Sunday, October 28, 2012

HEY LOOK, A BOOK!

I'm super pleased to announce, on behalf of my pen name, the release of RUNNING IN THE DARK from Carina Press. It's available now in e-book and audiobook format (details on my books page, and here).



Warning: contains fast cars, disgusting monsters, the undiscovered successor to makeup sex, the confusing truth about seasons in the Southern Hemisphere, and feelings.

Monday, October 15, 2012

AW BLOG CHAIN: GET THEE BEHIND ME

This month's AbsoluteWrite blog chain prompt was simply irresistible: Otherworldly. Usually I write urban fantasy, but I wanted something a little stranger than the usual. So, of course, I wrote a Western. The story is less than a thousand words, and the other blog participants are listed at the end - I encourage you to check them out. There are some wonderful words being presented this month!


Get Thee Behind Me, Get Thee Beside Me


            “Come on, Ponce,” Mira said, tugging again on the coarse lead. The mule dug all four hooves into the sand and laid his white-tipped ears back. He was done, and Mira could hardly blame him. The crumbling trail stretched on and on until it arrived in the town of Dalton, a startling patch of green on the red dust plain. Right now, if she were to hold up her hand, it would disappear under her thumb.
            “We’re not going all the way tonight, bonehead.” Behind them the sun hung low, dripping fire onto the horizon. “But we’re also not sleeping this close to the mountains.”
            After a spell, the mule acquiesced. The small wagon creaked along, and Mirasol’s bones ached in sympathy. A day spent digging clay out of the not-quite-dry lakebed had been harder than she’d anticipated.
            She guided Ponce into a depression beneath a dune and unhooked him from the wagon. Red clay cracked and fell from the hem of Mira’s dress as she set to making a fire. It was no wonder Honaw had sent her instead of coming himself. The apothecary’s mind was twisted by his craft, but he must have known he was too old for this task. And why should he be bothered with physical labors when he had an able and willing apprentice?
            Mira settled onto a blanket, idly rubbing at patches of dried clay on her legs and arms. Normally, this time of night, Honaw – if he was in the mood – would tell her stories. Tales of brave warriors, pining spirits and bloodthirsty skinwalkers.
            She pretended she wasn’t scared, so far from town. She pretended she wasn’t lonely.

            She woke to the feel of a weight climbing her leg and just stopped herself from reaching for it. No telling what was slithering about the desert at night. A small red blob slid over the top of her knee. She blinked. Another followed the first. A round thing appeared between the blobs. A face, more or less. A ridge protruded over glass-shard eyes. It had no mouth.
            “Hello,” Mira said.
            It hefted itself up until half a pound of red clay creature stood on her leg. Its head rested on a plump middle section. Beneath that, its four legs were made of twigs. She sat up slowly. Where it had been caked with clay, her dress was now clean. On the other side of the fire, Ponce stomped and whinnied. The clay creature swiveled its head to face the mule, then swiveled it back.
            “Don’t worry about him,” Mira said, to the creature, and the mule, and herself.
            It turned, revealing a scorpion tail drooping from its backside.
            “Isn’t that lovely.”
            It seemed to inflate at the compliment. Mira swallowed. Honaw had said the clay was special. She hadn’t thought to ask how. The creature walked to her hand, resting on her thigh. One leg stretched out and scratched at the padded flesh beneath her thumb.
            “What are you-” She inhaled sharply when it scratched again. A line of blood rose to the surface of her skin. The clay body spread so it could lower, spider-like, over the scratch. It bent its head and began to suckle. Its entire body rippled with each pull.
            Ponce stomped again, and this time his whinny was quiet. Mira couldn’t take her eyes from the creature even as the sound of hoof beats neared. “Little creature, you must hide.” Its body contracted as her fingers closed around it. Its eyes shone brighter and its flesh flushed darker as she slipped it into a pocket above her waist.
            She stood as the horses appeared atop the dune, two roans and a bay. The rider of the bay wore a black coat and hat, and silver flashed from his seams and brim.
            “Miss Mirasol Sombra.” His voice rumbled with good humor.
            “Marshal Paulie.” The creature squirmed, its legs – or maybe tail – scratching at the fabric between her body and its.
            “Whatever are you doing out here, alone, at night?”
            She didn’t answer as he rode around the berm and dismounted, his deputies following suit quietly. They didn’t look at her, instead surveying the wagon, then cautiously plucking apart the drawstrings of the sacks. Ponce jogged in place, tossing his head.
            “Thought he could get away with it, did he?” The marshal laughed. He was jovial for a man of the Order, guarding the line between humans and spirits. He pointed at the wagon. “You know what this is?”
            “It’s clay, sir.” The creature scratched at her, in that soft area between ribs and pelvis, and she struggled not to squirm. She had an idea, not a complete idea but the beginnings of one, of what Honaw might have wanted the clay for.
            “He thought nobody would notice you off scavenging. Clever bugger.” He approached her, a wide man with the arrogant strut of badged authority. “You know what a golem is, Miss Sombra?”
            “No.”
            “It’s a monster. Not like the dark spirits that haunt these hills. It’s worse, fashioned by a man’s own greed. It’s got no soul so it can’t be exorcised. It’s got no heart so it can’t be killed by regular means.”
            The deputies tossed the sacks onto the ground and pulled machetes from their saddlebags. They stoked the fire, breaking wood from the wagon and tossing it on top until the flames climbed high.
            “What’re you doing?”
            “You didn’t hear what I said? This clay is already transforming. We’re here to restore the natural order.”
            Behind the Rule Man, the deputies chopped off bits of clay and tossed them into the fire where they hissed and shrieked.
            “Your master give you any other chores, Miss Sombra?” Paulie asked, all humor gone. “Anything else I ought to know about?”
            The creature pressed its little hands against her skin, and shivered.
            “No, sir.”
            “Well, get on your way back to Dalton then, girl. Get thee to safety.”

Participants and posts:
Ralph Pines: http://ralfast.wordpress.com/
randi.lee: http://emotionalnovel.blogspot.com
Aranenvo: http://www.simonpclark.com
pyrosama: http://matrix-hole.blogspot.com
hilaryjacques: YOU ARE HERE
meowzbark: http://erlessard.wordpress.com

slcboston: http://fleasof1000camels.blogspot.com 
areteus: http://lurkingmusings.wordpress.com 
bearilou: http://theglassopossum.wordpress.com 
dolores haze: http://dianedooley.wordpress.com 
SuzanneSeese: http://viewofsue.blogspot.com 
bmadsen: http://hospitaloflife.wordpress.com 
Linda Adams: http://garridon.wordpress.com 
Alynza: http://www.alynzasmith.blogspot.com 
Orion mk3: http://nonexistentbooks.wordpress.com 
BBBurke: http://awritersprogression.blogspot.com 
SRHowen: http://srhowen1.blogspot.com 
Damina Rucci: http://thegraypen.wordpress.com 
CJMichaels: http://christinajmichaels.blogspot.com 
wonderactivist: http://luciesmoker.wordpress.com 
Lady Cat: http://carolsrandomness.blogspot.ca 
xcomplex: http://arielemerald.blogspot.com 
debranneelliot: http://www.debragrayelliott.blogspot.com


Indisputable Favorite Thing Ever

I freaking love this. Might have to take a day off to watch it on repeat...or a week off.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

5 QUESTIONS: ANSWERING READER QUESTIONS

While these questions weren't specifically posed to me, they did lead Internet users to my blog - how, in some cases, I have no idea - so I will do my best to answer them. Please note that I am not an expert in all of these fields.

Question 1: Why are you so vain.

Answer: I will answer this as if it were a question, even though the punctuation denies that. Also, who uses punctuation in Internet searches?

It's probably because, over the years, I've been conditioned by this long-running Q and A I have with a mirror, mirror on the wall. Now that my vanity has been brought to my attention, I will work on it. I may also cover the mirror and/or attempt to explore other dialogue with it. It's likely just as bored with our relationship as I am.

Question 2: Where I can download [enter name of popular video game] for free/torrent?

Answer: I suggest you begin your search here.

Question 3: Why do books have to end?

Answer: I suppose that's the nature of a story, to have a beginning, a middle and an end. Though, the larger the story, the more cosmically drawn-out these sections are, making it impossible for mere mortal humans such as ourselves to comprehend some stories.* So, because some stories will continue to survive and possibly grow after we're gone, it's as though they are infinite. A matter a perspective.

Question 4: What's the Dread Pirate Roberts costume made of?

Answer: Presumably you are referring to the one worn by Fezzik (as portrayed by Andre the Giant) when he is storming the castle in the guise of the Dread Pirate Roberts (contemporary incarnation being Westley). The costume consists of The Albino's wheelbarrow and the Holocaust Cloak given to Fezzik by Miracle Max.

Question 5: Is Iceland made of ise (sic)?

Answer: Yes. Ice and volcanoes. And it's guarded by a fearsome flotilla of narwhals.

*I assume here that you are human, as you most likely assume that I am human.

Monday, October 8, 2012

WRITING AROUND FEAR

This post is inspired by the comment Caryn Caldwell (thanks!) left on my prior post suggesting that aspiring authors often avoid writing rather than face their fear of it. I'm using fear in a general sense here. Other words that may apply include:
  • Apprehension
  • Worry
  • Embarrassment
  • and Doubt, Doubt, Doubt
I assume that most of us start writing fiction because we want to read something we cannot find on the family bookshelves or at the local library, or because we want to take a favorite story further (some day I'll tell you about my Terminator fan fiction. It's probably the best shit I've ever written), or because we have this desire to communicate outside of the parameters of regular, daily conversations.

So then why do we stop a hundred or a thousand words into a novel? Why can we complete chapters one through three, but always shy away from starting chapter four?

It's because of all those things above. In our minds we have these splendid, sprawling, Important stories filled with impassioned characters and meaningful conflicts. And then we look at the words on the page and they don't match.

And you worry whether you will ever, with your hands and your vocabulary, be able to do justice to the scenes in your mind. For comfort, you fall back into a favorite story written by a favorite author, that one where you've memorized the lines and dog-eared the book and can see, really see, the story unfolding. And you doubt you'll ever get to that level, where you can inspire the same sort of absorption and urgency in the reader.

And you're afraid.

I'm here to tell you that it doesn't matter. No, in that first foray into writing, you most likely won't be able to do justice to the stories in your head. The brain is a marvelous and powerful thing, but she's stingy with what she'll let you take from her. A good description here, a great line of dialogue there. But you have to sweat and bleed to fill in the words around those. There is no magical inspiration, no muse feeding you words so that you feel like a conduit for brilliance.

Writing isn't easy.

It's not easy for you. It wasn't easy for your favorite author, either. But then, what is? Did you drive like Steve McQueen in Bullet the first time you got behind the wheel of a car? Did you score a goal the first time you stepped onto a soccer field? Did you bake a perfect cake the first time you cracked an egg?

No? Good. Then this will be a little easier.

You might never lose the (general) fear of writing. But the only way to get close to being the writer you want to be is to keep trying. Keep writing. Expose yourself to critiques. Twist that gear inside your ego that allows you to find the valuable comments in critiques and revise accordingly. Read critically. Repeat.

Don't sit in front of the keyboard telling yourself that you're going to write a Great Novel. Settle in with the idea that you're going to tell a good story. If it's not good after the first draft, take some time away, then come back and fix it.

The words are not absolute, no matter how long it took you to write them.

They belong to you and must bend to your will. Mix them up like Scrabble tiles if you have to and use the individual letters to build a better story.

I don't have a cure for fear. I believe that every author, even the most successful, still feels it from time to time, if not always. But I do believe there are cures for bland writing, and that those cures are persistence and the ability to revise and reinvent.

What am I missing? What other cures and tonics and, dare I ask, ointments are out there for writers?

Monday, October 1, 2012

5 TOOLS FOR PRODUCTIVE WRITING


I constantly hear the complaint/lamentation that aspiring authors don't have enough time to write. That, because of [insert time-eating thingie(ies) here] they cannot possibly finish a story or meet a word count.

Following are five tools/tips/mindsets that will help you to be more productive. Not everybody is the same, so your mileage may vary, and if these tips don't work for you, I encourage you to find your own. Five - just a handful - of things that will help you to write.

1. Cut Yourself Off. I am not referring to a trick in which you put yourself into a box and then appear to - or actually - sever your body in the middle. No matter how inspirational it might be in those first few minutes, the blood loss will eventually dampen your stamina.

Remove yourself from distractions, especially the Internet. Keeping in touch, up to the second, with everyone in the world isn't actually imperative. The planet will keep spinning if you take an hour off.

For those of you, like me, who may be physically unable to keep from clicking, try FREEDOM. It works on both Mac and PC. If you're addicted to another device, you may be on your own. The first few times you use it, you'll probably rock back and forth or chew your nails to the quick as you discover the depths of your Internet addiction. After that, it'll clear the tempting clutter and allow you to write. Best $10 I ever spent. (So far, I've taken three Internet breaks while writing this post)

2. Strong Like Bull! Most of us have to steal time to write - from social obligations, from our recommended eight hours of sleep, from other optional time expenditures such as Castle reruns and exercise.

Don't skip the exercising. At first, it won't matter. You won't notice the half pound that creeps up over the course of the week, the tightness in the back or the aches in the shoulders. Six months down the road, you'll find you can't get comfortable when sitting at the computer. A year along the way, you'll  have weaker core muscles, resulting in worse posture and radiating aches and pains.

I've been writing nearly every day for three years now. This is in addition to a full-time desk job. Exercise, I've found, is essential to making it another three years. If you aren't keen on going to the gym or if, like me, the outdoors is prohibitive for months at a time, find some things you can do at home. I bought five 20- and 30- minutes exercise videos for a few dollars each. I dislike one of them, but rotate the other four. Everyone can spare 20-30 minutes from their day to keep their bodies strong. Despite all my sci fi reading, it appears that, at this point in human history, we're only getting the one body.

3. Surround Yourself with the Soothing Sounds of... Silence or noise, take your pick. I have to write in silence, so I invested in a good pair of noise-canceling headphones. Others need a movie or music playing in the background. Figure out what works best for you, and get attuned to it.

4. Blinders. This wasn't a problem before I started researching agents and fiction-publishing periodicals, before I started looking at the business of publishing and networking with professionals and other writers. What did I discover? That, no matter what you've accomplished or suffered on any given day, something better or worse is happening to someone else.

You got a flash piece accepted in a magazine? So-and-so got a "Significant" deal with a major publisher. You snarked at someone on Twitter? Writer X had a profanity-laden meltdown on Facebook. E-book sales are up? Paperback sales are plummeting. You sent a query to Agent Y? She pointed out an error-ridden query on Tumblr.

These things happen every day and paying attention to each event does nothing to help your book get written. Nothing. Sure, there are some good tips slipped in amongst all the agony and the ecstasy, but you don't need to be monitoring the pulse of publishing to get those lessons.

Disengage from the drama and focus on the thing that matters first and foremost in publishing: writing a damn fine story.

5. LOVE. It sounds hokey, but it's true. This business will test you in ways you couldn't have anticipated, unless you've worked in the arts before. You will learn like mad. You will be awed and made dreadfully envious by the works of other writers. You will adore and despise your characters and stories in equal measure. You will look at the nights and weekends you gave up for a story that will live  in a box under the bed rather than on the shelf of bookstores around the world.

You will be hurt. You will want to give up. And, once you reach a certain point, you'll be drawn back to the words again and again. It will appear that you have a masochistic flaw in your brain and, hell, maybe you do. But, embrace it. Embrace the compulsion and learn to love the process of writing. Not just those first magical 10,000 words or the words "The End" stuck to a sloppy first draft.

Learn to love revision, snipping and spackling. Learn to love criticism that, though it might burn, will make the story bigger, bolder and tighter. Write for the love of the story and not toward the earmarks of "success", and this road will be a lot less painful to walk. Or run. Or fly over.

(Six Internet breaks were taken during the writing of this post)