Cats

This isn’t set in stone just yet as it depends on a few things…but there is a possibility that we might be looking into adopting a cat.

I know, right? For anyone who knows me, I love cats. I grew up with them, love playing with them, picking them up, just having them hang out with me. If you have one at your home I will definitely be sidetracked by giving them scritches. I’ve even put a cat in my latest WIP. On Sundays one of our local pet stores works with a local adoption agency (adorably called Fuzzy Butt Rescue) and this past weekend we found ourselves…maybe thinking that we could finally make this work.

The last time I had one for a pet was at least a few decades ago, so it’s been a while. We mostly avoided it because of our traveling and work schedules or not being home, but things have changed over the years and one or both of us would be here for a significant amount of time to watch over one (or two).

This of course also led to an extended conversation over brunch on Sunday regarding what we’d have to change in our current lifestyle to make this work. What plants we’d have to move to higher places or donate to our horticultural neighbor. What toys and tchotchkes we’d have to store away. What yarn stashes we’d have to put elsewhere or at least put in enclosed places. What I’d have to move around or put away in Spare Oom. And the conversation I’d have with our landlord to get permission. [That in particular I think we’d be able to handle with reasonable ease, as they love us, we’re responsible, and we even own a carpet cleaner if there’s an…event. Plus, a few of our neighbors have dogs so it’s only fair.]

I do love the idea of an office cat, really. Having a goofball fuzzbutt hanging out with me in Spare Oom while I write is a fine idea to me. And thankfully we’re both cat people and having them sleep with us on the bed is just groovy.

Like I said…it’s not set in stone yet, but it’s certainly something I want to set into motion.

I’m Allowed

I’m allowed to take my time getting there.

I’m allowed to take however long it takes to figure things out.

I’m allowed to share stories that don’t fit the mold.

I’m allowed to understand the world in my own ways.

I’m allowed to have paradoxes in my life.

I’m allowed to be imperfect.

I’m allowed to take my own uncharted steps to see where it all goes.

I’m allowed to remind myself of these things when needed.

Talking End of the Month Refresh Blues

Image courtesy of hackaday.com

I talked a little bit about this over at my Dreamwidth account, but I think it begs a bit of commentary here: I’m happy to say that I think I’ve finally broken myself of that niggling feeling at the end of every month that I’ve failed in keeping up with my writing schedule. For years, and with the best of intentions, I’d start each month looking at my whiteboard calendar and think, yeah, this time I’ll make it to the end with new words and productivity all over the place!, and inevitably crash and burn about two-thirds of the way through.

It took me until recently that to realize that I’ve been looking at this in totally the wrong way.

Coming into each month with the determination to Do All The Things regardless of real life (and Day Job) getting in the way always leads to failure. And that’s the other mistake I made: seeing that as failure in the first place. In the final weeks I’d always get frustrated that I’d failed to follow my plans once more, and every single time I’d needlessly get angry with myself. It would only be exacerbated by thinking, okay, THIS time I’ll get it right! and setting myself up for failure once more.

What I need to do instead is see the start of every month as a refresh. I run cleaning software on this PC every weekend without fail (and it’s kept Spare Oom’s computer up and running smoothly for over three years so far, thank you very much), and it occurred to me that I really should see my writing habits in very much the same manner.

When I start the new month tomorrow — including participating in Inktober — the whiteboard schedule will once again be full, once again be seen as a guide rather than an assignment, once again allowing myself days off when Real Life intrudes. The whole point of the whiteboard schedule has always been to keep me working instead of procrastinating or distracting myself, nothing more. It’s my coping mechanism that’s kept me from otherwise faffing around on Twitter or playing with my music collection all day long.

What I shall do differently starting tomorrow is just do my best. That’s all. If I miss a day, I miss a day. And come the end of October I’ll do the same thing I’m doing now, accepting the amount of work I’d done in the meantime and starting it all over again in November. And so on. View it as a refresh, not as a metric.

Meanwhile, back in Spare Oom…

Image courtesy of Makoto Shinkai, of course.

What’s been going on, anyway? I’ve been working on the Theadia rewrite when I’m not at the Day Job, mostly. On days off I’ll catch up with some personal projects, or if they line up with A’s we’ll go out for a walk or burn through our British streaming shows. [For those playing along, we’ve been on a Silent Witness kick and it’s exciting but definitely not for the squeamish.] Other than that…? Not much at all.

I’ve been in kind of a rut in terms of actually producing content to self-publish. I mean, I’ve got Diwa & Kaffi ready to go, but I really need to get off my arse and look into commissioning an artist. I’ve got a few ideas that I want to sketch out first, however. If I’m going to work with an artist, I want to work with an artist, meaning that I’m willing to give them as much prep work and rough sketches as I can so they won’t be going in blind. Besides, I know exactly what I want: a simple yet engaging cover similar to what you see on some manga/light novels. Something like Rumiko Takahashi’s Maison Ikkoku, for example. I like the idea of using blank space on purpose here, to evoke the mood that it’s very much a light novel in some respects, as well as the fact that a lot of that novel is about being up in the air. I have a few artists in mind, I’ll just need to contact them and see if they’re interested or have the time.

Speaking of Theadia, I’ve also been thinking a bit about how this novel is not quite the Epic that the Bridgetown Trilogy was, but nor is it the lighter work I published afterwards. It’s a bit of both, really. The project goal is very much typical of me: writing a space opera without the military drama, writing an epic without turning everything up to eleven, writing a political drama without falling into my own navel. I even have the tagline, which is a line that’s quoted by many in the story: If you could…would you do the right thing? The novel isn’t about being a savior, it really is about doing the right thing when given the choice between taking ownership or saying ‘not my problem’. There are no heroes here, only normal people choosing to do the right thing because no one else is, and having that in itself be heroic.

It’s been a bit of a juggle, because I definitely need to have certain characters with certain levels of intelligence, power and experience, but purposely not having them get all infodumpy or technerdy about it. [I half-joke sometimes that I’m writing an anti-Cory Doctorow novel here, because I’m choosing not to go into graphic detail about the worlds of infotech, the dark web, and living off the grid. I give just enough detail for it to make sense, because that’s all it needs. I definitely owe Becky Chambers for the inspiration for wanting to take that route.] It’s been an enjoyable ride, though, and that’s all I ask.

*

So. What’s my update schedule going to be here in the days ahead? Glad you asked! I’m going to try to return to the twice-a-week that I’ve had for the last couple of years, though there may be a gap or a late entry here and there, especially when Day Jobbery takes precedence.

Glad you’re sticking around, though! See you soon!

Fly-by: brb, going on vacation…

…for the first time in two years! Well, on a vacation outside of California that includes a flight, that is. We’re heading back east to Massachusetts to visit friends and family, take pictures and enjoy ourselves.

In the meantime, I’m planning on returning to blogging when we come back, hopefully in the next couple of weeks! I’ve been busy during this hiatus, and posting Diwa & Kaffi made me realize how much I’ve missed posting here and at Walk in Silence (not to mention working on the 750Words.com site for daily writing exercise!). I haven’t decided on a solid posting schedule, but once all that has been ironed out, I will let you all know.

See you soon!

Experienced

Jimi Hendrix with Are you Experienced from Rock Without Rules on Vimeo.

So one of my latest assignments for the Current Day Job is bookkeeping duties. Basically being trained on prepping the registers, balancing the safe, and other money-related things. I definitely have experience in this from my last years at HMV, being left in charge of opening/closing, balancing, depositing and all that fun stuff, so I’d let them know this when I was interviewed. I figured it would give me an extra in when they hired me.

I’ve been at the new place for a bit over two months, and I’ve already retained all my old retail and warehouse job experience into this new one, making everything easy and fun. I’ve already got multiple compliments on my bagging skills, and it’s not just because I do my own when I’m doing the shopping — my style is very much like how I used to build my pallets back at Yankee Candle, getting as many items into a finite space as I can yet still being safe about it. [It really is a bit like Tetris, and it’s kind of fun to look ahead at the shapes/items and put them together in my head.] And thanks to watching Gardener’s World and all those cooking shows during the pandemic, I’m even having some fun conversations about herbs, plants and ingredients as well.

Reason I bring this up is that in these same last couple of months, it dawned on me that perhaps I don’t nearly use that sort of thing with the characters in my stories as much as I really should. I’d like to think my characters are no longer the one-note self-inserts of yore, but after so many years being in an enclosed office setting with the same couple dozen people, I’d kind of lost touch with what other people were like. [Mind you, I don’t use social media for this sort of thing too often, for many and obvious reasons.]

What kind of experience do I have with people? I mean, in real life? I have a lot, it’s just that I’ve kind of lost touch with it for the last decade and a half. The Current Day Job has definitely changed that. I meet regulars, but I also meet the tourists, the late-nighters, the teens, the business people, the homeless, the well-off, and everyone else. And I’m really enjoying that sort of thing. Like I said recently, it’s reminding me that there’s a world outside. A world that’s not on Facebook or Twitter, a world that’s not crunching numbers, a world that’s not trying to save or ruin things. Just…people out there.

And it feels really great to experience that again.

About (still) writing poetry

Out of all the creative outlets I talk about here, my poetry and lyric writing get the next to least amount of commentary. [I talk about writing songs the least, alas, but that’s another post.] For a good number of years I just put it aside and rarely wrote any at all. And since the mid-10’s I’d been trying to force myself to write more of it, only to fail utterly. Part of it was that it had lost its enjoyment and no amount of forcing it was going to help at all. Another part of it was that I felt I was essentially writing the same personal themes over and over.

I’m noticing, however, that this latest Mead composition notebook of mine is getting rather full. I’m about two-thirds of the way through it, which is a lot more than the last several aborted tries at personal poetry chapbooks. This one was started a couple of months after I’d left the Former Day Job, and I’d done so on purpose: this was going to be a chapbook of endings and beginnings. Words about letting go of things I’d held for far too long, of coming to terms with things long left behind, and making the first unsure steps at something wanted yet untried.

That was the thing holding me back with the poetry and lyrics, really: lack of emotional movement. In a way it was the same with my music playing — once I gave it that emotional spark it had been lacking, I got better at it. Or more to the point, I’d finally come back around to the creative levels I’d been at in the past that I hadn’t been able to reach again. I had to do some purging of old ghosts before I could move on.

I might post some of these poems and lyrics here — or maybe even self-publish them on Smashwords — at some future point, but it’s not high on my list of projects. This kind of writing has always been personal: written for myself. Sometimes it’s to figure things out, other times it’s just to get something off my chest. Sometimes it’s serious and straightforward, sometimes it’s oblique and metaphorical, sometimes it’s just having a bit of fun.

I’ve gotten a lot better at it over the years, though I wouldn’t know if it’s anything good and worth publishing. But that’s the least of my worries there: if it means something to me, then it’s good enough.

Life taking unexpected turns

To be honest, I’d always thought that if I ever was going to join a union, that it would be writing-related. Instead, I’ve recently signed papers to join the one at my Current Day Job.

How do I feel about that? Well, I’ll admit I’m a bit of a socialist anyway so having a group dedicated to looking out for my wellbeing at work is pretty neat, considering I’d never had that before. Not that any of my previous blue-collar jobs ever had them, at any rate. And there certainly hadn’t been any that I knew about at the Former Day Job…sure, they’d have a lot of feel-good platitudes and attaboys, but they’d always rung empty to me. My current coworkers talk about union stuff now and again, such as a recent pay raise agreement, and the rep immediately handing me a card upon signing saying ‘call me if you have questions or need help’. I don’t think I’ve ever had a Day Job with a representative like that who really meant it.

What kind of union member would I be, anyway? Good question. Probably not a performative one, at any rate, because that’s not the kind of person I am. Maybe one who’d be willing to make a noise if warranted (not that I see that happening in the immediate future), but other than that I’ll just pay the dues, keep up with the news, vote when asked, and get all the perks being offered. I kind of feel like I’ve finally been hired somewhere that doesn’t try to bleed me dry mentally and physically, and a union is known to be good at making sure it stays that way.

Part of why I’m thinking about this is that I think I’ve finally made peace with being a Writer With a Day Job, just like most other writers out there. This is a low-stress, easy-on-the-brain job that pays reasonably well (only a dollar or two less than what I’d been making at the FDJ), has an awesome commute, and offers me all the time I need for writing work when I get home without guilting me into ridiculous amounts of overtime or overwork (which I would make a noise about, natch). I’ve realized that yeah, I no longer feel like I’m chained to any Day Job I have. I’m glad to work there, the people are fine (and unlike the FDJ, so are the customers, many of whom are quite lovely), and I definitely feel more connected to my coworkers and the outside world than I had elsewhere.

So yeah, it’s probably time for me to dust off my Billy Bragg albums and give them a relisten. Heh.

Almost there…

Image courtesy of Polar Bear Café

It’s been…a long work week. Six straight days of working noonish-to-midevening shifts at the shop, including both weekend days. Today’s the sixth day and hopefully I will not be walking home feeling like a zombie. I have tomorrow off, and I’d really like to use that day to get caught up on things. Thankfully I’m only there until 7:45 this time, so I won’t be too wiped out. It’s not that they’re overly long shifts — they’re roughly all eight hours long — it’s just that they’re during multiple busy times and that is what’s exhausting me.

Anyhoo. I have now worked out how I need to approach this next scene in Theadia. You could see it as the culmination of Act I, in which our heroes have taken stock in what’s going on in their universe and have chosen to take action. The original version reads a lot like a detailed “STUFF GOES HERE” moment and we can’t have that, can we?

Unfortunately these last few days haven’t given me much time or energy to focus too much on it, so hopefully my day off and the following morning shifts (the ones I love that leave my afternoons and evenings wide open) for the rest of the week will give me a lot more ability to catch up.

Here’s to hoping, anyway…!

Influences: Strangers in Paradise

The badass women of Terry Moore’s Strangers in Paradise

Back at the start of my post-college days when I was slumming it in Boston, someone suggested I check out this new comic series called Strangers in Paradise. The first cover was a simple but lovely shot of two women in an art gallery: a moody blonde artist and her seemingly innocent dark-haired bestie. Inside was a story of that second woman having the worst luck with men, specifically a lawyer named Freddie Femur. You’d think this is a classic Bechdel-Test-failing love triangle, yes? Well, maybe not. Because there’s a lot more going on than you think with these characters. A lot more.

Katina “Katchoo” Choovanski, the ‘angry blonde’, is the girl literally from the wrong side of the tracks with a past she’d rather keep quiet. Francine Peters is actually not so pure and innocent and just wants a bit of stability. Freddie, of course, wants to be the slimy alpha male but fails badly at it. And somewhere along the line, Katchoo gets a visit from a fourth character: a kind, quiet and nerdy guy named David Qin, who just wants to take her out for coffee and get to know her.

And that’s only the first three issues. What happens in the next hundred-plus issues that were released between 1993 and 2007 is what truly pulls the reader into this wild universe of criminal underworlds, black ops action, political intrigue, hidden pasts, frustrations in creativity, unrequited love, marriage instability, emotional violence, and spiritual redemption. For some of them, life eventually brings them peace. For the others, not so much, but their downfall is always of their own doing.

What I love about this series is that Moore has chosen to make each female character in this universe as badass as possible in their own unique way. Whether they’re trying to escape their violent past or helping someone battle anorexia or coming to terms with their sexuality or merely just learning how to love and trust someone without any strings attached, these women’s stories very rarely fall into trope or stereotype. These are characters with a vibrant back story and an individuality that sets them apart from each other.

Reading Strangers in Paradise helped me learn how to write and understand my own characters, and how to make them interact. Moore will occasionally throw in silly humor, timely pop culture references, and perfect comedic timing, but when things are serious, he doesn’t hold back. From SiP I learned about pacing, about when to utilize a perfect show-don’t-tell plot device, and how different characters should and could interact. I also learned when to subvert a trope to make the story that much better. And most of all, I learned how a simple back-and-forth dialogue can tell the reader a lot more than just what they’re saying, whether by what’s not being said, or by how it’s being said.

I highly recommend giving the series a try! Moore is a wonderful writer, and he’s also a self-publisher!

**NOTE: If you’ve got $30 to spare, head over to Humble Bundle today or tomorrow, as his complete Abstract Studios bibliography is available in pdf form! If you miss out, check out his work at his Abstract Studios website!**