so you make new happy memories to override the old ones that hurt
- 2,990 words (if poetry, lines) long
"Blackbird" came home yesterday with rejection note in hand. I sent it back out on its way again today. That's what you do. It's going to be hard to place, I know--not only is it a story with a writer protagonist, but it's a story whose writer protagonist has supernatural writing block, seriously, how pathetic is that?--but someone's gonna love this little story. So it's back out there fighting the good fight as we speak.
Meanwhile, it is that time of year again. Winter solstice is in two weeks. I picked up the fruitcake ingredients today, and I'm planning to have the Yule Log All-Nighter this time around. I haven't done it since we moved into the new place, so this'll be the first one in three years as well as the first one at the current address. I guess I'd better make sure I have batteries for all the Rock Band instruments and review how to set it up for All Play mode.
My relationship with fruitcake turned weird last year. Every year, I bake a fruitcake, and about half of it gets sliced up and mailed to friends and family, or shared around locally, while I eat most of the other half for breakfast every day until it's gone. Which generally takes 'til mid-January. But last year not everyone on my mailing list got a piece. I was too slow. I had fallen behind in other tasks, so getting fruitcake to the post office was just one more thing. And then I got injured, which seriously reduced my spoon supply. And then, probably because I also wasn't re-boozing the cheesecloth often enough, or generously enough, or something, the last quarter of the cake began to mold. Like, bread mold, that kind of mold. I have never had fruitcake mold on me before. Talk about embarrassing.
So I never got a slice out to my mother-in-law. And she was the best mother-in-law in the world, and then, without any warning, right about the time I was discovering the mold on the fruitcake, she died. And now I have this guilt-cloud hovering over the very idea of fruitcake because these were my reactions to the news:
- Shit, was she worried? Did she think I had forgotten her? I'll never know! And I'll never be able to tell her "I'm sorry, I just got behind on things and fell out of touch, but I still love you," and that sucks, and
- Shit, my husband and my sister-in-law are grieving the loss of their mother, and I'm sitting here feeling guilty about failing to send her fruitcake? Seriously? Way to make it all about you, Niki.
So there's feeling guilty, and then there's feeling guilty about feeling guilty, and underneath all that guilt is the just plain shock and sadness of very suddenly losing someone who was, in a very real sense, my second mom. And what with all of that, fruitcake now occupies a kind of painful place in my brain.
But I am going to make this year's fruitcake, dammit. Only I'll keep the cheesecloth well-boozed this time, and I'll get through the mailing list promptly. And everything will be fine and not painful at all, and fruitcake will go back to being a thing of comfort and joy (and booze).
And even though it's more of a Samhain thing than a Solstice thing, I'll set aside a piece for Mom Sorsha on Solstice night.
Love you. Miss you. Never gonna forget you.
writing tomorrow's words today (because that Einang isn't going to defeat itself)
So there was this neat thing that happened at the end of yesterday's writing task list, and it's another 4thewords thing, and I know, I know it's starting to sound like I'm turning this blog into one big continuous 4thewords advertisement, but I am going to take that risk and tell you about it. Because it's kind of cool.
Here's what happened.
I was working on the new story when I hit the word count total needed to win my current-at-the-time battle. And since I knew I was going to work on the story a little longer and then write my blog post, thus generating plenty more words, I started another battle. I think it was an 800-word monster, maybe 500, something like that anyway.
Because I've always got to have a battle going on, right? If I'm going to be writing, I might as well also be advancing my current quests. But it can be tricky to pick the right monster to battle. It needs to be about the right size for the writing at hand. And "the right size" can be terms of either word count or time limit.
Like, right now, since I don't know how much more writing I'm going to do after my blog post, I'm chosen a 24-hour battle. That way, if I don't write enough to defeat the monster tonight, no big deal, I'll finish it off with tomorrow's freewriting session.
Or, this morning, I picked a 300-word monster to battle when I wrote down my dream. (Yes, I count dream journaling toward my daily word count. It's narrative. It's description. It's story idea generation. It's writing.) Because of the short time limit on that particular monster, I really did need to generate all 300 words by writing down that dream. But 300 words (or rather 260--I have a pretty decent attack bonus) seemed like a reasonable estimate. As it turned out, it was an overestimate, but only at first. I eked out the rest of the words by challenging myself, with some success, to recall more dream details to write down.
But yesterday afternoon, I goofed. I still had some 250 words left on the battle when I finished the blog post. The battle timer had only two and a half hours left, and I had to leave in about half an hour for a three-hour roller derby practice. Where the heck was I going to get 250 more words in the next half hour?
From this week's fictionette, as it turned out. I'd already logged a session working on it that morning, but the alarming prospect of having to forfeit a battle (and break my flawless record of nothing but victories!) spurred me to reopen the project and work on it some more.
And that's how I wound up finishing the first draft of this week's fictionette yesterday rather than, say, in a panic on Friday morning.
And that's yet another reason why 4thewords is awesome. It pushes me to finish projects early.
don't you hate it when that happens?
- 560 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 566 words (if poetry, lines) long
So, here's the situation.
You've just discovered the existence of a literary magazine, Riddled with Arrows, that pays semi-pro rates for flash meta-fiction and meta-poems. Writing about writing. Which is totally up your alley. Seriously, that arguably describes most of what you wrote in college. So you go rifling through your manuscripts--or, rather, you do the MySQL database version of rifling through your manuscripts, which is to say,
SELECT * FROM `manuscripts` WHERE `wordcount` <= 1500
and you scan the titles until you find something suitable. To wit: a bit of light erotica involving a guy whose lover uses him as her muse. It only needs a little bit of touch-up--there are some sentences that strike you as laughable, but for the most part, it's actually a pretty good 560-word piece.
So you spend the next hour giving it that touch-up, formatting it for submission, and getting ready to send it...
...and then you realize the current submission window, with a deadline of December 10, is actually only for submissions that fit the Winter Solstice theme, "Feasts and Families." Which this story emphatically does not.
Don't you hate it when that happens?
Or is it just me?
...It's just me, isn't it?
Oh well. It's not a total loss. The story is ready to send somewhere; I just have to figure out where. And tomorrow I may just discover a manuscript in my archives that does fit the theme. Or I'll write something brand new. I can do that! A new flash piece in five days? That's demonstrably one of my superpowers!
Meanwhile, I submitted "Sidewalks" to a market that's reprint-friendly, and I spent another half-hour noodling on the new short story. Today was not, by and large, an unsuccessful day, is what I'm saying.
but these two hours were just kinda sitting there burning a hole in my pocket so
It's December now. Time to find out what all that NaNoWriMo madness was good for.
I mean, yes, I generated a metric shit-ton of words and raw ideas for a novel that I hope I will finish sometime in the near(ish) future. That's worth something! But what's even more important to me than that is the forming and strengthening of better work-a-day habits. I just spent two weeks and change coming up with between 3,000 and 4,000 words per day. I budgeted time every day to write those words. Now that I'm not scrambling to meet that 50K/November 30 deadline, will I nevertheless keep using that hour or two per day to generate word count and/or revise fiction?
The answer in previous years has been a solid "Ehhhhhhhh.... no." And I think the reason was this: I took December off. I did not immediately build upon the habits fomented in November, so, really, there was no new habit. There was only a month-long fluke.
This year, I hope the answer is "Yes!" In fact, heck with hope; I'm making the answer be "Yes." And this will involve a little more praise for 4thewords, so brace yourselves.
See, one of the things 4thewords does is, it rewards you periodically for keeping up a longer and longer writing streak, which is to say, consecutive days of writing at least 444 words daily. Why 444? Why not? 4 is an important number in 4thewords. It's in the URL. It's in the logo. No surprise it's in their metrics. It takes 44 core crystals to purchase a month's subscription time. On Day 44 of your writing streak, you get some free core crystals as a streak reward. Today was my 21st day, so I got rewarded with a wooden chest full of mystery goodies. I'm really excited about getting the Day 30 streak reward, a pair of wire-frame wings for my avatar to wear.
Anyway, in the name of keeping up my streak, I've stopped taking weekends off from doing my daily gottas. I'm freewriting every day, Saturday and Sunday included. Which would be an amazing enough improvement in and of itself, but then--
Saturday's freewriting resulted in a relatively fleshed-out story idea which intrigued me enough to want to develop it further. Maybe I could work on it during this week's afternoon shifts. I mean, I'm not using that time for NaNoWriMo anymore, so it's free for slotting in the next writing project. That's how it's supposed to work, right? So this afternoon, that's what I did--laid down the bones of the story in quasi-outline form, dropped some question marks into key places along with some preliminary answers, that sort of thing. It would be really nice to wind up with the first draft of a brand new story by the end of the week.
But isn't that how it's supposed to work? Right? The daily freewriting generates story ideas; the story ideas turn into fully fledged stories? I mean, that's precisely how each week's Friday Fictionettes come about, yes, but this process is also supposed to yield new full-length, commercially viable, submittable and publishable stories.
Hooray for things working the way they should work! Better late than never!
a well-earned THUNK with side of happy clatter
- 50,235 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 1,278 words (if poetry, lines) long
All right, so, I have done it. Fifty thousand words in thirty days. Actually in more like 16 days, owing to a stupid late start. Just like old times. This time around, I'm going to say it got me through about Act I of the novel, if that's how you like to think of a novel's structure. I don't know how many Acts there will be--I'm definitely suspicious of the idea that every novel or movie must conform to the glorious Three-Act Structure (and don't get me started on the Hero's Journey, we could be here all night and I have to sleep sometime)--but the place I left off at is pretty much the end of an Act. My plan is to let the novel (and my brain) rest through December, spend that month working on more short stories to throw into the slush rotation, then come back in January to examine what I've got and do some fresh brainstorming on where it goes from there.
So I have this very pretty badge to show off that says that I Am A Winner! and also a tasty 50% discount on my next purchase of Core Crystals at 4thewords (to whom I really must attribute this win--I wasn't logging 4K+ days until I had monsters to battle). And yes I'm already subscribed through the next five and half months, true, but there are also in-game things to buy, like clockwork parrots to sit on your shoulder and cuss, and really snazzy costumes, and ridiculous hair, and so on. I like the idea of getting half off all that.
In other end-of-the-month news, I have released the Fictionette Freebie for November 2017. It is "Love of Country" (ebook, audiobook, wattpad). I chose that one partially because it's the longest of the four, and partially because it's the first one I not only drafted but also completely revised in the 4thewords editor. That made it easy to "publish" it into the 4thewords reading library. So you can read the Freebie there, too,, if you have or wish to create a 4thewords account.
Then I have more happy news to share. I got an acceptance letter today! Somebody just offered to buy the right to reprint one of my early Friday Fictionettes next year! More details, like who that is and which story they bought, will follow when I get the go-ahead to share 'em. For now I will just be very happy in a showy yet mysterious way.
And now, I go to collapse in bed and sleep the sleep of the productive and satisfied writer. I believe the sound effect for that is thunk.
got no room for lazy lungs in here (drop and give me twenty)
- 42,296 words (if poetry, lines) long
Just under 4,000 words today. About 7,700 words remaining to the win. Y'all, I am going to do this. I didn't really get started until nearly halfway through the month, but I am going to do this!
I admit I still don't quite know where the story's going. I don't know a lot more about it, plot-wise, than I did while I was still brainstorming. I know a lot more about the characters, though. They've come into closer focus thanks to flashbacks, random details, and tangents in their interior monologues. Not to mention simply demanding of myself that I look closer at entities I'd been guilty of glossing over before, like the characters' homes and workplaces. Even the car Delta drives on their fateful road trip is more fully realized, along with it the state of the international automobile industry.
I feel uneasily like I haven't earned this win (assuming, as I do, that I will win). I feel like I'm just plastering purple prose and sentimental hooey all over the page. I tell myself that this is the only way I'll find out what's in my story--just get it all down, jumbled and overwrought and repetitive as it is, and worry about how to organize the information later. It's not unlike researching a paper for school. You can't worry about the structure of the finished paper if you're still just taking notes on your subject. You may not have even found the piece of data you need to really decide on your thesis yet. Keep taking notes.
So OK, yeah, I just had my characters barf their entire backstories onto the page at each other with no regard for pacing or the art of the reveal. So what? Now I know their backstories. Really, it was me they were telling. I needed to be told.
So by the end of the month I won't have a novel, but I'll have taken some 50,000 words worth of notes on who my characters are and where they might be going. I'll have slapped down a lot of raw clay on the workbench and squished my hands through it in an aimless but satisfying way. Squish, squish. It's kind of fun. Shaping and refining the clay can happen later. For now (squish), observations on its color and texture are sufficient. (Squish.)
Meanwhile, I went to roller derby practice tonight for the first time in more than a week. It was lovely to see my league mates again and skate with them, and it was really pleasant to practice hitting each other. (It was a particular shoulder hit to a backwards-facing blocker's chest. It felt oddly football.) My lungs protested, especially when we did twenty minutes of sprint intervals at the end. Hell with my lungs. They've been lazing too long. Time they were expected to do some real work around the joint.
and i will put the days of white-knuckled computing behind me
- 38,351 words (if poetry, lines) long
You may have occasionally heard me complain about my laptop.
You may have heard me say such things as, "I think my Asus is auditioning for the part of the typewriter in Stephen King's Misery, because every day another key on its keyboard seems to stop working." (To wit, the "s", the +/= key, the caps lock, the delete, the digits 3 and 7 on the number pad, and the digits 5, 6 and 0 on the top row, including their SHIFT and F components, nixing the end-paren and the hot keys governing volume and screen brightness too. It's an electrical thing. Sometimes they work, mostly they don't. Sometimes when they don't, if I keep hammering away at them anyway, the computer will simply die.)
You may have, perhaps, heard me lament the operating system's tendency to just can't and to forget how to even when I am tasking it cruelly by, say, attempting to run a web browser and Scrivener simultaneously. We are talking five, ten, fifteen-second pauses between my hitting ALT-ESC and the Start menu appearing, between clicking on the little volume icon and having the volume slider appear, between my typing one letter and then another letter into a Facebook messenger conversation.
You may even have heard me curse and seen me facepalm because I forgot to take the wireless keyboard's USB dongle out before telling the computer to hibernate. Because obviously if I leave the wireless keyboard's USB dongle in, the computer will crash rather than hibernate. Obviously. Who do I think I am, expecting the computer to successfully hibernate while anything is plugged into its USB ports? Why is anything ever plugged into the USB ports? Who does that, anyway?
This is the computer that Asus sent me to replace the computer that lost its ability to "see" its fully charged battery, such that if I unplugged the thing from the wall, it died. So the computer sent to replace the computer that started going electronically haywire is also now going electronically haywire. And both of them seemed to run out of memory for ridiculously banal tasks. And its/their warranty is entirely expired
This is a computer that might make you ask, "Why have you not replaced that computer?"
Well. As of tonight, I HAVE.
I did it. I bit the bullet and I spent a slightly uncomfortable amount of money on a computer that, by any measure, ought to be way more computer than I need. It's from the upper-middle range of Dell's "gaming laptop" line, an Inspiron 15 in the 7000 series with an i7 quad core, 16GB DDR4 2400Mz memory, 256GB solid state boot with 1TB storage, bluetooth, dual-band 2x2 wi-fi, and a ridiculously fantastic video card that I will probably never properly appreciate due to my pathetically low-tech video game tendencies.
Also, it's Dell. I have bad-mouthed Dell before, because every Dell I've ever owned has required me to avail myself of Dell's extended warranty repair service. However, my Asus experience has not been devoid of warranty repair interactions, and those interactions were much less friendly than their Dell counterparts. Asus didn't give me the option to extend the warranty past the first year. I had to pay for packaging and shipping. I had to practically pull teeth for them to give me status reports. Whereas, with the Dell I ordered tonight, I got the four-year extended warranty for the price of three, and longer extensions were available. When in the past I had to ship my laptop back, Dell sent me a prepaid laptop-shipping box with a comfy customizable foam interior. And once they didn't even make me ship them my computer, but instead sent a tech to my house. He sat down at my kitchen table and operated on my laptop right there.
I will bad-mouth Dell no more. I have tried both the Dell way and the Asus way of dealing with laptop misbehavior. I am resigned that laptop misbehavior is inevitable, and I prefer the Dell way of dealing with it.
The Cyber Monday discount wasn't nearly as deep as I'd hoped, but, gods damn it, I will have a computing environment that is not painful. It's supposed to arrive on December 12.
Until then, I continue chugging along with my external keyboard and other such coping mechanisms.
I am chugging along quite nicely. I got a bit behind on NaNoWriMo over the weekend, partly because no matter how much willpower I've got and how many over-the-counter remedies I use, being sick is going to slow me down; and partly because it was a weekend, darn it, and I was going to enjoy it. So now I'll need to do 4K per day to hit 50K on time. But I did make my 4K today, plus extra. And tomorrow I won't have a computer to shop for and a bunch of overdue tasks to accomplish. And I'm done being sick! It only gets easier from here.
I've only 11,649 words to go. It's not enough to finish the novel in, but it might be enough to help me figure out how to finish the novel.
YPP Weekend Blockades, November 25-26: ...i dunno, what do YOU wanna do?
The Emerald Ocean is carrying almost the entire weight of this weekend's blockade activity, as it seems to do most weekends. The Meridian blockade schedule is as dead as Jade's, Obsidian's blockade scene hasn't properly been born yet, Cerulean's just got the one blockade (a defense against Admiral Finius), and what few scuffles there were on Opal's agenda have already ended. (To be fair, what few blockades wind up on Opal's agenda are usually already over by the time I wind up blogging. It's a time-zone thing.)
The majority of Emerald's blockades are attempts to wrest control of an island away from the Brigand Kings and back into player flag hands. They all involve fairly weak BK forces, each having just one unit of fleet might. Don't expect any of these to last long. If you're looking to haul sunken BK treasure, better job quick before all your opportunities are gone.
In other events, Cerulean flag Midnight Yacht Club would like to know what kind of events you're interested in. They plan to host several contests in the new year, and it would help to know what sorts of activities the rest o' you scallywags would be tempted to participate in. Meanwhile, they're holding a whisking event tomorrow for those pirates in need of dots on their maps. Though there will probably not be enough people from MYC online to staff a ship at every island, Lanlaiely proposes to be online and "hopping from island to island" from 2 to 4 PM Pirate Time on Sunday, November 26.
Standard reminders: Schedule is given in Pirate Time, or U.S. Pacific. Player flags link to Yoweb information pages; Brigand King Flags link to Yppedia Brigand King pages. BK amassed power given in parenthetical numbers, like so: (14). For more info about jobbing contacts, jobber pay, and Event Blockade battle board configuration, check the Blockade tab of your ocean's Notice Board. To get hired, apply under the Voyages tab.
Doubloon Ocean Blockades
*** Saturday, November 25 ***
*** Sunday, November 26 ***
Subscription Ocean Blockades
*** Saturday, November 25 ***
making awful things happen to fictional people
- 20,223 words (if poetry, lines) long
Still sick, but getting better. Better enough to take a walk down to the bank and the bookstore. Still sick enough that any pace above a leisurely amble resulted in a painful coughing fit. Three hours of roller derby practice was out of the question. Am spending the evening at home with my writing instead.
I went to the bookstore for more postcards. What with the current Postcards to Voters campaign, I'm going through them pretty fast. I've got a 100-pack of BE A VOTER! postcards winging their way to me as we speak, but in the meantime, I'm fresh out. And the Bookworm has, in addition to its spin-rack full of shiny Colorado and Boulder tourist postcards, a box full of random donated postcards and greeting cards I was looking forward to exploring. I picked out eight to get me through my current list of addresses. They were a mix of historical architecture, tourist souvenirs from assorted locations, and... cactus flowers? Also a moose.
Then, when I brought my selection up to the check-out counter, there was this amazing-looking book of 20 postcards of classic The Hobbit illustrations by various artists, just waiting for me like it knew I was coming. Why yes I snatched it up. Some Alabama voters are going to be getting some very pretty postcards early next week.
The epic word count days continue. Managed the requisite two NaNoWriMo sessions both today and yesterday; now, at 20K plus change, I am caught up through day 12. 3,300 words per day from here on out and I am set.
Last night I did a bunch of mental plotting while I was waiting to fall asleep, which helped prime the pump for today. Of course, I had to pick out and discard the bits of not-quite-asleep-but-already-dreaming nonsense that crept into the mix. Like, I'm running through the scene in which Delta and Michael first meet, and she's paying to replace his lunch (she klutzed his meal all over his clothes as a contrived meet-cute), and they're exchanging numbers, and... helping each other make squares in Two Dots? Because that's what I did before going to bed, I guess?
Hypnagogic contributions aside, last night in bed was also when I realized that, during the tragic flashback I'd written all about Michael's little brother's very short life, I'd never once mentioned his parents' kindertotems. In fact, all through my conception of the novel, I've only mentioned Michael's kindertotem. For those just joining us today, kindertotems are specific to people from Michael's country, who are born in animal form and slowly change to full biological humanity as they reach adulthood. Once they have fully outgrown their non-human morphology, an animal of the corresponding species will show up and become part of that adult's life going forward. Kindertotems enjoy a mild, mostly one-way psychic connection with their humans, and they can talk (when they wish) just like animal companions in any number of fantasy books you may have read, but they remain more or less immature as regards things like imagination and impulse control. So it's sort of like a person's "inner child" but as a concrete, living being.
So, in the flashback, seven-year-old Michael is still part cat, and poor doomed Karlkin is a kitten who's just opened his eyes--but their parents are adults, so where are their kindertotems? What are they? Even considering their come-and-go-as-they-please nature, why don't they show up at all over a several-month-long flashback? Well, I came up with some answers. They are not pleasant answers, but they are in keeping with other things I discovered/decided while writing that flashback. (Michael's father really is a piece of work, you know that?) Michael's mother's kindertotem is a canary, which probably means she herself has a tendency to sing. Or did. Until all the awfulness happened.
"But so anyway about that meet-cute in the coffee shop," she said, desperate to change the subject and lighten the mood...
curious fictions would like your eyeballs and wouldn't say no to your spare change
- 6,000 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 13,867 words (if poetry, lines) long
This blog post is brought to you by the twin forces of ibuprofen and pseudoephedrine, the patron saints of my staying productive while sick. Otherwise I'd be flat in bed, shivering and sniffly and sore. Hooray for modern medical science!
Incidentally, my roller derby habit has the side-effect of complicating self-diagnosis. I mean, are the muscles of my neck and upper back painfully tight because I've come down with a cold or flu, or simply because I had a contact-heavy practice last night?
(The answer, as the kids like to say these days, is, Por qué no los dos?)
Anyway. That is not what I came here to tell you. I came here to tell you about Curious Fictions.
Curious Fictions is a new undertaking by author and web designer Tanya Breshears to bring fanstastic short fiction to a wider audience while giving authors a handy option for extending the commercial life of their already-published stories. Readers can browse stories easily from their computers or mobile devices, and, having created a login and entered their credit card information into their account, can pay for what they read by means of the Stripe system. There are no ads, and the bulk of readers' payments go directly to the authors.
If you want to try it out by reading something of mine that you otherwise might not get to, my story "Lambing Season," first published in Nameless Digest, is in the Curious Fictions library. It is in the fantastic company of (just to name a few examples off the top of the weekly rotating Featured Story carousel) Gary Gibson's "Scienceville," Kate Heartfield's "The Semaphore Society," and Benjamin C. Kinney's "The First Confirmed Case of Non-Corporeal Recursion: Patient Anita R."
And that's what I came to tell you about.
In other news, I'm afraid my weekend was underproductive as regards my hopes for clocking double days on this year's NaNoWriMo attempt. But that I did some work on it both Saturday and Sunday and didn't stint Saturday's freewriting and fictionette work isn't to be sneezed at. I have not historically been much good at getting work done on Saturdays, and I typically don't expect any writing from my Sundays at all. Well. 4thewords tells me I wrote about 5,000 words over the weekend, and by my calculations almost 3,000 of that was novel draft. Some of it was very misguided novel draft--I tore yet another big ragged hole in the plot, as it turns out--but sometimes you just have to write the misguided words to realize how misguided they are.
Today I get to correct my course. And since I'm not going anywhere tonight (I hate being sick, I was supposed to go meet our league's newest members over a round of off-skates conditioning and then help lead Phase 2, but instead I got sick so I have to stay home and I hate it), I have plenty of time to WRITE ALL THE WORDS so long as I can keep myself more or less upright.
Hooray for modern medical science indeed.