Apr 18, 2014

What I'm Reading




Have you ever noticed that sometimes you're in a mood to read a certain kind of book? Or is that just me? LOL

We had a lot of grey, miserable weather during the last week, and then it turned cold on us - we're talking sub zero temperatures again with snow - and I was in dire need of some comfort reading, so I started a new book. Or rather, an old favourite. And other than that, I didn't get a whole lot of reading in.

Electronic Books

The good news is, I found the books I was reading on George (my Kindle). Apparently I'd created a folder for books I have on the go and lo and behold, that's where they were. But the bad news is, I didn't get any reading done on any of them. So there was no progress on The Cobweb Bride by Vera Nazarian, or Mr. Love by Sally Mason, or Dark Love by Claudy Conn. And after reading the poorly written Atlantis/merpeople story in the Darlings of Paranormal Romance anthology, I was a little leery of starting the werewolf story. Maybe I'll give it a go over the long weekend.

Books

You know, although I had trouble putting Dreamwalker, by Kathleen Dante down, once I did I never got around to picking it up again. I'm not sure why . . . I think it just went along with the mood I was in and my general lack of reading last week. I didn't get back to Hunting the Corrigan's Blood by Holly Lisle either.

Re-Reads

I did get a couple more stories under my belt from Sword and Sorceress IV. I'm taking my time with it because I enjoy savouring the stories. And my comfort reading was Memory and Dream by Charles de Lint. I've read all his books (at least the ones I own, I believe I'm missing a couple) more than once, and they're my comfort food of the reading world. This is one of his Newford books, the city he invented that has a whole cycle of books and stories. It's an urban fantasy revolving around an artist named Isabelle Copely. Reading it is like re-connecting with an old friend. The only problem is, for a hardback the print is a little on the small side, so I'm only able to read a little at a time. Maybe I just need better light . . .

Apr 17, 2014

Earth - Chapter Nineteen


This serial is presented in draft form and will be updated each Thursday. Your comments are always welcome!

Ch 1 ~ Ch 2 ~ Ch 3 ~ Ch 4 ~ Ch 5 ~ Ch 6 ~ Ch 7 ~ Ch 8 ~ Ch 9 ~ Ch 10 ~ Ch 11 ~ Ch 12 ~ Ch 13 ~
Ch 14 ~ Ch 15 ~ Ch 16 ~ Ch 17 ~ Ch 18 ~



"I should take some breakfast to mother," Chloe said, rising from the table.

"No need," Granny told her. "I left a plate on her table. I couldn't get her to wake up to eat but it'll be there for her later."

Zephryn looked from one woman to the other. Chloe had a worried look on her face and even Granny looked troubled. "I take it this isn't normal for Tierra?"

"She probably just tired herself out from all the talking she did last night," Chole said. She shot him a small smile. "She's not used to having company."

"Granny?" he asked. She was, after all, the closest thing they had to a healer.

The old woman shrugged. "It's been an eventful few days. Enough to throw anyone off."

Zephryn's eyes narrowed. It was the kind of answer an Illezie would give - a generic non-answer. As if she could read his mind, Granny's manner became suddenly brusque.

"I've things to do," she said, dusting her hands off on her apron. "I've filled your canister with my special tea." This was directed at Chloe. "If you get the chance I'd appreciate it if you'd talk to my herb garden."

She was gone before either of them could say anything.

"Is she always that . . ."

"Odd?" Chloe finished for him. She laughed. "Mother used to say Granny was as changeable as the weather."

"What did she mean about you talking to her herb garden?" Zephryn asked. He knew about gardens, but he'd never heard of anyone talking to one before.

Chloe held up the tea pot and he gave a nod. She refilled both their cups before sitting back down across from him. "In return for Granny's help, I use my gift to help the plants in her herb garden to grow."

"You can do that?"

"You look surprised. Have you forgotten already that my gift is the earth?"

"No, it's just unusual that you can both move the earth and manipulate plant life." It wasn't just unusual, it was extremely rare. Normally an Earth Elemental could do one or the other, not both. It took an incredible amount of power for them to be able to split their focus.

"Oh." Chloe caught her bottom lip between her teeth. "Is this a bad thing?"

"Not at all." He reached over and placed his hand on top of hers where it lay on the table. "It's part of who you are so it can be nothing but good."

A smile broke over her face, as he'd intended.

"I believe you're trying to flatter me."

"Is it working?"

"Maybe a just a little." Her smile dimmed and she withdrew her hand. "What was it like, growing up with people like you?"

"People like me?"

"Other Elementals." She stumbled over the word. "Not having to hide your abilities."

"Ah." He sat back in the chair. "For all that we were bred to become more powerful with each successive generation, and were given training to control our elements, we were not encouraged to use them. You recall I mentioned the inhibitors?"

She nodded, wide-eyed.

"To be perfectly honest, it was easy to forget that being an Elemental meant we had any kind of gift. All we had was our power rating." He held out his wrist and turned it over so she could see the numbers burned into the skin.

"What is that?" She reached out a tentative hand and touched the markings.

"WE-02-47-04 - Wind Elemental, second generation, forty-seventh result, power level four. That was my designation. The name I was known by in the compound."

"That's awful!"

"I was so proud of my power rating." He shook his head. "Power ratings were everything in the compound. So imagine our surprise when we arrived on Ardraci and discovered that our ratings meant nothing. An Elemental was judged on his ability to control his element, on how easily he could manipulate it, not how powerful he was."

"It must have been hard for you," she said, voice laced with sympathy.

"It was . . . disconcerting. So was seeing different Elementals in committed relationships."

"What do you mean?"

Zephryn shifted in his seat. "Every Ardraci is born with the potential for all four elements, but one is usually stronger than the others and when an Ardraci passes through tespiro the predominate one becomes their gift. Arjun was trying to isolate the gene sequence for each element so that his test subjects were born with the potential for one element only."

"That sounds horrible. But what has that got to do with--"

"I'm getting to that. To achieve this, Arjun created the breeding program so that Water Elementals would only have children with other Water Elementals, fire to fire, wind to wind, earth to earth."

She stared at him wide-eyed and he thought she was going to say something but she apparently changed her mind.

"So as a Wind Elemental, I was only with other Wind Elementals. My friend Ravi is a Water Elemental and he was only with other Water Elementals. When we arrived on Ardraci it seemed almost blasphemous to see a Fire Elemental with a Water Elemental, or any other combination of Elementals."

"And if I'd been born in the compound?"

"If you'd been born in the compound, we would have never met."

Apr 16, 2014

Wildcard Wednesday
Show and Tell

Previous articles in this series: Finding Ideas; Finding Time; Pantser Vs. Plotter; Characters;
Point Of View; Dialogue; Setting

We've pretty much reached the end of this series. I'd like to leave you with just one more pearl of wisdom. Next to “write what you know”, the most popular piece of writing advice is “show, don’t tell.” But what do they mean by showing?

Showing is when you reveal things about your characters, your story, their world, etc., as you advance your story. With telling, you stop the story in its tracks, kill whatever momentum you had going, and back up like a dump truck to dump a ton of information onto your reader.

Good writing should evoke sensation in the reader – don’t just say “it’s raining”, help the reader experience the storm. Involve the emotions. Take fear, for instance. Fear is a strong emotion with a great many ways to describe it - the stomach gets tied in knots, breaking out in a sweat, shivering, uncertainty in the eyes, huddling in a ball, a strong urge to run away. . .

Telling: She was afraid of the approaching storm. Showing: She stared, frozen in place as lightning lit up the sky. Her heart sped up and she choked back a whimper, shivering as a breeze swept over her sweat dampened skin leaving goose flesh in its wake.

You want your reader invested in the character. You want the reader inside the action. That's the sign of good writing . . . to pull the reader out of his ordinary life and put him in the middle of someplace else.

Many writers resort to telling because they believe the reader won't get the point if they don't. Often writers tell, then show, to make sure they get their point across, in effect treating their readers like morons. But the truth is that when you take out the telling, the showing remains. And that's all the reader needs in most cases.

Fiction is all about forging an emotional link between the author and the reader. One of the best ways to do this is by creating vivid images that immerse readers in the world of the fiction — not merely telling readers what’s happening, but showing it to them.

You want to make your writing vivid enough to grab a reader’s attention and draw them into the story. Showing them is an important way to do this. To help you show instead of tell, keep in mind the following:

Avoid overusing adverbs. Instead, use strong, specific verbs.
Use the five senses.
Don’t simply name feelings, let you characters experience them.
Use expressive dialogue to show the characters’ emotions and outlook.
Generate emotion through vivid writing and characters’ reactions.
Use well-placed details to bring scenes to life.

Does this mean all telling is bad? Not at all, telling does have its place. Use it for:

Slowing things down – a story that’s non-stop action can be exhausting for the reader. Telling, through narrative summary, can give the reader a breather after an extended, action-filled scene. It also varies the story’s rhythm.

Condensing recurring action – once a scene has been shown and the reader knows what it consists of, it doesn’t need to be stretched out into further scenes. It can be summarized instead. You can also summarize minor scenes that are similar to a key scene that will take place later on.

Minor characters – if a character doesn’t warrant a full scene, needed information can be delivered without straying unnecessarily from the plot line.

Transition between scenes - a brief event can smooth the way between bits of action or character interaction, without leaving an illogical gap or a sudden, unintentional jump in time.

The mark of a good writer is the ability to use both showing and telling to their best advantage. A successful story is one that has a balance between the two, and only you, as the writer, can decide how much should be shown, and how much should be told.

Just in case anyone out there finds this series useful, I've created a new page to hold the links to these articles. You'll find it at the top under the heading of Writerly Advice. :-)

Apr 14, 2014

Mucedinous Monday

mucedinous ~ mouldy; mildewy

Well . . . I gotta tell you. I didn't do so well with my daily goal of 500 words last week. Unless you want to count emails and blog posts, and I had someone tell me that blog post words should count because they're new words. So maybe I didn't do too badly after all. :-)

I really have to stop writing these posts in my head. Or at the very least start jotting notes down during the week. I think of all kinds of interesting things to include throughout the week, but I don't think to write them down so by the time I get around to writing this post they're gone forever.

Let's see now . . . For my new TV craft I decided to finish the navy cardigan I started knitting myself a couple of years ago. It's pretty slow going because the light's not good in the living room, the yarn is dark, and the pattern is intricate. Instead of the stockinette stitch the pattern calls for, I'm using a lacy stitch instead, plus it's got a double cable going up each side. I'm about halfway done the back and unless I start picking up speed I predict I'll have it done in time to wear in the fall.

I'm drawing a blank here. Serves me right for writing this at 3 a.m. What can I say, I started watching a Ghost Mine marathon and couldn't seem to stop. I baked both bread and cookies last week. With the help of the hubby I managed to get the cats' nails cut. Got some reading and some writing in . . . all in all it wasn't a bad week.

Oh! Except for my tooth. Somehow I managed to lose the filling from one of my root canals when I bit into a piece of bread. And it wasn't even crusty bread! I know it was from a root canal because the little post they screw into what's left of your tooth came out with it. And our dental insurance doesn't cover root canals. But it's an old root canal, so it doesn't hurt, so I'm in no hurry to go to the dentist to have it looked at. :-)

The spring pick up starts this week, which meant all those limbs that came down in our back yard during the ice storm needed to be cut up and dragged to the front of the house. Here's a reminder of what it looked like back there:



And here's what that corner of the yard looked like after the hubby and the son-in-law spent the afternoon getting rid of all that brush



And in case you missed it, here's a closer look at the visitor we had back there.



And just after I snapped that picture he jumped into the pond and one of his buddies came waddling under the fence and joined him.

It must be spring, the ducks are back. :-)


***Just a reminder***
Don't forget to pick up your copy of An Elemental Water while it's still available for only $1.99. The price will be going up at the end of the month!

Apr 11, 2014

What I'm Reading




So . . . the afghan I was working on last week? I finished it on Monday, and because it was a rainy day, I christened it by curling up under it and reading. It turned out larger than I intended because I used a granny stitch to join the squares and that added several inches. For those who are curious, here's what the finished afghan looks like:



Electronic Books

You're not going to believe this, but I lost the books I was reading on George (my Kindle), so there was no progress on The Cobweb Bride by Vera Nazarian, or Mr. Love by Sally Mason, or Dark Love by Claudy Conn.

Instead I read an erotic short story that I can't remember the name of, and then started Darlings of Paranormal Romance, which is an anthology I downloaded for free from Amazon. It's still for free if you want to check it out. I've read the first three stories, which seem to be getting progressively longer. The first one was part ghost story/part time travel, and I quite enjoyed it. The second took place in Atlantis, and mostly in the waters below Atlantis (it involved mer-people) and I have to admit I did not enjoy it as much. Okay, I have to be honest here, it was pretty bad. The third one was a full novel and I may have rushed through it a bit just to see what happens at the end. What happens is continued in the next books by this author, which you will have to buy. Next up is a werewolf story, and I'll be crossing my fingers that it's well done.

Tree Books

Part way through reading on George, his battery died. Which is another reason a person needs both e-books and tree books - I've never heard of a battery dying on a tree book. I was kind of pinned in place by a cat, but still in a reading mood, so I picked up one of the books that was sitting on the table beside my recliner. This one was Dreamwalker, by Kathleen Dante. It's a paranormal romance - he can enter people's dreams and influence them, and she's a shapeshifter - and all I can say is it's a good thing it has lots of natural breaks in it because it's very hard to put down!

I didn't get back to Hunting the Corrigan's Blood by Holly Lisle. It keeps moving around. Or maybe I keep moving it so I don't lose it. At any rate, it's probably going to be on the back burner now until I finish Dreamwalker.

Re-Reads

I'm about a third of the way through Sword and Sorceress IV. This is what I like about an anthology as opposed to a novel. You can get just as caught up in a story, but when you come up for air a whole day hasn't passed. :-)

Apr 10, 2014

Earth - Chapter Eighteen


This serial is presented in draft form and will be updated each Thursday. Your comments are always welcome!

Ch 1 ~ Ch 2 ~ Ch 3 ~ Ch 4 ~ Ch 5 ~ Ch 6 ~ Ch 7 ~ Ch 8 ~ Ch 9 ~ Ch 10 ~ Ch 11 ~ Ch 12 ~ Ch 13 ~
Ch 14 ~ Ch 15 ~ Ch 16 ~ Ch 17 ~



When Chloe awoke, she was surprised to find herself in her own bed. Zephryn must have carried her to her room after she fell asleep.

Oh!

She sat up quickly, face heating. Not only did she fall asleep, she fell asleep while they were kissing! What must he think of her? Her first impulse was lay back down and pull the covers over her head. How was she ever going to face him again?

Practicality finally won out. Much as she'd like to, she couldn't stay in bed forever. For one thing, she was starving, and she needed to check on her mother. As she got out of bed she caught sight of herself in the mirror above her dresser and grimaced. What had she been thinking, dressing up like this?

The green spider-silk pantsuit went back into the closet and she pulled out a pair of more casual draw-string pants and well-worn tunic instead. Hair up or down? When she was working she usually wore it pulled back off her face, but because she had the day off she decided to leave it down.

Finally running out of excuses, Chloe took a deep breath and left her bedroom. To her surprise, the kitchen was empty. She checked the bathroom but the door was open and there was no one inside. Zephryn wouldn't have been foolish enough to leave the house in broad daylight, would he?

Continuing down the hallway, she found him asleep on the sofa in the sitting room. He really was quite handsome, she decided. So different from the miners she was used to. His build was more slender, but there was an aura of strength about him, even sleeping. Right now, with his black hair all tousled from sleep, he had a vulnerable look to him.

Biting her lip, she wondered if she should wake him up. On the one hand, he couldn't be comfortable, but on the other hand he must have been very tired to be able to fall asleep there. Just as she decided to let him sleep while she checked on her mother, he spoke.

"I can hear your stomach rumbling."

"You can not!" Chloe's face heated with embarrassment.

"No, I can't," he admitted, opening his eyes. "But I could feel you debating about waking me."

"I'm sorry," she said, willing her heart to stop racing. "You should have woken me so I could have slept with my mother."

"No, I'm the one who's sorry." He sat up and stretched, and she couldn't help but notice the play of muscles under his shirt. "You were up early to be out with the search party, and then you put in a full day at the mine, and then I kept you up talking. I wouldn't have made it past supper after a day like that."

"I enjoyed talking with you." She enjoyed kissing him even more, but she wasn't about to admit that. To keep from making a fool of herself, she turned and led the way back to the kitchen.

"I'm afraid breakfast won't be nearly as elaborate as the dinner you made last night," she said. "We're running low on supplies."

"You don't have a food dispenser?"

She almost laughed at his surprise. "A food dispenser is a luxury item on Belspar. I get our food allotment from the supply depot, usually once a week or so."

He frowned. "They control even the food you're allowed?"

"It's a generous allotment, I've no complaints."

"Except now you have an extra mouth to feed," he pointed out. "Isn't that going tax your resources?"

"It's fine," she assured him, placing a bowl of stewed fruit and grain in front of him. "We usually have more than we can use."

She could tell he wasn't happy with the situation, but they ate in silence.

"Perhaps when it's dark you can show me the cave your mother mentioned," Zephryn said when he was done eating.

"The cave's not safe," Granny said, coming out of Tierra's bedroom.

Chloe gasped, hand to her chest. She hadn't realized Granny was in the house. When had she arrived?

"Are you sure about the cave?" Zephryn asked with a frown. "Tierra said -"

Granny waved a dismissive hand. "Tierra hasn't been out of this house in years. Gannon found the cave more than a week ago, and the provisions that were in it, so he knows someone's been using it. He's set a watch on it to see who comes and goes."

The cave had been created by Chloe and her mother years ago. Tierra had claimed it was to test Chloe's abilities, but Chloe had always had her doubts. There was some other reason her mother had wanted the cave formed, why else would they keep supplies in it?

"Then I'll have to return to my ship," Zephryn said. "Every day I'm here increases the risk of discovery. I don't want to be responsible for bringing trouble down on Chloe and her mother."

There was s snort from the old woman. "Your ship is buried under several feet of earth, thanks to this one," she nodded towards Chloe. "Gannon has a bug up his butt about something, there's patrols everywhere. It'd be even more risky trying to dig it up right now."

"Then I guess you're stuck with me for now," he said.

Chloe couldn't help feeling pleased at the prospect.

Apr 9, 2014

Wildcard Wednesday
Setting

Previous articles in this series: Finding Ideas; Finding Time; Pantser Vs. Plotter; Characters;
Point Of View; Dialogue

Look how far you've come! There's only one little thing you're lacking - a place for the story to happen. Next to strong characters, setting is the most important aspect of your story. After all, you can't just have your characters hanging out in space. Well, actually you can. The movie Gravity had the characters floating in space, but space itself was the setting; it's dark and cold and filled with stars, you can see the ship and Earth, it's silent . . . .

In its most basic sense, setting is where and when a story takes place. It can be real or made up, and it can change as the characters move through their storyscape. It's up to you as the writer to decide. Keep in mind the kind of story you're writing before choosing your setting. The setting for an historical romance will be much different from that of a modern murder mystery, which in turn will be much different from a futuristic story of space exploration.

If you're setting your story in a real time and place, do your research. Even if you've been to a place before, fires, floods, or earthquakes can alter the landscape. If you're setting a murder mystery in New Orleans today, you need to see what the city looks like today, not how it looked on that vacation you took back before Katrina hit.

But wait, you say, I'm writing a fantasy story so I can just make it up as I go along. Sometimes this can be even harder than setting a story in a real place. With a real place you're working with established landmarks and customs, you know how the economy and government work, but with fantasy you have to create all of this. Do the people in your world live in houses or trees or caves? What kind of class system is there? How do they get from one place to another? What do they eat? You get the idea.

However, setting is more than just establishing the time and place of your story, it helps make your story feel real to your readers. And how do you do this? The attention is in the details.

If I were to go to your story's setting, what would I be eating? Would I be sitting down to an elegant dinner of lobster at a sea side restaurant, or hush puppies and crawdads at the local diner? Popular foods vary from region to region and country to country, making use of this is a good way to reinforce your setting. Again, do your research. You're not going to find Peking Duck at a Medieval feast.

The weather and seasons are other good ways to help establish setting. Winter in California is much different from winter in Montana. Spring in most areas means rain, while summers can bring dryness as well as heat. The possibility of things like monsoons, typhoons, and hurricanes can affect the way people behave at certain times of the year. This will differ from areas where the climate is more temperate.

In your fantasy setting, is the weather hot? cold? rainy? windy? This will affect how your characters dress as well as how easily they're able to travel. Planting time will have a different feel from harvest time, and the different seasons are often marked by festivals.

Landmarks are an excellent way of not only establishing, but enhancing a setting. A crime drama set in New York City in the 80's will show the twin towers in the cityscape, while a mystery set at the turn of the century will have the Empire State building. What would London, England, be without Big Ben or the Tower Bridge? Even better to have these landmarks destroyed during a futuristic, alien invasion. The unique architecture of a place can add depth to your story.

The streets of the town or city where your story takes place can also be important. When using a real place you need to pay attention to whether they're streets or avenues, whether they're lettered or numbered. Our town has made it a habit of naming streets after former mayors and other important citizens. Do the streets of your made-up setting run straight, or do they wind haphazardly through your town or city? Are they dirt paths or cobblestone?

Use all five of your senses when establishing your setting. Don't just describe what can be seen, describe what can be heard, felt, smelled , and tasted as well. Your historical novel is set in London in the 1850's . . . you know about the Great Stink right? The countryside can be just as noisy as the city, but it's a different kind of noise. A village on the coast is going to feel damp, while a desert will feel hot and dry.

What kind of birds are in the trees, and do they sing, chirp, twitter? For that matter, what kind of trees and flowers are in your world, or are there any? What type of furniture does your character use? How does he get from point A to point B - walk? ride? fly? Even if you don't use all of this information, it's still good to know it to keep your story real.

For more on settings, try one of the following links:
Tips For Establishing Setting In Your Novel
How to Write a Setting
Four Ways to Bring Settings to Life
Creating a Setting