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Easing into the Second

Fleshing out the outline, laying down scenes.

When I first attempted an NaNoWriMo fifteen years ago, I thought the hardest part of completing a novel was getting all the way through the first draft.


Today, ten first drafts sit in a folder on my laptop. They stand as part of that “million words” a writer has to write before getting down to the business of finishing a novel. (Though, if we’re counting, that million was long done in the stacks of paper journals filled before my typing got faster than writing longhand–and before regular changes in residence meant I had to haul around paper journals.)

Scale of the Shadow Dragon got special treatment because it’s for my daughter. Yes, the added compulsion to do something for another inspired me to finally give an MS the time it needed–and give me the time I needed to learn about the pitfalls of re-drafting a full novel.

Anyway, here I am with the second book. I’m determined not to fall into the same trap I had with the first: early fiddling and late detailed outlining.

The Pants-er had her day; it’s the Plot-ers turn. I’m letting Dramatica give me a hand. In previous NaNo’s I would use Dramatica’s Story Expert (back then it was just Dramatic Pro) to generate ideas. I found myself going back to it late in SotSD when confronted with plot holes I’d glossed over in the original draft. This time I thought I’d work the whole program, letting its engine suggest options, but not slavishly adhering to them. I’m finding it helpful in brainstorming the details. It takes patience. The Pants-er in me keeps wanting to dive into the Scrivener file and bang out more scenes. I let that part of me have the first and last segments of a writing session–with the understanding that those scenes may never see the light of a printed page.


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Seven Questions: Mark A. King

Mark was instrumental in the founding of FlashDogs, a community I really needed when new parenthood had me feeling literarily isolated. His incredible talent can be found in his new novel: Metropolitan Dreams.

Reblogged from Emily June Street’s blog (another amazing writer, FlashDog, and all-around inspiration)

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Microcosms-Flash Fiction

To cleanse the palate between finishing The Scale of the Shadow Dragon and moving ahead on another draft of the second book, I jumped back into a weekly flash fiction contest.

Microcosms is a Friday weekly flash contest run by Flash Dog @GeoffHolme. There’s a theme that gives multiple elements. You spin the wheel and get three elements to fold into a 300-or-less-word flash.

This week, the elements were drawn from the new LEGO movie. My wheel-spin yielded this: adolescent sidekick/warehouse/SFF.

Dinner was late last night and it’s all your fault, Geoff!

Enjoy “Plot Device”

He gives you the warehouse gig because he knows what’s lurking in there.

You asked for it, though, asked to take a more active role. After all, you’d earned your black belt before popping your first pimple. Certainly you can handle more than merely cuffing the criminals once he’s incapacitated them with excessively-showy roundhouse kicks. You’re not complaining or anything, but you think you could figure more in the crime fighting.

“Fine,” he relents—pretends to relent, rather. “You want to go it alone?” He scans the commissioner’s alert log.

“Alone? No! It’s just—” you try to argue. You still consider the two of you a team, but the more puberty does in shaping your cheekbones and carving your scrawniness into muscle, the more impatient he’s grown with you. He doesn’t ruffle your hair like he used to.

“Commotion at the warehouse,” he reads, as if he’d picked it randomly.

“Wait, we—”

He tosses you the keys to the Chiroptera Copter and ducks into the Secret Lab. You hear the click of the lock behind him.

Your shadow stretches into the warehouse. Something enormous and alien slides over oily cement. Out of the darkness, a snaky appendage whips around your ankle and hauls you toward the rafters. It rumbles with a hunger that could swallow the moon. You barely make an appetizer.

The alien maw slams around you, and you realize what’s been going on all along: you were never the sidekick. You were placed here to give the hero a backstory. Your demise will make it harder for him to bond with the real sidekick, the pluckier one, the more baby-faced one. One that won’t upstage the rugged handsomeness of the hero.

Yep, loss lends layers, like the easily dissolved parts of your spandex costume.


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Okay, back to the Platform

Forgive me writerly blog, I’ve been away–but I have a good reason: I was completing my first novel.

What a decade of double-winning NaNoWriMo has taught me is that writing the first draft for a novel is easy for me. Making it into something I could send out to publishers? Let’s just say I had to learn the hard way how different the finished product looks from the the completed NaNo draft. I’ve come to appreciate pre-planning in way the early pants-er me would scoff at. I’ve had to learn the hard way not to fiddle with early drafts: do you know how many hours were wasted when I ended up cutting that overly-fiddled scene? If I came away with anything in this novel venture, it’s this:

DO NOT TRY FOR PERFECTION ON A SECOND DRAFT (and possibly not even on a third or fourth).

Not only will you waste time on scenes that might not make the cut, but you’ll also be reluctant to cut extraneous scenes because you wasted so much time making them perfect.

Another thing I learned: critical and supportive beta readers are the best friends a novelist and finished draft can ever have. (Much gratitude goes out to @TamaraShoemaker and @EmilyJuneStreet–seriously talented writers with incredible work; I recommend checking out their links).

I’ll stop here since I have more queries to send out.



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Missed Deadline Post: “To the Left of Orion”

I’d intended to submit this one for the weekly contest over at Thursday Threads but couldn’t hit the deadline due to a bedtime-resistant pre-schooler (that’s probably redundant). Anyway, the prompt required us to use the line “You know he’s coming back” in a 100- to 250-word tale. Here’s what I came up with.

“To the Left of Orion”

Bastian works his markers over the spaceship poster, crimson comet tails, ice-blue planetary rings, purple rocket exhaust. His lines thin as his focus wanes. You clutch your mug. Dread churns your stomach.

“Where’s my daddy?”

“Three stars to the left of Orion,” you say because that’s what you’ve woven into his lullabies. And because it’s true. More or less.

“When’s he going to visit me?”

“He can’t, buddy.”

That’s not true at all. You know he’s coming back. That’s why you’ve tucked your life into the mountains. That’s why you wake up gasping and clawing at the quilt.

Jade-green eyes blink human innocence at you, but a deeper wisdom has started to harden them, and you wonder—not for the first time—if he knows.

You haven’t seen the father since the second trimester. The day the documentary premiered. Your fry dripped cherry yogurt on your belly as you gaped at the footage.

Though Jimbok seemed humanoid enough for a romp, the Rekkessi coming-of-age departed significantly from nursing a tequila hangover. Your gut lurched as you watched the jerky sleepwalking movements of the offspring. Your keys were in hand the moment the Rekkessi sire unfolded its torso flesh and enwrapped the boy, forever.

No way was your baby getting re-absorbed into Jimbok.

Bastian caps the orange marker. “He can, Mommy,” he declares, his voice light years away. You stifle the wail threatening to tear apart your chest as he takes oddly spasmodic steps toward the bay window. “He has to.”

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Warmup Wednesday!

Why Ground Squirrels Left the Trees (100 words)

The fog thing comes. Scritch-scratch the tree trunks. Rustle-rush whip-dry grass.

Chitter and chat and roll our forage into hidey hollows like any a day. Like we don’t know. The mists creep crest and dale. Danger a dream-span from dire. Only the bitty-bobs peep-weep. Too wee to ken a deke.

The mothers a-work at grass and ground. Above we mime time the trees. Nut and seed all our critter concern. Acorn-cram cheeks, flash tail. While mother paws plow apart danger-urge of up! Up!

Must burrow down, now. Down windy deep so fog teeth mulch-chomp and howl empty.

Then, we win.

Flash! Friday

Directions: Write a scene or an entire story of 100 words on the nose (no more, no fewer), inspired by this photograph. No judging. All fun. (Normal Flash! Friday guidelinesregarding content apply.)
Don’t forget to add your Twitter handle & link to your blog, pretty please.

And a few words on how your week’s going would be so very marvelous!

 This week’s Warmup Wednesday challenge: Make your protagonist an animal (real or imagined).

Leash Fen in mist. CC2.0 photo by Andrew Hill. Leash Fen in mist. CC2.0 photo by Andrew Hill.

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Spotlight: Emily June Street

Interview with Emily June street, an amazing woman (wordsmith, artist, cyclist, trapeze enthusiast) who I’ve had the honor to work with since she’s acted as editor for the Flash Dogs and Luminous Creatures anthologies.

Flash! Friday

I’m thrilled today to welcome Emily June Street to the FF mic. Why’s that name familiar?? you might ask, only a moment before scrolling back through memory and blushing as you suddenly recall her neck-high pile of Flash! Friday HMs and runners up awards, and all the accolades she’s reaped for editing prowess both for the #FlashDogs latest anthology project and for novelists like Tamara Shoemaker

Emily’s latest novel, The Ganteanis a mere four days away from publication (June 27). That would be sufficiently awesome on its own; but Emily hasn’t stopped there. Nosireebob; she’s determined to GIVE AWAY A COPY of The Gantean to a randomly chosen commenter today. So please read the interview and leave a comment. The first reader to explore the magical Gantean universe might just be… you! 

(The winner will be chosen at 7:30am Wednesday, Washington DC time.) 

Emily June Street


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The Solstice is Coming!


Flash Dogs Solstice Anthology cover art by Tam Rogers (@tamrogers)

Meet the cover art (by the very talented Tam Rogers) for the Flash Dogs dual anthology coming out on Sunday, summer solstice for those of us in the northern hemisphere, winter for those in the south. It will be available in both print and e-book formats.

Flash Dogs is a casual collective of flash-fiction writers brought together over several online weekly contests (Flash! Friday, Flash Frenzy at Angry Hourglass, Finish That Thought, and the seasonal one at Luminous Creatures). There is so much talent and such a supportive environment surrounding the weeklies that a community formed.  Two of the regulars, Mark A. King and David Shakes, decided to make good use of the community by organizing us and then got the bright idea to gather together some of the work being done in this one little corner of the internet.

Thus, the first anthology was born. Writers submitted their various flash pieces plus (to give it cohesion) one tale based on a Tam Rogers photo of a spunky roller-skating phantom. It’s still available over at Amazon. Proceeds have been going to charity.

For the second pair of anthologies, our fine producers gave us a unifying theme (the solstices, dark and light), and asked up to write stories under 1000 words inspired by any of four picture prompts (two dark-solstice prompts, two light-solstice prompts).

I managed to get one story per picture, so two stories in each book. Two stories were tweaked from earlier contest drafts, two were from scratch. I can hardly wait to see what the other incredible word smiths crafted.

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Monday Micros: “A Taste of Freedom”

Initially submitted to the ever-incredible contest venue: Flash! Friday. The element for the week was “theme: defeat” and the picture prompt:

Construction of the Statue of Liberty

Construction of the Statue of Liberty

And here is what I came up with:

“A Taste of Freedom”

I chanced across the bird while foraging at the Old Coast. It roosted on an exposed concrete slab. Its hooked beak drooped in sleep. My stomach did cartwheels as I fumbled with my sling. Our sector hadn’t seen fresh poultry in years.

I was just about to bean the bird when it blinked open an amber eye and very clearly said, “Are you free?”

Huh. I hadn’t encountered many live animals beyond roaches, but I was pretty sure they couldn’t talk.

“Are you free?” it asked again, fanning bedraggled wings.

“Sure.” Our sector had leisure time one day a week—if you could call foraging in the Outbounds leisure.

It hopped toward me through sludge.

“I used to gyre about her beacon!” he wailed. “We triumphed over tyranny!”

Nothing triumphs over tyranny, I thought. Not if you want to eat.

“We were too dazzled by our victories to notice the tyranny we perpetuated.”

Parrots, yes, I remember from the kiddie clips. They could talk. But weren’t they green?

“See?” It fretted at the rubble. “Her entreaty has eroded into a command.”

I stooped to see what it was so upset about. Words carved into stone: Give me.

My stomach rumbled. I let fly.

Freedom, for all its brevity, was delicious.

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Monday Micro: “Dreaming of Midsummer Nights”

This puckish little tale earned an Honorable Mention over at my favorite weekly contest, Flash! Friday. The photo prompt featured a hoodied panhandler and the required element was Character: Spy.

“Dreaming of Midsummer Nights”

210 words

A butterfly landed on the edge of Robin’s alms cup and fanned its stained-glass wings.

Robin sucked in his breath and reached out. It graced the grubby perch of his fingers. Robin inspected the glossy thorax, the knobbed antennae, the scrolled proboscis (not Fay!) and shoved it into his mouth. The insect’s ichor oozed bitterness.

He sank back into his rags. Butterflies. How Robin missed the flutter of floral sprites, the hyacinthine perfume of the passages between worlds. But his world had moved on, leaving him with unyielding concrete and stale deodorant.

He couldn’t help but glower whenever a pram rolled past. That babe dandling a stuffed giraffe? In earlier days, Robin would have marked it in night dust for a midnight exchange. The Goblin Traders hadn’t responded to his alerts in decades.

How could they have abandoned him, their best agent?

Pinstriped legs hesitated, dropped coin into his cup. Robin couldn’t bear to look up. A flutter of temporary sympathy was an impoverished substitute for the long-lost revelry of Fay gatherings.

The silver had an odd glint to it. As Robin squinted into the cup, the coin shivered, then turned into an acorn.

Robin surged to his cloven feet and, heart ignited by hope, sprinted after the pinstripes.

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