Tag Archives: National Novel Writing Month

To Be Alone

What is it like to be alone, really alone? We are an interconnected world now. People are glued to their screens or phones much of the time. What if these ceased to work?

One study found people were anxious in as little as fifteen minutes of not having their devices. I’ve seen people walking down sidewalks past flower beds filled with vibrant colors and never glancing at them as they were staring at their tiny screens.

Even during lockdowns in the past year people haven’t really been alone. They’ve had families. They’ve had their devices.

What is it like to be alone, really alone?

I am trying to imagine this in my present NaNo novel draft. My main character lives on an isolated place, but has a phone and drives to town several days a week. Her husband drives a truck, but comes home between hauls.

A major storm arrives with extensive flooding. The phone is dead. There is no cell service. The electricity goes out. She is alone, really alone.

losing electricity is to be alone
This was a wind storm, but three electric poles were broken off. The power was off for a week. This is when you find out how much you depend on having power. In the country, electricity turns on the water pump, milking in the dark or by candlelight is no fun, food in refrigerators and freezers spoils, computers and TVs and lights don’t work. Other problems happen during cold weather. How do you cope? What if you are stranded as well?

Even after the storm, the road is impassable. This property is not on a main electric line or phone line. The road is a minor one. She lives at the end of the road with few others living along it. She is at the bottom of the priority list for getting these services back.

What is it like to be alone, really alone? This isn’t for a day or two. It has now been a week.

Imagine your house if the electricity went out. What would it be like? Sound like? What would happen to your food supply? In the country well pumps stop working so the water is out too. How would you cope?

As I write, I remember times the electricity went out, sometimes for days. And the phone was out for days several times this year. Floods have happened, but not on the magnitude in the novel. Still, news stories tell of such events in other places.

What is it like to be alone, really alone? I’m trying to imagine the answer.

Planning Novels

Living out in the country with no cellphone or internet and lots of quiet makes planning novels easier as there are fewer distractions. Even during times when I’m doing chores, I have time to think about my idea, evaluate it, find the plot line, visualize setting and other important preparations.

Rural living suggests ideas as does the radio news. For over a year the pandemic has dominated the news with its lockdowns and distance learning and isolation.

Storms are another big part of the news. These occur here and have increased in size over the past few years.

Ozark creek in flood
Would you try to walk out or drive across this creek? What would make you want to? Would an even bigger flood make a difference in your decisions? Such questions are part of planning a novel involving a flood.

My premise has having a large hurricane move inland gradually degrading into a tropical depression that stalls out over the Ozarks bringing huge amounts of rain. What would my valley look like with ten or more inches of rain? We got a taste of this a few years ago when a deracho came through with wind bursts and massive downpour downing trees and turning the road into a raging river.

A woman homesteader whose truck driver husband is away is stranded by the storm. The phone goes out. The electricity goes out. The road is impassible first due to flooding, then due to downed trees and washed out roadbed. She is on her own for two weeks.

Planning novels may begin with a premise, but then there are the details. First with this is the timeline. There is a time before the storm arrives, the storm and its aftermath. What happens during each of these periods?

personal experiences influence planning novels
After a big rainstorm with its accompanying flood, gravel roads can be washed out. That hole is almost two feet deep making it impossible to drive past it. One night people came to the house as their station wagon was submerged to the floor boards further back the other way after a different storm. Such times will influence my planned novel.

She is human and can only do so much in any given amount of time. Much as she may wish to be superwoman, she isn’t.

The real crux of the story isn’t dealing with the storm itself while continuing to do chores etc. The real crux is how this isolation affects her and her decisions about her life, the turns and choices she is facing even before the storm.

Some writers outline all of this out in detail. Other writers just start writing. My novel planning is in between. So I’m developing a rough timeline and the layout of the homestead plus a list of possible thing going on. Writing begins next week.

Creating Alien Creatures

As November flows past, I am busy with National Novel Writing Month. My novel project is called “The Mounzz of Autumn” and for it I am creating alien creatures.

Personally I am a practical person. I live in this world and have trouble imagining a different one.

I am not alone in this. When I read science fiction or fantasy, I often recognize where the creatures, the customs and more came from.

The challenge is in creating a world and creating alien creatures that are different enough to take a reader out of this world. Where do I start?

I start with the story. As I write, I find the people and the creatures begin to take shape.

For the Planet Autumn books, and Mounzz is the second one, I started with an original creature. It comes in many colors. It is a grazer so it eats grass and lives in a meadow. It is a herd animal.

creating alien creatures takes imagination
I have no idea what this creature is supposed to be. It has always been a favorite knick knack to look at and wonder about. Now I finally have a possible identity for it: a mounzz.

What does a mounzz look like? The original story idea was based on “Troubles with Tribbles” from the original Star Trek series. That gives me soft and furry.

A high school friend gave me a knick knack of an imaginary creature that lives on my computer tower. It is humped with a long snout.

Recently I read a book by Stephen J. Gould called “Urchin In a Storm” and found urchin was the British term for a hedgehog. I looked up hedgehogs.

And I have a good idea what a mounzz looks like now.

However I am not done creating alien creatures as any world must surely have more than one animal living on it. Another one is the sylvan.

What is a sylvan? It is something like a wood rat with some attributes of a squirrel.

Then there is the artyfox. The Planet Autumn may not be Earth, but it needs predators to help keep the mounzz population in check.

Once I got started, creating alien creatures turned out to be rather fun.

Wishing For Spring

Winter is arriving in the Ozarks with typical fanfare. A day of seventy degrees is followed by a day of falling temperatures from forty to near freezing. This leaves me wishing for spring.

There are other reasons. The first chapter of “The Carduan Chronicles” won second place in the Arts Rolla writing contest. Definitely incentive to complete this massive mess.

Spring Beauty flowers
Spring Beauty plants are a stalk with two opposite leaves. The top of the stem forms lots of flower buds that open a few at a time. Some petals are nearly white. Others are nearly pink. Most have the pink anthers over pink stripes on white petals.

And there is NaNo – National Novel Writing Month – where I have said I am completing “The Carduan Chronicles” even though I’m not sure it will take another 50,000 words to complete it. As part of bringing the two plots together, I am taking the two ships through one day at a time. And the Ozarks is in spring.

The Carduans are meeting spring flowers like Spring Beauty, Rose Verbena and Toothwort. They are munching on flowers from the Redbud trees. And I am wishing for spring so I can enjoy these flowers with them.

Redbud spring flowers
Flowers are for producing seeds as far as a plant is concerned. They are sources of food for many kinds of insects. Redbud flowers are edible by people with a delicate nutty sweet taste.

I do realize that anyone reading this novel won’t want a daily diary stretching out over fifteen six day weeks. It would get boring quickly. But, since I am melding two plots, I must have a strict timeline so they meet at the proper time.

Knowing much of what I am presently working so hard on will end up cut out of the final novel could be very discouraging. However, I don’t know now what will be cut or merged or summarized as I start the final major rewrite of the novel. The Ozarks in spring is an exciting place to the Carduans.

Rose Verbena plant in bloom
Roadsides and creek banks sport vivid rose pink from early spring to frost in the form of the Rose Verbena.

These little aliens have few flowers on their home planet Arkosa. They are amazed at the ones they see. They are searching for food. Do you know which wild plants are edible? I am learning. They must find small creatures to kill for meat and face the necessity of killing their own meat.

Then there are dangers. The snakes are coming out for the warm seasons. Four inch tall Carduans are tasty morsels or are they? How do you protect yourself?

Still, in spite of all the regular plot and events happening, it is the arrival of spring I enjoy most. I am wishing for spring and savoring each description I include in my writing.

What else might the Carduans discover? Check out “Exploring the Ozark Hills” for clues.

Fall Liverworts Flourish

Wanting to reacquaint myself with the ravines as I get ready to work on “The Carduan Chronicles”, even though this is November, not February, I walk back into the first one after the rain stopped. Water is flowing over the rock shelves and making small waterfalls. Dead leaves cover everything. And the liverworts flourish on the rocks along the water.

liverworts flourish in ravine

Last winter this pond was frozen over and a white ice river extended up the ravine above it. The white ice river moved into “The Carduan Chronicles” for one adventure and a bit of exploration. The ravine itself has influenced the imaginary ravine the spaceship lands in. for now the ravine is a lovely walk looking up the slopes at the fall colors and admiring the mosses and liverworts on the rocks near the water.

November is National Novel Writing Month, that annual challenge to write 50,000 words in 30 days. And I am attempting to return to Cardua and finish my draft long neglected as I finished two books, “My Ozark Home” and “Mistaken Promises,” over the year.

I do remember the premise: Spaceship Nineteen from a convoy ferrying colonists and supplies to a new Arkosan colony is dropped out of a disintegrating worm tunnel into a February ice storm and lands in an Ozark ravine where the three crew members and six young Arkosans are stranded leaving them to learn how to survive in an alien environment. Reading through the draft has helped me remember the incidents and interplay between the Arkosans now Carduans as they name their new home Cardua.

Walking through the ravines is to help move me back into the story. My walk was working until the liverworts distracted me.

Liverworts flourish in a pile on a rock

These liverworts pile exuberantly over this rock and each other. This would be a Carduan point of view as I put the camera on the ground looking at the rock.

Liverworts are one of those primitive plants mentioned in biology texts that teachers have probably never seen. There is a picture of a liverwort. The class yawns and forgets all about them.

Much of the year the liverworts around the creek and up some of the ravines merit only that yawn. These plants like lots of moisture and cool temperatures. Summer may have the moisture, but not the temperatures. Winter freezes them. Spring and fall are the best times to see liverworts.

new liverworts flourish

Evidently this is a new liverwort colony. The tongues are growing outwardly, branching and creating a pretty pattern across the rock.

Last spring lasted about three days.

This fall the liverworts flourish. Long green tongues stretch out over the rocks. They branch, pile over each other and almost glow in the dim light under the clouds.

Even being distracted I noted several things I may use in “The Carduan Chronicles” over the course of the month. And I have an added reason to visit other ravines: to see if the liverworts flourish in them as well.