Apparently yesterday was too serious for my Muse, who this morning grabbed the story by the scruff of the neck, picked it up out of its “this is damn serious shit” conflict, and dropped it into the middle of action that made me laugh while I was writing it.

I know this sounds weird. However…

The part of me that knows the story’s theme and conflict and necessary points we have to hit is not the part of me that actually puts the words on the page. The organized me gets its day during revision, when it has to pull all the stuff the other half of my brain threw at it into some sort of coherent order.

First draft, though, is where weird and funny and spontaneous good ideas all get their moments. 

And — boy howdy. Today was THAT day. 

Today my Muse grabbed the hands and dug in, and presented me with tiny, bored elves on their day off who found a ruined, abandoned TransAm in the local dump waiting to be crushed, pulled a Car SOS on it (because that’s what elves are good at)… and then went joy-riding.  Chaos ensued.

This was just a couple of lines of backstory to demonstrate the details of an ongoing problem, and has very little to do with the story as a whole or even today’s scene, except to underscore the difficulty of my main character’s job: that even many of the people she wants to work with — folks who love her and whom she loves — are… um… difficult to manage.

And she’s creating a situation into which she’d going to be bringing much more difficult folks, at least half of whom are NOT going to be friendly, or going to love her, or going to have any reason whatsoever to want to see her succeed.

I am having so much fun with this book. I can’t wait for tomorrow to write what happens next. 

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Got the words. Like the words.

Got 1260 words total for the day (so just over my daily objective), and 54,792 in the book.

I also stole a line from one of my poems posted on this site as a quote for my main character’s most important ally, because it was perfect for the place and the situation, and using it fit the character.

Since the series is coming out pseudonymously, I’m betting I’m going to have to credit the use of the poem in the acks, or get called out by readers who recognize it from the novel under my own name where it was first published.

BUT ANYWAY…

My MC had a rough day today, and by that I mean that I had a rough day getting what I needed out of her. We got there, but the temptation to smack her over the head with a frozen trout while we were working through her fears to get to what she’d actually doing… well…

She wanted to dither, I wanted her to get to the point, and we compromised in the middle, with me finally figuring out the importance of her dithering, and how that GOT her to the right point.

So now, with words for the day that I’ve decided I like, I’m going to head off to start fixing email links in lesson reminders for my classes, and rebuilding the lesson reminder lists for my writing students.

I’m bringing back the frozen trout, while I mutter grouchily for one moment about the biggest weakness of the Internet, which is that every time you HAVE to update/upgrade/repair something on your website, you end up creating link rot (old links posted in hard-to-reach places like inside novels and lessons that break because of the required upgrade/update/replacement).

I’m using my trout to smack at empty air, because the problem for link rot is that it’s a problem without any permanent solution. You can swing that fish all day, but there’s just nothing to hit.

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I stepped into a scene this morning where I was expecting to be goofy and funny, and instead, I found Sun Tzu waiting for me.

My relationship with Sun Tzu is a long-standing one. I met him when I was twenty-seven, when my first husband told me that if I divorced him, it was going to be a war, and he had all the money, so he was going to win it.

I took him seriously. I went to the library, and from it took out a book titled Divorce for Men, and a tiny little red book without any annotations in it called The Art of War.

From Divorce for Men, I learned that my husband’s lawyer would expect me to lawyer up instantly, demand alimony, child support, the house, full custody of the kids, and to make the process as acrimonious and horrible as possible.

From the Art of War, which I read and reread and fought to understand, I learned… well, a helluva lot, but the first and most important thing I learned was this.

If you want to win the damn war you didn’t want to fight in the first place, start by being where the enemy isn’t.

So I just wrote out a list of the things I wanted.

Joint custody of the kids.

My car.

My books and clothes.

Barry to keep the fancy house we’d bought together, and the credit cards and all the stuff we’d acquired together… but he had to PAY for that stuff.

I refused child support. I would pay for my life, he would pay for his.

He went to his lawyer (Terry Garner of Laurinburg, NC) with my list, and said he wanted all of that AND full custody of the kids. His lawyer looked at my list, and said, “Shut up and sign.”

And I used his lawyer (whom he paid for) to get the separation on my exact terms, so that the whole thing didn’t cost me a dime. (Sun Tzu’s precept: Feed off the ground of the enemy.)

My name came off the mortgage and I started with a clean slate. (As clean as I could back in the days of joint credit with a guy who’d made an art of living above his means.)

One year later, I used my own lawyer to do the divorce.

About three years after that, the kids told me (and the next day, Social Services) what was going on over at Barry’s house. THEN I took child support. And full custody. And moved away from that town because my kids were being taunted in school by kids who’d heard stories from their parents…

If I’d gone to war over the house, over the money, over custody of the kids, over anything, I would burned the ground I ended up having to fight on. As it was, by following Sun Tzu’s strategies and tactics, by asking for what I actually wanted (and only that) out of the marriage, and then living with my choices, I won the war. Got my kids away safely, got out of that mess without allowing myself to be defined by following the advice of lawyers who make money from exploding marriages.

Anyway… 

Sun Tzu… Saved my kids, saved me.

And showed up in Ohio 5 today at the point where I once again found myself looking at the threat of war, and where he pointed me to Cookies as The Path to Enlightenment.

And once again, I found what I needed in his words. The book, like my life, will be the better for them.

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I didn’t know what to expect when I sat down to write today, and what happened when the words started rolling in came at me from out of left field.

The whole writing time was pretty perfect — it answered a question I thought I’d lost track of, allowed me to bring back two folks I loved, and just FLEW as I worked my way through the scene.

1369 total words for the day and 52,059 on the novel… and I’m in great shape to pick this back up on Monday.

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Today the story took what felt like a logical turn, and I let myself run with it.

The understanding here, though, is that I’ve brought an edge of science-fiction and fantasy fandom into the fifth novel, and doing this might be a break in the fourth wall that will break the novel.

I’m going to let it stand. It does, after all, solve a significant problem my characters must deal with, and solves it rather gracefully.

I’m going to let Matt come upon it without any forewarning from me, though, and see if he smacks me over the head with a frozen salmon for doing what I did.

If he does, I’ll simply re-plot this section of the novel. Keeping this isn’t a deal-breaker for me. Finding other alternatives to solve the problem isn’t impossible.

I simply like this solution, and would like to let it stay if Matt thinks it works.

Anyway, the words went well, I made nice progress, and things in town are about to get stranger than they have been for the last four novels.

But with that, time now to go do other things.

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Today’s writing was philosophical… and probably a bit expository. Which means what I wrote today is probably going to get heavily edited during the revision.

But I learned something big about my novel’s world today — something that has been creeping into the back of my brain in bits and pieces for the last couple of novels, but that today met me face to face and said, “Hey… this is what I am. Deal with it.”

Again, I might end up dealing with it by cutting a fair amount of today’s words during the five-book one-pass revision.

But right now, it’s still hot. For me, there’s no objective way to judge the value of first-draft words while they’re still fresh.

And the MOVEMENT I got from what I wrote today, in the form of taking the story forward, and in the form of opening up the whole damn story universe, was just magnificent.

This was lightning, and the words flew off my fingertips so fast I could barely keep up.

I worked for just a bit over an hour, and got 1401 words. For me, that’s flying.

And I’m looking forward to walking off my main character’s field of green grass and dandelions tomorrow, and taking what I’ve learned from today’s words back into the fight that’s waiting for her back in her small town that has temporarily achieved out-sized importance.


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I needed to explore the significance of the thing that happened yesterday, because it’s a big damn deal, because I didn’t expect what happened, and because I don’t know what’s waiting for me when I take my character down to the end of the hall to look at what’s changed.

So today, I ran with that. Pulled my character out of the situation that filled her with fear and stress, let her back away long enough to get hold of herself…

And allowed her to show herself (and me) what she’s afraid of, why she’s afraid…

And I let myself watch her react.

I really like the bit with the mirror, but a lot of the rest of this is, I think, going to hit me as an unreadable chunk of worldbuilding and backgrounding when I re-read it during the one-pass revision.

However, I learned a few important things about my MC that I didn’t know. Learned a bit about what she fears might be waiting for her.

And tomorrow, I can pick up with the situation I left hanging so I could run her to the bathroom to get hold of herself.

I can take what she told me today and use that to make how she deals with this new and frightening situation more compelling, and more practical. I can pull in the folks who appeared in her memories of the past, and her discoveries from the very recent present, and while I have no damn clue yet what she’s going to find when she opens this terrifying door in her life (in this case, LITERALLY a door), I certainly have some new material on her to make her reactions and response interesting.

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I was building a really nice writing-tips email list for my writers. Every Thursday, (or mostly every Thursday), I was creating one new writing tip, answering a writer’s question, demonstrating a quick version of some technique I’ve found helpful…

And then the HollysWritingClasses.com class software died. Hard.

And we spent six months installing new software, moving all the classes on the old software over to the new software before the old site stopped working entirely, and managed to save all the classes.

Of course, because they were ONLINE classes, built as PDFs, all the links in them that referred to the site itself are broken. A lot of links that went to OTHER sites are broken.

And I figured out that we’ll fix those by posting the corrected links in each lesson right into the classroom, so that things can be easily updated.

But almost all the links in the Thursday emails referenced posts on the site, or classes on the site, or freebies on the site…

AND ALL THOSE LINKS BROKE, TOO.

During the six-month Save-The-Site complete overhaul, I didn’t have time to do any Thursday emails. I was squeezed managing to get my daily fiction words (and sometimes I just didn’t).

But the dust is settling (not settled yet… not by a long shot).

So I headed into the Thursday Emails to start fixing links. I got through the first several emails, and will work on these a bit at a time every weekday until I finally have the existing list updated. (It’s an ever-green list, filled with techniques and processes and tips that I’ve figured out over the last thirty-something years. Writers can join at any time, and get the first email, and keep getting them as long as I write them.)

I won’t be doing any NEW tips, though, until I have all the existing ones fixed.

And I’m having to do this in between writing the current novel, and doing my work over in HollysWritingClasses.com. 

It will all get done. It’ll just take some time, and I can’t write any new tips until I have everything already written fixed. But now that getting those links fixed has made the priority list in my daily bullet journal (it hit the Priority List at last when we stopped having to put out HollysWritingClasses.com fires) I figure I can correct about five emails a day after I get my fiction done and check in on my writers taking their classes), and be ready to start writing new tips in about a month. Maybe a bit more.

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There’s been this small, ongoing mystery in these books since Book One. And I don’t mean a mystery for the reader.

I mean a mystery for me.

I built this one set (a set in fiction is a place you use frequently that contains important secrets and other elements your characters need to use to get through the story)…

And today, my main character stepped into the set and the last key piece of that set became available to her.

I didn’t know this was going to happen. I sent her in there for something else, but fingers and back brain collaborated against me, and BAM!

She and I saw the change in the set at exactly the same time, and AFTER I’d already gotten my words for the day.

I have NO CLUE what’s there.

I have NO CLUE why it matters, or what’s going to happen tomorrow.

She has been working her way through her past and the present trying to learn a damn difficult job while dealing with pieces of her past that are missing, or were lies all along.

And now this… thing… is suddenly accessible to her, and I’d already run long getting to it.

So tomorrow I’m going to find out what’s there, and maybe start understanding why it opened up to her now, and maybe figure out how the hellacious problem she’s trying to resolve is related to that piece of the set suddenly opening up….

Tomorrow is going to be really damn interesting.

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This was one of those “I love my job” days. 

I got a late start because we were dropping presents off at a friend’s house, but when I picked up where I left off yesterday, the parts of the scene I needed were waiting.

Actions of others have had massive, epic consequences, and something that’s been mostly stable for a really, really long time just got broken.

My MC is in the position where she’s having to sort out the pieces.

And she’s facing one of those moments that would make heroes in capes and professional politicians all weep.

She’s not feeling so great herself. But she’s doing her best, and while her upcoming month is likely to be five kinds of nightmare…

It’s gonna be a LOT of fun to write. 

I’m happy. I love what I got, I’ve left myself in a good place to pick up work again on Monday… and WEEKEND!!!

I’m ready.

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