Thursday, September 29, 2011

Fixing a Flat

I’m going to quote Stephen King today, because knowing a successful author at the top of his game still has to deal with writing problems makes me feel better. In an interview Uncle Stevie once described writing as akin to digging artifacts out of the ground: sometimes you get the whole pot or bowl, sometimes it comes out chipped or cracked. Sometimes it comes out completely broken. Sometimes you only get shards. Your job as a writer is to excavate as much of the book from your head as you can, and get it out as close to intact as possible. Even if you do your best, slipups do happen, and the book that looked so bright with promise when you started digging at it comes up with a nasty crack, or finally reaches the surface only to crumble in your hands.

I have before me a stack of papers (yeah, I’m old school) that represents my latest archaeological dig. Overall I’m happy with it. However, I’m not overjoyed. It was going along fine until I got near the end, then suddenly went off the rails. Months of digging (I write really slow) and I brought up a pot with a crack in it.

How did this happen? Could be several things. I’m a pantser, so I plot on the fly. Maybe the ending I came up with isn’t the one that belongs here. Maybe I don’t know the characters as well as I thought I did. Maybe I’m trying to rush something through that’s not ready to go. I’ve already let it sit for a bit and come back to it, and the cracks are still there. Not as wide as they were on first draft, but you can see where the pattern doesn’t match up. Or maybe I’m the only one who can see it. I just know it’s driving me nuts.

Here’s where beta readers come in handy, or a really spectacular editor. A new set of eyes can work wonders. I’m too close to my story right now. I can't hear what my subsconscious is trying to yell at me. I hate to send a broken story out to market, or even one with a crack. On the other hand, at least 80% of it is how I imagined it, and after close to a year I’m so sick of the thing I couldn’t do workable repairs anyway. Sometimes broke is as close as you get.

My solution: I’m going to do spot-edits, shore up the cracks, polish it up until the glue sets (or at least doesn’t show) and send it on its way. With luck, either an editor or future readers will tell me where I went wrong, so if I pull up another pot with the same flaws I’ll know what to do about them. Pity you can’t hurl a broken book at a wall. Papers just don’t make that satisfactory crash.

These things happen. All you can do is your best, and try to learn from your mistakes. Maybe I’ll reread some Stephen King, and see if I can spot the cracks he was talking about.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Angelic Forecast from Volcano ~ September 26, 2011

Weekly Angelic Forecast from Volcano

Straight from the Carnal Cherub himself...

Angelic Forecast ~ #160

The theme for this is week is ‘Lifeline and Lightline’. We, the human community, are each others’ lifeline. As well, we are becoming the ‘lightline’ as we help and guide each other through these upcoming times.

For, it is the community that will survive and thrive in the Aquarian Age, and this week that truth will become more obvious to many. There is a caveat, however. Only communities who cherish freedom, who respect each other as individuals, and who encourage an independent and innovative spirit, will remain strong and viable over the long run.

For the following week, make a conscious decision to look around you. Take notice of the changes that have occurred during the past year in your personal life, and in the world at large. This is crucial to understanding what will happen in the near future.

Also, from this point forward, social changes will occur in quantum leaps. Once again, the good face presents itself, and in opposition the evil face appears. Beneficent, Renaissance-like changes sweep across the globe now, all while the global surveillance grid is used for every manner of evil.

Watch for a zigzag pattern of events this week on the world stage. Your personal life is likely to be all over the map, as well. Sit still long enough to evaluate your best move, then move!

As the economy continues to tank, the global Banksters will ‘crow’ about their success while demanding they be given even more power over the almighty dollar, and the other world currencies. However, they are in for some rude surprises beginning toward the end of this week. This is because the AWAKENING has taken another quantum leap forward.

Sadly, at this time, the witch hunts begin anew against those who are highly psychic. This will not be apparent at first, because this Inquisition-like persecution will be kept beneath the public eye.

Trendwise, this week brings an abundance of opportunities to discover what type of work your soul resonates with most. The Soul Rising of humanity goes into high gear at this time. Those of you who are in touch with and expressing your soul self will be in demand to assist others. Do not be shy about accepting proper payment.

From a prior forecast ~ “a powerful magick is arriving, once again, and is available for those bold enough in vision to claim it. There will be individuals who will emerge as magicians, that is, the use of magick as it was practiced by the Wise Women and by those like Merlin. Before the Turning toward technology was allowed, as a method to circumvent the dark force, Magick reigned as the true and natural force on Earth.”

As All Hallows’ Eve 2011 approaches, there will be a dramatic shift toward true magick -- toward everything that is magical and paranormal.

Watch out for high strangeness this week.

Angelic blessings from Volcano & Sedona

MORE...Volcano’s Angelic Forecast for this week ~ ~


Savanna Kougar ~ Run on the Wild Side of Romance ~

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Older, No Wiser

The blog I was planning to post won't get posted today because my laptop crashed last night while I was working on it. All I did was close the lid, unplug, walk from one room to the other, plug in again and bam. Nada. No power, no laptop, no blog. I've had computers die on me before without warning. You think I'd learn.

Yeah well. The laptop's in the shop and I'm on the library system. I've still got my desktop, the circa-1990 Troglodyte 1000. That's the only one that has a printer. I can type stuff on it and print things out, but its system isn't compatible with anything created in the 21st century. Looks like I'm in for a lot of retyping until Mr. Lappy gets fixed.

Hence today's words of wisdom: KEEP BACKUPS. Backup everything you write on a computer, and then make a backup for your backup. Keep the backups in a secure place separate from your usual storage space, like at your mom's house or something. What if a flood hits? (Don't laugh; here in southcentral PA we got hit hard by Tropical Storm Lee a couple weeks ago. Harrisburg is still drying out.) If you're writing a novel, backup or print out chapter by chapter. Nobody wants to get to the end of a 120K-word novel, then lose the whole thing if their finger slips. Not only will you guarantee you have a copy of your work, that growing stack of paper looks damned impressive sitting next to the keyboard at the end of the day.

I'm old enough to favor paper as my saving system of choice. If it turns out I do lose my files, I've still got printed copies. The only thing possibly gone for good is about 1000 words of a story I was writing directly on the laptop (the laptop has no printer). Even that's not such a big deal, since I have the beginning in longhand. It's that humongous novel I had typed in there. I've got a paper manuscript, but yeesh, the amount of retyping I'll have to do if I want to email it somewhere. Why didn't I save that to the flash drive when I had the chance? Yeah. Live and learn.

I'm hoping this won't be anything serious and all my files will be intact when I get the laptop back. In the meantime, it's back to longhand drafts and printing out my typing on the Troglodyte on a daily basis. Also make more use of flash drives. Like The Who sang about, won't get fooled again.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Angelic Forecast from Volcano ~ September 19, 2011

Weekly Angelic Forecast from Volcano

Straight from the Carnal Cherub himself...

Angelic Forecast ~ #159

For the following week, and into the year 2012, nothing that happens on the world stage will be real. It is merely a staged play, made to appear real for public consumption. Or, it can be viewed as a theatrical drama designed to fool, to deceive all those who watch. All those who care ‘not’ for the truth.

Because the ‘system’ is imploding and the AWAKENING is soaring, drastic measures are being devised and set into motion. Know this, anything done from a corrupt, self-serving and evil motive will backfire, no matter the horror ‘the soulless ones’ inflict on innocents.

At this point in time, the rebellion against the system launches into high gear. This will manifest in many ways, from the destructive to the highly spiritual.

As the demand for freedom becomes more and more obvious, much of the battle will occur behind the scenes. Also, know that the best success will be gained by those who go their own way and follow their truth, and by those who form like-minded communities for the benefit of ALL their members.

Blow your mind ~ that is this week’s dominant theme. Once again, this theme has two faces. On the dark soulless side, chemicals are being used on a mass scale -- in the air, in water and food -- to ruin humanity’s ability to think and comprehend.

The Good Face of ‘Blow your mind’ is a necessary part of the Aquarian Age. It will be about letting go of beliefs and ways of being that no longer serve you or humanity. It is also about opening yourself to a higher level of truth and wisdom. This will include recognizing other life forms, other beings from otherworlds.

As the expose of the ‘evildoers’ continues, your best strategy is to look for real and workable solutions. Getting back to the land, growing food, and growing crops to take the place of oil and energy, is ‘one’ solution which will serve all of us.

Trendwise, this week is about the growing movement to provide personal solutions. As the UNRAVELING speeds up, there will be a demand for the ‘old ways’ and the ‘new ways’. A simple example would be owning a wood stove and using the latest in solar technology. This blending of the old and new is the wave of the future. The near future.

Stay on your toes this week, and show kindness where it is deserved.

Angelic blessings from Volcano & Sedona

MORE...Volcano’s Angelic Forecast for this week ~ ~


Savanna Kougar ~ Run on the Wild Side of Romance ~

Thursday, September 15, 2011

In Medias Res

In medias res is Latin for “in the middle of things.” It’s the recommended place to start a scene or a story. Snag the reader’s attention and drag ‘em in before they know what’s happening. They’ll have time to catch their breath once the story’s over.

I’ve heard anecdotes about writers who were advised by their editors to switch their first chapters around. Start with Chapter 2 and follow up with Chapter 1. Why? Because first chapters tend to end up as intros. We meet the characters, find out where they live and who their friends and families are, in a relaxed, everyday situation. The real action, the story itself, doesn’t start until Chapter 2. Editors like to see a story kick off with a bang. Plunge the reader right into the action on page 1. They can learn who these people are in Chapter 2, after they’ve been hooked.

Obviously this technique works great in mystery and action genres. But romance? Hey, why not? Paranormal and romantic suspense stories would definitely benefit from blasting right out of the gate. Raise that tension level right from the get-go. Rising tension never hurt a story.

Back in the ‘80s I read a book featuring the Woman Has Amnesia plot. She’d hired a pilot to fly her somewhere. The plane crashed in the wilderness, and she woke up with no memories. The pilot claimed to be her husband, for reasons I can’t recall. Maybe he was just a cad. Caddish behavior from romance heroes was acceptable in the ‘80s. They spent the rest of the book falling in love while trying to escape the wilderness intact. Plot particulars beyond that elude me now.

I do recall my disappointment, even three decades later. Chapter 1 opened on the airfield, with the pilot spotting the woman for the first time. Right off the bat, we know they’re not married. They’ve never met before this. By the time the plane crashed and the story proper started, any surprise or suspense had been blunted, as far as I was concerned.

I would have been so much happier had the story started like this:

The first line describes the woman’s slow return to consciousness. She’s out in the middle of nowhere next to the wreckage of a plane. She can’t remember where she is, or why, or how she got here, or even her name. Suddenly another person arrives, the hunkiest dude she’s ever laid eyes on (as far as she knows), the pilot of the plane. “Don’t you remember me, darling?” he says to end the chapter. “I’m your husband.”

Okay, I’m primed for Chapter 2 now. Bring it on.

The story can go in two directions from here. We can stay inside the woman’s head as she begins to notice the contradictions in “hubby’s” story even as she finds herself falling in love with him. Or we can hop into the pilot’s head for the truth. He knows vaguely where they are and how slim their chances are. He doesn’t need some panicky amnesiac jeopardizing their survival, hence the lie. “Look, I know you don’t remember me, but we’re married. You’ve always trusted me. Trust me now and do what I say and I’ll get us out of this.” So he’s not such a cad after all. But how long can he keep up the pretense, especially when he starts to develop genuine feelings for her?

Either way, the book’s got an added level of urgency now, sparked by the simple decision to start in the middle of the action. The reader’s no longer an observer; she starts on equal footing with the leads and can ride along as the story unfolds. Starting in the middle can help a book climb to the top of the charts. I’d better go revise my WIP.

(By the way, if the book I described – I think it was a Harlequin/Silhouette, maybe an Intrigue or Special Edition, if those lines existed back then – sounds familiar to anybody, I’d love to know the title, which I’ve long forgotten. All I can remember is that I didn’t agree with how the story started. Anyone recognize it?)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Angelic Forecast from Volcano ~ September 12, 2011

Weekly Angelic Forecast from Volcano

Straight from the Carnal Cherub himself...

Angelic Forecast ~ #158

For the following week, the winds of change sweep many of us off our feet, and at the same time, the sweeping and fierce winds of truth reveal what has been kept carefully hidden from Joe and Jane public. It’s going to be a wild ride, one many would rather shy away from.

There are several dynamics, this week, that enter the spotlight, and will remain well into the next year of 2012. One of those dynamics is what has been called the UNRAVELING in prior forecasts. At this point in time, what has been, is being ripped apart at the seams.

The ‘unraveling’ has two faces. The dark powers-that-be are using these Aquarian cosmic energies to unravel families, the natural and good love between family members, with the intention of making the corp-state the so-called ‘family’.

The other face of the ‘unraveling’ is the final destruction of the corp-establishment, and its iron-fisted control over society. With the AWAKENING crisscrossing the globe, gaining in strength, and gaining in true wisdom, the demand for freedom now becomes ear-splitting at the soul level.

Freedom, the desire for freedom, is becoming the very fabric of our being. Every good promise of the Aquarian Age is based on this ‘freedom’ to self-determine our own lives, our own way, our own path.

As a reflection of this dynamic, this week will be one of ‘division’ at every level of society. Again, this has a good face and an evil face. The good will be in separating from situations that no longer serve your highest nature, and finding a new way that nourishes your soul, one that unites you with others of like mind.

The evil face shows itself as ‘divide and conquer’. Every effort is being made to divide humanity against itself, as has been stated before. Now these tactics will be ramped up, and go into hyper-drive.

On a personal level, the following week is likely to offer many challenges, which will in fact be opportunities to create a better and more fulfilling life. Go forward with that thought in mind. And pay attention to the emotions of your heart.

More Changes, More Challenges -- that will be the theme for the upcoming months, especially in the world at large. However, there will be personal upheavals on a grand scale as well. For some, it will be like riding a tidal wave, then jumping on the back of a raging tiger. The remedy, follow the truth of your soul.

Trendwise, everything ‘survival’ will remain hot, and is very much needed right now. As an opposite to this trend, glamor as a real and beautiful force, rather than as a way to advertise Hollywood, returns to nourish that part of us that loves and resonates with beauty. For, we are the beautiful people of Earth, each in our own right.

Show the love this week, and you will be rewarded in ways you never thought possible.

Angelic blessings from Volcano & Sedona

MORE...Volcano’s Angelic Forecast for this week ~ ~


Savanna Kougar ~ Run on the Wild Side of Romance ~

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Doing the Twist

"I see plot twists. They're everywhere."

When done correctly, plot twists can be the deadliest tool in a writer’s arsenal. Your reader’s skimming along, maybe getting bored, when all of a sudden the plot takes a lurch and the smooth sailing of the last fifty pages hits a major tsunami. There goes any chance of flinging that book across the room. Unless the twist is just thrown in with no setup. In that case, kiss the drywall good-bye.

Some twists are used simply for shock value. Characters die without warning, the ex shows up at the wedding, two men burst through the door with guns in their hands (I think Raymond Chandler may have suggested that one). Others may look like they come out of nowhere, but are actually the result of clues judiciously sprinkled throughout the narrative.

Think about The Sixth Sense and its famous tail-end twist. Watch it again to see how expertly M. Night set it up. You may not think so on first viewing, but he plays fair all the way through. J. K. Rowling does it in the Harry Potter books. I mean, c’mon. Remus Lupin? Three guesses what he is. His suggestive name is staring you right in the face. Snape was onto him from the get-go – why else teach his students how to ID a werewolf? Mystery writers do this stuff all the time. The ones who are good at it are famous. The others – well, see those dents in the wall … ?

I’m going to use my novel Belonging again, so I don’t get some other writer mad at me for wrecking their surprise. I can wreck my own surprises, thank you very much. I had a major twist in mind, and made sure I set it up early on to avoid wall damage. Here’s a description of Wallace the vampire from Chapter 1:

Though tall, he had a pumped-up build and thick bull neck. He must have been into serious weight training at the time of his turn. Numerous scars marred his pallid skin, some of them ragged and nasty. Jeremy had always assumed he’d been a soldier of some sort, probably a Marine. The stiff bronze spikes of his close-cropped haircut fit that assessment. Not the tattoo, though. The ink on the vamp’s left bicep depicted a woodsman’s axe. No branch of the service had a lumberjack division, so far as Jeremy knew.

At this point in the story Wallace is going by an alias, Frank Baum. “Don’t sweat it if you don’t get the reference,” he says. His pet name for Jeremy is “scarecrow.” Jeremy assumes it’s because he’s tall and gangly. Though The Wizard of Oz is never mentioned directly, there’s a theme growing here, and discerning readers may pick up on it.

In Chapter 3 the boys go on a date. A vampire recognizes Jeremy from his job at the brothel. He also recognizes Wallace: “Didn’t you used to run down in LA?” One look at Wallace’s tattoo and the vampire panics and takes off. That’s the last clue we get until Chapter 7, the flashback chapter, when this bit of narration occurs:

Death strikes the deathless more than once during Jeremy’s time with the family. Rory. Jordan. Annalee. A litany of comrades and friends, brothers and sisters who went out and never returned. Whispered tales of slayers are passed around like ghost stories at Halloween. Stakin’ Stella, who made unlife hell for the vamps in New Orleans. The Avenging Angel, who stalked the streets of 1960s New York. The notorious Oz Squad, who terrorized Los Angeles for nearly a decade. “I remember them,” Ralph says. “They killed some good friends of mine. The Tin Man was the worst. His eyes—talk about dead.” Ralph shudders. “They’re the reason I left LA. It’s safer here. No slayers. Not so much sunshine, either. Gotta love that.”

Two chapters later Jeremy, who hates slayers with a passion, will find out in the worst possible way just who he’s been sleeping with all this time. See, he wasn’t paying attention. You can’t say I didn’t warn you.

Plot twists work just as well in a romance as they do in the action, suspense or mystery genres. We’ve got to keep the lovers apart until the last chapter somehow, don’t we? Maybe he turns into a jaguar when exposed to the scent of a certain tropical plant, and she can’t understand why he won’t visit her at the flower shop. Maybe she’s a vampire, and he can’t figure out why she won’t stick around for breakfast. If set up correctly, a well-timed twist will keep those readers reading, and those books from wrecking the wallpaper. That’s what we all want, isn’t it?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Angelic Forecast from Volcano ~ September 5, 2011

Weekly Angelic Forecast from Volcano

Straight from the Carnal Cherub himself...

Angelic Forecast ~ #157

This week’s theme centers around the idea that Love Conquers All. This is only true, however, when personal love is aligned with Divine Love. Or, at this time, the more we wish for good to come into the lives of those who ‘truly’ deserve it, the more we align with Ultimate Good, and receive goodness ourselves.

Thus, as we wish good upon each other, the human community is more and more in alignment, and creating an ever-rising spiral of GOOD. This alignment in LOVE, becomes crucial as we move deeper into the time of the Great Purification.

For the following week, and the next two weeks, the economic woes for many will sharpen, and there will be a strong reaction against the system. This will play out in many expected ways. However, there will be some unexpected scenarios. Be on the look out, and be cautious.

During this time of transition there will be a decided energy shift from materialism to community. The exchange of money as being ‘the’ motivating factor will gradually end. Relationships will be the motivating factor for humanity.

This is the point in history when ‘throwing money’ at problems will no longer work. No matter the amount, and no matter the problem. Whether it’s personal or social, the solution to a problem, great or small, will come from ‘the soul’, and from the soul of the community.

This is not to say there will be no form of money. There will be many forms of currency. It is the energy, itself, that is shifting. Human intention is what will work to bring about real change and real solutions.

From this point forward, it will appear as though the ‘dark force’ now rules the world. In many ways, this will be true as their many psychopathic minions cause horrific chaos and massive destruction at every opportunity.

However, there are many Benevolents, as they are called, who will be mitigating this maniacal and mad-scientist destruction. Also, with the rise of AWARENESS steam-rolling across the globe, humanity is asserting the natural right to bring forth the ‘goodness’ of the Aquarian Age.

Also, even as major conflicts and wars spread, devouring parts of the planet, there is the opposite occurring. The rainbow-bright Renaissance is rising. Creativity gains in strength, uniting those of like mind, as was spoken about in last week’s forecast.

Trendwise, the time of New Renaissance Music is upon us. This worldwide trend is eclectic in nature -- and includes all forms of music, all styles of music. However, every effort is being made by the ‘soulless ones’ to suppress, and end this trend that is most vital to humanity. One example of this, that may not be obvious, is the current attack on the Gibson Guitar company. This unwarranted ‘attack’ will backfire, and create many more musicians.

Angelic blessings from Volcano & Sedona

MORE...Volcano’s Angelic Forecast for this week ~ ~


Savanna Kougar ~ Run on the Wild Side of Romance ~

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Tortoise and the Hare

I’m a slow writer. I admit it. If I turn out a book, or even a novella, in a year’s time, I consider that prolific. Civilizations crumble before I get 5000 words written. I average a page an hour on a good day. The other six days a week I might write a paragraph. You get the idea.

Part of my problem is a major aversion to work. Let’s face it, writing is hard. Sweating blood in front of a notebook or computer screen for hours on end is no picnic. There are so many other things I could be doing – grocery shopping, housework, laundry, mowing the lawn. Then there’s cable TV, God’s gift to lazy writers. Wow, I’ve only seen this movie 20 times. Better watch it again.

At the other end of the spectrum we have the fast writers, the ones who can seemingly toss out a full-length novel in an afternoon with no apparent hardship. I look at you in envy, especially those of you with full-time jobs. How do you do it? Where do you find the discipline? Who’s doing your laundry?

Frankly, I don’t believe there’s a difference in quality between a book that burst onto the page like lava out of Vesuvius and a book that had to be excavated like a T. Rex fossil from stone. The real book emerges in the draft-and-polish stage anyway. Lots of times I’ve had better ideas hit while I was screwing off and allowing the pages to sit, making me glad I took my time. On the other hand, I do wish I had the discipline to sit myself down and dig out that T. Rex for more than two hours a day. One book a year is fine for the big names at the print publishers, but today’s e-world favors the speedy.

I’d like to hear from you hares out there. How long does it take you, on average, to finish a book? Do you outline first? Do you have your story figured out before you start writing, or do you just go for it? (That may be part of my problem. As a pantser, half the time I have no idea where the story’s headed. That tends to slow you down.) Do you take your time in the editing stage, or is the first draft close to the finished version? In short, I’m looking for some tips to speed me up. Slow and steady may win the race, but it doesn’t get too many books written.