Sunday, February 25, 2007

Back to the Grind.

Partly from my new author blog at (because last weekend I learned that all serious authors are going to soon be required to have one per their agent, editor, and publisher):

"My head is still in Southern California thinking of sunny weather and the crystal blue pool at the Hanalei Hotel while the rest of me is up here in the cold and rainy Pacific Northwest. This is usually perfect writing weather for me because I love this region but after visiting San Diego last week, I'm looking forward to warm, dry days . . . exactly like the weather in the novel I'm currently working on. If I were smart, I'd get out last year's unfinished novel and work on that. When I stopped writing that novel, it was just like it currently is right outside my window.

After reading Matthew J. Pallamary's book of short stories, The Small Dark Room of the Soul I thought of two short story ideas of my own. Naturally, I added them to my story ideas list as soon as I could like a good writer so I wouldn't forget them later. This spring I plan on reading several short story collections to try to better understand how short stories are created. It would seem an easy thing to accomplish but to someone used to writing novels, how one goes about shortening an entire story arc into 4000 words or less is somewhat incomprehensible. But I'm learning."

One bit of information we picked up at last week's writer's conference: The differences of authors-in-the-know. The short story market is dead according to one big name author, but not so said another. Yet another wouldn't comment one way or the other. Obviously short stories are still being published in various collections and anthologies. No telling who was right and who was wrong and poo to the one who wouldn't say a word.

Oh, and there was a discussion going on in the old INK a long time ago about spacing between sentences. The latest from authors and editors we listened to in San Diego is double space after the end of each sentence. Some editors admitted that not seeing double spaces irritated them enough to toss out manuscripts. Fair warning.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Oddities - A short story exercise.

VERY early draft of flash fiction removed so as to not upset the publishing gods.

And We Have WORDS!

At long last, I have a fresh start on my old 8th Day story. It even has a fresh, new name. Gilly's Tale.

I just tapped out over 1300 words, and for an opening scene they aren't too bad, either. I like the tone, I like being able to slide from out of the scene into another period of time to show a little more characterization. I especially like the layers of point of view I'm creating.

It was fun writing, even it now my elbow is aching and my fingers are all stiff and cold. Been a long time since I wrote this much at one stretch. I'd keep going except now I'm making more typos than anything.

Tonight, maybe, or tomorrow morning.

Oh, it is good to be digging into this story again. I missed these characters.

Soggy Muse

My muse likes showers. I know this because once or twice a week I have a major "AHA!" moment in the shower that either solves a problem I've encounter in a story or gives me a brand new direction to freshen a languishing tale.

Back in 2005 for NaNoWriMo, I wrote (and finished) a story called "The 8th Day." It's a fantasy with three premises: After creating the world and the god slept, what would happen if that god were still sleeping and a group of heroes was sent to wake him up; aside from the cliche legendary group of heroes, a back-up set of unlikely misfits were sent as well; and the narrator is a storyteller in the making who hasn't realized that she's living the stories she use to dream about. I managed to pull off all three themes, but the story is still suffering from the usual sort of crappiness that plagues rough drafts (at least my rough drafts). I've had the story critiqued by members of INK and set up some new directions for plot and character based on their comments, but I stalled out struggling for how to keep with my idea of using only one character as narrator and still tell all the elements of the story, even those she wasn't present for. I tried multiple points-of-view with hers in first and the others in third (lost too much tone), putting her in more of the events (too unlikely), pushing events to before the story takes place and she's learns them in backstory (too unwieldy).

And then, this morning in the shower, my muse pelted me with a big stone (I'll explain the whole stone thing later). It was a single opening line. "My story doesn't begin with me."

And all my themes fell into line again.

It isn't the most brilliant opening line. It isn't even particularly original. But it fixes a major problem and has gotten me moving again on a story I've always wanted to get back to. And so, today, I have! And I love how I had the solution all along (she is the "narrator" of the story, after all) but got too bogged down in conventions.

Oh, and I couldn't get out of the shower and to a pen and notepad fast enough!

Thursday, February 22, 2007


In the movie "Amadeus," Mozart lay on his deathbed, dictating music to the bitter, bitter end. As much as I love writing, I'm afraid that won't be me. No, I'll probably be propped up by pillows, spending my time reading to distract myself from discomfort, or chit chatting with my family if I have a voice, playing board games or watching movies. I don't subscribe to a muse per se, but under the assumption that I *do* have a muse and that muse is always ready to lend a helping hand when I sit down to write, apparently s/he goes on vacation when I'm sick, and I'm sure s/he will be nowhere to be found around my deathbed. If I were a muse, I wouldn't stick around either. I don't want to see the green sputum, or hear it coming up. I don't want to even glance at a face torn ragged by tissues, or smell the unwashed body of my instrument. Nope, I'd definitely head off to Fiji or something. And rightly so! If I were a muse who made myself available for so many hours at a time, at the drop of a hat, often into the come-morning hours of the night, I wouldn't hesitate to take a few days off while my instrument snurked and gagged and coughed her way through a viral infection.

I must be getting better, though, because s/he keeps poking his/her head into my office while I catch up on blogs. Yay to getting better! Yay return of the muse! Yay world!

And Yay Blogeois! For whatever reason I can't always comment on posts with my current interface, getting some sort of security message when I try, but I can write here--good for you and glad you made it!

Favorite Book?

It's such an innocent question. What is your favorite book? But for those of us who collect books not just to read, it is a loaded question begging clarification.

My favorite book to read over and over? (A Christmas Carol by Dickens, which I read every winter.)
My favorite book that I have ever read but will probably not ever read again? (The Red Tent by Diamant)
My favorite book for illustrations or language or use of characterization? (De Historia Et Veritate Unicornis for illustrations, Possession by Byatt for language, and The Alienist by Carr for characters.)
My favorite book to have on my shelf? (My thesis book, actually, how egotistical is that?)
My favorite book to recommend to others? (Bird by Bird by Lamott)
My favorite book to reference? (The American Heritage College Dictionary)
My favorite book to study? (collected works of Shakespeare or Milton)
My favorite book to learn my craft from? (Birb by Bird by Lamott)
My favorite book to read for inspiration? (anything by SARK)
My favorite non-fiction book? (Devil in the White City by Larson)
My favorite genre book? (The Beekeeper's Apprentice by King)
My favorite book as a child? (The Black Stallion by Farley)
My favorite book to force on others? (The Glasswrights' Apprentice by Klasky)
My favorite book series? (The Amelia Peabody series by Peters)

In the end, when someone asks me this question with no chance for clarification, I choose the one book that, if the house were burning down, I would grab to take with me. The book I cannot leave behind, no matter what else.

Seventeenth Century Prose and Poetry, 2nd edition, editors Witherspoon & Warnke.

It not only contains some of my favorite writers ( Donne, Milton, Aubrey, Pepys, and the ever obnoxiously named Anthony a Wood), but it was a textbook from a period in my life that is one of my fondest. It was one of my favorite classes in graduate school, the first year TC and I were together, and I was full of future possibilities. My notes are all over the pages of the works we studied, and for the first time I went into reading poetry with a sense of knowing and understanding. It is also one of my favorite periods of history and literature.

It's a hard question for me to answer without knowing the reason for the asking, but a fun question to consider, because I enjoy thinking back on all the books I've read in my life. And I could keep going, too, on the list of favorites. Going and going and going and going . . .

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


Good god almighty, was getting in here ever a pain in the you-know-where.

But let's focus on the good, shall we?

We went to a writer's conference over the past weekend. We saw some stuff and heard some more stuff. And um...oh yeah.


I still feel all shaky inside when I think about it too hard so I just don't. But today I did rewrite my sample excerpt with most of the suggestions given during my critique and I definitely think they were all for the better.

The best part wasn't me finding the kahonies to read (I'm far from the best reader in the house), or that I got reviewed. It was the gasps that filled the room when I read a particular part, including from an alledged published hardcore horror author. Unfortunately, I didn't hear them because I was reading, but Steve sure did and we've got it on voice recorder.

The second best part was that my excerpt wasn't identified as coming from a female writer. Yep, I can see it now: I'll get 'Enthusiast' published and people will review it on Amazon...unfavorably on Amazon. But the first person who refers me, the author, as 'he' will make me feel giddy and on top of the world all day long.

My Editing Moment

I tackled a Reven scene yesterday that I'd been putting off. I've been over the scene so many times I've lost track. Kami's been over it a couple times, too, pointing out where it works and where it doesn't (more didn't than did).

It's an important scene. We meet Uriel, one of the main characters in a protag/antag sort of way, for the first time, and Jamesina for only the second. It was important that I set up what their past relationship had been and how the current events, plus the politics of the day and the structure of the noble houses that they belong to, where working to undermine the trust between them. All that, plus a little backstory too and keeping the emotional tension high.

I think I finally nailed it. I let the scene sit for a good three months, and when I opened it up yesterday, I found every rough spot and, better yet, found a way to smooth it out. I was so pleased with the outcome! I desperately wanted to turn to someone and point to what I'd achieved, but, of course, only Kami would have fully understood all the implications of foreshadowing and the levels of tensions, since she's the only one who knows the full story.

It was just one of those wonderful moments of sublime aloneness, but you know, that was okay! I knew what I had just accomplished, and sooner or later, someone else (mainly Kami) will read it and be able to tell me if I did as well as I think I did.

Now I'm ready to tackle the next scene. And the last in this round of edits. Then I get to section off the next bit, do the read-thru for editing notes, and wait till Kami has the time (and energy) to tackle it with me!

But now I've got the editing bug again. It's going to be hard to wait!

Monday, February 19, 2007


Blogeois and WS have spent the last weekend at a writing conference in San Diego. I would have loved to have gone, had I the money to do so. It's been a very long time since I've been at an all-out writing conference. I miss it.

I used to attend when I lived in Texas. They are everywhere, there, usually hosted by a university or academic organization. My first real experience at one was at the Sigma Tau Delta conference in Denver in the early 90s. I went with a friend who was giving a paper (on Chaucer, I think). I was attending only as a member of Sigma Tau, but found myself in a poetry reading where only one of the poets had shown up to read. They asked for any volunteers out of the attendees and I found myself with my ever present poetry journal standing in front of a room of academics from around the country reading my poetry. I was scared as hell. I still don't know what possessed me to get up there. I never considered any of my poems *worthy* (worthy of what, I still couldn't say).

I had several people speak very well of my work afterwards. It was a good feeling, and, no doubt, the reason I pursued attending other conferences. My academic achievement folder is full of programs listing me as a reader at some point during the conference. Always poetry, though. I was a poet then, dabbling in short stories only when our creative writing classes demanded it. And novel writing, well, that was something I had done back in junior high. Definitely "not my thing." I was a poet.

I'm still a poet, but now I'm no longer so set on what is or isn't "my thing." Oh, short story writing still continues to elude me. But novel-writing isn't something I fear any longer. I'm getting the hang of the basics. I know I have a good sense of characterization, plot, and tension, I just need more experience weaving all those elements together.

One of these days I'll attend a big writing conference. It would be neat to hear what others folks are doing and to learn from their experiences while holding my own work up to see how it compares. I'm confident enough in myself to know that I'm a fair writer (and sometimes, I'm pretty darn good, just not consistently so). But it's good to hear it from your peers, you know? Helps keep you going when it feels like you are the only person in the world who cares about what you are putting on a page.

Because, face it, writing can be a very lonely career, and half the time I stall out because I know, no matter what I get written that day, nobody is going to be patting me on the back going "good work today" or "gee, I loved how you introduced that secondary character to add tension to the backstory" or "lovely use of descriptive metaphors." Conferences give writers a chance to see and meet the community they belong too.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Talk About Mixed Metaphors!

I'm too full of inspiration with too little perspiration. Too many new ideas, too many wishful thinkings, and not enough doing.

It's very tempting to just let my muse take me away (maybe I should name her Calgon?). It isn't every month when I find new stories lurking behind every channel I surf past, under the weeds I'm pulling from the hedge row, or in the latest book I'm reading. To carrying on with Kami's metaphor, I could be planting the seeds today that will be blooming into developed stories by summer and harvesting novels by fall.

The truth is, I'm still new enough to novel writing that I haven't completed learned the best rhythms for my work. Oh, the daily stuff changes every month or two, depending on several outside influences, but the rhythm of an entire work year?

It's rather like a school year or a business year, in a lot of ways. There are big goals to accomplish (graduating to the next grade, coming in under budget and above sale projections). There are seasonal goals (semester exams, quarterly P&L reports). There are the monthly and weekly goals (paper due, inventory to order). And there are the daily goals (read chapter three, meeting at four).

I think well in those terms, and lately I've been thinking more in another. Gardening (to keep continuing Kami's metaphor). And facing an upcoming spring has me wanting to create more than harvest, to build and design more than weed and water.

I'm not big on fighting against my instincts. I trust my instincts, most of the time (when chocolate or pastries aren't involved). But I know that I have some procrastination issues (haven't gotten around the fixing those). So is this instincts talking or procrastination? A little of both? Neither?

I'm leaning toward the former. If this were another time of the year, when the daffodils and anemones weren't breaking through the ground, I might worry. But this feels like the time to create. To fill my beds with as many seeds as I can coax into seedlings. And to remember that I have to stay on top of the weeding and the watering all the same if I don't want to lose everything I've created.

Calgon, take me away.


The yellow crocuses are blooming--they're always my first ones. When writing, often the first inspiration comes from a compelling character in a bad situation. That's my yellow crocus. Building the rest of the novel revolves around creating even worse situations, and also figuring out how the character got him or herself there in the first place, which also creates more badness. Without the bad, victory wouldn't taste sweet. It'd be pretty bland.

This time of year it's tempting to start a new project, but I really have to focus on Masks, especially this next section so that I can get it out to be critiqued by INK and the Lucky Labs. The yellow crocus has long faded away, and here I am in another, more complicated season, a cottage garden in full bloom. Lots of deadheading to do, and taking out plants that have died or no longer work in an area and replacing them with new plants.

Egad, I've made a silly metaphor.

Anyway, whether you're writing or gardening, remember to plant your sweet peas early, soak your bare root roses for an hour before planting, and fertilize. Whatever these mean to you metaphorically or in the garden, help your world bloom today! It's Valentine's Day! Yay!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Natural Flow

The new weekly goal list is working well. I only got a couple of items check off yesterday (napless Kate), but just having a list to glance at when I had a spare half hour or so helped me to get some writing work accomplished.

Today I'm hoping to get a little further along in between running around with Kate, doing chores, and trying to get some more gardening finished. I'm noticing a more natural rhythm to the day that's been steadying out since the first of the year. And whether Kate naps or not, she does take an hour to an hour and half quiet time an hour or so after lunch. Perfect time to get a bit of writing in. I just have to be aware that its happening and take advantage of it.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Masks--Not Zombie, but Scary

On Saturday I got comments on Masks. As always, I'm inspired to write like mad when I get comments. The urge to fix the rough spots and exploit missed opportunities is intense, especially on a draft that's close to good enough to send out. Most of the time a draft like that has gone through one ground-breaking, completely revising edit and then a polishing edit. Not Masks. This is an edit that's tearing the manuscript apart and inserting all new material. The good news is that it should read 'fresh'. Overworking a manuscript beats all the life and vigor from it and you're often left with a zombie-like shadow of the passionate idea that started you writing on it in the first place. The scary news is that since I don't have a complete draft to work with, I'm writing on the fly with this semi-polished draft and I don't know if it's going to take me good places or if I'll end up writing myself into a bad corner.

But I laugh in the face of scary. Ha ha ha!

I just better get it done before the end of the year, or else ...

Firming Those Goals

So, rather than have a set of goals just for today, I sat down and wrote out my goals for the week. From that list, I can pick out those things which I can try to do each day. I have a couple of items that are daily, like writing on a story each day and researching reading each day, but the rest I can do as I have time to do them.

It feels really very good to have some structure for the week that isn't just the usual sort of chores and keeping up with the family. I'm feeling like I might actually start using my alarm to wake up earlier, too!

But I'll have to wait to see if that actually pans out.

Not Just Dreamin'

I've been having lots of unusual dreams lately. Vivid, story-based, surreal (naturally) and only some elements of which I can trace to my day-to-day experiences.

Which tells me I need to be writing more. My imagination is in full swing.

Today I have a couple of goals writing-wise that I'm hoping to accomplish. Printing out the first half of Phantoms. Writing another chunk on something (probably Walsingham's Heir). And diving back into editing Reven.

It's good to have the goals again. Helpful to get me back at the keyboard when I might otherwise be persuaded to watch a movie or read a book.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Not So Subtle Hint?

My horoscope for today:
If amping up you career isn't on the top of your to-do list right now, it should be.

And I have plenty of projects to occupy my time. I'm enjoying working on my newest one, which is fast turning into a trilogy by the looks of it. Guess the curse that plagues Kami and I is finally turning its sights on me--we can't seem to come up with a story idea that doesn't turn itself into more than one book. Which isn't at all a bad thing.

I'm pleased with the writing I did yesterday, considering it's all primarily scaffolding. Meaning it will doubtless be tore down in favor of a stronger, more direct opening in the editing process. But it was fun writing and got me well and truly into the story after I finished another round of research. I'll have to write more on scaffolding at another time. I'm keenly aware of its existence and enjoy nothing more than hunting it out and ripping it down.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Some (sum?) about me

Me be Kami and I mostly write fantasy when I'm not blogging. My fantasy novels don't include dragons or unicorns or elves and don't have Quests for the Mighty Widget which can only be gained when one has collected All Seven of the Coupons of Galdor. They tend not to have arch villians either. But enough about that.

I live on small acreage with a small family and the animals--animals that love us and outnumber us by a lot so it's good that they love us. It's beautiful here and that's inspiring. My husband has an ugly job and that's inspiring too. And he's inspiring in his own right. And other stuff is inspiring. Dang, it's all inspiring. Except vomiting. That's not very inspiring, and right now our region's denizens are sorely afflicted by the evil crud that has some of us coughing and sneezing and others putting our faces in places that we wouldn't ordinarily willingly place them. It's not a good time to be a local.

But it is a good time to write. It's almost always a good time to write. Hence, INK. Hence, this. Hence ... er ...

This is our blog, and we are INK. Welcome.


I admit it, most sequels are bad. They try to recapture the magic of the first story and either go to extremes, and therefore become ludicrous, or they fall short and land on cliches.

But this sequel, our new INK blog, won't land on cliches. I can't promise a lack of the ludicrous, however.

So, I'm Ris ("Hi, Ris") and I'm a writer. (Oops, that was a cliche, wasn't it? So much for that.) I'm part of a writers kult that specializes in the brutal torture of other members' manuscripts and drinking lots of tea. We are all working on some form of novel whenever Real Life lets us. Me, I write fantasy with one of the other kult members. On my own time, I write historical fiction with a hint of mystery thrown in. I also am a long-suffering poet (but, really, who isn't?). And I intend to inflict myself upon the world of script-writing come June (because, gee, why not?).

Today, I've not written a word except for what you are reading here, but as soon as I finish here, I will be diving in to my newest story, an historical fiction with lots of intrigue and a dash of romance thrown in set in 1580s England. And let me tell you, the research on it is fun, fun, fun! Tudors. I just love them. And, well, can anyone say "pirate"?

More to come, I'm sure.