Year In Review, Year Ahead

Source: Say Anything (1989)

This has been quite a long year, hasn’t it?  So many things going on in the world.  Half the time I’m trying to keep a sane distance so I can process it all clearly and intelligently, and half the time I realize I’m doing all I can to keep my head above water.

But I’ve been trying to stay positive.  Even when we have people in “charge” (I say this lightly) doing all they can to obliterate the rules and exclude a portion of their constituents out of legal existence, I’ve been trying to be a positive anchor, even if it’s just for myself.  Someone’s got to be.

BUT!  It’s been an interesting and quite creative year here in Spare Oom.  I had quite the productive 2018, which was unexpected but pleasing.  I made good on my plan of releasing one e-book a year, with Meet the Lidwells! dropping in early March.  I wrote and completed not one but TWO books this year (In My Blue World and the Apartment Complex project) that will be dropping in 2019.  I recorded at least twenty partial demos of songs for my Drunken Owl project, and hope to work on more next year.  And I made more of an effort to write more lyrics and poetry again.  And I’ve been quite verbose in the personal journal this year.  I stayed pretty consistent with my daily words over at 750Words.  Lastly, I had quite a consistent run both here at Welcome to Bridgetown and over at Walk in Silence.  So yeah, a hell of a lot of writing this year.  I’m stupidly proud of myself for that.

So what’s on tap for 2019?  I’ve hinted here multiple times that I’m going to make some big changes across the board, both personally and creatively.  After years of having Best Laid Plans that I couldn’t always follow through with, I find that I’m now in a good place to make a lot of them finally happen.  A few personal events helped force me to look at them in a different, more serious and better planned light.  Will they fall through or will they come to fruition?  Who knows, but I can only hope it’s the latter.  I’m already taking steps to ensure they work.  Let’s just say that when they come to fruition, I will update accordingly, heh.

Overall, 2018 has been one hell of a roller coaster and I’m glad it’s winding down (sort of).  Here’s to hoping 2019 provides a little more sanity!

Source: World Order, “Singularity” video

On Creative Outlets

Source: Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad

I’ve been thinking a lot about my creative outlets.  I know, I know…in previous posts I’ve talked a lot about wanting to play more guitar, write more songs, make more art, but it was always in the context of trying to squeeze it in when and where I could, while also working on my writing.

Lately, however, I’ve been thinking about focusing on these outlets instead of always putting the novels first.  Perhaps instead of trying to brainstorm the next project, it’s time for me to give these two other outlets some serious stage time.  I’ve been recording more than a few song ideas and demos on my phone over the last few months (using the Hi-Q mp3 recorder app) and I think I can work with some of them.  I’ve long been tempted to find decent (and not expensive) multi-track software and do a bit of experimenting, so perhaps it’s time.

As for art…?  Good question. I have a few art notebooks, pens and pencils that are collecting dust as I haven’t used them in a while.  That’s gotta change as well.  I’m much more on an amateur level here, so this would be mostly for personal enjoyment than anything else, at least for now.  But yeah — I miss the enjoyment of drawing, even if it’s drawing my imaginary maps.  It’s a peaceful outlet that chases away everyday stress and makes me look at the world from different angles.  And I’ve always wanted to try new styles; I think I’ve burned myself out on drawing my Murph caricatures.  I’ve also been told (very often, actually) that my storytelling style is extremely visual, so perhaps trying my hand at visual storytelling might be something to look into.

I suppose these thoughts have been brought on by my recent decision to make a lot of personal changes in my life.  I’m not chasing away my novel writing, I’m just pulling it from center stage for a bit so the other outlets can have a chance to shine.  I’ve already proven to myself that I can write novels; I want to prove to myself that I can play music and create artwork as well.

I’m very curious to see where this all leads me.

Source: The Garden of Words

So and Slow It Goes

I’m still on schedule for revising In My Blue World, but MAN does it feel like it’s taking forever.  Some days there’s not too much to fix and I get get a good chunk done, and other days — like yesterday — I have to completely rewrite a major scene.  I’m about halfway through the novel and working off the revision notes I’d made during our UK trip a few months ago.  There are chapters where the notes will say “good — lengthen a bit — tidy up” and others where the notes go on for almost a full page explaining what I need to change.  Such is the writer’s life.

But I’m soldiering through.  I’m not sick of the book (yet) and I’m not at the ‘oh god this sucks’ level yet (which is always a good sign), but I really wish I was a little closer to finishing it up!

Still, I’m still on schedule to release it at Smashwords sometime in February.  The book cover’s already done of course.  I might follow through and do a trade for this one as well, depending on if I can get interest in it.  

In the meantime, as soon as I’m finished with this one, I’ll FINALLY be able to work on the Apartment Complex book!  I might even have a title for it by then!

I’m not the type to run in circles

O HAI THERE

Oh hey!  Long time no post.  My self-imposed blogging hiatus is over for now.  I’ve managed to get caught up with Day Job stuff, I’ve cleared my mind of a few things, and I’ve relieved a lot of stress that had been building up.  Glad to be back in the fold again!

I’ve been thinking a lot about what’s coming up for 2019.  I have two books on the schedule:  In My Blue World should be dropping (hopefully) by February or so, and the Apartment Complex (still no title yet??) by the summer.  After that…?  Good question.  I actually have no novel plans on the back burner.  Even Mendaihu Universe Book 4 has been put aside for the moment (primarily because I don’t have much of a focus on it at all).  I’ve had a good run since 2015 when I dropped A Division of Souls on y’all.  Two further books in the Bridgetown Trilogy, and three more in quick succession over the last few years.  Six books completed and readied for release in four years.  That’s not bad at all.

But what about 2019?  I have no novels, no projects on the boards.  No ideas that are currently grabbing my attention.  It’s the weirdest feeling, actually.  It’s definitely not the same as the dry years of 2006-2009, frustrated the need to write and held back by lack of words and ideas.  No, this time it’s different.  It definitely feels like a well-earned vacation.

Which means that 2019 will be focusing on the personal.  Things that I’ve delayed for far too long.  Sure, I’ll still write.  I’ll still blog.  But I think I’m going to take a break from keeping it set at 10 all the time.  My old habits and processes work just fine for me, but a lot of them I just don’t need anymore.

Read new books.  Learn new creative abilities.  Get rid of old habits.  See the world in different ways.  Become a part of something new.  Look forward.  Change.

No idea how it will all turn out, but I think it’s about damn time.

More on Adjusting

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Part of Drunken Owl’s gear, such as it is…

A. and I had a conversation over dinner the other day about adjusting to life’s changes.  She’s currently between jobs and she might be, as she says, “catching up on years of lost sleep”, but she’s not wasting time at all.  She’s been brushing up on her skills by taking various online courses, and she’s also currently taking part in NaNoWriMo, writing a mystery novel.  We’re both relatively comfortable financially at the moment where she can afford to take some time off and readjust to real life.

This got me thinking as well, because we both understand what it means not to have a job, and especially what it means to live paycheck to paycheck.  So many things we’ve put off for one reason or another, whether it be financial or emotional or whatever.  I always found this deeply depressing and intensely aggravating, to be honest.  Since I was a kid I’d always wanted to be a writer, an artist, and a musician — not one or the other, but all three — but it was hard for me to focus on all of them.  They all demand countless hours of practice, knowledge, and labor that a person already working full time may not have time for.  This is precisely why it took me until my forties to become a self-published author, and to a lesser extent, why it took me until my forties to dedicate some daily practice time for my music playing.  And why, alas, I have never had enough time to focus on art.

I’d said to her that I was both impressed and maybe a little jealous that she now had this time to catch up on all the things she hadn’t been able to do.  I would absolutely love to be able to not think about Day Job stress and simply focus on learning the ins and outs of things I’d love to do.  I would love to take art classes again — something I haven’t done since high school.  I would love to learn how to record multi-track song demos in Spare Oom.  I would also love to improve my writing without having to carve out whatever precious time I might have for it.

[Mind you, this is also why I am always angered by those who view the arts as frivolous and not worth federal funds or adequate payment for delivered goods.  But that’s another post entirely.]

So what’s happening right now is that I’ve been doing some deep thinking about this.  I’ve been contemplating changing up the Day Job for some time, as you already know, and with that change comes the adjustment of other things in my life.  This is a perfect time for me to start making a stronger effort to include those ‘extracurricular activities’ in my daily life instead of keeping them at the level of wishful thinking.

Adjustments

evangelion gendo glasses

As much as I deeply enjoyed working from home full time, alas I will have to give it up in the near future.  The most frustrating thing about this is that it was not my decision, but that of higher-ups at my current job.  [Long story short, they’ve decided to phase out remote working to ‘foster teamwork, social connection,’ blah blah blah.  My teammates are equally as frustrated by this decision.]   There are other things at play that are putting my job at risk as well, which is only adding to my frustration.

Which means that this long and extremely fruitful era of writing session scheduling is coming to an end for now.  I’d be lying if I said this didn’t upset and annoy me to some degree.  I got a hell of a lot done over the years in the pockets of time I was able to use, and not having to deal with a commute.

All that said, I’m taking this in the best possible way I can by adjusting accordingly.  Should I start bringing my tablet along to work on things during breaks and lunches?  Should I bring books to read for the bus ride?  [I plan on sticking in San Francisco and taking public transportation, thank you.]  Can I squeeze in trips to the gym after work?  What amount of work can I get done, and how?

I’m willing to make adjustments when and where I can.  It’ll be just like when I left the warehouse job and moved down to New Jersey; I’ll lose what’s been one of the best arrangements for me to balance work and writing.  I can figure it out somehow.

But I ain’t gonna stop writing anytime soon, that’s for sure.

Dragon Pilot and thinking outside the box

hisone to masotan
Credit: Dragon Pilot: Hisone and Masotan

I’ve said it many times before, this is one of the biggest reasons I watch anime and read manga:  it forces me to think outside the box.

We’ve recently been watching Dragon Pilot: Hisone and Masotan on Netflix, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun.  On the surface it might be one of those fantasy animes that start off cute and fun and eventually turn weird and creepy (one of my favorite storytelling styles, I should add), and there’s enough bonkers humor to sustain multiple episodes, but it’s really wonderfully written.  The short version: four young female air force cadets (and one back-up) are chosen to fly secret planes that are actually ancient dragons hiding under armor that makes them look like fighter jets.  There’s a much darker and stranger story line that kicks in about three episodes in, of course, but on the way there, we’re given the usual shojo silliness: boy trouble, self-doubt and embarrassment, strange and mysterious adults, the power of love, and so on.  I especially enjoy the camaraderie of the special air force team and its leaders, as there’s definitely a Patlabor-esque ‘group of misfits’ vibe going on.  I’m utterly fascinated at how the main plot is unfolding.  While it might just be about the girls training with their dragons, there’s a deeper, more sinister reason for what’s really going on where their lives may be at stake.

It’s precisely this type of story that inspires me to write my own.  I’m always drawn to stories with this kind of creativity, where it pushes me to rethink my own ideas.  The idea of dragons as fighter jets would not have occurred to me at all.  But after watching just the first episode — in fact, a prologue on the first one explains the entire backstory of it to brilliant effect — I was completely sold on the idea.  It was definitely a damn, why didn’t I think of that?? moment for me.

And I know a lot of readers enjoy this kind of creativity as well; after all, Ann Leckie’s Ancillary series, Yoon Ha Lee’s Machineries of Empire series and Becky Chambers’ Wayfarer stories have the same kind of unique and original styles that have given them huge audiences and Hugo nominations and wins.  It’s taking older tropes and making them new again.

I highly recommend checking this series out…it’s really good fun.

Trading Old Books for New (and Used)

book shelf

Every couple of months or so, a spot next to the love seat in Spare Oom starts collecting a pile of books.  These are books that A. and I have finished reading and don’t plan on keeping for whatever reason.  We may have enjoyed them, but have no reason or inclination to read them again.  I mean, there’s a finite amount of space in this apartment, and as much as we’d like, we can’t keep it all.

Besides, we live right down the street from Green Apple Books, which is a Very Dangerous Place Indeed.  We often need space for newer purchases.

Whenever that spot on the floor collects three or four stacks about shin-high, I start putting them into boxes.  Then on a nice weekend, I’ll drive them down to the Friends of the SF Public Library Bookstore down at Fort Mason in the Marina for donation.  Sure, I could probably bring them to Green Apple and get credit for future purchases, but to be honest, I like donating better.

The Friends of the SFPL have a Big Book Sale a few times a year in one of the HUGE warehouses at Fort Mason.  We’re talking football field huge.  Book donations brought to any of their drop-off sites that don’t get sold at their in-library stores get brought here, and it’s quite an event.  Books, videos, dvds, cds, all sorts of media are sold super cheap, often as low as a dollar.  You can literally fill a shopping cart (we often do) and spend maybe twenty bucks total.  It’s a good deal, and it goes to a great group.  And my old books get into new hands, which is even cooler.

[As an aside: yes, I have in fact seen my own donations on the table at these book sales, which I find quite amusing.]

They’ll have their next Big Book Sale next week, and A and I are planning on going.  Which is good timing, because I just brought the last pile of books in last weekend!

49th annual Big Book Sale
Friends of the SF Public Library’s Big Book Sale down in the Marina.

The battle cry ‘don’t mess with me’

mononoke.gif

So it’s revealed via the New York Times — on a Sunday morning, no less — that the current administration wants narrowly define gender as what you were born with, essentially eliminating any definition of transgender.

The biggest WTF line in that article:

For the last year, the Department of Health and Human Services has privately argued that the term “sex” was never meant to include gender identity or even homosexuality, and that the lack of clarity allowed the Obama administration to wrongfully extend civil rights protections to people who should not have them [Emphasis mine.]

I say FUCK THAT.

And I say FUCK YOU, Don.

So why am I posting this here?

Let’s just say ever since this complete sham and embarrassment of an administration came into office — before that, even — I’ve been tempted to write a specific novel on how I feel about what they’ve been doing to the country over the last few years.  It’s similar to the idea I had with the “Noah and the Schoolyard” story that I trunked sometime ago.  I’d come to the realization that the actions and words of this administration were sadly and pathetically similar to the worst of our own childhoods; the jocks and the popular crowd that vilified you for not fitting into their narrowly defined social norms, the teachers that couldn’t find the time or the ability to provide extra mentoring, the elimination of creative extracurricular groups (sometimes at the cost of maintaining a solid sports foundation), the path to ignorance when information is simply not provided, and of course the appearance of an ‘underground’ crowd that decided to say fuck all that, we’re doing our own thing.

I mean, yeah, it sounds like a John Hughes version of Lord of the Flies or Catcher in the Rye, doesn’t it?  That’s why I found I couldn’t work on this story.  It just felt far too personal for me to be able to handle it.

Now I’m not so sure.

It angers me that anyone, presidential administration or not, would go this far.  It angers me to hear ignorant morons gleefully follow this path, all the while saying ‘fuck y’all, you’re on your own.’

Sunday’s news was a big fucking slap in the face for me, on multiple levels.  I’d almost forgotten what this kind of directed hatred felt like.  And it bothers me even more that I don’t always remember that others still get that on a daily basis.  [Well, actually I do remember, just that I often have the privilege of avoiding thinking about it.]

As Charlie Jane Anders tweeted later that day:

It’s easy to feel helpless when bigotry and bad science are becoming the law of the land, and our government is trying to dehumanize so many of us. But we have the power to make noise, to make ourselves heard, and one of the most powerful ways we can do that is thru storytelling.

To that I say ‘AMEN’, and to that I say, I think I might have a new project to work on.