New Short Story: Nicknamed “Summertime”

I couldn’t “hold it” anymore, so to speak, so yesterday when I got home I took a nap, got up, and started typing my new short story.  (I nicknamed it “Summertime” because the protagonist’s love interest is named Summer, but that’s not going to be its title.)

So far, approximately 5,700 words. As expected, it’s going to be a bit long. Probably comparable to “Wind” in length. Actually, it reminds me of “Wind” quite a lot. Maybe like “Wind” meets the Ivy stories.

And I don’t know WHAT it is about male main characters lately, but the last FOUR times I’ve written a short story, my protagonist was a guy.

I envision either two or three more parts, depending on whether the middle two parts are brief enough to squeeze into one. A lot depends on the characters. Not all writers write like this, but for me, I don’t really know quite what directions things will go in when I start writing, especially when all I do is throw two characters together and let them start talking.

Yesterday I had all these swirling ideas about the story that were bludgeoning my brain trying to get out. Most of them were just conversations and reactions between Nick—my protagonist—and his opposite, a girl named Summer. Nick is very easy to write. Summer is harder. I’m not sure about her yet. Her way of talking is so measured. I don’t know all the reasons why yet, but her diction is usually almost forced-sounding. Almost like it’s not really her talking. It makes me curious. Good thing I have Nick there to ask the right questions. (Or the wrong ones, maybe.)

Even though the first scene was the one I had thought about the LEAST, with most of my ideas belonging to scenes further into the story, it seems to have really calmed down now. It’s like the story was a live thing that wanted to make sure it irritated me enough to get itself written, and now that I’ve committed to doing so it’s decided to relax.

I don’t really have time to write this thing so I do want to get it over with as soon as possible.

Never shut up, do you?

I feel like sending a cease and desist order to my brain.

It wants me to write another short story. It’s a great idea. It keeps coming back even when I’m trying to think about other things. I don’t have time to write anything right now.

But I know that feeling too well—the importance of an idea that WILL be used, and what the world looks like when it has dawned on me that I will NOT escape writing it.

Things sort of get fuzzy, with weird soft corners, as the screen full of images and the soundtrack full of dialogue grows thick with piling creative detritus.

I’ll write it all right.

I just don’t know when, or how long I’m going to let it have its temper tantrum until I give in.

Old journals from fifth grade

I’ve been going through some old journals from when I was a child.  I found this hilarious “About Me” packet I had to fill out in fifth grade—full of prompts asking me to provide answers to unimaginative questions that everyone asks kids.

In asking what I wanted to be when I grew up, it said “When I grow up, I want to be a . . . ”

I wanted to be an author.

So I wrote “author” and then I corrected the prompt above by changing “a” to “an.”

That’ll show those jerks who can’t imagine that any kid would want to grow up to be something that starts with a vowel.

I also found this prompted journal entry for “What Makes Me Happy,” in which I announced that I liked writing and wanted to be a writer . . . and that “not having a boyfriend” made me happy.  Guess I was destined to be an aromantic asexual from a young age?

Ready to Query: Finding Mulligan

Okay, enough editing.  Thank you to the following people who helped me in the test audience:

These people read the whole thing and gave comments: Mommy, Fred, Ronni, Mike Lee, Reeny, Jessie, Laura, Victor, Cara, Meggie, Alicorn, Amanda, Rob, Patricia, Jeaux, Daddy, Stacy, Kim, Jeremy, Kalinda, Corinne, and Jay.  These people read part of it and gave comments: Jack, Deborah, Mikey, and Jessika.

My basic query letter (with personalized agent stuff at the beginning, and modified if needed):

Nobody understands the meaning of “a double life” better than Cassandra Howard.  A smart, sarcastic student by day, she becomes a different person at night; Dia, her charismatic second self, is the darling of a fantastical dreamland where she can do anything.  And while Cassie and Dia share their memories, they prefer to keep their lives separate.  That changes when they fall in love.

Mulligan, dreamland’s delicious drummer boy, sets his eyes on Dia.  But Cassie is pretty sick of her other self getting everything good about their life, and she talks Dia into helping her find the waking-world version of her boyfriend.  A mysterious portrait of Mulligan leads Cassie to two candidates: is it Terrell, the model who posed for the painting?  Or is it Jamie, the artist who painted it?  Maddening maybes play tug-of-war in her mind until she finds herself attracted to both guys, and she fears betraying her dream love if she picks the wrong one.

To test her contenders, Cassie begins to impersonate Dia in the waking world, but gets the shock of her life when her counterpart’s magical charisma and talent actually work in her favor.  When lines of identity start blurring beyond their comfort, they’ll have to uncover the nature of dreamland and deal with the repercussions of this love triangle.  (Or . . . love pentagon.  Whatever.)  And one thing’s for sure: dreams of happily ever after do sometimes turn out to be nightmares.

Negative One: Open Window

Last week’s issue of my webcomic Negative One involved a storyline that smashed my audience over the head with a mostly unexpected sudden tragedy.  You don’t get much more horrible than missing children without involving death.

I was pretty depressed about it, even though I knew it was coming.  This is me after I finished drawing it.

So it’s been nearly a week since I posted the update and people are still e-mailing me with tales of woe. Most notably, I’m receiving e-mails from parents who have had close calls with their children similar to what I’ve depicted in #0159, and they’re all talking about how much they hope Amanda’s parents find her.

Gulp. . . .

Looks like we are all in for a really hard couple of months here, ’cause the comic is going to continue to be about this. What choice do I have? I have to deal with what I spawned now.

One parent posted a comment about the issue leaving them “sobbing at the keyboard.”

Another shared a similar experience of losing (but finding) their kid.

And one person’s just mailed to plead for Amanda’s safe return as well as to ask how this couple ended up with an “Elfquest Glider baby.” (I don’t get this reference. Er?)

Well, I cried over this, but I knew I would. I’m the author. I go through whatever the characters go through, sorta-kinda. (Sometimes it can seem pretty real.) It was touching and rewarding and . . . a little disturbing . . . to get so much mail about people crying over my work. I didn’t WANT to upset people, but I guess it’s also a sign that there are tons of people I don’t even know whose lives I am touching once a week by posting this.

I could tell from the hundreds of hits per week, but it’s more real to me when I get the letters.

I hope I have a chance to do this with my novels sometime in the near future.

Finding Mulligan: Page 119

I read something on an agent’s blog about how at some convention they did a workshop where they read page 119 of a bunch of novels, and tried to decide if the novel might be good based on page 119.

Why page 119? No idea.

Out of curiosity, I of course flipped to page 119 of my novel to see if it would seem “good” if this was all you got.

Unfortunately it kind of makes it seem like a straight romance novel, even though it’s not. Heh.  Here’s my Page 119:

“You know what, I never understood why people say roses smell ‘sweet.’ They kind of stink if you ask me. I prefer honeysuckle or gardenias.”

I almost spilled the drink I was pouring when she said that. I steadied my hands and tried like hell not to conjure up the scent of gardenias in my mind.

“So, tell me about him,” she needled me as I brought the beverages into the living room and set them on coasters on the table.

“The flower’s not from a guy,” I said. “I bought it from a gas station.”

“Gas stations sell roses?”

“Yeah, haven’t you ever seen those little cups of roses sometimes, by the cash registers? The one across from the McDonald’s has them.”

“Why’d you buy a rose?”

“I wanted it.”

“But there is a guy, right?”

My cheeks got hot as I tried to cover it by sipping my drink. I glanced at her and saw that familiar mischievous expression. She wasn’t going to let me go. I was going to have to give her some semblance of an answer.

“Actually, I’ve met a couple of guys.”

“Oh, jeez, really?”

“Yes, I’m into two different guys at once. And they’re friends, and I don’t know which one to chase, ’cause they are both sweet guys and they’re talented and hot as hell, and probably not interested in me at all because I’m a boring, stupid freshman.” Okay, that had been more than I had been planning to say.

And that’s that. Amusing exercise!

Completed New Novel: Finding Mulligan

Finished writing Finding Mulligan!

Genre: Young Adult (Crossover?)/Modern Fantasy/Romance/???

Length: 26 Chapters/420 pages/~120,000 words.

Tag line: “What if you fell in love with someone who might not exist?”

Keywords: YA: Fantastical, young adult, romance, dreams, psychological, alternate-world, college, interracial romance, magical realism, young-adult crossover, chronic illness (in a family member).

Protagonist: Cassandra Howard.

POV: First person, past tense.


Cassandra Howard lives a double life—literally. She spends her days worrying about school, hanging out with her best friend, and sulking in the shadow of her chronically ill (and pampered) younger sister. But at night, she’s busy with her charmed life in an alternate universe. In dreamland, Cassie becomes a charismatic, carefree girl named Dia, and she prefers to keep her two lives separate. That changes when she falls in love.

Dia kicks off a fairy-tale romance with Mulligan, dreamland’s delicious drummer boy. But Cassie is pretty sick of her other self getting everything good about their shared life, and she talks Dia into helping her find the waking-world version of her boyfriend. All the clues point to Mulligan existing in both worlds, just like Cassie does.

A mysterious portrait of Mulligan leads Cassie to two candidates: is it Terrell, the model who posed for the painting? Or is it Jamie, the artist who painted it? Maddening maybes play tug-of-war in her mind until she finds herself attracted to both guys, and she fears betraying her dream love if she picks the wrong one.

To test her contenders, Cassie dresses up like Dia and tries to act like her, but gets the shock of her life when some of Dia’s practically magical charisma and talent transfers to her. When lines of identity start blurring beyond their comfort, they’ll have to uncover the nature of dreamland and deal with the repercussions of this love triangle. (Or . . . love pentagon. Whatever.) And one thing’s for sure: dreams of “happily ever after” do sometimes turn out to be nightmares.

Next up: Lots of editing!

The Mystery of the Cigar Box

I was a productive little author this weekend. Two more new chapters!

Actually I had originally planned for these two chapters to be one chapter, but . . . as per usual, the characters got carried away with their conversation, and it seemed like it would be an awfully long chapter if I stuck them together.

So. The book’s total word count so far: 94,751.

Oh noooooo, it’s almost 95,000! It’s inching ever closer to that horrific 100,000-word mark! 🙁

I am not, nor will I ever be, capable of a short novel.

I have a SHORT STORY that’s around 22,000 words. Good lord.

I’m pleased with the chapters. Two scenes that I thought would kill me were easily survivable. This is why I think if these characters ever stop surprising me, it won’t be soon.

So, yes. Couple-fights. Psychoanalysis. Minor injuries. Vegan muffins. Crazy cats. Crying. Grape juice. And EVERYONE is acting sort of creepy now, especially Mulligan. It’s weirding me out.

I can’t wait until I’m done with this monster. I really, really want to share it.

Although . . . I don’t know how the book ends. I rarely do. 🙂

(It’s okay—the characters always figure it out.)

Ah and I have introduced . . . THE MYSTERY OF THE CIGAR BOX!!! What’s inside? Condoms? Rat poison? Yo’ momma?

The world may never know.

About to. . . .

Just a note to say that I’m really nervous. . . .

I’m about to write a really important bit of a chapter that I’ve been putting off in my current work in progress. I’ve been kicking it around in my head and I think it’s ready to come out now, and I wrote the setup and everything, but . . . I’m about to dive in.

I have no idea how exactly it’s going to be written and what this revelation is actually going to DO to my main character’s brain, but it is very hard to pull the rug out from under someone you love—as I love all my characters—and it’s going to be very hard for me to shove all this suspicion and betrayal and realization in her face. I don’t know if she’s going to be shocked or angry or hopeless or just determined or WHAT, but I’ll know once she’s actually in the moment. I can’t write the “wrong” thing once I’m there, even though I don’t know what I’m about to write. . . .

But I kind of don’t want to go there.

Negative One: Several Reviews

My webcomic got featured in Top Webcomics, so I started getting a few more readers and, consequently, more mail about the story than usual.  Reading the mail, I have noticed several themes and things people tend to like about the comic.

  1. They tend to like the characters.
  2. They normally point out that it’s different from every other webcomic they read.
  3. And they like the realness and sincerity and inventiveness of my plot.

Some of them mention they like the art, too, but mostly almost everyone who writes me says something about having experienced a personal connection with the characters or relating to their situation.

One thing I think I do well is write convincingly about things I’ve never been through. I was discussing this with a person who contacted me about the comic recently, and after I told her I’ve never had a baby or gone to another dimension like the characters in the story have, she reacted with surprise, saying, “WHAT? I thought *sure* from this story that you were a mother!” (Paraphrased.) That’s awesome. I guess we’ll never know how convincingly I write about traveling to other dimensions. I don’t think there are any people out there who can say whether I’m doing it right or wrong. Heh.

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