On transitions in writing (or, avoiding a case of the “howevers.”)

Hey guys. Just a quick post to let you know that I have an essay up at Spry Literary Journal today as part of their ABCs of Fiction Writing series. My letter was J, so I wrote about junctures: the places where we join the pieces of our prose.

Check it out. And check out Spry. It is a very cool journal devoted to the short form. (One of the stipulations for writing this piece was that it had to come in at 1,000 words or less.)

This totally made my afternoon: Books & Insomnia’s review of Beware the Hawk

Just a quick post to tell everyone that Julie over at Books and Insomnia reviewed Beware the Hawk. It’s a really good review. I might have danced around the kitchen when I read it. Check it out. Then check out the rest of Julie’s blog. It’s a really great site, and she must read constantly, because there is always new content up over there.

Thank you, Julie! And have a good weekend, everyone. I definitely will.

Writing research, or this week’s list of reasons the NSA is watching me.


Behold, the dreaded spife!

Last week I posted a list of the items I researched while working on my latest thriller for The Resistance Cycle. This week, I continued to make slow progress on the manuscript, but once again, I needed to know certain … things. For example, can those lettuce knives you see on late night infomercials kill or maim someone?

Here’s this week’s list of questionable internet searches:

So, about those lettuce knives.
According to wisegeek, lettuce knives can deliver “deliver a nasty nick, although it certainly can’t cause mortal damage.” Boo to that.  And there are some hilarious five-star reviews of a plastic knife on Amazon, billing it as a great first knife for a child. Good-bye, possible plot device!

Okay, but can you really hurt someone with a plastic knife? And don’t give me “you can hurt anyone with anything if you really apply yourself.” I’m looking for a lethal plastic knife.
Yes. After reading many pages of Google results, I now know that apparently you can, if you file a plastic knife down. Or if you 3-D print a dangerous knife. But you really need to a) be up a creek and need protection of any kind to do this, b) really want a plastic knife, c) be a destructive, yet crafty sociopath. (Just imagine the Pinterest board.)

Fine. I need this to be easy for my protagonist. What are some dangerous office supplies?
And that’s when I ended up on the Bloomberg’s How to Weaponize Office Supplies infographic and lost 10 minutes of writing time laughing.

Okay, but seriously, guys.
Scissors, idiot, says the Internet. But this is not really what my character needs, so I’m not satisfied with this. Looks like it’s time for a field trip. If you need me this weekend I will wandering around Staples, taking notes.

The spife photo is by XenoL-Type at en.wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia) [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons.

Things you research while writing a thriller

Because I turn off my internet connection while I’m writing, I keep a written weekly list of the things I have to research for my books. And because I write political thrillers, the things I Google are pretty suspicious. Although, let’s be honest: nothing beats “where do senators park” search I did when I was writing The Eagle & The Arrow. I fully expected men in sunglasses to show up at my door for that one.

Here’s this week’s list of questionable things I’ve Googled while writing books for The Resistance Cycle:

Disposable cell phones – do they have cameras? Yes, they do.

Can you check into a hotel without a credit card? Sort of, depending on the hotel.

Okay then, how about a stolen card? The Internet says no, but I am skeptical because I believe the Internet doesn’t want to give me the tools to be a criminal. Listen, Internet, I already have a mother.

So wait. How do you use a stolen credit card without getting caught anyhow? Apparently it’s pretty labor-intensive. Scratch that plot point.

What are the protesters from Occupy Wall Street doing now? Lots and lots and lots of things. Or nothing. It depends on where you look. Guess I can make some stuff up then.

Beware the Hawk 3, or, my collection of crappy first pages.

It’s probably time for an update on my Beware The Hawk series.

It’s an update I’ve put off, because I am having some trouble with the last book.

It’s not that I’m not writing it. I am. I started writing months ago.

The problem is, I haven’t gotten very far, because for about six months, all I could write was the first page. I’m not even kidding: Every time I sat down to write, I looked at Page One, hated it, and wrote a new beginning.

I now have a collection of crappy first pages. They’re everywhere: in my journals, on my old laptop, on my new laptop, on my phone. I think I even dictated one to myself in the car. If the public were hungry for an anthology of bad first pages, I’d be booking readings right now.

Please allow me to share my very favorite crappy sentence from my very favorite crappy first page:

“I’m going to find that thing. I don’t know what it was. I don’t know what happened to it.”

That thing. Is it the plot? The narrative voice? The author’s train of thought? We may never know, because I have no memory of writing this line. It’s like that time I sleep-wrote half a page during NaNoWriMO.

Anyway, I am happy to report that, in the last two months, I finally managed to move beyond the collection of bad first pages, and am now creating something that looks like a story. It is slow going, because despite the fact that I write 100-page thrillers, I have some loose ends to tie up and some mysteries to solve and I want to do it well. (I can’t imagine what this same task must be like for George R. R. Martin, who writes 1,000-page monsters and juggles 31 point-of-view characters.)

I can tell you a few things about it so far:
– My working title for this project is Songbird.
– There is a new point-of-view character.
– I am trying for 500 words a day on this bad boy.

I cannot promise they will be good words, but I can promise that words will be written. And for those of you who have been asking, I can also promise semi-regular updates here.

Got questions about Songbird? Get at me.

I’m cheating on my novel with another novel.

cheatingonnovelI started a brand new novel.
Why did I start a brand new novel?

It’s not like I don’t have anything to write. I have three serious fiction projects going on right now. One is my webserial. One is the novel I wrote two drafts of in grad school. And one is the third Beware the Hawk book. People are waiting for all of these. I’m committed to all of them.

Fiction-writing time is precious these days, because I’m working as a freelancer at home, and when I’m not freelancing, I’m taking care of my young son or helping my husband figure out this puzzlebox of an old house we just moved into. (“Why is it 80 degrees in some rooms and 50 degrees in others?” “What does this random knob on the wall do?” “Can you bring the baby monitor into the basement and help me figure out a thing?”)
Despite all of these things that have a claim on my time, I opened up a new document, and started writing a brand new novel last month.

Guess what I’m spending all my fiction-writing time on. I don’t want to do anything but write it. It’s the thing that gets me into my office in the morning and it’s the thing that keeps me from leaving for lunch. I think about the plot and the characters constantly. I write it in my head when I’m shoveling snow and when I’m going to sleep at night. I’m basically having a writing affair with it.

And of course, because it’s an affair, I feel guilt. Guilt, because I have a trilogy to finish, two thirds of which have been published and have actual, honest-to-god readers who occasionally message me on Twitter and ask after my protagonist. (Guys, I love you for that. Just saying.)
Guilt, because the people I went to school with keep asking me when I’m going to finish my drag queen/Shakespeare literary fiction novel and send it out to agents.
Guilt, because I am spending my time writing this manuscript that makes me so, so happy, and it’s a full-fledged swords-and-sorcery fantasy novel, and sci-fi/fantasy has always been my first love, no matter how much Flannery O’Connor and Graham Greene charmed me later in life.

But this book I’m working on makes me feel like a kid again. It reminds me of my first glorious unfinished novel, which I wrote when I was fifteen years old. I’d finish my homework and sit in my father’s office, writing this crazy fantasy epic with talking horses and hell-tunnels and not really a coherent plot, on one computer while my dad worked on the other. I’d write until my parents loudly announced that I had to go to bed. I had not developed an inner editor yet, and I never planned to show anyone what I was writing, so I didn’t even care if it was good. It was just for me, and that time I spent writing was my favorite time of the day.

Writing that behemoth was just pure joy, and I never thought I’d feel that again. And maybe I won’t, but this new novel comes close. Maybe it’s because I’m writing fantasy, and I just love fantasy. Or maybe it’s because at this point, this book is just for me. There’s no writing group or editor waiting for this one. I have no grand rewrite plans. I have no commercial plans for it. My ideal reader for this book is me.

I’ve spent my adult life writing things for other people: newspapers, editors, writing groups, teachers, mentors, whoever. It feels like a gift to be able to write something for myself. I just wish it weren’t taking away from the time and energy I should be spending on other projects.

DinoLand has been reposted, and it’s better-looking and more navigable than ever.

Good news! John, the editor over at Geek Eccentric, saw my post from a few days ago about DinoLand getting taken down for the holidays and, because he’s awesome, gave me a present: even though the rest of his site is dark for a while, he put my chapters back up.

Not only that, but he tarted them up and made them easier to navigate; you can now click from chapter to chapter by using the links on the left. My fiction has rarely looked so good.

The latest chapter was posted last week, so check it out.

Thank you John!