Tuesday, June 26, 2012

First Draft

Tonight, I finished the first draft of Couillon.  Even the past two days, my characters have been fighting me, and I finally gave in and wrote what needed to be written, to make them happy and let me get one night without a struggle.

Finishing the first draft means that now the editing phase begins, but it shouldn't be that horrific of a task as I've been doing editing all along, and my writing group has review and commented on the first 15 pages or so.  The next section is up for review at my next writing group.

Scrivener says that as is, it would be, if I physically published it, a 70 page story.  I'm not sure if that borders on novella or not, but since Kindle is either singles or novels.  It will be a single.  And I'll sell it for $0.99.  Just to get my name, or my pseudonym, out there.  And yes, it was a lot of work for $0.99, but if several thousand people buy it, well that's more than I have right now.

Back to pseudonyms, I haven't decided if I want to publish under my name.  I've been thinking about publishing under Sara Stark, my middle/maiden name.  [Yes, I kept my ex-husband's last name because it would have been such an effort to change all my stuff, my driver's licenses, insurance, stocks, car ownership, taxes, etc... but then again, as Bill Shakespeare said "what's in a name?" --  nothing, except everything you own.]

Plus, I think Sara Stark would look great on the cover of a novel, whereas, and I've always had this problem with my current last name, Williamson is too long.  It's a blessing I don't write checks anymore.  I never could get my whole name on the line.

With that said, I'm going to bed and read myself to sleep.  I'm going to read someone else's work. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Blog Suffers

When I am in a writing mode, the blog suffers because I'd much rather create worlds and people, than report about them. 

If you don't write fiction, you may not be able to imagine how entertaining it is to create a person and the world they live in.  Of course, once you start writing the story, you have to fully define the person and stay true to their character.  But sometimes, they surprise you.  They become real, at least in my head, and sometimes they do things I wasn't planning.  The short story is a great example of this premise.  Things have changed over the course of the re-write.

The short story is almost finished. I have been doing a lot of editing/re-writing [it went from present tense to past tense]. Some of the editing has been against my will as the protagonist now has a mind of her own.  I still have one last big scene to write, not the last one, that's done [and no, I don't write in chronological order], but a pivotal one.  I want to tell what it is, but that would give away the story's ending.  It looks like it's going to end up being about 50 [according to Scrivener] paperback book pages.

Also, I'm working on moving my novel, Counting Crows [or whatever it ends up being called] into Scrivener.  Did I mention that Scrivener compiles the story into epub formats, which can then be converted into mobi format for Kindle with a free application provided by Amazon.  It's all quite nice.

With that said, I'm going to go back to my imaginary world.  I need to have a chat with Janice (the short story's protagonist) and get that girl under my control.  So in the next few hours I will not think about blogging or work or anything except when the lasagna will be done.

Friday, June 15, 2012

PNWA Critiques

The critiques for the PNWA contest arrived in the mail today.  Only two, when I thought there was supposed to be three.  One critiquer--is that a word?--gave me a 94/100, and the other gave me 81/100.  

Both are very good scores, but probably not good enough to win me first or second place.  There were a couple of constructive comments, which I think were excellent suggestions that will only make my work stronger, but over all, I got two pretty glowing reviews.

So, I'm gonna brag by posting some of the good comments. 

On plot: 

  • "In the synopsis we learn that Maggie does complete an emotional arc by overcoming her fear of a permanent relationship to make a commitment to love; this will satisfy readers."
  • "I love the crow analogies as harbingers of omens and doom.

Viewpoint:  (This one can be really tricky to get right.)

  • "The POV in the story is consistent and we feel as if we are in the narrator's body moving through the scenes.  Where you have made use of the five senses, you have enriched the setting and helped us connect with the character."
  • "No tense problems, consistent third person present tense."  (And I got a 10/10 on that particular one, from that critiquer, while I only got a 7/10 from the above critiquer.  Funny, but if I just read the comments, I would have flipped that. )


  • "We care immediately about Maggie.  You add nice details about each character that brings them alive."
  • "Characters are nicely layered and you are developing them slowly but consistently."


  • "The author does a terrific job with dialog: it is natural and flows well."
  • "The use of interrupted dialogue is very natural and makes the exchanges such as between Alison and Maggie natural."


  • "[referring to first line of chapter1] Descriptions like this paint such a vivid picture of the scene, we have no trouble imagining the setting."
  • "Good mix of narrative and dialog.  I thought the sickroom description of moving mom on p. 9 was especially good."

Would you read more:  (This is the really important part for me.)

  • "Yes, your story is sweetly understated and reads smoothly.  Plus I'm a sucker for crows and magical elements."  (That from the person who gave me a 94/100.)
  • "The reader enjoyed the submission and would definitely read more.  The writing is well done and the story has potential."  (And that from the person who gave me an 81/100.)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

I Love My Friends...

Yesterday, on Facebook, I posted the news about being a finalist in the PNWA contest.  I also posted a link from this blog to the work I submitted.

The outpouring of kudos and encouragement has been breathtaking.  Several asked when it will be published, which made me feel great.  Damn those agents.  They may one day be sorry that they weren't willing to consider me a viable candidate.

To all my friends, thank you for your support.  I love you all.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Some Affirmation, Finally

I received a call this morning from the president of PNWA, the Pacific Northwest Writer's Association, and I am a finalist in their "mainstream" fiction contest.  All I can say is WhooHoo!!!!   And of course, I want to win first place, but it's pretty cool just being in the top ten.  Cheesy, but true.  It helps me feel better about myself, about my writing.

I have been so down lately about no agent wanting to represent me, that I had almost -- almost -- decided to just shelve that novel and start another, that maybe I should just throw it away, write it off (no pun intended) and use the experience in writing another.

But becoming a finalist is a affirmation of my skill, that I can write.  I may never win a Pulitzer, but I know my work is publishable, and to me this proves it. 

I don't know why I can't get an agent to respond. As I've discussed in earlier blog posts, there are hundreds of reasons, but I now feel better about the rejection.  Plus the more I look into e-publishing, the more I think I should just skip the agent/publisher and go straight to Kindle/Nook/etc.  Ultimately, I'm in this to make money, to create a path to an early retirement from Corporate America.  To finally do something I enjoy for work.

e-publishing gets me there faster.

So please celebrate with me.  This is definitely a step in the right direction.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Short Story: New Opening


couillion - [KOO YOn]
noun: a person who lacks sense or judgment, a fool, imbecile, idiot, dumb mother-f*cker 
adjective : crazy, funny, stupid, silly
note : can be used as a term of affection or as an invective, as an insult

*******[page break]*************************

The stupide tourists having a picnic in the cemetery rouse me from my solitude, from my daydreams and memories. When next I visit, there'll be another set looking much the same, what with their cheap plastic beads and blistered faces. I squirm around until I get comfortable again leaning against the oven vault's brick wall, the bricks warming my back while the wall's shade shields me from the late afternoon heat. The tourists come in droves to gawk at our cities of the dead or to look for Marie Laveau's tomb, to take pictures and tell each other ghoulish stories until they giggle with fear or they shiver with morbid delight. They're not the least bit interested in the factual stories entombed with the population of New Orleans' necropolises.

They sneak glances at me, a local, as they pass. I smile and wave, just a lift of my hand to acknowledge them, and then close my eyes again. If they only knew how the dead can linger, long after their bodies have decomposed. But they'd just pass it off as another New Orleans masquerade, one only that adds to their fascination with the place.

Despite their macabre imagination, they don't believe the things they say, all those things about magic and fantĂ´mes. But I do. I know he lingers. I've heard his voice, soft as a lover's whisper. So I visit as often as possible, to keep him company. It's only right that I do so.

Behind my eyelids, I can see him, his lopsided grin. That quirky, sly smile was the only thing that kept his angelic face from being beautiful. I still remember his long, lanky frame walking away in those faded Levis I so adored, the feel of his hand in mine, and I wonder whether the idea of a year and a day is absolute, whether the heat of a New Orleans summer can reduce a body to ash in so few days. It has been nearly a year. At this point if the crypt were opened, would anyone know the diffĂ©rence, if it was him or just another decomposing body? I suspect not, but on days like this, when I come to visit, when I look back and wonder, I contemplate whether I would have, should have done something different. Probably not. I'm not exactly known for making the best decisions—thank you, Momma—but I like to think I learned from the experience, at least as much as I benefitted from it. Then again, probably not.

It seems like a lifetime ago, but it was only early-July of last year and hot as nine-hundred hells as I walked up to the ramshackle storefront. The sign on the door said Laveau Botanicals, and I hesitated on the stoop wondering what possessed me to come here. Standing there in the smothering humidity, it all seemed silly. In my head, I could hear Momma laughing. Or she would be laughing if she knew that I was going to some old hoodoo woman to help me get a man. You're such a homely girl. Take what you can get, for God's sake. She had said those words so many times, I could feel ugly tattooed on my forehead. I nearly turned around and headed home. After all, as Momma would have said, her words heavy with sarcasm, this wasn't exactly the best of neighborhoods.

Same Ol', Same Ol'...

I opened up the window to write, and I'm not sure if I have anything interesting to say.  It all seems the same at this point.  Not in any order, here's what's going on...

(1) Work is sucking the life out of me. I'm actually working every night this week.  Fortunately my manager lets me come and go as I please.  So I can at least sleep in after working late.
(2) I'm writing, but not as much as I should or would like to do.  The short story is coming along.
(3) I'm tired all the time. I eat too much.  I weight too much. 
(4) I did find out that Scrivener with the addition of a free app from Amazon, will format my short story (and eventually my novel) for Kindle.  It will also format for Nook and several other e-formats.  Yeah!!  That was a worry for me, thinking I would have to learn how to do each format.
(5) I've given up on finding an agent.  I don't deal well with people and bullsh*t.  I also don't grovel easily or well.  I haven't heard anything in a long time, and did not receive even a rejection letter for half of the queries I sent out.  E-publishing is looking more and more attractive.  Which makes the perk from Scrivener more attractive.
(6) And on a positive note, BlackBeary, three times now, has climbed into my lap.  I think we've both missing our beloved Pye.