Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Day In Development

I have spent most of today fussing over my new website.  It is a new experience for me, and it takes some getting use to. 

For much of the day I tinkered with WordPress, getting the website’s blog fully functional as it were.  This consisted largely of finding plugins, installing them, activating them, and setting their properties.  At this point I am cautiously optimistic that the blog is in good shape. 

I have installed plugins that should allow users to subscribe to the blog and sign up to receive e-mails of blog posts or RSS feeds.  Users can also have the blog post to their Google home page. 

I also installed plugins that should help prevent spam and perform regular backups automatically.  One plugin will provide ping-back tracing, which should increase traffic to my site.  Another plugin will make sure that all the major search engines are notified of new blog posts.

One problem I face is that the blog has a different style than the rest of the website.  And its menu’s don’t link back to the same pages as the main website.  I am going to worry about correcting that later, however, as the bigger problem of the website itself demands my attention.

To put it simply, the main website looks like crap.  Between the wrong pictures, dull colors, and crummy fonts the site is repugnant.  I have identified the primary style sheet used and have replaced the onerous fonts with ones easier to read.  I need to tweak with the size of the fonts and the colors, but already it looks a smidge better.

I also discovered a way to take output a Microsoft Word document as either a PDF or an XPS.  This means I now have a safe way of putting my documents on my website the preserves the font and formatting.

These are baby steps towards having a more sophisticated online presence.  Small advances to promoting my writing and seeking an audience for the tale I wish to tell.  I look forward to when I have the major technical issues solved and can focus again on writing.

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Decision Has Been Reached

As those who have been following my post are aware, I have been in a quandary for some time about whether or not I should posts parts of my epic fantasy/science fiction series, Gods Among Men, onto the wild and wacky world wide web.   I have dithered and dallied about whether I should post at all, or if I should only post out of context vignettes, or if I should post on a different blog or website than this, and so forth. 

I sought the advice of friends and searched the web for the opinions of those more professional than myself.  In the process, I stumbled across Jane Friedman.

Who the Heck is Jane Friedman?

Jane Friedman is the publisher and editorial director of the Writer's Digest brand community at F+W Media.  She oversees Writer's Digest magazine, Writer’s Digest Books, and the Writer's Market series. 

For those who don’t know, Writer's Digest is one of, if not the best, resource and community for writers.  For almost 90 years they have published the best-selling annual reference guide, Writer’s Market.

Jane herself  is the author of Beginning Writer’s Answer Book and maintains a blog on the industry as part of the Writer's Digest community, called There Are No Rules. 

So What Does She Have to Do With Anything?

Jane’s blog posts contain a wealth of information, and I was impressed with how clearly she covered complex topics.  I wrote  to her asking for advice, and she was kind enough to reply.  What she said deeply affected my  internal debate, and I thought it would benefit others like myself.  I asked her if I could include her reply in a blog post.  She agreed, and so I shall.  To give her answer context, I shall also include my original missive to her first.

Here is What I Wrote

I am an amateur writer with delusions of grandeur.  I am working on a very long, very complicated story that I hope to have published some day.   I have a public blog at where I post regularly.  The blog is ostensibly for my writers' group, and others do post there on occasion, but the vast majority of posts are written by me. 

Recently I have been considering posting parts of the first draft of my story as I write it.  I believe doing so would motivate me to complete my first draft faster.  Also, I think I can organize my work better by assigning appropriate search tags to my posts.  As a side benefit, I might be able to generate interest for my story among those who stumble across my blog and read the sections of the story that I post.

I am concerned, however, that by putting parts of my work in a public blog that I will harm my chances of later having my story accepted by a publisher.  I fear that I might be rejected simply because significant portions of my story are in a blog, either public or private.  And I am uncertain what effects such post would have on my rights and copyrights concerning my story.

I have tried to find information that could offer guidance on this issue, but have not had much success.  In the process I stumbled across your blog, "There Are No Rules", and was impressed by the quality of your posts.  This in turn prompted me to ask for your advice on this subject. 

I understand, of course, that your advice would simply reflect your opinion.  That said, you are a professional writer with significantly more knowledge and experience than I have. Any help or insight you care to offer would be much appreciated.  I would also be interested in any web sites, books, or other materials you know of that might enlighten me on this subject.

Thank you in advance for your you time and consideration.

And Here is Her Reply

Thanks so much for writing.

I hear from many writers who are concerned about making their work available online before publication, but you really have no need to worry.

On my blog, I've touched on this topic, e.g.,:

Always keep in mind that the online world (and the audience you might find there) is often a good start to developing a fan base, but it's a very different audience than what a traditional publisher would typically reach through bookstore channels, and rarely will a publisher see your online following as a detriment. In fact, it's often a big plus.

Scott Sigler ( is an excellent example of someone who has made his work available for free (as podcasts) and used it to succeed and land a traditional publishing deal.

By posting your work online, you are not relinquishing any rights to it (you still hold copyright), and you can always take it down later if it becomes advantageous to do so.

Hope this helps. For new writers trying to get established, the more exposure, the better.

And My Final Decision Is…

It is hard to imagine someone more authoritative giving advice that is more clear.  The post she links to is even more explicit and addresses exactly the questions I have been wrestling with.  I recommend all aspiring writers read it.  

Ergo, I have decided to make parts of my story available online in the very near future.

In the process of making this decision, I have also concluded that this blog is not the right venue for me to post my story.  It would be impossible to organize Gods Among Men in a way that would make it easy to follow here.   Plus, I just don’t feel right about co-opting this forum to that degree.  This blog is supposed to be about science fiction and fantasy writing in general, with a focus on the Magic City Writers, plural.  It is about the challenges commonly faced by writers, not a soapbox dedicated to my personal self-indulgent preening.

The posts I have written about whether or not to make my story available online do raise legitimate topics for discussion here.  The choices I have faced reflect decisions all writer’s must grapple with at some point.  But if I were to post my stories themselves here it would dilute the purpose of this blog more than I believe is acceptable. 

I could start another blog and force it to reflect my story’s structure,  but that isn’t terribly easy to do, nor does it address longer term needs that might arise. 

Instead, I have decided to create a web-site dedicated solely to Gods Among Men.  I have purchased a domain,, and have begun developing a place designed to host my story appropriately.  Right now the site is nothing to look at, just a few lines of text that I scribbled out to create a home page and a WordPress hosted blog.  I have published my first post on that blog, but that is all I’ve had time to do so far. 

I will organize the site so that it is easy to follow Gods Among Men in sequential order, or jump to specific chapters. I will start with posting my most finished chapters, then later post first drafts and even partial drafts of scenes and chapters.  I shall label each accordingly, so those who decide to follow the development of my story can see the transition from drivel to final version.   I shall make blog posts there as well as here on a regular basis.  On the new site I will focus my post at that site on the details of my story (such as the background mythology and my insights into the plot and characters), while here I shall focus on the problems faced by writers in general.

Fear not, I shall keep you informed as my new site develops.  I will, no doubt, face many challenges common to other writers in my position.  Such problems are topics worth discussing here and may well be valuable to others.

I will let you know when the new site is ready for visitors.  I hope you will come and visit it often.  Until next time, have fun.

Monday, November 16, 2009

When Last We Met…

On Sunday November 16, 2009, the Magic City Writers met and reviewed the lovely Lindy’s latest submission, Marked.  I can safely say, tho’ we beat her and flayed her, by the livin’ Gawd that made her, you are a better writer than I am, Gunga Lin.

A big fat No-Prize to whomever can name the famous poem I pay homage too above.

But first, lets talk about the food. 

Let’s Torture Alex by Mentioning What We Ate

The food, as always, was excellent. 

Kathryn was suffering from a slight sinus infection, and her laptop suffered a stroke, so she didn't have time to whip up her normal culinary delight.  But, she did suggest Brant mixed berry smoothies to drink at the meeting.  Snacks consisted of pretzel twists and club crackers.  For dinner Kathryn and Lindy made potato gnocchi (thick round noodles) with creamy pesto sauce and grilled chicken.  Along with garlic toast suggested by Lindy, dinner was quite delicious.

And Now Back to Flaying Lindy

Lindy submission was more than well received.   Nicole was unable to attend, so it was left to Kathryn and I to voice our opinions.  We both agreed that quality of her writing in Marked was good enough to capture the eye of some publisher of agent.  I went further and claimed, and maintain, that I have seen worse writing in published stories.

On a first read I found very little to correct.  My second closer read found minor problems and inconsistencies.  The type of details that plague all early drafts.  Lindy’s biggest problem was that her story was set in a post-apocalyptical world and the people had too many pre-apocalyptical attitudes and items. 

Our biggest problem as a group is we kept going off in tangents, discussing what such a world would be like.  Intense brainstorming dominated much of the meeting. 

Fortunately, this time I remembered to record the session so Lindy can go back and review the discussion to find the gems among the dross.

Overall, Lindy’s style was good, her characters interesting and convincing, and her plot intriguing.  Excellent work Lindy.  We are all proud of you.  I’m sure that when you flesh out this work it will be an excellent novel.  I, for one, look forward to reading it when it is done

The Remains of The Day

After we chatted and ate, the three of use moseyed upstairs where we watched a couple of short videos from Kathryn’s Mystery Science Theater 3000 collection.  One was on the world of communication in the future, as seen from about 1960, and the other was on the usefulness of springs.  The snarky commentary made both of these quite enjoyable.

Then we settled in to watch the debut of AMC’s mini-series remake of 60’s cult classic, The Prisoner.   Heavily symbolic, allegorical, and often surreal, Kathryn and Lindy did not care for it.  I, ever the fan of heavy symbolism and surreal tolerant, am withholding judgment until I have seen more.  Right now I rate it as, “interesting”.

For next time, I re-submitted chapter four of my epic fantasy, Gods Among Men, entitled …And Strikes Down the Inner Circle. We did not set a date for the next meeting, but given the approaching holidays, along with Nicole’s awful schedule, it seems likely that the earliest possible meeting will be in December or, God forbid, January.  Fear not, I shall make sure to keep those interested apprised of the happenings whenever the next meeting occurs.

Until next time, have fun and party down.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

To Post, Or Not To Post: That is the Question

Last time I dithered about whether or not I should post parts of my story, Gods Among Men, on a blog.  Either this one or another one devoted solely to my story.  I concluded by asking for other people’s opinions. 

Since no one was forthcoming with their opinions, I cornered various people, shot them with tranquilizer darts, and then water-boarded them until they were willing to say anything to make me stop.  Naturally, I took what they said as honest advice freely given.

I was able to determine that either A) no one cares if I post parts of my story on this blog or on another one, or B) people are deathly afraid of me and will say whatever they think I want to hear.  In either case, no one specifically objected to me posting parts of my story on this blog, but neither did they encourage me to do so.

One person did, however, raise a substantive point about whether it was a good idea for me to be posting my story online at all.  There are two good reason I can think of to be wary of doing so: 1) running afoul of copyright laws, and 2) ticking off potential publishers.

The First Thing We Do, Let's Kill All The Lawyers

Copyright laws protect the creator/owner of content, such as the text of a book.  If someone tries to steal, copy, plagiarize, or otherwise appropriate material that is not theirs, the owner of the copyright can sue the dirty rotten thief with fair odds of winning the case.

So what would it take to ensure my story is covered by copyright laws?  It would appear that I need do nothing at all.  Apparently, creating an original work is, by itself, sufficient to have it covered by national and international copyright laws.  You don’t even have to put up a notice saying the work is copyrighted.  All you need is reasonable evidence that you are the creator of the work.

Enforcing the copyright, however, is another matter.  Enforcement means being paranoid, sending letters to those who violated the copyright, and paying lawyers when your copyright is infringed. 

All this assumes someone would be interested enough in my story to bother stealing it.  At this stage, I think that is the least of my worries.

Don’t Anger Those Who Buy Ink By The Barrel

Ticking-Off off traditional publishers is a different matter.  It is entirely possible that posting a substantial amount of my story in a blog would make traditional publishers extremely reluctant to work with me.

How likely is it that would happen?  How the heck should I know?  I’m an amateur writer, I don’t really know how professional publishing works. 

Perhaps posting the bulk of Gods Among Men online wouldn’t be a big deal to some publishers.  Or if I actually gained a sizeable following it might be considered proof that there is a market for my story, which would increase my odds of being published 

But it is entirely possible that it would convince most publishers that I am not worth spending time and money on.  That I am an amateur writer with no serious intention of transitioning into a professional author.

I feel it is important here to emphasize the difference between writer and author, a distinction I have written about before

In brief a writer has a need to put a story down in words, but may not desire to share that work with anyone else.  For a writer it may be sufficient to express their imagination just for their own enjoyment. 

But an author craves an audience.  Is in not sufficient for an author to tell their story to themselves; they desire, even need, others to experience the story with them.

Neither author nor writer is better than the other.  But it is important to decide which you wish to be.  This decision establishes your ultimate goal, determines the choices you must make to achieve that goal, and establishes the compromises you must be willing to consider.

So Tell Me What You Want, What You Really Really Want

I want to be an author.  It is not sufficient for me to write my story and be the only one who reads it.  I do not crave adulation, but I do feel the need to share with others the world I see so clearly in my imagination.

That said, I have talked with professional writers and editors on occasion.  Based on the little I have learned from those conversations, I already know my odds of being published are not good.   

Publishers rarely accept new novels that are over 80,000 words long, or roughly 300 pages.

In addition, publishers like new novels to be self-contained.  That is, they want the novel to tell a complete story with a beginning, middle, and end.  It’s fine, even desirable, to leave room for later novels to pick up where the first leaves off.  That’s how series of novels starring recurring characters come about.  But the publisher wants proof that there is an audience for the first novel before they risk investing in later novels by the same author or in the same series.

Care to Play A Game of Chance

I don’t blame publishers for adopting that attitude.  New authors are unproven quantities, as are new novels.  The cost of printing and promoting new books is extremely expensive.  Taking on an untried author who proposes writing a lengthy series of  long books is taking a riverboat gamble with a lot of money on the table.

And that is what I would be presenting to to them. 

Currently the first book in Gods Among Men is 231,000 words long, more than 700 pages.   As I edit the various chapters the length will shrink, but I cannot imagine this first novel ever being close to their desired 80,000 word limit.   I expect the later novels will be of similar length.  Gods Among Men will take seven books to tell in its entirety, which means I must write approximately 5000 pages, or about 1.5 million words.

Moreover, the first book in the series, At the Lady’s Behest comes…, ends not on one cliffhanger, but on several.  Potential publishers would likely want me to radically change how it ends, and that is not possible without destroying the overall arc of the story I want to tell.

This is not to say it is impossible for me to have Gods Among Men published, merely that the odds are seriously stacked against me. 

I would have better odds of success if I were to write several self-contained novels first, establish myself as a professional writer, then try to have my epic published.  

Of course that plan requires years of effort, with no guarantee of success.  There is no reason to believe that I would be published if I wrote self-contained stories. Nor is there reason to expect those other works would sell well enough to establish me as a reliable writer in the eyes of publishers.  In the end, such efforts might well be wasted time.  Time that I could have spent crafting the story I actually care about.

Put Your Money Down and Roll the Dice

Which brings me back to the idea of posting my story online.  It is another riverboat gamble, but this time the risks are on me. 

Do I post Gods Among Men online so that a small number of people might read it?  Doing so risks alienating publishers, possibly restricting me to only those people who know of my work by word of mouth.

Or do I avoid publishing online and try to beat the odds?  Dare I hope that Gods Among Men is picked up by a publisher that would provide me with a much wider audience?  Doing so carries the distinct possibility that no one would ever read my story.

To Post, Or Not To Post: That is the Question

And since the decision does not need to made immediately, the safest course of action is to make no decision.  Which brings to mind a quote from Hamlet, part of the famous “To be, or not to be” soliloquy in Act three, scene one.   Hamlet refers to what lies beyond death as “the undiscovered country”, but you can just as well take his words to be about the future.

The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.

Or in simpler words, the fear of unknown future consequences can stifle the ability to make a decision in the here and now.  Indecision leads to delay and dithering, until the moment is lost and the consequences of inaction are upon us.

I am prone to introspection, to analyzing a situation over and over.  But I am also capable of quick, even radical decisions made with little evidence or thought of consequence.  Decisions not made based on logic or reason, but made based on spur of the moment gut instinct.  I am (metaphorically) capable of leaping off a cliff without knowing what lies below, trusting on good luck to provide a safe landing.

For the moment I shall wait, postpone making a final decision, but I will not wait long.  I will set my course of action soon.  Perhaps not this week or the next, but likely by the end of the years.  I will, of course keep those interested in the outcome informed. 

If anyone has advice or insight they care to share on this matter, please feel free to voice your opinion.  I am genuinely interested in hearing what others think about what I should do, especially the reasons you may have for or against me posting my story online.

Until next time, take care and have fun.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Dithering in Space and Time

I have been delaying writing my next post, not because of a lack of subjects but because a lack of time has intersected with my propensity to dither. 

Time is Not on My Side

I have previously written about a few of the distractions I am currently coping with.  There are others as well, various personal commitments that individually don’t require significant amounts of time, but which collectively drain away the minutes and hours of the day.

Even poor writing requires time and effort.  Lately I find that when free time bubbles to the surface of my schedule the idea of settling in front of computer to spend hours writing seems to require more effort than I can summon.  It is easy to say, “Not today, maybe tomorrow.”  And tomorrow becomes the day after, and the day after that, then next week, then next month.  Once I managed to let the days go by one at a time for so long that two years passed without me writing a word on my story. 

My self-imposed requirement that I maintain my blogging efforts has forced me to return to the keyboard.  To stare into the unforgiving white page and cover it with words.  It isn’t fiction writing, it doesn’t directly advance my efforts to tell the story that dominates so much of my mind.  But it is writing, and the effort alone counts for something.  Only so many days are allowed to go by before I must express a thought or emotion, describe an event, or simply write something and publish it to the world.

NaNoWriMo Is Not Something Mork Said

This is National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo.  (No, I have no idea why they went with that terrible abbreviation.) The idea is that you are suppose to dedicate yourself to writing 50,000 words in the month of November.  This equates to about 175 pages of prose.  Given my tendency to verbosity, that is a long chapter for me.  I exaggerate, though not as much as those unfamiliar with my writing might think.  One of my chapters qualifies as a self-contained novella.

The point of NaNoWriMo is to write as fast as you can.  To pour words onto the page with abandon.  To not worry about whether you use the right words or write characters consistently or believably or any of the other issues that can slow writing to a crawl.   To just type as fast as your fingers will allow.

To break my logjam, I decided to throw my hat into the NaNoWriMo ring and begin work on the second book in my Gods Among Men series, …Demiurge, Unbound,….  The first book, At the Lady’s Behest Comes…, is written, though much of it is still terrible.  (No, this is not false modesty, just an honest appraisal of the vast bulk of the novel that has not been properly edited.)

My reasoning when I started was that, while I have plenty of ideas and requirements  for …Demiurge, Unbound,…  precious little of it has actually been written down.  If I were to generate 50,000 words on that novel in a short period of time then at least I would have something that I could edit and improve on later.  Plus, I thought the effort would help me practice  pantzing character interactions, something I had been planning to do anyway.

So How’s That Working Out For You?

I think it is safe to say I will not achieve the stated goal of 175 pages by the end of the month.  Ignoring the fact that I started late, the truth of the matter is I have too little time.   My slow typing speed alone is enough to prevent me from putting 50,000 words on the page in the remaining time.  With dedication and effort I might reach 20,000 words, but even that seems unlikely to me.  Still, it is a goal worth trying for.

In the process of writing on …Demiurge, Unbound,…, I was struck by a thought.  It was a glancing blow which, no doubt, will heal in a few days, or perhaps a few weeks.  In the meantime, the aftereffects of this thought bothers me enough that I continue to pick at it in my mind.   If I am not careful it will leave a scar.

The thought was simple enough: Why limit myself to the end of the month?

I want to be clear here.  I am not trying to break the idea behind NaNoWriMo.  (Seriously, whoever came up with that abbreviation needs to avoid both writing and marketing as their chosen profession.)  I am seeking to expand the idea and incorporate it into my writing methodology. 

A Time to Edit, And A Time to Write

I have been struggling for some time to discover how best to tell my story.  To call it a “work of a lifetime” is is not quite correct.  At the rate I am currently churning out finished pages it will take considerably more years to finish writing Gods Among Men than I likely have left to live. 

I am faced with the clear fact that I must write faster or Gods Among Men will never be complete, meaning actually written down.  I don’t think it ever shall  be complete in the sense that I will be fully satisfied with my telling of the story, but it is possible for me to write the story arc in its entirety from beginning to end.  To construct a first draft that expresses the plot, describes the characters and their relationships to each other, and reveals the world that consumes so much of my waking thoughts.

I want to go beyond arbitrary deadlines (50,000 words by the end of the month, so many words each day, etc…)  and avoid the bog of infinite editing.  I want to bring the phase of endless planning to its long overdue end and find a structure that forces me to move the story forward at a steady pace.  A way to whittle down the mountain of complex plot and characters and construct a draft that has all the elements required to tell the story, even if it is not told particularly well.  I want a structure that forces me to write and removes the excuses that allow me to dither and delay putting words on paper.

Oops, There Goes Another Rubber Tree Plant

To that end, I am going to perform an experiment pulling together several threads of thought that I have been toying with for some time now.

In essence, I am considering broadening my idea for writing character vignettes.  Instead of limiting myself to out of context scenes, which I was having great difficultly doing, I would instead spend time each week crafting a first draft of Gods Among Men.  To write as quickly as possible and tell my story from beginning to end.   I would not edit any of the new material at this time, just strictly focus on the flow of the story and the character interactions.

To keep myself honest, I would regularly post what I have written.  Perhaps not every word; I reserve the right to keep the worst tripe safely hidden until I can replace it with something better.  Still, if once or twice a week I am required to post something then by incremental steps I will make concrete what currently exists solely in my overactive imagination. 

This also allows me the opportunity to practice the various skills in which I am less than adequate at the moment, most notably character interactions.  Also, it would let me write my mythology out as part of the story in which it fits.  To weave the relevant details into the dialogue and descriptions in a way that hopefully would be both clear and natural.

I would continue to edit my existing chapters as well, polishing that text until it is of acceptable and perhaps even publishable quality.  But, while I am improving on what exists, I also need to create new material that completes the story arc the existing work begins.

I have Issues. Yeah, I Know, You’re Shocked 

There are two questions which I must resolve before I begin this effort. 

The first question is whether this blog is the proper place for this material, or should I start a separate blog dedicated to posting my fiction, à la Kathryn’s blog about her story, Moonlit

As originally constituted, this blog was about writing in general and the efforts of the Magic City Writers’ Group.  I am the most prolific of the posters on this blog, but I am not the only person contributing to it.  And, while I have often indulged myself by posting material relevant only to me and my story, the effort I am proposing may be inappropriate for this site.  Which raises the question that perhaps I should move all of my story specific material to my own private blog.   But doing so would require a fair amount of effort, and would mean that I would have to maintain two blogs instead of one.  In a word, yuck. 

The second question concerns the content of what I post.   Namely, should I also post completed or recently edited sections from the first book, or constrain myself to just new material as it it written.  My purpose is to create a complete first draft of the whole story, which would suggest posting only new material. 

But the new material would be confusing to those who have not read the earlier material, which includes everybody other than me.  (The writers’ group has read only the early chapters, and even Kathryn has not read the last several chapters.)  In addition, the blog (whether this one or a new one) shall over time become a reference source for me.  A place I can go to find scenes and other materials that I have stored with tags to make them easier to find.  These facts suggest that I should include the older material for the sake of completeness.

No doubt I shall dither and dally over this a bit more before making my final decisions.  I am interested in the opinions of others on these questions.

Until next time, have fun.

Monday, November 2, 2009

When Last We Met...

Taking a departure from the normal blog poster, I have decdided to cover the last meeting. Actually it was suggested to me, since it was my chapter that we were reviewing.

But first, lets talk about the food.

Let’s Torture Alex by Mentioning What We Ate

This meeting happened at the end of the week Brant and I celebrate the anniversary of our first date, so we decided to make a little something special for the festivities. For dinner, we made a simple but delicious chicken tortilla soup that I had made before for the group. It is made with steam-cooked chicken breasts, shredded and put in a crock pot with lots of chicken stock. Then I add 5 kinds of beans (garbanzo, pinto, black, great northern, dark kidney), white hominy and yellow corn to fill out the soup. For flavor, I added Mexican style rotel tomatoes and lots and lots of Texan-approved spices (chili and cumin, mostly). Heat for about 4 hours and voila!

For dessert, I was planning on making small cakes with a mousse-filling. But, for some unknown reason, half the cakes I made refused to be removed from their pans, and ended up being shredded. Still, the cake was too delicious to throw out, being a vanilla rum cake, so I eventually calmed down and thought of an alternative. I bought a pineapple (that was fun to cut!) and banana, and created trifles in our parfait glasses. The cake bits were layered with my vanilla rum mousse (a homemade recipe, I might add), whipped cream and the fruits. It was very pretty, and quite delicious. We ate ALL of it before everyone left.

And Now Back to the Savaging

This time around we were reviewing the third chapter of my new novel, Moonlit. I am trying the 'pantzing' technique, where I don't formally plan out the plot of the story. I have a vague idea of where I am going, but let the story lead me where it wants to go. So far the comments have been favorable, although it is completely obvious it is a first draft that needs work. This chapter was no exception. It had problems, but I believe the editorial comments were more structural based that about the story itself. The first and most glaring problem that everyone noted was the lack of continuance from the cliff hanger at the end of the last chapter. It was a bad omission on my part. I had meant to put it in, but simply forgot. Oddly enough, it is an easy fix.

This chapter dealt with interrogating three lycanthropes who had been arrested following attacks on a FLI agent (think werewolf police) and two civilians. I had used advice from an officer friend of mine and got questions right, and generally the interrogation scenes were well recieved. However, it did tend to wander off topic a lot, and needed a few nips and tucks to keep the flow of the story going. On a positive note, they loved the character Lexi, who was the main focus of the first half of the chapter. As a new recruit, her eagerness needed to be reigned in a bit, but Brant, Nicole, and Lindy all agreed that they would like to see more of her. the other characters showcased in the chapter - Boxer, Boris, and Ranulf - needed to be fleshed out a little bit better.

Praise was actually given for one attempt at humor and stab at realism. Boxer tried to give Lexi a false name - Wile E. Coyote - and it went over as well as I had hoped it would. And Boris' anger at being ostracized as a werewolf was well received also. I got a little worked up at some of the semantics changes that were brought up - mainly because I didn't see the difference between what I wrote and what they wanted - but I believe the overall vote was positive.

On another note, Jeremy Lewis, author of Staked and Revamped, was unable to attend the meeting. His wife became ill and family matters - of course - took precedence. I believe I can speak for everyone when I say that I hope his wife is feeling much better. In this climate of fear of illness, you can never be too careful. And there will always be other meetings that he is more than welcome to attend.

The Remains of The Day

We had to wrap up the meeting earlier than usual, because of other obligations. We finished up around 5 pm, and Lindy and Nicole left. Feeling bereft, crying just a little bit, Brant and I - along with Rusty and D'argo - cried and whined as everyone left us alone in the dark.

Just kidding.

Brant and I proceeded to watch a movie, like we tend to do after the meetings. We watched Sleepy Hollow, and enjoyed every minute of it.

That concludes the summary of our latest meeting. The next meeting will cover Lindy's chapter of a new story, called Marked. We will be meeting on November 15, and will be at Nicole's apartment. Well, that's all for now. Keep on keeping on.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Happy Birthday, Alex!

All Together Now.

Happy Birthday To You,
Happy Birthday To You,
Happy Birthday Dear Alex
Happy Birthday to You!

A Special Birthday Wish

Today, Sunday November 11, is the birthday of Magic City Writer member in absentia, Alex.  As in the person I like to tease in my ongoing segment titled, Let’s Torture Alex by Mentioning What We Ate.

Alex was a member of the group before we started calling ourselves the Magic City Writers.  Her snarky humor and insightful comments made her a valuable member and a dear friend. 

Some time ago, the vagaries of life led her to a far off land populated by strange people with unusual customs.  I think the natives of this distant northern realm call it “Rhode Island”. 

Since then we don’t see Alex too much, though we do receive text messages, e-mails, and Facebook post from her from time to time.  Some of these conversations get a little weird, such as the one where I promised to sign a llama for her, but that is a part of her appeal.

On behalf of all the members of our little group, I offer the following birthday wish:

Alex, I hope you have a great Birthday today and many, many more in the future.  May happiness follow you throughout your travels, brining you as much joy as you bring to others.  And should you ever wander close by, please feel free to stop by, for we would love to see you again.  Heck, let us know in advance and we might even feed you.

Take care and Have Fun.