Friday, December 30, 2016

December Round-up, End of Year Check-in, and 2017 Goals

Starting with the round-up!


Words written YTD: 59,195 on two and a half projects (Paranormal Investigations novels, a prequel short story that didn't really go where I wanted it to, and Novel Wars (my Nano)) - that's right, I managed a full month without writing. It was awful.

Writer-ly things accomplished: Not a blessed thing, unless you count realizing that not writing is not OK.

New books read: Pounce (aka a book of kitty pictures that needs to be available at all times); January/February 2016 Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction; When Books Went to War (I know I've already reviewed it, but short summary, I loved it); Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife (not my favorite Mary Roach, but interesting for all that); The Prophecy Con (Book two of Rogues of the Republic aka Fantasy A-Team); Lumberjanes #22-23; Pirate King (Russell and Holmes take on the Pirates of Penzance, which left me humming the Major General's song); and Beekeeping for Beginners (Russell and Holmes, the early days).

Old books re-read: The Jennifer Morgue & The Fuller Memorandum (Laundry Files 2-3); Grave Peril (Dresden Files 3); The Arctic Incident (Artemis Fowl 2); Searching for Dragons (Enchanted Forest Chronicles 2, which still holds up beautifully).

Well, if nothing else, I certainly read more this month. Now, on to the 2016 goals that I'm pretty sure I missed:

  • Complete draft of book 2 of Paranormal Investigations
    • Due:  March 31, 2016
    • Q1 status:  I should really restate this as "fill in the gap between books 1 and 2 of Paranormal Investigations", and it's still in process.
    • New due date: July 31, 2016
    • Q2 status: This is the goal for this Camp Nano, so we'll see if we can actually finish filling the gap this month.
    • Q3 status: Ish? I've reached a good stopping point and realized that enough changed in book 1 that book 2 basically needs to start over again. I'll call this one complete (as restated in Q1), with redrafting book 2 as the plan for Nanowrimo
    • New goal: Complete draft 0 of book 2 of Paranormal Investigations
    • New due date: December 31, 2016
    • Q4 status: AHAHAHA no.
  • Complete draft of Church of Books
    • Due:  September 30, 2016
    • Q1 status: I haven't even touched this one in a while. I'll keep the date as is for now.
    • Q2 status: Same as Q1
    • Q3 status: Yeah, that didn't go according to plan. I've spent the year focusing on PII, so this one is off to the side. This will get moved to next year.
    • Q4 status: See Q3 update.
  • Complete edit of Paranormal Investigations
    • Due:  December 31, 2016
    • Q1 status:  In process
    • Q2 status:  In process
    • Q3 status:  In process (so many notes on my draft 0 of book 1, many of which involve asking Past Stephanie just what the devil she was thinking)
    • Q4 status: made it through draft 0 of book 1, but haven't had the wherewithal to go back and start fixing things.
  • Complete draft of one of the works started for a Nano
    • Due:  December 31, 2016
    • Q1 status:  In process, as Paranormal Investigations started as a Nano
    • Q2 status:  In process, looking better with each day of sitting and actually getting some words on the dang page
    • Q3 status:  I'm going to call this complete, with PII book 1 as a complete draft 0. Go team me!
    • Q4 status: Done!
  • Complete at least one Nano
    • Due:  November 30, 2016
    • Q1 status:  COMPLETE!
    • Q2 status:  Trying for number 2!
    • Q3 status:  Didn't make number 2; revving up for number 3
    • Q4 status:  Well, I made it for one.
  • Submit at least one story for publication
    • Due:  December 31, 2016
    • Q1 status:  I have ideas, ever so many ideas...keeping the date as is for now.
    • Q2 status:  I may come back to the short story I was fiddling with post-Camp Nano, or I may try for something completely different. Who knows? Not me!
    • Q3 status:  Uh, we'll see. I haven't even thought short fiction in a couple of months.
    • Q4 status:  And again, AHAHAHA no.
Clearly, setting these kinds of big goals just isn't working for me. I need to break things down into manageable chunks, else everything's going to be "AHAHAHA no" next year.

  • PII book 1 editing
    • Go through notes on at least one scene every two weeks, incorporating changes and noting bigger changes for later
  • Novel Wars drafting
    • One character study per month, including interviews, background, list of favorite books/least favorite books, and for the novelists, best writing atmosphere
  • Other drafting
    • Read through existing works in progress, choose one to work on for each Camp Nanowrimo (April and July)
Looking at it like that, I think it's doable. For now, at least. We'll see what the first quarter of 2017 brings. (Incidentally, anyone else super gun-shy about the new year? I'm almost afraid to say "Happy New Year" in case 2017 hears me and takes it as a challenge.)

Monday, December 26, 2016

Food memories

(A quick note - I'm still here! The holidays took me away from the blogosphere for a bit, but I'm back now.)

Lately I've been thinking about food. It's not surprising, given the holidays and how much our traditions revolve around food (Thanksgiving dinner, making candy for Christmas, that sort of thing), but just cooking with my husband made me think of the ways my parents worked to include me in the making of the family meals.

There were two big things that my parents made that were considered "their things" - Dad's pizza, and Mom's "full-blown Mexican". The pizza was one of the first things I learned how to make, mostly because I kept bothering my father, asking if it was ready yet. That was how I got involved in a lot of cooking, actually, was by being annoying.

Mom's food was essentially her version of the food she learned from her mother - taco meat, Spanish rice, flour tortillas, and various other foods depending on how big the meal was going to be. One of my clearest memories was being given the huge responsibility of seasoning the taco meat on my own, unsupervised. It was one of the earliest moments of pride that I can remember, when Mom tasted the meat and told me I had seasoned it perfectly.

It's the little things that make a life, which is something to remember when creating characters and when dealing with other people in general. Everyone has those memories that don't seem to mean much outside of their own heads, but are incredibly precious to them.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Book Review - When Books Went to War

So, you could say that I'm a big fan of most things literary. Books are one of those things that have always been important to me, and asking me if I like reading is like asking if like breathing - I need it to live. But I've never felt able to put into words the importance of books as a whole, not just to me but to society at large.

When Books Went to War does a marvelous job of putting words around the idea that wars of ideas are just as powerful as the physical fighting. It describes how the US, in the form of a council of publishers and the War Department, took control of the war of ideas on the Allied front during World War II. The council published books specifically to be sent overseas to be given to the soldiers fighting, thus providing entertainment and new ideas to people who may not remember why they're fighting. It also helped publishers popularize the paperback book, a format that had been seen as the purview of pulps and dimestore novels.

One of the fascinating things is how the publishers worked together, forgoing their own profits in order to make these editions and sell them at cost to the military in order to send them overseas. In addition, it made a generation of readers out of men who may only have looked at the headlines of newspapers before. It gave the soldiers a safe way to vent their emotions in an era when men weren't meant to show any sign of weakness or emotion. The publishers even worked to publish books that would help the soon to be demobilized soldiers with their return to civilian life, offering ways to make the skills they had learned into something they could use at home.

The story may begin with one of the biggest book burnings in Germany, but it ends with the high note of how many books were published and disseminated over the course of the war. The stories from the soldiers are heartfelt and heart-breaking, and overall, it's an uplifting book that reminds us that while we may be afraid, we will have the ability to fight a war of ideas so long as we have the words to spread them.

Friday, December 2, 2016

November Round-Up

November is finished. I didn't make it on Nanowrimo, which isn't all that surprising. I do like the characters I created, so I think I'm going to continue the story and see what happens.

Words written YTD: 59,195 on two and a half projects (Paranormal Investigations novels, a prequel short story that didn't really go where I wanted it to, and Novel Wars (my Nano)) - a small bump in preparation for, well, tomorrow.

Writer-ly things accomplished: Most of what I created for Nano ended up being character development, which is always fun. It gives me ideas...*cackle*

New books read: Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady's Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners (this was so glorious, and similarly terrifying); Origins of the Specious (a book on word origins - fun, though a little dry); The Palace Job (billed as Leverage meets high fantasy, comes across more like the A-Team meets high fantasy; I enjoyed it a great deal)

Old books re-read: Storm Front and Fool Moon (Dresden 1-2); The Atrocity Archives and The Concrete Jungle (Laundry Files 1-1.5); Dealing With Dragons (one of my favorite books from childhood, and re-reading it has shown me so many things that I missed when I first read it)

Monday, November 28, 2016

Nanowrimo Day 28

Current word count: 15,917
Goal word count: 50,000
What's happening: The ~mysterious~ final contestant is revealed, and she and Maxine have...history. The judge also makes his first appearance, and smarms all over everything. Now onto the show!

You know, at this point, if I manage to make it somehow, it'll be pretty danged impressive. If, as is significantly more likely, I don't make it, I'm still pretty happy with what I've got, and I'll want to finish the story up. Next month, however, will be the beginning of Crochet All the Baby Blankets (No Seriously, All Of Them). It'll be a nice break, I think.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Nanowrimo Day 25

Current word count: 12,016
Goal word count: 50,000
What's happening: Literary Fiction Dude gets a little whiny about the fact that no one really knows (or cares) who he is, as opposed to the genre fiction folks. People have made their way through the makeup and wardrobe machines, and a ~mysterious~ final contestant is about to be revealed. Then maybe we can finally, I don't know, DO something?

I really wish I were able to write things out of order, because then I would skip things like all the introductions and go straight into people fighting each other with words and imaginary warriors. However, I don't enjoy outlining things down to the details, and I like discovering things as I write, which means I generally have to write them in order to learn what the devil happens next.

Happy Friday, all! If you decided to brave the Black Friday stores, I hope you all managed to get what you needed without causing or receiving injury. Meanwhile, I'll be over here, shopping online and avoiding people.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Nanowrimo Day 21

Current word count: 10,442
Goal word count: 50,000
What's happening: The altercation between the literary critic and the romance novelist is broken up, much to Maxine and Oscar's disappointment. Our next contestant, Genre Fiction Perky Goth, is introduced, and we discover that Maxine really hates being called Max. Also we just barely meet our fifth contestant, Literary Fiction Dude (who's not nearly as intimidating or boring as he seems).

I broke 10K, woo! We'll just have to see how things pan out, but everyone's interacting with each other (mostly) nicely, so I think the sandbox is going to be a lot of fun.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Nanowrimo Day 18

Current word count: 8,644
Goal word count: 50,000
What's happening: The second novelist (the first-ever fanfiction writer in the Wars) makes their appearance and confuses everyone, then is whisked away to wardrobe. The third novelist, a literary critic who's certain he can write better than all of the drivel he's seen win the show, is confronted by the first novelist, who is the reigning champion and best-selling romance novelist. Maxine and Oscar look for popcorn for this particular fireworks show.

I don't really know why I'm so optimistic about this. Even though I'm only writing a few hundred words a day, I'm still writing every day, and I like where things are going. I'm refusing to throw in the towel on this, but I don't think I'll be too upset if/when I don't win Nano this year. I guess it's nice to be optimistic about something right now, given the current climate of gloom and doom surrounding the country. Stay safe, my friends.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Nanowrimo Day 14

Current word count: 6,541
Goal word count: 50,000
What's happening: The introduction to the format is explained, and Oscar gets to meet the first of the novelists, and fanboys all over her. The second novelist is about to make their entrance, and nobody really knows what to do with them yet.

Behind or not, I've managed to write every day. Even with last week being scary and rough (in addition to the election, a couple of anniversaries also happened to be that week, so that was less than fun). I keep having parts of Sia's song "Alive" running through my head, and I think I'm going to put together a "Not Yet Dead, Dammit" playlist for when I need it. I've the feeling I may need it a lot in coming days (weeks, months...)

Friday, November 11, 2016

Nanowrimo Day 11

Current word count: 5,301
Goal word count: 50,000
What's happening: Finally, Maxine and Oscar get around to filming the introduction of Novel Wars, thus spelling out for the home audience (and readers) just what the devil is going on. Also, the director hates the producer, so that should be fun.

Still behind, naturally, but I'm feeling a little better about where I'm going. This week has been rough for a number of reasons, but I need to stay on target and keep going. After all, now is the time to...


Monday, November 7, 2016

Nanowrimo Day 7

Current word count: 3,752
Goal word count: 50,000
What's happening: Our main character (and host), Maxine, meets the newest member of the on-screen cast, a kid named Oscar. We see the new set, and are getting ready to film the introduction of the show and the contestants.

OK, so I'm behind, obviously. At the same time, I'm liking where things are going. My main character is a cross between Elle Woods and Megyn Kelly, with a bit of Effie Trinket for fun. The set is essentially a series of cells where the novelists will have to write to a specific challenge, and the warriors they create will fight in a separate stadium. That, I'm looking forward to.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Nanowrimo Day 4

Just a quick update that I'm not dead, and neither is my Nano. Currently I'm sitting at 1,347 words. According to the Nanowrimo website, I should be at 6,666 words for today. So, it's a bit of a slow start.

I'm enjoying what I'm writing, though, so that helps. It's called Novel Wars, and it's sort of a cross between the Hunger Games and Cutthroat Kitchen. Thank heavens for my writers' group at work, as they helped me bounce ideas for the contestants and the sabotages they'll have to deal with. (I keep being reminded of a quote from WorldCon this year, that writers "create fictional people and then torture them," and I can't help but giggle maniacally.)

Anywho, I'll be getting back to it shortly. I'm going to a write-in tomorrow, so with luck having several hours set aside to do nothing but write will help get the momentum going. After that, well, I'll probably be avoiding the internet entirely on November 8-9, because while I'm thrilled that this dumpster fire of an election is finally going to be over, I don't particularly relish the idea of watching the backlash, regardless of which way it goes. I may spend the 9th with my Kindle and my little writing machine, disconnected from the internet and cuddling the cats.

Happy Friday, all!

Monday, October 31, 2016

October Round-Up

Happy Halloween to those who celebrate, and happy last day before NaNoWriMo for those of us who are attempting it this year! Let's see how I did this month.

Words written YTD: 43,109 on two and a half projects (Paranormal Investigations novels, a prequel short story that didn't really go where I wanted it to, and my outline for Nano) - a small bump in preparation for, well, tomorrow.

Writer-ly things accomplished: First pass editing of Paranormal Investigations is done, yay! I'm getting out of that world for a bit, as I've been there for a really long time, and starting something new for Nano.

New books read: Once Broken Faith, Dreams and Slumbers, Rat-Catcher (more from the October Daye series, which means I'm pretty well caught up; Lightspeed Magazine January 2016 (...I may be a bit behind on my magazines); Feedback (Newsflesh book 4, otherwise known as "Why must you tear my heart out, Seanan/Mira? Why?")

Old books re-read: Jingo (one of my favorite Discworld books); Deadline and Blackout (Newsflesh books 2-3); Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (*sniffle*); Artemis Fowl (because I needed something light after all that darkness).

All in all, not a bad month. Onwards to November!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Editing complete! Ish.

The first pass on draft zero of Paranormal Investigations is complete! *throws confetti* I realized that I ended it at sort of a weird stopping place, which is something I'll fix in post, but for now, I'm looking ahead to outlining for Nanowrimo.

While originally I was planning to work on Act 2/Book 2 of Paranormal Investigations, I'm contemplating taking a break from that world and going somewhere else. I'm not sure where that somewhere else is yet, but I have the weekend and Monday to figure something out. Optimism! That's what I need here.

Either way, I made a milestone, and I'm proud of it. Next stop is to write more, and see what comes of it.

Happy Friday!

Monday, October 24, 2016

What you do when you're not doing anything

I swear the title makes sense. I'm talking about those times when you aren't actively writing or making something, or when you're not moving around much (like when you're riding the bus for example). Do you sit still? Do you have to have something to keep at least part of you occupied?

I've always been a fidgety person. Most of the reasons why I wear rings beyond my wedding set is so I have something to play with on each hand, particularly if I'm sitting in a meeting and listening to someone speak. I'm not entirely sure why, but my focus seems to be directly connected to my hands.

A couple of years ago, my office had to evacuate due to a threat to the building that the authorities felt was credible. (Spoiler: nothing happened in the end, thank heavens.) I've found that my anxiety is much more likely to rear its ugly head when I have just enough information to know that Something Is Wrong, but not enough information to make any sort of a plan. Naturally, this kind of evacuation put me squarely in that category.

Fortunately, when we were evacuated, we were told to grab all of our things and prepare to make "alternative work arrangements" as no one knew how long we would be away from our building. My bag included my project bag, with a scarf I was crocheting at the time. After milling about for around five minutes, getting closer and closer to a panic attack, I finally pulled out my crochet and got to work. The pattern was fairly simple, so it didn't require a lot of attention, but it forced me to calm my hands down enough to get the yarn moving. It gave me an outlet to get rid of some of the nerves that were flowing, and it helped me calm down. It also confused my manager and coworkers, but they've gotten used to me by now.

I like putting my characters in different situations and seeing how they react, as it helps me learn more about their basic personalities. Figuring out how my characters handle time in which they aren't or can't actively do something can be a defining characteristic, I believe. I don't know how nuts it would drive some of them, or if they would be relieved to take a moment to breathe. Only one way to find out!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Editing continued

I'm most of the way through my first-pass editing of draft zero, and I've definitely learned a few things about my writing style. For one thing, I have a devil of a time remembering the full names of my characters - several of my in-line notes involve "[CHECK VERONICA'S LAST NAME]" or "[INSERT JONATHAN'S LAST NAME]." It's kind of sad, but it makes me feel a little bit better about the fact that I have a hard time remember real people's names as well - it means that, even when I make the people up, I'm just no good with names.

I've got a better idea of what needs to be fleshed out in book 1, and where to go in book 2, which is super helpful. Once I finish this pass, I want to go back to my rough outline of book 2 and fill in some of the gaps that I know need to be filled, before going to book 1 and turning my notes into actual changes in the manuscript. This, of course, is provided that I can read my own handwriting - we'll have to see about that.

All in all, I feel good about the progress being made. I'm ready for November to get here (and more than ready for the election cycle to be done and over with, with as little bloodshed as possible, please). 2016 is finally making its way into the history books, and I say good riddance.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Words Matter

The last couple of weeks in American politics have been particularly rife with...let's call it excitement. We've seen words used to harm and cause outrage, used to discuss vile behavior as though it were common and nothing to be ashamed of, and used to belittle and demean.

We've also seen words used to inspire hope and change, used to reassure and comfort, a nd used to fight back against those who would use words for ill. It's been an object lesson in how flexible language can be, and how important.

A little background: I graduated from high school in 1999. (Yes, I know - by Tumblr standards, I'm ancient.) It means that my formative years were filled with people telling me that words didn't matter - if I was being teased, it was because I "reacted so well" and I needed to ignore them. If people made fun of me, maybe I shouldn't raise my hand so much in class. (On the flip side, asking a teacher to stop announcing my grades to the class, because it made me a target, meant that I had low self-esteem.) If I got upset ("reacted") when people called me names or told each other how awful I was, then I was just feeding them, and it was on me to stop reacting, and they would stop saying things. It shouldn't have bothered me anyway, since they were just words. Sticks and stones, and all that.

I was fortunate enough to never have a serious physical injury in my childhood - no broken bones, no lasting scars from serious accidents on the playground, nothing like that. Because of that, I can't say for certain that the wounds from sticks and stones scar worse than those of words, but I know that I still deal with the scars of those words to this day. They've faded, over time, in large part because I found family and friends that wouldn't re-open the wounds. They didn't tell me I was being oversensitive if something upset me - they helped me find a way to move through the problem, not pretend it didn't exist. And they did this primarily through their words.

I know that not many people read what I write here, and that's fine. I'm just trying to put some more words into the world that may do some good, whether they be words of writerly inspiration, words of encouragement (both in writing and otherwise), or words that make people laugh (particularly at me). Words are the best light I have for the darkness, and I'm trying my best to make it shine so others can find their lights. The last thing I would want is to have my words cause someone else's light to dim, even for a moment.

Words matter. What you say, what you write, what you communicate to the world - it all matters. Your words can change people's minds, change people's lives, even if just for a second. They can be a powerful tool, or a dangerous weapon. We treat words like they're nothing, but we need to remember to be careful. Being careless with our words can cause a lot of pain, for ourselves and for those who hear or read what we say.

A tool or a weapon. You choose.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Character development - shields

Lately I've been thinking a lot about how we arm ourselves to face the world outside our comfort zones. Some of us have rituals that we use to get ourselves in the right mindset to go out and do what needs to be done, even if we don't actively identify them as such - shower, shave, brush teeth, comb hair, that sort of thing. For some folks, this morning ritual includes things like working out or yoga or some other form of getting the body in a good place as well as the mind.

I was always a "do it the night before" kind of kid, because I value sleep, and the best sleep is that first thing in the morning. However, I need to take a few steps to make sure I can handle whatever comes at me, as well - if I'm not wearing my rings or my watch, I find myself feeling off-kilter all day, and I don't quite feel like I'm as prepared as I could be.

I see it as a form of shield-making - the things we do to prepare before leaving the homes we create for ourselves. Even if it's just something as simple as grabbing their wallet and keys on the way out the door, it's something that makes a person feel as though they're ready for the day ahead, whatever it may hold. It's something worth looking for when figuring out who your characters are - if they had to leave for the day in a hurry, what would they be sure to grab? What would drive them crazy if they didn't have it? What shields do they put in place before they walk out the door?

Friday, October 7, 2016

Book review - The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

I am a big fan of comfort reading. I tend to re-read books that I love many times over the years, because even if I remember the broad strokes of the plot or the characters, there's always something new to discover and remember with every reading. This book? This is one that probably has, if not the most re-reads, at least in the top 5, in my library.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was one of the first epistolary books I ever read. The entire story is told in letters and journals, which as a writer, is always fascinating to me - how can an author fit so much about a character into a simple letter? The fact that the book is also historical fiction, taking place not long after the end of the Second World War, helped to attract my attention as well.

The main theme is the love of the written word. The main character is an author who wrote columns for the newspaper during the war, and is now trying to find the best idea she can for a book. Out of the blue, she receives a letter from a man on Guernsey Island, who had purchased one of the books she had had in her library from a second-hand bookshop, and was writing to see if she knew of any other books by the same author. It leads to a discussion about reading, writing, and the importance of not only the written word, but also the ties of friendship and family, during the worst that life has to offer.

There's a bit of history that's rarely told in the US in this book - the occupation by the Germans of the Channel Islands. By hearing the voices of the people who lived through the occupation, the authors are able to give a good amount of detail to what happened, without coming across like a textbook. Knowing that it's in the past for them, but still building who they are in the present, is a gift for the reader to unwrap with each letter.

The audiobook version has multiple actors, which make the letters separate and distinct in ways that reading them can't quite get across. This is a book that I can honestly say I wholeheartedly love, and I recommend it to pretty much everyone.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Third Quarter Check-In

We are now in the dawning of the Age of Aquarius the fourth quarter of the year, so let's look back on Q3 and see what got accomplished (or didn't).
  • Complete draft of book 2 of Paranormal Investigations
    • Due:  March 31, 2016
    • Q1 status:  I should really restate this as "fill in the gap between books 1 and 2 of Paranormal Investigations", and it's still in process.
    • New due date: July 31, 2016
    • Q2 status: This is the goal for this Camp Nano, so we'll see if we can actually finish filling the gap this month.
    • Q3 status: Ish? I've reached a good stopping point and realized that enough changed in book 1 that book 2 basically needs to start over again. I'll call this one complete (as restated in Q1), with redrafting book 2 as the plan for Nanowrimo
    • New goal: Complete draft 0 of book 2 of Paranormal Investigations
    • New due date: December 31, 2016
  • Complete draft of Church of Books
    • Due:  September 30, 2016
    • Q1 status: I haven't even touched this one in a while. I'll keep the date as is for now.
    • Q2 status: Same as Q1
    • Q3 status: Yeah, that didn't go according to plan. I've spent the year focusing on PII, so this one is off to the side. This will get moved to next year.
  • Complete edit of Paranormal Investigations
    • Due:  December 31, 2016
    • Q1 status:  In process
    • Q2 status:  In process
    • Q3 status:  In process (so many notes on my draft 0 of book 1, many of which involve asking Past Stephanie just what the devil she was thinking)
  • Complete draft of one of the works started for a Nano
    • Due:  December 31, 2016
    • Q1 status:  In process, as Paranormal Investigations started as a Nano
    • Q2 status:  In process, looking better with each day of sitting and actually getting some words on the dang page
    • Q3 status:  I'm going to call this complete, with PII book 1 as a complete draft 0. Go team me!
  • Complete at least one Nano
    • Due:  November 30, 2016
    • Q1 status:  COMPLETE!
    • Q2 status:  Trying for number 2!
    • Q3 status:  Didn't make number 2; revving up for number 3
  • Submit at least one story for publication
    • Due:  December 31, 2016
    • Q1 status:  I have ideas, ever so many ideas...keeping the date as is for now.
    • Q2 status:  I may come back to the short story I was fiddling with post-Camp Nano, or I may try for something completely different. Who knows? Not me!
    • Q3 status:  Uh, we'll see. I haven't even thought short fiction in a couple of months.

Friday, September 30, 2016

September Round-Up

I survived September, and so did you! 2016 is that much closer to dying in a fire (but please, Lord, not an actual fire, because seriously, we do not need that after this year)! Let's see how it went on the book and writing side.

Words written YTD: 42,846 on one and a half projects (Paranormal Investigations novels and a prequel short story that didn't really go where I wanted it to) - you'll notice this didn't increase, because of all the editing. New word count will begin in November at the latest.

Writer-ly things accomplished: Realized that, while my Draft Zero is not complete crap, there are certainly plenty of things to fix. My editing notes have started turning into questions, a la "When did THAT happen?" and "Really? You sure about that?". Sometimes they're directed at the characters, but they're mostly directed at Past Stephanie, who really didn't have a plan for this (clearly).


New books read: In Little Stars, The Fixed Stars, Never Shines the Sun, and Full of Briars (also known as a bunch of October Daye short fiction); Assassination Vacation (non-fiction about several presidents and their assassins; tended to ramble, but interesting nonetheless); From the Editorial Page of the Falchester Weekly Review (short story for the Memoirs of Lady Trent series, and an absolute delight).

Old books re-read: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (this is when I start slowing down, because Things Get Real); October Day 3-8 (I'm almost to the new book!); Hogfather (part of the epic Discworld re-read, and one of my all-time favorites).

Friday, September 23, 2016

I have a PLAN!

Well, to be fair, I usually have several plans. It's how I've discovered I operate the best. If there's an issue of some sort, I tend to handle it best when I can have the issue laid out as plainly as possible, and have steps toward resolving the problem put into place. Yes, the plan may be difficult, and yes, there may be hazards on the path, but it's a heck of a lot easier for me to handle a solution when I can chart out what needs to be done.

I realize that I don't share this problem-solving style with a lot of people, but it's come up recently with some day-job and personal life issues, and I've wanted to put something down so I can remember it the next time things get overwhelming. Breaking things into a manageable, clear problem (you did X when you should have done Y, you haven't been doing Z as well as you should, that sort of thing) makes the solutions more clear to me. If I did X instead of Y, I can do Y now, see what needs to be updated from X to Y (if anything), and figure out the best plan to make sure I don't mistake X for Y again in the future (that's the big one - it doesn't do much good if I make the same mistake over and over again).

The downside to all of this is that I can get overwhelmed pretty easily. Being told that my performance is "slipping" without giving specific examples will pretty quickly take me to a place of "everything I do is awful, why does anyone put up with me?", which is not much help in resolving the problem. Also, when I get overwhelmed, I tend to freeze - if I don't know where to start, then I don't start anything, because it might not be the best place to start. Hey, I never said it was logical.

Anyway, my problem solving skills aren't particularly entertaining reading, I know, but I thought it might help to write them down. I hope to return to griping about editing on Monday. Have a good weekend, everyone!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Character building - talking with your hands

When I was in high school, my Spanish teacher asked me in front of the whole class if it was possible for me to talk without moving my hands. I defiantly sat on my hands for the rest of the period...and couldn't finish a complete thought for the life of me. Every time I opened my mouth, my hands struggled to regain their freedom.

As I've gotten older, my gesturing isn't as expansive as once it was - I freely admit that it was dangerous to stand too close to me if I was in full story-telling mode when I was younger, particularly if you were holding a beverage - but it's still pretty well ingrained in the way I communicate. I still gesture more if I'm speaking Spanish instead of English, and those gestures tend to be more of a pantomime to help me find the right words. And I do still gesture while speaking to someone on the phone, or who could not otherwise see me.

Recently, a study came out that helped explain a little bit about why people gesture when they can't be seen. Basically, gesturing is part of learning a language - even people who have never seen another person gesturing as they speak will have very similar hand motions as they speak. It's a fascinating way of looking at language and how it ties back into the rest of the body, above and beyond just speaking and listening.

Even with the basic gestures being similar among speakers of the same language, however, everyone does things a little differently. Some of us are more enthusiastic and descriptive with the gestures, while others may keep their hands contained and their motions minimal. It changes how other people perceive them, and it can change with the character's mood - I know that if I'm not doing well emotionally, my hands hardly move at all when I speak.

Adding another way to illustrate a character's method of communication can help a character's development gain some depth and realism. Also, it can just be fun to see how much a character will flail when you start to put them in frustrating situations.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Editing - What was I thinking??

I know I said last time that things are definitely better than I expected, but I'm now starting to get into sections that...I'm not sure if I put the scene away for a while and then picked it up after several months and didn't re-read what I wrote, maybe? That's the only thing that I can think of, to have a character that is only visible to certain people get in line for coffee and be served, and have the line of customers (who had been behind the mostly-invisible character) disappear from one page to the next. Ugh.

Meanwhile, I'm not sure what's going on with my auto-posting to Facebook, but I don't think it's working. I probably need to tweak some settings somewhere, but that probably won't happen until this weekend. Until then, I need to get a bunch of work for the day job done, and crochet like the wind for the three (!) baby blankets for work and the cat toys for a swap (before starting the stuff for the Nanowrimo Prep swap) - I, uh, may have overbooked myself a tad.

Have a good weekend, all!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Character building - what's it got in its pocketses?

I spend a not-insignificant amount of time on the weekends making sure that I have all of the things I "need" with me in the right bag, depending on where I'm going. During the week, I have a backpack that carries the bulk of the burden, but on the weekends, if I'm going to a game store or some such, I may not want the whole backpack - I may just take a small shoulder bag. It always leaves me reconsidering exactly what I need to have on me in order to feel comfortable.

Most people have their own version of the daily "pocket litter" that they have with them every time they leave the house - keys, phone, wallet. But what kind of wallet? Is it all of the keys together, or separated by a valet ring? Is the phone in the wallet somehow? And what else do they feel like they can't leave the house without?

For example, my husband needs to have at least one pen on him before he goes anywhere. I need some form of reading, be it on my phone, my Kindle, or a physical book. My friend carries a notebook of ideas and a pen, just in case.

It's a definite way of giving a reader a sense of what a character considers important, if you show what the character carries with them at all times. Are they always armed? Do they keep pictures of family close at hand? Is there a lucky token of some sort that they would feel lost if they left it behind?

People can be strange and marvelous things, and it never hurts to find new ways of demonstrating insights into a character that the character may not even realize are there.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Editing, First Pass

I've been working on taking a first go-through of what is currently draft zero of Paranormal Investigations, Inc., and it's been an experience. For the most part, I'm looking through what I've written and seeing what's changed in the...three? four? years that I've been drafting this thing. Clearly, some major changes have taken place - I mention in the first few pages that Alison didn't want to move back in with her parents after college, which is good, because her parents are, y'know, dead and all, and have been since she was about 8...oh, and she moved back in with her grandfather instead.

Still, it's nice to take a look at some of this and realize it's not all as awful as I was expecting it to be. I tend to be my own harshest critic, so I usually cringe at the idea of reading my own writing, as I'm convinced it's horrible and hardly makes any sense. And true, there are some things in here that need updating or removing entirely - this is draft zero, after all, also known as "GET WORDS ON PAGE!", so some things aren't making as much sense as they could.

Still and all, I'm finding that I'm enjoying the story. I'm a little surprised by that. I'm also looking ahead to what I can do for Nanowrimo this year, so I can be ready to start on November 1 with some idea of where I'm going. It would be nice to have a plan beyond, well, "get words on page".

Friday, September 2, 2016

August Round-Up

Time to see how the last month went in the world of reading and writing.

Words written YTD: 42,846 on one and a half projects (Paranormal Investigations novels and a prequel short story that didn't really go where I wanted it to)

Things accomplished in fiction: Alison decided that things were getting a bit too much for her after she discovered that her family probably knew about the organization from way back, and she decided to nope on out; I think Miss Strahan has convinced her to listen to more information, but it's still pretty touch-and-go.

Writer-ly things accomplished: Reached a point where I can stop writing and start editing book 1, seeing if there is actually a book 2 in here or if everything can and should get wrapped up in one volume; made some outlines for the next part for Nanowrimo; still using My Write Club for the weekly challenges to great success.

New books read: Lumberjanes #21 (still so much fun); Imprudence (the second book in the Custard Protocol, and another fun outing); Heroine Complex (far more entertaining than I expected, and the beginning of a new series I now eagerly anticipate continuing); The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry (not my usual genre, but lovely and sad).

Old books re-read: Harry Potter 1-4 (it's been a while since I've re-read these, and it's nice visiting the early ones, before everything goes to hell), Rosemary and Rue and A Local Habitation (October Daye 1-2, in preparation for the new book due out next week).

Whew! Now time to start the first pass at editing. Wish me luck!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Worldcon Post

This year I went to my second-ever Worldcon, taking place in Kansas City, Missouri. In general, I'm coming to realize that conventions for science fiction and fantasy fans tend to be more my speed than gaming conventions. If nothing else, the attendance tends to be much, much smaller, meaning it doesn't feel quite so crowded and full.

The convention center itself was gigantic - I'm pretty sure it was at least a city block long, and may have been a block wide as well. This was good and bad - good, in that there were plenty of wide hallways and areas for people to sit and recharge (either themselves or their phones) without feeling like they're block traffic; bad in that everything was a decent distance away from everything else. On a good day, this isn't a problem; however, I was using my cane the entire convention, and I was feeling the extra distance every time I walked around.

The panels themselves were, by and large, fantastic. I went to a couple of readings for authors I truly enjoy, and loved being able to hear stories from them about how they've gone about writing their works (or re-writing, in some cases). I also got to be called Mark Oshiro's favorite - when he got to the Q&A portion of his reading, my first question was "So, you mention that the main character dropped his bus card. When did he pick it back up? Because he leaves the terminal..." and got a "...God dammit, let me write that down" in response. (I later called him a terrible human being, and he thanked me. Good times were had by all!)

Several of the panels left me with lists of book recommendations, which is always a bonus. It's wonderful hearing about different writing styles from multiple points of view, and realizing once again that there isn't really a "right" way to write. It was also lovely to hear an editor manage to articulate her issues with J.K. Rowling's North American wizarding school, and not have it come across as simply bashing the author. (Her point was that, throughout the Harry Potter books, the world is a monolith - the only part of Great Britain that we see is London, and the countryside where Hogwarts is, which is not near any real city. Having one school for all of North America, and having it somehow lump all of the cultures that make up the countries of this continent shoved together, is in keeping with her already problematic writing style.)

It isn't to say that it was all wine and roses. As I mentioned previously, I personally had a little trouble with loneliness, and the first couple of days I felt as though I were being judged for using my cane and thus taking up more space than I "should". Rightly or wrongly, that was the impression I got. I was fortunate enough to (literally) stumble upon the Accessibility table on my third day, and received a badge ribbon that made things a little easier.

The demographics of the convention attendees still skewed pretty heavily toward Caucasian, though there were significantly more PoC than I've seen in the first few Norwescons I went to, for example. However, the demographics of the panelists didn't really reflect the diversity of the attendees. It can be really hard to get excited about a community that doesn't allow you to see yourself in a position of authority.

On the other hand, the Hugos were a thing of beauty. It wasn't a complete Sad/Rabid Puppy shut-out, and I didn't believe it would be - this year, they hedged their bets by including works on their slate that had a wide range of appeal. Still, we had three of the four prose categories won by people of color (including one translation, which included the translator as a part of the award, which I think is awesome), several of the award winners who couldn't make it in person used their chance to provide a written acceptance speech to call out the BS of the Puppies and how important diversity in fandom and fiction is, and two of the awards were accepted by astronauts. It's hard to beat that.

Overall, I'm very glad I went. Next year's Worldcon will be in Finland, which means I will probably not be attending, but I still plan to get a supporting membership and have the opportunity to nominate and vote for the Hugo awards. What about you? Will you make the trek to Helsinki, or watch the livestream with many of the rest of us as we see how the Hugos turn out next year?

Friday, August 26, 2016

Free eBooks Link

A quick post to let y'all know about a deal going on (that ends today) from Self-Publishing Roundtable - free eBooks!

The deal is that these are available on Amazon, and they're book 1 on various series or serials. Full disclosure - I was given this link by my friend Crissy Moss, who wrote Witch's Sacrifice, which is part of the above deal.

So go forth! Find new authors and new series! And have a lovely weekend - with luck, I'll be back with more content next week.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Post Worldcon quick post

Apparently, in the Kansas City (MO) airport, you can either get soda or candy, but not both at the same store. It's a little odd, but have me the chance to walk a bit.

I hope to have better, more thinky thoughts on the convention when I'm home and properly be-kittied, which will be tonight, partially. The elder statescats are being boated, as they need daily medication and no one likes us enough to try to medicate them (nor do I blame them). We get in too late tonight to spring them, but they'll be home tomorrow. Meanwhile, Daisy will be over the moon to have people again. She doesn't take being left alone well.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Lightning and loneliness

I'm at WorldCon in Kansas City, MO this weekend, and it's been an adventure thus far. I'm realizing that I've grown complacent in my convention attendance - I'm used to going to conventions where I know a decent number of people, so I'm likely to run into familiar faces who will stop and chat, even for a moment between panels.

That is not so much the case here. The panels themselves have been wonderful, and I've been glad to go to all of the ones I've been to thus far, but between sessions has been more difficult than I had anticipated. I find myself feeling down, and it makes it harder to convince myself to stick around, rather than going back to the hotel room to mope. I've been fighting the urge, but it's not easy.

However, I will give Kansas City this - they throw one heck of a thunderstorm. Currently, I'm hearing thunder and seeing flashes of lightning fairly regularly from the hotel room, and can hear the rain coming down against the window. I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but I am a sucker for rainstorms, particularly with lightning and thunder. (There's a reason why I moved to the Pacific Northwest, after all.) It always makes me feel just a little closer to my dad, who was a storm worshipper and taught me the beauty of a good, soaking rain.

Somehow, it makes me feel a little better. Even if I don't know specific people, I am among my people, and that's still a pretty great place to be.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Neither a borrow nor a lender be...

Except when it comes to books. I freely admit that the majority of my reading these days happens on an ereader, but I will never get over the desire for paper books. One of the earliest memories I have of every house I ever lived in was having walls of bookshelves, and it's something I've continued in my home.

Every room in our house has books, up to and including the bathroom, and the standing rule of our home is that if you see something you want to borrow, feel free - just tell us so we know where it went. It makes it easier for friends who are also People of the Book who found something that catches their eye to get their hands on it.

As much as I enjoy my ereader (and not just because it provides me with my day job), the ability to lend books out both willy and nilly is still best suited by physical books. And frankly, nothing will ever be more soothing to my soul than seeing a wall of books, just waiting for me to start reading.

Friday, August 12, 2016

How do they swear?

I've been spending some time getting caught up on Writing Excuses, and one episode on polytheism brought up an interesting question. A couple of the panelists said that when they are first thinking of a new religion, they start by wondering what their characters would swear by. That got me thinking in a different direction about character development - how do they swear?

Last year I read a book about the history of swearing in English, and the book broke things into two categories - the profane and the obscene (or rather, the holy and the shit of the book's title), and charted how these two categories rose and fell in terms of how "bad" they're considered by society.

Its says a lot about a person's beliefs with how they treat these two categories - I have family members that will take God's name in vain, but would rather be mute than reference any bodily function or fluid. On the other side, I've worked with people who had no problem dropping f-bombs on a regular basis but would twitch any time they heard someone say "Oh my God."

Swearing is one of those aspects of language that people tend to have definitive ideas about. Growing up, I was under the impression that the only people who swore were "bad" people, and even saying something that could be misconstrued as a swear word was to be avoided. (I may or may not have gotten into trouble for calling for my cat by saying "Puss puss!" Mom meant business.) I had to come up with some kind of "filler" words, because you still need something to holler when dropping something on your foot. I tended to go either cutesy (fudge), old-fashioned (blast), or British so no one will yell at me in the States (bollocks).

So when thinking about a character's voice, imagine they've dropped something on their foot. How do they react? Why?

Monday, August 8, 2016

Drafting versus editing

I freely admit that the majority of my word count over the years has come during things. like Nanowrimo, where the goal is to get the words on the page and silencing your inner editor. I'm currently plugging away at the gap (or Gap, at this point - it's earned the capital letter) in Paranormal Investigations, and part of me really, really wants to go back and edit everything I have before continuing into the breach.

Here's the problem with that approach: I know myself. If I allow myself to go into the Land of the Editor, I may never leave. It will be exceptionally difficult for me to switch back to writing if I try to edit everything first, so I'm forcing myself to keep writing and reminding myself that I can fix it in post.

I'm very grateful for the college education that I had, if for no other reason that that it taught me that if I'm given the chance, I will pick my work to death before moving on with new work. I literally had to have parts of my thesis taken away from me by my advisors so I would leave them alone and work on the next piece.

Basically, I'm just going to keep working on draft zero, and resisting the urge to edit all the things until draft zero is complete. After that, well, I might need help getting myself out of the Land of the Editor, but we'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Book review - The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

It's been a while since I've done a book review, so a quick perusal of my Goodreads shelf and I found one of my comfort books - The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

The book follows the basic idea that magic is real, and two magicians have taken apprentices - one a boy, the other a girl - from an early age. It follows the apprentices as they grow up and learn about the different kinds of magic, not knowing that they are in a competition with each other. Throughout, there's also a description of a carnival known as the Night Circus that travels around the world. No one knows when it will appear until it does, and it only opens at sundown. The different exhibits and tents are unlike anything anyone's ever seen, and they develop a following of people who create their own kind of family as they bond over the circus.

One of the beautiful things about the book is the way the storylines are woven together. You're introduced to the circus before you meet the main characters, and it gives you a sense of wonder and awe from the beginning - you know right away that this is no ordinary carnival. Following the characters, they are developed wonderfully and in-depth, so they aren't just about the tricks they can perform. Watching it all come together, and trying to figure out how it will all end, is breathtaking.

The writing is gorgeous and haunting, and there's a subtle melancholy through the entire book that doesn't send it into the realm of depressing fiction, but reminds you that not everything is as happy as it may appear. For me, it makes me want to curl up with a cup of tea and settle down with the book, preferrably on a rainy day. I highly recommend it.

Monday, August 1, 2016

How is it August already?

So Camp Nanowrimo this last month was a bust for me, but at least I was able to keep writing. I have a good idea of where things are going for the rest of the story. I've also been using My Write Club to set smaller, shorter goals for myself - I've been setting things for a week at a time, and that's been helping me keep my motivation going. This may be the longest period of continuous writing that I've done in ages, and it makes me feel more like things are in hand.

With luck, my blog posts going forward won't just be about how I'm trying to write, really and for true! In the meantime, I'll be here, trying to figure out why my villain is making evil coffee.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Camp Nanowrimo Day 29 and July Round-Up

So, is anyone else ready for 2016 to be consigned to the fires of history? I sure am. *sigh* At any rate, I live, I write (some), I read - let me tell you about it!

Camp Nano word count - 6969 (ouch)

July Round-Up:

Words written YTD: 36,246  on one and a half projects (Paranormal Investigations novels and a prequel short story that didn't really go where I wanted it to)

Things accomplished in fiction: the bookstore date went...poorly. Alison now knows that her coworkers know more about the paranormal than she thought, and one of them is some kind of fae? Maybe? Also, the new coffee blend is probably evil. (Such a Seattle villain, I swear)

Writer-ly things accomplished: Re-jiggered my outline for the rest of PII based on the changes to the first book that have come up, making it more like something I think will make sense. Started using mywriteclub.com for weekly challenges, rather than relying on Camp Nano for monthly ones, which has gotten my progress going a little more steadily.

New books read: The God of the Hive (Russell & Holmes #10, and not the strongest outing); Lumberjanes Vol. 2-4, issues 13, 18-20 (I blame my friend Danielle for this recent obsession, but it's well worth it); Fables Vol. 10 (my ongoing attempt to read all of Fables); Asymmetrical Warfare (short story for Hugo nomination - decent); How to be a Heroine (non-fiction deep-dive into various YA books aimed at young women - I liked it a great deal, especially as the author discovered how her reading of the different characters changed over time); Prudence (Gail Carriger's Steampunk world, which I still love)

Old books re-read: Feet of Clay (ah, Pratchett); Feed (preparing for Mira Grant's Feedback, and reminding myself how much I love this world)

Significantly more new reads this month than re-reads, which is always a bonus. Now, to figure out how Alison discovers the evil of the secret coffee blend...

Monday, July 18, 2016

Semi-obligatory Ghostbusters post

So, confession time: I may have seen the original Ghostbusters movie maybe once, a long time ago. I don't think I've ever seen any of the others. I probably remember more about the Ghostbusters references in a Daffy Duck cartoon than I do the movie itself. Clearly, I'm not really the world's biggest fan.

At the same time, I recognize that it's a Big Deal, especially with the new movie coming out. My husband is a huge fan of the original franchise, up to and including the cartoon. (I didn't even know there had been a cartoon until he mentioned it.) So when news about the new movie kept cropping up online, he was concerned. Not because it was an all-female cast, thankfully; he was more concerned that this was being billed as a reboot, rather than a continuation. Still, he remained cautiously optimistic, and we went to see the movie yesterday.

Considering our respective histories with the original franchise, our reactions to the new movie were a little surprising. His first response was "It's not a good movie, but neither was the original, and it was fun." Mine was "I need to figure out how to make a proton pack so I can cosplay as Abby." I had found my fandom, and I jumped in feet-first.

Now, I agree, this is not the best film in the history of film. Then again, I doubt very much it was aiming to be. It wasn't just fun - it was fun that wasn't at the expense of anyone's weight, gender, sexual orientation, or overall appearance. It was fun that wasn't mean. The older I get, the less comfortable I am with media that serves only to punch down.

The dialog came across as realistic, maybe just because some of those conversations are the kinds I have had with my friends and family before. I'm half-certain that the Patrick Swayze tangent is one that my mother and I have had at least once. The woman are trying to get things done for a variety of reasons, not least of which being "to save the city". They aren't catty at each other, or seeing each other as competition - they realize that each has a strength, and that working together is going to be much more effective than working separately.

What I'm saying is, I'm a fan. There's a lot going on here that just makes me happy, and I look forward to seeing it again.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Momentum

Normally, this is where I would give my stats for Camp Nanowrimo, but I haven't actually figured out how much I've written in the last couple of days. I do seem to be falling into a bit of a trap with regards to moving things along. As in, they aren't moving all that quickly. And it's hard to tell if that's because I'm more focused on discovery writing what's going on, or if it's because I've only been writing a couple hundred words here and there, so it feels like I'm not moving very fast.

One of the nice things, though, is that I'm learning an awful lot about my characters and the world I've built over the years that I apparently didn't know before. For example, the bookstore that Jonathan loves so much is apparently in something like a knowe? I haven't decided if that means it's actually run by the fae or not, but probably.

It's been an interesting couple of weeks, is what I can say. I'm trying not to make this blog into a "the world is full of awful and needs to knock it the hell off" rant-fest, but seriously. Could we maybe have a week where that doesn't end with a list of people murdered? Please?

Monday, July 11, 2016

Words fail

The last week and change have been an example of the worst in humanity. So many people have died, and for what? For the religion they practice, the color of their skin, their chosen profession? For being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and getting caught in the hate that drove someone to decide people needed to be destroyed?

These aren't good deaths, noble deaths. These aren't the inevitable deaths of people who have lived good, long lives and are now ready to move beyond them. These are people who are cut down, treated like things, handled like something inconsequential. Each and every one of them was a life - a full, complete person, with people who loved them. With histories. With hopes and fears and plans that didn't include dying in an explosion in a mosque or being shot by the people we expect to protect us.

What do we do now? How do we reconcile a world that contains beauty and joy and love with a world that allows this kind of hatred and violence to happen on a regular basis? How do we convince ourselves, our families, our friends, that this is a world worth fighting for? And how do we actually fight for it?

I have plenty of words for the anger and fear I feel, but answers? Plans, and things we can do to keep this from happening again?

That's where the words fail.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Day 4 of Camp Nanowrimo, June Round-Up and Second Quarter Check-In

Why yes, I am cramming everything into one post! This is what happens when I go to a convention (Westercon, in this case), and forget to get posts up for while I'm gone.

July Camp Nano:
Current word count: 1,152
Goal word count: 30,000
What's happening: Turns out that Jonathan (love interest) and Jack (partner in the work sense of Veronica) are bros. Also, the paranormal community around the coffee shop is Not Happy about the mystical, magical new coffee blend. Alison wants nothing to do with this - she just wants to go on her date already, dangit.

June Round-Up:

Words written YTD: 30,429 on one and a half projects (Paranormal Investigations novels and a prequel short story that didn't really go where I wanted it to)

Things accomplished in fiction: see above

Writer-ly things accomplished: Decided that the short story wasn't going to do what I needed it to do, and that I wasn't in a good place to keep going with it at the moment. Picked up the proverbial pen for the second Camp Nano of the year, and I'm planning to keep my word count goal where it is - it'll be good practice for November.

New books read: Waking Up in Vegas (Incryptid short story by Seanan McGuire, which remains so much fun); Night Owls (urban fantasy I picked up on a whim - other than an unnecessary amount of head hopping, pretty solid); Hamilton, the Revolution (why yes, I have fallen into the hole that is Hamilton fandom, why do you ask?); Lumberjanes Volume 1 (so cute, and with enough "what the hell?" going on to keep things interesting); No Love Lost (Weather Warden short story that I hadn't known existed previously - kinda meh, to be honest); The Fifth Season (nominated for a Hugo, and so far, my front-runner); Stage of Fools (October Daye short story, courtesy of Seanan McGuire's Patreon)

Old books re-read: The Long Earth, The Long War, and The Long Mars (sci-fi collaborations by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter, read to be caught up for the two new ones I hadn't read yet); Ill Wind (Weather Wardens book one, because sometimes you just need somewhat trashy romance with djinn and weather magic); Kitty and the Midnight Hour (see previous, only replace djinn with werewolves); Ms. Marvel Volume 1 (picked up the other two volumes in trade paperbacks and decided to re-read volume 1, as I hadn't looked at it since last year's Hugo nominations).

Q2 Check-In:
  • Complete draft of book 2 of Paranormal Investigations
    • Due:  March 31, 2016
    • Q1 status:  I should really restate this as "fill in the gap between books 1 and 2 of Paranormal Investigations", and it's still in process.
    • New due date: July 31, 2016
    • Q2 status: This is the goal for this Camp Nano, so we'll see if we can actually finish filling the gap this month.
  • Complete draft of Church of Books
    • Due:  September 30, 2016
    • Q1 status: I haven't even touched this one in a while. I'll keep the date as is for now.
    • Q2 status: Same as Q1
  • Complete edit of Paranormal Investigations
    • Due:  December 31, 2016
    • Q1 status:  In process
    • Q2 status:  In process
  • Complete draft of one of the works started for a Nano
    • Due:  December 31, 2016
    • Q1 status:  In process, as Paranormal Investigations started as a Nano
    • Q2 status:  In process, looking better with each day of sitting and actually getting some words on the dang page
  • Complete at least one Nano
    • Due:  November 30, 2016
    • Q1 status:  COMPLETE!
    • Q2 status:  Trying for number 2!
  • Submit at least one story for publication
    • Due:  December 31, 2016
    • Q1 status:  I have ideas, ever so many ideas...keeping the date as is for now.
    • Q2 status:  I may come back to the short story I was fiddling with post-Camp Nano, or I may try for something completely different. Who knows? Not me!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Plans and schemes, schemes and plans

I know, I'm a terrible blogger, but I have returned! I would give you the usual song and dance about the various reasons/excuses I haven't blogged, but meh. Time to look forward to plans ahead!

Later this week, we'll be heading to Westercon in Portland. I haven't had much time to look over the schedule, but the weekend will include at least one Powell's run (because obviously), and a potential meet up with a couple of members of the Kicksnarker Google Plus community.

Beginning in July, I'll be starting Camp Nanowrimo round two: Camp Harder. I'm setting my word count goal for 30K, which is double what last Camp's goal ended up being. I'm still goiing to be working my way through Paranormal Investigations, but by gum, I intend to have a full draft of that sucker done, dammit. (And I said dammit, so you have to believe me.)

Finally, I'm really hoping to get back into the blogging habit. I have the germs of a few ideas for blog posts floating around, I just need to pin them down and get them going. If I focus, I think it's something I can do.

Now I want to get some writing done before going back to cramming a week's worth of work into two days. See you on Friday!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Numb

I'm writing this on Sunday evening, and I'm still trying to make sense of things. The shooting in Orlando was the first thing I read when I woke up, and I'm still not sure how to move forward.

I should be more angry. I should be in tears, railing against the hate of humanity, the senseless violence. I should be reaching out to everyone, getting comfort from the people around me and providing as much comfort as I can. Instead, all I feel is helpless.

I feel like there's nothing I can do, nothing tangible that I can do to make this kind of thing stop. I feel like I don't have a right to be angry on the behalf of people I've never met, who are part of a community that I've never fully been a member of. I find myself paralyzed, and I don't know how to move forward.

I can only pray for healing for the people affected by this tragedy. Even that feels like empty words, but I don't know what else I can offer.

Monday, June 6, 2016

I got nothin'

Today is one of those days when I'm staring at the computer monitor, knowing that I want to get a blog post up, and yet...nothing. I probably spent my words on my fiction writing earlier (which needs them, obviously), but I have no idea if I have any thoughts anyone would be interested in hearing about.

The world's not looking to be in the best shape, overall, but I'm hardly qualified to talk about what's wrong. I freely admit to not being the most informed person on a lot of different subjects - I basically just know enough to make myself sound like I might know what I'm talking about. As I told my coworkers on Friday, I am a veritable font of semi-useful knowledge. In truth, though, my head tends to be full of useless fluff and the occasional game-winning bit of trivia.

Ah, well. Hopefully I'll be more entertaining later in the week.

Friday, June 3, 2016

May Round-Up

It's been pretty quiet around here lately, but I'm still trucking away. Not as much writing is getting done as I would like, but at least there's something.

Words written YTD: 28,300 on two projects (Paranormal Investigations & a short story set in the PII universe)

Things accomplished in fiction: Not too much in the main Paranormal Investigations books. In the short story, Dr. Lobo encounters a patient who is behaving quite erratically, and is trying desperately to get some kind of referral for a specialist. This isn't what he signed up for.

Writer-ly things accomplished: The original plan for the short story was to submit it to "People of Col(u)r Destroy Fantasy!", but the further I get, the less fantastic it is and the more it veers toward horror. My work tends to do that sometimes - not sure what that says about me...

New books read: In the Labryinth of Drakes (Lady Trent Memoirs #4, which remains fantastic); The Elite (The Selection #2, which I was surprised to make it through this time - it was better and less meebling than I thought it would be); Rat Queens #16 (to which I say GIVE ME THE NEXT ISSUE); Unbound and Revisionary (Magic Ex Libris #3-4, and the end of the series - it was a little too clean an ending for me, but still did some amazing things with the consequences of secret magic going public).

Old books re-read: The Selection (needed to re-read #1 before getting into #2); Maskerade (such love for this one!); Something Rotten (Thursday Next #4); The
Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (speaking of comfort reading, this is probably my all-time favorite).

Friday, May 27, 2016

Nap time?

My kingdom for a nap. I have a blog post half-written, and it's going to need some work. Yes, dear readers, for once I plan on actually editing something before putting it up on the blog. I'm just as astonished as you are.

Meanwhile, something about traveling is throwing my system off something awful. Earlier this week I spent a couple of days in San Francisco for work, and I feel like I've just been dragging since I got back. I don't think I've ever been so grateful for a three day weekend.

For those who celebrate, happy Memorial Day early! For everyone else, happy Friday, and I hope you have a great weekend.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Solitude vs loneliness

So, this may come as a surprise to some of you, but I was not exactly what you could call "popular" growing up. Shocking, I know. It meant that I spent a fair amount of time alone, and I've always had a pretty small circle of friends. (You know who you are.) Not all of the time alone, however, was lonely.

I'm traveling for work for the next couple of days, and I just got in today (Sunday). After getting settled in at the hotel, I took myself out for dinner, and had an absolutely wonderful time. It wasn't the food - fairly average Thai food that desperately needed more heat, but very good tea - but being able to sit and read and people-watch on my own was just the kind of breath I needed to take.

The last few weeks have been stressful (more than usual, I mean), and I feel like I've been running a hundred miles an hour for way too long. Just taking a couple of hours to sit alone, reading and not worrying about everything around me, was what I needed.

I miss Eric, of course, and the kitties. I'll be happy to go home. At the same time, I'm really glad I'm getting the opportunity to revel in some solitude, rather than wallowing in loneliness. At least, not right now - tomorrow night might be a completely different story.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Book review - Maskerade by Terry Pratchett

Now, I know I've already done a series review for the entire Discworld series, but this is probably the first time I've re-read Maskerade in years. It was the very first book in the series that I read, and reading it with more than fifteen years more life experience behind me, it's a very different read.

The friend who lent me the book in the beginning did so because a) he loved the series and thought I would, too; and b) he knew that I am a musical theater junkie, so would appreciate the gratuitous Phantom of the Opera references. At least, those were the reasons he told me originally. I believe now, there is a third reason - I am Agnes Nitt.

Agnes is the main character of the book, and she's frequently referred to as having a "lovely personality and very good hair". This, as many of us know, is the polite way of saying that she's not conventionally attractive - in her case (as in mine), because she's heavy. She has also gotten "a reputation for being calm and capable in a crisis." At the time in college when I was given this book, I had already established myself as being someone people could come to with their problems, or to figure out what to do when things went wrongs. Reading Agnes was a little like looking in the mirror.

I guess the biggest difference time has made for me is that, unlike Agnes, I don't really rail against the fact that I'm not the star of the show. I like being useful. I like being the go-to person when there are questions, and feeling like I can confidently give the answer. I enjoy getting to see behind the scenes how everything works (or doesn't) and finding ways to make it work better. But twenty-year-old me, reading this for the first time? I absolutely identified with Perdita, Agnes' "inner self." She gets to say all the things Agnes won't or can't, and there's nothing you can do about it. I longed for that kind of freedom, then.

I really enjoyed re-reading this, remembering (and wincing) at all the whininess that happens when you haven't figured out your place in the world and are determined to force yourself into something that doesn't fit. There's some excellent humor, of course, and lots of opera and Broadway references that I totally missed the first time through.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Aphantasia - no "mental images"

Recently, I read an article about how it's possible to live without the ability to imagine...well, anything, really. There are people who are incapable of visualizing things, or imagining sounds, or anything along those lines. For those people, the "mind's eye" is purely metaphorical.

Naturally, this made me wonder about the way my brain works and thinks. I frequently day-dream, occasionally in full-color video or pictures, but often just in sound and sound effects. I can distinguish various voices when they run through their paces in the soundstage of my mind. Hell, certain music shows up as different colors when I hear it.

The idea of not having any of that - of not being able to picture, say, my father's face or my mother's laugh, of not having a way to revisit memories without some form of memory aid - makes me incredibly sad. I realize that, in the article I linked to above, the writer was unaware of what he was missing, as he didn't know this was something the human brain was capable of doing. And maybe it wouldn't be so bad, if you didn't know.

What do you think? Would you prefer to not be distracted by the images and sounds in your mind?

Friday, May 13, 2016

I'm still standing

And now I've got the song stuck in my head. Oh, well.

As is becoming a habit at this point, I took a few days off after Camp Nanowrimo to let things settle in my brain a bit. I didn't intend to take this much time away from the blog, but alas, I cannot control everything that could conceivably keep me from my regular lunch/writing time.

On the plus side, I have a new medication and new (possible) diagnosis for the chronic Headaches of Doom that have plagued me for going on 15 years. The new medication has been working wonderfully, though it has some...interesting side effect. For one thing, it affects my sense of taste enough that most of my go-to beverages (Dr. Pepper in particular) taste absolutely foul. On the one hand, I will miss my Dr. Pepper. On the other, my waistline will not miss it. And if that (and the occasional bout of "why does my tongue feel like it's waking up?") is the worst thing I have to deal with, I'm going to call it a win.

In other news, I've decided that I want to submit a short story to Lightspeed Magazine's People of Colo(u)r Destroy Fantasy edition. I've been a big fan of all the Destroy series, and I would love to be involved. I have the beginnings of a story set in the Paranormal Investigations world, and I'm really liking where it's going.

So that's me! How are things in your worlds, friends?

Monday, May 2, 2016

April Round-Up and First Quarter Check-In

I've survived the first Camp Nanowrimo of the year, and I emerged victorious. Let's see how April went, shall we?


Words written YTD: 24,104 on one project (Paranormal Investigations)

Things accomplished in fiction: Oh, so very much. Alison finally made it to the big boss' office, and is seriously freaked out. It still goes better than anticipated. Next up: her second date with Jonathan, this time to a bookstore. What? They're geeks!

Writer-ly things accomplished: I won Camp Nano, I won Camp Nano...*happy dance* Things are still going well, and I've got some decent momentum going.

New books read: The Voyage of the Basilisk (Lady Trent Memoirs #3, which remains fantastic); Velveteen vs. The Junior Super Patriots (Seanan McGuire's take on superheroes, which is AWESOME); Rat Queens #15 (for I love a good comic about a group of butt-kicking women).

Old books re-read: The Eyre Affair, Lost in a Good Book, and the Well of Lost Plots (Thursday Next books 1-3, because I needed some comfort reading).

It actually saddens me a little, how few books I read this month. Of course, I was focused on writing more than reading this month, but still. I'd like to balance that a bit better.

And now, a quick look at the 2016 goals thus far:

  • Complete draft of book 2 of Paranormal Investigations
    • Due:  March 31, 2016
    • Q1 status:  I should really restate this as "fill in the gap between books 1 and 2 of Paranormal Investigations", and it's still in process.
    • New due date: July 31, 2016
  • Complete draft of Church of Books
    • Due:  September 30, 2016
    • Q1 status: I haven't even touched this one in a while. I'll keep the date as is for now.
  • Complete edit of Paranormal Investigations
    • Due:  December 31, 2016
    • Q1 status:  In process
  • Complete draft of one of the works started for a Nano
    • Due:  December 31, 2016
    • Q1 status:  In process, as Paranormal Investigations started as a Nano
  • Complete at least one Nano
    • Due:  November 30, 2016
    • Q1 status:  COMPLETE!
  • Submit at least one story for publication
    • Due:  December 31, 2016
    • Q1 status:  I have ideas, ever so many ideas...keeping the date as is for now.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Day 29 of Camp Nanowrimo

Current word count: 14,469
Goal word count: 15,000
What's happening: Gramps and Veronica have a brief chat about Alison's lack of friends, which Alison doesn't take too kindly to; Alison and Veronica arrive at the big boss' office, and encounter a secretary/doorkeeper of mysterious powers and a killer wardrobe.

So close! SO CLOSE. If I weren't drowning in day-job work, I'd be getting the rest of this written right now; however, it will have to wait until later today or tomorrow morning. Victory is in sight!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Day 25 of Camp Nanowrimo

Current word count: 12,468
Goal word count: 15,000
What's happening: The mysterious strangers have departed after leaving some cryptic information about how Alison really, REALLY needs to get to the big boss ASAP. Veronica and Gramps talk for a bit, and we see a little more about Alison's backstory.

This took a weird detour, but I think it's working out pretty well. I have until the end of the week to write about 2500 words, and I'm feeling cautiously optimistic.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Day 22 of Camp Nanowrimo

Current word count: 10,339
Goal word count: 15,000
What's happening: The mysterious strangers have names! They appear to be wondering why Alison didn't go straight to the Big Boss immediately upon being initiated, and why Veronica never told her to do so. Veronica is ever so slightly terrified.

Woo, I broke 10K! I'm a little bit behind on the goal word count, but I have a chance to play catch-up, and things are rolling along pretty well.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Day 18 of Camp Nanowrimo

Current word count: 9684
Goal word count: 15,000
What's happening: Did some restructuring to account for new developments. Alison and Veronica have headed to Alison's house so she can clean up before meeting with the Big Boss, and encounter two mysterious strangers who appear to be waiting for them. Who are they? Your guess is as good as mine.

Y'know, every time I think I have a handle on where things are going, and my outline is reasonably solid, something weird happens. I seriously don't know who these people are that have shown up, but they're there now, and I'm going to have to deal with them. Somehow. I've got to say, though, it is one of the things I enjoy the most about writing.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Day 15 of Camp Nanowrimo

Current word count: 8758
Goal word count: 15,000 (Yes, I dropped my goal)
What's happening: The boss has come up with a new coffee blend, and everyone is a big fan. It's almost a little too popular? Alison and Veronica are on their way to meet with the Big Boss, and Veronica is making Alison very, very nervous.

I've dropped my goal because I'm not confident that I'll be able to make the 25K this month. I've written almost every day, but after being pretty awfully sick last week, I wasn't able to write all that much. Still, progress!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Day 11 of Camp Nanowrimo

I would have word metrics and such here, but my little writing machine decided, in its infinite wisdom, to lose everything I'd written so far today. I'm not irritated, noooooo, why would you think that?*gnashing teeth* The best/worst part is that it lost it while doing the automatic save, which just seems like a level of irony I can't deal with right now.

At any rate! After nearly 90,000 words, my coffee shop finally has a name! I don't have to keep referring to it as "the coffee shop" if I don't want to! I'll take the little victories. Also, the owner of The Best Little Coffeeshop in Washington has brought in a new blend of coffee and it's having some...interesting effects on people. I'm pretty sure whatever additives are in there are of a supernatural sort, but I haven't decided on exactly what yet. If you have any ideas, I'd love to hear them!

Now, back to re-writing what I spent the last twenty minutes writing the first time, knowing it's never going to be as good as it was the first time...*grumble mutter*

Friday, April 8, 2016

Ten Years Ago Today

(We interrupt this broadcast of Camp Nanowrimo progress to bring you this brief moment of nostalgia.)

Ten years ago today, I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by my nearest and dearest as I married the best man I had ever known. Eric and I had been together for almost a year when we got engaged, and spent the next year and change putting together a wedding that would be meaningful and memorable, without putting us in debt. I'd say we did a pretty good job of it.

The last ten years haven't always been a piece of cake. We've had some health issues, some disappointments, some dreams that had to be laid aside. At the same time, we discovered new dreams, found new opportunities, and built a bigger and stronger family for ourselves. Through everything, we have been together. Eric has been the rock of support that I've needed, and I hope I've been able to provide him with the support he's needed, as well. Even when the rest of the world hasn't been on our side, we've had each other.

Happy anniversary, Handsome. Here's to the beginning of another decade.


Monday, April 4, 2016

Day 4 of Camp Nanowrimo

Current word count: 3710
Goal word count: 25,000
What's happening: Apparently, there's a head of the organization that scare the bejeesus out of everyone. I'm thinking he's a bogeyman, but we won't know that until they go see him. He's Very Upset that Alison (main character) hadn't come to him sooner. The first date went well, if ended strangely. Evidently, Alison's grandmother is not dead, but in a nursing home and not well. (Also, how did I not even think about where her other family would be until now? Seems like that should have come up before...)

We're off to a good start. Of course, work and life are conspiring to keep me from writing, but thus far, I've managed to beat them back.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Day 1 of Camp Nanowrimo

It's April 1, which means a) you can't trust anything on the internet and b) is the beginning of the first Camp Nanowrimo of the year! I intend to ignore the first part, as I hate April Fool's Day, and focus on the second.

The plan is to use this month to fill some gaps in the Paranormal Investigations books, because I would absolutely love to have a complete draft of the overall storyline. Paranormal Investigations is probably my biggest problem child, as I made the mistake of skipping forward and drafting 50K words of book two without finishing the story in book one. I'll consider it a learning experience.

Anyway, time to dive in!

Monday, March 28, 2016

March Round-Up

How the devil is it the end of March already? I swear we just started this month. It's probably at least in part because I just got back from Norwescon, so I'm still in con-brain-mode. That's my excuse, anyway.

Words written: 8,836 on one project (Paranormal Investigations)

Things accomplished in fiction: Alison and Jonathan have their First Date, and a new character emerges from out of freakin' nowhere (seriously, dude?)

Writer-ly things accomplished: I guess I'll figure out where the new guy is coming from? He'll help move things forward, and I've got a decent idea of what comes next. Prepping for Camp Nanowrimo!

New books read: Reflections (Indexing book 2, AKA how Seanan McGuire uses her folklore degree); The Jewel (for I am a sucker for a decent YA dystopia); Adulthood is a Myth (collection of comic strips that speak to my heart); The Tropic of Serpents (book 2 of the Lady Trent memoirs); and  Chaos Choreography (book 5 of the Incryptid series, and probably the most fun of all of them, even with all the bodies).

Old books re-read: Books 1-4 of the Incryptid series, in preparation for the new book Chaos Choreography; Storm Glass (book 1 of the Glass series/book 4 of the Chronicles of Ixia series, preparatory for a couple of new books in the series).

Monday, March 21, 2016

Prepping for Camp Nanowrimo

It's getting close to that time again! Camp Nanowrimo will be starting April 1st, and I'm hoping that my goal this year is realistic enough to make winning something feasible. I know my current goal is to have a complete draft of Paranormal Investigations Inc book 2 finished by the end of this month, but I realized that I had a bigger gap that needed to be filled in with the end of book 1, and that's what I've been working on. My goal for Camp Nanowrimo is to finish filling the book 1 gap, and get to the big climax of book 2. After that, we'll see if there's still enough material for a third book, or if I'm really just writing one volume - either is a possibility at this point.

In the meantime, I'll be heading to Norwescon this weekend (meaning Wednesday) for a weekend of reading and being around my people. I'm looking forward to it - it'll be nice to get away from the stresses of the day to day for a little bit, and I'm hoping I'll be able to focus on writing while I'm there. If nothing else, I should be able to get some progress made on the projects for my Ravelry swaps - I have one due at the end of this month (the theme is Mythology), and one due at the end of next month (theme: Stationary). I feel pretty good about what I have so far, but it'll be great to get everything finished and taken care of.

That's all the news that's fit to print from my end. How are you guys doing? Any interesting writing or reading?

Monday, March 14, 2016

Character Interview - Alison Parker

I've been working on (slowly) finishing my draft zero of the Paranormal Investigations trilogy, or at least the first full book. I know what needs to happen, but I'm truthfully not hugely excited about it. I figured that now would be a good time to talk to my main character, and get into her head a little bit. Lucky you, you get to read my extremely rough writing! You can thank me later.

Enter ALISON - mid-twenties, blonde, short, stocky, dressed in jeans and an oversized sweatshirt with beat-up tennis shoes and carrying a large messenger bag. She sits on a stool, gripping her bag to her chest as though afraid to let it out of her sight, and smiles tightly.

INTERVIEWER: You OK there?
ALISON: I'm fine. This is just a little bit weird. There's nothing here, you know? No walls or ceiling or...anything. It's just open space, and this stool on a little bit of floor, and I can't see who's talking, so it's kind of freaking me out a little bit, you know?
I: Well, yeah, but the focus is you. You know, the plan is to talk to you, get to know you a little better. So, what did you study in college?
A: Weird, but whatever. I studied literature and dance, though I focused on the literature side of things. I liked dance, but I wasn't all that good at it.
I: These things happen. What do you plan on doing, now that you're graduated?
A: (glares) Rude. You expect me to know how my life is going to turn out, just because I've graduated from college? How the hell should I know? At this point, I'm just happy working someplace that gets me enough money to make payments on my student loans and keep my car running, and able to take care of Gramps. I'll figure things out later.
I: Is that why you're living with your grandfather? To save money?
A: That's part of it. I also just want to make sure he's taken care of, you know? I don't like the idea of him being alone.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Series Review - The Glamourist Histories by Mary Robinette Kowal

Several years ago, I started reading books by Seanan McGuire and listening to the Writing Excuses podcast. These things may not seem all that related, but they are, through one Mary Robinette Kowal. She is a regular part of the Writing Excuses podcast, and she is the audiobook narrator for Seanan's October Daye series. So when I heard that she was going to be publishing her first novel, I was interested. When I heard that the premise could be summed up as "Pride and Prejudice with magic," I knew I needed to find it. I have never been happier to have a book series cross my path.

The first book of the series, Shades of Milk and Honey, sets the stage for an alternative Victorian-era England, in which there is a kind of magic known as glamour. As it deals with light and illusion, it is frequently considered a woman's art, alongside embroidery and painting. The main character, Jane, is the eldest of two sisters and the "plain" one, so she tries to content herself with a future as a spinster, living with her parents and, later, her sister and brother-in-law. This is before she meets Vincent, a professional glamourist of some renown.

I realize that this is coming across as more of a traditional romance than what I normally recommend, and that's not inaccurate. However, the characters are well-developed, and there's more to them than simply a "will they or won't they?" storyline. The later books delve into the relationship between Jane and Vincent, as they struggle with the things most married people need to figure out when they're building a life with someone after living alone. There's also some wonderful world-building with regards to how having magic may have changed key elements in history and society as a whole, which is part of the reason why I love alternate histories.

I am exceedingly fond of these books, and they have been added to my regular rotation of comfort reading.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Trigger warning: Suicidal images

Lately, my husband and I have been watching Lucifer. We're playing catch-up on episodes on the DVR, so we're a few episodes behind. One episode started with a woman standing up somewhere high, looking down. Lucifer comes up behind her and starts whispering in her ear, encouraging her to jump. He keeps talking, until finally she jumps...

Into a pool. It's not actually as high up as it looked, but it was still one of those moments that I would have loved to have had some kind of warning. It felt like I'd had the wind knocked out of me, and it took a few minutes before I could breathe properly again.

I've always understood intellectually why people reference trigger warnings when telling stories or writing articles about traumatizing things. I had just never actually been "triggered" before, and it put the whole idea in a new light for me.

I've mentioned before that I had some hard times in college, and there were times when I didn't think there was any way out of the darkness. Seeing what looked like someone being talked into jumping to her death...it hit harder than I thought anything would, and it sent me right back to how it felt when things got bad.

There's been a lot of talk lately about how asking for trigger warnings on content is a sign that people are being coddled or something. I'm realizing that it's not that. It's giving people an opportunity to prepare for something that can send someone back to a place that they can't handle. I fail to see how giving an audience a chance to take care of themselves is "coddling."

Monday, February 29, 2016

February Round-Up

Here's looking back on February 2016 - how is it almost March already??

Words written: 7,655 on one project (Paranormal Investigations)

Things accomplished in fiction: Alison and Richard both realize that not only is something a little strange about Shawn, but the fact that they both notice it is a little odd, as well. Alison gets a talking-to about the dangers of involving a Muggle in her new role in a super-sekrit organization.

Writer-ly things accomplished: Forward momentum is being made, with some new wrinkles getting thrown up as I go. I love it when that happens.

New books read: I Work at a Public Library (light non-fiction, tales from the library - thoroughly meh); City of Stairs (started in October, highly recommended by Eric - fantasy procedural, and GLORIOUS); The Sandman Overtures (graphic novel prequel series, which is gorgeous and fits in with the main series beautifully); Swamp Bromeliad (Incryptid short story by Seanan McGuire, gearing up for the new release); A Natural History of Dragons (fantasy memoir from an older woman who is officially out of damns to give with regards to how people will react to her life's work with dragons - it's beautiful, and I'm glad it's a series).

Old books re-read: Soul Music (part of the epic Discworld re-read); Magic Study, Fire Study and Power Study (re-reading so as to be ready to read the new books in the series); Codex Born (book two of Magic Ex Libris, and the last in the series that's a re-read).