End-of-Book Slog

So I guess I’m on hiatus. Kind of.

I’ve written over 100,000 words of East of Yesterday, and I’m trying to wrestle this story into a satisfying ending. My productivity has been steady but not great. I am slowly working through it. And it seems that the word count does keep creeping up, so that’s progress.

But unfortunately, I’ve totally outlined this story, and every time I’ve done that, it has killed my writing pace. I wish I knew why. The best I can figure is that when I write it down, even as a bubble in a Visio flowchart (as I did this time), it takes away some of the freshness of the plot, dampening my enthusiasm somewhat. For the next book, I will revert to using scene titles in my Navigation Pane of Word. That approach tends to guide me through the plot, as if I were being led on a leash.

Hmm. Good idea. I think I’ll do that with the rest of the plot milestones in the story. It may just help.

Hey–thanks for your help! I gotta run now and try this out. I’ll try to pop in with an update soon.

Debut Showcase – Wickedly Dangerous

Wickedly Dangerous Cover

Wickedly Dangerous
by Deborah Blake
Berkeley Publishing
Mass Market Paperback or Ebook

Known as the wicked witch of Russian fairy tales, Baba Yaga is not one woman, but rather a title carried by a chosen few. They keep the balance of nature and guard the borders of our world, but don’t make the mistake of crossing one of them…

Older than she looks and powerful beyond measure, Barbara Yager no longer has much in common with the mortal life she left behind long ago. Posing as an herbalist and researcher, she travels the country with her faithful (mostly) dragon-turned-dog in an enchanted Airstream, fulfilling her duties as a Baba Yaga and avoiding any possibility of human attachment.

But when she is summoned to find a missing child, Barbara suddenly finds herself caught up in a web of deceit and an unexpected attraction to the charming but frustrating Sheriff Liam McClellan.

Now, as Barbara fights both human enemies and Otherworld creatures to save the lives of three innocent children, she discovers that her most difficult battle may be with her own heart…

I wish I could say that Debut Showcases were back for good. Deborah wrote reviews for Debuts and Reviews for quite a while, and I have long planned to showcase her fiction debut. I am intrigued by the mixture of the strange old legend, fey boundaries, the enchanted RV and of course, the polymorphed dragon. Plus, who can resist an Irish sheriff?

Recent Research – An Eyewitness Account of Florida in the 20s

Last week, I ran across an old email, and promptly went online to eBay, created an account, and purchased a treasure-hunting DVD, packed full of information.

Have a taken up a new hobby, you may ask?

No. I don’t have time for the ones I have.

Modern treasure hunting these days is done with a metal detector. At least, that–I don’t know much about treasure-hunting. I have no metal detector, and I don’t plan to get one. But in order to find good places to hunt, these treasure hunters (as they call themselves) pour (and I do mean, pour) over old maps, books and even postcards.

So I ordered this disk. It has so much information, mostly in the form of high-resolution maps, that the creator had to put it on a DVD. Most (but not all!) of the maps were too macro for my use, as I have already found several maps that are excellent resources, including one that names every street in St. Augustine. The postcards were fun, but not as interesting as even the maps.

But the books made it worth the cost of the DVD. Could I have found the books online, myself? Maybe. If I had known what to look for.

One book is a perfectly delightful travelogue, published in 1922 (the very year where much of my story takes place), describing this woman’s journey across Florida in search of a suitable place to spend the winter. The title is Florida Days, and the author is Vilma M. Goodman. Here are the opening paragraphs:

SOME of my adventures and experiences may be of value to tourists of limited means ( like myself ) , who go to Florida not only for recreation and change of climate, but to gain strength and to rest.

I met ladies in Florida who were not invalids, and only needed pleasant surroundings to be benefited by their trip South.

After one or two trying experiences, they grew disheartened (disgusted I might say), and without remaining long enough to get sufficiently rested, after a long journey, booked on the first train or steamer North.

I am indeed thankful that I had the courage and strength to pack my trunk and change my environment by traveling from the West Coast to the East Coast of Florida.

Clearly, this woman knows how to write, and how to engage her reader. I read on. It did not take me long to reach this description of the city of Jacksonville, my hometown:

I SPENT a very pleasant day on board the “Huron,” and it was with regret that I landed in Jacksonville
and saw the last of these agreeable people. I remained on deck all morning to get the first glimpse of
Florida, and I must say that the flat, bare land—with here and there a few stunted trees and shanties—did not make a very striking impression.

Ouch. I read on. She then describes some of the rigors of travel back in those days:

I then went to Palatka by bus, and then up the St. Johns River by boat. The stars came out just as the “Osceola” left her landing.

A description of the wonderful time she had on board the “Osceola” follows. Then:

I got on at Palatka at about 8 P. M. on November 27th and landed at Sanford the next day at noon. The weather was fair. I then drove about twenty-five miles (by bus) to Orlando, a small Garden of Eden, where I rested only a day at the Empire Hotel.

She loved Orlando, but was duty-bound to travel on to the mysterious town of A___, where she promised to be the guest of Mrs. X___. She very kindly anonymized any unpleasant experience she had with anyone or any place in this manner.

I disliked leaving this beauty-spot the next morning in order to keep an unimportant appointment with a lady
in A , but duty seemed to call. I rose about five and left on the Tampa bus at 7 A. M., arriving in Tampa at
12:30, almost broiled to a “frazzle” in the front seat, by the combined efforts of the engine and a burning, welcome sun. How I regretted that I did not travel on the Atlantic Coast Line then.

The heat in Tampa one cannot describe; one can only feel…

Things aren’t looking up. They don’t get much better.

After lunch, a few hours on the shady balcony revived me, and at 4:45 P. M. railroad time I left by boat and arrived in A at 7:30 P. M., and then began the search for the street car to take me to the bungalow of Mrs. X .

Little things stand out. She refers to 4:45 “railroad time”. I knew what she meant by that, because I had already researched the establishment of Standard Time. Before Standard Time, local times were pretty much set by the railroads. According to Wikipedia, Standard Time was established by the late 19th century. But who am I going to believe, Wikipedia, or this eyewitness speaking to me from across the years?

The very last leg of her journey was the worst:

I got on the [street]car at 7:45 P. M. and handed the conductor my fare and the address, asking him to let me off when he reached the street. He looked at me, then at my baggage, and sorrowfully shook his head. “That street, the last one on this line, is not cut through on this side, (they call this the Jungle), and you could never find it in the dark, and you see it’s been raining (I saw all right) and walking several blocks you’d get very wet at the crossings.” I looked around. Everything was dark and dismal in this Jungle. I shuddered, and when the car made its final stop, I investigated further, but, at the Conductor’s sensible suggestion, rode back to town and hired an auto to take me to my destination. After more than thirty minutes’ riding back and forth, through rivers of water, I at last found the house and Mrs. X at home.

The mysterious location of A___ could be any one of dozens of coastal towns, but the mention of streetcars makes me think  the town must not be too small, and was only 2 hours and 45 minutes away from Tampa by boat.

This last excerpt has another fascinating tidbit in life in the early 20s:

I had a $25.00 money-order in my possession which I wanted to cash at the Post Office and, for the purpose
of identification, I took my savings-bankbook with me, as well as my Military (State) Census card, and a card
addressed to me by a friend that very week from Tannersville, N. Y., in care of Mrs. X at A . I cashed the money-order upon presenting all my credentials and went to a cafeteria to lunch, after which I sat on a bench of the principal business street waiting for Miss B , my steamer acquaintance, to join me for an afternoon’s outing. I had half an hour’s time and got up to walk up and down the street, and when I returned to the place of meeting, I missed my work-bag, containing the passbook, cards, etc., mentioned.

I love all the detail! She actually cashed her money-order (nice to know they existed back then) by presenting a military census card (whatever that was), her bank savings-book (anyone remember those?) and a letter.

And she lost her purse. You would not believe all the trouble this causes her, especially with her hostess.

If you would like to read this little gem, send me a note and I’ll email you the PDF. Since it was published in 1922, it is legal for me to do so.

When not writing, I blog. When not blogging, I write.

Just thought I’d explain my infrequent posting lately. There are a lot of things I can blame, but mostly, it’s the writing. The first 3/4ths of East of Yesterday was so easy to write. But this last quarter–or maybe the last 5th or 6th–has been every bit as difficult.

And I have it all plotted out. Remember this?

PlotWebs

 

(In case you don’t, it’s across-functional diagram of my plot, showing all the back and forth of time travel.)

I have kept it up to date with all plot tweaks, and I am progressing painfully through each bubble. Right now, I am on the column of bubbles all the way to the right! However, due to time travel, these are not the final bubbles. The time travelers swing back over to the left a scooch before they head on into the ending.

I am less than a thousand words away from 90,000. And of course, I think it is all crap. But hopefully that is just the summer blahs. Because I know I’ve written some good stuff here. :)

Another thing I think I can safely blame is some medications I have been on for high blood pressure. I started the medication just before The Sevenfold Spell was published, and I am in the process of switching to a different medication. The other medication just made me too sluggish and dampened my enthusiasm for things like blogging and writing. I don’t think it is any coincidence that six months after I started this medication, I felt too overwhelmed and had to shut down Debuts and Reviews. I already am already feeling an improvement in my attitude. This process of switching meds is going to extend into August. We have to do this safely, but so far so good.

Anyway, that’s my life update. One reading tidbit before I go — I am reading Kings of the North now, the second book in the Paladin’s Legacy series that I started last month. I am enjoying this book even more–lots of interesting characters, including some that we didn’t get nearly enough of in the original trilogy.

More on that soon!

Review – Oath of Fealty by Elizabeth Moon

Oath of Fealty CoverOath of Fealty
by Elizabeth Moon
Del Rey – March 11, 2011
ebook – 5.99 (purchased) – also available in paperback

I purchased this book quite a while ago, made an unsuccessful attempt to read it, and then set it aside. For quite a while now, I have been in the mood for a warrior woman story , but have been unable to find one that suited. So I restarted this book from the beginning, and this time, I had none of the problems I had the first time around.

This book picks up after the ending of one of my all-time favorite fantasy series, The Deed of Paksenarrion. I reread the Deed before starting this book, so everything was fresh. I recommend reading it before reading this one–it is well worth the read. At the end of the Deed, Paks is a paladin who helped her former mercenary commander, Kieri Phelan, ascend to the throne of Lyonya, one of the kingdoms of the North. One of Keiri’s captains, Dorrin, also helped. Another captain, Arcolin, manned Phelan’s stronghold in the kingdom of Tsaia.

This book follows Dorrin, Kieri, Arcolin, and occasionally Paks as the story continues. For Kieri’s story, he is mainly setting up his administration and determining how best to protect his vulnerable new kingdom. Arcolin has been granted Kieri’s former lands and possessions, and he takes control of the mercenary company.

Dorrin has the most intriguing story of all, and her story is the main plot. She is an estranged member of the Verrakai family, who were behind a plot to prevent Kieri’s ascension to the Lyonyan throne. The Crown Prince asks her to take control of her mostly-evil family, sending all that she finds to stand judgement–including her own mother and father.

Her estranged family are all under an Order of Attainder, which means everyone in the family is wanted by the law. Dorrin is given the duchy of Verrakai and is sent to round up her family members. She is directly aided in this by Falk, her patron deity, which, at times, seems to give her paladin-like powers.

Arcolin appears to be in a plotline that will take longer to become clear. He has taken one cohort to Aerenis, the war-torn southern half of the continent, where he has a contract to solve a bandit problem in the area surrounding Cortes Vonja. His plotline merges with Dorrin’s as it becomes clear that some of the Verrakai are tangled up in the plot.

Paks makes an occasional appearance, as her job seems to be to support Dorrin.

I wish Ms. Moon would state the ages of her characters; all I really know is that Kieri is in his fifties, but as a half elf, he is biologically equivalent to 35 or so. Dorrin and Arcolin are acknowledged to be somewhat younger in years. I am assuming Dorrin is in her mid-to-late 40s. I get the impression that Arcolin is a little younger than Dorrin–maybe 40 or so. But I could be wrong.

Most of the action in the story takes place when Dorrin and Arcolin are on the page. Dorrin’s actions are mostly magical in nature, whereas all Arcolin has is his trusty sword. I find Dorrin compelling, but by the end of the book I stilled needed a reason to find Arcolin equally so. He is trusty and dependable and fights to the death for his people, and that should be enough. But so far, he seems to be more of a secondary character than the others, even if his story takes up as many pages as the primary characters. T

The same goes for Kieri. Reading about him setting up his administration was just not compelling, and during my first attempt to read the book, it was during his part that I set it aside. And he is a primary character.

Oath of Fealty appealed to me on a deeper level than I expected. It was entertaining and thought-provoking, and I will be moving on to the next book to see what other twists Ms. Moon has planned.

Four stars

Creating A Sense of Intimacy–Or Not

Sometimes the tiny revisions help more than you think.

I was revising a cozy scene, and I removed several instances of the man’s name and replaced it with “he” or “him”. I don’t know when I first started doing this, but I have found that a scene is more intimate if you refrain from using names. As long as there are only two people, you only need use each name once, at the beginning of the scene.

Think about it–in real life, how often do you actually say the name of your spouse, sibling, or good friend? Maybe to get their attention, but while in conversation? And you don’t think of them by their names, either. You are beyond names.

I really noticed this kind of thing when I did some contest judging a few months ago. Several intimate scenes were ruined when the hero and heroine said or thought the other’s name too often.

And the opposite holds true as well. To create a sense of estrangement, use names. As soon as you bring in a third person, you have to use names, anyway.

Here’s the intimate scene, between brother and sister:

Adele watched as he stared at her. She refrained from shaking her head. Mike had a way of walking about in a haze of his own making. She reached over, clasped his hand and pulled him onto the couch next to her.

“Talk to me,” she said.

He didn’t say anything. She thought about leaving him alone, but he was always pretty good about letting her know when he needed his space. He wanted her there. She waited.

At length, he tried to speak, but only ended up clearing his throat awkwardly. She rose, went into the kitchen and brought back a glass of water. She handed it to him, and sat down again as he drank.

“First off, I gotta tell you that there’s a few things you don’t know. Things that happened between Mrs. Watkins and me.”

She frowned in outrage. “What! She’s your employee! She—”

“For God’s sake—that’s not it, either. Christ! What must you think of me?”

“Well, look at the way you made it sound!”

“Well hold on and just listen for a moment.”

She subsided.

And between a nosy boss and his subordinate:

Briggs escorted Peterson in twenty minutes later. He looked nervous. “Good evening, sir,” Peterson said.

“Good evening, Peterson.” Haley said as he lit a cigarette. He didn’t offer one. Briggs took his post by the door. Peterson looked at him nervously. Haley said, “Your first name is Bradley, right?”

“Uh, yeah. Brad is fine.”

“Of course it is. So how goes things with Eliza?”

“Um, just fine. Sir.”

“Do you like her?”

“Sure. What’s not to like?”

“I can think of many things.”

“Huh?” he gulped. “Sir?”

“You seem to have a problem with that, don’t you?”

“With what?”

“With basic courtesy. Calling your superior ‘sir’ for instance.”

Peterson looked pained. “I’m sorry about that, sir. I’m still getting used to it.”

“Were your parents deadbeats?”

“Well … yes sir. Pretty much.”

Any intimacy was gone anyway because Briggs was present, but I did use names a little more often than strictly necessary.

This is just one of the tiny changes I keep in mind as I revise. What did you think? Did I succeed in creating a sense of intimacy, and a sense of estrangement?