A bridge over a beautiful waterfall

A bridge over a beautiful waterfall
Nature brings magic

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Writing Wednesday - Stop fighting about print books and e-books

This was shared by Joelle Casteel on Facebook on Tuesday. She shared it from Elizabeth Marx's page. I shared this as well once I realized that yes, I agreed with this. A book is a book no matter what form it's in. I'll read anything that's given to me in the genres I prefer, and even sometimes outside of my preferred genres.

Books were my best friends when I was growing up. The stories I read inspired me to write my own. I loved telling stories and would tell my little sister stories. I would tell children I babysat stories. Stories were my escape. I read them, I wrote them, I told them. They became my life.

Then I grew up and got a grown up job and had a grown up life. But I still read. I still loved a good story. I preferred reading to being with friends most of the time. So when I had free time, I'd read a lot of it. Don't get me wrong. I did grown up things and went out and had fun with friends too. But most of the time you would find me with a book in my hands.

Now, it's different. I no longer have a regular job. I get to pursue my writing full time. I'm working towards getting paid to tell my stories. But I still read. I don't have money to buy many books but I can and do download them for free off of Amazon. I've discovered some new writers that way whose books, when I have money to purchase things, will be among the first ones I get because I'm interested in seeing how things are going to play out with their characters.

I used to be one of those who favored printed books over e-books. Now I don't care what form it's in. If it's a good story and I can read it, let me read it. I don't think one is necessarily better than the other. I think it's all a matter of convenience and preference.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Tuesday Teaser - A Murder of Crows

Here's a little snippet from the other short story I'm considering for publication.

As Bailey passed by the mouth of an alley, a bright flash of color and light caught her attention. The most beautiful music she’d ever heard filled her mind and lured her out of the sunlight. She was so focused on the light that she didn’t see the raggedy woman lounging in an old refrigerator box.

“Hey, watch where you’re going,” the woman protested as the mesmerized teen bumped into the box.

“I’m sorry,” Bailey said, jolted back to reality by the woman’s harsh voice. “I was just…”

“You were chasing something special, weren’t you, girl?” the woman said with a wheezy chuckle. The wrinkles in her pale face twisted like a road map on her skin as she smiled. “Old Aya, she always knows when someone comes chasing one of them.”

“Them?” Bailey asked.

Aya held up her hand. The light Bailey was following fluttered down and settled just above the old woman’s palm. It darted here and there above the old homeless woman’s hand. It looked like she wanted to fly off but was held by something.“Interesting little thing, isn’t she?”

“What is she?” Bailey asked.

Aya smiled, showing a distinct lack of proper dental hygiene. “She’s a Glitter Wisp.” She extended her dirt covered hand. “Watch.” Aya closed her fingers around the light. It went out, and the music stopped. A moment later, Aya opened her hand again.

A piece of faceted yellow topaz glittered on her palm. Bailey’s eyes narrowed. “This is one of those stupid sleight of hand things, isn’t it?” she asked suspiciously. “My mom told me that there were a lot of street people who would try and beg money off of me with these kinds of tricks.”

“Your mom sounds like a sensible woman,” Aya said with a snort. “This is what happens when you catch a Glitter Wisp. It’s how they protect themselves. Otherwise the poor dears would be pecked to death by magpies and crows.” Bailey heard a rustling sound. She looked up, and saw a bunch of crows staring down at her. Aya set the crystal down on the edge of her box. “Watch.”

Monday, July 29, 2013

Monday Maundering - Another political rant

Himself brought something to my attention this past week that irritated the crap out of me. President Obama made a speech about how the Republicans are focusing on "phony scandals" rather than on the economy like they should. He says he's trying to help the middle class.

The middle class is muddling along as best as it can right now. They aren't as eager to spend and they have to pay higher taxes. So do we all. But the middle class isn't hurting near as bad as those of us who don't fit into the middle class mold. We are the poor, and I say to Mr. Obama...what about us?

Medicaid is supposed to be there to help families in need. Yet I can't get it because I make $58 too much to qualify for it in my state. There are no "free medical programs" to help me. I'm not poor enough (aka homeless and living on the streets) for the medical programs that are set up for indigent people. But I can't afford insurance. What happens in January when there's a fine for those of us who don't purchase insurance. I say, Mr. Obama, how am I supposed to afford insurance when I can barely afford the bills I have now? And you're going to penalize me by fining me because I don't have the money for insurance?

What about those people who are self-employed and don't have insurance because they've got a small income coming in? Why are they going to be penalized and probably forced to give up their businesses to get a corporate job just to satisfy the law in the Affordable Care Act that says people need to purchase insurance or get on Medicaid? Why isn't there a provision in there for the working poor who make too much money to get on Medicaid but too little to afford insurance?

I've heard people say the economy is getting better. Not from where I'm sitting. The unemployment rates are down. Not because people are finding jobs. Unemployment rates are down because people are dropping off unemployment because they've been on it too long or they've given up on finding a job and had their unemployment cut. I'm sure there are those out there who've found jobs but where's the numbers on those that have given up finding work to either go into business for themselves (and aren't making any money yet) and those that have been cut off because they've given up or run out of time on their unemployment? Where's the numbers on those who aren't working but aren't collecting unemployment? I'd like to see that factored in as well into our so called economic uprise. I think we'd be surprised by just how many people there are who aren't collecting unemployment but also aren't making any money.

Where is the economic stimulus for the lower class? Or would it be better if we all quietly faded away into nothingness? But if we did that, who would there be to do the grunt labor, the nastiest of the jobs, the things no one else wants to do? Who would there be to pick up the slack when the middle and upper classes don't want to do things? That's what we do. And that's why it is our class, and not the middle class, that needs more support and help.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sunday 'fess up - Anni had a normal week

There's not much to report on this week. Himself and I had a few spats but nothing out of the ordinary. I started working on Cracked World. I'm still waiting on my beta readers to see what they think of my two short stories so I can get them edited and out there for publication.

Himself raised a very good point yesterday, one that's stuck with me since our discussion. He asked me what the goals of my characters were and why they were following those goals. Marked had a fairly cut and dry premise. So does Cracked World. But Burning Dreams, Shifting Sands, and the as yet untitled third book in that arc don't have such a clear idea as to what the reason behind the goal is. So before I actually sit down to rewrite Burning Dreams and write the other two, I need to identify the goal and how to get there. I also need to identify why my characters are doing what they're doing and how they got involved in the story in the first place.

I've made the decision to go back to the evil day job. I've been on permanent disability for a few months now and I realized as many problems as I have, I can't not work at a regular job. It's like part of my identity is missing. I need the benefits anyhow so I'm going back to work. Probably starting at the beginning of September.

That's about it I think for this week. Make sure you check back often for my regularly scheduled blog posts.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Saturday Story Building - Genre and sub-genre/Fantasy

This week I want to talk a little bit about genres and sub-genres. Specifically, I want to talk about the fantasy genre and its myriad of sub-genres. If you want the complete list, you can go here. I'm just going to focus on a few of the many sub-genres here today.

Let's talk one that's gotten a lot of attention over the past few years: urban fantasy. Urban fantasy and its cousin paranormal romance are sub-genres of fantasy that focus fantasy elements on an urban setting. Usually it's a hero or heroine trying to deal with magical or supernatural forests in a city. Now the definition on that site shows that it can be past, present, or future. I contend that what we know as UF/PR is set in modern day. That fantasy set in the past is something different while UF/PR set in the future is better placed under the sci fi genre. The Forever Girl by Rebecca Hamilton, Greywalker by Kat Richardson, and the Black Dagger Brotherhood books by J.R. Ward are prime examples of UF/PR.

Then there's epic/high fantasy. This is more what I write. In epic fantasy, you have sweeping story arcs and grand adventures. Your characters are very well developed and you see them grow and change over the course of the story. Setting plays as much a key role in these stories as the actual characters do. The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien and The Song of Ice and Fire books by George R.R. Martin are fine examples of epic/high fantasy.

The list goes on and on and I could talk forever about the different variations on fantasy. But I'm going to stop there and let you investigate the list yourself. What is your favorite sub-genre of fantasy? Do you like all of them? What are some of your favorite books and where do they fall in the fantasy genre?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Thursday Thoughts - Rudeness - accidental or deliberate

Monday's post made me realize just how rude a person I can be. If someone calls me to talk business (usually bill collectors) I cut them off and don't let them finish talking. I won't make eye contact with cashiers. I don't answer them when they say hi to me. I brush off their questions or don't respond with more than a noncommittal sound. All of those things are actually quite rude, and I'm rather ashamed to admit I'm doing them.

How many of us do these things without thinking about it? How many of us go through out day without taking a moment to think of those around us? We may try to, but how many of us actually manage it all the time? I'm willing to bet not a single person on this planet can do that. Everyone has their off moments, no matter who they are.

What can we do to prevent ourselves from having these moments as often as we may have them? For starters, pay attention. You're not going to get anywhere with your focus solely on your cell phone or your iPod. You need to acknowledge that there is a world going on around you and interact with it, no matter how difficult that may be for you. (It is very difficult for me with my social anxiety, which is why I'm inadvertently rude to a lot of people.)

Speak to them as if they are people, not automatons. Treat them as you'd like to be treated were you in their place. You wouldn't want someone to come in, bark orders at you, and then ignore you the rest of the time. Or you wouldn't want someone running into you and screaming at you that it's your fault for being in their way. Yes, I've seen both of these happen. I've had them happen to me. I've done them to other people. It's not a pleasant realization but it's one I've had to come to.

We are a society enveloped in a world of insta-gratification. Instant coffee, computers moving quickly to get us what we need, ATMs to get our money, text messaging and phone calls for instant access to our peers. We need to slow down and remember there are other people in this world than just us and they need the same respect and courtesy that we would demand for ourselves.

So get off your cell phones, unplug your ears, slow down, and think about the people you're interacting with. The more courteous you are, the better you make their day. Isn't it worth it to make someone smile?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Writing Wednesday - Dystopia

What is dystopia? A blog post I read by John Joseph Adams defines dystopia with the following commentary: In a dystopian story, society itself is typically the antagonist; it is society that is actively working against the protagonist’s aims and desires. This oppression frequently is enacted by a totalitarian or authoritarian government, resulting in the loss of civil liberties and untenable living conditions, caused by any number of circumstances, such as world overpopulation, laws controlling a person’s sexual or reproductive freedom, and living under constant surveillance.

With the release of the trailer for Catching Fire I am reminded of why I refuse to see the movies. I can already tell it's going to deviate from the book enough that I'm not going to enjoy it. But some people who enjoyed the books may like seeing the movie. But I'm also intrigued. What is our fascination with dystopian society? It seems to have become a popular trend these days.

Dystopia is nothing new. Farenheit 451, 1984, and A Handmaid's Tale are also good examples of dystopian literature. What is it that fascinates us about these dark and twisted views of our future landscape? What is it that inspires us to try to understand the characters that populate these realms?

Perhaps it's our own fear of the unknown. Will our world be like these cold and bleak landscapes when the future comes? What would our world be like? Perhaps we're trying to get a glimpse into the darkness of our own souls, and that we desire to see the light come out in the victory of the characters in the end over their dystopian world.

I don't know what is so fascinating about dystopian literature. I just know I enjoy it. And one day I may try my hand at writing it again.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Tuesday Teaser - Bloodlines

I'm polishing up a couple of my short stories to see about getting them published. This is an excerpt from one of them.

Something inside her snapped. She turned, intending on dying with her brother and ending it all. Hands reached out of the darkness and pulled her through into another room. “Who are you and what are you doing here?” Ragged looking men and women glared at her, weapons pointed in her direction.
“My name is Ari,” Ari said, her voice catching. “I was looking for somewhere for us to hide.” Tears flowed freely down her face. “That was my twin brother that just got shot.”
“Ari Snyder?” A woman dressed in well-worn nurse’s scrubs came forward. “I don’t know, it’s been a while, but do you recognize me?”
Ari stared into the woman’s face. “Ruthie Hansen,” she said finally. “You were my sister Kloiee’s best friend at nursing school.”
“Wait, this is that bastard Malkim’s daughter?” a middle aged woman demanded. She pushed Ari back a little. “We should let the security patrol take her then. She and her plague rat brother brought the disease here and killed my babies.”
“No we didn’t. The disease was here before us. My brother was in the advanced stages. Alavedo Syndrome is only contagious in the early stages,” Ari snapped.
“How do we know that?” the woman persisted. “I mean, no one’s been able to isolate how it’s even spread.”
“Yes they did. The disease now known as the Alavedo Syndrome is passed through the air, much like the more virulent strains of the influenza virus in the twentieth century,” Ari said. “Alavedo Syndrome is actually a mutated variation on a viral strain that swept through the United States in the early twenty first century, killing hundreds of children and elderly, and crippling otherwise healthy adults.”
“How do you know that?” someone else asked.
“Her father was an epidemiologist,” Ruthie said. “He taught classes in disease prevention for the pre-med and nursing students at all of the major universities. He and his wife were very popular speakers on the lecture circuit when I was still in school.” Ruthie put a hand on Ari’s shoulder. “Your parents were very remarkable people.”

Monday, July 22, 2013

Monday Maundering - Stupidity in the world of customer service

I've discovered a, for me, highly entertaining website. Not Always Right is a collection of stories about customer service situations that you wouldn't think are in the norm. But after 20 years of working in some kind of customer service or front office role, I can tell you that I believe all of these stories are true. There are other "Not Always..." pages to look at and they're all rather amusing in a disheartening sort of way. But I specifically want to talk about Not Always Right.

Are people truly this fundamentally stupid? Maybe not all the time, but I can relate to so many of these stories it's not funny. I've been accused of being racist because I wouldn't give someone their own way. I've dealt with misogynistic assholes. I've even dealt with misandry and feminazis that wouldn't let a male help them even though I didn't know how to do what they were asking and had to ask my male co-worker to talk me through it. People like this actually exist out there.

Why are people so willfully ignorant? How can they get through life not understanding the basic rules of being out in public? Why do people in some cases still treat women like we don't know anything? In other cases, why do they treat women like we should know everything? Why get mad when someone doesn't know something? Why get mad when you're told no?

These are things that we as the consumer need to be aware of in ourselves. I've had to cut Himself off a few times when he's done things that would irritate or upset a cashier. I've blown up at cashiers when I was having a bad day. I've at least apologized for it, but too many people don't apologize and don't care that they've upset someone.

Take a look at a few of the stories on that website. Look at yourself in the mirror when you do and say, "I never want to end up on this site." Then do your best not to end up on the site. You never know who's watching.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Sunday 'fess up - Anni's had an interesting week

Well, this has been an interesting week both in a good way and a bad way.

The good way is I finished my first draft of Marked. I'm already thinking about how to edit it even though I'm going to leave it to sit for a month or two. I've read a few articles which make me realize what my story is missing. So I've made some notes and in a month or two I'll make those changes.

I've also got a couple of my short stories out for people to look over to see what they think. I'm going to shop those around in the near future to see if I can perhaps sell one or the other. I'm hoping to get something for them so I can at least say I've made a start at getting published.

Onto the bad. I found out that one of my student loan holders is taking $50 off my disability to pay for defaulted student loans. Now that may not seem like a lot, but when you're living on $801 a month, that money is vitally needed. So now we're looking for places to cut costs.

Well that's it for this week. I'm not very talkative today. We'll see what we can figure out for next week. Here's some music videos for your enjoyment.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Saturday Story Building - Writing fight and sex scenes

Let's be honest. I write epic fantasy, urban fantasy, and sci fi. Inevitably I'm going to have to write fight scenes and possibly, if I feel like it, the occasional sex scene. I went looking for some helpful advice on how to do just that. And I found it.

The first helpful article I found was this one. The writer of the post interviews two authors who have real world fighting experience about how to write a significant fight scene. One of the pieces of advice in this article is to go take a martial arts class. Or if you can't, spend a great deal of time researching different fighting styles. They also bring up the point that you don't have to mention every move by name. Being vague isn't always a bad thing in fight scenes.

Then there's this one. This is the first article I ever read on writing fight scenes. Some of the advice it gives is setting the scene before the fight begins. Have the characters visit the spot in an earlier chapter. They might not remember all the details but they're going to remember something. Another bit of good advice is about sentence structure. You don't want all of your sentences to be short. A few longer sentences with good, strong language works as well as the short sentences.

Now in regards to sex scenes, I found this article by Diana Gabaldon on writing sex scenes. In it she discusses the Rule of Three - if you use three of the five senses, it makes the scene three dimensional. She also brings up the point that sex scenes are as much about the emotions as about the actual physical activity of sex.

In this article from the Huffington Post, the author describes the conundrum of figuring out how much is necessary. He also talks about using appropriate language. He talks about how sex can be a physical failure and an emotional success.

This and this offer even more links to valuable resources. Take some time to research what these people have to say. You might be surprised at how much they help your writing.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Thursday Thoughts - Inequality of Women

I'm a woman. Did you know that admitting that (physical attributes aside) means I'm a second class citizen compared to men? I didn't either, until I started studying and learning things that the men in my life didn't want me to learn.

This epiphany came about years ago, when I was in college and studying to get my degree. I was originally going to study Business but I was "encouraged" by my counselor to study education instead. "Business is a man's world. Women belong teaching children, not running a board room." That was what I was told. And like a good little sheep I believed it.

Then I noticed that there were women studying Business. That they were more than happy to take the classes. So I made friends with one of these women and asked her what made her decide to study Business. Her response? "Because one day I'm going to open my own business and be my own boss, and I need to know how."

This was back in the mid 90's. Back then, it was rare to find anyone willing to give a female entrepreneur money to do anything. Most of the grants and loans went to men. That thankfully has changed, but still the gender inequality is there. Just as it lurks in the mainstream workplace as well. In fact, it's more prevalent in the mainstream workplace.

Women still get paid less than men. In one study done by the Institute for Women's Policy Research, it was found that in 2011 women made .77 to every dollar that men made. Now I don't know what the current figures are but I strongly doubt they've changed much in the last two years. It's a simple fact that even though more and more women have become the primary breadwinners in the family, they are still getting significantly less then men in the same positions.

Did you know that there are a lot of religions out there that emphasize the subjugation of women? Mormon, Catholic, most of the mainstream Christian faiths in fact, along with Muslims (though I will admit the Muslims are more extreme) try to force women into subservient roles in the family. Women are supposed to obey their husbands, take care of the home, and give birth to children to continue the cycle. I am appalled by this continued enforcement of patriarchy in our homes. Our society has moved beyond that. Women are free, independent, thinking beings who have recognized that we are such and for the most part are no longer willing to be subjugated by husbands and fathers. We need to encourage this, not try to enforce an antiquated notion of patriarchy that should have gone out of style in the 50's.

Look at every major religion and business in the world. How many women are in positions of power compared to men? There are far fewer women in those positions. The world is still a male dominated society. Something needs to change.

I'm not saying that there are jobs out there that women aren't as suited for as men. On the contrary, there are jobs where men are better at it than women. Just as there are jobs where women are better at it than men. What I'm saying is men and women deserve equal treatment and equal pay for the equal work that they do. A fair and equitable wage for everyone should be the norm, not based on gender stereotypes and racial profiling.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Writing Wednesday - Indie publishing

In an article at CNN.com titled "If it's cool, creative, and different, it's indie," journalist Catherine Andrews wrote:

"The term 'indie' traditionally refers to independent art -- music, film, literature or anything that fits under the broad banner of culture -- created outside of the mainstream and without corporate financing."

According to the Independent Book Publishing Professionals Group:

Like other independent artists, many indie book publishers face challenges that the industry giants don't experience. We typically have to work a lot harder to get our books into retail stores (or our authors onto Oprah) and ultimately into the hands of readers. As Chris Anderson reports in his bestselling business book The Long Tail:

"More than 99 percent of music albums on the market today are not available in Wal-Mart. ... Same for any other leading retailer and practically any other commodity [including] books... The vast majority of products are not available at a store near you."

So what is indie publishing? Indie publishing is going outside the normal run of agents/big publishers and going it on your own. You can self-publish, or you can go with a small press that publishes your book but leaves you to do all the work to get it places. It means not having as much help getting your books onto bookstore shelves. But it also means literary freedom, to write what you want and to express yourself in a way that may not be as acceptable in the mainstream marketplace.

Many indie authors have gone the e-book route. You can find hundreds of e-books published by indie authors on Amazon. That doesn't necessarily mean they're all good. For every good e-book out there, you're going to find a dozen that needed professional editing or shouldn't have been published at all. But now, in the digital age, anyone can be a writer.

Linda Gillard, a successful indie author has this to say about measuring success as an indie author:

As indies, we too are in danger of being driven by commercial rather than artistic concerns. One of the reasons we might be tempted down that road is that practically the only way you can get taken seriously as a writer is by earning shedloads of cash or winning a big prize. There's almost an artistic imperative to be financially successful so that the world (or at least the media) will hear your message and appreciate your talent

Well, even though I have a lot of them, I'm trying to work out for myself if an indie author actually needs readers to be "successful". Success for me is saying what I wanted to say in the way I wanted to say it, then putting it out there in a format that's accessible even to those with a low income.

To be sure, I love the regular income indie e-books have generated for me but by my own definition I was "successful" the minute I uploaded the novel no one would publish -- the one my own editor said was "unmarketable" and "in dire need of a re-write".

Success for me equals creative freedom. I know plenty of allegedly successful  authors who don't have that.

So what does define a successful indie author? I think that's for the author to decide themselves. Some feel they're successful if they just get their books out to a reading population. Others look at the money they make as what drives their success rate. It truly all depends on the personality and the goal of the author.

Is indie publishing better than traditional publishing? I can't say one way or the other. I can say it's different, and new, and change is often frightening for those who don't want the world to change. But I say let's open the world to everyone. Let's see what happens.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Tuesday Teaser - Birth of the Silver Lady

This is kind of a prequel to Marked. This is the background and the origin of the woman who eventually becomes the goddess known as the Silver Lady. Here's just a snippet of what she was like as a mortal child.

Liadran went to bed still thinking about it. She couldn’t sleep, tossing and turning as she continued her persistent self analysis. Finally just past midnight, Liadran closed her eyes and the answer came to her.
The next morning she barely managed to wake herself up in time. She got up, bathed, dressed, and ate breakfast. Awnan ignored her yawns and her obviously sleep deprived eyes. “Well? Do you have an answer?” he asked when she returned from taking care of their dishes.
“I think so,” Liadran said. “I think it’s because I don’t want things to change. While I didn’t practice magic, I could pretend I was just here to read books and learn that way. I was still Artan’s younger sister and his ward, and I could go home someday. But I can’t go home because I’m not just that little girl anymore. I’m going to be a mage. I’m going to be somebody important and I don’t want to be somebody important.”
“Let’s take that and break it down then,” Awnan said. “First, you are here to learn what I have to teach you. Some of that will be from books. The rest will be from practical application of what you learn from those books and other lessons I teach you. There is nothing stopping you from going home once you’re fully trained. You could easily return and be your brother’s house mage, though I would recommend highly against it. People would think you’d weigh in more favorably in his direction if something came up that you had to arbitrate. As to being important, you don’t have to be important to be a mage.”
“I thought mages were the most important people in the empire, except for the High Lords and the Imperial family,” Liadran said.
“We hold a great deal of power, but there are far more of us who prefer to keep to the background and focus our attentions on our studies rather than do anything to draw unwanted notice,” Awnan said. “I’m a mage and a spell weaver, and that’s enough notoriety for me. I study, I take the occasional apprentice, and when something is needed that fits my specific abilities I take care of it and go back to my preferred obscurity.”
“So I can read and study if I want when I’m trained?” Liadran asked.
“There is a great deal of material to study in this coven house, and even more in Lythan if you are good enough to go there to continue your studies,” Awnan said. “You will find much to keep yourself busy with if you choose to go that route.”
“But I’m still going to be someone different. I’m not going to be me anymore,” Liadran said.
“Who are you? You’re a child yet. You haven’t discovered who you are. You have preconceived notions of who you think you should be, perhaps some idea of who you wanted to be, but you are still discovering yourself. Don’t set your life in stone so early, Liadran. No one knows what the gods have in store for them,” Awnan said. “Now, come with me to the work room.”

Monday, July 15, 2013

Monday Maundering - Random thoughts

I thought I'd treat you all to an example of my stream of consciousness thoughts, but really, I don't think anyone wants to spend time in my head. My thoughts tend to run chaotically and in all directions so I'm not sure where that would take us.

What is it about money? I mean, I understand that everything in this world has a price. We just have to find it and pay it. But really, why can't we trade skills and goods for other things instead of using money? Like Himself. He's pretty handy with a computer. He could trade computer maintenance for food. Or building a web site for gas. Then again, people wouldn't be able to agree on the value of the goods or services they were trading so I suppose money is a necessary evil.

Then there's this. According to the update, they're finally allowing women their pads and tampons back. But really, they're afraid women are going to throw their sanitary products at people? When guns are allowed in, which I would think would be the more dangerous option? I always knew Texas had issues but this is just ridiculous. Then again, a lot of things happening in Texas are pretty ridiculous these days.

A lot of things happening everywhere are pretty ridiculous these days. The ongoing war against women has got to stop. It's getting so being female is a crime. To paraphrase a quote from one of my favorite movies: "They're in our homes and in our heads. They tell us what to do, what to think, what to say. They're meddlesome, and they haven't the right." The government needs to back off and leave us alone.

Then there's what happened in Florida. How could they let Zimmerman off without having him pay a price for killing Trayvon Martin? He disobeyed the cops. He stalked the boy. He shot him and killed him with no provocation. Yes, he said he was defending himself. Yes, it's possible Trayvon was fighting him. But what if Trayvon was the one in fear for his life and he was defending himself? Did no one stop to consider that? Obviously not. And then there's the poor woman who got 20 years for firing a gun at her abusive husband. There are mitigating circumstances in that case as well, but she didn't hurt anyone. She was skilled with a gun. She knew what she was doing. She doesn't deserve 20 years in prison for defending herself.

I could ramble on about various things but I think that's enough for today.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Sunday 'fess up - Anni had a pretty good week

Well, it's that time again.

This past week hasn't been too bad. I got a weekly appointment moved to the afternoon on Fridays because 9 am was just too hard on me and Himself. We've worked out some financial difficulties we found ourselves in. And my roommates finally got us a new hot water heater so no more driving to my dad's for a hot shower or biting the bullet and taking a freezing cold shower. (Those were not pleasant.)

On the writing front, I surpassed my 60k goal for this month and I'm still going. I still fully intend on finishing Marked by the end of July and I'm on track to do that. On  Friday I had a little issue where I'd written myself into a plot hole big enough to drive a semi through. So I ended up backtracking 100 pages or so and starting from that point to rewrite the scenes to get rid of the plot hole. I didn't have to delete much, which made me a lot happier. But I got everything sorted out and this plot hole is gone. I'm sure I'll find more when I go back to edit, but this particular hole was preventing me from moving forward so I had to take care of it now.

That's it for this week's 'fess up. See y'all next week!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Saturday Story Building - Putting it all together

I've talked about different pieces of building up a story. I've talked about the research, the character sketches, the world building. Now the question is, once you've gotten all this information, how the heck do you put it all together for a story?

The first thing you have to do is decide how much of that information you're going to use. You can have an entire novella/novel length book of world building, but is all of it really necessary for the story you're telling? Most likely not. You have to choose the most important items out of all of that work you did and find a way of putting them into the story. You might not have a purpose yet for that dissertation you wrote on the culture of a foreign country, but save it. You can use it in another story.

Characters. You've written these beautiful character sketches. If you're like me, they've got more information in them than you're likely to use. I tend to add a full background, a list of likes and dislikes, and maybe if I'm ambitious what their favorite foods/colors/etc. are. I don't do that lat one very often but I do tend to be very thorough in creating my character sketches.

Obviously, all that lovely information isn't going to make it into the book. If it does, you're probably going to bore your reader. So how do you decide which is the most important information? Think about how your story is going to go. Pinpoint the most important details that you can share in the story and make note of them. Those are the details you're going to use for your story.

Now, about that research you did. You've probably done a lot of reading and note taking on several different subjects. At least, you have if you're like me. You have all this lovely, useful information. The question again is how much are you going to use? That obscure culture you researched and referenced in your notes may be wonderful for a story some day but is it pertinent to the story you're working on now?

Once you've sorted your information out, then you can start writing your story. And even here you've got options. You can be a plotter - build yourself an outline, lay out precisely how your story is going to go, and work from that. Or you can do what I do - figure out the beginning and the end, and come up with a rough idea of some of the events you'd like to have in the story. And then just start writing and hope everything comes out all right in the end. Or you can avoid all of these steps and just start writing. Hey, it's all fixable in edits, right?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Thursday Thoughts - Religion

I know this is a touchy subject for some, but I wouldn't be true to myself if I didn't post some of my thoughts on religion. This is my soapbox so feel free to disagree with me. Do not try and preach at me, however. You will be ignored.

Let me start out by saying that I started out my life in one of the Christian religions. To be precise, the LDS faith. I was weaned on the stories from the Book of Mormon. I was taught church history and how our view of the world was the "one true way". I grew up believing it. Then a defining event happened that made me realize just how corrupt the LDS church really was. I was excommunicated at 21 for having a girlfriend. I haven't looked back.

I've attended a few other purely Christian denominational services. I've come to realize that I do NOT believe in the Christian concept of god as based on the bible. Everyone is taught that god is a good and loving god, that he is merciful and kind. He's nothing of the sort. He's a vengeful, jealous, murderous bastard. Just read the bible and you see that.

I neither believe in heaven or hell in the common concept of those. I believe that our lives can be heaven or hell here on Earth, depending on how we live and what we do with those lives.There are things that are bad in this world, things I would class as purely evil, but people have that freedom of choice. We may not like the choices some people make. We're not required to. But everyone has free will and has the right to exercise that will. They just have to be ready to face the consequences of their actions. Their punishment will come at the hands of other people, not some faceless god.

Now, interestingly enough, I believe that Jesus existed. Not that he was the son of god, but that he was a wise and gentle teacher who taught such radical thinking that the high priests had to get rid of him before he screwed up their gig. I believe he was crucified for his beliefs. That was a common enough occurrence in those days. I don't believe he came back from the dead. I also believe his teachings stuck around and that's where we get the early vestiges of the Christian faith.

What do I believe in? Well, that's a good question.

I believe that a person's spirituality is largely a matter of personal study and experiences. I believe that everyone has a choice in their lives. I believe that everyone should be allowed to face the consequences of their choices. I believe that suffering in some way is inevitable, but how we deal with that pain is entirely up to us. We can let it destroy us or we can let it make us stronger. I believe that when we die we don't go to a predetermined place of rest. I believe our energy is recycled into this world and goes on in one form or another.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Writing Wednesday - The Art of Writing a Short Story

I am a novella/novel writer. The art of writing a short, gripping story eludes me. I've written a few shorter stories, but they never seem to be finished. Or I don't develop them well enough to pass muster. They always seem to be lacking something, and I find myself trying to turn them into novellas or full length novels rather than figuring out what I can do to make them more compact and work as a short story.

I've found some interesting articles on my search for advice. This one and this one I found particularly interesting. I love how in the second article they refer to short story writing as the "garage band of science fiction". They have a point. Short stories are a great way to experiment and try something new that you haven't done before, without putting too much of an investment of time (compared to a novel) into it.

In close, let me share with you one of the reasons I think I'm not a good short story writer. This is the shortest story I've ever written. I've tried polishing it and I don't get very far with it. This is a rare case where I don't want to turn it into a novella/novel but the story premise is interesting to me.


Small feet pattered across the cracked tile floor.  Two figures in flowing white nightgowns crept along, stifling giggles as they slipped along towards the spiraling staircase leading to the rest of the house.  A tiny bell chimed discordantly from down below.  They paused just at the top of the stairs.

The only light below came from the moon shining through the broken windows.  She sat on a worn settee and stared out at the encroaching rose bushes.  Thorns as long as her hand gleamed wickedly in the silver light, looking like strange and twisted daggers.  She knew the children were there.  The giggling was unmistakable.  She didn’t look up, though.  It was too heartbreaking for her to see their smiling faces.

She closed her eyes and prayed for sleep to come.  It didn’t.  It never did.  Not since that day.  She fingered the pendant around her neck and cursed her husband.  Her imprecations didn’t matter, however.  Her husband was dead, buried, and turned to dust.

The children giggled again.  She sighed.  “Back to bed with you,” she called.  Her voice echoed strangely in the night.

The giggles took on a faintly dark tone.  “Why mother?  We want to stay up and watch the moon too,” her daughter said.

It was her daughter’s voice – and not her daughter’s voice.  Her precious little Light never used to have that soft growl in her dulcet tones.

“Don’t you love us, mother?”  That was Gale.  His piping voice held the same quality as his sister’s.

“You know I love you,” she said, rising from the settee.  Agony ripped through her heart as she turned to stare into the faces of the young imps staring down at her.  Oh they had the look of her lovely Light and her sweet Gale.  But no matter how much she wished differently these weren’t her children.

Like her husband, her children were dead.  These shades that stared at her with their dark eyes glittering like a pair of onyx stones were just another facet of her punishment.  She walked slowly towards the stairs.  Her tangled hair brushed against her back and the tattered remnants of her nightgown stirred up dust on the broken tiles.

“Mama, tell us a story,” Light begged.  She smiled cruelly.  “Tell us the story.”

She stopped, swaying a little on her feet.  That wasn’t a request she’d heard for a long time.  She halfway hoped she’d never hear it again.  “The story?” she asked hesitantly.

“Yes! Yes!” Gale shouted, jumping up and down.  He looked like a little boy pleading for his favorite treat.  As long as you could overlook the twisted smile splitting his face.

She bowed her head.  “Come down here and join me then,” she whispered.  She returned to the settee.  The children scampered down the stairs and climbed into her lap.  Their little bodies were cold and hard as they squirmed around in her lap.  They settled into comfortable positions and waited.

“Tell us, mama,” Light demanded.

“Once upon a time, there lived a beautiful and vain woman who was blessed with two of God’s angels,” she began.  “A happy little girl and a loving little boy.  But she couldn’t see that blessing.  Instead she saw how the children prevented her from living the life she wanted.”  A tear slid down one cheek.  “Her husband was a kind man who couldn’t understand why his wife didn’t love the angels as much as he did.  She did love the angels, just not in the way they deserved.”

“What happened next, mama?” Gale asked when she paused.  

As if you don’t already know, she thought bitterly. She cleared her throat.  “One night, the woman was sitting by the window dreaming and singing to herself.  The angels came downstairs because they’d had bad dreams.  The woman, angry with the interruption in what was the only time she had to herself, scolded them instead of offering them comfort.  The children ran from her back up to their room.”  Her hands trembled and the words choked her.

“Go on, mama,” Light said, no longer making any pretense at being the angelic child she portrayed.  Her eyes flickered a restless crimson, like the flames of that terrible night.

“One of the angels knocked over the candle used to guard against the night,” she said.  “Their mother ignored their screams until it was too late.  All of the upper part of the house was aflame and the angels were dead.  The woman was blamed at first but her grief made the authorities believe her when she said it was an accident.  Her husband never forgave her, though, and she was cursed.  She was forced to live in the house that had been the scene of both her greatest happiness and her greatest regret.  And there she lives to this day.  She is unable to die and unable to forget.  She watches as the world she knew leaves her behind.”

“What else?” Light demanded.

“She is haunted by her angels who have become demons to punish her for her crime,” she said in a barely audible voice.

Light giggled delightedly.  “We’re going to be together forever and ever, aren’t we?”  She wrapped her bony arms around the woman’s neck and hugged her.

“Yes, Light.  We’ll be together forever and ever.”

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Tuesday Teaser - The Huntress

This is another one of my WIPs, a story I'm not sure how I'm going to finish but I thought the start of it was pretty fun.

Rachel grabbed the last of her stuff and headed out to her car. She slipped a wireless earbud into one ear. “Did you have to wait so long to put this back in?” the irritated voice of Mik, one of her security experts, snapped in her ear. “I was getting worried.”
“I had a run in with a puffed up soccer mom. No one got hurt and I actually got Raven a discount for a new daycare, if she wants it,” Rachel said.
“That's good news,” Mik said. He didn't say which one was the good news. “Well, Red, you've got a full house tonight.”
“That's not unusual for a Friday night,” Rachel said. “Any trouble?”
“Not from the regulars but there's a uniform making the rounds that's making people nervous. Any time Junior gets close to him he shies off and runs to the opposite side of the room,” Mik said. “Junior hasn't gotten a good look at his face.”
“That means he's someone who's a KOS. Tell Junior to have the other bouncers corner the uniform and drag him over to Junior if they have to,” Rachel said. “I'll be there as soon as I can.”
“All right,” Mik said. “If he is a cop, we'll have charges on our hands.”
“You're recording what he's been doing, right? We'll say we thought he was a fake and wanted Junior to take a look at him,” Rachel said.
“Well, we do and that's not a lie,” Mik said.
“Let me know what Junior finds out,” Rachel said.
“I will,” Mik said. “Ah, they've gotten him cornered. Junior's coming over to him now.”
Rachel waited for an update patiently as she sat in rush hour traffic. About fifteen minutes and a whole two traffic lights later, Rachel finally gave up waiting patiently. “Well? Which KOS is it?”
“It's not a KOS exactly, but it isn't someone you're going to be happy about,” Mik said.
“Who is it?”
“It's one of Garrison's lap dogs,” Mik said. “He says he's looking for you in regards to a case.”
Rachel groaned. “Really? They can't go pester one of their other occult specialists?” Rachel was looked on in some circles as a specialist in some of the more obscure occult occurrences. Most of what she knew came from personal knowledge, and what wasn't personal came from books that her favorite New Age bookstore was unafraid to order for her. Her personal library was large and very eclectic.
“He's not giving details but I think Garrison wants to talk to you,” Mik said.
“I'll call Junior. Tell him he needs to answer his cell phone when it goes off,” Rachel said. She gave them a few minutes to tell her head bouncer and business partner to answer his phone. She set up the hands free unit at the next light. “Call Junior.” The voice recognition program processed her request and his phone started ringing.
“Red's Place,” Junior said, answering his phone on the third ring.
“How many times have I told you to answer the phone with the actual business name?” Rachel asked. “What's going on?”
“Hey Red. I'll answer my bloody phone however I want so quit bitching. And one of Garrison's men is here,” Junior said. “He's been acting weird all night so it took us cornering him to get him to finally tell me what the fuck was up. He's scared of me for some reason. I can't figure out why. He's not one we've seen before.”
“He's probably a sensitive. You know that bunch always ends up working for Garrison,” Rachel said. Captain Dominic Garrison was Rachel's personal annoyance. She'd encountered him at the bookstore and ended up in a conversation with him prior to knowing what his affiliation was. Garrison, as he'd sworn he preferred to be called, was the commander of the Occult Crimes Unit of the state police.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Monday Maundering - Music

Music. How many times have we been doing something when a song pops into our head? Or an event reminds us of a song? Or a song reminds us of an event? How many of us have a special song that we share with our significant others, that means something to us? Parents sing lullabies to their children. Schools teach music as a way of teaching cultural appreciation to children. Some of the greatest theatrical triumphs come from Broadway musicals. Music is the soundtrack to our lives.

I don't know about you, but I can't write without music of some kind playing in the background. Rock, classical, techno, whatever fits the mood I'm in that's what's generally playing. I thought for today's post I'd share some of my favorite music with you. (The ones I can find on youtube at least.)

The Promise - Krypteria

Why - Krypteria

Pachelbel - Canon in D

Lindsey Stirling - Phantom of the Opera

Heather Dale - Mordred's Lullaby

I have so many more I could put here, but this is just a sample of what I listen to. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Sunday 'fess up - Yes, Anni's bringing this back

Hello all!

Any of you long time blog followers remember my SFU posts? You know, where I'd talk about my week and my writing. Mainly about my writing. And just other general life stuff? Well I'm bringing them back.

Aren't you all excited? ;)

Now, for those of you who missed the post I made about this (I did make a post about it didn't I?) I'm trying to finish the first draft of Marked, formerly known as Only A Name, by the end of July. So far, I'm on track to complete that goal. I'm using Camp Nano as an excuse to write as much as I can every day and it's working. While I'm not updating as frequently on the Camp Nano site, I am still tracking my word count and it's progressing nicely.

Of course, that does lead to the inevitable blocked moments when I run into a brick wall. I ran into one of those last night when I tried to think of a name for a creature they were fighting (I figured it out finally). And now, I'm in a boring part of the story and I don't want to write it but I know I need to so I can progress with the story. It's a short boring part but it still has to be written. (Even if it'll probably get changed in edits.)

I've changed up my blog post schedule a little bit going forward too. From now on (or until I change my mind again) Sunday is back to the SFU and Tuesday is for the snippets. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday will stay the same. Friday I'm taking a day off my blog.

Well, I've abused the parenthesis enough for one blog post. See you all next week on the SFU!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Saturday Story Building - Spreadsheets and story notes

Last week, I put up something about world building as my post. I mentioned a spread sheet of ideas. In a comment I received, the question was posed, "What do you mean by a spreadsheet of ideas though? I can't quite see that in my head. Would it be possible for you to maybe put up an image for example?"

So I've decided to include a couple of my spreadsheets to show you what I do. The first spreadsheet is a character list. I list each character in my books, three characteristics, basic hair/eyes information, and any other notable physical characteristics.

The other spreadsheet I'm going to show you is the one I used to sort out my races. It's very much like the character one, except that it has different information required on it.

I also leave myself notes on things, whether it's a character who decided to pay me a visit or a dream that won't go away.

However you keep track of your world building and story ideas is fine if it works for you. This is just a small example of what I do for my projects.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Thursday Thoughts - War

How many wars have we fought in? As a nation, we have fought in twelve wars. That's twelve wars in 237 years. We're still trying to get out of Afghanistan, which is just the latest in a long string of conflicts that the United States has gotten involved in. Over a million people have died fighting for our country.

In the Revolutionary War, a rough estimate of deaths is 25,000. That may not seem like a lot, but to the population of the states at that time, that was huge. We lost 625,000 soldiers during the Civil War. That was the war with the highest casualty rate out of all of the conflicts we've been in.

What am I trying to get at here? As we all go out and celebrate the 4th of July in our own way here in America, let's take a moment to thank all of the men and women who've died to protect this country and our independence. Let's take a moment to spare a thought for all of those who still defend our country to this day.

And let's remember to be grateful to all of them, for our freedom.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Writing Wednesday - WIPs...how many do you have?

I don't know about you, but I have a lot of projects that I want to work on. I've got an entire list of stories that I want to write, and I'm coming up with new stories on a regular basis. I have a running folder on my computer filled with half written story bits and notes for possible stories.

I have trouble just sticking to one story at a time. I usually want to work on more than one project. If I get bored or stuck, I always have another project to work on. The problem is I don't always go back to the first project until months later and by that time I've forgotten where I was going. So I'm trying an experiment this time around. I'm giving myself a time limit and I have to finish my first draft in that time limit.

I can't mess about with any of my other half finished manuscripts. I have to focus on this one. And it's hard. I'm used to jumping from story to story and I keep getting random ideas for other stories that I want to work on. But I'm standing firm and I'm going to achieve my goal of finishing this current first draft by the end of July.

That doesn't mean I don't have multiple WIPs though. Right now, counting the one I'm working on right at this moment, I have six stories that I could be working on. All of them are in varying states of completion. Two of them only have the first page written but I could always go and add some more to them, no problem.

How many WIPs do you have, and how do you decide which one you'll be working on?

Monday, July 1, 2013

Monday Maundering - Religion vs. Science

I got into a couple interesting conversations this past week and it got me thinking. I am not a religious person by inclination. I believe that spirituality comes from within, not without. I believe that people choose their own paths in life, not that they were predestined to do anything. I believe people have free choice and those choices are inspired only by their own minds, not by any outward influence save that of their environment, upbringing, and mental state.

One of the conversations I got into was regarding Adam and Eve. If you think about it, Adam and Eve were the first humans. They had at least two sons. We all know the story of Cain and Abel. So...who was Cain copulating with when he produced his children? Adam and Eve were the only people on the planet, other than their sons. But Genesis tells us Cain found other people. So were there other Gardens of Eden? Other people like Adam and Eve? Where did these other people come from? Adam and Eve had other children. Who did those children marry to produce their children which ultimately led to the population of the world?

What about when the flood wiped out humanity, except for Noah and his family? How did we avoid inbreeding irregularities when the children of his children only had each other to marry? How did humanity get to the point it is today without the host of problems you see in families too closely related? How did we end up with so many varyingly different peoples if we're all descended from the same stock?

I found no answers to my questions.

My second question revolved around how science has shown that we did evolve and change as we spread out over the world. It has also tried to prove how the universe was created, and has done a good job of it. Where is god in all of this? If he created the world in seven days, where did the dinosaurs come in? Where did the neanderthal and the other primitive lives that were found to exist prior to us come from?

No one can answer these questions for me. I find myself questioning a lot of the beliefs I grew up with lately, and would love to hear some insight from others.