Hi There!

img_20180113_1050517395577474127376146.jpgThanks for visiting Welcome to Bridgetown!

This is the official blog for my writing and other creative endeavors.

I wrote few books I call The Bridgetown Trilogy, which are also under a larger umbrella called The Mendaihu Universe.  They can be found in e-book form at Smashwords!  They can also be found as trade paperbacks on Amazon!  Please check out the Buy Stuff tab above for links!

Welcome to Bridgetown is where I talk about writing for the most part.  I’ve been learning the ropes as a self-published author, and I’m more than happy to Pay It Forward by sharing any knowledge I pick up along the way.

I also have another blog called Walk in Silence, which is where I talk about my other obsession: music.  I might talk about anything from new releases to old records to goofy videos to college radio to internet radio and anything in between.  You can find it here.

My blog schedule here at Welcome to Bridgetown is Monday and Friday, with the occasional fly-by or extra post.  I try to post them first thing in the morning, but they may run a few hours later if there are scheduling issues.

Please enjoy!

Planning Ahead

tenor
I’m usually not this bad, folks.

I know it’s only mid-June, but I’m already thinking two months ahead to August, specifically Worldcon weekend.  [Okay, I’m also thinking about our week-and-a-half vacation to London just before it, and about how I’ll be a walking zombie by the time the con is over, but that’s another blog entry altogether.]

At present, I can safely say that I’m nearing the climax to In My Blue World.  If I time this right, I should have this draft done by the end of June, leaving me the entirety of July to revise it and ready it for self-publication.  I may or may not have it ready in time for the con, but I’m not too worried about it.  If I’m successful, I may be able to snag a reading panel then to read from it.

I’ve done this for pretty much all my books so far…once I know I’m nearing the end of the first draft, that’s time for me to start working on the post-production things.  I’ll start playing around with book cover images.  I’ll start thinking about promotion items and platforms.  Working out the final release schedule.  Those sorts of fiddly things.

I work on those things very early on and in a piecemeal fashion so I’m not crushed under the weight of doing it all at once at the end.  It’s also so I can give myself time to make final decisions or if I should go in a different direction.  And also, these fiddly things are often quite enjoyable to me when they’re not breathing down my neck!

As a self-published writer, I find that I often have to plan out my post-production work in very much the same way I plan out my novels.  I need to think about the overall plot and how each scene and sequence fits together to form the whole.  Or in this case, plan out where I’m going to be when, and what needs to be done to make it all happen.  There’s a lot of multitasking going on, but if I spread it out a bit, I can handle it.

My plan is to do a reading at the con, and if I don’t have the book available, I’ll at least have postcards to give away with the book cover image.  I’d like to have the book out into the wild by September, at least in e-book form.  [I’m also thinking of other platforms for physical copies, but that’s another long term project and another post entirely.]

So yes…even though I’m wrapping up another novel, I’m just getting started on the post-production, which should keep me busy for a few months longer.

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And for those curious, here’s a very rough draft outtake for the cover of In My Blue World.  This is by no means the final cover, of course, but it’s along the lines of what I’m aiming for.

050418 shutterstock outtake 1

Keeping Busy

makoto shinkai tgow2
Source: Makoto Shinkai, The Garden of Words

Despite possibly overburdening myself a bit lately and falling prey to exhaustion and sore throat for a day or so, my latest writing regimen seems to be paying off.  I’ve been consistently been hitting an average of 900 words per project Monday through Friday, with the occasional run on the weekend as well if time and inclination lets it happen.  Add the four blog entries and other small things to the mix, and I’m probably averaging around 11k words a week.

That’s a LOT of words.

Mind you, it’s not all at once, and I’ve got it down to a strict schedule.  The Monday-Tuesday blog entries are written on Sunday afternoon, and the Thursday-Friday entries on Wednesday.  In My Blue World is written during my Day Job afternoon break, and the Apartment Complex story during the evening sessions.  I keep the creative writing separate from the clinical writing Day Job.  And I let myself have a breather every couple of hours a day so I don’t run myself ragged.

So yeah, I’ve been keeping busy.  Writing two novels at the same time is definitely a trip, and not for the faint-hearted.  More than once I’ve opened up one of the project pages and sat there for a minute, trying to remember if this was the magical girl story page or the boy and his alien friend story page.

How do I keep two completely different and unrelated projects straight in my head?  Good question.  I’m not sure myself.  I just manage to keep them separate because I work on them at different times of the day.  Since both sessions are in the latter half of the day, this gives me most of the day to come up with a general idea of what I want to write.  I also try to write complete scenes, or scenes that will be completed in the next session.  Again, this is almost exactly like my process when I wrote the trilogy; I would prep myself during the day so no evening session time would be wasted.

Will I keep this going on the next projects?  Who knows.  I’d like to, but if I have to adjust it along the way, so be it.  As long as I’m going in the right direction.

Clarity and Action

edward-elric-gif-13
Source: Fullmetal Alchemist.  Edward Elric provides me with a Damn, wish I’d written that! moment.

I try thinking about new ways I can play around with storytelling.  I’ve often said that the stories that inspire me the most are the ones that have moments of brilliance.  I’m not talking award-winning prose here… I’m talking about moments of damn, I wish I’d written that!

Like the above gif, from Fullmetal Alchemist, where Edward Elric uses his alchemical powers (major character trait) to not just pull the atoms of metal from the nearby pipes (major ability) but to reshape it (another major ability) into a rod that he can use for fighting.  Moments where three or four separate character traits come together in creative and sometimes unexpected ways, and propel both character and story forward. It’s both a moment of clarity for the viewer (‘aha, that’s right, he can do that!’) and a moment of action for the story (‘oh man, he’s about to beat someone’s ass, isn’t he?’) and it’s all threaded together beautifully in one five-second moment.

I try to work those kinds of moments into my stories when I can.  I try to put a spin on them as well, by not always relying on expectations.  That way when these seemingly different points come together, it’s often unexpected.  Those are my favorite moments to read and watch, and they’re definitely my favorite to write.

Mind you, the story doesn’t have to have wall-to-wall moments like that.  But they’re certainly one of my favorite weapons in my writing arsenal.

When Distraction Is a GOOD Thing…?

anime-pull-yourself-together

The downside to having a full schedule, especially when multiple social events are added to it, is that physical and mental exhaustion (and maybe illness) can sometimes kick in, screwing things up even worse.  Right now I’m trying to fight off a sore throat and exhaustion from too many things going on over the last few week.

That’s probably the best time for me to remind myself: It’s okay to take a day or two off from writing, you know.   Or even more importantly:  It’s also okay to call in sick to the Day Job now and again…that’s what your sick days are for.  Between my stubborn will to keep to my writing schedule and my Catholic guilt for not letting my coworkers down, I can be my own worst enemy sometimes.

Sometimes all I want to do is play an entire afternoon of PC card games, watch silly cat videos, and noodle around with my mp3 collection.  Is that too much to ask?

Well, no, not really.  I’m not on a strict writing deadline.  I can afford a day off from the Day Job now and again.  As long as I don’t make it a habit.  I can — and should — take a day or two off from reality now and again.  I’ll be honest, sometimes I’m jealous of those people who spend the entire afternoon binge-watching TV series or playing video games.  Why shouldn’t I be able to take a day off as well?

As long as I get back on track once I’m recharged, right?

anime sleeping
COME ON LAZYBUTT, WAKE UP YOU’VE GOT WRITING TO DO

Carving Out Time

girl who leapt through time
Source: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

I’ve been thinking about time lately.  Well — part of it is due to my work on In My Blue World, but also because I’ve been running all over the place lately, trying to squeeze in as much as I can into a short amount of time during the day.  If I look at my social calendar it starts looking far too busy, but if I take it day by day, it’s a little easier to work with.

I’m also doing my best to ensure that I carve out enough time to work on my writing projects at some point during the day.  As long as I get a little bit done, then I can rest easy.  Right now I’m working with two mini-sessions a day:  one during the afternoon break of the Day Job, and the other in the evening.  I write my blog entries a few days ahead of time and schedule them.  I’m also prepping ahead of time by at least having a general idea of what I’m going to write before those writing sessions start.

Carving out time to write is one of the most important things I must do as a writer, and I do whatever I can to make it happen.  Even if it’s a half hour where I’m working out story issues.  [I call these ‘blathering’ sessions, but what I’m really doing is voicing what might be bothering me, working out the kinks and rethinking my approach.  These too are essential, because I’ll have a much clearer head for the next prose writing session.]  As long as I’m going in the right direction, that’s all that matters.

Carving out time to write when the days are busy can be hard to do, but it can be done if you dedicate yourself to it.  It might be getting up a half hour earlier, it might be closing down those social media browsers for a while, or it might even be longhand during your commute.  Whatever works, go for it.  Find an hour, write those five hundred words, and try to do it as many times a week as you can.

Because all that short work adds up to a larger finished project.

On Moderating a Panel

anime yelling
Noted, I will only yell at you if your question is not in the form of a question, or lasts longer than two minutes.

Being on a panel at a convention can be a lot of fun, especially when it’s about a subject in which you hold a ridiculous amount of knowledge and fannishness.  [Not to mention that it’s a perfect time for a bit of shameless self-promotion!]  It’s also a great way to meet other people from all levels of the writing world.

But what about moderating?

This past weekend was definitely a learning experience for me, as I had to moderate not one but two panels that I’d created for BayCon.  The first one (recent music inspired by SF/F) ended up being more of a group conversation, as there was a total of six of us in the room.  When it’s that small, it’s usually better to be a little informal, and have a bit of fun with it.  The audience will enjoy being a part of the conversation as well.

The second one — regarding mentors in the Star Wars universe — needed to be a bit more strict in format.  We had about a dozen people in the audience, there were were four on the panel, and of course there would be A Lot of Opinions being shared.

One thing A and I did for this second one was to prepare ahead of time — she created a spreadsheet of possible character relationships to talk about.  The panelists were excited by this and used it as a quick reference guide on what they wanted to talk about.  Another thing was that I emailed all the panelists ahead of time — especially as a moderator — to ask if there were any issues or points they wanted to make, or if they had any personal requests.  [One of the guys wanted to bring in some of his collection of lightsabers, which he very creatively tied in with the theme of the panel.]

Another thing I kept in mind is that I had to, well… Be the Adult In the Room, for lack of a better term.  Not that everyone acted like petulant kids, mind you… this was about being the one to keep everything reined in.  The moderator has to lay down the rules, make sure that the panel doesn’t drift off topic, and also has to be the official timekeeper.   I was willing to let the audience comment now and again — especially since it was relatively small — but I also had to jump in and be the one to say “okay, moving on…”

[I should also mention here that, this is precisely where the moderator should also pay attention to who’s talking and who’s merely interrupting.  There were one or two moments where I noticed someone was about to talk over someone who was making a point, so I had to make sure that didn’t happen.  And yes, this does in fact include Those Guys who will interrupt women who are speaking.]

That doesn’t mean you have to be the teacher watching the kids at recess.  Have fun and be a part of the chatter!  But you definitely need to remember that you’re also the one in charge — you own this group and this subject for an hour and a half, so you most definitely have the right to steer the conversation where it needs to go.

Note: ALWAYS start the wrap-up about fifteen minutes before the ending. This is for last minute questioning, not to mention gathering your things for a smooth exit to your next scheduled event.  Many find that the clock feature on their cell phones is a perfect time keeper.

And in the end, if the audience enjoyed it, they will may want to come up and have a question or a comment they’d like to share.  If you’re not in a mad hurry to get to your next panel, by all means, chat away!  [And if you can, leave your books and freebies out on the table in front of you for a few moments longer, because they might want to take a peek!]  Just remember to leave enough time so your panelists and audience can leave, and the next panelists and their audience can come in.

I still have to get used to moderating, and I’m sure I made a few mistakes, but all in all, I definitely had fun with it, and would totally do it again.

Upcoming Appearance — BayCon 2018!

Baycon 2018

Hey gang!  I’ll be at BayCon this weekend in (hopefully) sunny San Mateo, just down the peninsula from me!  If you happen to be there, come by and say hi!  No readings this time out, but this time I’m trying something new — Moderating!  [This will either be a fantastic experience or it will end in tears, depending on how out of control they get, heh.]

Here’s my panel schedule:

Friday (5/25) at 1:30pm, Room Connect 3:  The Next Generations of Science Fiction and Fantasy in Music.  Description: What music have we heard in the recent past — from the 90s to today — that infuses the ideas of science fiction and fantasy?  I’ll be moderating this one, of course!  This was inspired by a panel I’d gone to at Readercon some years ago that did the same thing, though it focused mostly on the 60s-70s prog, psych and folk rock scenes.  If I can pull it off, we may actually play some tunes!

Saturday (5/26) at 1:00pm, Room Synergy 4:  The Elder As Mentor in the Star Wars Universe.  Description: While the Star Wars universe often has the young maverick saving the day, it’s often thanks to their elders who helped pave the way and made them who they are.  I’m moderating this one as well!  This was actually A’s idea but neither of us could resist it.  This one should be a lot of fun.

Sunday (5/27) at 11:30am, Room Synergy 5: Can You Go Home Again?  Description: A good many authors these days are returning to the worlds of their successes in years past. Some critics and readers sneer.  But why shouldn’t writers expand a beloved concept, if they have something new to say about it?  I won’t be moderating, and I believe I’m the youngest/newest writer on the panel, but I’ll of course comment on how much I loved working on the trilogy and how I’m itching to return to it.

Here’s the con’s link right here if you’re curious and want more info.

Hope to see you there!

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NOTE:  As I’ll be at the Con on Friday, there may or may not be a blog entry then.  Perhaps a fly-by if I have the time!

Picking Out the Writing Soundtrack

Between the two new projects I’m working on, I’m listening to a lot of newer albums lately. This is quite the change from the older projects I’ve spent tons of time on (such as the trilogy) or ones where I need to focus on a specific time period (such as the 90s and Meet the Lidwells!).  It’s part of returning back to deep immersion with the music.

Mind you, I do give a lot of my purchases a deep listen as it is, or else I wouldn’t be gushing over albums over at Walk in Silence like I have for the past few years. This is about really getting into the meat of the album, and I find I often do that best when I can assign a mnemonic to it.  That way the album will stay with me that much longer.  [This is precisely why albums like Beck’s Sea Change are forever connected not just to the trilogy, but to my writing sessions in the Belfry.]

I’m doing this again with a handful of new albums that have become soundtracks of a sort for the Apartment Complex story and In My Blue World:

Beach House, 7. Unlike their more Cocteau Twins-like previous albums, this one ramps up the noise a little bit and sounds more like Slowdive and a bit of My Bloody Valentine as well. The dreamy atmosphere works really well for the otherworldliness of IMBW.

The Naked and Famous, A Still Heart. I keep coming back to this one for the Apartment Complex. TNaF are a much louder band with walls of guitars and soaring melodies, but this ‘stripped’ album takes out the volume and leaves beautifully delicate reimaginings.

Lucy Dacus, Historian. “Addictions” is one of those tracks you hear on the radio and then get stuck in your head for the rest of the day. The music is laid back and unassuming, but the melodies go in really interesting places. This one’s been getting plays for both projects lately.

Editors, Violence. I think pretty much every project I’ve ever worked on since 2005 has had Editors playing in the background at some point. They’re just an amazing band with a unique and adventurous sound. This one often gets played when I need to write an exciting action sequence.

Pinkshinyultrablast, Miserable Miracles. I gushed over this band on the other blog last week, and I still love them to bits. Russian shoegaze is all I need to say, and it’s all kinds of fun. IMBW has been getting most plays of this one, not to mention the rest of their discography!

GoGo Penguin, A Humdrum Star. Same thing — a recent discovery and now I play all of their releases during sessions, mostly for the Apartment Complex. Intriguing jazz sounds that remind me to keep the setting just a little bit on the odd side.

This is the fun part of my writing sessions…I love listening to music while I write, so connecting to a new album while working on a new project makes the sessions — and the albums — that much better for me.

It’s just fine if your book has a message.

dr who books

Lately there’s been a bit of a dust-up on Twitter (no big surprise) about whether or not books should have an ulterior motive.  More to the point, there are a few complaints out there stating that there’s been an uptick of them, and they bemoan that they’d rather have stories that aren’t all messagey or ‘political’.

Well, recent politics (and politicians) aside, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that kind of thing actually happens with alarming regularity.   During wartime, during peacetime, during revolution and during calm, these sorts of stories pop up all the time.  Either these people are oversensitive to this kind of story, or the supposed ‘agenda’ is right out front and impossible to ignore or pass over.  Sometimes these agendas are there to make you feel uncomfortable.

If anything, I’m sure I have agendas in my novels.  The trick to writing them is not to make them overtly obvious or overbearing.  Novels with Very Obvious Metaphors or Thinly Veiled Critiques are hard to accept for some readers; it’s better to work with nuance instead.  The trilogy’s agenda was all about Doing the Right Thing for Everyone, Not Just Yourself.  I even came out and said that numerous times.  Meet the Lidwells‘ agenda (if there was one) could be Don’t Be an Asshole to Everyone.

I’m well aware of those who see any kind of inclusion as political.  So what if it is, though?  The agenda there is simple, then: I’m Here, So Deal With It.  I’m talking about novels that contain a minority main character or someone with some kind of disability; I’m talking about stories featuring these characters, doing what characters are supposed to do in the context of the story, nothing more.

Agendas are part and parcel of who people are.  They make for good characters, and they make for good stories.  And sometimes they’re fun to write, especially when you need to use it for story conflict.  In the trilogy, the conflicts between Denni and Saisshalé were always a blast to write, because they pushed the limits.  I kept pushing their agendas until it finally got to the point where they both had to stop and say ‘okay, this is getting seriously fucked up, we need to stop this.’  That’s when they both realized that their universe was bigger than just the two of them.

So yes!  Don’t be worried that your novel might have a political underpinning to it.  Chances are good it’s supposed to be there, and that’s a good thing.

 

Changes

[NOTE: This is a slightly updated repost from the original Dreamwidth entry from Wednesday night.]

I’ve been thinking long and hard about my writing lately, especially in regards to what processes have been working and what have not, and how to minimize the latter.

One thing in particular that had been bothering me was the fact that I had two projects in a row — the Apartment Complex story and now Can’t Find My Way Home — stutter to a halt, and both for the same reason.  And that reason being that it just didn’t feel right.  I know, I know…that sounds a bit silly and I’m probably talking out of my ass, but at the same time, the last two projects — Meet the Lidwells and In My Blue World — did feel right to me.  Instinctively it felt like I was doing the right things, going in the direction the story needed to go.

Now, I knew it wasn’t just because of the story I was writing.  Both ideas have a created world that I could have a lot of fun with.  And I’ve definitely had my moments of the Don’t Wanna’s and the Oh God This Sucks with every project I’ve ever worked on, good and bad.  But there’s so much less drama with those two well-behaved kids.  So I had to really think about it — WHY was I having drama with the AC and CFMWH?

And then it occurred to me:  maybe I need a change of platform.

Yes, I know, on the face of it, that sounds like one of the worst and lamest excuses I could come up with, but hear me out.

As you all know, Bob, I’ve been writing the first rough drafts of the successful stories in short bouts on 750Words.  And all the rough outtakes of the AC that were well-behaved came from there as well.  They were working well for many reasons:

–I’m always writing at a specific time.
–With each session, I’m writing a complete or almost-complete scene arc, which also sets up the next scene arc that I’ll write during the next session.
–I’m focusing only on the scene at hand.  The novel-as-whole is secondary here.
–I’m allowing minor editing as I go, when I know that I can write something better.
–Each scene or partial is on its own screen; I can only access the other scenes by backing out of the one I’m currently on.
–I need to hit at least 750 words before I can call the session done for the day.
–These sessions are often very productive, as well as fast.  And quite enjoyable nearly every single time.

And then I realized: This is the exact same process I used when I wrote The Persistence of Memories, which I consider a personal benchmark.  Slightly different platforms, but the process was the same.  It was enjoyable and exhilarating to write because I’d laid all those ground rules and stuck to them.

So I thought:  what if I set up another 750Words account?  I’d follow the same leads as above with whatever second project I happen to have going.  This can be my evening writing session.  MS Word would only be used for localized save points, revision, rewriting, formatting, and other post-production work.

So that’s what I’ve done, starting it Wednesday night.

And I started it with another trial run of the Apartment Complex novel.  Despite my frustration with it over the past few months, my brain returned to it at least once a day.  I took that as a sign that I should definitely return to it as part of this newly-implemented process.  No giant outline, but just enough pre-planning to know where I need to go for the next couple of scenes.

One entry at a time, enjoying the moment.

Here’s to hoping this works!