Tag Archives: raven

So it begins

He stares at me through obsidian black eyes. Eyes as black as his heart.

How I allowed this creature to live in my writing cabin is beyond me. My sanctuary. My place of creativity and fun, invaded by a malignant presence of his kind. Stealing my joy, causing me to hate my own stories.

His name is Doubt, and he seems to show up about this phase of every book.

He sets his wings and glides to my desk

I opened the Serang manuscript and started my word searches. My critique partners made sure I cleaned up all my stupid errors. Doubt paced back and forth across the desktop, knowing, waiting.

It wasn’t until I got to its/it’s and started finding mistakes, then he croaked out his evil laughter.

What made me think I could be an author?

***

“Hey! You are an author.” Lisa entered the room. She wore a pencil skirt with blouse and jacket. “This happens to you with every story. I don’t know why you let him get to you like that.”

“I start out with such good intentions. The story is fresh and exciting. I’m into it with new characters, settings, problems to solve, even enemies to face. It’s even exciting to reach the end. Then I get to this phase, and it all seems to suck so bad.”

“That’s because you’ve mentally finished the story. You’ve carved something from raw stone, and you’re proud of it. Then you realize a bit of sandpaper and polish would make it so much better.”

“But, I thought it was beautiful.”

“It is, but it isn’t finished until you polish it up a little. It’s like using makeup.”

“I don’t use makeup.”

“It’s an analogy. You write them all the time, so you ought to be able to follow one. Your blog is like lounging around the house and watching TV, maybe picking up some sticks in the yard. It’s you, and you have a casual vibe going on. A book is like going out for a big evening. You want your hair, nails, and makeup right. Maybe you spring for a new dress, which is like your cover art.”

“Okay. I think I’ve got it.”

“You may not like the work that goes into it, but you’re going to like the reception when you finally get to the party.”

“So if I want my book to go to the party, I need to put the work in so it looks and performs its best?”

“Bingo!”

“Okay, I’ll do the work… and he still sucks.” I pointed at the raven.

“He’s a bird. You’re putting your own emotional baggage onto him.”

“He wears it well, though.”

“Basic black is always in style.”

“Maybe I should take a lunch break.”

“Nope. You’re looking for any reason to put this off. I’ll make you a sandwich and bring you some of those new M & Ms you liked. The sooner you get Serang ready, the sooner you can get to the new story I’m in. I’d feel a lot better if you got that far before I have to leave to pose for all the promotional artwork.”

“Fine! And bring something for the raven. It’s rude to eat in front of him without offering him something.”

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It’s time

Otto woke me up around 6:00 this morning by putting his huge wet head across my forehead. When he gets like this, it’s usually best to get up and feed him,

After dog chores, and making a bit of coffee, I headed for the writing cabin.

I radioed ahead and Lisa was ready for me. She already had her pirate gear on. I breezed past her and made for my office.

After a quick check of social media, and baseball standings, I stared up into a pair of malignant black eyes.

Doubt opened his wings and sailed off his perch, landing on my desk. He made one of those guttural throaty noises only a raven can make.

“I get it,” I said. “It’s time to get on with it.” I opened up the manuscript for Voyage of the Lanternfish.

Doubt croaked at me as I read the first page. I found a couple of wordy passages and fixed them.

These weren’t direct enough, and the repairs helped me get into a deeper point of view.

I kept going.

Doubt interrupted me a few places, and I gave most passages a second thought. I didn’t fix many.

“Not this time, buddy. I have a lot of things to doubt in my life, but this manuscript isn’t one of them. I like this story, and you aren’t going to cloud it up for me this time.”

I kept moving. By the time the day ended, I’d moved through 187 pages. This likely doesn’t mean much, because all writers write differently. My style is a lot of white space on the page. I’ll likely have more pages than some other author.

It took most of the day, but it was a good day. Doubt tried his best to put me off his game, but it didn’t work.

I have tomorrow off too, and intend to keep going. This is a good story, and I want to have it ready as soon as I recover a bit of promotion money.

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That was a little bit different.

Getting any amount of writing done with Otto around is going to be a challenge. It starts out with, “Look at my pumpkin ball.” Then I get out of bed. “Throw my pumpkin ball, squeak my plush moose toy, check out my kong, I have a piece of fluff in my mouth Smack smack smack, you'd better get it before I swallow it. I want out, I want in, oh wait… out again.” Recycle and repeat as necessary.

I bought myself a few minutes by filling his kong with peanut butter. That wasn't distracting at all, “Slurp, smack, slurp…” It was kind of funny, so I posted a tiny video on the Entertaining Stories Facebook page.

I managed to get to the writing cabin later than I liked. Lisa, my robotic assistant, was dressed like an old Olivia Newton John video.

“Are you working out today?” I asked.

“Lorelei is coming over. She wants to exercise, so I looked up what to wear and ordered this outfit. What do you think?”

“Yeah, very cute.”

“Thanks.”

I moved into my office and turned on my iPad. All I really needed was some solitude. Lorelei, my Muse, stormed in wearing some kind of hideous mumu thing. I may have winced a little bit.

“Where is she?” Lorelei asked.

“I don't know, maybe in the front or the kitchen.”

She turned to go, but looked back. “Don't even look at it. I'll be back to Greek Goddess form in no time. Give me a month or so.”

I admit to not writing much over the past few months. Lorelei let herself go in that time. Between a cranky Muse and a robot who's contemplating the afterlife, it's been a little strange around here. It seems like I'm going to have to force my way through this first bout of writing.

I opened up The Yak Guy Project, and re-re-read my last chapter. I wound up correcting some of the language. There is a character that sounds too much like another character, and I'm trying to adjust him a bit.

The next chapter is a transition chapter, and some traveling is involved. I hate those kind because they slog along. It isn't like the characters can pop in and out of interesting situations, and some of these are necessary. I added some scenery and intrigue to my world building and charged forward.

The girls came downstairs, this time Lorelei was in a bodysuit over a leotard. Quite frankly, it looked like it was a little bit stressed. “We decided to go jogging,” Lisa said.

Thank the Gods, I thought.

“You're welcome,” Lorelei said.

They were laughing as they headed away from the cabin. I opened the window for the raven of Doubt. “You too. Get out of here, and lay off Lisa. She doesn't need your mumbo jumbo any more than I do.” To my surprise, he flew off.

Yak Guy Ted got involved with a minor skirmish and saw what happens in war. He even went on a stressful mission of his own that seems to have helped the situation for his people. Remember, he's a spoiled city kid who's been plunked in another world, so this is a big step for him. He just needed the right inspiration. (Spoiler: It's a girl.)

I reached the end of that chapter, and added a first line to the next one. This is the point where I usually force something if I'm really feeling it. I admit to being a little out of writing shape myself. Still, 3100 words of new material isn't a bad day.

I decided to turn to baseball. More specifically, my short stories that I'm calling The Enhanced League. I left a couple of spies in a stadium in Japan that needed to move their story ahead. This one has a little to do with world building, and will have a bit of tension in it too. By the time the girls returned, I added 1500 words to that.

That was about my limit today. As I'm typing this out, I'm alternating words with throwing the ball for Otto. I won't complain about it, because I forged ahead with new fiction. In fact, this post is slightly over 700 words itself.

  • 3100+
  • 1500+
  • 700=

Pretty nice, or at least nothing to sneeze at.

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The end of my working vacation

He glares at me through two oily black eyes, taking my confidence and all joy from the things I've created. Everything I've ever written, or ever will write becomes utter crap under his gaze.

This raven doesn't need three eyes, like a popular fantasy series and television show. He does just fine with two hateful shining orbs. His name is Doubt, and I am his bitch for the next few weeks.

The walls of the writing office close in around me, and nothing matters beyond my collection of short stories, and Doubt.

He kawed raucously over the fact that I miscounted the number of vampires in a coven. There were six, then seven, then six again. He pecked at my hand until I changed it to seven in every instance. Seven is a classic fairy-tale number, and will resonate better in the story.

That seemed to be his only complaint with the story. I set it in Baltimore, and Doubt is a huge Ravens fan. Is he manipulating me to support some kind of cause?

He paces back and forth across my desk muttering one of the few words he mimics, “crap, crap, crap.” Maybe he speaks with purpose, he is no ordinary raven. This one is from Mt. Olympus and is nearly treble the size of an ordinary raven. He was a gift from my Muse, but he seems more like a punishment.

Lorelei, the Muse, told me I must learn to overcome Doubt if I ever want to succeed as a writer. I've taken this to heart for seven different books now, but it never gets any easier. Real authors get something to market. I don't want to put out crap, crap, crap, so I edit to the best of my ability. Always under the watchful eye of my gift, my foe.

He doesn't like my attempt at an epistolary style tale. This is the one he thinks is crap, crap, crap. I breezed through it quickly, and will have to return later. My bloody hands couldn't take it any longer.

I drank coffee, so I know Lisa the robot brought it to me. I just can't remember her being there. Such is the power of Doubt during our editing sessions.

He didn't have much to offer in the story I called Magpies. There is a raven in the story, and I wonder if he has some ulterior motives. I'm tempted to replace the raven in the story with another kind of carrion bird just to spite him. I'm afraid he'll peck my eyes out. The raven remains out of fear.

He didn't offer much in the story about the girl with a fever. This concerns me too. No story is perfect. Maybe I should change it somehow, but how? Is he quiet because it's good, or so bad it's beneath his contempt?

I stopped just before the only fantasy in the collection. There is a battle in this story, and I'm afraid he'll make me add ravens to the scene.

There is more editing to come, and I need to break it up into smaller pieces. My mind is full of doubt right now, and I don't want it to get overwhelming. I need to watch some cartoons or something to change the mood.

I left the writing cabin around 1:00. My working vacation is over. It was productive for what it is worth. I added new words to my novel, finished up my short stories, and assembled them into one long manuscript. I need to edit them, and create a table of contents. Maybe I should look into a book formatter this time. That way my italics will come out correctly. Does anybody have one they would recommend? I'd hire them for the table of contents and an Amazon ready file that I could add a cover to.

I think I'll spend the afternoon playing with Otto, or seeing if the coyote will catch the roadrunner. Maybe Pinky and the Brain can actually take over the world.

I hope everyone had a great weekend, and I'm serious about a reasonable formatter.

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Shifting gears

Other than a few days of an Amazon promotion, and the occasional tweet, my promotions have all run out. I really should post an update about how it all went, but I'll wait until everything concludes.

I got to the writing cabin early this morning. Frost covered the field out my window as I landed. Lisa* already had the coffee made and a fire burning in my office. She wore her Daisy May top, tight jeans, and calf high boots.

I poured a cup and went to work.

Doubt** the raven paced across my desk. He new what the next phase was before I even got to the cabin. It was time for editing.

I opened The Playground on my iPad and started reading.

Kaw!

“Oh yeah. I'd better capitalize the Professor. It's a title, but also a nickname.” I made the change and forged ahead.

Kaw Kaw kaw!

“I missed a few, but they're all fixed. Happy?”

He paced back across my desk. Crick crick blork.

Yes, there are multiple point of view characters. This one is like three short stories that weave together to tell a bigger story. Remember when we watched Pulp Fiction together? This is my personal challenge for this story.”

Doubt paced back and forth across my desk, waving his head side to side. Everyone is a critic it seems.

My own doubts increased as we worked through seven chapters. The raven pecked my hand when I allowed a typo to slide past.

Blork blork!

“You have to look at the whole novel. Each character has a story, but they reveal a bigger story. I don't know, maybe this was a bad idea.”

I banged my head against the desk. “Why did I use a nickname again?”

The sound of banging brought Lisa to check on me. Doubt flew over to his perch.

“Maybe it's time for a break,” she said.

“I like this story, but it's driving me crazy. Does each character get enough development? Am I going to miss one of the Professor's capital letters? Maybe I should just finish it and trunk it. There's room in the cave for another trunk novel.”

“Why don't you just do a word search and check the capitalization that way?”

“That seems like a good idea, but I've already done my word searches. Now I'm reading through, and don't want to lose my place.”

“Just make a note and search it after you read through. You could mark your place, search, then go back to reading.”

“Maybe I should just chuck the whole thing in the fireplace.”

“It's an electronic file.”

“Maybe there's an app for that. Some kind of e-fireplace.”

“There isn't, but I know what might help. Remember your editing jacket? It always helps you sort through the rough places. You wear it for a while, think things through, and come back for round two later.”

“This is round two. That would be round three.”

“Stick out your arms.”

You're jealous of my editing jacket.

Lisa placed her hands on her hips. “There, all better now. I'll make you some soup, and you can work on it later.”

*Lisa Burton is my personal assistant, and a robot. She is also the spokesmodel for Entertaining Stories.

**Doubt is a raven. He was a gift from my Muse to help me work through the editing process.

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Floundering with a Wasted Day

I got to the writing cabin earlier than normal. I still have a house full of grandkids, and alone time is hard to find. It was dark as I meandered through the basement.

Cool things lined the shelves. Steampunk pepper sprayers that worked like bagpipes, helium drop balloons that substituted for parachutes, and tablet computers that were dishwasher safe. Readers like this kind of stuff. I liked writing it, they ought to too. The problem is in the presentation.

I kicked my way through a swarm of Panamanian beetles and stomped up the stairs. Lisa was doing something upstairs, I heard her walking around. Robots don’t sleep, they just recharge.

The Will ‘O the Wisp bounced around my office like a mindless three dimensional pong ball. It was moss green and gave off an eerie glow. Without me, it doesn’t do or symbolize anything.

I turned on my Mac and went to the lounge. I don’t mind microwave coffee, and Lisa would make some fresh stuff later. I went through the refrigerator and moved around bottles of frog poison, a Hand of Glory, and a shrunken head. I found some old chicken nuggets and grabbed them for Doubt, the raven.

I put the cold chicken bits in one of Doubt’s folded bronze leaves and took down his Christmas decorations. He flew over to my desk and paced back and forth.

The Wisp floated past my head and ricocheted off one of the logs toward the ceiling. I flopped into my easy chair and watched it.

Lisa came down in her snowsuit and hat. “Gee, you look busy. Sun’s just coming up, time to get started.”

I put my elbows on my knees and cradled my head. I didn’t have anything to say.

“Well, okay then. I’ll be taking down the Christmas lights if you need me.” She headed for the lobby.

Doubt retrieved a piece of chicken and flew back to the desk. He pecked at my keyboard while he ate.

“Go ahead. You’re probably a better writer than me anyway.” I watched the Wisp careen off the waste basket and head for the door. I blew the heat off my coffee and watched. It rebounded and headed for the window.

Lisa was outside pulling off the string of lights. She looked in at me and spoke. Her voice came across my telephone speaker. “Okay, so you have to rework Cobby’s story. Do you want me to get him out here?”

I gave a half hearted smile and walked to the pager. “Not today. I’m just thinking today. The kids will get up and call me back before I can get anything done. Maybe I’m not cut out for this. Maybe I should just write for personal satisfaction.”

“Bullshit,” It was the raven.

“What did you say? I mean, Lisa said you could mimic, but —

“Bullshit”

“Okay, you’ve stayed pretty quiet so far. I figured you’d be happy I’m doubting myself.”

Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.” He flapped back to his perch for another nugget.

I went back to the desk and watched the Wisp do a double bank off the window then the frame, and ducked as it fluttered slowly overhead. “It’s just so much to do. I need to limp through Cobby’s story again, then do the same with three others. In fact I owe it to Lisa to spend some time on her story too. What I’d like to do is work on this stupid thing,” I waved at the Wisp as it wobbled near the ceiling.

Doubt dipped his bill in his water leaf and drank. Apparently, he didn’t have anything else to say. I looked at the monitor and a website was displayed. It read, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

I looked up under my brow at the raven. “Lorelei said you came from Mt. Olympus. You’re not a regular raven are you?”

He pecked away at the last chicken nugget, and said nothing.

I grabbed my iPad and made a task list. I can do this, but have to take one bite at a time. The grandkids came down the stairs and called me away. If nothing else, I have a plan.

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A Few Edits

It’s hard to write with a house full of noisy kids. They’re pretty excited about Christmas. Once they settled down, I slipped out to the writing cabin and went over my weekend work.

Lorelei showed up in another Christmas outfit, some kind of shiny green elf skirt. She spent her time decorating Doubt the raven’s tree. Now he had a Christmas tree to perch in.

I said, “What no Muse advice tonight?”

“You don’t need a Muse for edits. I just want to make sure you’re being nice to Doubt,” she said.

“Oh yeah, we’re getting along fabulously,” I said, sarcastically. I checked my outline, and I’ve already deviated. Everything’s still there, but it’s been rearranged quite a bit.

Kruk Kruk Kruk

“What’s he want?” I asked.

“Something could be wrong. He wants you to doubt something,” Lorelei said. “Remember, it’s up to you. His job is only doubt.”

“So he works like you? Inspiration only, doubt only.”

“That’s the way it works.”

I’d left out an important plant that was in my outline. I can’t use it a dozen chapters from now, if I don’t get it in today. I reworked the section to get it into the story.

Kruk Kruk

“Yeah, yeah. I know it isn’t perfect. Right now it’s a rough draft. I need to get it all down. I’ll make it better later.”

I didn’t accomplish much, and really wasn’t feeling it. I reached for the phone and hit the pager. “Lisa, do we have any more of those hot dogs?”

“I’m down on the elevator platform putting skiis on your gyro copter. I can make you one in a minute.”

“How are you answering the page from down there?”

“I hooked my systems into the whole cabin, and the gyro copter. You can even page me if I go to the store.”

“I’ll get the weenie. I just wanted to make sure the bird got a little meat.”

Lorelei smiled and winked. “You’re going to turn out just fine. He needs a varied diet.”

“Hey, Lisa. Get cleaned up when you finish. Let’s fly around and look at the Christmas lights.”

I heard, “Squee,” or something like that, then the elevator lifting the gyro copter into the yard. Lisa ran from the basement and turned upstairs.

When she came down she was in one of her Christmas pinup skirts, snowflakes instead of polka dots. She had a big fake fur hat. “I’ve got to make sure my tear reservoir doesn’t freeze.”

“The ‘copter has a heater,” I said.

“Oh that’s right.” She held up a hand and paused. “I just started the engine and turned on the heat.”

“Maybe having you out here’s going to be alright.” She ran up and hugged me.

“How about it Lorelei, wanna come?” I asked.

“Lisa’s heavier than you think. She has a battle chassis, remember. All of us will never get off the ground. You kids have fun. I’ve got a party later.”

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