Inktober Again

your name taki drawing
Yes, I know that’s a pencil.  Shush.

It’s nearly October already, and my thoughts surprisingly aren’t in the realm of hokey smokes where did the time go I’m still not done with the Lidwells project!   I kind of knew I’d be running a little late.  I’m still on track and roughly at the point I’d thought I’d be at, so all told I’m cool with its schedule.

No, my thoughts are with the fact that after a few years, I can FINALLY take part in Inktober again!  I’ve been busy with more pressing projects and Day Job stuff, but this month I find I have the time to grab my art supplies and do a bit of doodling.  Which is a good thing, considering I’ve been itching to do that for a long while now.  I’ve even saved the Official Inktober 2017 Prompt List to get me going.

What I’m hoping is that this will get me back into the drawing habit.  I’m not forcing myself into it.  It’s just like my writing and music; I just need to shut the hell up and do it already.  Drawing something every day for a month, even if it’s a map or a Murph doodle or something else, should in turn remind me to make time for it.

I’ll be posting them over at my Twitter feed, but I may post some of them here as well.

Looking forward to it!

Schedule Shuffling

shuffling cards a
Just for the record, I have never been able to successfully shuffle a pack of cards like this.

For the first couple of days this week, I’ll be heading into the office across the Bay, as we’ll be rolling out a new platform that should (hopefully) make our work just that little bit easier.  I’m not exactly holding my breath, but we shall see.  And next week (the first week of October) we’ll be on the other side of the country visiting friends and family.

Which means that my writing schedule is going to be all kinds of wonky.

BUT FEAR NOT!  Because this time out I’m attempting something new and unexpected: I’m doing a bit of shuffling to prepare for this time when I’m afk.  One thing I’ve been doing is creating a backlog of blog entries so I won’t be posting fly-bys or skipping it altogether.  I’d like to keep y’all educated and entertained.

Anyway!  My point here is that lately I’ve been looking into how I can get more out of my writing time.  One of my worst habits when I was a teenager was doing my homework the night before it was due.  [And yes, this included writing term papers.  I was an epic procrastinator.]  The downside was that I knew I was a good writer, I just never let myself have enough time for it.  I’ve learned to get better at that in my adult years, but there are still moments when I feel like I’m squeezing out the last drops of creativity at the end of the day after doing a billion other things.

This is where the backlog come in.  I can get away with it because I’m not going out of my way to write blog posts that are up-to-the-minute.  So instead of writing the posts the night before like I’ve been doing, I’ll write them when I have a few spare minutes during the day, and especially when the inspiration hits.  And on top of all that, I can look at the calendar and see that a blog entry is due, and breathe easy knowing that it’s already been done.

Whatever works, right?

shuffling cards b
Also for the record, this is what it looks like when I *do* attempt to shuffle them in that manner.

Is There Any Escape from Noise?

Lately my sinuses have been slightly congested (partly due to the heat and the pollen from that heatwave we had a short while ago, which was followed up by a few rain storms and ridiculous humidity), and my right ear has been blocked up a little bit.  I’m not sure if it’s due to that, or if there’s wax build-up, or if I have tinnitus.  I can still hear, just the some of the treble fine-tuning seems to be muffled ever so slightly, and there is a ringing.  I’m going to keep an eye (ear?) on it and if it doesn’t get better (or indeed gets worse), then I’ll head to the doctor’s.

In the meantime, I’ve been contemplating another stretch of internet detox.  At present I’m only half-heartedly popping into social media, but I’m thinking of maybe doing another temporary unplugging.  It feels like I’m starting to have trouble filtering out all the white noise* again, so it’s time to step away for a little bit.

As you’ve probably guessed, I tend to go through this phase maybe once or twice a year.  It’s usually brought on when I’m getting frustrated with my lack of significant writing progress.  It’s also brought on when opening Twitter starts to feel more like an addictive drug hit than a social connection.  And that’s never a good thing.

SO.  Starting this week I’ve backed away from social media for a little while, and will return most likely mid-October.  I’ve got a few busy weeks ahead of me (both Day Job and vacation back to MA) so I think it’s probably for the best that I get my head quieted down and focus on what needs focusing on.

This won’t bother the Daily Words or the blogs at all…those I’ll still work on.  We shall see what happens upon return.


* – This is not meant to have any racial or political connotations; it’s truly white noise I’m talking about. That is, the jumble of all the voices out there, talking about anything and everything.

On Writing ‘Regular’ (non-genre) Fiction

snoopy short and to the point

I’ve been writing genre fiction — that is, some kind of science fiction, fantasy, or one of its many mutations — so consistently and for so long that writing non-genre fiction (or as I’ve been calling it, “regular fiction”, no snarky meaning intended) feels a bit weird to me.

This is the issue I’ve been having with writing Meet the Lidwells over the last few months.  It’s still a made-up world that I’m writing about, but I’m trying not to confuse ‘bad writing’ with ‘a style I’m not used to’.  I don’t think MtL is a bad piece of work, even at this rough draft level.  It’s just that my creative brain keeps complaining that there’s no epicness or high drama going on.

But this is not a Michael Bay action film.  This isn’t the novel for that.  It’s a simple story about a family of musicians.  Their epic moments are about topping the charts, going on tour, and recording a new album.  Their high drama is having to deal with family to such a close extent both in private and public life.

To be honest, this is exactly one of the many reasons I chose to write this novel.  After finishing off the epic drama of the Bridgetown trilogy, I wanted — no, I needed to dial it back.  I wanted to make sure I could still write a story with a much lower volume, so to speak.  I needed to know I could write a story that resonated on a personal level rather than on a visceral one.  And lastly, I needed to know I could write something short and concise, perhaps closer to 70k words rather than the 100k-plus of the trilogy books.

So far I think I’ve pulled it off.  In fact, in the process I’ve figured out how I can write further non-genre novels, if I choose to.  My reading habits have definitely helped me figure most of it out, as has the daily practice words.  Will I write more non-genre in the future?  I’m pretty sure I will, given the subject and inclination.  It’s already affected my SFF writing style in positive ways, to be honest.  It’s the kind of ongoing metamorphosis that I believe is not only healthy but vital.

Once I’m finished with MtL, I’ll be jumping into the Secret Next Project (aka the Apartment Complex story), so it’ll be back to genre…and now I’m curious to see how MtL‘s style affects that one.  We shall see…!

On Self-Publishing: Quality and Perseverance

jim carrey typing

Okay, I’ll grant you that.  There are some self-published books out there that aren’t really all that high on the quality.  There are some books out there that are little more than web scrapes of sites and blogs with horrible cover slapped on it and sold as supercheap Kindle ebooks.  There are others that are a bit better in quality that mean well, but…well…

But I’m not really going to talk about those.

I’m going to talk a little about the Little Novels That Could.  The ones passed over by agents and editors because it didn’t catch them on the first couple of pages.

I always feel a little bit of a twitch when I read about writers who’ve plugged along, wrote multiple books but never received a bite from agents or publishers for years.  I always think, but what if those books were actually good, but the author gave up on it because of rejections?  There’s always that little bit of me that can’t stand that publication bottleneck.  That gets irritated by reading articles by agents and editors who dismiss a submission after two pages.  [To be honest, I think it partly stems from my deep irritation with faulty teaching methods, in this case the ‘I want you to do X but I’m not going to show you how to do it or give you any context’ method that I’ve encountered many times in my life.  Again, that’s just me.]  I always feel bad for writers who go their whole life trying to get published only to fail time and time again.  I can’t help but think it’s not because they’re bad at it, just that their work doesn’t fit into the pre-cut shapes and expectations that mainstream publishing wants.

I know part of this twitch is also the indie nonconformist in me waiting to scream out oh yeah, well we’ll show them!  I know it’s a lot more than that.  It’s showing them by way of writing the best damn thing you can and putting it out yourself.  It’s the payoff when you get new readers and fellow writers telling you they enjoyed your work.  It may be a much smaller readership, maybe a few hundred readers instead of a few thousand, but it’s still worth it.  Your story is out there, and someone, or several someones, have deemed it enjoyable.

Why do I keep harping on about how awesome self-publishing is?  Well, one of the reasons is that I’m trying to help get rid of the stigma that’s been placed on it.  Another is that — yes, I’ll say it yet again — it’s become a more respected outlet, especially over the last few years.  And most importantly, I’m trying to tell other authors out there that it really is worth a try.  That story that the pros weren’t all that into might be the same story that avid readers love.  It may be a bit more expensive, it may require a lot more work, but the end result is more your vision, and something to be proud of.

Questionable Writing Advice

nathan fillion nope
Me too, Nathan.  Me too.

In a recent issue of one of the few writing magazines I subscribe to, they provide a multi-page article (in garish school-bus yellow, I should add) of “what agents hate.”  I only briefly skimmed it, having had the sense that this was going to be little more than a list of personal irritations that may or may not be helpful to the writers reading it.  I found it more annoying and self-important than helpful to be honest, but that’s just me.

One that did kind of rub me the wrong way was one in which said, and I quote:  If you don’t know how to write a compelling pitch for yourself, you probably should not pursue being a writer.

I mean, I get the context:  this agent has a personal issue with writers who fail at trying to sell themselves.

On the other hand, I personally know a hell of a lot of writers and artists out there who can write phenomenal prose or brilliant dialogue or draw beautiful sequences…yet doing something so compact and microscopic as a one-page advertisement for yourself is a fucking nightmare.  Trying to distill a hundred-thousand-word story that you’ve worked on for lord knows how many months into twenty sentences is a hell of a lot harder than it looks.  It’s two completely different types of creative thinking, and it’s hard as hell to switch easily from one to the other.   Some writers/artists just aren’t as good at the elevator pitch as they are at telling the story.  [Speaking from experience, I should add.]

If anything, I’m thinking they should have maybe rephrased that to be a little less, I don’t know…snobbish?  Soul-crushing?  I’m not sure what word to use here, other than they’re an agent I will most likely not submit to, just on attitude alone.  You’re an agent, you’re supposed to help the writer, not chase them away with Fame platitudes about ‘only the best survive’ and turn them away before they even start.  Yeah, I know, it’s a small field with a crapton of wannabes.  I’m still not a fan of that kind of thinking.

Anyway.  There were also your usual bingo-card points of advice:  kill the adverbs, kill the non-‘said’ dialogue tags, don’t self-edit, farm it out to your writing group, submit only your best work, follow submission directions on the website, don’t hassle the agent/publisher, etc.  Be gracious.  Be patient.  A lot of it does make sense, of course.  YMMV, as they say.

And as I’ve mentioned plenty of times before, some of these are reasons why I’m a self-published author.  I want to be able to successfully edit my own work.  I want to go against the grain.  I’ve gotten better with the pitch.  I don’t think I’m at pro-level yet, but I’ll get there eventually.  I like working on my terms instead of shoehorning myself into everyone else’s.


So.  Anyone else come across some questionable writing advice lately?


Thank you, autosave

doctor who what
My initial reaction on Wednesday night.

So the other night while digging underneath the desk to lay down an ant trap (damn little buggers come out of nowhere when it’s overly warm out, even up here on the third floor), when I accidentally hit the switch to the power strip, turning everything off — my PC, my desk lamp, my work router, and a few other things.

Suffice it to say, I had not hit ‘save’ on that night’s work on Meet the Lidwells.

SO!  One small heart attack later, I rebooted everything, and I’m glad to say that MS Word did in fact hit a save point about ten minutes beforehand, and temporarily saved my work.  All in all I lost maybe only twenty words or so. I was able to pick right back up and finish (and SAVE) my words for the night.  [Mind you, ever since I lost those couple hundred words for unknown reasons a few months back, I’ve been logging into Dropbox just to make sure everything saved.]

Please let this little PSA be a gentle reminder, my writer friends, to FREQUENTLY SAVE YOUR WORK.

Your sanity will thank you.

Secret Future Project Outtake: Ghosts

A little something I wrote on Friday that may or may not have something to do with the Secret Future Project, aka the College Story.  Enjoy!

[Note: the College Story is not a horror novel, nor is it only about the hedraac (my vampire-like characters that are also in the Secret Next Project universe, though the stories are not related).  This is most likely going to be a New Adult coming-of-age story, which happens to feature many human and non-human characters.]


When I cross the quad, there’s always a sense of stillness there, even if other students are mingling about. They could be shouting political slogans, or grunting and shuffling about playing touch football, or practicing their scales and harmonies, or simply scuffling along on their own, but all that tends to get drowned out by the stillness in the air. Even on a windy or rainy day.

I haven’t quite figured out why I feel that, and sometimes I even avoid crossing the quad some days, and I’m not sure if I ever will. Perhaps it’s the ghosts of the campus, forever traipsing along the four corners of the flat grass, forever hovering in front of the brick buldings with blank books and styli long emptied of ink in their arms.

I can sense those ghosts. Not many of us can. Mostly the hedraac, but there are others. The faculty tend to ignore the ghosts. They’ve gotten used to them by now. You know who the new professors are, because like me, they get skittish when they cross this area. They’re not scared, just wary. Like me, they’ll eventually learn to cross the quad without a single worry.

I met one of the ghosts during one of my shifts at the radio station. I’d just entered Davis Hall and headed down to the basement, and I was just about to pull the heavy door into the station, when I stopped short. Hovering in front of me, maybe less than six inches off the ground, a young ghost of a student waited for me. He didn’t look threatening. Maybe a little overtired with heavy eyes and stress lines on his forehead, but other than that he looked like any other student here on campus. A weathered jacket, an overfull book bag slung over his shoulder, worn jeans, and very worn sneakers. He and I locked eyes for a moment. He smiled in response, and slid out of the way.

“Pardon,” I said, well aware that others could have just seen me talk to myself. But I don’t mind that… a lot of students do that here.

My shift started in another twenty minutes, and I always got there early to slide through the music library to pick out the evening’s play list. Another hedraac was finishing up his own show, and was currently running down his own play list. He caught my eye through the studio window and waved. I wondered if he could see the station ghost as well.

This was my third semester at the radio station, and I was slowly making my way up towards the position of music director, something I’d been wanting since I’d discovered college radio when I was a teenager. Some deejays are there for the extracurricular activity or because they have nothing better to do, but me, I plan to stay in the radio field as long as I can. I’m one of those music fans who obsesses over records and bands, knows far too much about them. I’m also one who loves the night shift. It’s not that I’m a night hedraac… I just like the ambience and the fact that I’m alone for the most part.

My shift started as normal and I set the mood by throwing on some of my latest favorites, a wide range of styles that I know most of my fans like to hear. Now and again I’ll get a few calls from them, asking for obscurities or well-known classics, and I do what I can to provide. I may be a music geek, but I’m not a snob about it. I’ve been known to play a few major label tracks now and again.

It’s entering the second hour of my shift when I start hearing the voice.

It’s soft at first, a quiet humming that I mistake for an open feed that I forgot to tune down, and after a few flustered moments of checking and double checking the faders, I realize it’s not going out on the air at all. It’s in the speakers, alright, but it’s not anything I’m playing.

It’s the ghost, and he wants to talk to me.

“I hear you,” I say into the air. “I can’t make out what you’re saying, but I can hear you.”

I feel a tap on my hand, which makes me twitch. He’s trying to guide me to open one of the faders to a test channel. I shiver, but at the same time I’m intrigued.

I turn up the fader in the test channel. “You’re plugged in,” I say, and wait for a response.

Looking for: Stories with a college setting

amherst college

Not only do I have a Secret Next Project that I’ll be working on once Meet the Lidwells is finished and released, but I have *another* story — set in the same universe as the SNP, but not related — that I’ve deemed Secret Future Project.

This SFP will be set in a Pioneer Valley-like setting.  [For those unfamiliar with the PV, that’s a corridor in midwestern Massachusetts known for containing five colleges (UMass, Amherst, Smith, Holyoke and Hampshire) and thus having quite a sleepy collegiate town feel to it.  I grew up thirty miles to the northeast of it, and it’s one of my favorite places in the world.  For those familiar with the PV, I can hear y’all from here yelling at me to stop talking about it so damn much.  Heh.]

ANYWAY.  I’ve been wanting to write a story set in this kind of place for decades, and I think I’ve found the one thing to write.

The only downside is that I think I’m a little behind the times in terms of my knowledge of stories set on college campuses.  When I think of college stories, unfortunately my mind either goes to John Knowles’ A Separate Peace, F Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise, or JD Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye.  I’ve read a lot of stories that are more recent, and numerous webcomics as well (a few like Agents of the Realm, Check Please!, and Questionable Content come to mind).  Movies?  Well, aside from the boomer stories like The Big Chill and The Return of the Secaucus 7, and Gen-X stories like St Elmo’s Fire and all those drunken-frat-bro movies, I’m still searching for more ideas.

SO!  I’m curious:  what are your favorite stories that revolve about college life?  It can be any style, format, or genre.  I’m definitely open to all kinds of stories, including LGBT/PoC-centric stories; I’m looking to come up with some unique characters, so everyone’s invited.  I’d like to get more of a recent feel of what college is all about nowadays, and I think I need to do more than just listen to the college radio stations that I already listen to.

Thanks ahead of time for your help! 🙂