current events; also, stereoscopic vision really freaks me out sometimes

The second half of this entry’s title was a note I emailed to myself more than 3 years ago under subject “blog not tweet.” Actually, the email’s subject line reads, “blog not twwet,” but Ima chalk that up to typo-ing. As it turns out, there are twelve emails nested under that subject, so I’m sharing their content here. YOU’RE WELCOME.

Blog Not Twwet, Because Clearly I Can’t Spell

It is not a happy thing when the baby eats a dead bug. *SIGH*
(2016 Note: This, too, is a message catapulted into this future from about three years ago. The baby has since turned into a preschooler, apparently suffering no ill effects from having consumed dead insect carapace.)

HEY I JUST MET YOU, AND THIS IS CRAZY
BUT LET’S TELL RIDDLES AND I’LL EAT YOU MAYBE.
(2016 Note: I’m assuming this references Gollum.)

Your choices change the direction of other people’s lives. You are not isolated.

(This one’s emphasized because: important.)

Sometimes you just gotta take a few minutes and shave your legs.
(2016 Note: NO.)

Floor messing with head PIC
(2016 Note: I have no idea what this means.)

And now, it seems, quotes:

“@BenHoward87: If you see a centaur, remember it is not your friend. It is a mythical creature and as such does have the capability for rational thought.”

“@BenHoward87: Peanuts cartoons + Morrissey lyrics = the hilarity of existential despair

“@scalzi: Most nerdy t-shirts just don’t seem that clever to me anymore. Clearly, my next t-shirt should read WHY ARE YOU ON MY LAWN”

Remember when Scully wore shoulder pads?

Remember when desktop monitors were the size of anvils?

Remember when we couldn’t Google anything?

Remember when payphones?

“@LeVostreGC: Siri, wher ys the horse and the ridere? Siri, wher ys the horn that was blowinge?”

Wher in the worlde ys Carmen Sandiego?

Just so you know, kinesio-taping your stomach to pull your abs together is not for sissies. #diastasisrecti
(2016 Note: I have a blog post about this. Search for it if you will. I’m too lazy to link to it right now.)

That awkward moment when you look in the mirror and there’s an ant crawling in your hair.

It occurs to me that I haven’t performed a solo in 7 years.
(2016 Note: It’s now been 10 years. I miss singing for audiences.)

Rain. Thunder. Contented. Sigh.
(2016 Note: Weirdness: As I’ve been copying & pasting the last ten lines or so, I’ve been listening to “Love, Reign O’er Me” by The Who. I didn’t know this line was coming up.)

I own a banana slicer and I am not ashamed.

In other news…

As part of my 2016 endeavor to read only women writers, I am currently in the middle of Naomi Novik’s UPROOTED. It is UTTERLY BRILLIANT. It’s one of those books that makes me want to do nothing but read. I resent Thanksgiving Day tomorrow because it will steal me away from this novel. I need to be working on my own WIP (newly retitled THE ELVEN DEAD AND OTHER LEGENDS OF THE LIGHT-WALKERS), but I’d rather read Novik’s book than work on my own.

DASH IT ALL.

P.S. In addition to random “blog not twwet,” I also ran across various Consortium emails from five and more years ago. I let them suck me into reading them, and now I just feel sad. I miss the Consortium-in-its-heyday so much. Being continually involved and multiple-times-daily connected with other artists was a balm to my soul and a life-giver to my spirit. Author-publishing is a lonely business. I desperately miss all-but-living-with other artists, back when everything was running smoothly. We made magic.

my hair is turning green and I don’t care; also, book stuff!

Once upon a time, there was a writer who bleached the face-framing portion of her hair and then dyed that portion pastel blue. pastelbluehairIt lasted a couple of weeks, then faded. And it continued fading from bluish into the bleached blonde until the blue and yellow combo looked decidedly greenish.

But it looked kind of mermaid-ish, and, in spite of the increasingly greenish tint, someone said she had a Rogue thing going on, so all was joy and frolicking, at least hair-wise.greenhair092016

YAY.

But before we can have a happily-ever-after, I must regale you with The Part Where I NEED TO PUBLISH SOMETHING.

I logged on here today to find out if my blog had imploded from loneliness, since I haven’t posted anything in 5 months. Wonder of wonders, it’s still here, languishing away all pale and tragic. After talking to the blog, consoling it that it is a pretty blog, and it is a good blog, I checked to see when I last posted about my WIP, and lo and BEEEEHOLT it’s been over a year.

Ach, du meine Güte.

So.

The WIP.

The WIP

The WIP is still The Elevator (formerly known as Elevator People). IT IS SO CLOSE TO DONE I CAN FEEL IT MELTING ON MY TONGUE Y’ALL. Just yesterday evening, I sent it over to editor extraordinaire Jessie Sanders, that she might give my final major edits a final once-over.

Once Jessie sends me back the MS, and once the talented Mr. Novak and I have finalized the cover, I’ll finally publish this novel that:

I started in November 2011
and
is probably the best book I’ve written so far.

It’s a very different story from the one I originally conceived of 5? 6? years ago. I thought the main character, Went Banning, would gain a father through the course of the story. As readers will discover, he gains A LOT more (including darker dimensions to his personality, which I certainly didn’t anticipate). The two children, Jop and Skee, informed me they are children of color and not Caucasian, thanks very much. There wasn’t going to be any time-traveling; some joker decides to build a time machine. I wanted the vampire to show up at the end of the story; he not-so-politely declined. Two characters switched gender: not gender-transitions as part of the story, but pronoun and (limited) description change throughout.

The short title got shorter.

When I penned the first chapters of Draft 1, I still thought the book would be published by Consortium Books. After the Consortium folded more than 4 years ago, I decided to shop the book to Amazon’s 47 North. But as the book progressed, it seemed less and less a fit for 47 North and more and more a fit for my self-pub catalog. So there we are.

So. My WIP The Elevator shall soon see the light of electronic day. BANGERANG. I am excited for y’all the read this one, dear inklings. I am genuinely pleased with it. I think this is the first time I have fallen so hard for characters that I felt actual pain at doing bad things to them.

But I did the bad things anyway.

nicbadman

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today so I can tell you I really love this book. I hope you do too.

And if you don’t, I DON’T WANNA HEAR IT. *grin-grin-nudge-nudge* Ha ha ha I can be an adult about this, no really I can, shut up don’t talk bad about my baby. What?

Meanwhile, in Writer Land…

In between edits and weeping and wailing and gnashing of drafts in my teeth, there has been the writing of a short novel or novella or long short story, what-hast-thou. I don’t know what these long-ish stories are called anymore. I’ll figure it out when marketing day comes. Anyway, over the course of this year I’ve written a piece that will be the longest story in my upcoming anthology of Legends of the Light-Walkers short stories. Faithful Readers will recognize some of the titles included in this collection:

“Out of the Darkness”: in which new journeyman Quylin Flint and her hapless companions get lost in a network of dragon caves. Getting chased by a dragon REALLY puts a damper on their holy quest from Shaddix Falladd, mad ruler of Jiredd Stal.

“Rethana’s Tower”: In this short prequel to Rethana’s Surrender, magic-user Rethana Chosardal finds her belltower home beset by night-time ruffians — none of whom expected a run-in with the real witch of the tower….

“Dead Reconning”: 2333 After the Return. The determined Wolf Dornsson and his beloved, Lendry Bersallir, fight their way past unstoppable enemies to reach the only safe place left in Jiredd Stal. Their adversaries? Zombie elves.

And the new titles:

“Gateway Drug”: 2016 A.D. Abby of Oklahoma City hasn’t seen her lover, Gerry, in 3 years. When he suddenly resurfaces and invites all the old gang over for drinks, she doesn’t know how to react…especially when people start dying.

“The Eater”: 2012 A.D. The woman awakens in a white room, and she can’t remember who she is. She can’t remember where she came from. She can’t remember what happened. But as her memory returns in tiniest flashes, she realizes that she’s in danger — and it’s not a danger anyone in this world is equipped to handle.
This world? Why does she think of it that way?
Is it possible she isn’t from…here? From anywhere here?
And who is that stranger who keeps appearing and muttering about how he “calculated wrong”…before he disappears into thin air?

And, last but certainly not least,

“Oubliette”: 1356 After the Return. In this long short story/short novel, heir apparent Elyria ra’Shaskalai flees her throne in Kaldoril as assassins pursue her. Together with her more-than-friend, stableboy Tam, she seeks refuge in neighboring Halaferth. But with Tam grievously wounded and Elyria’s magical powers out of control, her enemies have every opening they need for ending the young queen-to-be once and for all. To elude them and finally escape, Elyria will have to give herself over to a darkness she never could have imagined.

And voy-oh-lay, folks: That’s the collection of stories to come. And if you’re very, very lucky…or if I’m feeling very, very generous…I might even reveal to you (on this blog? in the book?) just how all these stories are connected.

Have a good week, y’all. Happy reading and happy writing. Make magic happen.

My latest Works-in-Progress Update (Sci-fi stuff!)

Hile, my lovelies!

It’s been a while, I think, since I’ve regaled you with anything seriously writing-related. At least, I think it’s been a while — and since I can’t remember for sure, that tells me I’m right. This might be circular logic, but I’m not sure about that either, so let’s just move on.

Here’s an update on my three latest/current writing projects:

1. I am still plugging away at my soft sci-fi novel Elevator People (working title). I am approaching what should be the final chapter BANGERANG ZOUNDS CAN I GET A HALLELUJAH?!? I love this story, I love the characters, I love it all, but I will be SO everlastingly glad to be done with this first draft. BRING ON THE EDITING, says I! But no, first they have to climb a staircase, then they have to cross into the Prime Dimension or whatever, then they have to talk to The DUDE Dude, and then they have to decide if their story ends here or not. All of that should take fewer than 10,000 more words. I’m excited.

2. Work continues on the Grace & Jack sci-fi short story for Tony Healey’s charity anthology. It’s surreal and poetic and I’m enjoying immensely. Getting into Grace’s head is always a weird experience, and I kinda like those. So.

3. In the space of a few days, I wrote another Grace & Jack story entitled “At the Funeral of a Marriage”. Josh read it and said those two confuse the heck out of him, which means I did my job. ; )

All of this proves that the BLURGLEMAMJUFLOOBELSCHNITZEN is receding, which pleases me no end and affords me copious peace of mind. So yay.

danceswithtesticles

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve also put together a post full of fantasy/sci-fi inspirations, including ent larva, elves made of ice, and something I shall now call Dances With Testicles.

These come to you directly via the weirdness that is my brain. Click through if you dare. ; )

Apparently, I’m not a real writer. And I’m guessing you’re not, either.

Hile, inklings!

Tonight, I have opinions. And they will not be silent. You’ve received fair warning.

A couple of authors I follow on Twitter — namely, John Scalzi and Chuck Wendig — led me to this article by Lisa Morton, Vice-President of the Horror Writers Association, in which she expounds upon the difference between a professional writer and a “hobbyist.”

What a terrible, long sentence. My apologies. But I’m letting it stand, because I’m not a real writer anyway, and I probably don’t know any better.

Okay, okay, so that level of snark on my part is a bit uncalled for. (Maybe.) Especially since Ms. Morton isn’t calling me a “fake” writer (as opposed to a “real” one). She’s acknowledging that I’m a writer, just not a professional. Well, I kinda take umbrage at that.

Morton lists ten questions, which, according to her, a writer must answer with “yes” in order for her to consider that person a pro. In her graciousness, she will “cut you a little slack and say you can get off with 80% and still call yourself ‘professional’.” Please note that this is a direct quote in which Morton has her closing quotation marks in the wrong place. But who’s counting.

She also warns that if you scoff at her questions, she will consider you a hobbyist, and you are not to call yourself “professional” in her presence.

No. I’m not even kidding.

I know nothing about Lisa Morton personally. Until tonight, I’d never even heard her name before. Yes, there are places in this post where I’m pointing out her incorrect punctuation and grammar (still to come), but I have nothing against her personally. But her tone and word choices sound elitist to me, and as a writer (whose level of professionalism is tbd), I feel the need to speak out against it. Because it’s bad form, y’all.

Anyway, back to the questions. Or, as Morton puts it, “onto the questions.” (She really means “on to.”)

Lisa Morton’s 10-Question Acid Test of Writerly Professionalism (I just made that up.) and My Answers

1. Is your home/work place messy because that time you’d put into cleaning it is better spent writing?

No. My home is messy because I have a 10-month-old and cleaning is low on my priorities list.

2. Do you routinely turn down evenings out with friends because you need to be home writing instead?

No. When I get the chance to go out with friends sans baby, I jump at said chance because if I don’t, I will go bat guano crazy.

3. Do you turn off the television in order to write?

Rarely. For the last several months, TV has been the only way I can unwind, and if I try to write instead, I just fall asleep.

4. Would you rather receive useful criticism than praise?

Yes.

5. Do you plan vacations around writing opportunites [sic] (either research or networking potential)?

No. I haven’t been on vacation in 4 years because I can’t afford it.

6. Would you rather be chatting about the business of writing with another writer than exchanging small talk with a good friend?

No. I don’t enjoy discussing the business of writing. I do enjoy discussing the craft of writing and will do so happily at any given opportunity. However, I will not do so to the exclusion of chatting with a good friend, because I love my friends (both writers and non-writers) and care about maintaining my relationships.

7. Have you ever taken a day job that paid less money because it would give you more time/energy/material to write?

Sort of. Before I had a baby, I spent 4 years at a job that paid no money at all at the time: writing.

8. Are you willing to give up the nice home you know you could have if you devoted that time you spend writing to a more lucrative career?

I don’t understand this question. Does this mean I should think my current home isn’t nice? If I do think my current home is nice (which I do), how does that automatically mean I don’t have a professional mindset?

9. Have you done all these things for at least five years?

Since I’ve answered only one question so far with “yes,” I guess the answer to this one is “no.”

10. Are you willing to live knowing that you will likely never meet your ambitions, but you hold to those ambitions nonetheless?

Is this a question about suicidal tendencies?

One out of ten. I don’t even score as “pro” within the bounds of Morton’s gracious 80%. The thing is, even if I weren’t devoting most of my time to keeping a baby healthy, whole, and happy — even if I were at my previous writing “level” of 5-8 hours per day instead of 2 hours per week — even if that were the case, I’d still only score as “hobbyist” in Morton’s eyes.

Not that it matters. As I stated above, I don’t know Morton, and I never heard of her until today. I have nothing against her personally — but neither do I care about her opinion or her classification of me. Her scoring system isn’t the be-all, end-all of whether or not someone is a professional writer. Her scoring system is a subjective description of her own process and her view of her own writing career. As far any other writer is concerned, it’s a moo* point.

The end of the matter is, there’s really only one thing that distinguishes a professional writer from a hobbyist. A professional writer gets paid for writing. BOOM. If you get paid for writing, you’re a professional writer. That’s it.

Morton’s list is elitist and exclusionary. It keeps people out — when what needs to happen is that we writers band together and invite each other in. We need to challenge the darkness individually and collectively. We need to form a tribe that affirms and reaffirms and assures and reassures. As my friend and fellow indie author Bernard Schaffer writes,

“We all learn together, share our information, and support one another’s endeavors, including stepping in and saying when someone is doing something they shouldn’t. …Be a member of the community and support it, both financially and socially, and it will support you back.”

~from The Manifesto of Independent Writing and Publishing

Designing a test to see who’s pro and who isn’t does nothing more than exclude those who need a tribe’s support the most. And if those people are consigned to the outer regions where “hobbyists” apparently dwell, there’s little chance they’ll ever discover motivation for “becoming professional.”

As for me? Well, I’m not earning the big bucks, that’s for sure. My books were selling well enough to make a car payment, but summer sales are down. So at least I’m contributing something to the grocery budget. Once I get my WIP finished and published, I have every confidence that at least a few more car payments will be in my future. ; )

Hi. My name is Courtney Cantrell, I get paid for writing, and I am not a hobbyist.

___________________

* “It’s a moo point. …It’s like a cow’s opinion. It doesn’t matter…it’s moo.”

~Joey Tribbiani,
“Friends”

Men and Romance

Mama: Did you get much work done today?

Me: I wrote more than a thousand words on Elevator People.

Mama: Oh, good! Progress! (she said, knowing this to be something to celebrate)

Me: Yeah. But my main character is going off on a tangent.

Mama: How so?

Me: Well, there are suddenly all these romantic meanderings.

Mama: This is the sci-fi story, right?

Me: Yeah.

Mama: Romantic meanderings. Male main character?

Me: Yeah.

Mama (nodding): Men will do that. You have your work cut out for you.

(NOTE: I post this with only the greatest affection in my heart for my male readership. Bring on the romance, gentlemen.) : )

darkromance

#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!*

Comments, Concepts, and Colossi (Oh MY)

This was gonna be an addendum to a blog post, but then it turned into a minor epistle, so I decided to give it its own post. What we’re talkin’ here, my darlings, is news. Goody!

Comment Notifications
Several readers have mentioned that even though they subscribe to comments on my blog, they don’t receive notification emails when I reply to their comments.

Assuming that all of you lovelies are experiencing the same problem, I have contacted my webmaster-computer-guru-person and asked him most pleadingly to rectify whatever the error might be. Me, I am wholly ignorant of such things. I can only guess that a css-html-widgetcode-plugin-doohickey hath malfunctioned most inconsiderately.

Anyway — we’re workin’ on it.

Appearance
It’s been awhile since I’ve mentioned this, but: I’ve never liked my blog theme. What I’ve got here is a theme called “Matala,” parts of which I love (the ragged paper, the scrawled circles around dates, etc.), but most of which I don’t (frames around images, the in-your-face background image that my webmaster-guru-person got rid of for me, and several other etcs.).

So I’ma change it.

I just don’t know to what, yet.

But if you arrive here next time and don’t immediately recognize your surroundings, don’t panic. That’s just me, rearranging the furniture. (It happens. You should see my living room.)

Work-in-Progress
Yes, there’s a WIP. With all this promoting-of-book and marketing-of-product lately, you didn’t think I’d forgotten I’m a writer, didja?

Well, maybe ja did. I really can’t blame you. Over the last month, I’ve kind of forgotten I’m a writer, too.

So, to give myself a kick in the behiney-pants, I started a new project this past weekend:

I am re-writing a novel I haven’t looked at in 11 years.

 
Yes, I am an insane person. Why do you ask?

I’m not ready to tell the whats and wherefores of this novel yet. But you should know that the words “epic” and “fantasy” are involved. Have you heard me talk about Triad before? Well, this being-rewritten novel is the prequel to Triad. This being-rewritten novel bears the title Legend’s Heir.

Except that in the re-write, I’m taking out all the “legend” references. Heir isn’t such a great title. It’s a bit too similar to Air (vacuous) or Hair (-y).

So. “Epic,” “fantasy,” and working title Legend’s Heir.

Also, there are elves.

Stay tuned.

Insert obligatory “dun-dun-DUN” here.

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!

Let’s Talk About Mosquitoes, Hives, and Outlines

I love words and how other people use them. Sometimes, I’ll be reading a novel and enjoying it most thoroughly — and BAM! I hit a phrase that makes me sit up and say out loud, “Odds bodkins, that was perfect.” One of my most enjoyable challenges in life is learning how to do that to my own readers…and, as ever, I remain a work-in-progress.

But. I heart mightily (and sometimes, I even liver) how other people use words. So, for years, I’ve collected quotes. I buy nifty little notebooks in various sizes and scribble them full of the fun, inspiring, infuriating, thought-provoking, artful, and elegant ruminations of my fellow humans.

Courtney's Quotes Collection

Some of them are writers (my tribe! Woot!). One such is Laura Resnick, a fantasy author who penned the following gem:

“For the first half of a book, I’ll cling to my outline in helpless terror. Then I’ll start veering away from it, which will worry me deeply for weeks. When I finally finish the book, I’ll suddenly realize I haven’t thought about my outline in ages and don’t quite remember what was in it.”

Once upon a time, I did not believe in outlines. I’d never heard of this thing called “pre-writing.” My preferred method of starting a novel was to sit down at the computer, open a Word document, and start typing. And that, my dear inklings, is how in 2004 I came to be in possession of a 12,000-word chunk of fantasy novel that was supposed to be the sequel to an already-completed epic. Instead, more than six years later, it lies still in unfinished, digital ignominy. I hope to finish it someday…

…but before that can happen, I’ll need to do all the pre-writing: for nowadays, I’ve abandoned my lackadaisical ways (mostly), and I’ve converted to Putting Faith In Outlines. (Oy vey, was that a long sentence. Sorry.) Spontaneity is great, but when I’m writing, it just gets me stuck in squelching, mosquito-infested bogs.

I don’t like mosquitoes. They give me welts. And sometimes hives.

So I’ve learned to appreciate outlines, and I’ve learned to like outlines, and I’ve learned to trust outlines. And, like Ms. Resnick, I’ve learned The Desperate Writer’s Clutch (by which I do not mean a purse). The spectre of that 12k-word unfortunate loometh at the edges of my writerly consciousness, yea verily and forsooth. While working on my current rough draft, I even printed the outline so that I could have it well within clutching distance instead of having to switch from the novel doc to the outline doc. (It’s nice to have one’s comforting blankie in sight at all times.)

That said, the second half of Resnick’s quote resonates with me just as much as the first half does. I’m thirteen chapters into the rough draft of a 15-chapter, paranormal fantasy novel. For the first eleven chapters, I hobbled along, using my outline as my crutch. Sometimes, I felt strong enough for a steady walk. Rare bursts of enthusiasm gave me the power to sprint. However, whether walking or sprinting, I never let go of that blankie crutch outline. I still needed something to lean on.

Chapter 12 changed a few things. I didn’t look at my outline for days! Characters talked and did, and they talked and did without a whole lot of help from me. What made the difference? I think it was my deeper understanding of my characters.

When I started writing their story, I didn’t know them well enough just to give them free rein. Every time they spoke or acted, I had to check the outline: Is this how it’s supposed to go? It is? Okay, then, tally-ho. I couldn’t trust my characters yet. I didn’t know them.

Now, we’ve been through twelve chapters of adventure together, and I’m starting not just to know these people but to know them. Their edges aren’t so blurry; I can see some sharp outlines. Ephemeral wisps on the wind have solidified into distinct voices. I’m seeing the shapes of their souls.

There comes a point at which the characters, not the outline, lead my thoughts and guide my fingers. And that’s where the magic happens. And it is glorious.