Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Conflict, Research & Procrastination

I looked through my old files recently to see if there were any stories worth resurrecting and found eleven (count 'em--eleven!) that I had started but didn't finish. They all had something in common: I stopped working on them because I couldn't come up with a good external conflict, and decided that I needed to do more research before I could finish them.

You see, I hate conflict. I've spent my entire life avoiding it as much as possible. I mean, really, actively avoiding it. That makes it hard for me to write it--I don't even want to face it in my fiction.

Now, internal conflict, I have no problem with--my characters have plenty of that. But as far as I've seen, very few books sell on the sole basis of internal conflict. It's important, sure, but they still have to do something. Something has to happen, darn it. They need jobs, lives, external conflicts. Sadly, that always throws me. That's when I say, "Oh, well, I need to do some more research on this" and move on to the next exciting character.

As in real life, I avoid conflict like the plague. My stories may be rich in character, but they're painfully poor in plot.

Does anyone else have this problem? Is it just me? Makes me feel like I shouldn't even attempt to write. The most common advice I see when there's a plot stall is to kill a character, but obviously those people are missing my point. I like these characters--I don't want them to suffer. I don't want them to run for their lives and have to save the world with only a stick of gum and a shoelace. (Especially since I don't know why they have to run for their lives and whom they're running from--I'd have to do a little research on that and get back to it.)

Unfortunately, the market for character driven, introspective "quiet stories" is as thin as my plots. What's a cowardly gal to do?

Saturday, January 27, 2007


am.a.teur, n. A person who does something because he enjoys it, rather than for money.

Recently, I went through a period of introspection that led to a major reorganizing and re-prioritizing of my life. Several of my friends and some family members seem to be going through the same thing--in real life, and online. Maybe it's the new year's time of contemplation and goal setting, or maybe it's just age--seems like those I know who have been going through it are of "a certain age" (40's through 50's) or else are rapidly approaching that age group. I've watched a dear friend struggle with depression for several months because she's almost 40, never been married, and is afraid she's run out of time to have a family of her own. She's a beautiful, intelligent, well-educated, well-travelled woman whom I admire, and has been successful in her career, yet she's questioning what she's been doing with her life.

Whatever their reasons for it, a number of people around me seem to be asking the same question I asked myself: is what I've been doing worth it?

Stewart also posted about this feeling lately, and I must apologize to him if my comment was condescending. Who am I to say what he should be doing with his time? Only he knows that. Of course, I'd hate like crazy if he gave up writing because he's so darned talented and I love reading his work, but that's the crux of it. Is talent enough reason to keep doing something if your other values in life indicate you should go elsewhere? What about disappointing others?

My brother is a very talented artist and I badger him from time to time about not doing more with it. Why is he wasting his gift, I wonder? His answer: he does it only up to the point when it stops being fun and starts to feel like work. He is truly an amateur--he does it for the enjoyment, and once in a while gives the world the gift of his talent. Does he really owe it to anyone to do more? I'd like to say yes, but that's selfish. It's a loss for me, but not for him--when he creates when he enjoys it, but he's also got his own priorities and I can't argue with that.

People also tell me to do more with my own artwork and writing, but I don't take the time--other things have to come first right now. I don't think that makes me less of an artist--it currently makes me more of a mother. It also doesn't make me a professional, but I'm still an amateur and I see nothing wrong with that.

So what about you? If you never made a(nother) dime on your writing, would you still write?

Friday, January 26, 2007

All These Voices Inside My Head

I'm carrying over a bit of the rant from my other blog to here. Well, perhaps "rant" is too strong of a word; it's more an expression of my consternation.

Stewart's comment how he liked seeing people twist his assignments to their own styles is part of what made me dwell on it; the other is all the kind words and positive feedback I received on the assignment I posted. You see, I've realized that I actually have two very distinct writing styles and "voices." Each comes naturally, yet the one that receives the most praise is the one that I often think is the worst; while the one that I enjoy the most doesn't receive nearly as much attention. This isn't the first time I've noticed it, either; it's happened before. I'm starting to wonder if I should go back and dust off all those stories that I set aside without letting anyone look at them because I felt they were too serious and too descriptive.

The self doubt is getting to me. How do you know when what you're writing is good or not?

It's funny, even as I'm writing this, an answer is occurring to me. Maybe the question that I should be asking is not which of my voices is better, but if I'm using that voice to tell the truth or not. Charles recently had a good blog about truth in fiction, and Spyscribbler has posted a lot in her blog about "digging deeper" and not wanting to write superficially. Perhaps my "lighter" voice and style is the one I use to avoid the deeper emotions and hard truths, and the reason I like it is because it lets me avoid those things--yet people recognize it for what it is: shallow. The other style, the one that makes me uncomfortable yet people seem to like, is the one that's more honest.


So tell me, how do you buck up the courage to write about your truth?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Stewart's Pets

Stewart set an assignment to write a story from a pet's point of view, not first person, under 1000 words. Well, I took it upon myself to write one tonight (it was due today, so I see I haven't changed much since WAY back in the day when I was in school, writing the assignment minutes before class.)

So here's my pitiful little offering.


Alien Comforts

Strange creatures inhabited the land--monstrous, ugly creatures that came and went with alarming frequency. Abe never knew when another would pass by, sending him scurrying for shelter, praying he’d remain unseen.

He couldn’t recall exactly how he came to be in this strange place; the details were starting to fade. He did recall bright lights and a great shiny thing hovering over him just before he was yanked from his home. He still had nightmares about those burning moments of pain when he thought his lungs would burst just before he was dropped into a cramped space where the atmosphere settled and he could breathe again. Soon after, he was transferred with sickening speed to another location that was similar to, yet vastly different from his own world. Where he was, or how long he’d been there, he didn’t know.

The landscape was bleak, less forgiving than home with cruel lights, sharp rocks, and harsh plants. He’d learned about the cutting edges of the foliage the first time he’d fled in terror from the aliens. He’d hoped to find shelter within the leaves of the large plants, but their barbs gouged his face and sides as he escaped. He had feared the drops of blood would lead them to him, but thankfully, they passed by, their large snouts seemingly insensitive to the smell.

Abe shuddered at the memory. They were huge; creepy, pale things that reminded him of mutant sharks. Their eyes were bigger than his whole body; long, squid-like tentacles hung at their sides, and fangs of various shapes and sizes filled their enormous mouths. After his narrow escape among the plants, Abe knew he had to find another hiding place. He tried tunneling out a shelter among the smaller rocks but the ground was shallow, and a hard, smooth surface barred further digging. Abandoning the effort, he went back into the forest to wait until dark before he searched again, terrified of who or what else might be nearby.

An eternity of anxiety passed before he finally ventured forth, damning the relentless light that never dimmed, and sought refuge in the foreign land. He moved swiftly through the trees, heart pounding, eyes darting left and right as he sped out over the rocks, trying to stay in what shadow he could find. His eyes adjusted to the light as he scanned the horizon, noting an opening in the craggy hills he’d found. It appeared to be a small cave. With some effort, he made his way up the slopes and discovered the hole in the rock. It was dark and silent inside. As quietly as possible, he went back down the hill, gathered some smaller rocks, and carried them up to stack on the ledge near the entrance, terror spurring his movements. He needed a hiding place in case the cave had an occupant who was merely sleeping.

Abe hid behind the mound of smaller rocks then flicked one of them into the cave. Only a thud as the small blue rock connected with the sand colored cave interior greeted his effort. With great caution, he went around and poked his head inside the cave’s opening. It was empty. He went inside only slightly relieved; and after a long while, he slept, hunger in his belly, despair in his heart.

Then the Others came.

The Others were similar in appearance to the huge monsters, but were smaller, more aggressive. Deadlier. Their clawed tentacles nearly fit into the opening of his cave, forcing him to press back against the rock until his body ached. When they finally left, Abe knew it was only a matter of time before they caught him. He shivered, hunger and fear warring within. He didn’t know which would kill him first: fear, starvation, or the aliens. He contemplated killing himself before allowing any of the three to take him--better to die on his own terms. There was nothing left for him. Even if he somehow made it home again, no one would believe what he’d been through; they’d think he was insane, and if he stayed here much longer, he would be.

He wondered how to end it--slice himself open on the rocks--when he smelled something wonderful. It smelled like food. He dared a glance out of his cave, searching the horizon and sky. He was alone. Still trembling, he slowly inched forward to find the source of the smell. Odd, flaky bits of something fell from the sky, littered the rocks and decorated the trees with heavenly aroma. Abe sniffed, then dared a taste. It was good. He didn’t spare a thought whether it might kill him; the taste was divine and it filled his emptiness.

Maybe he’d live another day.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Dragons and Damsels

About a month ago, I decided I wasn't really cut out to write erotic romance; decided to give it up. Even began to doubt that I should even be writing romance at all--what does a curmudgeonly old divorcee know about romance anyway? I was out of my element. Let the sweet & soft types take care of that; I'm too mean.

But... I just can't resist a challenge. I recently saw a call for submissions due by March 2, 2007 for a dragon anthology. The catch, of course, is that it has to be a romance with a dragon theme. Having read other books by this publisher (I have friends who write for them--Samhain Publishing--print and e-books) I can pretty much bet that most of the submissions they'll receive will be shapeshifting dragon erotic romances. (Are you listening Stewart?) The rest are likely to be epic adventures featuring dragons who aid the lovely or handsome princess/queen or prince/king in their quests.

My dragon? His name is Herschel and he's a bit of a hypochondriac. Somehow I suspect they're not going to buy it... :o)

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Color of Blood and Other Stuff

Somehow, I managed to cut my finger just before I got in the shower today. I have no idea how, but I noticed it was bleeding. I didn't want to put a bandage on it and then get in the shower---ewww, soggy Band-Aid (shivers)-- but this made washing my hair difficult as well as painful, so I just kept that arm out of the water and watched blood drip down my hand.

That's when it occurred to me. Blood is not crimson. Maybe it could be called scarlet, but my painter's eye declared Cadmium Red Light. But crimson and scarlet sound sexy, they look sexy when you write them down. "The Cadmium Red Light Tide, for instance, just doesn't flow nearly as well a Crimson Tide does.

Why do I bring this up? No reason other than my finger hurts and I'm risking bleeding Cadmium Red Light all over the keyboard.

But I'm willing to take that risk to add a few new links to this blog: Clifford Brooks, Sidney Williams, CS Harris and Charles Gramlich. I hope they'll forgive me. I've been reading so many interesting and fun blogs lately (most of them via links from Stewart's blog) that I can see that I'm way out of my league here. But I'm having fun, even if my keyboard now sports an odd mix of cad red light and gray, soon to turn a muddy shade of burnt sienna.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Let 'er Rip!

I read this post this morning, and liked the mention of how Karin Tabke wrote "rip it up" on the works she submitted for critiquing.

One of the things I've been working on over the last year (and will continue into this year) is allowing myself to make mistakes and look foolish. After all, that's going to happen anyway, so why be so uptight about it?

So without further ado, here's part of the opening scenes of a WIP. It isn't the type of thing my CPs like to read, so I though t I'd post it here and let people rip it up if they want. (And if you want to humiliate me privately instead of publicly, you can always email me to say it should just R.I.P. I won't report you for violations to the TOS. Maybe. :)

Oh, and don't comment on the format - I know it's off - technical difficulties again. Blogger keeps freezing every two seconds and I don't have the patience to fix it.


“Is the old bat dead yet?”

“Not yet, and stay out of the ‘fridge, I’m cooking dinner.” Kitty glared at her brother and added a bit of salt to a pan.

“I think we should go up and kill her now. Put the leathery old beast out of her misery.”

“Just leave her alone, Bart.”

“How long has she been in that attic, anyway?”

“A few months.”

“She’ll probably starve to death if you don’t get her out of there.”

“I’ve tried, but she won’t move or eat anything I take her. I tried mice, bugs--all the things bats usually eat.”

“Are you sure she’s even still alive? It smells pretty bad in here.”

“You say that every time I cook.”

“Well, she’ll probably outlive all of us. Evil never dies.”

“Don’t talk about your mother that way!”

“She’s your mother too.” Bart shrugged and opened the pantry. “Maybe Mary can talk to her when she gets here,” he suggested, pulling a box of cookies from a shelf. “She’s the only one mom ever listened to.”


The colorful Christmas lights on the gray tenements made Mary sad. The dead woman next to her probably should have made her sad, but Mary didn’t spare her a thought. No, it was the cheerful lights illuminating the misery of their surroundings that she found depressing.

As for as the other woman, Mary hadn’t bothered to speak to her when they’d boarded the commuter train; didn’t ask what plans she had for the holiday; didn’t exchange names.

The woman was merely a job, and a job done well.

After they’d taken their seats and shown their tickets to the conductor, Mary quietly slipped the hypodermic into the woman’s neck, unnoticed by crew or passengers. So efficient was she that no one even noticed when she switched the shopping bags tucked under their seats.

Mary looked down at the shiny gold bags under her feet, smiled and nodded. She’d take some of that money to buy razor blades for mom’s stocking.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Wow, I'm crushed...

I thought for sure I was a little geekier than "low rank computer geek." According to the rest of the result, I'm geeky, but low in the nerd social order. I'm hurt.

My computer geek score is greater than 61% of all people in the world! How do you compare? Click here to find out!

Yeah, this post is a waste of time. :)

Monday, January 8, 2007


To my blog for writers and fans of speculative fiction in all its flavors: dark, light, and yes folks, even romantic. (Although I started this blog to differentiate it from my paranormal romance blog, since my current WIP is not a romance.)

A word of warning to those who rolled their eyes at that last item: if, at any time in the course of discussing fiction, speculative romance is vilified, I will immediately invoke Harlequin's Law. :)

Now, since readership building takes time, I'll just start by saying "hello" and "welcome" if you've found your way here, and recommend a few good reads & links.

If you haven't read "In the Company of Ogres" by A. Lee Martinez, and you enjoy humorous fantasy (such as Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett) then I think you'd enjoy that one. An unpublished writer that I recently discovered (and who makes me want to buy a publishing company so that I can launch his career and become very wealthy *g*) is Stewart Sternberg.

Actually, I've read stories from so many talented writers whose work is considered outside mainstream fiction that I am seriously looking into starting my own publishing business. I imagine the big houses probably got big catering to the masses, but I also believe the niche markets are still alive and well. I've read on some blogs that people think the paranormal/speculative fiction lines will soon tank, but I recently tried to take a stroll down the sf/f aisle at Barnes & Noble and had a hard time getting through. One sight that warmed my heart as I was elbowing my way down the aisle was a dad pointing out his favorites and describing them to his little girl. She looked to be about 5.

I don't think the fans are going anywhere.