Flying by the Seat of my Pants: Are You a Pantser or Plotter?

I am such a pantser!

A total pantser. Not a plotter do I want to be.  Pantser-vs-Planner

I don’t go around plotting the de-pantsing of the waistline challenged. No, that’s not what I’m talking about here. I write of the writer who writes with no plot in mind. Well, at least not a by-the-numbers plot, anyway.

Of course I have a beginning and an end in mind, but I prefer the meandering path that my characters tend to take me on. At times, I do have to rein them in, because they can get a little crazy (although, that’s not always a bad thing), and get them back on a more direct path.

About two weeks ago, my characters grabbed me by the belt loops and yanked really hard. They were so excited about a little plot  twist they wanted to show me. Yeah, it was good, so I jotted it down for when I get to that point in my book. When will I get there you ask? I’ll know it when I do. That’s what being a pantser is all about.

I don’t get out the note cards, or dry erase board, or cover my wall in Post It notes (I do have a dry erase board covered in sticky notes and a couple of note cards), or hang poster boards with my story written from beginning to end. That’s just not my style. I listen to my characters, let them have their say, sometimes let them have their way. I hope for the best. That a good story will emerge from the chaos in my head. But, if it doesn’t, I will take a step back and do a little off-the-cuff plotting to connect the dots and then continue on my writerly ramble.

I love my plotter friends, don’t misunderstand. Neither method is right or wrong. It’s all in the way our brains work. I get a kick out of reading the plot board in my critique partners office. It works for her. The notes on my aforementioned board say things like check out this band, your character ________ says, __________, this would be a good blog title, remember this quote.

Very random stuff.

At some point in my novel, I will go back and look at it chapter by chapter. See if the characters have led me into any gaping holes. It’ll be looked at by my critique groups and beta readers. Then it will go on to an editor who will most definitely find the error of my comma usage (and probably other grammar infractions). In the mean time, I’m happily pantsing my way through this story and thoroughly enjoying the ride.

For those of you who are writers, what’s your style and why? For those who have other goals in life, how do you approach them. Are you a pantser? Or, are you a plotter?

Hang on to your belt loops and your story boards!

RGPantserquote-Bradbury

Science Fiction/Science Fact

I know that Mother’s Day was a month ago, but since then, I’ve been thinking about technology.

How many of you remember The Jetson’s?

Star Trek is easier because they’re still squeezing out movies based on the science fiction of Gene Roddenberry.

I know the comparisons have been made before, but I want to tell you how this has affected me.

My daughter is in the UK going to school. My parents are in another state. Until recently, contact has been by phone, e-mail, text, or other means of written, faceless communication.

This Mother’s Day was unique. I Facetimed with both my daughter, my mother, and my sister. Not simultaneously, as there is a time difference you know.

Skype

Skype

iPad/Phone - Facetime

iPad/Phone – Facetime

Before I left the house to meet my son for lunch and Iron Man III (which was awesome, by the way), I Facetimed with my daughter. I love this program. It’s made the world a whole lot smaller. I can see my daughter, who is over 3,000 miles away, in real time. I have to mention Skype as well, can’t forget that.

While my son and I were having lunch, my sister called. “Do you have Facetime? I’m taking my iPad to Mom & Dad’s and we could Facetime. I’ll be there in five. I’ll text you.” She said all this without a breath and barely paused for me to say “Yes, but I’m at a restaurant, I’ll have to get a Wi-Fi connection.” FYI, this is at the mall, need I say more.

While I’m connecting, this text comes. “It’s not working.”

By now my son is laughing.

I text back. “Connecting, give me a sec.”

Less than a second later. “Still not working.” Another nanosecond, my phone rings. “It’s not working.”

“I’m trying to connect, you need to give me time. I will contact you.”

“Okay.” Click

I get the box telling me I’m connected do I agree to the terms of use? Just as I click ‘I agree,’ the phone vibrates in my hand.

“It’s still not working.” My sister is not known for patience.

I calmly connect to Facetime and wait for her to respond. My son chuckling the whole time.

“You got it to work! That’s so awesome. What did you do?”

“I got a Wi-Fi connection, like I said.”

This zips right past her and she’s shoving her iPad in my parents’ faces.

My parents are in their mid-eighties. My mother seemed to think the pad was one of those photo frames and kept pointing at us, obscuring the camera. My dad, who has always been fascinated with technology, takes it and keeps turning it this way and that. All that aside, it was nice to be able to see them while we talked. I hope we do the same thing for Father’s Day.

We still still flock to movies and watch shows that are considered science fiction even though we have much of the technology in our hands. Is it me, or do these forms of entertainment have a more present day feel to them? As if you could step on the Starship Enterprise and feel right at home.

On another note, I have to mention the other science fictionyfact (yep, I made that up) that Jean-Luc Picard was often shown with . . .

Kindle/Nook/Reader

Kindle/Nook/Reader

Gives a whole new meaning to having your nose in a book.

How has Facetime/Skype made your world a little smaller? How do you feel about that?

You have the Com, ~ RG

I HAVE AN ANNOUNCEMENT!

This Saturday, June 15th, I will have an author interview with Lisa Fender and Toni Burns, co-authors of Fable, Book 1 of the Lorn Prophecy. Don’t miss this stop on their blog tour!

Enter the World of the Djen – Author/Character Interview

I am so excited!

This is my very first guest post and I’m so happy my first blog guest is my critique partner and friend, Lisa Fender. Her debut novel, Fable – Book I of the Lorn Prophecies is slated to launch April/May of this year. I’m ecstatic for her! I’ve been critiquing her work for the past two years and know exactly how much this means to her.

Not only did Lisa answer my questions about her book and writing, she brought Jack Snow, one of her characters with her. Jack is the long-time friend of her protagonist Stevie Barrett, and one of my personal favorites.

So, let’s jump into the world of the Djen, the inhabitants of Djenrye, a parallel dimension to our own.

I’ll start with some questions for you, Lisa.

RG – Lisa, I know you’ve been working on this book for four years and you’re looking forward to seeing it in print.  What has been the most rewarding thing for you as you’ve gone through the process of writing and revising?

Lisa – Seeing the book actually become a wonderfully written novel! When I first wrote the rough-draft I knew there was something wrong, but I couldn’t fix it. I had to take classes, hire a writing coach, and once I realized what was missing, (creative writing skills) the book became something I wanted to read!

Lisa and Tanya

Lisa & Toni

RG – You’ve been working with a co-author, who is also your sister, Toni Burns. How has that been and do you feel the two of you are closer for working together?

Lisa – It has been a great experience! We are now closer than ever. For some reason we are in sync with each other. We are always in each other’s head. But, to try and do it alone, well I am at a blank. I’m so glad she loves the story as much as I!

RG – Fable – Book I of the Lorn Prophecies, is the first in the series. How many books are planned?

Lisa – That is a question I don’t know if I can answer. Originally there was going to be 3, a trilogy. But, we decided to add short stories about Djenrye in between releases of the novels. And, we have discussed there being 5 novels, so that’s a lot of books…we’ll see.

RG – Okay, Lisa, give us a blurb about Fable . . . Jack, put your hand down, it’s still Lisa’s turn.  Where was I–oh, I think the readers will be fascinated by the world you’ve created.

Lisa – At eighteen, Stevie Barrett, discovers that she has powers, visions, and is from another dimension parallel to this world. Most startling yet, she is destined to save both worlds from total destruction. Her nemesis seeks to control the five ancient Orbs (Orteh, in the Djen tongue) that maintain the Earth’s balance—the spheres she is meant to protect—but to do so, he must drain her blood and powers. Stevie’s challenge is to embrace her birthright as the last surviving Guardian of the Orbs, learn to use her abilities, and accept exile from the only home she has ever known, if she is to save herself and everyone she loves.

Okay, Jack. Now it’s your turn.

RG – How old are you, Jack, and how long have you known Stevie Barrett?

Jack – Old enough to know better and young enough not to care. (Glare from Lisa) Okay, okay, eighteen. I’ve known Stevie since we were kids. Maybe, twelve or thirteen years? But, she didn’t succumb to my manly charms until about eight years ago. (Lisa shakes her head)

RG – I know you were pretty put out about the appearance of Colton in Stevie’s life. How’s that working for you?

Jack – Seriously? Like I have anything to worry about from a warrior god from another dimension who is my best friend’s soul mate…okay, never mind. We’ll always have Golden.

RG – Are you ever serious?

Jack – Like a heart attack. Hey Stevie’s still my bud, and Alyssa’s still my…well, that’s turning out to be another story all together.

RG – What’s the first thing you thought when you found out your friend isn’t human? That’s got to be a mind blower.

Jack – You aren’t kiddin! But hey, having a superhero friend is pretty intense. A cool kinda intense.

RG – These Djen guys are pretty serious and dangerous. Are you afraid for your life?

Jack – Nah. I’m mean, look at me…

(Jack winks at RG)

RG –  (rolls eyes) You and Detective Wood play a big part in Stevie and Colton’s quest to find the missing Orteh (orb). How does is make you feel to be included in the search?

Jack – Included? Why wouldn’t they include me? I’m Colton’s co-warrior and Wood’s IT guy.

RG – Okay, final question. Now that you know Stevie is spoken for, is there a new love in your life?

Jack – I don’t know if I’d say L…O…V…E. But, well, have you met that cute nimble little gymnast Stevie and I hang out with? Anyone who can do a back bend like Alyssa…I’m just sayin.

(Lisa sighs, RG raises eyebrows)

Jack – What?

RG – Thank you Lisa and Jack for visiting with me today.

Lisa – Thanks for having us, Robin! Wouldn’t miss it!

Jack – Anytime doll-face. And if you need any help fighting off warriors from another dimension, give me a call (Lisa punches Jack in the arm). Hey! I’m just sayin…

Fable – Book I of the Lorn Prophecies by Lisa Fender, with Toni Burns will be available soon. I will post the launch date as soon as that’s decided. You can follow Lisa and Toni at the links listed below.

http://www.facebook.com/FableBookI

http://www.lisafender.com/

https://twitter.com/LisaFender1

https://twitter.com/ToniBurnsMe

RG Calkins

http://rgcalkins-author.com

https://www.facebook.com/RGCalkins.Author

https://twitter.com/RGCalkinswrites

Welcome to 2013

I started 2013 with the beginnings of a cold (heavy sigh). You would say that isn’t a good thing, but it’s just a cold. Overall, I have good vibes about the new year. I usually don’t feel one way or the other about it, but sometimes I get–I don’t know–an intuitive sense about things. So, even though I had a cold (had, you hear me), there have been a couple of things that I’m putting in the good column.

January 2nd – I was notified that I won the December, Darker Times short story contest. This is my second win. I sent in 2 stories for December and the other one received an honorable mention. Both will be published in the Darker Times Anthology Volume Two.

January 3rd – I had a job interview. More on this later.smiley-teeth

Hey, it’s a start.

I don’t make resolutions and sometimes I wonder who’s idea they were. I secretly think that some really drunk guy did. He woke up on January 1st with a massive hangover and said, “I resolve never to touch another drop of alcohol.” He repeated it to a friend and they told another friend and so on. Next New Year’s Eve he’d forgotten all about that resolution, as did his buddies, and several pints into the new year they were making the same determination again. Tradition started.

I am going to set at least one goal. That is to finish the revisions on my first novel and start the process of getting it published. I have some other goals  pending, but I need to flesh them out and prioritize before I state them.

Have you had any good things happen so far? Do you make resolutions or goals? Is 2013 going to be the year of the Happy Dance for you?

snoopy.happy dance

RG

Short Is Sweet!

Over the past month and a half, I’ve written three short stories, submitted two to a monthly contest, and one to a friends blog for the Halloween season. This little writing side trip has been fun, revealing, rewarding, and a palette cleanser.

In September, I entered and won the Darker Times Fiction contest with my horror short, No Lights. I surprised a few folks who weren’t aware of the darker side lurking beneath my surface. In October, I entered Pay the Piper, a supernatural piece, and was rewarded with second runner up. Both of these stories will be published in the Darker Times Anthology (date to be announced) and will be available in e-book and paperback. This has me pretty giddy as they will be the first pieces I’ve had published since a poem, in another anthology, in 2000.

In the spirit of Halloween, I also rallied to a request from a friend to write flash fiction (although mine is over the word count a bit) to post on her blog for the haunting season. I’m going to keep this one under wraps as I may be able to enter it in the November Darker Times contest.

While I hope that I can add more short stories to my repertoire, the next big goal is to get my novel published. That brings me back to why this venture into the dark side has been cleansing. It has made me eager to dive back into the revisions on my book, shown me some things I need to do to make it better, and helped me realize I have a character that needs some TLC.

Stay tuned!

I’m Watching You

I have been all over the page lately. My brain on overdrive.

Maybe it’s the change in weather.

Maybe it’s the month.

Maybe it’s just that my imagination feeling rather hyper.

The way my brain feels.

Anyway, I thought I’d do a little review piece to further send the synapses into acceleration.

Anyone know John Reeves? No? Well, you should.

He’s the hero of an action/thriller series by Kirkus MacGowen. The book I’m going to talk about in this post is Wrath, the second book in the series. The first one is The Fall of Billy Hitchings if you want to read them in order.

Wrath picks up with John Reeves return to his hometown where he’s dealing with a little bad family blood, working with an accountant and wannabe, although inept, private detective, and a vengeful, psychopathic, serial killer.

Wrath is a visceral read. It makes you feel the action and some of it doesn’t feel that great if you’re a little squeamish. I found myself drawn in with most of my senses, the descriptions acutely visual.

The one issue I had with it was I wanted a little more John Reeves. This book dealt with his relationship to his ‘estranged’ brother and I felt there was enough of the brother, but not quite enough of John. If you read both books, you’ll see what I mean.

However, that one issue doesn’t keep me from giving Mr. MacGowen’s book a huge thumbs up. I’m looking forward to reading the next John Reeves adventure.

The psychotic in this novel got my appetite ready for the Halloween season. The next two reviews are witchy in nature. Although both have a little vamp and ‘other’ supernatural in the mix.

First is A Discovery of Witches, a supernatural tale woven by Deborah Harkness.

Diana is reluctant to embrace her witch heritage, but when the historian of alchemy stumbles on a ancient manuscript that only       opens for her, the supernatural world around her closes in.

Deborah Harkness creates a rich world of witches, vampires and daemons in this book, the first of three. I did not want to put this                    down. It kept me engrossed and pulled me from England to France to New York and then into time itself where it left me, anxiously waiting for more.

I guess I have to get the next book, huh?

Next is The Forever Girl: Sophia’s Journey by Rebecca Hamilton.

This was an intriguing read about a young Wiccan who discovers that she’s a descendant of elemental witches and a forever girl. I’m not going to go into all that because I want you to read and find out for yourself.

There is mystery aplenty in Ms. Hamilton’s first book of the series. Cruors (vampiric beings), Strigoi (shifters), and many more paranormal beings. There’s also an unsolved murder or two.

This is more of a YA or New Adult read, but I enjoyed it immensely. I did have one issue. The ending. I wish it had left me with a stronger feeling that there is more to come. It did and it didn’t, so I would be okay if it was a stand alone or a series. Since it’s billed as Book #1, then it needs to be a little more leading.

That’s it for book reviews. I would like to throw in a theatrical review even thought the musical is ending this week.

I recently saw a production of Three Penny Opera at the Miners Alley Playhouse in Golden, Colorado. I just want to say Bravo! Also, if you love the arts in any way, shape, or form, check out your local theatre productions. The big stage is not the only place to see excellent theatre. Support the little guy.

Well, I succeeded in throwing my head into a more frenetic tail spin. Anyone have something they’d like to recommend?

If at first…try, try again.

Hello,

I’m back.

The heading on this post is something my parents always told us growing up. I’m not sure where the quote is from…actually (after looking it up) The proverb has been traced back to ‘Teacher’s Manual’ (1840) by American educator Thomas H. Palmer and ‘The Children of the New Forest’ (1847) by English novelist Frederick Maryat (1792-1848). “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

The past month has been full of good news, bad news and all sorts of business.

Prior to my last post, my friend and critique partner’s father died. Right after that, my daughter graduated from University of Wyoming with a BFA in Theatre & Dance, Technical Theatre-concentration, Lighting Design. About four days after that, she found out that she was accepted to The Royal Welsh College of Drama & Music, into their MA program for Theatre Design.

Up until recently, I was working two jobs. It was as if I had no time to do anything other than work and sleep. My writing suffered from this as well as life in general. Last Thursday, my temporary contract ran out with one of the jobs. So, I’m down to one job, with a weird schedule, and it’s seasonal to boot. I’m looking for something permanent, full-time, because I’m not being supported by my writing yet and one paycheck in the household doesn’t cut it.

I attended the memorial and life celebration of John Wright, my friend Lisa’s father. Complete with clown noses to remember his love of performing that role. He has a beautiful family that will carry on his legacy.

Last Wednesday, another dear friend, Ava, lost a parent. Her mother gave up her struggle with age and is now singing arias with the angels. We will miss you Lucille ‘Loretta’ Ruby Curry. You were a class act and a dear lady. I attended her beautiful  memorial and celebration of life. The reception featured a slide show with music from operas and musicals that she performed in, in New York, Denver, and Central City.

Now my life will consist of looking for that permanent job, finding scholarships and grants to help fund my daughter’s tuition, getting her ready to leave home to study in the UK, and last, but certainly not least, writing.

Yes, I’m determined to get this first novel revised and ready. To flesh out the other two, whose ideas and scenes are waiting patiently in notebooks to be typed in. Today is the first time I’ve set down to simply write, in a while. Yea!

I’m also asking for the support of family and friends. I need feedback, I need encouragement, I need support and to know that someone out there wants to read my work. I can’t tell you how writing makes me feel. Just know that this is something that makes me really happy. To weave a tale in my head and put it on paper. To have characters take on a life of their own and start telling me where they want to go. To have a manuscript that is complete, although it needs revision, is the biggest high.

Now, to take all the hand edited pages and apply them to the pages in my computer. Also, work on a suggestion from my writing coach that will help with my revisions.

I’m going to write now. You my ask yourself, “Isn’t that what she’s been doing on this blog?” Well, yes, but it’s not my book.

Until next time…

The Spirit of Wayward (book teaser)

Last Wednesday, I woke up to my alarm slightly confused and pensive about the dream I’d been awakened from. The scenario was not complete. It ended before I understood what it was about. 

I dreamed about Wayward. This is strange because Wayward is my novel, it’s the conceptual plane that Simon gets pulled into and eventually learns to use. It is, in essence, a character on it’s own.
The really interesting thing about this movie of my subconscious is that not only was I in Wayward, but I could hear Simon’s voice (the same one that tells me to get it gear and do revisions). I was in an area of Wayward called The Field. It’s a place where you can imagine anything you can think of, almost without limit. The only thing I can remember him saying to me is ‘look at it, this is your creation.’ I think he told me other things, but I can only recall that.
While I scanned the area, The Field appeared as I envisioned it in my book, but when I turned around what I saw was dense rainforest. At this point I was joined by my Aunt Genevieve. She lives in Washington State a place that I have a particular fondness for. She did not say anything. We stood there in silence and then she put her arm around my shoulders and hugged me to her. That’s when the alarm went off. I didn’t know why she was there. Only that it was peaceful. 
Aunt Gen had recently suffered a stroke, which was complicated by pneumonia. She has been in hospice care for a few weeks now. I learned later in the day that she had slipped into a comatose state. She woke up a couple of days ago and is still weak, but doing better.
I have to wonder, in that rift between life and death, had she visited me? It’s a premise in Wayward, the connection of subconscious minds. It segues nicely into the book teaser that I’ve chosen. I would not have picked this passage had it not been for the dream. So, first a little intro.
Simon has been pulled back into Wayward by his friend Eli Cusack. In this chapter, Simon discovers that he’s already able to use Wayward and finds Eli willing to answer some of his questions. Eli’s wife, Celeste, has been dead for twelve years, but he’s indicated to Simon that she visits him in Wayward. This excerpt introduces us to Eli’s character arc. I hope you enjoy it.
RG
After several minutes Eli gets up, stretches, and comes to stand beside me. The pole magically disappears as he gets closer. He sets the beer bottle down. “Pick it up.”
It disappears when I try to grab it. I take my hand away and it reappears.
Eli smiles, “I can see your projections, you can see mine, but we can only interact with our own. However, if you had a straw you could put it in my bottle, but–”
“If I tried to drink it, I’d be sucking air.”
“Exactly.”
“So, projections are physical to a point–manifestations are not.”
“You’re beginning to get this. You’ll figure out all the rules in no time.”
“You say Celeste comes here. Is she a manifestation?”
“Oh, no, she’s real. The dead can visit Wayward. There are rules around that as well. We can’t touch, but we can talk. She, like a manifestation, is not corporeal. She can’t touch anything on this plane.”
“Are you saying she floats, like a ghost?”
He laughs at this, “You could put it that way. She has energy about her that I can feel. It’s as much as I can hope for.” A hint of sadness appears in his eyes, but he recovers quickly.
“Where is she when she’s not here?”
“Our ancestors called it Tir Na Nog, the Land of Youth. The Vikings called it Valhalla, some say limbo, whatever your culture or religion’s name is for it. To pass through to the final destination, the spirit or their loved ones must be ready to let go.”
“Are you keeping her here Eli?”
His face clouds over. “Partly. And part of it is her. We haven’t been able to say our final goodbye.”
 

A Peek into Wayward

Finally! I make good on my word to bring a little tidbit of my novel, Wayward.

It’s just a little taste, but hopefully enough to whet the appetite. My protagonist’s name is Simon Farrell and he’s just been through something weird and unsettling with more to come. 

Go ahead, you know you’re just itching to get into Wayward, even if we don’t visit this time. Read this snippet and let me know what you think. 

Regards,
Robin

WAYWARD – CHAPTER ONE
I’m going to land hard, and there’s nothing I can do about it. It’s as if my soul is being sucked back into my body at high velocity. The impact is so abrupt I slam my head into the headboard. A second of blinding white flashes behind my eyes.
“Aw shit,”
I grab my head and wince in pain. My heart hammers in my chest, I gasp for air as though I’ve run a marathon. Sweat drips from my face and runs down my neck.
Just minutes ago, my father chased me out of Cusack’s Shack. Then everything disappeared, went pitch black. A magnetic sensation took over, and I sped through darkness until I could see myself hurtling toward myself. It makes no sense and yet, it does.

Go Ahead–Call Me A Slacker

I haven’t been on here for awhile. I have to get more consistent with this blog thing. Part of my absence is that I said in my last post, that I would be including an excerpt from my book, Wayward, in the next post. Trouble is, I can’t decide what to post. Do I pick something from my first chapter? Do I pull out something from another chapter? What’s just enough to make you want more? Well, you see where my head went with this.

What it really boils down to is me, getting in the way of myself. I just need to kick myself in the posterior and get disciplined to blog at least once a week. Sheesh, what a slacker!

So, this is my apology for being remiss. I’m going to pick out a little tidbit from the novel and post it!

Within two days of this post there will be and excerpt of my book.

See you Friday, February 17th, 2012.
Robin

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