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WIPMarathon Check-In #1

I need a bit of a break today. I just finished rushing to revise a short story submission for a contest, and I’m a touch winded, so instead of diving directly back into Pegasus Chained draft 3 (going great so far though!) I’m going to toss up one of these #WIPMarathon posts so many of my tweeps are into lately.

Last Check-in Wordcount + ChapterCount (+ scene count if you’re revising):
Not relevant, since this is my first. The last time I checked though, I was at 83K on my main project.

Current WC + CC (or SC):
Looks like my main project, Pegasus Chained, is up to 85K. The short story I just tweaked ended at 2700, up 700 words-ish from the first draft.

WIP Issues this week:
Hmm, let’s see. Biggest issue was deciding how to tackle the rewrite of chapter 3. My editor was all, ‘Oh, that’s so 80s sci-fi!’ and at first I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s the point,’ but then I realized that I could do better. So I dug in and researched a new solution, wasting about 3 hours on dead ends.

After sleeping on it (really, I woke up like 90 minutes later and knew what I needed to do, but I managed to put it off until morning), I got to work again and ground out 5 of the most grueling paragraphs of my life. But they were amazing. And the rest of the section was amazing. And the next section had so much more potential that it just was missing out on doing it the old way. And then the last section, which I thought I wouldn’t have to touch, I managed to pack in some amazing character backstory, as well as introing characters I just hadn’t thought to expand upon in the first draft.

All in all, the chapter gained a lot this draft. Now I’ve got continuity for the entire rest of the novel to overhaul, but such is life.

What I learned this week in writing:
Hmm. I learned how to ‘kill my darlings’. I really was proud of that first draft, but having stepped back from first writing, I realized it was too cutesy and not nearly as powerful as it could/needed to be. And the new draft managed not only to incorporate all of the vital plot points from the first draft, but gained a rich wealth of foreshadowing and character foundation that I’m going to be able to build on later.

What distracted me this week while writing:
I discovered a new musician whose work I absolutely love. If you’d like to waste an hour listening to some awesome music and watching some amazing videos, check out Lindsey Stirling’s hip-hop violin.

Last 200 words:
“Major Daniels just pulled me out of Decryption. He hasn’t told me anything.” There was something, she saw now, in several large alcoves to either side of the office section. All Rosa could see of them from here was a bit of white metal. “What are they?”

“You don’t even know?” Corporal Holloway asked.

“That’s Daniels,” said Private Rago. “He never say nuttin’ if he can get somebody else to say it for ‘im.”

“Come take a look,” Holloway said, walking out into the empty space of the hangar. “You can see them better from out here.”

Rosa followed her a good thirty meters out, where she turned and nodded back the way they had come. Behind the catwalk, docked in the alcoves like suits of armor on display, were four enormous machines. Each was shaped differently, with varying equipment, but they were all obviously combat units. Prototype Tactical Armors.

But … they were huge. Nine to nine and a half meters tall, almost twice the height of any other TAG on base, and different in other ways as well, she thought. They stood like statues, unmarked and gleaming with a flawless white sheen that Rosa very much suspected was indirium. They must have cost a fortune, and not a small one.

Rosa stared up at the extravagant war machines and let out a slow breath. I can’t possibly be qualified for this, she thought.

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Posted by on February 7, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

The Veil

A bit of fiction that popped into my head while I was writing something completely different. …Or is it?

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People don’t see what they don’t want to see. Call it the Veil, or Gnosis, or Paradigm, or maybe something else; the name doesn’t matter. What matters is that it buffers ordinary people from the strange, the arcane, the paranormal.

When you see something that doesn’t fit into your paradigm, you forget it. Oh, at first when you find yourself running from a werewolf on the full moon, or a unicorn charges down main street goring holes in every car that honks at it, you might see it truly for what it is. Some people never will; their grip on what they perceive as reality is too tight.

If you have enough imagination to believe in the incredible, you might see them for what they really are, at first. But then you get away. That werewolf? A drunken gang member. Or maybe it was a mugger. The unicorn? A seven-car pileup, exacerbated by a freak snow-storm. They even said so on the news.

You make up the story in your head, one that fits your paradigm. And then you forget. Maybe it lives on as a memory from a book you can’t remember the name of, or a fragment of a movie you saw in a DVD store window. Maybe as a clever bit of fiction you’re going to write down as soon as you have the time to do it justice.

Believe me when I say that strange things are going on all around you. You’ve seen them yourself. Deny it all you like; it doesn’t matter. The memories live on like echoes, in dreams and stories, because the reality just might drive you mad. But I need you to remember now, because I’m about to show you something very, very strange.

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Creative Copy Challenge 9-7-2013

Since CCC has disappeared, my writing group has decided to do our own randomly generated word prompts. When I like how mine turns out, I’ll be posting them here. This is a little vignette from somewhere near the end of Pegasus Chained, my current sci-fi project.

—–

Maybe it was luck, or fate, that saved his life. Maybe it was paranoia, or perhaps simple cowardice. Whatever the cause, something made David Bingle leave the battlefield that day.

The rebels had been cornered in their mountain base; they were surrounded, out-equipped and certainly outnumbered. David was flying in tandem with two other jets, sweeping the ground with his heat sensors for enemy forces hidden beneath the canopy. He spotted one, veered toward it and aimed his guns, but before he could open fire an emerald burst of energy shot out at him from his target. The beam was incredible—half as wide as his jet, despite being from a what was apparently a mobile ground unit.

The beam scored his plane; he never even had a chance to dodge. With an oath mumbled into his flight helmet, he struggled to return to his original flight path. The smoke coming from one wing scribed an arch across the sky and then leveled out as David compensated for the damage. The emergency fire suppression system kicked in and soon he was flying parallel with, if a little behind, his partners.

David’s heart still pounded in his chest as he reached the end of his sweep and turned back. The target was still there; it wouldn’t have moved far in the time it took him to double back. He was still furlongs behind his partners; they would probably disable the enemy before David even reached it.

Still half a mile from where he had encountered the ground unit, David turned hard. He could never explain why. His plane shot to the left and away from the enemy, just as the other two jets erupted in flame.

David felt his heart skip a beat as he glimpsed his wingmen’s doom, and it was long moments before he recovered his composure. By then he was miles from the battlefield, way outside of the sweep zone. Taking breaths as deep as a man could while screaming through the air at mach four, David steadied his hands and swung back around. So it was that he had probably the best view of all when the mountain blew.

It started as a glowing crack spreading from the top of Eleph Peak to its base, then another almost as fast as thought. A third and fourth appeared, spiderwebbing across the other two just slowly enough for the eye to register before the whole mountain shattered in a burst of molten stone.

Disbelieving, David altered course to circle the newborn volcano, not daring to go nearer the rapidly-expanding cloud of debris. A wave of panicked shouts crackled in his headset and then faded as his comrades, closer to the epicenter than he, died by the dozens. He saw a few aircraft dart away ahead of the blast—whether friend or foe he couldn’t have said—before the shockwave hit him.

It was like a tangible wall of wind, and it knocked him sideways, nearly plunging him into the jungle overgrowth. He was vaguely aware of trees being flung past him, but miraculously his plane remained intact. He managed to level off and rise above the maelstrom, turning his tail and running at full speed away from the expanding cloud. Only when he was once again miles away did he turn and look back.

The devastation was unbelievable. Every tree, bush and stone had been blown back in a ring five kilometers wide. The mountain itself was now no more than a rising cloud, mushrooming out at the top and lit from below with a red light. It was a crown fit for the coronation of a terrible and ancient god.

David lived to tell about that day, as did a handful of others who had been able to escape. They thought it was the end of the conflict, but they didn’t understand that they had just awakened a greater foe than they had ever faced before. It was only the beginning.

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Flash Fiction

When I was younger, short stories were beyond me. Every idea I had was for an epic adventure, spanning hundreds of pages if not several books. Few of those were ever completed, however, and most of them never even outlined. Why? Because I had difficulty writing such a long project when I hadn’t yet mastered the smaller section.

Whether it’s a short story or a chapter, a writer needs to be able to break down his ideas into simple chunks that have internal cohesion and completeness. I often gripe about the first chapter or even the first paragraph of a story containing so many Capitalized Nouns that there’s no way I’m going to be able to put anything in context without having read the author’s previous work. Chapters – and short stories – shouldn’t be like that. They should be relatively complete, introducing new elements one at a time, not in a pseudo-expository infodump. It’s ok if you mention one or two things which won’t be explained until later, but don’t do it all at once, all right?

On to the point then; there’s an excellent tool out there to help you master the art of the short story. It’s called Practice. The almighty Practice has the power, if you serve it well, to grant you that elusive writer’s perfection that we all seek.

So how do you practice? The best way for me is to participate in one of the many short fiction contests being run all over the web. Many of them are short; entries can be written in an hour and revised in ten minutes. Some are longer, requiring a month or so of preparation, writing and revision.
Edit: There used to be links here, and all of them seem to be broken now. Sorry; you’ll have to run your own searches.

Participating in contests and flash fiction exercises is a good way to get a benchmark of where your writing stands. Writing to a prompt is good for discipline, helping you to teach yourself to focus on the details which are important to your continuity. They can also help you take that much-needed break from slaving away on your manuscript; I like to have at least two main writing projects to work on at a time, as well as several goals to accomplish around the house, for when you just need to get up and stretch your legs.

Getting your work out there by participating in contests can do a lot of things which writing in your notebook can’t. It can help you bring traffic back to your blog, where readers who liked your entry can find more. It can also increase your network of friends and potential alpha readers for your larger projects. And finally, it can help you prepare and polish sections of your actual manuscript, such as this little excerpt below, which is my entry for Becca J. Campbell’s Flash Fiction Contest & Giveaway, as well as being a character snapshot for somewhere in book two of The Pegasus Wars. (Though not a perspective we’ll see in the novel.) Enjoy.

—–

He awoke to searing agony.

It was dark, and he couldn’t immediately determine where he was. He reached down toward his leg, where the pain was coming from, to find that a large shard of metal had embedded itself there. Had it hit a vein? Panicked, he tried to find something, anything on his console that would light up, let him see how bad the damage was. Moving made the shard twist painfully in his leg, but he managed to ignore it somehow.

None of the master controls worked. Had he lost reserve power too? No; he was cold, but not the cold of space. His oxygen pump must have been working as well, or he would never have regained consciousness.

He had been certain that the last shot fired at him was going to burn him to a cinder. His commander had ordered him to flank the enemy, and he had rushed to obey, darting recklessly across their line of fire. Then he had seen the other man pass him, abandoning him to the mercy of a dozen Tesaad fighters. Had he made a mistake? Angered the man in some way?

It didn’t matter. He felt lightheaded, and he could taste blood in his mouth. Reaching below, he felt his seat, sticky and wet. His heart pounded in his ears, frenetic, then slowing, and he felt his consciousness begin to crumble. He had been sold out. And now he would never know why. A rasping, frantic laugh was the last sound that ever crossed his lips.

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Resolutions

I’ve always thought the idea of a New Year’s resolution to be a little silly. Maybe it’s just me. A year is a long time to focus on just one goal, or even a set of goals, before you know what’s in store for you.

First of all, there’s the accountability. Who’s keeping track of what goals you set for the future? Your friends? Your mom? No. You have to keep track of something like that for yourself. Have you ever tried sticking up a note next to your workspace to remind you to do something? How long does it take before that note, so obvious at first, becomes just another ubiquitous bit of background? Maybe if there were an app that reminded you of your resolutions each month, it would be possible to remember what you resolved last January. I seriously have no idea whether I even made a resolution last winter, let alone whether I made any progress on it.

Second, how do you know when you’ve accomplished your goal? Say you set a goal to spend more time with somebody, or less time doing an unwanted activity; did you measure the hours you spent doing it last year? “More” or “less” are pretty vague quantifiers. If you’re going to set a goal, you need to get specific. Even if you say “I’m going to lose weight”, does your resolution specify how much weight you’ll have to lose to be successful? Or what your action plan is to accomplish the goal? If your resolution doesn’t include these specifics, you might as well save your breath, because you’ll never know whether you succeeded.

Last, the timing. Once a year is an awfully long wait to set a goal for self-improvement. I understand the significance of starting with a clean slate at the beginning of a new year. It can be a powerful motivator. But if you slip up, it can backfire on you just as powerfully. Once you’ve botched an “I’m not going to do x or y this year” resolution, that’s it; you don’t get another fresh start until the end of the year. And if you think of something in say, March, that didn’t occur to you in January, you’re not going to want to wait nine months to get started; you want to begin right away, while the motivation is fresh. Goals and resolutions should be an ongoing process, constantly refreshed and reevaluated to see if they’re accomplishing what you intended them to.

So I’m not going to make a New Year’s resolution tomorrow night. I’m going to continue as I have been doing – setting goals day by day based on what I see is most important at the time. I’m not going to say “I will finish writing ‘Pegasus Chained’ this year” or “I will publish three stories” or anything like that. If I do, then I do, and why stop there?

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Ahh, Publicity

My science fiction short story Damascus was mentioned in an article on the UVU Review! I stumbled upon this article quite by accident – it also features a photograph of my handsome husband, standing with the rest of the Warp & Weave staff. He’s being promoted next semester, which unfortunately means that I won’t be submitting the sequel to Damascus anytime soon. Glad I got the first one in while I still could!

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

I Am Now Published!

As of today, I am a published author. My short story, Damascus, was printed in Warp and Weave magazine’s Fall 2011 issue, and won 2nd place for prose. Here’s a little bit about the story.

Damascus takes place on a small, isolated space station, a research station, sometime after humans have spread to the stars and begun colonizing other worlds. Though Damascus does not explicitly mention aliens, it does briefly mention the war with the Aen Tesaad, which will be discussed in more detail in my work-in-progress. Damascus is concerned with the war to a large degree, because the researchers on the space station are in the business of soldiering. They don’t take to the battlefield themselves, of course; their work is largely in the training and covert manufacture of elite soldiers.

The story is about a man who can, and a man who can’t. Subject 175 can calculate the trajectory of two-dozen missiles at once, and chart a path through them in real time, but he can’t free himself from the masters who lease him to one warmonger after another. Doctor Andrews can’t perform any great feats of skill or agility, but he can offer the reluctant soldier a way out – if he chooses.

Edit: I’ve posted the full text on its own page. Enjoy. :)

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2011 in Uncategorized