Monday, December 31, 2012

Test of Freedom - Episode 21

Episode 21 - "An Enterprise Island"
by Camille LaGuire

Sabatine Island was vaguely star-shaped.  Four points jutted out into the sea, one in each of the cardinal directions.  Some called it the Compass of the Ocean because of this.

Philipston, it's capital, nestled in the corner between the north and west points.  It was a large city, to anyone from Acton, but not much to those from more civilized areas.  It rose up in layers from the harbor, not steeply, but in pleasant tiers, laying itself out for the view of visitors.

Overall a lovely, clean, prosperous place, except that it was entirely founded upon forced servitude.

"This is an enterprise island," said Trent.  "That means it is not a territory, or a province, or even a colony.  It is a business.  The usual concept of rights and law does not exist here.  Think of it as private property.  As soon as we set foot on the dock, we are the guests of her majesty, as embodied in the person of her royal governor.  Everything we do is at his sufferance."

"What does that mean to us?" asked Mary.

"It means that everyone here who is free, is here to make money.  They're ruled only by their charters and contracts, and by a structure of allegiances.  What you are dealing with is a pack of bullies, who don't have to answer to anyone other than bigger bullies they want to curry favor with.  On the other hand, you can buy and sell them as easily as the slaves.  Easier."

Philipston had an actual hotel, not like the glorified inn they stayed at in Parkiol.  Mary had never seen anything like it.  It took up a whole block, and did not have any of the crowd and bustle of an inn.  Not that Mary cared one way or the other.  She wanted to get searching, but Trent advised them to go to Government House and register to do business on the island first.

"It may not be necessary, but it will be easier if you do," he said, as he left them to go on about his own business.

The hotel was not far from Government House, which sprawled above the town, a fortress in heavy, dull stone.  But close did not mean quick.  The offices were busy, and they had to wait.  Lady Ashton lifted an eyebrow at a pair of men who were sitting on a bench just outside the door.  Apparently that was enough to intimidate them into giving up their seats, and the ladies got to sit, while Sherman attempted to do the work.

The sun was incredibly bright.  Perhaps that's why everything was painted in colors.  Not like Acton, where everything was green or brown by nature, or if it was painted, it was white.  Here, white would blind you.  Mary reveled in color when she could, but this place was so rich, it seemed excessive even to her.  Which only went to show how much influence the Plain folk had back home.  They were sturdy people whose ancestors had been deported for heresy.  A lot of the stubborn Actonian character came from them.  Mary laughed.

"What is it?" said Lady Ashton.

"I was just thinking how the Plain folk back home would react to so much color. I think the strongest would faint dead away.  I might myself."

"It is a bit much, isn't it?"

"But I like color.  The more the better, usually."  She thought for a moment.  There were banners being hung all over the building next to them, which extended for blocks, and posts of heavy flowers by every window perfumed the air. "Maybe it seems like putting parsley on a rotten fish.  With all those banners and garlands they're hanging, it's like they're overdoing it to cover what's rotten."

"Don't look in that direction," said Lady Ashton.  "Look this way."  She pointed away from the Government House, down a street to the side, where flowers cascaded naturally down an incline beside the road.  They were orange and red.  Mary adored orange.

"That is lovely."

"See, there is beauty under the rot, as well as on top of it."  Lady Ashton fanned herself and sighed.  "I wish I'd brought my sketchpad."

"But you couldn't catch the colors with a pencil, could you?"

"Color isn't all there is to see."

Mary had seen Lady Ashton work with her pencils and chalks, and listened to her talk about it.  She knew the woman could see things of shadow and light that you wouldn't normally notice.  And Mary was so restless.

"I'll go back to the hotel and get your pad for you."

"No.  We'll probably be done soon."

"Can't sit still," said Mary.  She jumped up.  "I'll be back quick.  And if you're done, I'll probably meet you on the way back here."

She peeked in at Sherman, and it appeared that all of those who had been there ahead of them were still waiting as well.  It would be a while.

But Mary didn't go to the hotel.

She went to the offices of the slave market.  She shouldn't go by herself, she knew.  Not that she was worried about being mistreated.  No she was worried about seeing too much of the misery hidden under the garlands. 

But the man who gave her directions said the office wasn't inside the market grounds and it wasn't a sale day anyway.  Besides, Mary couldn't bring herself to wait.

Available after 8am EST, onThursday, January 3

The first book in this series, The Wife of Freedom is at most ebook retailers.
Amazon Kindle Store, Barnes and Noble, Sony, Deisel, Kobo, and Smashwords

Also, Amazon International: UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sunday Update: What I Have Learned This Fall

I learned a lot this fall, after being laid off the day job.  But two lessons reign supreme:

1.) Being unemployed is a full time job, especially when it comes to dealing with paperwork and healthcare.

2.) With all my options laid before me, and after experimenting with all sorts of things.... what I need to do now is go back to simple and basic....

I need to write the next book.

Sounds simple, doesn't it? Obvious.

But it isn't as obvious as it sounds. Swirling around and obscuring the truth have been a whole lot of side issues: creating paper versions of my books, setting up a business, looking for more income streams.  Oooo, that project sounds like a better "next book" than this one!

And yeah, I've got to do those things.  But right now, I need to go after the next book as if I don't have any of those things on my plate.

So for that reason, I've decided on two things:

1.) I'm definitely going back to the ROW80 challenge, and do it old school: with a word count goal.  That goal will probably be 2500 words a day, though I reserve the right to change the goal due to some life-issues which are up in the air.

2.) Suspending active blogging for the past two weeks has made a big difference in calming the waters, and getting my concentration back.  So I need to extend that hiatus, and ease back toward regular blogging:

*Now-January 6: Remain on hiatus (that is only Sundays and the serial episodes).
*January 6 - Chinese New Year (Feb 10): Rejoin ROW80.  Blog only the serial episodes (and Miss Leech) and the Wed/Sun progress reports. Sometimes these will be thoughtful posts, but I don't guarantee it.
*February 10 - 24 (The Chinese "liminal zone" from New Year to Lantern Festival): I'll look at where I am and decide if I want to ease back into regular blogging.

I know I will WANT to blog "for real" again before this time is up, and I may start doing some spontaneous posts here and there, but I'm going to try to restrain myself, because I have to really concentrate on writing the novel.

The Math of 2500 Words a Day

If I actually do set that as my goal and stick to it, I'll certainly be doing more than the one novel this quarter.  In 80 days I should do 200k, and the longest of my novels should not be more than 80k. (The Man Who Did Too Much was 95k or so, but it was an "origin story" and carried more overhead.  The second should be a little shorter.)

Can I do that? Can I keep it up?  Will there continue to be distracting kerfuffle?  You know what? I don't care.  This is going to be a one day at a time dare.  No totals.   If I miss a day or don't meet the goal, that is the problem of that day, not the problem of tomorrow.  The problem of tomorrow will be to meet the same 2500 word goal.

There is an outside possibility of a new day job much like the old.  If that were to happen, I would have to take it for the insurance, and I will have to lower the goal.... but I'm not going back to the way things were. This is the New World Order for me.

In the meantime, Rachel Aaron has created an ebook of her famous blog post about going from 2k to 10k words a day in her writing. It's expanded, but it's only 99 cents and just that essay is worth the price.  Here's the Amazon link to 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love (That's an affiliate link on which I get a kickback. I don't know if she has published it at any other vendors.)

I'm using that as an inspiration to write more than I have done in a while.  I used to write like that, when I was young.  But life stress, and job which was all about vigilance, has trained me to be much more distractable than I used to be.  I need to train myself back.

Anyway, Happy New Year to all!

See you in the funny papers.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Test of Freedom - Episode 20

Episode 20 - "Work In The Smithy"
by Camille LaGuire

Rocken was not at all sure there wouldn't be more trouble.  He didn't want to push a crisis before it was necessary, but he did want to know where things stood.

After three days of healing, he gave Jack invalid work to do; helping the slaves in the cook tent.  No sign of trouble there, except that Jack made an unsuccessful attempt to be friendly with the slaves, too.  He nearly got scalded for his trouble, but he was quick.

"Jack," said Rocken.  "Don't you know that slaves and prisoners are natural enemies?"

Jack straightened up from his task of scooping grain.  He glanced at him, but remembered not to look him in the eye.  Clearly it was a struggle.  He looked back down into the pot, and then up again.

"You know, Mr. Rocken, you frighten me."

"That's my job, Jack."

"No, I mean that you keep asking me questions that are likely to get me into trouble, but you seem to want an honest answer."

Rocken felt himself grow hot, like Jack had poked him somewhere sore.

"You're too direct, Jack," he snapped.  "You've got to learn otherwise."

"Aye, sir."

"I've got some work in the smithy for you.  Is your back up to it?"

"I hope so."  Jack was cautious now, like he should be.  But he kept glancing up at Rocken, with a kind of curiosity that made Rocken uncomfortable.

Rocken gave him several tasks; repairing bucket handles and making nails and such.

"And if you get done with that, I need you to make some shackles."

"Aye," said Jack, not looking at him.

Rocken simply wanted to know how far the man's conscience went.  Would he make shackles?  It would take some effort for him to avoid it, and Rocken wouldn't have to punish him for disobedience if he managed it.  But then Rocken would know if there would be trouble when Clement decided that Jack could do the job of the expensive smith that came once a month.

When he came back in the evening, Rocken was surprised to find that Jack did make shackles.  It was a relief.  The man's conscience didn't go that far.  Or he had learned to rein it in.

"I thought I heard the sound of a rasp as I came up," he said.  Jack picked up the shackles and showed him.

"I'm not a great smith," he said.  "I was filing off the rough bits."

Rocken almost asked him if that's why he had made them at all, to be sure they were more comfortable.  He had to stop asking those sorts of questions.  Jack would answer them, and the man was right, it would push them both into trouble.

Rocken just wished he could shake that feeling that the trouble was inevitable.

The Test of Freedom ebook available at major retailers in December 2012. It will be slightly rewritten from the version you see here.

The first book in this series, The Wife of Freedom is at most ebook retailers.
Amazon Kindle Store, Barnes and Noble, Sony, Deisel, Kobo, and Smashwords

Also, Amazon International: UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Test of Freedom - Episode 19

Episode 19 - "If You Can't Turn One...."
by Camille LaGuire

What had begun as a vague worry now left Rocken disturbed.  He couldn't help but notice Jack Alwyn's use of pronouns.  Us and them.  Not you.  Where did he think Rocken fell between us and them?  On his own, that's where Rocken fell.  That's where he'd always been.

As for souls, Rocken had given his up a long time ago as a worthless and dangerous thing, but he knew its value to some, and what it could mean.  If you had two ships headed straight for one another, you had to turn one of them.  If one wouldn't turn, then you had to turn the other, didn't you?

So Rocken followed Clement into the house, and found him at his desk, frowning at some papers.  He looked up when Rocken entered.

"Next time, be sure it's someone he doesn't like," said Clement.  Yes, that was Clement's usual answer, find someone a man would be glad to beat, and break through that way.  Rocken pondered it for a moment, and Clement noticed the pause.  "We'll lose a week of his labor on this.  I don't want it to happen again."

"I agree, boss," said Rocken.  "That's why I think we should leave it alone."

Clement looked at him in surprise.  Rocken knew he trusted his judgement in handling the men, but this didn't fit with Clement's usual ideas.

"We can't let disobedience stand."

"He's been punished, and well enough to impress the rest."  Rocken paused.  "But it's my impression that he won't give in, and we'll have to kill him if we press it.  That won't make a good impression on the rest, to see him defy us to the end, and you'll be out your investment in him."

Clement considered.  "Has he been trouble otherwise?"

"Not so far.  And he's a strong worker."

"All right then.  We'll let this be.  But if you find any other sign of defiance, I don't care if we do have to kill him.  I want the other prisoners to see him broken or dead."

"Yes, boss."

Rocken stood watching Clement for a moment, until the man looked up at him.

"Is there something more?"

"Speaking of obedience...."  Rocken tried to smile at him.  Clement saw what was coming and looked tired, but Rocken continued.  He had to.  "I've served you well for twelve years."

"I haven't time now, and I can't spare you anyway."

"I've told you I have no other position to go to."

"Then what do you want to be free for?"  Clement looked at him peevishly, and Rocken didn't answer.  "I can't talk about this now."

"You promised to review the contract at ten years."

"I will, but I don't have time now."


"Don't push it, Rocken.  I could throw you back into that pit, and there isn't a man there who wouldn't be glad to whip your hide right off you, even that fellow today."

Rocken held his tongue, but couldn't help his glare.  Clement glared back at him for a moment, but then shook his head and looked down at his papers again.

"This is the wrong time, Rocken.  We've got a new governor.  I have to know him before I ask him to commute."

"And how long will that be?"

"As long as it takes.  Now get on about your business."

Rocken turned to go, but at the door, Clement called after him.

"I'll buy you another wench, if you like."

A child-wench, like Clement's own Sisi.  Rocken glanced back at the service door, where the silent little thing was undoubtedly listening.  The last one Clement had bought for the guards had died, and Rocken was sure it was suicide.  No, it was better at the whorehouse, where at least he didn't have to look at the same face again and again.

"I'd rather have more time in town," he said.

"I need you here."

"A little more time."

"All right then," said Clement.  "I'll consider it."

Rocken sighed and left, making a strong effort to keep from slamming the door behind him.

The first book in this series, The Wife of Freedom is at most ebook retailers.
Amazon Kindle Store, Barnes and Noble, Sony, Deisel, Kobo, and Smashwords

Also, Amazon International: UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sunday Update - Did I Sleep Through the Mayan Apolcalypse?

The restart of the Mayan calendar is not an apocalypse, it's a multi-millenial new year.  So in spite of the lack of comets and hellfire and other such things, it's not something you really want to sleep through.  Time to wrap the past into a neat little package, put a ribbon on it and stick it on the shelf.

But even though the past era is done, imho, it's not quite time to start the new era:

The holiday I celebrate this time of year is The Liminal Zone.  The time between the years.

I do this because: I was a classical studies major, and the idea of the eight-day period the Romans celebrated as a threshold between the years sounded cool. (Limin = threshold.)  Also,  I noticed that Christmas to New Years Day was eight days.  And because, in the U.S. anyway, an awful lot just shuts down between Xmas and New Years -- maybe not stores and restaurants, but offices and schools and doctors and pretty much any place you want to try to do business -- and it just seems like the year really ends by/on Christmas Eve, and nothing starts back up again until the day after New Years.

The Mayan Apocalypse happened on a Friday, which this year is pretty much the last business day of 2012. 

That gives us a long limin: eleven days (not inclusive of Friday, because business was still being done) in which to process the old and set up for the new.

And for me, eleven days is a good thing.  Seriously.

Kerfuffle has continued to come at me hard and strong, and is only stopping now because much of it is shut down for the holiday.  If there is any more out there waiting for me, I can't even try to deal with it until January 2.  Pthttttppp!

(I probably shouldn't blow raspberries at hidden kerfuffle.  It can be a vindictive creature....)

I am, at last, writing again.  Not at the pace I would like, but on all projects.  We'll see if the liminal zone will allow me to truly get up to speed, and maybe get some momentum going.  And of course, we'll have to wait and see if January brings things that squash momentum or not.

I'll do a proper look back at the year on December 30, and then probably do a series looking forward (for me, for the industry, etc) starting January 1.  (Miss Leech will appear January 8)

In the meantime, in Test of Freedom: This week we'll have Episodes 19 and 20, in which we'll see that the person most disturbed by last week's events (Eps 17 and 18) is Rocken.

Happy Hollandaise everyone, and....

See you in the funny papers.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Test of Freedom - Episode 18

Episode 18 - "Punishment"
by Camille LaGuire

As Rocken expected, Clement had no plans to go easy on Denning for being careless with tools, even if he didn't know the tool in question was a bush knife.  He had them line all the men up, and he went out himself to address the issue.

Rocken stood behind Clement, arms crossed, a thin whip in his hand.  It was a good punishment whip, since it could cut or welt as he chose, but was too light to cut deep and make a man useless for work.  Unless, of course, Rocken chose to make the effort with it.

He watched the faces of the gathered prisoners.  They kept their feelings masked, but Rocken could read them anyway, through their whole attitude.  He had them at a balance, he thought.  Under control.  He could see the usual mix of numbness, resentment and fear.

Denning was at the whipping post, stretched high to put him up on his toes a little.  He was frightened and clearly didn't know how to hold himself, as he struggled to keep his weight on his feet and not on the bindings at his wrists.  Clement was drawing it out, as usual.  Lecturing the men about the price of carelessness.  And adding the usual things about the need for them to pay for their crimes.  Rocken thought that went against good sense, since it implied that punishment was inevitable and they couldn't escape it by behaving themselves.

When the lecture was over, Rocken readied the whip, but Clement turned and took it from him.

Rocken paused before following him.  So he was going to play that game, then.  Rocken sighed and readied his cane, as Clement stepped toward the assembled men, in search of another victim.

It was common practice to demonstrate to the men the nature of their situation by forcing them to beat one another.  It was a pathetic and humilitating spectacle, and Rocken did not believe it was as successful in dividing the men as Clement believed.

It did, however, make for a drawn out and memorable punishment that no one wanted to repeat.  As often as not, the prisoners would take up the whip with the mistaken impression that they could save their fellow prisoner some pain.  Then they'd be punished for laying off, and forced to do it again, leaving their fellow twice punished.  And they'd hit too hard the next time, because they were afraid and didn't know what they were doing.  No, the poor fools were better off with Rocken, because he knew exactly what he was doing with a whip.

All it meant to Rocken himself was more work, and a vague feeling that it was unnecessary.  He came forward, ready to step behind the man to whom Clement gave the whip, and he hoped Clement chose someone practical.  Then Clement's eyes locked on Jack, and Rocken felt a small tremor of unease.  Jack was still too direct with his eyes, and that was certainly why Clement chose him.  And why he probably shouldn't have.

Clement gestured for Jack to come forward, and the man did, looking cautious himself.  Rocken stepped over to stand behind him to one side, just out of his sight.  He fingered his cane.  If there was trouble, he was going to put a stop to it.  Clement looked mild and held up the whip.

"Twenty lashes," he said.  "And mind, don't think you can take it easy."

Jack blinked at him, and then looked down at the whip.  Then he looked back up and direct at him, and he said the very thing that Rocken most feared he would say:

"No," said Jack.

Rocken hit him hard and fast, harder than usual, harder even than he judged was necessary.  To be honest, a bit harder than he expected to.  Jack staggered and seemed out of focus for a moment in shock, but the only sound he'd made was a gasp.

Clement waited for the man to gather himself again, then raised his eyebrows and smiled.  He held the whip out.

"Twenty lashes," he said, again.

Jack looked straight at him with a touch of surprise, as if the man hadn't heard him right the first time.

"No," he said, again.

And Rocken hit him, again, just as hard.

It went on like that, and the man kept saying "no."  It was clearly getting harder for him to look back up again at Clement after each blow.  He'd be on his knees with the next one.

"Do you want another blow?" asked Clement in frustration.

"No," said Jack.  He wasn't looking at him now.

"Then take the whip."


"Dammit, do you know how to speak any other word?"

Jack glanced up.

"Yes," he said, as if he were a little frightened to admit it.

Clement looked at Rocken for guidance.  Rocken shook his head and then nodded toward the whipping post.  A murmer went through the prisoners behind him at this pause.  It was quiet, but Clement heard it.

"Half-rations for all of you!" he said.

They put Jack up on the other side of the post, and Rocken gave them both twenty licks.  He didn't let Clement realize it, but he went easy on both of them.  Denning was terrified, and for Jack, the whip was superfluous.  If Rocken hadn't already known how hard he had hit, the swollen white marks with livid red and cyan spreading around it was enough to remind him.

When it was done, he had them release Denning, but he left Jack up a bit longer.  Rocken stood and considered for a long time.  The man had him worried.  He went up close to the post and waited for Jack to look up.  Jack noticed he had not been released, and braced himself over what might happen next, but that wasn't Rocken's intention.  He just wanted to know.  And intimidation was fine for finding out.

"So next time, you'll do it, won't you?" said Rocken quietly.

Jack paused and braced himself again.

"No," he said.  There was a note of fear in his voice, but it was a positive as ever.

"You know it'll only get worse, don't you?"

"Yes," said Jack, he looked up, and managed to look him in the eye.  "But it's wrong.  It's wrong to turn us against one another.  About as wrong as you can get."

Rocken let out a sigh of exasperation.

"You're not prisoners of war, you damn fool.  You're not comrades.  You're all criminals, each and seperate.  That's all.  Denning is a thief."

Rocken's argumentative tone almost seemed to revive the man.  He pulled his feet back under himself, and leaned toward Rocken.

"It doesn't matter what he's done.  The chains gather us together, and even if they didn't, I won't let them take my soul away.  It's all I've got."

"You can't afford a soul, Jack.  It'll kill you."

"I'm already a ghost," said Jack.

The Test of Freedom ebook available at major retailers in December 2012. It will be slightly rewritten from the version you see here.

The first book in this series, The Wife of Freedom is at most ebook retailers.
Amazon Kindle Store, Barnes and Noble, Sony, Deisel, Kobo, and Smashwords

Also, Amazon International: UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Test of Freedom - Episode 17

Episode 17 - "The Bush Knife"
by Camille LaGuire

Clearing brush was hard and blistering work, but there was one advantage to it; they quit before the sun went down, so that the guards could properly recover all the tools, especially the bush knives.  Not that it was easy to hide a bush knife.  The blade was two feet long, and several inches wide, and sharp on all sides.

It wasn't uncommon, when there was a variety of work to be done, for someone to leave a hoe or shovel behind.  It usually earned a man a couple of whacks to be so careless.  Jackie paid little attention to it, because they never gave him tools.  They always had him hauling or lifting or some such.

Most of those who had no tools to turn in hurried ahead, but Jackie walked slowly, staying a bit behind them.  Why bother to walk fast if they didn't make you, even if you were hungry?  There would be enough food.  Rocken made sure they had enough to work on, unless they were being punished.  The evening was cooling, and it would have been pleasant in other circumstances.  He looked at his hands, where the blisters were finally being replaced with roughness, and thought about freedom.  Freedom of the mind.  Freedom of the soul.

It seemed like a nice thing.  Keeping your soul away from the trials of the body was a way to survive.  Like the Prophet Kodil said.  It was near to Kodil's Day, wasn't it?  How did the little rhyme go?  Kodil, Kodil, never coddle....  Something.  He didn't remember.

It didn't matter.  Kodil was as wrong as a fish in a robin's nest.  It was all right for surviving, for enduring, but if you kept your soul all protected, it wasn't any use, was it?  It divided you from your fellow men, and left you helpless.  Helpless against those who didn't even have a soul....

"Hoy, Jack!" called Tim.  Jack turned and waited.  Tim had just turned in his shovel, and now joined him.

"Tim," said Jack.  They paused a moment, letting the last speckles of sun fall on them.  It wasn't as hot that day, so it was almost pleasant.

They started to turn and move on, but they heard Rocken let out a roar at someone.  They turned to see the overseer hauling another young man, Denning, aside.

"Where the hell is that knife?" he asked.  Denning look confused and then frightened.

"I dunno," he said, gesturing back to the woods.  "I had to stop and bundle the brush.  I must have left it...."

Rocken knocked him off his feet with a punch to the ear.

"Do you know what stealing a knife is?  That's uprising!  You're a dead man."

"No, I left it!  I didn't steal it."

"It's here," said Cooper, hobbling up, holding the knife carefully by the blade so it didn't look like he was making a threat with it.  Rocken took it from him.  Denning looked up at him with terror.

"I didn't steal it."

Rocken stood for a long moment, looking at him through half-squinting eyes.

"I believe you," said the overseer at last.  "But careless with a knife, careless with your life.  Ever heard that?"

Denning nodded.

"You're a new man, so I'll take it easy on you.  I'll tell Clement you were careless with your tools is all.  I won't say which tool."

"Thank you, sir."

"All of you, get on with it!" called Rocken to the rest, and then he gestured for a guard to haul Denning back to the compound.

And Jackie thought; if they had a guard take him back to the compound, Rocken's idea of taking it easy wasn't to let him be.

The first book in this series, The Wife of Freedom is at most ebook retailers.
Amazon Kindle Store, Barnes and Noble, Sony, Deisel, Kobo, and Smashwords

Also, Amazon International: UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sunday Update

As you may have noticed, I have not be reporting my progress for ROW80 lately. Most of the updates go like this:

"Well, I changed my mind about whether I'm counting words, or projects or minutes, but it doesn't matter because I forgot to count them anyway.  I did do stuff. I think."

I've decided that this is a hint.  Goals right now are a distraction.  ROW80 itself is a distraction.  The blog is a distraction.  Uncertainty is a distraction, not to mention The News, which is super distracting.  Everything seems to be a distraction right now. 

I'm like a Golden Retriever trying to do calculus homework while squirrels cavort everywhere all around me.  Except that the distractions aren't fun. Some of them are pretty horrible, but that just makes them more distracting.

But, as I said, my goals themselves seem to have become a distraction, so....

My one and only goal right now is to change my life.

And to do that, I think I need to unplug even further.  That's why I announced on Thursday that I'm going on a "blog vacation" and posting only episodes of the serial and Sunday updates until January 1.

What am I going to do on January 1?  To be honest, I don't know.  I expect to start up blogging as before, but I might decide I need a little more time.  Or I might have a whole new plan.  (I'll certainly have an idea by the December 30 update post.)

What am I going to do while unplugged?

Well, I never really did finish my "GTD Implementation" -- I got bogged down in Important Things With Deadlines and Follow Up Kerfuffle Involving Phone Trees and Musak (also known as, "Getting all my health stuff done before I lose my insurance" and "What the heck am I going to do with this single share certificate of International Paper for which they keep sending me uncashable $1 dividend checks?")....

So first I'm going to lock myself in the basement and double-down on implementing that GTD.

I'm also going to read, draw and write with no goals in mind.

I've also started reviewing the 1000+ plus posts I've already posted on this blog.  I am looking to collect the best of them for a book.  And I figure this will also give me a chance to look at what I've done well with this blog and what I may want to do in future.

One thing I'm considering for when I come back is not doing ROW80 for the first quarter of 2013.  Instead, I'll probably just go cheer on other participants.

In the meantime, things are going to get a little tougher for Jackie in Test of Freedom this week. And I'll talk to you next Sunday about how everything else is going.

See you in the funny papers.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Taking a Blog Vacation (mostly)

I said I was going to do a post on Friday about Hitchcock's remakes of his own work.... but I'm not gonna.

I need to really dive into sorting out my life -- and get away from as many distractions as possible. (More about that in the Sunday update.)  So....

From now until December 31, I will post three times a week: the two serial story episodes and a Sunday update.

On January 1, I will start up a regular posting schedule again.

See you in the funny papers.

Test of Freedom - Episode 16

Episode 16 - "The Sick House"
by Camille LaGuire

It was a hellish hot day, and men were falling over their hoes.  Cooper'd been kept so busy running buckets of water to pour over stricken men, that Rocken had given him a boy to help out.  And the afternoon heat was only now reaching its peak.

"Cooper!" came Rocken's shout for the fifth time that day.

This time, though, it was a broken leg.  Someone had dropped a log on someone else.  While Cooper bent over his patient, a man named Orin, Rocken whipped the other fellow for carelessness.  That would make another patient for Cooper that night.  The man had probably only dropped the log in the weakness from the heat.

"Dammit!" he said, among the least of his string of curses.  "We've got two lost in the sick house, we don't need another.  And now four down in the heat...."

"You could use a bit of cooling yourself," said Cooper, looking up from binding a splint of sticks.  The bucket boy came up with a fresh bucket just then, and Rocken took it without a word and poured it over his own head.

"How long until he's fit for work?"

"It's a broken leg, Mr. Rocken."

The overseer just let out another string of curses.

"We need to get him back to the pen," said Cooper.  "Can I have a mule?"

"The mules are getting work done," said Rocken.  He looked around at the men.  "You, Jack.  Come here."

Jack straightened and came, looking from Rocken to the man on the ground.  He didn't say anything.

"Do you think you can carry him back to the pen?"

Jack looked back at the pen, and then down at the man.  He sighed.  His face was a bit flushed and it was clear he was hot and tired as well.

"Can I have a rest afterwards?"

Rocken frowned for a moment in his own considerations.

"Sure," he said, waving in resignation.  "Get him back there and take your rest."

Rocken turned back to yell at the other men to get to work.  Jackie turned to Cooper as soon as Rocken was out of earshot.

"Nice to know I'm of less value than a mule," said Jack as he bent to pick up Orin.

"What about the chain?" said Orin, even though he was half out from the heat.  "The weight'll kill me."

"Anything we can do about it?" asked Jack.

"Not until we get back, if then.  Maybe one of the guards will get a chisel."

Jack shook his head and helped Orin up to stand on his good leg, and then scooped him over a shoulder, grabbing onto the chain as well to keep it from pulling on the bad leg.

"Careful," said Cooper, as the man let out a groan.


It wasn't a great distance, but the heat of the man's body must have added to the burden.  Cooper kept close to watch for a stumble, even even a collapse, but Jack kept it slow and steady, and made it to the pen with only a bit of a stagger toward the end.  As they made their way through the grounds toward the sick house--a dark little hovel that had more shelter but little air--Orin let out a complaint.

"I don't want to go to the sick house," he said.

"You'll be fine," said Cooper.  But Jack set him down outside, under the shelter of the pen's pavilion.  Then he collapsed down himself, to sit in the dirt.  He was red, and covered with more sweat than could cool him.  Cooper went and got a bucket and dumped it over the man's head.

"That better?" he asked, and Jack just nodded.

Cooper went into the sickhouse to get his medicines, since he had some herbs that would help with Orin's pain.  He had not had much time to go into the woods and gather herbs lately, but there was enough, he thought.

He checked on the two men already in the sick house--both with fevers--and wasn't surprised to find one dead.  He paused to fold the dead man's arms across his chest.  When he turned he found Jack standing behind him.

"What was his name?" he asked.


"Sorry to have missed you, Joe," said Jack.  Then he looked at the other man, and went and sat down beside him.  "Hello, I'm Jack Alwyn," he said.

The man, William, wheezed a bit, but smiled, and raised his hand.

"I've heard of you," he said.  "You're Jackie the Freedom."

"Not anymore."

Cooper shook his head and went to get his medicines.  He mixed up a tonic and gave it to Orin, and talked a guard into getting a chisel and removing the chain from the broken leg, although he wouldn't remove the shackle.  The truth was, the force of removing it probably would be worse for the leg than leaving it on.

Once that was done, he noticed that Jack still hadn't come out of the sick house, so he went in to look for him.  Jack was still talking to William.

"I'll tell them about that when I get back to Acton," said Jack.  William let out a wheezing laugh.

"You'll never get back to Acton," he said.

"I suppose not," said Jack, after a bit of pause and a laugh at himself.  "Then I'll tell that to the next person I meet who's likely to go to Acton."

"And how would you even manage that?" asked Cooper.

"Dunno," said Jack with a shrug.  "Maybe when I've served my ten, I'll find work on the docks."

"Or you could be a sailor," said William.

"I don't much like the sea," said Jack, shaking his head.  "Although I'd do anything if I thought it could get me home."

William closed his eyes, but he was still smiling.  He spoke again, a little bit quieter.

"Do you have family back there?"

"Aye, a wife."

"I expect to them it's like we died."

"We're just ghosts now," agreed Jack.

"You think they'll forget us?"

"Never!  But they'll have to move on, won't they?  We want them to be happy."

"Think your wife will find someone else?"

Jack laughed.  "My wife?  Yes.  If she needs somebody, she'll find him.  She's already proven herself capable of that."

"Oh, it's the wife that left you."

"You heard about that?"

"Everybody heard about it.  From that book."

"Even here?"

"No, I've only been here two years."

"Oh, I see."

"So you took her back?"

"I had to.  I love her."

"And why would she come back to a lump like you?"

Jack paused.  In the dim light it was hard to see his expression.

"Because she wanted to," he said at last.  "That's why she does things.  I'm a bit worried about that."


"When she hears I've been taken, she might get herself into trouble trying to do something about it."

"She'll be all right," said William, with the assurance of a lost man who knows that there is no way they'd ever know what the truth was.

"She does have a way of slipping through trouble," said Jack.  "Maybe it's her shining smile.  It just blinds everyone."

William didn't answer, but you could hear his breath rasping.

"Come on, Jack.  Let him rest now," said Cooper.  They went out of the sick house, and stopped in the shade of the pavilion, where they could feel a bit of breeze.  Jack sat down and leaned against a post, closing his eyes.  Cooper looked down at him.

"They talk a lot about becoming sailors," he said.  "That doesn't mean it's possible.  Ship captains don't want us once we're used up.  Don't expect to get out of here."

Jack opened his eyes and looked up at him, smiling just a bit, his blue eyes clear.

"Oh, I'll get out of here, all right.  The same way that Joe did," he said, gesturing back toward the sickhouse, and the dead man in the other cot.  "Only with a bit more spectacle, I hope."

Cooper tensed.

"What was that about calling you Jackie the Freedom?"

"That's because I incited a revolution."

"You aren't expecting to incite one here, are you?"

Jack's smile faded and he looked away.

"I'm too weary," he said.  "We were half free already in Acton.  More than half.  There's no freedom here at all."  He paused and looked up again, eyes narrowed in a calculating way.  "William told me something about men up in the jungle."

"Thinking of escape?"

"Aren't you?"

Cooper shrugged.  "I don't bother anymore.  If you manage it, there's no place to go but up there in the jungle, and those that are already there will kill you.  They're just bandits."

"Bandits, are they?"  Jack looked off toward the green jungle which rose up along the mountain.  "We had bandits in Acton."

The Test of Freedom ebook available at major retailers in December 2012. It may be rewritten from the version you see here.

The first book in this series, The Wife of Freedom is at most ebook retailers.
Amazon Kindle Store, Barnes and Noble, Sony, Deisel, Kobo, and Smashwords

Also, Amazon International: UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Telling It Twice - Incompatible Versions of a Story


As I mentioned in yesterday's post, this series of posts (well, two posts so far) is partly inspired by a bit of off-hand advice Dean Wesley Smith gave to a commenter on his blog a while ago.  The commenter said something about having to choose between two ideas for her book, and he said "write them both."  And he didn't mean "write them both and then choose the best one."  He meant "Write them both and publish them both."

And I'll talk about the obvious version of this advice on Friday when I talk about the stories Hitchcock told twice -- his remakes.  Movie makers do outright remakes all the time, and one of the reasons is because movies are just a kind of play.  Just recast it and you've got a new production.

This is less common for books, but writers still do revisit the same themes and plot lines. Heck some whole series are the same story told over and over and over again.  And that's interesting, and I really do want to talk more about it one day.

But today I'm not interested in the situations where doing this is easy, obvious and normal. What I really want to talk about is the rarer situation where this advice really seems impossible.  Because that's where it gets really interesting.

The thing that can make this advice impossible to follow is not really a story problem (you can always come up with a way to change a story to write it twice), but a writer problem: whether you can write it twice depends on your motivation for writing the story in the first place.

If your whole interest in writing the story is invested in the specifics of the story -- that is, you want to write about that character, and that world, and that set of circumstances, and changing them something which is merely similar won't do it for you -- that can present a real problem for just blithely writing a story twice.

I'm going to give you two examples.  One is common in series writing.  The other is an actual problem I have with a decision about a story, and may be less common.

Series Fiction

When you have a series, and you're invested in it, and your audience is invested in it, you have limitations on what you can do, or at least how you can do it.  You can't make Columbo an ax-murderer or have Miss Marple run off with a hot young stud and form a nudist lacrosse club.

But the limitations aren't just about what the audience will accept.  Heck, authors have made big changes in their series and sold it to audiences before.  Sometimes it just means that the old audience goes a way and a new audience jumps in.

But you also have a limitation in your own head: you love your characters and are driven to write about them.  And you may not be driven to write about characters who are like them.

For instance, I like writing about Mick and Casey McKee, my two young newlywed gunslingers in Have Gun, Will Play.  I'm not at all interested in writing stories about any other young gunslingers in love.  So if I have an idea which would change their lives completely and irreversably, I have to give up other ideas where their lives have not changed.

So, if I ever got an idea for a story where Casey gets pregnant, I have a choice to make. That story will change their lives, even if she miscarries.  I can't have it both ways.  As a result I have no plans for Casey to ever get pregnant.  If I come up with a good idea for such a story, I'll stick it on the shelf just in case I get bored with the way things are now for them.

More serious yet: what if I came up with a really good idea for a story where one of them gets killed and the other has to deal with it?

Now, you might say, "If it's a great idea, develop it for some other characters!"  Except that I am not interested in writing a story about Dick and Stacy McGonigal, Frontier Chiropractors.  The thing that would interest me are the specifics of Mick and Casey's relationship, their history, as told in the stories I've written about them.  The idea doesn't work for me -- isn't interesting to me -- if it's not specifically for Mick and Casey.

However, thinking about that idea -- considering it -- that is actually useful.

I get to know more about the characters when I think beyond such boundaries.  My other stories are richer for having thought about it.  Considering their profession, I imagine that they, privately, imagine such a future for themselves.  So when I consider a story like that, it gives me insight into what's going on in their heads, unspoken.

And sometimes it even gives me a different story to write twice.  I when I have considered what would happen to these characters if they lost the other, it drew me to think of Mick's devastation if Casey ever left him.  And though I haven't developed that story, and I don't know if I'll ever get to it, it's one I know I could have fun with.  And it doesn't make me choose.

In that sense, "writing it twice" is what series fiction is all about -- it's about exploring variations.  Letting your mind explore beyond your boundaries keeps it fresh and gives you options.

Writing the Unique Story Twice

I have another story where writing two versions seems even more impossible... and yet, if I think outside the box a little, it also could be a solution to a conundrum.

Slayer of Clocks is a play I wrote that was produced at the Discovering New Mysteries Festival.  It's a noir story, often humorous but generally on the dark and tragic side.  I also have a version of the story in my head that is a cozy mystery.  The characters change from bad to good and good to bad and swap around who is on whose side.

It would seem to be ideal for the "write two versions" strategy.  Hey, if your characters change from good to bad and vice versa, then there is no problem just changing their names and making them different characters.  You aren't just filing off the serial numbers: They ARE different characters. And obviously the plot is different, and the situation is different.

The problem is that there are certain central details which are very specific and kind of weird. Way to unique and specific to pretend they are separate things.  These two versions of the story are linked.  They're almost like alternate realities....

Which might be the key to my solution.  What if I wrote these as conjoined novellas?  One book, two linked stories.

It might work, it might not.  The noir version is a play. The cozy version, if I were to stay true to my thoughts on that, is longer and wanders more from the original premise. Furthermore I feel like it would set up a series.  Should I go ahead and do that? Or should I write it more as a reflection of the play?

No matter what I do with it, it's way down my priority list right now.  I've got too much else to do. (Heck, I've thought often about just writing an adaptation of the noir play, to force myself to abandon thoughts of another series.)

But still, I do feel a spark at the thought of the twin novellas. And a part of that thrill is doing something that seems, at first glance, an impossible problem.

See you in the funny papers.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Telling It Twice - Misplaced Hero, Misplaced Baroness

A few weeks ago, in the comments on Dean Wesley Smith's blog (I don't remember which post), someone was bemoaning the fact that she couldn't make up her mind between two possible endings for her novel.  Dean answered as Dean always does: So write -- and publish -- them both!

And there are times when this is the obvious and easy answer.  But I want to talk about how this can be a good answer even when it doesn't seem like a good idea.  Because the hard solution is always the more interesting one.  Even if you are sure you can't write it twice, it's worth thinking about seriously, if only to get your head outside the box.

So today and tomorrow, I'm going to talk about two story situations of mine where "write it twice" is an option for solving a sticky problem. (And Friday, I'll talk about how Alfred Hitchcock remade several of his movies.)

Today we're going to talk about a critical problem for The Case of the Misplaced Baroness, the story for next summer's serial.

The Problem

The Case of the Misplaced Baroness is a sequel to summer's serial, The Case of The Misplaced Hero.

Misplaced Hero isn't really the first story of the series. It's actually outside of the series: a kind of side story that gives a little background on some squirrely secondary characters who may well be a mystery to the main characters.

Or at least, that's what it was supposed to be.

And it would have worked fine if I had left it as a side story -- just setting up the world.  But when I wrote that last "credit cookie" episode, a little imp inside me went ahead and connected this story firmly to the main story.

Without giving spoilers: The story ends with Rozinshura asking for the whole story about how the baroness came to be missing.  It isn't a promise that he's going to investigate and find out; it's a promise that we're actually going to flash back and expeirence that story.  And seeing as the same episode reveals a mystery that is unsolved at the time he asks -- clearly that story will not be resolved just in the flash back.

So this second story is going to start before the first story, and it will end after it. And there is a chunk of story which will overlap in the middle.

Do you see the problem?

I will have new readers who don't know what happened in the first story, and old readers who don't need to be told again. And the flow of the story is going to need at least some of it in there.

First Solution

I was going to write Baroness as a flashback, complete in itself.  I'd just have to come up with a subplot which can be resolved before we even get to the events of Hero.  Then the mysteries raised by these first two stories can be addressed by the third story.

The problem with that is two-fold.  One is that the ending episode of Hero really does promise that we'll move on, that we'll actually address the mysteries raised by the ending.  The second is more important: I don't have a good idea right now for anything but the plot I set up.  If I end up having such an idea, then I can probably satisfy the reader okay anyway.  It's like Scheherazade and her stories inside of other stories -- you can delay the answer to a question if you've got interesting other answers to give first.

But you've not only got to have those other interesting answers, you have to be interested in them yourself. And I'd like to get on with the story.

Second Solution

Maybe I should try to skip over as much of the overlapping section as possible. Write truncated summaries where possible.  Come up with ways to get around the holes.  Heck, should I skip it altogether and just add a note referring new readers to the first book, and ask them to go back and read it?  Gah!

The problems with that?  It's a short episode serial; boring exposition parts just don't work.  They could slow the thing down by weeks.  And it's a serial.  It's not supposed to take time out for things!  It's supposed to move from one episode to another.  So seriously, pausing to read another serial is just not .... good.

My best hope here would be to magically come up with gyrations in the story to simply avoid that part -- to write my way around it -- but that's not the story I have in mind.  As with the first solution -- if something like that comes to me, I'll do it, but I'm not going to warp the story to suit it.

The Third Solution

There's another technique -- a perfectly good, well established, well aged technique which is as old as storytelling itself -- which could work here.  And that is, just go ahead and write the same story again from another point of view, using the new pov to fill in information and make jokes and give a different perspective.

There are a lot of different versions of this technique.  For instance, mysteries use a version of this all the time: the detective talks to all the witnesses and gets the same story over and over again, each time illuminating a different aspect of the case.  There are some stories, like Agatha Christie's The Five Little Pigs, which use the technique more intensively -- including first person narratives along with the investigation.

And there was a great series of modern suspense/mysteries written by Phillip Craig and William Tapply, were they wrote a series of books together.  The series (which begins with First Light -- unfortunately it's a Simon and Schuster book, and the ebook is incredibly expensive), involves both of their detectives.  Each writes from his own character's point of view, in alternating chapters.  Some of the chapters overlap the same time frame.

And in the movies we see this all the time -- whether it's the classic Roshomon, where the whole plot is based on showing us the same exact story from several different points of view, or smaller uses, like the quick flashbacks you might see in a heist or con film, which reveal what the crooks really did to get away with their crime, after the fact.

I don't know to what extent I am going to use it in The Case of the Misplaced Baroness, but I do think that this is the solution with the most creative and entertaining possibilies. It gives me the most options for fun.  It allows me to weave this story in or out of the other story as far as I like.

There is only one problem, and I don't see it as a big one: it may well leave the new reader seriously puzzled about what's really going on with Alex and Thorny.  Because this is told from the point of view of people who are unlikely to ever know what's going on, it could be annoying and dissatisfying to the reader.  However....

That could also be an opportunity. I want Alex and Thorny to be a bit of a mystery.  So maybe I need to think about how to play that up better.

Tomorrow, I'll talk about a story with a more serious double-identity problem.  It's a story which has elements which are so unique that there is no way that anyone could read them as just two takes on the same concept -- these are the exact same characters, exact same situation, with mutually exclusive tone, character development and endings.  Good characters are evil, evil characters are good.

That story is far down my priority list, but one of the options I have for writing it is to write both.... as a single book.  The dark side and the light side.

See you in the funny papers.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Test of Freedom - Episode 15

Episode 15 - "Sin and All"
by Camille LaGuire

Mary guided Lady Ashton into the little cabin they all shared.  Loreen wasn't there, so Mary closed the door, as Lady Ashton sat and sighed.

"So you've told your son that you killed his father," said Mary. "And now he won't speak to you."

"He can't forgive me."

"But he hasn't told anyone?"

"No.  He does love me, even with this."  She paused, eyes cast down as if studying the weave of her skirt.  "He's a thoughtful person.  Much as he might want to lash out at me, he can see that he can't take it back once he's spoken.  Like pulling a trigger, once it's done it's done."  She looked up.  "But it wouldn't be done and over, would it?  He'd have to watch the slow and terrible consequences of a trial, and ... hanging."

"Poor boy."

"I shouldn't have told him, should I have?"

No, she shouldn't have but it wasn't Mary's place to judge anyone, and besides, it was done, wasn't it?

"How old is he?" she asked instead.

"He's sixteen."

"It's still a burden, to bear it alone, no one to speak to," said Mary, shaking her head.

"There's Sherman.  They get along quite well."

"You told Mr. Sherman too?" exclaimed Mary.  That seemed like a real risk.  The man seemed so correct.

"I had to tell someone I could trust, for your safety.  If you were ever accused, and I was unable to testify...."  Lady Ashton paused.  "Sherman has been with my family for a long time.  His father was with my grandfather in his later years, as a sort of 'accomplice,' mainly."  She took a breath and looked up.  "I shouldn't say that.  Not when I'm the criminal of the family."

And with that she covered her face and began to weep.  Mary stood and looked down at her, perplexed at the foolishness.  And yet she did understand: Lady Ashton did not know how to be guilty. Which was fine in a person who wasn't guilty, but if you were you couldn't dither about it.

"Have you told anyone else?"

"No, although I think my father suspects," she said between sobs. "And possibly Loreen."

"Penelope," said Mary, using the woman's given name to get her attention.  "I don't know about murder, but I do know about guilt.  It's fine to let the guilt drive you.  That should make you a better person.  But you can't let it rule you.  It'll make you do foolish things and it'll make you selfish."

"Selfish?" said Lady Ashton.  She stopped weeping and looked up, not sure of what Mary was saying.

"When you dissolve into a puddle of guilt, that just forces people to sympathize with you. And that's not fair when you're the guilty party.  You've got to be brave, and live with the choice you made."

Lady Ashton sat quietly a moment, and then finally spoke in a hushed voice.

"Mary, I'm ready to hang, if it comes to that," she said, now calm.  "I consider my time to be borrowed.  I know I have to make good use of that time.  And my fortune."

"I dread asking this," said Mary, "but is it your fortune, or your son's?"

"Oh, no, I don't touch his money!" said Lady Ashton.  "I have a fortune of my own.  My grandfather didn't trust Roland, and he put protections on the money he left for me.  I think, considering what a great man my grandfather was...."  Her voice cracked, and she paused to gather herself.  "I need to do right with his money."

"Dunno how right it is, but I'm grateful for your help to me," said Mary.  "And there's a boat full of sailors happy with the bonus you gave them, and at the start of the voyage, too.  I don't think they're used being trusted."

"That's terrible," said Lady Ashton, wiping her eyes.

"But it's probably reasonable."

"It would make grandfather happy, then, to know where his money was going.  He was an artist himself, and he always said he hated the respectability our family had fallen into."

The Test of Freedom ebook available at major retailers in December 2012. It may be rewritten from the version you see here.

The first book in this series, The Wife of Freedom is at most ebook retailers.
Amazon Kindle Store, Barnes and Noble, Sony, Deisel, Kobo, and Smashwords

Also, Amazon International: UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Week in Reveiw-Preview - Doubles Week

This Past Week's Posts:

Last week was Cozy Mystery Week.  As part of a blog festival, I did three posts on that subject this week, Tues, Wed, and Friday.

Coming This Week on the Blog:

A month or two ago DWS suggested, in the comments on his blog, that if you can't decide on the ending of your story, write the story twice and publish them both. There are some situations where that seems impossible... but is it?

I'll be talking about "Writing it Twice" on Tues, Wed and Friday this week.

Monday - Test of Freedom Episode 15 "Sins and All"
Lady Ashton and Mary discuss the concept of guilt and what use it is.

Tuesday - Story Notes - Misplaced Hero, Misplaced Baroness
What do you do when the first story in a series takes place in the middle of the sequel? Skip it? Summarize it? Stand on your head to make it not matter? Send the new readers off to read the first story in the middle of the second?  Or do you write it again?

Wednesday - Writing Two Versions of a Unique Story
What if you have two incompatible versions of a unique story? Can you write that twice, and pretend it's two different stories?

Thursday - Test of Freedom Episode 16 "The Sick House"
Jackie is given leave to help an injured man, and Cooper learns a little about Jackie the Freedom.

Friday Favorites - Hitchcock's Doubles (and maybe Roshomon)
Thinking on Dean's "write it twice" advice: Hitchcock overtly recreated two of his early movies later; The Man Who Knew Too Much, and The 39 Steps.  (And if I have time I might talk about Roshomon too, but that may deserve it's own post.)

A Round of Words in 80 Days Update

This Segment's Progress:

I did not keep track of what I did this past half-week.  I let the kerfuffle get away from me.

(It's not that I didn't do anything - I had some very fruitful days - but I was completely out of my routine and didn't track it at all.)

See the other folks updating today at the ROW80 Linky.

The Not Ready For Full Time Diary

Getting laid off causes a lot of kerfuffle and paperwork and issues to be dealt with.  Way more than you'd think.

For instance, I'm getting all sorts of medical stuff done while I still have insurance.  And that means I'm "flyin' standby' on appointments sometimes, which can be very disruptive.

And just as those issues settle down, I'll be dealing with the fun and wonder of the Unemployment Office.

One of the side effects of accepting unemployment checks is that you are legally, morally and ethically bound to actually look for another job.  Lee M. made a comment on a post this week to the effect that my journey is interesting because I'm not just playing at jumping into the full time writing life while I wait for another job.

And that's true, except that we aren't really at that stage yet.  If I were to be offered a job like the one I had, I would have to take it; I couldn't turn down the insurance.

I was going to talk more about that, but, you know, I need to leave that until later. Why borrow kerfuffle if kerfuffle isn't borrowing you? (I think I mixed a metaphor there....)

So instead....

I'm going to talk about mugs.

I was chatting with some other fiction bloggers on the forums at Web Fiction Guide, and asked what sort of income streams they use to support their habit.  Most of them do exactly what one would expect -- they have many different sources of income.

There was a discussion of merchandizing, though, and one person with a very nice Zazzle store happened to mention that people tended to buy mugs, and maybe postcards and mousepads, more than anything else.

Oddly, these are things I wouldn't never consider becuase I don't buy them myself.  I buy t-shirts sometimes (which she says don't sell that well), but never mugs.

And I thought, "Hey, a mug would be a natural fit for Miss Leech!"  So I went and checked out the products at Zazzl, and then I saw something else:

Frosted beer mugs!

I know, I know, they're probably too expensive to be popular but the idea of having a beer mug with the official seal of the Awarshi Revolutionary Committee of Bureaucratic Practices - and the slogan "Beer Makes Bureaucracy Run Smooth!" or something like that - just tickles me pink.  (See ep 9 of The Misplaced Hero if you don't know what I'm talking about.)

Also, maybe an apron with a "Niko's Blootchkes" logo on it. ("Everybody Like Blootchkes!")

Anyway, I have a lot of chores ahead of that, but I do think I could at least do a Miss Leech mug pretty quickly.  (In an upcomig cartoon I have an "American Gothic" type image of Stride and Leech which I could redo to suit it perfectly.  Or I could use some individual episodes.)

See you in the funny papers.

Friday, December 7, 2012

What a Cozy Mystery Means To Me

Over a decade ago we were tossing around definitions of various subgenres of mystery, and when it came to the cozy, people got tangled up with specific rules nobody could agree on: every "rule" anyone came up with had numerous exceptions from classic mystery.

Everybody knew a cozy when they saw it, but nobody could agree on what made it a cozy.  So I gave my definition, and we all had to agree it fit:

A Cozy Mystery is: "Murder all in good fun."

Murder mysteries by nature are about violence, sex, greed, hatred, psychopathy, and all manner of scary, horrible things.  In life, we control these things via the rules of society, law, and enforcement... and vigilence.  And crime fiction of all kinds is about these topics -- whether it's the silliest cozy or the darkest of realistic police procedurals.

A cozy mystery is a crime story which explores these things without leaving your comfort zone.

Given that everybody has a different comfort zone, that leaves a pretty large gray area.  But even if you restrict it down to stories with a very safe buffer inside the comfort zone, you really do find a nice variety of titles inside it.

And that's why I prefer it over more rule-based definitions, like: "It has to take place in a small town and have an amateur sleuth." (Whoops, that lets Poirot AND Nero Wolfe out.)  "No bad language." (Bye-bye, Lord Peter!)  "It must be a puzzle/whodunnit." (So long, Columbo.) "It must not have moral ambiguity - no criminal heroes!" (Nice to have met you, Simon Templar, Raffles and Arsene Lupin.)  "The detective needs to be a nice person." (Uh, have you actually met Miss Marple?)  "No sex." (Sorry about that, Sarah Kelling and Max Bittersohn.)

I don't mind that the Cozy has become more and more restrictive lately.  Even if it does end up excluding the classics of the genre.  You can still call those "mystery" -- and in this day and age, where anything goes and serial killers can be heroes, it's really nice to be able to draw a line between the comfortable and the uncomfortable.

It's just that, to me, when I think of the term "Cozy Mystery," it doesn't conjure up a completely safe and risk-less environment.

What it conjures up, for me, is a dark and stormy night.  I'm sitting, warm and comfortable in a chair, wrapped in a nice quilt, with a cat on my lap and some hot cocoa on the side table, reading something thrilling.  Something that's dangerous, but only in the way good gossip is dangerous.  It's like that news story about that horrible thing that almost happened to that puppy, but you know the puppy survived and has found a great home with the fireman who rescued it.  And you know from the tone of the story that's how it's going to end, even if they keep you in suspense about how it's going to end.

So for me, the thing that makes a cozy really super cozy is that the subject (murder, crime) threatens my comfort, but it doesn't challenge my comfort.

And the thing that originally set apart "cozy" from "hard-boiled" was realism.  In hard-boiled fiction, the point was to see all the dirt and grime and sweat, and that the puppy is most likely gonna die, because that's real.  The point of hard-boiled fiction is to challenge your comfort zones.

And that's okay.  That's good. We should never become complacent.  Challenge makes you act.

At the same time, constant challenge and disruption and discomfort can be paralyzing.  It triggers the irrational part of your brain and keeps you from actually processing what is right, what you should do.

One of the very best places to process a dangerous and disturbing concept -- like murder and injustice -- is in a safe, controlled and cozy place.  With a quilt and a cat and some hot cocoa.

See you in the funny papers.

Check out cozy mysteries by Camille LaGuire:

The Man Who Did Too Much, a small town Michigan mystery suspense. Available in ebook form at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple's iBookstore, Kobo, Sony, Diesel, and Smashwords, and Amazon's international bookstores UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain. (Paper coming soon.)

Have Gun, Will Play, a mystery western. Available in ebook and paper at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple's iBookstore, Kobo, Sony, Diesel, and Smashwords, and Amazon's international bookstores UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain.