Category Archives: Writing

Happy with my output

Sundays are usually wasted days for me. As an example, I always call my parents on Sundays. We chat for about an hour, and I won’t sacrifice this time for anything.

Old What’s Her Face is also off today, so that means distractions and noise. She’s had the Harry Potter marathon on since last night and it started again first thing this morning. As much as I love these films, I’ve seen them hundreds of times and wanted something else.

I decided to go into another room and pick at my WIP. I also tried an experiment with dubious results. I’ll experiment a bit more, then it could lead to a post for Story Empire one day. It involves ambient noise while I write.

It started off with me monkeying with Alexa one day. There wasn’t a lot of choice there, but Staci Troilo set me up with an amazing site. I tried it today, but the noise goes off as soon as my phone darkens. This led me to YouTube, and that was more functional. The trick is to pick something and not get caught up surfing for several hours.

I settled upon two different “songs” for lack of a better term. One involved a peaceful meadow, the other was designed for inside a tomb.

The meadow is where I started writing, and I like what I came up with. Serang found the ruined city as planned in my storyboard. She uncovered the secrets I plotted out, but how she went about it was magical.

She’s discovered the lost temple of the Cartomancers. The one that was burned in the history of a previous war. This gives me a great tie back to the original Lanternfish book, and it works because we’re back on the original continent.

It turns out there is still one hidden storeroom that was not destroyed in the first war. Serang uncovered this by playing her flute. She noticed that a semi-circle of standing stones were placed in exactly the same configuration as the holes on her flute.

Musical stones are a real thing, so mine work as a kind of lithophone when someone grinds on them. This lithophone required multiple people, but it opened a hidden door to a small treasure trove of the intellectual variety.

It gives me a great tie back to Mule, his parents, and even the goblins who used to live in these lands. I’ll be circling back to this in the denouement phase of the story.

I also spent extra time to detail this area. This is a special place and so I added some fantasy creatures and details to make that apparent. I created linen birds, a ribbon bird, and even a clown spider. The spider also took Serang back to her youth when orchid mantises were fascinating to young monks. (Orchid mantises are also real.)

It only came to 2500 words, but I really like them. I need to go over it several times, but at least they exist. Wreck of the Lanternfish is about 32,000 words right now. I mention this, because it needs a big denouement. Both James and Serang have a couple of gigantic things to accomplish and I’m getting closer to those. My married cons have one big one to pull off, but it isn’t on par with the others. (Important to the story, though.)

I should probably wrap the war up somewhere between 50,000 and 60,000 words. That will give me plenty of room to change the world and give everyone’s favorites a conclusion of some kind.

I’m sorely tempted to go back in my cave and write more, but I’m off tomorrow. I’ll start my day by going over what I just produced. There is an opportunity to drag out the discovery and that could be helpful. Best to look with fresh eyes.

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The big squirrel festival

I had two goals today, and those didn’t have a lot of parameters. I wanted to go back over my existing work with a fine toothed comb, and I wanted to add some small amount of new words to Lanternfish.

What I didn’t plan on was the big squirrel festival in the back yard. This started off with one squirrel running down the fence then staring inside at the dogs as he waited.

That’s enough to make Frankie blow a gasket, so she had to chase him off. Another squirrel showed up, and the neighbor dog chased it away. The sound of her made Frankie have to go out and play, then they chased each other up and down the fence. I suppose the squirrels watched this part from the treetops.

Between bouts of this, more squirrels showed up, and we repeated the process all over again. Sometimes two of them at once.

Otto doesn’t care much anymore. This usually happens when a younger dog takes up the challenge, and Frankie is the younger of the two.

Somewhere in the middle of that, I managed to work through one chapter of Lunar Boogie, and one Chapter of Lanternfish. I still assume they suck, but I did what I could.

I also managed to add 1000 words to Lanternfish; not my most productive day. Even then, I resorted to root monster antics because they usually flow pretty fast.

There is a quiet and mysterious scene for Serang coming up. There will be some fantasy elements and a discovery involved. I just have to finish a chapter on the open sea before I can take that on.

I’ll try to dabble a bit more today, but right now I have to get up and let Frankie out. It seems there is a squirrel in the back yard.

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A bit of writing work today

Today wasn’t intended for new words. I had some writing messes to clean up, so that was my big goal.

First, I’ve had critique samples for Lunar Boogie for a week. While there weren’t any huge changes to make, there were a lot of small things. I find it too hard to focus on weeknights, so today I took up the challenge.

I also needed to get another submission ready for my group. I bounce back and forth, so this time they get to see Lanternfish. I worked on the next chapter for about an hour, including checking with an online editing program before sending it out. It’s out, so I’ll get to learn if my married cons still have what it takes to carry a chapter.

Only after taking care of all that, did I turn my attention back to Lunar Boogie. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know I had some issues with the ending of the story.

As a recap, I wanted to end this one on a down note which provided for a bit of character growth for Lizzie in the next book. I wound up ending it on a major bummer and wasn’t happy with it.

Last weekend, I added a scene and it kind of helped, but still wasn’t what I needed. Remember, these are partially comical in nature, so they really can’t end on sour note.

Today, I threw caution to the wind and added a bunch of material I was saving for the opening of Good Liniment, the next book in the series. It wound up requiring a chapter break which caused the last two chapters to be short ones.

This required me to research crystal therapy and come up with a name for a pot shop. All in a day’s work, right?

I hate to sacrifice some of the stuff from the next book, but think it probably works better here. Basically, Lizzie’s parents made an appearance earlier in the book via FaceTime. At the end, Lizzie goes to California to spend some time with them. Alone, without the hat.

As far as what I included, Lizzie spent this time with her mom, and she is a genuine C. S. Boyack character. I will have to come up with some additional material for Good Liniment, but I can handle that. I can also have Lizzie spend some time with her father who is running for State Senate.

What I enjoyed is how Lizzie is an amalgamation of her mother and father. I never planned this and it just happened. This is one of the fun things that keeps me going as a writer. Lizzie is hard working like her father, but lives paycheck to paycheck as a musician and hangs out with some strange characters. She isn’t quite as stoic and dedicated as her dad, but isn’t as batshit crazy as her mom either.

Lizzie’s mom helps add a laugh or two after the bummer moment. I think moving the material to Lunar Boogie was the right move.

I need to turn my attentions back to Lanternfish. I left James on the high seas the instant before the opening volley of a huge sea battle.

I hope all of you have power and water by now. That you’re warm and safe. Drop me a line and let me know what’s going on.

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It’s a conundrum

I may have finished Lunar Boogie this morning. Then again, maybe not. I’m struggling with a situation and airing it out might help me. A few of your comments might be helpful, too.

First is to admit that The Hat series is a form of superhero fiction. Readers expect certain things, but I’m troubled by what you don’t see regularly.

Lizzie and the hat have a symbiotic relationship that lets them fight monsters. They need each other. However, Lizzie is just a regular girl.

In superhero tales, we get used to seeing massive destruction and various villains getting done in. It’s part of the expectations. We almost never see the down side of all that.

Lizzie is a good character, and I want to make sure she’s fully developed. Some of this should start to wear on her at some point and that’s what I want to get across. I understand it isn’t why we read heroic fiction, but if you have fully developed characters, sometimes they’re going to have issues.

In other genres, like adventure, we know people fire machine guns in the streets, but the cops never seem to show up. First, why not? Second, is this police absence expected in the story?

My thought was to deal with some of this between books. I understand that readers of heroic fiction don’t want to spend chapters of effort on mental health issues. Those stories are best suited to other authors.

To deal with it between books, I have to leave readers with a sense of the problem. I can pick things up on the other side with a nod before the next adventure. I have some fun things planned for that.

What I have in hand is a book that ends on a bummer note. The goals were achieved, people will live happy lives because of Lizzie’s efforts, but it’s kind of a downer at the same time. Keep in mind these are also supposed to be comedic in part. (Bummer and comedy don’t mix too well.)

When I pick it up in the next story, since Lizzie is a musician, I figured people might mistakenly refer to her episode as rehab. In fact, that part works pretty well.

My problem is the mental cliff-hanger I’ve created in this volume. I like it, but I don’t at the same time, and I’m out of time today. Perhaps a medical professional can deliver a line or two about things being okay and that would work. Would this be enough of an uplifting phrase if I do it well?

I could also add one more chapter, which after writing it here seems like a good idea. She wouldn’t be completely cured, but readers could see her getting some help.

In some ways, I’m lucky to be out of time. This has been on my mind for months, and now that it exists it could be easier to find a way to address it. Having a week to ponder the issues might play to my advantage.

One thing that’s also possible is to get the next book ready to go for a quicker release. Then Lizzie’s fans can get the answers a bit sooner than the annual release schedule.

Do any of you ever have struggles like this? I know the genre pretty well, and what I’m proposing isn’t required. Would I be better off to drop the idea entirely and go back to her musical lifestyle as if nothing happened?

Right now, I’m leaning toward the additional chapter. Maybe even just a scene to end on a higher note. What do you guys think?

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Not the day I planned

I woke up to about eight inches of snow today. Nothing I haven’t seen before, but there were sidewalks and the driveway to deal with.

Old What’s Her Face has permanent dibs on the good snow shovel. It’s one of those push shovels that works like a snowplow. That leaves me with an old square concrete shovel that won’t empty because the snow sticks in it.

I did the sidewalks while she worked over the driveway. At the end, everything got finished, but my shoulder hurts for some reason.

On the bright side, Frankie loves the snow. She likes to stick her head under it, then wander around bind until she runs into a tree or something. Then she rolls over and wriggles her way for a yard or two. This is the same dog that hates the rain, but she seems to love this.

I laughed so much that I forgot to take a picture. Some blogger I am.

I intended to write, and did to a small degree. Mostly, I worked up a chapter for my critique group and sent it off. I also worked over a section for one of the other group members.

My writing involved more of a slice of life for Lizzie, but it seems to work. I’m right down to the end, so I need the next section to be creepy and scary. That’s one of the tricks to The Hat series. I need some humor, some slice of life, plus a bit of horror and intensity. Shifting back and forth has to feel right, but as the author, I need to get in the right frame of mind, too.

Eventually, I broke down and listened to some music. Maybe that will help. This kind of music:

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The rest of the weekend

I spent some time writing on Sunday after I spoke with my parents. I didn’t keep track of the words, but it felt like about 2/3 of what I accomplished Saturday.

I left it seconds before the first volley of a sea battle. It should be easy enough to pick up when I get another writing day. I’m debating the value of sinking enemy ships, because it’s warfare now vs. still trying to loot them, because my characters are pirates.

Realistically, they would want to loot, but their enemies probably would not roll over like merchants might. It may seem like a dumb thing to ponder, but it felt like a good place to leave it.

I watched the second quarter of the football game, but just couldn’t get into it. That’s when I bailed for something on Netflix.

I know I’m late to the party, but I watched the first season of Jessica Jones. It’s Marvel, and I figured I might learn something.

I liked the show, and the characters. David Tennant was fabulously evil. The plot dragged a bit to me. I felt like the detective work was fairly realistic, but real detective work can be boring. In fiction, picking up the pace is a decent plan.

What I loved was the setting. I know sometimes my settings are a bit sparse, but this was a good reminder. It was a dirty inner city, and everything was wonderfully aged.

They had ancient 1960s era cabinetry that had been painted over, including those weird bullhorn flared knobs. All the wallpaper was aged and dated. Everything was magnificently dirty and broken. I even appreciated the grungy small sized tile outside Jessica’s apartment.

One scene in a basement involved aged bricks that led into old cinderblocks, right down to the salt those old blocks bleed after a period of time. I get it, block was cheap, so they reserved the brick for the public face. It adds a lot to the story.

This may sound odd, but it was a good reminder that setting can carry a big part of the story. I tried to take it seriously in Grinders, and it worked out well.

The lesson for me is to remember to do more of that. Doesn’t have to be a dirty inner city environment, but just to take it up a notch.

How about you guys? Does setting enhance your reading pleasure, or viewing in this case? Have you watched Jessica Jones? What did you think?

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Strange writing day

I wound up with a bachelor’s weekend again. This is when my wife traditionally goes to Nevada to visit her brother for the Super Bowl.

As per usual, I am watching the dogs and hanging out here. I really enjoy these weekends, because I can work on my projects without a lot of interruption. Or so, I thought.

I’ve been moping around lately about Lanternfish. This project has a lot of moving parts, but I’ve been through this before. I know that if I only make a few commitments, the pieces will start coming together like they should. That was my big goal for the weekend.

I tried to work on it, but the dogs weren’t having it. I’ve never seen them so needy, so I assume they’re missing Mom. They each needed up in my lap, one at a time. As soon as one was happy, the other one needed me. We chased the squirrel.

Two fat bulldogs acted like treeing hounds and they got the stupid thing cornered. Then they started coming to the door to get me to help. Since this is just my crabapple tree, all I have to do is walk out and the squirrel makes a run for it.

We repeated this action a couple of times, until I decided I wasn’t getting anything accomplished. Days when I can do what I want are kind of rare birds.

Ultimately, I sequestered myself in the room I used when I had to work from home. My goal was to start adding those little stitches that start to bring the Lanternfish cast back together.

Naturally, I did this by breaking them down even further. Diego Palumbo went on a field trip without his wife. He’s looking for things he can interpolate into predictions she can magically make for the Hollish army. This has worked well, so far, but now they need more. The ultimate goal was to place the old green signal lantern on the cliffs beside the sea. Readers of HMS Lanternfish will know this is how they communicated with the ship.

That’s where it all went a little crazy. Diego is not a hero in the traditional sense of the term. He’s a con man, and a coward, so when he ran into trouble, I had to handle it a bit differently. I also wound up adding to the cast, but I hope to minimize this new character.

The whole thing kind of baffled me, because my target points were simple enough, but when I ended today, I had 4000 new words.

Of the three different stories going on right now, the Palumbos are supposed to be the shorter ones. I liked the way it came out, and Diego wound up learning a lot more than he anticipated.

Next on my checklist is some actual warfare for James and Lanternfish. It’s time to start getting deep into the action. This will be followed by a more tranquil section for Serang and her army. She will make a major discovery in that chapter.

I’m off on Monday, so if I can get that far over the weekend it will be super indeed. To do that, I’ll have to resist jumping over to Lunar Boogie, so we’ll see how it goes.

Honestly, all new words count, so it really doesn’t matter which book they apply to.

I may even schedule an evening writing session. Depends upon how I’m feeling about it all. That’s more of the beauty of the rare bachelor weekend.

Wish me luck.

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A good day for writing

I didn’t get to the writing cabin very early. I allowed myself to sleep in, took my time tending the dogs, then browsed through a bunch of sites.

By the time I got there, Lisa had already set everything up for me in the paranormal office. She wore one of her favorite bandage dresses with a cherry pattern and red heels.

“What’s all this?” I asked.

“It’s your first real writing day in weeks. I put the coffee in a thermos beside your desk, and disabled the WiFi in here so you won’t get distracted.“

“I won’t get distracted.”

“I know. There’s no WiFi. I’ll turn it back on so you can save to the cloud when you’re finished. Now see if you can help that poor girl find the killer.” She left to take care of other duties.

I read back over my last chapter, made a few corrections, then forged ahead. It felt like a slog, because everything is starting to come together. There were a couple of times I had to go back and adjust the plants that were starting to pay off in the story.

My detective character still can’t remember his encounter with Lizzie and the hat. His wife’s spirit talked him into asking his father for help, but that happened off the page. I spent some time with him going over the six silver bullets his father provided him, and kind of like the way that scene came out.

Because of this POV character, I’m using more section breaks now. As the story comes to an end that always seems to be the case.

Meanwhile, Lizzie finished blinging up her pawn shop jacket and earned some new snow tires, because it’s the little things that count. She also spent the evening with one of her bosses at the diner. When chasing a monster that only shows up a few days per month, she also tends to get a little grouchy.

I enjoyed her evening with Dave at the diner, and it’s a nice reminder that she had friends before the hat upended her life. The diner was quiet, it was a major snowstorm, and a killer is stalking their streets. Makes the dinner shift kind of slow. I’m not totally out of my mind, because right after they locked up, Lizzie went monster hunting on the first night of the full moon.

Because of the blizzard, their night was mostly a stakeout. They spent some time listening to the idiots who call in to Night Bump Radio, then checked what appears to be a favorite travel path of the monster. They just reached the drainage when the sound of distant gunfire pulled them into action.

That’s where I stopped for the day. While it felt kind of laborious, I’m happy with the scenes. I was surprised when my word count came in at 3000 words, because it felt like about half that.

Sundays usually make for lousy writing days. I need to put something together for Story Empire so I’ll dedicate my time to that. I have a couple of things roughed out, but I need to find some graphics. I know posts always do better with graphics, but rarely use them here.

I’m calling it a win. I got some words down, and actually like what happened. Tomorrow I’ll get my next SE post scheduled.

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A Banner Day for me

I knew company was coming this weekend and really wanted to get some things done before they arrived. They’re here now, but I made the most of this morning.

I have dual points of view in this story. Obviously, Lizzie is getting the bulk of screen time, but there is a detective, Joe Yoder, who is chasing what he thinks is a murderer. He’s kind of cool, because he communicates with his dead wife during the story. Neither Joe, nor his wife, have any paranormal abilities.

The day started out with Lizzie staking out the monster, but did not work out according to plan. As the victims pile up, she and my cop wound up on the same lonely street.

It wound up not being a great moment for him, but he’s chasing something he cannot understand. This is clearly Lizzie’s territory. She’s kind of soft hearted and doesn’t want him to get killed while trying to do his job. This led to a conflict that involved some of the hat’s special powers.

What I liked is that Joe also has a supernatural father. I’ve known this since before I started drafting this one. Joe plays a prominent role in this story, but he started off in my imagination as the herald to the next story which will heavily feature his father.

I used this section to discuss the secret between Joe and his dead wife. That way, readers get a clue, but Lizzie and the hat do not. The next book is going to dive deeper into the witchcraft community, and Joe’s dad will be a big part of that.

Joe got a lot of depth from this, because he blames his father for letting his wife die. He’s wrong, and I’ll have to weave in some kind of minimal reconciliation.

The trick is going to be keeping these as stand-alone stories in the series. Right now, I don’t think readers have to read Lunar Boogie in order to understand Good Liniment. My critique partners will help me on this point.

It was a banner day for me. I didn’t hit 5000 words, but I broke 4900 before I ran out of gas. I’m pretty happy with what I produced.

The weekend is for enjoying my company. I might get another writing day on Monday.

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First day of Staycation

I took a couple of days off with the goal of working on my manuscripts. I kind of needed some time anyway. I never took any holiday time, allowing others to have whatever they wanted.

Yesterday was my flex day and it was a bust. I’ve had an eye appointment for weeks, and made it for my normal day off. That canceled out any ability to write, but I knew it would.

Turns out my far sightedness has gotten worse. This leads to new prescriptions and I decided to get new frames at the same time. We have insurance and a flex account, so why not?

I also lost a couple of days this weekend, because my in-laws are coming. It’s good for me to socialize, so it will be fine. It makes days like today more important though.

My start was kind of slow. I took my time making coffee and tending dogs. I even read blogs before I decided what to work on.

As is my norm, I read my last chapter before I started. Then added to the story about Lizzie and the hat. It started off with humor, a musical performance, and some of her band mates having fun at the expense of the saxophone player. Lizzie and the hat exchanged barbs about wet tee-shirt contests.

Then things got real serious. I brought in some isolation, and close proximity to the possible killer in this story. I stopped there, but it’s going to be a long night for Lizzie. Might be a sad one, too.

I’m excited for this section, but it’s time to stop. I find it’s always better to stop when I have something screaming at me for the next day. Company won’t show up until Friday night, so tomorrow should be productive. I also have the Monday holiday for writing as well.

I’ll have to put together something for a new character I introduced as well. It’s about time for he and Lizzie to meet up. There are some fun things planned for that, and it will give him a lot more depth.

My hope here is to end this one well, but also on a bummer note. I don’t know how that will work out as far as keeping the books as possible stand-alone reading, but it will set up events for the next volume. I’ll have to rely on my critique group to give me feedback there. They can’t weigh in until I write it, so I’ll keep forging ahead.

I’m sure it needs some work, but today’s effort came to 3300 words. This is a good day by my standards.

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