Sunday, June 28, 2015

SCL Project: That Thing? Found It.

Yes, I knew it would come to me. Last post I was taking it a bit slow to find that missing element. Today, it came to me, the plot element that ties together the point-of-view change, why this new character is needed, and how this will work in the end of the book. It was one of those moments where you have to sit there, you know you want this next turn to come, but you want to make it abundantly clear why this is happening.

You may not tell your readers that now, but by the end, they will get it.

It matters because you want to have the 'secret understanding' as you go forward and write what you write. Because if you keep the plot twist in mind before it happens, you can write for it a lot better. It may be less like a formal 'plot twist' but it is more of a 'why this is happening' sort of thing. If readers figure it out ahead of time, great, if not, they will have a fun surprise waiting.

It is also one of those 'sea change' moments that happen in books. I like it when a story turns and you are in a whole new world, it gives us a break and sets things on a different course. This is important with the new character and the PoV change, and having this 'shadow reason' of why this character needs to be involved will help me write everything that comes after the switch. This is my 'hidden roadmap' and I expect to be having a lot of fun writing for it in the chapters that are coming up.

I am up to 14,000 words, so I have made some good progress over this slowdown, but now that I have my motivation and the plot twist planned out, I expect my speed will pick up and I will be writing at an increased rate. I can feel it, and I will be thrilled if things pick up and I have those super-productive days again.

These lulls happen, and you have to power through them. The worst that happens is you stall and quit, and that is always a risk. To avoid that, you open up the story each day, and make small edits and changes - visiting with your story each day is crucial to avoid stalling and abandonment. You need to keep the words and characters in your mind, and you need to be checking in with them every day until you finish and go into editing.

You do make a commitment when you start a project, and part of commitment is giving your story the time it needs, and a little bit of each day to care for it and help it grow. Like plants, children, or anything else that needs care, a story runs into tough parts and stumbles from time to time, and this is where patience and especially sticking with it pays off in the long run.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

SCL Project: The Stretch

I've hit a point in my planning and writing where I am still writing through a major point-of-view transition, and I did about a thousand words yesterday on my book. It is a little slower going than I would like to be going, and it is one of those sort-of feeling-it-out areas of the book where you drive a little slower to take in the sights and think about the next leg of the trip.

There are points in any book where you are on the freeway, just speeding along at thousands of words per day. There are other points where you have to slow down on a back road, make plans, and think about the logistics of the rest of the journey. That's where I am. I want to be out on that freeway zipping along, but I know I am in a place where I want to be a little planned and careful, so progress will happen as it happens.

It is also there is a certain something that I feel is missing from the chapter but I don't know what. It will come to me, but if I speed through it I feel I am going to miss it and regret not putting it in where later on it becomes clear to me. I have a great plan, and I could write through that, but sometimes the intimacy of the situation demands a little think-time when you are in the middle of the chapter, so think-time I shall take.

The danger is stopping and getting hung up. I feel if it drags on for more than a couple days, I am just going to say, "more important to move on," and hit the road again. You have to put a limit on your dawdling and inaction, because you are in this to finish, and finish you must. So there is a point where I will just get back to my original plan and just go.

Yes, that's why it is nice to have a plan. I have this outlined by chapter, so even if I get totally stuck, there is work waiting for me to do where I won't have to think about where the plot goes next. That work is done. I just have to write.

So that's were we are, I have a cover comp'ed up, and the book is about a quarter of the way there. It is going to take two or three more huge pushes to finish up, I can envision this one going a full 50K, but we shall see.

More soon, and stay tuned.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

SCL Project: That Critical Moment

There comes a point in every book where as a writer you need to make a leap of faith.

I am there with my SCL project.

Now, I am beginning a major point-of-view transition in the narrative, and it has to feel right. I am adding a chapter in here so it is not such a sudden jump, but I needed this space to setup the PoV switch better. I want to avoid those WTF questions, yet keep the element of surprise fresh and not telegraphed.

So I need to do a bit of in-character thinking before the jump. This needs to be setup the right way, so I am partly working this out and partly feeling it out as I go.

I am also considering going back and writing a more steamy scene in the chapter previous to this one, it is steamy enough, and I am wondering if the heat needs to be continued or left on a low boil. It depends on how long the book is, of course, and what genre I want to put it in, so leaving it a low boil keeps me in more of a romance-thriller genre than it does an erotic-romance genre. I can always write in more sex since I have the situation and room to run if I so choose.

Yes, I have the chapters planned out in a loose outline. No, I don't have to follow them to the letter.

I am toy with the idea of a parallel narrative as well, switching back to the primary character every other chapter after the B-side story is introduced and given a chance to run for a while. We will see, I want to establish my second plot line firmly before switching back and forth between characters. It sounds like a fun idea, but the primary character and plot is very strong, and I don't want that taking away from the 'Alice in Wonderland' trip with the B-side that is to come shortly.

Just by typing this I have had some great ideas. I will let those simmer and I shall think about them for a while before committing to them. Sometimes just thinking through a project in a post like this leads to some great ideas.

So yes, I am approaching that 'big decision' moment, and it is looking more and more like I shall follow my heart and go with what I wanted to do in the first place. More progress reports and thoughts soon as work picks back up on this one.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Vampy Black: Back for Rewrites

I sent Darthaniel's book back to him for some rewrites out of the scope of my editing. There are some transitions he wants to work out, and he is also taking a look at the ending and some of the feedback I gave him. I am working on some other projects until this comes back, so I will have updates on this soon.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

SCL Project: 11,000 Words In...

Wow, what a day.

I just did another 4,000 words in my SCL Project, and I am feeling this project may not be suitable for a general audience anymore. I hit my first romantic scene, and now I am having doubts if this is going to be a mainstream project.

I may have to move this to another blog, or I may just keep it here and keep the new going. Or I may move my previous YA book into horror/action & adventure and leave everything here.

What happened is a romance scene that got a bit pulse-pounding for me, and my fans know how I like to write them so I'm sitting here in a post-spicy scene haze wondering what I am going to do. I don't want to edit it down because it is perfect for this life and this book. It is also very true to the tone I want to set for the lifestyle depicted in the book.

Oh, the pains of keeping it real I suppose.

I have some work to do and reorganization in my library. So changes are in order, this blog will be for works published under my name. My YA books? I won't tell you the name, since I want no crossover between these accounts. Amazon is very sensitive about this, so I need to make these changes.

So my self-help books may make their home here, which is good because they are great collections of Wednesday Workshop articles, edited and cleaned up to last the test of time. I have a couple more in the works, and that is a fun series that helps the writing community.

The SCL Project? Full steam ahead, and I made a lot of good progress today. No changes in content, and I am free now to write this how I want it to be and envision it.

Vampy Black? I shall have updates on this soon. I hit another issue and want to work through it before I share more. More soon and stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

SCL Project: 7,000 Words In...

Just a 'keeping it real' status update for my SCL Project, and I am 7,000 words into this. Oh my Goddess, I cannot believe how fun writing this book is for me.

I have gotten a lot of feedback about how I write, and this book is a result of what people said they like to see. It is also what I like to write, and I just feel so totally at-home writing in this style and on this subject.

To those of you that follow my reviews, the characters and style will be very familiar to you.

I have a couple major decisions coming up where I will need to make choices. One is on sexual content, how much and how graphic. There is another decision I will have to make that will require me to be very brave or very stupid and possibly both. I am saving making them until the last few words before I have to make them. The sexual content choice is coming up very quickly, within a chapter of where I am, and I shall see what I decide.

That second brave/stupid decision that comes later though, and I am agonizing over this. To be true to my vision, I need to go forward with how I envisioned this to be written. This means being brave/stupid and taking a huge chance. I guess I will get to this when I get to it, and I can put it off just a little longer.

I think what is fascinating to me about this project is that I am seeing a character I know from an entirely new side, and I am also meeting the people around this person. It is a fascinating world I knew little about or even explored in my reviews, and now I am getting to know this person a lot better through what he is going through. It is like 'knowing' someone online, and then the experience of meeting them in person.

Your perspective changes, and you start making opinions about them based on something other than a label or a simple statement of fact. In this case, I am really liking this character, and diving into this world with them is a fascinating and eye-opening experience. Someone you thought of as 'simple' is becoming wonderfully complex, and in that you start to realize things about yourself as well.

The story? Right out of a movie and I love it. It is one of those books you write and feel alive again, and I hope this comes across for readers as well.

More news soon, and the chase continues...

Vampy Black: Leftovers

What do you do with leftovers?

I'm not talking about the ones you have in your fridge, these are leftover words you have from a chapter you just edited and made tight.

You know, tight.

It is that feeling you get when a chapter just sings, it has a great beginning, finish, and ending, and it does not need another word added to it. Only now, you have these extra paragraphs leftover from your clean up job, and they have no place to go. And yes, luck would have it "this information will be important later" so tossing them in the bin is not an option either.

So they could be composted, and form the seeds for another new chapter - which would be a lot of work.

Or they could be folded in later, you know, saved as an ingredient for another chapter and sprinkled in here and there, hoping nobody will notice you fluffed out a meal with bits of an older one. They won't, of course, but that is a lot of work, and the fact is someone may notice, or it may be more work to pass through and fact-drop in the things that need to be said.

Not to mention there is a whole other bit of dialog that the second book in this series depends on hiding in here.

I want to switch characters though, I have to - we were with this character long enough and the focus needs to shift back to our primary. Only my problem is the next chapter kicks off the roller coaster to the end of the book, and putting this information (or as another chapter)  in later would derail that ride.

So I am back to making this chapter less tight, or changing the order of the information so it comes earlier and does not ruin the tick-tick-tick of suspense I brought forth. So I need some time to think about this, to get that dialog in, and present the information so it doesn't derail things (any more so than this character has already derailed things for our heroine).

Lots of thinking to do today....

Monday, June 15, 2015

SCL Project: Work Begins

I don't believe in shelving an idea, because they rot. You either start it fresh, or throw it away.

So over the weekend a new novel project hit me, and I dived in.

I started by making the cover, and it sang to me. I just started throwing together pieces of the sample images I could find and I built a mock-up that made me smile. I also came up with a title that absolutely rocks, it nails what the book is about and it encapsulates the plot of the book perfectly.

Once I had the cover, I started throwing around the ideas.

It took a while, I knew what I wanted the book to be about, and I knew the general plot. I mentioned this to Darthaniel, and he came up with a totally different plot he thought the book should be about. His ideas has a lot of merit, so I took them and mixed them with my ideas, and now the book is perfect.

The book is so fun, and it has things in it that people universally say they love in my writing. It also has characters familiar to some, so this should be a treat for my fans.

I do have a choice to make, and it's pretty big.

Mainstream or erotic-romance?

This is a big choice for many reasons, well two actually, so I am diving in and holding off my decision for as long as possible. Is the book strong enough to sail without the sex? It certainly is. Would it be really, really fun with some spicy scenes added? It would in fact, fit perfectly.

Now even with straight romance you have a lot of leeway in spicy content, and then you can go to erotic romance, and then straight erotica. I am not doing this as straight erotica since it is not entirely about sex, but it is set in a world where writing the sex out would feel artificial and sterilized.

So there will be sex in the book. How explicit this will be is going to have to be a decision I make. It will also be a very tough decision if I do what I am planning on doing with the narrative. This is my second agonizing choice, but one I know readers will love since I do it all the time. Just not in this way.

And I completed 4,000 words today in the first two chapters, and the story starts off with a bang.

And I shall keep writing until I have to make that choice.

I am still editing Vampy Black, and I hope to get that done and back to Darthaniel soon. But the idea struck me, and it carried through to an amazing start I am super happy with. I will share more when I get work done and things get towards release, but this is going to be a fun one.

For now, I shall call this the SCL project, and keep you updated with as much information as I can. More soon.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Vampy Black: Impasse Broken

Wow.

Sometimes the things you think are going to be the hardest turn out the easiest.

So I am still working on Darthaniel's Vampy Black book, and I have used that code-name so much he should take it into serious consideration to call the book that but I know he won't, and the impasse we were stuck at just melted away. I am free again, and the end of the book is in sight.

Nice.

It turns out the answer was a lot easier than I expected it to be. The "go through the door" or "open the box" moment that I worried needed to be a whole chapter slid quite nicely into the end of the current chapter, and it also was a fun opportunity to see two of the characters work together for the first time. Well, they kinda worked together, and they still are getting used to the idea of working together, so there was some natural friction.

Well, maybe a lot of friction. But things worked out. Kinda.

But I feared a long chapter would need to be written just for the moment, and it worked a lot better by having two characters work on the thing together, and shift the focus to their interactions instead of the box/door thing. The interaction turned out to be ten times more interesting anyways, and it just goes to show you that it is too easy to get bogged down in detail or specifics when interaction and character interplay is what people are here to see.

It was an interesting experience, and it was a win all around. I dare say the mystery was more interesting because of the interactions between these characters instead of one character opening it all alone. The questions and concerns threw about added to the tension, and we even got  to listen in to a little backstory that made the whole experience more than how it started out.

A couple take aways:
  • Simple solutions are always better
  • Simple solutions take time
  • If you dread a complex solution facing you, there is likely a simple one hidden in plain sight
  • Interaction beats solitary action
That's it for now, and full-steam ahead until I finish this up - then it's on to text-to-speech and the final Kindle proofing.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Vampy Black: An Impasse

Sometimes you hit these when editing, and I think we wrote ourselves in a corner with this one.

We have a part of the story where a certain something has to happen, a box needs to be opened or a room needs to be entered sort of thing, and this pivotal moment was tacked on to the end of an already long chapter. So I recommended moving it off for later.

And that's where we are, with a pivotal moment that now needs to be written and fleshed out a little more thoroughly. My gut feeling for this was right, we can't have a 5,000 word long chapter detailing a huge mystery, and then put a major plot element on the end of that without spending some quality time with it. I dislike McGuffins, and I don't want the 'thing in the box' to be casually tossed aside since it is key and also a huge part of what it is like to live in this world.

It is the 'light saber' moment in Star Wars, when you realize things are not so normal here. To tack that on to another chapter makes the moment feel less special, and this needs to be special.

So some writing is needed now, and we are just going through that phase. I am waiting for Darthaniel to deliver a draft of the new chapter and I will edit it and get back to the project.

Again, this is an interesting moment while editing, where we both realized that more was needed in order to give the story a greater sense of satisfaction and impact, and then some more work was needed as a result. It is a natural thing, and also one that deserves a little time and consideration on how it is approached. There is also a creative difference here on the plot importance of such an item, one which I may speak to later, but it will be interesting to see how that works out.

For now, I wait, and I will pick this back up when the new chapter arrives.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Microsoft Surface 3: One Week In

So how is it one week into owning a Microsoft Surface 3 Tablet?

So far so good.

First off, the negatives. Some traditional apps do not respond well to touch, with small buttons, traditional scroll bars, and other not-for-touch elements. If you bought pure Android or iOS, you would be mostly guaranteed apps that work with touch. In a Windows world, the mouse rules, and you make due. Still, I can do reasonably well and it is a small annoyance with some applications. Touching on an app, holding, and dragging down should make it scroll, but in a Windows world the scroll bar rules and you are touching the edge of the screen.

I want a way to make any windowed app full screen, like Chrome's F11 full screen mode. I simply don't want a useless title bar or the start bar in some applications. Just give me my screen! The Mac does full screen mode very nicely with apps and I want this in Windows.

The neutrals? The touch keyboard is not as comfortable as I like, and it does bend a little. I can use it, but it is not as solid as I like. I can live with it, and I can also use a real keyboard, so not really a problem. The touch keyboard's trackpad is small, it does a good job, but I am looking for a small Bluetooth mouse to compensate. Make no mistake, the keyboard is a necessity because of how some programs work, where a mouse is an option.

Storage is good. I am not putting gigs and gigs of junk on here, just what I need to work and play.

CPU speed is good, I don't have a stuttering or slow load problem for web pages, and scrolling is snappy. I had some speed issues with my older Kindle Fire HD7 on some pages, and I had to switch to my now-dead Samsung Note 10.1 for web work.

Disk speed is slow, especially during updates. I don't notice this on application loads, just updating the device.

Battery life is excellent, there is little drain just letting it sit around. The screen is excellent, bright, clear, and high resolution. The speakers aren't as good as a Kindle Fire, but they are better than an iPad's with two-side stereo separation.

Amazon books? Nook books? Netflix movies? All there with native touch-enabled tablet apps, and they work well. It comes with a year of Office too, so you get a lot of productivity for free. An even better deal is putting the apps you already have on there and having them available on a tablet. All my games, my writing apps, and all my other comfortable programs are there alongside the more tablet-y apps. Using my little library of Steam games saves me money, and I don't need to invest in a second OS ecosystem for gaming. It doesn't run AAA games, but it runs what I like to play.

PDFs? They load and display beautifully with the included PDF app. They even have a VLC media player app for playing movie files. This tablet handles all types of media very well, and it is a first-class entertainment device. Yes, it could be lighter and thinner to be 'effortless', but what it does it does very well. The kick-stand is a goddess-send for movies, just flip it out and watch like a TV.

Windows 8.1? I actually like it better than the start menu. Call me crazy, but I like the tiles in tablet mode - they work well and I can put things where I want. I hope Windows 10 has a way to make things work like 8, because I like how things work now. Don't force me to go back to a bottom-corner start menu on a tablet please!

Not buying the Surface Pro 3? No regrets and a great idea since the rumors of the Surface Pro 4 are out, and it looks to be the one to get if you are going big. I like the smaller size of this one though, and it is handy and not a 12" commitment to carry around. The 10" iPad-size is nice, and I can see this thing travelling well. My Chromebook is still the queen of the road for me though, but this one is handy and I can see it growing on me.

Buyers regrets?

None. This is a fun tablet, an a full computer. There are a couple small issues with legacy desktop apps and touch, but nothing that held me up or couldn't be solved with the trackpad. Overall it is a worthy small-laptop replacement and a fun tablet.

Believe the hype on this one. Still a strong recommend.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Microsoft Surface 3

And the winner is...

Microsoft Surface 3 Tablet

I was surprised myself, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. To me, this was a decision of practicality over flash and tech-specs. When my Samsung Note 10.1 broke down, I was in the market for a tablet and I wanted something different. I was considering another Samsung, the Fire 8.9, and even an iPad at one point. I felt each had compromises, but I wanted something truly different. So I chose something very different.

The fact that different was Microsoft kinda surprised me, but I am glad I made the right choice here. This is why competition is good, the iPad is solid, the Kindle Fire and it's entertainment are excellent, Samsung's tablets are nice, but I wanted something else than another iPad clone.

This? This is different. And different is good.

First off the negatives, because I know they are on your mind.  Windows 8.1? Actually not that bad. It took me 15 minutes to get familiar to how things work, and I was off and running without problems. Yes, things are in different places, but for a tablet, these places make sense. Windows 8.1 is actually a huge improvement over 8, and if I hate it after a week, I'm getting a free Windows 10 upgrade in a month anyways.

And if I can't find something? Search takes care of it.

The second negative? The Atom processor. I don't notice this, and I am not using this to play heavy-duty 3d games on, so this is a non-issue to me. The 8 hours of battery life is what you get in return, and things felt reasonably snappy and fast. The SSD hard-disk is a bit on the slow side, so installs are a bit pokey. Once you get things installed you don't notice it though, but that is a trade-off again, possibly for the lower price.

I got the 128GB and 4GB version because I hate  swapping and I wanted some more room. I also added a 128GB SD card in the slot under the kickstand for movie and music space. I also got the keyboard cover thing, which is a great addition that gives you a real keyboard (but a dinky trackpad - use the screen or a mouse). This gives me 256GB of space (closer to 96 + 119 really), which is more than most other tablets out there. The downside is price, the keyboard is pricey, and you are clocking in around $700 once you kit out, which is comparable to a high-end iPad.

This gives you a lot more than a high-end iPad though. You now have a full Windows computer in a tablet form. My writing programs? All on there. Chrome? On there. All my comfort apps? On there. Office? On there. Anything on my desktop? On there if I wish.

The kickstand is neat, and useful. I like it and love not having to fumble with kickstand cases.

One of the neat things this can do is install Steam and play the lower-end games directly on the tablet - so I keep my game library. Not having to search through an Android store and reuse all my Windows games is a good thing. I can also stream games from a high-end tower using Steam onto the tablet, so I have all those games too anywhere in the house and using the graphics and CPU horsepower of my workstation. Neat. At a full HD 1920x1080 resolution, there are no image compromises, and the screen is drop-dead gorgeous. This kinda negates the Atom processor issue in my mind, if I want to play something that intensive - just stream it when at home. I can even remote in to any computer I desire, so this is also another cool benefit.

Unlike the pro version of the surface, there is no cooling fan, which makes this thing super quiet. The pro version has i5 and i7 processors, and I didn't need them or the 1000-1500 price tag and larger size, so I skipped those. As a tablet, this isn't that thin, it is more like the original iPad in form factor, and the keyboard add-on gives it some heft. I like the cheaper price, and I like the no-fan design. For a writer this is perfect.

If I were doing a complete desktop replacement? I'd probably get the i7. But, I have a great desktop, so this came down to function and money, which is where this tablet wins. In a couple years and the next-gen hardware? Yes, I'm probably jumping in with the pro as a laptop replacement. This a is good enough and cheap enough to introduce me to this world without making a huge commitment, and later on down the road I can decide if the next-gen hardware is the "all in" option for me.

I am using the keyboard as the device's cover. Would I still want a cover? Possibly, if it didn't get in the way of either using the stand or the keyboard.

Another plus is the split-screen mode. I can drag two apps and place them side-by-side, and adjust the width of each for comfort. This is a cool function for a tablet, and doing this is easy and super cool if you need to do some quick research. I can then close and rapidly switch between running apps with a quick left-flick, and I am back to where I want to be in a snap. There are some things that Windows 8+ were built for, and tablet productivity stuff is where this OS shines.

Regrets? The slow-ish hard drive speed. The small trackpad on the keyboard. The weight is a bit heavier than one of the new super thin tablets. I kinda regret not getting the i7, but I kind of don't since I feel the pro version "to get" will be the next generation of processors, and I'm hoping for a no-fan design - we will see. This, for now, is great for a writer, and I love it.

Will I be giving up my Chromebook? Not a chance, I still love that machine as my "on the go" writing powerhouse. It is a laptop form-factor, so it can go anywhere and bounce around on my lap without a balancing act. It is cheap and secure, so I won't cry if I lose it, drop it, or it gets dinged up. This is my sub-200 dedicated word processor, so it still has a place in my arsenal of writing tools.

The Surface 3 more replaces my tablet collection of Android devices, and unifies me on Windows and Mac as the platforms I support in my life (less is better). Chrome is really a platform on both and itself, so it crosses the bridge on all devices and is really a non-platform that doesn't need support (which is why I like Chrome and still recommend Chromebooks).

For the Microsoft Surface 3 Tablet? Strong recommend, as long as you understand the trade-offs and what you get. For a full Windows OS on a tablet? That's very nice, and it is a choice that lets me use all my desktop apps on my tablet, which is a huge win for me. This was a battle where convenience won over flash, form factor, and tech-specs and I am now a happy user of a device that is decidedly different.