One Pizza Box Too Many

One of the worst arguments I’ve had with my husband was about an empty pizza box. Really, I’m not making this up. We yelled. Well, I yelled. I can’t remember what he did. What I do remember is the look on my daughter’s face, and the ducking heads of everyone else at the recycling center.

Oh, yeah. This one happened in public.

Now we like to joke about the fact we nearly divorced over a pizza box. (Not even close, but it makes a good story.) Then, it was very upsetting. How did our discussion become so heated? Read on…
Continue reading

Looking Ahead

reading-writing-resolving-1Every January I tell myself I’m going to post about my writing goals for the year—and then I don’t. Admittedly, I wondered if anyone would care about what I was up to. Right now, though? This post is for me. My whole blog is pretty much for me. ❤ So here’s a resolution post with an outline for some reading goals, some personal goals and quick ramble about all the books I’d like to write. Continue reading

Letting Go

If there is one thing writing has taught me, it’s how to let go. It’s not an easy lesson, and out of all the lessons of the past few years, it’s the one I struggle with most—probably because it’s just so important. It affects every stage of the writing process and has value in other areas of my life.

I haven’t blogged much this month. I’ve been busy writing a book! It’s nearly done and I’m going to post a teaser for it next week and blog about the process of writing it. The knockdown, drag about fight I had with my copy edits for Block and Strike yesterday prompted this post. I wrote Block and Strike over two years ago. I revised it last year and rewrote a significant portion of it this year. Right now, it’s that book. The one I’ve invested a lot of self into. And yesterday, I finally had to let it go. Continue reading

Walking Fantasy Maps

I’ve hurt my knee. So, in the time honoured tradition of one making an epic journey, I will use my convalescence to catch you up on events so far.

One bright and shiny morning, my fitness group discovered a link to the map of all maps, the spreadsheet of all spreadsheets. Distance plotted, days calculated. We were going to walk to Mordor—taking heed of all warnings, of course.

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It’s 1779 miles from Hobbiton to Mt. Doom. Over the past twelve months, I’ve walked 996. And now my knee is buggered. Thankfully, three days ago my party took to the river and we’re currently drifting toward the flats to the north of the Field of Celebrant. Really, I timed it all rather well. The orcs aren’t due to attack for another five days.

My Fitbit has actually recorded enough lifetime miles for me to have reached Mt. Doom and I really think that should be a badge. The badges they do offer are fun, if rooted in this world. I earned the Great Barrier Reef badge while traversing Sydney airport over the summer. I’ve always been one of those people who like to look between the trees on the side of the road, though, and imagine that I’m running between them, either away from a monster, or toward some important destiny.

Obviously, I’m supposed to be living on another world, or in another time.

So I decided to imagine that instead of walking to end of the neighbourhood—again, and when is number twenty-five going to do something about the swamp that is their front yard?—I could be traversing maps of fantasy. All when my knee is better, of course.

 

Ferelden

ThedasMap

In my role as moderator of the Warden’s Vigil roleplaying community, I created a number of tables and charts covering the distances and travel times between map points in Ferelden. For the uninitiated, Ferelden is the principle territory in the game Dragon Age: Origins. Because I’m a stickler for realism, even when playing make believe, I wanted to know how long it would take my characters to travel from Highever to Denerim. It’s 162 miles. About a week’s travel—if you assume I’m not as fit as a hobbit and can only walk about twenty-four miles a day.

Ferelden isn’t a large country, though. In my eighteen months of walking the mean streets of Middle Smithfield township, I’ve managed to circle Ferelden one and a half times.

 

Faerûn

Faerun_map

Faerûn, on the other hand, is huge. Granted, Ferelden is only a small part of Thedas and if I were to map my journey from Denerim to Val Royeaux, I’d be covering an appreciable distance, about the 800 miles.

The same distance would get me from Neverwinter to Baldur’s Gate.

If I were really keen, I’d map Drizzt’s miles—that elf has traveled. He’s also long-lived and extremely sneaky. I’d probably have died somewhere in Icewind Dale…assuming I made it out of Menzoberranzan alive.

 

Pern

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I lived in Pern for a number of years. Really and truly. I put one book down and picked up another for a long, long time. I knew all the halls and holds—major and minor. I had flown between with dragons, and I had my own horde of fire lizards. Basically, I was Menolly.

When I started roleplaying online, I played in Pern. I never really mapped the distances between points, though. Time sort of adjusted according to the requirements of our adventures. Handy, that.

Taking my current miles, somewhere in the neighbourhood of 800-1000, I could have walked from High Reaches Hold to Benden Weyr. That’s pretty much the breadth of the northern continent.

Alas, alack and all that, I live here on Earth, where my miles are less impressive. In eighteen months, I’ve walked from New York to Abilene, Texas. I’m not sure what my final destination is, but I should have timed it better. August is not the time to be south of anywhere.

Maybe when my knee is better, I’ll veer north a little bit and aim for somewhere pleasant like Santa Barbara. It’s only another 1300 miles.

 

Railroaded by the Railroad

I finally finished Fallout 4. (This write up may contain mild spoilers)

I don’t know if it’s that I enjoy exploring post-apocalyptic worlds, or if Bethesda simply excels at creating compelling environments, but I could (and did) spend hundreds of hours wandering ruined America—and that is perhaps my favourite part of any Fallout game, the time lost to roving.

FoodstuffCuriosity is not always rewarded kindly. Scouring the edges of the map will drop you into obscure quests and hair-raising encounters. Foodstuff machines, a stranded ship crewed by robots, loners who should be left alone, atomic cults, a barely operational nuclear sub, aliens and the mother of all mirelurks. I tripped over a hill into a nest of glowing green radscorpions and died horribly (while running away). I hadn’t saved for a while and lost twenty minutes of game play. I reloaded and ventured into the Glowing Sea again, because what’s twenty minutes when you’re already four hours distant from the quest you were absolutely, positively going to finish today? Continue reading

Trying Not to Write

I’ve been writing nearly every day for about six years. Before then, I wrote every few days, reviewing books and PC games for various publications, and occasionally writing travel reviews and editorials. Then I discovered fan fiction and wrote what I fondly refer to as “my first novel,” a 93k word epic entitled The Hero of Ferelden.

The endless road…

I’d written fiction before, but never seriously. Never anything long. Never anything that consumed me in quite the same way as writing about my Warden and his allies did. I went on to write a chapter a day for eight months, producing another 500k words—two more novels, several novellas and a lot of short stories.

Then I wrote something of my own and got it published. Then I wrote something else. Meanwhile, I’d been role playing with an active forum for about three years, writing sometimes up to 9k a day in posts. Oh, and Jenn and I wrote a book together somewhere in there, a dark fantasy that topped 120k.

Together, Jenn and I wrote the Chaos Station series in about fifteen months. That’s another 360k. During that time I also wrote two other novels, five novellas and a handful of short stories. This year alone I’ve written another two novels (one of which we tossed at 55k), both with Jenn.

I’m not going to add up all these words. It’s a lot and I don’t need to see the tally to understand that. I’ve felt the load. There have been days where my brain refuses to produce the right word for anything other than tea and toast.

The first time I burned out, I took a weekend off and then got back to work. I fretted the entire time. WHAT IF I LOST MY WORDS? The second time I had to take a break, it was because my arms hurt too much to use the keyboard. And I’d lost sensation in one of my shoulders. And I couldn’t turn my neck.

Seriously.

After several months of physical therapy we traced the original injury—a pinched nerve in my neck—to a bad fall during karate class. I’d forgotten to stiffen my neck and gave myself a good dose of whiplash. I got up and tried the takedown again. Because I’m a stubborn fool. Then I ignored the pain in my neck and shoulders for five months until I literally couldn’t move.

The words, man. THE WORDS.

I took a break—or I tried to. I limited myself to 1000 words a day, in addition to all the “extras” that go along with being published. The blog posts, the newsletters, the website, the social media presence. I started taking weekends off and that worked for a while. But what I really needed (aside from weekly PT appointments where a lovely massage therapist does cruel and unusual things to my neck and shoulders) was to take a break. Something longer than four days. A break where I didn’t think or write. Where my life revolved around something other than words.

If you’re a writer, you know how hard it is not to write. It’s like…impossible. The stories are RIGHT there. The voices are LOUD. You have to write. If I took a break, I’d lose my place. I’d be stuck on a raft in the middle of a boundless ocean, floating away from the only island I knew existed.

With a trip to Australia coming up this summer, I decided to try and use my vacation as, um, vacation. I didn’t manage it last year. I spent a week in Cape May working on edits and writing blog posts. The summer before I took my laptop to New Orleans and wrote every morning in the hotel room. The summer before that…

You get the idea.

This summer I decided to actually go for it. In preparation, I worked stupid hours for a couple of weeks writing sixteen blog posts for an upcoming tour as well as revising two projects for submission, putting together synopses and query letters, and outlining another project. Oh, and I was writing a book with Jenn as the same time, one we finished a few days before I stepped on the plane. By the time I got to Australia, I was due a break.

Beer!
Beer!

The first week I fretted. I pulled my laptop out the first day and opened a file. I had a novella to outline and a proposal to write. After staring at a blank document for about five minutes, I flipped over to Facebook and watched cat videos. I was jetlagged and tired. The next day my laptop remained closed. The day after that I fretted aloud: “I really should be writing!”

The unanimous response was: “Kick back and have a beer!”

(It’s the Aussie cure for what ails you.)

Four days into my vacation, I started vacationing. I ate, drank, socialised, saw the sights and slept past 4am in the morning. I continued to worry, quietly, that my words were fading like tear stains on a pillow. For two weeks, I didn’t write a single word. I did pull out my phone to jot down the occasional idea and I spent many enjoyable a morning talking books and stories with my dad. But I did NO WORK. I didn’t write a single blog post. I didn’t craft a single promotional tweet.

This is the part where I tell you how amazing it was. Imagine me tipping my head from side to side. I don’t know if it was amazing or not. I don’t know if I’m going to sit down soon and start writing the BEST BOOK ever. What I do know is that I needed the break, mentally and physically. Regardless of what you do for a living, you cannot do it all day, every day, and not suffer the consequences. Our brains require variety. Colours and sensations and experiences. I can’t write good stories if I’m not out there living a good life. Not the kind of stories I want to tell, anyway.

What I have taken from this experience is that I’m not a shark. I can stop swimming. I’d like to write every day, but I know it’s not sustainable. I’ve discovered that I can ignore the voices for a while—if I really try—and they’ll wait for me. New ideas will crop up while I’m not writing. New characters will continue to whisper somewhere between my ears. So long as I make a note of this and that, I’ll never lose these potential words. They’ll always be with me, no matter how much time I take off.

Also, when I’m not writing, there are a heck of a lot of hours left over in the day. Like… what do regular folk do with all this time???

Cake is also good for what ails you.
Cake is also good for what ails you.

I’m five days back and I’ve spent the morning writing blog posts. I actually plan to take the rest of this week off (quelle horreur) because I have two new books releasing next week and that’s WORK right there. What I do hope is that when I finally get back to it, I love writing just as much as before.

Oh, who am I kidding? Of course I will! Otherwise I wouldn’t still be hearing those whispers. 😀

For more pictures of my vacation, connect with me on Instagram! (Scroll down past the cats and Pokémon) For info about my two new releases, check out my Coming Soon page or stay tuned. I’ll be posting about them! Oh, and if you do check out my fan fiction, remember they were written well before I understood what editing was. 😉 (My heart was totally in it!)

 

The View

When Out in the Blue released as part of Dreamspinner’s “Never Too Late” Daily Dose collection, I planned to write a post about the trail Jared and Fin hike during the story. Well, a part of the trail—my favourite part: The hike up to the summit of Mt. Tammany. In many ways, the short hike is a perfect metaphor not only for life, but for writing, and for Jared, for whom I wrote Out in the Blue. I didn’t get to the post then, as I wasn’t able to tackle the hike for a number of reasons. Thankfully, this year I’m back on my feet and fighting fit.

It’s a short hike, just over a mile and a half each way, but the elevation gain is twelve hundred feet. That’s a lot over a mile and a half and, appropriately, the trail is marked as difficult. It’s steep, it’s a definite hike, it’s hard work. This trail is not a walk in the woods. But the climb is so worth it, which is why this trail is one of the most popular in the Northeast. You do get a glimpse of success early on; a view through the trees of the Delaware River winding south, shouldered on each side by the Gap—Mt Tammany on one side, Mt. Minsi on the other.

The Gap

The trail wanders a little after that, steep, but we’re not climbing Everest here. Then we sort of are, without the snow. There are several sections where you’re on your hands and knees and you’re wondering why the heck you decided to climb a mountain today. You’re crawling, not hiking, and your thighs are burning, and you left your bottle of water in the car. It’s not feeling like fun. And all you can see ahead are more rocks and more trees.

The Trail

Where’s the view?

That’s life, isn’t it? We’re always looking for the view. We work toward goals, lured forward by the promise of a view at the end. The first sight of our finished project, or the pleasure it brings others. Financial reward, satisfaction, a job well done. They’re all the ‘view’. And the trail is rough. There are easy sections, but they’re never long enough to make up for the steep climbs.

Writing feels like that sometimes. I think any creative process can feel like that. Life is just so much like that, until we get to the view…and the climb is worth it.

The Summit

For Jared, it’s different. He’s stopped looking for the view. His life has flat lined. For uncounted years, he’s been walking the woods without looking beyond the trees. He hasn’t climbed, he hasn’t caught a glimpse of what’s around the next corner, or up the next slope. What drives him up Mt. Tammany (and along the Appalachian trail for two days before then) is something else. He knows he’s missing something, but he doesn’t know what it is. So I wrote a story to help him find it.

He climbs a mountain:

After an hour of huffing and puffing, and two false summits, they finally reached the peak of Mount Tammany. While the elevation barely scraped a thousand and a half feet—a thousand feet more than the town they’d spent the night in—the view was spectacular. Jared could see the interstate snaking into New Jersey, the river curving south. Though he’d probably see more from the window of a plane, he preferred being on the ground. The scent of old mulched leaves filled his senses, as did the pride of having accomplished something, even if it had been a relatively tame ascent. He’d climbed a hill. He’d walked for two and a half days without collapsing in a heap, and he’d climbed a mountain.

Feeling the warmth of Fin beside him, Jared turned to study the other man’s face. Fin’s expression echoed his.

“Never gets old?” Jared asked.

Fin shook his head. “Nope. Doesn’t matter how high or how far, it’s just being out here.” His lower lip disappeared beneath his teeth a moment. “Being out here is part of the essential human experience.”

Rather than ask him to qualify the statement, Jared simply nodded. He got it. He felt it.

 

Then he takes a chance with Fin:

“I want to kiss you.” He’d kissed so few men. None after Brian.

“That’s a good thing.” Fin’s breath tickled his lips.

Jared opened his eyes, sought the clear blue of Fin’s, and found only an indistinct blur pressed close. “I’m not good at this. What if—”

Fin’s lips touched his in a brief caress. “Shh. If the sex sucks, we’ll laugh about it when we get together to watch a game on Sundays.”

Oh, God. They were really going to do this.

The pressure landed, pushing air from Jared’s lungs. He didn’t understand it, his panic. He just knew it had been getting worse over the past couple of months. Since the company had grounded him, since he’d turned forty-five. Every time he contemplated being stuck in one place, his lungs locked and his ribs dug into his sides. He wouldn’t be able to ignore life when it no longer passed by the window of a plane, constrained to a view of six inches by twelve, cornered in soft angles, obscured by clouds. He’d be out there in the blue, trapped in one place. Trapped in a vastness. An emptiness. His loneliness would be real.

Canting forward, he claimed Fin’s mouth in a rough kiss. His lips were hard, stiff, teeth in the way. Jared pulled away with a gasp. He reached up to frame Fin’s face, thumbs sifting through sideburns to rest against his ears, fingers spearing into dark hair. He sucked in a quick breath, one scented by all Fin was, then kissed him again, this time with less need. Lips softened and parted beneath his.

Spoiler alert, the sex doesn’t suck. 😉 But what I loved about writing this particular scene was the promise of friendship between these guys. Because this is a love story, and the best lovers should also be best friends.

Out in the Blue is one of my favourite stories. I loved writing an older character and Jared’s journey is proof that it’s never too late to start looking for the view, or to simply learn to appreciate it for what it is.

OutintheBlueLGOut in the Blue

At forty-five, Jared Tailler suddenly feels old. When his employer grounds him, he starts thinking in terms of measuring his coffin. Well, not quite, but he’s creakier and hairier than he was ten years ago, and his closest relationship is the one he has with his frequent-flyer card.

It’s time to get out there.

On the first day of a five-day hiking trip, he meets Finley Macrae, a younger, seemingly brighter man. As they inch together in halting steps, Jared learns he’s not the only one lost out in the blue—Fin’s good cheer hides a turbulence deeper than Jared’s midlife crisis. Maybe together they can find the trail to happiness.

 

A story from the Dreamspinner Press 2015 Daily Dose package “Never Too Late.”

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