Tag Archives: novellas

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.

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Lazy day, with a mummy

We all got to sleep in, but eventually dogs must be walked and fed. It wasn’t long, but it was better than I usually get. Of course, I was up late watching my team lose another game. It’s not looking good for them now, because they must win the next three in a row to move on.

I called my parents while Old What’s Her Face went to Dutch Bros. for her coffee fix. (I make my own at the house, old school.)

When she got back, we had a nice breakfast featuring a cherry chipotle bacon we bought at Whole Foods yesterday. Not much chipotle flavor there, but it was really good.

We’ve been holding on to The Mummy, Tom Cruise version, for a long time. Today we decided to watch it. Some good, some not so good, but I enjoyed the movie.


It was a little too much like the Brendan Frasier films for me. I really enjoyed those, and I think they would have been better off to start fresh. It was basically the same story with the sexes flipped. There were some new ideas involving wind scorpions and rats, and I give them credit for that. I enjoyed the two second flash of The Book of the Dead from the earlier films. In my mind, that nod to the predecessors was all that was needed.

I got sidetracked with all the mercury in the story. I thought for sure it would flow somewhere to set off a trap once the weight reached a certain point. I was wrong. Then when they found the pool of it, I wondered if a person could actually walk across it or if they would sink. Mercury is pretty dense. None of this was part of the movie, just my imagination at work.

I got a bit frustrated with the face in the sandstorm, and the ripoff from American Werewolf in London. This is what I refer to as low hanging fruit. Maybe they should have reached a bit higher. Maybe I’ll write a Story Empire post about low hanging fruit.

I give them credit for trying with the secret society, but maybe Dr. Jekyll was a bit too much. Other than that, it was pretty cool. By the end, I decided I liked it. If you have a lazy Sunday it might be worth your time.

I got a bit more Lisa Burton Radio work done, and spent some time with a couple of outlines. I still don’t think they’re ready. I’m going to start on the novella, Estivation, very soon and it will be fine. It’s about time to start thinking up character names.

The novels just need more daydreaming effort. So far it’s been difficult to come up with the twists and turns I need.

For my science fiction piece, referred to as Grinders, I have more plot for my antagonist than my protagonist. This is going to be one where the bad guy is a bit more sympathetic than normal. He needs to get caught in his misguided deeds, but still earn some kind of possible happiness. Don’t ask, it’s complicated. This one also needs a bigger and more shadowy bad guy the protagonists can catch. I’m thinking a bio-terrorist in keeping with the theme of the story. Perhaps my bad guy can have the final piece of the puzzle and cut a deal at the end.

I’m toying with two others, and need a much larger plot for one of them. I want the whole story to be a big con game, and coming up with the clues  readers can misinterpret is proving difficult. If I can pull this off, everyone goes “Oh yeah…” at the end. I hate to say it, but some test chapters might be in order here. (I hate test chapters.)

The idea of writing a team story for a bunch of my existing characters won’t leave me alone either. I think this is bound to be a loser in some ways, because I don’t have the reader base to suck everyone in. On the other hand, it could cause readers to check out my backlist too. Maybe they like Clovis and go back to read Playground; that kind of thing. In some ways, this story is coming together faster than the others. The trick here is that every character needs his or her moment. I have a great bad guy to vanquish in mind, because it has to be bigger and more dangerous to require a team in the first place.

Estivation is next. Grinders really needs to be on deck, but I don’t know if I’ll have a good enough storyboard ready. It’s about time to take out The Hat and start slicking it up too. I’ll probably give it a couple more weeks, but it’s on my radar.

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It’s a conundrum, or two

I’m back in my room now. There was another junior thunderstorm, but it was right overhead. Some of you asked for photos, and I couldn’t get them. It shook the windows, but didn’t have the staying power of yesterday’s storm.

I also bought some ski-lodge quality slippers for my wife and daughter. Today is Old What’s Her Face’s birthday, and we exchanged texts and spoke on the phone. Seems to happen every year that work sends me out of town on her birthday. She already bought her own present, and the slippers are just for fun.

I had to attend a midday event, and wound up with some time to myself this afternoon. I have to go to a banquet this evening, but a couple of hours in between were well spent time.

The Hat is a finished draft. It came in at 25,500 words. My intent was to publish it as a novella, but my personal idea of a novella is 30K. Word count numbers seem to be pretty fluid. Am I worrying about something that doesn’t really matter?

There is a lot going on in this story. I demonstrated Lizzie’s symbiosis with the hat by having them play the upright bass together. He has all of the skills, but none of the arms and fingers. This is how they fight evil, by working together.

I’m a bit worried about the denouement part of the book. I have a lot of loose ends to tie up, and currently, I’ve done it using my bass clef section breaks. I have the aftermath of the big fight, the replacement (and upgrading) of musical instruments, the demonstration that complex characters will go forward together. That last part means as musicians and as fighters of evil.

I don’t like long denouements. I once beta read for an author who spent a quarter of the book defining a happy-ever-after for her characters. This included naming grandchildren that hadn’t been born to children that hadn’t been conceived in the main story.

I know I’m not that bad, but I still worry. If I eliminate some things that are dear to me, I could probably turn this into a dynamite short story. I want a novella and those parts are important to me.

If I turn each necessary bit of closure into an entire chapter, that will help with word count, but it will also push me toward the long denouement I’m trying to avoid.

Any suggestions?

I’m fairly sure either my critique group, or a couple of decent beta readers can help me out, but I’m not ready for betas yet. I have several passes to make before I can share it with betas.

Okay, I know someone is going to ask. Here are the slippers. I think those dingle balls are going to be Frankie bait though. They should be cozy on our new floor.

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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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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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Shifting Gears

I flew a wide circle around the meadow at the writing cabin. After Lisa’s explosives incident, I tried to be careful.

She used the forks on the tractor to maneuver a section of our survival bunker into the hole. I took it as being safe to land. She came over the speaker in my gyrocopter. “Coffee is all ready. I’ll be in after I get this section in place.”

I touched down, moved onto the elevator, and lowered everything into the basement. No sense risking my ride if Lisa wasn’t finished blasting.

I decided to move into the paranormal office, since the sound of heavy equipment was closer to the other wall. Doubt, the raven, flew into the room and accompanied me. I smirked at him and said, “Sorry dude, I’m writing micro-fiction today.”

He glared at me like I brought his daughter home late.

I spent a couple of hours on micro-fiction. I managed about 1700 words, but it wasn’t easy with Doubt glaring at me.

The biggest problem is a stylistic issue. What do you do when your character is speaking, and all that comes out of her mouth is guttural grunts and growls? It’s important to get her viewpoint, but we also need to know what gets heard. I have an idea involving italics, and quotations. I won’t share the story until October, so maybe something else will come to me.

Lisa came in with questions. “How are you going to furnish this bunker after I assemble everything?”

“You’re going to have to leave out the last section. Then load up all the furniture, food, and stuff before you attach the last piece. We don’t want to carry too much down the ladder, and beds and such won’t fit.”

“I think you’re a month out. I need to wire and plumb everything, plus you’ll need high speed internet and all the bells and whistles.”

“No problem. My story characters might have to live under harsh conditions, but there’s no reason we have to. You’ll need to seal it against moisture, then bury it.”

“Yeah, with all that fresh earth out there, one of the sabretooths came off the mountain and did what cats do in fresh earth.”

“You’re a trooper. I’m sure you’ll figure out what–”

The front door burst open, and we went to see what happened.

Lorelei, the Muse, stood framed in the doorway. Sunlight backlit her brunette hair and formed a halo around her face. I always assumed it was some kind of goddess trick. She wore a short summer dress and wedge shoes. She spread her arms and said, “Buongiorno!”

Lisa squealed and ran to hug her. “Where have you been lately?”

“I took a vacation. It looked like you guys had enough to do with the Yak Guy. Today, I’m here to check on your next projects.”

“Oh, cool, I can give you a tour of the bunker.”

“I peeked at it. It doesn’t look like there’s much there yet.”

I stepped forward. “There will be. Lisa has some nice ideas to decorate it, and I’ll make sure it’s functional.”

“Thank God. I was afraid you were going to decorate it.” She reached onto the porch and produced a large box. “I brought you a present. It looks like you’re getting prepared to write Estivation, but I don’t want you to forget about The Hat.” She sat the box on the coffee table and removed the lid with a flourish.

An old grey fedora sat inside, and a whiff of mothballs caught my attention. I eased closer, and the dents in the crown narrowed like eyes, and the crown of the hat formed eyebrows above them. “Hey, how’s it going?” the hat asked.

“Um, fine.” I looked at Lorelei. “You really weren’t kidding about this were you?”

“I never kid when it comes to inspiration.”

“What am I going to do with him?”

“Please, you’ve done this before. Talk to him. Spend some time together, then write his story.”

“But what about Estivation?”

“These are both supposed to be novellas, remember? You can probably work on them together. When you burn out on one, take up the other.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll help you,” the hat said. “I’m pretty sure the robot chick will too.”

I put my hand around my beard. What had I gotten myself into this time?

Lisa hooked her thumbs in her tool-belt and rose to her toes. “I will too, I always do.”

Lorelei said, “Lisa, I heard you ordered some hats in preparation for this one. Let’s go see what you bought.”

“Fun! Come upstairs and we can try them all on.”

The girls headed upstairs. That looked like the end of construction for the day. I looked at the hat. “What now?”

“Traditionally, I go on your head. Then Lorelei tells me you have a paranormal office. Let’s go take a look.”

I plopped the fedora on my head. “Fine, but I need more coffee for this.”

“Oh, none for me, thanks. Never touch the stuff.”

This could be a crazy Fall, and Winter.

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