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Posts Tagged ‘writing’

I’m one of those writers, the kind who have multiple writing projects on the go.  I have more than I can keep track of.

Ideas come to me all the time and at any time.  I have lost more good ideas than I care to remember, because they came to me when I was not in a time and place to be able to jot them down.

And then there are the times when I can let the idea flow, living and feeling it, getting it down.

When I can get the ideas down, it is not always handy to add them in at the right place in the right story.  They become the odds and ends, bits and pieces; the homeless scenes that need to be relocated to where they belong.

 

Which leads us to the dilemma:

The lost story bits.

 Working on one of my current works in progress, I cannot let go of the feeling that I am missing something.  Literally, not figuratively.

The_Latchkey_Kids_Cover_for_KindleThe problem:  I have a vivid memory of writing a particular scene to go in this story.  I also remember the scene feeling right, thinking this is it, this is *the* scene.  Thinking it is good.

 

It is a pivotal scene too.  The scene leads the reader on to learn more behind the bullying behavior of the character, Dylan, from the first story (The Latchkey Kids), and opens the story to lead up to his dark secret (The Latchkey Kids book 2).

 

Do you think I can find this scene?

Nope.

 

I have committed myself to thorough and random searches for any possible file, folder, and key words that might lead to the discovery of where this mislaid scene is hiding.

I am searching every possible dark corner this scene can be hiding in, files on the laptop including Word and backed up notes from my phone.  Emails. My phone.  Every scrap of loose paper I can find in the house where I might have wrote it down.

The scene exists.  I know it.  I feel it as certainly as I feel the lips on my face.  As certainly as I taste that sip of coffee.

Somewhere, in the dark murky depths, in that soulless cold world, with the faint hollow ringing of words crying out in your subconscious, that scene waits.  Lost.  Alone.  Desolate.  In the lost world of story bits and forgotten scenes; right next to the Ruins of Incomplete Stories and the ruination of the stories that went nowhere.

 

Someday, little scene, I will find you.

Unfortunately, by then I will have already rewritten a new scene.

 

 

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I would much rather be lost in the heat of the moment, my fingers flying over the keyboard in a desperate bid to keep up with the story flowing through my mind.

When I’m really into it, the story comes out so fast all I can do is skim through it, putting down the premise of what is happening.  All the rest is lost. The details, conversations, and descriptions.  It is the worst form a blatant tell don’t show, the opposite of what you want.  But, the root of the story is there.

Then, when it’s done, and probably after letting it age like a fine wine (or those Christmas goodies you forgot are in your freezer), I revisit it for the dreaded first round edit.

However, I have so many of those first drafts that my story aging folder has more stories than I can know what they are.  Everything from novels to flash fiction.

So, I have made a vow to those forgotten stories.  I will give you life.  At least some of them.  I will re-focus time to that dreaded task of editing, and make myself work through editing them into being publishable.

Except for one problem.  I’d rather be writing than editing.

I hate that first round edit.  Don’t get me wrong.  It’s not just the first round edit I would rather avoid.  But it has its own special place.  I despise it like I despise cleaning up fresh steaming hot dog vomit.  I loathe to touch it like I loathe to touch and clean up the slimy cold in your grossness of cold dog vomit that you found only after it cooled and likely set the stain in your carpet.

And yet I thrill in it once I have started.  It is a revisit to a once time friend.  The creation of a story, because that’s what I have to do if I only wrote the description of what is happening and not the real story.  I have to recreate that story from an idea.

As the story is recreated, scenes evolve into a real story, are moved, added, deleted… the story changes and becomes something new.  Sometimes it is simply more.  Sometimes the original story is lost.

And then there is that first round edit editing pitfall.

I edit myself into hating my own story.

I have revisited a story I wrote in 2012.  The Gypsy Queen.  The idea came to me while listening to a song of the same name.  The song has no relation to the subject of the story, but that’s just how inspiration sometimes works.

 

First, my first mistake.  I get only so far in that first edit, ideas are flowing, I am adding, moving, deleting, reworking scenes.  I get ideas of what needs to be earlier in the story and I go with it, jumping back and forth over the parts I have edited.  Then I feel I have to go back and re-edit what I did.

I do this again and again, and never make it past the halfway point of that first draft.

And then I do it.

 

My second mistake.  I edit myself into boredom.  I’m bored with the story.  This is only one of the reasons I generally do a big edit and let the story age some more while I work on another one.  Once you have read and re-read the same story too many times, it is all too easy to lose interest in it. Seriously, how many times can you re-read the same lines without them losing their luster?

I did this with the Gypsy Queen with re-editing that first half over and over and over.  Without even skimming the second half of that first draft.

I’m bored.  I don’t like the story now.  And I’m thinking, “Oh hell.  If I don’t like it.  If I can’t get into it.  There is no way any reader is going to want to read this crap.”

At this point I am thinking it’s crap.  It’s dull, uninspiring to read on.

I am ready to scrap the book and leave it to molder, wither, and die the slow death of the un-read in The Forgotten Folder of Stories Told.

 

It is time for resolve and doing something.  I decided to hell with it.  I haven’t even gone past that halfway point.  I am going to force myself to finished that damned first round edit on the rest of the story.

And so I push on.  I force myself to go beyond that point I kept stopping at.  And I hate it.  I hate the story.  I resent it.  It is cold slimy dog vomit on my carpet.

It is boring.  I don’t want to recreate the scenes.  Now that I made myself bored with it, I feel like it is a waste of my time.  Nobody is ever going to read this rubbish.

And still I force myself to go through that first round edit.  I admit, I cheated.  I skimmed scenes and left them as a description of what is happening instead of fleshing them out.  I did it telling myself it is okay because the book is going to be too long anyway, so I need to speed up and shorten the word count somewhere while still telling the story.

It is lazy writing and something I know I would fix later anyway on a later round of edits.  And if the scene never does flesh out, then it probably isn’t necessary to drive the story forward.

At this point I am pushing myself on with the promise that finishing that first round edit to the very end will let me figure out what is wrong with this story and how to fix it.

Still, I am bored with it.  It has no life.  No oomph.  No I want to read on.

 

And then I discovered something.  I reached a jewel.  That gem in a whitewash of blah.

Up until now, the story is pretty much what I remembered writing five years ago. But now.  Yeah.  Oh yeah.  I hit a scene I completely forgot writing.

It is like finding that treasure in the lower end thrift store, the kind that carries the stuff the better second hand stores would have tossed in the trash.  It is the filet mignon hiding under the label of the machine tenderized to make them edible tough “fast fry” steaks.

I devour the scene and suddenly the story comes to life.  Now I am, “Wow.  This story has promise.  This is going somewhere.  This can be good.  The possibilities just opened and they are endless.”

Now, as I push on to the end, I just need to figure out how I am going to completely re-organize the events and move this scene up.  Because, unfortunately, it happens much too close to the ending.

It would make a good mid-point scene.  It promises.  It also promises to breathe a new life into the whole book with new ideas for new scenes, new drama, new ways to torment the characters.

Like the untold story you sit down to write with no idea where it is going to take you, the possibilities are endless.

 

This, my friends, is only one of the reasons I tell my mentoree to never completely give up on a story idea.  (Yes, I am pretty sure I just made up that word.  Mentoree.  My dreaded evil-minded Word spell check agrees.)

Just because you don’t like the way it is going.  Just because you are not currently feeling the passion.  Just because you cannot see where it is going.  Whatever the reason you feel you should abandon it, no story is truly hopeless.  And, you might one day regret deleting that story file.

 

And now, just for you, I will give you a glimpse inside a work in progress.  There are still many edits yet to go before the Gypsy Queen can come to life, just as she does in the story.

Disclaimer:  You will note, and this is a big distraction from the story, that I have not yet even named the characters.  Meet “Man1” and “Man2” and others yet to be named.

 

The Gypsy Queen

 

 

The Gypsy Queen

1    All That Glitters

 

YEAR (TBD)

 

Two men hunch inside their coats as if to protect themselves from the cold.  They are huddled against the worn wooden wall of a building at the edge of the docks.  They are too wired with adrenaline to feel the chill in the air.

The shrill cries of the ever present seagulls add to the cacophony of noise as they hover above, gliding in the air with the occasional flap of their wings.

Man1 looks across the crowded docks, taking the sight in, his eyes eager even as he tries to keep the eagerness from showing in his expression.

“Are you ready?”  He turns to his partner, looking for a response.

Man2 shakes his head grimly.  His eyes are nervous, not sharing in Man1’s eager excitement.  “I can’t believe I let you talk me into this.”

“It will be a piece of cake,” Man1 grins.

“We won’t get past security.”  Man2 frowns doubtfully.

“She’s launching soon.  We have to make our move now,” Man1 says.

Man1 studies the dock once more, looking for some sign it is the right moment.  He gives his partner an encouraging nod and a “let’s go” signal, and bolts through a gap in the crowd as it opens.

With a resigned sigh, Man2 follows, the crowd closing again to swallow them both up.

The stink of the river hangs over the docks with a thick musty odor that clings heavily in the nostrils.  People bustle about the crowded dock like bees buzzing around each other in a hive, their movements bumbling against each other in a jumble of bodies moving past each other, each with their own purpose.

Large barges lay waiting to be loaded with goods and passengers for transportation.  Most of the boats that dock here now are large river barges transporting goods.

Heavily laden trucks trundle through the crowded docks to have their cargo transferred to the boat decks by looming cranes; their hooks dangling from above like giant fishermen’s rods waiting to hook one of the two-legged fish below.  Longshoremen reach for the hovering cargo containers dangling from the crane with their longshoreman’s hooks, swinging them into place before the crane settles the heavy load on the boat deck.

More longshoremen work together to roll heavy trolleys piled high with smaller containers up the gangplanks to fill the boats’ bellies.  Other workers are arriving and making their way to their respective boats.

Adding to the confusion crowding the docks are the hopefuls.  Men standing in groups in their work clothes, some holding their hats in their hands and wringing them anxiously, watching for anyone who might be in a position to offer them work. The depression has put a lot of men out of work.  Desperation has led them to be wiling to take any job, experienced or not, and to do anything to feed their families.

 

A man sits at a heavy mahogany desk inside a richly elegant over-decorated stateroom in the upper floor of a three story paddlewheel riverboat.  His chair is turned backwards to the desk as he sits looking out the window.  The view allows him to watch the river retreat behind the boat, churning beneath the blades of the paddle wheel.  Now, moored at the dock, the view is the hull of a massive river barge looming next to The Boat1, the metal sickening with rust and the growth of the river life that always clings to anything that spends too long soaking in its depths.

It is not a view he enjoys.  It makes him anxious to be moving and to return the splendor of the river to his view.

A knock at the door interrupts him.

“Enter.”

Man3 Man3lastname turns his chair around as the door opens silently to face the intruder of his thoughts.  Looking dapper in a well-tailored dress suit, his hair slicked back in the current in-style fashion hiding the salt and pepper of his hair,his expression is cold and calculating.  He is past his prime, now on the downward slope after reaching the mid-point of life.

Man3 smiles at his visitor. The smile does not reach his eyes.

The man who enters with a deferential bow is dressed in the formal uniform of a boat captain, his hat held respectably in his hands and the balding crown of his head laid respectfully bare.

“Sir, we are almost ready to cast off,” the captain of the boat says, unable to hide the inevitable nervousness he always feels in his boss’s presence.

“Right on time.”  Man3 glances at the ornate clock on the wall.  “I do like promptness.  Keep the ship shipshape and all that, right?”

He smiles at his own poorly quoted cliché.  The captain only nods agreement.

“All right then,” Man3 dismisses his own attempt at a joke, “let’s get started loading the money.”

The captain bows and backs out of the room.  He waits for his boss to lead the way to the wheel room.

Man3 gets up and leads the way.

 

Dodging through the crowd, Man1 leads the way towards the boat slips where the barges are being loaded.  Moving swiftly to avoid being run over by a large heavily loaded truck, he looks back for Man2 and pauses.

Stepping back a few steps quickly, he urges Man2 to hurry.

“You are a fool,” Man2 says when he catches up.

Man1 grins.  “But I’ll be a fool with money in a couple of hours.  Come on.”

He grabs Man2’s arm, dragging him along and trying to speed up their pace.

Man2 lets him drag him along, still regretting his choice to follow his friend.

Man1 ducks into the line of wealthy people, dragging Man2 with him and causing their neighbors to give them sour looks.

“There she is.”  He stares up at the boat with awe.  The Boat1.  She is larger than the average paddlewheel boat, and ugly in her richly ornate decorations.

Man2 shakes his head.

“You and your get rich quick schemes.  The only thing they ever get you is in trouble.  This won’t be any different.”

“Positive thoughts, my friend.  Positive thoughts.”  Man1 grins at him.

 

From his place of honour in the wheel room, Man3 looks down at the crowded dock, smiling.

“Look at all that money getting ready to board my boat.”

This particular pleasure boat has been converted into a floating casino and is owned by Man3 Man3lastname.

Man3 is a powerful man in more ways than his wealth alone could explain.  Man3 owns the waterways.  He owns the port officials, the Dock Workers Union officials, and the Dock Master.  He also owns all the gambling houses in the state and is confident in his ability to keep the gaming officials in his pockets.

The line of people waiting to board The Boat1 starts at the top of the gangplank, descends the length of the plank, and stretches in a snaky line through the endlessly moving crowds of workmenand trucks filling the docks.

A scrawny ill-kept young boy darts through the crowd below, looking for the chance to steal anything he might eat, his presence ignored by all.

Unlike the rough looking dock workers, thewealthy people lined up to board The Boat1 are conspicuously out of place on the docksin their fancy dress clothes, showing off their wealth with the men finely dressed in well-tailored suits and hats and silver-tipped custom carved walking canes.  The women are older women, since it is unseemly for a young woman to be seen at a place of gambling or any other less than respectable public place.  They wear fancy dresses and hats and glitter with gem-laden jewellery dripping from ears and draping from overstuffed necks.

Two young men waiting in the line are conspicuous both for their overly exuberant eagerness and their clothes.

While the rest of the passengers are dressed in their finest and standing there looking haughtily superior to the dockworkers surrounding them, these two men are more likely to be mistaken for dockworkers than passengers.  As if the poor quality of their clothes is not enough, their excitement is out of place in the crowd of bored wealthy gentry waiting in the queue to board.

Their eager antics, gesticulating, talking too loud, and even drumming on the railing make them all too noticeable, particularly to the security guards who are also watching the passengers from on deckon The Boat1.

People around them give the two young men annoyed glances, purposely not looking right at them, making it clear they do not belong among the upper class citizens.  The two men seem oblivious to being out of place.

Man3 frowns at the two unwelcomed guests attempting to board his boat.  He is not concerned.  His men will not let them board.

He turns his attention back to the string of wealthy people lining up to lose their money on his gaming tables.  They are not just the wealthy.  They are the moneyed influential people;corporate leaders, politicians, and those whose wealth is enough to be influential on its own.

 

Two beefy looking dark-suited men lean on the upper deck railing, looking out over the docks.  They study the guests waiting to board.  One of them has a stout straight cane with a heavy ornate carved ram’s head leaning against the rail next to him.  He does not look like he needs the support to walk.

On the main deck below them, two men in lesser suits resembling a ship-mate’s uniform stand next to the closed gate at the head of the gangplank.  They are watching the crowd snaking down the plank and through the crowdof dock workers while waiting for the signal to start letting the people lining the gangplank board.

Theyare not seamen.  They have one job and one job only, security.  The men aboveare the head of security for Man3 Man3lastname.   All of the security guards are dressed in business suits, except those few imitating the ship’s crew for the amusement of the guests.

One of thegate security men nudges the other, indicating the two overeageryoung men with a motion of his head and a smirk.  The other man shares his smirk.  It isnot unusual to have a couple of working classindividuals trying to board.

Part of their job is to keep them off the boat.

One of the gate security men turns to look up.  He can just make out the hands of the two men watching from the deck above, their arms resting on the railing and their hands protruding before them.  He has been glancing up every minute, watching for the signal to start the boarding.

One of the hands moves.  It waves.  That’s the signal.

He turns to his partner and nudges him, indicating the gate.  He moves to take his position on one side of the gate, while his partner takes the other side.  Placing his hand on the gate, he lifts the latch and swings the gate inward against the railing.

The first sign of eagerness stirs through the bored crowd as their murmuring voices move down the line, announcing the opening of the gate.

 

Man1 is staring up at The Boat1 wistfully.  Images play in his headof the anticipated grandeur of what he imagines the casino room on the boat will look like.  The dealers calling out for bets, bells ringing, and the dull bop bop of the roulette ball bouncing around the wheel to the silky ticking of the wheel spinning.  The soft sliding of cards being dealt and clink money changing hands.

“You can walk in with little and walk out rich,” he thinks hungrily.

The eagerness slithering down the line of the bored wealthy elite stirring them to life sends excitement washing through him when it reaches them.

“Here we go.”  Man1 looks eagerly at Man2.

“It’s not too late to turn back,” Man2 says.  “They aren’t going to let us on.  Look at us.”He looks Man1 and himself up and down for emphasis.

“Everyone knows they won’t let anyone without a large bankroll on The Boat1.”

“You only live once, my friend.  You only live once.”  Man1 nudges Man2 to move in anticipation of the slow forward motion of the line reaching them.

Gentlemen and ladies start the slow shuffle up the gangplank, boarding the boat with a regal air of entitlement.

The burly security guards stand to each side of the opened gate, silently watching the passengers board, nodding a greeting to the occasional guest.  They miss nothing, ready to give silent signals to others waiting discretely on deck in case a passenger is to be quietly removed after boarding or taken to see the boss in his private office onboard.

Man1 has eyes only for the goal ahead.

Man2 keeps looking back anxiously, keeping an eye on their path out of this.

When the line of boarders finally brings the two unlikely pair of young men almost to the front of the line, one of the security guards raises a bushy eyebrow at their less than proper clothing.

Seeing the reaction and knowing it is meant for them to see, the nervous young men try to stay calm, not looking at the security men but not looking away either, as if they too are just another pair of bored wealthy passengers.

They hope by ignoring the guard’s look the guards will decide to ignore them.

Just as the young men are about to move through the open gate, amazed that they are actually pulling it off, a heavy stick thumps down across the opening and blocks their path.

They look down at it. It is made of stout wood, rod straight from tip to tip, and crowned with a heavy deadly hook on one end.  The other is attached to the meaty hand gripping it.  The gaffer hook bears scars that they prefer not to find out how they got there.  They follow the arm attached to that meaty hand up to the stern face of the burly man dressed as a seaman.

Behind them, they can hear snickers at their expense from those waiting to board.

They glance at the other man dressed in an identical faux seaman suit, and back to the larger man.

Without a word, the security guard shakes his head ‘no’ and points back the way they came, down the gangplank.

Man1 opens his mouth to plead their case, but Man2 gives him a warning jab from behind.

With a regretful shrug,they sheepishly turn around and squeeze their way all the way down the long gangplank past the glares of annoyed passengers who have to wedge themselves against the railing to let them pass.  Looks of relieved disdain and a few nasty snickers follow them down.

When they finally reach the bottom and break free of the crowded gangplank the pair burst free of the confines of the crowded path, turning to look back with regret.  The crowded dock isn’t much better.

“Well, Man1, we tried,” Man2 says.

Man1 shakes his head.  “We will find another way.  Man2 Man2lastname, there is one thing you need to learn in life, and that is when there is a will, there will always be a way.”

“They will never let us on board,” Man2 says.  “The whole idea was crazy.”

“We just have to not get caught,” Man1 says with a grin.  “What are they going to do once they are under way?  Toss us over the side?”  He shakes his head.  “We sneak on board and hide until they are on the river, then they are stuck with us until they dock.”

“How do we get past the security?” Man2 asks.

“I haven’t figured that out yet,” Man1 admits.  “I will find another way onboard,” he vows, looking lustfully at the ornate paddlewheel boat.

They wander dejectedly around the dock, man1 unwilling to give up just yet on their hopelesscause.

Man1 spots another gang plank running across from the dock to the rear deck and an open doorway into the bowels of The Boat1 instead to the passenger deck.  This plank is much wider and longshoremen are struggling against gravity with the weight of heavy crates being carefully drawn across the plank into the boat, gravity trying to pull them down with dangerous speed even as the men fight to control the slow steady pace of the rolling cargo.

Man1 stops, the grin coming back to his face as his eyes twinkle with mischief.

“Oh no,” Man2 groans.  “I know that look.”  It is a familiar look that his friend always gets when hecomes up with some crazy idea.

“There, the cargo door.”  Man1 thrusts his chin towards the gangplank.

Man1 and Man2 exchange a look.

Before Man2 can try to talk him out of it, Man1 quickly lowershis head and pullshis hat down low to cover his face.  He rushes forward purposely, moving eagerly and having to force himself to slow down.

With an unhappy sigh, Man2 follows suit, following him into the crowd.  They lose themselves in the group of workers. Man2 following Man1’s lead, they each grab a corner of one of the heavy crates being rolled into the boat’s belly on wheeled trolleys and lean into pushing it, putting their backs into it.

“Won’t get far with hats like those,” one of the longshoremen struggling with the cargo mutters.  He assumes these two are trying to press their way into getting hired instead of waiting for the Dock Masterto pick them out of the group of hopefuls.

“They must be inexperienced if they ain’t even got no proper hats,” he thinks, “probably just laid off elsewhere and desperate for work.”  He shrugs.  It’s not his problem to chase them off.

Once inside the boat, Man1 and Man2 take advantage of the hectic activityin the rush to load quickly, breaking away from the workers and sneaking off down a narrow passage.  They cross to another, looking back with relief to find they are not being followed.

“Okay, now what?” Man2 asks.  He feels a little dizzy and out of breath with the rush of sneaking onboard.

Man1 looks up and down the passage. His heart is beating fast with excitement and his eyes are bright with his eagerness to make their way up to the deck.

“This way,” Man1 says.  “We’ll hide and wait until the boat is moving before sneaking up to the casino floor.”

They move down the passage checking doors.  Most are locked.

They come to one marked “Utility” that opens and slip inside the very tiny closet.  The two of them barely fit, Man1 standing with one foot inside a large bucket that luckily is empty at the moment as Man2 tries to squeeze in with him.

Man1 looks down at the awkward spot his foot is wedged in, thinking that lady luck is already shining on him.

The closet turns black as the door clicks shut.

“I hope this doesn’t take long,” Man2 says, trying to shift so that whatever is digging painfully into his back will stop.

They wait, holding their breath every time they hear someone approaching and exhaling in relief each time the person continues on past.

“How long is this going to take?” Man2 whispers after what feels like an hour wedged in there.  “I’m getting a cramp.”

“It shouldn’t be much longer,” Man1 whispers back.  He pushes down an urge to open the door and peek.

At last they realize that they feel a rolling pulling that might be the motion of the boat moving down the river.

The two men listen, feeling out the pulling sensation, and finally decide to risk it.

“I think the boat’s moving,” Man1 whispers.

“I’m not sure.  It might just be the waves against the dock,” Man2 whispers back.

“No, this feels different; I think it really is moving.”

After an uncertain pause the decision is made.

“We have to check it out,” Man1 says.

“Ok,” Man2 agrees reluctantly, but with anxious relief.  He doesn’t think he can spend much longer wedged into that cramped closet.

Man2 slowly opens the door a crack, peeking out and expecting to have the door yanked from his hand at any moment by one of the two burly security men up top.

Stepping out of the closet, they pause in the passageway and listen, feeling the motion of the floor.

“It is definitely moving,” Man1 nods.  “Let’s go.  They open the tables as soon as the boat leaves the dock.”

He leads the way up the passage and down another until they find a sign marked “Stairs”.  Looking cautiously around the open doorway, they see a narrow set of steep stairs leading up.

“This place is big,” Man2 whispers, amazed at how big the boat seems below deck.  And this doesn’t even include the cargo hold, the galley, or anything else that may be down there.

They duck through the doorway and up the stairs.

The top of the stairs opens to the deck level of the boat.

Hiding in the doorway, they look around.  Behind them is a walkway between the railing and the wall, behind which they are sure the casino tables are housed.  Ahead of them the open deck portion at the front of the boat sprawls. Lights that would be lit before dusk closes in are strung elegantly above the deck.  White clothed tables with elaborate settings are strategically scattered at one end near a closed door that has to be the galley.  Dinner will be served on this cruise.  An open space that appears to be a dance floor is bordered on one side by chairs, presumably for musicians.

Man1 nudges Man2, nodding towards the path between the railing and wall behind them.

They both look that way.

The ringing and clanging of machines, babble of bets being made, and calls of the card hustlers running the tables of the casino floor comes from doors left open to the railing and cooling river breeze.

The young men imagine they can feel the warmth of that room already embracing them with its warm lights and the heat of sweating bodies clamouring to win or lose their money.

With a grin at each other, they sidle up the passage and slip into the room, sticking close to the wall as if that might prevent them from being seen before they are ready to start trying to gamble.

They stare in slack-jawed awe around the casino room.

The walls are painted in off white with gaudy golden trimming everywhere.  The thick trimming seems to roll in every direction.  Carved trimming runs parallel to the floor around the entire room.  It runs up and down the walls every six feet, bordering every doorway and window, and matches the heavy painted carved bases of all the wall lamps and trim circling the ceiling lights.  Large elegant glass chandeliers drip from the ceiling.

In contrast, the carpet is a dark patterned red and black mosaic.  Richly red heavy curtains hang open and drawn back with golden tasselled tie backs at the sides of the windows and open doors that lead to the deck.  Staff doors are painted to blend in with the walls.

One-armed machines lined up against one wall glitter in the lights, their bright colors and rolling wheels of pictures of cherries, grapes, and coins promising happiness and fun.

Dark stained wood tables with rich red felt table tops suggest wealth and prestige with the fine dark leather stools sitting stoically before them.  Men in striped dress shirts and slacks call out the chances as men and women lay down their bets in the form of colored discs.

Like a carnival game, the roulette table wheel spins, clicking and clacking around and around like a spinning wheel that ran out of wool, its dark wood and elegant frame giving the impression of something meant only for the wealthy.

Statues and plants are placed strategically, adding regal elegance to the room.

Even more awe inspiring are the people themselves.  Wealthy men and women showing off their status with their rich clothing, gold watches, and gaudy jewelry dripping from the women, all flashing their money around.

The two security men dressed in business suits standing unobtrusively in a corner notice the two conspicuously under-dressed men the moment they slip into the room.  The guard with the stout ram’s-head topped cane nudges his partner, nodding towards the two intruders.  They move together, working their way discretely towards them.  They are already moving in on them while Man1 and man2 are still taking in the room’s ornate gaudiness.

Man1 and Man2 are drawn forward, nearly salivating in their eagerness.  They move away from the wall, moving through the crowded casino room, looking around like little farm boys who have never seen the wonders of a bustling city.

Their presence has not gone unnoticed and curious looks are already being passed their way.  It is not proper for deck hands to be seen on the casino floor and a few of the guests are even feeling a little alarmed that something might be wrong.

On the floor, they are even more awed by the flagrant wealth being tossed about and lost on the gaming tables.  Stacks of high value colored discs pass back and forth between dealers and players as bets are called and closed, cards are played with deft precision, and dice are tossed.

Their eyes sparkle and their minds reel with the imagined possibilities, Man1’s in particular.

Man1 is dazzled by the sheer sickness of wealth surrounding them.  Just making money betting on the tables is no longer enough.  He burns with a new desire.

“This could be us.  What if we could be running the show and raking in all this easy money?” he thinks, excitementcoursing through him as he absorbs the elaborate furnishings and money everywhere.

“Let’s try this table first,” Man1 nudges his partner.

Man2 looks doubtfully at the wealthy people playing at the table.

“Maybe we should try the machines first,” he suggests, nervous about going face to face with these people.

Grabbing his arm eagerly, Man1 pulls Man2 along to the blackjack table.  The people there shift over nervously, giving them space but unwilling to abandon their game, uncertain about their presence.

Man1 fishes some bills out of his pocket and plunks them down on the table.

The dealer looks at the crumpled handful of bills then up at Man1, his mouth creasing into a snide grin.  He makes no move to touch the offered money.

A heavy hand falls on Man1’s shoulder followed by another on Man2’s.  They both turn to look at the burly suited man standing between and just a little behind them.

Man2 gulps, his eyes immediately moving down, half expecting to see the man somehow holding some weapon in a third hand.

Man1 smiles sheepishly at the guard, although it is more like the sheep who just found itself surrounded by wolves.  He is trying to look casual, like he belongs, and is failing.

“Well now gentlemen,” Guard1 says with a smile more suiting a shark about to eat a baby seal, “how are we this evening?”

Man2 reflexively glances at the open doorway and the sky beyond.  The sky is still bright with the late afternoon sun, the deeper evening dusk still a couple of hours away.

The security man continues without pausing to let them answer.

“If you fine gentlemen wouldn’t mind coming with me for a moment, my boss would like to meet you.”  His hands resting heavily on their shoulders tighten into a vicelike grip as he directs them around and away from the game table, leaving the crumpled bills behind.

Man1 glances back at his money, wanting to reach out and snatch it off the table, but he is drawn away too quickly and isn’t given the chance.

“Damn,” he thinks, “that was all the money I had.”

As they turn and walk away, Guard1’s hand releases their shoulders and he casually grabs the heavy cane he left leaning against a table behind them on the way past.

The other guard waits behind them to follow them away from the table.  The moment the other three step away, he reaches out and casually pockets the crumpled bills.  He nods to the dealer to continue with the betting.

The dealer immediately goes back to business, calling out the bets.  The gamblers close their ranks on the hapless pair as if to prevent them from intruding on their table again.

“Mr. Man3lastname is waiting for you gentlemen in his office,” Guard1 says as he leads them casually out of the casino room.

Instead of taking them to the deck as the two men expect, he directs them to one of the staff doors blending in with the walls.  On the other side lies a narrow passageway with doors opening off it.  They pass those doors, not given the opportunity to pause and see what might be inside any of them, and round a corner that brings them to a set of stairs leading up.  At the top of the stairs is an elaborate smoking room for special guests, and Mr. Man3lastname’s office.

The dark wood lustre of the smoking room beckons to them as they pass through it, pausing at the closed door to the office.

The guard with the cane knocks on the door and a voice beckons them to enter.

Opening the door, he directs the two men to enter ahead of him.  The two security guards follow them in, closing the door behind them.

The office is as richly decorated as the rest of the boat with oiled wood panels and a large mahogany desk.  It is more richly decorated and substantially less gaudy than the casino floor, flaunting wealth, not flamboyance.

Elegant pieces of art are displayed safely behind shallow glass cabinets.

The man sitting behind the desk is wearing an expensive suit.  His carefully barbered hair has not a strand out of place and smile wrinkles crinkle at the corners of his eyes.

He isnot smiling now.

Man3 Man3lastname looks them up and down with a steady gaze, measuring them up.  His disdain for the pair of loafs sneaking onto his boat is clear.  His confident air also makes it clear he is not accustomed to not being obeyed.

“What makes you pair of nitwits think you can come on my boat?” he asks, his eyes deadly cold on them.

Man2 looks at his shoes, trying hard not to fidget awkwardly.

Man1 tries to meet his eyes, shifting nervously.

“Um, sir,” Man1 starts.

Man3 holds up a hand, stopping him.

“Did you have a good time down there?” he asks.

Man2 swallows the lump in his throat.

Man1 nods, stiff with fear.

“Now, how do you think it looks to my guests, people who can afford to be on my boat, when I let someone like you on board?  It’s not exactly good for my reputation, now is it?”

“Um, no sir,” Man1 mumbles.

“People like those pompous asses below don’t want to rub elbows with the likes of you and I, now do they?”

“N-no sir,” Man1 manages.  That the man they’d been brought before is putting himself on the same level as them with that last comment makes hope stir in his chest.

“Ok, maybe this won’t be so bad after all.  Maybe the guy is reasonable after all, a regular guy like us,” he thinks.

Man3 continues.

“The wealthy clientele who come to a boat like this,” he spreads his arms to indicate the luxuriousness of the vessel, “donot want to taint their reputation by being seen appearing to cavort in an establishment with penniless oafs who donot know their station.”

Man1’s heart sinks.

Man1 only hopes they will get out of this with only minor injuries.  He knows Man3 Man3lastname’s reputation. Unfortunately for Man2, he had kept that information to himself.

“I have to protect my reputation, and that of my establishment,” Man3 says.  “You understand, don’t you?”

He leans forward, raising an eyebrow in expectation of an answer.

Man2 nods, swallowing the bile threatening to come up his throat.

“Yes, sir,” Man1 stammers.“We are sorry sir.”

“You won’t try something like this again, will you?” Man3 says, more a statement than a question.

“No sir,” Man1 says.

Man3 looks to Man2, waiting for a response.

“No sir,” he mimics.

Man3 nods.

“See, we are all reasonable gentlemen here,” Man3 says, smiling.  He turns his smile on the two security guards, a signal he expects a response from them.

They both nod agreement, their expressions as bland as before.

“Yes, reasonable gentlemen,” they say in unison.

Hope stirs again in Man1.

Man2 feels it too, but pushes it down, afraid that any hope is futile.

“Now, please remove these gentlemen from my boat,” Man3 says, dismissing them.

“Thank you sir,” Man1 simpers nervously.

Man2 nods.  “Th-thank you,” he manages.

The two security men step forward, one opening the door, and they indicate the two young men should come with them.

Man1 and Man2 go submissively, following the two larger men’s leads, one security man ahead and one behind them.

After they turn down the second hallway and are still unharmed, Man1 daresto breathe an internal sigh of relief.

“So, how are you putting us ashore?  Are you docking?  A dingy?”

The security men remain silent as they lead the pair down a set of narrow stairs to the deck.  They exit to the deck towards the front of the boat.  A narrow passageway leads the way between the boathouse and the railing towards the front of the boat.

They are led along that narrow walk,the wind whipping at their clothes and rustling their hair.  Here, mooring lines are carefully coiled and lifeboats are hung.

“Ah, so on aboat then,” Man1 says, eying the boats doubtfully.  None of them have been prepared to be set in the water.

The security men stop next to the rail where there is a space between two boats, the two young men between them.

“It’s time for your departure, gentlemen,” Guard1 says.  The emphasis he puts on the word ‘departure’ makes both their stomachs turn sour.

Man2 leans over the rail, watching the fast moving current slipping by the boat.  He pulls back.  The current is strong and the waves seem higher than they should be.

“Is it from the wind whipping them up?” he wonders.  “I thought the wind I felt was only from the forward motion of the boat.” He cannot deny the stronger buffeting of a real wind thatis blowing.

Man2 starts turning towards the others.

Before either man can react, the two security men grab Man2. Using the railing as a focal point to spin him over the railing, they drop him over the side of the boat.

He vanishes with a shocked cry and a splash.

Man1 stares at them in surprise, flapping his mouth a few times before he manages to find the words to express his shock.

“But, the current-.”

The security men step forward.

“We will never be able to swim against it to shore!”

They grab him just as he moves to flee, each on one side.

He struggles.“We won’t make it, we’ll drown!”

Guard1 presses his face close.“You are not expected to,” he says wryly.

They fling him overboard using the same motion, flipping Man1’s weight over the railing like a teeter-totter someone forgot to fasten down.

His scream is swallowed by the splash below.

They turn away from the railing, satisfied with a job well done.

“How much did they have?” Guard1 asks.

The other man grins in amusement, jamming his hand in his pocket at the crinkled bills.

“Enough for a couple of drinks I think,” he jokes.

 

 

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strange thing 2

A strange thing happened on the way to the blog.  I received an email out of the blue from someone I’ve never heard of.  That’s not so strange in itself; I get enough spam to feed a spambot until it vomits flowery poetry.

 

What was strange is that it was a request for an interview.  This wasn’t the usual, “Let’s fill out interview questions and share them on each other’s blogs to cross promote ourselves,” interview request.  This was a straight up, “I want to interview you.”

It surprised me.  The first thing I did was check the email address it came from.  It looked legitimate.  Then I skimmed (that’s what my eleven year old called it) her online.  I Googled, found and checked profiles on Facebook and LinkedIn, investigating if the person looks legitimate.  She looked legitimate.

uh oh

It was time for the, “Oh, uh, wow?” moment.  Me?  Why me?  Out of all the authors out there?

Now I had to know.  I’m not a cat, so hopefully curiosity won’t bring me to my swift demise.

I asked others on one of the author groups what they thought.

I contacted the young lady requesting the interview to ask those two big questions: Why me? – and – How did you happen to find me?

Honestly, I didn’t think I would be all that findable without specifically looking for me.

Her answers were simple.  I’m an author and she got my information from the local writers’ guild, which I’m a member of.

 

terrorThen I had a moment of terror.  I’ve never had a real interview.  I almost did once on a blog radio show, but it fell through due to technical issues.  We, the interviewers and my fellow intervewee, spanned states and countries.  Something went wrong and we couldn’t call in.  The blog show failed after too, so there was no redo.

Why does that even matter?  Because, I was in very near to a state of panic.  An actual talking interview with people I have to answer on the spot.  I can’t come back hours later when I think of something that I think sounds clever.

And now I’m panicking again at the thought of a face-to-face interview.  I would have to try to be clever on the spot.  I can’t do that.  I can write, the words coming effortlessly and fluidly, and sounding marvelous.  I can’t bloody talk.  In fact, I’m pretty sure I sound like a complete moron when I talk.  The words in my head just don’t come out the same way through my mouth.  My brain freezes, I jumble, stumble, and stutter.  I couldn’t do a speech with my eyes glued to the cue cards I’m reading mechanically from.

 

leave your comfort zoneTo truly live, you have to step out of your safety zone.  I decided to swallow my anxiety and give it the old college try.

It made it easier that I wasn’t doing it for myself.  I can’t count the times I opted not to do something because it was just for me.  I’m not used to doing things just for me.

The young woman interviewing me is from McMaster University. She won funding for a research project exploring the connection between Canadian literature and identity.  I was a stop on her trek across Canada interviewing authors about their craft and sense of identity as Canadians.

I went to the interview hoping that I would be of help, but still with that nagging doubt pulling on me like a toddler sized imp trying to whisper in my ear, “Why you?”

I survived the interview and she didn’t look ill listening to my jabbering.  I have to say, the best part of the interview was the end when I gave her a copy of my latest published book, The McAllister Farm.  She was actually excited I gave it to her.
impAfter the interview, that same nasty little imp kept tugging on my shirt hem and whispering my doubts.  Why me?  There are a lot of authors out there, ones people actually heard of and know; authors who sold a lot book books and made bestseller lists, and everything.  Telling me, “You don’t even feel like a real author.”

 

magic quill

What does it take to make you feel like an author?  Of course, the simplest answer should be, “You wrote a book,” or, “You published a book.”  If only life were so simple for everyone.

 

In all the years I spent writing, I’ve always had that nagging doubt.  I’m nobody.  Unknown.  Just some person with a story in her head (okay many stories) that need to get out.  I’m not James Patterson or Stephen King.  I don’t go by the moniker Dean Koontz or any other name anyone would recognize and say, “Hey, that’s an author!”

I always had the doubt, expecting anyone at any time to say I’m wasting my time, I’m not a “real” author, or that my writing stinks like the rancid breath of the partially desiccated reanimated corpse of a komodo dragon with a dead skunk stuck in its mouth.

Even after my first book, Where the Bodies Are, was published, doubts remain.  It’s only one book, after all.  But, it can’t be all that bad if someone else found it worthy of publication, right?  I still didn’t feel like a “real” author; which is probably odd, since I would without question think of anyone else who published a single book as a “real” author.

Now I have a couple of books published, with Indigo Sea Press picking up not only Where the Bodies Are, but also my latest book, The McAllister Farm.

With published books I now have to count on more than one finger, I still don’t feel authorey; and yes, I did just make up that word.

intangible personTo me, an author has always been that intangible person on the other side of the book.  The magic behind the story.  Funny, I don’t look or feel magic.  Not mystical in any way.  I’m just me.

If I had ten published books, I would probably feel the same way.  I’m just me.  Someone asked me to autograph my book she bought and it felt really weird.  I very recently sold a few books to a few people I know and they asked me to sign them.  It felt just as strange, awkward really, in a, “This is a joke, right?” kind of way.  And these were all people I’ve known for years.  I might get sucked into an abyss of weirdness in the floor if an actual stranger wanted me to sign a book.

I’m not sure what it will take before I feel like a “real author”.  At what point this will happen, if ever.

I asked my eleven year old what would make her feel like a “real author”.  Her answer: “If my books sold; lots.  A lot of them.”

I asked my thirteen year old the same question. Her answer: “When a lot of people buy my books and are asking for them, and when I’m making a good profit.  And, when I’m a New York Times bestseller, because all my books are New York Times bestsellers.”

pose question.jpg

I pose the question to you, and this is all about YOU, not for you to try to convince me that I’m a “real” author.

 

Authors: What made or would make you feel like a “real author”?

Readers: What defines a “real author” for you, as opposed to thinking, “Yeah, whatever, so you wrote a book, but you aren’t a real author”?

 

Let the game begin.

Can you handle a little darkness?

L.V. Gaudet is the author of the McAllister Series and Garden Grove.

Tormented by his inability to stop killing, the killer is taunted by his need to find the one thing he must find …

where the bodies are

Learn the secret … behind the bodies and how the man who created the killer became who he is …

McAllister Farm cover 052316_edited-1 - front cover.jpg

The third book will bring these two stories together for a dramatic climax… but no story truly ends.

 

Sabotage, vandalism, poisoned work crew, buried bones, and two strange old people … why is someone trying to stop the new housing development?

Garden Grove Cover - McNally - front cover

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the half way point..

The first two weeks of National Novel Writing Month are down, we are half way there, and today we all gear up for the second half.

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.just not feeling it

This was supposed to be a light-hearted post, full of encouragement and humor because that is what NaNoWriMo is about.  But, I’m just not feeling it.

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With the recent terror attacks in Beirut and France, all the blind hatred against so many who are innocent of these crimes and knee-jerk fear it has caused against people for the sole crime of their appearance as someone of middle-Eastern descent (as if that even were some heinous crime), and the daily atrocities being committed across the world by a multitude of terrorist and hate groups, today I find it impossible to feel light-hearted.

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farHate is an ugly thing.   It makes people live in fear, hating people they know nothing about, just because of what they look like, which church they go to, how they dress, what little piece of dirt on this planet their ancestors were born on, how much money they earn, and even whether they were born male or female, among countless other non-reasons.  Hate has touched every single country, every people, every culture, at some time in history.  People make assumptions about people because of how the look.  No one is immune, and it never makes sense.  Haters hate for the sake of hating, it seems.

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Terrorism is even uglier than hate.  It is a power game.  A cry for attention.  No one will ever truly understand why people commit acts of terrorism, why they feel the need to join with others and do horrible things to other people who they don’t even know.  They are the schoolyard bullies of the world, only they seriously up the ante.  We can only cry for the hurt, and pity those who are so broken inside that they cannot live their life without the need to hurt others.

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Okay, now that I got that out, let’s turn the focus on what this blog is about, writing.

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PrintIf you are participating in National Novel Writing Month, at this point you are falling somewhere in the spectrum of the three groups of the half-way NaNo point.

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  • The woot-woot, I totally have this group.
  • The hopefully optimistic group.
  • And the I’m so dead in the water I should just roll over and quit group.

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The woot-woot, I totally have this group are those who are so on track they are smoking.  Maybe you already have the 50,000 words and are just waiting to sail across that finish line at the end of the month with a record-smashing work count.  Maybe you are just at or above par, but you know you have this.  You rock!

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The hopefully optimistic group are in the zone where they may fail or they may triumph.  You are at par, struggling to keep up, but you are still hopefully optimistic because you know that if nothing unforeseen happens you can still do this.  Maybe you are behind a little or a lot, but you still have hope.  Hell, you still have half a month to go!  If you knuckle down now, you can push your way through to make that 50,000 count by the end.

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The I’m so dead in the water I should just roll over and quit group.  Yeah, you know who you are.  You are feeling it.  You are still plugging away at that NaNo novel, even while you wonder, “Why am I even bothering?”  You are so far behind, haven’t the time, and know that you have already lost.  You feel defeated already, without hope, lost.  But you are still plugging away at it, too bloody stubborn to give up even though you keep telling yourself to give it up and just go have a glass of wine and drown your losses.  So why are you even still trying?  Why?  Because you are a writer and that’s what writers do.  They write.  They keep writing when all feels lost, when no one around them understands what they do or why they do it.  They keep writing when people around them think they should just quit, when they themselves think they should quit.  They keep writing when even they don’t know why they bother to keep writing.  Why?  Because they must, it’s who they are, a drive only other writers truly understand.

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This would be the category I fit best in, although I am trying hard to be in the hopefully optimistic group.  I am woefully behind on NaNo.  I’m maybe just not cut out for this, but am too stubborn to give up, no matter how many times I voice out loud that I give up, that I quit.

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I did the stay at home parent thing for years, and have now been back to work for four years (holy crap, has it been that long already?!).  And now, it feels more like I’m still a stay at home parent, with all the things a stay at home parent has to do because that’s all the things every parent has to do, only ten hours a day, five days a week, are sucked out by the need to earn a living and pay bills.  The kids are hitting the age where their bed times are growing later, their activities more numerous, and their demand for attention even greater, as if that were even possible.  And the housework is forever behind.

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So where does that leave writing?  That leaves writing in the world of blind determination.  Sitting in a corner with my laptop while the kids have their taekwondo lesson.  Spending my lunch breaks writing or editing.  Impossibly trying and failing to tune out the chaos of kids surrounding me because I have no quiet place at home, and finally knocking off some real writing after eleven o’clock at night on a weekend night when I don’t have to be up at five-thirty in the morning.  And throwing in whatever words I can manage when and where I can manage in between.

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Writing needs inspiration.  But inspiration does not always come just because you are writing.  Without inspiration, your writing is dry and as lifeless as that soggy sandwich you didn’t eat two days ago when you missed lunch.

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inspiration just aheadNational Novel Writing Month is about committing yourself to trying to knock out those 50,000 words regardless of time and inspiration.  It is about pushing away all your preconceptions about what writing is about, the rules you think you must follow, and just giving yourself the freedom to write without stressing over whether it is good or bad or whether you followed every rule.

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And, if this makes no sense to you, then you might be missing the point.  Writer’s block is yourself not being willing to let that inspiration flow.  It is a self-made crutch.  Do you go to work or school, look around, and say, “I can’t do this today because I’m just not feeling it.”  Do you stare blankly at that unfolded laundry basket, sink full of dishes, or empty stove and decide you just can’t do it?

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These are things you do every day because you must.  You trained yourself to do them, to know automatically how to fold those socks vs. a pair of pants, to take separate things and put them together into a creative work of art called “supper”.  The thought process to do your job comes automatically, whether your job is data entry, flipping patties, or creating something masterful and inspirational.

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NaNoWriMo is a month long exercise in pushing yourself to maybe do something you did not think you can, to write on demand when and where you can, whether you *feel* it or not.

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lets get creativeTo train yourself to bring on that inspiration on demand.

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Now let’s get out there and NaNo!

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week doneThe first week of National Novel Writing Month is done, and if you are participating, at this point you should be starting today at no less than 11,669 words.

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At this point, I am usually still optimistic of being able to do this.  After all, we are only one week in on a month long stretch.  This year, I’m less so.  I’ve been trailing a little further behind every day.  This year has been an especial challenge with my time stretched further than ever before.

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Everything has been a bigger challenge since transitioning from stay at home parent to working parent.  You still have all the same things to do as before, only now you have no less than ten hours a day, five days a week dedicated to earning a paycheck.  But now it is even more so.  The kids have hit that age, tweens that in a few short years will both be in or hitting their early teen years, where their needs seem to be growing faster than a B movie monster.  Between later bedtimes than before, homework, activities, and the need for those parent/child talks to help them navigate the changing world of a tween, they are the biggest time goblins that exist.

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“Me time” is relegated to that drive to and from work, and writing time to the snippets of time after the kids have gone to bed and before I do.  Often on days the spouse is working evenings or nights, because you need to give your partner time too.  Time, that is usually needed to do household chores.

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So, how does one with a busy life find time for writing?  Particularly for the daunting task of pushing out no less than 50,000 words in only thirty days?

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Persistence is the key.  Persistence and determination.

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Don’t discount that five or ten minute chance to pound some words out.  Not at your computer and an idea or sentence or two comes to you?  Note it any way you can.  Notes apps on your phone are great.  No matter how short or long, not that down and you can later copy it over into your NaNo story.

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Eliminate contractions.  Having too many contractions is just being lazy.  Sixty contractions are sixty extra words you are squeezing into that precious word count.  If it feels ungainly later when you return to edit, then you probably should be rewording sentences so that so many contractions do not feel necessary.  While dialogue can feel more natural with more contractions, descriptions are less so.  And even dialogue contraction use depends on each character’s personality.  A more proper character will use more proper language, while a more laid-back one will use more.  Smooth out that dialogue later in editing.

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Use Microsoft Word comment sticky notes at any chance you get.  No, it won’t up your word count, but it will flag those random thoughts and things you need to come back and research when it’s fresh in your mind to come back to after November ends.

.dr suess weird

Lighten up.  Don’t be so serious.  There is nothing serious about NaNo. It’s the crazy ass writer’s version of fun.  Get crazy with it.

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Take advantage of those moments when the words flow.  Forget about worrying so much about where the story is going and if it is sticking to the script.  If the words are flowing, let them.  Let them take on that life of their own.  Any writer with experience on the writing end will tell you that even the most carefully plotted out story can change direction in the writing.  Stories take on something of a life of their own.  Just like your kids, your best laid plans for their future may not be the future they are meant to have.

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Overwrite that scene.  It’s okay.  Throw all the passion and feeling you can into it.  Describe it at length.  Feel it.  Describe those feelings at length.  Put every ounce of yourself into it.  You can tighten it up later when you edit, but that passion will still shine through.

.week two

Now roll up those pajamas, pour that coffee with a shot of Baileys or Kahlúa, and let’s get our NaNo on!

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Week two is ON!

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day of the deadOctober 31st.  It is the 304th day of the year and the mid-point of autumn.  And, on this day in 1926, the famous escapologist Harry Houdini died of gangrene and peritonitis from a ruptured appendix.

More important for many of us fans of things that go bump in the night, October 31st is Halloween.  Halloween is believed to be rooted in many different origins, all depending on your beliefs.  Paganism, Christianity, Satanism, and Witchcraft to name just a few of the origins believed to have spawned what we now call Halloween, a celebration of costumes and children wildly roaming their neighborhoods in search of candy handouts.

It is believed to have originated as a celebration to honor the dead, the end of the summer and harvest, and believed by some to be the one day of the year the dead can cross over to the world of the living (please don’t say ZOMBIE APOCOLYPSE, although I know you are thinking it).

Halloween also happens to be my favorite holiday, the one holiday where you can just have fun and dress up; there are no major expectations of you.  It really is all about the kids and filling them with the sugar rush of sweet gobs of candy bliss and a night of frolicking in the dark in ghoulish costumes and trying to frighten the neighbours who dutifully pretend to be frightened. (Now when will *they*, the powers that have the power to make these decisions, get with it and make is a *real* holiday with a day off?)

But, for those of us with a lust for putting words to paper in a form that thrills, excites, angers, and saddens those who read them, October 31st has a different meaning.

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October 31st is the last day before the new you, the you who has tackled NaNoWriMo 2015.

NaNoWriMoNational Novel Writing Month, a seemingly senseless annual tradition of writers worldwide.

When dawn breaks over the horizon tomorrow, on the first of November, millions of writers around the world will already be hunched over the glowing screens of their laptops, staring in overwhelmed awe at that lighted screen and willing the words to come.

Tears will flow and coffee will be drank.  Millions of writers worldwide will endeavor to pound out a 50,000 word masterpiece in only 30 days.

Yes, we are a crazy lot.

And so are you if you are even thinking about trying it.

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Why should you try NaNo?

Are you the kind of writer who agonizes over every word, that it is perfect, that they all fit together, and that you are following all the rules of writing?

NaNo is a good lesson in the first rule of writing.  There are no rules in writing.  Writing is an art, and thus subjective.

NaNo is about putting aside all those rules that are holding back your true creativity and just going with it.  Run naked in the rain, eat supper for breakfast, and use split infinitives.  Break free, run free, and just write without giving any though of the rules of writing you think you should be following.

Write without editing.  Editing is the magic fix that will come later.  When you start thinking about those rules you should be following, remind yourself that is why editing exists, to fix that later.

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NaNo can be overwhelming.  How in bloody blazes am I going to do this?  Well, it’s not as impossible at is seems.  And it took me three years of NaNo to figure that out.  Notes are your best friend.  Any time something comes you to, make a note.  I use comments in Word all the time.  Highlight a selection of text, and write your note of whatever thought occurred to you.

Don’t let random thoughts slow down your writing process or be forgotten.  They can add depth to your story later.  Jot them on sticky notes or as a Word comment, whatever works for you.  When something hits that should have happened earlier or should come later, jot it down.  You can go back to those notes when your creative bug wears out or when you return later to edit your story.

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Break down your writing.  Just as I tell my kids when they have an overwhelmingly large homework assignment or chore (like cleaning their rooms), breaking down an insurmountably large task makes it much easier.  50,000 words in only 30 days!  Really?   That’s really only 1,667 words per day.  And good days count as make up days.  If you blast out 2,000 words in one day, that is 20% of your word goal for the next day too.  If you can start strong, keep those word counts up through the first while, when you hit that low midway through the month, you already have a build up of words to get you through the slump.

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So, you don’t think you can do it? What the hell am I going to write?  What if I get stuck?  Outlining is okay.  If you need to outline and plan your story ahead, that is perfectly okay in NaNo.  The only rule is that you are writing something new.  Hell, you can take something from your personal slush pile that you started before and discarded because it was not working and rewrite that.  Just write something from scratch, whether it is totally original or a rewrite.  Outlining ahead can help you get through those slumps when you feel like you don’t know where the story will go.  So will going back on those random thought notes you made.

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NaNo is about writing crap and loving it.  This is where we ring the buzzer of B.S.

Some revel in NaNo being about writing utter crap.  Others disparage it for the very same reason, because they believe that is what it is about and you can only write garbage.

This is NaNo nonsense.  NaNoWriMo is about what you need and want it to be about.  It is freedom from the writing rules, a personal challenge, a coming together or strangers and friends to support each other and your love of writing.  If you want it to be about having fun and writing crap, that is perfectly fine too.  You can also accept that not all writers have to write painstakingly slowly to write well.

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sosSurvival tips for NaNoWriMo:

  1. Put aside all those rules that are holding back your true creativity.
  2. Write with wild abandon, no fear, let it be as good or bad as it will be.
  3. Write without editing.
  4. Notes are your best friend.
  5. Break it down. It’s only 1,667 words per day.
  6. Take writing moments when they come. Every ten minutes of writing adds to the word count.
  7. Outline ahead if you need to.
  8. Remind yourself, nobody ever has to see what you write until you are ready to show them.

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too many booksSo you thought all it takes to write great is to read a lot.

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Nothing worth doing is that easy.

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Do you think the Blue Jays and Chicago Cubs hope to win the World Series by watching baseball?  Did Wayne Gretzky become a Canadian hockey icon from watching hockey games?

Did George Orwell, Ray Bradbury, Ernest Hemingway, and C. S. Lewis all become famous authors by simply spending hours reading?

All of these successes are attributable to many things, but one in particular is common to each and every one of them.  Hard work.  No matter what you strive to be good at; it takes a lot of practice and hard work.

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True success, the kind that stands the test of time, is earned.

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I am a believer that studying what you want to be good at is essential.  Reading good books is a good way to study what makes a good book good.  Let yourself get lost in it, soak up the ambience, and let your subconscious absorb it so that it will reflect in your own writing.  But don’t forget to also take note of what makes you like the book.  The little moment in the midst of tragedy or horror that puts a smile on your face or makes you laugh.  The heartwarming moment that breaks away from the cold seriousness of the story.  A particular scene you felt was well written.  This is feeding your conscious mind.

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Read articles and advice on how those who are successful made their success happen, and what they believe makes a story and its author good.  Study the art of writing in all its forms.  Cross boundaries and read about genres you do not write to expand your knowledge base.

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The most important part – practice.  Write, write, and write some more.  Edit until you cannot edit anymore and then put it away to come back and edit it again.  Re-write.  Let your writing sleep and work on a new story.  Try different kinds of writing.  Each variation has a lesson to be learned.

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Types of writing practice:

The writing prompt –      The writing prompt can be anything.  It can be provided by someone else, or by yourself.  It can be the first random item that draws your attention on your commute.  The point of the writing prompt is to take something which you know nothing about, and create a story about it.  It is an exercise in writing and stretching and building your creativity muscles.

Flash fiction –  Can you write an entire story in less than 1,000 words?  In 300 or less?  The whole point of flash fiction is to write a very tight and very short, yet compelling story that feels complete.   This is good practice to help you improve your ability to write tight, losing the extra verbiage.  There are many online sites where these are popular, so they can be fairly easy to get published.  But you typically won’t be paid for it.  The value in this is that you are building a fan base through having these ultra short stories published.

Micro fiction –    A variation of flash fiction, only shorter.  Some require the story to be written in 100 words or less.  This is more of a single scene, but it needs to be a complete scene.  Are you up to the challenge?  This ups the ante in forcing you to write tight and concisely.  Micro fiction has a smaller following, but also a smaller number of writers competing for publication.  Again, you will likely not be paid for it.

Short stories –    Typically running up to 5,000 words, a short story gives you more wiggle room.  Short stories are a good start for beginning writers to wet their feet.  A short story allows you to develop a full story with subplots and character building without the daunting task of trying to write an entire novel.

Short story anthologies seem to be making a comeback.  Once popular, they dropped out of popularity some time ago.  Many anthologies are not paying publications.  You are likely to be paid for your short stories only if you get an anthology published consisting of only your short stories.  If your name is not Stephen King, then that’s not likely to happen.  Getting your short stories into anthologies is still to your advantage even though you likely will not be paid.  You get bragging rights.  Hey, look, you got published!  And by someone who is not you! That means someone else thought your work worthy of publication.  You also are getting exposure.  The publisher has their own following, and each writer who has a short story included in the anthology has a following.  If just one tenth of those people buys and reads the anthology, those are potential fans that might love your story and want more.

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I recommend to any new writer that they start with the short story.  Write many short stories.  Then dial it back and tighten your writing with flash fiction and micro fiction.  When you feel comfortable with those; move on to tackle a longer project.  Try a novella.  All this will help you prepare for that epic novel you are dying to write.

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Novella –          A novella can be characterized as a short novel or long short story.  A novella typically runs between 7,500 and 40,000 words and allows you to write a much more in depth and compelling story than a short story.  It makes a good practice to build your writing stamina towards writing a full-length novel.  It also may be the hardest length to sell to a publisher.  A publisher will likely have a similar cost to produce a novella as a full novel, but won’t be able to sell it for as much.  On the other hand, if you are hoping to follow in the footsteps, for example, of the writer of Brokeback Mountain, Annie Proulx, whose story was adapted for screen to become a movie that brought her to fame, your best bet is a good short story or a novella.  A full novel is too long to be easily adapted to film.

Novel –              This is your ultimate goal if you are a fiction writer.  A novel typically runs between 80,000 and 100,000 words.  The length you want depends on the genre.  Some genres just are not forgiving of an epic 100,000 plus word count.  Others would find 80,000 laughably short.

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Just as with anything, practice makes you better.  The more you write, read, and study what makes good writing, the better your writing will be.

Now go get them tiger.  Get out there, hit that keyboard, and write your best.

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