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Archive for the ‘Writing About Writing’ Category

I’m still doing a bit of work on the very end of The Renegade Count, just making sure everything fits together the way it should. While I do that, I’m also starting the first step of my revisions, which is to name or re-name a few people and places.

Names are a detail that I pay a lot of attention to. The sound of them, and how they fit together, is an important part of my world building. I want them all to sound like they come from the same place and time. Although I try to come up with a list of good names before I start the first draft, and pick from that list when I encounter a new character, there are always a few I get stuck on.

For this novella, I’m re-naming a couple of characters whose names are too similar and might cause confusion for readers. There are also a few, very minor, characters who I didn’t anticipate needing names. No big deal, I’ll just play with sound combinations until I get them how I want them.

The major problem that I have it with the title. The Renegade Count was supposed to be about Berisan accidentally being appointed “count” of an obscure village. Since the people are expecting military-style magic to defend them, and Berisan is a pacifist, I thought that would be an interesting conflict. As it worked out, though, Yamaya’s character arc took up a lot more of the story. The village didn’t draft Berisan as their protector in the way I had anticipated.

This leaves me the choice of completely re-writing the plot to force my original intention on it — you writers out there know this hardly ever produces a better story — or coming up with a new title. Guess which one I’m choosing?

So the work goes on… or begins, depending on where you count from!


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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So close to finishing up with The Renegade Count! That octopus of a plot is pinned to the matt except for the end of one tentacle is still twitching.

Basically, the last chapter is a big ol’ mess. It’s really disorganized, but in a way I can handle. There were a couple of great observations made by Berisan and Yamaya. They’re so great, I think I used them more than once. So I need to go back over those chapters, decide where the great lines should go, and generally shape the conclusion to my liking. With any luck, I’ll finish that this afternoon.

Saturdays are my day off from writing, and I have a fun thing going on where some friends are running an online role-playing game. I’m going to moderate a chat for them. But, on Sunday I should be able to start the next draft. It had been my intention to finish The Renegade Count several weeks ago, so that I can publish it in mid-May. That’s not a lot of time, which is one reason I’ve been anxious about finishing this draft.

However, the pauses to think and attention to detail usually mean that my revisions go quickly. So a May publications date looks chancy, but it’s not beyond possibility. If I have to push it into June, so be it. I can feature that book during Queen Titania’s Court.

Onward!


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? Spring break officially began yesterday afternoon. Although this school year had a lot of lost time (for reasons we all know), I feel good going forward. I know what skills I want to work on with my groups for the back end of the school year. Spring break holds no extravagant plans for me. I’m going to do the archetypal spring cleaning. Fun! Also, I get my second Covid shot later today. I’m mildly worried that it will affect my extravagant to-do list, but it will be fine either way.

What I’m Working On. So close to being done with The Renegade Count! I passed the apex two weeks ago, and sort of frittered away last week, but I feel very confident of finishing by the end of spring break. It should be right around my goal of 30,000 words. I can clearly see some things that need work in the second draft, but first I have to finish this one.

What’s Next? Major organizing for two projects, Queen Titania’s Court and SpoCon. For the latter, I need to send out a second solicitation for speakers and fascinating panel ideas. We are still hoping for an in-person event. SpoCon is in October, so I feel like we have a decent shot at it. For the former, Queen Titania’s Court is in June, so I’ll be getting those invitations out right away.

Fun and Games. As always, I’m playing Animal Crossing. Who doesn’t want to live on a beautiful tropical island where you’re surrounded by adorable animal neighbors? My alternate gave is Wasteland 3, a post-apocalyptic adventure in a nuclear winter. There’s somewhat of a sheriff-cleaning-up-the-town vibe. The play style is very different and the voice acting is a little too over-the-top for my taste, but I’m soldiering on.


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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Endings can be tricky for writers. Not just The End, the conclusion of the story, but the many small endings that come between chapters and sections within chapters. These are a couple of different ways I like to handle these.

End with a hook. This ending makes it clear something else is going to happen immediately, and it makes the reader anxious to continue reading. For instance, “The squirrel went sprinting away from the dog.”

End with a point of tension. Rather than physical plot actions, this implies the character has or will experience emotional growth. “The door slammed and Jeff wondered if he had driven Jan away forever.”

End with a point of resolve. The opposite of a tension point, a point of resolve is where a character commits themself to a goal. “Princess Leonfalla would save her people, no matter what it took.”

End with a temporary pause. It’s clear there is more to the story, but things have reached equilibrium at least for the moment. “Everything will be fine, as long as nobody walks past the wishing well at daybreak.”

End with a point of rest. Similar to the above, this allows the reader a break to do other things. Eating, showering, going to work… “She wasn‛t a bandit! Not any more, and never again.”

For those of you who are fellow writers, what kind of chapter endings do you like to use?


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’ve been dithering a bit with The Renegade Count this week. Mostly I think it’s because my pacifist main character is about to find out he seriously hurt someone. Maybe even killed them.

As we all know, life is never totally under our control, even in stories. I like to to express that by not completely planning some things. I’ll roll dice for some outcomes. So the situation is that Berisan reflexively pushed away at some people who were attacking him with swords. They were standing on a slope of loose stones, and it started a rockslide.

What I have to decide is how badly the two attackers were hurt in the rockslide. A couple of dice rolls showed me that one attacker had 30% damage to his left arm. That’s pretty easy to describe as having a broken bone. The other one had 50% damage to his chest. This one is puzzling me a bit to interpret. Fifty percent damage sounds serious. Like multiple broken ribs, maybe? Or internal injuries? With no medical care to speak of, he might still die.

Neither attacker was killed outright, but they won’t be coming after Berisan again, either. Still, I want him to have that realization that he isn’t some emblem of perfection. His philosophy of non-violence can’t insulate him from all circumstances. Even if Berisan was defending himself, he hurt these men. It’s going to be a painful realization.

We all know writers who chuckle gleefully when they think of some torment to put their characters through, but I’m not one of them. Inhabiting this part of Berisan’s journey is going to be stressful for me, too. That’s why I often dither and delay starting those scenes.

Oh well, better get to 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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This is a pet peeve of mine. When an author or screenwriter takes their characters through an ordeal of suffering, loss and growth… but then at the end they erase it all. Everything is sunny. None of that Bad Stuff ever happened.

There are a couple of common mechanisms authors fall back on. Probably the most notorious is the Dream Sequence, where someone goes through all sorts of Bad Stuff but then they wake up and it was just a nightmare. For me, the only way it could be right is if one of the characters then sees something that could be a hint of what is to come. The Dream Sequence becomes a premonition, and they can try and take steps to prevent the Bad Stuff.

Speaking of premonitions, that brings us to the other significant means to erase story events, which is Time Travel. Characters in genre movies, especially, are constantly traveling through time to “fix” some sort of Bad Stuff. But there’s no end to the paradoxes with Time Travel. Villains can be killed (not a heroic thing) before they do Bad Stuff, so then why would the future characters Time Travel? They can start relationships that they have to abandon (not a heroic thing) or try to stay with someone they had lost, which means abandoning everyone they know with the Bad Stuff still going on. It’s just a mess.

Wishing/Miracles is another common way to erase Bad Stuff and revert to the status quo. This is more a fantasy thing, obviously. Somewhere along the way, the characters encounter some form of magic that grants wishes, or a deity that can literally wave their hand and make it all go away. Maybe it seems that everything is restored without the Bad Stuff, but tampering with reality itself? Never a good idea.

I suppose that for the writers, it feels like having your cake and eating it, too. Tell the dramatic story, bring your characters into dire peril with the Bad Stuff, but then wave a magic wand and fix everything. But really, it’s an insult to the readers/viewers who were invested in the story and then had it snatched away.

Don’t do this. Just don’t.


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 late getting this out because… Honestly, I could make excuses, but I just forgot. The Renegade Count was stalled for a few days, and finally I got the story knot untied. I was more focused on pushing the novella forward than on preparing this blog ahead.

Anyway, I feel like I owe you a story, so here goes.

In the curriculum I’m teaching, they have me giving nonsense names for common objects, and then working with the students on what properties the object has. Today’s lesson had a silly word for a shovel: fuf. I was supposed to explain that a shovel is a tool, so a fuf is also a tool. A shovel has a handle and you use it to dig. So a fuf also has a handle and you use it to dig.

It’s probably obvious that “fuf” sounds a lot like a different word. A word that students normally are forbidden to use at school. A four-letter word.

Long story short, I couldn’t get these third-grade boys to stop laughing. We talked a bit about how the people who wrote the curriculum might have thought a little bit more before they put that particular nonsense word in the text. Anyway, I’m pretty sure the boys will remember this lesson, but forget everything else about it except for “fuf.”


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? I am happy to say that I got my greenhouse to stay up in the wind. We had snow last week, but I’m confident that my seeds can germinate in relative warmth. In addition, I’m experimenting with a slightly different form of online seminar, with a gardening webinar series called Cabin Fever. There are sessions on Monday and Wednesdays evenings, which unfortunately go across dinner and writing time. However, I only have to attend the ones I’m interested in, so it shouldn’t slow my writing too much.

What I’m Working On. As related in my previous post, I’ve reached 15,000 words on The Renegade Count and the complications are multiplying. Berisan has been busted as a mage, and is thinking he should get the heck out of Dodge. But that would mean abandoning Yamaya. I’m working through a gap until Yamaya gets her turn at being busted as a former bandit. Given her past, Yamaya’s turn is likely to get messy.

What’s Next? SpoCon, the local convention where I volunteer as programming director, is still hoping we can hold an in-person event next October. I’ve started the process of inviting speakers and getting ideas for what activities the convention will include. As a fund- and awareness-raiser, we’re hosting an online game in early April, which requires a few rehearsals. I’ve seen the face rigs they’ll be using, so if the players are talking to a dragon, the person they’re talking to will actually appear to be a dragon. It is going to be really cool.

Fun and Games. Right now, the only video game I’m playing is Animal Crossing. The one-year anniversary of my village is coming up, which is pretty incredible. The rest of my relaxation time has been split between reading (gotta keep up with my Goodreads goal) and building jigsaw puzzles.


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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Last time, Alden kindly said that he was going to preserve my quote about the power of stories to bring about change. So I made it into an image.

You’re welcome!


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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Last Saturday, right about this time, I was “at” Virtual RadCon, waiting to start a panel called “Why Story?” Luna Corbden and I began with the basics. That people are inherently social and therefore any kind of gossip intrigues us — even made-up stories. We talked about how the Hero’s Journey and other frameworks help people find logic and order in a world of confusion.

When things got exciting for me was when someone in the chat asked whether stories are just momentary diversions. Do they matter beyond the time it takes to read them? Can a story change the world? My answer was yes, because stories can start people thinking.

A good example (although I neglected to bring it up in the panel) is Rachel Carson’s seminal work of environmental reporting, Silent Spring. The issues Carson raised in 1962 opened a lot of eyes. Her words ultimately led to legislation such as the Clean Air Act of 1970, that we now take for granted as protecting public health.

Another, more current example is Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel, A Handmaid’s Tale, which effectively vocalizes women’s dread of oppression based on our gender. Although, its dystopian setting of an environmental and political disaster zone certainly resonates with many other groups.

This was my opening to talk about my own series, Minstrels of Skaythe. How it sprang from my recognition that in so much fiction, we solve every problem at the point of a gun or a sword. My main characters are trying to live without violence, while surrounded by it. How will that even work?

Although it’s always great for panelists to mention our stuff, the point I was trying to make is this: if we want the world to change, we first need to imagine the change. Then, we have to write or illustrate the change, so other people can also imagine 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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