NaNoWriMo Week Three Status Update

So, NaNoWriMo Week Three did not go very well, haha. I’m definitely behind!

On the one hand, I do feel a little bad about that. I know I can be more disciplined than that, and a lot of my explanations are mostly excuses. The “big dark” has hit the Pacific Northwest and by the time I get off work at the dayjob at 4:30 it’s already quite dark. The dayjob itself remains pretty busy as we ramp into the holiday season. US Thanksgiving is next week and we’re hosting! I received a few commissions for beadwork — extremely exciting, but not terribly conducive to writing. Yesterday, instead of catching up on anything, I went on a one-day roadtrip with some friends down to Vancouver, WA to see the first of the Heaven’s Feel movies; as a result, I was out of the house for a full 9 hours, and by the time I got home, I pretty much only wanted to chat about the movie and relax.

And then there’s still the general state of the world. I don’t follow the news as closely as I did when the November 2016 election happened, but I’m still keeping up when and where I can. It’s draining, to put it nicely, and terrifying to put it more bluntly. While I feel like I’ve gotten a more comfortable hand on keeping up with my creative hobbies, there are still definitely days where the most I can do is write my daily minimum and cal it good.

Here at the end of NaNoWriMo Week Three, I have completed 28,159 words, which puts me at about 3.5K words behind where I “should” be. It turns out (to no one’s surprise) that keeping up with your adult life in a dystopic timeline is not entirely helpful with keeping up with one’s arbitrary writing goals!

I keep waffling between feeling bad about it and not. Overall, though, I’m leaning more towards “not.” After all, I do still write every day, a minimum of 750 words. Maybe it’s not great writing, or even sometimes very cohesive writing, but it’s still something I am getting done.

Sometimes I do feel like I’m “behind” in some arbitrary, moving goalposts sort of way — not specifically for where I am at NaNoWriMo Week Three or anything, but in my general writing career. I have a number of pieces that are finished but need revising before I can submit them anywhere, and compared to when I was writing primarily fanfic, I feel like my overall productivity has tanked. Back in the day, when I had maybe only one quick beta and a spellcheck standing between me and posting something, I had a whole lot more coming out. (Funny, that.)

Ultimately, though, I try to remind myself that I am getting stuff done. In terms of getting my first drafts done, I do still write pretty fast. Compared to where I was two years ago, I’m doing pretty great. I have multiple stories published (obligatory check me out if you like!) and I have one in the pipeline for sometime in 2018. I have something that is almost completely finished, beta and all, that only needs a little more tweaking before it’s ready. Even if I’m not hitting it out of the ballpark of my high expectations, I have to remind myself I’m okay.

Of course, sometimes I believe it, and sometimes I don’t. There’s always good days that go along with the bad. My good days usually peak at about 2K words — which as mentioned before, requires me to be in the zone of both energy and where I am in a given story. My bad ones are when I make the 750 word minimum and call it quits pretty much exactly there. Usually I average a little more than that — not quite in the middle of the extremes, but at least a good couple of hundred words above my bare minimum.

Mostly I just expect more of myself.

“I have so much time in the evening, now that I get off work at 4:30, surely I can do everything I need to and everything I want to!” is always what I tell myself, but it tends not to work out that way. The division of chores in my household means I do the majority of the cooking, and while I don’t mind — I enjoy cooking a lot — usually I hit a point where part of my wants (and needs) involve just mindlessly relaxing. While I don’t want to lose multiple hours to browsing social media, I don’t think it’s always such a bad thing, especially when one’s dayjob is ramped up and stressful. And then of course, an earlier shift also means I also have to go to bed earlier so I’m not a complete dead-eyed zombie for the dayjob the next day, too.

Again, maybe these are all excuses rather than explanations. But the point is that I have still been writing. My daily writing streak stands right now at 1,853 days and counting — almost two thousand days in a row where I wrote at least 750 words a day.

Just because my totals here at the end of NaNoWriMo Week Three indicates I’m not going to make the 50K wordcount goal this month, I’m trying to remember that it doesn’t mean I’m not writing, and it doesn’t mean I’m not getting stuff done. Maybe I’m slower than the people who’re on-track or ahead, but I’m still going. I’m still muddling through.

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NaNoWriMo Progress, Week 2

The actual progress

NaNoWriMo Progress, week two: definitely not as strong as week one.

On the other hand, “week one” was three days, one of which I had off, so the judgment scale is a wee bit biased. At this point in my life, I know that I can write about 2,000 words in an evening if I have a solid project and I’m properly in the zone. When circumstances align and everything comes together, I can be pretty productive!

But this first “full” week of November, I’ve run into all the expected sort of roadblocks. The dayjob is hitting the busiest stretch of the year, where our bosses either hint hopefully or outright ask for people willing to do overtime and it’s all hands on deck. My bosses are great and understanding people, but we definitely hit a big crunch from November all the way through to January. And shockingly, being intensely busy at work does drain a lot of energy. Plus, we host a local “Friendsgiving” potluck every year, which is a lot of fun, but still something that requires time, energy, and planning. Plus with Daylight Savings up here in the Pacific Northwest, things get dark at 4 p.m. It always feels like it should be bedtime when I get home from work.

In the end, those are explanations that kind of veer into being excuses. I could buckle down and pick one of the several things I’m working on — like I mentioned last week, I decided that I would apply myself to various projects, and see how that helps with my NaNoWriMo progress. I’m excited about these projects! And with a week down, I have a better idea of what I’m doing, and what all I want to be working on for the rest of November.

What else I’ve got

A year or so ago (possibly longer, oops), Less Than Three Press (my publisher; link leads to my books) had an open call, one for friends to lovers and one for enemies to lovers. I was completely hype for the idea (I still am; the stuff that came from that call was all fantastic), but though I had several (which I think are still good, and would like to write them in time), for various reasons it didn’t pan out. I finished a story, but at the time I found myself pretty dissatisfied with the end result. So I sat on it for a year, did a reading edit pass, got some betas to look it over, and I finally think I’m moving this project in a direction I like.

The story follows a young exorcist, Noah Verlaine, who returns to his small hometown after the unexpected death of his partner and best friend. His hope is to find some closure on both that and the death of his father from years before — but, of course, nothing can go quite that easily. There’s a lot waiting for him in this little town, and whether he can get to the bottom of it while keeping himself safe and sane will be entirely up to him. It’s not a fairytale like most of what I write, though there’s still a lot of supernatural and mythological elements. No matter how modern I go, I always want some of that in the stories I write.

I’m excited to finally have some concrete crit on what went wrong with the initial draft, as well as some good clear points that I can focus on to change, expand, and even scrap entirely. Trying to figure out the problem on my own clearly didn’t go anywhere, so thank goodness for the betas who took the time to read and give me feedback on how to make it better. My hope is to have it in a state for proper submission sometime next year — preferably sooner than later, though of course we’ll have to see. I don’t want to rush this reworking; with all the work and thought I’ve put into the story, I’d like it to be the best I can make it before a professional editor sees it.

(That is, of course, assuming it gets accepted. I can hope, at least!)

As mentioned last week, I have been inspired to pick up Twine again. A few years ago, I wrote one Twine-based chose your own adventure story based on the legend of Lenore and her demon-lover. Chalk that up to another thing I’d like to rework someday, especially as Twine macros have changed and improved since then.

But that’s not the story I’m working on this time around. Instead, I’m thinking about a story about a (possible) ghost in an android body — the story of a man who receives an AI in an android body for him to design into the sort of companion he wants, and the ambiguity of just what (or who) he’s created. There’s a lot of interesting potential in Twine’s formatting for me; my girlfriend’s already had to listen to me spontaneously burst out about some new different trick I’ve learned. I’m hoping to utilize a lot of that, though hopefully not to a point where it becomes obnoxious.

And then, of course, there are the shorter pieces I’m writing weekly. That also counts for NaNoWriMo progress, even if it’s only in small 200 word bumps in a day. As long as it’s something I’m writing for myself, and not because of the dayjob, I’m going to at least consider counting it.

As of today, before any other input, my wordcount stands at 19,481. About halfway there, just before the halfway point of the month! Knock on wood, but I’m starting to feel like maybe I can make at least the 50K cumulative wordcount after all.

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NaNoWriMo And Project Considerations

If only I could have a setup like this for NaNoWriMoSo like so many others, I’m doing NaNoWriMo this month! This is my first attempt in literally years; I hit a stride of being reasonably productive every day (shoutout to 750words, which is the system that has worked for me) some time ago, and extenuating circumstances aside, I can usually average writing about 30K words in a month.

The first time I signed up to try NaNoWriMo was in college. I’d been making many many attempts to trying to breakthrough into writing original fiction regularly and consistently. (My external hard drive still contains the skeletons from that time. For one, I can’t convince myself to permanently trash them; for two, I think there’s some decent bone structures in that mess and someday I’ll sift through them for reworking.)

I made it, though just barely. I pumped that thing full of as much padding as possible for the sake of just one more word, and when November 30th rolled around I was drained and seriously questioning whether longform stories would ever be something I could write. At the same time, I was terribly proud of myself, because I’d just proven to myself that I could pull something like this off.

Riding that high, I signed up in subsequent years too. For four years, I participated in NaNoWriMo and succeeded, sometimes by the razor thin skin of my teeth. I never finished any of those pieces. I never went back to them. At the time, I prided myself on just managing 50K words in a month. Even now, that’s a lot!

The trouble, of course, lay in actually completing the story I frankenstein’d together and then editing it. That part didn’t happen.

After I graduated and began the dayjob, my writing honestly tanked in terms of sheer productivity. The excitement of a regular paycheck didn’t compensate for the adjustment period and the accompany exhaustion. I still wrote, just not consistently. I signed up for the monthly themes for a couple of webzines (The Book of Imaginary Beasts Shousetsu Bang*Bang), but I’d procrastinate until the last week or so and then hurriedly throw myself into putting something together asap. I finished things, but with no real regular progress and that frustrated me. I continued to sign up for NaNoWriMo, but I no longer managed anything even approaching the desired wordcount.

And I stopped. A couple of years after graduation and the steady dayjob, I stopped doing NaNoWriMo.

Every now and then I’d give the process another halfhearted jab. When Camp NaNoWriMo opened I thought that maybe a change of month would work better for me. And in some ways it did! It didn’t hurt that I’d finally found some equilibrium between the dayjob and my hobbies, and even if I still lacked consistency, at least my writing habits climbed out of the feast or famine stage.*

(* I do know that everyone has different ways to approach writing. Some people do just write a tiny amount in a day and leave it as good; some people write 10K words in a single day. I can only really speak to what works for me, and that definitely is consistently writing a minimum (and hopefully more!) amount of words a day.)

Camp NaNoWriMo helped me to some degree (though again, not as much as discovering 750words and making myself beholden to a daily writing streak counter), but my greatest success came from the times when I decided that the 50K words didn’t all have to be for the same story. Maybe that goes against the spirit of the whole National Novel Writing Month idea. Admittedly, of the stories I’ve gotten published, none of those actually break 50K words. I think that Ravenhearth could have easily, and given the chance I would definitely sit down and try to expand and flesh out things that I glossed over before. Of my current WIPs, two break the 50K mark, but both require some serious reworking and rewriting before they’re ready for any sort of submission.

At this point in my writing life, I know I can finish original stories. Longer stories! I am completely capable of writing a story of any length and seeing it through to its end as well as the lengthy editing process. In some ways, I feel like I’ve outgrown needing the spirit behind NaNoWriMo’s push: the gumption to just write. To get the story done and written, and whether it’s shared or not, at least it’s finished. I never succeeded there in all the previous attempts for NaNoWriMo that I attempted — in essence, I can’t do the sprint of a single month, but I can do the marathon.

For NaNoWriMo 2017, I’m going to work on the revisions that one of those aforementioned “needs vast amounts of rewriting” stories. The whole thing is finished, but comments from my betas have shown me that while the core of the story is good, there’s a lot more that I can do to improve it. And the best time for that is before I actually send it off to editors of any sort. It’s been working out pretty well! I’m also counting the words from the short weekly flash fiction pieces I’ve been writing (and been very bad about crossposting here, oops; they’re all available on my tumblr for sure, though), and I’m going to be trying to work on a self-indulgent sidepiece. On top of that, I have been kicking around the idea of a small twine game scenario after rereading Little Foolery’s A Good Wick (highly enjoyable!) and reminding myself how much I genuinely enjoy that sort of CYOA style story.

So we’ll see where this month takes me. I like to think that I can make 50K words happen just by pushing myself to write a little more on the things I’m already working on — things that I enjoy, and honestly could spend to put a little more time and effort into.

As of today, without any input from the work I’ve done already, my wordcount stands at 8,192. Not too shabby a start, so here’s to hoping my momentum continues with the month!

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Other genre considerations

When I was a kid, La Llorona and Bloody Mary frightened me more than any other whispered childhood mythology. Part of that was circumstantial — a prank by some older girls at a summer camp ensured that even today I don’t like being in dark rooms with mirrors — but part of that came from doing it to myself. Nothing that someone else could describe in lovingly gory detail would be as uniquely horrific to me as the things I devised for myself. It wasn’t even what might happen after that frightened me, but the actual process of seeing the monster and being attacked by it.

Horror is one of those genres that has been discussed thoroughly by people a lot better qualified than I am; I’m not a scholar or a critic, only someone who enjoys the occasional (or, okay, semi-frequent to frequent) creepy story. A lot of what I could say about my opinions has been said, with better examples and concrete logic.

(To summarize, jumpscares are cheap and used for the startle rather than the scare; the more you force your viewer to imagine what the monster looks at, the more terrifying it will be; pacing is incredibly vital and also the aspect that a lot of mainstream horror media flubs; and there is an overreliance on certain horror tropes. The dead-eyed little children, the spooky doll, the jumpscare again.)

So less about that, more about the childhood mythology I built for myself as a kid. A lot of it was influenced by high fantasy of the epic quest sort of style, but a lot of it also came from horror stories. During the summer, my mom took me to the community library every other week and I’d come away with a stack to read, usually split between books of fairytales and mythology and horror novels. Today, I’d say that most of what I write takes from the former; I think everything I’ve written for publication has a much stronger fairytale resonance than horror.

At the same time, I think the intersection between those two genres has tremendous overlap. There’s the witch who wishes to eat children that stumble across her candy cottage in the woods; the king who wishes to marry his daughter; the innocent child cursed to death because of the neglectful memory of her parents. The make-believe stories I narrated into a tape recorder as a kid certainly contained elements of both. They weren’t terribly good stories, but they usually involved a fake fantasy country that was idyllic and Disney-style by day and creeping horror by night. (Discovering Silent Hill was one of the happiest moments for me as a consumer.) There’d be some kind of amorphous Terrible Conflict where, after some false deaths (and some real deaths that could be magically retconned), peace would be restored and everyone would live happily ever after.

(Except for, you know, the ghosts and monsters that continued to lurk at night, but they were polite and only really went after you if you went outside at night.)

I’d hesitate to say that I’m ever going to write a story that is explicitly within the horror genre. For one thing, my favorite style of horror is the sort exemplified by the Japanese word 不安, “fuan.” It means a sense of unease and anxiety — stories where the horror element isn’t resolved, but lingers with the sense that the trouble could start again at any time. It’s the sort of feeling that the slasher movie franchise attempts to evoke by showing that the killer has somehow survived and escaped his fatal injuries. Even as the story reaches its resolution, few things are explained or resolved, and there’s a continued sense of something unpleasant lurking just around the corner.

But (and even more in this current day and political climate), that honestly feels a little too real. If I wanted to evoke that feeling in myself, I could just as easily read the news as browse Reddit’s /nosleep or the online archives of horror stories. I want happy endings, where if there is some malevolent supernatural element, that can be resolved and made peaceful. I want to both write and read things that were more like the stories of my childhood mythology: certainly a great deal of adversity, but in the end, things would be resolved and everything neatly put away. I understand that the characters’ lives continue after the story closes, but at least for the set boundaries of the narration, there’s a clear-cut ending.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t want to, eventually; I think it’d be fun, and if my attempts at flash fiction on my tumblr every week has shown me anything, it’s that I enjoy experimenting in my writing. And Halloween IS in two days…

But first I have to do my edits. Oops.

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[flash fiction] Ocean (10/16-10/20)

Sometimes, by accident, we get a little lost along the way.

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[flash fiction] Ship Dreamer (10/9-10/13)

Adrien Elis René Quertis, who’s always been a bit of a strange duck. But at least his brother’s always understood.

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Home again

Our view at dinner one night Well, I’m back.

We left on Saturday and had our aforementioned plane misadventures, and we returned on Friday. All in all, I think it was an ideal sort of vacation: one where I genuinely enjoyed what we did, and being there, and the whole experience, but also one where I am glad to be home again. I’m not tremendously looking forward to going back to the dayjob tomorrow, especially while I’m still trying to deal with jetlag, but we can’t have everything, huh?

I meant to be more up to date on keeping up with any sort of writing while we were gone — at least keeping some notes, or else writing in the hotel in the evenings, but it just never really happened. I barely managed to keep up with even the short daily flash fiction segment I post to my tumblr, usually doing that in the mornings before we went anywhere. I had ambitions of working on lazily self-indulgent stuff and not worrying about any deadlines until after we returned to Seattle.

But as it turned out, none of that really happened. It isn’t as if we went on intense touristy things; we didn’t snorkel or scuba dive or anything like that (I had certain monthly health reasons holding me back for one), but we walked a lot, we explored a lot, and overall when we left our hotel, we would return hours and hours later to simply shower and then go to bed. Of course we did a lot of shopping, especially for souvenirs for our friends — we went to the weekly swap meet at the Honolulu Stadium (correct me if I’m misremembering the place); we went to the fancy strip malls in Waikiki; and we went to both kitschy overpriced tourist stores as well as little holes in the wall. Those were certainly less glamorous than most of their surroundings, but also honestly kind of a relief compared to the Rich People Society we were otherwise surrounded by.

Even though I took no notes, there’s a lot that I have taken away from this trip. When I first told my mom that my friends and I were planning this trip, she immediately and enthusiastically agreed. “It’ll be a good learning experience,” she said. “It’ll be good for your writing to go see new places like this.” I’m a pretty sedentary person; if it’s not money that’s an issue, it’s the lack of inspiration to go on my own. I’m not a traveler. I love my city and my home; I love the familiarity I have with my neighborhood and the surrounding places. True to my name, I put down my roots and I am happiest staying with them.

And on the trip itself both my roommate and my girlfriend kept telling me that they hoped I was getting lots of story ideas.

The truth is, I didn’t. I took some notes on the plane for something, but that was an idea I’d been tossing around before we left. I did not, at any time, get hit with anything that felt like the germinating seed of a story plot. In fact, I barely thought about my writing at all while we were gone, which is something I mildly regret, having returned to home and two deadlines by the end of the month, haha. (Obligatory reminder that I’ve got a new story coming out November 1st! The other one’s release date isn’t set yet, but I’m very excited for that one when it comes.)

What I did take away, though, was more individual experiences that I can utilize later.

The minor mundane disaster of missing one’s flight. The way volcanoes look, stretched out wide and dark and steaming under the plane. Seeing feral chickens running around a parking lot. The different ways strangers can be friendly, whether it’s by chatting or just silently leading you to your hotel. The way an actual five star hotel room looks, both for a “standard” room and an upgraded presidential suite. The surprised joy of walking along a path and turning your head to see turtles casually swimming alongside you. Dealing with people so rich that it’s like some invisible wall exists between you and them — but also, people who are incredibly friendly and patient in spite of the vast amount of confused and lost tourists they must deal with daily. The way the waves yank at you when you let your guard down, because they’ve been small up until the point where they’re not. The way the ocean looks as the sun sets, less like water and more like silk stretched over sand dunes…

And honestly, the way one’s cat gets extremely excited when his people come home after a week and spends the next two days YELLING!! at the top of his lungs anytime he loses sight of you.

Those are the things I think I can keep and use, sometime in the future.

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Hawaii Travel Log, Day 1

Today is going to be a relatively quick sort of thing! I’ve gotten a little off track with what I’ve wanted to talk about on this blog, though part of that is also just because life keeps happening. This past weekend especially has been a bit of a travel adventure.

We’re in Hawaii today! Specifically the Big Island, though we’re headed to Oahu tonight. That was our original destination, in fact, but most of yesterday was a whole insane cluster of trip mishaps that have somehow worked out pretty well in the end.

As it turns out, when airports have a cutoff time for baggage check in, that time is down to the exact second — which means that because of the thirty second delay between scanning one person in our group and the next, we were suddenly unable to check our second person’s bag. Which meant that while two of us were cleared to run for the plane, the third one could not.

So at first our options sounded pretty grim. Because there were three of us (myself, girlfriend-roommate K, and roommate M), and because for some reason everyone ever wanted to go to Hawaii this weekend*, our options looked to basically be, “MAYBE two of you can go and the third one can fly out tomorrow for additional $$$” or “the three of you go home and fly out Monday for $$$.” The lady who worked with us at the assistance booth was extremely nice and patient, and I am incredibly grateful that she was willing to work with us to figure out the best possible options for our trip to work out.

(* I know the Iron Man triathlon was going on, but the “problem” with that was that it takes place on the Big Island and all the flights to Oahu specifically were booked completely full.)

But we’ve been planning this trip since technically last year, when the suggestion was made; our concrete plans for this particular week started in April. We’d gotten some help from Roommate M’s dad, who lives on Oahu, and since our trip was for a week (we’re returning Friday), cutting ourselves off to a Monday start, or getting our party split, was pretty disappointing.

Eventually, in desperation, I asked if we could get a flight out to one of the other islands, with the intention of making a connecting flight back to Oahu either later that day or possibly tomorrow (which is now today, Sunday). And it turned out, there was! We still had to pay $$$, but I’ve been saving for this for a year — traditionally, I save money from the dayjob paycheck all year to indulge for my birthday… which was on the 12th. So I had the money to immediately pay for it! And off we went. (With another close shave, to be honest, since we boarded the plane about five minutes before they would have closed the doors. Do not be us.)

And so far, I think this has actually turned out for the better. M had wanted to do some island-hopping anyway, and with some help from her dad, we have secured a trip to Oahu (and our proper hotel) for tonight, which gives us the whole day to basically go around the island, do some sightseeing, and then head up to meet the other half of our vacation group (who traveled separately and managed to get to where they were supposed to go).

So on the one hand, it was a whole lot of abrupt stress, and it was a lot of money — but it was money we had available (and can be paid back), and everything has turned out pretty much as ideally as possible for this detour. I’m pretty sure I would have been pretty miserable trying to go this alone, but since I have my two best friends with me, this has mostly been an adventure. (It will certainly make for silly travel “horror” stories in the future.) Everyone we’ve met so far has been extremely friendly and nice, the scenery is gorgeous, and even if I’m languishing a little with the weather (I’ve been living in the Pacific Northwest for 12 years at this point, and it’s pretty jarring to go from 52F to 83F), I’ve been having a lot of fun.

Right now it’s 8:45 a.m. local time, which because of timezones feels more like 11:45 to me. We still have almost 12 hours before we have to travel to our final vacation destination. We’re trying to make plans to get some wandering around (with M’s dad helping out again, so a big thank you to him), and then we’ll figure out what we’re doing for the rest of this week.

I’m feeling pretty good, though! I hope everyone else is doing well.

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[flash fiction] The Hallway Monster (10/2 – 10/6)

Sometimes, monsters are closer than we’d like to think.
(A little behind schedule this week! We’re off to Hawaii tomorrow and this whole week has been a blur of trying to get ready while fighting off sickness.)

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Muddle through

Muddle through, Merlin!When I was a kid, my dad’s favorite saying about life (and, honestly, this is still something he likes to say to me today) was all we could do was just muddle through. He’d say that any time life happened so much: any time things seemed overwhelming, he’d shrug and tell me to just put my head down and muddle through.

I follow that advice a lot less gracefully than I’d like to admit. My habit tends to be to catastrophize for at least a day or two; even small things start to feel overwhelming when they all come at you at once. I’ve started utilizing Mondays to just write myself a to-do list for the whole of the week so that I have something concrete to come back to and reference whenever I can. The current state of the world notwithstanding (I do try to keep an eye on things to stay informed, though I also often find myself having to disengage some just to keep from going out of my mind), my daily life is also pretty intense right now.

It isn’t all bad, even when the specter of potential calamity looms close by. My birthday is on Thursday, the 12th! I have a new story coming out November 1st! (If you’re interested, preorders are 15% off until October 31st.) Next Saturday, we’re headed off to Hawaii for a week, for the first Real Vacation I’ve taken in over two decades. We’ve been planning this for the better part of the year, and I am pretty excited for all of these things.

On the flipside are the lows that come with those highs. I’ve talked before about how anxious I am about the story that’s coming out, and I’m deeply hoping that readers new and old will give me the benefit of the doubt.

I’m a little disappointed that I can’t take my birthday itself off because of the vacation, since taking the actual day off has been my present to myself literally since I started my dayjob. And going on any sort of vacation, let alone somewhere touristy, is going to cost a lot of money. And while I have been saving all year and we’ve gotten help from parents, I’m still pretty nervous about how much is enough — I want to enjoy my vacation but not push myself into debt. We’re in cleaning and prep mode, so everything else I’ve been planning to do has been kind of set aside for now.

And then, yesterday (Saturday the 8th), we noticed our cat, Merlin, was having some significant discomfort walking and sitting. He was fussing obsessively over a spot under his tail and getting progressively unhappier about it through the day. It was too tender for him to let us get a good look, but what we did see, even through all his thick fur, looked bad. So we rushed him to a 24-hour emergency vet, and while it turned out to be easily treatable — one of those gross but common enough things — that was an extra expense slapped on when I wasn’t expecting it. Life happens so much.

But it isn’t even the money that is the issue. I have savings for things like this. The bill was high, but nothing compared to what we had to pay when our poor other cat was sick. So Merlin charmed the vet and techs until his brief procedure, and then they sent him home with us with a passel of painkillers and a stiff “Elizabethan” collar. A cone of shame. He’s got to wear it for two weeks, and when we come back from Hawaii we’ll have to take him to his regular vet to get his stitches removed.

The poor guy’s having a hell of a time navigating the house right now, though. Even when we can’t see him we can hear him, and the soft scuffle-thud of his cone smacking into walls and bags. He’s much more cautious about jumping onto the bed or the couch.

Of our household of three humans, Merlin is “my” cat more than anyone else’s, and I’ve fretted about leaving him for the vacation, I admit. A friend will be checking in on him, but it’ll be the first time in 8 years where he’ll be mostly alone. I knew I was going to worry about him even before his little health scare, and now that concern has been amplified. I know that he’ll be fine, and that this is fairly standard. We have an easy plan of action and he’s already back to mugging for food and sassing me about how much he hates his cone. I’m hoping that we can schedule getting his stitches out the day after we get back from Hawaii so that I won’t have to juggle work even more to make it happen. It’s going to be more money. I have edits I need to do as well as rewrites I want to make happen; I have a story that I really want to submit that is this close to being finished. I have my dayjob and its changing expectations; I have new things I want to start writing.

Life happens so much! But I’m still trying to do the best I can, with what I can, and what is available to me.

I’m putting my head down, and I’m muddling through.

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[flash fiction] A Fox’s Wedding (9/25/17-9/29/17)

Hello friends!

Last week I started a new thing on my tumblr, where I will be posting 200 words of a (very) short story a day, Monday-Friday. My goals with this are

  • To experiment with much shorter writing than I usually do
  • To try and have more finished fiction to share
  • To dabble in genres I either don’t have confidence or longer story ideas for
  • And honestly, because I want to have fun with shorter things!

While these will be posted on my tumblr daily, somewhere between 5pm – 7pm PST, I will also be posting the fully-compiled version on Wednesdays to this blog.

Today, I’m sharing a story about two girls in love.

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Writing plans for the month

A neat place for writing plans To paraphrase, all the best laid writing plans of mice and me…

But it’s a new month, so I’ve got some new plans. I have a notebook where I write out my productivity goals for the week and month to help me keep things in mind. And of course, a lot of that just involves writing plans about writing, as it were.

At this point my offline life is in a bit of a crunch. My household is headed to Hawaii in a couple of weeks! We’re leaving on the 14th and we’ll be back on the 20th, and while I plan to allot a lot of time to being a completely lazy person and pretend I’m a fancy lady, it does mean we’ve been pretty busy trying to get things ready in the these upcoming weeks. There’s cleaning, buying stuff for the trip, and arranging for someone to come take care of the cat while we’re gone. We’ve hit the point where we’ve realized how little time there is left, and how much there to do.

That doesn’t mean that I haven’t been trying to keep up with things! Writing Plan Number One started last week, where I decided I would write a very short story (1000 words) a week, posted in 200-word increments a day. Obviously these aren’t grand sprawling epics (or even your garden variety novella, the format I’m most familiar with), though I can definitely foresee linking stories together. On top of that, I definitely want to write some connected to my novels as supplements and additions, so for me, that’s all pretty exciting.

For now I’m posting the daily segments on my tumblr, and I will be trying to get those out in the 5-6pm pst hour. (Not so coincidentally, 4:30pm pst is when I get out of my dayjob and head off to write before going home.) My goal is to post the full compilation here when they’re done. My original thought was to do that on Saturdays, but since I write and post regular blog entries on Sundays, I’ve rethought that a little. The new plan is to post the full compilation on Wednesdays, just so that there’s a little spacing.

I’ve enjoyed it, honestly! I am currently working on revising large chunks of a draft finished back in 2016 — a story about a young fantasy-world priest coming to grips with his personal tragedies and his own destiny. It has a lot of things that I like: mythology, unreliable characters, world-ending plots, and kissing. However, I wasn’t terribly happy with the overall story once I was finished and couldn’t determine why. Several insightful betareaders and workshops later, and I finally have an idea of where to go with it! And that’s extremely exciting.

Which means my general writing schedule is a bit skewed as I start pulling out the guts of the story to rework them. But it’s also very nice to have these smaller, shorter pieces to do daily during the week as a break from the bigger project. There’s a different set of challenges in trying to write that short, since every ‘scene’ is exactly 100 words. I tend to overwrite, and one of the things I hope to accomplish with these weekly stories is learning how to be concise. I still very much want to write bigger, longer stories; my writing plan encompasses at least seven pieces that I want to write at least novella-length, if not longer. That’s not including the piece that is almost ready to go, nor the priest story mentioned earlier. Going by that alone, I’m ready with ideas for the next couple of years.

But the honest truth is that I don’t want to do Just One Thing when it comes to writing. There’s a decent amount of advice that notes how the best chance of writing success is to pick a niche, however big or small, and to stick with it. I don’t think it’s bad advice, or wrong advice, and I’m very aware of what I would consider my niche. (Queer fairytales or stories with strong fairytale elements, usually with some sort of either Regency-to-Victorian era aesthetic.) It’s not a bad place to be, either; I love fairytales, and I love writing them. I love working them into what I’m working on in some fashion.

That doesn’t mean I don’t want to branch out, now and then. Or even often! There’s a lot of stuff that is out there that I would love to try. The other genre near and dear to my heart is horror. I love an effective scary story, and I’m always happy to find a new well-written piece of creepypasta. I’m only a very casual dabbler in sci-fi and contemporary stories. Mysteries are great but also out of my element. While I don’t really think I could conceivably write a lot of these things in 1000-word self-contained stories in a week, I’m hoping that making a practice of it will help me get to experiment.

And hopefully, these writing plans will entertain readers, too.

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So the fox is getting married

The fox is getting married Any time it rained when the sun was shining, my mother would tell me, “The fox is getting married.”

I grew up in Texas, which for many years I considered part of “the South,” as it were. Geographically it made sense, and a lot of the people I knew would instead say “the devil is beating his wife,” which always struck me as both extremely unpleasant (why would domestic violence even be a name for this sort of thing?!) and incongruous (the bright sunny day with the rain coming down felt like a best of both worlds scenario, and why would something so beautiful have such an ugly name?).

I vastly preferred the fox idea. Though to be honest, I had no idea what a wedding really was like; my experiences with those were limited to watching processions on TV — my parents are big fans of the original The Sound of Music so we certainly watched that plenty of times — and one dimly-remembered instance of a wedding at my grandmother’s church. As I recall it now, the service was itself a more USA-style wedding (the bride in white and the minister speaking his blessings) but the entire ceremony was in Korean. And as a kid, I knew more than I do now, but it still wasn’t enough to keep up with what was going on… not to mention a five year old in the audience of a wedding ceremony isn’t going to be paying the most amount of attention.

Still, in my mind, I imagined a fox’s wedding to be a strange and bright thing: of course it had to be, with the weather conditions necessary for one to happen. Of course there’d be a lot of white involved in the decoration and in the outfits of the marrying couple. Of course there’d be food and music, and by the end, at least one pair of foxes would be lawfully bonded.

But once I established that image, I wondered if perhaps they held large group weddings. Sunshowers were a rarity where I lived, and it seemed rather unfortunate if that was constrained by the whims of the weather and the need to go one at a time. Did the wedding end specifically when the sunshower itself did? Were they still allowed to celebrate afterwards? As a child (and even now as an adult, having been to more weddings and having a better idea of what they’re like), the celebration with the food afterwards was the part that appealed to me, personally, the most. Of course I care about my friends being happy with their Officially Sanctioned Partnerships, but I always have — and I assume always will — look forward to the food and socializing after the most.

And surely foxes, clever and hungry and also wanting the very best for their loved ones, would also want to have the part that comes after the wedding: the part with the food and the friendship. It seemed a little cruel to force them to contain all of the elements of “a wedding” to just the period of time for a sunshower.

Like I mentioned last week, when I was a kid, foxes were my favorite animals. The fact that most of the stories I knew painted them as villainous in some fashion didn’t really register to me; I liked that they were small and scrappy and clever, which was something that I (small, soft, and at least smart for my age) admired. I liked that it took brains to defeat them, not a simple show of strength, and I liked that they were not a single set character: it was not simply Fox, in this one story or series, bound by a set personality and arc — it was the fox-sister, leisurely devouring the livers of her borrowed household; it was Fantastic Mr. Fox carrying off his daring chicken heists; it was the fox-courtesan who seduced the Emperor to live a life of hedonistic luxury until she was discovered and dealt with.

I imagined they had their own humanlike societies, hidden away from our view, and every time my mother would say the fox is getting married, I’d think about them breathlessly watching the sky, ready to set up the festivities to go in a heartbeat. Would they pause, the way sunshowers sometimes paused, their heads lifted and hoping for the rain to continue, so that the wedding could as well? If the clouds cleared up and faded, did they simply pack up the party and go home?

Of course, I always pictured a happy ending for all of these foxes. Back then, like now, I always liked those the best. Surely the whole wedding wasn’t dependent on this; surely they just needed the sunshower as a catalyst, a symbol of good luck for the union, but not necessary to keep going.

Somewhat related, I’m planning on trying out a new writing experiment for the upcoming week — one that I can hopefully make into a regular occurrence. My hope is to write a short (1000-word max) story a week, just to practice with flash fiction, and to post 200 words of it a day onto my tumblr and pillowfort. I will be trying to compile them here on this blog for the Sunday blog.

And I’m thinking a fox’s wedding might be a fun place to start.

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An apology, and a story bit.

I had a lot of ambitions about writing about foxes this week, because that’s a topic that is near and dear to my heart. When I was a kid, foxes were my favorite animals; I decided this in the way that small children sometimes do: I read a story that I thought was cool and latched onto it. This was still a point where my friends and I were enthusiastically playing pretend every day, so of course when I had to pick an animal to pretend to be, it was a fox.

I meant to talk about that, and some of my favorite fox stories, but then on Thursday I started getting sick, and pretty much from then on it’s been a blur of sleeping a lot, taking meds, and wheezing pitifully whenever I was meant to talk. It’s not really conducive to any sort of focused time to sit down and write, so my plans for working on this blog post for today kind of fell by the wayside. I could talk about the home remedies that my family utilized when I was growing up — we never did chicken soup, though my mom would make <I>jook</I> whenever someone had stomach troubles, and while there were OTC medications, my parents’ first and foremost response was to make tea of some sort. Ginseng was the most popular, and also (for me as a kid) the most awful.

But that also involves being able to sit upright and focus. This post so far has already taken more concentration than by all rights it really should. Normally, getting words out isn’t a struggle for me; sometimes I drag my feet and mutter about it, but I don’t actually have that much trouble once I’ve actually sat down and omitted to working. But today I’m still sick, so I’m still honestly trying to stay focused and upright without degenerating completely into incoherency. Yikes.

So in lieu of anything like a full blog post, I thought I’d just go ahead and share a bit from a story that I’ve been working on, off and on between larger projects, over the year. (When I say off and on, I do mean off and on; this is the story that I wander back to when I am between working on larger projects. According to my outline, it’s about halfway done, which given all its roadblocks, is pretty exciting.)

And hey, it kind of ties back into what I was going to talk about this week — foxes. Though the fox itself doesn’t come into the story until much later. This is one of those stories that I’d classify as YA, except I think the protagonist is a bit younger than I think normally fits into the genre. Like nearly everything I write, it wants to be a fairytale, of some sort.

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Writing tigers

Writing about the tiger

The writing tiger, recalling the persimmon The last time I wrote about tigers, it was about how a particularly greedy selfish one helped to create the sun and the moon, and whose blood dyed buckwheat roots red. This was the very first story I can remember hearing about tigers when I was a kid, and so I spent a lot of my childhood thinking that they were sort of the Big Bad Wolf equivalent — the predatory animal that lurked in the shadows to eat misbehaving children.

And while in Korean culture, tigers are considered benign guardian spirits, some aspects of Buddhism considers them a symbol of anger — whether the transformative sort or the mindless kind. Sources vary, of course. But for my own (very basic, at this point) research, it seems like that is the thread that reconciles the stories I heard growing up versus the much more noble and dignified beast that one sees in the wider cultural beliefs.

Because see, other than the sun and moon story, the other two folk stories about tigers that I remember from my childhood were all kind of — not. There’s one that I don’t like very much, about a man who is so angry at his puppy for essentially being a puppy that he leaves it for tiger bait. The story ends happily for the man (and for the dog), but not so much for the tigers.

The one that charms me till this day, though, is the story of the tiger versus the dried persimmon.

(As a side note, I really dislike dried persimmons. That is not a taste I ever acquired. These days I really do like red bean and sesame candies, though it took me years to get over my childhood betrayal, where I bit into a red bean popsicle thinking it was chocolate.)

Storytime

The dried persimmon story, though, goes a little like this:

One night, a tiger was slinking around a small human village. His hunting that day had been poor, and his belly was empty. His pride was low enough that he was hoping some of the humans had left something out for him to scavenge.

But as he was searching, he heard the sound of a young child crying, and he was drawn to that noise. As he lurked, he could hear the mother, increasingly frazzled, trying to soothe her child. Finally, perhaps driven to a snapping point, she cried, “If you don’t hush, I will feed you to the tigers!”

Of course this excited the tiger very much. While he was not a man-eater by preference, he was very hungry, and a child was far easier than an adult. He lurked as close as he could, his stomach growling and his tail lashing as the child began to cry. He could hear the mother moving around the small cottage and he was certain that at any moment, she would open the door and bring the child to him.

Instead, the mother said, “Shhh, shhh, here’s a dried persimmon for you.”

And at once, the child stopped crying.

The tiger was stunned. What sort of thing could be so incredible, so terrifying, that it would stop a child’s tears more than the threat of a tiger?! Surely this dried persimmon was a beast so great that — even though he had heard of no such thing — it might even pose a threat to him. He held his breath and strained his ears, but still he heard nothing. The dried persimmon had succeeded where he had not.

This in turn weighed on his mind as he turned to look around. What if the dried persimmon was also lurking in this village? He had to be sure to avoid it. So he flattened himself to the ground as best he could, and began to carefully creep his way out. As he went, through, a sudden weight dropped upon his back, nearly knocking him to the ground.

The dried persimmon had come for him!

So he ran as fast as he could out of that village, as fast as his legs could carry him, thrashing as he ran to try and knock the dried persimmon off his back. He bucked, he reared, and he roared; he ran straight into the woods and it was only after that he was able to free himself from the terrible being pursuing him.

And once he was free, he swore he would never, ever return to that village ever again.

(As it turned out, the thing that had fallen upon him was a thief who meant to break into the house he was lurking around. The poor man had dropped down, not knowing a tiger was under him, and once holding onto the tiger, he was too frightened to let go, knowing that the beast could easily attack him in its confused rage. It was only after the tiger entered the woods, and the thief was able to grab a tree branch, that they were both saved.)

After that

And now, my own personal writing tigers — the beasties that I am torn on how to tackle, lest I be sacrificed to the dried persimmon.

Which is to say, I’ve honestly been going back and forth on what I want to do with this blog. I miss blogging! I miss writing in my own voice, versus my narrative voice. But as far as writing meta goes, I don’t think I’m the sort who can give advice; nor am I someone who’s great at writing reviews. I feel like I do a lot better giving that on a 1×1 basis. I’d like to do some blend of short flash fiction and chatting about the thing.

If anyone else has input, I would love to hear it. ╰( ・ ᗜ ・ )╯I’d love to write more short things, but I’d also like to be able to chat with people. Please let me know!

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