Monday, March 26, 2007

Chapter 5


Well, it was a busy week, but I managed to finish chapter five of Medusa's Daughter. I also revised chapter four, which I wrote last week. I'm starting to get into the groove again. It's still a struggle, but I feel like I'm making progress.

Nerissa, the main character is coming through. She's got some issues, but has real strength. She defies her mother (Medusa) and pays the price. Very nasty. I'm enjoying writing her mother as well. Medusa does some bad things, but in a way that is unexpected. I keep wanting her to just start yelling at Nerissa--but it's better if she doesn't.

I think a good idea with writing is this: throw out the first idea you have for a character's reaction. I read that somewhere, I think? The idea is to do the unexpected. Not a radical idea, but keep it in mind. Just throw out the first few things you think a character might do and do something less expected. George R.R. Martin does this very well. It doesn't sound a like radical concept, but it works well, as long as it makes sense.

My goal is to finish the novel by November 1, 2007, which is about when I'm going to the World Fantasy Convention in New York. If I can get a chapter or more per week, I'll meet my goal. I also have to write at least two short stories before November, for anthologies that I've been asked to contribute to: The Dimension Next Door and Catopolis--both published by DAW Books.

There's also writing a few things (acknowledgements, bio, dedication, back cover, interior flap copy) for my first novel, The Golden Cord, coming out in April of 2008. It was May of 2008, but got moved up a month--which is better for me. I'm waiting for final approval of the book cover. The editor and I like a painting by Ciruelo Cabral and just need the publisher to say yes. I hope they say "yes" this week. I mocked up the image with the title and my name on it. I love it.

Wish me luck. I'll post the image once I have approval, but it's the Moon Dragon image from Ciruelo's 2007 "Dragons" calendar. It's amazing. He didn't have time to do an original for me, but this is a new piece and better than the one I was going to suggest he paint.

Anyway, keep writing my friends and set some writing goals. Artificial deadlines can be a good motivator.

Have fun writing.


Sunday, March 18, 2007

Writing is complicated


I managed 3,750 words in the past couple of days. I finished the first draft of chapter four of Medusa's Daughter. It's going well and was a good chapter for me--the first from the male lead characters POV. Most of the chapter is pretty clean, but I need to polish the ending.

My goal is at least a chapter a week or more. I need to get cracking and write as much as I used to--but I'm slower now--more ponderous and careful about what I write. I used to just blaze ahead, not really thinking about how I put the chapter together as much. If I explained the gist of what happened I was okay with the chapter. Now I have to ramp up the tension, create twists and scene ending disasters. Writing has become so complicated as I've learned more. The perfectionist in me has slowed me down. I edit and revise a little too much as I write first drafts now.

I'm going to be fast again dammit!! Even if it kills me. I must work on it.

I hope you are all well and that you had a good St. Patrick's Day yesterday. I wore green, just so you know.

Oh, I went Barnes & Noble yesterday and got two copies of Elizabeth Vaughn's new book, Warlord. I have one for my Mom, who loved books one and two--as did I. Beth is a great writer. Check out her site to learn more. Tor marketed/is marketing her books as paranormal romance, but they're really fantasy with a strong love story. No magic either, just a kick ass barbarian and his Warprize. They're worth a read. The first book is called Warprize by the way. Check out Anne McCaffery's glowing blurb on Beth's site.

I need to start reading more! The damn TV must go!


Author of The Golden Cord
Book One of the Iron Dragon Series
Releasing April, 2008

Friday, March 16, 2007

Redream the dream

Hi Everyone,

I've been working on my novel, Medusa's Daughter. I got the first draft of chapter four (almost) done last night. It went well, but it was the first chapter from the point of view of the lead male character--Nikander. I have a huge outline that is very detailed, but I had to change things once the chapter got going. I needed to add characters to make things work. It was a big change to the outline that needed to happen. Nikander could not be alone to back up a major point in the first three chapters. I didn't realize that until I got to writing chapter four.

I learned from a book on writing called How to Write A Damn Good Novel by James N. Frey that sometimes you have to "redream the dream." You have something in your head for a while, but when you actually start the writing you realize it doesn't work.

My message is: even if you have a detailed vision of a book, be prepared to change it. Redream the dream. Throw out what you had originally thought. Change it. Read: How to Write A Damn Good Novel for some great advice.

Good luck with your own writing!


Sunday, March 11, 2007

The 300 movie

The 300 (above pic is Gerard Butler as the Spartan King Leonidas)

I saw the new movie, The 300 today. I really liked it and thought the filmmakers did a great job. There’s a good reason that the story of the 300 Spartans has survived for over 2,500 years. It was visually stunning and very intense. As a writer I thought they did a good job putting out the back-story of King Leonidas. We’re often tempted as writers to give the full history of a character, but it’s better to mete out little details as the plot unfolds.

I really liked the movie and the message that sometimes you have to sacrifice yourself for an ideal. That message of freedom is worth dying for is as powerful today as it was back in ancient Greece. The battle at Thermopylae was like the Alamo in the United States. It turned into a rallying cry for all of Greece. Leonidas succeeded in death by helping to create an alliance of the Greek city-states.

I actually visited the battle site, Thermopylae, in Greece five months ago. The memorial to Leonidas and the 300 was good, though the electrical power lines above and behind it took away from the beauty of it. The site is totally changed from 2,500 years ago, but it was still cool to see it and to go there. It’s just a short stop, but thinking about the history when we there made it all worth while.

In honor of seeing The 300 and my schedule opening up, I’m back to writing my novel set in ancient Greece, Medusa’s Daughter. I’d put it on hold for the past four months as I finished up my first novel, The Golden Cord, which was due January 1, and then writing a short story, plus a 60 page book promo plan.

Enough excuses. The movie has helped me get excited again and get to work. I wrote part of a new chapter tonight and read over my outline, character bios, and the 10,000 words I’d written for the novel previously. Things are good and my goal is to finish by November 1, 2007.

Sometimes we writers need something to get us writing. Fantasy art, good books, movies, and cool soundtracks get me going. Find out what makes you want to write and surround yourself with that thing.

Good luck writing and remember the 300 Spartans. Without their sacrifice, western civilization might have been dramatically changed. Who knows, maybe that would be a great alternate history novel?

Friday, March 9, 2007

A Pirate's Life For Me

Hello Everyone,

I found out today that I made it into the Pirates of the Blue Kingdoms anthology. I was very excited to hear from the editor that I made the cut. I loved writing my story, The Pirate Witch, and have thought about turning it into a full-length novel. A fellow writer friend, Elizabeth Vaughn, made a comment to me that "pirates are the new dragons." I guess they're quite marketable right now. Perhaps once I finish Medusa's Daughter, my fantasy love story set in ancient Greece, I'll write a novel about the pirate witch, using the short story as chapter one. Who knows?

Anyway, having a marketable idea is a key thing. Take Kelly McCullough who wrote WebMage. It’s an amazing idea and he sold the book to a major publisher, ACE. Visit him at to learn more. Kelly made the point in an earlier blog posting on my blog that you don’t have to know people to get published, but you do have to have good writing.

The point being, that if you have a great idea and are a good enough writer, you can get published, even if you don’t know people—though I would argue your chances go up if you know them.

Still, some great writers with ideas that are too overdone have trouble selling their books. Pick an idea that you’re passionate about and go for it, but hopefully that idea is marketable.

Write what you love, certainly, but I hope that what you love has a market. If there is no market, then getting it published is going to be tough. When I started out I didn’t understand much about markets, but the more I delve into the publishing industry the more I realize that the market is a major issue we writers need to be aware of. If you love writing westerns, just know that there is a tiny market out there. On the flip-side, romance has a huge market. Being aware of what sells and what doesn’t is important for a writer.

Still, write what you love, but just in case no one is buying UFO novels set in the wild west, you might want to write it as a short story—rather than dedicating so much time to a novel that probably won’t sell. Figuring out the market and writing a book with that in mind is tough, but having a broad knowledge of what editors are buying is a good idea.

Urban fantasy has taken off in the last few years. Holly Black’s Tithe: A Modern Fairy Tale is a good example. I think the key to any writing is being passionate about it. Throw yourself into the work keep making it better. Re-dream the dream if the novel you imagined is not working. Rewrite it. If it’s still not that great, maybe rewrite it again.

At some point you’ve got to move on, but if you truly believe in the work you won’t give up on it. You’ll finish it and then improve it. Getting outside feedback is key. Writers shouldn’t live alone. Share your drafts with other writers and get your work critiqued. I believe that we writers must strive to always improve our work and get better.

Good luck with your writing and keep at it.


Sunday, March 4, 2007

Tension equals good writing


It's been a tense week, but I've survived the five 13+ hour night shifts at the hospital where I work as a charge nurse on a cardiac unit. I had to do two extra shifts as we were really short staffed. It started off rough when I had to defibrillate (you know, shock with the paddles) a patient next door to my own patient three times during a code blue. Thankfully, after the third shock he came back, but it set the tone for a stressful week. I can't complain too much though. Everything worked out great. No one died and I got 24 hours of overtime.

Tension is the topic of this post. We all have it in our lives, but do we have it in our fiction writing? I was critiquing a story for a friend--and thinking of the story I just wrote (The Pirate Witch), and tension turned out to be a key issue in both cases.

Tension on every page should be a writer's mantra--if they want the reader to keep reading. Low tension books are the ones that you can put down any time you want. The high tension books are the ones that drag you forward until two a.m. and don't let you sleep. High tension books are page turners, which is what I'm going for. Sure, there can be books with little tension, but I'd prefer not to read or write them.

Tension also means conflict. Lots of tension/conflict are essential to good fiction writing, in my opinion. I learned this pearl of wisdom from the many writing books I've read, but mostly from my friend Brad Beaulieu. He's a great writer, published, award winning and has the knack for extremely helpful critiques. He makes my work so much better.

Invariabley, he tells me to add tension, to turn the thumb-screws on my character until they cry for mercy. As writers, unconsciosly, we want to be nice to our characters and our readers. We don't want them to suffer. We write things like: The dragon was about to eat the baby--but Sir Roger knew he could easily save the poor child.

Wrong. The first line was tense, then we let the pressure off with--but Sir Roger knew he could easily save the poor child. Don't do that. Be better than me on many of my first drafts. Almost never let off the pressure if you want the reader to keep reading. Build the tension until the climax of the chapter or story, then have Sir Roger save the baby, but not until the last moment.

Keep up the heat on your characters. Torture them, beat them up, make them suffer pain and guilt. Do all that you can to keep conflict going. Don't have everyone be nice to them. Have the squire give the knight some bad attitude. Have the bad guys look like they're about to win until the very end.

Tension on every page is my point. Read more about this in any book on how to write good fiction. I recommend How to Write A Damn Good Novel by James N. Frey.

Good luck writing and remember to keep the tension high--if you want them to keep reading.