Saturday, July 12, 2014

Weekend Writing Warriors: 7/13/14 I'm no shrinking violet!

Hello all. Because I’ve been getting such great comments on my WIP novel (tentatively entitled Night Shift) I’m continuing immediately from last week’s post. Important to know for this week’s excerpt: The demon Thaumiel said something quite unexpected about Devorah’s father, so Devorah stopped Kazimir from destroying him. But then Kaz drove the dagger into Thaumiel anyway, the building they were in began to collapse, and Kaz (in demon form) grabbed Devorah and flew out of the building. 

She realizes they’ve landed in the woods well behind the building which is now showing flames. Two more important things to know: the collapsed building is the synagogue where Devorah sometimes went with her mom so it means a lot to her; and, Kaz is always weaker in human form because his demon persona uses a lot of energy. Oh and, just before they left the synagogue, Devorah flung herself against Kaz to stop him from destroying Thaumiel and Kaz’s dagger struck his own leg. That’s minor in demon form but in human form, a bit more serious :-) Collected excerpts for this story are here

The only sound was our own breathing; through the trees, a yellow-orange glow silhouetted the crumbled heap of the synagogue. I sat up, gritted my teeth, and threw a punch at Kazimir’s face as hard as I could.

A split second before it connected I realized he’d changed from his demon form back to human, but I couldn’t stop the train. My hand felt like it broke apart and I yelped. Kazimir’s head swung to the side; he collapsed.  

Just as well. I cradled my throbbing hand. I hope you wake up with one motherfucking headache!

Ouch! Our Devorah has a mean streak :-) Thanks so much for coming by! I love and appreciate your comments. For more excerpts from truly talented writers, be sure to visit the Weekend Writing Warriors homepage -- prepare to be amazed, swept away, pulled to the edge of your seat, and engulfed by LOLing … or is that L-ingOL? Acronyms have limitations! I hope your coming week is a happy one.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Weekend Writing Warriors: 6/29/14 Where are you taking me??

I don’t know about you guys, but summer’s here with a vengeance for us. Officially we hit a high temperature of 89 Fahrenheit though with the humidity, it felt at least ten degrees hotter. Still, after a winter with two blizzards, I am not complaining ;-) All is well now, because it’s time for Weekend Writing Warriors!

Don’t know what that is? We invite writers—published or not—to sign our linky list and then post 8 sentences from something you’ve written. Then every Sunday we blog hop down the list and across the world. You may have had fun before but I guarantee you’ve never had this kind of  fun! Sci fi, historical murders, love gone wrong and sometimes gone right—it’s a grab bag and any reader’s dream.

So, picking up with my WIP tentatively titled Night Shift, directly from last week. Our heroine Devorah may have just lost her opportunity to find out what really happened when her dad was killed, then she notices the building they’re all in is about to come apart at the seams. Collected excerpts for this story are here. Kaz is still in demon form, wings included. It’s a chilly time of year for these folks, hence the reference to coldness.

Creative punctuation is happening here!
Kazimir slid both arms around me and hauled me off the floor. I kept moving upwards, fast enough to make me light-headed; I squeezed my eyes shut. 

An awful crashing went on below me, then to my left. My feet dangled into nothingness. The swaying was worse than the boat trip I’d taken when we got caught in a storm. Frosty wind raked across me, making it hard to get enough air into my lungs. Kazimir’s constricting grip on me didn’t help; gasping, I pummeled his arms. My whole head burned in the cold. 

We thumped onto the ground, throwing leaves into my face.
She’s out of the collapsing building, but now what? Where are they? As if I’m going to tell you right now, heehee!

Don’t forget to visit other 8sunday-ers. We thrive on hearing from our fellow writers and anybody who wants to leave a helpful comment. I can’t thank you guys enough for continuing to stop in to my blog. I’m overcommitted in Real Life right now and that means my online time has been spotty, but I get lovely comments every week. So thank you. I appreciate every visitor so much J

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Weekend Writing Warriors 6/21/2014: Breaking your promise, now this!

Hello everybody J Happy summer, at last! Thanks for coming back, even when I don’t post consistently! I’m continuing with my Draft 1 work-in-progress, tentatively titled Night Shift although I’m skipping ahead just a bit. Kazimir has the demon Thaumiel trapped in the basement of a synagogue. Kaz has made it clear he wants to destroy the demon as payback not just for the death of Devorah’s dad, but the death of Kaz’s wife as well. Devorah has interrupted Kaz as he was about to stab the demon which would have broken Kaz’s promise to her to see justice done for her father’s death. Kaz agrees that Devorah is right when she says turning Thaumiel over to the angels would be a better punishment than simply destroying him.

Thaumiel’s on his back on the floor, with Kaz straddling his chest holding a dagger. Devorah is next to Kaz, having thrown herself against him to stop him from stabbing the demon. Collected excerpts for this story are here. Kaz speaks to his prisoner at the start of this excerpt.
“Know that you would be consigned to oblivion were it not for the truth. An eternity spent in the Light will be far more painful for you. My heart rests.” 

“Fool, you will be betrayed!” Thaumiel ranted. “Your suffering will surpass mine!” 

“It already has.” Kazimir drove the dagger into the demon’s chest.

An electric shock ran through me—he just said he wouldn’t do it! 

Thaumiel howled loud enough to echo, straining to move. Around me, a quiet rumble got louder; I looked up to see some sections of the walls were missing plaster, and cracks blossomed sideways deep into the walls.

Uh oh, somebody’s in trouble now J For excerpts from more stories than you can shake a stick at, visit Weekend Writing Warriors.  I guarantee you’ll find two or three or several stories you just have to follow! On an unrelated note, did you know that parakeets can get arthritis in their jaws? That’s what my veterinarian told me when I took Herschel in to have his beak trimmed. Sometimes they get arthritis and that’s why they stop chewing on things like cuttlebones that normally keep the beak in good shape. Huh! Learning all the time.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Weekend Writing Warriors: 6/8/14 Someday I'll make you pay

Hello again, peeps. Watching Stanley Cup Finals 2014 but taking time between periods to give you my current excerpt for Weekend Writing Warriors. Keep in mind, this is all Draft 1. I’m in the process of revamping the plot so some of these scenes will not stay, but I have a feeling some version of this scene will. Collected excerpts for this story are here.

Set-up for this scene: Kazimir has set up a trap for the demon Thaumiel. Devorah knows about it but didn’t expect to find Kaz in a frightening demon form she’s never seen before. Kaz enticed Devorah to join the group of demons called Crossers by promising to help her find out who is ultimately responsible for her father’s death; here, Kaz has Thaumiel caught in fire chains, and Thaumiel has just said something unexpected regarding Devorah’s dad. It’s clear to her that Thaumiel knows something. Kaz, however, was about to destroy Thaumiel so Devorah had to throw herself against him, knocking Kaz off balance. Some unhappy words are exchanged and Devorah realizes she cannot reason with Kaz while he’s in demon form. 

Somewhere under that horrid demon skin was a human soul, if only I could reach it.  “Kaz. You promised me I’d get answers. I’ll never trust you again if you break that promise.  I nearly got dragged into hell twice while helping you, and I don’t expect to be thanked by having a sacred promise broken.” My voice shook. If he brushed me aside, somehow, someday, I’d make him pay. 

I’m liking my girl Devorah. She does not take stuff laying down! Hope you guys are enjoying the WeWriWa blog hop. I can’t wait to get to it myself, to find out what everybody’s working on J  

Do you guys have any version of a local food fest? Here we have Taste of Buffalo, billed as the largest two-day food festival in the U.S. I’m planning to go to search for more Kahlua gelato—if you’ve never had it, you are seriously missing the best thing since people first discovered how to make ice by themselves!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Writers paying it forward

I've been tagged in a meme that asks some pointed questions of writers. It's a neat "pay it forward" idea put out there by Frank "Chip" Etier, who's been a steady contributor at Weekend Writing Warriors. Some peeps I've come to think of as good friends were first encountered on WeWriWa or its predecessor, Six Sentence Sunday. Writing is, at its core, a solitary pursuit but there's no way you can do it effectively by being 100% alone, IMHO.

What am I working on? --not a simple question! Define "working on". I'm currently engaged in plot wrangling on the novel I started for NaNo 2013. The working title is Night Shift. It involves demons, humans, and angels. I'm currently redefining it because I wasn't able to do any planning or plotting before having to jump into NaNo; 34 chapters in, I had to admit that I simply can't write a novel without any planning. I mean I had some general ideas on what to do with the plot but that's nowhere near enough planning. 

In the process of learning how to write better, I joined two online critique sites: Critique Circle and Scribophile. Each has slightly different things to offer and both are worthwhile. The more I learned about the writing process in general, the more I would think how to apply the various lessons to to the novel that's on my back burner, Street Glass. Neal and the boys have been in my head for some 30 years. I badly want to write that story when my skills are improved, not when I'm still a writing newbie. I kind of think of Street Glass as my fine wine--and you know what they say about wine, do not open it before it's time. Or something like that! 

So I could make a case for saying I'm working on two projects more or less at the same time, though I'm only actively plotting one of them.

How does my work differ from others of its genre? --also a tough question, even if I stick to Night Shift because I haven't read other stories with demons and angels. I do that on purpose. I don't want to accidentally pick up anybody else's plot, characters, or writing voice. Whatever I write, I want it to come from my weird brain only! But I will say that my demons and angels, while having certain things in common with Christianity, do not reflect any existing religion. My angels always refer to God with ambiguous titles like Holy of Holies and One Without End. I try to even steer clear of using a gender pronoun when referring to God. 

Even the demons are not meant to depict Christian ones. Kazimir explains to Devorah that the being she's familiar with as "Satan" is actually much older than that title (and Satan is really a title, not a name). I'm basing my demons on those found in a particular ancient mythology. 

Why do I write what I write? --holy cow, pun intended, how do I know? If I want to wax philosophical, I could say that people like me who felt ignored and belittled as children turned to books for comfort because those "people" were always welcoming. They always invited me into their world without any hesitation, it seemed. Once I realized how wonderful it was to get lost in books, it was a short hop to creating my own stories. 

Because now, I hold the power! muwahahaha! Of course most fiction, particularly the fantasy sort I like best, tends to need the main characters to suffer somehow in order to keep increasing the tension--this isn't something I made up, it's advice given by well-published authors, and successful agents and editors. I not only bring my characters to tears, I chase them up the proverbial tree and plop snarling wolves at the base of the tree, then I fire flaming arrows into it! 

I can put them through heart-breaking times and help them find love everlasting. Bringing these people to "life" is the most amazing thing I've ever done. They're all different facets of me and I can see myself in them sometimes, but other times, I swear I've tapped into some other dimension :D

How does my writing process work? --well, I wish I knew :D I can say this much--I cannot pants a true story. No, going down that road only leads me into a hedge maze. A story is more than just a string of events--there has to be a coherent plot; a start, a middle, and an end; there should be some sort of climax or high point; and I think the whole thing should mean something. Without some plotting, I just have a narrative of events and emotions that don't lead anywhere. 

I can also say that my stories are character-driven. I'm not really into troop movements across the continent, hard-core science, or predictable plots. What grabs me first is a fascinating person--why they're fascinating is subjective, but overall I'm attracted to characters who are different from most people around them. 

In Street Glass, Neal's a card-carrying gang member who desperately wants out of that lifestyle. What traps him is the rule that if you leave and the gang catches you, you are very dead. His opposite in almost every way, Sandy is the drummer in a rock band. He lives the high life but also carries a secret guilt. When Neal kidnaps him, Sandy thinks all he wants is to get back home safe and sound, but then he sees a chance for personal redemption--or is it more than simply personal? 

For Night Shift, as I said I'm retooling the plot, but the basic idea is that Devorah is the "point of view" character. She comes from a mixed Jewish-Christian family and isn't strongly drawn to either faith. When her father, the police chief, is gunned down she feels she's lost her biggest supporter and the person who helped her make sense of the craziness that is life. But she doesn't take anything lying down, so when she's recruited into a group of demons who are also servants of the Light, she willingly reinvents herself. She has to maintain her cover as a demon and finds that sometimes, she likes it. 

I get seed ideas by asking the age-old question "What if?" For Street Glass, I got the initial idea from the first verse of the song Baba O'riley by The Who. To me, the verse sounds like two different people talking, and I wondered, What if those two people met? 

With Night Shift, I was drawn to stare at the front porch of a house, shadowed by a fully leafed-out tree. The emptiness seemed to be waiting for somebody. What if that spot was where some dodgy guy came to meet somebody, and what if one of them was up to no good? That led to a scene in draft 1 where Devorah first meets Kazimir in a cemetery, and he does look pretty dodgy to her. I may ditch the scene in the next draft, but without having thought of it, I wouldn't have the story at all. 

So there you are :) I think all good writers are basically nosy people :) I'm off to tag three writer friends of mine to keep this thing going. Although before I go, to bring this back around to where I started, I've been able to progress with both novels because I've given and received critiques. Getting them has obvious benefits in that readers point out things they feel don't quite work well, and things that work great. Giving them has more subtle benefits; you gradually train your "ear" to what sounds good and what doesn't, and you realize that some of the mistakes you see in other people's work are the same ones you make yourself--and then you realize that you need to start taking your own advice! 

I've gotten some truly wonderful compliments on my writing. That would never have come about without the give and take that happened when I got active with other writers. One of them, when she found out my laptop died and I couldn't replace it, sent me a mini laptop she was no longer using. For free. Simply offered it to me. Writers have kind of a bad rap, people think of them as loners who drink too much and talk to themselves. But they're some of the most generous people on Earth. I'm so honored and humbled to be part of that group. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Weekend Writing Warriors 5/25/14: the weight of utter hopelessness

Can you believe it? Not only another Sunday, but it's almost June :-) I live in a cold-winter climate and am ecstatic that there are leaves on the trees again!

Picking up with my NaNo story tentatively titled Night Shift; the last excerpt I posted is here. Devorah has found the room where Kazimir is attempting to trap the demon Thaumiel. She's gotten in a bit over her head, though, as a large shadow drops into the middle of the circle she's facing. Kaz and his two friends, all in their demon forms, are inside the circle.

Turns out I've got 7 sentences this time! I seem to be having issues with going all the way to 8, but at least I'm staying within the guidelines this way. Collected excerpts for this story are here.
The shadow rose up to brush the ceiling with two curved horns and a pair of wings made of black fire. It turned to nail me with bright red fire eyes. 

My breath caught in my throat. Almighty God, please help me! The weight of utter hopelessness pressed me closer to the floor.  Try as I might, I couldn’t take my eyes off the dark terror only a few feet away.

Devorah Moore, said a deep rolling voice in my head, your soul is mine.
This whole thing is Draft 1. I've run into problems with the plot and am considering what to do about that. At this point, I'm thinking Draft 1 may end up being backstory. Wish me luck :-)

For some fabulous excerpts from pretty creative writers, hit the WeWriWa blog hop. We have a lot of fun with a huge variety of stories. There's never a dull Sunday with this group!

It's Memorial Day weekend in the States. Please spare a thought and a prayer for all the soldiers who have given their lives in service to their country. If you know a veteran, take the time to say "thank you" in person -- they may never have heard that before, and they really deserve to be thanked.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Learning all the time

The interesting thing about actively working on one novel-in-progress and having another in the back of my mind is that as I get help on the active one, I sometimes think of things that will help the inactive one. I can't really give a specific example. It's more of a cumulative process. Sure, sometimes I'll remember something a character said or did and the thought will pop into my head: Oh, I see why that's weak. I'll have to change that. But more often I'll remember the thought process that went into having a character say or do something, and realize that the process itself is lacking.

My other novel-in-progress (maybe I should start using NIP instead of WIP? *laff*) is kind of a self-discovery/coming-of-age story. One of the main characters is 18 when the story starts and is 24 or 25 when it ends. This is Street Glass. I got most of Neal's motivations and goals figured out, but when I put most of the first draft up for critiquing, people had a lot of trouble with Sandy who came off as just too nice of a guy without a good reason for wanting to pull Neal out of a dead-end life.

I put a bit of an edge to Sandy's personality and gave him a temper. Then I gave him a personal reason for wanting to help Neal (in the form of a cousin whose death Sandy felt was his fault). Both of those changes helped but still didn't feel like enough to readers.

That had me perplexed and even annoyed for quite a while. Annoyed because it was all so clear in my head and I couldn't understand why I wasn't conveying it to readers.

Now though, I can see the problems I had with Sandy were because I don't know him as well as I need to. Neal has always been easier for me to get emotions and thoughts across to readers. The thing is, I've written many scenes with Neal just for myself, because I like him so much I wanted to watch him react in scenes that are not intended to make it into the novel.

I did that a little with Sandy but decided I had him all figured out so didn't need to find anything else out about him. Oh, youth and inexperience!

Ironically, it's the same problem I currently have with Devorah in Night Shift. I like her well enough but have never felt I know what makes her tick. Kaz became much more interesting; bits of his backstory kept popping out at unexpected moments, pulling me right into his character. Devorah, well, not so much. Again I like her (quite a bit) and it didn't seem like I needed any more motivation for her.

Surprise! Then I got well-meaning advice like "pretend Oprah is interviewing your character". Sure, in general I can see how that could help. But I have no idea what Oprah would ask my character! Any real-life interviewer is a distinct personality that I can't just pretend to be. Generic, static lists of questions don't help me either because they're not tailored to my character.

So I got myself into the Plot Busters group at Scribophile where the purpose is to fix plots gone awry by looking at specific elements of character and plot (as well as story, which is different than plot).

What are some things you've gotten stuck on? Do characters give you more trouble than plot? Can you "pants" a story, or do you need to plot the whole way? I can't "pants" anything coherent. Do character interviews work for you? Do you use plot templates? This inquiring mind wants to know :)