10th 07 - 2010 | no comment »

Process: On Collaboration by the Collaborator

Originally posted as a comment by Eric Nabity at http://katen.livejournal.com.

The first thing to understand is that the way we work together has changed as time has passed. Lucinda at the Window started as a short story that she wrote and I read. My first question was essentially what was going on. Katherine had little idea, at least none that she cared to share, but I had several ideas. She liked one of them and a discussion started about what should happen next as well as how the story could end. This proceeded throughout the writing of the book. Katherine took the ideas from me that she liked, but the process often consisted of Katherine writing large chunks and have me read them and consult. It wasn’t at all efficient, but it reflected our relationship, which wasn’t that far along yet.

Currently, my job is to define the world, the major players in the story and the conflict, essentially the dynamic system of the story. All of these are not perfectly defined when we start, but there is usually at least a significant portion worked out. Then we talk. As Katherine has mentioned, it starts with a discussion of the main ideas. Once we agree that she understands at least part of what I’m trying to communicate, we discuss the sequence of events. Obviously at the beginning, we talk about how the story will start while keeping the general vicinity of the destination in mind. Usually, a chapter/scene is defined by what plot events have to occur. There will also be some discussion about thematic components that need to show up somewhere in the manuscript. Then, Katherine attempts to translate that very non-linear pile of poorly communicated information into a narrative that is interesting. The process continues with me evaluation what she writes and critiquing how the story is consistent with the world system and plot. This can lead to discussions to clear up communication errors and/or about what will happen next. I try to avoid critiquing anything that doesn’t significantly impact the world system or main plot, because that isn’t my job. This certainly places Katherine in the position of having her work being criticized more, but plenty of the mistakes are my fault due to poor communication or lack of foresight.

As an example, Aleister Luck. I defined the system for magic and worked out how it would work in a few scenarios. Most of those were related to how he makes his living on games of chance, as being a PI is more of a hobby for him. Katherine decided to go with a casino scenario, which was not my preferred choice because it doesn’t work so neatly. However it is probably a better choice for character interaction. In any case, it just so happened that while I was on the plane to Omaha doing some further work on the system and how he would have to execute it in the casino case, Katherine was writing her short story using the not so well worked out casino system. Fortunately, it didn’t take too much effort to fix.

At the end of the day, we each have our own jobs. Both of us do a fairly good job of not poking our noses too far into the other’s business.


9th 07 - 2010 | 1 comment »

Fiction: Not the Girl for Him

Originally posted at http://katen.livejournal.com.

Aleister Luck had a problem and her name was Rosalyn.


Every private detective in every novel, TV show, or movie is pleasantly labeled as “down on his luck.” That’s a label for the poor. Of course this is because private detectives in novels, TV shows, and movies are good people. They help the needy and if they’re involved in shady dealings it’s in the interest of doing right regardless of margins.

Mr. Luck was one of those good people. Or at least he tried to be. He was selective about his clientele and didn’t worry about whether they could pay. And that’s why Mr. Luck generally turned to magic to make a living.


The night he became acquainted with Rosalyn, Luck was happily working the blackjack tables at Jummer’s Casino. The night started out uneventful.

Luck always chose a busy table. It was more interesting to spread winning around. If there was someone loud, flamboyant, self-centered at the table, so much the better. In comparison, the casual observer wouldn’t notice Aleister Luck and the casino didn’t get too suspicious when he wasn’t the only one with a pile of chips in front of him.

This night, his fellow players were a pair of giggling middle-aged women, a quiet bearded man, and a college-aged kid accompanied by his blonde girlfriend. The women were fairly new to the game. The kid had been drinking and his girlfriend found his poor math skills exceedingly funny. The bearded fellow was sandwiched between them.

A near perfect set up.

Dealt from a shoe, all face up, no one really noticed that Mr. Luck didn’t look at his cards.

He had instead trained himself to look at people’s hands and wrists, blocking out the card faces. The ladies both had manicured nails, doubtless the product of an afternoon at the casino’s spa. The college kid had a tattoo of ornate lettering that started at wrist. Luck couldn’t read what it said. Luck’s own hands were a geography of dry skin and hangnails. Dealers’ hands were never interesting. They were clean, soft, and dealers rarely wore jewelry.

He didn’t watch to see what the other players were dealt or what the house had. He motioned for another card without any information. He simply knew it was the right decision. He put chips forward haphazardly too, never checking their color or the size of his stacks.

He won when he wanted and he lost when he wanted. Occasionally, he shifted his efforts to someone else at the table. With a thought, he knew that the card dealt next would be what that player needed. On the surface, he wasn’t a good enough player to cause anyone to notice him. It might have only been luck, but every time he walked away from the table, Mr. Luck had rent, utilities, and enough to eat well.

Things started to go wrong after the second lady, wearing a wide turquoise necklace, split a pair. It was really more information about the table than Aleister Luck preferred, but it wasn’t anything that should cause him trouble. But she lost when Aleister saw her winning. The next hand, Aleister lost when he had decided not to. Panic became an itch in the back of his throat. How much had he lost? How had he lost? His faith shaken, Mr. Luck excused himself from the table, sweeping his winnings into a plastic cup usually used for slot tokens.

And then he saw her.

He had encountered her one or two times in the past on the casino floor. She always smiled at him, but he took it as a gesture of general friendliness. Nothing of note.

Tonight, she was sitting on a stool at the vacant table next to Luck’s. She had been watching him and her face flashed an honest smile when he had turned toward her. Observed, his magic had failed. How much had she really noticed about Aleister Luck?

Luck nodded politely and headed to the bar. He tried to ignore her. The lack of a compelling sport to watch on the big screens didn’t help. She followed.

“Can I buy you a drink?” she asked.

She was small with honey hair and lightly tanned skin. She wore light pink lipstick and clothes that could be described as breezy by a newsstand magazine.

Luck weighed her interest. She wouldn’t be put off easily. “Sure,” he said.

She took the chair next to him and offered a hand. “Rosalyn,” she said.

“Aleister. Aleister Luck.”

“Luck? Are you particularly lucky, Mr. Luck?”

“Not at all.” Aleister answered honestly. She could be an employee of the casino, but he didn’t think so. “Rosalyn, is there anything I can help you with?”

Sometimes people happened upon him. Instead of seeing an ad or looking him up online, they found him.

“No, I…” And there it was, a blush below her tan. “I just thought you might be an interesting person to know.”

“I see.” She was attracted to him, for whatever reason. Aleister wasn’t good or even novel looking. He was careful not to be outstanding in any way. Yet, every so often, a woman took an “interest” in him. She’d pay attention to him. She’d stalk him in the nosey way woman did. She’d find out what she could about him.

In short, until she lost interest, his life was ruined.


Right. So. Here we are. The first meandering steps into the world of Aleister Luck. If it is confusing, please comment. Feedback is good!

Also, I apologies in advance if I never write about Rosalyn again. This is play-piece. It might have nothing to do with the novel that Eric and I end up writing. It’s meant to be a troubleshooting exercise. My “wouldn’t it be cool if” is met with Eric’s sense of system. The piece came pretty easily with some angst Wednesday night when Eric mentioned a new facet to the rules governing Luck’s magic. I sent it to him yesterday and Eric bounced it back with a couple notes. I think the changes I made in regards to those notes have improved the piece. Regardless of whether this eventually “makes the cut” in any way, shape, or form, I’ve enjoyed doing this more than anything I’ve written this year.

8th 07 - 2010 | no comment »

Process: First, a word about collaboration.

Originally posted at http://katen.livejournal.com.

JT asked a good question about the collaborative process that Eric and I engage in. The reply because post-sized:

My journal entries tend to simplistically reflect my side of the process.

We each have our role, and our roles are complementary.

I’m pretty bad with plot. Given enough time, I could probably become competent at cobbling together enough “and then this happens” to form a novel, but it wouldn’t be pretty. My strength is stringing words together in a (hopefully) clear and (hopefully) compelling manner that form characters and places and things.

Eric is full of story ideas, and I hear a fraction of them. I’d say that when he proposes an idea it’s already gone through a fairly rigorous crap filter. What Eric can’t do is write. Well, he can and he can do it quite well, but it’s a torturous process. I can’t fathom how it could take a week to craft 1000 words of prose, but that’s around Eric’s speed. Conversely, he doesn’t understand that I don’t immediately see how the actions of characters will naturally play out.

So together, we’re closer to being a whole writer than we are apart. But that doesn’t quite explain the process.

What I depict is the easily quantifiable part: I write, submit for critique, rewrite, repeat. What goes on behind that is hard to nail down. There are cases in which Eric offers an idea, I pull a face and voice my doubts, and force him to rigorously defend his position. That usually results in either my being convinced or Eric talking himself out of the idea. He does occasionally writes a passage that I can’t quite handle. And then I smooth it out.

It may be dangerous and non-PC, but this is not an even relationship. I’m filtering Eric’s vision through my writing. The core ideas are his. This doesn’t mean I don’t add to it. Some of the best bits happen when I spring something on Eric (a locked tinder box, an extra character named Balito), but in the end what I write has to be consistent with his initial ideas.

Bad analogy: It’s like he has an idea for an all-salmon menu, but I have to come up with the individual dishes. As soon as I decide that trout should be substituted for salmon or that a salmon/chocolate sorbet is a good idea, I’ve deviated from the idea too much. On the other hand, I can say that it’s a bad idea to have a salmon-based desert and suggest something that works, but isn’t salmon.

Do I occasionally feel picked on during the process? Of course, but I generally trust Eric’s judgment and he keeps away from being critical of my writing style and the like. Unfortunately it’s always the things that need work that get attention. “Good job on that” should carry more weight, but “this is wrong for the following reasons” gets more time. And I’m sure Eric has his anxieties when broaching a new idea. I know I hate explaining mine.

In the end, if I can’t get behind the vision, it’s not going to work. Zeta Iota wasn’t working. I couldn’t put enough of me in it to write anything but bland prose. The hope with Luck for Hire is that this is a vision I can play around in. We’ll see how it goes.

7th 07 - 2010 | no comment »

Process: Plan

Originally posted at http://katen.livejournal.com/867689.html.

So, Eric’s on his way to Nebraska to visit family and, due to my earlier trip and other circumstances, I’m not.

Eric and I have continued talking about Luck for Hire. I’m going to start writing some vignettes. The plan is: I write things, things that will probably be wrong in the context of the world we’re trying to build. Eric will critique them. If there’s hope for the piece at that point, I’ll do a rewrite and they’ll probably get posted here as #FridayFlash. Which means, the first vignette is due tomorrow at 6-7pm AZ time. Eric will bounce it back to me that evening or Friday morning. It’s good to have a deadline, but also a little scary. Our last few projects have been very start-stop. Do I still know how to do this?

28th 06 - 2010 | no comment »

Process: In the beginning…

Originally posted at http://katen.livejournal.com.

Luck for Hire
Last week (okay, maybe Saturday) Eric floated a new idea. We talked about it again this morning. At this point, it seems that it will be urban fantasy. The idea behind this novel is tasty to me, but will take some doing to pull off. I am cautiously excited. These are my very first words “on paper” about this project. It is also the first project that was titled before it was written (the validity of this statement may be in question).

At the end of March, my attitude toward writing was fairly grim. Eric and I had a pretty long conversation about the “work” aspect of writing and what motivates me to do this instead of some other job. When the work isn’t fun, it comes down to moments when the pieces click together and seeing that what I’ve/we’ve made is greater than its parts. (And I realize today that when that happens in bigger projects its much more satisfying than when it happens in 500 words of flash fiction.)

In April I had a dream while napping. I was sitting in a bar with Eric Reif (I think my dreaming brain munges Erics) and he asked me what I’d rather be writing since I was unhappy. “Horror,” I said. On waking, I decided to do what I wanted in short pieces. Since then I’ve written very little horror, but quite a bit of humor. Apparently, my dreaming brain is also hard of hearing.

In May, Josie of safetycomfort posted about magnetic attraction analysis, which involved making a list of thing that I find particularly intriguing. Eric pointed out that those concepts (esp. something seeming like something else) are pretty obvious when looking at my flash pieces and every longer fiction project up to Zeta Iota. I hadn’t quite found those aspects in Zeta Iota, though they are there. I see them now. What makes Luck for Hire “tasty” to me is that is falls smack dab in the middle of those interests.

If I want to view the sloth of the past three months in a way that is favorable to me, I could say that it’s been a journey of becoming more self aware and that time has allowed other ideas to come to fruition. More to the truth, I’ve probably been waiting for the newest, bestest project to come along.

About This Blog

In July of 2010, Katherine and Eric Nabity began work on a novel featuring Mr. Luck. This blog includes some proof-of-concept vignettes, progress notes, "alternate takes", and commentary on the collaborative process that Eric and Katherine engage in.

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