Teaser Tuesday 3/25/14

Since I didn’t do a write-in prompt last week because I was busy with A PARANORMAL BROMANCE, I thought I would tease from my revision in the past week.  This requires me to type it up, so I apologize if I don’t catch any typos.

I stare at the ceiling without my glasses on, trying to figure out what I can do about Kaylee and the ghosts, but all I can focus on is the blurred pattern of the stucco.

This sucks, this sucks, this sucks, this sucks.

I can’t believe that the only way to protect Kaylee is a daily burning of sage and her invisibility. And those still fail. She had a fresh bruise on her cheek today. She can hide it from everyone else, but not me.

Why doesn’t her grandfather get off his ass and do something? Or is it arse? Whatever it is, he needs to get off it. If he stuck around her while she’s home, she’d be safe. And can’t he just order them to stay away from her? His control’s not worth anything if he can’t.

Ren flies over, throwing wadded-up paper at me. “Stop it.” He doesn’t.

“I’m aiming for your mouth. You just lie there with it open.” One pelts me between the eyes.

“I said stop it, Ren! God!” I push myself off the bed, jam my glasses onto my face, and march into the bathroom, slamming the door just in case he didn’t get the message that I’m pissed at him.

I sit on the edge of the tub, rubbing at my temples and trying to ignore Ren’s fake-whimper on the other side of the door. He thinks that if he acts like a puppy, I”ll come pat him on the head and say it’s okay. I’m not playing that game today.

Kaylee would say I’ve already reacted too much. But she should know as well as me that ignoring ghosts doesn’t make them behave. There’s only one way to ensure that.

The book’s still there in the cabinet. Maybe if I open it, that’ll be enough to get Ren to stop bugging me.

I sit on the floor next to the cabinet and open to the chapter on controlling ghosts. I haven’t given up on the idea that there might be something Kaylee can use. A working that can be done by anyone, even those not tethered to the ghost. Or a footnote about the people will inherit them.

I start where I left off in the chapter before. The first working looks complicated. It gives the occultist permanent control over ghosts through command and will. That sounds great. It starts with the usual stuff–candles, symbols, and…ugh, it requires an animal sacrifice. That was not taught to me in Occultism 101.

I turn the page for a simpler and more tasteful working. It’s temporary and allows the occultist control through command only. Richard might use this one, though he’d have to renew it constantly. If he used the other, Kaylee would be safe by his mere will, but he seems bound to commands.

I trace my finger across the list of elements needed for the working. Two candles and a few herbs is all. No wonder it’s not that powerful. The working’s so simple that I could do it.

“Blake, come out?” Ren’s voice is more pleading than usual. “I won’t pelt you with paper balls, promise.”

I sigh and put the book away. Maybe he can feel it when I open it in here. That’s not fair to him.

I walk out the door.

“Hooray!” He tosses a bunch of shredded paper into the air, and it rains down on me like confetti, passing right through him. Typical.

Hope you enjoyed.  I tried to find something fairly self-contained and teaser-sized.

Lots of love,
Sage

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Revision Experiment: Completed

Long ago (in a galaxy far, far away?  Nah, right here), I started a revision experiment on A Paranormal Bromance.  It was quite an endeavor, and I actually got overwhelmed by the project and by life last year and took one full year off from working on it.

I wrote aPB during 2012 National Novel Writing Month in a flurry of words (about 75K of them, in fact) in the month of November.  When I finished, I thought that maybe I had more revising to do than ever.  The three main problems I saw were: 1) The early-middle scenes in school and during the first dates with the love interest seemed poorly written, and quite possibly, there were too many of them.  2) I had this sense that I had written both of my POV characters–teenage boys–with the same voice.  3) Related to #2, my ghost character seemed to have a maturity problem; sometimes he acted like a child, which made the times he acted like a big brother seem out of place.  Maturing his voice would help a little with this, to remind us that, in many ways, he is more mature than the human character, even while he’s goofing off.

Usually when I edit, I handle all the big problems in the document in Word (or whichever word processor), then print out a copy and go to town on it with pens, each pass receiving a different color (like pink or green or purple.  None of this red pen stuff).  I make the corrections, do some more on-screen stuff, and move on to betas.  But I know that I would not have been able to have the attention to the language I needed if I worked with a pen on printed pages.  I’m great at picking up on tightening, and from time to time I’ll improve every sentence, it seems, in a certain scene or for a few pages.  It might depend on the day or the scene.  Certain scenes can distract me with emotions or excitement, and then I’m not picking apart language use there.  I needed to pay attention to every sentence and every paragraph.  I also needed to feel free to rewrite entire scenes from scratch, I felt.  So I decided to do this one differently.

The plan was to send the “NaNo version” of aPB to my Kindle.  There I would keep the original on screen to refer to while I rewrote the novel in a notebook, using two different colored pens, one for each POV so I always would be aware of whose voice I should be using.  Writing by hand would force me to take even more time on each word and sentence because I can’t transcribe as mindlessly by hand as I can while typing.  Separating the original from the next version, I thought, would also free me up to add stuff where needed or to write a scene from scratch when I felt that the original didn’t work but was necessary in some form.

I started the revision in January or February of 2013.  I got through 20% of the original novel (less of the next version because of cuts) before two things happened.  I approached the first scene I thought I would have to rewrite and I grew intimidated, and I started working to sell my house, which took a lot of time away that I used to spend on writing.  So aPB fell by the wayside.  I picked it back up on March 1, 2014, and two days later came across an editing challenge, where I decided I would tackle the rest of the rewrite.  I finished that process today.

Here are my observations about this process:

  • Success: This allowed me to seriously focus on language. Blake’s language was simplified (maybe too much) and Ren’s was matured. There were times when I was transcribing what was already written just as I wrote it, but I looked at each word, each sentence, and each paragraph and reexamined whether there was a better way to say or describe anything.
  • Success: I was better able to recognize those places where I ramble because a) I over-explain things and b) it’s NaNo and, yay, words. Or where I think it’ll be clever to make this comment here, not realizing that it’s killing the action. Yep, there were some definite darlings killed.
  • Success: It made me really free to cut out full scenes and rewrite necessary conversations somewhere else. But, I have had success in that without this method
  • Failure: I expected to feel more free to add stuff to the book, but I didn’t. I often had to go back to an earlier part and leave a note to remind myself to add stuff in the next round.
  • Failure: At some point I planned to get off the Kindle and write scenes from scratch. But I never was able to truly depart from the original, except for the half a scene I had to add from scratch to replace a chapter I killed.

Overall: Wow, that was a lot of time, effort, paper, and ink. It took two entire blue pens (I bought these pens when I started the revision), the better part of a letter-sized notebook and 2/3 of my new notebook (though I only wrote on one side of the new one because the paper was thin). It took a lot longer than my usual editing method, and I’m pretty sure that if I had been doing it the usual way, I would have finished it last year even with the craziness that took over my life.

I don’t know if I’ll ever use this method again.  It was definitely worth it for this book because it forced me to be consistent in each POV’s language use, but for the big rewrites, it didn’t do anything.  I might even have been too scared to deviate that far from the original with this method.  However, I removed a lot of stuff I was unhappy with, and that made the scenes I planned to rewrite a lot more tolerable, and hopefully, so did what I did revise within them.

Next step is to type it up, but I don’t know when I’ll get to it, considering Camp NaNo is coming and I have TWO books bursting to be written.  I guess that’s what you get for taking a year off!

Lots of love,
Sage

Teaser Tuesday – Sleight of Hand, part 2

I’m a little late on this, but here’s the second half of “Screwed Up,” using Apollo, a character from H/V.  The first half can be found here.

“Kyle, I just need to know that when it’s your turn to pick up Apollo, you’ll pick him up.”

We’ve finally gotten back to me, but it doesn’t make me feel any better.  “I could,” I say, my voice very quiet, “you know, just walk home or take a bus.”

Nobody hears me.  They just keep arguing as if I’m not here.

What they do hear, what we all hear, is the monster-like groan coming from the other room.  My first thought is that the machine he was building has turned Brendan into a werewolf or Godzilla, but the pops and fizzes that follow it mean something else.

I reach the door first, but Mom and Dad are right behind me.  The machine crumples in on itself, just like I worry I’m going to do all the time.  Electricity crackles around it.

Brendan runs towards us.  “In the office!  It’s going to blow!”  He dives through the door, just as the machine explodes, sending pieces flying everywhere.  Dad grabs Mom and pushes her against the wall next to the window, shielding her from the debris.

And I just stand there watching it.  A piece of metal zips towards my face and nicks my temple, but I’m too mesmerized to even flinch.

I wonder what it was supposed to do.  Not this.

When things have settled down and Mom has finished screaming at Dad, she wipes at my temple with a tissue.  “You’re going to ruin your looks, and then what can you rely on?”

I didn’t even know I had looks to rely on.  She’s always nagging about them.

Dad and Brendan dig through the debris and try to figure out what went wrong, but Mom’s decided this is enough excitement for one day and drags me out of the workshop.  And I do mean drag because I’m still watching Dad and Brendan and wondering what could have caused the machine to implode like that.

I drop the screw on the floor before we get to the door.  It feels like it belongs in here.

You know, I can’t even tell you where I got it from.

Hope you enjoyed.  I don’t know how sleight-of-handy it was, but it was fun to write.

Lots of love,
Sage

Teaser Tuesday – Sleight of Hand

Last week, the write-in prompt was called “Sleight of Hand.”  I won’t be writing for this week’s prompt, so I thought I’d split the scene in two for today and next Tuesday, since you need the whole thing to see the sleight of hand.  I actually found the prompt difficult because I’m great at sleight of hand for long fiction, but to do it in something that was about 1K was a lot tougher.  The point isn’t really to be tricky, more about the author saying, “Look over there,” and doing something else while you’re looking.  I don’t know if this was sleight of hand-y enough, but I enjoyed writing the piece.

Apollo is a character from Hero/Villain, but this would be set long before H/V takes place.

I’m used to the sound of explosions and the feeling of implosion.

When your dad has aspirations of becoming a superscientist, there’s a lot of trial and error, and the errors sometimes mean things get blown up.

When your mom spends your whole life telling you what’s wrong with you, you live your life around the void in your gut that keeps gnawing at your insides.

“Keep up, Apollo,” she says as she barrels through Dad’s cheap, rented workshop.  I had paused to admire the sheer size of Dad’s latest experiment and to feel the electricity humming through the metal strut I touch in awe.  When Mom speaks, I dutifully follow.  But it wouldn’t be Mom, if that was the end of her complaints.  “Watch your posture.  And try to smile sometimes.”

The demands have the opposite effect on me.  I hunch over more as that pit in my stomach grows, and smiling is the last thing I could do.  I don’t know how she manages to fake smiles, to act like she’s happy when she isn’t.  I try to ignore the feeling, to ignore her, and play with the screw I’ve picked up somewhere, tracing the threads with my jagged, bitten thumbnail.

She lets out a sound that’s between a sigh and a grunt and grabs my other hand, pulling me past my dad’s sole employee, Brendan.  I like Brendan and his nerdy t-shirts–though I don’t know what his current one, “The Cake is a Lie” means–but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t know I exist.  He’s tightening some connections on the machine, which takes up a third of the room.  I want to ask him what it is–Dad would never tell me–but Mom’s got a laser focus on Dad’s office in the back.  He has a window into the workshop, but the blinds are drawn on it so he can’t see us coming.

Mom doesn’t even bother knocking before bursting in.  “Kyle.”  She shoves me into a chair under the window and leans across Dad’s desk so he has no choice but to look up at her.

“Diana, what are you doing here?”

“Delivering your son, who you were supposed to pick up from school today.  The office called me to pick him up.  I was in a meeting with an important director, and I had to leave because nobody could find you.  You know what this could mean for me.”

Mom thinks she’s always on the verge of making it as an actress, but she’s only ever been in local stage plays, even though she’s always “meeting someone who can make her a star.”

“I’m sorry, I was busy.  I forgot.”

“Yes, I can see how busy you are here”–she points to the papers he had been reading on his desk–“while that boy does all the work outside.”

I peek through the blinds to watch Brendan.  If they’re going to talk about me like I’m not here, I’d rather be out in the workshop, where the interesting stuff is happening.  Brendan’s stopped working on the machine itself.  Now he’s on the laptop nearby, so it’s a lot less exciting out there too.  I roll the screw between my fingers and listen to the stupid conversation continue.

“I have to do more than build the thing, Diana.  I had a meeting with the head of the superheroes’ League.  Do you know what that could mean for me?  We’re always talking about your chance to make it, but this is real solid work, and that meeting could be the difference between me working in this rundown place for the rest of my life or getting a contract that could be worth millions and fund future experiments.”

“Please, you’d have to get one of those things to work first!”

I let the blind fling back into place and glance up at the two of them.  They’re both red in the face.  They’ve forgotten me, which is as bad as them arguing about me.  Who wants to pick up Apollo?  Nobody.

I slump down in the chair.  I hadn’t even noticed how tight my fist was around the screw, but I release it and find an X imprinted on my palm.

“Every piece of superscience tech ever created had to go through several incarnations before it worked.  They’re called ‘experimental’ for a reason.”

I wish I could go through a new incarnation.  The Apollo experiment has failed.

Hope you enjoyed.

Lots of love,
Sage