Monday, June 27, 2011

Is This any Better?

Awhile back I posted a sample product description of my WIP, Out of the Shadows. Mostly people didn't like it so I've updated it. Let me know what you think.

In 2025 a genetically engineered super virus nearly destroyed the world.

In 3146 the government is still hunting the infected, but they have been lying to everyone. The 2R virus isn't deadly. It's something much more dangerous.

Lythian Kennett is good at staying in the shadows. She has lived under the government's nose for years without arousing suspicion, until one night she walks into the wrong bar. After accidentally exposing herself as an infected, Lythian must go on the run with her best friend and a complete stranger or face a punishment worse than death.

When her world starts to crumble, she realizes nothing is what it seems. As the secrets, lies, and betrayals threaten to overwhelm her, Lythian isn't sure who she can trust, and the person she trusts least of all is herself.

The first chapter of Out of the Shadows is available at Link below.

Chapter 1

Friday, June 24, 2011

Weird Research

There were a few interesting things that I learned this week while doing research for my novel. I thought I'd share  some of the more interesting ones.

#1 - A planes engines don't turn the plane. There are flaps on the wings that control pitch and flaps on the rudder that control direction. Also, the "steering wheel"  in a plane is called the yoke.

#2 - If a person falls from 30 ft. the rate of survival is 50%.

#3 - On the moon however, a person can easily survive a 30 ft. fall. (assuming there is no damage to their space suit) They would have to fall from over 100 ft. to reduce their rate of survival to 50%.

#4 - When people talk about suffocating in an enclosed space, the real danger is NOT a lack of oxygen but excess CO2. The average concentration of CO2 in the outside air is .039%. The average person loses consciousness between 3% and 10%, depending on length of exposure and lung health.

#5 - When a sugar molecule is metabolized by a person's body, it creates 3 molecules of CO2  (which is expelled by their lungs) , and 3 molecules of water. This is why people crave sugar when dehydrated.

I love all the random things I learn about while doing research. Some of them are intentional, some are unintentional, but I've loved trivia my entire life so I'm happy to take it all. Learning is fun.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Ode to the Dark

What is it about the night?
After the sun sets the air thrums with wild electricity.
Just before dawn a final burst of excited energy ripples through the semi-darkness.
Then the sun rises, dispelling the magic.
Every dawn feels, not like a new beginning, but like the death of a mystery.
The sunlight leaves me no privacy.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Friday, June 17, 2011

Character Personality Worksheets

I created a Google Doc Character Personality Worksheet that I would like to share with anyone who wants it. It's based on Cattell's personality theory. The link is at the bottom of the page. Feel free to use it however you like but if you want to post the link, please credit me.
Raymond Cattell's 16 personality factors make up a kind of sliding scale of personality traits. For instance, under Warmth are the traits "impersonal, aloof, and detached" on one side of the scale. On the other side of the scale are "warm, kindly, and outgoing." The chart I created is intended to give you a visible tool with which to define your character's personality.

How to use my version:
Print up the table. Read the traits from left to right and circle the ones that you feel apply to the character in question. Once you're finished with the row you'll be able to see if your character is more Warm/Cold, Reasoning/Irrational, Emotionally Stable/Unstable. I then like to score each trait. On a scale of 1-10, where 1 is irrational, and 10 is rational, Lythian Kennett would score a 9. 1 for warmth. 4 for dominance. etc...

Character Personality Worksheet

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Your Word Count is Wrong

I ran across an interesting article today about word count. Evidently, when traditional publishers, or, I assume, POD publishers talk about word count, they don't mean the number that Microsoft Word spits out at you. What they really want to know is how many typeset book pages they'll be paying for.

Here's the formula:

If your manuscript is done in 12pt. Courier, with 1" margins, double spaced, 25 lines per page, then multiply the number of pages by 250.

It makes sense if you think about it. A page full of 1 line dialog is going to have a lower word count but take up the same amount of space as a page full of description... and your publisher/POD printer, has to pay for the paper even if the page is mostly white space.

I wonder if anyone has created a formula to let you know how boring your book is... If lots of dialog and short paragraphs make for a book that reads easily, and vast amounts of lengthy description are dull, it stands to reason that more white space = good. If that's the case, then perhaps you can tell if your work contains too much or too little description by determining whether your average typewritten page contains more or less than 250 words.

I'm going to do an experiment. I'm going to estimate my words per page for each chapter and see if my more exciting/actiony chapters have a higher or lower word counts than the more emotional/talky chapters. I might even go ahead and do this on a scene by scene basis if the results are interesting.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Back Story & Feeling Overwhelmed

So, here's something I didn't know. Writing a novel with 1,200 years worth of back story is hard. I have different versions of how everything happened. I really need to get all this stuff straight, both in my head and printed out in my binder. Right now, it's all in my binder... but it's ALL there. I need to decide what did happen and what didn't. And I still don't have a name for my villain. Actually, I have 8 names, but in my draft I just call him General General, cause I haven't decided which of those 8 names I for sure want to use yet.

Also, my writing process is driving me crazy. When I sit down to write, I write from the place I left off, but sometimes when I'm at work I get a sudden inspiration, or my characters start talking in my head and I have to write it down. The problem with this is that it has left me with thousands and thousands of words in scenes I haven't gotten to yet. Some of it is just snippets and some of it is entire scenes. For instance, my last two chapters are 90% done. When I sit down to work, having all these random bits and pieces floating around is starting to overwhelm me a little. 

Also, last night I dreamt I found a baby dinosaur, it was really cuddly but it had these super creepy teeth, then it grew up into a 1/2 person 1/2 lizard little girl... but it still had those super creepy teeth. I strongly suspect that this dream was my brain's response to my husband telling me yesterday that he wants a baby.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Do You Remember Not Being Able to Read? or The Books That Changed My Life

   The most intense memories of my childhood all revolve around books. When I was three my grandmother gave me a grade school reading primer from the 1950's. At 300 pages, it was huge for a children's book. My grandmother wanted to read the stories to me but I refused. I desperately wanted to read them myself. With the logic of a three year old, I had decided that if I were able to read, it would make me an adult. I spent most of my childhood obsessed with finding ways to grow-up.
   The primer was full of individual stories about a group of children. Each story was between two and ten pages long and each story was preceded by a small picture. I spent hours just looking at each picture and trying to force myself to be able to read the words. One picture, one story, captivated me. A girl stood in her bedroom and her bed was in disarray. The covers were rumpled in such a way that it appeared, in the small picture, that something terrible was being covered up by that wrinkled blanket. The guilty look on the little girl's face convinced me! She had murdered her little brother, and he was hidden in that bed!
   I was enormously disappointed when I was finally able to read the story and there was nothing hidden under the folds of the girl's comforter. The girl was simply worried that she would be in trouble if her mother realized she hadn't made her bed before going out to play. What a let down.
   The only other thing that I really remember from that book is that squirrel was the largest, and most complicated word in the English language, and that one should never eat wild berries.

   Fast forward three years and most of the joy has been taken out of reading. There are only so many, "always brush your teeth", "don't run with scissors", "strangers are bad", stories that a child can read. It seemed to me then that all the books in the world were there to remind us of the rules. Then I found the library.
   My elementary school was small and our library was minuscule. Aside from four shelves of reference texts, there were only six shelves of fictional story books. For this reason, each grade was only allowed to check out certain books. That meant that in first grade I had my choice between picture books about baby animals, and Dr. Seuss. Luckily, I was sneaky. I would choose very thin books off of the third and fourth grader's shelves in the hopes that the student aid library assistants wouldn't know the difference. I was only caught once. There was one book that I checked out at least a dozen times.
   This might have been the first book that made me want to be a writer. The idea that I could choose the way the story would end enthralled me. (I really sucked at choosing. I don't think I ever found the "Supergirl lives happily ever after" story line. I mostly only found the "Supergirl is murdered horribly" ones.)
   After getting in trouble for repeatedly checking out books I was not supposed to, I was banned from the library for a little while and my mother bought me one of those Scholastic book subscriptions. Every month they would send me two new books. These books were mostly awful but one of them changed my life. The Doll in the Garden was the book that convinced me that reading was better than tv and nintendo put together. It was an eerie, morbid, ghost story about dying children. It was also the first book that ever made me cry. It was the book that instilled a life long love of reading. This was the book that finally made reading fun for me. I remember it distinctly, a kind of click. "Oh, THIS is why reading is fun. I get it now."
 Fast forward another 7 years. One day, when I was 13, my mom took me out to the movies, just the two of us. I don't remember why I was given the special privilege of a day out alone with my mother. I have 3 younger sisters and being alone with either of my parents was a rare event. Now, my mother's choice of movies might seem a little extreme for a 13 year old, but I was one of those children that was never really a child. I was bookish and full of fantastical daydreams. I spoke like an adult from the time I was 8. Other kids thought I was weird... and I was. My best memories of childhood involve dressing in frilling nightgowns and pretending to be a forest nymph. So when my mother took me into the theater, she didn't think twice about taking me to see the most intriguing movie currently playing, even if it was rated R. I was, after all, her pint sized adult child. Which is how I ended up seeing Interview with the Vampire in the theater. Afterwards my mother worried the movie had been too graphic. (There were boobs) I tried to reassure her by informing her that I had been reading her (much more graphic) romance novels for at least three years. Harlequin taught me about the birds and the bees.
   That movie kind of obsessed me. It was so dark and beautiful and sad and violent. I still think it's one of the best movies ever made. It so expertly captured the tone of Rice's novel, which of course I had not yet read. I didn't even know there WAS a novel until spring break of that year when my parents took us on vacation.
   Las Vegas is not a place for children. The different hotels do have special amenities for little kids, tiny theme parks and the like, but I was BORED. I was too young to have any real fun and too old to enjoy collecting skeeball tickets. At the hotel, I had a bit of a crisis. I had been keeping a secret from my mother for about a year. It was personal, and embarrassing, and I knew if I told her that she would tell my dad. But, I didn't have any money and I needed to buy the necessary toiletries. At home, I had always been able to steal hers without her noticing. When I told my mother, she shrieked and hugged and giggled. I'm sure my face was beet red. I made her promise not to tell my father and she gave me a $20 bill and sent me down to the little convenience store on the first floor of the hotel. It was my first time buying them myself and I was mortified so I dawdled around in the little gift shop. That's when I saw it. Interview with the Vampire, by Anne Rice, in paperback. I had enough money, but I knew my mom would mad if I didn't bring back all of her change. Then again, she had drug me on this enormously boring vacation to a city created for adults. I bought the book, consequences be damned.
   I spent the rest of our vacation wanting to be left alone so I could read. I think that vacation was when I got a reputation for being a taciturn, contrary, stick in the mud. Seventeen years later, my family still sees me that way.
   That book had an effect on me that no other book ever has. It pulled at my imagination so strongly that the real world seemed petty, trite, and unimportant. Just as I had started to grow out of the world of fantasy, built for children, Interview with the Vampire showed me that there was an equally vivid world of fantasy for adults. Instead of Prince's and Princesses climbing towers and riding unicorns, I could have dark beasts stalking the night in human guise. Danger, intrigue, and passion, could replace my fairy tales.
   I applaud anyone who managed to make it this far into what is probably my longest blog post ever. I'm nearly done. While there are many other novels that I enjoyed, or somehow impacted me as a child, these are the four most important. One, for making me desperate to learn to read. The second for teaching me that I can create my own stories. The third for making me truly enjoy reading for the first time. And the fourth for allowing me to cling to my childlike imagination even as I was becoming an adult.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Best Writing Tools... Amendment

I ran across a new instructional website for writers and despite the dozens of books and websites I've already read, this site had some new and interesting tidbits of information.

Darkwaves Writing Tips

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Goals for June

 Goals for June

  • Write between 2-3k words everyday. This was my goal last month... and I didn't make it BUT I'm going to try harder this month! (No more Hulu...  TV rots your brains anyway.) 30 days has June, so that comes out to between 60k and 90k.
  • Finish Out of the Shadows. If I keep to my word count goal, I shouldn't have any problem with this. Shadows is getting pretty close.
  • Do a rough edit to  get it ready for Beta Reader Jylie Bean.
  • Outline Echoes of Death - This outline will be included in my words per month goal. 
  • This one probably won't get done, but the goal is to get as many of them outlined and finished as I can. So, if I finish OotS, and I finish the EoD outline before my beta reader gets my manuscript back to me, THEN I want to outline and write three short stories set in Lythian's past. Working titles - Origin (10k),  Eternity (20k), Sacrifice (20k). This goal will continue into July.
  • Keep my nice, neat, working spaces nice and neat. 
  • Enforce the "leave me alone while I'm working" rule better.
  • If my favorite Jylie Bean gets my draft back to me before the end of the month, start the second round edit on Out of the Shadows so it can get sent to my two Gamma readers and back to the Jylie Bean.

I graded myself for my performance in May below. I warn you in advance, it probably won't be interesting to anyone but me, and also I failed.

Goals for May - Performance Review

  • Keep my word counts at 14-21k a week ((80k for the month))
    •  (D) My word counts were actually closer to 7k a week than 14. I really wanted to average 3k a day!
  • Finish the first draft of Out of the Shadows
    • (F) Out of the Shadows still has about 25% to go.
  • Finish the outline for Echoes of Death
    • (F) I didn't do anything for the outline of Echoes of Death. I'm waiting to send OotS to my #1 Beta reader before I start working on the sequel.
  • Start editing Out of the Shadows in 5k chunks... to be completed in June.
    • (F) Nope. /pout
  • Organize my writing space and my writing bag.
    • (A+) YES! - Finally something that I actually accomplished. My writing bag is a giant messenger bag that goes everywhere with me. Inside it I keep a binder full of character profiles, outlines, drafts, and a great deal of miscellany. It is enormous and previously lacked any form of organizational system. I am proud to say that it is now spic and span.
    • (A+) My desk also now looks much more tidy and is organized so that I can actually find my things. I REALLY want to clean out the drawer of my desk that doubles as a filing cabinet but everything that might go into the filing cabinet is currently stored in my writing binder. I think that wouldn't be useful until I start on my second novel.
  • Do at least one thing to reach each of these goals every single day.
    • (B) Yes and No. While I was working on my novel everyday, I also had a Star Trek the Next Generation marathon for a week. If I'd spent as much time writing in those 9 days as I did watching Star Trek, I probably would have made my monthly writing goal.

I am adamant that I CAN and WILL average 3k a day this month!!! It's hard to get to 3k on days that I work but I need to push myself harder on my days off.