The May Project and the Muse is Running in Circles



A man is chased by a giant ape!
Run for it!

I was stumbling around around trying to write a short story and suddenly reminded myself that my goal for 2018 was to do longer fiction.  Short stories don’t sell that well.  Cursed Planet, #3 in the GALCOM Universe series, is in with the copy editor.

I have ideas for at least two more GALCOM books.

And…

I’m thinking maybe I need a bit of genre diversity.

I kept circling back to mystery, because I do like mysteries.  I read Nancy Drew and  Trixie Beldon when I was growing up.  Phyllis A. Whitney was one of my favorite writers then, too.  And I read Michael Connelly, J.K. Rowling, and Lee Child.  In fact, it’s hard to get science fiction or fantasy in Washington, DC.  The library tends to stock more mysteries.

Yet, when I wrote my first novel, it was a fantasy.  My second, third, and forth were science fiction.  I’ve only done two mystery short stories.

Muse is running in circles, a little panicked.  I’m actually not sure why.  It might be that my first novel, the Novel That Must Not Be Named, was a mystery.  I had a terrible time with it.  I hit that 1/3 point, got stuck, figured something was wrong with the beginning, and revised the beginning.  Then I would get stuck at the same point again.  Rinse, repeat.

It went on for years.  Coming up with ideas was hard then.  I didn’t have any other ideas that could be a novel, and besides (I told myself over and over), I already invested so much time in it.  So I wandered between the novel and short stories (see the pattern?  I fell into again. 😦 ).

Then there’s the second issue…

This  book is going to make use of a long neglected research area that I know very well:  Hollywood.

1940s.

This is mainly because the 1940s-1970s in the time that interests me.  Today’s politicking celebrities and gritty productions–Pfff!

But 1940s is historical.

Historical is SCARY!

My association with research for fiction was writers who approached it from a position of fear.  Fear that they were being graded like in college.  Fear that a reader would call them out on an obscure fact.  I remember one writer bragging–actually bragging–that he researched the weather on a specific day 50 years ago.  I’m more of a big picture thinker and though I could never write at that level of detail.  Never mind it made Muse want to hide.  Just not creative friendly.

A workshop on research for fiction writers helped a lot.  Though I need to get my feet wet…actually I need to bellyflop right in.

Then there’s the third issue…

Which is to finish the story in 30 days, starting May 1.

That’s got Muse in a panic, too.  I’ve never actually been able to finish a book in 30 days–and this is finishing with cyclical writing so that once I reach the end, it’s done.  I’ve said before that I would finish the story in 30 days and then I got stuck (that 1/3 point) and it took six months.  I got it down to three months.

So we’ll see what happens with The May Project.

 

 

 

Strands of Blackmail


Cover for Strands of Blackmail
When I was driving home, a white dog was standing up on his hind legs, feet propped up on a fence, looking like he was chatting with the neighbors. So I had to use him in a story.

Sometimes returning home brings back good memories, or bad ones.

For Shari Kendell, it’s finding answers to the questions her grandmother’s death left.  Actors always live in their own world, but Shari is surprised and what she didn’t know.  Who was blackmailing her grandmother, and why?

A Morro Bay mystery short story, available from your favorite booksellers.

Mystery Stories


I grew up reading Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, and Kim Aldrich. I could never get enough of girls having adventures with something exciting like solving mysteries.

 

A woman on a pier, holding an umbrella over her face
I broke my right foot. Terribly inconvenient. But it inspired this story.
Beach view of Morro Rock
When I was driving home, a white dog was standing up on his hind legs, feet propped up on afence, looking like he was chatting with the neighbors. So I had to use him in a story.

Coming Attractions for June


This weekend, I made an attempt to see Wonder Woman.  But when I showed up an hour in advance at the movie theater, it was sold out except for a few seats in the front.  So I’ll try again next weekend.  But it’s a good sign … especially for a movie the studio gave up on.  They hardly even advertised it, but word of mouth is pretty potent.

So I spent Saturday building book covers.  These are the covers for short stories coming later in June.

And these are the ones for July, including a GALCOM universe novella and short story.  It also marks the first mystery I’m publishing.

My research topics for this week were:

  • Son-Ly War
  • Prefecture
  • Province
  • Mistletoe
  • Harvey Kurtzman
  • Tents (research for GALCOM 3)
  • Grizzly Adams (no relation to me)
  • Japanese Battleship Mutzo
  • Pagoda mast
  • Edward Teach
  • sloop
  • Gilbert Baker
  • Military name tag placement (Research for GALCOM 3)
  • locusts
  • Kylfings
  • algebra
  • Auroras
  • Plasma meteor (doesn’t that sound cool?)
  • William Mulholland
  • California Water Wars
  • St, Francis Dam

It’s interesting looking at this list after a week.  There’s a lot of topics on here that I don’t remember anything about, and others that, as I typed them, I remembered what I enjoyed about the topic.  Despite growing up in Southern California and seeing places like Mulholland Drive, I had no idea why it was named that, nor did I know about the California Water Wars.  The St. Francis Dam ended William Mulholland’s career in public works when it collapsed only a few hours after he inspected it.

2017: The Year of Craft


In 2016, I published 22 ebooks (might have a couple more before the end of the year).  That’s an astounding number, and I want it to be higher next year.  The only way to make money as a writer is produce a lot of writing (as opposed to writing one book and have it become a best seller.  A best seller has a shelf-life of probably a month).

But I also don’t do well with typical goals that most writers set.  Like writing X words a day.  Or writing X books in a year.  The last time I set a specific goal like it, none of it happened.

So it’s a different goal: The Year of Craft.

I’m still working out that means in how I will be doing things in the new year.  Then I’m a pantser, and it’s discover things as I go along!

Things I’m not doing this year

  • Submitting to anthology deadlines. Okay, I’ll probably still submit to a few of them, but I get pummeled at work by deadlines every month and I just don’t need that on the writing side.
  • I will not take workshops to for learning how to fix a writing problem.  The whole writing culture is about “Your story is born broken, you have to fix it,” and for pantsers, they’re told even worse.  I’ve treated craft I’ve struggled with as something to be conquered, sometimes with a battering ram.  That’s going to stop.  It has to. It’s  very frustrating for me when I write and ruins the fun.

Things I’m doing this year

  • Taking four workshops.  I’ve got four workshops planned out:
    • Advanced Character Dialog: I’m actually taking this because I’m really good at characterization and I’ve largely ignored any skills because of that.
    • POV:  This is another advanced class, because I want to play with the POV.
    • Cliffhangers: I want some better understanding about how to end my chapters in an exciting way.  Sometimes writers think that it’s bad to do a cliffhanger because they think it means “Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!” at the end of every chapter–not as something to make the reader turn the page.
    • The last one’s open.  Might be Pacing or B Story.  Haven’t made up my mind.  Could also be a new workshop that shows up that piques my interest.
  • Studying best selling writers.  I’ve been typing Michael Connelly’s first three chapters of The Reversal and learning a lot.  Typing the scenes is like an artist painting a Monet.  It’s amazing.  I see things that I didn’t when I was reading.  It’s also a relatively low cost, and enjoyable, method of learning.
  • I’m branching out into other genres, like Mystery, and experimenting with series.  I never thought I could do a series until I wrote Crying Planet.  Before I got to the end of it, I wrote a short story with the same characters, which placed Honorable Mention in the Writers of the Future Contest.  Then I got an idea for the next book (which is either called Cursed Planet or Lonely Planet).
  • I’m going to try writing in groupings of something.  Like I did a mystery story set in Morro Bay, so I’m going to try writing other stories set in Morro Bay.

Finally, Crying Planet is coming in January, my first science fiction novel.  And it’s a series!  I never thought I would be able to do a science fiction story, let alone any kind of series.  I’m just waiting on it to come back from the copy editor.

A shuttle departs from a spaceship on the cover for The Crying Planet

 

Scientist’s Widow


Brain with lightning
Scientist’s Widow 0.99

Ana Santiago has one of those murder cases that she can’t let go.  A neuroscientist with promising research.

Did his wife do it?  Why does she tow around a cooler every day?  Is his remains in the cooler?

Ana wants answers, but learning the truth may be more than she wants.

Available from your favorite booksellers:

How I get my story ideas


At Capclave, Bud Sparhawk said that he’d been asked “Where do you get ideas?” on a past panel.  He jokingly said that he paid a guy $5 a week and was sent a postcard with an idea on it.  Three writers came up afterward to ask him for the idea guy address!

From the outside, ideas look like this really hard thing.  When I was working on my first novel, I was desperate.  The novel was not working (I was hitting the 1/3 point and didn’t understand why I couldn’t get past it), and yet I couldn’t abandon the story because I didn’t have any other ideas.

At the time, I believed that an idea had to turn into a whole story, so I was looking for something that suggested an entire story — and nothing lived up to it.  As a result, ideas always seemed to be a struggle for me.  Yet, I’d always said that an idea was a starting point for a story, or just a seed. Sometimes I don’t even listen to myself!

Pretty much, I had to stop trying so hard to come up with great ideas and just come up with ideas.  If I’m starting out with a theme, like for an anthology call, I first think of all the things that everyone else will come up with for the theme.  We’ll make one up:  Toys.  That’ll probably get a lot of Christmas stories, toys coming to life, toys being magical, evil killer toys.  Anything that might be one of those I toss aside because what I write will be just like what everyone else is doing.  Then I start thinking about what I can do with what’s left.

Getting there is different for each story.  I’ve started with a theme and a character and NO idea until I started writing, and another I’m working on now that’s come from doing Google fu on the theme subject.  I just have to think “What can I do with this?”  Some ideas don’t go anywhere or need more seasoning.

A few of where the ideas came from:

Fantasy Short Story:  This one’s in submission now.  I had gone to a 911 ceremony at work, and there were these two candles sitting out on a table on the stage.  I imagined the candles burning in a window, a signal to troops that it was time to attack.  The story that I wrote ended up with no candles and no signal of troops.

Science Fiction Novel: I took a workshop on Think Like a Science Fiction Writer (worth it if you want to write science fiction and think you don’t have the science background).  During the workshop, it hit me that I’ve always liked undersea.  When I was in grade school, Sea Hunt was airing on TV, and I watched the adventures of Mike Nelson every day and drew pictures of scuba divers.  Then it was Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Primus and the new version of Sea Hunt with Ron Ely.  I also lived in California and enjoyed oceanography in college.  Why not an undersea station?  Research will be next to continue developing this one.

Mystery Novel/Romance Novel: These ideas both came off a curtain.  The curtain was in an auditorium, dark blue with gold stars.  I went up to touch it, and it was soft, but not naturally soft.  I thought about it for a while:  Twilight.  Then:  What’s the emotion associated with twlight?  I was surprised when it turned into two different ideas, based on what the genre was.  The part about connecting the object to an emotion that it reminded me of was so powerful, I will have to try that one again.

I think it’s hard because the prospect of writing a story or novel can seem so daunting.  It always seems like there’s a magic in it, and the magic seems like it comes from the just the right idea or just the perfect idea.  That kind of leaves the writer out of the equation, and the writer is that magic.