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Thursday, August 29, 2013

The History

Twenty years before Star of Justice was a blip on my imaginary writing screen, I wrote Past Ties. We're talking college here and the beginning of my million word journey.

Past Ties would technically be the first story I ever "finished." Today I would call it a 27K word sci-fi romance novella with a cliff-hanger ending, i.e., an unfinished story, but, hey, back then I finished nothing. To quote Sam Elliott in Roadhouse, I was "fast out of the gate, but not much on stamina."

However, I had plans. Past Ties would lead to Present Tense (time travel from future to our 1991 following a robot assassin, thank you very much) would lead to Future Perfect, wherein the two main characters from Past Ties finally give in to love after tracking down a serial killer.

Yeah, I've always been like this.

I also had plans for a crossover book in which the robot and one of the characters from 1991 Manhattan, KS accidentally slip between worlds while testing the time machine and end up "elsewhere" for a few adventures. The adventures would revolve around the spoiled princess of a country that eventually became Golor, and the book that would launch that series would be Royal Pain. The title of the crossover book, to stay with the grammar theme of the other three, was Misplaced Modifiers.

Upon reflection, Misplaced Modifiers didn't have enough punch, so I changed it to Dangling Participles. Yes, I believe the phrase is actually "dangling gerund," but participle not only sounded better to my ear, it played to the idea of "action out of place."

Then I upset the apple cart and wrote Star of Justice out of literally nowhere. That character and story sprang into my brain fully formed almost as I wrote the book, but I knew this would be part of that Royal Pain series, and thus, at some point, Dangling Participles would have to be part of the lineup.

Which brings us to today, when I've modified the title of my crossover to Dangling Justice to emphasize both its connection to Ah'rahk and its crossover nature. The truth is Past Ties may never see the light of literary day (it might also be published posthumously and become my most popular work) but it does exist in the mythology of Ah'rahk and I will acknowledge it.

So, on days like yesterday when I wrote the wrong title, I did it because in my brain it's been Dangling Participles for about 20 years, and Dangling Justice for about 20 days. It'll take a little while to retrain the fingers.

Happy Thursday, dear readers. More than you ever wanted to know, I'm sure.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Missing the Climax

It isn't my fault your brain goes to inappropriate places. I'm talking about the climax of my WIP.

Structuring Your Novel has moved from explaining basic structural elements of a story to FAQs. I don't need these as much, so I'm skimming until we reach the next stage of K.M. Weiland's book. Even if I find nothing else of interest in the last 50%, I still got my $2.99 worth. I'm satisfied.

However, I'm not satisfied with Dangling Participles. I've taken notes the last week, made a sketch of an outline I will shortly transfer to a spreadsheet, and decided once and for all what I'm currently lacking is a slam-bang finish.

I suspected this for a while. One of the reasons I didn't fully commit to the story is I saw no clear  pinnacle. You know, that moment everything rushes toward? The Big Battle. The Point where The Point of No Return leads you.

One of my fears is promising what I can't deliver. A reader takes a chance on monster books like mine, and I'm supposed to reward their faith by giving them the ride of their literary lives. This includes a powerful and satisfying climax.

TT: Geez ole Pete. It all sounds incredibly dirty, doesn't it? Stupid over-sexualized American culture.

The lack of a climax may also be due to the lack of a concrete protagonist. After a week of pondering, I'm not sure who or what "the villain" is or should be among the half dozen options I've explored. It's kind of hard to fight an unidentified enemy in an epic battle.

This is one of those moments I'm hoping the writing will reveal the ending. I have a direction and a vague idea of what will happen. As I put these characters through their paces, their enemy should reveal itself and hopefully provide the obvious climax.

May as well end as I began. Happy Hump Day, dear readers!


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Anna and the Dragon...and Spaghetti

I know, I promised a zucchini recipe, but this is way more important. Although, not as delicious. I'll put the recipe at the bottom.

I finished Anna and the Dragon last night just before 10 PM. This is remarkable only because I started reading it Sunday afternoon. No, it isn't a small book. It's just so darn compelling I had to finish it. I even took two breaks during work yesterday (something we're encouraged to do but I rarely do) so I could read at work.

This is a book about an antisocial woman who wears clunky boots, forgets to eat and shows interest in people only when they're part of her research. How could I not like it? Then she falls for an ill-kempt Welsh rogue? Please. How could I not like this book? Add a kilt, and I've written it. Not really. That's about it for similarities, although there is one part where she's looking up at this black "arch" that reminded me... well, I won't go into that.

It's set in Oregon and Oregon is a character in its own right. I can smell the gloomy, green damp and the salt water and the cold. Excellent! The health food store became the Health Food Mart I frequent (minus the deli and coffee bar - guess those are standard in Oregon). That tiny apartment with its card table could have been the tiny apartment I rented in grad school.

The publisher is CreateSpace, which I think means she did it herself. Well, she's a better editor than most because I didn't notice a single typo. Can't say that about many books these days, my own included. The best compliment I can give her is "it reads like a real book." Which also means there's some adult situations and cussing but not nearly as much as I get standing in the checkout line at Walmart, so don't let that stop you.

Since I don't know the author yet (we've FB Friended but what does that really say about a person?), my anxiety was higher than normal. Would I like the ending? Would all the suffering be worth it? Would the cat survive?! You can't always tell with these spec fic authors. Some of them enjoy tragedy as object lessons. That last page was a sigh of relief, I'm telling ya.

I gave it 5 stars. That's a first for me with a living author,* 'cause my realist self says they could always write a better book and where do you go from "up"? The best part is the price. $2.99! You can buy the book and a multi-grain vegan sandwich to go with it like a real Oregonian.

Most importantly, Ginger survives the book.

If you can't tell, I liked it. A lot.

*Turns out it's not a first for me. The first was Odd Little Miracles by Fred Warren and I've handed out a few since then. Apparently, early dementia afflicts the Turtle. Sorry. 

And now the recipe I made in-between reading sessions and ate while reading:

Spaghetti with Zucchini and Garlic

2 sm to med zucchini, shredded large
¼ cp extra-virgin olive oil (4 turns on the pan)
4 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt and pepper
(Basil pesto if you have access to such)
1 lb spaghetti, al dente
½ cp grated parmasiano or romano
Over medium heat, add olive oil and shredded zucchini.
Season with salt and pepper.
Cook zucchini 7 – 10 minutes. Add garlic (and basil pesto, if desired) in the last two minutes to avoid burning the garlic.
Add hot, drained pasta to the pan.
Toss spaghetti with zucchini and add handfuls of grated cheese. Adjust seasoning and serve.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Weekend Recap

The partial insomnia is back. I'm waking up around 3 AM because that seems to be the tipping point for heat collection the house. It's too cool outside (as in, under 82 degrees) to make the thermostat trip, but it's at the edge of my tolerance level inside. It almost makes me miss winter. Sometimes it helps to get up and adjust the fan. Sometimes it doesn't. This morning, it didn't.

I read an article posted on FB about "two sleeps," how people in medieval Europe, at least, used to sleep for a while before midnight, wake up for a couple hours, and go back to sleep for a few more hours. This would be pre-electricity days when darkness lasted fourteen hours and nobody had to beat traffic at 4 AM. I'm a little concerned that this article settled itself in my selectively suggestive brain and I'll never sleep through the night again, even though I have electricity. Oh well. What's read is read. Let that be a lesson to you, folks.

The zucchini may be nearing the end. Despite my efforts (I won't call them "best" because they've been a little hit or miss), the squash bugs are taking over. Aside from the normal sense of panic I experience when I come to the "end" of something, I am a bit tired of constant vigilance. Flowers are easier, although the zucchini hasn't been as work-intensive as I'd feared.

I'm nearly to the end of Structuring Your Novel by K.M. Weiland. That has been An Extremely Useful Book, let me tell you. I have yet to outline the slam-bang finish of Dangling Justice, but I'm way closer than I was a week ago when I started. After that, it's about the butt-in-seat writing, something I haven't practiced all out since Elementals, and never with an outline. Should be interesting.

I'll have a new zucchini recipe tomorrow. I made it last night, and even though I burned the garlic, overcooked the zucchini and made too little spaghetti, it was excellent. How good does a recipe have to be to forgive that kind of incompetence?

I'm off to make zucchini hash for breakfast. Happy Monday, dear readers.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Strong Female Characters

I've posted in the mornings for years, but my mornings are currently crowded with The Swamp, so we'll try evenings for a while.

Day three of no TV when I come home and I'm not missing it. This is far easier to do in the non-tornado season, btw. I know there's nothing more important entertainment-wise on television, but weather can kill the unaware and unprepared. Yes, that's my phobia talking.

I read a blog post by a total stranger this week on how much she hates the descriptive phrase "strong female character." While she had excellent, rational reasons, I still came away thinking "feminist" with a little scoff in my mental voice. My issue, I'm sure, because her reasons boiled down to "no one describes male characters that way."

Must everything be a reaction to maleness? Must women be "equal" or worthless? I would say "strong female character" is a reaction to all those weak female characters who were props for male characters to show off their masculinity. It's nice to see the literary world branching out. I don't see the need for a parade about it or a Female Character Awareness Day.

Do we really have nothing else to worry about as writers? Is this the straw that broke the camel's back (Hump Daaaaay, yeah!), whether my female characters are "strong" instead of "complicated," "snarky" or "egocentric"? Sheesh.

I just don't care. Describe them however you like. I'm not reading your reviews anyway. They're none of my business.

Happy Hump Day, dear readers. Hope it was a good one.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


Kat interviewed Jill Domschot this week (go see) and got me thinking about symbolism.

I love symbols. I like depth and symbols are all about depth. Hidden meanings. Connotations. Similarities between dissimilar things.

Which is why when Jill posed the question "what symbols do you use?" I was stumped that I was stumped.

Now, as much as I like symbols, I also tend to mock those who symbolize everything. Yes, hypocritical of me, I know, but when your book is 160K words, sometimes a blue curtain is a blue curtain.

TT: Jill asked about the significance of the blue curtain, and I can only say somewhere in the past, a discussion was held about symbolism and someone said they put blue curtains into a scene for a particular symbolic reason. I mocked them, as is my wont, and promptly forgot the reason. My apologies. I am an arrogant dumbass.

Anyhoo, there I am wracking my brain for symbols in Star of Justice when it hits me (much like the title which took far too long to discover) that the "star of justice" is a symbol. It's the symbol worn by the knights of Golor. It's an obvious symbol, because I name it so, and nearly everyone in the book recognizes and understands the symbol, but it counts as a symbol nonetheless.

Radiac's symbol also counts. That second, equally dangerous mark Caissa receives that puts her into a mess of trouble time and again. So, two obvious uses of symbolism.

A deeper and completely unintended symbolism I figured out today is that by wearing both symbols, Caissa herself becomes a symbol. She symbolizes the struggle every person must face to take the easy left or the hard right. Do your duty or flee as a coward. It kinda makes me wish I'd put the star of justice on her right arm, except knights are marked on the side closest the heart, like a wedding ring. I guess that's another symbol.

There you have it. The only symbolism I recognize in my first published book. The two extremely obvious and intentional symbols and the one less obvious and completely unintentional symbol.

Finally, Kat gave Jill's first book 5 stars and it's less than $10. That alone makes it worth buying. Make an author's day and go get Anna and the Dragon. Make an author's month and actually read the thing.


For the last week, I've gotten on here intending to write something and gotten distracted by the blogs of friends. Thanks, friends.

I've been distracted lately. Hard to stay focused at work. Running around The Swamp willy nilly pulling this and that with no discernible plan. Switching between books on the Kindle not because I'm bored but because something else drew my eye.

I think it's growing pains. I've been a lump for too long (and I have the arm fat to prove it). Realm Makers was no great epiphany for me. I've attended too many conferences in my life to fall for the emotional rush that leads to the emotional let down a week or two later. That's code for "I'm jaded." However, I spent a good sum of money, and I want to believe I got my money's worth.

What has come home is it's time to put up or shut up. This is no declaration of a return to daily blogging, but I can't be a writer if I don't write. I've been wandering around for the last few years, avoiding the computer for various reasons, most of them underpinned by either apathy or fear. That's no reason not to write. I don't have to publish one more thing if I don't want to, but I would like to write again - without fear, without worrying about the hard work. I'd like to enjoy it again.

Where is that joy? You couldn't have stopped me from writing in college if you'd cut my fingers off. I spent hours at my laptop giggling and I was writing pure crap, building my million word resume. Those early efforts had only passion to recommend them but I was too stupid to know it. Why now - when I have that practice behind me - should I stop enjoying it?

All my social obligations of two years ago have dried up. Friends' lives have changed and the Turtle sits alone on the edge of her swamp. This is a good thing. This is how Star of Justice was written. I was bored, and I had no friends (and no internet) to distract me. It's time to buckle down.

I'm applying Randy Ingermanssen's Snowflake Method to Dangling Justice. I'm reading K.M. Weiland's Structuring Your Novel because my writing expertise comes from 20 years ago and it's time for a refresher.

TT: I follow her blog but she guest-posted somewhere yesterday and I was so impressed with the post and her book was priced so right -$2.99 on Kindle- I bought it. Guest posting works, folks. Keep it up. 

Time to use distraction to my advantage. Let's see if my newest WIP can hold my attention.

Happy Tuesday, dear readers.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Kitchen Sink Macaroni Salad (with zucchini)

Yes, I'm determined to prove zucchini (and you) deserves more than bread.

I took the original recipe from Mr. Food, and then totally substituted stuff I can/like to eat. The only thing I didn't change is the peas and I didn't actually add them to my first try because I don't have any at the moment. The original called for salami instead of chicken and that probably is why you only add a teaspoon of salt. I didn't salt the chicken, so I'll up that a bit next time, too. I also used more than 1 cup of everything, but I guarantee this Turtle will eat every bite. Nom-nom.

Serves: 10
Chilling Time: 2 hr
Cooking Time: 15 min

What You'll Need:
1 (16-ounce) package pasta, cooked according to package directions, rinsed, and cooled
1 cup diced chicken
1 cup diced mozzarella cheese
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 cup chopped zucchini
1 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced red onion
1 cup greek yogurt
2 teaspoons seasoning (I used Pampered Chef's Chili Lime Rub but I might try onion soup mix or Hidden Valley Ranch packets next time)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

What To Do:
In a large bowl, combine pasta, chicken, cheese, peas, olives, celery, and onion.
In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, dry mustard, salt, and pepper; mix well.
Stir into pasta mixture; cover.
Refrigerate at least 2 hours, or until ready to serve.

Even Howard from the Mr. Food test kitchen allows that this recipe is made for substituting, so have fun and add what you like. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Zucchini Rosemary Soup

This came from the Food com website, and I have no good reason to modify it, although the Kansan in me wants to add bacon.

Servings: 6

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 zucchini, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, minced
2 1/2 cups sodium-free chicken stock
3 tablespoons long-grain rice
1 1/2 teaspoons rice vinegar or 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Fry celery, onion, garlic, fennel seeds, salt and pepper, stirring, occasionally, for 5 minutes or until softened.
2 Stir in zucchini and rosemary; cook for 6 minutes.
3 Add stock, 2 cups water and rice. Bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer, stirring often, for about 20 minutes or until rice is tender. Stir in rice vinegar; let cool slightly.
4 In batches in blender or food processor, purée soup until smooth.

I ate it warm, but it might be OK cold. It has a texture like cream of wheat. It's pale green, and I assume the rice vinegar is to hold the color because with that little amount, I couldn't taste it. 
Next time, I'll use fresher garlic and maybe a little more celery. It smelled like the chicken broth while it was cooking, but that wasn't the taste. It was very mild overall. Except for the rosemary garnish. I spit that out and wouldn't use it next time. ehem. 

There you go. Another use for zucchini, of which I have plenty.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Trouble with Technology

That zucchini recipe has been up long enough, don't you think?

The events in Star of Justice are set in motion (somewhat) by a visit the year before of a young man and his non-magical construct. I reference this visit twice in Star of Justice, both times specifically because of the word "technology."

I kept that reference as vague as possible because while I knew the basics of this visit (accidental use of a time-space portal/wormhole) and intended to write about it should our world not end by 2012, I hadn't actually written that scene. After my experiences with "adapting" Elementals, I'm glad I hadn't. However...

Writing that scene is turning out to be a chore. It has to involve Caissa and Gamaliel, and Kiven has to define "technology" as "things that act magical without magic." Sounds simple, don't it? It ain't.

I've revised my original idea for this scene to something (hopefully) more interesting and that's left Caissa out of the main body of conversation, which can't happen because she's the one who remembers the word and the definition. So I'm revising my revision and keeping my fingers crossed that it works.

This is the difficulty with writing a series backwards, hoping you've kept the back story open enough for creative inspiration yet not ignored it so completely the reader is surprised into disbelief (Galena's a werebear?! Are you kidding? No, actually, I'm not). I have another book set sideways (or concurrently) with Star of Justice, and I'm already getting nervous about that.

While "researching" those references in Star of Justice (no, I can't remember details from my own book, OK?), I remembered how much I love it, so I'm reading it again, this time in the print version.

Wow, Grace, could you have made those margins narrower? I mean, I know it's a brick, but holy cow! The copy feels ready to fall off the page if I turn it too quick. Oh well. The ebook reads just fine and it's cheaper on Amazon anyway. $2.99, I think.

Happy Monday, dear readers. If you need something to do, Star of Justice is ready for your attention. And if you haven't read it again, do. You'll be amazed at what you missed the first time around.