Sad puppy:(

sad-brodieIt’s the first Wednesday again. Welcome to Insecure Writer’s Support Group. Check us out at IWSG. This is a safe and wonderful place to air your fears and triumphs as you write your way to fame.

That being said, I am one sad puppy. I am feeling sorry for myself and for my wonderful characters in my second novel. They are unique and sexy and they are languishing in the worst first draft ever written. I usually sketch or use photos to help me visualize my new players and, as they stare down at me from my bulletin board, I can’t meet their eyes.

However, I think I may have stumbled on part of  the problem. I wanted to write this novel using a dual third-person POV. Or not. My funny ironic voice is just gone. The story is too serious which in SFR is not a good thing. So, I may go back to first person POV. I know this changes a lot for writer and reader, but making my readers smile is important.

What do you think? Does first-person POV make a novel funnier? If not, what third-person POV novel made you laugh?

Any suggestions,  guidance or commiseration is welcome, folks.

Knowing How

KFrom my notes two years ago:

Writing a short paragraph is like taking a family photograph. After assessing composition and deciding on exposure, the blink of the camera’s eye generates electronic memories. Fifteen minutes at the keyboard generates words that are eloquent and beautiful,  short and concise, and finished in one sitting.

Writing a novel, however, is like painting the Sistine Chapel. Create the first wonderful paragraph, and then repeat for 300 pages while telling a story and entrancing the reader. Unlike the quick photo or hasty half page, the novel’s plot must be crafted with passion . It is not enough to know the beginning, middle, and end. The writer must know everything.


Well, I can honestly say, my nervous musings turned out to be true. Hard, troubling, fun, frustrating and exciting – the descriptions of my new obsession were correct. But, I breathed life into my novel and, lo and behold, it staggered up as if from a prehistoric swamp, a living thing filled with drama and humor. I’m amazed that I want to do it again! Now that is a miracle. That is knowing how.

What is your before and after writing experience?

Flat Line

F – I cheated and asked my husband for tonight’s idea. Something that begins with F. I was taking a chance on a sassy answer but, instead, I ended up with a memory.

Two-thirds through my novel I killed a main character. No, not the main character but someone who influenced everyone else in the book, someone whose ambition and moral ambiguity almost got the other characters killed.

Once I realized this man had to die in the pursuit of his dream, I froze. His death worked in the story. It provided extreme tension, tragedy, and triumph. The narrator suffers from her grief, deals with it, celebrates her dead comrade’s life and makes sure his legacy survives. In the process, she realizes what is truly important in life. But, I just couldn’t kill him. First of all, I liked this character. He was smart, tough, and ruthless. He was funny and sexy. He was just too hot to live. I pondered and fretted for two weeks. How would he die? When? Once I made those decisions, guilt set in. Ridiculous, I know. I wasn’t worried about how readers might feel, I just felt guilty for dispatching

It took me several days to write the scene. Now that I was ready for his death, I wanted it to resonate. The gory details weren’t important. The reactions of his friends mattered. I described the circumstances through the narrator, using her reaction to him dying rather than gruesome descriptions of the event. Finally, when I finished the scene, I was sobered but satisfied.

But, I missed him. So, when fellow bloggers described their muses I began to wonder. Could this character take the shape of my muse? Why not? After all, the ancient Greeks had lovely  fantasy maidens as their muses – why couldn’t I have a handsome smart- alec as mine? So, now, when my muse is elusive, I’m not surprised. After all, I did sacrifice him to the plot gods, so I don’t blame him if he sulks occasionally.

Who is your muse and why?

How to read science fiction or other genre fiction even if you don’t want to.

It’s happened-the moment you’ve been dreading.






Your wife, husband, son, cousin, or co-worker asked you to read a chapter of their science fiction, high fantasy, romance, or vampire novel. Now what do you do? You’re a decent person, and you don’t want to or can’t afford to hurt their feelings. But, genre fiction stories are weird.  You’ve never read any because you really don’t want to. Sure, you read fiction: murder mysteries, adventures, generic bestsellers. Normal stuff.

I understand. Well-meaning people come to me all the time with suggestions.  When they say, “You really should read this best seller, this YA novel, this non-fiction autobiography,” I always smile and nod. Inside I cringe. No WAY I’m ever going to read that book. I am a very discriminating reader, I tell myself. My time is limited, and I simply don’t want to invest the effort in something that sounds boring or ridiculous.

However, even I, a self-confessed reading snob, occasionally step out of my comfort zone. Some of the recommended books are still not my cup of tea, but some are fascinating and beautifully written, and I fall in love with a new author.  My friends are happy I took their advice, and I’ve stretched my limits. Everybody wins.

Here’s my advice on reading genre fiction.

Suspend your disbelief.

Science fiction has many faces. Hard science fiction follows natural laws. Relativity rules. Character driven space opera laughs at relativity.

Fantasy trumps all natural laws.

Vampires suck the life out of natural laws.

Romance novels usually have happy ending. Girl gets boy-if she wants him.

Go ahead. Read something different. You know you want to. OK, maybe not. But, you never know, you might be pleasantly surprised.

When was the last time you read outside of your comfort zone?





I don’t know about your muse, but mine arrives at the damnedest times.

Sometimes, he gives me brain-bursting ideas while I’m hurtling down I-25. I have been known to pull over to record these ideas on my iPod as people blaze past me at 90 miles per hour. What I do for love.

Or, he visits me as I’m falling asleep. He teases me with a lyrical idea guaranteed to make my novel a best seller. I frantically memorize it before I fall asleep but, in the morning, I only remember it if I’m lucky. Most times, I wake knowing there is a great concept in my brain-somewhere.

And, he interrupts me during important projects at work. At least, at work I usually have a paper and pencil nearby.

Signaling my muse is a last resort, because he likes to toy with me. Like my cat, he refuses to appear just because I called. When he does show up he always looks slightly annoyed. Oh, come on, stop whining, he tells me. I have a billion stops to make today, so use what I’m giving you and write it like you love it.

I visualize my muse clearly, as easily as I see the folks in my novel. Arrogant and articulate, my muse is an ageless smart-ass.  (OK, he is one of my characters.) He fills my head with exit strategies from the tangled word messes I make. When he leaves, it’s ok. I never have to worry because, the next time I need him, he’ll have my back. I can count on my muse, as long as I’m patient.

Is your muse a whisper in your mind’s ear or a brush of inspiration from a well-loved outside source? Does your muse take a recognizable form? What does the cosmic aha feel like for you?


Colorado Sunset






Anyone remember a TV show from the mid-late 80s called Amazing Stories?

The intro showed cave people sitting around a campfire at sunset, shadows flickering on their faces,  listening with great anticipation  as one of the group began a tale of wonder.

This is why we write. We try to capture that campfire moment, the instant the story-teller looks at her listeners and says, “You may not believe this, but I swear it happened…”

At another time in my life, I loved siting across the kitchen table from my roommate  and say, “Girl, you won’t believe what just happened to me.”
Now I want my readers  at the table saying, “Tell me everything!”

Spinning lies and truths with words is a great joy, and opening the worlds in my head still takes a lot of nerve. I hyperventilate a bit when I read out loud at Word Wizards, my writer’s critique group. But, they are my campfire listeners and if they lean forward as I read, with the tell me everything look on their faces, I know I’m doing something right.

Think about the last time you told a story. Then write it, exactly like you told it.

Oh, and if I’m wrong about the name of the show, somebody please tell me.


A co-worker asked me today if I had excerpts from my novel posted on my blog. While flattered he wanted to read my work,  I wondered what I would post. How about a few paragraphs from a story I decided not to send to Fantasy and Science Fiction? Would the short contemplative paragraphs I wrote several years ago suffice? What did I have filed away I was willing sacrifice to the internet community?

Sacrifice. Operative word. Anything a writer slings out into pixel land is immediately absorbed and lost. While I’m not saying my plot, theme, and characters are particularly valuable, they could be stolen, copied, or reinterpreted. The way I write is unique, it is mine. I won’t share it. Not yet.

Being published is an affirmation many writers, myself included, seek. After publication sharing my work doesn’t seem threatening, but before publication it’s out of the question. For me.

I‘ve heard J. K. Rowling kept her first manuscript and ideas in a box. The contents of the box were off-limits to everyone. Everyone.  Maybe this is just a myth about a famous author, but maybe she still protects her writing this way.

If she does, I understand.

So, those of you who want a sneak peek, please be patient. Someday my novel will be available in a book store near you or on your kindle. And, I’ll be thrilled to autograph it for you!

Chapter 14 revision completed.


Deep Well of Final Revision

Oh, dear. I’ve reached the dreaded center of my novel, the deep well of the middle. While writing the first and second draft, I struggled with chapters ten through thirteen. They are filled with necessary information, but I had a horrid time keeping everything in the present, showing not telling. And now, in final revision, I’m still unhappy with these chapters.

The problem is, I don’t like the plan I made when I was writing out my revision scene cards, and I don’t like my outline. My novel bogs down in the middle. It’s as simple as that. I feel as though I’m pushing a boulder up a hill with a straight pin, and I’m not sure what to do next.

Part of me wants to plunge on ahead, following the scene cards in spite of my reservations. Another part of me wants to combine the chapters, skimming off a bit of each scene, melding what remains into something tight and clear. Yet another side of my whirling mind says go back, do all three chapters over, from scratch.

I won’t do over, but I may combine the scenes into two chapters instead of three. All that’s necessary is a better outline.  After all, three chapters of crossing the universe in an escape boat the size of a school is more than my  stalwart characters can endure.  It’s certainly driving me nuts; I hate to think what it’s doing to them. I don’t even want to think what my beta readers would say about this.

Keeping the story moving, focusing on immediacy and intensity, will get my heroes to their destination with their lives and my sanity in tact.



Lately, I’ve read a lot of comments from fellow travelers on the novel revision trail.

It sure is a rough way to go and a long row to hoe.

But, in spite of the difficult the grind through chapters, there is an undercurrent of joy. Authors just love their characters.

Our characters are like our children. That’s been said to death, of course, but it is true. What is in you comes out in them. Sometimes that fact is alarming, and sometimes it is charming.

One of my favorite scenes in Spear into Darkness includes a magnificent warlord. He has all the attributes of true wickedness – he is devious and brilliant, cruel and bold, big and bad. And, yet, as with many evil people, there was something seductive about the freedom and power he enjoys. It is amazing how appealing he is – in a wonderfully creepy way.

On the other hand, a few scenes later, a teen-aged mercenary rescues the main character. This child soldier, in spite of his own wounds and a difficult language barrier, drags her from a devastated urban battleground and offers her a home among his people . He is so sweet and strong I wouldn’t mind having him as my own kid.

They are both the children of my imagination.

Our challenge as writers is making readers wish our characters were real or be damned glad they aren’t!

Revision means REVISION

I like Chapter Four. It has an exciting fight scene, a tense medical situation, mystery and mayhem. However, I’ve struggled with the first page, the first two paragraphs, for a couple of nights. Last night, when I read through my third attempt, I decided a break was in order.

So, what is matter with this first page?

It’s boooooring.

Maybe I don’t understand the meaning of revision after all.

Maybe I don’t want to admit that, after all the struggle of two drafts, there are still parts of the novel that, for lack of a better word, stink.  Part of me wants to keep what I’ve written, add a few choice words, a juicy sentence here and there and call it done. But, revision can be and, I’m finding, usually is much more than just a quick brush with the pen.

The English as a Second Language Dictionary defines revision as: to prepare a new version, to reconsider and change or modify.


could completely rewrite those paragraphs. As long as I stick with the scene’s objective, I’m free to tear apart anything I’ve created and reassemble it in a new and unique way. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Maybe.

Apparently, some authors rewrite 50% + of their first draft. I sure as hell don’t want to do that.  But, I have a self-imposed deadline of May 1st, 2012 for sending out my first query letters on the novel. So, I’ll do what it takes even if it means rewriting.

Why I haven’t thought of revision as freedom to leave the old draft behind until now, I don’t know. Some sort of misplaced writer’s arrogance, fear, or laziness? Whatever. Time to shake if off.

I‘ve come too far now to flounder  and, if I need a reminder of my goal, I have my trusty dictionary by my side.

Stay tuned.

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