Monthly Archives: September 2014

Tuesday Tickle: Five Alarm Blaze

A short story I wrote as a donation to a fundraising anthology. I’m not sure if the antho is still going forward, but if it doesn’t, I think I’ll take this one and bump up the wordcount on it. It’s cute, and there’s potential for a lot more cuteness, with an awkward firefighter and his paramedic love interest.

Seth walked in. The flutter in Cody’s stomach turned into full blown nervous twitches and he turned his back on the man to hide his reaction. He’d always thought he was straight, until two months ago. Until the day Seth, with his blond hair and lean, compact frame had transferred to Cody’s station. Now, every time he saw the man, his body bluntly informed him that he wasn’t nearly as straight as he’d thought.

“Morning, gentlemen. How was your night?” Seth’s voice sent shivers up Cody’s spine. He pressed his lips together to avoid answering, since he was pretty sure he’d say something stupid, and pretended to wipe down the already spotless countertop.

Gene threw him a frustrated glance and answered Seth. “Typical Tuesday. Quiet for us, and all the usual suspects for the not-a-docs.”

“Nothing wrong with not being a doctor,” Seth replied. Cody could hear the humor in his voice. “Who wants to spend that much money to be an old fuddy-duddy, right, Cody?” He’d moved closer. Seth smelled like shampoo and a little fabric softener. It made Cody’s nerves sing, in both a good and a bad way. He wanted to pull the smaller man close and just breath him in, but the idea of coming out in a room full of firefighters, when he wasn’t even sure this wasn’t just a phase, made his knees weak.

The silence stretched, until Cody croaked out, “Yeah, right.” He turned and brushed past Seth. “Shift’s over. Let’s go get that anniversary present.” He was out the door with his backpack in record speed, cursing himself for being an awkward son of a bitch.

That was a bit longer than I realized it when I copied it…

Three Dirty Birds Talk Kick-Ass Writer by Chuck Wendig


The Dirty Birds are dissecting Chuck Wendig’s opus The Kick-Ass Writer: 1001 Ways to Write Great Fiction, Get Published, and Earn Your Audience. Today we’re talking about the first 25 tips he gives, in the section he calls 25 Things You Should Know About Being A Writer.

Ana: And kick ass? I’ll be disappointed if there aren’t any instructions on ass kicking in this book.

Kate: I’m just getting this out here right now–I will never type that entire title again (Holy mouthfuls, Batman). It’s going to either be KAW or 1001 Wendigs (for those days when one Wendig isn’t nearly enough).

Ana: Seeing as we’re birds it should be CAW. Cawing about KAW?

Kate: Caw, caw!

Zoe: At first I was like, “THIS BOOK STARTS OUT GREAT,” and then I realized I was confusing “legion” with “legendary.” But Chuck’s right: we are legion. The internet is 55% porn and 45% writers. And it’s kind of like a Venn diagram, with a lot of overlap between the two.

Ana: I firmly identify with both factions.

Kate: Here, here. *raises coffee mug* I liked his first tip, and if you don’t get anything else out of this book, you need to internalize the concept that there is no One True Way. That everyone has their own workflow, their own style, their own things they do well or do poorly. And that you have to give yourself time to find yours. (As much as I covet the ability to outline without completely losing the story to the ‘oh, I already wrote that’ portion of my brain.)

Ana: But this goes against everything that Story Trumps Structure has taught me.

Zoe: I found at least one tip in my reading this week that did that. Chuck, for all his bluster and yelling, is actually far more moderate than Stephen James as far as telling people it’s okay to find their own way…and that every story has structure whether you accept it or not.

Kate: And, while finding your own way, he mentions that even the most talented writer will not succeed unless they invest time in the tools of the trade–spelling, grammar, plotting.

Zoe: I like where he said “The writer you are when you begin is not the writer you become.”

Ana: And thank God for that!

Kate: No kidding! I also like his very blunt acceptance that luck does factor into this, like it does in anything, and part of your job is to take the time to make sure you’re in the right place for luck to find you. If you never engage, never put your work out there, how can anyone find you?

Well, yes, you can influence your luck to some degree. Fortune favors the brave, after all.

Zoe: Yes, you’re far more likely to get lucky when you have ten stories out there than you are while you’re daydreaming about writing your first.

Kate: Which feeds into his tip that ‘You Are Your Own Worst Enemy’. You need to do the work. BICHOK, baby!

Zoe: I am totally my own worst enemy.

Kate: Me too, lately.

Zoe: I have this fantasy that before the internet existed, writers…found more productive ways to procrastinate. 😉

Kate: Lol. I think most of them found bottle to procrastinate in.

Zoe: Stop it! You’re ruining my dreamworld of clean houses and efficiently managed to-read piles!

Kate: Considering what’s currently going on in publishing right now (authors behaving badly, Ellora’s Cave, etc.), Tip 15 is mighty apropos: Act Like an Asshole, Get Treated Like an Asshole. There’s a ton of people wanting to break into publication–why would you put that unnecessary obstacle in your way? No one wants to work with a jerk. Or read one.

Ana: Very true. Of course, that goes for publishers too. No one subs to someone with a bad rep. Or well, smart people don’t.

Zoe: In the case of Ellora’s Cave right now, no one’s reviewing their books, and many people are boycotting purchasing them. Terrible for the authors caught up in it, but a reminder that you have to really scrutinize the people you’re going to partner with. (Although, if you got into EC early, you didn’t have the benefit of seeing the warning signs before you got involved.)

Ana: I liked tip number 16 too. “Writing Is Never Just About Writing.” We wish it were, but there’s so many other things that factor into it once you got your story written.

And wasn’t that a shock? That first time edits happened and you were trying to get the new story moving along, but the edits were due, and then you realized you also had a blog post to write? *panic in the writer’s room*

Zoe: In some ways I like that there are other parts to the job, because I like to switch gears to get my head together and catch my breath before I get back into the story. But sometimes those other responsibilities show up at inopportune moments…

Ana: Like when you really have to edit your book, but you also have to beta read that other writer’s book that you swapped favors with and there’s a promo op coming up that you can’t miss and you should probably not wait too long before getting the ball going on the next book you want to publish.

Kate: We need a cloning machine.

Zoe: Or assistants. My goal is get wealthy enough to afford an assistant.

Kate: That would be awesome.

Zoe: Number 18: THE WORST THING YOUR WORK CAN BE IS BORING. Aaaaaaamen. I may complain (privately) about all kinds of ways authors mangle stories, but the only truly unforgivable offense is boring me. The story drags, nothing happens—or, rather, lots of piddly, pointless, banal, inconsequential things happen, interrupted at random occasions for some big, overwrought thing that gets solved in a page in a half so that the author can get back to the tedium of Nothing Freaking Happening. Don’t do that. Don’t do it with your storyline, and don’t do it on a sentence level.

Kate: Zoe, you’re taking me back to that historical I read while I was checking out editing at different publishers. You don’t want to be the person who wrote that. That’s someone who should have paid more attention to Tip 21: Everything Can Be Fixed in Post. (Okay, I need to pay attention to that too.)

I love that one. It’s so true. You get unlimited do-overs.

Ana: Knowing that I can rewrite is one of the things that stops me from going insane while writing that first draft.

Zoe: Yes, it’s not like making a movie where every minute you spend filming and editing costs big money, it’s not like painting where you’re using up expensive oil pigments with every stroke. It’s virtual letters on virtual paper, and all it costs is the electricity—which you were going to pay anyway, since if you weren’t writing you’d be looking at porn on the Internet.

Kate: Exactly. So there’s no excuse for letting ‘It’s not perfect!’ stop you. Write it anyway, fix it after. Sometimes you have to get it down on the screen before you can see what you really should have done. (Especially if you’re a pantser.)

Yes, and don’t forget the “fix it after” part. Very important.

Ana: I also like the next piece of advice: Quit Quitting. I have a lot of friends who have 1001 wips and no finished drafts. I feel bad for them sometimes because finishing a novel feels freaking awesome and they don’t get to experience that!

Kate: I think a lot of people buy into that artistic ‘the muse took me over’ idea, and when they find out writing is actual work, they get bummed out. There’s a really warped idea out there of what the life of a writer actually is. (Which can sometimes make it hard for writers to carve out writing time, since the people around them assume it’s much easier than it is. Don’t be that person–guard your writer’s writing time the way you guard your own!)

Ana: I think a lot of people just get bummed out when they run into rough spots while writing their wips and it’s easy to start thinking if you abandon this stupid mess of a wip and start Awesome Idea #23, everything will go much easier.

Zoe: That’s my philosophy about romantic relationships. 😉 But this brings us back to tip #8: Writing Feels Like—But Isn’t—Magic.

Kate: Yep. It’s that whole “grass is greener” thing. Until you get into a relationship, a job, a new car, a new story idea, everything looks wonderful, there’s no faults, nothing that doesn’t go exactly to plan. Then you find out the new SO puts the toilet paper on backwards, the customers are annoying, the radio buzzes when you turn up the bass, and you don’t know quite how to get from AWESOME STORY EVENT #1 to AWESOME STORY EVENT #2.

Zoe: “Hammers above magic wands; nails above eye-of-newt.” You just keep working at it, instead of hoping a new WIP or a wonderfully generous muse will swoop in to rescue you.

Kate: We keep harping on work, work, work, and all that, but the last thing Chuck reminds us of is that it needs to be fun. If you hate your job, you don’t want to go in. If you aren’t enjoying the writing, then you won’t want to do it and it’ll show in the story. And who wants to be miserable, anyway?

Overall, I thought this section was a pretty good picture of what the writing life is actually like. Sure, it’s loads of fun, and I get grumpy if I’m not getting my writing time, but there’s a lot more to it than that image of the author swanning around to book signings, with camera flashes going off all around, and spending their days on the beach sipping margaritas and tapping away at the laptop. I like that Chuck is blunt and unafraid enough to talk about the parts of the industry that no one likes to discuss, like luck, and behaviour, and maybe you don’t have the basic skills yet, so there’s work you need to do.

Zoe: It’s a good mix of truth and encouragement.

The Great Mouse Rescue

I have a barn, with two old ponies. One is so old, he lives on horse pellets and sweet feed, because he has no teeth to chew grass or hay with.

But with barns come mice. Now, I don’t mind mice. They’re just trying to get along, raise their families, have their little mouse parties. And I’m a sucker for anything small and furry. So, while I keep my feed in bins because I don’t like the mess they make when they chew through the feed bag, I don’t mind sharing a bit with them.

Except that, when the level in the bind gets too low, they jump in and can’t get out. So, this morning, when I went out to feed the ponies, I found what I think were five mice trapped in the bin.

Don’t mind the squeaking–they haven’t been trapped in a bit, and have sort of forgotten me. You can tell this isn’t the first ride on the merry-go-round for the first three, though. They know exactly what to do when I put the scoop in the bin.

And that one mouse that ran over my head? Does it every time, without fail. Don’t know what his problem is.

Three Dirty Birds Talk about Self-Editing for Fiction Writers and Voice


I’m on time today! We’re over at Ana’s blog. This is our last day for Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. Next week, we take on Chuck Wendig and do a little Ass-Kicking.

The Three Dirty Birds Talk Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Chapter 11: Sophistication


Oops! I forgot to check Zoe’s blog yesterday for the link! (I was still doing my Snoopy dance over getting the window in and finished.) So, today, we’re talking about eliminating a lot of those little tell-tales of the beginning writer.

Tuesday Tickle: The Walnuts

I’m bogged down in some serious house repairs right now–new windows in the front (my first ever carpentry effort) and a backed up septic system (not touching that one with a 20 ft pole, and still waiting for the septic guy to get here), so I’m really behind on new words.  I do have a tiny bit from the opening of The Walnuts, which happens on Nathan’s birthday.

Nathan lay on Vince’s bed in absolute bliss, while his incredibly good-looking, fantastically wonderful boyfriend massaged his way from Nathan’s shoulders to the small of his back. With firm, loving strokes, Vince chased down every last ounce of tension in Nathan’s body and left him cheeping sleepily against the soft cotton.

Best present ever.

The bed shifted as Vince leaned forward, his breath warm against Nathan’s ear. “How’s the birthday boy doing?” He worked his thumbs up both sides of Nathan’s spine, until he could circle them over the hollow at the base of his skull.

“Mmmph.” Nathan sighed and went completely limp—except for one part of him, contrarily hard as macadamia nut shells. “Feels good.”

That earned him a laugh, low and sexy. “You’re going to need a shower after this. Get that oil off you.”

“You mean you can’t do this forever?”

“Not if we’re going to make it to your party.”

There went his erection. Nathan groaned. “Maybe I can call and cancel?”

“Nathan!” The talented hands disappeared and Vince flopped down beside him, a frown marring his his gorgeous face. “You promised you’d introduce me to your family.”

“It’s not you. It’s...them.”

“I survived the campground. And daycamp with the twins.”

Nathan winced. “Yeah. Sorry about that. What gave them the idea to build a trebuchet, anyway?”



The Three Dirty Birds, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, and Repeating Yourself


Three Dirty Birds are talking about Self-editing for Fiction Writers again. This is our last week for this book. Today, we’re talking about Chapter 10, which focuses on repetition.

Kate: I thought this one really built on some of the concepts that were brought forward in previous chapters, particularly the one on Interior Monologue.

Ana: Yeah, I guess this is another way to prevent interior monologue from getting rambly. Don’t make your characters repeat themselves.

Kate: And it’s one of those things that depends so much on style and voice, which we’ll be talking about in a later post, so this is a skill that takes a bit of time. I didn’t actually agree with all her examples in this chapter.

Zoe: I didn’t either…so it depends on style and voice and reader taste.

Ana: I didn’t think all the edited examples were all that great. K

ate: No, they weren’t. The second one, I thought that the editing actually removed the author’s voice. It read very bland to me in the second version, while–in the first, original–I could hear the narrator as a person.

Zoe: This was the one with Rita’s habit of gaudy dress? (It’s early here: I’m not up to counting to two yet.)

Ana: I think it’s the one about the garage? I think this goes to show why editors make suggestions rather than rewriting the text themselves.

Kate: I was actually thinking about the one with Rita in it, yes. I thought the garage one was improved by pulling out some of those sentences. Though I’m not sure she should have removed that last sentence. Set off in its own paragraph, it would have been a nice bit of emotional punctuation.

Zoe: I felt the same about the Rita example. It was more vibrant in the original, and it lost its impact in the rewrite. What she took out wasn’t what I usually think of as redundancies that need to be removed.

Kate: Which is just a warning–don’t be afraid to STET something. It’s your voice, you are responsible for guarding it, and I think the Rita passage was an example of someone not being able to see the forest for the trees. Too focused on the technical incorrectness to notice that the voice was carried in those sections. Voice trumps everything–all the editors I stalk on Twitter say so.

Zoe: Well, if it’s on Twitter, it’s true. We all know that. 😉

Kate: The interwebz haz many truths. *nods sagely*

Zoe: I STETed for voice on my upcoming new adult romance recently, and the world didn’t end. Definitely worth sticking to your guns when it really is coming down to voice.

Ana: Are you sure the world hasn’t ended? It’s looking pretty bleak here.

Zoe: I have coffee. The world hasn’t ended if I can still get coffee.

Kate: I ate the last of my chocolate last night. I think that’s the first sign of the Apocalypse, right?

Ana: Does my caffeine intolerance mean I’m secretly already dead?

Zoe: No, you’re still at risk from all the people who may be plunged into caffeine withdrawal if the world ends. (Also, Kate: Ana has chocolate. Make her share.)

Kate: Share, Ana! I’ll share my cabana boys.

Ana: You mean the cabana boy you stole from me three weeks ago? Kate: Possession is nine-tenths of the law. 😀

Ana: Don’t try to confuse me with numbers! *walks into a wall*

Zoe: I’m surprised you have any walls left. (Ana hits her head against the wall a lot.) Anyhow, I thought the example given for interior monologue worked much better in editing. It cut away the refuse and… (Ana’s eating chocolate. I’ve lost my train of thought. Anyway: interior monologue example good.)

Kate: This was the camping, right? I liked that one. I also liked that she mentioned that repetition wasn’t always a bad thing, that you could use it to emphasize something, or build up a character with subtle clues, depending on what you repeated.

Ana: I STETed some line edits that wanted me to remove a repetition that I’d intended. I hadn’t put it in consciously, but I knew I wanted it to stay.

Zoe: The authors make a good point on the close repetition of words used with different meanings. It’s something we don’t generally notice when we’re writing (and even through several edits sometimes) because to us they’re two completely different things, but they can jump out at a reader. In the example it was the use of “on the ground” and “ground turkey” just a sentence apart.

Kate: That’s something that catches me quite often when I’m reading. It’s a fairly easy fix, usually, though it occasionally requires some authorial contortions to have everything flow and make sense.

Zoe: Yes! I had that problem in the upcoming book with “lock of hair” and an actual lock being in the same paragraph.

Kate: I remember you talking about that.

Zoe: I forget what I wound up changing “lock of hair” to, but it wasn’t easy, because “strand of hair” isn’t the same thing at all, and “hank” of hair is much bigger.

Ana: I think I’ve never heard that second one…

Kate: It’s not as common as the other ones. Did anyone’s eyes open just a little bit wider when you read the extract from the review on page 183?

Zoe: I think we all agree that review was a bit anal (but I wanted to be the one to type anal. Ha!)

Kate: I’m not sure you need to worry about a repeated three-word phrase with two hundred pages in between them.

Zoe: Mr. Rider told me that I really like the word “congeal,” after he read my horror novel. I did a search on it. Used it twice in 86,000 words. TWICE!

Ana: Lol. I guess some words stand out to readers if they wouldn’t use them themselves? I remember I once read (and gave up on) a book that used ‘proverbial’ every second page or so.

Zoe: I guess that author lost a proverbial reader.

Kate: Groan. Every second page was probably a little too much.

Ana: You could have made a drinking game out of it.

Zoe: The authors move on to tackle larger-scale repetition: chapters that accomplish the same thing, characters who play the same role. I actually removed a character from the new adult romance and assigned his jobs to the other characters—he wasn’t integral enough to the story to justify being there, and he duplicated some functionality of other characters. (Though it did lead my editor to ask “WHO???” when I forgot to change the name once or twice. But it wouldn’t be a good editing session if I didn’t throw in at least one character who wasn’t in the story.)

Ana: Yes, real life people often have a large circle of acquaintances, but in fiction, it just gets confusing when you have too many characters.

Kate: True. In real life, we interact with people, or can ask who they are if we’ve forgotten. It’s a bit harder in a novel, when you’re reading along and the name is familiar, but you can’t quite remember who this person is, because you’ve met so many. Much better to keep it simpler.

Zoe: Plus you don’t want readers wondering why this character is there. What’s their importance? Oh…there is none. Whoops.

Kate: Or, we’re asking the reader to acquaint themselves with a brand new character, so they can learn something important to the plot, when one of the old characters could have done the job. You never get really familiar with the characters if you’re always meeting new ones, just like in real life.

Zoe: Or Twitter!

Ana: When you’re giving more tasks to fewer characters, you usually end up with more fleshed out characters too. It’s better to have a few well rounded characters than to have a bunch of background puppets.

Zoe: Yes. Well-rounded characters make memorable characters. A well-rounded supporting cast will have your readers begging for you to write spin-offs just for their favorite characters who didn’t get enough attention. (Like one of Kate’s well-loved supporting characters….)

Kate: I thought they made an important point about making sure that your chapters all have their own purpose, that you don’t have two chapters in the novel that essentially do the same thing. That kind of repetition slows down a story and creates a circular plot, where you’re just retreading old ground.

Ana: Yeah, I recently read a story where the three introductory chapters pretty much all just showed the MC’s relationship to her friends and family.

Zoe: Every chapter should have its own purpose (one that moves the story forward, of course).

Ana: Wouldn’t that be nice…

Zoe: And then we get to really large-scale repetition. You know, the one where you loved an author’s book, so you read another. And another. And…hey, they’re all the same book! That’s much less fun.

Kate: I laughed reading that part.

Ana: Yeah, I had some names in mind. We probably all do.

Zoe: Probably. On one hand, they can be comfort food for some readers, but….

Ana: I suppose sometimes it’s nice to know exactly what you’re getting when you’re buying a certain author.

Kate: I don’t know. I stopped reading a fairly well-known scifi author after realizing that if I continued with this series, I was going to be reading the same story over and over again. I could just reread the first couple of books and have the same experience.

Zoe: I feel like it has to get boring to write, by the thirteenth book or so. Ana: Once you reach number thirteen you can mix things up by swapping the males for females!

Kate: Oh, Ana! Dirty Bird!

And the last thing they talked about was overdoing stylistic tricks, or characterizations, because if you use a trick or piece of information too often, people start to notice it. It’s great for a running gag, but most times it’s not meant that way and people start figuratively (or, sometimes, literally) rolling their eyes about it.

Ana: Yes, don’t be a one-trick pony!

Zoe: A Song of Fire and Ice Fans love to parrot the over-repeated lines from those books.

Ana: Brace yourselves, edits are coming.

Zoe: Ha. Words are wind.

Kate: Lol.