Master Class in Writing

A few years back Writing Excuses put out a series on their podcast that they titled their Master Class. At the time I was a single parent working full time and going to school and didn’t have the extra space in my life to fully commit to the program.

But that’s changed! And because the lovely people at Writing Excuses keeps an archive – and even an easy link to this particular series on their site – I can access this class.

For free, I might add.

Now, I am actually going through the transcripts and reading them because I learn better that way. And because this is my writing blog and I can do whatever the heck I want with it, I’m going to go ahead and keep a log on how I am progressing.

I highly recommend the Writing Excuses podcast to any author out there – both aspiring and already published. If nothing else, they help remind me that my struggles in producing readable/relatable fiction are shared by many.

Normally I get ideas and then start writing, which leads to several false starts and concepts that never bloom to full life. The first couple of lessons in this series is about playing with ideas, digging deeper, and brainstorming until you find the right fit.

The concept that helped the most was asking who the idea would help or hurt the most. For instance, if we had an app that could download books into our minds, it would help students the most. But it would probably hurt teachers and the underprivileged.

Why yes, this is the idea I’m going to play with during this class. Thanks for asking.

This led me to the question of how we can abuse this technology. Uploading too many books, for instance, might cause information bleed – where narratives mix to become something new. And there’s dirty hacking, for the underprivileged who want access, which would have glitches and consequences of their own.

Next week, I’ll post the winner of my “character audition” for this book. The assignment is to try out five different characters for the main POV of the novel and thus far it has been fun.

If you’d like to try this Master Class, it is free on the Writing Excuses website. Just scroll down until you see it in the left margin. You can’t miss it.

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2018 Camp Nano Wrap-Up

Hurray! We’ve reached the end of the month! For those who participated in Camp Nano, I hope you had fun. Even if you didn’t reach your goals, writing is one of those perpetually rewarding efforts and, I daresay, an adventure all on its own.

Whether you fought ogres or flew through space (or fought space ogres), you explored the limits of your imagination, if not sleep deprivation. The great secret of any Nano project isn’t that you reach 50,000 words, but that you wrote at all. If you’ve got one paragraph or three hundred pages, you already crossed the finish line.

For me, I managed to reach the end of my editing project – The Soul Between Us – and got 3/4’s of my fantasy novel completed. It was great fun posting snippets up here, even if I did taper off toward the end of the month.

I should be finished with Castle of Three Kings in the next week or so, and then I’ll be taking a few days off to research/market/all the things other writers somehow find the time to do while still drafting their novels. You know… query letters. And synopsis writing.

Ugh, synopsis writing.

If you’re still working on your Camp Nano stuff (it’s the 31st, after all) then I am cheering you on! Have imaginary confetti! Better yet, write an inexplicable explosion of fireworks in the middle of your scene. You can edit it out later and it’ll give you a few dozen words to add to that word count.

And don’t forget to have fun!

Violence in Writing – July Round Robin

Anyone who’s read my writing can tell you that I use violence a lot in my work.

We don’t call it that, though.

We say it’s “action-packed” and full of conflict because the word violence tends to connote negative things. And really, it should.

As a parent, I find myself repeating the mantra that it is never all right to hit, that there are better ways to solve our problems. Because I don’t want to visit my son in prison one day.

But in my writing, the violence runs rampant.

My first novel, Sedition, starts with a duel in a tavernesque place. My second novel, Witch-Born, starts with an assassination attempt on the main character’s life in the middle of a crowded cafe.

Deviation begins with a hold-up in a bookstore.

Granted, those are all early works and there are a lot of things wrong with them. I really held to the “in medias res” concept and I recognize that it’s hard to care about a character being shot at if you don’t know who they are.

These days I try to focus on how the violence affects my point of view character in any given scene. While it was fun following Dorian Feverrette through the steampunk world of Magnellum as he hunted witch-assassins, I can admit that I never stopped to consider what sort of man that made him.

The truly interesting heroes are the ones who commit to violence and are then affected by that violence. We see them walk a tightrope between wanting to live in peace and needing to fight for that peace.

This tightrope holds a great deal of tension and opens up the character for deeper development. I’m still trying to find the right balance between action and the effect that action has on the character, but I hope to learn it soon.

Check out how my fellow authors work with violence in their novels.

Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-1i2
Victoria Chatham http://www.victoriachatham.com
Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/
Anne Stenhouse  http://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
A.J. Maguire  https://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/ (YOU ARE HERE)
Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Anne de Gruchy https://annedegruchy.co.uk/category/blog/
Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com

Judith Copek, //http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/

Week 3 Camp Nano – July 2018

As I mentioned earlier, I’m doing two projects this year for Camp Nano. The editing project – The Soul Between Us – is nearly finished. I will likely have the completed third draft by Sunday afternoon.

The first draft of Castle of Three Kings has taken a turn I did not expect. The outline has to be completely reworked (or tossed out the window) and while I believe this is a good thing, it also means I will likely not get the draft done by the end of the month.

I’m still going to try.

I mean, after Sunday I will only have the one project to work on. If I bust my butt, I should be able to do it.

As always, if you’re participating this year, then I wish you the best of luck. Keep writing! Keep drowning in caffeine. Keep snacking on unhealthy things because you don’t have time to cook.

Your family will forgive you next month.

** Snippet – The Soul Between Us **

He swept the back of the room twice with his light, finding nothing but old chairs and a cabinet. Tessa went still beside him, her light trained on the corner by the door. Cordon directed his light there too, stiffening as he took in the familiar shape of the soldier standing there.

Unease roiled in his gut. The man looked more solid this time, the shades of his uniform clearer. Desert shades, if Cordon wasn’t mistaken. He’d seen enough news reports to recognize it. There was blood on his chest that looked fresh and Cordon took a protective step in front of Tessa.

Reaching for the first words he could think of Cordon said; “We don’t want any trouble.”

“You mean you see him too?” Tessa whispered.

“Yeah, I see him,” Cordon said. “Last time he ran before I could ask him anything.”

That wasn’t quite right. The soldier hadn’t run anywhere, he’d just disappeared.

“But Cordon…”

Not liking the way the soldier continued to stare at them, unmoving in his bloody uniform, Cordon ignored Tessa and spoke again. “Are you hurt or something?”

Tessa tugged on his jacket sleeve but he wouldn’t turn away from the threat.

“Cordon, that’s Cabby.”

The name struck him in the chest and Cordon gripped his flashlight harder. “That’s not possible, Tessa. Cabby has nothing to do with this place. There’s no reason he would be here, ghost or not.”

Good God, they needed to get out of this place.

The soldier took a step forward, his movements just as unsteady as before, only now Cordon could see why. It was a limp; a staggering, uneven limp as the soldier was forced to drag his left foot forward. He reached out a burnt and gnarled hand and the wind began to pick up.

Only it was a wind coming from the doorway, from the soldier and not from the window. It howled at them, creating little dervishes in the corners and whipping up dirt to fling into their faces. Cursing, Cordon ducked his head, trying to shield his eyes from the worst of it. He could feel Tessa gripping his arm but through the haze of watery eyes and dust he couldn’t see her face. She seemed to be ducking her head as well because he thought he could make out her ear.

An ache settled in his chest and for a second he feared he was having a heart attack.

But he was only thirty. Thirty-year-old men did not have heart attacks.

There were no such things as ghosts either but when he lifted his head, intent on checking the soldier’s position, he found the man a foot away and looking far more apparition-like than before. His skin was translucent gray, like all the color had been leached out of him, and as Cordon continued to stare he could see the wall behind him. It was as if he’d been transposed in a photograph – there but not quite there – and Cordon’s chest ached all the more.

The eyes were the worst; two horrible shadowed holes with no color to speak of.

“Oh, Cabby,” Tessa’s voice managed to reach him over the wind and Cordon tensed.

There’s no such thing as ghosts. And then, because he needed to say it out loud; “There’s no such thing as ghosts.”

In response, the soldier took a jerky step forward, crowding into Cordon, arms wrapping around him as though in a grab or a hug. But instead of a solid grip, Cordon felt icy tendrils sink into his skin, burrowing down and coiling around his bones. The ache in his chest intensified and a sensation like having his veins frost over began slithering its way up his arms and over his shoulders. He heard Tessa’s voice but couldn’t make out what she was saying.

 

Camp Nano Week 2 Progress Report – July 2018

My combined word count is sitting at 38,299 words, which is awesome. I’m nearing the end of the editing project and should have it completed by the end of next week. Which is exactly where I wanted to be.

For the YA fantasy novel, I’m a chapter behind. Sort of.

Which means that I deviated from the outline and am making up for it.

The second week of Nano is “make or break” time for me. The energy from the first week tapers off and it’s pure work instead of inspiration. If I don’t kick myself in the pants and get moving, the projects get left behind and I don’t get my cookie at the end of the month.

I hope anyone else participating this year managed to push forward. You got this!

As promised, below is a snippet of one of the projects. This one is from The Soul Between Us. A romance ghost story thing.

**

Cordon stiffened beside her, bending down to peer at the camcorder image. “What was that?”

“What?” She asked, blinking at the image too. “What was what?”

“Can you rewind it?” He asked, but his attention had switched to the doorway.

Tessa flipped through functions until she could play back the last two minutes. They both watched the screen, which had a view of the open doorway and several cots. At one minute and ten seconds, a form crossed in front of the doorway and every little hair Tessa had stood on end. Roughly 5’8” and with the general form of a person, it stepped from left to right, barely illuminated by the camcorder’s light.

She lowered the camera and glanced at Cordon, who released her waist and straightened.

“Who’s there?” He asked, shining his light at the door. “Marisol?”

“That was too tall to be Marisol, don’t you think?”

“Tyler?” Cordon tried again.

When there was no answer Tessa eyed the doorway, willing whoever it was to come back and present themselves. “It’s probably one of the others trying to freak us out,” she said.

“Yeah, or a transient.”

“You think a homeless person would want to come here?”

“Homeless is homeless, Tess. And there’s a storm coming on.”

“Awesome,” Tessa said. “Remind me to punch Marisol in the face.”

“Whoever it was seems to have moved off,” he said. “And I’m tired of being here already. Let’s head back.”

“God, yes,” she said, more relieved than she wanted to let on. She didn’t have to believe in ghosts to admit that seeing the video had been creepy, and now it felt like they were being watched or something. The spot between her shoulder blades tingled and gooseflesh kept racing up her arms and neck.

Shoving the camcorder into her jacket pocket, she walked behind Cordon, who led the way out of the room. He checked both ends of the hallway with his light, but as far as they could see no one was there. Which was good because Tessa might have hit whoever it was on sight, transient or not. Trying to relax, she fell into step with Cordon as they made their way out of the critical wing and back to the stairs.

Progress Report – Camp Nano 2018 – Week 1

As of the end of the day yesterday, my Camp Nano Stats are at 12,927 words.

That’s spread over two projects – a young adult fantasy novel and a romance thriller. This isn’t the traditional way of doing a national novel writing month. Traditional national novel writing months focus on writing one novel, starting day 1 of the month.

However, because I do this multiple times during the year (November and April as well) I tend to take the summer camp to catch up anything flagging.

I’m actually over 40,000 words into the young adult novel, and the romantic thriller is undergoing the 3rd edit.

In the effort to get back to work, I’m going to slap a snippet of the young adult fantasy novel up here.

***

His arms burned from holding Isabo and he lifted her higher, forcing her face into the crook of his neck. She made a hiccup of pain but otherwise didn’t fight him. Corbin took the moment to secure his cape around her torso better, then froze, his gaze locked on something behind Kevin.

“What is it?” He asked, pivoting on his heel.

A hooded figure in white stood there, too transparent to be solid. A thick fog poured out from it, curling around their ankles and mixing with vines. The face was in shadow, if indeed there was a face, and it floated forward until it was close enough to touch. It smelled like summer rain and green things, but there was a chill that seemed to sink deep down into Kevin’s bones and for several seconds he couldn’t move.

“No,” Corbin whispered beside him.

“W-What is it?” Kevin asked again.

The figure leaned forward and Kevin could see that yes, there was a face. Not hideous or frightening, but smooth and young, with a full mouth that could only be feminine. An ethereal hand moved toward Isabo and paused, hovering just above the arrow in her back.

“It’s a Keeper,” Corbin said.

Kevin kept his gaze on the ghostly figure. “What?”

“The curse keeps everything in balance,” Corbin said, but his attention remained fixed on the Keeper too. “That includes how many people each House commands. If a person dies in House Dorne, then two others are claimed as well. One from Christof and one from Liir.”

It was getting harder to breathe but Kevin managed. “And this thing…”

“Keeper.”

“This Keeper thing… it kills people?”

“To maintain the balance, yes,” Corbin said. He seemed to shake himself from his momentary shock and concentrated on Kevin again. “They’re indiscriminate about it. They take young, old, healthy, sick, doesn’t matter. And this one is waiting to see if Isabo dies.”

Kevin took a step back. “But that’s just cruel.”

“That’s why it’s called a curse, Kevin. It isn’t meant to be pleasant.”

***

To anyone participating in this month’s Camp Nano, I hope you’re having fun! Keep writing and moving forward with your work.

 

Camp NaNo – July 2018

Camp NaNo started yesterday and I’m already ahead of the game. To those of you who may be participating this year, I wish you luck!

Put your headphones on, drown out the world, and create as only you can create.

For those of you who may not know what Camp Nano is, let me go ahead and tell you. This is an offshoot of National Novel Writing Month, but the concept is the same, you try to write 50,000 words in the month of July.

Or, if you’re like me, you take the month to challenge yourself into finishing multiple projects.

This year I am finishing up my young adult fantasy novel, Castle of Three Kings, and I intend to wrap up the 3rd edit of my romance thriller/ghost story, The Soul Between Us.

I’ll be posting end of the day snippets on Facebook, just for fun and to keep the energy/momentum going. Because it’s fun, I’ll be posting weekly progress reports every Saturday/Sunday that may or may not include longer snippets.

In any case, I’m off to work again. Happy writing, everyone!