Tag Archives: characters

A Tetris kind of day

I started out with good intentions of writing a bunch more words, but it didn’t work out that way.

Today was a day to spend with Lorelei the Muse. Here’s why.

A novel needs characters, a plot, setting, but it needs something else too. All those bits and pieces have to form a cohesive whole when you’re finished. It kind of reminds me of swishing all those blocks around to build the wall in Tetris.

I have characters, setting, and plot, it’s that other part that has me stymied today. Nobody wants to read a story where problems don’t have to be faced and eventually overcome. Deciding to pull the sword from the stone, then doing it makes for a pretty unsatisfying tale.

There is a plot sized problem, but I’m dealing with a section sized problem here.

My pirates are in the process of pulling off a big con game. I’ve spent some quality time fleshing out characters and setting, but they need some kind of larger adversity in this part. There is a lot of personal adversity, but the bigger part isn’t on the page.

I wound up with some ideas, and made steps in that direction. There has been a shadowy threat in this story all along, so why not use that again. It also gives me a chance to face a collection of the shadowy guys in the big ending of the story.

There are more things to accomplish in this part of the world, but I have plenty of time to weave some of this together… if I start now.

To that end, I put down about 1500 words. This really helps, because it makes a commitment I can build off of.

The good news is, I have a two day work week ahead of me. We took vacation time with the idea of going camping. We failed to make a reservation, and over the fourth, there isn’t likely to be even a bushwhacker’s site available. We may be staying home for a few days.

This gives me four long commutes with the Muse, and I can figure out a way to weave all the pieces together before sailing away to the next section.

It was a good writing weekend, and I have thousands of new words on the page. I have a vague idea of the section sized problem, and am looking forward to some vacation time to put it all together.

Hope all of you had a great weekend too.

Advertisements

28 Comments

Filed under Writing

Airports, NOLA, Hacked

Yesterday was a flight day for me. I’m at a conference in New Orleans for my paycheck job. This is one of those weeks where I’m going to miss things. If you get a like from me, that might be as good as it gets. I’m here with all of my bosses, and my time is theirs.

I kind of like airports. They make for the best people watching. Everyone has a little bit of stress, and that helps reveal character. One example is the guy in Denver who decided to jump off the people mover. You know, those George Jetson things that are like a flat escalator. He vaulted over the rail, which also moves, fell down, and scattered electronic devices everywhere.

The best one was a lady. She had thick permed hair that hung to the points of her shoulders. Either from dye or the perm, it was burnt looking at the ends. She was notable in that her posture was to hold her head out in front of everything else. Her nose would arrive in a room before the rest of her. She was a dark brunette. The whole appearance gave her the image of a fluffy vulture. She would make a great character.

I met up with all the rest of the Idahoans before dinner. We went to a place that had a fried fish menu. Honestly, I could have gotten the same thing in Boise. My crowd needs to be a bit more adventurous. I can show them some places, but I’m at their mercy.

While in the Boise airport, I started reading Hacked, by Sue Coletta. I finished it in the air on my way to Denver.

This thing is an intense thrill ride, and it’s a good stepping stone into the kind of books Sue writes. It’s novella length, so it won’t take you long to finish it, and honestly, you won’t want to put it down.

I am starting to really love the novella length. I just think as we get more and more pressed for time, it has a place in our lives. Judging from the reaction to my own novella, some of you must feel the same way.

I’m pressed for time right now, so here is a link to Sue’s book. Hacked.

22 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Lazy Sunday

Today is the day I call my parents. I set some time aside for that purpose. They’ve been getting a lot of snow in Northern Nevada, and we’ve got the back door open up here. Boise is a nice area, and we get all four seasons. There aren’t any bugs yet either, so it’s been really nice.

I managed a few paragraphs on my story today. That’s it. This one seems to require going back and working through the stuff I recently wrote. Even more-so than other stories I’ve written. I have a lot of fun stuff happening, but there is also a lot of traveling and camping going on. This is difficult to deal with, because every stop deserves some description. I have four characters to deal with, and I need to get some of their personality on the page. This leads to a balancing act between too many evenings in camp, and getting them up to speed with each other. Realistically, these are the hours they have to get acquainted. They are traveling at other times. In two different wagons.

It’s fun stuff and character vs. Too many miles behind a horse and hours beside the campfire.

I’ve introduced all these monsters too, and need to use them to a small degree. That will probably happen on Wednesday. That is my rotating day off in the coming week.

More of my time was dedicated to Lisa burton Radio. I didn’t write any new shticks, and probably should have. There are interviews scheduled for the next three weeks though. I also have a promotional thing all scheduled for myself.

I’d prefer to work on new fiction, but it all counts. I need to gear up and earmark some time to prepare a bunch of blog tour posts, for a different story… I just didn’t.

That was my Sunday. I have to put in a couple of days at the office before I can try it again.

17 Comments

Filed under Writing

A day off

I got to sleep in a whole hour this morning; 5:30 yay! I started my day with a cruise through social media, and a lot of bulldogs in my lap.

It was about 60 degrees outside today and bright sunshine. Pretty awesome. I went to lunch with an old work colleague, and enjoyed catching up with her. We could have had sloppy rain or even snow, so it was a nice day. The Boise area is awash in Autumn colors, so that only enhanced the day.

Otherwise, I pulled down my novella, The Hat, and looked at it with fresh eyes. It’s been fermenting in cyberspace for weeks now, and this is on purpose. A bit of distance seems to provide a more accurate vision.

I changed a few things, but not much. This was a first editing pass, not a deep search for problem words or anything like that. There is something different with this story, and I want to discuss that here.

In my novels, I usually reach a point where I’m sick to death of them. I’ve spent so much time with these characters that it wears me out. By the time they’re published I love them again, but it’s a cycle I’ve always gone through.

This story still excites me as much as when I first started. I suspect this has something to do with the length. It’s a novella, so I can read through it in one day. I also love a good buddy story, and this one fits that description.

I’m going to avoid the term “character driven” when I market it. I always thought it was a pretty good descriptor, but some bloggers have turned this into something bad. They claim it’s author-speak for a story with no plot or focus. (Psst, don’t tell anyone, but this is character drive fiction.) If you’ve enjoyed any of my characters in the past, you’re probably going to like these guys too.

I used some light-duty graphics in this story. One of the challenges when editing is keeping the graphics where they belong after rewording things. This may drive my formatter crazy, but I’m willing to pay extra to keep them. Don’t know how they’ll transfer when I share it with beta readers. I write in Pages, but email out in Word format.

I also started Sean Harrington working on some Lisa Burton promotional posters for this one. I have some fun ideas for them, and can’t wait to see the results of his magic.

All in all it was a great day. Got some decent work done, got to visit with an old friend that I also share a birthday with, now I get to watch the World Series. Can’t complain at all.

36 Comments

Filed under Writing

Checking in

I’ve been pretty quiet here for the past week. (For me) It was the work week from hell, and it really had nothing to do with work. I had my critique group on Wednesday, and never got home until about 9:00. For a guy who gets up at four AM, that makes for a long day. I ate some leftovers and stayed up until they had time to settle. I don’t do well eating and going straight to bed these days.

Critique group went well. Everyone likes The Hat. They thought Lizzie was a character they could get behind, and it seems to be off to a good start. I have some written critiques to address, but I’ll get to them this weekend.

Whereas; Wednesday and Thursday all felt like one big day, Thursday night was great. That’s when my baseball team swept the Dodgers out of town, and I got home at a reasonable time. On the spur of the moment I decided to do a free day for The Enhanced League. It moved some copies, and did about as well as I expected it to. It was mostly in fun. This happened though:

That tells me that under these specific categories there isn’t much competition. Either that, or there isn’t much during the late summer. Either way, I’ll take it. Who knows if I checked at the peak time or not. It could have gotten higher at some point in the day. I sincerely hope those of you who grabbed a copy enjoy it.

Honestly, I may do this again if my team manages to win the wildcard game or something. It was kind of fun.

Last night was another super long day. My parents, along with my brother and his family, came through town. They flew out for Alaska today. Everyone wanted to go to dinner last night. It was great seeing everyone, but made for another long day. I think I got home at 9:00. I also couldn’t have a drink, since I had to meet everyone after work, then drive everyone back to the hotel. They didn’t stay with us this time, because we aren’t close enough to the airport.

My brother is a home brewer. He brought me a jug of apple cider, one of mead, and a beer he made. He wants me to test drive them for him, and who am I to argue.

Frankie, the alarm puppy, went of about 5:30 this morning. I’m counting it as sleeping in, because I need the positive perspective. They both wanted a lot of poodle time with Dad today, so typing was slowed down a bit.

I added new words to The Hat, but not in bragable numbers. I spent more time going back over what I have. It’s a plants and payoffs type thing. If I want something to happen in chapter nine, I have to set it up in chapter four. It’s all forward movement, but that’s where typos happen too. Cut half a sentence, add a new half, and months later when rereading it makes no sense. That’s how it works for me. Does anyone else run into that?

This morning, Lizzie got fired, crashed her car, saved one of six babies, shot one guy then tortured him later. She also destroyed the upright bass that belongs to the hat. They’re at about their lowest point, but things are about to take an upward turn for them. I need to look at it with fresh eyes and make sure their emotions are suitable.  There was a lot of action, so some reflection is appropriate for my next blast. You know, after I go over it a bunch of times.

Speaking of the upright bass, these things must have more names than any instrument in existence: Upright bass, contra bass, double bass, bass fiddle, etc.

I’m typing this at Peterson Toyota. My truck needs serviced, and they have these little work stations I can use. These folks have always treated me well, until today. There is a service representative here today that is an absolute bitch. She acted like I was interrupting her day, and I had an appointment. She made some rude and condescending remarks, and it kind of pisses me off. Just in case anyone from Peterson reads this, her name is Bobbie Jo. I will also note that my wife and I bought two very expensive cars here, I brought my father here from Nevada to buy his Tundra, and sent a co-worker here for his Toyota. My Tundra is a 2013, and I may be replacing it in a couple of years. Peterson isn’t the only dealership in town. They don’t have to kiss my ass, but some common courtesy would be nice. I can do without the eye rolls, sighs, and snotty remarks.

My wife has to work tomorrow. I have some serious editing to do on The Yak Guy Project, but I need a table to set up both iPads.  It’s our plan to assemble about a half ton of table when I get home. After that, the big flooring project of 2017 will be complete.

Hope you guys are having a great weekend so far.

29 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized, Writing

The Idea Mill #30

It’s been a long time since I trotted out an Idea Mill post here. Honestly, the feeds I got weren’t that awe inspiring lately. I also got busy with my own writing projects.

I checked my folder, and some of the things I earmarked really weren’t up to snuff, so I went looking.

All authors need inspiration. I get mine everywhere, but I use push feeds to send me news of things that are more my style than what the Kardashians might be up to. When I get a few decent ones, I assemble them into one of these posts. The hope is that one might inspire your next bit of fiction, or enhance something you’re already working on.

Let’s start off with Congress and the Military. You could write any number of horror stories just on those two words, but I found an article. A bill apparently moved from a sub-committee toward the floor of the House that would split the United States Air Force in two. The Air Force would remain, and the new group would be called The Space Corp. It hasn’t happened yet, but the fact they are discussing it lends all kinds of swagger to all those space military stories out there. You can read more here. The military hasn’t done this since the Army Air Corp was turned into the Air Force in the first place.

Let’s throw in the job announcement at NASA too. The one for Planetary Protection Officer.

The timing is ripe for one of those ground floor kind of stories. Maybe set the stage with top secret information that something is out there, and we need protection from it. Then introduce your first group of cadets and start outlining. Can’t find a threat? Let’s give honorable mention to this flying bat-monster over Chicago.

This is a well worn trail, and we all know it. Today, you have a point for some research to add a degree of realism to the piece you create.

Our next story is about unsolved languages. Apparently Facebook’s robots created a language of their own to interact with each other. The punchline is that we don’t know what they’re saying to each other. That could be a story all on its own, but a researcher brought us this cool article about Researching Lost Languages.

To me, this article has more interest than the Facebook news. Robots with a secret language is another well worn trail. There are all kinds of ancient languages out there that we’ve never been able to crack. Without the Rosetta Stone, we may not have cracked hieroglyphics. Other ancient languages don’t have a handy Rosetta Stone lying around. There is even a wonderful Nazi tie in that adds a veil of evil to the whole thing.

An ancient language researcher would make a neat character. It has shades of Dan Brown and Indiana Jones all at once, particularly with the Nazi tie. Maybe we wind up cracking one of these languages, and find out something that we really don’t want to know.

The last one involves a revelation that blood from young animals can slow down the aging process in older animals of the same type. This all started with dental research in the 1950s. Dentists are evil enough to make decent bad guys. Ever seen Marathon Man? It even had a Nazi tie in.

The research led to sewing lab rats together, and intentionally wounding the older of the pair. An unstitched rat was given the same wound. The one with access to young blood healed faster and better. There is even more potential in this research because the article delves into modern stem cell potential. To get more information, read the darned article.

I think I’m going to borrow from this one myself. I still have that Grinders novel I want to get to, and it fits right in. This could fuel any number of mad science type stories. It lends credence to some kind of Lady Bathory tales too. Need a modern day Fountain of Youth, maybe you just found it.

Just for fun, I try to come up with a corny story that uses all these elements. That young-blood story is going to be rough, but I’ll try.

The Men in Black captured a flying bat monster over Chicago. (Extra credit for using him) They tried to communicate with him, but couldn’t understand him until they found a researcher into ancient languages.

The researcher discovered he was speaking one of the ancient languages, but he needed time to interpret it. In the mean time, the Space Corp is formed and the first volunteers join up.

Eventually, the threat is revealed. Bat Monster is a spy, and the researcher recovers his communication kit. This allows eavesdropping on the invaders.

Our Space Cadets, (I hope they call them Space Cadets) ship out. They are going a long ways, so they have to be in suspended animation. Part of the process involves the Cadets donating their own blood as part of their revival process. The blood of eighteen year old Cadets will help reanimate the thirty year old soldiers when they arrive. Then, of course, they have to battle the hideous bat monsters.

How’d I do? More importantly, what will you do? Did you find a useful story element here? Maybe an entire plot?

30 Comments

Filed under The Idea Mill

What’s in a name?

Naming fictional characters is fun, and a pain at the same time. Writing short fiction can really burn through names, but there are times I don't use them at all. In The Enhanced League, I'm having to come up with a lot of names.

I've used the Major League Baseball rosters for names in the past, but had to look elsewhere for names in these tales, because they are baseball stories. I never use someone's whole name, but sometimes a ball player's last name works for me.

The fact is that I'm parked on a great source for names, and can't use them. These are family members, and even if they've passed on, their children haven't. Some of these names have a lot of character, and that helps in fiction. (Some of the actual people were quite the characters themselves.)

Check some of these out. I'll drop the last name where appropriate, because it doesn't matter anyway.

Price David XXX was my grandfather. He went by Turk his entire life. (No Turkish blood in the family) Without ever knowing the man, there is some character already there.

My other grandfather was Hiram Sterling XXX. He went by Sterling.

I have a cousin named Tyna. It isn't pronounced Teena either. It catches the eye, and is interesting.

Gwladys was my grandmother. She Americanized it to Gladys after she immigrated here from Wales. Interesting side note, she came here on the Carpathia the year before it rescued survivors of the Titanic Disaster. Americanizing your name is interesting without writing a single word being written.

Ralph Edward XXX was a great uncle. He was the first born in a large family. Someone early on called him the little chap. He was Uncle Chappie his entire life. It's interesting.

Leonard Byron XXX went by Snuffy.

How about some of these; Charles Wellington XXX, Fred Niemeyer XXX, Thomas Harrington XXX, Walter Eddison XXX. They just have a nice ring to them. Walter Eddison was a polio survivor and one of the greatest characters I've ever known. He did like so many others, and named his firstborn after himself, but Junior was never used. He's always been Little Ed, and still is at about sixty odd years old.

Speaking of Uncle Ed, many folks in my family go by their middle names. Aside from my grandfather, Stella Phyllis XXX, Price Douglas XXX. I think going by the middle name also is intriguing. It might not be first page stuff, but it makes fictional characters interesting.

A similar relative was Clarence Lee XXX, he went by Sonny.

My other grandmother was Thelma Irene XXX. That just sounds so 1920s to me. It's an old name that gets no love these days. She was quite the character herself.

How about a great aunt named Coila Leona XXX. She went by Coila, and I've never heard the name before or since.

I'll throw in a family friend too. Her name was Agatha, only she didn't pronounce it like you might think. She insisted on Ah-gay-tha.

There you have it. A great list of names that are off limits to me. In a fictional setting, not every character can be a hero, and even heroes need flaws. Someone, somewhere, would complain that I painted their mother, brother, dad, etc. in a bad light. They might believe I thought poorly of those people, and I loved them to be honest. So these names are on my no-fly-list.

You can use them, I just can't. If you want a vampire named Thelma, or an axe murderer named Chappie, have at it.

I think it's interesting when people go by their middle name. I also think it's interesting when people go by nicknames. Without writing a single word, there is a tidbit of something in the character. It's interesting when people Americanize their name too.

On a personal note, this was an interesting exercise for me. Apparently I come from a long line of characters, and some of them were pretty over the top. Think about it, my grandparents were Turk, Thelma, Gladys, and Sterling.

So how about it you guys? Do you consider family names off limits? Do you think names are intriguing? Does the nuance of a name help when you write a character? What's your favorite source of fictional names? Do you like name generators? Talk to me.

55 Comments

Filed under Writing