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!

NaNoWriMo 2019: And Here We Go

Happy Halloween and NaNoWriMo 2019 Eve!

I’ll post a word count, etc. every day during NaNoWriMo. Posts may be short, especially during the first week, since I’m moving and hopefully at least temping while I continue the job hunt in a bigger market.  

It bugs me that I didn’t make more progress on editing Book 2 this year. I got distracted by the conlang and life things. I decided to proceed as if nothing will happen with Pitch Wars and Tunerville. While I will be disappointed I’m not selected, writing New Book will undoubtedly take my mind off it for a bit.

The advice “Write what you want to read” has produced some really amazing works. I mostly read genre fiction. I’ve been struggling to land on a type in which to specialize. When I decided to get serious about my writing, I originally intended to do whatever I wanted, regardless of genre. No restrictive branding slots for me!

Of course, publishing and marketing don’t work that way. Bookstores have categories, and if you do well in one, you tend to get locked into it. Only huge success a la Stephen King allows you to break out and write whatever and still make money, and even then, you’ll have readers who eschew any non-conforming works.

More skeletons, please.

Image: Goodreads

For the record, I’m a die-hard SK fan who really liked Joyland.

While I enjoy literary fiction, I’m not sure it’s best for me as a writer. Secret Book, despite its ignominious end as a trunk novel, taught me how to elevate my writing. It contains some of the best prose I’ve ever produced, even if the premise was cringingly awful. My grad school writing professor, a Mark Twain scholar, told me that no time spent writing is wasted, and she is right.

Neither is time spent reading. Even as an unpublished writer, I get questions from non-writers about craft, and the two things I emphasize most are writing (butt-in-seat!) and reading. Although there really are no new stories, there are as many ways to write them as there are writers, and reading will fill your inspirational well. If you read widely, you’ll see what works and what doesn’t.

If you’re a screenwriter, you must watch movies (and read scripts). It does not matter what kind. Despite what certain directors have said recently, there is value in all cinema.

Speaking of that, I just want to disavow people of the notion that comic books, horror films, and comic book films can’t be recognized as fine art.

Some of the most beloved classics are fantasy. Peter Pan, The Lord of the Rings, Alice in Wonderland . . . I’m sure you can think of some. Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus is arguably science fiction but I had it twice in college. 

Where’s the love for me? I’ve never been out of print since I was published in 1897!

Image: Wikipedia (public domain)

When Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Return of the King won 11 Oscars in 2004, including Best Picture, I cried. It was the penultimate film from a book that has set a nearly unsurpassed standard for the high fantasy genre, a film with elves and orcs and hobbits and dwarves and all manner of beasties, with a villain who is nothing more than an immense, ever-open eye. I cried because it was like the opening of the Black Gate in real life, behind which the books and movies we loved were dismissed and imprisoned.

And it’s given us movies like Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame. Story arcs with iconic and beloved characters like Captain America and Iron Man, whose actors can play them with depth and nuance because the writers want us to see them that way and there’s room now to do it.

No longer are comic books a joke; now they’re winning Oscars for costume design and music (Black Panther, in 2019), and even acting. Heath Ledger’s posthumous award for playing the Joker might have seemed a nod toward the tragic cutoff of a promising career, but it absolutely was not. Anyone who saw The Dark Knight knew they were watching a darkly brilliant performance, and it didn’t matter that he played a comic book character.

To be fair, Martin Scorsese has a point in that Marvel’s dominated the movie house to the point where indie-style pictures can’t get greenlit easily or at all. Publishers have behaved similarly in blowing off new and midlist authors for fiction with mass-market appeal, because publishing is a business, after all.

Looking at my past works, I see speculative elements in every one of them (with the exception of Rose’s Hostage, another trunk novel). Very well then. Tunerville and Book 2 are urban fantasy, with ghosts and portals but set in the real world. It leads to you didn’t think I was actually going to tell you what happens, did you?

Now I shall try my hand at a full-on fantasy.

It may be a complete failure, but as my professor said, it won’t be a complete waste of time. Since these genres have become commercially viable, that gives me hope. Writers who enjoy fantastic fiction have a shot. But we still need to be true to ourselves, even while hoping it hits that sweet spot leading to publication and even moderate success.

We want to write it, and we want you to be able to read it. That’s a worthy reason to keep doing this. To everyone participating in NaNoWriMo, good luck!

NaNoWriMo 2019: Harry Potter and the Writer Who Tried to Do Too Much

It’s NaNoWriMo time again, campers!

Yes, I’m taking a stab at it. This year, it’s going to be a bit harder, as I have a LOT going on.

What’s Going On?

I’m moving

Hallelujah, I’m finally getting out of the town I’ve been stuck in for-fricking-ever. I’ve been job hunting forever, and there is no growth here. Plus, I’ve priced myself out of the small market. So what I need is a bigger market.

My crappy house has sold, and I’ll be able to move anywhere, though it will probably have to be within Nearby BiggerCity for now. I don’t really want to be there, either. However, the universe has been throwing favorable signs at me, and I’ve thrown a bucket of wishes at it, so we’ll see.

Since I won’t make enough profit to move somewhere cool and then get a job, I will be the literal nerd in her mother’s basement. It’s just temporary, however, until I find something. If I find work out of state, Oliver and I can just tootle away. I can come back for my stored stuff later.

Small silver four door car under a big tree
My little tootlin’ buddy. Hopefully not my future home.

Photo: Elizabeth West

Closing is November 7 and I have to move 200 miles and two locations away before then, so this is going to take some organization.

I’m packing

Since I’ve no clue where I’m going to end up or what I’ll need, the new homeowner, a younger person starting out whose grandparents are buying the house for him (aww), is purchasing some of my furniture. I’ve sold a lot of the rest on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist. Only a few things are going with me; the rest will be in storage.

Yes, I’ll have to move twice, unless something happens between now and then. The next two weeks will be key. It’s a little difficult to pack while you’re still actually using the things you need to pack.

I submitted Tunerville to Pitch Wars

This may not even happen, but if I’m chosen as a mentee, I will be revising one book at the same time I’m writing another. Gah!

There’s a new idea floating around in my head, though I might actually write Book 3 just to get it out and done. If nothing comes of Pitch Wars, then I can take my time with the conlang and revision of Books 2 and 3. It’s possible to publish earlier works later after you’ve broken through (please, universe, let me break through).  

I’m still job hunting

The less said about this, the better.

an iPad with a job application on it
Please let me give you all my private information so you can ignore me and send a rejection six months later! I love that!

Image by Gerd Altmann at Pixabay

NaNoWriMo Prep

Several tasks remain before I’m ready to dive into this year’s project.

An outline

Book 3 is already outlined in my head and has plenty of notes. New Idea is currently nothing but a blurb I wrote while practicing query letters. Regardless of which I choose, I should at least hit the high points to keep myself on track.

Music to write by

Last year’s Writing Music playlist will suffice. If I make a new one, I’ll share. I still have loads of albums to pick from.

A routine

I don’t mean a schedule, but the way I prepare and how I get into each session. Since I’m trying to cultivate a better writing habit, I’ve spent some time thinking about what works best for me.

  • Sitting in one place at basically the same time of day (usually evening, especially if I’m working)
  • Reading a little where I left off (this only works if I’m writing from start to finish, which, as you know, I don’t always do)
  • Throat-clearing

I want to talk about that last one. Sometimes, when you sit down to write, it’s hard to get started. Long ago, when I was stuck once, I did an email workshop called Daily Writes, created by Shery Arrieta Russ. I discovered that it helped to free-write for a few minutes about what I intended to accomplish that day. After finishing the workshop, I kept the habit as a way to unblock myself when I couldn’t seem to get started. All the blah-de-blah can be deleted later and doesn’t affect my word count.

I don’t expect to get all the way through Book 3 (or whatever) in November, but last year, I finished Book 2 the following month. Since I’ll be in a new city with no money (until I find a job) and no life, I reckon I’ll have lots of time.

Read more about NaNoWriMo:

A First Timer’s Guide to Prepping for NaNoWriMo | NY Book Editors

The Pitfalls of NaNoWriMo | LitReactor

NaNoWriMo 2019: How to FINALLY Write Your 30-Day Novel | reedsy blog

Facts about Conlangs, or What in Hell Am I Doing

Writers get stuck in creative ruts, just like any other artist. The best way to jump-start your brain is to do something new. You can experiment with form or a different point of view. You can try a new genre. Or you can make up a language!

So you know I’ve finished Book 2 in The Trilogy That No One Wants. The first book, Tunerville, is a contemporary fantasy that involves ghosts. I don’t want to spoil (just in case), but I’ve taken my character a little further than his backyard.

I mentioned in the marshmallow post (I need more of those) that I was creating a conlang. Did I confuse you? Do you have questions? I shall answer them.

Yes, please explain. I know nothing.

Image: gameofthrones.fandom.com

What the hell’s a conlang?

Conlang is short for constructed language, one in which phonology, grammar, and vocabulary have been created rather than developing naturally.

Famous examples include auxiliary conlangs (auxlangs) like Esperanto and Lingua Franca Nova. Most people consider artistic languages (artlangs) created for fictional universes, such as Dothraki and Valryian (Game of Thrones), Klingon (Star Trek), and the various languages J. R. R. Tolkien created, around which he wrote The Lord of the Rings, as the typical conlang.

A priori languages aren’t based on any others. Most artistic languages fall under this category, as do auxlangs. A posteriori languages, like mine, are borrowed from or based on existing tongues.

How in hell do you do this?

I started with some typos from my music friends chat room that weirdly resembled Scottish Gaelic (no, really) and based the structure on Welsh. The latter has very little in the way of exceptions to its pronunciation and grammar rules, unlike English. I don’t speak it, but I looked into it before a trip to Wales, and it’s not that difficult.

Despite what you might think.

Image: Wikipedia / Chris McKenna (Thryduulf)

The double-l in Welsh does not have an equivalent sound in English. It’s hissed a little bit — put your tongue on the roof of your mouth and say “L”. Similarly, a conlang that isn’t based on your native language can lack sounds common to yours or contain some yours doesn’t. If you decide that your fictional speakers aren’t human, it definitely will.

My conlang doesn’t have a name currently because I’m still trying to think up place names for its setting. All the phonemes are in place (unless I change them later), and I’ve left out a couple of letters, so it’s not a carbon copy of either Welsh or English. As for syntax, it’s still a bit iffy yet.

Writer Kristin Kieffer points out in this blog post (see Tip #2) that all the things you think about when worldbuilding will apply to your conlang. A future civilization that grows food exclusively via hydroponics probably wouldn’t have a word for plow. A culture who loves elaborate ritual will have long phrases and lots of modifiers.

David J. Peterson has a great book for conlangers called The Art of Language Invention. Another fantastic resource is Mark Rosenfelder’s The Language Construction Kit. I’ve dropped a companion web page below in links. Both are available at Amazon; the Kindle edition of Mark’s book is the full text.

There’s a program called Vulgar that will create a language for you; I’ve held off, but I might end up using it as an assist because making up root words and all their derivations is harrrrrrd.

Why in hell would you do this?

Tons of reasons. Creators of auxlangs generally intend them to be used by real-world speakers. For example, Esperanto was developed to facilitate international communication. Codes are also conlangs; they provide ways of shortening or encrypting language to obscure communication (cryptography), make it faster (shorthand) or make it understandable when speaking isn’t possible (semaphore). They also let people tell machines what to do (computer languages).

Talk BASIC to me, baby.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Artlangs can lend depth to fictional worlds. For the television adaptation of Game of Thrones, David J. Peterson created the Dothraki and Valyrian languages off the basics in George R.R. Martin’s books.

And for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, they wanted the antagonists to have a full-blown language, so Klingon was developed by Marc Okrand from a few words James Doohan (Scotty) improvised during the original series. It’s comprehensive enough for Treknerds to actually speak it.

As with any kind of research or backstory, you’re better off using it judiciously rather than doing huge expository dumps and risking what I sometimes call the Jean Auel effect (bless her!). Her Earth’s Children series, which began with the Clan of the Cave Bear, had page upon page upon page of explanation of the food, clothing, toolmaking, etc. in the daily life of her prehistoric characters. I personally enjoyed it, but it can bog a story down.

If you bore your readers, you’ll probably lose them on a mountain somewhere.

Interestingly, Auel managed to come up with a highly developed sign language for her Neanderthal characters, which authenticated them according to the known research at the time of writing. Novelist Anthony Burgess and anthropologist Desmond Morris collaborated similarly for the largely non-verbal 1981 pre-historic film Quest for Fire.

While this performed splendidly for those works, some writers and critics don’t find a comprehensive conlang necessary for immersion in a fantasy world and claim it can even be distracting. Perhaps, but if you do decide to include it, it should have more consistency than just random gibberish. A smattering of words and phrases can be enough, although that doesn’t count as a true conlang.

Stephen King’s characters in The Dark Tower spoke a dual dialect known as Low Speech, Mid-World’s common tongue, and High Speech, a ritualized and formal language only used by gunslingers. While King didn’t take the trouble to create a whole language, the lexicon enhances the setting quite well. We know we’re not in Keystone Earth (our world) when people are talking both in the ka-tet’s present and Roland’s past.

High Speech also has an alphabet, in a font called Hoefler Text Ornaments Regular, which you can download. If I were to write “Hello my name is Elizabeth” in High Speech, it would look like this:

You don’t have to go this far, although I might because, while complicated, worldbuilding is also FUN.

———-

Will my conlang become a full-blown, usable tongue? Eh, who knows? I’ve never done this before, so it’s a challenge. I’m proud of myself for getting this far. I even invented words for cardinal and ordinal numbers that actually build on themselves and make sense. If nothing else, it forces me to think about setting in a new way, an excellent writing exercise regardless.

If you’re interested in reading more about conlanging, here are a few links.

The Language Creation Society

Web resources for The Language Construction Kit

Conlang: TV Tropes

NaNoWriMo 2018 Day 3: Le Switcheroo

Okay, remember when I started Book 2 last NaNoWriMo and couldn’t finish it? This graphic shows how far I got.

I’m gonna finish it. 

The entire time I’ve been messing around with Invasion, something about it kept poking the back of my brain. I thought this meant I should just write the damn story, which is why I chose it for this year’s challenge. 

Wrong!

I’ve been super bummed about NaNoWriMo this year. Prep was fun (especially making those quinoa patties — yum yum), but I wasn’t excited about starting.

Today, while I schlepped around the grocery store, the reason for my malaise finally clarified itself. The problem isn’t one of story but structure. Invasion would work much better as a screenplay. I’ve been flirting with writing one for a while, but I didn’t think I had any ideas that fit.

It makes sense that way. As a book, it just didn’t, at least not in my head. Writing it as prose makes me want to set my hair on fire. Since it’s taken a long growing period and hundreds of dollars to get my hair exactly the way I want it, saving this story for my first screenwriting project makes better fiscal sense.

Works for Hades; not a great look for me.

Image: Hades by Nina-Serena / deviantart.com

That’s some terrific fan art, by the way. 

My head has been in Book 2 for a while — in world-building, in character development, in outlining. Why stop now, especially after I did all! that! work! restructuring Tunerville? I still have a very strong feeling it wasn’t wasted, and not just because I’ve learned a ton about craft.

So, here we go. Finished scenes are in Atomic Scribbler. Notes and outlines are too (another great feature; they open as pages in one window, unlike Wordy McWorderson, which only opens them as annoying separate documents).

I haven’t lost much time, since I already wrote a chunk. I doubt I’ll finish it completely by the end of November, but I’m sure the momentum will carry me through. 

Now I’m excited.

Blade Runner 2049 score without the vocal tracks
Damn, that was a good film

NaNoWriMo 2018 Day 1: I CHEATED ALREADY

Sheesh, WordPress picked a not-so-good time to redesign their editor.*  Lucky for me, I pick this stuff up quickly. Also lucky — I always write my posts in Word first so I have a backup in case my website goes blooey.

WORD COUNT: 1,625. I already had this many before it started. 

Yes, I know you’re not supposed to begin NaNoWriMo with any actual writing already commenced, but 1) I didn’t officially sign up, and 2) if you know me, you know I do this almost every time. 

This book, referred to in last year’s NaNo end post as Invasion, has been rattling around in my head for a while. Though I’ve heard post-apocalyptic fiction isn’t really a thing anymore, when you’re facing a real-life apocalypse (or the potential of one, thanks to the dictator’s ass-kisser in the White House), one’s mind does tend to turn in that direction.

So here I am, attacking the page and pounding the daylights out of my keyboard. “Ruination is the best friend to creation,” as Chuck Wendig so eloquently put it.


He also invented a sandwich called The Wendigo. Here it is. It is surprisingly delicious.

Photo: Elizabeth West

This month, you’ll likely get very short daily posts. I won’t talk much about the story; it tends to ruin things when I’m writing a first draft. I learned that lesson with Tunerville. I might discuss things I’m learning, share any news, or maybe just whine a bit. Writing a whole book in a month is tough. I may have to build in time for another MCU marathon.

Image: Instagram / comic.book.memes

Before you go, enjoy these MCU memes; I certainly did.  :’D

http://comicbookandbeyond.com/marvel-movies-memes/

*Dear WordPress, I hate the separate blocks; kthxbai.

NaNoWriMo 2018, or Harry Potter and the Butt-in-Chair Writing Challenge

Lordy, lordy, lordy. It’s that time again. You know the one, when writers all over the country, excited and crazed, take up the challenge to write 50,000 words of a book in one month.

My last attempt at NaNoWriMo did not go well. I became deathly ill and lost so much time and momentum I flaked out and quit. Well not this time, buckaroos. I may not have a job. I may not have a place to write if I can’t find a job. But I have a plan.

Okay, it’s not much of one.

#Relatable

The Joker pantsed things, but you know me — I’m an outline gal. Yes, I wrote one. Is that the book I want to write? I’m not entirely sure. Nor am I sure if I’ll sign up officially or just chronicle it here.

My original plan from last time was to write the sequel to Tunerville. I’ve outlined it all the way through and into Book Three. Yes, I have a trilogy. But if I can’t get the first book published, there isn’t much point writing the next two, is there?

I googled “how many rejections does it take before you should give up on a book” and everyone says 80–100. Well, as of today, I’m halfway there.

Secret Book has become the trunk novel. I don’t think I want to revise that one, at least not now. It’ll keep. Meanwhile, I’ve been trying to prep as much as possible.

  • I’ve cleaned the house. No, really cleaned it. A garage sale and some Facebook Marketplace shenanigans have worked wonders. My back-breaking futon is gone and with it, a lot of crap.

Garage sales are funny things. The stuff you expect will go like hotcakes barely merits a glance, and people buy the most amazing crap. I sold a box full of old pool chemicals, an erasable address book, and a package of blank CDs left over from when I cut my own skating music. The really nice stuff didn’t sell at all. Hence turning to Farcebook.

But God, it sure was great to finally unload that stupid futon. I only bought it because I couldn’t afford a sofa. My back is so much happier. I replaced it with a platform frame for a twin mattress. It’ll do until I can afford a nice daybed frame. I like the versatility of having an extra bed and being able to stretch out while I watch TV or play on the internet machine.

That’s my TV-watching pillow in the middle. Yes, I am a child. And a nerd. Fight me.

Photo: Elizabeth West

There’s room for storage underneath, but I have less to shove beneath it now. It’s comfy AF.  I tried it with the box spring and it was WAY too high; I couldn’t reach my drink on the coffee table. It’s important for me to reach my drink, dammit.

  • I’m cooking and freezing things. Soup, quinoa patties, beans.
  • I’m doing ALL THE LAUNDRY. In spring and autumn, I like to wash all the things, like curtains, blankets, and bedspreads.

All that’s left is to figure out how to manage Thanksgiving. If I visit the fam, I may lose two writing days to driving fatigue. I’ve got at least one Friendsgiving coming up, too.

I found some great suggestions in Robbie Blair’s 2014 NaNoWriMo survival post at LitReactor. I’m especially drawn to the Thine Holy Chalice one. Since I have more room now, I might just go scour the flea market and buy something fun.

As long as this guy isn’t hanging around, I should be good.

Image: indianajones.wikia.com

You’ll get a word count here. I can’t promise a pithy post every day, as I’m still job hunting and there’s no telling what manner of work beastie I’ll drag home over the moors. I may shoot for a novella rather than a novel, depending on which direction this story in my head goes. We’ll see.

If you’re planning to do NaNoWriMo this year, feel free to share your prep tips in the comments.

Theme Reveal Day! 2016 Blogging from A-Z April Challenge

atoz-theme-reveal-2016 v2Grr, I cut my pinky on a mandoline blade when cleaning out a kitchen drawer today.  The giant bandage is making it hard to type.

Today, March 21, is the 2016 Blogging from A-Z April Challenge Theme Reveal!  This year, I have a plan, and I’m actually ahead of myself for once.  Cheers for me!

RULE BRITANNIA--oh wait, that’s the wrong cheer.  Calm down, Grandma.

RULE BRITANNIA–oh wait, that’s the wrong cheer.  Calm down, Grandma.

Image:  stockimages / freedigitalphotos.net

Ironically, the captcha for downloading that image was “forever and ever.”

I really enjoyed writing the Character series in the 2014 Blogging from A-Z Challenge.  In that vein, this year I’ve chosen to pick apart different elements of settings.

In this post on The How to Write Shop, Kathy Steffen states:

A setting does more than add interest; in fact, if your story can take place anywhere and nothing else in your story would need to change, rethink how you have used setting. Make it integral to the story[…]. 

Check out her post; it’s from a few years ago, but she shares some cool creative writing prompts you can use to establish a setting.  And you might want to look at this one on world-building from Chuck Wendig.  He’s so good he makes me feel like a clumsy farmer trying to plow a field with a fork, but he’s also pretty inspiring in between the swears.  In fact, that entire post kind of negates my entire series here.

Your lack of faith disturbs me. -- Darth Gorilla

Your lack of faith disturbs me. — Darth Gorilla

Image:   Arvind Balaraman / freedigitalphotos.net

And the captcha for that one was “Plan Ahead.” I’m on a roll here.

I already wrote about setting once before, in this post.  For the Challenge, I’ll cover a few things I didn’t mention and try to expand on those I did.   These posts will pose lots of questions.  You don’t have to answer them all; just pick the ones most applicable to your story.  It may seem overwhelming, but if you picture the setting in your head and you know where you want to put your characters, the answers will come to you.

And remember, nothing is set in stone at this point.  A first draft is only that—a first draft.  But a solid setting in your mind will make moving your characters through the story much easier, as well as orient your readers.  World-building is fun, but it requires careful consideration.

Stay tuned for the Challenge.  I’ll see you there!

NaNoWriMo 2015 Day 30: The End is Nigh

I hope everybody had a safe, sane, and happy Thanksgiving weekend.  If you don’t celebrate the Day of the Turkey, I hope you had a good weekend regardless.

Welp, it’s the last day of NaNoWriMo and I  have not finished Secret Book.  I have written 15,250 words this month, which is more than I wrote on the thing in quite a while, so I don’t consider it a failure at all.   My total words come out to 94,997.

According to my NaNoWriMo stats, at the rate I went this month, I will finish on February 7, 2016.  Maybe.  Maybe sooner, if I push myself through December.  I’m starting to see the links in this story (actually, it’s two stories that converge, then break apart again), and that perks me up a little.  It’s like building something; at first, it’s just a jumble of parts, but when you get to a certain point, you start to see the finished product emerging.

Just stack those over there; we'll have this done in a jiffy.

Just stack those over there, Nigel; we’ll have this done in a jiffy.

Photo: Elizabeth West

I don’t think I’ll do NaNoWriMo to finish something this complicated again.  Tunerville had the distinct advantage of being somewhat simplistic; it’s just a straightforward urban fantasy and I could fly by the seat of my pants throughout.

Remember this guy?  Like him.  

Remember this guy?  Kinda like him.

Image: circuswarehouse.com 

So now there is a month left to go before New Year’s Day.  I shall lurk a bit and see if I can finish the draft by then.  I’ll keep posting the increased word count (I made a cool spreadsheet) so watch the counter on my homepage.  You’ll know when I’m done.  Hell, they’ll probably hear me scream all the way in London.  I still have a couple of vocabulary posts to go, so expect those upcoming.

Thank you for sticking with me through the lamest NaNoWriMo of all time.  I PROMISE I WILL FINISH.

Now I shall leave you lovely people and go watch The Walking Dead.  Here is a video of a dog who feels my pain at having to get up to go to work after a long weekend.