The Home Stretch

Okay, it’s July 23rd, coming into the last week of camp, and some things have happened to partially derail my progress. First of all, I hit two zero-word-count days, in a row, and several low word count days. Various things, including procuring house insurance and a mailing address, and visiting relatives, sort of took priority. But that’s cool because I’ve already topped 50k and in Camp you can alter your word count goal.

So today I dropped my goal to 70k instead of 80k which puts my remaining daily goal at 1300 words per day. That’s less intimidating that 2700 words per day. So, what am I even working on at this point?

Well, Pants on Fire (working title was Liar, Liar) was successfully finished and published (and apparently hit the Top 61 list for free titles on Amazon over the weekend – according to my publisher). It’s available for about a dollar.

I finished Nightmare of Eden (at just under the 4k mark) and sent it away to Horrified Press for their Nightmare Walkers and Dream Stalkers anthology. I’m waiting to hear back. I hate waiting.

I finished We Will Not Go Quietly (at just over 8k) and printed it off for major editing. My dad is currently reading it because I needed a second set of eyes. It’s being sent off to Fox Spirit Press in the UK for their Girl at the End of the World anthology.

I have started my next novella, Race to Redemption, and it’s sitting at just over 4k. I have to have it completed by September 15th, or earlier. I need another 12k to finish Camp so that should put the novella around 20k – halfway. Since I have some long, intense, racing scenes and some intense sex scenes to write I think hitting 40-50k total should be easy.

So, why September 15 when I wrote Pants on Fire in 8 days? For one thing, I just got back from a three day trip out of province for my great uncle’s 80th birthday (travelling 10 hours with two children, ages 1.5 years and 3 years, was interesting and exhausting). For another, I move into my first house on the first of August which means a lot of packing, cleaning, and unpacking in the next two weeks. Then there’s the one week trip to the Royal Tyrell Museum so my son can see dinosaurs and the one year anniversary of my mother’s passing, and a house warming party. With all that (oh and a pair of mittens to knit for my friend’s mom and a baby blanket to crochet for my sister’s little one, due in November), my plate is heaping!

But, writing is my love and my livelihood so write I must and write I will.

You can find Off the Market, and Pants on Fire at Amazon.com/ca/uk for a dollar each. Race to Redemption will be available late in September and will be the first in the Turbo Charged Series (followed by Race to Recovery and Race to Romance).

PS – I’m looking for more titles in the theme of Race to …. if you have any ideas please comment. They don’t have to start with an ‘R’ but it would be cute if they did!

Signing off …

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Camp Nanowrimo Check In

Halfway through the month now and time for my second check in. In the last week I wrote two short stories – no where near as impressive as the 30k novella I wrote in the first week but still, I’m happy with it.

The first short was a 4k story about a dream demon. I submitted it to an anthology being put out by Horrified Press (you can find them here on Word Press). I’m still waiting on a reply. I’m nervous, I hate waiting, but the way I figure it is this: it’s been a week and still no rejection so they’re at least considering it, right?

The second short finished at just over 8k (well below the 10k cut off) and was written for an anthology being released by Fox Spirit Books, a small UK press. This is the apocalyptic story I had in mind. Once camp is over I’ll be doing an overview post on that post apocalyptic future I have in mind. The story is written and I’ve edited it and handed it over to my father who has a sharp eye for grammar and general narrative flow. I’m hoping to have it submitted before the end of the month.

So, what’s next? Well, Overhauled and From the Ground Up were nixed by the publisher so I had to find a new project: A 30k romance novella about dirt track race car drivers. I’m about 3k in and I have it all outlined. There were a few slow days there but since I’m at 52k I think I should be able to hit 80k by the end of the month. This novella will probably take me until the 28th to write, and then I’ll have three days to pack before moving into my first house.

I’ll check in one last time when my word count is met. To my fellow campers: KEEP WRITING!!

Signing off …

(PS, has anyone ever counted how many words ALL Nano campers wrote in a single month? I’d love to see how many millions of words were put to paper in a month by a lot of crazy novelists)

Book Giveaway

Book Giveaway

A friend of mine is having a giveaway! Woot! Free stuff!

Her book is titled “In Liam’s Wake” and is the first of her Toys and Soldiers series. I was one of the privileged beta readers for the manuscript and I fell in love with this book and the whole series.

In Liam’s Wake is an edgy fantasy about a world hidden within our world, one where strange magic and strange technology create a unique culture. The world is rich and dark and full of so many wonderfully realized characters.

Please take a moment to follow the link and enter the contest. 4 copies to be won!

The Way the Muse Turns

Okay, July 8th, just a day over the first week of Nano and what a start to the month it’s been. My original goal was to write 50,000 words in 31 days. The first 30k were to be a romance novella, then a 10k short story, then two 4k shorts (48k) and then 2k on my next romance novella.

Well, my muse has run away with me. I’ve completely abandoned the 4k shorts. I’ve decided they aren’t suitable for the contest I wanted to put them in and I’m not interested in writing them right now. I’ve put the 10k story on the backburner and replaced it with a different 10k short. And I’ve upped my word goal to 80,000 words in 31 days.

So where am I going to make up those last 60k? I’m going to write two more romance novellas. I wrote one back in May. (Off the Market is available on Amazon for about a dollar) and I had planned to write two more, following the MC’s two younger siblings. The publisher didn’t need anything in that sub-genre so I wrote my camp project, Liar Liar, which has just been sent off.

Yeah, you’re reading that right. 30k in 8 days. A new record and the reason I’m upping my word goal to match. With that out of the way I plan to write those two proposed romance novellas and store them until the publisher wants them. Then I’m going to write my short story.

Instead of a short story about a girl in an apocalyptic situation I’m writing one about a dream demon at the beginning of the world. Very excited and looking forward to entering it for consideration in an anthology.

But it’s getting close to bed time for my two little distractions, and I’m rewarding myself with junk food and a movie tonight. Tomorrow my husband is giving me 8 hours to sit at the library and write. And I plan to write 5k on a romance novella and 5k on my short.

I’ll check in at the next milestone!

Signing off…

The Strong Live On

The series character is a dream-come-true for many writers. Having your next book sold before you even start writing it just because the agent, editor, and public wants to know what happens next, well, what writer wouldn’t want that?

There are two types of series characters in my mind – the type in a closed series and the type in an open-ended series. The first type are characters that we see in J.R.R Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, or David Eddings’ fantasy series The Belgarad and The Malorian. The second type are those like Stephanie Plum in Janet Evanovich’s books.

The first type, the closed series, happens when the plot is too big for a single book, but the series deals with one or two major story arc s and several smaller arcs. By the end of a set number of books all the loose ends have been tied up – the bad guys are all dead or punished; the good guys have met their glorious end, or received their reward. There really isn’t much difference between these characters and the characters in a single book novel except that the problems they face take longer to resolve and they’re supported by a larger cast of minor characters.

This post will focus on the second type, the main characters of an open-ended series.

Some examples of this type of series are: the Stephanie Plum novels, the Alex Delware novels, Sherlock Holmes, Anita Blake, Meredith Gentry, or Mercedes Thompson – to name a few. Each one features similar elements: a small cast of characters that appear in every book (the regulars), a small cast of characters that appear briefly in most of the books (regular supporting characters), a small cast of ever changing characters that you only see in a single book (the plot drivers), a single plot, or several smaller intertwined plots, that can be completely solved and wrapped up in a single book, and several small sub-plots, usually relationship based, that continue from one book to the next.

The real difference between a standard character (whether their story fills one novel or three) and a series character is the level of character growth and the speed at which that growth occurs. A series character has to grow and change a little each book which means that their growth is slower, and more complete, than a single story character.

This growth consists of various things including discovering new personal strengths, achieving long-time goals or dreams, a new development in a friendship or romantic relationship, or coming to revelations about fellow characters, either positive or negative. For instance, the main character might meet a new love interest at the beginning of book one and become friends by the end of book one. By the end of book two they’ve become friends and the main character has admitted their feelings to themselves. In book three they go on a date, and so it goes. At the same time the trials in book 1 make them face a long standing fear, and in book 2 they realize that their boss is actually a crook, and so on.

By spacing and pacing these personal growths the writer not only fills out the single plot of each novel, but ties the novels together. And no character can simply stay the same, day-after-day, year-after-year. The reader will not believe in your character if they do not grow and evolve as a person. Think about the person you were a year ago, the person you were five years ago – how have your tastes in clothing or music changed? Are you friends with the same people? Do you believe the same things religiously, politically, or ideologically? Have you experienced any big life-events such as your own wedding, the birth of a child, the death of a family member, the re-marriage of one of your parents, moving to a new house, or moving to a new city/state/country? How did these change you or your outlook on life? How many places have you worked in that time? All these things change us and shape us and we continue to grow as people – not really getting closer to perfect, just getting closer to who we ARE or who we want to be.

As Temperance Brennon on the television show BONES says (and I’m paraphrasing here), “The book is about the mystery and the science that solves it, the characters are just there to move the reader from body to investigation to solution”. True, perhaps, to the writer, but to the reader, books are about people and their emotions and reactions and personal development in the face of some sort of puzzle or adversity. The plot, therefore, shapes the character instead of the character simply being a device of the plot.

These changes and personal sub-plots must be as well thought out, as suitable, and as plausible as the main plot. And they must remain consistent. Looking to BONES for an example again – in season 1 Brennon specifically says she doesn’t plan on ever having kids, but her opinion changes over the next 5 seasons. This is not a sudden change, but a gradual one, not a plot device but a natural development in her character that later affects the plot line of the series. (I hope I didn’t spoil anything for anyone).

If something is not in the nature of a character then the nature of that character MUST CHANGE before that event can plausibly occur. There are lots of things that can change the way people think so your possibilities are endless, but you must stay true to the basic identity of your character. Forcing the character to do things that aren’t natural for them will either make the character ring false, or you should use it as a plot device, not a character development.

Brennon didn’t want children, so in one case the writers/producers had her left in charge of an infant that had swallowed a key to a safety deposit box. Normally Brennon would have nothing to do with a child for that length of time. If it was her choice she would never had done it, and she would never have grown as a character – but the choice wasn’t hers and the resulting adventure forced her to change some of her notions concerning children and how she related to them.

The other aspect of a serial character is that things have to happen to them. That is why many serials are mysteries, or cop stories. Detectives and officers, private investigators, bounty hunters, secret angents, some lawyers, forensic scientists working with law enforcement agencies, and other professionals consulting with the police (like Alex Deleware who is a psychologist) have interesting, dangerous, and difficult situations handed to them all the time. In supernatural stories sometimes it’s what you do, other times it’s who you know, that causes adventure to stumble into your life. Harry Dresden, Jim Butcher’s cynical wizard, has advertised himself publically as a wizard for hire (helps that he does consult with the police on occasion) so people come to him when things get weird. Anita Blake (Laurel K. Hamilton’s heroine) is a federally licensed vampire executioner, and an animator (she raises zombies), and both jobs hand her some weird and often deadly situations. As her powers and connections increase she catches the attention of more of the bad things in the supernatural community and so success brings new adventures without her seeking them out, and without her wanting them to find her.

You need to place your character in a situation or job where trouble of one kind or another will easily and logically find them. “In the wrong place at the wrong time” may work for one book, whether it’s a stand-alone or one book in the series (I mean everyone is unlucky sometime or other) but too many times and it’s unbelievable (no one is that unlucky).

The supernatural community offers so many more opportunities. Anna Latham, the main character in Patricia Briggs’ Alpha and Omega series is an ordinary girl with extraordinary powers and the only reason “trouble” finds her is because she’s married to the Enforcer of her werewolf pack and it’s his job to deal with the trouble that threatens the pack. She goes along because her powers are often beneficial and that provides a good story.

In summary – take an interesting, real character, give them a job that places them in interesting situations and some friends, family, and rivals, and see how they grow.

Camp Nano Schedule

Well, it’s officially July and I’m participating in Camp Nano. Check out www.nanowrimo.org for details on the event.

I will be doing 4 separate projects this month for a total word count of 50,000 words in 31 days. My first project is a romance novella I was contracted to write. It is titled Liar, Liar and the contract requires 30,000 words. When that’s done I have a short story I want to write for a possible anthology about women in “end of the world” scenarios. 5-10k word limit, I’ll be luck to keep it under 10k. The last 10k will be two short stories for another possible anthology. These are titled “Through the Open Door” and “No Place Like Home”. Technically they have to max out at 4k each leaving me 2k short for the month so the last 2k will be jumpstarting my next romance novella – Overhauled.

That’s 1667 words per day with 1667 extra words up for grabs with the extra day (since Nano is only 30 days).

Then, on August 1st I take possession of my new house while trying to maintain a grueling writing schedule, but more on that in August.

Liar, Liar should be complete by July 18th. My end of the world story should be done by the 24th. The two short stories I’ll work on whenever my muse abandons me and I should have them done by the 28th. That leaves 3 days to start Overhauled or catch up whatever isn’t yet finished.

How does a mother of two accomplish something like this? My birthday happens to be in April and for my birthday this year I asked for 1 day a month where I could go to the library for 8 hours to get caught up on my writing. Since I was house hunting in May, and since June was full of Real Estate paperwork and family visits I missed 2 of those work days. So I will be claiming 3 library shifts this month. Three Tuesdays of peace and quiet and no internet connection. I should fly through this.

Also, I work by hand a lot. I keep a 6×9 notebook by my side and as long as my kids aren’t trying to kill each other I write. I can type an average of 40 WPM and max out at 90 WPM so if I’m copying my WPM is higher than if I’m trying to create while I write. That always speeds up the process.

I’m an avid outliner so by July 1st I’ll have all 4 pieces outlined, scene-by-scene which will cut down on the stop and think time and increase available writing time.

Lastly, I won’t be on here as often. Actually, it’s the 27th of June as I type this and schedule it for July 1st release. I’ll try to check in upon the completion of each mini goal and at the end of the month.

Signing off for at least a week …