Thursday, May 31, 2012

Misplaced Hero - Episode 8

The Case of the Misplaced Hero
First story of the Beeton Dispatches
by Camille LaGuire

Episode 8 - Alex Gives Chase

THORNY was not there.

Alex looked wildly about. Where did he go?  He couldn't have got far.  He was too drunk.

Could he have staggered back to the water?  No, he would have had to pass Alex to do that.  He could have gone up into the rocks, but that looked like a more difficult climb.  He probably went up onto the road.

Alex climbed up and looked uphill, where the car full of soldiers had gone.  The road rose and fell, and there were tall trees.  He couldn't see beyond the first hill.

He cursed Aunt Flavia.  Why hadn't she told him this place was real?

But she had.  Many times.  He'd taken it as part of the game.  He thought it was the "If you only you believe in magic hard enough, Tinkerbell will live" kind of real.  Not the "nearly drowning in a waterfall" kind of real.

He felt a wave of sorrow and he cursed himself for not listening hard enough, not believing well enough.

But he had no time for that.  He had to find Thorny and take him back.  The man was so drunk he probably wouldn't remember it.  He'd think it was a dream or an hallucination.

If he didn't drown or get arrested first.

Alex turned around and looked the other way, and saw a cluster of figures.  Another car.  Some soldiers and peasants.  These soldiers seemed neater than the scruffy bunch who had bounced up the road a minute ago, with shinier boots, spiffier uniforms.  They had someone on the ground and were kicking him.

A man in a wet gray suit.  Thorny.

Alex broke into a run.  He wasn't sure what he would do, but at least he spoke Awarshi.  Some Awarshi.  He tried to come up with the right the phrases: He's old, he's crazy, he's drunk. I'll be responsible for him.

And who the heck are you?  Where are your papers? he imagined the reply.

He'd tell them they'd left their things by the river.  He only had to convince them to take them back to the river, then he could grab Thorny and they could jump in... if that was how the magic worked.  He was sure it was. It had to be.

Alex pounded down the road at full speed, but it was too late.  The car pulled away, and disappeared around a bend before he got there.  Most of the peasants were gone too, but there was a man leaning on the gate of the nearest house.

He looked at Alex with suspicion.

"Where...?" said Alex breathlessly, trying to remember how to say it in Awarshi.  "Where are they going?  The old man is my friend.  Where...?"

The man didn't answer.  He looked Alex over, taking in his dripping wet and muddy clothes.  Alex realized that the hoodie and jeans he was wearing weren't exactly familiar.

"Spies!" said the man.  "That's what you are, eh?"

"No!" said Alex.

"That's what they said he was."

"It's a mistake.  He's just a crazy old man.  A drunk.  I have to take care of him."

The man just kept squinting at him.  Alex turned away to start running again.  He would keep up best he could and ask someone else.

But then a woman came out of the house.

"I told you," she said to the man.  "They're just foreigners from the train wreck."

"Foreigners are foreigners," said the man.

"All the same, they might as well be foreigners together," said the woman, and she turned to Alex.  "Follow the road all the way down.  At the foot of the falls is the town.  They've set up a headquarters in the inn."

"Thanks!" shouted Alex, and he broke into a run again.  At least he was going down hill, but he had no idea how far he would be running. Or what he would do when he got to the bottom.

The Case of the Misplaced Hero -- now available as an ebook at major online retailers, including:

In most ebook formats at Smashwords, plus Amazon's Kindle Store, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Diesel, Apple iBookstore(Coming soon to Sony.)

Now also at Amazon's international stores: UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan.

Or support this site directly;

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

ROW80 Update - May 30

On Tuesday, I paused to copy and paste all I said on the Passive Voice blog (where the comment threads are extremely interesting) so I could get a word count on it.  I wrote 5000 words!  Just in the comments on that one blog. (Same day I wrote 1480 words of new fiction.)


That explains where a lot of energy is going. (It IS a great blog for comment discussions, though.)

The good news is, I saved the comments which I copied out, and I have some great raw material for blog posts when I get back to regular posting this fall. (Or for guest posts.)

A Round of Words in 80 Days update:

Sunday Day 56 - 636 words.  I screwed around a lot today. (Had fun going to see Men In Black 3, though.)  But I finished the banner for Episode 7 of The Misplaced Hero, and then finished up the prose. 

Monday Day 57 -540 words.  I did a lot of backstory work, and also prepped the next episode.  (Gotta do the art yet.)  I didn't do a lot of writing, but what I wrote was "cherse" as Spencer Tracy says.

I also watched Rear Window, which was technically research.  (At the beginning of The Man Who Stepped Up, Karla has a "Hitchcock moment" when she sees something happen off in the distance, from the top of some school playground equipment.)  I am acquiring a list of movies for Karla to reference already.  She has already given George advice from Parapluies de Cherbourg, and I think I have a clue detail from Day of the Jackal, (though not one that is at all obvious -- it will trigger Karla, though). I'll probably be watching Dr. Strangelove and In The Heat of the Night this week.  I might watch On The Waterfront, even though I'm not a big fan of Elia Kazan.  I have the feeling there will be some resonance there, so Karla can find some Rod Steiger connections that nobody else can understand.

Tuesday Day 58 -1484 words.  Started with a nice session where I wrote the meat of a couple of upcoming episodes. Then I did a little more with The Man Who Stepped Up.  I wrote the opening pages, actually, which are a little rough yet, but I finally figured out how to introduce Karla again.  The situation isn't conducive to her movie mania, but it is conducive to a display of her in depth knowledge of jokes and humor.  It also does a hint-intro for George, who will not enter for at least another chapter.

All that commenting I did on Passive Voice is clearly why I didn't do the artwork for the next episode yet.  (Deadlines, though, are a wonderful thing.)

See you in the funny papers.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Misplaced Hero - Episode 7

The Case of the Misplaced Hero
by Camille LaGuire 

Episode 7 - Welcome to Awarshawa

WHEN PROFESSOR THORNTON opened his eyes and saw the rocks towering over him, and felt the gravel under him, he knew things were not as they should be.

And that was magnificent.

Perhaps it was the influence of the four margaritas -- or was that five? -- but he was tired of things being as the should be.  He hated things being as they should be.  He shoved himself to his feet and staggered forward.  He didn't see Alex, since he was facing away from the water, but he remembered the car -- a Tin Lizzie, or something like it.

He tottered toward the road, but the car was now long out of sight, and he wasn't sure what direction it had gone.  So he tottered right on across the road, not looking where he was going, and hit a stone wall.

He bounced off it, twirled around, and a hand grabbed his arm to steady him.  It wasn't Alex.  It was a soldier.  A soldier with a very long gun and a very long bayonet attached to it.

"Hello," said Thorny.

The soldier said something very harsh in a strange language.

"I don't understand," replied Thorny.

The soldier poked him with the bayonet, and gestured for the professor to put his hands up. Thorny complied, having nothing better to do, and soon they were marching along the road, the bayonet poking him along faster than he had any right to be going.

They joined a group of people -- several soldiers and a cluster of peasant women in babushkas and men in baggy trousers and boots.  The peasants were all in a line, and the soldier shoved Thorny into line with them.

There was a man in a fancier uniform, with a polished helmet and boots and a sword at his side.  Thorny staggered back out of line, and went over to give him an elaborate salute.  The officer had his back to him and didn't see.  Someone pulled Thorny back into line by the sleeve.  A peasant girl.

"Don't salute!" she hissed, in a thick accent.  "You are in Awarshawa.  It is considered anti-revolutionary."

"Really?" said Thorny.  "How do you show respect, then?"

He said it loud enough that the officer turned and looked at them.  The girl shuffled back, behind Thorny.  The officer came forward and frowned.  He was taller than Thorny by at least a head, with severe eyebrows and a pointy mustache.

"You speak Imprish?" said the officer.

"No," said Thorny. "Not at all.  I speak English!"

"Where are your papers?"

"I'm afraid I graded them all and turned them in," said Thorny.  "It's the end of the semester, after all."

A soldier hit him on the side of the face with the butt of his gun, and he rocked backwards, nearly losing his balance.  The girl grabbed his arm and righted him.  Thorny's head reeled and a vague pain in his jaw made him grateful he was drunk.

The girl, meanwhile, was addressing the officer.

"This man is obviously a victim of the train wreck," she said. "He is confused. He must have fallen in the river.  His papers are gone."

The officer paused and turned his full attention to the girl.  She stood boldly, looking him in the eye.  He smiled an oily smile and reached out to touch her face.  She pulled back.  The officer smiled again, satisfied, and he reached up and... good lord he didn't!

"Did you just twirl you mustache?" asked Thorny, aghast.

The officer made a gesture, and the soldier hit Thorny again.  Thorny went down, and the soldiers hauled him off and threw him in the back of the car.  A moment later the girl was shoved in along with him.

"Oh, dear," said Thorny, as the car began to move.  "Did I get you arrested?"

"Yes," said the girl.  "You did."

"Very sorry."

"Old man you must keep your mouth shut.  Answer their questions, be obedient, and for the sake of all, do not smile at them!"

The Case of the Misplaced Hero -- now available as an ebook at major online retailers, including:

In most ebook formats at Smashwords, plus Amazon's Kindle Store, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Diesel, Apple iBookstore(Coming soon to Sony.)

Now also at Amazon's international stores: UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan.

Or support this site directly;

Sunday, May 27, 2012

ROW80 Update - and the Clarion Write-a-Thon

Warming up to a much better writing pace, but still slower than I want.  Heat always gets to me.  And light.  But still, things seem to be working out and I may ramp this up further at the end of June (see the Clarion Write-a-thon news below the update.)

A Round of Words in 80 Days update:

Wednesday Day 52 - 1446 words.  I had a lot of writing come to me from The Man Who Stepped Up again.  If I didn't have to go to work tomorrow, I'd be doing a whole lot more.  And, of course, I did work on getting Episode 6 of The Misplaced Hero up -- though I wasn't happy with the banner art.

Thursday Day 53 -15 words.  It was a day job work day, and I spent MUCH too much time chatting on The Passive Voice, and I'm tired and decided to get sleep instead.  I did piece together the snippets that make up most of the next couple of episodes. Also did some extensive notes on The Man Who Stepped Up.  That story is definitely moving, but it also is still in the exploratory stages.

Friday Day 54 -1315 words.  The Man Who Stepped Up (MW2, for short) is going like gang busters.  A whole lot of things are breaking loose on it, too.  The crime back story is finally beginning to fill out.  I have finally come up with a Christie-esque motive.  (Actually, I had the motive, but it didn't get Christie-esque until I realized who it applied to.)

I think I did other writing, but for the life of me, I don't remember what.  (Tracking is always a problem when things are going well.)

Saturday Day 55 - 662 words.  More MW2, then I mostly worked on art. I have some spiffy stuff for the Episode 7 Banner. (Although I might switch to a square dingbat, rather than a banner, we'll see.)  The little figures on the previous episode didn't come out how I wanted.  The first sketch looked right, but I hurried too much on it.  What I'd like to go for, when I use figures on this, is that cartoon style used in art deco era cartoons and also on some propaganda posters.  I think I'm getting there.

I also realized that the rest of the weekend will be blazingly hot.  And I don't take well to heat.  And we wanted my special Hot Wings, which require a long baking time.  So I made them today.  And that is where the time for the other 800 words went. 

Clarion Write-A-Thon Coming Up!

The Clarion Workshop is an intensive "writers' bootcamp" for Science Fiction and Fantasy writers.  It changed my life back in 1982. Twenty or so (usually less) apprentice writers all locked in a dorm for six weeks, along with six pros, where they write and critique and tear their hair out and hear war stories and learn learn learn.

The workshop is competitive to get into.  An because it requires six weeks of your life, it is a major thing to arrange.  And it's expensive.  Personally, I think those people who manage to do the writing work to qualify, AND get their life changed around to attend, deserve to go, even if they can't afford it.  Luckily the Clarion Foundation provides financial assistance.  (They also provide funds to the workshop itself, which helps to keep the fees down.)

One way they raise funds is via their yearly Write-a-thon.  It runs for the same six weeks as the workshop: June 24, to August 4.  They are looking for more writers to sign up.  And of course, more donors to pledge!

I will be signing up again this year.  It will be rough: This ROW80 round ends just before the Clarion dare begins, so the days off between rounds will be almost a week less than usual.  As a result, I will probably slack off at the end of this round during the last week. (Or more likely the last segment, and just cut a few days off.)

I hope to ramp up my production for that part of the dare.  It will last 42 days -- 35 of those in overlap with ROW80, Round 3.  I'm hoping to use that time as a major sprint.

And all of my goals will be raw verbiage.  Rack up those rough drafts.  When the Write-a-thon ends, I think I'll probably have rewriting goals for the remainder of ROW80.

But there are a lot of ways you can use overlapping challenges, and I encourage others to join me in support of the Clarion Write-a-Thon.

See you in the funny papers

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Misplaced Hero - Episode 6

The Case of the Misplaced Hero
by Camille LaGuire 

Episode 6 -No, Seriously, Not The Right River

Alex's mind registered, vaguely, that there was no waterfall on the Red Cedar River.  It was flat, muddy and slow.  But the roar of the falls was too loud to ignore, and the current was racing.

Alex grabbed Old Thorny's sleeve and pulled and kicked, away from the center of the river.  He didn't care where they landed.  They just had to get out of the the current.  Now.

The professor floundered and might have brought them both under, but Alex had him by the elbow, and pushed him forward.  In a moment the professor had control of himself and started kicking and swimming with a will.

They reached the shallows.  The water still bounced them among the rocks, but with less force.  They hauled themselves up and half crawled, slipping and grasping, back upstream, to the small inlet at the side of the river.  It wasn't exactly a beach, just a flat area of gravel and broken rock, but it was out of the water.

The professor collapsed into a heap.  Alex fell to the ground beside him, and looked at the raging river, and the deep forest on the other side of it, and the high rocks all around them.  Not Michigan.  Where the hell were they?

Just then there was the rattling sound of an old car.  A very very old car.  Alex turned and saw a narrow road above them, running parallel to the river.  The vehicle bumped into view.  It reminded him of a Model T -- with round headlamps and an engine hood which opened on the sides -- but it was bigger.  The top was folded back and it was packed with soldiers.  There were a couple of soldiers standing on the running boards, and clinging to the sides.

They rattled past, honking a hoarse old horn, and then the car couldn't quite make it up the steep incline.

"Spushta!" shouted one of them, and the others all jumped out and pushed to get the car going again.  In a moment they were out of sight.


Alex had heard that word hundreds of times.  Aunt Flavia used to say it to him when he lagged behind.


That was her secret language, the one he thought she'd made up, to go with country she'd made up

"Don't look now," drawled the professor, "but I think we're not in Kansas any more."

"Not by a long shot," said Alex.  He stood up.  "We're in Awarshawa."

Rather than ask where that was, the professor simply passed out again on the gravel.  Alex turned to look at the river.

Aunt Flavia had disappeared into the water without a splash or a trace, and then reappeared, hours later, inexplicably injured.  And that night she told him he'd want to jump in the lake sometime himself. I encourage you to do it, she said.

And then she gave him the ring and said to wear it when he jumped in.

"It's the ring," said Alex.  "And the river."

He went to the edge and looked in.  The reflections played across the water, and he had that same feeling of vertigo he'd had before.  Two images blending on the water.  And there, among the fractured bits of trees and rocks and sky, he saw reflections of the bridge they'd left behind.

They could get back just by jumping in, he was sure.  The only problem was that Thorny was still too drunk to swim.  Still, the shallows here were not as dangerous as mid-river, and back home, the river was plenty slow.

And he really wanted to get Thorny home before he sobered up and saw what was going on.

He turned to get the old man up....

But the professor wasn't there.

The Case of the Misplaced Hero -- now available as an ebook at major online retailers, including:

In most ebook formats at Smashwords, plus Amazon's Kindle Store, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Diesel, Apple iBookstore(Coming soon to Sony.)

Now also at Amazon's international stores: UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan.

Or support this site directly;

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

ROW80 Update - May 23

Very short update today.  For newcomers, I am participating in a writing dare called A Round of Words in 80 Days.  We post progress on Sundays and Wednesdays.  I tend to shift my goals to suit what I need to be working on.  Here are the current goals.  I didn't do too well on keeping them up in this segment....

A Round of Words in 80 Days update:

Sunday Day 49 - 226 words.  I think Sunday is going to be my day "off" over summer.  I'll be scrambling to get the serial episodes ready, and I might as well do other business too.

Monday Day 50 - 762 words. Didn't do as much as I wanted, but I have some good stuff for Eps 6 and especially 7.

However, I also wrote 2600+ words which don't count, because they're non-fiction.  I saw two separate posts on blogs this week about writers struggling with their internal editor.  One person was struggling with an overpowering internal editor, another had the internal editor completely turned off.  And I realized that, over the years, I've developed a different approach to the internal editor, and I think it's worth talking about.  Definitely something bigger than a blog post, though.  Could be a short "manifesto" to publish for 99 cents, or maybe just a series of posts.  Or maybe both.

Tuesday Day 51 - 817 words.  And a picture.  Today was busier at work than I expected.  And when I got home, I made cookies and watched Day Of The Jackal, and had a bunch of ideas for The Man Who Stepped Up.  But it was late when I settled in to write, so I mostly just prepped Episode 6 for posting tomorrow and did a banner, and then got a little work done on MWSU. 

I'm not fully happy with the banner.  I'm thinking of switching what kind of art I use for the story, from title banners to a square dingbat.  I love the horizontal format, but when a preview thumbnail appears in a listing or RSS reader, it is often cut off in weird places.  I think small square images tend to look best in previews.  (Also I want to try some different styles.)

See you in the funny papers.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Misplaced Hero - Episode 5

The Case of the Misplaced Hero
by Camille LaGuire 

Episode 5 -The Wrong River

Alex climbed the barrier between the sidewalk and the bank.  It was slower going for a sober person, but the professor was picking up speed as he stumbled drunkenly ahead.

"Professor, that water's filthy.  You should see what's in it under a microscope!"

"You took biology!" the professor shouted from below. "Good for you!  Humanities is a dead subject."

Alex lept from the top of the barrier and raced after.  The man, though, changed direction, and Alex shot right by, straight toward the river.

He caught himself at the edge, just where the firm grassy ground sloped down into the mud.  He teetered a moment and looked into the murky water.

It was smooth and calm on this fine evening, and though the moving water had ripples, the surface reflected bits of Alex back at himself, along with bits of the sky and spidery trees.  The ripples blended these pieces together and it seemed like blending two separate pictures.  Like seeing multiple scenes at once.

Alex had had this sensation before when looking at the surface of water; blending pictures, blending worlds. It was distracting, disorienting, but beautiful.  Even in the murky surface of a muddy river.

Alex shook himself and pulled back.  He turned and saw the professor had climbed onto the square cement base of one of the bridge pylons.  He stood there, staggering as he lifted his arms, as if to get ready to dive.

"No!" said Alex.  "It's too shallow. The rocks!"

The professor staggered back a half step, and that gave Alex time to scramble up.  There wasn't a lot of room on the flat bit of cement, and as the professor lurched his way toward the water again, Alex realized there was no place to step back to brace himself to take the weight.

Even though the professor wasn't a large man, he overbalanced them both, and they tumbled in.

But there was no splash.

They went deeper into the water than Alex expected, and the water was colder, and the force of it pushed them faster.

Alex grasped the professor's coat and they both floundered and kicked for a moment before they breached the surface.

Water splashed into his mouth as he gasped for air.  It was sweet and clean.  Not muddy.  Not at all muddy.  Alex kicked to keep his head above water and looked for the riverbank.  It was farther than expected and he couldn't even see the bridge.  None of it looked familiar.  Walls of rock and a stretch of gravelly beach that they were passing fast.

The current pulled hard, and churned.  They both went under for a moment.  Alex realized that they would soon be swept past that shallow gravel beach.  There was no other place to land.

He kicked and pulled, and so did the professor and they broke the surface again.  There was the thundering, roaring sound in the distance downstream.

"This way," gasped Alex, as the professor paddled beside him.  He pulled the older man toward the beach-like area, but the current kept pulling them onward.  They were almost past it.  They swam and kicked, and Alex suddenly had a feeling of dread.

He thought he recognized that roaring sound.

He paused to give a tremendous kick to raise himself a little higher above the water line, just a few more inches.  He only caught a glimpse, but he could see the river vanished just a short ways ahead. Mist rose beyond the spot where it vanished.

"Waterfall!" he cried.

The professor's eyes widened in panic, and he began to flounder as the current took them both.

The Case of the Misplaced Hero -- now available as an ebook at major online retailers, including:

In most ebook formats at Smashwords, plus Amazon's Kindle Store, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Diesel, Apple iBookstore(Coming soon to Sony.)

Now also at Amazon's international stores: UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan.

Or support this site directly;

Sunday, May 20, 2012

ROW80 Update - May 20 and Storyboarding

Great News! The labor contract our union just agreed to was not NEARLY as bad as it seemed.  They had changed how they tabulated certain workload issues, and it made it look like a huge increase in workload for many association members (and subsequent loss of income for others) -- but there was actually no change, just a shift in language in hopes of better defining certain things.

Without that, the rest of the contract is more an even trade off of good and bad.

To quote Mr. Burns from the Simpsons: "I... don't hate this." 

And I'm much relieved.

A Round of Words in 80 Days update:

Wednesday Day 45 -98 minutes.  Didn't do exactly what I meant to do -- I went off and wrote something on another story.  Then I edited and posted Episode 4, as well as doing the illustration for it.

Thursday Day 46 - 0 minutes. Today was a long day -- a work day, and then a long union meeting afterward.  Very tired.  But I will be starting some new writing goals tomorrow!  I was inspired to go back to counting words.

Friday Day 47 -1670 words.  Did some rough work on some upcoming episodes for The Misplaced Hero, and then did some work on the first chapter of The Man Who Stepped Up.  Not my strongest work, but also not at all hard work.

I did a lot of slacking in the middle of the day and spent too much at the grocery store.  However, even if I hadn't been slacking I probably wouldn't have written much more.  I would have pulled out and read over some notes so that I would have more material fresh in my head for writing tomorrow. I had an idea for a draft/outline style. (see Storyboarding stuf below)

Saturday Day 48 - 1247 words.  Again split between Misplaced Hero and ManWho2.  Not real happy what I'm doing with Man Who, but it's working as exploratory writing.  I'm finding stuff out.

As for Misplaced Hero, I like the work I'm doing, but I haven't done the art for the next ep yet.  It will be a busy day tomorrow.


One of the things I notice about writing this serial is that I'm writing in a particular style just for it -- very impressionistic.  What it feels like, in my head, is a storyboard.  Fast broad-stroke sketches of what happens, distilled down to important details.

I like it and want to learn to do it better, but I also feel like it could very well be a springboard to something bigger.  Or perhaps I should say a foundation which I can flesh out more.

It's like an outline but more ... story-ish

A storyboard, for those who don't know, is a set of drawings that filmmakers and animators (and others) do to visualize the story before actually making the movie.  If you think of an outline as like a screenplay (or something that comes before the screenplay) the storyboards are what fleshes that story out before it becomes film.

They're very visceral -- they're not about what happens factually.  They're about what happens emotionally, in the gut. They're about the audience reaction.  About the story.

And that's sort of what this serial has been feeling like to me -- like a storyboard.  I realize that when I sit down to compile this into a book, I won't just take it as is.  I'll want more atmosphere, and more graceful conversations, with more detail. There won't be changes in the scenes or the story, just a change in presentation.  Because, after all, a book is different from a blog story in how the audience experiences it.

But there is something else:  Instinct tells me that this might be a good tool for writing other things.  That this serial/storyboarding mindset might work as a kind of extra creative form of outlining.  A form of prep work which might even help books which are not suited to be a serial or anything like it.

I'm going to try looking at Devil in a Blue Bustle as if it were to be serialized -- think of it in terms of smaller episodes and storyboard panels -- and see if that moves it along better.

In the meantime, stay tuned for the next episode of The Misplaced Hero.  (And if you missed the previous one, Episode 4 is here.)

See you in the funny papers.

Friday, May 18, 2012

A New "Brutal" Writing Schedule

The blog-o-sphere is buzzing about a New York Times article which described writing 2000 words in a day as "brutal."

Every writer is different, every life is different, and so I'm not going to jump on any writers who find that kind of a daily output to be exceedingly difficult, or even impossible.  But that's individuals.  For the majority of full-time writers, that should not be so extraordinary.  Certainly not enough to be called, across the board, "brutal."

But the figure stuck in my head -- just on a theoretical basis -- and made me reconsider my goals.  Again.

What does 2000 Words A Day Mean?

Okay, the article quoted two figures.  One was the 2000 words a day, and the other was two books a year.  An average book of the authors mentioned was about 100,000 words.

Two thousand words a day, every day, is 730,000 words a year.  Significantly more than the 200,000 words needed for two books.... so I'm going to assume two things:

1.) These are not polished words.  They're raw words, and rewrites are included in the count.

2.) We'll be fair and assume this grueling schedule of 2000 a day is only five days a week.  You know, like a regular full-time job.  That totals 10,000 words a week.

This summer, I am working just over 1/4 time.  So if 2000 words is a full-time job then 1400 words should suit my schedule.  And if I do that 5 days a week, that should add up to 7000 words a week.


A thousand words a day (every day, not just work days) is a very common daily goal.  It's the background goal I usually set when I feel the need to count words, and I usually do it when I'm working 1/2 to 3/4 time at the day job.

And yes, it's usually a challenge to keep it up for more than a couple of months when I'm working that many hours.  But not brutal.  Just a challenge.

But if the New York Times thinks it's brutal, who am I to argue?

So that's the goal I'm setting for this tough, mean, nasty, brutal summer is:

7000 words a week, starting today, May 18.

I'm planning to do it like a work week: 1400, five days a week, or even 1750 four days.  But I don't know if that will work, because I like to write every day, mostly.  I might just set the daily goal high and then take time off when a rough day comes along.

But wait, it's going to be tougher than that.

Because I'm not going to count polishing or editing time - just raw new words.  And I've got to tell you, that the editing for this blogstory experiment with The Misplaced Hero is, um, brutal.  I'm learning to peel the story back, to a very simple and direct form, AND to fit a schedule and format.  AND I'm drawing two episode banners a week as well. This is not a trivial task.

And I'm blogging (although the blogstory does relieve some of that).

I plan to keep this up over the break between ROW80 rounds, but that may be ambitious.  I'll re-assess what I'm doing at that time.

See you in the funny papers.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

MIsplaced Hero - Episode 4

The Case of the Misplaced Hero
by Camille LaGuire 

Episode 4 - The Outrage of Old Thorny

ALEX FOUND PROFESSOR Thornton in a local restaurant, calling loudly for the waitress, who studiously ignored him.

The man was a living caricature in a tweed coat with leather patches at the elbows, and tousled graying hair.  His lectures were the well-tuned performances of an old vaudevillian.  Same show twice a day, take a bow and answer the same old questions by rote.  Alex had never been sure that Old Thorny even knew what he was saying any more.

There were several empty glasses on the table, and a half pitcher of beer, though the old professor was sitting alone. When he saw Alex, he half stood and pointed at him, shouting:

"Then give him a drink!"

The waitress looked at Alex and said, through a clenched jaw, "Are you with him?"

"I, uh, wanted to talk to him."

"Take him home," she said.

"That boy shattered my existence with his nonsense!" called Thorny in a booming, theatrical voice.  "Give him a drink!"

Alex agreed to take him home.  Since neither of them had a car, they walked. It wasn't far, just across the river.  As they walked, Alex waved the envelope with his essay under the professor's nose.  The professor squinted at it and then waved his hand dismissively.

"You're not so clever, my boy," he said.

"I got a four point."

"Do you think in forty years of teaching, I haven't had students say 'up yours' with an assignment before?  It's dreary how you all do the same thing.  Discuss the novel from the point of view of an established critic... and you pick your dear old Aunt Bessy!"

"Aunt Flavia," said Alex.

"Auntie Mame, I don't care.  You're not the first to choose grandmaw or Hitler, or Snoopy or Snoop Dawg.  Not clever at all."

"Then why the four point?"

They were crossing the bridge over the river, and the professor stopped, and held on to the railing for a moment.  He might have been thinking, or just on the verge of passing out.

"Because," he said finally.  "In all of it, all my teaching days, I have never seen anyone compare Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man to Zorro.  Not once."

"Nobody's ever made a ridiculous comparison?"

"Nobody's ever meant it."

The professor pushed past him and headed the rest of the way across the bridge.

"I didn't actually mean it," said Alex.   "I was just--"

Old Thorny stopped, but he didn't turn around. He balled his fists, and his shoulders raised up stiffly.

"You don't understand!" he said, half shouting.  Then he finally wheeled around.  "You made me believe it!"

"I didn't mean to," said Alex.  "I meant to do the opposite, actually."

"For just one small shining moment, I believed in what you were saying.  I believed that the modern world and Zorro could coexist.  Then I came crashing back into reality when you misspelled 'there.'  T-h-e-i-r is the possessive.  T-h-e-r-e is the place."

"I'm sorry.  I was trying to flunk."

"Bah!"  Old Thorny wheeled around again and began to stagger away.

"It was a tribute to my aunt. She really believed in Zorro," said Alex.  "But she was eccentric.  She also advised me to go jump in the lake."

At that, the professor stopped.  He half turned, as if puzzled.

"Jump in the lake?  She told you to go jump in the lake?"

"And not as an insult," said Alex.  "It was advice."


"I don't know," said Alex with a shrug.  "She had interesting ideas."

"Of course she did," said the old professor, and he stood swaying for a moment.  His head turned slowly toward the river.  "Jump in the lake and see what happens."

By this time the professor had moved beyond the bridge, but Alex didn't like the manic look in his eye, so he braced himself to catch the old man if he tried to race back to the center and throw himself in the river.

"Let's do it!" said the professor, but instead of heading back for the bridge, he jumped the lower barrier next to him, and ran down the bank.

Alex had no choice but to vault over and try to catch him.

The Case of the Misplaced Hero -- now available as an ebook at major online retailers, including:

In most ebook formats at Smashwords, plus Amazon's Kindle Store, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Diesel, Apple iBookstore(Coming soon to Sony.)

Now also at Amazon's international stores: UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan.

Or support this site directly;

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

ROW80 Update - May 16

A Round of Words in 80 Days update:

Sunday Day 42 - 76 minutes.  Did final edit and posting of Episode 3.  Then some work on the art and text for Episode 4.  I also played a little with some existing material for 5-6.  I've got to decide if that bit really should take two episodes -- I think it does, but I may need to push one of the episodes a little further.

Monday Day 43 - 24 minutes.  Yes, I did my writing, but I've got to take time out for a moment.

We've been working without a contract for two years. After hundreds of thousands (well over a million, actually) spent on blocking negotiations, the college finally came to the table, and we now apparently have a tentative agreement.  I. Am. Not. Pleased. With. It.  On the surface, anyway, it is stunningly bad.  Shockingly bad.  But there are ameliorating aspects if you read more closely.  And since the membership did not show up in support of the bargaining team, we were lucky to get that.

But the legal language is squishy and it's going to be a couple of days reading through it.

Tuesday Day 44 - 45 minutes.  That's approximate.  Still reading through the contract, but I did get a little work done. Unfortunately, it was mostly for further down the road, so I still haven't fully got Episode 4 polished up for posting yet.

Writing Short and Long

One of the things I did Monday (before we saw the contract) was play again with how many episodes this story might be.  I think it will be a little longer, so I'm aiming to finish it in August.

And that brings the overall length up to novella length.

Furthermore, I am writing very short here.  I would certainly take more time with a few things (especially atmosphere) if this were a regular novel.  And if I were to plump it up to suit the style of a regular book.... it would definitely be a decent novella length.

That's important, because it makes it more worth my while to create an ebook out of it to sell.  And that helps keep me on task.  I'll talk more about the remuneration issues for blog fiction in a post later on. 

In the meantime, stay tuned for tomorrow's episode: "The Outrage of Old Thorny."

See you in the funny papers.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Unique Issues of Exposition in a Serial

I originally conceived The Misplaced Hero to be like a serial, not to be an actual serial.  And originally the story was to start with what will happen in Thursday's upcoming episode -- a conversation between Alex and his professor, Old Thorny.  All that you've seen so far, in the first three episodes, was covered as exposition within the discussion.

And I think it worked that way in a regular story.  I have a screenwriting background and I love dialog and a chapter-long conversation can be fun.  However, if I'm going with 600 words (or less) per episode, I can't do it that way.  A conversation has an arc, and a flow, and it just wouldn't break up well.

Furthermore, even though conversation can be efficient in conveying simple facts, it can also add a lot of overhead in terms of subtext and emotion.  If the audience already knows something -- has already seen it happen -- then a good portion of the subtext is already there for them.  They know how the character feels.  You don't have to wave a flag, for instance, to indicate that a character doesn't mean what he's saying.  The audience already knows that.  A writer can be more subtle and natural.

And I can also be more efficient, and more focused.  In Thursday's episode, the audience will already know what Alex thinks, so they can just concentrate on figuring out the conflicting emotions within his professor.

That's an interesting side-effect to doing a short-episode serial: To make these small scenes work, I have to dig out each dramatic element and give it its own separate moment in the sun. Even the boring stuff has to work all by itself.

And that is a cool opportunity.

Well, a challenge, anyway.  A learning opportunity.

The dramatic element in yesterday's episode was very abstract.  It was about literary theory, of all things.  Can literary theory make a good episode in an adventure story?  There are no swashing of bucklers, no swinging on ropes; just the sparking of synapses and the opening of an envelope.

And yet... and yet....  The sparking of synapses in the brain is where it all happens. 

Like Alex, I read Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man in college, and it had a similar odd effect on me.  My response was not cynical though.  Ellison's book illustrated to me that superheroes and reality are not mutually exclusive.  Invisible Man is an origin story.  The superpower involved is truth.  The invisible man is hidden, buried in the insincere meaningless hollow crap of society, and the recognition of truth is like being bitten by a radioactive spider.  The synapses of this anonymous guy are firing.  And though I was never really sure if that man would get out of the place he was in, or if just his story would, but I felt like when he comes out, he won't be anonymous - they'll call him Mr. Tibbs.  He'll be Samuel L. Freaking Jackson.

If you want to talk about a real Inciting Incident, in life or in fiction, it's when the synapses fire.  That's where change begins.  Sometimes even when the actual thought itself appears trivial or impossible.

So I don't know if Episode Three is a very good episode in terms of being the most interesting episode, but to me, it's a great outcome for the experiment.

See you in the funny papers.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Misplaced Hero - Episode 3

The Case of the Misplaced Hero
by Camille LaGuire 

Episode 3 -The Invisible Man and The Misplaced Hero

IN COLLEGE, ALEX made a point of avoiding success.  He had no ambition.  He had outgrown his aunt's fanciful games, though sometimes he longed for a world where glory and honor mattered; a world where they didn't didn't seem so... dumb.

He indulged a little in pranks and sneakiness, but he never cheated, except now and then he would intentionally flunk a class.

The fact was, he didn't want to graduate.  School suited him, he had the money to stay, and he had no place else he wanted to go.  Why not?  He could be a perpetual student.

In his fifth year of college, on his third go round at a second year literature class, he planned to skip the final essay, but when he saw the topic, he changed his mind.

The assignment was to discuss one of the books they had read that term from the point of view of one of the great literary critics.  He had read all the novels, but he had not paid any attention at all to the lectures about literary theory. He couldn't have named one critic if he tried.

But one of the books had brought Aunt Flavia and her little midnight talk to mind. The Invisible Man was a serious modern novel about a man of color who slowly and inexorably becomes disillusioned with the promises of opportunity and equality in modern society.

In a scene near the end of the book, the hero has been utterly stripped of every one of his illusions, and he realizes that he is virtually invisible to the cynical world around him, and that this invisibility gives him power.  The man vows to use that power to hold society accountable to the values it pretended to hold dear.

When Alex read that scene, he heard his aunt's voice, telling him how heroes lie fallow, unnoticed, unappreciated -- invisible.  The man in the book was despised and ignored because of his race.  Wasn't this a variation on how the wealthy and blue-blooded heroes of adventure fiction might be ignored and dismissed for their uselessness?

And wasn't it really inappropriate to compare the two?  Wouldn't it be a guarantee of failure?

It was the anniversary of Aunt Flavia's death, and the essay seemed like a tribute to her.  Something grand, if a little useless, like a misplaced hero.  A good way to end the school year.

After finals week was done, Alex normally would have taken off and not bothered to pick up the graded essay... but this time he found himself thinking about it.  Wondering about the reaction.  So he went to the department office and picked it up.  

He hesitated as he went to open the envelope.  Then he laughed at himself and tore the envelope open.
The whole essay was crumpled as though someone had balled it up and thrown it away.  But they must have retrieved it, for it had been flattened and graded.  Scrawled across the top, in bold red letters was:


And below that was the grade:


A perfect score.  There were no other marks on the essay.

Alex went back into the office to inquire as to whether Professor Thornton was still on campus.  He was informed, shortly, by an overworked and disapproving secretary, that he could find Old Thorny enjoying "happy hour" at a local restaurant.

The Case of the Misplaced Hero -- now available as an ebook at major online retailers, including:

In most ebook formats at Smashwords, plus Amazon's Kindle Store, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Diesel, Apple iBookstore(Coming soon to Sony.)

Now also at Amazon's international stores: UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan.

Or support this site directly;

Sunday, May 13, 2012

ROW80 Update - May 13

A Round of Words in 80 Days update:

Episode 2 of The Misplaced Hero posted.

Wednesday Day 38 - 130 minutes?  I don't know, I lost track after two hours.  Had a good short session in the morning roughing in Episode 4, which will be difficult.  Then I finally wrestled Episode 2 into submission, and posted it.  I was going to skip doing a new banner, but I had to at least change the text to reflect the episode title, and all I really had to do was put in a ring. And then I had to change the background color to reflect a feeling of night.  And then....  So I did a new banner.

Thursday Day 39 - 75 minutes.  Mostly did some artwork for Monday's episode and also got that episode up on the site and ready for publication.  The artwork was a challenge: the concept of the episode is sort of abstract.  But I realized that there is a reference to Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, and I could illustrate the key scene from that book. It's not my best illustration, but it's one I'm particularly pleased with.

Then next Thursday, I just need to come up with a good abstract background for a margarita.  I think the episode is going to give me more trouble than the art.  (But I have a good idea for changing the location, which will more naturally get to the next spot.)

Friday Day 40 - 52 minutes.  Half-way point on the Dare!  I meant to do more today, but I zoned out on some other story ideas for a bit.  Then I found myself zoning out on this one, which is a good thing, mostly. Episode 4 is tricky, and that's the one I'm trying to get ready. I have an earlier version which has some nice lines in it, but I have to cut and rearrange a bit.  (It was the opening of the book, originally, and contained a lot of dialog-exposition about what happened in the first three eps.)

I also wrote a very small bit from Rozinshura's point of view -- something for around Episode 8 or 9, I think.  Rozinshura, I knew, would be fun.  Since he is careful of what he says, though, I didn't realize how much fun his private thoughts were.  (I should have.  It's clear from his understatement what he thinks.)

Saturday Day 41 - 112 minutes. Did some work on the Rozinshura chapter, and thought about how it was going to fit in.  Then I got Episode 4 mostly whipped into shape, it's a little long, but I think it deserves it.


I am not using Lily's voice as much as I expected.  She's supposed to be blogging the story, but it's not obvious.  Even when she makes commentary, it blends with the thoughts of the view point character.

I had expected that the whole story would be less formal, and more casual.  She could chat on about things more -- but even here, where I'm doing set up and backstory, the story just pushes forward.  I think the story really is suited for the format.  We'll have to see if Lily's voice is the right way to approach it.  I mean, it's not that it would change much -- she's telling the story in a traditional way.

Funny thing; as I was writing from Rozinshura's point of view, I thought he could be a fun voice to tell this very story. (Might even be fun to do a varying point of view -- where people tell other people's stories rather than their own.  Maybe an exercise outside the story.  Maybe even Roshomon-style.)  I'll talk more about this on Tuesday, when I do an "about the story so far" post.

But first, on Monday, we'll hear about how Alex was lured into thinking, against his will, and failed to flunk.

See you in the funny papers.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Misplaced Hero - Episode 2

The Case of the Misplaced Hero
by Camille LaGuire 

Episode 2 - Flavia's Advice

The night after Aunt Flavia fell into the lake, Alex fell into a fitful sleep, filled with nightmares of wind and water.  But deep in the night, a hand shook his arm, and he found Aunt Flavia standing over him.

"I have something to give you," she said.  She sat by his bed and played with the ring on her finger, and didn't speak for a moment.  Alex was still half asleep and not quite sure if he was still dreaming.

"Our lives are very ordinary until something awful happens," she said, all of a sudden.  "And then we grow up and see how muted and barren this world is.  It seems like there is nothing great and true and wonderful.  There is nothing like the games we play.  Nothing like those grand movies we watch or books we read."

She paused, and looked down at her hand.  Then she pulled off the ring.  It was gold, and glinted in the light.  Alex couldn't see it well, but he knew what it looked like.   It was fat and plain, except for some etching and two tiny rubies, like eyes of a beast biting it's own tail. You'd think it was a snake, but the etching was more like the ribs of an armadillo than scales.

Then she looked up, straight at him.

"But I tell you; great things exist!"  She said this as though he doubted it.  She leaned in closer and continued.

"Heroes are not always legends.  You can't always see them.  They are just people who don't fit in a safe world.  They seem useless or invisible.  Like Zorro when he's Don Diego.  But that is only because they're misplaced.  When they find their place and see what they must do, then the hero comes out."

"I tried to save you, but I couldn't," he said, sitting up.  She shook her head and patted his arm.

"Of course not," she said.  "I wasn't there to save!  That wasn't a job for you.  Alex, you haven't found your place yet.  But you will.  Someday.  And it won't be through fear or doubt.  It will be because you've had enough of this place, and its muted reality.  It will make you want to go jump in the lake."

She pressed the ring into his hand and leaned in closer.

"I encourage you to do it, Alex.  Jump in that lake.  But when you do, you must wear this ring and remember all that I taught you.  All of it.  Even the silly things."

She kissed him and went back to her own room.  He was so sleepy, he wasn't even sure it wasn't a dream.  He clutched the ring, and thought maybe Aunt Flavia believed the ring had saved her life.  He pictured magic ropes taking her by the wrists and dragging her from the deep.  That was why she didn't want to tell the police about it.

And what had that to do with invisible misplaced heroes?  Maybe the ring called up an invisible hero, deep in the lake, who grabbed her by the wrists and flung her onto the beach.  That would be cool, if a little deranged.

Alex felt comforted, but he didn't feel much like a hero himself.

Years later, after his aunt died for real and Alex went off to college, he tried not to think about much of anything.  Certainly not about his aunt's delusions about invisible heroes, or about how right she was at the cynical, boring, vapid world.

But the thing about college is that, if you stay there long enough -- as Alex most certainly did -- sooner or later you will be lured into thinking.  And thinking will change your life....

Stay Tuned for Episode 3 - "The Misplaced Hero and The Invisible Man."

The Case of the Misplaced Hero -- now available as an ebook at major online retailers, including:

In most ebook formats at Smashwords, Amazon's Kindle Store, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Diesel, Apple iBookstore(Coming soon to Sony.)

Now also at Amazon's international stores: UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan.

Or support this site directly;

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

ROW80 - New Goals for May

Announcement: I'm going to be publishing The Misplaced Hero twice a week -- Mondays and Thursdays. I'll tell you more about that in a post on Friday. 

But first, I have new goals for the month of May:

I am going to try to write an episode a day for the rest of the month.  (Or the equivalent -- generally, I'll rough in one ep, shape up one that's already roughed in, and polish a third.)  I think this will be excellent discipline, and a great learning experience.

I will continue to post about the experience of writing it on Tuesdays or Fridays as I feel like it.  The artwork might suffer for this accelerated schedule, at least at first.

As for what I'll do in June?  I don't know.  I will probably be desperate to get back to regular writing, but I'll save that until closer to the time.  (BTW, I like setting goals from month to month.  I may continue this.)

A Round of Words in 80 Days update:

Sunday Day 35 - 70 minutes. Saw the Avengers today.  They rocked.  Joss Whedon knows how to deal with an ensemble cast.  The star quality in each character was allowed to shine (except maybe for Thor, who had relatively simple motives, so he was a little under-done compared to the rest).

Got tomorrow's episode done, and also did a little on the artwork.

Monday Day 36 - 62 minutes. Mostly got the next episode ready.

Tuesday Day 37 - 60 minutes.  Looked over what I've got on the blog story, and what I want to get done, and realized that it'll take at least 21 episodes - which is why I am going over to posting twice a week.  It will take until the end of September if I don't. In the meantime, Episode 2 is giving me more trouble than I thought, but it will be ready for Thursday.

See you in the funny papers.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Misplaced Hero - Episode 1

First Episode | Series Intro and TOC | Story So Far | Previous Episode

The Case of the Misplaced Hero
by Camille LaGuire 

Episode 1 - Aunt Flavia Jumps in the Lake

ALEX BEGAN LIFE only twenty-three years ago, in Michigan.  He was the son of wealthy parents, who were always a bit mysterious and distracted.  They died before he was old enough for them to explain anything to him.

They left him in the hands of lawyers, who took care of his estate, which was large, and mostly pretty boring.  He would have much rather have been left in the custody of his Great Aunt Flavia, but apparently his parents, or their lawyers, had been concerned that she would be a bad influence.

And they were right.  She was a bad influence, and she managed to influence him very well, in spite of the lawyers, because she was all the family he had.  He got to spend summers and holidays with her.  And she was anything but boring.

Aunt Flavia lived in a world of her own, a world full of imagination.  When he came to visit, they would play at pirates all summer long; and at spies and castles and swordplay at every week end.  He learned to ride horses, and became a passable swordsman.

His aunt had even made up a secret language she called "Awarshi," which they spoke to one another all the time, like a secret code, even in public.  This much annoyed the trustees who acted as Alex's financial guardians.

One summer Alex and Flavia were out boating on Lake Michigan, when a wind came up, and she fell overboard.  It happened so fast Alex didn't even hear the splash.  She was simply gone.  Alex was frantic.  He circled, and called for help. 

The authorities and local fishermen searched for hours and found no sign of her.

She turned up on the beach that evening, weak and suffering from exposure.  She had a gash on her side, and bruises on her wrists.

The injuries looked suspicious to the police, especially since she was vague on how she got them.  That is, she was vague until she realized that the police thought Alex had attacked her and thrown her overboard.  She bristled at the very idea, and suddenly she could remember every detail of her ordeal:

She fell in, and was sucked under, that was all.  There must have been an unusual undertow.

"An undertow that grabbed your wrists?" asked the policeman.

"Hush," she said, and she fixed him with a look which made him look away.  "When I came up, the boat was no longer in sight.  I could see the beach, so I swam for it. I'm an old woman. I'm not strong, and I very nearly didn't make it, so don't question me like a criminal."

"No, ma'am, of course not--"

"There was a pontoon or a raft a little way from shore," she continued, with another sharp look to silence the cop. "I tried to climb onto it, but I lost my grip. That's when I hurt my side.  So I just held on and rested until I could stay afloat well enough for the waves to push me to the beach."

The policeman looked doubtfully at the bruises on her wrists, but she pulled her hands away and crossed her arms.  She could not be shaken from her story and no one wanted to badger a sick old woman, so they let her go home.

As the police drove them home, Flavia gripped Alex' hand tightly and she whispered to him in her own private language.

"Kinchura," she said, which was her word for dearest, "I am too tired.  I must rest.  And then I have something to give you."

First Episode | Series Intro and TOC | Story So Far | Previous Episode

The Case of the Misplaced Hero -- now available as an ebook at major online retailers, including:

In most ebook formats at Smashwords, Amazon's Kindle Store, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Diesel, Apple iBookstore(Coming soon to Sony.)

Now also at Amazon's international stores: UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan.

Or support this site directly;