Sunday, December 4, 2011

My 2011 NaNoWriMo Report

That was an ... interesting ... experiment.

The NaNoWriMo project is when authors try to write 50,000 words in 30 days – namely, the month of November. Once upon a time, when paper was expensive, 50,000 words would have been a novel, so they've started calling November "Write a Novel" month.

I managed to write a whole 4,424 words. Not even a short story, for me. Goodness, I think I've had one or two individual DAYS that were more productive than that.

I am reminded of back when I was a pre-teen, and I decided I was getting too heavy. No more ice cream, no more shakes, no more ... ! But as soon as I told myself that, all I could think of was how good a banana split would taste, how cooling a chocolate shake would be... I had no will power under that bombardment, and sure enough, I gained another pound or two before I weighed myself again. How depressing! So, since that tactic didn't work, I then decided that I could have all the ice cream and shakes I wanted. And suddenly, I didn't want them. (I doubt if I lost any weight, though. I was, after all, a growing girl.)

I think that tactic only works once. After that, your brain figures out you're just trying to trick it and doesn't respond the way you want it to.

And then there's the comment I've heard that as soon as my hobby (writing) becomes a job, it will no longer be fun. And certainly, this past month, I found myself distracted by the silliest things - fingernails that HAD to be filed down, papers that had to be sorted, dishes that had to be washed, and a job that I had to go to.... I will have to watch this particular tendency if I ever find myself facing actual deadlines.

What am I coming away with after this first dip into NaNoWriMo? The thought that NEXT November, it will be a lot easier to write MORE words than it would be to write FEWER!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Woman on the Dock

If you read and enjoyed my first published e-book earlier this year, then maybe (hopefully) you've been wondering when my next one would be published. Actually, as the days ticked away, becoming weeks and then months, I started to wonder myself. The manuscript was polished. The cover was chosen. The CEO of MoonPhaze Publishing was someone I'd known most of my life; we could share anything and work through any problems, so what was the problem?

Tommee is a lot like me. She knows she's capable, but starting a new endeavor can make her ... nervous. In all her life, she never really thought of herself as a potential entrepreneur. "I'm not even sure how to spell it, let alone be one!" she told me.

We had worked together to get that first e-book published. There is an entire book giving instructions on preparing your manuscript to upload to smashwords, and even though Tommee is just as good with Word as I am, it happened that she read the instructions out loud, step by step, and I did them. If I remember correctly, it took us nearly two full days to read, interpret, and do. We assured each other that next time would be easier, because the steps would be more familiar.

In the meantime, however, I took on a temp job that took up my days, and Tommee just kept ... procrastinating. The steps wouldn't be that familiar to her; she had done the reading. So in that funny little half-week before Thanksgiving, we spent the evenings together, preparing the manuscript. This time I read, and she did the formatting. By the end of Wednesday, we were ready to attach the cover, but then we decided it needed a little tweaking. Too bad, we thought. We would have liked for the e-book to be available on Thanksgiving. But we sent a message to the cover artist and put the computer file away.

After the remains of the turkey and other holiday dishes were put away on Thursday, I was very surprised to hear that the cover was back! We got together, attached the new and improved cover, took a deep breath and hit the button to upload to smashwords. It wouldn't go! What a let-down. We tried several times that evening, in between checking the trouble-shooting suggestions, but it got late, and I had to work the next day, so we put it away. Again.

What all this rambling has been leading up to is (drum roll, please) my second e-book is published!

The title is Woman on the Dock. It is another Atlan short story, and the cost is $.99, the minimum we could price it. You do get to read the first 30% for free to decide if you want to pay for it. I hope you like it.

And if you like this one, there's still more Atlan stories coming! Tommee has decided the next will be out no later than July 1, 2012. Hopefully, with the experience of doing the formatting of this one, and a deadline in mind, she won't procrastinate so much. Well, here's hoping!

Sunday, November 20, 2011


MoonPhaze Publishing is just about ready to post my next 'book' onto I understand they just want to double-check the title page, add a few lines of advertising to the rear to tell readers what's coming, attach the cover and then upload it. With any luck, you'll be able to read this next offering on Thanksgiving Day, maybe as you sit and digest turkey and dressing.

This is another story about Atlans, and as I've mentioned in other blogs, there are 27 known 'types' of Atlans. The main character of this story is a BlackBird, an Atlan premier warrior. Why would they name their warriors after a small bird?

In the very beginning, they didn't. BlackBirds have black hair, black eyes, and a black birthmark in the shape of a sword – all the signs of Crassus, their God of War. But since the Atlans don't get along with that particular god, they didn't want to name their warriors anything that might be a perversion of his name. Also, it took some time for the Atlan population to grow from the 3 original girls to a population that had several of most types, and for them to figure out that each combination had a different set of Powers. So, for the first few generations, the group of Atlans with black hair and black eyes were called 'Blackies'.

Even on their remote island home, the Atlans knew the small, black birds that came seasonally from the north. At first, they were thought to just be small birds. Then a pair of large birds of prey came to the island and set upon all the smaller birds; the white canaries, the orange finches, the multi-colored parrots ... but not the small black birds. Intrigued, the Blackies watched the birds of prey, prepared to hunt the larger birds to keep them from decimating the populations of the smaller birds. But the raptors evaded the first arrow, and after that, they both stayed out of range of Atlan bows. They must have been hunted in other places.

Then they spotted one of the raptors, orange finch in his claw, under attack ... by one of the small black birds! The raptor looped and spun, its beak snapped a hair's breath from black feathers again and again, but the blackness was a whirlwind, flying circles around the bigger bird, darting in over and over to pull off a feather here, take a nip of skin there. The finch was released and fell a few feet before it got its wings functioning and hurried off. The BlackBird kept up its attack until the raptor straightened, spread its wings wide and set off for the distance.

It was a hard thing to believe, but after seeing it a few more times, and after comparing the all-black Blackies' fighting skills to those of the rest of the tribe, they began to call their warriors BlackBirds. They were two creatures of one kind.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

New Ideas

"Where do You Get Your Ideas?" is a common question to ask authors. I've even read newsletter articles on where to look for ideas. So far, I haven't had any problem coming up with ideas for my stories; I have quite a backlog of stories waiting for me to write them. Basically, if you just pay a little attention to the world around you, and turn your imagination loose, the ideas should form.

For instance, this morning I heard a story on NPR about a music professor who got together with one of his former students, who was working in cancer research. The professor had some potential evidence that pulsing bursts of certain sonic frequencies at germs and protozoa had a tendency to kill the creatures. The two have been conducting experiments on various types of cancer cells, which they hope to write up soon, provoking others to duplicate their experiments. Nobody else has thought to try this new line of treatment; they were all trying to 'tweak' methods that others had already tried. I didn't realize, at first, that they were talking about sound frequencies so high a human couldn't hear them, and I day dreamed about a future where sick people were treated by musicians. Have leukemia? Listen to an hours worth of baroque composition. Kidney stones? 57 minutes a day for 3 days of Nordic opera. These days, we complain about pills and medicine that taste bad. Can you imagine having an illness such that the treatment was listening to a type of music you detested? Or what if they couldn't even disguise it as music, and you had to listen to discords and blackboard screechings? How long could you put up with that before you decided the cure was worse than the illness?

I read a short article on the web news today about Keplar-18, a star about the same size as our own sun. They've found 3 planets around it so far, and the smallest is about twice the size of Earth. All 3 of these planets are within Mercury's relative orbit, and they take 4.5 days, 7 days and 14 days to orbit Keplar-18. I've always had a hard time imagining what it would be like to stand on Mercury, so I really have to work to imagine standing on one of these planets, just from the perspective of being that close to the sun, of traveling that fast around it. Of course, there's no air in space, so technically, there wouldn't be any 'wind' whipped up by the speed, but exactly where does the sun's corona end? Are these planets close enough that the star's flames might occasionally lick at them, and might those licks be felt as a wind? If there's any kind of life on these planets, would such licks try to eliminate that life, or would that life see those flames as a good thing, like rain or sunshine?

Two ideas in one day. They're just ideas so far, and may not get any further than that. My point is, ideas are all around you. You just need to leave yourself open to seeing them.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

When the Words Don't Flow

I decided to try the NaNoWriMo challenge this year. At the time, 50,000 words didn't sound like it would be that hard. It might take 3 of those to actually make one of my rough draft novels, and I had a whole month. But I hadn't participated before, so I didn't make any grand announcement of it. I'd just be another author trying to fulfill a personal challenge. I did tell my husband, so he (maybe) wouldn't be too upset when I didn't spend my evenings and weekends doing housework. (It isn't that I normally do a LOT of housework, but just in case I got caught up in writing, and didn't get to any of it...)

I've had bad writing days when the words didn't flow, and I've had good writing days when my fingers could hardly trip over the keys fast enough. But so far this November, for this challenge, I have had mostly dismal writing days. Two days, I got no words written at all. One day I wrote a bit more than 300 words, another almost 700 words, and a third, around 1000 words. Today – a weekend day when I went for groceries this morning, and was home alone this afternoon, so hopefully I could focus – I have ... so far ... written 900 words.

Why are the words not flowing? As I told my hub when he asked that question, I'm in the middle of a highly emotional scene for my heroine, and since I always seem to identify pretty closely to one of my characters, that makes it emotional and difficult for me as well.

Hubby suggested I set that scene aside for now and move on to a later one. I've known some authors do that, but I'm not one of them. Even with an outline, my story tends to wander off on tangents when I'm not looking, and if I went on to write a later scene that started at Point B, when I came back and finished what comes between, I'd probably wind up someplace north of Point B. Then I'd have to spend time constructing a bridge between where I wound up and where I needed to be...

Nope, not worth it. I'll just slug it out with the emotional turmoil while I'm here, and hope the words really start flowing once I get past this bit.