Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Dedication, Discipline, Devotion

A while back Writers Unboxed had a post that got me thinking (most of their posts are wonderful!). The author, Robin LaFevers, suggests that we need all three - Dedication, Discipline and Devotion to be writers over the long haul. She's correct, but naturally I have to add my $0.02.  

It seems to me that dedication and discipline both flow out of devotion. Writing every day over a long period of time is hard. In fact, the word “hard” doesn't begin to describe the difficulty level. Writers put ourselves through that pain because of devotion. Stated more simply we do it for love.

Someone did a study comparing the happiness of people with and without children and discovered people without children seemed to be happier. When a bunch of children I know heard about this little frowny wrinkles appeared between their eyebrows. Did they really make their parents unhappy?

"It's a different kind of happy," I said. Yeah, kids are a pain in the rear - expensive, noisy and destructive. And we wouldn't trade them for a million dollars or even a clean apartment on Fifth Avenue. 

Writing makes me a different kind of happy. 

I write every morning. Sometimes it's easy and fun and sometimes it's a chore and sometimes it's like walking across broken glass. Devotion gets me in the chair looking at the hungry blank page. Dedication and discipline alone can't do that. Only devotion. Only love.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Go and read this:

I'm a writer. This explains perfectly why I stayed in an intellectually undemanding job for 30 years. Why I never tried to finish my degree and get a "really good" job. I didn't want to spend the time on it. It doesn't take a college degree to make you a writer. All it takes to write is pencil and paper. (LOL, it takes a fast computer and an excellent word processing program, who am I trying to kid? But not kidding about the degree.) Oh, wait. It takes a pencil, paper and TIME--both real time and mental air time.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Corset Girls

Nice women cast aside their gaze when the corset girls walk by.

Men seldom do.
Miriam blended into a shadow as a hansom cab clattered by. It was filled with New Year’s revelers, members of the aristocratic 400 families. All were the worse for drink. Miriam could see a couple of corset girls in their number. These latter were remarkable by way of their trademark top hats and the gaily colored corsets worn on the outside of their clothes—sometimes without even a blouse underneath, which left the bosom shockingly exposed.
As a respectable widow, Miriam found these young women repugnant and fascinating at the same time. She, too wore a corset, but over a chemise and under a corset cover all made by her own hands out of cheap muslin. All decent women wore corsets but one’s undergarments, along with the bodies beneath them, were unmentionables, completely removed from polite discussion.
Who are the corset girls? Most are just whores. However, some are courtesans, expensive and beautiful. A few are like geishas, available for entertaining and interesting dinner conversation and decoration at the glittering parties of aristocrats, but seldom for sex.  Corset girls are much more than they seem. They are complex, they are organized and they are more dangerous than anyone imagines.

When Miriam meets Penny, Miriam's ideas about corset girls change dramatically.
Miriam saw a top hat lying on its side, discarded in the street. She snatched it up. It still exuded a trace of warmth from the wearer. 
Then she heard another cry. This time it was more defiance than terror. It was followed by another piercing monster shriek. 
Miriam slipped a throwing knife out of her sleeve and ran toward the sound, with the knife-blade ready between thumb and forefinger. Usually when the monsters squealed like that it was because she was in the act of killing them. This was confusing, intriguing and frightening all at once. 
What she discovered was the very last thing she expected. Four little monsters confronted a girl with her back to a wall. One of creatures held its arm at an odd angle. It dripped with tarry black monster blood. 
She was a corset girl, her face frozen in cold rage. She whirled and her boot landed in the gut of one of the little monsters who fell over backwards, its head hitting the pavement with a wet crack. It rolled over and pushed itself to its feet, shaking itself like a dog. All this was lit by a distant streetlight, adding macabre shadows to the scene. The girl stood with her cloak slung back over her shoulders leaving bare her arms and shoulders. Her corset was marred by a streak of black splatter. 
The monster closest to the girl leaped for her. She growled and aimed a kick at its chin. She missed. The thing sunk its teeth into her shoulder. Her growl turned into a scream of agony. 
Miriam threw the knife and it landed squarely between the creature’s shoulder blades. It fell to the girl’s feet leaving behind four bleeding punctures in her shoulder. She clapped her hand over the wound and bright red human blood seeped between her fingers. She turned white to the lips and crumpled to the ground.
More and more the prim and proper Miriam is drawn into the dangerous world of the corset girls. They all fight the Knockerboys together, but Miriam discovers the corset girls are playing a bigger and more dangerous game.

Wicked Little Things, coming in 2014. Keep an eye out for it!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Wicked Little Things

I started a Pinterest board to gather visual research material for my new book in progress "Wicked Little Things"

By the way, this image is from the cover of a short story that is free for download here and here. It's set in the Wicked World and is our first introduction to Miriam Walker.

Friday, July 19, 2013

"... we begin to see images"

“We read five words on the first page of a really good novel and we begin to forget that we are reading printed words on a page; we begin to see images.” - John Gardner

I like to write beautifully. My daydream of my skills (as opposed to the reality of my skills) is that my writing is so beautiful that people will quote passages as if they are poems.

And then I want to write seamlessly. I want to write like John Gardner describes. I want you to forget you are reading and just be in the story as it goes by.

The second wish is whispered into my ear by my better angel. I do love to read beautiful writing--turns of phrases that catch my breath, descriptions that raise goosebumps--but, frankly, if the story is good I don't like to be reminded that I'm reading. I don't want to hear from the author. I don't want the author sticking her nose into my good time. I don't want her interrupting my adventure, my romance or my mystery.

So when I write I just try to shut up and play my guitar (with apologies to Frank Zappa). I work hard not to interrupt my reader in what I hope is the midst of a good time by not calling attention to the writing itself.

Darn it.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Of Gears, Steam and Corset Girls

The book I'm writing right now (just over 31K words, which means about half way) is basically steampunk. It's set in 1899, but it's not your great-great-grandmother's 1899.

It's taken me six months to get this far on the book which in my life is just short of "forever." I haven't taken this long to write a book in years. The thing is, I want to get it right.

The main character is Miriam Walker. She had a husband and children not too long ago. But her husband Oliver was killed in a factory accident and that made her a widow. Then her two daughters died of scarlet fever, leaving only her son, Ben.

Then the monsters got Ben. He was found in an alley, torn to shreds and something had eaten his entrails. Now Miriam spends her solitary life destroying monsters. Hunting them, killing them and beheading them.

And like any good hero, she gathers companions along the way.

[Below is an excerpt, remember this is a work in progress, so it might change!]

“You are going to kill them in cold blood,” Monroe said.

“Those monsters killed Penny, Mr. Bernier and countless others. Yes, the temperature of my blood is quite cool,” Miriam replied.

Monroe's look of astonishment had turned into an expression she couldn't quite read in the dim street lamp light.

“You are a seamstress,” he said with a touch of wonder in his voice.

“Yes, I am.”

“Yet you pursue and kill these things like a man.”

“Nonsense! I pursue and kill them like a woman. It is like any work I turn my hand to. They are filth and I …”

“You clean them up.”

“Yes.” She shivered. The night was cold. She would need to keep moving or get indoors. She wasn't willing to take the latter option just yet.

“Now you must leave me to it,” she said.

“I must leave you to your chores? Well, it is my turn to say ‘nonsense’” I will not leave you to it. I will help you.”

Next time, I'll explain what corset girls are!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Many Worlds

One of the (very few) advantages of being an unknown writer is that you can write in any genre you care to. There's no publisher or fan telling you "You're a mystery writer! What are you doing writing fantasy?!?!"

So I write fantasy and mystery and even non-fiction. I've written a couple of romances. I write whatever strikes my fancy.

I like to live in many worlds. Hence the name of the blog.

So if you, Dear Reader, prefer mysteries and don't "get" fantasy dragons, I will still love you if you only read my mysteries. I love mysteries. I've read every single thing Rex Stout ever wrote and the same for Agatha Christie.

And if you think mysteries are boooorrrriiiinnnnggg, skip over them with my blessing. I love writing fantasy too. I've seen every episode of Doctor Who and I've read Lord of the Rings 18 times so, yeah, I "get" the fantasy thing. I love going to strange worlds where anything can happen.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

On the Nature of Dragons

European dragons are supposed to be like fire-breathing, winged dinosaurs or lizards or something. Asian dragons don't have wings and are a little more like four-legged flying snakes (or something). European dragons feed on the flesh of virgins, lose battles with brave knights and burn down villages if provoked. Asian dragons are a symbol of power and good fortune. They are usually depicted with a huge grin.

If somebody compares you to a European dragon, smack them in the mouth because you are being insulted. If they compare you to an Asian dragon, give them a wet kiss and say it was from me.

Then there are my dragons. They are Asian (and therefore among the good guys). They can change into any shape - human, animal, inanimate object. They can fly without wings. Asian dragons fly for the same reason I write: because they want to and nobody can stop them.

Dragons are virtually immortal, therefore they have had time to make a lot of mistakes and learn from them. Or not. They aren't different from humans in that respect. And like most humans they can be petty, cruel, destructive, angry, kind, thoughtful, caring and loving. Sometimes all on the same day. My dragons think burning down villages is SO last millennium. Mostly. They aren't saints or gods even if they can do some pretty god-like stuff.

What all dragons are good at is SEEING. When they look at something they see it with an intensity that is hard to imagine or describe. They can especially see through you. They know if you are good. They know if you are bad (much like Santa in that respect). That means you can't lie to them. Most of you think you might be an exception to that rule. All of you are wrong.

Now, like I said, dragons aren't saints. They can and do lie to each other. They do deceive each other. And if they can fool each other, trust me, they can fool you. That old lady sitting over there reading Fifty Shades of Prune? Dragon or old lady? How about the bus driver you saw this morning. The one with the fat belly and the “I’m going to have a stroke by nightfall” complexion? Could he be a dragon? What about the chair you’re sitting on? What you think is nauga may be dragon hide. You may never know.

If you see a dragon you are lucky. If they speak to you, you are blessed with a charmed life. When they decide to take a personal interest in your improvement as a human being, you’re gonna love it ... not.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Picking out a .99 book

I approach a .99 book the same as any other, look at the cover, the blurb, read the sample. The cover MUST be somewhat professional looking and the blurb shouldn't have any spelling or grammar errors. However, if the cover is really bad and the blurb is really bad then it saves you wasting your time on the sample. (This applies to indie books only). If those three things are good, I'll buy it. I figure even if it's not Hemingway, it's someone with enough skill and talent to entertain me for a few hours and that's really all I ask.