Monthly Archives: October 2013

I Don’t Want to Say This Old Hotel is Creepy, But…

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(No blood in the elevators yet, though, so hooray for that!)

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ROW80 Update

Hellooooooo again!

Short and sweet this time, since the party is still going on in the other room (you guys are NUTS).

In my plan to write 1000 words every weekday, I forgot to take one thing into consideration: my husband’s days off. He’s off every Monday and every other Tuesday, and I never get any work done on his days off. Why? Because I feel guilty if I’m doing that when I could be hanging out with him. Also, Breaking Bad, which HOLY CRAP THE THING THAT JUST HAPPENED, WALT WHO ARE YOU I DON’T EVEN.

Sorry for yelling. I got excited.

What was I saying? Oh, right. So I haven’t got any writing done so far this week. Nada. But I’m going to see about doing some editing tonight.

The good news is that I’m making fantastic progress on the reading side of things. I finished Call The Midwife: Shadows of the Workhouse (book 2) today, and it was fantastic. I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the first one (I preferred the shorter stories scattered throughout, rather than four longer stories), but it was still heartbreaking and funny and excellent. I’m also almost through The Indie Author’s Survival guide, by Susan Kaye Quinn. It’s also great, making things as simple as possible while being very encouraging. It’s practically the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, what with it having an invisible “DON’T PANIC” theme running through it.

Which is good. Because I do. I may need stronger drugs.

I’ve already written my mission statement and roughed out a five-year plan, so the book gets high marks for inspiring action in a certified procrastinator.*

Next up… um… not sure on the fiction front (though I’m finally going to get to a beta read, even though it’s probably too late to do any good), but Kristen Lamb’s Rise of the Machines is the next non-fiction book I’m going to read.

Annnnnd… that’s about it.

Here‘s what everyone else is up to on the ROW80 front. I’ve got nothing for WIPpet Wednesday. Literally nothing. But hey, pther people have posted stuff, so check out the linkie here!

*Not actually certified. I’ll get to that tomorrow.


Happy Anni-bloga-birthdary!

*pops champagne, drinks half of the bottle*

I’m sorry, did you want some? Help yourself. Let me get out the cheese tray.

Well, kids, it’s been a year since I opened up shop here at Disregard the Prologue. Remember that? No? That’s okay. It was quiet here back then. The only sounds were the crickets, the wind, and the sound of me saying “excuse me, my mistake” when I tripped over the occasional tumbleweed that blew through.

Now? Well, if you count both WordPress and e-mail followers, we’re sitting at just over 250 of you crazy people. Not a lot by most blog standards, but a whole lot more than I ever expected to see hanging around here. That’s not to say that it’s crowded; I’m sure most of the people who signed up to follow don’t come by much. But those of you who do, who read the occasional post and comment, or even just lurk in the background, mean a whole lot to me. Whether we agree or disagree on the topics I’m posting on, I love having comment conversations with you. I love that you guys encourage me when I’m feeling low, that you help me out when I need readers (or someone to exchange cereal with), that you contribute your amazing insights in the comments of my posts and offer posts on your own blogs that are both entertaining and distracting. I hope you all get something out of this relationship, too. I assume you do… otherwise, you’re all some kind of saints for keeping me afloat.

A lot has happened here in a year, most of it behind the scenes. A year ago I was wondering whether it was time to start querying agents with a novel; now I’ve decided that’s not the path for me, and I’m figuring things out as I take another route to my goals. More importantly, a year ago I thought I was alone in this. Now, I have a community of ROWers and NaNoers and WIPpeteers who all have their own crazy dreams and plans, and we can hold each others hands and kick each other’s asses, and OH IT’S GLORIOUS.

What will the next year bring? I honestly couldn’t tell you. I’m looking to have a book out in the spring, but that’ll depend a lot on editing issues insights and whether my brain turns to mush before then. That means we’ll be having a cover reveal, a launch party for those on the exclusive invitation list*, giveaways… and probably a lot of me pulling my hair out by the handful. FUN!

All I can promise is that I’ll be here, I’ll be posting, and I’ll be cheering you all on in whatever it is that you’re doing in the next twelve months.

Feel free to mingle in the comments section. Grab some cake, there’s pop in the fridge for anyone who’s not into champagne (honestly, it’s not sitting so well for me right now), put on some music, dance the night away. And let me know how you got here, and what you’ve got planned for the next year. 🙂

Oh, I promised party favours, didn’t I? Let’s see… how about a little scavenger hunt? Find my first post, make a note of the name of one of my old blogs, and e-mail me your answer and your mailing address to kate.sparkes (at) live (dot) ca, and I’ll send you something nice. And flat. Because postage.

*If you want to be on the list, I’ll be posting information soon on how you can opt-in to e-mails, and I might even get me one of them there fancy-schmancy Facebooker thingamabobs. You just never know…


Great Storytelling: Breaking Bad

HOLY CRAP DID YOU WATCH THIS SHOW?

Well, we just started, so please, no spoilers in the comments! AJ and I are working our way through Season 2 of Breaking Bad, and we’re… is it bad form to say addicted? It’s a strange sort of show in that it has me rooting for characters who are doing Very Bad Things– and even for characters whose positions put them in conflict with each other. For anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure, this is a show about a brilliant, over-qualified high-school Chemistry teacher who finds out he has lung cancer. Bad. Health care in the USA being what it is, he can’t afford treatment, and doesn’t want to leave his wife (pregnant at 40-ish with a surprise baby) and his 16-year old son (who has cerebral palsy) with his debts. So he can choose to die, or to make money.

There’s money in meth, and he knows chemistry.

It’s a fascinating story on several levels, and I’ve heard it only gets better. The characters aren’t always likeable; certainly no one is perfect, and I wouldn’t want to trade places with any one of them, two things that we often hear are important in a protagonist. The thing is, though, that they all have believable goals and motivations, and we as an audience can empathize with them, whether we agree with their actions or not.

The best thing about this show, and the one that I’d like to talk about today, is CONFLICT.

Sweet thundering methamphetamines, do the writers on this show know how to create tension and conflict. I’d like to look at one episode, which AJ and I watched last night, for a few examples. There will be episode spoilers, so fair warning there, but no series spoilers for anyone who’s just starting out, like I am (Hi, Robyn!).

The episode (Season 2) is called 4 Days Out.

We start out with tension inherent in the situation. Walt (our chemistry teacher/meth cook) has managed to pay for his first round of treatments, but has very little left over to put toward his family’s upkeep if he dies. He’s had an MRI to see how things are looking, and won’t get his results for a week– but he saw a terrifying blotch in his lungs on the scan, and is certain his time is running out. He and Jesse (his former student and the guy who does the selling) head out to the desert to cook up a storm while they can.

We, the audience, know that what they’re doing is illegal, and most of us probably think that selling meth is wrong (especially after the characters we met in a previous episode. It’s a hell of a drug, guys). Still, we feel for Walt. He loves his family, but he’s lying to them to protect them, and it’s causing problems in his marriage.* He is absolutely certain he’s dying, and feels he has no choice but to do this. Back against a wall, much?

Seriously, the show is almost an ad for universal health care. That, and the awesomeness of chemistry.

So things are tense already. The questions are never stated, but they’re there. Will Walt and Jesse be able to make their product and sell it without getting caught? Is Walt going to die soon? What was that on the MRI? And Walt has been showing signs that he’s no longer the basically decent person we met in Season 1, so that’s pulling us in, too. How far will he go for his family?

Jesse brought 10 gallons of drinking water. They’re in the desert for a few days. The cooking is a great success, until the generator runs out of gas. It’s time to go back home…

And the RV’s battery is dead.

Now, here’s where the writers show their skill. Skillz? We saw a similar situation in season 1, when the RV was broken and had trouble starting. It’s since been repaired, so the dead battery is unexpected– and worse, it’s Jesse’s fault. He left the keys in the ignition for two days. He denies that it’s his fault (“the buzzer’s broken!”), but the fact remains that these two are stuck in the middle of nowhere.

Oh, did I mention that they have cell phones, but Jesse’s has no signal, and Walt won’t use his to call anyone but his wife, because she’ll check his phone records? They have a tool, and they can’t use it, even though Jesse insists that they need to. This creates more tension than we would have seen if they simply hadn’t had a phone.

I won’t give away the whole episode, but it’s a perfect example of escalating tension, and the idea that a writer’s first thought should usually be, “how can I make this situation worse for my characters?”

They hook up the generator to the battery to try to charge it, after Walt siphons gas out of the RV (EEEEWWWWW!). It bursts into flames. Walt runs in to get the fire extinguisher, but Jesse, in a panic, grabs what’s left of their water and dumps it on the flames.

Good thing: the fire is out. Terrible thing: they now have no drinking water. In the desert. 15 miles from a road.

Did you see what happened again? Situational tension has increased, but so has the conflict between the characters. This was the point where I went, “THIS IS BRILLIANT!”

It only gets worse, of course. Walt starts coughing up blood. They call for help, someone’s on his way, that someone gets lost, the phone battery dies. They’re forced into physical exertion to try to charge the RV battery, they think they’ve succeeded, they’re wrong. Those moments of hope create a roller coaster of emotion that sharpen the low points and prevent the story from becoming a mere downward spiral.

I hated it for stressing me out, and I loved it for keeping me entranced.

I said no spoilers, so I won’t tell you how it ends. I assumed all along that they were going to get out of this mess, what with there being several more seasons of the show to go, but that did nothing to dampen the tension in what was actually a very simple storyline. I will tell you that the emotional payoff at the end is amazing, and this situation changes the two characters’ relationship in a way that should be interesting.

The lesson I’m taking away from this episode (aside from “Holy crap, I will never be this good at the whole writing thing”) is that not only is tension important if you want to keep a viewer (or reader) hooked, but interpersonal conflict often trumps situational tension. If they’d run out of drinking water before they decided to head home, we still would have had a tough situation. But the fact that their thirst was Jesse’s fault made the situation tense on a deeper level and made the audience react in a different way.

Is this exact approach what we want for every story? No, but we need to remember that tension is what hooks a reader and keeps him/her reading. That’s our goal as writers. The ups and downs that keep people guessing, the interpersonal conflicts, the screw ups and the defensiveness, the desperation… all tools we can use to make our work shine. I know I’ll be looking at it from a fresh perspective, now. Who says books are the only place we can learn about good writing?

If you’re looking for more information on tension and conflict in writing, I recommend Donald Maass’ book “The Fire in Fiction,” which is on my list to re-read during this round of ROW80.

So tell me: Did you watch/are you watching Breaking Bad? NO SPOILERS, but did you enjoy the storytelling as much as I do? If not, have you ever picked apart a particularly effective movie or TV show episode to see what made it tick, and what were your conclusions? 

*For the record, I think that Skylar’s motivations are just as valid as Walt’s, given what she knows about the situation at this point. Anna Gunn, who plays Skylar, has received death threats over things her character has done… I can’t wait to find out what that’s all about, but really guys. Chill.


ROW Round Four… Already?

Wow, that was quick.

Round four of A Round of Words in 80 Days starts today, which probably means I should have posted goals yesterday, what with it being Sunday and all. Well, better late than never, and I have a lot of goals I need to work on this round, which will take us through December 26th.

Treat Writing Like a Business

I’m aware that this is not a quantifiable or measurable goal, but it works as a heading, and as my personal theme for this round. I’m done dicking around. Want to know how I know that? Because I’ve hired an editor to work on the first novel I plan to release, and for an amount of money that’s definitely out of “hobby” territory, at least for me. Based on recommendations and the sample edit he did for me, he’s going to be worth every penny, but this isn’t something I can do just for fun or personal fulfilment.

Am I insane? Probably. Am I nervous? Well, I almost threw up after I sent the deposit money for work that’s going to happen in February, so I’m going to call that a “yes.” But this is an investment in my education, in myself as a writer, and in what I want to be a business, even if I don’t expect to earn back this particular investment in the first book. I’m getting the ball rolling, and starting out in the most professional way possible. Everything else is outside of my control.

It’s not going to be easy; I’m a notorious procrastinator and my will power is almost nil. So here are the concrete goals:

  • Get into the work routine. Spend 2 hours every weekday (when both kids are at school, whatever time of day that happens to be) on writing. Minimum goal of 1000 words on new work, but productivity will vary when editing/revising
  • Look into getting a website set up, probably through WordPress. I’m willing to spend money on things that affect the quality of my work, but I’m still leery of spending money on promotional matters. 🙂
  • read one craft or business-related book a week for this round.
  • Set up bank account for business expenses, get a budget working to save money, and look into what I need to do to keep everything running smoothly.
  • No internet during work time. Use StayFocusd Chrome app to keep temptation at bay.

NaNoWriMo

I almost didn’t participate in ROW80 because it seemed anti-NaNo. Not in its concept, but in the idea that “shyeah, I’d do NaNoWriMo if I didn’t HAVE A LIFE.” In reality, this challenge is flexible enough to include any goals, so I can do both. So during November, my goals will shift a bit:

  • 2,000 words a day, Sundays off
  • Finish re-drafting book #2
  • 50,000+ words total FTW

Reading and Other Responsibilities

I need to re-think whether I want to offer to write reviews on books, because I’ve run into problems recently that prevented me from doing other projects I’d offered to work on, like a beta read I was looking forward to. I need to make more time to work on projects for the people who support me here, and to read for enjoyment. Reading “Doctor Sleep” (the new Stephen King) helped with that. It was so good that I pretty much neglected the real workd for 22 hours, and it reminded me of why I love reading. I’ve read books recently that were hard to get through, but this one cured me of the blahs.

  • read one novel a week. If it’s not grabbing me and making me want to finish it in that time-frame, I might have to ditch it. Harsh, but there’s a lot out there that I want to read.
  • When applicable, finish beta reads within two weeks of agreed-on start date. Detailed critiques would take longer.

Other Projects

I only have one series that I’m looking to publish in the near future, but I have other things begging for my attention.

  • Post one chapter of “Resurrection” on Wattpad per week, if anyone’s reading. That’s going to become less likely once it gets to its “R” rating, but I doubt it would be huge even without that. It’s just something I’m doing for fun, and to practice sticking to a self-imposed deadline. The problem is that I don’t have time to schmooze over there. I’m reading a few stories and have others on my list to read (especially for people who have already been helpful to me there), but I can’t hang out there and try to collect readers, and I have a whole lot of other reading that takes precedence.
  • Write one piece of flash fiction per week, even if it’s not posted anywhere. Just for the mental exercise and a change of scenery.

So there we go. My goals, organized into four sections that should be easy to refer back to when I’m posting updates. If you’ve read this far, you’re either a very good friend or completely bonkers. Either way, thanks for listening.

If you’re participating in this round, let me know below so I can stop by and say hello! If not, what are your goals for the near future, whether writing-related or not?

Want to see what everyone else’s goals look like, or join in the fun? Click here!


It’s About Autumn

Hey, all! Less than a week to DtP’s first blogiversary, so here’s a post from almost a year ago. I’d say the leaves are even prettier this year, but my feelings about the colours haven’t changed at all. 🙂

disregard the prologue

In the spring, I fall in love with green.

Well, maybe that’s not the right term. I always love green. It’s my favourite colour. But in the spring, what I feel for green borders on lust. I hold my breath waiting for the first tiny leaves to appear on the trees, and when they all open up, I get drunk on the colour. It makes me giddy.

By July, though, I’m like, “Yeah, green. Green’s great.” I still love it, but that thrill’s gone. In August I realize that I’m in the mood for something more autumnal.

In the autumn, my list of favourite trees gets switched around (you all have one of those, right?).  Aspens top the list in the summer, just for the way their leaves twinkle in the slightest breeze. Other leaves blow or rustle or flap. Aspen leaves FREAKING TWINKLE. It’s like magic, I swear. Looks…

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Wattpad Update: Resurrection

For those of you who have left such lovely comments on my WIPpet Wednesday snippets from my vampire story, who have asked to read more…

Chapters 1-3 are posted on Wattpad (click here!). I’ll be revising, editing and posting more as I’m able, at least one chapter a week. We’ll see how that goes. Some of you will remember the first chapter, slightly altered from its original posting here, and you’ll find the full “bite scene” that I teased you with a while back.

Take a look here, and sign up to follow if you’d like to be notified of updates, though I’ll post occasional reminder here when I think to do it.

The story is currently rated PG-13, but I’m going to have to bump it up to “R” once I get to the murder scenes– even then, I’m just sort of hoping it will be okay. The problem is that stories rated “R” aren’t eligible to be promoted as “What’s Hot,” which sort of takes the piss out of my sails (to coin a really terrible mixed metaphor). So I won’t be earning reads that way. But hey, if you like the story and want to share it, feel free!

(Just a reminder that the story contains darker elements and possibly disturbing images, especially as it goes on. If that’s not your cup of tea, we can still be friends, but you might just want to skip this one. I’ll have a less icky Fantasy short story soon, I hope!)


Crime Scene Number Two: WIPpet Wednesday

Gore Warning (though I cut it off before the really nasty bit. You’re welcome.)

More from that vampire story, which is now tentatively titled (yay!) Resurrection. The crime scenes are pretty nasty. It’s not me, guys, it’s the rogues. I do worry that they went too far for me to show this story to anyone… they say you can’t kill kids or dogs in a story, but what if it’s just their bodies? Well, neither of either this week, anyway.

WIPpet math: 10/2 = 10-2 = 8 paragraphs. As noted in the title, this is poor Shivva’s second crime scene, and for anyone just joining us, Daniel is her trainer. She didn’t react well to the first set of bodies. Is #VampirePuke a valid hashtag? Poor thing’s trying to keep it analytical this time…

—-

White carpets. No children, then. Everything is spotless, light and airy, until we reach the master bedroom.

At least they didn’t waste as much blood this time.

More bungee cords. Must have been a sale at Canadian Tire. The man is naked, tied into an antique chair that hardly looks like a comfortable place to relax– or to die. He’s slumped forward as far as the bonds will allow, jaw slack, eyes wide and staring down at his feet. The wounds on his neck stand out against his drained-pale skin. He would have needed to shave this morning if he was going to work, and I assume he has a regular job; his is hair short and freshly trimmed, and a charcoal-grey suit hangs neatly on a waist-high rack in the corner. The door to the bathroom stands open behind him. Clean. No surprise there.

I turn toward the bed that occupies the other half of the spacious room, a king-sized affair in dark wood. Blankets litter the floor, but I can’t see much else with Daniel standing in front of me. I move to push past him, and he places his hands on my arms. Not holding me back. Warning me. He leans in, and his broad chest fills my vision. “Shivva, take a second. I need you to keep it together this time.”

“I’ll be fine.”

He squeezes my upper arms and lets go.

I won’t be fine.

Keep it together, Shiv.

—-

Looking for more (and probably more pleasant) WIPpet fun? Check out the linkie here, and add your own if you feel so inclined. The more the merrier! And go say “hi” to our host, KL Schwengel, who has returned to us from The Land That Blog Forgot.

In other news, I’m sorry I haven’t been posting here much this week (at all, actually), and I haven’t been commenting as much as I usually do. I’m taking a little time away, trying to figure some other things out, making some sh*t-or-get-off-the-pot-type decisions. I’ll be back, and in the meantime, I’ll try to visit all of the WIPpeteers and as many others as I can. ‘Cause, y’know, I like you guys a whole lot.


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