Writing about relationships

Welcome to another edition of Writing Wednesday! Last week I discussed my trunk novel and how I was disassembling it and using bits and pieces of it, including the main plot, in my current work-in-progess (WIP).

The new story, a blossoming relationship between the main character and a faerie is coming along nicely. I’ve almost completed the first draft.

My biggest problem is I’ve never written about romances or relationships. Not as the main focus of the story anyway. 

Snoopy knows

Most of what I’ve written, thrillers, action adventures, sci-fi, fantasy, and horror, the main focus in on the main character surviving whatever the story has thrown at him. If there is a romantic relationship, it’s usually a very minor subplot hidden away in the main story’s focus.
And to be honest, I’ve never read a romance (closest l came was to start but not finish “Bridges of Madison County”) and in most of the stories I read, the relationship is also secondary, more like fill for the downtime between the action sequences. Something to simply make the MC seem a little human and vulnerable.

Take the romantic development in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “A Princess of Mars,” for example. John Carter meets Dejah Thoris, the most beautiful woman on two worlds, falls in love without really getting to know her, and spends the rest of the novel trying to rescue her from one predicament after another.

And considering I’m the nerdy bashful type, I don’t have a lot of personal romantic experiences to draw upon in writing this either.

So, its probably natural that I’m finding it difficult creating a believable relationship, a budding romance between two characters. It’s especially tough when the novel takes place over the period of only one week. 

I’m tasked with making the romance believable to the reader without them being pulled out of the story, “No one falls in love that deeply that fast!”

Sure, there’s a bit of Burroughsian boy meets princess, boy loses princess, boy fights to win back princess in it, but I don’t want to depend upon that cliche.

I want it to develop naturally into a believable romance that tugs at the reader’s heart strings. 

As I said, it’s hard. But then, if it wasn’t hard everyone would be able to do it.

Right?

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Weekly wrap up 

It’s Friday, so that means I’ve got a whole lot of random shit to throw at you. So, buckle up, buckaroo.

Short story released into the wild

I’m really excited to announce I have a short story appearing today in Stupifying Stories Showcase titled, “Without a Leg to Stand On.”

Linkie: http://stupefyingstoriesshowcase.com/?p=1450

Enjoy.

Speaking of writing

My current work-in-progress (WIP), the novel I mention I was writing in Wednesday’s blogpost is coming along nicely. I’m “in the zone,” so to speak and the words are just falling all over the place. Good words. Meaningful words. Words that have me excited for the first time in a very long time.

It’s one of those instances where if I’m not writing the story, I’m thinking about writing the story. Characters and scenes are bombarding my head continuously, probably making me a menace to other human beings as I bump into them because I’m in a creative trance.

So if you see me walking down the street, make way!

Weigh-in Friday

I lost some more weight. Now I’m just ounces — OUNCES — away from breaking the 200 pound barrier! The scale reports in at 200.4!

Huzzah!

New writing instrument

No, I didn’t pick up another fountain pen. Instead, after much research and soul searching and penny pinching, I bought one of those 2-in-1s. Is it a laptop with a detachable keyboard or a tablet with an attachable keyboard? It’s like the old Certs commercials. “It’s a breath mint. It’s a candy mint. It’s two! Two mints in one!”

Anyway, it’s an RCA Cambio 10.1″ 2-in-1. It’s replacing the horrible Samsung Tab 2 tablet I received several years ago when Verizon was having a penny sale on Fathers Day. Hated it almost from the start. No wonder they were giving them away.

I had bought a cheap, half-assed Bluetooth keyboard for the Samsung and that just barely made it tolerable. Just barely. I could write, but not proficiently because the keyboard was a little too small for touch typing and had a few keys, the :/; and “/’ keys for instance, on a different row and I’d hit Enter every time I meant to put in one of those symbols, so I’d have all these random line breaks all over the place.

But this RCA is nice. For one thing, it has a Windows operating system, not an Android, so I can write straight into Word and not have to mess around with apps that just simulate Word.

I’ve done more writing with it in the last two weeks than I’ve done in the months prior on that tablet, which is why I got it in the first place.

I’ve read some reviews that complain the keyboard has a “plastic” feel. Well, duh. It is plastic. What should it feel like? Stone? Leather? To me, it feels solid, sturdy, unlike some others I’ve picked up that seem rather flimsy.

Maybe I’ll review it sometime, except since I only use it for writing in laptop mode, the review would only be useful to someone who also only planned to use it that way as well. I don’t use it for the surfing the web or for email or games or anything else that would distract me from writing.

RCA Cambio 10.1″ 2-on-1

Syria

What the Hell? Trump launched a cruise missile attack? This is why you never elect a bully with small hands and a small dick. In his mind, the use of military force compensates for his feelings of inadequacy.

Can we now invoke Section 4 of the 25th Amendment?

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Unpacking my trunk novel

I set aside a novel several years ago. Not because it was a bad story, on the contrary, I really liked it, specifically the Main Character (MC) and a few other secondary characters. Plus, the main plot, I thought, was interesting.

I still do. But I became disillusioned after receiving some 60+ rejections from literary agents.

During the revision process,  which happened after each rejection — “Maybe they didn’t like this.” or “I bet they wanted a different beginning.” despite not receiving any feedback indicating any of those changes were needed — I had the novel Beta-read by several writers and editors. 

They all liked it, except the last one who said it was a good story but it was so poorly constructed only a complete rewrite from scratch could possibly help it. Yes, instead of listening to the majority, I keyed in on that last critique. At the time, I couldn’t see how I could rewrite it without rewriting it exactly as it was already written.

So I trunked it. I gave up.

But I couldn’t stop thinking about it. This was a novel, in the urban fantasy genre, that had started germinating in my mind back in 1993 or so, before I even knew there was an urban fantasy genre. It was the 90th anniversary of Harley-Davidson and Milwaukee was filled with the sound of rolling thunder. The excitement influenced my creation of a character, a sheriff, who rode a white pearlescent Harley. He became involved in a situation where demons were released into our dimension. I also created a secondary character, based heavily upon an old time radio character Chandu the Magician as well as the Marvel comicbook character Doctor Strange, a sorcerer who becomes involved and together the two characters join forces to battle the demons. The problem was, I couldn’t think of enough personal story to flesh out the sheriff to make him a three-dimensional MC and I had yet to create any backstory for the sorcerer to make him one. So I set it aside.

Years later, the story idea morphed into something closer to the novel I ended up subbing. Now the MC was the magician, both stage and real, who is called in by his friend on the Police force (no Harley) simply to identify occult symbols at a crime scene and everything took off from that point. 

It took me two years to write the novel and a couple more to edit and polish it to where I thought it was submission-worthy. 

I liked the MC and other cast of characters so much, I even wrote a complete sequel to the first novel, and started writing a third.

Over the next five or so years, I subbed the novel to agents, rewriting and editing after each rejection whether I got feedback or not, until that fateful critique when I trunked it for several more years out of frustration.

Recently, I started writing a new idea completely unrelated to the trunk novel about an ordinary guy who runs into (literally) a fairy, injuring her, and takes her home to nurse her back to health. It is a romance, of sorts, and the story has slowly taken shape in my head and on paper. Then one day, I had an epiphany. 

I could combine the two stories using the main plot from the trunk novel and this fairy story as a subplot. I could resurrect the MC from the trunk, making a few changes in his backstory, keep him a widower with a daughter, keep his Police friend, and get rid of the rest. The demon plot would provide the action and suspense while the fairy story would provide character development. 

So I’m writing that story. I’m writing most of it from scratch, too, except on occasion, I’m snatching snippets of dialog or scenes from the trunk novel and with minor edits fitting them seamlessly into my new work-in-progress.

And I’m excited again. Even more excited than I was when I first wrote the trunk novel, because the subplot is providing the missing piece of the puzzle that I think the trunk novel was lacking — the human interest part.

I am writing and I’m actually enjoying it.

Write, Ferret, Write!

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What was once lost is found again

​It’s been a year since I’ve written anything, and longer than that since I wrote anything I actually liked. Call it writers block or what have you. I had given up and thought I’d finally come to terms that I just wasn’t a writer. I was a reader. No shame in that. Readers are an important part of the literary circle of life.

Recently I rediscovered Ray Bradbury. Last time I read him, “The Martian Chronicles,” I was far too young to appreciate the writing itself but those stories had an impact on my young psyche.

I reread “The Martian Chronicles,” Then read “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” followed by “Fahrenheit 451.” 

You don’t just read Bradbury, you become immersed in the language. There is poetry there. His sentences are like music for the eyes. His phrasing touches the soul and awakens the psyche.

It was while starting “Dandelion Wine” that I noticed it. A long dormant feeling. I tried to focus on his words, but I found myself growing more and more distracted. 

I’d read a sentence, a paragraph, but I couldn’t remember what I’d read. Instead, each word sparked a resonating echo in my mind. A reflection. 

And soon, with reluctance, I put the book down. I knew this feeling. It was like an old friend.

I wanted to write.

So I did.

The first day I write over 7,000 words. The next day I wrote some more.

I ran on my treadmill and don’t recall anything about the TV show I had on. Instead, my imagination freely flowed over the story idea I was working on, giving me more insights into the world and it’s characters. 

I was immersed in the music of my own writing and I was glad for it.

But more than that, not only does writing once again give me joy, a joy I thought I’d lost, even when I step away from writing to do everyday mundane tasks, I feel imbued with an elation, a euphoria if you will. 

It’s as though I had been stranded in the dark for years and a light has come to illuminate my path.

In other words, a part of me that I thought was lost has been found again. The childhood joy of writing has returned.

I feel whole again.

And I give thanks to Ray Bradbury.

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Adventures in ADHD: Self-publishing

As you recall, in my last blog post I talked about learning more about self-publishing. I tried to Google it and unfortunately, that didn’t go so well.

Do it. You end up with 139,000,000 and if you suffer from attention deficit, that comes to about 138,999,995 too many.

I mean, where to start? It’s too overwhelming. I need a limited number of choices or my eyes start spinning like rocket-powered pinwheels.

So feeling as though I were cast adrift at sea, I did what any drowning man does: got a book on the subject.

Luckily, Half Price only had two to choose from and I picked the latest of the two, published in 2014.

It’s “Self-Publishing Your Novel Made Easy” by Richard N. Williams.

I took it home and dove right in. Williams has an easy style and the information was readily understood so that by the time I finished it, my head no longer felt like it had been stuffed with cold oatmeal and the anxiety attacks stopped every time someone said, “eBook.”

I understood the terminology used in self-publishing, I had a good grasp of the eBook publishing platforms available, and knew the difference between a direct vendor (Amazon’s KDP, Apple iBooks, Kobo) and an aggregator (Smashwords, Lulu), who will distribute your eBook to many vendors. I learned about copyrights, ISBN numbers, and a lot of the jargon the Annointed throw about.

Now when I Google self-publishing and get 139,000,000 hits, I’m not so overwhelmed because I can separate blogs offering information from vendors, and so on. The stress headache is gone.

Leaving me free to decide what route I want to take to start the process of publishing my novel.

It’s a novel that I wrote years ago, and has been edited and reedited, beta-read, and submitted to numerous agents.

It was publish-ready, or so I thought.
I have nearly two dozen versions on my hard drive. Each an improved version of the last as I got feedback. But as I looked at it, it hit me.

I had started the story at the wrong point!

In my first draft, I had the main character and his daughter driving to school. I figured some character development would be nice, an introduction, and then later, he gets a phone call about a murder.

But that turned out to be …. well, dull because nothing really happened until the second chapter.

So I added another chapter where my character hears a psychic scream and goes to investigate. This introduces him as a sorcerer and there’s finally a little action. Fine, except now the arrival at the murder scene is two chapters away.

Also, someone said, “I’d like to know how he got his powers, how he came to be.”

OK. OK. So I added some back story that answered his origin and added a little humor to it, but now the murder was three chapters away.

And now, just minutes ago, it hit me. The story is about the whys and wherefores of the murder so, start with the murder!

It seems so obvious in retrospect.

Start with the murder.

So I’m off to revise the story once again.

And then, I can start the self-publishing journey.

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To self-publish or not to self-publish

One of my many New Year’s Resolutions is to figure out this thing called “self-publishing.”

Now when I first started writing, on a manual typewriter — ah, those were the days, fingers all black with carbon… sorry, I digress. Back in the days before the Internet and electronic publishing, there were just the traditional publishers.

If you wrote, or were writing a book, there was really only one way to get it published, the old-fashioned way: submitting a query to an agent, hoping the agent loves your book enough to take you on as a client, then hoping your agent can convince one of the many book publishers that they should love it also.

As a writer of sci-fi and fantasy, my dream was to be published by Ace or DAW or Signet. That was pretty much every sci-fi/fantasy writer’s dream, because there was no other route back then.

Self-publish? That was a dirty word. That meant you failed. You were a loser. An egotist who needed to see his name in print even it meant they had to *shudder* pay, sometimes thousands of dollars, to get it published. It was vain and thus the term, vanity press came into being and it was a pejorative.

Respectable writers didn’t even consider self-publishing.

That was then, this is now.

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Now self-publishing, whether it is an eBook or a publish-on-demand (POD) print book, is regarded with more or less favorable light. Some of us old fogies are still a little leery of it, still think of the old negative stigma associated with it, but little by little we’re beginning to realize self-publishing is a respectable activity. It gives you creative control. It gives you an opportunity to put your book out where the public can see it, something that might never happen with traditional methods because the gatekeepers can’t publish everything. They have to make choices based on monetary considerations and sometimes good novels have to be rejected.

So I’m trying to overcome forty years of being indoctrinated that self-publishing means failure and trying to learn this other side of the publishing industry.

There’s a lot to learn and so far I’m very overwhelmed and not exactly sure where to start. It’s like learning how to walk all over again.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

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Writing and the love of discovery

One of the things I like about writing is the discovery. I don’t mean the discovery of the story, or the world within the story, I mean the discovery of our world, our history.

As an example, I’m currently working on a weird western set in 1869. So far, I’ve been reading about the Transcontinental Railroad, when it finally met up (May 10, 1869), including the Pacific Railroad and how it cut through and over the Sierra Nevada mountains. I did research on cattle drives.

One thing in particular, my character is a newspaper man. I wanted him to be reading a novel. I thought maybe a Mark Twain novel would be nice. Everyone knows of Mark Twain and if he had a copy of Twain’s newest book, that might lead to some dialog about the book and about the characters.

Well, to my shame, I learned Twain didn’t publish his first novel, “The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today,” until 1873 and his great novel, “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” wasn’t published until 1884. So that blew any chance for conversations like, “Is that Twain’s latest? I love Twain!” Granted, Twain had published four short stories before 1869, and in 1869 he did publish his most popular work, “An Innocent Abroad,” which was a non-fiction travel book and his best-selling work, but unfortunately in 1869, I don’t think he had the name recognition I was looking for.

So I did a search for novels published in 1869. I wanted my character to be reading a soon-to-be-published work in order to do a critical review of it and the conversation would go from there. I mean, there were some great novels published in 1869, such as Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s “The Idiot,” which I haven’t read yet. Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace,” which I have no intention of reading. Also Louisa May Alcott wrote “Good Wives,” Horatio Alger wrote “Luck and Pluck.” “Lorna Doone” by R.D. Blackmore came out that year, as well as Ivan Goncharov’s best known work, “The Precipice.” Victor Hugo published “L’Homme Qui Rit” (The Man Who Laughs) and Sheridan Le Fenu (who wrote “Camilla,” an early vampire tale that, coincidentally, I used in a story I wrote a few years back featuring the same protagonist as this current WIP) wrote “The Wyvern Mystery.” Not to mention the author of “Madam Bovery,” Gustave Flaubert wrote “Sentimental Education.”

Anyone of those would have suited my purpose. Those are all recognizable authors or recognizable works.

But then, I saw it. The novel. The one that would fit perfectly within my own story. You see, one of the other characters in the story is a young man, eighteen or so, traveling with his older sister and he has aspirations to be a bad ass, looking up to a wanted gunslinger. He’s illiterate, which isn’t a surprise for that time, and my MC has the book. The kid is looking at it, struggling to read the title, and my MC says, “It’s ‘The Story of a Bad Boy.'”

Which the kid takes to be an insult directed at him. And we go from there.

So, now, before I can write any further, I’m reading Thomas Bailey Aldridge’s “The Story of a Bad Boy,” which, coincidentally, some consider a foundational story that inspired other “bad boy” stories, like Twain’s “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.” For my story, it works on many different levels.

Now I have to finish “The Story of a Bad Boy” because, honestly? It’s a really good book and I can’t put it down. And if I hadn’t been writing, I’d never have discovered it.

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