Dealing with novel challenges is nothing new for A Drift of Quills. I know, you read the fabulous stories, and they’re just so darned good that you can’t put them down until you reach those last two words: “The End.”
Easy for you to say, Oh Gentle Reader! Behind the scenes though, you are quite likely to find an author contemplating murder, natural catastrophe, or even a lightning bolt from the heavens (is that natural?) to strike down a difficult plot problem. And those suckers pop up when you least expect them, whether you plot carefully or write with wild and careless abandon.
So here’s the question of the day: What has been the biggest writing challenge with our current novel?
Novel Challenges? Do Your Worst!
My experiences in the novel-writing game are relatively few, but so far, every novel has posed at least one challenge. I’m not talking about the Usual Life Challenge that pops up every time you choose a cool project and Things Happen. Like the furnace goes out, or you get the flu, or you remember at the last minute that a Quills Post is due tomorrow… No, I’m talking about novel-specific snags and pitfalls. Like the Beisyth Web in As the Crow Flies, or the (top secret now) timeline issues in Flesh and Bone.
Flesh and Bone, the second book of The Mage’s Gift, is currently in the hands of my trusty beta readers.
It’s about time, right? mumblesickmumbleALSmumblewritersblockmumbleotherexcusesupthewahzoo…
Picking up right where Blood and Shadow left off, my awesome critique partner says “SWEET ending. Love this. Well done. Really, really awesome.” Would she lie???
Fortunately, my husband had this cover nearly done before ALS swooped in and robbed him of the ability to do any more work in Photoshop. Friends and fellerboobles, I give you the luscious cover for Flesh and Bone, coming September 4th.
Last thing to do is give you a teeny, tiny teaser about the book:
When magically Gifted Sherakai dan Tameko is remade and trained to become Bairith Mindar’s personal weapon, even he cannot control the creature he becomes. Now, with his volatile skills painting a bloody path across the country, he must outwit the man who enslaved him and destroyed his life.
I’d love to hear what you think about the cover. Comment below!
(Be sure to sign up for my newsletter so you don’t miss the release!)
Once in a while, the writers that make up A Drift of Quills actually take a break from writing. No, really! Maybe you want to know what do we do when we’re away from the writing desk. Is it gardening or improvement projects? Baking or bull riding? How about dragon-taming? Do these extracurricular activities inspire new stories or scenes? Help us focus? Read on to find out what we do with all of our copious spare time…
Let’s Take a Break from Writing…
My writing desk follows me everywhere. Virtually, anyway. Overheard conversations make good fodder for dialogue. A turn of phrase from a television show or movie often suggests an entire scene or plot point. I realized during a discussion about some people in my life that one of them in particular would make a fantastic model for a character. (No, I will not say whether protagonist or antagonist!)
I try to jot these ideas down on my phone, but sometimes I really have to tell my desk to go to its room and let me take a break from writing. Have you ever noticed that not thinking about a thing is like a magic solution for finding an answer to it?
“Whim” has often been the instigator in my break-time activities. When I’m stuck and getting nowhere with my writing, chores are my go-to writer’s block breaker. Weird, right? There’s nothing like the soothing scrub-scrub-scrub of a brush on the shower floor, or the noisy hum of the vacuum cleaner to get the ol’ brain cells dancing.
Filling the Creativity Bucket
Okay, but seriously, though, my creativity bucket needs refreshing now and then. Quite often, I do that by finding another, different creative outlet. I love fooling around in Photoshop, doing digital matte painting and maps. I’ve done some digital scrapbooking as well.
But, Robin! Can you tear yourself away from the computer at all?
Why, yes, I think I can! Sometimes I putter around in the garden. Our newly installed back yard is deliberately low-maintenance. I love looking at it, but I don’t want to have to work all the time to make it pretty. Hubby and I often sit in our (still new) swing and admire last year’s labor. It’s lovely how much the maple tree has grown in just a year, and how well it shades the swing now.
I also like to do—in fits and spurts—family history, baking, quilting, reading, crafts of various and unpredictable sorts, and decorative painting on walls. Much of that has slowed down or stopped this year. I’m spending more of my days with my writer’s hat on and evenings are for Hubby. Usually, he wants to watch television or a movie, but sometimes he feels well enough to take the Jazzy Chair we were loaned out for a spin around the neighborhood. I walk. I hear exercise is supposed to be good for me…
I used to be quite a gardener. I had a huge plot. I can’t even estimate its size. I grew berries, beans, corn, squash, melons, peas, and on and on. Admittedly, even at the best of times, I tended to lose a fair amount of my crop because I couldn’t eat it in time and wasn’t big on storing methods (although drying herbs or beans was always a hit with me). (That said, I usually had an abundance. Don’t believe me? Check the pic here of just one wheelbarrow full of tomatoes from one year.) Also, in truth, I lost some crop to overzealous weeds that would come along about the same time that I was no longer having fun.
Author of The Unseen Chronicles Parker’s website
I don’t often get the question, “What keeps you busy?” That’s usually because I have three little boys running around and through my legs. I also work as a full time real estate agent, running my own business and managing property for myself and others. I have a master’s degree in film, but I’ve taken a step back from film production and editing to give more time to my love of writing.
And while I enjoy real estate and homes and remodeling and flipping, that isn’t necessarily where I get inspiration or rest. I don’t garden – the wonderful wood nymph I married is in charge of that department. Likewise, film and film editing is work – enjoyable work, but work nonetheless.
There are a couple of things I do that fill me up, that aren’t work, and sometimes even provide inspiration and encouragement… (Read more!)
Are you ready for Fiction Shots #2? Giddyup! A Drift of Quills are writing again—It’s a flash of fiction! Three different stories inspired by one picture.
The catalyst for these stories comes from the whimsical “Non Lo So,” by Zhiyong Li on Artstation. It tickled our fancies, for sure!
Pour yourselves a nice cool glass of lemonade (or a delightfully warm cup of hot cocoa, depending on the hemisphere), and see where our imaginations have travelled…
Fiction Shots #2
Flash #1: Opposite Tricks
By Robin Lythgoe
When Toady says they’re to paint the Widow Grayling’s house, Akasha stares along with everyone else.
“Orange.” Uneven teeth make his smile particularly fiendish. The gang erupts into hoots and shouts of laughter at that. The widow’s a quiet woman of modest means. Her house used to be brown, but most of the color’s chipped off now. It would no more willingly wear orange than would the widow.
“She needs some brightening.” Zekan always backs up Toady. If their illustrious leader decided they should all become acolytes at the local temple, Zekan would hand out the cassocks and thump anyone who questioned the choice. Same if Toady resolved to filch grub down in the Bellows—Royal Ghost territory, where Toady’s Azure Fang Gang would swiftly find their end. Hopefully not a permanent one… Did the Ghosts kill children? Continue reading A Drift of Quills: Fiction Shots #2 (Little Girl, Big City)→
Terrible Books—Love ‘Em or Leave ‘Em? A Drift of Quills reads a lot of books. It’s our job. (Stinks, right?) We are bound to come across lemons now and then—and this time we’re talking about what we do with them. Do we keep reading? Throw fits? Recycle them and hurry to the next? Read on to discover our take on Books We Hate…
We’ve all come across them—those books that are so badly written you wonder if the author was even an earthling. Or, assuming that they weren’t hatched on another planet, if they bothered to attend grade school. Or if they live in a sensory deprivation chamber and have no freaking idea what the real world is like. The first pages of such a book are usually painful. Do you risk the agony of finishing the entire book? You want to know my philosophy?
Life is short.
I have been known to read books I don’t like, but there has to be a good reason. Like loads of wildly good reviews. Lots of awards. Inclusion on allegedly important lists. And even then I don’t always finish. Why should I? Life is short. And there are so many other, better books to read!
I used to wonder if I might not learn something from these “good” books.
I did! There’s no accounting for some people’s taste. This world would be a really boring place if we all liked the same things, did the same things, thought the same things. Thank goodness we don’t! And thank goodness there are a meeeellion more books to choose from when I come across drivel labeled as “an enthralling adventure bound to captivate,” “a book that touched me in profound ways,” “heartfelt,” or “unputdownable.”
I can put it down.
I can list it on my Did Not Finish list and withhold any and all fancy-schmancy stars on any review sites.
And sometimes (if the writing really makes my blood boil) I write a passionate review with lots of bolded sectionsand underlined phrases. Vehement outrage. And flames. I shake my fist, too, but that doesn’t translate well to paper. But I never post it. I tuck it away in a folder, and go find another book to read.
Let me point you to a few good ones right here, just in case you need some salve after writing your own fiery non-review: Flinch-Free Fantasy.
What to do with a book you hate? Or, even worse, a book that was just, ‘meh.’ It doesn’t even warrant the energy of hurling it against the opposite wall. It barely deserves a sigh and a shrug, and certainly won’t get a review on Amazon or Goodreads. Too much effort for a story that simply didn’t captivate. So what do you do with that story? Are you a finisher? A staller? Or a tosser?
Do I finish books that I start, but hate? I can answer this question with a single title: Moby Dick, by Herman Melville. I found Moby Dick to be utterly, incomprehensibly, annoyingly, mind-bogglingly boring—and odd—and downright awful. I hated it. Hated it! Nothing, nothing anyone could say about a color, or its significance, or what Melville may have mean to symbolize through the use of a color, could ever possibly resurrect this title for me. I found a solid 70% of the work to be complete nonsense—a waste of ink and a waste of paper. Lest I be mistaken, let me put it simply: I truly and completely abhor this work. Perhaps more than any other I’ve ever read. So… (Read on. You know you want to!)
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
What do you do with the books you hate? We want to know! Tell us in the comments below!
Here’s how it is: When I think about this blog endeavor, I think about posting something new and awesome—or at least entertaining—for you to read every Friday. Most of the time, I do that. So yay!
Okay *I* think it’s awesome. Your mileage may vary.
I want to keep posting every Friday, but this particular bit of writing has slipped down my list of priorities.
Since December of last year my family has been going through a really difficult challenge, and I’ll be blunt about it, then toddle along. My husband was diagnosed with ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. There’s no cure. Average life expectancy is 2–4 years, but he appears to be have drawn the short straw, and things are moving along pretty quickly.
He’s always been an avid and active outdoorsman. This thing is tough on him. Still, he maintains a pretty positive outlook, and he’s managed to keep his awesome sense of humor.
My kids made it possible for us to take a vacation in Florida with them at the beginning of this month. They are amazing. Don’t let them tell you otherwise. They helped at the airport, on the plane, with transportation, food, and paying for stuff. They treated us like royalty. I get sniffly thinking about it.
It was over too soon, and back to the fun-and-games of collecting (more) proper paperwork, combat with internet demons, dealing with insurance, disability, the trick questions served up by myssa-dot-gov. Because this situation isn’t hard enough, right?
After a day in which all e-mail except e-mail from my husband’s employer and the neurological clinic landed in my box with gleeful abandon, I think (tentatively) that things might be progressing. Hopefully. I’m not holding my breath.
So expect random updates here on my blog. I have a book I’m (trying to be) editing, and I’d much rather do that! And there’s a new Crow plot just begging for my attenton. Lemme at it! In the meantime, I absolutely love hearing from you. Shoot me an email, track me down on Facebook, or join my extremely rare newsletter. I read—and answer—all my emails!
Conlang—constructed language—is today’s topic for A Drift of Quills. Do we make up our own languages for our books? How? If not, why not?
Pull up a chair, grab yourself a cookie or twenty, and read on to find out how the gang feels about fictional languages!
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
I have a kind of lazy love for language. My copy of the 17th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style makes me crazy, but… I’m one of those readers that will highlight passages in novels that sing to me. Sometimes I copy them into a file to come back to later so I can oo and ah over them. And I did take the equivalent of seven years of foreign language in high school. (I think I learned more about English there than I did in English classes!) Then there was Tolkien. Was my experience a recipe for conlang or what? Continue reading A Drift of Quills: Conlang (What’s That You Say?)→
At a recent family gathering the conversation degenerated into a listing of all the Horrible Things going on in the world—especially in our own area. Shootings, robberies, neglect, abuse. All the typical frightening events of our dystopian society.
“What about some good stories?” I asked, but the discussion was stuck on the general doomsday scenario.
“I read that a cow was rescued from a ditch in our city,” I provided. Happy news, right? No one died, was broken, destroyed, or otherwise doomed. I’ll bet the cow was relieved. The topic got some laughs, but I was left wondering (not for the first time) why people are so determined to dwell on the negative aspects of life.
Terrible, trying things happen, sure. My family is currently facing its toughest trial ever. It’s taking a lot out of me, and it’s going to change my life drastically. But among all the tears and terror, there are beautiful things happening:
• A son-in-law finishing a yard project we had to abandon
• The awesome people at my husband’s company sponsoring two fund-raising events
• Friends and neighbors fixing our broken appliances (Doesn’t it figure they’d go out in the middle of disaster?) and ailing garage door, bringing treats, mowing the lawn, volunteering rides, offering relief
• Our amazing son and daughters mending, researching, fetching, cooking, organizing, supporting, and generally being… well, amazing
And you know what? There are lots of amazing people in the world doing amazing things. I’ve rounded up Five Good Things for you (Don’t worry, no cows in ditches…!)
Exploring the Brothers Grimm Museum “The parts about the fairy tales and the lives of the Grimms were fascinating, but I think the best thing about the museum, for me, was its celebration of language.” ~Nicola Alter
City of Yphyrion
Since I previously featured a map by Maxime Plasse, I meant to choose another artist. But… well… I really like this one! “This map was intended to show some late 19th century city cartography style, with a fictionnal city.” I don’t know about “late 19th century,” but it’s sure got my wheels turning for doing some city mapping!
So Hubby and I binge-watched the first two seasons of The Frankenstein Chronicles. A horror, mystery, sci-fi series from Rainmark Films in the UK, the show follows the crime-solving John Marlott as he tries to discover whodunnit. While Mary Shelley’s book does indeed figure—and Shelley even appears as one of the cast members—this is certainly not just another interpretation of the original novel.
It’s time for some Fiction Shots — flash fiction, that is! A Drift of Quills are at it again: one picture, three authors, little bitty writing space. The inspiration for our tiny tales comes from an untitled piece by the artist JuYoung Ha on ArtStation. Gorgeous, isn’t it?
It’s always fun for me to see how other authors interpret a picture or invent a story from it. Isn’t it delightful how wonderfully, crazily different we all are? Let’s see how these fiction shots play out…