Archive for September, 2020

Messing Around with Other Genres

Squiders, I cannot find dumbbells anywhere. I guess it’s yet another victim of the pandemic supply chain issues (are we actually doing anything to fix for those for the future? Or just pretending they’re not happening?), but it’s ridiculous. I just want 8 or 10 pound weights and they are out EVERYWHERE.

Not that that has anything to do with anything.

The changeling story continues to not get anywhere, but admittedly that’s because I haven’t had any time to work on it. Instead, I’ve been working on a challenge for WriYe, where one person writes a log line, which goes to the next person, who writes the outline, and then on to the final person, who writes the story.

We’re calling it Tag! You’re It! I wrote a paranormal log line, the outline for a fantasy story, and got a straight contemporary story to write.

I don’t think I’ve ever written anything straight contemporary in my–no, wait. I did kind of once, a joint young adult story, that we ran with no speculative elements because my friend’s character was from a straight contemp YA story, but that was okay because 1) joint story, hooray, and 2) it took place at a summer camp which is one of my very favorite settings, and I should use it more often (but with speculative elements, woot).

ANYWAY it was a little intimidating. Especially since the outline I got was super detailed, way more so than I ever work off of, and then I had a bit of a crisis because I just did a straight phase outline with, like, ten points on it when I wrote my outline and then I wondered if I had not pulled my weight, but now that people are starting to post their stories (and the log lines/outlines they were given) I see that the outlines really run the gamut.

Anyway, it was an interesting exercise! The story that came out of it wasn’t anything special, but hey.

Otherwise, I’ve read How to Write Mysteries and am in the middle of How to Write a Mystery, both of which are older books (early to mid ’90s) that I inherited from my mother. (My mother wrote when I was younger, which is part of the reason I write. She wrote children’s books, though, so I’m not quite sure why she had writing books for every genre under the sun.) The publishing information in them is definitely dated but I think the mystery parts are fairly solid. And, well, I read enough mysteries to kind of know how they go these days.

The idea is that I’m going to write a cozy mystery here in the near future. (Possibly for Nano. If Nano happens.) A paranormal cozy, but still essentially a cozy. I’ve talked before about how I love mysteries but find them intimidating, and the books are good from that standpoint. The current one has examples of planning documents to help see who’s where at what points and how to dole out information.

(Actually, some of the planning docs seem generally helpful and I’m thinking about applying some of them to the Changeling story to see if that helps it roll along.)

It is still intimidating, though. But, hey, I’ll do the best I can and see where we end up.

Try anything new yourself lately?


What the Heck?

Man, I am having such issues with the Changeling story. It’s like pulling teeth, and I can’t figure out why. Yes, it has problems. Lord, does it have problems. Is it more problems than usual? Bigger problems than usual?

Maybe? Not sure. Middles are often difficult but they don’t normally drag on like this one is.

It’s especially frustrating because I should just be able to push through to the end. It’s close. We should be downhill from here. But it’s not going. It’s trickling along frustratingly slowly.

I’ve been trying some tricks to see if that helps. Yesterday I loaded up my dictation program because sometimes switching how you write frees up any mental blocks that may be happening.

However, all that happened is that I discovered that my version of dictation program does not work with my version of Microsoft Word. Good times. I did try it out on a short story I’m doing in Google Drive, which worked, but it turns out I haven’t quite figured out the flow for dictation anyway.

I suppose I could try handwriting. That’s helped me out of a weird spot before.

But part of me is starting to wonder why this is going so poorly. Perhaps the story is irredeemable. Perhaps my time would be better served working on something else.

And, then, you know how your brain gets. Or how creative types’ brains get. You’re working on something, yet over here is something else shiny, something more exciting, and it’s always very tempting to switch, especially when things aren’t going well on what you are working on.

So MY brain immediately supplies me with something else to work on, providing all sorts of useful information that I will no doubt forget before I actually switch projects, even if I try to write it down.

Or…should I switch now? I don’t want to–I’d really like to have a first draft done on Changeling before November–but maybe everything is tell me I should.

Or maybe, you know, the world is falling apart and I’m not going to be able to focus on anything. Maybe I should just give up, focus on getting things ready for Nano (working on the assumption that I will be doing Nano, after last year’s success), and come back to things later.

I dunno. I feel a little untethered, like there’s so many possibilities and yet nothing concrete to do.

How are you feeling, squiders? Mentally and emotionally? Anything you’ve found helps lately?

Library Book Sale Finds: The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman

Is it just me or does it feel like September is going super fast?

This is another out of last November or December’s library book sale, all of which were hard cover and within a few years of publication. I’ve been having trouble figuring out why the library would withdraw and sell practically new books (this one came out in April and was being sold about six months later) but I have a theory.

Said theory is that libraries probably buy a bunch of copies of new books that they predict will be popular. This allows them to get through the release rush. Then, when the stream dies off, they keep a smaller amount for long-term use and sell off the extras.

Best I’ve got. Any librarians out there know?

Title: The Devouring Gray
Author: Christine Lynn Herman
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publication Year: 2019

Pros: Intriguing plot, great characters
Cons: Middle is a little boggy

I actually really enjoyed this one (though I can hear my spouse mocking me for reading YA fantasy again). It was one of those books where I’d sit down, intending to read for 15 or 20 minutes, and still find myself going an hour later. The plot really pulls you along, but not in a way that I found anxiety-inducing.

I believe this is the first book in a duology. At least Goodreads leads me to believe the second book, The Deck of Omens, is the conclusion. The story takes place in Four Paths, New York, and follows four teenagers, each a member of the town’s four founding families. But Four Paths is not a normal town, and the founding families are not normal, either–each has a special talent, used to protect the town from the Gray and the Beast within.

Each of the four main characters is different and complex, not quite the protagonists you would expect. Only three of them have viewpoints in this book (I guess the fourth has one in the epilogue) but I enjoyed all of them. And I enjoyed learning more about the secrets of Four Paths and the Gray.

My one complaint, minor really, is that the middle is slightly bogged down by characters going over what feels like the same ground a few times. But it’s minor, and the story picks up again with new information pretty quickly after that.

So, hey, if you missed this one and you like YA contemporary fantasy, I’d give it a look.

(But, seriously, where has September gone?)

Pondering Writing Journals

So, my writing book for August was Description & Setting by Ron Rozelle, which is probably one of if not the first writing book I bought myself (and yet had never read, which is par for the course). Description is a weak point for me and always has been (though I like to think I’m getting better at it), so I found the book informative and interesting and would recommend it.

(Though I recommended it to a writing friend, and apparently it’s gotten really expensive. Boo.)

One of things Mr. Rozelle recommends is having a writing journal, which is kind of like a normal morning journal, except it’s focused on writing and writing adjacent activities, such as outlining or planning (both the general story or that day’s work specifically), thoughts on media consumed and what worked/didn’t work, snippets of conversations or observations to be used in future stories/scenes, story ideas, maps and floor plans, stray thoughts, etc.

The idea is that you do a couple of pages each day, and then you’re generally better organized or at least thinking about writing more regularly. Plus everything is in more or less one place and hence easy-ish to find.

It sounds lovely.

But it also sounds like how I used to work. I had these two steno notebooks (one, the one that I of course wrote down all my initial thoughts and outlines for Shards, is lost to the depths of time. And of course it disappeared before I actually sat down to write Shards.) that I carted around everywhere. I drew maps and other important things (the uniforms that go along with my space dinosaur story are in there), wrote snippets of story, figured out backstory, did odd brainstorms, you name it.

But I found it hard to find the stuff again later (missing notebook not withstanding). I’d often have to go through both notebooks a few times before I found what I was looking for (invariably it was tucked in some margin somewhere, or on the back of something else), and sometimes it would turn out to be somewhere else entirely.

But I also wasn’t terribly meticulous. The notes aren’t in any sort of order; I would open to a blank page and go. It’s possible that if I started at the beginning of a notebook and wrote on pages in order that the whole thing would make more sense.

So I am pondering giving the whole idea a go again. I’m certainly not lacking in notebooks. And I think I would write in pen this time, because pencil does not last. (And it smears.)

I know this year has been a mess, but I’ve felt so unproductive. I haven’t been, not really, but I’ve also been hyperaware of times when I could have been writing and haven’t been able to actually do so. Maybe a change of format, or a morning routine, could be helpful.

(Though I have yet to figure out a morning routine around the small, mobile ones. Maybe a mid-morning routine?)

Anyone keep a creative journal of any sort? Found them useful? Tips that you find really work?

In other news, Heifer International sent me this video about llamas and alpacas, and well, here we are:

Been a while since we’ve had alpaca content here. Whoops.

Also, as a reminder, my new SkillShare class about genre is here! If you’d like a 14-day free trial of SkillShare, you can get it here. In general, I’m fond of SkillShare–it’s a great learning platform for creative stuff (I take illustration and singing classes, mostly) and there’s a lot of good content on there. Plus with the membership, you can take as many classes as you want, with no limit. (Could totally get in a few classes in those two weeks, just saying.)

Almost autumn, squiders! Hooray!

Nanowrimo Comes Earlier Every Year

You know what showed up in my inbox this morning?

NaNoWriMo’s preparation workshop for the year.

It’s SEPTEMBER. It’s barely MID-SEPTEMBER. What the heck? What happened to waking up on November 1st and going with whatever caught your fancy at the moment in time?

I kid. I only did that once. And it was November 3rd.

But ugh, it still feels early. And when I get planning stuff now-ish, it makes me anxious. Should I be planning my story already? Am I setting myself up for failure?

I know I’m not. I’ve done–and won–Nano a ridiculous number of times. I know what works for me. But there’s always a thread that goes you are behind and you are going to fail when I see what feels like everyone else already starting to get ready.

Also, how much of the year needs to be dedicated to Nano, honestly? It already eats the entirety of November. And some of October. It’s like Halloween and Christmas, invading stores a little earlier each year. Do we really need to sacrifice September to Nano too?

I mean, maybe, if you need a lot of plotting or research. But otherwise?

Maybe I’m just getting grumpy in my old age.

At this point, I’m not 100% on Nano. I had fun last year, and it was nice to do it again, but they’ve cancelled all in-person events for this year (understandable, but still sad), and I wonder if it’ll be as easy to get the momentum going without them. I try to hit at least one in-person write-in a week normally. Virtual write-ins are harder for me, because I find it easier to get distracted. (And no one’s looking over your shoulder to see that you’re messing around on YouTube or tumblr instead of what you should be doing.)

Also, you know, the small, mobile ones are only partially in school, which means they need daily supervision, and this year is just all over the place in terms of productivity.

I would like to do Nano. I have a project in mind–the first book of a paranormal cozy mystery series that I’ve been planning on and off for about two years now. You guys know I always like to do something new each Nano, and I love cozy mysteries. Mysteries have always seemed really hard to write, but I figure it won’t hurt to try!

(Plus cozies are shorter, so I might be able to get a whole draft written, instead of half a draft of an epic fantasy, har har.)

It’s just…ugh. I don’t want to start planning Nano yet. I’m not ready! I have to finish my changeling story draft and, uh, I dunno. Something else.

What do you think, squiders? Do you Nano? When do you start planning? Do you go through Nano’s prep program or do your own thing?

Project Avoidance

I’ve been working on this draft of my changeling story since, oh–hold on, I have to do 2020 math. Uh, February? I’d better check.

March. Or maybe April. I finished my scifi horror story in March and I don’t recall if I moved right on or took a break.

As of right now, the changeling story sits at 45K of an estimated 75K, though I think it may be running a little short. Which is fine! Revision exists. But anyway, we’re past the halfway point. In theory, we’re past the worst of the drafting process, because we should be in the home stretch and heading straight toward climax city.

But it’s not. I mean, it could be. But I’d have to actually be working on the story.

I’m not, though. In fact, I seem to be doing every other conceivable thing but working on the changeling draft.

Last month I wrote about 5K on the changeling story. The rest of the time I:

  • created all the slides for a SkillShare class, then recorded and edited the videos to go along with the class
  • wrote three short stories
  • made a blooper reel of SkillShare outtakes
  • read seven books
  • took a class on writing video game story
  • took a drawing class
  • signed up for a writing challenge

This month isn’t going much better. It’s the eleventh, and I haven’t touched the changeling draft at all. Instead I handwrote 3 pages on my luddite story, plotted out two short stories, and have mostly been sketching random things and sometimes reading.

I can’t quite figure it out. It would be one thing if I were having issues with the changeling story, but I’m not. Are there things that definitely need to be fixed? Oh, yes. Some big ones.

But in general the writing is flowing (when I do it) and the plot is continuing apace. There is no conceivable reason I have for avoiding it and literally doing everything else on my to-do list around it.

I want it to be done. I mean, I know it’s only been four or five months, which is about average for a first draft for me, but there’s no reason it’s not farther along. I want it done before Nano (or even before October, so I can plot Nano) so it can rest and I can pick it up again after Nano’s done. Totally doable, if I would just do it.

Thoughts, squiders? Ideas on why I’m avoiding it when there’s no obvious reason to do so?

My ArtSnacks Came! And Thoughts on Handwriting

As I mentioned last week, I signed up for a subscription box called ArtSnacks, which sends you some art supplies (and a snack) every month. Art supplies are horrible and addicting, so here we are.

Anyway. My plan is to try it out for a few months and see how I feel about things. And I got my first box on Friday, which was smaller than I expected (dunno why I expected otherwise, it’s just pens and stuff) and contained a jaw breaker as the snack for the month.

(Jaw breakers! My archnemesis. I hate actually sucking on candy but you must.)

They have an #artsnackschallenge each month, where you’re supposed to create art using all of (and only) what you got for the month, so this is mine:

(The blue is hard to see on the picture, but it’s on the inner and outer edges of the petals.)

I noticed that some other people got different colors, which is interesting to me, because some of the other art boxes I considered sent the same colors to everyone, sort of as a theme each month.

Quick thoughts on the supplies sent:

Kuretake-ZIG Cambio Tambien Brush Pen
This is the yellow-orange marker looking thing. I like it–the paint? ink? flows really nice and it creates a great, even color.

Uni-POSCA PCF-350 Brush Tip Paint Marker
This is the green one. I find it kind of intimidating, honestly. (Also, I misread the directions and got paint on my carpet, which was hard to get out.) It’s pretty thick. Do like the color, though.

Faber-Castell Polychromos Colored Pencil
This is the NICEST color pencil. Pretty color, too. Wonder if I could make a whole picture with just it? Probably. Things to practice.

Sakura Pigma Micron Pen
Let me tell you how many of these pens I own. At least ten. I love them a lot; I use them whenever I’m working with ink. This is their 03 size, which is my favorite, because it’s not too thin and not too thick.

Initial thoughts? The brush pen/markers are not something I would have picked up on my own, so they’re the best things out of the box, because it lets me experiment with new mediums. The colored pencil is really great, since I tend to color with pencils, since I feel like I have more control with them than other methods I’ve tried. And, well, I didn’t need another micron pen but I can’t really be sad about it.

So I’m up for another month at least!

And now, on to the Luddite challenge. If you recall, this is a yearlong challenge I signed up for at the beginning of the year, where you handwrite a story instead of your usual methods. I signed up for 10 pages, which I am now past.

I’m working on a long novella/short novel-length story which is a sequel to a story that was published in an anthology six years ago.

And, to be honest, I don’t know that I like writing a longer work by hand. I feel like it’s hard to tell where I am and how quickly I need to be hitting my plot points, which is making me anxious.

It’s also slower. It takes me, oh, twenty minutes to handwrite a page, which is maybe 250 words. Probably less. I’m not really keeping track because ugh, but when I typed up the first seven and a half pages, it only ended up being about 1200 words.

Now that I’ve hit my goal for the challenge, I’m seriously considering switching over to typing the rest of the story. It kind of feels like cheating, but it also feels like I’m not getting anywhere as is.

Not to say that handwriting is bad! There’s ton of good reasons to handwrite–you’re somewhere without a computer, you’ve got some nasty writer’s block (I find switching mediums can really help), you’re writing something short or trying out a scene that may or may not make it into the final story. Lots more.

Things to consider. But not necessarily now. I’ve got to finish my changeling story. I’m doing a tag challenge this month where one person writes a logline, the next writes an outline, and the third writes the story. I’ve been given a contemp story with no speculative elements, which should be interesting, if uncomfortably out of my wheel house. And I’ve got to do Nano prep and the normal education activities for the month.

But I am glad I gave the challenge a go. Always good to try new things!

Tried anything new that was fun and/or interesting lately, squiders?

I’m Finally Going to Do It

(Every time WordPress updates it has to tell me how the editor works, even though as far as I can tell, there’s not actually any updates to the editor itself. Who knows.)

What am I going to do? you ask. A fine question. An excellent question.

Another appropriate question might be…are you actually going to do it?

Well, I’m going to try.

All right, enough silliness. I’ve always wanted to make a cloak. I’ve had a pattern for ever (it’s this one, now out of print: and, well, they’re not terribly hard, in the great scheme of sewing garments.

Not sure I’ll actually use this pattern though. It looks kind of costume-y, if you know what I mean, and I’d like something that doesn’t look like I went to my nearest Spirit Halloween.

Actually, I’d like to do something with slits so you could stick your hands through if you’d like. Not arms, though. I’ve done that. Back in college, I made myself some Gryffindor robes to wear for book/movie releases. Fully lined and everything, black on the outside and maroon on the inside.

(Actually, that was an important lesson in fabric choice, because I went with basic cotton for the black but gabardine for the maroon. Gabardine is a much heavier fabric, and so the lining tended to stretch more than the cotton.)

And, because I am a glutton for punishment, everyone gets a cloak! I think the small, mobile ones can have ones made out of fleece. Fleece is a lovely fabric to work with–it doesn’t fray, it comes in every color under the sun, it’s typically affordable.

I would make adult cloaks out of fleece but I suspect that would look a little weird.

Wool is the traditional fabric to make cloaks out of, but I am allergic to wool. Also, wool tends to be very expensive. I mean, it’s like $21 a yard, and you need a lot of fabric for a cloak.

So fabric remains a sticking point. I may just go play with fabric at the store, which is not necessarily the best idea (hooray for spreading germs) but not sure what else to do. It needs to be something heavy enough to keep you warm, with proper swoosh, and not stretch out too much over time. Hmm. Maybe I should look at recommended fabrics on cloak patterns.

Maybe jersey would work. Jersey’s almost as easy as fleece.

I think I’ll line the adult cloaks too. Though that depends on fabric choices. I suppose I could make them out of wool (for a million dollars) and line them with something else, and then maybe I wouldn’t have to worry about touching it.

Have you made cloaks, squiders? Tips? Recommended fabrics? Do you own a cloak that’s super awesome and has a tag that tells you what it’s made out of?

In other news, I’m trying out an art box subscription, the first of which should arrive today. And I’m going to start doing a study of cozy mysteries in preparation for finally trying my hand for Nano.

See you next week!

I Made You a Blooper-Reel

It’s a big day! It’s September, which means autumn should be here soon (please please please I long for sweaters and the entire state not being on fire), I have a new short story (a silly dragon one) up over at Turtleduck Press (which you can read here!), and I finally got my latest SkillShare class uploaded and published!

I always forget how long editing the videos takes. I never seem to remember that part. Some day. Maybe.

Probably not.

Anyway, the class in on genre: what it is, how it’s determined, examples of lots of different things. It’s here, if you have a SkillShare membership. I decided to do another theory class since the premise vs. plot is by far my best performing one (over finding and keeping track of story ideas and setting and reaching writing goals). We’ll see!

Anyway, while I was editing, I noticed that I make weird faces and stuff when I mess up, so I made a blooper reel. It’s just the video parts, not the slide parts, but enjoy!

We’re off to a promising start! Keep your fingers crossed that things continue in the same vein.