It’s Been One Month–

The time has gone by pretty quickly, but today makes one month since coming out at work.  It really makes a lot of things, ’cause February kept me kinda busy–

I came out; I finished a novel; I finished up editing another project; I started editing one of my old novels.  I successfully fought off a cold that was trying to take me down last Friday.  I’ve answered personal question and done at least five videos.  That’s a busy schedule when it comes to the artistic endeavors; so what about work?

Um . . .

"I thought at least there would be one day when people would run screming when they saw me."

“I thought at least there would be one day when people would run screaming when they saw me.”

Work be work, mon.  The first week people came ’round to see me, to speak with me, to congratulate me on doing something brave, and I took it all in stride and with a smile on my face.  I’ve had exactly one negative comment, and I shut that down pretty quickly, but everyone else has accepted me to the point where now, I’m just another woman in the workforce.

Which is how I want it.  I was probably the most surprised to discover that my coming out was the biggest non-event, and the fear that manifested a month ago about coming into work as myself quickly evaporated as I settled in and did what I always did.  Now, tomorrow, I’m giving a program presentation, and I’m probably going to break in some new shoes because I’ll need something to keep me awake.  Or maybe go with something comfortable, because I’ll be thinking about how much my feet hurt most of that morning.

So a month down and more to come.  This week I mark eight months on HRT, and it’s hard to believe that in another four months I’ll be a full year on hormones.  I should meet up with a friend this weekend, so maybe some kind of celebration is in order.  And for when I hit the big one year mark, I really need to do something.  No problems, though:  I have four months to think about what that might be.

I’ve cut down on my writing.  Most of it is due to editing, but a lot of it is due to being tired.  Sixteen months on a single project is a long time, and I’ve not fully recharged from the event.  Yet, I really miss my kids.  I miss bringing out their world.  At the same time I feel like I can’t write about them, at least now right now.  I don’t know why I’m feeling this way, but I am.  But there are ideas coming up for the next novel, and I’ve been drawn to the urge to start up a Scrivener project and start plotting out things.  It’s not gonna be as big as the last novel, but even if it goes one hundred thousand words, that’s still a lot to write down.

Things are normal.  It’s been a month out at work and almost a month done on the novel.  The longest I’ve gone without doing any new writing is about a month, but . . . maybe I can hold out a little longer this time.

After all, I still have other things to do.

Tales of Writing For Tanya

Here I am, once again, with questions about writing, and I saved some of the best–and longest–for last, all from my friend Tanya, she of the video I released just the other day.  If there is anyone who knows me as a writer it’s her, because she’s been with me from the start of when I began writing once again.  That means she also knows what questions to ask.

And those questions are:

 

What does your writing process look like? Do you have any writing habits that might be considered strange or unusual? Just how important are names in your books? What is your LEAST favorite part of the whole writing/publishing process? Is there a certain type of scene that’s harder to write than others? Have you always enjoyed writing and if so, what were some of the earliest things you remember putting pen to paper about? Do you tend to write your stories in order or do you skip around?

 

A lot of questions, so let me address them one at a time.

 

What does your writing process look like?

 

I spend a lot of time thinking about what I’m going to write, then I start gathering data for my story–if it’s necessary–and once that’s all finished, I plot things out and start writing.  While I’m writing I’m constantly thinking about what’s just around the corner in the story, and I’m working out future scenes in my head as I going through whatever I’m working on currently.  I also do that because with a large enough work–like this last novel–you find that some things didn’t work, some things need more explanation, and sometimes you just gotta add or remove scenes to have the story work.  I try to write every night, and I try to get in between five hundred and a thousand words a night.  Five hundred words doesn’t sound like much, but if you keep at it every day, it adds up.

 

Do you have any writing habits that might be considered strange or unusual?

 

Other that monthly sacrifices to Cthulhu, no.  I enjoy listening to music when I’m writing (as I’m doing right now, listing to a Genesis concert from Zurich, Switzerland, recorded during their Wind and Wuthering tour in 1977), but there aren’t any other unusual habits I have when I’m working on a story.  Though I suppose one could say that once I start a story I dedicate myself to finishing it and not working on or getting sidetracked by other stories that may pop into my head.  If that happens they go into the idea file and I move on.  Remember, kids:  stay focused on what’s before you, and stop with the “But this other story came up and I just had to work on it!”  If that’s the case, then the first story was never meant to be.  And if you get distracted by a third story after you start that second, don’t quit your day job.

 

Just how important are names in your books?

 

They’re important.  As I’ve pointed out in another post, I work on my names until I get them right, and I’ve worked on stories before (Her Demonic Majesty being one) where I had a character and I just had the hardest time writing about that person because I wasn’t diggin’ the name.  But once I know who “they” are, then I’m good to go and I get into them greatly.  Sometimes I get into a character’s name so much that whenever I hear it outside the story, I sort of flash on my character and wonder what they should do next.

 

What is your LEAST favorite part of the whole writing/publishing process?

 

Promotion is, for me, the worse.  That’s because I’m really not good at selling myself, and I always feel like I’m pushing my crap onto other people if I’m trying to get them interested in my stories.  Even though it’s the only way to get any exposure in these days of self publishing, I hate it.  And once you’ve seen another writer spamming every thread they can access with invitations to read their story, you feel like you don’t want to bother people with your requests.  Truly, I suck at this.

 

Is there a certain type of scene that’s harder to write than others?

 

A lot of people would imagine romance scenes are hard to write, but I’m actually go with those–I enjoy writing them, because if handled right, romantic scenes are great for character building.  Just look at Annie and Kerry and see how they grew in their romance.  (And, no, That Girl does not exist here.  Nope.  Not at all.  Move along.)

The scenes I have the most difficulty writing are action scenes, and here’s the reason why.  These days, action has become associated with visual presentations seen on movies and television.  We now have an expectation of how action is suppose to play out, and directors and special effects people know exactly how those are to look.

The only thing is, action on the screen is difficult to play out on the written page.  There are only so many adjectives one can apply to action before you start repeating yourself, or end up looking ridiculous.  And if you watch closely, some action scenes in movies play out forever:  it’s like they slipped into a Whovian Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey ball of stuff, and what should be over in two minutes gone on for twenty.

My action scenes tend to be short and quick, because if you were paying attention, the three main action scenes that were in The Foundation Chronicles:  A For Advanced–Kerry fighting the Abomination; Annie and Kerry against the homunculi in Self Defense class; and the Battle of Link Bridge–went fairly fast.  Well, two of the three, but we’ll get to that . . .  The reason they went fast is either due to some heavy-ass magic flying about–the Link Bridge battle–or one opponent was outclassed by the other–Kerry and the Abomination.  In the second example Kerry quickly came to the conclusion that if he hung around trying to fight this thing he was gonna die, and did what he could to get the creature off Emma and to come after him thinking he could somehow outrun the beast.  In the first example you saw that magic fights were a little like modern day aircraft or submarine battles:  if you get through the defenses and hit, you’ll score a kill.  As I showed, the Link Bridge Battle was over in forty seconds, and most everyone was in bad shape after that little soiree–even the winners needed a quick evac.

The exception to this rule was Annie and Kerry fighting the homunculi scene–or as I lovingly titled it, The Walking Tests.  That went on for about nine thousand words, due to the set up, the preamble of one coven getting their butts kicked, and after the fight hearing about how the test may have been set up, and our two combatants wandering off to clean up.  The actually battle seemed to take some time, only because there was some butt saving, and some talking, and most talking, and finally–well, once the kids figured out how to dust those loser homunculi walkers, it was over quickly.  If I had to put a timer on the action, I’d say Annie and Kerry were on the mat no more than a couple of minutes at most–and that took four thousand words.

Though I have to admit that scene was one of my favorites to write, even if it did take me almost a week . . .

 

Have you always enjoyed writing and if so, what were some of the earliest things you remember putting pen to paper about?

 

While I like telling stories, I can’t say I’ve always enjoyed writing.  Mostly because, at least in the beginning, one, I have horrible handwriting; two, I can’t spell worth a damn; and three, I couldn’t type.  Once I learned to type I only had Point Two holding me back, and spell checkers help out there greatly.

The first story I remember completing was a horror tale that was really about as amateur as they get, complete with creepy, unknown things going bump in the night, and the overused trope of the author (the story was told in first person point of view) continuing to write as the Horror Outta The Basement came to eat his ass–otherwise known as the Apocalyptic Log with the writing making sure everyone read The Last Entry.

At the time I thought I was doing something great, but now it’s not hard to see it was complete crap.  I really had no idea what I was doing, and I was totally coping the style of a write whose work I enjoyed.  All writers do this (well, almost all), and I learned from that work, because my next two were much better.  The second story I wrote was done with original characters, and involved a trio of time travelers realizing the part they had to play in the assassination attempt on President Reagan in 1981.  It was the first time I worked with original characters who weren’t just there as part of the scenery, and there was the first inkling of a story starting to play out.  (True story:  this was written as an assignment for an adult writing night course I was taking.  The instructor had wanted something along the lines of four to five pages; I turned in twenty-eight.  She made certain to tell the whole class that I’d actually turned in a story, which I found a little embarrassing.)

And my third story was really sort of a fan fiction, as it took place inside a role playing universe that I was running at the time–however, I used all original character (save for two who were really in a position to help drive the plot along), and there was an actual history developed in the course of telling this story, where I was giving background on some of the characters, and even giving them, in the course of the story, motivation for their actions.  It was also my first really cinematic story, as I could see scenes playing out as if I was watching this play out on HBO–and given all the swearing and mayhem that occurred in the story, it would have been perfect for HBO before the coming of the show known as A Song of Breasts and Dragons.

The most important thing about the story, however, was the length:  it was about forty-five thousand words, which means long before I wrote my first novel, this was my first novel, at least according to the guild lines set down by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.  And only a few friend ever heard the whole story:  I never posted it on the Internet, I never tried to get it published because I know, as a derivative entity of an existing work with a legitimate copywrite, I couldn’t do anything with the story.  I read it at writer’s meetings, and that was that.

None of these works exist any longer.  They all resided on the hard drive an old computer that eventually went belly up, and were lost to history.  I managed to find a hard copy of almost half of the third story about fifteen years ago (all these things were written in the late 1980s, early 1990s), but even that has vanished.  I could, however, rewrite the third story if I had to, because even to this day I remember it well, because, really, you never forget your first.

 

Do you tend to write your stories in order or do you skip around?

 

And we finally come to the last question, and the crowd goes wild!  Just kidding . . .

I write everything in order, and even I find that a bit strange, because as I have my stories laid out so well, it doesn’t make sense that I start at the beginning, work my way through the middle, and work towards the end, because if I know what’s going into a scene months before I get to it, why not write said scene?  Writing software makes this possible, and with all my scenes for my last novel developed before setting down word one, then why not skip around?  Why not write about what happened to Annie and Kerry in Kansas City long before they go to the Samhain Dance, or why not write the ending–which I knew before I started writing–and then get the kids together?

Because even though I know what’s going to happen before I get to those scenes, I don’t know what’s going to happen until I get there.

Allow me to explain.

When I laid out A For Advanced I knew the kids would go to Kansas City on a field op for the good guys.  And, in a metadata view of the story, I knew certain things would happen there.  What I didn’t know were the details, and I didn’t start working on those until I was about ready to write them.  This was after I had months to think about that adventure, and even when I started writing, I only knew maybe six events in any kind of detail.

Annie and Kerry talking about France outside the school?  Came to me that day before I wrote the scene.  Same with the Dreamspace scene; had that idea the night before because I knew it made sense given what they knew.  The CDC?  Also figured out the day before I wrote the scene, based upon what I knew of the world I’d developed over the last year.  And the Magic Show the kids gave in the park only came about due to knowing what they had already done magically, and want I wanted to bring up in a later scene.

In short, I couldn’t have written any of the Kansas City scenes without knowing what my kids had been through before getting there.  I mean, I could have, but those scenes would have been completely different, and it’s very likely I may have needed to rewrite them completely to fit with what I’d written if I’d decided to work the whole field op out of order.

There are scenes I could write now for later novels because I know them well–and believe it when I say I would love to sometimes, just to write them out.  But I would probably end up rewriting them later, and I hate to do that.  It’s best to get to them in the right order so I know that my kids have advanced the way they’re supposed to advance.

Though if I did write out The Polar Express now it would answer one burning question . . .

"She finally tells us if Kerry nailed that tramp Emma and ends up cheating on Annie, who is just way too good for him!  Yay!"

“She’s finally going to tell us if Kerry nails that horrible tramp Emma and ends up breaking Annie’s heart! Yay!”

Ummm, on second thought, I’ll just keep that information to myself for a few more years.

There you have it:  twenty-five hundred words telling you a bit more about me as a writer.  I hope you found it entertaining.

Because I remembered things that I thought I’d lost.  And that’s a good thing.

Stepping Off to the New

How was everyone’s day?  Good, I hope.  Mine was, well, let’s say pretty good.  I had a huge post yesterday, and it was a good thing I got it out early because in the afternoon it had to compete with the Internet shutting down over escaped llamas and bad dresses that may have been black and blue or gold and white–a question so burning for some that in one group I’m in on Facebook someone actually flounced because they were told they were wrong about the color.

"Now that I've solved the greatest mystery of the Internet, I'm going to tell all these losers wh--Oh, Llamas!"

“Now that I’ve solved the greatest mystery of the Internet, I’m going to tell all these losers wh–Oh, Llamas!”

Me?  Well, I gave my opinion on one (the dress), and we told many times about the other (the llamas), and continued working on something else.  And I made a lot of progress given that I was being told about the most earth-shattering events of the day–while at the same time my mind was on my own dilemmas as well.

Of late I’ve been thinking about a . . . let’s call it “next novel”.  And I think you know what novel I’m talking about, because people have actually asked me when I’m starting on that book.  I was even considering writing a scene from it, because it’s been calling to me a little, and I wanted to do something for that calling–

At the same time, though, I’ll admit:  I’m tired.  I told a friend last night that when you put almost sixteen months of your life into any project, you get tired of said project after a while.  It happens to the best of writers, and I imagine there are days when George R. R. Martin just wants to turn loose the Dragons of Westeros and torch the whole damn thing to the ground because he’s been working on the same stories for twenty years.

There is a real hesitation to get into the project again, to start on a second novel, because I may not have the energy needed to get into plotting everything out and start writing.  The good thing is I don’t need to make up any new characters, because save for a few people, they’re all there.  The bad news is I have no idea how long this sucker will turn out, and it scares me to think it could be huge.  The logical portion of my brain says that won’t be the case, but I won’t know–not until I plot it out.

While I was editing, however, I was contacted by other friends and asked if I wanted to get involved in another writing project.  And this sort of got me thinking, because it would be part of a collaborative effort, and that would mean I don’t have to do everything.  Also, it’s a change of pace, one that doesn’t involve throwing your body and soul into and coming out the other end of the wringer beat to hell and gone.

I’m looking forward to this, because it’s a change-up that I can use.  I’ll get back to Annie and Kerry when I’m ready–

After all, I’ll do their story more justice if I’m not exhausted all the time.

Writing at the Speed of Imagination

After a slow start to the day I’ve come back to a point where I am actually thinking straight, almost like a real person.  It’s wonderful that I’m not crashing out right about now.

Today I’m going to answer another reader’s question and this one is from Christy Birmingham, who I’ve followed for sometime as well.  Her question is simple:

 

What are your top three reasons for using Scrivener?

 

That’s an interesting question, because I’m not certain I can answer it sufficiently.  You see, there are so many different reasons why I use it, but let me see if I can break this down to something that makes sense.

 

One:  I can organize everything from the shortest story to the longest novel however I like.

 

Let me show you a few things.  First up is, believe it or not, the only real short story I’ve ever written, The Relocater, which clocks in at fifty-eight hundred words.  I wrote it in September, 2013, over the course of five nights, just to prove to myself that I could write a short story.

Looks kinda cute, doesn't it?

Looks kinda cute, doesn’t it?

There isn’t much to organize here, and Scrivener even has a short story template that allows you to just rip off some quick stories when you’re in the mood.  In this case I wanted quick and dirty, and that’s what I got.

Now, here is the novel I’m currently editing, Kolor Ijo:

Welcome back, 2012 NaNoWriMo story!

Welcome back, my friend, to the show that never ends.

When I laid out this novel I’d used Scrivener for about fifteen months, so I had a better grasp of how I wanted to set up my novel.  You can see that here I’m setting things up in parts, and that each text file is really a chapter.  And since most are short and separated in action from each other, I can get away with having it neatly laid out this way.

Now, maybe you recognize this work . . .

Every time I think I'm finished, you pull me back in.

Every time I think I’m finished, you pull me back in.

This is, right here, the most advanced layout I’ve ever done, which is for, naturally, The Foundation Chronicles:  A For Advanced.  And I should mention that the layout I have today is not the one with which I started.  When I began writing this in October, 2013, there were parts, there were chapters, there were scenes–but there were no acts.  It was only after I was close to finishing what is now Act One that I realized this story was gonna be huge, and trying to release it as one large tome might not be a good idea.  Therefore, I added the acts, began moving Parts into those Acts, and everything followed.  And that’s one of the things I love about the program.  However I want to set up my story, however I want to lay out my research, however I want to link to information from internal and external sources, I can.  It’s all up to you.  It’s even possible-though I haven’t tried it yet–to build your own template so these setups are available when you go to create a new project.  Like I’ll need with I write that B Level novel.

 

Two:  Write in one simple format, compile it into anything.

 

As a word processor Scrivener is simple:  it’s just text files where you can set margins, font styles, and font sizes.  You can so most everything that you can do in, say, MS Word, though for some functions you need to be hooked up to the Internet to get them to work, but who isn’t these days?  (And those functions are really needed to get the story written–I know; I’ve done that.)

But where the program really shines is in the area of how your final product look.  The Compile function is the formatting system of the program, and it makes it possible to just write lines of information in each text box, and by setting definitions in the Compile pop-up box, you can make the output look any way that makes you happy.

So many options, so little time to play with this stuff.

So many options, so little time to play with this stuff.

Most of the time I’ll compile into PDF format to look for errors and to send to beta readers, because you can’t change the stuff in that format–well, you can, but I have to trust my beta readers.  When I’m ready to send something up for self-publishing, I’ll compile the document to a Word .doc and run it through various checks as it’s converted into an epublishing format–

Which Scrivener will actually do for you.  .Epub and .Mobi are the two epiblishing formats supported by Scrivener, and if I remember correctly, Amazon will allow you to upload .mobi to Kindle Direct.  And those options on the left of the popup window?  Those are you selection and formatting options.  It’s actually possible to take plain, unaltered text an set your margins, fonts, and sizes in there, and have a ball getting your final product ready for whatever you like.  I haven’t explored all that because, well, it would take away from my writing.

And speaking of writing, the most important reason I use Scrivener:

 

Three:  It keeps everything I need for the story right in front of me.

 

Scrivener is not a word processing program:  it’s a project management program.  That’s why, when you go to create something new, you’re not creating a story or a short or a novel, you’re creating a project.  And into that project goes–

Everything.

Here’s something I’ve not shown much:  the research section for A For Advanced.

I seem to have an interest in aircraft . . .

I seem to have an interest in aircraft . . .

All that stuff on the left are things I slipped into the binder almost a year and a half ago, and some of the information I’ve kept updated, or even changed, as I went along with the story.  After all, the Spell List was being updated and added to constantly, because I’d come up with new things as I wrote.  But all the world building I did in October, 2013–it’s there.  Everything.  And up above I have information on students and who’s in every coven, and the levels and . . . you get the idea.

Now, in the picture above, there are four entries that look like little globes.  Those are interactive webpages that you can set up inside the project–you know, some of those functions that you need an Internet connection for?  Here’s what that looks like:

I seem to recall looking for these schedules back in 2013--

I seem to recall looking for these schedules back in 2013–

And the website is completely functional, so while I’m working on a scene, if I really needed to know the time for the train from Rockport–which, if you remember, is the end of the train line on Cape Ann and not that far from the school’s main gate–to Salem, it’s right here.  That was why I set this page up:  so I would have access to these schedules if they were needed.  And they will be–maybe.

The great thing is when it comes time to set up a project for B For Bewitching, I have an option to import another Scrivener project, so I’ll just zip all of this into that new project, delete what I don’t need, and keep the rest.  There you have it:  all my research is available for the new novel, with a little fuss as possible.

That’s pretty much it:  three main reasons why I use Scrivener.  There are a lot more, but those three are the biggest reasons.

And with reasons like those, I don’t really need any others.

The Path to Knowing is In the Missing

Here is an interesting quandary:  I was supposed to work on Kolor Ijo last night, because when you’re in the editing, you should edit, right?  And editing doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, because the novel is only (I would put that in quotes but then it feels like I’m showing off if I do) twenty-four chapters long, with a prologue and a code that stretches it out to twenty-six chapters, the whole novel is sixty-eight thousand, eight hundred words total.  And nearly all of the chapters are short:  in Part One the longest chapter is just under three thousand words, and that was a standard with my last novel.

See?  Just little bitty chapters.  The good ol' days when you could rip off something like this in a month.

See? Just little bitty chapters. The good ol’ days when you could rip off something like this in a month.

The nice thing that comes from editing a work like this is that you can take your time reading the tome and see what needs to be changed, and what has to be changed.  I found a lot of interesting but messed-up sections in the chapters I’ve read, and without a careful re-reading, that crap would have slipped through.  That’s one of the hazards of NaNoWriMo:  you’re writing so quickly at times that words just flying into the page, and there are sentences where those words make no damn sense.  I found about a dozen of them so far, and it’s a scary thing, let me tell you.

But at the same time I’m editing this–and I should mention I’m taking my time editing, because I’m reading this once for the first time in over two years, and it’s taking me time to get to know the characters once again–I’m thinking about another couple–and you know who they are.  Over the weekend I began thinking about something that happens to the kids–here it comes–after they leave Salem, because they do have a life outside the reinforced walls of that environment, and the things that happened to them when the Real Annie and I started thinking about their lives at school have changed slightly.  Meaning their future has changed slightly as well.  This is a perfect example of Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey stuff going on, and one must adjust.

There are things that happen to them both that need to be adjusted, because what happened before was, frankly, a little strange.  Also, life is a little different in The World of the Foundation, and it’s pretty obvious that Annie has her sights set on doing something that she wants to make her own, and it seems likely that Kerry may follow in her footsteps.  They’re gonna be busy kids from their F Levels on for a couple of years, and later on into their lives.

In fact, one of the things I was time lining out was . . . hum, should I do this? Naw, better to keep you guessing and wondering.

I don’t need to wonder:  I know what’s coming.  In both the future and the past.

I just gotta get their on my own power.

 

Into the End at the Beginning

Yesterday was a busy day for me, as some of you may have noticed.  Two posts, a few videos–I did one that I posed in a group of the snowfall here in Harrisburg that was freaking everyone out–and then the late night videos I did on makeup.  I did a lot of editing.  I watched movies.  I listened to music.  I even started working on a segment of Annie’s an Kerr’s life that, in retrospect, needs to be changed, because given things that have happened to them in their A Levels, and things that will happen to them in the future, there are incidents in their lives that make no sense.

Today is Science Fiction Sunday on TCM, with Forbidden Planet starting at eleven, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind finishing up at eight, with a 2001 and 2010 interlude in-between, so I expect to spend most of the day watching that.  Three of those four movies are among my favorites, and these days I don’t get to see 2001 as much as I would like.  I have, however, watched the trailer the British Film Institute put out last year when they did a special release of 2001 on 28 November, 2014, and it’s a thing of beauty that always brings a tear to my eye.  Seeing it on a computer does not do it justice:  it needs to be seen on a huge screen with the sound system cranked all the way up.  And having seen this movie in theaters three times, I know what that’s like.

Today I answer another reader question, and this time it’s from Kim Jameson, another of my HodgePodge Crochet friends who knows the difference between a hook and a needle.  Her questions are a little like the one I answered yesterday, but at the same time they’re much different.

 

Do you plan your story and build a world ahead of time? Do you know the ending before you begin? How do you pick character names?

 

I’ll tackle the first one first, because it’s–first?  Actually it’s an easy one to answer, because I pretty much sorta answered it yesterday–

I am what is known in the writing business as a plotter, which means I figure out the story ahead of time before one word goes into the story.  I do that for a novel that’s gonna run a couple of hundred thousand words, and a story that will run ten thousand.  I do that so I don’t get lost about a third of the way in, thinking, “What do I do now?” and start thinking about the next story I could screw up the same way.  (Trust me, I’ve encountered this phenomenon more than a few times from other writers.)

And for really big stories, like A For Advanced, when you’re dealing with incredible events happening to a couple of kids who aren’t expecting anything out of the ordinary–beyond the extra-ordinary that’s already happening to them–one wants to make sure that you aren’t setting yourself up with unnecessary plot holes to fall through by winging the damn thing as you go along.  The entirety of the recollection of the dreams between Annie and Kerry, and getting Kerry to remember them, could have been screwed up completely if I didn’t know where they had been, and where they were going, story-wise, with the matter being further complicated by stretching the story out over a quarter of a million words.  Write that on the fly?  Not a chance.

And building a world ahead of time?  With A For Advanced I had to know as much about the World of The Foundation before I started writing about the events at Salem.  I knew the cities where The Foundation ran their business, the headquarter locations of the Protectors and Marshals and Guardians, and where every school The Foundation ran was placed and what they were named.  During the Day of the Dead attack, when Isis starts talking about schools she can no longer contact, though the names were mentioned that one time, they exist in a file, ready to be pulled up if I need that school, or another like it, in a future story.  When we are discussing a world-spanning organization that spends all its time hiding in plain sight, you better know where those hiding places are.

Do they all come to me at once?  No, not really.  I had the world built in October, 2013, before I started writing, but bits and pieces came to me as I went along.  The CDC as a Foundation location didn’t come to me until probably March or April of 2014, and that happened because I was thinking of using it in one of the future novels.  But it seemed perfect, and so it was used.  Now to see if any of the real underground bunkers I mentioned get used.  The show The 100 use Mount Weather as a location, so it’s not like it’s something new.

Do I know the ending before I begin a story?  Yes, pretty much.  Maybe I don’t have it locked down one hundred percent, but I know how a story will end before one word goes down.  That actually comes from something Issac Asimov once said:

 

Know your ending, I say, or the river of your story may finally sink into the desert sands and never reach the sea.

 

Since Issac wrote about everything and anything with fascinating clarity and intelligence, and did it hundreds of times throughout his life, I tend to believe he knew what he was doing when it came to the written word.  And I’ve seen this one happen many times before as well, where a writer who’s just pantsing the hell along (“Pantsing” is the term for a writer not knowing the story, but rather writing as it comes to them, like “I’m writing by the seat of my pants”) when, suddenly, they’re like, “Where the hell did my story go?  How the hell am I gonna finish this sucker?”  It’s fin and dandy to be a character in a Bob Seger song and just roll me away, but there exists the real possibility that because you have no real destination in mind your ass is gonna end up stranded in the middle of nowhere ’cause you ran outta gas, and then where you gonna be, bitch?

"This is as good a place as any to get lost and end up having buzzards stripping the drying flesh from my dead ass."

“This is as good a place as any to get lost and end up with buzzards stripping the drying flesh from my dead ass.”

And that last question:  how do I pick my character names?  That’s easy:  I just roll names around until I come up with something I like.  I might find a first name and think about last names to plug in, or a last and then look for a first, but that’s sort of it right there.  I may latch onto a famous name–Lovecraft was one that I used in A For Advanced, which I used for both a Founder of Salem and for Helena’s family name.  It was the same with Erywin’s family name, which was taken from the then recently deceased actress Elizabeth Sladen–or I may just pull out one that sounds good–Kerry’s family name is like that; it simply sounded right to me–but there’s nothing elaborate in the selection process.  Once I know it’s right, then it’s right.

There you are, a little more of that which makes me a writer unveiled for you.  And if you have any questions you want me to answer, have a go and post one.  You never know what I might say if I pick yours.

Building These Dark Satanic Mills

This has been an interesting morning so far, mostly because I’ve know what I wanted to write about since before crawling out of bed, and with coffee in hand I’ve been getting myself worked up towards said writing of post by tuning into the Brain Salad Surgery, more specifically track one of this recording, which is Jerusalem.  In case you’re not aware of that song, it was originally a poem written by William Blake in 1804, and later turned into a song by Sir Hubert Parry in 1916.  And when you’re recording one of the seminal albums of the 1970s, why not open with your own version of an English hymn?

It’s from this song that the expression “Chariot of Fire” comes, and I’m certain you’ve all heard that one at some point, usually with Vangelis playing in the background.  It’s also where I get the title of today’s post, which has nothing to do with darkness, mills, or even Satan.  No, it has to do with a reader question, and this comes from one of my Facebook Hodgepodge Crochet buddies, Debbie Wisely, who asked the following:

 

Do you have characters in mind and then build a story around them or do you have a story in mind first and fit your characters to the story? How do you pick what city/state or country they reside in? Do you write or type the original work?

 

This is sort of a crazy question, and I’m going to answer the last question first, because it’s the easiest.  No, I don’t write by hand:  I type everything,  If I didn’t type I’d still be working on my first novel from over twenty years ago, because my handwriting is Teh Sux.  I can also type a lot faster than I can write by hand, and given I can’t spell worth a damn, or that I’m always making mistake when I’m writing, I’d be lucky to churn out a few hundred handwritten words a day.  So typing it is.  There you have it.

As for the other two–oh, boy.  Those are good.  So let’s talk about one of  my other novels that some of you might remember me writing, but which hasn’t seen the light of day.

I’m talkin’ Suggestive Amusements.

This was written from 31 December, 2012, to 26 March, 2013, while I was in the process of doing something before publishing Her Demonic Majesty.  I blogged about the writing of this novel back in the day, and I remember the finishing of the novel was memorable because of a dream I had when it was all over, a dream I can still remember today–but that’s not why we’re here, yeah?

How did this start?  Well, I had time on my hands because I’d just finished NaNoWriMo 2012, which I’d won by writing Kolor Ijo.  I was thinking of things to do, and if you want to know how I got this story going, it was with a vision of two people, a man and a woman, sitting in a living room.  The man was on a computer writing, and the woman was on a sofa looking at the guy while she was crocheting.  Seriously.  That’s the genesis of Suggestive Amusements:  guy writing, woman crocheting.

But who were they?  They guy writing–that’s pretty simple.  Or is it?  There’s more to his story, sure, there has to be, just like how at that time there was more to my story.  I drew on my own experience as a programmer/writer and sorta made the male character in question the same kind of people, only single, untroubled by gender issues, and a huge-ass slacker.  There you have him:  Keith.

Who’s the woman then?  Ah, well, that’s easy:  she’s there to inspire him.  She’s . . . I know!  She’s a muse, a real muse, like thousands of years old, creature without a real beginning, being that’s there to bring you inspiration muse.  That’s Erin.  Not her real name, of course, just like her sister’s name–Talia, who you get to meet in the story–isn’t her real name.  but do you want to call them by the Greek names by which they’re remembered?  Nope, it’s too much of a mouthful.  So Erin it is.

Something else was needed, however.  I mean, come on, we know what’s needed:  a love triangle!  I need another woman, and she shall be called Elektra, because I like the name.  And since we’re dealing with these ancient muses who are known mostly through Greek Mythology, why not stay with that Grecian naming motif?  So there you are, Elektra.

With this novel–with most of my novels–I have the characters in place first.  I get to know them, who they are, what they need, what they’re looking for, and once I know that I start building the story around them.  I have the basic idea of what’s going on with the characters, so it’s now a matter of building the plot–

But as the second part of the question indicates, how do I know where the story takes place?

And the answer there is whatever strikes my fancy.  In this case I wanted a place that I knew something about, but not a great deal.  And that place was Las Vegas, because what hit me was, “I’ve never written about the desert area, and just about all the stories of Vegas revolve around casinos, gamblers, the mob, and Nic Cage drinking himself to death with help from a friendly whore.  Why not build a fantasy there?”

That’s how Las Vegas and the areas surrounding the city became the setting for the novel.  But wait!  While writing the story, I started to think about Elektra’s backstory, and realized she was like a lot of people in the city, she came from somewhere else, and she blew into town with a lot of baggage.  After a lot of thought and consultation with Google Maps, I decided that Elektra was a New Mexican woman from the Alamogordo, a place known as “The Friendliest Place On Earth” and the home of a whole lot of giant ants.  And in that process of knowing where she was from–and trust me, I knew–I set up an adventure for her, traveling from one end of New Mexico to another, before eventually heading into Arizona and onward into Nevada and my main setting.

I came about all these places because I just felt it was right.  I knew, because by that point I knew my characters, that this is where they were from, and why they were here.  I do this with everything:  when I’m setting up places for my characters I start looking at maps and I wonder, “Where would these people live?  Where would they work?  Why are they here?”  And little by little I start putting it together until my thoughts reach a critical mass and it becomes real.  Just like I did with my current story:  why did the Salem Institute for Greater Education and Learning end up where it did?  Because it is supposed to be there.  I know this because I know this.

And now you know how I usually start putting my stories together.  Maybe not the same way every time, but close enough that if you wanted to know how I get the writing party started, you now know.

And I leave you with sunlight breaking through to the dark Satanic mills, because the alternative was giant ants, and no one wants that.

And I leave you with sunlight breaking through to the dark Satanic mills, because the alternative was giant ants, and no one wants that.

One last thing, however:  while I was working on Suggestive Amusements, a slight break in the action occurred in the 1 March, 2013 post titled The Sofa by the Hearth.  And there you’ll find mention that I was missing a couple of characters from my life, and I was thinking about an event that happened to them every weekend, and, well, maybe it was time I started writing about them–something I’d start doing in earnest eight months later.

That was truly the moment, almost two years ago, that I’d decided to begin work on their story.

If I’d only known then how that was going to turn out . . .