Breaking Routine

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(Personal photo 09-11-2017. Click for larger image.)

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You’ve heard me wax eloquent on the importance of having a routine. Something that ensures you get done everything that needs doing, especially your writing. But today I want to talk about the importance of breaking routines as well as keeping them.

Usually when we talk about breaking routine, it’s a bad thing. We mean to complete certain tasks, but something unexpected throws a monkey-wrench into the careful plans of mice and men. And then we talk about the struggle to get back into a routine once it’s been broken.

However, there are two very good reasons to break routine on purpose:
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The Game Plan

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Now that I’ve recuperated (a little) from the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference, it’s time to figure out what happens next. I’ve talked it over with myself, and I think I’ve (more or less) decided how to proceed:

  1. Do another read-through of Courting the Moon. While I don’t plan on making any ground-breaking changes at this stage, there are a few tweaks I’d like to incorporate, plus a general overview of the manuscript before I send anything out.
  2. Write and send out query letters. Since 4 out of the 5 agents I spoke with said I could query them and 3 of those 4 requested pages, I need to get those letters written and ready to go. My goal is to send them out within the next two weeks.
  3. Continue researching agents and publishers. While it’s great that several of the folk at WDC17 showed interest (thank you!), I can’t rest on my laurels or put all of my eggs in one basket. After all, Courting the Moon might end up not being their cup of tea. (Have I used enough cliched metaphors yet?) So, as always, be sure to have a backup plan!
  4. Prep for my next project. With Courting the Moon out of the way and NaNoWriMo on the horizon, it’s time for me to return to Marina. However, NaNoWriMo is best for writing the first draft (or “Draft Zero” as one of the WDC panelists called it) and Ravens and Roses is past that stage. (I still have scenes to write, but they must be more deliberately crafted.) But I do want to get back into that mode, so I think I’ll go ahead and prep the next book in The Mariner Sequence: Seahawks and Storms. I have only the vaguest outline for it at this point, and with so much fresh territory to uncover in an already-developed world, I think it will be a fun project and a worthwhile expenditure of time and energy. (And it’s gotta be done eventually, so why not now?)
  5. Get back to work on short stories. One of the most valuable panels from WDC17, for me at least, was the one on crafting short stories. I even bought a book there that goes more in-depth with the topic. While short stories are not my forte, I still would like to master writing them, especially since they are still the best way to build writers cred. Plus, I really need the practice.

So, that’s the game plan for the rest of 2017. Guess it’s time to start my attack run. ^_^;;

Day Late, Dollar Short

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#WDC17 Aug. 20-Twitter

Hey! I’m back! Yes, I know this is coming in a day late, but there is a reason (which I’ll get to in a moment.)

The short story is that I survived my first trip to New York City and my first time ever at a writers conference!

I say “survived” because I feel completely and utterly wrung out, physically, mentally, and emotionally. There was a lot of interesting and valuable information I got from the various panels, and I had some enjoyable chats with other writers. But I think that the looming shadow of the Pitch Slam and the high emphasis on networking cast a pall over the experience. If I do decide to go back to the Writers Digest Conference, I may stick with the panels and forgo the Pitch Slam.

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Controversy Over Casting Fictional Characters

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SPOILER ALERT: This entry discusses the casting of the Thirteenth Doctor! (In case you don’t already know and would like to preserve some mystery. Good luck doing that until Christmas.)

Whenever the Doctor’s regeneration is imminent, I always greet it with a mixture of enthusiasm and trepidation. There’s always that little voice that says, “I really like this Doctor. I really hope I like the next Doctor.”
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Free of the Doldrums

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I think writing is required for my mental health.

Remember a few weeks ago when I posted the entry entitled “Holding Pattern“? Yeah, that sensation of being trapped in creative doldrums lasted far, far longer than I anticipated or liked. It just didn’t make any sense. It’s summer time which means warmth and sunshine, I’m back on my antidepressants, and I finished a book. You’d think I’d be on Cloud Nine and working better than ever!

Not so.

Instead, I puttered around with fan fiction and found myself increasingly dissatisfied with life, the universe, and everything. Sleeping too much, eating too much… low energy, low focus… It was more or less how I felt for eight years before finally getting professional help. And for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why.

Now I know: I wasn’t writing.

Weird, huh? I took a week off after finishing Courting the Moon to rest and recuperate. But that “break” from writing just got longer and longer. I fell out of the habit and my sense of self and well-being went with it. But I finally worked up the effort to get back into my old routine. I committed to the July edition of Camp NaNoWriMo and set my LeNoWriCha goal to “Easy” (a.k.a. 15,000 words.) Got up early this morning, went for a walk, had a cup of tea, and started writing the moment I got home.

July 1st and July 2nd it was a struggle to reach the minimum of 500 words each day. Today? Over 2000 words and still going. I went from having no synopsis for Courting the Moon to a nearly-complete first draft of it in three days. And the more I write, the more I want to write. The cycle feeds itself in eternal momentum and motivation. Even though I knew this intellectually, I think this is the first time that I felt it viscerally.

Granted, I know that not every writing day will be this good; I had an excellent convergence of energy, sunlight, and time. But, at least I’m working again. I have mental energy, focus, and drive. Heck, I spent last night folding up my clean bed-sheets and blankets to pack neatly away in my linen closet! That, like, has never happened. Ever.

While I know that my momentum will be interrupted by things like work, cats, and trips to the bathroom, I will try to retain this routine for as long as I can. If you have a routine, you can move forward, even on the days when you don’t feel like writing.

Breathe deep. Fly high. Seek peace. 

— a Dinotopian farewell

Dangerous Stereotypes: The Alpha Male

I’m going to tackle some stereotypes present in modern fiction that I think are dangerous when used irresponsibly.  Any entries part of this series will be labeled as “Dangerous Stereotypes.” You can read previous entries in this series, which discuss the Scientist and Bad Boy stereotypes.

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Every culture has certain expectations of how people are supposed to behave. Sometimes these social rules apply across the board, but others are gender-specific, and this is reflected in our media. While a lot of scrutiny is given to the short stick that women get instead of proper representation in books, films, and video games, less attention has been paid to the toxic masculinity that pervades so much modern media.

John Carter of Mars carrying Princess Dejah Thoris

When you picture the hero of a story, especially in science fiction or fantasy, what do you see? Chances are the kind of man that comes to mind is tall, physically fit or imposing, and who can win a fight with style, even if violence isn’t their first choice. Many are handsome, cocky, reckless, often abrasive, and tend to fill the leadership role with a sense of natural ease. They are almost always heterosexual playboys, exuding a charisma that draws women to their bed and encourages other men to either follow their lead or to become their competitor. Some prime examples of this archetype can be found in Captain Kirk from Star Trek, John Carter from the Barsoom novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs, any incarnation of James Bond, the half-demon Inuyasha from the manga by Rumiko Takahashi, and mythic idols like Thor and Robin Hood. Even heroes who start off shy, awkward, nerdy, or reluctant, like Harry Potter and Peter Parker, eventually become independent leaders and warriors thanks to their adventures. Expressions of emotion, empathy, or sensitivity are often shown as weaknesses to be hidden behind a wall of witty banter, arrogance, or stoicism. It is the stereotypical “Alpha Male” who always comes out on top.

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Not a Legend, Not a Flop – A Review of King Arthur

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Another film review from the Penn-Mar Literary Critics! Many thanks to Avellina for joining me on this venture into Arthurian legend.

Be advised that this entry contains spoilers!


 

I will not pretend that King Arthur: Legend of the Sword was a good movie. It was average at best, mediocre at worst. It managed to be better than Beowulf or Dracula Untold but did not reach the level of Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones. And yet, to my surprise, I rather enjoyed it.

King Arthur is a popcorn film, a Pacific Rim in the fantasy genre. It focuses on CGI action and glib character moments rather than the deeper tales of good and evil. It has the look of such epic films in many respects, (the production values are quite good) but lacks something vital that keeps it from true greatness. Well, actually, it lacks a lot of things. It’s filled with internal inconsistencies, plot holes the size of Miami, a magic system with no real rules, an over-emphasis on action that looks good rather than what makes sense, gratuitous CGI, inability to really distinguish between characters (especially the women), and a tragic, almost criminal under-use of Jude Law.
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Permutations of the Soul

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“Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.”

— Jedi Master Yoda, from The Empire Strikes Back

 

Souls permeate fantasy. You find them everywhere. In books like the Vlad Taltos series; in movies like Crimson Peak; in television shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer; in video games like Jade Empire; in anime like Soul Eater; and manga like Fullmetal Alchemist. Even if souls are not the focus of the story, it is almost always assumed that souls exist. In some universes, all living things have souls, while in others only sentient races have them. In a few, only humanity is granted this unique ability to transcend oblivion.

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Holding Pattern

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Well, I finished my book.

Actually, I finished it about a month ago.

Yup.

Yeah, I know, I’m not exactly jumping up and down with joy. If anything, I’ve been rather subdued about it. Not sure why. I mean, Courting the Moon is the culmination of two years of work. That’s nothing to sneeze at. But while I feel a certain amount of satisfaction, I’m not experiencing anything close to “joy.”  Maybe it’s because the worry about not finishing was gone by the time April rolled around, and without that tension, it was a forgone conclusion. Maybe it’s because I know I still have plenty of other projects waiting in the wings, namely Ravens and Roses. Or maybe I’m mentally burnt out and just don’t want to think about it anymore.

I haven’t written anything for weeks.

Okay, that’s not entirely true. I reread my draft of Ravens and Roses, which pleased me because what I had still held up after being neglected for so long, but it also made me sigh because now I can see just how far I have to go for it to be finished. And I suppose I have been writing a little bit. I’ve started writing down scenes for the Star Wars fanfic that’s been circulating in my head literally since I was thirteen. But that’s about it.

Some random news pieces:

–  I went to see Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 and liked it.
–  I got to go to Free Comic Book Day for the first time, albeit in the evening so most of the events were over, but that was fine with me; I don’t care much for crowds.
–  But these days, most of my brain has been consumed with watching The Clone Wars in chronological order in the hopes of actually finishing the series this time. (When I started watching it a year or two ago, I stopped midway through Season 3, and for some inexplicable reason never went back to it until now.)

While part of me feels a little guilty for not working on the synopsis for Courting the Moon, or researching agents, or continuing work on Ravens and Roses… another part of me says, “To hell with it; I’m going to veg.” (Being stricken with allergies doesn’t help with the brain-fog either.) Of course, a writer’s mind is never truly still. Even when we seem to be passively engaged with something like television or a movie, we are absorbing more story ideas and elements, adding them to the primordial ooze that is our brains.

So I think for now I will go ahead and gorge myself on Star Wars until I feel ready to tackle writing again.