Sunday, March 29, 2009

Starcaster 2 - Resurrecting Old Characters

I think I finally found my major conflict in Starcaster 2, and I've begun to outline it in my head. I wrote a thousand words and I think it's off to a great start.

I intended to bring in a minor villain from the first book and I decided to put her in a position where she can be not only a major annoyance, but a major villain as well.

She's now a cop. Detective Meyer, my crooked cop from Book One has decided that he needs some starcasting help. So he's recruited a few starcasters who don't necessarily have the sterling character so essential to good policework. But that's OK. Meyer isn't looking for good cops. He's looking for good toadies.

And I have the perfect older brother for her. Introducing: Clyde Yancy.

Clyde is a character I developed WAY back in the 80s. Yes, I said the 80s. Some of you were kids back then. But that was when I started my first novel, Oath of the Songsmith. Clyde was a highwayman in Oath. In A Spy and a Lady, he's pretty much the same, but he's a gang member rather than a highwayman. He fits rather perfectly into my Regency-era timeframe. He LOVES having a sister as a policewoman, and he has stepped up his criminal activities accordingly. I'm thinking Meyer offered him a job first, but when he refused, his sister convinced Meyer to take her on.

He's also a thug, which makes him a perfect nemesis for Cecil Crowley, Tory's gentleman friend and fellow starcaster, who's something of a thug, himself.

Clyde is six feet tall, so he is significantly taller than the 5'7" Crowley. But Crowley has one advantage over Clyde and almost every other man. He regularly hoists around his six foot tall mentally disabled cousin, and he is therefore very strong and tough.

I'm having a lot of fun putting together all these conflicts.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Scattered Focus

My writing has been scattershot lately. I've worked on a new short story based on Native American myths, which I finished and is simmering right now before revisions. I've also had ideas for two more short stories, one a mystery in Ancient Rome, the other a futuristic fantasy. And I wrote 2000 words for my Christian novel. It was a conflict scene that's been on my brain lately. I wrote it out of order, but that's okay. I found the perfect point in which to tuck it into my novel.

For some reason, scenes with conflict come effortlessly to me. I guess as a writer, that's a good thing. In order to get this novel written, I just need to write a long string of conflicts. The novel will be done in a month and a half, and then I can go back and fill in anything else that might be necessary, such as description.

S0unds like a plan!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I Passed!!! I have a Credential!!!

It's official! I am a Microsoft Certified Word Expert! Check out the logo, which I can officially add to my email signature (which I won't):

The test was difficult, probing into all the little nitpicky corners of Word. I got a 906 out of 1000, with 630 needed to pass. The cool part is I googled "Microsoft Word Expert" and came up with all these help wanted posts for people looking for certified Word experts to design courses, fly out and train people. Cool! Maybe I can quit my day job!

The best part about this is it is a credential. Credentials are critical when writing nonfiction. A while back, I thought about self-publishing my Word for the Novelist articles. Well, now I can conceivably put together a proposal package and sell the idea to a publisher like . . . maybe Writer's Digest Books? I'm thinking it can't hurt to try?

On Friday, I take my test for Microsoft Access. It is for a specialist-level test, because that's all they offer. The only other expert-level exam they offer is for Excel, and I don't think I have that much expertise in Excel. But if obtaining such a credential might help me eventually change careers into Instructional Design, then I might just start studying.

Friday, March 13, 2009

New Short Story

I decided to write another short story because, to be blunt, I need some fiction sales. I went to my bookshelf and took out a book on American Indian mythology for some story fodder. This time, I didn't intend to cripple my efforts by writing in dialect, or by writing a racy story. You would think that raciness would help, but it hurts. 75% of markets won't take a story with racy content. And I went and made it integral to the plot.

Not this time. I'm going for some drama here, but I also want the weird plot twists you come to expect when reading short stories. I'm definitely approaching this one with more of a business sense than any of my recent shorts. No sex. It's not even in first person.

I'm finding the Native American concepts of totemism and fetishism (not what you think) to be excellent story fodder. I'm not going to focus on any particular tribe--I don't have enough expertise for that. It will be a fictional, unnamed tribe. The hardest thing so far is the names. Do I make up my own names, or attempt to find Native American names? I haven't decided yet, but I'm using made-up names as placeholders.

I definitely do better with short stories if I have some sort of idea to glom off of. It's like I need a writing prompt. Recently, it's been fairy tales and gas prices. I'm also started plenty of stories that went nowhere after writing myself into a corner. That's probably my single biggest problem when it comes to short stories.

Friday, March 6, 2009

A Big Decision

I am considering putting all publishing attempts on hold.

I still have queries out, so I have not made the decision yet. But I am questioning whether, at this time of my life, it would even be a good thing to get a publishing contract. Whether I even want one at all. Sound strange? Read on for an explanation.

I am 43 years old. When I was 35, I had my first child. She has Autism. I don't talk about it much here because I consider it an invasion of her privacy. She has a high-functioning form of Autism, which means it will be possible, with a lot of hard work, for her to lead an independent life.

Assume I get a publishing contract. If she fails to become independent, do I really want it on my conscience that I didn't work with her enough because I was trying to meet publishing deadlines?

I write in my spare time, mostly when my daughter is in bed, and odd hours on the weekend. After all, I don't have to spend every minute at her side, and my Neo makes it possible for me to write and still be accessable to her. I don't think I'll ever stop writing. What I'm considering changing is my attempts to publish anything I write. Like Emily Dickenson, I'll just let my writings accumulate. Unlike Emily Dickenson, I hope I don't die before any of it is published.

It's actually a pretty exciting thing to contemplate. I could finish Metamorphosis, which is the temporary (and probably defunct) title of my Forging a Legend trilogy. I've been sitting on Book Two and Three in my brain all this time, hoping for a publishing contract--or at least an agent--before I write the rest. Were I to unleash the muse, the words would just flow from me. I could also write several books in the Starcaster series (which is the name of that series, as well as the name of the first novel). In seven years, I will be fifty and my daughter will be fifteen. How many novels can a stifled muse write in seven years? I'm thinking five or so. Add that to the books I already have, and that makes three Metamorphosis titles and four Starcaster titles. So I wouldn't have all my eggs in one basket.

And my beta readers--the ones who have been wanting to read the next books--would be able to read them as I write them.

Far from being disappointed in this line of thinking, I'm finding it oddly liberating.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Fun with Cuts

I did a 6,000 word cut today. I'm so proud of myself!

Actually, it was several cuts. I had already red-penned my manuscript, X-ing out long passages and removing entire subplots. When I took the MS to my computer today (it was a day off!) I discovered even more passages that could be deleted.

Now, of course, I'll have to read through the 4 chapters that are left to see if 1) I can cut anything else and 2) if what I left still makes sense.

I'm thinking of skipping the whole agent hunt and just submitting directly to the publisher. I've already sent this novel (Forging a Legend) to several agents more than once. Tor, Baen and Ace Books all still take unsolicited manuscripts. Submitting to all three of them will take about a year. I also could go for some contests, but not very many are for novels. I have two languishing short stories I could enter. "The Sevenfold Spell" was supposedly going to be accepted (good news), but I think the magazine is now defunct (bad news). The other--"Petroleum Sunset"--I just haven't sent anywhere lately. I know. I can't sell it if I don't send it.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Printer Recommendation

Since Starcaster is in query limbo and A Hollywood Miracle is in peculate mode, I decided to work on my revision of Forging a Legend. I decided to print a large chunk out of the middle (the Conarzon chapters, for those of you who have read it), because having it in print in front of me makes for much easier editing. I want to cut out large chunks of this part, paring it down to only what is absolutely revelant to the plot. It will probably revisions further on, but that's the writing life, isn't it?

Anyway, I thought you guys might want to know about my whiz-bang printer. I got it at Office Depot. It holds 250 sheets of paper in the paper try and prints very fast. It is not your typical photo printer. It is an HP OfficeJet Pro K4500. I got it when I was mailing manuscripts to beta readers, because I quickly learned that buying a new printer would be almost as cheap as photocopying several copies of a 300 page manuscript.

It's big and clunky. It's noisy. But it's great for lots of printing. Each black cartridge prints something like 2500 sheets of paper. I was able to print two and half manuscripts on the sample cartridge that came with the printer.

In the time I wrote the above, it printed from page 64 to page 204 in draft mode. I didn't have to stop and feed it paper, and I didn't have to pull any pages off an overloaded tray. It's truly built for printing thick documents. I recommend it highly. It cost me about a hundred dollars on sale at Office Depot. I think the original price was something like $120. The black print cartridge cost about 35 dollars, and each color cartridge--there are 3--costs about fifteen dollars. I paid 35 dollars for a three-pack. I hardly ever use this printer for color--we still have our photo printer for that--so I expect the color cartridges to last a while.

Here's that link again. I only bought it about six months ago, so it should still be available.