Revision Xibalba: Theading the Plot

First the good news:  I finished the revisions to The Bloodgate Warrior and shipped them off to Alissa this morning.  Even BETTER news – she likes what she’s read so far!  Woot!  That’s always such a relief.  Did I interpret her revision letter correctly, thoroughly, and then most importantly, did I carry those revisions through the ms in a logical way?

Which brings me to today’s revision topic.  It’s something I’ve been thinking about the last few days and decided I should blog about it in case it might help anyone else working through a rough patch of revisions.

As I told Raelyn earlier this week, I was so deep into the forest that it was hard to see the trees.  All the threads (changes) I was juggling began to get muddled and tangled, and I was starting to lose my grip on what to pull forward when.

What am I talking about?  It’s that chaos theory I’ve joked about before:  A butterfly flaps its wings on page one and you suddenly find yourself revising every single chapter until it’s an entirely different book.

This is why revisions are hard.

I’m not talking about minor line-edit type revisions, but something more challenging.  For instance, Alissa wrote that she’d like to see more of a contrast between Cassie’s driven focus for her job and what happens when Tecun climbs into her bed.  *winks*  I already had some bits of character traits that I really liked for her — her static trait involves her nightly ritual before getting into bed, for instance — but I didn’t go far enough.  (In fact, I realized as I got into the revisions for this element, that I’d gotten a few things terribly wrong that didn’t jive with her character at all.)

Now you might think this was an easy change.  I’ll just throw in a new trait – like maybe she’s OCD about her schedule and has every minute of this “vacation” mapped out down to the minute.  Easy peasy right?

Wrong.  Because if you’re going to ADD something to a finished manuscript, it has to have impact.  If the butterfly flaps its wings, there’s wind, no matter how faint, that must spread and ripple throughout the story.  Otherwise why even bother with the change in the first place?

So if I’m going to add a character trait, I have to SHOW it again and again.  It has to affect the plot in some way, no matter how small, or it’s just noise.  Like a random hair color or scar that I mention without ever explaining where the scar came from or how it changed the character’s life.  Why even bother if it’s not important and crucial to the story?  I couldn’t just mention this trait once and let it drop – that would be doing a lazy injustice to my character.

Everything has to matter.  It has to have impact.  WHY is she doing this?  HOW can I show it?  WHEN does this affect the plot?

And that, my friends, is where the real bite of Revision Xibalba comes into play.  Once you start affecting plot, um… news alert… your plot changes.  Scenes change.  Actions mean something else entirely.  If you change one turning point, then all the others are affected too.

See that trickle down effect?  More than shit begins to roll down hill at this point.  And oh, all those pesky trees.  I had several items I was changing at the same time, not just this one character trait, each one like a colored thread that had to be pulled all the way through to the end in a logical manner.

For example, Alissa mentioned in passing that she liked the idea of the family journal that Cassie brought with her to Guatemala and wondered if there was any way to make that more important.  Well sure.  I could — and did — write several thousand words of journal entries, which became a cool way for me to resolve several items in the revision letter at once.

But which events should the entries cover (I ended up spanning over 500 years!!)?  It couldn’t just be backstory or it’d slow the plot too much.  It couldn’t be all emo whining or moaning about the past.  They had to have real, measurable impact.  Things had to change because of these entries.

What clues could I drop in the journal that would make the reader go OOOOOOOHHHHHH when I finally laid out the live-action scene before them?

Notice that if I’m changing the plot or character…that’s more than just copying and pasting a new journal entry into place.  That means I’m changing significant elements of the plot itself.  Alllllll the way through the ms.

So then it becomes a balancing act requiring a delicate touch and a sharp eye.  If I’m going to drop in this little tidbit here, and make it really really matter, then I have to do it again over here.  I can’t drop a bunch of bright red paint in chapter two and never ever paint with red again.  I also have to remember the green and blue I’m adding and balance that with what’s already there and the new red.  It has to be consistent from start to finish.  All of these new colors are important now so I have to drop some over here, and again here, and then yeah, it’d better become crucial and important before the ending again, or…

Again, why bother?

Threading the plot — carrying these changes through in meaningful and consistent ways — building momentum page after page, THIS is the difference between making your editor happy when she opens up your revised document and making her groan and pull out her red pen again.  I truly believe this is where you can really learn to shine as a hardworking professional.

No, I don’t mean you have to blindly accept every change proposed by your editor.  But when you dig in and begin to make those changes, carry them through.  Don’t just plop a few things in and send it back.  Really think and dig.  Yes, it’s more work.  Yes, it’s painfully hard to come up with new ideas once the story’s already done.  Trust me, I know.  I added over 5K to this story (net – I added way more new words but deleted other passages that didn’t work any longer), and wrote another couple of thousand words of journal entries that I didn’t end up using at all.

But you know what?  I loved Tecun and Cassie before I sent The Bloodgate Warrior to Alissa (or I wouldn’t have submitted it, obviously).  But now?

Well.  I always say this but I think with her help, it’s become the next best thing I’ve written.

Thank You, Weight Watchers

One year ago today I made a commitment to myself.  I decided I was done playing around.  Done feeling miserable.  Done trying every crazy restricted diet.  I signed up for Weight Watchers Online – again.

Yes, it wasn’t the first time.  My first exposure to WW was as a kid.  I remember Granny (my mom) gagging down the weekly requirement of liver and fish.  *shudders*  After Princess Monster was born (today’s her bday, by the way!  Our first teenager!), I did an At-Work stint and lost my 10%.

We moved to MO shortly after.  I had two more kids.  And yeah, this time I had to lose quite a bit more to get the 10% award.

That’s how it is with “diets.”  Any diet will work.  For awhile.  But then I get tired of eating all meat and eggs but no bread or fruit.  Or all grains and fruit and no meat and eggs.  Or no salt. No sugar.  Or no fat…  And inevitably, I fall off the plan.  No matter how much I’ve lost, it sure is easy to gain it all back again.  And then some.

No more.  I decided I was going to choose a plan I could live with.  If we go out to eat, I won’t have a panic attack that someone put salt on my veggies and I’ll be up ten pounds tomorrow.  I won’t have to eat salad only.  If I want a steak, fine.  If I want dessert, great.

Within reason, anything is possible on Weight Watchers.

I wanted to be a good role model for the monsters.  Instead of being OCD about what I can and can’t eat, I just try to make the healthiest choices I can.  We’ve talked a lot about “points” and healthy guidelines.  For fun, they’ve all taken turns figuring out how many points they’ve eaten.  It’s eye opening, and has helped us cut back on seconds and poor-choice snacks more than once.

I can live on this plan.  Really live.  I’m already doing things I never thought possible.

  • Lost 61.4 pounds and still counting.
  • Stuck with a plan for an entire year.
  • Jogged at the track – a whole quarter mile! – and didn’t die.
  • Did an exercise tape I’d never even cracked open before – and it wasn’t impossible.
  • Started wearing JEANS!  And I’ve gone down three times in sizes!
  • Bought some high-heeled boots to wear with those jeans.
  • Shopped a lot – something I used to dread.  Nothing worse than going into a store and realizing that absolutely nothing will even come close to fitting.
  • Bought my first XL – non plus size! – shirt.
  • Had my picture taken with the family for Christmas – something I’ve avoided for YEARS.  I hate to have my picture taken!  But I’m so glad we did it this year.

In 2012, I’m continuing my healthy eating habits, and I’m also working harder at exercise.  So far, I’ve made it every day this month/year.  Granted, we’re not even a week in yet but that’s an incredible start with my track record.

I’m feeling so good right now, not just physically, but about myself as a person.  I’m taking care of myself, something that can be remarkably hard to do.

Thank you, Weight Watchers, for helping me LIVE.

NaNoWriMo2011 Day 21

I haven’t given up on hitting 50K but wallowed in the glow of finishing ZCR a bit too long.  It’s hard to switch gears without much down time, especially this time of year.  I’ve been a shopping, cleaning fool the past two weeks preparing for Thanksgiving.  I’ve got two fridges absolutely stuffed with all the fixings.  Cooking will start Tuesday night this week, Wednesday is prep day when I’ll bake the pies, make at least 10 batches of egg noodles, and mash 20 pounds of potatoes.  (We like our carbs…)  Then of course the turkey needs to go into the oven by 8 AM Thursday and we’ll have a house full of guests until late Thursday night.

Writing?  In all of that?

Yes.  I’m trying.  I did some plotting and brainstorming for Lord Regret’s Price.  I also decided to see if I could expand the free prequel, Lady Wyre’s Regret.  IF I can get to RT next April, I want to have something to hand out and sign (since Lady Doctor Wyre is an ebook).  I’m thinking about printing up a chapbook of the prequel and a nice excerpt.  But of course I want it to be the absolute best I have to offer, and there’s a lot more to how Lady Wyre and Regret meet than I’ve given you so far.

NaNoWriMo count:  40,450 words

Snippet:  this is continuing the free read prequel, Lady Wyre’s Regret.  First draft only, etc. etc.  I love the little line tying into the next book….  What exactly is Lord Regret’s price?

Waving regally, Charlotte paused on the front steps of Wyreton and awaited her public assassination.  Her heartbeat ramped to supersonic speeds, but she managed to smile for the millions of Britannians watching the Solstice Eclipse festivities.  Cameras flashed, broadcasting her departure for the royal ball.

As the Duchess of Wyre, she’d be fashionably late. Eternally
late, if Lord Regret manages to pull off this charade.

She heard the shocked whispers and gasps before she felt the assassin’s blade digging into her neck.  This time he didn’t spare any pressure, deliberately drawing enough blood to leave DNA evidence on her spotless white marble.

It must look real and authentic.

Drawing in a deep breath, she let a shrill scream echo across the plaza.  She clawed at his arm locked about her throat so tightly she couldn’t breathe.  Combined with the rigid corset, she was afraid she might actually pass out.

Pain burned across her throat and she screamed again.  She hadn’t counted on being so terrified.  Her orders had been
explicit.  He must rough her up enough to make it look real.  He must draw her blood, obviously wounding her severely enough that the general public would believe her dead.

Yet she couldn’t help that niggling doubt.  What if Majel had gotten to him?  What if someone had upped her price, making the amount on her head too attractive for the famous assassin to resist?  Every man has a price.  What is Lord Regret’s?


NaNoWriMo2011 Day 14

As you can probably tell from my lack of posts over the weekend, NaNoWriMo was a bit of a bust.

We host for Thanksgiving, so we had a ton of preparation we needed to do this past weekend to ensure the house was fit to open up for guests.  The basement was a pit of toys and junk, but we couldn’t clean it until we cleaned the garage and the unfinished storage area (so we’d have a place to take all this junk).  We’ve been in this house just over a year now, and last Thanksgiving I cut us some slack because we had just moved.  However, there’s no excuse this year.  Some of those buckets and tubs hadn’t been touched in a year, and they were taking up much needed space.

So we worked almost all day Sat.  We donated several bags of clothes, toys, and coats.  Plus I found some things I’d totally forgotten we even had (because they’ve been packed up for over a year).  I didn’t find everything, like my leather coat I bought in Texas many a moon ago, but overall I’m pretty pleased.  We still have to hang some artwork, but the general organization is much better.

In the middle of all this, Middle Monster decided she would really really like to have her own room…in the basement.  Right now, she’s sharing a room with Littlest, and the only thing downstairs is my office and the kids’ play area/family room.  We don’t have another bedroom and I can’t give up my office (I telecommute for the Evil Day Job), but she was happy with just having a bedroom set up in the corner.

So on top of all the cleaning Sat, on Sunday we put together a platform bed in the basement (involved a trip to Lowe’s to replace the plywood base that had cracked) and moved a bunch of her stuff into the basement.  She hung pictures.  She set up shelves.  She made her bed.

And lasted about 10 minutes after bedtime.  ;-) Then she was back upstairs with her little sister.  Oh well.  I think she’ll make it eventually, and she loves having her own space.  Once the newness wears off, I think she’ll be able to sleep down there permanently.

NaNoWriMo Count:  23,274.  I’m going to start falling behind if I don’t pick up the pace.

In a discussion with Dmitri, one of Yiorgos’s best friends, Clare says:

My specialty is food and he sampled the best I can offer for Remy’s.  You heard me warn him not to eat another piece of cake but he insisted on another piece not once but twice.  It’s not my fault he’s a pigheaded chocoholic.

Halloween Free Read

Happy Halloween, everyone!  I thought people might enjoy a short, creepy free read today, so I worked on a secret project this weekend.

A word of warning:  I’m not a graphic artist like Dawn, Deena, Silvia, or Soleil.  So while I did purchase stock to make a cover, it’s not “art” or anything unique.  However, with My Beloved Sis’s help, I think I made something simple yet appropriately creepy.

This is my short story, “Broken Angel:  A Zombie Love Story”  previously published in Drollerie Press’s horror anthology, Things That Go Bump in the Night.  We were in a DP chat (back in 2007 or 2008) talking about zombies (like we always did!) and someone ::cough, Deena, cough:: challenged me to write a zombie romance.

I wouldn’t really call this “romance” but it is a love story and it definitely involves zombies.  I hope it makes you shiver delightfully this wonderful Halloween!

Click on the cover to dowload pdf.  I’ve also created epub and mobi for Kindle (although I haven’t tested the Kindle version yet – Littlest Monster ran off with my Kindle).

P.S. I might load this up to Smashwords and Amazon as practice for the Shanhasson books coming soon, so Broken Angel may not be available for free very long!

RBW Week 17

No huge losses to report (which is why I didn’t post last week).  In fact, I’m showing a gain today.  Sigh.  It could be that coconut pie and real Susie Qs I had Sat. night in Joplin…  But I’ve been very good and on plan since.  I actually “felt” thinner today…until I stepped on the scale.

That’s the pitfall of daily weighing.  The scale can change our perception of how we look, even though we feel better, stronger, thinner.  I’m determined not to let that one pound gain affect me.  We had a great time Sat. night and I immediately got back on the horse with my plan.  I didn’t eat ALL my food that night — just until I was comfortable.

I haven’t really tried any new foods lately.  I’ve been trying to keep a meal plan and shopping accordingly.  This time of year we love chili, ham & beans, stew, chicken & noodles, etc. so that’s what I’ve been making.  Of course I choose very lean hamburger when applicable.  I’m also using lots of fresh garlic, onions, and coconut oil to combat fall colds.  I don’t know that it’s helping exactly, but we haven’t had any colds either!  *knocks on wood*

I say this to illustrate why Weight Watchers has worked so well for me.  I’m eating normal food my family eats too, our favorites!  Without guilt.  Sure, there are healthy “diet” foods I choose to eat that they won’t touch with a ten foot pole — like Kashi Go Lean cereal and Fage nonfat Greek yogurt — but in general, we eat the same thing.  I just make more veggies for myself and make sure I don’t eat more than my single serving.

I’ve already started Thanksgiving preparation for next month (we host That Man’s family, my dad, and my beloved sister).  I’ve got 4-6 quarters of frozen homemade chicken broth ready to make stuffing and noodles.  I’ll be watching the circulars over the next few weeks to see when turkeys first go on sale.  I might buy two and freeze one — we all love turkey, but hardly ever eat it.

I’m still failing in the exercise department.  Grrr.  I’m taking the entire week off next week from the Evil Day Job (for NaNoWriMo, if I officially join), but I’m determined to use those days to establish a work out routine that I can stick with once I return to work.

Anyway, a long-winded post to say that I’m still hovering around 55 pounds lost for the year.  One pound away from a new decade on the scale — not counting that pesky one that decided to join me today!

Cross Stitch SAL Update

Okay, so this was supposed to be a “Wed WIP” but Wed got away from me.  I forgot that I had to actually…you know…TAKE PICTURES to make this post.  Then I couldn’t find the iron.

So here’s the 35-ct Mermaid Blue linen and light blue mystery mini spool from HDF:

It’s hard to tell in these photos, but there’s a lovely mix of soft blue and even a hint of light green in the silk thread.  (Pictures were taken on my iPhone.)

To make sure the dark material wouldn’t drive me nuts, I decided to try a small Ink Circles freebie:

Here’s Part 1 of the Mystery SAL completed!


And here’s a wider shot so you can see more of the fabric. I decided not to try and finish all the border yet to avoid making mistakes that I’ll have to frog later.



My Greatest Weakness

…A Challenge.

Man, do I love a good challenge.

If someone tells me, “You can’t do that!”  then I immediately want to prove them wrong.  Or if someone says, “Hey, that’d be really cool – I wish someone would do that.”  I immediately want to be the first to pull it off.

Which is how I found myself writing my first “zombie romance” years ago.  (See “Broken Angel:  A Zombie Love Story” in the Bump in the Night anthology.)

When you follow interesting people online, say Angela James on Twitter, you can hear some incredible ideas that simply make your head explode.  Challenge!

The other day she was talking about zombies, and how much fun it would be to combine them with a Category Romance.  She might as well have hooked me up to our overloaded power grid (we’ve set record temps well over 100 degrees three days in a row). 

Soooo many zombies began eating my brains it’s not even funny.

I love zombies.  I’ve been wanting to write a Presents for years.  (I’ve got a notebook started but haven’t been able to get the right unique approach yet.)

Yesterday, I not only plotted my first zombie category romance (ZCR), but I also wrote the synopsis for it.  It’s hilarious.  It’s wonderful.  I think I have a way to write a zombie that isn’t disgusting for a romance — and I explained why my heroine is and must remain a virgin.  My hero is a perfect alphahole, but for a reason.  However, my heroine is no doormat.

In fact, she tricks him into signing a contract with a clause (that she added) without even reading it.  How? 

Death by Chocolate Cake.

Mmmmm.  Does it every time.

I think while I’m working on revisions for Vicki and Tecun this month, I will be writing ZCR for fun.  I don’t want to jinx myself, but this could be one of those stories I write in a few weeks simply because it’s that. much. fun!