Sunday, November 30, 2014

Closing Out November (NaNoWriMo November 30th)

Each time I do the National Novel Writing Month, it presents a different challenge. From day to day within that single month, the challenges may vary, but each year has its own overall challenge "theme" as well.

In 2006, the first year I did NaNoWriMo, I was solitary still. I took the challenge, oh yes, but I saw it only as a 50,000-word production goal. Get to 50K, and I'm done. I stayed out of writing groups, did not contact other locals, just put my head down and wrote. 

It wasn't fun. I finished that November with 50,028 words and shoved the Indigo Reunion file into a folder on my hard drive. I wouldn't touch it again until 2013.

Last year, I got out that old file as I debated whether to try again. Reading through it, I realized that there was much more of the story left untold. In November 2013, I set out to tell it. This time, I resolved, I would take full advantage of the resources now offered on the web site. I took every suggestion, reached for every badge. The only thing I didn't do last year was link up with a writing buddy.

And to my surprise, in 2013 the process was a lot more fun! I not only wrote and wrote, I tweeted, and joined Hangouts and took WordSprint challenges. I set up a synopsis, and an extract, and the writing flowed easier. I made a mock cover for my novel, and the writing went easier still. I gave up perfection and went for sheer volume, and finished Indigo Homecoming November 30th with 70,852 words, validated.

I joined several writers' communities on Google+, my social network, and kept the enthusiasm for writing bubbling throughout 2014.

I spent a month and a half editing Indigo Reunion (renamed Indigo Reaping) and Indigo Homecoming (renamed Indigo Reunion), getting them ready to publish. My publisher suggested waiting until the trilogy, which would include the expected 2014 NaNovel, was complete, then publishing them in a sequence to boost sales. (That plan also included renaming of the novels, to a similar pattern, "Indigo Re-" something.)

I danced into October, confident that I would be ready for writing this year. Then an idea for a YA novel (about a family moving to town, whose children are all geniuses) began to take over my NaNovel conceptualization. Would I even be able to write the final Indigo novel of the trilogy this year? 

Fortunately I figured out how to put this idea on ice, ready to thaw and write about at some later date (maybe next November?), and ended October with cover art, synopsis and extract for Indigo Redemption ready to go. (Except it was called Indigo Resolution at fist, but let's forget that wimpy title!)

Oh, I was really ready for November to come this year. I was eager to find out what having a writing buddy was like. From last year, I knew which things I had tried didn't work for me (like WordSprints and too many Hangouts), and the things that did (Cover Art and Extracts, regular hours of writing in the comfortable, non-home environment of Chick-fil-A).  

And I was determined to post every day about the process, even though that would not count toward my novel's word total.

I went to the forums looking for someone who might be interested in a writing buddy, and found a woman in Texas, a teen boy in high school band, and a teen girl in California, all first-time WriMos. We linked up, and were off! Along the way I added another buddy, met by chance on Google+, whose approach to writing seemed similar to mine. I thought I would be a mentor—instead, the level of mutual support just from linking up with people involved in the same battles I was fighting turned out to be decidedly in my favor!

And now, after struggles that led me through the weeds and over the heights I've blogged about this whole month, I sit with perhaps four-fifths of a novel complete, a winner's badge, and a NaNoWriMo Wizard wristband that I will wear until I finish and publish Indigo Redemption

I will keep writing. I will edit my novel. It will be published!

Watch for the Indigo trilogy on Amazon...

Total: 66,425 words, validated.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Mapping Indigo and Its Environs (NaNoWriMo November 29th)

I used some down-time away from the computer today to choose a set of street-names for Indigo. Up to now, I've been skating—using one of three or four street names, two of which are "Main" and "Highway". Cheating, in other words.

I had done a similar mapping, creating an image of the grid-layout of Indigo's streets, and an inset of a larger region around town, once before when I was unable to work on the computer. But I still hadn't assigned any more names for streets.

The task this morning served to occupy my fore-brain, freeing my writing genie to figure out a couple of other issues that had been tied up for me. I've blogged about one, for example, the complaint made by a certain evil entity. Another was how to bring the locals in town to realize that Sheriff Art Whiddick is no longer at the county seat, but has essentially retired to Indigo.

Suddenly, the gates opened, and a flood of writing ensued. I guess the moral is, whatever works, works, even if it is to stop writing for a (brief) while!

I've passed the halfway-point in the story now, and it's time to ratchet up the suspense, endanger some children and other main characters, and set things up for the evil one to fail. Because she has to fail. Art has to win, and survive, and redeem the lost ones.

Otherwise, it wouldn't be Indigo Redemption, would it?

Total: 59,677 words, validated.

Peaches and Rock (Not NaNoWriMo, November 29th)

Peaches and Rock

The line of hip and thigh shifted under silk, stirring the covers. "Time to get up," came the murmur, "You'll be late for work," then, slightly louder, "Damn! I left my lipstick on last night." Sliding from the bed, Peaches peeled nightie straps down, silk pooling around toes. 

It was harder for Rock to get ready for work in the morning when he had lain with her warmth all night. At last, roused by the shower, Rock caressed the nightie and laid it on the bed. Checking in the mirror for lingering lipstick, he zipped his jeans, and left.


Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge, November 26, 2014

November 26, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using two objects, people or ideas that don’t go together. Anything random like wine and gasoline; the Archangel Michael and Marilyn Monroe; granny and rehab; horses and church bells. Then write a story about your two dissonant picks. Use your two objects as the title.

Friday, November 28, 2014

On the (Twenty-)Seventh Day He Rested (NaNoWriMo November 28th)

This post has nothing to do with increasing NaNoWriMo word count, and everything to do with recharging the writing batteries.

Yesterday evening, I had dinner with a group of people who, while not WriMos, are all creative, ambitious, intelligent and hands-on with the world. For once, my spouse was not the only person in the room telling interesting stories.

For example: one is an artist who makes something of a living creating neat stuff for Burning Man attendees, people who want to be there and join in, but do not have the time or creative juices for a Burning-Man type of artwork. However, she currently is mapping "urban wildlife" (principally feral cats, it appears) and catching them on strategically-placed cameras.

Her description prompted another, an architectural designer married to an architectural engineer, to tell the tale of how their extremely rural tent camp, with field cameras placed to record game incursions, caught the son of a local driving his truck well past the 'No Trespassing' signs on their property.

An alarm automatically lit the lights in their house-sized tent, which blazed suddenly out of the darkness, causing the young man to flip a U-turn and get caught a second time on the game camera. Neither of them were in residence at the camp, but their handy-man, my spouse's nephew, downloaded the camera file, recognized the truck, and confronted its driver—gently—the next day in town. "Never happen again!" the young man swore.

Two of the ladies had gone on a walking tour in Greece this summer, and had much to tell about learning to be laid back and just experience the Greek Isles. 

One of our hosts abruptly left the conversation, walked outside, and came back again to announce that he had spotted, on the hillside across the lake, "Six pigs and eight deer." He went on to relate how the Corps of Engineers had decided to declare several pig shoots on the property uphill from the dam that impounds the lake, because the non-native porkers are causing an increase in the sediment load coming into the impoundment, shortening the life of the dam.

Finally, just before I began to write in earnest for my NaNovel today, I ran across the intriguing Flash Fiction challenge from Carrot Ranch: 

In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using two objects, people or ideas that don’t go together. Anything random like wine and gasoline; the Archangel Michael and Marilyn Monroe; granny and rehab; horses and church bells. Then write a story about your two dissonant picks. Use your two objects as the title.

I thought I had run across demanding story concepts before this, but I've tried everything. Nothing will suit but to drop Indigo Redemption (briefly) and write a 99-word Flash Fiction.

So chalk it up to a "rejuvenating holiday", but I won't be writing anything more on my novel today. I'll have to be content with the little I wrote before breakfast!

Total: 53,876 words.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving in Indigo (NaNoWriMo November 27th)

Although they don't know it yet, the citizens of Indigo and their sheriff Art Whiddick will have much to be thankful for when November comes to the town. I have decided that this will be the last book in the series, and therefore I am setting it up to lay to rest the ancient evil that underlies Indigo.

So many children have disappeared from its streets since Indigo was settled. Although the townspeople are unaware, these troubles did not start with the town's founding. Before there was an Indigo, before the first ranch house was built, children had already been disappearing for centuries. 

I have given Indigo a gift, a new treat for the sad Halloween trick that has been played on them over the years. In Indigo Redemption, the town will have a rebirth, free of the evil that has stalked its streets every year at this time. 

There will be healing, there will be recovery of what was lost, or its release. The entity that has reaped so much sorry from the town will be defeated at last.


I have lived for many years in Indigo. I have come to know and love its citizens, native-born and newcomer alike. I may not be able to let them rest. But I will certainly give them a Thanksgiving to remember this year.

Total: 52,862 words.

My love: I am so thankful you are in my life. I wake in gratitude each day for your amazing mind, your loving heart, and your wonderful body. "Wherever I am with you, that's my home."

Working Out Stuff on the Fly (NaNoWriMo November 26th)

I love passing 50,000 words, but still have far to go. One benefit of being over that line, and thus having met a deadline, is that I now have some leisure to stop and fill in some gaps that I passed over in the process of making 50K words.

I have a really clear conception of four potential deaths related to the cold weather or lack of resources as the town of Indigo gets snowed in. One of these victims under threat is Mayor Ran, who is in his nineties. He's trying to deal with a catastrophic blizzard, and also handle a complaint from the evil woman who is the embodiment of the fateful weather and disappearing children problems that beset Indigo.

The only problem is, I still don't have a handle on what her complaint is. Obviously, it's evil in intent, but she's a sly and clever thing. It has to suit a centuries-old entity with a lot of experience in causing harm to the people who have the misfortune to settle in her area of influence.

The complaint or her subsequent actions have to put enough stress on the old mayor to give him problems: a heart attack, perhaps, or a stroke. That. coupled with the fact that the town is effectively cut off from the local hospital and other emergency services, may be enough to create the crisis I want.

So I'll throw this out to the universe (at the same time as I give marching orders to the genie in the back of my head: come up with a suitable complaint for Moira!) Maybe someone will have a clue.

Right now I don't. But I have to keep writing anyway, and behave as if I do.

Total:  words.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Crossing the Finish Line Still Running (NaNoWriMo November 25th)

November is about focus on writing. Producing words, the more the better. Ignore the quality, focus on quantity. And that's good, because if you don't write, you have nothing to edit.

But then one November day, you look up and realize you've written 50,000 words. Cool! Now I can get a T-Shirt, post a banner on my blog, and sleep late tomorrow. I'm done.

See, what no one tells you as a newbie is that getting 50,000 words written is only half the battle. It's the toughest half, but still only half.

For one thing, 50,000 words edits down to maybe—if you're lucky—40,000. And that's definitely novella-sized, not novel-length. Still, having a completed novella under your belt is more than most wanna-be writers achieve.

For another, if you've been fair with your writing, you are probably one-half to two-thirds finished telling your story. I've got my people in Indigo in all kinds of hot water (actually, cold water: snow and ice), and now I have to rescue them and solve the mystery. That's at least 40,000 more words, more likely 50,000.

So I won, but like many other WriMos, I have to keep writing. I have a whole 'nother NaNoWriMo's-worth of writing ahead before I finish Indigo Redemption

Before I return to the keyboard, I have a shout-out for my writing buddies: LightOnSnow and traceyo whose mutual support made such a difference to me, and gelilynn and Leo Schrant, two teens who tried NaNoWriMo for the first time this year. Thanks also to WriMos Paul Krater (paganpaul) and Victor Powell, whose community The Next Step Writer's Workshop has been so helpful in the months outside November.

Also, a recommendation if you are across or nearly across the "finish line": read Chuck Wwndig's blog Why It's Important To Finish... (Warning: NSFW language, but true stuff nonetheless. Read it at home.)

Onward to 100K!

Total: 50,339 words.

Monday, November 24, 2014

When A New Story Butts In (NaNoWriMo November 24th)

When the creative juices are really flowing, sometimes a completely new story wants to take over the action. I've worked "alien" tales into the current novel (And Sophie Takes Over...), but usually the new story just doesn't share any angles with the current novel.

This is what tried to derail my story of fateful weather in Indigo today. The story idea is not new, but it arrived before I learned to encapsulate ideas for novels, and I had kind of let it slide. "Hey, the novel machine is ON!" it said while I was half-asleep this morning, and started throwing out proposals for taking over.

I've borrowed a couple of tools I learned from NaNoWriMo 2013 to handle these invaders. I write a synopsis, and generate an extract that captures as much of the vision for the new novel as necessary to bring back whatever captured my creative genie. Sometimes, I generate a cover image and title, but often, the synopsis and extract is enough.

Title: V-Positive
Concept: Vampirism is spread as a viral infection, sharing much of the vector and contagion level as AIDS. 
Synopsis: Bennie* Deems, a skateboarder and surfer living "under the boardwalk" at a California beach town, discovers he is V-Positive, and must try to cope with losing his lover, his family's support, and access to the sun-and-surf environment that he loves. Venita Scherra, on the other hand, is chasing a cure for the virus in the hope of saving her sister's child from the disease. Neither Bennie nor Venita know that there is a third party in the shadows, a "Patient Zero", who is deliberately spreading this infection.
    Bennie Deems sat in his darkened room--really little more than a half-converted garage--and watched TV. He sat in the glow of the black-and-white screen, ignoring the broken spring in the seat of the cast-off armchair and the other dumpster-salvage that surrounded him, watching the afternoon movie, a commercial-encrusted showing of "Twilight". 
    He wanted to laugh at the overdrawn love scenes, but a commercial showing a couple walking along a beach propelled him from his chair to spin the dial. He stopped at random, and settled back into his chair. The commercials segued to a static-hashed image of surfers in an old movie, and Bennie found he could not bear to change channels again. 
    Unacknowledged tears ran in a steady stream down his cheeks, and splashed unfelt on his bare chest. He had lost so much, but this was the hardest to take. Bennie sat, and cried, and gave thanks for small favors that he hadn't found a color TV. 
    He didn't know if he could live with seeing images of the blue sky and golden sunshine he could no longer view in person.
Genre: Not YA/Not Fanfiction/Dystopia/Anti-vampire-porn.

*Bennie's name is a hat-tip to John Brunner's Bennie Noakes in Stand On Zanzibar, who watched the TV news (or static on a non-broadcast setting) in a drug-induced haze, and said repeatedly, "Christ, what an imagination I've got!"

And now that I've locked Bennie up in his capsule, I can get on with the folks in Indigo, who are just beginning to realize the size of the storm that has engulfed them.

Total: 47,708 words.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A Gross Pollutant Indeed, Excerpt (NaNoWriMo Bonus Post November 23rd)

The probably-Indian artifact (the MacGuffin) has vanished down a storm drain, and Bebe Ballinson, who is responsible for its safekeeping, is reassured by her uncle that they can probably recover it once the freezing rain dies down a little. This scene describes the recovery of much more than they expected:

    A tiny crowd gathered around the open access to the storm-drain's vault. The thick metal cover was propped against the wall of the police station near the opening, and Chief Ryan had been pressed into duty to hold the high-powered lantern that Ian Gerald would use once he was down in the manhole vault.
    "I wouldn't worry," Ian had said to reassure Bebe when he realized the reason they wanted the drains inspected right away. "All the manhole accesses here in Indigo have GPTs installed at the bottom of the vaults. Gross Pollutant Traps. They usually catch coins and tennis balls, leaves and branches and the like. Even when there's a gutter-washer of a rainstorm, only the lighter stuff will float away down the pipes."
    "That rain this afternoon didn't really qualify." He gave a knowledgable nod to the chief. "You know, Ryan. You 'member some real flooding." He nodded again. "That might have cleaned out the GPT here. Even then, heavy stuff like rocks and coins and nails and the like, they will still be in the trap."
    Ian drew on heavy work gloves, preparatory to descending the steel brackets that served as ladder rungs in the concrete vault. The rib that supported the ladderway projected from the wall of a vault that opened widely beneath the sidewalk. The vault was deep as well as wide. Ian would descend to the vault's floor, and once his hands were free, Ryan would lower the battery-powered lantern to him on its attached tether.
    Now, Ian's body blocked most of the light from the lamp. An occasional gleam or flicker reflecting from the pool of water below the sewer worker lit the space around the descending man. Water in the pipes chuckled and plashed, and Ian's boot-steps woke ringing echoes in the vaulted space. At last, his feet were on the floor, straddling the edge of a broad pool of water. 
    The lantern went down on its tether, lighting a ring of concrete as it descended. Ian took the handle as it reached him, and set the lantern on the wet edge of the concrete next to the pool, unclipping the tether. He looked up at the ring of faces above him.
    "The GPT is gonna be in the center of this runoff pool here." He explained, "I'll need to kneel in the water to make sure I get the whole floor of the trap cleared, and don't miss anything. Could you pull the tether up and clip it to the handle of that pail I set down up there, Chief? If you'll lower that too, I'll just collect anything that stayed in the trap and you can pull it up."
    He didn't wait; he knelt in the edge of the pool, hissing as the icy water soaked through his trousers. His gloves had long wrist-guards. Nevertheless, the edges of the guards dipped below the water's surface as Ian groped in the catchment trap. He started a running commentary, his voice echoing weirdly in the vault. "That feels like a branch, that's a big cobble-stone... branches, twigs and leaves mostly will have floated off before I got down here, but there's still some in the trap... Aha! That feels like the scarf you told me about."
    He pulled a wad of greenish gauze from the pool. The scarf was no longer wrapped around the necklace. Instead, caught in its threads was an inch-long twig, gleaming whitely in the lantern light. Ian extracted it from the folds of cloth, and held it up. 
    "Put it in the bucket, Ian!" Ryan called down to him. "That looks like a finger-bone, maybe human!"
    Ian glanced up at the chief, his expression unreadable. "I thought it was a twig. Maybe the other things I felt..." He placed the small bone gently into the pail, and still on his knees, turned back to the trap. The branch he had felt at the close edge of the pit was not wood, but bone, a thin humerus. 
    The watchers above cried out in surprise as he drew the 'cobble' from the water, to reveal a gleaming skull. Between the skull's bony cheek and Ian's thumb was the thong from Tuck's necklace, and the stone medallion dangled below his glove.

Total: 45,839 words.

Buddy Wins Are Sweet! (NaNoWriMo November 23rd)

This will be a quick post, as I am trying to pump up my word count for the weekend. (Although I may have a third excerpt for my readers, as a bonus post later tonight. These excerpt posts are rewards and motivation to me to help me stay on track.)

But LightOnSnow, my NaNoWriMo writing buddy, has passed 50,000 words! This is particularly sweet as she is a newbie. That's right, her first time out, and she crossed the finish line well ahead of the November 30th deadline.

Her novel, Keeping Your Enemies Closer, is not finished yet, she tells me, so we'll be seeing her word count total continue to build as November draws to a close. 

I am very proud of having been her writing buddy this year, and look forward to seeing more from this Texan with a pen.

Total: 45,092 words.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Examining the MacGuffin, Another Excerpt (NaNoWriMo Bonus Post, November 22nd)

As the fateful weather sweeps into Indigo, several people are focused on the interesting artifact (the MacGuffin) that was involved with the hospitalization of one character, and injury to another. 

Indigo's Chief of Police Ryan Ballinson, officer Brian Meens, Ryan's niece Bebe and her associate Eckert Ardret have their first chance to get a good look at the token. Here's the scene at the police station as they examine it:

"Ye gods! It's really getting nasty cold out!" She dropped into a chair next to Ardret. "You guys are going to want to hear what I found out." She shook a few ice crystals out of her hair. They dropped with tiny clicks to the floor, and immediately began to melt.
She dug into her jacket, and withdrew the wad of gauzy green fabric. Unfolding it, she held out her palm to display the stone on its cut thong, snatching it away from Ardret's touch as he reached out for it. "Careful!" she warned. "This thing froze to Arthur's cheek, and had to be pried off at the ER. It left a burn mark on him. Burned one of the nurses, too, freezer burn."
Ryan and Ardret spoke together. "Who's Arthur?"
Bebe giggled. "Turn's out, that's Tuck's real name. Arthur Ganderson. He's the one who reported the discovery out at the buttes. Seems like he claimed an artifact for himself before he called us in to do a formal dig, too." She rocked her palm to show the stone medallion. "I don't think you want to touch it, but the scarf seems to be enough protection to handle it safely."
She offered across the desk to her uncle first. Ryan lifted it cautiously, careful to touch only the scarf. Ardret stood, leaning across the desk so he could get a better look at the token in the Chief's hand. "Looks kind of like an eye." Ryan observed. He tilted it in his hand to admire the gleam that ran across the surface.
Bebe felt that same sense of being looked at as she had at the ER. She was startled when Ardret shivered, saying, "Ugh! Goose walked over my grave there...."
"What's on the other side of the medallion?" Bebe wondered. They watched as Ryan inserted a finger between his palm and the scarf, and used the fabric to flip the stone. The pattern on the back looked nothing like the front. Instead of the concentric pattern on the other side, this side of the token was marked with radial grooves that extended, zigzag-fashion, from the thin edge to slightly mounded rim of the hole at the center.
None of the lines met at the rim of the opening; instead, they halted at varying distances from it to leave an irregular unmarked area at the highest part of the mound. The bottom of the grooves was darker than the surface of the stone.
"That's a lot more like a trade token." Ardret commented. "If I found this in a Swinomish or Willapa site, really any of the Athapaskan sites I've worked, I'd call it a trade token without doubt." He paused. "But only if I saw this side first. That eye-side, that's like nothing I've seen before."
Bebe looked at Ardret. "You might be onto something, Eckert," she said. "You know the Pacific Coast Indians and the Plains Indians from here south and west are related linguistically, right?" She smiled briefly. "They could be related culturally, too, enough to trade the same way."

Ryan closed the stone inside the scarf in his hand. "That seems like a lot of speculation to rest on a single artifact to me, but it's your specialty, after all."

Hint: The thing on the thong is not a trade token, Athapaskan or otherwise...

Total: 42,613 words.

A Novel Experience (NaNoWriMo November 22nd)

Carl the Fog comes in on big ol' army boots, not little cat feet.
Of all the distractions and interruptions to novel writing, the most pleasurable is an unexpected encounter leading to an animated conversation with engaging people. It happens often when I am reading or posting to social media at Chick-fil-A

In November, though, I try to fend off those overtures with my NaNoWriMo door hanger. I slide the knob opening over the tall vase at my table, where it lays at a readable angle below the fresh carnations. The Novelist At Work. Do Not Disturb. message is enough to stop most conversations. I can always turn it to the wall if when I want to talk.

But this morning, sitting with my spouse (who occupies the time at Chick-fil-A that I spend noveling with 3D printing or needlepoint), we were drawn into a wide-ranging debate that opened with mutual backgrounds in teachingHollie teaches pastry-making at the local JCand engineeringGinny studied civil engineering at San Luis Obispo, where two of her professors were Colorado School of Mines graduates.

We discussed families and marriage, memorable church services (Samoan Congregational here in Santa Rosa was a mutual favorite, because they dance), writing and teaching, and what a small world it is. Hollie shared that she and Ginny were heading from the restaurant to pack Christmas Shoe Boxes for the Samaritan's Purse Operation Christmas Child, a worthy charity. (Please link through to see what it's about.)

I gave the two ladies my elevator speech about Indigo and the Fateful Weather theme. Hollie's response was a huge surprise: "Like the fog in San Francisco." Okay, I hadn't heard of children disappearing in the Bay fog, like they do in Indigo, but perhaps I am just out of touch. "Oh, yeah, you know," she continued, "the fog has a name. It's Carl. Carl the Fog. Even has a Twitter account."

My spouse was adamant. "No, it should be 'Carla'. Fog is feminine, it comes in on little cat feet. Carl (or Karl) is okay for a hurricane or typhoon, for weather that stomps in wearing big ol' Army boots." But Hollie was right. The Bay fog has been personalized, and it is a male persona

My Fateful Weather has a name, too, but unlike the Bay fog, it is female. She is embodied as 'Moira', whose name was assigned long before I learned that the name means 'fate'. 'Moira' is just a face, though, a physical embodiment of something much darker, and far more ancient. 

The conversation this morning now has me wondering if there are subconscious reasons why the nemesis of Indigo was conceived as female, hunter, child-stealer, and storm-generator—and evilfrom the very first novel. Am I being subliminally anti-feminine?

My answer is: I don't know for sure. I'm learning about these things the same way you are, by reading what I've written.

Time to write some more...

Total: 41,867 words.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Grouse Eggs and Grilled Lizards (NaNoWriMo November 21st)

Maybe it was last night making 900 words toward my goal for tomorrow before I could go to sleep, then rising early this morning to go to the gym. (Okay, I'll admit that my spouse woke me early to go to the gym...) 

But all at once, this morning I can't write dialog. I can't move the main story forward. Instead, my attention seems focused on food and food sources. What do my characters eat? How do they prepare it?

This is particularly important in the two flash-back historical tales embedded in the novel. I have a fairly good idea, informed by reading period literature, of how and what a frontier woman would cook on a blustery October day. Less clear is what a Plains Indian woman would prepare for a meal in that same season. I do know that the food available to a hunter/gatherer society would have been less plentiful as the year winds down to winter.

Grouse eggs would be nice, I thought, though unlikely to be found in autumn nests. This was triggered in part by a brief speculation I read years ago (in a Jared Diamond book, I think) about semi-nomadic Native Americans, north and south of the equator, and their attempts to domesticate the wild animals they used as good sources. So while prairie grouse eggs would not normally be available in the fall months, once the grouse hen was domesticated, she might (as chickens will) lay eggs out of season even if they had not been fertilized. 

The novel now has three visitors arriving with a gift of food. One is a shaman who is bringing the Plains Indian tribe of the novel the powerful token they will need to combat the ancient hunter whose lands they have transgressed. While the shaman presents the elders of the tribe with this token of power, one of his companions is bringing a more transformative gift: four fertile eggs from a domesticated prairie grouse, with instructions on how to hatch them.

This replaced my earlier plan to have the gift presented by the lone shaman: a pair of torpid lizards, caught sunning themselves on a rock. First I changed the diet from Grilled Lizard to Grouse Eggs, and finally decided that both would be needed. What could be a better and more wizardly gift than meat for the spare meals of autumn and food for the tribe for the years to come?

Thus, the lone shaman arriving on foot became a trio arriving on horseback: old shaman, young man and woman, and a description of the gestural conversation that welcomed them, and told the women of the tribe how to use the vital gift of eggs. If even one egg hatches, their society is poised to make the shift from hunter/gatherer to farmer/rancher.

Pity I have to kill them all off...

Total: 40,107 words.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Inside Cover Excerpts (NaNoWriMo Bonus Post, November 20th)

Here is a sneak preview inside Indigo Redemption, three excerpts that describe the onset of the fateful weather and the arrival of the ancient hunter in Indigo:

Early evening: 

Away from the shelter of buildings and tree-lined streets outside Indigo, the wind had nothing to stay its force. What had begun as gusts developed into a linear stream, west to east, as the day wore on.
On the road south from town, the freezing rain fell nearly sideways, driven by the wind. Discrete pellets of ice in the liquid rain bounced and shattered on the road, then melted almost instantly. Each was a tiny tick in the temperature of the road, shifting it downward, until at last it had chilled enough for the ice to stay.
Without any change in appearance, the road surface began to take on a frigid glaze. Beneath the mask of innocent rain-slick, it was building a deadly layer of black ice.
North of town, the highway led between short banks built up over time as drifting sand and soil was caught at fence-lines and fixed in place by the roots of weedy plants. The slight channel this made of the road-bed was sufficient for a while to forestall black-ice conditions. The wind, tumbled through fence posts and dried dock and timothy grass stalks, sent the occasional ice pellets skittering back and forth across the center-line.
Preserved from melting to the pavement, these beads and shards of ice accumulated in tiny drifts on either side of the highway...

Around 9 PM:

On the road south from town, a light mist of rain still fell sideways, driven by the wind, but like its volume, the ice in it had decreased. The chilly rain began to make channels in the black ice, running underneath it and freeing its edges from the pavement.
The layer of black ice was no longer continuous, and it would crack and break away with any pressure from above, like that offered by the tires of the ambulance traveling south to the County Hospital.
North of town, the highway between its banks was still patterned by the drifting shards of ice. Not snow or sleet, the crystals were still too cold to melt into a black sheet. Rain here had almost stopped, but the lowering clouds promised more to come.
The drifts on either side of the highway, no longer tiny, began to lap against the weedy roots and fence-posts. Ominously, the wind shifted and began to blow steadily from the north.
The wind's heart was ice, and the temperature dropped further. Gradually, the roadway was swept clean, but along the edges of the highway, the drifted shards merely shifted and clung together. They were still discrete crystals; only their jagged nature preserved the drifts against the teeth of the wind...


Around midnight, the wind calmed, almost ceasing. In the chill air, lowering skies began to drop snow. At first, it fell gently, large clumps of flakes clinging together in the air. Silently, it fell, and where the snow met wet leaves, tree limbs, and twigs, it stuck. It accumulated, building as thin or wide a stack of white as the surface provided.
On the quiet streets, the snow laid a thick carpet that melted onto the wet surface before layering drier and ever-drier sheets of flakes above it. Sidewalks and driveways were similarly spread with a thickening quilt of the cold white snow.
For an hour, the snow fell without a sound. No cars stirred in the vacant streets of Indigo, so there were no tires to disturb the pristine surface. Dogs and cats slept in their warm beds; their owners likewise.
On the Beton ranch, finally asleep in the straw, the milk-cows grumbled and breathed out warmly in the chill air of their stalls, and dreamt of clover and calves. Under the woodshed, the barn cats wrapped their tails around their cold noses, and twitched feet in pursuit of dream mice, and the snow fell thickly around shed and barn alike.
At the Merrick's, the Danes whimpered where they lay, shifting in their slumber, and the snow blanketed the long drive, the front steps, and the roof of the walled-in breezeway that led from the old ranch-house to the utility shed. Bev Merrick pulled her quilts tighter without waking, and dropped further into dreamless sleep.
Max Stillman sat in his kitchen office, the glow from the computer screen reflecting off his closed eyelids. His breath came deep, and then deeper, and his head began to nod forward. In her recliner in the living room, his mother dreamed she was a young woman dancing, in a red dress and shiny red shoes. Outside, the snow quietly filled the walled space over the front steps, and coated the roof with steepening piles of white.
To and fro in the streets of Indigo, had anyone been awake to observe, a woman's figure walked. Caped and hooded, she was protected from the cold and snow, and she stalked down the middle of the street. There was no one to object, no traffic to obstruct. She traversed the town from block to block, going up and down the pristine streets.
Behind her, the long cloak brushed the snow and wiped away her footprints.

Total: 38,949 words.

Odometer-Driven Writing (NaNoWriMo November 20th)

One finds motivation for writing wherever one can. In the month of November, the Words So Far bar, Stats graph and Words Written Today numbers on the NaNoWriMo website can provide a powerful drive to reach a particularly tasty number. 

I'm thinking of the kind of numbers that excite you when they appear on your car odometer. You know the ones. They end with 000. Even better, 0000.

After an ordinary day of increasing my word count, the discovery that if I could just write twenty more words I'll pass another milestone is enough to keep me typing. If I look at the graph, and today's line doesn't touch the par line, I have to keep writing. Just have to.

I thought it was just me. Then I read a couple of other comments and posts that cited the same impulse. Aha! here is another, sneakier part of the NaNoWriMo' plan to encourage writers, disregarded in favor of advice to write an excerpt, create a cover and use the tricks for breaking through a writers block:

The tracking tools themselves provide incentives to write. 

This isn't the first time I've wished the site's tools were available outside of November. The problem with having them all year round, though, is that the incentive doesn't have the same "oomph" without the community of WriMo eyes to give it value. 

Truth is, the Written?Kitten web site I use already rewards me for word production, and gives me a running total of words written in the window. But when it is only me looking, even odometer numbers are not as motivational.

So while I have the benefit of the NaNoTools, I'll keep watching for those odometer numbers. 

Tomorrow I swear: 40000!

Total: 38,074 words.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Filling in the Gaps (NaNoWriMo November 19th)

I finally (yesterday morning) finished the fairy tale-within-the-tale, and completed the self-insistent addition of Matt Callan's sister. 

Yesterday afternoon I flashed back to the blizzard tribulations of someone's frontier grandmother, who turned out to be a Johns, and thus an ancestor of Sheriff Art Whiddick's wife Beth.

Today, I needed to flash back even further, and continue the story that is excerpted for my novel. This is the tale of a tribe of Plains Indians encountering the nemesis of Indigo, at a time before the town has its first settler. This is the ancient hunter who steals children, and calls up the fateful weather I have been chronicling.

The developing crisis for this tribe and for a small band of hunters who have defied their leaders to slip away and, all unknowing, challenge that ancient hunter on her own ground, should be good grist for today's writing quota...

As for the process:  Until now, I have worked without a 'bible' or 'catalog' of characters and their relationships. The problem is, those stories happen out of the sequence of this novel's plot-line. I've already found some issues that will have to be corrected next month when I begin editing. In the meantime, I need to take care of the growing gaps between the forward-moving chronologic novel and these flashbacks and sideways twists.

I have digital "Post-It Notes" pegged to the middle of Chapter 9, the end of Chapter 11, and so on, to tell me I have to return, and what I originally intended to fill those gaps in the word-stream. Cryptic and curt, the notes are all I have to remind me what I meant to be writing when the genie took me elsewhere instead.

Hey—at least I have something to do if writer's block should strike, no?

Total: 35,669 words.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Don't Look Back, It's Gaining On You! (NaNoWriMo November 18th)

I have an invitation to join other WriMos in a TweetChat this evening, remembering the journey to 50,000 words, but I'm barely staying ahead of the requisite 1,667 words per day. To my thinking, looking back to remember the journey is an invitation to disaster. And here's why:

Inner Editor: I TOLD You SO!

The journey to get halfway through November involves a constant battle to unlearn the urge to listen to your inner editor. Even allowing it to correct typos and add missing punctuation can be dangerousnext thing, it's arguing with your choice of character names, and telling you that Chapter 2 needs to be shortened and moved to the end of Chapter 18.

Looking back at the journey you've been on is likely to give amplification to that critical voice.

OP-Kids Are Better-Behaved

It's tempting to read the best bits of writing shared by other WriMos and compare it in your mind to the worst bits of your own writing, because your own problem children are on your mind, while others (and you, I hope) are only sharing publicly the things they are most proud of having written.

That inevitable internal comparison is just fuel for your inner editor. Don't feed it!

Not Writing Is Not Writing

Even for those fortunate few of us whose only job in November is writing 50,000 words or more of a novel, there is a certain minimum of other-directed writing we do. Blogging, posting to social media, corresponding in the NaNo forums or with your Writing Buddies are arguably part of the journey. But useful and pleasurable though they are, they don't count toward the 50K!

Tweets don't count either. But it's worse than that: chatting breaks the momentum.

Chuck Wendig warned us in his Terrible Minds blog post How To Motivate Yourself As a Writer (warning from his blog header: "He uses lots of naughty language. NSFW."):
"...momentum begets momentum... Writing is like heroin, that way. Heroin leads to heroin. Writing leads to writing."

Bottom Line Time

We know of a few writers who've already reached 50K by November 18th. Some of those prolific and successful WriMos are planning to write more in November. I doubt we'll see them in the TweetChat either. They obviously know the secret to producing word count: Keep writing!

Just keep writing!

Total at 1:39PM: 33,333 words. I just like that number...

Total: 34,011 words.

Monday, November 17, 2014

And Sophie Takes Over... (NaNoWriMo November 17th)

Ever since yesterday morning, I've not written about Sheriff Art Whiddick, nor about Indigo's Chief of Police Ryan Ballinson and his niece Bebe. Not a word about the Indian token/medallion (the MacGuffin) has passed my fingertips.

For two days, I've been telling the story of Sophie (whose parents think her name is Doris) and her encounter with evil fairies. I thought the diversion might provide me with a thousand words or so, and also banish the foreign tale from my brain so I could get on with telling the story of Indigo and the blizzard. Instead it turned into a flood, adding more than 5000 words to my novel in two days, 3000 just today.

Although the end is in sight, the tale-within-a-tale might finally occupy most of two chapters. Just to tell a fairy tale to a fictional group of children and their parents in a fictional library.

In the middle of the night last night, I woke out of a sound sleep knowing how the fairy tale will matter to the citizens of Indigo. I saw how telling it would help the ancient hunter who wears the guise of a woman. And I knew how her story-telling hubris would eventually bring about her defeat at the hands of the sheriff.

Some of this will involve reworking the initial chapters. But that's a task for December! 

In the meantime, the story rolls on...

Total: 32,385 words.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Second Half, Second Novel? (NaNoWriMo November 16th)

In November, I usually wake every morning ready to write. Sometimes I have a clear vision that will jump-start the day's writing: an interaction between two characters, a revelation in the developing mystery, a turn in the fateful weather that drives the conflict of my main characters.

The other day, for example, a bit player in the last two novels suddenly insisted that he had a sister who would become important to the tale, and her back-story needed to be told first. As I lay in bed, gearing up to tell about Matt Callan's sister and how she had acquired the nickname "Beaky", I realized that this year's novel required a specific bit of Indigo's history, and therefore I would also need to write about someone's grandmother and her farmhouse.

These are easy accommodations to make to a novel about the present-day town of Indigo, in the somewhat real, though fictional, world I am exploring. But this morning I stayed cuddled for a long hour beneath the quilts, trying to banish a completely different story that had overtaken my pre-writing musings. A fairy tale with a dark twist at the end, this story had nothing to do with Indigo and its inhabitants. 

The main character (whose name she told me firmly was Sophie, in spite of my desire to call her "Doris" or "Dot") was gifted one morning with the ability to see the denizens of a supernatural plane existing all around her. She tries in vain to undo their evil machinations. She is ultimately unsuccessful in either stopping the dark fairies or in calling attention to their existence.

In fact, the very gift of sight that reveals them to her also spotlights Sophie for them. The unfortunate girl is finally dragged away from human plane to the fairy, where she is no more visible to her family and friends than are her captors.

I don't want to write this novel now. I'm not even sure it is a novel. Perhaps it is a short story. 

With that, I realize: I can put Sophie and her supernatural  sight to work in Indigo. I had already envisioned a story-telling session at the library, as a way to bring Indigo's children into the tale this year. It is nearly Halloween, and Indigo has a poor history of finding alternatives to trick-or-treating, but the winter weather makes a good excuse to tell some spooky stories in the warm library instead of traipsing around in snowdrifts in the dark. 

Furthermore, Indigo already has a truly evil resident, one who walked back into town in Chapter 8, who might be persuaded appear at the library, tell a precautionary tale, and scare the children as well as their parents.

And the NaNo floodgates open...

Total: 29,347 words

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Pantsing With a Genie in My Back Pocket (NaNoWriMo November 15th)

One of my writing buddies noticed last night that I am writing the third in a trilogy. Because of that, she assumed I must have it plotted out completely. Her assumption got me started thinking about why I write the way I do, which for NaNoWriMo is mostly seat-of-the-pants (pantsing) instead.

Mostly. You could argue that I have a plot in a vague and misty sense. I do start with an over-arching theme, fateful weather, and a fictional space, the town of Indigo, that is already well developed in my mind. 

I wrote a synopsis and a prologue (which I used as my extract) to the novel, and these mostly serve as a kind of guide for what I expect to write. The denizens of Indigo are characters I first wrote about in 2006, and I am familiar with how they think and act. Mostly. 

It descends into pantsing when I learn anew each year that these characters are not well-behaved. They push into the tale where I didn't expect them, insist that I meet their sister or reminisce with them about their dead grandmother. They do unexpected things that somehow turn the story at a corner I hadn't seen coming. They refuse to cooperate, even trade roles when I do try to plan ahead!

Some choices are deliberate. At least I pretend they are. For example, in back-novel notes written for the first novel, I said Indigo's name was inspired by a Zane Grey title, Riders of the Purple Sage. It might even be true—but mostly I named the town Indigo because the name appeared in my mind, full-blown. It was only afterward that I explained to myself why I had picked that name: Indigo is a blue so dark it is purple. I had loved Zane Grey when I was a very young reader. It was an homage to the purple sage. Mostly.

Sometimes the story heads into a dark cave, and all I can do is grope around until I catch a tiny glimmer of light, or feel the twisted strands of a plot line heading deeper into the darkness. I head for the light or follow the clue blindly because even when story, characters, and fictional space all seem to be acting on their own, I know they mostly arise from my own mind.

I have been feeding the genie in the back of my head all my life, with experiences of my own and stories written by others. Now with a whirl of smoke and a blast of light, the story appears. Magically. 

Mostly. All I have to do is get out of its way, and write.

Total: 27,082 words.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Meet You Halfway There! (NaNoWriMo November 14th)

I am determined to make the half-way mark today and earn the 25,000 word badge. In service of this goal, I rose an hour early this morning and took my Chromebook to the blood service with me. Determined, and full of early-to-rise virtue, I would be able to write hundreds or thousands of words as I waited while my spouse donated platelets.

No, I forgot. I used the battery charge yesterday while I wrote in a strange town, in a "foreign" place that, unlike Chick-fil-A, does not have power points or WiFi for its customers. (Whoever heard of a coffee shop without support for laptops? Perhaps the fact this was a tea shop accounts for it.) Working offline away from distractions, I actually got a lot done yesterday, but now it was going to bite me.

Instead, I used the time to draw a paper map of Indigo and its environs. I have thought it was clear in my mind what was where. It wasn't until last night as I compared the two earlier novels and the first part of this one that I realized the 2013 novel had rotated the town 90 degrees, and moved the Stillman ranch to the other side of town

The map will help me to avoid this problem for the future, so it wasn't a dead loss. But it wasn't getting any more words added to my count. At last, disconnected from the apheresis machine, my spouse was ready to head off with me to breakfast and a power outlet at Chick-fil-A.

Fueled by a free chicken burrito and my cold Diet Coke for caffeine, my Chromebook plugged in and charging, I prop the "Novelist At Work" door-hanger up on the flower-vase at my table, pull out my new-drawn map of Indigo and begin typing.

Next stop, 25K!

Total: 25,062 words