An Ensemble Cast

Mock-up cover for NaNoWriMo

Some of favorite movies focus not on a single hero, but an ensemble of characters whose lives and stories intertwine. It’s usually easy to follow as the camera moves from one person to another and we get to see which characters are related to each other.

In a literary work, it’s harder to do this successfully. With too many POV characters, readers can get confused or bored. Too many named characters are frustrating to keep track of.

When I first started writing the polyamorous romance stories on Kingdom Come, it was soon clear that trying to give all eight(ish) characters equal time in the story was just overwhelming. For later stories, I focused on just a few characters and either wrote separate stories for the others, or I delegated them to being secondary characters.

It worked.

But I’d really love to tell these stories as a true ensemble. I’m just not sure I could do it justice. This year for NaNoWriMo I’m returning to Kingdom Come with Coward of the County. Yes, I love the song by Kenny Rogers, but this story bears little resemblance to the ballad of Tommy and Becky.

I’m about 2k in now, and I think I’ve settled on four POV characters. The arranged marriage is eight, and I’m hoping that it comes across that all of them are important even though I focus more on just a few.

I found a great image for the novel on It evokes the loneliness my MC feels, and definitely resembles the scenery in the story. What it doesn’t show, though, are the other seven entangled in the romance.

I’m not worried about the cover. It’s just a mock-up. I am worried about how to make this story flow with a true ensemble cast, instead of feeling like just one man with a set of throwaway background characters.

Wish me luck.


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Most important things.

My WIP is a worthy story deserving of love, honor, and the work of editing, revising and possibly rewriting that will make it great.

It’s also nowhere near done.

I started writing Twenty-first Century Airship Princess back in December. The goal was to enter it in the Zebulon (local PPW annual contest) as a story that is marketable with an appeal to a wide body of readers, as opposed to many of my other stories that are very niche-market oriented. I had eleven months to write, beta-test, revise, and compose a query letter for it.

It’s not going to happen in time for the November 1 deadline.

I’m not going into the reasons or making excuses. The realities of daily life often make demands that keep us away from the plans we make.

It is a relief, admitting that this is not the right time for the story. Yet I am horribly aware that stories (and other projects) often lie unfinished indefinitely. I have a genetic disposition (let’s just pretend that’s a thing) towards abandoning projects without finishing them. I’ve fought against it most of my life, and I have numerous accomplishments to prove that I can finish something.

I can also identify with all the Mensa-qualifying folks who have crappy, low-paying jobs.

In November, I will be switching my writing-energy to NaNoWriMo. I’m returning to my Kingdom Come SciFi-Rom world because I’ve written several novels in that universe and the stories come easily to me. But they’re quirky and very niche, so not as marketable. I’m doing this to keep my brain in writing-mode while also letting it rest from the more difficult projects. I want to FINISH something and Coward of the County is a story I can finish. It’s also part of The Fall of the Adelaide Faire, which is my hubby’s favorite part of the Kingdom Come stories. Maybe…just maybe… I can rewrite The Scar and finish the other stories in the set and eventually query them…

Finishing stuff is a goal and a struggle. There are so many reasons for putting a story on the shelf. Sometimes it belongs there. Sometimes it deserves to be reworked and refinished. Sometimes it needs to be cannibalized into another story.

The idea is to finish something.

The ultimate goal is to not only finish, but publish and sell enough to make it worth writing the next one.



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Without Control

Hemi and I, wistfully gazing off into the distance.

Among other issues with this tiny apartment we have no control over the heat. We have an air conditioner in the living room (which doesn’t help the bedrooms) whose thermostat works just fine. We have a normal radiator in the right places in each room, attached to a modern, working thermostat.

The problem is, in the winter, our apartment is consistently much, much warmer than we set the thermostat. There are neighbors on either side and above, and we have a utility crawl space beneath us. Without the windows open, the apartment is often in the 80’s.

I have trouble sleeping if the room is too hot. Fortunately, a fan in the window is usually all I need. However in the winter this is unpredictable. It’s not attached to a thermostat that turns it off and on. At bedtime we need to guess just how cold it might get. We might leave the fan on, or take it out of the window and just leave it open a crack. It’s not a great system. We often wake up in the middle of the night, freezing under our blankets. I usually poke my hubby and make him get up and close the window. He’s much more tolerant of the cold than I am.

Did I mention that our electric blanket broke this week?

Feeling out of control is frustrating. It hurts. It affects us in deeper ways, like interrupting our sleep and leaving us worried about our pets overheating if we have to be away from home for more than a few hours. We have to include weird little accommodations in our daily plans, when we should be able to simply set things up in an appropriate way and expect them to work.

So this is a goal. To have more control. Not to be a freak…I’ve been there and done that and I try to be very reasonable in what I expect to control…but to be a happy, productive human being, a happy, productive writer who feels safe in her environment.

I’m not quite there yet.

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Volunteer Work

With M.B. Partlow and Linda Tshappat at a PPW event

I’m applying to the local fabric store as seasonal help to get us through the next few months and, hopefully, to have some money for Christmas. Even with hubby’s new job, money is very tight. I looked for proofreading or editing work, but the only jobs in that category were full time positions that included a lot of other duties as well.

Meanwhile, I have a plethora of volunteer opportunities in front of me. There are things I’d love to do not only because they give back to the community, but because they interest me and help further my career goals.

I can easily give my time away. Hardly anyone wants to pay me for it.

I’m trying to finish transcribing Twenty-first Century Airship Princess and get it into shape before the contest deadline of November first. I have some notes for NaNoWriMo prepared, and I’ve picked out a few actors to use as character inspiration. I’m using my Kingdom Come universe because it’s already established and I don’t have to worldbuild, I just have to figure out how this story (Coward of the County) fits with the previous story (The Scar) and the other stories that will be in the set I call The Fall of the Adelaide Faire.

It’s frustrating that I have a hard time juggling the family’s needs while getting enough writing and transcribing done. It’s more frustrating knowing that I need to add part time work that is completely unrelated to any career goal. At least it’s something I do enjoy, and I can get a lot of Christmas shopping done on my employee discount. It is also seasonal, giving me an easy out before the spring semester starts and I go back to school.

Very few writers make even a reasonable part-time salary at the craft. Only a very few are able to make it a financially viable full time job. Still, that is the goal, for me anyway. Even if I never have a best-seller or wide recognition, I’d like to at least make enough money for it to be worth my time.

Not an expensive hobby.

Not a volunteer position.

I want a career.



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A Thousand Small Comforts

Bedside LabeledAs I write this, I am ensconced on the ugly couch, my feet on a footstool so that there is room for my laptop to sit comfortably. It’s not easy to get in and out of this spot, so I made sure I had water, my phone, snacks, and everything else I might need for a long session of work. It is even more difficult to get up when the dog is occupying the other half of the ugly couch.

This is not my ideal spot. It is, however, the best I can do in my tiny apartment. I do have a desk…it sits at the entrance to the kitchen. If I’m sitting there, family have to squeeze past me to get to the fridge. The desk is currently covered with junk, a side effect of living in such cramped quarters. I might try to clear it off before NaNoWriMo.

There are many small comforts I’ve carved out of this temporary home, but there are hundreds of discomforts that range from mildly irritating to hugely infuriating. Hubby usually sets his clothes out in the living room each night so he won’t wake me up when he gets dressed in the morning. If two people occupy the kitchen, they will be touching each other unless they do a very carefully coordinated dance. There is only one bathroom for our family of four.

I am haunted by tips in women’s magazines and online that talk about little ways to do self-care. Getting enough sleep. Having things organized so they work smoothly for my needs. A little pampering here and there.

One woman’s self-care is another woman’s extravagance.

I do carve out time for sleep because I know that, without it, my health and the overall well-being of my entire family will quickly go to hell in a handbasket. When I take a bunch of clothes to the laundromat, it’s self-care that has me bopping next door to Subway for an inexpensive and reasonably healthy, tasty lunch. Yet, when money is tight, that’s an extravagance, not a thrifty solution to lunch on a busy day.

I asked on facebook today what my friends’ ideal bedroom set-up would be, particularly whether they’d prefer magazine-photo beauty or utilitarian practicality. My current bedside setup is pictured above. Someday, the heel-cream and orange-ginger lotion will be bits of self-care I apply liberally. For now, they are indulgences I ration carefully. I need to keep things like my water bottle and alarm clock right by my bed, so it will never be perfectly magazine-quality beautiful. Several years ago I spent sixty dollars on a nice bedspread, which was both an indulgence and an investment. It is still in very good condition and is usually the only bedding we need besides the sheets.

There are small indulgences I make for my writing habits as well. For stories that I hand-write, I get cute fabric to cover the notebook and make it so it can fold over the edge and keep it closed. Some of my favorite places to write are restaurants or coffee shops with a quiet corner and power outlet. Of course, I can’t do that unless I spend at least a little money for food or drink. I don’t do that very often.

Side note… when JK Rowling needed to finish the Harry Potter series, the first books had already made her wealthy. She realized that she could throw money at the problem, and she checked into the Balmoral hotel in Edinburgh to complete the final novel.

I’d love to have room service and privacy while I write!

I currently have a long list of things I need and want to accomplish, and a less-than adequate space to do it in. Yet I persevere. I persist. And I don’t get everything done, but somehow manage to forgive myself.

It’s a little indulgence.


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Trying Something New

I’m trying something new, and it seems to be working!

With my OCD, I usually prefer to concentrate on one thing for an extended period of time. I need to finish one WIP before I begin another. This is part of why I love NaNoWriMo so much; getting an entire novel out in just one month!

However, when I stalled on 21st Century Airship Princess and put it on the shelf, I moved on to not just one, but two new stories. They use the same setting and theme as 21CAP, so I’m not switching genre or tone. One story will probably be novella length, and I’m typing it into the computer (as is the norm for most authors, myself included.) The other, which will probably be full novel-length, I’m writing into notebooks like I did with 21CAP.

Surprisingly, it seems to be working! Typing on the computer is fast, and I instantly know my wordcount, but I need to be home on my laptop (which is large and not easy to take places) in order to work on it. Handwriting is slower, but has the advantage that I only need my notebook and a pen. I can write sitting in the school parking lot waiting for my daughter to come out. It gets problematic when I forget how long ago some event in backstory happened or what name I gave a restaurant, but it lets me put long rambling notes to myself next to the text.

There are two deadlines coming up. Noon on November 1st is the deadline to enter the Zebulon, a local writing contest that mimics the process of querying an agent. November 2st is also the beginning of NaNoWriMo. That gives me about five weeks to finish up what I’m working on and prep for the new story.

Realistically, finishing a novel and a novella in five weeks is highly unlikely. I’m not sure whether I’ll just set them aside for November, or whether I’ll come up with some intriguing solution.

And who knows? I may surprise myself.


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The family at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, my happy place.

I just figured out that we have eight days left in this Round of Words in 80 Days.

I’m okay with that. I didn’t do so well this round, and unfortunately that’s been my refrain for over a year now. Yes… “real life” does get in the way and our family faced some hefty challenges since the move in early 2016. But hubby has been in a new, much better job for a month now, Bunny finally got into the GREAT charter school she’d been on the waiting list for, and Tallchild is doing her Senior year of high school. There is still more transition to go… we hope to move out of this tiny apartment in a few months, but we won’t be able to buy yet so it will probably still be a temporary rental. Tallchild will move on to a transitional program for young adults with special needs after graduation.

With all three of my immediate family ensconced in safe, nurturing places all day, I’ve finally been able to get the writing time I need. It’s been a little like floodgates opening, with the number of words that came rushing out over a few days! I came to a revelation regarding Twenty-First Century Airship Princess that I can’t resolve the conflict without a Deus ex Machina, and I desperately do not want to do that. Also, the pacing is off and I switched from single POV to dual about 10k in. It is temporarily on the shelf, but I plan to rewrite it after it steeps a while.

I have two new WIPs in the same vein as 21CAP. One will probably be a novella, and the other is a novel. Hopefully, since the two stories are in the same universe and time as 21CAP, they won’t compete against each other in my head and writing simultaneously will work. The novella is being typed into the computer, as is “normal” these days. That means I have to be home near my laptop (Yeah, I can move it or access the story online through Dropbox, but…) to work on that one. The novel is being handwritten, as was 21CAP. I want and need to get both stories out of me as quickly as possible. That is one thing I have learned about myself as an author; if I don’t get the story out in a reasonably short time, it crashes and burns and sometimes isn’t worth cleaning up.

21CAP is worth cleaning up. And there is a deadline, if I want to enter it in a certain contest this fall.

So…who’s got deadlines?

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I Swear I Had it All Together at One Point

Hemi and I on Pikes Peak this Labor Day. The family made it to the top this time!

The best laid plans sometimes go to hell in a handbasket for good reasons.

Someday I will look back at 2016-2019 as “the transition years” but at the moment it’s just damned inconvenient. But it’s all for good reason, and we will emerge stronger.

Bunny spent three days of Fourth Grade in online school, as planned. Then we got the call that there was an opening at the school of fabulousness for which she had been on the waiting list for three years! After doing all the prep to get her started with online school, we scrambled to get all the different things we needed for the new school. It’s a good change… a FANTASTIC change but it took some chaotic creativity to make it work.

Next year Tallchild will transition from being a high-schooler with special needs to an adult with special needs. More scrambling. More unknown. All with the bonus of teenage hormones.

Writing has too often taken a back seat, and probably will for just a little while longer. I want to finish Twenty-first Century Airship Princess but I haven’t added words in a few weeks. I still intend to enter it in the Zebulon this year, though, so I will be working on it and getting the rough draft and revision one done by…. OMG I’m running out of time!

Meanwhile I connected with a couple of local real-life writer-friends who were looking for some short-shorts to add into their anthology. They liked what I gave them, so…yeah! More details later when things are more official. I still need a few more Cthulhu limericks…

For my ROW80 update I have no idea where we are in the round. Still struggling to carve the time I need for writing and writing-related stuff.

T’aint easy.

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The Changing Times

Fanny Eaton, Pre Raphaelite model and inspiration for the MC in MOSTLY HARMONIOUS

I avoid writing contemporary because it’s too easy to get some detail wrong and have it take people out of the story. When I write about the past, it’s an alternative Steampunk world where I can make up whatever details I want. My strength is in writing the future, especially worlds and societies I would like to see come to fruition.

Looking at finishing projects I’ve started (as well as knowing what to discard) I’ve been thinking a lot about my Pangalactic Sojourner series. A couple of the stories are just vague outlines in my head, but others are more fleshed out.

They are contemporary.

Although it is possible to set a story vaguely somewhere-in-a-certain-decade, the theme of these make certain historical/newsworthy events important. The main character of each novel has a different sexual orientation. The faith-based romances are not written as some struggle to fit a unique sexual orientation into a Christian life; they are stories of how these five unique Christians found their happily-ever-afters. Their sexual orientation is part of that, but not the overwhelming aspect of their humanity.

When I started writing these stories, a few states had stepped up and legalized same-sex marriage. Step by step, the LGBTQ (and I know there are more letters in the acronym, but there’s a point at which it gets ridiculous) community gained more freedoms and equality. Whereas some of my characters simply and quietly live their lives and do not experience a great deal of oppression or harassment, other characters are more vocal and active in the support of their fellow LGBTQ persons. The many events, big and small, that have marked the last five or ten years do affect my characters, and I want to do justice to the details.

I intend to choose a period of a few years for these stories to take place. If I choose a time more than, say, five years ago, I will be able to look back and get a fairly clear view of the changes in LGBTQ rights. However this also makes a story feel out-of-date, stuck between present day and history. If I set the stories in a very recent year, I can’t see the big picture as clearly because I’m living it. We’ve made forward steps and backwards leaps. And in the end, if it takes several years before the stories are published, it might still feel dated.

The series is currently on the shelf, even though it is on my mind. I have other projects to finish first. When I do return to it, I need to outline the five stories and understand how they intertwine as well as how the real-life timeline affects them.

And I might choose 2016, because Pokemon Go is…strangely…relevant to one particular plot.

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Summer is Drawing to a Close

Brief update post today.

Summer has passed quickly. I haven’t done as much writing as I hoped, but I did send in a submission or two. I’m still waiting to hear whether my stories were accepted.

Next week my hubby starts a new job! He’s been stuck in a low-paying, awful job for the past year, and although this new job isn’t absolutely fantastic, it is a good job in his field with a reputable company.

The week after that, the girls go back to school. My teen NEEDS to be in school because she craves structure. My 4th grader is doing online school this year. I think it will be an awesome fit! Although this means she’ll be stuck near me all day every day, in some ways that’s easier because we don’t need to worry about transporting her to and from school except for special activities.

I’m looking forward to getting into a routine again, and seeing where writing-time can fit in.

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