What’s coming up?

I say this entirely too often around here: I need to be more consistent in what I’m posting.

I always have the best intentions to post regularly and be witty, creative, and interesting. And, as someone once said, “How’s that workin’ out for ya?”

Ahem.

Obviously, it’s kinda not.

That said, I do have some specific goals at the moment and for the rest of the year, so here I am to talk about them. Yay.

A to Z Blogging Challenge

For the last couple of years, I’ve had a lot of fun participating in the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Basically, you write/post on your blog every day during April. Sundays are an off day unless one is needed to hit the 26 total posts required to round out the alphabet, as is the case in 2017. As I’ve done before, I will be endeavoring to post a flash fiction story daily throughout the month of April.

As I’ve done before, I will be endeavoring to post a flash fiction story daily throughout the month of April. I will NOT, however, do what I did last year and try to make all those stories scenes of one larger story. While I was really happy overall with the idea I got last year (an Android raises a human boy for a science fair) the story I ended up with is such a disjointed mess that it will probably take a near-complete rewrite to pull it together into something useful and cohesive. So yeah, not doing that again. Two years ago I went in with no plan and ended up with a near-even split between sci-fi, fantasy, and magical realism stories. I will be going in with no specific plan again this year.

If I try to give myself some direction and create a theme, I’ll let you know.

Camp NaNoWriMo

April is also the month of the first 2017 Camp NaNoWriMo event. Unlike November’s full-blown NaNoWriMo, Camp NaNoWriMo allows for flexible goal setting. It also lets you have smaller groups, or cabins, of like-minded writers cheering each other on. It’s a great introduction to the NaNo lifestyle, as well as a way to build some accountability if you’re challenged in the completing things department.

My goal for April’s camp will be a combination of the above-mentioned AtoZ challenge and the continuation of my in-progress revision of last year’s AtoZ mess. What that looks like for goals is roughly 13,000 words of new fiction (500 words x 26 flash stories) PLUS about four lessons completed on my HTRYN revision. I don’t know that there’s a good way of distilling the revision down to a word count, so the 13,000 is probably all I’ll put on my NaNo page, but I’ll be working on both so feel free to poke me and ask for an update if you’re curious about my progress.

Story Time Blog Hop

This has become one of my favorite ongoing challenges over the last couple of years. Some other author friends and I each post a story on our blogs four times a year, with links to all the other authors participating in the hop. It’s a way to get a few words out for our own fans, and maybe introduce our followers to other authors they will enjoy.

The upcoming Blog Hop will take place on April 26th, right in the middle of the AtoZ Challenge, so that day’s post will be doing double duty. That makes it easy. Except I need to have that post ready a week in advance so the links can get all sorted out ahead of time, that adds a layer of challenge.

The fun part about the Blog Hop, though, is that we are open to other authors participating. So, if you write speculative fiction (fantasy, sci-fi, horror, paranormal, magical realism, etc.3) and want to participate, let me know and I’ll get you the deets. Or you can click here and discover the details for yourself.

On Beyond April

So beyond April and all its deadlines breathing down my neck, I do have some other things planned for the year, although the specific goals are somewhat more nebulous at the moment.

  • Finally get a novel written. Preferably before my next birthday since this will be the half-century milestone for me. The full-spectrum goal is to plan, structure, write, and publish a long-form work of fiction. But “write a novel” is good, all-encompassing shorthand.
  • Write, polish, and submit at least 12 short stories. The intention was to do one a month throughout the year. That hasn’t happened – I’m currently three behind. *insert eyeroll here* But there is still plenty of time to fulfill this goal… I just need to get started.
  • Read. Specifically, read as many books on the writing craft as I can get my hands on. I currently have roughly 90 such books in my personal library, either on a shelf or on my Kindle. Clearly, getting them into my hands is not a problem. I’ve actually read about 12 so far this year, according to my GoodReads log. That comes out to about 4 per month. I’ll be pretty happy if I keep up that pace. And then, duh, apply what I learn, because isn’t that really the point?
  • Complete the revision that I mentioned above. Right now I have a roughly 13,000-word incomplete mess of a story written haphazardly during the 2016 AtoZ Blogging Challenge. I’m not sure yet if I’ll be expanding the story into a full-blown novelette, or paring it down into a more focused short story. I’m still trying to figure out what the story wants to be, and I’m using Holly Lisle’s How To Revise Your Novel to get through it, step-by-step. Because I expect the end result to be significantly different that the original draft I did here on the blog, I plan to leave those posts live so people can see where it started and what it becomes. At the moment you have to hunt through the AtoZ tag to find the pieces of the story. If… No. When I get the revision done and either sell the story somewhere or self-publish it, I’ll make sure I pull those posts together in one location to make it easier to find them.

Anyway, that’s about it for now.

What… isn’t that enough for you?

Reflected – Blog Hop January 2017

“I want this. I can do this. Nobody can stop me.” She stared at unblinking eyes. Hard eyes. Dark eyes. She focused so intently on those eyes that everything else seemed to fade.

The effect was ruined as a grin crept across that face.

Alice leaned toward her own reflection. “You’ve got this,” she reassured herself one more time.

She’d always known if she played her cards right she’d be in a position to make changes. Now here she was.

She squared her shoulders as she turned from the mirror, then flicked off the light and left.

rainy womanAlice took the number 10 cross-town bus and walked the remaining six blocks to her destination. She was glad for a few minutes in the rain-washed air—her confidence had slipped a little as she bounced along on the less-than-pristine city bus. Staring at her own bulbous reflection in the driver’s security mirror had her questioning reality.

Her thoughts tumbled end over end as she walked, and she wished she didn’t feel like shrinking. But fear didn’t stop her. Her glossy Oxfords swung out rhythmically, followed closely by the pin stripes of her trousers. The slight reflection in the wet pavement of the sidewalk followed her precisely, clicking along at an identical energetic gait.

When she reached 1832 Duchess Avenue, she paused to again check her image in the wide brass trim beside the door. She looked warped around the edges, but not overly flushed from her walk. Good.

Alice tugged at the heavy glass entry and stepped inside. Mr. White nodded absently from behind the security desk as he tucked away his pocket watch. The affectation didn’t seem out of place considering the man’s tidy whiskers.

A green light dinged on, and she took a deep breath as she boarded the elevator. She counted the floors as they passed like a school girl reciting her lessons.

The plush carpeting of the 14th floor absorbed the sound of her footfalls when she stepped out toward T & T Enterprises. The silence tried to make her feel insubstantial, but she shook off the sensation as she approached the receptionist.

“He’s expecting me.” She didn’t wait for an answer from the mousy woman, merely turned toward the gilt-framed mirror on the wall.

She swallowed her nervousness as she eyed her reflection. There would be no going back. She turned when the door opened.

“Alice,” Lewis greeted her with a warm handshake. “You’re early.”

“I’ve made my decision,” she said as he led her past the heavy walnut door into his office.

Once they were alone she spoke in a rush, fearing that any delay might cause her to lose her nerve. “Tell Mr. Hatter I’m going, Lewis,” she said. “Through the Looking Glass. Into Wonderland. I can’t just see the other side and not act.”

From the corner of her eye, she thought she saw him smile.

“I won’t let that woman win. I need to take down the Red Queen.”

 

 

Copyright Notice: Please note that I fully assert my right to be associated as the author of this story, and while it is complete, it may not be finished. This story may be subject to alteration at the author’s discretion. Please do not copy, quote, or post this story or excerpts anywhere in any format. You are, however, free to share the link with anyone who might be interested.

Links

perpetualbloghop

I hope you’ll take the time to read the other stories in this Hop. These are some great writers and wonderful people. And if you like what you read, I hope you’ll consider joining their lists too. The world is a richer place when there are more stories to tell.

  1. Reflected by Elizabeth McCleary **YOU ARE HERE**
  2. Veronica by Jessica Kruppa
  3. Last Stop by Erica Damon
  4. Jesse and Tyler by Bill Bush
  5. The Poisoner of Time by Karen Lynn
  6. New Stork Inc. by Katharina Gerlach
  7. Pocket Heart by Juneta Key
  8. Oh Baby! by J. Q. Rose

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Kicking 2016 in the pants, and a forecast for 2017

img_0456It’s hard to believe it’s here already. Welcome to 2017.

I think maybe it feels surreal mainly because 2016 felt like the year that wouldn’t end.

    • So much political animosity.
    • So many celebrities and childhood icons passing away.
    • So little writing getting done.

Ugh.

2016

I was considering doing a wrap-up of 2016, but other than clobbering my personal reading goal I don’t have much to say about it.

But, yeah, my personal reading goal. I read 105 books in 2016. Some were short stories or novellas, but still, that is a lot of reading. I’m pretty pleased with myself.

Now, not every book I read was worth the time, but a whole bunch of them were. And even the bad ones have things in them for me to learn about storytelling… even if it’s just what not to do.

Interesting to me was that I read several books by podcasters I listen to. But the ones I thought I wouldn’t care for actually kept me completely riveted. And some I thought I would really enjoy I found I didn’t really care for. Success doesn’t guarantee a well-written book.

Names are withheld to protect the guilty. (Although I’d like to point out that I’m not talking about any of the Writing Excuses regulars here.)

It just goes to show that personality has very little to do with whether you will like someone’s writing. In other words, don’t judge a book by its podcaster. 😉

I will also not judge the podcasters by their books. In all cases, these are people who are making a living from their writing. Whether or not I actually like their writing, they are doing something right. I’ll learn what I can from whoever has something to teach.

And as a friend often says, I’ll eat the meat and spit out the bones. (He’s a Texan. Texans say things like that with surprising regularity.)

I have little else good to say about 2016, so I won’t. Onward.

2017

Writing

This year, I am quite certain, will be a better year for me in practically every way.

I’m planning to write and publish (or submit) at least a dozen short stories or flash collections. I am going to start purposely searching for markets and contests where I can submit because getting professional feedback can only help… and if I sell a few stories in the process, so much the better! But I also want to be very intentional about putting out more of my own writing, either as flash fiction on this blog, or short format fiction on Amazon or elsewhere.

It’s not because I want to start making money at this writing thing. Or not just that… making money would be awesome, let’s not lie.

But more than the money, I want to be really intentional about writing and improving my craft. So I’m committing to writing every day. I have things I know I need to do

  • deliberate practice,
  • stretch my abilities,
  • build on my skills, and
  • get out of my comfort zone.

I can’t do any of those things if I’m not writing regularly. So writing regularly it shall be.

I also want to (finally) write and publish at least one long-format story this year. A novel or long novella. Fully completed and published. Probably at least 40,000 words, but possibly up to 80,000 or more, depending on what I end up writing and how it goes. I have some ideas that I want to revisit, but I may start something brand new when I’m ready to do this. I’m not really sure… stay tuned to find out!

So between short stories, long stories, blog posts, etc, I should be well in excess of 150,000 words this year.

And make no mistake, I fully expect some of what I write to be crap. That’s where editing comes in. Learning how to self-edit is also on my list of goals for 2017. I’ll be using Holly Lisle’s How To Revise Your Novel class to walk through the process. And I know that by doing it, by being intentional (there’s that word again), that I’ll learn how to better recognize what is working in my own writing, and what still needs more attention. I’ll learn how to take a crappy story and make it better. I’ll learn how to take a decent story and make it something I can really be proud of.

All of this won’t happen overnight. Depending how long it takes me to learn the editing bits, it might actually affect my goals for the publishing bits. But that’s OK, as long as I’m making progress.

Deliberate practice.

Intentional progress.

Excellent watchwords for the year.

Professional Development

Another goal I have for the year is to attend at least one professional writing event. As much as I would really, really, REALLY like to go on the Writing Excuses cruise again this year, I don’t know that I’ll have the financial wherewithal to make that happen. (Someone offered to pay for the cruise itself, but I’d still have airfare, hotels before and after, and incidental expenses to consider. And since it would be 2 of us, and the cruise is in Europe, those “incidentals” are not all that incidental.) I still have hope, but I’m not holding my breath on that one.

However, all is not lost. I am already registered to attend the Life, the Universe, and Everything Sci-Fi and Fantasy Symposium that’s held in Provo, Utah every year. I still have to pay for my airfare and meals, but the conference itself is a mere $55, meaning the total cost of the conference, lodging, airfare, car, and meals will possibly cost me only slightly more than just the price of admittance to some of the bigger conferences out there. How could I not? If anyone else is going, let me know. Maybe we can hang out while we’re there.

Everything else

I, of course, have other goals for the year. Let’s not call them resolutions, shall we?

There’s, of course, the perpetual personal fitness goal. Eat less, move more. Be healthier. Blah, blah.

I won’t quantify that goal… partly because the numbers are depressing, but mostly because it’s not about the numbers. Toward the end of 2016 I was making some progress, eating differently, walking more. I will continue that trend in 2017. If I’m walking 4-5 days a week, that’s already a win. Like I said, specific numbers don’t matter.

I’ll also be continuing to read as much as possible. Last year I actually set a goal on GoodReads to read 100 titles, and I made it. This year I think I want to be more about quality than quantity. If I don’t enjoy something, I won’t finish it just so I can mark it as read. I want to read more books on craft. I want to read more things that will enrich me. I’ll still read fiction because I want to be entertained. But I’ll also read more deliberately to discover what I can learn about story and plot and character from what others are writing.

I suspect I may still approach the 100-book mark I hit last year, but I’ll be creating a goal that’s only half that because, once again, it’s not about the numbers.

Let me say that again. I need to hear it and keep on reminding myself… in all my goals.

It’s not about the numbers.

It’s about deliberate practice and intentional progress.

If you see me moping this year about what I’m not accomplishing, remind me to kick my butt out of 2016 (or you’ll do it for me…) and move forward.

There’s so much 2017 ahead I can’t afford to waste my time not celebrating it.

Flowers in the Winter

I first published this flash fiction on my blog as part of the 2015 A-Z challenge. All those stories came down when my 2016 stories started going up. But when my friend Katharina Gerlach invited me to participate in her annual Advent Calendar again, which has a winter theme this year, I immediately remembered this story and decided to write something related. I’m reposting this here to give that one some context. For those who want to know what happens next in this tale, be sure to sign up for Advent Calendar alerts (the link is on the upper right) so you won’t miss any of the stories! Cat doesn’t send spam, and the list for this calendar only gets notifications about this calendar.

You can start opening your surprises on December 1st.

 

Flowers in the Winter

“Georgie, come inside.”

The red-haired girl frowned as her sister tugged on her arm. “Don’t wanna,” she said. “I want frowers!” She pulled her away and crossed her arms with a defiant harrumph.

“Flowers,” Beatrice corrected. “And you can’t have flowers right now. It’s winter. No flowers ’til spring. Nothing green. No colors. Just snow. That’s just the way it has to be.” The older girl’s voice had a tone of finality that Georgie knew meant business. “Remember what happened last time?”

Georgie didn’t want to remember, but she did. The Wardens came and there was lots of yelling. The men in their bright red coats almost took away father. Mother made Beatrice take her upstairs to hide. And it seemed a lot darker than it should have, like being in the wardrobe with a blanket over her head. The memory scared her, especially the words they used—magic and witch and evil. That’s what finally made her decide.

She frowned at her sister’s offered hand for a minute longer, just for good measure. Then she took it with her own and the two walked together down the snowy path and entered the solarium.

“Now,” said Beatrice, “if you’ll behave and just stay inside, I’ll go to the kitchen and get us some cookies.”

Georgie frowned a bit harder before she finally gave in. “Ok. But I want four,” she was emphatic. “The lemon ones. They’re the best.”

“If mother made them then that’s what I’ll bring. If not,” Beatrice shrugged, “it might have to be shortbread.” She tousled her sister’s hair. “Either way, I’ll also bring milk.”

Georgie sat on a bench in the sunroom that overlooked the back garden and pouted. She hated all the cold and ick of winter. She wanted pretty things. But father made her promise, no more flowers. No more colors. Nothing green… at least not until green started happening on its own. Just snow. Cold and wet and boring and ugly.

Swinging her feet impatiently as she waited for cookies, Georgie wondered if flowers were really the problem. Maybe it was just the colors. What had Beatrice said? Just snow.

“Just snow,” she said to herself as she jumped off the bench to smoosh her nose against the glass. “Nothing pink or purple or yellow. Just snow.”

iceflowersGeorgie was still standing with her face pressed against the window and her fingers tapping lightly on the pane when Beatrice came back with cookies and milk.

Beatrice put the tray down with a clink. “Lemon cookies, as requested,” she said. “And also some lavender short bread. And… Oh, Georgie! What have you done?”

“I didn’t make any colors,” said Georgie. “Nothing green. No frowers. Just pretty.”

“More than pretty,” said Beatrice, shaking her head. “It’s beautiful. But if the Wardens find out, we’ll all be in trouble.”

The girls stood side by side, staring at snow and ice that Georgie had transformed into delicate floral sculptures more detailed than any garden.

Copyright Notice: Please note that I fully assert my right to be associated as the author of this story, and while it is complete, it may not be finished. This story may be subject to alteration at the author’s discretion. Please do not copy, quote, or post this story or excerpts anywhere in any format. You are, however, free to share the link with anyone who might be interested.

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Over James Henry Wilcox’s Dead Body – Blog Hop October 2016

Over James Henry Wilcox’s Dead Body

key-252231_1280The large brass circle of keys clattered against the door as Daiyu locked the shop on the edge of China Town. None would come for her herbs tonight. In truth, none came much anymore since her YeYe was gone. Grandfather brought her across the ocean. He taught her his trade. But he couldn’t keep from the drink, and he left her little legacy but his debt. If she couldn’t do this, she would lose both shop and home.

Turning, she settled a heavy cloak across her shoulders. The San Francisco fog and her destination tonight meant she would be more comfortable if she stayed covered. She paused for a moment to breathe deeply. The evening’s wood fires and the familiar scent of spices that reminded her of home mingled with the city’s salt air. Daiyu squared her shoulders and strode up the street.

The click of her low, wood-soled shoes on the cobblestones echoed between the dark buildings that surrounded her. Most people avoided the alleys and byways where Daiyu spent the majority of her time. But she would never fear the dark—she was named for black jade. The dark was a friend that kept her secrets.

Tonight, the dark hid her form as she passed by banks and businesses that would not welcome her in the daylight.

After a quick, twenty-minute walk, Daiyu pulled open the ornate wrought iron gate. Brambles tugged at her wide, silk trousers as she stepped lightly between the shadowed stones. She muttered apologies to the departed. She would never understand this lack of respect for the dead. Then again, what did westerners know about venerating the deceased? Would their dead even care about nettles and vines? Those buried here were not the ancestors who would be called on for guidance.

Most were not.

Finding the grave she sought, Daiyu retrieved a small box of sulfur matches from the folds of her cloak. She cleared a small patch of earth in front of the stone in which she placed a few dry leaves, then struck a match. When the flame rose, she added herbs from a small clay jar and spoke, her brittle words sounding loud in the gathering fog.

“James Henry Wilcox, I call you forth by rightful charge. You will come and give me the answers I seek.”

Her skin prickled and a shiver ran through her. She tugged at her cloak, now stirring in a sudden wind, and repeated her call.

As she spoke the words for a third time, the small fire she had ignited blinked out, leaving only a curl of white smoke against the night’s darkness. “I am here,” said a voice. “Why do you disturb me.”

“I am resuming our negotiation,” she said. A cold smile slid across Daiyu’s features. “I told you, you owe me answers,” she said. “I promised I would haunt you. Here I am.”

The ghost of James Henry Wilcox faded into view like a reflection on imperfect glass. “I thought ghosts were meant to do the haunting,” he said.

“You’d think that, but I’m the one with the unfinished business,” Daiyu replied, crossing her arms. “Where will I find it?”

A suggestion of a scowl crossed his non-corporeal countenance. “Where will you find what?”

“The deed. You promised a guarantee of my home.” She crossed her arms as another chill gust swirled around her.

Daiyu jumped as the ghost of James Henry Wilcox laughed. This was not what she expected, but it made her smile. She liked a ghost with some spirit.

The ghost circled her once and then spoke again. “As far as I’m concerned, you got me killed. I think that makes us even.”

“I took you to where you wanted to go and you got yourself killed. You still owe me what was promised.”

“Over my dead body,” said James.

Daiyu clicked her tongue. “And here we are.”

“Yes,” he said. “Here we are. There’s nothing left that I need. You have nothing to negotiate with.”

“Except,” said Daiyu, “maybe I do.” Her fingers closed on another item hidden within her cloak.

A blurring caused by the shake of a head obscured the ghost’s features momentarily. “How could you?” he said. “I’m dead. I followed you into that den, and now I’m dead.”

“But your sister… she is still alive.” Daiyu finally drew out a photograph showing a sad-looking young woman with vacant eyes. James Henry Wilcox reached right through the picture before remembering he could not take it. “Give me what you promised,” Daiyu said, “and I will take care of her.”

“Take care of?” Worry creased Wilcox’s transparent features.

chinese-998917_1280“I will rescue her. Train her. Teach her what I know. She will be able to summon spirits.” Daiyu paused as realization dawned on the specter’s features, then continued. “She will be able to summon you.”

“I’d be able to see her again? I had hoped,” he said, “but I never thought…”

“You never expected I could actually help you.’

“The opium? Can your skills really overcome that?”

Daiyu stared at him for a moment then nodded. “I can break its spell. You will have what we agreed on after all.”

“Then it is decided,” James said. “I’ll help you get the deed to your building, and you’ll get my sister out of that viper’s hands.”

“Good,” said Daiyu. “It is decided.”

Copyright Notice: Please note that I fully assert my right to be associated as the author of this story, and while it is complete, it may not be finished. This story may be subject to alteration at the author’s discretion. Please do not copy, quote, or post this story or excerpts anywhere in any format. You are, however, free to share the link with anyone who might be interested.

Links

perpetualbloghop

I hope you’ll take the time to read the other stories in this Hop. These are some great writers and wonderful people. And if you like what you read, I hope you’ll consider joining their lists too. The world is a richer place when there are more stories to tell.

Please note: The links should finally be all sorted out. If you find any errors, please let me know!

  1. Elizabeth McCleary – Over James Henry Wilcox’s Dead Body **YOU ARE HERE**
  2. Canis Lupus The Picture
  3. Peg Fisher All In the Fall, a Fractured Fairytale
  4. Bill Bush Trapped
  5. Crystal Collier Emily’s Ghost
  6. Viola Fury 911
  7. Benjamin Thomas Autumn Cascade
  8. C. Lee McKenzie Beautiful
  9. Erica Damon Penance’
  10. J. Q. Rose Sorry
  11. Elise VanCise Lady In The Woods
  12. Barbara Lund Spooky Space
  13. Angela Wooldridge Quiet Neighbours
  14. Katharina Gerlach Australian Dream
  15. Karen Lynn The Waves at Midnight
  16. Sherri Conway Ants

 

 

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Update on my procrastination skills, and other events of note

alarm-clock-590383_1280Yeah, so, procrastination.

About that.

It’s still a thing that I do. (For evidence, note that here it is something like 3 weeks after saying I’d post an update in a week. Ha!)

HOWEVER, that is not to say there has been no movement on that front.

I did do a little bit o’ plotting. Not much. Not enough. But some.

Blog Hopperpetualbloghop

Also, I wrote a flash story – one that I really like! I’m participating in the Story Time Blog Hop again this month. It’s a quarterly thing, and being October, all the stories will probably be leaning toward ghost stories, Halloween, paranormal… typical haunted fare.

But these are my friends, so don’t expect ordinary. Never expect ordinary. 😉

Expect to see that story as well as links to the others on October 26 at 6PM. (We are a global group, so we try to make things drop right at Midnight UTC. I’m in the -6 timezone, so I post 6 hours early.)

Advent CalendarKat's Advent Calendar

I’m also planning to participate in my friend Cat’s Advent Calendar again this year. I’ve done this a couple of times in the past, and it has always been a lot of fun.

As soon as I have sign-up info for that, I’ll post it here. To get the stories, you’ll need to join a mailing list… but it’s a list ONLY for the Advent Calendar and Cat never spams.

For that collection of stories, the theme this year is Winter (but not necessarily Christmas). As usual, most of the authors participating will likely have some kind of bonus in the form of an additional story, a traditional recipe, a fun desktop background… something unique. You won’t want to miss out!

NaNoWriMonanowrimo_2016_webbadge_participant-200

Between the Blog Hop and the Advent Calendar, is the annual event known as NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month.  For those who haven’t heard of it, writers (anyone, really) are invited to try to write 50,000 words in November. That works out to an average of 1667 words every day.

50,000 might be a short novel, but by most classifications, it’s a novel. A whole novel (or maybe a good start on one) in 30 days is a pretty significant challenge. With my afore mentioned habit of procrastination, I have never managed to hit that 50,000-word goal. But I’m giving it a shot again this year. (My username there is pearannoyed, so if you’re participating too, feel free to connect!)

The story I’m planning is actually an extension of what I wrote for the Blog Hop. So if you drop back by on the 27th and read that story, you might have motivation to cheer me on for NaNo. Maybe. If you like it.

 

That is, I think, all I have on the table at the moment. If anything else comes up, I’ll let you know.

Procrastination

Hi. My name’s Liz and I’m a procrastaholic. appointment-15979_1920

I start out with really good intentions to sit down and write, or plan, or edit. I have the tools I’ll need at the ready. I have a gigantic cuppa coffee to keep me fueled up.

But then I lose focus.

Usually it starts pretty innocently. I don’t quite know where to start, so I’m looking for inspiration. Or I feel stuck on a particular project and I’m trying to decide what to do about it.

So I sit there. Thinking. Processing. And I’m inside my head, knowing I really should be doing something rather than just mulling it over.

And that makes me feel guilty. So to block out the guilt I try to think of something to do. Then I’ll make the mistake of opening my email. Or Facebook. I’ll go to check something out on the internet.

Once that happens, it’s all over. Ten minutes of email turns into, “how the heck did it get to be 4:00 in the afternoon?” And as much as I hate to admit it, there are other things I have to do besides staring at my computer. There’s housework and a husband and dinner to be cooked and eaten. There are the other commitments I have that I can’t simply blow off for more screen time. There are books to be read. There’s a dog to be walked.

Far too often I find that the time I have available for writing simply slips away from me, like mist across the water.

But I have a plan. That plan is to learn how to plan.

No kidding.

I’ve always been more of a pantser. That’s a writer who writes by the seat of her pants, for the uninitiated. One who sits down and just writes without necessarily having a concrete idea of where a story might be going ahead of time.

Pantsing feels more creative than plotting. Plotting feels too structured, too organized. Plotting will suck the life out of my writing. Pantsing seems so much more free.

Now is when you might ask, And how’s that working out for you?

Clearly, it ain’t. It’s fantastic for developing my procrastination skills, and terrible for getting any actual words on the page.

So this coming week my goal is to create a plot outline for at least one of the stories that have been percolating in my brain or languishing on my computer. The good news? I have plenty to choose from!

I’ll probably start with something relatively short, but not too short. One of my short story or novella ideas should work. I’ll create a basic structure for it, fill in a few details, and know what story I want to tell.

pen-994464_1920And from that, hopefully, I’ll be able to sit down with my coffee and my blank page and fill up the one while I empty the other.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

On being a professional

Every now and then I say something that makes me think, Yeah. That was good. Today is one of those days. So I turned it into a meme.

Presented here without further comment…

ProfessionalMeme

OverWhelmed – Blog Hop July 2016

“Pipes and piper were both lost. Rumor is, he angered the gods. Nobody has crossed the Whelmed at Taskeen in near 50 years.”

water-195926_1280Mazzie stood staring at the torrent that passed below her. “If you need to get across,” the barkeep continued, “you’ll have to head upriver to Seldin and cross on the bridge, or down to Vens where the port master will take you around.”

Her fingers twitched, just shy of the pane, but she knew she couldn’t press her hands and nose against this man’s windows. She was no child. Not anymore. Forcing her hands to her sides, Mazzie turned away from her view of the river to face the bartender. “A room then?” Her own weariness sounded hollow in her ears. “Somewhere I can figure out what to do next?”

“No rooms here,” said the man as he rubbed a glass with a cleaning towel. Mazzie noted that the glass was pristine and dry. Cleaning the barware must be more habit than necessity tonight. “City doesn’t allow libations to be sold by innkeepers. Lucky for you,” he continued as he placed the polished glass on a shelf and laid aside the towel, “I know the owner of the best Inn in town.” He tossed a brass token that Mazzie snatched from the air. “Show that to the proprietor of The Piper’s Palace on Riverside. Tell Belford that Alford says hello.”

**

Mazzie wasn’t exactly sure how she ended up standing in this town, in this inn. She just knew it was a bad few days. Her flute was stolen. Then she was fired from the troupe. Can’t pay if you can’t play. Sorry for your loss, Mazzie. On your way now. But her mentor… he promised a job if Mazzie could get there. Gave her directions. Cross the Whelmed at Taskeen, he’d said. And now here she was. Stranded in this dead-end town and no way across.

“Well now,” a familiar-sounding voice interrupted. “What can I do for you, miss?” A face nearly identical to the one worn by the bartender at The Piper’s Public smiled at her, eyebrows raised.

It took a moment for Mazzie to find her voice. “I… I… “ She snapped her mouth shut, embarrassed by her stammering, and took a deep breath. “Alford said you could rent me a room.” She fished the token from her pouch. The brass coin clicked as she placed it on the counter. “How much will it cost?”

The innkeeper allowed his eyes to linger on her face for a long moment. “I’m afraid your money is no good here,” he said.

Mazzie closed her eyes and sighed. “If you don’t have a room, can you tell me where I can get one?”

“I have rooms,” Belford said, a smile finally spreading across his weathered face. “But if my brother gave you his chit, you can’t make me take your money.” He placed a finger on the token and slid it back across the counter, then set a large brass key next to it. “You keep that coin,” he said, indicating the token, “and any silver you have too. Your room is upstairs and down the hall. Number seven. Come back down once you’re settled. I think we can help.”

**

The large copper washtub full of hot, scented water that she’d found in her room did wonders for Mazzie’s mood. How did he get it set so fast? She still didn’t know what her next step would be, but at least she would face it with her travel-weary muscles soothed and wearing a clean set of clothes. Her silk trousers were usually reserved for performing, but without her flute…. She may as well wear her best.

Back downstairs, she found the brothers sitting in a room open to the river. “Thank you both for everything,” Mazzie said. “I’ll repay your kindness. Somehow.”

One of the men waved a hand dismissively. Alford or Belford? “Tell us about your flute. That can be your payment.”

“How do you know about my flute?” She tried to choke back the surprise in her voice. “Not that it matters. My flute was stolen.” She fingered an invisible flute, remembering. “He said I should cross here, a job would be waiting. A new instrument, maybe. Clay must have been wrong.”

“Do you play?” asked one of the brothers. Mazzie thought it was Alford. “You’re a musician?”

“I did. Mostly the simple flute, but he taught me one tune on his pipes. He left me with the troupe though. Now the troupe left me too.” She slumped sadly, staring at the water. “I may never play again.” The river almost sounded like the piper’s tune in her ears.

One of the brothers pressed a box into her hands while dark eyes looked at her from expressionless faces.

Unbidden, she opened the lid. Within lay a set of pipes drawn from dark silver and chased with gold. “These are just like the ones Clay played,” she whispered, confused.

“Cleford. Our brother. He played the Piper’s Pass. Until he left.” Two heads shook. “We were so angry.”

“Play for us. Please?

“Play?” Surely they didn’t mean for her to play such fine pipes.

In spite of her apprehension, Mazzie lifted the pipes. They were heavy but felt right in her hands.

“He only taught you one tune?”

She nodded and began to play. The melody was haunting and sweet, suggesting waves and sorrow and love lost.

The final notes still hung in the air as Mazzie turned to see the waters of the Whelmed piled up.

Shocked, she ran to the banks and stopped, agape at the man who stood to the other side of where the river once ran. Her mentor, Clay.

He was the image of his brothers.

“Mazzie,” he called. “Daughter.” He lifted a hand. “Will you come?”

As her feet padded softly across the dry riverbed, she finally understood.

Mazzie ran over the Whelmed to welcome her father home.

Copyright Notice: Please note that I fully assert my right to be associated as the author of this story, and while it is complete, it may not be finished. This story may be subject to alteration at the author’s discretion. Please do not copy, quote, or post this story or excerpts anywhere in any format. You are, however, free to share the link with anyone who might be interested.

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perpetualbloghop

I hope you’ll take the time to read the other stories in this Hop. These are some great writers and wonderful people. And if you like what you read, I hope you’ll consider joining their lists too. The world is a richer place when there are more stories to tell.

Elizabeth McCleary – OverWhelmed  ** YOU ARE HERE **
Viola Fury The Day The Cat Got Out
Karen Lynn Dragon Smoke and Wind
Katharina Gerlach Lobster One
S.R. Olson Malakai’s Gift
Wendy Smyer Yu Into The Light
Emily Plesner Time Stops When I’m With You
Barbara Lund Separate Space
Shana Blueming A Melting Heart
Juneta Key Don’t Drink The Water
Angela Wooldridge Midwinter
Lee Lowery All Aboard

 

Scrivener for iPad, blog hop, and more

I’ve been stupidly busy …. something I find myself saying far too often.

Sadly, one thing that means is that my revision isn’t coming along as quickly as I’d like. I have an idea of what I need to do, but blocking out time to get it done is a challenge. I’ve been working on other must-do projects – ones that actually pay actual money, so that’s good. I’ve been part of three conferences (none writing-related, sadly). And I’m still making sure the husband and dog are properly fed, have their belly rubs, and don’t feel completely neglected. I feel like I have three full-time jobs with very little to actually show for it. Alas.

Scrivener for iPad

In cooler news, you might have already heard that Scrivener is FINALLY  available for iPad. HUZZAH!!! Scrivener. Y'know - for writers.

For the uninitiated, Scrivener is a writing program put out by a tiny company called Literature and Latte. It was designed with novel-writing in mind and has tons of cool features not available in “normal” word processors like Word or Pages. I know dozens of writers who would never consider using anything else for writing their fiction or non-fiction books. It really is that good.

And now that it’s available for iPad and can be synced through Dropbox, writing on any project can be seamlessly moved from office to coffee shop to park to sofa and back again. Very cool stuff. I may do a more in-depth write-up of Scrivener at some other time. But for now, just understand that after a very long wait with multiple delays and much frustration, this is actually a thing and a lot of people are very happy about it.

Storytime Blog Hop

One reason I’m happy about that Scrivener thing is that I’m late getting my story done for next week’s blog hop. Since I have running around to do the next couple of days, I’ll be taking the iPad and will hopefully find time to complete my story while I’m out. perpetualbloghop

The hop is going live on Wednesday, July 27 (6PM Tuesday for me since we’re using Global Standard). And at last count, there were more than 10 authors involved. That means a bunch of new stories for all of you to read, absolutely free. All the stories should be in the speculative fiction genre, and should be suitable for YA and up (no graphic sex or violence). With our aim being to post stories of 1000 words or less, the Hop might be the perfect place to find a little commute reading or something to occupy your brain while you’re eating lunch.

Watch this space for stories next week!

That’s all my news for now. Wish me luck and words on getting my story finished. And wish me clarity and extra time as I chip away at my revision.