The sads

Greetings, echo chamber.

Here are some things on my mind lately.

I am feeling discouraged about my day job.

It is kind of a dumb thing to feel this way, because I am very lucky and have a creative-type job wherein I am the boss of lots of people that I get to manage mostly via emails and text messages (an introvert’s dream!). But I am someone who just wants to do my work and not get all caught up in weird office politics and company competition, and apparently this is an impossible wish. I particularly hate the competitive nature of the market I currently work in, and how aggressive and nasty the ‘bigger fish in the sea’ can be to us smaller guppies who just want to brighten people’s lives by creating art.

I am feeling resentful about all the time my job requires, even though it is very flexible, and again, I am lucky. I feel dumb about feeling resentful when I AM very, very lucky.

I am feeling depressed about the cutthroat nature of the industry and long for a different opportunity to open up.

Writing paradigm shift.

I had such an amazing ‘ah-ha!’ moment reading Libby Hawker’s Take off your pants! It was wonderful and needed, but also I have collapsed on the floor in an unproductive puddle because it takes me back to the beginning and a LOT of rewriting needs to be done. This is fine, and necessary, and I know it will improve my book (and future work), I’m just reeling, I suppose?

I tend to do this though. If I get feedback that is good and important, it seems to bring my writing to a screeching halt. I hate how slow I am about needed changes (I have mentioned this before). I have to marinate on them for a long time, and it really bogs down my productivity. I’m trying to be gentle with myself, though, and give myself the space. Maybe I will just never be one of those 10 million words per day / multiple books per year writers. I feel like I should be, because I write so fast. It’s the feedback / revision stage where I’m like molasses.

An important skill I do not possess.

I do not have a good relationship with time. I am late to almost everything, and forget appointments almost always. It remains one of life’s great mysteries as to why my doctor, dentist, and chiropractor have not all fired me wholesale. For people who have efficient internal clocks, this fault is difficult to understand. My friends say, “Just keep an eye on the clock!” As if I can. I really can’t. “Just keep your phone with you! Set alarms!” I do! And I still fail on the regular.

Today my lack of time-oriented-skills messed something important up and I am weeping into a plate of chocolate chip cookies because of it.

Growing old.

I always thought I would be SPECTACULAR at growing old gracefully. My mother did, and I think she is beautiful. She has silver hair, is wonderfully round and soft, wears little makeup, and has embraced her wrinkles. I don’t dye my hair either, and have quite a lot of gray, but I am struggling with other aspects of getting older. I think I finally have an inkling of understanding for those poor people who have endless piles of money to throw at plastic surgeons. I’ve always thought it was such a sad thing, for a fading Hollywood star to plump herself up and make herself look, well, plastic.

But here I am, struggling with my wrinkles and sags, and knowing if I had millions in the bank I might throw it at a fix. And I’m not a star who feels pressured to remain looking young in order to obtain movie or television roles. My husband loves me just as I am. I’m just struggling and wishing I could turn back the clock.

I hesitated over publishing this for a while… but I guess I’ll finally send it out there into the aether. (Been researching steampunk lately…)

Blog maintenance

I’ve been having some problems with the blog and I think I’ve fixed most of them. If anyone is subscribed to the feed (hahahah) you might have a barrage of posts come through all at once. The feed should be working properly now, and posts that weren’t showing up should all be showing up now.

I went ahead and removed the featured picture thing because it was giving me stress. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, WordPress has a ‘featured image’ you can add for each post, and in the theme I’m using it seemed like it was a super important part of posting, as it made kind of a banner for each post. It totally stressed me out. I am good with the Photoshop, but it was an extra step, so lots of times I wanted to share, and didn’t because I didn’t have the energy to make a graphic. So I watched Poldark instead.

POLDARK! E’erybody I follow on Instagram has been swooning over this show so I finally started watching it. It’s a period drama based on the books by Winston Graham. I’m trying to decide if I should read ahead, because the series is STRESSFUL. I want happy endings for these people and terrible things keep happening instead.

Anyway, current problems with the blogge:

  • Weirdly, the comments links on the home page just take you to the individual post, rather than bouncing you down to the comment section. The comment links on the individual post page, however, take you to the proper place. As no one comments, this is not a big deal, but it bothers me because I want everything to be tidy. So I will try to figure this out.
  • Actually that is it. I just fixed the footer issue that was driving me to drink, so all’s well except for the comment link. Eventually I will do something interesting with the side bar, but my energy is spent, and Ross Poldark is in JAIL, so I’ll see you later.
Book report: Screenwriting Tricks for Authors

Story Structure Basics: How to write better books by learning from the movies by Alexandra Sokoloff.

Auuggghh! This was amazing! It has changed the way I view movies, forever. I have been obsessively watching everything in my Amazon Prime video library with a notebook and pen. I’ve only got a few minutes, so this will be short. (I am waiting for a doctor appointment and typing this on my phone… have you tried blogging on your phone? It’s awful. I’m not a very good texter so this is miserable. If there are any misspellings this is why.)

It’s classic three act, eight sequence stuff, but I always love it when I can put some writing tools to practical use. Wait, that’s wrong, but this typing screen on my phone is tiny. I mean, you know how lots of books on craft use examples from movies or books you’ve never read? Well, Sokoloff does that too, but in this case it’s very easy to take what she teaches and watch something you enjoy instead. It’s really fun, though I’m driving my husband mad. Something happens generally every 15 minutes in an adult movie. And you can almost set your watch to the structure.

I also picked up STEALING HOLLYWOOD: Story Structure Secrets for Writing Your BEST Book, but I haven’t had a chance to read it yet.

Typing a blog post on a phone is now something I will add to my resume, and hopefully never do again. Now, for my yearly checkup. Even more fun. Today is shaping up to require chocolate.

And I in my kerchief

Nanowrimo kicked my can. I made my goal, but it was like pulling teeth. I do NOT like month long writing sprints when things go bananas at work. As I’m sure I’ve stated bemoaned previously, the holiday season is also very busy, so now that Christmas is upon us, it is finally winding back down. I’m so tired, but huzzah!

There’s a lovely fire roaring in the grate and we’ve just finished putting packages under the tree. Our kids are getting older, but Christmas is still a Big Deal, and I can hear them giggling downstairs. They like to have a big sleepover in the playroom, even though my big boys are man-sized now.

I’m making some goals for the coming year. I know, look at me, it’s not even New Year’s yet. I thought I’d jot them down before December gets away from me completely. I’ve been aiming for a once-a-month-at-least post over here, and I’ve done pretty well with that this year. I’ve still no idea whatsoever as to how to grow my blog, but I’m also too busy/tired to really figure it out. It probably involves clicking over from my feedreader and actually commenting on other writerly person’s blog affairs, but see also: introvert. So. Goals:

2017 Writer Goals

  1. Attend a real, in person, writer’s conference. Eeks! Preferably one within driving distance and that does not cost a million dollars to attend.
  2. Work on establishing writer habits that make sense for my lifestyle. I would like to write every day, and am so far failing in this. Instead I write in huge, productive bursts, but then nothing for quite a long while (usually because I’m chewing on something that needs improving / fixing).
  3. I started this blog because I was eventually going to quit closet writing and publish something, or explore traditional publishing. Honestly, I have a few books that I think I could move forward on, but I am MIRED in old habits of writing, revising, editing, finishing, and stuffing it in a file. I need to do some soul searching this coming year and decide what I really want to do. Leave a pile of stories for my progeny to discover on an ancient hard drive? Or actually find the, and I’m sorry, balls, to follow through with putting something (preferably somethings) out there. If I’m going to stick with the status quo, there’s probably no point in continuing this blog.
  4. Should I decide to s*** or get off the pot, so to speak, I need to pick ONE book in ONE genre and FOCUS on getting it ready. I jump around from project to project a lot. So.

Not bad, not bad. I wonder what’s holding me back from exploring publishing? It’s a little bit fear, but I think it’s moreso a question of why fix what ain’t broke. I’ve been writing novels for YEARS and stuffing them away unread. What’s wrong with that? Nothing, really. What do I want to accomplish by doing things differently? Ugghhhh. I don’t know? Well, I’ve liked getting better. Writing with publishing in mind changes things a bit, and I’ve spent a lot of time over the past two years improving in ways I wasn’t when I was writing for myself. Not that I haven’t improved over the years, but it was more focused improvement, and that’s been fun to see. My boys really, really want to see a series I’ve been working on in book-form, even just e-book form. That might be my biggest motivator, actually. When I look back on why I started this blog, my then 12 year old was a big part in the inkling to think about publishing.

I don’t want fame or my face on a book jacket. I don’t want to make appearances or do signings. So, I think I’m missing the usual motivators. Anyway, I’ll have to poke at some of these thoughts and see what churns up.

Meanwhile, Happy Christmas (or whatever you celebrate), and Happy New Year.

Nanowrimo 2016

I have spent September and October working furiously on a couple of different writing projects and am coming at Nanowrimo ready to party. Let the games begin! My goal is 52,000 words. Kind of low for me, but….

Historically, November is supposed to be a quiet month for my day job, but there are some things afoot that are shaping up to make my Nano-ing difficult. For the first time in forever (excuse me while I sing that song from Frozen) I am a little worried about hitting my goal. This might be rough, y’all. My kid is saying, “May the force be with you.” It seems apt. Here we go!

Finally! The glorious slow season!

It is finally, gloriously slow at work, freeing up hours upon hours of writing time for me. Hooray for no overtime! My bank account shall suffer, but my itch to write will be satisfied.

I am hard at work revising my WIP and being BRAVE and sharing chapters in my writer’s group. This is a BIG DEAL for me and I am equal parts terrified and excited. Two such volatile emotions are colliding and giving me regular headaches so I’m self medicating with dark chocolate. Since I’ve used up all my energy by being social with other writers, I’m just popping in to link to my favorite chocolate bars. I may not be verbose in the way of blogging (and am utterly failing at Twitter, by the by), but chocolate makes everything better, yes?

Try my favorites:

Should you be a dark chocolate newbie, try Ghirardelli Dark & Caramel.

The chocolate isn’t all that dark, and the caramel sweetens it substantially. If you’re reluctant to leave your milk chocolate behind, this is a good place to test the waters. It’s also readily available almost anywhere, even when you live in the sticks. So this often ends up being my go-to chocolate when I don’t want to wait for a shipment.

Green & Blacks is a wonderful dark chocolate that I have to order in. Oh the pitfalls of living in rural farmland.

This “library” of chocolate comes in a fun gift box (to give yourself, of course!) and includes Pure Dark Roasted Almond, Pure Dark Chocolate Raspberry & Hazelnut, Pure Dark Chocolate Sea Salt, and Pure Dark Chocolate. They’re all 70% cocoa. The Sea Salt is my fave. Insert heart-eye emoticon.

Chocolove Almonds Seasalt in Dark Chocolate. All the Chocolove bars are marvelous. Try Chillies and Cherries if you are feeling adventurous!

YUM!

Book Report: Fantasy reference books

Summer is one of my busiest seasons at work, second only to the holiday season in late November – December. My writing time is scattered and precious, but I did pick these reference books up and thought they were worth a mention.

The Mythical Creatures Bible: The Definitive Guide to Legendary Beings is a relatively new publication (2009, my teenage son thinks that sounds ANCIENT) by Brenda Rosen, and it’s such fun to flip through for inspiration and resources.

Beyond simply dragons and wyverns, zombies and banshees, it showcases the weird and wonderful from the world over like the Tsuchigumo. Full color illustrations and categorized by type. It’s a small, square book, but thick and heavy.

Spirits, Fairies, Leprechauns, and Goblins: An Encyclopedia by Carol Rose is older (1996, so prehistoric, my son says), but just as marvelous. Fewer illustrations, and they are in black and white, but soooo many more creatures are packed into this book. It’s marvelous for world building. Each character is cross referenced with similar or like creatures in an index. There’s a lovely appendix that sorts creatures by area in the world. For example, you can look up India and find a list of creatures steeped in folk lore, religion, and culture there.

Giants, Monsters, and Dragons: An Encyclopedia of Folklore, Legend, and Myth is another amazing resource by Carol Rose. Organized in the same way as Spirits, Fairies, Leprechauns, and Goblins above, it feels almost like a phone book. Black and white images are scattered throughout, and a helpful index again organizes beings from literature, beings that are associated with an apocolypse, and all kinds of helpful categories. You can still search by region and country as well.

All of these are so inspiring and give me so many ideas! I thought you might enjoy them too.

A conversation with myself about avocados and such

WELL. The months that were supposed to be quiet at work were eaten up by moving house. I can hardly believe it’s near the end of June. Actual writing has taken a back seat to life, though it’s an ever present force in my brain. My stories don’t ever let me completely forget them, they are like an itch I don’t have time to scratch or a sneeze that won’t complete.

I need to make the time, I need to prioritize writing — squeeze it in, make room. I know all the right things to do, it’s just a matter of figuring out how to make myself do them. This applies to everything in my life right now. I need to find the willpower to take a shower (hazards of working from home), dig deep and source the energy to eat right, to get outside every day, to get to bed before 1 in the morning. I’m caught in a bit of a doldrums, I fear, and I’m rocking, lethargically in a lost boat, staring at the sky, waiting for the wind to pick up again, waiting for the stationary dullness in my head to pass.

To wit: I stood in the kitchen this morning, willing myself to find the effort required to make a green smoothie instead of wolfing down something easy like cereal. I have had this battle every morning for the past few months, and until today, the easier breakfast has won out.

“But I’d have to peel an avocado.”

“It’s not hard, they are ripe, even. And if you don’t make the smoothie, that small window wherein avocados are ripe will be over and instead, you’ll find yourself with overripe fruit that must be thrown out.”

“But I’m not sure if we have frozen fruit.”

“Walk your lazy *** out to the garage and check. And hey, if we do, bring it into the kitchen freezer so you won’t have to tax yourself overmuch the next day. I know how sixteen steps can really wear a girl out.”

“You don’t have to be so sarcastic. Look, we do have frozen fruit.”

“Great, pick up the bag and take it into the kitchen.”

Here the phone rang with an important business call. I was very grumpy. You see, if I get interrupted in trying to do a thing that feels overwhelming, chances are the easy thing (grabbing that bagel, taking a nap, flipping off my stack of work with both fingers) will win out. But I dealt with the call and did the dry and tedious work things required of me and then I returned to the battle in the kitchen. The new bag of Asiago cheese bagels sat by the toaster, calling my name. They were so plump, so fresh, so not requiring any effort whatsoever. Their siren call almost won out, but then that supercilious voice inside my head cleared her throat. I could almost hear her tapping her foot as well.

“Do you want to feel bloated and gassy all day? Do you like having a carb crash at 10am which you then fix by stuffing your face with tortilla chips? You’re going to forget all about lunch, so you might as well at least put something nutritious in your body to start of with.”

So I did it. Even though I’ve had this exact argument with myself for three + months, today is the day that I did it. I made the green smoothie. I peeled that avocado. I actually had the dark, leafy greens in my fridge and they had not yet wilted into a slimy mess. I cut up an apple. I measured and dumped frozen fruit into the blender. And then I sat down and I drank the finished smoothie. Which, if you know me, is to be just as celebrated, as I have sometimes gone to all that effort and then wandered away, distracted, to let it separate into an unpalatable mess in its jar on the counter.

I feel like someone should be pulling crackers and emptying a pinata over my head, for this is how momentous this occasion feels.

I have also been having a similar argument with myself about Yoga. I am not a health nut, nor am I overweight. I am matronly. I look like I think a normal person who has given birth to a handful of babies should look. Not youthful and stretchmark free, necessarily, but fine. Still, Yoga gives me several good things in return for the effort required to complete a session online (oh my word, online even, I don’t even have to go to the gym and it’s still hard to make myself do it sometimes. Why?). Yoga helps me relax. I can get very, very stressed out and overwhelmed by my day job (this should surprise no one given that making a healthy breakfast is overwhelming), and Yoga is that oasis in the middle of a herd of screaming banshees bolting for the cliffs. You know, as herds of screaming banshees are wont to do. It also helps me feel better mentally, physically, and emotionally. How many things do that? Chocolate comes pretty close, but misses on the physically part because I always overindulge.

So, green smoothies today. World domination tomorrow.

Book report: Write Faster, Write Smarter Series

I recently listened to this entire series by Chris Fox on Audible. The books are short, and I found myself wishing they were all one volume with different sections, but they are easily digestible as is. I like Chris’s voice, and I think he gives some valuable advice.

Start with 5,000 Words Per Hour. I can already write that easy, but not on the regular. Chris details how you can start practicing writing more per day with writing sprints. A good friend put his exercises to use and is now writing 14,000 words in three days.

I’m already a very fast writer, but I don’t have a regular writing habit in place. I’d like to have one, so I took quite a few notes during Write Faster Every Day. Chris recommends practicing writing sprints, which I have yet to try. What I’m trying now, is his advice to set up your writing space (for me, that’s my office), to be 100% ready to go in the morning. For me, that means closing all other apps and programs and opening Scrivener to the project / chapter / scene I want to work on. Then, the next morning, I sit right down and get to work.

In actuality it’s a bit harder being a parent and a wife and having a day job, but I really like the concept.

I REALLY liked Write to Market. I think it’s a concept that rubs a lot of authors the wrong way, but this book has some very, very good advice. Chris details how to study the market to not only find a niche to write in that is popular and doing well, but ALSO how to find one that you will enjoy writing in. It’s not about selling out — I can’t write erotica without laughing my head off, and don’t enjoy reading it for the same reasons, so even though that’s a hot market, I’m not about to try to break into it.

Launch to Market is putting the cart before the horse for me, as I’m not anywhere near launching anything, but it was still a fascinating listen. I’ll listen to it again when I’m closer to the publishing end goal.

Book Report: Storyworld First

Jill Williamson is a fantasy writer, and I just loved her Storyworld First book.

I’ve been looking for something like it for some time, and was delighted to stumble across this. It’s exactly what I was looking for. Something focused on world building for fantasy. She uses examples from Oz, Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, Fablehaven, and Star Wars.

She goes into great detail about all the different things you can consider when building a fantasy world: races, species, religions, government, and more. She does bring up a lot of questions to make you think, and not all of those questions are given a definitive answer, but that’s kind of the point. There isn’t really a recipe to follow to create an engaging world of your own, but you do need to think about different aspects, get creative and flesh out your worlds. Readers hoping for more of a step-by-step guide might be disappointed if they aren’t willing to put in the creative effort.

She does use her own books as examples a lot, which might irk some readers, but it also makes sense as her own work is the work she is most familiar with.

I really enjoyed Storyworld First and I’m sure I will reference it a lot in the future. I wish there was an audiobook available, but I know those are expensive to produce.

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