Archive for the ‘Blog Hop’ Category

Real Fictional Locations   14 comments

Do you use real or fictional cities in your writing? How do you incorporate them into the story?

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A Cautionary Tale

There’s something to be said for skipping some world-building, but authors generally need to be more careful when they use real locations in a work of fiction.

There was a book written in the 1970s about Fairbanks during the TransAlaska Pipeline construction boom. It wasn’t a very good book, but I was forced to read it as an assignment in an Alaska Literature summer course I took for extra credit. I wanted to graduate in four years but the University of Alaska tried to foist a 9th semester on me by saying one of my English credits didn’t qualify because…reasons. So I took a correspondence course because I had a life to get to.

This book, which I don’t remember the name of, supposedly described places in my hometown, and it got a LOT wrong. The writer supposedly lived in Fairbanks during the TAPS, but I’d bet he didn’t spend a lot of time here. So I’ve always been leery of using real locations, other than Fairbanks, Seattle (where I’ve spent a lot of time), or Manchester New Hampshire (where I’ve also spent a fair bit of time) as locations in my books because it’s offputting when authors get stuff wrong about your town. One of my favorite mystery novelists Phyllis A Whitney admitted at the start of a book that she’d moved some locations around in a novel for plot flow and that’s great. I’m sure the people of Charleston SC appreciated her honesty, but what if I get something inadvertently wrong and a reader goes to that location trying to find it.

Nope, I prefer not to do that.

Real as a Foundation for Fiction

But I do use real communities as the settings for my books. I just don’t identify them that way. For example, the town of Emmaus in Transformation Project is based on two real towns. One is my mother’s hometown in North Dakota. Some of the people in the town (renamed) and some of the buildings are borrowed from that location, transported by fictional magic to Kansas, where I use the statistical data of a Kansas town in that general location to tell me what highways run by it, whether they have natural gas or a nuclear plant nearby, and what the weather is like at different times of the year. What flight trajectory would you take if you were taking off from this town? What crops grow well there? I drove through that town 30 years ago. It seemed like a nice place, but I don’t think the residents would appreciate if I took liberties with their town in my fictional book. So it’s called Emmaus, Kansas, which is a very fictional town with some basis in reality.

I did the same thing in What If Wasn’t series. I picked a town where I wanted to situate the story. I’ve been there — once–15 years ago or so. I spent an afternoon. That’s not enough to say I really know the town. I use the town as a template for the fictional town in the novel series, but I feel much freer to take liberties because it’s not really that town. It’s Port Mallory, New York, and it only exists in my books.

Someday, I do plan to finish the story I’ve been noodling with that is set more or less in Fairbanks. But I don’t know for sure that I will identify it as such. Yes, I’m intimately familiar with this town, but the fact is I might need to make adjustments for plot flow and I’d rather not make a muddle of my hometown.

Welcome to the Mixed League   14 comments

Big internet fight: Are you team cat or team dog? (or something else?)

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Mildly Allergic

I am mildly allergic to dogs. They make my eyes itch. If I’m around them for a while, I stop being allergic to that particular dog, but this explains why my first pet as an adult was a cat. His name was Shakespeare and he was a long-haired Siamese who had an incredibly intelligent blue-eyed stare. Siamese are very people-oriented and he knew how to get attention. We’ve had five cats over the years, four males and a female. The males were much more friendly and kind of lazy compared to the female, who loved to go outside and hunt and was always bringing dead things to the deck. When she’d get bored in the winter, she’d hunt the dogs like they were gemsbok and she was a lioness. Fortunately, she didn’t have front claws, so she couldn’t actually kill them. The dogs thought she was playing and she never said a mumbling word.

He Brought Home a Guinea Pig

I came home from work one day and there was a guinea pig sleeping in a box. Only it wasn’t a guinea big. It was a four-week-old Lab-mix puppy my husband got as a tip at a furnace job. She had two stubby little teeth, she couldn’t really walk yet, and her eyes had just opened. Her mother was the product of two pure-bred guard dogs (a German Shepherd and a Doberman) who mated through a fence and her father was the prime breeding male Lab in this area. He broke a chain and climbed a 10-foot fence to get to her. For a mixed breed, she had a great pedigree. The mother had 16 pups on her first heat. The owners loved their dog and could see so many puppies were wearing her down, so they were giving them away in hopes of not having to drown half the litter. Since we lived in a tiny home at the time, Brad picked the smallest puppy. We called my brother, who owned a breeding kennel at the time, and asked him what we should do to keep her alive until she could eat regular food. “You picked the runt. It will be a miracle if she survives, but blended Puppy Chow and baby-food beef should get her through the next few weeks if she doesn’t die of hypothermia first.”

Cana became her name because that was the place of Jesus’ first miracle. She was our first baby. We had to get up in the middle of the night to feed her, change her blanket and rewarm her water bottle. Cana grew up to be a pretty big Labrador who had the longer legs and longer nose of her maternal grandparents. She mostly looked and acted like a Lab. She loved water, liked children, thought cats were awfully grumpy, and was always ready to have fun. She lived to be 14-1/2 years old. She hiked all over with us and wanted to play fetch until your arm fell off. She thought her job was to watch our kids and keep them from doing anything dangerous to themselves. She would try to rescue us when we swam (apparently she didn’t think we could).

Her best friend was Dickens, an old-type Siamese who probably weighed 25 pounds (muscle, not fat) and for some reason decided she wasn’t horrible. They would play together and lay together for hours. He would rub his ears on the inside of her canines because he trusted this dog who was three times his size.

When Dickens died, we got Cana a puppy — a Lab-Husky mix (Huskador) we named Good Friday (because that was the date of her birth). Friday turned out not to be a good dog. She ran away often, didn’t really care for children, stole other dogs; food (and pails of ice cream from neighbor’s porches), and had to be watched in the house or she’d climb on the table and eat whatever was there. We trained her the same way we trained Cana and nothing worked. My brother declared her untrainable. “She’s whip-smart and she will outwait you, so just learn to accommodate her.” Trying to outsmart our dog became a hobby. Our woodshed is impenetrable because it used to be Friday’s kennel and she was an escape artist. This winter as the price of diesel spirals up, we can be assured our wood isn’t at risk because “Good” Friday was a naughty dog.

When Cana died, we got Friday a puppy. Sunrise was an absolutely gorgeous yellow Lab with the sunniest personality possible. She wanted to please…Friday. When she was away from Friday, she was a great dog, but when she was with Friday she would cast us an apologetic look and do what her companion demanded. My husband was pretty sure she was stupid. But when Friday died (at 16), Sunrise took to hanging out with him. When he didn’t warm to her immediately, she stole his shoes — both of them and he found them in perfect condition in her rest area. She was clearly horrified that he was upset over his shoes going missing, but that cemented their bond and they spent a lot of time hiking, fishing, and driving around together. She also hung out with me as my combination footstool-muse when I was writing. And she adored our son. When Angel would try to hunt her in the winter, she’d mistake that as an invitation to play and come away all flustered by a left cross to the nose. Believing that “cats have claws” is a myth, she never really understood why Angel was so grumpy. She just wanted to be friends. She had a big enough heart even to love Friday and Angel.

And while Sunrise loved to chase sticks (or whatever you were willing to throw), she wouldn’t bring them back. This was part of the training she received from Friday, who would not allow her to return a fetch to us. Apparently, that was beneath Friday’s dignity, so Sunrise wasn’t allowed to do it either. She would bring the retrieving dummy back about five feet away, drop it on the ground, shake the water from her fur, and then just look at us like “You’re going to throw it again, aren’t you? Please, please, please.” Friday also taught Sunrise how to enjoy running full speed like a husky does, making her an odd one among Labs. She never lost her sense of humor. We once had her down by the river during spring migration. We heard honking and turned to find Sunrise with a Canadian goose in her mouth, too startled to fight back. Labs have really soft mouths and Sunrise was an excellent swimmer. The gander was alive and appeared merely ruffled when Brad made Sunrise release it. We watched for a while to assure it was uninjured while it told quite the tale to its mate.

Sunrise never got the memo that dogs grow old. Except for some grey in her muzzle, she was spry and bouncy at 14 years old. That summer, we discovered an old burn area on our remote property where hundreds of trees had fallen over in a giant pick-up-stick pile. We were picking our way across stepping from one tree trunk to another when I looked back to see Sunrise following us, jumping from one tree trunk to another and smiling like this was a grand adventure. Not bad for someone who was the equivalent of 100 years old.

She passed on July 4, looking like she’d jumped up from her dog bed to go do something fun and just keeled over. It was a pretty way to go and gave new meaning to Independent Day. I often think she’s probably running full tilt through the neighborhood as she did when Friday would orchestrate an escape.

Team ???

We talk about getting another pet sometimes. We like the independence and easy care of cats, but we also like the fact that dogs can go with us places. Neither of us really wants to clean up after a pet, but we do miss the companionship. We also have different philosophies on training. I want a dog that obeys us and he’s a bit of a pet anarchist. So, I don’t know if we’ll get another one or not. My guess is dogs nudge cats out of the running very slightly because of the indoor litterbox need in the winter, but truthfully, we’re fans of the mixed league. Cats and dogs raised together don’t know anything about hating the other species.

So welcome to the mixed league.

Posted November 21, 2022 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Making Lemonade   6 comments

Nov 14, 2022 How do you deal with negative feedback? Do you have tips for critiquing other writers’ work?

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Junkyard Dog Editor

Back when I first presented my work on the now-defunct site Authonomy, I received a review by one of the best writers on the site. That should have been good news, but this guy was meaner than a junkyard dog. I say “guy” uncertainly because he had at least two sock accounts, one in which he played a young British woman. Both of them were mean-spirited beyond measure and most people with any sense avoided them like the plague. Unfortunately, I don’t believe in lying about who you are, so I somehow made an enemy of this jerk.

Go Hiking

Anyway, his review of my book would have made a lesser person cry and probably take their work down and never publish it. But I was a reporter and journalists are used to taking critique of their work. What’s more, it was summer in Alaska. I logged out and went hiking.

I came back in a week all refreshed by sunlight and clean air to see a few people had tried to repair what they perceived might be damage, and I said thank you and moved on. I left that flawed copy of The Willow Branch up on the site and gave serious consideration to Michael’s review. A lot of it was just mean-spirited screed meant to illicit a response he never got from me. I’d seen him do it to others, so I put it in the dust bucket where it belonged.

But behind the nastiness, some of his critiques were legitimate. He was a good writer and he honed on my weaknesses with a laser sight. I wasn’t writing an exciting story. There was no definable bad guy My characters were perhaps too “nice.” I wrote the story for myself, not the readers. I needed to consider what they wanted.

Off-site, I re-edited the book. It caused me to create the Kindred sections. I was honest about what happens in Tallidd’s compound (which alienated a few Christian readers but got more compliments on how I handled it with deftness). I decided to insert Gil (Ryanna’s abusive ex-mate) into the story instead of just having him as a background motivation for what she did. I ended up creating a great character in Prince Maryn and then killing him at the end of the first chapter.

Since I couldn’t get my present-day characters to engage in violence right away (they would later in the book), I drew from history and created the whole historical line that has now become an important feature in the series. Since they were at the beginning of a civil war, those characters were far more willing to draw blood early in the book. This left my primary characters free to rebuild society.

The extra story led to me split an already overly long book into three books, which will eventually be five or six published books. Those original three are here in part because Michael’s critique made me determined to publish the book instead of just noodling with it.

In other words, Michael handed me lemons and I made lemonade. Negative criticism didn’t need to break me. It helped me go in a better direction. When I put the rewritten first three chapters up on the site before its demise, I got a lot of compliments with “wow, this is a big improvement, when does the first book come out.”

A Better Way

I don’t recommend Michael’s method of critique. It’s brutal and unnecessary. I’m sure there were many Authonomy writers who gave up on great projects because of his critique. But sometimes, you do need to give negative criticism of someone else’s work. It should always be done in the spirit of trying to help the writer produce a better product, not destroy their enthusiasm for the project. Always mix what you think is good about the project with helpful suggestions to improve it.

Remember, there’s a human being on the other side of your critique. Treat him or her like you’d want to be treated.

Posted November 14, 2022 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Creating New Format   8 comments

There don’t seem to be any universal rules for indicating texting in books and short stories. How do you handle it?

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What Works for Me

Texting is a free-for-all in books, especially the e-book field. It’s not writing, but it’s not narrative. And there were lots of options when I researched it. So, I invented my own texting for my books.

In print books, I give them their own font, different enough to be distinctive. In ebooks, you can really do that, so I type the name of the texter in ALL CAPS and bold and then I put the text itself in bold italics. That works great for single texts, but I often have text conversations. I indent the reply, put the name in all caps and bold and the text in bold italics. It looks pretty good.

JAZZ – Where are you? The natives are getting restless.

SHANE – What do you mean? It’s a convention of government nerds.

JAZZ – They’re screaming at one another and bringing up crap that happened before the Bombs.

SHANE – So the tribes are banging their drums. I wish I was there. Sounds entertaining.

JAZZ – You like living dangerously. Mike’s worried.

SHANE – Coming.

It’s simple and makes it clear this is not dialogue or a letter.

Posted November 7, 2022 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Intellectual Exploration   1 comment

If you could take a free class at a university, what course would you take??

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Why Free?

I still take an occasional class at our local university as finances and time allow. I pay for those and am glad to do it, which is why I wonder why it would need to be a free class. Though, I admit, I mostly take classes through the University’s Community College these days because it’s much less expensive.

There’s also the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, which you pay a membership – $35 for a year and $15 a class (up to 10 courses a year, which I couldn’t manage so there’s no use looking at the more expensive tier. So, I can get courses nearly for free. Pre-covid, I was going to teach a creative writing class, but I haven’t gotten around to setting that up again.

Art Class

I think if I was going to take a course through the University these days, I’d be torn between taking an art class or a course in video storytelling. The world we live in today seems to lend itself to video storytelling, but I’m almost entirely certain I want to be behind the camera, not in front of it. Then again, a digital art class would be useful for cover design. Or I could just take a drawing or painting class for fun. Since it’s about $900 a course at UAF, free sounds interesting, but I have low-cost options available already.

Posted October 24, 2022 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Great Alaska Pizza   10 comments

What toppings do you put on your pizza? Is pineapple a real pizza topping?

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Simply Pizza

Ah, Pizza, one of North America’s food groups!

My husband and I consume pizza about twice a month. There’s a great pizza company here in Fairbanks that does a once-a-month Customer Appreciation Day. You have to pick it up, they only have mediums on that day and it only comes in cheese and pepperoni and cheese. We usually pick up two. We consume one that night and he has lunches for the next two days.

Then the other night when we consume pizza, it’s usually a weird one that I made myself.

Either way, there’s always going to be pepperoni on it because it ain’t pizza without pepperoni.

When we customize our pizza, our favorite ingredients are pepperoni, extra cheese, black olive, and mushrooms.

Libertarian Pizza

I’m libertarian, which means I don’t technically care what you put on your pizza. You do you. I will eat pineapple pizza, but I don’t make pizzas with pineapple on them and I don’t order them that way. I think pineapple on pizza is a dodgy idea. People put a lot of dodgy ingredients on pizza. A friend from Australia says Vegemite pizza is quite good. Uh….

But what you want to do with your pie is entirely your business. Enjoy. It’ll leave more pepperoni for me.

Posted October 10, 2022 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Let the Character Speak   6 comments

Does your writing style change depending upon what you are writing?

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Characters are My Guide

My writing style changes with the character and so often changes not just from one genre to another, but even within a book, especially if I’m writing from the first-person perspective. This is less so in third-person. The narrative style often stays the same, though in Daermad Cycle where I’m switching between cultures, I do make some changes to reflect the differences. The narrative in the Celdryan sections has a decided Gaelic lilt while the narrative in the Kin sections sounds like an American voice. I do this to provide some distance between the two very different peoples. It turns out to be pretty hard to write that way, so it takes me a lot longer between books than Transformation Project or What If Wasn’t, but I’m glad I made that choice because it does add depth to the books they otherwise might not have.

Obviously, when I’m writing in first-person perspective, the narrative is driven by the character’s voice, so the style changes depending on the character.

And that makes sense, right? No two people think alike and when you’re writing stories from within the head of a character, the character ought to sound like themselves and not any other character in the book.

I wonder what my fellow blog-hoppers are saying.

Posted October 3, 2022 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Fame and Fortune   3 comments

September 12 2022

If your book took off tomorrow with enormous worldwide interest and sales, are you prepared for all that entails?

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A Fantasy Come True

I’m ready if it happens. The cool thing about being my age is that you’ve been through stuff that prepares you for other stuff. While authorial success might change my outward circumstances, it wouldn’t affect my inner life. That part I’m prepared for.

How to Organize Success

Since I’m an independent author, I don’t share my royalties with anyone but Amazon, so if the books suddenly took off, I’d take some of my new income and hire an assistant, someone who could set up book tours and the like. I’ve not done many of those because I live in such an out-of-the-way corner of the country and I haven’t had much money for airfare. Whoever I hired would have to have knowledge I don’t currently possess. They’d also need to monitor social media and email. I suspect I’d want to respond to most people myself. I have always admired Kate Elliott’s Facebook conversations with her fans.

If the books took off, I’d probably continue with the same system I’ve used before — if it’s working, why replace it. Amazon Ads does attract readers, and it clearly did if my books are now best-sellers. So I’d hire someone — maybe that assistant, or another one — to replicate what made me successful, just on a bigger scale.

The goal has always been not to spend more than I make and if I’m being wildly successful, that goal would still be in view. I’d have more money to spend, but I still wouldn’t spend incredibly more than I do now. Some airfare, some ads, maybe put my print books on Baker and Baker — but not go crazy because that’s not who I am. And the point of success is not to go nuts and drive yourself into the poor house later.

I just became fully vested with my retirement plan, so I might choose to retire to have time to ride the wave, or I might take a leave of absence from my job to see how long the wave lasts. My goal for retirement is not super fancy, but I do want to be able to pay our bills rather than relying on our children. If I can make the kind of bucks that reportedly comes with a best-selling book, then I’ve got that covered, but if it’s a short-lived success, then I need to remain employed another five years.’

You see, it’s all about not losing yourself in the surf. I would want to keep my head together and make wise choices while also enjoying some well-deserved fame and fortune. I’m sure there’d be lots of people trying to tap into my income stream, but I would want to remain in charge and not make any assumptions that the high times are going to last. They usually don’t and if you’re prepared for that, then it’s easier to be pleasantly surprised when they do.

Posted September 12, 2022 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Interview with Cai Delaney   5 comments

Interview one of your characters (not your main character.) How do they feel playing second fiddle to your main character?

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Who Are You?

Tell us something about yourself.

I’m Malacai Delaney, oldest son of Rob and Jill Delaney, brother of Shane and Keri Delaney, husband of Dr. Marnie Callahan Delaney, a lawyer. Everybody calls me Cai.

You’ve actually had quite a lot of air time in the series. Are you still a secondary character?

Yeah, well — you’ve got a point. I was the main character for most of A Death in Jericho because Shane was healing up from an accident. And you’ve been really mean to me.

Have I?

You have. I was nearly killed at the Colorado-Kansas state line. I guess I should thank you for not putting me in the City Hall shelter with the hundred who died there. Then I ended up running from the military in Wichita. I spent the night under a bridge. Then I ended up enslaved in Hutchinson, Kansas. I had to kill a man. Then I had to save Mike’s life by threatening to kill people. I’ve been disposing of bodies all winter as people go hungry or get sick and die. And now at the end of Worm Moon, you seem to have killed me off. You’re really a blood-soaked author.

I’m just telling your story as you give it to me.

Hmmph. Well, I guess I should thank you for leaving my life status up in the air for the next book.

Anyone can die in my books. As I showed in Winter’s Reckoning, even Shane could die. Since right at the moment you and the readers don’t know if you’re living or dead, let’s talk about you a bit. Who is your best friend?

Oh! I have three, well, four. I’d say Alex Lufgren, but we just became friends after Shane left and now that Shane is back, Alex’s allegiance has shifted. Brian Callahan and I have gotten really close this winter. We were enslaved together at Hutchinson. That can be a bonding experience. My wife, Marnie, is probably the person I’m closest to, even though I often don’t understand her. And, oddly, Shane is becoming a good friend. He’s mellowed since he was hurt this winter. For a really long time, we didn’t get along at all, and then when he came back, he scared the hell out of me, but he’s showing sides of his personality that are new and I’m enjoying that.

So you’re a lawyer, but you’ve done very little lawyering in this book series.

Not a lot of legal matters to settle, really. I think the law is for more civilized times than this winter. I was kind of looking forward to helping to re-establish a basis of law in America as things recover. I kind of feel like I’m missing out if I die.

I’m not telling you or the readers if you live. It’s your story, man! Tell me! Do you live? Will you have brain damage? Until I started writing the next book, I had no idea, and I’m not telling. But, in the interest of this interview, how would you re-establish law in America now that things are coming out of the crisis?

Well, I don’t get to go to the constitutional convention. That sucks!

You were busy being injured and potentially dying. Or suffering brain damage. And do you really think this convention will be a bunch of lawyers poring over a lot of boring legal tomes?

I hope not! You won’t hear this from many lawyers — and I think a lot of us didn’t survive to say it — but a part of what was wrong with America was too many laws. They overlapped, contradicted one another, made ordinary activities illegal under certain specific circumstances. The system had just become so complicated. If I’d gone to the convention, I would have wanted to keep a lot of the old Constitution, but made it more state-based, assuring the federal government couldn’t overrule the states. I don’t think that was ever the thought for the original framers and since we’ve been utterly transformed in the last six months, now’s a really good time to do a rebalancing. And….

Hold on there, Cai! You might not even be alive in the next book. We get that you want to start with a clean slate.

It’s an opportunity to make a limited set of laws that don’t contradict one another or the Constitution. Sue me if I get excited about practicing my profession.

So what have you been doing with your time during the chaos? Disposing of bodies and…?

Shane refused to lead up the internal community patrol. He fears his skills from overseas might hurt our neighbors. Those skills are darned useful on the wire, keeping strangers out, but he might be right that the boundaries are a little blurry for him. So Dad asked me to lead the community patrol. We really haven’t had any instances since.

Instances?

A mob tried to loot Dell Conophor’s house. They had a big truck garden and animals to provide milk and cheese. People who are hungry get weird and dangerous, even toward people they played softball with just last summer. That’s why we created the community patrol. But its existence seems to have fixed the problem. Or people were just so shocked that neighbors had to shoot neighbors to protect their family that they remembered their civilization.

You don’t do the border patrol?

I do. I do both. I want to be useful. Lawyers are kind of useless even at the best of times, but in a survival situation, my skills are pretty useless. So I try to help where I can. I’m sick and tired of burying people, though.

How does your faith come into all of this?

I believe everything falls within God’s will, even when we don’t understand it. The events in September, the EMP later, the flu that’s paralyzing teenage kids, the hunger and lack of heat — it’s all working together within His plans, but it’s not always going to feel that way to us. When I got shot, it felt like I must have been doing something wrong, but I was coming out of that, grateful to be alive and starting to feel better physically when this happened. Now I don’t know if I’m going to survive to the next book.

Tell me about being a father.

(Long pause). That’s why I don’t want to die. Rebuilding the world sounds like this great adventure, but rebuilding it for him or her — that’s the miracle, right? It’s just a couple more months. I can leave Marnie now and my kid needs both parents. I need to live for her.

Then tell me more of your story. You’re not just a secondary character, so your story matters, but only if you keep talking to me. When you stop talking, I have to do something with you. I can’t just let you hang around as a non-playable character. Not after you’ve given me such a rich story so far. Talk, man, and let’s see where your story goes.

Posted September 5, 2022 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Focused Writing   9 comments

Do you ever write short stories? What do you see as the biggest difference in the writing process between a short story and a full-length book?

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I’m a Novelist

I write novels. What’s more, I write series. Clearly, I like to write LONG. I’m not George RR Martin, but I love stories that take time to develop. That’s how I like to read them and that’s how I like to write them.

I’m Published in 5 Anthologies

I’ve written and published six short stories in the last few years. Why would I take time off from writing the novels I love to write shorts?

It’s all about sharpening my writer skills and asserting principles I feel passionately about.

I write Celtic-inspired high fantasy, apocalyptic, and coming-of-age novels. I want to write many other genres, but I don’t really have enough time to write a full-length mystery. But I can write a short story in a month and that’s a lot of fun. It’s something different and the anthology I usually submit to is a writing challenge for libertarian authors. I find it a wonderful exercise to try and show how libertarianism can peek out in a fantasy feudal society.

Different

I absolutely find shorts to be very different writing from novels. It requires focus. What are you trying to accomplish? As a discovery writer, that’s not something I normally start with. I usually write about 1,500 words before I know where I’m going with a novel. A short is not much longer than that. So I have to actually sit down and plan the story. No, that’s not my normal process, but it’s exercising muscles I need even as I write novels. I’m not going to become a plotter because I think my novel characters would abandon me, but I have a lot of fragment characters kicking around in my head that will sometimes volunteer for a short. They have a story too, but usually not enough to shape a novel around them.

I’d never been comfortable writing in first person present before I was writing to a word limit. Looking at my first fantasy short of Gateways, an anthology published by the writers’ cooperative I publish through, I was telling a story nearly twice as long as the story I eventually submitted. I wrote the story and I didn’t love it, so I sat down to re-write it after someone at the local writer’s guild read the story and said “first person present and give it a strong voice.” I rewrote it from the perspective of Duglys, a young man who lives through a tragic event, and tells the story to a group of travelers in a caravan he’s a horse handler for. Pivot of Fate has a wonderful voice that tells you a great deal about Daermad, the world of my high fantasy. The main character was a minor character in The Willow Branch, Book 1 of Daermad Cycle. Having broken the ice in first person present in a short, I have gone on to write an entire coming-of-age series in first person present.

I’ve since written shorts in alternative historical fiction, fantasy, a reformed fairy tale, a satire, a redemption story based on the Prodigal Son. The libertarian anthology I submit to is taking a pause and I really missed not writing a short story this spring. But who knows, maybe I’ll start writing shorts for my own book.

It’s not a technique I want to use all the time, but I do like the different skills I need to use.

I wonder how my fellow authors feel about this subject.

Posted August 29, 2022 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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