Rousing of ideas

August 9, 2018

I wrote about how ties and carpets have inspired ideas before, but here’s another thing that spurred an idea. You may actually recognize him from the cover of Mystery of the Stardust Monk.

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This little monk statue was in the courtyard at the Anchor in Lincoln City, Oregon. Look at him closely and you’ll notice that he’s been cleaved in two it looks like. I always wondered how the split came about and what was holding him together. I think that’s why he sat in the back of my imagination. Read the rest of this entry »

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1-800-IceBaby — new Loki novella coming soon

May 11, 2018

Yes, Loki lovers, it’s true. While I hesitate to say that it is the 6th novella in my Loki series because they are now supposed to be individual adventures as I had originally wanted them.

There are tie-ins the the first 5 in the series, but hopefully readers won’t be so lost if they start with #6.

I should note that some of the novellas in the future will come after The Loki Adventures, and others will come before. The way to tell the difference will be the preamble at the start of each story. If he mentions Asgard, it is before the first 5 novellas. If he says Midgard, it is after the first 5 novellas.

It couldn’t get any more confusing than the titles are already, right? (grin)

Okay, just so everyone is on the same page, let’s have a quick review:

The first 5 novellas which make up 1 story arc (which will be cataloged under the series name The Loki Adventures) are:

1-800-Mischief   *** For Sale, Call Loki *** For a Good Time, Call Loki *** For More Information, Call Loki *** For More Mischief, Call Loki

Okay, got that?

Now, the book titled 1-800-CallLoki is the full omnibus containing all of The Loki Adventures.

Now we start a new “series” called A Loki Adventure. Not plural. Single. As in single stories. (Do you hear me, Loki?) There will still be threads that run through the stories. But hopefully someone will be able to pick up any one of them from #6 onward and know what’s going on. At least, that’s my plan right now.

Are you ready to see the cover? Let’s do this! Read the rest of this entry »


The Art of Making Hay – Stacking

May 12, 2015

Here’s another part of the process I was not too involved with. My part of the job entailed flying around the field in the pickup truck and up-righting any bale that had tipped over. Some bales could be stubborn too. But, we had to make sure that they were all standing up for the harrow bed to gather them up.

(Stay tuned for my special announcement at the end of this post!)

We outsourced a harrow bed driver to come pick up the hay for us. I think many farmers in the valley did. The guy would come thundering in and raced around the field until the harrow bed was full. The machinery scooped up the bale, turned it, made a layer of bales, then lifted that layer up and began building rows of these bales. Then the driver would deliver his load to the corral and start building a long stack of hay.

Here I am walking through the fields with my dog. I can't tell which one it is. Just beyond are the long stacks of alfalfa bales I was mentioning.

Here I am walking through the fields with my dog. I can’t tell which one it is. Just beyond are the long stacks of alfalfa bales I was mentioning. It looks like we might be irrigating this field — knowing me, I was playing in the mud.

The hay can be stacked for a long time before someone comes around to buy it. They load it up on a semitrailer and take it away. Hopefully during your wait, the stack doesn’t fall over.

The end part of the writing process is similar. Once you have everything straightened up and in tip-top shape, then you can pack it all up for delivery. The choice is yours: outsource or do the work yourself. You can go to a traditional publisher, or you can self-publish. With any luck, you’ll sell all your hard work and someone will buy it and take it away. It’s a good feeling. Hopefully, much like ranching, you’ve ended up with some money in the pocket.

This cycle doesn’t really stop but keeps going for 3-4 cuttings in a year. Winter comes and the work comes to a stop. Even writers need a break. Always remember to take a break and relax. Take care of yourself. You are your most important machine when it comes to “making hay while the sun shines.”

Special Announcement:

I’ve just started a new blog — one that focuses on writing and editing. The state of publishing is in sorry state these days and readers are the ones who are suffering. I’ve heard it from a reader saying that, “If the music industry put out the kind of crap I’m seeing in books today, people would be outraged.” If you’re a writer and/or know some, I can help. Editing is one of the hardest things to do, but I can make it clearer for you. Join the writing revolution on betterwriterblog.net.


The Art of Making Hay – Baling

May 11, 2015

I never got to drive the baler. Bummer.

It was hooked up to a tractor which my dad didn’t think a girl could drive. In this case, he was probably right. So, I never got to drive that tractor. Which means, I never actually baled hay. But I did get to watch plenty of men fight with the cursed machine.

Maniacal laughter here!

Since I could do the baling, I was most likely doing this -- riding my bike. And, take a good look at my jazzy jacket -- dang, I loved that outfit!

Since I could do the baling, I was most likely doing this — riding my bike. And, take a good look at my jazzy jacket — dang, I loved that outfit!

Once again, you work the fields section by section and pick up all the raked hay. The tines of the baler pick up the hay and it goes inside the machine where it is mashed, compressed, and tied. Out of the back fall these cute little rectangular bricks of hay.

Yep, editing is like that.

I’ve often said that you have to puke out the first draft. Just get it down on paper. You can’t work with anything if you don’t first have it written. Once it is, then you start to tighten up your plot, characters, themes, and words. You compress them, distill them down until only what is necessary remains. It’s monstrous work. Unlike baling, you actually get to rethink your writing and can go back to the drawing board if you need to. I take that back. I do remember when my dad got a moisture meter and we went around the field testing several bales. If the moisture was too high, we cut the wire and spread the hay back out to dry and he’d try baling it again in a day or two. Wow, that was almost a memory gone!

Editing is like that too. You have to keep your machinery in good working order, namely your brain. It’s got to remember what happened before and in what order. Chapter by chapter, you will get each one kicked out behind you until you have a whole book.

And, for goodness sake’s, don’t get your arm caught inside the machine.


The Art of Making Hay – Cutting

May 6, 2015

So if irrigating your field is like a writer’s life, then we must move to the next act of ranching which is cutting. I should mention that this process I’m writing about is for alfalfa. That’s the crop we always grew on the ranch in Nevada, so it’s what I know best.

Cutting the hay takes place a long time after irrigating, usually several weeks. The alfalfa has to have time to grow and the land time to dry out. Swathers are large pieces of equipment which you don’t want to get stuck in the mud. You start by cutting a row or two around the whole field. After you go around the field, you start near a levee and begin cutting the hay in the section. The rotating cylinder full of tines takes in the hay and pushes them toward the blades which cut the hay. A long row of hay is spit out neatly behind the swather. You go around and around in circles making your way into the center until all the hay in the section of the field is down and move onto the next.

A swather from behind.  You can see the row of hay it's spitting out as well as the alfalfa crop growing off to the right of the photo. That's my brother standing on the tractor tire. Kids, don't try this at home!  (why is it that I say that often when I see a photo with my brother in it?)

A swather from behind.
You can see the row of hay it’s spitting out as well as the alfalfa crop growing off to the right of the photo.
That’s my brother standing on the tractor tire. Kids, don’t try this at home! (why is it that I say that often when I see a photo with my brother in it?)

How is this like writing? This is like idea gathering. Your brain is the swather going through all the information it has ever been given, It takes it in and chops it down. What it’s spitting out at you is all sorts of ideas for writing. Themes, characters, plot scenarios, all these and more are laid down for you like a clear path. After I have an idea and I’ve played with it a bit, I usually try to come up with some sort of outline. It’s not as complicated as it sounds. I’ve made up a template of The Hero’s Journey and I usually write one or two sentences for each stage. Sometimes I move the stages around. Yes, I follow a formula. That’s my cutting phase.

There is nothing like the smell of fresh cut hay. I remember going and lying down in the cool rows of alfalfa. Okay, so it wasn’t so great if the spot you decided to rest in had aphids and little spiders, but you could end up with ladybugs crawling over you just as easily. Yeah, those were the days.


Dangerous Writing

October 20, 2009

No one thought writing could be dangerous. They were all wrong.

Well, okay, the actual writing shouldn’t be dangerous for the author, but it should be dangerous for the main character. Very, very dangerous.

When I say this to some writers, I get a look that says, “I don’t write THOSE kinds of stories.” Well you should! Here’s why:

A story is how a character faces danger. Your main character has to have a goal, whether it’s a long-term or a short-term goal. Whatever keeps your character from getting this goal is an obstacle. In trying to get around the obstacle, the character is in danger of being overcome by the obstacle. Therefore, your character faces danger.

Any type of book, from romance, to fantasy, to western needs to have obstacles for the main character to overcome.

For example, you might have a handmaid who wishes to marry the prince, but she knows that if she expresses her love for him, she’ll be kicked out of the castle. Since she has no family to live with, she’d be out on the streets. So, her dreams must remain her own. The handmaid’s goal specifically might be to have a better life than her parents did. Her danger is getting thrown back into the same lifestyle that her parents lived in. She faces danger of discovery every time she sees the prince. And what if someone — a rival — found out about her secret love and intentionally tried to foil our precious little handmaid? What if the prince was a womanizer to begin with and our handmaid found herself betrayed, possibly pregnant? What if the queen found out the handmaid was pregnant and she wanted another child and offered to buy the babe from the handmaid — enough to make sure the handmaid is herself treated like royalty for the rest of her life. Could the handmaid give the queen her baby and let the child be raised as the prince’s sibling instead of his child?

While none of this puts the handmaid in an immediate life or death struggle, the handmaid is facing danger at every turn. You don’t have to write the shoot-’em-up high action stories to have danger. But when you stop asking yourself what pebbles are in the road to keep your characters from getting their goals and start thinking of it more as “what danger are they facing?” your story develops with more tightness. It’s not just a random event any more. It’s a real threat. And it makes the “What if” game more fun to play. I thought of my sample above on the fly, but as I was writing it, I saw the plot start to take shape. It’s fun crafting the story.

If you want to read more about how to create danger for your character and see more examples of how to do this as well as learn how to tighten other elements of your story, please check out my book, The Write Edit. You can order it right from my Morning Sky Studios website for under $10. Don’t forget about your other writing friends too! It would make a great Christmas gift for those authors in your life.