Funny how the months just seem to keep going by faster and faster. I swear September just began!
Writing has gone a little slower, both because my brain and body needed a bit of a rest after August, but also because a couple things came up and kept me running around a little more often than usual. Which made me feel less guilty about taking the aforementioned writing down-time.
I’m still plugging along, though, and while I only have around a thousand new words written, I’ve also made some really good progress on figuring out a couple of major plot points that had been giving me a bit of trouble on the next story I’m working into this draft, which is really nice. I’ve been problems figuring out this particular story since last November when I tried to fit it into my NaNo draft, and I’m happy to announce that I’ve already gotten farther with it now than I did then. Progress!
The results are in: I wrote 55,097 words to my dad’s 824 miles ridden, so my dad wins! By a lot! It would have been closer, but he decided to ride over a hundred miles(!) on August 31. Because he could. Basically, he was the Captain America to my Falcon.
As we had agreed, this means that I owe him a finished manuscript of the Tanner and Miranda Chronicles, and he gets to choose what my project is for this upcoming NaNoWriMo. Which he has already done, so November will see more Tanner and Miranda– probably a single novel-length adventure instead of the episodic and semi-linked mini-adventures in a bigger arc that this first one is.
So! The plan is to use September to finish the rough draft, which I’m expecting to come in at roughly 125,000-150,000 words. Which is about twice as long as I’m hoping it to be when I’m done, meaning I’ll have lots of material to work with and cut from. Then, in October, I’ll break type and actually try to fully plan out the beats for the November project, in the hopes that I come out of NaNo with an actual rough draft as opposed to the… pre-rough draft nonsense jumble that I usually end up with. Or maybe that’s wishful thinking. I guess we’ll find out!
In the meantime, here’s some stats from this last month that I found interesting!
Most words written: 10,081 (August 28) Most miles ridden: 106 (August 31) Fewest words written*: 63 (August 1) Fewest miles ridden*: 9 (August 14) Average words written*: 2395 Average miles ridden*: 36
My little boy’s ragged wail split the walls, clawing its way above the howling blizzard and ripping me from my bed. He coughed and spluttered, choking on his own wet phlegm and mucus as I stumbled to his room. He didn’t stop crying when I pulled him into my arms, didn’t stop coughing when I tried to soothe him. His tiny chest heaved and fluttered with every breath.
Smells of sick and sweat swam in the air, stifling his room. The dim glow of his nightlight showed red on his flushed face. I put my hand to his forehead beneath his sticky hair and smoothed it away. He burned. His cheeks were dry and chapped, his eyes glazed and vacant as he whimpered and stared straight past me.
I managed to get him to sleep again with water and medicine and luck; he curled up his fitful little body and trembled beneath sweat-damp blankets, and I left the room. His father lay in bed where I left him, still snoring, still drooling, unmoved and oblivious. I had to shake him before he finally woke up enough for me to tell him his son was sick.
He mumbled half-witted excuses and rolled over. “He’ll feel better in the morning. Go to sleep.” He followed his own advice before I could argue and left me alone. I waited. The dark room tugged at my eyelids. I drowned in a silence broken only by the angry, thrashing wind.
A few moments passed before I let myself believe that maybe he was right. Maybe his fever would fade with the night and the storm. Maybe his pain would recede and creep away. Maybe he would stop hurting and wailing and shaking. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe. I slunk beneath the covers.
I closed my eyes, but I did not sleep. Ice and snow snarled just outside. The house creaked and whined. I heard my child’s howl every time the branches shrieked against the window.
The storm had blown in this afternoon, all low sky and whirling, bitter flurries. I should have noticed it sooner. I should have seen the clouds, the wind, the drenched thickness and the clinging mist. I should have heard and stopped and acted–
I told him. I told him not to take his son outside. I told him it was too cold, too wet. I told him the frozen air would be too much too soon. I told him, and he didn’t listen.
He smiled instead. He patronized. He kissed me to ignore every word I said. His son wanted to go outside; the rest didn’t matter. Just a little while. An hour, maybe two. Let him play. Let him smile. Let him live.
I let him go because I had no choice. Never mind the wind that tugged and twisted in the tops of the pines. Never mind the iron hues that colored the clouds. His little boy laughed when they pulled their coats and hats and mittens from the closet and threw them to the floor in a pile of hissing nylon.
When they finally finished, finally tromped back inside, they came in giggling, giddy at the edge of the storm. My little boy stopped to cough while he tried to tell me everything he’d just done with Daddy, but Daddy didn’t care. Daddy just encouraged him. Daddy laughed with him and told Mommy to make them both hot chocolate.
They drank it and they chattered. They wiped their runny noses on their sleeves or ignored it altogether. His cough grew wetter every moment. Wet, rough, messy, until his laughter broke and the smile fell off his rosy, flushing cheeks and his father finally noticed that his little buddy was in pain.
I said we should put him to bed. Let him sleep before his cough got worse and the sickness sank down to his lungs. Protect him so that–
He brushed off every word. He painted me villain, tyrant, panic-ridden fool. He pushed and cajoled. He chose just what he wanted and demanded that he get it and denied any kind of consequence. Bully. Selfish. Coward.
And now he’s lying next to me. Sleeping. Snoring. He’s got his body curled beneath the covers. His chest rises, falls with easy breaths. He’s not wheezing. Not coughing. Not hurting. His face is lineless, careless. He’s sleeping like a baby.
I’m still lying wide awake. I’m still listening to the howling, rushing ice and snow. I’m still waiting for my baby’s voice to pierce the night again because he would never hear it. There’s too much wind and howling. Too much shrieking, scratching crying. The panes and casings tremble in the gusts. How could he hear a child above the roar?
As sudden roar hurls the storm against the house. Everything creaks. The branches shriek and scream. A chill finds a crack and breaks inside. A shred of moonlight cuts the clouds and pierces the room. I stare–and while I stare the bed beside me moves. I roll over–the man is gone. The wind goes quiet. I hear a baby-wail for just a moment, and then that quiets too.
I originally wrote this story back in 2012, but I recently rediscovered it and was actually pretty happy with it– so here it is! Enjoy and let me know what you think!
As you may have gathered from the fact that a post didn’t go with me shouting my victory from the rooftops, I didn’t manage to finish the current Tanner and Miranda story this past weekend. That would be the bad news. The good news would be that I did almost double it in size, and I like where it’s going, particularly for a first run-through for this particular story, and I shouldn’t have any trouble actually finishing it this weekend, giving me a clear horizon to start on the rest of the stories going into the whole novel and hopefully keeping me on the path to finishing the darn thing this year, so definitely keep an eye out for more posted snippets.
Also! I was going through some old stories this past week and found one that I’d been proud of back in the day and was, wonder of wonders, still happy with now. It’s definitely not what I normally tend to write (read: sci-fi and/or fantasy), but I like it. I like it enough to post it here, so check back in this Wednesday for an actual piece of fiction!
With any luck, I’ll have a draft of a new chapter/short story completed for the Tanner and Miranda Chronicles by the end of the weekend. It’s currently sitting at about two thousand words, and the rest of it is at least roughly outlined. In the meantime, enjoy a snippet from right before our heroes manage to get themselves into all sorts of trouble. As they tend to do.
They’d chosen a good place to stop us. There might not have been anything understated about the method they’d chosen, but that wasn’t to say it wasn’t effective. The barrier crossed the entirety of the road, and with a cliff wall on one side and a steep dropoff on the other, we didn’t have a lot of options.
We could try diplomacy, of course. That was Tanner’s first choice, even if I hoped he was just using it to slow down the inevitable escalation. I’d have been more worried if he’d pulled his hand away from his rifle.
“Is there something we can do to help you folks?”
“You could drop Miss Loesan there off with us. I think we might even be able to move this thing off the road for you before we get started on our conversation with her.” The leader gave an ugly sort of sneer. “Think you could work with that? Looks like you’ve got cargo you’re moving, and it would be a shame if it never made it to where it’s supposed to go.”
That line might have worked on a different freelancer. Probably would have, actually; we were outnumbered two to one, and they were the ones with better cover. But it was the sort of thing that just made Tanner mad. Our chances of getting out without a scuffle dwindled before my eyes, and I started calculating how many shots I could get off before we’d have to make a run for it. I didn’t care for the odds.
“I think we both know that’s not going to happen,” said Tanner. “You got a better suggestion?”
Now he was definitely stalling, and I had seconds to come up with a better plan.
As any writer will tell you, we all find certain things easier to write than others. For me, I usually prefer to write fancy, flowery descriptions than action scenes, mostly because I find the former way easier than the latter. At the same time, I can only write so many descriptions before I get really, really bored. And, I suspect, anyone reading it feels the same way. Mostly because fancy descriptions aren’t great at moving a plot forward. And if the plot doesn’t move, it’s not much of a story*.
All of this is to say, I’ve hit that point in my current Tanner and Miranda story where I have to make something happen, and, as it always does, I’m getting caught in a slog. Because writing action and adventure scenes, while fun and ultimately the most rewarding when they work out, requires me to have a lot more figured out than just a description. It’s a bit like the difference between a still frame and a short film segment; there’s a whole lot of still frames that go into making just a few seconds of movie, and because I’ve practiced basic descriptions a lot more than I have action sequences, all the extra thought work I have to do to get the action scene to make sense and be clear to the audience is hard.
Which basically just means that I should practice more!
* There are, of course, exceptions. But that’s not what this post is about.
It’s kinda funny, but after averaging well over a thousand words a day in November, having just over seven hundred words doesn’t seem like it would be such a big deal. But it feels like it– and I think it is. Because while the first draft (though maybe that’s a… generous term for the manuscript I currently have) is a decent start, this second draft is already shaping up decently, and I’m really excited. I don’t know that I’ll finish it by the end of the month like I’d hoped (I’ll still try, Dad! I promise!) but it’s definitely got forward momentum, and right now that’s enough.
This month has seen a bit more behind-the-scenes work with the structuring of the Tanner and Miranda stories… which makes it feel like I’m not getting as much done as I was last month–which is true, all things considered, but also okay. But, if I do it right, it’ll also make it a whole lot easier to get the whole thing out there and ready to be edited into a worthwhile second draft and beyond. So, while I work on that, enjoy the first paragraph of one of the stories that is currently getting figured out.
It was never a good sign when our room started looking more like an infirmary than just a place to sleep and keep our things. Despite appearances– the crutches leaned against the wall, the bandaging implements tossed on the table and over the back of the chair, the bottle of pain-killers on the nightstand– we did know what we were doing. We’d just had a hard run of it lately between me still being new to the planet and a bit of genuinely bad luck. What we really needed was something easy. A nice, simple job to get us back on our feet. Something that involved a little pay and even less getting shot at, and the more boring the better.
Languages fascinate me. English, of course, holds a special place in my heart, both for its myriad quirks and the fact that it’s my own native language, but my interest reaches a bit beyond that. By which I mean that I’m an amateur, wanna-be polyglot, and proud of it. I’ve picked up a fair amount of Spanish, thanks to living in California and a near obsession with keeping up my streak over on Duolingo. I gained some ability with Armenian during my grand adventure there last year. I’ve dabbled with German enough to realize that it’s both really hard and really cool.
I love the way different languages express the same idea, and the way that each one is going to slightly change the way you see that idea. I love the way it causes you to look closer at something you’ve always taken for granted, or the way it makes you think about the idioms you use every day. I’m intrigued by the gap between words and concepts, and the different way different peoples bridge it. So it should come as no surprise that I’d love to get to the point where I can write a decent story in more than one language.
Come to think of it, some of this can probably be traced back to my high school Latin teacher. I wasn’t the best student in his classes, and at the time I was far too frustrated with being forced to learn a language to realize that I actually enjoyed them, but there was one final project he assigned that I loved, even at the time: we had to choose a fiction book and translate a chapter from English to Latin. And he let me choose the first chapter of Mossflower by Brian Jacques.
Like I said above, different languages make you look at things in a new way, and finding the best way to translate it forces you to get down to the nitty-gritty details of meaning that you might otherwise gloss over. I’m not sure how good my translation was at the end (and honestly, I was in tenth grade, and only a middling Latin student, so I have my doubts), but it was fun. And while I’m putting more weight on it now than it earned then, if a high school student stumbling through as direct a translation as she could manage could affect the way she read a children’s book, how much better could it be if she actually gets good enough to do it on purpose?
Oddly enough, my feelings regarding zombies and vampires aren’t as strong, which leads me to suspect that what unsettles me the most is the fact that their victims end up helping them realize their schemes of total conquest, not so much the loss of humanity of each individual victim. Dying’s bad enough, but if I could avoid joining the dark side and trying to kill my friends and doom the world in the process, that would be much preferred.
And given how effective these sorts of villains can be, it’s probably no surprise that I’m trying to do the same thing with my villain for The Seven. The obvious problem with this being that I have a very distinct idea in my head of the feelings I want these creatures to evoke, and I don’t think I’m quite there yet. I want them to create a feeling of dread in the people that have to fight them, and I want that feeling to go beyond just fear for their own survival. And if I want that feeling in the characters to be believable, they need to evoke that feeling in the readers as well.
Forgive the musings of the author neck-deep in worldbuilding questions. Or, if it strikes your fancy, ask me more! It’s harder to stick with the silly ideas when I have to explain them out loud.