ANNOUNCING: The Dying of the Light

PEOPLE!

IT’S ALLLLLLIIIIIIIIIVVVVVE!

And that’s no accidental Frankenstein reference, either.

DyingOfLight_CVR_SML

The Dying of the Light (Legends of the Light-Walkers, #3) is a monster of a book in more ways than one. It clocks in at 156k words of story and about 550 pages, give or take a “loc” on Kindle. The book has been in the making for over 20 years; it sat untouched in a box for 15 years; it required one complete rewrite from scratch and several partial rewrites; my getting started on it took a stern talking-to from none other than Bernard Schaffer (more on *that* another time); and from first rewrite to PUBLISH took 16 months.

This book ate my lunch and my brain. It is the most challenging and cantankerous novel I have ever written.

It was all worth it.

Special thanks go to Bernard for the butt-kicking; Josh Unruh, Becca Campbell, and my mom for the beta-reading; and Jessie Sanders, my editor (hire her!). Without them, this book wouldn’t have happened.
: )

But enough about the pre-pub stuff! You see the lovely cover art up there, by the longsuffering and brilliantly talented Steven Novak (hire him!). Here is the story:

Rafe Skelleran is losing his mind. Weird nightmares ruin his sleep and dog his waking hours. Even the booze doesn’t help anymore. And the worst part of going crazy is he doesn’t even know why it’s happening.

In the midst of his descent into madness, a woman shows up on his doorstep, all curves and feisty foreign accent. This dream girl is real enough, but her babble about ancient wars and lurking enemies is the stuff of fantasies. Her rantings gain the weight of reality when an enemy arrives with an arsenal of otherworldly powers and tries to murder Rafe. Fleeing the destruction of his home, blood on his hands, Rafe realizes that if he wants to get out of this alive, he’s going to have to stick with a woman who’s possibly crazier than he is.

Besides, she knows about his dreams. She knows the green-eyed crone whose nightly pleas are driving Rafe insane. She says the old woman is real and that she can take Rafe to her. And Rafe can’t pass up the chance to find out the truth.

Hijacked to a strange world where he is surrounded by powerful, dangerous allies, Rafe soon realizes he’s no safer with these people than he was on his own. Every time he turns around, someone insists he’s not who he thinks he is. Every time he turns around, someone wants him dead. On the run with what seems the least of many evils, Rafe doesn’t have a single person in this strange land he can trust.

Even worse, he feels a dormant, volatile power knocking from within, urging him to let his magic loose. He must unlock it before facing his darkest enemy, for without it he can’t possibly survive. It’s that or accept an allegiance that will give him the worlds…if he’s willing to sell the last little bit of himself he has left.

So there you have it, my lovelies! The Dying of the Light, ready and waiting for your reading and reviewing! Click, buy, and enjoy!

The Dying of the Light is available at Amazon (Kindle), Barnes & Noble (Nook), iTunes, Scribd, Kobo, Inktera, Tolino, and Oyster.
(If you don’t see links or can’t find the book through a search at those vendors, check back with the vendors soon. The book will show up there in the next few days.)

#Amwriting Your First Draft: The Editwock Will Steal Your Soul

NOTE: I wrote a version of the following post for JuNoWriMo 2013. Becca Campbell, one of the founders of JuNoWriMo, was kind enough to ask me to write a Pep Talk for this year’s event. I was only too happy to oblige. What follows is a version of that Pep Talk, altered to suit the needs not only of WriMos, but of first-draft novel-writers everywhere. Enjoy!

Greetings, O Ye Warriors of the Mighty Pen!

Word documents. Word wars. Word mongering. Wordiness. WORD COUNTS!

If you’ve committed yourself to writing a novel (which is not unlike committing yourself, period), then you’ve committed to hammering out that first draft no matter what it takes. Some of you have done this before, some of you are doing this for the first time. But whether you’re an oldtimer or a newbie, you know that words are key to succeeding in this crazed endeavor we call noveling.

This could be an Editwock.

This could be an Editwock.

Well, duh. It’s kind of hard to write a novel without using words. I suppose you could try using music notes instead, but you’d probably end up with some kind of post-postmodern, Wagner-derivative opera suffering from an existential crisis, and I don’t think any of us want to hear that. And writing your novel using Morse code might be tedious. So, words it is.

But the thing about words is…they’re tricksy. They flit like pixies across your page or screen, all innocent-like with their serifs and curlicues…and then they just squat there. Brooding. Staring back at you from your work-in-progress and making you care about them. Making you want to change them. Daring you to change them.

If you change one, you’ll want to change others. You won’t be able to help it; editing when you’re not an editor is some kind of weird addiction. Once you start, you can’t stop. AND THE WORDS KNOW THIS, PEOPLE.

One minute, you’re writing merrily along, something about Our Heroine rescuing the doomed prophecy puppies and drinking the magic elixir in the nick of time. Next minute, you start editing, and before you know it, your Plot Point #3 has turned into Carrot Magnetic Demolition Force 7 and there’s really no turning back after that.

What I’m getting at here, y’all, is that while you’re first-draft-ing, you must avoid editing. The words will tempt you to edit. They will lift their lovely faces to the morning sun, open their lovely mouths, and give voice to lovely siren calls of editing bliss. Do not listen to them! “Beware the Editwock, my son! The affixes that bite, the compounds that catch!”

*ahem* Sorry. Slight Carrollian digression there. But you get the point. First drafts and editing don’t mix. If you let yourself edit, you’ll slow yourself down. Those chapters won’t write themselves, y’know. You gotta put in your butt-to-chair time, and if you take that time for editing instead of writing, you’re going to be hard-pressed to slog through the Middle-of-Story Blues or have the energy for the Finish Line Sprint.

Your best friend, dear writer, is the admonition emblazoned upon the JuNoWriMo homepage:

JUST WRITE.

Don’t worry about the “mistakes” (better known as “happy little accidents,” right?). Don’t worry about the typos, the synonyms, the passive voice, the dangling participles. After you’ve used the last of your strength to type “The End,” you can give in to the sweet seduction and edit all you like. But for now, resist. Don’t worry, and just write.

You have a novel to finish. And the great news is, you can finish it and you will finish it. You’re sacrificing sleep to get there. You’re sacrificing time with friends and family. You’re sacrificing the calm that comes from not over-caffeinating 24/7.

And yes, you’re sacrificing the luxury of poring over your own every word and tweaking each word to perfection.

But all this sacrifice is worth it. In the end, you’ll have a first draft in your hands — and editing it will be glorious. So just write, hon. That’s your only job right now, and you can do it.

Now stop reading this and get back to it. : )

__________________________
Other JuNoWriMo Pep Talks by Nina Post (contemporary fiction), Hugh Howey (WOOL series), and Rayne Hall (dark fantasy fiction).

Sneak Peek Blog Tour: Becca J. Campbell

Hello my lovelies,

When I first read the opening chapters of Becca J. Campbell‘s Foreign Identity, they were a series of “waves” in the now-defunct Google Wave. Becca posted those chapters as waves in order to get feedback from several of us writers and creative types.

I don’t remember what the feedback was. I don’t remember at what point, one by one, we all dropped out of Google Wave. I don’t even remember when I last logged on before the whole kaboodle got shut down.

But I do remember — and vividly — how Becca’s story gripped my imagination.

Every time I read her latest scribblings, the mystery of it all ate at me. Why were these characters imprisoned? Why did they have amnesia? Who did this to them? I came up with all sorts of theories, both sci-fi-ish and fantasy-esque. I mentioned a few of them to Becca. Every bit the Mona Lisa, she just smiled and told me to wait for it.

Fast-forward almost two years, and my wait was over. Finally, I was getting to read the story as a whole. Not only that, I was getting to help edit it. But no, forget the editing part. I was finally getting answers to all these questions that’d plagued me for two years!

And as it turned out, none of my theories were accurate.

Foreign Identity is a fascinating read. The mystery is edge-of-seat worthy. The sci-fi is refreshing. The romance is heart-warming.

But have I mentioned how the questions will drive you nuts?!?

See the end of this post for where to read excerpts of Foreign Identity and how to win free copies!

Enough from me, though. Here’s Becca on how Foreign Identity came to be and how she, as a writer, solved its mystery even for herself.

Becca J. Campbell and Foreign Identity

The idea for the book started in a very simple, very ordinary way.

At the time I was participating in a writing blog called The Creative Copy Challenge. The sole purpose of the blog is to provide ten words (twice a week) as a writing prompt, daring writers to come up with a short story or poem using all of the words.

Foreign Identity started with the ten little words in a post on April 20th, 2010. After the initial post, I continued writing the story on the CCC, adding to it twice a week. I followed the prompts the whole time, forcing myself to fit the words in. Sometimes they directed the story and other times I molded them to fit the story already in my head. More than half of the novel was written and published on the blog in serial form, one 1000 word (approximately) scene at a time. I wrote to a pretty big cliffhanger and then wrote the rest of the story in private, saving the final reveal for when I would publish the book.

When I wrote that first post I had no idea of the plot or where the story would lead. For me that made it fun and exciting to work on. I love mysteries and puzzles. So as a creative experiment, instead of starting Foreign Identity with an outline, I started with a problem and worked to find the solution.

Readers have commented on the thrill they felt when caught in the mystery of Foreign Identity and their attempts to try and solve the puzzle. Often writers don’t get to experience that same thrill of discovery with their own books. We usually have the end in mind before the journey even begins. And in a way, that didn’t seem quite fair. The mystery is what makes it fun. This was part of my motivation for starting how I did. (I have to say that it’s not an ideal way to write. I’ve since found that I prefer writing in a more thoughtfully organized method).

Once I’d decided to start with a problem, I needed to figure out what that problem would be. What situation could I throw a couple of characters into that would be complex and seem impossible? My answer was this: chain them up in a nondescript chamber and strip them of all their memories. And to top that off, leave them devoid of interaction with their captor and without any clue if they even had a captor.

Perfect. (Insert evil writer laugh.)

After that, it was just figuring out how to solve my poor characters’ dilemma. How would they escape? Once they did, what would be waiting for them? At that point I came up with a full back story and an elaborate scheme for why they might be in such a situation. But instead of ending the mystery then, I used clues that raised more questions than they answered. The television show Lost was a great example of how to write a properly suspenseful story without completely frustrating the viewers.

When you read Foreign Identity, you might feel the urge to figure out what’s behind it all, to put the puzzle pieces together. In fact, I hope you will. So far I’ve succeeded in mystifying most readers. In my mind that’s a good thing. I love stories that make me think, question, piece things together, and then end up with an unexpected twist. An enjoyable book is one that surprises me.

I’ve done my best to pull all of that together in Foreign Identity. I hope you will enjoy it like a thrill ride that takes you to unexpected heights and then brings you back to reality.

__

Read an Excerpt

Courtney here again! For your reading pleasure, Becca has posted a series of story excerpts. You can read the latest excerpt of Foreign Identity here!

For more of the story, get on board Becca’s Sneak Peek Blog Tour:

May 22ndMelody with Words
May 23rd Cover Analysis
May 24thWrite Me Happy
May 25thHave You Heard My Book Review
May 26thCourt Can Write
May 27thYearning for Wonderland
May 28thCatharsis of the Bogue
May 29thAaron Pogue
May 30thPen and Whisk
May 31st Stormy Night Publishing

Win a Free Copy of Foreign Identity:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

You can also buy the novel
for Kindle
and for Nook!
and add it to your Goodreads shelf!

Weak Strengths or Strong Weaknesses?

Yeah, I wish this were my biceps. But it isn't.

Hey, inkling loves,

This week, I read this post by Becca J. Campbell. You really should click through and read, because Becca makes a great case for being honest with ourselves and with each other about our weaknesses…

…but especially telling ourselves the truth about our strengths.

One of my weaknesses is that I tend to be really hard on myself about my weaknesses, enough so that I’ll quietly beat myself up about them while presenting an everything’s-okay face to the people around me.

I work constantly at developing a level of transparency that will prevent me from hiding my self-doubt. It’s a lifelong growth process.

Along with that, I try to infuse into my heart a particular principle I read a few years back (sadly, I don’t remember where):

Focus on improving your weaknesses, and all you’ll end up with are strong weaknesses and weakened strengths.

Focus on building your strengths, and you’ll end up with strengths solid enough to carry you through the weaknesses.

 

My Solid Strengths

Becca’s post concerned our writing strengths specifically. So, in the interest of not beating myself up about my writing weaknesses, here are a few things I consider my writing strengths:

1. I have a good feel for language. This is one part innate talent, one part intensive training, and one part life experience. Although I don’t believe for a second that a person has to be born with a certain set of skills in order to be a writer, I did start writing when I was 8 years old. So I suspect there’s something inherited there. I am also the child of two teachers, one of whom taught English for 30 years. She sent me to school but also taught me at home, so I got it from all sides. And on top of that, I learned a foreign language (German) at age 3, which did all sorts of interesting and odd things to the way my brain processes and produces words. I bring all of that to bear on every sentence when I sit down to write.

2. I see scenes, characters, and actions as picture sequences in my head. If you read Becca’s post (which I think you should), you’ll see that I share this in common with her, and she calls it being a “visual writer.” When I’m crafting a story, I feel as though I’m watching a movie inside my head and simply writing down everything I see, hear, feel, and taste. Sometimes, a scene is blurry, and that’s when I know not to force too much detail into a scene. When it’s clear with crisp edges, I know it’s time to divulge more of what I’m seeing. I rarely have to rack my brains to figure out what something looks like.

3. I’ve experienced Not Writing. If you’ve read my posts tagged “confessions”, you know that there was a period of years during which I forgot that I was created to create. I forgot that I was allowed to be a writer. I sank into horrid darkness and turned bitter, sorrow-filled, and hostile. But now that I’m out of that, I’ve gained a deeper appreciation for the gifts of creativity, freedom, time, and support. I know where I’ve been; I know I never want to go back; and I know that the best way to give thanks for the gifts (and to declare the One who gave them to me) is to apply myself to writerdom with uncompromising passion.

4. I don’t believe in “writer’s block.” Strength #3 pretty much takes care of this for me. I practice gratitude and passion by not allowing “writer’s block” to stop me. When I experience the I-don’t-wanna lassitude or the words-just-aren’t-there frustration, I know that my reaction cannot be simply to stop writing. When “writer’s block” hits, I know it’s a challenge to think and work harder. Is my attitude the problem? Is the story broken somewhere? Do I need to change writing locations? (For more on writing locations, read this post.)
“Writer’s block” never means that I can’t write. It only means I need to rethink, review, revise, or relocate.

5. I have a keen awareness of cause-and-effect (aka “what’s the because?).
Cause: My mom did not go with my dad when his quartet, The Four Naturals, made a recording in Nashville in 1966.
Effect: The Four Naturals didn’t get my mom’s “managerial” advice while in Nashville, so they never went pop, and my family ended up moving to Germany in 1980.
Cause: In 1940, Frances Hair eloped with Wilborn Weger instead of going to college.
Effect: I exist.
Cause: Aaron and I played Rockband together at a church party in May 2009.
Effect: I’m published.
Cause: In my WIP (Elevator People), side character Joplin giggles when main character Went says the word “pickpocket.”
Effect: Ten chapters later, they end up battling a psychopath and a vampire on a planet in another dimension.
And so forth.
Cause-and-effect are what you might call “essential” to life. And to a story’s development. ; )

_______________________
So! There are a few of my writing strengths. What are some of yours? Share in the comments! Or, even better, write your own blog post about your writing strengths and share the link with us!

Making this list required some clear thinking and deep analysis on my part: honest reflection and a stern refusal to let myself slip into self-deprecation mode. Yes, this was all focused on writing…but it was also an act of kindness toward myself as a person. If you’re reading this, and you’re not a writer, I encourage you to make a list of your own strengths in whatever area you like. Let yourself accentuate the positive; show your Self some love.

If you can demonstrate compassion toward You in this way, you’ll be able to do the same for people around you. And blessing others with compassion is a strength worth solidifying in each of us.

Of Figs and the 9th Circle of Hell

Sometimes, I am a nerd.

Okay, yes, most of the time. And nerdery happens on this blog pretty much all of the time. This post about Google Analytics is a good example.

I had an awfully cramazing good time with that post, and a few days ago I was tooling around in Google Analytics again, and I thought to myself, “Self, you really should write another blog post about keywords, because that was just rockin’ awesome fun,” and myself replied, “Heck YEAH.”

So. Here are a few recent keyword phrases that have led people to my blog. Some of them make sense. Some of them, in the timeless tradition of haiku about refigerators* ***, do not. But I am going to answer them anyway. Because that’s just the kind of sweet, kind, helpful person I am. Booyah.

Six Keyword Searches…

…in order of my amusement:

1. three creative sins

Not sure what we’re talkin’ about here, y’all. If it’s three sins in creativity, how’s about this?

  1. Letting other people tell you how to be creative.
  2. Telling yourself “I’m not good enough to (insert creative activity here).”
  3. Neglecting to hone your craft.

If it’s creatively-executed sins you’re looking for, this might not be the blog you’re looking for.

(Email me.) ; )

2. what is the german word for “here”

The German word for “here” is “hier.”

BANGERANG. Next question.

3. what to write on my first blog post?

Most importantly: WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS? Why are you blogging? Why do you care? This is pretty much The Question you should answer for yourself before you even write that first blog post. If you do that, you’ll forge a connection with your readers before you even have any. Readers, that is. I know this is very meta, but trust me, I’m an expert**.

4. why are short stories short?

Um.

Because they’re not long?
Because they’re not novels?
Because short story cat is short story?

It’s because of reasons.

Oy.

5. why grocery shopping is the 9th circle of hell

Shopping carts in parking spaces. Packed aisles. Twenty-five cash registers and only 3 checkers. Sugar cookies jumping out at you from every endcap. The woman in bunny slippers, curlers, and a see-through blouse. The guy at the meat counter who turns to you with wide, shining eyes and says, “Have you tried this ground chuck? You should try this ground chuck!

I really don’t think I need to elaborate on this.

6. writing a story about court

You’re writing a story about ME? You are fantabulous! I love you! You are my new favorite person for the next ten minutes! Do I get a superpower? Oooooh, can I be telekinetic? And have vorpal unicorn morphing powers? I wouldn’t mind a teleporting ability, too, since I’ve kind of been wanting to go to Australia lately. Thanks!

_______________________

* I misspelled “refrigerator” as I was writing this post. I happened to be writing this post while at Consortium Time. I turned to Aaron and Becca and said, “I need someone to write a sci-fi story about a device that regenerates figs. It would be called a ‘refigerator.'”

They were not amused.
Although Becca said I had her until “figs.”

** Also, I seem to be a pathological liar.

*** Jessie mentioned haiku this week, which is why Japanese poetry is so randomly present in this blog post. Gadzooks, Brain.

Okay, Scifi & Fantasy Fans, This One’s for You


Ladies and gentlehobbits, I present to you:

A Consortium of Worlds, Vol. 1 (Fall Issue)

This is the first issue of the new Consortium Books quarterly, speculative fiction, short story e-magazine for Kindle and Nook. If you don’t know what spec fic is, just think sci-fi and fantasy with, in our case, a little dash of steampunk and mythology thrown in. It’s a yummy stew of otherwordly writerliness, and, as you might have guessed, I highly recommend a generous helping!

Buy A Consortium of Worlds, Vol. 1 (Fall Issue) for $2.99 on Kindle!

Buy it here for $2.99 on Nook!

My ingredient for this recipe comes in the form of a high fantasy short story, “Dead Reconning.” I’ve set it in what’s known anecdotally in Consortium circles as my “Triad universe.” You’ll find out more about the Triad universe in Fall 2012, when Consortium Books publishes my first epic fantasy novel, Legend’s Artisans: Schism (working title).

But. “Dead Reconning.” In this story, Wolf Dornsson and Lendry Bersallir, his lady fair, are trying to escape both Lendry’s disapproving father and the general, countrywide menace of undead elven soldiers. There’s adventure, romance, heroicness, argument, grotesqueness, grossness, and sword-fighting. It’s a light-hearted romp with a backdrop of darkness, and I kinda like it. I hope you will, too!

My fellow cooks in the Consortium of Worlds kitchen are:

Buy A Consortium of Worlds for Kindle or for Nook. Happy reading!

Cover art: Image by Yours Writerly Drawingly; trade dress by Amy Nickerson Design.

I Like Photos. Let Me Show You It.

The One Where I Lost My Brain

This past weekend, I went oldskool.

I went on a photowalk Saturday night, and I used my “old” (ca. 2001) 35mm camera.

By Amy Nickerson Design. Amy makes me feel NOT old.

The idea first popped into my head when I realized that the digicam’s batteries were dead.

“Oh!” thinks I. “Instead of going to the battery store, I’ll just hop over to Walmart and pick up film for the 35mm! It’d be fun to work with that one again.”

As it turns out, the saga of getting film and then making an extra trip back to Walmart to get a deities-blasted battery for the 35mm was more epic than would’ve been the trip to the battery store. Murphy, you are SO not my fave, dude.

But, in spite of all the trips to The Evil WM Store and in spite of the 100+ºF heat of the summer afternoon, by Saturday evening I finally found myself in Guthrie, Oklahoma, with Amy, Becca, Ryan, Ann, and new acquaintance Kelsey.

We Be-ed Artsy

In case you’re new to the term, a photowalk is a walk on which you go in order to take photos.

Ba-dum ching*.

Amy organized the whole shindig. Kelsey wanted Amy to teach her some new-camera tricks, so Amy invited the rest of us to tag along and be artsy.

So we tagged along and be-ed artsy.

If you’ve been paying attention, you know that I can’t yet share any of my photos with you — since they’re on 35mm film and have yet to be developed and all. But Amy gave me the go-ahead to share a few of her shots, which just goes to show what a totally cramazing person she is.

THANK YOU, AMY!

Photos are click-to-embiggen-able.

Becca had the perfect look for this shot. And yes, this is Guthrie, OK. Not Hawaii. I promise (sadly).

Amy caught me taking pictures. Don't know how that happened. ; )

Apron. Tied to a fire escape. WHY IS THE APRON THERE?!? Nobody knows.

This is both sad and fabulous to me.

Becca, Kelsey, and Anne. Chillin'.

The artsiness plus that cramazing fan make this one of my favorite photos of me ever. My photog friends are great for my ego. ; )

Sorry for all the weird frame sizes. I pretend to know what I’m doing with this thing called Com Pewt Errr, but it doesn’t always work out.

Of Skunks, Trespassing, and Dapper Defiance of Death

In-between and all around this awesome artsiness, the following took place:

We wampished** about in alleys,

avoided a weaving sort of fellow in a cowboy hat outside a place called the “Blow Out Club,”

called “here, kitty, kitty” to some animals we belatedly recognized as skunks,

trespassed on private property to take shots on the hood of a fantabulous, ancient, orange Ford truck,

composed an awkward “all-the-girls-grab-each-other” shot,

leapt into the air screaming like banshees,

and ran shrieking toward an oncoming train***.

There were also quite a few that’s-what-she-saids.

That was fun, too. ; )

_______________________

*This is actually listed in Wiktionary. Oh, the times in which we live.

**I picked this word up I don’t know where, but my notes tell me it’s Scottish dialect for “to wave about or flop to and fro.” I am open to correction on this.

***No photographers were harmed in the making of this photowalk.

When The Salmon Speaks, Do You Listen?

This made sense when I drew it. I swear.

Or: The One That Got Away

Last night, Trish and Becca came over to help me select a few of my paintings to donate to the Consortium’s art fundraiser. Afterward, Becca and I chatted about all things artsy, including noveling and blogging.

As I was replacing paintings on my overloaded art shelves, Becca said, “I almost had this great idea for a new story…but it didn’t quite materialize, and now I can’t remember it.”

I nodded in sympathy, having experienced such non-remembering of ideas more times than I care to not-forget. For a few moments, we discussed the merits of Writing Things Down, and then I remembered something.

“You know,” I said, “I just remembered something. I read somewhere that if we don’t quite remember a story idea, then maybe it wasn’t a valid story idea after all. If it really is The One, it’ll probably pop up again, even if we don’t write it down.”

Story Ideas Eat My Worms

Grandpa used to take us kids fishing every summer when my parents and I congregated with aunts, uncles, and cousins at the grandparental home in Oklahoma. We’d go out to a family friend’s property and fish from this rickety, ancient, sagging wooden bridge (which was okay for the ’80s but probably wouldn’t hold water [ha ha] with any safety standard of today).

Sometimes, we caught a fish, and there was much rejoicing, since Grandpa would be the one to clean it. Most times, though, we’d feel a twitch on our line, yank our fishing pole back, and reel in nothing but a soggy, half-eaten worm who was definitely not having a good day. Those crafty fish knew just how much to nibble without getting themselves in trouble. Which goes to show that a catfish is smarter than a 9-year-old human.

Last night, after Becca went home, I had an absolutely cramazing idea for a blog post.

I didn’t write it down.

This morning, I woke up not to a bright, sparkly new idea — but to a half-eaten, soggy, grumpy worm.

Big Fish Story

No! It really was that big! I promise!

I remember things about that blog post idea. It was gonna be smart, it was gonna be snarky-funny, and it was gonna give you dear inklings some great how-to-do-something info. That unwritten, now much-lamented blog post was going to be one of my best yet. It was gonna be The One.

It got away.

So now, I’m asking myself: Was that really The One? If it were The One, wouldn’t it have stuck around? Since all I ended up with was mangled bait, does that mean the Big One is still lurking out there somewhere?

And that thought leads to the image of me, wading out into the deep and getting half a leg bitten off by something that I wouldn’t have wanted on my line in the first place.

Ideas can be scary. Some of them have sharp teeth and are big enough to swallow you whole. They wait out there where it’s dark and deep, and oh, they move fast. I picture them as deep-sea angler fish the size of a VW Beetle.

Gone Fishin’

So, if you clicked through to that angler fish picture, you’ve now seen one of my greatest fears. Angler fish fascinate me — mostly because I find the sight of them terrifying. (Imagine my surprise and relief when, a few years back, I found out they’re about the size of my hand. Or smaller. No VWs, thank goodness.)

But, in spite of my fear, I still go fishin’. No, I’ve never fished out on the ocean — but even when I’m standing on the bank of a placid Oklahoma lake, my imagination supplies the endlessly deep water and the lurking, fishy creepazoids, thank you very much. Those shiver-your-spine thoughts don’t deter me from fishing…

…but still, let’s just say I’ll never become a noodler. ; )

Gone Writin’

So, what about this write-it-or-lose-it thing? Honestly, I can’t tell ya. I carry my scribblebook with me almost everywhere, and I’m always jotting down something. Are they all viable ideas? No. I’ve stuck a few soggy worms in there. Sometimes, the simple act of writing myself a note tells me that I won’t be looking at this idea again.

But still, I write ’em down, even if they’re nothing but water-logged mush. Because if I don’t write it down, I’ll always remember that flash of fin, that brief flick of a tail, and I’ll always wonder,

Was that The One?

______________________

And you, dear inklings? Do you keep a scribblebook? How faithful are you in recording those half-glimpsed ideas?

Or do you prefer the scribble-on-scraps technique of trapping those elusive ideas?

If you don’t capture an idea, do you choose to believe it wasn’t viable in the first place?

The Most Difficult Thing in the World–in the Shower

Idea Lizard with Vacuum Hose

Recently, I got inspired when Becca talked about what really happens in the shower.

Before you all click through en masse to find out the details, I’ll tell you the gist of what Becca was getting at: the power of verbalizing ideas and the precious instances in which we get those ideas.

Lizards

For Becca, those instances happen to take place in the shower. As I left a comment on her post, I pondered my own sources for artistic ideas.

Many of you, my most darlingest readers, heard me talk last Thursday about one of those sources: my dreams. (That was my first ever video blog post, and many of you lovelies let me know how much you enjoyed it! Thanks again — and yes, I do intend to repeat the trick. What I won’t do for you people… 😉 )

So, Becca revealed that what really goes on in the shower is thinking. In my reply to her post, I wrote the following:

My thinking time happens whenever I just let my mind wander. Like a kid, it comes back to me with its hands and pockets stuffed full of all sorts of oddities. This usually happens when I’m doing housework. The more mindless and repetitive the activity, the more likely I am to turn around and find my artist-child brain holding up a lizard or something for me to coo over.

Valkyries

Were this Twitter, and were I tweeting, I would now employ the most handy hashtag #outingmyself. There you have it, folks. I might be 34 years old, but inside, my mind is really just a big kid.

My mind loafs around, skipping merrily down darkened alleys and picking up things that probably shouldn’t be touched. I’ll be doing housework — vacuuming the floors, let’s say — and suddenly, I have this idea that a certain demon (Dante) in a certain story I’m working on (Colors of Deception) should have an obsession with the music of a certain rock band (INXS).

#thatreallyhappened

I’m shoving the vacuum across the carpet with all the elegance of a Valkyrie in platform shoes, and my artist-child brain dances up and shoves my antagonist’s main quirk in my face. “Look!” says the artist-child. “Look at this! Have you ever seen anything like this before? What is it?” And the most important question:

“What can we do with it?”

Greed and Goethe

What, indeed? In the case of this particular idea, what I did was drop the vacuum, grab some paper, and scribble down the idea. I’d been thinking, but I hadn’t been thinking consciously. I knew that such ideas originate in the vast depths of the subconscious, and as easily as they emerge from the murk, they can just as easily sink back into it. I needed to preserve my idea as quickly as possible, so that I could come back to it later on.

The artist-child loves to share her discoveries — but she can be a greedy little hoarder, too. She doesn’t trust me to take proper care of her lizard; she wants to stick him back into her pocket for safekeeping. She’ll take the lizard back from me if she can — meaning, if I don’t record my idea, I will forget it.

When I write down an idea in my scribblebook, it’s like sticking the lizard in a jar until I can put him into an environment where he can thrive.

Putting the idea into a story, that’s like letting the lizard loose in a huge terrarium made just for him, where he can run and play and laze around and just be what he was meant to be.

“Thinking is easy, acting is difficult, and to put one’s thoughts into action is the most difficult thing in the world.”

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Goethe knew it’s not easy, building a terrarium to house all those scampering little idea lizards.

My artist-child mind brings ’em to me while I’m stuck doing the most mundane activities. But I guess it’s kind of a fair trade, considering how much I love playing with that terrarium.

And once the idea lizards are free to be themselves within their new home (i.e. within my stories), my inner artist-child concedes that keeping them cooped up in her pockets wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun, after all.

___________________________

And you? Where and when do you do your best thinking?

Does your mind hand you ideas you’d rather not touch too often?

What do you do with those?

What’s your lizard?

My 10-Hour Adrenaline Rush (Better Than Chocolate)

(Yes, I said that!)

So. Yesterday. Photographers, model, husband, and I drove 2 1/2 hours northwest of Oklahoma City to Great Salt Plains State Park.

Our goal: shooting the cover art for my novel Colors of Deception, due out in less than 4 weeks.

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeek!!!

We had adventure, rain, mud, sunshine, laughter, singing, goosebumps, oooh-aaaah moments, adrenaline, and pesto. I don’t have time to give a full report right now — and even if I had time, I’m not sure I’d have the words to convey how cramazing it is to watch a scene from my novel come to life in reality right in front of my eyes and tangible.

All I can say is that Julie and Carlos (read: photographers) got Morgan (read: model) into a pose; Julie and Carlos stepped back; and suddenly, Morgan was Holly (read: novel’s main character).

It was breathtaking.

The images I took with my little digital point-‘n’-shoot don’t do the day justice and certainly don’t compare to the Velezes’ pro photos! But still, here are a few of my shots for you to peruse. Maybe they’ll give you a little taste of the magic I was privileged to witness yesterday. Enjoy! : )

Morgan turns the Velezmobile into her dressing room

Carlos engages in primitive caveman ritual arranges rocks and a small tree for props

Getting to watch all the prep stuff was kinda fun. Carlos fought with that dumb tree — and finally ended up digging a hole and filling it with rocks to anchor the the stubborn shrubbery.

Carlos gives up the caveman stuff in favor of funky tech!

Julie starts making magic

Of course the vegetation would look dead in a demon world. ;o)

The wide open landscape of the Salt Plains is perfect for Saltmarch!

Presto Pesto! Julie made it, and it was deeeeelish.

Morgan poses for some non-book-related shots

I'm keeping the cover art shots a surprise until the book comes out...but I *can* share some images that hint at the desolation of Saltmarch.

My favorite of my Saltmarch shots. (And yes, I know there's not supposed to be any water.) ;o)

My most heartfelt thanks go out to Morgan, who was a fantastic and gorgeous model; Julie and Carlos for their professionalism and fabulous creative skills; to Ed, my husband, for his support and for schlepping trees all over Oklahoma; to Becca for scouting the Salt Plains with me; and to Aaron for getting us all together.

You are all amazing people, and I am so very blessed to have you in my life!

Watch this blog for news and information on Colors of Deception, due for release next month!