Tag Archives: pirates

Bad day for Fulminites

I’ve been working toward this scene for a long time. I knew the writing would go fast, but that usually means it needs repairs. I’ll do what I can on that front later.

Serang reached the Fulminite temple with her army. This place wasn’t quite the pushover some of her previous battle were. They stacked the deck as best as possible, but those Black Assassins are rough.

Then there was the High Detonator, who Serang faced alone. I like the way this scene played out, because she snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. (Stealing an old World of Sports line)

I also enjoyed the final appearance of the Fu Dogs. I got a bit emotional writing it, but that’s nothing new. (Who knows, I may decide I need them one more time as the rest of this tale unfolds. It really feels like the end for them.)

There is also a bit where Serang has to do a bit of soul searching. (While drunk, as is her way.) I want to go back over that to make it perfect. It involves the realization that she was born of the great temple purge, and she just did the same thing to the Fulminites. The temple purging has driven her entire life, and now she has to face this.

I also actually used onomatopoeia in one place. I’ve added some graphics to The Hat series before, but nothing quite like this. I think it works, but there is plenty of time to think it over.

I’d like to get more words out of this, but action scenes shouldn’t be long drawn out affairs. Yes, it was a city wide battle. I followed Serang, and readers will have to assume other fighting was going on at the same time.

Grand total today was 3500 words. That includes the opening volley, fighting in the streets, the one-on-one battle, plus dealing with Fu Dogs and Serang’s drinking binge. Somehow I thought all this would fill chapters, but it feels right as is.

Next up is Serang getting over herself, then making plans, and delivering a speech to the peasants. I want that to come off like a big deal.

What’s your thought on action scenes? I think they need to be short. I could make this more of a battlefront with several action scenes, punctuated by reflective sections, but I don’t think it needs it. Serang is still a hero, and on her worst day she still kicks ass.

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Unexpected progress

This is my short weekend, and my wife is off at the same time. I never really expected any writing progress, so I’m pleasantly surprised.

I have a tree I need to prune and we wanted to check out a new restaurant while we still had some Biden Bucks in our account.

Old What’s Her Face insisted we hit the restaurant at 11:00, because it’s so new. A big lunch will require us to skip dinner, but it turned out to be a pretty good idea. When arrived, there was already a line down the sidewalk.

The place is called Sid’s Garage, and it’s a burger joint, but a really upscale burger joint. I had something called the Jekyll & Hyde burger. (Really, how could I pass up something with that name.) It had a grilled peach atop a Wagyu beef patty. It was wonderful.

We shared a basket of Parmesan truffle fries, and a small plate of flash fried deviled eggs. I’ve never even heard of something like this. They’re like the love child of deviled eggs and Scotch eggs.

They also have fancy milkshakes. It’s to early for beer, so I went for one that was peach and pralines with a bit of bourbon maple flavor to it. It looked like this. Oh yeah, there was a crumble of candied bacon on top.

I mentioned writing, so here’s that brief. I never planned on writing. Somehow, I wound up closing myself into an alternate room before lunch and tearing into my project. Before it was time to get ready, I dealt with moving Lanternfish into position for the big battle.

After a bunch of orders and prep, it was time for the cannon to roar and a whole new kind of trouble to face my crew. Exploding monks made an appearance, but I had to stop just before Mal pulled one of his witch doctor shenanigans to benefit the war effort.

I’m telling you, things were really working for me this morning. It came to 2500 words and I feel like I could have doubled that given the time.

Sometimes, you have to spend time with your wife and chow down on something incredibly bad for you. With that kind of word count, I think today was a big win all around.

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Happy with my output

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The rest of the weekend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Strange writing day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wish me luck.

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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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Ugh! Life gets in the way

I probably owed you guys an update yesterday, but here we are. This is my short weekend, and my wife is off, too. That doesn’t typically add up to much word count.

Today, we had to buy a new refrigerator. The old one started leaking on the inside, then freezing in the lower drawer. Before it ruins the kitchen floor we decided to bite the bullet.

My intent was to put it on my Sears card. They took our Sears store away, so that was the first obstacle. We found what we liked at Home Depot, but the card got denied.

I called Visa from Home Depot, and got some mush-mouthed guy I could barely understand. It was kind of like talking to Kevin the vampire over the phone. Eventually, we figured out that my credit limit wasn’t high enough.

It always was, but since we haven’t used it for a few years, they must have lowered it. I managed to get it sorted out and delivery is all set up.

After that, we decided to go to lunch. Old What’s Her Face and I haven’t really been out since this whole Covid mess started. We wound up at Old Chicago for pizza and beer. It was always one of our favorite places and I got to sample a couple of different holiday stouts.

Like I said, doesn’t make for much word count. I’ve been able to add minor amounts to my stories in the evenings, but have a hard time writing with noise and distractions. I’m only doing it, because there is no other option.

Right now, the story about Lizzie and the hat is further along at 24,700 words. Wreck of the Lanternfish is standing at 15,000.

I really need to nudge Lanternfish along. I tend to rush through some parts, but should detail some of the gyrations. Fantasy readers expect a bit more word count, and the environment is interesting. I’m at a point right now where I have to just write those parts and assess everything at the other end. Sometimes it’s easier to fix it than it is to fuss about how I’m going to write it.

I doubt I’m going to get anything else done this weekend. We have a few chores set for tomorrow and those shouldn’t be put off.

My banishment for Covid is over now and I can return to the office. I had to serve my wife’s entire sentence, then another two weeks of my own. She was the one who caught it, but I had to be out longer. Doesn’t make any sense to me, but I get to go back Monday. Hope I’m not too far behind.

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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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