How do you FAIL Nanowrimo?

Did you fail NaNoWriMo?

to-write-1700787_640NaNoWriMo 2016 is nearly over. Some participants won the contest, others didn’t. My Twitter and Instagram feeds are full of writers bemoaning that they “failed Nano”.

That makes me really sad. It’s like they don’t even realise that they’re a lot further along than they were at the beginning of the month. One girl said she ‘only’ managed 15,000 words. That’s about 520 words a day. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but if you extrapolate that, that’s over 180,000 words a year! That’s 3 romance novels! And trust me, 500 words a day is not that hard. That’s 20 minutes writing if you’re in the zone.

Is there another way to take part without beating yourself up?

Why bother feeling down over a target that’s entirely arbitrary? I used Nano this year to take advantage of the sprints on Twitter. It’s fun to know that there are 1000s of other writers playing along and at the end, I’ve got another 300 words or more added to my total. Do that 4 times and hey presto, that’s some days 1500 words that felt easy.

You won Nano – good for you!

What about the people who did manage the 50,000 words in November? Well done, that’s a super achievement! Don’t fool yourself though, the hard work is only beginning!

You need to edit! That means several passes through your text to knock it into shape.

Work from high level issues down to details. What I mean by that: DON’T START WITH LOOKING FOR TYPOS! That’s a total waste of time. Chances are you’re going to have to re-write chunks of your work anyways.

Some ideas on how to edit

Very briefly – I look for the following:

  • Are my characters consistent in their voice, behavior, clothing?
  • Continuity in weather, time of day, time of year, location, all that jazz;
  • When beginning a new chapter or different location, do I give enough detail to settle the reader and take them with me? Or do I lose them because they can’t follow my time / location jumps?
  • Do I give enough / too much descriptive detail? Is it boring or not evocative enough?Do I drop enough hints / red herrings / clues for the plot to thicken or build up suspense?
  • Are my characters too passive? Are they whiny? Do they annoy me? Do they do stupid ‘out of character’ things?
  • Am I rambling? Can I cut certain scenes to make them tighter?

Stylistic issues

  • Now I look at whether I’m consistent in my point of view i.e. Head-hopping?
  • What about using certain words too often or too close together in the text? Can I find a better expression than ‘he ran very fast’?
  • Do I use words that distance the reader from the action? Such as ‘he saw a horse in the distance, coming closer’. I’m describing what he saw rather than just describing the horse, ‘he turned around. A horse galloped towards him’.

Then, and only then, will I proof-read for errors and typos.

So does Nano matter?

Of course it does. Anything that allows us to be part of a community of creators matters.

But – we’re in this for the long run. Writing isn’t a “quick, get it down on paper” career. So taking another few weeks to get your word count up to 50k isn’t going to make or break you.

Enjoy yourselves, the best is yet to come! 🙂

Do you agree? Let me know what you think!

Spirit Hunger – Chapter 8

Welcome to Spirit Hunger, a weekly urban fantasy romance story.

If you’d like to read two short stories and the finished novel Spirit Hunger FREE, fill in the form at the top of the page and you’re in with Unapologetic Romances!

spirit-hunger

Chapter 8

Honi watched in incredulity as Adi walked away. His scowl deepened. If he had thought this through, he could have avoided the humiliation. There were very few students left after the lecture but some had overheard. And while they probably hadn’t understood what they heard, a group of girls close by snickered and threw pitying glances at him.

Of course they thought that Adi had blown him off. Honi shook his head and turned away. If she didn’t want his help, fine. Obviously she wasn’t in as much distress as he had thought she was. As he stomped away from the lecture hall, he began to feel a little childish. Ho’neo followed him, his tail wagging like a flag. Honi could have sworn the wolf was sniggering. He threw him a betrayed look that was met with more animal amusement. Honi rolled his eyes and moved faster.

So what if she didn’t jump at his offer. Maybe he had misunderstood the situation and she wasn’t freaked out about the spirit animals. Maybe it had nothing to do with that at all. And once his anger passed, he felt guilty again. He ate his lunch by himself as usual and came to a decision while trying to chew a chunk of meat into submission.

If she needed help and came to him, he wouldn’t turn her down. Otherwise he’d ignore her and continue doing what John and his family wanted him to do: concentrate on his studies and become the legal spokesman that his tribe needed. That resolution lasted exactly until the afternoon.

***

Honi was walking back to his room, when something odd tickled his subconscious. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but something was different. He stopped and looked around, really concentrating on his surroundings. This was odd. Maybe it was thinking about Adi and her possible predicament, or maybe it was the call with John that had him on edge, but for some reason he couldn’t tune out the spirit animals.

Not seeing until he wanted to see had become second nature to him, but today it didn’t work. They were everywhere. Some were lizard-like, wrapped around their person’s necks or perching on their backs. Others were large predators, following their humans with heads down but eyes alert and tails twitching. Honi knew that animal species had nothing to do with character. It was the state of the animals and their behavior that showed him whether a person was fundamentally good or evil.

He met a girl once, volunteering in a homeless shelter, who carried a giant tarantula on top of her ear. He shuddered at the memory. Even with the knowledge he had gained about the spirit world, even when the huge spider was incredibly healthy and non-aggressive, even though the girl was a saint to all that needed her, he couldn’t get over his arachnophobia. He had told John about it, and after John had recovered from a laughing fit, he had assured Honi that personal preferences absolutely meant that he didn’t have to love somebody if their spirit animal grossed him out. And he had never been happier than on the days when he didn’t have to talk to the lovely volunteer with that disgusting creature leering at him from the side of her head every time his eyes strayed from her face.

A hiss right next to him ripped him out of this memories. A black jaguar spat at him and Honi jumped back. A skinny guy with a shock of red hair glared at him suspiciously and Honi tried to smile in apology. His face fell when the cat tried to swipe at him with his paw. Honi tried to hide his shock – he had never encountered a creature that tried to attack him. Another person’s spirit animal had no power over him and he couldn’t be hurt. The owner’s intention was another matter but another quick glance showed no aggression, only a raised eyebrow at Honi’s erratic behavior.

Honi shook his head and continued walking at a greater speed. Every time he passed students, their animals hissed, growled or barked at him. No matter how hard he tried to tune them out, he couldn’t make them disappear. They were everywhere. The noise level began to hurt his ears. He walked faster, keeping his eyes on the ground in front of him and tried to keep the rising panic under control. And then suddenly – silence.

Honi looked up in alarm. Now what? Every animal, every creature, their owners unaware, were silently staring at one point in the distance. Even Ho’neo’s bright blue eyes were staring and a light growl worked its way out of his broad chest. Honi put his hand on his head, a gesture he had perfected to connect to his spirit animal while not drawing attention to a creature only he could see. The world seemed to hold its breath. Together they squinted at the person coming closer and closer until Honi recognized the familiar gray hoodie.

Adi had her head down and so far had not noticed anything. Her face looked sickly in the late afternoon light, and there were even larger circles under her eyes than before. Honi’s breath stopped for an instant. There was something really really wrong here and Adi was in the middle of it. She had now reached the intersection of paths when she hesitated. Obviously she sensed that something strange was going on.

Honi watched with wide eyes as Adi lifted her head. Another second of silence, then the creatures’ noise level went through the roof. If Honi had thought that the previous cacophony was loud, now that the animals had a focus, the noise became deafening. Adi’s hands flew up as if to defend herself, then covered her ears. She screamed, “No, stop it,” then turned around and ran back in the direction she’d come from. Immediately the animal noises died down again.

“What’s up with her? She looked like she saw a ghost!” Two guys had turned around and commented on Adi. A spark of defiance, of wanting to speak up for her, rose up in Honi before he swallowed it down. It was none of his business. But as he walked, a thought kept going through his mind.

There was something going on with the spirit animals that had to do with Adi. For some reason she was in the middle of it. There was a reason that a gift that was to Honi’s knowledge only ever bestowed on his people, manifested in this plain student with glowing amber eyes and the most beautiful smile he’d ever seen on girl.

Link to Chapter 1

Link to Chapter 7 

Link to Chapter 9 

The Werewolf Meets his Match by Kristen Painter

The Werewolf Meets his Match by Kristen Painter

My rating: 5 out of 5

The Story

WerewolfWelcome to Nocturne Falls, the town that celebrates Halloween 365 days a year.

The tourists think it’s all a show: the vampires, the werewolves, the witches, the occasional gargoyle flying through the sky. But the supernaturals populating the town know better.

Living in Nocturne Falls means being yourself. Fangs, fur, and all.

Getting arrested wasn’t on werewolf Ivy Kincaid’s agenda when she arrived in Nocturne Falls, but her life rarely goes according to plan. The upside of spending the night in the local lock-up is finding a hotel room is no longer a worry…but the downside is the man she’s come to marry will get his first impression of her behind bars. Not exactly the way Ivy was hoping to meet her pack’s sworn enemy…aka her fiancé.

Sheriff (and werewolf) Hank Merrow is the alpha’s heir. Everything he’s ever done, from becoming an Army Ranger to serving in law enforcement, has been in preparation for the day he’ll take over. Getting married to cement a shaky truce is no different. Hank will do his duty, even if it means shackling himself to a woman he has no intention of liking, let alone loving.

But Ivy is nothing like Hank expected. As feisty as she is beautiful, she’s as determined as he is to make a go of marriage for the sake of peace between their packs. The trouble is, Ivy has secrets that could destroy everything Hank holds dear…including his newfound love for her.

My Take on it

Kristen Painter has an amazing skill to draw the reader into her world. From the minute ivy walks into the bar, I loved her. She rides a motorcycle, is tattooed, has ‘strong shoulders’ and takes crap from no-one. Contrast that with her sense of duty and doing what’s right for her pack, and you have a woman I’d love to meet in real life. Just saying 🙂

All the characters are 3-dimensional, even children and baddies. I’m very much in love with Hank, the lead love interest. He’s a werewolf sheriff, dutiful, trained to be a fighter and such a  gentleman. Swoon….

There’s unfortunately no sex scene which doesn’t detract from the fully rounded romance story, although I personally prefer to at least look through the keyhole into my characters’ bedroom. Just sayin’.

I was particularly impressed by a really impressive plot twist that I really didn’t see coming. Painter builds up expectations and brings them crashing down on the reader. Just awesome.

Course I’ve gone and downloaded the next book which features Nick the Gargoyle plus you get to purchase the Audible version for $1.99. This deal isn’t available for The Werewolf Meets His Match so I didn’t get to listen to the audio book.

I’m really looking forward to exploring the world of Nocturne Falls in more detail!

Let me know if you agree or disagree 🙂

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Spirit Hunger – Chapter 7

Welcome to Spirit Hunger, a weekly supernatural romance story.

If you’d like to receive the finished product and updates on my next novel Spirit Elfen, fill in the form at the top of the page and you’re in!

 

spirit-hunger

Chapter 7

Adi was trying her best to take notes. This was an important class even though it really didn’t have anything to do with her German major. The class was mandatory though and interesting enough. Pity that the professor was Diepger again.

Adi kept her head down and sat as far back as she could while still being able to hear him. She really tried to listen but her hallucinations, as she had reluctantly started to call them, were getting worse. Everywhere she looked, she saw people and animals.

Yesterday, it had been weird but funny. Today it was far more scary. Many of the creatures had begun to notice her. As a kid, Adi had always been drawn to critters, and had nursed any injured cat or dog she found. Even if her parents weren’t very supportive of it – after all, keeping pets in a small inner-city apartment wasn’t the best idea – she’d never even been scratched by one of her patients.

Today though, from the minute she’d left her dorm, she’d been attacked by a cacophony of screeches that no-one else seemed to hear. A small panther, wrapped around the shoulders of Owen, her RSA, had even tried to swipe her with his saucer-sized paw. Owen had looked at her weirdly when she jumped back.

And ever since she had sat down in the lecture hall, the noise level of barks, growls and hisses had risen to an extent where she could barely make out what Diepger was saying. A particularly loud snarl made her look left, only to come face to face with a mouth full of giant teeth, belonging to a German Shepherd, not five inches away from her nose.

Her eyes swept up to the owner’s face who made no effort to control his dog. Of course the boy had no idea there was a dog, no leash, no blanket and he wouldn’t have been allowed to bring in a dog anyway. Nor was any of them allowed to bring in a boa constrictor, a rat, a giant gecko and good grief, was that a pony?

Adi shuddered. It was all in her mind, she was going crazy. All she could do was try to ignore them and focus on Diepger’s voice. Those animals weren’t there. Mind over matter. Adi rubbed her thumb on the wolf medallion, squeezed her eyes shut, hoping, praying that things would be back to normal after a few minutes. Of course they weren’t.

She needed to talk to, confide in somebody. Only there wasn’t anybody. If her family found out, she’d lose her funding. If she couldn’t pull herself together, she’d flunk her course. Her hands came up to cover her face. Adi swallowed a sob and forcefully pulled herself together. Nobody was going to find out.

Hallucinations couldn’t hurt her, and all she had to do was hold out another couple of weeks until the finals. Who cared if that stupid dog was still snarling at her. It. Wasn’t. There. Adi opened her eyes and defiantly stared back until the student next to her noticed. Then she had to quickly pull her attention back to the paper in front of her. Everybody already thought she was weird, no need to give them new ammunition!

After a long 90 minutes – seriously, Einstein was definitely right, how long could an hour and a half stretch? – Adi got up, rolling her neck to loosen up a bit while avoiding eye contact with anybody. She put her materials back into her leather school bag and made her way out of the room before Diepger might call her back. She’d already humiliated herself enough with him, thank you very much. Eyes down, hoodie up, she moved purposefully towards the exit.

A deep voice made her stop in her tracks. “Adi, right? We met yesterday, can we talk for a moment?” Adi looked up and her eyes widened as she took in the gorgeous boy who had tried to help her with Diepger the day before. Yesterday she had been too upset to notice how good-looking he was.

He stood sideways to the window in the hallway and the light streaming in highlighted his bronze skin and warm brown eyes. His long black hair was tied back with a cream-colored band. A simple white t-shirt emphasized the breadth of his shoulders and chest. He was much taller than her and for a moment, she imagined walking closer to him and feeling his long sleekly-muscled arms hold her safely.

Her body swayed closer to him of her own volition, drawn by a scent of pine and ozone. She felt his hand steady her and abruptly pull her out of the trance she’d slipped into. Her face heating up, she could barely meet his eyes.

“You look like you didn’t get enough sleep. Are you okay?” There was concern in his voice and when she finally looked into his face fully, there was no mockery. Her face broke into a smile and it felt like she hadn’t smiled in a long time. It only lasted for a moment until she remembered why she was so tired and scared, and her face fell.

“I’m fine,” she mumbled and tried to step around him.

“Woah, not so fast.” He had dropped his hand but not moved out of the way. “Adi, I know what you’re going through. I…”

Adi interrupted him, slightly confused, “What do you mean, what I’m going through? I’m just tired.”

Honi, she now remembered his name, didn’t allow himself to be sidetracked. “You’re not just tired though, are you? I know that you can see them too.”

Adi felt a moment of dizziness as his words hit her. No way. He couldn’t mean what she thought he’d said. She needed to get out of here. If anybody else overheard, she’d be in a ton of trouble.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about. You’re scaring me a little. I need to go!” With that, she tried to push past him again. He might as well have been a mountain with how little impact she made on his position.

“Adi, please, let me help you,” he tried again.

Adi searched his face for any indication that he was joking or trying to make fun of her. She didn’t find any. He seemed genuinely worried about her. Her face grew even hotter. She actually considered taking him up on his offer for a second. That second passed very quickly though when she remembered why she couldn’t trust anybody.

If her family found out that she told perfect strangers about her hallucinations, she’d find herself committed to the loony bin so quickly, she’d have her funding pulled in twenty-four hours. Either way, she was screwed.

So with a deep feeling of regret, she stood up straight, looked the most beautiful boy she’d ever met in the eyes, and said loudly, “I don’t need your help. Please stop bothering me or I will complain to campus security.”

And with his expressive face that changed seamlessly from confused to upset to angry firmly in her mind, she managed to push past him at the third attempt and walk away. She didn’t need to turn around to know that he was staring at her back with a scowl on his face.

Link to Chapter 1

Link to Chapter 6 

New chapter is available next Monday

Link to Chapter 8

The Vampire’s Mail Order Bride by Kristen Painter

The Vampire’s Mail Order Bride by Kristen Painter

My rating: 5 out of 5

The Story

vampiresmailorderbrideWelcome to Nocturne Falls, the town that celebrates Halloween 365 days a year.

The tourists think it’s all a show: the vampires, the werewolves, the witches, the occasional gargoyle flying through the sky. But the supernaturals populating the town know better.

Living in Nocturne Falls means being yourself. Fangs, fur, and all.

After seeing her maybe-mobster boss murder a guy, Delaney James assumes a new identity and pretends to be a mail order bride. She finds her groom-to-be living in a town that celebrates Halloween every day. Weird. But not as weird as what she doesn’t know. Her groom-to-be is a 400-year-old vampire.

Hugh Ellingham has only agreed to the arranged set up to make his overbearing grandmother happy. In thirty days, whatever bridezilla shows up at his door will be escorted right back out. His past means love is no longer an option. Not if the woman’s going to have a future. Except he never counted on Delaney and falling in love for real.

Too bad both of them are keeping some mighty big secrets…

My take on it

I very much enjoyed the book. The cover suggests a fluffy romp which it starts out as – there are no explicit scenes and all sex happens behind closed door. This doesn’t detract from the overall sexiness of the tale though. It’s written really well and I read it in a day, even though I tend to enjoy my books a little darker with more hurt / comfort.

The story quickly deepens and Delaney is faced with a life-or-death decision, both in regards to her love life but also when her past catches up with her. The first instalment concentrates on Delaney and her love interest Hugh.

There are so many more interesting characters that I would love to find out more about, such as the werewolf sheriff, Hugh’s brothers who both have issues with women, and the gargoyle Nick.

But what I loved most, despite the inane title (I’m generally not fond of  ‘mail order bride romances’) is the characterisation of the heroine. She’s so cool, from her love of all things chocolate to her slight dizziness. She’s smart, kick-ass and doesn’t take crap from the gorgeous vampire.

The author manages to conclude the story nicely while leaving many questions open: will Delaney open her dream shop? How will the competition react? Who else will find love?

Can’t wait to read the next volume!

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Spirit Hunger – Chapter 6

Welcome to Spirit Hunger, a weekly supernatural romance story.

If you’d like to receive the finished product and updates on my next novel Spirit Elfen, fill in the form at the top of the page and you’re in!

 

spirit-hunger

Chapter 6

After falling back into bed, Honi slept soundly until his alarm went off with an almighty racket. He jerked up and barely caught himself before tumbling over the edge of his narrow mattress. His head spun and as he rubbed his eyes, he felt an ache developing in his forehead. The tightness across his brows told him more than his sluggishness that he hadn’t slept deeply.

When he felt like this, he knew from past experience that dreams had visited him, both pleasant and scary. This time, they hadn’t been bad enough to wake him during the night. Still, vague recollections left him a little on edge, a little anxious. While he waited for the shower to heat up, he made himself a cup of instant coffee.

The first sip of the bitter rancid liquid reminded him why he didn’t like coffee, particularly instant. Black tea didn’t wake him up enough after a dream-filled night so he drank the cup down as quickly as he could. He couldn’t really justify spending lots of money on the good stuff they sold at the coffee shop on his way to the lecture hall. He made an effort to treat himself once or twice a week but towards the end of the month, there was precious little money left if he wanted to eat. He smiled ruefully to himself.

His friends at home thought he was ridiculous with his obsession about what he put into his stomach. He’d rather eat less than low-quality food. Organic vegetables, grass-fed beef, that kind of stuff. He stretched, trying to work some of the kinks out of his back. When his stomach muscles protested, he grimaced a little. Maybe he’d overdone it at the gym yesterday.

He was proud of his lean and muscular physique and had no intention of giving in to the ‘freshman 15’ like so many of the other students. There was really nothing like the burn of muscles well used and the ache the day after.

His mood lifted although a few seconds later, he swiped his cup of crappy coffee off his desk by accident. There was still enough noxious liquid to splatter his college bag, sitting on the chair. Damn it, now he was going to be late for class. With a sinking feeling he realized two things. The tutor was Diepger, and he was likely to see Adi again.

***

Honi’s gaze swept through the lecture hall as he slowed down from a dead run. He was late but only by a minute or so. Diepger was still busy unpacking his bag so Honi slipped into the last row. When he sat down, he quickly glanced to his left. A boy he hadn’t seen before moved over a tiny bit to give him more space. He smiled at Honi shyly and Honi’s mouth lifted slightly in response.

As he settled down, he quickly scanned the room again to see if Adi was here. She sat further down the tiered seating rows, nearly in direct eye-line. Honi took in her appearance and his stomach started to feel a little heavy.

Clearly Adi was not okay. She wore another gray hoody, wrapped tightly around her slim body. Her head was down and she looked like she was trying to hide away from the world. It was kinda understandable. After yesterday’s confrontation with Diepger, she wouldn’t be keen to draw attention to herself. Honi had the impression though that there was more to her crouched posture.

Diepger began droning and Honi tried to pay attention. No matter how interesting the subject, that guy managed to sound like one of those hypnosis tapes that put you to sleep. Pretty soon, Honi’s eyes were drawn back to the girl in front of him and while he continued listening to the lecture with one ear, he began to notice things about Adi. She took notes with her head down. Then she would look up, probably to hear better, flinch and return her eyes to the paper in front of her.

What was wrong with her? Honi was perplexed at her behaviour. Adi lifted her head again, looked to the left and recoiled. What the hell was going on here? Honi closed his eyes and tried to calm his mind. A couple of slow inhales and exhales later, he felt receptive enough to use his gift. This time, he waited until Adi lifted her head again and followed her eyesight. There, two students down, a small furry creature clung to a female student like a bushbaby. The creature locked eyes with Adi. Adi jumped slightly and turned away.

So was that the problem? Honi had been trained from childhood to ignore the spirit animals. Through meditation and different mind exercises, he could control when he saw the creatures. Slowly a suspicion began to grow. Could it be that Adi’s ability had only manifested recently? Honi had never heard of such a thing. Usually, children began to talk about their visions from a very early age.

In his tribe, the elders would teach those special children how to control their abilities. If they didn’t, kids would find it very difficult to tell the difference between reality and their visions. It was dangerous to ignore them. Imagine a toddler not being afraid of cougars or bears and trying to run towards them to play with them? It happened once, many years ago before Honi was born, and the story was used as an example of the dangers of neglecting his training.

He looked at Adi again. Her skittishness was hard to watch. He thought her face looked drawn and her hair greasy. He glanced at his notes and tried to concentrate. She was none of his business. John had made it very clear that he didn’t want Honi to get involved.

Even as he remembered the phone conversation, his gaze was drawn to her again. Adi’s hand shook as she tried to write something. While he still stared, she turned and her eyes found his. A look of surprise made her eyes even larger and she jerked her head back. It only took a second but Honi had seen the pallor in her face and worst of all, the growing fear in her eyes. She looked like she was in shock.

As he kept observing her and how she clearly struggled, anger rose in him. It was easy enough for John Parker to tell him to stay away from the girl but he wasn’t here to see what this did to her. She seemed to have aged 10 years since yesterday. If lack of training could be dangerous for toddlers, how would this affect an adult?

Honi tried to imagine being in her skin and realized that if this happened to him without training, he would probably think he’d gone mad. That he had lost contact with reality. That he couldn’t trust his eyes anymore to tell him what was wrong and what wasn’t.

Honi sighed. He couldn’t walk away from this. Adi was clearly not okay. Leaving her to deal with this alone was not an option. A wet tongue licking his hand was Ho’neo’s way of showing his approval. Honi rolled his eyes at the wolf’s antiques. The creature didn’t talk but clearly expressed whatever he wanted Honi to do. He was the best shot she had. Now all he had to do was convince her of it. 

Link to Chapter 1

Link to Chapter 5 

Link to Chapter 7 

Spirit Hunger – Chapter 5

Welcome to Spirit Hunger, a weekly supernatural romance story.

If you’d like to receive the finished product and updates on my next novel Spirit Elfen, fill in the form at the top of the page and you’re in!

 

spirit-hunger

Chapter 5

Honi hung up with a sigh. Part of his agreement with the tribal elders was that he call and speak to shaman John Parker at least once a week, more often if he needed to. This wasn’t a huge burden and he really liked chatting to the man he thought of as his older brother. It helped him stay in touch with his tribe and his family, especially when he felt a little excluded from college life. He didn’t have many friends on campus nor did he have any desire to hang out with the other students.

When he first arrived, he went to a few parties, picked up a few girls but felt so unsatisfied the next morning that he gave up on the idea of one-night stands. He didn’t really feel like hooking up with girls that knew nothing about him or where he came from. Honi’s brow wrinkled and his eyes grew hard as he remembered his last experience.

This girl chatted him up in the campus library and she was very pretty. His muscular physique made him stand out on campus, even though he was not the only Native American student. He knew she’d be an easy lay the minute he saw her look at him. Attraction and lust were written on her face. Her long blond hair and tight jeans-clad bubble butt were the only reason why he allowed himself to be pulled into the alley behind the restaurant.

Laurie, he seemed to remember her name was, wrapped herself around him and the kissing was great. That is, until he came up for breath and saw her spirit animal. Honi knew by then that spirit animals were reflections of their human’s character and soul, and Laurie’s animal was hideous. Shaggy, neglected, not evil but indicative of such a lack of self-worth that he shuddered back from the girl’s red luscious lips and grabbing hands. She took it badly and spread the news about the Indian freak.

From then on, even if he wanted to find somebody, he couldn’t. For weeks, he didn’t speak to anybody other than his teachers. And even though most days it didn’t bother him, some nights he felt so lonely it made him ache for his family. Talking to John was the highlight of the week for him.

Except that this week, he had run into a brunette girl who shared his ability. Even though she didn’t seem to understand what this meant. Honi had not mentioned this yet to the shaman but tonight, his mentor had told him once again to focus on his calling so that soon, he’d be able to help others with similar gifts. This conversation was eerily related to Honi’s thoughts over the last few days. While he listened to John going on about ‘gifts’ this and ‘calling’ that, Adi’s face kept popping into his thoughts.

Honi had gotten into the habit of walking and thinking. While his body automatically put one foot in front of the other, his thoughts turned and twisted with indecision. He liked her spunk and energy. She obviously had no idea about her abilities, and Honi wasn’t sure if this would cause problems for her.

There were some in his tribe that might have had the same gift but because hardly anybody believed in it anymore, the ability was lost. This was likely to happen to Adi as well, although she was quite old to still be able to connect to others’ spirit animals. Usually it manifested in young kids before it disappeared as they grew up.

When he tried to talk to her, she clammed up immediately. Honi’s brows furrowed when he remembered her anger directed at him. She had lovely brown eyes but when she shot him down, they had turned hard and cold, and he didn’t like being looked at like that. He shrugged unconsciously while kicking a plastic bottle lid ahead of him. There was no point getting distracted from his studies by someone who didn’t want his help anyway.

John had complimented him tonight on the progress he was making with his studies. His grades were top of the class. Honi hadn’t told him that the reason for that was that he had no friends and that he spent every waking hour studying. It didn’t matter, his shaman had talked about how distractions would weaken him and interfere with his purpose of helping the tribe. Honi sighed and tried to imagine John’s reaction if he told him about Adi. It wouldn’t go down well.

When Honi opened the door to his dorm room, he stopped for a moment. Night had fallen quickly and he took a few seconds to take in the peace and tranquillity of his oasis on campus. Light from the lantern outside fell through the window, bathing his room with a slightly off-putting yellow tinge. His bed, chair and desk were still witnesses to his need to organize the world around him.

Not a corner of the sheet hung loose, the bed spread was pulled tight, his chair pushed fully underneath the desk. His shelf held an impressive collection of his own books on Mekui’te culture and mythology, side by side with legal books and folders with printouts of Sutton’s “Indian Country and the Law”. Honi finally switched on his light and took the time to empty out his book bag before settling down to yet another evening of course preparation and study.

***

He woke up with a start, confused for a moment. He stayed perfectly still and allowed his senses to re-connect to the world around him. He smelled the cup of camomile tea right next to his bed. A car’s headlights shone momentarily through his windows, extending furniture shadows to grotesque proportions.

He blinked and his brain overrode the strange images his eyes insisted on. Honi couldn’t remember turning the lights off but he must have fallen asleep at some stage. His shirt had ridden up and his jeans were twisted on his body. His skin felt clammy and cold when he tried to sit up. It wasn’t like him to pass out like this, especially since he had slept longer this morning.

Shaking his head, he moved towards the little sink in his room. He ran some cold water over his hands, then dampened a small towel and wiped his neck and armpits after taking off his shirt. His eyes stared back at him from the mirror above the sink and Honi felt a small shudder when he saw his own spirit animal standing next to him, looking both fearful and angry with him.

There was only one other time his Wolf looked like this, with his neck hair standing up and his lips pulled back from its fearsome teeth. When Honi did his spirit quest as a young boy, the wolf appeared for the first time and saved his life.

“What’s up, Ho’neo?” he asked the animal. The wolf didn’t answer. No surprise there. He didn’t talk but sent dreams if he felt Honi was being stupid. Honi sighed. It might not happen tonight but Ho’neo always delivered. And the way his blue eyes steadily bore into his human friend’s, promised a doozy.

 

Link to Chapter 1

Link to Chapter 4 

Link to Chapter 6 

Dictation or Fighting the Dragon

books-on-dictationHave you heard about Dragon Dictation software? No? Let me enlighten you: I HATE IT! Not always but mostly.

Last winter I listened to Joanna Penn’s interview with Monica Leonelle, author of Write Better, Faster and Dictate your Book. Both books are available on Amazon and highly recommended!

Dictation Problems – am I the only one struggling with this?

Problem Nr. 1 – Accuracy of Transcription

So off I went and bought the dictation software and a microphone. Then I ‘trained the dragon’ where I read passages of text and allowed the software to calibrate to my voice. Not hugely successfully because I’m German, lived in the UK for 13 years and I’m married to an Irishman. So Dragon has issues with my accent. Fair enough, so does everybody else.

I started walking and speaking into a recording app on my iphone, then mailed the sound file to myself. Dragon transcribed the file with about 85% accuracy. Not great but I had to make allowances for distracting background noises like my  heavy breathing. This approach is not recommended for steep hill walking!!!

Problem Nr. 2 – Writing ADHD

I soon discovered the second problem: my thought process isn’t suited to dictation.

I type fast and my thoughts run through my fingers onto the page quickly. My eyes hook onto the words, and this establishes a feedback loop that works really well. About 1200 words-an-hour-well.

So when I’m walking and trying dictation at the same time, a large chunk of that loop is missing. As a result, my thoughts act like Dougal in Up. Squirrel! And there is goes, my train of thought…

It’s like herding cats. I think of 3 variations of the same sentence before I’m able to get it out of my mouth. There are gaps in my recording lasting 30 seconds or more while I think of a way to say what I want to say. Really inefficient. 600-words-per-minute-inefficient! 

Solutions – Where there’s a will

Solution Attempt Nr. 1 – Stay at Home

Since walking seems to make the issue a lot worse, I set myself up with my expensive microphone and my cute little Macbook Air at my livingroom table and started speaking. And it worked a lot better. Particularly during active scenes and dialogue, my speed increased dramatically. 2200-words-per-minute-dramatically. 

Holymoly, that was really cool! Only problem, I couldn’t be consistent. During slower passages like exposition or settings, I slowed right down again. And it felt like really hard work, remembering all the punctuations and line breaks.

So I reached out to Monica Leonelle via Twitter and she got back to me with some nice encouraging comments. She also said that maybe dictation was just not the thing for me. Bummer. I had dropped a lot of money on this:

Dictation Software $120, microphone $60, various dictation ebooks on best practices $15 = nearly $200, never mind the time I’ve already invested. No way was I giving up now!

Her words made me think though. Maybe she was right but instead of dropping dictation altogether, I needed to change my approach again.

Obviously a get-it-right-first-time-system doesn’t work for me because I’m too mentally disorganized. Or too creatively distracted, whatever sounds nicer 🙂

Giving my mind a visual structure in the form of letters on the screen works a lot better but not consistently.

So what about a hybrid approach?

fightingdragonmeme

Solution Attempt Nr. 2 – Loosen up!

I’m a planner so my novel is plotted out to scene level. When I sit down, I usually quickly type out a few bullet points of how I want the scene to go.

For example, the scene might be called “_ADI_ begins training with meditation and chanting. She hates it, Honi is super-strict.” The capitalization indicates the POV – thanks to Laurie Schnebly from Writers University for the tip! I might throw down beats like “Adi can’t focus and gets distracted, Honi increasingly irritated and shouts at her, Adi’s upset, they fight, Adi storms off”. Then I fill in the beats and hey presto, 700 words written.

Today I decided to drop best practice and just talk. Instead of dictation, I pretended I was telling a story to a friend. I added dictation when I remembered but basically just let rip. My accent was stronger because I spoke faster and more naturally so I had to go back and clean it up a little. This is the result:

Pre-Draft Word Vomit

“So this is a situation Honi sitting there and it is added looking lectured in front of him and she’s basically bend over she staring into space she’s not taking any notes, and and Honi really starts to wonder what is going on. He’s trying to take down his own notes. The teacher’s droning on and on, it’s not particularly interesting, and everything just rises to a crescendo of irritation in the classroom. There’s people collectively clacking next to him there’s people whispering behind him, there is some guy throwing spitballs at a girl and HOni thinks he’s back in high school. So his just sitting there, legs stretched out in front of as far as it can go, is arms crossed in front of him. He’s given upon taking notes now even though he knows that this is a really important class but he’s just so worried. He starting to notice more things about Addie. Her fingernails are bitten down, she seems to be twitchy, she keeps throwing quick glances of people and then immediately looking away. Then he hears somebody whispering what the hell is going on with that girl? Is she on drugs? And Honi starts to wonder. Because she does seem to be on drugs. Then he notices that she keeps nodding off. Her head drops, her eyes drop, her face goes slack and then she just jerks awake again. And he notices that she scared, really scared.”

I threw 700 words on the page within a few minutes. This is the skeleton, now I can work with it. And this is the result after 60 minutes typing: 1700 words. 1700 fun-filled-awesomeness-words!

Not any faster but wow, it felt so much different! I typed quickly, the words flowed and while I was typing, I could feel the next scene emerging. My productivity had dwindled lately because I was unsure of how to get words on the page. It felt like splitting rocks! This was the first really productive fun writing session I had in a while! This is so cool! And here’s the result:

Cleaned-up Draft

“Diepger moved through the material at break-neck speed. Honi had to hustle to keep up and he tried hard to commit key points to paper. Next to him, a girl typed away on her notebook. She worked so fast with perfect 10-finger-technique that the clicketyclack sounded like morse signals. It irritated him so much that he threw a dirty look at her. The girl glanced at him, then did a double-take and frowned back. Honi sighed. No need to let out his frustrations on other people.

For the next few minutes, he continued taking notes and ignored the noise level in the hall. Now that his hearing had tuned into the subtle tapping of fingers on keys, it seemed to come from everywhere. Honi didn’t have the money to buy a new Macbook and his old one had given up the ghost not long ago. Who knew spilling juice on the keys would cost as much to clean up as a new one. Writing by hand after years of electronically taking notes made him even more antsy than he already felt.

With a grunt, he flung his pen down on the paper. Maybe he could convince Sean (confirm friend’s name) to let him borrow notes. He was already so far behind, he may as well leave it for today. He settled back into his seat, folded his arms in front of his chest and just looked around. Most students had their heads down but two rows ahead of him, a young man dressed in a grey canvas jacket and a scarf took a clump of paper out of his mouth and aimed it at the girl ahead of him. Honi shook his head. That dude dressed like a hipster and acted like a kid. What a douche.

“Hey, what’s up with that girl up ahead? Is she on drugs?” Honi sat up straight. The two boys behind him were talking about Adi, no doubt. “She’s messed up, man, look at her twitch,” one of them said with a chuckle. Honi’s eyes were drawn back to the girl and sure enough, her head made tiny jerks to the side and back again. Except Honi knew that they weren’t twitches but frightened little involuntary responses to something she saw. If her appearance hadn’t tipped him off, her behaviour sure did. Her visions were getting the better of her.

Adi lifted her hand to shield her eyes at one point and Honi could clearly make out her fingers. Her nails were chewed to the quick and one of them was crusted with blood. No wonder people thought she was taking something. She looked ill, psychotic even.

After a while, her head dropped lower, just to jerk up again. She seemed to fall asleep right in front of the entire class. Come on Adi, don’t give Diepger an opening, Honi thought. The teacher had noticed her odd behaviour but rather than challenge her as he did before, he looked at her with a satisfied smirk. Then his eyes met Honi’s and he smiled wider, as if he was in on a joke and the young man wasn’t.     

This was terrible. Adi hadn’t struck him as a user but you couldn’t always tell. One of Honi’s friends back in high school abused ritalin that he scored from his younger brother. He said afterwards it helped him feel more awake during school. Nobody knew until he collapsed at a rave and nearly died. His parents sent him to rehab but he never recovered from his addictions. He went on to abuse over-the-counter meds and last Honi heard, he was serving time for dealing harder stuff. He had gone from a gangly kid with his whole life ahead of him to a broken wreck of a man, so badly emaciated even his parents didn’t recognise him last time they visited.

Honi began to think hard. Adi was obviously much worse than before. Worse than a few days of bad sleep would account for. What if there was truth in the whispers, what if she were on drugs? As he considered the possibility, Adi’s head dropped to her chest again. This time it stayed down for a moment. Then her whole body seemed to convulse, her arms flew in the air and she slipped precariously sideways on the smooth surface of her seat. For a split-second it looked like she might topple but instinct took over and she righted herself.

A wave of giggling rolled through the room. Everybody had witnessed her near fall. Adi looked around and the sheer terror on her face made Honi’s heart go out to her. She looked so small, so scared, huddled into her fleece, her eyes wide-open and blood-shot. He wanted nothing more than to fold her into his arms, to hold her and whisper to her until she wasn’t so scared anymore. In that moment he made up his mind. She needed his help and he would find a way to help her. He wouldn’t allow that girl he held in his arms only last week, to slip away because she was too stubborn to accept help. He had never been that determined in his life. He’d find a way to convince her. He would hold out until the end of class and then talk to her again. If she did take drugs, then only to be able to handle the visions that terrified her. Handle the visions, handle the drugs. Easy.”

Never Ever Give Up!

So give it a try and above all, don’t give up. I’m convinced that dictation is a great tool for every writer but like with every tool, you have find a way to integrate it into your own workflow. I hope I’ve figured out how to do this, and who knows? Maybe instead of Training the Dragon, I can Train my Mind to think in a more linear fashion, at least for the first draft!

Let me know what you think below!