A.C.’s Journal: Entry 28 – Gratuitous Sex

You’re reading a nice short story, doesn’t matter what genre – romance, Sci-Fi, horror, mystery, etc. – and suddenly some woman is unzipping some man’s pants. That’s known as gratuitous sex. I reached that point in a story recently – a fairly interesting story up to that point – and skipped down a paragraph and another and another and another. Finally, the couple had finished, so I continued reading.

Now, I am not a prude. Anything but. What I am is the kind of person who wants the sex to fit into the story. In Hammil Valley Rising, formerly a standalone novel and now part one of Freelan: The Dawning, I have my two MCs getting together at the end of their dealings (that’s not a spoiler since it’s not a surprise by then), but it fits the flow of the story, and I keep the description at a PG-13 level. Why? Because that’s not the focus of the story. If I were writing erotica, then a more expansive description that went on for several paragraphs and possibly several pages would be appropriate. They would also co-mingle sooner in the book and more often.

Tea and cheese. Photo by A.C. Cargill.And that’s the point. If you want to include sex in your book, be sure it fits. Otherwise, your reader will be going down a pathway and suddenly come upon a couple going at it hot and heavy. Depending on their reaction, you could lose that reader for that story or novel as well as others. For example, after my experience with that nice short story I was reading, I am now reluctant to read any more by that author.

Time for a snack! Gotta keep the brain fueled.

Please check out my works in progress (WIPs). And thanks for reading.

I am also now posting longer articles about writing on Substack and Medium and hope you will check them out. They are free.


A.C.’s Journal: Entry 27 – Controlling MS Word’s Grammar Feature

Dear Microsoft Word, no, I do not want to use “important” instead of “momentous.” I chose “momentous” after some deliberation.

This is just one of many instances when I have exercised control over the software’s grammar feature. Other instances include ignoring it highlighting my very correct wording of something and calling it “wordiness.” What does wordiness even mean? Does it mean dropping turns of phrases that are more picturesque? “I walked the dog today” instead of “Man’s best friend tugged at his leash, hurrying me along on a fine summer day, as we walked down the sidewalk, our usual path.”

That’s the problem with some of these software features. They drop the human element and go by whatever is programmed into them by nerd programmers who probably dream in one’s and zeroes. (Yes, that sentence uses passive voice, and it works best that way.)

Rules of grammar exist so you can say what you mean and others can read and understand it. So what’s hard to understand about “momentous”? I bet the folks at Microsoft and other software companies don’t know. I also bet that this thing going by the misnomer “artificial intelligence” won’t know either.

Just my two cents’ worth.

Time for a snack!

A.C.’s Journal: Entry 26 – Location, Location, Location

Writers are often advised to write about what they know. I read a story recently that was located in eastern Washington State and seemed like the writer had lived there. I have bounced around the planet (mostly the U.S.) a bit, and chose some of those locations to use in my writings, the main one being Hammil Valley in eastern California.

Location is important. It can even be a “character” in your story, or at the very least a plot element. Doing battle with the big city. Dealing with a rural environment that can be downright hostile. Discovering the quirks and kooks in a small town. Defending against the onslaughts of nature particular to that location (hurricanes, tornadoes, wind/sand storms, drought, excessive heat/cold, etc.).

Choose the location for your work of fiction well and describe it in terms that will give readers the image of that location. Here’s one I did in The Ceres Stratagem (a novel in progress) for early morning in Hammil Valley:

The sun had just risen over the White Mountains that loomed behind them, forming the eastern side of the valley. The rays were spreading across the scene below. Lush greenery, fruit trees in bloom along the highway, cattle grazing, a flock of sheep, and various houses, barns, and other buildings were laid out like a landscape artist’s masterpiece, losing their dull purplish-gray cast as the light reached them and brought out their bright hues – every color in the rainbow.

Back to writing, but first a bit of chocolate to inspire and fuel my brain. (I always nibble off the ears first.)

Thanks for stopping by.

A.C.’s Journal: Entry 25 – A Poem for Writers

How can I lie cozy abed
While ideas do swirl in my head
A critical dialogue line
A love scene that’s oh so divine
And words that are driving me mad
Like “angry,” or “miffed,” or just “sad”

The sun is still soft in the east
And cares for all this not the least
Soft pillow calls me back to sleep
And so does my comforter deep
Temptation for now is the win
But somehow it feels like a sin

A groan from my depths wells anew
“A moment,” I think, “maybe two
And then I will spring from my rest
And give the day all of my best.”
“Just do it,” calls out writer’s mind
“Don’t lose those ideas hard to find.”

So up from my bed I arise
And wiping the sand from my eyes
Apply pen to paper this way
To take those ideas and allay
The pressure inside writer’s brain
No need to, dear reader, explain

You know this dilemma quite well
No need for me here to you tell
I’m sure you have felt just the same
This writing is surely no game
Sleep lost is a price paid so small
My wishes for best to you all!

A.C.’s Journal: Entry 24 – A Workhorse Writing Day

People keep posting on social media about 5k to 7k per week is a lot. I just calculated my average over the past four years on just the Freelan novels, and it came to 12,207 per week. Of course, that’s an average and doesn’t include my little “side trips” into short stories, a romance novel, and a fantasy novel, totaling a little over 300k. But then, I write full-time. For me, everyday is a workhorse writing day.

How such a day goes:

  • Get up
  • Grab a glass of orange juice
  • Turn on the laptop
  • Start writing (or rereading/tweaking/editing what I previously wrote)
  • Take a break and get some hot tea and yogurt
  • Back to writing
  • Break for lunch
  • Back to writing
  • Get an afternoon snack
  • Back to writing
  • Greet hubby when he comes home from work
  • Back to writing
  • Backup my files
  • Relax and rewind for the next day

Just as a workhorse gets harnessed and spends the day at the work for which he is trained, I get harnessed to my laptop and my brain gets hooked into the work for which years of life had trained it.

Thankfully, I have lots of “buddies” to keep me company and make sure I stay “at it.”

How does your workhorse writing day go?

A.C.’s Journal: Entry 23 – The Push-Pull of Writing

A few days ago, I sat trying to decide whether to push or give into the pull of writing. “What’s that?” you ask. Good question. Answer: It’s something I just made up.

To me, the push of writing is new stuff, pushing at my brain to get out, get typed up on my laptop screen or jotted on a notepad. It has a loud voice and a very pestering manner.

The pull, on the other hand, comes from the stuff I have already typed up (right now that amounts to 2.6million words in the Freelan series and about 200k in various short stories and a fantasy novel in the works titled The B’raith Chronicles). It all pulls me to reread, edit, purify, clarify, and catch those pesky typos.

Recently, I found something in one of the Freelan MSs that contradicted something in a later Freelan MS. Not surprising. I often have an idea that occurs later in the series and go ahead, heeding that push, and type it up. Then I get pulled back to where I had been working and continue on. As a result, a new technology that I had first appearing in Year 12 of the series got mentioned in Years 7, 9, and 10. Yikes! The issue became a choice between removing those references or keeping them and changing Year 12. Since the scenes in 7, 9, and 10 needed that new technology, guess which choice I made!

Yes, I changed Year 12. Sigh.

Would love to hear if you’ve had similar experiences.

Thanks for stopping by and wishing you the best in your writing.

Meanwhile, I’m getting a jump on St. Patty’s Day with these little beauties! Brain fuel.

A.C.’s Journal: Entry 22 – That “Gee, I Wrote This?” Moment

You’ve all probably experienced it – that moment when you’ve reread something you wrote days, weeks, months, or even years earlier and are struck with how good (or bad) it is. That’s the test of time, when you think “Gee, I wrote this? It’s darn good (or terribly bad)!” The feeling can go either way. But that time test is valuable, giving you a more objective perspective on things.

As I read through a MS for a book in the Freelan Series, I have both reactions. Fortunately, the bad stuff (usually a somewhat garbled paragraph or some events not occurring in the proper order) only needs a little tweaking to improve it. But mostly, I have the thrill of really liking what I had worked on a few months ago. A dastardly plot – a moment that makes me cry or laugh – a scene that gets my heart pumping with excitement – they are all here. And I think, “Gee, I wrote this?” And then I say, “Of course I did!”

Back to my reading, and thanks for stopping by!

Hope your writing is going well. Let the light of creativity forever shine within you.

A.C.’s Journal: Entry 21 – Becoming a Storyteller

Not sure how or why, but since I began working on my first long work of fiction Hammil Valley Rising, following it up with eight or nine more drafts of rather long works and then deciding to veer off into short stories for a bit of a “side trip,” I have found the ideas coming more easily. Practice not making perfect, but certainly easier, it seems. I have become a storyteller.

“But hey,” you might say, “they’re not published.”

True, but I have had a number of people read some, have had a few posted online (one was a bit mangled but still readable), and one just won third prize in a short story contest, and the response has been fairly positive with one person commenting on my imagination and another on my use of language. I wonder if this is all because my consumption of hot tea has increased lately. Hmm. It could be that at my age I have a lot more life experiences tucked away in my brain, and this is how they’re coming back out. Either way, I’m enjoying the experience.

Oops! Another idea is trying to pop out. Time for more hot tea and getting my fingers typing. Have a great one, all. And tell your story!

Also see:

A.C.’s Journal: Entry 20 – Originality

Tough to be original. I wrote a short story (about 8300 words) titled Book of Memories about 27 years ago. Last summer, I revamped the story and submitted it to the National Fantasy Fan Federation for their Eldritch Science publication (it’s in the October 2022 issue). The editor told me that he had read a similar story years ago (he commented that my treatment was different, though, and very poetically done). So much for my story being original. But that has me thinking that we authors shouldn’t worry about originality, at least in terms of a plot. In fact, I just finished a short story inspired by an episode of Agatha Christie’s Poirot with David Suchet called “The Western Star.” In that episode, a large diamond is said to be the eye of an Indian god and brings a curse on those that own it. It inspired me to write a story about some powerful stones.

The result was the short story The Eyes of Cleopatra in the collection titled Flights of Fantasy (see more here).

Of course, a common idea, especially among New Agers but also in movies and books, is that of various kinds of stones having powers. Hubby and I just watched Tom Cruise in The Mummy. There is a dagger with a large ruby mounted at the tip of the hilt. Without the ruby, the dagger is just a killing weapon. With the ruby, the dagger allows Set, the Egyptian god of death, to enter the body of the man stabbed with it. If it’s good enough for Tom, it’s good enough for me. And hopefully, my story, along with the rest of the ones in that collection, will be good enough for you.

As for originality, don’t worry about it. Just let your own voice come through that rather well known plot.

Thanks for stopping by.

A.C.’s Journal: Entry 19 – Type-isms

In addition to word-isms about which I wrote here, I have type-isms, that is, typos that I make as a matter of habit. Some are caught by Spellcheck in MS Word while others are not. Catchable type-isms are “jsut” which autocorrects to “just,” things like “sawt he” which usually autocorrects to “saw the,” and starting a capitalized word with two capitals, such as “ACtion” which autocorrects to “Action.”

One of my most frequent non-catchable type-isms is typing “and” instead of “had.” I often catch it when rereading, but sometimes I don’t, making things a bit confusing for hubby when he reads the text. A big question is how to train my fingers to type things correctly.

Sadly, Spellcheck just reinforces the bad habit, but if I turn off Spellcheck, the typos will still exist. A bit of a conundrum, but not one that stops me from forging ahead.

If you have such a conundrum, don’t let it stop you either! Forge on in the New Year!

Time for a tea and donut break to fuel up my brain cells.