Sunday, December 20, 2015

End of year update and 2016 goals

That whole 'writing every day' thing didn't really work out the last month or so, and I'm not going to come up with excuses. I need to make time and focus on my writing, because I feel better when I write. That's basically what it comes down to, in the end - I need to make time to do the things that make me feel better, both physically and mentally. And yes, I realize that this is a mind-blowing revelation - it's only taken me nearly 35 years to figure it out, but I'm a slow learner.

So, updates:

  • Complete draft of book 2 of Paranormal Investigations, Inc.
    • Due: April 30
    • Q1 Status:  This one got put on the back burner, as this series is the one that feels too much like Maureen Johnson's Shades of London series.
    • New due date:  Uncertain
    • Q2 Status:  I started working on this again, but it's been slow going.
    • New due date:  Going to call this March 31, 2016
    • EOY Status:  Haven't worked on this for quite some time, but I'm going to keep with the new due date for now.
  • Complete draft of Church of Book
    • Due: August 31
    • Q1 Status:  I think I'll meet this goal, even though it isn't the same Church of Book it was when I first drafted these goals.  I've basically started from scratch, and it's my current Camp Nanowrimo project.
    • Q2 Status:  ...Not so much.  I'm still working on it, though!
    • New due date:  June 30, 2016
    • EOY Status:  Again, haven't worked on this for a bit, but it's been stewing.
    • New due date:  September 30, 2016
  • Win at least one of either Camp Nanowrimo or Nanowrimo
    • Due: November 31
    • Q1 Status:  In progress for the April Camp Nanowrimo
    • Q2 Status:  Failed both April and June Camp Nanowrimos, but I'm still going to try for November!
    • EOY Status:  And failed November, too. Trying again in 2016.
  • Complete edit of Paranormal Investigations, Inc.
    • Due: December 31
    • Q1 Status:  As this is on the back burner, it's being pushed back for now.
    • New due date:  Uncertain
    • Q2 Status:  See above regarding book 2.
    • New due date:  December 31, 2016
    • EOY Status:  Keeping the same due date for now.
  • Submit at least one short story for publication
    • Due: December 31
    • Q1 Status:  Haven't even started anything regarding this yet.
    • Q2 Status:  I'm going to call this one complete (for "at least one"), based on the Pratchett memorial anthology submission.  That doesn't mean I'm not going to try to submit something else; just that I can at least mark one thing off the list
  • Complete draft of Words That Mean Something
    • Due:  December 31
    • Q2 Status:  New goal!  This is the one I started working on for Camp Nano in June.  I managed to get a rough outline together last week, so I'm hoping to get more words on the page over the next couple of months.
    • EOY Status:  I kind of dropped this in favor of my November Nano, so I'm changing the goal.
    • New goal:  Complete draft of one of the works started for a Nano.
    • Due:  December 31, 2016
2016 Goals:
  • Complete draft of book 2 of Paranormal Investigations
    • Due:  March 31, 2016
  • Complete draft of Church of Books
    • Due:  September 30, 2016
  • Complete edit of Paranormal Investigations
    • Due:  December 31, 2016
  • Complete draft of one of the works started for a Nano
    • Due:  December 31, 2016
  • Complete at least one Nano
    • Due:  November 30, 2016
  • Submit at least one story for publication
    • Due:  December 31, 2016

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Nanowrimo Update (Days 9-29)

So, hitting 50K is extraordinarily not likely to happen this year, but I have managed to write every single day. In addition, I've managed to actually get a better sense of what I'm doing with this story, and I'm getting more and more excited by what I'm doing. I want to continue on with what I'm writing, and also see how long I can keep the writing-every-day streak going - it feels like it's been too long since I've actually written that much and wanted to keep going.

Project: Living Cities
Deadline: November 30, 2015 April 30, 2016
New words written: 11,443 (since the last check-in)
Present total word count: 19,346

Things accomplished in fiction: the detectives both realize that something is "different" about each of them; more information about the first victim comes to light, and the senior detective starts getting an idea of who - or what - is behind this; a second victim is found.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Making the Invisible Visible

I am still working on my Nano story, though I am woefully far behind on my word count. On the other hand, I've managed to write at least a little bit every single day, and I do feel like I'm getting somewhere, and that helps. But that's not what I want to write about today.

For the last couple of months, I've been dealing with chronic pain in my hip, and in the last month, I've been walking with a cane. I've had some form of chronic illness for years, but they generally fall into the realm of "invisible" ailments. Walking with the cane has made the invisible visible for the first time, and that has been an eye-opening experience.

I'm in my thirties, and tend to look a bit younger, so I get a fair number of double-takes when people see a "young" woman walking with a cane. I have noticed that people are more likely to get out of my way, or apologize if they move in front of me. I need more room and more time to move around, and that means that I'm taking up more space and time than I normally do. In general, I do my best not to take up too much room, so it's been very hard for me to get accustomed to not being able to just slide through without drawing attention to myself.

Beyond just being noticed more often myself, I've become more aware of the things that I hadn't noticed before. Stairs, for example - I've always had an issue with stairs (my earliest memory is of falling down two flights of stairs when I was about 4, so stairs have always been the enemy in my mind), but I never realized just how many of them there are. In particular, last night there was a social event for work at the EMP, and the elevators were down. There was next to no location in the building I could go to without having to go up or down stairs, and it was incredibly stressful on my hip. It doesn't help that I kept having people who I know reasonably well staring at me as I stump my way around the place.

My department has been having a summit all week, which basically means everyone comes to Seattle so we can all sit in a meeting room all day, and then have some kind of social event in the evening. Having everyone from the department in one place has shown me something I wasn't expecting - as far as I could tell, I was the only person who had some sort of visible mobility issue.

I'm fortunate, in a lot of ways - everyone has been wonderful, and I've been able to get around most obstacles without much trouble. I also get the impression that when the people that organized the summit saw me, they suddenly realized that not everything was as accessible as they had thought. It's been an eye-opening experience, and one I will want to remember when my hip is finally better. At the same time, it's not something I want to keep experiencing for very long, if I can help it.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Nanowrimo Update (Days 3-8)

So, I'm a touch behind. I know, I know! At least I have been writing every day. Not a LOT, mind, but at least something.

Project: Living Cities
Deadline: November 30, 2015
New words written: 5552 (since Monday)
Present total word count: 7903

Things accomplished in fiction: detectives are introduced; victim has been identified and family notified; something strange happens to the junior detective on the case.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Nanowrimo Update (Days 1 and 2)

I'm stealing the format of my updates directly from Cherie Priest's blog, as it's remarkably streamlined:

Project: Living Cities
Deadline: November 30, 2015
New words written: 2351 (between yesterday and today)
Present total word count: 2351

Things accomplished in fiction: A body has been discovered; our lead detective has seen the body, and is unimpressed; and a young man can't remember where he was last night, but there's an awful lot of blood on his hands...

So far, Nano is moving along. I actually stayed up Saturday night until midnight to start writing the second the time changed over, since with the clocks falling back an hour, I got an extra hour to write. I'm still not 100% sure where things are going to end up, but I have a better idea of whodunit, which is important to know when writing a crime novel. (Also, can I just say how amused I am that Chrome recognizes "whodunit" as a word?)

Anyway, I've got about twenty minutes left in my writers' group lunch break, and I still have a ways to go to meet goal today. Back to the word mines!

Friday, October 30, 2015

It's almost Nano-time!

So, remember that whole "I'm going to get back into writing shape by writing every day before Nanowrimo" thing I was planning on?  Clearly, that didn't go as planned.  That's OK!  I have plans and schemes and...we'll see what happens.

I decided to scrap my original plan, as it simply wasn't gelling for me.  Instead, I'm pillaging an idea from my husband.  He's an incredibly imaginative person and comes up with great ideas for settings for role-playing games, so I'm taking one of those settings and running with it.  The more I write the outline, the more I'm realizing that watching all those episodes of NCIS and Castle are going to come in handy.  At least, I hope they will.

Anyway!  I hope to post fairly regularly with stats, if nothing else.  Happy Halloween/Samhain/Dia de los Muertos for those that celebrate!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Book review - Furiously Happy

It's been a while since I've done a book review, and since I've just finished this one, it seemed like a perfect time to review it.  I've been reading The Bloggess (Jenny Lawson) for several years, and thoroughly enjoyed her first book, Let's Pretend This Never Happened.  When she started discussing her new book, Furiously Happy, I knew I would pre-order it.

The author has had more than her fair share of struggles with mental illness, including anxiety and depression, and this book includes several essays that deal with those struggles.  There are moments of hilarity mixed in with serious discussions of self-harm and suicide, and the balance feels like what you would expect when a fantastic author allows her brain to run wild.  Even when things are at their darkest, she still finds some glimmer of light; even when things are at their brightest, she subtly points out the shadows in the corner.

I've been in a pretty rough spot the last couple of weeks, and I didn't realize how much I needed this book until I started reading it.  The author also narrated the audiobook, and I highly recommend it; the conversational tone of the book definitely benefits from the author's reading.

If you need to remember how to find the funny, or just want to know what the deal with the diabolically happy raccoon on the cover is, pick up Furiously Happy in your format of choice.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Nano Planning

So, what happens when your writers' group includes at least one person with lots of project management experience?  You get together with a list like the below to plan for Nano.  Memorializing it here, so I can refer back to it.

1)      Talk about what we might want to do
a.       Genre?
Spec fic
b.      Conflict type? (Man vs Self/Man/Nature)
Man vs Self and Man
c.       Character based? Location based? Thematic?
Character based, with some theme (superhero/villain)
d.      Specific details, scenes, locations, or characters?
Eliza Jimenez - main character, admin at Serrano Transportation, new-ish (moving up from the mail room, doesn't realize that the company is a front for the Company of Miscreants
Colin Serrano - CEO, 3rd generation of Serrano Transportation, AKA [VILLAINOUS NAME]
e.      Goal for nano? (finish an old story, write a new one, just hit 50k, etc)
New story, aiming for 50K
2)      What’s blocking us from doing that?
a.       Non-writing blockers
                                                               i.      Work?
Not much, though there's always more to do
                                                             ii.      Home stuff?
Always - mostly trying to keep up with the cleaning, keep up to date with gaming, actually spend time with my husband
                                                            iii.      Mental health?
Again, always - new meds for pain are increasing anxiety and some depression, which doesn't help
                                                           iv.      Possible solutions
Specify time to write, block internet access, make self-care a priority
b.      Writing blockers
                                                               i.      What motivates you to write?
1.       Do you know your ending?
2.       Do you know events in the story that you want to write?
A few, though I'm hoping to get more of an outline together between now and Nov. 1
3.       Is there a particular character or location that you want to write?
I'm looking forward to writing how the villains and the heroes come together
                                                             ii.      How can you build off of your answer in 2.b.i?
1.       What kind of ending do you want? Epic, inconclusive, depressing, uplifting?
An ending would be great.  I definitely want to have an ending.
a.       What sorts of events would result in that type of ending?
Monkeys.  In the end, it all comes back to monkeys.
2.       What sort of story would the events you want to write make sense in?
a.       Ie, woman screaming in horror – there’s gonna be a traumatic event of some sort for that character. Even if it’s just someone mixing hair dye into their shampoo.
The villains will have to try to do something, well, villainous, or the heroes will decide it's time to cleanse the city of its villains once and for all.
3.       What sorts of events or conflicts would that character be in?
a.       Are they dumb/unlucky enough for the events to be their own doing?
It'll definitely be something the villains and/or heroes planned, though probably not the exact confrontation
b.      Would they be trying to help someone else?
Heroes would be helping, villains would be helping themselves (probably)
c.       Is it part of their lifestyle? (Ie, hunters in a hunting disaster)
Seeing as their lifestyle is being a hero or villain, yes
4.       What sorts of events or conflicts could happen at that location?
There will be property damage, oh yes.
a.       If your story was a movie, what would make the awesomest still frame?
I'm not sure yet
5.       What types of events are typical/tropes for your genre?
a.       Natural disasters?
b.      Psychopaths?
c.       Hormones and social pressure?
d.      Beach episode?
e.      Minorities die first?
f.        “I can explain!”?
Definitely "I can explain!", with some 'natural' disasters resulting from the confrontations
c.       Put it all together, as best you can.
                                                               i.      How do your answers work together?
Generally pretty well
                                                             ii.      What sort of story can you make?
I'm thinking a mash-up of the standard four-color superhero comic and a telenovela
                                                            iii.      What part of that do you NOT want to write?
So far, none of it strikes me as particularly onerous.  I'm sure that will change.
1.       How can you write around it?
2.       What’s the goal of that scene/character/whatever?
3.       What else can achieve that goal?
3)      Nano schedules
a.       Weekend food prep?
That sounds great, and like something I probably won't do, because I know me.
b.      Lower weekday word counts?
I tend to write more during the week, actually - particularly if I can get some good writing in on the commute.

c.       Other strategies
Writing on the train has worked reasonably well in the past; forcing myself to stick to a schedule would be a good step, too.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Writing Excuses Master Class - Intrigue

Before I get into this prompt, I realize that I never gave another update on the Feina-kitten!  So, after the vet gave her the fluids and shots, he told us that she would do better for a day or two, and would probably crash after that.  We waited...and waited...and that crash just wasn't coming.  After a few days, I got an appointment with a specialist to see what the heck was going on now.  He looked her over, asked a lot of questions (which the other vet hadn't really done), and re-ran her blood tests.  They came back as normal as is possible with a 15-year-old cat.  Never have I heaved a bigger sigh of relief.  She's still doing great, as are the other two cats.  All is well in the Franklin kingdom.

On to the writing!  I've been holding off on this prompt for a bit, because I was having a devil of a time figuring out what I wanted to write.  Now that I've got an idea for this year's Nanowrimo, I think this will work well.  The prompt:

Write dialog in which each of the speakers has a different subtext and motive. Without explicitly stating those, try and make them clear to the reader.

Eliza settled the bag on Colin's desk then sat in his guest chair, notebook at the ready.  Colin reached for the bag, pulling out his sushi as he started to direct his comments to the assistant.  "Eliza, we need help getting our ad campaign together.  You haven't worked with our team much, but I've heard you're the best."

Eliza smiled to herself, straightening up.  "Well, I do my best," she said demurely.  "What kind of ad campaign are you talking about, and what kind of time frame are you looking at?"

Colin began scraping his chopsticks against each other as he looked into space.  "We need something to help heal the damage some done to our image."  He looked her directly in the eye.  "You know about the events?"

Eliza thought rapidly before tentatively guessing, "Do you mean the issues with the shipping fleet?"

Colin responded with a broad grin and pulled the lid off his sushi tray.  "I knew you would understand.  So, we need something that will make sure people know that we're fast, responsible, and reliable, while not sounding too, you know, goodie-two-shoes or anything."

Eliza scribbled rapidly, already brainstorming ideas.  "We could do a few images of the trucks driving somewhere clean and pretty, maybe outside of town somewhere?  Something that gives the image of speed and being clean.  You know.  After the incident, and all."

Colin nodded, his mouth full of spicy tuna roll, and chewed thoughtfully for a moment before responding.  "I like it.  But let's not make it too clean, you know.  We have to make sure that people don't think we're perfect or anything.  The last thing we need is for people to think that we're supported by the Consortium of Law, or anything."

Eliza resisted the urge to ask why that would be such a bad thing and simply made a note - "Don't make it look like we're the good guys."  She frowned at her notebook and looked up to Colin again.  "Anything else?"

Colin held up a finger in a "wait" gesture as he wolfed down another piece of sushi, then swallowed audibly.  "No, I think that should do it.  Get to brainstorming, and let me know about some of your ideas.  The sooner the better, because the faster we get people to forget about recent events, the more we'll be able to bring them around to our way of thinking."  He gave her a broad wink, then shooed her out the door.

Friday, September 18, 2015

More Nano Prep

After Monday's writing session, my writers' group decided it would be a good idea to spend Mondays coming up with ideas, and Fridays either writing a snippet based on Monday's ideas, or sharing those snippets.  Basically, we're trying to get a little bit of training in before the marathon that is Nanowrimo.

As a reminder, after Monday's session, this is what I have to work with:

Setting - a foggy bridge at sunset, lit by gas lanterns
Story hook - Murder most foul
Character 1 - Ivan the terrible (unrelated)
Character 2 - Desert nomad
Character 3 - Yogi
Character 4 - Witch in training
Atmosphere - T-rex

"I...I had no idea the spell was that powerful," Ilana whispered as she looked down on the body on the bridge.  Well, what was left of the body, really - the head had fallen off the edge of the bridge, lost in the fog surrounding the structure.  She turned to Swami Joey, her blue eyes starting to fill with tears.  "Is this my fault?  Did I do something wrong?"

The yogi knelt next to the young woman and put his arm around her.  "You didn't do anything wrong, my dear."  His voice was oily, and his hand slipped further down the blonde's shoulder as he "comforted" her.  "I don't think this had anything to do with your little cantrip.  Ivan had a great number of enemies, after all."

Tabor shifted uneasily, moving his pack from one shoulder to the other.  "Ivan didn't deserve that.  No matter how terrible he was, he didn't deserve to lose his head like that."  He stared down at Ilana, his face hardening.  "This is what you get for attempting to meddle with dark magic."  He turned and stormed down the bridge, the fog enveloping him as he left.

Monday, September 14, 2015

NaNoWriMo Prep

And we're back!  Time to get back into writing on the regular, as NaNoWriMo is starting soon and as I've learned from past experience, going from not writing at all to trying for 50,000 words in 30 days is basically like trying to run a marathon without so much as jogging beforehand - it only ends in tears.

My writing group decided that, since we're closing in on That Time Of Year and none of us really knows what the devil we're doing yet, that we would each come up with a setting, story hook, atmosphere, and two characters, then shuffle them together and pull out of a hat to figure out what we're doing.  My contributions:

Setting - Ancient Rome
Story hook - Murder most foul
Character 1 - Detective (older, hard-nosed, a la Inspector Rebus)
Character 2 - Plucky sidekick
Atmosphere - Edge of rebellion

What I got:

Setting - a foggy bridge at sunset, lit by gas lanterns
Story hook - Murder most foul
Character 1 - Ivan the terrible (unrelated)
Character 2 - Desert nomad
Character 3 - Yogi
Character 4 - Witch in training
Atmosphere - T-rex

Now to figure out what the devil I'm doing with all of this (the T-rex?  Really?).

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Poem - I'm Here

A few months ago, I woke up and needed to write something down.  Fortunately, I had pen and paper handy.  I hadn't actually looked at it since I wrote it, but something pulled it to my attention today.  As poetry goes, it's not great, but it's something that pretty accurately describes my mindset right now.

Hey, how's it going? What's up? How are you?
People checking in all the time each day.
Hey, how's it going? What's up? How are you?
Quick connections, touching base on the way.

Hey, how's it going? What's up? How are you?
The words are sincere, at least they sound that way.
But if you listen, if you look in their eyes,
You know there are things they don't want you to say.

How's it going? Pretty badly the panic's creeping in.
There are too many people, too much sound and light.
It's all pushing in, there's no room to breathe,
No way out, no escape, no place to run and hide.

What's up? My pain level - today's a bad one.
There are flares and aches and twinges.
Moving hurts, not moving's just as bad,
And the pills just add a fog to the din.

Hey, how's it going? What's up? How are you?
I know what you want me to say.
I won't lie to you - you deserve more than that,
But I'll only give some of the truth in my way.

Hey, how's it going? What's up? How are you?
I'll tell you the truth, if you want to hear.
Hey, how's it going? What's up? How are you?
With a shrug and a smirk, I say - I'm here.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Quick Kitty Update

Sadly, it's not good news.  Feina's liver isn't doing its job, and there isn't a ton we can do.  The vet gave her some sub-q fluids and a shot of vitamins, antibiotics and steroids to help her appetite come back, but it's basically, as Eric puts it, rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.  It's been exceptionally draining over here, as Eric and I have each broken down a few times, but we know she's not hurting.  She just probably won't make it much longer.

This is one of the first pictures of both Eric and Feina I received, back when Eric and I were long-distance, and it remains one of my favorites.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Some (Belated) Thoughts on Worldcon

I realize it's been a week since Worldcon ended, but it took me some time to organize my thoughts.  It was the first Worldcon I'd ever been to, and going so soon after GenCon was a little bit of a culture shock in some ways.

This year's Worldcon was held at Sasquan in Spokane, Washington.  My husband and I spent a large portion of Wednesday driving the 5+ hours to Spokane, and realized that the sky was getting more and more smoky as we went.  By the time we got to the hotel, the smell of smoke permeated everything.  Turns out, the winds from the wild fires had turned in just the right direction to blanket Spokane with smoke.  The entire city smelled like a barbecue.

The convention center was kind of spread out, which was nice - it never really felt like there were a ton of people crammed into one place, even in areas like the Dealers' Hall, and that's always been one of my biggest issues with conventions.  It helped that the convention attendance was quite small (at least, compared to GenCon), at around 6,000 attendees and 11,300 memberships sold.

The best thing about Worldcon in general was the fact that it was focused on books.  The Dealers' Hall was dominated by tables from bookstores and publishers, which meant that there were so many books everywhere you looked.  It was very dangerous to my pocketbook, to say the least.

There were several panels that I enjoyed, particularly since there was a North American Discworld Convention track.  Something about meeting with other Discworld fans and mourning the loss of Sir Terry Pratchett made the entire convention seem that much more comfortable.

The moment that sticks out the most to me from the convention happened during one of the Discworld panels, one on how Discworld changed our lives.  Eric went with me, even though he didn't want to say anything.  There was a woman there who, after a few of us had shared our stories, shared hers.  She mentioned that she had had some problems with addiction in the past, and that watching Sam Vimes battle those same demons had done her a great deal of good.  Then she said that she had reached a point where she was contemplating suicide, but what had kept her from taking action was thinking that she wouldn't get to read the next book.  She laughed to herself and said that she figured it was crazy, and I just told her that she wasn't alone.  The look on her face when I said that just stuck with me - it was like she never realized that there were others like her out there, who had fought fights similar to hers and had come out a bit worse for the wear, but still fighting.

Making that kind of connection is what going to conventions is about for me.  It means meeting my people, the ones who will understand when I say that I'm terrified to read the last Discworld book, because I know it's the LAST Discworld book.  It means spending time with people who don't mind if all I want or can do is sit in the corner and read, and will happily sit and read with me.  It means finding the family I didn't know I had.

Now that I've gotten the sappiness out of the way...I've been poking away at the book for a bit, and hope to get a little more done this weekend.  It may have to wait, depending on how things go with one of our cats.

Feina is about 15, and she's starting to feel her age.  She hasn't been eating all that much lately, and she's dropped some weight.  We'll be taking her to the vet tomorrow, so think happy thoughts for us, will you?

Monday, August 17, 2015

Second(ish) Quarter Check-In

We're just going to ignore the fact that we're halfway through the third quarter, and play catch-up.
  • Complete draft of book 2 of Paranormal Investigations, Inc.
    • Due: April 30
    • Q1 Status:  This one got put on the back burner, as this series is the one that feels too much like Maureen Johnson's Shades of London series.
    • New due date:  Uncertain
    • Q2 Status:  I started working on this again, but it's been slow going.
    • New due date:  Going to call this March 31, 2016
  • Complete draft of Church of Book
    • Due: August 31
    • Q1 Status:  I think I'll meet this goal, even though it isn't the same Church of Book it was when I first drafted these goals.  I've basically started from scratch, and it's my current Camp Nanowrimo project.
    • Q2 Status:  ...Not so much.  I'm still working on it, though!
    • New due date:  June 30, 2016
  • Win at least one of either Camp Nanowrimo or Nanowrimo
    • Due: November 31
    • Q1 Status:  In progress for the April Camp Nanowrimo
    • Q2 Status:  Failed both April and June Camp Nanowrimos, but I'm still going to try for November!
  • Complete edit of Paranormal Investigations, Inc.
    • Due: December 31
    • Q1 Status:  As this is on the back burner, it's being pushed back for now.
    • New due date:  Uncertain
    • Q2 Status:  See above regarding book 2.
    • New due date:  December 31, 2016
  • Submit at least one short story for publication
    • Due: December 31
    • Q1 Status:  Haven't even started anything regarding this yet.
    • Q2 Status:  I'm going to call this one complete (for "at least one"), based on the Pratchett memorial anthology submission.  That doesn't mean I'm not going to try to submit something else; just that I can at least mark one thing off the list
  • Complete draft of Words That Mean Something
    • Due:  December 31
    • Q2 Status:  New goal!  This is the one I started working on for Camp Nano in June.  I managed to get a rough outline together last week, so I'm hoping to get more words on the page over the next couple of months.
Well, it's not as exciting as I would have hoped, but at least there's progress.

Monday, August 10, 2015

New(ish) Project

I've decided to take the story I started for Camp Nano this summer and expand on it, because the idea's something that's interesting me more than things I've already got in the pipeline.  Of course, this means starting yet another project, and as you can see on the right-hand side of the blog, I have a few things started.

This is a story that I started writing out long-hand, which has been helping with regards to discovery-writing, but I'm not really comfortable with just letting things take wing on their own.  Apparently, I'm not able to just completely discovery-write.  I decided to do some outlining in Scrivener today, which has been helpful in getting my ideas in place.  I think I'm still going to draft long-hand, but I'm going to make sure my outline is handy - sort of like this:

Admittedly, this is how I tried to start last year's Nano, which didn't work.  I'm hoping that not having the time pressure on will help, but we'll see.  (As you can tell, I'm willing to try just about anything to get the writing going.)

How do you guys approach writing the first draft?

Friday, August 7, 2015

Post-Convention and Back in the Saddle

Well, Camp Nano didn't quite go as planned, but I'm still noodling with the ideas I came up with for it.  I think I'm going to keep going with it, writing it long-hand for the first draft - it's working well for getting the discovery writing juices flowing.

I survived GenCon, though this year's strain of Con Crud seems particularly strong.  Our booth was bigger than ever, and we were a highly sought-after destination.  It is awfully nice to be wanted.

Anyway, I'm hoping to get back into a "normal" routine again.  Of course, the week after next is WorldCon, being held at Sasquan in Spokane this year.  At least I'm not working this convention, so I'll have the opportunity to go to panels and possibly, just maybe, relax.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Camp Nanowrimo (Again)

Working on Camp Nanowrimo again this summer has been like pulling teeth.  I gave myself a smaller goal than in April (30K instead of 50K), but it's still been rough.  I'm working on a short story for a proposed anthology a friend in my work writers' group is contemplating, which on the one hand is nice, because it's giving me the opportunity to work on something new.  On the other hand, it has been going incredibly slowly.  As in, I'm not willing to update my stats, slowly.  I decided to start working on it long-hand, as I've found that to be a way of getting through writer's block in the past.  It's helping some, and it means that I literally have no way of knowing what my word count looks like, which does take some of the pressure off.  It means that I'll be typing like the wind at the end of the month so I can get something official, but there are worse things in the world.

At any rate, I'm still here, still writing.  I hope all of your creative pursuits are going as well as you want them to go.  What are you up to?

Monday, June 29, 2015

Writing Excuses Master Class - Build an Entire World? Are You Crazy? (Part 1)

Time to get back in the saddle, and figure out what the next thing to write is.  I think I'm ready to poke at Paranormal Investigations again, and I think this week's writing prompt will help:

Pick your gee-whiz, whatever it may be, and describe it in 150 words from ten different perspectives. Yes, that's 1500 words.

Something tells me this is going to be a long post that I'll need to come back to a few times before it's finished.

Alison (main POV character):  I was certain that I had to be imagining things when I was attacked by a ghost at the coffee house where I work.  I couldn't even be sure it was a ghost, until a group of people told me that that's what she'd been, and that they wanted me to help them protect the world from ghosties and ghoulies and long-legged beasties, et cetera.  I still don't know who exactly they work for, or how, but they seem pretty desperate - obviously, if they're recruiting me. It's not like I see ghosts everywhere, or anything, but now that I know what to look for, it's kind of surprising that not everyone can see them.  It's pretty obvious that something sticks around, if you know what the signs are.  I just need to figure out what I'm- we're- supposed to do about all of it.

Holy crud, 150 words is longer than I thought.  Moving on!

Mattherw: The idea of life after death has been a popular one for people for generations, obviously, and folk tales about the remenants of a person's being, or soul, have engaged people's imaginations for years. Still, even with the kind of preparation fairy tales gives you, it's still jarring to think that the ghost stories are real, and people can stay on this plane (in one way or another) after death. It's even miore disconcerting to realize that ghosts aren't the only creatures out of the story books that are real, much less finding out that you number among them. Being able to create a group that can help protect the living from the undead has been one of the few things that makes all of this make some sort of sense. However, it still doesn't make telling people much easier.

Gramps (Alison's grandfather): Yes, the stories are true. You didn't think that adults told kids those ghost stories just to scare them, did you? Well, we did tell them to scare kids a little - after all, that's part of the fun of being an adult - but we also needed to make sure that kids were warned. Not every kid is going to see a ghost, or a vampire, or whatever. They hide themselves pretty well, and people go through their lives every day without realizing what's truly around them. But maybe one kid in a hundred will see them for what they truly are, and that kid? That's the one we tell the stories for. That kid needs to know what to do when they are face to face with the werewolf. Stories, after all, are just ways to tell you how to defeat the monsters.

That's a good break for this one, I think. I'm still contemplating what exactly my plan for Camp Nanowrimo will be, but I'm pretty sure that at least part of it will be spent back in the land of Paranormal Investigations.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Sumnmertime, and the living is...

Not all that easy, at least for me.  It's coming up on Father's Day, which means that there are ads everywhere as people try to convince children that Dad really does need more socks or another tie or more tools.  Naturally, this always makes me think of my own father, which is its own minefield.

On July 4 this year, it will have been 17 years since my father died.  As I'm now 34, it means that he's been gone for half of my life.  He died suddenly, while my mother and I were away visiting family and my brother was working the night shift.  I spoke to him on the phone maybe two days before that, and I remember telling him that I loved him at the end of the call, and being really confused with myself as I did so - that wasn't something my family did.  We didn't say it, because everyone knew that we loved each other.  It was "sappy."  Knowing that those were the last words I ever said to my father has given me some measure of peace, though it does mean that I have an obsessive need to end every phone call with people I love with those words, just in case.

This time of year always makes the memories hit a little harder, even as they've softened around the edges with time.  I feel like Dad died before he got a chance to really know who I was, because I didn't know who I was then.  I was 17, and thoroughly obnoxious and self-centered.  It took a long time for me to become a person I'm proud of, and he missed it.

I'm trying really hard not to just dump my daddy issues into this post - no one needs that.  I'll just say that I would be perfectly content to jump from the end of May straight to the end of July/beginning of August, whenever GenCon happens to be that year.  Until then, I'll be hiding from the great burning ball in the sky and trying to be a person worth remembering, the way Dad was.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Between projects

Well, that didn't take long.  I sent in my initial submission yesterday, and received my rejection notice this morning.  The editors were very kind and provided feedback about my submission, which was wonderful, and I can't argue with their reasoning - they didn't see the humor in the synopsis.  Considering how concerned I was about writing humor, it doesn't surprise me at all.

My problem is that now I don't know what I want to work on.  I do want to go back to Living Memory (the novel the short story I was planning was drawn from), but that story has a tendency to turn dark really easily, and I'm not in a good head-space for that at the moment.  I've got a month until the next Camp NaNoWriMo, and a coworker is throwing out ideas for an anthology with relation to that, so hopefully I'll get some ideas from that.  I may go back to Church of Book - I haven't really looked at that since the end of April, so maybe spending a month away will help get the plot bunnies running again.

Either way, it's time to turn the page and start writing the next one.  So far, all of the rejections I've received have been incredibly kind, which makes me both immensely grateful and extremely nervous, waiting for the other shoe to drop.  In the meantime, it's back to the drawing board.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

This is it!

Well, it's almost the end of May, which means that the deadline for my initial submission to the Terry Pratchett memorial anthology is coming due.  Instead of working through the Writing Excuses Master Class, this week I'm going to be working on my submission.  It requires a brief author bio, a two-line synopsis, and a 500-word writing sample.

I'm planning to use some of my edited Nano work as my writing sample, so below is the draft of my bio and synopsis.  I'd really appreciate any feedback you guys can give me on this - just remember I have to send this off by Sunday!

Author bio:

Stephanie Wood Franklin has been telling people she'll be an author since she was eight.  She lives in Seattle with her husband and two step-cats


Julia needs to fill the gaps in her memory. She encounters Dr. Evans, a psychiatrist with a unique treatment for memory issues, and ends up travelling the labrynthian halls of her mind, finding out why some doors should remain locked.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Writing Excuses Master Class - What Do I Do With All This Blank Space?

This week's episode title is basically what I ask myself every time I go to write a new blog post.  The writing prompt:

Write your first thirteen lines, and see how much you can fit into that space—character attitude, point-of-view, mood, genre, conflict, setting, and more.

Julia kept her head down as she walked the windy streets of Seattle. She still wasn't sure if she was doing the right thing, but the ad had been clear that no "therapy" would take place without the introductory evaluation, and she needed the cash. She hadn't expected her food costs to go up so much when she went vegan, but everything meatless was so much more expensive than she had imagined. She was starting to wonder if fitting in with the popular kids at school was truly worth it.

She found the office - at least, her phone told her she was in the right place. When she looked up, all she could see was a narrow townhouse in a neighborhood filled with similar buildings. Hesitantly, Julia started up the steep stairs to the front door, double-checking the address against the ad again.  It wasn't until she was on the front stoop that she saw the sign, almost hidden by ivy - "Dr. Laura Evans, psychiatrist". Emboldened, she knocked on the grey wooden door, straightening her wind-blown hair as best she could. She was about to knock again when the door opened, revealing a small Hispanic woman who appeared out of breath. "Hello! So sorry to keep you waiting! Just had to clear things up. You're Julia, yes? Come in, come in!" She moved out of the way, ushering the girl in.

That was so much harder than I thought it would be!  So, you tell me - how did I do?

Friday, May 15, 2015

Writing Excuses Master Class - How Much of the Beginning Needs to Come First?

Two posts in one week?  Look out - I'm on a roll!  (Of course, now that I've said that...)  The writing prompt this time:

Start writing your story! Write 500 words, focusing on just one of the promises you've identified for your story. Then stop, and start writing another 500 words with a different promise. Aaaand then do it a third time.

For the sake of brevity here, I'm going to aim for 250 words each instead of 500, and working on two promises for now.  So, looking at the promises I outlined last time, here we go:

Promise: I want the reader to be uncertain of what exactly happens in the main character's mind.

Julia found herself in a dark hallway, with doors on either side.  The doors looked vaguely like the ones that had been in the house where she grew up, painted wood with silver handles, but only the doors closest to her had any kind of detail.  She decided to pick a door at random and see if she could get in - she didn't see any locks on the doors, but she had no idea if they would open or not.

The door on the left opened easily, swinging inward to a brightly lit room.  Squinting, Julia walked forward, though she stayed on the other side of the threshold.  She wasn't entirely sure what would happen when she left the relative safety of the hallway, but she wasn't willing to test it just yet.

After a moment, Julia's eyes grew accustomed to the bright light, and she realized it was the sun.  The door appeared to open to the outside world, showing a park with several trees and some small children running around them.  Not what I was expecting, Julia thought to herself as she stuck her head through the open door.  The closer she looked, the more she realized that she recognized the park - she'd spent many of her summer days here when she was a child, playing tag around the trees like the children on the other side of the door were doing now.  Without thinking, she crossed the threshold and stood fully on the other side of the door.  It swung shut behind her.

Promise:  I want the reader to fear for the main character's sanity.

Julia tried not to panic when she realized the door was closed, but she could still see it in the middle of the park.  Strangely, none of the children around were reacting to a freestanding wooden door in the middle of the grass - they just ran around it without truly acknowledging either it or Julia.  She found herself drawn to the biggest of the trees, where most of the children seemed to be gathering to listen to an adult.

Julia realized that things were coming into clearer focus when she walked towards them, almost like a camera lens that is focusing on the subject of a photo.  From a distance, she could hardly tell if the children were boys or girls; now that she was standing amongst them, she could see the freckles on their faces and the fly-away hairs escaping from different braids.  Looking up, Julia recognized the adult under the tree.  "Ms. Harris!" she called, waving to the older woman.  Even though Julia had been in Ms. Harris' day camp every summer for ten years, the woman looked right through her with no sense of recognition.

Julia dropped her arm, moving to the side so she wouldn't be in the children's way as they sat down in the grass around Ms. Harris' feet.  Not that they would notice if I was in the way, she thought, grumbling as she took her own seat on the outside of the circle of children.

Sitting where she was, a bit further away from the teacher, she realized that the woman didn't quite look like Ms. Harris after all.  The hair style and color was the same, but Julia couldn't quite make out the features of her face.  When she spoke to the children, Julia was shocked to realize that she couldn't understand what the older woman was saying.  Julia shook her head a few times, trying to clear her head, but still, everything sounded just...wrong.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Writing Excuses Master Class - Project in Depth: "Parallel Perspectives"

Once again, I'm demonstrating just what a clever woman I am.  I apparently missed a writing prompt, so pretend this one happened before the last post, yes?  They actually tie together pretty well, and I'm hoping they'll help with the synopsis for the anthology submission I'm still working on.  The writing prompt:

Decide on the promises you want to make to your readers in your story. Then outline according to those promises.

Promises, promises.  OK, here goes:

I want the reader to be curious about the idea of memory monsters.
I want the reader to be uncertain of what exactly happens in the main character's mind.
I want the reader to root for the main character/narrator as she travels in her own memory.
I want the reader to fear for the main character's sanity.


  • Meet Julia (main character/narrator)
    • Recently moved to a new town
    • Finds herself flashing back to things she doesn't actively remember
    • Decides to seek help
  • Meet Dr. Evans
    • Psychiatrist Julia is referred to
    • Specialist in memory recovery
    • Decides to take Julia on as a "challenge"
  • First session of "Evans method" of treatment
    • Dr. Evans sends Julia into her own memory
      • Described as a hallway full of doors
        • Behind each door is another scene/memory populated by memory monsters
      • Julia meets younger version of herself as a guide
    • Dr. Evans decides to pull Julia back before she's ready
      • Wants to know what happened, Julia can't describe beyond what we saw
  • Second session of "Evans method" of treatment
    • Julia decides to go back into her memory on her own
    • Encounters memory monsters that don't want to be found
      • FIGHT!
    • Comes out of it, but not sure who won the fight

Friday, May 8, 2015

Writing Excuses Master Class - Story Structure Q&A

It's time to try writing some fiction again, I believe.  I came across this call for submissions for an anthology in honor of Sir Terry Pratchett, and I think I want to put together a submission.  My only concern at this point is that it's meant to be humorous, and being funny on the page has always been a struggle for me.  Hopefully, the master class writing prompts will help me get back into the swing of things.  The writing prompt:

Make a list of all the awesome things you want your story to accomplish. Then put them in the order in which you want them to happen.

Since the theme of the anthology is memory, I want to use something I wrote a while back for Nanowrimo as a starting point.  (That link doesn't include the whole draft of the story - I should probably get on that.)  Of course, that story ended up turning into a horror tale, and I'd like to avoid that.  Still, there are some things I can play with:

Patient gets into her own mind consciously
Patient interacts with her own memories
Therapist finds way into patient's mind
Hide and seek with memonsters (memory monsters, the things that make up memories in one's mind)

...clearly, I still have some work to do on this.  At least it's a start?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Still here, mostly

I'm still here, still trying to write.  The likelihood that I'll win this month's Camp Nanowrimo is dropping with every hour, and I've just overall overbooked myself.  I have no idea if I'll be able to fix it anytime soon, either - while my depression seems to be doing better, my anxiety is through the roof and becoming just as debilitating.

But that's not why you're here, reading.  The next project I'm planning is to submit a proposal to this anthology, which is in honor of Sir Terry Pratchett with proceeds going to Alzheimer's research.  It's going to be a little hard for me, because I'm not particularly good at humor, but I really want to try.  I'll be playing with a few ideas, and seeing what I can put together.

Meanwhile, back to trying to wring some words out of the ether.  Good luck, all!

Monday, April 13, 2015

First Quarter Check-In

Well, I'm slowly getting back into the swing of things.  I've been writing fairly regularly, and I think I stand a chance of making it for Camp Nanowrimo this month.  (Note to self:  the next time you think about doing two swaps on Ravelry that are due the same month, which also happens to be a Nanowrimo month?  Don't do that.)  It seems like a good point to check in against the goals I set for myself at the end of last year.  Things have obviously shifted in priority, so it's also a good time to redefine those goals.

  • Complete draft of book 2 of Paranormal Investigations, Inc.
    • Due: April 30
    • Q1 Status:  This one got put on the back burner, as this series is the one that feels too much like Maureen Johnson's Shades of London series.
    • New due date:  Uncertain
  • Complete draft of Church of Book
    • Due: August 31
    • Q1 Status:  I think I'll meet this goal, even though it isn't the same Church of Book it was when I first drafted these goals.  I've basically started from scratch, and it's my current Camp Nanowrimo project.
  • Win at least one of either Camp Nanowrimo or Nanowrimo
    • Due: November 31
    • Q1 Status:  In progress for the April Camp Nanowrimo
  • Complete edit of Paranormal Investigations, Inc.
    • Due: December 31
    • Q1 Status:  As this is on the back burner, it's being pushed back for now.
    • New due date:  Uncertain
  • Submit at least one short story for publication
    • Due: December 31
    • Q1 Status:  Haven't even started anything regarding this yet.
Speaking of short stories...At Norwescon the weekend before last, I went to a panel on story structure.  As the structure of Church of Book has changed, I wanted to get a better sense of what tools I could use, and in general the panel was very informative.  However, I did ask the panel about my specific structure (essentially, flashing back to historical moments that explain the magic system, and then flashing forward to the main contemporary story) to see if it at least made sense.  Most of the panel said yes and gave me a few suggestions, but Steven Barnes, one of the panelists, stopped everyone and asked me if I'd been published.  When I said no, he started looking doubtful.  He said that the structure I proposed was "fifth grade material", and he wasn't sure if I was out of kindergarten yet.

I spoke to him after the panel, asking if he thought I should even bother continuing with the book if he thought it was so far beyond me.  I was upset, I admit - Mr. Barnes is a well-known and well-respected author, and one whose advice I value.  I've never been one to appreciate if someone tells me that something I want to do is beyond my reach, which didn't help matters.  Mr. Barnes told me to go ahead and continue, but not to focus all my effort on it, and to write short stories and submit them in the meantime.  It didn't matter to him that I'd submitted stories before, because it wasn't something I was doing right that second.  "Being a writer is about what you do every day," he told me.

Well, I agree with that last sentence, but I don't know that I agree with what I need to do.  I need to write, and regularly, obviously, but I don't think waiting to submit works until they're right means I'm less of a writer.  A writer writes, after all.  And this one is going to write.

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Politics of Everything

It's been an interesting few months to be a fan, and things have come to a head this last weekend with the announcement of the nominees for the Hugo Awards.  io9 has probably the best write-up about the situation, but the short version is that a couple of fairly big authors decided to put together "slates" of potential nominees, and used their clout to help get these slates onto the short list for the Hugos.

Now, anything that relies on feedback from the public at large is going to have groups that have agendas that have nothing to do with the actual merits of the award.  It isn't all that surprising that there was some backlash from last year's nominations and wins, but it's still incredibly frustrating.

As readers of this blog/people who know me IRL know, I'm a lot of things.  I'm a feminist, in that I believe people should be treated equally, regardless of gender.  I'm a minority in world of fandom in a lot of ways - I'm a woman, I'm mixed-race, I'm mentally ill, etc.  There are certain (very small, thankfully) groups within the fan community that would rather I left their sandbox alone, lest I get my cooties all over them.

I spent this past weekend at Norwescon, which will always hold a special place in my heart as the first convention I ever attended.  I was surrounded by "my people" - people who enjoyed what I enjoyed, who would catch the semi-obscure references I throw into conversation on a regular basis, and who would be able to give me recommendations for other things to try.  It's a wonderful weekend in a place that tends to ignore all those things that I am, and actively rejects that group of fandom that doesn't want us.

Even there, however, there was no way to get away from the politics.  There were entire panels dedicated to diversity in games and books, and learning how to deal with the people who want to maintain the status quo.  There were ribbons for badges to help people become more comfortable in their environment by making their preferred pronouns clear, and their comfort with complete strangers.  I appreciate that the effort is being made to make people comfortable and give them a safe place to geek out, but it still saddens me that it's necessary to be so explicit in making sure that people treat each other like, well, decent human beings.

Mostly, however, I'm just tired.  I'm exhausted by the fear I feel every time I express an opinion.  I'm tired of the amount of time I spend policing my language to make sure that not only do I not offend, but also that am "enough" - feminist enough, Hispanic enough, supportive enough of those who are under constant attack.  I'm tired of knowing that any moment, an author or other content creator whose work I enjoy will have something come up online which will make their work "problematic", and I'm tired of justifying continuing to consume their content after finding out about their problematic tendencies.  I hate that reading a book or going to a movie is a political statement, and I'm terrified that if I ever do become any kind of public figure, the words I'm writing right now may be used against me.

The glow of a weekend of geekdom was marred by the outrage regarding the Hugos.  I realize it's completely naive, but I want to lose myself in a world with characters that are interesting and ignore the real world for a while.  I read to learn, and I read to escape, and right now what I want to escape is the world surrounding fandom.  I'm just afraid that it's becoming too much to ask anymore.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Writing Excuses Master Class - Where Is My Story Coming From?

Originally, I was planning on putting this exercise off for a bit, but I'm realizing that I need help in this area.  I actually went back to the Church of Book story I was working on for NaNoWriMo, and I decided that while the setting and idea were good, the plot I was putting together wasn't.  I'm trying to come up with a new outline, and what do you know - March's theme for the master class was outlining!  So, the writing prompt:

Take a favorite piece of of media (but not something YOU created,) and reverse engineer an outline from it.

Inspired by last night's Wrestlemania, I thought I'd take a stab at outlining one of the running storylines that was bumped up yesterday.  This could be a little bit tricky, as wrestling storylines are pretty ad-hoc, depending on who's hurt in a given day.  But let's try it anyway!  Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar for the World Heavyweight Championship (spoilers ahead):

  • Roman Reigns starts as a member of the Shield with Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins
  • Seth Rollins ends the Shield and turns on the other two members, forcing all three to continue as singles competitors
  • Seth Rollins wins the Money in the Bank ladder match, giving him an opportunity to challenge for the World Heavyweight Championship anytime, anywhere
  • Roman Reigns has to leave for a few months due to legitimate injury and surgery
  • Roman Reigns comes back and wins the Royal Rumble, giving him a title shot at Wrestlemania
    • Fans are most displeased
  • Roman Reigns and Daniel Bryan (a recently returned fan favorite) compete for that title shot won at the Royal Rumble, and Roman Reigns wins
  • Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar, current World Heavyweight Champion, wrestle in Wrestlemania's main event for the title
  • Seth Rollins appears after the two main competitors have wrestled for ~15 minutes, cashing in his Money in the Bank opportunity and turning the one-on-one match into a triple threat match
    • In a triple threat match, the current champion does not need to be pinned in order for the title to change hands - any one competitor can pin/submit any other competitor to win
  • Seth Rollins pins Roman Reigns and wins the World Heavyweight Championship
So, it's not great literature or anything, but I feel like there's a pretty good storyline through this.  It's obviously not over yet - that final match left story hooks for all kinds of revenge, team-ups and the like - but it has a pretty decent flow.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Writing Excuses Master Class - Q&A on Character

Let's try to finish up February's prompts, now that it's halfway through March.

The prompt:

Sketch out the events before and after your dead-drop scene from last week and three weeks ago.

I'm going to go back to Alison and Matthew (from Take three), starting with the before.

"I think it's time to get Alison out in the field."  The statement from Veronica seemed to come out of nowhere, and neither Alison nor Matthew was expecting it.  Luthor, working away on his multi-screened computer, swiveled around in his chair to face the rest of the group.

Alison blinked bemusedly, trying to focus on the older member of the squad after staring at pages of handwritten notes for hours.  "In the field?  I...didn't know there was a field to be in."  She turned to Matthew, whom she had presumed to be the leader of their motley crew.  "Why didn't anyone say there was a field?"

Veronica stood up and began riffling through a shelf on the wall near the door.  Matthew ignored Alison's question and addressed Veronica instead.  "Do you think she's ready?  She's only been with us for a few weeks now...I'd prefer it if she got a better handle on what we do, before we send her on a mission."

Luthor snorted, turning back to his screens.  "That didn't seem to stop you guys from sending me out less than a month after I joined you," he grumbled.  "I'm still not completely sure what the hell I ran into, just that it was something I needed to run the hell away from."

"I'm not talking about anything that drastic," Veronica called over her shoulder.  "Aha!  Here it is."  She pulled a small wooden block out of a metal box on the shelf, and held it up triumphantly.  "You were saying yourself that we needed to get more intel.  Well, this will do it.  We've got our source at the market - we'll just have Alison plant it, and bingo.  Problem solved."  She beamed expectantly.

Matthew still didn't look completely convinced, but Alison had perked up at the word "market."  "So you just need me to plant that thing somewhere in the market?  I can do that.  Just say where."  She started cataloging which stalls would probably be set up today, and almost missed Matthew's sour look and abrupt gesture.  He grabbed the block from Veronica, and carefully wrapped it in one of his ubiquitous handkerchiefs.  "I'm going with her," he said in a tone that brooked no argument.  "Get up - we might as well get this over with."


Alison was still trying to decide whether to get the matching earrings to go with the necklace when Matthew strolled up behind her.  "You know, an ideal member of our team wouldn't be standing around shopping only feet away from a dead-drop," he said softly, a note of amusement in his voice.

"Yes, well, an ideal member wouldn't try to walk away without one of these gorgeous amethysts, either," Alison retorted, not looking at him.  "I do believe I need the earrings, too," she said to the woman behind the stall, who cheerfully began writing up a sales slip.  Once Alison handed over her credit card, she finally turned to face Matthew.  "Besides, it's not like you're going to tell me what exactly I just did until we get back the car, right?  So let a woman shop in peace."  She sniffed, then turned back to the saleswoman to take back her card and the bag with her jewelry.

Matthew rolled his eyes, but before he could respond, he began to hear shouts coming from the direction of the Spoonman stall.  Taking Alison's arm none too gently, he steered her away from the jewelry stall and began hustling her to the parking lot.  Alison began to protest, but Matthew wasn't having it.  "Less talking, more leaving," he muttered grimly, doing his best not to break into a run while still getting out of the line of sight of the stall as quickly as possible.  Alison, for once, took him seriously, and kept a firm grip on her bag of jewelry as she speed-walked next to him.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Sir Terry

This morning, I was fighting panic (still left over from yesterday, in fact), and so I decided it would be best if I worked from home.  I have never been so grateful for that option before.  My husband called me around 8:30am to let me know that Sir Terry Pratchett had passed.

I had the honor of meeting Sir Terry once, in 2003.  He was perfectly lovely, and signed my two favorite books of his - Small Gods and Hogfather.  He also gave me verbal permission to translate a section of Hogfather into Spanish, to use as a writing sample for a literary translation program I was investigating.

I didn't discover the Discworld books until I was in college, and for that I do feel some regret.  Once I realized the glory of the Discworld books, I devoured as many of them as I could, wishing I had found them earlier.  They gave me a sense of comfort while making me reevaluate tropes I thought I knew.

When my husband and I moved in together, we took the step of combining our libraries.  The only overlap we had were the Discworld novels, which to me, was yet another sign that this was the man for me.

Rest well, Sir Terry.  You've brought joy and laughter to so many, and you deserved better than what Alzheimer's gave you in the end.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Inadvertent Hiatus

As I'm sure some of you may have noticed, I haven't been around all that much lately.  I didn't intentionally abandon the internet, but every time I started to write about what was going on, I kept hearing that voice telling me that no one would really care.  My life is pretty good, it kept saying.  My "problems" aren't nearly as bad as some of the other people's problems.  Do you want to be that person who does nothing but complain?

I really hate that voice.  Long story short, my depression decided to tighten its grip on me for the last couple of months, and it made getting words on a page very difficult.  Depression, for me, doesn't just tell me that no one cares about what I write - it tells me that people will actively be angry or annoyed if I put my problems out into the world, or try to make them read the crap I put together (because of course it's crap, it's coming from me).  It also keeps me from telling the people around me, the people who care about me, what's going on, because I'm not supposed to be a burden.  My job is to be the one that makes everyone happy - telling them that I'm not OK is not going to make them happy, which means I fail at my job.

Have I mentioned that depression is a bastard?  Because seriously.  At any rate, I'm not sure what's caused it to loosen its grip a little - it may have been spending a weekend with good friends (and a stop to my favorite tea shop), as well as just spending time with my husband.  Either way, the words are coming a little easier now, so I should probably try to get as many of them down as I can before the depression catches up with me again.

And before you ask, I'm making an appointment with my doctor to get a referral to a psychiatrist.  While my therapist has been great, I feel like we really aren't going anywhere anymore, and I might need to talk to someone with a little more background on handling the medications, and seeing if that needs to be changed.  I'm trying to take care of myself (finally), it's just going to take some time.

Writing Excuses Master Class - Who Are All These People?

Time to try to catch up on Writing Excuses' Master Class.  This prompt is going to interesting, I think:

Pick one of the dead-drop characters from the exercise two weeks ago, and turn them into a secondary character. Now take one of the characters with whom they interacted, and write the same scene again, but from this new character's POV.

We're going to go with Alison and Matthew, the last try on my previous post for the Master Class.

Matthew was certain that Alison was going to get herself killed.  If he'd had his way, he would never have pushed this kind of job on such a green recruit, but he didn't have a choice.  He sat back in the shade of a tree, trying to keep an eye on the girl without being completely conspicuous.  "Keep going," he muttered under his breath when he saw her linger at a jewelry stand.  "You can shop later!"  He nodded to a couple of women walking by, but realized that they hadn't even looked twice at him.  There were times, he thought, where living in an age with cell phones everywhere makes it much easier to go unnoticed.

He flinched when Alison got tangled in the leash of an enthusiastic dog, holding his breath when she bobbled the package and nearly dropped it.  Finally, she scurried out of sight into the correct booth, and Matthew breathed a sigh of relief.  She had managed to pass the first test, so her training would continue.  He was happy, as he hadn't looked forward to the idea of having to remove her from the field.  He started to move toward her, but stopped when he saw her duck into a jewelry stall.  With a sigh, he slid to the ground and opened his book.  He might as well give her a few minutes to shop - she'd earned it.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Writer's Ennui

My friends, I'm in a bit of a quandry.  Recently, the third book in Maureen Johnson's Shades of London trilogy dropped, and so I began re-reading the first book to remind myself of what was happening.  This is my standard operating procedure with series - I like to remember all that went before the new book, so I don't have to keep asking myself who different characters are.

My problem, however, was that as I read The Name of the Star, I realized that there were significant...similarities, to my own Paranormal Investigations, Inc. series.  I know for certain that I read this book before I started writing PII, so I have no doubts that I was influenced, but...well, it gave me a bit of a shock.  I know that stories have been told multiple times over the years, and that the books aren't exactly the same (no Jack the Ripper in my book, for instance), but it's still a little painful when realizing that someone else had a similar idea, and they wrote it better than you can.

I'm going to be stepping away from PII for a few, just to try and give myself some space before trying to work things out, but I'm having a hard time figuring out what to work on instead.  I have several works in progress, and I feel as though I should actually try to finish one of those before starting something new, but none of them are really grabbing my attention at the moment.  I'm the same way with books, sometimes - I have several books that are in-progress, but some days I don't want to read any of them - I want to start something new.

I guess it's time to go to the trunk, and see what lurks in there.  Wish me luck in the spelunking!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Writing Excuses Master Class - What Do You Mean My Main Character is Boring?

New month, new beginnings with the Writing Excuses Master Class.  This month is apparently going to be focused on characters, which is great, because that's where things tend to fall apart for me.  The writing prompt (and yes, I realize I'm a week behind):

Take three different characters and walk them through a scene. Convey their emotional states, their jobs, and their hobbies without directly stating any of those. The scene in question: walking through a marketplace, and they need to do a dead-drop.

Take one:

Janet kept her eyes fixed firmly on the road ahead of her as she jogged around the track.  She felt awkward without her iPod and keys, but the phone call had made it clear that she needed to come right away - no time to do her normal stretching routine, even.  The track wrapped around the waterfront, passing in front of the busy Saturday Market.  Sunny weekend days were at a premium, and it seemed everyone in the city had decided to go shopping today.

When she reached the edge of the market, she turned off the track, keeping her pace steady as she passed the food stalls.  She forced herself to look up, trying to find the bucket behind the elephant ear stand.  She knew from experience that she would draw attention from security guards if she started looking around or over her shoulder - it was something that would draw her attention during her rounds, at any rate.  She tried to keep her breathing regular, but the nerves were getting to her.  Just as she was about to give up, she saw the edge of the bucket peeking out from the tarp at the back of a stand.  From the smells of cinnamon and sugar, she knew she was in the right place.  Letting out a deep breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding, she casually ran near the bucket and tossed something from her pocket, then sprinted away.

Take two:

"Toby, heel!"  Roger tried to pull the stubborn dog back, but the Golden Retriever had just seen yet another dog, and had to sniff it out.  The dog was dumb as a box of hammers, but his owners paid well, so Roger put up with him.  At least he was friendly, and taking him for a walk through Saturday Market gave him an excuse to handle other affairs.

With an irritated sigh, Roger pulled Toby off the other dog and smiled apologetically at the girl holding the Shii Tzu's leash.  "Sorry about that, he's a little feisty," he called as she huffed away.  "Toby, you've got to try to go for the dogs that have HOT owners," he told the dog as they walked in the opposite direction.  "How am I supposed to get any if you don't do your job?"

They continued down the row, stopping at the Spoonman stand where the air glittered with "art" made from upcycled silverware.  Roger thought it was garbage, but the man made a lot of money, and with so many people around the stand, it made his job much easier.  He sidled up to the edge of the stand, looking seriously at some...he thought they might be flower vases, maybe?  At any rate, they'd be perfect.  With a quick glance around, he reached into his pocket and added a little something extra to the vase display.  Whistling, he tugged Toby's leash and they continued on their merry way.

Take three:

Alison couldn't help rolling her eyes at the serious tone Matthew was taking.  "I get it, boss," she sing-songed.  "I go to the stall in the market, drop off the-"

"Quiet!" Matthew hissed, trying to keep her attention on him while simultaneously keeping himself from being seen.  "You can't just go around talking about it.  You should know better than that by now.  Just...just go, put it where it needs to be, and come back."  He sighed, shaking his head.  "I still don't know if this work is for you, but we have to try something."

"Thanks a heap," Alison muttered as she snagged the package from the bench next to Matthew and stalked off.  She knew that this was a weird part of the job, but she refused to let herself think that she couldn't handle it.  There was important information to track, and the package in her hand was going to help her team in a lot of ways.

She walked down the aisle of stalls, slowing down as she saw a few jeweler's stands with sparkling necklaces and earrings.  Maybe after she did the..thing, she could come back and do a bit of shopping.  Better hurry up and be done with ti, then.

She continued on, in a bit of a hurry now, hoping that the large amethyst necklace would still be where she saw it when she was done.  She almost tripped over a Golden Retriever who jumped up on her, and she almost dropped the package.  She managed to get away from both dog and owner and rounded the corner to Spoonman's stand.  She wrinkled her nose at some of the displays, but she admitted that the pens made of servingware did look pretty cool.  She tried not to look around too much, and with as many people as there were in the booth, it was unlikely that anyone would notice her, anyway.  She went to the counter where the cashier was ringing things up furiously, and dropped the package behind the business-card holder next to the register.  Slipping away, she felt a rush of adrenaline.  Now to find that necklace again...