Of Feathers, Stars, and Melodies

Image courtesy of Steven Iodice @ stock.xchngWings, rain, dreams, starlight, footprints, silver and songs —these are some of the spices in my Muse’s cupboard, and with every story I brew up, I find the same flavors mixed up in different ways. A bit of moonshine, a dark melody, a flutter of wings and before I know it, my story sizzles with a different seasoning, but one that hints of previous endeavors.

In this latest WIP, I’ve just discovered the name of my male protagonist and one of my Muse’s favorite flavors, feathers and wings, once again played a role in its creation.

Intrigued, I decided to trace the history of our feathered friends through my storytelling evolution.

I guess you could say it started with my NaNoWriMo handle, which is Larkk. I needed the extra ‘k’ because, apparently, Lark is a popular handle amongst writers who try to write fifty thousand words in month!Screen shot 2013-06-27 at 7.51.35 PM

Then, as if pointing the way to future stories I would write, my very first novel draft ended with two birds flying into the darkness. Two revisions later, a dream the protagonist has about doves flying under the full moon led me to the place the story began. My second book seems to have escaped the feathers, (just wait until revision, I say!) but the heroine bears the nickname ‘Nightingale’ because she is the Muse of the protagonist’s dreams.

Birds played an important role in my third story, where the population of a distant world shares a psychic bond with the animal kingdom. The sorcerer overlords imprison all the birds inside their lair because if their subjects could see what birds see, the sorcerers’ secrets would be exposed and their dominion overthrown.

Have you ever flown in your dreams? In my fourth story, Constants, I propose a science fiction reason why all of humanity shares that common dream. The secret project to unearth this reason is named Nightingale. To further tie into the theme of flight, the main character in that story is an aerospace engineer who works at Boeing in Seattle. As you’ll see, I have a thing for rocket scientists.

In my fifth book, A Crown of Thorns, animatronic dragons fly between the moon and the earth, their flight courtesy of the future’s anti-gravity technology.Image courtesy of Asif Akbar @ stock.xchng

My most recent creation, The Whole of the Moon, the prequel to A Crown of Thorns, features another aerospace engineer, who eventually takes the name Swansong, and designs aircraft designed to protect the pilot at all costs. His wife is named Avery, which means Elf Ruler, but also sounds an awful lot like aviary.

Anyway, I suppose it was only a matter of time until the birds made their appearance in this new story. With a nod to Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon, and inspired by a favorite line from Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, I give you: Falcon Cooper.

Do you find recurring themes in your writing? What spices are in your Muse’s cupboard?

Image courtesy of Zsuzsanna Kilian @ stock.xchng

Geese and moon image courtesy of Steven Iodice, falcon image courtesy of Asif Akbar, spices on spoons image courtesy of Zsuzsanna Kilian, all @ stock.xchng

IWSG: Intervention

InsecureWritersSupportGroupThanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh, I now have an excuse to expound upon my self-doubt without fear of reprisals! If you’d like to join us at the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, click on this linky, and prepare to meet some of the nicest writers on the web. We post on the first Wednesday of every month.

Today, I’m going to share something I’m worried I will never overcome. It’s this: I’m a horrible plotter, and even my characters are getting tired of my haphazard plotting. So fed up …well, how about I show you how fed up they are? Here’s how it went down …

***

Image courtesy of Emiliano Hernandez @ stock.xchng

My footsteps echo in the front hall of the Muse’s palace. “Muse?” I call. “You in here?”

“Over here.” His voice resounds on the stone walls. He’s in the library. Of course.

As I near the room, I hear whispered conversations, snatches of phrases like, “… tears of stars … walk in dreams … rock god …”

Then a loud ‘shhh.’

“What’s going on?” I ask as I enter. The lights come on.

Omigosh. The room is full of people I know, although I’ve never met them in real life. These are the people in my stories. Nick Moore from The Tempest’s Serenade stands near the front of the group, his arms crossed over his chest, watching my reaction with concern. On the opposite side of the group towers Teragus Swansong from The Whole of the Moon. The implacable steadiness of his golden eyes makes me shudder.

“Nick?” I ask, because he’s still the one I talk to most. “What’s going on?”

Image courtesy of 'miamiamia' @ stock.xchngNick takes a deep breath. The rest of the crowd has gone back to conversing amongst themselves. Rafael from Lost Wax, with Abigale wrapped in his arms, is exchanging Italian phrases with Noelle, the lithe ballet dancer from Constants, while Aiden, the numbers-addicted protagonist of the same story is immersed in conversation with Griffin of March, the gem collector and heir to the crown from Bridge of Light. Dr. Andria Morgan from my latest story–which doesn’t even have a proper title yet– looks forlorn as she stands off to the side. Despite the ill-fitting black Regulation uniform disguising her tiny frame, she has managed to attract the roving eye of Stuart Livingston.

“Who’s the new chick?” Stuart, Nick’s sidekick from Tempest’s Serenade, asks me.

Andria, with her as-yet-uncolored-eyes narrowed, faces him and answers, “I’m from her latest project— one that actually has a plot and an ending, I might add.”

“That’s what our Writer told me too when she started,” Rigel Mondryan from A Crown of Thorns sneers. “Just wait until she gets to the middle section. You’ll see. It’ll all fall apart just like it always does.”

Andria gives me a furtive look.“Hey, that can’t be true, our Writer has an outline this time—”

“Silence!” bellows Lord Swansong. He steps in front of the melee, his arms stretched wide. His son-in-law Rigel continues to bicker with Griffin of March until they come to some sort of agreement and break out in guffaws.

I spot the Muse sitting on a bookshelf high above the fray and hope he knew what he was doing when he put this gathering together. This many alpha males in one room can only lead to trouble.

Nick nods in acknowledgment as Teragus Swansong begins. “Writer, (because, to avoid confusion, all my characters simply call me Writer.) We’re here to stage an intervention.”Image courtesy of 'deafstar' @ stock.xchng

“An intervention?” I stammer. “For what? The hardest drug I do is coffee.”

I hear Stuart Livingston snicker. He jumps as his girlfriend elbows him in the gut.

Lord Swansong continues, “It has come to our attention that you are seriously deficient in the plotting department. We fear that you will never tell our stories properly.”

“I’m trying, really I am,” I reply. “I’m taking a revision course. I write every day. I read blogs.”

Rigel disentangles himself from his wife Cerule’s arms and stands. He’s wearing his crown, so I know I need to be careful what I say or he’ll be inside my head reading all my wicked thoughts. “Nick over there—” Rigel indicates the dark-haired, steely eyed protagonist of Tempest’s—  “Tells me you’ve been agonizing over his story for years now. Don’t you think it’s time you figure out how to get it right and get on with it?”

“I would if I could, but a novel is so big, it’s hard to keep track of everything. I’m doing my best. Maybe I’m just not cut out to be a novelist— ”

Nick holds up his hand to stop Rigel from perturbing me any further. “I think she gets the point.”

Cerule Swansong, silent up to now, stands. She smiles at me. With her silver blonde hair and her graceful yet powerful motions, I can see why Rigel fell in love with her. “We only want to help you, Writer. It’s not just about us. It’s about you. We want to see you successful, perhaps even published.”

“That’s what everyone tells me.” I sink onto the chair that Nick has pulled next to me. “I just don’t know how to stop writing and plan something. You guys just spill out onto the page and I write and write and can’t stop–”

“Which is why we’re staging this intervention.” Libra Duvall, Nick’s mysterious Muse, has left her window seat to stand next to him. “We want to be read, Writer,” she says as Nick absent-mindedly strokes her long blonde hair. “It’s why we exist. But your stories need to make sense.”

Nick continues, “We have some ideas for you. To get you back on track.”

I scan the faces before me. Teragus, Rigel, Cerule, Stuart, Libra, Nick and all the rest stare back at me expectantly. Their fate lies in my hands. I feel so helpless.

41GtFMuVhWL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_“I don’t want to let you down,” I say. “But the only book about writing I’ve read is No Plot, No Problem.

“Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered,” Nick says. “We picked out a few craft books for you.”

Aiden chimes in and stands, holding a stack of paperback books. “Here are a few to get you started. Writing the Breakout Novel , Story Engineering,” He winks. “A personal favorite.”

“Well, you’re the numbers guy, after all,” I agree.41zE6Pp83tL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_

“There’s more though,” Cerule says. “Techniques of the Selling Writer, Save the Cat.

41KYQst9aIL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_Abigale chimes in, “You’re going to love Bird by Bird!”

“And this one,” Rigel offers, “The Art of War for Writers. And Nail Your Novel. You loved Memories of My Future Life so I’m certain you’ll appreciate Roz Morris’s advice.

I hold the books in my hands, quite a stack, and see the concerned looks on their faces. “Wow, you guys are the best. I really hope I don’t let you down. Wish me luck.”

***

So, writers, any other suggestions to help me with my plotting woes? What’s your favorite writing craft book?

Images: rainbow of books courtesy of Emiliano Hernandez, talk bubbles courtesy of ‘miamiamia’, chairs courtesy of ‘deafstar’, all @ stock.xchng.

Hello, 2012!

Almost had you going there didn’t I? Betcha thought this blog was going the way of many blogs, a few months of posts, and then nothing. But don’t worry. I’m here, just swamped with the excitement of getting critiques right now.

I know this is the time to make resolutions, but I’ve decided to think bigger this year. When it comes to my writing I do what most writers do best, and that’s daydream. So instead of a list of things to do this year, I’m going to mix them all together and make a comprehensive list of all the goals and dreams I’ve accumulated over my short writing career.

Because, in the words of Henry David Thoreau:

‘In the long run, men hit only what they aim at. Therefore, they had better aim at something high.’

Here’s what’s in my sights right now:

  • Revise everything I’ve ever written. And I mean everything. ‘Tempest’s,’ of course, but its prequel ‘Lost Wax’ is begging to be revised. I had a blast reading it over the holidays, and only wish I could get to it sooner. Three other drafts await my attention after that; ‘A Bridge of Light‘, ‘Constants’, and ‘Dragon’s Milk Chronicles: Book One’. There are a couple short stories kicking around on my hard drive that I would love to revise too, including, ‘Testament’, ‘A Mirrored Star’, ‘Play’, and another one that I’ve even forgotten the title to and will bug me until I find it on my hard drive somewhere, tucked inside another novel’s Scrivener doc. (Found it, it’s called ‘Galaxy’s Gateway’ and stuck in with ‘A Bridge of Light’.) Looks like I have my work cut out for me in the revision department.
  •  Write a million words. The Mt. Everest of word count goals didn’t actually sound terribly hard for me and seemed more like a fun challenge. And, as you can see by my little meter, I’m inching towards that goal right now, nearing that 300k mark. Words just aren’t that hard for me to get; the time to write them is.
  • Write a trilogy. I’ve made some progress on that with the first draft of the ‘Dragon’s Milk Chronicles Book One’. I haven’t the faintest idea what Books Two and Three will even be about, but I am excited by the characters and can’t wait to stir up trouble for them. There is certainly plenty of it around in post-apocalyptic Earth.
  • Goal four sounds easier than it is. I would love to make my point in five thousand words or less, and learn to write a short story. ‘Nuff said.
  • Goal five would be to submit a short story to a competition.
  • When my revision of ‘Tempest’s’ is finished I would like to hire an artist to make the cover art I have in mind, then print it in hardcover. I even know who I want to dedicate it to:

To my father: Who explained to me exactly how far away the stars really are, but never doubted my ability to reach them.

  • Then I’m going to show it off to everyone I know and tell them I wrote this!
  • After that, the manuscript goes off to agents!
  • While I wait for the check, I am going to read every book on my ‘to read’ list. I know, it’s a good thing my ‘to read’ list gets longer faster than I can keep up, because that check might be a long, long, time in coming.
  • I would love to write my novel as a screenplay. Originally, before I discovered how much fun writing is, I was going to summarize my idea as best I could and give it to a screenwriter friend. In the process of making this summary I discovered that I love writing! To get my story into the form it was originally conceived to be would be really cool, and maybe even help me with my dialogue skills.
  • Someday, maybe I’ll get to go to one of those writer retreats Stephen King describes in ‘On Writing,’ where you write all day and then compare notes over wine and cheese in the evening.
  • Then, once I’m discovered, I will sleep until ten a.m and write until two a.m in my pajamas because I make enough money at writing novels to quit my day job.
  • One day, I would love to see my book clutched between the fingers of someone at the airport as she flips through the pages, desperate to get to the end of the next chapter before she almost misses her flight.
  • I have this weird obsession. It started when I wrote most of my story by hand this summer as part of the revision course.  Now I have this vision of my story written on a huge wall. I don’t know how long the wall would have to be to fit the entire novel, but people could stand and read it and walk along the wall as they got further into the story. I’m thinking it would be a kind of performance art, where people experience the story together, like a movie-going experience, except that the story was created by one person with a pen, to be experienced by so many. I probably won’t ever get to do this, though I can’t imagine why anyone would want to stop me. The idea of one story written by one person, to be enjoyed by many seems to have been diluted between publishing and stories-by-committee and marketing departments. I just want someone to read my story and smile. Would my story lose its copyright if I posted it this way? These are the kinds of questions that make me want to do this.
  • Last, but by far not the least, my goal is to pay it forward. I want to encourage other writers the way I’ve been inspired in the classes taught by Holly Lisle, by writing my first drafts for NaNoWriMo, and by so many others. One of the most pleasant surprises about writing was how much other writers are willing to help me in this endeavor. I intend to do the same.

Let’s see where I am on my list by next year, won’t we? Do you have any goals that seem like dreams right now? Do you have any weird obsessions?

(Images courtesy of Piotr Pawel, Tiago Rio, Atif Gulzar, and Matthew Bouden @ stock.xchng)