Today Was Headshot Day

Because I haven’t had a new head shot for about fifteen years, maybe twenty, today I dragged Pat Gaffney out to the little fake waterfall beside our favorite grill and said, “Headshots, I need them.” And she was, as always, a peach, and took a million of them.

Among them were a few flukes like this one, which I am going to send to Bob whenever I’m annoyed at him:
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Happiness is Finishing Something

We’ve finished One in Vermillion. We have a full draft of Rocky Start finished, ready for copy editing. I have two bathrooms and a kitchen in which everything is put away and clean, finished moving in. (And two bedrooms, a garage, and a living room/office that aren’t, but we’re celebrating here.). I have finished stroganoff, stir fry, and pasta in the freezer. I have finished the laundry that was blocking the hallway.

The happy word for today is “finished.” “Object achieved.” “That work is done.” “One more thing off that damn to-do list.” Okay, just “finished” is enough.

How did you finish finding happiness this week?

This is a Good Book Thursday, September 7, 2023

The good book I’m reading this week is Rocky Start, which is a relief because I’m also reading Vermillion under the gun. Never again do we schedule books so close together. It seemed like a good idea because I hate waiting for the next book in a series–the next Murderbot isn’t out until November–but I need more time with Vermillion. I’m freaking out, Bob was patient while we had a disagreement over the giant red bear, and then he decided to gaslight me by animating the bear with lightning on the cell tower–you know, you really don’t want to know the details on that.

Distract me from the giant reanimated teddy bear: what did did you read this week?

Working Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2023

It’s September, my favorite month of the year. I’ve been in school for so much of my life, either attending or teaching, that for me September means the start of something new, infinite possibilities. Except this September I’m still scrambling to deal with the old while I start the new. We’re still working on Vermillion while I’m trying to rewrite Rocky Start. I’m sorting through boxes of my old life in NJ, trying to figure out what fits into my new life in PA. I’m neither here nor there. But I’m working on it.

What are you working on this week?

Happiness is Help

I like to work alone. Really alone. In my bedroom with the door closed, Veronica on the bed beside me–she never interferes–a Diet Coke, and my laptop. Bliss.

Except I couldn’t figure out how to get the dishwasher to work, so I dragged Pat Gaffney into my kitchen to show me. She’s the one who helped me put my lawn furniture together, too. And an end table. And her husband Jon helped me by putting my living room bookcases together on his own so I could get my books out of the garage. And then there’s Bob Mayer, typing his half of our story. I love that, I love it that I get to read parts of my book that I’ve never seen before.

So I like to work alone, but my life is definitely better and I am happier when somebody I trust helps. Thank you, Pat, Jon, and Bob.

Did anybody help make you happy this week?

(Also, below is the second scene of Rocky Start, courtesy of my talented, helpful partner, Bob Mayer.)

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First Scenes: A Ramble.

So I finally, finally, FINALLY got my rewrite of One in Vermillion to Bob, and he’s trying to format it now, which is not easy because the chapters numbers are all screwed up, but he’s just glad to have pried it out of my tense, panicking hands. And so now I am finally, finally, FINALLY back to Rocky Start. Which is no longer Excellent Oddities. Now it’s Rocky Start again.

And I’m looking at the first scene, which I wrote, and I think it’s too long.

Here’s my theory of scene length: I think scenes should get shorter as a reader moves through a book.

That’s not always possible of course, Vermillion’s scene are all over the place which worries me, but when you’re talking about first scenes, those are always going to be the longest in the book. The readers aren’t tired yet, they’ll read for quite before getting impatient, but not forever, so my rule of thumb is that no scene including the first scene should ever be more than 3000 words.

[Just to be clear, that’s my rule for me, not for anybody else. I have a hell of a time plotting (enter Bob) so I need rules to hem me in; many other writers do not. Do not take that A Rule. It’s what I use to keep myself from nattering.]

So here we are with the first scene of Rocky Start, which I like, and it’s 3357 words. I really need to cut a couple of pages. (A page is about 250 words.).

So the first thing I do is figure out the conflict which here is Rose vs Junior. But there’s a whack of words at the beginning where the conflict is Rose vs Coral (1060 words). And then there’s a bit at the end where the conflict is Rose vs Max (873 words), followed by a coda that’s Rose vs Lian about Max (275 words).

Obviously the solution is to cut everything that’s not Rose vs. Junior. But I don’t wanna. I like the way Rose and Coral’s friendship is introduced because it also sets up Rose’s world. I like the stuff with Max because it establishes his character before the next scene, which is his, and also connects him to Rose so that reader has a romance contract right off the bat. (I think the reader sees Max as the love interest. I hope the reader sees Max as the love interest. That’s the plan.) And I like the coda with Lian at the end because it rounds off the beginning stuff with Coral: The reader knows these are her two closest friends and Max is her love interest (I hope), so the character set-up in in place.

But that’s what I want. What the reader wants might be something entirely different. Anytime I find myself saying, “I really need to set this up,” I put the brakes on. Reader don’t give a damn what I need to set up, they just want a story. And a story that starts with a 3000+ word scene starts slow.

On the other hand, it’s a first scene. So maybe . . .

I don’t know. So I’m putting it up here again. I might have done this before, but there’s been a lot of rewriting since then, so if you have some spare time and want to read this, what I need to know is:

Is this too long?

Does the conflict switch too often? Rose’s goal never changes, but the antagonists do. I think.

What parts read slow and you think should be cut?

And I thank you for your help.
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