Friday, September 30, 2011

"How about... excerpt?!"

If you don't understand the title, try this link (video is entirely safe to watch and under a minute):

How about... cupcakes?!

Then enjoy the following excerpt from The Highwayman's Apprentice, to celebrate it reaching 20K words at nine days into production writing! Comments, thoughts, and questions are very welcome!

Quick pronunciation guide to the names of the ladies (and if I'm wrong, please do let me know, I'm working off a source I think is trustworthy but I could always be mistaken...):

Grainne: Grawn-ya
Saibh: Sive, to rhyme with "five"
Liadan: Lee-den


Turning back to the desk, she stopped in surprise. A sheet of paper lay on the floor, where none had been a moment before. By its rough left edge, she guessed it had been torn from her brother's sketchbook, and likely it had been displaced from the desk by her stack of shirts, but the picture drawn on it was nothing and no one she had ever seen before.

"Who is she?" Grainne stooped to pick up the paper. "More important, what is she going to be to us?"

With his usual economy of line, Sean had depicted a slender, dark-haired lady walking alone in a formal garden with her face full of sorrow, her right hand not quite covering the wedding band on her left. The ring was shaded with dark, fierce slashes of the pencil, and some of the crosshatching formed tiny arrows. Following them with her eyes, Grainne gasped. Another face was peering through one of the topiary sculptures past which the lady walked.

"And whoever he is, I hope he never comes here." She set the sketch down hastily on the desk and took a step back from it. "How does Sean do that?" In just those few pencil strokes forming the watcher's face, so cunningly hidden within the leaves of the trimmed bush that a casual observer might miss them, her brother had managed to convey an impression of careless, brutal power. "When I think that Ma gave us both the same lessons in art, and I never got past women in triangle dresses and men in square shirts and trousers…"

But in reality, people were curved, curved and firm and warm where they held her close against their side and peered down into her face, with perhaps a strong dose of arrogant possessiveness in that speculative smirk but nothing of the easy cruelty, the delight in others' pain that the man in Sean's drawing seemed to radiate. No, people might have a wicked glint in their sea-blue eyes, but it was only an invitation, not a command.

Grainne shivered deliciously, thinking of the secret she had shared with no one. Saibh, with her devotion since childhood to stalwart and steady-minded Finn, would have found it nigh-impossible to understand. Liadan might have stood a better chance, given her ongoing flirtation with Kieran, except that flirtation was all it was. Neither of them was seriously interested in the other, but they found it amusing to play the game, and it drove Stiofan Connolly, currently at sea with his father and the Laverty brothers, absolutely mad, which was a bonus from Liadan's point of view.

Fleetingly Grainne wished that Isabel was here, Isabel with her energy and her enthusiasm, with her rapt attention to stories about Glenscar and her frustrated desire to experience the forbidden life of a village girl for herself. Isabel, if anyone, would have comprehended perfectly Grainne's feelings on the subject of the black-haired king of the gypsies…

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

"My UFO needs a tuneup."

UFO, in this case, stands for Unidentified Furry Object, one of which has been occupying my lap for the last half-hour. It isn't exactly unidentified, though, as I have long suspected that cats are in fact alien energy-sapping devices. What we call a purr is simply the motor revving.

Fluffy, the black longhair I had when I was a kid, had the worst-tuned motor I ever encountered in a UFO. He was audible across the room. Sesame isn't quite that badly tuned, but she still makes a considerable amount of noise, as does Poppy when she's in the mood.

In contrast, my sister's Jinx is well tuned but in need of oil, judging by the rusty gate noises he makes on a regular basis. Of course, we suspect that he is half Siamese, which explains both his voice and his temperament. He let a live bird loose in the house the other day…

Enough about cats. You want to hear about my writing. The Highwayman's Apprentice continues to burgeon, being sufficiently absorbing at this point that most of my fan fiction is on temporary hold. If I go back to fanfic anytime soon, it will probably be to finish "He Nearly Killed the Cat."

I know how eagerly everyone is waiting for more Surpassing Danger, but if I'm going to finish THA in time for Christmas, I need to concentrate on it for a while. Also, though I don't confuse my characters, the style of THA is sufficiently different from that of the DV to make switching a little difficult.

Give me a week or two to get well into THA, maybe to the end of the first section of it, which is the only part directly inspired by Storm. The fever may have abated some by then, and I can get back to Dangerverse. We shall see.

Also an interesting discovery—I can listen to music and dictate at the same time. Apparently what's coming over my headphones does not interface with what's going into the microphone. Now I just have to make sure I don't randomly start singing in the middle of my writing…

Monday, September 26, 2011

"Your bed has ears." (Photo post!)

Krys and I got home from shopping to discover the above:

You have to look closely, but on top of the mound of pink on the bed, there is in fact a pair of ears sticking up. They belong to the Poppycat, who is shown below in her favorite cave, otherwise known as the suitcase I will be returning to my mother in a slightly furrier condition than when I borrowed it:

Not to be outdone, her sister Sesame has decided that my closet makes a good cave. My skirts now have a cat-shaped divot in them.

And finally, Sesame has also claimed Krys's smartphone for her very own, and has, I think, quite a look of irritated feline executive interrupted in the middle of a VERY IMPORTANT MEETING.

Writing is shortly to take place. Now if I could only decide between original or fanfic...

Saturday, September 24, 2011

"It's happening again..."

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while may remember a post entitled something along the lines of "One tenth in one week. I think I'm onto something," in which I noted that I had written ten thousand words of "He Nearly Killed the Cat" in one week's time.

Today is Saturday. I started working on The Highwayman's Apprentice on Wednesday. Its current word count stands at 10,185.

Granted, many of those words will go to backstory only, or will have to be chopped and changed around, placed in different parts of the story, but that's not the point. The point is, I have a truly hot little piece of work here, and people sound very interested in it.

So, since some people seem to have gotten ideas about Christmas (where, I can't imagine. No, seriously, I really don't know. Did I say something about Christmas without meaning to?), I'll make it official.

Who would like an Anne B. Walsh original fantasy novel, The Highwayman's Apprentice, for Christmas 2011?

*shakes head* I can hardly believe you haven't met them yet. They're all so real to me. They have names and lives and feelings and desires, and they want you to know about them, to understand what it is that they want and why they did what they did.

They caught me, as I hope they will catch you, from that very first moment, when a young nobleman, forced to flee from the law, wounded and half-dead from fever, stumbles into a forest clearing and frightens three children, prompting the boy to defend his sister and their cousin...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

"They didn't do THAT on PBS!"

Yes, another "Storm" post. I promise it'll be the last for a while, though you may hear more about the characters I'm evolving from it as The Highwayman's Apprentice continues to grow.

The song in question is "Midnight Well," sung by the gypsy king, the story of a naïve village girl who went out in the night to meet a dangerous gypsy man and was never seen again. On the surface, it's a classic "be a good girl or else" song, but there are elements in it which give me a different feel.

Credit where credit is due, though, Krystal came up with the idea I'm using for The Highwayman's Apprentice, when she pointed out that although the gypsy king and one of the village girls certainly do meet at the well during the song, he seems to be telling a story about another gypsy and another girl…

In any case, the title of this post refers to the final pose struck by the characters during the song. On the PBS special, the girl spreads her arms like wings, and the gypsy, standing behind her, grasps her hands and folds his arms around her, holding her against his chest.

On the DVD, this is not the closing pose of the song. Instead, the gypsy takes the girl's hand and supports her as she performs a controlled fall, landing on her back in the grass. He then drops down on top of her, straddling her, and lowers himself down to kiss her, at which point the camera changes focus.

I could be wrong, but I think I have an inkling as to why this particular pose did not pass muster for the PBS-aired version of "Storm." Certainly it caused me and Krys to do a lot of shrieking when we watched the DVD for the first time. Also a good bit of envy. Ryan Kelly, gypsy king… mmmmm…

Oops, did I just say that out loud?

In any case, both "He Nearly Killed the Cat" and The Highwayman's Apprentice are hot in my head right now, and the only other thing I have on my slate is singing at Vespers tonight. Today is the feast day of St. Maurice, the patron of our parish, so we always do an evening prayer service.

If you happen to pray, toss a prayer God's way for me. If not, send me good thoughts. I got picked to sing the opening solo of the trickiest piece we're doing, and it just about tops out my range…

Monday, September 19, 2011

"You never swear. This must be big."

The title of the post is Krystal speaking, in response to my comment of "Holy s***!" as I checked the TV listings last night. I snatched up the remote and frantically changed the channel to PBS, at which point she said what I said.

Celtic Thunder's "Storm" was being played last night. We got in a bit late to catch the beginning of the first showing, thanks to going out to dinner with my brother who is in college across town, but neither of us found it a hardship to stay up till midnight to catch the second time through.

"Storm" is a bit of a departure for Celtic Thunder. The boys have generally done straight-up concerts, maybe with a theme or story to a couple of songs in a row, but "Storm" is a full-length sung-through theater production. And good heavens, what a production it is.

I won't bore people with a full description of the plot, but it involves several variously-fated love stories, a handsome highwayman, and a colorful caravan of gypsies, and it got all my story juices flowing. The result hit people's inboxes early this morning—Surpassing Danger is finally beginning.

However, "Storm" did also inspire me in its own right. It leaves several questions unanswered at the end, along with a great deal of backstory which is never told. So… how would people like to see, after my current projects are underway, a period piece entitled The Highwayman's Apprentice?

Our "Storm" DVD arrives tomorrow. I can't wait. Now to get a few more calories in me, to fortify me for my evening writing. It is, after all, Monday, and if I can, I'd love to get a chapter of "He Nearly Killed the Cat" out on time…

Thursday, September 15, 2011

"Fur. It's what's for dinner."

Not that I deliberately set out to eat fur, but in a two-cat apartment, it's inevitable. Not to mention when Sesame settles herself onto my lap, purring her loudest, and then whips her tail across my face just as I'm leaning forward to pet her…

I should explain yesterday's hypothetical a bit more. I am not the theater director in question, and the casting has already been done. The only reason I was asking was to find out if I was the only one wondering about the decision.

That decision was to cast the more experienced girl, who has the less appropriate vocal range. While I admit to a bias in favor of the less experienced girl—she is my sister, after all—I don't think it extends to thinking she could play a part when she can't.

Just to make life even more fun, the girl who has been cast in the part (the show, for those who asked, is Jekyll & Hyde, and the part is Emma, Dr. Jekyll's fiancée) is my sister's friend. She is very talented, and did a wonderful job of playing Eponine in last spring's Les Miserables, but…

Anyone who knows musical theater will know that Eponine is written for an alto, or at most a mezzo-soprano. This girl has the perfect range for Eponine. Emma, as far as I can judge by listening to the soundtrack, was written for a true soprano.

I know that none of this is my business. I no longer attend that school, I don't run the theater department, and this may be nothing but a case of my prejudices running away with me. It just bothers me, but I'm going to let it go, because I have some more interesting news.

While researching Les Miserables the other night, I found some very interesting information on Wikipedia. Apparently there is going to be a film version, to be released in 2012, starring Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean and Russell Crowe as Inspector Javert.

Several other names were given for cast members, but no roles were attached. However…

Anne Hathaway has made her career up to this point out of playing good girls, so it seems unlikely she'll break tradition now. She would make a very charming Cosette. And who can doubt that Helena Bonham Carter will be a terrifying Madame Thenardier?

But the name that caused me, and I imagine will cause you, the most excitement was that of the actress I think will probably be playing either Fantine or Eponine. Can we or can we not imagine Emma Watson in one of those roles?

*runs away happily to her writing*

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

"So am I a ding-a-ling or a ding-dong?"

No, this isn't another "I hate me" post. It's a semi-serious question. I've joined my church's bell choir, along with singing in the adult choir as I already do, and will be headed off to rehearsal shortly. Thought I would toss a quick post online before I went.

I do also have a question on which I would like feedback. Let's say that you're a high school theater director. *braces self as everyone choruses, "You're a high school theater director."* Thank you. For one particular female lead in the fall musical, you have two contenders.

Both girls can sing, dance, and act, without question. One girl has more experience, but her vocal range is wrong for the character. Her part would have to be transposed. The other girl does not have as much experience, but is still capable, and could sing the music as written.

Given these specifications, who would you cast? I'm just curious, because I know what my call would be, and I'd like to see if other people agree or disagree with me.

Short post tonight. More probably tomorrow. Everybody send healing thoughts Krystal's way--she's used almost an entire box of tissues today on account of hostile sinuses...

Monday, September 12, 2011

"Whiny PAGE alert, whiny PAGE alert!"

PAGE, as long-time readers will know, stands for Panther Author Goddess of (depending on my mood) Everything or Evil. Panther is my Animagus form, while the other three terms need no explanation. It is my official title, and I do my best to live up to it.

Unfortunately, on Saturday, I was more living down to it than living up. I was having a bad day, but that's no reason for me to take it out on all of you. I do apologize for the most unpleasant blog post, and thank all of you who responded to it so very kindly.

Since not much is going on around here, besides a very good day for my choir on Sunday, I think I will instead tell you a funny story about one of my experiences with my former job. Then I will go and finish Chapter 9 of "He Nearly Killed the Cat," and then I will post it.

I've mentioned the setup of the department I worked in before, but for a brief refresher, we had one big boss, five little bosses, and fifty-odd people working under them. One day, the big boss asked me as a favor if I would go to the convention center, a few blocks away, and pick something up for her.

I need to emphasize several things about this. First, it was asked, not commanded or required. Second, I had nothing else currently in need of my attention, and it was, at the moment, a nice day out. Finally, I like taking walks. So, I agreed.

I should have known better.

The moment I left the convention center on my way back, it started to rain. I continued walking, but the rain got harder. When it reached pouring stage, I ducked under an overhang at a piano store. Surely, I thought, this heavy rain can't last long.

Once again, I should have known better.

I stood under that overhang for half an hour. The rain continued, getting only harder as time went on. The street, one of downtown Pittsburgh's main avenues of traffic, was very nearly flooding. And still, the rain continued.

Finally, I saw my chance. A bus was coming which would take me to within a two-block dash of my office building. I darted out and flagged it down, crossing the street in the process, which thoroughly soaked my shoes. The rain I caught in the interim got the rest of me pretty wet as well.

Fortunately, it was well into the summer, so I was wearing mostly lightweight fabrics. I also have a sense of humor, and the look of horror on the big boss's face when I walked, dripping, into her office and politely deposited the items she'd requested on her desk made up for everything.

The gift card to Moe's Southwest Grill she got me as an apology didn't hurt either. But I did leave a rain poncho on her desk the next morning. Just because I could. She has a sense of humor too.

I hope that you have enjoyed this small excerpt from my (someday) upcoming office musical, "Bankers' Hours." Now back to our regularly scheduled programming, which in my case means it's time to write. Enjoy the rest of your Monday, and watch your in boxes for that update notice!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

"I'm not good for anything, am I?"

It's been that kind of a day. I slept late, too late judging by how tired I was when I got up, and then spent the rest of the day playing games and eating a lot. I did no writing, very few chores, and never ventured outside the door of the apartment.

It doesn't help that the allergies I'm now fairly sure I have are playing up. I take pills with a four-hour cycle to them, and usually I only need to take one per day, but today I've been able to set the clock by my sniffles returning.

I've been in this mood before. I know it doesn't last. That doesn't stop it from being unpleasant while it's here.

Sorry if this post brings people down. I didn't want to let the day go by without posting something, and this is all that came to mind. Not that anyone reads this blog anyway, so I suppose it doesn't matter.

I'm going to try to write. I don't know how well it will come out, but at least then the day won't feel like a complete waste of time. It may still be one… no, not going there. That never ends well.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

"Am I evil, blah, or both?"

It's a fair question, especially on a day like today. The sky is blue with only a few clouds, the temperature hovers comfortably between warm and cool, and I am sitting indoors, thinking up new ways to torture characters and cats.

Part of the problem is that "He Nearly Killed the Cat" is in one of its transition phases. We've finished the first portion of the story, where the world gets established, a few characters get introduced, and the conflicts are set up for the next part. Now for that next part…

Unfortunately, it's not as easy as that. I have to figure out both what order would be the most convenient to have the conflicts resolved in from a writing standpoint, and what order will keep the tension and interest going from a reading standpoint.

Also, I have to decide which conflicts affect one another. Though this story, by its nature, has an episodic feel, the various things the characters do on their individual adventures are not isolated. They will have far-reaching effects. I just need to figure out what.

And finally, I have to get up the gumption to keep writing on this story and to work on other stories, fan fiction and original. I know me. If I let myself off writing every time I feel blah, I'll feel blah all the time.

(very little voice) Some nice reviews would help…

But seriously, what I need most right now is food, more tea, and then just to sit down and doggone well do it. No excuses, just work. It's the only way I'll ever get anything done.

So, with that in mind, to the kitchen! (And really, those reviews would help. I know I have to wean myself off reader appreciation eventually, but does it have to be right now?)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

"Screaming surge protectors, Batman!"

Last night, our power went out. This morning, my nine-year-old power supply/surge protector finally gave up the ghost. When I pushed the on button, it emitted a high-pitched beeping scream that sounded like I'd taken it into the electronics torture chamber.

I'm currently dictating this to a computer plugged into the power strip which used to power the TV and its accessories. The TV and accessories are now plugged into the power strip which used to power the electric kettle and Krystal's laptop. And the electric kettle and Krystal's laptop…

Well, you get the idea. I was playing musical power strips for about fifteen minutes this morning. What with that and a late morning request by my mother that I get my brother a particular size of sketchpad he can't find in the college bookstore, no writing has occurred today.

I would, however, like to point out that the day is far from over. Especially if you're me. Expect the usual update tomorrow. Now for America's Got Talent and shepherd's pie.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

"And now for something completely different…"

Sesame is sitting on my lap!

No, that's not what's different. In fact, that's pretty much the same as every other day since we got the cats. Especially days that I sit in my desk chair. I swear there's a cat magnet in this thing.

No, what's different is my writing project for today. Those of you keeping up with "He Nearly Killed the Cat" may have noticed that our new characters, Lin and Nima, have friends who haven't appeared yet, named Jason and Reyna. I'm about to write the true story of how they met.

Anyone who's been reading my work for more than two years may recall that Jason and Reyna first appeared in 2009's Christmas story, "A Strange Way to Save the World." However, they have recently informed me that this is not really their story, just a silly thing they were doing together for fun.

Thus, it falls to me to correct my mistake and give the world the true history of Jason, Reyna, and the new strange way they saved the world. Not our world, but Jason's native one, and one Reyna stumbled into due to… well, you'll have to read the story and see!

Assuming it passes muster, "Mommy Magic" (a working title, but one I'm fond of, so I think it's probably going to stay) will be published in Horror, Humor, and Heroes Volume 3: New Faces of Science Fiction, available soon on a website near you. Watch this space for details!

Friday, September 2, 2011

"What a difference five weeks makes…"

Today I heard from Mary Beth, my colleague at my former job. She had a question, which I was able to help her out with some, but the phone call made me think. It's been exactly five weeks today since my last day of paid employment.

So what do I have to show for those five weeks? Well, I'm much better rested, happier, and better able to focus on my writing for long periods of time. I've established a routine for the tasks of my life, and I now have one fifth of a novel-length work completed!

Granted, that novel-length work is fan fiction, but it is set in an original universe and using original characters along with the fan fiction characters of the Dangerverse. I consider it a stepping stone into full originality, and hope the readers who are following it with every sign of interest will do the same.

Mary Beth is a good bit older than I am, and had mentioned once or twice in my last couple of weeks that she'd once had big dreams like mine, but had chosen a steady paycheck instead. Today she reiterated how much she admires my courage in going after what I want.

Although it's nice to be seen as courageous by people I respect and admire, like Mary Beth, my own parents, and you, my loving readers, the truth is far more prosaic. I am simply not persistent enough to sit in a cubicle for the next thirty or forty years. Five years was quite long enough, thank you very much.

Besides, don't we always hear the same things from older people, people who've had cancer or other life-threatening diseases, even people having a midlife crisis? "Follow your dreams. Give it a try. You regret what you didn't do more than what you did."

So, in that vein, I will forge ahead with my writing of "He Nearly Killed the Cat." After I nearly kill my cats by scaring them half to death with the floor-cleaning devices, that is. Can anyone explain to me why they're just as scared of the squeaky mechanical carpet sweeper as they are of the roaring vacuum?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

"Let me explain…"

I seem to have inadvertently misled people with my comment about starting writing "as a job." Let me see if I can clear that up.

By "as a job," I meant that I would be spending job-like hours on writing from now on, instead of relaxing most of the time as I did in August. Not that August wasn't great (I highly recommend a month of vacation to anyone who can swing it) but it's time to move on.

So, from now on, I will be spending five to eight hours a day, five days a week, focused on writing. My daily word count goal is 5000 words, which I've seen a professional writer say was his daily output. It's a lot, but even typing, as long as I know what I'm saying, I can do a thousand words an hour.

Of course, the kicker is "as long as I know what I'm saying." If I'm trying to work out plot problems, solve character difficulties, or wrestle with quirks in settings, I may not make word count for the day. Or worse, I may make word count, then realize later that it's no good and I have to discard it.

One of the ways I will be solving this problem is by having more than one story going at the same time. If I get blocked on one, I can just switch to another. If one catches fire, I can let the others go for a little while and focus in on that one.

I've had people ask me if I don't get characters from different stories confused, but honestly, even when I was writing two or three HP fan fictions at the same time, I never did. Each world… well, there really isn't a word for the sensation, but "feels" or "tastes" come closest.

Each world, then, feels or tastes different to me. The characters, even though they come from the same sources, have their own unique personalities and abilities, and I would no more get them mixed up than a mother would mix up her children!

On the other hand… my mom did have the bad habit of calling every name in the house, including the dog, before she found mine, and sometimes would even resort to "Hey you, the big one, c'mere…"

Well, let's just say that I haven't had a problem in the past mixing up my characters. I don't know if I will start once I have original settings to think about, but somehow I doubt it. Still, the proof is in the pudding, so why don't I stop blogging about writing and get to actual writing?

(Also, allow me to take one moment to be very, very glad that my mother does not read this blog…)