Monday, December 31, 2007

Chapter One Updated

I've been tweaking the opening chapters of Forging in anticipation of entering a local fiction contest at the end of January. If you care to read it, it is here. As always, feedback is welcome, both publicly on this blog, and privately at tia dot nevitt at gmail dot com. Thanks!

Friday, December 28, 2007

I Love Revising

My favorite part of writing is revising. Whenever I write my first draft, I'm just in such a hurry to get it down that I don't enjoy it properly. But revising . . . I love revising. I think of it like shaping a rough chunk of sculpture.

When I revise, I add description where it is needed. I hone dialog and prune large chunks of needless passages. I take threads of the plot from deep in the story and weave it back into the beginning. I smooth over those unexpected things, like when my heroine falls for the wrong guy, and make it seem like it was what I planned all along.

During the revision phase, my creativity truly comes out.

Which is your favorite part of writing, drafting or revising?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Thirteen Characters -- TT #3

Thirteen Characters in Forging a Legend
in no particular order

  1. The god's god - a mysterious entity who sets into motion a game among the gods.
  2. Abriel - Divorced woman of antiquity who seems to be the perfect candidate for the divine contest. Has a stature of heroic proportions, but might have become an artist if she had not been challenged to become a warrior.
  3. Verit - Abriel's patron deity. He is determined to make Abriel a winner in the divine contest -- the forger of the legend, so to speak.
  4. Illian - Abriel's former husband. He gets tangled up in the contest as well.
  5. Danor - The man Abriel loves. He wants nothing to do with any of the gods, and his and Abriel's religious differences provides some major conflict.
  6. Naria - Abriel's first sword mentor. A cranky thirtysomething spinster with secret desires in her heart.
  7. Rendell - Abriel's protogee, a young boy of about eighteen.
  8. Leordis - The current favorite as winner in the divine contest. Self-made king of Hull. A combination of Alexander the Great, Hercules and Adonis. Larger-than-life. Seems unbeatable.
  9. Thesk - A god with a fanatical following who takes an interest in Abriel.
  10. Ysande - Abriel's closest friend. She has an unusual skin condition.
  11. Loqui - Abriel's second sword mentor.
  12. Yevin - A man who comes into Abriel's life and makes an unexpected impact.
  13. Eddis - A cringing priest of Thesk who will do anything for him - or so Thesk thinks.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Calligraphy Projects

Now that my calligraphy projects are safely given away to their intended recipients, I'll post them here. You should be able to click on them to see them in a higher resolution.

These two were meant to be one large project, but I decided I liked it better on two pages. One page appears to be darker than the other, but that was just a scanning flaw. I wrote the quote.

This one is a mixture of photography and calligraphy. The quilt in the border is a photograph of an actual quilt that another friend of mine did for my daughter. She has a quilting workshop that you would not believe. I took a digital photograph of the quilt at a 45 degree angle, loaded it in Word, blocked out the center with an opaque textbox and printed it on calligraphy parchment. I then did my lettering on the printout.

For all of these, I did at least five drafts. The first three I do with a marker and a cheap piece of paper. I call these my "layout drafts." I do them to figure out what font I want and how I want everything spaced. For example, I was planning to do the Quilt project in Gothic Blackletter, but when I did my layout drafts I decided that a simple Foundational font would work better.

Once I have everything laid out the way I want it, I measure everything, rule a calligraphy parchment and do another draft. I don't plan on this one being perfect, but so much the better if it is.

Once I'm done with the basic lettering, I go back and add flourishes. For example, I added the stem on the Q in the Quilt project, and I blended together the ascender and descender for the Y and the D on the Friend project. Once I add the flourishes, I get out my Japanese gold and silver paint and illuminate the letters.

It's a lot of fun, and now my husband is learning. It really does not take any artistic ability; just skill that comes with time. I first learned this in 9th grade art in 1980, but didn't get serious about it until 1985.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Blank Page Syndrome--For a Calligraphist

Writing as both a writer and a calligraphist, I've got to say that a writer ain't got nothing on a calligraphist when it comes to blank page syndrome. I just finished lettering a two-page piece for a friend. I tackled the first page on Saturday and the second page just now. Here's the thought process of a calligraphist when starting a new work:

Ok, I've got the rough draft done and propped before me, the fresh page all neatly ruled and I'm ready to go. I'll be using a number 1 pen followed immediately by a number 2 pen, so I may as well get them both filled with ink. There. I'm ready.

The blank page stares at me, pristine. As a writer, I can use the backspace key or even 20 years ago, I could have used correction tape to erase any mistake. I have no such luxury here. Any false stroke will doom me to starting over.

The first marks on the page are ellipsis marks, because I'm continuing the quote from a previous page. Those are easy, but I still manage to mess up one due to not enough ink. However, "not enough ink" can be touched up, so I continue. I write the first capital L and all goes well.

For the second line, I switch to a number 0 pen--the largest that I have--for the word Diamond. I dip for every letter with a size 0 pen. All goes brilliantly. Then, in a moment of inattention, I make the downstroke of the last d before making the curve stroke--and I didn't leave myself enough room. I try to finish the letter, but I already know that I have to start over.

I set it aside, close the ink, clean my pens, take out a fresh piece of paper, rule it, open the ink, ink my pens and try again. . . .

The finished result actually turned out quite well. I was considering redoing the first page because two of the lines are a tad too close together. However, I don't have a lot of room on that page and I managed to blend a clashing descender and ascender together rather artfully. (Descenders/ascenders are the part of the text that sticks up or down, like the top of a d or the bottom of a g.) So I think I'll just go with it.

My friend does not follow this blog (as far as I know) so I'll post it when I finished painting it.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Killing a Character

I'm about to kill a character in Forging a Legend. A major character. And I don't have very many characters that I consider "major". I've been thinking about it for several days, but I have not started writing yet. I don't think it's a good idea to force writing and the idea does not seem ripe yet.

I tried to pick up Starcaster while I wait for the idea to percolate, but I'm in a Forging mode now, and I find that I cannot work on both ideas in tandem. Too much of a mood change.

In the meantime, I'm beta-reading Kristin's rather excellent novel. Speaking of which, I think I've figured out how I'm going to spend my evening.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

I was one of the 52 . . .

Forging a Legend was one of the novels rejected here. Here's the comment I posted:

I, on the other hand, was one of the 52 who Kristin didn't take on! I still have not gotten any takers, but I have been heavy into revisions since about April, so that's hardly surprising.

Even though I'm still agentless, I find endless encouragement in the fact that my novel was among the 52 out of what was probably well over 20,000 manuscripts, if Kristin's stats from 2006 hold true for 2007.

Since then, I've written another novel (or most of one), and I think is an even stronger novel. In fact, part of the reason I tore back into the one Kristin rejected is because I wanted to apply all that newfound writing polish to it. I am very excited about the results.

Please wish me luck for the new year!

And of course, I forgot to click the thingy that sends me emails about future responses, so I'll have to remember to check back later in the day to see if anyone wished me luck.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Blogroll Link-o-Matic!

If you'd like to do a blogroll link exchange, please leave a comment here. I'll leave this post on my sidebar. Thanks in advance!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #2 - Starcaster

Thirteen Reasons Why I Wrote Starcaster

  1. When my daughter was a toddler, one of the baby words she came out with sounded something like "star-cas-ter". I looked at her and said "What a wonderful idea!" Within 24 hours, I had worked out all the rules of starcasting, and I've only made a few refinements since. I named my protagonist after my daughter because it was her idea.
  2. I wanted to write about spies.
  3. I wanted to set the story in a time period that is unusual for fantasy. I love Jane Austen, so I thought, why not set it in a similar timeframe to her novels? (Of course, Naomi Novik has written her series in the same timeframe, but I don't think her books have the same mood as Starcaster.)
  4. Then I thought, why not make it a blend of Jane Austen and James Bond? Empire-waist dresses and revolvers! What a combination!
  5. Then I thought, why not bring communists into the mix? After all, when I think spies, I have a rather nostalgic sense of longing for the good old days of Reagan vs. The Evil Empire. I know, that's an absolutely insane thing to be nostalgic for, but there it is. I needed a covert subversive enemy group and communists seemed to be the perfect fit. Besides, I've never encountered communists in fantasy before!
  6. I wanted to draw on my military background and blend it with whimsical practicality. Therefore, we have an odd combination of apron-wearing spies with dog tags, with revolver hidden under said apron.
  7. Oh, and did I mention that I wanted it to have revolvers? The old-fashioned kind. With loose gunpowder, a ball and a big bang.
  8. I wanted to write about an innocuous-looking female that everyone underestimates -- to their later chagrin.
  9. I wanted to have a great blurb ahead-of-time, that fired me up to write the novel. My blurb about Starcaster have always gotten me great feedback.
  10. I wanted to write one of those mysteries where you never quite know which guy the girl is going to go for.
  11. I wanted to write about a guy that you grew to love -- someone who doesn't seem very appealing at first.
  12. I wanted something bad to happen to my character, something that would change her looks forever. So I had the villain break her nose. (Don't worry. It gets fixed. Sort of.)
  13. As you probably guessed, I wanted to write something fun!

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others' comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

I've Inspired Myself

I started working on Forging again. I know, I know. I need to stick to something. But Kristin, my beta reader, had some great suggestions and I thought of a way to implement them when I woke up this morning. Since it added about a thousand words, I am now cutting. I think I'll end up with a net 115,000 words.

About midway through my novel, I had a storm that was more-or-less a random event. This always bothered me about the story. Well, this morning, I thought of a great way to make it not-so-random and add a lot of depth to the character of Verit, Abriel's patron deity.

I also thought of a way to give Abriel a bit of competition. One of Verit's subordinate deities will succeed in attracting a much-feared king to his fold, thus increasing the deity's chances of winning the divine contest that is at the center of the novel. I originally envisioned this king for book 2. However, he fits in PERFECTLY here, because he seems so much like the ultimate candidate for the contest. Think Hercules. Blend in a bit of Alexander the Great. Add a huge amount of sheer chutzpah. That's my king.

However, he will only be mentioned in this novel, not actually introduced to the reader. I wish I could introduce him properly in this novel, but I have not found a way to do so yet. I don't think I can. In book two -- if there ever is a book two -- it will be a wonderful surprise for the reader when he shows up the way he does.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Yes, I'm Joining Thursday Thirteen!

Thirteen Reasons Why I Wrote Forging a Legend
  1. I wanted to write a story that I would love to read.
  2. I have been wanting to write a story about gods and goddesses ever since watching Der Ring Des Nibelungen on PBS in the early 90s. I even recorded it! All 20 hours!
  3. I have had a certain concept about gods and goddesses and where they get their power for years now.
  4. I wanted to write about a heroine that was physically different. George R. R. Martin's Tyrion Lannister stuck with me so I decided to go to the other extreme.
  5. I wanted to write about a heroine that didn't fit into any of the stereotypes. So I came up with a brown-skinned divorced giantess. (Well, she's very tall, in any case.)
  6. I wanted an excuse to write about things that I saw in India.
  7. I wanted an excuse to write in an ancient world setting.
  8. I wanted an excuse to write about things that I had learned while studying Ancient Rome.
  9. I was inspired to write it after the Michael Jackson trial. I'd have to say that Tom Cruise's antics were some major inspiration as well.
  10. Five hurricanes or tropical storms struck my state that year. I wanted to write about a storm. I also wanted to include something I saw on the news years ago, where a young couple waited out a storm while submerged in a swimming pool.
  11. I wanted to write about a warrior woman who is a good fighter, but not a great fighter. She is by no means the best. She has another talent, but it is largely ignored by those around her.
  12. I wanted to write about a situation that seems completely impossible, so I pitted my mortal fighter against a god.
  13. I wanted to write about a woman who becomes a queen. No princesses for this story; she earns her own throne.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Edits - Chapter Three

When I wrote Starcaster, I deliberately wrote heavy on plot and characterization, and light on worldbuilding. I did this because the world was still very hazy in my mind. I had wild ideas of basing the story in New York circa 1810, but the story just doesn't fit very well in that time frame. I therefore wrote it in a pseudo-London, but that didn't quite fit as well. I wanted a world based on history, but I didn't what this to be a historical novel. I guess I wanted more freedom than a historical novel would allow.

Don't get me wrong; I'd love to do a historical novel. But I don't think this is the right one to make historical. If I place it in New York circa 1810, then I'll have a lot of baggage from the time frame to weigh my plot down. This is a light, fun novel. (I do have a historical novel in mind, and Cicero is a major character. But I have two other books to write first!)

Then, I came up with what I hope is a great idea. Now I have a history to go along with the conflict and I have a reason for the conflict. The political situation draws from the Bolshevik Revolution, the American Revolution (I know, lots of revolutions), the wars between Britain and France, old fashioned repression, and an enemy dictatorship. The country where the story takes place is a monarchy, but it is a toothless monarchy where a parliament has all the power.

I'm now chipping away at my second draft and I think it's going very well, especially since I can weave in the above as I go along.

On the Forging front, I'm starting to question my earlier decision to cut 6000 words off of my opening. I just have not been able to make it work and it will require lots of revision deeper in the novel. I don't know if I want to go back into so much revision; I have other novels to write; novels that quite excite me. So I'm thinking about going back to the version that Kristin beta-read and try to tighten the existing opening up, instead. However, I'm working hard on Starcaster now, so I'll just let all this peculate in the meantime.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Blog Contest Winner!

And the winner -- picked impartially from sealed sticky notes by my husband -- is Livia!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Starcaster Snippet

I decided to yank the opening scene in Starcaster, the one that was giving me such trouble. It is the same scene that I posted at Absolute Write a few weeks ago. I now start the novel with the next scene, which is just before all the action starts anyway. I summed up scene number 1 in two paragraphs that hopefully does not read like an infodump.

I think my new opening paragraphs does a much better job establishing the mood and the time frame. This is important because my novel does not take place in a typical time period for fantasy.

As I dressed for the evening, I reflected that there is simply no good way to hide a gun in an evening gown.

In my mother's day, yes. Back then, waistlines were at the waist, and skirts were full. Nowadays, with a high-waisted sheer skirt, any bulge looked suspicious. Oh, I had a skirt holster, and I used it quite a bit, but one needed plenty of pleats to be able to use a skirt holster. An apron helped as well. No one ever suspected a woman hustling around in a bulky apron of carrying anything other than household items such as pot-holders and pincushions.

What do you think?

Don't forget my little contest! I only have a few entrants and I'll pick a winner on Monday.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Thinking About Freelancing

I've been thinking about getting back into freelance writing, and I have two possible markets to try. One is HowStuffWorks. I even have clips like they describe here. Now I have to come up with a killer introductory letter and writing resume.

A friend also told me about an educational publishing company and I'd love to become one of their freelancers. I'm hoping to get a referral for this one.

It would be exciting to get paid to write again!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Blog Grand Opening Giveaway!

I know, I know . . . how crassly commercial. But I have this review copy of Patricia Waddell's True Deception sitting here and I decided I might as well start off this new blog with a bang by giving it away. I just got it in the mail on Friday, and it doesn't really fit into Fantasy Debut's theme since the author has written a bunch of novels.

It is a regular paperback copy that might appear in a bookstore, not an ARC or a galley. It is a paranormal romance. Here is the blurb:

A man who lives for revenge and a woman who clings to hope. Together they fight a common enemy . . . and discover a passion neither one dreamed could exist.

Aedon Rawn’s world died the day his wife and child were murdered by Conglomerate pirates. Now, his only reason for living is to avenge their deaths. The Directorate gives him that opportunity when he’s selected to become their first undercover agent. His mission: infiltrate and destroy the oppressive government of an outer region colony.

Kala Char’ari is a woman in need of a miracle. She’s dedicated her life to freeing her people, but they're on the edge of extinction. Risking everything, she dares to trust a dark stranger with the hardened heart of a warrior.

The contest is open to anyone who lives in the United States. To enter, just leave a comment on this post. I'll leave the contest open until next Sunday, when I'll announce the winner. Be sure to check back next week to see if you won.

Tia's Novels

These are the novels that I have completed to date. I put another version of this post up on my other blog as well so if you've already read it there, then you may want to skip this post. Unless, of course, you found it so compelling that you want to read it again.

Oath of the Songsmith
. This is the one that I never talk about. It is my trunk novel. I recently sat down and figured how how many years I worked on it, and I think it came down to an even dozen. It served one useful purpose -- it purged me of the urge to write fantasy cliches. It has every fantasy cliche imaginable. Woodsy elves (although mine looked more like leprechauns than Tolkien elves). Cranky dwarves. Mad scientists (although mine was a woman). A wicked witch. A princess. An evil society. Goblins and trolls. And hardly any plot!

Forging a Legend. Epic fantasy about a woman who an unknowing candidate in a divine contest and who eventually must fight a deity. Gods. Mortals. Chimeras. Divine manipulation. Swordfights. Opposing religions. I wanted to write a novel about someone powerless who has to fight someone with so much power that task seems impossible. I also always wanted to write a novel that featured Greek-style gods and goddesses in a big way. It's pretty much done, but I still tweak it between query bursts.

Starcaster. A fantasy-espionage blend that takes place in a Jane Austen-style setting with James Bond-style action. Chases. Captures. Guns. Magic. A militaristic spy organization. An enemy communist dictatorship. A ballroom. And not one, not two, but three potential suitors. This one I wrote for pure fun. It's almost finished.

Any Woman. A mainstream Hollywood love story. How's that for genre-busting? It's about a male Hollywood superstar who wants to date a church mouse . . . but she won't have him. She sets up impossible conditions under which she would date him, and then he goes about and tries to fulfill them. It blows up in both of their faces. Of course they fall in love. I'm about 4 chapters into this one.

Tia's Writing Master Plan

I am a 41 year old diehard dreamer who has been writing for almost twenty years now. I write both nonfiction and fiction, but I'm concentrating on my fiction dream right now. My published portfolio consists of work-for-hire pieces, plus lots of technical documentation, business documents and blogs. I count blogging because one of my blogs, Fantasy Debut, has managed to garner a modicum of respect in the publishing world.

Like I said, I'm concentrating on my fiction dream. Yes, forty year old women can still dream. However, they tend to be practical about it. Time is marching on. Must get on with it. Therefore, I came up with a Master Plan.

My Master Plan consists of writing very different novels until I manage to sell one. So far, I have written three novels. The first one is my trunk novel. I love it, but I doubt anyone else could could get through it.

The second one is a mythology-based epic fantasy that I planned as a trilogy. I wrote book one, the first three chapters of book two and forced myself to stop. I have everything outlined up to the end of book three. I'm not going to write any more for this novel unless I manage to sell it. To paraphrase a worn-out phrase, I ain't putting all my eggs in one basket!

The third book is an espionage fantasy that strives for a mix of humor and action. It is a stand alone novel, but of course I can see sequels. However, I'm not going to plan for any sequels. I'll tie up all plotlines and we'll see about a sequel if and only if I can sell the thing.

I'll detail these novels out in a later post.

The other part of my Master Plan is a deadline. I've given myself until I'm 45 to publish a novel. If I'm not published by then, I'll go back to nonfiction and at least earn some money with my writing. I won't stop writing fiction, but it will become more of a hobby than an all-consuming obsession.

This is a writing blog, with a bit of real-life stuff thrown in for fun. Fantasy Debut is my strictly on-topic blog. Here, I'll let my hair down a bit.

I'm going to get brave and link to this from Fantasy Debut, since I know a lot of my readers there are writers. If you'd like to do a blogroll link exchange, please leave a comment. I'll work on getting my links from my old writing blog transferred over here as well. However, that will take a few days, so give me time!