Putty-ing in the Plot Gaps

I finally worked out exactly what my main characters will be doing while they are hiding from a homicidal mob. That’s a little bit of an accomplishment for me, since the plot more or less requires them to keep their filthy hands off each other. And it’s not like there’s a thriving night life in most caves or wilderness hiding spots.

They’ll be fine.

I suppose the truth is I could skip directly from them finding the cave to the next step in their poor, author-plagued lives, but I think some development of the relationship between them would be nice.

The original schedule has been all blown to hell looking for a solution for this gap in my plot, but I’m more or less happy with what I’ve come up with.

Might be time to get to work.

Word Counts and Dead Scenes

I went spelunking in the morgue file today. You know. The place where all the tangents and cut plot lines go when you can’t bear to part with them, but you’re fairly sure they don’t belong in this particular book.

I’m looking for things for my two main characters to do while they’re alone together and wandering around the woods. It’s not a romantic interval, or at least, not overtly… so that takes a lot off the table.

I’ve isolated a few things that must happen in the time frame I’m talking about, because, of course, there isn’t anyplace else for them to go. And I’ve figured out just exactly how long they’re wandering around in the woods. And… I’m probably going to be all right. Probably.

The thing that amazes me is just how fast I can go from well and truly over the word count range for my genre to under. Where, exactly, did all those words go? Well, aside from the ones about furniture… and the ones about bath tubs… Well, never mind. Morgue file.

I’m to a point where I’m sure the story won’t be any shorter than it is, right now. I think. But I wish I had more wiggle room.

Because I Just Had to Play With Electronics

I spent a good chunk of this afternoon in search of a mRCA audio to f3.5 mm adapter. The setup is basically this. The Roku box (That’s Roku 1, for any of you spendthrifts who have upgraded in the last five or ten years) is connected via hdmi to a small computer monitor. The monitor does not have built-in speakers, so the audio comes through the RCA audio outputs into a fine, spit-and-bailing wire assembly of speakers that don’t quite fit. It’s not a bad setup, but the speaker that does work doesn’t happen to be the one that has volume control or power. The adapter will let me plug in, control the volume.

The benefit to the whole mess is that you can watch television, (the way I hear normal people do…)  or you can listen to television while you sleep without the disturbance of flashing lights. (’cause you can turn the monitor, but not the speakers off.)

This is my contraption, of course, but it’s the “television” my mother uses. Apparently, the noise drowns out the neighbor, who likes to split firewood.

I really didn’t think the adapter would be that hard to find, but she called ahead. (Easy as pie, sez the guy on the phone.) And then, we got there. (By the way, the adapter that was going to make this easy? they don’t have it. But, if they did, any of their speakers would have worked with it.) (Well, at least we’re having some quality time together, and there is coffee involved.)

By store number two, my mother suggested calling David.

David, of course, would be a childhood friend who went on to a brilliant computer career.

It’s a little like calling Robert Oppenheimer to kill a few spiders in your basement, but by store number three, I was thinking about it.

Store number three, by the way, would be the kind of place where everybody’s on commission, and your best odds of getting help with an adapter would be to go stand in front of the most expensive television possible. It is also the store that failed to sell me a region-free DVD player a few years back.

Store number four was on the way home, anyway.

And from the moment I got home to when there was an adapter on its way to my door? About ten minutes, including the time it took to read Twitter notifications.

Well, yes. I may be a specialty audience.

Writers’ Conferences: Early Registration and Other Disasters

Well, it finally happened. It’s January seventh, and people just started talking about registering for writers’ conferences this summer. Some people just have their conference. Every year, the same conference, and the same place. In the case of that first, early-bird conferencer of spring, they have family near the conference, so going there is easier, cheaper, and doubles as family time.

I’m not that lucky, so whichever conference I go to (If I go… that’s still up in the air) I’ll have to pay for a hotel room, and learn a new city… and… and…

The terrifying thing that came up at the conference I went to last year (my first, BTW) was that it takes about three years to acclimate and really get used to being at a conference. I keep thinking about that, from time to time. Three years. And did I mention that last year was my first real vacation in… uhm… well, more than three years?

So, if I go back… to the same conference… in the same place… for two more years… then, maybe then, I will have acclimated, and it will feel like I belong.

The conference did not feel like a vacation. It was more like going back to school. High school. Complete with the joy of ten-minute sprints to find your next class… and school lunches. (I kid you not, if I go again, I’ll be taking a couple cases of meal-replacement shakes to… well, replace meals.)

On the other hand, I got to meet some of my internet friends, and be with my own tribe for a while. And some of the lectures were really worth going to. (Strangely enough, not the ones you’d expect.)

And then, there’s the overall strategy for approaching captive publishing folks. I fully intend to have a manuscript ready by then. (By before then.) And I intend to be in the midst of querying. In my liturgy of things that could go wrong (and probably will) I have… “But you already rejected me…” and “Well, your round of queries is coming up any minute.” (Newer agents, this year.) The strategy for actually getting an appointment is, of course, to register as soon as humanly possible.

I find myself on the fence about the whole thing.

I want to want to go.


Recommendations Only Book Reviews

Every now and then, the thought occurs to me to do book reviews. I’m not really sure how that would work, though. I have a lot of friends and acquaintances who are writers, and I have qualms about reviewing books written by people I know. Book A gains one star because the author also happens to make amazing brownies. Book B loses 4 stars because it was written by someone I don’t particularly like, and who cannot cook well enough to bribe me.

Did I mention that a co-worker came up to me the other day–eleven and a half months pregnant, and freshly engaged, and told me about the book she’d just published? A million billion stars because pregnant.

If someone’s a part of my writers’ community, and there aren’t happy comments, I always feel like I’m saying something that should have been said before the book was published.

And then, there’s the nature of monetizing a blog.

If you earn money by selling books, there’s no real benefit to posting a review that isn’t positive. Here’s a book. It sucks. It will appeal to recent lobotomy patients, and middle school boys in search of spit wad materials.

I could see doing a Book Recommendations thing. And the fact that everyone’s aware that the non-recommend-y books go in the “Can’t say anything nice” pile might make it seem a little more… honest.

Of course, there’s still the concept of tact and diplomacy.

So, how do other writers approach book reviews? Or do you?

From The Depths of the Hard Drive

Somewhere, in the depths of my hard drive, you’d find evidence of the general cycle my brain goes through looking for the story that I’m actually going to write. Now, I can look at my habits, and tell you that what all of my stories–the ones that have held my attention for any length of time– have in common is strange and complex relationships. And it doesn’t much matter if it’s the relationship between a serial killer and his old babysitter or the relationship between a cannibalistic alien queen and the human male she can’t quite bring herself to decapitate.

(Okay, yes. There’s probably a lot of gender in the stories, too.)

There’s also a fairly depressive chunk of the creative cycle where I’m just going to write mainstream erotica, because really… Space cannibals in love have been done to death.

The problem with that theory, of course, is that in the first place, I don’t really have the attention span for romance. (Writing. Not reading.) and in the second place, the fact that I declare something “erotica” doesn’t actually make it erotic.

So, there are a couple of not-quite books that float around my hard drive, waiting for the current book to finish being revised, and the right moment in the next string of serial rejections to pop up and taunt me.

You could be a top notch erotic romance writer, if only you could write the word “throb” without making your main character a brain in a tank.

Is there such a thing as disembodied brain porn?

So, I have reached the point in my revision where those files turn back up.

Maybe it’s my subconscious mind’s idea of a vacation.

You blew up three planets last week… why not put your feet up and write a poetic exploration of the intricacies of consent? C’mon… it’ll sell like hotcakes.

The beginning of things, the end of things? My warm-fuzzy side acting up because the plot demands the characters stay away from each other almost to the end of the novel? Maybe just a distraction. I don’t know. But I’m there, now.



IWSG: Schedules and Timelines

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

January 3 question – What steps have you taken or plan to take to put a schedule in place for your writing and publishing?

The awesome co-hosts for the January 3 posting of the IWSG are Tyrean Martinson,Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor,Megan Morgan,Jennifer Lane, and Rachna Chhabria!
For me, a lot of having a schedule really is getting into the habit of doing something. I don’t necessarily need to do something every day (Although that does seem to be the easiest way to build a habit) but I do need to have some sense of the time that such and such an activity should fit into my schedule.
I write early in the morning and over my lunch hour, and if either of these times is interrupted, I do feel as though I’ve missed something.
This year, I’m looking to keep track of everything. Part of that is that I know I work more if I can see progress, and part of it is that I do better believing that there is progress.
So, at the moment, I have a writing notebook, which is pretty much straight-up, keep everything together type organization and I also have a kind of journal-style notebook that’s a cross between the things I have one, and my plans for the next day, or whatever time frame. I have broken my revision down into chunks, and I have both a list and a graphic representation of the scenes, and I check off both as I go along. (There are also notes on what needs to be done.)
I’ve been waffling back and forth on what kind of calendar to get for 2018 that I don’t actually have one, yet.
But, in general… the calendar is separate from my day-job calendar. Separate mental work space. That’s important. And I write down what I’m working on–at least enough that I can look back and see where I was–and word counts. The word counts are the daily over the total for the month. (Which is much more impressive, when I’m working on a rough draft.) So I wind up with a total word count at the end of the year.
And having a deadline in mind helps a lot. I need to have have a practical sense that I can finish my draft/my revision/my other revision/and my other other revision by a certain time. That’s what keeps me moving toward that goal.

New Year, New Interpretation of “Goals”

It’s the tail end of New Year’s day here. And after a solid month of hearing people talk about how well they did on their 2017 goals, and their goals for the new year, I’ve come to a conclusion.

The first goal I need is to keep better track of the things I am doing. Let’s be honest. I’ve never been much of a record keeper. Anything that looks like organization or strategy… well, I probably stole it from someone else. So, at the end of the year, while everyone else is talking about how many books they read, and what categories those books were in, I’m standing around saying… well, I read books, too.

So, Goal Number One is record keeping. At the end of the year, I would like to actually know what I’ve done. That sounds reasonable enough.

Goal Number Two is to celebrate the progress as I mark it down. That makes sense, too, of course. I have a way of keeping my eye on the big goals–the literary agent, the publication, and so forth–and missing the little stuff as it goes by. That might just be another way of saying Goal Number One.

Goal Number Three? I’d like to keep up with my health, of course. Maybe get out and do something a little more often. I can’t decide on a format that would be shareable, at the moment. Something that’s more interesting than my Oxygen saturation rates, without sounding like bragging (or like I’m flopping around like a marathon-running seal.) Maybe a hobby that accumulates over time.

And you know all the professional mile-marker goals.

Maybe the key to everything really is write it down.

What about you? Goals? Methods of reaching those goals?

Fitbit Frustrations (Reprise)

So, here’s what today looked like for me. It wasn’t all that bad a day, all said and done. It’s the kind of day that has me thinking about next steps in my get-skinny plan to rule the universe. (I assume there’s very little wiggle room in an imperial storm trooper uniform, anyway.)

I may have mentioned I’m falling away from the Fitbit bandwagon. Today was one of those days, and the nameless Fitbit and I had a moment where the screen was randomly flashing… a long moment. A moment where just as I got my phone out to film it, the thing suddenly decided to behave. And another moment where the display went out all together. (a forced restart helped.)

Suffice it to say my next wearable will probably not be a Fitbit brand, but I am actually doing fairly well with the overall tracking all progress thing. (Yes, that screenshot represents an improvement for me.) So, I’m debating what the next thing should be.

I have located (but not purchased) a bathroom scale that speaks emoji. That is to say, it has a mode where it gives you a smiley face, if you’re getting closer to your goals and a frowny if you’re getting further away, and skips the numbers entirely. It’s not a Fitbit product, and it might not integrate. But I’m down to not caring a whole lot. On the other hand, it’s the kind of thing I could live for a long time without. And it’s the kind of money that I do think twice about. (mine.)

Overall, it also has me thinking about the interlinked nature of goals.  You’d think a day like today–and I was out running around for most of it–would take a good chunk out of my writing time, but as usual, there’s the unexpected. I’m actually being more productive lately.

So, now I’m off to finish making one of my characters poison a part of her brain.

YES, she has her reasons.

And Just Exactly What Do I Want?

I’m working my way through one of the missing scenes from my revision. One of the ones I thought was going to work fairly well the way it was, until I realized the character doing all the talking is someone I killed half a dozen chapters back. Oopsie.

In a weird way, I’ve exchanged the dread of straight-up revision for the dread of replacing all those little tk(something) marks that stand in for names and for words that I haven’t made up or stolen, yet. They’re mostly words for relationships that don’t tend to exist in English-speaking cultures. Or… you know… Earth. Okay. Yes, I know you have to eventually come up with a word for the five drones who fed themselves to your growing larvae. Yes. It would be uncivilized not to recognize that.

I would like a book deal, please.

And a movie deal.

And an invitation to watch the Foley Artists make larvae eating drones type-noises for the soundtrack. (I promise to stay out of the way.)

I’m a little less decided in my personal life. A better job, of course. Better hours. Maybe something that doesn’t get me out of bed at 2:30 in the morning. Something where I can actually go to an evening event and still wind up in work the next day.

Something that uses my degree.

Something that uses my brain.

Hell, something I like.

More interaction with other active creatives. People. Small towns are great, but if you say “I’m writing a novel…” Well, it’s been a long, long time since anybody’s responded with “me, too,” and actually meant it.

And some kind of a hobby that’s just a hobby. I hear people still do that, from time to time. There’s one of those problems with turning writing into a goal. It stops being recreation. (And now, I’m back to the small-towns thing. And the work schedule thing. And this is beginning to look like a loop.)

I would like a portable job, actually. I don’t mean long-haul trucking or something like that, where I absolutely must be in Dallas at 8:00 or I’m dead. I mean a genuinely portable, can be done from anywhere job. Income that goes with me when I decide I want to see the northern lights or Buenos Aires. Income that does not care whether I wake up at 2 in the morning or 4 in the afternoon.

And then, I’ll probably become a nomad.