Works In Progress

January Debrief

There are two facts about January that remain fairly consistent: 1).  It is cold where I live and 2). I read voraciously but write very little during the month.  It’s not a productive time of the year, as I’m still usually recovering from the post NaNo and holiday burnout.  Thus January is my month to read other people’s work while silently cursing every fluffy white flake that falls from the sky.

This year, the weather held true to form with an extra dose of arctic chill just for good measure.  I fell down on the task of reading, however, returning several library books unopened.  I did begin rereading Hesse’s Siddhartha at the beginning of the month.  It remains unfinished on the growing pile of books that I plan to read.  Considering Siddhartha is less than 175 pages and that I am perfectly capable of devouring an entire George R. R. Martin novel over a quiet weekend, this failure to read is pretty substantial.

Where reading failed, writing flourished.  A quick tally of non-fiction comes in at about 5100 words.  The word count for fiction is uncertain, as most of this is still in hand-written form.  However, I can venture an educated guess based on what I normally average per page that would put the count right around 25,000.  Let’s compare this to January of last year.  I believe I have that total fiction word count memorized, as it was a nice round number that starts with z and ends with o.  Non-fiction came in at 1900 words give or take a half-dozen.  So, that’s 31,000 versus 1900 words  from last year.  Suddenly I feel perfectly justified in my failure to read more than a few pages.

We’ll see if the trend holds for February, as that bloody vampire novel is still very much in its infancy.  Sorry, Siddhartha, but enlightenment might just have to wait awhile.

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Character Building

Terrible news, great news, but it’s all one in the same news…  I am still fang-deep in that vampire story that I mentioned in my last post.  The great bit is that I’ve spent a lot of time butt-in-chair, words-on-page.  Unfortunately, I can’t seem to re-vamp this story into something that doesn’t involve blood-suckers (obvious pun intended).  So vampires it is.  At least I’ve avoided capes, widows peaks, men dressed in velvet and lace, Elyria-esque females, and sparkly baseball players thus far.  If any of these do make an appearance, it will likely be as punchline to a bad joke.

In spite of my complaints, I am actually enjoying the writing process with this particular story.  The last two larger works that I produced were both done for NaNoWriMo and were excruciating to write.  In looking back, I realize now that neither of the novels had good character development.  Both had male protagonists who seemed to move through life simply because they were both too unmotivated to lay down and die.  Both lacked any real passion about anything, with the possible exception of self-preservation.  Even in that aspect, they were dull and unappealing as day-old dishwater.  There were days that I wanted to take a match to those manuscripts (and probably should have!), because writing them bored me to tears.

Not all of my NaNos have felt as flat as the last two and, with twenty-twenty hindsight, it’s clear that the interesting ones were the stories whose main characters I wanted to know better.  For me, the process of creating a character is like getting to know someone new.  Even though I am technically the one who decides what a character likes and dislikes, what motivates and stresses them, and what ultimately they do and do not do, my favorite characters to write are the one that surprise me.  Characters that I think I know who pull some ace or joker from their sleeve when I’m not expecting it.

The protagonist of this latest work is such a character.  Looking back at the short piece where she originally appeared, she had a lot of potential to join the ranks of the dull main characters described above.  Fortunately, characters sometimes  have a way of telling a writer “No, you’re writing it wrong.  This is not who I am.”  In the case of this female protagonist, it was the other characters who informed me that I wasn’t writing her correctly.  They pointed to little hints that she wasn’t exactly who I had originally created, that what lurked beneath the surface was quite another person entirely.  She has become, in fact, far more interesting and complex than originally envisioned.  Writing her is a joy.  Daily word counts that were agonizing during last  year’s NaNo are flying off my fingers easily now.

I don’t know how long this particular enchantment will last, but I hope that it continues through the duration of the novel.  I’d like to continue to be surprised by this character and what she chooses to do.

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In Which A Little Story Devours My Brain

In an effort to kick-start a more regular pattern of writing, I recently picked up a short but incomplete piece of fiction with the thought of finishing it up.  The story was nothing more than a scene of conflict between two life-long friends as they discovered themselves on different sides of a clash between humans and vampires.  It was not intended to be anything more than a brief piece written for my own entertainment.

As occasionally happens, the story has plans for itself that I did not foresee and the characters have taken on a life of their own.  The single scene has turned into a nearly novel-length plot that is presently threatening to be book one in a series.  From two characters have sprung two armies, complete with internally feuding families.  While I’m thrilled to my toes that writing is currently not just a regular habit, but an outright addiction,  this was not the story I had intended to tell.     Still, the story demands to be written and who am I to question my (slightly deranged) muse?

Check back next week.  By then, I may have my brain back again from the vampires.

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A Brief but Tedious Check In

I do believe that in my last post I was bemoaning my NaNo progress and citing all of the non-writing activities happening this month.  With both Thanksgiving and a road trip to Savannah out of the way, it is time again to focus on that soul-devouring event known as NaNoWriMo.   This year’s novel is being written in waves, going a few days without writing and then attempting to catch up in a single sitting. As of this moment, my word count is hoovering somewhere around the 42,000 mark.  I may actually make it this year.

Failure is Always a Viable Option

The mid-point of November has come and gone without so much as a “Hi, how y’all doin’?” and my NaNo novel for this year is progressing in much the same way.  I woke up this morning and realized that my word count is hovering just around 19,000.  That’s just a bit shy of the 26,666 that would have had me on par through yesterday.  For those of you who are not mathematically inclined, this means I am roughly 8000 words behind.  Excuse me while I go have a scream followed by a little lie-down.

It is not a hopeless situation, at least not yet.  I am happy to say that after a productive morning, the word count is now a bit over 24,000, which puts me only 2666 words behind where I should have ended yesterday.

Of course, we are not going to mention the additional 1667 words that will need to be written today just to stay on par.  Nor will we mention that there is a major holiday coming up that will eat way not only a few pounds of turkey and dressing,  but a good size chunk of writing time. I’m also due to make a trip to Savannah before the end of the month.  While the city inspires me immensely, I find writing on the road next to impossible, particularly when I’ve been officially designated as the official chauffeur and tour guide.   I also won’t mention that the character I’d intended to be the main antagonist has done a complete 360 and turns out not only to be batting for the other side, but is apparently managing the entire damn team.  This could get complicated, I think.

In short, that glimmer at the end of the tunnel may be the oncoming train of a November 30th deadline, rather than the gleam of a shiny new novel.  I’m not giving up yet, though.  In the words of Frost, I have ‘miles to go before I sleep’, not to mention many pages and several chapters and most of a whole damned novel.

 

For My Next Trick…

… I will be pulling a novel out of thin air.

Ah yes, it is that time of year once again during which otherwise sane and rational people attempt the superhuman feat of writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.  My intent was to begin posting updates at the beginning of the month with all kinds of interesting tidbits about the writing process and how this year’s novel was progressing.

After consulting my calendar, I’ve come to the realization that one-third of the month has already trickled by without  so much as a thought to this blog or my intentions for it.  It would appear that some updates are in order… and here they are in no particular order:

Writing Software

I’ve tossed aside Write Way in favor of Scrivener.  My only real concerns with Write Way were that it wasn’t aesthetically appealing to my eyes and that it didn’t feel particular intuitive as far as how the program flowed or where things were located.  I’m sure that it’s wonderful software, just not quite right for my particular tastes and needs.  So I’m trying Scrivener as my writing platform this year.

My plan was to use Scrivener to outline the novel and organize the character sketches.   These feats were accomplished.  Then I started playing with the idea of using it to actually write the first draft, which brings me to this…

How I’m Writing

I cannot recall if I mentioned this previously, but I am a pen and paper purist kind of gal who has steadfastly refused to play fast and loose with digital platform boys.  Even my blog posts are usually being life as a real world piece of paper complete with scribbles, scratch outs, and red edits.

For expediency sake, I am trying something new this year and forgoing the handwritten first draft in favor of typing it out.  With a average typing speed  of 60 WPM, I’m certain that I can compose much more quickly by typing.  I must admit, though, that I prefer the scratching of pen on paper to the clatter of my keyboard, so I’m afraid that headphones are required if I’m going to survive this experiment.

What I’m Writing

After much waffling, I final made a final decision about which novel to write this month.  The winner is Saligia, Inc.  The other two novels that I’d seriously considered were both giving me difficulties – one had no plot to speak of and the other had some character development issues (as in the characters decided to strike out on their own without me and were up to some strange things).

This year’s novel is a mystery that has, for its backdrop, a lingerie manufacturing company run by the personifications of the Seven Deadly Sins.  Each of the sins is embodied by a sister who responsible for a certain aspect of the company.   The novel follows an investigator as he tries to navigate through the various personalities in hopes of finding a missing man.  I think it’s going to be deliciously fun to write.

Progress Report

As of this moment, the official word count is just over 13,000.  I have time set aside later this week for an all day writing marathon, so that should help in the way of getting caught up.  In the meantime, I’m pecking out a few words here and there in between real life obligations.  Speaking of which, I do believe that I have a sweet potato pie that needs to come out of the oven before it becomes a charcoal briquet.
Until next time!

The Ticking Clock

Less than three weeks remain until this year’s NaNoWriMo kick-off.  I’ve spent a little time over there updating my profile, changing my picture, and dusting off the cobwebs.  I’ve explained again to all of my non-writers in my life that I will not be available for the month of November.  The family has been advised that, yes indeed, I will again be making a sandwich out of Thanksgiving dinner so that I can keep a hand free for writing.   Since I tend to eat terribly during NaNo, I’ve planned ahead this year and am stocking the freezer with homemade foods that  actually have more nutritional content than my writing notebooks (although probably not as much fiber!).  The tea cabinet is  already stocked full of Earl Grey, lavender, and chamomile.  The notebooks are laid aside with a pile of pens on top.  In short, I’m taking a page from the Boy Scouts and being prepared this year.

Just one wee little thing is missing.  I still don’t know what I’m going to write. In a dream world, I’d already have a detailed outline written, characters sketches created, and at least one chapter fully formed in my brain.  Instead, I have this:












Yes, that is one big blank and that’s exactly what I have a the moment.  In a burst of forced enthusiasm, I dug up the outline and notes for a previous year’s NaNo that never actually came to fruition,  a little gem was to be titled Saligia, Inc.  For those of you who don’t have heads full of weird and obscure trivia, Saligia is a mnemonic device used to remember the Latin names of the seven deadly sins.  I’ll leave the meat and bones of the novel to your imagination for now, as I’m still not convinced that the novel is this year’s novel.

My enthusiasm for that story was usurped by two small pages of writing that I found tucked in among my notes. It’s a first draft of the beginning of a scene in which the narrator is watching an approaching storm.  It’s a scene without a story, without a novel, without even a complete sentence at the end.  In spite of its brevity, I was entranced and sucked into the scene, which usually only happens when I read the work of others. To turn it into a NaNo novel would be- what’s the word I’m looking for?  Interesting?  Challenging?  Wait, I know – Really Bloody Difficult.  It’s one scene, for goodness’ sake, and an incomplete one at that.  Yet, the narrator hasn’t stopped talking in my head since I picked up those pages.  There’s nothing quite like having your characters go rogue and deciding that they are going to tell you their stories, whether you like it or  not.  Unfortunately, sticking my fingers in my ears and chanting “Lalalala” has not worked so far.  I may have a novel to write after all.

Magpie Monday – Sentinel

From Sentinel (2009 NaNo Novel, unfinished):

Savannah Citizen’s Journal – April 10th, 1962

Roses for Emmaline
Long Standing Tradition Continues After Re-interment

Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah   Spring flowers are in full bloom and the cemetery has taken on an air of solemn optimism with the return of spring.  In one of the oldest family plots in Bonaventure, a single red rose graces a well worn tombstone bearing the name Emmaline Harper, a symbol of an undying love that has spanned more than two hundred years.

Last fall, the Harper family patriarch, Jefferson Davis Harper, made the difficult decision to move the earthly remains of several of his ancestors from Colonial Park Cemetery to the Harper family plot at Bonaventure.  At the time of the re-interment, Harper cited increasing vandalism and general disrepair of Colonial Park as the reason for moving the burials.

Among those whose coffins were moved was that of Emmaline Harper.  The original headstone at Colonial Park read “Emmaline Harper, consort of (name removed), died 1752. Mother of Emma and Jamison.”  The name of Emmaline’s husband had been removed in a time before living memory according to the Harper family historian, Nelly Harper-Wells.  “Emmaline’s father was unhappy with her choice of husband. The husband had funded the memorial to her, but her father had someone later chisel off all traces of the husband’s name.  According to family legend, her father did it himself.  Unfortunately, the name of Emmaline’s husband has been lost from family memory”.

The grave  Emmaline became the source of a family mystery not long after her death.  Three times per year, a single rose appears on her grave, place by unseen hand.  According to Harper-Mills, a red rose appears each year on the anniversary of her death. Another appears every year on the fifth of November.

“No one knows the significance of November fifth and nothing I’ve found in the family’s papers would suggest a reason for this date’s importance.  We do know that a white rose appears on her grave on the anniversaries of her children’s births.  It’s quite touching, but the origin of this tradition is a mystery to the family.”

The mystery of the roses did not end with Emmaline’s re-interment at Bonaventure.  Last Tuesday, which marked the anniversary of her daughter’s death, a single white rose was found on her new headstone, as it has been for as long as Harper family history can recall.

“We have a journal from Emmaline’s granddaughter which refers to the phenomenon happening in the early part of the 1800’s.  It’s a bittersweet tradition that speaks volumes about the woman being honored.  While there are no notable accomplishments by Emmaline, she remains the subject of a loving tribute nearly two centuries after her death.  Will any of be so loved and remembered?”  Harper-Mills asked as she placed fresh lilies on the grave. Indeed, it would seem that even time cannot diminish the memory of love.

Magpie Monday – A Haunted History

From A Haunted History: Maggie Bailey Mystery #1 (2011 NaNoWriMo novel, an unfinished work in progress):

“That would be just fine, Dr. Bailey.  Thank you for your time this morning.  Please consider it… and the hour that you’ll spending questioning your decision… billable hours.  I look forward to seeing you on Tuesday.”

“Said the fox to the chicken,” I muttered after hanging up the phone.  There was no way around it.  I’d caved quickly in the face of financial gain.  Never mind that I could do with the extra cash, that I was without a vehicle, and after paying moving expenses and the bills for the month, my bank account had dwindled far more rapidly than I was comfortable with.

In spite of the firmest of intentions, I would be face to face with James Sinclair in less than forty-eight hours.  I didn’t relish the thought, but I also knew that if I failed to show, Sinclair was the type of man who would hunt me down elsewhere.  As little appeal as the meeting held, the thought of him showing up at my doorstep or office was even less appetizing.  Of course, I rationalized, I could meet with him, have a nice lunch on his dollar, and then tell him to jump off the nearest bridge.  Preferably while wearing concrete shoes.  Or I could just take the money, deal with Sinclair for the necessary time, and once again, get him out of my life.

Thanks for reading,

Magpie Monday – Odinsdatter

There’s a fabulous myth that magpies, a member of the bird family Corvidae, collect odd bits of shiny objects.  In China, a magpie is considered a sign of good fortune and foretells of the arrival of guests.   When I went in search of a title for a new weekly blog segment featuring brief and shiny snippets of my works,  the magpie’s mythology won me over.  So, welcome guest to Magpie Mondays.

Magpie Mondays will feature a short excerpt from something that I’ve written- finished pieces, works in progress, blog posts from elsewhere, bits of my grocery list, or whatever else piques my interest that day. Feedback is welcome and encouraged.  If you like something or find it interesting, please let me know.  If you find it boring, yawn and then let me know.  If a piece makes you want to gouge out your eyes, first put down any sharp objects, then, and only then, let me know.

From Odinsdatter (2010 NaNoWriMo novel, an unfinished work in progress):

“Storm’s coming. Gonna be a bad one. Yes, yes, it’s going to be a bad one this time.”

Valerie Lebeau turned a bright blue eye toward the clear sky in search of a sign of impending rain.  No clouds marred the azure field overhead nor did the distant western horizon show a hint of anything other than continued good weather.  A glance out over the sea showed that the waves were calm, placidly lapping on the shore as if too relaxed to make more effort.  A slight breeze stirred the palm trees but nothing in it suggested anything ominous meteorological turns.  In spite of the obvious lack of evidence, Valerie felt loathe to contradict her elderly neighbor, feeling a combination of respect for the community elder and a healthy fear of being smacked in the shin with the woman’s cane.

“Could be,” she demurred politely, trying to keep any hint of sarcasm from her voice. She knew that any hint of condescension would not only be heard, but long remembered. “Still,” she sighed, “I think that we should be able to finish our shopping before any bad weather actually arrives, don’t you?”

Thanks for visiting,