About A. Elizabeth West

Writer, publisher, nerd of many persuasions

IGNORE MY JANOWRIMO POST COMPLETELY – I HAD A GREAT IDEA

So you might know that in addition to working on Confluence and planning Book 3, I’m also trying to study for the CompTIA Project+ exam.

The study guide and course do NOT have practical exercises; I guess they don’t think this not-quite-IT certification warrants those. But without hands-on practice (not just quizzes), I’m worried that I won’t retain some of the practical concepts. This really should have been a full-on course, with homework.

Done from the comfort of a fluffy bed in lockdown, of course.

Photo by Madelynn woods on Unsplash

I’ve been trying to apply them to the only work I’m actually doing right now, but since I’m well along in the process for Confluence, trying to break it down into work packages retroactively has proved difficult. SOOOOOOOO…

I’m gonna start over, with Book 3 as the project, and plan it using these concepts all the way through.

This means ditching JaNoWriMo but not the writing I’ve already done. It’s okay; I didn’t get very far anyway, and we’ve been pretty busy dealing with a major threat to our democracy, a deadly pandemic, and drastically altered holidays. Starting over on a project just means it gets the attention it deserves.

If you’re tempted to @ me for the about-face, remember, I’m doing all this by myself while also job hunting and looking after my mom. (Although she’s frustrated with how long it’s taking—as anyone would be—she’s actually doing really well.) The stress of being unemployed really does not lend itself to higher thinking.

Froggy has the right idea; all I need is a moment of time when someone isn’t texting me, Mom isn’t calling me, and idiots aren’t trying to overthrow the government.

Image by silviarita from Pixabay 


The word count meter will remain on the sidebar of my Home page. I will keep you up to date on my progress, as always, both with Confluence and Book 3, and post media/announcements as I go.

I also want to thank my readers for sticking with me. These last few years have been a long slog. But we’ll get through all this, and things will get better for everyone. All we have to do is

JanNoWriMo 2021 – Day 1

I just realized I forgot ALL ABOUT THIS (see previous post, the Bad section).

My progress will be slow due to the need to study for that exam. But I just opened a new project in my SmartEdit Writer program, and I have 1,961 words already, mostly from jotting down bits of scenes and dialogue here and there.

Plus, I also wrote some that I thought about putting in Confluence but realized they’d fit better in a third book, and I saved them. I wasn’t going to give myself a word count target; however, the program has set it up at 20,000.

Hey wait a minute, I have 1,961 words already, I SWEAR.

That gives me a 645-word target per day. I can probably manage that. Even if I get behind, I should be able to catch up. A good writing session for me can hit 2,000-plus words easily.

This one’s going to take a while, folks. I don’t have a title for Book 3 yet, but we’re off and running! I’ve dropped a small meter in the sidebar at the right of the home page. I’ll post weekly updates (not daily) because I’m busy.

Keep the Change, 2020, Ya Filthy Animal

Well howdy!

I’m sorry I haven’t been around much lately. I meant to give you an update sooner than this.

2020 has been crap, as you well know. Mostly, it felt like slow torture. Some stuff happened— good, bad, and a mix of both.

Good

– I published Tunerville even though it got lost in the shuffle of COVID and endless garbage from the dumpster fire in DC.

– I met some very cool people online: lots of lovely resisters, performers, and artists.

– I got a free CompTIA Project+ class to help me get a job.

– I watched a lot of good TV, like Superstore (NBC/Hulu; I didn’t think I’d like this one, but I loved it), The Witcher (Netflix), and The Mandalorian (Disney+). I actually subscribed to Disney+ for the upcoming Marvel series blitz, but Din Djarin and his baby son Grogu kept me going all through this hell year.

The purest little food thief in all the galaxy.

Image: Disney+

Don’t sue me, Disney; I’m giving you free publicity for The Mandalorian. Who could resist that face? Anyway, I love macarons, and I will attempt to make the space ones as soon as I have a kitchen again.

Bad

– I learned that I’m pretty good in an emergency (ugh).

My mother had a stroke the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. She got to the hospital well within the three-hour window to receive tPA therapy. They also corrected an underlying condition that caused it in the first place. As a result of the swift treatment, the doctors said she should regain full function.

Before you ask, she’s doing very well and is now home after two weeks of inpatient rehab, continuing with home care OT and PT. Her right side was affected; she can talk and think and walk, but her hand isn’t working very well and she needs a walker for balance. Plus it takes her time to get words out—she said they’re in her head but she can’t always get them out of her mouth.

Thank the gods I was here and understood what was happening. So having no job was providential.

You can go ahead and give me that amazing job now though, universe.

Photo by Olivier Collet on Unsplash

Everyone should know the signs of a stroke, and if you think something is wrong, PLEASE call for help. Better safe than sorry. First responders would probably be the first to tell you that nobody ever died of embarrassment. Their job is to help you, not to judge you. They’ll do that later after they get you out of the tree.

Mix

– I have so far managed to steer clear of COVID-19. But our third wave is going strong. So wear your mask, stay home as much as possible, and keep your hands clean and off your face!

And of course,

WE FIRED TRUMP

Whether the slow-moving attempts at a coup (and yes, it is a coup), aided by seditious members of the Greedy Oligarch Pervert party, manage to take hold remains to be seen. I can’t relax until Biden is actually in the White House, and even then, I’ll be holding his and his AG’s feet to the fire until every last one of them pays for what they’ve done.

In other news, Confluence is back from the editor. I had to deal with Mom stuff, plus I’m still trying to study for the certification test, so I just now started reading it again. When I start editing something, it feels like chipping away at the outside wall of an edifice, that I constructed, and I’m not sure how to get in and clean up my first and second draft mess. But I’ve started to feel the building blocks shift. That’s exciting.

Only slightly less difficult than building this.

Photo by Adam Bichler on Unsplash

I’ve made a kick-ass cover (!!!) and you’ll see it a bit later since I’ll probably do a pre-order blitz for the e-book. I hope to have it out in late spring or early summer depending on how things go on the job front. I usually tweet before I post here, so follow me at @DameWritesalot and @BoomkaartBooks for updates.

Stay warm and I’ll see you in a bit!

Donald Trump is FIRED!!!

WE DID IT, Y’ALL

WE FIRED HIM

And not only that, but the world was happy too.

London:

Paris:

We got lucky, folks. The systems that put him in place are still there. If the last four years have taught us anything, it’s that autocracy can happen here. It very nearly did. Our checks and balances came very close to crumbling.

Now, we have to strengthen them. Black voters helped us get out of this but it’s up to white people to dismantle systemic racism. We can’t afford not to. The next would-be dictator will be much smarter than Trump, and he (it’s almost always a man because autocracies are mostly patriarchies and patriarchy won’t elect a woman) will learn from his mistakes.

If we pretend it didn’t happen (it did) or that it wasn’t so bad (it was), it will happen again.

And we’ve also (hopefully) learned that we cannot take democracy for granted. We can’t just vote and then forget about it for the next four years. Every single election is important; our government grows from the seeds we plant at the local and state level. These policies are the ones that affect our daily lives the most. Our congressional representatives come from our communities. While they’re in office, we have to push them for what we want, lest they become complacent and forget that they work for us, not the other way around.

During this protracted agony, particularly during the still-ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it’s the state governors and AGs and health departments who’ve done the work and taken the heat to keep people safe. Not all of them rose in defiance to a profoundly corrupt and uncaring administration, one that refused to enact a federal mask mandate, with the result that over 230,000 people have died, and as of today, November 8, 2020, the US has the highest rate of coronavirus infection in the entire world.

Definitely not this sycophantic Trump-loving asshole.

 St. Louis Post-Dispatch / Photo by David Carson, dcarson@post-dispatch.com

Georgia may have gone blue during the 2020 election, but Missouri will never change. Never. St. Louis, the bluest city and county in the state, isn’t big enough to overcome that. Hence my push to get out of here.

We’re getting there, slowly. The United States has drifted over time toward more progressive policies. Younger people who grew up with mass shootings and in an increasingly diverse country have become more politically active. We put a woman in the Vice President’s seat for the first time in our history—and not just any woman, but one of Jamaican and Indian descent, the child of immigrants. There’s plenty of reason to celebrate. Then we must roll up our sleeves.

Our work has only just begun. I’m ready. Are you?

No NaNoWriMo for Me: Instead, It’s JaNoWriMo 2021

November looms yet again, when writers everywhere try to cram 50,000 words into one month!

I am not participating in NaNoWriMo this year. I have a project (Book 3 of the Tunerville trilogy), I’m outlining it, and I even started a rough storyboard for the book trailer. What I don’t have is time.

As you know, I’ve been job hunting for an excruciatingly long period. I still haven’t been hired anywhere, but the state of Missouri did recently offer free CompTIA IT training to workers displaced by COVID-19. I qualified for this due to being a long-term unemployed person whose job hunt was completely derailed by the pandemic.

I’m glad SOMEBODY’S having fun.

Image by Alexandra_Koch from Pixabay / captions Elizabeth West

So now I’m preparing for the Project+ certification exam. I can’t write a book and do that simultaneously. However, this should bode well for the future. Not only will I have a certification to add to job applications, but I’m boosting the rudimentary project management experience I obtained at my last job.

Confluence is with my editor. Deadline: Thanksgiving. Although I doubt we’ll have any guests this year, I need to be ready to hit those revisions in December. I hope to have most of this study and maybe even the exam knocked down by then.

I promised you I would finish the trilogy, and I will. With that in mind, I’m launching my own personal, month-long writing challenge in January, which I will call JaNoWriMo!

Note: this is not an official thing, so don’t go looking for it online (edit: whoops, somebody did it!). It’s just me adapting to a crazy situation and the tendency for the Universe to make me sit here for months and then pile it all on at once.

“I only f*ck with you because I love you.” – Universe, probably

Image by Fine Mayer from Pixabay

I doubt I’ll finish in one month, especially if I find employment by then (sooner, please, so I don’t have to move during the coldest, wettest time of the year). Someone could even offer me a job out of state, since remote work is now a legitimate way to start. If so, cross your fingers that this hypothetical company happens to be in the increasingly narrow list of areas where I’d actually want to live.

Weekly updates for JaNoWriMo might work better. I’ll also pop a word count meter up on the blog so you can see how it’s going.

As of this writing, we have no clue who will win the 2020 U.S. election, what will happen in the aftermath, or whether we’ll even have democracy by January. All we know is that it will probably be very unsettled and chaotic for a while. I feel for anyone doing NaNoWriMo this year; the added stress is sure to derail you, but don’t give up. The whole point is to get you working.

Artists and writers are scribes of history, whether or not they include actual events in their work. So keep creating. Keep doing the thing you love. It will get you through these dark times. It will help others who need a breather, or an escape. Your voice is important.

See you soon!

The Difficult Middle Bit

Confluence is off to my editor! It toddled out of my computer on September 26, as a very rough second draft.

They grow up so fast.

Image by Comfreak from Pixabay 

This book series completely ignores what is going on in the world today, because it has to. I wrote Tunerville before tRumpledneckskin and COVID, and it would wreck everything if I tried to shoehorn in either of them. So I made an executive decision to leave it out. Plus, you don’t have to think about either of those things while reading it.

I sent it off early because I wanted to avoid the issue I had with the last book. By the time I found someone to do a really thorough edit, I’d done so much polishing I almost had to tear it down and rebuild it. This time, it’s rather loose, so I can shuffle things around more easily.

Writing a book is tough. Writing the second book in a trilogy is even tougher. I didn’t start out intending for Tunerville to have a sequel, but here we are. A middle book has to bridge the gap between the first book and the last and still hold up on its own.

I got some great advice from the writers on the podcast WRITERS/BLOCKBUSTERS. Although it’s a screenwriting podcast, I learn something about storytelling every time I listen. They talked at length about this in their Infinity War episode. Both this film and The Empire Strikes Back were complete stories in themselves. That is, characters had definite arcs and those arcs had resolutions, even as they led into their respective sequels.

He did it.

Infinity War pulled all the threads of the MCU together and propelled us to the majestic ending in Endgame. Nobody here is getting snapped, but I drew something out of Tunerville and some shit is going down.

The ghost tuner opened up a can of worms for the characters. They’re suffering through it, and it isn’t their fault. They’re facing some strange and terrible things. But I hope they’ll find the strength they never knew they had.

Stay tuned for updates; you can follow me and my press, Boomkaart Books, on social media. I’m on Instagram but as it’s primarily a platform for pics and video, I don’t have much to post there. Nobody wants to see the four walls I stare at every day.

Once I’m out of this dungeon, that will likely change; I want to produce some video and audio content, but I can’t alter this space and my family member seems to be on a remodeling kick (yes, in the middle of a damn pandemic!). The noise level and inability to set up recording space have curtailed that for now.

Back to worldbuilding; have a good weekend and be safe. Wear the damn mask!

Pandemic Brain and Last Day for a Free Book

If you are reading this on Labor Day, you can get the Kindle edition of The Shiny Folk and other stories for free, through midnight 9/7/2020.

Y’all, I have seriously neglected you, and I’m sorry.

I have pandemic brain. Yes, you understand it. We’re all suffering from it. Time has no meaning. Days blend into one another. If you’re working, you’re either stressed from worrying about contagion or stressed from navigating your job at home, maybe around family members also working from home, kids, pets, etc.

If you’re not working, as I Still! Am! Not!, you’re stressed from that.

FOR THE LAST TIME, DEXTER, MY COMPUTER MOUSE IS NOT A CAT TOY!

Image by Robin Higgins from Pixabay

Last post, I mentioned I was going to republish a third and final edition of The Shiny Folk and other stories at Amazon. You can read my explanation for that move at Boomkaart Books’ Media page. Honestly, I wish I didn’t have to distribute there, but IngramSpark is too expensive. It costs me nothing to publish with KDP, even for print-on-demand. Of course, that’s by design; Jeff “Greed Dragon” Bezos makes money off me, though God knows I’m not making very much. If it’s free for you, then you’re the product.

Again, sorry my pandemic brain forgot to come over here and tell you I’d launched it, and about the free book promotion.

I’m extremely happy with the new book cover, however. I think it turned out great. It’s miles better than the last one.

This is the paperback cover. I just now noticed it’s basically the same layout as the Tunerville cover. Apparently, I can only learn one thing at a time.

I added a couple of stories—one from this blog, one I published previously in a now-defunct literary journal (that I’d put on the blog), and one brand new story, “MathLex.” If you’ve been following me for a while, you know how difficult math is for me, so guess where that one came from? The cover is black because a couple of the stories fall into the horror genre, particularly “Jack and the Bean Sprout,” which I’ve never been able to sell since it’s straight-up disturbing.

Have I been writing more stories? Well, yes and no. Short fiction isn’t my favorite medium; although I like reading it, I’m not so fond of writing it. “MathLex” is new. I started a promising work about werewolves, but honestly, I don’t have the bandwidth for it right now, between revising Confluence and job hunting.

I said January 2021 for the release of Confluence; I may have to push it out a little depending on the timing of editorial feedback. Once it’s out, I can write the final book in the trilogy—it’s all laid out in my head, and I’m toying with the idea of writing it during this year’s NaNoWriMo.

The Catalyst is on hold for now, although it’s completely outlined. I’m not worried about that one. I just don’t want to pull a George R. R. Martin or Patrick Rothfuss on y’all, or leave you with an unfinished trilogy if I should get the ‘Rona or my head explodes from all the stress.

He only teases you because he loves you.

By Henry Söderlund – Pre-Hugo Portraiture is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. CC BY 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

I tend to work better if I have something to work around. Like a job.

And may I just say that if a person goes to all the trouble to prepare for an interview, i.e. looking up the company website and info, setting up a nice space, dressing up, logging into Zoom, etc. etc., they at least deserve a rejection email. If you ghost me, you go on my shit list. FOREVER. And no, an email a month after the date you told me you wanted someone to start doesn’t count.

In the meantime, I’d better get back to it. There is no rest for the self-employed, and that includes writers, who don’t get paid until we actually finish the work. In between bouts of app-centered self care, that is.

And pondering whether Happy Color’s Marvel coloring books are actually worth $2.99 each, or in-app purchases are for suckers.

Updates on Book 2 and Other Assorted Nonsense

How’s it going, y’all?

I hope everyone is safe, and your families too. A lot’s happened since I last posted. Well, in the world; not for me. Still no job; still a basement dweller.

It would help if it were full of wine.

Image by Tania Dimas from Pixabay

Some updates:

Screenplay

The screenplay continues to grind along very slowly. I don’t think a massive online open course where people can proceed at their own pace (i.e. fall behind) is best for beginners learning a very interactive writing process. There are so many people in the class that no one can connect. The platform doesn’t allow you to follow anyone to see their progress. This is massively frustrating, since we’re required to give feedback to other writers. I would have preferred an in-person class with more interaction.

Even Zoom would help.

Image by Jagrit Parajuli from Pixabay

Critique is useful, but I’m tempted to just proceed on my own. I downloaded all the videos and lectures. Although I think it could be shot on a fairly low budget, I highly doubt I’ll ever do anything with it. It’s fine; this screenplay is only for learning anyway. Your first anything will never be your best.

Book 2

I’ve set a release date of January 2021 for Book 2. And — I have a working title! It’s Confluence.

If I hustle, I should be able to revise and find an editor (and then revise again after that). Setting a deadline will hold me accountable. I really wish I could go somewhere else to work — the library would be good — but Missouri’s caseload keeps going up, so no.

I’m in your state, being a little bitch.

Image by Pabitra Kaity from Pixabay

Meanwhile, I took some time yesterday to mock up a layout of Chris’s house from Tunerville, where his maternal grandparents lived. When they died, his mother sold the house to him to keep it in the family, since Chris intended to stay in Martinsburg. Paulette and Alan moved to St. Thomas close to Chris’s brother Adam, his wife Carmen, and their grandchildren Mags and Henry. (Martinsburg and St. Thomas in Missouri are both fictional.) If you haven’t read it yet, you can get it at the title link.

Here’s the ground floor and the basement.

Image: A. Elizabeth West

Here’s the upstairs and the attic. I did these in Word, which sucks. I need to find some cheap (or free) easy-to-use room layout software.

Image: A. Elizabeth West

It helps me to have a representation of the space. When I’m writing, rooms tend to shift around in my head. During Book 1, the living room kept changing places with the dining room and the parlor / study. And the downstairs bath didn’t even exist! Chris’s bedroom also moved from the back to the front. But the kitchen has always been in that spot.

I don’t care if it’s not perfect. This is how it looks in my head. I need a solid image of the space for a pivotal scene.  

Workshops

In June, I attended two online workshops — How to Write Fights and Action Scenes, and Act Like a Writer — with comic book and NYT best-selling novel writer Jonathan Maberry, author of V-Wars and the Joe Ledger series, among others.

He presented scads of useful information and even took questions. Jonathan is very accessible on Twitter and prices his workshops affordably, a great help to little starveling writers like me. The proceeds from both went to an affordable housing organization, so coughing up $50 felt worth it in every way.

The Shiny Folk and other stories

I’ve taken my story collection down from the Boomkaart Books website temporarily. WordPress downgraded my ability to sell it directly from that platform unless I purchase an expensive Business account. I can’t do that presently, so the only alternative is to sell it via Amazon (ugh, I know). To do that, I have to raise the price a little and burn one of my ISBN numbers, so I’m including new content and a brand new cover. This will be the last edition of the collection. When it’s ready, I will let you know.

Conlang / Worldbuilding

Again, plugging away. I finally settled on place names for the world that goes with it. Of course, anything can change at any time as I plunge deeper into grammar, etc.

I also made a map using Inkarnate, an online map maker any Dungeons and Dragons players reading this will probably recognize. I like it despite the free version being somewhat limited. Should I stay on the high fantasy kick, I might pony up for a (very reasonable) Pro account.

Here’s a teaser:

That’s pronounced BETTHH-rah, by the way. In this language, ss is pronounced as the th in them. That’s all you’re getting. I’ve already said more than I probably should.

I’ve never gone this deep into fantasy before, and I’m not sure it will be a success, but it’s fun, so I don’t really care. If you enjoy the story, that’s all that counts.

I’ll leave you now to return to job hunting and revision. Stay safe — wash your hands, wear your masks, and avoid all the germy people (most of them).

And don’t forget to register to vote!

Dear Fellow White People, Don’t Expect Me to Make You Feel Better

I can’t make you feel better because nothing will make me feel better until black and brown people dying for no reason ends. And that may not happen in my lifetime.

If you’re white, and you are not actively examining your privilege right now and sitting with that discomfort, then I can’t make you feel better. I’m too busy looking at my own.

If you think I’m going to agree with you that violence is never the answer, I can’t make you feel better. I don’t feel that way. No, I’m not in favor of looting, and I don’t like it when people get hurt. But I like it even less when people who should be presumed innocent until proven guilty are instead condemned to death with no due process because of the color of their skin.

This isn’t about guilt. It’s about knowledge. White people cannot experience racism in a white supremacist society. We just can’t. That’s because racist oppression is a system, one that’s designed to favor us.

Some people think the election of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States ended racism. It did not. Racists burned him in effigy. They obstructed everything he tried to do. They (Trump in particular) originated and spread the birther conspiracy. Meanwhile, black people have kept right on dying at the hands of police and armed citizenry.

George Floyd left this world too early under the knee of a cop, one involved in at least 17 other misconduct complaints. The protests and riots following his death have focused on the police brutality that happens overwhelmingly to black people. Do you think if a store clerk suspected me of passing a counterfeit $20, knowingly or unknowingly, the cop (I’m not going to type his name) would have killed me?

Go to my About page and look at my picture. I’m pale as f*ck, so no, I most likely would not have died that day.

White women need to look at themselves especially hard. We are less likely to hold executive positions than white men, get paid less (though on average, more than black women), and face many of the same issues as black women — domestic violence, sexual assault, not being taken seriously by medical professionals. While we don’t suffer them to the same degree, therein should lie a glimmer of understanding, a glimpse of what it’s like to move through the world feeling like a target.

But racism is about power. Racist white women are exercising the little power they have against people who have less power than they do. Instead of supporting other women, they turn on them, bully them, put them in danger. They kill their men and their children. Why? Because a stranger asked you to leash your dog? Nobody deserves to die for that. Put your f*cking phone down and leash the f*cking dog like the sign says.

White people who truly want change have to realize that while we may not overtly discriminate against anyone, we still benefit from white supremacy. Racism didn’t stop just because we didn’t see it. A fish doesn’t realize it’s in the water. But a person can learn, and I’m gonna argue we weren’t looking for it.

I saw a comment —I think on Buzzfeed— that put it really well. I searched for it but couldn’t find it again, so I’ve tried to recreate it as best I can. Basically, the person posting it said, “When we say Black Lives Matter, we don’t mean NO OTHER lives matter. We mean Black Lives Matter TOO.”

You need to make yourself feel better. There’s only one real way to do that. And you know what it is.

If you’re white and you want to help, do these things.

  1. Support and vote for black candidates, especially women, especially candidates who promote police and prison reform.
  2. Call out racism when you see or hear it in everyday life and online, even if your voice shakes. Calmly stand up to people in your family. Let other people, especially the smallest ones, see and hear you do it.
  3. Put yourself on the line when you see cops interacting with black people. Stick around and be a witness. Watch them; film them if you feel safe doing so. If you see injustice and you’re called on to testify, do it.
  4. Think twice when you’re tempted to call the cops. Do you really have to?
  5. Support black achievements. Let people know about the work of black artists. If you employ them, pay them fairly, and give them credit.
  6. Patronize black-owned businesses. Seek them out in your community.
  7. Oppose gentrification of historically black neighborhoods to benefit affluent whites. This development practice is intersectional with poverty, but it also has deep roots in racism.
  8. Lift up black voices. Let people tell their stories without comment. Believe them when they share their experiences. They don’t need us to filter their narratives or tell anyone what they mean.

This will not end until we end it. We means white people. Don’t ask black people to end it. That’s not their job. You don’t ask victims of generations of systemic violence to do anything. You give them everything they need and let them live. You do everything you can to dismantle white supremacy so they don’t die and redouble your efforts when they do.

And above all, say their names.

Image credit: LA Johnson/NPR

Suggested reading for white folks:

A Decade Of Watching Black People Die (image above)

Your Good Cop Stories Aren’t Helping Anyone

Black People Need Stronger White Allies — Here’s How You Can Be One

Anti-racism resources for white people (Google Doc)

Beyond the Hashtag: How to Take Anti-Racist Action in Your Life

Edited to add:

White allies: Here’s a basic list of do’s and don’ts to help you with your helplessness