Draft Zero? Oh Yes!

Indigo & Ink is officially moving from Scrivener to Pages. What does that mean? Why, draft zero has been achieved! So I ended up more than my original plan, but hey. That’s what drafts are for, right? Unexpected things happen. I thought at one point I might not even get to 90k. But this book, well, it’s got a mind of its own.  Just like the Mother Squid.

Anyway, this book has been very important for me to finish for a number of reasons. Things haven’t been great on a lot of fronts, but this story needed to be told. And I did it. In spite of the crap that’s been going on. In spite of the instrument of my craft (my hands) being total crap, I didn’t let it get me down. I kept going. Yes, tooting my own horn here, but… I’m happy. So there. Lord knows I need a little confidence sometimes. (Don’t we all?) Not to mention the escape.

Now… into the pits of editing!

Just some metrics and a whole lotta words.

So apparently I wrote about 8K today. For some reason I’m almost embarrassed to admit that. I really have done little else but write today! Ass in chair, indeed.



I call this “end of novel fever” and occasionally it strikes. I’m just glad my fingers are holding up… but not for long. It’s bedtime for me, and man… yeah.

I said something a few posts about being surprised if I hit 90K. Well, um. I’m surprised. But it is coming to a close. Sort of. Sometimes characters have little side quests they have to finish, and no matter how much you try to talk them out of it they don’t listen. Added bonus: a new character who didn’t exist until today and (surprise again!) a sex scene!

So nyah.

There is a great deal of good in here, and a great deal of bad. I would add details, but I think my fingers might fall off. That’s what editing is for, right?

Enter title here…

I’ve been going back and forth with the title thing on this book for the last week, really and truly frustrated that I couldn’t get something that felt right. So today during dinner (no, we were not eating calamari – it was gazpacho and sausages!) the name struck.

Indigo and Ink.

Ding, ding, ding. We have a winner. Finally something that speaks to two of the main themes of the book and, in my mind, has a rather neat ring to it. And, at least with a cursory search on Google, no other books of the same name. Dark and squiddy. I like it that way.

I feel better now.

Titles, Tentacles, and Trust

Image: CC by Stephane Giner via Flickr

Explosition: in a narrative, the presence of excessive exposition. i.e. expository barf

Well, 80K has been surpassed. This is good. This is very good. And as I plunge into the last few chapters, I’m realizing I do have more to say in this space. So I’m thinking the draft will be around 95K now… give or take.

I have a tentative new title: Mother’s Ink. Or Inkwell. It’s become the center of the story, really (ink that is), and has even lent itself to my own version of the undead. (This is momentous! I’ve never had the undead in a novel before. I feel like I might have leveled as a writer. They even scare me.)

The hard part is keeping a firm grasp on all the strands in the story. The final climactic scene has taken a great deal of think time to sort out. I need certain people in certain places as well as certain artifacts in certain places, and trying to orchestrate that has proven rather difficult. But last night’s late thought session (I tend to think out most of my novels in bed before falling asleep or driving in the car listening to Classical music) I figured out 95% of it. That other 5% is still up in the air, um, literally. But I think I can get there.

Two Things I Loved: Okay, so there’s 10K of stuff since the last post. That’s a lot of stuff. So I get to cherry pick. I loved the interplay between Dinah and Ash (though it needs some work) and I loved bringing Dev back into the “real” world. The latter was painful and awkward and so wonderfully anti-romantic and unsatisfying. Which is just how I wanted it to be.

Two Things I Loathed: The exposition. It’s everywhere. Both of the narratives I’ve been writing in have come to the point where they are with People of an Informative Nature (TM). They are realizing things, learning things. And while that information is essential to the over all plot, it does slow things down. For me.  And there’s more than one instance of expository barf, so that counts for more than two things.

Best Quote of the Day:

“What color are the stones, Ash?” Corin asked. “The ones along the top.”

Ash squinted. “Is this a trick question? ‘Cause I don’t have time for—”

“Just answer me. What color are they?” Corin pressed.

“Ain’t no color. It’s empty.”

“Empty?” Dinah laughed.

“What do you see, Dinah?” asked Corin.

“The rubies are brilliant,” she said. “The most brilliant I’ve ever seen. True red, as deep as blood.”

Corin nodded. “Precisely. She sees it. We cannot. Do you know why, Dinah?”

“Because you’re men and simply can’t appreciate the nuances of refined aesthetics?” she tried, but knew it was a lame attempt at humor in a mirthless environment.

Worst Quote of the Day: (especially Dev’s “don’t take her, just take me” bit; ugh)

“Miracle. It sounds like a nightmare. I’ve seen what those things are capable of,” Marna hissed. She was angry—spitting mad, as her father might have said. Dev missed that about her, that temper. It had been years since he’d seen it.

“You and your Brennada friends, my dear, have meddled in business quite beyond your ken,” the Sib warned. “Do not presume to tell me.”

“Let her go,” Dev said, standing, taking a step toward the Sib. He didn’t know what he would do to stop hean, but just listening to heas voice was making him ill. “Do what you want with me—I don’t care. Just don’t bring her into this.”

The Sib laughed. “Ah, so noble! But I’m afraid I can’t do that, Devinder. She has proven surprisingly valuable for all of her mundanity. We thought she would lure you from your journey, though were were mistaken, in a way. Still, she certainly prevented your death, which was to our benefit. But it seems there are other men prepared to be snared on her behalf. You do have a way, Ms. Bashkin.”

Thoughts of the Day: Really, it’s just been novel fever around here. Not thinking terribly clearly on any front, and probably won’t until the draft is finished. I’ve been pondering that last scene a great deal, and that’s about it.

Around the Bend: Big boss fight! Cue music! Cue dancing! Cue freaky squidlings and undead sorcerers! This stuff is gettin’ real, I tell ya.

(Image CC by Stephane Giner via Flickr)

Squid Pro Quo – 70K and the State of Things

Chapter: Found

Two Things I Loved: It’s an Ash chapter, so that’s always a blast. He’s the easiest of the POV’s for me to get into (no idea why, it’s not like we’re anything alike) and there’s always that unexpected element with him. Two best points of the chapter are probably his command over the crazy situation (as someone has come into their midst with a squidling implant) and then his horror at the extraction process. I like the contrast, makes the character so much more three-dimensional. Hell, Ash is probably multi-dimensional.

Two Things I Loathed: I’m pretty happy with where this chapter is going, but I have A Big Decision to make regarding the fate of one of the character’s lives. It occurred to me that they might die at some point, but I’m trying to separate my desire to kill him off with the book’s actual plot. I honestly think, after some considering last night, that the death has great meaning in that it works as a catalyst for the other characters. But as this chapter is coming to a close and I’m wavering on the details a bit, the writing’s lacking.

Best Quote of the Day:

“We don’t have direct methods for getting rid of the implant squidlings, save for one…” said Wolstone.

“Great,” Ash said, not needing further elaboration. “You can fecking heal open wounds and call fecking fire from the fecking air, but you can’t deal with a simple fecking squidling?”

Marna was lost in the conversation. Ash felt her hand on his shoulder before she even spoke and he immediately regretted his tone. “What are you talking about?” she asked, looking straight at Wolstone.

The bard swallowed. “Our policy is to kill the body.”

Worst Quote of the Day:

Ugly was an understatement. Ash had seen bullets removed from men; hells, he’d seen men’s head practically explode from the force of an injury, and once right under an upturned carriage.

But nothing prepared him for what happened.  And while part of him wanted nothing more than to be gallant and supportive of Marna—technically his employer and, more recently, the subject of some rather detailed fantasies—he could do nothing other than sit in horror and watch.

Thoughts of the Day: Like I mentioned before, lots of considering death. Lots of violence and horror and gore in the last few chapters, and there’s really no end in sight. This is dark magic, kids. Proceed with caution. But I do worry about balancing the darkness with humor (see the attempt up there under “Worst Quote”) as well as a feeling of hope. The real challenge is going to be bringing Dev back into the present narrative, on earth and not his spiritual journey, and where he ends up appearing should be somewhat of a surprise. Hoping so, anyway.

Also, finally settled on some terminology. The term I now use is “squidling implant” rather than “receptors” or “bugs” (though the last one Ash uses, because that’s his opinion of the things). I spent a good hour last night reading up about some of the specific details about the squids I’m modeling these little brain suckers after. I did not know that squids have only two tentacles… which is surprisingly helpful in my magic/science theories for how they work in the context of the story. Yay science!

As well, I’m not sold on the working title of the book. I originally called it Dustman since the drugs so prevalent in the story line were going to be called dust. Then I went with essence and well, Essenceman doesn’t have a ring to it, does it? Worst names considered so far Squid Pro Quo and Tentacular! No, no. Beneath the Red Temple sounds too much like a D&D campaign. The Walker sounds like an episode of Texas Ranger. Going to have to do some more thinking about this one. Usually the names come so easy…

Around the Bend: As happens throughout most of this book, Ash’s narrative abuts Marna’s, and so this chapter will continue from her point of view (current chapter, “Found”–next chapter, “Lost”; see what I did there?). Then it’s dealing with Dinah, then back to Dev’s final battle with his beastie before heading back to Ardesia. Lots of loose ends, lots of exploding, lots of crazy dark magic, finally uncorked, and the Hand behind it all. No small task! 30K to go, give or take.

It’s not fun until someone loses an eye.

I grossed myself out today during writing. I don’t know if it’s because the AC is broken and it’s 90 degrees up here and the humidity is through the roof, but I apparently needed to outdo myself in fiction. It was one of those weird moments where I’d planned for the scene to go one way and it took a sharp, brutal detour in a direction I hadn’t anticipated. Like the title says, someone literally loses an eye in the process. Of his own volition.

I can get away with a bit that I normally couldn’t in Dev’s narrative, because he’s on this Dante-esque journey. I’ve got to hit some of those high notes. But I realize whenever I talk about these chapters (which together work almost like a novella in the middle of the novel) I sound a bit daft.

Anyway, I wanted to start recapping my writing progress with a little more panache, so I’m trying a new format.

Two Things I Loved: I finally got to write another Dev chapter, and his character arc is coming to a close. The appearance of Cai in human form (she/he’s a god/goddess) was pretty unexpected, and I linked the mythology of Ardesia up with the mythology of the rest of the realm pretty well.

Two Things I Loathed: The description of the beast Dev fights in this chapter got under my skin a bit, but I’ll redo it later. It’s called draft zero for a reason. Also, still not 100% convinced of Dev’s devotion to Marna… which I’m realizing is okay, in the grand scheme of things, but may need to become more apparent to readers. Or something. This ain’t no romance, but I can’t be cruel about it.

Best* Quote of the Day:

It was an easy place to get lost, an easy place to want to get lost. The trees had a cadence of their own, a whispering and seductive rhythm.

“So,” the knight said, “listen. Listen to the trees, and you will see where this poisonous beast is, this creature who is slowly killing my realm and claiming it for Her.”

“Her? Another goddess, then? I’m not sure I want to meet another. The last one I fell in with tried to eat me.”

*see? I spared you from the eye scene. Really, really you should thank me.

Worst* Quote of the Day:

This beast—this creature you want me to find,” Dev said. “It could kill me.”

“It could. But you were well on your way to killing yourself when you came to me… I am not asking much more than to risk what you were prepared to throw away.”

*worst because Cai, the god/goddess knight here, sounds a bit like Gandalf.  Or something. I hate when I lapse into Tolkien. And for some reason, whenever deities start talking in what I write, they go all Shakespearean.

Thoughts of the Day: Been thinking a lot about the concept of passion in writing. Drafted a post on it, even. Passion is the single driving factor in what I do; I lost it for a while, but it came back. :)

Also, came around to the realization that this novel is certainly not steampunk. I mean, it’s got steampunk elements… but the more I write the more I realize this is Gothic fantasy, really. As if the squids weren’t a dead giveaway.

Around the Bend: Squid extraction from our heroine’s husband, slightly admirable villain reveal, wind-up to the big-time boss fight with the Mother Squid. Also, this whole draft is going to be significantly shorter than I planned; I’ll be surprised if I crest 90K. Which actually makes my job easier, as that has never happened before. I’m always hacking away at a draft, rather than enhancing it.

Onward, squidlings.

This is the last time.

Writing has been slow since my birthday when, as a promise to myself, I scaled that 60K mark. Huzzah! But yeah, that was on the 14th of June, and here we are more than a week later and just cresting 62K. I have excuses, but really I don’t. It should be more.

Anyway, I did add that other POV in, and I’m enjoying her presence immensely. It’s helping to tie some of the plot loose ends a little more tightly together and giving a bit of needed comic relief. She’s a clever one, that Dinah Montpre, but she’s also selfish and self-centered. It’s quite the combination. She also has virtually no moral compass so long as she’s the one coming out on top. Except, at this point, where she’s been bested and threatened with total mind control.

At any rate, I am plodding along. Today’s writing took me by surprise as, during my drive to pick up the kiddo at daycare I had a minor epiphany, and a character from earlier in the book made an appearance. I’m happy with where this is going. Gotta give the heartless girl a little heart, and all; plus, she’s got a soft spot for redheads.

I had the day “off” from the child, but I pretty much worked an eight hour day and had only a scant 45 minutes to write fiction. But that’s okay, I keep telling myself. Right now, this fun stuff isn’t paying the bills. On the publishing front, I did get a very nice rejection from an agent again, which… yeah. It’s amazing how little they bother you after a while. The good news is I’m young and writing more and the fact that there’s been piqued interest at all is encouraging. So many people have had it worse.

Other than that I also did a great deal of website tinkering, and have a blog design I think I’m happy with; not sure if I’m going to change to hosted so I can use fancier templates, but for right now this is working. I can’t promise I won’t change it again soon.

I am also current on every damn episode of True Blood and Sam Merlotte is haunting my dreams. Good lord.

Onward, upward, and towards the light! Or something inspiring like that. 😉

Trying to shoot a clockwork wolf.

I’ve been taking a break from writing. Not a huge long one, but a small one, intended to give my hands a rest and help to jog my brain into allowing me a peek into the last half of the book I’m writing. I’ve been sitting on the same scene for days, and though I wrote about 300 words yesterday, I’m still at a standstill. There’s a wolf in the distance, and the protagonist is trying to stop it from being shot. Which might mean he has to shoot his lover. Did I mention he’s in one of the hells? Right. Um. Sure. It’s the least trippy of the hell narrative bits, but at the same time it’s a highly emotional scene–because it’s so close to reality, I think. He’s basically reliving a very vivid memory, but this time changing it.

Anyway. “Shooting a wolf” is slowly becoming my catch phrase around here. I still haven’t shot it yet. But it needs to be done. I hope to inform the world of the scene (and chapter’s) conclusion in the next day or so, and that way I can move on to a chase scene followed by a surprising moment of intimacy between characters who up until this point have hated each other entirely.

And then there’s the matter of Dinah. She’s been lurking in the dark corners of this book, waiting and watching, and it’s becoming apparent that she wants her own POV. At least a few times. If you’ve read Castledeck and the Arabella, then she’s familiar to you. What you might not know is how she’s connected to both stories. She’s a lot more than she seems from that bit in the short story–essentially she’s a spy and reformed (sort of) courtesan. I think she’s the spice needed to add some flavor to the womens’ POV in Dustman, a contrast to her cousin Marna and a foil for Ash…

Not that you particularly care, but there it is. Thinking aloud and all that crap.

But! Progress is being done, and in light of my own keeping up with stuff. I am, in fact, approaching that halfway point rather steadily… Here’s to small victories!

Progressy progress, and knee deep in weird…

Oddly enough, Paul Jessup is having a conversation at his blog right now about the (re)emergence of weird, and I happen to be knee deep in it. It wasn’t expected. At its heart, Dustman is certainly Neo-Victorian, with occasional splashes of steampunk–but more and more I’m seeing how much weird it has to offer. Granted, there’s room for it, as one of the main POVs is journeying seven hells for reasons yet unknown to him (but known to me… oh muah ha ha ha ah). So far he’s encountered coffins made out of blood, blood sucking sand, and visions of his ex-love as a teenager.

Yesterday things got even weirder. I entered a sex scene. I hadn’t planned it, but there it was. Let’s just say it’s the most curious thing I’ve ever written. I can’t even write it down and try to explain it without sounding like some crazy person, but I promise in the context of the story it totally makes sense (subsequently I’d love to see Jung and Freud’s takes on it!). There’s a tunnel involved, as well as thousands of horrifying creatures in pursuit, plus copious use of the word membrane. Then there’s a huge journey and a half-clockwork wolf of magnificent proportion who happens to have a very nice library and impeccable aesthetic tastes. And he may or may not be a god. Although, I should point out, the wolf has nothing to do with the sex…

There is something exceptionally freeing about letting the weird in. Sure, my character is hopped up on essences half this time, and we’re not even sure if his journey is real, or spiritual, or hallucination. But it allows me to stretch the fabric of my own imagination, to poke holes in it, to twist it and wring out all the oddities and then ink them out on the page.

At any rate. The chapter is almost done. Weird is win. One of my favorite bits:

Behind him, Dev could hear the shambling of a hundred limbs, heavy with rot and time. Grasping fingers, the detritus of gods forgotten in the forge of life, machine and flesh. Cogs turned, bones creaked, all creeping closer to him here, in the underbelly of the world.

Status report: Not a huge word haul, but this was one crazy chapter to get through. Slow going is sometimes better going.