Wednesday, February 29, 2012

On the Origin of Stories

Happy Leap Day!

I didn't do a lot of writing this past week -- I've been alternating between busy and exhausted. I did, however, spend some time working on a background/history/origin story for my new D&D character.

"Mother?" The girl's voice rings out in the still silence of the hall, but the woman does not turn from the window, does not even move to indicate she has heard.

The woman's waist-length braid is as white as driven snow, her thin shoulders bowed with age and long years of being hunched over her books and experiments. Her hands are still as they rest on the windowsill, her eyes seeing something that cannot be there.

"Mother!" The girl stamps a foot, impatient with her mother's daydreaming.

Finally, the woman turns, and the grey eyes, so like the girl's, focus once more. "What is it?"

The girl holds out a book, accusation in her every movement. "What is this?"

The woman takes the book, pretending not to notice the girl's anger, and flips through a few pages. "It looks like one of your father's old journals." Involuntarily, her eyes seek the window again.

"It says." The girl pauses to take a deeper breath. "It says he was in Seng Wa, in Kara Tur, during the White Lotus slave rebellion."

"Ah." The woman knows, now, what the girl has come to say. To ask. "Yes. He was." She looks down at the journal so that she will not have to look at her daughter's face.

"That was in the spring. And I was born that winter."

"So you were."

"He's not my father." The girl's voice breaks.

"He loves you, very much."

"He's not my father!" the girl yells, angry that her mother has not denied the charge, explained away the inconsistency with some tweak of fate.


I think I've spent more energy on character origin stories than any other kind of writing. For that matter, all my very favorite pieces have been origin stories, or at least begun that way.

I've got reams of stories written in a fantasy world called Gaena, including a complete novel that I wrote with Lynn (that eventually should be split into two separate novels) and sketches for half a dozen more. All of them -- all of them -- had their genesis in origin stories for my MeadeHall characters Zoya and Kevil.

Safe Harbor began its long road as an origin story for my character, Dawn. (His ending in Safe Harbor is quite different from his ending in the game, though. Funny how little changes can make huge differences in a person's life.) For that matter, Safe Harbor is set in Gaena, but the original story wasn't.

One of my favorite things I've ever written was essentially an origin story for a character in a novel Lynn wrote. I've since altered it so it's not quite so derivative, in case she ever decides to publish her novel. I'm still trying to figure out how to get it published, though. I'm thinking I might have to commission some art and self-publish, unfortunately, because there aren't any fantasy e-book publishers out there taking novelette-length stories that I can find.

I love writing origin stories. I love that they end with a beginning. I love examining the twists and turns that lead someone down a particular path.

I've often wondered if I should advertise myself at cons to write origin stories on commission -- like artists do character sketches. I'm not sure how it would work, but it sure could be fun to try. What do you think? Would you pay for a short story telling the tale of how your favorite character got into the adventuring gig? If so, how much?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Snippet - 2/22/12

I decided to go with the change I was thinking about. It's a horrible habit of mine, changing direction midstream like this, but I really do believe it will make for a better story.

As is evidenced by the fact that despite waffling around for a good while before getting started, I managed to whip out a good 750 words (about a page and a half) in the hour I spent working.

Zahir sal-Maysa rose from his sleepless bed well before the dawn and dressed as warmly as he could against the pre-dawn chill. He belted on his sword and put his favorite hunting knife through its accustomed loop. A bit of leather tied back his long hair, and he stamped his feet into his best boots. He hoped they would hold up; he was not permitted to take a horse with him into his exile.

Zahir was Ven'hedi; he had learned to cling to a pony's mane before he'd learned how to walk. He had maintained his countenance of calm when the elders had announced their decision, as his honor demanded, but his private heart had wailed like a woman in mourning. Could they not have permitted him a clean death?

Alas, it does mean that I'm going to have to completely revamp the combat scene. Again. But I think once that's done, I can stop re-writing and just get on with it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wednesday Update

I've done some writing this week, yay! But naturally, in the shower last night, I started to consider a complete revamp of Character #2's background, largely because I'm currently aimed straight into a plot that I have no idea how to resolve, and the revamp shifts the story from probable action/intrigue with a romantic element to a straight-up romance. I'm still debating whether to actually do it or if I should just keep plugging away at the story as it is and hope a solution to the current plot tangle presents itself.

Though really, how likely is that? Plot has always been my hobgoblin. Maybe I should just stick to writing pre-planned pieces for submission calls...

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Snippet, 2/20/12

So the mad science story is resting, so that I can come back to it in a week or so relatively fresh and rip it all to shreds in the name of making it better.

Which means that last night, I went back to the Ven'hedi story. Which also remains untitled. This is becoming a theme for me, lately. I didn't get an awful lot done, because I had to re-read what I'd done already to catch back up after two weeks of not touching it, and naturally fidgeting and edited while I was at it. But I'm back to where I'm just moving forward, finally, so maybe I'll be more productive later this week.

So, the snippet:
The leader caught Johann's eyes again. "I'll have your oath here, with both my people and yours for witness."

Johann's stomach clenched in alarm. He ignored it. "I just said--"

"What you had to say. I know. Now I will have a proper oath from you, before gods and men. On your knees."

Swallow the humiliation, Johann told himself. It's the only way you get out of this alive. Slowly, deliberately, he knelt. He waited for the raider to prompt him, but those bright green eyes only watched, measuring. Johann licked his lips. "Let the gods witness," he said, watching those eyes warily. "In exchange for the lives and freedom of these my countrymen, I give my bond to this, to--"

"Zahir sal-Maysa," the raider supplied.

"To Zahir sal-Maysa," Johann repeated, stumbling over the alien syllables only slightly. "For so long as I remain on Ven'hedi lands, I will not defy him in word or deed, within the limits of my abilities." He paused to draw a shaking breath. The others were watching, wide-eyed and mute. "Under the eyes and hand of Cor Our Father, I do swear."

Oh, Johann, dearheart, you have no idea what you've done...

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Snippet, 2/15/12

I only wrote about 500 words last night, but I was pretty danged tired, so I'll take it. Besides, I may have actually finished the story. There's no sex scene, but I'm not sure it needs one. Much as I love a good steamy sex scene, there's nothing worse than a romance that shoehorns sex in where it isn't needed.

I'll give it a day or two to rest and then read through it and rewrite a good two-thirds of it and then see how I feel about it, though.

David was startled into a laugh. "That would be pretty damned pathetic," he admitted.

"Precisely. So stop it. But if you won't take the hint I gave you, I'll have to take the bull by the horns. Want to go get some dinner?"

Thump thump thump thump. "D-dinner?" David squeaked, barely audible over the pounding in his veins. "Like a, um. A date?"

I still don't have a title, though.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Hey there! I've posted a snippet or two, so you know I've been working. I really need a title for my "mad science" story, since it's nearly finished (pretty much just the sex scene left to go) and nothing has presented itself as the obvious title yet.

I have a love-hate relationship with titles. Sometimes a title will leap out of nowhere and demand a story to go with it. My entire One Mind series, for example -- Of One Mind and "Of Sound Mind" you know about, but there's also State of Mind that's on the back burner, and Mind Over Matter which doesn't even have a real plot attached to it yet, just a character.

Sometimes I have a title in mind while I'm writing a story, but by the time I'm done with the writing, the title no longer works for the story. Safe Harbor began its life as A Tangled Web.

And way too much of the time, I have no idea what would make a good title for a story. Like this one. Anyone have any suggestions? Come on; I've got a mad scientist who's obsessed with a TV actor who plays a mad scientist. That's got to spark some ideas, right?

I didn't write last night -- it was Valentine's Day and I wanted to spend it with my sweetie -- so I don't have a snippet for you today. But I'm hoping to write tonight, so keep your eyes open!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Snippet, 2/13/12

Well, I thought about just going to bed early again last night, but managed to poke out about 1100 words, so you get a slightly spicy little snippet for your Valentine's Day enjoyment!

"Carter, I, um." Damn it, there he went again. Carter's eyes were on his, electric blue and coming closer. "Did Joey need me for something?"

"No," Carter said. He came to a halt, already well within David's personal space. "I did."

"Oh, uh. Um. What can I do for you?" David tried to take a step back, but found himself blocked by the table.

Carter took a brief but deliberate breath. "You smell nice today," he said, those eyes still on David's. "New cologne?"

David swallowed hard. "No," he stammered. "I mean, it's not-- That is, I'm not wearing anything."

Carter's eyebrows rose, exactly like Doctor Tentacle delivering a particularly naughty line of double entendre, and David's heart thumped so hard he was sure Carter would be able to hear it. "I mean, I'm not wearing any cologne. Or any. Um. Scent."

Carter's smile was slow and satisfied and predatory, and David's dick twitched in his jeans. "Excellent," Carter purred.

I do believe this story is nearly done... ;-)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Snippet, 2/9/12

I wrote about 750 words last night. Not a blockbuster, but I was trying to forcibly steer things where I needed them to go, and that's never smooth sailing.

David's eyes were fastened on the cup of congealing ramen. "Is that-- I mean." He paused, drew a breath, and let it out in a huff. "If you don't mind, I'd like to go drown my humiliation in some tequila while I work on my resignation letter."

Carter barely stopped himself from snorting. Had he been this melodramatic when he was twenty-three? Probably even moreso, actually. "Why would you do that?"

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Missed One!

Whoops, I missed out a snippet for you, didn't I? I did write on Monday night -- quite a lot, actually, at least for me. And then I wrote yesterday during the day, and I'd fully intended to write some more last night, but I had some dental work in the afternoon and by evening my face was too swollen and achey for me to even think about writing. Which made me grateful I'd written during the day -- I didn't have to write the whole day off as a loss.

But since I didn't give you a snippet from Monday, then I guess today you get two snippets. Lucky you! What I've been working on for the last couple of days is an as-yet unnamed contemporary about television and mad scientists.

"This actually looks like real science."

David looked pleased. "Well, some of them are, sort of. Joey said I could design the lab sets for the second half of the season, since my undergrad degree is in chemistry. He thought it would be a fun thing for the fans in the know to scrap together trivia about what kinds of experiments are in process. Maybe even throw in a few clues about the plot or something."

Carter shot David a look, his eyebrows raising. "Joey thought that?"

David blushed again. "Um. Well, he agreed when I said it might be fun and said if I wanted to do all the work, he wasn't going to stop me."

And a second one...

David's eyes were locked on Carter's, wide with emotion. "Wow," he breathed. "You're... I mean. This doesn't come through in interviews and stuff. This... passion. You're really intense."

"Sorry," Carter said. He looked aside, setting down the half-eaten noodles and trying to slow his breathing. "Yes. I can get a little--"

"Don't be sorry," David said. He reached across the space between them and put his hand on Carter's. Carter nearly expected an electric jolt, but David's hand was merely warm. "I like it."

That one's about halfway done, so I'm hoping I might manage to finish it by the end of the month. It's not due for a couple of months, though, so I've got some wiggle room. Feel free to speak up and let me know what you think!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Snippet, 2/1/12

I wrote a solid 1100 words last night, and I'm feeling really good about this story right now. Here, have a sample!
Johann pressed his advantage relentlessly. From behind him came the sounds of fighting -- the ring of steel meeting steel, shouts of effort and triumph and pain, creak of leather, crunch of boots on the ground. The scent of oil and sweat and blood filled his nostrils, and he let it carry him into a simpler time, before he had been shamed, when he had lived for this deadly dance.
I hate writing fights, but I don't think I did too badly on this one...

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Getting Back On Track

I've been letting a lot of things slide. Diet, exercise, writing, the Day Job... Whatever I could sweep under the rug was swept; whatever could be stuffed into a dark corner was stuffed; whatever elephants were left in the room had blankets thrown over them.

I'm sure that's no surprise to you, because you've been watching me wobble over here since the holidays with nothing (or practically nothing) to report. I don't know if I was burned out by the holidays, or just overcome with a wave of the Lazies, but I'm thinking it's time to get back on track.

So last night I sat down and wrote. Not a lot -- it's hard to get back into the flow -- but a good 600 words or so, a new opening for one of the stories on my WIP list. I realized about a week ago that the opening I had in place implied that we were going to come back to some of the problems presented there, and... it's not in the charts. Dude is going away and not going back, so we either need less of his Befores, or else we need a more final situation. So I'm re-writing it. Which is slightly frustrating, because it delays the part of the story I actually want to write, but also makes the plot of it easier, so it's one of those delayed gratification moments. I think. I hope.

The plan is to try to write at least three or four nights a week. That's about as much as I can plan for, because we're usually not even home on Friday and Saturday, and then I'm reserving Thursday for watching my TV shows. (The Hubs very generously agreed to save our jointly-watched shows so we can watch them all at once.) So Sunday through Wednesday? Writing. Or the editing/proofing gig, if I have a deadline looming. But mostly, hopefully, writing.

I think (and experience will back me up) that if I can stick to it, those nights will become more productive. I'll work my way back up over 1000 words a night. I'll stop stuttering over minor issues. I'll remember how to just tag research questions for future clarification instead of losing half an hour to looking stuff up. And maybe -- just maybe -- I'll actually finish some projects.

My intention, with this resolution, is to start posting little snippets here each morning after I've written. We'll see how well I can keep that up, but if nothing else, consider it a thanks and a return for your patience with my burnout these last couple of months.

So here you go, a little bit from last night's efforts:
Even when he'd had his secret unmasked, even standing before his father beaten and ashamed, he hadn't felt this vulnerable. There had been anger, then, as well as guilt, to sustain him. The sun there had warmed his skin as he stood in the pillory, had dried the dew that had formed during the night, even as his anger had dried the bitter tears he'd shed.