Back, & Back At It

Back, & Back At It

Back from vacation- I survived! Well, except that I’m sick now, so I suppose I shouldn’t speak so soon. I always get sick when I travel. Air ports are goddamn Petri dishes. And I was so careful! T-T Oh well, it’s just a cold, more annoying than anything else.

Had a lot more fun on the cruise than I was anticipating. I’m not a drinker and my partner is, so I wasn’t sure how that dynamic would play out. Plus travel and crowds hella spike my anxiety, but it was actually a lovely time. I got plenty of sun; the view was always incredible. Did some fun stuff at the various ports and, most importantly, got some reading in!

I sped through Howl’s Moving Castle within the first two days and loved it. Very IMG_5769interesting to see the similarities and differences between the source and the Ghibli adaptation. I really want to read the sequels now. Then I started Truthwitch and MAN what a book. I’m halfway through and I know the whole series is going on the TBR list. When am I going to have time to read all this stuff?! Very exciting, though- I love finding new favorites.  Reading such awesome stories has really got me inspired to write again, too. I bought a lil’ dollar pocket notebook and have been jotting down ideas for a new fantasy. Plotting and world-building again is so enjoyable and a great pallet cleanser after finishing another round of revisions on my manuscript.

Speaking of, I wrapped up revisions just in time to enter Author Mentor Match. I have no idea if anything will come of it as I still have a hard time judging if the book is ready. I certainly feel better prepared than I did for Pitch Wars. I knew that was a shot in the dark- I had barely finished the manuscript when I entered. I’ve done a lot of polishing since then. I think my greatest hope (aside from being selected, obviously) is that I get some sort of defined feedback to better guide me in where to go next. We shall see.

All told, I’m loving where my writing life is right now. I have a finished story I adore and I learned a ton about the craft in the process. I’ve got my toes in a community that seems really supportive and fun and I’m dying to dive deeper. I don’t feel as frustrated or impatient with myself anymore. I write more and feel burned out less. Hopefully the trend only continues to improve.

The only thing that could make me happier is ditching this cough and maybe some warmer weather. (And a request for a full in my inbox, of course)

Pitch Wars? Pitch Wars.

Pitch Wars? Pitch Wars.

Heeeeeey remember how I said I needed to ease my way back into writing regularly? Weeeeeellll, then I remembered Pitch Wars was a thing…twelve days before the deadline. So I worked nonstop, writing probably over 100 pages worth of edits, rewrites, and hole-filling in order to meet that deadline. I honestly thought there was no possible way I would have it done and presentable in time, but I did it! I gotta admit, I am wicked proud of myself. Not only for submitting to the competition but for actually finishing a book! It’s not perfect by any means; it needs some structural troubleshooting and a ton of shine, but it’s a real & complete story. I’ve never had that before. (and 93,00 words to boot!)

I really don’t believe there’s much of a shot of me being picked since this was such a last minute Hail Mary, but I think the experience is going to be a great one no matter what. I wrote successfully under a tight deadline for the first time. I had my first run-in with query letters, a synopsis, and formatting. I’m making a bunch of new friends on twitter in the writing community. Plus, I finally have a full story to share with my friends and family and get some constructive feedback. I’m a huge step closer to being ready to start an agent search and try to break into the publishing world. This is so unexpected and so exciting that I feel like it’s already a victory no matter the outcome. Still, I won’t lie- I would be over the moon times a thousand to be picked for Pitch Wars. To gain the insight of an industry professional before wading into the querying trenches – how can I even begin to assign a value to something like that?!

So, here goes nothing! Let’s see what happens next.

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Halloween, Revision Issues, & NaNoWriMo

Halloween, Revision Issues, & NaNoWriMo

Another month nearly gone.

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I love this time of year- always have. Cool, gloomy weather after a long hot summer, spooky aesthetic as the nights get longer and, of course, Halloween. Halloween always promises a good time. (especially when you love costumes as much as I do) I have a handful of various Halloween parties and stuff this week that I’m looking forward to. It’ll be a nice break before NaNoWriMo next week.

I know in past blogs I probably mentioned I wasn’t planning on participating this year. I wanted to focus on revising my book one rough draft- especially since I am so tantalizingly close to completion. And I know at the end of my last post, I said work on part four was getting complicated, but I still had hopes of finishing on schedule.

Well, that all kind of went right out the window. I’m stuck in the mire with my editing. I’ve gotten so caught up in analyzing my narrative direction- questioning my characters’ motives, their emotions, their believability. I won’t say I’m losing faith in my story- I’ll never say that. But I feel like I’ve got my nose pushed so far up against it now that I can’t figure out if I’m going forward or backward. I’m lost. I need to take a big, BIG step back. I thought maybe recharging my creative batteries with other stories would help (and I think it’s starting to) so I’ve been binge watching Volton (loving it) and I just started reading Throne of Glass. I’ve also (finally) gotten the nerve up and sent what I have so far to a couple close friends whose opinions I await with both excitement and dread. I need to know if what I have is working and, if so, on what level. Even if it’s bad news, I need to know.

Meanwhile, as I was watching everyone else gear up for the November Writing challenge, I was struck by how long it’s been since I went back to plain old writing. Though my revision process has included a ton of writing as I fill holes, bridge gaps, and rewrite scenes, it’s not the blank-page, zero-direction style of writing like when you sit down to make something new. And I miss that. And if I’m going to take some time off from revision, it doesn’t seem wise to stop creating altogether. Last time I did that, it was so hard to get started again. So why not write? The timing is perfect and I love the spirit and camaraderie of NaNoWriMo, even though I’ve never “won.” 50,000 words is a heck of a lot when you really get into it. I think my record is around 30k but I’m a sloooow writer so that’s pretty good for me!

I found a cool format I want to try this year. It’s called Reverse NaNo and it seeks to combat the burn-out you get towards the middle and end of the month, capitalizing instead on a strong start. Basically you begin the month with a high daily word goal (over twice the daily target of traditional NaNo) and then every day it gets a little less. I still don’t know that this will mean a victory for me, but it definitely makes better sense with my energy levels! Here’s a link to the daily writing goals if you want to see the breakdown. 

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Dice Tray – 1st attempt!

In the meantime, I’m still leaning into my other hobbies as a break from the frustrations of writing. I practiced some more photography using pop vinyls as models since I didn’t have anything else to shoot. I want to be ready to take a TON of pictures at Daisho Con next month and I want them to be good! I don’t have any cosplay to work on (thankfully) so I’ve turned to making more dice bags and dice trays to scratch that crafting itch. I need to make another bag and tray for a brand new D&D campaign I’m joining next week! Super excited for that.

Overall, just trying not to get my hopes down. I think I just need to take this frustration and channel it into productive new directions. That’s the theory, anyway. We’ll see how it works in practice.

Happy Halloween everyone! I’ll check back in next month once I’m in the thick of it. And good luck to everyone else competing this year!

Summer’s End

Summer’s End

How is it even remotely possible that we’re approaching the end of September already? If time keeps scootin’ by this fast, I’ll be sent into an existential crisis where I’m forced to examine the fleeting quality of life itself and stare into the face of my own mortality.

Also, I’ve been really, super busy.

Still makin’ progress on my rough draft! I wanted to be done with part four by month’s end and, while it’s still possible I make that deadline, this piece is also becoming a bit unwieldy. I was aiming for it to be around 45ish pages when finished, and right now it’s sitting in the mid-sixties. I’m not sure if that’s really where it’s going to land since it’s back-loaded with a lot of content that needs to be cut, but I also have some to add so…hard to say.

I’m just getting so itchy to be done and there’s still the final piece ahead. It’s not that I’m not enjoying the editing process- I am, but it’s a grind. I’ve had to bounce back to my finished segments a couple times now, just to remind myself that it really does turn into something not-so-crappy by the end. I’m also jonesin’ for some outside validation. I’m so ready for someone to read this dang thing start to finish and tell me what they think! I’m ready to see it whole. And I’m getting close. I think I can still have this thing finished by year’s end, but I’m getting impatient with myself. Writing is such a lonely hobby. It’s like I spend years and years isolated, with my head buried in a project, and then it can be consumed in a couple days. Pretty bizarre.

In the meantime, I’ve been satiating my need for interaction through cosplay. Cosplay and sewing and photography are such a great way to take a break from writing. It’s nice to work with my hands and let my mind wander. Plus, it’s a lot easier to create content and the community is such fun. So, that’s been keeping me sane.

Otherwise, things have been quiet. We went to a cool out-of-town wedding, I practiced some portraiture on my mom’s puppers, and I tried on a cosplay I might do for Halloween. (Marceline from Adventure Time, whom I’ve always wanted to redo)

Nothing else to report! Hopefully next time I update I’ll have better news on the editing front. Happy Fall everyone!

Boats and Books and the Best Laid Plans

Boats and Books and the Best Laid Plans

This past year has given me a lot to think about with regards to my life, my work, and my future.

Let me start by saying that I love my job. Coming out of college with a degree in English and a passion for writing, I certainly didn’t foresee landing a job in the boat business, of all things. My plan was to apply for some administrative, office-type jobs just to get keep a roof over my head, and I’d figure out something more permanent after. I was attracted to this marine position because of all the people I’d dealt with during the interview process. They were so kind, welcoming, laid back- the work environment seemed ideal. And I was right- I’m shocked at how much I enjoy the job considering I had no knowledge or interest in boats or boating. My coworkers and the management are amazing, the work is rewarding and interesting, and you can’t beat the view. It pays pretty well and doesn’t stress me out- it doesn’t mentally fatigue me to the point that I don’t have enough energy to work on my passion projects, which is awesome.

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And some other pretty rad perks 

I’ve been here for over five years now, and I still love my job, but I’m also reaching a tipping point. I’ve pretty nearly hit the wage ceiling for my position, so unless they can splice some more significant roles into my job, I probably can’t make much more without switching out to a different department. My boss is very supportive; he’d help me join any department I want, but I honestly don’t have a lot of interest in the available opportunities right now. I’d love to stay in sales- I’m so happy here! My boss has been encouraging me to move up from sales support to an actual selling position and…I just don’t know. I enjoy being a support player- the idea of selling on my own is really intimidating. The base pay would be comparable but the rest is commission-based and we’re in an inventory-lean period right now that doesn’t show signs of changing soon. So I told him I would consider it.

And I’ve been considering it.

I know I shouldn’t stay stagnant in the same position if there’s no opportunity for a wage increase…but I’m just so hesitant to mess up a good thing! How many people can honestly say that they love their job- that they wake up in the morning and (still hit the snooze- I’m still human) are happy to be heading into the office? I’m worried about losing that. And more importantly, I’m worried about losing the ability to continue pursuing my real passions. I still dream of becoming a published author above all else and if I’m committing all my focus to being a successful saleswoman… I’m afraid I’m forfeiting that dream. I’m in a ‘have your cake and eat it too’ scenario with a job I truly enjoy that also allows me to pursue higher ambitions. But I also worry it won’t continue to pay the bills. I’m still little better than paycheck-to-paycheck and approaching thirty. I worry this isn’t sustainable. Or could it be, if I budgeted better? I don’t know. That depends on so many unknowns.

What I do know is this: for the time being, the bills are getting paid and I’m keeping my head above water. I’ve got credit card debt but who doesn’t? And it’s not like, crazy out of control amounts of debt. I’ve got the student loans too but they’re just out there existing and would be in any and all scenarios.

Here’s what I’m leaning towards.  I still plan on selling at the boat show this January- much of the company’s support staff helps sell at the big show so it’s a great way to get my feet wet. Beyond that, I want to wait to make any decision regarding joining the sales force till next summer at the earliest. Until then, I want to concentrate on giving publishing a proper shot. I’m still on schedule to have the book done before year’s end. Then I can start the publishing process in earnest.

I just feel like I owe it to myself to try this before I commit to a different path. I have a window- my boss is in no rush to move me. If he wasn’t genuinely concerned about me ‘fulfilling my potential,’ he’d keep me here forever, as I’m most helpful to him directly in my current role. So I have no pressure to move beyond what originates from my own life.

So I guess that’s the plan. Subject to change, warp, evolve, or entirely dissolve at any given moment. Wish me luck? Or maybe just the sense to see the proper path in time? As always, I wish the same for you!

Projects, Pictures, Plans

Projects, Pictures, Plans

Long time no blog!

I’ve managed to stay consistently busy this past month which, for me, is honestly pretty impressive. Usually I’ll have pockets of productivity punctuated by slumps of semi-hibernation. But not lately!

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My brother & I got matching tattoos to commemorate a difficult time in our lives.

I finished my cosplay in time for Renn Con at the Bristol Renaissance Faire, took and edited a bunch of pics (with the help of my brother), finished sewing a batch of dice bags for my friend’s game shop, got a new tattoo (thanks Christopher!), and now I’m ready to get back into editing!

So, Renn Faire was my test run for my recently finished  Taako (The Adventure Zone) cosplay as well as my first outing with the fancy new camera lens I got for my birthday. I know I’ve said it before but, I’m really enjoying the photography side of cosplay. I still love to make and wear costumes, but being on the other end of the camera is satisfying in a whole new way. I switched out my Ipsy subscription (I have plenty of makeup right now) for a Lightroom subscription, and I want to get more proficient in shooting and editing. Here are a few examples below. I’m so proud of how well my friends’ TAZ costumes turned out! Everyone looked so good!

My next con won’t be until Daisho Con in November but I’m hoping to get more chances to shoot before then, while the weather’s still nice. The only issue is finding scenic locales to shoot at without normal people wondering what all these costumed weirdos are doing…

As for Daisho, I want to focus more on taking pictures this year rather than cosplaying. Especially since some recent medical bills have let me without much spending money and unable to build another costume anytime soon. I’ll probably bring Taako just because it’s fun and I think it’ll be well-received and then I think I’ll have a Lady Flame (TAZ: Amnesty) costume cobbled together too, since I already owned almost everything I need besides a few inexpensive details. And maybe I’ll bring a Kigu.

Speaking of Kigus- my recent bout of sewing has left me itching to try and make an actual garment instead of just dice bags. I found a neat cosplay-centric pattern shop online called HeyCutSew that sells a Kigurumi pattern and I’d love to try and make one! Just have to wait and save up a little bit of money for some fabric. And I still haven’t given up on opening an Etsy shop. But since I was able to sell all my dice bags to my friend’s game shop- I need to make more! Which means I need more materials for those, as well. They turned out really well though.

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12 Dice Bags with drawstrings and lining- for sale at Colosseum Games in Kenosha, WI!

Beyond aspirations to practice more with the camera and sewing machine, I’m ready to resume editing. I’ve given myself more than enough time to recharge and I need to get back in the habit of chipping away at it a little every day. I have two parts to finish before the entire manuscript is done- at least a hundred pages worth to sift through. I want it done and ready to submit before winter and I think I’m still on schedule for that. This will be the year I finish this thing. It has to be.

marlesOther than all that I’m just going to try and enjoy the rest of the summer- play some video games, try to keep up on my reading, hang with the lizard.

Hope the summer’s end is pleasant and productive for everyone! Or honestly just pleasant. That’s probably enough.

Life’s Too Short

Life’s Too Short

It’s been a high stress couple of weeks but I’m beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel. I was feeling overwhelmed to the point of depression and now I think I’m finally treading water again.

I’ve sorted my money situation, I think. I reevaluated my budget, revised my payment strategy, and I should be out of this hole I’ve dug by summer’s end. It just meant cutting back on some of the things I’m able to do this summer and delaying some cosplay and convention aspirations till next year. But that’s ok, it’s necessary, and I feel good about it. So that’s one cinder block off my chest.

I’ve made a ton of progress on my WIP. Part three ended up being about 50 pages and it’s a few solid hours of work away from being totally finished. That will put me at 150 finished pages or about 50,000 words. I have 25,000 words in the partial parts five and six to go over and add to in the coming months. It’s looking like the finished product will be around 90k. (for comparison’s sake, the first Harry Potter was 76,944 words) So that means I’m officially over half-way done and I’m honestly pretty proud. I’ve never had a writing project so close to completion. And at this pace, I know I can finish it this year. Plus I just got some positive/constructive feedback from my favorite beta reader and that put some wind back in my sails.

Now all I have to do is make it through this Sunday. Sunday is my Dad’s memorial and it has been gnawing away at me for months.

My father passed at the end of April after a long and ghastly sickness. Born with a hereditary kidney disease, my Dad’s had poor health all his life. He was in and out of hospitals since I was a baby, so it’s something I was used to- it never affected his spirit and he brushed off each incident, his personality unaffected. About five or six years ago, he moved south to be with his long-time partner (basically his second wife though they never had a ceremony) and my young half-sister. She had moved back home to be close to her own family, which made sense. I know he felt like he was abandoning my brother and I, and as hard as it was to be so far away from him, I believed he was making the best decision both for himself and his daughter.

And then he got sicker. About two years ago he got into a car accident and began behaving strangely. We didn’t know it at the time, but it was the first signs of vascular dementia- brain damage caused by the lack of blood flow and multiple mini-strokes, which were side effects of his kidney disease and the treatment involved. The only way I can describe it is… it’s like my Dad began to fade. Every time I saw him or spoke to him he was a little bit less himself. And it utterly dismantled me. My father has been a pillar in my life, an unshakeable force, a constant. I was terrified of talking to him, I dreaded visiting him. I couldn’t stand to see what was happening to him. And he only got sicker, his body failing just as quickly as his mind. He ended up in a nursing home, which was a relief in some ways, knowing he was safe and surrounded by those best suited to care for him. And it was awful. My brother and I would drive down and visit once a month, about 8 hours in the car round trip. I’d get so sick to my stomach seeing him that way, I’d barely eat the whole weekend. He had gotten so bad, he didn’t even recognize us the last time we visited. So it was almost a mercy when he passed, but still my heart feels shattered.

The way I deal with this kind of grief is to squirrel away- to be alone with the things and people I’m close to. I do not like to put my sorrow on display. I do not know how to deal with both my feelings and strangers at the same time- I’m too introverted and too awkward to do both. So planning this memorial, as simple and casual as we’re making it, has still been trying. I don’t know my dad’s partner or her family all that well- I lived mostly with my mom as a kid, so we never got super close. That makes planning the event an emotional tightrope of trying to take care of as much as I can and constantly feeling like I’m overstepping my bounds. Plus I haven’t been to many funerals (only one as an adult) and though this isn’t really a funeral, per se, I still feel like I don’t know what I’m doing. I worry that I won’t be prepared, that I won’t know what to do or say when I get there. I realize, as many have reminded me, that there isn’t much for me to do beyond receive those that want to come say hello and be myself, but still I feel lacking. So though I know logically that the event will go fine, I can’t wait for it to be over, for the relief of knowing I can move on and deal with my grief privately. I know it’s not the right way, bottling stuff up like this, but it’s my way and I can’t imagine I’ll be changing anytime soon.

And we’re almost there. I read something this week that, oddly, gave me such peace of mind: Life’s too short to give a shit. Don’t laugh- I know it’s crass but it honestly made me stop and take stock of what I was worrying about. It sounds like something my dad would say. My dad is gone; he’s at rest. All this other bologna doesn’t really matter. I know I’m doing the best I can, and that’s all that counts. Whatever happens, happens, and I need to disengage and keep on moving. It’ll be all right.

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Thanks for the insight, Geoff. I needed it this week.

Back at it

Back at it

Woof. What a month. Made it through the holidays and survived the big boat show at work. Needless to say, I haven’t written or edited or done much of anything bookish in weeks. But my calendar is beginning to clear and it’s time to get back at it. So I’ll consider today day one of my 2018 writing schedule and I am incredibly anxious to get going again.

I’ve tried to use this blog as a way to check in with myself, stay organized and stay motivated and… it never seems to work. But I think it’s worth trying again. No harm in it, really- if it doesn’t help and only serves to get in the way, then it’ll just go dormant again.

 So! Let’s get a rough outline going.

The big question is, as always: will this year be the year I finally finish my freakin’ manuscript for book one? I reeeeally hope so. I’m going to try my damnedest to get there. And boy am I becoming impatient to get it out there and get some people looking at it. I love writing for myself- I deeply enjoy the process and it’s a lot of fun but there reaches a point where I’ve been working with these characters and ideas for so long that I crave feedback. I wish I could post it chapter by chapter on a site like fictionpress or wattpad but I know that’ll complicate things down the line if I feel that it’s good enough to submit to a publisher. And I don’t want to count myself out just yet. I want to try. So that means I need hurry up and finish it so I can start the publication process. If that doesn’t pan out, then I can explore posting it or self-publishing or whatever.

So that brings us back to the main goal: finish the damn thing.

I have the rough draft split into six pieces and I’ve got two done with edits. I’m about half way through part three but there’s still a lot of additional writing to do as well.

Let’s aim high and try to finish a piece every month. There’s half the month left and part three is half done so that works out. If I can successfully hit those goals that means I’d more or less have a finished draft by the end of April. That’s probably a bit ambitious but I’ll give it a shot and go from there.

I’ll try to update this thing at the end of every week. Or not! We’ll see what life brings.

Good luck to everyone else going through similar struggles. Happy writing!

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Fear & Self-Loathing in Las Veg- Er, the Midwest

Fear & Self-Loathing in Las Veg- Er, the Midwest

Week one of keeping a progress journal and, of course, I’m a little late with my entry. But here it is, it exists! PROGRESS.

It’s almost amazing how, the more I want to write, the more difficult it seems to be to find the time, energy, and motivation to actually do it. Yes, they appear to be directly proportional. (I’ve found it’s an often bemoaned reality in the writing community, so at least I’m not alone on this)
So it goes, I get myself all hyped up to work on my book. I’ll set aside time, make a schedule, set some goals and then, when it finally comes time to put pen to paper, I find an excuse to do something else. Anything else. It’s madness.

And yet, I find myself doing the same thing when it comes to practicing on my motorcycle. I’ll tell myself tonight, after work, I’m going on a nice long ride- really push the boundaries on my comfort zone. But then there’s laundry, and dishes, and boy golly the shower could use a scrub, and gosh, look at the time! No motorcycles tonight!

And I know why I’m doing it- I’m still a bit afraid of the bike. I still don’t have a lot of trust in my fledgling abilities- even though I know the only cure for that is, duh, MORE PRACTICE. But fear is a powerful distraction. And so, it’s easy to extrapolate, to assume fear plays a large part in my procrastination with my writing. But it’s more subtle, less sensible. My fear of practicing on the bike makes perfect sense- it’s bloody dangerous! But writing? What exactly am I afraid of? Fear of failure, of confirming my own mediocrity? Something like that.

But the solution is just as straightforward. Get your butt on the bike and ride, dammit! Metaphorically speaking, of course.

I’ve been reading a lot more lately as a compromise for when I can’t bring myself to write, and I’m finding it really helps. The more I read, the more I really, REALLY want to write, and it starts to tip the scales, my excitement beginning to outweigh the fear. My productivity is on the rise!

Now, if only I could find a similar strategy for the bike…

I’mmm baaaaaack! 

I’mmm baaaaaack! 

Ooooh boy- If this was a physical journal, the dust on it would be three inches thick. To be honest, I kind of forgot this thing existed. But I’m trying to get myself reorganized and I want to get back into blogging, if not only to strengthen my writing habits. And I haven’t stopped writing. Progress on my rough draft has been crawling along. It hasn’t come quickly, but at least it hasn’t stalled. 

 I think I’ll try to start penning little weekly updates, just to keep myself accountable as I try to finish my editing. Writing for a blog that no one really reads feels a little like screaming into the void, but even that has its purpose, I think. I’d like to kick my editing into overdrive and get the lion’s share finished before November. That’ll free me up to participate in NaNoWriMo again.

 That’s the plan anyway. I just need to become a little more disciplined.