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For those who might think I’m over-reacting to our dog’s penchant for lolling about on the plants, here are pictures:

FERNS

Now, tell me which one YOU would rather see?

I finished my sf story for the Southern Indiana Writers sf anthology, coming out Real Soon Now (old sf fen know that means “whenever”–old sf fen also know what “fen” means). Took it in, got some good critiques, showed it to #4 daughter, Charlie and Mom and got some more, and I’ll be doing some tweaking, but it mostly worked just fine. I’m very pleased that it came out as well as it managed to. I’m more fantasy than sf. Now I want to write MORE STORIES! MORE, MORE, MORE!

MA

writing prompt: Try writing a sort of story you don’t usually write. Just try to come up with a concept at first, then see if you can work up a character or two to go with it. Come on–it’s FUN!

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I hereby pledge that this is the last time I sign up for the National Blog Posting Month challenge. I will never again PLEDGE to post every day. Here I am, obligated by my word that I will post today, and I have nothing to write about. True, that’s never stopped me before, but I’d rather drool nonsense because I can than because I must.

We’re up to our ears in cucumbers here. The corn did nothing, the rabbits ate the beans, but the yellow squash and cucumbers are about to invade the woods and mug the deer. I’ve made pickles until I can’t get anything else in the refrigerator. I’m making another batch today, taking some cucumbers to the Southern Indiana Writers meeting tonight, and taking some to church on Sunday to sell for charity. There are only so many cucumber pickles we can eat. Of course, our #3 daughter and her sons can help us out with that–they eat dill pickles like other people eat M&Ms.

Our #4 daughter called last night and we finished going over my comments on her book draft. A wonderfully clean draft–makes me jealous! I made chapter-by-chapter notes, and we’ll go over them another time. She’s great to work with; we wrote a fan fiction together once (Chicago Phoenix, somewhere on this blog) when she was a pre-teen, and she was great to work with as a collaborator. When she gets a chance to work with a real editor, she’ll be ready. She sticks up for what she wants to be the way it is and knows why she wants it that way, and she’s willing to consider that what she wants might not be right for the book and can judge the difference. Deft. That’s what she is: deft.

My next project is to get the other two books I had previously e-pubbed formatted for another e-publisher. Then I need to finish writing a synopsis that actually makes sense for my Big Fat Fantasy.

The other day, somebody who doesn’t write asked me, “How do you come up with ideas? How do you think up what to write about?” I was like, “The problem isn’t coming up with stuff to write about, it’s deciding which things to choose and which things to leave.”

And that’s enough of that.

MA

writing prompt: Take any two random headlines from any sections of the newspaper (or online news source) and make up a story line that ties them together.

I was all “Yeah! Cool! I’m on my way!” when I got several days of high view stats. Then the views plunged to my normal levels, that is to say, almost none. So I checked to see what had drawn people to the site for those few–those noble few–days. I won’t repeat the words, because that might draw traffic from people looking for that term, which this post isn’t about, and that would just be mean. And, you know, we don’t have to be mean. Because no matter where you go, there you are. Thanks, Buckaroo, for those words of wisdom. (Moment of silence, while we replay our favorite scenes from BUCKAROO BANZAI.)

What people wanted was a recipe for something that involves cucumbers, salt, vinegar and dill and results in something one often puts on hamburgers. You know what I’m talking about. And now that they have my secret, they have deserted me. Life is hard.

I’m making more of those cucumber items today, in between bouts of making the cat get off the desk/diningtable/husbandchair/printer…. Work, work, work.

I’m also in the process of getting my backlist ready to submit to Echelon Press for e-publication. E-RE-publication, actually. I’ll post when they’re available again.

Blueberry season is over, alas, but peaches and melons are in–YAY! My ever-lovin’ husband has been peeling and pitting fresh peaches for me and bringing them to me in small porcelain dishes. Makes me feel like a queen. 🙂

Maybe life isn’t so hard, after all.

MA

writing prompt: Have a character learn that someone is only a temporary friend who wants something specific from him/her.

I only stayed one night in Louisville, and didn’t have time to post. We had dinner at the Shalimar, read to each other from our WIP and watched some of FIREFLY. I woke up with a headache and it only got worse. Hot and close in the apartment, in spite of her window unit. The complex’s central air hadn’t been turned on, and the window unit just wasn’t cutting it. I decided to make a run for home while I could still drive. Made it. Whew!

Maybe I just can’t bear to be away from home any more. Wouldn’t that be a sad thing? I don’t mind being homesick, as long as actual sickness isn’t involved.

Going to the grocery today, and may not be able to post later, so this may be it.

Have no new work to show for the visit, as we’re both busy on projects and didn’t want to start anything new. I did get jazzed about the piece I’m working on. I wasn’t feeling very confident about it, but reading it out loud and getting her feedback made me feel very good about what I’ve done and where I’m going with it. After the first scene, she said she got THIS feeling about THESE characters, and felt like something like THAT might happen or THIS OTHER conflict was building, and those were just what I had hoped but didn’t know if I’d managed. So it was a great visit in lots of ways, even though it had to be cut short.

MA

Writing prompt: Not really a prompt today, but a question. Do you have somebody you can read your work in progress to, who will give you HONEST feedback–tell you when something works and when something doesn’t? If he/she/they say something doesn’t work, do you reject their advice, or do you try to analyze it and MAKE it work without sacrificing your vision?

No, not mine. I wonder if everybody is reading the same stuff I am–how-to blogs about writing the middles of books. People seem to have a lot of trouble with writing middles, and are either looking for help or providing help for others. So I’ll help, too. Yeah, sure I will.

Beginnings and ends are fairly easy to think of. The trouble starts and stuff happens and the trouble ends one way or another. I remember asking my mother what happened on an action-adventure show we always watched and that I missed one week. “The bad guys caught them and locked them up, but they got away and caught the bad guys.” Yeah, thanks, Mom–That’s what happened every week. The fun part was HOW THEY DID IT, and that’s the part she left out. And that’s the middle part.

I used to have…. I was going to say that I used to have trouble with the middles of books, but that’s not entirely true. When I didn’t quit when I got to the middle, THEN I had trouble with the middles of books. It isn’t that I couldn’t come up with anything to have happen, it’s that there were too many possibilities. You know–because of quantum, as Terry Pratchett would say. Every action and every character provides endless possibilities for moving the plot in one direction or another. If THIS happens to HIM, his reaction might be THIS or it could be THIS or, if SHE is watching, it could be THAT….

So I started outlining. Yeah, I know–mechanical, restrictive, inorganic…. But it’s a framework I need. I often have the vaguest idea of where I want my story to end. If I don’t pin it down somewhat, the whole book just flaps around like a picnic blanket in a high wind. I start out with the opening situation, which is usually what I have in mind first (don’t laugh–some people start with the outcome, some with the climax). Then I write down a very general ending of ways the situation can be resolved. Then I put the turning points in place–I don’t mean specifics, either, I mean the words “turning point”. Then, as I write the first part of the book, I think about what’s going on, who it’s happening to, and how to arrange meetings, conversations and events to lead the main character to make an important, pivotal decision. That decision automatically whithers all other possibilities, which is sad, but that’s quantum for you.

The job of the writer is not choosing what to put in, but what to leave out.

MA

Writing prompt: Write a very brief story, with about six sentences. The first sentence sets up the character and situation, the last sentence resolves it. The other four are the Middle. Do with them what you will. “Once upon a time, there was a princess who was as good as she was beautiful. And she lived happily ever after.” That’s nice, but it’s the middle that makes the story.

I’m at Magdalena’s today, trying to get a couple of high-speed things done. Trouble is, the connection is high speed, but my brain is still 2400 bps.

One thing I’m trying to do is download Damn Small Linux and I can’t find the name of the file I’m supposed to download. The instruction page says I want dslXXXX.iso and there are several files that fit that. Also says I need to download this and that in Windows to run the md5checksum. I’m like–Damn it, Jim, I’m a writer, not a computer tech!

I’m also trying to transfer my pro-site to a blog-type presentation, and the difference between the old html code I used to build my site and the css code the blog wants makes the transfer a long and painstaking process. That’s why I haven’t done any more with sprucing up my site than I have. I don’t like pains. If I wanted more pain, I’d have had more kids.

Third project underway… well, third, fourth, fifth and on… actually WRITING some stuff and submitting it. I submitted a query on a cozy mystery yesterday and am waiting to hear if the publisher wants to see more. Cross your fingers for me!

MA

Writing prompt: Take five books you love. Copy the first paragraph of each on a separate piece of paper and then write about how that first paragraph drew you in, why it did, how it led to the rest of the story and how it tied in with the end.

sagerockMy mom bought me this fake rock at The Dollar Tree. It’s supposed to go in the garden to mark your herb planting, but this one is not going there. For one thing, if I put anything in the garden Charlie would go ape-shi… Librarian-poo. Since he’s the one who weeds it, he gets to say what goes in it. For another thing, my sage is in a planter box up on the porch, and I know both where it is and what it is.

Mostly, it’s going in my office because Mom bought it for a reason: SAGE is the name of my Big Fat Fantasy novel. It took me about 15 years to get it the way I like it, what with conflicting advice from a series of agents, time out to raise kids and work on short stories and other books etc. etc.

My #4 daughter grew up with SAGE. She knows the characters better than I do, myself. She keeps me from just putting it aside and not trying to sell it. I’m like, “I’m totally satisfied with it the way it is. If I sold it, they would probably want me to change it, the way the agents did, and that eventually killed it. I brought it back to life, and I’m not going to kill it again.”

On the other hand, Norilana Books, which has published two of my stories in their SWORD AND SORCERESS series, has replied to a query and has said I could send a book proposal in May, so I will do that. Vera Nazarian is one of the world’s best editors and one of the world’s best writers, so I would totally trust and editorial suggestions she would have. I only hope she accepts the book. If she doesn’t…. The book is exactly the book I want it to be, so I’m satisfied.

How boring of me!

MA

Writing prompt: Take a scene you’ve written that you really like. Write down a list of the things you like about it. Rewrite it, changing one of those things. Does it make the scene better? Worse? No difference?

I just had this flash of inspiration. I’ve been working on a series of short stories set in a theme park reclaimed for housing called Storybook Acres. What if I moved everybody to Spadena Street, where my current book is set? Mr. Blunt could be the caretaker for the factory and could live in the caretaker’s hut instead of in his house. (Sara knows who I mean.) Everybody would have more room, and that wouldn’t be quite as much fun, but it would be more believable. I can always go back to Storybook Acres if this brainstorm turns out to be a brain burp.

MA

Writing prompt: Take a story your stuck on and set it somewhere else and see if anything shakes loose.

I’ve been working on my NaNoWriMo novel, just writing as fast as I can, trying not to get stuck, trying not to worry about inconsistencies (I’ll clean that up later). I’ve been trying to do what a couple of my friends do, and stick a place-holder note where I need to look something up or figure something out [he does something with a rope that holds the thing to the other thing]. I’ve been just slapping out dialog and letting my characters say whatever comes out of my fingers instead of orchestrating every word.

The characters are coming off the page. It’s happening faster and painlessly, instead of only after long thought and hard work. It isn’t fair. Writing shouldn’t be this much fun. I mean, I was raised Lutheran, all right? If it’s this much fun, I shouldn’t be spending this much time on it, you know?

It is being fun, though. I’m so glad I signed on for National Novel Writing Month. Even if this book turns out to be total junk and unsalvageable, it’s been a great ride.

MA

Writing prompt: Her name is Althea Gordon. She’s at the hairdresser, talking to Betty, who is doing her hair, about a Halloween Parade. Do 500 words of it. Quickly.

O cartridge pen of blue and gold
Used much in days of old
When younger was I–aye, by years.
I say farewell with tears.

My fingers you have stained with ink
And, when I fought to think
And scratched my head and prayed for grace,
You also stained my face.

But now your ink has all run dry
And, howsoe’er I try,
I cannot find replacement bits
So, rather than have fits

Whene’er I see thee useless, pen,
I cast thee in the bin
And weep to bid thee sad adieu
I had good use of you.

There is something so satisfying about the flow of ink from the nib of a fountain pen–even a cartridge pen. One of these fine days, I am going to give myself a present of a pretty fountain–FOUNTAIN, I say–pen, the kind with the little lever you use to pump it full of ink, so you can get your fingers and clothes all blotty before you even write a word. I am always up for a challenge, and filling a fountain pen was always a challenge for me, klutz that I am. So there it is. My bucket list. Buy a fountain pen and the ink for it and fill it and write with it. Is that one item or four?

MA
Writing prompt: Describe a clumsy person doing something fiddly, like filling a fountain pen or stringing beads or threading a needle. Have fun.

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Here is where I ramble on about whatever happens to fall through my mind. I also have a professional site, where I post about my books, stories, news and appearances. Every month, I post a “Hot Flash” there–a story or prose poem of about 50 words. I hope you enjoy your visit. –Marian Allen

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