In the gap, between the two trapeze

Those who know me well, know I relish preparing for things. I’m the Queen of Delayed Gratification, which goes nicely with the job I have of working for a year on something, get two weeks on the road sharing it with the world, then back to work on the next thing.

The flip side of the coin is that I also love not having a plan, which gets me in trouble when it comes to attending cons. Don’t get me wrong. I love attending. I just don’t like to plan them because, you know, there will be people there and stuff. I can do it, but my little introverted soul has a hard time planning for it.

So I like to prepare. I like not having a solid plan. And lastly, I love small living within a large space. Having a job that lets me be something else every day of the year has kept me sane. (And they PAY me for it!) But the last few years have taken their toll and something broke, pulling back a curtain I never saw–I had been so intent on the “what’s supposed to happen.”

Which brings me to my current feeling of free flying, in the gap between the two trapeze.

If you’ve been following the blog closely, you will know that Tim and I have recently become RV’ers, first, to follow and see the eclipse, but hey, an RV is basically a land boat, and I fell back into old patterns I hadn’t realize I’d made, remembering skills I never knew I’d learned, and . . . yeah, it fills a need I’d forgotten existed.

There are plans made. Plans within plans that have fingers reaching into every aspect of our lives. We are ready to go. The Captain has gone over the star maps for the best places to alight. The Navigator (that’s me) is content to rely on the vagrant winds to dictate the path and can’t do her job until we are actually on the road. The Doc (that’s me again) has stocked the pharmacy for the one special-needs crew member (the dog.) The Head Chef, (me again) has filled the kitchen shelves, focusing on easy, fast, and limited ingredient dishes, building on know-how gained by past experience. The Entertainment Director (me and Tim) have assembled various audio and visual entertainment. And possibly most important, since this is a working ship after all, the office is prepped, amazing me with how little I need anymore to actually, you know, do my job now that everything is less paper and more electrons.

All we need now is the courage–the final push–and we will be gone, boldly going where everyone has gone before–but never seeing the things I’ll see. Least, not in the same way I see them.

With fingers cramped from decades of “this is the right way” I let go of one trapeze . . . and stretch across space for the next.

Watch this space . . .

14 Comments

Filed under Drama Box

Nightmares

I have to laugh at myself and my infrequent nightmares. Tim and I were discussing it yesterday morning after he complained of having restless sleep. Seems the two Halloween movies we watched before going to bed stuck with him all night. Me? I slept like a contented baby. It’s the evenings that we watch the news before bed that leave me with nightmares.Oddly enough, those are the nights that Tim sleeps the best–so he says.

This morning, though, I was visited by a recurring nightmare that has plagued me on and off since high school. Chances are, you’ve had a version as well. It’s the “back-to-school-can’t-find-my-class nightmare” with the “didn’t-bring-my-book” chaser.

I used to have these every fall when classes started back up, but it’s been awhile. This time, I managed to get on my teacher’s bad side in less than ten minutes. High School English class. I still shudder. Not a happy time for me.

13 Comments

Filed under Drama Box

Last first-paragraph invite for a while

I know I said I wanted to keep the sharing going for a few months, but my time has crunched in and I’m going to have to suspend it for a while. But this is a good thing! Most of you have caught on to what I’ve been trying to convey and you need some time to internalize it and make it second nature–and I need to focus on what just happened on my desk.

And then there is DragonCon, soaking up my time as well. (my schedule is here for all four days.)

So one last sharefest before I get too busy. Show me your first paragraphs of your next chapter utilizing everything we’ve been talking about for the last month. I’m terribly impressed with how you have all polished off that newbie shine and sound so very much more ready for an editor/publisher’s eye.

 

27 Comments

Filed under Drama Box

I reached for the familiar, and just kept falling

We stood in the shade at the park, having gotten up early to make the thirty mile trek to totality. Two days of driving lay behind us–two days, and a year of anticipation, of solar glasses for Christmas, of plans and contingency plans depending upon where the skies would be the clearest, of clearing schedules, and maintaining a firm hold on flexibility–because I am a lover of the skies, my childhood rooted in the awe of the cosmos.

We lingered in the shade because it was hot, the RV behind us, the dogs safe in their play yard. Twelve families consisting of three generations had rented the park shelter beside us and had gathered from three states. The couple parked behind us drove in from just thirty miles away. Dogs played and fretted at being left out. Kids practiced with their parents on how to use the glasses. People staked their claim on prime viewing with chairs and blankets. The internet vanished, and no one cared.

We waited, all there for a singular reason, our stories as varied as the license plates. People ventured from the shade to peer up at the sun for a few seconds with their glasses, then retreated. Pinhole viewers and special filters on binoculars were tried out and set aside. Kids got bored. The star geeks and casual viewers mingled and chatted. “Where did you come in from?” “We drove two hours.” We drove two days.” “Do you know where the bathrooms are?” “Do you have any connection at all?”

Finally a call went up. “There! The top right!”

We all looked up, every single one of us, and the word was “Wow.” A chunk of the sun was gone. Absolute black. Kids cried, wanting to see and having to wait. Tantrums, fussing, and then they got bored again, and retreated into the shade–because it was hot.

It grew quiet. More conversation. “I’ve never seen a total eclipse.” “Do you think it’s darker yet?” Late comers drove through, desperate for a place to park, making the rest of us smug. A quarter mile down, the ball field sprouted tents where organized viewing and experts kept kids busy. A quarter mile up, free-spirits gathered in an open, wild field to commune on a deeper level. But it was quiet in our little turn-around site in “the middle” where three generations of family, a local couple, and two dreamers with their dogs sat with their feet edging the light because the sun was too intense.

The orange crescent of the sun through the filtered glasses grew smaller, more pointy. The round shadow of the moon atop it grew larger. Kids whined about being hungry, dogs got underfoot and barked. Quick forays were made into the sun for a glimpse at progression. “This is what they’ll get in Detroit.” “This is how much I saw last time.” “How often are you taking a picture?”

But then . . . the ground began to look odd, as if seeing the world through a filter. The air took on a dark, almost transparent hue as the wavelengths reaching us shifted. A call went up. “Look at the hood of that car! You can see the crescent in the shadows of the leaves!” But in all honesty it took some imagination. Slowly, people filtered out of the shade, and with a shock, I realized that quite suddenly, it wasn’t hot anymore. After years of shunning the sun, I could stand under it and not feel its heat.

The crickets began to sing and the dogs lay down, bellies up to the sky to soak in what heat remained. The shadows of the leaves showed thousands of crescents, no imagination needed. Necks craned, we waited poised as the sliver of orange amber narrowed down, and down, and down . . . until it was almost gone . . .

Just before the light left, voice exploded from every throat, an unstoppable sound of exhilaration. It rose from our chests, joining those at the tents at the ball field, then gathered the shouts from the distant field before continuing to spill on across the nation as the sun . . . was suddenly gone.

Every glass and filter dropped. As one, we shouted as we stared up at a color of white we had never seen, wispy and etherial. A black nothing hung where the sun had been. My awareness expanded, and I reached, grasping for something I might know, falling, and falling, and falling, as if taking a breath that never stopped as I looked for common ground with every last past moment of my life . . . and failing.

For two minutes, we stood as one in a new state of existence, most quickly gaining a foothold, and yet I still fell within my mind, trying to absorb the cascading of otherness that suffused and filled me. The sound, the feel of the air, the lack of sensation on my skin.

And then . . . a tiny pinprick of the most pure light that ever existed, of ultimate clarity and definition, was suddenly there.

For an instant it hung at the edge of the black, and still I fell, trying to grasp it.

In another breath the glimpse into infinity was gone, washed out by the yellow wavelengths as the diamond ring took precedence and no longer could we stare as one at the sky.

 

It was done. My long fall ended as the comfortable existence of warm yellow light expanded amid the exuberant shouts and cheers that flowed from west to east, an unstoppable declaration of experience.

But I remember the instant of light of undefined purity and unexplainable clarity. And I wait. For what? I don’t know, but I wait.

Kim Harrison
August 21, 2017

 

 

 

22 Comments

Filed under Drama Box

Sunday Dragon Con events

I am taking a few days off to chase the upcoming solar eclipse, so I won’t be posting my next first-paragraphs until I get back. Instead, I’ve go my Saturday events for DragonCon, today. If you can only go to one day, Sunday is a good one Check out that amazing panel at 7:00 pm. Dude, I am in heaven.

But please post yours! You guys have been posting some amazing stuff.

——————-
SUNDAY
——————-
Title: Creativity 101
Description: Keeping your creative energy bristling with ideas isn’t easy. Try these concrete tips and ideas to boost your creativity.
Time: Sun 11:30 am  Location: Embassy CD – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Janny Wurts, Kim Harrison, Lucienne Diver, Nancy Knight, Ali Fisher, David Macinnis Gill)

——————-
Title: Autograph Session
Time: Sun 1:00 pm  Location: International hall South 1-3 – Marriott (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Patricia Briggs, Faith Hunter, Chloe Neill, Kim Harrison)

——————-
Title: An Hour with Kim Harrison
Description: Audience Q&A with the best-selling author of The Hollows series, the Peri Reed Chronicles, and the Madison Avery series for young adults.
Time: Sun 04:00 pm  Location: Regency VI-VII – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Kim Harrison)

——————-
Title: From the Beginning: The Evolution of the Urban Fantasy Protagonist
Description: The authors on our panel have played a vital role in the advancement of the urban fantasy genre. We’ll discuss how these seminal characters have developed and changed over time, all while continuing to influence the field.
Time: Sun 07:00 pm  Location: Peachtree Ballroom – Westin (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Patricia Briggs, Laurell K. Hamilton, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Jim Butcher, Kim Harrison)

23 Comments

Filed under Drama Box

Intro new characters, first-lines

Apple

From my own tree. First year of a good crop!

It appears as if we have a large group participating now, so I’m going to have to ask you all to please keep your show-and-tells to a reasonable length. I know you want to show more so you can get to the good stuff, but that is EXACTLY why I only want to see the first two paragraphs or so. If you can’t get to the part that makes you excited in a half page, you need to rewrite to get it in the first half page

Today, I’m going to showcase a character introduction. It is a first paragraph, and it’s in his POV, which can be tricky as the reader is starting cold–just like a first chapter, first paragraph. It has all the constraints and needs of the beginning of a book, but since the reader is invested (hopefully) already, the first few lines don’t need that heavy hook and can focus on setting more, or personality.

Chapter Nine
SKINS

The pencil’s eraser bounced in a repetitive rumble one Formica table. Realizing he was doing it, Mickey set the pencil down with an exaggerated slowness. “Maybe next week,” he said into his cell phone as the pencil rolled across his sketches. It was headed for the edge, but his quick reach for it failed, and it hit the floor to fall into the RV’s tiny stairwell, totally out of reach.

Frowning, Mickey scrubbed a hand over his two-day stubble and looked up, his unfocused attention going to the RV’s tiny window over the sink as Jack droned on about his financial responsibilities and the consequences of avoiding them. “Jack. Listen to me,” Mickey tried again. “Maybe next week if I can find something. It’s not that I don’t want to give the bloodsucking troll her monthly feeding, but there’s nothing left.”  Grimacing, he threw last-night’s empty cup-of-noodles across the narrow RV, an instant of satisfaction flashing through him when it made the trash.

What I’d like to point out here is that almost everything is in present tense. It is happening NOW. Before you post, take a look at what you have and see if you can move things into present if everything is being looked at in the past. A reader becomes attached far faster if they’re reading about something going on, instead of what happened yesterday and how they feel about it. Put in some movement to ground the reader, and make sure that whatever makes your eyes sparkles gets into that first half page.

Also, I’d like to plead for some pity from you. I’d like to keep this going for a few months more, aiming for two posts a week. But for that to happen, I’d ask that you only post one piece and maybe a rewrite of something previously submitted per blog post. Chit chat is great and welcomed, but only one first-paragraph per blog post please.

You guys are the best, and I hope we can keep each other motivated for a few months more before school kicks in and everyone goes back to work.

39 Comments

Filed under Drama Box

Keep sharing your first paragraphs!

As was pointed out to me, I forgot about chapter seven. Hee, hee. Sorry. But it happens when you drop back and add a chapter you weren’t planning on and everything moves forward. The chapter I added actually goes before six, and I added it because I got tired of putting out clues and decided to do the reveal I wasn’t planning on until chapter twelve or so. I wanted to own it. Go big or go home, and all that jazz.

But before I share it with you, I want to tell all of you who have been putting your chapter’s first paragraphs out there, Bravo! I know that some of you are used to sharing your work and have thicker skin, but some of you are first-timers, and I’m trying not to bruise you while still nudging you into picking up more tools to make your work stand out. I love words and the patterns they make, and I know it’s hard. We have all levels of skills here, but every single one of us begins writing crap. (laugh) I have three years of exceptionally crapy crap carefully, and lovingly, tucked away.

One thing I’ve noticed is that with a lot of you, there’s a lot of telling me what has happened in the few hours before the action really starts, presumably somewhere on paragraph three or four. Sometimes, it’s necessary, but trying to put too much in front of the action tires the reader and cheats you of a chance to connect your reader with your main characters. If you think you are guilty of this, and trust me, I am, go back and find out what’s important in the first few paragraphs, and put that right up front. Start with the pop, whether it be a thought, action, or place setting, and work backward adding all the other stuff you skipped as you go along. Take your time and show us. It’s a chance to flesh out the world and characters. Slow. Down.

I guess what I’m saying is that while we perceive and process information by peripheral stuff and moving in, don’t write that way. Give us the gut feeling, then move out. It will naturally ground your reader in the character and action.

If you’re not sure what I mean, try starting with dialog. It naturally pulls you into action. And if you don’t like it, throw it out. Nothing is ever really wasted.

So, bouncing back to a previous, added chapter:

Chapter five
SKINS

The heat of the noon sun cut off sharply as Sam left the drive and slipped under the old-growth trees. It took several more steps, careful in his flip-flops and with that glass of water, before he got past the tangled cluster of vegetation at the edge and the humidity vanished to let the cool of the forest envelop him. His path suddenly easier, Sam followed his intuition as he looked for Fenix.

But his thoughts, as he moved ever deeper into the silence, were on Natalie: the way her utter exhaustion had vanished in the excitement of discovery, the dirt on her chin, herself covered in grass and flushed from exertion. She’d looked marvelous, and a pang of loss suddenly struck through Sam. It wasn’t fair. Now that he knew he was going to live long enough to have the time for a relationship, he wasn’t “allowed” to have one.

As you can see, I am breaking my rule of trying to start with dialog, but the action in the first paragraph is taking place as the reader reads it, not in the past. We don’t see what happened a few hours ago until the second paragraph, and even that is tied back to the present with Sam’s pang of loss being actively felt, followed by his thoughts.

I also give you a good grounding in what the day is like, and that it is in fact, day. There needs to be at least one reminder every page until it’s well set. (sun, shadow, birds song, etc.) I remind you he’s in flip-flops, and therefore his slow movements are because of twigs and sticks. I don’t really have to tell you about them because anyone who’s been walking in the woods with flip-flops knows.

And most important, when he gets past them and moves faster, the reader will naturally relax, pulling them deeper into Sam’s character. Manipulating the reader this way is tricky, but wow, it has a lot of impact when done well. What I’ve got here is kind of middling, but it’s there.

Your turn!

33 Comments

Filed under Drama Box