May 31

Writing As Study

It started occurring to me a couple years ago that a lot of my writing is a type of study, mainly a study of people. I write a lot about people who are as different from me as they can possibly be, people who do things I’d never dream of doing, and people who feel things I’ve never felt – at least never as intensely as my characters do. I have to write through my own filters, of course, but I do my best to circumvent them by allowing my characters to tell me who they are and why, unlike some writers, who develop every aspect of their characters before they even start writing.

I think it’s because of this deep curiosity about what makes people “tick” that I tend to be a lot more patient and…understanding of people when they do things that others would immediately condemn. I take a step back, realize that somehow, that decision they made actually did make sense in that person’s head for some reason or other, and I try to figure out why/how that happened. I instinctively treat them like one of my characters – they did something, it seems like a really stupid (or at least ill-advised) thing, and now I need to dig deeper and figure out why (because when I’m writing, my readers will want/need to know why if they’re not going to string said character up).

I’m pretty sure I learned how to do that while allowing my characters to “write” themselves. In my stories, I don’t tell my characters who they are, they tell me. They also tell me why they do things, and many times it’s as much as surprise to me as it would be to anyone else. And so I’ve developed this incidental “skill” of looking for the intent and logic behind people’s actions by looking at things through their most likely perspective, rather than just immediately jumping to a judgement.

Incidentally, people who do not have this skill don’t necessarily like it when you use it aloud. Especially when they’ve already jumped to a snap judgement and have no real desire to be talked out of it. Trust me. Unless it’s a life or death kind of thing, I’m careful about who I share my thoughts with. As it turns out, people don’t really tend to want to be understanding towards other people. They often want to believe the worst, because…drama! Trainwreck! Stuff you can talk about at the water cooler!

Also, it’s easier to just dislike/discredit someone else than to look at things through their eyes, and then try to negotiate from there, if change is necessary. Less scary not to think about what other people are thinking and why, too.

Alas, as a writer this is a big part of what I do. And yesterday I gave myself a perpetual writing assignment for Memorial Days from here on out. To build empathy (in myself) for the fallen soldiers we celebrate, I’ve decided to write one scene every Memorial Day – a scene wherein a soldier looses his/her life in battle. Since my characters write themselves, it should be a different style scene and a different type of death, but more than that, it should allow me to explore different ways that each soldier might deal with the situation – and that’s what I’m really interested in.

I wrote the first one yesterday, and it ended up very short, but I was interested in how it turned out. And wished I had Jeremy Nelson for a longer character study – he seems like a fascinating individual, at least for the short amount of time I “knew” him.

And so that’s where tonight’s excerpt comes from – yesterday’s Memorial Day scene:

It was dark, but each new explosion spread more light across the undulating smoke hanging low over the shallow dirt trench where PFC Jeremy Nelson lay on his stomach. He knew he’d been hit by the moist warmth seeping through his fatigues in several places, but he still held his rifle steady over a notched rock, still pulled the trigger whenever he had a combatant in his sights.

Occasionally he felt a twinge of pain, but he pushed it back into the recesses of his mind, keeping his head quiet, his focus sharp on the mission to provide backup to a special forces team of some sort. He didn’t know what their mission was – didn’t care, really. He had his orders, and he would follow them until someone pulled him out.

May 24

Rollin’ With It

My writing space is protected by the coziest slumber party ever...every night.
My writing space is protected by the coziest slumber party ever…every night.

Last week was nutty – lots going on at work meant I was discombobulated at home too. Funny how that happens. But things are calmer now, and I’m focusing on not feeling guilty for things left undone and just moving forward, doing what I can. Last week, no blog, and no writing. This week, I’ve already gotten 500 words in for Monday, and hopefully will do at least that much every day for the rest of the week too.

I just got the edits back on my first Stone Scavenger novel too, which means I have something to look forward this weekend as well.

My writing session Monday night was inspired, I tell you what. I love when that happens. You’re just writing along, minding your character’s business, and all of a sudden – bam! The story you thought was taking off in a completely unrelated direction just suddenly makes sense again, and you have this perfectly logical explanation for something that you had no idea how it was going to come about or work out. I love it when that happens. It’s magic.

In any case, it’s also very late, and I have an early morning at work on Tuesdays, so off to bed I go. Here’s an excerpt from Monday’s session on Donteneoux’s Dragon (mostly because I haven’t downloaded Friday’s session on The Beauty Stone from the Neo just yet…).

They would need protection. Something scarier than ghosts and yet otherworldly in nature. Something that would convince the Triad Council to stay away from that land and allow his family to live in peace.

A lizard scuttled onto the windowsill and sat up on its hind legs, tiny claws braced on the side as it considered the pan he’d just finished eating from. The sun was just behind it, casting a long shadow on the far wall of a monstrous being that appeared for a split second to unfurl wings of an immense span when a bird flew by at the perfect height.

If only such a creature existed, Peraine thought as the lizard leapt from the sill to the table. If one could tame such a creature to do one’s bidding, no one would dare come near enough to harm anyone under the creature’s protection…

May 11

The Writer’s High

It’s late, and I’ll keep this short & sweet (mostly because I need to get to bed), but…I’m writing again. Finally. After all these months of doing my best to tread water in the writing pool, something finally clicked in my brain and the last few nights have been bliss.

No, my word counts aren’t high yet, but just the fact that I’m excited to open a draft and start out editing, and end up writing at least a few more paragraphs before bed…it’s like a workout high, where you feel tired and refreshed and almost giddy all at the same time. No better feeling in the world.

I’ve been working on Donteneoux’s Dragon, so below is an excerpt from recent words added. I’ve been doing a lot of editing in both drafts…just to get myself back to where I’m comfortable/familiar with these worlds and characters, and I think that’s partly what made things “click” again.

In any case, while I’d love to stay up and write more, my eyes are protesting, and my head is telling me to take care of myself or I’ll end up right back where I started. Health first, and all that.

But I’m writing again – consistently. Hooray! And Whew!

Excerpt:

He’d only seen the old homestead once – stumbling upon it by accident one eve as he rode through on his way to the Trinnoget gauntlet. There had been no moon, and he’d wandered over the border into the Centerlands and stumbled through the headstones in a private burial yard. Taking refuge from the rain in an open mausoleum, he’d woke with the sun as it shone through a cutout in the wall, illuminating an intricately carved stone coffin bearing the name Autienne Donteneoux.

Author sites: JamieDeBree.com | TrinityMarlow.com | AlexWesthaven.com

Publisher Site: Brazen Snake Books

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May 10

One Day Behind…

…on blog posts this week.

I had the option of getting a normal post up here tonight, or writing.

Guess which one I choose?

Normal post coming tomorrow night after work.

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May 3

Still Chippin’ Away…

…at my own resistance, as well as my word count. *sigh*

Last week was another low word-count week for me. No, I don’t have a good excuse, because at this point, there just are no good excuses. If I didn’t make it back to the office in time, that’s all me. If I spent my writing time sucked into Facebook or shopping on Amazon, well, those were choices I made (and arguably things I should have just done earlier, or not at all). It’s frustrating, and while there are people out there who would tell me not to push it, and to just wait and write when I feel like it…well, I feel like it, honest. I *want* to write. I enjoy writing when I sit down and start tapping away. I’m just not *doing it*, and a large part of that is due to two rookie mistakes:

– I’m not organized enough
– Writing is not a high enough priority

See what happened there? Even when I was making that teeny-tiny list, the priority issue came out last (I almost edited it, and then decided it made a good example).

I can fix both of those, it’s just going to take a little reorganization of my schedule, and I need to use my Alphasmart for awhile, so I don’t get sucked into internet-things during my writing time. Basically, I need to use the tools I have at my disposal to allow myself to make writing both a priority and a habit again.

Mostly, I need to just do it. By pen or typewriter or alphasmart or keyboard. Whatever works.

Excuse me while I go write…so I have something to post as an excerpt…

The Time Stone & The Beauty Stone - Inspirational Talismans
The Time Stone & The Beauty Stone – Inspirational Talismans

***531 words later***

It’s kind of amazing (and scary) what you can do when you just buckle down and do it. I wrote a good chunk today, deleted three-fourths of it because it was going in a direction contrary to the central theme of the story, and rewrote it to reflect the theme. I ended up getting a little “easter egg” for a sub-plot from my subconscious too, so bonus! If I can keep this up for the rest of the week, it’s gonna be a good one.

Without further ado, here’s an excerpt with the easter-egg:

They giggled and flowed out into the main hall and moved in unison with the other students through the main doors and down the stairs to the front lawn. Sydney stopped and sat in the grass, pulling the other girls down with her in a fit of laughter.

“Paige was totally going to rat you out,” Ariana said, her eyes scanning the crowd as it flowed further out toward the buses and waiting cars. “What did you do to her, anyways? She’s been horrible to you most of this past year.”

“Ever since she started wearing all that makeup,” Cassidy chimed in. “And dressing like a little you-know-what. Somebody thinks she’s better than us now that her dad got promoted to Police Chief.”


Author sites: JamieDeBree.com | TrinityMarlow.com | AlexWesthaven.com

Publisher Site: Brazen Snake Books

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April 26

Sidetracks, Figures, & Alter-Egos

I got a bit sidetracked last week when I decided to go back through the draft of the first book in the young-adventurer series I’m writing. My intention was just to read through, reacquaint myself with the character and worlds, and then be able to start writing the next book (it’s been over a year since I wrote in that world). Problem is, when I started reading, I started editing, which takes a lot longer than just reading through. Before I knew it, the week was over, and I’d written nothing…and I still hadn’t finished reading through the draft (it’s only 26k – that’s inexcusable for someone who can read a romance novel in two hours, tops).

Needless to say, that was…well, not a waste of time, exactly, but less productive than I’d hoped. I finally just emailed the draft to my editor, asked her to go through it and decided to just read the last chapter and start writing from there. Since that first book isn’t published yet (and I plan to hold it until the second book is done, and maybe the third as well…publishing around Christmas, methinks), I can always go back and edit both drafts to “fit” once I’m done with the second. I’m probably going to add about 4k words to the first, and I’d like the second to grow a little (mirroring the age of both readers and my main character) to 40k words. We’ll see how it all ends up – I don’t need to pad the word count for a publisher, so it just depends on how the story goes.

So last night I re-read the final chapter, noted a few questions to look up later, and started off on the next book. Feels good to be starting a new draft again (excerpt below).

Sydney Pointer
Sydney Pointer

I even have a likeness of Sydney, my main character for the kid books keeping me company at my writing booth now. I found her this past weekend while perusing the local miniatures & dollhouse shop. I’d gone in for a small porcelain doll I’d seen the week before, who spurred another series idea for me, and just happened to find Sydney while I was at it. I do believe I might have to make a few miniature scenes from Sydney’s adventures to hang on my wall…I love miniatures, and just walking through that shop and looking at all the little vignettes is incredibly inspiring for me. I think I might ask the store owner if they make this particular figure in other poses…how fun would that be?!

I also registered a couple more domain names this past weekend…one for each new alter-ego that my current drafts will be published under. The kid’s books will be under Marie Yoch, and the speculative fiction under J.D. Corsair. Those websites won’t be set up for awhile yet, but I feel good having the domains purchased so no one else can grab ’em. They won’t be terribly dynamic sites, just placeholders for book info from each name, unless one name happens to take off at some point. Guess we’ll see how these books turn out, eh?

If I get my writing butt in gear, I can finish the second book in eighty days (or roughly two and a half months). That’s only 500 words per day. Five hundred words is totally doable, so there’s no reason not to just get over my bad-habit-ridden self and just *do it*…

This week’s excerpt is from yesterday’s 500 word sprint. Onward!

Longest. Ten. Minutes. Ever.

The clock on the wall ticked in perfect time to the drone of Ms. Ellison’s voice. Even with the windows open the classroom was warm and muggy, and Sydney could swear the minute hand was moving backward, not forward. Ten more minutes and she’d be free for the summer, and more importantly, free to look for the second stone on the list her grandfather had given her the year before.

Or at least figure out how to get to Hawaii, which is where she thought the stone might be.


Author sites: JamieDeBree.com | TrinityMarlow.com | AlexWesthaven.com

Publisher Site: Brazen Snake Books

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April 19

Back on Track

Last week went much better than it has in awhile, even though I didn’t actually end up with all that many new words. Somewhere around 500 or so, but I did a lot of editing, deleting and rewriting while I was floundering around in my origin story draft. It was a very good thing, because not only did I actually write four nights last week, I made good progress on that story, and I also clarified how I want to write these stories (there will be five to go with the longer novels), and it also started clarifying things in my mind as they pertain to both the story that’s already written, and those I’ve yet to write.

More importantly, it got me excited about writing again, and about what I’m working on. In turn, I spent a fair amount of time this weekend looking for promo items to go with this particular series, thinking about putting together miniature scenes for some books, and thinking through the plot premise of the next book.

And as an added bonus, shopping for promo items (even ordered a few) gave me some ideas about the cover art for this series – a format that should work for all the books and make it fairly easy to get my covers done without too much effort. I’ve been thinking about the best way to launch these and how many I could write to be ready for back-to-back releases later this year…

Which brings me back to the actual writing. I wrote four nights out of five last week, and I intend to do so again this week. Now that I know which direction to take these origin stories in, I should finish the one I’m working on and the second this week too, and then next week, I can start working on the next book in the series.

I’m also going to get back to work on my steampunk dragon novel. And I’m going to get to work on some writing deadlines, along with deadlines for the other steps necessary to get a book published. It’s time to get all this moving again. I’m ready. Finally.

One more excerpt from the origin story this week:

In a fit of whimsical irony, he placed the sundial on the window sill beside him. The light of a full moon cast a shadow across it’s face that told the incorrect time, of course. Putting pen to paper, he began to write. But somehow the letters didn’t look…like letters. He started over, but it happened again, and one more time after. The characters always came out as tiny symbols – not like Egyptian, but more Cyrillic in nature. When he looked closer, he saw that his second and third attempts matched the first. That was something, anyway.


Author sites: JamieDeBree.com | TrinityMarlow.com | AlexWesthaven.com

Publisher Site: Brazen Snake Books

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April 12

Crackin’ the Whip

Sitting down to write this post, I thought back on last week and tried to remember how many days I actually wrote something. The answer is a really, really annoying “one”. And I didn’t even get my 250 words. It was 150. A good 150, with a lot of editing past words, but still. This is just ridiculous.

So I got to thinking about what I’m doing instead of writing. I mean, I have a very specific hour set aside every single night in which I have nothing to do *but* write. And every night at (or a little after – another problem) 11pm, I’m sitting in my writing booth with a snack and a cup of tea and my dogs beside me, laptop open. So what’s the problem?

Whoa…no need to shout all at once! I hear you, and I know you sympathize. I mean, this whole Facebook/social media addiction is a very real thing, isn’t it? And a very stupid thing, honestly. Not that social media is stupid – it’s not at all, and I think it’s a very valuable tool for introverts like me to keep up with things and be social on our own terms. However – when I’m just staring at it like some reality-show trainwreck *when I have other things to do* – well, it’s time to give myself an intervention.

Sometimes I get back to the office late – but that’s because I’m lazy in the evenings and don’t get up right at ten to clean the kitchen. If I did, I could conceivably even be back in the office closer to 10:30pm, which would give me even more time to write. I’m thinking maybe I need to set a kitchen timer a couple of hours before 10pm that will just go off at 10, and I’ll have to actually get up and go to the kitchen to turn it off. Yes, I really am that lazy. Alarms are my friends. Noisy, seriously annoying friends.

Although I could just set an alarm on my cell that tells me exactly what will happen if I don’t get my butt out to the kitchen. Something like “If you don’t get up now, you’ll start writing late, and then you won’t find out what happens to ___, and you’ll feel like crap when it’s time to go to bed and you’ve done nothing.” Nothing like a little reality check to get one moving, right?

As for the Facebook thing, the easiest way to stop that is simply to not use my laptop to write. I have an Alphasmart that works perfectly well, it’s just uncomfortable to use in my writing booth due to the difference between the table height and the bench height (my wrists are in the wrong position). But I could sit sideways in the booth (yes, I have pillows) and type on my lap, and that fixes that little problem. Or I could sit on the floor with the dogs…I’m sure they’d like that, and I have a cozy new rug to sit on. So…options.

Or I could just buck up and shut my browsers down, open my writing program and get to work like a well-disciplined writer. Which would make me feel a whole lot better, honestly (though the Neo is much easier on my eyes, so I may still revert to that for awhile – my eyes have been bugging me again lately).

This week’s goal is just to write. No Facebook/Instagram/Twitter (I lurk) after 10pm. I didn’t get started until nearly 11:30pm last night, but I still got a bunch of editing done (changed my mind about how I wanted the first part to go) and a few new sentences down on the origin draft I’m working on. I feel pretty good about that.

Here’s an excerpt from last night’s session:

Aaron Pointer adjusted his battered field hat and wiped his brow with a sweat-stained handkerchief. Stuffing the dirty cloth back into his pocket, he chose a soft paintbrush from the wooden toolbox nearby and bent over the small object still half-buried in the dirt. He’d sent the rest of his team back to the boats, so he could make this one last extraction alone. There would be no official documentation to mark the find, only what he chose to write in the brown leather field journal in his knapsack. The piece was too valuable, too powerful for the discovery to be made public.

 


Author sites: JamieDeBree.com | TrinityMarlow.com | AlexWesthaven.com

Publisher Site: Brazen Snake Books


 

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April 5

Building Momentum

I think I missed one day of writing my two sentences last week. Which is pathetic, but it’s also not bad considering just how insanely out of shape my “writing muscles” are. The fact is, I got more writing in last week than I have in the six weeks before that, so…a small win, but a win, nonetheless.

Trust me on this – if you have a daily writing habit established, do whatever you can to keep it going. It’s worth gold. Gold, I tell ya. My husband and I were just talking about how we never should have stopped weight lifting, because it’s so very much harder to get back into both the habit and the shape we used to be in. Same goes for writing – so easy to let drop, so very hard to build back up again.

I wrote the first novel I finished in nightly 250 word sessions, and that also helped me establish a great daily writing habit. And I did that while I was watching TV at night…which just sounds crazy to me now, because I much prefer quiet for writing. I have the time, I just need to buckle down.

So this week, back to that original 250 words per night thing. It’s really not a lot at all – especially considering I used to write 800 words in a night without even thinking much about it. 250 words, switching off drafts nightly or bi-nightly. It’ll feel good to finally make some real writing progress again.

For tonight’s excerpt, a bit from the yet-untitled origin story I’m working on:

A deep, steady beat throbbed over the dense green canopy, giving pause to the natural cacophony that normally filled the spaces below. The sun was just rising over the jungle, its rays not quite strong enough to penetrate the blanket of mist that hovered between tall mountain peaks on either side of the long valley that Kalika Meloran gazed upon for what she knew would be the last time.

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March 29

An Assignment

Sometimes, you just have to wait for things to get back to normal before you can move forward. With the adoption of another dog last Thursday, things are feeling much more normal for me – two dogs + two humans makes it a complete “pack” again, even with the “new dog issues” we’ll be sorting through for awhile. And with the return of normalcy, I find myself gravitating back to writing again. Slowly but surely.

As I said last week, part of my problem is a lack of deadlines due to not serializing stories any longer. I’m going to stick with that decision, but I *am* going to start a blog series about my dogs (which seems fitting, since I’ve been fixating on dog stuff for the majority of this year so far), written from the dogs’ point of view (creative non-fiction?). These posts will be due every Friday, so it will be both deadline-driven, and written in voices I create for my dear pups, much like writing from the point of view of a character. I don’t generally write fiction in first person (because I just don’t like it for either reading or writing – personal preference), but this will be a good exercise for me, in terms of discipline, viewpoint and creativity. I think I need that to sort of prime the fiction pump again, so to speak.

The blog series will be called Gone to the Dogs with Murphy & Mica, and will start this Friday – April 1st (no joke!). I’ll be posting it on my main blog, The Variety Pages, for those interested in following along.

I’m also setting a word count goal & deadline for “any other fiction” that is insanely easy to meet (and if I don’t meet it, seriously, I should just turn in my writer-card and go home). It has no other purpose than just to get me to *start* working on one of my drafts again – any draft I can hook into with this (I have two waiting at the moment). The idea, of course, is to start and then keep going, but this is a daily minimum, required to be completed before 11:45pm every night.

Ready? This is my ridiculously easy jump-start writing plan:

Write one sentence for each open draft before 11:45pm every day this week.

That’s it. That’s all I’m requiring of myself for this week. Just one sentence each for two drafts at some point before it’s time to get ready for bed. Length doesn’t matter, but content does, of course – the sentences have to work with what comes before, and also move that particular section of prose forward in some way. Which isn’t unreasonable, I don’t think.

The thing is, once you write one sentence, it’s easier to write another. Once you write two, it’s normally pretty easy to keep going. But most days, that first sentence is the hardest one to write. So that’s what I’m focusing on this week.

I thought about making consequences or rewards for if I fail or succeed, but…I’m doing this because I want to write, so the rewards/punishments are inherent. Writing is a reward for me – I’m really not one of those people who wants to “have written” – I enjoy the actual first draft/discovery process more than any other part of writing…when I’m in the habit. Not writing makes me twitchy, and that’s as it should be for someone who loves to write.

And yes, I did write Monday’s sentences. One day down!

As for this week’s excerpt, here’s a bit from where I left off in Donteneoux’s (pronounced: don-ten-no) Dragon:

“Son, you were born with one purpose, and that was to get our lands back. You tried to do it their way, follow their rules. Now it’s time to find another way. I’m sure you can manage that before this old woman takes her last breath.”

He stared at her for a long moment, one eyebrow quirked up at her command. “And if I can’t?”

“Then I’ll haunt you for the rest of your life, alongside your other ancestors.” Taking the pan off the stove, she slammed it down on the table, the pan’s contents popping high above its surface. “Eat, and then leave. Don’t come back until you’ve secured what’s ours.”

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