Archive for the ‘Discussion’ Category

November Plans and Learning Options

(First of all, I’m going to move our discussion of Red Mars until next Thursday, Nov 8. I don’t know if you guys are reading this along with me, but I’m having a hard time getting into it. And I keep getting distracted by mysteries.)

(Speaking of which, I HIGHLY recommend The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, which is a mystery with a scifi bent. EXCELLENT BOOK.)

(In other news, if I get my act together, this post may be accompanied by a landsquid later. But I suspect the landsquid will have to wait until Friday, because it’s Halloween, and I have small, mobile ones who have school parties that I have to deal with.)

(Happy Halloween!)

Now that the parentheticals are out of the way, let’s talk about November. (It’s also Nano Eve! Happy Nano Eve to everyone doing Nano. The kickoff party for my region is at a coffee shop less than 10 minutes from my house, so I’m tempted to make up a fake novel and go mingle and enjoy the mad burst of creativity that happens at midnight. But I also have to get up at 6:30 tomorrow, so, you know…)

My programming class is over. It was good for me, but it was also intense, so I’m not going to look at doing another one until probably mid-January. My workout challenge is also over. So aside from my major editing job, my time is mine again! BWHAHAHAHAHA. I have celebrated by writing an entire short story this morning. (Admittedly, it was due tomorrow and needed to be done, but hey, it IS done.)

There’s still some other things that need to be done. Our ballot is MASSIVE and I am mostly done with it (I’ve got a couple of mill levies and some of the smaller position elections still to be, but have done the 12 amendments and propositions–what the heck–plus important elections like congresspeople and governor) but that needs to be finished up, and we’re planning a super-secret vacation to Disney World. Which, Lord, takes more planning than expected. We’ve got airfare and hotel done, but you’ve got to do reservations at the restaurants or you’re out of luck. And apparently for character appearances, though we’re too early for that. My husband super wants to eat at Cinderella’s Castle, but so apparently does everyone else, so he’s hoarding reservations at bad times and is checking daily to see if better ones open up.

But I should have writing time back! Hooray!

I’m still pondering Nano. I mean, I WANT to, but I am completely unprepared to start a novel project, and I don’t have any other novel projects that need enough words to Zokutou clause it. I wonder if I can do a time-based goal instead, because I have a ton of things that are ALMOST done that could stand some work, including:

  • Space dinosaur novel (~5K left)
  • Anthology story (~4K left, due Nov 10)
  • Serial story (~5K or less left, been working on for nine years)
  • CoHaR (at ~17K, so needs more, though also depends on how fast Siri’s working)

And there’s a lot of other stories that need to be poked:

  • A couple of shorts that keep getting personalized rejections with feedback that might need a bit of tweaking to finally sell
  • I’ve gotten quite a bit of feedback lately on the YA paranormal I’ve been querying, so that could probably use some tweaking as well (probably not a minor undertaking, though)
  • I need to look at what I have for the nonfiction series and what I still need, and make a plan for moving forward

Or, I have a ton of new stuff I’d really like to get going on (though none are outlined/ready to go for tonight/tomorrow):

  • I have a couple of ideas for chapter book series (Space Cat and one based off a series of short stories I wrote in middle/high school) that could be partially illustrated and probably would be super fun. The average chapter book is about 10K, so in theory I could write a whole series for Nano. >_>
  • I’ve been slowly plotting out a paranormal mystery series with a modern day witch as the main character. By plotting I mean “hoarding resources to read at some point and occasionally jotting down random thoughts like evil shadows.”

And, I mean, a ton more, but those are top of the list.

I’m considering taking on a non-programming class. Skillshare has a ton of classes (you pay a flat fee per month) and I’d like to learn how to color/shade, which I am terrible at (which is why you get line art here on the blog). I’m still learning, but hopefully it won’t be as intense as the programming class, and it’ll be useful if/when I do get to the illustrated chapter books ideas.

What are your plans for November, squiders?

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October!

It’s that time of year again.

fear them

October! Best month of the year! You guys are probably sick of me saying that every year, but it continues to be true.

The temperature is finally dropping enough to wear, you know, pants. And other fun things like boots and sweaters. The leaves are changing. People don’t look at me as weird for drinking tea all the time. The world turns a little bit goth, just for fun.

Here’s what October looks like on my end:

  • Rehearsal starts tomorrow for the Christmas review show. They gave me a solo. They weren’t supposed to ever actually do that. But aside from never having sung by myself in front of more than about three people at a time (aside from auditions), I’m pretty excited. Some of the songs are the same as last year, so less work for me. <_<
  • I’ve got a major client edit. It’s my fourth book for this client, and his books are just massive. So that will probably carry me through til the end of the year.
  • Also I have a beta that I’m about 60% done with that I need to finish up and get back to the author.
  • Red Mars needs to be read by Nov 1 and I have yet to start it. (Not too worried; I read pretty fast. Got distracted by a book talking about the relations between haunted places, our psyches, storytelling, and ghosts. Seasonally appropriate.)
  • I’m two-thirds of the way through my Python class. Did I tell you I was taking a Python course? I am. Programming seems like a good thing to be generally proficient in. Said class takes between six and twelve hours a week, so it’s more of a time commitment than I was expecting going in.
  • I’m halfway through my fitness challenge.
  • On the writing front, it’s all Fractured World, all the time. All the plans I had for September got eaten and it may be December before I get back to most of them. Priority is working on the sequel to City of Hope and Ruin as well as a related anthology (which I am super excited about–really looking forward to writing my story, as well as seeing the other ones).
  • My birthday is next week! I keep trying to direct people to my Amazon wishlist but no one ever listens. (Also, on a related note, can you make Etsy wishlists?)

I’m not a pumpkin spice person myself, but I always hail the return of pumpkin spice season, because it means peppermint everything season shall be here shortly.

October, squiders! Do you love it? Grand plans for the month? People doing Nano? Should I talk about Nano?

Assessing Yourself

I’ve talked about day jobs before, and how they can be useful for a number of reasons (steady income, giving your brain time to think through plot points and whatnot, etc.). I’ve also talked about how I think, at least for me, being a full-time freelance writer/editor has hurt my fiction (or at least my motivation).

So I’ve been thinking very seriously about finding a new day job. The problem is that the options are wide open. (I think I talked about that somewhere too.) I do think I’ve decided to go for something non-freelance, something where I have to go some place and talk to other people on a semi-regular basis.

Having so many options, and not knowing what I want to do, I scheduled an appointment with my alma mater’s career services department. (Most people know you can use career services to help you find a job as you near graduation, but it turns out that they’ll help alumni too. I got an email about it and was like, “Heyyyyy…”)

(Also, funnily, the woman I got was the one I worked with when I was graduating. Uh, many years ago.)

They recommended a series of assessments to help me learn about what’s important to me and what jobs would be a good fit.

And I figured, hey, what could it hurt?

That was a few months ago, and now I’m done with the lot. There was the Clifton Strengths, which told me what my strengths were. Then Myers-Briggs for personality. The Strong for what I’m interested in. And the Values for what’s important to me in a job/work place. Then the idea is to look at all four, see what patterns there are, and make a decision moving forward based on the results.

None of the results are especially a surprise, but I bet you that I wouldn’t have been able to pull the information out of my head before hand. The strengths was probably the most useful, in that they give you your top five strengths and explain how they are both good and bad (for example, one of mine is that I absorb information easily, which means I can learn–and apply–new things quickly. But the downside is that I can get distracted by research and lose a lot of time).

But it is nice to have it all laid out. Not sure it’s useful yet, because I can see three distinct career paths that could be taken from the results.

But aside from potential day jobs, I can also see how some of the information can be useful in my writing. It’s given me some ideas on how to work, and also on some new projects to try.

So if you have the opportunity, it might be a good idea to run through these tests yourself. One of the best ways to be true to yourself is to have a good idea of how you work. These tests aren’t perfect, of course, but especially by taking the lot, you can get a good general idea of things.

Taken assessments, squiders? Find them to be of any use?

The Same Story Across the Mediums

Isn’t it funny how when something is a hit, we’ve got remake it over and over and over and over and…

You get the point. But we don’t just remake it in the same form. We make a movie form and a book form and a television form and a video game form, and then we twist it and tell the same story again, with new twists or new settings or with some characters now a different gender or whatever fits our fancy.

(I actually took a lovely online class a few years back about how stories change to fit different mediums, which we explored by comparing the same “scenes” in the Lord of the Rings, through the movies, books, and LOTR online. Also we read a lot of romantic (time period, not romance-based) poetry and stories which form the basis of modern fiction.)

I recently noticed that the Japanese do this too–though they do it differently. The stories never seem to make it to the twisting phase. Let’s take one of my favorite anime series, Ouran High School Host Club, which is utterly ridiculous at almost all times, yet still manages to make you care about all the characters.

Ouran High School Host Club (here on out shortened to Ouran) started as a manga (for those unfamiliar with the term, manga is kind of like a comic book, so pictures and words in a sequential order) and the beginning of the manga was made into an anime (essentially a cartoon). Many anime are made from manga series, and, for the most part, anime series tend to follow their manga counterparts pretty closely.

(Manga series can be quite long–over 500 chapters–so you occasionally run into problems when the manga and the anime are running concurrently and the anime catches up to the manga. Anime sometimes goes through “filler arcs” which tell a story outside of the manga’s storyline but for the most part sticks to the same world and doesn’t alter anything major. Some of these are more successful than others. Or the anime may strike out on its own.)

Some years after the anime came out, they made a live action series of Ouran. Like it sounds, live action series have real people in real locations.

(If you’d like to see a character comparison, well:

ouran cast comp

What’s interesting is that the story doesn’t really change between mediums–when watching the live action, I recognized almost all the episodes from the anime–and when additions are made (such as a filler arc or a movie) they’re always made to fit into the world and story lines that already exist. If an anime gets too far from the manga, they remake the anime to fit the manga better.

But, as far as I know–and please feel free to correct me if I am wrong–they never twist. From Peter Pan they wouldn’t get Hook, or Jake and the Neverland Pirates, or Peter and the Starcatcher. No Wizard of Oz except they’re all insane, or everyone’s a grown up and steampunk, or told from the witch’s point of view.

You have Bleach, and Bleach goes on for 696 manga chapters, 366 anime episodes, four movies, a live action film (which JUST came out), five musicals, two trading card games, several light novels (essentially a novel with occasional manga-style pictures), and at least five video games. Or One Piece, which has been going since 1997 and has over 800 anime episodes. A story can go on forever, being retold from one medium to the next, and then, when they’re done…they’re done. On to the next thing. Or the same thing in a different form.

(Not to say that everything does this, of course. Trigun, for example, is quite manageable at 97 manga chapters and 26 anime episodes–though it is a case where the anime took liberties. Cowboy Bebop–which started as an anime and then became a manga–also has 26. And these are ~25 minute episodes in many cases.)

I just think it’s interesting, to look at how a story can mean so much that we’re willing to watch it–or read it, or play it–over and over. And to see how different cultures go about doing just that.

Am I wrong about Japanese storytelling not twisting the same story into new forms? (I know there are some manga/anime that are twists on Western stories–Pandora Hearts, which I’m reading right now, obviously has its roots in Alice in Wonderland–but I’m unfamiliar with any stories that are twists on other Japanese stories.) Favorite version of a favorite story?

Time for a New Readalong!

It’s been almost half a year since we read The Sparrow, so let’s pick out a new book and/or series to look at! I’ve tried to provide a wide variety of genres and standalone/series options.

Also, if you’d very much like to do a different book or series, please let me know in the comments.

Also let me know if you prefer if I just pick a book on my own. The polls are still a new thing.

Be Jealous of My Box of Books

So, everyone I know is moving this week.

Okay, not everyone, but five people. It’s still a lot. And all at the same time.

One of the things about moving is that you realize how much stuff you’ve wedged into your current place, and how a lot of it you haven’t touched in years. Luckily for me, my family has realized they have a lot of books that they’re never going to read again.

And now they’re mine, bwhahaha.

My grandmother is an avid mystery reader and had a ton of books she’d already read, and my mother was offloading MG/YA science fiction and fantasy that she’d needed to keep up with what her students were reading, but doesn’t need them now that she’s retired.

Here’s my haul:

Box of Books

Mysteries/Thrillers/Gothic:

  • Lion in the Valley, Elizabeth Peters (1986)
  • The Ipcress File, Len Deighton (1962)
  • A Cold Day for Murder, Dana Stabenow (1992) (haha, her name has “stab” in it)
  • The Man with a Load of Mischief, Martha Grimes (1981)
  • Booked to Die, John Dunning (1992)
  • The Missing Mr. Mosley, John Greenwood (1986)
  • Mosley by Moonlight, John Greenwood (1985)
  • Mists over Mosley, John Greenwood (1986)
  • The Mind of Mr. Mosley, John Greenwood (1987)
  • What, Me, Mr. Mosley?, John Greenwood (1988)
  • Smoke in the Wind, Peter Tremayne (2001)
  • “A” is for Alibi, Sue Grafton (1982)
  • Raven Black, Ann Cleeves (2006)
  • Edwin of the Iron Shoes, Marcia Muller (1977)
  • The Haunted Bookshop, Christopher Morley (1919)
  • The Scapegoat, Daphne du Marnier (1956)

YA/MG Fantasy/Scifi:

  • Uglies, Pretties, Specials (trilogy), Scott Westerfeld (2005-2006)
  • The Vampire Diaries (books 1-4), L. J. Smith (1991)
  • Songs of Power, Hilari Bell (2000)
  • Raven’s Gate, Anthony Horowitz (2005)

Other:

  • From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, E. L. Konigsburg (children’s, 1967)
  • Lord of Legends, Susan Krinard (romance/fantasy, 2009)
  • The View from Saturday, E. L. Konigsburg (children’s, 1996)
  • The Wanderer, Sharon Creech (MG historical, 2000)

(I really like E. L. Konigsburg. Or I did as a kid.)

What do you think, squiders? Read any of my new acquisitions? Where would you start if you were me?

Low Confidence

It’s recently come to my attention that I’m not as good of a fiction writer as I wish I was. This comes from the sort of things writers run into all the time–a combo of bad reviews, harsh critiques from my writing group, lukewarm response from betas, rejections on short stories–but this time it kind of feels like a wake-up call.

Of course, there’s a number of ways one can react to finding out that they’re not as good at something as they thought they were:

  1. Give up
  2. Ignore the feedback and continue on doing the same thing
  3. Evaluate weak points and take steps to fix them

I mean, there is always the option that you’re not good at something and that you will never be good at something. Some of us are just not athletic or smart or good at math/languages/common sense…

Though I do hope we’re not at that point.

Anyway, as you can imagine, this hasn’t been great for my self-confidence as of late (also combined with a terminal diagnosis for my cat from my vet and other stresses), but I have managed to take a step back and look at my path moving forward.

  • I have publishing obligations in an anthology and the sequel to City of Hope and Ruin. Those will have to be done. But perhaps I should hold off on submitting short stories and querying agents on other projects until I do some more evaluation.
  • I bought Holly Lisle’s How to Think Sideways course like, ten years ago. I got a few steps in but never finished the process, and perhaps a hands-on course on writing would help me learn some new skills and tools for novel-writing. (Also of note, I took Holly’s How to Write Flash Fiction course a few years back–it’s free and short–and out of the four stories I got out of it, I have sold three, which is pretty damn good on percentages.)
  • I have several writing books that I’ve never touched, both practical ones (such as writing exercises) and craft ones. Maybe now is the time to crack them open.
  • Experimentation might also be in order. I love fantasy–I love to read it, and I love to write it–but maybe it’s not destined to be. My husband thinks I should combine my drawing and writing to try out a few children’s books, which could be fun to do. And I would also like to try my hand at a mystery. It wouldn’t hurt to do something just for fun, too, without worrying about trying to make it marketable.

Any other tips, squiders, for when you’re feeling down and worthless? Thoughts about fixing things?