Quicksand, Chapter One

I have been editing my second novel Quicksand. Here is a mockup of the cover, which may or may not be the final cover. I am interested in feedback.

QuicksandThe image used on the cover is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license by anyjazz65 on Flickr.

The first chapter of the novel can be found after the break.

Continue reading “Quicksand, Chapter One”

Writing Updates


I have several writing updates to share. First, you can buy my novel A Question of Honor in the iBookstore, now. This is great news. I had hesitated trying to submit it because I had heard, apparently erroneously, that you had to have an ISBN in order to submit your book to the iBookstore. I don’t have an ISBN because you have to buy them in blocks of 10, and a block of 10 costs over $200, which I just couldn’t afford when I threw the book together (and still can’t, really).

Second, I have downloaded a trial of Scrivener, and I have absolutely fallen in love with the software. It was created with writers in mind. It’s not really a program for producing quick documents, like MS Word. I wouldn’t use it to make flyers or handouts or to write letters. But I won’t ever use another program to write novels ever again. It’s very easy to use, for one thing. And for another, it makes the arduous job of creating a final publishable document, whether it’s a paper book or e-book, extremely easy. It also creates both ePub and Kindle Mobi documents. The e-books have a working HTML table of contents and chapter markers, which I love. If you write, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, I can’t recommend it highly enough. If you are thinking of doing NaNoWriMo or writing a book, do yourself a favor and at least try this program first.

Scrivener enabled me to figure out how to format A Question of Honor properly for the Kindle. Amazon says that PDF files are OK for creating Kindle books, but it didn’t work as well for me. The formatting was haywire. I feel really bad if you bought my book on Kindle and got that crazy layout, which I just learned how to fix and can only now correct. Does anyone know if Amazon lets you download books you’ve already purchased again for no additional fee? Once Amazon finishes processing the new file, I’ll update here and on Twitter. Don’t buy it right now, or you’ll be getting the old PDF file (I think—if you can even buy it at all).

Finally, I have been editing a second novel, Quicksand. I wrote it during NaNoWriMo in 2009. I have put aside a third project (currently untitled) based on the Irish legend of Deirdre of the Sorrows. I will be sharing an excerpt of Quicksand tomorrow. It takes place in the Kentucky coal fields of Breathitt County, where my ancestors lived, during the 1930’s. It’s heroine, Imogen, is the daughter of an alcoholic coal miner with a penchant for Shakespeare (hence her name) and a the shrewish woman who is the descendant of one of the worst feuders in Breathitt County history. Imogen discovers the body of her stepfather Frank, and she sets out to discover what happened. It’s a little bit of a retelling of Hamlet. Anyway, look for an excerpt tomorrow.

photo credit: Markus Rödder


I tend to scribble a lot

I have been editing my second novel, Quicksand. I originally drafted it during NaNoWriMo 2009, and I set it aside for quite a long time before looking at it. On the one hand, this was helpful because it gave me quite a lot of distance, so I was able to review it with fresh eyes and perhaps more impartiality. Some observations I have about my writing:

  • I really need to work on pacing. I fly through scenes at breakneck speed with no leisurely look around.
  • I’m equally ambiguous as to how much time has passed, and that might be confusing for the reader.
  • I can write dialogue fairly well, but it tends to drive my stories, and perhaps I need to flesh out scenes around dialogue better, cf. first bullet point.

I downloaded a Mac writing program called Scrivener on a trial basis to see if it helps me with some of the weaknesses I need to shore up. I haven’t tried the program yet, but what I really like is that the 30-day trial is a true 30-day trial: if I use it tomorrow and then don’t open it again for a week, those two days count as two days, not seven. That’s pretty awesome of them. Most software trials have a clock running whether you use it each day of the trial or not. I also like the education discount they offer.

On a completely related note, editing is so so so much harder than writing a first draft. I want to tear out my hair and cry when I think about how much work I need to do on this draft. Another related observation: reading as much as I have over the past couple of years is really helping me figure out what I need to do better as a writer. Models are the best teachers.

photo credit: Unhindered by Talent

School’s Out

I am officially finished with the 2010-2011 school year. I have cleaned out my classroom and left it ready for our new English teacher (I will be in an office and will also have a cubicle near the computer lab). So you know what that means? Aside from not grading essays? It means I can work on my own writing.

I have two projects in the hopper. One book is finished but needs to be edited. It’s called Quicksand and is about a girl named Imogen Medley living in rural Breathitt County, Kentucky in the 1930’s. Her alcoholic father is booted out of the house, and her mother marries her father’s brother. Several years and several baby brothers later, Imogen trudges out to the barn to milk the cow and discovers her stepfather’s body. Soon Imogen is reunited with her father and the two become embroiled in the investigation of the murder of her stepfather, which leads both of them to some surprising places.

The other project is an updated version of the legend of Deirdre of the Sorrows with a bit of a time travel and/or reincarnation component. Deirdre is a high school student in Massachusetts. She meets a young musician named Nate and finds herself inexplicably drawn to him, as if she has always known him. Meanwhile, a fellow student named Connor, enamored with Deirdre for years, becomes enraged over the growing connection between Deirdre and Nate. Before long, the three of them find themselves enacting the story of an ancient Irish love triangle. Will the consequences be as tragic this time, or can they manage to escape fate?

The first book is personal to me because I wove details and setting from my own family history into the novel, and I personally feel it is a better book than my first. The second book is a book is interesting in that I didn’t worry about audience at all. I just wrote a book I would like to read.

I plan to edit Quicksand and made it available soon, but I’m not yet finished with the as-yet-untitled Deirdre project. I will keep you posted. If [amazon_link id=”B004V4AADS” target=”_blank” ]A Question of Honor[/amazon_link] does not sound like your thing, it is my hope that you might like my other writing. At any rate, it will be priced to entice even the tightest budget.

NaNoWriMo Update

I have tried on a couple of occasions to record a podcast about A Question of Honor, but I find myself embarrassingly forgetful of some details. I opened it up today, for instance, and I discovered that I had completely forgotten a character in the book. My reaction was “Oh, that’s right. Now I remember who that was.” Kind of embarrassing. I think I need to refresh my memory on some details before I record more podcasts about the process of writing that book.

My NaNoWriMo novel Quicksand is beginning to live up to its title. I am really happy with how it’s going. I had an idea today that meant I would need to do some substantial rewriting and revising, and that’s hard to do on a NaNo schedule. I wound up adding a chapter near the beginning and changing some details here and there, but in the end I think I fixed nearly everything I need to fix to make my new idea work. I think once I’m done, I’ll print out the book so I can see it in print and made revisions that way. It is hard for me to read something as lengthy as a book on the computer (which is one reason why my PDF of Kelly Gallagher’s Readicide has gone so long unread on my computer).

I am caught up on the word count despite taking a day off on Friday. I have 23,390 words written (the suggested word count for today is 23,333). I’m happy about how naturally the writing is coming. I didn’t make an outline, which I suspect will mean I will have some inconsistencies to clear up.

I wondered how long the average adult novel is, and I found a fairly good word count guide at Tristi Pinkston’s blog. The 50,000-word requirement for NaNoWriMo will yield a fairly short adult novel or long young adult novel. I think I read somewhere that it’s about 170 pages, but I assumed that count referred to word processor pages rather than typeset pages. If you figure 250 words per page, as Pinkston suggests, then I have written about 93.5 pages. I tried Pinkston’s trick with a Matthew Pearl book and estimate it might have between 92,500 and 111,000 words, depending on the number of words per page. I don’t want my book to be that long. I picked up a copy of Finn by Jon Clinch, which looks about as long as I want my book to be, and I estimate it at about 70,000 to 84,000 words using Pinkston’s method. Thus, 50,000 isn’t going be enough. I just need to get to 50,000 by November 30, but I think I’m going to need to keep writing if I want my book to be about the average length for an adult novel. I am going to shoot for about 75,000, and we’ll see. I was glad I found Pinkston’s post because word counts mystify me. Still, as Pinkston says, what you really need to focus on is how many words you need to tell the story. The way I figure it, if you’re talking word count, I’m almost at the point where Siddhartha ends, and I am not nearly done; yet, Siddhartha is a well-written, influential novel, and I have never heard anyone complain it’s too short to tell its story.

Countdown to NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMoNaNoWriMo begins at midnight! I would love for you to follow my project. I could use the encouragement.

I already have a title, despite saying the podcast I shared in the last blog post that I’m not sure titles usually come—or even should come—before the writing. The title was too perfect, though. My project is called Quicksand after the real town in Kentucky where my grandmother was born and where my novel will be set. I am telling a sort of hybrid of my grandparents’ lives in the Great Depression. Both have fascinating and fairly sad backgrounds. I am not sure what the plot will be. I’ve played with some ideas, but I’m not yet really excited about any of them, so I’m hoping the characters can help me figure that out.