The False Angel and the White Knife: a novel excerpt in an Inkitt contest

Greetings lovely people 🙂

Not expecting many to lift their hand at this salutation – I’ve been gone too long for that, unable to keep up with blogging here at my faithful doll thermometer, attempting other forms of blogging/social media, etcetera. Nevertheless, I hope to still pop things up from time to time – when I put Book #4 of the Treading Twisted Lines series up for pre-release, for one. Should be reasonably soon, I hope. Almost through the last trudge of the final edit. Can’t bring myself to work on it right now, though – just finished Den Patrick’s “The Boy Who Wept Blood”, and I’m having trouble maintaining my composure. Needless to say, difficult to focus with tears streaming. However, there is something I’ve done recently I’d like to share … otherwise I probably wouldn’t be here 🙂 I suppose that’s so with blogging in general, whether long absent or not.

I recently followed the Twitter account of a writing community called Inkitt, and soon after received an invitation to participate in the contest they’re currently holding. It’s called Echo of Another World, held in honour of Terry Pratchett. I wondered a while if I could finish and enter a short story/novelette I’ve had in mind, but concluded I would not have the time to do the story justice. However, the rules indicate that novel excerpts are welcome. So, after a little thought, I spent a few days editing/reworking two chapters from my first novel – the ridiculously long one that no unpublished writer could ever hope to traditionally publish. I nervously popped it up on the site yesterday.

The cover image is awful – text over a Paint-adjusted free image. I am so far from an artist it’s sad.

The excerpt is called “The False Angel and the White Knife”, chapters eight and nine of the presently fourty-four chapter novel, and comes in at roughly 12,000 words. So, roughly, you’d probably estimate the whole thing might be around 264,000 words. Sadly, you’d be wrong – I know for a fact it’s over 400,000.

Sigh.

In any case, I’d love it if anyone wanted to read my work and let me know what they think. Also, it’s community voting to determine the finalists, so, if you do like it, a vote would be very much appreciated. Vaguely hoping someone with their foot in publishing’s door might magically spot it and see potential. Aren’t hopes lovely 🙂

You can have a look at “The False Angel and the White Knife” at http://www.inkitt.com/stories/13054.

And now, here’s the 200-character or less summary that I hope entices you to have a look:

“A scorned leader of a zealously religious and racist people, the Mirror-to-be uncertainly performs a brutal ceremony on capture of a hated False Angel, whose soul is fused with another’s, far away.”

The Ancient and Most Honourable Ramen Brothers

Okay, starting to feel a little more concerned by my 10 March novel done-read-and-edited deadline. Halfway through chapter 24, though it’ll be one of the longer ones. Then just the pseudo-chapter and 25 to go, and they’re all sorted out, content wise. But this newsletter I’m editing is taking up more time than I thought. It’s nothing compared to the rest of the committee’s jobs, but still.

Not feeling up to making up anything pretty about the stuff on my desk or wall, I dug briefly around my “Future Projects” folder, and pulled this out: the original opening monologue for the epic Ramen Brothers.

Epic-what, I don’t really know. At one point it was a book, then an anime-esque series, then a radio show (that’s a joke … cause there’s so much physical and visual comedy …). I think the current plan is to at one point turn it into a point-and-click game. Originally, it was an idea my friend Brendan and I played with in high school, then cousin Katie came aboard, then a few other people contributed their likeness/auras to various characters, etc. Never really worked out a great deal of the story line, just had fun chatting about the characters and random, unexpected things they could do/have happen to them. The picture below was created by cousin Katie, depicting some of the main characters.

The Ramen Brothers

Here’s the monologue-thing:

In a time of darkness, when evil doers devoured all the hope and nutrients of the universe. In an era of fear, when the noodles of the world were pushed to the edge of the international plate, crushed to dust before boiling, or left slimy and overcooked, limp at the bottom of the saucepan. It was in this time of need, when all dreams of ever having a decent bowl of carbohydrates seemed to have faded, that two mighty warriors stepped into the light, pledging their lives, chopsticks, and assorted semi-legitimate military arms to right wrongs, triumph over evil, and pour just the right amount of piping hot water on the new super-brand of instant noodles. These brave souls, joined in friendship and in the understanding that if everyone used dried fish stock to cook their noodles there would be peace in the world, became known across the many corners of the globe as The Ramen Brothers!

Absence Makes The Blog Grow … Something … And A Nice Thesaurus …

Longest absence from my not-particularly-useful-to-anyone-yet-darling-to-me blog since I started it in May this year, I believe. Sadly, this 101st blog shall be nothing special to make up for that. In fact, the beginning shall be filled with boring excuses to try to justify said absence to myself. Here we go:

Numerous carolling gigs, tail-end of Christmas shopping, helping prepare house for hosting a family Christmas party, re-vamping my novel enquiry letter, re-vamping my novel synopsis, finalising rough draft of a short story, sister coming up from Melbourne … playing The Sims … I think that’s it. Apart from general summer laziness and humidity blues.

Got a bit of editing for the two re-vamps printed to ponder over once I’m finished up here, as well as for the new short story. Current plan for tomorrow is to attack and finally (finally) finish chapter 18 of Tom after music practice for the Christmas Eve mass.

Family Christmas party for Dad’s side of the family was today. Nice to see people – first time I’ve seen a number of them since coming home from Japan. Food and drink was plentiful (and not too much, as is often a minor issue), and the conversation amusing and/or informative. Mum and Dad’s squishable invasion plan for cousins’ gifts was a highly successful operation. Many cousins were seen after the de-gift-bag-ing to be snuggling their respective mini squishy animals, and one little second cousin wouldn’t be parted from his sweet green T-Rex for a moment. If you haven’t seen a squishable, I highly suggest you have a bit of a click on the above link … they’re quite beyond adorable. I HAVE A NARWHAL … in case you haven’t already figured that out 🙂 Narwhal is a mini. Have a large original raccoon, too. His name’s Don Don.

Returning from that squishy tangent, among the various lovely gifts I received (twenty-four year old niece that I am … probably shouldn’t be getting such pressies anymore …) was included a book that made me smile: The Highly Selective Thesaurus for the Extraordinarily Literate by Eugene Ehrlich. Haven’t heard of it before, but planning on reading it cover-to-cover and setting it near-permanently on a little green book stand by the computer.

Spend a lot of writing time – as the introduction of the book states is common/unavoidable for most writers, though this was first released in 1994, so there was mention of books, not websites  – frequenting various thesaurus sites. Not necessarily looking for more uncommon words to vary with a staple word – corrupt works just as well as debauched, iniquitous, and nefarious, however awesome these words are. Given how huge and amazing English is, a bit of variation is good, but not only for the sake of variation. Time on these thesaurus sites is mainly spent just looking for … the right word. Can be infuriating at times, when it remains elusive. Am hopeful that this useful-looking book shall prove … useful … in that department.

The Elusive Chapter 18 and a 1500 Word Limit

No, no, of course I’m not finished chapter 18 yet. Despite my aiming to finish it mid last week. Odds are it won’t happen tomorrow, either. Up early for a soul-challenging sing, then carolling gigs that evening and early Monday morning, too. Between gigs, shall be working on the short story I started today. That and washing – forgot to put loads on this morning, and the washing basket’s overflowing.

Blogged briefly about getting the idea for this story a while back. Now I’m actually getting it down. Made some fair changes to the original plan, aiming it more at a young adult audience. As I already have two major works in progress and several minor ones as well, starting up an entirely new project probably isn’t the best idea. But it is short. As in, very short.

Writing this for a competition I came across while browsing today (Stringybark Young Adult Short Fiction Award 2013); the word limit’s 1,500. Deadline’s mid-January, and I’ll probably need it. Might be able to write more than that in a day, but that’s novel writing. I’ve always found novel writing much easier than short story writing, and I’m sure many would agree. In novel writing, you can just ramble on and on and on, then dice it up and smooth it all out later. Much less room to ramble with such a stringent word limit. Shall treat it as a challenge, though. And shall edit it to the bone, once it’s all down on the screen. I’ll post it here once the competition’s over, assuming I do not place. Quite a logical assumption, really. Not only are short stories harder for me to write, I’m also much worse at writing them. The short-short ones, anyway.

(Something being hard for me, and me being bad at the same thing, are different to an extent, I believe …)

Also a young adult novel competition run by an Australian publishing company coming up in March that I’m looking into. May try to clean up the NaNoWriMo novel in time for it. In which case, both Tom and Treading Twisted Lines shall probably be neglected a little for a while. But come hell or high water, or any other threatening clichĂ©, chapter 18 shall be complete before the year is done!

So better chapters 19 and 20, but I’m willing to be a little bit more lenient with them. After all, this time of year’s a bit busy.

Kyoto Summers and Informative Alarm Clocks

Fail prediction in previous blog – actually got to be 40 (Celsius … again) degrees yesterday where I was. Good thing we were inside in air-conditioning through the worst of it. Keeping in mind it was still around 36, 37 degrees at quarter to five in the evening. Not the most pleasant thing in the world, but as the air was dry, it wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been. Usually, where I am, heat means humidity. Yesterday, thankfully, that wasn’t the case. Not sure I could handle that much heat with added intense water thick in the lungs.

Generally, I prefer humidity over dryness. That’s not only because it’s awful trying to sing in dry air. Drove about two hours inland once for a choir concert, and my throat pretty much exploded by the end of it. Think I was making funny, unintelligible rasping noises in the final number. But no, humidity is not only preferable because it’s more soothing on the singing tools. It’s because that’s what I know (and I don’t like feeling as moisture is entirely sucked out of my lips, and as they start to chap, as I feel right now … licking at them is not helping).

I think that’s why Kyoto summers never worried me so much as they might have troubled a few English teachers from Britain and North America. It got quite hot – maybe not quite as hot as Queensland – but the humidity was at the I’m-somehow-breathing-a-lake-and-swimming-through-the-air level. Not usually quite that humid here. My lovely, very informative alarm clock tells me so.

Right now, a few days into summer, this lovely clock I bought for a little over 1000 yen from Konan – the equivalent of Big W or Kmart in Australia (maybe Walmart in the US?) – says humidity’s currently at 21 per-cent. Usually it’s fairly higher than that, but as I said, having a bit of a dry spell right now. During Kyoto summers, I don’t recall ever seeing it below 70 per-cent, and I’m sure it hit 100 numerous times.

I’ve talked about weather and temperature, but can only think of once when I’ve included the amount of water in the air in a story – my Kien novel, the one that’s done and currently being rejected left, right, and centre. Such fun. Currently attempting to divide it into volumes, but I’ve already sent it most of the agents I’ve researched in full form. I’m not sure they’d look at the first quarter of the same story again. Anyway, humidity: in the third chapter of the first volume – originally the first chapter, though was the second chapter for the longest time – it is a particularly hot spring day in the middle of Brisbane’s October, and it’s mentioned on the radio that humidity is already at 100% in the early morning and not looking to drop.

That’s something to consider, I suppose, in building the aura of a world. For trying to capture the feeling of far-off locations and bring them to life, particularly for fantasy worlds, which can only be brought to life in words, not in photographs as Cairo streets or Malaysian rainforests may be, unless said words are recreated in film or pictures. On reflection, I think I did mention the humidity in my tribal village and the surrounding grasslands – events occur there during the rainy season. Rarely is there ever rainfall less than a steady drizzle, and it’s always stiflingly warm. This gets to Kien a little, as he comes from a very cool, quite dry home – the humidity in his city, I imagine, is carefully controlled, kept at a pleasant, comfortable level.

Perhaps I should mention that, briefly, when he’s battling with his uncomfortable new surrounds. Split into four volumes, I can afford a few extra words on humidity to better sculpt these worlds.

Sound the trumpets … argh, too tired to bother right now …

Just won National Novel Writing Month … just wanted to make a note of it.

It’s now three in the morning.

Final word count: 79,254.

According to their word count. By Microsoft Word’s count, it’s 79,582. It’s all good, though. Maybe their count doesn’t include ellipses, and so on … suppose that’s fair.

Think I said in last blog … wanted to try to actually finish, as opposed to just (not just, far from just, but you know what I mean) hitting the 50,000 word target. Think I have a fairly conclusive last line, now. Wouldn’t have been happy, submitting before I got to write that. May have to adjust some of the stuff leading up to the last line, though. Hopefully not all of it.

Think I wrote just under 9000 words in this last sitting … hooray for personal records. The angle of my stats curve right near the end is pretty impressive, anyway.

Remains to see if this 9000 words – or any of the novel, for that matter – is any good, or even salvageable. Think I’ll give it a month. Or two. Or so.

Celebrations abound, anyway. I’ll probably feel more excited after a shower. And a sleep. I even have fresh sheets on the bed, though the cat’s already gone and covered them in her amazing coat of never-ending shedding hair.

Congrats to all who have or who are about to enter the winner’s circle, and congrats to everyone for happily summoning up their creativity and getting stuck into their novels even if they don’t win this year.

Hooray for National Novel Writing Month … time for celebratory shower.

A Short Celebration and a Slightly Longer Lament

Hooray! Entered the winner’s circle of National Novel Writing Month, passing 50,000 words today and currently sitting on 51, 777. Mum, on the other hand, entered the winner’s circle days and days ago, and is now on something closer to 56,000 and still tinkering. Hooray, once more.

Unfortunately, Pulp Runner is not yet near complete. Probably looking at 75,000 to 80,000 words in total. Hopefully no more than that. Haven’t even gotten to the part about the angry poultry salesman yet, though I have managed to beat up a boy handing out business cards for an antique clock and tea set shop. Shall probably continue trying to match my current daily word count into December to get Pulp Runner done so I can tuck it away, bring it out in a few months, exclaim something along the lines of “oh, my golly gosh, did I actually write something this terrible?” and proceed with an intense editing session. Slightly disappointed that I couldn’t keep it closer to the 50,000 words, as I’d like to return to spending time on my Tom novel, as well as writing the fourth instalment of Treading Twisted Lines and continuing with Behind Glass, which I managed to update by two sections not too long ago but is still being seriously neglected. Heavy conflict very (very) slowly approaching, if there are any Pan readers out there.

Currently writing a character profile for Maddi of Treading Twisted Lines. I know her, but good to put her all together in the one place. Never did that for Darren and Kai. Should probably gather them all up at some point to help with future instalments. I have been finding profiles helpful, though I think I still prefer just surging ahead with stories, and letting characters grow with them.

Distracting Semi-Instant Covers

Spent a good chunk of time yesterday and today that should have been allocated to writing my NaNoWriMo novel devoted to designing covers. Still above word quota both days, so I’m not too worried. Especially since I’ve got a lot more time to write than most participants.

My friend Nathan does the covers for the Treading Twisted Lines series, but I didn’t want to bother him for this work-in-progress. Still, I did want something to put in the cover space on the novel’s info page. So, lacking in artistic skill as I am – particularly when it comes to digital art, I can barely use paint – I did a few Google searches and found a couple of e-book cover generators like this one, a few of them with limited free use. Made the first cover attempt entirely with that, and used the title and author name layout from that design in the next one, which I did myself in paint by cutting and re-sizing a free picture.

Hardly professional. But good enough for now.

Novel’s called Pulp Runner. As you can hopefully read on the covers. Not a straight fantasy, so a bit out of my comfort zone.

Made a cover for dear Mum’s story, too. I think Mum and Dad are having fun with their novels, so far. Hope they are.

A Painful Compression, All For The Elusive Agent

I’m losing fingernails, eyelashes, and eyebrow hair at an alarming rate.  I do tend to pick away at these a bit in general, when I’m writing and when I was studying, but as stress picks up so does the picking.  And the tearing.  And such.

Have sent the novel to three literary agencies, so far.  Been turned down once, still waiting to hear back from the other two.  Currently trying to prepare the material to send to a fourth.  They request a description of the story comprising 2-3 sentences within the cover letter.  I’ve written several cover letters already, but the agencies they were composed for weren’t specific about the length of the novel description – last time I wrote two paragraphs, about eight sentences, I think it was.  That was difficult to pull off, but manageable.

The novel is 473,452 words long (a death sentence, I know, for a first time author … it honestly wasn’t meant to happen …).

Having a bit of trouble compressing that into 2-3 sentences.

Pulled if off so far by using dashes and semicolons, and having incredibly long sentences.  Unfortunately, I’ve read that simple, short sentences are best in cover letters.  Lots of other stuff to prepare for the submission (even more for a fifth, character and chapter profiles and such, pretty intense, but looking forward to putting that together), so I’ll put the letter aside and look at the description again in a few days – hopefully I’ll have a burst of brilliance, and I can either edit what I have or create something entirely fresh that perfectly describes my dear tome.

Anyone have any tips?  Recently cut an epic down to a tweet?  Well, not quite that small, but … still.  I’d love to try out any pointers you have 🙂

On a related topic, literary agencies in Australia that are current accepting manuscripts, more specifically fantasy manuscripts, are few and far between, aren’t they?  A bit depressing, really.  Suppose if I can’t get anything here, I’ll be brave and see if I can give any UK agents a go, or something.

It’s fairly clear I am no expert at this, isn’t it.  I’m probably not going about my submissions and such in the best way.  But (as I’ve been saying to myself any number of times of late, in as reassuring a self-tone I can muster), I’ve got to start somewhere.  Read and continuing to read a bunch of internet stuff that should help with submitting work to agents and publishers, but this professional authoring world I want so badly to enter is a strange, confusing sort of place, no?  I really do need an agent to help me navigate.

A Stack of Buttermilk Choir, a Basket of Japan, and a Glass of Novel, Please?

Had pancakes out at the Pancake Manor in honour of Baby Brother’s 18th this evening.  My dear parents’ youngest child is now officially an adult.  Chotto kowaii, ne?

As it was actually meant to be a proper meal, ate a tasty creamy mushroom crepe along with my regular basket of awesome chips, and devoured my customary stack of buttermilk pancakes afterwards.  Truth, the chips and the buttermilk pancakes go fantastically well together, and that is usually how I eat them.  However I do not usually enter the pancake manor with the intention of actually eating properly.

I’ve been craving Pancake Manor fare for quite some time – it was my first time back there since coming home, and I remember spending a fair amount of breath glorifying these pancakes to some of my Japanese friends as I reminisced about their fluffiness.  And I had a picture of a buttermilk stack on a card to show my school kids as an example of food that Australians like.

I am Australian.  I like these pancakes.  Makes perfect sense.

Though we made our reservation at the newer location in Garden City instead of the original place in Brisbane where we usually go, food-wise I don’t think it made a difference.  Tasted pretty much the same – awesome – though I did find an unexpected hole in my top pancake.  The menus were exactly the same – tall, narrow, and plastic.  The wait-staff were clad in the familiar all-black that most wait-staff wear.  But when it comes to atmosphere, the Brisbane location wins.  No question.

The Pancake Manor in Brisbane resides in an old church.  Stain-glass windows.  Booths made out of pews.  It’s just lovely in there.  And though I hear the service isn’t as great as it was a while ago, it is this Pancake Manor that’s bound to several prominent aspects of my life.

Firstly, the Pancake Manor is linked with my choir.  The Queensland University Musical Society (QUMS) is a very important part of my life.  When I first entered uni in 2006, I was coming out of a high school that had no real choir – it just pulled together a group of interested singers whenever it needed to pretend it had one.  To be in a real choir again after five abstinent years was amazing, particularly entering a choir that was performing such amazing music when the most complicated thing I’d sung in the past was “Walk Down That Lonesome Road,” when I was in grade 5.  QUMS was pretty much my entire social life at uni, too.  Study, family, and choir – that was my life.  Funny how it’s pretty much the same now, only I’m substituting writing for study.

Right, the link.  Every year, QUMS sings at a midnight ANZAC day service in the city.  And as the Pancake Manor is a twenty-four hour place (on Fridays, Saturdays, and public holiday, I think) it’s the perfect spot to go for coffee and such at two in the morning after the performance.  A lot of tables have to be pushed together to accommodate us all.

Next, the Pancake Minor is connected with my Japanese experience.  Not that I found any passable pancake places over there – if I had I wouldn’t have been lusting after them, so.  Suppose they might have been there, and I just wasn’t looking right.  No, the link comes from my interview to be accepted into the JET programme, which would send me to Japan if I got through that stage.  Which I did.  Hooray.

I’d passed the application round, filling in questionnaires and writing a self-promoting essay, and I’d been working myself up something terrible about the coming interview.  It was my first real-real job-like interview, and from what I’d read on the internet, the JET programme interviews were particularly nasty.  Go in expecting a police interview, was perhaps the grimmest advice I read.  But I felt really good about my interview, afterwards.  Talked to a lovely little panel of both Australians and Japanese, answered a bouquet of questions about myself and a few what-if questions about how I’d handle particular situations in Japan, and as they knew I spoke some Japanese I was asked to give a simple self-introduction.  Then I asked a few things of them as all the websites recommended I do, and then it was all over.  Needless to say, went and had celebratory pancakes with my sisters after that.

Finally, just as most everything I dredge up to warble on about is, the Pancake Manor is linked (however obscurely) with my writing.  I don’t think I’ve mentioned anything much about this story – may have dropped the name Joan in that ancient blog about naming novels.  Anyway, wrote the first seven chapters of this story in five days, my biggest writing explosion to date.  Many modifications must be made before any more actual progress comes about, but it’s fairly high up on the waiting list.  It’s set a few years after my first novel, and a few of the same characters pop up.

Anyways, back to the pancakes.  I had to give Joan and her sisters a rendezvous point where they could meet and debrief after assignments.  It had to be a place they could meet at any hour.  A place they could be inconspicuous.  That serves alcohol.  And in which a well-earned dessert could be enjoyed.  The Pancake Manor was just the obvious choice, though I’ll not mention it by name, and I’ll disguise the menu.  Was having a lot of fun giving the pancakes new names – Chocolate Lovers, Tropicano, and Health Nuts.

The Pancake Manor and I.  We have history.  It was even my plan to rush there the moment I finished my first novel to partake in joyous celebration.  Was in Japan when that goal was reached, so that never happened.  Oh, wells.  Shall save up that jolly moment for the next big writing milestone:  next novel’s completion, finding an agent, publication.

Whichever it is, looking forward to it.