Saturday, April 30, 2011

Man's Best Friend

So, I've noticed something. Well, I've noticed a lot of somethings this week, but this something has inspired a blog entry. Yay for important somethings!

I've noticed that a lot of fiction doesn't include domestic animals. At least, nothing I've read lately. If they are included, they're generally in the background somewhere. A black cat might run past on a rainy night or the MC might hear a dog barking in the distance. It's not often that the MC has a pet, and if they do, they aren't a main focus.

I can sort of understand this. I mean, if you're writing a story with a lot of action scenes, you don't necessarily want your MC to break away from some life-or-death situation and run home to feed Fido. But I believe that there is potential for more characters here. False Memory by Dean Koontz features Valet, a grown golden retriever. He is a big part of the story. He has his own expressions, his own personality, and his own routine. His relationship to the MC is important. He's part of the family.

For the fantasy lovers, Calling on Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede features Morwen, a very unusual witch, and her gang of feline friends. Her cats are mentioned in the first two books of the series, but in this book, Wrede takes it a step further and gives the cats speaking roles. Through magic, felines are able to communicate (though only their witches can understand them) and since the book takes place from Morwen's POV, there are countless conversations between her and her cats, some of which help save the day.

I'm not saying that no one out there uses pets to their advantage. I'm sure there are many wonderful books that feature animal lovers. I just haven't seen any recently.

Maybe I should write one :)


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Virtual Memory Low

So, I had this idea. It was a Great Idea. You know the kind. It came to me while I was brushing my teeth (which is almost as good a time to get ideas as showering) and I knew it would make a fantastic blog entry.

Unfortunately, it was late, and I had to work the next morning. I sat at the computer and flirted with the idea of staying up a little longer. I stared at the clock. Actually, I stared at the clock long enough to have probably written the entry. But I ultimately decided that it was too late and that if I didn't go to bed immediately, I would be a zombie the next day.

I went to bed.

On the commute from my computer to my bed, I decided it might be good to write the idea down. But I was several feet away from a pad and paper and seriously lacking in all forms of motivation. So, I didn't write it down. After all, with such a Great Idea, how could I forget it?

As I got into bed, I knew I would forget it.

You know what? I forgot it.

I've learned my lesson. I must make a note of Great Ideas before they escape me. This is uncharted territory for me, because up until now I haven't had a problem. I forget things, sure, but never Great Ideas.

Now I know.

Maybe I'd better write down this lesson before I forget it too.


Friday, April 22, 2011

The Best of Friends

Seeing as how I'm a writer (I'm sure you've noticed by now), and this is (more or less) a blog about things related to writing, I figured I might as well produce a bit of these novels I keep talking about.

The following passage is from my sci-fi/fantasy novel Chosen (more details in the 'Works in Progress' tab, if you're interested), and it sums up the relationship between two key characters in the series perfectly.
Description is vague (this is from the latter half of the novel, when we already know what they look like), but it's one of my favorites.

Ducking along the bushes, Thor bit back the stream of curses that had narrated their journey to Rue Court. “This is so not what I signed up for.”
“Oh, shut up,” Jaden hissed from the close-cut grass behind him. “This is going to work.”
“This is not going to work.”
“Since when am I the one that isn’t afraid of adventure?”
“Since you started getting laid.”
Jaden smiled. “It really does make a world of difference.”
“If the girls were here, you wouldn’t be saying that,” Marlow whispered as they crept along the stone wall that enclosed the vegetable gardens.
“Ilana would slap you silly.”
“She’s not as bad as all that, guys,” Jaden said, his words steeped with disapproval.
“You’re just saying that because you two are bonking.”
“Damn, Thor, don’t call it that. It sounds like I’m sleeping with a circus clown.”
The tall man shrugged. “To each his own.”

It always makes me smile :)


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Happy Endings

Sometimes I wonder if there's a place in the real world for revenge. I know that in a novel, revenge always seems somehow attainable. There is always some way to get back at someone for the horrible things they have done, even if it's decades later. But more often than naught, the character that has been hurt, even in some serious way, moves beyond hate to the point of acceptance, and ultimately forgiveness.

Does that work in real life?

In real life, there seem to be an abundance of people who just don't care about the consequences of their actions. There are people who are mean, conceited, and generally out for their own benefit. And, as humans, most of us can recognize those qualities (even if in small quantities) in ourselves. But how often do you run across the widely accepted image of a hero/heroine in real life? How often do you find someone that is truly selfless, even if they openly make mistakes and sometimes lose their cool?

In nine novels (and countless rewrites), I have perfected the ability to produce a main character that can withstand tragedy and still come out on top. There is heartache. There is anger. There is a delicate balance of all things good, bad, and ugly. It is undeniably real. And I feel that most people can connect with those characters, no matter what age or background they come from.

But writing about those things is often easier than finding them in real life. No one is perfect. At some point, every person is going to do something in their own self-interest. There are intelligent people out there who do stupid things. There are assholes who occasionally do something kind. And there is no guarantee that even if you do everything by the book, someone won't come back six years after the fact and hurt you out of spite.

Maybe that's why we write. Maybe that's why we read. Maybe we're all looking for the ending we can't find anywhere else.

It doesn't have to be happy.

It just needs to feel complete.


Sunday, April 17, 2011


They say that the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.

Hi, my name is Liz, and I am an online gamer.

I have tried to break the habit. I've tried to say "no." But there's nothing quite like the thrill I feel after waiting two and a half hours for the files to download (thanks to my wonderful internet connection), as the file names zip past and install on the computer I spent four or five paychecks building. There's nothing like scouring the forums for information while I anxiously wait for the game to finish patching. I do the research, pick the job, the race, and when I get to the New Character screen, I stop to take in the moment; then spend the next twenty minutes trying to find a character name that someone else in the world hasn't already used.

I have a problem. I have spent days, months, even years of my life a slave to online gaming. I shape the characters, give them the equipment they need, and then take them on quests through mystical worlds of fantasy.

Ironically, I do the exact same thing when I'm writing.

I've spent a considerable amount of my young life dividing my spare time between online gaming and writing. Once upon a time, I thought I was sacrificing one for the other. But today, after several game-free months, I logged back on. And when I did, I realized something: I name all of my in-game characters after characters in my novels. I frequently talk about my manuscripts with people I've met online. And when I'm on these long, drawn out virtual quests, I think about the strange things I could make my characters do.

So, I'm not going to feel guilty about online gaming.

It's an escape that's still close to home.

How can I go wrong with that?


Friday, April 15, 2011


I suffer from Literary ADD. I jump from book to book and change projects like socks. It's a curse. And it's also why I've written so many novels.

So, what's the downside if I've gotten nine novels out of it? I can't stick to a project long enough to get it ready to sub for publication. I have a lot of really great rough drafts. I have several fantastic stories in various states of revision. But the only manuscript I'd be proud to sub, as is, is my novel Chosen. Unfortunately, it's the first in a series of four, so I'm not looking to have that published first.

I don't have unrealistic expectations. I expect my first book (when published) to flop, sales wise. Maybe it will generate interest, but it would take a miracle for it to be nationally recognized. And if it does flop, I don't want to drag an awesome series down with it.

It's not that I'm not disciplined. If motivated (or on a deadline) I can write/edit/revise like the wind. But even when I make a personal deadline, life gets in the way. And I suppose it doesn't bother me that much. I'm young. There's time. But someday there won't be.

I'd prefer to be famous before then.

- Liz

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Add a Dash

I am a wonderful list-maker. I number things with ease, and I have a deep appreciation for bullet points. If so inclined, I can break down any process, map out coherent directions, and organize a hectic day into a concise To Do list. The problem is, I'm generally not inclined to do any of those things.

This becomes a problem when I write. You see, I'm a firm believer in "going with the flow." I like to take an idea and run with it. And for the most part, that's not a problem. I've written entire novels based on nothing more than a general idea of what my main character will look like. But I am also fondly known as the Queen of Twists. And when those twists twist themselves into additional story lines that inspire one or more sequels, my lack of planning comes back to haunt me.

Luckily, I have discovered a happy medium. I embrace my desire to "wing it" for the first few chapters (more if I'm working on a sequel and I need to reintroduce characters and address how much time has passed between novels and where everyone is right now) before I sit down and outline, first, what happened in those chapters, and second, the rest of the book. I've even gotten as far as twenty chapters into a novel (I write short chapters) before I had to stop and ask myself what the hell I was thinking. I find this impressive, because in that same novel, I had upward of a dozen different story lines going, though I did realize what a nightmare it was to tie them all together in the end (which, consequently, was accomplished because I stopped to map it out somewhere along the line).

So, though I was never a big fan of outlining while writing, I do find it useful the more complex a story becomes. I would recommend this process to any writers with an innate desire to fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants who don't wish to later rewrite half of a story because it doesn't all fit together.

All that being said, I don't think I'll ever find it in me to outline BEFORE I start a novel, but I guess I'm at least pointed in the right direction.

- Liz

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Movie Magic

I had a thought in the shower (where thoughts seem to flow like water), about writing. More specifically, about my characters.

There's something my characters and I have in common: we're not perfect. While this might seem obvious (I mean, no one's perfect, right?) I'm constantly surprised by the number of authors who write books and screenplays about people who never seem to have a bad hair day. I see this more often in movies, but since a decent number of movies are based on books, I can't excuse my fellow authors from this generalization.

No one is perfect. It's a largely accepted fact. And yet, I've read entire stories and watched whole movies where the hero or heroine goes to hell and back on some mission or other, and never sees more than a couple of ruined outfits and six or seven stitches. Though, I will excuse most action films because they're pretty much all about someone getting the sh*t beat out of them (hats off to the Die Hard movies here... poor Bruce Willis).

I'm an Evil Author. I take great pleasure in making my characters suffer. But no matter how unrealistic my character's punishment is, I want a reader to connect with them. If I'm sending a group of people on a long trek through the desert, they're going to be sweaty. They're going to be caked with dirt. And they aren't going to smell like a bushel of roses. If a person is throwing energy balls, there is a possibility that someone is going to get burned (if not burst into flames).  Outfits will be singed; furniture will be destroyed. And if they just got out of a fistfight, those bruises aren't going to be gone the next day.

I believe in character flaws. I believe in making the most beloved character do something that you really don't like them for. I believe, in short, in making them human.

Crazy, eh?


Thursday, April 7, 2011

I win!

Take that, writer's block! I am the victor! I went, I conquered, I rule! I am triumphant! So, neener neener to you!

As you might have guessed, I have conquered my writer's block. This is a cause for celebration. I've been suffering from varying degrees of this nasty affliction for several months. The final stage was particularly gruesome, because its affects would wax and wane. I would be fine to write a whimsical short story, but useless when working on a novel. Or even worse, fine for a few paragraphs and then unable to grasp fundamental rules of grammar. This last one is a personal hell for me, because I obsess about having very clean work. And once the keyboard is spotless, I start in on the adverbs.

This horrible affliction caused me to hate what started as a wonderful new novel that I was certain would lead to my first publication. This was my unfinished 2010 NaNoWriMo project that stalled after a few hundred pages. And that was in November, so you can see how long this has been a problem.

I haven't exactly welcomed this project back with open arms, but what I have done is revise a couple of evil chapters in my novel, Chosen, which is the first book in a series of four (though the fourth hasn't been started yet) and my 2009 NaNo project. It isn't the first time I've revised (after all, I AM the editing queen), but it put a kink in what had otherwise been a very successful revision, one I was using as the solution to my previously stated writing problems.

So, you can guess how excited I am.

*throws confetti*

- Liz

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Down the Rabbit Hole

I've never considered myself to be a big fan of blogging, which is funny because I spent a great deal of my adolescence posting things on Myspace and Facebook. I even went as far as to set up a DeviantArt account to post the hundreds of poems collecting virtual dust on my hard drive. These were often accompanied by updates on what was going on in my life, or the equivalent of an online journal. When that wasn't enough, I joined Critique Circle to feed my already insatiable desire to talk about nothing in particular, and while I made great improvements on my writing style and technique, I ran rampant on the forums.

If I had taken any amount of time to consider the number of words I shared with my "friends" on a regular basis, I might have realized that I was already accomplishing what many people hope for when they begin a blog: to share their thoughts, stories, and ideas to people all over the world. Once I realized this was the case, I warmed up to the idea of starting a blog, decided it was an excellent idea, and promptly forgot about it.

Several months and a bought of writer's block later, here I am, doing what I've done every other time I couldn't stand to look at the world of fiction I've created: rambling. There will be a lot of rambling. Whether or not it helps me in the end, or entertains anyone in the least, I couldn't say, but it's worth a try.

I hope you don't mind coming along for the ride.

- Liz