Imaginary Friends

This month’s topic is, are you ever emotionally drained by writing certain scenes, and how real are your characters to you?

This is how I plan a scene: I “see” and “hear” it as a movie unrolling in front of me with my characters moving and talking. I go through everything along with them. Fortunately, I’m a fast typist, but there are still times when the action has moved on before I get a chance to write it all down.

Ah, reality. Well, when asked where I get the ideas for my books, I usually reply — only half in jest — that my characters wake me in the middle of the night and bug me until I give in, take notes, and agree to write the book.

When I wrote my first science fiction novel, Relocated, my intention was simply to overcome my phobia about writing science fiction. I was — and am — a devoted fan of the genre, which I have been reading since before age ten. To give you some idea, I picked Robert A. Heinlein’s “Farmer in the Sky,” for my tenth birthday, and I knew exactly which book I wanted. To say I’m widely read in the genre is a vast understatement.

Still, up until 2010, I’d never written any, so I decided to go for it and “planned” (see below) my first sci fi novel for Nano.  I didn’t intend to try to get it published. That came later, after I’d written it and revised it and decided that, having devoted all that time and energy to it, I might as well give it a shot. And I certainly didn’t plan to write *more* novels in the series. That came later, when I started wondering about some of the other characters who appear in the first book.

Check out the posts of my fellow participants:
Victoria Chatham http://victoriachatham.blogspot.ca
Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
Margaret Fieland https://margaretfieland.wordpress.com
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
A.J. Maguire  http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/
Rachael Kosinski http://rachaelkosinski.weebly.com/
Dr. Bob Rich htt  http://wp.me/p3Xihq-Wo
Heather Haven http://heatherhavenstories.com/blog/
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Kay Sisk http://www.kaysisk.com/blog
Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com

Ghost Touch by LA Dragoni

For fifteen minutes each night a portal opens in Tamara’s
barn and a horde of ghosts spills into her yard. She and Dex work together to
find a way to help Cal and the thousands of spirits stuck in the void to cross
over. When she learns she has the ghost touch—the ability to touch the ghosts
as if they were corporeal—and she accidentally helps a little boy cross, she
believes it might be possible. But not all the spirits play nice and when they
learn they can sip energy from her ghost touch, they become greedy putting her
life at risk.
Each time Cal has to pull her from the mass of ghosts, her
touch restores him more and more until he is at danger of being stuck on
earth—forever, which is very enticing to Tamara the better she knows him. Will
she and Dex figure out how to help the spirits cross and if they do, will she
be able to let Cal go?
Available in ebook, and audiobook
from Amazon, and now available in print!
Also available on Barnes
and Noble
, Kobo,
iTunes, and other
e-tailers.
Excerpt:
Tamara rubbed her hands together then held them
toward the fire. The air had an extra chill to it. “Hurry up, they should be
here soon.”
She’d barely finished speaking when bright light
burst through the barn. Tamara spun back around. “Dex!”
She shielded her eyes with a hand searching for
Dex’s familiar silhouette, but couldn’t make him out in the chaos of ghosts
streaming from within the building.
“Dex!” she shouted again, leaping forward and running
toward the door. A stabbing pain of cold sliced through her upper arm when she
knocked against the ghost with the shovel in his hand. He stopped to stare at
her with a surprised expression on his face. She pushed forward, ignoring the
increasing pain as she jostled up against the ghosts.
A knot of ghosts hunkered together where she last
saw Dexter. She pushed through them, her warm touch surprising enough to make
them jump back. Dex lay crumpled in a quivering ball at the center of the
group. Tamara kneeled beside him and clutched his shoulders.
“Dex! Are you okay?” He didn’t respond, just
rocked to and fro, mumbling incoherent words. She shouted. “Dex! Can you hear
me?”
His gaze finally lifted, a wary look colored with
terror.
“Oh my God.” Tamara wrapped her arms around him.
His body was ice cold. She pressed as much of herself against him as she could
and buried her face in his hair. “I gotcha. You’ll be okay.”
Then she became aware of an ache worming through
her muscles and realized hands pawed at her, clutched her, and were trying to
pull her away. She raised a furious glare at the eager crowd of ghouls and
snarled. “Stop! Leave us alone.”
However, hunger showed in the eyes of those who’d
been dead a short enough time to still have them. Actions became more insistent
and then combative. The group shoved and swayed until she worried she’d be
crushed beneath them when they fell. She kept her arms wrapped around Dex,
hoping to keep the spirits off him, but many simply reached through him to get
to her. He shuddered violently and had grown quiet.
Each individual touch drained her of warmth and
energy, yet they continued to grope at her arms and back, tug on her hair and
clothing. She grew weaker and weaker until the edges of her vision dimmed and
she could barely feel the boy she was trying to protect. Just before she passed
out, a roar penetrated her frozen mind and she sensed more than saw the crowd
spring away. But she was already too far gone and lost consciousness just as
lukewarm hands gripped her upper arms.
Reviews:
The writing’s terrific,
the storyline compelling. Truth be told, I rushed to the end to find out who
Tamara would end up with.
-Stuart R. West

About the author: LA
Dragoni
isn’t too particular about who falls in love or where they fall in
love. She simply considers it her job to capture the story about their love.
Whether it’s paranormal, mythical, or time travel, LA will be there to divine
their story for you. She lives in Central Oregon with her husband and children,
but haunts ghost towns and cemeteries up and down the west, in search of the
next adventure to sift through her storytelling brain. Follow LA on Facebook and Twitter. Subscribe to her mailing list and learn more about LA and
her work at www.ladragoni.com

Lighting a Fire

Everybody wants to write a book, but most do not. Writing is hard rndrbnlogowork. What got you started, and what helps you get through a complete story?

I’ve had four science fiction novels and a book of poetry published, and a children’s chapter book accepted for publication. How did I get here? Good luck, working at my craft, a father who insisted on proper grammar, and some level of ability.

I’ve written poetry as far back as I can remember. I kept it in a series of spiral notebooks that accumulated in my attic, wrote cards for holidays birthdays, co-workers leaving the office, and the occasional small newsletter. Along about 2005 I wrote a poem I wanted to keep, so I scrounged around online and ended up putting them in Yahoo briefcase (online) as I had too many computers to keep them on just one.

That December I was reading an ezine I liked and discovered they had a poetry contest; I believe the theme was ‘sleep’, a subject I write about frequently.  Since I had a poem handy (read online),  I sent it in, and the poem was one of four runners-up., I didn’t win.

But they published all four of the finalists, and I was psyched. I joined a couple of online communities and started working on my poetry. In one of them, I ran across someone who was starting a small print poetry mag (since died, I believe). He liked and published a couple of my poems. That was early 2006. I found out about “The Muse Online Writers Conference,”  a free, online virtual conference, and “attended” that October.

There I “met” Linda Barnett Johnson. Linda runs writers forum, and she insisted that her students join both fiction and poetry forums. Poetry alone was not an option.

At  that point, I’d never written a word of fiction (at least, not since elementary school ), and I would have sworn I never would. However, I liked Linda, and I wanted to join the poetry forum, so I signed up. I started writing for children, as that felt less intimidating – and shorter. As a poet, I was a terse writer, and generating sufficient word count worried me. My first story ended up published online. It was a *long* time until I placed another, but thus encouraged, I continued to write fiction.

And no, writing for children is not easier than writing for adults — in fact, it’s tougher.

Many years ago, a family friend lost his wife and all four of his children in a house fire. This incident had haunted me ever since, and one weekend I wrote a 5000 word story in which the main character, a nine-year-old boy, lost his mother in a house fire. I couldn’t change my friend’s outcome, but in my fictional world, I could.

I spent the next year and a half or two years whipping it into shape. Although I have (and had) a good ear for language and a solid knowledge of grammar, I knew little about structuring a story. I set out to learn about plotting, characterization, dialogue, setting, points-of-view, and, yes, more grammar. I joined a critique group and took the ICL basic course. I hung out on Writers Village University and took their free fiction course and a couple of others that proved extremely helpful. The story was accepted for publication. It won’t be out until next year. In the mean time, I have had four science fiction novels published by MuseItUp Publishing and published a book of poems that go with the novel, Sand in the Desert.

Aleyne Desert, done by me using GIMP

Aleyne Desert, done by me using GIMP

I started writing science fiction in 2010. I am a huge science fiction fan, but I’d never written a sci fi story — I had kind of a phobia about it — so  in September  of that year, I decided I’d do Nano (National Novel Writing Month) that November, and began to plan my story.

I devoted most of my time and energy to world building, a bit to thinking about the characters, and devoted about  a page to the plot. Then I started writing. I heard about an online editing workshop given through Savvy Authors. Through Savvy, I connected with a publisher and submitted the manuscript. It was rejected. They liked it, but not enough to publish it. I worked on the manuscript, including strengthening the ending. That June, I pitched to Lea Schizas and she accepted it.

Backtrack to November 2010. Robert Brewer runs a chapbook challenge on his PoeticAsides blog. I wanted to participate, so I created a poet to go with the universe of the novel and wrote 31 of his poems that November. I used eight of the poems in the novel, as I worked studying the poems into the plot.

 

Nope, I never intended to write sequels to my first science fiction novel either. Unfortunately, my characters didn’t agree with me, and they hounded me until I have in, took notes, and agreed to write the books.

Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Margaret Fieland https://margaretfieland.wordpress.com
Heather Haven http://heatherhavenstories.com/blog/
Dr. Bob Rich http://wp.me/p3Xihq-SK
Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/
Victoria Chatham http://victoriachatham.blogspot.ca
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Rachael Kosinski http://rachaelkosinski.weebly.com/
Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/
A.J. Maguire  http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com

A Little Christmas Cheer

Here are a couple of short Christmas tales:

mtnsAfter Christmas Blues

Even with a full day to deliver presents, Santa doesn’t finish on time. He gets home late on Christmas Day, and he’s so exhausted he’s in bed for a week.

“It’s outrageous,” Donner snorts when Mrs Claus asks for help. “We need a new plan.”

“Oh, it’s not so bad,” Rudolph murmurs. “After all, it’s only once a year.” His nose flashes a couple of times.

Donner tosses his antlers. “Just wait until you’re my age. That sleigh gets heavier every year, and when I get back I’m too stiff to fly for at least a month.”

“Well, what do you suggest?” Vixen pipes up. “We’re already limiting our deliveries to good children between five and ten who celebrate Christmas.” She tosses her antlers and smiles.

“Yes,” Blixen adds, “and we’ve got a stack of complaints from the parents of the under-fives.”

“There’s that new North Pole Federal Express office,” Prancer offers, shifting from hoof to hoof. “We could offload the excess, just leave enough so Santa doesn’t feel useless.”

The reindeer all nod.

And that, boys and girls, is why most Christmas gifts come in the mail.

 A Case of the Flue

“Santa has a fever. Mrs. Claus put him to bed.”  Rudolph pawed the snowy ground. “Who will drive the sleigh?”

“No one,” Blixen said. “We’ll send everything by Federal Express.”

“Belief in Santa is at an all-time low. If we send everything by mail, no one will believe.” Rudolph tossed his antlers, almost skewering Blixen.

“And Santa will feel useless and become depressed.” Blixen led the way into the barn.

“Ready to get hitched?” one of the elves asked. Without waiting for an answer, he began harnessing the reindeer.

Blixen  said, “Rudolph is in the lead. He could grab the gifts by the ribbons and drop them down the chimneys.”

“But what if the children spot the Santa-less sleigh? Then no one will ever believe again.”

“We should go. It’s our best chance to save Christmas.” Blixen stamped his hoof and turned to the elf. “Freddie, go tell Mrs. Claus to tell Santa not to worry, we’re on top of the delivery crisis.”

“Better hope everyone’s cleaned their chimney,” Blixen muttered as they rose into the air.

The rest of the reindeer snickered.

And so, boys and girls, don’t feel too bad if you got a lump or two of coal this year.
And now for a couple of poems …

Round
The sphere
is the perfect
shape

for conserving heat,
providing the least
surface area
per unit
of volume,

thus explaining
why Santa

lives at
the North Pole.

What Happens Christmas Night

I’ve noticed that Saint Nick’s a bit
too big around for him to fit
inside our chimney, Christmas night
the struggle must be quite a sight.

Perhaps he oils his nice red suit
all over so that he can shoot
right down the chimney. Then you’ll see
he’ll cut his hand and sprain his knee.

I guess that all those aches and pains
will hurt so much that he’ll complain
that getting down was such a chore
he’s going to leave us by the door!

 

 

 

 

Prologues and Epilogues: Yes or No

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This month’s topic is prologues and epilogues: yes or no, and can you have one without the other — or, more properly, should you have either or both.

I have never written either a prologue or an epilogue — at least, I’ve never published a book with a part so-labelled, so I decided to check out my stack of library books :

 

First one: The Secret Game, a non-fiction book about a basketball game held during World War II. This book has both a prologue and an epilogue. Yes, I read both, but, then, history is not my thing, and I figured I could use all the help I could get.

Book two: Latest novel by Danielle Steel. No prologue, no epilogue.

Book Three: Oldie but Goodie by Elizabeth Cadell, one of my favorite writers: ditto — no prologue, no epilogue.

Book four: Mystery set in Victorian London, first of a series: Prologue but no epilogue. Yes, I did read the prologue.

Book five: An oldish novel by author Ann Hood: again, prologue but no epilogue. I haven’t read this one yet, but when I do, I’m sure I’ll read the prologue. I don’t skip beginnings, nor do I skip endings. Middles, now – -I might skip some there if the book is slow, but I aim to give everything I read a fair chance at the start.

I don’t skip beginnings, nor do I skip endings. Middles, now – -I might skip some there if the book is slow, but I aim to give everything I read a fair chance at the start, so I always read the prologue and first few chapters, even if decide not to read the rest of the book. And I might very well read the last chapter and the epilogue if I’m interested in how the plot turned out.

So how close have I come to writing either one in one of my novels?  Not so close. I briefly considered a prologue for Broken Bonds, but it turned into a 5000 word first chapter. I also considered — again, briefly — labelling the final, short, chapter of Rob’s Rebellion as an epilogue, but, again, decided against it. Why? Simply because they have a bad reputation. Ah, well. Clearly not everyone feels the same.

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Poetic Forms: Villanelle

About Villanelles

A villanelle is a French form, originally a song with no fixed form. It evolved into a fixed form, with five three-line stanzas and a final stanza consisting of four lines. treesThere are two repeating rhymes and two refrains:
A1 b A2
a b A1
a b A2
a b A1
a b A2
a b A1 A2

where A1 and A2 are the two refrains (repeated lines) and the letters a and b represent the two repeating rhymes.

A famous Villanelle
Dylan Thomas’s well-known poem, Do not go gentle into that good night, is a villanelle:

Do not go gentle into that good night
Dylan Thomas, 1914 – 1953
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

A Villanelle of mine:

Here’s one of mine:

Soldiers’ Villanelle
by Margaret Fieland

Soldiers face death on the field
Outnumbered, yet they do not run
Facing death, they do not yield

Some may say their fate is sealed
Standing there beneath the sun
Soldiers face death on the field

What will be their fate revealed
Falling slowly one by one
Facing death they do not yield

Are there weapons they can wield
Is there hope or is there none
Soldiers face death on the field

By hardship they have been annealed
Today their fate they do not shun
Facing death they do not yield

In the end there is no shield
All lie dead, the battle done
Soldiers face death on the field
Facing death they do not yield

You can read more about villanelles here

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Villanelle

Finding Their Voices: Using Language to Build Character

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Broken Bonds was the first novel I wrote with more than one point of view. The final version has five point-of-view characters, the four characters involved in a romantic relationship and the antagonist who is the “villain” in the political plot. There are three aliens and a Terran: Major Brad Reynolds, a major in the Terran Federation Guard, Ardaval Namar, an BrokenBondsCoverAleyni scholar and teacher, Imarin Namar, one of his former partners, involved in government, and Nidrani Namar, another former partner, a woman, and a musician. As well, there was Senator Hank Manning, a member of the Terran Federation senate.

I wish I could tell y’all that I was wonderfully methodical about this, but, alas, it would be a lie. Ardaval and Brad had appeared in a previous novel, Relocated, so their voices were pretty clear to me. I had little trouble finding a voice for Imarin and Hank Manning, but Nidrani was slower to come clear, and I ended up searching out clothing I thought she might wear to help me out.

I pay attention to grammar, sentence structure, word choice, pet phrases, how formal or informal they typically are in their speech,  pet phrases, etc, but a lot of it involves my being able to “hear” my characters.

One of the things I did was collect up all of the pieces from each character’s point of view and put them together. Then I read through them for consistency of voice and to make sure that they sounded distinct.

I do use grammar and word choice with far more intention for minor characters, where there is less time and space to paint a full picture.

 

 

Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
Margaret Fieland https://margaretfieland.wordpress.com
Victoria Chatham http://victoriachatham.blogspot.ca
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Dr. Bob Rich  http://wp.me/p3Xihq-OB
Rachael Kosinski http://rachaelkosinski.weebly.com/
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com
A.J. Maguire  http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/