Tag Archives: writing

Character Motivations, Rats, and Alien Invader Lilies

The Dark Chariot makes a return in "A Recipe for Disaster."

Doing an Nanowrimo in the summer has sort of stolen my brain this month as far as blogging goes. It seems these ideas come from the same place, no matter what I’m writing. So, I’ve decided to compromise and blog about the novel, despite most advice I’ve read suggesting that you don’t discuss your works in progress—apparently you’re less likely to finish things if you spend time talking about them to others (no wonder I never get anything done). But considering Nano is going surprisingly well, I’m going to risk it.

Anyway, I’ve tried to write this story as a short story, then as a novella several times, but always got stuck after just a few paragraphs. It had a great set-up, but I wasn’t sure where it went. Generally when I get ideas I consider them complete and ready to start poking when I have a beginning, end, main character, and a sense of the main character’s arc. The trouble was, with “A Recipe for Disaster” the plot wasn’t about the main character, really, or not the set-up I had started with. I knew where the young villain Cal started, finished, and what his character arc was, but what about the title disaster? It happened to other people, people I didn’t know… nor was I sure what happened to them.

So, the months kept passing with it not getting written and I realized I was going to have to do something about it, or it wasn’t going to happen. I figured if what I wanted was a 25,000 word novella, surely writing 50,000 words of mess, plotting, planning, and different possibilities of what the story might be would be more than enough words to get it done, right? And I could always stop early if I actually, but some miracle got the story done before the end of the month. Despite all this logic, I wasn’t sure this would work. Yet, under pressure, I was determined to find a way to plan and write the story.

On my walks I’ve been taking in the morning, I’ve discovered it’s the perfect time to plot a bit, ruminate on random possibilities for the story. I used to walk in the afternoon, but it’s hotter and I’m a good deal more tired, and so I wouldn’t get any ideas. Switching to first thing in the morning made a huge difference. I imagining different possibilities about who Bueford and the unnamed princess of Seaward might be. I had a lot of false starts, and originally called the princess Mistella, but switched it after a bit of rearranging to Jinella. Bueford went from crafty to rather pathetic, and an actual villain (although he thinks of himself as a hero) showed up: Mullog (the reasons the princess got a different letter at the beginning of her name).

Still, I needed something extra to boost thing, create some excitement. Now my good friend Jeff used to keep a rat when I was in college. Her name was Agnes and I discovered from visiting him every week to practice for our church music group, that rats make rather delightful pets. They have an unfortunate reputation and are always the villains in Brian Jacques’s well-know Redwall series, so it seemed natural and fun to give my young villain a pet rat.

Then, my sister Juliana was in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” recently and I had enjoyed the play. I found that instead of my novel going through my head while walking (the kids did a terrific job of the play), and suddenly, the full disastrous nature of the disaster hit me: Prince Bueford was going to end up with a rat head. From there it was an easy jump to think that perhaps Cal’s pet rat would switch forms with the prince and look like a human, and add some needed tension into Cal’s disastrous date with a love triangle… and to my surprise, my plot was working itself out.

Shakespeare is always awesome.

Its calm exterior is deceiving.

Of course I can’t always be writing, I’m supposed to keep up the yard of our rental. Well, this morning I found something rather disturbing. They just might be in the lily family, but they also might be alien invaders from a strange planet. I’m not sure exactly what these things are, but boy are they creepy. And someone thought they’d look good and actually planted them? My mind is a bit boggled.

Hopefully they will not transform into deadly pods and kill me in my sleep.

My Sort of Camp

The trouble with being a writer, is that I end up wanting to constantly be on my computer… something that doesn’t mix very well with the great outdoors.  While I love camping, I also end up deeply computer (and internet) deprived by the end of it… wanting my novels, my characters, and my roll-playing back.

So, I decided to go to virtual camp: Camp Nanowrimo.  Where most of the time what you do is write, set things on fire in the forums, and trade stories on who’s characters are the worst.  This is Camp Nanowrimo’s second year of existence and it’s still relatively small as a group.  You get placed in a cabin of six members, four of which never showed up, so Lyn and I live a rather quiet existence in our adjoining bunk beds, writing away.  At least I’m note entirely alone.

It’s felt good to be writing again.  I’ve picked a pesky novella, on the theory that 50,000 words is far too long so I’m bound to at least finish it before the month if I keep up to word count.  Over 18,000 words in however, the end is still not in sight.  Good thing this one is intended for an indie publication as a humorous 0.99 novella set in the same world as the Dark Lord Academy series, so I don’t have to explain to anyone else why its so long winded.  It’s called ” A Recipe for Disaster” and as a story, it’s certainly living up to its title.  None of the characters will behave, the plot won’t get its act together, and Kink, the MC’s pet rat insists on trying to steal the story.  In hopes more characters might ease the problem I’ve ended up with villain who wants to be a hero, a hero who wants to be a villain, and a princess who keeps changing her name.  Sigh.  It’s life as usual, as far as being a novelist goes.

On the bright side, if someone burns the cabin down (as happened last time I was at a real camp), at least my novel will be safely backed up on google docs.

Here’s the current blurb, and a very rough excerpt, the ones I have on the Camp Nano website:

Dark Lord apprentice Cal needs some quick cash, Prince Bueford needs out of an arranged marriage–it’s an alliance built on mutual self-serving motives. Maybe Cal hasn’t completed much of his training yet, and sure his reading skills are a little rusty, but how hard can cooking up a little disaster be?

Excerpt:

Chapter 1
Cal Experiments in Cooking

Cal peered out the tower window, scanning the narrow streets below. Cartwheels clacked against the cobblestones, and people pushed and shoved their way through while the drivers shouted, but Master Xorgos was nowhere in sight. Dark Lord and Dread Wizard of Renown Evil, he wouldn’t take kindly to his apprentice trying to make some extra cash on the side using his evil spells.

Cal wiped his sweaty palms down his black robe and swallowed hard. He needed some money if he was going to take Loestra to the Dreaded Ball this weekend like he’d promised. She’d dump him for sure if he didn’t.

Pushing the window shut to keep out the flies, Cal turned back to the workroom before him. Master Xorgos had impressed upon him the task of scrubbing the floor while he was gone, in preparation for new evil experiments. He would be gone for the weekend, collecting esoteric new ingredients. Ingredients, Cal was sure, that would require cataloging, pouring carefully into glass jars, and organizing meticulously onto the shelves of the workroom closet. All dull tasks left to him as a dark apprentice.

Cal had plans of his own however. He’d made a deal with Prince Bueford of Buckland to brew him up some sort of disaster he could unleash at the courtly presentation of the Princess of Seaward. Apparently Bueford didn’t want to marry her, and considering the princess’s temper tantrums when she didn’t get her way were legendary, Cal didn’t blame him. But not only did Bueford not have the money to pay for a little disaster formally from Master Xorgos, it was hardly evil enough that the Dark Lord would bother. Wiping out innocent villages with an army of instant minions, setting monsters on capital cities, and instituting periods of Global Darkness was more his style.

“Cal, Cal, you need to think bigger, eviller,” Master Xorgos always told him. “A Dark Lord and Dread Wizard of Renown Evil doesn’t deal in petty pranks. Only potions of mass destruction.”

“Which is why we live in a backwater little port like this, right?” Cal muttered to himself. He scooped up his pet rat, Kink, from the windowsill and set him on his shoulder to keep him out of trouble. “Well, I don’t care about what’s eviller, I care about making al ittle money.”

Kink twitched his bent tail, for which he was named and tried checking Cal’s front pocket for treats.

Ignoring the rat, Cal searched the old, musty books lining the shelves of Master Xorgos’ workroom.  Surely one of them had a decent enough recipe for disaster.  Heck, now that he’d been an apprentice for nearly two years, Master Xorgos had him restock all the ingredients into their carefully arranged glass vials; he knew where everything was.  He eased out a likely looking book and set it gently on the worktable.  How hard could this be?

It wasn’t as if it mattered to Cal if he became a Dark Lord himself; he was only here because Ma and Pa had too many mouths to feed and wanted the apprentice money Master Xorgos sent them. Cal never saw a penny of it. If that wasn’t evil, he didn’t know what was! But Loestra went to Dark Lord Academy and had filthy rich parents in an alternate dimension that had year round tropical weather. If he married her, his fortune was made.

“Death. Defeat. Des—truc—tion.” Cal sounded out the recipes one by one looking for the right one. He’d only learned to read after he’d been apprenticed. The fifth son of a tanner didn’t get much education. “Disaster.” He squinted at the ingredient list. The book read:

The amount of disaster created is directly proportional to the amount of mischief and stupidity. And is inversely proportional to the amount of common sense added. For large disasters, also add copious amounts of instability, while for smaller ones use half a measure of miscommunication mixed with half a measure of greed. Procrastination and a dash of irony may sweeten the disaster, but be careful. Too much and your disaster might be postponed indefinitely. Malicious intent can also be used to great effect, but overdone tends to result in too purposeful of carnage for a true disaster.

Lucky Seven Meme

My fellow author friend Michele Shriver tagged me with this and when I looked at it, it looked like fun, so I thought I’d do it.  Michele writes women’s lit, and despite that not at all being my genre, I love her book.

Anyway, what I have to do is:

Go to p. 77 of current WIP
go to line 7
copy down next 7 lines/sentences & post them as they’re written
Tag 7 other authors
Let them know

Now my WIP is completely unedited past the first four chapters… so in all its drafty glory.  This falls in the middle of the MC saying goodbye to a young monk she’s friends  with just after she’s become a nun and is going to be sent to protest her people’s treatment to the emperor.

I still didn’t know what to say; I had told the Eternal One I was poor at public speaking. He hadn’t meant this, but if he was going to help me with the emperor, I needed him now too. And suddenly looking into Goba’s eyes, I saw reflected there the same fire that had burned the prayer flags and on Windrunner’s back. “Thank you for being such a good friend to me. May the eternal one bless you and lead you in everything you do.”

Goba reached out and pulled my head to his, so our foreheads touched. His warm breath tingled against my cheeks, and somehow it was far more intimate an action between us than any of Jaemian’s kisses.

Now, seven other terrific authors I know, mostly from my critique groups!   But all seven of these writers have either a great blog to read or a fun novel out.  Check them out if it suits you.

Laura Pauling

Marva Dasef

TL Gray

Katie W. Stewart

Penny Noyce

Marti Norton

Nayuleska

 

 

 

 

The Power of Practice

My mother brought home a fascinating book that she got in the airport while looking for something to read on her recent vacation called Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin.  While the title is purposely provocative, I think a more accurate description of what it is about would be “practice makes perfect.”  The book looks at how top performers of music, chess, and sports all practice, how practice effects their brain, and why its necessary to be truly great at anything.

Even if there’s a lot of duh practice makes you better, the book does a great job of showing how a specific sort of focused practice works while doing the same thing over and over does.  You have to constantly critique yourself, evaluate your performance, and keep trying to improve specific pieces of it.

One of the most fascinating sections of the book for me though, was the section on Benjamin Franklin and how he taught himself to write.  As a teenager, after his father gave him a critique about his argument writing, pointing out what was good and what needed improvement, a rather normal sort of critique you might get at a writing workshop online, if you find a good one.  But instead of just using this advice, like I’ve done (to generally good effect), Franklin decided to chose several well-known and excellent essays above him in craft and use them in a fascinating new way to practice and grow his writing.

While reading the essay he would take notes on the meaning of each sentence, then several days later, try to reconstruct the essay from his notes in his own words.  The compare it to the original and look for his faults and how to fix them.  One area he found he was lacking in was vocabulary, so he rewrote the essay into verse next, then back into prose, and then again compared it to the original.  To work on organization, he would write each note on a separate piece of paper, shuffle them, and waited a few weeks until he forgot the essay, then tried to order and rewrite it as best he could and compare again to the original.

I’ve consider the idea of how to “practice writing like music” before and only came up with possibly sentence diagramming as something like musical scales (and then never tried it), so I was really amazed and pleased to read this approach.  There’s a few problems taking it over to fiction.  First, the elements that make a good fiction novel are more widely varied.  Secondly, I remember what I really exceedingly well, so I’m not sure a few days/weeks would be enough to make me forget the actual way it was worded, especially when taking notes.  I’ve had to edit out sentences now and then from my work that sound too much the same to something I once read (even if it was unconnected and long ago).

Still, Franklin’s method is inspiring.  I could design my own practice program doing something similar.  My brain is still humming about it… tossing about possibilities.  Sentence diagramming is still a good idea, but for plot, characterization, narrative tone, description, theme, symbolism, etc I’m going to need a lot more tools.

First though… who am I learning from?  Writing varies greatly.  I was stuck a little while, since I want to find my own voice, not just end up like writer x or y… but then I hit on it.  What I’d like more than anything is to win a Newberry Award, so what I should do is I should read all the Newberry books out there and pick them apart with my various tools, find out what make them tick.  While all very different, they all represent works that won the top award in their field, the field I want to be great in.

This week my task will be to figure out precisely what I’m going to do that qualifies as practice with each Newberry winner, and get a copy from the library of the earliest ones.  Then hopefully I can refine my learning program as I make my way through them and really improve some of my basic writing skills.  I do know I’m going to start in 1922 and work my way to the present, through all of them.   And I’m know I’m faced for some difficult practice ahead when that means my first book is going to be the dubiously titled: The Story of Mankind by Hendrik Willem van Loon.  That’s certainly not one I’d have picked up for any other reason than this project.

 

Organizing and Post-novel Ennui

I spent most of January working on a new novel, which has led to a slow start of February as far as writing goes.  I decided to enter the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award again this year (I got called lamentable by Publisher Weekly last time, I guess the person who got my novel wasn’t into humor) and so decided to polish up my historical YA novel for the contest.  Even with a bad review, if I’m lucky, it gets the novel polished and out on submission.  Most of January I was quite busy with it, and put it as a priority over everything.

Naturally, I knew that would mean a crash when I finally got it in. I’ve noticed that after intensely working on a novel I need a break of varying length after I finish before I can focus again on moving on.  Maybe some people move straight from one to novel to the next, but most of the writers I know also experience at least some degree of post-novel ennui.  You’ve put so much work and energy and focus into one story, it’s hard to move on, and I’m not a person who only writes “when I feel like it.”  I’ve just noticed the resistance to working moves from a grumble to a solid concrete wall during these times.

So instead of fighting it, for once I tried scheduling it.  It felt weird, but what I found was, I didn’t even feel like looking at the computer (past some gaming) during most of it.  Instead I mostly read Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity by David Allen.  I checked it out from the library, but since I had to use a hold to get it, I had a sneaking suspicion the person I “took” it from would put it on hold as soon as I got it, so I’d only have the two weeks to read it.  That helped me focus on getting through it.  I still wish I’d had more time, but I at least got far enough to get going on my new organizational system (the book is on hold again).

To supplement trying to get my marketing under control, I’ve decided to also do the Talest Social Media Check-up series ( free email series overview on blogging and social media).  I’m still rather flailing, so it’s less of a check-up and more of a how can I organize my efforts that results in a marketing plan that actually works… but hopefully it gets easier the longer I do this.

I suppose because marketing and blogging both are related to writing, I find them no easier than starting my next novel (was supposed to on the 1st, but still haven’t managed).  So, after the library took the book back I found myself doing some other completely non-computer related things… like papercutting, sewing, and puzzles.  Which would all be great, if now that I’ve had my two weeks of rest, writing would magically happen.

The muse so far has put up a roaring fight on that front. The force of trying to get myself to move on now that my scheduled break is over has so far has at least produced a clean room, clean laundry, all my old papers sorted, and my car registration completed.  What’s next… the garage? Hmm, maybe my next novel does sound better than that.  That garage is pretty scary.

 

What I learned at Pitch 2.0

This last Wednesday night I did something complete new (and terrifying).  I’d signed up for Pitch 2.0, a CreateSpace workshop that involved giving verbal novel pitches to editors.  Eep.  I’ve never attended a conference before, although I’ve always wanted to.  Since this workshop was free, I jumped at the chance to give it a try.

It was held at the Seattle Asian Art Museum, which was a day’s drive for me.  I’d never been there, so I arrived early.  What a wonderful creepy old park around the museum!  Or at least at 4:30 pm on a winter afternoon it is.  I creeped myself out nicely climbing the water tower (it was about dusk).  I didn’t know which would be worse, to find a bunch of scary people at the top or have it empty, but it turned out empty.  I wish I had arrived sooner, so I could have gone through the conservatory, but I just peeked in the windows.  I’ll have to go back sometime and see it properly.

Anyway, the event started with a panel discussion about the current state publishing and what a pitch is and how that’s shifted over time.  On the panel was industry veteran Alan Rinzler, book editor Jason Black, and book designer Joel Friedlander. All three were lively discussing what a pitch is traditionally and the new uses for pitches in the modern market.

The old use of a pitch, was the classic “elevator pitch” idea, that if you ended up in an elevator with your favorite editor and wanted to sell your book, what would you say?  It needed to include the book’s content, characters, and why you were the person to write it.

In the market of indie publication, a pitch might end up being what is presented to retailers, customers, reviewers, catalog copy, or the e-book description.  Thus the term “pitch 2.0 for the title of the event.  The panel all agreed that pitches, but traditional and ones for new situations are hard to write.  Boiling your book down into a snappy 100-500 words is no joke.

Even more critical, as pointed out by the Amazon service representative, your book’s metadata is the new cover.  We search online not by pictures, but by keywords, and so those words in your pitch or blurb are even more critical.  They help people find your book.

Another thing the panel was very clear about–in this market, the author is also an entrepreneur.  Social marketing is the big way to sell books.  No one will care as much about the book or know as much about the book as the author, no matter if the book is traditional published or not, and so the focus on authors selling books is a trend that’s likely going to stay.

I’d be the first to admit I’m not the best at social networking.  I found their advice good but difficult.  I’m still letting it sift around in my mind.  What works, they suggest, is being present, engaging, connect with an audience, and encourage people to respond back.

You have an online persona whether you make one or not, so, its in your best interest to grab control of it and do it on purpose.  Their suggestion: use any small bit of an extrovert inside yourself and grow that part into your social network persona.

Hmm, what do you do if your inner extrovert is a villain though?

Seriously, I still don’t know what my online persona is past “author who flails around” and I’m not sure which self to be… so while I’d like to take this excellent advice, I’m still rather muddling through it.

Once I do though, the path presented seems fairly clear.  You create an author platform that supports your efforts to get unknown.  You find a niche to fill, or an angle people can’t quite find elsewhere.  Then you be your persona self, connect with people, and they just naturally buy your work…

How we as writers find time to actually write while doing this, I’m not sure.

But it was all very good advice and I’m certainly thinking a great deal about it.  The second part of the event was actually delivering pitches out loud to people.  I learned that when it came to giving a pitch, my experience with query letters was excellent training.  I delivered excellent snappy pitches (that I’d practiced carefully all last week) that drew the group’s interest.  I also was highly knowledgeable about all the new technology available, and able to tell other authors about it.

However, at actually having something to show off to real live people, I sucked.  Most of the authors not only had lovely copies of their books, but also notecards or business cards with book art on them and all all their webiste information on the back.  I have a bunch of nice shiny ones to check out and say hi to people… and it seems it’s high time for me to take a trip to vistaprint and get my own hand-out goodies.  Mostly because I will be doing this again.

Talking to real life people, both authors and editors, was terrifying, but a great experience, and I can’t wait to repeat it.

***

Also, while I was gone, author Katie W. Stewart interviewed me on her blog. (Gotta love how the internet lets you do multiple things at once.)  She’s an illustrator as well, so check out her gorgeous art.

Ten Reasons to Try Nanowrimo

Every year about this time, there starts circulating a few mean-spirited blog posts about Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) and why it’s stupid or ineffective or objectionable. Setting aside that an attitude that looks down on new writers for “not being very good” and discouraging them from writing is mean-spirited, arrogant and even more counterproductive, what are some actual reasons to try 30 days and nights of literary abandon? Can you actually get anything good or worthwhile from working so quickly?

As a participant since 2004, here’s ten reasons I think Nanowrimo is worth a try. It’s not for everyone, but can be quite rewarding. And whether you “win” or not, the experience is enlightening.

1) Motivation – if you’ve always wanted to write a novel, but never had something to force you to sit down and just do it, Nanowrimo is the perfect motivation to get a move on it. It’s a tight deadline that gets you working and working fast.

2) Out-writing the inner editor – in a lot of my early writing, I’d give up early, because I’d realize the story/writing sucked. The thing is, the only way to get better at writing is to write, revise, and then write some more. If you don’t keep writing in the first place, that never happens. True, without some revision, you don’t improve, but without getting stuff drafted in the first place, you don’t have anything to revise. Sometimes after writing crap and outrunning the editor, you get brilliant bits of writing later in the book that are quite useful when revising.

3) Imaginative Experience – I believe writing a novel expands our brains and that’s useful even if you’re not intending to become a professional author. We experience characters coming to life, who then chat in our head, argue about the plot, and start feeling a bit like real and independent people. It’s a magical and exciting creative experience I think it’s good for people to experience. The power of creation, and watching your own fictional world come to life is something that builds us up as creative people.

4) Collective energy – there’s a wonderful support in Nanworimo. All that collective energy of so many people working together at once is inspiring. It gets me moving in a way writing on my own often doesn’t. With so many people to cheer you on, you’re never alone.

5) Experimentation – I’ve found Nanowrimo is a perfect time to learn something new, try something that isn’t part of the normal flow of my writing. Try a new genre, or a tricky plot, a strange point of view, something challenging. The rushed speed forces me to try wresting with it and making it work and either it does or it doesn’t. Usually by the end of the month I know if the idea was worth it or if I’m trashing it.

6) Connections – I’ve met a lot of fantastic people during Nanowrimo, both online and in my community. The real-life based “write-in” groups make it possible to connect with a ton of local and inspiring people. Online, you can meet even more people on the forums. I’ve joined 2 critique groups I found during nanowrimo, and made lots of new friends and connections. It’s a fantastic networking experience.

7) Keeps a sense of humor – when you’re working this fast, you can’t take your work entirely seriously, and you shouldn’t. Keeping a sense of humor means you’ll weather the challenges of writing better. When you get writer’s block, being able to suddenly switch genres, use a challenge from the challenge thread, or start giving your characters all 2 or 3 word long names to up the word count helps keep writing fun and playful. So does breaking the fourth wall and ranting at your characters and letting them rant at you. Who cares if none of this stuff makes it into the final draft, if you do revise the book, it was fun, and writing ought to be fun.

8 ) Community Education – by participating in Nanowrimo, you help drive educational and literacy programs for children, as well as give your community an opportunity to think about authors, books, and writing. I’ve written in public places as part of the event, talking to and educating people on writing. I’ve even been interviewed for local papers. I’d love to also work with schools who do Nanowrimo in class someday.

9) Being an inspiration – creative energy has a way of encouraging other people to be creative too. By telling all your friends and relatives what you’re doing, you’re challenging them to consider their own creative projects, and watching you succeed will inspire them to try as well. At least that’s what I’ve found, my family’s creativity feeds off itself. My father’s composing inspires me to write, my writing inspires my brother to draw, and his drawing inspires my mother to get moving on her educational craft projects, and so on. Inspire people to do something creative by doing it yourself.

10) You can’t lose – no matter how many words you write, you’ve written more than you had before the month started. Even if they’re terrible, they’ve gotten you writing, given you ideas, expanded your mind, and inspired you to perhaps start a brand new project in December. Seriously, no matter how little you get done, you’re a winner and the supportive community surrounding Nanowrimo helps remind you of that.

Some of these were the reasons I chose to try Nanowrimo; some of them I learned along the way. My own personal journey and how Nanwrimo changed my life, was published here on the Nanowrimo blog in 2008.

Ten Unusual Adjectives

I’ve been brushing up on my particles of speech. As an author, keeping myself clear on the parts of a sentence and how they work together is critical to improving my writing. I’ve been enjoying “When You Catch an Adjective, Kill it: The Parts of Speech, for Better and/or Worse” by Ben Yagoda. It’s a lot more fun than my college grammar book, that for sure.

I think my attitude towards words has shifted as well. Once I used to look at them only in terms of homework, spelling, or what I can use to get the story down on the page smoothly. Now however, I enjoy learning new words. Yagoda collects unusual adjectives, and some of them are quite amusing.

Here’s my ten favorite from his list. See how many of these you know. My spell checker didn’t even know a few of them.

capacious
contumelious
fissiparous
fustian
nugatory
otiose
penumbrous
piacular
shambolic
tenebrous

Here’s the definitions, along with a random attempt to put the word in a sentence. I feel like I have returned to grade school. I bet they sound just as stilted and homeworkeque as ever, but I keep telling myself it’s good for me.

capacious – containing or capable of containing a great deal

In “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” Hermione has a capacious handbag.

contumelious – insolently abusive and humiliating

The contumelious teacher upbraided the student for doodling in class despite it in no way interfering with his listening to the lecture.

fissiparous – tending to break up into parts

The setting sun cast a fissiparous reflection upon the flowing river.

fustian – high-flown or affected in style

Cinderella in her fustian gown and shoes was the star of the ball.

nugatory – of little or no consequence

Scandals in Congress are so common they feel nugatory these days.

otiose – useless; futile

The baby’s otiose efforts to escape the playpen left him cranky.

penumbrous – shadowy or indistinct

The penumbrous towers rose about them in the twilight.

piacular – requiring expiation; wicked or blameworthy

The piacular student enjoyed sticking nails in his teacher’s car tires.

shambolic – disorganized or confused

She searched desperately for socks through her shambolic pile of laundry.

tenebrous – dark or murky

He peered into the tenebrous depths of the basement.

A Commentary on Creativity

As I had to leave unexpected last weekend on a family matter, I didn’t have time to write a proper post for this week.  Now that I’m home, my brain is still a little scattered, so I’m going to share a short piece I wrote as a metaphor for creativity while at a live orchestra performance in the park.

***

In the gathering gloom Elana waited, one hand clinging to Migov’s arm. Pooli tagged along, busy peeling the bark off a twig. People kept arriving, striding into the green fields of the park. They laughed with their friends, bragging about how strong or how fancy a light they’d make. Some of them clapped others on the shoulders and challenged them, while others claimed tonight’s prize for the best light would be theirs, that they would be the ones called up front in front of everyone.

Elana looked down at her pink hands, smeared with a bit of dirt from when Pooli shoved a rather muddy rock at her, insisting she look at it. A couple of fingers were sticky from dinner, a bit of fuzz clinging to the side of her right forefinger.

She tried to rub it off on the bottom of her shirt, but that only made it fuzzier. Pooli, as always, was oblivious.

“Are you sure we’re supposed to be here?” Elana tugged on Migov’s arm.

He chuckled. “Of course.”

“But what if I can’t make any light? Or what if my light is small and ugly.”

“Everyone can make a light, sweetheart. It comes from inside of you. Maybe it’ll be weak at first, but as you practice, it’ll get stronger and prettier. If you feed it, it will pour of out you and light up everyone around you.”

Elana sighed. Oh how she longed to do that, to stand at the front, light pouring out of her in bright rainbow colors, to have everyone gasp in awe at her, to wonder at what she could do with it.

The sky, as if beckoning them to try it, turned bright colors as the sun set. Golds, pinks, violets, the rest of it pale blue fading to royal blue, and then to black with stars as the sun sank down. All across the field people cupped their hands. Light sprang from them in small colorful flames, dancing across palms in twisting shapes.

Migov pressed his own together. “Like this,” he whispered. Between them started to glow a soft golden light. As it expanded, tendrals like purple flames glittered and sparkled, swaying through it. Elana caught her breath, awed.

“Oh!” cried Pooli, dropping his stick.

“Now the two of you, try it.” Migov smiled.

Pooli screwed up his face in concentration, slamming his hands together. For a moment nothing happened and then they began to glow, light in blues and greens dancing across his palms. “Oh! Oh!” Pooli turned in a circle, laughing. “Look, look, I can make pretties!”

The people around him chuckled, encouraging him, showing him their own lights. Migov laughed as well, calling out advice to him.

Elana tentatively put her hands together and pale light formed between, before disappearing. She took in a sharp breath and tried again. Slowly but surely the light formed, but no colors danced. It wasn’t as big as Migov’s, not even as big as Pooli’s. Glancing around at the happy people around her, Elana couldnt’ help but notice hers was smaller and plainer than anyone’s.

“What’s wrong?” Migov took his hands apart to place one gently on her shoulder.

She stared at her cupped hands in dismay. “It’s… not very big.” She peeked again at those around them. “It’s so ordinary.”

Migov frowned, considering her light. “So, what you’re saying is, you don’t think it’s bigger or brighter or prettier than anyone else’s?”

She bit her lip. “Everyone else’s is better. I have nothing to add.”

He shook his head. “Little one… oh, little one.” He cupped his hands, the light dancing and swaying, pink and green in its depths, beautiful, unique. “When you put your hands together, when you call on the depths within yourself… you make light! Isn’t it wonderful? Beautiful? Mysterious? Who cares how great, how different, how much it stands out. You’ve made it, from within you! And it comes out—becomes alive.”

“But I want to stand out. I want it beautiful and wondrous like yours. I want everyone to see it, admire it, recognize it… only it’s not very good.”

“It’s yours and it lives only because of you.”

She shook her head.

He sighed. “Dearest, everyone longs to be recognized. But I’m going to tell you now… the recognition you need most is to recognize yourself. When you do this, when you can feel the pure joy of bringing this to life, when you can stand in the dark, bring light, and rejoice, then you will have everything you need, and with time the rest of it will come.”

Elana dropped her hands as he turned away, talking with the others. Pooli ran in circles, making light. Everyone was so happy, so content. For a moment she felt bitterly left out. Then Migov’s words, like the evening breeze, brushed against her again. Bitterness was not something that could be poured out, shared. It made no light.

Elana took a deep breath, the night air caressing her cheek, ruffling Pooli’s hair, swirling around Migov. She was here, with them, in an evening park, full of light, full of people. A thousand set of hands burned, a thousand flames danced.

This power within me, it makes light, a beautiful light. And she soared above the crowd, free, soaking it in, so that in the future she could again pour it out.

The Dreaded Writer’s Block and Writing Garbage

 

Once the flashing lights of a novel coming out and the thrill of seeing my first (and beautiful cover) have passed, I’ve found myself dissatisfied with everything I try to write next.  Fortunately, taking some time off to go hiking in nature has re-energized me and reminded by that it’s perfectly acceptable to write garbage when drafting.

I often struggle with wanting to tell a good story.  Sadly, good stories don’t jump out of my brain fully formed.  I tend to need several drafts to hash out plot, characterization, setting, and all the juicy stuff that makes a novel so much fun to read.  When I put pressure on myself to produce these things on the spot, I freeze up.  

Ever since I sold “Chosen Sister” my work in progress “Paladin Honor” has been stalled.  First it was a necessity of the line edits and revisions taking up my time.  Then it was Nanowrimo (which granted got me the as yet unedited “Miranda Makes Her First Million”) and after that the holidays.  When I tried to return to everything in January, somehow I’d forgotten along the way that I was writing a rough draft.  I’d open the novel, look at a few lines and draw a blank.

Thankfully, last week ended the month long bout of Writer’s Block, and I’m happily writing garbage to finish up the draft of my novel.  After it’s done, I’ll go back and gut the novel with a vengeance to finally make it the good book it deserves to be.