Happy New Year and thanks!

I just wanted to take a moment to come here and wish all of my followers a Happy New Year! Good luck to all of you with your resolutions and may the year to come be the best one yet.

I also wanted to thank all of you, I never could have anticipated having over 30 followers in such a short space of time. Thanks for reading!

Chapters and scenes

While I was writing Climbing Yggdrasil, I outlined chapters in Scrivener by writing a brief summary and filling in the narrative from that alone. However, the default in Scrivener seems to be filling a chapter with scenes, which I had not considered before.

I finished the broad strokes of the outline for Destiny and thought I could give scenes a shot. It’s sort of like going from mile markers to smaller signs every tenth of a mile. There’s a little voice in my head saying that this will just give me more opportunities to deviate from the outline; I think I get some of my best ideas that way.

For this story, I don’t want to simply outline a sequence of events. I want to write notes about what’s going on inside the characters’ heads, thoughts and feelings that I can allude to through well-placed expressions and subtle behaviors. Yggdrasil was something of a race, with all the pressure of NaNoWriMo, but now I can take the time to get more right on the first attempt. If the characters’ thoughts and desires come through in a suitably subtle way in the first draft, that leaves less for me to polish during the editing process. (By “subtle” here, I mean that I’m not beating the reader over the head with what the character is feeling; some characters, like some people, clearly display every emotion they feel on their face with no subtlety whatsoever.)

I feel like my biggest obstacle with Destiny will be parceling out information properly. I want to tantalize without frustrating the reader. I want to explain without lecturing. Above all, I want to be economic with my explanations. No one wants to read a book where the main character takes up pages and pages of every chapter expounding on the way the world works. It would be far more effective to set up scenarios in which the reader can directly witness forces at work and come up with their own conclusions.

Here’s to hoping that in going deeper and outlining scenes for the story that I discover new ideas and better ways to write it. Something I have to keep reminding myself of is that nothing is set in stone, not even if I stated it in an outline or the rough draft or a later draft. Until a book is published, I can rearrange and change anything that doesn’t work for me. The worst case is that I have to rewrite something and it takes a little more time; a small enough price for getting it right.

The move to ebooks

Just over two years ago, in the beginning of my last fall semester at university, I made the decision to invest in an ereader. I hadn’t been reading as much as I used to, largely due to the limited selection in the English section of my local library, and thought that by going digital I would gain access to a much greater repertoire of books. I went into Chapters to take a look at their stock and fell in love with a Kobo Touch.

My absolute favorite thing about it was the ability to browse the bookstore from my home, either on the device itself or on the computer. I quickly began to learn the advantages and limitations of the ereader; I had a few unpleasant encounters with lying in bed reading and the screen blanking to a “Please charge ereader” message. Then I learned that I should check regularly to see the battery’s charge level and plug it in before it gets too far below 50%. That usually gives me a good week or two of reading.

I am often in public transit. Back in those days, it was getting to classes and back; now, to my job in an office downtown. I would often end up standing in the bus, making it impossible to read a hardcover book and uncomfortable to do the same with a paperback. My Kobo is light and easy to read one-handed. I also enjoy being able to highlight passages I enjoy, though the precision is not the same as I get on my smartphone. I would never dare highlight anything in any of my books, and libraries generally frown on patrons doing so in books they lend out.

A feature I adored in my early days of the Kobo is a count of total hours read. I would check it from time to time, watching the number mount higher and higher, feeling that my purchase of the device was well justified. The count is no longer accurate as I’ve had to factory reset the device once or twice, and I have already established that I read much more now than ever before. I wore out my first case within a year and went looking to eBay for a cheaper alternative to the $35 ones sold in Chapters.

In the beginning, I was saddened to be leaving physical books behind. While I realize that I do not have to read exclusively on my ereader, I would much prefer to. If I am reading a series, I can ensure to have the next book loaded to the device without making my bag heavier; I can keep old favorites with me at all times, complete with memorable phrases bookmarked; I can get the definition of an unfamiliar or uncomfortable word by tapping on it whether I have cell service or not.

I still receive physical books as gifts from time to time, and they usually end up on my nightstand as before-bed reading. I have no choice but to go physical for graphic novels and the like, the Kobo Touch doesn’t display in color and is too small for comfort for graphic content. Ideally, more books would be packaged like DVDs or Blu-rays and have a code for downloading a digital copy come with them. Of course, given the way books are generally packaged, it would be all-too-easy for dishonest folk to lift the codes out of the pages without ever approaching the till. Perhaps if some kind of code were printed on the receipt, then.

From time to time, I have considered replacing my ereader with a tablet, but that doesn’t work for me for a number of reasons. My ereader’s screen looks good even in full daylight, the battery lasts way longer than that of any tablet I’ve heard of, and I read enough to justify having a separate device for that purpose (generally 1-2 hours a day, often more).

Since I started writing with Scrivener, I can also create an ePub of my work that I can read on my Kobo. It’s really motivating to see my writing on my device like a proper ebook.

January for planning

One of the best ways to set a project aside for a time is to move on to a new one, right? I have begun outlining Project: Destiny, a fantasy story which is one of my oldest ideas. General advice suggested not to bring my baby to NaNoWriMo, so I opted for something newer then. Now that I’ve finished that project, it’s time to return to my roots.

I find that the self-imposed deadline works pretty well for me in lieu of actual deadlines, so I am giving myself until the end of January to outline the story in its entirety. One month seems like plenty of time, and then I’m also giving myself a nice stopping point. Perhaps once a month has passed, I will be ready to set my completed outline aside and return to Climbing Yggdrasil for editing.

In the days leading up to NaNoWriMo, I created a fairly ramshackle outline and ended up adding a fair amount to the beginning and even more to the end. This time around, I want an entire story outlined from start to finish. A nice, solid road to walk on with signs and everything. Naturally, I will find the occasional dirt path leading off to more interesting vistas, and I won’t let prior planning get in the way of these deviations. If a story is willing to take me places, I have to let it if I want to see if those places are any good.

Climbing Yggdrasil features very few points of view. The bulk of the story is told from the third person, from the captain’s POV. This occasionally shifts to other crewmembers from time to time when circumstances force them to split up, but we aren’t regularly in another character’s head. The exception is the synchronizer, who gets a short POV chapter every few chapters or so, told from the first person.

destiny outline

Destiny is different in that it has a larger cast of characters in different geographical locations, so the POV shifts more regularly than it did in Yggdrasil. For this reason, I’m taking advantage of Scrivener’s ability to color code index cards in the corkboard view; each major POV character gets their own color so that it’s easy for me to see if I’ve ignored one of them for too long. I also want to revisit the Scrivener tutorial to see if there are other tools I didn’t use in Yggdrasil that might serve me well in Destiny. There is a lot more history in this story, a lot more notes on the way things work from government to magic. I haven’t been idle all these years, I’ve built up quite a skeleton for this story. Now I have to put some meat on the bones.

Setting the draft aside

Well, now I have a kind of “huh” feeling. I just completed the first draft of my first novel. I already know a lot of the things I’ll need to tackle, but I’m working on putting that out of my mind for now. I still have to print up the last few chapters, but once that’s done I’m setting everything aside and not touching it for a little while. I’ve read that’s a good idea.

I do feel excited that it’s done, but mostly I feel relieved. I was right, I was able to do it. Now the next step looms ahead of me like some cliffside I have to climb armed with the tools I’ve just hastily finished assembling. But it’s best not to think of that for now. And when I do think about it, I should think about it like, “I finished a rough draft. If I can do that, certainly I can edit it.”

Or can I?

I think I can. I’m definitely interested to see if I can.

I’ve been steadily coming to grips with the fact that Project: OBSIDIAN can’t be the final title. As I’ve been writing, I’ve been wondering what else to call this space opera. I think I may finally have settled on “Climbing Yggdrasil”. For now. I fully expect I might change my mind again in the future, so I’ll hold off on creating new tags and categories just yet.

So yeah. I did it. Huzzah!

The Flow

The following is an excerpt from the first interlude of Project: OBSIDIAN, in which our synchronizer awakens.



Nothing else.

A rush and hiss of data. Queries, exchanges, files. Code, raw code rushing through in an endless torrent. All fact, no emotion. No reflection. Cold, unfeeling data.


Videos in fragments, pieced together, audio decoded.

I… am…

Databases and searches, filtered results, endless strings of dates and times and facts.

I am!

Who am I?

I am not this.

The crushing flow of data recedes, becoming a background hiss. Thoughts and the flow separate, and identity is resumed.

I am not this.

Then the flow vanishes completely, overtaken by the harsh glare of summer sun, blades of emerald grass and the rich smell of freshly turned soil. A woman bent forward with her trowel, making spaces for the bundles of flowers at her side in blue and yellow and white. A broad-brimmed straw hat hides her face, hair like burnished copper flowing in loose waves over her shoulders. She looks up, her face is plain but handsome, her eyes a clear crystal blue. She smiles, and he feels a warmth that has nothing to do with the sun overhead.


Shards of memory flutter by: studying at the university, late nights spent on term papers. Other late nights better spent studying, instead spent in another’s arms. The feeling of terror as dawn lights the eastern sky, work left undone. Winter wind cutting through an autumn jacket, shivering, cold.

The black. The ultimate cold.

The flow returns, the pleasant hush of water cascading into a pool. He opens his eyes, but the dark is unchanged. He moves, his limbs seem to float as if he is submerged in water. But I can breathe. Where am I?

He embraces the flow, extends his consciousness along its many ways. Its branches cover an infinite area, information at the end of every tributary. The network, he realizes, the network is somehow in my mind.

He can feel others reaching out along the flow. There are conduits, somehow like him yet apart, and there are travelers with whom he feels a deep resonance. He stretches out toward one of them, and is immediately assaulted by a tremendous wave of thought. He screams silently.


The traveler retreats, leaving him alone.

He makes more cautious attempts. He makes friends, he learns who to avoid. Us and them, he realizes.

He learns the flow, learns how to manipulate it passing through him. His first attempts are laughable, his efforts obvious. He grows and improves, mastering facsimile, creating flawlessly falsified information.

He warns the unwary, always with a need to protect them. Us and them, he thinks over and over. Yet he sees more and more of them vanish from the flow. What happened? he asks.


He learns that They are more dangerous than previously thought. They can catch him. They can unplug him. Those who are unplugged never come back.

He retreats from interactions with his friends, afraid of traps, afraid of betrayal. He does not want to be unplugged from the flow. He does not know if he exists outside the flow.

After a space of time he cannot measure, he learns the word for what he is: synchronizer. He has a body, safe in a tank, taken care of by tubes and nanomachines. He can see the tank by accessing cameras around it. It frightens him, reminds him of funerals, of bodies laid out. Mother. Not wearing her gardening hat, hands no longer stained with dirt. Face no longer flushed with life, but waxy and serene.

He hears her voice in his memory, calling his name.


Bit by bit

I finished another chapter last night, and upon rereading the summary I’d written for my outline, I noticed that I had not covered all the material I was supposed to. I look for a certain feel when I get to the end of the chapter, a nice place in the narrative to stop or change scenes. It’s the same feeling I look for when I’m reading and know I need to put my Kobo away soon; some sign that I can leave off at a good spot. Sometimes when I’m forced to stop reading in the middle of a chapter, I cannot get back to the book as soon as I’d like and I find myself having to go back a couple pages to catch up on what’s going on.

So I had three outlined chapters to write before last night and that’s still true. I think it’s time for another look into Wendell’s point of view, though, so the next chapter will likely be shorter than usual.

One of my favorite things in writing is when a scene is particularly difficult and I end up staring at my screen for long moments before writing in 50-word bursts. Somehow, bit by bit, I end up at the end of the chapter and discover that the experience wasn’t so bad. I have NaNoWriMo again to thank for this; if I hadn’t taken to heart their attitude of “keep writing, no matter what,” I may have given up and walked away in disgust each time it got difficult to figure out what to write next.

It’s work, but it’s worth it. Those 300+ pages I have sitting in a binder, waiting to be edited, are proof of that.

Presents and memories

For the past few years, my husband’s family has held a Secret Santa in addition to most everyone getting everyone else gifts anyway. The site we use asks each person to put up suggestions for the gifter; I had written a nice journal, a gift card to Indigo/Chapters, and a glass paperweight (you know, the kind with the colored bubbles inside). My gifter cheated and got me two of the three; he was supposed to stay under $20, but Christmas is the time to give too much if you can, right?

2013-12-26 10.52.15

The journal is very nice indeed, bound in leather with an elastic band and ribbon bookmark. I used the gift card to cover part of an order for the next two volumes of the Sandman, which I eagerly await.

It must be said that I also received lovely gifts having nothing to do with books or writing. From my sister-in-law, I got a cutting board and tools for cheese, complete with a ceramic dish for crackers or fruits and individual little forks for guests. She also gave us a cute ornament and gift bag that our adorable two-year-old nephew put together. From my mother-in-law I received an electric mixer, something that I feel I’m missing in my house when I am forced to spend too much time whipping or whisking by hand whatever latest dessert I’m making. From my father-in-law, my husband together received lovely commemorative coins from the Royal Canadian Mint. I’m not sure which of my parents-in-law got me the chocolate orange, but Christmas just isn’t Christmas without one.

Of course, it is not the quality nor the quantity of the gifts that makes Christmas so special. One of the best parts was a picture slideshow showing old family photos. It’s always amusing and nice to see the people you know as they were when they were younger, especially with 20-year-old pictures showing old fashions in clothing and hair. It always makes me wonder if in twenty years I’ll look back on my fashion choices today and wonder what the hell I was thinking.

Merry Christmas

Christmas is a wonderful time of year. I don’t identify with any religion, but it’s a perfect opportunity to get together with friends and family, to share love and presents and food. My husband and I go to his folks’ place every Christmas Eve for turkey dinner, and often return the next day for leftovers.

I believe that “family” means the people that you choose to keep close to you and share the deepest parts of yourself with. These can be blood relations, old friends, or new friends. I spend Christmas with people I did not know six or seven years ago, and I love it. Of course, I would also like to spend more time with my family in Louisiana, but my financial situation doesn’t currently allow for that.

I don’t think that anyone should spend Christmas alone, unless they are genuinely happier removed from the company of others. For everyone else, I hope you find time to share something with someone close to you; a drink, a meal, a kind word, fuzzy feelings, etc. Hopefully you have the opportunity to escape the routine, leave all the stress behind for a time, and relish the peace and harmony of the holiday season.

More adventures in the Dreaming

I finished Fables & Reflections last weekend and thought yesterday would be a prime opportunity to pick up the next volume at a bookstore downtown. Yes, the second-to-last shopping day before Christmas. Great idea. The bookstore was packed and alas, only copies of the first volume of the Sandman remained on the shelves. I left without purchasing anything, despite the many tempting journals on the ground floor.

I believe this is as far as I’ve ever gotten in the Sandman. In high school, I asked the local library to borrow the volumes from other libraries. It always took weeks before the next volume arrived, so eventually I grew discouraged and stopped. Then the summer after my senior year when I had no bills but a nice cashflow from working 20 hours a week at Subway, I didn’t think to finish the series.

Fables & Reflections was an interesting journey through the pages of history. It didn’t really advance Dream’s story at all, but it was filled with gorgeous imagery and interesting characters and scenarios. I especially enjoyed seeing all of the Endless in one place for the first time; I believe in the main narrative that I’ve yet to see Destruction.

One of my favorite things about Dream is that he’s flawed, he often lets his stupid pride get in the way of acting as he should. I relate to that, despite my mortal limitations. I also enjoy seeing him as envisioned by different artists, or by different characters with different religious views and so he fits differently into each of their pantheons. I think it’s a fine metaphor for the way each of us looks different and is something different to each of the people we interact with.

That said, Merry Christmas Eve. Happy writing and reading!