“I wasn’t using it…

soul

Still writing…

Middle novels take forever!

And so, another snippet from the Inkslinger Meeting Exercises.

The chosen words were cramp, unconditionally, and flickering.

 

        “But…but this is my moment!” Cheri mumbled, words too low for anyone to hear, not that they could over the roaring of the crowd, the pounding of the sneakers on the pavement, the rush as Bethany Singleton rounded the first turn a full step ahead of her. She tried to ignore the cramp threatening to paralyze her leg, the agony creeping up her leg and back. Only another ¾ of the track and she could win this thing! But her muscles were fading, her moment of greatness flickering in the flash of Bethany’s fabulous ass as the younger girl managed to get two entire paces ahead.

        What were they feeding them these days?! Cheri wondered, pushing against the pain, telling her body in no uncertain terms that she was going to win this thing, that damn Bethany Singleton wasn’t going to beat her by an embarrassing three paces.

        Her strength was fading though, distracted by the cramp, and Cheri knew it was useless.

        I’ll do anything, she thought suddenly. Anything to win. I will train every day for the rest of my life. I will wash the corners of public restrooms. I will sell my soul to Satan unconditionally…

        “Unconditionally, you say?” a voice whispered in her ear. Bethany froze, shocked to hear someone speaking to her while she was in the death throes of the race for Olympic Gold.

        “Hello?” she whispered, breath coming out in hard jagged gasps as she lumbered forward.

        “Let’s talk about that soul of yours…”

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A Murder of Crows

Image result for crows cartoon

And another small snippet to keep things going, this time with my favorite charmer, Seth. This exercise is from December of 2015.

The words chosen were:

sink wish murder

Shelly peered at the list in her hand, then looked back up at her lover. “You’re absolutely sure this what she said we needed to do?”

Seth nodded at her, blonde hair curling under his chin in that way she loved so much. She started to reach out to touch it, her hand leaving the list, and then she stopped herself, knowing where that would lead. Focus, she ordered herself. There are important things happening.

“Really?” she asked again, eyes scanning the words on the page. She appreciated Seth’s simple block letters, the no-nonsense way he maneuvered a quill and ink. No blots, no smudges. Her man took pride in his work.

“Yes, dear,” he repeated. “Every word.” His hair was still doing that curling thing, and while she hadn’t reached out to him, he reached out to her, strong hands rubbing her neck and shoulders in the best ways.

“But this is so random!” she blurted, trying to stay focused on the task at hand, but really loving his fingers on her skin.

“Of course it is,” he assured her. “That’s what witches give you. Random prophecies that can’t be followed. I told you this quest was ridiculous from the start.”

“She really said: ‘Wish on the kitchen sink after you see the murder’?”

Seth made a soothing noise, hands moving insistently down her back to other more interesting areas.

“I wonder if maybe she means a group of crows or something,” Shelly mused. “You think?”

“Of course. You know, I am pretty sure I saw some crows in the bedroom earlier today. Shall we go look?”

 

How to earn the #amwriting tag

Image result for daily writing tips

Sometimes I really need a good kick in the ass-especially when it comes to writing. It’s far too easy to say “I will work on it tomorrow…or this weekend…or next summer.” And then another year has gone by and my characters have grown so tired of standing around inside my head that they threaten to leak out into everything else.

So here it is: my list for staying on top of my writing.

  1. Write every day. Even if it’s just one measly little sentence. Open the computer, open the story, and write at least one little thing. Don’t let the story fade into the background noise of your life.
  2. Write new words. Don’t just re-read what you’ve got. I’m a sucker for stories like the one I’m writing. Of course I am–that’s why I’m writing it. I can’t tell you how easy it is to get sucked into the wormhole of that story–you know, the one that I’ve already written. But if you want to ever finish the story, you need to be composing–not editing. The time for wordsmithing will come. For now, just get the words out. You can make them pretty later!
  3. Have some way to stay accountable-a writer’s group, a good friend, a significant other–it doesn’t matter. And the person doesn’t need to read your work (unless they want to of course!). The point is that they ask you if you’ve been writing–and make you feel a little guilty if the answer is no. A friend of mine have a deal–if either of us doesn’t write (or create, since he’s a musician) every single day, then we both have to take the stairs all day. My office is on the third floor and I teach downstairs and upstairs all day. And I’m lazy. When I find myself tempted to goof off on my phone instead of writing, I remind myself of all of those stairs, and I pull out the computer.
  4. Set reasonable goals in writing. Nothing feels better than crossing something off a list. A friend of mine makes sticky notes that she puts around her room. Write down a small goal–say “Write for ten minutes today” or even “Write 200 words” or whatever goal seems workable for you–and then do it! Put it on sticky notes that follow you around the house! Maybe have some penalties if you don’t do it.

And that’s it. That’s what works for me. It’s not fancy. It’s not complicated. But when I do these four things, I produce writing, and that’s the goal. Of course, this list changes when I’m in editing mode, but for straight-up get the words out of my head and onto the page kind of production, this helps get me there.

And this may not work for you. That’s fine! Come up with your own list. Keep it simple. Keep it realistic. Don’t spend valuable writing time tweaking the tiniest details here–scratch down some ideas and get to work.

You can do this.

Exercises in Style by Raymond Queneau

I’ve been thinking a lot about this book I stumbled on: Exercises in Style by Raymond Queneau (it’s actually les Exercices de Style but I read the English translation).

The premise is thus: he tells a short story in 99 different ways. It’s short, like only a few sentences, but each time, he emphasizes something else–the order, the details, the sentence structure, etc. and the results are amazing. It’s the same old story, every single time, the same old story, but each time it’s new. Each time he switches the words around, changes the focus, sharpens the lens in another direction, and boom! It’s new again.

This makes me want to learn to read French, so I can see the original play on words, but I’m a few years away from that kind of sophisticated grasp. Just the way the translation plays with words boggles my mind.

Let me show you what I mean. The bold word is the style that Queneau has designated for the story. Here are some examples of what he’s done:

Narrative

One day at about midday in the Parc Monceau district, on the back platform of a more or less full S bus (now No. 84), I observed a person with a very long neck who was wearing a felt hat which had a plaited cord round it instead of a ribbon. This individual suddenly addressed the man standing next to him, accusing him of purposely treading on his toes every time any passengers got on or got off. However he quickly abandoned the dispute and threw himself on to a seat which had become vacant.

Two hours later I saw him in front of the gare Saint-Lazare engaged in earnest conversation with a friend who was advising him to reduce the space between the lapels of his overcoat by getting a competent tailor to raise the top button.

Precision

In a bus of the S-line, 10 metres long, 3 wide, 6 high, at 3 km, 600 m. from its starting point, loaded with 48 people, at 12.17 p.m., a person of the masculine sex aged 27 years 3 months and 8 days, 1 m. 72 cm tall and weighing 65 kg, and wearing a hat 35 cm. in height round the crown of which was a ribbon 60 cm. long, interpellated a man aged 48 years 4 months and 3 days, 1 m. 68 cm tall and weighing 77 kg., by means of 14 words whose enunciation lasted 5 seconds and which alluded to some involuntary displacements of from 15 to 20 mm. Then he went and sat down about 1 m. 10 cm. away. 57 minutes later he was 10 metres away from the suburban entrance to the gare SaintLazare and was walking up and down over a distance of 30 m. with a friend aged 28, 1m. 70 cm. tall and weighing 71 kg, who advised him in 15 words to move by 5 cm. in the direction of the zenith a button which was 3 cm. in diameter.

Hesitation

I don’t really know where it happened…in a church, a dustbin, a charnel-house? A bus, perhaps? There were…but what were there, though? Eggs, carpets, radishes? Skeletons? Yes, but with their flesh still round them, and alive. I think that’s how it was. People in a bus. But one (or two?) of them was making himself conspicuous, I don’t really know in what way. For his megalomania? For his adiposty? For his melancholy? Rather…more precisely…for his youth, which was embellished by a long…nose? chin? thumb? no: neck, and by a strange, strange, strange hat. He started to quarrel, yes, that’s right, with, no doubt, another passenger (man or woman? Child or old age pensioner?) This ended, this finished by ending in a commonplace sort of way, probably by the flight of one of the two adversaries. I rather think that it was the same character I met, but where? In front of a church? In front of a charnel-house? in front of a dustbin? With a friend who must have been talking to him about something, but about what? about what? about what?

Negativities

It was neither a boat, nor an aeroplane, but a terrestrial means of transport. It was neither the morning, nor the evening, but midday. It was neither a baby, nor an old man, but a young man. It was neither a ribbon, nor a string, but a plaited cord. It was neither a procession, nor a brawl, but a scuffle. It was neither a pleasant person, nor an evil person, but a bad-tempered person. It was neither a truth, nor a lie, but a pretext. It was neither a standing person, nor a recumbent person, but a would-beseated person. It was neither the day before, nor the day after, but the same day. It was neither the gare du Nord, nor the gare du P.-L.-M. but the gare Saint-Lazare. It was neither a relation, nor a stranger, but a friend. It was neither insult, nor ridicule, but sartorial advice.

 

And I have to include this one, in honor of the Inkslinger’s Guild exercises we do. Here, he has chosen several words at random, then worked them into the story:

Word Game

(Dowry, bayonet, enemy, chapel, atmosphere, Bastille, correspondence)

One day I happened to be on the platform of a bus which must no doubt have formed part of the dowry of the daughter of a gentleman called Monsieur Mariage who presided over the destinies of the Paris Passenger Transport Board. There was a young man on this bus who was rather ridiculous, not because he wasn’t carrying a bayonet, but because he looked as if he was carrying one when all the time he wasn’t carrying one. All of a sudden this young man attacked his enemy–a man standing behind him. He accused him in particular of not behaving as politely as one would in a chapel. Having thus strained the atmosphere, the little squirt went and sat down. Two hours later I met him two or three kilometres from the Bastille with a friend who was advising him to have an extra button put on his overcoat, an opinion which he could very well have given him by correspondence.

 

You can buy the book here: https://www.amazon.com/Exercises-Style-Raymond-Queneau/dp/0811207897

 

This book makes me truly appreciate the versatility of language, not just English, clearly, because he wrote it in French, but because you can actually translate it into English and still have the effect. Words are amazing things.

 

The awkward middle novel in the trilogy

I’m finishing up the second novel in the Klauden’s Ring series, and I’m struggling with the cliffhanger not-so-happily-ever-after ending that this middle book seems to require.

My characters have overcome some major challenges in this one. Lives have been shattered, vows have been broken, loyalties have been strained. But they are still standing. Mostly.

And I, the reader who LOVES her happy endings, who will get so frustrated with a sad ending that I have been known to toss a paperback across the room in a fit of rage–I find myself heading inevitably in that direction. It’s not all going to work out perfectly in this one. Life is too messy, issues too unresolved, truths just barely beginning to show themselves.

I know it has to happen this way. I know that there has to be struggle before the happy ending can come and actually feel like it’s been earned–and Peter S. Beagle taught me that happy endings can never happen in the middle of a story. If they can happen at all–because nothing ever really ends.

No worries, though, dear followers of Hannah and Rory. They will return in book three, battered, a little bedraggled and beaten, but they shall return, and I promise that book three does have an ending (and spoiler: it will be  happy one…for most of them). But as someone heading directly towards the Empire Strikes Back ending, I apologize in advance. But sometimes, characters have to struggle, have to weather the storm, and then the next, before they can actually get to the end of the road, or as King puts it, the inevitable clearing at the end of the path.

The road goes ever on and on, down from the door where it began, but for now, this is a dark part of the path, and if we are to truly appreciate the sunlight to be found on the other side, we need to follow them now through these tangled trees, even though this whole forest looks ready to reach out and strangle us.