Fiction Friday: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 33

Previously: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 32

He took barely two steps until he was looking down on Leonard and Wilhelmina, surveying them with a glare. Standing this close, Leonard was acutely aware of how tall the other man was, who seemed to even have an inch or two on lanky Osric. Leonard was eye to chin with him.

Leonard swallowed with difficulty as the hazel eyes of the older man continued to bore into him. A scar ran down the right side of the man’s face, growing out from his gray hairline in faded scar tissue, down until it met the curve of his chin. Leonard found himself wincing at his earlier rush for action, the judgmental way he’d viewed Osric’s response, even if the words “come up with a plan” still sliced at his nerves like razorblades. He swallowed again, and still there was only silence to accompany the unyielding gaze.

At last, the man’s lips parted to release a grave and gravelly voice. “Would you so willingly and recklessly send friends, family to be tortured, killed, when you knowingly lack information and possible tools necessary to be of any help?” there was no accusation in his voice, which surprised Leonard. Instead, there was only a deep and weary sadness clinging to space his words had taken up, and in the forest of his eyes.

Leonard’s insides withered. He felt like an impulsive teenager trying to race off and save the day, or someone too young to understand the importance of patience. Though he was tempted to point out that his family was one of the ones taken, as Leonard looked at Wilhelmina, and even Osric and the strangers in front of him, he knew he’d never be able to send them into danger…at least not without knowing it would be worth it, which it would have to be.

The older man nodded silently at some change he saw in Leonard’s face before turning his hard gaze to Wilhelmina. Leonard looked over as well and saw her standing with her arms crossed and jaw set, but her face had a crumpled look to it that illustrated her own second thoughts.

“Good. When there’s plan, I will help you,” he said approvingly with a nod before turning and reclaiming his seat. The younger version with black hair did not look pleased.

Osric beamed momentarily at each face in the room, then clapped his hands together and said, “Well then, let’s have introductions. Then we’ll work on that plan.” The last part Osric said to Leonard pointedly, and with a sincerity that moderately calmed the urgency in Leonard’s veins.

“Here we have,” Osric started, nodding in the direction of the gray head, “Nox, his son, Wolfhart. Both are the best strategists and fighters this side of Krosis.” The woman with white-blonde hair rolled her eyes while Nox inclined his head in acknowledgement, but his younger version remained as still as a statue, complete with stony expression.

“That lad there is Coppa,” Osric gestured, with a tilt to his lips, to the chestnut-haired young man, who looked like a mischievous character, emphasized by the slight point to the tip of his ears.

“Coppa has a knack with any kind of technology, and can engineer or fix almost anything.” Coppa rubbed the nails of his left hand against his tunic then blew on them with a carefree expression and an impish wink. Leonard thought he heard Wilhelmina chuckle softly.

“Coppa is also studying with Xandi,” Osric continued, this time pointing to the woman with her hair wrapped around her. “Xandi is a gifted sorceress.” She gave them a thin smile as she stroked the black river of hair that flowed across her chest. It was impossible for Leonard to tell how old she was; every time he blinked, her features appeared older or younger, never constant enough to form a true mental image of what her face looked like, but always with the same regal countenance. Leonard’s mind filled with questions and curiosities he wished to ask her about, but his attention was recaptured by Osric speaking again.

“Last, and certainly not least, we have Ursa. Her stealth and reconnaissance abilities are unmatched. She’s also an excellent, experienced fighter, particularly close quarters.” Ursa looked much happier after her own introduction.

“Everyone,” Osric said to the group around the table, “this is Wilhelmina and Leonard.” There was a pregnant pause, the seated occupants looking expectantly from one face to the other before settling back on Osric’s.

He took a deep breath before saying, “Wilhelmina is my younger sister, from Palloria, and Leonard, is the Letterman.”

From the expressions around the table, it was most unexpected news.

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Click here for Part 34!

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Fiction Friday: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 24

Previously: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 23

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photo from flickr by ohsoabnormal

“Antidote?” Wilhelmina’s voice was soft, but it filled the room. “…are you saying that someone tried to-to poison me? Me? When I was ten?” Wilhelmina’s eyes swelled in size from genuine surprise, a note of indignation mixed in with her bewilderment. It was evident that it had never occurred to her that the delirium inducing sickness she recalled was not a run-of-the-mill, if dangerous, illness, but something far more sinister.

Leonard snapped his mouth closed, realizing it had fallen open, as if to better swallow the shocking news.

“So it certainly seemed,” Osric replied with a worn expression. Silence attempted to spread out between them and lengthen time as moments passed, but Wilhelmina was having none of it.

“’So it certainly seemed,’ that’s all you have to say?” Wilhelmina’s hands went to her hips, elbows pointed out dangerous as her eyes clouded over with something darker than rage; something from a place of deep hurt and confusion.

Osric eyes had a glassy sheen to them as he met his sister’s gaze. The towering man seemed to shrink beneath the weight of what he carried. He licked his lips as he spared a momentary glance for Leonard before focusing again on Wilhelmina. He looked pained as he spoke.

“You were incredibly ill. I was told everything was tried, everything possible. When no one, no healer or physician, no medicine or elixir offered, was of any help in Palloria, your guardians, the ones appointed by mother and father specifically, turned to me,” Osric began, turning away from them as he raked a hand through his hair.

“It was in secret,” Leonard heard Osric murmur over his shoulder to them. Osric did not turn back around before continuing, making his voice more muffled, and causing Leonard to tilt forward to be sure he caught every word.

“Your symptoms were described to me, and I was asked for anything that might be of help…I recognized what it was almost at once, though I hesitated in believing it to be possible. After all, it was a poison derived from one of the most venomous and dangerous creatures that roams free only on Krosis.”

Osric turned to look at Wilhelmina again, his voice heavy with emotion as he said, “I brought the antidote and insisted on administering it myself.”

Something passed between the siblings, a shift in the energy between them, an added glisten to their locked gaze that made Leonard feel like an intruder.

“I knew within moments of giving it to you that I knew I had been right, and that it was working, that you would recover. With any luck, it would be fully. It seems luck indeed smiled on you,” Osric said, a tilt to his lips as he looked hungrily at his sister, waiting.

When Wilhelmina remained resolute in her silence, Osric cleared his throat and continued. “We were all sworn to secrecy, your guardians and I, we all swore to each other to keep the truth quiet. They agreed to let everyone think that it was one of the other medicines given to you that made you better. This was after I explained that the poison could only have come from Krosis…” he let his voice trail away, letting the implications hang in the air with his words.

“Why did you want to give me the antidote personally?” Wilhelmina’s expression matched her shrewd question. It was asked kindly, with only the barest drop of accusation to tint its edges.


Click here for Part 25!

Things to Remember When Your NaNo Won’t WriMo

It’s almost here, the end of NaNoWriMo is within sight at a week away. The ability to officially count your 50K+ is now available; collective breaths are on the verge of being released after a month’s flurry of work…

Unlike last year, I am not certain of a NaNoWriMo Official 50K victory by November 30th. In fact, as you can see…

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…I am still working on hitting the 1500 word mark…

To state the obvious, progress has been slow. For a while (to be read as still trying not to), I beat myself up about not keeping to my goals and finishing another book this year. As is typical for me, I began going all over of the things I hadn’t managed to do this year as it comes to a screeching close; berating myself as only I know how, for all the ways in which I was behind….

Then I reminded myself of a few things….yes, even I need to be reminded of the fact that I live with chronic illnesses . I hold myself to standards that would be difficult even if I was in perfect health and put my all into every moment, let alone with what my day to day living is with spoon math, migraines, chronic pain, and brain fog.

Next, I reminded myself of the fact that I’ve been on and off different medications this year that have really affected me, one of which I’m only just now off, but will take time to work its way completely out of my system. It’s messing with my ability to concentrate and thus to work, often making me feel dizzy (ah the joys of withdrawing from prescribed medication…)

I also had to remind myself of my emotional state, and the fact that it’s fair to take that into account. PTSD can be a tiring battle with moments of quiet followed by a bombardment of symptoms and demons. The upsurge in symptoms recently has a handful of causes, all of which contribute to issues with my health, because it’s a joyous circle.

Then…there is all that came with the election…but I don’t want to turn this into something political, but needless to say, as have countless others, I’ve been deeply affected by it, and I’m petrified…

So, finally (again to be read as still attempting), I decided to give myself a pass.

Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t given up. It may be incremental amounts, but I’ve slowly been adding to my novel Not That Kind of Unicorn. Who knows what may happen between now and next week? Or now and the end of the year?

But for those like me that hold themselves to outrageous standards, here are some things to remember:

  1. By starting, by even attempting, you’ve gained something– I know, it sounds corny, and in my more cynical moments, I don’t believe either, but it’s true. If you’ve put any amount of planning into it, you’ve made progress; if you’ve just added a few words, you’ve made progress; if you’ve advanced an idea related to your novel or one of the characters in it, you’ve made progress, and you deserve to celebrate too.
  2. You can always keep going after NaNoWriMo– nothing says you have to stop. In fact, after some rest and celebration, there’s encouragement to dive back in. Ask your new (or old) NaNoWriMo friends for some inspiration and motivation to keep you going, even after November is gone.
  3. Regroup for Camp NaNoWriMo– if the group challenge and idea of writers attempting the same goal en masse helps you to write, then don’t wait for November next year when you can join Camp NaNoWriMo for April or July. Use what you’ve gotten from now and start again after some time away.
  4. You’re not doing yourself any favors by pressuring yourself into oblivion- I doubt I’m the only one that does this, adds the pressure and the need to finish something I’ve started on so heavily that I suffocate myself, often the point of being unable to get things done. (Admittedly, a lot of this for me personally comes from trauma related lack of self-worth, but that’s a different story). But pressing your nose to the grindstone that hard is more likely to result in a broken nose (and in my case glasses), and probably a few nasty scrapes than it is to bring about a novel. You aren’t going to accomplish anything by putting too much pressure on yourself. Life happens; it sucks, sincerely, when we’re thrown off course, but it’s good to know when to give yourself a break.

My plan from here is to keep going, even as I move on to other projects, or return to old ones. I always seem to be needing to regroup, since I want to finish EVERYTHING at once the moment I start, which creates an interesting amalgamation of chaos.

I will do my best to enjoy the holiday upon us tomorrow (Happy Thanksgiving!), I will leave some art on Black Friday to Flood the Streets with Art ; I will soak up some book and movie goodness, start my Christmas baking after this weekend, and otherwise refuel and write/art on. Which is all you really can do.

What about you? How is NaNoWriMo going for you?

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An Interview with the Horrifically Wonderful Jette Harris

I’ve said it before but it deserves to be said again, I never thought I would be thankful for Twitter and being part of the Twitterverse, and yet I am. I’ve met some really wonderful people through Twitter…and my TBR list has never been longer. One of the best parts about Twitter is getting a chance to connect with authors as they get published and continue on their own writing journey. As long as people are willing to put in the time and effort to connect instead of sell, it’s a wonderful thing.

I’ve now been on Twitter for over a year (I can still hardly believe it), and I’ve met a variety of interesting people, many of which are fellow authors. I’ve had the pleasure of reading some, talking with many and even interviewing a few. I’ve chatted with and interviewed traditionally published Susan Crawford, as well as Jewel Leonard about her self-publishing experience.

Today, I’d like to introduce another wonderful Twitter-found author friend and share an interview I did with her about her own unique publishing journey. Without further ado, Jette Harris! (Please keep in mind that since we are discussing her books, some of the content discussed may be triggering to some people; her books come with a trigger warning)

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DM: So, your first book was Colossus, right?

JH: Well, my first published novel is Colossus. I wrote one other novel which was, I mean… I thought it was good, and then I thought it was bad, and now I’m realizing it’s unrevised. So, it could be good, I just haven’t touched it since 2006…so that’s sitting in a drawer….

DM: Is that kind of in the same genre or in a completely different genre?

JH: They’re…kind of the same genre…it involves a serial killer, but it’s more like a romance thriller

DM: Your idea for Colossus, what’s the first thing you remember getting for an idea, or where the idea came from?

JH: So what happened was…and this is kind of embarrassing in hindsight, but, I was watching HBO’s Rome, and the guy that plays Mark Anthony is James Purefoy. He seemed unremarkable beyond his character up to the point where, (if you’re not familiar with Rome it shows the rise Julius Caesar and Augustus)…so, up to the point where Julius Caesar dies at the end of the first season, I didn’t really think anything special about him. And then, when you see him discover that Julius Caesar has been assassinated, he gets this facial expression, which I thought was absolutely remarkable for an actor; it showed a real depth of talent, and I was just like, you know what, I’m going to take him, and I’m going to write a character for him.

I also had this really crazy dream where I was listening to Kesha sing “I Only Want to Dance With You” while a man, who is not Avery Rhodes, or James Purefoy or anything like that, was raping a teenage boy…

DM:…that…is definitely an interesting dream….

JH: Yeah….so, I combined all of those concepts and came up with a…at the time I wanted to work on short stories, I didn’t want to write a novel. I was going to write a series of short stories of a girl, Heather Stokes, fleeing this man who, at first he was just cold and calculating, unfeeling…he was just flat, a very flat character. As I wrote the story, or as I was writing the first few stories, I realized I needed to write an inciting incident, and so I started writing the inciting incident and it just kind of grew out of control.

DM: Gotcha. Bit of a snowball effect there.

JH: Yes. And so it turned from a series of about seven short stories, to a series of about seven novels. And then I also gave Avery Rhodes his own set of novellas of growing up and how he became the…I don’t want to say “monster” because he’s very much a human, but the serial killer you meet in Colossus.

DM: And that’s the Phoenix Rising and….

JH: Yes. There are two of those out right, and I have two more of those in revisions.

DM: Are you planning to put those out by next year or by later this year?

JH: I don’t know what I’m planning on doing. I’m just kind of at that point where I’m debating whether I want to keep tackling the Colossus novels and the Phoenix Rising novellas, or whether I want to set those on a back burner and come back to them at some future date.

DM: How long do you think it took you to write Colossus?

JH: So to write it…I would say it took a year and then a month to write and then revise Colossus… it was about late September-mid October that I came up with the idea for it, and then about April or May I thought I was completely done and I sent it to an editor. He had a lot of awesome suggestions and so I revised it, but at the same time I was writing material for Two Guns, which is the second book. I was also writing material for the Phoenix Rising novellas; I was also writing material for the other books that would follow Colossus and Two Guns, to get that series finished up. So I was working on a lot at the same time. So now I have chunks of several different novels in the same universe and all of these novellas. So it took a little over a year of inconsistent writing and revising.

DM: When you went to publish it, what route did you take originally for that? I know recently I saw that you had pulled it from where you had it but I wasn’t quite sure…..

JH: Yes, and, I haven’t really pulled it, which is a technicality….so, what happened was, in the summer of last year, I started talking to @EllaThomas22, which is a Twitter character account for Ella, who is a Stephen Moran character. Stephen had formed his own publishing company in order to publish his own novel, and he was also hoping to get other authors.

Ella is about a female serial character, it’s very savage. It’s a bit more…I don’t want to say gangster, but it’s a bit more money oriented than I like my thrillers to be, but the characters meshed very well. So, he asked me if I would make Colossus his first non-self-published book, and I thought that was pretty cool. He mentored me through the process, so basically what happened was that when I published it, I published it with his name on it, but at the same time it was self-published. So, publishing it under him was a technicality, but he’s also on my ISBN. When I decided that I wanted to shop Colossus for traditional publication for a wider release, because his company is very small, he has very small reach right now, and I wanted…more, so when I decided I wanted more, I pulled his name off of everything, but his name is still on my ISBN. So, I haven’t gotten myself a new ISBN yet, so I just kind of half-assed pulled it from them.

DM: So, you said you were going to try for traditional publishing for Colossus?

JH: Yes. I’ve been querying and I haven’t gotten any replies back, and for some of those it’s to the point they’re just not going to reply because they’re not interested….querying is hard hard pout face.gif

DM: Yes, yes it is, oh my gosh….

JH: Yeah, so if you’ve read Colossus and are familiar with it, it’s not surprising that most people I pass it to will pass on it…

DM: Yeah, it’s for a selective audience.

So, I think we kind of touched this, how many books have you written and published?

JH: I’ve written three. I wrote Perfect Words in college, and it’s about 53K. Then I wrote Colossus and that got published. Now, I’m actually very worried that I published it prematurely before getting more critical reviews on it, but….I had a lot of beta readers….all of the critical feedback I got I acknowledged, I adjusted most of it.

Now, I got a one star review and a two star review on Goodreads and, it just kind of knocked me backwards. It was stuff that my beta readers didn’t really mention, or didn’t have a problem with so, I’m kind of concerned now that I published Colossus too soon and didn’t let it sit long enough…but oh well..

And then I wrote Two Guns which is the follow up to Colossus, it’s the second book in the series. Two Guns is done, but it just doesn’t feel…right, and this was before I read the reviews, so that’s not what’s holding me back. It just feels like right now there’s too much going on and it’s too disconnected and so I’m thinking about just rewriting that. I’m going to keep most of the material in it and I’m just going to rewrite it in a uniform fashion so it’s smoother. But that’s going to be really time consuming.

Then earlier, for Camp NaNo I wrote a romance. It was a historical romance. It was based in 1800’s South Carolina and, I almost got to the very end, and then that last scene, I just couldn’t get it out. And I just let it peter it, so I have this almost finished romance novel that I’m going to revise. That one I might shop around because it’s more marketable.

DM: So, what do you have to say about your publishing experience so far?

JH: ……uh….fuck…..

DM:  Can I quote you on that?

JH: …I think I was impatient and I may have killed my opportunity to get Colossus traditionally published by publishing with Moran (which would have happened completely self-publishing as well). Then also, publishing with Moran prevented me from entering in any of the contests and competitions for self-published authors. So…I just think I was impatient, and if I had to do it all over again, I would probably shop a lot more agents and publishers before going and self-publishing.

DM: Would you say that the genre of Colossus is your favorite genre to write in?

JH: Yes. Yes, I would say….there’s debate among my readers and internally, in myself, whether or not to consider this a psychological thriller or a horror; because horror, and I read a really awesome article about this, about how horror is more about a monster or a horrifying being, and that’s very much true, but you also have the thriller aspect of everyone’s psychological descent as it were, not just the victims, but also the antagonist. I really do love being thrilled. I love reading something that gives me palpitations. Even though I’m not always happy about it, I always love that sensation.

DM: Is that your favorite reading genre as well, then?

JH:….so I have a confession, that I’m trying to break myself of, that I don’t read all that much…

DM: Really?

JH: Because, I devoted most of time to writing, and so I was writing mostly and I was just like “I don’t have time to read because I want to do nothing but write.” I was using writing to manage anxiety and so I’m not as anxious now as I usually am, so I’ve been slowly getting myself back into reading. I have a…. small…. TBR pile and it’s almost exclusively Joe Lansdale novels because they’re very easy to read and they’re hilarious, and they’re thrilling. They give me that fast heart-beat feeling, and so that’s kind of my stepping-stone back into learning how to carve out time for reading.

DM: Do you have a favorite writing spot?

JH: My desk at work. I actually wrote a blog entry, back when I first started writing Colossus, over two years ago, and I was talking about how, for the previous three or four years I had been wanting and trying to write and I just couldn’t sink my teeth into it. And it wasn’t until I got to the point where I was sitting in the same spot every single day for an extended amount of time, because I got a desk job that I finally got to the point where I could just sit down and write. I’m a customer service analyst for a software company that creates reading assessments, and so our customer basis consists of teachers and principals, and support staff, things like that, so we’re busy when they’re busy; we’re not busy when they’re not testing so, I have several hours of downtime a day at times, and I try to fill that with writing. So it took me a long time to get to where I could not just sit and write, but also to take writing anywhere else. Now, it’s a lot easier, especially if I’m in the middle of a story, I can take it anywhere, and I can write anywhere. But, if I were to start a story, or if I don’t really feel like starting or working on a story, even if I know I should, it’s a chore, but it’s easier now than it was previously.

DM: Are you working on anything in particular right now?

JH: Right now, I want to say no…but really, I should be. So, I also offer editing services, and I’m working on a medical thriller and a romance, or adult contemporary, for two different customers right now (people we know and love). When I’m done with that, if I have time between when I finish those and November, I’m going to pick a few more revisions for Two Guns, and then in November I’m going to write the third book in the Heather Stokes series.  Should be very emotionally taxing.

DM: Load up the funny movies, you know, have the Christmas fudge waiting…

JH: Yeah! The Hallmark channel will be doing their Christmas movies! Could totally do that!

DM: Can you tell me a bit more about the Colossus series?

JH: Two Guns was really fun to write. Two Guns is really funny. Basically it’s Rhodes meddling in the investigation. Colossus all occurs inside the house, it’s all very isolated, you have no idea, unless Rhodes implies something, what’s going on outside the house. In Two Guns, you don’t go inside the house. It’s concurrent, and it’s entirely outside of the house. It’s what’s going on with the families, and police, FBI, and Rhodes is having a field day among them and just kind of….fucking shit up.

The third book is the few weeks that follow Colossus and Two Guns, they basically end in the same place. The third book is called Ruin, which is kind of like a play off the archaic sense of a woman being ruined.

DM: Do you have any writing helpers/minions/or other furry distractions?

JH: Furry distractions. I have a cat and a dog and my dog is probably very upset he’s not in here under the covers right now. I used to have four snakes because they were all wild caught and we’re about to move out of state and it would be very, very illegal to take them out of state, especially seeing as one of them was venomous.

My dog is very distracting. He’ll sit at my feet and he’ll whine and whine and whine until I pick him up or have him sit in my lap. It’s annoying as hell. He’s a Velcro dog, he’s not comfortable being away from me.

DM: D’aww, poor puppy face.

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JH: He’s a spoiled little poopersnoot.

*temporary break and gushing about furry related cuteness*

DM: So, do you happen to have a favorite book?

JH: I have two. They’re very different, and for very different reasons. Richard Adams’s Watership Down, it’s just…I don’t even know how to describe it. I was young when I first read it, fourth or fifth grade, and so I didn’t really get the depth, but I did get the adventure and the character variety, it was amazing. I love them all, and my favorite will always be Dandelion because he was the story teller. I just, I used to read it every year, I haven’t done it a lot recently. I’ve read it maybe twice in the last six years, but every time I read it feels new and different and, I just love it very much.

My other one is Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic which I read for the first time in the eighth grade. It’s the reason I go by Jette; one of the aunts, her name is Bridget and she went by Jet, and my name is Bridgette. So between eighth and ninth grade I decided I would go by Jette, because I was sick of everyone calling me Bridge, I hated it. It was just so strange to read something where you combine this suburban house-wife kind of thing, kind of very normal family, and then there’s magic. You don’t really know if it’s really magic, but you get a sense that there’s something behind the shadows, and things happen and they can’t possibly be coincidence. It was so amazing to read that, and that was my introducing to, I think it’s called magical realism. It was just amazing how she describes things. Her descriptions are amazing. Her use of hyperbole and her description of things that, you know, otherwise would be normal is just phenomenal. Like, a guy who’s I love is leaning on a counter top, and he’s so in love, he’s so heated and hot for this person that linoleum begins to bubble…it’s just…ridiculous, and I love it.

DM: I can definitely get behind you with that….So, do you have a favorite book that you’ve written?

JH: ….that I’ve written or that I’ve published?

DM…either? Both? Since apparently they’re different?

JH: I think….my favorite thing is going to be the next Phoenix Rising novella. And if I had to choose one that I’ve already written and published…oh god…between the three that I’ve published….I…that’s a real challenge….I think it would have to be…it’s between the Phoenix Rising novellas. I don’t know if I like Salvage more or if I like Flint Ranch more….

DM: It’s okay, I won’t make you choose, haha.

JH: Okay, so, the Phoenix Rising novellas. I think the next one is going to be my absolute favorite because…I just love Thatch’s dad, Wren. He’s so cool, and he’s like so clueless. He has no idea how to raise a kid, but he’s a good man. And so, there was hope there for Thatch being a good man…and then there’s not, and that’s where I will leave that…

DM: How would you say that your writing community has affected you?

JH: I’ve finished a book. I’ve published a book. I’ve finished novellas, I’ve published novellas. I’ve almost finished Sweet Nothings, which is the romance, and they just keep me going, they keep me propped up. They taught me the importance of revisions and the importance of an editor. I would not have finished a book at all if it weren’t for Twitter, which seems like a ridiculous thing to say to somebody who isn’t familiar with the community. They just…that’s where I found my editor, that’s where I found my publisher, it’s where I found almost all of my beta readers.

DM: I was definitely surprised at the community I found on Twitter. I never wanted to be on it, ever.

So, for writing tools, do you have a preference for Word, Scrivener, old fashioned hand writing?

JH: Old-fashioned hand writing. If I had to choose one to live with for the rest of my life, it would be old-fashioned hand writing, as much as my hand hates it. I tried Scrivener for a couple of days and I liked the tools but I felt like…you have to use it for a while to get the most out of it and I wasn’t willing to take the time, to invest my time in it.

So what I do is I write out a scene for as long as I can write, or as long as I have an idea bubbling, and I’ll write it out in pen and paper. Then I will transcribe it either right after I’m done writing it or when I’m typing everything up into Word. I’ve recently become very familiar with Word. I learned how to track changes and make notes and that’s awesome. And that’s really helping my editing as well.

That’s basically what I do, write with pen and paper and then I transcribe. As I transcribe I’m revising and editing. I’ll make little changes, catch where something sounds unnatural. Because writing, typing, and speaking, they all use different pathways in the brain, so even if you’re conveying the same idea, it would come out different depending on what tool you’re using; it’s good to use as many different pathways as you can.

DM: Which author drink stereotype is your biggest vice: coffee, tea, or alcohol?

JH: …um….I hate coffee but I drink it…uh….so, coffee and alcohol, even though I’m not the write drunk, edit sober kind of person, I like to have a cider with my evening writing….I’m very much a soda person actually, I prefer Pepsi or Mountain Dew.

DM: What’s the, or one of the most difficult parts of novel writing for you?

JH: There are two. One is getting started with revisions. After you know what you want to revise and what needs to be done, then it’s really meditative almost, like you’re whittling a statue into shape, or smoothing stone or something like that. But getting to the place where you know what needs to be done is so difficult. That’s where I am with Two Guns, where I’ve revised and I’ve revised it. I’ve cut stuff out and added stuff to it, and it still feels…wrong. And I have people telling me it’s perfect and it’s exactly where it needs to be, but I’m just like no, it just feels wrong. So I’m just going to rewrite it and not worry about that.

The second part is knowing when you’re done. With Colossus, I revised it and I added to it, and I revised those, and then I was chipping away. And my then publisher thought it was ready, it was in publishable condition now, and I agree, I thought it was too, and I think it is, it’s just, there are still flaws in it that I didn’t smooth out.

 

It was a pleasure to interview Jette Harris, she’s a wonderful person and always willing to be there with a kind word. If you’re interested in finding out more about Jette’s works, visit her website here, or  take a look at one of her books!

colossus

salvage.jpg  flint ranch.jpg

 

Three Important Things No Writer Should be Without

Almost no matter what, there are three things I keep with me wherever I go. As an individual, these things have served me well, but as a writer, they’ve been instrumental, which leads me to the conclusion that these are three things no writer should ever be without:

  1. Notebook and Pen (I know, you could argue that would make it four things, but let’s v8a98c0u96just assume the one comes with the other).

    You never want to be without paper and pen (or similar writing utensil and adequate material to write on), particularly as a writer. You know those sensational ideas you have that you swear you’ll remember in five, ten,  twenty minutes, tomorrow morning, in a couple of days?…LIES!!

    Don’t listen to yourself! We all know that if you actually remembered it that it’s some trick of the universe and not an event often repeated. More often than not, you’re left scrabbling for tendrils of an idea you vainly wish you’d had written down…One great way to avoid ever having the conversation where you lie to yourself with complete intention to remember those incredibly evasive and brilliant ideas, is to always have this tool at hand. I’ve scrawled so many ideas in little notebooks that I carry with me that I often have to collect them all in my Ideas Jot List in spurts.

    You can also write if you have a few spare moments. Perhaps a person, a sound, or a smell triggers a line of dialogue or narration, a scene you’ve been working on at home suddenly rushes to you while sitting in the waiting room of the doctor’s office. Having a pen and paper handy can be a huge help, plus, you may not have a napkin nearby to use, best to be safe and bring some supplies with you, it’s only the basics after all.

    Plus, it’s exceedingly handy to have pen and paper at hand. It’s great for writing down messages, stray thoughts, numbers, etc. from phone calls you’ve gotten.  I often use mine for lists. I love lists. They’re a great way to organize your thoughts, for spit balling ideas or just getting your thoughts going.

    Really, you can’t go wrong having a small notebook and a trusty pencil or pen ready to receive whatever words you have to give whenever you have a moment. Take them with you everywhere you can, or use your phone if that’s your thing (personally I prefer a small spiral notebook and my favorite brand of pen.) Leave a notebook and pen on your nightstand to record your dreams, last thoughts for the night, or first thoughts of the morning. Whatever you end up using your notebook and pen for, you’ll be glad for having it.

 

  1. A Book– While it’s very true that this decision may in part be influenced by the fact that I am a bibliophile and a bookworm, I promise it’s also a great idea for writers….or anyone that loves books. Now, I’m sure this has become more common purely by advent of the Kindle App on most phones; at least a scattering of people you see out and mesmerized by their phones may actually be reading a novel…I can hope, right?

    Like Stephen King says:
    stephen-king-quote-books-and-dead-spots-in-life

    I am one of those people that brings a book for these situations, or any situation. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t bust out a book at the family dinner table when politics takes the holiday dinner chat over, no matter how much I might want to (even though I have a book handy…just in case).

    You never know what’s going to happen in life, and more than once in the past I’ve found myself infinitely grateful for having a book on hand when I wasn’t necessarily expecting to have the time. Even if it’s only a couple of sentences, or a paragraph here and there, it can be wonderful to slip into another time, place, person, for a moment. Or, if you’re reading nonfiction, there’s plenty to absorb and think over if the-magic-of-books-155683you read in these dead space moments

    They say if you can’t write, read. If you’re reading what you love and enjoy, you’ll find inspiration, perhaps when you least expect it. Or read something you don’t like and then be sure you shape your writing voice to avoid what it is you dislike. Either way, you are doing research, so even if you’re reading, you’re working!! (…I can neither confirm nor deny ever using this statement to justify reading when I should/could be writing…)

 

  1. An Open Mind– An open mind is something everyone should keep with them, but since you can’t have everything, I strongly urge every writer to never misplace this vital tool.
    open-mind
    Creativity is an amazing thing and you cannot always control the places it and Inspiration will take you, but with an open mind, those places are far more numerous. There are multiple studies showing a connection between higher levels of empathy in those that read fiction. This makes complete sense if you think about it; what are you doing when you read? Becoming another person, perhaps another species all together, and connecting with the struggles, challenges, and triumphs of the character, a character that the reader becomes, through empathy.

    Why am I talking about empathy when I started off with having an open mind? Here’s the thing, not many closed minded people are able to empathize with others, at least not very well. This is of course because they are unwilling or unable to open themselves to possibilities other than their own thoughts, feelings, or ideas.

    Open mindedness will lead you to far more interesting and fantastical places than a closed mind ever could. You must keep this with you always. As writers, we often use what’s around us as inspiration, sometimes a part of a conversation, or the way someone dresses sparks a character, but with an open mind, you can take a good idea and make it something grander than you first imagined.

    An open mind will serve you well, but if you’re a writer, don’t leave home without it.

What are some tools that you keep with you in your writer’s tool belt?

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Preparing for NaNoWriMo: How to be a Plantser

It’s almost here. In a matter of days, the one month countdown until NaNoWriMo begins….there are generally two basic strategies used to tackle writing 50,000 words in 30 days, being a planner/plotter or a pantser.nanowrimo

As the names suggest, a planner spends time plotting out and planning to write their novel; this often includes research, flushing out characters, testing out plot points, and more. Pantsers, on the other hand, fly by the seat of their pants, going in with minimal to no planning on November 1st, perhaps only the a stray idea they plan to turn into a novel.

As mentioned in this post from last year, my first attempt at NaNoWriMo was very much attempted as a pantser. I went in with a vague description of a character and pieced together a direction to go during the first week. It was incredibly difficult for me. I spent so much of my time trying to figure out the other characters I needed to form and write into the story, as well as creating setting and a plot to follow as I went, that it was maddening trying to write a story that I would want to read.

It was obvious that being a full on pantser did not work for me.

The next time I gave NaNoWriMo a real chance, which I count as last year, I found what approach works best for me; the plantser approach, or the planner/pantser combination.

What does it mean to be a plantser?

Well, it could take any form that works for you, but generally it uses both approaches, and I plan to use it again this year; which is why October is a month of planning and preparing.

In my opinion, the best thing about being a plantser is the fact that I have more of a foundation going into my WIP, which means it’s a lot easier to make things happen in the story. With that in mind, there’s no reason at all not to go off in another direction, if it suits the story, and factor that in as you move forward.

Essentially, that’s why a combination works best for me, and many others, because it’s also individualized. You can do as much or as little preparation as you wish, becoming only as detailed as suits you. For instance, I had copious amounts of jots and notes about various characters, or facts about the novel, some of which didn’t necessarily need to be included in the novel, but helped in the writing of it.

It works best when you know what details you need to weave the story together while you’re writing it, and get those down during the planning period.

The best details to plan include:

  • Character details and descriptions- birthdays, graduation dates, degrees, school names, family names, nick names, relevant history that makes them who they are in the novel, their motivations, etc.
  • Setting details- major settings (or at least one) might be good to establish, especially if dealing in fantasy or other worlds that need more context and description; perhaps you need to research real places first and make specific references to make the setting come to life, etc.
  • Some major and sub plot points- making a note of major things that need to happen throughout your novel is a good idea, it helps you link your beginning and end, and it can help you from getting too stuck in the middle; noting subplot points you want to weave in are also good to note, and you can always change or add as you write
  • Essentials timeline- this becomes more important dependent depending on the kind of novel you’re writing and how many things need to happen in particular order, but a timeline of big happenings or significant dates to characters can save a lot of time later, both in writing and in revising

I personally found these helpful last year and helped me keep to my word count a lot easier since there was less time scrambling for important details. Instead, all I had to do was scan my notes and I was off again. If I decided to make a change, I could easily enough by looking at my notes and doing so.

I definitely strayed from the plot points I originally wrote in October, adding, switching, and altering as needed along the way. For instance, I noted a plot point as simply “vibes and feelings” in relation to another character and just saying “next vision,” leaving the details to come to me in the moment or to be thought on until that time.

In the end, everyone finds what works for them, falling in and out of their stride and, as long as they don’t give up, find themselves winners of NaNoWriMo and novel writers. You do what works for you, and for me, it’s a combination approach. Having a flexible plan is usually what works best for me.

What about you? What’s your style?

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Sensational Music to Make You Write: Part Two

If you’re familiar with my blog, you may remember this post ,where I shared some amazing music that is great for writing to, or as inspiration for writing a scene. Since there is so much sensational music to be had, I had to split up my list. So without further ado, here is some more music to fuel your creative fire:

Faun

Egil Saga

Faun is an excellent source to turn to for fantasy writing or something with a Celtic or ancient feel to it. Their lyrics are often in languages like Latin, German, Scandinavian, and Greek, which adds to this old feel. I really enjoy this song, imagining a woodland realm of my creation as I type to the beat.

 

The Piano Guys

Cello Wars (Star Wars Parody)

This is another amazing band with cellos, can you tell I’m a fan of strings? I really love the beat in this one. It’s a familiar tune to Star Wars fans, but has a twist in the music with an up beat that will keep your head bobbing. An intense but fun scene comes to mind, perhaps a chase and formidable fight. The possibilities are up to you.

Adele – Hello / Lacrimosa (Mozart)

There’s something so beautiful and sad and about this piece, sometimes I just close my eyes and listen, letting the images wash over me. Often times I imagine and end up writing memory scenes, something poignant but adds to development, action, something; it builds, just as the music does. Or perhaps it’s the background to a harrowing journey where the hero or heroine is continuing despite all odds. You’re the writer, you decide, but give yourself a moment to experience this music and see what comes to your page from it.

 

Celtic Woman

A New Journey- Reels

Mairead Nesbitt is another amazingly talented musician that I adore watching play; she beams like the sun itself while she dances and flies over the stage, and it’s the same energy and heart that makes me want to give to my writing. There are so many possible scenes to write to this finger and toe-tapping if not feet flitting song; it’s wonderful for a warm and jovially setting or mood.

 

Epica
Sancta Terra

There’s something mysterious and intense in this beautifully delivered song. I’ve loved Epica for years, Simone Simmons has a voice that rings like glass (I got to meet her and the band once too, which was amazing). I find myself picturing different scenarios if I close my eyes and let myself feel this music; when I set myself to page to write, there seems to be an intriguing dark undertone at times, but it’s always a bit of a surprise what will come out. Sometimes I just soak up the majestic notes and hope they later somehow filter out through my fingers in my work.

 

Black Violin

Dirty Orchestra

For some reason, the first bars make me think of snowflakes falling, and soon after a white blanketed wood comes to mind, with running feet and snow flurries in the air behind fast freezing footprints, and off I go! There’s something fun and dark in this song that just begs for a dark yet scintillating story to accompany it.

 

 

Ramalama bang bang

By Róisín Murphy

Perhaps it’s the beat, perhaps it’s the overlay of her voice over the rhythm, who is to say? What I do know is that there is something incredibly fun about this song that gets my fingers twitching and makes me want to start typing out a story if not dancing around my apartment.

 

Simply three

Demons (Imagine Dragons) Cover- (violin/cello/bass)

Yes, if you still haven’t caught on, I’m a big fan of stringed instruments…but can you blame me? I mean, listen to that beauty….there’s no other way to express or describe things the way music does, but the images this song paints for me ignites my desire to try. Instead of with color or notes, I use the words I can find to describe the sensations and moments I want to capture and express, to encapsulate the essence of this song that is a story of its own. This one makes me think of homecoming, returning from a long journey with a myriad of mixed emotions.

 

Counting Stars (One Republic) Cover- (violin/cello/bass)

Something about this music makes me think of friendship and a general sense of joyfulness and activity. Closing my eyes, I imagine a vibrant and busy village nestled among the trees, ready feet kicking up dirt and grass in excitement while laughter rings among the strings’ notes. I wish my fingers could move as deftly and quickly as the thoughts that are stoked by this lovely music.

 

And there you have it, Part 2 of music to write to! There’s a good chance you’ll see another of these pop up as I remember and find new (or old) music that sets my writing fingers to tapping and my imagination whirling.

What did you think of this list? Do you have a favorite, or a scene that comes to mind?

If you feel like a fun little challenge, write the opening line to a scene inspired by one of these songs and share below in the comments!

music post