Free Time!

One of the things I look forward to the most about MileHiCon is having some time to myself. Aside from some evening commitments and the panels I’m on (and the book signing time), I’ve got the whole weekend to myself, and I can do whatever I want with it.

And MileHiCon has traditionally been very productive for me. Admittedly, when I was chained to the Turtleduck Press table in Author’s Row, I could get a ton done, and that’s not as true now that I’m free (freeee ahahahaha), but last year at least still proved quite useful.

(Like many conventions, MileHiCon has ~50 minute panels that start on the hour. So there’s about ten minutes between panels where the majority of the con population is meandering about when you deal with people, and then for the other 50 minutes you twiddle your thumbs, or a few people wander through. That’s a lot of thumb twiddling.)

I tend to get overwhelmed at panels, so I don’t go to that many, no matter the convention (even when I go to writers’ conferences where there’s a ton of stuff to do, every now and then I skip a session to recharge). I’ll hit the artist’s alley (I love the artist’s alley and seeing all the cool stuff people have come with) and the vendors’ hall a few times, maybe watch some anime if something looks fun, watch the costume contest.

That still leaves a lot of time.

When I was table-chained, I often got some editing done, drew pictures for the blog, wrote short stories, etc. (The Internet does not really work in the hotel, so I have to plan ahead to make sure I can do what I want to do. But, on the other hand, I am not distracted by silliness.) Even last year, I wrote a short story and managed to get feedback on it throughout the weekend.

So, knowing that I will have several hours to do whatever this weekend…what do I do?

(Well, if this anthology story doesn’t finish itself a little faster, I’ll have to finish it there.)

It’s one of those times when there’s too much possibility. I could do so many things. How do I pick? How do I focus? Do you do that, squiders, where there are so many opportunities you end up getting nothing done because you flit from one thing to the next?

Because I do. And it’s problematic.

If we go off of priorities…well, anthology story. Hopefully done before the end of the week, and so no longer an option. Siri has the Sekrit Project and so there’s nothing I can do there. I’m into the climax and conclusion on space dinosaurs, so maybe that? I’m probably not going to want to write a short since I’m coming off the anthology story. (Although at a projected 10-11K, it’s not really a “short” story. We shall consider the matter still open.)

(I may need to have a short done by Nov 1 anyway, actually. Yes, we shall keep that on the table.)

I could also work on some things I’ve been wanting to do that keep getting eaten by other things, like work on potential new series (including a picture book and a chapter book one) or poke at the nonfiction books and see what I need to do to get them ready to be published. (I think there’s one more book to be written, but that’s kind of why I need to evaluate where I am.)

So, options:

  1. Space Dinosaurs
  2. Short story
  3. Children’s books
  4. Other series?
  5. Nonfiction books

Hm. Five options, and only three days. Decisions, decisions. A short would need to be plotted before hand (see, no Internet, so I won’t be able to access my idea file at the hotel). Nonfiction probably also needs Internet, so that might be out. What would you do, if you were me?

MileHiCon Prep and Nerves

My sister gave me chocolate for my birthday, which is both a blessing and a curse.

We’re about a week out from MileHiCon, squiders, which is a scifi/fantasy literary convention that I like to make the rounds at each year. You’ve probably heard me talk about it before. For a few years I had a table in the author’s row for Turtleduck Press, which ended up not being much fun (stuck at table, terrible habit of comparing sales to other presses/authors, etc.) so last year I struck out on my own, which is the plan again this year.

But I still feel a little weird about. I mean, I had a MUCH better time last year and I don’t regret abandoning the author’s row. But I haven’t really done much since last year. I’ve had some short stories published in zines, anthologies, and websites, but nothing too major, and nothing I’ve had any sort of ownership over. Sure, next year is looking better–a Fractured World anthology and the sequel to City of Hope and Ruin, as well as some other potential projects–but this year is pretty sparse.

So it feels weird to be doing something that is essentially marketing while having nothing to market. I mean, there’s still reasons to go–networking, to see people I like, to have fun, books, etc. (To stare longingly at the things in the art show I can’t afford. To buy awesome book-themed tea.) But I feel less relevant than normal.

(Also, reminder to self, file permits with state/city so I can sell books.)

Still, though–I’m on two panels, both editing related, and have a time at the authors’ signing table. And they offered me a comped pass for the weekend, which has never happened before. So that feels lovely. And my mom found me a proper book display so that will also be helpful for signing/selling. All in all, if I can get over the weirdness, it should be a good weekend.

(Things to do, because I honestly just realized we were a week away:

-File permits
-Organize stock/credit card reader/mailing list sign-up/business cards
-If, when panel details come out, I need to prep, prep)

Any thoughts on conventioning when there’s nothing to market, squiders? As a reader, what draws you to panelists/authors at conventions you attend?

Recording vs. Typing

I type, Squiders. When I write, I sit down at a computer, open a word processing document (or the blog window, I guess), and go to it. (Or get distracted by the Internet. Dang you, Internet, you double-edged sword.)

But, sometimes, it’s hard to find time to sit down and write. And my laptop is getting older, so sometimes it takes a few minutes to get up and running. And sometimes it hurts my neck because invariably I’ve picked some place stupid to write and have been typing away with terrible posture.

So every now and then I consider other options.

I do handwrite sometimes, but I’m not terribly fast at it and I find it hard to really get going. (I do find that outlining or brainstorming on paper can be more efficient, however.)

I had a dictation program that I used for a bit right after the largest of the mobile ones was born. It still involves sitting at a computer, and there’s a learning curve while the program learns how you talk. Also it hated all my nonstandard fantasy names. So there was still a lot of fiddling to fix up what the program heard wrong. Which kind of eliminated the usefulness of using the dictation program. Also, I’m pretty sure said mobile one broke the headset that came with it, so that’s a bit of a problem.

There’s another option which I have not previously tried, and that’s recording and typing it up (or having someone else type it up) later. Kevin J. Anderson, who is a very nice person and a very proficient author, works this way. He goes for hikes out in the wilderness, talking into a recording device as he goes, and comes home with two or three hours worth of story, which he sends to his transcriptionist to type up.

Of course, some of us don’t have two or three hours to wander around talking to ourselves in the forest, but I admit the idea intrigues me. I could maybe do it while I folded laundry, or cooked dinner. Or maybe in patches when I find myself with a spare 15 minutes.

My biggest worry is voice. I don’t talk like I write, and it seems like it would be awkward to learn how to tell stories out loud in a way that could be supplemented by (or supplementing) writing on the computer.

Of course, I haven’t tried. Maybe it wouldn’t be so hard.

I looked at audio recording apps for my phone, which seems most convenient (since I have my phone with me most of the time) but there was a ton of them, and I got overwhelmed and ran off.

Have you tried recording a story and then transcribing it later? How did it work? Or do you know of a writer that works that way that has talked about their process?

October!

It’s that time of year again.

fear them

October! Best month of the year! You guys are probably sick of me saying that every year, but it continues to be true.

The temperature is finally dropping enough to wear, you know, pants. And other fun things like boots and sweaters. The leaves are changing. People don’t look at me as weird for drinking tea all the time. The world turns a little bit goth, just for fun.

Here’s what October looks like on my end:

  • Rehearsal starts tomorrow for the Christmas review show. They gave me a solo. They weren’t supposed to ever actually do that. But aside from never having sung by myself in front of more than about three people at a time (aside from auditions), I’m pretty excited. Some of the songs are the same as last year, so less work for me. <_<
  • I’ve got a major client edit. It’s my fourth book for this client, and his books are just massive. So that will probably carry me through til the end of the year.
  • Also I have a beta that I’m about 60% done with that I need to finish up and get back to the author.
  • Red Mars needs to be read by Nov 1 and I have yet to start it. (Not too worried; I read pretty fast. Got distracted by a book talking about the relations between haunted places, our psyches, storytelling, and ghosts. Seasonally appropriate.)
  • I’m two-thirds of the way through my Python class. Did I tell you I was taking a Python course? I am. Programming seems like a good thing to be generally proficient in. Said class takes between six and twelve hours a week, so it’s more of a time commitment than I was expecting going in.
  • I’m halfway through my fitness challenge.
  • On the writing front, it’s all Fractured World, all the time. All the plans I had for September got eaten and it may be December before I get back to most of them. Priority is working on the sequel to City of Hope and Ruin as well as a related anthology (which I am super excited about–really looking forward to writing my story, as well as seeing the other ones).
  • My birthday is next week! I keep trying to direct people to my Amazon wishlist but no one ever listens. (Also, on a related note, can you make Etsy wishlists?)

I’m not a pumpkin spice person myself, but I always hail the return of pumpkin spice season, because it means peppermint everything season shall be here shortly.

October, squiders! Do you love it? Grand plans for the month? People doing Nano? Should I talk about Nano?

Assessing Yourself

I’ve talked about day jobs before, and how they can be useful for a number of reasons (steady income, giving your brain time to think through plot points and whatnot, etc.). I’ve also talked about how I think, at least for me, being a full-time freelance writer/editor has hurt my fiction (or at least my motivation).

So I’ve been thinking very seriously about finding a new day job. The problem is that the options are wide open. (I think I talked about that somewhere too.) I do think I’ve decided to go for something non-freelance, something where I have to go some place and talk to other people on a semi-regular basis.

Having so many options, and not knowing what I want to do, I scheduled an appointment with my alma mater’s career services department. (Most people know you can use career services to help you find a job as you near graduation, but it turns out that they’ll help alumni too. I got an email about it and was like, “Heyyyyy…”)

(Also, funnily, the woman I got was the one I worked with when I was graduating. Uh, many years ago.)

They recommended a series of assessments to help me learn about what’s important to me and what jobs would be a good fit.

And I figured, hey, what could it hurt?

That was a few months ago, and now I’m done with the lot. There was the Clifton Strengths, which told me what my strengths were. Then Myers-Briggs for personality. The Strong for what I’m interested in. And the Values for what’s important to me in a job/work place. Then the idea is to look at all four, see what patterns there are, and make a decision moving forward based on the results.

None of the results are especially a surprise, but I bet you that I wouldn’t have been able to pull the information out of my head before hand. The strengths was probably the most useful, in that they give you your top five strengths and explain how they are both good and bad (for example, one of mine is that I absorb information easily, which means I can learn–and apply–new things quickly. But the downside is that I can get distracted by research and lose a lot of time).

But it is nice to have it all laid out. Not sure it’s useful yet, because I can see three distinct career paths that could be taken from the results.

But aside from potential day jobs, I can also see how some of the information can be useful in my writing. It’s given me some ideas on how to work, and also on some new projects to try.

So if you have the opportunity, it might be a good idea to run through these tests yourself. One of the best ways to be true to yourself is to have a good idea of how you work. These tests aren’t perfect, of course, but especially by taking the lot, you can get a good general idea of things.

Taken assessments, squiders? Find them to be of any use?

The Same Story Across the Mediums

Isn’t it funny how when something is a hit, we’ve got remake it over and over and over and over and…

You get the point. But we don’t just remake it in the same form. We make a movie form and a book form and a television form and a video game form, and then we twist it and tell the same story again, with new twists or new settings or with some characters now a different gender or whatever fits our fancy.

(I actually took a lovely online class a few years back about how stories change to fit different mediums, which we explored by comparing the same “scenes” in the Lord of the Rings, through the movies, books, and LOTR online. Also we read a lot of romantic (time period, not romance-based) poetry and stories which form the basis of modern fiction.)

I recently noticed that the Japanese do this too–though they do it differently. The stories never seem to make it to the twisting phase. Let’s take one of my favorite anime series, Ouran High School Host Club, which is utterly ridiculous at almost all times, yet still manages to make you care about all the characters.

Ouran High School Host Club (here on out shortened to Ouran) started as a manga (for those unfamiliar with the term, manga is kind of like a comic book, so pictures and words in a sequential order) and the beginning of the manga was made into an anime (essentially a cartoon). Many anime are made from manga series, and, for the most part, anime series tend to follow their manga counterparts pretty closely.

(Manga series can be quite long–over 500 chapters–so you occasionally run into problems when the manga and the anime are running concurrently and the anime catches up to the manga. Anime sometimes goes through “filler arcs” which tell a story outside of the manga’s storyline but for the most part sticks to the same world and doesn’t alter anything major. Some of these are more successful than others. Or the anime may strike out on its own.)

Some years after the anime came out, they made a live action series of Ouran. Like it sounds, live action series have real people in real locations.

(If you’d like to see a character comparison, well:

ouran cast comp

What’s interesting is that the story doesn’t really change between mediums–when watching the live action, I recognized almost all the episodes from the anime–and when additions are made (such as a filler arc or a movie) they’re always made to fit into the world and story lines that already exist. If an anime gets too far from the manga, they remake the anime to fit the manga better.

But, as far as I know–and please feel free to correct me if I am wrong–they never twist. From Peter Pan they wouldn’t get Hook, or Jake and the Neverland Pirates, or Peter and the Starcatcher. No Wizard of Oz except they’re all insane, or everyone’s a grown up and steampunk, or told from the witch’s point of view.

You have Bleach, and Bleach goes on for 696 manga chapters, 366 anime episodes, four movies, a live action film (which JUST came out), five musicals, two trading card games, several light novels (essentially a novel with occasional manga-style pictures), and at least five video games. Or One Piece, which has been going since 1997 and has over 800 anime episodes. A story can go on forever, being retold from one medium to the next, and then, when they’re done…they’re done. On to the next thing. Or the same thing in a different form.

(Not to say that everything does this, of course. Trigun, for example, is quite manageable at 97 manga chapters and 26 anime episodes–though it is a case where the anime took liberties. Cowboy Bebop–which started as an anime and then became a manga–also has 26. And these are ~25 minute episodes in many cases.)

I just think it’s interesting, to look at how a story can mean so much that we’re willing to watch it–or read it, or play it–over and over. And to see how different cultures go about doing just that.

Am I wrong about Japanese storytelling not twisting the same story into new forms? (I know there are some manga/anime that are twists on Western stories–Pandora Hearts, which I’m reading right now, obviously has its roots in Alice in Wonderland–but I’m unfamiliar with any stories that are twists on other Japanese stories.) Favorite version of a favorite story?

Storytelling Across Cultures

They always say to read broadly, don’t they, squiders? And generally this means that if you normally read mysteries, pick up a romance every now and then, or some science fiction, or if you read novels to read short stories, or if you only read stuff from authors who are alike to you in race/gender/orientation, etc. to try authors who are different than you in one or all categories.

One could argue that reading stories from other cultures fits into this as well.

Have you ever read folklore and creation myths from different cultures? (I read a ton of creation myths at one point–I think it was research back when I was writing Shards–and it was very interesting to see what trended across cultures from different sides of the planet.) It’s really quite fascinating. I have a whole shelf of folklore here in my office–Russian, African, Hawaiian, American Indian–and even made it through the Kojiki at one point.

And stories take different mediums depending on the culture as well. And there are differences between the beats and flow even within the same medium. The kabuki theater tradition in Japan is completely different than Western theater (and is actually why people think ninjas wore black, though that’s another story). A puppet show in Europe is different than the shadow puppets of Asia.

Story structure varies as well. I was reading earlier about differences between “western” (in this case, American) and “eastern” (Japanese) storytelling. The article said that while western stories tend to depend on direct conflict and use a three-act story structure, eastern storytellers use a four act structure that goes “introduction, development, twist and reconciliation.” There can be–and often is–conflict, but it’s handled in a completely different manner. (If you’ve ever watched Spirited Away or another Ghibli film, you’ve probably seen this act structure in action.)

(Something else I read on the subject pointed out that in American storytelling, the main character is often the strongest, most interesting person in the story, with the other characters being relegated to sidekicks, whereas in Japanese storytelling, the main character is often an everyperson who is thrust into a situation where they’re surrounded by people who are more powerful and/or more interesting than they are. Which is true, to some degree, but I can also think of some examples where it’s not, so much like everything in life, there are always exceptions.)

What do you think, squiders? Feelings on stories and mediums from other cultures? Favorite stories from other countries? Thoughts on storytelling structure?

Announcing the Red Mars Readalong

All right, squiders. We’re going to do the Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson for our next readalong.

I’m excited to do this one, because I have been carting this trilogy around for probably close to 20 years without reading it, and if you’re at all familiar with it, you know these are fat books. My copy of Red Mars (which is the only one handy–Green Mars and Blue Mars are currently relegated to the basement bookcase) is about 600 pages of tiny font. So not Wheel of Time fat, but pretty dang fat.

I think I picked the series up around the time I read Dune and Ringworld and books of those ilk. I think I thought the series was older than it was, since it seemed to be on all the same lists. It is a Nebula award winner, so that’s cool.

(My copy was also apparently once owned by my local library. I hope I bought it at a book sale and didn’t steal it off the shelves. It doesn’t seem to have the general library book accouterments such as stickers with shelving location and whatnot, so I’m going to assume it’s all good.)

I have also never read anything by Kim Stanley Robinson (though I believe these were some of his first books), though my husband recently finished 2312, so assuming he’s consistent in his narrative form, I have a vague idea of what to expect.

Let’s give ourselves plenty of time to get through this one. November 1 sound good?

(I will also note that I will probably read We Have Always Lived in the Castle, which was also on the poll, sometime in October, both because I want to, and because one of my writing groups is having a paranormal/horror reading challenge in October, and that’s the first one that comes to mind. So I may or may not talk about that one as well.)

Cool Things Round-up

Hey, squiders! It’s been one of those weeks, so I’ve decided to share some neat things for both readers and writers with you.

Reading

I’ve talked about BookRiot before, but I recently learned that they do tailored book recommendations. (To be honest, I also like how they’ve named it Tailored Book Recommendations and shortened it to TBR, which stands for To Be Read in most reading circles.) It costs money, of course. There’s two levels–recommendations only (and I’m unsure whether you get the actual books or just recommendations and then have to hunt the book down yourself) and hardcover. (…why hardcover? I don’t want a ton of new hardcover books every quarter, but I suppose people must, or they wouldn’t offer it.) If you’re always looking for new books to read, this might be worth it to you.

Two weeks ago I took over the social media accounts for Hometown Reads. (And also Hometown Authors, but that’s for the other section.) If you’re unfamiliar with Hometown Reads, the idea is connect readers with local authors, so they can support them. The website is divided into cities (alphabetical by city name), and then once you click on your hometown, it shows several pages of books by local authors. The books rotate through, so you may get new and different books each time you check. You can also search by genre, though this gives you books from all the locations, and can search books/authors by name in a search box.

Writing

One of my favorite writing teachers, Holly Lisle, is launching a new course tomorrow, called How to Write a Novel. This is a brand spanking new class, so I haven’t taken it myself, and I’m also not sure how it differs from (or if it’s to replace) her How to Think Sideways course. I think it may be more specialized–HTTS also focuses on idea generation and how to find markets and the like. So! I don’t know about this particular class, except I have seen the outline for it and it is very very VERY thorough, and her How to Revise Your Novel course was a game changer for me.

(Also, I took her free How to Write Flash Fiction course and sold three of the four stories I finished, so…)

Edit: Oh, hey, reading comprehension–apparently if you get in the early bird launch, you get a full content edit of your manuscript for free, so that’s a pretty nice perk.

On the other side of Hometown Reads is Hometown Authors, which connects you to other authors in your local area, and also offers a marketing blog and other occasional resources. You can also maintain an account that shows up over at Hometown Reads, that links your books to you and where to buy them.

Another resource I came across fairly recently is Authors Publish. This is a free resource that emails once a week or so with a selection of markets you can submit to. These tend to be themed (one week may be publishers for romance novels, another week may be themed short story submissions, another might be new publishers), and they also occasionally release ebooks on various marketing and submission topics.

Well, that’s it for me for today. Found anything cool lately, squiders?

Time for a New Readalong!

It’s been almost half a year since we read The Sparrow, so let’s pick out a new book and/or series to look at! I’ve tried to provide a wide variety of genres and standalone/series options.

Also, if you’d very much like to do a different book or series, please let me know in the comments.

Also let me know if you prefer if I just pick a book on my own. The polls are still a new thing.

Readalong time! Pick a book:

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Books by Kit Campbell

City of Hope and Ruin cover
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Shards cover
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Hidden Worlds cover
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