Category Archives: writing

Short Story: Deliver Me

Deliver Me: A Short Story

Want to read a short story?

Just the other day I wrote here on the blog about writer’s block, and it just so happens that I penned a short tale about that very subject a few years ago. I was poking through my files today when I ran across it and I thought, “Aha! Serendipity!”

I hope you enjoy! If you like it, I would love to hear your feedback. Just leave a comment below, email me, or comment via Twitter or Facebook.


DELIVER ME

BY ROBIN LYTHGOE

“Deliver me…”

Such a small whisper couldn’t even begin to penetrate the weighted air holding the room in thrall. Dust motes made timid forays into the single, narrow beam of light sidling in through a clerestory window. Books—beautiful, enchanting, influential, fabulous books—crammed the shelves from floor to ceiling. They teetered in stacks on chairs and on the floor. They balanced along the window ledge. Every one of them had assumed the tight-lipped silence of a group of curmudgeons. Traitors they, refusing to offer even the slightest, most fragile means of escape. Even the glorious maps of places far and near, real and imagined, curled away from their duties. Mute. Contrary. Continue reading Deliver Me: A Short Story

Writer's Block

Writer’s Block: Zap It!


Writer’s block…
 Cue the soundtrack for ruination and doom! The very phrase conjures dread, and it’s the rare writer who hasn’t experienced it. Days, weeks, months—even years of being unable to think of something to write or being unable to finish a work already in progress.

I can’t say I’ve never struggled to write, but rather than thinking of it as a disease I’ve been struck with or the desertion of my muse, I’ve come to the conclusion that “writer’s block” is all in my head.

Writer’s Block: It’s Attitude

I still laugh at the source of the revelation: Richard Castle. (You know, the guy from the television show “Castle”! Nathan Fillion, anyone?) It’s become my number one way to deal with uncooperative words:

I don’t believe in writer’s block. I believe in writer’s embarrassment. That’s when you’re so embarrassed by the horrendous drivel you’re writing that you can’t bear to see it on the page. After all, you can always write something. I’ve discovered that giving yourself permission to write poorly is the gateway to writing well. It may not be good, it may not make sense, but that’s okay. After enough pages of meaningless drivel, your brain will uncover something interesting, and before you know it, you’re off and writing again.

I’ve also discovered that writing about why you can’t write allows you to discover what’s holding you back. Once you know what’s holding you back, you can face the problem and solve it.

~ http://www.richardcastle.net/questions-and-answers

So if I’m struggling with What Comes Next in whatever I’m working on, I just write STUFF. I write about feeling uninspired, uncreative, and un-secure (yes, it’s supposed to be “insecure,” but that doesn’t match the other UNs). And after I have myself a little rant, I branch off into writing about the story situation. What’s the main character doing? What’s he supposed to be doing? How is he stuck and what are some ways he could get un-stuck? How’s the antagonist viewing the circumstances? What does he want at the moment, and why?Writer's Block: Split Open

That’s usually enough to get my brain in gear again, but sometimes my creativity needs to be rejuvenated rather than given a jump start.

You know how the ubiquitous “they” say that variety is the spice of life? It’s true.

Sure, I can scribble some drivel, then dive into the real work of writing, but I’ve discovered that I write better—more words, stronger images, finer sentences—if I exercise my creativity in another direction.

Just like physical exercise, you can’t just constantly focus on one part of the body without wearing it out, making it tired, or otherwise giving it stress.

Zap It!

So what do I do?

  • I read (Four or five books, at least!)
  • I create images in Photoshop (Let’s call that “doing artwork”)
  • I clean things

I went on vacation once, but then I had to recover… Heh. I like vacations, but they tend to derail my writing rather than infusing it with interesting stuff. Weird, I know…

My go-to de-stressers are easily available. They engage my brain in different ways. Or, in the case of cleaning, they leave me free to let my imagination wander. Whichever one I pick, I stick with it until I’m bored or until that magical moment when I have to get back to my story.

Then I put everything else away and write like a crazy woman!

The key for me is to keep it simple.

Don’t stress about not doing any actual word-count collecting writing. Stressing makes it worse.

Enjoy the side view. A writer is always writing, even when she’s not sitting in front of the computer typing.

“A writer is always writing, seeing everything through a thin mist of words..always noticing.” ~Shirley Jackson

Your characters are always there in the back of your mind. You’re always listening to conversations or watching reactions. You’re always looking at things—perfectly normal things!—and sliding them into your story. The news, gossip, or a line from a show can become the perfect solution (or obstacle) for a scene.

Isn’t it so beautifully awesome that we are surrounded by inspiration?

It’s okay to leave the story for a minute or an hour—or however long it takes to slough off the blahs. Caveat: Plan to come back to the story. Don’t let your road trip move you into a completely new state.

Experiment. Find what works for you, and love it.

image credit: SPLIT OPEN via photopin (license)

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Do you get bogged down by writer’s block?
How do you get through it?
What’s the funniest “cure” you’ve ever tried?

5 Quotes for the Writer’s Horizon

Writing is simple—but it’s not always easy. There are some days when the sheer number of details crash over me like an ocean wave and take me down. Those are the days when I need the advice of authors who’ve been on this journey themselves; when I need to remember the horizon and not just the minutiae of dealing with adverbs, word counts, voice, grammar and punctuation, filter words, and seemingly endless literary jellyfish.

On the wall right across from my desk I have two tall shelves stuffed with books. I like books, so it pleases me just to see them sitting there, old friends and new. But on those days those books stand as a testimony. Somebody wrote these. I can write, too…

Quotes: BadWriting_JanetHulstrand

Quotes: CarefulOfBooks_TessaGray

Quotes: ImpressOthers_GuyKawasaki

Quotes: SheWritesAnyway_BryanHutchinson

Quotes: WriterDelusions_ScottLynch

I have even more great quotes for writers and readers here on my Pinterest board!
 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
What’s your favorite quote for when the going gets rough?
…or when you need a little pick-me-up?
Share below!
Guest author H.M. Clarke joins A Drift of Quills as we talk about what makes us write.

QUILLS: What Makes Us Write?

Welcome! It’s the first-Friday-of-the-month again! A Drift of Quills is talking about what makes us write — and we’ve got a guest today. We are so pleased to welcome H.M. Clarke, author of a variety of books ranging from fantasy (yay!) to sci-fi, to paranormal. She writes a lot, and now we’re going to find out why!

A Drift of Quills: Writerly thoughts by writerly folks

HMClarke_230x230H.M. Clarke
Author of The Way to Freedom series, The Kalarthri, and Winter’s Magic
Haley’s website

What makes me write?

Oh, that’s easy. The little blue imp with the electric cattle prod makes me.

Well, not really, but that is what it feels like sometimes. Especially when you are not in the mood to put pen to paper, but then your conscience digs at you to move your butt and get writing or else.

Guest author H.M. Clarke joins A Drift of Quills as we talk about what makes us write.But seriously, I would dearly like to give a flowery response that will be made into a Twitter/Facebook graphic and get posted everywhere for the next twenty years… But I can’t. What I have to say is not really inspirational or mind-blowingly philosophical. It is in fact quite the opposite.

What makes me write is determination, lots of hard work and the bull-headedness to think – ‘There, I’m doing it and I don’t care what people think about it.’ (Well, actually that’s not true. I’m a writer after all, with a writer’s ego. Please tell me you like my work…)

What makes me, and many other writers write, is the need to get stories that I actually want to read and get involved with down on paper. That is really the crux of it. What keeps me writing is the determination and hard work that I mentioned before. Determination and will power is what drags writers out from the immense pool of wannabe authors and makes then actually dry off and finish something.

Writers write; the rest talk about it.

~   ~   ~   ~   ~

Robin_0123_pp_300My Two Cents

What makes me write? There should be an easy answer for that question. Something uncomplicated. “Because I must” is woefully inadequate. It only prompts more questions. I write because… I grew up surrounded by stories, immersed in stories. I dreamed them by night and played them out by day. They penetrated my blood. WhyIWrite_reason-85And I embraced them. I cannot even begin to imagine my life without writing. I am head-over-heels, passionately in love with writing. With the symphony of words, the tangle of emotions, the twist of action and reaction, the incredible possibilities of creation.

But, like any other occupation/obsession, it is not always easy.

Some days I am grateful to manage a word count of a couple hundred. On others, I fly on the wings of thousands. Some days I search my mind, heart and soul for the right words, the ones that mean something; because they are not merely words, they are articulations of hope, fear, excitement, pain, despair, love… It is exulting. It is exhausting. There is, for me, no middle ground. It would be boring if there were.

Like anything worth doing, it takes (as Hayley pointed out) dedication and will-power to make writing work. To get all the way to the end of a book — and keep going. This is not an easy path to take, but oh, how rewarding it can be…

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TrishReding2PATRICIA REDING

Author of Oathtaker and the soon-to-be-released Select
Patricia’s website

My reason for writing today differs from what it was when I set out to write my first book, Oathtaker. Although I’d done a fair amount of creative writing back in the day, it had been some time since I’d taken pen to hand (or fingers to keyboard, as the case may be), to tell a tale. My “day job” requires that I write on a constant basis, and I’ve been at that for . . . quite some while. But legal writing is altogether different from creative writing. So, what was the impetus at the outset of my journey? Quite simply, I had to see if I could do it.

… (Read more!)

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Do you write? Why?
What other topics would you like to see us write about here on A Drift of Quills?

Rockin’ Robin

This is Rockin’ Robin, coming at you live from — um — Well, I’ve been happily busy in the land of Tairenth, writing my fingers to the nubs. So … I’m late getting this post written because I completely forgot about it!

I have a pretty good excuse. Really! In fact, I have a few of them:

  1. I’ve been hard at work revising The Sharpness of the Knife, Book One of Journeys of the Sira Na. I am making steady progress, but it feels slow. I want to say it’ll be out before Christmas, but I wouldn’t advise any breath-holding. Feel free, though, to do some cheering, sending of good vibes, or whatever other practices you believe might speed things along. Chocolate in my mailbox is also quite acceptable.
  2. The revising job doesn’t produce words in bulk. I am in two group challenges that require (you guessed it) a certain word count. The Fantasy Sci-Fi Network only requires 100 words a day, and I can usually manage that while editing in spite of all the subtraction I’m doing at the same time. My 500 Words is obviously a little more demanding. So when my numbers are looking particularly dim, I hop over to Book Two of the Journeys and whip out a few paragraphs for The Mage’s Blade. Woohoo! More progress!
  3. I’m also working on polishing up and preparing a new FREE short story for my fabulous fans. It should be available within the next week. Stay tuned!
  4. I’m tidying up my website. Shortly after I returned from Hawaii I managed to completely break the WordPress side of things. My back-up plug-in didn’t back anything useful up. The folder I exported was empty. That was fun. (Not!) Older posts are still looking a little ragged, but I’m still plugging away at the task. I would much rather work on my book, so the website tidying happens when I feel like it (which is irregular at best)!

And that’s enough about me.

For you writers out there (or for you readers that like to see what your favorite authors are doing and how looooong until they’re done with their next book), there is a great little WordPress plugin campaign bumping around over at Kickstarter. It’s called “MyBookProgress,” by Author Media, and it — Well, go take a look at it. It’s fantastic. I’ll wait.

MyBookProgress

Are you back now? Great!

Isn’t it cool? There’s only one week left to fund it. I hope you’ll think about chipping in or passing the information on to the authors you stalk follow. Tweet it, FaceBook it, Reddit it, Instagram it, Google+ it — you get the idea.

Thanks!

Image: “Robin” by NeoQlassical is licensed under CC0 1.0

Just Goin’ With the Flow…

So there I was, innocently typing along — and monkey wrenches started flying!

I grumbled when I put up my dukes, but I didn’t flinch. No, sirree, Bob! STUFF happens, and sometimes a body just needs to knuckle down and buckle down and do it.

wrench photoThen one of the wrenches hit me in the head. Ouch!

Let’s back up a little bit. Before I went to Hawaii (I won’t say how long, but it was a while…), WordPress decided it would only publish some of the new pages I wanted to add and it would look the other way for the others. There they were, sitting in my list as pretty as you please, but every time I tried to actually go to it, the site would wave an error page in my face and giggle like mad. All the Googling in the world didn’t turn up a solution that would work, and I tried all but one. Well, two, but who’s counting?

After the vacation, I buckled up and prepared to get down to business. I tried The One.

It broke my website.

But only the WordPress part, so that was something positive. I’d installed a backup plugin, so everything would be shiny in a minute. I even used the plugin to back up my posts. Yay!

Only … the folders with my posts in them were all empty as could be. Ranting and raving didn’t fix a thing, but scrapping WP entirely and re-uploading it did. (That was solution #2.) And hey! WP and my preferred (default) theme were upgraded to boot! Woohoo!

No, it was boohoo. I still had the same problem with adding new pages. So I paid a visit to the WP help department at my website host. The tech couldn’t fix it. Neither could the next tech up the chain. So they created a ticket so they could work on it without me watching over their virtual shoulders and promised to email me when they’d worked the problem out.

That was on Tuesday. I visit the site now and then and see it in various stages of Crazy Sauce. I apologize for that, but STUFF HAPPENS! Funny thing — I chose one of the default themes because I imagined (silly me) that I’d have less trouble with it in the long run. One can dream, right?

In the meantime, I’m letting the good folks at GoDaddy take the ulcer medicine. And me?

I’m goin’ with the flow, man. I’m not fiddling, fixing, improving, plugging things in, taking things out, or any other much-needed site maintenance. In fact, I’m hopping back and forth between editing Sharpness and writing book two. So fun!

Naming Names

Good news! The first draft of the first book of my new fantasy series is done! I finished a few days ago; you may have heard me whooping with glee. Nicholas Sparks says that “Writing the last page of the first draft is the most enjoyable moment in writing.” It is pretty marvelous. But then we have Ernest Hemingway proclaiming, “The first draft of anything is $#@%,” and I have to laugh, because in this case that’s true, too. My manuscript is peppered with comments and notations I must edit. Some of them are easy fixes (NameThisGuy), and some of them are going to require research or brainstorming. Fun, right? My sister says, “To edit is to right.” Ha! Love the play on words!

Quote-Draft-JohnDufresneMore good news — I’ve started working on the second book in the series. Interestingly, doing that has exposed some things in Book #1 that need to be tweaked, but hey — it’s in the rewriting-slash-editing stage, so this is a good thing.

So does this series have a name? Why, yes it does! Journeys of the Sira Na.

Do the books have names? Amazingly, they do. The first is The Sharpness of the Knife and the second is The Mage’s Blade. Both of them star a fellow named Sherakai, who I’ve mentioned before. In the world of second-guessing myself, I spent five minutes (okay, maybe 30 altogether) deciding to trash Sharpness and skip Blade altogether in favor of starting the story later in Sherakai’s life. Then I pinched myself (Ow!) and got back to business.

I know I’ve said this (or similar) recently, but it’s good to be excited about writing again!

 

Challenges, Schedules, Accountability

I recently received a nice (as in beneficial) kick in the caboose.

Challenges, schedules, accountability — These are all good things for you. And really good for writers! I’ve got to confess that my time management skills are terrible. In spite of the glorious sense of intoxication that came with publishing As the Crow Flies, I immediately fell out of the habit of writing regularly. Again.

That’s not to say I haven’t been writing at all. You may remember that cleeeeaar back in February I noted that I was re-working the outline of my WiP (as opposed to the writing of bunches of other things that may or may not figure in the series). A new plot board got me excited again, but I was still dragging. Worse, I was spending a lot of time worrying about Not Writing, avoiding writing because it was stressful, procrastinating by fooling around online.

I have a love/hate relationship with social media. I love seeing what other writers are doing; I hate them for doing it while I’m lolly-gagging. I love learning new writing techniques; I hate discovering things I should have been doing all along. And so on.

However…

Last week I told you about The Fantasy Sci-Fi Network’s Keep on Writing Challenge. (Remember this? 100 words per day, 7 days per week, for one month.) My buddy Leeland Artra had decided that our writer’s group might be full of other people suffering as he was with slumps in writing. “I’ve found that Newton’s First Law applies pretty well to my writing habits. Meaning (that) if I’m writing, I tend to keep on writing. But if I stop, I tend to stay stopped (letting other things get in my way).”

“What? Who? Are you looking at me?”

FSFN_KWC2015_LongestChain

I felt like I should do that. I could  do that! I DID do that! Woohoo! It wasn’t easy. The first couple days gave me a headache from all the thinking and word-stringing. You’d think I didn’t actually do that on a daily basis. I do! Just not on that particular project. By the end of the month I was averaging 500 words per day. Better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, right?

About the same time, I was introduced to Chris Fox’s book, 5,000 Words Per Hour: Write Faster, Write Smarter.

Yeah, I’m not doing 5,000 words per hour. Yet. But I definitely learned a few things that have helped out. At three bucks, it was worth the investment to me.  It got me keeping track of my writing and being organized. Well, more organized, anyway!

As soon as the group’s spring challenge ended, on June 30th, a new one started. This one runs until the end of September. While I’ve had a couple of dismal days, my consistent average has jumped up to 1500 words per day. I even had a marathon day in which I churned out 5,005 words. (In a day, not an hour. Rats.) It wasn’t enough to win the coveted award for Most Words in One day, but it was a record for me. Accountability has been a huge thing. So has a little friendly competition. 😀

I still find myself procrastinating, and there have been a lot of late nights when I’m scurrying to get my writing in — I write better and faster at night, but oh, boy, is the next morning tough! And you know what? I’m now three scenes from the end of the First Draft, even with the entrance of an unexpected character that required a few more scenes than I’d originally stuck on my plot board. That’s Big-with-a-capital-B. Finishing has re-entered the realm of possibility and become assured. Go, me! And go, Leeland and the FSFNet crew!

So… I’m gonna take off now. Those last few scenes aren’t going to write themselves!

~~~~~

How do you stick to a schedule?
What kind of schedule works best for you?
What’s your favorite color of (fantasy) book cover? (Or just your favorite color.)

Pioneer Day and Finish Lines

In my neck of the woods, today is a Big Deal. Pioneer Day is an official holiday for the state of Utah, and some of the regions in surrounding states originally settled by Mormon pioneers have celebrations, too. The holiday commemorates the arrival of Brigham Young and the first Mormon pioneers into Utah’s Salt Lake Valley in 1847. Between Pioneer Day and Independence Day, we pretty much party all month. There are parades, concerts, barbecues, pancake breakfasts, reenactment treks, retail sales, and rodeos. And fireworks. Oooooh, yeah. Once upon a time folks would just set off their fireworks whenever they pleased  during the month. Local ordinances have changed. Now we are only jolted awake in the middle of the night for the three days before and after the holidays and 11 a.m. to midnight on the actual days. See? We get to sleep in so we’re well rested for the Event-with-a-capital-E.

The 4th of July is like a warm-up for the 24th. Yeehaa!

Naturally, this gives me more ideas for fictional holidays (they’ve appeared here and here before.) And that makes me want to take the rest of today to play in the world-building pool. But… as fun as that is, I really need to focus on my current Work In Progress. The Fantasy Sci-Fi Network group has been running a challenge for its authors. 100 words per day, 7 days per week. Easy peasy, right? It is! Better yet, it got me back into the habit of writing every single day. Soon my word count was at 500 per day. Now it’s closer to 2,000.

KaiBk1_Scriv_01

Woot! I like that! I’m in high gear, racing toward a finish line I can actually see in my handy-dandy Scrivener doc. It is the first draft, yes, and there’s still a lot of work to do after, but it’s a stage that is nearly finished. Another week or two (I’m feeling that optimistic), and then I am going to celebrate with something dangerous like Pomegranate Häagen-Dazs (Soooo yummeh…)

haagen-dazs-pomegranate

A Drift of Quills

Fictional Holiday Fun

Hello, and happy First Friday! Can you believe the year is already half over? If time flies when you’re having fun, then we must be having a blast! This time last year we chatted about what freedom means to us and how the topic figures (or not!) in our novels. Fun, right? This time A Drift of Quills is talking about fictional holidays and celebrations we use in our novels. It’s good to rule.

divider01_sm_rev

quill pen photo
Photo by DarrelBirkett

I love the depth of creation behind world-building: the nitty-gritty, the if-this-then-that, the marriage of reality to imagination, the glimpses into the author’s head. Adding holidays to a setting is a wonderful way to increase the dimension of our worlds, to help readers feel connected to the stories. Holidays (or days of observance) are uniquely human celebrations. In speculative fiction we have the freedom to broaden the baseline with other intelligent species. Elves don’t celebrate the same things humans do, ogres may not celebrate anything traditional at all, and fauns have another party book entirely. Still, the motivations for these observances are rooted in the same things:

  • Changes within the world (seasons and natural cycles)
  • Religious beliefs
  • Important people and events

They help us — and our fictional people — to remember. They give us things to look forward to that are outside of our everyday lives. They help us connect with friends and family and foster important social ties.

In Tales of Tairenth, in Sherakai’s homeland, there is the Festival of the Ancestors.

A six-day period with the summer solstice at its center. On this longest day of the year the wards between the spiritual and physical worlds are thinnest. At this time — usually at dawn or at twilight — one can communicate with the dead. During the days before the festival begins and continuing throughout, families and loved ones tend burial grounds, cleaning and straightening, painting and decorating. Ribbons colored saffron (the color of mourning) flutter from gate posts at the burial grounds as well as from the lintels of homes. Holes are often carved into the woodwork, or ornate hoops attached to hold the fabric. Garlands and bouquets of the gold and red Sunset Cup flower are frequently used in tandem with the ribbons. A tea made from the dried bulbs of the flower increases the ability see the spirits, and if the bulbs are burned the smoke may reveal them. Candles, the flames representative of the flower, are scented and burned during the entire festival.

The holiday is one of fasting or light meals meant only for sustaining the body. Priests and priestesses of Bahenn, the goddess of death, paint their faces gold bisected by black from forehead to chin. In exchange for small “gifts” they will speak to the dead for those unable or unwilling to do so themselves.

How does it affect Sherakai? It is during this time that his “teacher” presents a certain test. Will Sherakai pass or fail? Either way, what will the consequences be?

In the meantime, the story continues to grow and unfold. I am delighted to be taking part in a writing challenge that is helping me get a little speed on this epic tale. I am hoping to be finished with the first draft by the end of next month and pushing for a winter release. I’d keep my fingers crossed, but it makes typing difficult. Cross your fingers for me! Send out those good vibes and feed the muses!

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TrishReding2PATRICIA REDING
Author of Oathtaker
Patricia’s website

I so enjoy the use of holidays and celebrations in fantasy tales. The festive environment adds an interesting aspect to the world created. I’ve seen such events used as backdrops when close personal relationships are formed, or as a means for hiding the dastardly deeds in which some parties engage. Having said that, I’ve not used any holidays myself, though I did reference a “spring festival” in Oathtaker: Book One of The Oathtaker Series. To date, the closest I’ve come to a special event was “the feed” in Select: Book Two of The Oathtaker Series (coming soon!) . . . (Read more!)

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KristieKiesslingKRISTIE KIESSLING
Author of the short story, Sanguis Dei and a poetry collection, Light and Dark
Kristie’s blog

Kristie is on “Hawaii time” while she assembles a shiny new computer. (She’s really excited about that!). “In the islands that means we get to it when we get to it, bro.” She plans to join us again next month!

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Does your fantasy culture have any holidays or special celebrations?
Do you remember any holidays or festivals from books you’ve read?
Share below!