Monday, October 31, 2016

Books and NaNoWriMo

In October, I was a super overachiever and read 14 books:

Cell by Stephen King (reread)
Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige
The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers by John Gardner
No Place Like Oz by Danielle Paige
Outlining Your Novel by K.M. Weiland
Plainsong by Kent Haruf
The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski (reread)
The Essential Enneagram by David Daniels
Cane River by Lalita Tademy
Structuring Your Novel by K.M. Weiland
Envy by Anna Godbersen
Mirror in the Sky by Aditi Khorana
Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
Personal Injuries by Scott Turow

Why so many? Partly because some of these books were shorter than my usual fare (No Place Like Oz, for example, is a novella). But maybe mostly because I was on a mission to cram in all the words this month.

Next month (tomorrow!) is the month of spitting out all the words. NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) begins in roughly 14 hours!

I will still be reading during November, because, really, I can’t not read. But I will probably read fewer than my average of ten books a month.

At this moment, I have three characters sketched in pages of words, an unknown serial killer lurking in the shadows, and the barest skeleton of a plot. This doesn’t sound like nearly enough to sit down and start writing a novel tomorrow.

But it is more than I have ever had before beginning to write. I have never had a character sketch written. I have never had more of the plot than the inciting incident, first plot point, and maybe the midpoint.

I am still terrified that I am woefully under-prepared.

November’s project: an adult thriller. I have never written an adult novel (though some of my short bits have wandered in that territory). I have never written a thriller (again, some of my short bits have wandered there).

This is going to be an adventure.

P.S. My favorite book this month was probably Shiver. I still desperately want to be Maggie Stiefvater when I grow up. Sigh.

P.P.S. Like last year, I plan to post weekly updates regarding my NaNo progress (probably on Mondays).

Monday, October 17, 2016

Cut Scene from SIGHTED

Today's bit of fiction is a snippet of a scene that didn't make it into my current work in progress. SIGHTED (the title I FINALLY decided on) is a modern-day young adult retelling of the Cassandra myth. This scene takes place after Kassandra's 17th birthday party. The two characters are Julie (Kass's best friend) and Joel (best friend of Kass's twin brother, Nik).

By the time Joel got the moped out of the parking lot and onto the road, Julie was sure she was going to make it home alive. She continued the squeals, though, because she could feel the muscle in Joel’s belly tighten in laughter every time she did it. 

She never would have guessed those muscles were even there. He was tall. And looked almost painfully thin. Baggy T-shirts over skinny jeans enhanced the bean pole image. What else was he hiding?

The motor of the scooter combined with the noise of moving air to keep them from talking. All Julie could do was feel him. His stomach with her hands. His sides with her arms. His legs with her own. The muscles there tensed and pulled to keep the moped in balance. Julie thought about leaning, throwing them off balance just to make those muscles dance. 

The ride wasn’t long enough. Ten minutes of talking, muscle to muscle.

Joel guided the moped to a halt at the curb in front of Julie’s house and cut the engine.

Julie was slow to slide her hands from his waist and up to the helmet on her head. She pulled off the helmet, but didn’t get off the scooter. She wanted that contact to last. 

This was Joel. The goofy, odd guy she had known since the dawn of forever ago. The best friend of the guy she had imagined herself in love with her whole life. Why did she want to touch him?

Joel pulled off his own helmet and turned his upper body to quirk an eyebrow at her.

Julie bit her lip and swung off the moped to stand beside him. She held out the helmet. “Thanks for the ride.” Her tone was all business. Where was the joking that always bounced between them?

He took the helmet and tucked it into one of the bags attached to the side of his scooter. “No problem.” He turned back to her and stared.

“What?” Julie asked and ran a hand self-consciously over her hair. 

Joel tipped his head and looked at her as if he was piecing together the last bits of a puzzle. “What are you doing tomorrow?”

“I might go to Kass’s practice. I still need to write two papers that are due Monday.”

“Dinner?” he blurted.


Joel took a deep breath and shook the hair back from his face. “Do you want to go to dinner?” An awkward pause descended. “With me.”

“Like a date?” Julie felt her heart pick up in her chest. She was excited at the idea of a date with Joel. This was odd, unexpected. Nik. She was in love with Nik. Right?

“Like a date. You. Me. Dinner.” Joel’s eyes bounced between Julie’s face and the toes of her shoes. 

Julie smiled. A light blush crept up over her deeply tan skin. “Yeah. I think that could be fun.”

Joel’s eyes finally settled on hers. “Yeah?”

“Yeah.” Julie bit her lip again. “I should get inside before my dad comes out to see what’s happening. He’s a little overprotective.”

Joel nodded and moved to start his scooter.

Julie leaned forward and kissed his cheek, barely missing his mouth, before he could get too far away. “Pick me up at six?”

Joel nodded, his mouth too dry for words. He slid his helmet back on and watched Julie walk up the sidewalk to her front door. 

She turned with her hand on the doorknob and waved to him. He lifted his hand in return. “Sweet.” Joel nodded to himself.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Chuck Wendig Made Me Write My Ghost Story

Chuck Wendig asked the interwebs (as least the part that reads his blog) to write a bit of non-fiction this week. He asked for true stories of the scary, the weird, the supernatural.

This one’s for you, Chuck.

Taos, New Mexico. Located in the midst of The Land of Enchantment. If you’ve ever been there, you might have noticed the whole state has a little something extra. A buzz. A vibe.

This is a piece of land that is older than it is. Fuller than it is.

Strange things happen here.

Summer. 1997. Not-yet-twenty-year-old-me.

I drove from Dallas to Taos for a month-long Shakespeare intensive at the SMU campus. I got lost on the way, which meant I was the last of our group to arrive. This meant I didn’t get to choose my bed, I got the leftovers.

Girls were housed in one large cabin, guys in another. Each cabin had a tiny kitchenette, a slightly larger living room, a multi-person bathroom and one huge bunk room. The bunk room in the girls cabin had twelve sets of bunk beds. And one lonely single bed.

You might expect that the single bed was the first one claimed. But, no. It was the only one left when I arrived.

This single bed was right next to the doorway of the bunk room. The doorway that had no door. I was basically sleeping in the hallway.

I didn’t care. I wasn’t there to sleep. I was there to swing a quarter-staff, run in the mountains, practice tai chi, and maybe work on some Shakespeare.

Plus, the location of my bed was handy when I had to pee in the middle of the night.

And we arrive at my tale of the supernatural.

It is the darkest part of the night. I have run to the bathroom, a mere fifteen steps from my bed. I step out of the bathroom, headed back to bed. From my right, I hear the long, low, creak of a door swinging.

I turn my head and catch the door to the furnace-room as it finishes closing.

I am the only one awake.

I have never seen the furnace door open.

I run.

Middle-of-the-night-scary-sound-logic tells me to jump on my bed and pull the covers over my head. I obey. I know that a sheet and thin blanket will not really protect me from anything. I know that it’s all I have.

I wait. I hear nothing.

Now I need to SEE. Is there someone in the room with me? Something?

I lower the covers and peek over the edge.

There is no one there. Nothing there.

Until there is.

I feel the mattress sink under the weight of someone sitting on the bed next to my knee. In the dim light of the night-light, I see the covers dent as someone settles next to me.

There is no breath. I am ice.

A weight settles on my leg. A warm hand.

I can breathe again. The touch is comforting. Soothing.

The bed shifts again, this time with weight leaving the mattress. She stands. I can feel her there, looking down on me, for just a moment. Even though I can’t see her, I know she is a she.

I am able to follow her movement once she leaves my bed. I see a dent on one bed, then another, as she moves around the room. She visits every sleeping girl.

She checks on us.

This was the only night I caught her in the act.

I don’t believe it is the only night she visited.