Stories I’d Like to Write: Interlocking Lives

Somewhat related to Tuesday’s post, but another type of story I’d love to try is what I’m calling interlocking lives. This is where the main character is living two lives, without a clear delineation of which is the “real” life, or where there’s a “dream” life that may actually be real.

I feel like I’m not explaining this terribly well. So, uh, let’s say there’s a girl. And she’s a teenager, going through her normal life at high school. But at night, she lives another life, where she’s a elven princess, and it’s the normal, high school life that seems like a dream.

And then, over time, the lives start to bleed into each other, or actions that take place in one life affects things in the other life.

Like the dual timelines, the structure of this idea kind of boggles me. At some point, it seems like one of the lives has to be the “real” one, and that one has to be more important in the end, with the other one being a subplot of some sort. But I don’t know! I’m kind of hoping, when I sit down and plan this sort of story, what I need to do becomes obvious. Or, maybe, as I do more research into this particular type of story structure, everything will all make sense.

This idea has some wish fulfillment tied to it, I think. I think it’s easy to wish that you were more important, or that life was more exciting, or that you’d find true love, or any number of things, and this sort of structure allows you to mix the mundane with the fantastical, or anything really. I tend to fantasy and scifi, of course, but I could see this being used in conjunction with, say, historical romance, where the dream life is somewhere and somewhen else.

And, I mean, why have to choose between urban and high fantasy when you can do them both?

This idea is one that has appealed to me for a long time, but unfortunately, liking an idea doesn’t necessarily come supplied with a story to actually go along with it. Maybe I’ll poke this for a bit and see if I can’t put something together for Nano, and this can be my new thing to try for November this year.

What do you think, squiders? Got any recommendations for books where a character is living in two different times/places/worlds?

Stories I’d Like to Write: Dual Timeline

It’s summer, so time for a blog series, amirite? I am right. Because it’s my blog. So there.

For this year’s series, I thought I’d focus on stories I’d like to write someday. Because writing, like anything else, is a skill, and some things are things that are advanced, that take time and practice before you can pull them off. And I keep a list of things I’d like to try some day. And maybe the day will be soon! Or maybe it will be in five, ten years. But, you know, someday.

One thing that has always really interested me is stories with interlocking timelines. You’ve probably read some of these. I find them a lot in family dramas. There’s a modern timeline, and normally a historical timeline, but they’re interconnected, what’s happening in the past relating to the present, and vice versa.

This seems very complicated to me. I think it’s because pacing has historically been one of the harder parts of writing for me, so the idea of having two stories lining up, echoing each other, feels impossibly hard.

You’ve got to have two stories that match up somehow, same theme, mirrored challenges, something along those lines. And they have to do it with the same cadence, the same beats, so that the two stories make a coherent whole.

I mean, I don’t know what I would do. I don’t have much interest in writing a straight family drama. Maybe one with supernatural influences. Or! Or I could set it in a fantasy world. Oooh. Now that does sound interesting. A “modern” fantasy story interacting with an older one, maybe part of that world’s mythology or something like that. Yes. I like that a lot.

On one hand, it seems like if you can figure out the pacing and mirroring, it does seem like the writing might be a little easier–instead of one 80,000 word story, you’ve got two 40,000 word stories. But I am a little confused about beats in general. Do both storylines have the same level of rise and fall? Does the secondary timeline function on its own or more of a subplot?

Of course, it’s questions like these that make it why this is something to try in the future. Got to figure out the structure of the thing first.

Do you like dual timeline stories, squiders? I suppose you could do more than two, though that does seem like it might get a little unwieldy. Have you seen dual timelines in genres other than family dramas?

Making Paperback Copies?

After I posted about Half-Formed Places on Friday, a friend asked if there would be a paperback version of it, which was honestly not something I had considered.

It’s not a terribly long book, but I do know that some people do prefer to have a paper copy of anything, and maybe it would be worth it to make it available to those who want it.

But then I got to thinking–there’s quite a few books I only have out as ebooks. Both short story collections, and all the Writers’ Motivation Books (the workbooks, on the other hand, are only available in paperback). Should I make them all both digital and physical?

Certainly something to think about.

I can tell you why I haven’t. I make most of my own covers, and it is a million times easier to make an ebook cover than a paperback cover. A paperback cover you need to know the exact number of pages, because it’s all one big wraparound file, and there’s bleeding and margins to worry about, and it needs to be a high enough resolution to print clearly–just a lot more things to have to think about and plan for.

(But, Kit, you say, then why didn’t you make ebook versions of the workbooks? That’s a separate but different issue. The workbooks are in a pdf format, since there’s a lot of lines and margins and other things to worry about internally. You can upload a pdf for a paperback book, but you canNOT upload a pdf for an ebook, and I haven’t figured out how to convert the files without everything falling apart.)

Anyway, that’s a lot of moaning, and the long story short is that I’m willing to fight with the covers if paperback versions are something that appeal to people.

So, here’s a poll:

Thanks for your feedback, squiders! I always appreciate your thoughts on these types of things. Otherwise I feel like I’m just shouting into the void, and the void often agrees with whatever I want to do.

Got a new blog series starting next week, so I will see you then!

Promo: An Unwitting Trickster by Kai Strand

Good afternoon, squiders! Got a book promo for you today. Looks interesting!

 


Young Adult Fantasy / Mythology

Date Published: 06-08-2021



Immortal Trickster, Luke, is starting a fresh life in a new-to-him seventeen-year-old body. With yet another lifespan stretched out in front of him, he’s questioning what purpose his endless compulsion to play tricks serves.

Agnar, a Thor look-alike claiming to be his adoptive brother from the planet Asperian, appears to declare Luke has been away from home too long. One problem. Luke doesn’t remember Agnar or living on another planet.

With more questions than answers, Luke cautiously agrees to accompany his “brother” back to Asperian, but the travel portal rejects him, leaving him behind to continue his mundane life of trickery. When interplanetary soldiers show up intent on killing him, he’s forced into hiding and his list of unanswered questions grows.

Will Luke remain trapped on Earth forever, pulling meaningless pranks? Or will he finally figure out his true purpose?


About the Author

Award winning Kai Strand, author of the action packed Super Villain Academy series, is often found exploring hiking trails and snapping pictures of waterfalls in her Oregon hometown. Mother of four, Kai uses her life experiences to connect with young readers. With middle grade works such as Save the Lemmings, The Weaver Tale series, and The Concord Chronicles series, and emotional YA adventures like Finding Thor, I Am Me, and Worth the Effort, Kai has written compelling stories that tweens, teens, and their parents love.

Kai has given numerous presentations in classrooms, to writer groups, and at workshops about her work and the writing process. She loves interacting with teens and gaining their insight on their latest reads as well as what they would like to see in future stories.

To find out more about Kai, please visit Kaistrand.com.


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Half-Formed Places is Live!

Happy Friday, squiders! This week has been more of a mess than I hoped, but I did manage to finished the formatting on Half-Formed Places and get it live on Amazon!

HFP cover

The collection contains four short stories of varying lengths, three of which were published on Turtleduck Press between 2014 and 2016, and one which is brand spanking new.

Now, you may have noticed that this is not one of the covers that I posted last week or whenever it was, though it a combo of the font from the water cover and one of the other images. After discussion with the other TDP people, we vetoed the water cover since there’s no water-related stories in the collection (now, the next one, however…). So it’s a compromise, hooray.

Anyway, the collection is available for a dollar (or the equivalent in your currency) or through Kindle Unlimited. I hope you’ll check it out!

Uglies Readalong: Specials (Book Three)

Oof. Sorry for missing last week, squiders. It was a mess, all the way around–too many things that I had to get ready for and/or get done. But that’s all behind us now.

Let’s move on to our discussion about Specials, the third book in Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies trilogy.

At this point we’re basically all spoilers, so I guess, uh, don’t read if you intend to read the trilogy.

So, once again, we find Tally in a new state of being, having been turned into a Special at the very end of the last book. She’s back with Shay and several former Crims, the Cutters, working as a specialized Specials team.

This books feels a little different than the others. In Uglies, Tally is desperate to become Pretty, and in Pretties, she’s desperate to escape back to the New Smoke and be cured. But in this book, Tally likes being a Special, and at no point does not becoming one appeal to her, even as other characters bring up a cure or use it themselves.

The only thing weighing down Tally’s newfound happiness as a Special is Zane, her boyfriend from Pretties. He’d been brought back to the city at the end of the last book, and Tally hasn’t seen him or heard from him since then. When Tally and Shay go to visit him, Tally finds he’s still suffering the repercussions of taking the Pretty cure from the last book–muscle shakes, memory lapses, etc. So Tally decides the best thing would be to have Zane become a Special, so that they’ll remake his body and brain and fix him.

But you have to have certain qualities to be a Special. Shay and Tally put together a plan to help Zane escape the city, which will make him seem like he has those qualities, but their plan goes too far, is too scary, and ends up having consequences outside their own city.

What I found interesting about this book especially, was that there was no clear “this is the right way to think and this is the wrong way to think” theme that you find in a lot of YA dystopia. While there is an antagonist, her ideologies aren’t necessarily portrayed as being bad. And Tally never completely aligns with the “rebel” side either, definitely not in this book but not all the way in the others either.

It’s a bit refreshing, honestly.

The book ends with the “wrong” system slowly disintegrating, but Tally putting herself in a position where, if the “rebel” system replacing it gets out of hand, she can act as a check and balance.

Overall, I thought the trilogy was worth the read. I don’t think we’ll go on to the fourth book, which takes place some time after the change in systems with a new viewpoint character, but you’re welcome to if you would like!

Thanks for reading along with me, squiders! I’ll see you again later in the week.

New SkillShare Class Up!

Oof, squiders. I always forget how long the video portion of a class takes.

In my head, every class–and this is my fifth class–the hard part is putting together the PowerPoint part of the class, and the recording part is the easy part.

Well, I guess the recording isn’t too bad.

But the editing of those recordings? Oy.

I think I’ve spent about eight hours on the editing part. My video editor was starting to get REALLY grumpy.

(It is my longest class, at 40 minutes, but 8 hours for 40 minutes? Oof.)

Though, I will admit, it’s generally easier for me to focus on the recording/editing parts. Maybe they’re just more interesting because it’s not something I do very often.

Seriously, though, why do the PowerPoint portions always take me so long? I wanted this class up in March, maybe April. And here we are, in late May. Excellent job, self.

That being said, I’m considering doing a workshop for my next class, one where students follow along with me as I work on something. It’d be less formal, and it would involve no PowerPoint.

Maybe an outlining workshop, to follow up this class (oh, yeah, this class is about types of outlines). I do need to get a novella or two going, so it would be killing two birds with one stone.

(I had an idea for a novella yesterday while I was walking the dog, but I’ve already forgotten it. This is why we write everything down. WAIT NO I REMEMBER)

But it’s done! It’s up!

Work has been accomplished!

Anyway, if you’re interested, the new class is here! And I shall see you guys next week, no matter what.

Help Me Pick a Cover!

Hello again, squiders! Every so often, over at Turtleduck Press, we pull off the older free short stories, and then I gather mine up and release them in a short story collection. The first one, The Short of It, came out in 2017 and included stories from the start of TDP until 2014 (as well as a new story), and the one I’m working on right now will include stories from 2015 and 2016 (and a new story).

Anyway, it’s cover picking time. I’ve made a couple and I’d love to get your feedback on which one you like best!

Thank you for taking a look!

WriYe and Organization

Oof, why is May going so fast? Seriously. Ahhhhhhhh

Anyway. It’s time for the monthly prompt from WriYe, which is about writing organization, something I am alternately very good at and also sometimes terrible at.

How do you keep your writing organized and backed up?

I mostly use Google Drive. I keep all my outlines and other background information there–conlangs, worldbuilding, feedback, etc. I also try to keep the most recent version of each draft on there as well, though sometimes this leads to issues (such as a local version syncing incorrectly and the cloud version eating the most recent update), so sometimes I will also NOT back up the most recent version for my own sanity.

I realize this is risky, but when Drive makes me waste an hour finding the proper version or makes me create 15 copies of the same document because it can’t just save over the pre-existing version, sometimes it’s worth it.

(I do back up other ways as well. I lost 4K on a story once and it was not fun.)

I also keep things like word count trackers and agent/submission lists there, so I can access them from anywhere. And my random idea file, so things can be added at a moment notice.

That being said, I do also do planning in notebooks, because sometimes that just works better, and sometimes it is too much work to type all that into a document (especially if there’s artwork involved, and often there is, for maps or uniforms or what have you). I have a set shelf on my desk that’s for writing notebooks, which I’ve put into place after one rather important one wandered off (RIP).

Do you have any tips or tricks to share that have helped you?

More backing up is better. I have an external hard drive that I back everything up to periodically, and I keep a version of each completed draft on Google Drive and in my email (in case Drive does something weird). I also sometimes back things up onto a flash drive.

That way, if anything happens, it’s still somewhere.

Organization within storage areas is also good–I keep the novels separate from the short stories, and keep all information for each specific novel or series separate from the others.

(So, like, Novels>Series>Book 1, etc.)

This allows me to easily find the stuff related to a specific project as opposed to having to scroll through a long list of things (though search functions do exist, but if you’ve named a document something not obvious you’re screwed).

So, uh, that’s me, I guess. I do think there’s a thin line between organization and obsessive organizing that can take away from working time on other things, so I try not to stress about it too much.

How are you, squider? Thoughts on organization?

Excerpt: A Season in Whispers by Jackson Kuhl

Good morning, squiders! Today I’ve got an excerpt from Jackson Kuhl’s A Season of Whispers, a new Gothic novel that was recently released.


Gothic Mystery/Horror

Publisher: Aurelia Leo

Date Published: 08-10-2020 / 

Audibook Launch April/May 2021


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In the summer of 1844, Tom Lyman flees to Bonaventure, a transcendentalist farming cooperative tucked away in eastern Connecticut, to hide from his past. There Lyman must adjust to a new life among idealists, under the fatherly eye of the group’s founder, David Grosvenor. When he isn’t ducking work or the questions of the eccentric residents, Lyman occupies himself by courting Grosvenor’s daughter Minerva.

But Bonaventure isn’t as utopian as it seems. One by one, Lyman’s secrets begin to catch up with him, and Bonaventure has a few secrets of its own. Why did the farm have an ominous reputation long before Grosvenor bought it? What caused the previous tenants to vanish? And who is playing the violin in the basement? Time is running out, and Lyman must discover the truth before he’s driven mad by the whispering through the walls.

A Season of Whispers is Jackson Kuhl’s debut novel of Gothic mystery, transcendentalist utopianism, and antediluvian hunger.

 


 

About the Author

 Jackson Kuhl is the author of the Gothic novel A Season of Whispers and the Revolutionary War biography Samuel Smedley, Connecticut Privateer. Kuhl has written for Atlas Obscura, Connecticut Magazine, the Hartford Courant, National Geographic News, and other publications. He lives in coastal Connecticut.

 

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Excerpt:

He awoke engulfed in darkness. Stumbling through his mnemonic geography he managed to raise the fire and find and light a lamp. Outside lay impenetrable black and chirping frogs and crickets; Lyman had no conception of the hour but judged he had missed supper at the main house. Resolution would have to abide his stomach until daybreak. He poured himself some water from the jug and washed his face and hands and unpacked his clothes into the dresser. The other bag he stuffed under the bed. With log and poker Lyman built up the fire as high as it would safely go and sat staring at it, and gradually a snowfall of calm gathered in his hair and upon his shoulders, an accumulation of peace he hadn’t known for weeks. Finally he was secure: ensphered in a globe of night on the edges of civilization, as isolated as a Sandwich Island maroon, but not so alone as to be lonely. The purest bred hound, raised on a diet of nothing except dirty stockings and pinpricks of blood on grass, could not track his footsteps from New York to the little stone ruin perched on the periphery of Connecticut wilderness. He wrapped the blanket around his shoulders and dozed again.

The second time he woke to the sound of a violin. He couldn’t have been long asleep. the fire burned brightly; but the night beyond the house had gone silent, with only the scraping of the bow across strings. Lyman lay there a long time, icy needles stabbing him, wondering where the music originated. There was no wind to carry it from the house or some other building. Maybe someone fiddled while walking along the road? An approaching visitor. Then the playing, mournful at first, kicked up to a merry jig, and Lyman jumped to raise the lamp wick and push on his shoes.

He followed the sound from the bedroom to the stairs and descended. It was louder on the first floor, seeming to rise from the boards rather than out-of-doors. When he reached the basement door, it abruptly cut off.

It so happened that the basement door at the top of the worn stone steps, along with the front and kitchen doors, had not been stripped of its iron and thus functioned as intended. Additionally—and Lyman hadn’t thought this odd in the daylight, but now wasn’t so sure—the door was fitted with a crossbar, which, as there was no direct entrance from outside to the basement, seemed unnecessary.

He undid the bar, opened the door, held the lamp high. Nothing but shadow—the light failed to reach the floor below. Neither glimmer of light nor sounding of fiddle note wafted from the darkness.

The flame of the lamp leaned and flickered. Air brushed the hairs of his short beard: a breeze on his face. Something moved toward him at fast speed he realized, something large, its mass pushing the air ahead of it. Even now it noiselessly rushed up the stairs at him.

Lyman slammed the door, shot the bar through its cleat, threw his weight against the wood—steeled himself for the impact against the other side.

None came. After a long moment he looked at his lamp. The flame stood straight as a soldier.

He took a deep breath. Upon returning to his room it didn’t take him long to convince himself he had imagined everything, that the only music had been the cotton of a dream clinging to his sleepy skull. He tossed another log on the fire and lay back on the mattress, listening as the usual players outside again took up their instruments and played him off to sleep.