Category Archives: Writing

Small successes

I did some work on the Lisa Burton interviews this afternoon. I should have done more, but it's a step in the right direction.

It's kind of important to note that I have a life outside writing too. This weekend we had our date night, and the other night we watched a movie at home. I also call my parents every Sunday, regardless of what might be going on.

Then, of course, there was Game of Thrones. I want to say more, but it just aired and I don't want to ruin it for anyone.

I got to dedicate some time to my WIP this morning, but I wasn't as successful as yesterday. It still amounted to over 1700 words. Kind of mediocre success, but it's still success. I have several months worth of material for critique group, so I'm going to stop sending them Yak Guy and start them on The Hat.

It may be two weeks before I can write again, but I can live with that. We have some company coming next week, and that will be fun too. We intend to go to the fair and enjoy a couple of the concerts. I'm jazzed about Joan Jett, and everyone else wants to see Trace Adkins. I'm sure Adkins is great, but Joan Jett is a legend.

There is also the bonus of fair food. I know it's bad for me, but fair food rocks.

Back to the office for me tomorrow, but I'm sure I can step outside to look at the eclipse. We were married on a solar eclipse many years ago, so it's almost like an anniversary for us.

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Feeling pretty productive

The dogs let me sleep a little today. I even took my time getting started. I did my morning surf through social media and enjoyed my coffee, before opening my WIP and reading what I’d done so far.

After that, the stars just lined up. I was the only human at the house, and while there was some canine intervention, I got do do what I love best. I added new words to The Hat.

Lizzie and the hat bonded, but they bickered all the way. They will never stop bickering, but it’s a lot of fun when they do. They decided to play the 3/4 size upright bass, and that required both of them giving a little. It works to establish the symbiosis they will need to finish their adventure. Some of this required me to go through my phone’s playlist, and I never write with music these days. I didn’t really this time either. I listened to some songs, chose one and paused. Then I wrote about it.

I tried to work the pieces from simple to complicated to show a kind of training sequence and some improvement. I’m not quoting lyrics this time, I did that for Will O’ the Wisp, and chasing the copyright license is more trouble than it’s worth. I think it works without them.

I faked my way through a couple of parts, which is very unusual for me. I like to get it right before I forge ahead. This time, I decided to work outside my comfort zone. I look at my words as placeholders to be modified later. Then I clipped the section and emailed it to my consultant. I included some specific questions, and can make an edit when I hear back.

I know you guys like playlists, so the story includes some Toby Keith, Creedence, Bonnie Raitt, Brian Setzer, Dwight Yoakum, and even Commander Cody. I really liked the line, “We don’t need no stinkin bow.” It feels cliche, so I should try to come up with something better. For this kind of music, the bass isn’t played with a bow.

Lizzie and the hat also got to argue about hat styles, and changes in language. Most of this comes from the hat having spent over twenty years in a box. He missed the start of the electronic age we live in, and that’s been fun too.

Beyond that, I abducted a bunch of children, made it personal, and set Lizzie on the road to unemployment. In this case, stability is very important to the character, of course I had to strip it away. I’m not at that point yet, but the stage is set.

Before Old What’s Her Face got off work, I ended at 7051 words. Not bad for a two day total, and I have tomorrow largely available to write too. I’m into it, and after I talk to my parents, another few thousand words is realistic.

In writer terms, the character intros are over. There was a training event that teased greater things are possible, and the inciting incident went down. It doesn’t quite feel like the end of Act 1, because we haven’t glimpsed the hero that could be. It’s close though. I need to brainstorm the hero that could be part a little.

Drafting new material is my favorite part, and I’m so excited to get back to it. Bonus: I have enough for a couple of months at critique group too, so I’ll stop showing them Yak Guy and see what they think of Lizzie and the hat.

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Home again, home again.

Yesterday went well. I had a bunch of intelligent questions and stayed late to make sure everyone got some level of satisfaction. This put me into the house at 9:30 PM.

I have a hard time going to sleep after a long drive, so I stayed up for an hour and dealt with blog comments. My plan was tentative at best to sleep in this morning.

The alarm puppy had the good sense to wait until 5:00 am to wake me up. I let her go potty and tried to go back to sleep. This time of morning meant all the dogs had to crawl in with us. It’s cute, really it is, but Otto weighs 65 pounds. He’s like a big rock when he leans against you and steps on the blanket. I tried to sleep, but by quarter to six, I gave up completely.

I fixed their kibble, and they ate like little horses, then went back to sleep with mom. I monkeyed around with blog comments, RSS feeds, Facebook, and Twitter. After that, I knew I had to work on Lisa Burton Radio posts. I assembled next week’s post, but didn’t do much with the week after. I still need to do that prior to Monday.

I also got some material out for a promo I jumped on for October, and another post for The Storyreading Ape’s site. Then I responded to an inquiry about a pet interview. All I have to do is respond to it as one of my dogs.


I glanced over my shoulder. Huh, wife and dogs are still asleep. Whatever shall I do?

I opened a new document and started writing The Hat, a paranormal superheroish origin story. I like the character intro, and I think readers will have some fealty with her right away. She’s been through a tough stretch. I am doubting myself because it needs a bit of backstory. With a two character, buddy type, story it’s almost necessary. I can introduce Lizzie and get everyone up to speed the right way. When it comes to the hat, yes he is a character, I have to dive into some backstory.  He’s ancient compared to Lizzie and readers need to know some things. I already have some plan to get part now, and another part later. That helps to break it up.

All in all, I’m nearing 2700 words. I didn’t plan this as a writing day, so I’m content. My wife has to work tomorrow and Sunday, so I’ll have much more time to dedicate to this project.

This also poses a mental shift to me. All I want to do now is work on the new story. I have to keep Lisa burton Radio moving ahead, and I have edits back on The Yak Guy Project. I want those edits completed by Mid September. — so it isn’t exactly an emergency.

By the end of the weekend, all I need to do is get another Lisa Burton Radio almost complete. Then I need to respond to the pet interview. After that, I can work on whatever I like, and I kind of choose The Hat.

Just for giggles, someone talked me into starting Pinterest boards for my pending projects. I started one for The Hat if you’d like to check it out.

I got some strange message from Twitter about adding my telephone number to my account. I didn’t want to do this, but they make it nearly impossible not to. The process sends you a call and a text from some cryptic number that has nothing about it that says Twitter. Then they ask if I’d like to receive updates and notifications. Oh sure!!! I’d love to have my phone ringing whenever one of my thousands of followers posts something. Particularly love that shit in the middle of the night. I turned all that off, but they said not to worry, I could always text to turn it back on. All I have to do is text to the cryptic number that has nothing about it that says Twitter.

Personally, I think they just want my number to sell to telemarketers. I’m relatively certain I’m about to start getting texts about fake prizes I’ve won, timeshares I need to visit, and vacations I haven’t really won. They make me choose between accepting this, or quit using Twitter. I’m trying to be an author here, but Twitter has rendered itself almost useless. Most of my activity is to support others there.

The Twitter thing only happened after their last update. Did anyone else get this message too?

I’ve been playing with the actual WordPress app on my last few posts. Blogsy is outdated and they have no plans to update it for future versions of iOS. It’s too bad, because they did WordPress better than they WordPress does. Everything was easy, made sense, and came with options even WordPress didn’t have. I checked, and there aren’t any decent blogging apps left in the App Store. This leaves me with the WordPress App. How does this post look at your end?

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Procrastinating and falling forward

It wasn't quite the weekend I intended, and then it was. That's kind of cryptic, but here's how it happened.

I needed to keep the Lisa Burton Radio line moving. I'm in the habit of telling folks two weeks out when to expect their radio interview. At one week out, I send a final proof to that week's guest, assemble, and schedule the post. That was my primary goal, because folks are counting on me to get it done. Mission accomplished.

I needed to write my last micro-fiction for October, but put it off all day Saturday. I've learned, when procrastinating on these, that something isn't quite ready yet. That was the case with the last story.

The novella, called The Hat, tried to seduce me all day. I promised myself I wouldn't start it until next weekend, and staved off the craving by writing a blog piece about the Research Sirens. This was only partially fiction. Conversia, one of the sirens, wanted me to interview some folks to get the details right. I have reached out to a medical person and a musical person, and they are willing to help me. In the comments, I also got another offer of musical assistance. It's so cool to know folks who will help out. I'm willing to consult on anything I might know about too if anyone needs it.

I spent a big part of today on email, and Sharknado Five. Yeah- yeah, these films suck, but how bad they suck is part of the appeal.

Old What's Her Face, said she needed a pedicure and asked if I could watch the dogs while she was out.

“Well, of course, Honey. Whatever you want.”

While she was gone, the stars lined up for my last micro-fiction. I wanted some confusion, and I want readers to see it right away in this story. I'm doing it on purpose, and don't want readers to think I'm just an idiot when things happen out of order. Today, I was ready to put it all on paper, and did. This one made me emotional when I wrote it, and I hope that comes across.

These micros will post, one per week, during an October event I call Macabre Macaroni. Tuesday is usually a non-blogging day for me, and works perfectly for this event. This year there are five Tuesdays, so I needed five stories. I have them now.

I've adopted the philosophy that if I'm going to fall – fall forward. That's kind of how it worked, and I'm pretty pleased with my weekend effort.

I have to make a road trip to Moscow, Idaho on Wednesday. I will drive back on Thursday. I'll check in when I can, so make sure to treat Lisa's radio guest well during my drive home. I'll weigh in on the comments as soon as possible.

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A bit of research

Lisa walked into the paranormal office while buckling on her gun belt. She had a look of grim determination. She’d put on her jodhpurs, boots and top from the time we went on the outlining safari. “I don’t think this is a good idea.”Lisa Burton
“It’ll be fine. If I’m going to write these stories, a bit of research is necessary. I don’t know some of the details and I want to make the stories plausible.”

“You’re stories are all speculative fiction.”

“That’s not what I mean. Sure they have fantastic elements, but the real-world stuff has to be that much more accurate.”

“Those girls are hell-bent on destroying your writing career by sending you down a wormhole of research. They aren’t called the Research Sirens for nothing.”

“That’s why you’re coming, to protect me. I enjoy research, and a certain amount of it is necessary.”

“Yeah, and a certain amount of it isn’t. Remember when they talked you into flying to China? If Lorelei hadn’t showed up you’d still be there today.”

“They’re the best researchers ever, and I want their help.”

“I’ll pull the Land Rover around. It goes with my outfit.” She headed up the stone steps, then turned back. “Lorelei will be pissed if she finds out.”

“Then we can’t let her find out.”

***

Lisa parked behind the Olympus Lounge in the tiny mountain town. She set the meeting up, and this is where the Sirens chose.

She made me wait in the car while she looked around the parking lot, one hand on her big assed gun at all times. She held up her hand and made a come here motion with two fingers. She shouldered her canvas map-bag and we went inside.

The lounge was decorated with marble columns running up into a darkened ceiling. We crossed a marble floor while glancing at busts of famous authors.

The ladies waited on various pieces of plush furniture. Wiki sat cross-legged on a huge beanbag with her nose buried in the iPad mini she never seemed to be without. Her red A-line haircut looked like it was multiple shades from various dyes, and had been cut to look like it was chewed into shape. She wore a tee-shirt with the Apple logo, a denim skirt, black leggings, and sneakers.

Wiki had always been the most helpful, and she wrinkled her nose in the most adorable way when she spotted us. She jumped up and skipped to a table booth had been reserved for our meeting.

Conversia rose from the sofa and straightened her black sequined dress. Her caramel skin and huge spiral perm drew instant attention. The scoop neck on her dress wasn’t something that could be ignored. She walked gracefully to the table, heels clacking on the stone floor as she walked.

Libraria came out of the back somewhere. Her blonde hair was in a tight ponytail, and she hadn’t given up on the sexy librarian look. She carried a tray with a carafe of red wine and five glasses. She glanced at me over the top of her glasses before placing the tray on the table.

Conversia gestured at my chair and I took a seat.

Libraria poured the wine and offered me a glass first.

Lisa scooped it up and took a tiny sip. Her eyes fluttered as she did a complete chemical analysis. “He won’t be having any today. He brought his own.” She reached in her canvas bag and produced a small thermos and tin cup. “He prefers coffee anyway.”

Wiki leaned forward and gushed. “What are we doing today?”

“I, um, I’m working on two novellas and I’m nearly ready to start. They’re quite different, and I need to get some details right.”

Libraria said, “Thank the Gods you came to us first. Starting now could be a disaster. You need to do your research until everything is perfect. Why don’t you tell us what you have in mind.”

“Well, one of them is about these people locked in an underground bunker. They’re stuck there for three months, because of a regular thing that happens in their solar system. As a part of the story, I need to know about the human circulatory system.”

“What you need is a good book on anatomy. Entry into medical school would be even better, but you may not have time. I have a complete library here and can help you find anything you need.”

Wiki turned her iPad toward me and opened her mouth in a silent “ta-daaa” gesture. The whites of her eyes were framed by the heavy mascara she always wore. Her black fingernails and collection of friendship bracelets framed a YouTube video of the human circulatory system.

“Is that a new nose-stud?”

“It is! Thanks for noticing. It’s a real diamond too–”

Conversia placed a perfectly manicured, red fingernail under my chin. She turned my head her direction. She batted her eyes and leaned forward, the scoop-neck of her dress guaranteeing I wouldn’t turn away. “Pay attention. Sometimes all you need is a consultant. Someone else has already done this research. All you need to do is find them and ask them some logical questions.”

“Uh-huh, um, what kind of questions?”

“What do you intend to have happen in your story? Ask if that’s plausible.”

“Okay, so I have another story where the character is going to learn to play the upright bass. I don’t know anything about bass clef.”

Squee! Look at these cute bass clef earrings I found.” Wiki wrinkled her nose and turned her iPad back towards me.

Lisa moved towards her. “Those are really cute.”

Wiki slid over in the booth so Lisa could sit down.

Libraria said, “I also have books about music theory, simple chords, and can even find you one about how to build your own bass.”

“Girls!” Conversia said. “The man needs another consultant. There are any number of music teachers, instrumentalists, and whatnot that could answer his questions. I suggest a month or two in Vienna or someplace where he can really learn.”

“It isn’t going to be symphonic in nature. It’s more like rock-a-billy, bluesy stuff.”

“I see,” Conversia said. “Perhaps I can set up a mentorship with Brian Setzer or someone similar.”

“That would be awe–”

Lisa slapped me across the forehead. She opened her mouth and played back an audio recording of my own voice. “I don’t have to be perfect, I just have to be plausible.”

I leaned back in my chair and sipped my coffee. The girls leaned back in the booth, and Libraria crossed her arms.

“I think we’re done here,” Lisa said.

Wiki turned her iPad around once more. In a half-hearted voice she said, “Look, a cute cat… playing an upright bass.”

Lisa grabbed me by the collar and stood me up. She pointed me toward the door and gave me a shove.

“Bye, ladies. Always a pleasure,” I said over my shoulder.

***

Lisa pulled onto the highway out of town. “You’re such a dope. A few horn-rimmed glasses, a scoop-neck collar, and a wrinkled nose and you’re ready to move to Vienna. I told you they were dangerous. Lorelei told you they were dangerous.”

“I think Conversia was onto something though. I need a consultant for each story.”

“I have all your friends in my database, and there are a couple who will do a wonderful job. I’ll send out some email and see if they’re interested.”

“At least you didn’t fall under their spell.”

“Don’t be so sure. Wiki and I ordered those earrings, and a bass clef pendant to go along with them. We’ll be like sisters, she said.”

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The day I accidentally created the universe

I walked out of work at 5:30. My mind was full of ideas about all the blog projects I have to get to. Lisa's radio show demands constant attention to keep it up to date. I have a couple of October invites I need to get to as well. Then there is the matter of one last micro-fiction for my October celebration.

Lorelei, the Muse leaned against my tailgate. She faced the Boise Mountains, and I knew she wanted something. She knows I like that view of her athletic form, and she taunts me whenever she wants something. She wore heels and a short skirt, but abandoned the jacket in this heat. She walked up to the passenger door and waited for me to unlock it. She looked fantastic, but then she is a minor goddess.

We buckled in and I worked my way out of the parking lot to the stop light. “So what's up today. You seem to be jumping in fast after your vacation.”

“I know you have ideas, and I just want to know when you're going to get on with them.”

“I plan on writing the micro this weekend. It's only a two day weekend for me.”

“Yes, and you have all your blog duties, I understand. It's time to get started on the novellas. Have you done anything with them?”

“I was thinking I might start the first one next weekend. I have outlines, characters, and more. I've been dwelling on The Hat a lot lately. I even have a character name.”

“And?”

“Lizzie St. Laurent.”

“That's a mouthful, but sounds appropriate to the story. When do you think Lizzie can get to work?”

Next weekend. In fact, I keep trying to go beyond the story, so I know it's time to start writing.”

“Going beyond isn't always bad. Maybe there's more than one story to Lizzie.”

“If it's a novella, how do you pull that off? A second novella?”

“Let's not get ahead of ourselves. You haven't written the first one. Remember telling me a story will be as long as it needs to be? Maybe it's actually a novel.”

“Would you be mad? I know you want a novella.”

“We've gone over this before. I inspire – you create. That's up to you. I'm only trying to steer your career in directions that could benefit you.”

Her sandalwood perfume was inspiring me. It's so rare these days that it sometimes warns me she's around. “I've had a couple ideas for a follow up story, but nothing is taking full form yet.”

“Like I said, no rush. Deal with this one first. Maybe you can write one of your short stories about her for the next Experimental Notebook.”

“That would probably be best. You know what would be fun? I could team her up with Jason Fogg. He should get another story in any future Notebook. He has a science fiction background, and she has a paranormal basis though.”

“So? Doesn't seem to stop your robot girl from interviewing angels and ghosts.”

“I mean, well, I suppose it could be done. She'd probably do better with others of her kind though.”

“If you say so. It isn't like you're lacking for paranormal characters.”

“Yeah, but the guys from Panama are over a hundred years in history. Even the Will O' the Wisp kids are nearly fifty years in the past.”

“Keep talking it out.”

“I don't under– Oh, she might get along well with a bunch of characters from The Playground. Gina, Morley, Helena, Justine, even Clovis under the right circumstances because he brings so much tension to any scene.”

“Now you're getting it.”

“Maybe one day I'll do my own paranormal team adventure. It could be like the Marvel Universe, but I'm no Stan Lee.”

“Neither was he, until he was.”

I suspected I was high on sandalwood. “Maybe Lizzie, Jason Fogg, throw in Clovis and Justine, maybe Morley Jenkins. Take on some huge world class bad guy.” I turned to the passenger seat, but she was gone.

She'd done it again; filled my head with ideas, most of which will never bear fruit. This is kind of her style. I wind up dwelling on things and eventually stories take shape. I knew my head had been filled with all kinds of inspiration, and I'm actually looking forward to see what takes form.

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Is a tragedy acceptable today?

I stayed up until midnight playing video games with my son. I knew I'd pay for it today, but did it anyway.

Frankie, the alarm dog, got me up at 4:30. I should be overjoyed that she gave me twenty minutes longer than my alarm clock usually does. It's a flex day, so maybe I'll grab a nap this after noon.

I hacked out another micro-fiction while the dogs managed to go back to sleep. Then I grabbed a fresh coffee and sat beside the footboard of my bed.

A slurping noise moved from the darkness to just the other side of the footboard. A black tentacle slid a Nylabone out on the floor beside me.

“Black is a new look for you, isn't it?”

“Oh, you know me. Always trying something new. I think it makes me scarier in the dark.”

“You could be onto something. Things you can't quite see are more frightening. What's with the dog toy?”

“Oh, Frankie and Otto were tugging at it yesterday and it flew under the bed. I thought she might need it back.”

“Not for much longer. I think her puppy teeth are almost all gone now.”

“Good thing too. Those babies are sharp. I had to steal a Bandaid while you guys were sleeping.”

“No problem, that's why they're there.”

“So what brings you to talk to the old under-the-bed monster today?”

“Tragedy.”

“You're going to have to be more specific.”

“Okay, tragedy is a time honored kind of story. When done well, it produces a powerful emotional experience for the reader–“

“Right a PEE, I read your blog. Too funny.”

“As I was going to say, it seems to be out of favor today.”

“Times change and all that.”

“Maybe they do, but maybe they shouldn't. Not everyone gets a happily-ever-after in real life. Fiction should reflect real life.”

“Riiiight. You write stories about spacemen, witches, and dwarves.”

“Okay, but I try to get real human emotions into them.”

“You still haven't told me what specifically brings you here today.”

“I nearly wrote a Greek tragedy a few years ago with The Cock of the South. I chickened out, and didn't completely go that route. Well, I've gone and done it again.”

“And you're worried it will make people mad. You're looking at it from the wrong side of the mirror. For every one of those happy endings, a monster dies somewhere. Do you know how many of my friends are hanging around the Union Hall just waiting for another story?”

“How many?”

“All of em, and they aren't going to get another story because the author killed them off.”

“Don't you guys always manage to stick a hand out of the grave right at the end, or open your eyes suddenly?”

“Only in horror. Not every monster story is technically a horror story.”

“That's all great, and I appreciate that monsters would understand, but they don't buy many books these days.”

“So it's a commercial thing?”

“Not exactly, it's a story for my blog.”

“Now you're just being stupid. Those things have the lifespan of a gnat. Eight hours later the readership forgets all about them.”

“Maybe they do, and maybe they don't. They don't swarm back and re-read the posts, but the story might stick with them.”

“Yeah, that's a good point. Is this for your macaroni thing?”

“It's called Macabre Macaroni, and yeah.”

“Maybe you can bracket it with something happy on either side. End with one that isn't a tragedy. They always remember the last one.”

“So bury it in the middle somewhere?”

“That's my opinion.”

“Thanks Under-The-Bed Monster, I owe you one.”

“You owe me several, but who's counting.”

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