Friday, December 30, 2016

A Case of the Blahs

I have dozens, maybe even hundreds of partial ideas and story prompts. Several jump out at me and I think, "That would be cool." But that's it. No flood of subsequent ideas. Just a desire to write a story that would be cool. It’s like… I'm just not feeling it. But I want to write something.

It's not writer's block. It’s just writer's meh.

I need something to give me that push off the edge. The thing that makes me stop what I'm doing and say, "Holy shit, what if that happened?!" That's the best thing, when you have so many ideas and plans and you can’t write it down fast enough. It's a rare thing.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Rogue Plot Bunnies

I have a lot of ideas right now. Bits and pieces. There's an idea for a children's book series, but I don't know if I could ever actually write that. I barely even know any children. I don't know what they like. I don't know what's exciting or boring to them.

Then there's the Ontological Mystery. Essentially, there are people, who find themselves trapped in a place by persons unknown, who have to figure out the who, where, and why of the situation. I have this vague notion kicking around in my head. And I think it might do me some good.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Harnessing the Human Heart

I'm going to tell you something you may already know: I'm kind of weird.

Not in a "lol, look at me, I don't conform to society's expectations!" kind of way. More in a "just a bit… off" kind of way. People will probably refute that claim, but I'm looking at it from the inside, so I think I'd know.

The core of this is that I have a hard time relating to other people. Other real people. Fictional characters, those I get. Those I can empathize with. I was watching a show, and I was moved. I feel for these characters. They are written and portrayed in such a way that it pulls you into their lives and manipulates your emotions.

And I think I must be the villain of the piece, because I want to harness that power and use it for evil. I want to bend the emotions of my readers to my will. I want to make them laugh, and cry, and throw the book in anger. I want to move them.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Shape of Tales to Come

Well, the next prompt in line is to describe the view out my window, and… it's dark. So we'll hold off on that for now. Where does that leave us then? Besides in the dark.

Right here, digging through my stored up stuff. In the dark.

Friday, December 16, 2016

A Slightly Less Technological Parallel Universe

Well, here we are again. I've been having some ideas about revisions for a story I wrote three years ago, but nothing concrete yet. Wheels are turning. The Wizard of Oz was involved. The story in question is actually on draft three, which is farther than anything else has made it. The problem with that one is that in the first two drafts, I found things that I didn't like, and wanted to change. But once I got to the third draft, I didn't know what should happen, only what shouldn't. But still, maybe we'll be able to rescue that one from the scrap heap eventually.

For now, we're just going to keep going with prompts. Today's is to pick an everyday object (again). Then, describe life without the item (before), and life with the item (after).

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Such Wealth is Not in This Box

I have so many story ideas. Just little plot bunnies. They hop around in your head, refusing to leave until you scoop them up and do something with them. Problem is, I don't have anything more than a vague idea about anything. So I don’t know what the next project is.

I'd like to write some things to submit to the local college publication at the end of January, but again, no real ideas. I submitted "A History of Falling Off the Wall" last year, and they didn't want that one. So I need to learn from my mistakes and write something that is very much not that.

I need to take a page out of Oliver Queen's book and become someone else. Something else.

Friday, December 9, 2016

An Emotional Review

Is it Friday already? I had hoped I would have accomplished something by now.

I've been thinking lately about what sort of direction I should be, uh, writing in. there's some improvements I need to make in my overall writing style. Sure, I could just keep doing what I'm doing, but let's not forget the point of all this.

I started this blog nearly a year ago to chronicle my journey toward becoming a real writer. So far, I am no closer to that goal than I was when I started. So continuing to do the same old thing is not going to work.

Something has to change.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Where Do We Go From Here?

Well, NaNoWriMo is over. No more plotting. No more murdering. No more writing. And I have no idea what my next project will be. Therefore, I don't know what to blog about.

I definitely think that revision is something that need to revisit. I think I sort of threatened to revise something, but never actually did. The question then comes down to what to revise. "Revise the story you just wrote!" you might say. But I find that it's best to step away from a project for a while before diving back into it. You've just spent plenty of time with it. You have to let it breathe for a bit before you force into a new shape.

I have a lot of first drafts. I think that's probably a given at this point. I could choose any one of them to try to fix. The trick is how. I can usually tell that a certain scene, or character, or plotline isn't working. But I couldn't tell you what would work. Obviously, if I knew, I would have done that in the first place.

Friday, December 2, 2016

How Many Universes Fit on the Head of a Pin

All right. Universes. Within universes. That's what I promised.

I found this site recently. It's a universe. And if you open it up, it's full of galactic superclusters, which are full of galaxies. And you can keep going down, smaller and smaller, into star systems, into planets, into towns, into people.

Yes, into people. What they're made of. What they're thinking. What's in their pockets.

What? No! Who would do that?

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Final Days of NaNo

Right now I'm pulling a Lord of the Rings and having my story end over and over only to reveal another ending. Epilogues upon epilogues, and post-epilogues and post-post-epilogues. Basically Des is filling us in on things that happened after the end under the guise of talking to Celeste once a year up on the water tower all alone. It's dumb, I know, but it's words.

Speaking of which, I have to get back. More words to write.

I'll see you Friday, when I'll have a little more time and maybe something interesting to talk about. Universes, maybe. Universes within universes.

Stay tuned.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Murder Isn't Working, and That's All I'm Good At

Not a lot to report on today. I'm still way behind and I've been killing people.

I'm still determined not to give up, even though I only have five days left. I'm convinced that some amazing idea is going to come to me and it will all be okay.

Killing off Celeste was actually way harder than I thought it would be. I had actual emotions. I just wish I could do the same to my readers. But they don't have any reason to get attached to these characters. They haven't been living in anyone else's head for the past few weeks.

So here's a question, readers. What makes you get attached to a character?

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Famous Last Words

Well, it's about time to kill someone off. I didn't want to do it, but it's happening, and I can't stop it.

Poor Celeste is going down.

I've been saying for a while that if I was going to kill someone, it would be her. Then for some reason at my local NaNo Write-In, I was talking about luna moths, and how they have no mouths. Like, they spent their whole larval stage being a very hungry caterpillar, but once they reach their adult stage, all they do is get it on and die. They only live for about a week as adults.

Can you imagine, the tragic tale of a caterpillar, looking longingly up at a beautiful delicious leaf or whatever, saying to itself, "One day, I'll have wings, and I'll fly up there and eat that leaf." And they grow up and… aww… no mouth.

Friday, November 18, 2016

The Devil's in the Details

Have you ever heard or read something that just sticks in your head because of how messed up it was? Like, it's sickening and you can't get it out of your mind? I wrote something like that. I think it was Wednesday. It might have been Tuesday. Either way, I'm still thinking about it. Part of said I shouldn't write it like that. Another part said I definitely should, because that's how messed up the situation was.

So, a bit of context (because I have to make you read it now too). It's a bit of backstory about how Des became a vampire. That involves a horrific plane crash that he alone survives (and not for long). This is what happened to his punk band, Winter on Venus. They met a horrible end.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Just a Sprinkle of Weird

The story is starting to make sense. I'll have to go back and fix some things and move some things around, but it's looking promising. Like, it might actually turn as good as I make it sound in my summaries.

I've been adding more characters. I realized that Des is doing a terrible job of trying to fit in with human society if he never interacts with any humans. So this happened:

Yes, this was it. This was what normal people did. They talked to people with similar interests and they made friends. I could be normal.

Was this paragraph a little autobiographical? No, this paragraph was entirely autobiographical. So Des made a friend. Me, well, that remains to be seen. But you didn't come here to hear about me.

And then there was the Sprinkle Tax.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Tales Told by Dead Friends

This post is way late, but I suspect that I'm the only one who actually cares about that.

My characters are not cooperating. The ones who are supposed to be interesting aren't, and the ones who are supposed to just take up space are actually doing things. I'm beginning to think the whole thing was a terrible idea. Everyone was right, and I should have listened.

There is one piece of this story that I actually want to work on, but I haven't had much of a chance because it doesn't contribute meaningfully to word count. See, Des was in a band. They had songs. Two of which I've already mentioned by title. Only one of which I have actual lyrics for, and they're not even complete. I also have part of the first one he's written since the whole "friends died and I became a vampire" thing. And that hasn’t even come up in the story yet.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Lagging Behind, but Gaining Ground

I'm still behind on my word count, but I think I'm slightly less behind now. Nobody panic, there's still time.

A thing I always struggle with is narrative voice. I've talked about this before. Basically, I find it hard to maintain the same voice throughout, especially when I'm aiming for it to have a little more personality than "They did this. They went over there." But I'll yoyo between flat/boring and pure sarcasm/breaking the fourth wall. I think I've finally found the right voice for Des. Because he needs to be all sarcasm and a little breaking the fourth wall. We are spending a lot of time in his head, after all.

Right now, I have a few plot points that need to happen, and I'm trying desperately to have them not all happen at once, but I had to let the story move forward a little, and hope that I could fill things in later. That's where we are now. I'll even share a little excerpt. If anyone's coming into this adventure late, it's relevant to note that Des is a vampire.

Friday, November 4, 2016

A Tale Told Too Quickly

It looks like all posts will be posted in the evening until the end of November. I just don't have the time (between work and NaNo) to get them out in the morning. Sorry to let everyone down.

I'm already behind on my word count. I made my quota the first day and then never again. On the bright side, I have basically all of Saturday to catch up.

I actually have a sort of outline of things that need to happen. My problem is that I tend to just go straight from one plot point to the next, with no extra stuff to fill out the in-between. I need some subplots going. I kind of sowed the seeds for one that's also going to bring in some punk rock backstory, and I'm looking forward to that.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Naming Names

When I start this post, it's 12:44am. So yes, NaNo has officially begun, but I haven't started on the ol' novel yet. I'll be doing that after work. If I start now, I may never go to bed.

I was going to do some outlining on Monday, but, well, the internet came calling and who was I to ignore it? I did finally name the girl. I said to myself, she's an ordinary down to earth girl, and she should have a name that reflects that. So somehow she became Claire. And then she needed a last name, and for some reason those can be tricky. I mean, you can name a child anything you want, but a last name tends to reflect a bit of heritage. You pick a name, and a whole bunch of history comes with it.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Further Adventures in Vampirism

You might recall how I realized the only thing I'm actually good at writing is murder. Well, today I got to work 30 minutes early and had to do something, so I started pondering my novel, teeny little notebook at the ready. And I realized what this story needs.

A serial killer.

See, all Des wants is a home. A place to belong. And he's about to get a little too cozy, so I have to ruin that for him. So what would threaten his quiet little un-life? The possibility of exposure or death. Or exposure followed by death. So I think we need some vampire hunters.

These vampire hunters were drawn to this quiet little college town by a string of gruesome murders that look to be the work of vampires. But are they? You'll have to wait and see, I guess. Anyway, our group of peaceful, ice cream serving vampires are going to find their lives turned upside down as suspicion begins to fall.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Feminine Mystique

Female characters are hard to write. I'm sure I've mentioned this before. I'm not sure why they give me so much trouble, but it's just so hard to give them a proper personality. They tend to be very flat and just… bleh.

Why should they be any more difficult than any other character? I don't know. There's certain expectations. Like, you're supposed to have strong female characters, who are badass and go for what they want. They're supposed to be role models for little girls oppressed by the patriarchy everywhere.

There's a lot of pressure.

Friday, October 21, 2016

A Character Lacking in Characteristics

So I've been thinking about this other character for a while now. This character who comes into my main character's life and pushes him toward some kind of change. And I've been pushing them away for just as long.

See, my first instinct was that it was a female, but that just pushes the whole thing into teen vampire romance, and that's not going to fly here. No way. We're not going to do that. But this girl has stayed in the back of my mind. She's making herself at home, sleeping on the couch, eating all the food. Clearly she has no intention of leaving. So I guess I have to let her into my story. Honestly, that's true of a lot of my characters.

"Who is this girl?" you might ask. Well, I can tell you that she's twenty-something, blonde, and a terrible driver. I mean, there's a reason her headlight's in 57 pieces. And she has a cat. A calico. Named Ember. Beyond that, I'm not really sure. She doesn't even have a name. Or much a personality. Or a job. Although, she might be a college student, in which case she's just forgotten the first two.

Clearly, I still have a lot of work to do.

NaNo starts in a week and a half (dear god!). The prewriting stage is nearly over. I really need to figure out what this story is about. And who's in it.

I'm going to cut it short today since it's already so late.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

How We Got Here

I would have written this last night, but, uh, video games were happening. I'm not going to get into that. Suffice it to say, Battlefield 1 is pretty awesome.

Anyway, I was actually thinking about this last night (early this morning) when I went to bed. It's a matter of what I guess you'd call narrative order. I'm sure there's an actual term, and maybe I'll look it up later. What I mean is the order that the story is being told in.

Now, if you want to get technical, the story of Des Mackenzie begins in 1964. That's when he appeared in the world as a very much not vampire little baby. But we're not going to start there. That would be ridiculous. Things don't really get interesting for Des until the late 80's. He starts a band, they put out an album, things are going good for them. Well, until they aren't, and most of them die in a plane crash. Except for Des, but he doesn't make it very far and more or less wakes up a vampire.

But we're not starting there either.

Friday, October 14, 2016

A Simulacrum of Sense

Sometimes it's not about what you say. It's about what you might have said.

Cryptic, no?

There's a site that someone linked on Facebook forever ago (and then moved on from like a normal person) that takes your past posts, and jumbles them up to give you something that sounds like something you'd say. I have it bookmarked. Every so often, I'll go there, and save the best ones.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Trying to Put Things in Order

It's a late post again today. See, usually I write the post the day before, but yesterday I was trying to clean out my spare room. Largely that consisted of going through a big heavy box of old school papers, and moving what I wanted to save into a smaller, less heavy box, and then adding all my recent school papers to it. This left me with a pile of textbooks that needed to go on the shelf. Yes, I keep my old textbooks. The interesting ones, anyway. I sold my Finite Mathematics book the first chance I got.

Anyway, this led me to the realization that I need to rearrange my books. My fiction bookcase is overflowing, and my nonfiction is not sorted according to the Library of Congress system (which bothers me). So it's like a huge ongoing process. And I found a poem about bookends that is probably from my time working at the library:
Where, oh where, have all my bookends gone?
Books fall haphazardly, with nothing to lean on.
This lack of stability and sanity depends
Upon the tragic loss of all of my bookends.
But you didn't come here for that.

Friday, October 7, 2016

The Good, the Bad, and the Boring

I've been watching The Vampire Diaries. A lot. I think I'm on season 3. Research, I've been calling it. And a lot of that is research into what I don't want to do. That show has some things in common with Twilight that I'd like to avoid. Namely, this whole eternal teenager thing. If you had essentially an eternity to do whatever you wanted, why would you spend it in high school?

Des, my protagonist, helpfully informed me, "I'm not one of those teen romance vampires who spends fifty years in high school. Fact is, I was twenty five when this all went down. Sure, I could pass for eighteen, but why would I want to?" Me personally, if I had to be in school forever, I'd at least be in university, getting my 76 different degrees.

But that brings me to what we're really talking about today: The Magna Carta.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Never Give Up, Never Surrender

I have no idea what to write about today. That happens most days. I stare at this blank page, and hope that some reasonably intelligent, insightful collection of words will magically appear. Sometimes they do. Sometimes, I have to take a bunch of boring, vapid words, and shove them all together until they sound intelligent and insightful.

So why keep doing it? Why not quit, now that I've run out of things to say? Why not just give up on the whole thing? The same reason I keep doing everything I do.

Because I said I would.

I said, I'm going to keep writing this blog, and not get bored and abandon it like every other journal I've tried to keep. I said, I'm going to finish this degree even though I could be doing something better with my time. I said, I'm going to keep this summer job until the end of the season. I said, I'm going to work on my Russian every day.

I said, I'm going to write a novel.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Writing at the Speed of Light

Sometimes I think too much. That should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me. Sometimes, I spend all my time thinking and not enough doing. that's why I spend three months planning a story, then I spend weeks or months working on it.

Sometimes, maybe, I need to stop planning, stop thinking, and just do it, right now. And thus, High Speed Stories were born.

The rules are simple: there is a time limit. Now, I've written 50,000 words in a month, that's easy cake oven. No, I'm talking a real time limit.

One hour.

That's one hour to come up with characters, setting, etc., and write the damn thing. Can it be done? We'll find out. The plan is to go to my list of writing prompts, set a timer, and go.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Whatever Doesn't Make Me Stronger Kills Me

Well, we're back on vampires. Specifically, what kills them. Really, what causes them harm at all. It's a question of how much I want to follow tradition, and how much I want to make it up.

Traditionally, vampires are vulnerable to stakes, sunlight, decapitation, fire, silver (sometimes), garlic, holy symbols, and running water. Sometimes, they can’t enter a home without being invited, and they’re obsessed with counting things (suddenly Sesame Street makes so much more sense).

Friday, September 23, 2016

It Gets Funnier Every Time

I think things are stagnating a little with the constant "I don't know what this story is about." So we're going to talk about something different today. I actually wrote a whole post about lines and bits of dialogue I've collected, but I've had way too much coffee, and it really doesn't make any sense. So we're going to try this again.

Looking through all my collected stuff… how about running gags? Those are fun. If you're not aware, a running gag is some amusing thing that keeps popping up. It's Family Guy's giant chicken, Avatar: The Last Airbender's "My cabbages!", and basically all of Arrested Development.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Gaining Perspective

I did say that I would do a post on point of view (POV). So here it is. This is going to be a kind of informational type deal, because, well, I'm full of information, and every so often I have to let some out, or it'll overflow or something terrible. I'll just run around yelling random facts. It's horrible.

So, getting to the point, there are three basic POVs. First, second, and third. There are some subcategories.

  • First - uses "I." You're right there in your character's head. This comes in two flavors.
    • Central - the main character tells the story. "I" am the hero, right in the thick of it.
    • Peripheral - a side character tells the story. "I" am watching the hero, and telling you about it.
  • Second - uses "you." This isn't all that common in fiction, outside of Choose Your Own Adventure.
  • Third - uses "he/she." You're outside of the characters, but there are variations.
    • Omniscient - the narrator knows everything about everyone. You'll see what everyone is doing and thinking.
    • Limited - the narrator knows everything about one character. You'll only see what that character is thinking.
    • Objective - the narrator only reports what can be seen. It's like a movie, in that you'll see what characters are doing, but not what they're thinking.

Me, I tend to go for first, third limited, or third objective. When I find my main characters, I follow them closely. I don't report on what the bad guys are doing in the meantime. Should I? Maybe, but that's something to work on in the future.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Continued Adventures in Planning

Des Mackenzie, perpetual twenty-something, had grown accustomed to the life of the nearly-dead. But now he must face his greatest challenge: selling ice cream.

Coming this November, from renowned procrastinator Mad Cooper: Cold Blooded.

Okay, I don’t know if that's the title. It’s a good placeholder, at any rate. My main character (or "MC" as we say… in the business), does in fact have a name now. So that's cool. I think it suits him. There was a long and complicated process that led to that name. Basically, I saw one name that made me think of a show, which made me think of another name. And here we are. I could get into the details if you want.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

NaNoWriMo Prepares for Launch

NaNo Prep has officially begun, beyond my slow and laborious plotting. As Municipal Liaison for my region, I have ordered the "ML Kit" which mainly just means stickers to give out at events. People love stickers. Don't ever underestimate that. And I'm getting some posters, and I'm just really excited about all of this.

This year, I have a brand new co-ML. See, I had a co-ML my first year, but then I did the past two years all by my lonesome. So now I have to learn to share power again. Already, that's a challenge. I want to do everything my way, but I have… to… not.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Punk Goes NaNo

I've made the realization that my punk band backstory has to move up to the mid-90s, because I really want to call them Winter on Venus (now promoting their debut album, Retrograde). See, that's in reference to it "snowing" metal on Venus. Because how kick ass is that? But it also wasn't really postulated until 1995, after the Magellan spacecraft took a trip out there. And I just have to be right about everything.

I think it's probably for the best, since I'm familiar with punk bands who started in the 90s, while the 80s, not so much. A bit before my time.

On the other hand, I could call them that anyway and just offer no explanation. How many bands have weird names with no discernible meaning? (I'm looking at you, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus.) Damn it, now I don't know what I'm doing.

The ridiculous thing is that this is all for backstory. It has very little bearing on whatever the main plot is. All it really determines is how long he's been wandering around as a vampire. So at this point it doesn’t really matter.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Two Parts Heartbreak, One Part Explosions

Something amazing happened yesterday (Monday). I learned some fascinating things about my character. It all started with Reddit. Something mentioned that Jim Croce had died in a plane crash. "Why do so many musicians die in plane crashes?" I asked myself. I mean, Patsy Cline, John Denver, half of Lynyrd Skynyrd… And then I thought, maybe one 1980's (or so) punk rocker got "lucky" and was got help from an unlikely source. Namely, vampires.

So then I was at work, and I suddenly had this whole story going in my head. They're in a plane, on the way to some show. Something goes wrong. They crash in the forest. One survivor. But he's not out of the woods yet, literally or metaphorically. He's not doing so good, but he's going to try to find his way to civilization. Spoiler alert: he's not going to make it. Suddenly, vampires. He has to be turned if he wants to make it out of there more or less alive.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Slow, Arduous Progress

At this moment, I have very nearly reached 1000 views on this blog. Exciting, no?

Already, I'm gearing up for NaNoWriMo. I'll be getting my ML stuff, and the requisite annual poster. I even have a co-ML this year, so that'll be cool. All I need now is a novel to write.

I've pretty much decided that this vampire story is going to be my November novel. I'm hoping I can fill it with enough stuff to reach 50,000 words. I have about two months to figure it out. It's going to be a bit boring for you in the meantime, unless I get struck with the inspiration for some smaller project first.

As far as the novel goes, I have a bit of a setting and, like, half of a character. It's not a lot to go on. I have zero idea what the plot is. All I have is the line, "You want me to sell ice cream? Fine, but I'm not wearing one of those stupid hats." Like, for some reason, running an ice cream parlor is the normal thing for local vampires to do, and this guy's just getting roped into it. Why? I don't know! Haven't you been paying attention?

I don't really have anything else interesting to say, so I'm just going to leave it there for today.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Setting a Foundation for Urban Fantasy

I’ll be honest, most of my time lately is spent on trying to become a real adult, and desperately trying not to be a real adult. So I've been slacking in the writing department. I was trying to do some plotting while I was at work, but people kept coming in and wanting things. Very distracting.

It falls into the realm of urban fantasy, in a contemporary world with supernatural elements. This involves something called the Masquerade, which is the outward appearance that the world is normal. The public at large is unaware that creatures of the night roam the streets or what have you. So I can have an ice cream parlor, but no one knows it's run by vampires. Because that would make people uneasy, to say the least.

This saves me, like, half of world building, since half the world is already, well, built. It's just the supernatural underworld that I need to work on. And of course raises the question of whether there are creatures besides vampires in this world. But that's a slippery slope. First you add werewolves, then ghosts, then rakshasas and shtrigas. Then angels and demons. You get my point. Once you add one thing, it's hard to know where to stop. So I think we'll stick with strictly vampires for now. We can always add later if we have a good reason to.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

On the Nature of Immortals

Sorry about the lack of post yesterday. I've been a total slacker lately.

I've spent the past few days thinking about vampires. As one does. The thing about most vampires is that they are deceptively old. Sometimes a story will follow a fledgling vampire, but there's always some in the fictional world that are 100 or 300 or 5000 years old. That's just how it works. What else would be the point of being immortal? That brings up the issue of backstory. Because there is a lot of it.

So, my story involves vampires and apparently ice cream, but I have no idea about the plot or the characters. I've been trying to figure out just who my main characters might be. And when vampires are involved, that involves things like how long they've been a vampire, and what shenanigans they've gotten up to in that time.  That's potentially a lot of history. And you may or may not know how much I love history (It's a lot).

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Cause of Death: Plot

This is a late post and I apologize for that. At 9 pm, I suddenly realized, shit, it's Tuesday. I'm not sure why I didn't write it yesterday. Netflix was probably involved. At this point I have no idea what this post is about. I'll be just as surprised as you.

All right, let's talk about murder. There's bound to be plenty of death in this upcoming vampire story, so let's revisit Mad's Greatest Hits of Murder.

I have killed a lot of people. A lot of characters, I should say. In a previous post I shared an excerpt where I gored a big-game hunter with a mammoth tusk. And that was, what, fifteen years ago? I have a long history of this.

Friday, August 19, 2016

We All Scream for Ice Cream

Now, this was not an independent idea. It was a collaborative effort with some friends at work.

The Creamatorium. It's an ice cream parlor housed in a former funeral home. They keep their ice cream in the corpse cooler, and give all the flavors morbid names. I think it's the best idea ever. And I don't have the resources to make it a real thing, so it's going in my vampire story. I'm not sure the role it's going to play as of yet, but maybe it’s run by the local vampire den (or whatever you call a group of vampires. A colony? A wake?1 A warren?).

A quick google search tells me that the Creamatorium is not a new idea, and other people have thought of this. I didn't look into it too much, as I don't want it sullying my ideas. I don’t want to steal anything from anyone, but if I happen to come up with something similar, well, that's all right.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Perks of Being a Vampire

I'm thinking about writing a vampire novel.

At the moment I'm in between projects. The Camp NaNos are over for the year, and NaNoWriMo proper isn't until November. What’s a wayward writer to do?

I'm not sure if I should just start writing something now, or start planning for November. I think that an undertaking like this is going to take some preparation. For me, this involves charts. Tables, technically. Spreadsheets?

I said to myself, "Self, wouldn’t it be great if there was a list comparing all the vampire folklore?" It would be great, and there is a list (Thanks, wikipedia). I copied all the relevant information into Excel so I could do… nerdy Excel things. I'm not going to get into that.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Mad's Musical World Tour

We’re taking a little trip today. Anyone who's spent any time around my iPod has probably asked at least once, "Is that in English?" A lot of the time, no, it's not. Do I know what it means? Sometimes.

On several occasions, I've set out to find foreign music, specifically bands that perform in their native language. Typically, I'll pick a country, then look up lists of bands from there. I'll listen to a bunch until I find something I like. Or sometimes, someone will share a band with me.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

A Mistake of Mammoth Proportions

When I last delved into old stories, I mentioned a story I started about an island inhabited by living mammoths. That sounds dumb every time I say it,  but there you have it. I was going through my old notebooks and papers the other day, and I found it. So I'm going to share it with you.
I have a tendency to set stories in the current year unless there's some specific reason to put it in the past or the future. My notes indicate that the prologue takes place in 2000, while the story proper is in 2002, so it's reasonable to assume that it was written sometime between those dates. So would have been 12-14. Keep that in mind because this is awful.

Friday, August 5, 2016

The Noodle Incident

I was going to move forward from Camp NaNo, but what's the hurry? Let's stay here a little longer. There's no need to rush off to some new project. I wanted to share some snippets with you. At least one I've already put on facebook, so it might seem familiar to some.

But first, let's talk about the Noodle Incident. The name comes from a Calvin & Hobbes comic, and typically refers to some event that is mentioned but never explained.

I'm rather fond of noodle incidents, because they hint at a backstory that I don't have to actually create. You reference some random event (the randomer, the better), and it might tell you a little something about the characters. Was it some kind of trouble they got into? Was it an adventure they had?

Now, my Camp NaNo story from July, Once Upon a Writing Desk, has something of a noodle incident. A literal noodle incident with literal noodles. It's brought up more than once, and elaborated on a bit, but I think each new piece of information only raises more questions.

It begins just after the mac and cheese scene I mentioned last week.

“Where did you learn to make this?”

“A man has to have a few secrets. Maybe I studied for six months with Tibetan monks.”

This then leads into a discussion about Buddhism, and seems to be something that Martin made up. After all, who would learn to make mac and cheese from Tibetan monks? This occurs on page 10, and is not mentioned again until the very end of the story, on page 23. Here, we find Martin making mac and cheese again, and see the return of the noodle incident.

“I’m shit at following orders. Just ask the Tibetan monks. ‘Use yak cheese,’ they said, and I was like, ‘No, man, that’s weird. Where am I going to find yak cheese in Lancashire?’ And they kicked me out. Of the monastery. And Tibet. Just, like, out of the whole country. So then I thought I’d climb Everest, since I was, you know, in the area. But then I stood at the bottom and was like, ‘Fuck that.’ So I went home, and it turns out you can buy yak cheese there, so what the fuck do I know.”

Personally, I think that paragraph is a better story than the 24-page tale that surrounds it. I kind of want to just write a story that is this guy's adventures in Tibet, learning to make mac and cheese from some monks. But that would take the mystery out of it, and it would cease to be a noodle incident.

I have zero idea what my next project is going to be. I have a lot of rough drafts that need to be revised, but I don't know. I still have figured out how to pave over some of those plot holes yet. I'll see you all Tuesday, in any case.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Mad Cooper: An Origin Story

Camp NaNo is over, and so now I'm going to take the opportunity to take you back in time. Way back. I recently found a story, or part of a story, written about twenty years ago. I couldn't tell you exactly how old I was, but I was young enough to have disappointing spelling skills. There are two other stories, written by my sister, about the same characters, which both have the same bizarre misspelling of "Jolene."

I'm going to give you this story exactly as it's written, spelling errors and all.

The Musterius House Guests

Written and illustraated by: [me]

Chapter 1 The Interductshun

There once was three kids, named, Joelne age eight, Jake age seven and Jason age six. Jason is the smartest and the youngest. They lived across the street from a old house that everybody thought was huntend.

Chapter 2 The robbers

"Look!" yelled Jake as they saw two robbers run into the house across the street.

The robbers are very dumb. One robber is very tall and skinny and the other is short and fat. The tall one was leading. "What are they doing in there," Joelne asked. "I don't know" Jason said. "We gotta solve this mystery," Jake said. Joelne started scaching her head.

Chapter 3 The Mystery begins

"Let's go over and check out the inside of that old house," Joelne said.

"Let's do what?!" Jake asked.

That's as far as the story goes, so I'm going to assume it didn't end well for them over there. As it stands, I have several questions.

  1. Why can I spell "mystery" but not "mysterious"?
  2. How did the kids know they were robbers just by looking at them?
  3. Why are these chapters so short? (There's basically a new chapter every handwritten page)

Having read the story again, I'm going to assume that I was between the ages of six and eight, since it's kind of an automatic thing to make characters your own age. That's the age you can relate to. I still tend to do that. It's a hard habit to break.

I can also guarantee you that I was making up this story as I went. I had no idea where I was going with it. Actually planning things out and having an ending in mind is something I learned much later. I was all about the journey, never mind the destination.

So, readers, should I find any more baby Mad stories, would you like to read them as well? I find it much easier to share things that I wrote when I was much younger, because I can admit that they are bad, and I can blame it on my youth. I think I have the beginning of a story about an island populated by mammoths around here somewhere, if anyone is interested.

Oh, also, when I found this story, I also found a little book of hand-drawn characters with punny and ridiculous names. We had a bunch of these books. This one was Volume Four. The idea was that they were all students in a school. The points is, on the front is a picture of a school district sign. Under it is a sign that says:

No Snods

I'm not sure what that's supposed to mean, but I've been thinking about it for the past week and it keeps making me laugh.

Until Friday, readers, when, I don't know, something happens.

Friday, July 29, 2016

A Cheesy Romance

All right, let's talk about the mac and cheese scene. I wrote it days ago, but I haven’t really done anything interesting since then. I had zero intention of sharing it, because while it's completely innocent, it sounds like poorly written erotica. And that's how it was supposed to sound, so I don't know what my problem is.

Anyway, in a previous scene, Martin mentions his ability to make "a wicked macaroni and cheese," and there is talk about he should make it for Rachael at some point in the future. Where we're going to pick up is at the end of one scene and the beginning of another. The * * * denotes a scene change, like a chapter break for stories too short to have chapters.

“In the meantime, I think you owe me something.”

* * *

“Oh god, that’s good,” she moaned.

“You want more?” he asked from beside her on the bed.

“God, yes!”

He held the dish of macaroni closer to her so that she could take another spoonful. She took the entire dish and held it in her cross-legged lap. At the foot of the bed, some cheesy action movie from the 80’s played on basic cable.

In my mind, this is a whole mental movie, and this scene would be presented as only audio, perhaps from out in the hallway. Then it switches to the room and you realize nothing's actually going on. And by the way, I don't think the pun of the mac and cheese and the cheesy movie was intentional.

This scene immediately leads into a discussion about Buddhism, because, I don't know, these things happen. But it has some of my favorite lines in it, and I think perfectly conveys my attempt to be romantic.

“Well, they’ve got this whole thing were you should only do right and speak right, and fuck, I’m just no good at that. I don’t have that kind of self-control.”

She handed the macaroni bowl back to him. “I think you’re doing all right.”

“Well, I am making an attempt to be a gentleman. But that only goes so far. I can only say maybe three sentences without swearing. I’m a mess. A fucking weed in a garden of whatever.”

She tried to hold back a smile. “A garden?”

“Yeah. And you’re a rose… bush? I’m shit at all this.”

Honestly, I thought this whole trying to write a romantic subplot thing was going to be a mess, but I'm actually having a lot of fun with it. I am, however, concerned that now that I've broken the dam, so to speak, I'm going to put romance in everything. I'm fairly certain I don't want to do that.

What do you think, readers? Does romance ruin a perfectly good story? Or is a story only good if there's a potential for getting it on?

When we return next week, Camp NaNo will be over, but I have something in mind. A blast from the past, if you will. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Giving a Face to the Name

I was asked how I describe my characters without sounding like an episode of Cops, since I have them cast in my head. The short answer to that is that I don't. that's a super lame answer, I know.

I'm rubbish at descriptions. As a general rule, I'll only describe something if it's relevant. Like, I'll explain the layout of a room if it's going to affect the action in some way. When it comes to characters, well, how they look is rarely relevant.

I always thought that character descriptions should happen early on. In a novel length story, that would be in the first few pages, I guess. The idea being that you want to tell your readers how your characters look before something cements itself in their mind. But if you don't manage to fit it in, have you lost your chance? Is there a point where it's too late? I'm asking because I don't know.

Once upon a time, I actually did describe my characters. My second NaNo novel, from 2011, describes its main character, Zel Van Toren, thusly on page 3:

A few minutes later, she emerged, wearing black trousers and a dark grey short sleeved blouse. She carried the last item from the bundle, a thigh length black coat. Her hair, a murky dark red, was now clean and combed out. Years of neglect had left it tapering towards the ends, with the longest point reaching to a few inches above her knees.

It's a horrible, clunky description. Her companion, CiarĂ¡n MacClellan, on the other hand, is described on page 1 as being Irish, and on page 2 as having dark hair. And this is the sort of description I've started leaning toward. But why? Why couldn't I describe his bright blue eyes and crooked grin that remained despite all the shit he'd been through?

It's like I find something wrong with thinking about characters long enough to describe them. And so, unless it's somehow relevant to the plot, I just don't mention it. I've started realizing that basically no physical description is really relevant, so now no one gets described at all. In today's story, Rachael is implied to be about thirty, if you do the math, but gets no other description. At all. Martin is described as having tattoos on both arms, though the only one specifically mentioned is a bird on one hand. And these are only pointed out when Rachael notices them. The only thing we know about their height is that either he's tall enough or she's short enough that she stands on her toes to kiss him.

Would I like to provide a better picture of my characters? Absolutely. But I am by no means an expert in all this, and I have no idea how to do it with it sounding stupid. You either stop the story while you describe every detail of the character, or you try to work it in bit by bit. But there's always going to be something that will never fit in naturally.

Concerning things like a character's style of clothes, there is the above example where I described what she was wearing after bathing. When that character was introduced, she was in a prison, and so a big deal was made out of her getting new, clean clothes. But I hate doing that. I once read this really crappy story online somewhere where there was this girl, and everything she wore was explained in detail, down to the exact length of her skirt in inches. This happened any time she changed clothes. That's what I think of every time I consider describing what someone is wearing.

Long story short, I have no idea what I'm doing, so I just kill everyone before I have to describe them.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Look Who's Talking

I'm terrible at describing things. We've been over that. But that means that my stories are powered by action, murder, and dialogue. Lots and lots of dialogue.

The trick with that is that each character has to have their own unique voice, that somehow stands out from the others. But if I'm not careful, all the characters end up sounding like me, and that's no good. You have to think about each character's personality and background. How will that influence how they speak? Are they very upright and proper, or do they use a lot of slang? Is English their native language? How do they react when startled or hurt? Drop something on their head, and you'll see their true colors.

In my current story, my main character, Rachael, speaks in a pretty straightforward, yet casual manner. She doesn't use a lot of fillers (things like "um" and "you know"). She also tends to speak in short bursts. Just a few sentences, not much of a rambler.

Example: “I feel terrible about all this. Can I buy you a cup of coffee or something? There’s a place across the street…”

Martin, on the other hand, is made of fillers and rambling. It's like he wants to cram as many words into each sentence as possible. I have to actually hear it in my head before I can write it, but it's a lot of fun figuring out how he would say something.

Example: “Well, you know, really, it was just the once. I mean, there we are, back seat of her car, trying to get things in place for… you know. Anyway, things go a bit awry, I try to adjust, and next thing you know, she’s got a bloody nose. I tried to help as best I could but, well, she didn’t call me again after that.”

I think I've mentioned before that I mentally cast all my characters, like the story is a movie in my head. This helps me keep track of what they look like, but it's also super helpful in figuring out the voices. There is an actual person that I can hear. Several actual persons. And they sound different from each other. Is this cheating? Maybe. Maybe I'm taking the easy way out with character creation. But I've got a lot of people to kill. I don't have time to dream this all up from scratch.

And I'm not going to share these placeholder people, because I think the reader should be allowed to interpret things as they like, and not be forced to imagine things exactly the way I imagine them. That would be an exercise in futility anyway.

I'm still way behind on word count. Wish me luck, and I'll see you Tuesday.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

When Stories Go Rogue

In a completely unforeseen turn of events, my dreaded romantic subplot seems to have become my main plot. Also, I've still managed to refrain from killing anyone. Except Great Uncle What's-His-Name. He vanished into a plot hole fifty years ago, and is almost certainly dead. But he doesn't really count.

I think the desk is working its way back into the main plot, and we're maybe about to learn some things about it. That is, once I get back to writing. I am currently writing this post on Monday night, and I haven't novelled at all today. I'm considering going to bed early and trying to catch up later. I've been saying that a lot lately.

There are so many great things the story has yet to reveal. Now, this is a problem for me a lot. I come up with all this great information, and all these great secrets, and I totally screw up the reveal. By which I mean, half the time I forget to reveal it at all.

The main thing to uncover is the true nature of the desk. The things it does. The places it sends people and things. Already I have brought up eleven teacup saucers that have vanished. They were swallowed up by the desk, and I hope I don't forget about them later.

The other thing to reveal is that our charming rogue, Martin, is in fact working for some nefarious organization. Also, the fact that the nefarious organization exists. Also, and this is a minor thing, but I'm going to put a weird amount of importance on it, there's the fact that Martin is actually his last name, and we have yet to be told his first. Even our female protagonist is unaware of this. Why does that matter at all? I don't know. But it does. I'm strange. You know this.

Basically, I know a few things that need to happen in the future of this tale. One of them involves mac and cheese (because of course). However, the path that we take to get to those things, well, shit, I should have brought a Sherpa. Because I have really no idea where we're going.

See you Friday.

Friday, July 15, 2016

A Flagrant Misuse of Free Time

So this is my 50th post. Yay?

I got really behind on my word count last week, because I was doing things and being social (unheard of, right?). At any rate, I started to catch up this week. See, to stay on track, I have to write about 320 words per day. Monday and Tuesday, I wrote about 540 each day. Wednesday I went to bed early and wrote nothing. So now I'm falling behind again.

I'm not super certain what's happening in the plot right now. Things got a little romantic, but I put a stop to that, knocked some stuff over, and exploded a lightbulb in someone's face. Because that's what I do. I have a couple of ideas for the future. A future piece of romantic subplot involves mac and cheese. That'll be fun. Also, I have introduced The Typewriter (the aforementioned stuff I knocked over) to go with The Desk. I'm not sure if it still just misspelled "flagrant." I like how random that is, but how often is someone going to type "flagrant"? Not very often. Unless you're me. I use it twice in one paragraph, apparently.

Does anyone else have an ideas about what the typewriter might do? I'm open to suggestions at this point.

I don't have much else to report on right now. I am getting a little more okay with this romantic subplot. There seems to be a running gag starting where it looks like they're about to get it on, and then they just… don't. I have every intention of continuing this.

See you all Tuesday.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Love in the Time of Awkward

I think I got the accent thing figured out, but more importantly, the romantic subplot is well underway. I wrote one meeting between these two characters, but didn't really like it, so I wrote another version. A better version. Anyway, these two seem to really like each other, because things started getting interesting. But then they when interrupted before it got too far, because I'm a dick.

Before they were interrupted, the scene was pretty PG. But it was a damn good scene. That will never be read by human eyes. I know that makes me seem like a jerk, bringing it up and not sharing, but as it was, I had to go in the other room to write it, where no one could possibly read over my shoulder.

I know I've written about this before, but I'm super weird about this kind of thing. The sorts of things that most people wouldn't bat an eye at are incredibly scandalous to me. I don't know why that is. But I think this is an important first little baby step. First I get to the point where I can write romance. Then I get to the point where I can share it.

You know, I feel kind of like that kid in the frame story of The Princess Bride. He's all like, "Ew, no, is this a kissing book?" But he sits through it because of the swordfights and what not. I only hope that I, like him, will reach the end and say, "I don't mind the kissing so much anymore." My story doesn't even have swordfights. So hopefully there will be enough to sustain both me and reader to keep us from getting bogged down by this one romantic scene.

Well, readers, what do you like in a romance? What do you expect from a romantic scene or story? I know my version is super tame, except by maybe Amish standards. Hopefully I'll get the guts to share it with you eventually. But not today.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Touring the Regions

I'm lagging a little behind on my writing, but that's not important right now. What is important is that I have run into a peculiar issue. Accents.

I don't often have characters with accents. My very first novel featured Serbian inventor Nikola Tesla, and my second involved a guy from Northern Ireland. And now there's this chap from Lancashire (that’s in north west England, by the way).

The trouble I have found is trying to convey the accent in text, short of spelling things out phonetically. And that just seems… I don't know… hokey? So the dialogue itself doesn't read any different from the American dialogue. So the casual reader isn't even going to pick up on that, especially if they skip over the bit that mentions the accent in the first place. Sure, I can try to use appropriate British terminology, but that would just seem out of place if you're not reading it with the right voice in your head.

When writing for Nikola Tesla, I tended to cut out most of the contractions (which also boosts word count), and throw in a smattering of Serbian words and phrases. Also, it was Tesla, so the accent was kind of expected.

So this is a bit of a challenge that I've run into. On the one hand, it's not critical to the story, but on the other hand, it matters to me. I supposed that's true of most elements in my story. I can picture all my settings and characters perfectly, but I for some reason can't describe them at all. But does it matter? Does it matter that you don't imagine my world and its inhabitants the same way I do? It probably doesn't, but I wish you could see it the way I do.

That's really all I have for today, since I haven't written much lately (I'm a slacker, I know). What do you think about all this? What would help you imagine a character with an accent?

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

I've Got Style

I apologize for the late post, but I got a little distracted on the 4th, so I never got around to writing it. Anyway, we're going to talk about formats today. That sounds super lame, right? No! It's the most exciting thing ever!

When I first started writing stories, I used your typical straightforward style. Single-spaced walls of text. Or the essay inspired double-spaced. But then I started writing fan fiction and posting it on a site, and for it to post properly, you had to single-space it, and put an extra space between each paragraph. I started to write all my stories like that, because I liked how it broke up the walls of text into easily digestible chunks. Nowadays I have a style in Word labeled "Novel" that puts extra space between paragraphs. I've been using this basic style for years now. Years.

Compare them. Compare!
So then recently (by which I mean last November), I realized I could change it up a little. I could play with formatting. A Conspiracy of Ravens was the first story in which some used the internet, and the first in which someone sent a text message. I'm not sure how it took me that long. I was writing a lot of steampunk stuff set around 1900. That's my excuse.

Anyway, I developed a format for text messages, and one for the posts made by my blogger character. I've used the latter in my current tale when my protagonist posts on a forum.
It might seem like unimportant stuff, but I think it might help the reader get into the story by making things look how they would actually look. You don't have to imagine that the conversation people are having is via text, because you can see it.

Let me know what you think of varying formats and styles within a book. It is distracting or beneficial?

See you Friday!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Another Camping Trip

So Camp NaNo July is upon us. By the time this posts, it will have already begun. At the moment, I have a few hours left. And I have little to no idea what happens in this story.

I can tell you that there's a girl. A woman. Whatever. She's inherited an old house from some relative. In the house is an attic. In the attic is a desk. The desk. Also, some great uncle or something once disappeared without a trace. The last anyone saw of him, he was headed up to the attic.

Then there's the dude. The Rogue. He's a bit of a wild card. I know that he's not who he claims to be. I don't know who that is, though. My notes are literally just a bunch of question marks. I'm pretty sure he's from Lancashire, so that's something. And he works for some shadowy antagonist.

I really think I should be more concerned over the fact that I have no clue what's going on. But I'm pretty chill. This is what we call "pantsing," as in writing by the seat of your pants. Most of the time, this is how I write. Usually I have a little more to go on, but we work with what we have.

I'm still accepting challenges for things to include. Partly because I don't know what’s going on. It's been suggested to me that maybe everything that the desk makes disappear just falls into plot holes. So maybe I’ll just build a story out of plot holes I’ll start storylines and then just drop them without explanation.

By Tuesday I should have an inkling, at least. Though, seeing as Monday is the 4th of July, and I have to work, Tuesday's post might be even more harried than usual. I just don't know. Anything. About anything.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Revenge of the Writing Desk

The quest to figure out the story about things that do stuff continues. Of course I've decided to throw myself into this totally new idea a week before Camp NaNo starts. We wouldn’t want time to plan or anything.

I have determined that the desk that makes things disappear should be central to this tale. All the other items should have come from that desk. Now, in an effort to reclaim its lost property, it slowly pulls in everything else. So the other items should be things you’d find in a desk. An antique fountain pen that only writes limericks (filthy ones!). A journal that snickers when you write in it. A typewriter that always misspells "flagrant." Whatever. Desk stuff.

So, where did this stuff come from? I had this idea the other day about hypnic jerks. That's when you're on the verge of sleep and you feel like you're slipping or falling and you do that twitch thing. But what if that was you almost slipping into another reality but catching yourself? I'm not sure if that's going to play a part in this story or if I’ll save it for later. Either way, I think the stuff must have come from some other reality. You just don't get stationery with attitude otherwise.

Then there's the question of characters. I want some kind of a roguish character that you don't know whose side they're on. I'm half considering having a female main character. I don't really have a reason not to other than "girls are lame." I always have a hard time writing female characters. You’d think it would be easier. Maybe I'll try it anyway. For the challenge or whatever.

And while we're issuing challenges, maybe I'll try for a *shudder* romantic subplot. As much as I hate the idea, I'm also kind of looking forward to it. What is happening to me?!

Well, shit, let's open this up to the public. Does anyone have a challenge for me for this story? I can't guarantee I'll do everything, but I can at least try. Leave a comment!

Friday, June 24, 2016

A Tale of Infinite Weirdness

On Tuesday, I proposed a story involving one or more mysterious items. The more I think about it, the more into the idea I get. It's this bizarre little pocket of sci-fi and fantasy, and it's something I need to explore.

Ten years ago, there was a miniseries on the Sci-Fi Channel (so much of my life revolves around these, apparently) called The Lost Room. In it, well, there's all the Objects from the titular room, and they do stuff. Like boil eggs, or rotate things, or send whoever touches it to a stretch of highway outside Gallup, New Mexico. Some of them do different things when combined with other objects. That's the kind of weird-ass story I want to write.

This is probably a good example of how the writing process can be for me. It's not always that I have a vague plot that needs to be filled out. Sometimes it can be as vague as "there's some things that do stuff." From here, I have to figure out what it going to happen with these things, and who they are going to happen to.

Do people want these items? Does someone not want them? What will people do obtain or get rid the things? What's the best and worst thing that could happen because of these things?

What sort of characters could be involved? Taking aside our protagonist for a moment, do they have a thing? Do they want a thing? Why? What about our antagonist?

These are the sort of questions I have to answer. Also, what sort of a world is this? I'm leaning towards an urban fantasy sort of deal, where fantastical elements are thrown into our modern world. Basically, our world, with some weird shit thrown in. A lot of the time, the weirdness exists under the surface, known only to a few.

The thing that I know for sure is that these weird items that may or may not do stuff are not common, and not known to the general public. The protagonist probably just stumbled upon one, maybe in their attic, maybe at a flea market, wherever. There may be some person or organization who wants the items. But what will they do to get them?

In times like this, when I need both a plot and characters, there's no clear answer for which to create first. It's possible that one will lead to the other. Maybe a plot will imply a certain sort of character. Maybe a character has a particular story that they want to play out. Right now it feels like the whole thing is right on the tip of my tongue, like it already exists in my head, I just have to pull it out.

Join me Tuesday, when I may have a clue as to what this story is about.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Look At This Stuff, Isn't It Neat?

After careful consideration, I have determined that I will not be rewriting The Midnight Circus for July's Camp NaNo, or possibly ever. The general consensus on that was "write an entirely different story." So I will. I'm not going to waste my time trying to fix a story that no one would ever want to read. So now I have to figure out what to write in its place.

I have a partial story about a guy who can see the future that I could finish. I could try to rewrite any number of my old novels. There's one currently on draft three that I could try to figure out.

On my quest through all my story ideas today, I came upon my list of McGuffins. A McGuffin is a thing, that you probably want. Maybe it’s a thing that does something. That's real clear, right? It's the One Ring. It’s Dorothy's ruby slippers. It's the Holy Grail, and that suitcase from Pulp Fiction. It's either the cause of, or the solution to, all your problems. Maybe both.

Anyway, I have some great McGuffins on the list I have assembled from the NaNo forums. I'd like to share some with you. Maybe one of them will play a vital role in my next story.

  • A desk that seems to swallow anything (or anyone) who spends too much time around it.
  • A map that shows the location of something that you want the least.
  • A tiny, metal puzzle box that is impossible to solve.
  • A large, old book that doesn't open, and occasionally drips salt water from between its pages.
  • A weather vane in the shape of a rooster that comes to life on the 14th of every month.
  • A broken music box, which plays distorted and ethereal notes to a nursery rhyme tune.

Can you imagine a story around one of these things? Or a story involving all of them? Maybe it's time for me to write a delightfully weird fantasy/supernatural type story. Maybe that's what I should do for July.

What do you think? Any of my McGuffins stand out to you? Or might you suggest some of your own? Let's get collaborative in here.

I think we might be on the right track with this. These particular items and their odd style evoke a feeling I'm not sure I can explain. It's like… sliding sideways into a sunny room. It’s summer, twenty years ago, maybe. There's no way in hell anyone's going to understand that. I've got a good feeling about it, is what I'm trying to say.

So please, comment and tell me what you think. I don’t care if it's on here, or on Facebook. I'd just really like to hear your thoughts. All of you.

See you Friday.

Friday, June 17, 2016

I'm Just a Kid and Life is a Nightmare

I apologize for not posting this earlier today. At about midnight last night, I realized I hadn’t written it yet, and still had no idea what it was about. Now, I kind of know. I'm going to share some things with you. I've been going on and on about how I'm going to revise The Midnight Carnival. Well, I thought I'd share some of the original draft with you, to see what you think.

This excerpt is the very beginning. Rereading it now, I can see where I was just going for word count. But here, judge for yourself.

Something broke downstairs. A lamp, I think. Too heavy to be a dish, and too fragile to be a chair. I turned up the volume on my music to drown out the screeching sound of my mother’s voice. I didn’t know what they were fighting about this time. I didn’t want to know. At seventeen, I was supposed to be worrying about passing classes and which boys were interested in me, not about trying to hold my parents’ crumbling marriage together.

Usually I’d lock myself in my room with the excuse that I had homework to do. On the weekends, I’d go hang with my friends for as long as possible, just to avoid coming home. But right now was a Tuesday in July, and neither was an option. Most of my friends were off on family vacations, anywhere but here.

Auburn was not a large city, and there wasn’t a lot to do for a lone teenager. Pretty much everything is boring when you’re alone. If I’d had a car, I probably could have gone into Roseville or Sacramento, but again, alone, what was the point?

Something else crashed in the living room. It was getting hard to drown out the yelling. Turning the music off, I pulled on my sneakers and grabbed my jacket. Sure, it was July, but it was also eleven fifteen at night. And who knew how long I’d be gone.

The window creaked as pushed it up. Not that they would hear. I used to worry about getting caught sneaking out, but now I’d come to realize I could land a helicopter on the roof and they wouldn’t notice. The roof outside my window extended over the front porch, and at the side was a lattice with some kind of half dead climbing vine on it. One of these days I was going to be too heavy for the flimsy wood to support me, but not today.

I crept across the front yard and made a left on High Street. No plan, no destination in mind. I just needed to get out of that house. And maybe they’d notice it got really quiet and figure out I’d left, but what were they going to do? Punishment would require them to give a damn about anything other than their endless squabbles.

When I’d come downstairs with new burgundy streaks in my hair, they said nothing. I doubt they even noticed. Just after my birthday the past October, I let my friend Lexi pierce my nose with a needle and not enough ice. When I got home from that sleepover, I expected a reprimanding “Addie!” or even an “Adelaide Louise!” if they were really mad. But I got nothing. Just a “Did you have fun?”

The issue here is that it's a YA novel. That's "young adult," if you're not in the know. But I'm concerned that I'm too far removed from the teen experience to convincingly write a relatable teenage character. I remember how I was at that age, but I don’t think my experience is relevant to teens of today. This opening scene really sets the stage and introduces the character. If I can't get her right in this scene, the rest of the story will be all blah.

So what would be super helpful is if anyone in my target age range could tell me what they think of this character as she is introduced. What kind of things would make her more relatable? What would you want to know about her? Where would you like to see her story go? She's going to end up in a mysterious circus, but the rest is up in the air.

Of course, I'd love anyone's opinion, but especially the teen crowd.

See you all Tuesday.