Monday, August 22, 2016

The Curse of Organization

Sounds like Nancy Drew Mystery, doesn’t it? Or maybe a Pirates of the Caribbean movie. The Curse of Organization.

I like to be organized. So when I sat down at my desk to start working on this post, the first thing I had to do is get my work space organized again. Staying organized wasn’t exactly a priority when I was working on the transcribing, and any time I pick up the house a lot of miscellaneous “stuff” ends up in my office. So cleaning up/organizing is part of the reason I’m so extremely late with this post. The other reason is the insane amount of time spent trying to pick out new tile for the bathroom we’re about to renovate, but that’s a story for a different time. :-D

There are a lot of good reasons to be organized: you can generally find things easier, it leads to greater productivity, it makes for less stress, you’re always prepared, and it’s a great time saver. But there’s such a thing as being a little too well organized - you have to do everything in a specific order, there’s no spontaneity, everything must be just so, and what happens to your precious schedule when the unexpected happens?

I guess I fall in between the two camps - I like to be organized, but I’m not obsessive about it. In fact, even when I think my desk is clean, someone will come along and comment about how messy it is. But I’m in good company, Albert Einstein and Roald Dahl both had messy desks. A messy desk is said to create a more creative atmosphere and encourages thinking outside the box, which leads to better problem solving. There’s a great article in the Daily Mail that explains it far better than I can.

The curse part of being organized comes from the fact I’m good at the organizing part, not so good on the maintenance. Everything will be arranged to my satisfaction , but it doesn’t last for long. So things start piling up, things aren’t put back where they belong, and schedules fall by the wayside. Then I’ll suddenly snap out of it and spend way too much time getting all organized again.

It’s a curse I tell you!

Wordage Report

Blog Posts (not counting this one)
3,351words total
Down by about 500 words from last week, which kind of surprised me because I thought I’d been wordier than usual, especially on the movie review post. Guess I can just be really succinct when I put my mind to it.

0 words total
I’m about halfway through the Lord of the Flies and I finished reading Andrew Lang’s Pink Fairy Book. For those of you unfamiliar with the work of Mr. Lang, he gathered and edited hundreds of fairy tales, distilling them into a series of story books, most notably The Colored Fairy Books.

6 to 8 hours total
This was spread out over about three days, and while I didn’t finish the edits on An Elemental Earth as I’d hoped to, I at least made a big dent in it.

New Words
2,533 words total
While I’d like to say that I spread these out nicely and wrote an average of 350 words a day, that just didn’t happen. A couple of days I only wrote a dozen or so, a couple of days I wrote nothing, and a couple of days I wrote close to a thousand words a day. Ideally, I’d like to work my way up writing a steady 500 words a day ... but I think that day is still a ways off. And I’d just like to point out that I started to re-think my stand on not including personal correspondence in my word count after writing a 4,500 word letter to my sister. ;-)

Weekly Goals:

Last week:
My new editing strategy did pay off with An Elemental Earth, despite the fact I didn’t get it finished.
I did not get the chance to start working on An Elemental Spirit.
I was successful in not melting, but it was a near thing. ;-)
This week:
Finish edits on Earth and send it out to the Betas.
Find one more Beta reader.
Minimum of 3,000 words on Wandering Wizards.

This week’s excerpt is from Wandering Wizards. Howard and Ellen have arrived in the Magical Realm and have met up with the elf Lady Aracelia, who’s Jessica’s grandmother:

“Howard, the talisman you were sent did not contain enough magical energy to open a portal to this realm. However did you accomplish such a feat?”

“You know I’ve spent the better part of my life doing research on magic,” he said.

Aracelia nodded.

“Earth wasn’t always devoid of magic. There are ancient texts . . . scrolls that are barely decipherable . . . one of these scrolls had what looked like an amplification spell.” He shrugged. “I took a chance that it would amplify the magic in the talisman.”

“I should have known you were up to something,” Ellen said, arms crossed over her chest. “You’ve been too freaking quiet these last few days.”

“I’m sorry, really,” he said, with all the sincerity he could muster. “But I wasn’t sure the spell I’d found would amplify magic, it might have amplified something else. Something . . . bad. It was okay to risk my own life, but I couldn’t risk yours too.”

“You still could have told me. What if something bad had happened?”

“That’s why I left you my power of--why are you dressed like an extra from Kung Fu?”

Ellen rolled her eyes. “I came home in the middle of kenjutsu practice to get my bokken and I found your note. I didn’t expect to get pulled into another universe with you or I would have changed into something more practical.”

“I quite like what you’re wearing,” Kaelan put in. Ellen opened her mouth for a quick retort, but then she looked over at him and a faint flush suffused her face instead.

Aracelia took charge of the conversation once more.

“Perhaps it is just as well that you stumbled in upon Howard as he was casting the spell. With the power he generated, who knows where he might have ended up? You both know what happened when Thackery and Paranithel interfered. Your extra presence used up the excess of energy.”

“So Ellen’s presence here is both a good and a bad thing,” Sebastian hazarded. When everyone turned to look at him, he continued. “It’s good because it used up magic that might have sent Howard someplace dangerous, but it’s bad because now she’s trapped here as well.”

“I wouldn’t say trapped,” Aracelia said. “Either Thackery or Paranithel will be able to create a portal back to the earthly realm. Jessica as well, once she has been properly trained.”

“What about Howard?” Sebastian asked.

Howard looked at him blankly.

“You have studied wizardry your whole life. While Jessica held the moonstone amulet you were able to assist her in her magical endeavours. Do you mean to tell me you have not once tried out your own magic since arriving here?” Sebastian said with some amusement.

“I--I--” Howard looked at him, chagrinned. “I never thought of it,” he said in a small voice.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Painting With Words
Fun With Quotes

So how, exactly does one have fun with quotes?
Glad you asked! If you’re like me, you start by exchanging quotes on a daily basis with your Best Bud. But not just any quotes, writing quotes, to give each other inspiration. And then you pick the two best quotes of the week to share with the rest of the world - because ... why not? :-D

Wow, I can’t believe it. I actually found it pretty easy to decide on the quotes this week. And they even sort of kind of go together. ;-)

I like this one from Jamie so much, I think I might write it out for my cork board:

The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible.
~Vladimir Nabakov

Have you ever stared at a blank page, or a blank screen, and you know the words are there, it’s just a matter of bringing them to light? This is what makes us writers, because we can make the words visible. We can see them in our minds, hear them in our ears, and then we begin to write and the words appear like magic.

For Vladimir Nabakov, this vision came slowly. He would begin with notes on index cards, which were then copied and expanded and turned into a novel. It was in this way that he made the ink visible for his most famous work Lolita.

My quote of the week also deals with making the words visible, but in a different manner. And I swear I didn’t pick it because it was the shortest quote I sent Jamie last week:

A story isn't a charcoal sketch, where every stroke lies on the surface to be seen. It's an oil painting, filled with layers that the author must uncover so carefully to show its beauty.
― Amelia Atwater-Rhodes

I have an artist friend and I’ve often said that we both create pictures only she uses pigment to paint with and I use words. When you think about it, writing is very similar to painting. You start with the idea, a vague picture in your mind of the finished product. When you begin the actual work, you might start with an outline, like a sketch that becomes the bones of a painting.

Finally you begin to add the layers of detail. You may use the broad strokes of long sentences, or the stippling effect of short. Probably a combination of both. If something’s not working, you delete it or cut it out, just like you’d use a pallet knife to scrape away the paint that’s not working on the canvas.

Writing and painting require an emotional investment by the artist. Both a story and a painting need something to be happening in it - even a vignette or a still life is telling you something. They need to touch the audience on an emotional level. And while it’s said that a picture can paint a thousand words, it’s also true that a thousand words can paint a picture.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Excuse #673 . . . and A New Strategy

One of the reasons I started this blog was to hold myself accountable for my writing progress, or lack thereof. Well, this week it’s the lack thereof, and I have no real excuse except it was just too effing hot to write.

Despite the fact that I live in Canada, which people still to this day think it snows all year round, I do not live in an igloo. I live in a house near the shore of Lake Ontario where we’re having a drought inducing heat-wave. It’s been going on for a couple of weeks now, and despite getting enough rain yesterday to soften up the brown lawns a tad, the heat doesn’t bode to be letting up any time soon.

I have two preferred places to write - one is my home office, and the other is my recliner in the living room. While my office is roomy and quiet and has the added bonus of allowing me to work at a desk, thereby keeping the lap top off my lap, it’s also the furthest you can get from the air conditioning in the house. The fan can only do so much, especially since writing time coincides with the hottest part of the day - mid to late afternoon.

The recliner is not only comfy to sit in, it has the advantage of being in the direct line of the oscillating fan that draws in just enough of the cool air from the air conditioner at the living room end of the house to make it tolerable. However, the lap top generates way to much heat to have it on my lap, even using a lap desk, for long and you can’t really get a table close enough to any of the furniture to be able to type without hurting your back.

So this week I’m going to have to come up with a new strategy for getting my writing done. I do have an Alphasmart Neo, which I bought myself after the last time I participated in NaNoWriMo, and it generates zero heat. But it’s strictly a word processor. You only see about four lines of type, scrolling back is a pain in the butt, and you can only download files from it, you can’t upload files to it. I might have to set my current projects aside for now and start something completely new.

Wordage Report

Blog Posts (not counting this one)
3851 words total
Once again I’m up by about a thousand words from my last report, but I was pretty late with most of them. This is what comes from having to use the lap top for writing and only being able to work for about 10 minutes before you have to cool off again.

0 words total
I never did get back to the Lord of the Flies but I did read a very interesting book on my Kindle. It was anthology themed around the inmates of an insane asylum. I haven’t written the review for it yet because, you know, have to use the computer for that and it’s too hot.

0 pages total
The pages thing isn’t really a fair measure for editing, I should be keeping track of hours or something instead. I’ve started going through An Elemental Earth chapter by chapter, making notes of what needs to be fixed and what doesn’t. My strategy is to just print out the few that need working on and then do it by hand. Where there’s a will there’s a way!

New Words
0 words total
See the beginning of the post where I explain about the whole heat thing, and add to that the fact that I don’t handle the heat well in the first place. It makes me tired and lethargic and headachy - none of which are conducive to writing.

This Week’s Goals:
Try out my new editing strategy on An Elemental Earth.
Maybe take a stab at starting An Elemental Spirit on the alphasmart.
Try not to melt.

Because I really don’t have anything new to offer from Wandering Wizards, this week’s excerpt is from An Elemental Earth:

Still needing some time alone with her thoughts, Chloe took the long way home from the supply depot. Her path took her by Granny’s tiny cottage and she stopped to have a look at the garden beside it.

It did look rather neglected. She felt a twinge of guilt - how long had it been since her last visit? Setting her parcels down, she took a step closer. Where should she start?

“Needs waterin’,” a voice called out.

“Excuse me?” Startled, Chole turned, seeking out the source of the voice. She relaxed as she spotted Amira, Martin’s wife, coming along the same path she’d taken.

“Those herbs of Granny’s, they take more water than the rest of the plants. I try and get by to water ‘em for her, but you know how it is.” The woman shrugged as she reached the garden and stopped.

“I certainly do.” Chloe turned her attention back to the garden. The row of herb plants along the front edge of the garden were just starting to bloom. “It looks like they’re doing all right though.”

“You must spend all of your spare time over here. I never see any weeds. Wish I could keep my own garden as tidy.”

Chloe wondered what Amira would say if she told her the truth. That the reason there were no weeds in Granny’s garden was because she asked them not to grow there. Would she believe her? Turn her in to Gannon? Demand that Chloe help her as well? She suppressed a sigh. It could be any of those things or something else altogether. She genuinely liked Amira. Not telling her the truth felt too much like lying.

“I remember even when you were little you liked to play around in the gardens. You were like a little flower yourself. You’re a good girl, helping Granny out like you do.”

It was Chloe’s turn to shrug. “Weeding her garden is the least I can do, considering all she’s done for my mother.”

“How is Tierra these days?” Amira’s concern was genuine; she and Tierra had been close friends when Tierra had been well enough to work the mine. In fact, they’d worked on the same crew.

Chloe sighed. “There hasn’t really been much change,” she said. “Her bad days are still out-numbering the good ones.”

Amira shook her head. “That’s a bad business, that. Ain’t never heard of anyone taking so long to get over the dust sickness. Makes you wonder what good that fancy off-world doctor of Gannon’s is.”

“He does seem out of place here, doesn’t he? And people still prefer to go to Granny with their problems.”

“Granny’s family,” Amira stated firmly. “We’re all family. We don’t need no outsiders.”

Maybe not outsiders like the doctor, Chloe thought. But she could think of at least one outsider who was welcome. “I guess it’ll just take time. We were all outsiders at one time.”

“There’s those of us who’ll always be outsiders, even some who’re born here.”

Chloe knew she was referring to Gannon. He may be the mine master, but he was not well-liked. It had been a shock when he was raised to master status instead of Martin.

“Well, I got no time for lolly-gagging. You give my best to Tierra.”

“I’ll do that,” Chloe called out to Amira’s retreating back.

Once Amira was out of sight, she went to the side of the garden where she couldn’t be seen as easily, and knelt down. Laying her palms on the earth, she closed her eyes and breathed deeply. In and out, in and out. Her eyes opened again, but they were unfocused. Where earlier they had been a brown hazel, now they were so deep a green they practically glowed.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Writing Scared
Fun With Quotes

So how, exactly does one have fun with quotes?
Glad you asked! If you’re like me, you start by exchanging quotes on a daily basis with your Best Bud. But not just any quotes, writing quotes, to give each other inspiration. And then you pick the two best quotes of the week to share with the rest of the world - because ... why not? :-D

You probably wouldn’t believe how much time I spend agonizing over which quotes to choose each week. Or maybe you would. Even the daily quote can be hard to choose sometimes, but I’ve got it down to a science. I have around 30 pages of unused quotes (it used to be 31, but I’ve used up a page worth since I started using this method). Each day I scroll down to the page number that matches the date and pick from that page only.

Kind of a simplistic method, but there you go. It save me from having to scour the internet every morning for a new quote. And every once in awhile I add to the document to bring the page number up again, hopefully with quotes I haven’t used before.

The quote from Jamie this week is short and sweet:

“Be courageous and try to write in a way that scares you a little.”
—Holly Gerth

I think this is great advice. To keep our writing fresh we need to stretch, to take chances, to try new ideas and work outside of our comfort zone. One summer, as kind of a fun exercise for the writing group I was part of, we came up with an idea to flex our creative muscles. We started with a picture prompt, the same one for all of us, and then we were each given a randomly selected genre to write in - anything from western to erotica.

It was a little scary, and for sure it took us out of our comfort zones. But it also got us thinking outside of the box, as it were. The romance writer may be faced with writing a mystery, the mystery writer may be faced with writing erotica, the children’s writer may be faced with writing a western - and then next time it was a new challenge.

Change can be scary stuff, but it can also be good for you and help you grow as a writer.

Speaking of change, I had a hard time choosing which quote of mine to use this week. My favourite was interesting, but didn’t seem quite complete and it’s too hot to spend a lot of time with the lap top doing research. And another one was just way too long, with too many different things going on in it. So finally, I settled on this one:

First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you're inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won't. Habit is persistence in practice.
― Octavia E. Butler

Yeah, I know I tend to harp on this, but that’s only because I think it’s so important. Both Jamie and I are trying to settle into a writing routine and it’s not as easy as you think. First there’s the challenge of finding the right time, then there’s the challenge of being able to keep the rest of the world at bay during that time.

Again and again you’ll see the advice to “write every day.” Find a few minutes first thing in the morning, or during your lunch hour. Sneak a few words in while the baby’s napping. Maybe you can streamline your daily chores and use that extra time to work on that story or novel. Stay up a half an hour later, or get up a half an hour earlier.

But while writing every day is certainly a good habit to get into, it’s even better if you can be consistent, doing it at the same time every day. That way, even when you’re not feeling particularly inspired, your mind knows that “This is writing time” and the words will come.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Moving Forward

The good news is, I reached my goal. The bad news is, I’m left trying to figure out “what next?”

I’ve finished my transcriptions. There, I said it. They’re done and polished and sent off to the contractor. I can pat myself on the back over the fact I was able to meet my goal (only slightly late, and that was because of something I had no control over). I learned what I’m capable of if I put my mind to it, which is a good thing. But now that the sigh of relief has been let out, I’m left feeling kind of meh.

Surprisingly, this is a pretty common feeling. When you set a goal for yourself you start out with an initial thrill of working towards something, then there’s the euphoria of reaching your goal, and then ... the inevitable emotional letdown. So why does this happen?

Sometimes it happens when we look outside of ourselves for praise. When that praise from others begins to wane, as is only inevitable, so does our validation. And while we should feel proud of ourselves, we just aren’t used to feeling that way, no matter how well we do. But probably the most common cause of emotional let-down is self-doubt. That little voice inside your head that says, “Yeah, it happened this time, but don’t expect it to happen again.”

The best way combat this is to set yourself a new goal immediately. Keep up those good habits self-discipline instilled in you and move on. Learn how to give yourself praise or a pat on the back. Personal goals are just that - personal. While it’s great if someone else recognizes them, that’s not the point. The point is to achieve this for yourself. And never, ever compare yourself to others.

Wordage Report

Blog Posts (not counting this one)
2839 words total
Up by about a thousand words from my last report, and almost twenty-five hundred from last week. While I may have been late with all but one of my posts last week, including this one, at least I got them written, so I have that much going for me at least. :-)

0 words total
I started reading Lord of the Flies while babysitting, and Thursday I spent the entire day reading Inkheart, which was really good. And really long. But I didn’t have time to review it.

0 pages total
It’s been a while since I looked at An Elemental Earth, but I finally picked it up again this week and I’ve gone over the first 12 chapters. So far I’ve only had a little bit of tweeking to do here and there, but I’m going to take my time and get it right.

New Words
2,372 words total
Okay, so that’s not as impressive as I’d hoped. The transcription project was done Tuesday, the files were sent Wednesday, so technically I had from Wednesday afternoon on to work. So what happened? Well, somewhere along the way I picked up a really, really bad cold. And then Thursday I felt so crappy that I spent the day reading. Friday I was doing other things, so most of those words were done yesterday.

This Week’s Goals:

Continue editing Elemental Earth, reach Chapter 24
More words on Wandering Wizards
Update my Goodreads

My last goal was to make it through the week with my sanity intact, and I’d have to say the jury is still out on whether I achieved that or not. LOL

This week’s excerpt is once again from Wandering Wizards:

Howard woke with a groan. It took a few minutes for his memory to catch up with him and when it did he sat up too quickly.

“Ow, ow, ow!” He held his head as it threatened to explode with pain. “Jesus! Why didn’t anyone warn me about side effects?”

The pain receded slightly and the spots that had been dancing in front of his eyes lessened. It was at that point he realized he wasn’t alone. He was surrounded by a ring of heavily armed elves, all dressed in some kind of dark grey uniform, all with drawn swords pointed at him.

“On your feet, human,” the one with extra decorations on his tunic ordered.

“Okay, okay. Just give me a minute to catch my breath.” The pain in his head seemed to recede a bit as he breathed in and out slowly.

This was not how he pictured arriving in the Magical Realm, although he was grateful that at least that seemed to be where his transferral spell had landed him. A quick glance around showed that he seemed to have landed in someone’s formal garden. In fact, he was quite fortunate that he landed on the path and not in one of the flower beds with their ornate statuary or worse, in the fountain.

The soldiers, he couldn’t think of them as anything else, showed signs of impatience so with a supreme effort he got to his feet. Another quick glance around had him breathing a quiet sigh of relief. There was no sign of Ellen, thank God she hadn’t been close enough to get caught up in his spell - he’d have never heard the end of it.

“I don’t suppose one of you kind gentlemen could tell me exactly where I am?” he asked, a puzzled frown on his face. While he didn’t exactly expect to land at Jessica’s feet, he had hoped to be in her general vicinity. And when he last spoke with her, she and Dominic had been off of Ghren lands, just at the edge of the Darkwood Forest.

“Silence. You will come with us.”

As much as Howard would have liked to protest, he had a feeling it wouldn’t do him any good. The pain in his head receded to hangover strength but he was feeling slightly dizzy, so at first he focused entirely on staying on his feet. Gradually the dizziness passed and he began to look at the passing scenery with interest.

The path through the garden was made from something like flagstone, only this was no dull grey slate, but a white, marble like stone. On either side of the path were flowering shrubs and exotic blossoms, slender trees that bore unfamiliar fruit. They came to a finely wrought gate that appeared to be carved from the same stone as the shimmering white walls surrounding the garden.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Determination and Vision
Fun With Quotes

So how, exactly does one have fun with quotes?
Glad you asked! If you’re like me, you start by exchanging quotes on a daily basis with your Best Bud.  But not just any quotes, writing quotes, to give each other inspiration. And then you pick the two best quotes of the week to share with the rest of the world - because ... why not? :-D

Wow, I had a lot of really great quotes to choose from. This is what comes from skipping a week I guess. But it kind of makes it harder to pick just two.

My first instinct was to prove once again that Jamie and I tend to think along the same lines; we both picked a quote by the same author - different quotes, but same author. But while they were good quotes, they weren’t the ones that “spoke” to me.

The last couple of weeks I’ve been immersed in finishing up a transcription project that’s been ongoing for the last year. I set my own deadline, and then was faced with the challenge of sticking to it. This was one of the encouraging quotes Jamie sent me:

There is no chance, no destiny, no fate, that can hinder or control the firm resolve of a determined soul.
- Ella Wheeler Wilcox

A determined soul. What a wonderful phrase! This quote not only applied to the task at hand, but it applies to writing as well. How often do we hit that slump, that dry spell, and think we can’t do this? Sometimes writing takes a lot of determination to overcome the obstacles the world puts in our path - time, money, an unsupportive family - and that’s where we have to stand firm in our resolve and tell the world: Screw you, I’m determined to succeed.

Out of curiosity, I looked up Ella Wheeler Wilcox online and discovered she had been a prolific poet as well as somewhat of a spiritualist. Perhaps you are familiar with her most famous lines: Laugh, and the world laughs with you, Weep and you weep alone. You can find out more about Ella HERE and read some of her wonderful poetry.

My own quote for the week (or rather the last two weeks) may not be as inspiring, but there’s definitely a truth in it:

I see things, that's all. Write enough stories and every shadow on the floor looks like a footprint; every line in the dirt like a secret message.
― Stephen King, Bag of Bones

When I sent this to Jamie I recall making reference to the movie, The Sixth Sense, and the famous line: “I see dead people.” It was meant as a joke at the time, but in some respects it’s true as well. But authors don’t just see dead people, they see many different things others don’t.

Like ideas, words can be hidden in the most mundane of things and it’s our job to ferret them out. Sometimes this means staring off into space, sometimes it means staring at something with a blank look on our face, and sometimes it means closing our eyes and watching the movie playing on the inside of our eyelids.

We see things that others don’t, or can’t. Maybe that’s why writers are thought to be mad.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Life, the Universe, and ... More Interference From Life

I have no witty words of wisdom today. My wit has deserted me and taken my words and wisdom with it. ;-)

I had a lot going on last week and while it involved a lot of typing, there was nothing exactly creative about it. My current line of work is transcription, and right now I’m nearing the end of the first round of transcripts for a well known Ontario university. This project has been ongoing for a long time now -- too long, as a matter of fact, so I gave myself a deadline.

This is one of the problems of having your own business and working from home. Not only are you your own boss, responsible for setting your own goals and deadlines, you have a heck of a lot of distractions to deal with. It takes a lot of self-discipline to say no to that friendly coffee date, ignore the phone when it’s a personal call, or tell family members no when they ask for that favour, and frankly, I don’t have it. Which is part of what put me behind the project in the first place.

Wordage Report

Blog Posts (not counting this one)
1,853 words total
Down by a lot last week, which is only to be expected because I skimped on most of the blog posts and skipped the movie review altogether. I didn’t have time to watch a movie, let alone write up a review. And I probably won’t this week either.

Goodreads Reviews
0 words total
I have to admit I did get some reading in to unwind, but I didn’t take the time to review the books.

0 pages total
I didn’t exactly forget about An Elemental Earth, it’s just not high on my priority list right now.

New Words
2,272 words total
Ha! Fooled you. I bet you thought I didn’t get any new words in last week. To be honest though, I think I did most of them last Sunday before I got all focused on my transcription. And they were all on Wandering Wizards.

This Week’s Goals:
Make it through the week with my sanity intact.

My big transcription project is due at the end of this month, and I’m pretty much going to be focused on it until the 31st. Then I might even take a day or two for a breather before making up for lost time with my blogging and my other writing projects.

This week’s excerpt is once again from Wandering Wizards:

Ellen cursed under her breath as she took the stairs two at a time. It was just like her father to decide without warning to change her from working with the shinai, the split bamboo practice sword, to the bokken, the solid white oak wooden sword, for her kendo lessons. While she should be pleased that he'd finally decided she was making progress, it was less pleasing that he thought she should be a mind reader and have brought her bokken with her. Normally she left her practice weapons at the dojo, but she'd brought the bokken home to give it a good oiling.

If only Jessica could see her now! Jessica knew Ellen had been studying the art of kendo, the way of the sword, but she'd have no chance to tell her now she'd progressed to kenjutsu, the art of the sword. Her brothers, three of whom were also studying with their father, had taken to calling her their little samurai, while her youngest brother, who'd made the mistake of challenging her to a match, called her a blood thirsty little ninja.

She missed Jessica terribly. They were more than just friends, they were more like sisters. Even after all this time she still hated coming home to an empty apartment.

Jiggling the recalcitrant lock, she got the door open and grabbed for the envelope that had been wedged between the edge of the door and the frame. Taking it with her, she made a beeline for her room. Taking the bokken from its stand on her dresser, she slipped it into its carry case and slung it over her shoulder. As she started back out she looked at the envelope she was still holding and stopped with a frown.

It was a heavy, buff coloured paper and all it bore on it was her name. Still frowning, she slit it open with a long fingernail and read the note that was inside. She read the note a second time.

“What the hell?”

It was a note from Howard, giving her his power of attorney over the building they lived in. He said he’d be going away for a while and didn’t know when he’d be back. She really didn’t have time for this, but it sounded like he was going to go do something stupid - as stupid as when he accidentally sent Jessica into the magical realm.

She stood indecisively in the doorway for a minute, then decided her father could wait. This was more important. Not bothering to knock on Howard’s door, she tried the knob and it turned easily in her hand.

There was no sign of him in the main room of his apartment, and it was unnaturally neat and tidy. Cocking her head, she thought she heard noises coming from his work room. Good, he was still here. Crossing the room she pushed the door to the work room open and winced at the light emanating from the object Howard was holding in his hand.

Ellen had the hand holding the letter extended towards him but before she could say anything Howard caught sight of her. His eyes widened in horror and she faintly caught the sound of him saying, “Ellen, no!” before whatever it was he was holding seemed to explode into a million shards of light.

After the single, brilliant flash, everything went black.