Defiant: Chapter Three

I’ve discovered posting these chapters is encouraging for my current project.  I’m in the midst of revisions, which is somehow both exciting and a slog at the same time.

By revisions, I don’t mean editing for grammar and spelling.  That will come much later.  I’m going through and adding bits here and there to develop character arcs and fix plot holes and add all the emotion and detail I’m told readers want.  I spend at least an hour a day working on it, and I think I see progress.  It is just slow going.

In other news, someone asked me about my publishing plans.  The very simple answer is I’m aiming to traditionally publish.  The other option is to self publish, and those folks are amazing, but I’m not good at all the things one needs to be good at for that task.  When I finish this next novel, after the revisions and beta readers and the boring grammar and spelling, I’ll query agents to see if they’d like to represent me.  If someone agrees, then they’ll approach publishers to see if they’ll buy the book.  It takes a long time.

I’ll keep posting this first novel while we wait.  You can find all the previous chapters here.
Read Chapter Three

Defiant: Chapter Two

In case you missed it, I’m posting the first novel I wrote here on the blog.  Don’t worry – I’m still going strong on the second novel.  I’m knee deep in revisions.  All the revisions!  If all goes well, you won’t be able to read my second novel here as I’ll get it published.  For now, you can enjoy my first attempt at writing a story!

Last week, we met Aida and her friends in a delightful game of hide and seek before we got some backstory and lore via conversation.  You can read Chapter One here.
Read Chapter Two

Defiant: Chapter One

Last summer, I accomplished my goal to write a novel.  I loved the process so much that I’m doing it again!  In the meantime, my first novel has been hanging out on my computer as I don’t intend to publish it anywhere else.  Some have asked to read it, though, so I’ve decided to post it here on the blog.  Each week, I’ll upload another chapter.

Admittedly, this is a little awkward for me as my writing has improved and I know the next novel will be a much better read for you.  But this is still a fun little story, and I hope you enjoy! Read Chapter One

Implanted Danger

Remember back in November when I wrote about receiving an Honorable Mention with a story called IMPLANTED DANGER for Writers of the Future?  I’ve submitted that story to a few places since, and… it isn’t getting published.  That’s okay, though!  I was so pleased it did so well, to begin with.  It was such a vast improvement over my very short dragon assassin story (Lady Assassin), and I learned so much writing it, I have nothing but happy thoughts. As happy as this cat and his toe beans!

 

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Aragorn demanded a nap.

 

As it isn’t going to get published, I thought I’d share it here with you.  I hope you like it, but more importantly, I hope you see the improvement!  Practice really does pay off for writing.  I wrote this story as part of Mary Robinette Kowal’s Short Story Intensive Class, and I recommend it if you’d like to level up your storytelling game. Read Implanted Danger

Epic Best of Appalachia Tour

I recently returned from an over the top Best of Appalachia Tour with Wildland Trekking, my sister in law, and eight new friends in the mountains between Tennessee and North Carolina.  I’ve struggled with writing this blog post because I’m not quite sure how to adequately capture how amazing it was with words.  Perhaps one way to summarize is to say our last day of hiking was canceled due to severe weather, but the other four days were so satisfying, I didn’t even mind.

Look at the water!

Travel and Tourists

We drove to Asheville on the Saturday before the hike.  The drive was long and boring, but boring is probably the best thing possible for a twelve-hour drive.  Sunday was Palm Sunday, and I attended Mass at the Basilica of Saint Lawrence.  Built in 1905, it is the largest, freestanding, elliptical dome in North America.  Everyone was friendly, and the building was beautiful.  My only “complaint” was there was only one bathroom, outside and down the stairs in an alley.  I suppose that’s what happens when your church is that old!

The plan was to shop on Sunday after church, but rain shortened our plans.  We still hit the mall and outlet mall and ate too much food, as one would expect.  That evening, we met up with our group to discuss the hike.

Hike!

On Monday, we were supposed to do a hike at a higher elevation.  Due to ice and downed trees, the road there was closed.  I didn’t know that was even a thing that far south in April.  Thankfully, our super-guide, Nicole, was on top of it and we switched plans and did Wednesday’s hike instead.  We stopped about halfway up a trail to rest in front of one of the many waterfalls.  It was so beautiful, perfect, and picturesque that I had that feeling one gets when confronted with something much larger than oneself.  It was humbling and perspective-changing.  We discussed how the same thing could happen with tragedy, but we’d rather have the waterfall.

We stayed at Dancing Bear Lodge Monday and Tuesday nights, and I was unprepared for that amazing experience.  We had the restaurant (and amazing chef) to ourselves.  I don’t think I’ve ever eaten as much as I did on Tuesday night.  Our lodges all also had private hot tubs on the back deck.  It was the perfect end to both days.

Tuesday included a bear sighting!  We were far enough away to be safe, but I saw a momma bear and at least two cubs through the binoculars.  We explored some local human history before heading out on another eight-mile hike up to a waterfall.  This waterfall wasn’t quite as big as the one on the first day, but we were right next to it.  We were the only group there at that time, so we enjoyed lunch mere feet away from the amazing sight.

On Wednesday, we completed Monday’s eight-mile hike, which was part of the Appalachian Trail.  It was the hardest hike by far, and my Fitbit said I went up 200 flights of stairs.  We ran into several through-hikers or people who backpack from Georgia to Maine non-stop.  They were thrilled when our guide offered them our leftovers from lunch, and I’ve never seen anyone so happy about vegetables.  Our destination was Charlie’s Bunion, which was fantastic and high and also terrifying.  I was starving by the time we returned to Asheville, but the restaurant Wildland had picked out for us did not disappoint.

I was very sore starting on Thursday! Our hike was hilly and windy, but we had 360-degree views all around at the top of each of the hills visited.  We finished a little earlier and enjoyed walking around downtown Asheville before another perfect dinner.

As I said, Friday’s hike was canceled due to severe weather.  There was wind, flash flooding, and lightning just for fun.  We headed home early, and thanks to the weather, our twelve-hour drive turned into fourteen boring hours.  But again, better a boring fourteen-hour drive than a scary one.

Recommendation

This is the second Wildland Trekking trip I’ve been on, and I’d recommend the company to anyone looking for an excellent trip with good food, a good guide, and wonderful views. The Best of Appalachia Tour was rated an activity level 2.  I’m in reasonable shape but did find each day somewhat challenging.  Keep that in mind when planning, and make sure you’re prepared.  It’ll make the trip so much better.  Otherwise, they take care of everything!

First Draft February

February Writing

Only about 4,000 words written for the novel.  Why the decrease from January’s 42k?  I finished my first draft, that’s why!  The end flew by, mostly because I didn’t write as much there as I did at the start of the novel.  I already knew many of my planned revisions would affect the end, so I spent a little less time worrying what the trees in any particular location looked like and focused on the characters.

After the rush of excitement and ice cream, I closed the first draft window and let it sit alone for a bit.  “They” say to do this before the second draft so you’re not as attached to your work and you can come at it with a fresh eye.  “They” also publish more books than me (I’m at zero), so I thought I’d take the advice.

I did not stop writing, however.  I started up a new file and began work on a short story about a battle mage with a bad attitude.  Just to make it more complicated, I threw it in space.  My writing group seemed to enjoy the characters and ideas but said it was WAY too much story for the word count I’d used. The good news is they think it’ll make a great novel; the better news is I have a great writing group who tells me these things.  This is what writing groups are good for!

Now that the month is over, I’ve gone back to the first draft of the second novel.  I’m updating the outline and arcs, polishing my thoughts on the world, and adding two POV’s.  Yes, two more point of view characters, because one wasn’t enough and I like a challenge.  Should I add these POVs?  Who knows, but I have to try to find out.  This is where writing differs from my engineering job quite a bit, as there I generally know what I need to do.  I can also usually tell if my math is correct.  Writing is a lot less certain, at least in my limited experience.  Does that improve with time?  Let me know in the comments if you’ve had a different experience.

I know some people don’t enjoy the revision process, but mine involves a spreadsheet, so I’m quite happy.

Books Read

Legion versus Phalanx by Myke Cole.  I picked this up after finishing the first draft for something different.  As I haven’t read a history book of this type ever, this was different.  The author is a fiction writer as well, though, and I found the narrative easy to follow and enjoyable to read.  The events of more than 2000 years ago can seem difficult to understand, but he does a great job explaining the details and relating it to modern day motivations.  I’d call this a history book for people who don’t usually like reading history, and have recommended it widely.

Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri.  I picked this out of a list of recommended debut books on Amazon, and I am so glad I did.  The novel was inspired by the Indian Mughal Empire, which I knew nothing about before reading but now want to study.  There are few swords, but plenty of tension in this tale, and I devoured it over two days, stopping only to sleep, eat, and work.

Games Played

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey on the PS4, still.  This was the only video game I played this month.  The story with this game is excellent, and I am so emotionally invested I stayed up until midnight one night tracking down an evil group after they killed a friend.  I’m nearing the end of the game, but have more to look forward to as they’ve added a New Game + and there are DLCs.

Dungeons and Dragons.  Our group is going strong, and my druid is finally at a level she can cast some pretty badass spells.  Assuming she doesn’t get killed, of course.  She’s very squishy.  This goes well with my Critical Role consumption, which is still the only show I watch all week.

Entertainment Consumed

 

Dreary Walk

A dreary walk between winter storms

Just Critical Role, in terms of media.  Nature has been entertaining, however.  We’ve had snow, ice, tornados, wind chill warnings, and 60 degree days.  These often occur one right after the other, with little transition.  It is snowing as I write this.

The weather has made one of my other hobbies more difficult – hiking.  I’m training for a five-day hike in April in North Carolina.  I hate treadmills, so the bad weather has forced me to do something new.  This month, I became a mall walker.  That’s right, one of those people who just walks in circles in the mall.  I have to get my miles somewhere!

 

 

January Review

Greetings and Happy February! January flew by here, though it ended just like everyone else’s – freezing cold and covered in snow and ice. 1/10. Do not recommend.

Snowy Road

This is what the roads have looked like (from stocksnap)

Writing

January Words Written: 42,068

Check out that number!  That’s almost NaNoWriMo worthy.  It was a productive month as I fell back into the groove of writing after the holidays.  The first draft of my second novel is almost complete!

I’m looking forward to finishing the draft and starting revisions, but this time I’ll be taking the age-old advice of giving myself some distance. I’ll work on another short story between drafts to submit to Writers of the Future. I have a near-complete idea in mind.

An idea for another novel also popped into my head this month. I hear that is normal. You’re in the middle of your first draft, bogged down in all the words, wondering if it will ever end, and ooh! Look! Shiny new idea! I wasn’t abandoning the draft though, so I’ve taken some notes on the new idea and put it aside for now.

If you’re not a follower of the Writing Excuses podcast, now is a great time to start. They just began the 2019 season, and they’re discussing setting. This is a free podcast. It is only fifteen minutes long. And the people talking know what they’re doing. How can you pass that up? I’ve also signed up to attend the 2019 Writing Excuses Retreat because it was so good in 2018. It is also on a Caribbean cruise, which doesn’t suck.

Books Read

We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations that Matter by Celeste Headlee.  You may have seen an excerpt of this book or viewed her TED Talk.  I recommend both, but this is an excellent read if you have a bit more time.  Many non-fic books of this type seem full of extra filler just to take up space like they ran out of the good stuff after the third chapter but still needed more pages.  We Need to Talk is full of useful information cover to cover.  I’ve applied many of the suggestions to conversations with incredible results.

Blood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski.  This series is where the Witcher video games came from, and they’re just as dark and violent as the games.  I found it oddly structured, but I assume that has a lot to do with it coming from another country and language.  The most surprising thing was the lack of sexual content, given what I know from Witcher 3.  Oh sure, you can tell it is happening, but it was written in a way to generate interest and then move on.  I like how that was handled.

You’re Never Weird on the Internet by Felicia Day.  This was quite fun to read, as I’m about the same age as her and felt a lot of nostalgia at the mention of an earlier internet world.  It was also good motivation for my own adventures in creating.  She’s one of the people who helped bring Critical Role to Geek and Sundry, so I’m a fan by default, but enjoyed the book on its own merits.

Games Played

Fitness Boxing on the Nintendo Switch.  This was okay? I downloaded the demo, so it was free.  There was boxing.  There was music.  It was mildly entertaining for the few hours I played it.  The problem is I live on a trail and can get more exciting light exercise by going for a walk.

Witcher 3 on the PS4.  This game is fantastically long, and I’m still not finished.  The story and gameplay are excellent though.  There’s a reason it won many awards and almost every game I read about today is compared to this classic.  Also, it has the most badass trailer:

I’d still be playing Witcher 3, except I got something new on sale…

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey on the PS4.  I’m a little late to the party here, but it was half off so I bought it.  I’m having WAY too much fun playing it.  I’ve never been too good at combat, so the idea I can sit in a bush and wait until people walk by me and then take them down is ridiculous fun.  Or I can perch on top of a roof and unleash an arrow to drop guards one by one until an area is clear.  Amazing.

Dungeons and Dragons.  We started a new campaign a few months ago, and now I’m a level 8 druid.  I went with Circle of Dreams and play the healer who desperately wants to tank.

Entertainment Consumed

I stuck with Critical Role this month, catching Campaign 2 on Thursday nights on Twitch and enjoying a stroll through Campaign 1 on YouTube.  I started watching this show because of Dungeons and Dragons, but I keep watching it for the characters, the world, and the story.  Any Critters still reading?  Let me know in the comments.

December Writing

December was a quiet month coming off some exciting things in November, but it was a good month overall for writing and for life.

The First Novel

This novel is titled Defiant, but nobody knows that, so I’ll just keep calling it The First Novel.  I queried an agent in October, and then put that process on hold until after the holidays.

I’m very happy with finishing this novel, and completing it was the only goal I had when I started.  Everything else is added icing on an already lovely cake, so you probably won’t see me talk much more about this one in 2019 if it doesn’t go anywhere.

The Second Novel

This novel is tentatively titled Dragon Herald, which should tell you there are dragons!  The writing on this slowed down in December due to work demands, but I spent a lot of time on the plan.  I have over ten pages for the outline and have hopped right back into the writing after Christmas.

My goal for this novel is to complete it in 2019, though I’ve extended my target for the first draft to the end of March.  That will let me take April off from this story, which aligns with my actual hiking vacation.  If all goes well, I’ll do a short story in April.

Other 2019 Goals

I do other things besides write and play with my cats!  I like to exercise, so several goals address my health.  I need to get in shape to keep up on a hike in April (see below) and find I feel better if I exercise daily.  So that’s my target.

In a similar area, I’d like to eat healthier.  I used a gift card to do some adulting over Christmas, and now have a toaster oven which will roast broccoli in 20 minutes (including pre-heat).  I enjoy roasted veggies, but warming up the oven and cooking them there takes too long to hold my interest.  I’ve had vegetables three days in a row with this wonderful item.

I am not a morning person.  I have never been a morning person.  I will probably never be a morning person.  Mornings are terrible times when the world is going, but my brain isn’t quite at full speed.  I bought a nifty light therapy lamp a few weeks ago and use it for half an hour each morning while I eat.  I am still not a morning person, but mornings are significantly better.  The plan for 2019 includes daily use of this as well.

Vacations

I’m going on a hiking trip with my sister in law in April!  This will be a guided five-day hike, and I won’t be carrying a huge pack like I did in Colorado.  We’ll return to a hotel each evening for a hot shower and a cold beverage.

The other big trip for 2019 is the Writing Excuses Conference and Retreat. This is an excellent writing conference, and it is on a boat, so there’s that to consider.  I went this year and had an excellent time.  You should join us!

Sunset at Sea

Sunset at Sea

 

November Wins

NaNoWriMo

I decided to charge ahead with NaNoWriMo in my last post, but I don’t think I’m going to hit the 50k this month.  And that’s okay!  There are two reasons I’m not going to “win” this year:

  • Writing this novel is different than writing last year’s novel.  I’m going more slowly, but I hope it will require a lot less editing.  Last year’s novel saw almost a complete rewrite.
  • Writing is hard.  It can be harder after a course like the Writing Excuses cruise.  They warned us about this during the retreat.  With all that fantastic information, our brains can be a little overloaded.

Not to fear, dear readers.  The second novel will arrive on schedule.  This isn’t too hard to do since there isn’t a schedule, but I’m not going to let that stop me.

Querying

Adding the “-ing” to that word makes it look odd, doesn’t it?  I don’t think I mentioned this, but I have started querying agents for that first novel.  A fellow cruise-attendee encouraged me, as I was on the fence.  I sent out my first letter and received my first rejection.

This is actually a happy thing!  Rejection isn’t usually happy, but everything for this novel at this point is icing on the cake.  My goal was simply to finish it, which I did shortly after November last year.  The drafts, the improvements, the querying – all of it is extra.  Extra experience on top of my original goal.

Goal setting is important, but so is celebrating goals when we accomplish them.  I will never be less happy about finishing that book, no matter what happens next.

Honorable Mention

I took Mary Robinette Kowal’s Short Story Intensive class in June.  As part of the class, I wrote a draft short story.  I didn’t know what to do with it, but between novels, I spent some time editing it and then sent it off to Writers of the Future.

There were no expectations with this submission.  Much like the querying above, I saw this as just part of the process of becoming a writer.  I’ve never written a short story as an adult and knew the chances were low.

Then they emailed me to tell me my story had won an Honorable Mention!  This is still technically a rejection, but I see it as a win.  I cannot tell you how happy this made me; almost as happy as when I finished the novel.  Writing is a lonely process, and I really have no idea how I am doing.  Rejections can happen because you’re terrible or because you’re not quite there.  It is nice to know my writing is closer to the “not quite there” side of the spectrum.

 

November has been good to this writer!

 

 

NaNoWriMo Writer 2018

NaNoWriMo Writer 2018

NaNoWriMo

Thursday starts another go at NaNoWriMo!  National Novel Writing Month is a month-long project in which participants attempt to write 50,000 words between November 1 and November 30.  It is a big deal, and though I don’t have the current number, almost half a million people participated in 2015.

When I started November last year, I was excited about the journey to write my first novel.  I “won” NaNoWriMo early on November 26, but I wasn’t quite done with the story yet.  I wrapped up my first draft in December and then spent many months editing, rewriting, and polishing it until the whole thing was complete.

This year is a bit more challenging as I know what I’m getting myself into, and it is a bit scary.  Also, they warned us on the Writing Excuses cruise that writing might be hard for us for a while due to all the new information, and I’ve found that to be true.  October has seen bits and pieces of writing, but certainly not the 1667 words per day required to win again.

Six of Crows

Thankfully, I have been reading.  This month, I read Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo.  I’d somehow managed to miss this one, published in 2015, and found it when someone on the cruise described it as “Oceans 11 meets Sarah J. Maas.”  I really, really liked Six of Crows.  I couldn’t put it down once I started and have been talking about it ever since.

As I read it right after the cruise, I was hyper-focused on my reactions as a reader with the hope some information might help me as a writer. At some point, I realized I had some concerns with the plot.  Something happened that made me hop out of the story and into my own head, and I started to apply logic to the corners of the novel.  It was a great story, but like all stories, requires a certain suspension of disbelief.  And like all stories, I lost mine for a moment.  In the same instant, I realized I didn’t care. I needed to know what happened to the characters.  I needed to know if they were okay at the end. I needed to know if the romances bubbling beneath the surface broke forth.  I needed the characters.  Period.

At that moment, I also realized why I want to write.  I want to evoke the same emotion.  I want for a reader not to care about my failings, but be so in tune with the characters they flip the page anyway.  I should have known this already, but it has taken several novels where this has happened to me for me to notice.  I want to lead to the ending that makes other writers forget why they love the story to begin with.  I want the ending that makes people pissed it is over.  I want that feeling I had when Dalinar exchanged his sword for slaves, when I realized what Ender had done (and when Ender realized what Ender had done), when the Reavers pop out behind Serenity.  I think this makes me emotionally manipulative, and I don’t care.

NaNoWriMo may be more difficult this year because I know more, but I feel more confident about it precisely because I do know more.