Friday, August 31, 2007

One day...

And what a day it will have to be.

Another lackluster day.  Only 500 words, leaving me 2800 to get before month's end.  Which is one day.  Mind, my current record is only 2600, and that was for an "inspired" scene I pounded out in 4 hours.  Looks like an all-nighter for me tomorrow.  At least I'm taking the weekend off.

Today was torpedoed by my orthodontist appointment this morning (verdict: yes, I need braces, and yes, it's going to cost a crapton of money) followed by a meeting as soon as I got to work, followed by lunch.  By this afternoon, all sense of motivation was shot.  And then, despite my best intentions, I got drawn into chatting this evening (you know who you are, culprits! *g*).  But in my defense, the scene I'm working on is delicate and slow. So I did work for over 2 hours, it just wasn't a lot of wordage.

Anyway, to bed with me.

Face-Lift 452

The query is up on Evil Editor as "Face-Lift 452".

See it HERE.

Not the glowing response I so naively dreamed of, *w* but he raises valid points.  Some of the stuff I cut out, he asks about.  Go figure.

I'll see what the Minions say, let it simmer, and have another go.  I've got time yet before I actually submit.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

New Beginning 351

It's up!  My opening is "New Beginning 351" on Evil Editor's blog.
 
Check it out HERE.
 
AHAHAHA the continuation...priceless.  And not far off the mark.
 
So far, a good response to the writing itself.  A couple useful comments, that I will probably implement, and a generally positive reception.  So yay!
 
I expect the query within the next day or so.  We'll see how that goes over.  *crosses fingers*

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

2 days and...

Apparently, I am more dependent on my writing time at work than I realized.  Only 571 words tonight, going at it hammer-and-tongs since the baby went to sleep.  I needed 1300.  SO that leaves me 2K to get tomorrow. 

I mean, I *could* try to stay up for another hour or two and pound them out.  But I feel the tiredness creeping in, and that usually means my writing slows down.  And then I'd be exhausted tomorrow, too, and slower on output.  So as long as I get myself on to bed, I think I can push for the 2K later.

I'm in the middle of a scene that should be easy enough to finish tomorrow.  And I'm hot on the trail of my mystery soldier.  I think once I know who he is, a lot of other scenes will click.

Oh, and Book 2, which I have been largely ignoring save for jotting down a general plot brainstorm and one scene, already has a title.  I think it's going to be One Highland Wife.  (Assuming this one stays One Highland Night, which I am growing rather attached to.)

I think my stuff should be up on Evil Editor tomorrow.  I'll post links here once they are up.  Feel free to leave positive comments over there, if the Minions are being too brutal.  *w*

Oidhche mhath.

Wikijag

I didn't get anything written at work today.  Not as much free time, and also too tired (on the day after I actually got enough sleep, go figure).  But I was also lacking in direction, as the 20+ pages of continous narrative I've been working on kinda petered out, and I'm not "seeing" the rest of that plot clearly just yet. 
 
FTR, that's now my biggest "chunk" yet at just over 5200 words, supplanting the former recordholder, "Scene Zero" - the handfasting - which is about 4700.  Not counting chapters 1-6, which are contiguous but split into discreet units of ~3500 words each.
 
Another thing I've not been "seeing" clearly that I needed to come to grips with was the presence and involvement of English soldiers in the barracks at Kilchurn.  Breadalbane had the barracks built specifically to house an English garrison, but Ft. William stole most of his thunder.  However, troops were stationed there from time to time.
 
I have had fleeting glimpses of soldiers involved in the goings-on at Kilchurn, and I think figuring out who they are/what they're up to will help me knit together a lot of the remaining chunks.  It will un-stall my progress in chapters 7-8, for one, and I'll be rolling along consolidating several other big chunks of story that will comprise pretty much the entire first half of the book.  Exciting!
 
So, to that end, I've been on a nice wikijag through articles about the British military and its organization, most of the articles modern but containing some fun tidbits thrown in from the seventeenth century.  I have a very strong feeling that a fairly important secondary character (a Lieutenant, whether over his own platoon or SIC of an entire company) is lurking just out of sight, and if I can drag him into the light and find out who he is it will go a long way in helping me finish this thing.
 
Hmmm...

Eep!!!

My opening has disappeared from the "waiting" list...it should go up on EE's blog soon.  He promised to actually comment on the new openings himself.  I don't want to be trashed, but at the same time I'm not 100% satisfied with it and I am looking for some comments/ideas.
 
I guess we'll see how I feel once the Minions get ahold of it.  *g*

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

3 days and counting...

I stayed up way too late last night. Already I feel myself flagging, and I have a bit of work left to accomplish at the day job. But! The good news: I got almost 1200 words today at work. Another all-too-rare slow morning (by that I mean workload, not writing), and I am not complaining. Since my daily target was 1250, I'm going to call that good and turn in early tonight.

Now, if a scene is knocking around in my head by my usual writing time tonight, I'm not going to ignore it. But other than that, I'm not going to "force" myself to stay up and try to write. Even if it would be nice to get ahead for a change.

ETA: Egads! I'm second from the top on EE's list of queries. (I know this, because I check his blog compulsively now...) Even though I feel pretty good about my query, I'm a little apprehensive.

4 more days and counting...

Eh, so much for my "four mewses" theory - tonight has not been as productive as I hoped.  I got so much done at work today (1300 words!), I had visions of knocking out another 1000 words or so tonight and even getting in bed fairly early (which for me is midnight).  As it was, I scraped my way to 500 more for a total of almost 2K.  None too shabby.

And I have broken the mystical 75K at last.  If I can keep this pace up for the rest of the week - 4 more days - and average 1250 a day, I'll squeak by my goal.

My rough plot for act two (Elspeth's kidnapping and aftermath through the prelude to Glencoe), after its brainstorming birth in chat last Friday, passed muster with DH and Claire, and now I'm rolling right along working on it. 

That, I think, was the last piece of the puzzle; once I decided on this course of action things were suddenly looking up and I'm getting jazzed.  I still have a lot to write, but I know everything that entails.  I feel caught up in a current, just barely pulled along at the moment but with the sense it will get stronger.  Returning to the doldrums analogy, I feel the breeze and expect to be three sheets to the wind (not that way!) within a week or two.  Here's hoping!

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Four Mewses

We have four cats. How that came to be is a tale of much woe (if you're my husband). But for me--a certified "cat lady"--it's a way of life. I've come to consider them my "mewses".

Here's a glimpse of my writing space. I write at my laptop on our generally unused dining room table, in a rickety old wooden chair that is not ergonomically designed. But after a year of doing so, it's become my "space" and I think well here. At least, until my neck starts hurting.

When all four cats congregate on the table, for some reason I have an easier time writing. I don't know why. Looks like tonight's going to be a good night.

Clockwise from bottom left: Smokie, Dak, Cali, Shadow

From the SIP (scene-in-progress)

This made me chuckle.  It's farther down in the scene I'm currently working on, a longer bit of which I included in last night's post.
 
From One Highland Night (c) 2007
 

"We need to…flush the wound.  I don't know where that dirk has been."

 

"A dirk was it?  Remind me to ask ye about that later.  Flush it with what?"

 

"The whisky," she said, wincing in anticipation. 

 

He grinned unexpectedly.  "Oh, aye, I've heard some men rinse their wounds with the uisgebaugh.  They've got bigger stones than me, though."

 

"You're not being very encouraging."  She glowered at him and started to pass the whisky.   "On second thought, here—" She knocked back one last searing, fortifying mouthful.  "Use the rest for my arm."

Sunday status

Well, nowhere near the 3K I'd hoped for, but honestly I didn't expect to get it after I overslept this morning (that's what I get for staying up till 5 am!) and missed my first writing window.  I had to wait until I got home, and even on a long night my record is 2600 words.  I don't want to get back into the cycle of exhaustion that held me back last week, so even though I'm still awake and could probably continue to write, I'm going to bed now.

I did manage a respectable 1100 words, and I'm actually really pleased with the scene.  I finished up with a couple paragraphs of notes that should keep me moving through the rest of this arc tomorrow.  7K in 5 days.  Not impossible.

Following Jen's most excellent example, I'll probably post snips from what I work on each night as a way to share my progress and keep me motivated.  Here's tonight's (it's kinda long):

From One Highland Night (c) 2007

     Another step, and the crystal brightened.  She must be near the point of confluence.  Just walk forward, and the portal would, presumably, open.  She could leave certain danger behind, and the heartache she knew would come when Alec eventually wed wee Janet Cameron.  She could go home.

     Home.  Home meant safety, the comfort of the familiar.  Seeing her brother again, her cat…even her father.  This place, this time—they were not her own.  But home meant loneliness, too.  The pain of abandonment.  That is, if the wormhole even returned her there.  The possibility existed that she'd end up in another place and time altogether.  Or…nowhere.

     She looked to Alec, torn.  He fought two soldiers, plaid swinging and sword flashing.  Sparks flew as his blade met those of his opponents, clash after clash.  It startled her; she'd thought that a special effects gimmick in the movies.  This was no gimmick. The gentleness and humor she loved about him were gone from his face, replaced by a fierce scowl of concentration.  He was every inch the Highland warrior.  He'd risked himself, his friends, and retribution against his clan to rescue her.  In Glasgow, he'd taken her to see Isaac Newton.  And before all that he'd found a place for her within his clan, who had—slowly, to be sure, and with much coaxing—accepted her.

     Go or stay?  The men fought, the sun rose, and every second wasted brought them closer to certain capture, but still she hestitated.

     And then she saw him.  Half in shadow, one of Campbell's men slunk toward Alec from behind.  His knife gleamed dully in the increasing light of dawn.  Alec remained occupied with the soldiers at his front, new ones come to replace their fallen colleagues. 

     Going unnoticed was no longer an option.  She stepped away from the wall and shouted, "Alec!  Behind you!"

     But he did not hear her.  The Campbell crept closer.  Her choice was made.

Eclipse

No, not the new book by Stephanie Meyer.

This has nothing to do with books or writing.  I just find it neat.  (We've discussed my nerdish tendencies.)

An actual total lunar eclipse is happening in the wee hours of Tuesday morning.  Information here.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

One of my daily feeds

One of my daily feeds is from HowStuffWorks.com - yeah, I'm a nerd like that.  (If you have been reading this blog regularly and hadn't figured that out yet, well...)

Anyway, I logged on to my Google homepage this evening and saw my new feed:

How Time-Travel Will Work

and I thought I would share.  *g* The picture on the first page of the article is really nice.  Think of the top layer as Alec's time, and the bottom layer as Elspeth's, and the wormhole runs between the two at the Point of Confluence.   Except the gap between the layers is infinitesimally small, so that the two timelines effectively exist one on top of the other.  Still, the only way to travel between them is through the wormhole, and that is only energetically stable in the presence of an exotic material like, oh say...an allotropic form of diamond found in meteorites that happens to have higher-dimensional resonance.  Or somesuch.  *w*


The Doldrums

I've spent the latter part of this week stuck in what I call "the doldrums."  The real doldrums are the regions of little-to-no winds on the oceans that would strand sailors.  Think of the scene in Master & Commander where they're stuck on the ship in the baking heat, unable to make progress.

For me this stagnation came as a result of realizing how far I'd come (almost 3/4 of the way done!) and realizing how far yet I had to go.  I could see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it was like those dreams where you're running and running and don't ever go anywhere.  I felt like I wasn't drawing any closer to the end.  If I could just get a little bit farther, the manic energy as the story coalesces would carry me to the end.  Just a little bit farther...

Added to that, the workload at my day job has ramped up, leaving me drained, and then staying up late trying to press onwards compounded the problem.

I am happy to report, however, that after a few helpful brainstorming sessions (thanks, girls!) and catching up on my sleep, the first stirrings of breeze are fluttering my sails.  Managed 2400 words last night - but I cut 400 from an old scene I was reworking, so I'm only 2K to the good - and I feel energized and hopeful for today. 

Mini-goal is 75K by tonight.  That's 3K(!) from where I am at the moment, but we'll see what I can do.  If I pull that off, or even get close, the end-month goal of 80K isn't out of reach just yet.  Then I'll probably take Labor Day weekend off to recover, and ready myself for the final push.  Hopefully by that point the winds will pick back up and carry me to the finish line.

I already have my personal reward planned: DH gave me a certificate for a massage for our anniversary, and I haven't used it yet.  I also cashed in 10-years'-worth (seriously!) of points I'd been stockpiling from MyPoints.com for $300 worth of gift certificates to Sears, JC Penney, and Old Navy.  I'm planning a day at the spa and shopping spree.  Definitely something to work towards!

Onward...

Friday, August 24, 2007

For Good or Ill...

I was going to wait until I finished the first draft for this, but Evil Editor posted a petition (yay, alliteration! heehee) for both openings and queries.  So -gulp- I sent him both.
 
At least I have a title to go on them now.
 
We'll see what the minions have to say.  I'll post links when they go up.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

And we're live!

So...what do you guys think?

Still tweaking it, and little things will change over the next few days, but I was pleased enough to make the switch.

Those of you with books out or coming out (*cough* like Carol *coughcough*) let me know and I'll add a link in to my sidebar.

Oh, and what font are you guys seeing my blog title in? It's supposed to be Blackadder ITC, but on some computers it won't show up (usually if they just don't have the font installed, but I do on my laptop and it still doesn't work). It's not mucking with the formatting, is it?

Best intentions...

I know I said the other was the last post, but I've been doing a lot of soul-searching and research, and THIS is really it.  Then back to writing topics, and new blog layout!  (I hit a snag with the widgets - one of my test blogs is fully outfitted and I thought copying the template over would bring all the widgets to this one, too, but no.  So once I get the time to re-outfit the widgets on this blog it'll be up and running.  BTW - isn't "widget" a great word?)
 
Anyway, I found this great article on "Mary Sues" and just had to share a line from comment string:
 
There is a lot of Mary Sue to be found in popular literature. You mentioned Gabaldon, and I find her Jaime [sic] character to be a prime example.
 
Ahaha, well...at least I'm in good company.  *w*
 
Actually the comment string has a lot of good discussion.  I highly recommend reading all of it.  Continuing in the same comment from above:
 
Ayla, from Clan of the Cave Bear, is another. These stories are popular, and they work, because of depth. You take the Holy Trinity of character, plot, and style, and if you have the other two working for you, it doesn't matter if your character is a little bit over the top. It helps if the character has depth as well.

Mary Sue can have her beauty and her speshul powers, as long as she reacts and behaves in ordinary, realistic ways. She has to be troubled by her setbacks, she has to make mistakes, and she has to have realistic flaws to counterbalance her gifts.

Another thing about Mary Sue is context, and I mean perhaps genre, as well. [...]  In fantasy, or romance, readers want wish-fulfillment, and since that is the essence of Mary Sue, she works better there.

And this, from the author of the article:
 
...don't mistake a hero for Mary Sue.

Mary Sue is just always perfect, never makes a real mistake, she never shifts from the center of everything. A hero makes mistakes and learns, is not always the center of everyone else's thoughts, earns every step of his or her rise. [...]

I think the key is that Mary Sue never changes because she starts perfect and ends up perfect. She doesn't have to evolve, she just collects powers and posses. Conflict sort of bends around her. Her strength is that she makes a great wish-fulfillment story lead.

You may have a lovely main character, and she may have brains and wit and skill, but if she makes mistakes and changes and learns and risks, she's not a Mary Sue. She's a hero.

Seriously, my ultimate conclusion is this: I admit that when I started writing this romance novel, I thought it would be fun to have a character like me.  From the (many, many) articles I've read on the topic, it's common for first-time writers, and I'll own it.  (I maintain she chose the name Elspeth vs. me giving it to her, however.  And I think it's telling to note that since she laid claim to it a little over a year ago, I have ceased using it for myself.  That's her name, now.)
 
Now, 70+K words in, she has expanded beyond the very basic framework I set her up with at the beginning and become her own person.  I'm not just projecting myself into a slightly modified/enhanced container.  As for the "perfection" aspects of Mary Sues...sure, she's intelligent and a blackbelt.  She's pretty - in a normal way - and she attracts the attention and love of a desireable character (Alec).  But not everyone likes her - right away or at all - and things don't fall into her lap.  She's not perfect, and she goes through  a lot before she ends up with the man she loves (some her fault and some out of her control), she screws up a few times, and over the course of that she grows and changes. 
 
But I have also changed as a writer.  I'm aware of the phenomenon now, and I'm on my guard.  Elspeth will retain some similarities to me, those that are integral to her character or to the story.  But we also have our differences, and when a question comes up about her I won't default to filling in the blank with my life or personality - I'll really think about why I'm adding that detail, and if it's true to her.  And I'll cull the bits of "author insertion" extant in the MS to date.  I still feel confident in my ability to characterize, because Elspeth isn't the only original character in the book (as opposed to lots of fanfic, where there are canon characters and one new character - often a Mary Sue) and a great many of the other characters have taken on life without being based on me at all.  Yet it was still I who wrote them, and in some way they're all refractions of my experiences as Beth described in her post.
 
If I write more books (and ideas for #2 are starting to trickle in) the female MCs look to be Mairi NicDonald (nee NicGregor) and Andrea "Andi" Duluth (Elspeth's modern friend).  These are characters that "mushroomed" into the current story, and took on enough life to warrant further stories of their own.  Will those stories be inherently better because I didn't set the MCs up with similarities to myself, the author?  Or is it possible that Elspeth is strong enough to stand on her own, apart from me, and will be an accessible character despite her beginnings?  I intend the latter.
 
And that is my final word on the subject.

More fiddling

I've been playing with HTML some more, and I got permissions for some great pics I found. Watch for a new look coming soon!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The TTWND du jour

(TTWND = Topic That Will Not Die)

Bear with me folks. Once I work through this I'll talk about something else again soon. I promise.

I went back over the second test and this time removed stuff that I could cut from Elspeth and not affect her character but that was contributing to the "Mary Sue" score. I also pulled stuff that was skewing the results.

I.e. the question "Are one or more other characters attracted to her/him?" should be a moot point, since I'm writing a romance novel. Kind of hard to have a romance if the love interest isn't attracted to the character. "Has the character ever been nursed back to health from serious injuries by a warm, kind, and loving person? Was this person the character's love interest?" She is nursed back to health by Alec after she falls in the loch, and yes - that's her love interest. "Does the character sacrifice her/himself for love?" Yeah, that's kind of central to the plot, after all. But I don't think having these things is all that outside for a romance novel.

Ultimately, a lot of these tests were designed to cull author-insertion Mary Sue characters out of fanfic involving canon characters, and are designed accordingly. However, they can be used for original fiction. Maybe I'm just making excuses for myself, in saying "yeah, but that shouldn't count because..." but I am at least being honest that I'm adding a lot of my life into hers. Shouldn't be that hard to change, since it's not integral to her personality. I'll let her pick from now on.

I'm still torn over the job thing, though. Which do you guys think is worse?

Character has unique profession, but it also happens to be the author's,

OR

Character has different profession than author, but it is a profession that other characters in the same subgenre often have.

This is the last post on this, pinky swear. Those of you who end up beta reading for me, let me know how I did after rewrites. *g*

Fun with Mary Sue!

The Mary Sue drinking game.  Hehe.

Mary Sue update

Precie was kind enough to supply me with "Mary Sue test" links in the comments on that post.  (Thanks, Precie!)  Here are the results:
 
From this test:
 
Elspeth is suspiciously similar to you as you'd like to be. She is not at all cool; in fact, she thinks cool is a temperature reading, and when she says "Oh, I just put on whatever old thing's lying around," she means "on the floor, where I threw it last night - but I turned the underwear inside out first." She may have sometimes thought that she was special, or destined for greater things, but probably dismissed the idea as a fantasy. She's got no emotional scars to speak of. And you've been sparing with the free handouts: whatever she gains, she's worked for.

In general, you care deeply about Elspeth, but you're smart enough to let her stand on her own, without burdening her with your personal fantasies or propping her up with idealization and over-dramatization. Elspeth is a healthy character with a promising career ahead of her.

 
Score Breakdown
She's Got My Nose 21
She's The Anti-Cool 0
I'm Destined For What? 3
Healthy as a Horse 0
Spare the Rod and Spoil the Child 8
Total: 32
 
And from this one:
 
Your Mary Sue Score: 54

36-55 points: Mary-Sue. Your character needs some work in order to be believable. But despair not; you should still be able to salvage her with a little effort. Don't give up.

So.  I'm not out of the woods, but she's not irredemable, either.  *g*  I'll follow up on some of the articles/essays the tests link to.  Plenty of time in rewrites to work this out.

Tuesday update

I'm turning into Jen Hendren.  I swear that girl is a bad influence...  (Love ya, Jen!)  *g*

I told myself no sleep until I broke 70K.  Well, I did.  For all that it's now almost 4 am, and I have to be up in 3 hours to make it to work.  It's the middle of the week for crying out loud.  This kind of behavior - on my part at least - is usually reserved for weekends at the end of a writing marathon.  *sigh* 

At least tomorrow (today?) will be short - I have a dentist's appointment at 2.  Don't see myself going back to work afterwards.  Maybe I'll find someplace to take a nap...

Wordcount for the day: 1241.  Hard-fought, every last one.

Characters: the Mary Sue line

I re-read Beth's excellent post on characters and their relationship to the writer, and it plus a comment one of my oldest friends (who just recently looked at my first chapters) made about my MC got me thinking...

Where is the line between basing a character on some of your experiences and writing yourself into the story?  How much of you-the-writer has to be present in the character for it to be called a Mary Sue?  And to what degree is intent a factor?

The comment my friend made was to the effect of "Elspeth is obviously a Mary Sue, but that's okay."

Well, no.  Because I didn't intend for her to be.  I mean, yes - I set out to give her some similarities to myself.  But I have never intended to write myself into the story.  Elspeth is not an idealized version of me.  Writing this book is not a way for me to live out a fantasy of going back in time to the Scottish Highlands and meeting a kilted warrior.  (DH would look good enough in a kilt to suit my tastes, thank you very much...if I could ever get him to wear one.)

Every trait Elspeth shares with me is for a reason: 

If we have a similarity of appearance, it's because as an average-sized brunette I like to see average-sized brunettes as romance heroines.  There are far too many impossibly petite blondes with violet eyes and waists the hero can span with his two hands, IMO.  Beyond basics (hair and eye color, dress size) Elspeth and I are not twins.  When I describe her, I am not describing me.

We share a profession because of the way I'm handling the time travel.  I'm a physicist, so I'm going the sci-fi route there.  Ergo, a physicist heroine.  I can explain the mechanism to the reader through her hypotheses.  This is hardly the first time-travel romance to feature a physicist heroine.  If it's the first one actually written by a physicist, well that's out of my control.

Related to that, why make her a medical physicist, specifically?  Well, mainly because - as I mentioned - the "physicist heroine" had been done.  Usually as the brilliant research Ph.D. looking into time-travel or somesuch.  Medical physics is a relatively unique field - there are only about 3000 practicing in the country, out of a population of 300 million.  So to the reader who has never heard of it (most), it's a new twist.  Plus I'm all about promoting the profession - we're generally backstage types.  *g*  But in this case giving her the same job as myself was a conscious decision after eliminating other possibilities, because it fit the needs of the story and differentiated her from other heroines.  If I had a really common job, I would have chosen something different for her to do.

And a big one: her ex.  I admit I drew from my own past when I decided to have her fiance and best friend go behind her back and break up her wedding.  I wanted to establish sympathy for her right off the bat, and that kind of betrayal will engender it pretty quickly.  Yes, I named the fiance after my ex-boyfriend that went out with my best friend in high school.  Yes, I named the best friend after my former best friend.  But I was never engaged to him - it was a silly high school thing.  Still, maybe I'm bitter?  Nah - I love my husband, and the ex and I would never have lasted.  Why keep the names?  I liked how they fit with the story.   Those characters are not the people from my life any more than Elspeth is me.  For one thing - and anyone who knows him and reads my book will realize this - the way Elspeth's ex acts when she returns is completely different from the way they guy I dated act(s).  For one thing, Elspeth's ex is still straight.  *w*  All I kept were the names and the basic setup.

And hey - she lives and works in my city.  Because I like it here.  Because I can describe it in detail.  Because there's (no joke) a Glencoe Farm for Alec to get a job at.  Lots of writers do this, or so was my impression.  And really, very little story time is spent in her city.  The majority of it is in seventeenth century Scotland, which is requiring extensive research on my part.

Oh, and her name.  Yes, Elspeth has been my screen name for years.  Because I liked the name, and the uniqueness of it.  (Hello, I'm a Jennifer coming out of the late 70's/early 80's when every 3rd girl just about was named that.)  I had intended for it to be my pen name, but when I started writing and then found out it was Scottish, she laid claim to it and wouldn't let go.  It suited her, and I've redirected to "Rebecca Gabriel" for myself.  For the record, had DH agreed, I wanted to name a daughter Elspeth whenever we had one.  So it's less identifying the name with myself than using a name I just really liked.

Other aspects in which I intended to share with Elspeth have fallen by the wayside as the story has developed.  No pottery.  Her relationship with her father is strained and distant.  She's lost her mother to cancer (a prospect I don't even want to imagine).  Certain plot points have been dropped, others changed, when she has spoken/reacted unexpectedly.  I've given her her head, and the more I write the more differentiated we become.

So where does that leave me?  Despite my best intentions, have I with "blithe obliviousness" (to quote Beth) created a Mary Sue in Elspeth?  Does the fact that I chose our similarities on purpose, but NOT to put myself in the story, mitigate?  What about all the other characters that have come alive (Alec, Mairi, Iseabail, Teresa, Ormelie) and have nothing in common with me, oftentimes far from it?

I think the big indicator is how I feel about her and Alec.  I'm not in love with Alec for myself.  When I write scenes between them, I'm not imagining myself in her place.   I've really come to care for them as individuals, and for their relationship.  Reading over the handfasting scene and the reunion scene make me misty, because I am happy for them.  But even though the major emotional/sexual scenes between them have already been written, I feel impatient for them to get together, as if it isn't real until the entire story is told.  Once the plot is contiguous, then their HEA kicks in.

Another thought: is it just that people near and dear to me are going to be more likely to look for and see "me" in her and themselves in the other characters, and will that color their perceptions?  It's like a fortune/horoscope: you interpret the vague based on what you expect, mentally conforming it to the shape of what you know in your own life.  Will they just roll their eyes and smile indulgently when I claim for the umpteenth time that really, all of these characters created themselves from the bare framework I gave them, and some from complete scratch?  Will none of this matter to someone who hasn't met me and doesn't know all the sordid details of my life, and who identifies the characters with people from their own existence?

I'm laying all this out and asking because I don't want to commit the amateur mistake.  I still have time to change aspects of her character.  I can make her a Ph.D. research scientist.  I can change her physical description (slightly).  Heck, I can change her ex's name, the city she lives in, and her cat's name (a tribute to my own dearly departed companion of 17 years).  Most of these play very minor roles in the story.  Things I can't change about her are the fact that she's a physicist (of some type), her martial arts training, her temper, or her sense of humor.  I can't predict or direct exactly what she will say in given situations, any more than I can Alec.  ( He has some gems, let me tell you.  *g*)

So, while I'm working on the SFD, and as I prepare for the rounds of rewrites, what should I do?

(And gah - I have spent my entire writing block working on this post.  Sometimes I guess you just need to work things out.  But I really do need wordage too.  Guess another late night for me...)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

E-mail posting test

So, we'll try this out. Supposedly once I send this e-mail, it will appear as a post on my blog. I'm assuming the Subject will become the post title. Could save me time and effort in the long run, especially when I start cross-posting. Let's see if it works...

::ETA:: It did! Bonus!

New TV show

Dudes. I just heard about a new TV show for this fall that sparked my interest:

Journeyman

My initial gut reaction was The Time Traveler's Wife meets Quantum Leap. And they're airing it right after my current favorite show, Heroes, on Monday nights. That's smart marketing on multiple levels.

Man, my inner geek has really been showing of late! *g*

And I loved Kevin McKidd in Rome (he was Vorenus). Too bad he won't be using his very Scottish natural accent...

It was bound to happen...

I'd already got a reference to Star Trek in; it was only a matter of time before the Quantum Leap nod. I didn't plan it, either. Just as the flames are licking up around Elspeth and she feels the portal opening, she wonders if it will take her home or to some other time and boom: there it was. Pardon me, my geek is showing. *g*

In other news tonight has been a real struggle to get anything, much less the 2K I really needed. Today was "one of those days" at work. You know the kind - they leave you frustrated, drained, and nowhere near caught up. When I sat down to write tonight I was utterly blank. The well was dry. I spent an hour converting one scene from first person to third, but gained no wordage in the process (actually lost a few). I was on the verge of giving up and going to bed, but vowed to get something - anything - before I gave up.

Actually managed 1170 to my utter amazement. Not 2K, but I'll take it! That brings my total to exactly 68,900 (I had hoped to get to 70K). Guess I hit a second wind, for all that I will pay in the morning. Now I most desperately need sleep.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Linkage

These stories made me smile (because I'm a nerd like that):

Time machine design made simpler
"No exotic matter needed ... just the power of a black hole"

Time-travel physics: stranger than fiction
"Physicists say future tests could tell whether we can change the past"

One great theory: the "chronology protection conjecture", which basically says if you go back in time and try to change history, the universe will conspire to against you. So, for example, if you tried to shoot your father before you were concieved, the gun wouldn't go off.

...Or if you try to stop the Glencoe massacre, you fall in a loch and get hypothermia. *g* On that note, I think I'll go work on the rest of that scene...

Fiddling

Opinions needed - see the end of this post.

Not as much progress as I'd hoped this weekend. We had houseguests (my mom on Saturday, his dad on Sunday) and DH and I went out on a date Saturday night. We saw The Bourne Ultimatum - mucho fun.

Also, I don't have any scenes that have "come to a boil" yet, so the writing was slow. I've mentioned before how I put scenes on a back burner and let them "simmer" until they're ready to write. To further that analogy, at any given time I usually have several scenes I imagine as pots of water on a stove. Usually, at least one of them has come to a boil by the time I sit down to write. But I've been pulling all the boiling pots off to write them lately, and by this weekend none of the new pots had come up yet. I can see little threads of steam wafting off them, and some even have bubbles around the edges. But I'm waiting for that first bubble to break the surface. What Diana would call a "kernel" - the descriptive sentence or line of dialog that is my foot into the door of the scene.

While I was waiting (a watched pot never boils, after all) I got to fiddling with customizing Blogger layouts. I only know a smattering of HTML, and no CSS at all. But one thing I pride myself on is being able to learn quickly, and there are a plethora of DIY sites explaining how to add sidebars, put images behind, etc.

So, I need you guys' (or "y'all's" for Deniz *g*) honest opinion on this:

Jenny's Test Blogger Layout

Does that look okay/work on your browser? Text easily readable? The picture's not too distracting, is it? (By the way, that's Kilchurn.) Keep in mind the sidebars will be fleshed out with all sorts of widgets like I have right now - LibraryThing, link lists, wordcount, visitor maps - and other fun content I add as I go along.

Or should I stick to the clean and simple approach with text-on-solid? I want to have some feel of Scotland on the blog.

Also, anyone know how to properly attribute the background image when I got it off Flickr and can't find the photographer's real name or contact info? Right now I've just linked to the photo page on Flickr in the footer. The image is copyrighted - "some rights reserved" - but as long as I attribute it (trying to) and don't alter the image (I haven't) I'm allowed to use it.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

As promised

Here's the (slightly grainy) video of Hugh Robertson & Co. - remember the kilted dude in my pics? - demonstrating swordfighting at Fergus.



I could only get the last half of the presentation because the memory card in my camera was too small. The first half involved showing how to put on the Great Kilt - which they demonstrated on a kid - and discussing the dirk and targe. I hate that I lost it, but at least I saw it in person. I wanted this part on video more.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Snip

This is from the scene I wrote yesterday. The last line is one of those times that Alec just up and said something and I had to write it down. So, a snip:

Her eyes snapped open and every muscle tightened in fear when at last she heard the door scrape open. It had been hours. Futilely, she pulled against the ropes
binding her wrists. They rubbed the raw patches left by multiple previous attempts, and she subsided.

The room was pitch black, and all she could make out was a dim shape moving toward her. Ormelie. She curled into as tight a ball as she could manage with her arms held above her head, squeezing her eyes shut in imitation of sleep.

“Lass.” A hand touched her arm. She exploded from her coiled position, driving both feet like pistons into the man’s midsection. The air left him in a rush, and he stumbled back, clutching his abdomen.

Christ!” Alec wheezed. “If ye dislike me so, just tell me plain. Dinna take it out on me every time I get near you!”

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Boo-ya!

I knew I'd not regret staying late to clear off my desk at work last night. Though "late" is relative - I left about 6 pm, which is actually good for me. Monday I worked until 11 pm (seriously! and even though I came in late that was a 12+ hour day) and Tuesday I didn't leave until 7:30. So I guess 6 could almost be considered early.

An-y-way...

I said all that to say this: it's been a slow day, and so I had some free time. I just got to a stopping point on a new exciting scene (well, a planned one but one I hadn't given thought to writing yet) that I've been working on here and there all day. Almost 1400 words. Now I've caught up from last night, and done my necessary wordcount for today, and I haven't even gotten home yet. Bonus.

I've been really tired the past couple of days, and I can maintain an intense writing pace better if I stay rested (duh). So I don't know if I'll try to widen my lead - or, close the gap, really - more tonight, or just catch up on the forum and turn in early. At least I have the luxury to choose.

But now I actually have work to do, so I'm going to get to it.

Close

I managed about 850 words tonight. Not too bad, though my goal was 1000. I'll try to make up the extra 150 tomorrow morning, before things get too hectic at work. I actually managed to clear off my "in" pile before I left today. I've been backlogged since late last week.

I would have tried to stick it out for the last 150 words (I mean, that's only a couple paragraphs), but I can tell I've reached the point of diminishing returns and I might as well get sleep. I'm very tired, and I need to stay fresh if I'm going to pull this 15K-in-15-days thing off.

And, distressingly, the website that hosts the wordcounter seems to be down. So I'll update it whenever it's working again. For the record, my current wordcount stands at 65,864.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Finally, some progress.

Not too shabby. I hadn't updated my counter in a while, so that's the first thing I did tonight. With the 650 from work last Thursday and the 500 from this morning, I was sitting right at 63.5K when I started actually writing around 10 pm.

Apparently, chunking's the way to go right now. I managed another 15oo to break 65K. That's 2K alone today. Woot!

(We just won't talk about the fact that 65K was my July goal, and tomorrow's midmonth check-in for August. I'll need to average 1000 words a day for the next 2 weeks to catch up and be at 80K by the end of the month. I'm not ruling it out, though, especially if I can keep managing to to get some wordage at work each day.)

I worked on 3-4 different scenes. One ended up tying into the storyline in the general vicinity of chapters 7-8-9 and led to a neat idea for a scene that's currently simmering, which will immediately precede this bit. Another was fairly close to where I am in the linear progression, too. But the one I wrote this morning was from near the end of the book, and the one I just wrapped up with is on the way to the climax.

Side note: it's always fun to end writing for the day with an expletive. *g* Here's the last paragraph I typed...
Impact on the hard ice knocked the breath from her. She was fairly certain her tailbone was bruised, and her left wrist sent a dagger of pain up her arm when she tried to lever up on it. More concerning were the creaks and groans of the ice around her. She’d landed near the first crack, and a network of fracture lines was spreading from it, mainly in her direction. The force of her landing must have weakened the ice further. Shit!
Heehee. That also leaves me with a good place to pick up tomorrow.

On that note, oidhche mhath.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

More on Fergus

...is coming. I promise. A few more pictures, a video if I can get it to work, and a recap of the experience are in the works.

But I'm overloaded at work and so far behind on my writing (midmonth is tomorrow! yeesh!) it's not funny.

I did get 500 words at work this morning, though. Bonus. Looks like I'm returning to chunking for a bit.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Fergus: Saturday

Diana's morning lecture.

Dude in a kilt. A real kilt!

Me with the kilted dude. Who happens to be Hugh Robertson, a real Scottish historical reenactor.
Lunch: 2 meat pies and, yes, haggis.

Sheep shearing.

How to spin with a drop spindle.

Spinning and weaving display in the heritage tent.

Highland dancing competitors.

Broadswords.

Forumites unite!

At dinner.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

A quickie

Busy at work today, and now I'm off home to finish packing and preparing for the road trip.

Fergus tomorrow!

I get to meet Deniz (and Diana! and Sine McKenna - my Gaelic/dialect consultant!) in person.

Expect pictures. Lots of pictures.

Writing-wise, I got very little done last night - only about 500 words. But then I got another (completely unexpected) 700 at work this morning. So that's 1200 for the 24 hours, which I guess isn't too shabby. The counter's not accurate; I haven't updated it. I'm still way behind, though.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Old habits

So I broke down.

It came down to the wire, and there was a moment after the baby went to bed when I stood with the Mt. Dew in my hand and debated opening it vs. going to bed. Ultimately, old habits won out and the still-strong writing pull I feel in the evenings, coupled with my frustration at the lack of progress so far, succeeded in getting me to the laptop.

I didn't advance the story, but I did get my August X posted and commented on all the others currently up. I at least feel productive. Even if I'm an hour past my projected bedtime, with stiff shoulders (I really need a better chair) and no wordcount progress.

I'm not giving up on mornings entirely. Just let me get caught up, ideally by midmonth (though that will be a stretch), and I'll give it another go.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Bleh...

Follow-up: I've spent all afternoon completely unmotivated, bummed that I'm 2-3K behind where I wanted to be today (I'm actually right at 62K, but haven't updated the counter), and wishing I could just go home and write tonight.

Some habits are hard to break.

I know I said - just this morning - that I would give myself time to adjust before giving up. It does have promise. But feeling overwhelmed and pressured isn't the best way to "ease" into a new situation. Now I'm wondering if I shouldn't just get caught up with writing first, then take a weekend to catch up on sleep, and start the new routine then, when I have a cushion. Starting out in the hole never bodes well.

OTOH, I'm loving actually being at work on time for a change. And the early morning drive is great - cool weather, no traffic. Too bad I can't stay up till midnight and get up at 5.

Gah. If I give in to my urges and write tonight, I'll feel better about my progress. But there's no way I'll be able to actually get up at 4 - even with a different alarm - if I do so.

Decisions, decisions...

P.S. And I just saw that the August X was up, and that's another thing I need to find time to do, but I'm so behind. I feel like the White Rabbit. *sigh*

Eh...

Day 2 of the new routine (3 if you count Sunday), and it could be going better. Yes, my computer screen is bigger, my desk chair is more comfortable, and I do have a nice quiet office space to work in. But.

I haven't been getting up or getting here as early as I'd like, and consequently I don't have as much time to write. Only about 1 hour instead of the 2-3 I'd been averaging at home. I'm just getting "in the groove" when I have to switch gears and head down for the morning meeting. Consequently, my word counts have bottomed out. Even though I keep my spreadsheet and the current scene file open on my computer all day - with glorious visions of popping in and out all day and racking up word count bit by bit - I never seem to manage to get back to it.

I realize this is a transition period, and once I'm used to getting up early (I may also switch alarms, since I seem to be immune to my clock anymore) I'll have more time and be more productive. Then the momentum from the morning may carry through into extra bits throughout the day. But in the meantime, I'm falling father behind - and I was behind coming into the month.

Also: my intent of spending more time with DH in the evenings isn't panning out. I thought we'd finally go to bed together instead of him kissing me goodnight while I worked on a scene, and then creeping into bed myself hours later. But 9:30-10 is too early for him to be tired. So now our positions are just reversed. *sigh*

But I can't give up after only 2 days. So tomorrow I'll set my cell phone alarm and see if I can't get here earlier. If it doesn't pan out in a week or so, I'll just hit the caffeine again and spend a week or so really pounding to catch up.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Changing it up

Today I started my new routine. I figured it was the best chance, since I spent most of Friday asleep after my oral surgery (for the record: dry sockets = bad) and got a lot of sleep on Saturday, too, for the same reason. So I set my alarm for 4:30 am - optimistic, I know - and ultimately rolled out of bed around 6. Heehee.

But. I did get a solid 2 hours of quiet, focused time to write. It was slow going, since I'm just trying to tie up the loose threads and get to the end in the new chapter 7. I only got about 300 words, but I'm okay with that.

I'm going to set the alarm for 4:30 again and try to be out of bed tomorrow morning by 5. Ultimately, I hope to be up by 4 am each morning, dressed and off to work by 5, which should give me about 3 hours to write (what I've been getting on the best nights: 9-midnight if I'm lucky) in my office before "clocking in" at 8. I'll give myself this week to ease into it. For all that I'm caught up on sleep, it's still a big shift in my circadian rhythm.

It's odd, because now that the baby's down I feel like I should be settling in to write, but instead I'm for bed. Oh, well. I'll get used to it...and if not I'll revert. *g*

Lastly - Fergus is this weekend! We're leaving at o-dark-thirty Friday morning and hoping to get half the drive in before Baby Boy wakes up. Then it'll be stop-and-go from there. Back late Sunday night. My brother is house/dog sitting while we're gone. This should be the last big trip of the year for me. Unless Jeopardy! calls. *crosses fingers*

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Bonding Moment

I totally ganked this idea from Jen's excellent post about bonding moments. Here's a cute one that came to me a couple weeks ago. (Very rough draft.)

From One Highland Night (c) 2007

“Enter.”

Alec poked his head in, grinning like the cat who ate the canary. “Come wi’ me, mo phiseag, I’ve a surprise for ye.” He said nothing further, just turned back the way he came, so she rose quickly and followed.

Once they were out on the street and she pulled level with him, she asked, “Where are we going?”

He still did not answer, though his grin grew—if possible—wider. She followed him through street after street, utterly lost, until suddenly she spotted the spires of St. Mungo’s Cathedral.

“Are you taking me to church?”

“Nae, to University.”

Not knowing what to say to that, she consented to follow him further. They rounded a corner and she saw the buildings of the original Glasgow University [spread out before her]. A steady stream of people was trickling into one building in particular, and it was in that direction Alec steered her. At length they reached a crowded auditorium, where they were consigned to the back of the standing-room-only crowd. She noticed she was the only woman present.

She poked Alec with her elbow and whispered into his ear, “Now will you tell me what’s going on?”

“Just ye bide a moment.”

Then a hush fell over the crowd and she strained to see beyond to the front of the room, where a tall, thin man with a hawkish face and mass of wavy silver hair stood before them.

Oh. My. God. It was Isaac Newton; she’d recognize his face anywhere from all the times his portrait appeared in her physics textbooks. She drew an excited breath, then turned to Alec, beaming. He grinned right back. She would have thrown her arms about him, but for the fact that they were in public, and she wasn’t sure how he would take it. So she merely continued to smile like a fool as she turned her attention back to one of the fathers of modern science.

To her dismay, the lecture was in Latin. But Alec kept up a low running commentary for her, despite censorious looks from some of the surrounding attendees. It was a presentation on the Philosophi√¶ Naturalis Principia Mathematica—Newton’s work published four years earlier in which he stated his famous laws of motion and universal gravitation. She knew the content, of course; any physicist learned it as a foundation of their studies. Still, to hear it presented from the man himself… Wow. Just wow.

At the conclusion of the talk, many went forward to speak with the scientist. Alec captured her hand and drew her to the front. When it was their turn, he bowed formally and said something in Latin to Newton, who turned to her with eyebrows raised. Nevertheless, he clasped her hand in both his own and smiled after her somewhat-stilted curtsy.

A million thoughts and questions raced through her mind, but all she managed to get out was

“Sir, it is an unspeakable honor to meet you.”

“And I am most pleased to have a woman in attendance. MacAlpin here tells me you yourself are a natural philosopher?”

“I…yes…something of the sort.” You have no idea.

“Excellent. Well, you are most welcome to attend any of my lectures in the future.”

“I would be honored.”

Then their time was up and they were moving along as the person behind them stepped up for a moment of Newton’s time. Once outside she squealed and slapped Alec playfully on the shoulder.

“Dear God, how did you manage that? Do you have any idea who that is?”

“So ye were pleased, then?” He was still grinning like a schoolboy. “I came by to speak wi’ one of my former professors, and he told me of the lecture. Ye said you were a natural philosopher, so I thought ye’d enjoy it and came straightaway back to fetch ye.”

“Pleased would be an understatement.” All playfulness aside, she said sincerely, “That was incredible. Thank you.”

They had stopped in the street, and she was looking into his eyes. A current passed between them, one that almost—almost—drew their lips together. Then the moment ended and both of them stepped apart.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

River rescue

Only 1000 words tonight, but I'm okay with that. I've already set my mind to just make up any July deficit in August. Really, if I keep on averaging 1000 words a night I won't complain. *g*

Tonight I didn't finish the new chapter 7 like I planned. Instead I jumped ahead a bit (just a bit) and had Elspeth rescue Alec's bratty little sister Iseabail from drowning in the river following a week of heavy rain. Even knowing she's from the future, Alec was a little - okay, a lot - freaked out by Elspeth seemingly breathing life back into his sister. Now I have to decide how far to carry that unease and how I can get Elspeth to explain CPR to him so he understands and neither fears nor reveres her.

Heh. "Fears nor reveres." I guess I rhyme late at night.

Pressing on

So, just over 1700 words today. Not quite the 2K I was shooting for, but pretty darn good. At least I broke 60K.

I also spent a fair bit of time brainstorming the heck out of several key plot points, and I feel really good about what I came up with. Bonus.

I need to rewrite my synopsis in a major way, but right now I'm going for wordage. I'd love to be at 65K by the end of the week, but whatever I don't get done this week will just get rolled into August's goal. As long as I'm at 80K (!) by the end of this month I'll be happy.