Archive for December, 2020

Fizzling Out of 2020

Hey, squiders, can you believe this hellscape of a year ends tomorrow? Me either! I really mean it. I’m finding it really hard to process that, come Friday, we’ll be in 2021.

All my writing groups are starting new challenges for the new year, talking about their new goals and their new plans. And I…am not feeling it.

Last year, I had so many plans. I was so optimistic about the year to come, full of hopes and dreams. I recently went back and re-read my posts from December and January. I really had no idea. I mean, I suspected my husband’s health problems (he’s doing much better now!) but I still thought I’d have time. Both small, mobile ones would be in school full time for the first time after all. I was going to get so much done.

But then everything fell apart. I’ve had less time than I’ve had in years. Everyone was home all the time, and always seemingly in need of something.

I got things done, sure. I did manage a whole Nano, despite everything. I’ll do a formal wrap-up/goals next week sometime, or maybe the week after. But I didn’t get what I wanted to done. . A lot less than I wanted to.

Part of me wonders if it’s worth it, to give in to hope and plans and all that jazz. Maybe I should just pick the next project and go, and not worry about planning a bigger picture, at least not until things even out.

I did pick a word for 2021. It’s Polish. My education year went well–I’m pleased with what I did, and I learned a lot. But now I’d like to take what I learned and finish some things off, focus more on making projects the best they can be. Get some projects done and out the door. Revision and editing do take me more time than drafting, but I hope if I practice, I can streamline my process and be able to get more done faster.

Anyway, we’ll have to see how it goes. And I suspect that, after I do sit down and make some goals, I’ll feel it a little more. But, for now, well, we’ll have to see.

I hope you have a happy new year’s, squiders, and I’ll see you next week and next year.

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Letting Myself Give Up

I hate to start a book I don’t finish, squiders. You guys know that, if you’ve been here a while, since I once posted about a book I started in high school and finished quite a bit later.

In fact, normally I pride myself on finishing what I start. Even if it takes me months. Or years.

I’ve done a lot of reading this year. I think I’m ten books up from where I normally am, or maybe 15. And I’ve enjoyed most of them. But every so often, I’ve started one that I just wasn’t feeling.

Normally, I’ll just slog through them anyway, or put them down and come back to them later.

Unfortunately, one of them was a library book, so I didn’t have the liberty of time, especially since it was a new release. It was kind of weird, actually, because this book came in as being a request, but neither I nor my spouse had any memory of requesting it. But it was near-future scifi, which is a genre we both like, so it was likely one of us had anyway.

(Jury’s still out on that one. I’m leaning toward my spouse.)

I started it, got 50 pages in. And I just…wasn’t feeling it. I don’t think it was a bad book, so I’m not going to name it so I don’t dissuade other people, but it was very depressing. Climate change had essentially made Earth unlivable, rights were being stripped away from women and minorities, and in the height of the world burning down around me, I couldn’t stomach reading about the sort of thing that feels all too plausible.

And I said to the smaller, mobile one, that I didn’t want to read it.

And she said, “Then don’t, Mommy.”

And I said, “But I put it as Currently Reading on Goodreads,” and she said she didn’t know what that was and wandered off.

Hey, guess what? You can delete books off your Goodreads. It’s not too hard, once you look for the option.

So I did. Delete it, I mean. And I returned it to the library. And I feel a little guilty about it, but not really.

So, today, I said to myself that that was actually probably a good thing, and why was I forcing myself to read things that weren’t enjoyable that I didn’t have to, and I should clear off another book.

I am going to name that one. It’s called Holly Banks, Full of Angst and I got it through the Kindle First program or whatever it’s called, where they give you a list of free Kindle books the first of every month and you can pick one. It’s contemporary, which isn’t my favorite, but it was sold as being a funny novel about motherhood.

I started it in…February? Earlier in this forever year. And I’m sorry, I really hated it. I got 35, 40 percent into it. And it was just the worst sort of secondhand embarrassment. I was hoping to be able to identify with Holly and that it would resonate with my own mothering experiences, but I hated Holly and what she was doing only made me anxious.

But now…it’s gone! Well, it’s at least out of my Goodreads account. Still need to delete it off my Kindle. Hooray!

I’ve got to remind myself that sometimes, it’s better to not finish something. That sometimes it’s okay to not push myself through something that I really do not want to do. That it’s okay to recognize that something is not working for me and move on to something that’s going to work better. It’s not being lazy or giving up; it’s listening to and trusting myself.

It’s a good thing to be reminded of, sometimes.

I am unlikely to be back later this week, squiders, so I’ll catch you in that weird liminal time between Christmas and New Years.

December ArtSnacks

It’s that time of month! Well, a little late, honestly, because the box always comes the first week. I blame the holidays.

You guys get both my actual drawing and my practice scribbles, because I did them on the same page.

An ornament

What’s nice this month is that the colors all kind of go together. They’re all kind of vintage-y. Don’t know that I needed two different reds, but maybe! I drew an ornament for festive reasons.

Let’s go through the pickings, shall we?

Graph’It Alcohol-Based Twin Tip Marker
This is the kind of turquoise-y blue one. It is double-sided, with a fine tip side and a brush side (as you can see in the scribbles, and I used both in the ornament, though less obviously). Like the purple marker last month, this one bled through my paper. Other than that, though, it’s nice. Flows well, nice colors.

Kuretake-ZIG Clean Color f Double-Ended Marker
This is the red (not the one next to the “ahh”). As you can see from the scribbles, both ends are relatively fine. (The marker says .5mm on one end and 1.2mm on the other.) I used it for the bottom of the ornament. It’s nice, does not bleed through. Not great for coloring large areas for obvious reasons, but could be good for outlining or adding pops of color.

Derwent Paint Pens
I have two, red and a vaguely-green yellow. These are the paint splotches in the scribbles, because the instructions on the side of the paint pens say to shake and then depress for 10 seconds, and I must have misunderstood the depress-ing part, cuz I got gobs of paint. Once primed, however, the inks spreads really nicely and are good to fine details. I used them for the top and bottom of the ornament, and the red decorations on the ornament itself. Take a little bit to dry.

Royal Talens Ecoline Brush Pens
I love brush pens almost as much as I love Sakura Micron pens, honestly. I got two, the pink and the gold in the picture above. The description of them that came in the box say they’re liquid watercolors, which I’d believe, since the color is a little bit transparent (more obvious on the pink than the gold). They spread really nice, though they do change color on multiple coats, as you would expect from a marker or watercolors. Makes shading easier, but do need to be aware of it.

I’m actually really happy with this month’s box. When I first opened it I was kind of meh, especially with the overlaps in color (two reds, two kind of golds), but now that I’ve worked with them a bit I’m feeling pretty good.

I used my gift certificate that I won last month to buy a set of 24 markers. They’re double-sided, fine and brush tips, so I’m interested to see how that goes. As you guys know, I’m a little unconfident in my coloring, which is why I tend to stick to colored pencils, but it’s good to try out new things, and using markers should be faster. They’re not here yet, but hopefully they’ll get here soon.

Anyway! How are you, squider? Any thoughts on markers? Favorite type? Read any good books? I’m on my usual Christmas mystery kick. Currently reading one called Twelve Slays of Christmas which is an excellent pun.

Well, I’m Going to Do It

We talked a few weeks back about Shannara and the TV show and how it was the series that got me into epic fantasy, and how the series is complete now so I could, if so inclined, go back and read the series in chronological order.

I thought very hard about this.

The first story, chronologically, is a short story called “Imaginary Friends,” originally published in 1991 and re-published in 2013.

So I hunted down the anthology from 2013, and not only is it included, but it’s the first story. Mission accomplished!

(I am, now, however, faced with a decision. This is a very large book. Do I read the whole thing? There’s not really any reason not to, except that I had to go through the library loan program to get it, which means I am limited in the amount of times I can renew it.)

(The other thing is there is another Shannara short story, later in the book, which is 25th in the chronology. Do I read it now and then read it again when I get to it? Do I skip it? I am aware that this is a stupid problem, yet here we are.)

It was a cute little story, more urban fantasy than anything. I don’t quite see how it connects in, and even in the intro Terry Brooks notes that it was written before he’d really solidified the ideas that would become the Word and the Void trilogy, which comes next chronologically. The first book of those is Running with the Demon, which I am 90% sure I own somewhere. Just got to find it now.

Anyway, apparently I’m doing this. I imagine it will not be fast, but I’ll check in with you guys from time to time.

Now, to go find that book.

WriYe and December

Oh, hey! Sorry this is late. I joined an Among Us discord channel that is only for grown-ups, and they’re a very fun group of people. Also, it’s hard to work over virtual school.

The WriYe blog prompts fell by the wayside this year, like many things, but we did get one for December, and maybe there’ll be more next year as hopefully we all recover from 2020.

2020 is almost over (yay!). In a very unpredictable and unstable year, sum up your year of writing.

I mean, it wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad. I did nine months of prompt responses, both universe-expanding drabbles (working on making it ten) and random prompts. I wrote 55K on the perhaps doomed Changeling story and another 50K and a complete draft of my mystery in November. (I have read back through it now, and it’s not terrible, though it could definitely use more meat in the second half.) Oh, and I got my scifi horror novella done and beta’d.

I’d better check my goals for the year to see if I’m forgetting anything.

Oh, yeah, I started my Drifting sequel for the luddite challenge, and I poked a few older stories to see if they were viable.

It’s not everything I wanted to do, but it’s not bad.

Did you meet your goals? Did you survive? Barely hung on?

I met…some of my goals, but I don’t think I’ve ever met all of them, so that’s not that weird. I haven’t touched World’s Edge since last Nano, and the sequel to City of Hope and Ruin continues to be stuck in the mire. I did have two stories published (here and here) which is down from previous years.

I upped my word count goal from the year from 100,000 to 150,000, which is good but, at the same time, I don’t really feel like I have a lot to show for my year.

And there was so much of this year when I could have been writing, and I didn’t. I understand that this year has been rough on a number of levels, between medical issues and the pandemic and virtual school and all that jazz. But I still wasted a lot of time where I could have been doing something else.

Give us your biggest triumph and what you are most proud of!

Hmmmm. Hmmmmmm. My scifi horror novella went over pretty well during the summer marathon. I’ve done a couple of previous marathons, and normally I get ripped to shreds, but everyone seemed to really like the story, so that felt pretty good. And it was nice to come out of Nano with a complete draft, especially now that I’ve read it and it’s not terrible.

I’ll do a more formal year-end review when we actually get to the end of the year. And, fingers crossed, next year I’ll be able to get more done.

But right now, I’m bogged down by the holidays. There’s so much to do aaaauuuugggghhhh why do I do this to myself every year? My sister texted me for Christmas present ideas back on Halloween.

How are you doing, squiders? Feeling okay? What are you most proud of this year?

Back to My Roots

I think I’ve told you guys this before, but the very first adult high fantasy book I ever read was Wishsong of Shannara, by Terry Brooks. I was 12 at the time, and I got the book out of my elementary school library. It seems like kind of a weird choice for an elementary school library–while it’s not Game of Thrones or Wheel of Time-sized fantasy, it’s still sizeable–but, then, I have run into people who think all fantasy is for children, so who knows.

I’ve read a lot of the Shannara books over the years, though not all of them. Terry Brooks has trucked on, through the years, and I have fallen behind. I read all three of the original trilogy (Sword, Elfstones, Wishsong) and the four books that make up the “Heritage” (Scions, Druid, Elf Queen, Talismans). I have and have read the graphic novel Dark Wraith of Shannara, which goes after Wishsong chronologically, and I read First King of Shannara shortly after it came out in 1996. I’ve also read Ilse Witch and Antrax, and someday I hope to read the third book of that particular trilogy.

That all means nothing if you have not read the Shannara books yourself, but basically I’m about 20 years behind on the series.

From what I understand, the last book planned for the world came out in October, so I could, in theory, read all gazillion books now. Perhaps in chronological order instead of publication order, since I’m so far behind.

ANYWAY. Shannara was my gateway into high fantasy, and even while I haven’t read the books over the years, I’ve never forgotten it.

In 2016 MTV started a television series called The Shannara Chronicles, which lasted a sad two seasons. It’s always been on my radar, so when my husband last week said, “We should watch this show I found,” I was totally on board.

We’ve only watched the first two-part episode but, man, everything has rushed back. When people show up on screen, I’m like “I bet that’s X.” I keep up a fairly constant commentary (“Oh, we’re jumping right into the post-apocalyptic setting. It took me a few books to figure that out.”) and talk about plot choices (“I always thought it was weird that they decided to start with Elfstones”). My husband didn’t know what he was getting himself into.

Isn’t that always how it goes, though? I can’t necessarily tell you the plot of a book I read last year, but even though I haven’t read a Shannara book in probably at least ten years, if not fifteen, they definitely left an impression.

Have you ever run into that, squiders? Something you read or watched when you were little (or younger at least) that has lingered even without you revisiting it?

Also, while we’re on the subject, have you watched The Shannara Chronicles? What did you think?

(As kind of a funny story, I went to a book signing by Terry Brooks at some point. Well, I think I’ve seen him a few times, but I think this most recent time had to be in the early 2010s, because the television show had been optioned. And there I learned that I had been pronouncing Shannara wrong for the fifteen-ish years I’d been reading the series. Good times.)

Nano Aftermath

Happy December, everybody. It’s miserably cold here and snowed for approximately five seconds before it got bored, which, well, boo, I guess.

December is here, and so Nano is over. I had 4,000 words to write yesterday, but they didn’t end up being an issue at all–in fact, it was some of the most relaxed I’ve ever been on a Nov 30 in a Nano year.

I also, for the first time ever, have a complete first draft after Nano. Now, most of the time, I’m writing fantasy or science fiction, which trend longer than mysteries in general, so I guess that’s not that big of a surprise. I think the closest I got before was a YA fantasy story (I may revise that one next year, we shall see) whose first draft ended up being around 60,000 words.

Nano was weird this year. Almost…dreamlike, in some ways. It had none of its usual trappings. The loss of the in-person write-ins made it so I didn’t connect with anyone locally, and even my online groups weren’t terribly active. Normally they perk back up for Nano, but I barely saw a bump this year.

So, did that make it worse…or better?

While I spent a lot of the month behind, at no point was I stressed. Heck, for the last two weeks, I was routinely writing 2K to 3K without breaking a sweat. Despite not doing my normal accountability things, such as posting excerpts and daily word count checks in one of my writing groups, I had no issues keeping myself motivated.

That makes me wonder how much of the accountability things are really working, and how much of them are just extra work on top of the writing.

50K is a little short for a mystery–my research says they tend to be in the 60-70K range, but I suspect I didn’t provide enough misdirection in the middle. That’s fixable. For now, though, I have written a complete draft of a mystery, and if you recall, I wasn’t sure that was doable.

Nano was fine. Barely broke a sweat. Felt weird about how not stressful it was.

Now we’re on to December! The education goals are back on, though I’m a bit tired out on writing books, so I’m doing a nonfiction book about Christmas folklore instead, and I intend to do my monthly prompts again. I shall have to think about whether or not I’d like to keep doing them, come the new year. The practice is good, and it’s nice to write something new each month, but they do sometimes detract from larger projects.

And I don’t know about returning to the Changeling story. It was going so poorly. My mystery went great. I don’t know if that’s because I had to plan the mystery more, or if there’s fundamentally something wrong with the Changeling story. Not all stories are salvageable, and I need to decide if it’s worth it to push forward still or give up.

2020’s almost over. This year has both been so long and too short. I was so enthusiastic at the beginning, looking out over a whole year of possibility. It’s hard to get up the energy to hope 2021 is going to be better. But we’re still a few weeks off on that, so we’ll have to see how everything goes.

How are you, squider? Plans for December? Looking forward to 2021?