writing

The Hunting Dog by Rita Monette – Part 2

Find Part 1 here! Or find Rita Monette’s Nikki Landry Swamp Legends books here!

Me and Lydia sat in her tree house and talked about her cat and my dog until I heard Papa driving up the gravel road. I ran to meet him as fast as I could. I took a quick gander into the back of his truck, then followed him inside where mama had lunch on the table. I had some more begging to do.

“I’m heading back to old man Lowry’s first thing in the morning,” Papa said before I could even open my mouth.

“Ain’t that the man you got the dog from?” Mama asked as she set a glass of milk in front of me.

“That old coot sold me a bum dog,” he said.

“A bum dog?” I asked. “What does that mean?”

“Took him out this morning and all he did was lay on the ground,” he said. “Woods full of rabbits and coons, and he just laid there.”

“Maybe he didn’t feel like hunting today,” I said.

“Dog’s no good I tell you.” Papa took a big bite of fried chicken, then continued to talk with his mouth full. “He’s going back tomorrow.”

“No!” I jumped and ran outside and to the cage in the back of Papa’s truck.

Snooper sat crouched in the crate.

I opened the door and reached inside.

The brown and black and white dog licked my hand. Then he scooted toward me and stuck his cold nose to my face.

I giggled. “You’re not a bum dog,” I said. “You’re a good dog. And I’m keeping you.” I put my arms around him and carried him up the pier and to the deck.

“Nikki,” Mama shouted as she opened the screen door to meet me. “Where are you going with that dog?”

“I’m keeping him,” I said.

Papa jumped up and stood next to Mama. “No you’re not. I’m getting my money back for that no-count dog.” He stepped outside, took Snooper from me, then carried him back to the truck.

I ran up behind him and stuck out my lower lip. “His name is Snooper and he ain’t no-count.”

Papa glanced at me, and his wrinkled forehead smoothed out a bit. He chuckled, then his frown came back. “Tadpole, you can’t have the dog and that’s final.” He grabbed my hand and led me back to the house and the table.

I flopped down into the chair, but I wasn’t hungry. I looked sideways at Mama. “What if Mama says I can?”

Papa kept eating.

Mama kept eating too.

I glanced from one to the other for a sign of caving in.

“You can’t have a critter in the house,” she said without looking up. “With the baby on the way and all.”

I blinked. “What baby?”

Papa stopped eating. “A baby?”

“Yes, we should have it by Fall.”

“Is it a boy or a girl?” I asked.

Mama laughed. “We don’t know yet.”

“I hope it’s a girl,” I said. “But why can’t we have a dog and a baby too?”

“This place is too small,” Mama said. “If you do keep him he’ll have to stay outside.”

“I can keep him!” I jumped up and ran for the door.

I didn’t say you could keep him!” Papa yelled at my back as the screen door slammed behind me.

“That girl,” I heard Papa say.

“She’s of your making,” Mama said.

I carried Snooper to the door and put my nose against the screen. “Can he stay inside until Papa builds him a bigger pen? That cage is way too small.”

“Good grief, Nikki,” Mama said. “You sure are persistent.”

“I am not,” I said. “I took a bath yesterday.”

Papa laughed out loud. “Hard headed, Nikki. Your mama means you are hard headed.”

“Well can he or not?” I asked.

Mama put her head into her hands. “Just until Papa builds him a pen. And only until then. He has to be out by the time the baby comes.”

I opened the door and set Snooper down on the floor. “You’ll be sleeping in my room, Snoop.” I looked up at Papa and Mama. “For awhile anyway.”

I reached into my plate and grabbed a piece of food and handed it to him. He gobbled it up real fast. He must have been starved.

“And no feeding him from the table,” Papa said. “There’s some dog food out in the truck.”

“And you are responsible for any mess he makes, young lady,” Mama said.

“Yes ma’am!” I sat on the floor and put my arms around my new dog. “You won’t even know he’s around.”

That was four years ago.

My baby brother, Jesse, was born in November, and Snooper still sleeps with me. Unless he’s sleeping on the floor, or the deck, or the grass. He just likes to sleep…when he’s not helping me solve legends that is.

 

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Rita Monette was born and raised in Southwest Louisiana. She loves to write stories set in the beautiful, yet mysterious, bayous and swamps of her home state. She is currently retired and lives with her husband, four lap dogs, and one lap cat, in the mountains of Tennessee. Besides writing and illustrating, She enjoys participating in festivals and craft shows where she does face and body art, along with selling her books.

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How I sell books (Part 2) – A guest post by David McLain

Now that I’ve scared off half the readers talking about what hasn’t worked, let’s talk about what has. (See Part 1 here.)

So far nothing I’ve said has anything to do with you as a writer. I don’t know you, but if you are reading this, you’ve made it as far as finding my publisher’s blog. That’s a good thing- It means that you’ve probably figured out that self-publishing is, well, a crappy idea. Good for you. So, skipping ahead a moment, I can tell you that roughly 20 weekends a year I can be found sitting at either a booth or a table at either an art show, a steampunk convention, or a comic con, with copies of my last two books, in paperback and hardcover. This is the long, slow grind of indie book sales. People who come over to look at my book nearly always pick up the hardcover copy, admire it, and then buy the softcover, if anything. This is actually by design.

When you are working a show, you need to be able to explain your book in a sentence or two. This is called the strap line. It’s preferable if the strap line makes for a pretty good bit of dialogue, and I think it’s usually best if you keep the number buzzwords to a minimum.

Guy dressed as the tenth doctor: What’s this?

Me: That’s my book, The Traveller’s Resort and Museum.

10 Doc Guy: What’s it about?

Me: It’s the story of a Time Traveller who falls in love with three men- one from the present, one from the past, and one from the future. She misjudges them all.

I feel this compares pretty well with the line the guy at the next booth over was giving people: Okay, so strong female protagonist. Epic fantasy. Some steampunk. It’s a hero’s quest. The dwarves have lost the jewel of…. or something. I don’t remember. I don’t know how the book was written, but the pitch was surprisingly devoid of complete sentences.

coverimagettrmAt this point I have an advantage in that my book is surprisingly beautiful. It as a beautiful painting of a woman with red hair drinking tea and holding a pet triceratops on a leash on the cover. It has two dozen black and white pictures in it, and every chapter begins with a font indicating the location the chapter is set in- so if the chapter is set in the Stone Age the first two words look like carved stone. (By the way, people don’t judge books by their covers. But they do judge book covers by the pictures on them, and when they first pick up the book, all they have is the picture and the title.)

Now, if you ever been to one of these shows, you might have seen someone doing this. Most of them are going it alone, and have basically opened the one author book store. This is a good way to distribute your books to the public and attract a little attention for your work. It’s also financial suicide. So, to make this work, you’re going to need to have something else to sell along with your books. I don’t know what that is, you need to figure that out yourself. If you’re at my booth, you’re usually more likely to buy one of my wife’s embroidered bags with steampunk animals on them than my book. This is OK. The bags are the reason my wife doesn’t have another job, and that I can keep doing this. They’ve made the whole thing sustainable. Sustainability, and a good quality book is the reason I am still signing copies of my second book five years after it came out.

So, someone is holding a book of mine, they’ve looked at my beautiful cover, and they’ve heard my pitch. Maybe they’ve read the back of the book. (This is good. The back of my book is pretty funny.)

They now get that idea in their head- I can get this signed by the author. I think a lot of people picture themselves on the antiques roadshow. “I bought this copy of The Time Traveller’s Resort and Museum from David McLain in 2017 at the East Aurora Barn Art Festival, and I got both him and his wife to sign it. She did the cover.”

And then they buy it! Although I must admit, they don’t usually buy it in huge quantities. I don’t care though. My book gets out there, little by little, and I get to go to shows, and sign copies of my book, and do readings, and sometimes, just sometimes, meet a fan. A real genuine honest to goodness fan, who thinks my work is awesome and wants to read more. Not only that, but over time, the money adds up. Sales of my books are already over 7000.00 gross in the last five years. Maybe that doesn’t sound like a lot to you, but would you turn it down if someone handed it to you? I thought not. I wouldn’t either.

When I go to shows, I frequently ask other writers about the best line from their work, their ‘To be or not to be’ if you will. You know what the most common answer is? ‘I don’t know.’ Think about that. ‘I don’t know.’ I would suggest that means something- that we’re all making this up as we go. Writing isn’t easy. Even Shakespeare quit and became a landlord. Keep at it, and good luck.

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David McLain studied writing at the University of Massachusetts. He is the author of the two novels: Dragonbait, and The Life of a Thief. His stories have been published in the anthologies Metastasis, Penny Dread II, and the upcoming Doctor Who Anthology Time Shadows, as well as over two dozen magazines, including Harvard’s Dudley Review. He has been featured on NPR’s Off the Page and the History of England podcast. He lives in New York.

How I sell books (Part 1) – A Guest Post by David McLain

coverimagettrm(Spoiler: It doesn’t involve the internet much)

Hello, for those of you who don’t know me, I’m David McLain. I’m the author of, among other things, the Time Traveller’s Resort and Museum, available from Mirror World. I made enough money last year off of the sale of books to make maybe two payments on the mortgage on my house, not that we necessarily spent the money that way. I’ll let you make of that what you will. Usually, when I go out with other writers, someone scoffs at- frequently in spite of the fact that they’ve never published anything in their entire lives. All the books that I’ve ever written will never compare to all the books in their head just waiting to come out, someday.

As an independent writer who has never landed a book with a major publisher, I can’t tell you how to become a bestselling author. Nobody can. There are a few unpleasant but obvious truths I’m going to have to mention here, and the first one is that if you met JK Rowling, and asked her how to become a famous author, the most honest answer she could give would be ‘I don’t know.’  People like that are just lucky, and luck is considerably more difficult to predict than lightning strikes. Having that kind of luck should not be your goal in life, no matter you are trying to achieve.  What I can tell you how to do is how to make two mortgage payments a year with book money. You can decide for yourself if that’s worth it. What say next may be a little more surprising- it doesn’t involve the internet very much.

I’ve been a writer for a long time now, and I’ve seen people do a lot of strange things in the interest of self-promotion. Once, many years ago, I was part of an online writing group where a young man created an account under a fake name so that he could review his own story. His glowing review of his own work was enough to project him onto the board’s list of the best reviewed stories of the month. (It wasn’t a very big board.) he then logged in under the fake name and congratulated himself for getting such a good review, and then logged out again, logged back in as himself, and congratulated himself for thanking himself. I googled his name shortly thereafter. I found a list he written of ‘The Top Ten People to Watch in 2005.’ It was a list of nine celebrities and himself.

The young man was suffering, I believe, from two of the more popular delusions among writers. The first, and most common, is the mistaken notion that the place your book occupies in the world will be similar to the very, very large space it occupies in your head. The second, and only slightly less common mistake is the idea that internet traffic will somehow reach a critical mass that will end up with the author achieving best seller status. Now, it’s possible you might be doing something, anything that might generate a lot of interest in you as a person, meaning people want to buy a book from you. However, and I take no pleasure pointing this out, to the best of my knowledge no novel has ever gone viral on the internet, ever. The closet anyone has ever come was when three unpublished stories by JD Salinger came out a few years ago. That was JD Salinger, someone who originally got very, very lucky, and even then, calling it viral is kind of a stretch. Over the years, I’ve tried a lot of things to generate sales online- I’ve guest hosted a podcast called the history of England several times, I had my friend Jeff Mach promote my book on the Steampunk World’s Fair Page, which gets thousands of visitors. I have a Facebook group for fans, a Goodreads page, an author page on Amazon, and a blog. My biggest online success was the time I got a like and a follow from the actress Carrie Fisher on Twitter right before she died. This involved no sales but I did get to strut around my regular job all day like I owned the place. In short, I’ve tried probably everything you’re probably thinking of doing to create an online presence, and by and large it hasn’t worked, at least so far. This generally has to do with the internet’s inverse relationship between interest and effort, as demonstrated in the following graph:

chart

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David McLain studied writing at the University of Massachusetts. He is the author of: The Time Traveller’s Resort and Museum, Dragonbait, and The Life of a Thief. His stories have been published in the anthologies Metastasis, Penny Dread II, and the upcoming Doctor Who Anthology Time Shadows, as well as over two dozen magazines, including Harvard’s Dudley Review. He has been featured on NPR’s Off the Page and the History of England podcast. He lives in New York.

To be continued… Subscribe or check back next week for Part 2 of this guest post!!!

 

 

How many words is too many words?

For me, there’s nothing more cringe-worthy than when a first-time author announces that their manuscript is over 200,000 words, or worse yet, 300,000 words. The worst part is that they usually say with pride, like they’re looking for praise. I’ll admit, writing that many words is quite an accomplishment and for that reason, they should be proud, but announcing a single volume manuscript that long tells me that the writer has not done their research in regards to how long their novel should be to fit established guidelines.

Now, most word count guidelines are just that; guidelines. That said though, there are practical reasons why those guidelines exist. That’s not to say that a 200,000 word manuscript can’t be published that way, but it’s less likely to be and it will run into a few problems trying to get there.

First, let’s look at traditional publishing. First, a publisher (or agent) is going to be looking within a certain range for the length of books they’re willing to work on. One reason for this is that the longer the book is, the more effort and time it takes to get it ready for publication. A second reason is that for marketing purposes, each genre has an established word count range which readers expect to find when they pick up a book in their preferred genre.

According to ‘The Write Life’, here are the guidelines for most genres:

too-many-wordsFiction Genres

  • Mainstream Romance: 70,000–100,000 words
  • Subgenre Romance: 40,000–100,000 words
  • Science Fiction / Fantasy: 90,000–120,000 (and sometimes 150,000) words
  • Historical Fiction: 80,000–100,000
  • Thrillers / Horror / Mysteries / Crime: 70,000–90,000 words
  • Young Adult: 50,000–80,000

Now, what about self-publishing? You might think that if you’re not trying to get the attention of a publisher or an agent that word counts don’t matter, but you’d be wrong. Readers also have expectations and it is easier to market to people if they know what to expect. Not only that, but printing costs come into effect. If you’re book is monstrously long it’s going to cost waaaay more to print than your average book that that’s going to impact what price you set and therefore your bottom line.

So if you have a manuscript that’s way over or under the word counts suggested for your genre, I recommend taking a closer look to see if you can add or remove sections, or consider making your monster of a manuscript into several volumes. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.

keep-calm-and-edit-later

Here’s another handy breakdown:

General

  • Flash Fiction: 300–1500 words
  • Short Story: 1500–30,000 words
  • Novellas: 30,000–50,000 words
  • Novels: 50,000–110,000 words

What about you? Do you think about word counts when preparing your manuscript? Thanks for reading and please leave your thoughts below!

Planning for Pantsers

I’m a pantser. What does that mean? It means that I’d rather ‘write by the seat of my pants’ than plan anything beforehand. However, with my latest book Uncharted, written with my co-writer Murandy Damodred, we did more planning than I’m used to and I think it helped us.

Making Notes:kelsey-blog-pic-3-1o07fm8


Since Murandy and I co-write, we use Google Drive to keep everything straight. If you’re not familiar with Google Drive or Google Docs, it’s an open platform where you can share your documents and multiple accounts can work on the same document at the same time. It also serves as a cloud drive, so your work is saved and backed up automatically and anyone you give access to the files can open them up and work on them. This helped us with planning because while writing we always had access to our notes file, which became a living document, changing as the story expanded.

Uncharted CoverSetting and Worldbuilding:

Usually I do a lot of the world building in my own head, but since Uncharted is an adventure story that takes place in a variety of settings and cultures, I made a point of writing down a handful of things to keep in mind about the settings, so I would make sure to include them.

stock-vector-hand-drawn-cartoon-characters-on-checked-paper-broken-divided-group-65099188Characters:

This is where the planning really came in handy. Before we started writing, Murandy and I wrote out detailed backstories for each of our main characters and at least a sentence or two about our minor characters as we invented them. This helped to flesh everyone out and make sure we knew where they had come from and what was important to them because of that.

Plot:

This is where our best of intentions sort of fell apart, but in a good way. Before we started writing, we formed a point form list of plot points then we proceeded to ignore them. As we wrote, we went back and added new plot points to our list and kept adding to that list to stay a few steps ahead of the story, but ultimately this was a form of pantsing more than planning.  

Editing:

Where the notes really came in handy was when I went to write the second draft. All throughout the first draft, instead of going back and fixing things that needed changing, I took notes instead. Then, when I went over the finished first draft, I applied the changes or checked for the problems I’d indicated. It saved me a ton of time and it also meant that Murandy and I could write quickly, without feeling like we were making a mess of things.

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All in all, if you’re a pantser, like me, I suggest trying to apply some planning to your process just to see what you can learn. And if you’re a planner, take a risk and try a little pantsing! Thanks for reading!

How to Choose a title for your novel!

First, I would like to note that I usually find this to be an easy task. Or, at least, usually a title comes to me either before the book is written or while I am writing it. However, that’s not the case with the third book in the Mirror World series, which despite being nearly done the first draft, Murandy and I do not have a title for yet! And it’s soooo frustrating.

If you’re trying to figure out a title for your novel, here’s what usually works for me.

The title should be relevant to your story.
This can be something to do with where the story is set, with the theme, a line of dialogue, or the name or title of a character. What’s important is that your title ties into your book somehow. For example, Neo Central, is the name of the only remaining city in my first novel.

The title should be meaningful.frontMW1copy
At first, the title may only have meaning to you, the author, but at some point in the process of reading your novel, the reader should have an ‘ah-ha!’ moment where they understand the reason for your selection. This moment can happen as early as when they read the blurb on the back of your book, or as late as the last line, but there should be some connection made between the title and something within the story.

For example the title, Mirror’s Hope, is chalk-full of meaning. One character goes by the name of Mira and the other, Hope. It’s a romance. Also, there are parallel worlds called, Mirror Worlds, in which everyone has a double of themselves, called a Mirror. So the title has multiple meanings, just by being a play on words.

The title should be memorable.
Essentially this boils down to the title should stick in your potential readers’ minds. It should be short, catchy, possibly mysterious. Whatever you need to make sure whoever sees it will want to read it and remember it for later.

Uncover3The title should try and evoke a sense of genre.
Each genre comes with its own set of tropes and expectations. I’m not saying you have to abide by them, but if your title can evoke a sense of genre, your reader will more easily know what to expect and potential readers may be drawn to your novel more easily. To do this, research some titles in the genre you are reading and see if you can spot some patterns.

For example, Unintended, is a play on the word ‘intended’ which implies marriage in a historical or fantasy setting. Adding the ‘Un’ before it, implies comedy. At least I think so.

Your title should be as original as you can make it.
This is tough because a lot of names have already been taken. A good rule of thumb is to do some research and make sure that no other books, especially in your genre, have the same name. If you do end up with the same name as something else, it could cause problems or confusion down the road which is best to avoid.

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So as you can see, coming up with a good title is no simple matter! That’s why Murandy and I need your help! We’re going to be putting out a poll next week to help us choose the title for the next book in the Mirror World series. Stay tuned, or subscribe to this blog to be kept informed of developments!

Thanks for reading and good luck with your book titles!

How to co-write your novel

Murandy Damodred and I wrote our fantasy / romantic comedy novel, Uncharted, together. This is not our first co-written novel. In fact, it’s our fifth, so we’ve got a system worked out. There are lots of ways to divide the work, but here’s our method:

cowriteFirst we split up the characters:

Since we write primarily romance, our stories have at least a male protagonist and a female protagonist, so for Murandy and I what works best is to divide the characters by gender. Murandy tends to write the female main character or characters and I write the male ones. This way, we split up the work and while writing, it’s easier and more interesting to have conversations with each other.

For Uncharted, that’s Meredith as the protagonist and Reginald and Grey as the lead male characters.

We discuss the story and the world and decide where we want to start:

Generally speaking any planning we do as far as coming up with the concept of the story and who the characters are has been done before this point, but now that we know who’s who, we can flesh things out. We bounce ideas off of one another to decide where the story begins and where the inciting incident is.

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In Uncharted, we started with the prologue. We wanted to show the moment that sets Meredith on her journey, as that journey was going to be central to the plot.

I set the scene:

As the narrator, it’s my job to describe the setting and to set the scene for the character(s).

From the prologue of Uncharted:

Noiseless on slippered feet, Meredith darted swiftly to the oversized double doors of the Celestial Chamber. She glanced once quickly over each shoulder to make sure she was still alone in the Great Hall before she gave the wide gilded handle a tug and felt the latch give way. With a grimace of effort, she pulled the heavy door open just enough to allow herself to squeeze into the chamber beyond.

Expecting darkness, moonlight dazzled her senses. The silvery light pooled in the middle of a wide and perfectly round central platform, serving to bring focus to the reason for this room’s existence: an ethereal-looking blue bowl lined with silver and filled with glittering water.

The Celestial Bowl beckoned to Meredith from its place on the solitary stone pedestal in the centre of the chamber. The sound of rushing water from the underground river that surfaced briefly in this room filled her ears as she let the heavy door fall quietly shut behind her.

Murandy decides what her character is thinking, doing, or saying:

In response to the information I’ve given her in my description of the scene, Murandy decides what happens next based on her character’s motivations.

I shouldn’t be in here, a small voice in the back of her mind reminded her, even as she took a step toward the glittering artifact. It’s only that I just can’t help but question if this life is for me. I want a family, a home…and a husband. I owe the Order for what they’ve done for me, but if I stay here and become a Priestess, I can’t have any of those things.

If I can just have a look at my destiny tonight, then maybe the path I should take will become clear. Besides, she countered the nagging sound of her conscience, if I wait until tomorrow’s ceremony to see my future, it will be too late to change it.

I let her know how the world or the characters around her react:

Her decision made, Meredith closed the distance between herself and the bowl with purpose, crossing the small, railless stone bridge spanning a gap over the rushing water beneath. As she neared the bowl, she kept her eyes fixated on the calm, reflective surface of the water within, not wanting to chance missing even the slightest bit of whatever vision it might grant her. Moonlight glinted off the silver interior of the bowl, making the room seem brighter than it actually was. As if in a trance, she lost herself in the beauty of the dancing light and that was when she saw it.

A man, no…only his torso, wearing a dark grey suit coat buttoned over his left breast. He stood with pride in his bearing, but beyond the grey coat and a single purple flower in his lapel the image cut off at the neck and didn’t show his face. Meredith leaned forward, trying to get a better angle.

The vision, if that’s what it was, continued and she saw herself from behind, unmistakeable with her lengthy waves of chocolate brown hair cascading over the hood of her light grey Priestess cloak. The vision of herself flung herself at this man and his arms reached up to hold her. Engrossed now, Meredith leaned directly over the bowl, determined to get a glimpse at the face of her mystery man when the image in the silver-lined water abruptly disappeared.

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And so it goes:

Back and forth, the action and dialogue unfold as control of the scene is passed between us. And when one scene ends, we repeat the process, deciding where to start, setting the scene, adding thoughts, actions and dialogue, and responding. This is what works for Murandy and I, but there are lots of ways to co-write and divide the work. The trick is to work with someone you can rely on, trust, and generally get along with because co-writing takes a lot of compromise and being on the same page.

Thanks for reading! Have any thoughts or questions about co-writing? Have you tried it? Leave your comments below!

Eye of the Storm – Part 3

“Nice to meet you, Summer,” Victor echoed my words from earlier, then turned back toward the bar. “Hey, Howe!” He called out, raising his head and his glass in search of the bartender. “Can I get another one of these?”

Curiously, ‘Howe’ was nowhere to be seen. I shrugged, about to use this opportunity to escape my new ‘friend’ and head back to where Debbie and Paul stood to either side of the jukebox trying to choose the next song, when the power went out. Without lighting or sound, the dilapidated old bar was just that. It was pitch black thanks to the shitty weather and the fact that the streetlamp outside the front window had also gone dark. Guess this isn’t just Howe blowing a fuse.

I could hear voices and shuffling even if I couldn’t make anyone out. It wasn’t crowded by any means, this being a Tuesday night, but it wasn’t a big place. Somebody must have bumped into Debbie because she squealed, “Paul, that better have been you!”

“Uhh…” I heard Paul reply.

“Power’s out across the street too,” somebody called, presumably looking out a window, “but it seems to have stopped raining, so there’s that.”

But my attention wasn’t on the bar patrons, it was on Victor. From the sounds of his stool scraping back, he’d stood and if the darker shadow over the bar was any indication, he seemed to be trying to clamber over it. “Howe?” He called out again from somewhere ahead and above me.

I heard a thunk as Victor landed heavily behind the bar, followed by rustling noises. In the background someone said, “Hey, a power outage doesn’t have to ruin the night, I brought my guitar!”

Despite my better judgement, I started forward, feeling for Victor’s stool. I found it with little trouble. It was still warm. Without thinking too hard about what I was about to do, I put my drink down, hoisted myself up onto the still-warm leather seat of the stool, and stood, stepping onto the bar. My foot hit what I presumed to be Victor’s drink. I made a point to avoid it as I let myself down the other side.

“Aha!” Victor proclaimed seconds before a match flared to life in his hands and our eyes met for the briefest of seconds in the sudden illumination. He seemed surprised to see me there. I was simply glad the ruddy light of the single flickering match didn’t allow Victor to make out the embarrassed flush of my cheeks.

“Here,” he shoved the pack of matches in my hands before grabbing another and starting past me. By the time I got a match of my own lit, he was halfway around the inside corner of the L-shaped bar and moving quickly. I hurried to follow.

A door I hadn’t noticed before now was open slightly. Pulling it wider, Victor disappeared into the opening, his body cutting off all view of the match in his hands. Rounding the corner myself, I almost bumped into him where he had stopped on a set of stairs headed downwards. In retrospect, wearing black was a poor choice, Victor, I silently admonished him.

I became aware of a strange sound coming from the darkness below. Halfway between a hum and a rumbly growl, I couldn’t identify it, but the sound unsettled me in way I couldn’t explain. “Howe?” Victor called again, more tentatively this time, I thought.

Silence greeted his call. I mean real silence; whatever that grumbly sound was, it stopped the moment Victor spoke. Against my better judgement, Victor started forward again, lighting a fresh match and raising it high above his head. I made it two steps before my own match burned my fingers, forcing me to shake my hand forcefully to put the fire out. I stuck my fingers in my mouth and looked down, less than eager to face the prospect of burning myself on another match.

My fingers in my mouth were the only thing that kept me from screaming. There on the ground, in a pool of his own blood mingling with the juice from a smashed jar of pickles was the bartender, Howe. His pale green shirt was bloodied and torn, and the gut I’d noticed earlier was missing entirely, having been replaced by a gaping maw, resembling nothing more than a fleshy crater. From that crater rose a field of spikes, like an over-sized porcupine had taken up residence inside the portly man.

“Holy shit!” Victor cursed and flailed wildly, causing his match to go out.

I fought the urge to vomit as he quickly struck another. The initial flare of light glinted off large yellow eyes and as the light settled to its dim brightness I became aware of what I was staring at. Well, not what it was, exactly, only that I was staring at it.

It, was the source of that strange rumbling growl from before and now the sound returned. A warning, low and guttural, it informed me on an instinctual level that I was in danger. Even with shock numbing my mental faculties, I didn’t need the warning. I fled, Victor’s heavy footfalls on the stairs proclaiming that he was trailing after me. Only two steps were needed to take me out of the basement, but they felt like twenty. I cleared the threshold of the door and quickly realized I was trapped by the L-shaped bar I didn’t know my way around.

Victor however, did. He made straight past me for the exit. I started after him, but a blur of motion crossing my vision stopped me.

The creature’s leap was silent. It’s landing wasn’t. Bottles crashed and the wood of the bar groaned as the massive cat-like thing landed on it. Soft guitar music was replaced by a cacophony of screams and curses from the bar patrons as the thing swung its head around, sniffing the air.

I felt a hand grab mine, warm in the darkness. I gasped, but it was only Victor, pulling me away from the scene and toward the back door of the bar. I stumbled along after him and we broke out into the cool, wet night air.

The rain had stopped, but the sky still looked dangerous.

*** Missed Part One, find it here. Part Two is here. If you’d like to read more of this serial, like this post, subscribe and/or leave me a comment!***

 

My Love Affair with Writing

I am often confronted by the question, ‘why do I write?’ and I don’t feel the answer is one that is easily put into words. Yet, despite not having an easy answer to this question, I know for certain that I have to write. I would feel incomplete without it.

So why is that?love-of-writing.jpg

Well first, being an author has always been my dream. I remember as a kid wandering through bookstores and libraries, I would often imagine seeing my own name on the shelves listed next to my favorite fantasy and YA authors. There’s also the thought of wanting to leave something behind; to make my mark on the world. I’ve never wanted children, but I sometimes think ‘when I’m gone, who will remember me?’ I’d like my work, my stories, to live on after me.

So that answers the question of why I strive so hard to publish and reach my audience, but it doesn’t address why I chose writing as my medium or what drives me to type out page after page. I think the answer to that has something to do with the concept of ‘Flow’. I first learned about Flow in a university course about the creative process and I was fascinated by it. A term used in psychology, Flow is defined as the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.

A state of flow, otherwise known as ‘being in the zone’ can be achieved doing any task, but in my experience it happens more frequently when doing a task that you are good at, passionate about and interested in.

When in a state of flow, some or more of the following things are experienced:ca27d20b95c49679195e5c81f016ea1f

  1. An Intense and focused concentration on the present moment
  2. A Merging of action and awareness
  3. A loss of reflective self-consciousness
  4. A sense of personal control or agency over the situation or activity
  5. A distortion of temporal experience, one’s subjective experience of time is altered
  6. Experience of the activity as intrinsically rewarding

 

As a creative person, for me, achieving a state of Flow is the purpose; it’s what makes the experience meaningful. I’m also a person who thrives on a sense of achievement or feeling productive and writing gives me that. With writing, unlike any other vocation, I’m able to purposefully achieve a state of flow and at the same time produce something meaningful that I hope to one day leave behind as my legacy.

So that’s my love affair with writing, put into words. Thanks for reading.

Why do you write? Let me know in the comments below and happy V-Day, everyone.

Sharon Ledwith on Planning your Story…

The Plotter vs. Pantser debate continues… I’ve invited Sharon Ledwith, author of the Last Timekeepers Time Travel series and the upcoming Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls series, both for teens. Sharon is a planner, unlike me, so here’s her take:

Here’s the deal. As a writer, I used to struggle with the question of whether I’m a plotter or a pantser (write by the seat of my pants) when it comes to writing a novel. Truth be told, I’m a little of both, but after much contemplation, I find I veer toward being a plotter. Wait…correction, after writing six complete novels, I’ve evolved and discovered the outlining process that works best for me—a STORYBOARD.

storyboard

Yup. Those large, cork bulletin boards Disney used to use when creating an animated feature movie. I’m a visual person, so I like to look at the board filled with a printed plan, mark it up with highlight pens, and chart my way through my novel. I’m also not shy on using plenty of Post-it® notes when an idea or concept pops into my mind that will make a scene or chapter better and stronger.

I find using a storyboard to plan a novel is less stressful, and I get a cleaner first draft at the end. Since I’m writing two book series (The Last Timekeepers and Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls), it helps to get all my ducks in a row by knowing where all my characters are heading, and who is the point-of-view character in each book. I do this by using CHARACTER TRACKING SHEETS which logs everything about a character like the color of his or her hair and eyes to what clothes they’re wearing to their talents, wants, and signatures. I place these sheets in a series binder for safe keeping and a quick reference. Like I said, I love visuals! Now before I get right into plotting out my novel chapter by chapter, there’s a little thing called RESEARCH that I must do to give my story a sense of integrity and value. That’s when all those ‘what ifs’ start to bubble in my imagination, and solidify the story.

Once most of the research is done, I begin by creating an outline document with the NAME of the NOVEL, then state the WORKING PITCH (that’s the ‘what ifs’ and ‘what’s at stake’), PREMISE, and SETTING in that order. Next, I write out my MAIN CHARACTERS (beginning with who’s telling the story), the age of each character in the book (they get older as the series unfolds), and maybe an update about them. Then, I write out a list of the GUEST CHARACTERS and include their roles in the story. I follow this information with a bullet list of PROBLEMS, COMPLICATIONS, OBSTACLES, and CHALLENGES the point-of-view character must face that will bring his or her out of their comfort zone, make them suffer, learn a valuable lesson in the process, and grow from the experience.

And then comes the PLOT, broken down into CHAPTERS, with a blurb on what occurs in each chapter. It’s like a road map for me, following the twists and turns, peaks and valleys, that takes my point-of-view character on a scary-wonderful ride through words. I number and name each chapter which helps me keep on track of the story structure and build scenes. Of course nothing is written in stone, that’s why I use those Post-it® notes, and scribble down the sides of my outline if the MUSE inside directs me toward a better direction and destination.

This way of planning a novel is a fairly new process for me, but I’ve found that it keeps me organized and disciplined as a writer. Many authors I know use other methods to outline their novels, so I urge you to experiment with different ways of plotting to help you build a better book. If you think you’re more of a pantser than a plotter, check out this post HERE and see if it resonates with you. If you’re an author, what ways do you plan your story? Would love to read your comments. Cheers and thank you for reading this post! Happy novel planning!

Featured Image -- 243Sharon Ledwith is the author of the middle-grade/young adult time travel series, THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS, and the teen psychic mystery series, MYSTERIOUS TALES FROM FAIRY FALLS. When not writing, researching, or revising, she enjoys reading, exercising, anything arcane, and an occasional dram of scotch. Sharon lives a serene, yet busy life in a southern tourist region of Ontario, Canada, with her hubby, one spoiled yellow Labrador and a moody calico cat.

Learn more about Sharon Ledwith on her WEBSITE and BLOG. Look up her AMAZON AUTHOR page for a list of current books. Stay connected on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, GOOGLE+, and GOODREADS. Check out THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS TIME TRAVEL SERIES Facebook page.

BONUS: Download the free PDF short story The Terrible, Mighty Crystal HERE