Archive for the ‘Discussion’ Category

Let’s Not Be Sad

Good Lord, squiders. I have sat here all day, trying to figure out what to blog about. My thoughts keep going back to what’s going on in the world, which is depressing and awful, and, to be honest, I don’t want to talk about that. Everyone is talking about that. It is everywhere and inescapable. I mean, it makes sense, because it’s affecting everyone, but me talking about it isn’t going to add anything to the conversation.

(Monday I made face masks out of my leftover fabric from the bookmarks I made people for Christmas. That was…surreal. Also the first mask was super easy and then the second and third masks kept jamming my sewing machine and I didn’t change anything so I don’t know why.)

And, I mean, it’s April Fools Day. Now, I’m not a huge AF fan anyway, but you know how many AF jokes I’ve seen today? None. Nada. Not a single one. The whole world said, “Nope, not this year.” I appreciate that. But it’s still kind of depressing.

So! Let’s focus on the positives, shall we?

March was a freaking roller coaster that lasted forever, but it wasn’t all bad. I did some really nice watercolors in my travel journal (though the travel watercolor set I have has some…interesting colors). I got to rib my sister about getting old (she’s two and half years younger than me, but as older sister I am required by law to tease when appropriate). It is well and truly spring now.

I also got some things accomplished. I finished the draft of the scifi horror story. (And found a title for it! Finally.) I finally got through my February writing book. I’ve got the final nonfiction book more or less ready to go. My Pinterest prompt spawned a whole novel idea…which, uh, I guess I’ll add it to my list? (I wrote creation myth for the prompt.) I wrote more than I did in February.

And April, even if we’re still in the midst of all this, well, it kind of feels like a new start. At least March is over, amirite? Plus, there’s Camp NaNoWriMo this month. I’m going to work on the changeling story I started as part of How to Think Sideways last year. I stopped cuz I lost interest in the story, but I’m hoping I can poke it into something usable.

I guess if I can’t, there’s always the story I came up from my Pinterest prompts? Or I could go back and finish the draft from Nano. Always options. Too many options.

How did March go for you, squiders? Plans for April?

Library Book Sale Finds: Twelve Angry Librarians by Miranda James

Well, squiders. We were supposed to be on a cruise tomorrow. But, alas, that’s not happening, for obvious reasons.

Sad times.

So, a little over a month and a half ago, I went to another library book sale. Cuz I hadn’t in a while, and they were doing bags of books for $6, and I am weak.

(Actually, now that I think about it, I went to one in December too, though that wasn’t the best. The books were expensive. If I’m paying $6 per book, what’s the point? I should buy it new at that point so the author gets some of the money. I did get a ton of easy chapter books for the bigger, mobile one, though he has refused to read them.)

(He is mostly interested in books about Minecraft. Sigh. Though he doesn’t mind a story if someone else reads it to him. We just started The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler.)

ANYWAY, this sale wasn’t the best either–not a lot of material, just a few carts of books and old movies. I did manage to end up with six hardcovers, though.

And here we are. In a timely fashion, for once.

Title: Twelve Angry Librarians
Author: Miranda James
Genre: Mystery
Publication Year: 2017

Pros: Cat
Cons: Not enough kooky side characters

There is something to be said about a bag full of old paperbacks, where you’re getting a mixed bag of who knows what from who knows when. Modern books are less fun, in that regard.

Now, you guys know I love mysteries, and you know I love cozy mysteries. But that being said, I find that most cozy mystery series, especially modern ones, don’t really do it for me. I’m not a big historical fiction person, but I tend to like historical cozy mysteries. Gives them something, I guess. Contemporary-based cozies feel the need for some sort of something extra, which is really hit or miss as to whether or not it works.

I’m guessing we’re doing a two-for-one here, in that we have a helpful pet (ala The Cat Who series) plus it’s library-themed. (I am as bad as the next writer about being a sucker for stories about writers/librarians/etc. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that said stories are any good.)

This is a well-established series (this is the eighth book) with Charlie Harris, late middle-aged career librarian, as our protagonist. Charlie is likable enough, if a bit dull, but that’s fairly par for the course. His cat, Diesel, is properly charismatic.

And maybe the other books in the series are better at this, but I kind of feel like a cozy mystery series, if not carried by the protagonist, needs a cast of wacky side characters. And we should get them here–the book takes place at a librarian convention–but we don’t especially.

There’s nothing bad about the book. It’s perfectly serviceable. But it’s also forgettable.

Read other books in the Murder in the Stacks series, squiders? Thoughts about how essential the side characters are? Favorite cozy series in general?

How to Celebrate a 10th Anniversary of a Book?

It’s crazy, squiders. My first book, Hidden Worlds, is 10 years old.

(The first edition came out Dec 2009, and the revised second edition, published through Turtleduck Press, came out in late 2010, complete with change in pen name and everything.)

First of all, wow, where the heck did the time go?

Second of all, wow, that’s kind of a big deal, and it feels like I should do something to celebrate.

But what? And how?

I’ve not had a book reach a 10th anniversary before.

Do I put out a new edition, with new material? What kind of new material? Notes on how the story came together? Old unpublished versions of scenes (and man, do I even know where those are?)? New stories in the same universe (I wrote one recently for my newsletter subscribers)?

Do I put out related swag? Bookmarks? Character profiles? Art of the characters?

Do I do a whole promotional blitz?

What would you, as a reader, be interested in seeing? What would be really cool to see in relation to a book that’s been out for a while?

Too many options. Woo.

(Do you know of any other books that did cool things for their anniversaries? I’d love to check them out.)

WriYe and the Love of Writing

Ugh, squiders, nothing is getting done around here. I mean, I suspected my productivity would drop off precipitously while I’m caregiving for my spouse, but when you add on that yesterday was a virtual day, it has meant that I have had everyone, the whole time, since last Thursday.

(I’ve complained about virtual days before, but essentially the larger, mobile one’s school, whenever the district declares a delayed start, throws in the towel and is essentially like IT’S YOUR TURN TO TEACH YOUR CHILD, SUCKER. The school closes, but sends home a ton of work for each child to do, and you’ve got to wrangle your child into doing six hours of work when there’s invariably snow on the ground.)

(I don’t know that the spouse has ever been home for one before, but I think he hates them even more than me, ha.)

(Seriously, screw whoever came up with this plan.)

Also, my plans for the month have been slightly thrown off anyway because I’d like to try and get a mentor through Author Mentor Match, which is happening on Feb 13. I need a variety of submission things (which I have for the most part), including a synopsis, which I do not. So I’m reading back through the manuscript to remind myself what happens when.

(The trick is to not get sucked back into books 2 and 3 after I finish book 1.)

I’m going to submit the first book of my high fantasy trilogy that I have been working on forever, because despite my re-writing three times, it continues to not quite be there. And I’m hoping a mentor might offer some good tips for getting it that last step.

(I’m leaving a couple of notes here, because re-reading it, I do see what the issue is. It’s that the first…seven chapters don’t feel terribly connected to each other. More like related vignettes than anything, with threads of main plot/relationships connecting them. I suspect this is because the first part of the book covers about five or six months of time. I’ve tried to compress the timeline previously, but have always run into issues because there does need to be time for certain plot and character elements to be believable. Once we get past that bit it’s fine.)

ANYWAY ON TO THE PROMPTS

Why do you love writing?

That’s a very interesting question, really. I love my stories. I love taking abstract thoughts and weaving them into something complex. I love creating characters and seeing what they do.

Do you always love writing?

I mean, yeah, I’d say so. For the most part. There have been periods where everything feels awful and I am depressed about my skills, but I’d never actually stop. I might say I will, but I won’t.

What do you do when you (gasp) don’t?

Oh, huh, this is kind of part of the last question. Sometimes I take a break, and work on something else creative, like drawing/sketching, or sewing, or costuming, or scrapbooking. Sometimes I switch projects, or spend some time working to determine why something isn’t working (which may require having someone else at something, or doing more research). Sometimes I take a week off and play copious amounts of video games. It kind of depends on what’s going on, both with writing and life in general.

I hope your February is off to a good start, squiders!

Library Book Sale Finds: The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie

So, squiders, one of my “resolutions” for the year is to read more of the books I have sitting around. Specifically the books I keep picking up at library book sales.

It tickles me eternally that, as an adult, I like to talk about books when I hated it so much in high school.

If you guys have been around, you know I love mysteries in general and Agatha Christie in particular, so I never miss an opportunity if I see one sitting around.

Title: The Body in the Library
Author: Agatha Christie
Genre: Mystery
Publication Year: 1942

Pros: Fast read, has Miss Marple
Cons: Meanders a bit in the middle

If I had to pick between Poirot or Miss Marple I’ll go Miss Marple every time. I like the deviation from your standard mystery protagonist. And I don’t mean that she’s an older woman, though I do appreciate that as well, since older women are rarely included in most novels, and certainly not as the protagonist. I mean she rarely actively sleuths; she just picks things up through gossip and knowledge of human nature. The quintessential armchair detective.

This is the second Miss Marple novel I’ve read, I believe, though I’ve read a number of short stories. She’s not actually that active in the book–a lot of chapters are from other points of view, such as the inspectors’ working on the case or other side characters–but she does figure it out, all the same, and sets up an elaborate plot to catch the murderer in the act, which I’ll admit is one of my favorite mystery tropes.

I also appreciate that the other characters in the book, especially the police, respect her and her abilities, instead of writing her off.

Is there anything special here? Not especially. It’s not one of her twistier plots. But it’s a fast read (I read it in about two hours total), it’s entertaining, and it includes this bit of dialogue:

Miss Marple said doubtfully, “Of course, dear, if you think I can be of any comfort to you–“

“Oh, I don’t want comfort. But you’re so good at bodies.”

Page 13 in my copy, The Body in the Library, Agatha Christie

I laughed out loud. I’ll admit it.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. Read almost anything by Agatha Christie (except The Passenger to Frankfurt, which is one of her last books and is a bit unfocused in general).

(As an aside, my copy’s cover has a body stuck in a bookcase that is obviously shorter than said body, which amuses me greatly. Someone took the title very literally and obviously did not read the book.)

Read this book? What did you think? Opinions on Agatha Christie in general? Miss Marple or Poirot?

Picking a Theme Going Forward

It’s that time of year when everyone gives up on the current year and starts looking at the next one. (Which I totally get. I’ve got four days til Winter Break and then all Hell breaks loose.) So, of course, there’s been emails and blog posts and whatnot, all about how best to select your goals and make 2020 your best year, and all sorts of niceties.

But I did read one that I found interesting. It was over at Writer Unboxed, and the idea was that, instead of making resolutions and whatnot, you choose a one-word theme for the year, and have your goals stem off of that.

It’s an interesting idea, certainly. And while I hesitate to start doing my year-end wrap-up and move onto 2020 (though I will admit that I have made my active project list for 2020 already), I found that a theme popped into my head almost immediately.

Education.

Admittedly, I am often taking classes and trying to expand my skills, but there’s a lot I want to focus on in that direction in the near future.

  • I plan to read the writing books I’ve been accumulating and take a few online courses in areas I feel less confident in.
  • There’s the programming and, if it feels like that’s not going to work in the long run, UX/UI classes. (Or both, I suppose, to see which is a better fit.)
  • I’d like to focus on improving my art skills, especially if the picture book thing gets rolling for real. I’ve been accumulating new supplies that I need to learn how to and practice using.
  • I would really love to write some cozy mysteries. Outside of scifi/fantasy, they’re my favorite thing to read. Mysteries have always felt so…out of reach, but I would like to give them a try.

There’s probably other things that I’m not remembering right now. But those are the main ones, anyway.

I guess, now that I’ve identified my theme, the idea is that goals will kind of automatically flow from it, once I get there. (I am not there yet. I feel like, if I make my goals for January or 2020 as a whole now, I’m going to mentally write off the rest of December, which I’m not prepared to do yet. We’ll see how we feel come Friday and Winter Break.)

What do you think about identifying a yearly theme, squiders? Do you have one you’ve selected for 2020?

One of Those Weeks

It’s been one of those weeks, squiders. Where you can’t find any time to do anything around everything else you need to do, and then, when you do manage to find time, it turns out that something is either missing or wrong.

(I’m talking about the week ending today, not the week that started Sunday or Monday. For clarification.)

First, there was Nano, when I came to the realization that people where having planning parties and whatnot, and I hadn’t even come up with what I was writing yet. (The beginning of September seems like forever away from November, and then all of a sudden it’s not.)

We talked about that last week. But what I didn’t tell you guys was that it took me FOREVER to find that first chapter. I knew I’d written it, there were even excerpts on one of my writing forums, but for the life of me, I couldn’t find it. I knew it wouldn’t be on my desktop or laptop as neither have been in use long enough (the desktop is about three years old, after the last one ate it, and the laptop I stole from my husband about two years ago after my own laptop’s battery could no longer hold a charge at all), but it wasn’t on my back-up hard drive. And it wasn’t on my old laptop after I dug it out and got it operational. And it wasn’t in my Google Drive, and…

I eventually found it on an SD card I used to use both for back-up and to easily move stories between desktop/laptop. My current desktop doesn’t have an SD card slot (still annoyed about that) so I stopped using it.

(And yes, I have backed it up now.)

Then there’s the nonfiction stuff. I’ve been working both on a new SkillShare class and the books, with the goal of having both published by the end of the month. They’re related, with the book being about finding story ideas and the class being about setting up an idea storage system.

On the book front, I need to make covers for the workbooks, and, as they need to be paperbacks, I need to make wraparound covers. So I went in to get templates only to find that the pocket idea book I made is smaller than KDP will print a book. And I used Canva to make said idea book, and I can’t resize it unless I upgrade to Premium.

(There is a 30-day trial, so I may just go ahead with that and make sure I get all the covers for the entire series done in those 30 days.)

I’d also like to make a printable PDF version of the workbooks that people who buy the paperbacks can download and use, or possibly provide an ebook version with the printable PDFs somewhere, but I’m not 100% sure how to do that without making Amazon grumpy.

On the class front, I’m having the worst time with filming. I did most of the PowerPoint voiceovers, only to find that because I was congested you can occasionally hear me breathing. (I might be able to cover that with background music, but I can’t decide if that would be weird to have or not.) And I filmed one of the talking head segments (in two pieces, because one is of my face, and the other is a demo section down on my desk) and they’re both weirdly corrupted. They both have a half second where half the video goes all colored and pixelated. And of course they’re in the middle of a sentence, making it hard to cut or fix.

Not sure how to deal with that. I don’t particularly want to re-film those segments (because they’re long), and I have no guarantee that it won’t happen again, potentially worse. My camera is probably dying and will need to be replaced. Hooray.

And then there’s costume issues, notably that I need to cut a section off the glasses and haven’t managed it. (What the heck are these things made of?)

But I did sit down this morning and pound out a complete, workable plot for the City of Hope and Ruin sequel (which, no, you haven’t heard about lately, because Siri and I have been having the worst time and frankly took the summer off). It took me about three hours to go through everything and organize it, but it happened, and I am cautiously optimistic that Siri will also like it and then we can get this dang book written.

So maybe things are turning around.

How are your projects going, squiders? Thoughts on video editing and/or background music?