Monday, February 25, 2013

This story still has no title.

She was not surprised when they came for her. Her mother had warned her, each admonishment more hysterical than the last.

"You never had a father," she had said finally over the phone last week, her voice cutting in and out. Static and sobs. "I was never married." And finally, in a bleak tone devoid of hope: "They will come for you. You will understand when they come for you."

 There were thirteen of them, the youngest fourteen, the oldest gum-mouthed and using a walker. Each had a baby as silent as they, eyes cold and judging.

 "Choose," the youngest said, in a voice as innocent as sin.

"Choose," the oldest said, in a voice thick with regret.

She could have fought. She knew that even then. But she recalled her mother's missing eye, the limp, the way her mom flinched when she saw more than three women together. She did not understand, not yet, but butterflies rolled in her stomach. She pointed to one at random, mute. The woman stepped forward, face veiled in shadow, and pressed the baby to her stomach. It slipped inside her, the butterflies giving way to something else.

It hurt. Hurt is not big enough for that pain, but it was all she had.

She fell, tears tearing themselves free of flesh. She wanted to say she was too old, that she never wanted children, but her screams said all the words for her.

When she could finally stand, there were only twelve women staring back at her.

"Choose," they said, and the voice came from inside her as well. "You may join us. If you do not, this is your choice." And the oldest patted her belly, already looking swollen, a nameless hunger stirring in her eyes.

She stared at her stomach, thought about her mother. Wondered what happened to men who didn't want children. They could tell her, she knew. And she thought of her mother, of each blind date that had been thrust at her in a desperate frenzy. She had not understood it as hope, then. Had not understood how desperate hope could be.

She closed her eyes, and made her choice.

Monday, February 18, 2013

On complications....

Wherein novel plotting gets byzantine. I have Wray and Bryce just trying to live their lives in Prince George, only to be thrust into the reality that the various families of magicians either a) don't believe that or b) have no desire for a creature such as Wray in the city, and factions within them with plans of their own, along with a cult in the background that want Bryce removed from the city so that it can remain hidden.

Essentially, there are the two MCs, a ghost friend of Wray's, the gremlin, and one police officer on the same rough 'side'. Then there is a cult on another side, and ~8 magicians, each with differing goals and from various families of magicians who also have plans of their own. Trying to keep track of all of this is liable to make my head hurt, but in a good way. The fun part will be somehow meshing it all together since the story is being told from Wray's pov (though, since it is a letter to someone, he can and does jump out of the narrative proper at times).

The story is at least living up to my expectations of it being the political novel of the Ghoulish series, such as it is, and oddly hasn't been plotted out definitively so far. My plot notes are mostly written concurrently with the story but I will have to forge ahead of that soon to lay proper groundwork for other things. Much of the weekend was taken up with considering plots and writing out notes and doing research, which is all well and good but leaves the word count at 13K.

Fun plotting stuff: a lot of things that will show up in the third novel and the whys and wherefores of them. The limits of Bryce's knowledge get explored as well as the limits of what the magicians known themselves: their focus is on magic and the monsters it creates. Whatever else may be in the world isn't something they much concern themselves with.

Hard plotting stuff: setting a novel in a real city is hard. Especially one with a dearth of available materials. Much of my non-online reading had been one guide to wilderness treks from the city, a social geography of it that is a decade old and a history of Prince George written in 1946. OTOH, the third novel will be set in Toronto (I think) which should prove far easier for research purposes.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

10K into a sequel ....

And already one character wandered into it who wasn't planned at all. But she is going to be necessary to set up the sequel and it is a fun wrench to throw into the works. I have one more rough scene in my head and then will probably spend the weekend just plotting out the rest of the story, power through the draft, take a break from  the series as a whole and then begin the edits to Ghoulish Happenings.

I've never looked forward to editing before, and never been very good at it. The Rites of Exorcism rewrite that I began last year languishes at 25K but working on this story has given me a few ideas toward that one. I also have Boy & Fox to get back to, assuming I can figure out what the story is really about -- I may shrink it down and end up with a novella. The jury remains out. I also have a trilogy of books -- The Dogs of War -- of which 1.2 books are written in various drafts and the entire series plotted out.

And finally, there is the weird story whose nature is still puzzling me, which I need to get back to adding scenes to. As such, my goal for the rest of this year is, barring work on the Ghoulish series, to revisit, fix and remake those stories languishing on my hard drive rather than dive into something 'new'. New is easy for me, as nanowrimo proves time and time again. But to fix something that didn't work, or make something work better, is definitely more of a challenge. I figure I'll grow more as a writer by fixing such things than by flinging myself into writing new things.

Updates as warranted, but expect a fair bit of silence from this end. Or none at all, depending on how bad (or good!) things get.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Unstory. Or: a war between a narrator and a novel.

The grass rippled across the field like half-melted ice cream given a combover.

What? No. I'd never think that. I need a new narrator.

He thought, satirically, in a drug-induced post-ironic haze.

... I don't drink. Why would I do drugs? "If I speak aloud, will you listen?"

He said, and his voice was rough as wool, a hint of steelwool under it as the echoes of his flu rubbed against his throat.

"Wait, did what? What does that even mean? I'm just walking across a field to get home after a late shift at work. I'm not on drugs or – or seeing fields of ice cream. Are you on drugs?"

He said, to God, as if the myriad sunsets were not proof enough that the world had some small unique qualities still to offer in a land of vending machines and fast food. And it was all fast food: chickens could become sandwiches in under an hour, the cow strung up and mutilated into bacon and sausage, on a plate within hours.

"Really, he said. I know that, do I? Can I cite my sources? I'm almost home. You could have put down, 'he walked through the familiar field, a few beer cans glinting under the wanning sun to give the sameness a different cast.' That would be better than this ..."

He fell silent, staring at the beer cans to his left, the field a zen garden out of place, the feng shui of the world shifted slightly nayward at the discarded refuse amid the paean of nature's soft glories bringing a slight rapid blinking to his eyes.

"A slight rapid ... what? It's a field. I walked in dog turds crossing it. You know what, I give up?"

He said to the world at large, and exited the field, the fence post marking its boundaries at least devoid of an exit sign, the boundary between field and world not as clear a she believed, the air above him strung through with telephone wire as if the sky itself was being covered in silly string.

"Please shut up."

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Plotting Fun

Plotting out Ghoulish Trappings is going fun in odd ways: my notes file now has a header on major changes from said notes file. The location it has been set in has changed and a couple of pre-novel events moved about. Three short stories have been written (badly in two cases, pretty much just outlines of ideas) and will likely be fleshed out better prior to the novel starting. I realized late last night that I had been effectively plotting the second and third novel in the series at the same time, hence a lot of stuff didn't feel as if it was working.

One thing I'm focusing on are events that occur between the novels: aka other adventures/weird shit that befall the characters and will get referenced to since I've never liked how characters seem to exist in stasis between urban fantasy novels, as though nothing noteworthy occurs between the events of novel A and B happening a few months later. As such, stuff between the novels includes a move from Vancouver to Prince George for Bryce and Wray, a ghost adopting Wray and an incident involving two dopplegangers both convinced they are the original person. Other things happen, of course, in terms of finding jobs, Wray getting ID,  them making friends and the like, but these will be referred to specifically. I will probably fix and write the doppleganger story up soon as it does constitute Wray's first 'case', but it's nothing urgent.

There was going to be another situation/incident, but I figured it'd work better between novels two and three, and plot for the latter is rummaging about my head as well. I have a rough head cannon that the first book is akin to coming of age, the second to finding a home that matters, the third more Adventure!* and the fourth is going to be Wray taking true steps along the path to trying to be a kind of proper private investigator. At which point the series will, probably, come to close, barring other viable ideas that fit it.

* Aka: if monsters exist, why don't armies and governments use them? Granted, a lot of resources in the setting go to hiding the existence of monsters and magic from the world but not all things can be hidden or even wish to hide. The ideas for it are very vague right now but the major goal is not to demonize the military and the like over what is, to them, a very sensible idea. It will also have the Bryce/Smiths plots and magicians take a backseat to stuff about monsters themselves.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

A book review! Possession-Stalking in YA Literature.

I've never actually sat down and done a novel review before. I don't even know how I became aware of this novel. I was aware of the author vaguely for having done some queer YA novels but Every Day (By David Levithan) seemed more interesting from the premise alone. Essentially, you have a person named A who wakes every day in a new body. And then A falls in love with a girl.

A has rules about not disrupting the life of A's host: A breaks them. Badly in some cases, but it's not a surprise since the novel can only end badly. Which in this case wasn't bad at all: I liked the fact that True Love(TM, Patent Pending) did not magically fix things, and I liked the questions the novel ended with regarding others like A and A running away from possible answers since the method involved might be the mind death of A's 'host' to remain in their body. I didn't mind the lack of answers in this respect: it was obvious A had no clue about their own nature and had not experimented greatly to discover anything. (Ethically, of course, how one can do such experiments is never openly pointed out but definitely a factor.)

Now the parts I disliked: A was a flat-out jerk of the highest order. A stalker/possessor who damaged lives in a quest to be with a girl because they had a 'special connection'. A damaged the lives of his hosts, and arguably the girl herself in a love of utter hopelessness. The other major gripe was the bodies A went through in the course of the novel seemed to be a YA checklist of Issues. The Too-Pretty Person. The Fat Person. The Depressed Person. The Junkie. And so on. And most get presented in after-school special fashion, as though in 16 years of body-jumping they hadn't happened before.

Add this to the fact that the people A was in recalled A to whatever extent the plot demanded and things become problematic. Then 'Oh, I don't get foreign languages when I'm in Illegal Immigrant body'. Uh, what? Why not? Wouldn't you have spent enough time in the bodies of people of many, many ethnic groups and learned basic languages in 16 years? Evidently, not. Has A broken rules, delved too deep into minds, ever tried to stay in a host for more than a day? Sort of, kind of, in a wishy-washy sense. You can't make someone the protagonist of a YA novel, expect the reader to root for them, and make them both a stalker and a flat-out villain. The downside is that A comes across as plodding and boring in a lot of ways.

All told, however, it wasn't a bad novel. I like the author's style and will likely try at least one other book by him, and I'd probably pick up a sequel to this one just to see if it addresses any issues I had with it but it is hard to recommend to others as it feels as though the novel fell sort of the idea that inspired it. Which I suppose is a good and bad flaw in a novel. It's also hard to recommend since A is the Nice Guy/Stalker archetype and that seems both trite and done to death ....

Saturday, February 02, 2013

On the exhaustion of a finished draft

The draft of Ghoulish Happenings has hit an end. 75,000 words done, including a few edits to the first 10 pages and I am exhausted. Between the draft that failed gloriously in November [aka  a reminder that post-apocalyptic and me don't mix well at all], I've spent three months working on this story and while the sequel is niggling at me I know I need a break before I consider plunging into it in any depth.

(Which has not stopped me from writing over 2 pages of notes for it... *coughs*  Though today will be spent writing an essay to myself on magic in the world because I think I was horribly inconsistent with it and really need to fix that. Magic isn't a science per se, but a lot of the characters will approach it as one due to upbringing, which needs to be reflected more clearly. Also comparisons to computers should crop up.)

It's always weird for me to surface from a novel. Nanowrimo novels are skeletal drafts, ideas tossed up into the air. Crapped out, if one wishes to be inelegant. Actual novel drafts are for me 2-3 month affairs of ~1K words/day on average.  This draft took just over 70 days of devoting the vast majority of my writing to it and I feel -- not empty, so much as pleasantly exhausted. There are things to fix, but all are fixable. The ending needs work, but that's okay: I like a story that ends on a quiet note, with the characters moving on to the next step of their lives.

Not everything is resolved, not everything should be: entire plots don't actually connect to each other at all because I get cross with novels when they do. I know there's some stuff to beef up, things to fix, and I need to take a long, hard look at the character of Bryce again, though doing a short story two nights back that was set two months after the novel helped with that a lot. I need to flesh out Elsa and Hamish more, dial back on a couple of other characters but that's all stuff I will know going into the print/read through.

I think this is the first time in many years where I've had a finished treatment* that I'm happy with, and said wary happiness might even survive the read-through of it. Knowing what didn't work and what has to be fixed as I read is huge. But I need to do the print/read aspect before I start on that. In this case, I won't be ripping the story apart as much as putting caulking into it.

Things that definitely helped this draft:
1) I went into it knowing it would need fixing. The nano-draft helped a lot, in that respect. Going into a draft knowing there will be at least 2 major drafts after it is a huge mindset change. It helps that I've come to terms with the fact that my novel-writing method is: write draft, discard. Write draft, discard. Write draft, fix. With that in my head I should be able to go back to my pile of unfinished projects and give some of them a solid boost back into life sometime later this year.
2) I was definitely doing a sequel, so that influenced the draft in a lot of ways I probably don't consciously realize. In this case, it's being curious myself at what happens next, and finding out where Bryce and Wray go from here. Which is a fun head-space to be in.
3) Knowing that if I do more than two novels, the third will probably involve the MCs getting therapy during the course of it. Which is probably illegal in urban-fantasy series, but makes perfect sense.

Now off to work on figuring out magic in a more cohesive sense ....

* Drafts doesn't really work, given that the november version and the december-jan version of GH have very, very little relation to each other; i think I kept part of one scene and nothing else at all.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Facebook & google+ status updates part XVII (Nov – 2012 Jan 2013)

Big Dave's Torture Guide to Knitting with the Small Intenstine: how to make sure your victim doesn't scream too much and make you drop a stitch.

What if the dog wasn’t lazy and simply ate the quick brown fox that tried to jump over it? Not all dogs are lazy. Speciesism is a very sad thing.

His parody of himself was so good that no one ever noticed it at all.

To sleep, an offer —
Fading to unreal colours,
Pillows made of dreams

Dear Santa:
Is this the year daddy finally get some coal?

Dear Santa:
I don't want gifts from you until you get on a diet like me.
- Signed, Anorexia.

Told he was dying from an overdose of irony, all he could do was find it ironic.

Dear Santa:
Could my stepdad not shout as much next year?

My rent cheque for December includes, in the memo section, the following:
'will pay rent next month due to anti-mayan prejudices'

Dear Santa:
Why is this Jesus guy trying to steal your gig?

The true function of analysis is not to kill a thing but to see it as more than it aspired to be.

My resolution for the new year is for you to be a better person to me.

Elevator christmas music: a new way to ensure you open the doors between floors and leap to the bottom

Dear Santa:
Why do you put 'made in China' on gifts? Is this a joke? Or do only the bad-but-not-naughty kids get gifts from china? Is that the new coal?

He says the most profound lie he knows, which is: "It's free."

The day after Xmas party, the Detective was promoted after he slept with his boss's wife. It had not been the reaction he had been expecting.

It became harder to love you once I found out about the bodies. Harder, but not impossible.

"You see," said the magician, "real magic requires ingenuity."
"You billed yourself as a hat and rabbit trick."
"Yes, but how many other magicians can pull a hat from the rabbit?"

The next bestseller:
Harry Potter and 50 Shades of Twilight.

"The bite marks mean one has been bitten by a zombie but the disease didn't take hold. Like how small pox scars were a good thing.
Leastways, that's what I told the wife."

"We all forget more than we remember," the old man whispered. "If we could not forget, there would be no joy in the world."

Imagine what the world might be like if people realized they were supposed to think as well as believe.

Having wisdom is nothing. Printing it on a t-shirt to sell it is everything.

I have only had one secret worth spilling.
Everyone who matters knows it now.
So I must make a new secret, find a new --
Oh. Wait. I have the internet before me.
It will not be hard to find a fetish.
Gods help me, not hard at all.

from WIP:
No one had ever told me there was a hierarchy among monsters. Probably because everyone else figured it was self-evident.

Fun is being able to write the following and have it make perfect sense (in context):
“A dinosaur is not an angel.”

I imagine there is already a rush on to schedule a date for the next apocalypse ... book yours early!

Fall has come to dance
cool wind down hungry city streets
chapstick to burnt-brown lawns
and a false sense of spring

Among the lows of his career, the Detective conceded that arresting Santa's elves in the grotto for cocaine trafficking on the 23rd of December ranked among the top five.

"The funny thing about you? I mean, one of the really funny ones? The more you speak, the less you actually say."

"A group of frogs is an army of frogs! How could you not think that was important?"

Proof kids ruin everything: the last pair of shoes I bought had very poor stitching.

This is all you need to know about the Chosen One, destined to save the world:
No one has ever told them 'no' in their entire life.

What kind of health inspectors would Hell have?

Things that would be fun: watching just the season finale of a TV series and judging the entire season based on that.

The thing about conspiracy theories is that they are extremely seductive: questioning why one feels compelled to believing in/gravitate towards them as explanations for events is also, in my mind, a very important thing to do.

Loss and pain define us as much as everything else. Most of the truly great magics are borne from our helplessness: the desire to change the world in any way, to do something, to make anything, that matters.

What if the extended forecast for horoscopes was done up like a weather forecast?

Imagine what your life would be like if you couldn't lie to anyone. You'd have to be the most boring person who had ever lived.

From a WIP:
The demon's beauty dials down to more human levels when he laughs; the laugh is everything a laugh should be but seldom is, a wild call from the time before words. "You're going to stop me with a knife?"
Dahvey just shrugs; in his experience, most anything can be hurt by his knife and anyone who says otherwise is just scared of getting cut.
Half a lifetime's belief is shattered a moment later, the demon's smile never wavering at all.

His smile was as empty as a promise.

"I don't write biography," he said coldly. "I find it's not graphical enough."

To love too much is not to love at all.

Every poem I write about you is too long.

Her dream was so small that it was so easy to forget she had one at all.

The only thing we desire from the dead is silence.