ksmith: (Default)

I like having music play while I’m writing, but I usually stick with instrumental/ambient because I find the words too distracting. I like classical, particularly music of the Baroque. When it comes to ambient, Timothy Wenzel and Brian Eno are favorites. Takashi Suzuki. 2002.

But sometimes a song with lyrics triggers something with respect to the story I’m working on. A scene. A feeling that reinforces a story line. And every so often, a character. I don’t go looking for these songs–like wands and wizards, the songs find the characters, and not every character gets a song. In my Jani Kilian series, no particular song found Jani. Each of the men in her life, however, had one find them.

Lucien Pascal, my engineered sociopath-assassin–has had a lot of darkness in his life. Some of it, he brought down on himself. But too many things were done to him at too young an age, and he alludes to them during his rare moments of self-reflection. When I hear Depeche Mode’s “Walking in My Shoes,” I think of him:

Now I’m not looking for absolution
Forgiveness for the things I do
But before you come to any conclusions
Try walking in my shoes

John Shroud, Jani’s on-again off-again lover, sees himself as a benevolent force, a benefactor. His song is “Time of the Season” by The Zombies :

What’s your name? 
Who’s your daddy? 
 Is he rich like me?

Niall Pierce is Jani’s best friend. He’s come a long way since the criminal life of his youth, but there are times when his past and present collide. His song is “Stolen Car” by Beth Orton:

You were sitting
Your fingers like fuses
Your eyes were cinnamon

Unlike the Jani books, the supernatural thrillers I wrote under the name Alex Gordon had specific theme songs. I forget when, over the course of writing Gideon, I first heard Vashti Bunyan’s The Train Song, but I remember it was used in an NFL commercial, eerie images of athletes marching into a stadium. The song inspired thoughts of a more private search, a journey that would end in confrontation:

It’s so many miles and so long since I’ve met you
Don’t even know what I’ll find when I get to you
But suddenly now, I know where I belong
It’s many hundred miles but it won’t be long

I found “Shivers,” the instrumental that served as Jericho’s theme, in a more roundabout way. A favorite show is A Chef’s Life, about Chef Vivian Howard’s life in Eastern North Carolina. The incidental music caught my attention–I hunted online, and found it had been composed by the North Carolina band Shark Quest. So off I went to iTunes, where I found their albums, played various excerpts, and found “Shivers.” It has a country feel, with the bell-ringing guitar that I love. Outdoor music. Walking in the woods music.


I listened to both songs over and over as I wrote. According to iTunes, I’ve listened to The Train Song almost 300 times. I only listened to “Shivers” 55 times, but I didn’t find it until Jericho was well on its way.

Mirrored from .

ksmith: (Default)

A few years ago, while I attended my first C2E2 comics convention, I made the mistake of wandering through the dealers’ room. I was able to withstand the temptations of the cool clothing, books, and collectibles. I avoided the posters, and the original artwork.

But then I passed a leatherworks booth, and stopped. So many lovely things. I wound up buying a rustic shoulder bag in a rich cognac shade. I also bought a notebook. Whip-stitched, ruddy brown, with an ornate hook-and-eye closure and paper that appeared handmade.

leather notebookrustic paper

I’ve never written in it. Every so often, I page through it, and ponder the possibility of using it. But I fear spoiling those roughened silk-like pages with scraps of dialogue that will likely never be used, or notes that will never be formed into a story. I would want anything I wrote in that notebook to stand the test of time. I would want it to mean something.


Moleskine* notebooks. I know folks who buy them by the pack and use them to the exclusion of all others. Some time ago I splurged on a three-pack, which rested unopened on a bookshelf until one day I finally tore off the cellophane. I use one of the notebooks as a mileage log, but the other two remain unused. Blank. Clean.

puppy notebook Cheap notebooks, on the other hand, get filled up pretty regularly. They’re the medium that holds so many messages, the story notes, lists, doodles. Maybe it’s because they’reinexpensive, so I don’t minactual writingd filling them with words that may never go anywhere else. Maybe it’s because the pages are often removable, so that at any given time, I can tear out all the used ones, and have a clean notebook again. Another fresh start.



Still, I like to think that someday, I will grab a pen and make that first mark in one of those special notebooks. They say that you can’t enjoy a new car until it sustains that first ding or scratch. Only then does it become something that you can sit in comfortably and drive. Maybe after I write that first line or sketch that first flower, they will become like any other notebook. A tool, nicer than some, but a tool just the same.

Do you own something that you love but have never used? If so, do you think you’ll always keep it pristine, or will you finally wear it, or use it, or make that first indelible mark?

*I confess that the name puts me off. In my mind, I delete the ‘e’, which leaves me with the odd notion that the covers are made from mole pelts.

Mirrored from .

ksmith: (Default)

I’ve felt pulled in all directions these last few weeks. I start one thing, and three others clamor for attention. So the goals for next few weeks are to settle down, focus on writing, finish dealing with the leaves, add a few more batches of soup/stew/something to the deep freeze…

…and that’s too many things to plan. I know I should focus on work and let the chores fall where they may. It’s the never-ending battle between the immediate sense of accomplishment I feel when I do something around the house and the mix of emotions related to writing: accomplishment, but also aggravation, that feeling of wandering lost in the woods because one word after the other–what’s up with that?

Meatloaf is simpler.

My reissued light fantasy stories, Continuing Education and 8 rms., full bsmt., are now available at Amazon as well as BookView Café.

Upcoming contest! From 7-14 November, you can enter for a chance to win ebooks of GIDEON and over 30 other thrillers AND a Kindle Fire. I will post the link as soon as the contest goes live.

No hard freeze yet in far NE Illinois, which means I still have flowers. The mums have faded and the hibiscus are losing their leaves. But the begonias in the planter are still plugging along despite nights in the 40s and squirrels digging holes in the soft dirt.

Autumn Begonias

Autumn Begonias

It’s nice to see shots of pink and white and leafy greenery amid all the warm shades, the yellow, orange and brown. I’m going to miss them when they’re gone.

‘Tis the season, so pumpkin spice is everywhere. I’m not a fan of the flavor in coffee and tea, but I do like pumpkin pie. So when I found a recipe for baked oatmeal with pumpkin, I decided to give it a shot. I used regular milk instead of almond milk, whole wheat flour instead of white whole wheat, added extra spices, and used pecans instead of walnuts. Imagine not-too-sweet pumpkin pie. A good way to start a chilly day. Definitely a keeper.


Mirrored from .

ksmith: (Default)

…and so little 2015 left in which to do it.

A week has already passed since Code of Conduct launched. There’s an interview over at the Bookview Café website in which I discuss some background and research related to the Jani Kilian series, how I’ve changed over the years as a writer, and how having all day during which to write hasn’t proved the boon to productivity that I thought it would.

In other news, I’ve been working on getting all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed with respect to the Rules of Conflict reissue. The date? January 26, 2016. I will be at Confusion the weekend before, and hope to have copies of the POD edition to show off. In the meantime, I plan to reveal the cover soon–not sure when. It’s very different in tone from the Code of Conduct cover. Dark. Almost noirish. Here’s an early peek at the cover copy:

So many bones, buried so deep. But not deep enough.

After eighteen years, Captain Jani Kilian’s life as a fugitive has ended. Captured by the Service, she now faces court martial. It will surely lead to her execution.

But relations with the idomeni have deteriorated. Jani’s knowledge of that alien race and her friendship with Nema, their ambassador, earn her a reprieve. And if she is able to help stabilize the crisis, she may be in line for a pardon.

Jani knows she should grab this second chance and hang on. But as tensions between human and idomeni mount and her genetically-modified body breaks down, she finds herself locked in a struggle with an adversary who has as much to lose as she, and who will do anything to ensure their secrets remain buried.

Finally, if you check the right sidebar, below the Code cover, you’ll see there’s a place to sign up for my newsletter. The first issue will come out after the holidays. It will be a joint Kristine Smith-Alex Gordon production, and will contain things that won’t be available anywhere else–snippets, background information about my books, first peeks at covers (when possible since Amazon etc often jump the gun), opportunities to enter giveaways for ARCs and other goodies, and whatever other neat things I can think up. Still pondering the frequency, but I believe I can say that they will come out on a bimonthly basis at most, though quarterly is more likely. I reserve the right to send out a special edition in case of amazing news like an award or movie deal–oh that it would come to pass–but the usual disclaimers apply. I won’t flood your inbox with missives, and will never share your email address.

And with that, I shall sign off. I’ll be working on Alex Gordon stuff for the next two weeks as Jericho copyedits are due to drop, so I’m not sure if I will have time to post again before Christmas. As is often the case, I will have to play it by ear.

Mirrored from Kristine Smith.

ksmith: (teashop)

It’s Thanksgiving here in the States tomorrow. Happy Day to all who celebrate.

Alex Gordon has had all the announcements lately, and I hope that if you enjoy paranormal horror/supernatural suspense, that you check out my alter ego. I do have a bit of news–I will be joining the roster of Bookview Cafe authors. My official launch won’t be until next year, when my first release is ready to go. I am planning a reissue of Code of Conduct. It will have new artwork, and I will be going through the text and tweaking all those bits that slipped past me the first time.

The fun part will be extracting the electronic file from my oldest external drive. I used PCs until 2004 , and IIRC I wrote Code using Microsoft Works. I may still have some 3″ floppies. And I am pretty sure that I have an external floppy disk drive for my ancient iBook, so I could open the file there and send it to the MacBook….

I just hope I can read the damned thing.

In any case, tomorrow, I will be eating roast chicken–not a fan of turkey–and stuffing with all the trimmings. Then, for the next few months, I will be working on JERICHO, the follow-up to GIDEON.

And yes, this split personality thing feels weird.


Mirrored from Kristine Smith.

ksmith: (me)

Every so often over the last few years, a fan of the Jani books would email me and ask if I was working on anything new. I always appreciated these messages, even though I never gave much of an answer.

Thank you for writing…I’m working on a few things, and as soon as I have news of anything new, I will post….

And that would be it. When I did post here, I wrote about cooking, gardening, my dogs. Life in general. About writing and works-in-progress, though, not so much. A couple of short stories saw the light of day. Other vague rumblings.

Well, I’m very happy to announce that there’s news, and it’s not so vague.  This is me, too.  And I have a book coming out in January–1/6/2015 to be exact. Info, synopses, pertinent links, etc, are all available at the Alex Gordon site.

I’m excited, and glad to at last be able to let folks know about GIDEON. It is a different genre–supernatural suspense/paranormal with dashes of horror and romance. Some Illinois history. It challenged me in many ways, this tale–I felt like I was starting from scratch as a writer. Writing present day. Needing to get streets and neighborhoods right…then needing to cut it all out because it slowed down the tale. The things that required the most research were the things I wound up cutting–maybe there’s a lesson in there somewhere.

Why “Alex Gordon?” It was picked a few years ago. Gordon was my dad’s name, and Alex went well with it. As it turned out, there were a few other folks with that name, including a baseball player whose team is doing rather well at the moment. I’m not him.

I don’t think there’s much more to add, but I’m happy to answer questions. Closer to the release date,  I will be posting GIDEON excerpts and outtakes in conjunction with the Harper Voyager site. Until then, I will be working on JERICHO, the followup. Eventually, I will update this website and either integrate or link it with the Alex Gordon site. “Kristine Smith” the writer isn’t gone–if and when I get the Jani books out as ebooks or write more SF/F, it will be under that name. The paranormal/thriller/suspense work is Alex’s. For the sake of simplicity, I will move all my blogging to the Alex Gordon site, so that all the cooking, gardening, and dog updates can be combined with the book and convention news.

And now, it’s late, and I need to get some sleep. The cable just went south in the middle of THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH–thank you Comcast!–so the house is very quiet. In a few hours, I’ll get up and start thinking about pacing and scaring people and which plants grow in Oregon’s Northern Coast Range. Same god, different mountain top.

Thanks again to those of you who wondered, and asked. Glad I’m finally able to tell you what’s been going on.

Mirrored from Kristine Smith.

Still here

Sep. 10th, 2014 09:29 pm
ksmith: (gimme a break)

Summer has zipped by. I’ve been having work done around the house–deck repaired and stained, dishwasher installed. Thought I’d catch a break for a bit, but the handyman called this evening–he has an opening, so he’ll be by tomorrow to fix one of the walls in the bathroom and repair some tile. So I cleaned out the cabinet that is going to be removed, then vacuumed because doesn’t everyone clean before workmen come to the house?

Oh well. It upsets the day, but it has to get done.

Nothing to report on the reissue of CODE etc as ebooks. Struggling with some short works–I start them, and think, who would want to read this? It’s been done before. The thing is, just about everything has been done before–I could write a one-sentence synopsis and likely be able to think of several already-published stories that fit it. And they would all be different. Because it isn’t the idea, it’s the execution.

If I keep telling myself this, I might come to believe it.

Mirrored from Kristine Smith.

ksmith: (teashop)

…on a rainy, cold, grey winter day.

NYT bestselling author Jack Campbell had some nice things to say about the Jani Kilian books in the latest issue of SFSignal:

an excellent read steeped in espionage and double-dealing that captures the reality of it all better than most thrillers set in the modern day.

It always makes me feel good when folks who know say that I nailed aspects of Jani’s life/experiences.

Still trying to work out a deal to reissue the books. When something finally works out, I will scream it from the mountaintops. Or dune tops, seeing as this is NE Illinois.

Mirrored from Kristine Smith.

ksmith: (celebrate)

The snow’s started, fine crystals that will fall through the night. Just a few hours left in 2013.

It was a year. I lost King. Retired from the day job. Pondered and planned. Hit some speed bumps. Struggled to adjust to having All The Time In The World, because it seemed to zip past even more quickly than it did when I didn’t. Lollygagged a little too much–I need to stop that. I’ve heard from several writers that it takes a year to adjust to being a full-timer, and I believe it. So that’s one big item on the 2014 agenda. Adjust.

I cannot complain. I’m very lucky that I was able to do what I’ve done. In the coming year, I need to make the most of the opportunity. Push myself. Take chances.

I hope you all get the chance to do something you always wanted to do. Have a plan come to fruition. Take that first step down a winding, overgrown path, one that doesn’t get a lot of traffic.

To the new year!

Mirrored from Kristine Smith.

ksmith: (teashop)

I have never read anything by Dyer, but that may change because this is one of the best “Ten Rules” essays I’ve read.

2. Don’t write in public places. In the early 1990s I went to live in Paris. The usual writerly reasons: back then, if you were caught writing in a pub in England, you could get your head kicked in, whereas in Paris, dans les cafés … Since then I’ve developed an aversion to writing in public. I now think it should be done only in private, like any other lavatorial activity.

I also especially like 4, 6, 8, 9, 10…oh hell, it’s a good list. No. 6, Using regrets for fuel. Pretty much my motto: It’s all material.

Mirrored from Kristine Smith.

ksmith: (cloud dream)

Took a short trip to Madison with fellow writer Jen Stevenson. Talked over plot problems with current wips. Hiked up and down State Street. Ate really good Japanese. Enjoyed glorious weather. Walked the trail along Lake Mendota and discussed crow lore. A restorative 24 hours.

On the lake

We also fed baby ducks.

Nothing better than baby ducks.

Nothing better than baby ducks.

Mirrored from Kristine Smith.

ksmith: (penfold)

In a file room, inventorying documents.

You know your mind is not 100% on-task when you pause to consider how you would get out of the file room if the Bad Guys ™ locked you in. Door knob is actually a handle equipped with a combo lock, but it is on the outside and handle could be jammed.

But. Hinges are on the inside, and 3 of 4 have already partially popped due to use. I have a pair of heavy-duty scissors to use as a pry. The room is equipped with sprinklers, so if I had matches/a lighter in my purse, I could set those off, thus notifying Security.

The rooms are modular–movable walls, so I could also possibly knock out panels if desperate enough.

Glad that’s settled.

Mirrored from Kristine Smith.

ksmith: (teashop)

…someone else’s words, namely Stephen King’s 20 quotes on writing.

I will add that I have used a thesaurus while writing and I haven’t killed all my darlings. I have learned the hard way that not all characters’ backstories are interesting. A harder lesson is that, while they may be interesting, if they detract from the story you’re trying to tell by derailing the main plot or swamping your protag, they have to go. Just because you have been distracted from your protag’s story does not mean your protag’s story isn’t interesting. It may just mean that you rambled too deep into the story weeds and lost your way. Story weeds are very easy to get lost in. They flower and grow quickly and seem very strong, but in the end, like real weeds, they push out everything else and make the yard a mess. And I think I will place a period at the end of this before weeds.

Mirrored from Kristine Smith.

ksmith: (teashop)

Been here since yesterday. A long weekend writers retreat with a few other, well, writers. Writing exercises, brainstorming, business talk. More on the exercises in a few days, when I am home and have digested the results. It’s been an interesting process so far, though.

We are staying in a place with kitchenettes in the rooms, so we bought groceries and are doing most of our own cooking. I thought I would miss eating out, but I am finding I don’t. Except we did have high tea at the Drake today because that is one of the things one does when one is in Chicago and has the chance.

The weather has finally, finally been lovely. Coolish because we are near the lake, but sunny and dry. It’s even supposed to warm up as the weekend continues. The long-awaited spring one hears about in song and fable.

Mirrored from Kristine Smith.

ksmith: (teashop)

I haven’t posted any memes or quizzes in a while. They seem to have lessened in popularity as LJ traffic has slowed, but every so often something pops up that looks interesting.


Tell me about a story I haven’t written, and I’ll give you one sentence from that story.

(h/t to Kate Elliott over at LiveJournal)

Mirrored from Kristine Smith.

ksmith: (luna lovegood)

Blogging. Writing, fiction or non-fiction. Novels. Shorts. Flash.

Spot-on, this. Especially about reading critiques and comments.

Mirrored from Kristine Smith.


Nov. 11th, 2012 02:39 pm
ksmith: (teashop)

Made up a playlist of soundtracks and ambient/electronica to write by. SHERLOCK is currently playing. HALF-BLOOD PRINCE is in there somewhere. What an odd film. I disliked it when I first saw it because I didn’t see that it advanced the story despite some of the things that happened, but I will admit that it has grown on me. It’s not a cohesive whole, particularly–for me, it’s a movie of moments. Dumbledore and Harry standing on the rock in the middle of storm seas. Ginny and Harry’s first kiss. The scene where Hermione realizes that Harry did NOT put the Liquid Luck in Ron’s drink.

The soundtrack hits me the same way. I’ve read reviews describing it as a pause, an interlude, and I think that’s true. But that’s what I like about it. Like the film it scores, it’s an array of quiet moments. Hermione’s bird charm. Draco and the vanishing cabinet. Ginny and Harry in the Room of Requirement. I love those little pieces–they’ve stayed with me far longer than any of the pieces from the more momentous scores.

The list also contains Air, Delerium, Brian Eno. Soundtracks for The Social Network and Dr Who S5. Good choices for a windy Sunday afternoon on the cusp of winter.

Mirrored from Kristine Smith.

ksmith: (me)

My agent, Jenn Jackson, lives in the Northeast. That means that for the last few days, she has entertained a visitor named Sandy.

She lost power for a time, but now has it back. Her family, friends, and coworkers at DMLA made it through the onslaught. In appreciation for that and more…

…I’m going to auction a critique of a partial manuscript of a novel here on my blog. A partial manuscript will consist of up to 50 pages in standard manuscript format (approximately 12,500 words). In order to maximize benefit for the bidder, I’m going to limit this to the kinds of projects I represent, which includes both adult and YA fiction (not MG). (See my guidelines for more information.)

Here’s how to bid: Check the current high bid in the comments below and place a higher bid by leaving your name and bid amount in a new comment. At the end, I’ll notify the winner, and they should make an online donation in the amount of their bid to the American Red Cross for Disaster Relief. I’ll ask the winner to forward me a copy of their receipt for the donation and then we’ll arrange for delivery of the partial and discuss a timeline for my response.

Link is here. If you have an manuscript in the right genre (see above), this is the sort of offer you don’t see every day.

Auction runs until Monday, November 5th, 5pm Eastern Time.

Mirrored from Kristine Smith.

ksmith: (teashop)

Articles like this give me hope that my best writing years may not be behind me.

Prevailing wisdom about the role creativity plays in aging is that it can help slow down the process of mental decline, memory loss, and brain-related health issues such as Alzheimer’s and Dementia. But there is now a growing body of evidence that the aging brain may be more creative and capable of innovation than younger brains.

Maybe it’s premature of me to be thinking about this now. I am 54, which is supposedly the new 41-and-a-half or whatever the Age of the Moment is at the moment. But I got into this game so much later than other writers I know that I still feel like a newb at times. I’M STILL A KID, DAMMIT. Except that I’m not. I’ve crossed the border into the land of interesting medical tests, creaky knees, and AARP. I’ve heard that writing productivity can slow starting at age 60, and the gulf between 54 and 60 is not quite as wide as I would like it to be. I’m a slow enough writer as it is–I don’t want to get even slower. Worse yet, I don’t want to lose the ability to, well, make shit up. I want the idea furnace to continue to burn hot.

My mom lived to 87. I would love to still be writing at 87. Even if I have to tell the voices in my head to speak up.

(h/t to The Passive Guy)

Mirrored from Kristine Smith.

ksmith: (Default)

An oldie but a goodie from science writer Ed Yong:

The writing process.

Mirrored from Kristine Smith.

April 2017

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