Friday, May 30, 2008

Moving Forward

Today, after feeling a little guilty for working on Signet, I decided boo to all that.  I need to move forward in the series.  In fact, if I want to give Signet stewing time I'd better get hopping.  In the unlikely event that I sell Masks this year, Signet better be ready close behind and, well, if I haven't finished writing the rough draft I may be looking at a rush job.  The idea fills me with horror.  Over the years I've shortened up my editing time considerably on novels, but it still took me a good 2-3 years to get Masks into decent shape.  So, forget the reward system.  I'm going to write me a novel!  Yay!

Thursday, May 29, 2008


Heya, gang! I hope you've figured out how to get together tomorrow night for the INK meeting!

I sent out my critiques through email last night, and this morning find that I cannot get into my email inbox (grr, Comcast, very annoyed with them right now). So if you didn't receive them, or you had questions or comments, I won't be able to do anything about it until next week. I apologize and I hope the critiques were received.

I'll be thinking about you all as I'm toasting s'mores in front of the campfire with the reservoir reflecting stars behind me!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Book in a Week?

Who needs a kick start to get themselves writing again?

I was reading about writing a book in a week on Broad Universe and something clicked.  No, absolutely I'm not going to write a book in a week.  I've got too many books I've written in a month that need my tender loving editing care to write yet another, especially since I'll probably do Nanowrimo again.  But when I got to the part about heroines of straw I thought aha!  That's something valuable to observe.  The author focused on lack of preparation leading to her failures but I thought her mention of her characterization was a bigger clue to her underlying issues.  Or not.  She was writing about her process, not mine.  

I wondered, can you prepare a character?  Technically, I guess.  You can decide their hair color and eye color, if they were molested as a child and how that makes them act out, if they drive a Cadillac or take the bus, and so on.  You can even 'motivate' them.  "My character wants, more than anything in the world, to travel to outer space."  Is that going to be your climax, then?  She finally gets to go to outer space?  Or is that just the beginning?  With the first choice, you've got a whole lot of empty to get her there.  With the second, you've got the deadly 'now what?'

So I thought about characters and what happens when I've got a good one.  And I realized that my favorite characters are strangers that I connect with and learn about as they grow in the story.  They're people when, as our eyes meet for the first time, I get this tingle.  I want to get to know them.  Maybe it's a shallow impression.  Man, is he hunky, and yet he's so shy!  Or maybe it's that moment of we're all in deep doo doo and she looks like she knows what she's doing.  I may be wrong, but my instincts say she's going to get me out of this mess alive where no one else can.  

Hopefully you're getting that idea.  I think this is yet another situation where 'write what you know' gets a lot of writers, including myself, into a little trouble.  I can think of a novel in particular where I put so many of my own insecurities and philosophies and everything else into the character that she didn't have much going for her.  Well, she had about as much going for her as I do.  I can be pretty entertaining and I have a lot of friends, but for a character to carry a novel I think she needs to be surprising, uncomfortable, edgy--something (even if it's just one thing but hopefully several things) that's not me.  I don't want her to be predictable and always react the same way I'd react if I were in the same situation.  

I'm not saying characters have to be larger than life--not at all.  But think about the first time you met your best friend, the love of your life, the teacher that changed your life, someone who impressed you even when you didn't know that much about them.  I propose that a character needs to pop for you the same as real people pop out of society's swarm and instantly become individuals.  Great actors can make even the most mundane secondary character interesting.  You want to get to know them, even if they're bad guys (or maybe especially, if you think that way.)  

The strongest short story I've recently written had this fun voice.  I didn't know much about that character's history, but I immediately wanted to get to know her.  She was a pistol.  I think I'm going to try to write something like that again, about someone I'd want to really get to know.  I think she's going to make a fabulous first impression on me.  I'll combine it with the garden challenge, I think.  Doesn't really matter, as long as I get to write about her.  I can't wait!


Hey, what did you all think of the storm that blew over us yesterday evening?  It went right over our house.  The hail tore the plants to heck and the lightning was intense.  Rory and I watched it come in under the deck gazebo and then came in when it started to get dangerously close (as in wow, that lightning hit right there close.)  A few minutes later the hail started, and we had sheets of rain, lightning blasting directly overhead and terrified dogs.  Everything smelled like we were in the midst of a logging clearcut operation.  We brought all the dogs in (after a little drama with Finn) and gave them all baths and they got to lounge about the house until about 2am.

I thought, gee, Carole must be writing on a great story idea even as we speak.

I sent off for info about the Dean Wesley Smith/Kristine Kathryn Rusch and guests seminars in Lincoln City.  I've heard nothing but great things about these seminars.  Yes, they're expensive, but not when you consider that you have a place to sleep on the coast (woot!) and instructional time with masters of the industry.  If I could scrape together the funds I'd be all over the master's course held in spring 2009, but I think that's out of my reach financially, even if it was possible for me to get in based on my writing.  I think I'm better off staying out of debt by taking the novel and the short story courses, with the accompanying less time off of work factors (assuming I'm still working retail then.)  

My writer's demon is bouncing up and down trying to get my attention and squeaking, "that's what credit cards are for, dope!  C'mon, let's go!  You've always wanted to!"  Yes, well, I've always wanted a horse, too, but you don't see one grazing out on the acreage, do you?  "But this might be just what Masks needs to become saleable!  You can pay off the credit card with your advance!"  You know, that--I don't even know where to start.  I don't think that's even worth a response.  "What?  Aw, man!  Please?"

Pardon me while I stuff him back into whatever dimension he slipped out of.  

Thanks for the heads-up from our friend, Jeff!  And you can totally snag a ride with me to the coast, assuming I can get into the class.  Just get yer kilted butt up here to the Pac NW and we'll head out toward the sunset.  Road trip!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Announcements Part Trois

Thank you, Cheri and Kami, for all that wonderful information! You've both been so productive.

My announcement is that I haven't done one blessed thing.

Writing anyway.

I have, however:
  • watched several PBS movies based on Jane Austen's novels
  • gotten quite far in a new cross-stitch design that I've been wanting to stitch for some time now
  • gone for a long walk with Beau and Kate during a break in the rain and marveled at the sound of the water dripping between leaves while the birds chattered
  • finished reading a wonderful novel by Agatha Christie
  • read through far too many magazines
  • realized that the perfect foil to my Creepy Frenchmen is not a German (how cliche) but a Swede (love the accents)
  • added a Pretty French Interpreter to give Gus someone to smile at (because Creepy Frenchman does not smile)
  • reworked the opening of Trinket Box (in my head)
  • toured my garden in the rain
  • put music on both my blogs that I listen to obsessively when online
  • realized that I prefer apple pie cold as opposed to warm out of the oven

So, while no actual writing is going on, I've done a lot of it in my head in the midst of all the other daydreamy-type things I've been doing. Oh, and a few dishes. Not nearly enough dishes, but they aren't going anywhere and the iris blooms will last only so long, you know.

Announcements Part Deux:

I have been meaning to announce the pub of my new e-book, Plan Well, Write Well: The secret to crafting your best plots, characters, and settings for an age. It is a downloadable e-book designed to help fiction writers plan their way to successful stories. Plan Well, Write Well is loaded with brainstorming, freewriting, and visualizing techniques that can be used before and during the writing process for both short stories and book-length fiction.

If any INK readers, would like to learn more, feel free to visit my site at

Also, I will be teaching three workshops for the Southern Chapter of Willamette Writers at the Medford Public Library in Medford, Oregon. The first workshop, "Outlines for People Who Hate 'Em," is free to members of Willamette Writers and $5 for the general public. The two afternoon workshops are $25 each or $40 for the pair:

Rhythm: A study

Adding sound and style to your writing is essential to breakaway fiction, and subtle techniques can help you hone your prose to a musical high. By studying the masters of rhythmic fiction, we will sharpen our own prose to the grindstone of their techniques. Bring examples of your own work.

Fiction from film

Film writers are known for their skillful structure, their pithy dialogue, and their eye for the visual. This workshop will teach you how to employ these powerful techniques to raise your fiction to another level. Bring examples of your work.

For more information or to register for the afternoon workshops, go to

Thanks all! Jumping off the bandstand now . . .

Saturday, May 17, 2008


First announcement:  I just made a short story submission, which completes my goals for the month.  Yay!  I guess I have to go back to writing now.

Second announcement:  If there's anyone interested in joining the Lucky Labs, contact me.

The who?

No no, not The Who, Lucky Labs, aka the Lucky Lab Rats.  This writing group has historically gotten members via OryCon schmoozing (this was news to me even though that's exactly how I was invited) but after pub food and some hat whacking the consensus, as I understand it, is that I can ask my beloved INK members if they'd like to join.  

Lab Rats:

*Write speculative fiction.  SF/F/H or genres that make wet, intimate contact with SF/F/H only, please.  If you don't write it, read it, love it, you won't like how the Rats smell.  
*Meet every three weeks.
*Want people who want to learn how to write better, get published more often (in my case, more times than zero,) critique better, and who won't cry if Jim tells them their story is crap.  If everyone says your story is crap it's okay to cry but you have to hold it in and say you need to use the bathroom, and be sure to wash your face before you come back.  
*Want people who submit writing on a regular basis, and who write on a regular basis.  (Hat whacking  and virtual finger pointing over this issue occurred during the meeting.)
*Want stuff I don't know about because I'm a new-ish member.
*Want world peace.

I've observed that a thick skin is helpful with the Lab Rats.  They're never cruel or mean, but they tell it like they see it.  If that includes "scrap this one and write something else," you'll hear it, maybe even in those exact words.  I've also observed that the Lab Rats are inclusive rather than exclusive.  They're all about the writing.  And the publishing.  And the improving.

In the past a former member repeatedly submitted a first chapter to a novel, hoping to polish it into white rice, I suspect.  The fact that they started with a potato probably wasn't helping.  Anyway, it inspired a rule--six months between re-submitting same material.  It's generally a good idea to keep writing and submitting new stuff to keep from inspiring more rules.

We discussed a member cap.  Because we don't seem to be overwhelmed with submissions the consensus was that there is no member cap until we need one.  If that makes sense.

Anyway, after the rats get a membership story sub we discuss it at the next super-secret meeting at the Lucky Labs pub on Hawthorne at 2pm (next meetings are  June 7 and June 28) and then the idea is that the prospective member comes to the nearest following meeting they can attend to critique whatever's on the table and hear the critiques.  If they don't run away screaming and everyone is good, we end up with a new member.

So send me an ms if you want to play with rats and, since this isn't being done at an OryCon schmoozing session, it may be helpful to the Lucky Labs if you include a wee bit about yourself and your writing goals.  This isn't a cover letter thingy by any means.  We're not that formal (as evidenced by puns, sarcasm and other bad habits.)  I'd just tell them about you guys myself but then I'd feel weird like I'm pitching you.  Not the stuff that comes from trees, or throwing you like a baseball, the other pitching.  No, not throwing you in the garbage!  Oh, I give up.

Yammering About Writer's Groups

After Lucky Labs a few of us discussed how writer's groups are not for everyone. We came up with two categories of people for whom writer's groups are bad. One is the sort of writer whose soul is sucked out by critiques. These writers come out of critiques wanting to set fire to their story and never speak of it again or, worse, with a writer's block that even Hercules couldn't lift. If a writer's group meeting doesn't make you want to dash home and write lots, it's not doing you any good. The other kind of writer is one who is uncertain about the hearts of his/her stories. If the writer is willing to make any kind of modification suggested, or all of them at once, because they have no commitment or passion or inspiration they're willing to trust, a writer's group will destroy the integrity of their voice. The fiction they produce may be serviceable, and readable, but it will be missing that spark that makes editors want to buy a story at best, and turn to ashes at worst. Ashes are really bad. Well, except when C.S. writes about them.

Anyway, the plight of the uncertain author seems like a conundrum. If you go to a critique group for expert, or at least respectable, opinions, shouldn't you listen to them? Of course, but you have to own the story, love it, believe in it. Sometimes a story you love isn't salvageable and you need to let it go, but you have to realize that, believe it, and trust that. Never take apart a story based on someone else's say-so if you're not absolutely sure they're right, even if they're All That. By absolutely sure, I mean you have an aha moment, a realization, a heart-felt feeling of oops when you see your story in a new light. You're not absolutely sure if your gut says, "Gee, Jim said he wouldn't wipe his ass with it, so I guess it's no good," or even, "Everyone had such valid things to say about the weaknesses of the story, it must not be worth fixing." You wrote the story for a reason. It's not like marriage at all, except in this: If you loved the story enough to write it, do what you can to keep that story alive. If it's time for divorce, so be it, but make sure you believe that in your heart, not because your mother told you he's no good for you.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A Zoo of Factets

I had a great time both with David's talk at the INK meeting and also David's reading at Powell's.  It helped yank me out of a brief but unpleasant writing slump.  I didn't so much have writer's block as a writer's anxiety attack.  Step away from the manuscript, Kami, and keep your hands where I can see them.

I submitted (TBA) to the Writers of the Future contest, so that's another short story submission.  Also need to add on another rejection, this time from the Swivet.  Courting agents is hard.  Can I get back to writing now?  Oh, wait, have to market.  Poop!

I have one more short story submission to make before the end of the month to make my goal.  I think I'll try to find a home for Calling In, but I'm really not sure where to send it next.  Harumph.  I'll make that my project on Friday.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

INK Meeting Update

INK had a great meeting with guest David D. Levine last Friday. David talked about how he writes and answered questions. He had wonderful advice for us. I'd go into more details, but I can't find my notes. I may have left them behind, so more on that later when I reconnect with them.

What I do remember is David emphasizing persistence. Have to keep writing, keep editing, and most of all, keep submitting.

He spoke about endings, too, in how to get to them and what to do when an ending doesn't work. It makes perfect sense, too, that it isn't the ending not working, but something in the middle that is throwing the ending off, so look to the middle of the story for the problem.

He encouraged us to continue working on short stories, since they are a condensed form of the writing process. Most of us have dived into the short story pond, and now I think the last of us is ready to get her feet wet, too. So it will be interesting to see what comes across the critique table in the next few months.

I believe most of INK will be attending David's reading and signing at Powell's Books at Cedar Hills Crossing. If you are in the area, come join us. It's tonight at 7:00.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Happy Day

I found this in my inbox this morning:
Dear Carissa,
Congratulations, you made Honorable Mention for your story The Spirits of Iceholm for the second quarter.
Join me in a Snoopy Dance?

And thank you, INK members, for helping me make this my best story yet.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Weather Report

Since Carole and Kami both asked.

I haven't done much in the way of writing lately. I've been picking myself up from the utter failure that was Script Frenzy, which is rather like trying to get back on a horse that just threw me and is rolling its eyes and flattening its ears in promise of another rough ride.

I do have a couple of story ideas, one in answer to the Garden Story challenge Carole and Kami issued a few months ago. The other is from a dream I had about the same time that has nothing to do with gardens, but quite a bit to do with West Texas, and since I just returned from there the story is nudging me.

I think today is the day when I might venture to swing back into the saddle. I received my first issue of Victoria magazine a few days ago, a newly reinstated magazine that disappeared about four years ago and had once been my favorite. While most of the issue is about china patterns and the joy of blue and white in decorating, there is an article by writer Jan Karon. I haven't read her books (she writes the Mitford series, among others), but I might be looking them up soon because the article is so lovely in its imagery and tone. Moreso, however, Ms. Karon has this to say:
When I write, I dive headlong into the work as into a river, where I swim for my life or, depending on the tenor of the story, float on my back, gazing at clouds. I inhabit that river for five hours or two minutes, ten, or thirty, whatever the day may yield. When there's nothing more to say, feel, or conjure, I make my way to shore, trying to separate fiction from fact, and get on with the business of living.
I love this quote, not only the imagery of writing as a river, but the idea of not holding myself to a certain time frame for writing or a certain word count. This idea, more than anything, is coaxing me back to writing when I have so much else tugging at me to do and see. I know I could fit five, ten, fifteen minutes of writing in a day amid dog-walking, weed-pulling, child-playing, book-reading, journal-writing, and all the other things I like to do during the day. Half a page or six pages, whatever comes out. I could be happy with that for now, just to get back into it.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Flash Fiction No Go

I got my (kindly) rejection from Flash Fiction Online today.  I guess that means I'm still immaculate!  Gotta look at the upside of these things, especially with two rejects so close together.  And yet I still feel like making headway.  Isn't the definition of insanity to repeat the same actions over and over and expect a different outcome?

In other writing news, I'm getting that next chunk of Masks edited.  I'll probably email it out in the next couple of weeks for critique either at the end of May or into June, depending on when INK thinks it'll be best as far as reading the chunkaroo.  

In other other writing news, I plan on cutting tile soon, the next step in the great office tile-o-thon.  I've got one three-sided cut that I'm dreading, but the rest of the cuts are straightforward singles or doubles, so hopefully it'll come together quickly.  Then my office will be free, free free! of the under construction signs.  Well, except I'm going to reshelve my closet.  That's a big ugh project, but not nearly as involved as the tiling.

Any other submissions in the works out there?  How's the weather?

Friday, May 2, 2008

Disappointment in little self-addressed envelopes

I finally got my rejection from Writers of the Future in the mail.  Guess I'll just have to keep writing, and keep sending out stories.

Oh, wait, I'm doing that anyway.  Hey, I'm ahead of the game.  Whoodathunk?

Still no word from Flash Fiction Online.  They've got the May edition up on the web, btw.  No excuse not to read it.  It's all flash, all the time, so don't pretend you don't have a spare nanosecond, especially since I know you're peeking at blog sites right now.  That's right, you!

I'm looking forward to the May INK meeting.  The esteemed and unnaturally friendly David Levine will be our guest.  Read his blog.  Say nice things about his writing.  We like him.  Also, send good thoughts in the direction of Jay Lake.  We like him too.