Monday, May 18, 2020

Where do the Stories Come From? #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

Where do the Stories Come From?

Someone once asked me where my stories came from. I will have to be honest, many of them came from the television I watched. Yes--that great wasteland we were told in the seventies would rot a child's brain. When I was a kid, I watched a great deal of Westerns. They were the big thing back then. I have a picture to prove it!

Tuckered out saving the West.

I watched television for a while and then created new stories for my favorite characters. I won't tell you which characters. The picture will give you a good clue as to how long ago this was. As I grew up, I used those settings and some of the characters, threw in my imagination and had so much fun. Alaska, New Orleans, forests and beaches, I could make up stories wherever I was.

In my grown up years, that imagination drew me toward fan-fiction. I have scads of stories. They were easier to write and didn't depend on publishers, agents, marketing, or the like. But eventually, that wasn't enough. My writing had improved and I wanted my book on that shelf; something I had totally created and that others enjoyed reading. So where did these new ideas come from?

Let's take my latest novel, Moon Crusher. That one actually came from my fan-fiction days--sort of. I thought to myself- What would happen if a boy from the old days (1829 California-just a little past the time of most Zorro stories) was captured by fearsome reptilian aliens?  It's not that there weren't alien abduction stories. It's not that there aren't stories about old timey folks meeting technology. Or modern technology going back in time to meet pre-industrial individuals. There are plenty. I just had to give it my own spin.

I wrote my draft when I went to the YMCA to work out on a recumbent bike. I was a school librarian in those days, so I took my opportunities when I could. I had a notebook, a pencil, tuned out Bill O'Reilly, and wrote while I pedaled. It was disjointed, sometimes unreadable, but the story of a young boy in overwhelming circumstances took shape. And what's more incredible, the big bad aliens took shape, too. They weren't just demonic reptiles or cats or whatever. They had personalities. Despite his gruff, sometimes angry demeanor, Commander Ziron became heroic. Diego's friend, Rreengrol became his BFF. The otter people were both amusing and courageous. They were slaves who wanted to be free just as Diego did.

A reviewer pointed out that this wasn't just a story of space battles and a boy overcoming horrendous odds; it was also about diversity and how a group of very different beings learned to live and work together.

Wow! I like that. I like that in the stories I read, too. All about getting along even when life stinks....

Check out

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

News and stuff

At the beginning of the year, I made a promise that I would post a blog once a month. Already blown it by missing April. Maybe I'll make up for it in May by posting more than one. Believe I really will as I signed up for a blog hop. Never heard of it until my publisher mentioned them.

Anyway, April was a very busy month, even with the craziness going on. The first part of the month was not a good writing time, but with Camp Nano calling the shots, I was obligated to write a certain amount by the end of the month. My intention was to finish a sci fi I had been working on for over a year now, but after I began doing edits on my upcoming book Moon Crusher, I suddenly had an idea for a sequel to that book and now have over 20,000 words on Moon Crusher 2. I worked with the editor during the month of April, and received an attachment of a cover for the book last week. Moon Crusher is coming out on May 25th! Very exciting, even if time before its debut is limited.

Another exciting event was the debut of an anthology from Bold Venture Press called Zorro, the Daring Escapades, which contains a novelette I wrote. To be perfectly honest, I feel legitimized in the writing of fan-fiction. What I have read in the book so far, these are very good stories!

This is going to be a short one. Have to get back to writing!!!

Monday, March 30, 2020

What a Month This Has Been!

     At the beginning of the month of March, I was winging my way to Tennessee for meetings and hopefully book distribution.  I did the former, sharing my second Billy Bob story with my writer friends in the Etowah Writer's Guild, as well as meeting with my compatriots in the Author's Guild of Tennessee.  Book distribution didn't happen, which was probably just as well considering how the month tanked.
Lovely east Tennessee

     I managed to get a little writing done at my friend, Patricia Crumpler's (Benevolence, Fins and Fables, Sorrow Song, and Death and Disorder) house. What we did more of was relax and watch Perry Mason. Don't ask why a predominately science fiction writer is so hooked on an old courtroom show, but we both are. I didn't realize this would probably be my last trip for a while, nor my last church meeting in church either.
     My trip home was comfortable, there were empty seats on the plane. Waiting in the Atlanta airport were people wearing face masks and sitting several seats apart. I had to get home to realize just how hard it was to find some of those face masks--and toilet paper, Kleenex, paper towels, bleach, and canned beans! Hand sanitizer, I managed to find at the third Walgreen's I stopped in before my trip. After the trip, forget it!
     I came home to the declaration of a pandemic and the aforementioned panic in the Wal-mart aisles. Why toilet paper has been so hard to find is almost as great a mystery to me as the cure for the corona virus is at present. Still and all, I live in a household with an at risk senior. I think I am a slightly at risk senior, too. We are now under a shelter in place declaration. (At least Mayor Tim Holt made it sound less painful.)  But when you live in a house with a gregarious man with cabin fever, it's painful!!
     Then there are the platitudes of- "But you can get so much writing done!" No, I haven't gotten so much writing done. Staying home everyday doesn't automatically mean you produce words. Stress doesn't produce words. We have worked in the flower bed, taken some long walks, driven to Lake Overholser. I have also done a great deal of editing, and I have signed up for Camp Nano in April. I do have several projects that need attention. I suspect I will have a great deal of time for all of them.
     And I keep reminding myself often as I wash my hands, watch the news, talk to my grandkids on Zoom... this, too, shall pass. It will pass!

     Y'all stay well and safe!

      PS from Scamp- "Virus? What virus?" 

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Thoughts from all Ranges of the Spectrum

More news!  Exciting news! I have a children's book with Doodle and Peck Publishing that is slated to come out later this year. It's called The Legend of Billy Bob Flybottom. It is written in the style of a tall tale and has won several awards from Royal Palm Literary (Florida) competition, Oklahoma City Writers competition and from Oklahoma Writers Federation. It will be illustrated. (I have seen some of them and they are wonderful!)

As I mentioned in a blog some time ago, my first book was an historical fiction about the beginning of the Mission San Luis Rey in California and had Native American characters. I am not Native American, but had several critique's and editors go over everything. I felt it fair to all the characters, or as fair as I could be, but ultimately it was fiction. Most of the plot was made up. I recently wrote a young adult science fiction where Native American characters abducted from their homelands have to adapt to their new homes on distant planets. I sent it to a contest and received a comment that only Native Americans should be writing about Native Americans.
To be perfectly honest, I was somewhat upset, even as I knew where the prevailing thought had come from. But where would Island of the Blue Dolphins have come from? The Cay, The Sign of the Beaver, Julie of the Wolves, all written about people of other cultures by people who weren't part of those cultures, or that gender, or that time in history. All of these books are classics of young adult and children's literature. Below is a link to an article that addresses that controversy. A lot of food for thought.

And to finish this off, the groundhog may have had it right. It was bright and sunny on Groundhog's Day last weekend, (where I live), but it was sure snowy today!!!  Beautiful stuff, but not all that comfy out walking the dog. Still and all, I am glad to see a nice layer of fluffy snow each winter. Especially when I don't have to go anywhere!

Monday, January 13, 2020

A New Year!

A new year always brings new hopes and new adventures. 

Boy, is this one is starting off with a bang!!

😊I have a new interview on Qwerty. It was a pleasure working with these people and enjoyed the results! I think they did a very good job! Check it out on the link below:

😊Included is a brand new picture that I am very pleased with. It was taken by professional photographers this past Christmas. I believe this one is going to be my new author picture. I sent a copy to one of my publishers and she liked it as well.

😊The other new bit of news is the publication of a novelette in a 100 year anniversary collection about Zorro from Bold Venture Press. (Johnston McCulley's masked hero first appeared in 1920.) The book is tentatively scheduled to come out in May. Links are below:

Zorro capture from the Walt Disney television show.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Nano days and Nano nights

Last month I finished another Nano. It was the second year I had won. Nano stands for Nanowrimo. It, like most things, started small, but has grown to hundreds of thousands of participants all over the world. 

In case you haven't heard of Nanowrimo, it is an acronym for National Novel Writing Month. The basic idea is to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. If you want to succeed, there is no editing, no stressing over continuity--you just let the words flow and flow.

It has always been in November, which, when I was working full time, was not convenient. Too much going on in the schools where I worked and in my family. I was certainly getting too old to stay up past midnight any more. Still, I made a valiant effort. I did 48,000 words five years ago. 

I think the other problem is that I am what is called a "pantser." I have story ideas, but they develop as I write. I have sometimes said that the characters take charge and demand that the story be written their way. That gets me in trouble sometimes. For the life of me, I have never been able to develop and stick to an outline. A page of notes is the best I have done. 

I did some practicing with something called Camp Nano, which are smaller scale Nano's. These usually take place in the spring and summer, where the participant can sign up and declare their own goals. A much less formal writing process. I did several of those, cumulatively completing a sci fi novel. My goal was normally 20,000 or 25,000 words in the month. Several writing friends and I banded together in our own "campgrounds" and encouraged each other.  I completed these easily.

In recent years Nano has done something I couldn't do for myself--motivation to write a lot. Last year I wrote all 50,000 words on one novel. This year I didn't have one story cooking--I had several. So my 50,000 words were cumulative. I finished a novelette for one purpose, I also finished a fan-fiction that I had almost finished a decade ago (a lost story!!), and the beginning of a sequel to last year's Nano. 

Depending on my mood, I worked on one or the other and got my 50,000 words by November 26th. I kept writing through the end of the month. It was a good feeling. Now all I need to do is figure out the motivation for the rest of the year!! 

First two pictures from Nanowrimo. Last picture from Pixabay. 

Saturday, November 23, 2019

An Ode to Fan Fiction Writers

I will admit it—I am a fan-fiction writer. Granted, most of my fan-fiction was written at least a decade or two ago.

For the uninitiated, fan-fiction is where you take a character from a movie, book, or television show and write new stories about them. If you enjoyed Star Wars, but felt something was missing, there are probably tons of stories to fill in the spaces. Same with popular book characters, old and new TV shows, and movies.

Still, when I have admitted my FF affiliation some people, especially in the writing community, I get looks like I just said “I am an alcoholic serial killer.” Why is there such a stigma about writing fan-fiction?

I venture a few theories. First, fan-fiction writers are equated to wannbe writers. Can’t write a grammatical sentence to save them, scads of passive verbs, adverbs, stuff like that. Writing too painful to plow through. Perhaps some is, but consider that continued writing usually leads to better writing. We learn as we practice. I read some of my early stuff and thought, Eeyew. But I read later stories and while I still see mistakes, I see progress.

Second, many fan-fiction writers use something called H/C- or hurt/comfort. The heroes have gobs of stuff thrown at them, mainly injuries, and vicariously the author pulls them through, usually through the other characters. I will admit I have done a great deal of that myself. After rereading most of my stuff as I put it on another site, I know I would tone it down if I was inclined to edit again. However, I don't have time to do that with fan-fiction. I hope readers see beyond the h/c and discover improvement in writing, dialogue, and characterization.

Another distinction of ff is that the point of view jumps from one character to another. It took a while for me to ease out of that. My latest book only had two points of view, well separated by chapters.

Third, there is the thought that fan-fiction writers are lazy, in that they are simply taking established characters in established settings and beating up on them. I don’t buy that. Yes, I wrote about established characters, and in their established settings; Zorro in Spanish California, Admiral Nelson on his submarine, Buck Rogers in space. (Well, most of the time, anyway.).

However, I have done some heavy duty research because I wanted to have geographical and historical details right. I once wrote the equivalent of a trilogy (160,000+ words). In it I had the hero shanghaied from his early 1800’s setting and carried off to China. I had books about Chinese history and culture, Chinese language, British East Indiamen (those were cargo ships), The Sandwich Islands, Chinese medicine, and so forth. I had to change parts of the plot at times because of the historical facts I found. To this day, I find pride in this fan-fiction, just as I feel satisfaction in the dialogues between a reluctant Captain Crane and a symbiotic alien who just happens to be female and pregnant, or the description in the “seeing” Buck Rogers had to undergo to be adopted into a clan of bird people.

Which comes to another conclusion that detractors of fan-fiction make. If one is going to that much trouble to write something, why not write something they can publish and thereby make money. There are some reasons for that, too. Primarily, FF writers write for the sheer enjoyment of writing. It is sometimes a diversion as well as a pleasure—a hobby like people who draw or garden. They write for their readers. They are not in it to get rich. (Believe me, most mainstream authors aren’t getting rich either!!)

I am grateful for all the fan-fiction I wrote. It helped me with dialogue, with plot continuity, with descriptions. I learned through creating original characters how to make them real; people that readers empathize. By taking my FF characters out of their original settings I learned how to world-build. I also learned how to edit.

So while I am working to become a successful ‘mainstream’ author, I will never disown what got me on this wonderful writing path. (BTW Many mainstream authors started out as FF writers.) Whatever my background--I am an author!!

(Logo: thanks to Archive of Our Own, where most of my fan-fiction resides. Other stories are found on Seaview Stories, a private site.)