Tag Archives: Writing

Free – this weekend only!

I haven’t really mentioned my writing recently on this blog, but besides chasing chickens and gardening, I’m also an author. The first three books about Molly Claire, time traveler and professional ghost hunter, are now available on Amazon.

GhostscoverHere’s a brief blurb from the first book:

Molly Claire was found aboard an abandoned boat in the San Francisco Bay, wearing an old-fashioned nightgown and a bloody jacket too large for her. The crew of the boat was never found, and the family of the girl never came forward to claim her. She was just five years old.

Now, nineteen years later, Molly Claire has no memory of anything that happened to her before that night – nothing remains of her early childhood except the screams that torment her nightmares. But that’s not the most unusual thing about her: Molly Claire can slip through time, an ability she uses as a professional ghost hunter.

But when she and her two partners take the case of another young child, also haunted by nightmares and screaming, Molly Claire’s current life and her past collide in ways she never imagined in her worst nightmares.

Will Molly Claire discover a way to save this little girl from the bloody future in her dreams? And will she be strong enough to save herself from a web of betrayal and conspiracy she has no idea even exists?

You can read the beginning on Amazon, and if you would like to try the entire book, it’s going to be FREE all this weekend.

I have also set up a facebook page, where I will post all the blogs from here, plus random chicken/garden/homesteading/writing goodness. You can find me on facebook here.

And, of course, if you like the books, and want to be notified first whenever a new one appears, please join my email list. I promise not to spam you – it’s only to let you know of new books!

Venice, part II

According to my favorite custom of getting up early to explore new cities while the rest of the tourists are still sleeping, I grabbed a quick bowl of fruit for breakfast, then went to see St. Mark’s in the morning.

The previous night’s rain made lots of bathing pools for the pigeons.

But there’s always some folks that prefer a good shower.

Since the Palace and the Basilica weren’t open yet, I spent awhile just taking pictures of the carvings outside.

Some of it was rather creepy.

And then they let me into the Basilica, where I couldn’t take any pictures. Bah. It was beautiful, and had a feeling of immense age about it, which I didn’t feel inside the English churches.

Next was the Doge’s palace, which did allow photos.

One of the my favorite parts of the palace was the views through the windows.

The prison/dungeon was MUCH larger than I thought. All these little passages…if there hadn’t been signs to direct me, I’d probably still be there.

In one of the rooms, there was a little slot in the wall.

I peeked through it, and found myself observing a woman in the next room who thought she was alone. You just never know who’s watching.

My ticket included entry to the Correr museum, so I took a quick run through there. I found the chopines particularly fascinating.

I also loved these illustrated books.

Entirely hand-painted, and so tiny.

There was also tons of sculpture and paintings, but I’ve never seen the point of taking photographs of those. If I like a painting, I’ll just buy a postcard or print – much better than a snapshot!  I did take one, though, just to show you something amazing.

The Correr is a series of little rooms, and in most of them, there’s no guards or docents or anyone at all.  A lot of the time, I was the only person around. And there is no glass or barrier of any kind between you and the art. There’s not even any signs not to touch!  How do they keep people from messing with it? In America, you’d have kooks bringing in bottles of spray paint or something…or at least leaving fingerprints all over it. It’s puzzling, but awesome.

The last thing I did in Venice was take a boat ride down the Grand Canal.

It’s so much fun, because the boats rock with the waves.  After we reached the Canal, we slowed down, and I went outside beside the driver so I could get better pictures.

Although I didn’t take nearly as many as I could have done. I mostly just wanted to be there. Unlike some folks. This girl is in a gondola, on the Grand Canal, and she can’t be bothered to look up from her phone. I kept glancing over at her, and nope. I tell you, I hate smart phones.

 

Labor in Venice is interesting.

There was one small street I walked down, and workmen were gutting the inside of a building. All the stone rubble was taken out by hand, put in a wheeled cart, and handwheeled to the canal. Where it was emptied into a boat to be taken away.

I loved all the little gardens.

Sadly, a lot of the destruction of Venice is happening due to large cruise ships traveling up the canal. The residents are trying to stop this, but so far, no one is listening.

Although I loved it, two days in Venice was enough for me. I was ready to go back to London for one day…before I headed home to America.

My last day was all about bookshops and tattoos. My first stop of the day was Cloak and Dagger Tattoo in Shoreditch. They are super friendly and nice, and just the perfect place for a complete newbie to get her first tattoo!

I’d been thinking for years about getting one, and finally I’d settled on a place to put it – and a design that was properly meaningful to me. I went with a simple black silhouette of a dragonfly on the back of my ankle.

Dragonflies have a unique lifecyle. Depending on the variety, they can spend years living in a wingless form, underwater, completely aware of what they are truly meant to become. It is only when they leave the water, that they understand they are creatures of light and flight. I find it a perfect analagy for our life here on earth. We are wingless creatures, living in a world that isn’t truly ours. A lot of us are completely unaware that we are meant to be something else – and even those of us who do understand, well…is it possible to truly know the joy we will feel when we are finally able to leave this murky world and find our wings and the Light, our Saviour, Who is meant to live in us?

Everyone told me that having a tattoo done on the back of my ankle would be incredibly painful – but it hardly hurt at all. It felt like the artist was just scraping the tip of a safety pin over my skin! Even when he hit a sensitive spot, it was barely a 2 on the pain scale.  Even afterwards, it didn’t hurt. The hardest part was remembering to take proper care of it, since I kept forgetting it was even there.

After the tattoo, I went to Hatchard’s Bookshop to pick up a couple copies of the new illustrated version of Harry Potter and the Philospher’s Stone. It was just being released on this day and I was super excited to be getting the British version, rather than waiting for the US one to come out.

Hatchard’s Bookshop is the oldest surviving bookstore in the UK, and it’s glorious. If bookstores were anything like this in the US, I might be tempted to give up my Kindle in favor of printed books again…but honestly…probably not. Kindles are just too perfect!

They didn’t have any of the Harry Potter books out yet, but when I asked, a clerk got them from the storage area for me. I took them up to pay, and the guy at the register refused to sell them to me (very politely, calling me ‘madam’.) He said the release date they had on their computers wasn’t for two days from now. I said I’d checked the publisher’s site, and they said it was today, and could he double-check that?  It took two clerks ten minutes, but they finally discovered I was right and their computers were wrong.  So I was the first one to buy one of the HP books at Hatchard’s – and possibly, the first one in the whole of Britain, if the stores had been given the wrong date (the US release date instead of the UK one.)

It’s a marvelous book. Well worth hauling it all over the airport the following day. It’s VERY heavy…and I had two of them. Look at these illustrations!

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The most common question I’m asked is a variant of: Don’t you wish you were still there/could have stayed? The answer is: No.

Before I left on this trip, I was feeling very burnt out and stretched thin, like too little butter over too much toast, as Bilbo likes to say. Because I was saving for this trip, I hadn’t gone anywhere new in two years, and I was really feeling it. The trip itself was often stressful, because constantly having to find my way in new places (when I have zero sense of direction!) and figure out how to handle new things every day for twenty-three days was…out of my comfort zone, to say the least. This was my first solo trip, the longest trip I’ve ever taken, and only the second time I’ve been out of the States (unless you count Canada, which I don’t.) By the end of it, I was ready to come home. It was amazing and incredible and I’m so glad I went, but I was definitely ready to come home.

But it did its job of rebooting my brain. The final morning I woke up in London, I woke up with a new short story ready-made inside. The exact words were just there, like a gift. Before I went to the airport, I dashed out to the first shop that sold notebooks. On the plane from London to Reykjavik, I wrote the words down, non-stop. After a two hour layover in Reykjavik, I wrote for another three hours non-stop on the way back to Seattle. These gifts. These marvelous gifts.

I don’t remember dreaming at all while I was on the trip, but for two weeks after I got home, my brain was an explosion of color and sound and vivid, vivid dreams every night. More gifts.  These are the things you don’t think of, when you consider traveling, the benefits that you don’t realize will happen. I was in the middle of writing a particular novel when I left, and I was a little worried that I’d lose the thread of it – because it was already giving me trouble.  Now I’m back, it’s just bursting out of me, and I can’t wait to finish it, because the next book will be all about the things I saw in Europe – as seen through the eyes of a monster-hunting steampunk girl in Queen Victoria’s court.

But I’m happy to let Winnifred Sebastian-Veals do the traveling for awhile now, while I return to the calm solitude of my garden, my animals, and my art.

Besides, my chicken missed me.

 

The Only Ten Rules a Writer Needs.

I came across the following list on one of my social media sites, and you know what?  This is the most perfect list of writing rules I’ve ever seen.  I don’t know how many published writers who really, REALLY need to read this list!  My comments are in red.

Elmore Leonard’s Ten Rules of Writing

1. Never open a book with weather.  This one should be obvious.  Unless you’re writing a parody.
2. Avoid prologues.  I have used prologues.  I think there are a few occasions when they are necessary.  But I think most of the time they are used as either info dumps or a way of hooking the reader when your first chapter isn’t strong enough to do that on its own.  (Maybe because you started that first chapter with the weather?)  Re-writing the first chapter is usually the better option.
3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.  I think you could get away with using “asked” now and again – if the character is questioning someone.  Otherwise, please don’t.  Please.  I hate this practice.
4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said”…he admonished gravely. A sure sign of sloppy writing.
5. Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.  Unless I’m on some social media site (in which case exclamation points are mandatory) I find it so difficult to use one of these in my writing.  On the rare occasion I do use one,  I normally end up going back and taking it out, because just knowing it is there disturbs my peace of mind.  They are just so amateurish.
6. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”  Okay, I am guilty of using ‘suddenly’.  But I’m rapidly getting to the point where it bothers me nearly as much as an exclamation point, so I expect soon I won’t be able to use it at all.
7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters. I hate reading them, and I don’t like writing them, so this one is easy.
9. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.  The best descriptions are short, simply and perfect.  And astonishingly difficult to do well. 
10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

My most important rule is one that sums up the 10.

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.” — Elmore Leonard

In my own writing, I’ve been struggling with Breathing Ghosts, my time travel novel.  I have to introduce two new characters in this current chapter, and a new plot point.  The first character I’m writing is difficult simply because she is Molly’s mother, and Molly (my main character) doesn’t get on with her mother.  In fact, she doesn’t want to talk to her, talk about her, or even think about her – and this makes it really hard for me, because everything I know about Breathing Ghosts is filtered through Molly’s knowledge and perspective.  I’ve said before that I have no choice about being a writer.  I write because I have to write, because otherwise my head would be so packed full of other people’s lives that I’d have no room in there for my own.  Most of the time when I’m writing, it’s the easiest, most natural thing in the world, because it feels exactly as though these imaginary characters of mine are real, and they are dictating their lives to me.  Writing surprises me and delights me, and I don’t understand at all how it works, only how it feels.

But every so often, writing frustrates the heck out of me.  And this chapter was one of those times.  Molly did not want to tell me anything about who her mother actually was, and every time I tried to muscle through and write something, it was always wrong.  For me, writer’s block is simply the Othermind’s way of telling me: You’ve got this wrong.  I’ve taken a wrong turn and the only way to fix it, is to delete everything up to the last point when the story was going well, and rewrite from there.  On this chapter, I lost track of how many pages about Molly’s mother I wrote, then deleted.

And what made it worse, was that Molly’s mother had the important job of introducing a secondary character, and raising a new plot point.  First I wrote the secondary character (SD) as a man named James.  And that was very wrong.  So SD became Katherine.  And Molly and she had a face to face meeting that was one of the loveliest bits of writing I’ve done.  I really, really liked it.  But it was wrong.  So…I deleted that, although it hurt.  Then Katherine was only spoken of, but that wasn’t right either.  Finally, Katherine ended up being dead, and I think she’ll stay there; the chapter finally feels right.    Alas, poor Katherine.

So, I think the chapter’s finally working out, which is good, because I don’t want to struggle with this book.  I’ve put a lot of me into this book; Molly is closer to being me than any other character I’ve ever written.  I’m not sure how or why that happened, but it’s…interesting to write.

Anyway, I didn’t intent to unload all this introspection when I sat down to post Leonard’s Rules, but…there it is.  All the crazy.

Steampunk Writings

In addition to the time travel novel (Breathing Ghosts) I’m writing, I’m also working on a steampunk urban fantasy.  It is yet unnamed, but I’m piling everything I think is cool about steampunk into it.  In addition to the goggles, airships, and steam-powered machines, it will also contain magic.

I have this idea for a Lovecraftian world of ancient monsters and magic – basically the place where all our world’s legends began.  Victorians have managed to create a Gate into this world, and colonized/subdued it with brick, technology, and social mores into a semi-civilized place they call “New London”.  They are happy to use the inherent magic as another sort of power/science.  But when the Gate unexpectedly closes, the people trapped on New London discover their transported science and technology is dying, and the ancient magic of the world beneath New London is rising up against them….

There will be no vampires or werewolves here.  I like the idea of digging out lesser-used creatures, such as the vodyanoy and the banshee.  There will be magical bartitsu, sewer krakens, criminal masterminds, and more-than-slightly-cracked inventors.  There might even be a pair of zombies (but only two…no zombie plagues in this book, sorry!)

I *think* I will post chapters online, but I haven’t quite decided.  In the meantime, I came across this picture of the real Victorian London, by Gustav Dore.  I’ve just ordered a book containing all his London drawings, because this is my image of New London:

I just love how cramped and…brick…it all is.  If you were an ancient Lovecraftian beastie, wouldn’t you rise up against this?

Eternalism & Time Travel

One of my writing works-in-progress is a time travel novel called Breathing Ghosts.  It’s interesting writing it, because I’m getting to explore my real, actual beliefs regarding time travel – and time itself.

I’m an Eternalist.  I believe that time is a dimension, the same as space is a dimension, and that all points of time (the past, present, and future) exist simultaneously.  Theoretically, according to Einstein’s Law of Relativity, this makes time travel possible.  The only catch is that, this also makes time travel fairly pointless –  if the whole reason you want to time travel at all is to change something from your past.  I’ll talk about that later; first I want to explain time as a dimension.

Everyone accepts that space is a dimension, and that all points of space exist together, and simultaneously.  The fact that you might be living in New York  doesn’t mean that Cairo, Russia, and Milwaukee don’t exist.  You can’t see or experience those cities  from your New York apartment, but if you hopped a plane, you could change your location to wherever you wanted to be.

If time is a dimension, then all moments in time exist at the same “moment” – no matter whether you can see or experience any other moment but the one you’re experiencing now.  The day you are born (Paris) is as current as the day you die (Cairo), and so is every other moment of your life.  If you had a machine that could transport you, you could travel back and forth between moments, and each and every one would be “now” for you.  There is no logical reason (other than our subject “feeling”) that any one moment in your life is more current or “valid” than any other.  Every moment you live feels to you at that moment as the “real” moment.

So let’s say you have that time machine, and now can travel between moments as easily as you can travel between places.  And let’s also say, that, like the main character in my book, something terrible happened to your parents when you were five.  Can you go “back” in time and save your parents?  Let’s say you can.  Presto, your parents live, and nothing traumatizing happens to you.  So, if nothing happened, why would you later go back and try to stop it?  There would be nothing to stop.  So of course you wouldn’t go back, and since you didn’t, who saved your parents?  That’s a time paradox, most commonly referred to as “The Grandfather Paradox“.

The Eternalism view prevents time travel paradoxes.  If all moments in time exist simultaneously, than all moments are happening simultaneously.  Right now, you are being born, visiting the dentist for the first time (and every time – scary thought!) attending school, reading this blog, and dying.  Everything that has or will happen to you is happening to you now.  We can only experience one single second of it, but just like Paris is existing through we can’t see it, the past and future is happening, although we can’t experience it.

And because time is happening all at once, all of our decisions, all of our free will, is happening all at once, too.  We are deciding to run that red light three years ago.  We are deciding to continue reading this blog (or not!).  We are attending the Olympics in 2014.  We are putting on the socks we are wearing tomorrow, and we are going to bed last night.  It’s all now.

We know our past.  We know the date we were born, we know the things we remember really happened.  We don’t fear that suddenly the facts of our lives will scramble, that suddenly instead of going to public school, we’ll be homeschooled, or that we’ll suddenly own a dog instead of a cat.  The past doesn’t change.  However much we wish we could go back and erase that time we embarrassed ourselves in public, it’s never erased.  It always happens, because it did happen.  If Eternalism is correct, what we call the “future” works the same.  What “will” happen, has happened – it’s just that the “you” reading this blog doesn’t remember it, because that “you” is always trapped in the moment you’re living.  The future only seems full of endless possibility because you can’t see it, or remember the decisions you’re going to make.    You can tell yourself that you could win the lottery tomorrow, and find that a comforting thought, but in reality, you have already either won or lost.  I think that’s why we were created not to able to remember the future as we do the past – if we knew the entirety of our lives from beginning to end, how could we have any drive to live them?  Knowing how we either succeed or fail would mean that we wouldn’t take the chances that would create that success or dare the risks that sometimes lead to failure.  And that, folks, could create a whole SLEW of paradoxes.  Time only works if we have this linear impression of it, of time “passing” from past to future.

Everything that has happened, or will happen, is happening.  You can’t go back and kill Hitler before he killed anyone, because those people did die.  You can’t go forward and kill (unknown horrible person) before (unknown horrible thing happens) because that horrible person is already alive and because that horrible thing is already happening.  On the other hand, it’s possible you did go back and kill Richard Snodgrass Baudelaire’s mother, before he could be born, grow up, and kill fifteen innocent people.  Who’s Richard Snodgrass Baudelaire, and who are the people he would have killed?  Since you killed his mother before he could be born, we’ll never know.  He never existed, he never happened.  There’s only one way history – either of the “past” or the “future” – can be affected, and that’s through your normal everyday decisions.

Me and Cool Stuff not Related to Me.

Okay, so I was doing pretty good at this blog thing for a little while there.  I was posting regularly at least!  My only excuse for failing lately with the regular posting is that I was costuming like a crazed thing.  Yup.  And for all that, I actually only completely two costumes: Elizabeth Bennet, Zombie Slayer and a steampunk outfit.  We won’t discuss the projects still laying about in various stages of completion…at least not here.  The fire has burned through, I’m in a relatively sane, quiet phase of my costuming (which means no deadlines for finishing anything until Halloween).  If you want pictures, etc, they are on my other blog.

This not to say that I’m sane, however.  What fun would that be?  It’s just that my mad-doctor focus has shifted back to my doll-making and writing.  Where it properly should be, perhaps, giving that those are the things which actually bring in some funding for the costuming.  It’s a vicious circle.  Sigh.

The dollmaking will be spoken of later, when there are pictures.  The writing, well, okay, let’s talk about that.  I’m about 13,000 words into my new novel.  It’s set in a mad, poisonous Elizabethan court in a city much like Venice (except that the water in the canals is not exactly…normal).  There are two girls, one a Queen trying to keep her throne, and the other a girl just trying to hold onto her mother’s life.  There’s a serpent/dragon, and Six Very Dangerous Men and at least Six Very Dangerous Women.  To help myself keep on track, I’m posting it chapter by chapter on Goodreads.com, right here.  You can check it out, if you wish – I adore comments, suggestions, and all feedback.  I’m trying to put at least one new chapter up a week, as I write it.  Slightly scary proposition, since I could easily write myself into a corner I can’t get out of, but it worked out okay last time…and it was fun.  And it kept me focussed, since there’s nothing like a message in my inbox, begging for a new chapter, to inspire me to write another ten pages instead of just sitting down to watch t.v.

And in the wider world of Cool Things, my deeply beloved author Scott Lynch is back from his mysterious disappearance, and is regularly blogging on his livejournal account once more.  He says he’s deep in revisions of the next Locke Lamora book, so I can finally breathe once more.  And better still, he’s posted author notes to the first chapter of Red Seas Under Red Skies, AND a first chapter of his upcoming novel, The Republic of Thieves. Right here.  I’m so conflicted.  So far I haven’t read it, because I’m one of those people who don’t read advance chapters.  Ever.  I’d rather wait and sit down with the entire book – it just feels so much more special.  But part of me just wants to make an exception.  Because it’s Scott Lynch.

BUT.  And here’s where it gets so cool I just might be about to pee myself, Scott Lynch is also writing a different, non-Lamora novel, and he’s posting it chapter by chapter on his website. For free.  Because he loves us, (and maybe he’s just a little sorry he vanished for so long?).  Go here.  Go now.  I have yet to read it, because I’m savoring the anticipation just a little bit.

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What else?  The glory of that has temporarily blocked all blood to my memory…

Oh yes.  Bloglovin’.  Ever had that feeling that you read too many blogs?  And while you keep checking your favorites over and over hoping they’ve blogged something new, other blogs just keep slipping through the tracks and you don’t remember to check them for 6 months?  Been there, done that, will never do it again: I’ve discovered Bloglovin’.  Thanks to a reader of my site who apparently has my very own blog saved to that site (the incoming address showed up, and I got curious), I’ve discovered how awesome this site is.  You simply save all the addresses of the blogs you like to this site, and it checks them for you.  As soon as one of those blogs updates, Bloglovin’ shows a link to it on your personal Bloglovin’ page.  You only have to visit one page for all your blogging needs!  And if there’s a particular blog entry you like and want to save, simply click the little red heart next to it, and Bloglovin’ saves that entry for you on a separate page.  So you will be able to find it easily and visit it whenever you wish.

Before I found this site, I was using MyYahoo to keep track of my favorite blogs, but it lists the last five posts for every blog you follow, no matter how long it’s been since the blog updated.  Bloglovin’ shows only the new posts, so you don’t have to remember if you’ve read a particular entry or not.  My most genuine thanks to the reader of this blog who inadvertantly led me to Bloglovin’!!!

And finally, here is what’s stuck inside my brain this week:

Too much eye make-up, dude, but the song’s friggin’ addictive!

Book Snobbery

Someone I know asked how I liked this YA book she knew I’d been reading.  When I shrugged and said that the plot had sounded really good, but the book hadn’t lived up to my hopes for it, she said:  “I bet you wish someone would re-write it for adults.”

At the time I let it go, but the more I think about it, the more this sort of “adult book snobbery” is starting to offend me.  I see examples of it all the time, people who come into the library and ask for a specific book, but when I lead them to the Young Adult section, say “Oh, I didn’t know it was a kid’s book” and leave without it, automatically assuming (like the woman in the first example) that books written with children in mind are somehow below par.   And sometimes they are, of course; there are sub-standard books written for children every day and an unfortunate number of them are published.  But there are also plenty of sub-standard books written for adults. A good, well-written story cannot be predicted by which side of the library it’s shelved on.

Thankfully, but gradually, this perception is beginning to change.  Look at the success of Harry Potter; whole families (including grandparents) all reading and loving the same series of books.  Lest the adults who shy away from “children’s fiction” be embarrassed to be caught reading them, the publishers even came out with an “adult version” of Harry Potter – the same book, only with a less childish cover!  And now there’s the success of The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman.  When he turned the manuscript in to his publishers, they didn’t know what to do with it; was it for children?  For adults?  Which side of the Great Divide was it to shelved on?  Finally, they came out with multiple versions of the exact same book, ones to be shelved with the adult books, and ones to be shelved with the children’s fiction.

One of my favorite quotes by C.S. Lewis states: “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest,” and this is absolutely true.  No, I don’t wish that YA book I didn’t enjoy was ‘re-written for adults’.  I wish it had been written well, period.

“You have to write the book that wants to be written.  And if the book will be too difficult for grownups, then you write it for children.”

– Madeleine L’Engle

“Writing for children is bloody difficult; books for children are as complex as their adult counterparts, and they should therefore be accorded the same respect.”

– Mark Haddon

“You must write for children in the same way as you do for adults.  Only better.”

– Maxim Gorky

“There are good books which are only for adults, because their comprehension presupposes adult experiences, but there are no good books which are only for children.”

– W. H. Auden