Friday, August 29, 2014

Lunatic Space Pirates Take Three...By Melanie

For the next two weeks, we are taking turns explaining how we would go about writing a story based on this prompt:

Lunatic Space Pirates Falling in Love
During Free Fall

The best way I can describe my writing process is this: I take three separate points on the plane of my imagination and connect them, and when I do, they magically turn into a picture in my head. That picture is like a snapshot of the lives of my characters, and I write to get to that moment.

I didn’t feel particularly inspired by the prompt, so I moved on to finding the second point. Finding the second point is like a treasure hunt! I might find it while I’m walking around outside or watching the news. It might be in a book I’m reading, a TV show I’m watching or a song I hear. Anything, really, but it will typically be something completely different from what I’m working on.

I walked around for days thinking, “Ooh! Listen to this news report! It’s full of story ideas. Will IT be the thing that inspires me?” Nope. “Ooh! Look at this flower. Is THIS the thing?” Nope. And the whole time, one song was stuck in my head. My daughter is a HUGE Broadway fan, and lately she’s been obsessed with a show called Memphis, and in particular one song called the Music of My Soul.

But all I felt was pity, for he never understood. How could people be so bad, who made me feel so good? It went right through my body. It dragged me by my heart. It shot out from my fingertips and tore me right apart. It broke down all my senses. It made me feel so home. See I was lost until I found the music of my soul.
Wow. That’s powerful stuff. And I WANTED that to be my second point. I TRIED to make it my second point. But it wasn’t. It got me headed on the right path though, and I only dreamed about it being my story for a couple of hours before the second point burst upon me, in all its glory (at three o clock in the morning). My second point is NOT Memphis. It is Bonnie and Clyde, the other musical my daughter listens to incessantly. 

Memphis is the story of a white man and a black woman who fall in love. It’s the story of an epic battle between music and prejudice. Bonnie and Clyde, on the other hand, is a story about two selfish brats who fall in love and decide they are so much better than the people around them that they can take whatever they want, even if they have to kill people to get it. (I realize this kind of tragedy can be powerful. I just don't want to write it.)**

I didn’t want Bonnie and Clyde to be the thing I was looking for, but I knew it was because I felt all tingly when I thought about it, almost like my muse was sprinkling pixie dust over me. Ideas started coming together in my head like tumblers on a (really complicated) lock. After about half an hour of this I silently reminded my brain that this story idea is for a blog post, not for an actual book, and it really ought to shut up so I could go back to sleep. It didn’t work. Instead I thought:

I can’t write such shallow people. I will physically rebel from doing it. Well, maybe they could start out shallow, and grow over the course of the story. NO. Not that shallow. I don’t care if it would be great literature. I categorically refuse. Maybe I could add a third character who could take all the shallow parts. But what if…

Boom goes the dynamite.

At 3:30 in the morning I found my third point and connected them all. My third point is Edward Snowden. His story fascinates me, but it also frustrates me terribly, because every article I ever read about him is seen through the lens of an extremely opinionated person. There are so many lies and twisted truths that I can’t even figure out what is real.

When I collected the three points, it made a brilliant picture of two people breaking someone out of jail (on a spaceship, which makes the jailbreak a little unproductive, since a spaceship is kind of like a prison anyway.)

Here is my story:

Evan has been portrayed as a Robin Hood by some of the media and as the most vile of degenerates by the rest. His sister, Bonnie, has not seen him since they were young, but she idolizes him, and is sure he is a hero, not a villain. When Evan is transported across the solar system she sees her chance to break him out of jail. She is aided in her attempt by a good looking young man named Cade who reveres Evan as the best thief out there. Cade thinks this jailbreak is a spectacular opportunity to embark on a life of crime. Only time will tell which of them is right.

Now that I have the framework of a story that makes me want to write, it is easy enough to build all the other pieces into it:
  • definition is wildly or recklessly foolish which fits Cade to a T.
  • Space pirates...I suppose that will happen when they take over the ship, which they will have to do once they rescue the older brother, or all 3 of them will end up in prison.
  • Falling in love...the sister and the wannabe thief
  • Free Fall...This will also happen when they take over the ship. They will shut the engines down, which will technically put them in free fall, even though they will simply be drifting. (I learned this from wikipedia this morning.)
  • Heck, I can probably even throw Music of My Soul into the plot now--I'll give Edmund a backstory filled with breaking prejudicial lines by falling in love with a singer from the wrong side of the galaxy. :)

**Please forgive me if I’m mangling these plot lines. I’ve never seen the shows, just listened to the music, so these are the storylines I’ve concocted in my head. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Lunatic Space Pirates Falling in Love During Free Fall

So that's our prompt. This seems ripe for a romantic comedy, but sometimes the obvious is just too obvious. If the idea is too easy, doesn't stretch the boundaries and really explore the concept, even a well written story can be difficult to sell. At best, you'll get comments like, 'well written, but not very original'. Never stop at your first idea. This is the brainstorming stage; you want a typhoon, not an LA drizzle. And even if you go with your first idea, figure out ways you can twist it.

During the brainstorming stage, you might decide to alter or discard part of the idea. In this case, maybe they're not lunatics, maybe they don't fall in love, or maybe you eliminate free fall. This is fine. Ideas need room to evolve and this is where you'll start to find out what kind of story you really want to write. If you're writing for an anthology prompt, make sure to keep the important thematic bits per their guidelines.

This is the point where plot and character start to overlap for me. I take one of the ideas and follow the line of thought through to the end. But then I ask what kind of character would make this story most interesting. Often, I come up with, 'If I do Plot A, then I'd use this character and it would end like this. If I do Plot B, it would go this way.' And this gets batted around for awhile, sometimes substituting characters or creating backgrounds for them. Example: The janitor on the pirate ship who is a burned-out former special ops guy finds himself lusting after the Captain but she doesn't pay him any notice, and his confidence is in the toilet after his last mission gone wrong where lots of innocents were killed.

The janitor is just one (wordy) example, but let's run with that. So now we ask, what's his journey? What is he striving for? At this point the janitor needs to be the protagonist because he has everything to lose, and the most to gain. Also, play with the gender of your protag. See how changing their gender changes the story. In this case, I didn't want to have the needy woman chasing after a man, even if she is tough. I want to flip expectations, so the protag is male. At this point, I also decide the basics of his personality. Is he surly or cheerful? Bold, or shy? Quirks? Likable? How do those things change how he responds to the situation?

It's pretty obvious what he's striving for, right? He needs to find his confidence again and use it to win the Captain's heart. Now a few more questions crop up. Do we let him succeed? If so, what's the happy ending? If not, what's the tragic ending? Then the big question, what is learned in the end? This learning can be by the character, and/or the reader. This is where your theme starts to develop. Don't let that word, theme, scare you. If you have a solid plot, it will evolve out of the story naturally, though feel free to help it along if you recognize it. Just don't beat it to death.

I want to give our protag a happy ending. Admittedly, I rarely go tragic; it's just not in my nature. I like to have a sense of victory and accomplishment. So for the happy ending he needs to get his confidence back. (Getting the girl is secondary, and not actually necessary for him to be successful.)

Throughout the story, he'll need obstacles to overcome, and hopefully, each one will raise the stakes which increases the tension. Maybe in the first, they have to fend off being boarded and he gets into the fight, after vowing he would never fight again. After that, he changes his parameters so that he will fight to protect his own. Also, the Captain notices him for the first time.

Then, maybe, a tactical situation comes up that he is particularly adept in, from his spec ops training, and he has to decide whether to get involved. It was his command decision that got the orphanage blown up so he's gun-shy about making any decisions. But he feels strongly and overcomes his doubts to advise her. She listens (because of the first encounter), and agrees and the task goes well because of his advice. Confidence points and respect, earned.

At this point, you'll see a lot of 'maybes' in my notes. Some stay, some leave. This is truly the hammering out stage. Ideas fly in and out until I pound out a reasonable plot.

The next trial really needs to raise the stakes. Something needs to set our protag back and then force him to face that of which he is most afraid. Then, after sinking as deep as he can go, he needs to confront that fear, stand up, and take action. Hint: Innocents are involved.

The important part here is that throughout the story you've set up this ending accomplishment, making it feel right for both plot, and character. Our janitor's interactions with the Captain need to have been meaningful and leading to this. That's the flesh to this skeleton and you can't know exactly how it's going to turn out until you start writing it. I've had endings change on me two-thirds of the way through because the characters evolved differently than I expected.

This is where I've learned the value of outlining in a way that doesn't remotely stifle creativity. The skeleton of a plot is ultimately flexible so even if you're a pantser, this method doesn't dramatically tie you down. If just gives you an idea of where you're going. Part skeleton, part road map.

So this is my way of getting to a story. It may seem haphazard, or it may not. But hopefully I've given you some ideas for how to approach story construction. The only real rule is to do what works for you. Oh, and keep writing.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Lunatic Space Pirates in Love - Karen

Lunatic space pirates in love

We decided to do another group topic – where each Proser takes the same idea and talks about our experiences and our processes and how we do things.

So this round we bring you: Lunatic space pirates in love!

Concept: We each use that as a story prompt, and write about how we’d go about tackling a story with that premise.

Here’s my take. Be sure to check back and see how my fellow Prosers approach this sort of thing, too! There are as many different right ways to write as there are writers, so it should be interesting.

1.     First I need to decide on a main character. I’m a girl-oriented writer (I prefer to write female POV in part because I write YA and MG sci fi because I want to inspire young women to Be the geek.) So this is a no-brainer. It’ll be the girl. I could use a non-hetero relationship but I’m going to stick with my standard girl-meets-boy structure, since the nature of the story premise is so wacky already. I don’t want to mangle the story before I even get started.

2.     Next, I need to figure out some more about the girl. I like to start with character name before much of anything else. I have a particular fondness for names that begin with As. I also, when writing my last novel project, Abnormals, spent a few days just brainstorming names, so I have an excellent set of pages in my notebook with names to choose from. Astrid it is.

3.     Age – I usually write teens. I’ll go for late teens in this story, so the “where are the parents” question is easily solved (“kid doesn’t live at home anymore.”) 17 years old. Also makes my love story concept a little more comfortable. I get a bit wiggly when books feature love stories between two very young characters. While it can be sweet, it can also be uncomfortable, since the reality of most 12 year olds is that they aren’t yet mature enough to have more than a friendship with most people.

4.     Now, backstory. Why is this Astrid’s story, where does she come from? Why should the reader care if I don’t know or don’t care? Right, exactly.

So…Astrid’s … what? A wayward princess? Her dad’s a military hero? Or politically powerful and she’s been kidnapped to make the other side hurt? No. I don’t want her to be defined only by her relationship to a male. So, she’s the winner of a galactic beauty contest? Nah, not about beauty either. This isn’t about her looks (though she’s cute) – it’s about her ability to manage when things get tough. Although, while I’m working on backstory I also need to decide where she’s COMING from. Emotionally. To peg a character arc, I need a good starting point. I could write a story about where she is (milieu) or some nifty whiz-bang technology that’s changing the game of space travel (idea.) Or not.

As I brainstorm here, you can see I’m starting to try to unearth the nugget of the story. What kind of story am I writing? Oh – and I should have mentioned this earlier, I’m a sucker for upbeat endings, so I know I want the story to end on a positive note. Therefore for balance it should probably start in the shitter, right?

So Astrid, our intrepid main character, is running away from something. A life of petty crime down on her home planet, perhaps? Or not-so-petty crime? A mistake she made, maybe crime-related? Cheated a crime lord? Stole from the wrong guy/gal? Trusted someone she shouldn’t? I find trust to be a worthwhile theme in fiction, and the violation of trust in a young woman can be a powerful impetus for her to change, so let’s go with that.

She was in a gang, for lack of a better term, and her gangleader, another woman to keep it from being a love triangle (I hate those.) She thought she could trust Miranda. They’d been getting by okay by running confidence schemes (I’m using this primarily as backstory, but I’m mentally flagging things like this that would require further research if I were to go into detail. I don’t know anything about “running confidence schemes” other than it sounds good, lol, so I am cautious to not over-commit on this aspect.) down on the planet Veron. Until Miranda got picked up by local enforcement and spilled the beans about where Astrid is holed up. Astrid made it off-planet, just barely, by stowing away on a freighter, and then hooked up with the crew of the … see? Lots of imagination needed here. What is the ship named? Crew of the Corona. She takes work as a basic engine tech, having familiarity with the Corona’s engines because part of those “confidence schemes” down on Veron were black market parts trading. (Ah, putting together aspects of the backstory.) Perhaps she even learned the trade from her no-good-criminal-father? But I don’t like really ugly parental backstories, so I’ll probably just continue to leave the parent question open/unanswered/irrelevant for now.

Oh dear, at some point then I also start to do some visualization, as that helps me picture things in my mind. The only problem is, it’s a major rabbit hole. Be careful! My cover designer friend Renee from The Cover Counts usually uses, where I found these images:

They both look a wee bit menacing, which I was aiming for.

But as I consider menacing, it gets me thinking about the pirate aspect of this story. Why are these pirates out in this area of space and just what are they pirating?

They’re running the blockade in G-sector, where the two planetary systems have been locked in a civil war for decades. Acting as a go-between for the goods from planet A which planet B wants, and vice-versa. The planets can’t trade directly because of the civil war, but these pirates on the Corona don’t mind. Maybe they’re more like…opportunists, not pirates. Taking advantage of an economic opportunity to charge more for goods due to their scarcity, rather than specifically robbing/pirating others. Although as opportunists, they should be happy to sabotage an occasional ship or salvage some wreck when they come across it. Too much detail, though, I just needed the rough outline.

Now as for the love story, we’re back to the characters. Astrid’s a low-level engine tech. Rather than do the captain/subordinate love relationship (which has some ickiness to it, and would be semi-implausible given the main character’s age,) let’s find someone else on the ship for Astrid to fall in love with. Captain’s first mate? No, age would be a factor there, too. Med tech? Maybe. Or, better yet, Astrid works on the primary engine, and love interest boy works on the jump drive/faster-than-light-drive. And what he wants directly conflicts with what Astrid has to do for her work. Ah. Conflict. They take an instant dislike to each other because he’s cranky about her work on the main engine. It’s not helping him ready the ship for boost. And he’s under great pressure from the captain to have them boost-ready before some kind of deadline. Probably financial pressures. Major shipment from Veron to one side of the war, which the captain plans to partially waylay? (Ah. Here be the pirates!)

So…I’ll leave you now, with Astrid aboard the Corona, at odds with … hum, I never named the love interest. Misha? Will people know that’s a male name or will they assume female? What about Michio? That sounds better. So Astrid and Michio are at odds over the system parameters of their boost drive versus the main engine. And…sparks will fly!

Note: I didn’t even manage to work the “lunatic” aspect in. And only barely got to introducing the “in love” aspect of the story prompt. And yet here are 1300+ words of story design and backstory and rationale and thought. Isn’t writing awesome?

Where would you take this kind of prompt? What are your steps in the writing process? I’m sure I’ve missed about a hundred, as this is just the brainstorm part of writing.  

Thursday, August 21, 2014

My first story - Sabrina

What we could call my very first story was written in second grade for the Young Author's Faire. That book is still sitting at my parents' house. I'll have to share it with you another time, because y'all, there are pictures. And they are awful, even for an 8-year-old.

I did actually write quite a bit growing up; I think the YAF got me in the habit of creating stories (which is why it is the best program ever, and if I should ever become a gazillionaire, I will totally fund that for as many schools as possible). Anyway, I never got very far in any of those stories, mostly because it was more fun to plan and draw pictures in my notebook. Like Sheena, I also had a story featuring a girl and a dog, though my dog was a golden retriever, and my story was going to be a survival-in-the-woods story a la Hatchet.

But my first finished story happened when I was 15. And it was about vampires.

Photo "Interview with the Vampire" courtesy of Frederico Casares on Flickr through a Creative Commons license

In the 90s, as today, there was a surge of vampire fiction. And my friend and I - we'll call her Rei - were totally into it. Our favorite authors were Laurell K. Hamilton (this was well before the books had any sex in them) and L.J. Smith (she of Vampire Diaries fame, but Rei and I most loved the Night World series). Rei and I had a lot of classes together, and we used to love to talk about books, and about how awesome it would be if we could be badass vampire slayers.

Shut up, we were 15, and the epitome of over-imaginative.

Just for fun, I decided to write a story for Rei, that would star us as vampire slayers. And this is super embarrassing to write, but I also gave us vampire boyfriends. I spent a lot of time working on the story - I wrote it out all in a spiral notebook. I still remember the moment I gave her the notebook to read. She loved it, and for the rest of our high school years, we were forever plotting out the future adventures of Alyssa (my character's name) and Rei (her character's name).

For many, many years I thought I'd lost the notebook that contained the original story... but then a few years ago, I found it. And looking at it now... it's bad. Cliches galore (Alyssa has violet eyes*), all sorts of telling rather than showing, and completely nonsensical plot developments.

And yet, this story is still very precious to me, for a lot of reasons. One reason is that it gave me a gift of confidence - it was my first story that I finished because I wanted to, not for a school project. Before, I'd always given up on a story before it's end. I'm not sure anymore why it's such a big deal for beginning writers to finish a story, but with the writing of this one, I no longer felt that fear. And the confidence I gained was invaluable as I started to write more and more often in the upcoming years, until I finally had my first finished novel, and after that, my first published story.

And I haven't stopped yet.

*That would be Tamora Pierce's fault rather that romance novels; at that point in my life, I desperately wanted to be Alanna when I grew up.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

My First Story-- Sheena Boekweg

I started my first novel when I was in Elementary School. The Adventures of Peanut Butter and Julie was about a Plucky Young Heroine named Julie and her trusty pit bull Peanut Butter. It would be in the mood of my favorite book at the time, Me and Katie (The Pest). I wrote about two pages, where Julie eats breakfast with her mom, but I couldn't finish because I had a concept and a title AND no story.

Also, I was afraid of pit bulls, and changing it to a poodle named Peanut Butter made zero sense.

I do remember how fun it was to sit down at a computer and create something out of nothing. I remember working on it, and feeling like I was playing the best video game ever.

I still feel that way.

I guess then I must have written my first official story for a class. I was probably in fifth or sixth grade when I wrote it. It was about a Plucky Young Heroine who somehow traveled back in time and became a knight and battled a dragon. I don't remember much about it, just one line of description. When PYH wears her first armor, and she says the chain mail felt stiff like a pair of jeans that hadn't been washed in a month. I remember it, because I thought it was brilliant, and I remember it, because my mom came up with that sentence and let me use it.

But it was an assignment, so maybe it doesn't count as my first story after all.

I wrote a lot in junior High. At that time, I was crushing on boys, pretending I didn't need glasses, and wrapping my stomach with ace bandages to try to make myself skinnier. I also was carrying around a wire bound notebook full of my poems. I wrote poems all the time, mostly in math class, and they were kind of awesome. I remember one.

He who laughs the loudest, is trying to hide some pain,
but he who doesn't laugh at all, is probably insane.

Thank you, thank you.

I wish I still had that notebook, because there were some real gems in there, and it's sad to lose something that you've worked on. But in ninth grade, in a deep end of depression, I decided that nothing I wrote would ever be any good, so I lit it on fire. I told myself I destroyed it because writing didn't make me feel any better, and I worried that dwelling on my sadness made me sadder. So I held it in one hand, lit a match, and watched it burn. When the fire got too close to my fingers, I dumped it in a white bucket full of water. I threw the sopping half burnt notebook away in shame for having destroyed it, but mostly in shame for having created it.

That was the day I quit writing.

I started again in High School. I would write these monologues, and my amazing saint of a Drama teacher would let me perform them. I never wrote them down, so it didn't count as writing. I just would stand in my bedroom and make them up, and then perform them in the classroom that felt as much a home to me as anywhere I've ever been. My monologues were always pretty serious, but it didn't matter what I did, the kids in my class wouldn't stop laughing. I remember yelling at the class that this wasn't funny, which made the class laugh until they cried. I guess  they thought my stomping fits about taking this monologue I wrote about a girl who loved her water heater seriously, was part of the skit. So I made it be part of the skit, and I learned how to make people laugh. People laugh when you are honest in a loud way. I fell in love with making people laugh by telling the saddest truth I could find with the goofiest voice I could use.

But I had quit writing. I mean, I wrote songs, and musicals with my friends, monologues for fun, and dreamed about one day maybe writing a play, but I had QUIT writing. That was something the Sad version of Me did, and I wasn't her any more. I was a performer, and a comedian, and an actress.

And then one day I became a mom. That title felt like the only one I could hold in my hands while I carried a baby.

About that time, the Sad Version of Me became who I was again. I was depressed, and I thought that I should have been happy. I met my dream guy and had a beautiful baby, why wasn't I happy?

When my son was eight months old, he was napping in his room, and I had no place I could go. I had made a goal to not watch any television that February. I thought maybe that was what was making me so sad, so I was sitting on my couch, staring at the blank screen, wishing for a book. But I was carless, and I had read every single book in our two bedroom apartment.

My battered and exhausted mind decided to create a book for me.

There was a whole world in that story-- magic, religions, characters, history, cultures, details, snippets of dialogue. I grabbed a bound notebook, and spent the rest of the afternoon writing it all down as fast as the ideas came to me. And then, for about the next year, I would spend every nap time at my computer writing this story out.

It was awful. I called it The End. It was the first book in a series, (The End, The Middle, and the final book, The Beginning). It was a huge story, and I didn't have the skills yet to do it. I mean I didn't even know how to use quotation marks, or verbs, or descriptions, or actions, or any of it. I didn't know how to write. Let alone write a series set in a world where I had to invent all of the details.

I couldn't stop though.

Writing became my title. Writing became my Prozac. It made me sleep better. It made me a better mom. It made me happy. When it made me sad, I could with a few more chapters and a bit of imagination, turn it into a happy ever after.

And when my son was three, I found Hatrack. I found some amazing writer buddies, and this blog, and more stories, and more words. With time, I even figured out how to use quotation marks, and verbs, and descriptions.

So my First Story was called, The End.

It was my beginning.

Sheena Boekweg is the Author of Funny Tragic Crazy Magic , and coauthor of Alchemy. Alchemy's sequel Pyromancy will be out this fall, and Sheena has several other books forthcoming... when she's finally satisfied with them.

Friday, August 15, 2014

My First Melanie

Once upon a time, I was younger. But I wasn’t THAT young — after all, I had four small children – how young could I be? We had moved clear across the country, and sometimes that made me sad. OK, truth be told, sometimes it STILL makes me sad, but that’s another story.

Younger Me took my kids to a lot of classes. One of those classes was swim lessons at an outdoor pool about half an hour from our house. I loved these swimming lessons with all my young mommy heart, because while the older three took lessons, my youngest could play in the little kiddy pool. At ten o clock four days a week, six weeks a summer, you could find me soaking my toes in that lovely kiddy pool water, while my youngest boy slid down the frog’s tongue, or played in the water spurting from the whale’s spout.

I have this vision of me, which is probably totally inaccurate, standing in that water, my hands shielding my eyes from the sun’s glare. For just a moment, I’ve turned my back on all four of my children, and I’m staring into the parking lot. That is the moment when my very first story was conceived.

It was borne from that bizarre time when my old home no longer felt like home, but my new home didn’t always feel like home either. I missed my family and friends desperately, and yet I knew if I moved back I would miss my new life just as much. In a fit of melancholy, I took that feeling one step farther:

What if...a young wife from a different world (in my more morbid moments, she was even a young mother) got trapped in our world? What if there was no hope that she would ever make it back to her husband? Would there ever be a point when she would feel like he was dead and be able to start a life with someone else? And that moment, when I was staring out at the parking lot, I was channeling my inner Jenny, imagining the moment when she finally makes that choice, with tragic consequences.

It was the first and only story I ever wrote with a pen and paper. The first sentence was “Jenny stood in the kiddy pool.” It was figuring out what happened to get Jenny to our world that created my first novel, Hidden Magic. Angst practically dripped from the page. Oh my gosh, it was fun.

For the three or four of you who have actually read Hidden Magic, I’ll set your mind at ease and tell you that I have no plans to use that storyline when I write Hidden Magic’s sequel.

But…you never know.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

My First Story - The Year Was 1984

I'm sure I wrote stories here and there throughout elementary and middle school, but the first story I wrote with intent was called, "A Few Changes". I wrote it my freshman year in high school, for a Creative Writing class.

That was a lot of years ago.

I believe I typed it on my Commodore Vic20 (that's a computer, kids) that I had bought with my own money when I was ten. There was some sort problem between the computer and the printer because double letters would print randomly on the page. The one and only copy I have of the story is testament to that. We never did figure out the problem, nor did the geniuses at The Federated Group. No Geek Squad back then.

The story is about 500 words. Nowadays we would call that flash fiction. That term didn't exist when I wrote it. "A Few Changes" is a quirky little story about the end of the world - and there's a blatant Douglas Adams reference regarding Norway. For reasons I'll explain in the next paragraph, I hesitate to tell you any more.

The scary thing is, as I look over this manuscript – double letters and all – I'm thinking that with a little polish, there are a few pro markets I could send this to. That doesn't seem right, of course. But, why not? Wouldn't it be the funniest thing if 30-year-ago me actually knew how to get my third SFWA qualifying sale? So I am throwing down a challenge to myself. I am going to clean this story up and start submitting it. I'll keep you updated on its rejections and responses.

This is a funny parallel to something that happened a few days ago. In a quest for fodder for a new middle grade SF novel, I pulled out my 2009 NaNoWriMo book. This was the first, and only, time I did NaNoWriMo. The story was horrible, no two ways about it. The characters, however, are quite intriguing. I'm almost certain that I'm going to recycle them somewhere, sometime soon.

When we first start writing, before we have a clue what we're doing, I think we have an instinctual ability that emerges from enthusiasm and ignorance. This is why I never throw anything away, no matter how bad it is. I have stolen from myself countless times. Sometimes it's just a name, sometimes a concept, or even chunks of story line. Everything I know now built upon what came before it, so I see no reason not to re-use some of the bricks.

Go ahead. Take a look at your old work. Look for the gems in the pile of doody. You may be surprised at what you find. Past writer you might have been smarter than you think. At the very least, you'll be able to see how far you've come. And who couldn't use that little ego-boost now and again?

On the other hand, it might be good for a laugh, and that's never a bad thing.

Now, off to do a little editing on a certain old story…

Saturday, August 9, 2014

First Story -- Karen

First Story

Well, before I begin, I need to acknowledge this auspicious occasion. It’s my PROSERVERSARY! J I began writing with The Prosers just one year ago (*today* - honestly, the symmetry is so appealing.) This was my first post.

(I’ll do a small update in an afterward.)

But on to the fun for today. The other Prosers and I chatted this week about a topic we could each do our own take on, something kind of fun like a blog tour, but since we all blog together here it’ll all be in one place. So the topic we chose to write about is our First Story.

Unlike a lot of other writers, I haven’t always known I wanted to write. I didn’t grow up writing stories like a madwoman (like my 10 year old daughter does!) I journaled on and off for a long time, and saved those journals (hat tip to my 6th grade teacher, Mrs. Carroll, who told me that she kept her teenage journals so that when her boys were teenagers and were complaining that “you just can’t understand what it’s like!” she could shove her journals at them and say, “Um, yeah I can.”)

Instead, I fell into writing suddenly, like a meteor crashing down to earth. I started writing as a New Year’s resolution in 2007. After rediscovering reading and my love for fiction that prior holiday season, I just decided to start writing. I was instantly drawn to science fiction and writing for YA and MG (Middle Grade) ages because it was discovering the science fiction section in the library when I was about 12 that lit the fire of a lifelong reader under me. I couldn’t believe all these stories existed about adventures out in space. I dove so deeply into that section I think I read every single book my small school library had that was categorized as science fiction. Asimov, Heinlein, Douglas Adams. My first true loves.

It was a natural fit, then, to begin my writing career by trying to write my own science fiction tale, but one with a girl as the main character. As much as I loved the authors I had found, none seemed to be telling the stories about smart clever girls who were good students and interested in boys and nail polish and went on adventures. Did not seem like a hard thing to me! 

So with all that as a long intro, I bring you the opening to my first story, Apples on the Moon, which was a winner in a contest sponsored by the National Space Society and Hadley Rille Books (when I finally got the nerve up to submit it!) and appears in the Return to Luna anthology. It’s also available on all major ebook outlets as a 99c short story. Enjoy!

“Jack says a freighter drone from Earth’s due in tonight, C-Dock.” Julia said. She flopped down next to Ali on the bottom bunk of the room they shared. “His cousin is on shift. He said there are…” Julia paused for dramatic effect, eyebrows raised, “…Apples! And if we bring some credits he can arrange to get us a few, ahead of the rush.”    

“Apples! Are you sure?” Ali said. Her eyes narrowed. “You’re not just saying that to get me to go, are you?” Ali didn’t usually join in Julia’s Lunar Colony adventures.    

“No, I swear, Jack is positive. If I were telling you something to get you to go, I’d mention that Kofi will be there.” Julia winked. “Some of my friends from school too. Interested?” 

A mighty battle waged in Ali’s head as she considered Julia’s proposition. Kofi and apples; what could be better? Kofi was cute, and it had been at least three months since fresh fruit had come through the LuCol docks. But she had Molecular Physics homework due next week. And the thought of going out with all those kids had her a bit paralyzed. Ali wasn’t as sociable as Julia was. She had a few close friends, not a crowd of kids like Julia. Then again, she’d lost two friends to Earthside transfers this term alone. Her pool of acquaintances was shrinking fast.

Afterward: We lost my Dad on August 21, 2013. I miss him every day and still have that general feeling of “he’s just on a long trip.” A really long trip, eh? It’s hard to know how to be here in this post-Dad space, but we’re each finding our way. I realized in a roundabout way that the experience we had as a family--sharing our journey through Dad’s illness with our writing--was unique. Death is not a subject we discuss much here in the U.S., and our openness opened a lot of people’s hearts, and gave us the space, I think, to grieve out loud, something we so rarely give ourselves permission to do.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

My most anticipated upcoming books of this fall

I don't know if it's some sort of weird alignment of the stars or planets or publishing companies, but basically the second or third books in all my very favorite series are coming out this fall. Here they are, in order of excitement:

Blue Lilly, Lilly Blue - Maggie Stiefvater
October 21, 2014

There is danger in dreaming. But there is even more danger in waking up.
Blue Sargent has found things. For the first time in her life, she has friends she can trust, a group to which she can belong. The Raven Boys have taken her in as one of their own. Their problems have become hers, and her problems have become theirs.
The trick with found things though, is how easily they can be lost.
Friends can betray.
Mothers can disappear.
Visions can mislead.
Certainties can unravel.

I prefer not to have any thoughts about this book. If I do, I'll realize there are still months until it comes out, and then I'll realize that there's one more book in the series, and who knows how long until it'll be out, and then I'll start considering cryogenically freezing myself, and that never ends well.

Unmade -  Sarah Rees Brennan
September 23, 2014

This is the third in the trilogy, and the summary contains many spoilers. So here's the summary for the first book:
Kami Glass loves someone she’s never met . . . a boy she’s talked to in her head ever since she was born. She wasn’t silent about her imaginary friend during her childhood, and is thus a bit of an outsider in her sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale. Still, Kami hasn’t suffered too much from not fitting in. She has a best friend, runs the school newspaper, and is only occasionally caught talking to herself. Her life is in order, just the way she likes it, despite the voice in her head.
But all that changes when the Lynburns return. The Lynburn family has owned the spectacular and sinister manor that overlooks Sorry-in-the-Vale for centuries.The mysterious twin sisters who abandoned their ancestral home a generation ago are back, along with their teenage sons, Jared and Ash, one of whom is eerily familiar to Kami. Kami is not one to shy away from the unknown—in fact, she’s determined to find answers for all the questions Sorry-in-the-Vale is suddenly posing. Who is responsible for the bloody deeds in the depths of the woods? What is her own mother hiding? And now that her imaginary friend has become a real boy, does she still love him? Does she hate him? Can she trust him? 

I have done a terrible job of harassing people until they read this book. But I adore this series. There need to be more heroines like Kami. Also, Sarah Rees Brennan writes the most hilarious dialogue in the history of time. Here, have some example quotes:
“Hark,” Jared said, his tone very dry. “What stone through yonder window breaks?”
Kami yelled up at him, “It is the east, and Juliet is a jerk!”
Jared abandoned Shakespeare and demanded, “What do you think you’re doing?”
“Throwing a pebble,” said Kami defensively. “Uh… and I’ll pay for the window.”
Jared vanished and Kami was ready to start shouting again, when he reemerged with the pebble clenched in his fist. “This isn’t a pebble! This is a rock.”
“It’s possible that your behaviour has inspired some negative feelings that caused me to pick a slightly overlarge pebble,” Kami admitted.” 
“The Lynburns built this town on their blood and bones."
"That was their first mistake," Jared said. "They should've built a city on rock and roll.” 
“Put the jerk in the south wing, you won't see him for weeks at a time. Or lock him in the attic. The law will not be on your side, but literary precedent will.” 

Clariel - Garth Nix
October 14, 2014

Clariel is the daughter of the one of the most notable families in the Old Kingdom, with blood relations to the Abhorsen and, most importantly, to the King. When her family moves to the city of Belisaere, there are rumors that her mother is next in line for the throne. However, Clariel wants no part of it—a natural hunter, all she ever thinks about is escaping the city’s confining walls and journeying back to the quiet, green world of the Great Forest.
But many forces conspire against Clariel’s dream. A dangerous Free Magic creature is loose in the city, her parents want to marry her off to a killer, and there is a plot brewing against the old and withdrawn King Orrikan. When Clariel is drawn into the efforts to find and capture the creature, she discovers hidden sorcery within herself, yet it is magic that carries great dangers. Can she rise above the temptation of power, escape the unwanted marriage, and save the King?
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I still can't believe this exists.

This Shattered World - Amie Kauffman and Megan Spooner
December 23, 2014*
Jubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac should never have met.
Lee is captain of the forces sent to Avon to crush the terraformed planet's rebellious colonists, but she has her own reasons for hating the insurgents.
Rebellion is in Flynn's blood. Terraforming corporations make their fortune by recruiting colonists to make the inhospitable planets livable, with the promise of a better life for their children. But they never fulfilled their promise on Avon, and decades later, Flynn is leading the rebellion.
Desperate for any advantage in a bloody and unrelentingly war, Flynn does the only thing that makes sense when he and Lee cross paths: he returns to base with her as prisoner. But as his fellow rebels prepare to execute this tough-talking girl with nerves of steel, Flynn makes another choice that will change him forever. He and Lee escape the rebel base together, caught between two sides of a senseless war.

I really wish, when I'd first read These Broken Stars, that I'd known the trilogy was three loosely connected books all about different characters. In any case, TBS was one of those books I read at lightning speed, and I hope this one is just as well-plotted.

The Infinite Sea - Rick Yancey
September 16, 2014

Surviving the first four waves was nearly impossible. Now Cassie Sullivan finds herself in a new world, a world in which the fundamental trust that binds us together is gone. As the 5th Wave rolls across the landscape, Cassie, Ben, and Ringer are forced to confront the Others’ ultimate goal: the extermination of the human race.
Cassie and her friends haven’t seen the depths to which the Others will sink, nor have the Others seen the heights to which humanity will rise, in the ultimate battle between life and death, hope and despair, love and hate.

This was the first dystopian in a long time that didn't feel formulaic. Which means I have absolutely no idea where it's going next, and that's a great thing.

Indeed, this will be the autumn of Many Book Purchases. I can't wait.

Oh, and there's just one more thing coming out this fall:

*Shut up, this totally counts as fall. It's off by only three days, anyway.