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A virtual convention had lots to offer. I got to be on panels and chat with friends, even if it was in the form of a 3″ x 4″ image on a screen and their voices held a hint of audio buzz. Because I was physically at home, I was able to drop in and out, and still finish a few routine chores. Also, it was interesting to see the attendees come together and develop a few customs on the fly. For instance, everyone but the panelists having their microphones muted and cameras off, but all the while typing questions and quips into the chat room associated with the panel.

As usual, a couple of ideas stuck with me. One of these was about zombies. Which are not my favorite critter, I think I’ve mentioned before. A friend said that zombies are a reflection of the Black experience of slavery. Being chained so tightly that you can’t run, only shuffle. Being robbed of your voice until you can only moan. I said it’s particularly cruel that zombies are often blamed on Voodoo, a folk religion based partly on traditional African faiths.

But I also mentioned that zombies not only reflect the suffering of the enslaved, but the guilt of the slavers. They know they are part of a great evil. No matter that they control the whip and chains. No matter that the law and their own religion tell them their actions are acceptable. In their hearts, they know the truth. The slow and relentless zombie is the nightmare they can never awaken from.

Considering the widespread denial of how systemic racism still shapes American life, I’m afraid that the specter of zombies will be with us for some time to come.


Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my web site, Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

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Here’s what I’ll be up to this weekend! Unless otherwise noted, I am a member of the panel and not in charge of things.

Friday, February 12, 6:30 pm — Dragon Age Meet-up. Gather at the virtual Hanged Man, bring your own cheese and whine, and we’ll all talk about Dragon Age! (I am the host for this one.)

Saturday, February 13, 11:00 am — Why Story? The Psychology of Narrative. According to Jung’s archetypes theory and Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces, humans seem to need story the way we need sunlight and air. What is it about stories that makes them so compelling to our nature? Why do we seek them out and how do they help us? Can a story do the opposite of helping? If you are a reader, movie watcher, or even a creator, come learn the behind-the-scenes mental mechanisms of why we like to watch the journey of someone else.

Saturday, 4:00 pm — Writing Non-Human Characters. From aliens to furries, we’ll discuss how to write the non-human POV, how to create an character that is still relatable without coming off as a human in alien skin, and how to capitalize on unique non-human traits to make epic alien, animal, and inanimate objects come to life on the page.

Saturday, 8:00 pm — Publishing in the Age of Pandemic. Even before the pandemic threw publishing schedules into disarray, the publishing industry was facing enormous change. The change from physical to electronic books, blurring of boundaries between traditional, small press and independent authors. What is our industry becoming? How can writers plan for the future? (This is one where I moderate.)

Sunday, February 14, 11:00 am — Using Tropes Effectively. Tropes are one of the building blocks of stories, but they can be misused, overused, and just plain worn out. How can you use tropes effectively in your writing? What are some stories that have done to well? Let’s talk about using tropes, with and without flipping them around.

Don’t forget, it’s virtual, so anyone can join the fun. You do have to register — but registration is free. So if you’ve ever wondered what a genre convention might be like, this is your no-risk opportunity to get a taste of it.


Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my web site, Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

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I frequently mention that I enjoy playing video games like Dragon Age, Skyrim, and Fallout. For a lot of people, video games seem like an idle entertainment, but you could say the same thing about the stories we write. Right? And we surely hope that readers will find something of value in the idle entertainments we create.

For me, these role-playing video games fill some of the same space that reading books does. It’s a form of story-telling where you participate in the action. Rather than reading about a desperate mission behind enemy lines, you/your character carries out that desperate mission. You meet interesting people, some of whom are human and some who aren’t (depending on which game it is). You can help “write” the dialogues that get them to be friendly or make enemies. You can even fall in love!

In a good role-player, the player is making choices that shape the outcome of the game. Or so it appears. As a writer myself, I understand that it is all scripted and the player is not really changing them. Especially not the ultimate outcome of the game’s story. The game writers have a right to make the point they want to make. So I’m pretty tolerant of scripted outcomes.

When I regret a choice in a video game, it’s usually because I joined a faction or romanced a character that is too divergent from my own beliefs. A good example is the Brotherhood of Steel, one of the factions in Fallout 4. In my first playthrough, they struck me as too militaristic, so I passed on my chance to join them. For my current playthrough, I decided to try the Brotherhood. I built my character so their philosophy would appeal to him. It wasn’t enough.

First they say they’re here to save humanity from the monsters of the wasteland. Okay, cool. But then they encourage you to threaten settlers in order to establish supply lines with dialogue like “You know what to do.” Even if you purchase the supplies, your faction then “controls” the settlement rather than being “allies.” I started calling them the Brotherhood of Steal. When they wanted me to attack other factions to gain more control, my character stopped doing their missions. He definitely regretted his choice. Now I’ve joined a different faction that seems like they might fight against the Brotherhood. If so, that is something I/he will not regret.

This is not, specifically, a complaint about that faction. As I writer, I learn a lot from these games. One thing is how to engage readers/players without dragging them. “Let’s save humanity from monsters” is a great hook. But I also enjoyed how the game writers slowly upended the Brotherhood of Steel. While my character was furious, I admired the writers’ skill.

Also, it reminded me not to put my reader in a place where they regret cheering my characters on. Unless that is my point, of course. For instance, in The Tower in the Mist, some of my characters slowly realized that they were on the wrong side. If I showed this well enough, the readers will have come along for the rest of the series.


Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my web site, Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

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This will be a plotting day for me. You could call it outlining, but it’s a little more free-form than that. Basically, I believe that people react based on emotion rather than intellect. So to carry The Renegade Count forward, I’ll look at the events that have already happened and ask myself what the characters are feeling about them.

Based on that, I’ll generate as many ideas as I can. Some of them may be so obvious that it would be unrealistic not to use them. But if so, I’ll try to find ways to make them more interesting and unpredictable. Above all, I don’t want to write a story that’s boring!

The other thing that’s going on is, we got a new china cabinet. We’d noticed that our old one was starting lean over. Fortunately, it was leaning into a corner, so we knew it wouldn’t fall. Last weekend we wandered through antique malls until we found one that would fit into the limited space. At the moment, all our stoneware and glassware is currently arrayed on the dining room table. We also have some small appliances that need to not be packed onto our kitchen counter. Later today, we’ll decide what goes in the hutch and what we don’t need to keep around.

Fun times, right?


Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my web site, Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

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You know what they say… Two steps forward, one step back? The Renegade Count is feeling a bit like that. I work on some stuff, then I think of something I hadn’t before. After which, I have to go back and account for whatever it is.

The knot I’m currently picking at is about revealing too much of Yamaya’s background, too soon. Not that I want to deceive the readers in an unfair way, but holding back a little can be a very effective technique. Give them a few pieces of information and let them try to figure it out before I come out with it. If they guessed right, they’ll be pleased with themselves. If they guessed wrong, they’ll be delightfully surprised.

In her initial POV section, Yamaya told major pieces of her back story right away. My task of the moment is to snip some of that out and work it into a conversation with Berisan slightly later in the story. I’ve always found conversations a really effective means of revealing character while also giving back story. So I need to avoid tipping my hand too soon.

That’s the approach I’ll be taking tonight — as soon as I finish this blog!


Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my web site, Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

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I’m up to 3,400 words on The Renegade Count. I managed 1,000 words at one go on MLK Day. Yamaya and Berisan are headed in the direction I wanted. It’s left me feeling a bit tapped out, though. So I’m taking a breather today.

However, I did receive the happy news of a sale. Aunt Ursula’s Atlas, one of my first self-published books. It’s a collection of my short work under the pen name Lucy D. Ford. So, what the heck — here’s a link! Maybe you’re looking for a new read, after all.


Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my web site, Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

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The Renegade Count is up to 2,000 words after three or so days. That’s great progress, the plot has lots of energy, and the characters are coming to life. I’m really happy with it. But, I need to reassess.

The issue is that Yamaya is at the point of knifing Huld. The tension might build up to that by the end of the novella, but I’m only 4 pages in. This wasn’t meant to be my starting point. Besides which, my original intention was that Berisan make allies — first with Yamaya and later with the village where Huld lives. Having this level of antagonism at the outset will eliminate that possibility.

What’s happening, I think, is my fury at the attempted coup in Washington D.C. and the shameful non-apology from those who supported it. Real as the situation and emotions are, the story I’m writing needs to be separated from them.

Possibly, however, my muse is telling me that the novella is not really about Berisan making allies. It’s about Yamaya holding onto her farm. As I cool down that first conversation, more new ideas are already starting to pop.

So my job today is to step Huld back from his most inflammatory words, not trigger Yamaya’s rage, and let the plot build on a stronger framework.


Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my web site, Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

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No sooner did I start on The Renegade Count, than an unexpected character strutted into the scene. He actually developed from the fourth potential introduction I was working with. So — yay for my strategy!

Huld is going to be an antagonist. He is an unwanted suitor of Yamaya’s, with intentions not at all pure. This makes him pretty much a stereotype. Yet stereotypes often contain a kernel of truth. As a writer, it’s my job to make sure Huld becomes more than a negative trope.

Anyway, the obnoxious strutting is definitely permissible for such a character. It gives the plot a kick, as Berisan and Yamaya have someone actively striving against them.

Now — back to my writing!


Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my web site, Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

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Despite the current political crisis — or perhaps as a respite from it — I am push-starting my next novella, tentatively titled The Renegade Count. Step one is for me to find my entry point.

I’ve already been thinking about the characters and their background. Berisan is one of my Minstrels, a renegade mage who tries to bring people hope against a cruel regime. Yamaya is a peasant woman who appears to need help. Berisan has a history of protecting his brother, so naturally he falls into that mode with Yamaya. However, she has a dark past, and he’s going to find it’s not as simple as sticking around or walking away.

What I’m really working on today and tomorrow is how and where these two will meet. When I’m making decisions like this, I like to come up with at least three possible scenarios. The first one will be really obvious and full of stereotypes. The second will be more interesting, and hopefully the third will be something unexpected. In any case, it has to immediately engage the reader.

By the way, what I’m using is the Rusch Technique, taught by Kristine Kathryn Rusch at a workshop a lone time ago. So I’m not claiming to brilliantly think this up on my own.

Anyway! There are a few smaller decisions as well. Mostly names for side characters and places, so I don’t stop in the middle of a sentence to figure them out. Like I said, I hope to settle these details by tomorrow.

Wish me luck! (And to not get distracted by politics until after my writing is done.)


Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my web site, Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

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What’s Happening? Remember how I mentioned making a couple of small sales a few months ago? They’re out now! I’m happy to spotlight the re-launch of my favorite indy webzine, Lorelei Signal. The current issue is a double, and it just happens to include two of my flash fiction. I wrote the opening story, “The Atlantis Appeal,” and also “Good Old Vernon,” about midway through.

What I’m Working On. I’ve finished the first draft of a short story for that time capsule anthology. Revisions are ongoing. I need to hurry up with that, because…

What’s Next? It’s time to get started on the latest Minstrels of Skaythe novella. I expect that will occupy me until it’s time to publish the next one, in May. But actually, there is a complication to my publishing schedule. Prisoners of the Wailing Tower turned out to be such a turning point that this next one should probably be released first. So I need to get moving on it!

Fun and Games. I finished a shortened playthrough of Dragon Age Inquisition, knowing that I would probably receive a couple of new games at Christmas. Which I did. The first of them required a major download, and then it wouldn’t play. Then, my Internet provider informed me that I had exceeded my allowed data. So while I wait to replenish my data, I’m doing a run of Fallout 4 for a couple of weeks. And of course, Animal Crossing continues eternally. (In a good way, though.)

That’s it for me! I hope you’re all above to get back into the swing of things with the turn of the year.


Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my web site, Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.

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