Friday, December 21, 2012

A Solstice Kiss

The Hanorja celebrate the longest night of the year by staying up until sunrise, drinking, dancing and visiting with friends as the whole village gathers at Glenhym Castle. Faldur and Marenya spend the evening together, neither wanting to give in and quit dancing first. At last they stop by mutual consent and she falls asleep with her head on his shoulder, but he promises to wake her in time to see the sun rise.

The other guests stretched and stirred, moving outside. He waited as long as he dared, then shook Marenya’s shoulder.

“Is it morning?” She sat up and blinked.

“Yes. Everyone’s gone outside.”

They walked out into the cold stillness of the garden, and up the steps to the wall. She shivered, and he wrapped his arms around her, for he had forgotten to fetch their cloaks. Below them everything was sparkling with snow and a pinkish golden light, clean and new and perfect like the first morning ever dawned.

The first edge of the sun’s bright disk appeared above the trees. Something stirred in Faldur that he hadn’t felt in ages. It had been so long since he had known anything but the company of other rangers, the cramped, smoky barracks, bad weather, worse food, watchfulness and danger, that he had nearly forgotten what it was like to be an ordinary hanor. This night had lifted the lid of a box long-closed and he was helpless to shut it again.

Marenya was in his arms – soft, warm and still a little drowsy. They were standing behind everyone else. No one was looking at them. He bent his head down to hers and she looked up in surprise. He kissed her, their breath mingling in the frosty air. At first she froze,  but then responded with a sweetness that made the earth tilt strangely beneath him.

When they drew apart at last, she gazed into his eyes with the same devotion he had seen in Pelwyn’s face when she looked at Mel.

All at once, Faldur realized what he had done and cursed himself.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sunday Snapshot

Hi everyone! It's time for another Sunday Snapshot, where you post a short snippet (100 words or less) of what you've been writing. It doesn't have to be perfect. It doesn't even have to be good. It just has to be yours.

I'm working on a short story right now and it has me "in fits" as a friend of mine would say. Not only are they supposed to be spicy, fresh, and colorful, but there has to be some kind of a twist. Kind of like really good pasta. 

He turned the wagon down the rutted road that led to the spring. The brown branches of the trees bowed ominously in the stiff wind, leaves swirling in the gusts and drifting against their trunks. Batya bowed her head to keep the dirt from her eyes. The wagon lurched over the ruts so violently that she gripped the edge of the seat with both hands to keep from being thrown off. The kettle and chain thumped and rattled under the blanket. 

P.S. Come in Character, our improv character website, is live again. Come and post in character in response to the prompts and interact with other characters at the same time.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Sunday Snapshot

We haven't done a Sunday Snapshot for a while. That's where I ask you to post a short snippet of what you've been writing. I love seeing the variety of everyone's work. Kind of like an anthology.

Speaking of which, I haven't mentioned here yet that I am now published as part of the South Jersey Writer's Group anthology called "Tall Tales and Short Stories from South Jersey."  It's available from Amazon here.

There's an author interview with me on the anthology website.

But now for the snapshots. Please post yours  in the comments. I love reading them!  Here's mine. Remember, it doesn't have to be perfect. It doesn't even have to be good. It just has to be yours.

Her arms, thick as a man’s, ached with fatigue. Sweat poured down her face. She wiped it away with her sooty sleeve. Moving away from the forge, she thrust her hand deep into a bucket of clean water, found the rag there, wrung it and wiped the blessed coolness over her face and neck. She flipped her thick braid out of the way, feeling the wisps of hair that had worked loose during her long day.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Stone House

One day I want a stone house with strong timbers for its bones
A house that the wolf can’t blow down
Or enter without my say-so

I want a house with two stories, maybe three
Where I can lie in my bed and look at the trees
And feel safe above it all

The fire in the fireplace will be my own
Flowers on the table that I grew myself
The only food will be the food I like to eat

No discord will be allowed in my house
Only peaceful souls will be allowed to stay
Only gentleness, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control

Christine L. Hardy

Monday, December 3, 2012

Descartes Was Right

I have come to the shocking realization that I don't need anyone.

I am a social being and need people around me, but I am not dependent on any one person in particular for my happiness. I have buried my loved ones over and over in my mind against the day when death takes them. I don't know if this is callous or just practical, but it is simply how I am.

No one can be depended on indefinitely. Circumstances and personalities change. Humans can hurt each other, grow jealous, or just lose interest. To idealize any one relationship is to set onself up for disappointment.

The only constants are myself and God. But even He, in his mysterious and sometimes cruel sovreignty, and I, in my flawed humanity, can be crappy company at times.

Absolute truths shift on hidden axes like Copernicus's universe. People fall away, rogue moons separated from their source of gravity. The only thing - the ONLY thing - that I know for sure is that I think, therefore I am*, and that there is One whose thoughts are above mine.

Everything else is up for grabs.

*"Je pense, donc je suis." - Rene' Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy, 1641

Saturday, December 1, 2012

I am a Winner!!!

I can't believe I did it. I decided to participate in Nanowrimo at about 9 pm on October 31st, totally against my better judgement.

I haven't got time for this, I said.

I'm setting myself up for failure, I said.

There's no way I can write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days, I said.

But I did it anyway. I was fortunate enough to have a writing retreat in mid-November during which I wrote about 8,000 words. I wrote almost the same amount over Thanksgiving weekend, thanks to my SIL keeping my son overnight for an impromptu sleepover. God bless her!

Last night I wrote the last 3500 words after dinner and finished at 11:45 p.m. EST. I was so in the zone I almost forgot to check the clock and missed it!

While my novel ended prematurely and needs lots of work, it's not junk. It's not something that makes me want to vomit. There is good potential there for something I can revise, expand and maybe publish, so I'm very proud of it. I had tons of support from writing friends, both locally and around the world via Facebook and Twitter.

That is why I bristle when "real" writers look down their noses at Nano participants. "Why don't you just write when you need to write instead of waiting for a big party and then cranking out garbage?"

Well, because it's difficult for many of us to summon the confidence to write all alone. My internal editor is pretty harsh. I'm proud of myself for not revising too much this month. I still did a little. I kept all the extra words and deleted scenes in my document, however, because I wrote them during Nano so they count.

It's also difficult to get our loved ones to buy into the whole writing gig. It takes so much time and attention away from them. But if we can say, "This is just for one month" and then prove what we can do, it's a way of earning their support. I've fought a constant uphill battle at home which honestly has kept me from succeeding before. It's a hard thing for non-writers to accept.

But if we break them in with the intensity of Nano, then they're more likely not to complain when we slip back to something more manageable. At least, I hope that will be the case.

So, you who are confident and published or at least well into your routine and writing skin, I'm happy for you. But don't knock my achievement. We all have our own path. I'm sure somewhere along the way someone pushed you and helped you.

This was just a lot more fun.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Fantasy Feedback: You Tell Me

In the wake of Turkey Day I have a whole day to myself to write. Since I'm 3K behind on my Nanowrimo count my butt will be in the chair most of today.

This is my first foray into the Urban Fantasy genre. I've taken the magical race of people in my fantasy novel and propelled a remnant forward in time, where they struggle to survive in the modern world. One poor human female gets mixed up in their internal affairs and finds herself stuck with magic, unable to go home but an outcast in Hanorjan society.

However, I'm so accustomed to writing epic fantasy that I'm wondering how much these two genres are allowed to cross. I can't help writing magical elements in my stories. They just creep out of my fingertips onto the keyboard. My heroine is resistant to believing the things that are happening to her but gradually has to admit they are real, though she still creates elaborate rational explanations.

So what is your opinion on this, if you read fantasy or urban fantasy? How much are you willing to suspend belief in a modern setting? Would you read something with a strong fantasy element set in the "real" world?

If you don't read fantasy or or don't have an opinion, tell me what you like to see in a good story. What pulls you in most? Characters, setting, exciting action, beautiful writing?

Monday, November 12, 2012

They're All a Little Piece of Us

I've been taking my own advice at last and writing first, blogging later. Nanowrimo has given me an excuse to put my writing at the forefront for a month, which is bliss! I mean, the day job, the family, basic chores and errands are still all there. I still attend every soccer game and make dinner and wash clothes and all that.

But as soon as I'm done... out comes the laptop.

The words are pouring out like espresso drinks at Starbucks. Sometimes dark and intense, sometimes frothy and sweet. It has been years since writing felt this way.

But... it's got me thinking. The crux of all good writing for me is the characters that live and breathe and emote through my fingers onto the page. I used to think that they just sprang from my subconcious fully formed, but as I write more I realize that they are all, in some way, a little piece of me. My fantasy herione is the dutiful, insecure young woman I was when I first left home. Her ranger captain love interest is the cool, calm, capable, disciplined male person I longed to be for many years.

Yes, people, I always wanted to be a boy when I was young. Boys were fast and strong and tough and cool. I was awkward, clumsy, always sick and pretty much useless for anything but schoolwork. How I idolized the neighborhood boys. I wasn't in love with them. I just wanted to BE them.

My current heroine, Ginger, is in many ways my alter ego, though I didn't realize it at first. Smart but loveless, eager to prove herself but wary of failure, and wounded from the past but optimistic enough to believe in a rainbow waiting just around the corner. I could write her forever and feel like I have been, in numerous scenarios. Finally, I think I found her home and she's just popping off the page.

Even the villains are a little piece of me: the piece that secretly wants to control and manipulate so I won't have to be afraid any more. They also incorporate a lot of the people who have hurt me through my life or whom I've watched hurt others: The bitter, selfish neglecters, the master manipulators, and the ones so afraid of rejection that they hurt everyone near them.

None of my villains are cold, distant super-villains like Loki or Saruman or Gorden Gecko. They are intensely, gut-wrenchingly personal.

What about you? How do you see pieces of yourself in your characters?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Five Things NOT to Do in Suspense or Speculative Fiction

I've been reading more lately and I've noticed some things that turn me off of suspense/speculative stories. Both lesser-known and bestselling authors have used these tricks, so it's not just a newbie thing at all.

1. Don't hide things from the reader just to make up for a slow-moving plot.

While it's true we don't want to tell our readers everything that's coming before it happens, at the same time if there is something they need to know that DID happen, tell them. When I was in college, my writing professor called this "false suspense."

Example: A spy novel where a package is delivered, its contents examined, and great hullabaloo ensues, but we are not told for five chapters what those contents actually are. I, for one, stop caring.

2. Don't jump around in time and POV too much just to make up for a slow plot.

I suppose I could call this "false excitement" but it really is "disorientation." Back and forth we hop, from the action from the hero's point of view, to a few months earlier from the spy's point of view in which he is contemplating a run-in with a Columbian drug lord that has nothing whatsoever to do with the current situation (trust me, it really has nothing to do with it), back to the girlfriend's point-of-view in the action, then to her reliving a conversation with the hero at lunch last week.

I could see maybe in a very tense, critical moment when you need to diffuse things or the characters really are caught up in their own heads in order to avoid dealing with the crisis in front of them, but not as a regular pattern through the whole book.

 3. Don't make your hero so troubled that I don't like him or her.

This seems to be a trending fault in fantasy, and probably science fiction as well though I don't read much of it. In the effort to be gritty, authors create protagonists that come off as selfish and unlikeable. I don't care how bad his childhood was or how much danger he's in, if he acts like a jerk he's a jerk. Which leads me to the next one.

4. Don't give your protagonist such a gruesome backstory that it distracts from the current situation.

Again, the effort to be "gritty" has produced some really, really horrible setups. Am I the only person left in the world who is not immune to the horrors of rape, incest, torture, brandings, beatings, severe emotional abuse, abandonment, etc. etc. etc.? If you bring these things into the story you have to deal with them, and that means your reader must as well.

Your characters also have to deal with them, and if the characters are dealing with them, they're not able to function well. I get that not functioning well is the purpose; that you're challenging them. Okay. But when everyone is running around all traumatized and bloody before the story even really gets going, then it's not a place I want to be for 300 pages.

Maybe that's just a matter of personal taste, but if everyone in your story is tense, cranky and miserable, then I'm tense, cranky and miserable. At least put in a character for comic relief to break the tension. 

5. Don't make the pace so relentless that I stop caring what happens

There is a difference between an exciting read and an exhausting one. Something that good writers do well is pacing. Break things up with a little humor or romance between the confrontations. It doesn't have to be a lot. I'm not suggesting that you turn your hero into a sissy or your heroine into some jokey schoolgirl, but humor and affection are how real people cope with life. If your book doesn't have that, then your characters stop feeling like real people to me.

Do you agree or disagree? What are your pet peeves in genre fiction?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Still going strong

I have jumped into NaNoWriMo and found that I can swim. I can't remember when my own work was this much fun. I know it's the honeymoon week and all that, but don't spoil it for me by telling me how much I'll hate my book next week.

So far I'm at 9,818 words. I was blessed with a quiet weekend.

One thing I've caught myself doing is editing. That really wreaks havoc on one's word count. I'm accustomed to skimming over the previous day's work before I pick up where I left off, doing some cursory editing along the way. My solution to this for Nano is to color the parts I don't want to keep in gray font.

I also insert a little "+" symbol at the end of each day's writing to help me remember where I stopped so I can select the appropriate section of the manuscript to get a correct word count.

What tricks do you use?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Nano Nano!

Or, "Nanoo-nanoo," depending on what planet you are from. That's Robin Williams as Mork from "Mork and Mindy" for those of you who are too young to remember the 80's. Ahem.

I have signed up for NaNoWriMo this year, against my better judgement, but am loving it so far. I got up at 4:30 - yes, four-stinking-thirty - in the morning to write today. I got 1200 words down in about an hour.

Really? 1200 words? Like when has that ever happened before?

It's like this dam just opened inside me. I have this great story that I've been trying to write for a while now and just not been happy with any of my starts. So this time I started over again and it's just flowing like a charm. I think it has a lot to do with not trying to be perfect the first time out.

So, back to writing. I have another 800 words to go tonight! Good luck to everyone who's doing Nano too.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

On Happiness

Tonight I sit by the soccer field with my laptop, alone with my own thoughts for the first time in ages. No character voices chattering, no looming work deadlines, no other people's opinions or problems ringing in my head. It feels pretty good.

I’ve been ruminating about happiness lately, particularly as it relates to the writing life. I’ve come to the conclusion that happiness stems from knowing who you are. For me, it’s knowing that I am a child of God, redeemed by the blood of his son Jesus; a wife; a mom and a writer.

I don’t fulfill these roles perfectly, but I fulfill them anyway. My perfection comes from Christ, not Christine. His love and His blood cover all my flaws.

Being a writer is something I’ve struggled deeply with, as many of you know. Creativity is both a gift and  a curse; next to my faith it is my most defining trait. But even that has to be held loosely, like money, health and love. If I try too hard to fulfill it, it becomes a burden.

It’s been a burden for a long time, but not any more. I’ve been blessed to finally find a cure for the depression that’s plagued me for many years. Part of the cure is medication and part is just the raw courage of making some tough decisions about my life and whom I choose to be close to me.

Ultimately, though,  it all boils down to this one fact: God knows me. He created me, Christine, exactly the way he wanted me. My flaws are no surprise to Him. In his eyes, I am perfect. Not because I am perfect right now, but because He sees me as He designed me to be and as I will ultimately be when I am with Him in Heaven.

My desire to be more and better are put there by Him. My striving pleases Him. He rejoices with each step forward that I make. Striving to be more holy is not to be disdained as a “guilt trip.” It is to be celebrated, because it means I am continually learning to listen to and follow the inner voice of God.

Being creative is also to be celebrated. When I use the gifts God has given me, it’s an act of worship, even if I’m writing about gargoyles or elves. All that matters is that I allow Him to shine through my work if He chooses to.

That I am available.

Because in life that is the most that we can be: available to others, to the spirit of God, to our families, and to ourselves, and willing to follow through on whatever is honestly asked of us. The hard part is knowing which requests are genuine need and which are born of selfishness or deceit. But God helps us with that, too.

“If you love Me, keep My commandments, and I will pray to the Father and he will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever – the Spirit of truth.” John 14: 15-17

For a very long time I didn’t understand the role of the Holy Spirit in the Christian life. Now I know that it is the Spirit who is with us and reveals all truth to us.

“For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received …the Spirit who is from God that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.” 1 Cor. 2:11-12

I look forward to the fulfillment of this promise: 

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” 1 Cor. 2:9

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sunday Snapshot

Hey everyone, it's time for a Sunday Snapshot! We haven't done this in a while so I'm really looking forward to reading your contributions. Post the last paragraph or several lines of dialogue that you wrote. It doesn't have to be perfect. It doesn't even have to be good. It just has to be yours.

Here's mine. It's pretty bad first draft but perhaps it will encourage y'all to share, too. I really do like getting a little peek at all the different things you are writing.


Berol pushed to his feet, prodding his nearest companion with his foot. His voice was deepening at last, rumbling in his throat without cracking as he shouted. “Up, elves! We will sleep in our own beds tonight.”