Stolen Words

I’m incredibly naive, I guess, but until today I had no idea it was a thing to pay someone to ghost write fiction.  I mean, I know a lot of autobiographies are ghost written, but fiction?  Nope, I did not know of this.  I’ve considered the reasons why authors (and wannabe authors) might do this, and I’m trying not to judge.  But, I can’t deny feeling cheated by this revelation, it kind of almost ruined my morning.  It got worse, however.

Along came some for real, legit cheating.  And that is the scandal that has become known as #copypastecris on Twitter.  Short version, a romance author, whose Twitter bio describes her as a USA Today bestseller, was busted blatantly plagiarizing the work of numerous other authors.  She promptly apologized on social media.*  And laid the blame on the ghost writer she hired.  Thus admitting she didn’t actually write her books.  And perhaps doesn’t even read them?

Or worse, she didn’t care that her ghost writer was stealing the words other writers worked so hard to weave into stories.  Or even worse, she stole the words herself and handed them off to her ghost writer with the instruction to piece them together into new books she could put her own name on.  Whatever.  There is so much dishonesty on so many levels either way.

For me, this calls into question just how often this might be happening.  As indie authors struggle to put out more and more content in order to make a career for themselves, I don’t find it difficult to believe it’s happening a lot more than this one case.  And that just looks so bad for independent publishing.  And that makes me angry.  So many talented, hard-working authors out there self-publishing their work, the words they actually wrote, you know, themselves, and along comes this.

This is really disheartening.  It must feel so violating for the authors whose words were stolen.  And the thing is, this author has stolen more than just words.  She’s stolen trust and credibility from all indie authors.  She stole from her readers too.  That USA Today bestseller she takes credit for?  Yeah, stolen words.

There is some good news in all this, and that is the ways the writer and reader communities have come together to support the victims of this author’s theft.  That, at least, gives me some hope.

*I can’t link to her apology as her Twitter account is now down.

 

Image courtesy of pixabay.com

 

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In With The New

As most of my readers know, I’ve been writing a novel for like, FOREVER, and had hoped to have it published by now.  That obviously hasn’t happened, but I’m 45,000 words into a third draft, and I’m feeling confident it will be ready for publishing early in the new year.  I promise to post some excerpts soon.  It’s been difficult to choose things I can post that don’t present too much of a spoiler problem, but I’ll find something.

I want to thank all of you readers for sticking with my little blogs.  My posting has been pretty sporadic this year, especially on Seeking Redress, but views have remained steady, so thanks to you all for stopping by.  I intend to be more active here in 2019 and I hope you’ll continue to join me.

Here’s to a good New Year, one that brings peace to our world.

Happy Hal-idays!

It looks like I’ll have a white Christmas tomorrow as snow fell hard today, covering the dirt piles, rebar, and concrete blankets in our construction-zone yard.  It hasn’t felt like Christmas here yet as we haven’t had a tree up until today and very few decorations out.  This December has been even busier than usual, but the snow brought with it a peace and calm, and finally, finally, I feel ready for tomorrow.  But, once again, I didn’t plan ahead to prepare any sort of holiday post full of cheer and goodwill.  Of course, I don’t usually write much cheer and goodwill, that doesn’t quite fit the genre.

War, torture, assassinations, arms trafficking, organized crime, child abuse:  these are the dark, difficult subjects I usually write about.  I write about them because it gives voice to the anger they fuel in me.  But spending so much time steeped in research and writing about such things requires that I also nurture a healthy sense of humor for the sake of my sanity.

My favorite writing buddies, my sisters, help me out with that a lot.  Awhile back, we got started laughing over a name.  I asked them to help me name a character in my novel who is an actor playing a detective in a hot new prime time cop show, and one of the first suggestions was Hal.  Which really made me laugh.  It also resulted in a series of back-and-forth messages between me and my sisters, heckling each other and cracking puns using the name Hal.  In the end, the challenge was made to name a character Hal in each of our works in progress.  (Yes, there is now a Hal in The Compass Code, but I doubt every reader will find him.)

This challenge resulted in me writing a silly scene that has no place in my novel, but does involve some of my characters.  I call it The Hal Scene.  I don’t generally find it useful to utilize writing exercises or prompts to write scenes that will never be part of my novel or it’s immense back story.  I’ve always found that to be a frustrating endeavor.  It feels like wasted time to me.  I want to write what I’m going to use.  But, once in a while, I’ll get an inspiration, and I just have to “waste” the time it takes to put the words down on the page.  The Hal scene is one such moment.

Since it’s Christmas, and because I’m well into a third draft of The Compass Code (with chapters!), and because I’ve never shared any of my fictional work outside of a small group of people and I have to get over the fear, I’ve decided to share The Hal Scene with my readers.  Just for fun.

I have to warn though, this scene does not reflect the tone of The Compass Code at all.  I didn’t write this scene with any intention of ever plugging it into the novel.  I wrote it to make myself and my sisters laugh.  So, dear readers of this post, please don’t expect so much humor from my novel, because the novel really is about war, assassinations, torture, etc.

It’s said that laughter is the best medicine, and I believe it.  So, I hope this silly scene brings some smiles and laughs to my readers this holiday season.  May the Christmas holiday and the New Year bring you much laughter, joy and peace.

So, without further ado…

(Except, please note, this post contains adult language.)

The Hal Scene

              Seth Miller burst into the barracks whooping and yelling, startling everyone awake.  It was so early it was still dark outside and several of the men threw pillows at him as he danced a jig between the bunks.

“What the fuck is wrong with you, man?  You wasted?”  Turner growled.

“It’s a boy!” Seth yelled.  “I knew it.  It’s a boy!”

With that, none of them could resist his unbridled joy and he ran around the room giving high fives and fist bumps while they all congratulated him.  Bulldog jumped from his bunk and grabbed Seth into a bear hug.

“That’s great, man,” he said as he released Seth.  “You guys are so blessed.”

Jack offered his fist, and Seth cracked his own against it.  Turner rolled out of his bunk grudgingly, and put an arm around Seth’s shoulders while clapping him on the back.

“Way to go, Daddy-o.”

Since they would have to be up shortly anyway, they got dressed and ready for their morning run.  When the men found Lt Davies and Sgt Rodriguez, Seth shared his news again.  His excitement energized the team as they took off running.

“You guys name him yet?” Bulldog asked.

“We haven’t talked about names yet.”

“What?  Man, you gotta think about this now.  This is a huge responsibility, dude.  This kid’s gotta live his entire life with whatever you pick!”

“Shit, man, this is too much responsibility for Lite-beer here,” Turner said.  “We better come up with something to help him out.”

“Name him Tyler,” Lt Davies called out.  “It’s a good, strong name.”

“No way.  If you’re gonna name him after the L-tee, name him Davy,” Rodriguez suggested.  “Now that’s a good strong name, like Davy Crockett.”

“Nah, name him Phil,” Turner said.

“Dude, are you kidding me?”  Rodriguez shot back.  “Juan.  Now that’s a name.”

“Call him Jaime,” Jack said.  “Jaime will love it.”

The suggestions kept coming as they finished their run in the growing morning light.  When they hit the range, they didn’t stop, each trying to out-do the others as they took turns pulling the trigger.

“How ’bout Clint?” Turner asked as he squeezed his trigger.

“Edward.”

“Robert.”

“Lance.”

Down the line it went until it was Bulldog’s turn to take aim.  Everyone waited with anticipation as he had yet to suggest a single name.  He savored the moment, taking a couple deep breaths before easing the trigger back.  The bullet pinged against the target and Bulldog turned to the group with a triumphant smile.

“Hal,” he said.

“What?” they all cried.

“What the Hal kind of name is that, man?”

“Oh, Hal no!”

“What?  It’s a great name,” Bulldog protested in a serious tone.  “It’s short for Harold, man.  Means power, a leader, a ruler.  Dude, come on!”

They were all silent for a moment, staring at Bulldog with surprise at his earnest expression, before bursting with peals of laughter.

“You need Hal-p, man.”

“It was my Grandpa’s name.  He was one tough dude.”

“No doubt.  With a name like that, he’d have to be.”

“Yeah, y’all are real funny,” Bulldog grumbled.

“Hal-arious,” Jack said, a sly grin on his face, before pulling the trigger.

*******

Happy Hal-idays!

Wait…What Chapters?

I’ve read many, many books.  All sorts of books.  Nonfiction, text books, novels from a huge variety of genres…and almost all of those books had one thing in common.  Chapters.  As I am finally approaching The End for The Compass Code, the idea of chapters is weighing heavily on my mind, because my novel doesn’t currently have any.

[chap-ter]

noun

  1. a main division of a book, treatise, or the like, usually bearing a number or a title.

Another November has come and gone.  I avoided NanoWrimo again this year, but I didn’t avoid writing.  My kids and I made a wager that if I didn’t finish a second draft of The Compass Code, they would get to choose the dinner menu for a week.  Think ice cream and bad pizza for seven days straight.  Gross.  So, I was motivated.

I made a list of over 30 missing scenes.  I wrote the last missing scene from the list on November 30th.  It took just over 36 minutes to print the 540 pages of a PDF of my second draft.  It took six years and the threat of a week of ice cream and bad pizza for dinner for me to finally figure out how to finish a novel.  Now, I have to figure out how to make it look like a novel—with chapters.

I like making lists.  I like making timelines for my characters.  I like writing down ideas and connecting them to each other with lines.  It’s fun to play around with my writing in visual ways.  But outlining?  Oh, heck no!  That’s work, not fun.  That’s organizing, not playing around with ideas.

Breaking this novel into chapters feels like outlining.  It feels like an impossible task.  It’s work, and it’s hard.  Bleh.  I know I’m not going to get it right the first time.  (Yay for beta readers!)  But somehow, I’ve got to find those chapters.

I have a lot of short scenes following multiple narratives in the beginning of the book and I’m struggling to decide how to organize them so they don’t get confusing.  Add to that, I’ve never even thought about the average length of chapters, or how many there should be, or how many scenes should be in a chapter… just how does one take all of the little pieces and construct a novel?

I found some helpful resources online, like this one.  I read through the entire draft and tried to visualize chapter breaks.  I set up a new draft project in Scrivener, and created the first three chapters, hoping to provoke some optimistic inspiration.   I’m still feeling intimidated.  But, this story has come too far to give up now.  So, it’s on to draft three—and the very epic struggle to create chapters.

I guess I need to figure out what sort of wager with the kids will help me get through another round of editing by the end of December!

A Bit of a Distraction

It’s October.  I’m still not done editing.  I’m currently failing as a writer.  This is a perfect time for a distraction.  Right?

Art is a great distraction.  It’s still an exercise in creativity, after all.  I have always loved drawing with pencils.  I love the countless shades that can be achieved with one stick of gray charcoal.  I love having charcoal smeared on my fingertips and the side of my hand.  And, I love that I can erase what I don’t love.

October presents an artsy distraction opportunity in the form of #Inktober, a daily challenge to create something awesome that fits a given theme, and then to share the work on social media.  As the name implies, these daily masterpieces are made in ink. I highly recommend checking the hashtag on Twitter, or Instagram, you’ll be treated to some amazing work.

I don’t do ink well, but I’m going to give Inktober a shot this year.  I’ve done a few Inktober posts in the past, but didn’t stick with it.  I don’t know if I’ll draw something every day this time around either.  I am still working on The Compass Code (agonizingly slowly) after all.  But I’m going to enjoy mixing it up by playing around with the kids’ markers for the month instead of just my highlighters and red pen.

So here is my Inktober Day One post for the theme poisonous.  Because war truly is poisonous.

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Why Do You Write Your Stupid Story?

Slogging Through the Summer Slump

“Why do you have to write your stupid story, Mom?”

My child asked me this question in the car yesterday as we left the grocery store parking lot.  I didn’t take the stupid bit personally.  After all, my children aren’t allowed to read my story so I don’t think they’re qualified to judge its quality.

I think the sentiment behind the comment has more to do with a frustration that Mom spends so much time on the computer these days.  A sentiment we all share.  And that’s something that keeps a constant hum of guilt in my mind all the time.  Summer break amplifies that hum to a roar.

As I wrangle with the excruciating task of editing, the kids want adventure.  More adventure than can be found in our own back yard.  And food, constant food.  I struggle to keep my head in my story while they argue over one of thousands of Legos.  I find my patience waning and my temper shortening till my responses to their constant needs get snappy.   The guilt grows unbearable and I finally give up and push the story aside for several days in a row (or a week).

I have no idea how parents of young children have ever finished a book in the history of mankind.

When I return to the story after however many days I have spent appeasing my guilt and giving in to all the distraction, I feel as though I lose an entire working session figuring out where I was headed when I pushed the story aside.  Knowing this, it often becomes easier to just go another day without writing, and then another, and so on…and this project remains neglected.  Cue more guilt.

I’m sure none of this is conducive to creativity.  It certainly hasn’t been for mine.  My new draft languishes at nearly 50,000 words as summer heats up and pool maintenance joins the ranks of attention demanding distractions.  (Confession:  I actually really enjoy pool maintenance.  It’s a sanity-saving endeavor for me, like gardening, or meditating.)

Just like the pool, balance is key.  I know this, of course.  But, a month into summer break and I still haven’t found that balance.  Maybe I won’t all summer and maybe the answer is finding peace with that.  Because this story will get finished.  I’m not giving up yet.

When the question spilled out of my child in the car, I considered letting it go unanswered.  I could just turn the volume up on the stereo and silently sulk in my guilt.  It seemed much easier than explaining why I write to anyone, let alone my kids.  But, in the end, I settled on a simple and honest response.

“Maybe it is stupid, but when you have a dream, you have to do it.”

 

It’s Red Pen Time

I’m nearly a month behind schedule.  But, I printed a draft of The Compass Code yesterday, and I’m ready to dive into editing it.  It needs a LOT of work.  There are several plot lines that still need tying up in order to bring all the action together at the end of the book.  That is, if I want it to make any sense, anyway.

Even though I know it’s still a mess inside, I think all 345 pages are the most beautiful things I’ve ever held in my hands (well, except for the smallish bipedal beings, but it’s been a long time since they fit in my hands).  I’m sure I’ll change my mind about that in the coming days and weeks.

Today I’m just going to bask in satisfaction while sitting here next to my novel.  I’ll be back at it tomorrow, armed with highlighters, a red pen, post-it notes, and inspiration.  And coffee.

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Me for the next few weeks, as depicted (lovingly, I’m sure) by the smallish bipedal beings.

Deadline Time

I’ve spent so much time wrapped up in my imaginary world lately and it’s really hard to switch back and deal with reality.  I just want to stay in my imagination 24/7 till I get this book done.  It would be nice if I could just hole up in an isolated cabin somewhere for a couple of weeks of uninterrupted writing.  Sadly, that’s not an option.

All this straining of my brain to make stuff up has left my blog world a bit neglected and quiet lately.  So, I figured a short update was warranted.  I’m still writing.  After the big snip, my draft has recovered back up to a little over 72K words.  My characters are wreaking havoc and plotting evil deeds.  Exciting times.

And so…

It’s also deadline time.  I’ve been kicking myself every time I see the news lately for not having finished this novel a year ago.  Since all that self-kicking is exhausting, I have finally decided to force a deadline upon myself.  I’m not sure I’ll make it, and if I do, the result will be beyond rough.  It’ll still need a lot of work.  But, I’m gonna try to find my way to The End for The Compass Code by March 31st.

Hold me to it.

The Daily Struggle

Struggling.  Really struggling here.  Writing scenes that involve a reporter and law enforcement sources and all this enormous conspiracy is not easy.  Nope.  Not one bit.

But, I have set the goal to write every day.  And to finish this novel.  So, I keep vomiting ridiculously terrible strings of uninterrupted dialogue and other pathetic-ness onto the page.  All the while asking myself, is this just a huge waste of time?  Oh, and whyyyyy?!

First, I whine to the dog, or the cat, or both of them.  The usual response…

DSC_1887DSC_2340

Full of helpful tips, they are.

Sometimes, I go for a walk, or a bike ride, or something, in hopes of getting the blood flowing to my under-performing brain.  Unfortunately, no little house troll ever comes along to finish my scene while I’m gone.  In fact, I think one comes along to make the already terrible trash I’ve written even worse because I don’t remember it being that bad!

So, I move on to complain of my inability to write anything but complete garbage to my more helpful writing buddies, my sisters.  As usual, they have an answer for me.  And, as usual, it isn’t what I want to hear.  (Just kidding, for dramatic effect.)

Anyhow, my big Sis, being very wise, said the other day, “just keep writing.”  Just keep writing.  So simple.  And yet, sometimes, it’s agony.  Incredibly stupid, terrible, vomit-spewing, one-sentence-a-day, garbage agony.  But, just keep writing.  Somewhere in that dump is a gem, an idea, a thread that can be worked with to weave an epic scene.

Put on a hat so as to avoid pulling out hair, and just keep writing…

Snip Snip My Darlings

It’s already January 4th.  And I still haven’t written a word about goals for this new year.  In fact, I have managed only to write a few sentences of notes, an email or two, and a few tweets this entire year.  Maybe it’s a slump.  Or, it could be the whole winter break thing that results in some very distracting, smallish bi-pedal beings running rampant in my house rather than being dutiful students somewhere else.

Anyway, in the midst of all the frenetic chaos that is my winter break existence, I was struck by a revolutionary thought about my novel.  I guess I should say, it isn’t a new thought.  It’s more of an acceptance of what needs to happen.  Writers talk about this a lot, the whole “kill your darlings” thing.  I’m sure it doesn’t come easy for any of us.  But, the acceptance that I have darlings that need killing has brought with it a renewed surge of energy to do whatever it takes to get this ridiculously overdue novel finished.

A while back I was listening to an episode of Writers After Dark podcast (I highly recommend this podcast) and was suddenly overcome with an urge to chop out huge portions of the prologue of my book.  This took me by surprise.  I took out scenes I truly love, and have struggled for far too long to keep in the book.  Once I started chopping, however, I was instantly happier with the beginning of my book.  This past week, I took the chopping to a new level.

My story covers a significant span of years, and from the beginning, I have struggled to explain, or work around, large gaps in time when nothing of importance is happening.  This is a self-inflicted struggle, I now realize, that can be solved by simply snipping away at all those unnecessary darlings of mine.  No biggie.  Except that it’s the entire part one of the book!  Gasp!

IMG_20180104_125942747~2

In a brief moment of alone-in-the-kitchen calm, I realized that, while part one certainly helps to explain who, what, and why, the main characters are, it isn’t necessary to understanding or enjoying the plot of the story.  In fact, part one really just slows the entire thing down.  So, snip, snip, my darlings.

Oh, the freedom I feel now.  This solves so many complications and opens up so many possibilities with what was formerly known as part two.  Don’t worry, I didn’t waste years on a bunch of scenes that will never be read.  Now I have a nearly completed prequel!  And those chopped out prologue scenes?  Well, odds are good at least a few of them will make an appearance here one day.

 

Lego sculpture courtesy of the smallish bi-pedal beings.