What I Wish I Knew Years Ago

The hardest part of writing is figuring out your process. Some of us like to plot everything but dialogue, and some of us can’t work like that. There are hundreds of moving parts, and the process is different for everyone.

I’m halfway through the Balphrahn series (I think). Like all the other novels I’ve written, it’s been an uphill battle because, unlike every other part of my life, I can’t plan much. Compulsive long-term planning doesn’t mesh with my creativity, so I muddle along through the first (and sometimes second) draft before going back to completely retrofit what doesn’t work. It’s messy, and I disapprove, but there it is.

Several months ago, I heard someone say, “The villain drives the plot*.” It was an epiphany but it took some time and thinking about how to implement it. Last week, I figured it out. Book 1 was diagnosed with Weak Villain Syndrome and the person who pointed it out also had thoughts about how to fix it.

The short version of the story is I have to start with the villain. Story ideas are all well and good, but they’re a walk through headspace without the villain. Of course, they’re the hardest part for me, which is probably a better reason to start with them.

It’s still an uphill battle, but if I can nail this, I can do it again. If I’m right about the process, I’ll be able to write better and faster.

I hope.

We’ll see.

Stay tuned.

 

*Google says that quote is attributed to Gayle Linds, but she’s not who I heard say it. I think it might have been Shawn Coyne on the Storygrid podcast.

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Launch Day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s finally here! My writing group has been working on this for months. Go forth and buy it!

Here’s the official press release:

WRITING GROUP RELEASES NEW ANTHOLOGY

OKLAHOMA—The writing group Prosateurs announces the publication of the judged anthology Prosateurs: Tales & Truth. The anthology features short stories, recipes, humor, memoirs, poetry, devotionals, articles, and other works from the group’s members. It’s now available from Prosateurs members and online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BooksAMillion, and other retailers.

Author Kathy Akins won Best of the Book with a memoir of her mother’s battle with dementia. “It was honest, sincere, and well-written,” said Submissions Judge Gail Henderson. “A reader both sympathizes and learns from it.”

Henderson co-wrote the poetry collection Undying. She collaborated with noted Oklahoma photographer Michael Duncan to produce Bare, a book of poetry and photography that explores the enigma of womanhood in the world. She wrote Red Bird Woman, a collection of her poetry under the name Gail Wood. Her work has appeared in Blackbirds First Flight, Blackbirds Second Flight, Blackbirds Third Flight, Creations 2012-2014 and ByLine Magazine. She holds a Masters of Education in English and Social Studies from East Central University. Currently she serves on the Board of Directors for Lake Superior Writers, Duluth, Minnesota.

For more information, visit Prosateurs.blogspot.com.

The anthology authors include:

Kathy Akins has won several awards with her poetry, devotionals, and short fiction. Her works were published in Blackbirds Third Flight and the Creations anthologies 2014-2015. A love for history, family, and animals inspires her stories. She lives in Oklahoma and shares her home with miniature long-haired dachshunds and a rescued Catahoula. Her dachshunds assist her when she presents educational programs for children in her capacity as an American Kennel Club (AKC) Canine Ambassador. She is a member of Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc., Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and American Christian Fiction Writers. Visit kathyakins.blogspot.com.

Debbie Anderson wrote the novel Friend or Foe in 2018. A longtime storyteller, she has written stories since she was a child. The oldest of eight children she used these stories to entertain her siblings. She spent eighteen years in the travel industry. As a result she has been to nearly every state and six countries. She left the travel business after 9/11. Since then she has written business documents such as manuals and procedures for the electronic and oil industries. She writes short stories, memoirs, novels, children’s stories, and how-to books. She has been published in Creations 2017.

Stephen B. Bagley co-wrote the poetry collection Undying. He wrote Murder by Dewey Decimal, Murder by the Acre, Tales from Bethlehem, Floozy and Other Stories, and EndlesS. He wrote the plays Murder at the Witch’s Cottage and Two Writers in the Hands of an Angry God and co-wrote Turnabout, Hogwild, and There’s A Body in the Closet. His writings have appeared in Writer’s Digest, Blackbirds First Flight, Blackbirds Second Flight, Blackbirds Third Flight, ByLine Magazine, Nautilus Magazine, Tulsa World OKMagazine, and other publications. He graduated from Oklahoma State University. He is a member of Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc. Visit StephenBBagley.blogspot.com.

Kelley Benson is a pastor who has a passion for using everyday opportunities to help people recognize how God works in their lives. He and his wife Jade are raising their children to see how God should be part of everything people do. Since 1997, he has participated in a wide range of ministries and been involved with the investment industry, the insurance industry, teaching, and carpentry. He published On Target, a book of devotionals, and writes a weekly newsletter. His articles were published in Creations 2013-2015. He is a member of Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc. Visit kelleybenson.blogspot.com.

Nita Beshear began writing as a young child. If her family wasn’t moving from one state to another, they were moving across town. Stories gave her continuity. Her friends in her stories went with her to every new home. Beshear writes nonfiction, historical novels, and short stories. Her books include Devoted to Quilting and Beyond the Grief: A Widow’s Survival Guide. Her fiction appeared in Romance-The Spice of Life. She is a member of the Material Girls (the Allen Oklahoma Quilters), McAlester McSherry Writers, Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc., and Duncan and Okmulgee Toastmasters. Visit nitabeshear.wordpress.com.

Wendy Blanton published the novels, The Dragon’s Lady, Rogue Pawn, and Sword and Scabbard, under the name Elizabeth Joy. Her short stories appeared in Blackbirds First Flight, Blackbirds Second Flight, and Blackbirds Third Flight. She writes novels and short stories in several genres. She graduated from the University of Mount Olive, North Carolina, and served in the United States Air Force. An apprentice bard, she tells Celtic folk tales at Scottish Highland Games and other venues. She and her husband are members of the Clan Campbell Society. She is a member of Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc. Visit wendyblanton.wordpress.com.

D. E. Chandler wrote the thriller Bone Sliver. In 2013, her poem, “Oppenheimer” and her short story “One Way Window” won honorable mention and publication in Outside the Lines. In 2015, her poem “Carroll After Dark” won first place and publication in the Tulsa Review’s 2015 Spring contest issue. Her works were also published in Blackbirds Third Flight, The Green Country Guardian, The Sapulpa Herald, and Sapulpa News and Views. She graduated from Rogers State University. She lives with her husband Tom in Oklahoma. She is a member of Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc. and Oklahoma Women Bloggers. Visit dechandlerwrites.com.

Barbara Shepherd has received more than 300 writing awards. She is the Oklahoma 2017 Voice of the Fair Poet, a Lone Stars Poet, a Woody Guthrie Poet, and a former Nominee for Poet Laureate of the State of Oklahoma. Shepherd served as a field editor for Taste of Home and contributed to other magazines, including: Outlook, Oklahoma D.O., Oklahoma Woman, Edmond Life and Leisure, Bella, and ArtBeat. Her books include: The Potbelly Pig Promise, River Bend, Vittles and Vignettes, and Patchwork Skin. Her writing appeared in: Women’s War Memoirs, Heavenly Patchwork, Voices In Time, and numerous other publications. Visit barbarashepherd.com.

Joanne Verbridge was born in Oakland, California, spending her early life experiences in Northern California. Family brought her to Oklahoma where she enjoys writing memoirs and crafting. She works to inspire her young nieces to take an interest in story telling and writing. Her memoirs, short stories, and articles have been published in Oklahoma newspapers and in the Creations anthologies 2012-2015.

 

 

 

High Gear

I’ve decided to try to get Dawn Before The Dark ready to pitch at Realm Makers in July. That means I have about seven weeks to transform the hot mess of a first draft into an actual novel. Of course, now that it’s after Labor Day, all hell is breaking loose with my schedule, so this is a bigger stretch than it seems. I suspect copious amounts of coffee will be necessary. The draft comes in just under 70,000 words, which used to be on the short end of fantasy novel length but might be all right now. The rewrite will probably be longer.

My plan is to do the long synopsis first. I already have a short synopsis, so it’s a matter of expanding it so I can (hopefully) find plot issues and fix them before I start the rewrite. I’ve got a pretty good start on that and hope to finish it this weekend. I also have to rename a couple of characters, which means poring over list of Celtic baby names to find ones that mean what I need them to mean but haven’t yet made the Top 20 Baby Names in America lists. It’s more of a problem than one might think. After that, well, I’ll just have to see what happens. I suspect the laptop will get more use in the near future.

Solar Powered

It hasn’t been a great month for writing. It’s not that I don’t want to write. I do want to, but to write, it helps if one can think. The trouble seems to be that I’m solar powered. When the sun is up, so am I. Going to bed isn’t so much of a problem. I’ve always been an ‘early to bed, early to rise’ kind of girl. The problem is, this time of year, dawn breaks about 5:00. Sometimes I can push wake-up to 6:00 if I have the black-out curtain and the window closed. One ray of sunlight, one chirping bird, and that’s it, buddy. It takes a little getting used to after the dark silence of winter. I’m trying out some herbs, and they seem to help somewhat. At this point, melatonin is my BFF.

The other day it occurred to me that maybe May isn’t a great writing month in general. This isn’t the first year May has done this to me. Add in the start of gardening season (or, in the case of this year, weeding season) and the start of summer activities, and I’m not as bright eyed and bushy tailed as usual. Seven years of record keeping have proven me wrong, based solely on word count. It’s not May. It’s me.

My plan is to start using the piazza for work. The furniture is out, I just have to schlep out the umbrella and figure out how best to place stuff. I’m sure that will be an on-going thing this year. It takes me a while to figure out the feng shui of a new space. I’ve lived here 2 1/2 years and still haven’t figured out the living room. That’s a whole different story.

As far as writing, I’m polishing up a new short story about a writer who chases his muse around Europe, and I’m making slow progress on the next draft of Dawn Before The Dark. The plan is to pitch it at the final conference (for me) for the year. There’s also the new anthology release I teased you about last week. More about that soon.

 

May The Fourth Be With You

Welcome back!

I’ve been getting emails about new followers, so if this is your first Coffee With Dragons post, welcome and I hope you visit often.

While I haven’t been posting, I have been writing and doing writing-related things. I’m still wrestling with the dragon rider stories, but I think I might actually have a handle on what I need to do with them. I’m in the process of working on book one, which I’m calling Dawn Before the Dark. That may or may not be the official title. It depends on whether I get it in with a publisher or go indy. In case you’re curious, book two is currently called Awakening, and book three will be Red Sky In Mourning. That’s if everything goes the way I think it will, for which there is no guarantee.

I have written a few short stories this year also, and I’ll have big news soon about an anthology my writing group is releasing. I can’t say much about it right now, but if you’ve read any of the Blackbirds Flights books, this isn’t the same. Blackbirds encouraged dark entertainment. We tried to keep the new one light, and there are some features not included in previous books. There are also a couple authors who are not in the Blackbirds books. That’s all you get until the official launch!

It was a cold, gloomy winter here, and we are just now getting into spring. Usually I can tell when we turn the corner between seasons. This year, I thought that three times. The snow shovel and ice are officially in the garage, though, and the piazza is starting to come back to life. The weeds are for sure. I’ve weeded twice this week, and I didn’t get them all.

That’s more or less what’s been happening here. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but between the day job and the house, I’ve stayed out of trouble. When trouble pokes its head around the corner, I grab it and shove it into a story. I should have new things for you to read soon.

Happy New Year, y’all!

Wow, it’s been so long my browser history didn’t have a record of my log-in page, and I had a panicked moment when I had to remember the link. That might also have something to do with a potential virus I may have picked up a couple days ago. It’s never a good sign when someone hugs you and says they’re not contagious. Mmmmhhhmmmm. Gotta get some work done while I can, just in case the next few days are devoted to Netflix and tissues.

So it turns out fall is not a great season for writing. Or maybe it’s that we were so diligent about not over-scheduling summer this year that we sort of forgot to protect September. Once you break the cycle it’s hard to get back to it. Creativity, for me, isn’t something I can easily turn back on once it’s shelved for a while.

On the other hand, it has been a good year for the day job. We launched our new baby church the last weekend in September. It took a little doing to switch the mindset from monthly worship to weekly, but I’ve mostly got a rhythm now. Of course, advent made life interesting, and now I’m divvying up my duties for when we go to Florida next month. There is a lot I can do ahead of time, and even more I can do remotely, but someone has to buy communion bread and take it to church.

Not doing resolutions last NYE seemed to work pretty well for me, so I’m not doing them again this year. I have found myself increasingly impatient with people who make changes on January 1. The whole “new year, new you” seems silly to me. If you want to make a change, you can do it on any date, so why attach so much baggage to a single day? Lately, though, I’ve felt the turning of the year in my bones. Maybe it’s been gloomier than usual, or it’s that I’m getting older, or more in touch with my celtic side, but the anticipation has been palpable for me in the last couple of weeks. 2017 was a pretty good year for me, the best one since the floor fell out from under us in 2013. I credit my co-workers and co-worshippers with a big chunk of that. I feel like we’re finally settling into the cozy wee bungalow and our community in general. We have a beautiful new back yard and have started digging into making good memories here.

I hope all of you are well. Regardless of what kind of year 2017 was for you, I hope 2018 is your best year so far, that you’ll treasure every experience and every learning opportunity, and that you’ll share the year with me.

Happy New Year!

Words from the Wise Bard, Kenny Rogers

You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, know when to run.

This is especially important advice in today’s world of social media. I was involved in a long Facebook post this morning about a prickly subject. There were a lot of calm, civil comments with a lot of points of view, and the poster very kindly clarified her stance at least three times. Two of the commenters didn’t get it, and they kept getting more passionate about their point, which wasn’t really even relevant to the conversation. I tried to lighten things up with a “what if” scenario, and they turned on me. That’s when I realized I had a choice: I could try to clarify my point, or I could hide the post. Hold ’em, or run?

Here’s the thing. You can have a valid, well-thought-out view on any subject. As soon as you express it, your opinion bumps up against your listener’s paradigm and is filtered through their experiences and prejudices. You can control what you say and how you say it, but you can’t control how it’s heard. It’s even harder with written communication because we can’t write sarcasm. (Personally, I think it’s a travesty that in 2017 there is not a universally recognized sarcasm font. Or Rosie The Robot, but that’s a subject for another day.)

In the end, I turned off notifications and hid the post. It was heading south at an alarming rate, and there was nothing else I could say, even when I pointed out they’d made my point for me. Sometimes people need to vent. Allowing a stranger to vent on me is a boundary I’m not willing to relax. Some people can do it and let it roll off their backs. I’m not one of them. That stranger would still be living rent-free in my head this weekend.

Standing up for your beliefs is admirable. But sometimes, you have to know when to run.