m involved with right now is a brand new SF/F magazine called DreamForge.  Will it be a success?  I certainly hope so.  I certainly believe it should be.  However, whatever the future brings, nothing will ever take away the pleasure that Scot and Jane Noel, me, art director Mike Zingarelli, and a few others have had in the process.

Please take a moment to look at DreamForge’s first Table of Contents.  When Scot writes about each of the pieces he selected, you can hear how thrilled he is.

My Jim makes arrowheads.  (Yep.  That’s one of his in the picture.)  His favorite material is obsidian, which is fragile, fussy, and often has hidden flaws.  But even when an arrowhead doesn’t come out just as he wanted, he keeps making new ones, not because he’s trying for perfection, but because he enjoys the process.

When following my friend Tori Hansen on Twitter, I learned about something called “Inktober,” which is basically a hashtag that encourages artists to draw one picture a day.  I’ve very much enjoyed looking at various people’s offerings.  To me, the focus of Inktober is on process, not perfection.  Draw a picture.  Post it.  Leave it.  Go do another.  This is the opposite – at least to me – of events like NaNoWriMo, which focus so hard on the end goal (write 50,000 words in a month) that the pleasure of the process is lost.  Writing becomes a race, not an art, not a craft.

My writing this last week went out of control.  I wrote over twice my self-assigned length.  Immersed in the process, I had a wonderful time.  Will I write that much again this week?  Probably not, but I’m starting this week with a strong reminder to myself that even with the writing that is my job, I can take pleasure in the process.

Oh…  The new bracelet I’m working on?  It’s an experiment in which I’m deliberately using slightly off-sized beads in different shades of blue in attempt to get both visual and tactile texture.  So far, so good, and if it doesn’t work out, so what?  I will have enjoyed giving it a try.

Tactile Sparkle, Mental Spark

September 26, 2018

Kumihimo: Cords and Beaded Work in Progress

So…  This past week I re-immersed myself in writing on the new Firekeeper story.  I’d taken some time away from prose to double-check details and suchlike, but last week I dove back into writing.  The story is developing nicely, although I still am doing a lot of meditating, both pen in hand and while most of my brain is busy doing other things.

As part of that meditation, I’m teaching myself a new craft technique.  It’s an expansion of Japanese kumihimo – a sort of fancy way of braiding cords.  I’ve done sixteen strand round cords before, but this variation involves adding beads.  Beading – as many of you know – has been a weakness of mine since my mom taught me to sew beads and sequins on felt when I was quite young.

During my college years (in which I’ll include grad school), I taught myself both loom weaving and brick stitch.  Somewhere along the line, I learned how to do counted cross stitch with beads.  I have fond memories of sitting on the sofa while Roger Zelazny read to me and I made little counted cross stitch beaded thingies, including some silver roses.  These eventually became either gifts or Christmas ornaments.  It’s funny, but while I never really got into embroidery, add beads and I became addicted.

Beaded Dolls: Storm and Rainbow

I moved from counted cross stitch to peyote stitch (both odd and even count).  Later, I taught myself how to sew beads onto figures.   Jim set two of my figures in a lovely mirrored shadowbox so it’s possible to see them in the round.  I also beaded the toes of a pair of moccasins…  Beading on leather is tough!

Peyote Stitch Bracelets

I’ve also done a variety of stringing projects, although I will admit that working with crimp beads (which you need to do to attach most findings to wire) continues to be something I find really difficult.   One of the reasons I enjoy working in polymer clay is that I can make my own beads…

Now I’m off to write down some of what I’ve been thinking about.  Then maybe I’ll pick up the kumihimo disk and add a few beads onto the cord while my backbrain adds elements to the story.