Tag Archives: writing advice

I’m liking this year’s tour

It’s July, which means in the Harrison Household, we’re watching the Tour de France every night for the better part of three weeks. That’s right, three hours of cycling every night, for 21 days. (And before you judge me, check out the required uniform.)


These guys are impressive for a lot of reasons. When you crash, you don’t go to the locker room and sit the rest of the game out. You get back on the bike, ride next to the med car, get your skin stuck back together, and finish riding the 100 miles left. Then you get back on the bike again in the morning and do it again.

It’s not a job that you can do as a hobby, but one you have to be totally invested in to compete. You have to monitor your food intake for possible accidental steroid ingestion, there is constant attention in regards to your physical state just so you can compeate. And it’s not like you can go into the gym for a couple of hours, and call it good. You have to get on the bike and do it, for hours at a lonely time. It’s a lot like writing in that respect, but whereas authors get chair butt, cyclists get to wear spandex–and look good in it.

I like the balance of the team and individual that cycling has where there is a goal, but it’s the individual sacrifice and skill that makes it happen. It’s a game of strategy, not just a bunch of guys out in a group. Each team has a leader, who’s generally strong all around, but can give a good sprint at the end and win the stage. He’s helped up to the front by the rest of the team, who draft off each other, the front guy pealing off when he gets fatigued to let the next guy pull until they reach the end, and the leaders of every other team fight it out for the last 100 or so meters.


That’s the theory.

This year, a series of crashes have pulled out many of the leaders of the teams that were expected to win, and in some teams, the leader backup. The result? There are no more expectations. Let me say that again. There are no more expectations–and as a result, EVERYONE thinks they might have a shot at a piece of glory. Everyone is doing things outside of their normal responsibilities of the team. Everyone is pushing themselves, having the chance in this short span of time to show that they can do more than shunt bottles from the car to other team members or ride 150 miles just so they can pull the rest of the team for a scant hundred yards.

UnknownThey are riding. They are doing what they love. And they are crashing. They are failing. They are getting their hopes snatched out from under them. But this year . . . they are trying beyond what everyone expects of them. And every now and then they cross that line first–because they saw a chance to shine and they took it, ran with it, made it their moment.

CYCLING-FRA-TDF2014The best part? Even when it doesn’t work, they are getting the chance to show they have what’s needed to get the job done.

Don’t buy into the lie that just because others can do it better than you that you can’t do it as well.



Fail? The med car will stitch you up.




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Inspiration. Not as glam as you might think.

How am I supposed to work on a day like this? Sunny and warm, and it’s only going to get better. If I had a plant to put in the ground, it would be all over, but it’s Tuesday, and I intentionally don’t put temptation in front of my until at least Friday afternoon. I will get through the day on caffeine and pure grit, watching the kids skate by on their skateboards and stay-at-home parents walking the dogs and kids. Urrrrrrg. Windows . . . open.

And then Guy comes in to my office for our daily morning coffee/tea, and somehow the conversation brings up a particular, odd, character trait and why she’s doing it, and it leads to the thought she might want to take a joy ride because you can tell a car by the fob sitting next to the coffee mug, and then the next thing you know, there’s a new love interest. Crap on toast. I have to rewrite my entire friggin’ outline.

I love this job, even with the headaches, because making something out of nothing is the coolest thing ever.


Female Rose Breasted Grosbeak? (Southern Michigan)





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Woodpeckers are smacking the eaves

It may be cold, but the sun is rising in a clear sky this morning, and I’m betting that it gets warmer than the paltry 33 they are forecasting. The chipmunks have been up now for two days, and that sun is hot. Hang in there. The warmth is coming. You can’t stop the sun. You can only delay it for a time.

I’m listening to Electric Area on my Sirius this morning. I can take about an hour of it and then the “boots-and-pants” begin to drive me nuts, and then it’s over to Chill or maybe Spa if I am really strung out. And I’ll admit I’m a bit strung out today, but in a good way. The plotting for Peri II is going extremely well, as in I know this has the bones to be the best thing I’ve written to date. I can’t wait to get it on paper so I can go back to Peri I and bring some of this new sparkle to it. I’m pulling from OMG-everywhere, and it’s draining even as the exhilaration has me at it until the next idea is teased out, tried, and worked in or abandoned.  Hence the need to shift to something very calming on the radio. This is nothing new, but feels compacted this time, a pattern that’s becoming recognizable and allows for better control, because when the mind shifts over to pure creativity with no regard to reality, the messy chaos follows you out of the office door and into the real world. If you’re not watching for it, it will break things.

I’m not explaining this very well, but if I go silent on the blog for a few days, it’s only because I’m working, and will only stop in here to mention stuff like it being the last chance to get a personalized The Undead Pool. (Seriously, it is. I’m going in tomorrow to sign in the back room, and from then on, it will be signature only. International is okay, but email them for a quote first at nicolasbooks@tds.net. And be sure to tell them when ordering whose name you want it signed to, or you’ll just get a book. [order signed book]

I won’t be going utterly silent, because that just doesn’t work for me, ( I love my FB) but I probably won’t have an organized thought on my blog until at least Monday. 🙂





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Straight on until morning

So, Friday’s response to my little dragon was humbling.  Thank you everyone who commented. I can’t begin to answer you all. 🙂 Those of you who were asking about a pattern–give me about a month? I have to put in all the things that connect the dots and make it reproducible. I’m almost done with my bunny, and then I’ll be back with it, rested and ready.

And speaking of getting back, I find myself back with Peri today. I promised myself I wasn’t going to crack open her ms for at least three months to let it rest. I’ve got ideas of how to tweak and clarify, but I’m not doing anything but making a list of changes right now. All that frustration will be funneled into putting the second Peri book closer to reality.

IMG_1045Today, I’ll be working with paper and pencil, not turning my work computer on for anything but perhaps printing out 40 or so pages with a header. At least I have a title. (grin) I’d share it, but chances are it’s going to be changed. Which is too bad. It’s totally wicked, and I took care to pattern it after what marketing seems to like. (Yes, I do pay attention to stuff like that.)

Forty blank pages. I’ll probably put stuff on about fifteen of them today, probably keeping three as being useful–a page of hard plot (saving the world) a page of soft plot (relationships that forge a sympathetic union between the protagonists and readers) and a page of stuff for me. (things I think are cool that should be included) From there, a synopsis is born, and maybe by Wednesday, I might start detailing out some chapters.

Sad thing is that the finished product is going to look so far away and distant from what I started so painstakingly with. If, as a writer, you can’t let go of good ideas for better ones, you’re only making your world ten times more difficult. And this is coming from a hardcore plotter!



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How hard was it? someone asked me.

So, I’m over at Wattpad today, checking out how many people have read the first installment of Trouble on Reserve, (cause I’m curious like that) and I realize there’s a little talk button, and someone’s asked me a question. Oh, I’m torn. I had told myself I could take on one more PR commitment as long as it didn’t involve one-on-one interaction with the readers, as in personal emails, and I don’t know if this is a public forum or private. But I clicked it, and was immediately thrown back to my awkward past.

Someone wanted to know how hard it was to become published.

Sigh. Okay, do I even have the knowledge that this person is looking for anymore? I mean, I found publication before e-books and when self-publishing was 300 oversized copies you carry around in your trunk. There was hardly an internet, spammers were just learning to spam, the Big 6 were really six publishers, and slush piles were still a viable option.

But one part of my answer is still valid. It was hard. Emotionally, trying to get someone to look at my work and say yes was like a barren woman’s ache for a child, a young girl pinning after her first-love, a two-year-old with a skinned knee just wanting his mom. It was a hurt, a need, a lizard-brain gut reaction of must-have.

The want was awful, but from it came the determination I needed to develop the bravery to share my work, learn how to find good advice, and then adapt my work so it was more professional. So when I’m asked, “How hard was it to become published?” my answer will always be, It didn’t matter how hard it was.  I had to do it.

Feed your lizard-brain. Wear the N off your keyboard. Get published.




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He held still for almost three seconds

BeeBalmSwallowtailIt took two years, but I finally brought in one of the bigger butterflies to my office garden. It was the bee balm that did it, and though I know it’s not a good idea to attract birds and butterflies to the same area, I did it anyway–the bee balm is there for the humming birds, too. And the bees. Wow, they are so intent I can brush right by them, knock them off the flower, and they just don’t care.

Yesterday was an odd one at my desk, and I have a feeling I’m looking at my new normal for about a couple of weeks.  The chapter I did yesterday is done and in the cabinet, and I’ll be moving on to the next one today. It’s in no way, shape, or form, finished, though. This story has so many aspects to it, and I know I’m just brushing the surface. I can’t get it all down in one go. It would not only be too exhausting (mentally) but I’m not sure of the pacing of it, so it’s one of those cases where you have to get the story on paper before you can go back and put in the real stuff: the stuff that matters at the end of the day, the stuff that keeps you wondering, because you, as the reader, know there will be some sense of closure about the hard plot of saving the world, but the soft plot of emotions and self-growth? Yeah, that’s what makes it good. And with Grace, the story is there, you just can’t see it yet.

I’m closing my office door at the end of the day somewhat frustrated, knowing it’s not done, but having to be satisfied with what I’ve got and pressing on in the morning. And it’s not going to get any better until I finish this first run through, so I’d better get used to it. –laugh–


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Dude, I had a great weekend where I was able to do nothing at all, and so I got tons done. 🙂 It’s how I roll. I think it’s the first unscheduled weekend Guy and I have had for much of the summer, and I took the opportunity to move a few plants around in my yard. The sun/shade areas have shifted since we moved in and we trimmed up some trees and let others grew like mad. I move plants like some people move furniture, and now a shady iris bed is back in the sun. Looks kind of wilty right now, but they’ll perk up.

I’ll be working with Grace today after taking Friday to re-outline the last ten or so chapters. This thing needs so much work. I can see layers and layers, but I’m only scratching the surface right now, and it’s driving me mad. The temptation to start over at chapter one is great, but I need to finish it first before I can rewrite, or I’ll never get it done.


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Happy summer solstice

It’s the summer solstice! Longest day of the year. Before I moved back home and lived in South Carolina, I would sometimes pull up a live web-cam of the Mackinaw Bridge at sunset (local time) to see the sun still up at that different lattatude. The longitude, (North and South lines) were the same, but the latitude had changed enough that it made a big difference, especially this time of year.

Most readers probably don’t notice or care, but one of the first things I do when starting a book is spend a few hours printing out a chart of sunrise/set, moonrise/set, twilight data for each location in the books. Usually I’ve only got one, but PALE DEMON had a bunch, and it was interesting seeing how latitude as well as longitude changed things.

If you write, it’s a great resource. http://aa.usno.navy.mil/data/docs/RS_OneYear.php


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I’m in a good ways into my new work in progress, and since I’m going more pantser on this one than usual, I’m finding my characters are more malleable than I generally like to work with, changing professions and backgrounds with a lose fluidity as I find what works best with the unchanging needs of the story. Frankly, it’s a glorious mess right now.

The thought process and actions of the character, though, seem to be unchanging, which is why I’m forging ahead and leaving him, say, a carpenter in chapter one, and a ship’s captain in chapter five, making notes as to what has changed in the upper margin and forging ahead.

I guess what I’m saying is that I could spend a month on the first fifty pages trying things out, or I could write two hundred ugly pages, knowing I will need to go back and change things, but all through those two hundred pages, I will be finding out what works, what doesn’t. Even if nothing changes, I will be rewriting those two hundred pages at least three more times, so no hit, no foul. Let’s get on with it and write the story.


Thank God for malleable characters, the ones that can take the tugs and pulls of the creative process–become stronger for it, smelted in the fires of inspiration and folded and refolded like steel until they are the sword that cleaves to the soul and shows us who we are–or could be.


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And then there were leaves

I get about three days a year where the maple trees are strewn with flowers/helicopters, before the leaves come out. The trees don’t look anything like themselves, either in color or shape, and the unusual pale green color against the blue of the sky is singular and breathtaking. I wait for it every year. This year it started on Friday, and will end probably today as the leaves finish coming out.

Needless to say I didn’t get much book work done on Friday.

I am pleasantly tired and worn out from my weekend of gardening and potting up some annuals into hanging baskets, and hanging out with my folks a bit at a garden center. We had a full trunk and plants on our laps on the way home, so it was a success. The yard is really starting to look nice again, and I’ve been busy tweaking and adjusting things to suit my sensibility. But having said that, I should add that I’m tired, pleasantly tired. I don’t always sleep well, but working myself into exhaustion always results in a restful sleep and I appreciate it.

It should be a great work week. I got up almost a half an hour early to start it. The more I  reserve my weekends for non-book work, the more productive I am during the other five days. Or maybe I’m just too tired to do anything other than sit at my desk and move my fingers . . .


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