Stress and recreation

Amazing how quickly stress kills creativity. We’re getting ready to move in two weeks, and my right-brain mojo has ground to a complete and utter halt. I know I’m stressed because my teeth are starting to split. I’m not a teeth-grinder, but this is some serious stress.

I wanted to do Camp Nanowrimo in April, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. I may not even have a computer for most of the month. I’m also dabbling with writing mysteries, so I figure that if I can’t write, I can at least read. And what’s more fun to read than mysteries?

Amazon has a ton of Mary Roberts Rinehart mysteries for free. She’s like the American Agatha Christie, and was quite popular in her time. I’ve read one of her books before (the Circular Staircase), and just started reading Sight Unseen. Great premise–a group of friends attend a seance to try to debunk it, and the medium instead tells them all this inside information on a murder that’s happening down the street. So now this group knows all kinds of stuff about this “suicide” that they can’t explain to the police. It’s entertaining as heck.

The Dresden novels by Jim Butcher have given me an appetite for paranormal mystery. There’s just something hugely entertaining about a murder performed by a vampire on behalf of the fay in the middle of Chicago.

I know there’s other paranormal mystery writers–somewhere–I just haven’t located them. I have a low tolerance for sex and gore, so I’ve been shy of checking out new authors. Really, at my current stress level, I’m on the verge of hunting down cozy mysteries and reading them by the truckload.

Also been reading the blog Writing Mystery is Murder, which has a bunch of cozy mystery writers as contributors. It’s refreshing to mess about in other genres.


I’ve always thought of the story climax as the boss fight. The heroes go up against the Big Bad of the story, and there’s fights, and explosions, and bloodshed, and the heroes get beat up–and then pull a reversal and save the day.

Looking back over my library of fanfics, I’ve written volcanic eruptions, dangling bridges over waterfalls, fleeing ticking time bombs, hacked software in the brain, ambushes, swordfights, insanity, slowly dying of exposure, and falling from orbit. Yeah man, you name it, I’ve written it.


So as I undertake the fun of writing new stuff in an original universe, I’ve been afraid that all my good bossfights were used up.

One in particular gave me problems. The story itself was basically a tour of this one fantasy world, glimpses of its politics and monsters, and so forth. And the bossfight–against a giant legless dragon–took place entirely in one room. It felt anticlimactic.

So I started thinking about what kind of climax might work better. I still wanted them to fight the dragon–so what if I pulled a Frank Peretti and trashed all these environments we’d spent so much time building earlier in the book?

So I wrote it. And it was infinitely satisfying. I now know why in Frank Peretti’s novels, the whole freaking world goes nuts and comes crashing down. Because it’s AWESOME.

How do you write the climax of your story? Do you like the superhero-movie kinds with big explosions and chases and fireworks? Have you ever had a climax you weren’t happy with and had to fix up?

Having a great discussion about this over on DA, where I cross-posted this blogpost. 🙂

Project list

Yikes, I’ve got a ton on my plate right now. And I really need to update the blog! Zoniks, Scooby!

  • Get Storm Chase published in some shape or form. Still leaning toward small press, despite various people trying to warn me off. I need the training worse than anything else.
  • Get my emotional feet under me again. I’ve been off kilter since our Arizona trip last week, and I think I need to spend some major time with God.
  • Sleep more.
  • Figure out what to write next. I doodled out the opening to a murder mystery tonight–finding the body–and it’s got me wanting to write more. When a dead angelus is found by a werewolf, suspicion immediately falls on him–even if he didn’t do it.
  • Get rid of a bunch of the clutter around here.
  • Why are Portal 1 and 2 so tremendously entertaining? WHY? The kids ask for it like it’s a favorite movie.

So yeah. Stuff. A friend on DA is even asking for another Sonic fanfic, so I need to buckle down and finish the one I’ve been tinkering with.


Early 6th birthday!

My son had his birthday party today, because it was convenient for everybody to get together.

Fun (and balloons) were had by all.

Fun on the stairs with cousins.

Singing happy birthday! Cupcakes are easy to dole out to everyone, so we usually do cupcakes for birthday parties.

Tearing into presents!

Delicious cupcakes–white cake, chocolate frosting, by request of the birthday boy. With Cadbury’s minieggs on top, because it’s almost Easter. That aspect was a big hit with everybody.


I took the kids to the park today, because it was a beautiful day.

There were lots of other kids there, too. As I circulated around the play areas, I interacted with them, as I usually do, because I’m nosy.

Anyway, one little girl came up and said, “How old are you?”

“I’m thirty,” I replied. “How old are you?”

“Seven,” she said. Then, blinking in astonishment, she added, “You don’t look that old.”

I said, “Yep, these three are my kids.”

She said, “Those are your kids? I thought you were the babysitter!”

And inside my head, I went, “Dangit! I knew I should have put on more makeup!”

More great first lines

I’ve been paying attention to the first lines of books lately, because they’re so interesting. Almost no amateur-written books have good hooks, mostly because newbie writers don’t know the craft yet.

Anyway, here’s a hook that surprised me with its hookiness.

“Of course, the king never wore his stilts during business hours.” – The King’s Stilts, by Dr. Seuss.

The man knew how to write.

Here’s the hooks from the latest couple of books I snagged from the library.

“Flaxfield died on a Friday, which was a shame, because he always ate a trout for dinner on Friday, and it was his favorite.” – Dragonborn, by Toby Forward

“Walking to school over the snow-muffled cobbles, Karou had no sinister premonitions about the day.” – Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor

“The Sphinx stares at me from her plinth. I edge closer, daring her to open her mouth and enspell me with her riddles. She crouches, eyes a-glitter, teeth gleaming through parted lips. But she never moves.” – The Unnaturalists, by Tiffany Trent

“This is Joe Casimir’s story. But if you’re going to understand what happened when he got on a bus and and came down southwest across the state to visit a town called Midville, you have to know about Mr. Boulderwall.” – The Moon over High Street, by Natalie Babbit

“The director of facilities was a small man with ruddy cheeks and dark, deep-set eyes, his prominent forehead framed by an explosion of cottony-white hair, thinning as it marched toward the back of his head, cowlicks rising from the mass like waves moving toward the slightly pink island of his bald spot. His handshake was quick and strong, though not too quick and not too strong: He was accustomed to gripping arthritic fingers.” – The Monstrumologist, by Rick Yancey

“I remember lying in the snow, a small red spot of warm going cold, surrounded by wolves.” – Shiver, by Maggie Steifvater

Book review: Dragonborn

Dragonborn, by Toby Forward. Middle-grade fantasy.

When Flaxfield the great wizard dies, his apprentice Sam is left without a master. Sam has great power-but he doesn’t know it yet. All he knows is that he needs a new master if he wants to finish his education in magic.

With his dragon Starback at his side, Sam sets out alone on his quest. But there are those who want Sam’s power for themselves, dangerous forces who are waiting for his first mistake so they can attack. When Sam is tricked into making a mortal error, only Starback can save him, thanks to a bond between them that is deeper than either of them know.

With a strong sense of adventure and a lyrical writing style, Toby Forward has created a page-turning, accessible fantasy with the literary quality of a classic.

I’m still trying to decide what I thought of this book. It’s written in that sparse, minimalist style that’s so popular right now, and there’s no backstory given, EVER. It’s like Valve storytelling in Half-life–you’re just left to figure stuff out on your own.

The story itself is like if Lyra from The Dark Materials trilogy and Conn of the Magic Thief trilogy somehow got mixed into a crossover and had an adventure together. Complete with Lyra’s magic church-school thingy. Those aspects of it were excellent.

The first half of the story is excellent. Lots of deep thoughts about magic and how the world is put together.

Then the second half of the book dissolves into random. I don’t know if the editor read that far or something. By the last few chapters, it’s nothing but disassociated scenes with the barest amount of coherent narrative linking them. The confrontation with the villain was almost a non-event that takes up a whopping two pages.

A bunch of characters who are presented as possibly villains in the beginning turn out to be good guys by the end, which is always a nice surprise. The villain is evil and disgusting, and I felt sorry for all of her thralls. But again, almost no backstory is given. I imagine a lot more is explained in the next books.

The splintered second half of the book is what makes me so uncertain about it. I loved the first half. It had good writing and ideas. But then … that second half. I’m still barely sure what happened. It’s not explained and barely described, and it’s like watching the obligatory “clip-show” episode of an anime.