My NaNo Retrospective

It’s November, and some of you out there are writing fiendishly for National Novel Writing Month. Despite my earlier expressed excitement, I decided at the last minute that I should instead concentrate on some works in progress rather than on a completely (well, mostly completely) new story. Rob and Paige’s story isn’t going in the bin; I’m just holding off on them a bit longer. They deserve a fuller telling, anyway.

2013 NaNoWriMo logo

NaNoWriMo is a celebration of writing, deadlines, creativity, and support, all important aspects of becoming a storyteller. Even though I won’t be running the race, this year, I don’t consider that a failure. In fact, NaNo has given me at least five stories of which I’m pretty proud:

anywhere_but_here-wp2012’s NaNo – “Anywhere but Here” – is a dystopian science fiction story, about four runaways and the Hounds tracking them down. In my delusion, I thought I could possibly push that one to publishable status, so I sent the first 1000 words to editor Kate Johnston. Kate had some great comments…but I was too shamed to send her the rest for a real job; I wanted to make the draft the best I could make it, and I knew that first pass wasn’t good enough. So, I’m working on that in bits and bobs.
On a side note, I believe Kate is still offering a great deal on a free critique of 1000 words, over at Musefly Writing Studio. Check out the link for more details!

fearless_graffiti_wp2011’s NaNo – Fearless – is still in progress, around 160K in first draft form. (I know: edit, edit, edit.) It’s a romance drama, one I’d once hoped to publish some day. As the story has become longer and more convoluted, though, that possibility has become ever more doubtful. I don’t mind. Once it’s done, I will print it up, bind it, and put it on my shelf. Because the story is so much a part of me, now. I’ve learned the most through writing it, and the depths of its beauty, sadness, and humanity I don’t think I’ll ever approach again.

Sixes-and-Sevens2007’s story was Sixes and Sevens, romance from an interracial angle, set circa 1997. Why that year? I remember being at a sleepover and waking up to news of Diana Spencer’s death, and talking with my friends about it, how we take the most important parts of life for granted. That, and the music from 1997 was pretty rockin’. 😀

In 2006, I wrote “The Daughters of Krull,” based on the high fantasy film from the 1980s (don’t judge me). While a fantasy, the main plot dealt mostly with fathers and daughters. I took three supporting characters from the film – a middle-aged man, a younger man in his physical prime, and a boy – and used them to examine their relationships with the women in their lives. It was actually a lot of fun to write, if not terribly popular with my usual readers.

through_green_eyes-wpAnd, all the way back in 2005, for my first NaNo, I wrote “Through Green Eyes,” a coming-of-age story of four siblings in colonial Japan, seen through the eyes of the family cat. This is probably the roughest and simplest of my NaNo ventures, but it’s also one of my favorites. It rekindled a love of my personal heritage I hadn’t felt in a long time. And, writing a cat was fun.

Whether you’re participating in NaNoWriMo or not, take a moment to reflect on some of the stories you’ve written over the years. What are your favorites? Feel free to leave a link with your comment, too: because NaNo is just as much about sharing and inspiration as anything else. Tally ho!

The lost art of conversation. [FSF]

This week, Lillie McFerrin’s prompt for her Five Sentence Fiction challenge is “WORDS.”

I went a few different ways with this prompt, at first…though, my initial flash fiction idea – while based on a true story – pushed the vulgarity a bit too much than I like to do for a public challenge. So, this little vignette, taken from the early days of Fearless:

Orion startrails window

By AstroHurricane001 at en.wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“The loss of artful conversation”

Stretched upon the sand, beneath a canopy of stars, with the rhythm of the rolling current nearby, the lads often turned reflective.

“I think,” Neville mused softly, “with all this technology, and the culture of instant messaging, mankind’s lost the skill of artful conversation, like the poetry that used to exist in the days of Shakespeare, or Milton: what happened to that, where’s all that gone?”

With his head laid in the pillow of Amber’s lap and soothed by both the sound of waves and the gentle drift of her fingers through his hair, Ross hummed, and murmured, “There might be something to that. But,” he added, his gaze finding Amber’s as he opened his eyes again, “for some things, I don’t think you need conversation.”

That settled the lads for a long minute, until Niall sniffed, and declared:

“I’m gonna bring back ‘rad.’”

I’ve spoken on this blog about making art with words before, so I don’t think it needs repeating. I do often wonder, as Neville does, if the immediacy of communication hasn’t taken away some power of words, though. When was the  last time we made efforts to write real letters, rather than emails, or instant messages on a phone?

Or, perhaps, I’m just waxing nostalgic, and that old power of lyricism in dialogue has been replaced by something else. What do you think? How do WORDS speak to you?

Again, for the First Time

I’ve had a long, tiring week of other people telling me what to do and how to do it, so I decided to make a fiction post strictly for myself. Luckily, Kellie Elmore’s Free Write Friday offered me a prompt that kept me from going completely off the rails. As it is, I’ve adhered only marginally to the confines of the prompt, which happens to be “Serendipity.”

Mature situations described below. Nothing graphic, but you should probably skip it if it’s not your cup of tea.

“Again, for the First Time”

Otto Mueller - Stehendes Liebespaar (klein) - ca1919

Stehendes Liebespaar, Otto Mueller [public domain image]


The warmth and comfort of his embrace soothed – the easy rhythm of his gentle snoring even more so – but it was nearly tea, and her belly fluttered a bit at the idea of doing something nice for him. So, easing out from beneath his arm, she scooted to the side of the bed and clambered from the blankets, reaching for her clothes.She dressed with quiet speed, but, turning back toward the bed while straightening her dress, she paused, to drink in the sight of him.

Even tousled and dozing, he was fine, a blond, bronzed demigod built lean, long, smooth, and strong. Just the thought of touching him – of him touching her – made her blood pound once more.

Maybe he was wicked, as Sam had warned. But, she’d never shied from risk. And maybe he wasn’t as refined as the boys who used to try to ply her with their stylish clothes and fancy cars. But, they’d never made her come.

Her nerves tingled at the memory, not even an hour old. He’d done it once. He could do it again. And again, and again, and again…!

She closed her eyes, but not looking didn’t stop her from remembering: the smell of the sea in his hair, the taste of it on his lips, the fine scratch of grains against her naked skin where their bodies came together.

When she’d first set foot in this tiny, unassuming village, she’d never dreamed she’d be standing here, flushed and eager for the touch of a man so unlike her norm. She’d wanted only simplicity after watching Mum wither, a fresh start someplace new. Maybe a pleasant distraction, if one presented itself. But not this stirring, this bubbling, this tremendous burst of feeling in her heart that threatened to turn her small and vulnerable again. Next, she’d be telling this beautiful beast she loved him –

Her belly quivered anew, and she opened her eyes. Her cheeks burned as she looked at him again.

Love.

Pulling her lip between her teeth, she stifled a foolish, girlish giggle.

But first, tea.

Coming off the tips of my fingers, this little moment is unrefined and mostly stream of consciousness. But, isn’t that what free writing is supposed to be all about? If not good, at least unfettered? I hope so. Because I don’t even know what good writing looks like, from me, any more.

I’ve spent so long in Ross’s head, examining one of the story’s moments from Amber’s point of view was a treat. She’s girly and a-flutter and I don’t care that she’s not breaking stereotypes or carrying a banner for the feminist revolution. I like her the way she is. Maybe because she’s me, and I’m tired of the sisterhood getting up in my face for wearing dresses that cling and heels that make my calves pop and enjoying the sensation of my husband’s hands on me in a playful grope.

I should probably end with a question, as I’m supposed to do with a blog post, leading you to comment and engage. But I wrote this for me and I only posted it to keep to my schedule. So, instead, I’ll end with a hope: that you are well, free of the pressures of work and rules, and able to indulge unhindered – just a bit – in your own private universe, at least for a little while.

Toothless Sharks and Other Scraps

By the banks of the Stover canal - geograph.org.uk - 1185117

For the scrapheap

This week, Lillie McFerrin’s Five Sentence Fiction prompt – CHERISH – led me down a few different paths.

Sometimes, a challenge prompt will strike an immediate chord with me, and writing a submission is no trouble. (My Songbirds series vignette “A Deeper Reflection” was one of those easy-peasy efforts.) Other times, a multitude of prompts will converge into a perfect storm of inspiration and interpretation, such as with “Stagger to Sway,” one of my Fearless side stories. And then, there are the times when I’ll start writing one way, go another direction, twist around yet another bend, until I finally end up with a piece suitable for public consumption.

In the case of the “CHERISH” prompt, I eventually settled on a somewhat humorous entry, but below are three other efforts I deemed unworthy, for one reason or another. Take a gander, if it please you.

Rescue”

That first shriek – echoing along the coastline like a banshee’s wail – made Scott drop his board like it was on fire; Finchy and Niall were already tearing across the sand, arms pumping for speed toward the source of those cries. Scott followed quick as he could do, only to pause at the edge of the scene: a young mum bouncing a screaming little girl close to her breast, while a frazzled dad was on hands and knees, scrabbling in the sand.

“Lost doll,” Niall said, his voice ripe with sour disappointment.

Scott almost snickered, when a glance into that girl’s reddened, snotty face made him think of his own tiny Emma, prompting him to shove both his mates toward the beach with a sharp, “Don’t just stand there. We’re a rescue squad; let’s rescue!”

* * *

Toothless Shark”

Venus knew they had sex. As quiet as they’d tried to be, the rhythmic creak of used springs was as tattling as a two-year-old. So when she had to creep past their bed to the bathroom, she always kept her gaze trained forward, for the sake of all their dignities. Except for this time, when she glanced reflexively toward the sound of a muffled sniff, and had to cover her mouth and hold her breath against the most itching, adoring whimper, at the sight of Finchy’s face pressed into Amber’s ruffled curls and his fingers linked loosely with hers.

Swinging the bathroom door closed behind her, Venus laughed softly into her palm, wondering what the rest of the crew would think if they saw their resident shark, now.

* * *

One”

At the precipice, she stood, white and bright and beautiful, the whistling wind swirling her golden curls around her shoulders the same as it ruffled the edge of her dress around her legs.

Seeing her so, warm sweat formed in his palms. He shifted his hands to his sides, to wipe them down, when it suddenly became too late: she grasped his fingers with her own – cool, slender, soft – and moved up close to him, for this moment that would end their lives as two.

They exchanged the words between them, and the precious circles the same. A single kiss, at last, and that was all, to soothe the anxious patter of his heart, and to make them one, for ever.

Now, I don’t think any of these are terrible. I was determined enough to want to finish them, after all (and to be willing to share them, here). But, as you can hopefully see, devoting such effort to these challenges is time-consuming. Even though I’ve decided to cut my blogging down to two posts a week instead of three, these still take plenty of concentration. I don’t like posting my work if I’m not totally pleased with it; I owe you that much.

Junkyard cat

…Focus…!

The one good thing about these scraps is that they represent genuine effort. When I go back to them, they make me think, or reflect, or smile.

So, if you liked any of these scraps at least a little bit, remember this: even if what you write doesn’t make your final cut, keep that effort. Don’t throw it away completely. You never know when you might need that smile.

Where do you keep your scrapped efforts? Have you ever used a scrapped effort to start a new project?

Five Sentence Fiction: “You Never Forget Your First”

NewFSFBadge-1

My go at this week’s Five Sentence Fiction prompt from Lillie McFerrin: CHERISH.

If you aren’t familiar with Five Sentence Fiction, Lillie gives us a one-word prompt, and we’re to write a five-sentence story on what it means to or evokes in us. We don’t have to use the specific prompt word, by the way.

If the word strikes a chord in you, too, why not pop by Lillie’s site and have a go? Challenges are up Thursday through Wednesday, so there’s still plenty of time to join in on the fun!

“You Never Forget Your First”

Blowing a breath of appreciation between his lips, he laid her down in the sand, smoothing his hands along her curves. The touch of her sparked a familiar rush, a deep longing like ancestral memory aeons old. Soon, he’d press his body to her, and they’d be together, like one, fast and free and eternal, if only for a moment.

From over his shoulder, Amber gave a tsk, and muttered, “Sometimes, I think you love that board more than you love me.”

Ross just snickered, replying, “You never forget your first.”

The memories of first loves tend to linger, no matter who – or what – they are. Sometimes, you just have to accept them along with the one you love. (Ross’s custom Keahana board, for anyone interested, is a variation on the Skindog pintail Noserider design. Because you always remember your first.)

[vimeo 2300726 w=297 h=216]

What part of your past – or present – do you CHERISH?

Let’s Get Wet!

I was going to put up a post about how to give good (amateur) critique, but I decided to go a different direction, because I saw this come up in my hit statistics…again:

Am I really this predictable?

Am I really this predictable?

For those of you who are sensitive to the subject of sex, you may want to steer clear of this post and come back on Saturday, when I’ll post some original fiction. For those of you brave enough to continue, though, let’s get wet!

So…did you?” Niall asked, and Ross blinked.

Did I what?”

Have a bang on the beach last night,” Niall said, and gave a distasteful waggle of his tongue.

Ross scowled. “Sex on a beach is tacky,” he said, which was true…not to mention, sand had a tendency to get everywhere, which also made it damn uncomfortable.

Every good romance has some naughtiness to it, whether it’s of the fade-to-black kind or the in-your-face variety. I’ve written both, and I’m of the opinion that each version has its merits…and demerits. No matter how you choose to write your raunch, though, there are a few practicalities to keep in mind:

1.) Sex on a beach is tacky.

Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity trailer

It’s an orgasm metaphor.

The film From Here to Eternity popularized the romantic notion of falling among the surf in your lover’s arms, enjoying the crashing rush of water around the two of you. It’s a powerful moment in the story, and it might make you want to find the nearest beach to do the same.

Let me save you the trouble: having saltwater shoot up your nose while you’re snogging your lover is not a pleasant feeling, no matter how locked your lips are. We’re not even going to talk about how crashing water will make a swimsuit move all over the place, creating uncomfortable ripples and folds more likely to cause laughter than lust, or how sand does, in fact, have a tendency to get everywhere. Even a wetsuit won’t keep that pesky stuff off your skin. Which is why you should always rinse off before you hit the sheets for a post-surf romp, unless you want to be cleaning sand out of your bed for weeks.

A beach can be a romantic place for a tryst, to be certain. Just be certain to remember what else is on a beach, too.

2.) Water is not the same as lube.

Astroglide

“Come on in! The temperature’s fine!”

Getting wet with a lover in a bath, shower, pool, or naturally-made body of water can provide your characters with some sexy, sultry slippery time. Clothes cling to wet bodies in all kinds of wonderful ways, and that can offer both partners a fresh view of those physical attributes which are probably the primary reason they noticed each other in the first place.

But, when it comes to sex, be aware of the surroundings, especially if it’s water. We’ve all heard the story that you can drown in even a puddle of water, but water can also counteract the benefits of personal lube. The human body produces its own lubricant, which is designed to smooth out the sometimes-rough mechanics of sex. Water, on the other hand, being the excellent cleaner it is, has a tendency to wash away that lubricant.

Yikes.

So, next time you think about putting that steamy sex scene in a steamy shower, keep in mind the details of such a situation. And that’s not even mentioning the aforementioned issue of rushing water in the face and up the nose….

3.) You’d never mistake a pool for a condom.

A swimming pool offers all the joy and excitement of a midnight skinny-dip without the associated danger of salt poisoning and night feeders.

Reef1372 - Flickr - NOAA Photo Library

The dating scene is full of sharks of all kinds….

But, having sex in a pool – no matter how chlorinated it is – is not a good birth control method. Now, your characters may not be worrying about that. In fact, it might be a nice, much-needed spice to their sex life, to chance some baby-making in the deep end. But don’t confuse purifying chemicals for a contraceptive flush. A woman’s chances of getting pregnant in a pool are no less than they’d be lying in a bed.

Which brings me to my last point:

4.) Lovemaking can be lovely, any place.

Don’t let me discourage you, or your characters. On the beach, underwater, in a pool, even in the rain: sex between two people brought together by love can be beautiful, in any location and under any circumstance, so long as you make it so. Even in the typical locale of a shared bed, sex can be thrilling, romantic, ecstatic, funny, relaxing, fulfilling…all this and more. It’s truly about what your characters – and your readers – feel from that love that’s important.

Just remember to think before you put them in a wet situation. 😉

Have you ever written a watery sex scene? Would you ever write one? Why, or why not?