Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Pass the Plot 3: Scene 8

Lieutenant Eloin felt a pop and a wrench somewhere midway between her chest and back. It didn't hurt afterwards but by the emptiness she knew Darrew had made one last error. She readjusted her weapon. His was one less loose end to tie off.

“How far do we have left?”

“We're making the last approach, so maybe three minutes.” The navigator was intent on the manual adjustments to bring the shuttle into a synchronous orbit.

Eloin smiled. Malkur was good but his sensors were old. This close to his ship, all he would be able to tell was that there were life forms aboard. Closing her eyes, Eloin gave the subvocal command that woke her second self. The air suddenly ran with flavors, nervous sweat from one of her seatmates, cabin air recycled too many times to be taken for fresh, and hints of hot metal coming from the propulsion devices.

Time unfolded as she fired her weapon, head shot after head shot. The navigator was the first to slump against the restraints, and by the time that the beige shirted security officer reached up for his comm link there was no signal coming from his brain to tell his mouth what to do next. Due to the decompression bullets, there wasn't much left of his mouth anyway.

The bodies were still warm as she checked each one, spitting into the ruined faces. Just enough to keep them warm and flexible, just enough that Malkur wouldn't know what was going on until it was too late. The navigator went back to adjusting the trajectories and velocities.

“How long do we have?”

“We're on a drift approach, Heiress.”

“Everyone check your gear. When we get over, I need two decoys; the rest come with me to the reactor chamber. Once there you will defend until the last.”

It had been so long since she had used the power, but the new drones moved just as they should. Her essence wouldn't last long but it would last long enough. Through the nav viewscreen, Eloin saw the landing tube extend. Anticipation prickled the skin at the back of her neck, driving away thoughts of the years that she had drifted from ship to ship, with each new assignment hoping that this would be the one.

Humans were useful and even fun sometimes, but nothing beat the thrill of the hunt. Malkur was one of the few left out here, dully fighting even though he had to understand that his age was turned to ashes behind her own people's rising phoenix. The shuttle jarred to a stop and the connectors met with a muted thump.

“Let's move out.”

Monday, February 22, 2010

Mailbag Monday: February 2010

Though we have a lot in common, each member of the Tri Mu has a slightly different take on writing, publishing, books, and life in general. On the fourth Monday of the month, we'll take a question submitted by one of you and each give our opinions on the issue.

This month's question: Do you ever feel overwhelmed with all the details of a story that need research? How do you handle that?
Submitted by Susan

Kalayna Price's Response: A lot of my research is done before I start writing as I world build and create characters. My early brainstorming process is very organic as tweaking the world changes what the characters can do/how they think/ what they want and changes to those same things in the character may necessitate changes to the world. This is all pre-writting and nothing is set in stone, so I don't usually get overwhelmed--I just sometimes get over excited as I research 'cool' stuff and try to figure out how to make everything fit. A date in which I have to start writing puts a cap on how much of this pre-writing/brainstorming I can do. Once I start writing, I do run into more points that need to be researched. If these points are huge 'omg, this could change how the story plays out' (rare) than I stop and do the research, but only for that one point--no side tangents. If the research is needed just for details, I leave myself a note to come back to it in the second draft. It is far too easy to get sucked into researching every little thing and losing your writing time. Doing a lot of the big research before I ever start the novel, and once I start, not stopping at the tiny things, is how I avoid getting overwhelmed.

Tori Pryer's Response: Research what research....Unfortunately, I tend to start writing and realize that I don't know enough about the backstory or the setting or the history. This is a bit of a problem when you write historicals or books with what I like to call historical elements. You can't fake the past. It happened. You can't fake a location (though plenty of people have tried). When I'm writing, I will put a note to myself saying things like "How many men were needed to crew a B-24?" A little note to remind myself to fact check. Yesterday, I reached a point in my current WIP where I could go no further. So I will likely spend an hour or so tonight figuring out enough of the details that I can move on. You can't get bogged down in the details though. If you do, you stop writing. I promise you that this has happened to me more than once. Also, if you have to stop writing to research, set a timer. You can lose hours to research.

Sarah Templeton's Response: Absolutely. And the overwhelming mountain of research doesn't get any lighter when you're making up your own worlds either, if you're not setting them in a contemporary location. For my science fiction novel, I have a handful of 3-subject notebooks chock full of world-building information, technological gizmos, and myths that no one will ever see. Once I discovered OneNote, keeping track of research was easier -- you can divide your notes into endless categories and search on a dime, which is a relief when you can't remember what you're supposed to be remembering while revising. Two points of advice: 1) Organize your notes. Don't just fling it all on stickies--transcribe it in an orderly fashion when you can. And 2) Beware the tangent. I set a timer to keep myself on one topic and if I finish early I can flit around in the research books like the info junkie I am.

Haricot Vert's Response: I'm in the middle of Overwhelmed right now. At first it seemed harmless enough; I was in revisions and figured a little world building would help me fill those pesky plot holes. But then it snowballed, as I realized that I was having trouble with cussing (for example) because so much of cussing is either based on religious ideals or moral deconstructions. Which lead to exploring the mythos and the theology of the world I was working with. Which lead to realizing that I needed to do something similar for the other five or so worlds that had direct links to the first world. /eye twitch Which puts me here and now.

My solution? I'm going bit by bit, taking notes and trying not to world jump. The other spheres will be there when I arrive, so there is no need to panic. This is what I'm telling myself anyway. :) Again and again and again.

How do you feel about this? Feel free to add to the discussion in the comments.

Have another question you'd like the Modern Myth Makers to answer? Just ask us in the comments and we'll try to respond in a future month.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Pass the Plot 3: Scene 7

Malkur watched the small ship carrying the boarding party hurtle toward his vessel. Five, the drone had said. Five was not nearly enough, but it was a start.

His weary gaze flickered away from the static filled screen to the control panel under it. With a thought, he commanded his ship to extend a docking tunnel and provide the party an adequate location to board. He could hear the buzz, the soft whine of a connection as he communicated with his ship. The ship responded slowly, far too slowly. He was getting too old. His people had been forgotten too long. Had been peaceful too many decades. The conversion process nearly perfected the body, but those organic components which were left still aged, still deteriorated under the burden of time.

No, he had waited far too long this time. His people needed new bodies. They needed a new injection of life. And the Galajax could provide the quickening his people needed.

Over three thousand fresh bodies, all ripe for conversion. Most were colonists, true. Soft, stupid, they were vermin fleeing a dying world, looking for another they could spread over like a plague as they lived out meaningless, short lives. The conversion would purify them. They would do. His people would be reborn.

But the crew . . .

The crew truly interested Malkur. Not all of them, but the hapless drone he'd planted had reported on several crewmen who might be useful. Who might be able to infuse new technology and ingenuity in his people.

Perhaps I'll even allow some to remember themselves. To become one of us instead of simple vessels. Malkur's ancient lips cracked as he smiled, an expression long absent from his haggard face.

Yes, it had been too long. But now things would change. And perhaps it was time for his people to do more than survive. It was time for them to thrive.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Pass the Plot 3: Scene 6

The light on Nara's wristband flashed a frantic tempo and the comm on the wall pinged with Captain Denett's impatient voice. "Ensign, I could really use your expertise outside."

"Kirk," Nara swore, watching the tall drone's body turn a sickly purple--down to the roots of his carbon-copied blonde hair--then dissolve before her eyes. Stooping, she retrieved the chip formerly embedded under the skin of Darrew's forehead then crushed it under the heel of her boot. "Sir, I'm switching to Priority Delta." A physical sweep of encryption descended into the hallway and Nara shivered. The buzz of the private communication channel weaving around her body remained the only thing about space travel capable of setting off her claustrophobia.

"What's wrong, Nara?" Captain Denett spoke casually on the private line, knowing no one else could hear.

"We've already been infiltrated." Her voice came out shaking. The sight of the dead man's fast-decaying body twisted her gut harder than she'd expected. Darrew had no longer been Darrew. He'd been a sleeper agent for the enemy. And judging from the aggressive punch of dark-laced energy trying to hack into the web of energy playing over her skin, he wasn't the only one.

"Daughter-mine, your inability to follow direct orders is exhausting."

Nara sighed and shouldered her laser rifle, heading for the shuttle bay. "You knew." The Garidan hacker pressed harder into the connection and Nara felt her father slide a fourth layer of protection over the conversation.

"I am the captain." He paused and Nara caught a mental image on the line of a smothered bout of frustration before he continued. "I can handle the ones on board, but if I lose an entire boarding party because of you, we'll be discussing your court-martial when you return, where everyone can hear it. Is that understood?"

"But I'm not the one who--" She sucked in a breath to stifle her protest before he gifted her with another stint in the brig for whining. "Yes, Captain." Nara punched the code on the wall console to disconnect and ducked into the zero-G transport instead of the full-sized shuttle. "Solar shorts, Ellie, this was one away mission you shouldn't have screwed with."

Gravity generators weighed too much; for practicality's sake the tiny "zip-ships" could only claim their nickname by omitting everything except life support and a hydrogen-class turbyte engine. A super-charged engine Nara hoped would be fast enough even now to arrive in time to save her crewmates. Her father ought to be court-martialing Ellie. By leaving the Galajax's only xenopsychologist behind, the lieutenant had pretty much guaranteed at least one solar burial in their future. On the other hand, if Nara hadn't found Darrew, she wouldn't be walking into the other ship with her rifle set to kill.

As the pod blasted a path through clouds of green smoke, Nara's palm closed over her nostrils. Not for the first time, she wished the air circulation unit hadn't been forgone in the design. The darn thing smelled like Terran fish heads rotting on a summer beach.

A Lack of Focus

"Distracted from distraction by distraction
Filled with fancies and empty of meaning
Tumid apathy with no concentration"
--"Four Quartets" by T.S. Elliot

I'm starting to think that I have allowed myself too easy access to distractions. Email, chat, Facebook, blogs, and YouTube, all contribute to mental over stimulation and lack of focus. If my muse rebels against working on a particular page on my manuscript, then it is so very easy to jump over to check gchat and see who is talking to me or to facebook to see who has posted a pithy status message. I waste not only time, but mental energy bouncing around the Internet.

So, I'm now trying my hand at rationing my media usage and giving my mind long swaths of computer-free time to remember how to focus again. I have my AlphaSmart word processor which is great for Internet-less writing, and I might even drag out a good old fashioned pen and paper. I've also purchased a bunch of books that I want to read.

How do you avoid getting distracted?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Positive Thinking

echoes of old words
nascent shapes of words unborn
mix on the threshold


When Dalida sings "Paroles," that is beauty. When Miriam Makeba sings "Pata pata," that is beauty. When Cesaria Evora sings anything, "Sodade," for example, that is beauty.

Is it wrong that when I feel particularly low as regards my own progress towards darn goodness (I really don't aspire towards greatness or anything like that) at the craft, I remind myself that even those three pearls of music making had to practice as well?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

TWICE DEAD Available on Kindle! and A CONTEST!

(This post x-posted from
Well, the kindle version of books usually takes longer than the print version to become available, but in a strange turn of events, the kindle version for Twice Dead has shown up first. So, if you have a kindle, you can read Twice Dead HERE.

To celebrate the release, I'm running a week long contest here on the blog. Here is what I'll be giving away:

Three lucky winners will get your choice of one (1) of the following items. (I only have one of each available, so this will be a first picked, first choice kind of deal)

-$15 Amazon OR Barnes and Noble Gift Card.
-Twice Dead Promotional Mug

-Twice Dead Promotional Notebook

To enter, simply write a review for the first Haven novel, Once Bitten, and publish it somewhere on the web. Then leave a comment in this post linking to the review. You can review the book on your blog, on Amazon/B&N/BAM/Borders, Goodreads, Library thing, etc. If you have previously reviewed the book, feel free to link to that review. (If you are reading this at a remote location, you'll need to visit my blogger blog to enter.) Each review linked will give you one entry in the contest. If you also mention the release of Twice Dead, you will get one additional entry.

The contest is open until Sunday, February 14th at 11:59 pm. I will use a random number generator to choose three winners, who will be announced Monday. I am willing to ship internationally, so this contest is open to anyone.

Have a great weekend everyone!

(**note: this is the first time I've had mugs or notebooks printed, and they have not yet arrived. When they do, if the quality is sub-par, I will offer an alternate prize.)

Friday, February 5, 2010


First off, where did January go? Did someone borrow several days (weeks?) of January from my calendar? I could really use them back--I'm not ready for February. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like I have a choice. We are already five days into February. Hard to believe, but true.

Why do I feel the need to beg for a longer January? Mostly because I have deadline looming in the not too far future, and I'm not ready for it. Most of this is due to the fact that I've been doing a lot of multitasking lately. A whole lot.

All of the Tri Mu have our own preferred ways to work on projects (perhaps we should discuss that in a mailbag monday one of these days), and a couple of the Tri Mu actually like to have several projects running at once. (Weird, I know.) Me? I'm most definitely not one of them. I prefer to focus on one project and knock it out fast in huge chunks.

That is apparently no longer an option for me.

Revisions for one book, first draft of another, and promo for a third? Can I run and hide now? Apparently not.

So, *lifts wine glass* (wait, it's only noon) ahem *lifts water bottle* here's to multitasking. May I conquer this many-headed beast.

Happy Friday everyone!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Pass the Plot 3: Scene 5

Nara stood behind the security console in the secondary shuttle bay, an old-fashioned Earth shotgun braced against her left shoulder and trained on her target. "Whoa there, Colonist. Where do you think you're headed?"

"Nara? I thought you went over with the first boarding party?" Darrew leaned against the side of the shuttle craft, hiding his weapon behind the curve of the deflector shielding.

If Nara hadn't caught a glimpse of the cannon when he'd first come into the room, he might still have retained the element of surprise. She shifted her finger from the guard to the trigger. A click rattled around the shuttle bay, announcing that her weapon was pumped and ready to fire.

"Yes, that was the plan, but then Ellie sent me to make sure you were safe in your cryo unit before we left. She worries, you know." And she'll use just about any excuse she can find to keep me off an away mission. Still, it was just as well that Nara had gone looking for him. She wouldn't have overheard his transmission to the raider if she hadn't.

Darrew laughed, the teasing hint of rebelliousness Ellie had found so charming lighting up his expression. "I guess you found me out. I was going to try to sneak over to that other ship with the second boarding party once you guys cleared it." He shifted his weight -- probably looking for a better grip on the rocket launcher he was still trying to hide. "Is it really a Garidan raider?"

Nara stepped around the console, making sure her feet were firmly planted with each step. The gravity in this section of the ship was still holding steady, but if they took another knock . . . She didn't want to risk missing when it came time to shoot.

"Yes, it is." Nara measured the distance between them in her head. Too close and the buckshot wouldn't spread enough to do enough damage. Too far, and he'd be able to move before it hit him. This would be easier if Garid drones didn't move so damn fast. "I imagine they're busy converting the boarding party as we speak."

Another two steps ought to do it.

"Converting?" Darrew looked around, his eyes lingering on the shuttle bay doors and the airlock. "Come on now, Nara, you don't really believe those silly old wives' tales, do you? I mean, they can't really still be out there, converting people into drones." Incredulity tinged his tone. He focused on a point on the wall just over her left shoulder, his gaze turning a little glassy. "Earth has recorded no evidence of Garidan activity in this sector in 106.73 years."

He shifted his weight again, and this time she felt the weapon in his hand hum to life, a subtle change in the vibration of the air. If she hadn't had her sensory nodes turned all the way up in preparation for boarding the raider, she would have missed it.

A spray of antique buckshot mixed with a few super burn pellets and two drops of laser acid exploded from the barrel of Nara's gun. Darrew dropped like a stone, wiring and metal plating exposed and melting now that the pretty face the drone had hidden under had been ripped to shreds.

Nara rushed over to the security console, engaging a max level containment field around what was left of the body. "That's because we keep destroying the evidence whenever we find you."

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Brandon Sanderson Giveaway Winner!

The wise and powerful random number picker has slated commentor #3 as our winner for January's Free Fic Friday.

And that means.......congrats are in order to RKCharron!

Please send an e-mail over to contests (AT) themodernmythmakers (DOT) com with your mailing information so I can drop your copy of the wonderfulness that is Warbreaker off at the post office this week! :D

Thank you all for entering our first giveaway. We hope to see more of your comments as you stick around for more blog posts, our weekly story arc, and additional free stuff!

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Dark Side of a Rewards System

Rewarding yourself for meeting goals is a great concept for a writer. Your muse will be tickled by goodies you shower upon him or her, your inner editor will be smarmy with "I told you we could do this", and your self-image will shoot up as you relax with whatever pasttime you have chosen to gift yourself. However, if you don't meet your goals, you don't get the reward. *gasp!* You wouldn't want that, so you push yourself to succeed. It's a great concept.

But is it working?

Most of the time the rewards system is broken, flawed. I was crazy guilty of taking advantage of my rewards last year, but I suspect I'm not the only one who has fallen prey to temptation. In 2009, I rewarded myself for a job poorly done, for goals half-accomplished, for alternative goals, for goals met far beyond the deadline I'd set, and prematurely for goals "to be accomplished". And all I did was reinforce negative behavior.

So what's wrong? Aside from "good enough"-itis and "the real world ate my week and my mood is foul so I need something to pull me out of my funk" excuses, we could be setting the wrong rewards:

  • "I'll buy it anyway": If you have the money set aside for something that you intend to purchase anyway, this is not the right kind of reward. For example, if you're an avid reader and there are books you intend to purchase, and you pre-make that purchase, you can say "I won't read this until I meet my goal" all you want. But you ARE going to break down and read it before you've accomplished that goal in its entirety.

  • "I'll play this game/read this book for [set time here]": If you are obsessed with video games, this is not the right kind of reward. For example, if you're addicted to Facebook games and allow yourself 15 minutes to play for every hour of writing time, but you DON'T set a timer or you habitually state "Just 5 more minutes!", this is a bad, bad, bad, bad reward. You will lose hours into games, miss out on valuable writing time, and feel guilty over succumbing to the lure of the game. Likewise if you are an avid reader and a good book will suck you inside its pages and steal the rest of the day.

  • "I'll go to this movie with friends": If you schedule a movie theater timeslot (or any other event) and have no intention of cancelling that appointment, this is not the right kind of reward. For example, if you've already purchased tickets, it's almost impossible to back out of the arrangement, especially if it's a costly event. No one likes to say to their friends, "I'm sorry I can't go see X-Men 15,021 with you this weekend even though we've been planning it for months: I only spent 18 hours on writing this week and I'm 10 pages short of my goal." So we don't, especially if said friends are non-writing friends, and especially if the non-writing friends don't "get it".

  • "I'll clean the bathroom": If you don't get real enjoyment out of cleaning, this is not the right kind of reward. This is an obligation, same as your movie-date. For example, if you look at your office and the idea of ripping through mounds of unkempt paper is enough to give you hives, you'll be more likely to throw the goals in the trash than a single wad of misplaced tissue paper.

    What are good rewards, then?
    *Things you will feel real disappointment in missing out on or real excitement in the act of working toward, but not feel tempted to reward yourself with "because I've worked hard and deserve it". Accomplish your goals as stated, or let the reward shift back to the next time you have a goal to meet.

    *Stepped rewards that require multiple elements in order to really enjoy the "big picture" reward. Right now, I have a stepped reward that allows me to buy new costume pieces for the Steampunk World's Fair in May. I have 4 major goals and money set aside. If I miss one of my goals, I still have a closet of clothes to rummage through, but I might not get the spiffy lace ruffled Victorian jacket I've been ogling since last summer. And I reeeeally want that jacket, because without it, and the skirt, and the boots, and the belt - I'll just be cool. Not SUPER cool.

    *Things people (friends and family) hold hostage and refuse to reliquish, no matter how piteously you beg. ("But I got through 5 pages today, that's more than zero! You can let me have my PS3 controller back...please?" "Is 5, 10? I don't think so. *whip crack* No goals met, no rewards, sucka!")

    *Time spent with friends that isn't premeditated. Meet your goal, THEN schedule your reward meetup time.

    *Timed rewards. If you can train yourself to use the timer truthfully (and not effectively "snoozing" on your allowance of reward time) this can be a fabulous way to make yourself stick to your rewards.

    *Mini-rewards for those incomplete goals. If you must reward yourself for effort instead of endgame, promise yourself a smaller reward. This then becomes the "if I almost make it, and I'm happy with my achievements, I get this instead of the big thing over there" and leaves the big shiny reward for your major accomplishments. Just make sure that you don't make the small rewards more appealing than the big ones!

    This whole spiel doesn't apply to everyone. Some of us are rockstars in the self-discipline department. The rest of us have to work harder, set more meaningful rewards, and keep those goals of ours manageable in order to allay frustration.

    The moral of the story?

    Don't go to the dark side. You won't be taking out Alderaan - you'll only be hurting yourself, your self-esteem, and your willingness to meet your goals in the first place.

    Don't reward yourself for a job poorly done, for goals half-accomplished, for alternative goals, for goals met far beyond the deadlines you set, or prematurely for goals "to be accomplished". Don't reinforce negative behavior. Be tougher on yourself. If you don't meet your goals regularly, make them more realistic. If you meet your goals far in advance, step them up to give yourself more of a challenge. And perhaps most important of all: Be honest with yourself.
  • First and Goals: February 2010

    At the beginning of each month, we Modern Myth Makers will be posting our writerly goals for the coming month, in an effort to motivate ourselves through the threat of shaming in a public forum by giving each other, and all of you, the opportunity to encourage our progress.

    NL Berger's Goals: Well, my January goals were a total bust. A classic case of that whole "Man plans, God laughs" thing. So I'm setting a much lighter goal for February. At this point I'll just be happy to get back to writing a little bit every day. So that's it for me. No target word counts, no revised pages plans. Just some kind of progress, every day for the next 28 days.

    Darlene C. Goodman's Goals: I didn't get my timeline in, but I did break through the chapter 13 jinx and start a series arc narrative summary document. For February, I want to finish my series arc.

    Kalayna Price's Goals: Well, I knew last month's goal of writing 90k in a month was ambitious. Unfortunately, I didn't meet it. (Next time. Next time) So, February's goal is to finish my WIP and start on the second draft.

    Tori Pryer's Goals: Well, I finished the first draft of my WIP. That was the biggest goal. I think I accomplished it even though I wound up combining my new draft with the second half of my old draft to do it. I finished the new ending last night. For the month of February, my goal is to write a World War II short. If I can, I will begin editing the WIP that I just finished.

    Sarah Templeton's Goals: My muse is exhausted. She and my internal editor (who's still hopped up on caffeine and poking away at the intriguing gray squishy bits inside my skull) had a busy, busy month. Together they accomplished and then swarmed past my goals. Page 200? Try 1 and 3/4 full revisions, 2 new chapters, and a major revamp of motivation. This month I'm swinging my focus around to agent submissions--synopsis and query letter time!--and revisions for the first half of a steampunk short I drafted out last year.

    Haricot Vert's Goals: Right then. So I had plans to expand the scene list completed in January (yay for achieving a goal!), however now that February is staring me impudently in the face, I am backing down from those plans. Instead, my goal for this short, stumpy, month is to write each day. *fist bump with NL*

    What about you guys? What are your writing goals for this month?