Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A month past the middle

We're a month past the middle of the year. How are everyone's goals coming along?

I'd love to write all day today, but I have outside chores galore. Maybe when the day gets super hot I'll slink in and do some writing. It's not too much of a hassle, though. Butterflies galore out there, the hummingbirds providing entertainment via constant warfare, goldfinches flitting around the feeders--it's all good.

Last night Mark went out into a storm. I didn't do as much with it as I could have, so I may go back today and plump it up. It could be as much a symbolic event as a real one. No need to keep writing no matter what--that's one of the few nice things about editing as opposed to first draft writing. I give myself permission to go back and change things or rewrite scenes when that's what I feel like doing.

Today, in Mark's life, the party, where bad things will happen.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

So If . . .

So if this year is all about writing middles and next year is all about writing ends and the year after that is all about editing and the year after that is all about submitting, that means I'm only five years away from spending all afternoon signing book after book in some posh New York City bookseller.

Five years. That's doable.

I think I'll buy myself something outrageous at Tiffany's for my 40th while I'm there.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

When a zit is a crisis

As usual for this time in my gross girly cycle (between two weeks and one week prior to the actual event) I'm snarfing chocolate like it's my only true sustenance, something I can liken to a vampire's need for blood after being denied for too long. Also as usual, I've sprouted a few blackheads. Most of them remain fairly innocuous, smaller than a pinhead. (How many angels can I fit onto my zit?) Every so often, whether it's stress or not enough water or it gets an irritant in/around it that makes it get infected or whatever, one grows large and red and I'm stuck with that on my face for a couple of days.

Thankfully that hasn't happened this time around. Yet. I'm crossing my fingers.

Mark's 19, right? So far his appearance has been perfect. Well, he's under a lot of stress, something awful just happened, a party is coming up, and although he takes very good care of his skin in recent days he's had to wear massive amounts of makeup and his wash schedule is all off.

So I thought heh, let's give him a zit to cope with prior to the party, on top of everything, and he can do the classic freak out. Because as anyone who has attended on a wedding knows, it's safer to freak out over a zit than the event itself, therefore, the zit will get all the attention, a scapegoat upon which everyone can heap abuse and curses. The zit won't fight back. The zit can be declared evil incarnate, while the real problems can be ignored.

At least for the moment ...

Sunday, July 22, 2007


I had a breakthrough moment today. It was about intention. About purposefully declaring personal intention and identifying those gut-reflex criticisms that try to stand immediately in the way.

When asked to declare three intentions, or things that I intend to be, I came up with Writer, Home-maker, and Guide.

The Guide was a surprising one. I had expected Mother, or Wife, or even Teacher, but Guide?

Then I asked myself what my intention was in each of those. Home-maker was easy enough. I want to create a soft place for my family to fall into, a place of refuge, of peace, of contentment and happiness and joy, of togetherness. I even know how I am going to go about doing that, and I'm well on that path.

The answer to Writer was a bit surprising. I've always written for the story and not really for any real sense of intention. But I realized I want to write to give that same pleasure to others that I had always gotten from reading. I want to share stories with that same passionate sense of adventure that always captivates me. Which means, for me, letting go and letting the passion take over when I write so I capture that passion on the paper to share.

That was my first breakthrough. And it felt huge, like I'd just scaled the wall that had been slowly crumbling in front of me the past several months.

The second came with the Guide. Guide to what? I am surprised that my ideas about how to be a mother echo how to be a teacher. It is all based on experience sharing. It starts with learning from my own experiences in order to share what I've learned to allow others to have that much more of a start on their journey of their own experiences. To guide them through by what I've learned and give them the inspiration to leap forward into their own experiences.

Page counts are solid goals. Books draft completed and edits tackled are solid goals. But I've lacked intention and without that, I've lacked a true drive to meet those goals consistently and joyfully. I have intention now. I've breached the wall. I'm ready to smear my passion across the blank pages and let go.

Friday, July 20, 2007


I am awaking from a long sleep at last. I'm not sure the cause, but my actually sleeping hasn't been useful so I've been sleep-walking through the days, which have been packed with activities like cleaning, editing, watching five girls under the age of 10, cooking, taking the dog out, and trying not to yawn too big in case I dislocate my jaw.

I finally felt as though I slept through the night, with gentle dreams that didn't leave me breathlessly awake and wondering if it all really happened or if I was actually dreaming.

So today is a gift and I'm taking it easy. No rushing for me. I haven't written much of anything in the last few days, but I've been conspiring on stories in my head in a day-dream short of fashion. Now that I've chosen which story to submit to the Orycon writers workshop, I'm arguing with myself to change it. I think my original decision will win, if only because there are more words for the submission in that one. And I have the synopsis half thought out.

It was good to be editing again, even though I had to fight through the fog to make a coherent thought. Hopefully Carole got something useful out of my remarks and thank goodness I don't have to try to be useful on the second part of Masks for Kami until next week. That gives me time to read back through it. By the way, Kami, when I got to the end of the section, I didn't want it to be the end. I was tempted to e-mail you and demand more. How's that for a critique?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Pesky Word Count Stuff

I've hit 102,975 words on Masks. That's a good and a bad thing.

Good--I'm well over 80,000, the lower word count end for industry standard novel lengths.
Bad--Editors like to see shorter works out of first time authors. Less word count means fewer pages, fewer pages means less expensive to produce.
Good--In the fantasy genre in particular, readers prefer longer books. Some specifically shop for thick tomes, hoping for a good, long, lush read.
Bad--If I go over 125,000 it's often assumed (I'm told) that the plot will be loose and the prose will be purple and very wordy.

I'm hoping to come out of this under 125,000. If not, I'll consider pruning out entire chapters if need be. When I'm done with this thing I'll have a better idea of the pacing and which sections are strictly necessary (and which are not.) Right now I like all the chapters. Later on, I'm sure I'll be pretty ruthless and cull without feeling a need to hang on to this and that too much. Often, if there's an important plot point in a chapter, it can be shortened and moved to the prior or following chapter if you're careful. I'll try to be careful. Sometimes entire chapters are just window dressing, too, and if I have some of those, voila! my work is much easier.

BTW, 102,976 words happens in 499 pages. That works out to an average of about 206 words per page. That's pretty skinny for me. I blame dialogue, more frequent chapter breaks than I usually give myself (which blanks out half of a page at the beginning of each chapter) and the occasional bout of poetry.

More stats: I'm on Chapter Nineteen, which just got under way. Chapter Eighteen ends on page 492, averaging about 27 1/3 pages per chapter. Going from full word count, that averages about 5675 words per chapter. (This is where stats get interesting--the word count is about 45 words lower if you multiply 27 1/3 (average chapter page count) times 206 (average words per page.) Yes, I remembered to take away the word count for Chapter Nineteen because it's not finished. You can manipulate statistics a lot by rounding and changing the parameters slightly while still looking on the up and up. Beware statistics!

Moving on.

The super good news is that I'm here in July. That bodes well for finishing this baby this year (assuming I don't slack off) and maybe even finishing it sometime in August. I'm all for that--it looks like it'll need yet another polish before I can market it, so I'll need that extra time for reading through and making tweaks.

Gee, and I thought this was the final *final* edit prior to editing to an editor's specs. Just goes to show you, you never know when it comes to editing.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Calling In

During OryCon 29 this year (Portland, Oregon's biggest and best annual science fiction, fantasy and horror convention (but mostly science fiction)) I've decided to do something brave and stupid. Well, maybe not so brave because I do fine in front of even relatively large audiences, thanks to belly dance. Once you've done a belly roll in front of a few hundred people wearing, well, not a lot, public speaking isn't so bad. I don't even have to picture everyone naked. And as for the stupid part, I suppose this could be considered a cheap marketing ploy.

I've grabbed a short short story, I think it's just under 500 words right now, and offered it up for public slaughter. In other words, a bunch of pros will sit in front of an audience, I'll sit to one side, and they'll proceed to shred it in front of everyone. I'm sure part of it will be a serious critique, but bear in mind too that panels are also designed to be entertaining, and many of our regular pros turn their panels into a venue to elicit laughs. So there I'll be with my hapless short short, and there they'll be, getting chuckles out of the audience at my and my manuscript's expense.

But that's okay! Because it'll all be in good fun. And it'll be educational for everyone.

Because the audience won't have had a chance to read the manuscript in advance, I'll have to read it aloud. That should be interesting, and it's the one part I'm a bit nervous about because I haven't had much practice reading manuscripts aloud. See? It's educational already. I've made it easy for myself, though, in a couple of ways. The first is obvious--I picked one of the shortest stories I've ever written. The second is a little more subtle, if you consider pouring a teaspoon of honey into a cup of tea subtle. I chose a humor piece.

Yes, I picked Calling In, which has been critiqued in group before. If nothing else, I'll get a head start on the chuckling part of the evening, and besides, I want to be entertaining too. It wouldn't be nearly as fun watching a piece of heavy drama get wrung out. Can you imagine a work about suffering and pain and sorrow and panelists trying to inspire laughs out of that? They'd feel guilty, I'm sure, and the audience would be appalled. So let's just take the guilt out of the darned program from the very start.

After the panel, I get to edit it super fast, and the next day I'll submit a submissions package to yet another panel where those who are editors or have been editors can comment on everything from my choice of envelope to whether I should have written The End on the last page. It was funny one evening, drinking wine in the Green Room with a mess of pros, when Jay Lake mentioned that if he gets a submission printed on really cheap paper it leaves him with a bad impression. Immediately three people whipped out the paper they used for submissions--we're talking seasoned pros here, not newbies--and demanded that Jay fondle their paper. If I'd had my paper with me, I'd be right there with them fluttering my paper in his face. Jay dutifully fondled and held the pages up to the dim hotel suite light and declared every single page offered to him sufficient to pass muster. It didn't have to be great paper, just not the crappy see-through stuff where you can often see the print on the page beneath it. Very white paper is preferable too, and the cheap stuff tends to have a yellowish cast to it, as the producers cut costs anywhere possible, including the bleach.

That moment was what inspired this madness, this tom-foolery, this public torment that will stretch over two hours in two days. Everyone has insecurities about their writing. People who haven't been in a writer's group wonder how a critique works and if they can handle it. Nearly everyone wonders what goes through the editor's mind when the editor opens an envelope with your humble offering in it. Now they'll know at least a bit of it, the bit that we'll all admit to in public, and I'll know first hand what the reactions are to Calling In.

And what will be going through my mind between blushes?

Free advertising! I just hope it's good advertising.

Monday, July 16, 2007


I've been thinking about poetry again, thinking mainly about how I haven't been writing any. It isn't unusual for me to go six months to a year without writing a scrap of poetry, but not much longer than that. I guess it's been about five months now.

As luck would have it, I also read about a local poetry contest. I entered it once back in 2003. I have better poems now, with stronger themes and clearer imagery, so I just spent the last hour digging through my files and picking four to submit. As luck would also have it, only one was within the line length, so I did some editing.

I enjoying editing poems, though it always hurts more to delete a line of verse than a sentence in prose. I'm usually more than happy to delete a sentence of prose. You might go as far as to say I get giddy with anticipation. But poetry is different. I labor over those individual lines far longer than it takes me to jot out a sentence. So there is always a growing pain when it comes time to delete.

Take my Indiana farmhouse poem. I loved the imagery in the first stanza, comparing the house to dandelion wine, but honestly, the first stanza was the weakest of the lot, with unclear structure toward the end and no real comparison to the rest of the poem. It hurt to delete that image, but the poem is stronger now, tighter and more focused. And it has the right opening line, finally. If this farmhouse spoke it would sound like him . . .

"Why Housecats Nap" got a bit of a face lift, too, with tightened lines. It reads better. And "Reflections" ended up with a changed line, the line that always bothered me, but the end word was the best fit to the rhyme scheme and I could never figure out how to fix the rest until today. That isn't unusual for me and tradition verse. Takes a few years, but eventually I end up with a sound poem.

"Fog" will need to cleaning up, too, but it's one of my newest and I need to let it seep a bit longer.

But in a few weeks, or maybe next week, I'll print off the copies and put them all in the mail and see how I fair. I don't enter many contests anymore, maybe one every couple of years. I should do more now that I have so many poems to work with and only a handful of which have seen publication. Maybe I could work up to one or two every year. Might encourage me to write a bit more poetry again.

Love Me, or Love Me Not

Looks like I've reached the first love scene in Masks. This is where I could lose a huge percentage of my audience if I'm not careful, although this is the era of Brokeback Mountain. At the risk of alienating a bunch of people, I wasn't impressed with Brokeback Mountain. I admired its daring, and I loved the opening scenes, but as it progressed it lost a lot of power, and the ending was weak. They certainly captured that first blush of "ooo aahhh" when two people are mutually attracted but too chicken to do anything about it. I liked that a lot, and I thought it was brilliant. The plot structure lacked a lot of luster and dynamic, though. I was left feeling with the sense that it won a bunch of awards simply because it existed, not because it was an award-caliber film.

Anyway, moving on.

In Masks you're inside a character's head when he gets caught up in his hormonal rush, and that makes it difficult to distance yourself if you don't want to go there. My mission, and I've chosen to accept it, is to show love and lust in all its intoxicating glory to the point that hopefully the audience can forget that these are two men. Unfortunately, it may end up sounding very girly in the process unless I keep it physical, and physical writing will involve, well, parts!

Mark must remain masculine. He's effeminate and submissive, but deep down he's all man and ultimately he resents the way his height, station and life circumstances have made him behave the way he does around men. In this scene he will begin to blossom sexually for the first time, and it's going to be a rough ride (no pun intended, but I left it because it's fun.) If I flinch, I'll be cheating. I have to write this hard scene.

Wish me luck. I'll need it.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

When Is a Name Not a Name?

When it is a ancient Egyptian word set to wake its bearer from a mystical stasis in order to set it upon a path of divine obedience to fulfill its duty to a long dead king.

Just thought I'd share.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Looking for Romance Writer Judges

From today's Willamette Writers newsletter:

Rose City Romance Writers is seeking judges for the Golden Rose contest. If you can possibly help, please let us know as soon as possible.

We have nine categories:

Long contemporary, Short contemporary, Single title, Mainstream with romantic elements, Young Adult, Inspirational, Paranormal, Romantic Suspense, and Historical.

The contest is completely electronic. Entry deadline is Aug 4th. We will have entries to you by August 11th. You will have approximately 6 weeks to return entries. We are hoping to limit entries to no more than six per judge. Entries are 55 pages (manuscript and synopsis).

For more information, see our website: http://rosecityromancewriters.com/grpage/index.html

Please email: contest co-coordinators

Nancy Crampton-Brophy


Darla Lukenbaugh

Late nights with a jester

Lately I've been writing on Masks very late, sometimes until 2am. Maybe it's the warm weather, although that doesn't make any sense because my office is cool and makes a great retreat when everyplace else is uncomfortably hot. I know my sleep cycle is out of whack, although I'm not sure if it's the writing, or if I'm writing because it fills the time while my sleep cycle is out of whack.

The nice thing about writing at night is that I don't feel guilty about not getting various chores done inside and out. Another thing is that the house is really quiet, and there are no interruptions. I miss morning writing, though. I have more stamina, and if an idea is really moving me forward, I can keep going all day (provided work doesn't get in the way.)

It's almost 1am now and I'm finally tired and ready for bed. Have to work tomorrow, er, today. Eck. No rest for the wicked! Or something like that.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

(For whatever reason, the Title bar isn't working here tonight).

Title: Writing? What's Writing?

It's been a week since I've done any writing whatsoever (other than blog writing or notes neither of which I count). That's the longest I've gone without writing something towards or on a story or novel since, hmmm, about January 2005. I think it was a Thursday when I picked it back up after a month break from the first NaNo.

Not to say I haven't had anything to work on; I'm in the early stages of screwing up a great short story idea which is the point just before I sort out what direction things are going to dart off in, and I still have that cat story that I'm not going to get back to before the end of the month.

Wednesday afternoon, before fireworks while sitting in a decidedly early 1970's decor steakhouse, we played one of my favorite games: Profiling characters in the room. There was Ida from the farm in Iowa who had flown in specifically to be with family for the 4th, Ed who with his 3rd trophy wife was trying to impress a new manager and his unimpressable wife fresh in from St. Louis, Joel at the bar was 2 sheets to the wind and working on the 3rd and trying to sound charming to the younger waitresses...until his wife showed up hot and sweaty from watching the kids down at the pool alone. And we can't forget Lana, the transsexual, who looked like she missed her turnoff to Las Vegas and wound up trying to get Joel's attention...and she did but honey, you'll need to work on that baritone voice if you don't want men spilling their drinks all over themselves.

Naturally, I took notes on them all. It's what I do best somedays.

After a major project completion here at home tomorrow/Monday, I should be back in the writing saddle again. And just for the record, I've checked five more books off the 'Read Books' list -- Joyce Carol Oates - Haunted, 2006 Best of SF&F, Sister Salty - Sister Sweet, and 2 Jack Ketchum horror tales. Man, is that last guy's writing smooth.

Still Writing!

I'm still writing on Masks. I've been putting in more words these past couple of days because I'm all emotionally messy--this happens sometimes (well, maybe all the time but I don't always notice) when my hormones are in an uproar. PMS can be a muse.


Anyway, Mark is about to find out What's Really Going On, and it's going to scare him. I'm eager to see which way he's going to jump. I suspect he's going to want to run. Running has become a habit because it's paid off for him really well so far. Being what he is and where he is, though, he won't be able to run. His plan B will probably be a mess, and this will lead to pain.

You know, like Yoda said. Fear leads to running. Running leads to success. Success leads to danger. Danger leads to entrapment. Entrapment leads to error, and error leads to Suffering.

Or something like that.

On an acquisitions note, I just got a bunch of cassette tapes. I really would prefer to have a CD burner and burn CDs, but there you have it. So now I can recreate the Masks soundtrack that I painstakingly put together and promptly lost, and maybe do a Masks2 and Asmokai soundtrack (because the second book, Asmokai, is coming together scarily fast in my head) as well as some road tapes for going to and from work because I'm getting tired of the one I've got for that purpose.

One of these days I'll post the complete soundtrack list. For now, I'm happily listening to "Edge of the Ocean" by IVY, which will definitely go on Masks2 (unless it bumps one of the more lackluster tracks on the original Masks.) Other songs include "Go Let It Out" by Oasis, "Live to Tell" by Madonna, "Clocks" by Coldplay, "Ordinary World" by Duran Duran, "Fear" by Sarah McLachlan, "I'm With You" by Avril Lavigne, "Calling All Angels" by Train, "Kiss Them for Me" by Siouxsie and the Banshees, and "Breakaway" by Kelly Clarkson.

Monday, July 2, 2007


I never use to have a problem with titles. I'd have a title sometimes before I'd have my main characters named. But lately, titles confound me. I end up with very lame excuses for titles that are barely adequate for working titles.

Have I reached my title quota? Or am I just thinking about them too hard? I must admit, I can't seem to let it go. I keep playing lame titles through me head, testing them, trying to jar something better loose.

I know what I should do. I should stop thinking about it. I've learned that from when I'm stuck in a scene. I need to step away from that scene for a while, concentrate on something completely different, and then I'm usually hit with an idea when I least expected it (well, truthfully, it's usually in the shower--must be something in the water).

I should do that with this title, because I'm driving myself crazy with my inadequacy. I have a desperate need to write something on the folder, just to make the whole story endeavor official. And until I have that title, it's like the story isn't real. I need to name it to solidify the idea.

Gee, I'm really into this whole titling thing. I should revert back to the old way of titling, one that Kami and I do much of the time, and just call the thing by the characters' names.

Drat, that won't work either, because I have different versions of this particular story written under that titling already, and this version is so completely different.


Back to dwelling on it. Because now even the title generators have failed me.

I don't have writer's block. I have title block.

False starts and youth

I had my first false start with the Masks revision, opening the party scene. After talking with Ris (who was apparently standing in for my muse while the muse was on vacation, most likely someplace in or near Alaska) I realized that starting the party scene at the front door was the classicly wrong place to do it. So I did what most professional writers advise you do.

Start in the middle.

Oh yeah, Mark, who hadn't planned on drinking, is drunk and Mark, who can normally memorize quite a few names in a sitting and can recall entire conversations word for word, is having trouble keeping everyone straight. Mark is messed up and sure that he's in trouble.

And suddenly the party is a lot more fun to write.

Thanks, Ris!