Week 4 of 10 Weeks of 10 Stories

Woman in dress from the Civil War
I took this at a Civil War fashion show a few years ago. The woman hand-made this costume herself.

Story #4’s idea started with a book on cats published in the 1920s.  There was a short blurb about a painting of a cat with eyes that followed you.  Those eyes supposedly drove the owners to commit suicide.  I tried to do it as a story, but I couldn’t figure out really how to resolve it.

So I put it back on the plate for the 10 Stories in 10 Weeks.  I was going to ignore the earlier attempts and start fresh.  I was in critique group, and one of the members mentioned a story that gave me a perfect idea for part of the execution.  Then it hit me: “Crap.  I’ll have to do research.”

A story in a week doesn’t allow much time for research, and this new bit would have required a lot of it.  Could I change it so I didn’t need to the research?  The story became steampunk, using a technology solution.

But it was still stubborn and didn’t come together.  My travel to Balticon, and then to Virginia Beach might not have helped … It was sort of like I had all these different pieces, but not the story itself.  I couldn’t figure out how to open it, and I wasn’t entirely happy just having a technology solution.

One of the problems was that I needed to establish the setting.  I got too focused on establishing the problem and not on the other parts  necessary to resolve it.  Once I got the setting into the story, it started to come together.  I did have to do some research, but only small stuff:

Women’s Fashion in the 1880s – I was looking for a picture I could describe, and I wanted something with a more unusual color.  In cons, the Steampunk costumes are usually brown and white and not the glorious colors the Victorian period is known for.

Historical Fashion – More pictures!  The blue dress is what inspired my female character’s clothes.

Women’s Hairstyles in the 1880s – I was glad I looked this up.  I was thinking a more severe hairstyle than the one described here.

By the way, the male main character is a war veteran, and disabled, and has post traumatic stress syndrome.

Now I have to figure out where to send it …

For more of 10 Weeks of 10 Stories:

Tidbits from Balticon

This weekend I went to a science fiction convention in Baltimore, Maryland, called Balticon.  Every con has its own personality, and Balticon is more for the small press publishers.  These were some of the tidbits I picked up.

Social Media is Indirect Marketing

One of the points a panel brought up was that social media is indirect marketing.  That is, posting tweets or blogs doesn’t make a reader jump over to buy a book.  More likely, the repetition of the name is what will make the sale.  You’ll go to a con, see an anthology, recognize an author name, and that’ll trigger the consideration for buying.

All this lead to the comment that not to spend 55% of your time on social media, and instead focus on getting more stories out there.

A pink power strip with a pink plug
A shameless plug (sorry, I couldn’t help myself. 🙂 )  Photo is from Clipart.com

For Pantsers: Don’t Rely on Memory.  Keep a Story Bible

Yup.  I’m guilty of this.  I can see the problem because eventually I will forget things, especially if I’m not in the story for a while.  But simply filling up a notebook with random information about characters is not going to work for me.  So I’m thinking of doing it more visually, like the one below.

A family tree showing my main character and his parents, his mother's siblings, and his mother's parents.

A family tree for the main character.  Four additional characters on this appear in the book.  I did this using PowerPoint (I’m a PowerPoint speed demon.  Most of the time was looking up several of the character names).

Birds are dinosaurs!

Cool fact from Dr. Thomas R. Holtz, Jr. from the University of Maryland, who specializes in dinosaurs.  Scientists have learned a lot from recent discoveries of fossils in China.  Dinosaurs may not have looked like reptiles, but more like birds, complete with feathers.  The bones don’t give us a good idea of what an animal looks like.  If you want to see some surprising examples off modern examples like cats and elephants, check out the book All Yesterdays.

Sea gull on a fishing pier
Did you know you’re a dinosaur?  This is a seabird from Virginia Beach.  Yes!  Beach pictures are coming!

Was it a good con?  Hmmm, well, I’ve been to better and to worse.  The science sessions, at least when they got a good presenter, were exceptional.   The writing ones were things I’d already heard before.  It looks like the con committee lost control of the scheduling.  There were a lot of workshops that were the same thing, only slightly different, and with one panel, it was done twice.

I did have an opportunity to meet fellow WANAer and HTYRNer Rabia Gale, who wrote up her own review of the convention.

Anyone else check out Balticon?

Also check out:

What makes you put down a book?

A stuffed dog
One of my writing buddies. Can you resist that face?

I’m over on Unleaded today with a post on what makes you put down a book.  Here’s a snippet:

I was thinking about that after reading Judy Hedlund’s post Top 7 Reasons I Stop Reading a Novel.   A lot of times you get writers together about what makes you put a book down, and it’s like going back to grade school.

They have their red pens out, ready to identify an adverb use or what they view as a POV shift, and then they point gleefully and say:

“You got it wrong!”

By intent, I don’t notice that kind of stuff.  I’m more forgiving as a reader in some respects, and in others, far less forgiving.  I have three reasons that I will automatically put down a book, and likely never read the author again.  Read the reasons on Unleaded Fuel for Writers.

I’ll be back later this week with a post on Balticon.

The Beauty of Omniscient Viewpoint

A telescope and compass sitting on an old-fashioned map.
Omniscient viewpoint is like the person with the telescope, seeing everything.

Ever since I’ve been writing

I’ve read over and over that omniscient viewpoint is old-fashioned, no longer used, that publishers won’t take it, too distant, etc.

It’s not true.

I found that out when I took on viewpoint. At the time, I felt like the viewpoint for Miasma was not right (it was in third), and I couldn’t pin down why. The instructors of the class went into all the viewpoints, but even they didn’t really understand how it worked.

The concept of the all-seeing narrator is difficult to understand, especially when trying to frame it from the perspective of third person. So I went out and hunted down books in omniscient.

What I discovered was quite unexpected

My favorite re-read books were in omniscient.

Every single one of them.

Omniscient viewpoint has this wonderful and warm storytelling quality, like you’re sitting in front of the fire being told a story by a storyteller. In fact, when it’s done well, most readers probably have no idea they’re reading omniscient viewpoint, and writers (and even agents who should know better) have mistaken it for third person.
It’s a beautiful viewpoint to read and work with.

This week’s post was for a prompt from the WANA folks (though I conveniently had a topic that fit right in):

Second Time Around – Tell us about a book you can read again and again without getting bored — what is it that speaks to you? ~ Ellen Gregory

Check out everyone else’s:

  • Will post these for you as they become available.

And don’t forget to drop in some of my other posts on omniscient viewpoint.

Week 3: 10 Weeks of 10 Stories

Palm trees silhouetted against a purple and orange sunset

Photo from ClipArt.com — If I tried something like this it would be all dark.

Story #3’s electrons are merrily winging their way on submission, finished a few days earlier than I expected.  The story started with a theme of “strangers.”  I wondered what the heck I was going to do with that, because strangers implies, in a way, horror.  I don’t do horror.  An hour or so later, the story hit me, almost fully formed, and also inspired by the colors of sunset and by a lecture on Wicca I got in my writing group the previous week.  The story took about 30 minutes to write.  No soldiers this time — it’s a fantasy set in a village with a healer who makes a really big mistake.  It turned into a strange and powerful story.

For more of 10 Weeks of 10 Stories:

Things People Get Wrong About Washington, DC (and Photos!)

Washington Monument covered in scaffolding

Washington, DC, turns up in a lot of books and TV shows.

We can see stock shots on NCIS, Covert Affairs, and Bones.  None of the shows are filmed here.   There are some books where I’ve wonder if the author at least Googled the city because of the things they do get wrong. The three biggest culprits:

Thinking it’s all about politics

Granted, if you read the Washington Post or Washington Times, you would think that DC is all about politics.  There isn’t a major newspaper in the area that reports on local news.  But a lot of books and movies and TV are guilty of thinking DC is only politics.

It’s a city that has a lot of problems with money. In the past, the schools have been shut down by the courts because the city could not afford to fix safety hazards.  More recent news has the fire departments keeping their trucks that need repair because they come back in worse shape when they are repaired.

Then there’s the exploding manhole covers

But it’s also a city with a very visible disability population, because the Federal government is the largest employer of the disabled and actively recruits for it.  It’s common to go into a mall or a Starbucks and see a person with a service animal or with a cane or a wheelchair.

There’s also a lot of military.  You will see them on the Metro, walking the street, eating in Burger King.  I’ve even seen foreign military.

Washington DC has a large food community.  Because there are so many different cultures in the area, there’s a wide variety of different cuisines.  Chefs are always opening new restaurants or experimenting with ways to serve the food.

Then there’s the history … Really, I could go on and on.  There’s a lot here that never gets touched in most fiction.

Inside Ford's Theatre, showing where Lincoln's seaty was and the stage
Ford’s Theatre. I kept hearing that Booth leapt off the balcony and landed on the stage and couldn’t picture it until I saw it.

Getting the traffic wrong

Let’s start with the traffic here is bad.  And it gets worse when it rains or snows, when the President’s motorcade departs or returns, or when an event happens, such as when the cherry blossoms bloom.

Traffic is so bad in this area, we actually have an advice columnist on it.

Yet, books and TV portray us as having no traffic.  No one driving around discusses leaving a different time to avoid rush hour, or gets caught in traffic (except for NCIS).  In one book, a high speed chase took place on 17th Street.  My first reaction: Have you been on 17th Street?!

Pink Cherry Blossoms with the sunlight shining through
Cherry Blossoms on the tidal basin.

Call Metro a Subway

Yes, we do have an underground train system.  Technically, it’s a subway. No one here calls it a subway.

It’s the Metro.

NCIS is the only TV show to have gotten this one right.  They’ve even shown the map of the Metro system.

Have you been to DC?  What did you think of it?

And check out these other posts!

Week 2: 10 Weeks of 10 Stories

A meadow that was used for a Civil War Battle.
It’s hard to believe this was the site of a Civil War battle. Yet, it’s where the Battle of First Manassas was.

10 Weeks of 10 Stories

Story #2 is off to a magazine for their May 31 deadline.  It was a steampunk story, set in an alternate universe for the Civil War. I made use of a trip to the Manassas National Battlefield Park a few years ago, plus some research for a shelved Civil War novel.  In it, women have been recruited into the army because too many men were killed, and they were going to lose without the extra people.

It was a lot of fun to write, though I’ll admit the first day of it was in panic, thinking, “This story is never going to work.”  Day 2 was only slightly better, and then Day 3, it began to work.

Not sure what the next story will be yet.  I have two ideas, but once isn’t due until October, and the other I can’t send until June.

See also:

Photos: Inspiration in Color in Washington DC

I’ve discovered I’m a visual spatial learner

It means I need pictures to understand information.  So when Rabia Gale posted this writing prompt:

A favorite or inspiring piece of art (could be a statue, a painting, a musical composition, even performance art)

The first thing I thought was color

And during spring and summer in Washington, DC, color is everywhere!

The Jefferson Monument against a blue sky
Jefferson Monument

Jefferson Monument

The sharp white lines of the Jefferson Monument against the bright blue sky was magnificent.

A duck sails across a pond that is surrounded by trees.
Ahoy! Ducks away!

Mason District Park

I liked this picture because of the brilliant blue of the water mixed with the reflections of the green trees.  Then there’s that lone duck sailing across the middle of the pond.


Green, green everywhere

After sitting through the dull browns of winter, I still look at the green our trees and go “Wow!”


Flowers Galore

And, of course, the flowers that are everywhere.  I love the striking purple of these.

Other blogs writing about art and inspiration:

  1. Large Blue Horses – Rabia Gale
  2. Christ and St. Michael – Liv Rancourt
  3. The Music that I Love – Siri Paulson
  4. Botticelli’s Venus – Ellen Gregory
  5. Through the Lens – Tami Clayton
  6. How do you decide a favourite – Margaret Miller

5 tools to help prepare for pitch sessions

I’m over at Unleaded, Fuel for Writers today with a post for writer’s conference season, which is in the spring.

Man screaming

The first time I went to a pitch session

… I was so nervous I was surprised the agent didn’t mark me down for babbling.

In a way, it’s like a job interview.  The pressure’s on, and it feels like a giant magnifying glass is right on me.

Taking a page from the army, being prepared will help in case the brain goes on autopilot.  Not the same as a combat situation, but it might feel like it!  So here are some tools to make sure you have with you in case nervousness strikes.  Read the rest on Unleaded, Fuel for Writers.

10 Weeks of 10 Short Stories

Purple flower covered with rain drops.
I took this flower photo in the early morning when it was raining.

For the next 10 weeks, I’m going to write a short story a week, and submit it to a magazine. This will be in addition to working on my novel.

Story #1 / May 7-11

The first story I started on May 7 and finished on May 11.  It was a fantasy, with a woman soldier, for a magazine requesting submissions for a military theme.

It was scary committing to sending the story out so fast, because it meant I did editing and proofreading, but I did not do any revision.  I’m a pantser, and I tend to leave things out (like the details, description, setting, etc.).  So I had to focus on making sure those elements got into the story.  I didn’t realize how big a deal this would be, because I kept thinking, “It’ll get rejected for that,” and then I thought about the last incarnation of this particular idea. The things I revised into the story probably got it rejected.  So off it went.

Next story on the plate for tomorrow is going to be steampunk — my first steampunk.  Women soldiers again, because the magazine I want to submit to is looking for stories with women protagonists.  Women soldiers is going to put me on the good side of that.  Exactly how many people are writing about that?

If you want to join in and do 10 and 10, please post your progress in the comments.  It’s only ten stories, but also ten submissions.  The only catch is that you have to do your other writing, too, because part of the challenge is managing the time.