All Quiet on the Novel Front? No, there is more here than you see….

Work on the novel has been a little slow.At least that’s how it looks from the outside.

Which is not surprising. Working on a big project like this is more akin to a marathon than a sprint. I am also one of those writers who, rather than wade into the thicket unprepared, I like to think through a part of the novel if it looks as if it will be troublesome.

This next part of the novel necessarily isn’t troublesome, by definition of the word, but there are difficult layers to it I want to understand before I tackle it. I don’t always do this with every story or every scene. Sometimes parts of a story are very easy to write, sometimes they are not.

I’m not complaining about all this. It’s part of writing. I made that pact long ago when I decided I was going to make this my profession. It’s the pact we all make when we decide we are going to write. I’m putting it out there because I am a writer and writing about things like this helps me process it and find avenues and methods out .Writing is mostly mental,not physical. Work on that part more than the other and you will be successful.

I’ve also been busy with other things in life which has eaten away writing time. This was a busy week. But hopefully next week will be better and I can get more words down on paper. Or electrons on the screen, or whatever.

But on top of all that one of the things I want to talk about is how we writers are working even when it doesn’t appear we are working. I have always maintained writing is 90% mental and that’s probably a low estimate. The actual writing part, the physical activity, isn’t the majority of the creativity process. It’s the mental work we do before, during, and after a story is written that truly makes a story come alive.

Now that I think of it maybe I should have made this a Conversation with Story pillar post, but that’s cool. I still stand by my judgment that writing is primarily a mental exercise. I mean, you need careful and specific movements to paint and sculpt and throw clay pots. You need careful and specific layers of imagination to write good stories.

At least that’s how it works for me. And even though I am not actively writing…I am still writing because I am working on the story in my mind and working through some problematic areas. Once I get that done, or at least reach a point where I understand the scene and can view it holistically, I will be ready to tackle it again.

May not look like it but trust me. I am still writing. All writers are writing, even when it looks as if they are not. We never stop writing. No real writer ever stops writing.



Dolly Parton has a superb voice, clear as well water and bright as sunshine. She is also a phenomenal guitarist. When I was little I remember watching her on television with Porter Wagner, he in his sparkling suit and she in her bouffant wig. She is the perfect Gibson Girl, but it’s her music which endures, and for me, one song has special meaning.

Her song “Jolene” was the inspiration I used to write “Vengeance is Mine,” published in the anthology Beauty Has Her Way edited by Jennifer Brozek.

I wanted a villain who could meet Magra Snowberry on equal terms. I wanted to show in an understated but emotionally powerful way how much Magra loved Marwood and to what lengths she would go to keep him safe. I not only wanted to show her supernatural power, but her raw emotional power and why it was the stronger of the two. The problem was how to do it?

I remember sitting across the coffee table with writer Melissa Lenhardt. We were talking about this song and how I wanted to use it as an inspirational device. I bounced some ideas off her, which is what a good writing buddy is always for. But I didn’t want to use the name Jolene since it was already so iconic, I told her.

“Why not call her Carlene?” Melissa asked.

And thus Carlene Stride nee Minker was born: Magra’s arch nemesis.

I was pleasantly surprised at the positive reaction this story got from readers. Many of them have told me it’s their favorite Haxan story by far and I think I can see why. I am rarely surprised by a story I write. I always feel I am in control. In this story Magra definitely surprised me. She revealed layers I didn’t know were there. I think Magra came into her own in this story in a very big way. Haxan is about many things. I reject all simplistic definitions that try to pigeonhole Haxan. On the other hand, Magra, and what she stands for, is prominent.

Magra, not Marwood, is the foundation of the series. I found that out when I wrote “Vengeance is Mine”.

I still get emotional when I hear this song because of the close creative ties it has to “Vengeance is Mine” so that’s I wanted to share it with you today. I hope you like both the music and the story. 🙂

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