Conflicted

Actually… lack of conflicted, if you really want to know.

That’s the problem. And it’s a big problem.

The story I’m currently trying to revise is badly broken. And one of the main problems it has in the lack of meaningful conflict.

In order for a story to be worthwhile, it has to have conflict. That sounds contrary, I know. And as someone who doesn’t especially like conflict in real life, it can be difficult to put appropriate conflict in my stories.

I’ve even heard people argue that conflict isn’t really necessary for a good story. But they’re wrong. In fact, without conflict, it’s actually impossible to have a story.

And contrary to what some think, conflict doesn’t necessarily mean fighting. Nope. Conflict is about your character having a goal, and someone or something is standing in the way of them reaching that goal. Sometimes there’s a fight. Often, though, there’s some other kind of obstacle. A traffic jam. Embarrassment over calling the cute guy from geometry class. A fitness instructor who tells you to work harder while they’re eating a hamburger with bacon and extra pickles.

Without the traffic, you easily just drive to where you’re going. Without being flustered over the cute boy, you simply get a study partner and new boyfriend in one fell swoop. Without the hypocritical coach, you’re just, ya know, on the treadmill doing what you do.

And it’s all very dull.

Without conflict, all you really have is a slice of life. Sometimes that can be interesting, I guess, but it provides for very little movement. A story that doesn’t move, that doesn’t go anywhere, is not something that people read. It’s just not.

So, yeah. Conflict. Based on the character’s desires and goals. Goody.

Right now my biggest conflict is that I’ve been avoiding working on my story because I’m at a point where I need to analyze and improve the conflict. I love the idea of the story, but it has very little movement because, scene by scene, there is very little conflict. So it’s boring. I have to fix it.

But I don’t like conflict.

I’m so conflicted. sigh

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?

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.

Working on a revision and other news

 

Theft.

So, remember that thing I was working on a few months ago? The android story I blogged for the A-Z challenge during April?

Well, big news, I have officially started the revision process. My initial hope was to shuffle things around a bit, finish out story lines that weren’t quite complete, and maybe get this thing knocked out by the end of July.

Having now read through the whole thing for the first time in more than 2 months, I’m pretty certain that it’s going to need more work than that.

It’s barely a working draft at this point, so my initial goal is to get it shaped up so it at least tells a complete story, hopefully by the end of this month. Then I’ll go back and work an in-depth revision process to make it into a good story that makes sense. Since this will be my first full revision of anything longer than a couple thousand words, I have no idea at all how long it will take me to complete.

My current plan is to try to post updates about once a week specifically on where I am in the revision process. Just in case there are those of you who are interested in such things.

If you haven’t read the story posts, or want to refresh your memory, here’s the first scene. You can navigate to later scenes from there.

What I’ve Done So Far

I have re-read my entire manuscript without making any notes. Then I organized the whole thing into the 4 major story arcs.

  1. The science fair (4 scenes)
  2. David and Meltec (11 scenes)
  3. The political problem (9 scenes)
  4. Before the dying (2 scenes)

The biggest arc right now belongs to the David and Meltec arc which consists of all the flashbacks to their life leading up to the science fair. That’s a bit of a problem since I really see the science fair itself as the framework story line. I will either need to flesh it out some, or change the overall structure of the story since I currently only have 4 scenes related to the science fair itself. The science fair was the shiny thing that made me want to chase down this story in the first place, so I really hope I can figure out a way to make it really work as the main story line. One way or another, though, the David and Meltec/Science Fair storyline still needs a proper ending.

The political arc has flashback scenes from roughly 20 years prior to “now” and moves forward into scenes that are probably a few weeks after the science fair. The “before the dying” scenes are essentially flashbacks from the political arc.

So first things first, I will be working to figure out the basic structure I need and what scenes I might be missing. I don’t know if I’ll write those scenes completely, or just do basic outlines that I can carry into my full revision so I only have to write what I really know I’m going to need.

Lots to think about here. I’ll keep you posted on how it’s going.

The Other News

perpetualbloghopLater this month, July 27th to be exact (though that’s UCE, so I’ll actually be live around 6:00PM on the 26th), I’ll again be participating in the StoryTime Blog Hop. This is a quarterly event in which a bunch of speculative fiction authors each post a flash fiction story on their blogs, along with links to all the other stories. It’s usually a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to it. Of course, that means I will need to write at least 1 flash fiction story this month in addition to working on the revision, but I think I can handle it.

I’ll be sure to post a reminder when we get closer to the date of the hop!

My Next Venture

I’ve been processing this for about a week now, and I think I’ve decided what my next project needs to be. Partly it’s because I want to challenge myself a bit more. Partly it’s because I’ve been listening to the advice I’ve given others.

old-books-436498_1280I’ve now done 3 very short publications. The two collections, and one stand-alone story. But I am itching to work on something bigger. So bigger it shall be!

I’m not going to spill the beans quite yet on what that bigger project will be – not my story plan anyway. But I’m planning on writing at least a novella-length story. Me and my Muse are pretty excited about it. 😀

I may also try to get another flash fiction collection pulled together at the same time, but the big story will take precedence.

Stay tuned for future details!

I’ve missed my deadline – here’s your consolation prize

I had every intention of having another collection of flash fiction pulled together by no later than today. It didn’t happen. I got close, but I had days where words seemed hard to come by, and other parts of life sometimes seemed to conspire against me.

I’m still planning to get that collection finished, polished, and ready for sale. But in the mean time, I’m giving you a special treat. This is one of the flash stories I’ve been working on for that collection. And, frankly, it really doesn’t fit the tone of the rest of the collection. I like the story, but I think I’d rather give it away here than try and make it work with other stories that are considerably darker than this one.

Also, tomorrow begins the April A to Z Blogging Challenge. I’m slightly terrified. I had intended to have at least a few stories ready to go ahead of time, and it just did not happen. So over the next month you’re going to be seeing some extremely raw, thrown together writing. I think most will still be fiction, probably flash. But there may be some poetry, microfiction, or just personal writing tossed in for good measure. My blogging challenge will be the basis for publication number 4 of 12 for 2015.  (Publication #3 is the collection that didn’t get published today.)

The best stories from April will get polished, expanded, or repurposed and put in a collection, so feel free to let me know what your favorites are!

Now, without further ado, I give you a flash story.

Big Enough

“I’m not a baby.” Dylissa muttered to herself as she stomped through the woods. “I’m seven-and-a-half years old, and I’m BIG ENOUGH!” She shouted the last two words at nobody in particular.

In fact, Dylissa being big enough was, in large part, what she was proving to everybody by running away. At seven-and-a-half, Dylissa was braver than many who were twice, or even three-times, as old and as big as she was.

The problem, in her eyes, was that nobody ever let her do anything. When her brother Alpin went to sword practice, Dylissa was sent to the kitchen to help Cook make biscuits. When her sister Lexine trained on horses, Dylissa was sent to the governess to practice her reading.

Dylissa found the differences in their training hugely unfair, despite the fact that everyone told her that when Alpin and Lexine were seven-and-a half, that they had to do kitchen chores and lessons, too. “It’s just not fair,” she grumbled, wandering, as she did, further into the forest.

Presently, as seven-and-a-half-year-olds often do, Dylissa found that she was tired and her feet hurt. So she found a nice pile of leaves beneath a tree, curled up, closed her eyes, and went to sleep.

Dylissa opened her eyes, as a great rumbling shook the woods around her. She sat up and looked around warily, wondering what could have made the noise. It was darker in the woods than it had been, and she noticed an amber light flickering between the trees.

Fire? She decided she should go check; fire could destroy the entire forest. dragon-29761_1280

Hurrying towards the light, Dylissa soon found herself in a small clearing, facing the smallest dragon she could imagine. The beast shimmered a shimmery red over its green scales, and it blew small but intense flames out it’s bulbous nose. It was about the size of her father’s hunting dog.

Covering her mouth to stifle a nervous giggle, Dylissa inched closer to the fearsome creature. She couldn’t resist–it was just too cute.

When she was close enough, she reached over and gingerly patted the tiny dragon’s back. The animal turned yellow eyes toward her, causing Dylissa to take a step backwards. But as it moved towards her, she noticed it limping on one foreleg.

A cloud of concern crossed the little girl’s face. “What’s ‘a matter?” Dylissa asked. She forgot to be nervous as she quickly swooped forward, lifted the dragon’s foot, and deftly pulled a sizable splinter from between its toes. As the sliver came free, a single drop of the dragon’s green blood smeared Dylissa’s fingers.

Just as she was wiping the mess on the hem of her skirt, she heard her name echoing through the trees.

“They’re coming for us,” she told her new companion. “I won’t let them hurt you.” She scrambled to her feet, picked up a nearby stick, and prepared to stand her ground against all foes.

“Dylissa!” Her father nearly ran to her, but stopped short as he noticed the weapon she held.

Frowning at her father, who was now surrounded by Alpin, Lexine, and several members of the household staff, Dylissa stood as straight as she could. “You can’t take him,” she said.

“I can’t take who?” Father’s eyes widened in shock as the mossy rock behind his youngest daughter lifted its head and blew a tiny spurt of flame in his direction.

Lexine screamed. Alpin drew his dagger. Someone collapsed in a heap; Dylissa suspected it was her governess.

“You can’t take him,” she repeated, brandishing her stick.

Father stared at her a moment, no longer looking surprised. Dylissa could tell when he decided. He got that look.

“Dylissa,” he said, “you are seven-and-a-half. I believe you’re big enough to train this beast. If you’re brave enough to try, we will call down the Beast Master and you will begin lessons next week.”

A smile split her face as she leapt into Father’s open arms.

Please note that this is unedited, raw writing, and that I still fully assert my copyright on this story. If you want to share it, send someone a link. Please do not copy and share the story itself.

 

Flash Fiction in Progress

Well, it’s finally decided. Kind-of by default. It might not be what I was originally planning to do, but it’s what I can do in the time I have.

This month’s project is officially flash fiction. I’m working on compiling a handful of stories that will, if all goes according to plan, be available by the end of the month. (The longer fiction projects aren’t going away – they are just getting extended so I have more time for both planning and execution.)

It might kill me, but I will get this done. If for no other reason than I’ve broken enough commitments to myself for one lifetime. This doesn’t need to be another one.

And next month, since I already (stupidly) committed to the A to Z challenge, I’m going to be writing some kind of short fiction every weekday during the month.

  • flash fiction stories of around 500 words
  • extreme flash fiction stories of around 30 words
  • microfiction stories of around 10 words

And, of course, those stories will each start with their respective letter of the alphabet. (Or be named for… or have the main character named for… whatever works.)

Oh, and note to self: Next year, I am committing to a smaller number of slightly bigger projects. I’m only on month 3 of my commitment to publish monthly and I can officially say that a 4-week time frame for deadlining myself is simply NOT feasible for the long term. The unexpected comes up too often. It’s just too hard to build flexibility into a schedule that snug.

Story planning

In January I got my flash fiction collection out, and I was happy.

In February I re-published my short story, making it a free-range offering for the first time.

Now it’s been several weeks and I need to get myself on track for my March Publication. I really want to keep up with the goal I set for myself of getting something published every single month this year. It simply would not do to drop the ball only 3 months in.

So I’m at a crossroads of deciding what I should write. I won’t necessarily limit myself to working on only one of these projects, but I will have to have one be my primary focus or I won’t get anything finished. Here’s what I’ve got brewing…

picture by  jesuscm - flickr, cc-attribution

picture by jesuscm – flickr, cc-attribution

  • I’m working on another collection of flash fiction, which may or may not have a theme tying them together
  • I have some ideas for a couple of connected short stories in a sci-fi world. One of those (possibly two if I write fast) could hit the pages this month.
  • I’ve been outlining a story that is loosely based on traditional European fairy stories, though I would hesitate to call it an actual Fairy Tale retelling. It’s not so much a respinning of one tale as it is a new story in keeping with some of the thematic elements normally found in fairy tales.

I’m pretty sure I don’t have time to finish the Fairy Tale, which I think will end up being more novella length than short story. So it will either be flash fiction or sci-fi shorts.

Any votes? My Muse would be happy with any of it. I just need to choose quickly. 🙂

It’s almost ready…

I’ve put in a bunch of hours over the last  few days, fiddling with formatting, dealing with design, editing, proofing, etc.

I thought the hard part was over when I got my stories finished. I was wrong.

I still have a bit of finishing to do on some of those things, but so you can see that I haven’t been idle, here’s what I think is the final version of my cover.

Enjoy! The rest of the book is coming. Very, very soon. 🙂

NewSkin2

Watch Night is finally available!

WatchNight-KindleIt’s up, it’s up, it’s up!

I know I haven’t been communicating as much as I intended lately, but partly that’s related to the fact that I’ve been busy putting the finishing touches on my short story!

Anyway, my story, Watch Night, is now available for download. The catch is, the only way to get it is to join my mailing list. You can do that by going here and signing up. (And never fear, I despise spam. This is a low-volume list that is only to let you know what’s going on with my writing, and what’s coming up in my publishing world.)

I’m really looking forward to hearing your feedback on this, so make sure you go sign up now!