Doin’ a Whole Lotta Nothin’

doing nothing
doot doot just sitting around

I had a vague plan that I’d do a bit of writing on the weekend, even if it was just a page or so.  I figured we’d go out, spend the day at Disneyland, have our fun, and then we’d get back to the hotel and I’d do some work.  I even packed the Apartment Complex story notebook.  If I wasn’t doing my daily words or my blog posts or anything else, I’d at least do something.  Right?

Yeah, we all know how that was going to go, even before we boarded the plane down to Orange County.  Heh.  I didn’t do a damn thing.  I didn’t even take it out of my bag.

But you know, I’m okay with that!  I’ve finally made peace with the fact that I’m due a few days off now and again.  I’d been writing for eleven days straight on not just that project, but on daily words, scheduled blogs, and whatever else I’ve been working on — on top of the Day Job.  But that’s not why I took the days off.  I wasn’t exactly exhausted mentally or physically.  I could have easily kept going with it if I wanted.  And the moment I admit to myself that I should take days off, I’m going to abuse that and not get anything done on time.

No, this was basically to accept that part of the process of writing is not writing.  I’ve gotta let myself just think about the story instead of trying to bleed it out of my brain.  I can instead listen to an album on the flight (The Sound of Arrows’ Stay Free, if you’re playing along) and think not about the story but about the characters in general.

That said, physically I’m still exhausted from the 8.6 miles we walked on Saturday and 7.7 miles on Sunday (plus the two today, thanks to travel through airports and whatnot), but mentally I’m ready to go come Tuesday.  Everything will be back to normal.

So yeah, I’m not too worried about not missing out on writing this past weekend.

PS – This seemed to be a perfect song for this post. It’s also a melody that keeps on popping into my head while writing the Apartment Complex story.

Sometimes changing it up works too.

pbc impulse
Source: Polar Bear Café.

The last few days at the Day Job have been ridiculously busy for some reason, and it’s all I could do to juggle that with my writing.  I’ve been using my work breaks and the occasional slow moment to get some daily words or revision or blog entries done.  (As it happens, I’m writing this during my afternoon break on Thursday.)  It seems that right off the bat my Day Job wants to scupper all my Best Laid Plans.

Well, not this time.

Instead of saying hell with it and chalking it up as another lost day, I’m going in the exact opposite direction.  Easier said than done, of course, but it can be done if I put my mind to it.

One thing I noticed was that trying to write longhand during the day wasn’t quite working out, as it was too much of a mental whiplash from the number crunching I get paid for.  So that’s been moved to the evening, and my former evening work — the final revision of Lidwells — was moved to the afternoons.  I saw a huge improvement almost immediately on both projects, as I don’t need as much concentration for revision as I do for writing new prose.  I may change it back once things settle down, but we shall see.

And as for the blogging and the daily words and whatnot…well, those are still floating around under the banner of ‘whenever I happen to have a few spare minutes’.  Sometimes I’ll write these during those slow Day Job moments, sometimes I’ll squeeze them in just before I start my evening work.  But they’re getting done regardless.

Point being, I’ve learned — remembered, really — that sometimes I have to get a little creative if I want to Write All The Things.  I say ‘remember’ because this is the exact process I used during the Belfry years.  Now as then, it’s a matter of committing myself to it and carving out the time.  If that means sneaking in a quick 300-word blog post during office hours, I’m fine with that.  That work email can wait another fifteen minutes before I get back to it.  I consider this a brief and healthy mental distraction so I can get back to Day Job work with a bit more clarity.

Worldbuilding for the new project

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Drawing Kaffi the tintrite – not my best work, but better than expected

If anything, I’m sure I’m going to need to study some basic anatomy if I’m going to try to visualize my characters like this.  These images aren’t necessarily going to be in the book…they’re just reference for myself, so I can at least get the basics right.

Kaffi up above is a teenage alien tintrite (pronounced TIN-treet), one of the many different beings that live in the apartment complex that comprises the main setting for my new project.  He’s kind of a dragon/lizard hybrid, long and sleek but also muscly and winged.  He’s an excellent flier, but he’s also reckless.  Teenage immaturity seems to be a universal constant in this world.  Anyway, he’s one of two main characters, the other being his human BFF, Diwa.*

*Note – I had to do a bit of homework to get Diwa’s name right, which is a rarity for me.  Diwa is mixed-race — his father is Caucasian and his mother is Filipino — and I wanted a Filipino name that was a) gender neutral, and b) kind of unique and unexpected.  It means ‘spirit’ or ‘essence’.  I hadn’t expected to find one that fit so nicely with the story, but I’m not complaining!

It’s mainly Kaffi and Diwa’s story (and it’s an enjoyable one about love, friendship and trust), though there are other characters who’ll pop up throughout.  There are humans, mandossi (tallish sleek aliens that are built for running), hedraac (humanoid vampiric aliens), minotaur-ish beings (I haven’t got a name for them yet), and I’m sure I’ll come up with more as the story unfolds.

My idea here was that I wanted to have a world where humans coexist peacefully with all kinds of different beings, so the conflicts in the story weren’t about sentient-versus-sentient but more mundane.  Teenagers trying to figure out who the hell they are and what they want to do when they grow up.  Old men worried about the new generation coming in and taking over.  And how much energy, creativity, and dedication it takes to keep a community active and healthy.  [See, there’s a reason why I keep calling it ‘my Studio Ghibli story’!]

So yeah, you could say I’m having a fun time with this project so far! Now if I can only come up with a decent title for it…

 

A return to longhand writing

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A return to longhand writing with the first chapter of the new project

After many years of threatening to do so, I’ve decided to start 2018 and the Apartment Complex story by writing it longhand.  Though I’ve done rough outtakes of various stories with paper and pen in the past, the last one I’d completed in this manner was The Phoenix Effect back in the late 90s.

I can usually write three to five handwritten pages in an hour.  I don’t rightly remember how much that comes out to in terms of word count (as you can see above, I write pretty small compared to others), but last I remember, it would work out to about 300 to 500 words.  And since I’ll be editing/revising as I transcribe it to Word at a slightly later time, that’ll add even more.  So all told, I’m not gaining or losing word count, it’s just getting spread out differently.

[Yes, I still put a start timestamp (and whatever I happen to be listening to) in the left margin.  No particular reason other than to keep track of my words and soundtrack.  It’s been a habit of mine since the 80s.]

So how will this one be any different from the rough outtakes and incomplete stories?  Well, for starters, I have this one almost fully outlined — yet another relatively new process for me, pantser that I usually am — so I don’t think I’ll be flailing as much as I normally would.  It also makes me more mobile, and less susceptible to internet and musical distractions.  And most importantly, I’m already dedicated to the story, having written outtakes on the 750 earlier in 2017.  I’ve been looking forward to writing this one for a few months now.

Wish me luck!

 

 

Day One, 2018

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The Spare Oom Whiteboard, 2018 Edition

As expected, I’ve spent the morning switching things over.   Calendars to put up (Hokusai prints), whiteboard schedule to lay out (see above), plans to put into motion (ditto).  I said I was going to have a busy 2018, and I wasn’t planning on spending Day One being a lazy ass.  Wouldn’t make a good precedent.

There’s not too much different on the whiteboard, as you can see.  The blog update schedule will remain as is.  I decided to put the Dreamwidth blog (DW) up there on Sundays and Wednesdays, as I consider that my personal (non-writing or music) site and I really should be a bit more social there.  It’s also time to reinstate the daily words (750) to get me back up to creative speed.  Lastly, I reinstated the Art, Poetry and Music beats to the schedule, more as a ‘get back into the habit’ than an assignment prompt or deadline.  The only two things I don’t have listed are my personal longhand journal — which I always write during my morning break on weekdays anyway — and whatever Main Project(s) I happen to be working on, which don’t need reminding.

[Out of shot to the left, which you may have seen from my Christmas picture, is the clipboard that has a more detailed, long-term To-Do list that I will be working on over the course of the year.  And yes, it takes up a few pages.]

I’ve also decided this morning that I’m going to change up my morning routine as well.  I’m not entirely sure what this will entail, but we’ll see where it goes.  My normal routine at present isn’t anything I have to do right then — email, Twitter, webcomics, usually in that order — and it’s not as if I’m really wasting time, but I’m curious to see if I can utilize that time better with other things.  Maybe a bit of longhand work?  Or stretches/exercise?  This is less about me being economical with my time and more about mixing it up to keep from getting bored or stuck in a rut.  This sort of thing tends to change every couple of years for me, and it’s about that time now.

This isn’t to say 2018 is going to be All Creativity All the Time.  I’ll take nights off to watch movies and anime with A.  I want to expand my reading list, and maybe check out more audio books and podcasts.  I’d really like to get back into shape so a few days a week at the Y will do me good, as will cutting down on snacks and junk food.  And just getting out more, being more social, getting some air and sun.  I spent a lot of 2017 in self-imposed hiding for one reason or another, and I’d like to change that.

Bring it on, 2018.  I’m ready to go!

Looking Forward to 2018

bleach fireworks
Credit: Bleach

I’ve got a busy 2018 ahead of me, that’s for sure.

A good busy, though.  I’ve given myself a lot of goals to hit, and I’m sure I can hit most if not all of them.  A few will be harder than others.  Some will most likely roll into 2019.  A majority of them will take most of the year.  And I’ll be juggling it all with the Day Job, of course.  But I think I can pull it off.

The trick here is to have a long-term schedule going, which I’ve been playing around with over the last few days.  It’s a little like how I write novels: multiple threads going at the same time, fully aware of how to orchestrate them, put them in order, and make them flow.  It’s only taken me how long to figure out that I can (and should) do this with the non-writing part of my writing career?  Sheesh.

Anyway…I’ve got a novel to prep for self-publishing (Meet the Lidwells!), a new novel to start writing (untitled Apartment Complex story) and one, maybe two others to outline when I have the time.  I’ll be going to three conventions, with the plan of being on a few panels and possibly a few readings.  I’ll be resuming my photography for book cover and image library purposes.  I desperately need to do restart the document scanning (it’s something I’ve put off for far too long).  I’d like to record some more mp3 demos, maybe pull them together into full completed tracks.  And most importantly, I need to move forward with the Mendaihu Press entity, using it as an umbrella for both my self-published novels and cover artwork.

This is going to be a very complex symphony to orchestrate, and I’m quite sure I’ll hit all the typical obstacles along the way, but I’m in it for the long haul and I’m too stubborn to quit easily.

This coming year is going to be one hell of a challenge for me, but I’m looking forward to it nonetheless.

An overview of 2017

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The Bridgetown Trilogy — finally DONE.

It’s been an interesting year, I’ll say that much.  Personally we’ve all had one hell of a bumpy ride.  I’ve certainly had my highs and lows.  And somehow I persevered.

Anyway, looking back over the past twelve months, I’m proud to say I went a hell of a lot further in my writing career than I ever thought I would.  A project that I started in all seriousness twenty years ago was finally signed off as complete.  I started not one but two completely new projects and sowed the seed for even more ideas.  I kept a solid blogging schedule.  I took part in panels on two different local science fiction conventions.  All while still holding a Day Job.

The Balance of Light e-book and trade release, and completing a long-term project.  That was the toughest of the three to revise, so it took me most of 2016 and early 2017 to finish.  Even the cover was a bear to get right.  But at the same time, overcoming the hurdles I faced on this one made me an even better writer; it taught me to take all the time I needed to get it right before I released it upon the world.  It was worth the wait, as that book went from the Troublemaker for a good few years to a novel I’m proud of.  And added to that, it truly did feel like a weight lifted off my shoulders when I realized I did not need to work on that project any longer.  I still miss it, of course, but I’m definitely glad it’s done.  Most importantly, I saw a very long-standing goal to its conclusion and I couldn’t be happier.

–Daily words at 750words.com.  I’ve been quite consistent with this as well, much more so than previous years.  I trained myself to use this site as a place for playing around with ideas instead of trying to force myself to use prompts (suggested or otherwise).  I just went with whatever popped into mind.  In 2015 and 2016 I used it to write an extremely rough and incomplete draft of Meet the Lidwells, and in 2017 I used it to plot out most of the project after that.  I’ve taken this month off from it for various reasons, but I’ll be picking it up again come January.

Meet the Lidwells!  This one surpassed all of my expectations, to be honest…so much so that I spent the first half of the project questioning whether or not I was doing it right!  This project hit a lot of goals: writing a complete outline ahead of time, writing a shorter novel, writing a story that had a personal connection (music), and writing in a minimal amount of time.  Because of this I have a minimal amount of post-writing work to do: some minor revision, shooting the cover picture, and prepping it for self-publication.  Quite possibly the shortest novel project I’ve had to date.

–Untitled ‘Apartment Complex’ story.  Having written out a few key scenes and plot ideas for this story using 750Words, I’m now working on the outline in the same manner that I did MtL.  That way when MtL drops, I can immediately focus on writing this one. This too has goals: to see if I can pull off ‘writing econo’ again.  I’m using the same process as the previous project, to the extent that I’ll play around with ideas on the project after this one for my daily words.

–Consistent blogging.  I wrote two different blogs twice a week for nearly the whole year, with very few lapses.  There were moments when it was tough, given that I always wanted to write something of interest and/or purpose, and did my best to avoid the fly-by entries as much as I could.  I also wanted to avoid repeating myself whenever possible; I’ll totally cop to writing the same damn nostalgia piece over and over, and I’m doing my best to break out of that rut.  And in the process, I’m learning how to expand my palette by expanding my interests.

–Participating in Convention Panels.  This was another big one for me.  I’ve gone to a number of cons over the years but always as an audience member, but never as a participant.  After releasing my books I knew that this would be a great way for me to get connected to the non-writing part of the business.  [Mind you, my very first panel was a reading, which went over well but I think could have been better.  Once I got past that first one, the jitters were no longer there.]  In 2018 I’ll be attending three more cons, and I’ve signed up as a participant at all three.

*

All told, I’m ecstatic with what I achieved as a writer in 2017.  It was an extremely productive and fruitful beginning to my career as a professional self-publisher.  There are some goals I wish I’d have hit, but I’m not going to let that bother me.  I’m definitely looking forward to reaching those plus many new ones.

The Power of Words

fahrenheit 451 graphic novel
From Tim Hamilton’s graphic novel of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451

I have to say, my initial response to the Fuckwit administration’s seriously misguided attempt at Newspeak this past week by ‘forbidding’ certain words being used in reports coming from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention was not one of shock and horror, but disbelief.  Really?  You’re going to go there?

My second response of course, was a tweet:

Dear GOP: I’m a writer. You’re never going to take my words away from me. Just so you know. Signed, Me

As I said with my previous post, this administration has directly targeted my parents (screwing with Medicaid/Medicare); my family (screwing with women’s health), my friends (screwing with LGBT rights, affordable healthcare, Planned Parenthood, voting, wages, the list is pretty fucking long here), and my neighbors (screwing with immigration, sanctuary cities, hatred for SF and coastal cities in general, and let us not forget their hatred of Muslims).

And of course, they’re targeting me now.  First by voting down net neutrality, and now by forbidding the use of words.  So yeah, I have a legitimate reason to get a bit cheesed off when an entire political party is trying to fuck with my life.

You’re not going to take away my words and music, hoss.  I hope you know that.  Y’all might want to be all patriotic about your gun freedoms, so fair’s fair that I get in your face about my freedoms.  Especially when they hit that close to home.

Yeah, I know, I know…they’re talking about the CDC here, but the bullshit stinks just the same.  I’ve worked in certain client-facing jobs where I was trained to avoid certain words for ‘customer comfort’ or whatever you want to call it.  Can’t use the word ‘unfortunately’ when you can’t do something for them, even if what they’re asking for is nigh on impossible for purely logical, technological, maybe even legal reasons.  You want to avoid giving the client a reason to ragequit our business agreement.  I get that.

But come on: when a science-based federal department is being told not to use the phrase ‘science-based’?  You’re making it painfully obvious that you’re fucking around with the rules, and you’re doing a piss-poor job of it.  It’s like watching your four year old toddler cheat brazenly at a game he’s playing with you,  with him fully believing you’re not paying attention.  It’s like watching a con gamer failing catastrophically at pulling a three-card monte.  It’s like…

It’s a little bit like this scene from The Dover Boys of Pimento University, come to think of it:

Seriously, though. Really?  Forbidding words?  Do you think that works in this day and age in this country?  Especially now, when you’ve got a lot of us pissed off enough that we’re starting to vote in Democrats to key places just to get you guys to fucking stop the stupid shit already?

I mean, I could just let this pass just like every other dumbass thing you’ve been doing this past year in the misguided attempt that you even understand how to run an administration, let alone a government or a country.  I could just wait and listen for the inevitable death rattle of your party until it self-combusts.  I’m less pissed off about your fuckery and more pissed off that you’re just wasting all of our goddamn time and money.  So many things could get done if you would just stop trying to kick your long-dead horse back to life.

In the meantime, we’ll be here, still making a noise.  Still being who we are.  Still looking out for each other.  Waiting for the rest of you to come to your fucking senses.

We’ll be here making that noise for as long as it’s needed.  As Happy Harry Hard-On said way back in 1990, we’ll talk hard.