Category Archives: Black Sun

Lucky 7

I wasn’t specifically tagged for this, but I’m going to take a lead from Liz Norris, whose novel UNRAVELING is coming out this month, and roll the Lucky 7 game on the good old blog.

Here’s the idea:

1. Go to the seventh or seventy-seventh page of our WIP.
2. Count down seven lines.
3. Copy the seven sentences that follow and post them.
4. Tag seven other authors.

I’m going to skip step #4, as I tend not to bother people when I can avoid it . Here’s the seven sentences from page seventy-seven:

He did the last thing she expected. He barked a full throated, head back laugh.

“Yeah, sure, Alex, take a seat. You’ve seen enough for this little lesson to benefit you.”

He motioned for a chair as he leaned back comfortably. She nodded and took the offered seat with only enough hesitation to convey that she did it because she wanted to, not because he told her to.

“So, you have yourselves quite a situation,” Jax started.

Come on in and join the Lucky 7. It’s a lot of fun.

Advertisements

Crafting a Lightning Rod: The Truth of Queries & Synopses

Many successful authors explain getting published similarly. They say to get published you must 1) write a stellar novel, 2) get lucky, 3) have lightning strike. With the hundreds of thousands of potentials out there, all hoping for the same bolt of lightning to strike them, it’s nerve wrecking. How can I change my charge from those around me to attract that electricity to my camp?

Big money, No Whammys. Hit me!

Taking this metaphor another level, apocryphally Ben Franklin gave the answer. A key of metal to act as a lightning rod will channel that power directly where we want it. So, we strap ourselves to a homemade lightning rod and brace for the blast that we hope will blow our socks off and change us forever.

But what is this homemade rod to glory? Our rusty metal key is the well-crafted query and synopsis. Those are the small articles we count on to change our overall charge from those around us and bring heaven to earth. Yet every other nut is out during the rainstorm crafting their own homemade rod.

And yes, I’m in the rainstorm too. For the last week I’ve spent time crafting my query until I have ten drafts that I’m reasonably happy with, even if I will never be fully done with it. Working on this, I have researched and studied what the success stories with their blasts have explained about their queries. Also, I’ve studied the weather itself and what agents have said and joked about what makes a query stand out and what makes it a dud. So, for the moment, the head of my key is completed.

Now the tail of the key cries for the same time and talent. Thus for the last few days, I have turned my attention to a synopsis. Why is summarizing 400 pages in 1-2 so difficult? The story is completed. It is all there. No more surprises to discover. So, why does this seem like a tougher task than writing the novel in the first place?

Going back over what I’ve written already, I have one thought on this. It is because I’m being asked to take all the edge and excitement that I’ve spent years crafting into the story out completely leaving only its bleached carcass to finish my lightning rod with. I’m not a science wiz, but I don’t think bone is a very good conductor.

Doing the same research I did for my query, I’ve come across an interesting phenomenon. Almost every agent and editor I’ve seen who’ve blogged or answered questions about synopses nearly unanimously say they hate reading a synopsis. They are boring and tough to get through. Authors who were successful in writing them almost all say they hate writing them because they are boring and tough to get through. So, why do we do this? If everyone hates them, how on earth do they attract any electricity for us?

Finally, doing research, I got a decent answer. They are only to prove the author knows how to craft a story and character development. That’s what is being looked for in a synopsis. That’s why they are important. I was wrong. It isn’t the bare bones we are getting them down to; it is the strong structural design. And that structure had better be strong straight steel. Now that’s a good lightning rod.

So, today and tomorrow I am redoing my synopsis with this new image in mind. I’m looking forward and am incredibly nervous about casting out my homemade lightning rod and standing out in the storm. Here’s a toast in hope of getting the blast of my life.

Picture by: Suvro Datta


Old Dog, Newest Trick

The more I think about it, the more in love with the assignment given by agent Brooks Sherman (@byobrooks) of FinePrint Literary Management in his query contest. The assignment in order to enter was this:

“Write a 100 word short story from the POV of your antagonist/villain.  It can be his/her/its perspective on an event that actually occurs in your story, but that’s not required.  Before, after, or an unseen event are fine, too.”

At first I was daunted by the 100 word limit. Whoa, that’s barely a paragraph. I outlined out a whole scene to show my villain in his full glory, then realized my outline with 67 words. So, time to put my short story writing to the test and condense everything into 100 words and still show my villain. Also, I wanted to get his GMC (Goal Motivation and Conflict) to come out in the short segment as well. After some hard work and repeated and repeated revision I came up with this entry.

“Never partner with an idiot, no matter how good a patsy they’d make. He had to deal with that psycho who was smuggling his brothers and sisters into this putrid hole, nothing like the home in the stars they deserved. The deep stations were theirs; the cattle just didn’t know it yet. Staring at their “meals” hung on the girders, he sneered at the smell of human blood. Once it had been his whole existence. Now he ate higher on the chain. Reassured for another shift, he put on his security uniform and Bio-Com to climb into the station proper. “

The best part about this is that I think he ended up sounding like a hero in his own head. Isn’t that the truth with many complex villains? I wish that I had done this first. This really let me get even deeper inside of him and know him more, as icky as that concept may be. It’s coming across like the elevator pitch for the individual character. It limits the wordiness that can be a battle. I had to stream-line and be extremely specific. And it was a blast to have the finished project.

Goal, Motivation and Conflict is so important to have three dimensional characters, and on common character sheets they are there for the protagonist. They are needed for all the main characters. Even if there is a main POV that the story is from, each character is experiencing their own story at the same time. In order for them to act as they should and not simply be a plot device, GMC is vital to guide their actions.

Let's look under the hood. What's seems to be your issues?

On top of that, this small exercise let me listen in on the character’s voice, even if it was only in his head. This would have made dialogue and actions so much easier to write if I’d had it from the beginning.

So, thank you, Brooks Sherman (@byobrooks) of FinePrint Literary Management and Emma Trevayne of Nailing Shadows to the Wall for hosting this contest. Through your great ideas, a new slot on my character sheets have been filled, and I look forward to the birth of deeper and more realistic characters.

Photo Credit: “Mechanics of People Mind”


Back and Hitting Overdrive

Wow, is it February already? A lot of work and news has happened. The Gothic Blue Book with Antidote for the Soul has been out for public consumption for months. I have even signed a few copies people have brought me. No matter who you are, when someone asks you to sign something you’ve published, a little voice inside you goes “SQUEEEE”. And mine certainly did.

Still Available in print or Kindle. SQUEE

Adding to that, I have also guest lectured classes on the writing process and creating worlds and characters for two separate classes. These were both outstanding experiences that I was much honored to be a part of these young writers’ journeys. Hearing their ideas and answering their questions allowed them to bring new ideas to my writing at the same time that I was trying to help them.  The most fun was hearing all the little details that they’d caught that I didn’t think anyone but me would get. Easter Eggs are fun for everyone.

In other news, I got word back from my wonderful and talented Beta Readers, and as of yesterday, I have applied the notes and finished the last draft of Black Sun. I’m really excited about these changes, and they couldn’t have happened without outstanding Beta Readers. I owe each and every one of them a drink of their choice.

Beyond that, I am gearing up to polish up an eye-catching query letter and synopsis for agents to peruse and, hopefully, fall in love with. In this pursuit, yesterday I was given an outstanding exercise. An agent was holding a contest for people to win a chance for him to go over their query letter. In order to win that opportunity, writers had to post a 100 word scene from the POV of their villain/antagonist. This was an outstanding exercise that I would recommend to every writer. I put an added challenge in mine, and made sure that my villain/anatagonist’s Goal, Motivation and Conflict were identifiable in those short 100 words. Whew, never knew 100 words could go by so fast. I’m already about four times that in this blog post alone. So it was daunting to get a coherent, engaging snippet from my darling villain and also convey his true goals with his reasonable motivation and the thwart to his overall plan. The funny thing is, he ended up sounding in his own POV like he was a hero. But then again, shouldn’t many villains seem themselves in the right? I was so intrigued by this that I’m going to write more on it in my next post.

For now, I am moving forward in as quick a pace as my day job will allow me. Time to get this bad boy packaged up for others in this world to see and l enjoy.


Mother Nature: Poet, Artist, Author?

This week is owned by Mother Nature. She is showing us we can’t get too comfortable in our “hurricane free” or “earthquake free” areas. With the earthquake from the Northeast starting in Virginia (it was fun teaching a class and missing a step as everything fell about a foot from where it was) and Hurricane Irene heading toward the Jersey Shore, people are having to adapt and learn new ways to prepare to survive.

Beautiful, but what if you added some lightning, crashing waves and a fire?

Right now, Mother Nature is the author of our current story. As authors, we create new circumstances, hardships and disasters for our characters to grow and learn from. A common critique note to young authors is “you made this too easy for your characters”. An easy story is often one that bores the reader and the hero/heroine doesn’t grow to his/her full potential. So, in order to love our characters and make them the people we know they can be, we have to throw horrible, horrible situations at them and let them learn on their own, or with a mentor and crew, what they have buried deep within. They have to learn what they can accomplish when pushed to the worst place they can possibly imagine, often a hairs breath from death. That’s why the Dark/Black Moment of the book is so important. It must be dire, because our hero/heroine must learn, the world be damned. He/she is stronger and better than this and will find a way to survive.

And to survive, they rarely ever have to be a “superman” with “deus ex superpower” that comes from nowhere. Often even with superpowers in play, in order for characters to grow, the ability to move beyond the Black Moment into Victory comes from a very mundane place. That way the readers can identify and grow from it with the characters.

So make those journeys tough and deadly. Let your characters fall down and feel pain. We as humans adapt and grow and learn. That’s what makes a compelling story. The growth. The learning. The survival of things that are out of the ordinary, but happen anyway.

As Mother Nature writes our story this week, I am continuing my work on Black Moon, as well as sending Black Sun to two more Beta Readers. Black Moon is almost a chapter in now, and Mother Nature has inspired some new hardships for my characters. *grin*


Happy Puppy Dance!

Everybody join in!

Jumping for joy with your head up in the air. Eyes closed in contentment as your feet tap out a happy jig. That’s what I’m doing today.

Got the report from the first of my Beta Readers. She stayed up until 4am finishing it because she couldn’t put it down. There is almost no higher praise than that.  As this is not her normal genre, it also lets me know Black Sun has the ability to reach beyond the normal “sci-fi” “horror” crowd. She gave me about six lines needing work, but out of 436 pages and 90k works, not too shabby and already fixed. This is exciting, and I can’t wait to hear from my other readers. Come on, big money, no whammys. (Does anyone get that reference anymore? Oh well, back to happy dance.)

On other fronts, the first few lines of Black Moon are written. They came to me with a great image, even if that image involved pain and panic. Being able to write again is making me so happy. Editing and polishing is fun, but I missed this creation part. I shared the first two lines with JP and his reaction was “Starting with a bang, huh?” Absolutely. Black Moon is shaping nicely in character and scene sheets. Now the words are allowed a license of their own to show me where all these well laid plans of humans and vampires are actually going to lead us this time. Plus, there will be the introduction of another entire paranormal group in this book. I can’t wait. *smile*

I look at how twisted and complicated my characters lives become when left in my hands. Murphy’s Law happens, but doesn’t cover half the messes that find them. Then I remember a favorite quote by alien buff Duane Alan Hahn:

“We’ve all heard of Murphy’s Law. There should also be Rube Goldberg’s Law (a result is often caused by a complicated chain reaction of seemingly unrelated events). Both of those laws seem to be best buddies and they’ll often knock Occam’s Razor to the floor and kick its whiny little [butt].”

Until then, I will have to wait and write those complications into existence until the other readers get back to me on Black Sun.


Celebration Time! Come On!

Huzzah!   Hurrah!   Booyah!   Oh Yay!

Not only is Black Sun as done as I can make it, it is off to the waiting hands of my first round Beta Readers. My dark story about vampires in the blackness of deep space stations and the people they “interact” with is out there to entertain others. Exciting and terrifying at the same time. But after two years of work on this project, I have to let it go. So, until I get feedback, Black Sun is officially going into the drawer. I am going to force myself to leave it alone, until I hear what others have to say.

Next weekend I’ll continue working on Black Moon, but this weekend is for me and celebrating getting this far in the process. Drinks all around. Tonight is date night for me and my husband. I think playing pool and Greek sauces are in order. Just the thought makes me smile. And to continue with the good vibes weekend of rest, J.P. is sending me to the spa tomorrow.

Thus I should return relaxed, refreshed and ready to get back to dangers of the paranormal world in deep space.

Prost!

Until then, let’s raise a glass. Sláinte!


Christmas Morning in August

I have it back! My full master copy has gone through its first Beta Reader. He went through the four hundred pages in a matter of days and only had thirty-eight comments. A good sign if I ever saw one. Thank you, J.P.! Check out his work, projects and updates at his site Fistful of Fiction.

Today I am going through those comments and the small list I’ve made myself. Mine is easier. Things like changing chapter breaks to end those enormously long chapters and making sure our anti-hero’s new rank stays consistent the entire way through. All in all, it should be completed today and tomorrow, to be sent out to the group of Beta Readers for Friday!

My favorite package has arrived

These changes are exciting. The first time I get to see how other eyes read and feel about the full work: invaluable and humbling. Opening this file feels like Christmas morning and getting that big test grade all wrapped up into one.

Now to work!


Lost in the Woods

There’s not much to report. I am on the edge of my seat waiting on the feedback from my first beta reader. And from the requests showing up in my inbox, so are the other beta readers. New eyes are always a scary feature to writing. I learned this clearly in my critique group. Will they get the nuance and meaning you were trying to lace into the description and dialogue? Will they follow the action or get lost in the fight? Did you beat them over the head with the message or was it subtly woven into the story? Are there too many characters, not enough? Was the story too complex, or not complex enough? Having done editing for a while now, I explain over and over, “I know it’s perfectly clear in your head, but that clarity never reached the paper”. Is this where I will be, or does the story have a complete linear thrust without being too obvious?

Well, there’s nothing I can do on it now, until it comes back full of markups and comments. So on to the next feat. I have finished the first draft of “Waiting for Tomorrow” and am letting it breathe a bit of its own life. Letting it grow some legs, if you will. In the meantime, it’s time to do what I’ve wanted to since April. It is time to get underway on Black Moon. The world is established, some of the characters are established, now it is time to establish the scenes. I will be sitting down with my scene and character worksheets and blocking out each major scene and the reasons it belongs in the story.

 

Black Moon

A whole new adventure

I know once I start drafting, I may venture away like Red Riding Hood from the path, but sometimes the Big Bad Wolf is the best part of the story. So, here’s to getting lost in the woods and the adventure to find my way back. Black Moon it’s your turn.


Beta, Beta, bo Beta

The first of my Beta Readers has Black Sun. He is also double checking my continuity and copy editing. I am excited to have someone else’s eyes reading my work in full. A giant step forward. Every step is making this more real, and I can’t describe how that makes me feel deep down. Dreams are enticing and amorphous ghosts that chase us through life. It’s fun to do the chasing for once, and to feel that I am almost a hand’s reach away.

Problems in the food chain affect everyone

On other fronts, I did a lot of work today on “Waiting for Tomorrow”. This is set between Black Moon (Book 2) and Black Planet (Book 3). A glimpse into the future the characters will have to deal with. It’s nice to be writing from another perspective and on planet again, even if the ending is not quite “and they all lived happily ever after”.