In Progress

ajalia-head-in-progress1

This is Ajalia, from The Eastern Slave Series (available now). I’m using a Wacom Tablet, and Sketchbook.

My cat is attempting to step on my keyboard. I have warned her that she will be confined to quarters, if she continues this egregiously disruptive behavior.

She has retreated, and is now curled into a tight ball, asleep. I anticipate a further skirmish involving her white-tipped paws this afternoon.

Have a jolly weekend,

Victor

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How To Start Writing In The Next Five Minutes

Eliminate distractions ruthlessly in your mind and reading.

As many of you may have found, writing is complicated by distractions and, often, by your deleterious mood.

If you are having a hard time writing, stop reading for a while. The words will start to foment in your brain; they might spill over in unexpected ways.

Stop writing flash and short stories; only allow yourself to write words for your novel.

In other news, here is a centaur I am drawing for my new backburner series.

centaurhead

 

How To Pace Your Writing

On pacing.

Bad Writing (terrible, jostling pace):

Yori flung the saddle over the great black horse. He put the saddle bags down. Blue-face pushed open the door, shouting as he clattered over the wood floor.

“Hey, they’ve lost our deposit.”

Yori tugged hard at the leather piece.

“Argue with them,” Yori directed. He looked at the swinging door, where Gorm, the landlord, entered now.

“You’ve lost our money,” Yori offended.

“Not my fault,” Gorm said, wheezing. Blue-face glared at Yuri. The horse nosed at hay.

“How?” Blue-face demanded, whirling at last. The fat inn-keeper scowled.

“Those thieves will pay for what they’ve done,” Yori declared. Gorm’s face fell.

Good Writing (strong, steady pace):

Yori flung the thick saddle over the great black horse. The stirrups and girth strap jangled against the saddle skirts; the mare snuffled noisily, her pitch-black nose thrust into a net of hay.

Yori went out of the stall, and retrieved the saddle bags from a hook on the wall. Blue-face, his eyes popping with fury, and his magenta hair bristling with passion over his sky-colored skin, pushed open the door to the stable. The dyed elf shouted as he clattered over the wooden floor of the stable.

“Hey, they’ve lost our deposit, Yori!”

Yori glanced at Blue-face’s livid expression, and hid a smile as he slung the saddle bags over the mare’s back. He buckled the leather, and Blue-face let out an impassioned “tcha!” The colorful elf stomped into the stall, and fitted the girth strap through the ring. He tugged hard at the leather piece.

“Argue with them,” Yori suggested. A crashing of wood came from the end of the stable. Yori looked at the swinging door, where Gorm, the landlord, had blustered in.

“You’ve lost our money,” Yori observed.

“Not my fault,” Gorm said, wheezing. Blue-face glared at Gorm, and then grimaced at Yori. The black mare snorted noisily, and pushed her nose deeper into the hay.

“Half my silver has gone as well,” Gorm told them. The inn-keeper, Yori saw, had been staring at the obviously empty saddle bags.

“He thought it was us,” Yori murmured under his breath.

“Well, that’s a fine kettle of fish!” Blue-face said loudly, whirling on Gorm with burning eyes. The fat inn-keeper scowled.

“I’ll pay what I owe you,” Gorm said grudgingly. “I thought as you’d stolen my silver, we’d be pretty fair if I kept what was yours.”

“I didn’t touch your dirty old silver,” Blue-face snapped.

“I can see that now, lad,” Gorm said.

“Don’t patronize me!” the elf retorted.

“What will you give me, to find what’s lost?” Yori asked. Gorm studied his face, and a sharp gleam was in his eyes.

“Room and board up to a week, when you pass through,” Gorm said.

“Done,” Yori said. “Take the mare out to the stream for water,” he told the elf. “She doesn’t like the stuff here.” Blue-face took hold of the black mare’s lead, and began to back her out of the stall. “What if the thief is one of your own?” Yori asked. Gorm snarled.

“I will not harbor thieves,” the inn-keeper declared.

 

Writing A Charming Protagonist With A Map!

A likeable protagonist.

When writing genre fiction, it is important to remember that a bastion of the practice is escapism; literary fiction can do an honest delving into the ugliness and irritation of human nature, but genre fiction will need to have a protagonist that is either likeable, highly skilled, or both.

Bad Writing (repellent protagonist):

Curon laid the map over the heavy table. He placed a pair of fractured moonstones over the corners of the blue paper, and frowned at the glowing lines that squiggled on the surface.

“Can’t we just call in?” Xiro asked, watching Curon with cautious eyes.

“No, waste of time,” Curon said. He frowned, and wrapped his heavy arms over his torso. His face looked like a rock that is melting slowly on either side; Xiro glanced at the map, and pursed his mouth with annoyance.

“I could speak to them,” Xiro suggested.

“They won’t know how to get through. The main office never knows,” Curon snapped. He leaned over the map, and traced his finger over the broad yellow line that cut diagonally through the blue paper. “Here,” Curon said. “We’ll try the river first.”

“But our orders say the beacon was transmitting in the northwest quadrant,” Xiro exclaimed, crossing to the map and thrusting an impatient finger at the corner. Curon looked up at Xiro with one stiff eyebrow raised, and Xiro flushed. “I don’t think following the river will do us any good,” the young man persisted.

“We’ll try the river,” Curon said again, and he pushed the moonrocks aside, and rolled up the map.

Good Writing (likeable protagonist):

Curon handed the map to Xiro, who laid it over the heavy table, and secured the corners with a pair of fractured moonstones. Together they stared down at the squiggling, glowing lines on the surface of the map.

“Well,” Curon said hesitantly. His eyes trawled over the heavy mass of incomprehensible drawings.

Xiro put his nose close to the thick blue paper, and squinted.

“Is it any better close up?” Curon asked doubtfully.

Xiro shook his head, and stood up.

“I could call in to the main office,” Xiro said. Curon frowned, and twisted the map around. He looked at it upside down, and then sideways. Glancing at Xiro, and blushing slightly, Curon pushed away the moonstones, and turned the blue paper over.

“Oh,” Curon said, sounding relieved.

“That’s the river,” Xiro said instantly, putting his finger on a thick stroke of incandescent yellow.

“Yes,” Curon said, tilting his head.

“So we need to go here,” Xiro said, tracing the paper towards the upper left corner.

“No, the river is tilted this way,” Curon said. “Look, there’s a key. The beacon should be here.”

“I’m glad we didn’t call in to the office,” Xiro said, and Curon laughed.

How Male Characters Check Out Female Characters

Gender dynamics: scoping out the possibilities

When a person enters a room, and the person is not wholly satisfied in his personal romantic endeavors, he generally scopes out the area for available and desirable women.

Fiction often trips up in allowing the scoping, but failing to account for the action that inevitably follows such sniffing-out behavior.

Bad Writing (aborted scoping):

Henry came into the bar, and a smell of Ungolian manure washed over his face. He looked around, and saw a pair of sisters from the moons of Brian-on-Dell. The older sister had a pair of tentacles creeping from the sides of her neck, and the younger sister was coated in a thick layer of oozing black mud.

The oldest sister was holding a glass of Krag between her hands, and her left tentacle was snapping lightly against the surface of the blue liquid. Henry could hear the faint splish-splash of the Krag; the younger sister’s thick orange eyelids flickered towards the sound, and she frowned.

Henry walked through the dimly-lit bar; he veered towards the sisters, and when he passed the younger sister, he tilted his chin towards her, a light smile on his face.

“Bold man, that,” the older sister murmured, when she thought he had passed out of earshot. Henry grinned, and a satisfied squirm went through his hips. I’ve still got it, he thought.

Good Writing (scoping aftermath):

Henry came into the bar, and a smell of Ungolian manure washed over his face. He looked around, and saw a pair of sisters from the moons of Brian-on-Dell. The older sister had a pair of tentacles creeping from the sides of her neck, and the younger sister was coated in a thick layer of oozing black mud.

The oldest sister was holding a glass of Krag between her hands, and her left tentacle was snapping lightly against the surface of the blue liquid. Henry could hear the faint splish-splash of the Krag; the younger sister’s thick orange eyelids flickered towards the sound, and she frowned.

Henry walked through the dimly-lit bar; he veered towards the sisters, and when he passed the younger sister, he tilted his chin towards her, a light smile on his face.

“Bold man, that,” the older sister murmured, when she thought he had passed out of earshot. Henry grinned, and spun around. He slid into the booth beside the slime-covered younger sister, and breathed in deeply.

“I bet your skin is lovely under all that mud,” Henry said, staring straight at the tentacled older sister.

“Are you talking to me?” the older female demanded, her orange skin flushing harshly.

“No,” Henry said, smiling.

“Go away, Merdoth,” the younger sister murmured. Henry’s whole body, which had already been warm with the thrill of his daring, became positively volcanic at the velvety sound of the younger female’s voice. What had been a momentary whim on Henry’s part solidified into a fervent desire. I will have her, he told himself.

The older sister was glaring daggers at Henry.

“Excuse me, buddy,” she began, but the younger sister cut in with a long diatribe in another language. Merdoth’s face, already flushed, became unbearably vivid. She stood abruptly, clutching her glass of Krag in both hands, and swept away.

“Who are you?” the younger sister asked Henry, as soon as Merdoth was heading away. Henry turned, and met the female’s eyes, which gleamed from beneath the Ungolian manure.

Henry’s sense of adventure turned, in short order, into chilling fear. What if she was ugly, under all that?

“I’ve got a feeling about you,” Henry said, keeping his voice casual.

“How long do you think this feeling will last?” she asked. Her wide mouth was curved beneath the rough surface of the manure. A touch of pink was visible, under the rancid green.

“The more I hear the sound of your voice,” Henry said, “the more I think the feeling will never leave me.”

The younger sister smiled; her eyes were wary.

“I will meet you after moon-under time in the lobby,” she said. “You will have five minutes to convince me you are interesting. Don’t be late.” She pushed her slime-covered hand against Henry’s ribs, as though prompting him to slide out of the booth, to make way for her to leave.

“Why can’t I meet you now?” Henry demanded. Her touch sent shivers of desire through his bones. He could not see her face, but something about her intoxicated his senses, and made a river of fire run through his veins.

“I want to get out of this booth,” the lady said. Henry smiled, but his eyes were hard.

“I want to know your name,” he countered.

Relationship overtures have consequences; anyone can set up a meeting between two characters. Set yourself apart by following through on the initial maneuvering of your sniffing-about male characters.

Characters Who Want Things Are Better Than Characters Who Don’t

The jealous queen

Bad Writing:

Cassandra settled her crown firmly around her head, and leaned out of the window.

“Yoo hoo!” she called to the gardner. “Mister gardening man!”

The gardner looked up at her; he had a shovel in one hand, and a pair of silvery gloves hanging out of his pocket.

“Yes, m’ldy?” he called up.

“Haven’t those roses come in?” Cassandra asked. The gardner looked aside at the royal rose bushes.

“No,” he said. He hesitated, and then turned back to his digging. Cassandra watched his shovel bite into the loamy flower bed. She wanted him to tell her that the roses were ready. Cassandra turned into the room, and swept towards the door.

“Martha!” Cassandra called ahead through the hall. “Martha, we’re going out!”

Good Writing:

Cassandra watched the gardner prune away the dying blue roses; she put her fingers against the cool metal of her crown, and thought of taking the gardner into her confidence.

“You’ll be like a rose yourself, if you don’t watch out,” her mother had said. “Pruned away as soon as you wilt.”

Cassandra’s fingertips smoothed down her temple, and her cheek. Perfect in every way, but she was nearing twenty-five. The toughening would start soon, and then the thickening around her jaw. She had watched her mother’s maids grow old in this way.

Martha’s buckets made a gentle rustle as the maid entered the chamber. Cassandra turned speculative eyes on the maid. Smooth skin, and a dewy complexion; Martha would suit very well.

“Martha,” Cassandra said. The maid looked up from the hearth. “You’re going to go on a very special journey with me,” Cassandra said, her eyes combing hungrily over Martha’s neat chin, and clean cheeks.

“Yes, ma’am,” Martha said, blushing, and ducking her head.

“And you’ve got to speak of it to no one,” Cassandra warned. Martha looked up at the queen, and Cassandra felt a bubble of shame in her chest.

How I Create Action By Attempting To Destroy The Plot

Bland vs. real action

Many writers struggle to create genuine action in their writing.

We don’t wanna break stuff.

We don’t want other people to think we’re mean.

And we really, really don’t want to write ourselves into scary corners where we can’t get out. This kind of phobia of dark corners is probably some kind of writerly-defense against ridicule and abandoning-project-itis.

Obviously, this doesn’t apply to, say, practiced horror writers, or people who pride themselves on being raw.

But I do think a lot of us have this kind of trouble.

Many first drafts are really prologues, by which I mean, the characters are established, the locale is detailed, and the relationships are begun.

When I ask myself: What would destroy my ability to write any more of this plot? and then I write that down, and find a way through it, that is when my fiction becomes, shall we say, really good.

BAD Writing (Hubbub):

Sophia lay the cloth over the table, and began to pin a pattern to the glorious purple fabric.

“You will have to take Barkom with you,” she said, her eyes on the velvety stuff.

Aron shuffled his shoulders, and glared down at the purple cloth. Sophia glanced up at him, and hid a smile.

“You aren’t going to find your way to the Gemlo quadrant without him,” she pointed out.

“Barkom smells bad,” Aron muttered.

“Hold this,” she said, thrusting a pair of laser shears at Aron. He took them, and wrinkled his nose.

“Is this going to take forever?” he demanded.

“They’ll kill you, if you aren’t wearing purple,” Sophia replied.

GOOD Writing (Real Action):

Sophia pulled a ream of tattered purple cloth over Aron, and fixed a pair of pins around his neck.

“This is disgusting,” he told her, his nose wrinkled. Flutters of dust and moldy spores flew up from the swishing lengths of the cloth, which had lain abandoned in the ship’s stores for a decade.

“I’ll wear it, if you like,” Barkom snorted through his mouthpiece. Fog and spittle clouded around his snout, and the metallic thrum under his words mixed with the unpleasant odor of fouled clothes that hung perpetually about him.

“They’re less likely to kill you,” Sophia told Barkom, who snorted heavily. “Purple is seen as a marker of honesty in the Gemlo quadrant,” she told Aron, plucking a pair of dead hold-rats from the skirts of the fabric.

“What about you?” Aron demanded, watching her toss the tiny corpses back into the storage locker.

“Oh, I’m not coming,” Sophia said brightly. “Someone has to guard the ship.”

If you have resistance to breaking stuff, set yourself up for failure (example: must wear cloth, but it’s nasty and ratty), and write through whatever happens next. The action will be better for it.