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Post #200

Yep. I’ve written 200 blog posts now just on this blog.  What have I been doing with my life? *grin*

Here’s what I haven’t been doing.  Writing.  I’ve poked and prodded at a couple short stories. I’ve added a few pages (and removed a few pages) from my current novel project.  But mostly, I’ve been reading. I’ve been hanging out with my unemployed husband and playing videogames.  I’ve been going for walks and planning and replanning things in my head.  I’ve been doing admin work updating stories, covers, files, getting stuff linked properly, etc.  I’ve been getting rejections and sending stuff out again despite feeling like a kicked dog over and over.

None of which is writing. Not really.  My schedule got totally messed up when my husband lost his job.  I knew there would have to be some adjustments there, since I need my quiet time and space to get work done.  Before, I usually wrote between 11am and about 5-6pm (not straight through, I like my breaks) when I had the whole house to myself and everything was quiet.  Now…not so much.  Music is on in the other room. Or Anime. Or I just sit at my desk and know that my best friend in the whole damn world is right outside my room and instead of doing this work stuff, I can just go out there and spend time with my favorite person on earth even if all we’ll end up doing is curling up together and reading.

On the one hand, this isn’t so bad. I mean, hey, I get to spend a ton of time with someone I love.  On the other hand, we’ve both been somewhat lazy these last few weeks (though I’ve been pretty good about letting him have computer time to job hunt, but if he’s on the computer, I’m not, which means more excuse to NOT write).

It’s an adjustment.  I think I’ll have to just start carving out more hours.  I’m aiming for 20 pages a day finished, but I’ve really only been getting anything done at all while he’s either asleep or at Jujitsu (which is how I’m even getting this blog written).  So yeah, that’s one reason I’ve been quiet lately.  Between trying to get what I can done and then also not really being at the computer much, I’ve been a bit AWOL.

And I’ll probably still keep being fairly AWOL until Clarion (and during Clarion? I don’t know if I’ll blog the experience. I’m hoping I’ll blog a bit at least).  I’m not horribly behind on my writing schedule, which is surprising to me, but if I finish Avarice this week, I’ll only be a week behind.  I owe a couple short stories to anthologies, so those are also on the top of the to-do list.  Being a week behind means finishing only 4 novellas instead of 5 before I go, but I can live with that. I’ll be halfway through the novellas for this one series by the time I leave, plus have my anthology stories turned in and hopefully one or two other stories out to market (I’ve got three that are partially written and just waiting on me to focus and write the rest).

20 pages a day.  3 are done for today already, with 17 more to go.  I’ve got three hours before my distraction gets home from jits.   Go go go.

Clarion Funding: Kickstarter

Well, I took the plunge and planned out a Kickstarter project for Clarion.  I’m going to make a book of the best stories I write while there and distribute it to the internets.  But first, it will go out to people who donate via my project.

Here’s the link:  Souvenirs From Other Worlds: stories written at Clarion UCSD

The nice thing about Kickstarter is that if I don’t make my goal, nothing happens.  Of course, that’s the bad thing too.  But nothing tried, nothing gained.

And, of course, there are always my ebooks to purchase (under Read My Fiction in the sidebar).  Every bit helps.  I’m already blessed to have awesome friends, both in real life and here on the internet.  Thanks to all of you for the support and good wishes that have already been sent my way.  You guys cheer me up when I falter and help me keep pursuing my dream.  Thank you.

April in Summary

April was a wonky month due to life rolls (my husband lost his job) and workshops.  But it was a good month for learning and a decent month for writing, though I fell short of my ever lofty goal of 100k words.

Here’s the stats:

Ebooks published: 2

Money earned from writing: 68 (48 from ebooks, 20 from reprint sale of a short story)

Words written: 52,307

May is going to be a busy month. I have another neo-pro interview lined up (should be up in the next week), I turn 30 (oh noes!), and I have three novels to finish, two of which should go up in May depending on cover art.  I will hopefully have a couple more short stories online as well as possibly a collection.  Clarion funding is coming together thanks to a couple of angels in my life, but I’m still going to try a Kickstarter project to get the rest of what I need so that I can maybe lean on my angels a little less.  Besides, my Kickstarter project idea is just neat, it’d be a shame to not at least try it.

That’s that for April.  I learned a great deal this month and I’ve learned some new ways to study as well.  I hope that going forward my writing will be even stronger.  My toolbox certainly has some new additions for me to play with.  May will be a good month.

Brainz Fried

First order of business, I finally have paper copies of A Heart in Sun & Shadow.  They are up in the Createspace store and available directly through Amazon.com as well.  I will probably be offering signed copies of this directly as well, so if anyone wants a signed trade paperback, let me know.

I have been basically MIA online this last week since I spent the last eight days out at the beach working my ass off in a Character Voice workshop taught by Dean Wesley Smith with some help from Kristine Rusch.  I am still processing all I learned this week. I am not even sure where to begin.   The entire focus of the workshop was on how to build characters that have dimension and feel like whole people who leap off the page and suck readers into books.  You know, basically the most important thing a writer can learn.

Each day looked basically like this:

9am, meet for breakfast.  Noon- meet for first session, turn in our coloring assignments (basically a few pages by a best-selling author that highlights what we were focusing on that we had to go in and mark up) and sometimes we turned in big assignments in the mornings as well (especially as the week went on).  We’d break generally by 1:30 or 2 and then have to be back at 7pm with our big assignments. We’d generally break again for the night between 8:30 and 9pm.  Rinse, repeat for 7 days.

The big assignments were 3-4 story starts, 2 pages each, working specifically on whatever character voice technique we focused on each day.  (So 6-8 pages of writing each day).  Then we also had two short story assigments, 3-6k words each, one was due Tues evening (we got that assignment on the first Sat) and one was due Friday evening (we got that one on Tues night).  We also had to all read everyone else’s assignments so we could see what others were doing that might work and or not and learn from that as well (there were 10 of us in the class, so about 50-70 pages of reading a night plus whatever our coloring assignment was, plus all the short stories once those were turned in).  In the middle of the week the class as a whole basically flubbed an entire assignment and had to re-do all the exercises with whole new story starts and characters, so that added even more work on.  But we did better on the re-do and I, for one, feel that I have a better grasp on what we were supposed to be learning in that exercise.

The things we focused on were: Accents, Attitude, Content through dialogue, Opinion, Actions, and Structure (look & flow of manuscript as it relates to characterization).  We also covered some more advanced tips and tricks at the end of the workshop, but those were the biggies.

Let me say this: One week was NOT enough.  It was a good, intensive start, but I know I’m going to be working hard on this stuff for probably the rest of my writing life.  So much of it can really only be put into practice through subconscious feel, but I’m glad that we did the exercises we did.  They are ones I can do at home if I feel I’m struggling with something.  There were also six major things, and there are six weeks of Clarion.  I know what I’m going to be working on while at Clarion.  Getting characters to look, feel, and sound like breathing, interesting, full-dimensional people is a HUGE part of writing well.  Ideas are neat and all, but people won’t keep reading books with flat characters.  I’ve got a great opportunity for focused practice while I’m at Clarion, and I’m going to make use of it.  I have new tools in my tool box now, and I’m certainly not going to let them get rusty.

I am exhausted, still.  I hit the wall on Saturday morning, on the final assignment.  I opened up the blank page and my brain just said “no”.  Guess what? I wrote the three assignments anyway and made two out of the three really work.  That was me brain-dead.  It’s good to push and push sometimes because I really learned what I was capable of even when it felt like my creative muscle had finally stopped moving.  I literally had no ideas. None. I needed three story starts on Sat morning and my brain just said “no”.  And I, writer me, said “yes”.  Out of all the story starts we did that week? One of mine on Sat morning is probably the only story I’ll actually go back to and finish.  A story start that came out of the dregs of my exhausted brain but the character when she started speaking was there, ready to go and I just let the two pages happen.

So I’m really glad I went. Despite the problems that cropped up in my life right before, despite the frustration and exhaustion, despite it all, I think I’ve grown as a writer in just one week and I think I’ll be able to use these skills going forward.  And again, if you are serious about being a professional writer and don’t mind being made to work, the workshops on the Oregon Coast put on by Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Katherine Rusch are worth every penny, every tear, every moment (as any of my fellow writers who have come through that crucible can tell you as well).  I’ve learned amazing things from them and met some amazing writers who have, I hope, become amazing friends.

Now, I’m going to go read a book, drink some tea, and let my brain rest.  But not for too long *grin*

Clarion Funding Part Deux

All right. A couple weeks ago my awesome blog readers chimed in with funding ideas for how to get me to Clarion.  I then hung out in limbo waiting to see how much (if any) scholarship monies I might get and to find out what my final bill is.  In that time I’ve been putting together some plans for how to raise money that now I get to put into motion.

Limbo is over.  The bill is in and my life becomes like the plot of a bad TV movie. *movie voice-over voice* One girl. A dream. A career-changing experience. 2 weeks. 4,107 dollars.

(Of course, if this were a bad TV movie, some guy named Bruno or Hutch or Segei would come break my legs if I didn’t come up with the money, so I’m a step up on that one I guess).

In the immediate short term, I will probably have to take out a loan or something to that effect.  Which would cure the initial issue, but won’t cure the whole “don’t actually have the money” problem since loans have to get paid back.

So, initially what can be done to help are these things:

Buy my books! I have a fantasy novel which was professionally edited and is pretty darn good.  You can find the information for it here:  A Heart in Sun and Shadow.  If I sell 1300 copies of that, I’m golden.

I also have a science fiction short story collection which contains mostly stories that got honorable mentions in the Writers of the Future contest.  And I have a near-future science fiction novelette/novella (14,000 words) that also got an honorable mention in the contest.  If I sell about 2000 copies of those, I’m golden as well.

If you’ve bought my books or they don’t look like your cup of tea, a boost in my signal would be appreciated.  Maybe a friend reads this sort of thing?  Please though, don’t spam on my behalf.  Annoying people will not make them want to help me (which is why this blog post and the one on my Kickstarter project will likely be the only mention I make about this besides a Thank You! follow-up if/when I hit my goal)

I will also be starting Kickstarter project, mostly likely involving making a book out of my Clarion stories (the ones I’m going to write while there) and perhaps some extras.  I will make a separate post when that happens.

To everyone who has boosted my signal already, or offered up ideas, or bought my books, you have my sincere thanks.  With your help, I’m closer to my goal of going to Clarion than I would have been without it.  Thank you for your support 🙂

Learning and Spring Plans

I’ve been reading some really good stuff on story, plotting, and outlines lately.  I have always felt, personally, that plotting is where I run into issues.  I can handle simple plots (straightforward quests, zomg must run or die now sorts of things) but don’t really have a handle on how to write something super epic or how to keep things so tight the reader can’t breathe for fear something will happen in the book and they’ll miss it on the exhale.

But I’m learning.  I don’t like not knowing things so I’ve set out to fill in some of my writer knowledge gaps.  As always, I have a plan. (Am I the only one who hears Black Adder in my head whenever I say that or hear someone say that? No?)  Book 1 in my Law & Order with swordfights series is almost done.  After that, I’m going to try to get the other three done and to the editor before Clarion.  Hopefully I can manage to get the second book in the Chwedl duology finished by Clarion also, because I’d like to focus solely on short fiction while there.

So here’s my modified schedule for this spring:

Avarice – finished by April 10th
Wrath- finished by April 30th
Hunger- finished by May14th
Vainglory- finished by May 28th
The Raven King- Finished by the time I leave for Clarion (around June 25th)

As for plotting, here are some of the books I’ve been reading:

Save the Cat and Save the Cat Goes to the Movies by Blake Snyder

The Fiction Editor, the Novel, and the Novelist by Thomas McCormack

Story: Style, Structure, Substance, and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee

How to Write Killer Fiction: The Funhouse of Mystery & the Roller Coaster of Suspense by Carolyn Wheat

I got Donald Maass’s Writing the Breakout Novel and the Breakout Novel Workbook out of the library as well.  I also picked up The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction by R. A. Salvatore and Philip Athans because I heart Salvatore and wanted to see what he said about writing the fantastic.  So far the book is very basic, but interesting.

I mention all this because I know that when I do bother to blog, I tend to talk about goals and numbers more than the actual work itself and what my daily job entails.  But, personally, I find the details of what I do pretty boring.  I mean, I get up, I read some stuff, I write some stuff, I read more stuff, I might make notes about things I want to work on or some such, etc.  It’s… well, a job.  Writing is fun, but the creation part is the fun part and it’s hard to talk about that in any real way because it’s easier to just point at the created work and be like “yeah, I did that”.  But I think just posting goals and such leads to it looking like I’m sitting in the dark beating up a keyboard.  There’s a whole lot more that goes into me writing and improving my craft besides the practice part.

Now, mind you, all the study in the world won’t improve my writing if I’m not doing the practice and putting in the writing itself as well.  It’s like what I pointed out with Starcraft 2 a while back.  I watch tons of SC2 games and can talk the theory with the best of the best (you know, same as any dedicated sport fan *grin*) but I can’t PLAY SC2 worth a damn because I haven’t put in the practice.  Writing is the same way.  Read books, soak up knowledge, and then GO USE IT.

That’s why I’m trying to get four books written before the end of June.  I want to take these things I’m studying and put them to use.  These books are a good way to do that since they all will require tight plotting, are set in worlds I already have mapped out and researched (so I don’t need to lose any writing time on world creation) and I’ve got the basic stories in my head already with characters and structure, so they should be fairly quick to outline once I get my new methods worked out.  The books are for study, the novels I’m writing are for the practical part.  I think of it as Class Time (reading about writing and studying other novels that have worked) and Lab Time (putting what I have learned into practice through practical, hands-on application).

So that’s the plan and I’m (maybe) sticking to it! 😉

Clarion SD

It used to be called Clarion East, but got moved to San Diego, so yeah, I’m going with Clarion SD for now (or UCSD? Maybe?).  Anyway, I got accepted.  I’m crazy excited.  This is especially amusing considering my agony over whether to even apply or not and the fallout from that and then finally my decision to apply to Clarion SD.

Frankly, I didn’t think I’d get in.  Not because my writing sucks (it doesn’t) but because “not sucking” is not enough.  Hundreds if not more people apply each year and they only take 18. The math just wasn’t in my favor.  But with the instructor list I couldn’t resist applying.  I knew I’d kick myself if I didn’t try.

I tried. I succeeded. Crazy.  I’m still reeling. For the first couple days I figured it was a mistake, they’d mixed me up with someone else.  But that seems to have not been the case.  It seems even in success the self-doubts that plague me still stick around, heh.

I don’t know about scholarship money yet. I’m only panicking a little.  My husband and I talked it over and we’re going to do whatever we have to.  I want this. This is the point in my career that Clarion will likely be of most value for me.  I am big on continuing education and this is a huge opportunity to further my writing and my network of writer friends.

So yeah. I’m going to go dance or something and then go write like crazy because I need to sell some more stories. Meanwhile, if you want to help… I do have some e-books for sale.  The links are in the “read my fiction” sidebar.  Every penny helps and will go toward Clarion at this point.  Thank you to those who have already bought (I crossed the 100 e-books sold mark at some point early this month) and to those while will in the future.  It really does help.

Ok. Time to put on some Amanda Palmer and dance around a little. And then I’m going to work.

I Really Should Post…

I keep staring at the blog, knowing I should post *something* new because it has been over a week.  But what I really really really want to post about, I’m not allowed to talk about yet.  This is one of the downsides to being a writer, I guess.  Sometimes really cool things are going on and you just can’t say a word about it until you have someone else’s okay.  Grr.  So yeah, how’s that for a tease? I have pretty BIG news (at least, I think it is a pretty big thing) and I can’t share it.  Yet.  I will as soon as I can.

So… what to talk about? Mostly life lately has been finishing up Avarice (also known as the Law & Order with swordfights book 1) and outlining a few other projects (a series of eight romance novellas I’m writing).  Hopefully, Avarice will be off to an editor and my first readers at the end of next week.  This weekend I’m going to write my Q2 entry for WotF.  Next weekend I’m going to write a steampunk short story to submit to the Mammoth Book of Steampunk and finish doing research for another project I probably shouldn’t talk about yet.

Because of that other thing I can’t talk about (the BIG thing), I’m probably going to rearrange my novel schedule for this year as well.  And I’ve been looking into things like Kickstarter and debating doing a project for that and seeing if I could fund it that way.  The Casimir trilogy might work for it, now that I’ve solved the POV issues in the first book and can write it in a way that makes sense.  If it didn’t get funded I could always serialize it here on my blog and then do an ebook/POD version later.  I think the trilogy has great potential, so we’ll see.

So yeah, crappy little update, sorry.  I’ll be getting another interview or two up in the next few weeks.  I’ll also post the new project schedule once I’ve got it hammered out.  But hey, update!

Now I better go write…

February Wrap-up

Short month, went quickly.

I started, deleted, started again, and didn’t finish a novel this month. But I’ve solved how to finish it and now need to start over one final time. This annoying process underlined how important having the right point of view in a book really is (the POV issues were what was stalling me out in the middle, thankfully I figured that out before giving up forever).

Words written this month: approximately 72,000
Words discarded/deleted this month: about 34,000 (this number will GO AWAY next month. Seriously going to stop doing that. Seriously)
Ebook earnings: 22.75 (just slightly less than last month, yay!)

For March, I’ve got two novels to go up as e-pub. I need to get on the POD/Createspace thing and learn how to do that and get print copies out. I’m also going to start the sequel to a book while working on the SF novel (now that POV issues are solved). I’m behind on the Write one/Sub one challenge, so I’m going to try to get seven or eight stories done this month as well to catch up. And I’d like to finish one of the romance novellas. I’m debating on waiting until all eight are done to start putting them up, but we’ll see. I might wait until I have three or four, then start putting them up every couple weeks.

Meanwhile, today I’m going to be approving copy edits and generally taking it easy. Just got back from an amazing week of workshops and really need a little brain break before I start writing for the week.

Gotta Know When to Fold’em

To date this month, I’ve written just under 60,000 words.  Most of that was on my SF novel project.  However, nothing seemed to be coming together with the novel and I kept throwing out whole scenes and chapters and starting again and again trying to make the plot gel.  I kept doing this until the fun was gone and all I could do is sit and write and then delete and try again and hate every second of it.

So I’m sort of quitting that novel for now.  Not forever.  Just for now.  It’s a complex plot, more involved with more POVs and more threads than I’ve ever tried to write before.  Which is a good thing, since I think it’s healthy to stretch my writing muscles and make myself deal with something I’m weaker on like complicated plotting.  But beating myself up about it not coming together wasn’t helping anything.

It’s really hard for me to admit I need to take a step back from this project.  I follow Heinlein’s Rules, after all.  Rule 2 is “finish what you write”.  When stepping away from this, I had to ask myself honestly if I wanted to put it down for now because that’s the healthy thing to do? Or am I just walking away because this is difficult?  It’s one thing to set something down and let it percolate a little more.  It’s another to start forming a habit of dropping a project the moment it gets rocky.  I don’t want to form a habit of not finishing things, because nothing will kill a writing career faster than not finishing, except maybe not starting.  (If I don’t start, I can’t finish, if I don’t finish, I can’t submit, if I don’t submit, I can’t sell…see?)

So I’m making a compromise with myself.  I’m stepping back from this novel.  I’m still going to keep up my writing streak and go for my necessary 3,000 words a day and a short story on weekends (the numbers I need to hit my annual goals).  And I’m designating Mondays as the day to work on this novel (minimum one page/250 words).  If I have to just write it scene by scene and take 40 weeks to finish, I’ll finish.  Meanwhile, the rest of the days will be devoted to other projects that I feel more comfortable with.  I figure that this is a good compromise.  I’m not quitting this novel entirely, but I’m giving myself breathing room on it while hopefully continuing to develop my skills enough that the sort of complicated plot I want to construct here will become an easier thing for me.  I’m tired of second guessing myself and deleting words and basically letting my critical voice eat away at me.  I’m a better writer than that and I should know better.

So that’s what’s up with me right now.  I’m turning to short stories while I get a couple of novels formatted for e-publishing and then I’ll be back to novel writing in March (working on a fantasy novel with a nice straightforward quest/romance plot and only one or two POVs, thank god).

I’ve fallen behind on the Write 1/Sub 1 challenge by 3 short stories, so I intend to catch up this week and next.  Also next week I have two workshops back to back, so I think that will help recharge my batteries and be really interesting and amazing as always (but especially with the changes in the industry right now… being around multiple professional writers for an entire week is going to be very, very educational).