Sailors on the Sea

Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Year is Over

Well, it's year end 2009. A productive year for me, if not entirely successful. As I recently posted my accomplishments I won't go through them all again now. Suffice to say, I wrote a LOT.

What I am most proud of is that I opened myself up (or was opened up) to new types of writing. Very exciting. Creatively satisfying. This new area of creativity is directly responsible for three of the five novels I wrote this year - as well as at least a half dozen stories and more than a dozen poems.

The area continues to expand, and I currently have three or four story ideas floating around in my head right now. I've tried writing some on them but they're not really ready.

That's the nasty thing about story ideas, isn't it? It's kind of like waiting for supper, or Christmas. But no matter how much you whine about it, you just have to wait until it's there. I hope they're good stories when they finish cooking. I truly like them now. They're fun to think about.

I have a lot of goals for 2010. Not sure I will make any of them. I would like to repeat a prolific year and write another 1,000,000-words. I came a few thousand short in 2009. I would like to write at least six novels (and with my new ideas I might like to see it go higher) and complete a lot of short stories and poems.

I think I'm writing better than every before. At the same time I expect my writing is no place near what is required in order to call myself a professional. A pity. I do like to tell stories.

I have two ideas for stories which could be worked into plays, or a television series. Have had those for more than a year. But they're still cooking. Bigger projects require a longer cooking time. Like a turkey compared to a game hen.

If I had any money at all (I honestly don't have any) I would start a local theatre. I would also like to publish a small comic book for the Legion of Online Super Heroes. But that requires money, too.

Lots of things I would like to accomplish. To be honest, I'm not expecting to accomplish any of them. Probably my best shot is to simply write a lot of words. Quantity over quality. But you know what? I don't think quality is all it's cracked up to be. After all, there are plenty of cr*p books being published by reputable publishers. How does that happen anyway?

Oh, well. I will just keep on writing. It's what I do.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Play Acting

Been away from blogging for a while again. Not that many notice, I think. I have mixed feelings about that. Sometimes it's a comfort to be out of the main flow. Sometimes it can be quite lonely. That's kind of the way life is, isn't it? I call it the two-edged sword. It cuts both ways.

Been thinking about all kinds of stories, but I have done NO writing since before Christmas. Why not? Mostly because I discovered a new online community which is quite addictive: Wizard101. I think I stumbled upon it while doing research on wizards.

The graphics are cartoonish, but they work very well for me. All of the costumes and mythical creatures. Right up my alley - of which the game has many. I actually dreamed the better part of a story about the game. Few of my stories come from dreams, but some do. Unfortunately, I didn't write this dream down and now it has faded in memory. If it's any good I'll dream it again. I do that, you know. Have dream reruns. Do you do that? There are a couple of dreams I have been having since I was very young. Some of the elements of Swords of Fire were inspired by dreams.

Anyway, I think the game's worth a look see - unless you absolutely do not wish to become addicted to something new. The game - in its early stages anyway - provides enough rewards to encourage continual play and returns.

In the meantime, I have not been writing. But as I have done just about everything in the FREE version I can now, that may change soon. We'll see. For now I'll keep playing.

Have fun.

Hope your Christmas was spent well.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

Have a a very Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Addicted to Writing

Okay. Yesterday I said I had no plans to write any more this year. Well, it didn't take long for me to come up with a new plan. I've started something new. Not going to say what it is. That seems to be the kiss of death for all of my projects: officially announce them before I'm finished, or nearly finished. Suffice to say it is another novel.

Have applied to join an online critique group, too. I'm horrible at critiquing. I don't understand why most of what I write is cr*p, so how can I tell someone else how to improve their writing? I'll give it a go.

What I really need is for someone to sit down with me and some piece of writing and walk me through the analysis. Perhaps after doing that in a master-apprentice setting I can learn something and become both a better writer and a better critiquer.

Meanwhile, I will be writing my new novel. If I finish it before the end of the year it will make six novels in one year. That's pretty good, I think. Even for rough drafts. Of course, it isn't quite fair. I've got dozens upon dozens of book ideas in my head dating back to when I was in school. I just have never written them.

I like to tell stories.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

That's the Way it Is

Nicola Morgan has a post on her blog (here) about writers reading the right things in order to write well. It's a good post and worth the read. I do recommend it.

Reading that post confirms some of my own suspicions about myself. You see, I do NOT read a lot of modern fantasy. I can't afford to buy books anymore, and I have never enjoyed borrowing them; not from friends or the library. So most of the fantasy (my genre) which I read dates to the 1950s, 60s and 70s, with a sprinkling here and there of more recent things.

To be perfectly honest, I generally prefer the older works to modern. This puts me out of step and, in equally honest fact, makes me wrong. No doubt my writing is affected in ways I can never fully comprehend by the fact that I keep re-reading works from the past instead of what is on today's bookstore shelves. The most recent things I can think of having read date to the 1990s: Elizabeth Willey's, Well-Favored Man (I love this book) from 1993; and Tanya Huff's, Sing the Four Quarters (read recently) from 1994.

Nicola Morgan lists 9 things a writer risks in not reading current works in their genre:

1) not knowing the rules of the genre.
  • Yeah, I'm probably guilty of this one. Fantasy Readers are no doubt expecting certain things that I am simply not delivering.
2) not knowing what's already been done.
  • Definitely so. If you were to ask me to name five, or even one modern fantasy author I don't know that I could. Unless Willey and Huff are still writing.
3) not writing in an original voice.
  • To be honest, this one doesn't concern me. Yes, I know it should. But it doesn't. My voice is my voice, and if another author is already publishing work with that voice it is my loss. I don't really see how I can successfully change my style.
4) not being passionate about what you do.
  • I take exception to this point, but I think Nicola Morgan and I may be using separate definitions for 'passionate about what one does'. There is not an hour of my waking day which does not contain some time devoted to devising plots, scenes, endings, characters, places, and so forth. But I think Nicola Morgan is talking about something else. The passion to share ideas with other creators. Not sure.
5) not being able to show or feel total commitment to a career in this genre.
  • This one I confess I don't really understand. If reading modern works is a requirement then certainly I am not showing commitment. Not sure what 'feeling' it means. Like I indicated above, I HATE borrowing books. I want to BUY them. I want my books HERE, with me. I want to return to them at whiles and refresh myself in someone else's creativity. Sometimes (often) that occurs in the middle of the night. I NEED my books close at hand. They can't be if they're not my books. And even before my financial collapse I allowed Spouse to virtually shut down my book buying.
6) failing to sell it to an agent or publisher because you cannot show knowledge and commitment in your covering letter.
  • No doubt. No doubt at all. I hope by covering letter she means query, because if I have to have a query, a synopsis, AND a covering letter I may throw up.
7) remaining outside the world of your future fellow authors.
  • I expect I would anyway. I like people. I really do. But I don't hang out with anyone anymore. Not for so many years that I have lost the understanding of how it's even done. I am the monkey who never learned to properly socialize. So even if I had a ton of money and bought every new book that came out as soon as it hit the shelf, I would still not be part of any author/writer group. Too stressful. I don't know how to do it. I don't like being at family gatherings anymore.
8) displaying disrespect for your fellow authors.
  • This, if true, would be most unfortunate, for I have nothing but respect for those who have written and attained, and for those who are writing with attainment in mind. Even those who aren't necessarily writing to be published. So many people write better than I that I am in no position to give them disrespect. But don't assume that just because something is easier than breathing for you to do that it isn't a tremendous work of effort for someone else. And it has nothing to do with disrespect.
9) displaying arrogance.
  • I have been accused of this. Often. Even by people who are supposed to know me well. But let me tell you something about arrogance. It isn't always what it looks to be. Sometimes, what looks like arrogance, is nothing more than fear. And sometimes it is nothing more than ignorance. And sometimes a person is just simple. Arrogance is an attitude, not a behavior. I was once criticized for not trading places with a co-worker who asked if I wanted to. In my mind I was doing the worse task, and I deemed the offer simply to be a good will gesture, so I declined. Later, I was reamed by the one in charge for making my co-worker do a nasty job. But my refusal had nothing to do with avoiding a nasty job. In my mind, that was why I was doing.
  • My not reading current works does not mean I think I don't need them. It's more about the money to buy them. I have always been of the mind that I can wait until I have the money before getting what I want - or even need. Two years with broken teeth because I couldn't afford to go to the dentist and get them fixed. (Now I've broken another one. Last spring. No money. No dentist.)
Nicola Morgan suggests, and I have no reason to dispute her, that not reading current works within one's genre is a sure-fire way of not getting published.

As I indicated at the top of this post, that kind of confirms a suspicion I've had for some time. But for now I will continue to hold off. I just do not have the money.

In the meantime, I write. I write with the voice that I have. I write the stories I enjoy. Perhaps some day after I am gone somebody will take them and rewrite them. And then they will be okay.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Million Words, And I Wasn't Even at Full Speed

So December is about halfway completed. We are most of the way to Christmas. As I am not planning on writing anything new in the next three weeks, nor finishing anything in progress, I thought I would post the final year's accomplishments now. Why? Because I haven't got anything else to talk about right now.

According to the time stamps on my computer files I have worked on 111 writing projects this year. This, of course, does not count blog posts, nor anything I have written which failed to get into the computer. Fourteen of those projects failed to reach completion. The rest are all in at least a completed first draft mode.

I wrote 58 poems. Many of these wound up here and on Tales From The Great Sea. My poetry pretty much s*cks, so I don't know if it's worth going to that blog to search for what I posted. Two poems did attract comments. If you're interested in those, here are the links. One is titled "The Girls" from August 2, and the other is "Kadassa, Tahk and Brills" from June 8.

I also wrote 29 short stories, of which 24 have been completed. Included in that are my eight Hero Stories, of which five were finished. I never finished "The Taming of Pelage", starring Panthera and Pelage; "Twice the Fun", starring Feathered Guy Anthropist and the Inamore Twins; or "Flaming Hot", starring Fire Red and Thunderbolt.

There were 10 entries to other blogs, including: Evil Editor; Whirlocher (I actually won an award for this entry), Writtenwyrdd, and Kiersten Writes. I suppose technically those are not true writing projects, but I enjoyed them. They were longer than some of my poetry.

And finally, I worked on 14 novels, finishing five: Shadow People, Summer Shade, The Sweet Girl, Swords of Fire: Traitor, and Swords of Fire: The Prophecies of Madatar. Those last two probably shouldn't count as they are both well past 100,000-words and were begun long before 2009.

White Wolves of Dawn could have been finished, but I let myself get sidetracked to other projects. It is still only a third to half finished.

I only submitted two projects for publication: Swords of Fire: Traitor (a novel) and Apprentice (a short story). Both were rejected, but I was given notice that Apprentice had gone to a second reading. Not sure exactly what that means as I do not know the number of submissions they received, nor how many readings a work must go through with them before it is accepted. But the story certainly carried some merit. Personally, I think it may be the best thing I've written all year, and possibly the best since I wrote the poem after Daddy died. (I don't have it anymore. I gave it to Elizabeth.)

I mentioned part of this list on a comment to T.Anne's blog. She commented that it looks like 2010 might be a big revision/edit year.

Not too likely.

You see, while I am producing more than I ever have before within a given period of time, and I think I'm writing better than I ever have in all of my years, my personal confidence in my ability to write - and certainly edit - is at its lowest ebb ever. Never, in all of my 50+ years have I felt more worthless and incompetent as a writer. And never have I been with so little hope of accomplishing anything with it.

I love to write. And I guess that, as long as I am able to, I will continue to devise new stories, and possibly rework old ones. But I have found that, after my most productive year ever, I am left with the very real sense that the last planted dream of my life is never going to sprout. Like all the others, it, too, has died, and I merely delude myself by trying.

One hundred and eleven writing projects. Just under 1,000,000-words. (If I were to finish White Wolves of Dawn I would break the 1,000,000-word mark for 2009.) It's very possible I can best that mark in 2010. Assuming I see 2011. We'll see. I am planning on rewriting Swords of Fire: Book I and Book II, and finishing Book III. If I make that I will have half a million words right there.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Songs Which Touch the Heart

Songs are tremendous things. They reach inside of us, slipping past the walls and barriers we put up to protect ourselves from emotional pain, and touch the real us. It is not unusual for me to find myself in tears at such times.

There have been a few people in my life who have done the same thing and d*mned if I know how they do it. It's like there are no walls. They begin speaking to me and suddenly I find they are inside, touching the real me, and I don't know how they got there.

They don't touch me physically. (At my age and appearance that never happens anymore. [smiles]) It's all on some kind of spiritual level. I guess you could call them my songs.

I was in the big car today, driving alone. I was meeting a sister about half way between our respective dwellings. She had purchased a new car battery for our small car. A complete idiot had left the car door open for four days and the battery died forever. We have no money to purchase a new one and my sister insisted on doing it for us.

But I had the chance to put in some music dvds I made up a few years ago on the computer that died. Most of the songs on these self-made musical compilations are not enjoyed by Spouse, but some have intense meaning for me. Some mean nothing at all to what was intended when they were recorded, I'm sure. Several make me cry.

The song selection followed no particular artist or group. Neither were they all 'up', 'down', 'energetic', or 'slow'. They were whatever I happened to have been feeling like at the times of their creation.

It is this kind of musical collage which often gets my inspirational circuits firing. And so it was again today. As I listened to a Moody Blues song, from their Threshold of a Dream album, I found myself envisioning an ending. Most often that is where my ideas for stories begin. They ending.

Story endings are precious to me. Often, my story endings contain a note of sadness, and loss. For every victory comes at a price. Everything we have, not matter how precious it is to hold, came at a price. So with joy their is sorrow. One cannot truly know one without the other.

I have a new ending now. What I do not have is a starting point to reach it. On the way back from my rendezvous I arrived at a possible climax, which will proceed the ending by mere moments. I have the premise of what the struggle has been. The ending is one of tremendous gain. And tremendous loss. But with the tears there is the sense that all is as it should be. To not have that loss would somehow be wrong. Oh, if I were only the writer to put the story together so it could be shared.

Do songs inspire you to new stories? They do me. I love my songs. Both physical and spiritual.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Desert of Learning

I'm long-haired right now. I'm not being metaphorical or anything. I actually do have long hair. My bangs have dropped down to my nose and it keeps bugging me.

Need a hair cut.

I've never liked getting hair cuts, even when my hair is much longer than I like. A couple of times I have let it grow down to my chin.

Some people love to fuss over their hair. They're constantly changing styles (and even color). I had an aunt who made herself go bald because she was using so many different things on her hair it all fell out. Took months to grow back. Then she wore wigs.

I'm not much for wigs either. I've worn a few in plays and they're not comfortable.

My problem is I don't like to fuss over my appearance. I want to look nice. I just don't want to work at it. And so I look like sh*t. That's the opinion I've been given on more than one occasion anyway.

I got to thinking that I'm kind of like that with my writing, too. I very much want to be known as an excellent writer. Even more so, an excellent storyteller. But d*mn! I hate working at it. Work is so - hard.

I keep telling myself that working for a thing hardly means I'll achieve. After all, I've never achieved anything I've worked at before, so why should this be different?

Don't know. But I do keep working at it. D*mn it's hard.

That's what I'm finding with my Swords of Fire military history, although "hard" is not precisely the word I'm looking for. Tedious. Boring. Those fit much better.

Learning to write was easy. As easy as falling off a log. I did that at a very early age. (Learn to write. Oh, and I fell of a log, too. Several times.) Learning to write well is like crossing the desert. I'm constantly plagued with thoughts along the line of, "Who in the h*ll came up with this plan anyway?" And, "I'm going to die out here and nobody will even know."

Did I say that learning to write well is hard?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Changing the World

I have returned to establishing the military history of Swords of Fire. I've started it several times, became unhappy with the progress, or discovered significant errors and/or omissions, and resorted to starting over again. So this is yet another attempt. But I'm happier with the effort than previous tries.

For one thing, I have been forced to do some rethinking on the structure and rules of military service. According to the old rules the family's military force used to drop to virtually nothing. Not realistic when one considers this is a warrior family. Changing the rules and then projecting those rules across the Compound's entire 352 year history will help with the actual story. I don't have to feel uneasy about the likelihood of Sayla being an officer, or Shello being High Marshall. I will have the data behind those declarations - or I won't, and those declaration will have to be abandoned. That would be a nuisance. But it's happened before.

That's the double-edged sword effect of establishing real rules and extrapolating them through the backstory. Cool passages, written before the implementation of said rules, suddenly become contradictory. Sometimes, with modification, they can be saved. Most of the time they cannot.

There was a time when I was having the Elves travel by sea to the world of Verona, where all kinds of cool things happened, including the final confrontation between Madatar and Shatahar. But then I had my last major rewrite and suddenly, the Elves weren't going to Verona. No less than six books got squashed because of that single change. Six books. Cool stories, all of them. But they could no longer happen because the Elves weren't on Verona.

That's the hard part about writing stories and planning ahead before all of the extensive background data has been completed. Or even just writing the stories. You see, it wasn't Book I's rewrite that changed the Elves' destination. It was Book III. But the overall story is much better this way. And Madatar's confrontation is far more intense. Or will be. Assuming antoher major rewrite doesn't make that passage go away, too.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The World as I See It

Well, it has been a busy day for me and I have accomplished a lot. Unfortunately, it was mostly rework.

While compiling my time line of events I began to see several discrepancies in my Swords of Fire database. I've always known they were there, but I have always put off the repair job until later. Well, today was later.

The good news is that I made the repairs. The bad news is that all of the time line work, AND the military history work I have already put in is garbage and must be tossed. Got to start over. Pity.

I told my friend that working on all of this historical data makes me feel like I'm working on a giant model railroad set. Everything has its place and the pieces fit perfectly. I made the remark that while I may not write well enough to suit the people who matter (everybody but me), I am laying one heck of a solid foundation. Names. Dates. Events. It's all falling into place better than knowledge we have about our own history. My Daddy was a b*stard child from the 1920s. Back then that was serious shame and people tried to hide that. Daddy, being such a child, was tortured by his older relatives. Nearly killed several times. But the end result of all of that is all I have now to trace my blood history is a name. And I have not been able to find anything on that name.

So I can't even trace my own lineage back two generations through my father. I have fifteen generations put together for Swords of Fire. I know nobody else is impressed, but I am quite proud of the effort and the results. It isn't finished. It may never be finished. That's the thing about building a history. Until I've accounted for every moment of every day for every person there is still something more which could be done. Kind of cool.

God created mankind in his image. I believe that includes the power of creation. And, like any good offspring, I try to emulate what has been done before. I guess you could say Swords of Fire is my own version of creation. I just haven't done as good a job is all.

But it's still lots of fun.

Do you do world building? I've never met anyone who has to this extent. I wonder if there are others, or if I am truly alone.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

It's Hard

It's a pity there is no room in this place to take out my archives and reread some of the things I wrote fifteen, twenty, thirty, and even longer ago.

Much as I need to still improve my writing it is interesting to read things I wrote long ago.

When I was in high school I was still throwing away the things I had written when I was finished. I mentioned this to my creative writing teacher and she chided me and told me to stop doing that. She said even those things I began but did not finish had value, and that some day I might even want to go back and finish those stories. That was the beginning of The Archives.

A lot of my writing has still been lost. Some of what I have written has only existed on a computer hard drive, or disk backups. The computer died and the backups can't be read by newer computers. My luck, huh?

But a lot of what I have written over the past forty-some years remains. Every once in a while I come across something. Some of it has been copied to this computer. When I look at what came before I am filled with mixed feelings. When I wrote it I believed it was good. Now I read it and find myself appalled that I would write like that.

One the one hand it makes me feel good that I write better now than I used to. On the other hand, I am left with the nagging feeling that I still write like crap. Getting better? I think so. Writing well now? Apparently not.

I find myself envious, and even jealous, of young writers who got published at very young ages. There are teenagers who are published. I still don't write that well. It's very depressing.

So why keep writing?

Because some things can't stay inside, and writing is my best way to express those things. I love music, but I don't play any instrument well (nor do I practice enough to change that), and I have a voice like beef jerky. Emphasis on the jerk. My drawing, painting, and sculpture does not satisfy.

So it's writing. Putting words together to express ideas and feelings which boil up like an eternal underground reservoir. And like Old Faithful, I regularly puke out the pressure. I suppose it wouldn't matter, except that for some vain and selfish reason I would like to share my stories. But in order to do that I have to write better. I have to make it to the top of the game. A difficult and often depressing journey which I can't even make myself abandon.

It's no fun being a writer.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Another New Idea

I came up with a new idea for a story yesterday. Although posting it on the internet constitutes publication I decided to post it on a new blog, a little at a time as I write it. If you are interested in reading it you will need to email me and let me know, though. Several of my blogs (including this one) have been getting hit with garbage comments. I have moderation turned on so I just reject them, but it is a nuisance. This blog has been hit every day now for six days running. So the new blog will only be viewable by those who are invited. If you want to be invited let me know. []

Oh, and if you do wish to read the new story, Across the Sea of Time and Water, feel free to critique, if that is what you like to do. Or just read, if that suits you better.

I won't post every day, but hopefully often. It's easy to start something and then let it fade. We'll see. But I'm not posting to Tales From The Great Sea anymore, and very seldom to Faith in Forgiveness and Cat in the Buff. Haven't decided about Legion of On-Line Superheroes. Interest fell off for the heroes during NaNo. We'll see if it picks up again.

This blog and A Voice in the Wind will probably remain reasonably active for the next while, too.

Lately I have been working on the time line for Swords of Fire. It began at -100 years before the founding of The Compound. I have only been dealing with births, deaths, and weddings in this go through, but I just completed Year 7. Only 345 years to go to catch up.

Didn't work much today though. Son has the day off from school and has been taking up computer time. So I have been reading (Well-Favored Man, by Elizabeth Willey) and taking naps. Heck of a day.

Let me know if you're interested in the new story.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

It's Like Model Trains - You're Never Finished Creating

I've decided to take a completely different approach to Swords of Fire. So I'm not writing right now.

Hey, that's a novel approach! [collective groan over bad pun]

Actually, there is madness to my method. I have to let things 'cook' for a bit. It's almost like writing a new story from scratch, only worse. I know what has to happen almost all the way through.

However, while I am not writing at the moment I am not completely wasting time. Well, not in my mind. (Oooh, another pun.) I've put together a PowerPoint presentation of every character who was even named in the latest Book I. Believe it or not that's 171 characters. Yeah, I know. Too many. Nearly all of those names showed up for a single sentence and then were never heard about again. Still, I took the trouble to add a PowerPoint slide for them indicating their basic demographics. Later, I will add biographical information. Call it a glossary, or Companion Piece. If I really get carried away I might add objects and places, too.

What I'm working on now is a time line. Still using PowerPoint. I'm adding births. The earliest recorded birth took place 100 years before Khirbah founded The Compound, and 452 years before Book I begins. The plan is to record all 6,762 recorded birth record into the time line. After that I will add the 2,455 recorded weddings and 2,364 recorded deaths. Then comes the really fun part: recording events.

While all of this is going on the revised story will continue to cook. And when it is ready, I will begin writing again. Assuming I have time.

So it looks like my string of consequtive months for writing complete novels is going to come to an end at three.

I wish that I could go backward in time to when I was young and just starting to write my own stories. There is so much I would tell myself that would make such a big difference in how my life would proceed later. But if I did my young self would come to one of two conclusions: My older self was either a scary ghost, or a crazy old coot. In either case, the message would fail to get through.

Sometimes I wonder if that wasn't me who haunted The Old House way back when. The size would be just about right, I think.


A Tentative Schedule

Monday - Progress Report
Where am I with regard to the Current Book

Tuesday - Thoughts About Writing
I was going to be profound, but let's be real

Wednesday - What Am I Learning
What can I take from what I am doing

Thursday - Work Sent Out For Review
Respondes to my submissions

Friday - Other Works of Fantasy
Some of my other fantasy writing

Saturday - The Impact of Music
How music has influenced what I write

Sunday - Venting
My 'morbid' time. A safe compromise, I think