30 November 2010 0 comments

Yes, You Can Learn Something From Screenwriters.

A very interesting blog article written by my Rather Stellar Co-Writer, Aleks.

Discussing the finer points of plot development, tension, character flaws, and antagonists. Not saying every screenwriter gets it right; daytime soap operas are evidence of that, clearly. But when one gets it right like the writers of Burn Notice do, it's a slam dunk.

And, ultimately, that's what I aspire to write. Don't know about the majority of professional writers out there, but I'm not willing to let go of a story until it's everything it is capable of being. Everything it should be. Which is why the trunk novel still sits collecting dust in the trunk. *lol*

But Aleks tells me I'm not allowed to nab a copy of the series and start watching it just yet.  Because then I'll disappear from the internets for a few weeks and that's just not acceptable.
And of course, I agree with that.  Really need to get Black finished. Can't do that if I'm vegging on the couch watching episode after episode...

Another Editing Update...

...what I hope is the last for this ms, to be honest.

Black is coming along. It's the homestretch, and I've still a lot of work to do.
295 of 363 pages. 97.4k word count.
That's with a total of 43 pages of content cut, so far. Most of that will be recovered in the rewriting of scenes, the reordering and reworking of the plot climax and resolution.
I can see where it's going, I just can't see how smoothly its going to get there. The picture lacks the clarity of detail -- but it likely will until I get to the scenes and work through them one by one.
Some of the smexxing is gone. I don't mourn the loss, but all the sudden this book is more intrigue and thriller than "hawt manluv" ... which doesn't surprise me, because I think that's what it was intended to be all along. Black's relationship with Garthelle isn't the main plot thread. It's secondary, and it's finally coming out that way.
I suck at the "when all else fails, make the characters have sex" band-aide. I don't do it well. I need plot in my stories, or the energy level is unsustainable. I just hope it's a better, more engaging story this way...
23 November 2010 2 comments

Editing Journey Update... & Snippet.

I set myself a deadline to have the "Black" manuscript edited/revised completely by the beginning of December. So that I can focus on some other projects floating around in the ether.

The current state of the ms sits at 278 of 401 pages, with a 106.5k-word count. This last section has a few sections in need of heavy revision and/or rewrite, in order to pull the story together properly.

Day job and general funk working against me, but I've a few mornings and two full days off in which to tackle this story and beat the antagonists into submission. And thus far the rewrites have come along nicely... or so I think.

And so... to wrap up the pre-Turkey Day editing frenzy, I've a snippet to share. This scene made it through the edits with only a few tweaks, mostly because I just like it too much the way it stands:

“Don’t you feel it?”  He whispers, mouth hovering just a fraction from mine.  “Please, tell me you feel it.”  The words come out rushed, almost hoarse.  As if he’s going to start begging in a moment if I dare deny it.
My skin tingles despite the layers of clothing that separate us.  His arousal rests heavily against my groin, eliciting an almost instantaneous response from me.  Quick enough to make me lightheaded.  I open my mouth to say something, anything, but all I manage to do is gasp.
His lips brush feather-light against mine.
“Not here,” I manage to force out finally, my frantic brain slipping gears for what seems an eternity before something snags and catches.
Garthelle’s mouth hovers close, every puff of breath mixing with mine.  He smells of scotch.  I want to taste it.  But not here.  Gaia please, not in the middle of the hallway with how many lyche lurking everywhere.  His gaze slams back into mine, yellow eyes half glazed with energy-driven lust.
Oh hell, who am I kidding?  The only thing I care about at this moment, the only thought registering in my brain, is the fervent hope that he does more than dry-hump me this time.
“Not here,” I repeat.  And stare at his mouth.  I want to kiss him.  Badly.  I tear my gaze away from his lips and look him in the eyes.  “I want you completely naked this time.”
Garthelle blinks.  Either I made something snap irreparably, or forced his brain to reengage.  He smiles, lips curling by slow increments.  I never realized how much pleasure could be found in witnessing the birth of a truly authentic expression.  It takes all the breath from my chest.
“Ditto,” he murmurs, grabbing my hand.  He turns and heads off down the corridor again.  He’s not running, but it’s a close thing.  And I think if anyone, or anything, interrupts or tries to thwart him—well.  It definitely won’t be pretty.

I am Artist, Hear Me Wangst.

Not really. Promise. It just sounded catchy. And grabbing the reader's attention is what it's all about, right?

Of course, I'm just now starting my second cup of coffee so anything I write can be construed as, and likely is, lacking any inherent value. My brain is rarely in gear before Cup Number Three.

Writer's block.
One of those things that everyone who writes either mentions or whines about or even uses as an excuse or avoidance tactic at one point or another. Hell, I've certainly encountered it enough times over the years. This isn't a psych eval though, and I'm not your shrink. =)

Lack of ideas. Lack of emotional engagement in the story content. Lack of direction. Lack of motivation, intrinsic or otherwise.

In each case, the issue revolves around the surge of energy. Artistic energy. Creative energy. It's a resource that ebbs and flows like the tides of the ocean. Endless, but the presence at any given point in the process of writing is not constant.

There are ways to trigger a resurgence, but the techniques vary as widely as the artists who employ them. Every writer is unique in their execution, their methods.

For me, it's music.

I've found it to be one of the best methods for finding a source of energy. And it's endlessly fascinating that art can feed art. One medium providing the trigger for a flood in another medium. With the right song, or the right genre, I can tap into the emotional psyche of a given character with relative ease.

Finding the right one for a character is largely a process of trial and error. Not every muse likes the same music; I can't channel a streetwalker with the same energy source as I do a soldier.

When I'm working on fleshing out a new character, I spend a lot of time trolling through the music collection. Skimming, skipping around, moving from one genre and/or artist to the next, until something snags. And then determine why. Is it the lyrics, the harmony, the mixture of instruments?

Narrowing it down leads to the playlists. A series of songs that evoke imagery, emotion, and energy associated with a specific muse or scene. Once that association exists, the playlist never fails to trigger a flood of inspiration and motivation to write when its lacking.

Yes, here there be playlists. And dragons. But that's later. Much later.

Have a pleasant holiday, everyone... I'll be back at the beginning of the month with the first post in the "Meet the Muse" series. See you then!
19 November 2010 2 comments

Does this make it official, then?

Been waiting for roughly ten days to hear back from the publisher regarding deal sheet.
Waiting rather impatiently, I might add.

Then again, I don't have patience for my own tendency to procrastinate. So...

Deal sheet came today, though. Yay! Giddiness all over again. I spent the past week in a dreamlike limbo, the mindset of "You were imagining things, Rhi! You dreamed it, vividly. It wasn't real."  It was impetus to keep me working on other projects. Keep me writing, editing. Keep that giddiness momentum going, ride it as long as possible. Yes, I know. That logic has a distinct rational flaw. It's okay. It worked. That's all that matters.

Deal sheet, though!

Haha, take that you devious psyche.  The vivid dreams are never the ones I remember. If I'm lucky.

I stumbled over a few of the details in the deal sheet, though. Found myself reconsidering the prospect of locating an agent. I'm not going to do it right this moment; the contract details weren't negotiable, so it's not really a necessity. But when one lacks the familiarity with standard publishing protocol, and legal jargon, it's stressful. Even in small amounts.

And now I have to once again go off to my day job. Please, Goddess, let there be no more confusion about the unavailability of blank ink.

Introducing the "Meet The Muses" series

Readers always ask where the characters come from. The inspiration, the source, the process... how does one get from intangible fog-bank of concepts, ideas, to the person who comes to life with a few words on the page.  The truly fascinating characters I read -- I share that obsession. How did that one get birthed, anyways?

Toward that end, I thought I would begin a once-monthly series of posts. Each one highlighting a specific muse or character. Introduce them. Try to, when possible, explain how it was they came into existence.  For each muse, there will be three once-weekly posts. The first will include a short excerpt of prose to introduce the character to the audience.  The second will consist of an explanation of how they came to be. And the third week will involve an active interview sequence with the muse.

I do agree with the sentiment that art in its truest form shouldn't be over-analyzed, but instead appreciated for the depth and richness of its beauty. Writing is, without a doubt, a form of art. So I will refrain from picking anything to pieces. Only that which is flawed is truly beautiful, right? Perfection is not only unattainable, but ... boring.  The intent and focus here will be to simply relive the process of birth, the facets and/or phases that each one progressed through to become what they are.  The source(s) of inspiration, be it a song, an acquaintance, a news story, a picture, a dream. Whatever.

I think I can surprise you with the number of muses hiding in my head, waiting to tell their stories. Look for the initial series post on the 1st of December. 
18 November 2010 2 comments

"I need a blank ink cartridge."

Good morning, world.
I'm sitting here with my Sumatran Blend and my additive-free nicotine, pondering the philosophical implications of "blank" ink. And working up the intestinal fortitude and determination to tackle a few chapters of Black today.

Elderly gentleman with silver hair comes up to me yesterday evening, with a small crumbled piece of paper ripped from a larger sheet. It has some writing scrawled in barely legible penmanship.

"Hi there, can you help me? I need an ink cartridge for an Epson printer."

I walk him to the printer aisle, where the replacement cartridges are arrayed on the shelf.  He tells me the number jotted on the paper, and I point out the correct replacements.  "Did you need a black or color cartridge?" I ask.

"Oh, this says blank ink cartridge. You don't carry blank ink?"

"I'm sorry, sir, the printers only use black or color ink. I've never heard of blank ink. What does one use that for? Secret encrypted document printing? Photos of the invisible man?" I couldn't help myself. The parameters of stupid exceeded the capacity of my brain.

He looks at the shelf, and glances at me.  "You really don't carry blank ink?" He pulls a cell phone from his pocket. "I should probably call and double check."

Wow. Really? Okay, you do that. Here's your sign. I'm going to go back over here and try to regain a semblance of sanity and intelligence while you call and verify that what you actually need to purchase is BLACK INK.

Yep, that's pretty much my day job. Woohoo. I really must get a few more sales under my belt and devise a way to... escape. There are times when I feel like I'm locked in Alcratraz. There's no way out that won't kill you. But like a wolf with his foot caught in a trap... desperation leads to amazing feats of survival. Like chewing through one's leg.

Dreamspinner has a few anthologies planned for release next year. None of my current muses will deign to lower their noses sufficiently to work on a short <12k piece, so I'm busy devising an appropriate soldier character for the task.

The general consensus amongst the muses? Laughter. The eldest of them seems to be the spokesperson, for whatever reason. Seniority amongst muses? Strange, that.

"Oiy. You really think you can write that story and keep it under 12k?"

"Yep.  Gonna try, anyways."

"Good luck with that. Remember what happened last time?"

"Yes. Black happened. How could I forget."

"Precisely."  Much snickering in the background, shuffling, the barking complaints and grunts that result from elbows in the ribs and jockeying for space. "Don't you think there's enough of us in here already?"

"Thought you troupe took off to Bora Bora for the winter already. Why are you here harassing me about this, anyways?"

"...Well, because obviously someone needs to be the voice of reason here."

"Right. And you were elected to fill that slot by democratic vote?"

"Watch it. I'm older than you."

"No, you're not. I invented you when I was fourteen, I'll always be older than you. So there. Now run back to your beach hut on the water and soak up some sun before I decide to put you to work."

Now he's looking like a belligerent child.  "Right. Like that'll happen. You haven't so much as glanced my way in... what is it now, five years?"

"Three. You're a guy. Where's your logical detachment?"

He straightens a fraction, rolling his shoulders back. As if additional height gives him greater clout. "It's useless against the whims of a female."

"Well. That explains much." I toss him a can of Tootsie Rolls and the rest of the muses descend on him in excitement, a pack of starving dogs on a chunk of meat.

Black edits are the sole agenda for today. The few remaining household chores will not be employed as procrastination devices. Nope, not today. Today, I am the Editor.
16 November 2010 1 comments

The language is leaving me

I have every intention of completing edits/rewrites to "Black" by the end of the month. It's just going to require a bit of pep-talk. That guy from the Adam Sandler movies comes to mind: "Yoooo can doooooo eet!" Yeah.

While I still hold a distilled essence of that renewed vigor -- I did it once, I can do it again, dammit -- I've reached that point where I'm getting sick of looking at it. It sucks. All of it sucks, and I should just scrap the whole damned thing and be done with it. Start over from scratch with a fresh and invigorating idea and --

Right about here is where I tell myself to shut the fuck up and get my sorry ass back to editing. Whining about it doesn't get it finished. There are other projects out there, other stories that want written, need told.  This one comes first, though. I refuse to give up on it. I have that -- what would one call it, precisely?  Bulldog mentality. I don't give up even when I know I probably should. I don't fight and flail. No drama here. (Nope. That there wasn't drama. I don't whine. Nope.) I just sink my teeth in and hang on for all I'm worth.

I'm acutely aware that this is just... part of the process, another facet of a story's development. The "IT'S SHIT. SRSLY." stage. Also known as "OMG WTF am I writing?!" Just have to work my way through it anyways, and believe the perspective will prove wrong when I finally reach the other side. The words and images are still coming to me, but I've been slaving over this on and off for so long, that the language is beginning to feel stale, the colors are fading, the lines blurring.  It's losing its polish. I struggle to hold the original vision firmly and clearly in my mind's eye.

(I am NOT whining, lol.)

Back to editing, for me.

[12:15 p.m. ETA: Thus far today I have: gotten a haircut; started the laundry; taken a short nap. Words written? 0. Writing Machine has not even been turned on yet.]
15 November 2010 1 comments

Necessity is the Mother of Invention, or so it's said.

Or, a day in the life of a writer. The mundane little things that make the larger picture actually come together.

My day began about two hours ago. Sitting here in my Writer Corner (it's horridly cluttered, no I won't take a picture of it right now, maybe some other time) with my cup of joe, poking around the internets. Just the daily wake-up routine to get the brain out of neutral before I get started.

And the Wee Racy Red (my Aspire One, the procrastination tool) starts having keyboard spasms. I know I'm hitting the space bar. It's just not registering. *eyeroll* This is what comes of multi-tasking. Technology and crumbs do not make a good combination, as most people are aware.

I happen to know for a fact that the local superstore retailer doesn't carry keyboard protectors of any kind. Not for standard desktop keyboards, let alone laptop skins. They're a relatively cheap product, only cost a couple bucks. But no! I would either have to drive to ... god knows where ... or order it online. For $2.50. Wonder how much the shipping would cost. Likely more than the product. Uhhh, NO.

Screw that. Winter's almost here, and I've been working on weatherproofing the windows. So what do I have handy? Clear plastic and two-sided tape. Uh huh. That works. Laptop keyboard is now sealed. It's a couple years old already, and thus far it hasn't given me any major problems. Last thing I want is to start having issues with the buttons. Do not want to have to fork out funds to replace the music machine, slave to the 150 Gig iTunes library. So a few minutes of meticulous customizing of tape lengths and widths, and my multi-tasking issues are moot.

And there is a single piece of Blue Heeler hair entombed within, white against the black keys... *lol* but that's okay. Nor is it the heavier, durable plastic that the marketed laptop skins are made from, but that's okay also. I don't chicken-peck my keyboard with pointy objects. That thickness isn't necessary.

Now I'm eyeballing my ergonomically shaped desktop keyboard, wondering how well the same alternative solution would work on it. It's relatively new (the keyboard, not the Writing Machine) and hasn't been subjected to the same multi-tasking residue issues. We'll see. My computers are my lifeblood. Without them I would have crippled hands from all the longhand writing. Pen callouses, paper cuts, ink stains... never mind the editing and "typo" frustrations that would drive me quickly past the point of insanity.  Technology offers improved tools of the trade. Yeah they're toys... but I make them work for a living also.
11 November 2010 3 comments

Luring the monster from the dark.

After completing the zero draft of FOAT back in September, my co-writer and I spent approximately one week doing a round of edits. I hate editing. I have this compulsive obsession, this love/hate relationship, with editing. It takes conscious effort to restrain myself from performing the task indefinitely. Perfection is unattainable; that doesn't deter me from striving for it.

Being the co-writer with decidedly less experience in the publishing industry (i.e. none, thus far) I deferred to his suggestions for submission location. He sent it off around the 15th of September. Imagine my shock when I opened my email on November 9th to discover an email from the editor at Carina Press, offering a publishing contract for FOAT with a tentative release date of August 2011.

There were a few moments of response lag, during which I stared at the words on the screen, reread the ones compiled into such key phrasing. And then I screamed. Really, really loud.

Let me just clarify, here. I do not *squee* -- I do not possess the psyche capable of such a feat. I scream. And flail. And scream. There were generous amounts of both occurring. I stared at the email. Reread it. I think I screamed again. Then I started laughing. And yelled, "I DID IT."

Well, I didn't do it. Aleks and I did. It was a team effort. The most profitable ventures, the most valuable creations, come about as a result not of an individual striving in solitude toward a goal but of two or more joining their abilities and talents, their strengths, toward attaining it. Synergy.

I see it not unlike the draft pulls at the local farm show each January. Pure horsepower measured by a dynamometer. A pair of heavy draft horses, harnessed together, hooked to a sled holding more weight than either would be capable of displacing singlehandedly. It's a breathtaking display of teamwork, and it gives one a renewed appreciation of how much is involved in creating a team. You can't just lash two random equines together on the yoke without inviting, or even encouraging, disaster. They must compliment one another, be able to pull with equal vigor -- at least one, if not both, must be experienced enough to know he shouldn't out-pull his yoke mate.

Twenty years ago, I elected to take the path less traveled. I spent many years disguising my efforts. There were times, many of them, when I was self-conscious or even ashamed of what I wrote -- or the fact that I did so at all. Things happen when they're supposed to. This first has been a long time coming. I have every intention of feeding this invigorating sensation, this renewed energy, into another creation. And hopefully birthing many more firsts as a result.

Aleks, I'd say you've created a monster, but I think it's safe to say I've been one all along. You just lured me out of the cave and into the light of day. And for that, I cannot thank you enough.