24 December, 2013

22 December, 2013

Das Krampusjahr

Source: http://www.krampus-certi.cz/historie.html#
I don't know what's caused it, but Krampus has been a popular subject this December.

If you've never heard of him before, Krampus is a folkloric character out of Europe who carries birch branches that he uses to beat naughty children when he visits them on Krampusnacht (December 5th), which is the night before the Feast of St. Nicholas. He is synonymous with Zwarte Piet (Black Peter), who is also a partner to St. Nicholas in other regions.

As of late, Krampus has been making appearances in news article after news article, several television shows, and in a video game. There're even Krampusnacht events taking place in the United States and according to this article his celebrations have been "[popping] up in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, Portland and Albuquerque" for the past few years.

Why I'm excited by Krampus's sudden popularity

I've been working on Uncertain Heirs since November 2012, and to see a well-timed spike in the general masses' interest tells me that people are starting to look elsewhere for their entertainment. Since my goal is to publish Uncertain Heirs in 2014, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it'll hit the market right when the public interest is peaking.

How my Krampus differs from Real World Krampus

Those of you who've been following my progress know that Uncertain Heirs is seeded with European mythology. I heavily rely on Celto-Germanic paganism, but I've modified it, tweaked it, tailored it to create a world inspired by, yet different than, our own.

Right now, Krampus has a place in my Earth Dog notes, and though he may not make an appearance or have a mention in Uncertain Heirs, he is part of the mythos.

For instance, Krampus is one of the many sons of Hulda, the Mother form of the Goddess, and he is charged with disciplining not just naughty children, but naughty adults, too. His other charge is to vet the souls of those who would become riders in the Wild Hunt -- since it is an honour bestowed only upon worthy warriors, Krampus must ensure that their good deeds far outweigh their bad, judging whether the warrior had noble or greedy intentions behind their actions.

On rare occasions, Krampus acts as a harbinger for his father, Wodan, the Horned Consort, and on other occasions he appears as the narrator of events for several morality tales in my novel's religious history, one of which being Fox Goes Fishing (I'll have more about this tale at a later time).

When Krampus will make his appearance

It's impossible to answer that question right now, but that's only because I have so much yet to write down as far as the Earth Dog world is concerned. Structuring my world so it has laws and rules and consistency takes time, and I have to make sure I have a firm foundation before even Uncertain Heirs can go to print.

15 December, 2013

Year's review

NaNoWriMo is over, and Christmas is well on the rise, so it's time to take a break and evaluate where I stand with things.

Uncertain Heirs is a year old now, as it was my NaNo project last year -- I've since struggled through two complete drafts, and am halfway through the third draft as we speak. There've been some people who've seen the first few chapters of the third draft and given me some fantastic critiques, but more importantly, they've given me great ideas for ways to fix the opening chapters to make them more comprehensible. With any luck, this will also make the opening chapters more enjoyable and more easily read.

"Thoroughbred" is also in the third draft stages, and as soon as I get a few more critiques, I'll go back and address any additions or corrections necessary to finalize it. I have no doubts that this short story will see the light of day well before Uncertain Heirs, so stay tuned for announcements regarding this one.

This year's NaNoWriMo brought me an abundance of new stories to work through. For starters, I made it through And The Beast during the first 15 days of NaNo, but the word count of this novella mandated I pull from other project ideas I'd been sitting on. So I wrote the short stories "I Told The Witch Doctor" and "Lightning Strikes 1,200 Times", then got partially through the novelette "We Can See It Through The Window" before hitting the required 50,000 words to win. I'm still writing on that last one, so I think it'll jump from novelette status to novella before it's through. As for And The Beast, I think it'll do the same and become a short novel once I start editing it.

Now, I know I haven't exactly kept my promise thus far about getting back into a normal posting schedule. Unfortunately, the Christmas season does that to me -- I think I have everything in order, that I'll have time to do things for myself, but it never works out that way. For instance, even though I got a jump start on my Christmas cards before NaNoWriMo, I am still working on getting all of them finished and sent out. And to think, I only have about eight to ten cards that I send out each year.

Things should really settle back into a normal routine after Christmas. Until then, stay in touch and watch for more updates regarding my stories and their expected release dates.

30 November, 2013

NaNo's over

*sniff sniff* You smell that? It's my brain being fried after powering through 30 days of NaNoWriMo. I won, but now I'm gonna take a few days breather before I get back into my regularly scheduled editing of UNCERTAIN HEIRS, and my semi-scheduled updates.

17 November, 2013

NaNo checkpoint

Hey everyone,

I'm just checking in to let you know I've passed the midway point of NaNoWriMo 2013, and I have officially typed "The End" on . . . And The Beast. *cheers and confetti*

The only problem with that is that I am only 34,000 words into NaNo, so I've cracked open my short story ideas that I've been hoarding. I'm starting on the tentatively titled "I Told The Witch Doctor", and hope to get at least 5-7,000 words out of it. We'll see, though.

Anyway, it was good checking in with you all, but I should probably head back to writing. I'll catch you all soon as I cross the 50K finish line :)

So long, and thanks for all the fish!

26 October, 2013

Pre-NaNo tidings


NaNoWriMo is almost upon us, and I've set about the (laughable) task of planning out what I'll be doing with . . . AND THE BEAST.

How much planning can one do to prep for one of these things? Not much.

You can come up with a rough sketch of what you want for your chapters, but that can change once the writing starts. The characters are a little static -- you can only work out who's going to be your main characters, and even then that's a little iffy. You may add or detract characters at will when you find one isn't working, or one extra's needed to move the plot forward.

This'll be fun, though. I didn't have the blog up last year when I put UNCERTAIN HEIRS together, so this will be a great opportunity for me to share my creative process with people as I go. I hope you understand that I'll only get the groundwork for . . . AND THE BEAST during November -- I'll be going back to UNCERTAIN HEIRS after that to finish the third draft. But don't worry, I'll complete it as my next novel.

Anyway, I probably won't update much during November, but I'm sure you understand why. :) And just a friendly reminder, you can sponsor me for NaNo by clicking this link and donating $1, $2, or however much you want to spare in support of the Office of Letters and Light.

Catch you all in a month!

23 October, 2013

NaNo Sponsorship

I'm gearing up for this year's NaNoWriMo by pausing from Uncertain Heirs and starting my next project, . . . And The Beast. After November, I'll table . . . And The Beast and get back to my regularly scheduled novel.

In the meanwhile, if you want to see the great program of NaNo continue, then you can help by clicking here to donate any amount you wish. :) Thanks everyone!

19 October, 2013

Forward progress

The edits for Chapter 6 are coming along smoothly. I've been busy with other projects this week, so I've been trying to balance the productivity of reading, editing, crafting, etc. I'm hoping to do a rotation of each today, so that I can finish editing Chapter 6 and move on.

Speaking of moving on, I've decided that I'll edit as much as I possibly can this month, and then take time off from UNCERTAIN HEIRS by starting a new project for this year's NaNoWriMo. This will be something different, set as its own story and apart from the Earth Dog world.

If anyone is interested in following my progress, you can check out my NaNo page here. This year's project is called . . . AND THE BEAST (ellipsis included), about a primordial godking sentenced to have his mind ripped from his body and hurled into space. His essence ends up on Earth, trapped in the mind of a three year old girl.

06 October, 2013

Third draft update

For the last five days, I've been productive*. I've successfully relocated a scene that was giving me trouble, and was able to move forward.

Into Chapter 3.

Hey, don't look at me like that. Chapter 2 had an important scene, but it just wasn't working. Admittedly it took a few months to come up with a solution, but I got there. That's the process of writing -- some things work out naturally in a matter of days, others take months.

But on the bright side, I'm onto Chapter 3 of the third draft, and should hopefully finish it up today. I may even put up a comparison of drafts, just to show the amount of work that goes into certain sections.

Anyway, back to work. Catch you folks next update :)


* I attribute it to the psychological effects of the upcoming NaNoWriMo, not necessarily the caffeine purge**
** Three weeks soda sober today!***
*** I've been reading lots of Terry Pratchett.

26 September, 2013

How many?

I'm making a new goal for myself to read at least 25-30 books a year, with no limit on short stories.

So far, I estimate I've read eleven books, and about 30 short stories (most of which are by H.P. Lovecraft) this year.

How about you? How many stories do you try to read at a time, or do you even have a monthly/yearly goal?

19 September, 2013

Above all else, be flexible

I was working my way through the third draft of chapter 2 a month ago, and I hit the block within the first paragraph of the second scene. There just wasn't anything to interest me, to entice even me, the author, into reading further.

So I decided to put it away, and think of ways to rewrite the scene. I knew the conversations had to stay for the most part, as they are integral to not just the scene, but the entire plot. Chapter 2, scene 2 sets up what is to be the first bit of rising action. But the introducing paragraph for that section was just . . . bleh. If I were reading this as a finished product off the shelf, I would've tossed it back without a second thought. Since I had to improve the scene, I decided a complete rewrite was in order.

But what could I do to improve the scene? It took me a month to come up with something plausible -- I finally decided to change the setting, take it out of a private location and throw it into a very public forum, which would introduce tension into the characters that hadn't been there before. This way the rising action has a greater impact, for it forces the characters to restrain themselves physically while discussing a matter that greatly affects the safety and security of their future.

Of course, it doesn't hurt when you also discover a song that jump-starts your creativity and facilitates the much needed change. You can see what helped inspire my progress below.


15 September, 2013

Fable of the Wappenröcke

As with creation, we have a second myth. This one continues with the origin of the eight noble families. I don't know yet if this will necessarily come into play for Uncertain Heirs, but I will have it on hand for a later story in the Earth Dog books.

What's a religion without fables?


While working on my novel, I came across a particular scene that needed to be reworked for the better, and one idea I had was to change the setting, putting it within a covenstead of Göttinesche, the capital of Kaiserreich. Since I wanted something to happen in the background while Fredderick and his mother converse, I started writing short myths that could be used for the scene, and possibly future works. Anyway, here's one that I wrote, featuring their story of creation:

27 August, 2013

Even pros are afflicted by mistakes



I'm still brainstorming over ideas for the third edit of Uncertain Heirs, so I thought I would break over and do a book review of Affliction by Laurell K. Hamilton.

12 August, 2013

Too soon

I think I tried to start the third round of edits too soon. I'm slogging through Chapter 2, with little success -- either that's a sign I'm trying to force the edit, or it is just terribly slow and I'm seeing my own sluggish pacing for what it is. Regardless, I'm going to take another week before I address this chapter, and maybe I can come up with something to improve the quality.

05 August, 2013

Attention to the details

Remember the last time when I caught that math mistake in Uncertain Heirs? Well, I'm always on the lookout for things that don't make logical sense. It's bad when mistakes like that happen. Sometimes, though, practicality is sacrificed intentionally for the sake of the story, and that's the biggest mistake a writer can make. It takes longer to spot, I think, with something on the page, but a visual from a movie or TV show or live theatre performance are glaringly obvious.

Now, I'm not talking about a visual exchange, like substituting a milksnake for a coral snake (that's just common sense for the safety of the actors and film crew!) I'm talking about writing a moment of drama that is so wrong, so blatantly impossible that the likelihood of it actually working is zero. I recently watched an episode of Breaking Bad, where such a scene took place. Walter, the main character, was zip tied to a radiator by one wrist, and instead of using his fingernail to wedge the tab of the zip tie down, he went through this elaborate search for something to free himself with. He jerked a coffee maker off a cabinet, unplugged it, and broke the cord in half. He then stripped the wires clean and wedged one under the zip tie against his wrist, and after turning the power strip back on he used the other wire to conduct heat through the plastic and melt the zip tie off (and burned his wrist in the process).

Okay. That was wrong. So very, very wrong, and here's why:

Common sense teaches us "Don't stick anything in an outlet - you'll get shocked!" The reason for that is because an incomplete circuit will either short out or throw the breaker. Yes, you'll get shocked, and depending upon the voltage it could stop your heart, but the shock will not last long enough to melt through plastic the way Walter used it in the show.

No matter whether the audience knows the fact about the incomplete circuit or not, the writers have a duty to portray their character accurately. Walter is/was a chemistry teacher in the show, and given all the complex devices he's rigged up over the course of the show, he would know exactly how wrong his decision was. 

That's just bad writing, and we, as writers, have to do all we can to be accurate with our facts. We're clever, we can research, we can learn about anything now courtesy of the internet. There's no excuse to not do the research and see if what we want to happen for "the drama" can actually happen or not. What Walt did in that episode should have killed him, but because no mention of it was made in the show, I'm gonna go ahead and state the obvious here: Don't Try That At Home.

I'm constantly on the lookout for things like that in Uncertain Heirs, which is why I read, reread, get critiques from others, then reread again. Just because I'm writing a fantasy does not mean I should ignore common sense.

29 July, 2013

No tears were shed

I'm back in the saddle and editing Uncertain Heirs. Thus far, I've cut over five hundred words from the first two scenes of Chapter 1. Which is funny -- the first thing I cut was a paragraph from the opening that I had painstakingly crafted over and over and over to be perfect. Only now do I realize just how detrimental it was to Chapter 1. C'est la vie, I guess.

24 July, 2013

Life update

Hi, folks, thought I would drop in and give a status update. I have a lot of priority things going on right now (transitioning to a new day job), so while I was updating twice a week, my updates for the next month or so may be limited. I'm almost ready to start diving back into Uncertain Heirs, so I'll keep you posted on that.

I have a short story in the works, too, that's unrelated to my novel, but hopefully should be just as fun. If I finish it first (it should, hypothetically, take less time than a novel), then I'll make it available on Amazon's digital download. :)

That's all for now! See you guys again, soon.

12 July, 2013

Labelling accomplishments

I've always been curious how others define themselves in the literary world. Are they "writers" or "authors"? Does one have to come before the other? Is there a specific criterion that someone must have in order to go from one to the other?

Personally, when people ask what I do, I find myself answering "I'm writing a book". I wonder if, once I have published Uncertain Heirs, my answer will change to "I write books" or if I will make it a prideful announcement of "I'm an author"? I wonder if there'll be a difference for me, or if it will even matter?

Does it matter to you now/will it matter what your label is?

10 July, 2013

Ending in the afterlife

This doesn't relate to Uncertain Heirs, but I'm wondering how people feel about books ending with a character ascending to the afterlife? Have you seen it done, and if so, how did the author accomplish it? Did they offer a paragraph to say the character went on to join whatever version of the afterlife, or did they show it completely and dedicate a chapter to it? I want to know if it feels contrived to you as the reader, or if it could be a plausible ending?

08 July, 2013

Reading achievement unlocked

I spent the holiday weekend doing what I said I would do: catch up on some reading. I finished The Hobbit (Finally!), read all of Micah in under four hours (New record!), and read through The Music of Erich Zann (Yay!). Aside from magically ripping a toenail off in my bed this morning, I had a fantastic weekend.

How about the rest of you: reading anything exciting for your holiday weekend? :)

01 July, 2013

Unfinished reading

I went through my books this past weekend, and found a few that I started reading, but for one reason or another did not finish:
  • The Hobbit, for instance. I've had a bookmark in that thing since 2005, and I only ever made it to the wine barrel scene. I never made it to Smaug!
  • Then there's the Da Vinci Code, which I'm about four pages in. I think I started it back the same year the movie came out -- when was that? Cripes, 2006! I must've started the book at the beginning of 2007, then.
  • Micah is a book by Laurell K. Hamilton that fits into her Anita Blake series -- I bought it, but I never read it because I didn't consider it part of the series (I thought it was only a stand alone). I found out a few years ago it is part of the series. Whoops.
  • The complete short stories of H. P. Lovecraft -- love those. I read them before bed because they're nice and short. I'd been reading those in the order they were written, and I left off at The Outsider. Next on that list will be The Music of Erich Zann. That puts me close to halfway through his list of short stories. After that, it'll be the novels.
  • I started Around the World in 80 Days two years ago while working for a utility company, but I only made it 6% through (according to my Kindle).
  • Then there's Black Beauty, which I'm halfway through.
I like reading the classic works, such as The Hobbit, Black Beauty, etc., because I think everyone should read those to be well-versed in the English language. Seriously, how much easier would Shakespeare and Chaucer (the two of whom high school students complain most about reading because "Oh, you can't understand them!") be to read if children read classics from the 1800-1900s in primary and middle schools leading up to Shakespeare and Chaucer in high school?

Ranting aside -- how about you folks? Any unfinished reading you've been itching to complete? Is there a reason you want to finish reading those stories, or did you abandon them because of how bad/boring/whatever they were?

27 June, 2013

The silence, 'tis deafening

Unlike before, when I forced myself to take a break between the first draft and the second, I do not have novel-related things to work on to keep me occupied. I have three-four weeks to kill, and so far I have crickets chirping as if to cheer my lack of productivity. I mean, I have written a first-draft query letter, but that's gotta sit now, too.

I suppose I could do more character biographies, just so I know where they've come from and where they're going. I will take suggestions if anyone has any! :)

25 June, 2013

The halfway mark

Yesterday, I finished my second draft edits.

*CONFETTI!*

Yup. I hit one more milestone with this novel, which is two more than the first novel I tried to write. Now, I need to take a mental break from the novel, step back from it and rest. I cannot allow myself to look at it, otherwise when it comes to round three, I won't have those fresh eyes to catch my mistakes. It's amazing what you see when you have a month or more between your drafts.

I don't know how many of you have heard of scribophile.com, but it's a critiquing website for serious writers. I'll be spending the next month or so over there, getting my act together, and getting additional feedback on my novel as far as plot, characterization, theme, consistency, etc. I'll be doing this before I start work on the third draft, so that I can take their suggestions into account and bring you a much better novel.

I gotta say, just on my own, I can see a dramatic difference between the quality of the first draft, and the quality of the second draft. I can only imagine how stark the contrast between the second and third will be.

On the flipside of things, I have been trying for months to come up with a term or phrase that would describe my novel's world. It's based heavily on our Earth, but it's not our Earth. It's a different Earth, a fake Earth. Long story short, I stumbled upon two articles on Wikipedia detailing natural, celestial phenomena known as a Moon Dog and a Sun Dog. Considering what the events entail, I thought of doing something similar.

"Earth Dog" will describe the world, to say that it is a fake/mock Earth, similar to our own yet extremely different. If I were to build a series of books set in this same world, I would refer to them as the Earth Dog series, or the Earth Dog novels. I don't have a sequel planned (yet), but you'll just have to stay tuned to find out if there's more to see of Fredderick ger Grimmbone or his family.

21 June, 2013

Math: Not just for the classroom

Yes, I do math so you don't have to!

Interesting bit I found while I was editing -- I had a line about a mob of deer swarming a field in a night and eating half the crops. You may not think much about that, but when I stared at it for a few minutes, I knew something was off. I kept staring, and staring, and staring, and then I realized my math was wrong. Impossibly wrong.

The estate is about 7-8 miles², including all buildings, farming land, grazing land, fallowed land, etc. Between the property (i.e. where the estate home sits), the fallowed land, and the grazing land, there's only about 2,000 acres², or 3.125 miles² to farm. Half that to 1,000 acres² and . . . yeah. Impossible for deer to eat through in a night.

Solution: Boar.

Wild boar will eat about 3-5% of their body weight a day, but they do so much damage. This article may be old, but it gives you an idea of just how destructive wild boar can be. What's worse, is that a sounder of boar can grow to include 50 or more, and that's a lot of feet trampling over crops.

There's no way a mob of deer can compete with the brute force of a sounder of boar, and I'm so very glad I found that mistake now.

19 June, 2013

What a silly catch

So, as a status update, I'm on Chapter 8 of 12 of my edits. Yup, I'm on that grand, downward slope towards the end of my 2nd draft. Since I took that break in between drafts, I've had the fresh eyes to catch my silly mistakes before I upload the chapters to a critiquing website for input from others, and I'm rather happy I did this look first.

I've caught two silly mistakes, quite often repeated, as far as spelling choice. Reign and rein, for instance -- I'm dealing with nobles, so both words get used in Uncertain Heirs, but I noticed my common mistake: "The chauffeur reigned reined in the horses". For whatever reason, I always substituted reign where it didn't need to be.

My other weird, yet consistent mistake, was writing lead in place of past tense led every. Single. Time. I know the difference, I really do, but for some reason I wrote it wrong -- but I did it consistently, which fascinates me beyond measure.

This, folks, is the perfect reason for why you should take three to four weeks rest in-between drafts. Fresh eyes catch the silly mistakes, and save you from the "OMG! I should have caught this" embarrassment of having others read it and catch it for you.

15 June, 2013

Book Ratings -- Do they exist?

The answer is "Yes", and here's why: Books have always been distinguished by their audience, whether that be for children or for adults. Other categories have since arose based upon ages, which means we now have a more comprehensive rating system:
  • Children
    • Picture Book (ages 0-5)
    • Early Reader (ages 5-7)
    • Chapter Book (ages 7-12)
  • Middle Grade (MG) (ages 8-12) Note: This appears to be the term replacing "Chapter Book".
  • Young Adult (YA) (ages 12-18)
  • New Adult (NA) (ages 18-30)
  • Adult (ages 25+)
Common sense tells you that this lines up with the movie industry's ratings:
  • G
  • PG
  • PG-13
  • R
  • NC-17
Adult will not necessarily be NC-17, obviously, since there're so many romance novels that feature platonic love, not erotic; but at least a classification exists that will guide a reader in their choices. If we think of book ratings in terms of the MPAA ratings, then we, as readers, can make presumptions about the possible content.

For more on the MPAA film rating system, check out this explanation here.

12 June, 2013

What have you read?

A friend of mine shared this list on facebook, so I'm not quite sure where the original came from -- it suggests the BBC released the list. Anyway, here's how this works:
BOLD: Books you have read.
UNDERLINE: Books you have started, but haven't finished.
ITALICIZE: Books in your queue.
Leave blank anything you haven't read.

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series –
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott

12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame

31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
34 Emma – Jane Austen
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52 Dune – Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker

73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses – James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal – Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession – AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchel
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

I've completed 21/100 works listed here (tis more, total, because of series grouped together), and I have 7 in progress and 22 in my queue. Apparently, the average person has only read 6 of the works listed, so I think I'm doing well for myself.

How about you? What books have you read?

08 June, 2013

Changing landscapes (New Amsterdam)

Source: http://pinterest.com/pin/73605775130787783/
When you write an story with an alternate history, there can be changes on however small or grand a scale you want. I like to draw from real world history (as far as places are concerned) and look at the reasons an area was founded, as well as what prior names the place might have had. Everyone knows New York, NY, but not everyone knows that it was originally founded as a trading port and named New Amsterdam. It was only later, when the British took over the area, that the name was changed to New York (in honour of the Duke of York).

For my novel, it's still New Amsterdam, and it's still a major trading port. But I had to think of ways to alter it physically and keep it paced with my Steampunk influence. Obviously, looking at the above picture on the right shows how the skyline of New York has changed in 150 years time.


New Amsterdam has evolved at a slower pace. Not only that, but the areas of growth are also different. For New York, southern Manhattan took off as the business centre while northern Manhattan became predominantly residential districts. New Amsterdam is the reverse. The southern end of the island, known as the Terrace, has the town houses for the gentry of Assenisippia (if they are of high enough rank to afford it, that is), and the northern end, known as the Arcade, is the business centre.


The Bronck family owns north of the Harlaem River, and has developed it into an industrial area -- integrated mills, floundries, etc. So the business end of town grew up along the Harlaem River, because trade ships came up one side, across the Harlaem, and back down the other to go out to sea. There are fish markets, butcheries, produce markets, in a U around the Arcade, while the interior comprises athletic clubs, social clubs, gentles clubs, and private clubs (associated with alumni of universities or academies). There's the Heminges-Pope Amphitheatre, too, and smaller venues that are open to the general public to watch rehearsals. Then there're the basic shops (tailors, jewelry, clothing, etc.) and the assorted doctors and trade-smiths.

There're also "blue clubs", which are up-scale brothels (choice of male or female) that operate by appointment only; typically have waiting lists; and are expensive for full-service, but reasonable for education of youth (re: when I say youth, I mean the ones who are just coming to season who are 15-16 years old -- yes, you're a legal adult at 16). Bathhouses are common, too, and are prominent throughout the Terrace and the Arcade, many of which are attached to the various clubs, making them exclusive to members.

Oh, and before I forget -- there's a "castle wall" in a U around the Terrace that has been heavily modified from its original design. Sections of it have been removed so the town house properties can have their private docks.

01 June, 2013

The Clinical, The Euphemistic, and The Vulgar

Disclaimer: This blog is about sex, and how writers approach it using word choices specific to their demographic audience. If you don't wish to continue reading, I've conveniently broken the page.


30 May, 2013

Signs of progress

I opened chapter five this morning to continue my edits and realized something: since 15 May, I've edited 22 scenes out of 54. That may not sound like much at first, but consider that I only allotted one scene per day as my goal, and you'll see that I'm six scenes ahead of where I planned to be by 30 May.

At this rate, I may finish the second draft by the middle of June. That's a good sign, especially since I'd like to publish this story by autumn.

If I do finish the second draft in June, I may for the sake of curiosity query out to agents to see if I can get a response. I am 90-95% certain that I will self-publish my novel, but I know myself well enough to know that I would regret not reaching out to agents to try the traditional method.

For that reason, I've kept an eye out for agents/publishers accepting submissions. I would take some suggestions, if anyone knows of someone who might be interested in low fantasy, paranormal fiction, Steampunk, and/or New Age Adult, please let me know.

28 May, 2013

"That" scene

I'm knee deep into my second draft when I decide to rewrite a scene from scratch. Okay, that's cool. I can handle that considering most of my novel is where I want it to be. A simple rewrite. That's all. Right.

Right?

. . . right?

Turns out that little scene turned into a mega scene. To put it into perspective, the word count on chapter four was at 7.4K when I started. Now it's at 12.3K. I wrote a 4,887 word scene, and all I can do is scratch my head at the result.

What do I do? Where do I go with it? How can I scissor that scene so the chapter becomes manageable again? I'm gonna leave it for now, otherwise I'd be beating my head against a brick wall, but I'm wondering how others deal with this type of situation when it arises. Do you plan to cut words during the third draft, change your mind and scrap it, figure out a way to break it up? Some direction/suggestions would be helpful.

27 May, 2013

Insight to the Wappenröcke (a snippet)

Part of the fun of editing is deciding upon adding new scenes. In this case, I took the chance to slow the Wappenrock transition from man to beast down and offer the visual and auditory bonus that isn't as important to other scenes.

And for your benefit, I've included the promised special peek. Be sure to click into this post to view it!

24 May, 2013

Edit Pain Syndrome

Source: http://pinterest.com/pin/237142736601212994/
It's close enough to Book Pain Syndrome in that prolonged editing leads to discomfort, specifically of the body and mind.

I'm eight or nine scenes ahead of where I scheduled myself to be, so I feel comfortable taking a short mental break from the editing to write the new scene in Chapter 4. So far I've only added paragraphs here and there, but this one is a complete rewrite of a scene I wrote during NaNoWriMo.

That's the highlight of doing multiple drafts, though. You force a scene during the first draft to get to where you need to go, and then the second draft is for cutting and replacing with something that flows and is cohesive to the overall storyline.

For the record, all of that can be exhausting -- but! the benefits of the editing outweigh the temporary discomfort. When they said editing can be painful, they weren't kidding.

17 May, 2013

Bleeding red (ink)

Moving forward with the edits for the second draft, and I'm on Chapter 2. I'm excited to see the progress of my plot tooling, for the narrative now has cohesion between scenes that wasn't there before.

The characters have evolved from the first draft, too. Not just the main characters, but the secondary characters as well. And my villain -- oh, my villain. The villainous time line has seen improvements, as well as more manipulations from the villain.

I just knew taking that 4 week break to organize my thoughts would help!

Stay tuned, folks, because I might post something extra next update :)

15 May, 2013

Editing the second draft

The first draft is easy, especially if you wrote it during one of the NaNoWriMo events. If you do it right, then the focus is just on making things as wordy as possible but to also fly through scenes with synopsis-like summary if you can't think of the phrasing. At least with that second route, you can get to the next section where you have the necessary verbiage to excel.

The second draft, on the other hand, should be about cleaning up the narrative, tailoring your plot objectives so nothing's left hanging, improving your characters' personalities and their presence, and to cut, cut, cut anything unnecessary to the storyline. It's been nearly four weeks since I completed the first draft, and now that I've gone into the first chapter with fresh eyes again, I can see what's working and what's not.

Namely, there's been dialogue tweaking and improvements in narrative action (re: what the characters are doing). I know that people hark on adverbs and their overuse, so I bought a very important book for myself. The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide To Character Expression by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. Their examples are great for expressing emotion directly and indirectly in the narrative. Three pages into my edit, and I could already see a major difference in the quality of my writing. I would recommend the book for anyone looking to add quality to their stories.

Also, they have bonus material on their blog that covers more than just emotions.

12 May, 2013

Mapping a world

*gasp* Twelve days into May and I'm just now getting a post up! I'm sure you'll all forgive me, though, since I come bearing a gift.

I've been working on the nitty-gritty details in between drafts, and taking the time to get a map together with some of the areas of interest.

This is Kaiserreich, a state on the eastern coast of North America. Its capital is Göttinesche, which falls on the A-Rail (red). The large port cities connected by rail and aeroport, are noted by the white circle enclosures. Off to the right, there's Nearly Island, which was a stopping point happened upon chance by the Saxons and settled as a shipping port/way station.

Before you ask, yes there are hundreds of smaller cities and towns, but I most likely won't get to those since they aren't essential to the plot.

30 April, 2013

Iceberg, Write Ahead!

An author will always know more about their story than the readers will ever see. Although, sometimes -- and the occasion is rare -- readers do get more. If there's a story I really enjoy, I want more of it, and at times the more (a second, third, fourth book) isn't enough. I want the histories of characters and knowledge of the landscapes. I want to know if they had first loves or defining moments of their childhood.

I've heard that sometimes authors release extra information on their websites to compliment the stories, but I wonder is it ever enough? I really enjoy Pottermore, but it's slow-going. Only the first two and a half books have been released, and while I enjoy the games and pictures and histories of the characters, I still find myself craving more.

Do you ever find yourself in the same scenario? And if you're an author, have you considered elevating the iceberg of your research up for everyone to see?

26 April, 2013

What is your biggest writing fear?

What do you think you won't be able to accomplish with your writing, and how do you plan to overcome it?

24 April, 2013

Resting, research, and plotting

I mentioned that I completed the first draft of my novel, UNCERTAIN HEIRS. Final word count: 98.2K. Confetti!

Now it becomes crucial for me to take time off from staring at the manuscript, and instead do research, plot out ideas, and get some much needed shuteye. At the moment, I'm glancing at my novel scene by scene, and summarizing what's there and making changes in my notes to apply during the second draft. I confess, I have one scene that has changed -- hopefully for the better.

Aside from that, I'm doing research (here, have some zeppelins!) and using some realism and some fantasy to construct the layout for a standard passenger airship in my novel. Maybe I'll even take the time to make a layout and post the sketches.

23 April, 2013

And above all else, know when your work is complete

In other words, I finished the first draft of UNCERTAIN HEIRS just a few minutes ago. Time to let it rest for a few weeks while I recover and get myself set into edit gear. Oh, hey, I guess that means I finished Camp NaNo early!

22 April, 2013

Do you coddle your milestone?

I know they say not to over indulge a child, but it's great therapy to overindulge your milestones when you accomplish them.

What I mean is this: When I set a goal for a new story, I shoot for 80,000 words for the first round -- but! I set smaller milestones within that goal to keep myself motivated. First I shoot for 500 words, then 1,000, then 2,000, and 5,000, and 10,000, next 15,000, so on and so on. I celebrate each one because they are commitments to my greater word goal, and they're short and frequent enough to keep myself engaged with the writing.

Is this something you do? Do you set your milestones and celebrate each one as they come to pass?

18 April, 2013

Do you use a writing prop?

It helps me sometimes to have an item associated with a particularly unruly character that I can wrap my fingers around, see the colours of, smell the material. Having the item in my hands means I'm experiencing the character's reaction alongside them, and I can isolate my responses physically and emotionally, then put those into words on paper.

I've done this with coffee mugs, cutlery, stuffed animals, bodily injury (I didn't harm myself! I just pretended to be injured in a room, alone, with no one to see me so I could pretend to go from Point A to Point B in the way a maimed character might.), and recently purchased a marbleised tobacco pipe to have on hand while I write scenes where my characters are using one.

What about you? Do you have physical objects associated with your characters that you use to promote your writing experience?

16 April, 2013

A mantra worth repeating

Source: http://www.gdfalksen.com/
Sometimes I see a quote that just strikes a philosophical mood in me. For instance, this picture here (which I saw was shared by a Steampunk group on facebook) could be applied to any aspect of a person's life; however, I want to take a look at the literal meaning: writing.

Even though I stumble while writing, I pick myself up and carry on. And that's because I aspire to be great like my favourite authors, but I know better than to compare my starting work to their seasoned résumé.

Now that I have a epitomical mantra to tack above my desk, I'd like to hear what inspirational quotes you have to keep you motivated, whether it's your own or something you heard/read that stuck with you.

15 April, 2013

Pop the crackers and toss the confetti

. . . because I hit my 21K goal for Camp NaNo.

BUT WAIT!

*hides those party decorations and sweeps up the preemptive confetti*

I still have one chapter scene and another chapter to write before the first draft is completed, so I'm going to do something unexpected: I'm pushing my Camp NaNo goal up to 35K.

That's right, folks! It's the middle of Camp NaNo and I've still a ways to go, so I'm upping my goal. Overall, my novel is at approximately 88,000 words, which may sound like a lot but is actually on the low-end of typical fantasy novels. We'll see how things turn out by the end.

In the meanwhile, I wanna know how everyone else is doing that's participating. Have you reached your goal and kept going? Still on course? Taking a mid-month break? Let's hear! :)

07 April, 2013

Camp NaNo update

Progress on the Camp NaNoWriMo front -- I have completed chapter 10, and am moving on to the last two. So far, I'm 11K words up, which brings the total word count excitedly close to 80K.

For anyone who may not know, this is in-line with the average count of most novels. If any of you are curious, there's a wonderful diagram courtesy of the Book Genome Project that gives breakdowns by genre and answers questions about the frequency of first or third person use within those genres.

03 April, 2013

Yackety-yak

I've always been a fan of a stories that do more than just give me a written word, because I think there's a primordial, fundamental human need to engage all five senses (six, seven, whatever you subscribe to). Just as in a book, there're real life dangers to individuals who are deprived of one sense or more. Someone with a head cold who has a stuffy nose might not smell the gas leak in the kitchen. Another without their vision in a dark room might bruise themselves on that coffee table they'd moved earlier that night. A deaf boy playing near the railroad tracks won't hear the train.

Given the human condition, the remaining senses will compensate. This is true when reading a novel. A line of text will mention that the teenagers went to a house party -- we automatically imagine the cacophony of rampant teens yelling to be heard above a stereo cranked to the max. A different line of text mentions a group of teenagers going to a debutantes' ball -- our imagination shifts from chaos to refinement, lovely gowns and tuxedoed men, and elegant dances.

It depends upon the skill of the author of how well they can control their readers' perceptions. Going back to the house party, they could add the details of a section of manicured bushes recently replaced and growing to fill the space left void by the last house party drunkard who'd collapsed into them.

The debutantes' ball could tell us more about the people -- dandelion and daisy bouquets instead of roses, quilted tablecloths made from sundresses past, and water pitchers give us a drastically different picture than the one we originally had. We might now think instead that this is a low-budget imitation of a ball put on by a small town, or alternatively we might imagine not a debutantes' ball, but a church social or fundraiser meant to emulate the style.

These descriptions shape our imagination, or at least give direction. Think of what you could do with a well-placed onomatopoeia. You could go back to the house party and add the oppressive untz untz untz that beats arrhythmic to a person's heart and makes it too uncomfortable for them to stand anywhere near the speakers. Go add a tootle-to-to-to-tootle-tooo to the debutantes' ball, and that reed becomes enchanted, hinting that this is instead a party of the Fair Folk.

01 April, 2013

Camp NaNoWriMo


Well, I still have 3 chapters to complete of Uncertain Heirs, so I'm participating in Camp NaNo to finish those. I'm taking Neil Gaiman's and Joss Whedon's advice -- I'm finishing what I write.

And because I love you guys so much, I'm going to let you see a snippet of dialog. Just a snippet, of course. ;)

But I do want to wish everyone good luck, should they be undertaking the Camp NaNo challenge!

30 March, 2013

A prickle of porcupines

Reading, in my opinion, should always be a learning experience. I like to add in trinkets of information that people might find entertaining or interesting. For instance, something that I consider when I aggroup animals together is that some of them do have collective names. A parliament of owls, an intrusion of cockroaches, a memory of elephants, so on and so on. There are many websites that catalog the names -- and more! -- like this one, for instance.

I'd love to know if this is something others do as well -- include tidbits of knowledge in their writing, just little things, that progress the certainty of the writing?

29 March, 2013

Setting the time frame

Research is essential for any novel set in a particular time frame. Slang is the fastest anachronistic reveal if you have 80s era jargon showing up in a 60s-set novel. It applies to more than just language, though. Go to any period-movie on IMDB, and check the "Goofs" section. You'll find everything under the sun -- a vehicle showing up before it was chronologically made; colour TV before there was coloured TV; a radio broadcast given days/months/years after it aired.

And I think, for that reason, alternate timelines are so appealing.

Authors can eliminate a key element of history, while developing others. Take Steampunk, for instance. As a genre, Steampunk thrives on pulling 20th Century technology and seating it in the Victorian era. But Steampunk accomplishes this by stripping the designs down to the very basic concepts, and putting them back together in a time-functional, practical box. Just take a look at some of the gadgets people have created.

Even to create such masterful gadgets, enthusiasts do their research to know what works for the time frame, and what doesn't. Devices that require projections -- computers and televisions -- still work, but they aren't (or shouldn't be, rather) as transportable as they are today.

But the story still functions.

That's what I aim to do with Uncertain Heirs -- create an alternate timeline where zeppelins, trains, and horse-drawn carriages are still the major modes of transportation, but seat it in a parallel time frame. My estimated year for the novel is 2015, but the history I've created implies a stronger tie to the earth than to technological advancement. Even though they've had the time to advance technologically, they haven't, because they haven't had the need for it like we have. Yes, they have things like the wire, which is their version of the telephone, but it is only used for extreme situations. Letter is still the preferred method of correspondence. Closed wire does appear in a mobile form, but when I say mobile I mean literally it exists only in the carriages for passengers to give orders to the driver.

This works, but it's similar to the tin can and string method, except that it's in this case a tube and funnel. It's very limited. Now radio, there's something fun to play with! I like to imagine that with some technologies, they're about 75-100 years behind us. So since radio has existed in our world since 1906 (first AM broadcast), it's feasible that radio has cropped up by the 1980s in their world. Think of it like this: we had the internet boom around this time, so too did they have the radio boom. Give it another 50-60 years in story, and they'll have the first personalized TVs, and so on.

By now you've probably wondered how much time I spend world-building for a story. I'll tell you -- I go so far as to create sample dinner invitations, just so I understand the habits and customs of my characters. The more I know the world, the better I can write it.

27 March, 2013

Bothersome head colds

I awoke to a pounding in my temples that could have demolished a city block. I've never had a migraine before, so I don't know if this qualifies, but I am treating it like a head cold. I spent the first four hours of the day sleeping it off, so I didn't get out of bed until 11:30AM.

Naturally, I fell prey to the "Eyes are bigger than my stomach" symptom, which means I'm regretting the omelet, ham, toast, and apple butter. The skim milk, however, seems to have settled my stomach.

Now that I can clearly think, I might attempt organizing my thoughts for this next scene in Uncertain Heirs, but if I can't I'll at least leave you with another bit of inspiration.

29 Ways NOT To Submit To An Agent by Carole Blake

Even though I intend to self-publish, I will still query agents in hopes of taking the professional step towards becoming a full-time author. In no way am I belittling the self-publishing route -- in all honesty, I think it could be the best route for a beginning author. You have the freedom to advertise your novel how you want, and build a fanbase early. And who knows? Agents may come querying you.

26 March, 2013

More things inspirational

I think I'll let the Boss highlight the ideas for revisionary work. Even though he refers to screenplays, the principle can be applied to novels and short stories and so on....

Joss Whedon’s Top 10 Writing Tips

25 March, 2013

I should be writing


A little inspiration for everyone's day:

50 Reasons You Should Be a Bookworm

On a side note, I got a little inspiration to work on the outfit that Fredderick wears within the novel, so as soon as I have a version of it I like, I think I'll post a teaser. :)

24 March, 2013

Time to whet your whistles

Despite this being the first revision of my work, this is definitely the fifth time that I've combed through chapter 1, either to change details to agree with later chapters, or to tweak the narrative into something I can be proud of. As a taste of what to expect for the novel, I've decided to offer a look at the opening to chapter 1. This is by no means a finished product, but it is something I am currently pleased with.


23 March, 2013

In the works

I will not mince words: writing is a process, a massive one if done on your own. Currently, I am on the first revision of my novel, UNCERTAIN HEIRS, which will be tentatively published in 2013. Stay tuned.

______________________________________________________________________

Ash Litton

Ash Litton is a writer and lover of sci-fi, fantasy, and all things fictional. She is the author of No Signal, Thoroughbred, Evening Hallow, Comeuppance, and Cabover Cabaret, and works on other Appalachian Dream Tales between her ongoing novel projects.

When she's not writing, she's drawing, and when she's not doing either of those, she's dreaming up new projects to work on. Born and raised in rural West Virginia, Ash has always wondered what things lay hidden in the hills around her. She attended West Virginia University, where she studied the English language before returning home to her family in rural West Virginia.