Posts Tagged With: writing

Christmas Wrap

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I am ALMOST ready for Christmas.  Jams are done (by the skin of my teeth they all sealed properly), shopping is done, and now all that’s left is the mountain of wrapping and packaging to do.

We’re crazy in my family about the wrapping.  Everyone has a theme each year, and it’s possible to tell who gave you the gift without looking at the card at all.  My aunt goes for funky, natural, and shiny, in browns and blacks for the main bits, but with the strangest and most delightful ribbons attached, everything from lacy glitter orange to natural stuff printed with reindeer.  She hand-makes her tags, too. My sister usually sticks with white craft paper, but goes CRAZY on the bows.  She also usually has some sort of natural topper wedged between.  Last year was maroon, the year before was blue and sparkly.  My mom goes all out festival with novelty prints of which no two are the same, and large tags that give you a clue as to what’s inside, if you can figure out who it’s from (a drill from “Norm,” a cookbook from “Julia”).  I am usually a craft paper girl like my sister, but the colors change.  Last year was white paper, and brown ribbon printed with “Merry Christmas” in red.  The year before was red paper, black baker’s twine, and mini clothespins with trees attached.  The year before that was brown paper with red and white bows.  I usually have the wrapping before I have the presents.

Not so this year.  I have no wrapping paper yet, and I’m not sure what everything will end up looking like.  This is the first time ever that I’m so late.  I’ll be heading out tonight to figure out what I can find.  Whatever else happens, I’m pretty sure I’ll end up with gigantic red bows, though.  In velvet, if possible.

In other news, I have been doing this thing called 750 words where you write 750 words a day and it gives you prizes and puts your writing through an analyzer just for fun when you’ve finished.  I’ve been noticing that I clock major introvert when I’m writing about life.  But when I write fiction, it tracks as extroverted.  I don’t know what that says about me or my work.  It probably says something, though.  Anyway, I thought it worth noting.

I hope your Christmas is shaping up to be as good as mine seems to be.

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The Resolution Post: 2017

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This is the end of the year re-cap on new year’s resolutions.  I don’t know if anyone is terribly interested in my introspection about the nitty-gritty of my chosen career, but it helps me to publish this stuff in a place I know is public.  It keeps me accountable.  Thanks for humoring me.

To recap, my resolutions this year were as follows:

  1. Read another 100 books
  2. Have a novel ready to shop around
  3. Beat or match my previous record for published short stories (2) and/or be paid for 1 short story
  4. Write at least 20 days of each month

How did I do?  Pretty well, actually.

I read a shit-ton of books this year.  Like, I’ll probably clear 150.  Which is CRAZY when you think about it.  I’m blaming it on the mass-quantity of awesome romance novels I’ve been reading.

The novel is not yet ready to shop around, although it ALMOST is.  3 page synopsis?  Done.  Query letter?  Done.  Just waiting for the beta reads to finish and to do one more draft (okay, maybe 2) before I start sending it out.  I can’t control the speed of the beta readers.  It’s out of my hands when I can start on those last two drafts.  Maddening, I know. I’m trying to be Zen about it…  But I’m SO CLOSE.

I have been paid for one story this year, which means I completed this resolution no problem.  I’ve had a couple of stories, too, where I’ve been notified that they’re keeping them longer for further consideration.  So I might meet both requirements, depending on several factors (whether they do, in fact, say yes, whether they notify me by the end of December…)

Whether or not I completed the resolution to write 20 days each month really depends on how you’re measuring it.  I missed March and September.  But I went over 20 days so many months that if you average it all out, I actually exceeded the target.  I’m calling it met, for morale reasons.

That’s it for last year.  Now moving to 2017:

I’m tweaking my resolutions this year so that they’re more in line with my goals of learning and getting myself out there.  I have realized the past two years of doing this semi-professionally that I can control my own output, but I can’t control others’ reactions to the output.  I’m refocusing the goals on production, not publication.

I’ve read a lot about the SF/F industry since last year, and it seems to me that people who make a living at this often win Writers of the Future and go to Clarion.  Which means I’ll at least throw my name into the ring for both. And then there’s all the book dissection I’ve added to my workload among all the writing stuff I’ve been doing.  So, I’m broadening even as I’m loosening.  Here’s what I was thinking of for 2017.

New Year’s Resolutions:

  1. I will have either 2 stories paid for or 20 rejection letters, whichever target I hit first
  2. I will dissect the structure of 1 book per month
  3. I will do writing of some form (either for publication or practice) 20 days of each month.
  4. I’ll Enter 4 stories into the Writers of the Future Contest (one per period), and apply to the Clarion Writer’s Workshop.
  5. I’ll have Ruby of Ra (book 2) ready for alpha reads

That’s all.

I’ll likely to do something with Blue Gentian even without having it on the official list.  At this point things depend on the speed of my beta readers, not on me, and so I’m not making it a target.

That being said, I’m pretty proud of all of that and think the goals will be obtainable, but still stretch me. Looking forward to completing some of this stuff!

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In Preparation for Christmas

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I have several things today, mostly in preparation for Black Friday.  Christmas is coming fast, and I’m trying to remind myself of that so I don’t leave it all to the last minute like I usually do…

The first thing that’s coming up is that the anthology I’m in is ready WAY sooner than they thought it would be, and is going live on Amazon this weekend.  Yay! You can get it here if you’re interested.  And if you have Kindle Unlimited, it’s even free! Anthologies make good Christmas presents.  Or can get you in the mood for buying a ton of Christmas presents. Just saying… Also, my hard copies have not come in the mail yet.  So you can have the (semi)exclusive version even before the author gets hers.  What’s not to love about that?

Second is that I have waded into the murky and often cheesy-in-a-bad-way genre of Christmas Romance again.  Ever the optimist that there’s actually good stuff in that sub-genre, I suppose.  But I hope to have a post of things I thought were worth it soon for you to peruse if you want.  From last year, I recommend the Christmas Ladies collection by Grace Burrowes, and An Affaire Before Christmas by Eloisa James.

Christmas shopping is about to be in full swing.  If you’re like me, you’ll probably buy all the presents in the 2 weeks before the event and then spend that last week wrapping furiously.  If you’re shopping for someone bookish, here’s a few other things I can recommend.

Know your special someone’s favorite book?  Check out Out of Print.  They have everything bookish clothing printed with classic cover art, from James Bond to Harry Potter, and their shirts are SO SOFT.  I have the Little Prince one and the American Gods one, and I practically live in them on the weekends.  I’m currently drooling over Bunnicula and may need to splurge.

Go for a bookish candle.  You can get several that smell like your favorite characters and places here, or you can light a candle to your favorite writing saint here. The writing saint one comes with a hilarious poem on the back, too.  Well worth it.

It’s a well-known fact that you can never have too many bookmarks.  And they’re an easy thing to buy because duplicates don’t matter!  Pick your favorite and run with it.  Make your own.  Get creative.  My favorite right now?  These awesome magnetic ones from Happy Hello Co on Etsy.  They have all kinds fun and adorable bookmarks, everything from Eleanor and Park to a smiling pancake.

Is your reader also a writer?  Fancy pens and blank notebooks are always a good buy.  Moleskine just came out with a BEAUTIFUL limited edition Harry Potter notebook that I’m dying for.  But they also have Game of Thrones, Avengers, Toy Story, The Beatles, The Hobbit, Hello Kitty and a bazillion others.  Even their plain ones are perfection.  Moleskines take ink beautifully, are the perfect size for toting around, and are generally an obsession of mine.  I almost always have at least two stashed in my purse.  You can bet your writer will be happy to get one.

It’s well known that caffeine and books mix beautifully.  Consider getting a bookish mug for your booklover.  An Etsy search for “Book mug” brings up some awesome ones.  And it turns out that there is no really one stop shop I could find for this item.  Still, the favorite one I found was this Penguin Classic homage.

And, of course, gift cards to Barnes and Noble and Amazon are always appreciated.  My opinion of Kindle Unlimited?  Okay if you’re into romance, and getting better all the time for other genres.  But is it worth that hefty price tag yet?  Maybe not.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving, and the start of Christmas.  I’m counting down the days to the end of Nano with both terror and relief.  And planning to put the Christmas stuff up this weekend, if I get a few spare seconds to rub together.

Categories: Fiction, Life, Uncategorized, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

November Start

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I told you it wouldn’t be a whole month until I came back again.  Nano is going very well.  So well, in fact, that I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.  It usually drops in week 2, so we’ll see how much I hate this story and everything it stands for in another 8 days or so.  I’m no longer surprised that this happens, but every year I’m surprised by how genuine the feelings of loathing are.  You would think I would have learned by now that this is a phase.

Brian participated in the annual Baked Potato Decorating Day contest at his work, held every year on November 1st.  He won for his impressive rendition of Bag End, complete with round carrot door and broccoli Party Tree.  I am still upset by his refusal to let me make hobbits from tater tots, but I shall live through my disappointment.  His prize was $45 to Barnes and Noble, and we spent a blissful evening among the stacks of books.

“Do you want anything?” Brian asked me toward the end of our perusal.

I started laughing.  Because I want everything, of course.  They’ve come out with those amazing gilded Barnes and Noble Classic editions of American Gods and Anansi Boys, A Wrinkle In Time, Shell Silverstein poems, Cthulhu mythos, Robin Hood, Moby Dick, The Eye of the World, 10 Wizard of Oz books…  Moleskine has Harry Potter special editions sitting on the shelf.  I have not yet read Rene Ahdieh’s latest.  America’s Test Kitchen has a gigantic cooking bible.  I’m dying to purchase a slew of romance novels, and Uprooted. They have a vast collection of color-your-own postcards and a Pusheen luggage set.  I still need the Puffin In Bloom copy of the Little Princess.  They had fancy hard-backed editions of The Silmarillion.  When I said I wanted everything, I wasn’t kidding.

“Don’t worry about me,” I said.  I’m used to drooling and not buying.  Also, I didn’t help with the potato and I can’t remember the last time Brian bought books.  He picked up three and has been spending his nights reading, like I usually do, which is reward enough.

Writing and reading your heart out are what November is for.  We have a good start on that over here.

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Nano Nuts and Bolts

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This is a writing process story, all about the making of sausage that goes on behind the writing.  So I’ll forewarn you that it might be boring before I continue to do it anyway.

I’ve done several entries in the past on why I do Nano, and also put together some tips and tricks that I think might be helpful to the first time Nano-er.  But I haven’t actually done a technical post on what my prep looks like at all.  So I thought I would do that in case anyone is interested.  Are you interested?

It’s not terribly hard, nor does it take too long.  It just takes some thinking.

First, I come up with a plot summary and then make the cover (which you saw last time). That’s usually the part I share.  And then I spend several days thinking about the actual plot of the story.  Like, I know I have a suffragette who is in a love triangle because she needs money, but what does the rest of her life look like?  What is her family like, her home life?  What does she want and think she needs?  Who are her friends? What does she do for fun?

When I have that figured out, mostly by stream-of-consciousness writing, I then put the plot summary together.  I know when I start that I’m not likely to adhere to it fully.  Someone will do something 1/3 of the way through that makes the back half stuff inconsequential.  Or a non-main character will demand more time.  Or a main character will turn out horribly boring.  But it’s a start.  And without it, I can’t operate on the CRAZY schedule Nano demands. I have tried and failed.  More than once.

There are two things I keep in mind while writing the summary.  The first is, I try to let the characters and their choices/wants drive the narrative.  That helps avoid cliche, which you should also probably try and do.  The second is that each plot point will take between 1500 and 2000 words to write, so I should aim for 30 of them if I’m going to have a 50,000 word novel at the end.

When November 1st starts, I just start with the first point and write until I have 1500-2000 words.  Then I move to the next.  Take it in small chunks and it becomes a not-so-insurmountable task.

As an example, here’s what I had for Ruby of Ra, which I’m working hardcore on editing now while others are reading Blue Gentian.  It already doesn’t look like this, but it’s where the novel came from.  I’m not sharing In Suffrage or In Health because I’m afraid I’ll ruin the magic for myself if too many people know the gory details.  Better to share something that’s already done.  Also, we already know this plot worked, because it was a winner.  We don’t really know about Suffrage yet…  (cross your fingers for me)

Once I have all 3 of these pieces, I’m 100% ready to go for Nano.  All that’s left to do is wait for that clock to roll over to 12:01 am on November 1st.

Happy Writing!

Cover:

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Summary:

1952: Nine years after Ruby Keene’s mother was discovered drowned in the Grand Canyon, she is dealing with the aftermath of polio, high school, and her father’s refusal to take her on his latest archaeological expedition with his grad students.  But when she wheedles her way into the canyon, she realizes that her mother’s death wasn’t an accident.  It was a duty, a birthright to protect a long-forgotten Egyptian Temple located in the craggy red peaks; only it seems the temple isn’t forgotten anymore.  Now, Ruby must journey to perform the deadly task that killed her mother, lest a rampant Goddess eat the world.

Plot Points:

  1. Ruby gets polio, mom leaves and Ruby finds out later (once she’s well) that Mom died in a flood in the Grand Canyon. Dad’s at war, so she moves in with Gran for the duration. Emphasis on Ruby and Mom’s fun surrounding the swimming pool, and “games” they would play there (really training).
  2. 9 years later. Ruby’s life currently, at the school, soda shop, and university. Introduce her polio limitations, but also her struggle to become the perfect 1950s girl without any girls around, and when she’s wearing a brace.  Dad is an anthropology professor, and Gran is around a lot to help.
  3. Ruby helps Dad’s assistant Roy in the lab and meets newest exchange student Mando, from Egypt. They find a scarab amulet that was in dregs of dirt from last year. Dad won’t let her go on the summer archeological expedition to the Grand Canyon because of her polio.
  4. Ruby’s birthday. Dad gives her Mom’s scarab amulet, and confesses that he carried it in the war.  Ruby is mad at mom, and isn’t thrilled to get it.  She remembers a disturbing incident where she almost drowned at the pool, but the amulet made the water melt out of her pores.
  5. Ruby attends a polio benefit with Gran, to help fundraise. At the event, the necklace burns her when the pictures of polio start to come on.  She has bad dreams all night.  The next morning, Ruby learns there was a horrible earthquake in California.  She thinks they’re not related.
  6. Ruby is allowed to go to the Grand Canyon after all! Friends of her mom’s (Madge), and a bunch of people will be there.  Ruby will be expected to do work as a JR assistant to the grad students.
  7. Mando moves in with Ruby and Dad for the 2 weeks between the end of school and the trip to the canyon. He and Ruby hit it off at first, and they chat a bit about the Egyptian revolution that is just over.  Mando admits to being a soldier, but he won’t talk about the scarab tattoo on his arm.  There’s a break-in at the school and the scarab they found was stolen, too.  The police think it was an inside job.  Ruby becomes suspicious of Mando trying to buddy up to her, especially when he tries too hard once he learns her mother’s maiden name.
  8. The U-Mass group travels to the Grand Canyon. Ruby brings the amulet with her, because it seems right somehow. Ruby is seated on the flight next to Mando, and he eventually tells her the tale of Sekhmet to keep her from freaking out on her first flight.
  9. Everyone from all 3 schools gets together for dinner, and to plan their method of attack on the sites they’ll visit. Ruby meets mom’s friend Madge for the first time.  Ruby hangs out with the undergrads and finds intellectual stimulation is better than high school frivolity.
  10. Madge corners Ruby after dinner and tries to warn her that she’ll be restless once they start to breach the walls of the canyon. Ruby thinks Madge’s tales of the supernatural are silly.  When she gets back to the hotel room she’s sharing with Dad, she asks him how he and mom met.  He says when he was an undergrad, she and Madge had gotten lost while hiking and they met then.
  11. Descent into the canyon. Riding the mule is hard for Ruby, but she won’t admit it because she doesn’t want to prove Dad right.  Mando is still trying to be friendly, but Ruby is standoffish.  The expedition all has rooms in a giant bunk house at Phantom Ranch – girls on one side and boys on the other.
  12. In the wee hours of the morning, Ruby has nightmares about the floating tree again, and also about a large cat. She wakes up pouring water from her pores onto the bunk mattress.  Madge wakes her up and helps her change her sheets so no one else knows.  Ruby is willing now to listen to Madge’s story that there’s someone abusing an Egyptian temple in the Grand Canyon, using it to do nefarious things to the goddess Sekhmet, but still doesn’t really believe it.  Madge claims to have a letter from Ruby’s mom, but Ruby says she doesn’t want to read anything from a woman who abandoned her.
  13. A large cat has prowled around Phantom Ranch in the night. The expedition moves to the first dig site.  Ruby will sleep in a tent with Grad student Anne.  There are weird lights on the cliff face that night in the distance.
  14. Mando confronts Ruby and tells her that he believes she’s a Daughter of Ra. He tells her she should do some exercises to find out if she is, and Ruby gets really mad at him.  She tells him she won’t do it.
  15. Digging commences. Ruby is stuck with menial jobs, but is glad for the chance to actually do something physical for once.  Roy and Anne don’t coddle her like Dad always did.  At night, though, she’s having CRAZY blood filled dreams and is having a hard time hiding them from Anne.
  16. Ruby has been thinking about the letter, and with her dreams getting worse, she finally asks Madge to read it. Mom lays out the whole thing for her.  She’s been selected by blood to protect the Grand Canyon temple, and she will know by the dreams and by all the horrible strife in the world that there’s something bad going on there.  Ruby thinks of the polio epidemic and the earthquake and all sorts of other things and realizes the signs point that direction.  All of them.  Mom says the only way to fix everything is to do a purge of the temple by channeling a whole bunch of water through it.  The amulet should keep her from dying, but the more people who help her channel the water, the easier it becomes.  If it isn’t done exactly right, though, everyone can drown.
  17. Mando assaults Ruby, practically drowning her in the river. But the amulet saves her.  She’s pissed beyond belief about it, but he says it’s proof that she really is a Daughter of Ra.  He needs her help to find the temple, because he’s been tasked by the Egyptian government to shut it down.  But it was such a secret program that even the new president can’t get any information on it. Ruby won’t help him.
  18. They move to the second dig site. Lights on the cliff-face still happen, and Ruby is now finding the paw prints of a large cat outside her tent in the morning.  Anne is VERY concerned.  Dad’s concerned too, but preoccupied with how the dig is going to spend much time worrying about Ruby.
  19. Ruby gets with Madge. She can no longer pretend this isn’t happening, and she decides to accept her role.  They’ll need to gather as many of the women together as possible to make the ritual easier.
  20. The girls in the group all have a council, and Ruby shows them all the crazy things she can do to prove it’s real. They decide they have to go to the temple and do the ritual.  Everyone is against Ruby going because of her polio, but eventually everyone realizes that Ruby is the only one who can do it.  Madge knows where it is because she was with Mom when she did the ritual and died.
  21. Mando stops Ruby and tells her that she shouldn’t investigate anything happening on the cliffs, that it’s for him to do. Ruby doesn’t listen.  The ladies do some practicing with Ruby (per suggestions in Mom’s letter) to prepare themselves.
  22. The women leave in the middle of the night and go towards the temple. Long chapter of traveling, in which Ruby has a hard time of it because of her polio.  Ruby thinks they’re being followed by Mando, but no one else seems to think so.
  23. They reach the Temple. With some spying, they realize that the temple is occupied by 2 or 3 Egyptians and there is a strange altar in the middle with offerings on it, in which an electric hologram (or what looks like it) of a cat woman is in agony.  Ruby is almost caught when Mando pulls her back into hiding.  It turns out he’s followed them for sure.
  24. The women are all pissed to see Mando. He’s worried, because he was sort of told what it should look like and this isn’t anything to do with it.  He doesn’t know what this is, it’s so much stronger.  The gals decide that it doesn’t matter what’s going on in the center there, if they just perform the ceremony then all they’re problems will be solved.  They let Mando stay in the room, but he can’t be a member of the channeling circle.  They camp on the cliff face, but will try to sneak in during the middle of the night.
  25. Sneaking into the temple to perform the ceremony goes awry. It all starts fine, but Ruby disturbs the set-up in the middle and accidentally unleashes Hathor from Sekhemet.  She comes after everyone like a wildcat, and the only way Ruby can contain her is to break the amulet.  Mando is especially hurt. As soon as the amulet is broken, it starts to rain.
  26. The rain continues, and when they take stock it looks like a lot of people are in bad shape. Ruby doesn’t know what to do.  Her only options at this point are to let Hathor continue eating the world, or die trying to do the ritual without the amulet (which probably won’t work anyway.  It didn’t for Mom).  The canyon below them starts to flood.
  27. Ruby has another dream where Mom gets her to perform the ceremony. She wakes up and starts to tend to the injured people.  She is sopping up Mando when he presses the scarab from the lab into her hands.  He stole it when he figured out what it was way back before they even left for the Grand Canyon.
  28. They set up the ritual, and everyone is in such rough shape that it seems impossible they’ll be able to be successful. Hathor is still a dominant force and tries to fight them, but they leave a few people out of the ritual to take care of her and fight her.  The ceremony works and it stops raining.
  29. Ruby doesn’t quite recover. She can’t seem to come back into herself, and she’s half dreaming.  She has a meeting with Ra and Sekhemet who thank her for her service.
  30. The frightened ladies finally bring Ruby back to consciousness. They travel back to Phantom Ranch, bedraggled.  Reunion with Dad, who was VERY worried about her.  When the ladies recover, they realize that the waters were healing waters and they heal faster.  Ruby finds that she still has polio and all, but she finds that she has greater mobility.  Whether that’s from all the exercise she’s been doing or not, she doesn’t know.  Mando asks for forgiveness for being such an ass and Ruby gives it to him.
  31. Eilogue: Ruby gains greater self-confidence and freedom.  The Polio and her status as not being like the 1950s magazine ladies no longer bothers her like it used to and she refuses to be the poster child for it any longer.  The Polio vaccine becomes available, and a new Egyptian president takes over.  Maybe scenes of her dancing with Ellen in the diner and chatting up Chad Haskins.  But also, the lesson she learned about being around intellectuals at college and how great that was really stuck, too.

 

 

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NaNoWriMo 2016

Well, it’s the time of the year again where I agonize over whether or not I’m going to do NaNoWriMo.  I don’t know why it’s even a debate anymore, really, except that it’s never a good time to drop whatever I’m currently working on for a new thing.  And to be honest, it’s getting a little overwhelming how many terrible first drafts of novels I have sitting around waiting for me to get to them.

Still, I’ve been doing this for six years now, and I’ve won every year.  There’s history in the game now, and I’m not going to break the streak.  Especially when I can tell myself all sorts of good stories about needing to incorporate more practice into my writing and how Nano is the ultimate practice.

On that note, I’ve decided I’m going to push through in October on getting as much done on my other projects as possible.  And then I’m going to see if I have what it takes to write a romance novel.  I’ve been reading enough of them, and I’ve been wondering for over a year now if I might make a go at writing something a bit feminist to join the immense pack of well written things that are a little bit suspect in message.  Nano is for finding things out.  If it turns out I can’t write a romance novel, then I’ve only spent a month on figuring that out.  The bonus of not being able to do it means that I also won’t have another hurt first draft of a novel sitting lonely on my computer.  The bonus of finding out that I can write one is that there will be more feminist romance out there in the world.  Maybe, eventually, if I ever get to editing it.

Because of course I’m being feminist about it.  And wildly American, surprisingly.  I’ve picked a really terrible title and am looking for better suggestions, if you have any.  It’s got to be punny, with bonus points for those that mash up second wave feminism and bawdiness (or first wave, or third… I’m not picky).  Brian came up with “Romancing The Vote” which almost works, but doesn’t quite.  Here’s my hastily scrubbed together cover and synopsis:

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In Suffrage or in Health:

Boston, 1891.  Charlotte keeps a close secret that would surely ruin her and all her marriage prospects if discovered: her pen name is Susan Catt and she’s the one behind all the incendiary suffragette articles in Frank Godwin’s Illustrated Magazine.  And with handsome but proper Henry Harcourt just about to propose it’s more dire than ever that Charlotte keep that other name from ever getting out.  After all, Henry is everything she said she wanted with plenty of gilded halls and money besides.  Isn’t he?

If only broke, uncouth Frank Godwin wasn’t so tempting… And so willing to accept her as herself.

Anyway, I’m happy I’m keeping to tradition.  I’ll have a full on outline in a few days, and then I just need November 1st to roll around so I can start cranking out the words.  It’s nice to be done with this so early in the game; quite a change from last year when I did this all without an outline 2 days before the deadline and imploded a week later. But I also know from much Nano experience that pre-planning alone is not enough to keep the implosions at bay.  Think good thoughts for me.

Need a writing buddy?  Come find me!  I’m Caseykins, and I will 100% buddy up to you back: http://nanowrimo.org/participants/caseykins

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Granite Point

I thought I might post some, you know, actual Writing on the blog in celebration of getting something published.  But most of the things that are fantasy-esque are being shopped right now and I can’t put them up.  I remembered, though, that I had written a few practice essays in my black Moleskine, and that some of them were pretty good.  So I typed one up for you. This was from a Steering The Craft exercise that was supposed to be full of lavish description.  When I think purple prose, I always think of the beach.

It’s a little bit maudlin, but I’m posting it anyway because I think it’s evocative. And I’m sure you can forgive me for being self-indulgent for an entry.  The happenings are true, but I don’t feel that dramatic about it in every day life (I’m really mostly a pragmatic person and would probably have made the same decision to sell.  I get it).  I’m the kid on the left, and that’s the cottage in the back.

Here it is.

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Granite Point:

There is a place in the east where the world is both gray and vibrant, the verdant forest rooting into brown fingers of granite which, in turn, grab hold of the blue, blue sea.  In between the tall fronds of marsh grass and the slap of ocean on the soft, gray sand is a brown road and a row of houses.  Two of them are red; one small and one large.

Round the corner in your car, past the black and white boulder and the green cottage it hides.  Slip from the shade of the trees, your tires crunching on the gravel as you press the car forward, and it’s laid out before you: the flat grasses, the pools of brackish water, the line of round trees in the distance where the forest coalesces again, the white heron standing alone, bright on the muddy landscape, the row of houses opposite.

Only the two red ones belong you; one big, one small.  The houses, the land they stand on, is your birthright.

The big house is the Juanita, says the black and gold sign.  Named for the whitest of great grandmothers, the most puritan on these puritanical shores.  The small house is nameless, and under the wooden floor in the tresses are too many nails where your uncle hammered them in distraction while Grampy built the house and raised the walls around them both.

There used to be a mansion on the headlands, out there where the silver beach ends and the granite grips the sea.  There used to be a mansion where the waves rush, unthinking, onto the rocks and their spray splashes at the sky.  See?  Says your mother as you walk on the point just before the sun sets.  See?  That house has borrowed the old foundation.  That is where the mansion existed, though it doesn’t anymore.  Consumed.

What happened to it?  It burned in a fire that swept along the shore and took the cottages with it.  The Juanita was saved because Juanita saved it, watering the roof with a garden hose and brushing burning embers onto the grass with a kitchen broom until she had to leave, before the forest started burning too and there was no way to get through the slim forest road.  The little cottage with no name hadn’t been built yet.

Juanita saved it for you.  She saved it so you could put your finger through the rusted bolt on the domed granite tent rising from the sand like an island and try to imagine a toe-headed boy named Bobby tying his boat here.  But it’s impossible to imagine white haired, red cheeked Grampy as anything but a grandfather.

She saved it so you could slip on the rocks, tearing up your shin on the barnacles, your red blood mingling with the waving seaweed.  The small green crab comes to investigate and you move your toes away from his pinchers.  The salt water stings.

She saved it for you so you could jump from tall Elephant Rock, squealing as the air rushed around you and your heart leapt to your throat, your ankles shuddering on the wet gray sand below.  You egg your cousins on, daring them to take the higher ledge, afraid to take it yourself.

She saved it so you could all visit the mudflats in your pristine matching bathing suits on picture day.  You find the mud under the slim layer of sand in the shallow water, like overbaked brownies but slick.  You slip, and your arm is half slime, your bathing suit brown.  You scrub in the salty water, but the mud stays as though it knows you belong to it.  Your transgression is immortalized when you grin, crouched next to your cousins on Bobby’s Tent while grownups flash away, the mud a stripe barely visible as you cheat sideways to hide it.

She saved it so you could rush around the house in the gathering storm in your pajamas, closing the windows on the driving rain, the wind wuthering around the corners of the house.  You pull the plush chairs, stuffing mounting an escape, up to the wide windows and cuddle beneath the ancient crocheted blankets with your mother and sister.  You watch the lightning strike over the sea and count for the thunder.  You think of the black divot in the rock, the size of a kitchen mixing bowl, where a lightning bolt burned the granite ages ago.  That happened when I was a girl, says your mother.  Did you see it happen? You ask her, dreaming of a great burning flash, sparks flying, a smoking, steaming hole left behind.  No, she says.  I wasn’t at the beach that night.  You fall asleep in the chair to the sound of the rain.

And yet, a hose, a broom, and determination have only done so much to save this place.  The ages pass and the flame of taxes in tourist country rise, sweeping the old cottages off the beach one by one.  The Juanita falls this time, razed for a new gray mansion that matches the others new millionaires have built on the shore.  The small cottage still stands, disguised by gray paint and manicured hedges that screen it from you. Consumed.

Your birthright didn’t last.

The puritans passed away from the gray but vibrant shore and left only the sand and the rocks for you to remember them by.  But sometimes you think that maybe this is enough.  After all, you do remember.

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Good News/Some Magic

It’s funny how bad news and good news come in exactly the same way.  I saw the email from Fundead Publications in my inbox and I didn’t want to read it at first in case it was the “no” that everyone else has been sending me.  But I saw the theme of their anthology months ago and knew my story was all but made for it: a Gothic Horror Christmas.  That sort of serendipity doesn’t come around that often.

If you didn’t guess already, the email was a YES!!!!!!!! My story, “There Must Have Been Some Magic,” will appear in their Christmas anthology, up for sale in late November (or maybe early December).  I’m not only excited to be included with such a talented group of writers, but I’m also thrilled that this is my first professional sale in which goods are exchanged.  🙂 New Year’s Resolution met!

The story is an odd mashup of street urchin meets horrific Frosty The Snowman/Pied Piper monster at an 1814 Frost Faire.  I’m very proud of it, and can’t wait for you to read it.

That’s all.  You may now go back to your regularly scheduled weekend.  I’m enjoying my tea with extra sugar in celebration.

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Fall Dreams

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It’s a weird time of year in Southern California.  The kind where I’m ready for Fall – for sweaters and boots, plenty of tea, rain dripping from the rafters, the Roger’s Red turning scarlet on the front of the house, cooler temperatures, fires in the fireplace.

But not likely to get any of it.

Well, I suppose I am getting cooler temperatures if you want to go with semantics.  Today it was 85 and not 100+.  But still, no sweaters, tea, fires, or rain.  I won’t get any real “Fall” until December, probably, the way things work around here, unless I decide to go to the pumpkin patch for the manufactured variety.  Christmas is about when the Roger’s Red decided to turn last year, and the giant tree on my lawn to drop its leaves.  Sigh.  It seems deplorably far away.

So instead I’m looking at pictures on my Tumblr feed and feeling envious.  I’m trying to think up stories that are Halloween themed.  I’m pulling out the spider earrings, which I can wear despite the temperature.  I’m contemplating fall jams.  Last year, the nutmeg persimmon jam I did was really good…  And there has to be something that can be done with the Ichabod Crane story that hasn’t been thought of before, right?  Maybe?  Maybe not.

In the garden, I’m taking stock of all the plants we lost to the heat.  The lemon tree made it through and so did most of the front garden, though the Butterfly Bush is traumatized and we lost a Sweet Pea hedge and a rose bush.  Don’t worry, the umbrella plant I abhor took its place.  And speaking of things I want to rip up, it’s time to get the tomatoes out, too, in prep for next year.  They’ve officially given up the ghost and aren’t fruiting.

That’s all from home.  I hope that wherever you are you can enjoy the flannel I can’t.

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Summer Reading List, 2016

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It’s that time again.  Or nearly that time.  We’re terribly late getting back to school in the state system, so there won’t be classes on this campus for another few weeks.  But the university near my house has started up, and so have all the kids I know.  And, of course, Hogwarts starts September 1st, so I’ll post the list a little early and call it appropriate.

The list is rather huge this time.  I’m blaming it on the fact that I go through bad books much faster than good ones.  And I also want to say you’re welcome for reading so much crap romance that you don’t have to wade through it yourself.  Here it is:

  1. Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater – CRAZY good. I’m officially obsessed with the Raven Cycle now, and this book is a big reason why.  The ladies of Fox Way take over a bit, and things start to go even crazier than before.
  2. The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater – Another book that’s crazy good beyond all reason. This is everything I was hoping the end of the series would be, and more.  And that’s saying something.
  3. The Usual Path to Publication by Shannon Page – Spoiler: there is no usual path. But this book is full of cathartic stories of joy, and also made me realize that there are more things I can be trying while pursuing my own path.
  4. Witches of Lichford by Paul Cornell – Also amazingly good, though too short to fully realize all the story lines. But I’m basically obsessed with the concept of big box store mixed with fae and devils, and it was well done. Can’t wait for the sequel.
  5. A Gentleman Never Tells by Eloisa James – I’ve read her back list, so now every time something new comes out it’s cause for celebration. This one was especially good, with plenty of house party fun, croquet, and general quippiness.
  6. The Earl Next Door by Charis Michaels – This was actually fairly good fun, if a little unbelievable. It felt like one of those books people make fun of where there’s a mean brother, and a family secret, and a chase up the moors, and a graveyard, and a haunted house, and… but all in all a solid effort at that type of thing.
  7. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – I think this is one of my favorite books right now. Cath’s crazy makes me feel less crazy myself.  Or that there’s hope for me, at least.  And you have to love Levi.
  8. My Lucky Life in and Out of Show Business by Dick Van Dyke – An interesting read for anyone who’s a fan of Dick Van Dyke’s work. He’s brutally honest and reveals all sorts of fun in addition to the hard.  Written simply, but good.
  9. Cold Hearted Rake by Lisa Kleypas – Okay, so I guess we should have a talk about Lisa Kleypas. I’m reading Kleypas because I’m out of Eloisa James and Julia Quinn and haven’t found anything else of their same caliber yet.  I’m not 100% on board with Kleypas because there’s a lot of: woman – “No!” man – does it anyway; woman – “ooh, nice.”  Which isn’t my favorite, even in historical romance.  No means no. That being said, the rest of the book is usually so awesome that I’m able to go on.  And romance novels are my escape now, so there’s no not reading them.  This one has nice reformed scoundrel propensities and much making out in corners.
  10. Marrying Winterborne by Lisa Kleypas – Probably one of my favorites of the Kleypas variety. Misunderstandings and class differences keep 2 people apart.  Bonus points for lady doctor who literally kicks ass, and much department store fun.
  11. Suddenly You by Lisa Kleypas – Interesting premise of hired escort that doesn’t really pan out like it should. It was fine, but nothing to write home about.
  12. Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater – I feel like this is everything I wished Twilight was; a more feminist version of teens in a small town dealing with the supernatural. But at the end of the day, it’s a book I’ve already read.  The writing is BEAUTIFUL, though.
  13. Linger by Maggie Stiefvater – Things in Linger get a little bit more original, but not much. Still gorgeous writing with a good emotional pay off at the end, but it’s also still something I feel like I’ve seen.
  14. Mine ‘Till Midnight by Lisa Kleypas – I do kinda LOVE the Hathaway sisters. This one has a Romani hero and is super steamy.  The best of historical Kleypas, for sure.
  15. Any Duchess Will Do by Tessa Dare – I mean, it was a cute idea that tried to be a bit My Fair Lady but ultimately didn’t succeed that well.
  16. The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black – HOLY CRAP THIS BOOK WAS GOOD. I always forget that I’ve never read anything by Black that I didn’t like, and she blows me away every time.  This one is sort of a dark but modern take on the Tam Lin fairy tale.
  17. Seduce Me At Sunrise by Lisa Kleypas – The Hathaway sisters book 2. Nice stoic hero and recovering heroine who have to re-connect after long absence.
  18. Tempt Me At Twilight by Lisa Kleypas – Hathaway sisters book 3. This one featured a hero who was a little too forceful for my tastes.  But, you know.  Still okay.
  19. Married By Morning by Lisa Kleypas – The governess in this series is my favorite, and her quippyness with the hero insures that there’s plenty of fun to go around.
  20. The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn – A re-read. The Brigertons are my favorite.
  21. An Offer From A Gentleman by Julia Quinn – I really could say the same about all of the Quinn that’s below…
  22. Romancing Mr. Bridgerton by Julia Quinn
  23. When He Was Wicked by Julia Quinn
  24. Lean Thinking by James P. Womack and Daniel Jones – A read for work. It was fairly dry, but I do hope that it will lead to more streamlining within the university.  The ideas were good, if you can stick with it.
  25. Love In The Afteroon by Lisa Kleypas – Hathaways still. Kleypas left my favorite heroine for last.  Beatrix finally gets her own book, and it’s a good one.  She is a seriously strange lady and I love her for it.
  26. The Coldest Girl In Cold Town by Holly Black – A re-read. I forgot how violent and heartbreaking this book was.  But it’s still as good as ever, if more disturbing than I remembered it.
  27. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling – Oh man. I don’t know.  I didn’t really enjoy it, but I almost did.  It was nice to be back at Hogwarts and in the Wizarding world, but it moved too fast and was ultimately a bad story line, though the fact that it dealt with some real issues redeemed it a bit.
  28. Devil In Winter by Lisa Kleypas – Another book in which the hero is rather too forceful, though I did enjoy a lot of the novel anyway. It deals with gamblers and prostitutes, which isn’t something most romance novels do, so that was a change.
  29. Secrets of a Summer Night by Lisa Kleypas – Yeah, I don’t know. This one is basically a bunch of vultures lying in wait for a girl to go bankrupt so they can schtup her without having to marry her.  Eventually the hero redeems himself, but it’s not my favorite.  The relationship between the 4 girls, though, is a gem.
  30. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell – A re-read, and another one of my favorites. I’ve been recommending this one to everyone I can.  You should go read it.
  31. It Happened One Autumn by Lisa Kleypas – Fairly good. The usual unsuitable manners vs. impeccable reputation thing, which Kleypas does well.
  32. Uprooted by Naomi Novik – Made me fall in love with fantasy novels all over again. It was exactly what I wanted and reminded me of McKinley and LeGuin while still being something totally new.  Go read NOW.
  33. Scandal in Spring by Lisa Kleypas – Again, the wallflowers are good gals, but I didn’t ultimately love the book.
  34. Storyteller by Kate Wilhelm – Basically a memoir of the Clarion Writer’s Workshop that made me yearn to go even more than I already did. A great read.
  35. The Lady Most Likely by Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, and Connie Brockway – Oh so much fun. It’s basically about 3 couples who fall in love at the same house party with the premise of all of them being on one guy’s “marriageable” list and slowly being whittled away. It reads like they had a blast writing it, and it’s very well done.
  36. No Place for a Dame by Connie Brockway – On the strength of the last book and the fact that this was free via Kindle Unlimited, I decided to Try Connie Brockway. Her books are solid, but nothing at all to write home about.  I would pick up Kleypas before I would pick up Brockway again.
  37. Highlander Undone by Connie Brockway – Again, another free one. Fine, but nothing exciting.
  38. A Ring of Endless Light by Madeline L’Engle – A re-read. I’m in love with this book and have been for a long time. The Austin’s live just as I’d like to, and it says different things to me as I get older, which is the mark of a good book.  I’ve been reading this one regularly since I found it in junior high.
  39. All Through The Night by Connie Brockway – Well, the hero actively locks up the heroine in his bedroom in this book, so there’s that. But there’s some thievery and other fun beforehand.
  40. Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas – Holy Crap this is the book I’ve been waiting for from Kleypas for all the time I’ve been reading her work. It has all her perks –amazing use of language, fantastical richness that still somehow seems likely, strong men, steamy sex – with none of the no/yes stuff that plagues the historical romances.  Read immediately.
  41. Sugar Daddy by Lisa Kleypas – Another of the Travis series, and my favorite of them. Because of the past of the heroine, it reminded me a little bit of Kingsolver’s Bean Trees (as unlikely as that is). Another read now, if you like the romance novel thing.
  42. Blue Eyed Devil by Lisa Kleypas – Again, a Travis series novel. This one has some pretty egregious domestic violence, so trigger warning.  But it’s a crazy good book, and the heroine gets an amazing redemption.
  43. Brown Eyed Girl by Lisa Kleypas – Who doesn’t love the wedding planner trope? This book is the conclusion of the Travis series.  Good and still a read immediately, though I liked some of the other Travis books just a tad better.
  44. Pitch Perfect by Mickey Rapkin – I’m torn on this one, because it was really interesting and lots of fun. But Rapkin uses some metaphors and phrasing that kinda offended me.  And for the boys groups it’s all about getting some, and for the girl groups it’s all about managing the drama.  Ultimately I’m glad I read it, though I did leave feeling annoyed.  You can definitely see why they made a movie of it.
  45. The Writing and Critique Group Survival Guide by Becky Levine – This book is probably great if you’re new to writing and critiquing, and does have great advice on starting or joining a group. That being said, most of the book is dedicated to teaching you how to crit, which I’m already good with. I didn’t get a lot out of it, but I would expect that others would.
  46. Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake by Sarah MacLean – Holy crap this book is GOOD.  Basically, a spinster decides that her respectability isn’t doing her any good so she decides to do what she’s always wanted to.  And keeps running into the hero while she’s up to the inappropriate tasks.  Steamy and SO fun.  Just ignore the cheesy name, okay?
  47. Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord by Sarah MacLean – Awesomeness confirmed.  This one features a house full of spunky girls who are all struggling to keep their manor house from ruin while offering sanctuary to girls in trouble.  Bonus points for hot statuary.

As always, happy reading!

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