Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Does this happen to anyone but me? Every single time I feel like I'm home free, that I have a solid outline and am confident that the story from here on in makes sense, I hit a wall.

Every. Single. Time.

I'm writing a structured novel, which is likely a mistake to start with. Every chapter has three scenes, two from Tempest's viewpoint, and one from Aben's. They start out the story in the same location, and will (I think!) end it there. But in between, the threads are somewhat independent.

This means that two independent story lines must both have a similar amount going on, similar amounts of tension and disasters. It's hard to keep this balanced. Today I got to the next scene of Aben's in the outline, and it's horrible. Not only that, but he's practically treading water for the next few chapters waiting for the big slide into the inevitable that signals the beginning of the end.

My first impulse is to just write him out of the story. You know, drown him or something. But it's kinda hard to have romantic fantasy without the male lead character, and besides, the story has plenty of tragedy already. I think the boy needs to live. (Probably unmaimed...though that gives an idea...)

So I pulled out Holly Lisle's Create a Plot Clinic. She's got it laid out in three main sections: Plotting Before Writing, Plotting While Writing, and Plotting While Revising.

Clearly I need the middle one. I open it and read this:
This is the most common scenario. You're somewhere in the middle of the writing and you hit a bad plot card. It sounded like a great idea at the time, or maybe it only sounded like an iffy idea at the time but you put it in there anyway, confident that when you got to it, you'd be so into the story that you could make it work. Only now you and your Muse look at each other and go, "Uh-uh. Not gonna do it."

Yep. Holly has pretty much nailed where I'm at. I have a few glimmerings of ideas but nothing that looks concrete. In fact, my thoughts at the moment are quite will'o'wisp. When I look straight at them, there's nothing there, but if I look sideways, pretending I don't care, there is *almost* something over there.

Back to reading the plot clinic. Hopefully something will coax those will'o'wisp thoughts out where they can be scrutinized.

Monday, October 27, 2008


This is something I'm really good at in Real Life, and not so good at in writing. Why? I'm guessing because each story I work on requires a certain depth of thought immersion. It's not easy to dip in lightly and then off to something else, at least not if I want to make progress. And of course I do! Also there's the idea that each project takes so very long that if you mix two or more of them, it'll take twice as long to get anywhere.

The only time I've tried two first drafts was about four years ago when I did NaNo for the first time. I hadn't finished my previous novel when NaNo started, so I dropped everything for the new novel (to officially participate in NaNo, you need to begin and write a novel you haven't previously started). At the end of November I had two partially completed novels and then spent several months alternating between the two to finish both first drafts. It was difficult and I vowed never to do it again.

Even playing with world-building or revising one while writing on another is difficult for me. All of these areas require a real depth of focus that makes it hard to shift gears from one to the other. I've been trying to learn how to do this better, especially in the last couple of years where I've been spending so much more time revising and therefore feeling stifled without the *rush* of creating that a first draft brings.

I started writing Tempest in July, thinking that once I got rolling on it, I'd pull out one of my older novels to revise. I tend to write in the mornings (my best time), then, the idea was, spend the afternoon on revising. I haven't started a revision project, though. Instead I started taking the Thinking Sideways class and bounced some new ideas around for that, then resurrected an old partial first draft--Dottie.

And now I'm finding myself doing the unthinkable and actually enjoying it: having two first drafts on the go at once. It helps, I think, that they're quite opposite stories. Tempest is fantasy set in a harsh environment. Dottie is contemporary women's fiction and quite humorous at times. So when I find that Tempest depresses me, I can switch gears and work on something fluffier.

This has been working well for the past couple weeks. I'm making steadier progress on Tempest and plan to keep it the higher priority until the draft is done. At this rate, that should be sometime in December, but if it takes longer, so be it.

I guess this means that I'm not revising anything more until next year. Two projects is ample to keep me out of trouble!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Congratulations to Stuart!

Anyone who's read Brandilyn Collins novels about the fictitious town of Kanner Lake, Idaho may remember the character S-Man, who takes a seat in the Java Joint to write his science fiction novel. This character was modeled after Stuart Stockton, who just sold his novel Starfire to Marcher Lord Press for spring 2009 release. Brandilyn gives her version of the news here.

I'm thrilled for Stuart because he's the first person whose work I've critiqued that has made it through the maze to have a novel accepted for publication. (We were in the same crit group in preparation for the 2007 Genesis contest.)

And I'm thrilled for him because he's a darn good writer. Congrats!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Reflection's Edge Day 3

Not having anything further myself to say about the YA spec fic novel Beyond the Reflection's Edge, I'll point you to a few blogs that are more interesting than mine.

Stacey Dale posted an interesting interview with the book's author, Bryan Davis.

Another interview was posted by Shane Deal. I chose not to go to the direct link for you on that--the interview is on Day One--because Shane posted interesting content three days. On the third day he chose to analyze the names chosen by the author.

Ask Andrea discusses the reasons Christian parents might (or might not) want their young teens to read this novel.

At the blog Fantasy Thyme, Timothy Hicks looks at different aspects each day as well: the amount of research Davis put into his real-life settings, for example, and the character arcs for the major players.

Steve Rice also runs three interesting posts, today's post being about some of the theological conundrums that the novel raises. Personally, I'm with the camp that if the author can cause the reader to suspend disbelief, the story can work anyway. I don't think most folk, teens or otherwise, or suddenly going to start believing in alternate dimensions after reading this novel and its successors. Or start jumping through mirrors. My issues with the suspension of disbelief (as noted on Day One) were more to the line of the story continuing to bounce into reality, which loosened my grip on that suspension.

Interestingly enough, Chawna Schroeder asked Davis a question about the multiple dimensions and why he chose them. He says:
In the Echoes from the Edge series, I wanted to do a bit of time travel, but every time travel story I have read contains at least one paradox, and the impossibility of the situations always took away from the story. So, I invented parallel worlds that existed at different points in time, allowing my characters to travel, in a sense, through time. If they altered something in the past, it didn’t create a paradox, because their actions didn’t affect their own world.

These journeys fulfilled my hope to expand readers’ spiritual vision while exploring the great “what if” questions without an annoying logical impossibility. Alternate realms allowed for a generous dose of the coolness factor while still providing a sense of reality, because my characters kept going back to the real world. I think readers enjoy that, because the story does the same for them, providing a doorway to another world from the safety of their reading chairs.

Greg Slade says this: I'm trying to figure out a way to describe this book, and I'm really tempted to say, "take equal parts of Indiana Jones, Spy Kids, and the X-Files, blend at high speed, and leave spinning." He also comments on what he sees as the book's flaws: Do I have gripes? Well, yes, but they don't strike me as exactly fair: personally, I find the pace a little too breakneck, but I'm no fan of thrillers, and Davis is writing one, so complaining that it's too thrilling is, well, just showing my prejudices. I'm also frustrated that so much of the backstory remains untold, but this is only the first book in the series, and if it revealed all the mysteries, why would people even bother to read the second one?

Robert Treskillard asked his 14 year-old son to review the novel. Great idea, getting the goods directly from the target audience!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Reflection's Edge Day 2

I have a habit of showing the opening paragraphs of a novel, so I'll do that again for this month's tour book, Beyond the Reflection's Edge.

Nathan watched his tutor peer out the window. She was being paranoid again. That guy following them in the Mustang had really spooked her. "Chill out, Clara. He doesn't know what room we're in."

She slid the curtains together, casting a blanket of darkness across the motel room. "He parked near the lobby entrance. We'd better pack up and leave another way." She clicked on a corner table lamp. The pale light seemed to deepen the wrinkles on her face and hands. "How much more time do you need?"

Nathan sat on the bed nearer the window, a stack of pillows between his back and the wall, and tapped away at his laptop. "Just a couple of minutes." He looked up at her and wined. "Dad's slide rule must've been broken. It took almost an hour to balance the books."

Clara slid her sweater sleeve up an inch and glared at her wristwatch. Nathan knew that look all too well. His tutor's steely eyes and furrowed brow meant the Queen of Punctuality was counting the minutes. They were cutting it close, and they still had to get the reports bound at Kinko's before they could meet his parents at the performance hall for the company's quarterly meeting. And who could tell what delays that goon in the prowling Mustang might cause? His father had noticed the guy this morning before he left, and he looked kind of worried, but that could've been from the bean and onion burrito he had eaten for breakfast.

(I hunted for a link for the whole first chapter, but I couldn't find one.)

Does this first page hook you, the reader? What do we learn about the characters and the situation?

Well, we have a boy, Nathan, whose family is wealthy enough that he has a tutor and a laptop. He seems to do the books for his dad's business, and they're staying at a motel. The tutor, Clara, cares about punctuality and about the guy in the Mustang. Nathan hasn't seen his parents since that morning, when his dad seemed worried about the guy. If we should all be worrying about the guy (and we find out within a very few pages that we should, indeed, be taking him seriously), I'm not feeling the tension in this opening.

Nathan is obviously somewhere between the ages of being old enough to do the books and still having a tutor, and I get a reasonably decent impression of Nathan within the next few pages.

Also missing, in my opinion, is any real hint of Clara's age or any other description other than wearing a sweater. Clara, who remains a fairly major character, turns out to be a woman old enough to be Nathan's grandmother. When that came out, quite a distance into the story, I had to mentally revise all the scenes thus far to bring them into line with a woman that much older than what I'd assumed an undescribed tutor would be.

The whole story is rather surreal, but you know what? It's that kind of novel! Just imagine characters crossing from one dimension to another using a mirror, a camera, and a violin--it can't help but be rather surreal!

I finished the book Monday night, and I hear that Book Two, Echoes From the Edge, is already out.

What do I find typical of Bryan Davis, the author? A couple of things. This is very complicated inter-dimensional stuff, and you don't exactly learn about it in school. And while I'm willing to suspend disbelief for a novel or ten, the flood of fake-technical terms here kept pounding me. Instead of the author allowing me to just step into that dimension and accept it, I felt he kept trying to explain the unexplainable.

The Dragons in Our Midst series that I'd read previously did much of the same thing, for younger readers. I guess I prefer the stories I read not to continuously challenge my suspension of disbelief.

Then again, I 'm not the target age of this novel (13-16?), so take that comment with a shaker of salt. Having the characters bop back and forth between three dimensions--with suspicions of a fourth--and meeting their other selves from the other dimensions was pretty weird. That might be a compliment. I'm not sure. But I'll definitely pass this novel on to folks with teens and I'll be interested in hearing their reactions later on.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Beyond the Reflection's Edge by Bryan Davis

This month's book tour is Beyond the Reflection's Edge, a Young Adult science fantasy by Bryan Davis. A couple of years ago I won a four-book series by this author--a series that was angled a bit younger than this novel. First off, I'm not a teenager nor do I have one in the house any more. I might well be out of touch with what appeals to teens, but the cover of this novel did not pull me in. It has a very serious feel that is almost adult non-fiction in feel, as far as I'm concerned. Even though I knew it was a novel, and one in a genre I normally enjoy, it sat on my table for over a week because it just didn't call out to be read. It wasn't until the book tour was looming over me that I pulled it out and started in.

I know, that's lame! I'm about 2/3 of the way into it now, and understand what the cover portrays. There's a hint of musical scores in the background--important because the main character, Nathan, is a violinist, and music plays an vital role in the story. And of course the hand pressing on a mirror is also indicative of the title and the very strange mirror that plays its own part.

So far I am finding the story to be typical Davis. What do I consider to be typical? Hm, I guess that will be material for another day. For now, if you want to know what other bloggers are saying about this novel, check out some of these links. I see a few new names on this list!

Brandon Barr, Jennifer Bogart , Justin Boyer, Keanan Brand, Kathy Brasby, Jackie Castle, Courtney, CSFF Blog Tour, Stacey Dale, D. G. D. Davidson, Shane Deal, Janey DeMeo, Jeff Draper, April Erwin, Karina Fabian, Marcus Goodyear, Andrea Graham, Todd Michael Greene, Katie Hart, Timothy Hicks, Joleen Howell, Jason Joyner, Kait, Mike Lynch, Magma, Terri Main, Margaret, Rachel Marks, Melissa Meeks, Rebecca LuElla Miller, Eve Nielsen, Nissa, John W. Otte, Steve Rice, Ashley Rutherford, Mirtika or Mir's Here, Chawna Schroeder, Greg Slade, James Somers, Steve Trower, Speculative Faith, Jason Waguespac, Laura Williams, Timothy Wise

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Tropes in Story Telling

According to Wikipedia, a literary trope is a common pattern in literature. In fantasy novels, oft-used tropes include good triumphing over evil (often represented by a Dark Lord). Quests are a common trope as well. Also the poor unknown who turns out to be Royalty and saves the day when they figure it out. Magical items and prophecies tend to be important in a lot of fantasies as well.

I've been thinking of another one, but I don't know if it has a name. I can think of a number of examples of it, though.

Here are some of the elements: a person--often a child--always misunderstood, sometimes orphaned. This person has a special ability that they don't know about until Something Happens and they are whisked off to a wonderful place where they learn about this special ability and end up being part of something very important in saving their world as they know it. In fact, the world couldn't be saved without them.

Examples? Well, Harry Potter comes to mind as the most recent/ well known. But the trope is much older than that. Anne McCaffrey used it several times that I can recall: Lessa and Menolly in the Pern novels, Peter Redinger and the Rowan in the Pegasus series.

Mercedes Lackey uses it at least three times in the Valdemar series: Talia in the Arrows of the Queen trilogy, Darian in the Owl trilogy, and Mags in the new Foundation novel.

Holly Lisle's very first novel plays off this trope with the character Faia in Fire in the Mist.

I'm sure there are dozens more--probably more of them that I've read and just can't remember the pattern at the moment, plus doubtless many I haven't read.

This trope might be most common in fantasy, but I'm not sure. I don't read a lot else. I do know that The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett fits it to a lesser degree. The world that little Mary saves is much smaller than all of Pern or Valdemar, but it is very significant to her.

What's so universal about this trope? I'm guessing that many of us have felt misunderstood and alone. If we were honest, I'm sure we've daydreamed about Something Happening and we could make a huge difference in our world. Wouldn't everybody wish they'd treated us better then?

What's your favorite trope? Or do you have any other examples of the one above? What about it appeals to you?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Geocaching with Jim :)

Today we went for a hike and to find a couple of geocaches. Since Jim got his GPS unit last spring, we've been doing a bit more *tourist in the hometown* stuff. We didn't know these rocks were worth climbing before!

We also didn't know there were petroglyphs in the area. The pile of rock known as Twin Peak One had this one on it:

Here Brody and I are in the *cave* under the glyph:

Then we climbed Twin Peak Two and found this:

If you know me in RL, you know I really DON'T do heights. However, I did climb this rock face to get close enough to see the glyphs. Jim had to haul both Brody and I up! This is the perspective shot: see him standing at the bottom left of the photo? PLEASE be impressed I climbed that rock! You can see the rock drawings on the top right.

We found a safe place on the ledge to wait while Jim got some close-up photos.

Somebody loves it when we get out and explore the countryside around our valley!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Social Media

Are the social media sites only for people with too much time on their hands? No, I don't think so, though they can certainly serve as a major time-sink. Why do people blog? Why have a profile on Facebook? Why on Twitter? Why on other sites (that I know less about)?

I've been blogging for upwards of almost four years on Blogger and had a blog on a private site for most of a year before that (got killed by spam). I've talked about all kinds of random things--farm, family, pets, camping, books, and my own writing. Being as not a lot of you comment, I'm not sure why you keep coming back, which of these areas interests you in my life.

I joined Facebook last fall (November?) on the advice of my kids. At first it was merely a way to share photos and *communicate lite* with them, especially when Joel and Jen headed to South America for several months. Then I discovered a lot of my writer friends there (some published, some not), and more recently, my high school class has been reconvening on FB. Great fun.

When I first heard of Twitter, I couldn't figure out why anyone would use it. But Holly Lisle is doing a huge giveaway over two weeks to folks who follow her on Twitter, so of course I had to sign up to see what all the twitter was about!

A couple weeks ago I read this blog post by Michael Hyatt, president and CEO of Thomas Nelson, a major Christian publishing house.

He talks about how quickly word travels in this digital age and believes that everyone who has a *brand to defend* needs to make sure they know what is being said online about their brand. He gives a list of seven ways to keep track, and here's his first one:
Build an online presence. The time to build an audience is before you need it. You need people for whom you add value, a small army of followers, if you will, who can help you when you need it. This is why every CEO, brand manager, and department leader should create a blog, a Facebook page, and get active on Twitter.

It’s really not that difficult, even for the technically challenged. If you really don’t have a clue, enlist the help of a co-worker—or perhaps even your children!

If I had to select one place to start, I would pick Twitter. Then I would create a Facebook page. Finally, I would start a blog. I don’t think there’s a less expensive way to create brand equity than by using these three tools.

I'm guessing that a lot of my reader here are not CEOs (grin), but it seems his advice might still be valid. Build an audience before you need it. Why should I not find my old friends and make new contacts now, before I have something to sell them? Wouldn't you rather hear from someone you lost contact with now, while they are on their journey to publishing? We once had an old friend look us up that we hadn't seen in probably 12 years and within half an hour he was trying to involve us in his marketing scheme. It seemed that was the only reason we'd been rediscovered. When we didn't jump in, the contact drifted away.

Seriously, I care about people. I genuinely like my friends. I try to be true to myself online, and try to be very aware of everything I say. The world wide web holds information over our heads forever, and I don't want something I said to come back and bite me. Yes, I hope that one day my novels will sell, and I truly hope no one ever thinks I've befriended them just to make a sale. It's the people I care about...and sales will be nice, someday. If people want to buy my stuff.

On the advice of Randy Ingermanson, I plan to move my blog over to my website sometime within the next few months, as my daughter has time to finish redesigning the entire thing. I do have the website somewhat updated this week, though.

If you're a writer and you're not currently following Holly Lisle on her blog, in her classes, or on Twitter, I highly recommend that you do so. She's a multi-published author with a lot of material available on how to write. She's opened her writing class How to Think Sideways to new members this week. Go have a look! And if you follow her on Twitter, you might WIN a scholarship to this class. FOR SURE you will qualify for one of her e-clinics on Monday. Don't delay! Follow her on Twitter today! And you can follow me by clicking the link in my sidebar. Or look me up on FB.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Tempest clears 40K

Although I've got a lot on the go these days, I'm managing at least an hour on Tempest most mornings. Today I crossed the 40K milestone, and I should reach the official halfway point of my current outline later this week. The outline keeps growing, though! That's good, I believe. The two scenes I've written this week weren't in the outline even last week; they came considerably after I did the massive rebuild of the outline a couple weeks back. I was staring at the notecards--have I mentioned recently how much I love Scrivener?--and realized I hadn't shown a major mental turning point for the main character.


Today I also broke and fixed my website while I was updating it. I needed to add Tempest to the *projects* section as well as add the Genesis finals for Majai's Fury and Off Beat (previously known as Marks of Repentance and The Girl Who Cried Squid).

And while I wandered the net looking for agents to submit Majai's Fury to, I discovered a contest at Agent Kelly Mortimer's blog. Then I needed to find something to submit--something that was not fantasy! So I got an entry off today (not mentioning the project here as the entries are to remain anonymous through some complicated method, but you've met it before!)

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

A Constant Heart by Siri Mitchell

I used to accept more books for review on the blog, but I've become somewhat pickier about the ones I choose. I don't have a lot of time to read--sadly, when it seems I could get a free book every week or so, should I want them! Most contemporary novels don't appeal to me a whole lot.

However, back in the day I reviewed The Cubicle Next Door by Siri Mitchell and quite enjoyed it, so when I saw one of her new books on the list, I decided to ask for it.

As is so often the case, A Constant Heart has not yet arrived and it is time for the book tour. However, I read the first chapter here and discovered that it isn't a contemporary novel at all, but a historical romance from Elizabethan England. (You'd think the cover would have told me that, but our list doesn't come with covers!) It sounds quite amusing and I think I'll quite enjoy reading it once it finally arrives.

The young lady is the daughter of a knight, and the young man an earl in need of a fortune. As you might guess, and typical for the period, this marriage is not at all about love. In fact, they haven't met yet. But what caught my funny bone, he writes sonnets and cannot figure out what might rhyme with carriage.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Tempest in a Teacup

Or in a nutshell: A breeder for the Guardian Race fights to make a young prophet's vision of them leading a reformation come true even when he is banished and she becomes the cult leader's fifth wife.

Tempest is currently at 35,000 words and moving along nicely. In an effort to think about rebuilding my website, I see that the content of it is as out of date as the design itself. So I'm working on the teaser blurb next.

Not only will the website work get done, this meshes nicely with Lesson 11's homework for Thinking Sideways!