The Great Internet Meet and Greet

I’m about half-way through the 2016 blog hop hosted by Raimey Gallant right now. It’s part promotion, part networking, and part social mixer. Essentially, it’s a list of people who participated in NaNoWriMo this year, who are interested in getting to know other writers.

That’s really it.

And like any event where you meet a whole lot of people, you find yourself a little disoriented, scanning the faces, looking for other people like you. Don’t get me wrong. You’re polite to everybody. But what you’re really looking for is connections.

In my case, that means science fiction and fantasy writers, and to a certain extent thriller writers. With a sense of humor, please. Uh… well, make that a weird sense of humor, actually.

And readers. Anyone who’s likely to enjoy my writing.

Or anyone who knows anyone who… well, you get the picture.

I do things with a couple of random groups. There’s no genre requirement for the Insecure Writers’ Support Group, either. But the desire to be supportive works well, and it’s been a good experience.

And then, there are a couple of more focused events. The Storytime Blog Hop is more Sci-Fi and Fantasy (officially spec-fic, I think). The Advent Calendar leans that way, too.

So, welcome to my blog, whoever you are. Sit down and grab a story or two. Tell me about yourself, and what you’re looking for, and maybe, if it’s not me, I might know someone. Leave me a comment.


Today Is My Day!!!

For the last couple of years, I’ve participated in the Independent Bookworm Advent Calendar. It’s a literary countdown to Christmas, and every day, there’s a different short-story. I think it leans toward the Sci-Fi Fantasy end of the spectrum, but I’ve never really done the math.

Today is my day.

The door opened, and there I am. Me and my short story about a nose hair trimmer. If you subscribed to the newsletter at the beginning of the month, you also got my fabulous recipe for puppy poop cookies with flies. Yes, I know that’s disgusting. But it keeps the children busy, and it also has butterscotch and chocolate.

I got a real kick out of doing it, and it sounds like people are actually enjoying the story.

If you haven’t already, head over there and check out the calendar, and if nose hair trimmers aren’t to your taste, there are plenty of stories that don’t have them.

Let me know what you think.

IWSG: My Five-Year Plan

Insecure Writers' Support Group logo

I just fell off a miserable word-count failure of a NaNoWriMo. I hit 14,000. The end. I don’t always do well with Nano. Most of the time, it hits while I’m in the middle of other projects, and dragging myself away doesn’t do much for me. But, every now and then, I get a real, live draft out of the deal.

So, my insecurity right now, is finding myself in the sea of all the things I want to be able to do with my life, and getting as many of them done as I can.

Finishing things, boys and girls. Finishing things is the goal. It’s the insecurity, too. I never, ever feel like something is finished. And then, there are the things I know aren’t finished.

I have a desperate need to work faster. Get more done. Revise faster.

The Question of the Month is Where do I see myself  career-wise in 5 years, and what do I plan to do to get myself there?

This is a tough one for me. I would like to be agented, and published, or at least moving in that direction. I’m finishing up a novel that I think might get me there. I also want to work on publishing short stories. In actual magazines. Somehow, those always seem to wind up here on the blog, and I’m not sure that’s the best use for them.

I’m hoping to get back into the routine of writing after a bad year, and also to keep up the blog, which is finally gaining a little momentum.

So, what about you? Plans and strategies for your careers? New Goals and Resolutions?

Postcard From The Road

So, here’s a quick picture from the middle of nowhere. This brick mural comes to you from a small airport somewhere in Kansas. And yes, today, I’m actually using one of my own photos.

I suppose I could have asked for details about this airport, but I’m pretty sure nobody was there at the time. It’s a really nice, well-maintained airport. It has a brick mural and an obelisk. But it’s not the busiest place on the face of the earth. If I’d have to guess, I’d say you can land a crop duster here without much planning, but doctors call ahead to be sure somebody turns on the lights, if they’re going to land at night.

No commercial flights, but it is pie-adjacent, if you’re so inclined.

How I Use Scheduled Posts

So, this post from Lois Elsden has me thinking about how and why I schedule blog posts.

I do schedule posts, especially if I know I won’t be available on a particular day. For instance, I can tell you right now that I’ll be gone on my mother’s birthday. I don’t know what I’ll be doing to celebrate, but whatever it is, it’s a priority for me. So, I’ll put in a post ahead of time.

I also schedule posts in advance for blog-hops and events where there’s a topic, or a short story to be covered. I have A-to-Z coming up in April, and I’m already looking at filling in some of that time. (Last year, I did a lot of ad-libbing to cover the space.)

The other way I use scheduling–and I’m not completely predictable about this–is that I schedule posts to go live about an hour before I get off work. That way, the post is out there, and I can respond to the first round of comments as soon as I get home. (Hypothetically, not an actual skill I have. Not always, anyway.)

Well, it beats the crap out of getting home, writing like crazy, and letting the post hit right before supper or bed, or whatever other thing’s going to keep me away from the wi-fi.

Ideally, I’d like the blog post to be a part of the writing day, and far enough ahead that I have some wiggle room, if the fiction writing runs over, or if something unexpected shows up.

I’d like a stockpile of “schedule-able” posts for those last minute surprises, and I’d like to be a day or two ahead, in general. No “oh, shit, what am I writing about now” posts. I’m getting there.

I’m still feeling out the kind of posts that work well as scheduled, vs. the kind of posts that need to be absolutely fresh. For instance, nobody really cares if that short-story is from last week or last year. And that reupholstery project? I’m sure it’ll be in fashion for years to come. But, if I’m writing about a current event, it kinda helps if the event is still current.

It’s not hard to tell the scheduled posts. They’re on the hour. The rest of them are on Karen time. (two thirty seven, anyone?)

So, what about you? How do you use post scheduling on your blog? Any tips? Horrible warnings? Let me know.

And Winter Is Here

Due to an unfortunate tilt of the Earth’s axis, it started snowing here, yesterday. Nothing much, just a very thin layer that lingered long enough that someone with a little forethought could have taken a picture or two. (sorry.)

It’s not all that cold here. Not frozen. Not Siberian Gulag temperature. Just a little colder than sweater weather, and fairly still.

The neighbor has taken down the Halloween display–goodbye, corpses dangling from windows–and put up something more festive. I think the theme is: Santa’s workshop exploded on me. He works at a local carnival, and they let him bring home the surplus(cheaper than storage, I guess) so he goes all out. (Every Holiday except the patriotic ones. We have a different neighbor for that.)

His air-compressors are off, right now, so the ten-foot snowman is a little deflated, or I’d take pictures of that for you.

Personally, I’m decorating to the theme of: Holiday? What holiday?

Strategies for that Impulsive Leap

I’m writing this over lunch, Ramen Noodles because they’re quick, and break-room coffee, because it’s free. I feel a little behind because I don’t have a post scheduled to go out today. I’m not–I spent yesterday writing a post for IWSG, which means I’m actually more or less exactly where I was before, but further out.

I’m pretty much the only one here. Luck of the draw, or something, but there’s no one to interrupt, so we’ll see if I can get a post out by the end of my lunch hour.

Listening to co-workers gripe all morning has me thinking about how many of us would like to quit the day job, and how few of us ever actually get there.

It’s the letting go that scares me. One giant leap, or half a dozen small steps,  and then, the plunge… It’s not just the income, although a reliable, predictable, steady income does have it’s allure.  Part of it’s the structure. And insurance isn’t too bad a perk, either.

One of the big things I notice is that the more time I have, the less I seem to get done in that time. So… if I actually did quit, I’d have to figure out some concrete schedule to keep me from frittering my day away. I might actually do better starting two businesses than just one. Three full-time jobs, and suddenly every minute counts.

And, today, I happen to be in a particularly admiring and awestruck mood, in which every single person I see has skills and talents I’d love to have. And I keep wondering Why are you still here? You could…

Fill in the blank.

And maybe I’m right. Maybe they really could, if they thought about it, and really threw themselves into it.

Maybe I could, too.

Why am I still here?

What would it take to get me to jump?

How certain would I have to be?

Deep down inside, what I really want is income, and stability, but without being tied down to one place. I’d like to be able to wake up in a different state tomorrow, and still be able to do my job. Then, I’d probably go out and do something. See what the next place has to offer.

How close to that can my writing take me? Where do I need to pick up the next dream-wagon? How many ‘jobs’ add up to I’m on the beach tomorrow?

I joke, from time to time, that I could make my living selling scatophiliac porn (don’t google that. Dictionary. Old school. Trust me) on the internet, but my managers would all want jobs. (Yes, that’s a joke. And yes, it’s in poor taste.)

And the NaNoWriMo Results…

At the beginning of last month, I set out to write a novel–50,000 words of one,  anyway–in 30 days.

And… I was going to do this one sheet of paper at a time, in hopes of a cleaner draft and ultimately, an easier revision. (I’m always looking for an easier revision.)

I was behind from day one.

Obviously, write longhand and then type is not the best strategy for speedy drafting. And that really wasn’t the point.

At the end of the month, I had roughly 14,000 words. That’s not great, and it’s not even average for me. (I usually wind up closer to thirty or forty thousand words in a month, and I aim a little higher than that in a good year.)

I was also blogging–mostly unrelated–and that would add a few thousand more words. Haven’t counted. And there’s the short story I wrote for the Advent Calendar this year. Oh. And I never really got away from the revision I was working on before I started Nano.

So, I started on November 1st with ONE piece of paper on a clipboard and a pencil.

And I started writing the ONE scene that was lodged in my mind.

And then, what?

Well, I found a few more scenes over the course of a month, but I never really got into the story. It never started to feel like one of my stories, and I never really started having fun with it.

Maybe I was a little afraid of this one. It’s the kind of thing that has to be done really well. Otherwise… it would fall off the edges, and either turn into a sermon or a farce.

So… what I learned from NaNoWriMo 2016

  • writing longhand DOES produce cleaner drafts BUT in my case, at least, the reduction in speed adds up to a reduction in passion. I’m not sure which part of that is going to be useful in the future.
  • I may be better off to write as a NaNo Rebel, and work on whatever I already have in the works.
  • Even if something sounds more efficient, it may not be the best path for me.
  • I still need to get out there and be a part of the community, even when things aren’t going well. I started tanking in word count, and withdrew. I didn’t do a lot of the social things on the Nano Site that I would have liked to.

For next year… I’m not really sure what the goal should be, but I’m probably going to keep working on whatever I’m working on when it gets here. I’ll also focus more on the community building aspect of it.

So, what about you? Lessons learned? Strategies for next year?

All I Really Wanted Was a Cookie.

The Judeo-Christian gift-giving holidays are gaining on us, and that means two things. The girls at work want to buy a dildo for our manager, who really needs to get laid. (Or anything else that might tend to bring about a radical attitude adjustment. Nobody’s all that picky.)

And I just received a Christmas-themed care package from the mortuary that handled my sister’s **ahem** “arrangements” (not the “services”) this spring.

It’s an 8×5 envelope stuffed with “literature”.  You’d think a mortuary might understand that cookies would help with the grieving process, but no. What I got is more of a litany of things it’s “okay” to feel during CHRISTMAS, and an actual checklist to help determine which flaky CHRISTMAS traditions are really it wouldn’t be CHRISTMAS without them type traditions, and which ones I can skip.

How many stockings should I hang?

Same number as always. Zero.

Should I decorate the rooms in my house?

Why? I’m not going to be there.

The literature has a high emphasis on children. Perhaps I should go visit some at the zoo.

Between the oddly secular psycho babble and generic advice, there are two sentences for “if you celebrate Hanukah” and a page long poem from the POV of the deceased on “first CHRISTMAS in Heaven.” (Not a hundred percent sure whether that’s copyright infringement or not. Pet Peeve alert.) And not a word about any other religious or secular tradition.

And, of course, they’ve included some New Year’s resolutions and a nifty grieving diagram that looks a lot like the diagram of cell mitosis from my high school biology textbook.

**sigh** Every time I get one of these things, my first response is always “Oh, fuck… what paperwork do they need, now?”

Yes, I know they’re trying to help.

I think I’ll go get some cookies and caffeine, now.

Diplomatically Speaking… A Conversation About Premature Publishing

Today, I heard ’round the grapevine that someone I know in real life has published their first book. A mutual acquaintance told me. I’ve been doing this long enough that the appropriate response materialized on my lips more or less automatically, but to be honest… I’m a little hurt the writer didn’t tell me, herself. And I’m genuinely pissed off that mutual acquaintance didn’t tell me the absolute first minute he knew, because I missed the celebration phase and landed **splat** in the consolation phase. Yup. The review (singular) is in.

Deep breath.

If you are going to self-publish, you must be a part of a writers’ community, and you must research your options. Then, research them again, because they probably changed while you took that coffee break.

The only thing I’m sure everyone (traditional and indie, and all the happy readers, too) agrees on is that publishing is changing fast.

Being a part of a community helps you stay on top of the changes. I’m involved in several, but probably the most active in the Holly’s Writing Classes Forums. And the community tells me things. It’s like having thousands of ears, instead of just two. How do you self-publish? Ask the community. How do you market? Ask the community. Need help with your query letter or your blurb? Ask the community.

You build relationships over time, and eventually… if you’re lucky, and if you work at building those relationships… you find people who can answer the tough questions. What’s wrong with this? What do you think of___? And ultimately… Is this ready?

In the case of my acquaintance? Well, you be the judge. She’s very young, and this isn’t just a book. It’s THE book. You know. The first one. The only one. The one you obsess over. The one you’re glassy-eyed in love with, ’cause you can’t believe you actually wrote a book. (Just admit it. You know exactly what I mean. If you don’t, you will. Just keep writing.)

The review says (rather rudely, I thought) that it needs structural editing.

A writing community could have told her that before she spent the money to publish it, and before her name was attached to something that… just isn’t quite done.

There were also some business choices (pricing, use of a particular vanity press, etc.) that left me feeling like I could have helped her, if she’d just asked.

So, as penance for the things I didn’t do for her, starting with not reaching out to her as actively as I should have, here’s a list of assorted writers’ communities to help you on whatever path you choose.

If there’s anything I’ve missed, or anything you find particularly helpful, add it in the comments.