Archive for January, 2020

The Fickleness of Creativity

Ah, squiders. Life, amirite?

If you recall, back in May we had a fairly traumatic experience (I didn’t specify at the time, but it involved guns and schools. An unfortunately American phenomena that has personally affected me three times in my life, the first and the third times almost exactly 20 years apart.) and I…shut down. I couldn’t write. I couldn’t even read.

I did manage to get back working on nonfiction projects after a few weeks–my Skillshare classes, my nonfiction books and workbooks–but fiction took a lot longer.

Well, now, facing a major medical issue (surgery on that tomorrow)–it’s not me, but a member of my immediate family–I’ve found its the opposite. The fiction work is going great. I’m making great progress on my scifi horror novella. (I should give it a title.) But nonfiction?

Yeaaaaaah, nope. It’s fine. Everything’s fine. I got Writing Around Life out, as scheduled (and, believe me, I understand the irony) but I haven’t touched the next one (How to Write Multiple Projects at the Same Time: A Quick, Easy Guide to Project Management and its related workbook) or started on the slides for my next SkillShare class (about setting and achieving writing goals).

There’s still time. And there’s deadlines, which is always helpful. But man, there is no motivation there.

(I wonder if the fiction would be going as well if I were editing instead of writing. Probably not. Different sections of the brain and whatnot.)

But, hey, I know it will be okay. This too shall pass, and it’s okay to take time when you need it.

Fingers crossed that all goes well tomorrow. I’ll see you on Tuesday.


So Which Story Won?

If you recall, squiders, I said I had four stories that were sitting in the incomplete first draft stage, and that I hate having unfinished drafts and it was a goal of mine to get them all done sometime this year.

They are, in order that I started them:

  • The sequel to City of Hope and Ruin, being co-written with Siri, like the first book (at about 18K, but may need serious revisions on the beginning once we finalize the plot)
  • The changeling novel that I’m using to take How to Think Sideways (a writing course by Holly Lisle that I bought forever ago and have never gotten all the way through) (at about 5K)
  • The scifi horror novella I started for Seven-Day Novel in August (at ~20K)
  • World’s Edge, my Nano novel (at ~55K)

In a perfect world, they will all get done in a timely fashion, and I will be able to move onto other or new projects.

But experience has taught me that I cannot write more than one major work at a time (unless they’re wildly different, such as nonfiction and fiction, or a collection of shorts and a novel, or editing one and writing another, etc.), so I cannot work on them all at once.

And I picked the scifi horror novella to work on first.


A couple of different reasons. One, it’s the shortest, at a projected 30K, so it’s mostly done (admittedly I have already written 5K on it this month). Second, I didn’t stop working on it because it was having problems, but because Nano rolled up and I needed to switch to another project.

And three, it feels really solid. I read back through it, and I really like the story. I’ve never written a dedicated novella before (I either go full novel or hang out around 10-12K) but I’m digging the length. It feels really natural to me.

So, fingers crossed, I’ll have the novella’s first draft done by the end of the month, and then I can peruse the other options for February and beyond.

(That being said, I’m not sure the CoHaR sequel will ever be my primary project. Since it’s co-written, I don’t have full control over when I can work on it, and from my experience with CoHaR and the sequel so far, there’s periods of intense work on my part followed by periods of no or little effort on my side.)

Other things are also going well thus far; the fifth of the Writer’s Motivation books is up for pre-sale (this one is Writing Around Life). I, after much finagling, got a secret gallery up here on the website for when I start submitting my picture book to agents. I’ve written two short stories this month, and looked at the shorts I wrote for the flash fiction class last year to see if they are worth trying to get published.

Of course, there’s still the medical issue to deal with; that’ll come to a head next Thursday. I think I may post a Landsquid that day for my own sanity, but maybe not.

How is January going for you, squiders? Getting what you wanted to done?

Library Book Sale Finds: The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie

So, squiders, one of my “resolutions” for the year is to read more of the books I have sitting around. Specifically the books I keep picking up at library book sales.

It tickles me eternally that, as an adult, I like to talk about books when I hated it so much in high school.

If you guys have been around, you know I love mysteries in general and Agatha Christie in particular, so I never miss an opportunity if I see one sitting around.

Title: The Body in the Library
Author: Agatha Christie
Genre: Mystery
Publication Year: 1942

Pros: Fast read, has Miss Marple
Cons: Meanders a bit in the middle

If I had to pick between Poirot or Miss Marple I’ll go Miss Marple every time. I like the deviation from your standard mystery protagonist. And I don’t mean that she’s an older woman, though I do appreciate that as well, since older women are rarely included in most novels, and certainly not as the protagonist. I mean she rarely actively sleuths; she just picks things up through gossip and knowledge of human nature. The quintessential armchair detective.

This is the second Miss Marple novel I’ve read, I believe, though I’ve read a number of short stories. She’s not actually that active in the book–a lot of chapters are from other points of view, such as the inspectors’ working on the case or other side characters–but she does figure it out, all the same, and sets up an elaborate plot to catch the murderer in the act, which I’ll admit is one of my favorite mystery tropes.

I also appreciate that the other characters in the book, especially the police, respect her and her abilities, instead of writing her off.

Is there anything special here? Not especially. It’s not one of her twistier plots. But it’s a fast read (I read it in about two hours total), it’s entertaining, and it includes this bit of dialogue:

Miss Marple said doubtfully, “Of course, dear, if you think I can be of any comfort to you–“

“Oh, I don’t want comfort. But you’re so good at bodies.”

Page 13 in my copy, The Body in the Library, Agatha Christie

I laughed out loud. I’ll admit it.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. Read almost anything by Agatha Christie (except The Passenger to Frankfurt, which is one of her last books and is a bit unfocused in general).

(As an aside, my copy’s cover has a body stuck in a bookcase that is obviously shorter than said body, which amuses me greatly. Someone took the title very literally and obviously did not read the book.)

Read this book? What did you think? Opinions on Agatha Christie in general? Miss Marple or Poirot?

WriYe and 2020

Morning, squiders! (Now evening cuz our Internet crapped out all day.) If you were around last year, you’ll know I kept pretty active in an online community known as WriYe (Writing Year, formally NaNoWriYe when I joined waaaaay back in 2006). Each year, you pick a word count goal for the entire year, and the community provides companionship, challenges, and a host of other motivators to help you get there.

It worked so well last year (I wrote 110K with a goal of 75K) that I’m doing it again this year. So you’ll continue to see a blog post a month dedicated to whatever the topic of the month is.

What’s your WriYe Word Count goal for 2020? Why did you chose it?

I chose 100K for this year, for a couple of different reasons. One, I breezed through 75K last year (though, admittedly, that included Nano, and I don’t know if I’ll be participating this year yet). Two, I have four unfinished drafts that need finishing, and I hate having unfinished drafts sitting around. We’re probably looking at close to 200K to finish said drafts, so I hope I’m actually aiming a little low.

Three, part of my education-themed year is writing to try out new stuff and new techniques (as well as just practicing), so I wanted to have room for that as well.

What are your plans for the year? What do you want to accomplish with your writing?

We’ve talked about this already this month, but I would like to take time this year to learn and grow, and focus more on craft than publishing and marketing (though no doubt some of that will still leak in).


What are you most looking forward to in 2020?

Uhhhh? Hm. Writing-wise? Hard to say. I’m, in general, looking forward to my projects for the year (except that Changeling story needs a major overhaul of some sort so I’m more interested in it. Dragons, maybe.) and am tentatively optimistic about everything.

Non-writing wise, we’ve got a couple of cool trips planned out (well, one is unplanned, but I’m working on it. It is approximately the same amount of time to drive from my house to Oregon, Minnesota, or Tennessee, which has helped the decision-making part of this not at all). The small, mobile ones will both be in school full-time come the fall, as well. That is both exciting and terrifying.

But who knows what’s to come? It could literally be anything. But fingers crossed for good things.

How about you, squider? What are your plans/things you’re looking forward to in 2020?

The Good Thing About Going Through the Detritus of Your Life…

…is that sometimes you find things you really should use.

Like gift cards you’ve apparently been hoarding.

Gift cards to Barnes and Noble.

Gift cards that will allow you to…buy new books.

In case you missed my post a few Saturdays ago, part of the reason my winter break-break went longer than expected is that we decided, unplanned, to redo the office (which is where I work, most of the time). It was one of those rooms where things go to lurk forever, and it had gotten bad.

(I am happy to report that everything has been gone through, for the most part, and is its new home, except I need to do some filing and figure out where the craft drawers should make their new home.)

I’d apparently been hoarding gift cards in one of my desk drawers. I came out with three B&N gift cards, one Amazon gift card, one Nike store gift card (??????), and one gift card good for 500 points in the Nintendo Wii store, which tells you how long they’ve been hiding in there.

Now, it seemed like a mistake to put them somewhere else to waste away, so I took my B&N cards and headed out to my local B&N to acquire sustenance new books.

And I came home with 5 shiny, brand new books, and I still have over half the money left on my gift cards, so, uhhhhh. I dunno. Five books seemed like a good amount, but apparently I should have bought more? I understand that this is the opposite of a problem but I just don’t read that fast.

(Also, I was not 100% sure how much money was on the gift cards, and I didn’t want to load up with $100 of books only to find I only had $50, for example.)

(The books I got were:

  • Six of Crows, Leigh Bardugo
  • The Darkest Part of the Forest, Holly Black
  • The Memory Thief, Lauren Mansy
  • The Haunting of Ashburn House, Darcy Coates
  • Bringing Down the Duke, Evie Dunmore)

I wish I could say I found a lot of other great things that I’d forgotten about that I can now use, but alas. Most of that stuff was tucked away for a reason.

However, the new office set-up is great. (Better feng shui, the spouse says. I know nothing about any of that.) So hopefully I’ll be more productive with the new set-up.

At least I know nothing’s lurking. (Or, not yet.)

Read any good books lately, squiders?

2019 Reading in Review

It’s that time, squiders! Every year, I round up the books I read the year before and run statistics, because I am a nerd and I like them.

(As always, if you’d read something really great recently that you think I’d like, please let me know!)

I read 55 books this year, which may be the most ever (since I started tracking in…2010? 2009?), mostly because I read 10 books in December. (Most of which were Christmas mysteries.) It turns out that when you have no computer access you find other ways to use your time.


Books Read in 2019: 55
Change from 2018: +5

Of those*:
17 were Mystery
13 were Fantasy
5 were Science Fiction
4 were General Literature
4 were Nonfiction
4 were Romance
3 were Children’s
1 was an Anthology
1 was Horror
1 was a Play
1 was Science Fantasy
1 was Young Adult

*Some genre consolidation was done here. YA or MG titles went into the general genre. All subgenres of fantasy or romance, for example, also went into the general genre.

I listened to a single audiobook again this year (It was The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Warner while I was trapped in the car with my children) but the format still isn’t working for me.

New genre(s)**: romance, children’s, anthology, play, young adult
Genres I read last year that I did not read this year: short story collections, dystopian, satire
**This means I didn’t read them last year, not that I’ve never read them.

Genres that went up: mystery, fantasy
Genres that went down: science fiction, nonfiction, horror

I read a ton of mysteries this year, goodness.

18 were my books
37 were library books

(This is backwards from normal, and also a bit of a problem, I say as I look around and all the books in my house I have yet to read.)

46 were physical books
8 were ebooks
1 was an audiobook

Average rating: 3.54/5

Top rated:
Howl’s Moving Castle (4.5 – children’s fantasy)
Once Upon a River
(4.3 – general literature)
(4 – science fiction)
I am Princess X
(4 – young adult)
The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh
(4 – children’s)

Howl’s and Winnie the Pooh are re-reads, of course, except this time I was reading them to someone, which changes things a lot, actually.

Honorable mentions of 3.9: Dark Shores (YA fantasy), Wyrd Sisters (fantasy), Witch Week (children’s fantasy)

Most recent publication year: 2019
Oldest publication year: 1904
Average publication year: 2002
Books older than 1900: 0
Books newer than (and including) 2014: 29

A lot of newer books again, so good job me!

And, for future reference, the first book I read for the year was Another Saturday Night and I Ain’t Got No Body (2012 – mystery/romance – 2/5), and the last I read was Aunt Dimity and the Heart of Gold (2019 – mystery – 3.5/5).

How did your reading go in 2019, squiders? Plans for 2020?

My reading plans continue to be 50 books a year (or a few more), but I’d like to read one library book sale book a month, and one writing and/or nonfiction book a month, to get through my stashes.

Obligatory Looking Forward and Looking Back

Okay! Back to work, squiders.

Here we are, starting the second week of the new year, and I am just starting to get going. I’m going to blame a majority of that on the small, mobile ones, but now they’re back in school, so I have no excuse.

2019 was pretty good, all things considered. Accomplishments:

  • I had five short stories published (two in anthologies, here and here, one in a magazine, and two, here and here, over at Turtleduck Press).
  • I published four nonfiction writing process books and three associated workbooks. (Books: here, here, here, here; workbooks: here, here, here)
  • I tried and won Nanowrimo for the first time in five years.
  • I finished the serial novel I’d been working on for ten years.
  • I made a dummy for a picture book, edited it, created some finalized illustrations for a portfolio, and put together a list of agents to query, as well as doing general research on picture book publishing.
  • I started three novel/novella drafts, oops.
  • I re-did my freaking newsletter and fixed all the automations.

Not too shabby! Now, looking forward–I told you guys last month I picked my word for 2020, and it’s education. My main focus is going to be on learning and improving my craft, and experimenting with new things to see what works the best.

I think it will be refreshing, honestly. Less focus on publishing and polishing and marketing, and more on doing what I can to improve.

Also, a very major medical issue has popped up that will probably take up a ton of my time, so this takes some of the pressure off to do do do do do do.

That being, said, here’s what I’d like to get done this year:

  • Finish at least the first draft of the four currently unfinished drafts (World’s Edge, the CoHaR sequel, and then the very imaginatively named Scifi Horror 2019 and Changeling Story)
  • Publish the final three (and 1 workbook) nonfiction books
  • Publish at least three more SkillShare classes
  • Submit the picture book for publication

And, you know, other things. Writing to prompts for practice, figuring out a potential day job for when both small, mobile ones are in school full-time in the fall. Making a dent in the writing books I’ve been accumulating for a few years. Maybe trying my hand at a cozy mystery. Stuff like that.

No pressure, right?

What about you, squiders? Any plans for 2020? Did you pick a word? It seems to be a popular idea, at least around my social circle.

I’m Not Ignoring You, I’m Just Digging Through My Past

Yes, yes, I know I said one week off for the holidays, and it’s been two.

I blame my computer.

Well, more specifically, I blame a number of things that have made it so I couldn’t get at my computer.

It started the weekend before Christmas, when my spouse decided he didn’t want mess visible when friends came over and so buried my desk and chair in it instead (it was behind a wall, so out of sight). And blocked my access to desk/chair by putting the filing cabinet in the way.

And then, you know, Christmas.

And then the spouse decided the office was a place where things went to clutter and had a bit of breakdown, which resulted in me trying to re-arrange things to make the clutter less obvious.

Which did not work.

(Meanwhile, my desk/chair are still buried/blocked.)

So I did some research on storage solutions, made several layouts with different desks/bookcases, and eventually we picked one and went to get furniture.

Which was an unmitigated disaster.

While I had picked furniture from a specific place (IKEA), we agreed it wouldn’t hurt to try a few other places as well, which turned into us going into every furniture store between here and IKEA (surprisingly a lot) even though most of them were too expensive/the wrong style/didn’t even sell office furniture.

By the time we finally got to IKEA, we were exhausted, so we went home.

And the next morning, we went back. We examined all the color options, made storage bin decisions, and came away with a plan for at least the storage part, if not the desk part. But by the time we made it to the warehouse to pick up the bookcases, the color we wanted sold out.

So we went home again. But later that night, my spouse had come up with a new plan, so we went back and bought bookcases in a different color, and came home again.

At which point spouse decided he hated everything and wanted to return it all and, I dunno, wallow in the clutter.

So, long story short (too late), I have been to IKEA six times in fives days. I have changed out colors of various things, sizes of bookcases for other sizes, returned a number of bins (we can’t count, apparently) and also returned a number of impulse buys (IKEA is dangerous that way).

But I do now have storage shelves bought and built, and a desk (smaller, so it’s harder to let clutter build up on it), and also coincidentally have a new monitor, keyboard, and mouse, because it’s hard to stop the spouse once he gets going.

Right now, my set-up looks like this.

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Looks pretty nice, right?

But what you don’t see is this:

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This is my dining room right now, which currently has everything from the office that has not been put back in the office. It looks so bad because I’ve been going through bins and drawers and whatnot to see what’s in there.

And, good Lord, it’s my entire adult life. Sticky notes with random story ideas that are no longer connected to any context. Letters from people I lost contact with years ago. Presentations and homework from college. My first Myers-Briggs test from my first job after school. Old drafts of stories that have since been rewritten. Workouts cut out of magazines a decade ago that I’ve never done once. Newspapers of various things (including an article about Nano from 2006 featuring a picture of me, and a different one of just my hands typing). So much stuff, just shoved in a bin or a drawer or wherever, and then forgotten.

And it’s hard slogging. Do I throw this stuff away, knowing I haven’t touched it in years? Do I keep some, to remember again next time I go through my stuff? How many mementos of your life can you keep before it overwhelms your present?

So, anyway, I’m digging through that. And through everything that built up while I didn’t have computer access. But I am moving, and by Tuesday I should be back on our normal schedule, fingers crossed.

How were your holidays, squiders?