Tag Archives: Lanternfish

Did what I could today

Sundays are never good writing days for me. This is the day I call my parents, and that usually eats up a considerable part of the morning. The other bookend is when Old What’s Her Face gets home from work.

Since I just saw my parents, and they’re coming tomorrow to get the repairs finished, our conversation was short. What to do? What to do?

I cracked open the Lanternfish MS, read the two previous chapters, then started writing. James and crew are on the open ocean once more and headed for war. Piracy is a distant memory for now.

I even managed a good section with root monster antics. Today’s effort only came to 1500 words, but I like what I accomplished. Chapters have to bounce between characters since some of them are in other places right now. I feel like it was a productive day.

I also addressed the Lanternfish critiques I’ve been parked on. This chapter was about my married cons, and the game they’re working. My experts seemed to like it, but I made plenty of boneheaded mistakes to address.

I also wrote my next post for Story Empire. I’ll get it scheduled sometime this afternoon.

While none of it seems outstanding by itself, when you tally it all up, I had a pretty good writing day. I was due, and feel good about how the weekend shaped up.

Hope all of you had wonderful weekends, too.

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My Annual Assessment, 2020

Well, here we are. We all know what this year was about. Political strife, a global pandemic, and seeing humanity at its worst, with glimpses of us at our best.

With the Christmas holiday, I kind of checked out. We went to our son’s and spent time with the grandkids. Our daughter was here for Christmas dinner, and we’ve been watching movies. I enjoyed myself, despite the restrictions we all face.

This is supposed to be about my annual assessment, so I’d better get on with it. Some of you are probably expecting some doom and gloom, and nobody will blame you, but that’s not how I see my year.

It all started out with such promise. 2020 was the Year of the Rat. I was born on the Year of the Rat. My first publication came out on Chinese New Year, and it features a couple of rats and the parade in San Francisco. It seemed like the table was all set.

Grinders did okay. It has some great reviews, but could use some more. Reviews seem to be harder to come by these days. I think it’s some of my best work and would like to get it to a few more readers.

Performance and reviews are kind of going to be the subject for a few paragraphs. I had an ambitious schedule and succeeded in publishing three books. The next two were continuations of series, which is something new to me.

HMS Lanternfish is book two of a trilogy. It sets up some things that will happen in the final volume, which I’m writing currently. I don’t know what it means, but HMS Lanternfish has less than half the number of reviews than Voyage of the Lanternfish.

I know Voyage has been available for a year longer, so that makes some sense. I also know that it’s a small dataset. Hard to draw conclusions with those kind of numbers.

Rumor has it that with trilogies sometimes the sales pick up after the whole trilogy is available. Some readers have been burned by authors who never finished the job. I understand that, but am working on the concluding tale.

Then there is the Ballad of Mrs. Molony. This is the third entry into the world of Lizzie and the hat. These have all been well received, but nowhere near as popular as the original volume. This is my open ended series, and I intend to keep it going for a few more years. I’m also currently working on volume four of this series.

It’s important to remember that reviews aren’t the same thing as sales. Most books sell more than what they garner in reviews and mine are no exception.

I also took most of the summer off. Three publications per year, for two consecutive years, got kind of draining.

I wanted to post at Entertaining Stories somewhere between two and three times per week. The year started off that way, but in the last month or so I’m lucky to get one weekend post put up.

I will blame some of this on Covid. My blog includes a slice of life along with the antics of Lisa Burton, or my word metrics updates. With Covid, there hasn’t been much of a life at all, let alone a slice worth sharing with the world.

Another excuse is also blog tour fatigue. When promoting three publications, there are a lot of blog tour posts. They fatigue me, and my readers. I keep every post unique, so they’re worth reading, and that is a bit draining.

The Story Empire blog is another pet project. I kept my end of the bargain and covered all my assigned days. I write this every year, but I’m wondering how much more I have to offer over there. I love helping others, and will keep chipping away at it. There comes a point where I have to rewrite and repackage some of my content. New writers are always showing up, so it kind of works. I already have my first January post written and scheduled.

To wrap all this up, I think 2020 was successful. There was a lot to overcome, and we’re all still dealing with it. However, I published three books, interacted with many of you, and met all my goals. In a different year, I might whine a little about low success, but in 2020 I’ll take it.

Once 2021 arrives, I’ll trot out a business plan and we can all converse about that.

Talk to me. How did your business year play out?

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Got a bit more accomplished

I arrived at the writing cabin in the pre-dawn hour.

Lisa let me in, and she was already in her seasonal outfit. Today she was a gingerbread girl complete with some kind of white piping sewn around the hem of her miniskirt. Candy cane striped thigh-high stockings ended just shy of her dress. “Wow! Two days in a row? It’s almost like old times.”

“Almost. I have to cut it short today, but don’t want to squander the hours I have.”

“Then you’d better get started.” She got behind me and pushed me toward the writing office.

I intended to get the ship underway, but still had a couple of loose ends to wrap up in Tusconi. I took care of those and managed to make sail before I stopped.

It only came to about 800 words today, but like I noted, there were limited hours available. The good news is that Lanternfish is finally underway.

Lisa looked over my shoulder. “I think it’s good stuff. A tearful departure and a thought toward loved ones.” She placed a little square gingerbread robot on the table before me. “Don’t run away. I baked these myself from a recipe on the Internet.”

I took a hesitant bite. “Mmm. These are good.”

“Whew! I’ve never tried anything like this before.”

“Why a robot?”

“Because robots are underrepresented in the Christmas lore. We’re starting a new tradition here. If my sculpting skills were better I would have tried some robot girls, like me.”

“Well, I think they’re delicious. You can work on it, and I’ll come back tomorrow. No writing, just a Christmas visit.”

“And my Christmas bonus? These gingerbread shoes aren’t cheap, you know?”

“Yeah. I’ll bring that, too.”

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Back in action

I got to the writing cabin fairly early this morning. Lisa Burton met me at the door wearing a green and white mini-dress with matching elf cap. “What are you doing here?”

“I work here from time to time, remember?”

“I though you were getting a refrigerator delivered today.”

“That’s tomorrow. Rather than squander a whole weekend, I decided I’d better accomplish something today.”

“And which project is it going to be?”

“Huh? Don’t worry about changing clothes. I like the festive look.”

“Oh, good. I was just about to use the hot glue gun to put tiny bells on these pumps.” She held up a pair of metallic green heels.

“Sounds like a plan. I’m going to launch Lanternfish if it’s the last thing I do.”

“Okay. I have to make your coffee, then I’ll bring you a cup. You might hear me jingling as I come down the hall.”

“I hope so. 2020 has been kind of a gloomy year and any little bit of cheer is welcome.” I marched to the writing office and could see my breath in the air. Lisa had already provided kindling and wood, so I made a fire in the fireplace before I got started.

I opened my chapter by sliding Lanternfish from dry dock into the water. It takes some time to outfit a ship this size and I needed to respect that. I used the time to define some relationships, mostly between James and Bonnie. They are always parted on these journeys, and that’s pretty realistic for the era. I decided to spend some time with them as a couple.

I also spent some time reintroducing a few other characters. The overall trilogy seems to have a cast of thousands, and I can’t expect readers to remember all of them. Since it’s still early, a line or two seems more helpful than not.

Lisa jangled into my office with coffee. Somewhere along the line she’d managed to accessorize with an enameled bracelet and necklace of holly leaves and berries.

“Where’d you get those?” I pointed to her wrist.

“Cute, huh? I found them on EBay for a steal. As a bonus, Bunny likes to chew up the boxes.”

“You’re a little tall for an elf, but your heart’s in the right place.”

She leaned in close. “I don’t have a heart. There is a hydroponic layer to keep my skin healthy.”

“I know that. It’s a figure of speech. Means you have the right spirit.”

“Thanks. You type away. I’m going to go do my nails. There are boards of Christmas nails all over Pinterest.”

“Have a good time.”

I pecked away at my project, and ended at 3200 words for the day. I like this chapter, but there’s nary a cannonade in sight. Plenty of time for fantasy sea monsters and naval warfare after they leave the harbor.

I also like the way that Serang has been up to her neck in warfare in the preceding chapters. I think it adds a sense of urgency that readers can pick up on, even though the Lanternfish crew has no idea.

Tonight is all about packing all our food into the tiny freezer and a group of old coolers. Hopefully, getting the new one delivered and installed won’t be an all day affair, but my experience with such things hasn’t been good. If this is all I manage to write, so be it.

In other news, I worked through all my critiques for the other story. My group really didn’t like my title, so I changed it. The book about Lizzie and the hat is now called Lunar Boogie. Probably jump to that one next go round.

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Slower Going Today

I’ve been left to my own devices this weekend. Old What’s Her Face had a trip planned to Nevada, but her Covid diagnosis put that off. She went back to work and rescheduled her trip this weekend.

That leaves me and the bulldogs, who are feeling pretty needy. I didn’t do anything last night, because it was Mandalorian night. I’m loving the story, but hating the cliff-hanger.

I needed to jump back to Lanternfish, since it’s falling behind the other book. I’m struggling to get my cons enough page time. I finally decided on a path, then pushed ahead.

The Palumbos might just have to get shorter chapters. I like to keep things about the same length, but their sections don’t involve cannonades and sword fights. They put on their shows and try to influence the outcomes. After that, I don’t want them standing around for the sake of page time.

After their short chapter, I returned to Tusconi and launched the refurbished Lanternfish. I may have to make a bigger deal of it and need time to think. Right now, the main characters watched it all from a carriage on a hilltop. They are trying to keep a few secrets, so I didn’t want the queen to break a bottle over the prow, since she’s the big secret.

I’m debating what to do with Mr. McCormack. He’s a quartermaster’s mate, but Fala is the real quartermaster. He also has a girlfriend in Tusconi, and they’ve been making plans. Taking him or leaving him would be realistic, but I’ll probably take him along.

I mention this, because Lanternfish has a lot of characters. Giving them all page time could water down the story to a degree. Most of them are supporting characters, but we assume they’re rigging sails, preparing meals, or swabbing decks somewhere.

This is why I stopped where I did. Dan and Fala are married, but will both make the voyage. Mule and Yoshiko are solidly together and will make the voyage. James will leave his wife behind. I might be able to do some contrasting things about the risk or benefit of leaving your loved one behind or bringing her along. Maybe – maybe not. I need to think about it.

In a way, this book is like writing multiple books all on its own. I have Serang’s story, the Palumbo’s story, and the Lanternfish story. That won’t last, and will come together at the end. Right now, I need to move the Lanternfish part ahead and it should get a larger portion of the pages. If I have to assign page time it would be Lanternfish >Serang>the Palumbos.

Word count wasn’t great, but I still have 1600 words I didn’t have last night. I have some fun stuff planned for the root monsters after they get underway. James will also have to try out the improvements to the ship which could be fun.

For now, it’s probably time to shift back to Lizzie and the hat. They have their own issues, because any clue gathering they get only comes once per month. I nearly have that worked out in my mind. It’s about time for the December full moon.

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It’s been too long

I got to the writing cabin relatively early this morning. Lisa Burton met me at the door. She wore a tight knee-length khaki dress and a matching envelope cap.

“What’s with the outfit,” I asked.

“Veteran’s Day is next on the calendar. Things are still kind of boring out there, so I try to celebrate everything at home. You haven’t been out here in a while. What’s the occasion?”

“Nothing special. Just trying to keep the boredom away. I’ve been doing some storyboarding and looking for graphics. I have a lot of cool poster ideas for you as I write the next few books.”

“I’d love to go over your ideas. Maybe I can get some outfits ordered.”

I headed toward my office and turned on the lights. Lisa had placed sheets over everything, so I pulled them away and piled them in the corner. “Problem is that all the cool ideas are several books away from the ones I’m writing next. Things will have to come to me as I write those.”

“I’m sure you’ll come up with something. Maybe I can help.”

I walked down the hall to the paranormal office and threw the switch. A spark and hum revealed the same slip covers over all the furniture.

I thought as I pulled them all back. “I might be able to use that garrison cap in a story. Hang on to it.”

“For the hat?” she asked.

“Yeah, why not. I have a mission in a future story that will require him to be flat. Lizzie might come up with a performance outfit using it, too.”

“That seems worthy. I’ll keep it within easy reach. What are you working on today?”

“Nothing in particular, but I’m getting close.”

Lisa pushed me back to the main office and my desk chair. She moved the iPad in front of me. “I’ll get you some coffee. Maybe just relax and enjoy a fresh cup. See where it takes you.”

I sipped my coffee, then opened a new folder, created a blank document. A little copy and paste, and I’d created a title page and copyright data. I wrote one sentence, then another.

I knew in broad strokes what has to happen, but didn’t really plan a way to execute that. I worked on some dialog and it led toward the planned event. Might as well execute the plan and see what happens.

I dabbled, and backspaced my way along, not really expecting much. When I glanced down at the bottom of my document I’d written 3000 words. My jaw fell open.

Lisa had her own cup of coffee. She held it toward me. “Take all you can…”

I clinked her cup. “Give nothing back.”

Lisa snapped an open palm salute. “I I I I.”

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Lanternfish and Serang Guest Post

I’m over at Harmony Kent’s place today. The topic is the evolution of Serang as a character. If you read all the books you can track her from childhood, through becoming a young adult, and into an important leadership role. I also dropped a few Lisa Burton posters to demonstrate the various phases of Serang. Stop over and check it out. https://harmonykent.co.uk/character-evolution-and-a-new-book-from-c-s-boyack-virgilante/https://harmonykent.co.uk/character-evolution-and-a-new-book-from-c-s-boyack-virgilante/

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Some parts are more difficult

I’m still on my hiatus from drafting new material. The Muse sent me a bunch of future material and that’s been going great. I have two decent storyboards for stand alone tales. I also have three for stories about Lizzie and the hat.

The concluding story of Lanternfish still needs some work. Dealing with con men is harder that you might think. It requires a kind of mind game with the readers as well as the characters in the story.

I’m not sweating this yet and if I don’t start drafting something before December, I can live with that.

What is coming harder is any kind of comedy. I have faith in myself, but that will only get me so far. A lot of it comes to me as I write, but I usually have some antics in mind long before I start. Right now, I’ve got nothing.

This involves the relationship between Lizzie and the hat, but also the root monsters. As a buddy story, Lizzie and the hat will be easier to deal with. I have three reasonable plots and if I started writing today, they would be fine.

People love the root monsters from Lanternfish, and they need to shine as the trilogy comes to an end. I really hope I haven’t revealed all their tricks yet. I have a neat denouement in store for them, but that only helps at the end. They need purpose and humor as the tale unwinds.

One thing I’m toying with is to give them a tiny character arc. Instead of being told what to do, maybe they can start grasping what is happening and make some choices on their own. I’m not married to this idea, and as comedy relief, it kind of goes against all the rules.

What I really need are some root monster vignettes that sometimes come to me in dreams. Then I can sort through those and decide what could work in the story. I’m on the verge of reading HMS Lanternfish from start to finish as part of my editing process. That could spark some things, and you can bet I’ll have a notes app handy.

I’m 80% of the way through the book I’ve been reading, and that will signal time for editing. I might even do my traditional word searches in the evenings while Old What’s Her Face is watching television. I find that not focusing makes that go better. I miss common spelling errors when I get wrapped up in the story.

I sound like I have a plan, but I really don’t. I just know that I want Lanternfish out this summer, before it gets swallowed up with promotion for my Halloween oriented tale.

I hope everyone out there is being safe, and getting to enjoy some of the things you like.

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Not really an oracle

You have to admit, life has been strange for a while now. I’ve been fighting with technology, old and new. Working from home, and all the learning curve that entails. I wish I really were an oracle, maybe I could make some kind of plans for the future. Here are a couple of interesting things that have happened across the last year. I’m not ready to pick lottery numbers or dive into the stock market, but they’re kind of crazy.

Back in September, on Friday the 13th, I released Viral Blues. This is a story featuring Lizzie and The Hat, and deals with tampering of the nation’s vaccine supply. Not quite the same thing as COVID-19, but maybe it’s just circumstantial. There is localized quarantine in the story. This is dark humor, so I’m not sure anyone is ready for that right now.

I released Grinders on February 18, 2020. This one is a cyberpunk tale that projects what I was seeing at the time into the future. It has cyber-shut-ins in the story. These are people who never leave home. They work from home. Play and gather online. Even take advantage of deliveries for every personal need. I had no idea we’d be living this mere weeks after I published it. It’s kind of starting to creep me out.

Recently I’ve been drafting HMS Lanternfish. This is the second book of a series about pirates in a fantasy environment. A gunpowder fantasy if you like that term. I don’t have a link for this one yet, but here is one for Voyage of the Lanternfish, book one in the trilogy.

A big part of the story is the environment they live in. This leads to what gamers call random monsters on occasion. The first book had a creature called Buwaya. This is like a mashup of a crocodile and a dinosaur. She walks upright on land. She never appeared in the story other than via some vocalizations and stories.

Part of her story is that one day her mate just swam away. Aptly named, Buwaya’s mate, appears in HMS Lanternfish and is a bit more active than she was. (Naming kind of reminds me of Grendel and Grendel’s Mother.) Here is the weird part. Scientists have just discovered a fossilized trackway in present day South Korea. It provides conclusive evidence of crocodiles who walked upright on land. I swear, I didn’t miracle this into existence somehow. It provides some of that reality I try to bring to my speculative fiction. I’ll take it.

Maybe they were in shallow water, and the article didn’t address that. I’ve seen photos of crocodilians standing up in the water with only their nostrils above the surface, but this doesn’t sound like what they discovered. There were no tail-drag marks like you would expect.

Maybe something like this? Maybe not?

If you’re interested, you can check the article here https://tinyurl.com/y7xxu96c

I wish I were an oracle, and these were more than blind-assed luck. I’d find a way to sell a few more copies of these books, and to end this infernal lockdown without making everyone sick again.

The only draft I have going is The Ballad of Mrs. Molony. This is a new book for Lizzie and The Hat. After that, my focus will move to publication and promotion for the new stories. I’m going to take a break from drafting new material to work on some storyboards.

With my recent string of luck, maybe we’d all be safer if I avoid anything too futuristic for a while. I have one historical piece I could move on next. Or there is the post apocalyptic tale I have roughed out, but it includes autonomous zones and some things you might not want me poking with a stick.

I’d appreciate it if you’d check out the links above. I think these are all good stories, and you might find something that appeals to you. You can also read about the scientific discovery and that might spark you to try out Lanternfish.

What weird circumstances have you stumbled across lately?

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The weekend warrior

I work during the week, so I have to get my word count on my days off. I’m blessed to have a flex schedule that provides me with an extra day off each week, but it moves around. Sometimes my word counts seem high when I write about them, but if you spread it over a whole week they aren’t any more extraordinary than anyone else.

Today was a slow start for me. I slept in, spent some time for social media, and wasn’t generally feeling it. I also wanted to enjoy my coffee and Old What’s Her Face is off today. I decided to wait until she took the dogs for her coffee, then play ball with them.

It was about 9:00 before I got started. This is the middle volume of a trilogy, so my ending needs to have a complete disaster, while preserving that glimmer of hope they can deal with in the final volume. Yeah, it’s kind of formulaic and I own that. If it works, it works.

My writing turned out to be about a chapter and a half of solid action, and I slightly “told” small bits of it to keep the burner on high for the whole thing. If you think about a city being invaded by an enemy, you need to skip some of the running and hiding and stay with the action. I also included multiple points of view, because it’s a geographically large event.

Even after all that, I still haven’t finished the story. I need to write what is called a sequel to deal with all the things that happened. Staci Troilo is writing an excellent series about that process over at Story Empire.

The crew is in another new location right now. A bit of world building fits in with the flavor of the story. If I’m good, I’ll have one of those inspirational speeches that can lead us into the final volume. I know what remains to include in the story, and where it winds up, but I’m still trying to get there. I’m relatively certain I’ll finish it before I go back to work on Tuesday.

My short story critiques are all back, so I have to deal with those, too. This story needs some work, but it exists and that’s the hard part. Tweaks and repairs aren’t so difficult, and it is a short story.

I’m pretty happy with this Lanternfish tale, but Sundays are hard to get much done. I have other things I regularly do on Sundays. That might be the best day to deal with my short story. Monday will provide a great opportunity to wrap up HMS Lanternfish.

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