Crazy May

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Jorge Cham at PHD Comics (07/28/2014)

 

Maybe all this pollen in the air has addled my brain, but it seems like May 2018 has been the month for me to engage in some crazy writer shenanigans. Three, to be exact:

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New Film Review Site Is Live!

Thought is the parent of the deed.

— Thomas Carlyle

After mulling for a few days over the question of whether or not I should keep publishing film reviews on The Cat’s Cradle, I decided to go ahead and make a new, separate site for them.

I present to you:

(Heh, that didn’t take long for me to decide, now did it?)

I’ve been writing reviews about various topics and media that are obliquely related to noveling, but these have been spread over several sites from 2012 and on. I won’t be removing those reviews from their original sites, and I will probably continue to post some reviews (mostly for books) on The Cat’s Cradle. However, I want to keep my regular writing-related posts on The Cat’s Cradle, which will still be published every other Monday. Any reviews posted on or copied to Second Unit Reviews, and you can expect a post every Friday for the next few months as I collect, edit, and republish collected content. All previously published reviews will have a link to the original post and the date it was originally written. This will include reviews of the Star Wars and Marvel movies which up until now could only be found on my private Facebook, but will now be shared with all of you! Once I’ve caught up on the old content, then posts may become more sporadic since I can then write about whatever catches my fancy any time I choose. After all, the point of Second Unit Reviews is to have a fun, informal place to geek out. (I will do my best not to let this shiny new toy interfere with my regular writing responsibilities!)

So, if anyone is interested in my screen-rants and fangirling about movies, TV shows, comic books, anime, and video games, please be sure to check out, follow, like, share, and otherwise enjoy Second Unit Reviews!

Should the Cat’s Cradle have film reviews?

Hello, readers! I have a question for you. Well, a couple of questions, really.

The main focus of The Cat’s Cradle is (supposed to be) writing, specifically in relation to fantasy novels, structured around personal experience and anecdote. However, I also like writing reviews of films and television shows along with a large dose of fangirling.  Some of these kinds of reviews have already popped up, but I try to keep them to a minimum. After all, this is supposed to be a writing site, not a movie review site.

But I do enjoy writing about things I really loved (or hated) about stories in other media, even if it doesn’t directly relate to writing. Over the last few years, I’ve done a few “reviews in sequence” where every day or week for a certain span of time, I write a brief review of a film that is part of a series or franchise. The two I’ve done so far are “7 Days of Star Wars” from 2016 where I watched Episodes I-VII, one each night for a week, and wrote reviews about each one, and then “The Merry Months of Marvel,” where I reviewed one Marvel movie each week starting in January 2018 and ending in May 2018. Currently these are only found on my private Facebook, as I didn’t want to flood The Cat’s Cradle with this off-topic random content, so they’ve only reached a very limited audience.

Ideally, I’d like to have a separate “blog” section on The Cat’s Cradle to post geeky gushing, but my WordPress site is, by necessity, very simple since I have neither the funds to afford purchasing a more complex theme/skin, nor the skills to modify what I have beyond some basic cosmetics. Right now, I can only add static pages rather than individual entries, and apparently this Piano Black theme has been retired, so if I try to overhaul the site, I may not be able to switch back if I decide I don’t like the new look. I don’t really want to do that if there is little to no interest in my screen-rants.

Plus, there are a bunch of other questions I need to answer before making such a change:

  •  These reviews are fun to write, but will they distract me too much from working on my regular entries and my novels?
  • There are already a lot of sites that do far better, more in-depth, and more entertaining reviews than I do, so do I have anything new to add?
  • If I can’t add a second scrolling blog to the current site, do I just work post them in with regular entries (with a special tag, of course), or should I just make a whole new site and link the two? (I already do have basic access to another site, Geek La Femme, but I technically did not create it. It is essentially abandoned, but I don’t know if I can or should resurrect it in any way.)
  • If I do make a new site or section, do I move the reviews that I already have done over to that new place (which can create a host of dead links) or leave them where they are (which may leave people confused and the organization system muddled)? And if I decide to make a new site, should I take my content from Geek La Femme (which includes reviews of anime and video games) and add it to the new one?
  • If I write or post any such reviews, should I add them to my Audio Editions, even though I get behind on the regular ones so often? (Recording them doesn’t take long, but editing can range from 2 to 4 hours, and I have little enough time as it is.)

So what do you folks think? Should I bother with this or just let things rest as they are?

Fluff and Fairies

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I’ve been feeling cold and unmotivated for quite a while, so today you folks get more of a fluff piece than anything really deep or serious.

For National Novel Editing Month in March and the April edition of Camp NaNoWriMo, I’ve been working on a Young Adult (YA) fantasy novel that I’m currently calling “Faylinn,” which is the name of the world in which the story is set. (Like with Rinamathair, the name of the world is the title of the work-in-progress until I find something better.) This is a different experience from my other writing projects because it’s a hybrid. It isn’t being written completely from scratch like Mariner Sequence, but it also isn’t a fan fiction outline that got revamped and then written from scratch. Faylinn is based on an already-complete piece of fan fiction, but I’m swapping out character names and adjusting the plot and world to be its own thing. I am also generating new content, but at the same time, I’m rereading a preexisting piece of work and doing major cuts and rewrites to it. Maybe that isn’t the best project to choose for Camp NaNoWriMo… but I just can’t do Mariner Sequence justice right now. I don’t want to spend all of my writing time on stories that aren’t as near and dear to my heart, but I also know when I’m not in a fit state for a particular story. So, fluff it is.
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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:

close-up-chisel

(click image for source)

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