Archive for April, 2021

WriYe and Success

Eking this end at the end of the month, haha. Interesting topic this month, considering how the last year has gone. More and more recently I’ve felt like I no longer have any idea about the writing industry or how to be successful, and I think a lot of that has to do with my own productivity issues due to medical issues and the pandemic, combined with increasing knowledge about writing in general and a feeling of incompetence.

Actually, one of the writing blogs I follow had a post about that in the last week, how over the past year they’ve felt disconnected from writing, and I really identified with that.

But, anyway, on to the questions.

What has been your biggest writing success? How did you get there?

Hm, that’s a good question. I guess the first story I sold, maybe? It feels pretty great each time I sell a story, which has never been a terribly consistent thing. I hope, as I become more experienced, it’ll be more often.

As to how I got there, uh, practice, I guess? I try to write short stories, both for fun and purpose, fairly regularly, and I also read short story collections to see what other people are doing and how it’s working. Sometimes I’ll look at anthology calls to try my hand at writing a particular type of story. It’s really just experimentation at this point, which may be why it’s not more consistent.

What has been your biggest writing disappointment? How did you bounce back from it?

I have been trying, for years, to get a mentor through contests like #RevPit or #PitMad. I’ve tried different stories, different submission materials, you name it. I’ve tried contests specific to my genres and more general ones. I’m lucky if I get a response from one of the people I’ve submitted to at all, let alone one that gives any sort of feedback. And, of course, I’ve never been selected.

Now, you might say, Kit, you are published author, so why do you want a mentor?

I mean, I don’t know. I think it’s, as I try out more ambitious projects, or as I run into issues with ones that are dear to my heart, that I’d like someone to point me in the right direction. Hold my hand, as it were, and tell me what sorts of things might help me out.

It is frustrating, to never hear anything back from these contests, and it certainly doesn’t help my self-esteem or my confidence in my stories. But it helps to take a step back and realize that each of these people get a ton of submissions and can only select one per contest, and that it doesn’t necessarily mean anything about my writing or my story. And there’s new contests and/or mentors every few months.

This is an interesting question right now, because I have been feeling so out of sorts, and I’ve been feeling like my stories are uninspired and predictable, and like I haven’t been able to write anything truly good in a while. It probably wouldn’t hurt to sit down and do some soul searching, and see if I can get some of my mojo/confidence back.

Or it may be that I just need to take a break for a bit and let it come back naturally.

How are you doing, squider? How are you feeling?


Uglies Readalong: Pretties (Book 2)

Hey hey, look, I got a book done when I said I was going to! It’s a miracle.

So, for those of you just joining us, we’re reading through the Uglies trilogy by Scott Westerfeld, which is YA dystopia and came out in the 2005 to 2007 time frame, so pretty early in the whole YA dystopia craze there.

This month we read Pretties, which is the second book.

In our dystopian world, everybody goes through an operation when they are 16 which makes them a Pretty–basically conforming people to an acceptable range of appearance to help avoid the bloodshed and wars that humanity has faced in the past. Before their operation, they’re an Ugly.

Spoilers from here on out. You’ve been warned.

In Uglies, our heroine, Tally Youngblood, is forced to go into the wild after her friend Shay, who has run away from the city to live outside. Special Circumstances, or Specials, are essentially the enforcers of the society, and they tell Tally that the only way she’ll get to be Pretty is if she helps bring Shay back to the city. But as Tally learns more about the Smoke and the people who live there, she starts to change her mind about being a Pretty herself, especially after she learns that part of the Pretty operation changes your brain, making you, well, compliant.

However, things go poorly at the end of the book–when Tally tries to destroy the tracker so she can stay in the Smoke forever, it goes off, bringing Special Circumstances down on everyone. Tally stages a rescue and manages to get most of the Smokies to safety outside the city, but her friend Shay is turned Pretty in the process. One of the Smokies is a retired doctor who has devised a cure to the brain changes made in the process, but Shay, now Pretty, refuses to take it, and without a subject, they can’t tell if the process works.

So Tally volunteers to be made Pretty to test the cure. End of Book 1.

Pretties starts up about a month after Tally has become Pretty. New Pretties live in New Pretty Town (we’ve talked about how spot-on the place names are before) where they essentially do nothing except party. But at a party, Tally notices someone dressed as a Special, which throws her off, and, when she pursues the person, she’s surprised to find it’s an Ugly, and an Ugly she recognizes from Outside. All her memories of her time in the Smoke and the time after it have been suppressed by the operation.

The person has to run before the real Specials catch him, but he tells Tally that he left her something, setting off a chain of puzzles that lead her to the promised cure and her own letter, written before she turned herself in, to explain what the cure is and why Pretty!Tally needs to take it. But the puzzles attract the attention of the Specials too, and Tally shares the cure with Zane, the leader of her Pretty clique, to get rid of the evidence.

That’s the set-up. Tally does take some time to get going AGAIN this book, but it was less bothersome this time because I was expecting it.

Most of the book follows Tally and Zane as they plot ways to escape from the city and head back Outside, made troublesome by tracking bracelets the Specials have put on them. They also experiment with ways to make the rest of their clique “bubbly,” a term that basically means clear-headed and aware. Tally and Shay fight–Shay blames Tally for what happened out in the Smoke, and she remembers too, when bubbly–but finally Tally, Zane, and their clique have everything in place and make their escape.

There are complications, of course. Tally’s best friend from her Ugly days chickens out last minute, making it so Tally’s escape is almost ruined; Zane has been getting progressively sicker since taking the cure; Tally is approached by the head of the Specials and offered a spot, and all that jazz.

And, in the end, everything gets worse. We’re definitely not pulling any punches here.

So far the series has been very readable, and Tally is better in this book–determined and focused, and willing to protect her friends.

And I will say that, knowing that the last book is Specials, we didn’t get there in the way I thought we would. Hooray! I like surprises, especially when they make sense.

Did you guys read along? What did you think, Squiders? I’m glossing over the love triangle aspects to this because it doesn’t really interest me (which is also how I felt about it in Hunger Games), but if you like that sort of thing, which guy are you rooting for?

Let’s have Specials done for, hm, May 20, and we can decide if we’re going to do the fourth book at that point or if we feel fulfilled.

See you Friday!

Rivers as a Barrier Between Life and Death

So, a week ago, my family and I went to our local science and history museum since one of their temporary exhibits was in its last days and we thought we should probably see it before it went.

(That exhibit was about Sue, the most complete Tyrannosaurus skeleton ever found. Which was neat! I learned things. But not actually related to today’s discussion.)

(I also got us an entrance time to the newly renovated space exhibit, which is better than it was but still kind of whatever, alas.)

(ACTUALLY, our museum is a leader in studying what happened right after the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs, a notoriously tricky time period to study because they’ve had issues finding fossils from it. But some of our museum scientists made a big breakthrough in the area about a year ago, so they set up an exhibit off to the side of the space exhibit. And the exhibit was very interesting, but my spouse and I were also interested in the fact that it’s in a part of the museum that’s been closed off to the public for, oh, twenty years? It used to be the Hall of Dinosaurs when we were kids, but that was also when they thought dinosaurs dragged their tails and were cold-blooded, so when science proved all their skeletons wrong they took them away and closed off the whole hall.)

(Sorry. I like dinosaurs.)

(Our museum ALSO has two plesiosaur skeletons hanging from the ceiling in the entrance hall, which are my very favorite prehistoric reptiles.)

The OTHER temporary exhibit (our museum normally has two going at a time) was about Stonehenge. I have actually been to Stonehenge, back when I was young, but it has been a while, and archeologists keep making discoveries, so you know.

A lot of the exhibit was somewhat familiar information, talking about the different phases of the monument and how they moved the stones, but I did learn some new stuff too.

(They actually had a breaking news section, from a discovery made in February, so that was pretty cool.)

So, apparently, the reason why the stones came all the way from Wales was that they had a previous monument there, and when they moved, they decided to take the monument with them.

As you do.

That’s cool! But the coolest thing I learned from the exhibit was that, some miles away from Stonehenge was a settlement, with a henge made out of wood. So, at least at the beginning, Stonehenge was a burial ground, and it was always a place to remember the dead (or so they think). So there were no buildings there, no places for the living. And this village was where the living were. And, to get to Stonehenge, either to bury someone, or to worship or whatever, the people in the village would go down to the River Avon, get on a boat, and sail down to the entrance to the Stonehenge complex.

So there were two distinct areas–the area of the living, and the area of the dead, and the river was the passage between them.

Which I thought was very neat, to see some of the mythology of the people in the way they used the land. And you guys know me and mythology, and also it always helps me with my own mythologies for my fantasy world to see what people thought of.

But as I was thinking, I realized that the river as a passage between the living and the dead is a fairly common theme, though perhaps not realized quite so literally as done here. Both Greek and Norse mythology have a river the dead must pass (well, if going to Hel in Norse mythology), though those are later civilizations than the one that built Stonehenge. In Hindu religion, the sacred river Ganges is used in many death rituals, including ones meant to help grant salvation to dead relatives, suggesting a link between the river and where people go after death. In Scottish folklore, a bean-nighe, or washerwoman, is a messenger and omen of death, often seen in rivers and ponds.

I don’t know, I just thought it was cool, and it’s always interesting to see the connections between civilizations across continents and time.

Any thoughts on rivers in death practices, squiders? Cool trivia relating to Stonehenge or death rituals in general?

I Spent Half of Yesterday Locked Out

I had a grand plans of productivity this week. I was going to catch up and be amazing! But so far I’ve pulled my foot, had two snow days, and got locked out of my house for most of yesterday afternoon.

It was one of those things you just have to laugh at. Often, after lunch, I take the dog for a walk around the block and through our local open space park. It takes about 15 minutes to do our loop. Sometimes, if we’re feeling motivated, we’ll do a longer loop, but it’s snowed a lot recently and everything is muddy, so aside from going on the bridge over the creek to see how high it was, we just did our normal loop.

Now, I didn’t take any house keys with me. I rarely do. We have a keypad on the outside of the garage, so normally I go out and in that way, and that’s what I did yesterday.

HOWEVER, in the fifteen minutes I was out of the house, the power went out. Of course it didn’t go out the four hours I was home. It goes out the only fifteen minutes I was outside.

And, of course, the garage door will not open without power. And the house is locked up tight, because of course it is. Every window, locked. Every door, locked.

I mean, it wasn’t the end of the world. It was warm enough, not precipitating, and I had my phone and a coat. But it quickly became apparent that the power was not coming back on any time soon, and my car was in the garage, which I could not get into, and I needed the car to pick up the small, mobile ones from school.

Long story short, each of my neighbors on either side took me to get a child. I had to discourage the larger, mobile one from trying to pick the lock on the front door. The dog was very confused about why I would not let her into the house.

Finally, just before dinner time, the power came on and the house was regained.

So, yesterday was not as productive as I had hoped.

But overall, I’m pretty proud of myself. I kept a good humor about everything the whole time, so it didn’t ruin my day, and that’s been hard recently, you know? It’s funny in retrospect (what are the odds of it being THAT exact 15 minutes?), no one was hurt or cold, and, in the great scheme things, there are other days to be productive. And I have great neighbors who were more than willing to help (and now are owed baked goods of some sort).

How have you been, squider?

Row, Row, Row Your Boat

So, uhhhhh, how about them local sports team?

Anyway, sorry about not coming back last week like I said I was going to. Friday, instead of blogging, I tried out streaming on Twitch, which was a disaster. Oh well–can’t expect things to work well the first time you try something, right? I’m going to install different streaming software and try again sometime. Maybe tomorrow, but more likely next week.

Let’s talk about Camp, though, and how World’s Edge is going.

It’s not bad! I’m at about 8.5K for the month, which is about 3K behind where I should be.

But it’s also more than I’ve written any other month this year. In fact, it may be more than I’ve written every other month this year COMBINED.

My productivity has been really off lately, which has been so aggravating, because normally I’m that person you come to when you have a short deadline and you need something. It’s been so painful to write anything over the last year, and when I do write, everything comes out uninspired and awful.

(Semi-related, I suspect the Changeling Story just needs to be dumped in a drawer. But that’s something for another month.)

It’s possible that my 8.5K is also awful, but it feels okay. And it’s nice to actually have some momentum on something after twiddling my fingers for so long.

I’m considering, next week, adding in some smaller goals to my to-dos. Just one off things that’ll take me maybe an hour, but just haven’t gotten done yet. Maybe get some real productivity going here. It’s so nice to be able to mark things off, you know?

Because they say you’re more productive when you have more to do, I also signed up for an introductory course on graphic design on Coursera. I haven’t gotten to an assignment yet, so jury’s still out as to whether this is a course where I can access everything for free or not. I’ve yet to figure out how one tells when signing up, which is the most frustrating thing about Coursera. I don’t necessarily want to spend a lot of money on a subject I’m just trying out, but when I can’t do the assignments on a course it makes it hard to really get a feel for the subject matter.

(I took a Python course on there a few years back where I could do all the assignments, which was great for telling me I still am awful at programming, and, of course, there was the amazing Online Games: Literature, New Media, and Narrative class that I took back in 2014. I think all the courses used to be 100% free and over time they’ve gotten less so, because it turns out offering things for free on the Internet is a bad business model.)

This may be my last go at Coursera if it turns out that I can’t do any of the coursework because I didn’t pay them $50 a month. That’s not a good investment for things I’m just playing with. So we shall see. (Probably tomorrow.)

Anyway, there’s your update. Writing goes, learning goes, random things shall hopefully be going soon. How’re you? Thoughts about online learning?

Uglies Readalong: Uglies (Book 1)

Hey, squiders! Guess who finally finished the book? And only two weeks late.

For those of you just joining us, we’ll be reading the Uglies trilogy by Scott Westerfeld, with the option of reading the fourth book depending on how the first three go.

The trilogy came out about fifteen years ago, and takes place in a dystopian future where, on their 16th birthday, everyone becomes a “pretty”–they go through an extensive surgery that reshapes their body so everyone is equally pretty, in theory equalizing everyone across the board.

Our main character is Tally Youngblood, who we meet a few months out from her 16th birthday. Her best friend has just become pretty, so she’s feeling lonely and desperately counting down the days until she becomes pretty too and can join her friend in New Pretty Town. Before you become pretty, you are an ugly, and they all live together in dorms in a place called Uglyville.

Yes, it’s on the nose, but it’s meant to be.

Tally sneaks out to New Pretty Town to see her friend and almost gets caught—Uglies aren’t allowed—but during her escape, she makes a new friend named Shay, who coincidentally has the same birthday as her. Shay and Tally find solace in each other, but Shay’s not quite as excited about turning as Tally is. She keeps taking Tally outside of the city, and talking about a place where you don’t have to turn pretty.

Is this a pretty form YA dystopia? I mean, yes. Yes it is. It came out in the same era as The Hunger Games and Divergent and all that jazz (actually a little before, so it’s an early contender in the genre). It’s got a lot of the same beats, but those beats aren’t necessarily bad. There’s a reason all these series were so successful.

As I’ve said in earlier blog posts, I had some difficulty relating to Tally, which made my progress slower than expected. It’s hard, as a fully-grown adult, to connect with someone whose sole purpose is to wait until she becomes pretty, and who puts so much emphasis on this procedure. It makes sense why she does, with the world-building and everything, but there’s not a lot of common ground there. Once we got about half way into the book and Tally’s motivations change, I found it much easier to keep going.

The book ends on a cliffhanger, as expected, but I’m interested in the twist (in this case, why this seemingly utopian society is in fact a dystopia—really the cornerstone of the entire genre and so hit or miss) and I’m looking forward to seeing how the story develops in Pretties.

How did you guys feel about it? How do you feel about the society when compared to other, similar dystopias?

We’ll read Pretties for April 27. I’m hoping the second book goes faster now that I’m invested.