Write On Blog

NaNoWriMo 2020 Novel Update

It’s been awhile since I’ve updated you all on the newest revisions to the novel drafted in NaNoWriMo 2020. The changes are drastic. The first chapter is now more like a prologue. I’ve seen it done effectively in other novels but I’d really like some feedback on if it works. Is it cheating to call it a chapter? I’ve started the story even further along than previous new starts. I’ve cut most of the backstory and background story concerning Maisey’s family. I’ve switched from first to third person (still working on that revision). I’m toying with if it should be solely from Maisey’s POV in third or open it up to Tyler’s and any other strong supporting characters. Would love to hear your thoughts on if multiple POV (not head popping) is a plus or a minus. Hope you enjoy the latest version.

Kill Words (Draft first chapter) By Clare Graith ; approximate word count 85,000.

The vial contained the essential ingredient needed to start the next pandemic. So valuable, but only in theory, right? It might as well just contain the letters, F,E,A,R. Something he didn’t worry about, ever. The island was ready, completely self-contained, not only off the grid but having its own grid. Ten years of living a double life; loving husband to his childless wife, his doing, but she didn’t know. Working as a technical writer, not even in the pharma industry anymore, for a cosmetic company. What a laugh. He hated women that wore make-up, hated the whole concept of it.
He was ready to dump Sharon with her make-up, Louis Vuitton handbags and biting sarcasm. All he needed was the right woman, someone unsullied by another man, innocent, trusting, obedient, but not a child. She should be educated so he can have a meaningful conversation. Able to take care of herself, healthy enough to bear children, sweet, yes, most of all sweet and kind, pleasant to be around.
“Find her for me,” he said into his cell phone. He turned the steel canister around in his hand. Inside at minus 80 degree Celsius, the ampule of frozen cells rested dormant, safe, not a threat to anyone. “I’ll not only sell you the vial, I’ll give you the names of experts who can propagate the cells, no questions asked.”
He was like the kings of old, sending out a courier to find the best of the maidens for himself to choose from. What better way to make it happen than to get Henry to do it with his grand network?
“I’ll have the all the handlers on it,” Henry said, his voice gravely and deep. He probably smoked and drank along with eating too much. People just don’t know how to take care of the temple they live in. Not every man could boast the same rock-hard abs he had but to be less than perfectly fit was a prescription for disease. He’d like to say he could reach immortality with his health regime. He wasn’t there yet but he was working on it. No, for now he had to accept that at forty, he was as sharp, strong, and energetic as when he was twenty-five, the perfect age.

Chapter 2 (First paragraphs)

For a split second, Maisey had the opportunity to press the red phone icon, to end it, to back away from the cliff. In those moments of hesitation, the ground of ‘don’t do anything stupid’ crumbled under her feet.
“Hi,” Tyler said.

Read all the posts about this NaNoWriMo novel by choosing “NaNoWriMo” in categories.

© 2021 Clare Graith. All rights reserved.

”5 Things I Saw Today” – July 2021

  1. Electricity surrounded by water. Everyone knows that water and electricity spells a big shocker. Today I saw the pedestal for our campsite electric hookup surrounded by water. Hmm, that could spell more trouble than a night of torrential downpours.
  2. A bedraggled, soaking wet squirrel. The morning light brought more than just blessed camp stove percolated coffee. We also had a visitor to our campsite. First time I saw a squirrel looking miserable and hating his life. I always thought the woodland creatures had secret shelters and never got wet in storms. It was a young thing. Maybe he didn’t know the secret yet. I gave him an almond and his countenance changed in just a few bites.
  3. A top notch, wood fire oven pizza in a town with a population of 502. Never thought we would find real Italian pizza out in the country. There are treasures and successes where you least expect to find them. Maybe right around the corner, a few miles in the direction you never took before. Don’t believe the naysayers, give it your all.
  4. A swarm of birds all bent on fighting me to the death. Okay so maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but here’s how it went. Sitting under a pavilion built like the open frame of a barn, I noticed a pair of swallows and a mud nest. Looking a little closer I saw a few more nests. These birds have beautiful contrasting browns, creams, and orange shades. They are proud little birds that fly like ace fighter pilots dipping and skimming close to the ground, swooping up with their characteristic scalloped, tails. They were a joy to watch. Another pair came under the pavilion and busied themselves at their nest. I looked up, then walked around realizing there were at least ten nests hidden in the eaves, plastered against the electric conduit, on top of the light fixture. I saw a head bobbing in one of the nests so I stepped up on a picnic table to get a better look. Mind you the ceiling is twenty or thirty feet high. In a split second, a swarm of swallows came swooping in like a cloud, whistling and scolding me, surrounding the one nest that seemed to have hatchlings in it. It was surprising and wonderful how they knew a threat was there and they all responded. Very cool community going on in that bird population.
  5. People laughing and excited in the middle of a mud swamped campsite. It’s amazing how if people are bent on having fun, no amount of rain, mud and altered circumstances will stop that from happening. Taking an evening walk around the campground just after a day of downpours, we passed a site with four canopies put together making a huge shelter. Underneath adults and kids were lounging on chairs or running around, a movie was playing on an outdoor screen, popcorn was popping some where in the midst of the melee. We passed a dad (had to be a dad, he had bags of cotton candy in his hands) sloshing over muddy grass, catching himself before he slipped but never losing that big contented smile that comes with truly good times. We camp as a couple. No big party going on at our site but that dad smile was contagious and I’m thankful to witness this family’s undeterred joy.

There are so many things to see around us, good, amazing, inspiring, humbling things. All the stuff of a good story! Go out and find one. Get up and write one!

A Cat’s Invitation – StormWeaver Episode 12

The storm is over,
The earth rests under our feet as it should.
“You must come with us and have dinner.”
Rose hangs on my arm, leading me out the door
Up the dirt path.
Chloe runs ahead, kicking ice balls as she goes.
“I’ll get things ready,” she says.
“She means she’ll hide our secrets,” Rose smiles,
her eyes glinting with mischief.
The cat trails at our heels.
“Do you mind?” I ask.
“She doesn’t eat butterflies does she?”
“That’s good then. She’ll have a saucer of cream.”
Then I see the pouch snagged on the cat’s collar.

The StormWeaver series is a fantasy story told in 100 word increments. Read from the beginning by choosing StormWeaver in categories.

Lessons From the Netflix Sweet Tooth Series

Has anyone watched the Netflix series “Sweet Tooth”? It’s a show plotted like so many these days: some event happens, some people (in this case children) are endowed with special characteristics, people are out to get them but they are the future, the hope, the salvation for the earth. It’s crazy how this theme is repeated over and over only made entertaining by how creative the setting or inciting event is.
But that’s not what this blog post is about.

In the first episode of Sweet Tooth, and this is not a spoiler, so no worries, there’s a man with a baby strapped to his chest and a huge awkward pack on his back. He is walking through the woods and comes upon a log cabin partially hidden by trees and overgrown plants. The next scene, the man and baby are moved in and have all they need for a happy life.
My literal, realist self jumped on that with a complaint. Old, dirty, abandoned cabin turns into a homestead without showing any of the transition, really? How did he do that with a baby to take care of? What about windows? They couldn’t all be not broken. What about food until that garden started producing? Questions, questions, questions. Yes, there was a part of me that wanted all the logistics worked out, explained, made plausible (plausibility is greatly lacking in these copy cat plots). But then there was the part of me that really just wanted to get on with the show.
Did I really need any of those details? No. In fact sometimes I wish life could sail past the boring stuff of, “and then”, “and then”, “and then”.

Well, guess what? Good writing, especially fiction, not only can depict lives sailing past the mundane details of life, it should. Jumping to the next place or circumstance without explaining how everything got to that point is a tool to keep the reader focused on what’s important.

Look through your latest work. Do you get too deep in the details and call it world building? Do you feel the need for events to be clearly chronological? Have you used words to answer questions that really have nothing to do with the plot?

Seriously, I may have had my doubts about how that cabin became so perfect, but I can assure you the plot moved right on and I didn’t miss it because I was drawn into the story.

Write on, but don’t sweat the details or gaps.

Peppery Questions – StormWeaver #11

“How long have you lived here?” Chloe asks.
Rose picks up my steel cup, my plate, my stuff.
“I don’t know.” Just then not knowing the year.
“Twenty six years,” Rose says.
That sounds right but couldn’t be. “That’s how old I am.”
Rose smiles.
“I never knew this house was here,” Chloe says staring at me. “I’ve never seen you.”
“And I have never seen you.”
“But you’ve been here?”
“Here I’ve been.”
The cat slides around my legs.
Dinner time.
I put the pouch of stones on the bookshelf.
“Who gave those to you?”
Strange, I don’t remember.

StormWeaver is a continuing story told in 100 word increments. Read from the beginning by choosing “StormWeaver” in categories.

Stand Still. Be Quiet. – A Poem

Sometimes all the pieces,
Escape me,
Like the ends of kite strings,
Slipping through fingers.
Truths that want to be free,
Want to leave me,
Without the cloud of cover,
Nothing to hide within.
Grasping after,
The drifting vapor of illusion,
Of frozen thoughts,
Melting in the warmth of weary time.
Don’t expose me,
To this fluid chaos,
I will plunge once more into the
Safety of the ice,
The solid security of,
Everything still, quiet,
Breath held.
Me held,

Take One and Feel Better

Did you know there is such a thing as “bibliotherapy”? I read about it in a magazine. The idea is that a bibliotherapist evaluates a person’s emotional/mental state and then “prescribes” a book, typically fiction that is related to what they are struggling with. Suffering from the emotional trauma of losing a house and going bankrupt? There’s a book for that!
Apparently studies have shone that reading or listening to a story can help a person see their way through an issue. Hmmm. Did we not know that? That’s one of the things I like about memoirs; real stories that read like fiction (kind of) so I can relate or at least grow in my understanding of other’s life experiences.
Truly I think it would be a fantastic job to assign people books to read, to be a book consultant. I’m thinking also of getting in touch with the Bibliotherapist in the article and ask her if there are any stories that need to be told; stories that there is no good novel out there to speak to someone’s need. It’s a leg up to write a story that’s needed; aka writing to the market. I would pause the three (okay maybe four) novels I’ve got going to write a story that someone needs. Think about your current project. Who needs to read your book? Well, get going then. There’s someone waiting.

Write on!

5 Things I Saw Today – Camping / Turkey Chili Tip

  1. Baby toads like bugs- Taking a grassy, woodland path to a small pond, I looked down and saw bugs crawling everywhere. My first thought was giant ticks but the scientist in me was too curious to run away. I reached down and allowed one to jump on me. To my utter amazement it was a tiny toad. When I say tiny, I mean super, spectacularly, small. The one in the photo was not the smallest one I saw. It was hard to believe that an amphibious life could be that small.
  2. 17-year-old Cicada – I have a thing for bugs (and trees, and birds, and animals…okay so living things). I was lamenting that I forgot to bring my phone when my husband and I ended up on an impromptu hike (yes, we do that when camping in the woods). I said to him “I should know better to always bring a camera. Otherwise, I might miss recording something like this…” I pointed to a whitish looking thing on a tree up ahead. When I walked up to it and realized it was a newly hatched 17-year-old Cicada, I was doubly mad at myself. We ended up going back to camp and trekking out again (not a difficult hike) so I could get the shot.
  3. A kid yelling at the top of his lungs on an electric scooter – Normally loud, raucous children would be annoying, especially at a campground that is somewhat remote and in gloriously natural surroundings. We saw the family settling in their campsite up the road and within just a few minutes this seven or eight- year- old boy was speeding down the road on his electric scooter, yelling whatever was on his heart at the top of his lungs. He did this back and forth for a good forty minutes. The next morning at a reasonable eight thirty, he was at it again but this time he added bits of singing. I’m not sure if it was meant to be rap, but whatever the case, he was completely in his world. Why was this be notable and not just my rant of complaining about wild children? The joy and pure enthusiasm this child displayed was inspiring. How much I wanted to join him and be as free, oblivious of anyone else and shout and sing all that was on my heart.
  4. Chili bubbling on camp stove with cornbread – Is there anything better than a hot meal, of (low fat turkey – I mention for all my health conscious followers – tips to making this chili great below) chili and warm corn bread on a chilly rain, drenched camping night? Did you like that play on words – chili and chilly! That’s like a corny ‘dad joke’ in honor of Father’s Day.
  5. Old bills and junk mail going up in flames. It’s funny in a sad way how modern life, which has created so many conveniences, improvements in healthcare and avenues of entertainment for humans, has simultaneously complicated our lives to the point of causing depression. Don’t you think? We have a practice of instead of shredding old bills, confidential documents, and correspondences, we collect them in a basket to bring on our camping trips. Watching the latest batch, curl, and flare in the flames, brought to my mind how much information a modern family has to navigate, take action on and somehow get passed without feeling overwhelmed. These things are like wasps circling my head, ready to sting whatever peace I might have with a question, a fear if I fail to respond, a missed opportunity. When the kids were in the house, that was compounded with school mail and forms. Watching the paper examples of this deluge of information burn was somewhat cathartic. At least these have been deemed inactive. But for every paper having its last glory day of life, there are ten more in an electronic format and that’s no even talking about work. It’s no wonder some of us are running for the hills, seeking to ‘go off the grid’, live like hermits or Hobbits. Sounds good to me.

Tips on making turkey chili not taste flat:

  • Heat up a fry pan with a little, cooking oil then add the ground turkey in an even layer.
  • Don’t mix it up.
  • Keep the heat somewhat high.
  • Add spices as you prefer on the top side of the meat. We add garlic, garlic, garlic, chili powder X2; cumin; salt; basil, oregano, sometimes smoked paprika otherwise plain paprika.
  • Let the meat dry out and almost burn before turning it over.
  • Add more oil if needed to keep the sizzle going.
  • Blast the other side of the meat; add spices to the new top-side.
  • Once the meat is what would normally be considered, over-cooked then add in other ingredients as preferred such as chili spiced diced tomatoes, siracha for heat, beans with sauce, ketchup or salsa for moisture. Simmer forever then serve or better yet, make a day ahead of planned meal, refrigerate overnight and heat up to serve the next day. We do this the night before a camp-out.
  • The key point here is to nearly burn the turkey before adding additional sources of moisture. It adds a depth of flavor that combined with the spices and a little heat, does not scream ‘turkey’ or make anyone ask “where’s the beef?”.

Write on! Camp on! Make Chili or whatever else seems appropriate for a camp night in close quarters of a tent or teardrop camper.