Reading as a writer

coffee-2670190_1920

From Pixabay

Before I turned my hand to stories, I was a reader. The first writers that grabbed my imagination and took me to other worlds were in the sci-fi and fantasy field. I think then they may have called it speculative fiction. Don’t mind me– my mind comes up with odd facts and sometimes it is right.

I was that nerdy girl that would carry a book bag that always had at least one fiction book. I would have gone into withdrawal if I didn’t read something. I was that girl who read on the bus to school and home. I was that girl who read in the bathroom. I do remember hiding in the bathroom with a Witch World novel by Andre Norton. By the time I finished reading, my bare butt was cold from sitting on the toilet so long. I think there may have even been a red ring around my butt. So I am that girl.

When I started writing, my goal was to write entertaining stories that I would like to read. I wanted to be able to write such an interesting story that some one some where would have to admit that they were caught in the bathroom with their pants down, reading my stories. An odd goal for an odd girl.

So now I am older and hopefully not wiser. This last writing class gave me some good ideas and tips about dragging you guys– yes, you!!!– down into the depths of my character and my stories. So be warned.

Here be dragons.

Advertisements

My mind is roiling

river-2876579_640 My mind is in writer brain mode where all possibilities and none are whirling in my head. It feels like there is something underneath, trying to push up and flop on the mud above.

When I am like this, my world narrows to what is in my head and what is one the page. Sometimes what is in my head is not satisfied with the my scratchings.

I have to be satisfied that when the water and thoughts recede, it will leave rich moist soil for planting. Today I learned some skills that would help me excavate the dirt and mud in my mind. Previously I used a shovel and threw the dirt every which way, sometimes killing the story with a blow.

I now have a fine brush to use. It is still a little awkward in my hand. I don’t always know how to use it. But I now have a small instruction manual that came with the fine brush. Soon I’ll be in my element. For now, I am filled with possibilities.

I’m halfway here and halfway somewhere else.

Shira: Hero of Corsindor (revised and updated)

Prologue

She glanced nervously at the lead-glass windows as the rain hit them in staccato bursts. The rain struck with such force that it drowned out the clanking of armed guards, roaming the hallways. The grayness and cold crept into her heart and chilled her bones.
In the midst of this war of elements, a newborn baby wrapped in white swaddling lay in a cradle. She gently rocked the cradle, whispering to the baby.

“You, poor sweet thing,” she said. His mother had not survived the birth. It was a miracle that this one was breathing. “She said she was in danger.” The nurse hummed and rocked. The baby smiled. It broke her heart. This child wouldn’t be allowed to live. He was born of the wrong woman.

Everyone knew that the woman who had married the king was not the king’s first love. This marriage had been arranged. The king had kept his mistress in the castle so that he could visit her during her pregnancy. It had been an embarrassment to the new queen.

The kitchen gossip ran through the nurse’s mind.

The cook had sworn that she had seen the queen in the kitchen in the early hours, brewing up a potion. Then the mistress went into labor. The cook had connected the potion with the death of the mistress. The baby was supposed to die as well.

It was the baby’s smile that changed her mind. Instead of announcing the baby’s birth, she wrapped the baby tightly in the new blanket. Hoping that the baby would stay quiet and wouldn’t suffocate, she tucked the blanket into a basket.

A silent prayer was on her lips as she walked firmly and confidently down the hall with the basket pressing against her arm. She nodded to a guard and walked past him. She reached the kitchen without being stopped. The warmth of the kitchen was a huge contrast to the coldness of the rest of the castle.

She set the basket down and warmed her hands on the flame.

“Has the baby been born yet?” asked the cook. She was bustling around the kitchen, beating dough with her hands. Two of the cook’s thralls were carting pots out to the courtyard so they could scrub them and clean the pots for the next meal.

“No,” the nurse said. “I’m going to the apothecary to get more herbs to ease her pain.”

The cook just nodded and went back to her work.

A tradesman knocked on the door. A kitchen maid opened the door and accepted the dinner meat. The nurse slipped past them and into the courtyard. A side gate that lead to a narrow path down the hill into the city was open.

It was slippery, but the nurse kept her footing. The rain had turned into a soft mist and she slid into the shadows. She looked back at the castle. It looked menacing in this light. She shivered just a little and adjusted the basket. Her shoulder ached from carrying the baby.

She thanked every god in the pantheon that the baby hadn’t cried or screamed. She pulled back the blanket so that she could see his face. He was breathing. She let out a sigh of relief and hurried to a cobblestone road with two story buildings dwarfing her.

She slipped into a small alleyway that led to the market square. Then she hurried through the square. It was unusually quiet. The hard rain must have sent the merchants home early. It only made her shiver more and she thought that someone was following her.

Finally after going through a few more alleys, she found the one she was looking for. The shopkeeper sold beads and brocade from far away. Plus she knew him. He was her cousin’s husband.

“Welcome,” he said when she sat the basket on the counter.

He took a long look at the baby. The baby had soft dark hair and light skin. The baby’s eyes opened and they were a dark blue.

“Well,” said the shopkeeper. “It’s come to this.”

The nurse nodded her head.

He pointed to the curtain at the back of the shop. She followed behind him into the darkness.

An hour later the nurse left the shop with herbs in her basket. She headed toward the castle.

A certain way of thinking

pexels-photo-235986.jpegThe tentative sunbeam slips through the blinds and entices me outside to watch  violet buds tremble on bare trees. At the very least, I should open the sliding window and sniff the cool air that had been filtered by yesterday’s breeze.

I resist the urge to flee and settle my every-enlarging behind into my office chair. It supports my back when it is adjusted just right. I lean back and feel it snap into my lower back. Another thing to distract me from the white page and gray lettering.

In a moment I will get up and check the dryer as another excuse to quit writing. If I stop for just a moment, like getting another cup of coffee, I might sit on my more comfortable rocker-recliner. I would sink into the faux brown leather with my dog cuddled on my lap. I would flip through the channels and would settle on a crime show or a judge show. It would be another excuse to stop.

My coffee is cold, but I still take another sip. It sits on my tongue and slides down my throat. If I let it sit too much longer in the cup, the brown sludge will be too thick for drinking. I look inside the white coffee mug. It’s almost gone.

The beam of light has moved to lie across the little black dog with oversized ears. She warbles in dog, telling me that she is tired of being curled up in her soft bed. She is waiting for me to quit writing so that we can stretch our legs and and she can sniff the other dogs’ wet messages in the grass.

If she were really impatient, she would sit at my feet and rub her white muzzle on my swinging bare foot.

Bang. Bang. Bang. The little black dog leaps from her bed. She braces all four of her legs and as loud as she can she tells the world there is some stranger at the door. She sounds much larger than her twelve pounds.

I jump from my seat, and open the front door.

A small cardboard box wrapped in brown tape sits innocuously there.

****************************************************

I’m practicing openings. 🙂  This time I used myself as a character. But I will be doing this more often.

The past is always behind us

P1000318 At 38, I thought that I was preparing for a new life where I taught writing, particularly creative writing and that my late-hubby would retire and play.

My entire life changed at 41. I ended up in a German hospital for almost five weeks, which I almost didn’t survive.

All of my dreams were ripped apart. His, too.

It took me two years to finally train my brain enough to write again.

I had worked my entire life since I was sixteen and the thought of staying out of the workforce was a foreign concept to me.

I did try to work when I started to feel better at the end of that second year. Because I was in close quarters with other people, I got sick again and was told that if I worked in that environment I wouldn’t survive very long.

This is my past.  Why I mention these experiences is that I recently talked to my nephrologist about having more energy. She is just over five feet with a name like Dr. Fang. You’d be right in thinking she is Asian. I am respectful of her because she has kept my kidneys function these last three years. That is no mean feat.

So when I asked about more energy, she laughed. “I’m sorry,” she said, “but you have more energy now than most. It just gets worse from here.”

I started to think of all the things I have been able to do and what I have done since my illness. If I keep up this pace, I will do more than I did as a young woman. Oh yes, I traveled to South Africa, Japan, Panama, and Germany. I lived in Florida for a short while. I met some great people and some not so great people. It was the usual. In those days while I was having adventures, ironically I wanted to write stories.

So the past has come and gone. But it is the past that reminds me that every moment I write and every moment I breathe is precious.

I have less guarantees for a healthy life than most. It doesn’t mean I should curl up and die. I won’t.

 

Working on my skills

pexels-photo-261470.jpeg Papers are stacked all over my writing room. Some papers are receipts and other pieces are scratch paper with a combination of typing and handwriting. It’s hard for me to remember a time when I would stare at a blank piece of paper or computer screen, willing the black letters to scrawl across the page.

I do wish that all of my characters would show up during the day instead of at night when I am tucked in bed, relaxing, and getting ready to sleep. Sometimes my body will decide that sleep isn’t necessary. I will wake up three or four times during the night for that bathroom break or muscle cramps. The cramps start at my feet, work up my calves, and sometimes end up in my thighs. Then when I try to get back to sleep, the problems of the day will run through my head like a herd of stampeding cattle.

Recently I started a class with Dean W. Smith. If you are writing fiction, you should check him out. He teaches the skills that are needed to write readable stories. I thought that I was doing well with my writing. When I don’t have a challenge then I do a little skating, which in other parlance means procrastination. So to my surprise I found that I am plot-driven and am not grounding my characters well enough. It is another way of thinking and I am realizing that my skills need a lot of work.

I don’t mind work and in fact I get a little thrill when I find out something new and can use it. Also my little smugness from getting four stories out last year has been knocked out of me. I need to tend to the characters a little more.

I always thought that it was plot that was hard to write. To my surprise, I don’t have that problem. So on to my problem areas and I’ll have fun in the process. Damn. I didn’t realize until just now that when it gets tough, I get happy.

So to show that I am actually writing, I am giving you a small excerpt of “Xandra Peel,” widow and ogre-human hybrid.

Xandra Peel

Scrip. Scrape. Scrip. Scrape.

I gripped the shovel tightly. The blisters on my hands cracked and bled, as I scraped the last of the loose soil in the bottom of the grave. Wiping my eyes with the back of my hand, I left a swathe of dirt across my face. Sweat trickled down into my eyes. I gasped and held the tears in. I couldn’t cry. Not in front of these people.

I had been digging this grave for hours. The vultures hadn’t bothered to help me. Oh yes, I knew I was hated in this community, but they had been careful to hide their animosity until the death of my husband, my John. They peered down at me as I scraped away the last of the dirt. I refused to look at them. They were ghosts to me.

My lips cracked. I yearned for water. The dust coated my mouth and tongue. It tasted of ash. Then a voice jerked me out of my reverie. He wanted to kill me there and lay my body beside John’s feet like grave goods. At this moment, my heart was dead. I would have lain at my John’s feet and let them slit my throat.

The sweat trickled down my neck. My hair stuck to it. I lifted it from my neck. No breeze reached me six feet down.

John had loved my hair. He had said that it was all the colors of autumn—red, yellow, and brown. It wasn’t a natural color for a human. But then I wasn’t human. I was a troll-human hybrid.

When the dimensional gates opened, when the scientists had used the Large Hadron Collider, searching for the “god” particle, the collider had put so much stress on the dimensions that it had ripped open the earth. Two worlds collided — Jorden and Earth. The clash between the two societies had been brutal. Worlds pillaged and women raped. I was a product of such a troll-human interaction. Just by my existence I was hated by both worlds.

As I tried to scramble out of the grave, a hand reached down and lifted me up. I blinked when the sun hit my eyes. From its slant it was late afternoon. I could smell the sour sweat of fear on the townsfolk. The mayor, his face stern, took the shovel from my hand and pushed me toward my house. The mayor’s black hair spiked around his face, his skin was swarthy, very different from the other town folk, and his feet ground the dirt like a conqueror. In a small town that didn’t like the new or strange, he was strange. For an instant his countenance wavered and I thought I saw something else behind the mask of his face.

“Xandra,” his voice pulled me back to the present. I felt my body pull to attention, and I faced him. It would be bad. He was the only person since John’s death to talk to me. The townsfolk had dragged me here, put a shovel in my hand, and forced me to dig.

“You have lost the name Peel,” he said. “By morning if you are still in this town… you will be killed as a creature of darkness.”

2017 in Review

winepixabay

CC0 Public Domain LunaSeaArt

My goals last year were a little high. I managed to write 91,000 new words and finished 3 novels and one novella. My goals were 200,000 words and 4 novels. I learned one thing last year. I can write even though I am sick. I write better when I am recovering from two surgeries and a stay in the hospital for pneumonia.

The other thing I learned this year is that I must set high goals and reach for them. If I hadn’t set the goals I did, then I would have given up. In the process, I received some synchronicity this year. I found an editor who itched to get her hands on my manuscripts. I found readers who urged me on to write more. I am grateful for all of you as I look back on this impossible year.

This last month I went back through many of my stories that I had online. I have decided to revise and update my early books in between writing “Unlicensed Sorceress,” book three in the Hilda’s Inn series.

I tried to be more social last year. Plus I tried to save for some conventions. I would love to meet all of you in the same setting. Unfortunately I learned that being around people can send me to the hospital for an extended stay. The lessons I learned about my health this year were not subtle at all. It was like I kept ramming into a brick wall.

So I will keep meeting you online instead of in person. I am sad about that.

This year I decided to take another writing course online with Dean W. Smith. He has turned out to be one of the best instructors of creative writing. I have learned more from him in his online class setting than the four years I spent in getting an English Literature degree.

I will proclaim that the year 2017 was full of challenges and that I managed to survive them and to write.

So here are a few of my writing goals for the next year–

  1. Hilda’s Inn world– I’m 30,000 words into “Unlicensed Sorceress” as Hilda and her cohorts adventures.
  2. Xandra Peel — an ogre hybrid. This one I started right after the death of my late-hubby. I feel able to go back and finish it. This will turn out to be in Hilda’s world.
  3. EJ Hunter — I have a third book percolating.
  4. Percy Doyle – (sci-fi space opera) This is the same character from “Percy Doyle’s Traveling Space Market.” A black marketeer that belongs to a family of space merchants.
  5. I’m leaving this one open because I might be writing more short stories this year as well. You can find a bunch of my short stories on Amazon.

I will also keep track of my writing this year i.e. how many words I write. This kept me on the straight and narrow when I got lost in a plot twist or two.