31 October 2020

Notes from Exile: Nanowrimo 2020

Yep, it's that time again...


Okay, here we go. This past Monday, I posted a song that is like a hype video for my November, but I'm just vibrating at this point. Sorry, I know it's Halloween and all but there won't really be any trick or treaters, will there? No fancy dress at the Renn Faire to prepare. Just all nano all the time and y'all, I am here for it.

I am especially here for it after this past week of stress and awful that culminated in a 36 hour power outage and a new-to-me car. Whew!

I said in my last post that one of the things I do is work up a playlist for the month, and even though I add to it as I go along and get inspired I have it pretty much ready to go. You can check it out here if you like (and you use Spotify). I'm doing better about being a plantser, which is a combination of a plotter and a pantser. I have an idea of the plot, I have been sketching on Twitter using the #vss365 prompts, and I know my MC's first name: Scarlet.

I also have a series title: Wraiths of Appalachia. That is, as is everything right now, a placeholder. It may become the title, who knows. But it gives me a label for my Google drive folder. Now if I can just get off Tiktok long enough to string some words together...LET'S DO THIS THING!!

26 October 2020

Music Monday: Eye of the Nano Storm

 We are coming up on Halloween and, oddly enough, the end of October. I'm sure it was just March a few days ago, wasn't it? I'm planning my nano this time, and what that means is that I am telling everyone that it is a ghost story and plotting the Spotify playlist. You plan your way, I plan mine.

Today's musical selection is more a general nod to the entire Nanowrimo process. I always look forward to Nano months because I just love writing so much. I love telling stories. I love seeing things come out in the process that I had no idea about in October. I love it when my characters run amok and keep me honest in telling THEIR stories. This song, to me, is like a hype video before a football game, and y'all, I am READY.





Eye Of The Storm
Watt White

I am the eye of the storm
Inside I am silent and strong
Just waitin' for the right (right) moment to strike
Coiled like a cobra

I (Ooh oh oh oh oh)
I (Ooh oh oh oh oh)
I (Ooh oh oh oh oh)

I am the eye of the storm

Wind (wind) howling in my face
Tearing up the asphalt
I'ma getting up in the place
Run, run no where left to hide
I must take a stand now
Find the strength inside!
Welcome to the vortex
Absolute ground zero of my heart
Pinicle of the apex
Nothin's gonna tear my soul apart

I am the eye of the storm
Inside I am silent and strong
Just waitin' for the right right moment to strike
Coiled like a cobra coming to life

I am the eye of the storm
Inside
I am silent and strong
Just waitin' for the moment
Never see me comin'

I (Ooh oh oh oh oh)
I (Ooh oh oh oh oh)
I (Ooh oh oh oh oh)
I am the eye of the storm

I (Ooh oh oh oh oh)
I (Ooh oh oh oh oh)
I (Ooh oh oh oh oh)
I am the eye of the storm

Pain, pain trying to make me break
But, I'm like a fortress
Nothing can penetrate
When it gets hard I don't even flinch
Fear is not a factor
I would give 'em an inch
Welcome to the vortex
Absolute ground zero of my heart
Pinicle the apex
Nothin's gonna tear my soul apart

I am the eye of the storm
Inside I am silent and strong
Just waitin' for the right, right moment to strike
Coiled like a cobra
Coming to life

I am the eye of the storm
Inside I am silent and strong
Just waiting for the moment
Never see me comin'

I (Ooh oh oh oh oh)
I (Ooh oh oh oh oh)
I (Ooh oh oh oh oh)

I am the eye of the storm
Storm clouds storming
This is your (final warning)
Uuooh oh ah aah!

I am the eye of the storm
Inside I am silent and strong
Just waiting for the right right moment to strike
Coiled like a cobra
Coming to life

I am the eye of the storm
Inside I am silent and strong
Just waiting for the moment
Never see me comin'

Ooh oh oh oh oh
Ooh oh oh oh oh
I am waiting for the moment
Ooh oh oh oh oh
Never see me comin'

Ooh oh oh oh oh
Ooh oh oh oh oh
I'm just waiting for the moment
Ooh oh oh oh oh
Never see me comin'

23 October 2020

Notes from Exile: A Pantser's Guide To Excel for Outlining

The tip of the Excel-burg
Right, so this past weekend I attended the Broadleaf Writers Association's 5th Writers Conference and, as usual, came away exhausted but full of new ideas and energy and a love for the craft of writing.

I also came away with a new appreciation for planning out a novel before just diving in willy-nilly. I can't promise I'm going to keep this up, but for now, I'm declaring my pantser days are...comin' to a middle, to badly paraphrase Firefly. 

I attended the Planning/Pantsing Workshop on Sunday, and one of the panelists, Abbot Kahler (a nonfiction writer) mentioned marking important things that will affect characters in outlines. Like if you plan that Event A will happen and know that Character B will have Reaction C to that event, mark it in your outline/prep work so that you will remember it.

Bells and whistles went off in my head as I thought about my new organizational scheme that involves the longest spreadsheets you've ever seen - one of which is in the photo above. I was sorting through my Google Drive one day, looking for something, and it occurred to me that all my story bible work was done in various google docs, some of them overlapping in material, and I needed to rearrange that biz so that I could use it. 

I would like to say that it didn't matter so much at first because all my dog books were basically stand-alones and there were only three Orana books to worry about, but then Orana took over my life and now there are five that are published with another four in various stages of draft just waiting in my Drive to see the light of day. Five books and so far about 80+ characters to keep up with is well more than can be handled in a simple Google doc.

Now there are loads and loads of templates for creating story bibles out there, and even specific software that will help like Scrivener. I wish that had worked for me. I wanted it to work. I neeeeeeded the corkboard page on my screen with the index cards. But it did not.

Before I continue, I must be honest and tell you that I HATE Excel. I have to use it for the DayJob™, and it brings me nothing but heartache and frustration. My poor office mate who is an Excel Guru must have some sort of pre-emptive warning that I've just opened Excel because my questions are greeted with a hearty, "but what were you TRYING to do this time?" So the mere fact that I am using it to catalog languages and homeworlds and eye color is amazing and horrifying in equal measure, I promise.

So here's what I have done: I have a tab in the spreadsheet for each novel set in the Orana story universe. So far there are three in the Nature Walker Trilogy, two in the Tales of the Forest War, a standalone, and three in the upcoming Guardians of Orana series. Then I just start listing what I think is important to remember for each character: Full name, title, nickname, hair color, skin color/tone, eye color, etc. all the way through to how the character died and who was involved.

This has already helped as I am working on editing one of the Guardians novels, and I've found inconsistencies - if Nel has blue eyes in the NWT she should not have green eyes in the one I'm editing. But there is another level: the plot outline. I decided to take some time and go through each novel that I've written and put the plot into a separate spreadsheet. Busy work? Maybe, but this way I can chart the important developments that may affect later scenes, just like Ms. Kahler was talking about in the panel on Sunday. I've even marked things like 'IMPORTANT: First time Character A calls Character B by important plot point nickname.' That sort of thing will, so my Excel gurus tell me, enable me to sort by important plot points, thus making it easier for me to plan future novels in advance.

Yep, you heard that right, I'm actually working now on planning my Nanowrimo 2020 project IN ADVANCE. WITH SPREADSHEETS. AND RESEARCH. WHO AM I?

I hope this is helpful, and if not, it is at least amusing. I would also love to know if you have ways to use tools such as Excel for noveling purposes. For now, though, I'm going to go figure out the sort function. What could possibly go wrong? :)

19 October 2020

Music Mondays: Elys and Hack

 [Their story is coming, for those who have laughed along with and fallen in love with the most unlikely duo in all of Orana.]

So, I was first introduced to this song by a Rennie friend of mine when he mentioned how perfect it was for a workout. Y'all, I am so far away from a workout if it involves leaving my house...but it ended up in my Music from Orana rotation and I had never associated it with any one character or place until recently. 

I've been doing some drafting for the Guardians of Orana series where I want to be able to tell the backstories and current exploits of the cast of characters from the Nature Walker Trilogy, and this song is just Elys and Hack. Their unlikely friendship hit like the thunder before the lightning. Readers of the trilogy know Elys's backstory and how she never takes anything for granted. She is the line in the first verse that is dreaming of bigger things. Hack is the lightning strike that either illuminates her way or blasts it clear for her - sometimes/often both. Conversely, Hack is the thunder that warns the enemy - Elys does love to burn things, just like a lightning bolt.

Also, Imagine Dragons. Y'all. Perfection. Have a listen.



Thunder
Imagine Dragons

Just a young gun with the quick fuse
I was uptight, wanna let loose
I was dreaming of bigger things
And wanna leave my own life behind
Not a yes sir, not a follower
Fit the box, fit the mold
Have a seat in the foyer, take a number
I was lightning before the thunder

Thunder, thunder
Thunder, thun', thunder
Thun-thun-thunder, thunder, thunder
Thunder, thun', thunder
Thun-thun-thunder, thunder
Thunder, feel the thunder
Lightning then the thunder
Thunder, feel the thunder
Lightning then the thunder
Thunder, thunder
Thunder

Kids were laughing in my classes
While I was scheming for the masses
Who do you think you are?
Dreaming 'bout being a big star
They say you're basic, they say you're easy
You're always riding in the back seat
Now I'm smiling from the stage while
You were clapping in the nose bleeds

Thunder
Thunder, thun', thunder
Thun-thun-thunder, thunder, thunder
Thunder, thun', thunder
Thun-thun-thunder, thunder
Thunder, feel the thunder
Lightning then the thunder
Thunder, feel the thunder
Lightning then the thunder

Thunder
Thunder, feel the thunder
Lightning then the thunder, thunder
Thunder, feel the thunder
Lightning then the thunder, thunder
Thunder, feel the thunder
Lightning then the thunder, thunder
Thunder, feel the thunder
Lightning then the thunder, thunder
Thunder, feel the thunder
Lightning then the thunder, thunder
Thunder, thunder, thunder
Thun-thun-thunder, thunder
Thunder, thunder, thunder
Thun-thun-thunder, thunder
Thunder, thunder, thunder
Thun-thun-thunder, thunder
Thunder, thunder, thunder
Thun-thun-thunder, thunder

14 October 2020

Notes from Exile: It's About Time Wednesday...?

I posted last week about finally feeling like a part of the Supernatural Family when this song came on the radio in the car and I subjected my partner to a diatribe explaining how the lyrics just perfectly fit with the events in the tv show. I have been binge watching this show all summer with the goal to have 14.5 seasons under my belt before the last half of season 15 starts in October.

The new season started last Saturday, and I'm still on season 6. But I carry on because this show is JUST SO GOOD. The first few episodes seemed slow, but like any book or series, the slow burn has been worth it. SO worth it! I'm just sorry that I was a total idjit and let this show pass me by for the past 14 years. 

Now, if you'll excuse me, blogger picks the music, reader shuts their cakehole. 


Carry On Wayward Son
Kansas

Carry on my wayward son
For there'll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Don't you cry no more

Once I rose above the noise and confusion
Just to get a glimpse beyond the illusion
I was soaring ever higher, but I flew too high

Though my eyes could see I still was a blind man
Though my mind could think I still was a mad man
I hear the voices when I'm dreamin', I can hear them say

Carry on my wayward son
For there'll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Don't you cry no more

Masquerading as a man with a reason
My charade is the event of the season
And if I claim to be a wise man, it surely means that I don't know

On a stormy sea of moving emotion
Tossed about I'm like a ship on the ocean
I set a course for winds of fortune, but I hear the voices say

Carry on my wayward son
For there'll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Don't you cry no more

Carry on, you will always remember
Carry on, nothing equals the splendor
Now your life's no longer empty
Surely heaven waits for you

Carry on my wayward son
For there'll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Don't you cry no more

12 October 2020

Music Monday: Nelenie Ergwyn

[For everyone that is currently thinking that Nelenie didn't have a surname, she does. I just haven't gotten that book published yet. So, as per usual, SPOILERS and YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED, etc.]

There has been a topic floating in a fantasy writer's group I belong to for a while now. It ebbs and flows and resurfaces. "Do you feel inspired by music/Do you have music on while you write?" The five or six of you that are regular readers of the Lettuce know the answer for me, but it has been interesting to see how much my experience is not the norm, at least because I listen to music with words. Many of my colleagues in that group listen to ambient music/sounds or instrumentals only. Does that mean I'm cheating because I'm listening to music with lyrics that speak to me about my characters?

Nope. At least, I don't think so. Everyone is inspired by something, and this inspires me to create them. I think that's fair.

So, this week, a minor character turned major character as the story moved along. Nel and Gin grew up as friends until the differences between the Alynatalans and the Aynamaedeans pulled them apart. Their friendship influenced Nel's relationship with Elys and Tairn's reverence for Gin as a mother figure. Gin's feelings of inadequacy took root when Ben chose Nel over her. Not so minor, eh?

I have been thinking about her because she resurfaces in Guardians of Darkness, the beginning of the Guardians of Orana series and because the woman that inspired her is a good friend of mine who is accomplishing amazing things against incredible odds. So as I always do, I sat with a few songs before I found one that really is Nel's song to me.

Nel experienced so much upheaval during the events of the Nature Walker Trilogy. Her life changed when she came of age and realized that she and Gin were different. Her life changed when she followed the path of a warrior rather than a magic-user and took on all the difficulty that choice entailed. Her life changed drastically when she bucked the system of her people and trained Elys, an Aynamaedean, to fight in the way that Nel was taught. Her life certainly changed when that relationship was discovered and reported - by someone she had loved and trusted for her entire life - and she was exiled, forced to live as a mercenary. 

But with each trial, Nel held her head high and just got on with things. It's what drew her to Elys, I think because they are very similar in personality and threshold for surrender. But there comes a point where you have to just stop, reassess, and take the steps to get back on your path. The song "From Now On" from the musical/movie "The Greatest Showman" really spoke to me when I thought about Nel, and how she comes to that point - and I'll stop there before Nancy Spoilers spiral out of control.


From Now On

Zac Brown Band/Hugh Jackman

I saw the sun begin to dim
And felt that winter wind blow cold
A man learns who is there for him
When the glitter fades and the walls won't hold

'Cause from then, rubble
What remains can only be what's true
If all was lost, it's more I've gained
'Cause it led me back to you

And from now on, these eyes will not be blinded by the lights
From now on, what's waited 'til tomorrow starts tonight
Tonight, and let this promise in me start like an anthem in my heart
From now on, from now on

I drank champagne with kings and queens
The politicians praised my name
But those are someone else's dreams
The pitfalls of the man I became

For years and years, I chased their cheers
At the crazy speed of always needing more
But when I stop and see you here
I remember who all this was for

And from now on, these eyes will not be blinded by the lights
And from now on, what's waited 'til tomorrow starts tonight
Starts tonight, let this promise in me start like an anthem in my heart
From now on, from now on, from now on

And we will come back home
And we will come back home, home again
And we will come back home
And we will come back home, home again
And we will come back home
And we will come back home, home again

From now on, these eyes will not be blinded by the lights
And from now on, what's waited 'til tomorrow starts tonight
Starts tonight, and let this promise in me start like an anthem in my heart
From now on, from now on, from now on

And we will come back home
And we will come back home, home again
And we will come back home
And we will come back home, home again
From now on, from now on, home again


08 October 2020

Notes from Exile: I think it's October

Me and my best girl, Bryn.
(Carolina Renn Fest)
It felt like October around here for a while last week, but now we are firmly back in August/September. October means faire season, under normal circumstances. It means leaving the house at O'Dark-Thirty to drive two hours and then work all day outdoors with one of my hounds at my side. I may be an accidental Rennie, but a Rennie I am all the same, and I miss it.

Even though my participation there has been tremendously scaled back, my mind has been drifting to a created village in Huntersville, NC, and all the performers and 'fairemly' that I see there every year. I have wished I could have a steaming mug of chai in my hand, trying to keep the excited wolfhound at my side walking calmly so I can drink it rather than wear it. I've missed the shouts of Good Morning from the vendor stalls, seeing my breath (and Bryn's) in the air, and the quiet beauty of the faire before the gates are opened and the tens of thousands of patrons stream through.

I have always loved that part of faire - the part where it's just us there, the way it would be if the grounds were a real, functioning village. The writer (and well-buried actor, if I'm honest) in me loves walking along, imagining that I'm my character: an Irish lass sent with an Irish Wolfhound as a gift for Her Majesty. I love the sway of my hoopskirt as I walk. I love the street performers and vendors already in character, addressing me as 'My Lady' and asking to pet the magnificent beastie at the end of my leash. 

She loves it too - though, in recent years, Bryn has been less apt to stay on a bed in the building we lovingly refer to as the Dog Barn, preferring instead to pull me out to the front to see the people. Ciaragh is the exact opposite - she is unnerved by large crowds and would happily stay glued to a dog bed all day if only the raised beds weren't the proper size for a greyhound and she finds herself slipping off of them onto the floor. 

But neither of the big faires where I work with my dogs happened this year, and the smallish local faire made the decision to close permanently. I keep forgetting how long it has been since one of my girls has surveyed her people from the joust platform in the Southern Kingdom (the Georgia Renaissance Festival) or taken that leisurely walk pre-cannon in the lanes of the Northern Kingdom (the Carolina Renaissance Festival). I forget until one of them noses her way into the guest room-turned-pandemic supply storage and happens upon my straw hat or a stray glove. They press their nose against it, wringing out the last smells of FAIRE, and then look up at me and wag. 

We're holding onto those last smells, the images like the ones above, and the lifelong friendships formed in the early morning fog, over mugs of chai and corset lacing, until we can do all of it again in person. Huzzah, well met, and on to the rest of October!

05 October 2020

Music Monday: Taeben and Gin

[Spoilers ahead for the Nature Walker Trilogy]

New month, back to Orana and specifically to Taeben and Gin in Tempest. I know, the first thing a lot of my readers think when they see Taeben's name is that hashtag #benisadick that goes around. I mean, he's the bad guy, so he is supposed to be, right? Today, though, I want to present you with another view of him. This is a view that I got called out for pushing by one of my beta readers. I have a tendency to see the best in people, even when they don't deserve it, and the feedback was that I was giving Taeben so much grace that he wasn't even a bad guy anymore.

Some writers can create two dimensional bad guys who are like the little girl with the little curl, but I am not capable of that. I wanted people to know all sides of him because to me, that makes the reaction to him when he is bad more visceral, more shocking. This was the idea behind Tempest, to show the relationship between Taeben and Gin, so that his later behavior is even more awful and hard to believe. But I went too far, I think, at least for that beta reader - and, in truth, for me I suppose. Y'all, if I had kept on the way I was headed Taeben would have been completely unbelievable as a villain. 

So, to the point of this being a Music Monday post - I heard today's song, Silent Lucidity, in a TV show I was watching recently (ok, I will admit it was Supernatural and I'm trying to binge watch 14.5 seasons before October because I am late to that bandwagon) and I remembered that I loved that song back during the time that I was heavy into my MMORPG that inspired the Orana Chronicles. That was the time that I knew the person that inspired Taeben. It all fell into place as I was driving yesterday and heard the song again. That is what I was trying to convey in the relationship between Taeben and Gin. Maybe he was always bad. Maybe he had malicious plans for Gin well before the events of the end of Wanderer when he pulled Sath and Gin apart. 

Maybe this is Taeben and Gin in an alternate reality. Maybe this is Taeben's plan that went awry. Either way, I sat with the lyrics of this song for awhile after I got out of the car, and I couldn't get away from Taeben and Gin.



Silent Lucidity
Queensr├┐che

Hush now, don't you cry
Wipe away the teardrop from your eye
You're lying safe in bed
It was all a bad dream
Spinning in your head
Your mind tricked you to feel the pain
Of someone close to you leaving the game of life
So here it is, another chance
Wide awake you face the day
Your dream is over or has it just begun?

There's a place I like to hide
A doorway that I run through in the night
Relax child, you were there
But only didn't realize and you were scared
It's a place where you will learn
To face your fears, retrace the years
And ride the whims of your mind
Commanding in another world
Suddenly you hear and see
This magic new dimension

I will be watching over you
I am gonna help you see it through
I will protect you in the night
I am smiling next to you, in silent lucidity

If you open your mind for me
You won't rely on open eyes to see
The walls you built within
Come tumbling down, and a new world will begin
Living twice at once you learn
You're safe from pain in the dream domain
A soul set free to fly
A round trip journey in your head
Master of illusion, can you realize
Your dream's alive, you can be the guide but

I will be watching over you
I am gonna help to see it through
I will protect you in the night
I am smiling next to you

Music Monday: Inspiration