2017: The Year in Review

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Well, dear readers… what can I say about 2017?

“A mixed bag” is about the best thing I can come up with. I feel like I’m ending the year on a bit of a low note, but maybe that’s just a warped perception of mine since, once again, many of my 2016 goals were not realized. A lot of my successes this year also had downsides so that they seem less like unambiguous wins and more like double-edged swords. Still, I’ll take what I can get.

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Post-NaNo Crash

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Hi folks! Just a short entry today. You know how most people end up in a turkey-coma after Thanksgiving? Me, I’m in a post-NaNo coma. I reached my word count goal for National Novel Writing Month (see Log #328 on my LeNoWriCha blog for details) but feel like I didn’t accomplish very much. Almost every word was a battle, and I’m not sure if it was because the story was fighting me, or because I just didn’t feel well. And, go figure, I haven’t worked any more on Seahawks and Storms since November 30th.

Okay, okay, I know, that really isn’t too bad. A few days to get my wind back from a well-deserved break. It is nice to be able to watch a movie again without feeling like I’m wasting valuable writing time. (After all, I still need to consume stories to feed my subconscious.) And I did do some writing this evening (by hand no less!) although it was not related in any way, shape, or form to Seahawks. But I must be vigilant and resist the urge to coast again, like it seems I’ve been doing for months.

Although NaNoWriMo refers to January and February as the “Now What?” months where revision takes place, I feel like it can begin sooner, depending on where you are in a project. Seahawks is still too new and unsteady to withstand editing, and I’m struggling to keep focused on writing rather than on all of the pressure towards publication that seems to have paralyzed me. So, the plan is to organize the prose that I do have into some kind of rough chronological order, reread previous notes, and do some research that I feel will help me get a better handle on what the hell is (or should be) happening. But most of all, I need to find my way back into that headspace that allows me to play and relax with my stories rather than twisting them into a predetermined shape with an eye to the future. Neither the past nor the future exist. There is only now… and words.


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. ^_^;;

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

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.

Chipping Away At the Mountainside

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Imagine that you have a lump of stone. It may be a very pretty stone. It may have fascinating gradations in texture or color. It may have an interesting suggestion of shape or form. But ultimately it’s still just a lump of stone. You have to sand and grind and chip away at it until it becomes something recognizable without destroying the whole thing in the process.

I’m finding that this is rather what editing a book is like. This is the first time in my life that I’ve gotten this deep into the process of Writing (with a capital W), so this is all new to me. Of course, I’ve got several books on how to edit, but as usual I just plowed ahead and tried figuring out how to do it on my own without reading any of them. I suppose that’s not entirely unexpected; each writer has their own way of doing things after all. So I wanted share how I’ve personally proceeded with the writing process on this book. Obviously my way isn’t the only way and I doubt it’s the best or most efficient way. But at least it’s an example of one possible path that you can take.

So, this is how the last 16 months spent with All’s Fair have gone:

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(click image for source)

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2016: The Year in Review

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*sigh*

I confess that 2016 overall has not been the best of years. Lots of amazing famous people have died. Lots of insanity with the presidential election. Lots of time wasted on Pinterest, Youtube, and other online distractions. Lots of crazy all over the bloody planet. To top it off, I didn’t get as much done as I hoped I would and had a few set-backs. Almost none of my 2015 goals were achieved:

  • All’s Fair isn’t finished.
  • Didn’t write any more short stories.
  • Totally failed at NaNoWriMo this time around.
  • Haven’t added any other creative activities to my routine.
  • Regained almost all of the weight that I lost.
  • Not sure if depression is nibbling at the edges of my psyche again, or if it’s just normal stress and winter doldrums.

So… yeah. *sigh* Okay, now I need to focus on what I did accomplish.
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Expressions of Gratitude

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It is far too easy to focus on the negatives in life, too easy to see only the flaws, to complain about what we do not have or how we wish things would be. So I want to take a moment to express my gratitude for that which I am very lucky to have.

I am grateful for being able to live when and where I do, despite its flaws. For having a place to call home, for not needing to worry about where my next meal will come from, and for having the time and leisure to write at all, even if it sometimes feels like that time is scarce or that leisure is unearned.

I am grateful to have lived in areas with easily accessible libraries and for always being encouraged to read without boundaries. I know not everyone is so lucky. Being literate and having access to books is a gift that I never, ever want to take for granted.

On that note, I am grateful to all of the creators of books, movies, television shows, music, and art I have had the pleasure to experience over the years. Your work has inspired and improved my life immeasurably, and I thank you for sharing it. Art of all kinds makes the world a better place, so keep making it!

I am grateful to my family for being so supportive of me and my work:

~ Thank you to my brothers Richard and Daniel, who, despite much teasing about my writing and English degree, always have my back when the chips are down.
~ Thank you to my super-amazing and talented mom, who never ceases to impress me with her fortitude and ever-expanding repertoire of skills, both artistic and practical.
~ Thank you to my awesome and talented dad, who knew the value of writing skills combined with a good education and ensured that I received both.
~ Thank you to my adorable cat-babies, Diego, Phantom, Chaos, Zuko, Sokka, and Bunny, who are so freakin’ cute and cuddly and mommy loves you so much!
~ Thank you to my adopted Aunt Nancy, who is probably the sweetest person on the planet.
~ Thank you to my onii-san, David, for basically everything.

I am grateful for my most excellent friends, both far and near, who make me laugh and make me think. You guys rock! Special thanks to my writing groups, the Gburg Wrimos and Pens in Space for sharing both the trials and tribulations of literary life.

I am grateful to the following spectacular beta readers, fellow writers and sisters-in-spirit, who have been willing to suffer through various drafts of my work:

Foxglove Zayuri
R.E. Myles
Epha*
Storm Elf
Imp
Laughing Ninja 

Thank you so very much! I appreciate your help and efforts more than I can possibly express.

Everyone… I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving! 

 

* NOTE: Due to a spelling error, I accidentally pronounced Epha’s name as “Ephra” for the Audio Edition. Due to the time-consuming nature of recording and re-uploading, I have made the correction here on the print article, but the Audio Edition retains the mispronunciation. My deepest apologies for this error!

Autumn Updates

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It seems like when I left for my much-needed ocean-side vacation, it was the height of summer with all of the lovely heat and much-despised humidity that entails, but when I returned, fall had arrived.  The cooler temperatures make my morning walk far more pleasant and I love the leaf-smell of the season. (Hopefully this nice weather will last longer than a week.)  So, with the Autumnal Equinox just behind us, I want to take this opportunity to make a few announcements:
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1) All’s Fair is currently finishing up its second round of beta reading and will soon enter the third round of editing.  Thank you so much to my beta readers for taking on this challenge; I really appreciate it!  I’m hopeful that this time it will not require quite as much revamping as the previous drafts. (Just as long as I don’t have to rip the entire thing apart and reassemble it again…)

2) I’ve simultaneously started to research agents and book publishers who may be a good fit for All’s Fair and projects in the future. The Writer’s Market 2015 is the tool I’m using to start with and I’ll narrow down the field from there. So far I’ve got a decent but not-overwhelming list of prospects, as I’m focusing on those who handle science fiction and fantasy with a special place for those who do so exclusively.  (For All’s Fair, I’ll need to look at those who also handle romance novels, so that’s an additional factor in my deliberations.)

3) National Novel Writing Month is just around the corner and I LOVE their space theme this year! In keeping with said theme, my chosen project will be a story that my dad and I want to collaborate on: Astra’s Revenge. Dad already wrote a short story/novelette version of it and asked me a long time ago to adapt it into a full-length novel. So that will be an interesting challenge.  As a back-up, I’ll probably also work sporadically on my juvenile fantasy novel DragonFriend and my still-unnamed urban fantasy starring my hard-nosed “detective” Karen Mohssey. (I’m calling her a “detective” for now, even though the story isn’t fleshed out enough for me to know exactly what she does yet!)

4) I’m trying to keep up with the Audio Editions and get more of the #ThrowbackThursdays up and running. Unfortunately, due to the time involved, it doesn’t happen with the regularity I’d like to achieve. (It takes about two hours to record and edit an episode with a run time of ten minutes or less.) Also, you may notice that the sound quality of the Audio Editions has changed.  I purchased a new pair of headphones with a mic, so things might sound a bit different, hopefully in a good way. There’s still a lot I don’t know about Audacity, the program I use to record the Audio Editions, so I hope to continue improving!

5) In conjunction with the Audio Editions, I’ve been listening to some podcasts or a (more or less) regular basis.  My current favorites are Let’s Know Things by Colin Wright and The Baltimore Barristers hosted by Alexander Bush and Stephen Caramenico.  Let’s Know Things covers all kinds of topics ranging from perception and bias to cyberspace and suburbia, and the show notes are exceptionally extensive. Plus, Colin does a great job of covering controversial topics with an even hand that explores the positive and negative effects of both sides, which is really refreshing to hear.  The Baltimore Barristers focus on politics, often locally, but many stories have the potential to reverberate nationally.  In addition, they have some absolutely amazing interviews, including Scott Adams (writer of the Dilbert comic strip), Mike Rowe from the TV show Dirty Jobs, and Jack Hunter, editor of Rare Politics.  Both are great podcasts that cover a wide variety of topics in a thorough, engaging fashion; I highly recommend them.

And now, without further adieu, back to the writing.
And editing.
And researching.
And– oh, look, TV!

 

“Bright Sunshiny Day!”

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I can see clearly now, the rain is gone
I can see all obstacles in my way
Here is that rainbow I’ve been praying for
It’s gonna be a bright (bright) bright (bright) sunshiny day
It’s gonna be a bright (bright) bright (bright) sunshiny day


— Jimmy Cliff, “I Can See Clearly Now”

And so it is!  Actually, these last two weekends have been ridiculously productive, mostly because I’ve been able to sit out on the front porch (like I am now) for hours at a time.  (I just LOVE my Chromebook!)  It’s astonishing how much something as simple as the weather can have such a massive effect on one’s psyche.  While I don’t really consider myself and outdoorsy person (since I like, never go camping or hiking or boating or anything like that), I do gain great satisfaction and pleasure from being outside.  And even if I have to hide indoors during the summer because it is too hot or humid out, I am still more productive, simply because there is sunshine.  I think I may be part lizard and part sunflower.

At any rate, I am very pleased with my progress on All’s Fair.  My characters are talking to me again, I’m filling in plot holes, uncovering motivations… it’s all coming together and that’s a good feeling.  Granted, since I had to rip out or severely alter over two-thirds of the book, I now have no idea how to end the darn thing.  I suspect something will occur to me after my subconscious has a chance to mull over it for a while.  I plan on participating in Camp NaNoWriMo in July, since they have come up with a system to represent editing and not just vomit-typing.  For Camp NaNo, an hour of editing equals 1,000 words, so I’m setting a goal of editing for at least an hour each day, which would be 31,000 words.  I don’t think I’ll do LeNoWriCha this time since I’m not really generating new content.  My ultimate goal this year is to have All’s Fair ready for the submission process by October.

Speaking of time… did you know that The Cat’s Cradle is now five years old?  Yep, I started this blog back in June 2011.  At the time I was just shouting into the ether from Blogspot without a clue of where I was going.  Now I’m here on WordPress with a far more streamlined and professional webpage design.  I update more or less every other week, I’m on Twitter, I offer editing services, and I’ve added the Audio Editions for people to listen to and download.  I try not to look at stats because that way madness lies, but I’m ecstatic that, as of today, 138 people follow The Cat’s Cradle.  Whether anyone reads it or not is another story, but I’m very grateful to everyone who has chosen to read, like, share, comment, or listen to these entries.  I’ve learned a lot over the last five years, and I hope to continue improving so these entries remain informative, interesting, or at least entertaining for you.

ThankYouBlogReaders