Thursday, November 30, 2017
This trilogy was significant to me for so many reasons. For one, it was very much the fantasy series that I consider my entry into the genre. Nothing had previously captured my attention as a fantasy world like Green Sky did. It was a glorious, ardent world of a city in the treetops, where the people could fly and glide from branch to branch. And it was a world with a dark secret.
The first book focuses on Raamo, a young man who begins his training as part of the elite priest caste, the Ol-zhaan. He's been sought out to join because he's especially gifted in the Spirit powers, which the Ol-zhaan are supposed to be masters of, but it turns out most of them have little-to-no ability in them. With two of his plucky youthful companions, he starts looking deeper into the dark secrets of the forbidden ground, which is supposedly populated by monsters. But when Raamo and his friends discover a girl on the ground, they learn it's not monsters at all, but people, trapped underground.
The second book shifts perspectives to Teera, the young girl, starting with her inadvertent escape from the underground prison her people live in. They're held in by the magically powerful Roots that are impossible to burn or cut. The Root was created by the Spirit powers, because those people had been banished by the Ol-zhaan to protect the true secret of Green Sky. You see, the people of Green Sky came from Earth, which had been destroyed in horrible wars. (See, it's sci-fi embedded in a fantasy.) Two factions formed, one who wanted to tell the people the truth of their origins, and the other who wanted to keep it a secret forever, hoping that ignorance of their violent past would help them stay peaceful forever. The tell-the-truth faction lost, and they were banished. But now the truth is out and public, and there's no hiding it... especially since the reuniting of these two peoples has reawakened the Spirit powers.
The third book does something unexpected. It's all about the messy fall-out of trying to unite these people, and how it does bring about the very violence that had been unknown all this time. It then goes on to, well, kind of a downer ending, mostly about how saviors and messiahs aren't always going to be able to patch everything up and lead the people into a golden age.
But this series taught be about how fantasy can be anything. Which is such an important lesson. If you can find them (which is apparently challenging to do), go check them out.
Tuesday, November 28, 2017
Summoned back from exile to find who assaulted the Norse pantheon's ambassador, disavowed Dark Ops agent Bix will have to tangle with the spy agency that burned her, the angels who prosecuted her, and ex-lovers who could have taken jealousy way too far.
The eBook is available at online retailers for pre-order. It'll be released January 30, 2018, in print and eBook. If you want to be notified the day it drops, sign up for my newsletter at kakrantz.com.
Now, as for this week's blog topic: 3 Fondly Remembered Books from My Childhood
1. Uncle Wiggly's Story Book
A series of short stories that were cute and none too frightening. Nurse Jane Fuzzy Wuzzy is still a favorite that my family retells around the dinner table during the holidays.
2. Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel
Do you know how rare it is to find a book where the younger sibling gets to save the elder? Okay, when I was a kid, it was rare. Chang was my hero. Yes, as an adult, I understand the controversies and why the content is considered offensive.
3. Gnomes by Rein Poortvliet
The illustrations got me first. I would flip through this book for hours before I learned to read; once I figured out phonetics, I would memorize the passages and recite them to myself while watering the weeds my neighbor had ripped out of his garden. What? I was trying to help the gnomes!
Monday, November 27, 2017
First. let me explain that I come from a family of readers. I inherited a vast collection of comic books from my brothers as I grew up and I read them al, voraciously. If it involved people in four color costumes with spangles and contraptions, the odds were I'd read it. If those stories involved some variation on the monster theme, I was there even faster.
Listen, my father figure growing up were my two older brothrs and damned near every person who got into a costume to fight the bad guys. Spider-man, Superman, Batman, Daredevil, the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, the hulk. T^hey were all there teaching me lessons on right and wrong, and when the writers used a word I was unfamiliar with, I was right there learning a new word with the use of the family dictionary.
there was a time when the principal of the local school came by the house, I believe to get his suit altered by my mother (She was a tailor and made extra money for raising the kids with a lot of for restaurants, etc.). She lamented that the only thing she could get her kids to read was comic books and the man laughed and said. "At least they are reading." Never met the man myself but I'd have loved to shake his hand.
Comic books. Monster comic books. The Man-Thing. The Swamp Thing. Morbius the living vampire, Werewolf By Night, Tomb of Dracula, the Monster of Frankenstein The House of Secrets, Journey into Mystery, The Ghost Rider, Tales of the Zombie, The Demon, Any variation on that theme and I was ecstatic. Daimon Hellstorm, the Son of Satan and his sister, Satana. Lilith Dracula's Daughter. Tigra the Were-Woman. All of them helped shape me. The Spectre dealt out harsh punishments to the bad guys. They often had a screwed up moral code, but they paid the price for it when they were wrong. They were among the voices that taught me right from wrong and how to behave myself in society.
There were more of them, but I suspect you get the idea.
One of the most amazing moments in my early years? Batman takes on the Swamp Thing and loses.
Seriously. Think about that.
Batman, who has saved Gotham City countless times, who has managed to thwart the Joker and Two Face and h, so many more, fought the swap Thing and got his butt handed to him. That was utterly mind blowing to me.
But as unsettling as it seems to most, there were morality plays at work here. Even the darkest of the heroes had enemies who were even darker.
Pick three, you say?
The Swamp Thing. Pull any of those titles from the early to late seventies, and I was there. reading and studying the artwork of legends like Jack Kirby, Gene Colan, Bernie Wrightson and Pablo Marcos. Doug Ploog was there. And there were so many more. And the writers! Denny O'Neil, Marv Wolfman (Yes, that's his real name), Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, the list is too damned long to even seriously contemplate.
They were my first three, top of the line influences.
I never once said I was normal.
Sunday, November 26, 2017
Then I went and bought it to give my granddaughter for Christmas. (Don't worry - she's too young to follow my blog. I'm pretty sure...) This is the perfect book for her because she's cat crazy. And this is about a little boy who becomes a cat. It contains the mantra for the ages: When in doubt, wash. It's a haunting story about being other and about finding self.
I might have to give it a reread before I wrap it up.
DRAGONSONG by Anne McCaffrey. I feel that I should mention that this book has more than 40K ratings on Goodreads, as opposed to ~1,100 for THE ABANDONED. So, relatively speaking, I am about the only person who read the latter, compared to the former. DRAGONSONG is well loved and rightly so. It's the story of a young girl on the planet Pern, and how she tames fire lizards and finds her place in the world as a musician. This book lit me up to the possibilities of fantasy and I really never looked back.
There are many books to choose from, of course, but in the SFF realm, it's sad for me how few have held up over time. I loved Susan Cooper's Dark Is Rising books, but the worldbuilding underpinnings don't work for me. And not just now - I went back and reread to fill in some pieces and they simply aren't there. Other books I loved turned out to have religious agendas, alas.
A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madeleine L'Engle. And with the movie version finally coming out (after, lo, these 40+ years), this is the time to reread, and get your younger peeps to read, before the movie comes out, as we all know the book is inevitably better.
That said, the movie comes out on March 9, which is my mom's birthday. I'm thinking we should maybe go see it together, to celebrate our history with this book, this author, and all things mother/daughter. Take a look at that incredible trailer! FANTASTIC, in all the best senses of the word.
Books make great gifts! Just saying :D
In other news, I'm participating in Patrick Rothfuss's Worldbuilders fundraiser. You can bid to win a critique from me or a Tuckerization in my new series! But there's only 9 hours left in the auctions as of this posting, so hasten thee over!
Saturday, November 25, 2017
Friday, November 24, 2017
Part of being grateful is sharing the good fortune. The first place I like to send my support is a (now) local charity that will surprise exactly no one who knows me:
Big Cat Rescue
They are one of the largest accredited big cat sanctuaries in the world. They take in big cats from all over the US and, in some cases, the world. They advocate for the shift in legislation throughout the US to end the trade of big cats - either as 'pets', performers, or for fur harvest. They take amazing care of their animals and many of their cats live to unheard of ages because of it. You can also take tours - no - no petting or contact with the cats. They are a sanctuary and that means preserving the cats in as wild a state as possible within the confines of not being able to return them to the wild. When they rescue injured bobcats or panthers, they DO return the animals to the wild after they've been rehabilitated. Still. I can recommend the tour. There's nothing like hearing a cougar purr at you. Or Joseph lion roaring.
Because politics. This group is a grassroots movement aimed at using small, public contributions to elect citizens to office. Term limits are a big ticket item for this group. They're working at city and state levels in order to build momentum for bigger races. Defeating a super PAC in a national election is the goal. It's also possible I'm channeling some $$ to specific candidates whose goals align with mine. I cannot legally take a flamethrower to the current Pennywise the Clown and minions inhabiting the halls of government, so this is the next best thing that won't end with me in prison.
Because it's all about habitat. We know that wildlife requires land that humans haven't paved over. We get that if we want to go on breathing we need trees. And algae. And plankton. But who wants to dedicate a vast tract of their farm land to preserving a weird three spotted lizard? Or a rare venomous spider? The Nature Conservancy takes a realistic view of preserving land for wildlife. They buy it. Or trade tracts of critical habitat for other land that can then be used by humans. Their success stories are pretty good.
Bonus: Check out Charitywater.org
I think that especially when life is difficult - in the midst of loss - it's vital to take a moment daily to practice gratitude and to say thank you. So thank you. I am grateful you're here.
Thursday, November 23, 2017
- If you've ever bought one or all of my books...
- If you've read and loved the stories of Maradaine...
- If you've been looking forward to the books to come...
- If you've told a friend to try out my books...
- If you've left a review on Amazon or Goodreads...
- If you consider yourself a fan...
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.
Wednesday, November 22, 2017
I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving amid the people who love you most!
Because it is the season of thankfulness as well as the kick-off of the traditionally recognized annual big-gift-giving event, it's time to think about others, and this week here on the blog we're sharing our favorite charities. Here are mine, and why:
Tuesday, November 21, 2017
1. Local Dog Rescues
I donate to breed-specific rescues simply because I've adopted from breed rescues; though, shelters and local SPCAs are just as deserving. Remember: if you are adopting a new critter during the holidays, be extra patient. The noise, the amped emotions, and abnormal routines make it difficult for the critter and the new owner(s) to find their balance. Give your adoptee a safe, quiet place away from the commotion and personal-space-invaders where your new critter can claim sanctuary. If possible, wait until after the chaos of the holidays to bring home a new-to-you pet. Not only are you more likely to be back into your day-to-day routine, but the shelters take in a lot of unwanted "presents" in the weeks following the holidays.
2. Women's Shelters
The quest for safety, independence, and dignity is not easy regardless of the circumstances that bring a woman to a shelter. If she's brave enough to seek help, then help should be there. However, I'm very particular about which shelters receive my assistance because I have very strong beliefs that don't commonly align with organizations that infiltrate shelter management to inflict their version of morality on emotionally vulnerable women.
3. Literacy Groups
It may seem self-serving for an author to donate to a literacy group, but I'm a firm believer that once a person learns to read, they gain the most important tool they'll need to achieve their dreams. These groups serve more than children. If kids aren't your thing, there are a lot of adults who need the help and who have the drive to succeed.
Monday, November 20, 2017
I am always thankful this time of year. I have a roof over my head. I have loved ones, I have my health, mostly, and I have my career.
Charities? I have a few of those, too.
First, I like to give to my local library, I give books. I used to have a lot of them. My stack is much smaller these days.
Second I give to the local fire department and police department. Mostly I give when they are doing handouts for other charities. They do that, you know. In addition to the time they spend keeping us safe, they often find the extra time to help a family in need or a children's ward at the local hospital. I tend to give when they ask.
The Salvation Army. I don't always agree with their politics. Okay I almost never agree with their politics. But they actually do more with the donations than most, so I give to the Salvation Army when they are around during the holidays, and I give donations to their stores when I find that I have once again collected clothes I no longer wear, books I have read, kitchen supplies I thought I'd need but never really require.
What does it cost me? I seldom look at the possible profits.
I am grateful, you see, for all that I have.
I was raised by a mother who was doing her best with six children. She did an amazing amount with what little she had and we were never lacking when it came to the important stuff.
I have a roof over my head.
I have a career that I love.
I have friends, and family and loved ones.
I have contracts coming my way and ideas in my head. I am thankful.
May you have endless reasons to be thankful this year and next and beyond that, too.
Sunday, November 19, 2017
Before I go much further - and though I don't often mention my contemporary romances here - I thought I should point out that my WITH A PRINCE takes place during U.S. Thanksgiving. Which is this week for us! So if you or someone near and dear who loves romance, are looking for a seasonal read. This is a fine choice. There's cooking, the actual feast - and dinner table drama complete with hashtags. It's very fun.
Saturday, November 18, 2017
|Purchased from DepositPhoto|
Friday, November 17, 2017
Thursday, November 16, 2017
Part of the challenge is that, no matter what you do, some readers will bring their own biases to it. What does that mean? It means that readers will seek the familiar, and that includes trying to slap on some serial numbers on things that you didn't even scrub them off of. What does this mean? It means your readers will sometimes find parallels to real-world cultures that you never intended.
And then ping you for doing it wrong.
Can this be avoided completely? No, of course not. But there's things you can do to minimize it.
- Don't make your racial distinctions stereotypical or offensive. Make your secondary words racially diverse, but try to be aware of how you depict that. I've found Writing With Color to be a great resource to help with that.
- Learn where your culture is coming from, from the ground up. I'm not saying you have to build it entirely from the bottom. But if you understand some underlying basics-- what they grow, how they use that, what they eat, what they build-- that gives you the tools to guide them in their own unique way.
- Steer their language away from the obvious. If you're looking at your new culture and think to yourself, "this sounds like Eastern Europe", consider making the language base (and thus how you name places and people) something that is nothing like Eastern Europe. Vulgar is a great resource for that.
Wednesday, November 15, 2017
Tuesday, November 14, 2017
I learned a long time ago that there is such a thing as too much research; that it can cripple the story. Once upon a time, I fancied writing historical romance. WUT?? Stop laughing! My need for accuracy meant I spent more time researching than writing, and--in truth--not a lot of what I researched made it into the novel. It's the great "months of research ends in ten sentences." I'm not the author who can do historical accuracy well. There are those who can, and I'm an avid reader of their works. Bless them. For my stuff, Urban and High, I'm more of a "pinch of this, dash of that" researcher.
Here are my Top 3 Kinds of Research for Crafting Fantasy:
1. Minor Details
I'm not as smart as I want to be, so I have to look up what's probably common knowledge. For example, in Larcout, the first book of my Fire Born, Blood Blessed High Fantasy series, the type of an individual's innate magic is identified by the kind of rock in his/her forehead. I'm not a geologist or a gemologist, I had to look up "what stone is yellow and pretty?" Citrine fit the bill. Making up a name for it would've confused the reader.
2. Character & Place Names
Names are definitely a thing I research. Regardless of sub-genre. Sometimes I use totally made-up names like Vadrigyn or Beigreith. Sometimes, a made-up name has a plot-shifting meaning that will be revealed during the series. A lot of times, I take a "real" or "common" name and tweak it just a wee bit. Those more recognizable names serve to remind the reader of characters' general attributes. They also remind me of backstories (that only I need to know), including fatal flaws. Example: In my upcoming Urban Fantasy there are three Berserkers: Xipil, Hywl, and Runjit. Can you guess they're not pasty blonds from Scandinavia? Can you guess their origins? Yes, I'm riffing on the myth, and the names give you a hint.
3. Weapons & Armor
While my protags wield atypical weapons, and magic usually makes an appearance at some point, a lot of the supporting cast uses recognizable weapons and a few wear parts of traditional armor. Broadswords, flails, bevors, and vambraces. I research their proper names and jargon. I research the maintenance required for each piece. I research the material flaws, the situational disadvantages, and superstitions of each. This can be a rabbit hole if you veer into military tactics, battle history, weapons evolution. It's a fascinating rabbit hole, but... if you want to get in and get out, then limit what you're looking for.
So, there you go, three types of quick world-building research I do for my two types of fantasy novels. We won't discuss image-inspiration research. That's my weakness, my time-suck, my "just one more gallery and I'll stop (maybe, maybe a week later)."
Monday, November 13, 2017
Listen, theres an old saying "Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it." I'm paraphrasing because, well, deadlines.
I have been praised a few times for my world-building skills. I am always flattered when that happens, because I'm not really sure if I have any particular skills beyond looking at the past and connecting dots.
Let's look at the sociological ramifications of geography as an example. Let's say you have a kingdom that lives at the edge of the sea. Well, first off, history tells us they're going to need a source of fresh water. It also says that, statistically speaking, they're likely to have a good amount of fish in their diet. depending on whether or not there are ship building skills among the set of local talents, they're probably going to be traveling to other countries and either conquering them or trading with them. Those are the basics, as it were. Now you get to expand on that. What sort of sea life exists in this land/world? If we look back on history, that's going to make a difference. If there are no fish in the waters, they need a different source of food. Might be they've long since learned to live on sea plants, such as seaweed and kelp. Might also be that they've gone inland for their sources of food.
No ships! They have surfboards. Okay..a little tricky, but the odds are good the society would evolve and adapt to take advantage of these miracles o science in an effort to travel to other lands. They might not always survive, but they'd make the best of it.
The only local fish are gigantic sea monsters that ravage the towns along the shore constantly. Either they're moving away (not likely) or they're going to learn how to combat/control these beasts. if they figure out how to "break" the sea monsters and then how to ride on them, we're got another form of transport AND a new weapon in the fight against other countries. MAYBE they were just going to trade with those countries but when the monsters that are only in their area are first seen, they will quickly realize that trading has less advantages than simply taking. "But Jim, why?"
Because history tells us that most often humans believe in conquest over negotiation, especially in primitive cultures. Mind you, as author you are god of your new world and you can change that any way you'd like.
Okay, so now we have a culture that a) owns the seas, B) is in the mood to conquer, and c) really feels pretty good about being in charge of the world at large, or at least the areas around the sea. What happens when they try to go inland?
They try the rivers, but those sea monsters they ride here and there aren't very good at traveling up through the shallow spots and they haven't evolved legs yet, so that's an issue.
Now, at the same time, there's a group of people in the highlands who've learned to ride and domesticate massive bearlike things that we'll just call bears for this note. they, too, have mastered riding great beasts and have taken advantage of this to basically rule over everything around them.
They do NOT have a problem riding into the lowlands and taking over as much as they can and the poor slobs in the lowlands are only prepared for monsters from the sea, so there's a new challenge here. Bears versus sea monsters. Both sides have distinct advantages.
Historically speaking we can find analogs for both of these scenarios. Those with ships versus those without. Heck we can take a look at large land dwelling creatures like elephants, and the people who figured out how to make them weapons of war, and see another possibility. Bears the size of elephants, with big damn claws, mean teeth and thick fur that can deflect many spears, etc. Suddenly this fight has a different outcome.
We have a long history in this world and it covers many, many diverse cultures. Any of that history can be used as an example of what MIGHT happen and a great deal of that history has barely been examined.
Want to know how gods work? Look at your history books.
Want to understand the concept of the devil or a trickster? Same answer.
Need to see how a siege mentality can change a battle? Once again, look at the history of this world and combine it with the culture you are creating and the world becomes your playground.
The same thing, by the way, works for science fiction.
I'm working on an outline right now that involves world ships, colonization, territorial rights and, of course, an alien OTHER that disagrees. Should be a proper nightmare by the time I'm finished. But I started out by looking at colonization and the history of violence that it entails.
Sorry I missed you the last few weeks, folks. Turns out that storms and airports seldom work together and that I can't post as well without the internet. But I'll try to do better.
On an unrelated note: If you are a fan of horror and you love horror anthologies. Christopher Golden. yours truly and Haverhill House Publications are all working together to bring about a truly open anthology. No places held for big names and bling submissions. We know nothing of 2who wrote what until the stpries are accepted. But most publishers don't much care for that idea, so in order to make it happen we're having to do a Gofundme. If you are interested please look here: https://www.gofundme.com/the-twisted-book-of-shadows?utm_content=buffer3c233&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer If not, fully understood but we want to make this happen.
Also, coming soon to bookstores, here's the cover for FALLEN GODS, the second book in my TIDES OF WAR series.
Sunday, November 12, 2017
I'm at a weekend conference sponsored by my local RWA chapter LERA. We brought in Michael Hauge to teach his Story Mastery. Great stuff. Yesterday was his general seminar, and today a dozen of us are doing an intensive advanced story mastery session where we workshop our concepts with him. I'm super excited because I'm working on SOMETHING TOTALLY NEW.
So new that it's science fiction.
Agent Sarah has already seen the concept and given it the thumbs up, so now I'm just working up the details. With my COLLABORATOR.
There are so many new and exciting things here that I can't wait to share.
At any rate, being science fiction, in a universe we're basically creating whole hog, albeit on the foundation of our own, there's a lot of worldbuilding involved. One interesting challenge is that my heroine is a scientist, but obviously operating at a much more sophisticated level technologically.
I know she's made a mistake in her past. I know the results of the mistake and that it has to do with genetic manipulation. I just need to figure out HOW she might have done it. This will require beefing up my current understanding of genetics and how genes are spliced using modern technology, then extrapolating that to a possible future.
I'll likely do this by going to the current scientific literature, but not the hard core stuff. I'll look for cutting edge research as explained in journals intended for broader consumption, like Nature, Science, or Scientific American. I have an advantage that I'm trained as a scientist, so I know how to read and assimilate that kind of information - but I also know that I'm pretty stale, and I never was an expert in genetics. I won't attempt to read the stuff intended for working scientists because I doubt I could keep up. Certainly not without devoting a lot of attention to it and... I probably don't want to do that.
My favorite way to tackle this sort of thing - the ideal shortcut - is to find someone who is a current expert and picking THEIR brain. There's still no search engine that compares to finding a smart person who knows their field really well and getting them to think about the answer.
So, if anyone knows a cutting-edge genetics researcher... :D
Saturday, November 11, 2017
My late husband was a Marine; my Dad was in the Army in World War II; my uncles were in the Coast Guard and the Army; I have other relatives who served in various branches of the military...and I'm grateful for the sacrifices they all made.
Tiny programming note: today is the last day to buy a copy of the Embrace the Romance: Pets In Space 2 scifi romance anthology and have us make a donation to Hero Dogs, Inc., which provides service dogs to veterans in need.
Buy Links: Amazon iBooks Kobo B&N
Friday, November 10, 2017
Something in your head stutters and your story stumbles to a halt. And there you sit. Watching the cursor blink at you. Eventually, you imagine you hear it laughing in time with every pulse. Maybe whispering 'you suck' as it blinks. No? Just me. Huh.
Here's how to break it up, silence that cursor and get back into flow.
1. Master the mundane - find the most mind numbing household chore you can find. Get up and do it. For me, it was ironing. Hates ironing. HATES it. But. It's a mindless task of repeated motion that lulls your ego into a stupor. You may be pressing your pets by the time that happens, but when it does, tidbits of scenes, snippets of dialogue, and new story ideas will crop up because you are SO bored, your story-teller's brain will rise to rescue you.
2. Immersion - If you've exhausted yourself working in the word mines, stop. Cook supper, eat. Relax. Head to bed a few minutes early. Take a notebook and a pen with you. Not a computer. Not a tablet. Archaic tech is your friend here. Do all the things that get you ready for sleep. Then sit in bed and write. Long hand. Write about your story. Your characters. No scenes. No pressure for dialogue or situations. Write ABOUT your story. What do you want from it? What do you want to feel? What do you want the characters to feel? Do you feel like you've gone wrong? Why? Where? Ask the characters what they want. Why won't they talk to you? Do you have a plot outline? A character arc graph? Can you look at either of those and jot some notes about where you are in those documents and what has to happen to move your characters to the next step? Earphones and 30 minutes of unguided meditation piped into your brain from something like brain.fm is legal here, but not anything that will pull you out of focus. The point is to have your story on your brain when you turn out the light and go to sleep. This might take a couple of nights to kick you free. But it will.
3. Change your thinking - this has subheadings that I'm too lazy to enumerate in true a, b, c fashion. But here you go. Often when we're stuck, we're in a synaptic rut and just need a kick in the gray-matter to get imagination firing again. So first suggestion: switch your work space. Writing at home? Pick it up and go to the library. Or the coffee shop. Or a diner that will let you camp a table for an hour or two if you buy fries and a bottomless cup of coffee. See if the change of scenery doesn't shake something lose. Find a deck of tarot cards. No. I am not suggesting that you dive into the woo-woo with me. The water is fine, mostly, but this is about using the cards as story prompts, not divination. Make sure your cards have a book with them, so you can read the meanings. I usually do something like this: Tell me about the story as it stands. I lay out three cards. Then I ask what could happen next and lay out three more cards. It looks like a T laying on its side.
Thursday, November 9, 2017
Now, I'm not immune to getting blocked or stopped up. Even though I'm known as being efficient in getting books out, part of that is because I build a certain amount of "things might get stuck" into my schedule. As much as I would want the writing of every novel to just be a powerhouse, "writing X words a day, every day", that's rarely been the case.* Most of the time, even with my outline, there will be some point where the connective tissue from A to B just isn't apparent, and it's going to take me a bit of time to let my subconscious hack through it to figure out how it'll work.
So, what to do in the meantime?
I've got three go-to tactics. (All of which were rejected by one friend who was stuck in her novel.)
- Write a scene further ahead. I've not written a single novel in order. Not one. There's always some point where I jump ahead and write some red-meat bit down the line and then go find the connective tissue later. It's a simple solution to the Point A To B problem: just go directly to Point B and often the writing of it gives the answer of how to go back and fill in the details.
- Play with maps. I do love messing with maps, and it's a good process to use a different set of brain muscles so the subconscious can grind away at the problem. It lets me also do some worldbuilding work for other things down the line. I've often said I really only have the illusion of being a fast writer, because I've spent a long time at planning things far in the future.
- Write something else. There's always a "secondary" project in the works. If not two. Usually things that don't have a contract or deadline involved, so if and when I need to stop and get to the "real" project, it's not a big deal. I've got a few things cooking along those lines right now.
*- The one exception is The Alchemy of Chaos, which I did the draft of in a little under five months. There were a couple weeks that dragged, in that I "only" wrote the minimum for that week.
Tuesday, November 7, 2017
I'm currently at that stage in the fourth book of my upcoming Urban Fantasy series (pre-orders go live for Book 1 at the end of the month!). I've spent a week with my wheels spinning in the muck. It's frustrating as hell. I know why it's happening; I don't have the right inciting incident. I write to chapter 5, then cut all of it, because it's still not right. The characters aren't on the right trajectory. Last night, just before my brain settled into slumber, I think I finally figured out the right opening. We'll see. Give me to the weekend to be certain.
In that short bit of snivel and whine, is my first tip to getting unstuck.
1. Keep Writing, but Try Different Perspectives
Put. Words. On. Page...a slight variation on what Jeffe suggested Sunday that still reinforces the habit and ritual of writing. Instead of forcing yourself to go forward and gain word-count, allow yourself to indulge in what-ifs as you rewrite the last scene that worked from a different state of mind for your character (or a different POV altogether if you're writing a multi-POV book). Something as small as changing the POV character's attitude/emotional state could unclog the blockage and help you roll into the next chapter.
2. Change a Core Element
If a scene just isn't working--and you're positive it's a necessary scene--change a core element. Change the setting, the characters surrounding the protagonist, the nature of the challenge, or the means by which your protag achieves the goal of that scene. Maybe what you thought should be a physical battle works better as a battle of wits. Maybe a private scene should be very public. Maybe you need to change the weather. Hey, you're God of your world. Make your characters act out/up during a wicked thunderstorm. Not everything has to happen on a sunny day or a foggy night.
Take an hour to boost the oxygen flowing through your system. Whatever your level of preferred exertion might be--Ashtanga yoga, rock climbing, stroll around the neighborhood--whatever gets you up and moving. Go without the earphones. Skip the playlists, the phone calls, the other distractions. Just you, your brain, and your body; reconnect with yourself. Might be surprised by the sort of ideas that'll come to you...some might even be relevant to your WiP.
Sunday, November 5, 2017
A lot of you out there are embarking on your second week of NaNoWriMo, I know. By now you might be running low on steam. Often the first few days are relatively easy. But, by this point, you might be hitting the "sophomore slump" - when the newness has worn off, but you still have the bulk of the effort ahead of you.
So, if you find you're stalling out, here are three tips to get that flow going again. Check back all this week for more tips from our group of seven professional authors!
1. Write Anyway
Seriously! I know this can feel like not helpful advice, but it's really the best there is. There's a reason that the NaNoWriMo folks say you can do whatever it takes to get that word count, such as having your characters sing all of Don McLean's American Pie. That's because writing feeds writing. The more you do, the better it flows. The analogy of running water through rusty pipes is a good one. At first the water just trickles and there's lots of back-pressure. But then the gunk gradually gives way, the pipes clear, and the water flows better and, eventually, with pristine gusto!
If you're totally stuck, then sure - have them sing a song. But I advise making up the song, even if it sucks or is nonsense. It's better to write something than nothing, but it's even better to write crap than copy someone else. Remember those rusty pipes! It's okay for the water to look mucky at first.
2. Don't Look at What You've Already Written
Resist the urge to self-edit before you're done. Nothing stalls the writing process more than going back and spending precious word-count time on revision. Especially if you're new to writing, there's just really no point in revising until you have a FULL, COMPLETED MANUSCRIPT. Yes, you will need to revise someday, but you *really* need to finish first. Besides - consider that rusty pipes analogy. If you're revising while you're still getting those pipes clear, all you're doing is trying to purify crappy water. Let it run clean and flowing first, then you can polish it.
Don't worry about revising until you're done writing. Just write. Go forward. Always forward.
3. Just Write
Do your best to write without thinking about it. Imagine you're running water through the pipes. Don't consider word choice or sentence structure or where the story is going or what that character's name should be. I have a trick that I use as I'm drafting. Every time I hit something like that - a character or place I need to name, or a word I can't quite think of - I put in [something], and keep going. When I'm done, usually after I've finished the book, I go back and search for "[" and fill those in. I might do it before, if a good name occurs to me. Or, sometimes when I have my word count for the day, I'll do some research and fill those in. But resist the urge to do that instead of getting word count. Don't try to rationalize that it counts as writing. It doesn't count.
Only writing counts as writing.