#NaNoWriMo When You Have No Freaking Clue What Happens Next

Hile, wordslingers!

With neither ado nor adon’t, Ima splat you right in the face with a lemon meringue writing advice pie. It’s November, and that means NaNoWriMo, and though I ain’t perticipatin’, I know there’re plenty of you crazy kids out there who might need a little scribbling inspiration as the end of Week One approacheth. So here y’all go:

This Hoopla We Call Writing

Writers are people with ideas. Or so the story goes. Most of us, when we sit down to start writing, don’t seem to have much trouble finding something to write about–after all, if we didn’t have the idea, we wouldn’t have sat down to write in the first place. (This might be what’s called circular logic, but I’m gonna go with it anyway.) (Also, this might not apply to the dreaded monster known as Undergraduate Thesis Paper; but in this case, if the list of ideas grows short, there’s always coffee and foolhardiness.)

Hitting The Wall

But I digress. (Shocking, innit?) We writers are people with ideas…except when we’re not. The initial sit-down-and-start-scribbling-like-mad ideas are not a problem. If you’re reading this blog, chances are you’ve got that covered. But what happens after the first bout of hectic, joyous franticness fizzles out?

Oh yes, you know what I’m talking about. Don’t you dare shy away. Make eye contact with me, kiddos! We’ve all been there: You’re slashing away with your pen at that bountiful pad of lined, yellow paper. You’re hammering away at those keys as if they’re tiny square culprits who drank the last of the milk and stuck the empty carton back in the fridge. Things are flowing, story’s moving, characters are sparkling–and BOOM. Dead end. You smash face-first into a wall, and you’re pummeled by that most horrid of questions: What happens next??? You don’t have a clue, because you. Are out. Of ideas.

Part of the solution to your difficulty is that most horrid of pre-writing exercises, The Outline. But that’s another story and shall be told another time. What we’re concerned with today is ideas, and we’re going to turn to a seasoned pro for advice on where to get them.

Elmore Leonard Gets Ideas…

In “Making It Up as I Go Along” (AARP Magazine [don’t ask], July/August 2009), Elmore Leonard describes some of the ways in which he generates ideas for his stories. Considering his novel-pub cred (Get Shorty, Three-Ten to Yuma, Out of Sight, and Rum Punch, among many others), I figure the man probably knows what he’s talking about. So take a look at some of these and see if any of them resonate with you:

…From Photos

Leonard describes how the main character of his novel Out of Sight started life as a photograph of a woman deputy marshal holding a pump-action shotgun.

eleonardAs some of you, my darling readers, already know, I am a very visual person. I can see myself picking up a magazine like National Geographic, thumbing through to an article about some 19th-century adventurer, and feasting my eyes and my creative brain on the sepia-fuzzy image of a hood-eyed man in a weather-beaten hat. Maybe he’s wearing a heel-length overcoat and carrying a pack. BOOM again–but in a good way, this time. Suddenly, I have a character named Mac Finchley, and he just stepped out of the magazine pages and into my dead-end chapter–to do what? Shoot my main character in the leg? Build a fire and cook supper? Juggle spoons? Release two badgers and a wombat? The possibilities are endless, which means the ideas start piling up and the story can roll on, dude.

…From Other Writers

When Leonard needs spare style, he reads Ernest Hemingway every day. When he wants to flavor his prose with humor, he picks up Richard Bissell.

Me, I turn to Stephen King when I have trouble with characterization, and to Tad Williams when I need a refresher on world-building. In my opinion, though, it’s best to use caution when reading other writers specifically for help with your own writing. Especially when you’re reading one of your favorites, it’s easy to adopt that person’s style instead of developing your own. It’s natural to imitate what you love. But if you focus on finding your own voice and remain aware of your literary surroundings, you should be able to glean what you need from other writers without transplanting their entire crop into your own creative field.

…From History

Moonshine and the library gave Leonard the seeds for his novel The Moonshine War.eleonard2 Speaking of war and not-so-shining historical moments, I have long thought that the epic battles described in the Bible’s Old Testament provide great framework for battle descriptions in fantasy stories. And in ancient Roman tradition, a slave whispered “you are only a man” to the great leader as he made his triumphal entry into the city; in my novel Rethana’s Trial, I turned this bit of real-world history into a character’s final test of manhood. Humanity’s past abounds with facts and people and scenes that will spark a fire of what-happens-next in your mind. Grab a history book, open it to a random page, and let what you read be the next challenge your characters face. How does the real-world snippet “translate” to the world of your story? How will your characters handle it? Let them tell you.

…From Real People

Leonard based a fictional judge on a real-life friend in the judicial system.

For my novel Shadows after Midnight, I needed someone to get my main character into a heavy metal concert without a ticket. On the day I wrote that scene, I happened to be texting with my friend Bryan, who listens to the kind of music my MC was hearing. Jokingly, I asked Bryan if I could put him in my book. He said sure–and suddenly, my MC had the knowledgeable insider he needed, complete with a T-shirt bearing the name of Bryan’s favorite heavy metal band. Later on, it turned out that Bryan had information my MC was desperate to get, which moved the MC and other characters halfway across the country.

So look around at your friends and family and see who possesses the traits your characters might need to move your story forward. You know these people–their habits, hang-ups, foibles, and faces. Once you start pondering, I promise you’ll find you know exactly who is going to help your characters take over the world. Of course, you should always ask permission before you assign a real person the role of Evil Overlord, lest you acquire too-intimate experience with a lawsuit for defamation of character.

______

So there you have it, sweetlings. A few ways to generate ideas that will poke, nudge, prod, or blast your story forward when you’re stuck. But plenty of other options exist, and I don’t doubt you’ve thought of some while reading this post. The mental block of what-happens-next can seem as intimidating as a 2001 monkey-hysteria space-monolith. But it need not lay you low. Use some of Leonard’s methods to generate some ideas, or follow some of the methods that have worked for you in the past. (Share them in the comments! We all need ’em!) You’ll be skipping gaily around that monolith in no time. Or at least hacking dementedly away at it with a hammer and chisel.

To wrap up, a few particularly enjoyable and helpful quotes from Leonard:

“Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.”

“Dialogue, in fact, is the element that keeps the story moving. Characters are judged as they appear. Anyone who can’t hold up his or her end of the conversation is liable to be shelved, or maybe shot.” (I, Courtney, heart this one with gusto.)

“A photo of a woman marshal with a shotgun, and a prison break, gave me what I needed to write a love story.”

“After 58 years you’d think writing would get easier. It doesn’t. If you’re lucky, you become harder to please. That’s all right, it’s still a pleasure.”

May we all be able to say that after 58 years. 🙂

OPINIONS WANTED! Win free books!

Hile, inklings!

If you were paying attention last fall and winter (and I know that you were, because that’s just the attentive sort of darlings you are), you might recall that my novel for NaNoWriMo 2011 was a low sci-fi story workingly entitled Elevator People.

Should you require a reminder, do please click here for relevant blog posts.

Unfinished Business

By my calculations, when pregnancy-related woes brought my post-NaNo work on Elevator People to a screeching halt back in January, I had about 20,000 words left before finishing the story.

Since then, I’ve published two more novels:

Stains of Grace, the third book in my paranormal fantasy trilogy Demons of Saltmarch

and

Rethana’s Surrender, the first book in my epic fantasy series Legends of the Light-Walkers.

In spite of the work and focus that went into producing those two books, and in spite of the work and focus that has gone and is going into producing a baby, the somewhat-abandoned Elevator People has never been far from my thoughts.

Finishing the Business

I am under no illusions that I will have time or energy for writing during the first few months of my child’s life. I anticipate having the attention span of a hamster.

But.

It would be really cramazingly cool — it would flip my bangerang switch — it would really swing my verge if I could write the final 20,000 words of Elevator People‘s first draft before the end of 2012.

Seriously. All I’ve got left is the final approach to the climax, the climax itself, and the denouement.

That’s not a lot, y’all.

Delegating the Business

So.

Here’s where you and your opinions come in.

Ready?

As a title, Elevator People is not sufficient. Several fellow writers have told me it sparks nothing in them. Other fellow writers have said it makes them think I’m writing about elevator technicians. Or maybe office workers.

This will not do. After all, this story is sci-fi. And the title should invoke something to that effect.

Therefore.

I want your opinions, people. I want you to re-title my novel. And I shall reward you for doing so.

Why do I ask this of you? Well, mostly because I can’t think of anything myself. ; ) But also, if I know others are already invested in this project, then I am more likely to complete it. It’s like working out: I can rarely stick to an exercise regimen if I’m just working out at home by myself. But give me a yoga class or an aerobics class in which I can see others invested in the “project,” and I’ll step up my game.

Aerobics. Step up. Get it? GET IT???

I crack me up.

Anyway. I hereby formally request that you, my dear inklings, ponder title possibilities for my novel and share them with me in the comments below. Here are a few things about the book that you should consider whilst pondering:

Genre: low sci-fi with steampunk undertones
There’s not a huge amount of science in this story. It’s set in the main character’s present (but our future?). It’s set on multiple worlds, possibly in multiple dimensions. The main character is not tech-savvy but is familiar with Industrial-Revolution-style trappings.

Main character: Wentworth “Went” Banning, male, mid-20s, not from Earth, traveling the galaxy via elevator

MC’s goal: use elevator find his real father, whom he knows only as “Mr. Banjoman”

Elevator: runs on magic in the sense that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from “magic”; one myth about elevator says it was created from music

Supporting characters: 2 Earthling urchins, Jop and Skee; 1 tech-savvy non-Earthling woman, Risk

Main antagonist: galaxy-traveling sociopathic pedophile slave-owner

Other antagonists: 1 wanna-be female slave owner, 1 vampire

ROUGH STORY QUESTION: Will Went Banning find his real father while protecting Jop, Skee, and Risk from their enemies?

If you need more information than that as you ponder your titular ponderings, let me know. I’ll endeavor to answer without spoilers. ; )

Rewarding Business

Okay! Now for the really fun part:

You ponder a title.

You share it with me in the comments below by end-of-day, September 30, 2012. (No more than one title each, please.) Don’t forget to leave a valid email address.*

As my future hamster-like attention span allows, I will pick my favorite and one runner-up.

Whether or not my indie publisher chooses to adopt your title, I will reward you as follows:

If I pick your title as my favorite, I will give you a free e-copy and a free paperback copy of the novel once it comes out.

If I pick your title as runner-up, I will give you a free e-copy of the novel once it comes out.

GO.

_______

*I promise to use your email address for contest-contacting purposes only.

Kindlebook Writer (sing it!)

So. A couple of months ago, I blogged a post entitled Paaaaperbaaack Wriiiiiterrrrr (sing it!). There might have been more or fewer “a”s, “i”s, and “r”s there; I haven’t counted them. But, in case you couldn’t tell, I was referencing the old favorite, “Paperback Writer,” by The Beatles.

Every since then, it’s been in the back of my mind to write some parody lyrics applicable to our modern e-book age. So, without further ado or don’t, here is said parody. Enjoy!

“Kindlebook Writer”

(Tune: “Paperback Writer” by The Beatles)

Kindlebook writer
Kindlebook writer
Writer, writer…

Dearest Twitter peeps,
Do you Kindle? Nook?
In a month, I wrote
A NaNoWriMo book!

Kindlebook!

It is fantasy,
And it’s really good,
And I need the cash,
So I want to be a
Kindlebook writer.
Kindlebook writer!

It’s an epic story
Of a dragon man,
And his elven wife
doesn’t understand.

His son is working
For the Witches’ Guild.
It’s a funky job,
But he wants to be a
Kindlebook writer.
Kindlebook writer!

It’s three thousand pages,
Electronic-wise.
You can swipe the story
‘Til your Kindle dies.

The sequel only
Took me half a week.
My dear spell-check helped me!
And I’m gonna be a
Kindlebook writer.
Kindlebook writer!

At Amazon
It is now on sale.
You can buy it now!
Come and buy my tale!

Review it now!
Give it five gold stars!
I could use the boost,
And I’m gonna be a
Kindlebook writer.
Kindlebook writer!

Kindlebook writer!

________

Thank you, thank you. ; )

P.S. Just to clarify: Rethana’s Surrender is, in fact, *not* about a dragon man with a cantankerous elven wife and a witchly-employed son. That would make an awesome story, though, so if any of you want to write it, please do!

#Amediting: 1st Drafts in Riding Gear, People

Dear inklings, there are some things in a writer’s life that should never see the light of day.

One of these things is Herself at the end of a frazzled, caffeine-overladen, hair-pulling-out writing session. Fortunately, I haven’t had a writing session of that nature since the end of NaNoWriMo, so we’re none of us in danger of apocalypse induced via zombified writer.

 
However, another writerly thing that should never see the light of day (READ: should never be shared with a mass of readers and potential readers and potential potential readers) is a draft manuscript.

A particularly good example of what can happen when a draft manuscript is accidentally released into the wild is here. If you want the short version without clicking through: It’s the case of Stephenie Meyer’s Midnight Sun vs. the Internet. I’m not sure who won, but I kept an eye on those events as they unfolded, and they weren’t pretty.

Anyway.

Draft manuscripts should go to beta, gamma, and delta readers only. The adoring public needs protection from the horrors, especially from the horrors of FIRTS draft manuscripts.

If you’re an unsuspecting fan/reader, and you get your hands on a first draft MS and start reading, the first draft MS will sprout long, gaunt, claw-tipped fingers, reach out from the page/screen while you stare transfixed like a fluffy baby chick before the hypnotic gaze of the rock python, and rip your little fan/reader eyeballs right out of their little fan/reader sockets.

And then it will eat your firstborn.

I care about you, my lovelies. I don’t ever want that to happen to you.

But.

I’m editing my way through what I’ve got so far of my low sci-fi Elevator People (working title), and I just found this gem, and I absolutely must share it with you. If you are weak of stomach or faint of heart, please don’t test your fortitude on this. I take no responsibility for any hypnotized gazing or eyeball out-gouging. Continue reading at your own risk.

Here goes.

Are you ready?

BE SURE.

Cover your face and glance through your fingers if you think you can’t handle it but just can’t resist taking that dangerous, forbidden peek.

My draft manuscript boasts this:

There’s nothing special I can add to the resistance, but it was a into and out in riding gear all the way.
The moment he thought he’d identified the seriousness of the situation, there’s no doubt Lady Fair intended to sell Risk at a price that would let the Lady expand her business and bits of the fact of her absence whatever.
The admission rankled.

The admission that I wrote this rankles.

Partial explanation: I was scribbling so fast for NaNoWriMo, I didn’t bother using the backspace key to delete unnecessary wordage. Things ran together, mushed into each other, and decided to couple in a most bizarre and disturbing fashion. I should probably shoulder the responsibility for this hideous match-making, but I ain’t gonna. ; )

Also, whatever…in riding gear all the way, people. IN RIDING GEAR.

*sigh*

I now take my leave of you, most desirous that your little fan/reader eyeballs are still tucked securely into their little fan/reader sockets.

*mwah!*

Chicken. Headless. Editing. You’ll wanna see this.

People are starting to wonder about me, I know. Where’s Courtney? Why hasn’t she been around Twitter? Where are her cramazing blog posts? What’s she been up to?

Well, my dear inklings, I have been up to exactly one thing:

EDITING.

Specifically, I’ve been editing:

  • Joshua Unruh‘s first TEEN Agents novel,
  • Aaron Pogue‘s next fantasy novel, The Dragonswarm,
  • my own unfinished, low sci-fi NaNoWriMo novel Elevator People (working title)
  • and my own short story “Out of the Darkness” for next month’s short story collection A Consortium of Worlds, Vol. 1, Winter Issue.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am one of those really weird people who loves loves loves editing. I am one of those weird people who thinks editing is fun. But really…right now…after having done nothing writerly except edit for a week before I caught the Plague *and* since I recovered from the Plague last week….

I.
Am.
Spent.

And I feel like this:

If you need me, I’ll be cleaning my house and complaining that I’m not working on my unfinished, low sci-fi NaNoWriMo novel Elevator People (working title). ; )

P.S. Just for the record, I love the works I’ve been editing. : )
_________________________

What about you, love? What’s got you running around like decapitated barnyard fowl?

Why #NaNoWriMo? (Of Plot Bunnies and Ninja Zombies)

Hello, my lovelies.

In case you hadn’t noticed, I spent November firmly and happily ensconced in this year’s National Novel Writing Month, abbreviated to NaNoWriMo for your convenience.

NaNoWriMo is the manic, overcaffeinated, unpaid, underslept, head-desking, face-palming, keyboard-hammering, plot-bunnying, ninja-zombieing, annual November endeavor of hundreds of thousands of writers world-wide, each writing their own 50,000-word novel between November 1st and 30th.

2011 marks my eighth year participating in this adventure. Because I am a crazy person.

I first stumbled across the NaNo website in January? February? of 2003 — and I knew this was my kind of party. AW yeah. With bated breath, I waited most of a year before the next November rolled around. When it did (because how could it resist?), I banged out 50,000 words of what would eventually become my high fantasy novel Triad.

In 2004, I tried it again. I got 12,000 words into Triad‘s sequel and quit. Only last year did I realize that this happened because I had no plot.

Chorus: DUH.

In 2005, I staged a comeback and got my 50k in. Bam.
In 2006, I did it again.
In 2007, I moved across the Atlantic Ocean. This is conducive to *headdesk*ing and *facepalm*ing but not to NaNoWriMo-ing.
In 2008, another successful comeback. Another win in 2009, and another in 2010.

And, as you can see, I just garnered my seventh win a couple days back (click to embiggen):

But Is This Getting Me Anywheres?

You bet your patootie it is.

Colors of Deception, my 2008 NaNo novel, came out in April 2011.
Shadows after Midnight, my 2009 NaNo novel, came out in October 2011.
Stains of Grace, my 2010 NaNo novel, is slated for release in April 2012.
Triad is on the publishing schedule for 2012 and will come out in two volumes: Legend’s Artisans: Schism and Legend’s Artisans: Triad.

NaNoWriMo works for me.

A Few Reasons Why NaNoWriMo Works for Me

1. DEADLINES!
Myers-Briggs-wise, I’m an INFP who, in some things, turns into an INFJ. It’s really kind of scary how accurately parts of both profiles describe me. I don’t want to go into detail about either right now, because that’s not what this blog post is about.
But if you click through those links and read the profiles, you’ll understand what I mean when I say that I am crazy passionate about writing, and yet I have trouble setting myself writerly deadlines and actually adhering to them. Note that I’m a master at setting the deadline; I just sail past it with a wave and a wink, and the easy sailing-past doesn’t bother me one whit.
NaNoWriMo gives me a deadline I can’t ignore — because somebody else sets it. If I ignore it, I’ll feel like an abysmal failure and spend the rest of the year kicking myself for disappointing…somebody. (Myself.)
Deadlines are great for me. But only if they come from outside.

2. PEOPLE! PEOPLE DOING THE SAME THING I’M DOING! AT THE SAME TIME!
I cannot count how many exercise videos I’ve purchased and tried to do at home. It never works out. I get bored with them. I talk back to them. They don’t talk back. I hate not getting a reply. I move on.
I’m an introvert, which means I get my energy from my alone time. But I also crave interaction. I crave the meeting-of-minds that happens on a deeper level. I crave that instant in which the other person gets me.
NaNoWriMo is like 300,000 people getting me all at once, sustained for a whole month.
I swear I don’t mean that as dirty as it sounds.
Fortunately, I don’t have to talk to all 300,000 of them. I get to interact with a choice few, and they meet my mind in a big way. They keep me going, and I keep them going, because we grok. When I talk, they talk back. To an INFP like me, that’s water in the desert, y’all.

3. PLOT BUNNIES AND NINJA ZOMBIES!
Honestly, I don’t know what plot bunnies and zombie ninjas are all about. They have something to do with getting unstuck when you get stuck during NaNoWriMo. I think.
If I were to make up my own connections: Bunnies proliferate; it’s great when plots keep going and spawn new ideas. Ninja zombies…mindlessly…kill people…in interesting ways.
And eat them.
Yeah. I got nothin’.

4. COFFEE!
Moving right along! Coffee is a writing elixir. It is a writing balm. (Please note, that’s “balm,” not “bomb.”) It is a salve unto the writer’s wounded, weary spirit during the Dreaded Week Two (during which many NaNo-ers tend to give up). I take my joe with stevia and almond milk.

5. #WORDWAR AND #NANOWORDSPRINTS ON TWITTER!
This year, I participated in these for the first time ever. The idea is to meet up with other WriMos on Twitter via these hashtags and challenge each other to meet a certain wordcount goal in a certain number of minutes. I might tweet, “#wordwar for 10 at :20! Who’s in?” which would be my invitation for others to join me in writing like chimpanzees on meth for 10 minutes straight, starting at 20 minutes past the hour.
These meet-ups worked okay for me. They worked because of everything I nattered on about in point #2 above.
They didn’t work, because if I did too many of them on any given night, I burned out fast. Some writers can pound out 1500 words in 30 minutes and turn right around and do another 1000 during the next 30. Me, I struggle to get 600 or 700 in half an hour. There’s something about my attention span and stamina that requires me to take frequent, brain-resting breaks. Anytime I ignored this, I burned out on #wordwar and #nanowordsprints.
But still, there is point #2, which is why point #5 is worth including.

6. EXCLAMATION MARKS!
Don’t mind this. It’s nothing but gratuitous silliness.

7. NO INNER EDITOR!
The last time I completed the first draft of a novel separate from NaNoWriMo was in 1999. (It was my final project for my bachelor’s degree; I had a deadline; see point #1.) Since then, every time I’ve tried to finish a non-November novel, my Inner Editor has tied my hands to the back of my chair and refused to let me finish the story. She has to tinker with it, and she is never satisfied.

The hussy gets in my way.

Every November, I banish my Inner Editor to the deepest mental dungeon I’ve got. She rails at me from behind those bars. She weeps and gnashes her teeth. She pleads. She wheedles.
She sucks.
Happily hammering away at my keyboard, I ignore her and get my first draft out. Once I purge it from my system, I’ve got something to work with. (See Inner Editor licking her bloody lips even as I type this paragraph? She knows what’s coming, and she is hungry for it.)
When I have something to work with, I let Inner Editor out of her prison. She is up the stairs in a flash, pretty much rabid with desire to get her hands on my story.
By this time, you see, she is hungry.
Me, I meander upstairs and make myself another cup of coffee. I can already hear her in there, crowing with delight as she highlights, deletes, and backspaces. Every so often, I peek over her shoulder to watch her progress. She might even ask me a question or two about plot arc or character development. For a manic, starving thing, she can be disturbingly generous.

But mostly, I just stay out of her way and let her work.
She’s gonna craft and hone me a story that will knock your socks off.

_____________________

Inklings, fellow WriMos, writer friends, and coffee lovers: the comments are yours. Tell us what you’ve gleaned from NaNo, from your own editing, from this post. Share and share alike! Inquiring minds want to know. Feed us. : )

Top 10 Writerly Fears; Also, #NaNoWriMo

Halloween is scary. Writerly fears are scary. Therefore, a non-scary (I hope) pic of me with my Halloween facepaint totally fits the subject of this post. No, really, it does. Click to embiggen!

Hello, my darlings. I’m sorry you’ve heard nothing from me all week! Alas and alack, all of my wordage has gone toward National Novel Writing Month, the insane challenge of writing a 50,000-word novel during the month of November.

I undertake it every year because I am a crazy person.
 

 

 

Most happily, the daily word count average is 1,667. As of this blogposting, I am the happy writer-owner of 14,200 words, which puts me about 5 days ahead of where I need to be. My story is the low sci-fi adventure Elevator People (working title), and it is going quite cramazingly. Thank you for asking. : )

I have a couple thousand more words to pound out tonight. So, without further ado or adon’t, here is a top ten list to entertain you!

Top 10 Writerly Fears

 

  1. Every image I use is cliché.
  2. My character doesn’t have a clear voice.
  3. I am a one-trick pony. (I.e. everyone loved my last book — what if the next one sucks?)
  4. My friends are going to disapprove.
  5. My family is going to disown me.
  6. I can’t execute the requested edits.
  7. I can’t make this story long enough.
  8. I can’t make this story short enough.
  9. I’m going to invest ten years in this writing business and then find out I should’ve done something else.
  10. I’m never going to get any better at this.

____________________

I should note, perhaps, that only a few of these are my personal fears, and they only rear their ugly heads upon occasion.

How about you? Do these fears match any of yours?

Which writerly fears can you think of that I didn’t mention?

The comments are yours. Weigh in! : )

* Facepainting design based on designs by Fancy Faces Face Painting. (Used by permission.)

Cat Vomit and Temper Tantrums

Over at UnstressedSyllables.com, I’ve posted my weekly column What I Learned About Writing This Week. Click on over to find out what cat vomit has to do with my short story crafting and National Novel Writing Month!

There’s a connection. I promise. ; )

Thanks for reading, y’all!

IT’S ALMOST TIME.

I’m Writing About Demons

Greetings, my dears! For my next trick, I’d like to tell you a little bit about my current work-in-progress (WIP). Earlier this week, I mentioned that I’m writing a paranormal fantasy novel. It is, as yet, untitled, so I’m bringing my formidable, literary creative powers to bear upon the title challenge and calling this book Demons 3. Boo-yah.

“So, O Most Formidably Literary Creative One,” you might be thinking, “what does the numeral 3 denote in the title of your work-in-progress?”

Saltmarch, Where The Demons Live

Ahh, my dear Questioning Ones, I am so glad you asked. The “3” in Demons 3 denotes the fact that this WIP is the third in a trilogy I am, thus far, calling “Demons of Saltmarch.” This trilogy consists of:

  • Colors of Deception (projected publishing date: June/July 2011)
  • Shadows After Midnight

and, of course,

  • Demons 3.

The Saltmarch trilogy (hmm…maybe that should be Saltmarch Trilogy — and here you’re witnessing how a writer revises aspects of her work even as she discusses it) had its genesis in vacuuming and vivid dreaming. One night in early 2008, I dreamed that I was standing in the center of a grated bridge. Facing me at one end of the bridge was this human-shaped figure with its jaw unhinged like a snake’s. A ring of darkness came out of its mouth and spread out toward me. Terrified, I knew that the ring should not touch me. I ended up on my hands and knees, scrambling to get away.

But in dreams, we never can get away, can we?

The dark ring engulfed me, and the whole world turned the “color” of TV static. I blinked and was in a different place, surrounded by people who didn’t quite look like people. Somehow, I knew they were demons. They’d used their powers to make this place look like my childhood home. But even though it looked familiar, I knew there was something wrong with it. I knew it wasn’t real. And I knew that the demons called it “Saltmarch.” Then, the dream ended.

Now, some people would have awakened from that dream and felt residual fear and confusion the rest of the day. They would have called it a nightmare and shuddered whilst relating it to friends over mid-morning coffee. Me? I got all excited, wrote it down, and decided it would make a great fantasy novel. If only I could come up with characters for it.

Fast-forward a few months, and I’m vacuuming my hallway, lamenting to myself that I can’t hear my favorite INXS CD over the jarring noise from this behemoth of a dust-sucking apparatus I’m shoving around my home. And, out of nowhere, the thought pops into my head:

What if one of the demons is obsessed with the music of INXS?

I don’t know how these things work. I don’t know why INXS triggered the beginnings of a character description for a character in a story that consisted of nothing but a rather odd dream sequence. All I know is that two months later, during NaNoWriMo 2008, a whole story came pouring out of me, and that dream sequence turned into one of the last scenes leading up to the climax.

That story became Colors of Deception, and it revolves around a young lady named Holly Idaho. Holly’s a sophomore at a Christian university. She’s got her problems: boy issues, tension with her girlfriends, doubts about her faith, an intense crush on the new music teacher, too much homework. Pretty standard stuff for a college student, right?

Until the demon with the INXS obsession shows up. And, as far as Holly is concerned, all hell breaks loose.

Colors of Deception is Holly’s story: how she deals with doubt, terror, love, lust, betrayal, and forgiveness. Her story is filled with the bizarre and the ordinary — a tale I hope will both fascinate readers and connect with them on a basic, I-know-how-that-feels level.

Shadows After Midnight picks up a few months after Colors ends. This second book in the trilogy is the story of Peter Townsend, who is Holly’s somewhat antisocial friend and doesn’t know that he shares a name with several famous people (and wouldn’t care, even if he did know). I won’t tell you much about Peter, because it would give away too much of the first book. But suffice it to say that Peter has a lot of arrogance to get out of his system (oh my word the boy’s got an ego, but I love him!)…and the demon who shows up to plague him has just the tricks to get him to make a mess he can’t clean up on his own.

The unfortunately untitled Demons 3 tells the story of Anne Waylock, another of Holly’s close friends. I feel like a mother hen playing favorites among her baby chicks…but I almost want to say that Anne is my favorite of the three. She’s snarky, unapologetically obnoxious, borderline blasphemous, and deeply, heart-breakingly sensitive. Her external challenges seem more threatening than those Holly and Peter face in their stories — and her internal challenges are far more subtle. I think. I’m not even through Draft 1 of her story yet, so I’m still getting to know her. There are aspects of her that haven’t crystallized yet.

So, that’s my paranormal fantasy trilogy in a shelle du nut. When I talk to people about it, I refer to it as “young adult (YA) paranormal,” but in some ways, I feel this is misleading. No, it’s not “adult” fiction, but if I had kids, I’m not sure I’d want my kids under age 15 to read it. On the other hand, I’m hoping the books will appeal to the wide audience of adults out there who’ve been devouring so much YA fiction over the past decade or so. (Some of you are reading this. 😉 )

Either way, I am so excited to get these books into the hands of readers, I can hardly stand it!