Highs, Lows, and In-Between Interest

HLIB, Take 1

Back in 2014, I joined the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) excitement with a sequel of sorts to an earlier tale, From Hell (A Love Story). FH(ALS) was a raunchy space opera in which I tried to build a bigger backstory for Axton, the running-and-gunning bounty hunter from the 2012 video game Borderlands 2. Part of that backstory was the creation of an original character, Hal, an early (pre-game) partner of Axton’s. I wrote FH(ALS) between late 2012 and early 2014, but I had such fun building that world and the characters in it, I decided to return to that timeline with a host of new adventurers in November of 2014, for NaNoWriMo. The new story was called “The Highs, the Lows, and the In-Betweens”, and I pounded out that sucker free-form over those wild 30 days, plus an additional six months to bring it to a satisfying conclusion.

I posted my day-to-day progression of HLIB on a separate side blog. If nothing else, this process kept me accountable to my projected NaNoWriMo wordcount. Only one person read it…that I knew of. Several days ago, I received an email – more than three years after I’d finished the story – from another apparent HLIB reader:

Email of interest from a reader.

Who knew?

 

HLIB, Take 2

Over the course of the next few years, I wrote a lot more stories following the timeline and characters of “The Highs, the Lows, and the In-Betweens”. When I looked at the original story, though, I found it suffered from the high-octane intensity of being a product of NaNoWriMo. The bones of the story I wanted to tell were there, but it needed work. A lot of work.

I sequestered the original story and put it in my archives, and started on a new and – hopefully – improved version. That version is Highs, Lows, and In-Betweens. It has become a significantly different story since I started the rewrite, with more characters, more conflicts, and more complications. It’s also become a lot more fun to be in that world, for those reasons.

Highs Lows character heights comparison - doodle by Mayumi Hirtzel/bonusparts

HLIB principal characters – height comparison chart – doodle by Mayumi Hirtzel/bonusparts

Regarding that one interested reader’s original question – if I have plans to bring this story out again – the answer is, yes. Will it be the same story? No. Will it be better than it was before? Possibly. Have I enjoyed being in that universe again? Definitely.

I don’t know if readers will like the new HLIB, especially those who are familiar with the original version. I can only try to tell the most interesting story that I’m able to do. It will be a rollercoaster, though. I’ll be sharing more of this story – and my journey writing, or, rather, rewriting it – over the coming months. In the meantime…

Have you ever returned to a story for a rewrite, after a hiatus? Did that story change just a little, or a lot? Did you like the final product more, or less, than the original? Let me know in the comments below!

NaNo 2016 Recap

Well, I didn’t hit the 50K word count goal for NaNoWriMo 2016, but I wasn’t planning on doing that. (I’m trying to remind myself that I didn’t really “fail” this year’s NaNoWriMo challenge, because my goals were different from the word count ones. It’s kind of working.) Instead, I focused my energies on the rewrite of Highs, Lows, and In-Betweens, the sequel to my space opera/western romance novel, From Hell (A Love Story). I still got a little over 40K done, though, so that’s pretty good!

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One of the unique joys-slash-conflicts I always experience during an edit or rewrite is the comparison between what happened in the first draft, when the words are just gushing out, to the more thoughtful edit, where I try to pick apart, rework, and sometimes even build anew the character motivations, relationships, conflicts, and plot events. During my NaNo rebellion over the past thirty days, I took the bones of my five protagonists (I know; that’s a lot of protags, but that’s a discussion for another day) and really rebuilt them. They’ve become a lot more complicated, and a lot more engaging because of that. At least, I think they are.

The first draft of the story, which I wrote in 2014, was a lot of fun, and many of the main story points are still there. But now, after tearing parts of it up and delving deep into who these people truly are at their cores, there is a new villain, a new love story, a new betrayal, and a whole new possibility for this adventure to go far beyond the simple introductory tale it was at the beginning.

I will keep working on this rewrite, because these characters are too interesting to let fall to the wayside. I’m sure I’ll also be writing new stories, too, because I just can’t keep myself from examining what the other characters in my other worlds have been doing. In short, I’ll just keep writing, NaNo or no NaNo.

Did you participate in NaNoWriMo this year? How did you do? What projects are you working on that you’re excited about?

Once More Into the Breach

Yeah, I’ve decided to do NaNoWriMo again this year. But, this year, I’m participating as a NaNo Rebel.

I got the idea – and the bug – from writer and editor Kate Johnston, aka 4amwriter (website and twitter), who talks more in-depth about the concept of how to be a NaNo rebel here. As for me, I’m using the opportunity and join-in rush of NaNo to push myself forward on a long-overdue rewrite of 2014’s NaNo, Highs, Lows, and In-Betweens, a space opera that follows about two years after the events in my Borderlands book, From Hell (A Love Story):

nano2016page

 

Like Kate, I’m using this NaNoWriMo to concentrate on aspects of the book other than the wordcount. I’ve completed NaNo at least six times over the last ten years, so that 50,000-words-in-30-days goal is not a significant challenge for me. What is a challenge is making sure that every chapter in this rewrite has a conflict, every character gets their due, and the end of every chapter has a hook to keep the reader pressing on. No nothing-happens-here moments that go on for pages; no dangling or missing motivations; no falling interest to make the reader put the story down. In many ways, this is a much tougher challenge, and I almost wish I’d gone the easy wordcount route. But this story – like all my stories – is dear to me, and I want to see it finished: bigger, better, more badass than ever before.

If you are participating in NaNoWriMo 2016, whether as a traditional drafter, pantser, plantser, or rebel, let’s connect! My username is bonusparts over there, and I’m always open to more buddies.

What are your writing plans for November? NaNo? Rebellion? Let me know!

National Author's Day

In addition to being the start of National Novel Writing Month, November 1 has additional significance for American writers: it’s National Author’s Day! Here is some of the history, as supplied by NationalDayCalendar.com:

The idea of setting aside a day to celebrate American authors came from Nellie Verne Burt McPherson, president of the Bement (Illinois) Women’s Club in 1928. McPherson was a teacher and an avid reader throughout her life. During World War I, when she was recuperating in a hospital, she wrote a fan letter to fiction writer Irving Bacheller, telling him how much she had enjoyed his story, “Eben Holden’s Last Day A’Fishin.” Bacheller sent her an autographed copy of another story, and McPherson realized that she could never adequately thank him for his gift. Instead, she showed her appreciation by submitting an idea for a National Author’s Day to the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, which passed a resolution setting aside November 1 as a day to honor American writers. In 1949 the day was recognized by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

If you follow the link, you can also read about how you can observe this holiday and support your favorite authors!

I may not be a “real” author – as my in-laws remind me so often, since I’ve only self-published one novel, and it was a fan fiction novel, at that – but I like to think that this day can at least sort of be for me, as well, since writing is such an integral part of my life. I’m also lucky to know personally so many talented published authors and aspiring-to-be-published authors, and I wanted to give a little shout-out to them. If you’ve got a moment, check out their blogs to read about their journeys, and, while you’re there, give them a comment or even click on one of their books to purchase!

Kate Johnston @ 4amwriter.com : writer, coach, editor with several handbooks to guide you in your writing journey

Kourtney Heintz @ kourtneyheintz.com : author of The Six Train to Wisconsin, The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts, and the brand new Highway Thirteen to Manhattan!

Vanessa Chapman @ vanessa-chapman.com : writer with multiple skilful blogs and several articles (at lifehack!) to read

JM McDowell @ jmmcdowell.com : writer (and archaeologist!) of the delightful Meghan Bode series of mysteries, which you can read on her blog

George McNeese @ Project Blacklight : writer with several articles, reviews, and even short stories to share

ShadeTheRaven @ Shade The Raven : writer with lots of short stories to fill your days

Make sure to send a little bit of love to YOUR favorite author, today!

Out of Decline

Earlier this week, I updated the main header image on this blog. The last image was a photo I’d taken a few years ago in La Jolla, and its setting sun scene was pretty, but, over time, I came to associate it too much with decline. Decline of readers, decline of interaction, decline of my self.

A header image is rather like a book cover. It should say something about the writer, and that “declining” feeling of the old header image wasn’t what I wanted to project as indicative of me or my work. So, I went through my drawing archives and picked out a bunch of pictures that represent me and the stories – or attempts at stories – I’ve made over the years. Long-time readers may recognize one or more of the characters and stories on display, but, from current left to right, they are:

  • My adulterer/lovers, from many 100 Word Challenges for Grown-Ups and Five Sentence Fiction entries
  • Amber, from Fearless
  • Chie and Yousuke, from 1 More Chance!
  • Nev, from Fearless
  • Fram, who is the only one not from a story, but whose helmet I spent too long researching and drawing not to include here
  • Sally, from “Slave Girls and Shining Knights”
  • Ross, from Fearless
    and
  • Zera, from “Anywhere but Here”

These selections may change over time, as I hope to develop my drawing skills along with my writing, because I really want to get some representation for my Borderlands From Hell (A Love Story) continuity up there. Someone or someones from my “Finding Mister Wright” stories needs to be up there, too, because even as I write this post, I’m finishing up yet another tale of love, growth, and honesty with the Wrights and McAllisters. But, for right now, this is what I’ve got.

This is me.

Away and Back Again

collage-2016-04-27

I recently returned from a long weekend holiday in London, England. I took daily notes in a travelogue, of sorts, just because I wanted to keep the memories of the little things I experienced, and writing them down always helps. Some folks wanted to see my handwritten notes, though they are mostly illegible. Still, I’ll share a few highlights. (Typed translations included to read my scrawl):

London2016-1

Our first chuckle came at Immigration, when the officer asked what we are going to do while here in the UK. I said, “Pubs and walking,” and he replied, “I like the sound of the first one! The second one, not so much.”

London2016-2

Did the walk past Buckingham Palace and Westminster (where we got lost), on our way to Cask. There, I had a tall, refreshing Rothaus Wheat and a burger that REALLY hit the spot.

London2016-3

Coffee and tea at Kaffeine, along with some egg-and-salmon croissants that were quite tasty. From there, we planned a long-ish day of walking, up to the “Spaced” house in Islington. Walked through Kentish Town – which had some very trippy graffiti – and Camden, and found the old house in question, where husband got some pictures. We took a walk up to Hampstead Heath, as well, just because it was so close. Gorgeous windy day for the walking dogs!

London2016-4

“Pissing rain” for part of the afternoon, but we got a reprieve with some very tasty – if pricey – sushi at Murakami. The soft-shelled crab was so good, we had to order 2! It was a bit too much to get dessert there, so we picked up some macarons and a parfait – and a few more beers to try – from Whole Foods, and went back to the hotel for an early night. A good thing, since we were both very tired and ended up sleeping for about 9 hours! Walking so many miles every day will do that, though.

London2016-5

Walked by 10 Downing Street, but Larry was “napping.” We did see the Horse Guard’s Parade, or at least part of it.

Meeting Beth and Vanessa today. Very excited! I hope I don’t end up being a stereotype [sic] American and making an ass of myself.

Turned out, I didn’t have to worry! We had a very nice time chatting, drinking, and eating at Lowlander Cafe, a Belgian bar in Covent Garden. After, we had tea at Pret a Manger – which I’m still not certain how to pronounce – before we parted ways. I may need to go out to Kent next time, though.

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We travelled out to Brighton, on the coast. It’s very much a seaside town; parts of it reminded me of Harbram. We stopped for a pint at another chain-type pub, and after that took the bus out to The Seven Sisters cliffs. The train to Brighton was about an hour plus, and the bus ride just about an hour, as well, so it was mid-afternoon before we got to walk around the cliffs area. It was gorgeous, though, with sheep and cows and a real English countryside feel.

London2016-7

I loved the vibe walking through the park. The parks were my favorite part of this trip, as they usually are for my vacations. Saw lots of birds and dogs, and it just felt so peaceful and welcoming.

Imperial was very much like home. The students and faculty walking around, doing university business, really made me feel like I belonged there. The bustle of Piccadilly was exciting, but the atmosphere around Imperial was much more my speed. I’m glad I got the chance to walk around the campus by myself before we left. I would definitely go back there and through Hyde Park, next time we’re in London.

London2016-8

Hoping for a smooth plane ride home to Philadelphia. Meanwhile, story ideas are coursing through my head for the flight…. <3


I appreciate how lucky I am to be able to travel and have experiences away from home. My family, friends, and colleagues all helped me prepare for, cope with, and enjoy this vacation, in a way I couldn’t have done were I alone. Even though I was supposed to be alone for a portion of this holiday, and I was looking forward to that me-time, I am glad that I got to experience it together with my husband, as it became something of a second honeymoon, for us. Adventures that take us to new places – and new places within ourselves – are exciting when we’re on our own…but they can also be so much more fulfilling when we have someone to share them with.

The crunch-time of vacation merrymaking didn’t allow for as much writing as I might have gotten were I by myself, but I did manage to finish the story linked to below on the plane ride home. It has nothing to do with vacationing, but I don’t know the next chance I’ll get to indulge myself in writing younger Rob, Paige, and Daniel.

“Just a Man”
[~6800 words / 26 pages DS; PDF opens in a new window]

Have you enjoyed any adventures, recently? What do you like best about vacations? What are your favorite (in)activities while on holiday? Do you keep a travelogue while you’re on the move?

Log in here!