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Monthly Archives: January 2013

Playing with Contradictions

I’ve been working on expanding a short story that’s more character study than plot-driven tale. It’s set in the same world and as my first indie-published short story Kitchen Ambitions.

The two main characters, a brother and sister, are both intense with strong beliefs, but apart from that, they are polar opposites. The sister is gruff but caring and the brother pleasant but selfish. She stresses a lot more than she needs to and he has a confidence that scares me. In real life, neither character would be someone I’d like to have a friend, but in fiction, their flaws makes my job a whole lot easier. There’s not much to say about someone who is balanced, together and able to think about others as well as themselves. Flawed people are so much more interesting in the world of writing.

Writing is all about contradictions. While the sister can sometimes (well, often) appear bitchy and confrontational, she’s a good person at heart and wants to make the world a better place. Her brother, on the other hand, is accomodating and pleasant, and while he also wants to make the world a better place, he wants to do it in his way. Unfortunately for those around him (but fortunately for me as a writer), this means that at some point he’s going to try to take over the world. And with the power he has, he’s going to be pretty much unstoppable.

This is why I love writing. I get to plan the end of the world without having to worry about going to jail or spilling any real blood.

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2013 in General Babblery

 

Gotta Be Starting Something

My writing career starts today.

Each year for the past three years, I’ve chosen a single word to describe the next step in the 20 year writing plan I came up with in 2007.

In 2007, although I wrote my first novel, I was on sabatical, separating myself from my prior life with its focus on things that had nothing to do with writing.

Then in 2008 and 2009, I backslid. In integrating myself once more into a daily routine, I fell back into old habits, putting too much of my energy into self-help blogging and coaching.

In 2010, I got wise. I decided that the word professional would guide me through the year. And it worked. I focused on my writing, improved my skills and most importantly cut away anything that wouldn’t help me fulfill my writing plans. Yes, I did get a day job, but it was one that I could leave at work, plus my bosses have told me a million times that my job is my job, but it should never get in the way of my writing.

In 2011, I chose consistent as my watchword. Without consistency, a writer is nothing. The only way to build up an income is by producing new work, continually. So I learned to write regulary, even when my muse didn’t feel like it or when life tried to interfere. In that year, I discovered that I need lots of time away from my writing or I resent it. Because of that year of focus on that one aspect of my writing, I’ve developed a pattern of writing that produces lots of words and yet gives me plenty of time off to enjoy time with my husband, my friends and with myself.

My word for 2012 was preparation. It wasn’t an easy year and I wrote very little, but that wasn’t my focus, so it was okay. My preparation included becoming debt-free so that I can save to indie-publish without going into further debt. I balanced my need and desire to write with the other parts of my life. And I read, a lot. I used to run my own business back in my other life and so spent 2012 learning how to apply the principles of running a small business to being a writer in the new publishing paradigm.

The year my word is an active one – the verb start. In 2013, I will publish a short story each month (including a few in Spanish), and one short story collection. I will also prepare two novels for publishing in 2014 and build up the queue of short stories for 2014. I don’t expect instant success, or any success at all. In fact, I expect to fail, over and over. This year is only the beginning. No one can expect to achieve everything at the beginning. Success is something that’ll come in the future.

This year I only need to worry about taking the first steps on the journey to success. I know where I’m headed, but my focus needs to be on the road in front of me, choosing the smoothest, clearest path possible.

And why does that journey start today?

Because today, my first short story of the year is available – in English and Spanish.

They are available in print and electronically at all the usual puchase points:

Bait (ebook):
Amazon: US & India; UK; Germany; Spain
Kobo
Smashwords

Bait (print):
Amazon: US & India; UK; Germany; Spain

El Cebo (ebook):
Amazon: US & India; UK; Germany; Spain

El Cebo (print):
Amazon: US & India; UK; Germany; Spain

And to whet your appetite, here’s the intro to the English version. Enjoy!

It took less than a day for Daniel to fall in love with the city of San Sebastian, and by the end of the third day he never wanted to leave. How his mother had been able to trade this jewel on the sea for dirty, damp northern England, he had no idea. Nor could he figure out why she’d never brought him here for a visit. No matter, though. He was here now and not going anywhere any time soon.

He stretched his arms above his head and sat up, marveling at the view spread out around him. From his towel, he could take in everything beautiful about the city in one sweeping glance, from the rich houses that crept up the side of Mount Igeldo off to the left, to the island Santa Clara in the middle of the bay, which when lit up at night looked like a railroad model, to the Old Part scrunched up against Mount Urgull protected from the worst of the winter storms.

Of course, the selection of mostly naked tanned people enjoying the late September sun also made the view more enjoyable. His own Yorkshire pale skin had just begun to get a hint of the color his mother’s genes had bestowed upon him. With luck, he could rid himself of his near-death pallor before winter settled in.

His eyes settled on a topless old woman whose skin had turned to leather from far too many years of lying on the beach and suppressed a shudder. Mental note: too much sun was a bad thing. The image wasn’t helped by the fact that she’d pushed her deflated breasts to either side as she leaned back in her chair. Did she move them around so as not to leave tan lines? He looked up and realized that she’d caught him staring. Blushing, he looked over at her companion, another old lady who sat fully dressed under a large parasol, her stern gaze on a book that she held out at arm’s length. Daniel smiled. His father had done that until giving in and getting reading glasses.

“It’s my favorite view as well,” the leathery woman said in a British accent that rivaled the Queen for formality.

Daniel’s eyebrows rose in surprise. What were they? A pair of eccentric duchesses taking their holidays here? Set the stern one on the beach a century ago and she would have fit in perfectly.

“Do you come to the city often?” he asked and made an effort to keep his eyes off the leathery woman’s divided cleavage.

She laughed and slapped her companion’s leg. The stern woman responded by turning the page of her book.

“He wants to know if we come to the city often, Rowena.”

The reading woman grunted.

“Young man,” the leathery woman continued, “we came once a long time ago and never left. The city enchanted us. Just like it has you.”

“Never leave? I’m only booked into my hostel for a week.”

Never mind that he’d already decided that he would do whatever necessary to stay. These women didn’t need to know that.

Rowena lowered her book to give Daniel a thorough inspection. He wanted to blush again and look away, but her gaze captured him and wouldn’t let him go. After an eternity, she released him.

“Philomona is correct. You are a part of this city now. It will not give you up easily.”

The surety in her voice gave him the chills despite the heat of the sun and sand.

“How old are you?” Philomona asked out of the blue.

“Twenty-one,” Daniel said, then bit his tongue. What business was it of theirs?

“No girlfriend with you or back home waiting for you?”

This time he did manage to refrain from answering. They were getting too personal.
Philomona laughed.

“You must excuse an old woman’s curiosity. We sometimes forget we are no longer as young as we once were.”

She’d been trying to flirt with him? It took all his control to keep his jaw from falling open. They had to be at least a hundred years old, if not more. Beginning to feel a bit creeped out, he pushed himself to his feet.

“Time to cool off a bit.” He jerked his head in the direction of the water.

“Enjoy,” Philomona said.

He nodded and wandered down to the edge of the waves. As he walked away, he thought he heard Rowena say something along the lines of him being a perfect mix, but he dismissed it as his imagination. A mix of what? And perfect for what? He swam out to one of the rafts that floated in the middle of the bay, and after diving off of it a few times, swam back to the beach. The old women were gone by the time he got there, so he lay down for a nap and a bit more tanning before the sun dropped down behind the mountains off to the west.

 

A Constant Learning Process

Recently someone, whose opinion I respect and who knows what she’s talking about, gave me some advice about my writing that wasn’t really a revelation – that although my writing is enjoyable, there is something that’s not quite there in terms of lyricism.

In the process, she compared my writing to Charles de Lint (one of my favorite authors –EVER!), suggesting that I read his work to get an idea of what I might add in to my writing. She had no idea that I’ve read everything by de Lint, so even a brief mention that my writing has an air of his work was enough to send me into raptures.

That, however, is where I find myself at a bit of a loss.

Given that I’ve read (and adored and attempted to model my writing on) de Lint’s work, I’m not sure my next move. Since I know his work inside and out already, what more can I do to add more of his rapture-inducing lyricism to my own work?

I thought I’d study or analyze his work, but I’ve never been able to do that, even when I studied English Literature in university. It’s not a case of breaking things down into adjectives, adverbs, metaphors, analogies, etc… as that destroys the very lyricism I’m trying to study. And in reading any of his stories, short or long, I get lost in the writing itself, which is why it’s so good – it accomplishes what it’s meant to, which is take me away to another world.

In other arts, what does the artist do? Does a painter study the individual brush strokes and color choices of his idols or does he stare at the whole painting for hours on end, absorbing it in its entirety? Does a song-writer break down her favorite tunes into individual notes, phrases and instrument choices? Or a poet his ideal poems into verses and separate images?

When I critique other writers’ work, I base my comments on any point where I fall out of the story, for whatever reason – word choice, plot confusion, over or under describing.

Hmmm… It looks like I’ve just answered my own question. De Lint transports me to another world and due to his skill, I never fall out of any of his stories, so what I need to do is separate myself from my work sufficiently to read it looking for those fall-out-of-the-story moments.

Wish me luck!

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2013 in Am Writing, General Babblery

 

Arteest or Worker

Funny thing about taking writing seriously and treating it like any other job. When I now finish a stage in a project, I move immediately on to the next rather than wasting time congratulating myself.

Take last week’s finished first draft. The very next day I picked up a short story that needs expanding and added a bunch of words to it, then repeated the task today, meaning tomorrow I will likely finish the short story and might even have another one mostly written by the end of the week. Those two out of the way, I’ll then start the next novel.

When a new writer finishes a draft of a novel, it’s something monumental – an inhuman feat accomplished that needs to be celebrated, bragged about and drawn out for weeks or months before beginning the next monumental task of editing it or starting a new book.

Don’t get me wrong. I am still amazed at having finished the current novel and am by no means jaded by the wonder that is the creative process. It’s just that I’ve stopped being an Arteest about it. I am a writer, so I write. Does an architect brag and take months off to recuperate after designing a building? Does a doctor expect a million pats on the back for every surgery completed? No, because it’s their job, just as writing is one of my jobs.

So, I say “Yay me!” and get back to work, because if I want to be an earning writer, I can’t be an Arteest – I have to be a worker and that means words on paper on a regular basis.

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2013 in Am Writing, General Babblery

 

Another First Draft Done!

Yes folks, despite my hatred of endings I managed to get the final scene in my latest novel written. And so to celebrate, I thought I’d give you the opening.

Enjoy!

Emily never thought her life would end this way, but at least the setting suited. The Exit Center’s only windows faced out onto the ruins of the train station, its burnt out shell a reminder to people of the inherent dangers in traveling. The tracks had long since been torn up for their metal and the flat smooth carriageway had become the new road. The celebration of the new fast form of travel had only lasted long enough for the first viruses to cross the country in a day and decimate three towns. The Highest Masters had ordered the destruction of all railways immediately.

And now they were ordering her destruction. Through no fault of her own.

While she waited for the end to come, she couldn’t even distract herself. The room was bare except for the usual health warnings that covered the walls. Wash regularly, avoid strangers, use a mask when encounters were unavoidable. The accompanying images showed the consequences of ignoring the warnings and emphasized the importance of following them to the letter. As if anyone needed the words or images. It was like giving people instructions on how to walk or talk.
For the past eight years, Emily had walked and talked Potions, working towards becoming a Master and render the warning signs irrelevant, or at least less necessary. Yet in the end she didn’t have enough of the Touch. She was no Potions Master and now they were going to destroy her for it.

Nicky, her mentor — and she’d thought friend — entered the room, the small vial containing the end of Emily’s life held in her stubby fingers of one hand. The liquid within gave off a slight glow, something Emily’s potions lacked, and would always lack no matter how much she tried. In her other hand, she held a small vase of roses, six soft peach colored single stem roses. Emily wasn’t a fan of the pale petals, but she did have to admit that they looked really soft and comforting. Which was not what she wanted or needed from anyone, especially not from Nicky.

“You’re wallowing, aren’t you?” Nicky asked, as if Emily was pouting about not getting dessert with dinner.

She put the vase on the bedside table. The bed where Emily would lie down and die later.

“Wouldn’t you be?” she asked.

“No, I wouldn’t. But that’s the difference between us.”

“You mean, that’s why I’m here waiting for you to take my life from me. You’re a positive person, all full of life and healing. Anyone can see it in your Potions, even the ones that take things away like the one in your hand now. And then there’s me, bringing this all on myself with for my negative attitude. I’ve heard it all before Nicky. I just didn’t think I’d hear it from you.”

She turned away so that Nicky couldn’t see tears of anger, frustration and disappointment cloud her eyes. The view outside the window blurred and she breathed deeply, forcing the tears to dry up by sheer strength of will. They wouldn’t see her beg or break down.

“Your life isn’t over, Em. You could stay, you know.”

Emily snorted. As if. A mere technician, relegated to living in the no-man zone at the border of a town and managing transfers and quarantines. That wasn’t what she wanted. She hadn’t spent the last eight years of her life studying harder than anyone to end up a drone. No, she’d made her choice. She’d stick with it. Besides, they would still take her Touch away from her. Why continue working for them?

“I hate that I have to do this to you,” Nicky added.

“Don’t feed me plague spores, Nic.” She spoke to the train station, unable to look at the pity that lurked under Nicky’s nuetral facade. “You’re one of the chosen ones. Your life is a guaranteed luxury. Don’t make it seem like you’re anything but thrilled with your life. I’d be if I were you. A Master of Masters, on your way to becoming one of the Highest Masters one day. Don’t try to convince me otherwise. I won’t believe you.”

“Would you rather someone else do this, Emily?”

Emily shook her head, still staring out the window.

“What are you waiting for? Just give me the potion already and let’s get it over with.”

“Not yet. They want to speak with you first.”

Of course they did. One more attempt to try to convince her to stay. They’d been after her since her final exam potion had failed.

“Fine. Whatever.”

Her gaze returned to the window. They weren’t going to succeed. She’d made up her mind. She’d drink Nicky’s Potion and it’d be over. Nearly half her life gone in a flash. And all of her meager Touch.

She heard the click of the door as Nicky left then a moment later it opened again. The sound of several pairs of feet striding into the room told her the High Master had entered with his acolytes. She resisted the urge to turn around and bow. That was for students and other Potions Masters. She was neither.

A group of horses appeared on the horizon, moving towards the city and the blank wall of the Admittance Center across the square with its single door and inward facing windows where they’d be quarantined for a week before being allowed to enter the city. Perhaps they were new initiates, children with a hint of the Touch, ready to throw away their lives for the greater good. Of course only a fraction of them would become Potions Masters. The rest would be like her, thrown away useless.

 
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Posted by on January 17, 2013 in Am Writing, Novel Excerpts

 

But I don’t wanna let go!

I hate endings. I hate reaching the end of a book I’m reading and I really hate reaching the end of a book I’m writing.

I love my characters. For however long it takes me to write their stories, they live in my head. They act, react, emote and think. They surprise me, irritate me and in the end, do what I asked them to, more or less.

When I finish a short story, my discomfort isn’t so strong. Most of my short stories are series of a sort. I can write little adventures for them again and again. Plus a short story covers such a small fragment of my characters’ lives that it’s easy to imagine them doing things outside of the story in question.

But with a novel, the ending is so often final. Yes, the main and secondary characters will still have other adventures before and after the section of time I’m covering in their novel, but due to the nature of a novel, when I finish writing one, there’s a finality that isn’t there is a short story. By the end of a novel, the main character has changed so much that his or her story is over (for now). Other stories might arise but the main character is a different person from what he or she was at the beginning. I’m never going to have that ability to control destiny for this person in the exact same way again.

You see, when I go back to reread a novel I’ve already written, I approach it as a reader, like rereading a favorite book. I can share their journey, but I’m not a part of it anymore, not the way I was when writing it.*

I’ve given birth and raised my characters and at the end of the novel, I have to let them move out and become their own people. I’m as proud of them as any parent can be and proud of myself for doing such a good job raising them.

But it still hurts to see them go.

*(And yes, it does make editing a novel rather difficult for me as I see the story as more or less fixed once I’ve written it.)

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2013 in Am Writing, General Babblery

 

The Year Ahead

This year, 2013, is the year I launch my writing career.

Yes, I’ve published both a short story and a novel in ebook format, but that was nearly two years ago and I did nothing to follow them up.

This year, I’m going to release something every month. I will start developing a base of stories that will build year after year and form the foundation of the 20 year plan I created back in 2007.

What was that plan? Simple. By 2027, I want to support myself solely from my writing – my retirement savings as it were. I don’t have a high paying job with a pension. If I’m lucky, I’ll have worked enough here in Spain to receive the basic pension, but if I want to enjoy my retirement, I’m going to have to have an independent income.

And that’s where my writing comes in.

After five years of honing my craft and learning about the business, I am now ready to launch my career. In other words, I am right on track. Publishing, especially indie-publishing, is all about long-term thinking. To have a decent income, I need a lot of product selling a little bit every month.

So, this year, it’ll be 12 short stories plus a collection. Next year the same plus one or two novels. Repeat every year and in fifteen more years I’ll have at least 20 novels plus 15 short story collections and 180 short stories. With that sort of inventory, I’ll be earning a decent amount each month.

But that’s a long time away and things will more than likely change. I don’t need to think about it.

I only need to think about this year and the next step in my writing career, the launch of my own small press – Aia Publishing – and the creation of more stories.

So, watch this space for publishing announcements and more thoughts about my writing and the writing process.

Today’s post was inspired by the “projects” prompt in the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour, an ongoing tour where you, the reader, travel around the world from author’s blog to author’s blog. We have all sorts of writers at all stages in their writing career, so there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

If you want to get to know nearly twenty other writers and find out what’s on their nightstand, check out the rest of the tour! Up next: Nancy Bridenthrall.

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2013 in General Babblery, Indie Publishing