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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Keep on Keepin’ On

Keep on Keepin’ On

Long time no meaningless rambling! I’ve been keeping pretty busy. Still working six day weeks but, as we’ve finally hired another coordinator, the end is in sight. Well, kind of. We’re also going into (one of) the busy times so maybe I’ll get a second day off again by like… June? But I really can’t complain about the much needed OT. Finally making some progress in paying off my debt!

Other than work work (zug zug) I’ve been keeping busy busting out little resin crafts for my Etsy store. And I’ve started making a few sales! I don’t expect to make any real profit off this enterprise but I really enjoy making stuff and selling it is weirdly fun. At the very least, the money I make can help pay for new materials so I can make more things. In fact, I just made enough in sales that I could afford to buy a couple D20 dice molds. I can’t wait to try my hand at dice making! Even if they won’t work for play (I have no idea if they’ll be balanced or not) I can at least use them for jewelry. So excited!

If you like what you see, my Etsy shop is here. ;)

My other motivation through this constant tinkering is I’m hoping to create a habit of creative behavior. One that will carry over when I start getting back into editing. I’ve begun to chip away at it here and there in what few spare moments I can. But, boy, are they few and spare. Still, the itch is there again to get this story told already. And in that nagging, an often repeated question has resurfaced: what to do when it’s done.  For the last year or so, I was dead set on getting it ready to shop out to agents in the pursuit of traditional publishing. And I still want to, just to see what happens. But I’m also thinking about just posting it online again. I mean, it would be awesome to see some money back after all the time I’ve sunk into this project but that was never the main reason for writing. More than anything, I just want a readership. Any I know there are a lot of sites and other platforms where I think I could get at least a small pool of readers. I still think it would be silly not to throw it out to at least a few agents, just to see, but I’m becoming so impatient. I just want to get this in front of people! I want to share it and talk about it! Any other writers have this problem? Anyone have any experience posting on like fictionpress or wattpad or something similar?

Other than finishing this ding dang novel, I am aching to start taking pictures again. Just need the weather to improve. Any good cons coming up in the Midwest? I think I’ll hit Acen on Saturday.  And I’m going to Gen Con in August after a TEN year absence so I’m pumped for that. Anything I’m missing or may not know about??

Summer’s right around the corner! Or that’s what I’m telling myself anyway. ^^;;

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2019! We did it; we survived. 2018 was not an especially kind year for me and those close to me, but I’m feeling optimistic about what’s to come.

The worst of my work for the year is already behind me as I’m just coming off the big Chicago Boat Show weekend. (80 hours in seven days!) Work will start to die back down to its normal hum, which means I can reclaim some of my energy and get back to my projects and hobbies.

I’ve already accomplished one of my major goals for the year, which was to get an Etsy shop up and running. It’s only got a small supply of dice bags and potion bottle jewelry right now but as I get back into crafting, I’m hoping to have more stock and options in soon. You can check it out here! And here’s a few examples of current listings.

Beyond that, I’m looking forward to a couple small upcoming trips we have planned. Travelling has been hard to swing in recent years since money’s been so tight, but I’m hoping that starts to reverse in the coming year as well. I’m switching up what I do at work, taking on a new position and new responsibilities and looking forward to it.

Otherwise I’m just hoping to read more (currently reading Tell The Machine Goodnight by Katie Williams- very very good!), learn new crafts (making plushies, watercolor, & resin molds are at the top of the list), play some gosh dang video games and, finally, FINALLY finish my novel. I’ve recently gotten some really nice feedback on parts one through three of my rough draft. Part four is still kind of a mess but I’m anxious to dive back in and untangle it. Then it’s just the fifth and final chunk and it’ll be something resembling finished. Aiming for end of March, realistically.

Beyond that, I’m looking forward to more cons, more cosplay, and learning more about/practicing photography. I’m certainly aiming to keep busy, anyway.

Here’s to hoping that the new year is good us all!

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!

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.

Reignited

Reignited

I’m excited to feel excited again! This past year it seemed like all my interests went to sleep- I was still into writing and reading but it felt somewhat subdued and many of my other hobbies had fallen by the wayside. I lost almost all interest in cosplay and conventions and was struggling to feel social. I don’t know if it’s the warm weather returning or if I just needed time to rest and regain my energy but I’m suddenly reinvested.

I felt the cosplay bug nibbling me again and I’m thinking about what I want my first new build to be. I’m leaning toward Sesshomaru from Inu yasha- it’s one I’ve always wanted to do. I want to look into picking up a cheap entry-level sewing machine and trying my hand working with EVA foam or worbla.  I definitely want to hit a con or two this summer, I’m just not sure which ones. I was kind of getting burnt out on Acen. Maybe I’ll check out Anime Midwest for a day? I love the Rosemont venue either way.  I definitely don’t want to do C2E2 again. I’m used to cons being crowded but last year was ridiculous. It was so busy I could barely move and it sucked out all the fun. They either need to restrict badge sales or better yet, open the other side of McCormick and expand the con space. I’ll for sure do Daisho again- it’s my favorite con, but it’s not till November. Beyond that, I’ll have to ask around, see if there’s any others that people recommend.

I was really hoping to get back down to RTX in Austin this August but I think I’ll have to put it off for another year. Comparatively speaking, it’s a really expensive trip and I think I want more time to build myself back up financially- plus the dates this year conflicted with work so it made more sense to wait.

Other summer goals include: go to Bristol Ren Faire a few times, maybe check out the Janesville Faire, ride the bike some more and get better at it, plan a cheaper trip to visit a city I’ve never been to, get down to Chicago a couple times or up to Milwaukee, practice with the camera and try to improve, and just be more active.

I’ve also joined a book club (which I love and gets me reading things outside my normal tastes) bought a PS4 for gaming, and I got back into D&D! So I think I have the whole spectrum of indoor and outdoor, social and solitary hobbies covered. I’m feeling really positive and I want this year to be all about learning and growing, getting better at the things I love and making the most of my time. Here’s to hoping it goes that way!

Distractions, Glorious Distractions

Distractions, Glorious Distractions

Progress check in!

Managed to get at least a little writing and a fair bit of editing done. Not as much as I would have liked, of course… perhaps in no small part due to a certain distraction I may or may not have purchased for myself.

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Yeeeeeaaaah, kind of worth it though. A girl needs her outlets! Writing is frustration- I need to let off some steam, slay some monsters!

So, at this rate, I’m going to miss my first goal- now it’s up to me to determine by how much. Luckily I’m going out of town for a few days and I’m hoping a new environment (and some distance between me and my PS4) will help me get a little more writing done.

I’ve also spent a lot of my time nose first in a book lately, which I feel less guilty about since reading is basically training for writing.  Current read is book two of the Kingkiller Chronicles- The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss. If you’re looking for a great fantasy read, I can’t recommend book one (The Name of the Wind) enough. Not that I have to; it’s usually at the top of everyone’s fantasy recommendation list. It’s like a woodsier, grittier, more medieval version of Harry Potter.

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Plus I heard they’re moving closer to production on the TV series/movie for it. Music is a huge part of the story and they’ve named Lin-Manual Miranda as one of the creative minds involved so that’s kind of amazing. Now Mr. Rothfuss just needs to get book three out. I know I’m going to be beside myself when I’m done with book two and I can’t jump right in to book three. Although I have plenty more left in my to-read pile.

Especially now that I joined a book club! I’m pretty excited about that- but I’ll save it for another post.

Happy writing everyone- wishing you all a productive week and power over all your distractions. (glorious as they may be)

P.S. – I’m kind of digging these less formal, more personal updates. Cathartic for me and keeps me updating the blog even when I have nothing of importance to say. All writing is good practice in the end.