Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Cacoethes Scribendi

In doing some research on Latin terms, I came across a complete listing of Latin phrases on Wikipedia. Cacoethes scribendi means "bad habit of writing" or "insatiable urge to write." I guess I need to keep going down the list to see if there is an antidote phrase...

Monday, June 23, 2008

Sir Kendrick and the Castle of Bel Lione by Chuck Black

Sir Kendrick and the Castle of Bel Lione is the first book in a new children’s fantasy series by Chuck Black. I’d never heard of him before this tour, but it appears that he’s had six books, The Kingdom Series, published before this. The series is an allegory that encompasses the main story of the Bible and the history (and future history) of mankind in a setting of knights, castles, dragons, and lords.

The new series, The Knights of Arrethrae, is planned to be a companion series to the original in a similar setting, teaching solid values for kids age eight and up. The first novel, Sir Kendrick and the Castle of Bel Lione, was an enjoyable (quick) read following the story of two knights: experienced Sir Kendrick and the novice, Sir Duncan, whose impetuousness got them into trouble and yet saved the day. While the themes of the story are quite obvious, at least to the adult eye, they aren’t belabored.

Any parent (grandparent, aunt or uncle, teacher…) who wants to provide wholesome reading for growing kids and young teens will want to look into these allegorical novels by Chuck Black.

Friday, June 20, 2008


Apparently switching gears was the right thing to do. I got 16 scenes jotted down in reasonable depth in just a couple hours yesterday afternoon. Today, so far, I've gotten 5 more, plus written down a bunch of background info on the commune. It's like I'm not even making this stuff up. It's all in my head and I just have to write it down. I don't think this has ever happened before. (Okay, I KNOW this hasn't happened to me before.)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Story Compost

The Matchmaker world needs to be quite complex for a couple of reasons. First, I can see several novels taking place in it, so there needs to be plenty to explore. Second, each novel should be 100-150,000 words. That's a lot of story, to the uninitiated. Longer than the average novel. Why? I figure if you're going to think at all, you might as well think big, and so this world and novel are being designed with the Luna imprint in mind. Luna is a division of Harlequin that features novels in a fantasy setting with a strong female protagonist and a romantic subplot.

The first draft of Majai's Fury (aka Marks of Repentance) came in about 93K, my longest ever. The re-re-revised version that is currently seeking its fortune is 101K. The matchmaker novels could/ should come in at one and a half times that.

Gulp. That's a lot of story. That's a lot of world.

I've been *seeing* this world for a couple years now, catching glimpses of Kaesa, the first heroine to have her tale set here. About a month ago I decided to focus on her story and see if I couldn't get her ready to write in just a few short weeks.

Insert maniacal laughter here.

I've followed my mind into whatever paths seemed to entertain it and possibly pertain to the Plan. I've played with mythical flying beasts and Yiddish matchmaking sites. I've downloaded Scrivener and created characters and twists and plot cards.

There are many layers composting in the Scrivener binder called Matchmaker. Trust me on that. There is a very cool story in there. Somewhere. But many holes remain. What I don't know is if the projected length of the project is messing with my mind or whether there's something else wrong. I'm pretty sure it's fixable, but I can't quite grasp the problem.

Metaphorically speaking, I've added layers of leaves and vegetable peelings and rotted hay to the compost. I've sprinkled it with water, and I can see the steam coming off the pile, so I know something in there is doing its job. I've taken the pitchfork and turned it over a few times. I've spread it out on the story seeds, but the sprouts are small still. Nothing can hurry growth. You can apply light and rain in the appropriate amounts--add a bit of fertilizer--but a strong story needs time to grow, to reach its roots into the good stuff in the compost and be strong and green and beautiful.

And the Matchmaker novel isn't ready to do that. Not this week, anyway. I'd welcome that flash of inspiration that would pull the threads together, but it seems it has to come to me--that going out and looking for it isn't quite working.

Enter Tempest, stage left.

She presented me with a complete, if skeletal, synopsis on Sunday and I've been trying to ignore her ever since. Today I gave up and created a new binder in Scrivener for her. It looks like her story should have no trouble coming in at 80-90K. I'll let it land there if it likes as I'm not sure it's really a Luna story anyway, though it meets the other basic requirements. I guess we'll see.

I hate abandoning projects, and I feel like I've been doing a lot of that lately. It does feel better when I tell myself that they're just composting. Let's see if I can convince myself.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Deep in the Heart of Trouble by Deeanne Gist

If I remember correctly, the very first book tour I was involved with was for A Bride Most Begrudging by debut author Deeanne Gist. If you’ve been reading here for very long, you know that my first love is fantasy, not historical romance. However, I enjoy Deeanne’s writing so much that I’ve made it a point to watch for any new releases.

Deep in the Heart of Trouble is her fourth novel, and it continues the story of Essie Sprecklemeyer of Corsicana, Texas, that was begun in Courting Trouble. While getting to know Essie in the previous novel would certainly bring a richer appreciation for this tale, I truly believe that it wouldn’t be required. Essie herself fills in just enough of her previous story as the reader needs, as she needs it.

When the book list for June came out several months ago, I knew without a second thought which books I wanted to order from it. Later that day I was working in the yard when my mother-in-law came over (they live on the same property) and asked if I’d seen the list yet. I said yes, and I’d ordered the book. She said, okay, she’d just read mine then, rather than have the publisher send two copies. I said that would be fine. Later on I realized we’d never confirmed which book--there were 8-10 selections for the month--because it hadn’t seemed necessary. I knew which book she meant!

My daughter is another avid fan. When Deep in the Heart of Trouble arrived the other day, Hanna smiled sweetly at me and said, "I’ll have that finished before you even have time to start!" And she was right. And now it is over at my sister-in-law’s house.

What is it about Deeanne’s novels that appeal to (at least) three generations of women? While her stories are historicals, they’re not the typical wagon train romances. From tobacco brides (in Virginia) to sunbonnet girls (in the San Francisco gold rush--The Measure of a Lady) to an oil baron’s daughter in Texas, Deeanne seeks out eras and locations that are not over-used in the genre. But the true appeal is in her spunky characters and her own voice.

The characters are bigger than life, full-blown on the page, not precisely typical for their era, yet believable. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed each novel thus far and expect that to continue as I watch for more novels by Deeanne Gist in the future.

Deeanne's blog link has lived on my sidebar for several years. Recently she shared with her readers how the very cool cover for Deep in the Heart of Trouble came to be. Check it out!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day

We went for a drive up the lake today in order to hike along Lockhart Creek.

This was a much easier hike than the hike we did a couple weeks ago! It was pleasant along the creek, sunny but in the shade with a bit of breeze.

Then, because we weren't ready to head home yet, we drove up another dirt road and I hollered, "Moose!" just as he disappeared into the trees. Jim quickly set the camera to continuous while I opened the sun-roof and stood up. Then he drove up the road and sure enough, Mr. Moose crossed a meadow beside the road. I took maybe 20 pictures on continuous before he disappeared. I'll just give you one.

From the top of that road we looked down, back over the lake: beautiful! A pleasant relaxing day.

Revised layout--finally!

I'm sure you all were wondering when winter was going to leave my blog! At first it was inability to log onto HasWeb, then it was lack of time, then it was lack of time to figure out how to work the photoshop on the Mac. I know Hanna's going to complain that the header is still over-running the edge. I fixed it. Then it did it again. When I don't have a headache, I'll work on it again!

She took this picture of me in Victoria about five weeks ago.

Monday, June 09, 2008


If you're writing on a Mac, hie thee over to download the trial version of Scrivener. Seriously. There's a decent video there to show you why you need it.

Here's why *I* needed it! I often plot/ outline with physical 3x5 notecards, but I have issues with them. I like color-coding things, but committing to writing plot points on a green card is difficult. Green cards belong to the MC. What if I later I decide to write the scene from another character's POV? Then it should have been on a yellow card! Or even a pink card. You can imagine the dilemmas this causes. Seriously. I've sat and stared at the cards, afraid to commit.

Okay, so that's silly. I can just use white ones, and once I for sure decide whose scene it is, I can run a highlighter across the header to match the character. That helps, but I still lack space to spread them out at work.

And then there is the issue of what to do with the random bits of information that I'm not sure what scene it's going to belong in. I see a setting, but what will happen there? So really, I need to know quite a lot about the story before I pull out the notecards. And then...I may as well go straight to Word or Excel, eh?

Only the cells in Excel really aren't big enough for all the information I might want to have in them--notes for each scene. And sometimes they're a pain to rearrange. I've lost stuff doing that.

Back to Word. There each scene takes as much space as it needs. I can list the POV character, the setting, etc no problem. But there still is that random stuff that might become a scene if it found the right other information to collide with.

And with the matchmaker, I've gone round and round in Word and Excel and was pulling out the notecards a couple days ago (in desperation!) when I remembered that I now have a MacBook.

You'd think I couldn't forget such a thing. I've overcome much of the learning curve and am no longer panicking every five minutes that I don't know how to DO whatever it is I'm trying to do. (That's now reserved for like once a day!) But with the remembrance that I now use a Mac, I remembered that Holly Lisle uses Scrivener. (Ha. You thought I'd never get to the point.)

So I asked around a bit and then downloaded the trial version this morning. By the time I'd gone through the tutorial I had a bit of a headache. So much information! But then it was lunch break and I went for a long walk, came back, and decided it was time to see what would happen when Matchmaker met Scrivener.

I think they're in love.

First, importing files from Word is easy-peasy. (And they're still there in Word, too, should I need them in that application.) Scrivener arranged things fairly intuitively. I only moved a few things to new locations, and it was easy to do. So on the left of the screen, it's like an organizational tree program. There's tons out there, several of which I've used from time to time and quite liked. But this does more.

It has a virtual corkboard with 3x5 notecards! :D And because I am not actually wasting notecards by changing my mind later what color I want them (lame, I know...), I can randomly type whatever I want on a given card, and change it later.

Each card has three *levels*. There's a title, which shows in the tree down the left side. Then on the actual card itself, below the title, is enough room to write a decent synopsis of the scene (about the same amount as on a physical card). BUT, for all the little details, you can add them basically behind the cut. All of these can be color-coded and rearranged to my heart's content.

Which is cool. At the moment, I'm resisting the urge to title the cards in my outline section of the file, though of course I've labeled them in the character section. I'll save the title slot for numbers when I have them the way I want them. But one synopsis section simply says *picnic*. Because I think one scene will take place on a picnic. But I have no idea what will happen there that is significant, and I don't know if it will be early in the story or late. But for now, I have a card for picnic. Later, hopefully, one of the other cards with some other random word will decide it wants to hang out with the picnic card, and I'll combine them. Eventually, I hope, I'll have 80-90 cards with actual scene synopses on them.

The few cards that I know for sure belong to the beginning of the story--ones where characters meet each other, I've tinted light aqua. I've reserved pale yellow for middle scenes and pink for climax/ending scenes, but I haven't used any of those yet.

A person can easily write the entire novel in Scrivener. (Exporting back to Word is just as easy as importing, for the final formatting and such.) I think it would be especially cool for folks who write scenes out of order, because you can rearrange all the scenes simply by moving their cards around. So far I've always written linear, but this setup loosens the cells in my brain a little and makes it okay to play. I don't know if I will, though!

So, after one day, I'm really excited about some of the odds and ends that are stuck to my virtual corkboard and how I might arrange them and add to them. I've still got quite a ways to go to have a full and complete plot, but it's really looking positive at the moment!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Villain

So the matchmaker novel (that needs a name) is starting to pull together. I've done a few character bios the last few days, playing around with the voices of the major characters in journal format. I've learned some interesting things about them that way, though I'm planning to write the novel in a single third person point-of-view: Kaesa.

However, the villain had me stumped. Not all my stories have a clearcut bad guy, but this one will. But why? Why does he do his evil deeds? What are his history, his motivations, his quirks? I could envision him sitting in an armchair across from me, leaning back, arms crossed, a sardonic grin on his face, waiting for me to figure him out while offering no clues.

Weeks like this, the store gets a really thorough cleaning. I was nearly desperate enough to start a round of price checks. Definitely time to break through Petrek's shell and figure out some things.

He likes power. He doesn't like to gamble, but goes for the sure thing with as little risk as possible. Once we got going (this one I wrote as a Q&A instead of diary) I quickly had over 1K in notes.

The villain ticks.

All I need now is an outline and a little more worldbuilding. I have a rough synopsis, so it should be possible to build an outline out of it. Maybe tomorrow.

Book needs a name. It's driving me crazy.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

My girls' inspiration

My daughter and daughter-in-law have started a new blog for the two of them called Divine Inspiration. Both of them are interested in all things sustainable and green, which is leading to some interesting discoveries, which they're sharing on the blog. The current post is all about canning Asparagus Pickles, which Hanna and I did on Friday afternoon. She includes the recipe and photos for those interested.