I just finished the first week of school. That first week is always a challenge, but this year it was a bit of a madhouse. My school was reorganized five times in the two weeks before school started. The last reorganization was Friday afternoon before the long weekend. I didn’t get my schedule or subjects I would be covering until Monday morning and school started Tuesday. Needless to say, all those things teachers do in the weeks leading up to school didn’t get done until Monday afternoon. Even so, so far, so good. I have a lot of students (and a lot of different classes because one of my French classes became coverages) but I am not so stressed about that. I like my job. I have already had several people in observing students and one of their comments to me was that I was a very dynamic and engaging teacher. All to the good.
My writer’s ADHD has kicked in big time.
I’m working on a rewrite of Super School. I woke up three days ago with what I think is a ‘simple’ way to solve my character challenges. (Are any of them ever really simple?) The new version has a better focus at the beginning and a tighter problem sequence. I think I am going to be able to use most of the second half of the first draft with this new characterization of Marietta, but we will see as things get rolling. I changed the beginning from ‘little kid’ to ‘almost sixteen year old who has hopped around the world with her dad and now is back in her home town for the first time since her mom died when she was six’. The change is making the story work a lot better. I have done some world building, and some character sheets. I am dialing up the conflicts, and creating a better setup for the end by introducing a character who causes chaos much much earlier in the story. And, as you roll through, you suddenly start to see how the super heroes are hanging around Los Domos in a subtle but powerful group. Not quite hiding, but definitely not in plain sight either.
I am also working on the story after The Dragon’s Court. It doesn’t really have a title yet, but it will pull together the stories from The King’s Son, North Watch Keep, and the Dragon’s Court, and add a new element. I’m enjoying watching the characters develop. I don’t know if I will write myself into a corner because I haven’t plotted out the story except–everything comes out right in the end. I seem to be able to plan out about five scenes before my muse digs in her heels and refuses to play along, so I am going to keep rolling with that and hope for the best.
Good stories come out in good editing, right?
The Finder is at a stand still. I need to find some beta readers who will listen as I read the story out loud or who will enjoy reading the story in smaller chunks. My husband and children balked at the box of body parts left on the desk and the finger attached to the roses in the vase. I don’t blame them but because my usual primary audience is going’ lalala I’m not listening’ with fingers in their ears, I need to find another group to read and comment.
On the marketing and communication front, I spent three hours the night before school watching my lovely web designer fix the mess I had made of my new website when I installed the Author’s Theme. The mess was caused by a combination of things: I want a big landing page with a get a free book button on the very front top of the home page (there has to be a work around in that theme for this, but neither of us could figure it out); I want a store that works (eventually lol) and I want a bookshelf where you, dear reader, can go and buy my books in the format you want. So far, I have a book shelf that mostly works, and a lot of stuff behind the scenes that will eventually become the store and the landing page. But, at least, the website works and it is pretty. My designer does not like lots of stuff, so pages got deleted and renamed and reworked all of which was cool. And, in the end?
It looked like my old website page! Nice to know I have good taste when all is said and done.
I am still fighting with the ‘free book’ set up (but I will figure it out, I promise). I am debating about the whole ‘perma-free’ book thing. Right now I have one book published, one almost ready to go, and a short story for the subscribers to my newsletter. I would change North Watch Keep to a permanently free book but I worry that my readers who have already bought my book will be upset. So, I am wondering how to handle this issue with grace and style. I am leaning towards asking readers to provide ‘proof of purchase’ so that I can send them book two for free. Which, is a great theory if I can figure out how to get everything to work for a reader to download. Which is where I am stuck on the technology. Technology is my …friend….. really. If you sign up for the newsletter, you will get Son of the King for free.
If you are willing to write a review for The Dragon’s Court I would be happy to send you a review copy. Just email me at eli dot winfield at gmail dot com and let me know. Reviews help others find my work.
In the end, this is all about sharing stories.
I did it! I finally pushed the button. North Watch Keep went live yesterday on Amazon.
North Watch Keep is famous for its orchards and the family connections to the fey. Suspicious when he had not heard from his cousins for months, the king sends his Hound of Justice, Sir Kelvrin, to find out what is going on at North Watch. Posing as a soldier for hire, Kelvrin discovers the family has been murdered and the Keep occupied by Lord Geoffry of Gwen Myer, whose men are hunting the villagers for sport. Only emotionally scarred Lady Beth remains of the family, eking out her existence as the village healer. Then Lord Geoffry’s men try to kill Kelvrin when they realize they cannot buy his loyalty away from the king. (Novella, 16K words)
It isn’t high literature, but it is a fun story and I love it. It is a medieval fantasy romance, just a little light summer reading, perfect for the beach or the cottage.
Pushing that button was harder than I thought it would be, and yet not as hard as I thought it would be. I am excited, terrified and humbled all at the same time. I had the same feeling that you get right before the long drop on the roller coaster, the one when the person beside you is yelling ‘All right! Put your hands in the air!’ and you are holding on to the bar for dear life thinking ‘What have I just done?’ There is that high when you realize that you just might have Readers. When I went to the bank to sort out all the bank information for royalties my banker actually took a screen shot of the page for his wife so she could read my book. And the low while you wait for someone, anyone, to write that first review. A little silly, since Preston has read my novella and told me face to face he likes it.
I don’t think I could have managed to push the button without Cindy from Guelph Write Now who walked me through the process. Or Preston whose absolute faith in my writing had gotten me over more than one hurdle in the last two years. Or my family, particularly my children, who have watched and listened to me agonize through the whole process. Youngest told me on Sunday (coming home from the Publishing on Amazon workshop) that I ‘just had stage fright’ and that I would get over it. Yesterday she was laughing and started quoting ‘Emperor’s New Groove’ when I started hyperventilating after pushing the button. If she could have managed a video with her two casts, she would have taken one of me dancing around the living room like a total fool when I sold my very first book.
There is nothing quite like it.
I’m sure at some point I will look back on this novella and think of all the things I could have done differently. You know: the email list, the funnel, the marketing work, all those things that you are supposed to have in place before you push the button. But, right now? Today I’m grinning like a Cheshire cat because I sold six novellas on the first day!
So, if you are looking for a little light reading, perfect for the beach or cottage, check out ‘North Watch Keep’ by Eli Winfield.
Stubborn Irritating Fuzzy Muse. When your muse stops talking to you, there is sometimes a reason.
Something I read recently reminded me that writers, ‘real writers’ (whatever that phrase means) write because they have to write. Even if no one ever reads their work, or hates their work, or everyone lauds their work, they write. Why? Well, because writing is really like breathing, absolutely necessary for life.
I’ve always written. Characters romp through my head and through my dreams and writing them down is the only way to get them out of my head. This is why I have a gazillion muse bombed manuscripts hanging around my house, and my kids know the stories I tell in all their variations. Except for a very few short years when my babies were young and I was struggling with a long term potentially crippling illness, I have written. My muse spews stories from one end to the other in a mostly linear line (well, most of the time, anyway; I can’t say the Finder is following this pattern) and I rush to keep up with the scenes running full cinema through my head. But can I say this thing I call writing actually adding something to the world? There are days I don’t know, days that I think that my writing is just a series of vignettes, not a story that shows how and why the character changes.
Let me explain. Recently, I read Write Your Novel From the Middle. James Scott Bell argues that there is a moment in every character’s life when they look in the mirror and have to face the big choice, and that moment both sets up the whole question and drives the change for the rest of the book.
The novel manuscripts I’ve finished all have this ‘mirror moment’. I can find it. I know exactly why it is there, and how it causes the rest of the story to unfold. For Desie, my main character in CHOICE OF DESTINY, it was the moment when she chose to use what she knew to protect her two very young sons from being murdered by the Usurper Emporer. The rest of the story is her accepting her destiny as a result of that choice.
In THE DUODECA PROJECT it is that moment when Jo realizes that only the information in her head will be able to stop the coming pandemic, if she is willing to face the cost.
In THE FINDER, it is the moment when Isabelle accepts her own truth, and choses to use her skills to save herself and the woman caught with her. Everything after that moment unfolds because she decides to fight to save herself.
The manuscripts that are still in muse bombed pieces don’t have that moment, or the moment isn’t clear. The lack of mirror moment totally explains why they are 60k word long vignettes and not finished novels. Just learning this concept is helpful, because now I can see how to fix them. I understand how to make them coherent wholes, with beginning and end. That is exciting, and helpful, even if it is a little daunting. I don’t regret writing them; they are huge vignettes of characters I love to hang out with. I had to write them because writing is like breathing for me. But, if I want to make them into pieces that will be ready to launch into the world, they need work to have more than just vignettes. In the end, that is a good thing to learn.
Time once again for a check in.
I have only accomplished a mere two thousand words on my current projects in the last ten days. I could make excuses (the stomach virus going around school hit me hard, and I ended up in bed for four days, followed by a dreadful week at work), but I’m not going to do that. Excuses don’t really get the writing done, and the writing is the point.
This week, it is time to get back onto the horse and just write.
I do have some work done on Super School, just a few scenes. I am still working on fleshing out the middle of second and third year, along with the ending. Why is her skill important? What is it that makes her a super hero, and not others. There are muse bombs all over the place in what I have written so far, and I want to find out! My villain suddenly became two, and it is exciting to see it all take shape.
I have also worked on a few background pieces for The Finder: the first time she finds a body (and the police officer who finds her), and how she tries to figure out where she fits in with all the other psychics by going to a psychic fair, and meeting the woman who later becomes one of her mentors. Enjoy.
The Beauty of the Cards
Isabella Maynard wasn’t sure what she thought she would find at the psychic fair, but it wasn’t what she saw in front of her. She paused as she held out her ticket to the bored man at the door, staring at the ball room, awash in crystals and bejeweled perfumed women. Everyone she saw seemed to be desperately seeking something, some meaning, some way of justifying the value of their frantic lives. She was searching for some way to understand why she heard those voices calling her, pleading with her to find them. Sighing, she moved off the heavily traveled walkway, and just stared up and down the aisles.
Here were jewels, and stones, and dragon statues. Here were collections of tarot, sold by jeweled and exotically draped women with low and mesmerizing voices. Here were the astrologers, promising easy futures with fortune and love if you just did the right thing on the right day, and serious faced men selling angel statues, and promising divine help with the right choice of picture or figurine. Here were the palm readers, and the jeweled daughters of gypsies, seeking silver for blessings.
Nothing she saw, from the crystal ball reader to the tarot card vendor, seemed to have anything to do with the voices or connected to that overwhelming sense of the awe and wonder of the creator and the connected intersections of the people around her. The fair around her seemed mercenary, frantic, restless, unconnected.
“Fun, isn’t it?” a voice said to her side, and she turned to look at the dark haired middle aged woman, in the dark pants and bright shirt with a quiet, sensible, pair of shoes on her feet. “All this panoply.”
Isabelle shrugged her thin shoulders and stuffed her hands into the back pocket of her worn jeans. “I guess.”
The woman looked at her for a very long time, seeming to see beyond the teenager to the questions she hid, and then nodded, still smiling. “Not into angel guides and crystal channeling, are you?”
She shrugged again, not wanting to hurt the feelings of this stranger if she was into it. “Not…really,” was all she said.
“Why don’t you and I have a cup of coffee at the cafe there, and you tell me what you are looking for, then. Sometimes I have a bit of luck with that. Finding what people are looking for, I mean.”
Isabella wasn’t sure why she followed the woman off to the side of the room where the bored women in orange and brown polyester chatted in Spanish as they poured hot water and coffee. Somehow, coffee seemed like a neutral idea. She couldn’t imagine something important happening in the brightly lit cafe sectioned off by blue nylon curtains. The excited chattering women in front of them took hot water for their Celestial Seasonings teas, and started enthusiastically showing off their tarot card collections.
Mona smiled as she carried her cup of coffee and orange over to an empty table. “I like the tarot cards myself,” she said after introducing herself. “The art is usually so beautiful. But the power isn’t in the cards, and not everyone understands that.”
Cradling her coffee as she sat down, Isabella just sighed. “Sometimes, I think that people who use the cards want the easy way, the way that gives them what they want but doesn’t change them, not inside. Real power doesn’t work like that.”
“No,” agreed Mona, sipping her coffee. “It doesn’t. It isn’t that easy, but it can be beautiful. It helps when the seeker is grounded, and centered. You need to understand and respect your own boundaries, and to know and to deal with your own pains and hurts first. Otherwise, you project the things you don’t accept about yourself onto others, and do harm. The first rule, the one all of us with power must learn, is to do no harm.”
“But, is it important–all this stuff? The crystals, the tarot, the knives and herbs and spells and stuff, I mean? Does all this stuff help make the power make sense?” Her voice was hesitant as she asked, carefully cradling her cup of coffee between her hands.
Mona smiled. “For the right person, the tools can be a useful focus point, a way to understand and organize their universe and explain how their world differs from the way others see it.” She looked around. “Just like wearing symbols like the pentagon, or the cross, are symbols for others to see and understand that these are people who don’t organize their world the way others expect.”
“What about the ones who …. don’t need .. or want the … toys? Where do they fit in all of this? Or, do they fit?” And Mona nodded slowly, hearing the question that the girl with the dark blue eyes wasn’t asking.
Mona smiled, and the girl sensed that this woman understood the power in a very practical way, and had experienced the touch of the divine. “Each of us finds our own way.” Then, Mona grinned as she looked around the room. “We come and sift through all of this to find that one connection that called us here. It helps to not take it all so seriously.” She peeled her orange, offering a small piece to Isabella. “To remember the joy in the connections between us, and the holy that calls us together, no matter what name we give it. It helps, too, not to take it all so seriously. And to remember, sometimes, that the whole point can be the beauty in the art on the cards.”
Hello dear readers!
I’ve been plugging away at a whole host of writing related things this last week or so, including the first stages of the big edit for ‘The Duodeca project’, research, and planning pieces for my novel ‘The Finder’ (my HTTS project), two flash fiction vignettes, and going back to work on another older novel: Super School.
The Finder is currently in research ‘no man’s land’ and planning purgatory. My main character is a psychic who found her first dead body at four. Her antagonist is a serial killer who is currently stalking her because she found two of his bodies, and he is afraid she might be able to catch him. During the planning phase, my muse decided I needed more information on everything before I could properly plan–police procedures, psychics, serial killers, everything. Yes, yes. I know the rabbit hole of research is easy to get lost in! I decided to limit myself to five good books. I ended up with three on psychic abilities, one on serial killers, and one (a basic reference book) on police procedures.
There is a lot written about the paranormal, and the development of psychic abilities, but most of it has little or nothing to do with someone like Isabella, who has been psychic from childhood. Or for that matter, the people in my own family. As my mother often tells me, I am related to a tribe of gypsies who made a living fortune telling before they escaped the old country. My view of being psychic is a lot more pragmatic and a whole lot less ‘woo-woo’ than nearly everything available commercially.
In The Rational Psychic Jack Rourke discusses his own experiences as a psychic. He does a lot of debunking of various theories and phenomena. I really liked how he emphasizes the need for appropriate emotional boundaries, and doing your own emotional work so that you do not project your own issues onto others. It was a good read, and a useful resource, His experience is a whole lot closer to my own family experience of psychic, (although no one in my generation has gone on to become a psychic on his level).
The Reality of ESP by Russell Targ is fascinating. It presents proof of ESP from the point of view of quantum physics, but it isn’t a book for the faint of heart, or for someone afraid of science. Russell Targ is a physicist who originally worked with lasers; he and a number of others pioneered a program to develop ESP, in order to spy on ‘non-visible’ targets during the cold war. The work he cites in the book is amazing. He presents his work with a low key but reasoned approach. I found it helpful, particularly how he organized the different levels and layers of skills, and their development.
Growing up psychic by Chip Coffey looks good, but we will see once I start reading it in more depth. What I have read seems pretty reasonable, but I haven’t gotten very far. If I start sputtering, or muttering, I will let you know. It is one of the few that actually talks about parenting childhood psychics.
I decided to limit my research on serial killers to psychology and development. I could spend years on true crime stories, but I don’t need that much detail floating through my already vivid imagination. Serial Killers: the method and madness of monsters by Peter Vronsky is a very thorough walk through a difficult topic by an experienced journalist. It is one of the few books that includes the psychological development of a serial killer, but there is a whole lot more in his book than just that, While I find it an emotionally challenging topic, the book is extremely well written, and well researched. I’m just not speeding through it.
I also picked up a reference book for mystery writers called Police Procedure and Investigation by Lee Lofland, a police veteran. The book is a solid basic text with a whole lot of information about police procedures with a US flavour. It is just something to be aware of if you write in a Canadian or international setting. What it doesn’t do is go into a lot of procedural details, or flow charts or checklists. I may let myself pick up one of the Canadian Police Procedural manuals, or Detective Procedure study guides I saw which do, eventually, but for now this is a good place to start.
I also wrote two flash fiction pieces this week, both little vignettes of Isabella’s life. It is so exciting to see her develop as a person.
One of my big goals is to finish things and get those muse bombs into order and out the door as proper finished manuscripts. So, while I’m doing research for the Finder, Super School is getting the attention it deserves. So far, I’ve added nearly eight thousand words to the manuscript. Another twenty thousand words, and the first draft should be done, I see the end, and (way more exciting) I know how it is going to end, or at least mostly how it is going to end. I can hardly wait to finish it.
I’m sure, dear reader, that most of us who are writers have a stash of partial manuscripts hiding in different places in our house (life, garage, files, you name it…). I know I do. Another writer I know refers to these as muse bombs. These last few weeks I have been unearthing and filing my muse bombs–partial manuscripts, first chapter pieces, notebooks with good ideas and a few pages. I have filled one box of hanging files and am starting on box two. On the good side, I will never run out of stories. I will always have a backlog. On the other? Well, apparently, my muse likes to drop her toys all over the place and just leave them there, while she starts playing with other toys. I have muse bombs littering my life.
These muse bombs are affecting my other writing, too. This week my muse threw a muse bomb at me and took my writing for a ride, literally. The new story starts with the protagonist being picked up by a truck driver on a long haul, and taking her along with him, and I now have 10K words on yet another manuscript. Since the story started from the black box exercise in HTTS, I’m not complaining. But, it doesn’t get my other pieces finished. And finished and out the door is the goal of this year.
The Finder is turning very dark, with body parts and flowers as part of the stalking and psychological torment. The previous boyfriend has now arrived at the hospital, and been the required jerk. My DH muttered about me writing horror. I don’t write horror, but this one is…definitely darker than I expected it to be. I was aiming for thriller. I think I’m getting horrifying thriller. I need to do some more research on a few pieces before the manuscript goes much further, however, so that piece is in a temporary time out.
Organizing and cleaning has still not unearthed the first half of the manuscript that was finished, Here be Dragons. This is the manuscript I was going to take through editing with HTRYM. This is the story that inspired the dragon theme in my Flash Fiction Collection, and it is a solid piece. I have read it aloud to my primary editors. However, three weeks of looking and I still have only page 1, and pages 90-200. My dear husband (forever known as DH) continues to assure me that it must be somewhere in this house.
Organizing has, however, revealed four different versions of the Meningitis Plot, all starting at different places in the story arc, three different versions of The Reluctant Princess, and nine versions of Return of the Empress. I am also 80% through Super School, and have a printed version of it. (We won’t talk about the other mumblety number of pieces in the blue filing boxes, dear reader). Like I said, I will never run out of ideas.
So in self defense and desperation, I have once again returned to using Flylady. I am working on getting the house back to easy to take care of and able to have company without stress. I’m trying to build Space into my system and my life. I have discovered that keeping the sink cleared and the dishes done takes far less time if I do it every day. I don’t know why it surprises me that keeping it up takes less time than getting it to go in the first place. So far, the habit is sink/dishes and 15 minutes in a zone. I am trying to add put things away as I go, but that one is proving to be harder than I expected. Perhaps my muse is following my inner diva’s lead?
In other news, I now have a fourth short story out for consideration and for some editorial review (my first piece for this kind of feedback). It isn’t a long piece, but I am excited to see what the editor will think of it, and what kinds of suggestions she has for tightening it up. I have also taken some time to go through the catalog of writing contests I purchased from Brian Henry at Quick Brown Fox and have started to enter them into my calendar so I write to a deadline. No news on the first three, and that should happen any day now.