Monday, December 30, 2013

Year In Review (The 2013 Edition)

Well, we've arrived at the end of another year here at My Pet Blog (and, you know, everywhere else, too.) which means it's time, once again, for that annual rite of torture where I take a look at the year-long goals I set for myself back in January and admit to just how poorly I did with them all.

And you might look at the following list and think that I'm being too hard on myself because I (a) do tend to do that and (b) it's probably not as bad as I think it is, but I like achieving my goals, and I don't like not achieving them. Letting myself off the hook doesn't really send the proper message, I don't think, and so I am going to give myself a serious scolding and very possibly take away my Firefly DVDs until my performance improves.

And on that shiny note, here's how 2013 went:

1. Publish Effigy.

Nope. That didn't happen. Last January I was so convinced that I'd be able to make it happen. 365 days in which to make it happen...and I didn't. Again. We are not amused. Not even a little.

2. Participate in NaNoWriMo 2013.

I did this, and I even managed to win. But I'm still not sure how that happened. Maybe I should demand a recount.

3. Be a better blogger.

As it turns out, I was actually a worse blogger in 2013.

4. Walk, run or bike at least 500 miles.

According to my activity chart, I logged 667 miles this year. 

5. De-clutter.

While I wouldn't consider my effort in this area a rousing success, it wasn't a total failure, either (unlike goal #1) so I hereby award myself partial credit.

6. Read 60 books.

According to Goodreads, I've read 75 books this year, and I know there were some I didn't bother listing on their site, so I guess that goal went all right.

So if I did the math correctly, this gives me a success rate of 58%.

Nope. Definitely not amused.

Now would come the part where I list my goals for 2014, but I haven't actually nailed all of them down yet. I know one goal that's bound to make another appearance, though, so there's that to look forward to, right? If you're interested, they'll be posted Friday. Or next Monday.

Until then, I'd just like to say that we here at My Pet Blog (my multiple personalities and I, I mean...) have truly appreciated your visits and comments and kind words over the past year (as well as all the other years). 

I hope y'all have a wonderful New Year. Please celebrate responsibly! It may seem like a good idea to open that fourth bottle of wine, but take it from me—it isn't.

See y'all next year. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Rise of Mercenary Guy

On November 5th of this year, I officially created a character named 'Mercenary Guy.'

Because that's the kind of quality creativity one can expect from an M.J. Fifield story.

Just kidding. Well, maybe just kidding. I suppose the jury's still out on that one.

Anyway, Mercenary Guy came about because of a pair of comments from a pair of Effigy beta readers in 2012. (I have NEVER been accused of rushing anything.)  Each of them expressed a desire for a certain character's (sorry...trying to avoid spoilers where possible) horrible painful death. I was okay with this because this certain character is one that people are supposed to hate. He's not a villain that you're supposed to like in any way, shape, or form. He's not Loki.


This certain character is an evil jackass who deserves to have a piano as well as every other instrument ever made dropped onto his head. Twice. And then twice more, just for good measure.

And because of this, I had made plans to have Karma come and bite this character right in the ass in Effigy's sequel, Second Nature. The comments from my betas didn't change this. What they did change, however, was the manner in which I intended to see it done.

While I am not a complete pantser these days, I'm not a complete plotter either, and so I had only the barest of outlines for a karmic payback scene in mind, but still, it was a plan that involved two certain characters being in a certain place, and all of a sudden, one of them wasn't going to be there anymore.

The change, I think, is quite good. Or, it could be. It'll lead to a very important catharsis for a central character who really needs a catharsis in this book. It's kind of awesome. Or, rather, it could be kind of awesome provided I don't royally screw it up. And since that scene isn't yet complete (and possibly never will be, knowing me the way I do),  I suppose the jury's still out on that, too.

But the change, as potentially awesome as it might be, left a big, gaping, black hole right smack dab in the middle of Lineage (part two of Second Nature), and I needed someone to help fill it.

So I went through the roster of available characters looking for someone to take the place of that one certain character. Second Nature is an epic-ish fantasy (sorry...I'm uncomfortable with labeling this as 'epic'...feels boastful) and, as such, has a large cast of characters. Not Song of Ice and Fire large, but there are still a fair amount of characters—and all of them, every single last one, had a prior engagement and no real reason to be where I needed them to be.

So I thought about it for a while. A long while. Hit the fast forward button (Finally, I know!) until we come to November 5th, and the birth of Mercenary Guy.

Hey, look what someone (not me) made!
He started out as just an experiment. I didn't know if he would suit my needs, but as one of the tenets of NaNoWriMo is to (to paraphrase Dory) 'just keep writing,' and I was short a whole bunch of words, I decided to just jump in and see where I landed.

When I write, I generally create dialogue first, then go back and layer in setting and action and whatever else needs to be added. Almost every single scene I've ever written began with two or three lines of dialogue. I'm just a dialogue girl, I guess, and in the first scene I wrote for Mercenary Guy, it only took about five lines of dialogue between him and Second Nature's main character for me to decide that I really liked this guy.

So I think I landed in a pretty good place. I think he just might work out. Which is nice because I do love to fill plot holes. Besides, I like him.

And that statement is pretty weird because (a) I still don't know everything about him and (b) I do know a lot of the horrible things he's going to do. It leaves me feeling conflicted—but that's another post for another day.

Here's what I do know about him:

Mercenary Guy is a man of mystery. Known as The Black Wolf in professional circles, he's the man you call when you need something done ( lame was that statement? Another example of the quality writing found in an M.J. Fifield creation!), but not something like cleaning out your gutters or painting your house. He's the man you call when you want to overthrow a sitting king—or queen, as the case may be. Need to obtain the impossible? Call Mercenary Guy. Sherlock would call him a consulting criminal. The men in Shawshank would call him a man who knows how to get things. Anything.

And while his rates are high, the quality of work is, too, so you can rest assured that if Mercenary Guy takes on your job, you will get what you want. Morals aren't a concern, so there is no line that Mercenary Guy will not cross to make your most evilest of dreams come true.

Moriarty is not impressed.

He is brilliant, cold, calculating, cruel, terminally amused, and a shade sarcastic (but of course he is. I wrote him). It turns out that I like writing this character quite a lot. Which is why Mercenary Guy—who was slated to burn brilliantly but briefly in Lineage and die in a sure-to-be-exciting sword fight or something like that—got himself a lovely stay of execution instead. Considering I still need the sure-to-be-exciting sword fight, and considering Mercenary Guy still needs to (just barely) lose this fight, I don't know how that's going to be possible yet (maybe Sherlock series three will provide some inspiration?), but I feel like he's too fun a character to kill off at this point, and I want to have him available for future storytelling purposes. I'll just have to make it work.

But it's open season on every other character. Well, maybe not every other character. But definitely some that readers wouldn't expect.

And there I go again—getting ahead of myself. I guess the point is that Mercenary Guy is another example of how very little I am actually in charge when it comes to my characters and the writing of this series. Even though I strive for the opposite, my characters always just come in and take over. They scoff at my calendars and storyboards and just do whatever they want.

And I let them. Because—for the most part anyway—I think they know best. But know this, Mercenary Guy: if you outlive your usefulness, I will end you.

And now I shall end this post because it's gone on for a very long time now and has been, quite possibly, the most boring thing you've ever read (assuming you've even made it this far—and if you have, thank you). So I thought about closing out this post with a snippet from the first scene I wrote for him, that conversation between him and the MC. I combed over this scene and dismissed posting the vast majority of it because it was too spoiler-y. So below is what I finally decided on. It's not overly long (unlike this post, I know) and doesn't even tell you Mercenary Guy's true name (though he does have one. More than one, actually), but it's still a first draft and it still cracks me up to see things like 'Mercenary Guy drank some wine.' I'll fix it later...



"You're going to be sorry," Cate said.

Mercenary Guy drank some wine. "I'm going to be rich."

"And that's your guiding star?"

"Easier than morals, I find." He looked at her for a moment, then sighed. "But despite my better judgment, I do like you, my lady, so please allow me to offer you some advice."

"Never hit a man with a closed fist? Never get involved in a land war in Asia? Never wear white after Labor Day?"

Mercenary Guy's mouth quirked with another smile. "Give them what they want," he said. "Now. Or yesterday, even, if you can find a way to accomplish that."

"Angling for a bonus, are we?"

"Angling to avoid doing to you what I'm going to do."

"Well, thanks for the concern, but I'm not very inclined to do you any favors."

"The favor would not be for me," Mercenary Guy said.


So thank you for stopping by today and slogging through this monster post. It's much appreciated. And, as always, I'll try to do better the next time. Until then, take care, everyone.


Monday, December 16, 2013

In Which Things Return To Normal

Or whatever passes for that around here...

The Not-So-Great Shift Deluge of 2013 has ended. Mostly because I am an enormous brat evil diabolical genius who stayed late every single extra shift last week in order to bankrupt payroll. I figured Management can't use me if they can't afford me.

Which they can't.


So I have time off. Yipee!


And I know y'all must be excited, too, if for no other reason that I just might publish a post that doesn't contain the phrase "time off."  I've been very boring lately (or maybe just always), and for that, I apologize. I'll try to be more interesting in the future.

(What I imagine y'all are like right now.)

But as the future is not today, I'm going to bore you with my goals for the week. Looking at them now, I think I may have gone a little overboard with them all, but I just couldn't help myself. It's so exciting to not have to put "Go to day job" or "don't kill co-workers" on a to-do list. Anyway, here's what I've got:

1. Write out and MAIL Christmas cards.

2. Start Finish Christmas shopping.

3. Read over the crap words written last month for NaNoWriMo.

4. Do NOT delete ALL  words written last month for NaNoWriMo and make a plan of attack for moving forward.

5. Write and publish post about Mercenary Guy. 

6. Complete at least 3 30-minute work outs.

7. Play some Legend of Zelda. Because it's awesome.

8. Sleep. Because it's awesome.

I went completely overboard, right? Well, you know what they say...go big or go home.

Anyway, what's on your agenda this week?

Monday, December 9, 2013

Just When I Thought I Was Out

...Management takes away my time off. Again.

I thought I'd be writing today about how I finally have some (well deserved, if I do say so myself, which apparently I am the only one saying so because they took away my time off again. Jerks.) time off because I really was supposed to, but according to Management, I am too indispensable (even with all the attitude) and they can't afford to not have me around this year. True story. (Sadly. But funny how they never seem to remember saying these things at review time.)

I knew I made a mistake not becoming independently wealthy.

Anyway, despite the fact that I've had only one day off since Thanksgiving—and haven't even left on time since...well, since October, probably—the holiday customers coming into The Store have been pretty good, almost pleasant, even. The one exception (you knew there had to be one) was the customer who apparently was too damn lazy to walk to the public restroom a few stores down so decided to just use the fitting room instead.

Thanks, buddy. I truly hope there's a big lump of something in your stocking this Christmas.

So I don't really have any good customer stories for you. But here is my favorite exchange from the weekend:

Co-worker: You write books? Are you famous?
Me: Yeah. I'm incredibly famous. That's why I work here.

So the extended and continued scheduling means that my attempt to get back on track with...well, life outside of The Store has been once again curbed, and this blog has taken the biggest hit of late. I missed December's IWSG post and a pair of Blog Blitzs, not to mention every post all of you have put out there, but this is the first time I've even turned on the computer since before Thanksgiving. And I'm sorry for that. Please just know that it wasn't anything personal. I'll do better in January.


Anyway, not that you asked or anything, but here's what else (non-store related) has been going on with me (and some of this stuff has already been on Facebook and/or Twitter, so I apologize if it isn't news to you):

—I won NaNoWriMo. And I did it with three days to spare. I'm still not entirely sure how that happened, but it did, so I am now the proud owner of this following badge:

I ended up with 50,399 words, which means that Second Nature's word count is currently sitting at 195,725 words. And it still isn't finished. This makes me panic a little—but only a little. I wrote a scene that made me cry while writing it, and became concerned that my characters were going to kill me in my sleep because this story has taken a seriously dark turn—and this is coming from me who doesn't exactly write happy stories to begin with, you know? And the mysterious nameless Mercenary Guy took a very interesting and unexpected turn. I'm going to have to devote an entire post to him a little later on (It was scheduled for Wednesday, but The Store ruined that. Maybe next week?) because it was so interesting. At least I think so. It's possible you won't agree. But anyway, I won NaNoWriMo.

—And I just realized that I don't really have anything else to write here. Between my day job and my NaNo-ing, I wasn't doing much else. (My poor family.) How pathetic is that? Anyway, thank you for stopping by today. I always appreciate you taking the time, and I'll try to do better the next time (which, not that you asked this either, will probably be Friday, unless they take that day off away too.).

Happy writing, all.