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Friday, December 31, 2010

Banging My Head Against the Wall

Not in a good way, either.

I cannot find a way to proceed with Past Ties. And I'm really looking.

I've written a hook. I've explored my characters and their motivations. I've moved a bit player into a more substantial role. None of it is working.

I broke down and decided to plot out the story. Remembering my experience with my last two attempts, you can understand my reluctance.

I can't do it. It all just looks so boring and trite and juvenile when I write it out. Just...dumb.
The characters I've treasured in my heart all these years are "just two-dimensional characters in a cheap, romantic thriller."

I have to write Dangling Participles. Without it, Star of Justice doesn't exist. Besides, it's funny. I can write it almost without trying. The problem is the two major characters meet in Past Ties. The whole reason they get stranded on Ah'rahk happens in Past Ties.

Do I give up? Giving up feels like a step backwards. I used to give up on stories all the time.

Then again, I'm spinning my wheels here. I should be able to write more than 600 words a day. I wrote way more than that on Star of Justice. Even when Elementals was fighting me, I felt good about it, like it was going somewhere important.

I'm starting to wonder if I'm not ready to deal with the issues in Past Ties. It's about abandonment, self-forgiveness, and rejecting God. Maybe those issues are too outside my realm of experience.

Quick! Someone reject me!

Just kidding. I've been rejected. Recently, in fact.

I've been angry with God, and I've hated myself enough to consider suicide (good thing I'm squeamish).

I just can't find a way to bring all these pieces into a coherent picture. I can't figure out how to stuff this soup.

I'm thinking I'll give it one more month. If I can't get some kind of traction in January, I'll put Past Ties back in the drawer and pull out something else.

January may be longer than usual this year.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

No Stairway? Denied!

Yes, I watched Wayne's World. I liked it, too. And the sequel. So there.

TT: I don't actually get the joke referenced in the title. I know a song called "Stairway to Heaven" exists. I suspect from context it contains some kind of guitar riff all guitarists play or try to play and the store owner doesn't want to hear it anymore. Since I had to deduce this from the movie, I pretty much missed the humor boat. However, I recognize many people found it funny, so I use it.

This is my way of announcing Elementals will not be a PYP publication by that or any other title. I received word last night.

I am grateful I got my rejection before the "finalists" appeared on the PYP FB page.

Here's my reaction:

1) I love that rejections are now, for the most part, free. Back in the old days (you know, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I submitted to Tor for the first time), you paid the cost of paper and postage and return postage to get that "no thanks" pink slip. Since I keep my email for FV posts, getting this rejection technically cost me nothing. Yea!

2) I can continue with NAF for the foreseeable future (until they sack me). I get the boot when I get published.  Actually, I get moved to the Granny Flat, but it's kinda the same thing.

See? Bright side to everything.

Now, I'll take my cue from that brilliant philosopher Forrest Gump and end with "that's all I have to say about that."

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Happy Reader

PYP continues to threaten "the reveal." Kinda takin' their own sweet time about it, too. Don't confuse patience with complacency, PYP.

Oh, wait. They are the same with me. Whatever. Do what you want.

Talked with a happy Elementals test reader this weekend. The first to come close to guessing why it's titled as it is. That's...one of five people to figure that out.


Of course, My Dear Friend tells me she wouldn't have picked up a book with any of the other titles I was considering. Then again, she isn't my target audience.

Anyway, this happy test reader was quick to assure me how much she liked the book. So much more than Star of Justice. So much better.

TT: That's okay, although I had one twinge of concern for my first born. Then I remembered that Bible story - I'm pretty sure it's in the Bible - about the dutiful elder son and the wild-spirited, disobedient younger son who gets all the attention and the beef dinner. I can't think of the name...

Anyway. as with all test readers, I asked her some questions about the story. Any confusing parts? Any unanswered questions? Anything that just rang false?

"Oh, no. I can't wait for the sequel."

"I'm not planning a sequel."

The stunned look said it all. A flood of questions poured out. But what about-? But do they-? But what happened when-?


Maybe I do have the potential for a sequel.

All I have to do is ask my audience what they want to know.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Too Laid Back

Oh, it is hard to find the motivation this morning. But since I'm back to work today, I'm looking for it. I'd rather be in bed.

The dark days of winter do this to me. I can sleep about 16 hours at a time in Winter if given the chance. I rarely get the chance. Maybe next weekend. I don't do New Year's, either.

We've started a new tradition. No more big dinners with "all the trimmings" on Christmas. We had soup (which I'm craving something awful at this very moment), sandwiches, and finger foods like chips and dip. Brownies for dessert, which I love, since I don't like pie. It's kinda nice to be grown-ups for Christmas. No whining. No yelling. No hitting anybody.

Yeah, I wasn't at my best on Christmas. Or any day involving food and/or presents.

Who am I kidding? I'm only at my best when I'm completely alone.

I did have a funny thing happen this weekend. I got excited about Past Ties.

I had powered down for the evening. Computer off. PJ's on. Brushing teeth. And wham! A scene started talking to me.

I've mentioned how my scenes usually start as dialogue, right?

Anyway, teeth are being brushed as this dialogue gets going. I check the clock. It's actually a little early to go to bed, even for me. I was mostly bored with being awake.

Computer gets turned on, files get opened, and click-click-click another 600 words get written almost by accident.

But these words have something I haven't had much of lately. Passion.

It was a new scene, not an old, reworked one. Hopefully, it's a new direction/complication for the story.

See, it occurred to me my whole story has been a drive across western Kansas - flat and dull (no offense, folks). I need some eastern Kansas in there - ups and downs, a few flint hills, maybe a stream or two. Something to break it up. I need a climb and a climax.

Maybe I just found something. We'll see how it goes.

I was telling Grandma Turtle writing is like marriage. Every day ain't champagne and roses but if you keep plugging away, more often than not you find a reason to keep plugging away.

Friday, December 24, 2010


I'm up after my first nap of the day (5:30-9 AM. I fed the cats @5). I'm showered, dressed, and hair-dressed. The fish are fed, the farm is managed (easy since I planted 2-day crops), and cubes are dropped while I watched Hellboy!

I love that movie. Forget for a moment Ron Perlman's fantastic performance as the blue-collar, red-skinned Everyman Demon. You have memorable characters all over the place. I especially like the scene between Jeffrey Tambour and Ron Perlman when they're lighting cigars. Nicely done, boys. Very masculine. Even the cameo folks from the beginning scene when Hellboy is found could have their own movie if they'd just let director Guillermo del Toro have his head.

TT: They did, by the way, in Hellboy II. There is a distinct difference in those two movies, and I'll probably talk about it some other time. I hope someday to watch Hellboy III. After they make it, that is.

Anyway, I didn't want to post about Hellboy.

Newburydave over at the Sandbox said something yesterday that got me thinking. I'll paraphrase.
According to Baen (whatever that is), it's okay to imagine mechanical doohickys and write about them as long as they work consistently within the story. His example was wormholes. We don't have wormhole technology, but we could someday and until we do, it's okay to pretend. It's called imagineering.

TT: Spellcheck hates that word. Oh, well.

Writers do this all the time, even Star Trek writers. It's possible this imagineering is a real branch of engineering. Frankly, I don't care. I didn't bother to look it up because it gave me what I needed.

I now have permission to write whatever kind of tech I want in Past Ties as long as it is consistent within my world frame. I'm kind of already doing it with psyonics, except that's not a real science, so I feel justified in playing with it.

Yes, Andra, you technically gave me permission to do this a while ago with your comments about "soft sci-fi." But a man is convicted by two witnesses, and a turtle is convinced by two unrelated examples.

We'll see if this new found freedom allows me to get these folks moving.

Another possible assist came in The Lioness' most recent NAF post about The Snowflake Method. I'd heard of it. I'd heard of its developer Randy Ingermansen (oddly enough at the Roaring Lambs' writer's conference), but I didn't know who he was.

The Snowflake Method is about plotting your story ahead of time and getting to know your characters before you write them so you don't have to stop all the time to figure out what happens next. A little homework at the beginning speeds up the end process. I have no reason to argue with the thinking.

I'm a seat-of-the-pants writer. We've established that, but I do think part of my problem with Past Ties is I'm not sure where I'm going. I have no definable moment I'm writing toward. I am not "writing with the end in mind."

With Star of Justice, everything I had was focused on getting to the former chapter 13 - Caissa's confrontation with Gamaliel. I must say, the former chapter 12 was one of the hardest I've ever written. I wanted so badly to just skip it and go on.

In Elementals, I aimed at that last chapter. I wanted everything lined up to make that chapter exactly right. Don't know if I hit it, but that was my goal.

I haven't found that Ultimate Scene for Past Ties. It used to be the revelation of LUCK-I as a robot. Not any more. That's established almost from the beginning. So where do I aim?

I have decided (for the moment), LUCK-I is the driving force of the book. Everything that happens should happen either to or because of it. All the rest is incidental.

But, with permission to give my imagineering free rein and a new-found goal of getting to know my characters and their needs, I hope to find my Ultimate Scene and my writing stride.

Wish me luck.

And Merry Christmas Eve to all!

Hmm. I'm a little tired. I may have to work that second nap of the day in before Christmas Eve services.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Running So Late

I could blame the online Christmas party with Grace Bridges, Andrea Graham of Tales of the Dim Knight and Fred Warren of The Muse, but I left shortly before 9 PM, so that isn't fair.

I could blame this being the last official work day of the week. Thank you, Jesus for that. I'm ready to not be there for a few days.

I could blame the chance I'm trying to develop a cold (got the start of a beauty headache at the moment). I'm taking vitamin D, Airborne and stopping wheat consumption just in case. I do not want to be sick over Christmas. 

No, I need to blame the cats. With the advent of cold weather, I'm letting them stay upstairs at night instead of in the unheated basement. I keep waking up to Mica purring and kneading my neck. At least she isn't crying. I hate it when she cries. She's a colicky cat on her best days.

I wrote nothing story-related last night. I will blame the party on this one.

That's okay. Theoretically, I have almost the entire weekend to write. Church has shrunk to one mid-morning service on Sunday so folks can spend time with their families. That really only works if you have a family with whom to spend time.

I guess the cats count.

TT: That sounds like I'll be all alone all weekend. Not true. I'll be spending time with the human fam, just not every day. Frankly, I like being alone. I need the rest. Oooh! I might watch The Fugitive

I'd like to think I will use the time well. Make some Christmas presents, repair some clothing that's needed it for a while, try yet again to monetize my website, spend a little time with Jesus - that sort of thing. Odds are I'll be sleeping and watching Hellboy I and II. And Galaxy Quest. Gotta watch Galaxy Quest at Christmas.

I have no idea if I'll be posting. I will have all the time in the world to do so, but that's true of Saturdays. If I say I will, I won't. If I say I won't, I will. So I'll say maybe, and we'll see.

If I don't, Merry Christmas and Maligayang Pasco to everybody.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I Don't Date (So How Will I Get Published?)

The warning has gone out from PYP. October's book submissions have been read and sorted. Some manner of judgment will fall in January.

That means I need to get this post out asap. Otherwise it will be gloating or sour grapes. I'd rather you all just took it as "random thoughts."

I pity publishers/editors/agents. I do.

I know. As an author, I should admire/respect/worship/despise/mock/criticize them, but mostly I pity them.

It can't be an easy job. They're human, like me. They're trying to make a living doing what they love. And these snotty folks keep getting in the way by not producing what they really need - a book or short story that appeals to a wide audience and pretty much sells itself.

That has to be hard.

Not only do writers not produce such a book, but they gritch and moan when you have to tell them they didn't produce such a book.

I mean, writers are supposed to be fairly bright. Shouldn't they have figured this out on their own?

TT: This post could read as pure sarcasm, but I assure you, I'm serious as a heart attack here.

"A heart attack is serious," Bones said. 
"Yes it is," Boothe agreed.

Getting published is like dating. Writers are the guy. We scope out the chic (publishing house), we approach, we make our pitch and we wait for the result.

At this point, guys know the girl has all the power.

TT: I also have to say I admire guys willing to put themselves out there. It has to be hard. I'm not interested, but I do admire you.

So the girl, the publisher, has to consider the offer. Is he cute? Is he broke? Can she present him to Mom and Dad at Christmas? Does he own a surfboard? All good questions.

If she doesn't like the answers, she says "no." How she says it depends entirely on what kind of girl she is and what kind of guy he is. We all know it doesn't take all night to wash your hair. That's a solid brush-off. But if she gives you a "gee, I don't have time this weekend, but if you get a job and move out of your parents' basement and maybe grow out that mohawk, we can talk again."
That would be the "it's not what we need right now, but if you reduce the word count, change the vampire to a superhero and get rid of the flying purple people eater, feel free to resubmit in a year" editorial response.

The ball is back in the guy's court. No one wants to see a guy pitch a fit 'cause a girl said "no." It's undignified and it's unnecessary. How does the old saying go? There's plenty of publishers in the sea?
Something like that. 

Anyway, since this submission is not my end-all-be-all-if-I-don't-get-in-now-I'll-kill-myself last resort, I'm good with whatever happens. If it isn't here, it will be somewhere. If it isn't now, it will be sometime.

I have just enough pragmatism in me to believe that. 

One other thing, and this one could qualify as a bit judgmental and snarky.

Me? Shocking! 

A guy who demands of a girl a detailed explanation for why she rejected him is a loser. If he pulls that, he's got his reason, he's just too dense to know it.

Did I say a bit judgmental? My bad.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Third Book, or First?

Past Ties plods along. Thanks to Elementals, I was prepared for difficulty in reshaping and reworking a partially written story. It's been harder than I expected, but I have progressed.

While complaining about it to My Dear Friend last night, and while considering ways to accurately describe my troubles to non-writers, I stumbled across a revelation.

I've been thinking of Star of Justice as my perfectly behaved first born. Elementals is my strong-willed second child. So what would Past Ties be? The clownish, attention-starved Baby or the more serious, independent Youngest-For-Now?

But that's all wrong.

I wrote Past Ties in college. I finished it in college (clocking in at 37,500 words, I suppose it would count as a novella).

That makes Past Ties not only my first book, but my 17-year-old, near-adult coming home to demand why I abandoned it shortly after birth and what kinds of reparations I'm prepared to make.

That's a whole other can of mealworms.

I'm not dealing with a fresh idea and uncharted ground. I'm not dealing with a partially plotted group of scenes in need of smooth transitions and a coherent plot structure.

I'm dealing with a hacked-off first attempt to bring order out of chaos, and a story firmly settled in the legend of my story worlds.

No wonder it's been hard. I already wrote this. And now I'm writing it again. Differently.

Why do I do this to myself? Is writing a good story not hard enough?

My Dear Friend encouraged me to let it go and write something else (her ulterior motive no doubt is to read the much-touted but unwritten sequel to Star of Justice).

Can't do it. The Turtle sheer-cussedness is out in full-force. I will make something of this homeless urchin. I will whip this Galatea into shape to inspire everyone, including her creator, to fall in love with her.

That's the goal, anyway. I talk big when I'm nervous.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Where Is Everybody?

Does that title even make sense? It sounds wrong. But everybody is singular, so the verb would be singular. Where are everybody sounds worse.

TT: Whatever was voted The Most Annoying Word of the Year for the second year running. I suppose if I heard it eye-rolled at me daily I might agree. I'm going to try working it into every one of my posts until January.

Just kidding.

I'm sure it's purely subjective, but people I'm accustomed to "seeing" daily have vanished. Crazyhair Vaulter. Certain Neighbors. Gungho Iguana (although his semester is over, so he may be back on the scene for a bit).

Are normal people really this busy around Christmas?

TT: Not being normal people, I have to ask this question. 

I vaguely remember this time last year we were all waiting for the final results of the MLS Contest. I don't remember a lot of chatter.

The year before that I wasn't on FB or FV or the Internet so I didn't have any Friends to miss. I don't know what I was doing. Watching Galaxy Quest, probably. I know I wasn't hanging around with family and shopping all day. This turtle don't play that. A great disappointment to Momma Turtle it is, too. 

I know I wasn't writing.

I was talking about writing. Thinking about writing. Blogging about writing.

But I wasn't writing. Mostly I was huddled under blankets and dreaming of a hot Kansas summer. Which failed to materialize, thanks so much, Al Gore. Maybe if we'd burned a few more tire piles, I wouldn't have my current gas/electric bill.

Have I mentioned I consider man-made global warming a farce, and its prophets charlatans and thieves? Or worse, misguided fanatics worshipping at the altar of Earth Mother Gaia, who has to be slapping her forehead and wondering, "I gave them Styrofoam. Why won't they use it? I'm cold here. I need the insulation."

TT: Hmm. The lack of socialization is showing in an uptick of sarcasm. Sorry, folks. This is what happens when you leave me alone for an extended period of time.

Anyway, since I am actually writing at the moment, and TV has finally reached a point of such utter inanity I find myself looking forward to the commercials, I guess I'll stop lamenting the solitude and put it to good use abusing the cast and crew of Past Ties.

God willing, some of you will reappear after the New Year.

You know where I'll be. Right here, covered in a mixture of Styrofoam and mud, staring at frozen buttercups.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


After doing absolutely nothing for three weeks, my website has fixed itself. I have no explanation for this.

I got on last night prepared for battle and discovered all the "saved" stuff in the queue had vanished, but I could publish again.

I went slowly, just in case. Everything seems okay. So, if you get the chance, wander over to Ranunculus Turtle the website and check out the Elementals page for some artwork relating to the book.

TT: That's www.robynntolbert.com if you didn't know.

Went to bed early, but did manage to dash off some writing last night. Sloooow and steady, remember? I'll get there. At the moment, it's a 3 viewpoint book. At the moment, it's working. Hopefully, I'll stay in the moment.

Don't know if I'll have time to write this evening or not. Depends on the roads.

You know, I've started and deleted 3 potential post topics. I guess I'm not feeling it this morning.

So, I'll quit, you can take the time to visit the website, and we'll both get on with our day.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

First Love

If you got that email a year ago with the wave file called "Wake Up" (a line drawing cartoon of a cat trying to get his owner out of bed) and enjoyed it, hop over to Scita Scienda for C.L. Dyck's "Happy Holidays" post.

TT: Forgive her for the PC title. She's Canadian. They don't have Christmas, I guess. Or they'll imprison her for mentioning anything with "Christ" in it.

Just kidding, Cat. Mostly.

I was a writing fool last night. Too bad I started so late. It won't last, I'm sure.

What helped was remembering one of the things I love about Past Ties: all the psyonic stuff. I thought, why on earth am I not writing more about that? That's good stuff, chock full of conflict with hints of occult to draw in the modern day reader.

Viewpoint Character Tayra Shah is a member of the Psyonic Guild. Her title is "Tracker," and her ability category is Empathic Precog. That means she is able to sense past, present and future emotional states in regards to a specific item or person. In the case of an item, she senses the emotional states of the people surrounding it.

This awareness can be used for a variety of purposes, but since Trackers are rare (about 1 in every 1 billion births), the Guild uses them to locate stuff. Valuable stuff. Good P.R., and pays for all the upkeep.

Trackers have a hard life. They have very little control over what they sense and often get bombarded with unwanted information. Think TMI for every person you ever meet. Or pass. Or see. Or don't see, 'cause the precognitive aspects of the ability mean time is no barrier to reception.

Doesn't sound so fun, huh?

It isn't fun, although Shah used to be very, very good at her job. Arrogant good. Then she got spanked. Hard.

When we meet her, she's a mess. A guilt-ridden, shame-filled, emotionally-crippled mess being forced to take her first assignment in three years.

Good times.

Like the best therapy sessions, good story-telling is about conflict. I was forgetting that. My favorite part of writing, and reading, is the conflict. The yelling, the blaming, the sarcasm and the fear of failure. I won't be able to chop off heads in this book (unless I get really creative), but my folks can fight.

Add in describing abilities no one has ever experienced before and my fingers are itching to type just thinking about it.

TT: That last sentence was a little bold, even for me. With the resurgence of interest in psychic phenomena, people have certain expectations of what a psychic or psyonic can do. I don't care about their expectations too much. My psyonics will be judged on their own merits, and Shah will be judging herself for a while yet.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


If you haven't had a chance to hop over to NAF and tell me about your favorite robot yet...why not? I'm not getting any younger here.

Speaking of which, I've found my first wrinkle. It's the beginnings of a neck wattle. I knew I'd develop one eventually. I just didn't know "eventually" would be "now." I figured my first wrinkle would be a smile line. Alas, no. To be fair, my co-worker doesn't see it, and she's not the kind who won't tell me something just to be nice. I'm grateful for that, even if it means occasionally I get a hairy eyeball for my choice of clothing.

Hey, I thought they matched when I was dressing in the dark.

Anyway, it's easier to comment at NAF than here. You don't have to log in, and the site remembers you when you come back. Plus, no one has identified my movie quote yet. 

Moving on. 

I should never have mocked Anne Lamott about writer's block. I suspect that's where I am right now, at the intersection of Stuck and Braindead.

I'm not worried. I'm not on deadline (not a paying deadline), so I don't have to panic.
I have some tricks to try.

I can do a little research. I won't go crazy like some folks, but taking an hour to toodle the web and look at current robots or biological breakthroughs or monsoon destruction footage or giant helicopters can oil my brain gears enough to get moving again. I'll have to do it eventually, and I hate it when I have a great scene written only to find out they didn't wear their daggers on that side and even if they did, the type of dagger would be inadequate for doing what I needed it to do. Better to do some research early in the process.

I can Make Something Happen. If I get bogged down, so does the reader. So, bang! Throw a curve ball. Drop a bomb. Explode a lab. Get the stupid story moving, gooberhead!

Ooh, sorry. That was my internal editor. She's not as nice as I am.

A thought struck me last night. While I was icing my cheek, I pondered. I've always assumed Past Ties is part of a trilogy. Past Ties, Present Tense, Future Perfect. Great titles, aren't they?
But I don't necessarily have books to go with those titles. Fact is, I don't have to write Past Ties. I made it through Star of Justice without The Oracle's Words. I could move on with my series without ever committing Tayra and Gavran, or LUCK-I, to paper.

I don't want to do that. I'd prefer to write their story, but I've been thinking I have to. I don't. I don't have to write three books, either. I might be able to do it in one. Shoot, I might be able to make it a short story.

Maybe not.

The point is, I said no limits, and then I find limits I didn't know I had. Story of my life.

I'll start with Making Something Happen, and move on to research if that doesn't help.

Otherwise, I'll just stare at my neck wattle in the mirror. That's not helpful.

Monday, December 13, 2010


It didn't post Saturday, but to read some of my thoughts about robots, click

The New Authors' Fellowship.

Then share some of your thoughts about robots.

Friday, December 10, 2010

My Trouble with Scifi

No writing last night, and unlikely writing time tonight. Other things, you know. However, tomorrow is supposed to be cold with rain and possible snow. Surely I can find 3 hours of writing time between all the napping I intend to do. Who knows? I might even find a little time to research.


For me, research is typing a word into the Google search bar and picking the first thing that isn't an ad. Not very directed, I admit, but research is a concept beyond my reptilian brain's ability to grasp. I never know when to quit or what to trust. Who has the last word on a topic, after all?

One of my big issues is with the character LUCK I, a robot. I'll be writing about that at NAF, possibly tomorrow. I'll have to see who else has what else scheduled.

Who am I kidding? I have a problem with all the technology. On last night's drive home, I heard computer hard drives may soon be a thing of the past. Something called Chrome is going to create computers whose info is stored in online servers only.

TT: The whole idea freaks me out. Has overtones (real or perceived) of socialism and shared property that put my back up and my head down.

My book is set in 2132. What on earth will Earth look like? What kind of tech will we have and what will we have outlawed?

It's my choice, really, since it's my vision of the future, but I'd like it to at least seem plausible.
My typical readers compliment me on my innovation and creativity (It's not arrogant if it's true). I correct them constantly. What I write is innovative and creative to them, because they aren't familiar with the genre. It's not innovative at all in comparison to other fantasy offerings.

And that's why writing scifi freaks me out. The MLS contest showed me how far out of touch I am.
Which means I either have to catch up fast or make the story so compelling it appeals to readers other than hardcore scifi fans.

I'm a turtle living at the poverty line. Guess which option I'll chose?

I suppose a third option is not to write scifi.

Too late. Already started. Must finish.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


It looks like I didn't write last night. I did, but I also cut some stuff. So while I think I wrote about 600 words, I can't prove it.
TT: I am craving nachos. I wonder if I have any?
At least Tayra and Gavran are out of the car. They've been sitting in there mid-fight for nearly a year. Waaaay past time to move on.
When I first envisioned this story, I had all these secrets I wanted to reveal at key moments. I'm thinking now I'll just throw it all out on the table and use emotional drama for tension purposes.
One reason for this change of plan is one of my viewpoint characters is not only a secret-keeper but privy to all kinds of other secrets. You can't have a viewpoint character who should know stuff not knowing stuff so the reader doesn't know stuff.
Ya know?
TT: Oooh, now I'm craving vegetable soup with corn chips. I know I don't have that.
That's one of the tricks of viewpoint characters. I've written about this before, sometime last year, but when choosing a viewpoint character, an author must consider what information that character would have and what information the reader will get as a result.
This is why Sherlock Holmes is written from Watson's point of view. Holmes knows too much too quickly. The book would be over in a few pages.
As I wade through the compost of the original story, all kinds of forced spots jump out at me. Places where Gavran doesn't have information he should because the reader can't know it yet. Places where the characters go for no other reason than I the author wanted them there because it was easier to write the scene that way.
Not good, Turtle. Not good at all.
Being older (not wiser, necessarily, but definitely older), I am developing the discipline to work hard so the reader doesn't have to. My readers should not have to go out of their way to forgive me for blatant laziness. The only one who would, really, is my mom.
No, this is the effort of writing. We work hard so you don't have to. That's a jingle, isn't it?
I won't have as much time to write this evening, other plans and all, but I'll see what I can do.
I'm just glad they're out of the stupid car.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

It Continues

Hit the first hiccup last night. I didn't know what to write about next. That can be a problem. So I cleaned litter boxes and took the trash out and washed dishes while I thought about it. Subsequently, I wrote about an hour, but I wrote a bit over 600 words. I'll take it as a win.

Having the little counter up the corner helps. I'm not generally a "must write this much per day" kind of person, but since I'm usually at the keyboard anyway, I may as well write as not.

If my math is right, I'm now 1/8 finished with my first draft. That can't be right. Then again, I guess it could.

The virtual world has been void of writers the past few days. I can only guess this has to do with approaching Christmas. This is the time of year for decorating, shopping, family get-togethers and whatnot. Doesn't leave a lot of time for writing. Probably another excellent reason for not starting a book in December.

Except I'm not starting it. I'm continuing it. Take that, Anne Lamott! 

Crazyhair Vaulter published at NAF this morning. It was good to see her. I was beginning to worry the other Borg had left the turtle to run the spaceship by herself.

Elder Brother dropped by to assure me my computer Internet issues are not my fault. Good. One less thing.

I will have to contact Support about my continuing website issues, however. Those are not resolving themselves.

I'd like nothing better than to return to bed this morning. I seem to be trying to get a cold. I will not succumb. Our office Christmas party is this Friday and I will eat salmon and creme brulee! This I swear.

Well, not swear. I don't swear. But it is my goal.

Wow, this is a totally boring post. I hope I do better at Virtual Buttercups.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Start

Last night went well. Not perfect, but well enough to keep going.

I think my math is wrong. Shocking!

I wrote a bit longer than an hour (one of the reasons the night wasn't perfect) but I wrote almost 700 words. I must have written my previous books single-spaced for a page an hour. That bumps a page up to 500 words or so, which based on last night, seems about right.

I can officially calm down. One to two hours of writing to meet a deadline of 600 words a day I can handle. I'm sure I can. I'm pretty sure I can.

I will not get cocky. Slow but steady is my approach. If I should happen to speed up at any point, it will be purely accidental.

Here's a funny thing.

Not 24 hours after reading Roland D. Yeomans post about finding the magic and loving your writing and getting inspiration where you can (and the link to that lovely song I can't get out of my head), he posts about not starting a book without the end in mind.


Well, he has a point (one firmly shared by Jeff the Publisher), but I'm going to ignore it. Mostly. I need to write here, not continue thinking about writing while doing nothing.

TT: This came in quite handy last night. Aside from a quick Internet search about big helicopters, followed by an immediate invention of a bigger helicopter, I glossed over any fact that might possibly get in the way of my fiction.

What will I have to fix later? I don't know. What I know is it's easier to revise than create. Right now, I'm worried about creating. I'm using the NaNoWriMo mindset in December.

What I did take from Writing in the Crosshairs was the need to consider the themes of the book. What giant, over-arching emotional issues will these characters address? That should help keep me focused. Except my current list has about 8 things on it.

Oi. Again.

No matter. As I write forward, I have faith my subconscious will spit up something useful. The trick is letting it do so.

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Month of Mondays

Joining NAF has offered many opportunities. One of them is public accountability. More public than here, anyway.

It is one thing to say you are an author. It is another to actually write. It is yet another to get published. Each comes with a certain level of esteem. Each comes at a price.

The price for moving from saying author to being author is writing. You can't be it without doing it.
With this as the ugly reality before me (and that lovely yet terrifying NAF accountability chart as my lurking demon), I once again open my Past Ties file and begin.

Anne Lamott says to never start writing a book in December because December is a month of Mondays.

I have no idea what this means. Aren't all months months of Mondays? I don't get it. Maybe she's being poetical. I don't get poetry, either.

In defiance of her vague decree, I began writing Saturday. Of course, I wrote about 35 words, but I hadn't even looked at the file in close to a year, so I had to read it over first.

It's compost.

Anne Lamott would say it's supposed to be compost. That's what first drafts are (she uses a coarser word, but I keep it clean in the Turtle swamp, so I'll use compost). I'm holding her to it. I don't remember thinking this about Star of Justice or Elementals.

TT: Still considering title suggestions on Elementals, by the way. I need something about two sisters, light and dark, hot and cold, Jew and Gentile (just kidding). I've considered Treaty of the Lifespring but it's a bit too, I don't know, "choose your own adventure" for me. Or just The Treaty (too John Grisham). Or The Swap (too modern). Or Brideshead Revisited (wait, has that been done?). I don't know.

I'm also trying to relax and let this story come, something I didn't do with Elementals until the very end.

Here are my problems.

1) When I wrote and finished (or so I thought) this book 20 years ago, I never bothered to count words. 37K. That's it. Oi. I don't know what the heck I'm going to write about for another 40K words. Not a clue. Has me a little worried. When I add in my intention to scrap most of what I wrote previously, I'm a lot worried. Almost petit mal panic attack worried.

2) The original story was a romance with robots thrown in. I didn't mean for it to be a romance, but it is. I don't know what else I want it to be, but I want more out of this very beginning of the Star of Justice universe than a romance with robots in it.

TT: I find it ironic I seem to be writing backwards. Most people start small, with compost, and get better. I feel like I wrote my best book first, and everything coming after it gets worse. I hope my feelings are as wrong about this as they are about other things.

3) I am terrified of the "real life" aspects of this book. It is set in the near future (within 100 years). It has robots, nano robots, electronic gadgetry, terrorist cells - all kinds of stuff I frankly don't know anything about. This wouldn't concern me, except my audience will know about it, and they will laugh me out of the Comic Con for guessing wrong. Or being wrong. Or spelling nuclear wrong. (I know there is a difference, I just don't remember what it is, and it hasn't come up yet, so I haven't bothered to refresh my memory).

Those are my top 3 reasons for balking at beginning.

TT: Reason 4 is Paul's math. To achieve my goal of a completed first draft by end of March, I have to write 600 words a day. For me, that's 3 1/2 hours of writing (I'm a very slow fresh writer) per day.
Panic attack. Where's my paper bag?

Why am I writing this book? Simple.

Without LUCK-I, Star of Justice never happens. It must exist, therefore Past Ties must be written.

But...I have a plan. For writing, anyway.

I'm going to start. You can't finish if you don't start.

I'm not going to follow an outline or put any kind of rule on myself in any way (with Elementals, I originally tried to limit it to 2 viewpoints every 3 chapters no matter what. Boy, was that fun. Not!). If I end in March with 14 viewpoint characters, so be it. I'll have something to work with in April. Other than my tax preparer.

I'm not even going to set an end goal other than word count (like, the book is finished when "Z" happens). Nope. I wrote Star of Justice by the seat of my pants. Elementals got constipated when I tried to follow a plan. I'm going totally crazy with these 80K and see what happens.

Could be a very interesting ride.

PS. How weird is this? After writing this post, I went trolling through the Blogs I Follow and found this link at Writing in the Crosshairs. I'd never heard it before. It may become my inspirational song for Past Ties. Enjoy.

Walking In the Air.

According the poster for this video, the singer in this version is Declan Galbraith, whoever he is.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Problem with Yes

Reader feedback is trickling in. Thank you, test readers.

I can't share what they're telling me, of course. That would taint the remaining feedback. So far no one has "complained" about the same thing twice. I suppose I should take that as a good thing.

Warrior Woman has promised a critique filled with red.

Deep breath. Bring it on. I'm tough.

TT: That used to be my lamb's catchphrase. I remember her no more than 3 years old with a skinned knee or some such, holding back the tears and stammering, "I'm tough." She is far tougher than I, bless her buttons. Feel better, dear heart.

You know, when I started this journey in July 2009, I knew it was going to be a big step. One giant leap for turtlekind and all that.

What I didn't know for certain was how it would affect everything else in my life.

The problem with saying "yes" to one thing is an increasing pressure to say "yes" to other things, too. I didn't use to have this problem. I said "no" to everything. It was quite peaceful.

Now, people know I can write. They know I can speak in front of crowds, and draw, and step up to sing the National Anthem if no one else has the chutzpah to do it (I can even do it with a puppet). They think I have more time than the average family woman (they're wrong on that) and they don't mind impinging on it.

I don't like people knowing these things. It means I get tapped. More often than I did when folks thought I was just the tall gal in glasses who's first question upon entering a room is "where's the food?"

TT: That's actually true.

What people don't seem to realize is who I am.

They see the public me: the loud, confident, competent, opinionated recovering brat former therapist who isn't afraid to call them on their stupidity in public. Loudly, if necessary.

Yes, that's me. But, I'm also the quiet "live-and-let-live" gal who doesn't care what you do as long as it doesn't interfere with my FV time.

I'm not shy, but I don't like to be put in the spotlight. I don't like to be the target. I don't care to have all attention focused on me all the time.

That does sound odd, doesn't it, considering what I write here. But it's true.

I also don't like having to decide when to say "yes." Now when people ask me to do something, I have to think about it. Can I do it? Will I do it? Are crops coming due about that time?

It's a pain.

Maybe it's a growing pain.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


I am not dead. My Internet Explorer seems to be, but I'm fine.

Except I'm not.

I may be experiencing a mid-life crisis. It's a little early. By my math, I should have one at the earliest 6 years in the future. I refuse to accept the notion having one now predicts my expiration date.

It's possible this is why I started my journey out of the swamp. I take longer than most people with most things, so I shouldn't be surprised my mid-life crisis would span several years.

I'm grieving today. Took me a while to figure it out. It's also a bit early, but I'm a preemptive griever. Comes with being a cynic. I regularly borrow trouble, even though Jesus tells me not to.

When the time came to buy my first new car, I wept. For days. I loved my 4-door 1983 Suburu GL-10 metallic green Cricket. He'd been in our family from the day he left the lot. He'd carried my grandfather, dad, and finally me so faithfully. If I were a different person I would have found a way to keep him, but I'm not and I needed the trade-in money as a down payment. He got sold to some flighty high-schooler, and I just know she destroyed him in a cell phone-related incident.

TT: Dave Ramsey says stuff is just stuff and you can always get more stuff. Sometimes Dave is wrong.

I mourn that car. I knew it had to go, and it tore me up inside. Still does.

I loved a cat named Timmi. She was my baby. I brought her back from the brink of death about 8 times over the course of 13 years. Until the last time. I couldn't stop that one.

I mourn her, too. I thought I'd gotten it all out while she was alive. I was wrong.

Some wounds won't heal in this life.

That's what today feels like. I'm standing near the end of something. I don't know what it is or when it will finally come, but the air is heavy. Clouds are swirling, and I'm waiting for the storm.

Change is inevitable, inexorable and inescapable.

What will it bring?

God's will.

That's why I do not mourn as those who have no hope. Mourning will turn to gladness and sorrow to joy. Once that storm passes, I will emerge with a shinier shell and a fresh crop of buttercups.

I just hate the waiting. And the mourning.