So, Apparently, This Is How I Pack

We are leaving for vacation at the end of next week. It’s an annual thing, and we do it to see family but also to participate in the New London, New Brighton antique car run. This has led to fic before, but it’s also just nice to see the cars.

I also drive one of said cars when Grandpa lets me, and I dress up in costume and so forth.

Today I started readying my suitcase. First, I wandered around aimlessly, fussing and making no progress. I sat down and made a list of things I needed to bring, freaking out when I couldn’t find my boot socks. (These are a thing, they’re important, they belong to the boots as a nice accent and adds to the costuming/effect.)

To stop the fretting, I went about finding all the tank tops I wanted to bring, set them aside. Found some shorts and the sweaters for over the tank tops when it’s colder, made a pile. I’d say I had roughly half of what I needed set aside when I once again lost focus due to the lack of boot socks.

Frantic, I searched under the bed, on the top bunk, and through all the drawers. Victory came near the end. I found my boot socks, and relief overtook me. I put them in the suitcase right then, zipped it up and smiled.

Then I decided to figure out what jeans I wanted as non-work jeans (I pack one work pair, since I get under car and grease stuff prior to the car run and one for other purposes) and I found a pair with butterflies on them that I couldn’t remember if they fit. So I tried them on.

They were a little tight, but Little Daylight was playing in the background, so I did some dancing to see if the jeans would loosen up.

Yeah, so since then, I’ve accomplished nothing but dancing in the jeans. I guess I’ll resume packing tomorrow after my day job.

Once More with Coauthor

So, recently, Liana Mir made me insanely happy by asking if I was interested in collaborating with her on a story.

We’d been trading bits and pieces back for a while, mostly me inserting one of my characters into her storyworld and all the chaos that wrought, and before that we’d done a few… sillier pieces involving the Pets of the Unusually Gifted, but we decided to do something together, a whole story and not just a fanfic like one, an original one.

This made me… ecstatic.

You see, for many years, I had a coauthor. A best friend. We started writing together our freshman year in high school, and we built books over the next twelve years, several of them, some better than others, mostly with the same characters.

Then said best friend and I had a huge falling out, and I for my part decided that I could not trust her. For me, then, it was impossible to continue working with her. I didn’t talk to her, either.

Whether that was right or not, it still left me without a coauthor. Those years were… difficult. I won’t lie. It was something I think I needed to have happen because I might never have published Just a Whim if I hadn’t been forced to write on my own for something besides fanfiction. I learned a lot about myself after the collaboration was over, and a great deal of it, I didn’t like.

I made changes. I want to say I grew, but I’m still debating that.

Still, I missed having a coauthor. I’d tried to encourage a few others to work with me in the intervening times, but it never quite worked. I did do a fanfiction with a friend, but we both ended up hating the show by the time it was over, and she has not been able to write for years as well. Others were just not interested or even had bad motives for wanting to work with me.

So it has been a bit of a journey trying to find someone who even wanted to do a piece, and I haven’t even started on how complicated it can be to coauthor something or how difficult I am to work with.

I just am… very grateful, and in my excitement for the project, I think I wrote too much, speedy writer that I am. Still, it means more than I quite know how to say to have a coauthor again. It’s different from what I had before, but I like it. It means a lot to me.

Sequel Psychosis

So I have been caught up lately in something I’ve decided to call “sequel psychosis.”

Basically, what this means is that every time I read something of mine, I want to write more of it. That wouldn’t seem like a bad thing, not necessarily, and if someone was reading it and enjoying it and wanting more, that would be something to be happy about it, right?

The trouble with it, the reason that it is a psychosis, is that there is too much going on already. There’s life, which always has plenty of chaos no matter what point one might be at in it. Then on top of life with its complications of work and family and friends and hobbies, there’s writing.

That is to say, when I got all of these sequel ideas lately, I was already knee-deep in three novels. I have Even Better than Dreams, the current serial. I have the third part of Fire and Water, the one I’m calling The Flood, and the sequel to the recently published The Consultant and the Cat.

However, as I was rereading and doing some editing, I wanted to jump right back into the sequel to Inheritance. I wanted to start in on a sequel to Merits and Means after reading it and attempting a summary for it. I had the start of a summary for its sequel.

Then I wanted to do a third for The Lady in Black and Back in Black because I missed Alec and Stasia and reread their story.

I managed to resist all that. Then I gave Liana Mir a prompt that lead to two stories, and when I considered that with a story I wrote and didn’t think I’d ever publish…

I lost.

I caved.

I wrote a sequel to that.

I am psychotic.

The Recurring Subplot

So I was trying to decide just why I write so many romantic subplots into my stories.

There is the concept of writing what you want to read, of course, but why do I want to read that kind of subplot?

Is it because I am single? Because I’m pushing one of those arbitrary sell-by dates and I’m alone? Because I don’t know what love is?

I have dated. It’s been a while, admittedly, and I think it’s fair to say that what I thought was love wasn’t love. I still don’t know what that’s really like, not personally, and maybe I’m still curious about it, wanting to know what that’s like so I write to define it or even to have the experience through the characters.

I want to deny that. It feels like something to be ashamed of.

I think there is a bit more to it. At least, I hope there is.

I have to do a separate piece on why I choose broken characters, ones that have been through some very hard times in their lives, but I do write them almost too frequently. A part of most of my stories is how they overcome the bad in their lives and get to the end where they have a bit of “happy,” where they are recovering and have hope.

(It occurs to me that I need an article on why I write stories with optimistic endings, too.)

At any rate, I think that people who have been through the kinds of things that my characters have and overcome them deserve to have happy, full lives. That includes love. Not just any love, the kind of love that holds the promise of forever or at least the rest of their lives.

So there’s that. I’m still not sure that’s a good enough reason to include the subplot, but it’s part of why I do, at least.

A friend suggested that I should write stories without it so that people could be fulfilled without that love. I’m not necessarily against the idea, I keep saying I’ll leave the subplot out, but it finds its way back in more often than not.

In cases like that, I blame it on the banter between the characters. They’re not supposed to go there and find that connection, but they do. I say the characters write the story, not me, and they do. Sometimes they see things that I don’t or want things that I wasn’t planning on giving them. Or they’re hurt worse than I knew and need more to heal.

Maybe they’d all revolt if I tried to leave that subplot out? Or maybe they’d be glad? Not that the subplot ever felt forced, not to me, but maybe they’d rather not share that part of their lives. I don’t know.

Then again, by that argument, if the characters didn’t want it, it wouldn’t be there. I could say that it’s not my fault. I almost want to. Then it’s not about me or my issues.

We’ll see what happens next time I start a new story. Maybe the subplot won’t be there. Maybe the characters will keep it out. Maybe I will.

That doesn’t help with the stories that I’ve already written, of course. It doesn’t solve my dilemma with one of the stories I’m currently working on, either. Such a pesky subplot that one.

Predictability and Writing: Your Opinion, Please

I recently had the same reaction as Tom Selleck’s character in Her Alibi when a couple of my regular readers had most of my story figured out before I’d written it.

It was predictable. My writing was predictable.

Now, don’t get me wrong, these are smart ladies who tend to figure out the plot of episodes and movies before they’re done. I do the same thing. That is why to me the important part of writing a good story is an enjoyable journey because I can, nine times out of ten, pick out the end of a mystery before it happens or predict that “big” twist that’s coming before the end.

But… to have two stories, back to back, be that predictable, bothers me.

If my writing is predictable, does that mean that I am, in essence, telling a story that I have told before? My characters are similar in many cases (they tend to be broken in some way and recovering from that because I like stories where they overcome that kind of thing in themselves in addition to the stuff around them) and since I write mysteries, predictably, there is a part where they identify the bad guy and the end comes.

I am a bit worried that I’m creating stuff that’s all the same, and who wants to read that?

I thought I’d work more in my science fiction areas or maybe a bit of fantasy to change things up some, but I have a poor track record of finishing my science fiction.

I thought I’d ask, then… How much predictability is too much?

In Her Alibi, his editor tells him its a comforting quality that his readers like. I put the question to all readers. What do you think of predictability?

Always Too Many Stories

One of the bane’s of a writer’s existence has to be that there is never enough time.

There will always be more stories than can be written. It’s an inescapable fact.

I tried to say once that even if all I did was write for a year, I’d never get through half of my stories for a particular subject. It was pointed out to me, very wise and correctly, that half was optimistic.

I’m not optimistic by nature, but that’s a different story.

The point of this being that there’s always something new that wants to be written or something old that was abandoned that wants to be picked up. There’s never enough time in a given day to do as much writing as wants to be done.  I say that as a fairly fast writer. Depending on the day, I can come up with at least 10,000 words, if not more.

For instance, in the space of about ten days, I wrote 76,307 words on one story, all the while working on my Nano fic and getting about 20,000 words on it. So, I wrote about 96,000 words in those ten days, roughly that 10k a day.

So, say I wrote 10,000 words a day, every day. Nano novels are 50,000 words long. That would give me a Nano novel every five days, in theory.

Why don’t I have a novel every five days? Other than actually having to do something besides write every now and again (though admittedly not doing as much of those non-writing tasks as those around me would prefer), of course.

My problem isn’t with speed.

No, my problem is with attention and inspiration. Recently I started tricking myself with the whole “this project must be done so that one is like cheating” thing, making one or more of my other stories “guilty pleasures.”  That means that I keep up a certain amount of work on the one story, and then the others get to be like… fun. More fun. Writing is almost always fun.

So really, the reason why I don’t have another finished novel yet this month is not about speed or even dedication. It’s that there’s never enough time, and when you have all these stories competing for your interest and time, you end up with some kind of crazy form of ADD that says, “ooh, look, shiny” and tries to drag you away from what you’re working on.

Did I need another story to compete with The Monster in My Garden Shed? No. I really didn’t. I already have the blog story, The Not-So-Super Superhero, that I am also working on. That didn’t matter. I couldn’t not work on the one with Effie in it, the one I’m going to call Nickel and Dime for now, after Effie’s store.

In some ways, I think that the pressure helps, having all these things to do. I keep waiting for the point where it breaks me, but I think self-preservation kicks in before that happens–I did that with In the Family, finished it to give myself some relief… Then I started working on All the Men in My Life and restarted the cycle. Is that healthy?

No. Oh, definitely not.

I’m dysfunctional.

I talked before about multitasking. About window flipping. Well, I need that window flipping with stories, too. Sometimes it’s nice to go to something else for a break. Sometimes it’s impossible to balance. Sometimes it’s necessary to leave a story alone for a while.

There’s always so many to choose from… Not hard to rotate through them.

The hard part is keeping more ideas from coming to distract you with their newness and shininess.

The Characters Write the Story, Not Me

I have said it before, and I will end up saying it again: I don’t write the story.  Well, I put it on paper, I type it, but I don’t dictate every little part of it. I sometimes call my stories wild rides, and that’s because sometimes I have no idea what’s coming next.

Some people sit down and write a full timeline before they start a story. I’ve tried it. It can be very useful. It can help keep a person focused. Or it can give a person a reason to write the later sections because they know what’s coming. Or at least that’s how I’ve misused it in the past.

After considerable exploration of the process over the last seventeen years (that’s how long I’ve been writing fiction for myself, though the early stuff was admittedly crap), I’ve found that what works best for me, regardless of the type of story I’m doing, is to brainstorm certain parts, the important ones, and to keep them in mind and a general sense of where the story is going. Some big reveal is always coming, the romantic pairing eventually finds their way to each other, and the major conflict is resolved. That is the nature of a story.

Knowing these general thoughts, even if it’s not perfectly clear in the beginning, is enough. Once the characters are created, once they’ve come to life, they’ll take the story where it needs to go. A lot of the time, it’s not even where I expected it to go.

Almost every time, though, it’s a whole lot better.


The characters know what works. They know themselves. They know what they’d do in a given situation, and they act accordingly. They say what they would have say, and it never fails to amaze me how one line in a conversation can change the course of the next section of the book or even the entire story.

Letting the characters tell the story, their story, is important. It makes them real, makes the story realistic. It is, I think, the single most important thing I can do if I write a story.

It’s Not the Author Who Matters

Going along with the characters tell the story idea, there’s this thing that’s been bugging me, and I think that in many ways I highlighted this with Any Other Reality.

Yes, that story is, in many ways, a spoof. It pokes fun at a type of fiction that–don’t get me wrong, I love. I have given many years of my life and much effort–almost blood, sweat, and tears to this type of writing.

What it really gets at, though, in the end, is the authors.

And I include myself in that number. I’m not immune. The pygmies are even mentioned.

I think one of the worst things a writer can do is forget to respect their characters. They’re human (sometimes) and bound to make mistakes, but they generally have reasons for the choices that they make. Ignoring their basic motivations and history to tell the story the way the author wants it is not right. It’s a bad process, and going down that road will not improve anyone’s storytelling. As a reader, when a character makes a choice that comes out of left field, you’ve just about lost me. Sometimes I stick around to see why they did that, and other times I’m just done. I can tell I won’t like where it’s going if that stuff happens.

Some equate writing to playing god. That’s something I’ve never liked.

I create characters, yes. I create worlds. They live in these worlds.

Does that make me the puppet master?

I try very hard not to be. They have reasons and motivations, and really, I’m just telling their story. It’s like I was a silent witness to it, not that I was telling them what to do. I wrote it down, but I didn’t interact.

So I feel the story is the main thing. It’s all that matters.

Forget I was even there.

Said May Well Be the Worst Word Ever Invented

So I was writing this paragraph earlier:

“I agree with the necessity of washing them,” Garan said. They said you should wash even brand new stuff from the store before you wore it. Besides, while it might be a minor detail, one most people might not notice, the clothes would not smell right. They should smell like they’d been washed in the same place, by the same people, if the cover was going to be realistic. “I’m not going to feel comfortable until the threat is completely over.”

What is tripping me up is the first part, after the dialogue, where it goes Garan said and then they said.

It doesn’t sound right to me to use said twice right there.

So I go to look up said in the thesaurus. First, the one in my office program calls it an adjective and has no real alternatives other than aforementioned and stated. I blink, pull up the internet window, and go to my usual thesaurus site.

I get a list of possibilities. I read through them, repeatedly, dismissing each in turn. They don’t fit.

I go to another site, get that said is an adjective again–and no, I’m not denying that it has a use as an adjective, but is it too much for the sites and programs to connect said as the past participle of say? Do I actually have to go look for say?

Apparently so.

But then say comes up as an adverb.

You would think, “said” being probably one of the more common words in the English language, it wouldn’t be so hard to find the right alternative. I can still hear, echoing in my brain, the voice of my sixth grade English teacher as she ranted about the horror that is lack of variety and read aloud from a Nancy Drew book that basically went:

said Nancy.

said Bess.

said George.

said Nancy.

And my teacher gave us a list of things to use instead. I try not to use said, but sometimes it’s just what you have to do. If I use it, I try to pair up some kind of adverb with it, to say how they’re saying it, but in this case, my mind is a blank, the thesaurus has failed me, and I feel like banging my head against something.

Said, you are an evil word, and I’d stop using you if I could.

Some Things to Stop Doing, Some to Start

Sometimes, when I’m not absorbed in my own fiction and that need to flip windows is strong, I head over to a blog that I was first introduced to by a friend on livejournal. The blog,, is one I have been extremely grateful to have found. I don’t think that Just a Whim would be published if not for articles there, the new world of publishing ones and killing the sacred cows of publishing.

I happened to go from there to an article that he’d linked to, 25 Things Writers Should Stop Doing.

I read over the list, finding things that yes, I have done and sometimes still do.


So… What did I do on the list?

1. Running Away? Did that for most of last year after completing Just a Whim. I didn’t want to edit it, didn’t want to fix the issues that were pointed out, and was scared to publish it. Well, no more running. It’s out there. It’s done. Ha.

2. Stopping? I had quit All the Men in My Life for a while. I put it away, did other things, pulled it back out, and then I put it away again until November, and then it took off and got done, mostly because I was supposed to be working on Any Other Reality. I have other stories that are still stopped. Can they be restarted? Maybe. Or maybe they should stay right where they are.

3. Writing in Someone Else’s Voice? To my knowledge, I do not and have never done this. I write stories like other people’s stories, maybe, or you might call fanfiction someone else’s voice because I make sure the characters are true to what I’ve seen/read, but I always thought there was enough of me coming out in it.

4. Worrying? Yeah, I’ve known about this one for a while, and yes, I still do it. I can’t stop. Or so I keep saying. I’ve been working on it, though.

5. Hurrying? I know I’ve felt like time is getting away from me and that all of these books that I’ve finished lately need to be published right this instant. Not true, of course, because they need edits and cover art and other things, but I still want them done, now, and out there. I also want to get through more stories because I’ll never have the time to do all the ones in my brain and I keep getting more ideas.

6. Waiting? Well… Waiting has to happen, in some things. I am waiting for other people to give me edits. I am waiting for cover art. Am I waiting for writing? No. I write daily. I have The Not-So-Super Superhero, The Monster in My Garden Shed, and the second novel in the Nickel and Dime series, and more that want to be written that I might just give into.

7. Thinking It Should Be Easier? I have a fairly natural gift for writing and the stories just come sometimes. Not always the case with editing. Not easy to find readers. Not easy to get feedback. Not easy to make changes. Not easy to make art. Not easy to promote. Not easy to make money. So I’ve learned these things. I have started to accept them, too.

8. Deprioritizing Your Wordsmithy? Nope. Not guilty of that. Ever. Sorry, but if all I do is write (and that’s pretty much true) how could I possibly be deprioritizing it? Even the stuff I have to fight to get out is better than it was years ago, I know that much. I am improving with everything I write.

9. Treating Your Body Like a Dumpster? Well, yeah. I have depression, too, and there are days where I don’t care about taking care of myself, don’t even feel like eating. So, yes, guilty. Part of the reason for the Great Hat and Hair Experiment of 2012 is to make sure I take care of myself and pride in my appearance for change. Oh, but I did somehow lose ten pounds last year, so I think that’s something.

10. The Moping and the Whining? Haven’t quit that yet. I was doing it this morning. So that’s something to work on, too. On the other hand, I have made great strides in moving past that. I pulled out the file for the Not-So-Super Superhero and I wrote on it and cleaned a bit and worked with my cover artist. So there.

11. Blaming Everyone Else? I admit, it has been convenient for me to put the whole editing thing on everyone else. I didn’t have edits back, so I could pretend I didn’t have to work on them myself. My cover artist was busy, so I didn’t have cover art. Does that mean that I shouldn’t have done anything? No. It also doesn’t mean that I didn’t do anything. I wrote. I keep writing. I keep creating ideas. I keep blogging and updating the website and the facebook. I’ve done pretty good, but I did blame a few things on other people, yes.

12. Shame? I don’t know that I’ve ever been ashamed to be a writer. I’m sick of getting asked if I’m doing homework when I’m writing, since I am not in high school and haven’t been for a decade, but hey, I look like I’m sixteen, so it’s awesome being mistaken for a student all the time. Not. Am I hesitant to share things with people? Yes. But I’ve been kind of burned before, so that’s why. I’m paranoid about people taking my ideas, too. I don’t know why, but I am.

13. Lamenting My Mistakes? Oh, that’s something I’m still working on. Yeah, I can’t seem to let go of those old ones. As far as writing goes, I’m getting better at fixing them. In real life? Not so much.

14. Playing It Safe? Hmm. Well, I am a coward by nature, I admit that. I’m not sure that I’m necessarily a coward when it comes to fic. I am trying to break free from my “types” and likes and have a whole list of things I’m not allowed to do in the next new things I do because I’ve already over done them, but that’s more of a part of number sixteen instead.

15. Trying to Control What You Can’t Control? Guilty. Yeah, I would love to control it all, and I get frustrated when I can’t. I’m working on accepting what I can and cannot change, though. It is an improvement from years past, but a lot of work to go there, too. Right now, I don’t look at reports or traffic and just try and keep my mind on writing.

16. Writing One Thing? I’m worried I’m writing the same characters over and over. Not that they’re all alike. That’s not what I’m saying. But I have a type, that’s true, and I’m trying to break free of that type, give myself some new changes, though I’ll always love those types. As far as variety, I’ve got science fiction and mysteries and even a bit of fantasy, so I don’t think I’m limited by genre by any means.

17. Writing for the “Market?” Um, no. Don’t think I’ve ever done that. I write for me, to tell that story I want to tell, and while it still stings and hurts if no one wants to read it or it doesn’t sell, I still enjoyed it. That’s okay by me. I still stick by that advice I read long ago: “write what you want to read.” And I do.

18. Chasing Trends? Okay, I snorted when I read that. I do maintain that there is no such thing as a completely new idea, just new spins on them. So, I admit that nothing is completely my own, but you sure as hell won’t find me doing any sparkling vampires or writing for teenagers.

19. Caring About What Others Are Doing? Again, a bit of laughter. My friend had a hard time convincing me to look at other authors’ websites to see what I could do to improve mine. My reasoning? I didn’t care what they were doing, and I wasn’t going to copy anyone.

20. Caring About the Publishing Industry? I think I know enough to know what I’m doing, hopefully, and that’s all I need to know.

21. Listening to What Won’t Sell? I had someone ask me to collaborate with them on a script project a while back. I learned the technique, the formula, and I said, no. He wanted me to follow what worked for the network, and I agree, it works. For them. Not for me. I don’t write that way. I would rather sell nothing at all then try and force myself to write what supposedly will. I’ll write the story I need to tell, nothing more, nothing less.

22. Overpromising and Overshooting? I don’t think I’ve done that. I’ve set some goals that I missed, particularly in publishing Just a Whim, but I have learned from them. I have never been big on making promises because I know I’m not good at keeping them. I just set somewhat realistic challenges. I knew I was capable of Nanowrimo, knew I could maintain a daily blog story, and so far, I have. Overshooting? Maybe with the three novel completion in November…

23. Leaving Yourself off the Page? Not a crime I’m guilty of. Every character has a bit of me in them, even if it’s only my love of coffee. The places are based off where I’ve been. I mean, the garden shed story started because of the garden shed incident (more on that later) and so I don’t think I’ve left myself out of any of my original stuff. Even some of my not-so-original stuff had me bleeding on the page. Oh, and my stories made me laugh and made me cry.

24. Dreaming? Do we count story dreams in this? Not going to stop them, but I do think I’m doing a lot more than I used to, putting it down on paper, sharing it with others, and taking those steps toward publishing.

25. Being Afraid? I said before: coward. Still, if I could overcome the fear of getting that first book out there, and I did, then I’m not only way past where I was two years ago, I know I can handle doing the next one and so on. Publishing doesn’t terrify me anymore. I want to publish. I want to write–that hasn’t changed, but I know I can do the rest of it, too.