Breaking the Rules

I broke a big NaNoWriMo today: I jumped stories. As much as I love the characters, particularly Sally, the story just wasn’t coming together. I’ve tried to shoehorn it into various classic contemporary urban fantasies, but the idea has so far resisted plotlines of any kind. I was finding drudgery to show up at the page everyday and struggled to get even 1000 words written. Part of the problem is modern urban fantasy isn’t my favorite genre. I much prefer epic SF and F to read. And apparently to write, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The other thing that happened is an epic fantasy idea I’ve had in the back of my head for years finally all fell into place. I had an outline. A very, very minimalist outline, but enough to tell me where I was going. I had a solid beginning, middle, and end. I’ve never gotten that with any of my other ideas so far. I literally ran to my keyboard and started writing. Soon I had the rough outline down as well as a couple of character bios and backstories and had decided who my narrator for the tale was going to be and why and decided it needed to be written in third person limited. I really love writing in first person, but that’s not going  to be a broad enough brush for what I suspect is going to be an epic fantasy. I wrote nearly 2500 words today before my husband came home. I can’t wait to get back at it tomorrow.

This is my own world; I’ve been working on it for years as an RPG setting, but it really needed to be fiction and knew that at the time. I’ve even partially created it’s major language and several cultures have been roughed in. The writing today was effortless–a new feeling for me who, for three NaNos now has struggled with every word. This was one case where I knew I had to get started on this right now.

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NaNoWriMo Update

nano-logoSo it’s the beginning of the second week of NaNoWriMo. My word count is about half of what it should be, but at least I’ve been writing consistently. Right now, I stand at 6773 words. But my pain level is up, so the fact that I’m getting anything written at all is probably a minor miracle. I’m still aiming for 50,000 words, but I’ve set myself a lower goal as well. I won’t “win” if I meet it, but I’ll still be very happy. I missed a couple of days last week and my personal goal is to make sure I write everyday now. I’m aiming for 1000 words a day: anything over that is just gravy.

I’m currently working on three flash fiction stories related to the book (so they’re part of my word count, even though they won’t make it into the book directly. I hope to have the first one posted here by the end of the week (no promises, though).

So that’s a quick status for me? How about you? If you’re NaNoing this November how far have you gotten? Remember: you don’t have to win; you just have to finish (my new mantra). And remember:

Write boldly

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Book Review: Juma’s Rain

jumas-rain-coverNormally, I hate writing reviews. But one of my HTTS classmates asked me to review her new book, Juma’s Rain. And it turned out to be one book I’m excited to review.

Review of Juma’s Rain

Juma’s Rain is a YA novel set in stone age Africa. That, in and of itself, peaked my interest. It’s a culture and time period I know nothing about. The author, Katharina Gerlach has brought the setting vividly to life. This is not a story where you could pick up all the characters and move them to another setting and have it work. The story arises from the setting and is unique to it. The characters also are firmly grounded in their setting.

The story opens with Juma leading her family to a gathering of all the tribe’s families to the main village. The lands they pass through are dying for lack of water; the rain goddess has not returned to water the land and the rains are long overdue. Even the tribe’s everlasting lake is nothing more than a puddle. The families are gathering so that the young women may discover their gifts and train for their life’s work. Juma, as the only daughter of the tribe’s missing chieftess, is determined to become the best chieftess ever.

But tribe politics and Juma’s own budding gifts stand in the way. That and the needs of the tribe also force her into a role she doesn’t want. From the author’s own description:

“Juma discovers that heat dæmon Mubuntu is out of control and that the rain goddess is still sleeping. But only Netinu, the [acting] chieftess’ son believes her, and he seems more interested in courting her than in the welfare of the tribe.

“With her dreams going up in flames, Juma prepares to battle the dæmon and wake the goddess —  and maybe, in the process, prove herself worthy of becoming chieftess.” [Juma’s Rain intro, © 2015 Katharina Gerlach].

I found the story completely engaging; I couldn’t put it down. Juma is an extremely sympathetic character: no whiny teenager here. All of the characters in the novel are complex; there are no simple ‘bad guys’ and ‘good guys’; they all have many reasons for their actions. The author lets us meet these characters and gives us reasons to sympathize with them, even while rooting for Juma to succeed. There is a depth to this story so often lacking in YA fiction. This is a book that all adults can enjoy, young or old (or everything in between). There is some sex in the book, but it’s handled with dignity, with the actual act itself taking place off-stage.

In brief, I loved this book and hope that Gerlach revisits this world with another book. Juma’s Rain is currently available in German in paperback and Kindle format. Pre-orders for the Kindle English edition are available now and the book is scheduled for delivery November 15, 2015.

Housekeeping: I did receive a free review copy of this book, but I have received no other compensation from this author. This review is my honest opinion.

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NaNoWriMo Coming Soon!

It’s almost November. And what comes in November?

Turkey? Well, yes, for people in the US. But I’m thinking of something more world-wide.

Novel writing? Bingo! Every November, (in case you haven’t caught on to this madness yet) people from all over the world gather virtually to write 50,000 in 30 days. It’s crazy, it’s maddening, it’s just plain fun. And it takes a lot of dedication to sit in the chair and hammer out nearly 2000 words a day, particularly with the holidays rapidly approaching. If you complete the goal, you win. What do you win? Well, bragging rights, mostly.

This will be my third year. You sign up by creating a novel on the NaNoWriMo website. I haven’t won yet, but before this is the first year I’ve really been able to commit to writing only. My first year I was homeschooling my daughter and last year I tested for my 2nd degree black belt in taekwondo. Ouch. I’ll never do that again, not at the same time as NaNoWriMo. So this year, I’m thinking I’ve actually got a really good shot at winning, so I’m excited an chomping at the bit.

Technically, you’re supposed to write a completely new novel. I admit I’m cheating a bit and using my novel from Camp NaNoWriMo from July. But this book has been working around my brain for years now and I want to get it finished! I’ve got several ideas I want to start on, including a couple of space operas, historical novels, and high fantasies. So far, I’ve only completed discovery work (character bios, soundtracks, timelines, etc.), which the rules do allow you to do before November, so technically I’m okay. Ya’ll have seen some of that background. My Blog Hop story is part of that. I’ll be posting more background stuff here as I build up to November, including another flash fiction story, this time showing some of Rafe’s history.

Part of my problem with this particular book is that it’s definitely contemporary urban fantasy, a genre I’m finding I don’t particularly care for (with some notable exceptions, such as the Dresden Files and the Sookie Stackhouse series). But I love the characters so much that I don’t want to just drop it. So, I’m determined to finish it and hope it doesn’t sound like every other urban fantasy novel out there.

To make a long story short (too late!), consider joining me for NaNoWriMo. I’m jaderpggm on there, so if you decide to join in, add me as your buddy and we can get through this together. 🙂

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After I Died: A Storytime Blog Hop Story

After I Died

bloghopI thought the casket a little over the top. Pictures of me growing up filled it and looking at them laid out together, I could see how unhappy I’d been, how uncomfortable I felt in my own skin. But I couldn’t find my favorite photo. I was 3, wearing high-heels, a horrible make-up job, and one of my mom’s dresses. My brother had taken it and everyone had been so proud of him. It’d even won first place at the state fair. Now, I couldn’t see it anywhere—it’s place of pride on the mantle was empty. My heart sank.

Attending your own funeral is weird. Nobody wanted me there. No one even looked at me. It was exactly how things had been my whole childhood, I realized. I felt no sense of tragedy, even though everyone around me did, “Such a shame to loose Butch that way, such a tragedy.” The only tragedy had been my coming out.

I’d sat my parents down. “I have a problem and I really need your support,” I said.

“You can tell us anything, Butch,” my mother said. “You know that.” My mom took my hand and squeezed it gently. “Just tell us. Whatever it is, we’ll figure a way through it together.”

“I’m transgender and transitioning to become a woman,” I said. “I’d like you to call me ‘Sally’ and use ‘she’ and ‘her’ pronouns.” My mom dropped my hand.

They did figure a way through it: this funeral. My dad declared me dead to them and I hadn’t realized how literally he’d meant it. I stayed until the end, crying through it like the girl I am, still looking for that photo. Everyone kept a space between them and me, so they wouldn’t accidentally touch me, like being transgender was contagious. I worked my way through the entire house. I was getting frantic, when I finally found it, still in its frame, in the kitchen trash.

I guess I should’ve felt sad, but I didn’t. I should’ve been angry, but I wasn’t. The tears I shed were ones of relief and happiness. I could move forward without guilt; nothing held me back. I fished a marker out of my purse and wrote on the picture’s glass “RIP Butch. Welcome Sally.” Then I turned it over and breathed a sigh of relief when I found the envelope still hidden there, between the picture’s back and the paper covering. I pulled the letter out and read it for the umpteenth time. “Dear Sally,” it said. “We are pleased to inform you that your application to the University of Oregon has been accepted.”

Links to the other stories

Karen Lynn: The Family Book

Angela Wooldridge: An Alternative to Frog

Thea van Diepen: Are You Sure It’s That Way?

Paula de Carvalho: Body Double

Kris Bowser: Tantrums

Virginia McClain: Rakko’s Storm

Grace Robinette: Georg Grembl

Elizabeth McCleary: The Door

Dale Cozort: Two Letters In A Fireproof Box

Katharina Gerlach: Canned Food

Rabia Gale: Spark

K. A. Petentler: The Twisted Tale of Isabel

Shana Blueming: Paper & Glue

Amy Keeley: To Be Prepared For Chocolate

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Blog Hop Story

bloghopSo through this last month of July, I’ve been working on a flash fiction story. My first flash fiction story; my first short story, in fact. I’ve never been much of a short story writer. The few writing classes I took in school taught me that. My stories are character-driven and short stories just don’t give me enough space to tell the characters’ stories. But several other people in my How To Think Sideways class decided to do a Blog Hop and, despite never actually having finished a short story in my life, I decided to join in.

Holly Lisle also has a free 3-lesson flash fiction course: How to Write Flash Fiction That Doesn’t Suck. So I decided to put Lucifer’s Godchild on hold and work my way through the flash fiction course, hoping I’d come up with a decent story. I got three. Two are prequels of a sort for Lucifer’s Godchild, one is completely unrelated and I have two more that aren’t finished yet. Not bad for someone with no talent for short fiction. I plan to eventually post all of them here on this blog, but I’m going to do the two LG-related stories first, to give you a taste of that story.

The story goes live on August 26th, 6:00 am, EST. This story itself isn’t speculative fiction, but the book it’s related to is, so I’m calling it good. My post will also have links to the story ahead of mine in the list and to the one after me. So if you’re feeling froggy, you can circle around read all seventeen or so stories participating (which I highly recommend), without having to wade through a long list of links. They’re all supposed to be speculative fiction and I can’t wait to read them myself. I’m particularly looking forward to Katharina Gerlach‘s story, since I’ve recently become quite a fan of her Gendarmerie Magique series.

So check in here 26 August 2015 for my fiction debut!

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Yes, but…

conflict-as-you-wishThe How to Think Sideways course has been keeping me really busy. I’m still working on the post for my favorite top-ten writing sites; I haven’t had as much time to work on it as I’d like. Of course, there’s also been the small matter of bellydance performances, palgwe forms to learn and demonstrate so that I can receive my second degree black belt in taekwondo, a trip to the emergency room, then follow-up with multiple specialists to determine that my heart is healthy, and finally, oral surgery to relieve an abscessed tooth. And that was just April. All while still trying to keep up my writing .

We’re still in the prep-work stage of the HTTS course, so there’s not much to show here. But it’s been really great for me; I’ve gotten a much better handle on the story I’m trying to tell and on it’s characters. The story is a modern urban fantasy where a young transwoman (Sally), battered and beaten almost to death ends up on the doorstep of an immortal sorcerer (Rafe). The ideas started to go much better when I realized that Sally was the protagonist and that Rafe was not only not the protagonist, he was the antagonist. Which had been the problem of the story all along. There was no antagonist. This is a problem pretty much all of my fiction has had to this point, which is why I don’t have any fiction published.

This is definitely one of those “there is no bad guy” stories, where both the protagonist and antagonist are doing what they believe is best for everyone involved. They also don’t realize exactly who is opposing them until the very end. It’s a lot easier for me to write conflict now, now that there’s not someone who’s a terrible person. I don’t write bad people well; I tend to see the best in everyone. I tend to play the “Yes, but” game too much. Yes, the King of the Winter Court stole lands from the Summer Court, but they were his lands to start with. I tend to do this for every character in the story, in every story.

But now I’m learning finding it extremely helpful to turn the question around and apply it to every one. Yes, you saved the protagonist, but you’ve compounded her problem by adding medical bills she can’t pay. Yes, your mother has a key to a possible treasure, but that key has only been passed from mother to eldest daughter and she refuses to accept you as anything other than her son.

So this is my challenge to myself and to y’all: apply the “Yes, but” to every character in every scene. Use it to look for ways to bring more conflict into your story.  And, as always, tell us about it in the comments. Or tell us about other methods you use to increase conflict. I’m always eager to try out new ways of generating great scenes for my story.

[Image courtesy of JD Hancock via Flickr Creative Commons]


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Pretty Shinies

Well, it seems this week is almost a complete wash, writing-wisecopper-braclet-1copper-bracelet-1a. Yesterday, I had oral surgery for an abscessed tooth. The tooth had been crowned about four or five years ago, but it still had a large cavity above the root of the tooth in my jaw. As a child, I’d fallen on the edge of a concrete slab and actually bit a large chunk out of it. One of my front teeth had been pushed clear back up into my gums, there by creating  a cavity. Anyway, the tissue in the cavity was badly infected and they had to drill through my top jaw to get to it and remove all the infected tissue.

Surgery went well and I was sent home with instructions not to lift my lip up to look at the surgery spot; not to brush my teeth and not to smile. It’s the last one that’s been the hardest. Dh went further: he took yesterday and today off to take care of me and to make sure I didn’t try to do any work.

I’ve been good–this post is the only writing I’ve done in the last couple of days. Instead, I’ve been working at what I hope to make a second job at some point: making chain maille jewelry. The pictures to the right are of a bracelet I got to finish yesterday. The design is from the book Chain Maille Jewelry Workshop, by Karen Karon. The clasp is all my own design. I didn’t like the giant lobster claw clasp the book’s model uses. I don’t really like the lobster claw-type clasps in general, particularly for bracelets, which you’re having to close with one hand. I tried making an “S” clasp, but that seemed too big or too fine and delicate, depending on the gauge of wire. So, while playing around with 16 gauge wire, I realized that  I could use just one half of the “S” on one end, then a large jump ring on the other side.

This is just my first  piece, I’m still gripping the pliers too tightly, so I’m leaving some marks on the rings, but it’s a start. The right-hand photo is pretty true to color. It’s a shiny copper. I’m hoping that when my rock tumbler gets here, I can polish it enough to get rid of most of the marks. Right now, I’m still in the learning stages, but I’m trying to find my own “voice” in jewelry, as well as writing. Once  I do, I’m hoping to sell my work through galleries.

I’m finding the two “careers” complement each other greatly. When I’m letting the subconscious work on a writing idea, or when I get writer’s block,  I have something else I can turn to until inspiration strikes.

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I Can Haz Do-over?

cat-needs-helpI know, it’s been awhile since I last posted and that I haven’t posted any new writing exercises or Word Wars. There’s several reasons for that. This blog was turning into all writing exercises all the time and that wasn’t what I wanted. There are tons of other blogs out there who cover writing exercises, many far better than I can. For people who might be interested, I’ll put together a list of my favorite writing exercise spots in another post.

So I’m making another go at this, going back to what I originally intended: a place that covers writing, particularly my writing, both in fiction and in RPGs. I haven’t given up on writing and I haven’t given up on this blog. In fact, the main reasons you haven’t heard much from me here or on Facebook are 1) because I’ve been knee-deep in How to Think Sideways (HTTS) homework and 2) life events in general, including an emergency room visit that’s currently having me running from one doctor to another.

Yup, it looks like the medication that supposed to keep me going and functional sent me to the ER. I woke up two weeks ago with some heartburn. That’s not unusual: I’ve been on anti-inflammatory medication for over twenty years now and it really chews up the stomach lining. I’m taking two major antacids to help keep that from happening. Usually with heartburn, if I sit up and wait a little, it calms down enough that I can get to my medication, including said antacids.

Not this time. When I sat up, my upper chest area muscles contracted. Hard. Right behind the breast bone. It felt like my body was trying to squeeze my heart and lungs out through my esophagus. I starting to have trouble breathing. I was also taking a antibiotic I’d never taken before–generally not a good thing: they tend to land me in the ER as I discover I have to add something else to my list of known allergies. But I needed to take them in preparation for oral surgery I was supposed to have–well–that morning, actually. John called the oral surgeon, then bundled me into the car for the 40-mile trip to Wake Med.

Fastest admittance I’ve ever had to the ER. Even faster than the last time I tried a new antibiotic and had a throat that was swelling closed. The woman at the front desk looked at me, asked “Chest pain?” I nodded and she and a nurse who appeared at my side took me straight into triage. I wasn’t in triage very long before they ushered me into a room. By this point, my chest pain had eased up some. They stuck me with an IV and started pouring all kinds of things into my body. I don’t remember exactly what they gave me. I did refuse the morphine. I’d had enough narcotics last year as I prepared to test for my second degree black belt (a story I’ll tell another time). Apparently few people do that, since all the hospital-related people in my room seemed shocked that I didn’t want it. That, or it was my insanely high pain tolerance poking it’s head up again. They asked me several times if I was sure.

To make an already long story short, after a whole battery of tests, including a trip through the Stargate (MRI. Does anyone else get the urge to shout “Chevron One encoding” as they slide you in?), it turned out I wasn’t having a heart attack. It was severe acid reflux and my esophagus was extremely raw, hence the chest cramping. But since my family has a history of heart disease, I have to go through the Parade of Specialists to make sure everything is completely okay. They’ve taken me off of my current anti-inflammatory and put me on a new one (which means I have the fun of having no anti-inflammatory in my system for about a month as Celebrex builds up to “therapeutic levels”.

But I’m actually doing really well, apart from the odyssey I described above the aforementioned oral surgery, now rescheduled for next week. I suspect it was time for me to switch anti-inflammatories. The last time I had to switch, I (and my doctor) thought I had appendicitis. My life is nothing, if not colorful. But even with all of this, I’m still writing and haven’t fallen too far behind my HTTS homework. And I’ve even come up with an idea for a line of jewelry based on the Major Arcana.

I’ll keep y’all posted as things develop.

Live boldly. There may not be a later.

[Photo courtesy of via Flickr Creative Commons]

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