I haz a fishbowl

I had great plans for Pure Spec this weekend, but life got in the way (sick kid, headache, all that good stuff) and in the end I could only manage to get there for long enough to take Jo Walton‘s character creation workshop. Still, for me, that workshop was worth the price of admission. Unfortunately when I walked into the room it was taking place in, the first thing I saw was a video camera, and it was pointed directly at where we were all sitting and working. I hate being videotaped. I especially hate being videotaped when I don’t know what it’s for and when I haven’t signed a release. That camera pretty much guaranteed that I would be doing a minimal amount of talking, however, luckily for me I listening and thinking are two skills I have which are unaffected by video cameras πŸ˜‰

For the workshop we sat in a circle (there were about 20 of us) and each of us wrote down three character traits or descriptors and then put them in a hat. I wrote:

  1. Addicted to chewing chalk
  2. Vegetarian
  3. Um…I don’t remember what my third one was lol

Jo (feels weird to write that name and not be talking about my husband LOL) mixed the sheets of paper up and then pulled three out. She made up a character using those three character traits (I think she got ‘Has a pointy tail’, ‘Sad eyed’ and ‘Expects to be cheated’), then she passed the hat to the person sitting next to her who pulled out three pieces of paper and made a character with them, which was going to be included in the same story as the first character.

Still with me?

So, we went on like that, passing the hat around the table until everyone had created a character with the three random traits they’d pulled out of a hat. At the end of the hour we had 20 unique characters who were all interrelated and who it wouldn’t be difficult to write about. I could tell you the whole plot of a novel based on them, in fact.

The character traits I pulled out were:

  1. Has a mane on their back
  2. Cheerful
  3. Career Student

When I first looked them over I thought the mane was the most interesting feature. My first impulse was to go with a cursed person, then perhaps a hybrid cat-person, and then a were-something… but those all seemed too easy. At Jo’s direction I looked a little more at the ‘Career Student’ trait and, within the context of the world created by the characters who came before mine, that actually became the most interesting feature of this character. I’m hoping toΒ  write a short story with this character… but not anytime super soon πŸ˜‰

Anyway, I enjoyed the workshop. It was especially cool because I’ve a novel idea I’m brewing that will require a huge cast, and I am going to try this method to create them.

When I got home I went on a search for a ‘hat’. Originally I’d planned to get a mason jar and decorate it, but then I found it. A rose bowl my grandmother gave me. I gave it a place of honor on my desk then cut up a bunch of pieces of paper and tucked them, along with a pen, right beside it.

Now as interesting character traits occur to me, I jot them down and toss them in. When it comes time for me to populate the town for my next novel I’ll pull them out, three at a time, and let the magic happen. I’ve also invited other people to contribute to my fishbowl, just to keep things interesting. Jo and Danica have both contributed several character traits to the bowl. I hope they’ll enjoy seeing what I do with the traits they’ve given me.

I’d love it if you’d like to add something to my fishbowl. Just leave a comment or drop me a line and I’ll be happy to write down what you tell me and put it in the bowl. Also, if you create a fishbowl of your own I’d love to help you fill it up πŸ™‚

In other story news, Shadows is still going well. It’s up to 29,497 words and I haven’t worked on it yet today.

Lastly, Niteblade. The December issue of Niteblade is a special issue, not only is it all poetry but it’s also not only online. That’s right, if you want a copy of Niteblade you can hold in your hands, this is your chance. Best of all, we’re having a pre-sale right now so you can pick up a copy for 25% less than it will cost when it’s officially available in December. I’m really hoping these sell well, so we can look at potentially doing print versions of every issue to come. I like physical copies πŸ™‚

Anywho, if you’re interested just click on the awesome cover and it will take you to our pre-sale page.



Dear Santa,

A friend of mine on LiveJournal posted the list of what she wanted Santa to bring for her as a blog entry last week. I thought it was a fabulous idea because it really gave me some insight into who she was. My list, below is being shared for the same reason. Please don’t think I’m actually asking anyone who is reading this (except you Jo :-p) to get me these things — I’m writing to Santa.

Dear Santa,

I’ve been, well, if not terribly good at least not terribly bad this year. So for Giftmas, I would really love:

  • A hot oil popcorn popper like the one we used to have when I was a kid. I can’t actually find that exact model anymore, I guess they don’t make them these days, but this one here is similar enough to satisfy my nostalgia and provide me with super duper yummy popcorn.
  • I would also really love to “become a chimpanzee’s best friend“. Please. Pretty please?
  • I’m all about the Sims 3 these days but I’m feeling a little limited with my options for ‘stuff’ at this point. I’d positively adore any of the expansions I don’t have yet, or even Sims Points so I can buy some of the ‘stuff’ collections they put on sale on the website.
  • Lastly, if you were feeling super generous, Santa. I could also really use some baseboards and riser thingers for my bathroom and kitchen. If we don’t finish them up soon they are just going to blend into the background and we’ll never get them done. I’ve got the paint for both and I’d really like a chance to use it.

Thank you Santa.



In more directly writing-related news, Shadows is still coming along well. I’ve had a few bumpy patches in regard to ordering some of my scenes, but I still feel very good about this draft. I’m at 22,692 words and still going strong. Since I started working on it this time I haven’t missed a workday and the consistency feels good. Very good.

I wish I could say I’ve been as consistent with my #novpad this year, but I’d be lying. I have 9 poems, I should have 18. But it’s okay. I plan to keep going through the prompts, one at a time, until I finish them all, even if it takes me until January. For me the point of #novpad is mostly to be writing, and I’m doing that, even if it’s not one poem a day. I’m still pleased with my productivity, so it’s all good.

A couple years ago my friend BD did a personal challenge where she wrote for at least 15 minutes everyday for a year. I’m thinking about doing something similar. I don’t usually write on weekends, so I’d let myself off the hook then, but maybe expecting myself to write every weekday would be good for habit-forming and productivity. You know, assuming it’s not just setting myself up for failure considering the cyclical way my productivity works. This will require further thought, but I’m considering it, and if I do attempt it I’ll need moral support so if anyone else wants in let me know.

And let me know if you have a public holiday gift list. I’d love to take a look.

Shadows Progress

This post is mostly going to be about Shadows, but I don’t have a Shadows-y picture to put up there, so I went with one of the images the amazing Darek Zabrocki sent me when he was working on the cover for Lost and Found. This image came pretty near the end of the process so, as you can see, it’s quite a bit like the end result — just with a fewer details. Still, one thing this version has that the end one doesn’t is that little bird in the tree. I love that bird. The cover works better without it, but I don’t mind telling you I was sad to see it go.

So, I’m working on Shadows. What will be the final draft until I have either an agent or an editor to help me apply the final layer of polish. It’s going very well. I started writing this draft longhand in February and finished it in June (I think). I did a workshop in early spring that meant I had to send stuff in for critique, so I broke my rule about letting my work rest a few months before revising for the first few chapters, but once the workshop was over, I shoved those critiques back into a drawer to mellow along with the rest of the draft. That was a good choice. Feedback I’d thought was frivolous or just plain wrong looks very sound and insightful once you give it a few months distance. Also, the story which I’d had personal issues with, is stronger than I’d remembered.

So, yay!

I’m revising as I transcribe from my notebooks onto my computers. It’s been interesting. I think years of NaNoWriMo combined with my natural inclination toward wordiness have taught me some bad habits — or maybe it’s just that the draft I’m transcribing was a fresh draft. A second first draft, as I like to call it, so I can expect some… badness. Still I laughed as I revised “…drew a smile on her lips.” to “She smiled”. Then I opened up a new Word document to track some of the best/worst examples of my wordy-ass (and just plain awkward) writing. Allow me to share πŸ™‚

drew a smile on her lips –> she smiled
for having not been paying attention –> for not paying attention
The liquor seemed to have done more than loosen his tongue, it had given it wings -> The liquor hadn’t just loosened his tongue, it had given it wings. -> The liquor had given his tongue wings.
The smile that filled her face –> Colby’s smile
He paused, looking around him –> he paused, looking around
as he began to clear a spot –> he cleared a spot
I’m hoping the THING would be able to help make… –> I hope the THING will make…

There are several other examples already but I can’t share them without context or risk of spoilers. As much as some of these make me roll my eyes at myself a little bit, I’m actually really excited by my ability to notice them in my own work and revise them out. That feels like growth to me. Progress. And in this case, progress is good.

Right now I’m estimating that this book is going to finish up about 65k words. That’s a little shorter than I wanted, but it’s still a decent word count for a YA fantasy novel, and best of all, the plot is much stronger in this version than any of its predecessors.

I’m currently at 10,737 words transcribed and revised. Whoot!

As for NovPad… I’m um. Behind. A lot behind. My poem for day four turned into a short story. I’m hoping to make some progress toward catching up today, but I’d planned that yesterday too and it didn’t happen. Keep your fingers crossed for me.