A Fly on the Wall of NaNoPrep

As I sat with my fellow NaNo prepper M yesterday in our usual Sunday library corner, I managed to get all of the plot for “Curse of Camlann” I’d already sketched out officially written down. I also downgraded one character to a supporting role and introduced a newer one, based on my musings and input from Mom, because one should always listen to Mom. Furthermore, I renamed Obsessed Ex-Husband because his name was too soap opera-y and found his photo on Pinterest, posting the latter to my COC board for future reference. Fortunately, only that last one was an official distraction, unless one counts the chips, sour straws and Reese’s that M tossed onto the table oh so cavalierly.

Mmmm, writing snacks.

Anyway, as I was saying… My plan for Sunday was to get farther along with the rest of the plot. As in all the way done. M had to keep reminding me anything done is better than nothing done at all. So I kept plugging along. Occasionally I’ d ask her random questions on random topics, checked with her writer brain that works differently than mine to see if an idea I had made sense or was completely off the mark, or if one scenario would be more appropriate than another.

For example, after one exchange, M had this opinion: it might be a little bit scary for Reese (immortal hero of the story), who has just resurrected from being shot by the Obsessed Ex-Husband of Rowena (heroine of the story) and whom she thinks is dead because moments before Reese had no pulse, to touch her on the leg where she kneels within reach next to him to let her know he is not in fact dead after all.

Smart woman, that BFF of mine.

It was then that I wondered just what others around us in the library think of our topic-ranging discussions. Between last year’s shapeshifters and hyena massacres and this year’s immortals and resurrections and a brief consideration of just how evil was Vlad the Impaler really, we have to sound a little bit odd. Oh, to be a fly on that wall to hear what interesting things come out of brainstorms and aha! moments and the imbibing of copious amounts of caffeine in all its forms during NaNo around the world…

fly-on-the-wall

NaNo Prep In Full Swing

Well, it’s halfway through October and I am well trenched into that time-honored activity called NaNo Prep. As my previous post explained, I am totally a planner, so it’s not unusual to find me working on characters, plots and all the other things I can do early before writing begins on November 1. The last couple of Sunday writing sessions have been abbreviated due to things like M taking her oldest to a birthday party and me singing during two services at church. For me, that means not so much productivity on the things that I should be working on.

Instead, I’m doing things like updating my NaNoWriMo dashboard with all the new details — click here to visit my author dashboard and see what I’m up to — and creating a book cover for that very same page. I find it fascinating how long it can take to crop an image, add some text, rotate it this way and that in order to get it to look the way you want just so you have an image for the site instead of a sad blank square.

In case you are curious, this is the cover I settled on and uploaded to my NaNo dashboard. You may also have also seen it pop up as my new photo on Facebook as well:

Working Title for NNWM 2014 novel: The Curse of Camlann

Working Title for NNWM 2014 novel: The Curse of Camlann

Now, I think it’s time to get back to plotting. I’ve got a lot of story to figure out, not to mention the mechanics of my character’s immortality. Hmm. Mechanics of Immortality. If my current book title doesn’t work, that definitely sounds like a winner.

NaNo Prep: Panster or Planner?

Hello! I know I’ve been quiet lately on the writing front, and NaNo is to blame. Instead of working on flash fiction, I’ve been solidly prepping my NaNo novel. Yes, I am fully aware that November is still over a month and a half away, but this is me were talking about. Interestingly, in my email this morning, I find NaNoMail on this very subject. Figuring the Fates are giving me a poke, I thought I’d check it out.

As I read the “how to prep” article, I laughed because M and I discuss pieces of this every year at NaNo time. One of them was almost prophetic, as we talked about this very thing at our last writer session:

nanopantserorplanner

I am most definitely in the planner camp, and M leans in the pantser direction. I like to know who my characters are, what my plot is, who’s doing what and why, and where the story will take place. This year, my story contains a character who gets cursed, and I knew that I had to know a) exactly how the curse came about, and b) how my hero and heroine were going to break said curse. I didn’t want to find myself stuck without the answer and staring at a blank Scrivener page trying to figure it out. I even enlisted M to help me out when I was stuck in Stuck Mode, as this Messenger conversation we had shows. She posted it on Facebook to give her friends and mine a glimpse into the writer process:

nanodilemma

Yes, I most definitely groaned when I read her “helpful” suggestion, and called her on it later, but yeah, it was pretty funny. Fortunately, I’ve since worked out how to break Reese’s curse. Now I’m working on Rowena’s ancestral family tree to see how many times in the last 1500 years the curse could have been broken but was thwarted by one thing or another.

Yeah, planner I be. :)

Note: for more information on this year’s NaNo novel, check out the sidebar under “NNWM 2014 Project” (click the three horizontal lines to access).

Flash Fiction: Cobalt Gargoyles of Dublin

This post is a bit overdue, but as they say better late than never. It’s based on TerribleMind’s flash fiction challenge from August 15th. I went a tad over the allotted word limit, so I didn’t post it as part of the challenge. I also hadn’t had a chance to edit it yet. After taking a few minutes to clean things up a little, I think it’s ready for posting.

Here’s the deets on what the challenge entailed:

“Colors are pretty. I want you to write a story using a title that incorporates a color into it. I don’t care which color. Only requirement is the incorporation of a color in the title.

CobaltGargoyle_Griffin

Leader of the Dublin Cobalt Gargoyles, Griffin

The blog’s author included a random color table for our convenience, and I chose #10, cobalt. It’s a color with a nice name, and also happens to be one of my favorite glazes in pottery class. I also chose to stick with the winged theme I seem to have going this summer, and I might also have been influenced by watching I, Frankenstein on video the weekend I wrote the story.

Here’s what happens when I settle gargoyles on top of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin and melée ensues. You can find it later as its own page under the “About Nik’s Stories” menu above for future reading.

Read the story: The Cobalt Gargoyles of Dublin

Writer’s Blocks Story Weekend

It’s the end of July, and Meagan and I were scheduled to meet for our monthly writing session. We chose a new place to eat on Sunday, and surprise, it was a order and go sit kind of place instead of a restaurant with actual waitstaff. As a result, we had a lot more time to kill than usual before we could head off to the library.

Did we sit and chat about our lives while eating copious amounts of yummy queso? Of course.

Did I show off my writer charm bracelet that I’d made and had worn for inspiration, and smile when it tinkled? Yep.

Did I dig into my laptop tote that I brought inside with me because I didn’t want my chocolate covered raisins to melt into a big blob of ickiness while sitting inside my trunk in the Texas summer heat to find that tiny little pouch containing my writer’s blocks? You betcha.

writersblocks0727We spent the next half hour or so rolling those little dice onto the tile tabletop of our booth and seeing how they landed. We laughed at some options, and I groaned each time ‘horror’ popped up. I started handing Meagan the die that rolled an option I didn’t like for her to do the re-roll, and she the same. By the time we left, I had seven options to choose from and she five.

We arrived at the library, settled in, and the deliberation began. Which option do we choose? Meagan did a coin toss to pick between her two favorites. Me, I just picked one that sounded interesting.  Here’s what I selected, with the further explanation provided by the little insert that came with the set (click the image to see it full size):

  1. Hero — Non-human
  2. Genre — Fantasy
  3. Plot — Revenge — hero means to take vengeance on some other characters
  4. Plot Twist — Betray — major character unexpectedly dies

This then prompted a discussion as to what constituted a non-human. I made the argument that alien non-humans fell more into the scifi category, and supernatural creatures such as vampires and werewolves would be non-humans in a fantasy world. She gave me an “uh huh” and ignored me to work on her own story.

Having just had a SyFy Channel “Bitten” binge watching session not that long ago, I knew just the werewolf that I wanted in my head when writing, although I didn’t use his character but my own. I wrote this one directly into Scrivener versus long hand, too. It didn’t write itself very fast, but it’s a good beginning of something. So here it is, coming in at 2,748 words and edited a little for content. Let me know what you think. Oh, and it’s been added as its own story page, so you’ll always know where to go and find it when you want to re-read it later. :)

Read the story: A Brother’s Betrayal

Artemis’ Rescue: A Flash Fiction Challenge

Hello everyone! I’m writing to you today from the morning of Day Five of my much-needed staycation. I’ve been getting a lot accomplished (like cleaning my house, getting donations that have been sitting around for months out of said clean house, and taking a fun day to go shopping and out to lunch with Mom), and those accomplishments also include writing my self-assigned flash fiction challenge of last week. If you missed the earlier post on this, you can read it here but I’ll also remind you below.

“Take all the items listed in the [@YouAreCarrying] response tweet (your ‘inventory’) and use them all — in some way, oblique, abstract or overt — in a flash fiction.

My inventory, for those of you who will be reading carefully to make sure all are present and accounted for, is: an arrow, a teapot decorated with sad bats, a brass token, a cake frosted with blue letters, and a wooden life ring.

This turned out to be another great exercise for me. This time, I also completed the challenge on time and added to the original Terrible Minds post, which means more people might read my story. That in itself is pretty darn nifty.

I also completely changed what I thought would be the setting for the story. At first I was thinking something witchy, what with a teapot with bats on it being part of my inventory, but when I sat down to start writing, Artemis popped in my head. Now, this is no surprise, considering a) my first inventory item of an arrow, b) the fact that I’ve always had a thing for Greek mythology, and c) my name itself is derived from Nike, goddess of victory. Even though I had no idea how I would work a wooden life ring (aka life preserver) into the story, I went with it and where the story took me.

So here’s my story of what happens when a modern-day goddess of the hunt comes across a shipwrecked man on her way to visit her friend, the modern-day goddess of wisdom. It is also posted as its own page under the “About Nik’s Stories” menu above for future reading.

Artemis’ Rescue

Artemis stepped outside and shut the door to her cabin, making sure she heard the latch drop into place. She didn’t know why her brother insisted she have a lock on her door. She’d done fine for millenia without locks, especially when the animals in the forest kept watch. Leave it to Apollo to go all big brother on her and install the blasted thing anyway, even though she’d been the twin born first.

She whistled softly, smiling when she heard the sounds of her dogs and Aeolus thrust his head into her hand. She scratched the brown spotted hound’s ears, then crouched down to greet the others: Delos and Damian with their black-and-white coats, and her three lovelies Hector, Helios and Theron, whose reddish coats shone in the moonlight. Since the day she’d received them from Pan, she’d never been without them.

“Well, my hounds, shall we go?”

All six responded with short barks, so she sent them down the path ahead of her. It wasn’t long before one returned to her side, agitated.

“What is it, my boy?”

Theron whimpered at her, then went still as did the rest of the forest around her. In seconds, her five remaining hounds appeared beside her, their attention trained somewhere over the next rise.

Artemis, goddess of the hunt (photo source: Pinterest)

Artemis, goddess of the hunt (photo source: Pinterest)

She reached into her pack and pulled out her favorite compound bow, thumbing the switch that triggered its transformation to full size. She drew an arrow from the quiver on her back, settling it into place as she slowly climbed She whispered to her dogs, “Quickly but quietly,” and they slipped away to take up their usual hunting positions around her. It took her a few strides to crest the top of the small hill, and a moment later she sheathed her arrow and collapsed and stowed her bow as she ran down to the edge of the water where the man lay half submerged.

Chunks of wreckage surrounded the survivor, who was lying on a large section of deck planking. She could see in the distance the remains of his ship, with its broken mast spearing out of the waves crookedly and the rear section of the stern barely visible above the choppy waters. A wooden life ring’s cord had twisted itself around his ankle, and floated behind him. A satchel was strapped across his chest and caught beneath him, and she would bet that he’d broken everything within it.

Kneeling at his side, she realized how large he was. Upright, he had to be at least seven feet tall, and through his tattered clothing she saw nothing but tanned muscle. She brushed his thick dark hair away from his face, her hand coming away bloody from a nasty gash just beneath his hairline. Wasting no time, she tore a strip of linen off her tunic and began bandaging his wound even as she reached out for her friend’s mind.

Athena, are you there?

Artemis! Where on Earth are you? Even through their telepathy, Artemis could hear the war goddess’ concern. We expected you an hour ago. I was about to send Callisto to look for you.

Do you still have that wagon that you haul weapons around in?

Yes. Why?

Bring it and the girls with you when you come. I’ll explain when you get here. I need your help as fast as you can manage. I’m sending Aeolus to you. He’ll lead you back along the coast about two miles west of your house. It looks like that storm we had last night did a little more than scare your owls and my deer. It took down a big passenger ship, and I don’t think I can move on my own the very large, very muscular man lying at my feet with a head wound that’s bleeding a little more profusely than I’d like. He may be its only survivor.

We’ll be there soon, came back Athena’s crisp response.

She knew she could count on the goddess of war to be calm in a crisis. Giving Aeolus the command to go to Athena, she motioned for the rest of her hounds to stand down. They settled into the sand an arm’s length away to her left, heads resting on paws but keeping both of them within view. A pained groan snapped her attention back to the man before her. Placing a hand on his shoulder in an attempt to keep him from moving, the warmth of his skin had her wondering.

“Try not to move,” she suggested softly. “I don’t know what injuries you might have gotten from being tossed about in the storm, and we don’t want to make them worse.”

He merely grunted at her. Her hand slipped from his shoulder as he shifted, uncurling his fingers from their grip on the wood, sliding both of his hands back until they were palms down and even with his massive shoulders. He managed to push himself off the planks, every muscle in his arms and shoulders quivering with the effort. As she watched him get his feet underneath him so that he could move himself off his life raft and onto the beach, she couldn’t help but admire his strength. She considered contacting Athena and telling her they weren’t needed, but by the awkward way he collapsed into a half-sitting, half-leaning position, she decided to have her check him over for injuries.

He raked his hair back and off his forehead, out of his eyes, he winced when he aggravated his head wound. Fingering the bandage, he glanced over at her. “Hello, Artemis.”

His knowing her name didn’t surprise her. It did, however, confirm her earlier hunch that he might be a demigod. She would eventually figure out which one of his parents was of the Olympian pantheon, as she was.

“Hello to you.”

He chuckled as he freed himself from the life ring’s rope. “I forget we’ve never officially been introduced as I’ve wanted to meet you for years. You know my father, Poseidon.”

Her memories clicked into place. She now placed where she’d seen eyes that same color, and that charming smile. “Ah, yes. You would be Orion.”

When he shifted as if to stand, she motioned for him to stay put. “You need to rest; my friends will be here shortly with a wagon and we’ll get you patched up.”

“I’m not going to argue with you. My left side aches something terrible.” He drew the strap of his bag over his head and grimaced when he heard the tinkling of shattered pottery. “Oh, Mother’s not going to be happy about this.” He loosened the buckle and carefully slipped a hand inside, drawing it back out again. In his palm lay large bits of white painted ceramic, including one that stared back at her with oddly sad eyes. “She has this quirky collection of teapots that Hecate throws and decorates for her. Never seen one with bats on it before, let alone with such unhappy expressions. Think she’ll forgive me if I tell her it broke when I landed on it trying to survive a near-hurricane?”

Artemis smiled. “Perhaps. I’ve found mothers are often much more forgiving toward their only sons. My brother is a perfect example.”

Further conversation was halted momentarily by the arrival of Aeolus, who skidded to a stop at Artemis’ side, his entire body vibrating in his happiness to be reunited with his mistress. She thanked him with a hug, a quick body rub and a kiss, and his enthusiastic bark caused Orion to laugh.

“Oh, I really shouldn’t have laughed. I think Mother’s teapot cracked a couple of ribs.”

“We’ll soon find out. Here come my friends.” She pointed up the beach. Athena was up in the driver’s seat, with Artemis’ two companions holding on for dear life in the bed of the wagon. Apparently, the goddess of war drove at breakneck speed no matter the cargo she carried. The passengers hopped out before the goddess had reigned in the horses to a complete stop, and stumbled a little in the sand. Jogging the few extra feet to where she sat, Callisto stood as if on guard and glared at Orion, while Atalanta merely nodded to him in greeting.

“Who have we here?’ greeted Athena as she joined the group, “and what did you do to make the god of the sea so mad that he had it make a meal out of your ship and spit you back out again like a bad clam?”

Orion shrugged. “I don’t think it was about me personally. Right before we capsized I thought I heard him bellow something, Odysseus perhaps? In any case, I doubt it would have mattered overmuch had he known I was on board. Father’s not exactly lacking for offspring, so losing one son of many to the depths wouldn’t matter to anyone but my mother.” He then met Athena’s gaze. “Considering your history with Poseidon, I would understand if you’d rather not get involved.”

“Oh, our relationship’s not that bad anymore,” the war goddess argued, then eyed him directly. “But if you ever make me mad, I’ll do worse than drown you at sea.” Athena wiggled her fingers at him, and the many legends of those who had crossed her flashed through his mind. He held up a hand in reassurance, and the goddess grinned.

The four of them managed to get him upright and over to the bed of the wagon, where Athena performed a cursory field inspection. The cut on his head was no longer bleeding, and when she gently probed the huge bruise covering the majority of the left side of Orion’s torso, she reported that he did indeed have a couple of cracked ribs but they seemed to be healing.

“I think you inherited some of your father’s affinity for water,” Athena said as she stepped back, securing her first aid kit back in its space in the wagon. “I believe in another couple of hours, you’ll be fully healed.”

He carefully slid off the back of the wagon, and other than a hand pressed to his side, he showed no signs of being in pain. “I guess sometimes it’s not a bad thing to be a demigod. Thank you for your assistance, ladies, but I should be on my way. Artemis’ hounds have reminded me I have one of my own waiting for me at home.” He walked a few steps, then stopped to rummage through his satchel. Calling out her name, he pitched a small coin in Artemis’ direction.

Catching it in mid-air, she inspected the object. It was filthy despite Orion’s impromptu swim, so she knelt at the water’s edge and cleaned it off. At first she thought he’d tossed her a drachma, one of the ancient coins they’d used for currency. What he’d in fact given her was a brass token belonging to an amusement park she’d heard of years ago that claimed to include a decent archery range. He’d tossed it to her knowing she’d be unable to resist the invitation, and she smiled.

“Come on, Artemis!” Callisto ran and grabbed her free hand. “You have to see the dessert Athena got for us. It’s one of those big yummy vanilla sheet cakes, and she had them write ‘Girls Night’ on it in bright blue letters, and in Greek no less!”

Whistling for her dogs, Artemis slipped Orion’s token into her pocket and let her be pulled along as she listened to her companion chatter on. Glancing back toward the forest as she climbed into the wagon, she was oddly pleased to discover he stood waiting at the edge of the trees. Curious, she reached out with her mind and discovered he’d inherited one additional ability from his father as she connected with him telepathically.

Well? he asked, his deep voice oddly intimate as it resonated in her mind.

You’re on, she answered, looking forward to the challenge.

Author’s Note: no Greek gods, goddesses, heroines or constellations were harmed in the writing of this tale. A few myths and legends may have been slightly bent, however.

Now, anyone see where I put my Percy Jackson Blu-rays…?

I’ve Issued Myself A Flash Fiction Challenge

screamingwomanHappy Friday, everyone! After being challenged by M a couple weeks ago, and enjoying writing that short story, I started following the Terrible Mind’s blog that started it off. Moments ago this week’s flash fiction challenge arrived in my inbox. Rather than having my “aaaaahhh!” reaction from last time, it was more like “hmmmmmm” in a good way. As before, here’s the rules from TerribleMinds.com (click here for the actual post):

“Tweet the word “inventory” to this particular Twitter bot — @YouAreCarrying — it will tweet back at you a randomized list of inventory items, taken, I believe, from old Infocomm games…Take all the items listed in the response tweet (your “inventory”) and use them all — in some way, oblique, abstract or overt — in a flash fiction. We’ll up the word count to 2000 words for this one.”

So using my handy @nixdesk Twitter account, I did as told and here’s what I now have in my inventory:

inventory

All things considered, it’s a pretty reasonable inventory that can apply to a variety of genres. I think I know what I’m going to do with this, but you’ll have to check back next week to find out for yourself. :)