Category Archives: Writing

Story Art, and the Art of the Story

Yes, yes, even I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to get back to my blog, but work has taken precedence (what with me wanting to eat and pay bills), but as the saying goes: too much work makes AJ something-something bitchy bitch, so I’ve taken a small break from editing, and will now fill this post with art.

I mentioned in an earlier post that apart from my family and my cats, I have two loves: books and art. I can’t get enough of either. And sometimes, the two cross over in an awesomely good and awesomely personal way.

So I’d like to talk to you about that art – story art – and in particular, the art of Andrew J McKiernan.

My first introduction to Andrew was via his short stories, which are bloody brilliant (check out his collection here), but it was my short story Nightmare’s Cradle published in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine (ASIM) #46, which was my introduction to Andrew the Illustrator, who also produced the cover of ASIM#46.

ASIM461

I’ve written previously about writing being a visual process, and this was never more true than with Nightmare’s Cradle. The story is set at my father’s farm – 300 acres of rolling hills with nary a neighbour in sight. It’s isolated, hard country with no internet or cell-service, and runs on solar power. It’s writer heaven. Visually, it was the perfect setting for the story, and clear as all get-out in my mind – I could see Hannah moving through the rooms of the cabin, could see Eli roaming the hills and skirting the dams of the property.

So when the publisher told me my story would be illustrated, I was both excited and a little wary, truth be told. Would Andrew’s artistic vision hold true to my vision? I shouldn’t have worried. Andrew perfectly captured the heart of the story, and I have been in love with the illustration ever since. Andrew has a shit-tonne of talent, and I’d even go as far as to say he’s hogging the talent pool a wee bit.

http://www.andrewmckiernan.com/mediagallery/mediaobjects/disp/7/7_nightmare_s_cradle.jpg
Nightmare’s Cradle by Andrew J McKiernan
Excerpt from Nightmare’s Cradle:

The windowpane is cold beneath my forehead, my breath warm against the glass. Thunderheads stalk the sky as lightning sears. Winds howl and rain pours from the heavens. God’s fury is unyielding and absolute.
A bird snared in a fence wire hangs, leg twisted, feathers mangled. I wonder how long it struggled before finally accepting its fate.
How long will I?
The bird sways in the wind, one wing raised in accusation. The rain unleashes its next barrage, dropping a thick, grey curtain around the cabin. My childhood home, sequestered amid rugged hills and hostile terrain has become the prison my father intended. Escape isn’t an option. It never has been.

Andrew saw what I did, and brought it to life in forlornly beautiful fashion, and I will always be thankful and grateful for that.

If that wasn’t enough, when I first met Andrew in person (at another horror writer’s birthday weekend), he had a copy of the illustration with him. For me. FOR ME. And which now sits proudly on the wall above my desk.

Andrew is one of those special individuals who can both write and draw, and if he wasn’t such a hell of a nice guy, I’d kinda hate him a little. But as we meet for drinks on a regular basis with a bunch of other horror writers (big shout out to the Sydney SHADOWS), that would be a little awkward.

At the beginning of this post, I mentioned Andrew’s short story collection – he also illustrated the book, so if you’re looking for great stories and some kick-arse art, you really can’t go past it.

perf6.000x9.000.indd

As for me, when I’m sitting at my desk writing a story and hit a road-block, I can look up, see my Nightmare’s Cradle illustration, and know that my words and my worlds really are alive in more than just my imagination.

Art My World

I’m a writer, a creative. And while it’s words I weave it’s also a very visual process – most writers will tell you the same. In our mind’s eye, we can see our characters manoeuvring through our created landscape, we envisage them interacting with each other and with their surrounds. Clear as day we see them walking down the street, being chased through the wilds by a monster, piloting a spaceship or riding a train.

I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve wanted my worlds brought to life, and while I love to draw, I don’t have anywhere near the talent of some of my contemporaries. Talent is a bit of an understatement, though, as you’ll soon see.

In my last post, I spoke about Montgomery Borror’s, art, and how much of a damn fine artist he is. As his Kickstarter is so close to being realised, I’m going to show you why the man’s work needs to be out in the world.

Lovecraft

First, a little background…

A few years ago, I wrote a steampunk horror short – Shovel-Man Joe – that won the Australian Shadows Award for short fiction. It was my first stab at steampunk, and I fell in love with the genre. The story is set on a train, but it’s a train like no other. I could see it clearly in all its sinister glory, but with a very limited word count I had to write tight. I’m not a poet, not by any stretch of the imagination, but I have a love of Coleridge and his words, so I took a chance to tell part of the backstory of the tale with… yep, you guessed it, a poem… of sorts.

The poem is regaled by one destined to tell and retell the story of the train and those who choose to ride it (think Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner). It’s told within the workings of the story, and while penning it, I saw the train screaming down the tracks toward the exiled depot, and I hoped the poem would work well enough to pass that visual on to the reader.

It wasn’t until last year that I saw ‘my train’ brought to life. Only it wasn’t for ‘Shovel-Man Joe’, but rather ‘Black Train Blues’ by James A Moore (I’m a huge fan – check out his stuff) for Midnight Echo Issue 9. The illustration is phenomenal, and perfectly captured both James’ train, and the vision I had of Shovel-Man Joe’s train. When I first saw it, I said: “That’s my train!”

This was my introduction to Monty, the master-illustrator and it wouldn’t be long until we were working together on a comic based on one of my stories. That project is a while away yet, and Monty being the workaholic he is, has another project on the go – one where he’s both writer and illustrator, and where he tackles two of the masters of horror: HP Lovecraft vs Aleister Crowley.

With just five days to go and just $140 to get to fund the project, he’s so close to getting his dream comic off the ground. So, for those who are a little unsure as to whether they’d like to kick in, just take a look at Monty’s work, and trust me when I say you won’t find a harder-working, more dedicated illustrator.

I now own a copy of ‘Train in Vain’, and though it was drawn for another’s story, take a look at it below and read the poem I’ve pulled from ‘Shovel-Man Joe’, and if you can, think of backing Monty so he can get his artwork out in the world.

train in vain 1

Crack! The whip struck Shovel-Man Joe!

Back slashed red, blood and sweat flowed.

Piled high at his feet were limbs and entrails.

The shovel scraped loudly; the fire inhaled!

 

The throttle released with a hiss and a groan;

The engine chugged forward on pistons of bone.

First class hurrah’d and raised glasses high;

The whore settled back, spread wide with a sigh.

 

All aboard! All aboard!

Fresh meat, the fire roared!

Ride the train it was writ; be the first to The Pit!

But who has returned and spoken of it?

 

He comes, can you hear?

Who’s the first to disappear?

Whispers in the halls; scratching in the walls.

One by one you will surely fall.

 

Beware the Shovel Man’s ire!

Feed the fire! Feed the fire!

Ride the train if you dare…

You must all pay the fare.

 

The Creative Proce$$

The difference between the almost right word and the right word is … the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”
—Mark Twain

Aah, words. How I love thee! They hold a power, a magic all their own. And Mr Twain speaks the truth – for a writer, there’s nothing like finding that right word, the right turn of phrase that will paint a world, a character, a scene with such vivid detail. It’s what has us rewriting and reworking until we hit that perfection.

Words are the life-blood of a writer. We love weaving them together to create wonder and enchantment. We want to take you places, leave you there for a while if we must, and have you take a little piece of it away with you.

We invest in our work, invest in ourselves to create that work. Time and learning our craft is the biggest investment a writer makes, but there are also times where dollars are invested. I’ve done it, and it was money well spent. Five years ago I joined the Australian Horror Writers Association crit group – the crit group was free, but a yearly membership of $20 was paid and worth every cent. Not only did I find a bunch of writers who helped me see where I was going wrong, and who supported and bolstered me and my writing, but more than that, they were (and are) some of the best people I know.

AHWA_logo

When the opportunity arose for a mentorship, I jackpotted again and was mentored by the extraordinarily talented and extraordinarily lovely Kaaron Warren (read her work, it’ll take you to some very spooky places). What I learned from Kaaron was invaluable, and the $165 I paid for the mentorship was a pittance compared to the experience and knowledge she passed along to me.

My writing improved a thousand-fold after working with Kaaron. Even my first drafts were not quite the crap they were previously (and we all know first drafts are crap), but the skeleton was stronger on which to build. It still meant rewriting and reworking that first draft, of course. It’s the investment of time. Time.

So when I came across a “book” professing a foolproof way to write your own book in less than a week, I was more than a little sceptical. More promises followed: six figure income in twelve months; will turn you into an expert in your field. Yada, yada, yada, blah, blah, blah. And let’s not forget the “seminars” and “master-classes” (for more money, of course). Oh, and before you ask, qualifications? Pfft! Who needs those!

Now I have a healthy dose of cynicism, and could see right through this rot (note: I will not provide links to this so-called book, as… well, it’s a load of bollocks), but it’s not aimed at someone like me, someone who can call bullshit on their claims. It’s aimed at the most vulnerable of our writing community: the newbie. (Or as the book proclaims: “for the budding writer”)

bullshit

We were all newbies once; caught up in the romanticism of writing, of creating, of being published. And we still are. Those of us who have been writing for a while now understand the amount of work, the struggle, the yearning and the passion to create. There are no shortcuts. You can’t wave a magic wand over a first draft to turn it into literary gold. It takes rewrites and redrafts, rereads and reworking.

It takes time. Time to make those words that will resonate with a reader; time to learn your craft; time to make your story the best it can be. Can it be done alone? I haven’t come across any story (be it flash, short, novella, novel) that’s stuck with me that hasn’t been passed past another’s eyes, a professional, before publication. When I see someone professing to hold the golden goose out to new writers, I get mad. Duping up-and-coming writers to make a quick buck is unconscionable. These parasites make a mockery of my profession, of my passion, and do so with little regard to those they target. There’s a special kind of hell waiting for those who cash in on the dreams of a new writer, I’m sure of it.

When challenged on the veracity of the content and title of that scam-book, the “author” bid a hasty retreat. Another took up their cause, which ended in an interesting discussion on the creative process, and this person’s flat-out refusal to ever engage beta readers or a professional editor or proofreader – their work didn’t require it.

facepalm

As a professional (qualified) editor, I know this is not the case. All work, regardless of the author, needs another set of eyes passed over it (more than one set if you can manage it). It doesn’t need to cost a fortune, it doesn’t need to cost anything but time: reciprocity is a great foundation for beta readers, and also builds relationships with other writers (who are really quite astute readers).

Can a book be written in under a week? 10,000 words a day for six days gets you 60,000 words – the basis of a novel. Would you send it out in the world? Please don’t. Please, please don’t. You owe your potential reader more than that, you owe yourself more than that.

Can you make a six-figure income within twelve months on said book? Realistically? No. And promising a budding writer such is not only fraudulent, but downright despicable.

The creative process does cost, but most of those “costs”—time, sweat, and yes, sometimes tears—a writer is willing to invest. But those costs shouldn’t line the pockets of scammers trying to bilk money from those who are just starting out.

There are organisations—reputable writing centres, writing associations, writing groups etc—that are found easily enough on the ‘net. Invest the time to search for a group or association that fits your needs. There are a lot of genre associations who would be happy to point you in the right direction. Don’t be taken in by “books” that promise the world. Remember, if something’s too good to be true, it probably is.

Ramblings of a Serial Killer

I’ve killed off short stories in the hundreds; stuffed their rotting carcasses into dark nooks with nary a backward glance. I’ve hacked and slashed words with the impunity of a serial killer, and razed worlds like an unforgiving god. Cast them into the abyss and never looked back. Easy.

But the novel, aah, what a different beast it is! It fights dirty. The two main characters—Wren and Cy—make me pay for the wrongs I’ve done them: taking them on needless journeys; giving them pointless back-stories; creating traits that downright didn’t suit. They mocked my attempts to reason with them – they knew best. But I’m stubborn, and as they traded conspiratorial whispers at the back of mind, poking and nudging me toward the right path, I ploughed on.

Each time I gutted a draft, they sighed with relief; each time I severed a chapter or two or six, they goaded me to be harsher (they can be mean). And after the murder and evisceration of four drafts, I’m finally at a place where Cy is happy to move forward; Wren, reluctantly so.

blood spatter

“You had to work for it,” Cy told me, “it was the only way you were going to get us right.” His smile, as always, is never fully realised. “Experience is a brutal teacher.”

Wren snorted and gave us both the finger; her trust issues run deep.

With time in the Black Friday Wager very quickly winding down, I made the decision (although it was blindingly obvious) that I wasn’t going to win the bet with my mate Marty Young (read his stuff – it rocks!) to get this first draft finished. It’s a bitch; I don’t like losing bets, but it’s been far from a waste.

When I break it down all autopsy-like, I’ve written a total of 149,496 words; two in-depth character sheets (four pages each—longhand); chapter summary/outline (six pages—longhand), and one page filled with a stream of curse words (possibly my best work). The two words I’ve failed to write, however, are: The End. But that’s okay, I know where Cy and Wren have come from, I know where they’ve been and where they’re going. They don’t quite know all that’s in store, but if they’ve taught me anything, it’s that they won’t make it easy.

Novel writing is new to me, and the learning curve has been incredibly steep, and at times seemingly insurmountable. I hated and loved it in equal measure; I raged and cursed, floundered and despaired, but the stubbornness that drives me forward (and drives my husband to incoherency) meant I could butcher my drafts then pick through the remains and rebuild.

bloody pen

Not all of those 149,496 words were crap. There’s some great stuff in there, bits and pieces that I’ll use in later chapters; other sections I’ll rework to fit this new incarnation; parts that are quintessentially Cy and Wren.

Don’t get me wrong, this killing spree hasn’t been easy – at the time, each slaughter of the next draft has felt like a massive failure on my part. But one of my writing pals, Devin Madson, (read her work – she paints with words), told me I was lucky I could see it wasn’t working and could cut my losses and begin again; that I didn’t drag it out and waste both time and words. In my head that makes sense, in my heart, it’s like a dagger.

It wasn’t just my characters and their voices that had me struggle with my novel; work cut into my writing time, but I don’t begrudge that. I love being an editor; I love helping others with their work, their stories and their characters – it’s why I chose to get my qualifications so I could provide the best advice and expertise I could to those who love to write as I do.

As an editor, I’m trained to see where others’ novels require work: pacing, clarity, cohesion et al. This doesn’t, however, transfer to my own work – like I tell my clients: you can’t have objectivity with your babies. It’s insane to think you can.

And when the time comes, when I finally type: The End, (then do at least two rewrites – I’m a perfectionist, sue me), I will engage beta readers, then rewrite…and rewrite, and possibly rewrite again, before finally passing it on to an editor – someone who has the objectivity I no longer have.

It’s taken six months for me to fully comprehend the scale and heartache involved with writing a novel, but it’s been six months well spent. Do I wish I’d been able to get this “first” draft done? Hell yes. Do I wish I could have typed: The End? No doubt! Do I wish it was Marty buying me books instead of me buying him scotch? Yes (but I love Marty, so it ain’t all that bad). But the big question is: have I grown as a writer? And the answer to that is a big fat YES. And that, I reckon, is worth more than a bottle of scotch.

gone-writing

Death of a Novel

After a lingering illness of insentience and lassitude, we regret to inform you of the death of Novel Draft Two. It slipped into the Black with relief and without fanfare. May it never see the light of day again.

The “deadline” for the draft of my first novel is approaching at what seems to be warp speed (I can’t actually confirm that with like… math and stuff, ‘cause, well… it’s math), but I guarantee it’s true.

Last December I chucked my first draft in at 52,000 words (no, that’s not a typo) and started again, pumped and ready to go. Five days ago draft number two bit the dust at 26,000 (yep, that’s 78,000 words in total – novel length), and started again. I’m nothing if not consistent.

The problem with the story wasn’t the fact that I was leaning more to the side of ‘pantsing’ than ‘plotting’, but that the story had no soul. It wasn’t my characters or the world they lived in, it was the way I was imparting my characters’ story. I was bored, and if I’m bored with the storytelling, then so will any potential reader.

I won’t lie; it’s been a struggle. I’ve been plagued with self-doubt, petty jealousies, and outright apathy – dark moments that made me want to give it all away. Not just the novel, but writing as a whole. It’s a terrible place to be, and while it usually only lasts a few days, it feels like an eternity when you’re living it, and it feels like there’s no way out.

Storytelling isn’t easy; it’s more than just sitting down and spewing out words. Not everyone can do it. On my good days, I like to think I can do it well. Well enough to keep at it. Perseverance, stubbornness, quintessence, call it what you will. Writing is an intrinsic part of me – the good, the bad and the ugly.

So where does that leave me? Two thousand words into the third draft and with two main characters who have a story they want to tell before they’re lost to history. A story of gods and monsters, survival and betrayal, hope and hopelessness in a savage, unforgiving world. I like them, warts and all, but they don’t care that I do; they are who they are and they make no apologies for it.

Here’s a little taste by way of introduction:

If Wren knew one thing, it was the world was dying and she wasn’t one for being long in it. She’d defied enemy and gods alike, and sooner or later, one would stake their claim and into the Black she’d go.

Crouched in the shadow of the Kanaku Ranges, she slit the wood rat from tiny cock to tiny throat, scooping out its innards and plopping them into the pan. They sizzled, stinging her nostrils and watering her mouth. The rat’s blood sautéed the offal quickly and her gut grumbled with impatience. She chose the heart. It tasted like metal. Metal and dirt. Still, food was food. She’d seen others eat much worse.

And debut number two:

The aroma of roasting deer teased Cy’s tongue as he busied himself with the defences along the north ridge, but it was the tournament that weighed heavily on his mind. The first rounds would have begun. Candidates would be sweating in their armour, the women demure behind intricately-bejewelled veils. Seven women; the last of breeding age left in the Ranges.

Cy punched the log into place, taking pleasure in the radiating pain. No girls born in over a decade—and she’d been a sickly child, strange of face and mind—and three more women lost in childbirth this past year. They had a legion of soldiers in the making, but no wives to mourn them. His name should have been called; the deal had been struck. But here he was fucking about with wood when he should have been earning his legacy. He would leave tomorrow, past the sanctuary of the mountains in search of a womb.

I feel a lot more confident with this incarnation, I can see their stories much more clearly, and both Wren and Cy seem comfortable in their new skins (I think Wren may have smiled, but she swears it was a grimace).

So enough dilly-dallying for now, it’s time to get these two moving – they have paths they’re itching to take and they don’t suffer malingerers.

Right then, where’s my coffee…

 

 

Intimate Kisses

I received an out-pouring of birthday wishes today, which was wonderful, and always makes a girl feel special. So as thanks, I thought I’d give a little something back.

‘Intimate Kisses’ is a story I wrote a few years back for a tea zine (yep, you read that right) where they were looking for all things ‘tea’, and a friend of mine suggested to the publisher that a horror story would make for some interesting tea-time reading.

Subtle horror was the order of the day, and this is definitely one of my more tame tales, but…it’s just my cup of tea…

INTIMATE KISSES

Dirt-covered and chipped, the antique teacup protruded from the front yard of the farmhouse ruins. Fine cracks ran through the faded porcelain like veins, crimson specks hiding its true colour. The handle was broken and partially buried. Two of the cup’s feet jutted from the ground like gold fangs.

It was content to wait. Discovery was guaranteed. Always. Two centuries of intimate kisses ensured it.

The morning breeze carried the hint of jasmine over the abandoned lot as the sun stole moisture from the ground. A field mouse scurried through the grass. Nose twitching, it shied from the cup.

A goshawk swooped, silent.

The mouse squealed once.

The wind’s next breath carried voices over the rubble. Taunting. Teasing.

“Mamma’s boy! Mamma’s boy!”

The youthful scorn washed over the ruins, and as the catcalls and laughter drifted past, the cup waited.

Footsteps.

A curse beyond the broken fence.

A rock ricocheted off nearby sandstone.

The children’s words—“Mamma’s boy!”—hissed through the brittle grass. The ground trembled. Dirt fell from the porcelain exposing a tunnel into the belly of the cup. “Mamma’s boy! Mamma’s boy!” The curses stormed over the rim, twisting, scouring the memories of long-gone lips.

One gold-plated foot quivered; inched into the light. Caressed by the sun, it glinted.

Footsteps halted; changed direction.

Whispers churned within the teacup, its jagged handle ambush-ready.

Eclipsed by the boy’s shadow, the cup shook with the first brush of fingertips. The small, disfigured hand hesitated. The second touch showed the boy what he wanted to see. Treasure. Hidden treasure.

He began to dig, shifting dirt almost reverently.

Stubby fingers probed.

The handle curled like a scorpion tail.

The boy reached, nudged.

Dirt spewed over the rim and the tortured souls enslaved within the cup screamed in warning.

Flesh punctured. The boy flinched.

His sacrifice dripped into the cup, pumping tiny rivers of the boy’s darkest desires to its porcelain heart.

In one final push for possession, the cup clawed at the dirt with its feet, righted itself.

“Magic…”

The boy lifted it carefully, and as he blew dirt from his treasure, he breathed life, and the promise of death, back into the cup. Cradled in stained hands, the boy’s blood, infected with thoughts of his cruel mother, pulsed through the cup’s veins.

Mamma’s boy! Mamma’s boy! The voices of the other boys snarled through him, tormenting. Always tormenting.

The chant was silenced by a small voice, sweet and corrupted. “Mamma’s boy,” it crooned, feeding the boy’s rage and vowing revenge.

It asked little in return. Devotion. Obedience. The boy’s soul for retribution.

At that promise, the blood on the handle’s jagged tip bubbled amongst the screams of those forever imprisoned inside. A single speck of blood burst free from the tip and speared into the porcelain, reforging the handle.

The cup began a new chapter in its journey. It would visit horrors on all who had wronged its new Keeper, creating nightmares they would not escape. Their suffering would restore the cup to its former glory.

It would drain the life out of the boy’s enemies. One sip at a time.

teacup

(This beautiful teacup was gifted to me from the lovely Elizabeth Wayne)


The Writing Process Blog Chain

My buddy, Andrew J McKiernan, tagged me into this Writing Process blog chain, and I don’t know whether to smack him or buy him a beer at our next writerly get-together. You can read all about Andrew’s writing process here, and as he was brought into this by Alan Baxter, you can read all about Alan’s process, too (guilt by association, Al!). It’s been a real eye-opener reading about the varied way authors approach their craft.

The idea behind this blog chain is for writers to answer four questions that discuss their work and their process (minus the tears and rocking in a corner, I’m guessing), then tag three other authors into laying themselves bare. I’ve enjoyed reading about the writing processes of other storytellers – each as diverse as the writers and the words and worlds they create.

Now it’s my turn to be uncomfortable…

1. What am I working on?

I’m currently working on the draft of my first novel – a horror story in a fantasy world. I know the term most used is ‘dark fantasy’, but I look at it as a horror story set in a fantastical world. I hate labels, by the way. The novel is based in the world of a short story I wrote for ASIM #48 in 2010 – The Whims of my Enemy. It’s a desperate, genocidal world, where the lines between right and wrong, of good and evil, are blurred.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

That’s always a tough question to answer. The best I can give is ‘voice’. Every writer has their own; their own way of building their worlds, their characters, and how each interacts with others and the world they’ve created – we all bleed differently onto the page. If I look back at the short stories I’ve written, the unifying idea behind them would be horror versus hope, be it an internal battle or all-out bloody war. I’d say my writing examines how different people react and cope with truly horrendous situations, and how it breaks some and makes others. Do I compare or liken myself to other writers? No, that does no one any favours, least of all me.

3. Why do I write what I do?

Aah, I’m asked that a lot. Actually, it’s more: “My god, why?” And that’s more with me being a woman who writes horror (and a mum to boot!). I’ve dealt with this in a post here, but one of the simple answers is: it’s what flowed. No doubt my writing was influenced by my reading habits, which have always been on the darker side of fiction. There was very little chance I was going to be a romance writer (sorry, Dad!). Why do I write it? I love it. I love putting characters into ghastly situations to see what they’re made of… or what they’re not. And I hope it makes for an uncomfortably thought-provoking read.

4. How does my writing process work?

It differs. For short stories, I’m a ‘pantser’ – I sit down with an idea and just write. Sometimes I have an idea of where the story will go, sometimes not. I’ve even worked a short from end to beginning.

As for my novel, this has been the steepest learning curve, and to be completely honest, the scope of it has been more than a little frightening. I’m actually on what technically would be my second draft, as I chucked the first one – it took me 52,000 words to realise it wasn’t working, and that was due to me constraining the novel to the boundaries of the short story (not smart, I know, but hey, you learn from your mistakes). Still, those 52,000 words gave me a greater understanding of the world and my characters, so not all bad. While I had very detailed character lists and a basic story outline, I tried to ‘pants’ my way through this, and that didn’t work either. So while I now have a very vague chapter outline, I still like to let my characters lead the way – they know the story they want to tell. Sometimes they let me in on it, other times, not. I’ve been pleasantly (and unpleasantly) surprised on more than one occasion by the decisions and choices they’ve made.

This first draft also has a deadline thanks to the awesome Black Friday Wager group, which was set up as a way to help a bunch of us achieve our goals. So the first draft of my novel needs to be completed by Friday, June 13, 2014 or I owe Marty Young a bottle of scotch. Unfortunately for Marty, he’ll be the one ponying up a couple of volumes of Gaiman’s Sandman, as I will get this first (second) draft done!

So that’s me then. Now it’s time to tag three other amazing writers into this blog chain. If you haven’t read their work (or those of Andrew McKiernan and Alan Baxter), go out and find it – you’ll wish you’d done so earlier!

Over to you:

Devin Madson

Marty Young

Greg Chapman

(Note: Devin, Marty and Greg will post their responses to the question next Monday, March 10th)

Inkwell on an old letter