Thursday, June 26, 2014

1 + 1 =

Last week, I talked about where I get ideas for my stories. I’m continuing that, because I thought I’d walk you through a ‘new’ idea, so you could get a glimpse of ‘my brain at work’.
A few days ago, Hub and I went to the movies. We don’t go often, and when we do, we tend to see 2 movies. This time, we saw “Edge of Tomorrow”, followed by “Maleficent”. Something of a mixed bag.
In “Edge of Tomorrow”, the Earth is invaded by aliens, and the Hero - a military reporter - pisses off a general, then finds himself on the front line with no training. He survives long enough to get the safety off his weapon and kill an alien that kills him. He awakens the previous morning, assigned to the front lines without training. Each time he dies, he returns to the previous day. Just as in “Ground Hog Day”, the Hero must figure out what he needs to do differently to get out of this time loop.
“Maleficent” is the tale of Sleeping Beauty told from the point of view that Maleficent was not evil, just mis-understood; portrayed as evil by humans who related the story after the fact. I have often heard that villains don’t see themselves as evil, so this re-telling did not scar my psyche too badly.
The next morning, I had (some) memories of an interesting dream that involved people, each with some super-human power. There were 2 groups, unable to agree and constantly battling. When they died, they eventually returned to life, but not necessarily on the same side as before.
I took the bones of this dream and added different bits and pieces to see what happened. Reincarnation and exceptional people. Did they remember their previous lives, that they were ‘special’? I decided they did, but not until adulthood, when flashes of memory would start coming to them. They not only might change sides in the Big Argument, whatever it was, they might not have the same power, either.
I chose a protagonist, during a life when he lived a few decades. Now, what kind of setting? Science fiction? That was too broad. Modern paranormal? No, they’d just be another group of comic book characters.
Fantasy post-apocalyptic! In a world where magic and the fey exist, cities and castles were reduced to rubble during the Great War. Generations later, the War Magic is finally beginning to dissipate from these places.
I sketched out the basic story line in half a page of 20-pt font, devoted another page to other background info, like names and special Talents, and started my rough draft. I have 2000 words done, which is not bad for 2 days of stolen moments. I don’t have an outline, because I haven’t answered some important questions. I’m stumbling around, creating background and conflict as I go, which is how I originally wrote (before I figured out what an outline was), and many others do.
And another story is started.

Like I needed another character whispering in my ear, another story to be written! I can hear my characters laughing, and my muse asking, “Who said an author’s life was orderly?”

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

My Ideas

“Where do you get your ideas?” is a common question asked of writers, especially fiction writers. Have I written about this before? Ehh, probably doesn’t matter, because I get them from various and sundry places.
If left to my own devices, I tend to write about women who don’t quite fit in. Sometimes it’s an entire society of women who don’t fit in with the surrounding cultures (Atlans, Tay of Tunad). At other times, it’s one woman who doesn’t fit in with those around her (Mac, Cali, Kandaranna, Tay of Tunad). They manage to make a place for themselves without losing themselves in the process.
I’ve been writing these types of stories since at least the fourth grade. Probably because I was always a shy introvert of a kid who didn’t feel like she fit in. It didn’t help that my family moved around quite a bit, always looking for grass that was a little greener. Our shortest stint in one place was 6 weeks in Brush CO when I was in the 2nd grade, followed by our longest stint, 8 years in Limon CO (except for 3 months when we tried out Cheyenne WY). You’d think after 8 years, I would have felt accepted, but... not entirely.
The other interesting fact I’ve noticed about my stories about these women is that they are rarely written from that woman’s point of view. There are various reasons I’ve given myself for this curiosity, but I’m beginning to think that, deep down inside, I realize that if the reader gets to see this character from inside her own head, it would be easier to identify with the character, and that kind of negates the ‘don’t fit in’ aspect.
Other of my stories have different sources. Maybe I read a story by somebody else, and I decide it would have been more interesting to change the characters a bit, modify the location, twist the plot... An interesting dream that I half remember might inspire me, although by the time I get something on paper, it will bear little or no resemblance to that dream. A call for anthology submissions can be interesting to consider. In that case, I take the bare bones of what they are looking for and try to twist it around and push it out of shape to come up with something other writers won’t come up with.

There are lots of places my stories come from. I just have to pause and let them come.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Learning New Tricks

There is a drawback to waiting for retirement before starting a new career as an author. These days, you are expected to do your own marketing. And, in this Age of the Internet, a lot of that marketing is in cyberspace. I’ve read enough marketing articles to figure that out.
In my first career, I worked my way up to secretary, which meant I knew grammar and punctuation, and when to ask for clarification when doing an assignment. On a computer, I knew Office Word and Office Excel, and was actively discouraged from using the internet at work. Now I have a lot of catching up to do.
I thought I was. Catching up. I started - years ago - with MySpace. Does anybody use that anymore? No, I don’t, either.
Eventually, I got on Facebook with a personal page. Now those articles tell me I need a fan page. They are full of reasons for having a fan page, but they don’t explain HOW to set up a fan page. And I still don’t know how to post pictures to my personal page. Guess I’ll have to take an afternoon see if I can figure it out.
Twitter is another big ‘must be on’ to do marketing. MoonPhaze has an account, but the thought of only having 140 characters sends me into a tizzy fit. Remember when I set out to write a 6,000 word short, and ended up with 15,000 words? Yeah, I tend to run off at the keyboard, as I’ve said many times. I don’t suppose half-sentences will do the trick, huh?
And Pinterest. I have some ideas for that, actually, but I’m not an artist. And I don’t want to surf the net for hours, looking for one perfect picture. Chances are, I won’t find it. And if I do, how does the licensing for that picture work when you just want to pin it?
And always, those articles encourage using photos and inforgraphtics. Right.
I got Photoshop installed on my desktop today. I took a couple Continuing Education classes for it, but the program was on the old computer, and I haven’t been able to play with it recently. I have done basic drawings in Paint. I know how to fill an area with a color in Paint. It’s nowhere near the same in Photoshop.

The more I learn about Marketing, the more questions I have, the more things get put on my To-Do list. And most of the things getting put on my list involve a long learning curve. We’ll see if this old dog can learn any new tricks.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Cali’s Journey of Discovery

The novel that Alban Lake has accepted for publication is called Cali; A Journey of Discovery.
Cali is an Atlan. But even among this race of unusual women, Cali is... unusual. She could pass for an Outsider.
Cali has brown hair. Unheard of for an Atlan.
Cali has brown eyes. Unheard of for an Atlan.
Cali has all three of her tribes’ birthmarks denoting power. Until her birth, each Atlan only had one.
No one knew what to think. It was reluctantly decided that birthmarks alone did not make her an Atlan, and she would be sent to her father as a child, as if she were male. As that day grew near, an aunt overheard Cali tell her playmates that ‘bad men’ were coming, and turned to find the girl had white hair and blue eyes, which quickly returned to brown.
Further testing revealed that Cali had all 27 Atlan powers, which she could call up by having her hair and eyes change to the correct colors, and tying them to the requisite birthmark. But training her was difficult, because no one else had to choose which power they would use; they only had one. And she was already late starting her training; trying to learn 27 disciplines put her further and further behind.
As a young woman, Cali accompanied two small children on a trip to the Outside. She had not completed her training, but she was both a BlackBird (warrior) and a Watcher, so she was chosen. However, Cali was not always a BlackBird, nor a Watcher. She never spoke of what was done to her, but she brought the children’s mutilated bodies back to her village for burial before she set off to find the men responsible. Blackbirds wanted to go, but the Doves told them she must do this on her own.
Sidek found her in a flooded river, and pulled her to safety. Uncertain she’s ready to continue traveling, he tagged along with her. For some reason, she didn’t object.
During this journey, Cali discovered far more than she ever wanted to know about the Outside world. Sidek discovered far more about the Atlans as a whole than he did about her. But when the trek was finally over, it was Sidek who helped a sick and weary Cali get home.

This story does stand on its own, although I have started the next story, where Cali and Sidek travel again the next year. And there may be a third story after that. We’ll see.