January Retrospective, February Prospective

2018 is (almost) one month down! Good job everyone, we’ve made it this far.

(Or, I mean, I’ve done my best to muddle through. This has been a month of a lot of ups and downs, though at least nothing on a dramatic or troubling scale.)

And because we’ve hit the end of the month, I’m going to try and use this time to assess how well I’ve been doing with my resolutions thus far, as well as look ahead to what my February plans are. It’s almost like housekeeping, though honestly I have an easier time with this sort than the actual act of trying to keep my home tidy. That’s also something we’re trying to work on as a household, but I’ll get to that.

I’m more of an organizer than a cleaner, so if allowed, I’ll let myself categorize and compartmentalize things to ridiculous degrees. In order to cut down on that for the sake of these posts, I’m sticking to four major categories: personal (my own health and mundane everyday), financial (whether or not I’m keeping to my budget), writing, and my journey to an Etsy shop.

So with that in mind! The January retrospective and February prospective!

Personal

Seattle implemented a sugar tax starting this month, and honestly I’m glad for that. I like soda, but I’m trying really hard to keep off the wagon for that, and make it more of an occasional thing — something that I can have sometimes when I go out with friends, but not to the point of drinking it regularly, like I have been doing. I was getting better for a while, then kind of slipped back into very easily. But with the extra cost now (even if it’s not THAT much) as well as my finance goals, I’ve been getting back on the iced tea horse. And I like it a lot, it just ends up being extra work. But I can overcome! And I have been.

Other than that, my roommates and I have instituted a weekday “productivity time,” where we pick a few necessary daily tasks and spend the time doing that. Everyone does it, so it’s a sort of peer pressure thing. But honestly, I do need that push, so it’s been helpful for me.

Other than that, I’ve mostly focused on trying to get to bed at a reasonable point, so that I don’t drag myself around so much trying to get out of bed in the morning. That one’s still more of a work in progress.

So January has been mostly hits, and in February I will hope to continue on that same path. Not bad, overall!

Financial

Due to various reasons, my income was cut a bit this month — nothing bad, and not anything I can’t handle. My account is fine, and there’s no danger of me overdrawing or anything like that. It does mean that I am technically “over” budget, because I spent more than I earned… but given that this was an off month and I don’t actually foresee there being an issue with my income in following months, I’d say that I’d count this as a success. More than anything, I want to be more mindful of what I’m spending, with less frivolously buying things on a whim. It’s been an adjustment! But I’m in a comfortable position, and I want to be more grateful for that than trying to outlive my means.

February will be more of the same for that! In these first two categories, I’m not pushing terribly hard for dramatic changes. I’m satisfied where they are.

Writing

Oh boy. So, I have continued my habit of writing a short 1000-word story a week, and I actually compiled all of them into a post on this blog. I’m trying to utilize both my tubmlr and this blog more frequently, so my hope is that as 2018 goes on, I will be able to crosspost more, and actually keep up with maintaining posting these shorts here in their fully compiled form. You can find those here!

I also have submitted a new story to my publisher, Less Than Three Press. It’s one I’ve been sitting on since about June last year, one victim among many of my general downswing during that year. It’s a fairytale, naturally, though a bit more literally than before: the story of a girl whose prince is kidnapped on their wedding day, and her challenges versus the fairy that took him. I think it’s a fairly cute story, so fingers crossed that Less Than Three will think so as well!

Also in very exciting news, I have a new story coming out in February! I’ll be talking about that some next week. I’ve mentioned it here before, but we’re sliding in closer to release time and I am super excited.

I’ve also been looking into the Fantastic Beasts And Where To Fuck Them open call from Circlet. That one is… finished, but needs a read over from my usual beta before I send it out. I have until January 31st, so hopefully I’ll get that done in time! …But even if I don’t, I am hoping to tidy it up so I can post it here and to my tumblr. Even if I can’t manage it as a professionally submitted thing, I’d like to share it. I hope that either way, it’ll be a fun read for people!

January-wise, I managed to knock out a little bit of my yearly goals with the submission piece, so that’s pretty exciting! If I can get the Circlet submission done by Wednesday, that’s two out of six done! Which is incredibly promising to me, but even if I don’t get the Circlet piece down, that’s still one done. And I’m proud of that. A+ for myself.

For February, since it’s a shorter month, I’m a bit more at odds. I will obviously be continuing my weekly stories. Less Than Three currently has an open call for nonerotic stories of poly families which I would really like to take a shot at, though that deadline isn’t until the end of April. But if I want to do it and get it betaed and tidied up by then, I really should spend February working on that, outline and writing, so I’ll start working on that once the Circlet deadline passes.

Other than that, I have my finished-but-in-dire-need-of-reread stories to work on. My hope is to make some good progress on the one I’ve started; 10K words of reread at least, though who knows how much rewriting. It’ll be a bit of a crunch, but I do have some confidence that as long as I don’t goof off, I can easily hit that goal.

The Journey to Etsy

In the best news, after hearing about what I wanted to do, my mom offered to buy a camera for me! If I did the research and found a decent one in a reasonable price range. That was one of the things that I was waiting on, since I wanted to take better photos of what I’m making, and not just rely on my camera phone. (Not that it’s a bad camera by far, but I want something a little more professional than just those phone snaps.)

Other than that, I’ve got several bracelets ready to go, and am hoping to finish up a couple more by the end of the month. They’re all easy, but they do take time and concentration to keep up with their particular patterns. It’s been a very soothing way to spend my evenings.

And then yesterday, I spent some time experimenting with making paper flowers. I’ve honestly been very happy with the results, and the preliminary responses have been very positive. I do need to find a way to make these flowers waterproof (given that I live in Seattle — which is not as rainy as advertised, but still pretty damp — this feels like a must), though I’ve got a few ideas for that. That’ll also have to wait until February, though, when my budget refreshes.

To be honest, I’m really excited about all of this. I’m also incredibly nervous — the Etsy market is just as (if not more) competetive than the writing market, and I’m starting from scratch here. I’ve got a whole lot of imposter syndrome going on, but I’m also enjoying myself. So far I’m still determined to power through this, just maybe a little more shyly than usual. In February, I hope to get a couple more bracelets done as well as get my camera, so I can hopefully start an Instagram to share more of my work.

Overall, I feel pretty good about what I’ve gotten to do this month. With luck, February can be more of the same. Good luck myself! And good luck everyone else!

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2018 Weekly Stories: January

Spinning Dreams | Vanishing | Darkness | Salvation

Back in October 2017, I started writing one short story a week, 1000 words a week, and posting them in 200-word segments a day. I’ve been pretty bad about crossposting them from my tumblr, which is where they will continue to be posted daily, but I am resolved in 2018 and onward to be better about crossposting the whole things once a month. If you enjoyed any of these, please feel free to leave a comment! If you’d like to support me (for which I would be incredibly grateful), I have a Ko-Fi account.

But either way, I hope you enjoy!

Continue reading

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Anywhere but here (and back again)

The other day, a friend asked what one’s favorite and least favorite setting tropes in fiction. Just casually, the way one does on social media.

And to be honest, that’s not something I think about very often or hard — when it comes to media I want to consume, it’s a lot easier for me to get drawn in by character and plot tropes instead. Tell me that there’s a pair with unhealthy loyalty issues that they are either addressing or running away with, or about the closed-off character that is reluctantly learning to connect and make friends, and I’ll be there. Drop a hint that there will be villain families or a mystery involving supernatural aspects, and I’m definitely going to be listening. I have dozens of pings (some of which I don’t really think about until they pop up) when it comes to characters and plotlines.

But settings? I rarely think specifically about “I want to read something that’s set in a specific location.” When she asked the question, my first thought boiled down to, “anywhere but here.”

My secret, inasmuch as it is one, is that I’m not a fan of contemporary settings.

Of course there are definitely exceptions! I’ve definitely consumed media that takes place in “our” world with nothing strange or supernatural to it, and enjoyed myself. I won’t dismiss something immediately out of the gate just because it’s contemporary fiction… but I will be less enthusiastic about it. I always want something a little more, something that’s not going to be familiar except through the writer’s ability to convey that comfortable feeling. Contemporary paranormal stories are closer to my preference, because I enjoy that extra element. How does a werewolf handle a dayjob while juggling the full moon? How, if at all, have the fae adapted to this modern world of iron and steel? Do these otherwoldly creatures coexist amongst mundane humanity, or alongside it, a step away without everyday direct interaction? Things like that.

And maybe some of that is just how I, personally, interact with the world. I have a busy and involved social life, but it involves hanging out at apartments and homes or going out to eat. I’m content with my everyday life, but it isn’t anything I’d brag about as exciting or dramatic; it’s a nice sort of story to live, but not really one I feel compelled to write about.

When it comes to consuming media, I prefer an extra element of escapism. I like a world that has taken a couple of steps away from my normal, where parallels definitely exist, but I couldn’t namedrop a city like Seattle and have the characters know anything about it. I want to see a different society exist in the worlds of someone else’s story, whether it’s humans that have built themselves a different world, humans living aside some sort of supernatural or alient one, or a story set completely within a nonhuman society.

None of these things really fit into the idea of a “contemporary” story, as far as I’ve ever experienced. There’s nothing I think is inherently wrong with the subgenre, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with my preferences; it really is just solely a case of different tastes.

Within my own writing, I never think about setting first. Instead, I start with the characters. Usually it’s the one who becomes the narrator and their partner, with the rest of the cast built from there. And often by developing the main characters I can figure out the plot (which may or may not be directly tied to the conflict between the characters; I’d consider myself foremost a romance writer, after all). Sometimes that’s easier than not; Simon’s Cat is explicitly a retelling of Puss in Boots, so that was done “for” me, as it were.

Everything else, though, tends to move in an outwards spiral. Only once I have those down do I start building the world around the characters. Ravenhearth began because I was turning around the idea of “Beauty and the Beast meets Bluebeard.” And while the final story didn’t quite follow that (though I think it came close), that was the seed that I build the rest of the story around. And since then, the world itself has stuck in my mind; I know exactly what caused the miasma and the events that led up to that, as well as some of the immediate fallout when that occurred. I’d like very much to go back to that world someday, when I’ve got more concrete ideas in mind.

In the end, to answer my friend’s question, I did say “anything but contemporary” as my least favorite (though I didn’t really have a favorite to mention, either). But I’ve been mulling over that ever since; even if the answer itself is straightforward, I’m not sure how satisfied I am with it.

With 2018 being the year I want to try stretching myself further, I do think that I’d like to at least try branching out into this genre I have such little experience with. Both in consuming media and in writing, I do think it’d be fun to try.

(And of course, if anyone has recommendations for the media, I’d be happy to hear them. °˖✧◝(⁰▿⁰)◜✧˖°)

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The keyword is try

So far (knock on wood!) my resolution to write more in 2018 has been holding up!

“It’s only been two weeks,” you might say, but considering how poorly 2017 as a whole went, I’ll take it. There have still been hiccups — getting sick for five straight days over last weekend notably — but I’m still doing my best. I no longer sound like a series of tortured cracks and squeaks when I try to talk, for which I’m glad. In the deepest throws of my sickness self-pity I did wonder if I’d ever get over that. My worst melodramatic tendencies come out when I’m physically ill. Thank goodness for my very patient girlfriend coaxing me to remember that not everything in our lives is doom and disaster and yes, the coughing and sore throat and headaches will eventually go away.

This week, to celebrate feeling better, I started working on a submission for Circlet’s “Fantastic Beasts And Where To Fuck Them” open call. A friend of mine linked me a while back and I do enjoy some mythical monsters, though this means trying something completely different for me. Once upon a time 10,000 words seemed like a very long story; now I need to do my best to keep within 7,000 without leaving anything out. That part I feel a little shaky on, but I am enjoying my characters quite a lot. They’re kind of throwbacks to one of my most beloved old fandoms in terms of what they are (a human and a supernatural being, a cynic and a performative optimist, a soldier and a writer), but they’re still uniquely themselves. I’ve been working on figuring out character quirks and voices as I slowly shake off the fog of sickness, and it just feels good. While a lot of 2017’s fatalistic ennui still feels like it’s weighing on me, I’m finally feeling good about writing again, and I can’t help but be happy for that. It’s only been two weeks, but whatever! I want to believe this is a good sign.

Honestly, I’m both excited and nervous about this whole process. This will be the first thing I’ve worked on for submission in over a year at this point; a lot of what I worked on last year was almost strictly all editing, both for a story already accepted and for two separate stories I would like to submit to Less Than Three. One of these has a lot left to work out (including some pretty serious rewrites later on in the guts of the story itself), but one of them is pretty much ready. I just need to format it and do the actual submission… which to be honest, is the hardest part for me. But I’ve got this short story rolling to, as a brand new thing to a publisher I’ve never worked with before. It’s scary! But I want to at least try, because I am nothing if extremely good at kneecapping myself for opportunities.*

(* I have also decided, however, in the event that the story does not get picked up, I will still post it here on the blog. As it stands, it might not fit the anthology’s call or the editor’s specific preferences, but as far as the story and characters are thus far — the piece is only about half-finished at this point — I’m very fond of it. One way or another, I’d like to share it. Either way, I hope that people will enjoy it!)

I haven’t forgotten my other writing resolutions, either. Three pieces specifically to Less Than Three, three pieces for self-pub, and then whatever other things I can write in between. I don’t think this is an impossible thing for me to do, either. I’ve got some things I need and want to follow up on that I let slide last year — maybe I’ll need to restart the process, but at least I want to be able to give things a shot.

Ideally this year can make up for last year in terms of productivity. Maybe that’s too big of an expectation to set for myself, but I’m hoping to ride this positivity wave as long and far as I can. I want to actually try this year, and maybe I’ll only make it so far. I don’t know yet. I can’t know yet! But if I can bounce back from being pretty unpleasantly sick to optimism, then my superstitious self wants to take that as an indicator for the year to come.

In the meantime, I decided to take a few steps about some other things. I juggled my finances (and I’ve been sticking to my budget strongly, of which I am very proud — it’s difficult, when you live in a bustling city and you and your best friends live together and like going out for food), I’ve got a couple of commissions done, and I went ahead and signed up for a Ko-Fi. I have no idea how successful this will be, or how noticed, but like so many things whirling through my head right now — I wanted to give it a try. So if you can, or if you’re willing, please consider clicking and helping me out.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

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All my best laid plans

Nothing like getting sick to completely knock you down off your resolution high horse, huh?

To be honest, it’s only knocked me off two days so far — I woke up Friday with the ticklings of a sore throat, which progressed by the time I got off work to full-fledged pain. I ended up going to bed at 9pm and sleeping (almost) straight through to 8:30am. There were a couple of unfortunate incidents, like when the cat begin to hurk up right next to my head and I woke up enough to blindly shove him away, or when I got way too warm to stay asleep, and the unpleasant, persistent reality of my sore throat.

At least by this point in my life, I know how to handle them. Sore throats used to happen like clockwork in my childhood: anytime the weather fluctated more than 5 degrees, there I went. So I did spend most of Saturday resting, dosing myself with EmergenC, hot tea, and the occasional warm saltwater gargle (which let me tell you, is disgusting, but it does help with the pain). I had enough other symptoms of a cold (bodyaches, oversensitive skin, and a persistent lingering headache) that I did in fact spend most of my day in bed sleeping.

And I ended up having to cheat some on my writing for that day, in that I just sort of rambled incoherently until I hit my daily minimum and called that good.

Friday didn’t fair much better, though I did at least spend my time writing out a plan for my weekend… a plan that didn’t at all come to fruition with the onset of sickness. Oh, well. On the one hand, I’m annoyed that it took me less than a full week into the new year to fall down on my resolutions; on the other, one of the things I promised myself was that I wouldn’t tear myself apart over things that were outside of my control. It’s not like I wanted to get sick; I’m still unsure whether I’ll call in to my dayjob tomorrow and I’m not looking forward to the tedium that comes from being too sick to have energy and focus, but too healthy to be able to just sleep in three-hour chunks at a time.

Still, the week hasn’t been a total wash. Writing still happened! Compared to most of last year, I managed to accomplish more this week than most given weeks in 2017. Some of that time I spent editing for Forward the Hunt, which drops on February 27th. (Preorders are always 15% off, so now’s a great time to buy!) I wrote my first 1000-word flash fiction story for the year. Progress was made on one of the pieces I would like to submit to Less Than Three sometime this year, but requires some retooling and rewriting before I feel comfortable enough sending it to a second round of betas, let alone the submission process.

On top of all that, I made progress into another side project that I have been building towards for a couple of years at this point. My other major hobby is beadwork, and I’ve had friends consistently encourage me to set up an etsy shop for a while now — and I decided that 2018 would be my year of side hustle. I still have my dayjob and (as far as I know, as far anything can be right now) it’s quite stable. There’s no shakeup on that horizon as far as I can see. But I did decide I wanted to ramp up my writing, and sometime in 2018 (hopefully by October, my birthday month, which is quite some time away but also gives me time to really pull things together) I’ll be launching a small etsy shop for themed jewelry. Right now I’m working on building up the stock (pride flag bracelets as well as Hogwarts Houses), but I did commission an artist friend for the banner and icon. The negotiations and work on that happened throughout last week.

She sent me the final files for that on Friday as well, and they’re so cute I’ve been metaphorically punching myself in the face over it. I’m really excited to get that going! Even if it doesn’t do spectacularly, I want to try and learn from it as best I can. I’ve set up a small savings account for that, retooled my budget overall, and now it’s just a matter of me being able to put in the work for it. That has me excited, my writing has me excited, and I am super hype to do everything I possibly can!!

…Once I am over this whole sore throat lightheaded low-energy illness thing, at least.

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2018 Goals

New Year’s Goals!

Because honestly, why not? I’m one of many people who likes to time starting afresh on goals and ideas with a new turnover — a week, a month, a year. And this is definitely something that’s been on my mind for the whole month. The end of 2017 feels disjointed in a lot of ways: the world is still in terrible shape and the people in charge remain greedy and obstinate, but people are pushing back. There has been some positive change even in the wider world. My own mood has bounced back, even if my energy is still trying to recover. There’s still a lot I want to do, and things that I want to do to achieve them. (And there are elections in 2018 in the US, so hopefully we’ll see some change. Hopefully 2018 will be better.)

So that being said…

WRITING

1. I hope to continue writing one short 1000-word story a week. I will definitely allow myself some time off, especially if life circumstances get in the way, but overall I think it’d be nice if I could come to the end of 2018 with 52 individual short pieces. I don’t expect them to be fantastic, but I would like them to be entertaining. I hope to learn from them, and expand my range. I want to get better at being able to write shortform as well as long form! And honestly, I want the freedom to dabble.

1a. Relatedly, I’d like to be better about actually posting those short stories on this blog. I fell off the wagon with that in 2017 in a hard way. My guess is because the Hawaii trip happened right when I started out and trying to juggle between the two on my Chromebook was a pain. But this year! This year, I want to do better about that.

2. Submit at least three novel(la)-length pieces. While it sounds ambitious, I do in fact have one piece pretty much ready to send, and another that I am in the process of editing and rewriting. I have yet another that is finished, though I haven’t done my readthrough edit pass. And that’s not counting any open calls that come along to catch my attention. I know I’m capable of steady productivity, and though I lost a lot of that in 2017, I want to get back on that horse.

3. Get back into some self-pub stuff. I’ve got a long list of things I’d want to write that aren’t exactly a great fit for my usual market. And honestly, I do enjoy just writing, and I think it’d be a lot of fun to have some more consistent bigger releases available. One a month is probably too ambitious for me when I’m out of practice, but maybe one every two months? Right now, though, I think my goal will be three self-pub stories, possibly also of novella length. That’s plenty.

4. The faintest of pipe dreams is starting some kind of ongoing serial. Right now, though, this is pretty much just a puff of smoke in the wind. Maybe 2018 will be the best year for it!

5. In order to make all this happen, I have to go back to the writing schedule I initially had, which was to write for about 30-45 minutes after my dayjob is over. If I just take my Chromebook to the couch, versus working at my desktop computer (where I do most of my casual internet surfing), I think this should work out just fine. Especially because of some thoughts in the money section.

BEADING

1. Open an etsy shop! I have a name picked out, and I’ve commissioned a very talented artist friend to help me with the header. I’ve been working steadily on making things, and at least among my social media group, the response remains pretty positive. I don’t know how successful this will be, but it won’t hurt me to try. I can save a little extra money from the dayjob to fund the start, and my ambitions remain fairly gentle. Mostly what I make are bracelets and hair pins, with the occasional pendant for a necklace; my theme is half split between pride colors and fandom colors. (Hogwarts Houses are always quite popular, it seems.)

2. Actually use up some of what I’ve got! Like a lot of crafters, when it comes to beads, I have some (thankfully very minor) hoarding tendencies. Mostly, I need to make myself use the colors that I bought and haven’t actually pushed myself to try, because sometimes those come together in very interesting combinations. I will buy new findings and chains as I need them, and I will replenish beads that I am running out of, or if a specific project calls for something — but overall, I want to buy far less beads this year than I did last year.

(Though to be fair, my favorite beading store closed its physical location this year, and the clearance was 50% off…)

MONEY

1. Stick to my revised budget. I revamped it earlier this month to be a little more flexible, but honestly as it stands, I should be sticking to it. It gives me a fairly generous allowance out of my dayjob, plus the rent. I know I can stick to it, so I just need to be more diligent. I’ve even built in a way to splurge every couple of months, so there’s really no excuse for me wandering off the course.

2. Get my mortgage down to 30%. At this moment, going into 2018, I have it down to about 37%! Based on math from previous years, 30% should be doable. 25% is the big dream, but for now, I’ll continue to pay down extra and apply gift money to that total. The sooner I can get this done and off my plate, the sooner I’ll have more freedom to both play and save!

3. Which means I want to save more in my investment accounts, because I have laughable dreams of early parttime retirement. At least as it stands, I’m doing pretty well to be on track for a “traditional” retirement from the dayjob, but more and more I think I’d like to be able to work at home with my writing and my crafts rather than office positions. But I also like having money and being able to pay my bills, so we’ll have to see how this year goes.

PERSONAL

1. I want to be a better friend to people. Both to the friends I already have — a lot of whom had far worse years than I did — and to new people I meet along the way. I’m in a good position in a lot of ways, and I want to be able to be better support to the people around me, who’ve made my life better. My friends deserve it! People deserve it! So hopefully I can manage it, to the extent that they deserve.

2. Be better about my sleeping schedule. It’s been a bit over six months since I switched to an 8-4:30 schedule (after 10 years of a 9-5:30 schedule) and I still don’t quite feel like I’ve adjusted. I’ve heard that you need less sleep as you get older, but I haven’t quite hit that stage yet. So if I can be in bed with my phone down and off by even 11:45 (versus the midnight-ish I’ve been doing), I think that will help me. Maybe 11:30! I’m an old lady now.

here’s to a good 2018 for all of us. I hope that you all out there have a safe and happy new year.

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2017 In Review

A cup of chamomileThe Year In Review

As mentioned (many, many times), 2017 was definitely a rough year for me. From what I’ve seen, the same can be said for most people. Looking back on the year in broad review feels like one long stretch of mediocre to bad to okay in varying levels.

In some ways, saying so (for me in particular) feels kind of disingenuous, because all things considered, I’ve been very lucky. No major health disasters for me and my loved ones, I’m not living anywhere that got hit by natural disasters (beyond the smoke that hit Washington state from the forest fires around us), and even as far as the political climate, I’ve been safe. My parents, living in Texas, are safe. Other than some anxiety — which honestly is just always a mild thing — I haven’t encountered anything awful or weird.

But I don’t live in a vacuum, either. None of us do. And it’s been scary and unsettling to try and keep up with the news. Even when things are fine for me at my personal level, there’s a definite sense of oh boy, what’s been screwed over today on the national level?

To be honest, that’s a big part of why I’ve had trouble getting myself back onto twitter. A lot of my unfiltered news comes filtered from there, so while I’ve been reading when I can, participating feels incredibly daunting. That in turn feels pretty discouraging for my personal goals. You can’t throw a metaphorical rock on the internet without finding advice columns talking about how useful twitter is for authors and how it is THE platform for those who want to be in the writing community. Which obviously I do, but even after two years, I’m still trying to figure out how to properly participate. I’m genuinely envious and admiring both of the people who can do this regularly. I hope I can get myself to eventually emulate them.

Productivity

On the plus side, I think I’ve managed to start pulling myself out of the hole I was in when the November 2016 election happened. I’m nowhere near the same levels I was before then — see above for political climate fears — but I’m no longer quite at my lowest point anymore. There are still nights where writing is the most difficult thing in the world, but I’ve managed to find a way to muddle through, even if it’s only in putting down a lot of directionless yelling about the world.

But there were some other highlights!

In November I had a short story released, about a man who wants to be a knight and finds a rather roundabout way of accomplishing his goal.

I also have a new novel that is now out for preorder! This is the story I submitted shortly after the 2016 election, but I still feel quite good about it. My editor has been nothing but kind and encouraging, my betas have given positive feedback, and my girlfriend has told me she thinks it’s one of my best. I’m excited for that! (I guess technically this is 2018 stuff, but as far as a 2017 review goes, the preorder still counts. The edits are happening in 2017!)

In October I also started writing a short 1000-word story a week, posted in 200-word chunks a day on my tumblr. Some of these are obviously better than others, but I’ve been enjoying the challenge. There’s been one a week since the first week of October, which means I’ve done twelve of them so far. I’m taking this next week off, but when the new year starts, I’ll be rolling in on that again.

And honestly, working on those short stories has given me a little more confidence and desire to try doing some other more serial type work. I don’t think it would be daily, not like I’m doing them now, but perhaps weekly. Perhaps monthly? I’d really like to try doing a serial story for 2018 in some capacity, so I’ve been idly brainstorming ideas for that.

My loved ones are doing relatively well, too; there are some minor hiccups and health problems as happens, but my parents, my girlfriend, my other best friend, and my cat are all healthy. We’re all muddling through together, which is far more preferable than going alone.

Tomorrow I’m gonna take some time to relax and be glad for my loved ones, and the day after that (thank you, four-day weekend!) I’ll review this review, and I’ll start making my plans for the next year.

I hope that whatever beliefs you might have, if you’re reading this, you have a good and happy and safe 2018.

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That’s music to someone

Every now and then, I cycle back to thinking about music.

And of course right now the applicable music is Christmas music, which leads to my dual confession:

1. I hate Christmas pop music BUT
2. I love Christmas hymns.

My distaste for 90% of Christmas songs written after the 1800s is intense. I hate “White Christmas,” and “Rocking Around The Christmas Tree,” “Santa Baby,” and any of their kin. I don’t (which is probably blasphemous to a number of my friends) like Sufjan Stevens’s Christmas album, which I know was written because he doesn’t like Christmas music and decided to write some he did. The only exception that sort of proves the rule for me is Straight No Chaser’s Christmas Can-Can, which is just a parody song, which for me elevates it to at least fun and amusing. Other than that, though, I cannot stand Christmas pop. If I have control of the radio, I’ll change it. If I’m out, I complain to whomever I’m with (my girlfriend or our roommate) and do my best to ignore.

But then — despite not being religious in the slightest — I love Christmas hymns. The songs that get sung in churches in big choirs (I love choral pieces a lot too), the ones celebrating the birth of someone so many thousands of years ago, those are the songs I love. I will, on rare shameful occasion, listen to them before November is over. Only ever with headphones in, and usually only a couple of times, but I still do it.

More than anything, I love the sense of storytelling that is within these songs. It’s something more concrete than snow on Christmas, or decorating a Christmas tree (also something I have no experience with), or dozens of romantic pining songs that come out at all times of the year. I even like some of those pointless pining songs, just not when they have a Christmas flavor to them.

Personally, my experience with music is kind of spotty. For a good chunk of my primary school years, I played violin in the orchestra. I wasn’t great at it, and I was lazy about practicing — I took advantage of being home several hours before my parents during the week to only do half an hour, or fifteen minutes, versus the full hour they really wanted me to do. And then by my junior year of high school, I could no longer afford the time for it, not with my class schedule.

I don’t miss it, not exactly. I do occasionally think about how it would have been nice to keep up, because I love storytelling with music; I love when people write character themes, or songs are composed to evoke a certain mood. When I work, whether at my dayjob, my writing, or my beading, I like to have something going on in the background, and with writing it ends up being music. (With the dayjob and beading, I don’t have to focus on my words as much, so it’s a good time to listen to podcasts or documentaries or their ilk.) As a kid I was pretty impatient with songs without words, but these days, I’ve really come to appreciate instrumentals.

Even in fandom community endeavors, I enjoy musical efforts a lot. Obviously one mainly finds fanfic and fanart, but every now and then, you’ll find someone who composes music inspired by the shows, movies, books, etc. that they love, and I find that pretty amazing. The sort of talent that it requires feels akin to magic, so out of my experience and wheelhouse that I don’t know where one even starts. But I love it. I think it’s fascinating, the way people can express their fondness for something — anything, big or small — by using music instead of words.

I should note that I do think it’s a thing I could pick up, if I felt like figuring out my time and wanted to devote the energy to it. I have visual artist friends who can and will go on impassioned rants about how drawing is a skill one hones through practice and effort, not simply falling into being good at it. To me, writing is the same; I certainly wasn’t great at it when I started out, though I received a lot of very kind and gentle encouragement that helped me gain the interest and enthusiasm to continue trying. Surely music is the same, if one is willing to put in that time and effort… I just don’t want to. Maybe that’s a yet, maybe that’s never, but right now I’m pretty happy letting it still be magic to me.

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A lot of little scattered things

Today is one of those days where I’ve made approximately five separate false starts on trying to write a post and seriously contemplating seeing if there’s something I can throw up as a distraction, smoke and mirrors, pay no attention to the person behind the curtain. I’m scattered and all over the place.

Of course, there’s the usual work woes with the dayjob. We’re busy and there’s a fairly intense emphasis right now on sheer quantity of completion numbers over everything else. It adds up to be pretty draining, even for something that I can leave behind at the end of my work day.

I had something about my warring desires to both work from home doing bead craftwork vs how much easier writing is for me if I leave and go to a cafe for a couple of hours. I considered celebrating making progress on a story that’s been stalled since August for a variety of reasons. Some of those involve the same general funk of 2017, but I’d also had a more specific stall on the story itself, unsure of where to proceed. The happy ending there came when I reread my draft to that point and felt renewed interest in seeing that story through to the end. I reviewed the list document of story ideas tucked away in my files and I’m still pleased by all of them.

And from there my thoughts scattered further into how my desires in writing maintain some consistent elements but can and do also zigzag all over the place. Fairytale and fantasy elements remain fairly consistent; the characters do not. Most writing advice, though, especially for those like me, who either publish with smaller presses or self-pub, advises to stick to a genre and make it one’s own. Find your niche and live in it.

Which, fair enough, but niches can be such narrow things. I like too many things to want to only ever write about a single subset of them! But in that case, do I make things harder on myself? If I’m bluntly honest, the whole marketing aspect of a writing career remains a bigger challenge than the actual writing. (From everything I’ve seen, I’m not the only one who feels that way. Thank goodness for solidarity.)

I thought about writing about my day yesterday — a very nice date day with my girlfriend, where I ran errands in the morning and then we spent the afternoon at Pike Place Market, ending with a very nice dinner at one of our favorite restaurants. I love open markets like Pike Place; it’s the only time I really enjoy large crowds, and how there’s just so much that even a whole day isn’t really enough time to explore everything. All the vendors I spoke to were friendly and enthusiastic; and there was quite a lot of fun food samples.

On top of that, there’s been scattered distractions in my home itself this morning. The cat in particular can’t seem to get comfortable. In the past hour alone he’s gotten onto the counters multiple times (where he knows he isn’t allowed), yelled for a nonstop (timed) minute, and galloped back and forth from one side of the condo to the other many times. Every time he skids into the living room, he stops with a wide-eyed and slightly panicked expression. “Shit! This is the same place as last time! When will I ever be free?!”

The phone game my household plays is on the last day of its current event, which isn’t big in the grand scheme of things, but is yet another distraction layered on top of everything else.

So all in all, it’s been a terribly unfocused morning. I did anticipate this after how busy yesterday ended up, but it’s still a little disheartening to come to Sunday afternoon and be too addled to really manage much by way of coherence. I’m a little embarrassed how long this post has taken me to write even this much for.

(My confession, as it were, is that I have a far easier time writing for long stretches in the narrator’s voice, for character narration pieces, than I do in writing in “my own” voice, even in something as simple as a blog post. Small soundbite social media is easier too. It’s definitely a thing I have been trying hard to work on and improve.)

Hopefully next week will be easier! Though I’ve got a busy Saturday again, I’m hoping that will go a little more smoothly. And even if it doesn’t, I’ll at least have a couple days off in the week following that.

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New Book: Forward the Hunt

I’ve got some exciting news!

My new book, Forward the Hunt (part of LT3’s For The Hoard dragon collection) is going to be released late February next year!! (And yeah for me, that’s exciting enough to warrant two exclamation marks after a solitary one. Casual chatting on the internet wrecked my sense of appropriate exclamation mark use, but I promise for a professional piece I practice much more restraint.)

To get basic shilling info out of the way, the book officially drops on February 28, 2018, which is a Wednesday. If you preorder before then, you’ll get a discount! (This will vary, but right now it’s 32%, which sounds pretty cool to me.) It should be long enough to warrant a print version, but this link is for the ebook.

And it’s got dragons in it!

The story centers around a young man, Haruki, who has grown up in the tiny, isolated city-kingdom of Salfea, which borders a deep and treacherous jungle that runs thick with dragons of various sizes. Traditionally, Salfean youth all participate in a coming of age ceremony called the Great Hunt, where they are sent into the jungle and must kill a dragon, whether alone or through collaborative effort. Dragonhide trade sustains Safea, so these youth receive rewards based on the size of their dragon and officially considered adult citizens upon the completion of a successful hunt. Everyone does it.

Everyone except for Haruki’s parents, who fled to Safea seeking asylum when Haruki was a toddler. Salfea and its customs are all that he’s ever known, but he can only partially fit in when his parents steadfastly refused to participate in the Great Hunt and further forbade him from joining as well. It’s only after they both pass that he gets the chance… and the dragon he encounters starts to turn his whole world on its head.

To tell the truth, I really wanted to write something based on the Asian myth of a dragon when I first heard about the call, but those do not traditionally hoard anything. (I’ve still got an idea and outline along those lines, though, so hopefully with my returning writing energy, I’ll be able to work on that soon.) I think I could have made it work, but in the end, I came up with this: the story of a young man trying to reconcile living in and identifying with a society that he cannot be fully part of, no matter how much he feels like he should belong.

I’ve heard before that intersectionality is a big thing for queer writers of color. For me, it only began to sink in when I started trying to be more active — using twitter, attending writer’s conferences and groups, using tumblr, using this blog… it’s a topic where a lot of my feelings are just raw feelings, rather than any thoughtful research or contemplation. So when I started Forward The Hunt,, these feelings were at the forefront of what I wanted to talk about.

I grew up as one of maybe seven Asian kids in my school district. We lived in Texas, and even if we were in Austin, bluer and “safer” than a great majority of the state for someone nonwhite, I tended to run into a lot of casual racism — the sort that comes thoughtlessly, where I came away from the encounter feeling uncomfortable and unhappy, but unable to pinpoint why until I reviewed it later. Very few people actually meant anything truly malicious, but it remained present, always in the back of my mind. I belonged to my community of peers without fully belonging.

And of course, everyone has different experiences. Despite some universality, the way my parents raised me, and the way I integrated (or didn’t, as the case sometimes was) with my world has been uniquely my own. At the same time, I wanted to put some of that into Haruki’s experience. I do expect there will be readers who don’t understand why Haruki lets the threat of his parents’ disapproval keep him back for so long, but I hope that others will see echoes of why, and if not agree with it, at least trace the reasoning behind it.

This was, in fact, the story that I was working on when the November 2016 election happened. I very nearly didn’t finish it. The struggle to get the last 20-odd pages felt more difficult than any other creative endeavor in my life.

Obviously, I managed. And I’m pretty proud of the final product, to be honest. There are a lot of conclusions that can come from a setup like what Haruki faces, and I wrote the one that felt the “most right” to me. Maybe you’ll disagree, but I hope that you’ll give the story a chance and find out.

Again, Forward the Hunt comes out on February 28, 2018, and the sale right now is pretty excellent. If this interests you, please give it a shot!! Double exclamation marks again and again!!

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Thank You, And December

First, a brief shill

My publisher, Less Than Three Books, currently has a sale going on! They’ve got a lot of excellent choices here, so if you’re looking for something new to read, check them out! My stuff can be found here.

And now, some sappy thank yous

So this week sure went by fast! Even at the most dragging periods of the dayjob (nothing feels longer to me than the last day or two before vacation) things seemed to pass in quite the hurry. As semi-traditional at this point, my roommates and I hosted a Friendsgiving potluck for our local circle, and I think that turned out pretty successful! Even with a turkey mishap. (I lost track of time and came in very late to my butcher’s pickup day, so the only bird left fell on the smaller side, rather than the large I’d ordered. I took it anyway. I think they were relieved I didn’t pitch a fit, but I was just glad there was a turkey left at all.)

Perhaps ironically for a writer — and one who likes to both write and read romances — I sometimes find it difficult to articulate my feelings, especially to the depth I have them. I’m a bit of a crybaby, cranky as a cat, and occasionally imperious about demanding affection (or at least attention). But trying to put these things into words always feels a bit like telling, not showing, and while I’m not a character in a story, it still feels like I should be putting more effort into it than that, haha.

But I do very much want to say thank you.

Thank you everyone who gave me a chance and read my writing, both in my fanfic days and with my professional writing; I imagine a lot of my audience might be my friends, but I know there are also strangers who’ve picked me up and that is wild to think about. Thank you to the people who sent me nice messages, or gave me kudos, or otherwise favorably reviewed me. Thank you for your patience and your interest; even if this blog is just another blip on the vastness of the internet, I want to express my gratitude.

There’s still a lot I’m learning, and a lot I’m interested in trying and improving on. Even if I’ve been slow in my output this whole crazy rollercoaster year (yikes!), I still have a lot of stories I want to tell, and a lot more I want to share. Thank you everyone who has stuck with me so far; I hope that you’ll continue to find me and mine worth supporting in the future!

(And thank you especially to Kate, who is my biggest and kindest cheerleader, and who gives me hugs when I am discouraged and moping and believes I can be better than my perceived best. Thank you. ♥)

Then finally, December plans

And now that’s out of the way! Some more concrete plans.

The past couple of weeks I’ve been talking about pingponging back and forth for the sake of NaNoWriMo — but boy did I get hit hard by Daylight Savings (when the Pacific Northwest day becomes a scant five hours of sunlight, if you can call watery gray cloud-filtered light “sunlight”), Friendsgiving prep, and then the ramp up of the dayjob into its busy season. I haven’t been any less productive than I am in normal months, but I certainly fell off from my strong start of overproductivity. There were definitely days when I just barely scraped by, but also days where I did pretty well, so… as far as NaNoWriMo goes, 50K words was a bust, but I did at least get back into the swing of writing.

So right now, for December, my plans are going to be a lot less all over the place, a little more focused. Hopefully 2018 will be kinder to all of us than 2017.

I will have a new novel coming out sometime in 2018 for one! It’s about a young man, the son of two immigrants, who finds and takes in an injured dragon in the course of trying to fit in with his adopted home country. I just got my second pass of edits for that, so as the thing with an actual deadline, I’ll be focusing on that first.

I’m also in the last formatting and editing stages with a story I’ve been working on through the summer — this one about a princess who goes to rescue her fiance after he’s kidnapped on their wedding day and finds herself fascinated by the fairy behind it. That one basically needs maybe a little more tweaking, but is essentially done; my goal now is to have it sent out by the end of December for acceptance or rejection.

And then finally, I have a story that I am about knee-deep into reworking right now — the one I have mentioned before as being one where I still liked my overall story, but wasn’t terribly happy with its execution. A young man returns to his small hometown following the death of his best friend and partner, and in his attempt to come to terms with that, finds himself involved with something a lot deeper and older than expected.

Of course, there are still other projects I’m hoping to work on in between those three things. For one, the edits are due at the beginning of January, and the story about the princess is extremely close to done. I’m toying with some Twine-related stuff that I am hoping to roll out with the new year, and of course I have my weekly flash fiction (which I do need to start compiling to post here again). Plus, I’ve got the tentative of opening an etsy shop in 2018, so I need to ramp up work for that.

But overall I feel good about my plans! Here’s to hoping December treats us all well, holiday madness (and global political madness) all aside.

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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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