Archive for November, 2020

November ArtSnacks

Ahahaha super late in the month, but it’s been one of those months. Next month’s box ships tomorrow, I think. I actually won a contest in October so I’m getting it for free, woot.

Here’s my pic for this month–just a quick sketch I put together because I was having issues coming up with ideas to go with the colors I got. Seriously, that’s my biggest complaint about the ArtSnacks. The colors are just plain weird.

drawing of girl

Let’s go through the stuff, shall we?

Marabu Graphix Sketch Marker
This is a double-sided marker, with a thin side and a super thick side. Mine’s a dark purple color, which I used as the outline in the picture above. It’s actually quite nice to use for outlining, and outlining with color gives the picture some interesting pop. That being said, it bleeds through my paper, and this is not thin paper.

Tombow Pastel MONO Graph Mechanical Pencil
It’s a mechanical pencil. It’s a nice mechanical pencil, I guess. It works well for sketching. Don’t have a lot to say about it.

Tombow Fudenosuke Neon Brush Pen
Mine’s yellow. Like, highlighter yellow. Good for pop too, I suppose. I found it hard to color with, like the color didn’t want to come. Maybe it’ll get better over time. But aside from pop, not sure what I’ll use it for.

Caran d’Ache Luminance 6901 Colored Pencils
There’s two; mine are blue and peach. They’re very soft colored pencils and I feel like I’m going through them quickly. I got a blue colored pencil in an earlier box, so I wish I was getting different colors. But, I mean, can you ever really have too many colored pencils?

The purple marker is probably my favorite thing this month, and mechanical pencils are always good.

I think I may be near the end of my ArtSnacks subscription, however. I feel like the box is a good value, and it’s nice to have new things, but I’m starting to accumulate things I may not necessarily use, and without better color variety, especially in things like markers, they have limited functionality.

I did use some of the previous ArtSnacks supplies in another picture I drew today (the green paint pen from September continues to be the bane of my existence) but I couldn’t get very far, which was somewhat telling.

Along with getting a free box, I also won $25 worth of supplies. I should go through their shop and see if I can supplement my marker supply with other colors.

As far as Nano, I’m still a little behind, but I’ve been catching up, and I should be on track tomorrow or the day after. Next time you hear from me, it’ll be December, and we’ll know how the month played out in the end. Wish me luck!


Merrily We Crawl Along

Well, Kit, you might ask, how is Nano going?

It’s not going great, not going to lie. Oh, the story itself is fine. I’m a little over on word count vs. plot point, but I’m generally where I need to be (though I have reached the end of what I’ve outlined and now need to outline the next third). The first person viewpoint is going pretty well for being new to me for novel length works.

(Wait, I think my first Nano, the one I was telling you guys about, back in 2003, the murder mystery that went into a drawer and was never seen again, may have been in first person. We don’t talk about that one, though.)

It’s more…working up the motivation to write. Like, the mobile ones are virtual again, so there’s a lot of making sure people are getting to Zoom meetings on time (not necessarily a strong point of mine–I think the small, mobile one must have had a speech therapy one yesterday, but I didn’t get a meeting link so I don’t even know) and generally making sure people are doing what they’re supposed to be doing (and understand what they’re supposed to be doing). But once they’re in their meetings, I could, in theory, sit next to them and write.

Do I write? No. Well, I did on Monday, but in general, I am not. Instead I’ve watched a webinar I’ve been sitting on since July, have watched a lot of YouTube videos of people playing Among Us, read two and a half books, spent way too much time on Tumblr and in the Am I an Asshole? subreddit, and not done any artwork whatsoever all month.

It’s frustrating.

Part of it is that having the small, mobile ones is distracting, which makes it hard to focus on anything specific. A YouTube video is easy to put down and come back to, whereas if I have to wander away from writing because someone can’t find the right math sheet it’s harder to get back into the flow of it.

The other part is I’m just existing at an elevated stress level in general. There’s the pandemic, of course, and I’ve got to decide if I’m letting the small, mobile ones go back to in-person school after Thanksgiving break or if it’s safer to keep them virtual through Winter break. There’s Thanksgiving, which was already a bit weird because we’ve lost several members of the family over the last few months, but now it looks like we’ve got to keep it to just the immediate family, but cooking a whole meal for just us seems excessive, and do I order a pre-made meal from somewhere? But almost everywhere has set menus which include things like stuffing, and no one in my family will eat stuffing (me and small, mobile ones don’t like it, and spouse has Celiac). My dryer died and needs to be replaced, but everyone’s out a few weeks on delivery (the new one is finally coming on Saturday, a full 13 days after the current one died. We’re into the dredges of everyone’s clothes).

Plus, there’s the election mess which is never-ending, and climate change, and other things that if I think about them too closely send me into an existential crisis.

Good times.

I’m only a few days behind, really. If I would just sit and focus for an hour or so a day, I’d be fine.

But man, finding that focus is not easy.

I’m going to soldier on. The month is still, well, not young, but achievable. And if I don’t get to 50K, well, it won’t be the end of the world.

How are you faring, squider? Are you feeling okay? What are you doing to get through this month?

Used Bookstore Finds: Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie

Yes, I read a 400-page book in a day. What’s your point?

(The smaller, mobile one is virtual again and it sounds like the bigger, mobile one will be soon, so my productivity has taken a nose dive again. Right in the middle of Nano. But reading generally is easy to stop and start again, so it’s easier to do around helping them than, say, writing.)

This book actually comes with a bit of a story.

Back in 2006, when the Spork Room was founded (which was a spin-off of the Nano thread with a side stop in another writing challenge), I noticed a lot of the other people in the community wrote romance. I suspect I’m down at the ace end of the spectrum, plus I grew up on scifi (which, for some weird reason, is apparently the natural enemy of romance), so I’d never read any romance, and decided I should give it a try, since so many of my friends were working on it.

So I asked for recommendations, and my dear friend Jules recommended Bet Me to me. I read it at the time, loved it, and have gone on to read more romance novels because of it.

(Agnes and the Hitman, co-written by Jennie Crusie and Bob Mayer, is my favorite.)

That time I just got it out from the library, but I did come across it at a used bookstore, and then it was mine. This is the first time I’ve read my own copy.

Title: Bet Me
Author: Jennifer Crusie
Genre: Romance
Publication Year: 2004

Pros: Great dialogue, characters you care about
Cons: A bit dated

I think what I generally like about Crusie’s work is that her characters exist in a fleshed out world, with friends and families and jobs, and each of them are treated like they are real and important rather than cardboard backdrops to the main characters. So not only do you get main characters to cheer on, but you get a host of great side characters as well.

Bet Me follows Min Dobbs and Cal Morrissey, who give a date a try as a result of a mean-spirited bet, and they both hate it and swear never to see each other again.

But that’s not how things go, of course.

If you haven’t tried a romance novel, I do recommend you give Crusie a try. They’re fun books.

See you next week!

Family Hand-Me-Down Finds: The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley

Here’s my book for October! What do you mean it’s a week and a half into November?

When my grandmother moved out of her house and into an active adult community two years ago, she got rid of almost everything she’d owned. Which was a lot, as you can imagine, after you’d lived in the same house for forty years.

My grandmother is an avid mystery reader, and she had a lot of books to give away. I ended up going through and taking about 15 books home with me, mostly the first few of series and some standalones that looked interesting to me.

(I actually got a lot of pushback from other family members, who apparently thought that it was rude of me to take books without everyone–and they did mean everyone, even if said people did not care about books or mysteries–getting a chance to lay claims. I explained that I read very quickly, and that if I’d taken a book someone else was also interested in, I would be happy to read it and pass it on. I never heard anything from anyone, so I stand by my decision to just take the books instead of turning it into a committee affair.)

Anyway, based on the title, this sounded like a good choice for October.

(This is taking the place of the library book sale review for the month.)

Title: The Haunted Bookshop
Author: Christopher Morley
Genre: Mystery
Publication Year: 1919

Pros: Excellent characters, actually made me tear up a bit, good look at life right after WWI
Cons: No ghosts

I mean, with a title like The Haunted Bookshop, it sounds like there’ll be ghosts, right? Or at least the appearance of ghosts, like a Scooby Doo episode.

But no, the name of the bookstore refers to the ghosts of the authors of the books contained within, their words still echoing after they themselves are gone.

Which is great. Very poetic. I just wanted ghosts.

The story takes place shortly after the end of WWI in a second-hand bookstore in Brooklyn. I don’t think I’ve read many novels contemporary to this time period, so it was interesting to get a look at what existed and what everyday was like to someone who actually lived through it (as opposed to reading about the time period in a historical novel).

The book is sort of a sequel to Morley’s first novel, Parnassus on Wheels (1917), in that it involves the same characters (and some new ones). I did check to see if a third book with these characters was ever written, because I was interested to see how things went afterwards, but it doesn’t look like it. Too bad. I liked the characters and was willing to go further with them.

The actual mystery aspect takes a few chapters to get going; I suspect that Morley did not set out to write a mystery and just ended up with one accidentally.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. I like the slice of life aspects at the beginning, and once the mystery was going, it was quite gripping. I can see why people are still reading this book a century later.

(It’s apparently in the public domain now, so it should be fairly easy to find a copy to read!)

Anyway, I’d recommend this one.

Now to get on to my November book.

(For those of you checking up on Nano, I’m at 14K as of yesterday. The smaller, mobile one’s school went unexpectedly completely virtual as of today, though, which may prove problematic.)

There is an Impostor…

So, squiders. I did it. I jumped on the Among Us bandwagon.

Among Us, for those who haven’t heard of it (unlike the bigger, mobile one, who apparently knows all about it from school, sigh), is an online computer game where you are one of up to 10 little astronaut guys trying to get things done on your spaceship/station/planet (depending on the map). But one (or two or three) person is an impostor, who runs around killing the other astronauts and sabotaging things.

(Here is more information, if interested.)

It’s essentially an online version of Werewolf or Mafia, if you’ve played those.

The game is about two years old, though I first became aware of it about a month ago when the memes started circulating on Tumblr. At the time I did just enough research to understand where the cute little astronaut things came from, and called it good.

But then it kept showing up.

And then there was the livestream AOC did of her playing it, which people kept talking about, so I went to check it out. And it looked fun. That’s when I began to consider maybe playing it myself.

And then my video game newsletter featured it. I went and looked–the game is only $5 (and apparently the mobile version is free, though I haven’t tried that version).

$5 for a game is not very much. That’s like, one less trip to the coffee shop for me.

So I left it open for a few days while I considered what I wanted to do. And Tuesday was, well, Tuesday, so I decided I deserved a little fun.

Good Lord is it addictive.

Like all online things, it depends on the other people there. If you can find a good group of people, you can happily play several games in a row, and it’s a great time. The game’s not complicated, though there is strategy to it, both as an impostor and a crewmate (such as figuring out how to do tasks in electrical without getting murdered).

(Alternately, there are some very immature people out there, who are probably literal twelve year olds. The good news is that it’s easy to find a new game.)

Anyway, I spent most of yesterday playing it, which was not the best use of my time, but I had fun and now it’s mostly out of my system. But I do feel like I’ve gotten my $5 out of it, and the replay-ability is high.

If you’ve been considering it, give it a try. Especially since the mobile version is free.

As for Nano, well, I’m a day behind due to election shenanigans/Among Us, but I’ll catch up by the end of the day. My MC found the dead body right before I headed this way, and so far so good.

See you next week, squiders!

Let’s Not Talk About That

Happy Election Day, squiders, I guess. Man, I’m exhausted from being anxious all the time and I wish I thought today would be the end of it. But that’s depressing, so let’s not talk about that.

Let’s talk about Nano!

Here we are, day 3. I’m pretty much right on track (though I haven’t written for today yet). Normally I try to write 2K a day so I can be a little ahead. I may get there yet, but thus far I’m just trying to keep up and not worry about it.

It’s actually a bit of a miracle that I’m on track. October, as I mentioned before, I spent most of the month trying (and failing) to finish my changeling story draft, so I didn’t switch to planning my Nano cozy mystery until pretty late in the month.

Which meant that I was not done with my planning by the time November hit.

We’ve talked about this before, but I find it really hard to outline in detail on a first draft, but I do like to have some direction (and also it helps with my pacing), so I tend to do an outline style where I know my major plot points and can head toward them in a timely fashion.

You can probably pants a mystery. Actually, the very first time I did Nano, back in 2003, I wrote a mystery. Well, I wrote 29,000 words of a mystery, then got a concussion and the death flu. That one was not planned. In fact, I wasn’t even going to do Nano until I woke up with a story idea on November 3rd. And I didn’t know who was the killer until I was 10,000 words in.

But I also haven’t ever touched that story again, so.

ANYWAY, though, I had to do new and different planning for the mystery. A lot more character work. Normally I just let them form on the page (though arguably that did not go well for the changeling story, so), but this time I found a blog post about using a random number generator so you could decide how they’d react in different situations, which was very useful. Also a quirk generator, because what’s the point of a cozy mystery if you don’t have wacky side characters?

And then I had to plan out my murder. (Actually greatly helped by a joke conversation on one of my writing group’s Discord channel.) And you can’t just plan out the murder. You have to know where all potential suspects are throughout the murder, so you can plan for red herrings.

My point is, on the morning on November 1st, I had MOST of my character work done.

So I spent the morning finishing my characters and then writing out the murder.

I spent the afternoon doing the murder timeline and the first third of a more detailed phase/turning point outline.

And in the evening, finally, I got to write. (And also botch dinner three times, but we’re not going to talk about that.)

It was an intense day.

My third of an outline should get me to about 20,000 words (or day 10ish), so around then I’ll need to do the next third. I think it’s okay, not having the whole detailed outline done. It’ll allow me to integrate things that happen organically in the first third, and I do have a general sense of how the story is going to go.

So. Still early, but doing okay.

How’s your November going, squiders? Doing anything distracting?