December 18, 2003

Leap in logic -- spoilers

And my mind ... jumps... and this is the result. Tinker will have to be up on the crane ladder for this. Yes, I'll have fun getting her there...


She sensed the shadow sweep across her seconds before she was jerked off the ladder. She cried out in panic, clawing for the rungs as her captor labored upwards in a loud rustle of black wings.

"Stop squirming or I might drop you." Riki growled through teeth gritted with the effort to carry her aloft.

She glanced down and went still in shock of being dangled mid-air fifty feet up and climbing. Far below, Pony trained his pistol up at them - but didn't shoot. Obviously, Pony knew if he hit Riki, they'd both fall - he didn't risk so much as a warning shot.

The scrap yard dwindled quickly as Riki climbed.

"Put me down!" Tinker found herself gripping his arms so he couldn't just drop her.

"No, not yet." Riki headed straight north, over the Ohio River.

The large dark form of a river shark swimming under the water, following their passage, killed any thought of forcing Riki to drop her into the river. On the other side, Riki crossed the Rim and climbed the steep hill that once was Bellevue. On the other side, he dove into the ironwoods. The forest canopy rushed toward them, seeming to her a solid wall of green. Riki though flicked through openings she hadn't seen, darting through slender upper branches to finally land on a thick bough, close to the massive trunk.

The moment they landed, Tinker twisted in his hold and swung at him hard as she could, aiming for his beak-like nose. He caught her hand and twisted her arm painfully up behind her back. He leaned his weight against her, pinning her to the trunk.
Cheek pressed to the rough gray bark, Tinker saw for the first time how far up the tree they stood - the forest floor lay a hundred feet below.

He bound her right wrist, and then catching hold of her left, tied both hands behind her. Once she was bound helpless, he turned her around. He wore war paint -- streaks of black under his vivid blue eyes and shock of black hair. His shirt was cut on the same loose lines of the muscle shirt he wore often during her captivity by the oni, but of glossy black scale armor. On his feet, with their odd bird-like toes, he wore silver tips that looked razor-sharp.

"What do you want?" She asked him.

"I'm going to show you something -- something you need to see." He produced a silk scarf and tied it over her eyes.

"I'm going to have a hard time seeing this way."

"I don't want you to know where we're going." He took firm hold of her and jerked her off her feet.

She felt him leap, knew that he left the safety of the tree, and nearly screamed at the knowledge. His wings rustled out, caught the air, and they swooped upwards.

Riki flew - as the saying went -- straight as the crow flies, but what direction? The cold rushing air made it impossible to judge the direction of the sun. How fast could Riki fly? Had the flight from the scrap yard to the ironwood been his normal speed or had that been a sprint?

And what did he want to show her?

She tried to form a plan to escape. Riki, though, wouldn't underestimate her - he knew her too well. Of all the people in Pittsburgh, he could match wits with her.

After what seemed like an hour, Riki dove down and wove through light and shadows to land again. Numb from dangling, her legs folded under her. Riki lowered her down to a prone position and then knelt behind her, panting with exertion.

Their landing site seemed too flat to be a tree branch but it swayed slightly with the rustling of the wind.

"Damn it, Riki, where are we?"

Riki tugged down her blindfold. She lay just inside the door of a tiny cabin; only eight-foot square, it would have been claustrophobic if it actually contained furniture beyond a cherry wood chest. While the cabin seemed to be made of scrap lumber, attempts to make it homey included a deep green coat of paint on the walls and a natural fiber rug. The one small round window letting in light held glass, and the high ceiling bristled with nails, indicating that the roof was shingled, so the cabin was weatherproofed.

"This is my house." Still panting, Riki worked at untying her wrists.

"There is nothing here."

"I'll get it, but you need to stay put. There's no safe way down to ground."

Cabin, hell, it was a tree house. Under any other circumstance, she would have been entranced with the notion.

Riki took a deep breath and stepped backwards on the door, spreading his black wings. "Stay," he repeated and flapped away.

Not trusting his word, she went to the door and looked out. There wasn't so much as a branch outside the door. The view straight down made her grip the doorsill tightly. It was a place strictly for birds.

Still, the tree house was cunningly made. A brace along the back wall provided the one anchor point so the stress of the shifting tree could not tear the room apart. The front of cabin rested on a beam yoked over side branches. A loft bed nearly doubled the floor space. A generous overhang meant the front door could hang open even in rain to let in light without the weather. The outside of the cabin had been painted gray and black in a pattern that mimicked ironwood bark. Only by careful study could she pick out other tree houses, perhaps twenty in all, tucked into the branches of neighboring trees. A little village of tiny houses -- but one invisible from the ground.

There were more tengu living on Elfhome than anyone imagined.

The chest held clothes, a folded quilt, a photo frame, and several memory sticks. She inserted one of the sticks into the frame and clicked through the pictures. Riki as a child in San Francisco with a large extended family.
A flutter of wings made her shove the frame guilty back into its space. Only as she shut the chest lid did she feel angry. Why shouldn't she snoop? Riki had kidnapped her.

She turned to the door - full of indignant anger - only to discover her visitor wasn't Riki.

Three tengu children crowded the doorway. Wearing blue jeans and torn t-shirts, they would have seemed like human children except for the way they clung to the sides of the doorway with bird-like feet, fanning the air with black wings. The youngest was a boy of six or seven, a boy around the age of ten, with the third a girl square between them in age.

"See, I told you, Robin." The girl said. "It's a girl."

Robin, the older boy, sported the black war paint that Riki had worn. He shook his head, looking sullen. "It's an elf."

"What's an elf?" The little boy asked.

"She's still an girl elf," The girl insisted.

"What's an elf?"

"It means I have pointed ears." Tinker said to forestall any more arguments.

The little boy flitted into the room; his flying awkward and he wore a look of concentration. "I have wings! See!"

"He just got his." Robin darted in to catch the little boy's hand. "I told we shouldn't be here, but they wouldn't listen."

The girl hopped into the room as if consent been given to enter. "I didn't think elves could speak English."

"I didn't know tengu could speak it either."

"We're American tengu." The girl said proudly. "We can speak Oni and English, read and write, and fly."

"Is everyone here American tengu?"

"Um." The girl wasn't sure. "I was born in California, but Jordy was born here."

Robin poked her, saying, "Lissa, don't tell her that."

"Why not?"

"Because we don't know if we can trust her."

"Why would Riki bring her here if we couldn't?"

"I don't know." Robin dragged the little one toward the door. "We should go before Riki finds us here, or we're going to be in trouble."


Originally what Riki wanted to show he WAS the kids to guilt Tinker into intervening between the tengu and the elves, now I'm not sure what he wants to show her. What he wants might change.

Posted by wen at 12:17 PM

December 17, 2003

Reusing old stuff -- spoiler

THere are times when things don't work right where you put them, so you need to yank them back out. I always save everything I write, because 1) it makes me fearless at yanking them back out and 2) often they fit somewhere else with a little tweaking.

If you look back a ways, you'll find the original ending of TINKER. You might want to see compare it to the following to see how I changed it to fit the second book.

I'm still not totally happy with Oilcan's section, but I think it will work out in the long run. Think.

Okay, I’m stuck.

Well, not really stuck as there’s too many options.

I want to keep the book focused on Turtle Creek and not repeat “build-a-gate” that more or less repeats book one. Lack of materials is going to seriously hamper Tinker, but I feel I need more…. I think.

My first reaction is to have someone stole all of Tinker’s stuff while Oilcan was out on a run. The problem is that Pony immediately goes into protective mode and insists that they call for backup and the scene immediately falls on its face. One quick solution is to have Tinker’s system call in the police and Nathan is there. It would be interesting, but at the same time, I’m not sure if there is a whole of room in this book for Nathan.

If I had Nathan back, I was planning a “set piece” which is like a party or something, where the main character can interact with lots of different individuals without needing to come up with an excuse of why they bump into one another. The movie, the Big Chill, is one long set piece.

I know who took the equipment and why – what I’m having trouble with is the far reaching implications. It reaches into the nebulous zone of the plot, where I know only the vague outlines of things.

However, the more I think about it, the more I like it, so I’m going to write it.

First thing I’m going to do is to track down the last chapter of Tinker and copy it for Nathan’s section.

And to deal with the “fall on its face” problem, I can have Nathan already responded so Pony/Tinker has backup without calling for help. Tinker’s concern for Oilcan becomes the next stumbling point, so Nathan can know where he is. So the deck is cleared for Tinker to react to the stolen equipment and then, Nathan.


The double chain-link gates of her scrap yard stood half open – wide enough for a regular car to pass through, but not the full open that she and Oilcan normally swung them – just in case they needed to bring in the flatbed tow truck with an oversized load. She saw with alarm that the heavy chain hung from the right hand gate; her cousin would never leave a valuable and difficult to replace chain out like that.

“Shit,” she hissed, hesitating at the gate. The steel Stanley padlock lay on the ground, it’s bolt cut. Someone had broken in.

Where was Oilcan? Home safe? Or had he already arrived for the morning and was currently investigating the yard alone? Stacks of cars waiting for the crusher blocked her view of the old mobile home that served as the scrap yard’s offices.

She cautiously eased the Rolls through the gate.

A Pittsburgh police squad car was parked in the wide muddy area in front of her office. It’s flashing lights reflected on the chrome of the wrecked cars. Bue Noergaard greeted her with “Hey, we were just about to try and track you down.”

“Bowman.” She relaxed slightly seeing the familiar face. She scanned the lot. Normally Oilcan drove the flatbed tow truck or rode his hoverbike. “Is Oilcan here? What’s going on?”

“Nah, your security system put in the call – before it got yanked.” The Dane answered her first question. “Someone broke in and took all your computer equipment.”

She swore and rushed into the trailer only to collide face to chest with Nathan Czernowski.

“Tink! Are you okay?” Nathan asked.

“I’m fine.” She snapped, rubbing her nose where she smacked it into his badge.

(awkward conversation)

Someone had raided her workshop. She stood in the doorway, dumbfounded and infuriated. Her tools were there -- screwdrivers, wretches, wire strippers and things more exotic – but all her computer equipment was gone. Clear spaces on her workbenches were the only indication that they’d ever been there.

“What the hell happen to my stuff?”

(Nathan is acting strangely awkward, puzzling her until)

…she remembered where they’d left off. After he professed his obsession with her, she’d talked into dating her, despite their age differences, just on curiosity’s sake. Unfortunately, Windwolf had just come into her life to whisk her away and turn her into an elf. On the first night after her transformation, Nathan took the news badly and tried to force her into sex. Pony had intervened just as Nathan seemed to getting control of his emotions.

It seemed like another life, one where he featured front and center; she hadn’t thought of him for nearly two months. Too much had intervened, like being kidnapped by the oni. Strange that she thought him so huge and scary – now that she’d seen true evil, he had shrank back to human-sized again.

“You look beautiful.” He gazed her wistfully.

“Thanks.” Yesterday’s excited ruined her one set of human clothes, forcing her to resorted to her most causal elfin wear. She wore a loose pair of pants slung low on her hips and a spaghetti-strapped midriff, both of bronze silk. On a lark, she’d also worn the diamond bracelet and necklace that Windwolf given her; the stones blazed against her dusky skin. She was pleased with the result. She knew she looked causally elegant. She also knew that she looked sexy, and suddenly felt weirdly under-dressed.

“They tell me that you’re married to him,” Nathan meant Windwolf. She wondered who ‘they’ might have been: Oilcan, who would have broken the news gently, or Maynard, who would have followed it with warnings not to upset the viceroy and his new wife.

“Yeah.” She fiddled with the bracelet. “It was kind of by accident -- but I do love him.”

“So I guess it’s all over between us.”

She nodded. “Nathan, I never loved you. I liked you a lot, but in a big brother kind of way. I was willing to see if I could love you, but it wasn’t working out. We wouldn’t have ended up together.”

They stood a moment in unhappy silence. Finally, he wet his lips and said, “I’m ashamed of what I did. I went way over the line, and I’m so sorry – though I know that really doesn’t cut it. I shouldn’t have done it in the first place.” His voice grew husky with self-loathing. “I would have killed another man for doing it. That I was drunk, and jealous excuses nothing,” he said with disgust. “I was so wrong.”

She’d trusted him, and he’d betrayed that trust, but there was no denying he hadn’t used his full strength against her, and most likely was honoring her refusal when Pony stepped in.

“I am very, very sorry that I hurt you,” he said, and turned to go, apparently neither looking for her forgiveness nor expecting it.

She caught his hand, stopping him. “Nathan. I’d like to go back to the way it was with us. We were like family. That’s going be hard for both us – but I’m willing to try. I can’t say that I totally forgive you, but I think, I can work up to that.”

He looked at her slightly stunned, and then nodded. “I’d like that.”

They parted at the tentative note.

Oilcan (carrying bottles.) “Hey.”

“Hey. You turned into a heavy drinker while I was gone?”

“Nah, here.” He held out one of the bottles. “Try this.”

She glanced at the label, as Oilcan also gave a similar bottle to Pony. “Cider?”

“Hard cider. A little stronger than beer,” –he lifted up his bottle of Iron City in illustration—“but it’s easier on you than ouzo.”

She tried it. “Not bad. I could get used to it.”

“I saw you talking with Nathan,” He dropped out of Elvish to English. “How did that go?”

“Only time will tell. Do you think I’m doing the right thing?”

Oilcan shrugged, but didn’t say anything, reminding her of something Riki’s said once of her cousin: Oilcan wouldn’t poison her against someone, regardless of how he felt. Apparently Nathan would have to earn Oilcan’s forgiveness too.

She sipped the cider. Actually it was fairly good. The elves set great store in wines, but she hadn’t had one that she liked yet. And Oilcan was right – ouzo led to drunk way too fast. Still, she wished she could still drink beer. “How do you feel about all this?”

“All what?”

“Me being an elf? Being married to Windwolf? Are you alright with that?”

He shrugged again, sipping his beer, but this time he ventured, “You were gaga for him from the start. He’s solid, the whole way through, not just on the surface like Nathan. I feel like I can trust him to be good to you. And he seems to sanely in love you.”

As opposed to madly in love, she supposed, like Nathan. “And the elf thing?”

“Actually, I would have had more trouble with Windwolf changing your religion than your ears. You are what is inside of you, not how you look.”

“Can you go tell that to Tooloo? She’s still in snit with Windwolf.”

“Unlike you, I have learned the futility of arguing logic with Tooloo.”

Posted by wen at 01:44 PM

December 15, 2003

Blog Changes

So I ego stoked when I noticed that my comment count was quickly rising but puzzled when I couldn't find the new comments in the last two or three weeks of blogs.

This afternoon I found out what was happening, and boy was I pissed.

Someone came up with a blog comment spammer and hit my blog hard with all those annoying sex drug ads. Bleah.

I've gone back through my old entries and deleted all the spam messages, but I'm changing the comment fields to CLOSED. This means that no one will be able to add comments to my blog.

Sorry guys. Email your comments to me directly.

Posted by wen at 01:58 PM

December 14, 2003

Fixing as you go

A question on file management triggered someone to comment that in their first draft, they don't worry about those little red and green lines under their words that indicate that things are spelled wrong or not correct grammar. I posted the following words of caution that boil down to this: been there, done that -- bad idea.

When I started to write, I didn't pay any attention to the little red and green lines. I just vomited out onto the page and figured I would come back to it.

This ended up being a horrible mistake.

First it makes you lazy. I wrote an entire novel this way and learned nothing about spelling and grammar. Second time through, I used the spell checker in this method. After seeing what it suggested (and checking with a dictionary that this was the word I wanted) I would close the window without clicking "yes" and try to spell the word correctly. If it said the word was right, I checked again to make sure it was still the correct word I was trying to get to. If it said it was wrong, I once again looked and closed the window without choosing "yes." This was a very slow process but it leaped my spelling ability forward a huge amount. The same goes with grammar. Find out why it’s "wrong" and correct it. I had a huge problem with run on sentence that I've since corrected.

This is basic skill building for a career that is going to span decades. It might seem like a pain, but trust me -- it will only help you in the long run.

The second reason that correcting now and not later is that you can send someone your rough draft and get help NOW without doing a polish. My first attempt at a novel was unreadable for most people at the grammar/spelling level so that they couldn't help me with structure, characterization, motivation, or theme or any of that larger stuff.

Ideally, you should be able to print off your rough draft, hand it to a trusted first reader, and think about something else while they read it. Then you do your "polish" with their comments on theme and plot in mind.

The more times you need to do a drastic polish, the more you will come to hate the story because you've been working on it forever. Also you tend to get a tunnel vision, where you can't see how to fix certain mistakes because the story *must* be this way.

I know that working on your basic skills as you fight to find time to write is a pain, but it’s an important step in becoming a fast, professional writer.

Posted by wen at 07:04 PM

December 10, 2003

Filling holes -- spoilers

So as I write, I leave holes behind. I can't think of an exciting way of doing something. Or I'm not sure how to get where I want to go in the story because I'm not totally sure where I am going. I skip over that part and come back later to it, once I know where I'm going. Here's a bunch of little fills and slight changes to what I've written.

First insert: Why hasn’t she told anyone anything – important so that the conversations that follow aren’t redundant. This doesn’t hack it as well as I would like, but I think readers will excuse her not to fully debrief people on things she know.

She and Pony had spent the last two days recuperating from their escape from the oni. She’d endured an endless parade of visitors -- her cousin, Oilcan, her human friends, and seemingly all the elves in Pittsburgh -- between bouts of drugged sleep, which gave the entire experience a surreal nightmare feel. Everyone had brought offerings and stories of Turtle Creek, until her bedroom and curiosity overflowed.

Second insert: Shouldn’t there be something to keep people from stumbling into the mess at Turtle Creek?

Beyond the bridge, the Elfhome Intelligence Agency, EIA, had strung up plastic yellow tape as a barrier around the valley. It rustled ominously in a stiff breeze. She heard that there were plans to replace the tape with something sturdier if the valley continued to be unstable. The EIA and Windwolf, however, were too busy chasing down the remains of the oni forces.

Third Insert: Tinker should start into the measuring process, however crude it might be.

“Let me borrow one of your knives.” Tinker used the knife Pony handed her to score the bark of saplings at the fringe of the shift. “I want to be able to tell if the area is shrinking or not, over time.”

Fourth Insert: I realize that Tinker should be focused on building a gate to rescue Pittsburgh. What is she planning to do? Does she even know? Easiest answer: no.

The Rolls was a joy to drive so she drove down drove in a lazy figure eight around the city; she dropped down onto the Parkway for three open lanes and unhampered access across Fort Duquesne Bridge and then, via the weird North Shore off and on to get to Veterans Bridge and then from there a run down Boulevard of the Allies to loop through Oakland to drop onto the Parkway again.

“Where are we going?” Pony asked when they hit the Parkway the second time.

Where indeed? Tinker clicked her tongue in an elfin shrug. “Out. Away.”

One of the reasons she’d investigated Turtle Creek was to verify reports that the oni compound was totally gone. The oni had stockpiled materials for building a hyperphase gate for years, perhaps decades. Everything she would need to rescue Pittsburgh had been right there: her completed plans, the exotic materials, and generators to power everything.

Certainly she could recreate her plans, but everything else – it was daunting to consider.

“We’re going to my scrap yard.” She could at least draw a list of what was needed and start the scavenger hunt.

So this time as they cross the Fort Duquesne Bridge, she turned onto Ohio River Boulevard and ran out to McKees Rocks.

Posted by wen at 11:43 AM

December 08, 2003

IMing with Don

WS: i'm still trying to figure out what kind of monster that the oni unleashed on Pittsburgh
WS: i think it has to be fairly intelligent, big and able to vanish into the shadows
DK: Moat Carp....


Giant Hedgehog!
WS: I'm thinking something on par with the Chinese three legged dragons
WS: ha!

Posted by wen at 12:17 PM

December 07, 2003

Working toward Lain - SPOILER

So, now I need to introduce Lain, which is making me waver back and forth.

One way would be introduce her completely alone, expecting company, and after she's established in the new reader's mind (and refreshed for the returning reader) and then plunge into a multiple character scene that will introduce some of the political conflicts. On the other hand, something makes me want to start with the group scene, where Tinker walks in not expecting to find company and then can't easily flee. I suppose it's the idea that it will make Tinker stay, whereas talking to Lain alone first, Tinker would probably chose to flee.

There's a danger in introducing too many new characters at once in that you overwhelm not only the reader but also yourself.

I suppose one way around it is to have someone ask Tinker to attend the upcoming meeting of humans as a formal go-between. Maynard or Oilcan leap to mind, since both need to be introduced. I could do a one on one with them, and then move to Lain one on one and then do the meeting.

What Tinker needs to talk to Lain about is the lost colonist, which leads to Lain's sister. At some point, Tinker needs to realize that the woman in her dream was Lain's sister - and that it has implications of the lost colonist. Lain at this time can talk about her sister and family, setting the groundwork for both the Mom's personality when we (hopefully) finally meet her and why Lain has kept quiet about the relationship between Tinker and herself.

Originally I had intended Windwolf only to give Tinker the diamonds, but I expanded it to the rubies and pearls to trigger the conversation about the dream. It also provides a bit of a red herring - Tinker thinking the dream was about the actual necklace and not about Riki's theory. Of course the clues to that lay in her datapad from book one, which Riki copied and left the original wherever Tinker left it. The copy was probably destroyed at Turtle Creek, but the original is safe.

The meeting that Lain and Tinker will attend will be the humans of Earth trying to cope with the situation that they find themselves in. Lain will be part of it because as leading biologist, she'll be asked to help set up some system to feed the city through the upcoming winter. Tinker will find that she's an easy scapegoat for a bunch of unhappy and scared people. At least one or more of these people will be the human villains of the story.

It would help if Tinker has some knowledge of these people ahead of time. While the Mayor of Pittsburgh would be a famous political figure to Tinker, I don't think she would know him. On the other hand, the resident director of the Observatory, as the representative of the stranded scientists, would be a known figure. Since I didn't mention him in book one but indicated that Tinker was a frequent visitor of the Observatory, I think there will be a Director and Assistant Director. The Director has actually spent more time on Earth, tracking the schedule of the incoming scientists and doing TV appearances as the expert in Elfhome science. A glory hound. The Assistant Director is a nice person, quiet, has always liked Tinker, doesn't figure much into this story except to explain why Tinker could hang out at the Observatory and still not get along with the Director.

History is a wonderful thing in setting up conflict.

One of the things that the humans are probably going to be pushing for is Tinker building another gate. This opens a can of worms of "who does Tinker have a responsibility too?" Is it the humans who want access to their homeland, or the elves?

At some point I need to work in Oilcan, but he presents a problem. Since he has no 'conflict' he doesn't have a reason to be in the book. Now that I've kidnapped Tinker out of her normal position at work, I'm not sure why she sees him. ….think…think…

I suppose she should be trying to rearrange her life to fit around the marriage and responsibilities of being Windwolf's wife. She has a business to run, and if not, needs to make sure Oilcan has a way to make a living. I suppose Oilcan can have some pride and doesn't really want the business just given to him, and Tinker did take care of a large section of running it. I suppose in a way, she also was an important cog in making Pittsburgh work. There's also the hoverbike racing, which she likes and enjoys (and Wen really didn't get to work into the first book except the one chase scene.)

So it seems that before Tinker can go see Lain, she needs to go to work and talk with Oilcan and maybe Maynard can come for a visit.

But as I consider what to write, I don't want to start into 'giving away' for various reason, but mostly it's too "last book, not this book." I lucked out in writing Ukiah by doing book two in Oregon. The change of location meant I didn't have all that baggage of book one in two or even three (since it's a change in location from book two). By book four, however, the characters all wanted to talk about back-story. It's a trap I don't want to fall into in T2.

So what in this book could trigger Tinker to go to the junkyard? …think…think… Okay, I mentioned earlier that her computer and stuff are at the junkyard. She wants to take measurements and such of the weirdness of Turtle Creek. So off she goes to collect equipment. Hmmm, reconsidering earlier thought - maybe what takes her to Lain isn't Maynard asking her to meet with the humans but hope that someone can help her figure out what's wrong with Turtle Creek. I suppose the idea was to have Tinker 'stay' at meeting was a promise to Maynard, but what if Tinker meets with Lain, who 'guilt's her into staying. Or maybe it's a double whammy -- both of them ask her.

Okay, so Tinker needs to think about what all has happened to her and go to junkyard to get measuring equipment and talks with Oilcan. The conversation can dance around the "what about the future" but maybe not tackle it head on, since neither cousin is of the type.

Sometime in this mess, I need to give her breathing time to connect the dots. But I don't want to do this yet. I have a habit of letting characters connecting the dots too soon and leap to the logical thing to do - only then not allowing other things to happen. I'm purposely trying to keep Tinker from making the leap, because then I won't be able to pry her out of Turtle Creek. I need her roaming the city, not fishing into the chaos.

I'll see how long I can have her do other stuff before I have to deal with solving the problem

Okay, I have a course in mind. I need to set the place, and maybe give a little history and introduce Oilcan in some interesting manner.

Hmm, after a few minutes, it becomes apparent I need to add something to last scene. Also while I wanted to move directly to the scrap yard, I find I need to mention where they are staying first. This leads to a great conversation with Pony that lays the foundation of Tinker's past. Initially I write the scene with Pony with them both knowing where they're going. I decide to change it so that Pony doesn't realize where they are going until he asks. This triggers me to work through and put in the more specific driving actions than the general ones I have in.


"So it's a dream about the necklaces? What so dangerous about the necklaces?"

"Dreams are rarely straight forward. Most likely the necklaces represent something else. I can see if there is someone of the blood in the city who can translate."

Tinker made a slight noise of exasperation and snuggled against him. "It was just a dream."


They were staying at the Poppymeadow enclave that normally catered to the transitory elfin population, providing room and board to people outside their own household for a steep price. Windwolf's household - all seventy-five members not counting her and Pony -- filled it completely, making it temporarily a private residence. Poppermeadow insisted on keeping control of the housekeeping and cooking. Deprived of their usual duties, Windwolf's household leapt to smother the bruised Tinker with their attention. Much to her dismay, she found herself stripped, washed, healed, dressed, fed, tucked into bed and drugged.

Early the next morning, she escaped the enclave with only Pony in tow.

"I don't know how much more of that I can stand," she told Pony as she eased the Rolls out of the enclave's carriage house. Normally he drove, but she couldn't stand the thought of having someone do for her what she could damn well do for herself.

"They mean well. They like to mother you."

"Mean well gets old fast," Tinker grumbled. "If that's mothering, I don't like it. I find it suffocating. I suppose its just that I'm not used it - I never had a mother."

"Your mother died when you were young?" Pony asked.

Normally she didn't like to talk about her parentage. While she found it clinically logical, other people seemed to find it weird. But this was Pony asking.

"No, I never had one. My grandfather used a egg from a donor bank and my father's sperm to create me after both my parents were dead."

"A donor what? Is that another race of humans?"

"It's a place that people put genetic material in storage for the future. Sometimes people -- like my father who was a genius - set up superior stock for anyone to tap. Other times its because the people are going to be working with hazardous materials that might damage their chances of having a normal child. My mom was probably one of the later."


"I don't know anything about her. Not even her name. Just that she was dead."

"If she was dead, how did you …" Obviously Pony was struggling with the concept.

"My real mother - genetically speaking. The woman that gave birth to me was paid to carry me to term."

"What happened to her?"

"She left Pittsburgh after I was born."

"There was no woman that took care of you?"

"Only Tooloo and Lain. Neither one of them ever acted like that. Tooloo always put me to work. Lain taught me things that Grandpa didn't - plant names, animals things, books and music and some history. When I got sick, I was all Grandpa's. He'd tell me to take acetaminophen, drink orange juice, and not to get out of bed."

The Rolls was a joy to drive so instead of taking Bigelow Boulevard and working her way through the city, she dropped down onto the Parkway for three open lanes and unhampered access across Fort Duquesne Bridge.

"Where are we going?" Pony asked as they roared over the Allegheny River.

"We're going out my scrap yard. I want to see what I can put together to run tests on Turtle Creek."


Sigh, didn't get to Oilcan, let alone Lain. Things pop up! Maybe tomorrow.

Posted by wen at 11:14 PM

December 06, 2003

Answers on Editors and Agents

Someone asked several questions which they were afraid was stupid:

How does one become an agent or editor and What classes must one take in school?

Also, why can't a writer be his/her own agent? If I was my own agent, then I wouldn't be sending unsolicited manuscripts...

And, Just out of curiousity, can you have more than one agent/publisher? Or do you sign some sort of contract?

There are no stupid questions

Usually to be an book editor (and many magazine editors) means you usually take English Literature in college and then move to New York City and take a grunt position at a publisher. Slowly you work your way up the ladder, from maybe copyeditor to editor's assistance to finially editor. It's a difficult road to take, since NYC is expensive and the number of editing jobs are few and far between.

One of the things that helps to increase the odds is that while in college, you arrange to do internships at various publishing houses. This means you need to find out which colleges can set up such an internship and then hope that the publishing house actually is using interns that summer. This means research into information that I don't have.

One way you might start is calling a publishing house and asking for the Human Resource office and then ask which colleges they work with to set up internships. If you don't have the guts to do this, ask your guidance counselor at high school to do this -- or some other fearless individual.

And agent takes a similiar track. She finds a literary agency that wants low-level people and serves an "apprentice-ship" to learn the ins and out.

Part of the reason they have people work up the ladder this way is that while you will learn basic skills in college, like what's a good novel, there are business ins and outs that they don't touch. How is a book produced? How is a book sold? How is it marketed? Who are the mover and shakers in the industry and what are their tastes?

There are people that have tried the "be their own agent" routine. Bad idea. Even if you gain the interest of an editor with your book, you don't have the know-how to continue the pretense. Once the ruse fails, you look like an idiot.

Besides, the reason you get an agent is someone who knows things you don't know to expedite the purchase of your book, and to protect your interests during the contract negoiation, and being able to get results if something goes wrong.

You want a good agent. A random person like yourself, your mom, your next door neighbor (unless its Richard Curtis) will do nothing good for you and might do huge harm.

You can have more than one agent/publisher, but not per book.

Basically what happens is that you approach an agent and ask them to sell your novel. (They're investing time and effort in your career, so they would like to sell ALL your novels. It's standard practice that once you get an agent, you keep her.) She takes it to the publisher, who buys it.

Now the contract arrives. Standard contracts has the following clauses.

One says: Agent (fill in blank) is the agent for this book and will continue to be the agent for this book until it goes out of print. This means if you get a new agent, you're still stuck with your old agent on any books that she sold for you in the past.

The second one says: The publisher has first option on your next book. This means that if you write another book, you HAVE to offer it to the publisher. There is time period, but its usually set like "six months after the publication of the book in this contract." So if you sell a book in year 2000, 99% of the time, it will be written and polished at the time of the sale. You might be already working on another novel, or have a second novel finished. You can offer that second novel to the publisher as part of the "next book option" but they have until after the first book is published...which might be in 2001. Often, though, they will decide much sooner than that.

If your first publisher turns down the second book -- thus filling the option clause -- you can then offer it to another publisher. This is how I ended up with two publishers. My first publisher -- ROC -- wanted me to only write SF, so they turned down my fantasy book. I then sold it to Baen. Currently my options for ROC read "next sf book" and my Baen options read "next fantasy book." Or something like that.

Many agents operate on a "gentleman's agreement" which means you verbally agree that they will respresent you. They do this because they know that they will be protected by the book contract.

Also when you enter into agreement with a NYC agent, they have contacts around the world that also work with you. So while I have agent x in NYC, I also have agent y in Hollywood, and agent z in London. If Y or Z sells rights in they're area, they split the sale with agent x. Again, the book contract drawn up will name X AND Y or Z as the agent on record.

Posted by wen at 12:16 PM

Starting a scene -- SPOILERS

I decided to think about how I'm putting together a scene as I do it. The first scene written was the "oops" scene, and then the dream scene.

So I want to write the next scene. I know that I want to reintroduce Windwolf. Having him just show up would lead to inane batter - there has to be more the scene than just seeing how pretty he is. They need something to talk about.

I think that I want them to talk about dreaming/seeing the future and the upcoming party. "Think" because sometimes I start into something to discover that I was wrong. Even as I type those words, I remember that things that I haven't written will probably impact the discussion: the big mess at Turtle Creek, the monster, and Riki.

Only the reader has already seen the mess and most likely had whatever thoughts Tinker had about it, and talked about to Pony. Yet Windwolf will bring in a political side of the mess that neither Tinker or Pony would consider. I suppose I could even use this to create tension in the scene, as Windwolf will be concerned about this getting worse, and Tinker unsure if he's mad at her about it.

At the same time, I have to be careful. I want readers to like Windwolf enough for them to believe he's the same male that Tinker abandoned Pittsburgh for at the end of book one. I also want to explore their marriage, and if I accidentally make him hateful, everyone will be flinging the book across the room.

So I have to walk a fine line - make Windwolf lovable while introducing fine stress to their relationship. ACK!

My first impulse was for Tinker to wake in his arms, and he's all lovely dovey and delicious. I try writing the scene and can't get beyond the first sentence. Total roadblock. I have found this is my writer's instinct crying "Nnnnnnnnnoooooooo!!!!"

I start over again. Tinker wakes in their bedroom and he's across the room working on papers. Nope. Still doesn't work past sentence one.

(I would snippet this but really, it's getting no farther than: Tinker opened her eyes to summer sky framed by an unfamiliar window.)

I now try Tinker waking up and she's close to the place where the monster attacked. It's isolated and maybe she got more banged up than I planned, and maybe other people were more seriously hurt, so they're trying to get an ambulance down to them and Windwolf shows up. Let's see how it went...


Tinker opened her eyes to summer sky framed by oak leaves. Acorns clustered on the branches, nearly ready to fall. A (bird) sung its rain song someplace overhead.

With a slight rustle, Pony leaned over her, bruised and battered himself, worry in his eyes. "Domi, are you well?"
Tinker blinked back tears. "Yes, I'm fine."

She sat up, trying to ignore the pain in her head.

"X is badly hurt. We have called for helped to move you and her to the hospice."

A sudden roar of wind announced the arrival of Wolf Who Rules Wind, head of the Wind Clan in North American, also known as her husband, Windwolf. Riding the winds with the Wind Clan's magic, he flew down out the sky and landed on barren no-man's-land of the Rim. Dressed in elfin splendor, his duster of cobalt blue silk, hand-painted with a stylized white wolf, whipped out behind him like a banner. He was beautiful in the way only elves could be - tall, lean, and board shouldered with a face full of elegant sharp lines. With a word and gesture, he dismissed his magic. Released, the winds sighed away.

Beauty, power and able to fly like superman -- what more could a girl want?

Apparently feeling guilty that she'd been hurt, the sekasha knelt, murmuring "Lord Wolf Who Rules." Pony only bowed low, as was proper, since he was (pledged? Bond?) to Tinker, not Windwolf like the others.

Windwolf folded her into his arms. "Beloved."

And with the loving embrace, she lost control of the tears she'd been keeping at bay. What was it about him that made her feel so safe in a way not even Pony could? She hugged him tightly, trusting he would make it right. As she wallowed in the luxury of being sheltered by the only force besides nature that seemed larger than herself, Windwolf questioned the sekasha. His voiced rumbled in his chest under her head, like contained thunder.

Finally she pulled free of his hug, smearing at the tears that were burning her eyes. "They did well. It would have killed me if they weren't with me."

He gave a sudden smile, as if her words pleased him greatly.

"What?" She sniffed.

He kissed the tears from her cheek. "I'm proud of you. Your first thoughts are of your people - which a good domi should."

(information on the monster - car arrives)

"Come." Windwolf swept her off her feet and into his arms.

"Hey, I can walk!"

"I know." He turned and carried her toward the Rolls Royce. "I have seen you do it."

Tinker sighed at the nuances lost in the translation. This was how she ended up married Windwolf - she accepted his betrothal gift without realizing he was proposing to her. "There is nothing wrong with my legs."

He eyed her bare legs draped over his left arm. "No. There is not. They are very nice legs."

She studied him. All total, they had spent very little time with each other and she was still getting to know him. She was beginning to suspect, though, that he had a very subtle but strong sense of humor. "Are you teasing me?"

He said nothing but the corners of his eyes crinkled with a suppressed smile.

She smacked him lightly in the shoulder for teasing her. "You don't have to carry me!"

"But I like to."

"Windwolf," she whined.

He kissed her on her forehead. "You might think you are well, but you are in truth pale and wobbly. You have done what was needed. Let me care for you."

She supposed that she could insist and then run the risk of falling flat on her face. What harm could letting him carry her, except to her pride? Like so often since he charged into her life, Windwolf left only bad choices for her to make in order to protect her sense of free will - and she was too smart to choose stupidity. Sighing, she lay her head on his shoulder and let her carry her.

He tucked her into the Rolls and slid in beside her.


…Tinker notices a small fabric bundle…

"What's this?" Tinker eyed it tentatively. Accepting a similar package from Windwolf had indicated her acceptance of his marriage proposal - when she didn't realize the significance of his gift. She still had mixed feelings about being married to Windwolf. As a lover, Windwolf was all that she would want -- warm, gentle, and caring wrapped in a sexy body - and she loved him deeply.

It was the whole marriage thing - having someone else's will and future joined to hers. They were build 'their home' for 'their people' and someday, maybe, 'their children.' Being the Viceroy's wife, too, came with more responsibilities than she wanted; people were entrusting her with their lives. So far, the good outweighed the bad - but with elves "till death do part" meant a very long time.

"It is for you. Before the Queen summoned me from Pittsburgh, I ordered clothes and jewelry to be made for you. I know that they are not of the style you might pick for yourself, but I wanted to be sure you had something for the (august) festival."

She'd forgotten all about the (august) festival. It was one of the rare times elfin and human holidays overlapped, combining Labor Day and the elfin celebration of Freedom. "Will there be one this year?"


"Even with the oni and Pittsburgh being stranded on Elfhome? Food will soon be in short supply."

"It is important that the people feel safe, and that means continuing as we would otherwise."

"Okay." She pulled loose the bow and unwrapped the fabric. Inside were four small velvet pouches with drawstring pulls. She opened the first to the glitter of gems. "Oh!"

She gasped as she poured diamonds out into her palm. Over a foot of necklace studded with pea-sized diamonds. "Oh my! They're gorgeous!"

As she lifted them up, the afternoon sun prism into a million tiny rainbows.

"They will look lovely against your skin." Windwolf dropped a kiss on her throat.

The second bag held a matching diamond bracelet. The third spilled rubies into her hand like fire, but as she lifted up the strand, it reminded her of the red ribbon in her dream.

"They're beautiful," she said truthful, but still put them away.

The fourth bag held a pearl necklace. She couldn't keep the dismay off her face.

"You don't like them?"

"I had a bad dream after the beast knocked me out. I was looking for something in a forest with this woman. She had a long red ribbon tied around her eyes and on the other end of it, was a pearl necklace."

She'd wanted him to say "it was just a dream," but instead he said, "tell me all of your dream."


"Sometimes dreams are warnings. It is not wise to ignore them."

So she said it, "It was just a dream." How could he rebuke her so easily with just his eyes? "I'm still me. I'm still mostly human - not elf. I can't see the future."

"In elves it is carried by the female line; being that humans and elves can interbreed with fertile results, we must be very similar." He put away the pearl necklace. "It is the nature of magic to splinter things down to possibilities. Even humans without magic can see where the splintering will happen, and the possible outcomes. Humans call it an 'educated guess.' In the past, where magic would leak through natural gates from Elfhome to Earth, there were often temple with oracles predicting the future."

She had really hoped her life would be return to sanity with the defeat of the oni, but she supposed until Turtle Creek was returned to normal - somehow - there was little hope at that.

"Tell me your dream." Windwolf ran the back of his hand lightly down her cheek.

So she described out what she could remember. It had been so vivid right after she woke up, but the images were tattering. "She's someone I know but not really. A movie star or something like that - I've only seen picture of her."

"The ribbon -- the intanyai seyosa wears one when she's predicting. It helps block out things that would distract her from her visions, but also it is a badge of her office."

"So I'm dreaming that she's dreaming? That's very Escher-quse."

Windwolf looked confused.

"A human artist that my grandfather liked."


I'm not sure how to wrap up the scene yet. I'm happy as it stands at the moment but I might go back and add to the ending to discuss things I add later.

Posted by wen at 11:41 AM

December 05, 2003

Planting the clues -- SPOILER

Someone asked what are all the clues of the dream. Here's the ones off the top of my head. (I might have put more in that I don't remember now.)

Clues in the dream

1. The dress and ribbon that the woman is wearing is identical to that of the seer in the first book. Her other outfit is described as an "ash gray overall with mission patches" or astronaut jumpsuit.

2. The brightness of the clothes will become an important part of setting up communication with the lost colonist.

3. The males of unknown race in the woods with long noses crying "lost" are the tengu manning the first colony ships as mentioned in book one. After the oni realized that the gate didn't go to Onihida, they switched to all human crews.

4. The mention of turtles and the woods not being right refers to the fact that the colonist will be accessed through turtle creek, which in Pittsburgh, doesn't have trees.

5. Down the hole and through the looking glass is a reference to a parellell world. Also I'm going to have Tinker have strong associations with the book and her mom via a book that Lain owns that original belonged to her sister. The checkerboard pattern and the taking her hand and flying is a reference to Alice's meeting with the red queen. Even the "we have to hurry" goes back to the rabbit in Alice in Wonderland.

6. The oni statues goes back to that the oni had an encampment not only on Pittsburgh but on Onihida too. I've been playing with the fact that when the gate went critical, it fused several worlds together and that some of the oni merged with rock. (Only reason why I wouldn't do this is that I really don't want Tinker dealing with the fact that she killed so many oni accidentally.)

7. The void and floating is a reference to space, with the ribbon being a safety line while doing a space walk.

8. The japanese believe that some people (usually lovers) are linked with red thread tied around their fingers.

9. In book one, Riki talks about the many worlds -- Earth, Elfhome, and in his case, Onihida -- being pearls strung on the same thread.

Posted by wen at 11:26 PM

Lain -- Tinker 2 -- Spoilers!

I'm trying to figure out plot details of Tinker 2. One of the main one revolves around the lost colonist/who is Tinker's mother. I'm trying to figure out how to make it work that Lain knows that her sister (half sister?) harvested an egg, left it with Tinker's grandpa to fertilize and went off to be lost in space.

The reason why I'm making the colonist mother, lost in space, be Lain's sister is because of the following:

1. Instead of strangers being lost, where the only source of information on them is books, it's Lain sister -- so any stories we get of her will be at a personal detail.

2. Tinker has a dual reason to save the colonist -- to meet her mother and to make Lain happy.

3. It explains a little detail of why Grandpa waited 10 years after Leo died to have Tinker born.

4. It gives an important "seer" link between Tinker, Lain, and her mom all being able to dream of the future.

5. At the end of the novel, if Tinker succeeds, instead of having these strangers go "thanks -- whoever you are" I can have the mother emotionally react to both Lain and Tinker (who she knows she left under Lain's watchful eye.)

This all hinges on, though, why didn't Lain ever tell Tinker about their blood connection?

So what do we know of Lain?

Lain is a xenobiologist, trained for missions off-world, crippled in an explosion, and now living in Pittsburgh.

She gardens.

She bugs Tinker to go to college, but when Grandpa had died, she didn't take Tinker and Oilcan in.

Other than that, Lain is a blank slate.


Lain obviously feels affection for Tinker, but on the other hand hasn't tried to be foster mom. Or has she? Maybe she has been rebuked by Tinker, Grandpa, Oilcan, and Tooloo. There's a lot of old history between the characters that wasn't discussed in book one.

Also, what is Lain's family like? They're not mentioned. On the other hand, Tinker infers that Lain NEVER leaves Elfhome to visit Earth. That 18 years of never going back for family reunions. Okay, so yes, an entire month's vacation with no possibility of checking back home would be much for many people. This is serious avoidance.

Usually someone that avoids family that hard usually has a problem family.

Perhaps the reason Lain could know about the relationship and not mention it is because she wants to keep it a strict secret. Tinker is only 18 -- Lain might not have trust her to be mature enough to keep the secret. Also with Tinker and Oilcan being so close, it would be unlikely/unfair to expect Tinker to keep the information from Oilcan -- and perhaps it's Oilcan that Lain doesn't fully trust to keep the secret.

What is Lain's family -- who raised two daughters to be astronauts -- are narrow mind, emotionally distance, petty, and ambitious? If they discovered they had a genius granddaughter living on Elfhome as an orphan, Lain knows they would have swooped in, grabbed Tinker and left Oilcan behind.

With the plot twisting around Lain's missing sister, I have an excuse to discuss Lain's family, but what would drive it home is to have one of them to have finally made the effort to track down Lain -- or perhaps Tinker -- and be stranded when the gate falls. That seems like too much though. Pittsburgh's extreme isolation, however, makes it difficult to stress the family's obsessiveness without someone being there.

It occurs to me if the family is of the space version of the Kennedy family, that it would explain by the mom went through the fuss of leaving behind the possibility of a child, and yet, because of the family, chose to do it in a manner that her family wouldn't be able to interfere with the child, except for her "sane" sister.

Oilcan was on Earth when Tinker was born in Pittsburgh. Tinker only knows what Grandpa told her -- that her birth mother wasn't her real mother. That Grandpa paid her to have the baby and she left immediately afterwards. Certainly if Tinker's real mom was training to leave for space, she wouldn't have nine months to take off and have the kid, nor would it be likely that her family would be completely clueless that she had a kid -- so I'll probably have to stick to Grandpa's story being true.

We don't know when Lain was crippled. Was it before Pittsburgh first moved to Elfhome -- and Elfhome was a cure for a depressed Lain? I think so -- so this would make it six years before Tinker was born.

I suppose six years would have gotten her "over" the accident. I was thinking that an easy excuse would be that Lain was so tied up in her own problems, that she ignored the baby that her sister arranged to leave and later was too ashamed to mention the relationship. That doesn't ring true.

Hmm, back to an earlier point. I wonder if the birth mother could have promised not to mention the whole thing until the baby turned 18 and be a legal adult. She's just recently spilled the beans to Lain's family, who showed up to collect Tinker. ....think, think, think.... No, Lain would have said SOMETHING during their one conversation prior to the Oni kidnapping Tinker.

(On a totally different note, I have to decide if the NSA agents and Oilcan's possible girlfriend left during that last shutdown or not. While the NSA had a so-so reason to stay on Elfhome, I don't see the girl, having planned to stay only one month, would have stayed. I could see her planning to come back the next one, and now that opportunity is lost.)

What will interesting is that Tinker grew up knowing her quietly obscure inventor family. With learning that her mother's family is this news-making famous family would provide her food for thought.

Posted by wen at 02:30 PM

December 03, 2003

Why perfect?

Someone asked "How done must a book be when I do the 'get an agent' thing?" When I replied completely done, completely polished, they asked why.

I really didn't mean to rant, but here is my answer.

Yes, completely finished and polished because there are tons of people out there with good ideas and yet can't finish a novel to save their lives. Fine, it's not a failing, except when an person's livelihood is on the line.

Agents are overworked and want only people that will make them money by having good books they can sell to publishers. Remember out of all this, they're getting the smallest slice of the pie. And the best agents work in NYC, which is an expensive to set up shop.

Editors are mid-management. Yes they buy the book, but the publisher approves the buy and issues the checks. With every book, their job is on the line. They're also overworked, and usually take work home and work on weekends just to keep up with things they have to do. They only have time for books they know will be published.

And finishing a book isn't the same as revision. Revising is a skill all its own. Some people can finish a good novel only to revise it into a bad novel. When an editor/agent gets a book, they don't know how long the author been working on it, or if they had help that's no longer available. When I went to a convention at Harvard two years ago, I met a man who had sold a multi-book deal. The books were slated to appear January 2003. During one panel, while I was talking about writing villains, there was a woman gesturing wildly in the back. It turned out that this was his editor, signaling that he was to pay attention to me. She had bought a flawed novel and he was resisting/unable to rewrite it. As 2002 progressed, I heard murmurs that he was continuing to be difficult. Last I heard, the publisher had apparently backed out of the contract somehow on the "acceptable manuscript" clause.

When a book slips or is pulled, that creates a hole in the printing schedule and every book on the schedule needs to be juggled. These schedules are set up years in advance. I had to have my deadline pushed from June 1, 2003 to October 1, 2003 on book four. Originally it was set to be released in May 2004, which meant in 2002 the printing run was set up and the deadlines for dozens of authors were set for 2003. (Yes, I totally messed up.) But not only authors were affected. The art department started work on DOG WARRIOR'S cover in September 2003. By January, the sales department will be given book jackets and cover flats, briefed on the books, and sent out to start generating advance sales.

When I turn in DOG WARRIOR, it goes to my editor, who needs to read it at least once and make notes for changes. It comes back to me for changes. I mail it to my editor. He reads it again, changes in place. If things are good, he sends it to a copyeditor, who reads it and makes changes, and mail it out to me. I read the changes and mail it back. It goes to a typesetter then who types it in and formats it and galleys are mailed to me and a proofreader. All this has to be done soon enough before the book's actual release so that copies of the galleys can be sent out to reviewers and bookstore managers in order to generate pre-release buzz.

So the editor, copyeditor, typesetter, and proofreader all have a schedule with books coming through on a pre-set schedule that missing a deadline will mess up. Finally, after all the changed on the galleys, the book is put in the printing cue.

The book needs to be printed and bound, and then sent to the distributor, who ships them to bookstores, so that all the books can go out, all over the world, on the same release date. Not a small undertaking.

Daunting as it all may seem, realize that hundreds of people are going to be balanced on your book. Yes those words are near and dear to you, and represent months and maybe years of work. The truth is, though, everyone else -- from the moment you stick it in the mail -- who deals with your book it will be a matter of bread on the table.

Posted by wen at 12:29 PM

Writing Tinker Two

Warning: this contains spoilers for both TINKER books 1 & 2

Warning: this is a rough draft and might never appear in the published work, nor is it considered correct in grammar, spelling, or any other manner of polishing.

Warning: author will SMACK anyone that points out "errors" in a rough draft


Welcome to the way I write - something like a mad grasshopper. I hop all over the story, until I have a rough draft and then go back to fill in gaps and smooth it all over. One reason is I have trouble figuring what should be in a scene if I don't know where the novel is going, but I rarely can finish an 'advance' scene because what lead up to it isn't written. Thus I don't work so much on an entire novel, or a single scene, but zones of the novel. The set up of the novel might be five chapters, which I write all at the same time, hopping back and forth, weaving plot threads in and out. At some point, set up will be solid enough that I start drifting into the middle of the book, following out certain threads and then jumping back again.

For example, I might write chapter six, realize for chapter six to work I need to go back in add some thing - maybe a word, or sentence or maybe a complete scene - to support what is now happening in chapter six. Back I go, I insert it….but it changes something in chapter five…or maybe I couldn't do all the needed set up in three and need to add something to five. Understood? Stay with me boy!

By the way, I don't recommend this method to anyone. While it works for me, it's a slightly mad way of writing.

This brings up to Tinker Two.

I posted earlier the first little bit of the first scene. Cool. Good. But it leads to doing research in the valley. I can't write this part yet because frankly, I don't know what they NEED to find. It might be a dead animal that doesn't fit into the ecology of Elfhome or Earth and they assume it's from Onihida, only to discover it isn't. (This is likely, but I don't know what type of animal I want yet.) It's a big blank, and instead of fighting with it now and maybe needing to change it, I'm going to skip it.

Then there's a fight with an oni monster and the reintroduction of Riki. Nope, don't know what the monster is yet. Skip.

Okay, third scene I have plan is to set up "what the book is about." I've decided not to focus on building another gate - mostly - but instead of the lost colonist. As you might remember, Riki told Tinker that the oni assumed that the gate would lead to Onihida or Elfhome, but it went to neither. How do they know? Well, there's no spaceships or puzzled colonist on either. So they went "someplace else." In book two, I'm exploring the 'someplace.'

This lead to all sorts of questions.

1. Why do the elves allow Tinker to mess with the area instead of trying to 'shut it down.'
2. How does Tinker discover that the colonists are on the other side of Turtle Creek?
3. Why does Tinker care about the strangers who are the colonists?
4. And most importantly, why the hell are the colonists in the Pittsburgh area of their new world instead of some tropical beach?

Well, the first was easy - simply saying that the breach stays open and starts to widen, with evidence that the oni are trying to manipulate the area to their own use is enough for the elves to get behind Tinker - eventually. I'll have lots of politics going on as they initially say 'nay' and then have circumstances change.

The second is tougher. Initially I was thinking messages in bottles, but this takes it back to the last question. Why are colonists on the other side, pitching in bottles?

The third question, ignoring the first two, lead me to 1) in book one Tinker states that she semi-knows the colonists via Lain and 2) Tinker doesn't know who her mother is, or 3) Tinker's mother is a colonist. Yeah, Tinker has reason to fight to save the colonists - somewhat. Mom is a stranger, so to tie it closer to home, I figure maybe Lain has family on the ships too.

But there's this nagging fourth question.

So I read through TINKER again, and rediscover that I set up the dreams to see the future. Wait, what if I say that Tinker dreams that the colonists are there, and then goes fishing, and they are there (answer to four) because they too have been dreaming. Suddenly, it hits me in a flash - Tinker's mom is Lain's sister. Windwolf indicated that the ability is linked to genetics -- why not say Tinker's family is gifted with the sight? That explains why Lain, Tinker and Tinker's mom all can have dreams - and Oilcan doesn't.

Immediately I know what the set up scene has to be. Attack of the monster leads to Tinker to be knocked unconscious and she dreams of her mother, who is dreaming of her. I want to keep the vision surreal and very dream-like, but I also want the alert reader go "Aha!" shortly before Tinker does. This is mind, I wrote the following…


Tinker fell a long time in darkness.

She found herself in an elfin forest, the ironwood towering around her, the world solemn as a cathedral.

Something white flickered through the shadows, brightness in humanoid form. Tinker moved forward, weaving through the trees.

A woman darted ahead of her, her clothes shining as if formed of fiber optics tapped to a searchlight -- brilliance weaving through the forest dimness. But the clothes changed as she disappeared and reappeared - first a fluid dress, then some type of white bulky overalls, and then back again.

It came to Tinker, knowledge seeping into her like oil into a rag, that she knew the woman and they were searching for something -- something that shouldn't be in a forest like this.

"We're looking in the wrong place." Tinker called.

The woman paused between the trees. She wore an elfin court dress, long sleeved, cut low, tight in the bodice with a skirt that flair out. It shimmered brighter than fairy silk; it nearly hurt to look at her. A red ribbon covered her eyes and trailed down the dress, blood red against the white. On the ground, the ribbon snaked out into the distance.

"You fell down the hole and through the looking glass." The woman cried back. "It's here! Look for the turtles!"

Yes, there should be turtles.

Tinker scanned the woods and saw dark figures flitting through the trees. Men or elves dressed in black capes with long-nosed masks. They kept to the shadows, calling "Lost! Lost!" in harsh voices. Hampered by the masks, they needed to tilt their heads this way and that to see the ground.

"Look!" Tinker reached out to catch hold of the woman, to warn her. "It isn't safe."

She missed, grabbing air.

The woman stepped backwards behind a tree, emerging from the other side wearing an ash gray overall with mission patches sewn to the shoulders. "Quick, we need to find it. We're running out of time."

Tinker stared at the name embroidered on the woman's overall but the letters all scrawled out of focus, refusing to be known.

I'm dreaming.

The woman caught her hand and they were flying low, like on a hoverbike, dodging trees, the ground covered with a checkerboard design of red and black. At a clearing, they stopped.

Statues of oni stood in circular clearing, moss growing on the stone, but their eyes flicked toward Tinker and the woman. Tinker saw that the ribbon coiled into the clearing and vanished into the ground. Feeling with blind fingers, the woman worked hand over hand, following the ribbon out into the clearing. The bare forest floor was black, and grew blacker still, until the woman was sheer white against void with a thread of red wrapped in her fingers.

"Wait!" Tinker whispered. "It's not safe. Don't go out there."

"If we don't find it, we'll stay lost forever." The woman continued to work her way along the thread, farther out into the void.

Tinker hovered at the edge of the clear. "I'm afraid."

"You have to help me find it!"

Tinker took hold of the thread and followed out into the darkness. Beyond the edge of the clearing, she started to float as if weightless.

"Don't let go," the woman warned. "Or you'll float away."

Tinker tried to grip tight to the red ribbon, but it was so thin that she kept loosing track of it and developed the alarming habit of drifting nearly out of reach before finding it again.

At the center of the clearing the thread dove into ground.

Tinker, though, had lost hold again and starting to fall upwards. The woman caught hold of her, pulling her close and wrapped the red thread tight around her fingers, making a cat's cradle. "There, no matter what, we'll always be tied together."

Turning away, the woman pulled on the ribbon and pearls started to pop out of the ground, strung on the thread.

"It's a necklace." Tinker said. "A pearl necklace."

--- end --

The scene ends there because I don't know if I need more yet, so why bothering to polish out the end at this moment. I want to write the next scene where Windwolf is re-introduced and they talk about the fact that dreams can foretell the future. Later, once I figure out how Tinker figures all this out, I'll go back and insert/change/delete things to support her discoveries.

Posted by wen at 08:59 AM

December 02, 2003

The myth of Write What You Know

A question of misunderstood writing rules came up in a newsgroup, and I decided that one of the biggest is "Write What You Know."

No you don't have to write about being a middle-age (insert one: accountant, housewife, secretary, x-rated movie star). It's taking lot of the little gritty details of life and working with it.

Grew up in Pennsylvania? Well, then you know what its like to have very little flat land, summer days that are muggy, and the woods are filled with oaks, maples, and pine.

Grew up on the Outer Banks? Well, then you know what its like to live year round on the edge of the ocean.

And this isn't boring. 95% of the world finds your hometown interesting when seen through your eyes.

Were you an only kid and always wanted a little brother? Were you a younger sister whose older brother picked on you? Did your father die when you were young? Did your best friend steal your boyfriend in high school?

These life experiences will resonant strongest in your writing because you know them of well.

Don't want to set everything in your hometown and don't want your hero to be a (insert one) well then its time to research. Read about living in the desert, visit one, get books on the ecology/animals of deserts, rent travel videos and watch them, get the National Geographic for articles on desert countries -- THEN write your desert world. Do the same with jobs.

Notice however, that the time investment to learn the new world deep enough to match your native knowledge is great.

Posted by wen at 07:42 AM