September 13

Working Low-Tech & “What If?”

Long time no write…posts, that is. But I’m actually making some progress writing now, and surprisingly, it’s taken a low-tech solution to make that happen. I’ve been having problems writing on my laptop simply because it’s easier to just sit and stare at web sites than to actually tap into my subconscious and suss out a story. I don’t particularly like that, and I’m working on changing my computer-use habits, but I suspect it will be awhile before I have success with that. In the meantime, my trusty Alphasmart Neo has been getting a workout, and I have to say, it’s a rather peaceful break to pull that out and just type…with no backlighting (so easier on the eyes by a lot) and no distractions save the physical when my dogs or husband need something.

I’m not happy to admit that it actually takes some willpower to close the laptop and pick up the Neo instead, but I’m always happy I did once I start typing. I think my whole body actually relaxes…probably partially because the Neo is too thick for me to comfortably use at my booth/desk, so I sit sideways across the booth with my feet up and the Neo in my lap.

There’s something very addictive about the laptop screen…it’s bright and shiny (though I actually dim the display way down to save my eyes at night), and obviously social media is addictive too. Facebook is my biggest online vice, and I think it’s because I’ve always been fascinated by people. I’m a watcher – an observer by nature, and sociology/anthropology has always been extremely interesting to me. I don’t need to engage, but many nights I’ll sit there just watching other people interact on the screen, analyzing why they post what they do, or why they respond as they do to other people. It’s like an ant farm, really, and I can watch for quite a long time without getting bored.

While it’s not necessarily a bad thing for me (I understand that for some people it causes extreme emotions, but I consider myself an “outsider” aside from a very select few friends, so I don’t get too emotionally invested for the most part), it’s easy to just sit and stare. The thing is, once I tear myself away and start writing, and my subconscious takes over the story, writing isn’t much effort either. It’s tearing myself away from the fascinating lives of the “ant farm” that takes effort.

I’ve always been a curious sort…just the very act of comparing Facebook to an ant farm (which I’ve never actually had) makes me wonder if the comparison is apt, and how one would care for an actual ant farm, and whether I should go dig up some of the rather copious amounts of ants we have on the property to start an ant farm so I can watch and learn and decide for sure if the comparison to Facebook is accurate (the fact that my husband would probably like that as much as he liked the idea of putting worms to work composting under the kitchen sink is the only thing now stopping me from establishing an indoor ant colony this weekend).

That’s how my mind works. But I think that’s also what gives me access to endless stories, though the talent for writing them well is something I’ll be working on for the rest of my life. I am constantly asking “what if” questions, and wondering about this or that, whether it be something superficial or an internal thought process. For instance, the story I started last week (yes, a new draft – back to my romance roots just to get moving again) started with about three main “what if” questions that were posited in the first three paragraphs (indirectly, of course). Part inspiration, part curiosity, part “how would someone like me handle that”…and my new character was born, and in a situation neither of us would normally put ourselves in, handling it in a way that I would undoubtedly be too polite to actually do, but in the way I’d want to handle it if I weren’t bound by the self-imposed filter of social niceties. Which, of course, makes her interactions vastly more interesting than my own, or I hope they do.

And then I wondered what her background might be that she could so easily turn those filters off, and drawing inspiration from a TV series we’re currently watching, I decided she would be a sort of shirt-tail descendant of someone with even less of a social filter and a background that would allow her to justify that behavior in her own mind, even as she knows it doesn’t do her any favors in most settings.

I’ve written just under a thousand words of her story, and already I know so much about how she thinks and feels and what motivates and irritates her and ultimately, what she wants…which will all be revealed much more slowly on the page as this particular scene of her life plays out.

And that is why I love writing. It’s not just telling a story. It’s asking questions and exploring why my characters (humans!) do what they do, what drives them, what combination of personality and circumstances can result in someone feeling or acting (or both) one way or the other. It’s the ultimate ant-farm, if you think about it, and the characters are the ants, just doing what they do while we observe and perhaps get context for our own lives through the observation of theirs.

Suddenly I have the urge to watch the movie “Antz” again…

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July 29

Originality & Finding My Voice

I haven’t been doing much writing lately. It’s not that I don’t want to, but I’m still having trouble getting back into the habit. Part of that is growing pains…I guess it falls into the category of self-doubt, but it’s more than that. It’s the fact that I know I’m missing something (or rather, my writing is), and I want very badly to find and fix it so I can…well, be better.

So, whenever I hit a night that I just can’t make myself open a draft, I’ve been watching Dean Wesley Smith’s “Originality” series on Youtube. It’s one of his classic workshops, it’s available for free, and it makes me severely uncomfortable, though not in the way he seems to think most people will be. It makes me uncomfortable because I hear what he’s saying, and I’m really starting to see what’s missing when I write, I just…don’t quite know how to pull what I need to pull out of the creative part of my brain to fill in those missing pieces.

I’m also struggling with rich, descriptive prose vs. “purple” prose, and where the line is between the two. Purple prose, I can do (and my creative brain will happily skip down that road with little prodding). Keeping it descriptive but not purple is…well, I’m just not sure how to do that. Yet.

I keep reminding myself that writing is a process, and I will never be as good as I want to be, but I need to just keep practicing (read: actually writing) and eventually if I keep listening and thinking about what I need to do and where I need to be, I’ll eventually be able to actually “do” the thing(s) I need to do and my characters and writing will be that much richer for it.

And then there will be another thing I’m not happy with, that I’ll need to fix, and the cycle continues…and that is why I do this – because my mind loves a good puzzle, and a good challenge, and writing is both.

As Dean says, I need to get out of my own way. It’s not the writing that’s killing me, it’s the thought of publishing books that aren’t good. Stories that won’t hook people. Bland, sterilized writing (because I do tend to be a technical perfectionist when dialog isn’t involved, and that results in bland writing – I need to get over that).

Dialog, I’m pretty good at (I think). It’s the stuff around it that needs the most work. And I think, if I work through some more of these videos, that I can get better.

Which is the “hope” I was missing before. I’d kind of gotten to the point where I wasn’t sure I could ever get any better, and what if my best was never going to be good enough? But these videos are starting to help me move past that. Most nights, I feel like writing after, and the only thing that stops me is the lateness of the hour. Damn my need for sleep…

In any case, Dean has two classic workshops up on YouTube, and then more on his site that are paid, but you get to work directly with Dean on the assignments, which I think would be a great help to me. They aren’t cheap, but I’m planning to save up and take at least one this fall, and then another in the winter.

In the meantime, I’ll take these free ones and work to incorporate them into my writing as much as possible.

Maybe I’ll even get moving on the drafts I have open again…

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July 12

I Forget Sometimes…

…that writing is a process. Or rather, becoming a “good writer” is a long process, and conventional wisdom (ie, all other writers everywhere who are any good at the craft) is that in order to become “good” you must write a lot of…well, let’s just say “not good” stuff.

Some of what I write, I like. Some of it, I think is just the greatest, most profound statement ever (short stories, mostly). Yes, I know – it’s the ultimate ego/hubris, but let me keep that, because most of what I write ends up being drivel, or at least falls far short of where I wish it was.

This year’s been a difficult one for writing, and full of a lot of self-doubt. Mostly of the type that makes me wonder if I’ll ever be a “good” writer, or if I’ll always be just mediocre at best, due to my rather lackadaisical habits. Which often leads to my wondering if I should just stop writing, but of course therein lies the rub: I can’t. I’m caught in this sort of Catch-22 where I may never reach the calibre of writer that I want to be, and yet, I can’t give it up. Been there, done that (for years, actually). Always come back. Always.

Now, I’ve managed to shove the majority of that self-doubt in a corner, and start writing again. And I’m really enjoying what I’m working on, and I’m excited for things coming up too. I haven’t been able to write as fast or as much as I’d like, but I’m still working away, and I’m still optimistic for a Christmas book launch and at least one other shortly thereafter. So…moving forward, more slowly than I’d like, but making progress. And I’m taking a vacation from the day job soon that I plan to use much of for writing, which is very exciting.

I think the key thing for me is just remembering that I am a writer. Whether I’m a good writer or not is really for others to decide (as long as I’m entertaining myself while I write, which I do), but I am and always will be a writer. Whether I publish or not, whether people buy my books or not, it’s just…a part of who I am. I need to remember that and embrace it. I need to stop feeling inferior to other writers just because of their fame or name recognition or book sales.

Be it. Own it. Write whatever the hell I damn-well please, and enjoy the living daylights out of every word.

I write for myself. Anyone else who comes along for the ride is a pleasant and welcome guest. But my stories are first and foremost for me.

Good stuff.


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

Publisher Site: Brazen Snake Books

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June 20

Into the Calm

You might remember that last week, I’d finally resigned myself to writing in bits and pieces of time, rather than trying to keep a schedule that just wasn’t working. And I’m happy to say that along with a new commitment to daily planning, this is finally working. I write in 15 minute increments – at least two, sometimes three a day. I’m working on two drafts, and I get a few words in for each daily, which feels really, incredibly good. I wish I’d just done this earlier – quit “fighting” my life, and worked with the flow, rather than against it. I’ve known that was the key to success for many years, but somewhere in the last few, I forgot it and started fighting.

So I’m getting words done, I’m feeling more “sane” overall, and I’m definitely approaching that calm, smooth point where writing isn’t a source of stress or guilt, but rather a point of peace in an overly nutty world. The eye of the tornado, I suppose you could say. It’s a beautiful, though somewhat chaotic thing (or so I’d imagine).

I am going to have to put in some longer writing stints if I want to make my publishing goals next fall/winter. And I have a vacation coming up soon that I may take advantage of for that. But for now, the short sessions are good enough. Anything to get daily words in.

This week’s excerpt is a few words from The Beauty Stone. Enjoy…

“Thank you,” she said, pocketing her money. “Next time, I’ll pay.”

Rob smiled and gave her a nod. “You’re welcome.” The words gave her a funny feeling in the pit of her stomach, and she tried to ignore it. It was just an ice cream cone. Why did it feel weird? Maybe she was coming down with something.

“So you think the next stone is in Hawaii?” Cass asked as soon as they sat down. “Did you figure out that clue with the sundial?”


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

Publisher Site: Brazen Snake Books

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June 14

On Time & Words & Finding Both

I made a few mistakes when I came back to writing after my long sabbatical. I took myself too seriously – which I’m still trying to recover from – and I thought for sure I could find one solid hour per day for writing. Nevermind the fact that I’d never been able to before that, and all of my previous manuscripts had been written in bits and drabbles of time as I could find them – most often 15 – 30 minute chunks.

I foolishly thought that because I was a more “seasoned writer” now, that I could certainly set aside one hour per day (night) for writing, and stick to that. I’d done a couple of hour-long stints before here and there, and liked them, and it was so easy to just get lost in whatever I happened to be working on at the time. So that’s what I was determined to do. I blocked out my hour from 11pm to 12am Mon/Tues/Thurs/Fri (and Weds in the summer when there’s no pool), and told my husband that I’d be in the office writing during that time, and that would be that.

The thing about plans is…well, you know. For awhile, I was religiously in my office at 11pm with tea and a snack, ready to go. And I wrote. And it was fun. But it was never, ever uninterrupted. Because the dogs needed in or out (or sometimes extra care for the dog who died this past February). Or just as I was hitting my stride, hubby would decide to go to bed, and we normally make the bed together at night. So then I moved my writing time back to 12am – 1am…which was fine in theory and finally quiet, but I was so tired I could hardly stay awake, and then I wasn’t getting to sleep by one either, which was making me late in the mornings, and it was kind of a big mess. I decided my health had to come first, so I had to be in bed by midnight (to read/unwind for half an hour, and then be asleep by 1am).

So then I moved it back, got lazy, and ended up having several late kitchen nights where something “healthy” had to be prepped either for us or the dogs (for the next day) before I could write, and then it got cut to 30 minutes, and hubby needed help, and the dog needed out, etc. And so I didn’t write, because I couldn’t get my solid hour, and real life kept interrupting, and I had to be in bed on time (which I haven’t been for the past couple of weeks again) and…yeah. No words.

Last week, I finally got over myself and realized that there was never going to be an hour of time for writing. Not at this point in my life, anyways. There is never one full hour where no one needs me unless I head out past midnight, and my health is not worth going too much past that soft deadline. So, I made peace with having to write in 15 or 20 or 30 minute intervals. It’s just how it has to be.

And now that I’m “finding” time wherever I can, I’m also finding words. It’s not always easy, but one thing about writing in shorter bursts is – I get used to remembering where I am in the stories at any given point in the day/night, so I can jump right back in and write another 250-500 words whenever I have one of those illusive chunks of time free.

Someday long into the future when I’m able to retire – that’s when I’ll get my long chunks of free writing time. But for now, in this particular season of my life, I need to make use of whatever time I can find. And that’s just the way it is.

A recent excerpt from my spec-fic novel in progress:

Unlike Donteneoux, where most of the buildings were built of wood harvested in the abundant forests, Nymar was a desert community, and the buildings were mostly yellow stone hewn from great cliffs that spanned the northern edge of the keep. The surrounding walls were also made of thick blocks wide enough for a man to walk on, which had served them well in less peaceful times. Detan’s workshop was nestled against the southern wall, sharing space with a woodworker on one side and a leather worker on the other.

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

Publisher Site: Brazen Snake Books

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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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