Sunday, April 27, 2008

New Story, New Word Count

My story in Word Catalyst is up! A few of you will recognize it as one I submitted to a contest earlier in the year. It wasn’t what they were looking for, but it’s a decent little story and I knew I could find it a home without much trouble.

I passed the 75K mark on my WIP last night. At this rate I might just make my goal of finishing before I leave for vacation in a few weeks. I really would like to have the draft complete because vacations having a way of rebooting my brain and I’ll be able to tackle the revisions with fresh eyes immediately upon my return.

I think I might end up with something worth pitching. I’m at least not having much trouble coming up with a query letter in my head, which is something I can’t usually say about my stories. So depending on how this turns out, I may shop it around a bit and see what kind of response I get. If it turns into more hassle than my time is worth, though, I’ve got a lot of fun ideas for how to put this out on the web.

I'm sometimes tempted to post excerpts or character sketches, but I'm holding back for now because I think I may end up changing some names and making the story more dark and gritty overall (as if it isn't already). But I'm at that stage where the characters are pestering me all the time and sometimes it's hard to shut them up. The only way to silence them is by letting them out, so we'll see how much longer I can keep them bottled up like this.

Does anyone else have this problem with their characters, or am I just crazy?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Flash Fiction Interlude: In a Dry Land

(A Will and Diana Adventure)

NOTE: This previously-unposted flash appears in my Will and Diana Adventures book of stories. Readers unfamiliar with these stories may want to read up on Will and Diana's world before proceeding.

The donkey cart bounced along the road, its patched rubber tires churning up clouds of dust. Macy clutched the seat as the cart lurched into a pothole. “Watch where you’re going.”

Cascabel flicked the reins across the donkey’s back. “Maybe you should drive if you think you’d be so good at it.”

“Maybe we should camp closer to water.” Macy cast a glance toward the bed of the cart to make sure none of their containers had fallen over.

Sachi moved her horse closer. “There’s things I’d rather do than guard the water run, so I hope we find another well soon.”

“At least we get extra this way.” Diana said from where she walked her horse on the other side. “Direct from the source, where it tastes good.”

The other girls nodded. Water that tasted like plastic containers was only slightly better than no water at all.

They came down a hill and started the next rise.

“Hold up,” Diana said. “I think Balto’s got a stone.”

Cascabel stopped the cart and set the brake. Diana dismounted to check the donkey’s feet, but there was no stone.

“Unhitch him,” Sachi suggested.

Diana unhitched the donkey and sure enough, he was limping. The girls huddled to discuss their options, but their instructions for these types of situations had been clear. Sachi would ride back to camp for assistance while Diana would hitch her horse to the cart and try to maintain their progress at the annoying pace of the injured donkey.

The girls had gone half a mile in sullen silence when they saw a cluster of riders in the distance.

“That was fast,” Macy said.

Diana squinted at the horizon. “Too fast. And where’s our fresh donkey?”

Cursing, the girls scrambled for their weapons, but Diana knew with a sick feeling in her stomach that unless Sachi showed up with reinforcements, it was she who would have to defend the three of them. The other girls were only camp supporters.

The riders came nearer and it was clear they weren’t from an enemy unit, nor were they locals going about their business. These were young men dressed in flashy finery, desert pirates moving from one raiding opportunity to another.

If they had been a pack of starving wolves, Diana would’ve been less terrified. Unaffiliateds were unpredictable. They might trot past without a second glance or they might do something horrible, like—

“Maybe one of us would be enough,” Macy said. “I could—”

Diana glanced at her. Macy sat pale and wide-eyed, holding her pistol in a trembling grip. She had worked in a brothel and wasn’t above using her old tricks to distract an enemy guard, but this was different. “No.” Diana turned toward the men who were closing on them rapidly. “Make them fight for us.”

There was no time to unhitch her horse, so she walked to meet them, carrying her M16 in a way she hoped made it clear she knew how to use it. The men kicked their horses and swooped upon her, circling in a manner that called to mind the tales Apaches told of how their ancestors isolated enemies before a kill.

“What’s with the big gun, little girl?”

“Need a boyfriend? I’ve got a big gun, too.”

Diana tried to think, but the circling riders were making her dizzy. She could take out any one of them, but then the others would have her for sure, and Macy and Cascabel would be left unprotected.

“Are your friends as pretty as you? We can show you a good time.”

Dammit, where were Sachi and the reinforcements?

“What’s in the wagon, cutie?”

“Water!” she said in exasperation. “And will you stop and talk to me like normal people?”

To her surprise, they did stop. A man with pale eyes and a spattering of tattoos across his face edged his skittish horse toward her. He made no move to draw his weapon and instead twitched his shoulders beneath his velvet shirt. “You say you got water?”

“Yes. No jewelry, no batteries, no—”

He cut her off with a wave of his hand. “Where you going?”

Diana had started to relax but now she moved the M16 back into position. “None of your business.”

Instead of taking offense, he looked away. When he met Diana’s eyes again, it was with a note of vulnerability. “I’ve got a guy laid up not far from here. None of us has had water since yesterday morning—”

“There’s a spring five miles back on this road.”

“And we’re less than a mile from a guy who’s dying.” He rubbed his face. “We won’t molest you. Just share, okay?”

Sensing she had no better options, Diana started walking toward the cart, indicating with a jerk of her head that the raiders should follow. As she drew near, she motioned for Macy and Cascabel to put down their weapons. “They say all they want is water. Let them take what they want.”

Macy and Cascabel stepped away from the cart and watched in fascination as the men grabbed the containers and raised them to their lips, gulping noisily and spilling water on themselves. One barrel was big enough for their horses and they took turns letting the animals drink. When they were satisfied, the man with the pale eyes approached Diana again. “We’re going to take some of this water to our friend.”

By now the others had mounted their horses, each carrying one of the smaller containers in his lap. They hadn’t gone far when the pale-eyed one jerked on the reins and cantered back. Macy and Cascabel scurried under the cart in a panic, but Diana held her ground. The man wheeled his horse in front of her and tossed something at her feet. “Thanks, pretty lady.” He kicked his horse again and chased after his companions.

In the silence that followed their fading hoof beats, Diana bent to retrieve the gold piece. It was a large one, heavy and valuable. She was polishing it with the tail of her shirt, her hands still shaking and her mind reeling, when a new movement on the horizon caught her attention.

It was Sachi.

With relief, Diana dropped the coin in a pocket. “Well, it’s about fucking time.”

Sunday, April 13, 2008

WIP Update!

I broke 60K here in the wee hours of Sunday morning, and I finally got my MC and her man in bed. Sheesh. I'd been trying to make that happen all week but between their chaotic lives and my limited time for writing during the week, I only just now got to that scene.

Well, it was worth it, both for plot purposes and because what's the point of having characters if you don't torture them a little by making them wait and throwing a few needless (to them, not to the plot) deaths between them and their desires?

A lot of interesting things are happening with this story-- themes I hadn't planned are emerging and characters are developing in unanticipated ways. I'm a little concerned that I may have too many characters and sub-plots, but that's a matter for the editing phase. For now I'm just enjoying being in the zone with these characters, and I hope they keep talking to me and get me to the end with a minimum of difficulties. Ideally, I'd like to be done with the draft before I go on vacation next month. At my current rate of progress, it just might happen!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Publishing and the Overworked Writer

I’ve been thinking lately about the time commitments of mainstream publication.

I don’t know why this never occurred to me before (or maybe it did in a subconscious way) but if I were to quit writing for a little while so I could focus on submissions, and if I actually hit pay dirt and got an agent and publisher, would I even have time to do all that’s required of a modern author?

Looking at how constrained my writing time is already, I don’t know how I would manage the iterations of the publication process, the marketing (much of which is the responsibility of the author), the book signings, and all the other things it seems a traditionally published author must do, all the while working toward deadline on the next book and doing everything possible to make sure sales of the first book were sufficient to earn out on the advance and not get dropped by the publisher.

Sheesh. Sounds like I’d have to quit my job to do all that. Or at least quit running marathons, working out, cooking healthy meals and having Saturday lunches with my husband. For sure I’d have to give up something and I don’t have much I can really give up. I don’t watch TV unless something important blows up and I want to see the live news coverage of it. I don’t rent movies. I don’t go out to movies. I don’t do much blogging and I’m rarely on a forum more than ten minutes a day. I eat out only once a week and don’t go to bars, festivals, concerts, classes, or anything else. The only things I could cut back on would be work, sleep, exercise, healthy cooking/eating, reading the news, researching my stories, and writing.

In other words, I’d have to give up the very things that enable me to write in the first place.

Several of my blog friends have had recent breakthroughs on the road to publication and I’m going to be watching very closely to see just how much time is really involved in making that leap. If my suspicions are correct, I may be overdue for a little honesty with myself. I’ve been on the fence for awhile, dabbling in non-traditional publication methods, such as blog and POD, while holding back some of my work until I can pursue a more traditional route for it. Instead, maybe my strategy should be to just give my all to non-traditional publishing for awhile, embrace it and quit kidding myself that I can somehow find some extra time hidden under a stack of unread magazines or in the back of one of my cluttered closets.

I can always get back on the traditional publication track when I take my early retirement. And who knows? By then I might have a following and a New York house would be as thrilled to have me as I would be to have them. Or not. Maybe by then I’ll have very different ideas of what I’d like to do with my time. But one thing I know for sure: if the realities of traditional publication are incompatible with all my other life goals, something’s got to give, and it’s not going to be my health, my marriage, or my career.

50K !

I broke the 50K barrier on my WIP tonight. Yay, me!