Tag Archives: plotting

Life takes the lead

I consider myself a fairly dedicated author. Most weekends I manage to accomplish something even if it’s small. Sometimes I make great strides.

This weekend wasn’t one of those times. I paid all the bills after the paychecks hit the bank. Always a good goal. I also had an appointment to get my brakes worked on today. This required a drop off at 8:00, then a pick up at 2:00. It’s about a 45 mile round trip and traffic can drag that out.

Basically, that was the extent of my day. Old What’s Her Face and I went to breakfast this morning after dropping off the truck.

I have twelve posts ready for my October blog tour and could probably use a couple more. Thing is, I don’t want to bore the hell out of people either. If I am a guest somewhere a couple of times per week, that’s going to fill the month of October.

Touring is a toss-up really. Most friends and fans will follow along and I kept each post unique. There’s only so much value in appealing to them over and over again. The dream is to reach new readers and that requires multiple appearances to glean them.

Where does that scale balance? More posts might help find some new fans. More posts could also get annoying to my loyal fans and friends. A dozen feels about right and the topics won’t get stale. I think that’s where I’m going to stand.

This means, no blog writing this weekend. I did a lot of surfing on Pinterest and a few similar places while daydreaming of future stories. I have some fun ideas and a few ideas how to bundle several of them into the same story. I suppose that’s productive in a way.

I’m looking forward to next weekend. I’m going to drive to Nevada and bring my mother back for a visit. I like long lonely drives and also enjoy drives were I can chat with someone. I’ll get one of each next Friday.

That might not be the best situation for writing, but regular life is important, too. I’m sure you’ll be hearing plenty from me once October arrives. Might even publish my book next weekend.

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Things authors worry about

I managed to write eleven unique posts to promote The Midnight Rambler. I wish I had a purchase link to insert, but I’ll have to wait a couple of weeks. I’d like a few more posts, but they’ll have to wait until I have a few spare moments.

I wrote a post about the music, keeping the setting consistent, and expanding this universe. I think it was pretty good stuff and those who follow the eventual tour shouldn’t be disappointed.

While hacking these out, something dawned on me. I came up with a cool new character and a way to introduce him. His role is to show there’s more going on around Lizzie and the hat than what they can see. I even figured out a great way to blame his actions on them and tie it to Night Bump Radio.

Then it occurred to me that he would be awesome at the final act of the Asian end of the world story I’ve been dreaming up for two years. This is the problem. In my schedule, the end of the world story comes before the one where I want to introduce him.

It would be cool to intro him, then see some problems he causes for Lizzie and the hat. Then he gets an important cameo in the Asian story. Don’t know how to solve this problem, but I have a couple of years to figure it out.

Back to work tomorrow, so my author hat has to come off for the week. Maybe something will come to me during the commutes.

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Filed under Blogging, Writing

It’s an adjustment

These two day weekends aren’t great for my productivity. I’m still adjusting, but got approval to shift my schedule to 7:00 to 3:30. The afternoon has provided some reading time that I’m making use of.

I’m not much of an afternoon writer, so I don’t know how that will work out. I intend to give it a try anyway.

This morning I goofed off for a while, then retreated to my office/junk room. With headphones, Old What’s Her Face and the dogs can make all the noise they want.

I wasn’t committed to either project, but wound up with Mari’s story. She found what’s intended to be her last mentor, bought a pistol, and is learning to shoot.

I included a lot of techniques I’ve known about all my life. Even mentioned the 21 foot gun fighting studies the FBI conducted decades ago. Right now, I’m torn between how much would be interesting to readers, and how much they would like Mari to absorb without explanation so I can get back to the action.

I don’t think there’s a right answer here. Some folks would enjoy everything I included and more. Other’s just want to get on with the big finale.

I’ll try to find a sweet spot that can satisfy as many as possible. For now, I’m writing it and making sure Mari doesn’t do unrealistic things as the tale unfurls.

I never liked it when someone is an instant expert at something, and expect some practice and training prior to perfection.

The big trick here is to keep it interesting as Mari goes through her character arc. This is a revenge tale at its core. I can’t just have the inciting incident followed by a finale. Where’s the fun in that?

I’ve stitched in a few tidbits about the world that was lost. What led us to a post apocalyptic setting. That kind of thing, and probably need a little more of that.

Delays are good for this kind of story. Injuries, economics, and others can provide that. Campsites are good places to second guess the whole thing, and question choices she’s made.

I didn’t keep track, but it wound up being about a chapter. I try to keep those to ten pages.

Right now, I need to mentally shift into some of that second guessing and delay type thinking. This makes Mari a real person for the readers. With luck, I can work on it again tomorrow.

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Word count and future ideas

I closed my iPad, then leaned back in my lounge chair. “That’s a wrap for today, folks.”

Lisa Burton, my robot assistant picked the twin ponytails from her hair. “Back to more Cicis tomorrow?”

“Probably.”

“You really need to get these girls some better clothes.”

“I did, but they tend to wear jumpsuits while they’re on the ship. We’re deep into the mission right now.”

Percy, the Space Chimp, perked up. “Not bad, dude. I’m finally in the shuttle and weapons are hot. I’m expecting to kick some major ass tomorrow.”

“Me, too. We’re nearly finished. You have two adventures left in this book and I should easily break eighty-thousand words.”

“Could be a lot bigger for science fiction.”

“True, but in this era people seem to like something shorter if it isn’t going to wrap in one book.”

“And we have three coming.”

“We’ll see. My first trilogy was popular until the final volume. Nobody wanted root monsters and Kung Fu after book two.”

He bolted upright on the couch. “Dude, don’t do that to me. I planned on three volumes.”

“That’s still the goal, but I might not release any of them until they’re completely finished. A tighter release schedule might help. It was a good day at 2800 words.”

“And, tomorrow we’re blowing the crap out of things?”

“That’s the plan. I gotta tell you, I’m thinking about starting something different.”

“Don’t do that. We’ve got what it takes.”

“I think so, too. I can always start another hat story. You were backup, then moved into primary position. I feel the need for a new secondary story. There are some stand alone ones I could write. There’s the revenge story that takes place in a post-apocalyptic swamp. One that’s an African adventure that still needs some black magic ideas. I even have one about Dash Goodman going on his quest to become a full member of the coven. It will involve a Native American girl and some of her lore, a stolen PBY floatplane, and summoning a fun familiar for him that I dreamed up.”

“Nobody wants to read that crap. A talking Space Chimp with a Human girlfriend working as a spy is what they want.”

“Relax. I still need Dash to be an apprentice for a few more years. What do you think about Dash Goodman & the Last of the Lava Men, or Mud Men, or something?”

“I think it sounds stupid. I could steal a ship and save you from writing it. Show you some real adventure, too.”

“There’s also the Detroit story. Tons of abandoned homes and two kids playing Indianna Jones stumble across something more serious.”

“We could go back to the fleet graveyard and find some antiquated garbage, too.”

“Calm down. We’ll work together tomorrow. Dash Goodman needs a serious outline to chase a McGuffin, and so does the Detroit thingie.

“I won’t let you down. I promise.”

“I wonder how I’d look as an Indian Princess?” Lisa asked.

“Probably too blonde, and it’s going to be a modern setting. She’s Salish, so I’d need to do some research before I could start. Feels like something two or three years down the line.”

“Will we be done by then?” Percy asked.

“I think so. I still have to weave other things into my schedule. Sometimes I work better with a side project. I’m just warning you it could happen.”

“Good talk, but let’s see where tomorrow takes us. Maybe you’ll get so fired up you don’t want a side story.”

“Maybe, but I wouldn’t count on it.”

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Filed under Muse, Writing

Still Devious

Percy the Space Chimp got fed up with all the company and went to the kitchen. Presumably for coffee, but something told me he was going for a walk in the National Forest.

I texted Lisa. “See if you can get rid of, or distract, Conversia and Libraria. Wiki isn’t as old as they are and might not be as devious.”

No idea why it worked, but a tour of Lisa’s closet seemed to do the trick. I’m sure she could make a girlie museum out of that place someday.

I looked across at Wiki. “Got time for a couple of questions?”

She looked up from her iPad.

“I haven’t seen Lorelei around lately, but I keep getting ideas. Do you know what’s happened to her.”

“All the Muses got really busy with the lockdown. People were cooking, painting, all kinds of artsy things. Lorelei started working the night shift just to keep up. She’s been around. Have you woken up with fresh inspiration?”

“Several times.”

“See.” Wiki wrinkled her nose in smile.

“That’s another thing. I love your little smile. How do I describe it if I want one of my characters to do something similar?”

Wiki clicked away on her small iPad. “These days it’s often called a bunny smile. There’s a warning that it leads to bunny lines on the nose as someone ages. Maybe I should stop doing it.”

“Please don’t. It’s adorable. I don’t know where I’ll include it, but probably in the hat series. Don’t know if Joyeux DuPont fits into the next book, or not. Maybe the one with moths if I can figure something out for it.”

“What seems to be the problem?”

“So many problems. I don’t see how a moth would be all that dangerous. I just had a cool victim scene I wanted to use. There seems to be a complete lack of legends or deities that have anything to do with moths.”

Wiki slid over, then patted her beanbag. “Check this out. Calyptra moths have been known to exhibit vampirism. That’s real-world, and ought to be creepy enough for you.”

I sunk in beside her. “Wow! There’s even a North American species. Lizzie’s staked a lot of vampires, so I’m not sure just yet. Why can’t there be a demon or something from Aztec legend.”

She passed me her iPad again. “Check out this story. There’s a legend of The Killing Stone in Japan. It was said to contain an evil spirit known as the Nine Tailed Fox. Just recently, this rock split in half. What if the demon escaped?”

“How’s that help me? I can’t just send Lizzie to Japan.”

“I’m not a Muse, so you’ll have to figure some of it out. Why couldn’t it be a Native American shaman who trapped a demon in a stone. When it breaks, your demon could escape.”

“Huh! The hat lived through a lot of history, so he could explain some of it. I’m just stuck trying to work out all these problems. Moth monsters, the Kentucky Derby, gremlins, a talent competition. Some are going better than others. Lorelei has to have been invading my sleep.”

“Hmm, you’ll have to step your gremlins up for modern times. Lizzie lives in pseudo-St. Louis, right?”

“Yeah, but I never call it out, so I can make up my own streets and parks.”

“Good plan, but you know what is there? The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. They’re one of the major players in the spy game.”

“What do they do?”

“It’s like a warehouse of computer data involving satellite photos, maps, weather, all kinds of things. Gremlins can’t just chew on airplane cables these days and hold someone’s attention. Put them into those servers, and you might really have something.”

“That’s pretty good, and gives me something to think about.”

“There’s more. Look at this video. A guy is playing two saxophones at once. That ought to score some points with your talent judges.”

“Dang. It would, too. I can probably use that, but that story is years down the line.”

“Never too soon for research. I can get Conversia to take you to Japan and the Kentucky Derby. She likes people to get first-hand knowledge for their stories. Maybe interview a few old-timers. I’ll bet Libraria could help you learn Japanese so you could talk with them.”

“That’s the part I can’t do. I’d love to go gallivanting around for research, but I still have to hold down a job. It’s traditional research, or nothing.”

“Check out this Bugs Bunny cartoon. It has gremlins in it.”

I watched the video, and caught myself laughing even after all these years. “That’s awesome. Got any more?”

“Sure. How about some old Kentucky Derby footage?” She clicked away at her device. “Do you know the difference between a Muse and a Siren?”

“Don’t tell me there’s a video for that, too.”

“A Muse shows up to inspire you. A Siren’s job is to crash your career on the rocks of research. Did you get any writing done today?”

“Well, no…”

Wiki pointed at herself. “Siren.”

And there was the cute bunny smile.

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Filed under The Idea Mill, Writing

Nothing like a long drive

I woke up at five o’clock on Sunday. By visiting my parents, I missed out on a visit from my daughter. Old What’s Her Face said if I got on the road by seven, our daughter would stick around Boise and cut my hair. It felt kind of abusive of her time, but I wanted to see her.

The drive started before sunrise, and I enjoyed the dawning across the high desert. This is something I used to see every day, but took for granted.

By the time I reached Lone Mountain Station, there she was. It’s still winter, so she wore a bulky sweater, tights and knee high boots. Her shock of long brown hair moved slightly in the breeze. She watched two vehicles drive by, then stuck out her thumb as I approached.

I eased into the parking lot, then rolled down the window. “What brings you all the way out here, Lorelei? Kind of lonely territory for a Muse.”

“You.”

I watched, mesmerized by her tights, as she walked around to the passenger side, then climbed inside.

“I just wanted to check in. See how your writing is going.”

“It’s been kind of slow. There were a couple of good days, but I got bogged down in the muddy middle for a while.”

“That’s familiar territory for you. Still, I know you’ve added to your storyboards. It seems like you are well primed for your next few tales.”

“Yeah, listen to this.” I turned up the music.

As she listened, I kept talking. “It’s just too obscure for Lizzie and the Pythons to play at one of their gigs.”

“Maybe when they make the movie you can include it as background music.”

“Yeah. That would be great. Since Netflix doesn’t seem to be calling, about all I can do with it is enjoy it.”

“Have you thought about making a character based around this theme?”

“That’s a great idea. He could take a supporting role for one of Lizzie’s adventures. But, I have storyboards that will take years to write out.”

“Hang onto him. He might fit on an existing board, or maybe he needs a new story.”

“Gives me something to think about.”

“That what a Muse does.”

“Of course, Good Liniment is next for that series. Then there’s The Midnight Rambler, and I have one with some gremlins, maybe one about St. Vitus’ Dance, and I’m toying with one that will take Lizzie to the Kentucky Derby.”

“How did you come up with that?”

“The hat, of course. He would hate to be one of those fancy women’s hats. I can get some comedic mileage out of that.”

“That’s a paragraph. You’re going to need a bit more.”

“Okay, Good Liniment will expand the witchcraft world. Readers asked for that, but I wanted Lizzie to evolve into her position for a few tales. There are going to be a bunch of new characters in that story. One of which is a horse lover in the form of the headless horseman. I figure he can be the herald to walk Lizzie into some problem with the horses. Weird enough for one of my tales?”

“It’s certainly weird, but so are you.”

“Thanks, I think. I don’t think I can get her there with a Barnstable Brown performance, or even Phillies and Lillies. Lizzie and the Pythons aren’t big enough for those events. I might have to invent some dive bar in the area for them to perform at.”

“Then invent one. Sounds like it’s going to take a couple of years before you write it. I’m sure something will come to you. Start a storyboard, and remember you only have about two years to complete it.”

I signaled to exit the freeway at Meridian. “What I really need is some help with Lanternfish.”

“Sorry, this is where I get out.”

“Oh, come on!”

“Anywhere near that strip mall is fine. I’ve seen your board. Lanternfish will be fine. You just need to sift through the parts until the pieces are in position for the end game. Since this is a trilogy, make sure you bring some closure to more than just James and Serang.”

“But, you could really help me.”

She leaned over and kissed my cheek. “Of course I could, but your creativity feeds me. Not the other way around. The next time you make a long drive, maybe play something other than your Lizzie and the hat playlist.”

“But, it’s such good music.”

“It really is. Sounds like that series will survive for a long time. You gained a new character out of our visit. Be happy with that.”

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It feels like progress

Today was the first decent writing day I’ve had in a while. I didn’t exactly jump on it like a leopard from the trees, but it feels pretty good.

I allowed myself to sleep in, which kind of seems like the wrong thing to do. Then I spent my first hour reading back over portions of what I already had.

This is because I have three distinct tales unfolding in this book. Since it is the third volume of a trilogy, I assume readers will already know these characters, so working it this way ought to be easier to accept.

What I have is James and Lanternfish at sea, Serang deep inland on a specific quest, then the Palumbos who are stuck somewhere in the middle pulling off their con game.

I’ve been stuck at the Palumbos for quite a while. Readers know they are being deceptive in every move they make, but they still have a couple of big deals to put in play. Today, I forced the issue.

As a story boarder, this feels like a section between the index cards that I usually free write. It’s just a bigger deal than most sections. This bit is like the summit of the whole book. From this point on the stories will start converging.

My goal is to keep readers from seeing it that way, but as the author I look at it like that.

It’s about one page less than a chapter, so it was a reasonable day word wise. I didn’t count them, but maybe 1800 or so today.

I think this chapter needs a lot of work, but in budgeting my days, I may return to it later. Both James and Serang have huge events ahead of them, but I still need to set their stages to a small degree.

Fortunately, their events don’t hinge upon each other. Meaning, I don’t have as hard a time deciding which one comes first in the story. Something tells me I need to get James in action first so we can see more of the danger and devastation everyone is facing, so I’ll probably do it that way. It will make Serang’s section that much stronger.

I’m kind of excited about today. After this, it’s going to be major action for a long time, and while that is hard to write, it tends to move pretty fast. I’ll break it up with lulls, like a section Mule has to do. There are several other things.

Bottom line, I’m happy with my output today. I might get a chance to review this section while I’m in Nevada. Tomorrow, I want to hit it hard again.

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A writer’s lament

Hi, I’m Craig, and I haven’t written a new word for two weeks. I’m unlikely to get more next week unless something changes.

Sounds like an AA meeting.

The fact is, this has been the busiest week of the year at my workplace. I was heavily involved in prep leading up to all this, too. At some point, I kind of left it all on the field, to use a sports phrase.

Old What’s Her Face and I have had the same days off, too. This isn’t particularly useful when it comes to penning new material.

I have some leave coming up, and may get to do some writing then. However, I have a stockpile of errands that will interfere to a degree if I don’t plan things well. I have to get my truck serviced, and take care of a small repair. I also have to get it sniffed for pollutants. Then there is the matter of swinging by a hardware store for some blade oil for my chainsaw. My fruit trees need some tough love and it’s best done before the sap rises.

I’ve also promised to make a quick trip to Nevada to visit my parents, so here is a rough plan. I’ll get the truck taken care of Friday morning, then go find a station that can do my sniff test. Somewhere in that vicinity, I need to find any hardware store for my oil. I will leave directly from there for Nevada. That will kill Friday, but might salvage some other days for writing purposes.

Then there is the plot problem. I’ve been dwelling on it for weeks, but have an inkling of what I want. Nothing like a long car drive to help focus some of this. It isn’t like Lanternfish needs a new character, but I’m going to introduce one. My cons can keep a secret easily enough, but adding a third party to their game could introduce some extra stress. Stress is a good thing for characters.

Normally, in times like this I would switch stories. However, I’ve finished the draft of Lunar Boogie, and want to focus on Lanternfish. It’s probably crazy, because I lost two weeks that I could have been working on something else.

I also need to keep reading what I’ve already produced. That will help me sort out what cartoons I need to order for Lunar Boogie, and I need to put some thought into Lisa Burton promotional posters.

Lisa poses a different problem. How many pirate girls can I commission here? Same thing for Lizzie and the hat. It was simple enough to do when the first book came out, and even the second volumes. This deep into both series, it gets harder to come up with things.

I’ve had Lisa pose as Serang, then in Serang’s new armor. She’s posed as Lizzie the monster hunter, Lizzie the musician, etc. I’ll figure something out, of course, but it might be a few less than I usually do.

I’m looking forward to finishing the Lanternfish trilogy. I’m down to getting the last pieces in place before things really break loose. This is the middle slog, but there are some big things planned that I expect to almost write themselves.

On the bright side, I only committed to two books this year, and one of those is drafted. I have to keep things moving, because it’s already March, but I’m not in a bad position here.

I hope all of you are doing well, and not facing your own writing problems. I’ll sort mine out, then Lanternfish will move fast.

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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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Shifting gears.

It wasn’t part of my long term plans, but I’m going to take a kind of break. This doesn’t mean I’m not writing, It just means I won’t be drafting new stories right now.

This morning I finished the draft for The Ballad of Mrs. Molony. I’m debating a couple more paragraphs, but don’t know if they’re necessary.

This story involves Lizzie and the hat in pursuit of a pair of rodeo cowboys. These guys are now members of the undead. This allows the band, Lizzie and the Pythons, to explore country music as part of catching the bad guys. Made for some cool outfits and hat styles, too.

Lizzie has a small melt-down over the music. At the end she returns to more familiar ground. I could add a couple of paragraphs to show how they weave in some country songs without compromising what they like. Or I could leave it out.

I’m calling it finished, regardless of what I decide. I need to work up some blog ideas for the books, work with my cover artist, decide if I’m spending any promo money, but I doubt it. Think about formatting. Oh yeah, I’m going to need some of those silly graphics to put in Mrs. Molony so as to keep with the theme.

I’m going to be storyboarding, too. The final Lanternfish is going to require a storyboard. I have two novels full of information that I have to stay faithful to. There are a bunch of loose ideas for the finale. A board helps me mold all that into a decent story.

I think next year’s Hat story could benefit from a storyboard, too. I want this one to be more grim with an undertone of sadness, while still keeping the humor going. Not an easy task. It’s my intention to break Lizzie mentally toward the end of the next one. That will lead into another one that has a lot going on including a revisit with the witching community.

Aside from that, I have some stand alone novels that are already in the early phases of storyboards. I should probably hold off on these until Lanternfish is complete.

There’s also reading. I haven’t taken a serious reading break for a long time and there is a lot I want to catch up on. I also have a bit of a blog makeover in mind.

Honestly, if I can get Lanternfish out this summer, then Mrs. Molony for the Halloween season, I will have met my yearly goals. If I don’t write another word this year, I’m in pretty good shape.

Just because I’m not working on a draft does not mean I’m not working. We’re going camping this weekend. I’ll probably do some reading while I’m up there.

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