#NaNoWriMo 2018

crocheted dinosaursJust like every year, I started out the month of November with the best of intentions. For the first time since 2012, I’m not in grad school so I’d have plenty of time to write this year! I work full time but don’t generally bring stuff home with me, which would leave me 7-8 hours to write every night. I only needed 1666 words per day, which would be simple to write in just a few hours. How could I lose?

Well, it seems I could lose the same way I lose every year – life got in the way. I only managed about 10,000 words.

This year, however, it wasn’t homework or work or just pure procrastination. No, this year Etsy was my downfall.

I have a lot of interests, and one of them is crochet. I like to make my own unique creations as a way to relieve stress, and since I don’t really need a dozen octupi or aye-ayes or whatever else I’ve just made, I sell it all on Etsy. Based on past years’ experience, I know that November/December is when I’ll see most of my annual sales. I had planned to make lots of stuff year-round so I wouldn’t get swamped at the holidays, but just like with writing, life got in the way.

And whoa boy, did I get swamped this year. I have a new item, baby dinos in eggs, and they’re pretty popular. Which means all my time is going towards making them, rather than writing, because I’m kinda broke and need the immediate money from Etsy rather than the not-so-immediate money I get from writing.

The good news is, everything should calm down in a couple more weeks, and then I can get back to writing. I’ve just finished the first draft of Captive and the Cursed, Book 1 of a new series of retold fairy tales-sans magic-avec Vikings that my writing group loves, and I’m super excited to get it edited and off to my publisher, hopefully to be released this spring. I’m also super excited to get started on Sleeping Shaman, book 2, as soon as edits are done on book 1. I have two whole weeks off for Christmas break and zero plans, so maybe I’ll be able to get some writing done. Even when life gets in the way.

Fall 2018 goal review

Every 3 months, I review my annual goals. Here’s my progress so far this year.

  1. Better time management.
    I’m still tracking my activity, and while I’m getting more done most days, it’s not necessarily things I need to be doing. I started a new job this school year, and while I absolutely love it, it’s very mentally draining. Combine that with some family drama, and my focus the past couple months has been more on unwinding/self-care.
  2. Publish to Medium at least weekly.
    I was doing really well with this until I wasn’t. I’ve published 27 stories so far this year, which is about 10 less than I should have to meet a goal of about one per week. However, I’ve been writing a lot – almost every day!! – and not just flash pieces, which is a lot of what I published on Medium. Still a doable goal.
  3. Publish a stand-alone novella or short story collection quarterly.
    Part of the reason for not publishing on Medium as much is that I’ve been writing a lot on the first story in a seven-novella series. I only have about 5 chapters left in it, at which point I’ll polish it up and hopefully have it out by Christmas. My writing group is loving the story and pushing me to finish it, which is helping keep up my momentum. I’m about one story short of a collection – that should be out in the next few weeks. As much as I’d like to space everything out, I might do an end-of-year holiday rush. We’ll see.
  4. Grow my reader base, whether on social media, my newsletter, or Medium, by at least double. So, 600 followers on Facebook, 1500 followers on Twitter, 200 followers on Medium, and 3000 mailing list subscribers.Stupid Facebook keeps taking away my followers (or they’re unfollowing me). I’m at 310 for Facebook, still about 860-865 on Twitter, and way short on my mailing list subscribers. But on Medium, I’m at 276 which is great!
  5. Post to my blog at least twice a week, and promote those posts to get more traffic here.
    My blog has been pretty neglected lately. I’m writing a bunch of scheduled posts, so I should be able to meet this goal. I’m looking for a social media manager program that’s free to help promote my posts; I used to use HootSuite but now you have to pay for a lot of the features. Any suggestions?
  6. Read 100 books.
    I’m at 72 for the year, which is 4 behind. And also way more on target than I’ve ever been at this point in the year.

Overall

I’m not doing great but I’m not doing too poorly. Which is okay, because as Armando Perez once said, “Reach for the stars. And if you don’t grab ’em, at least you’ll fall on top of the world.”

If you’ve set goals for yourself, how’re they going so far this year?

Media Monday: Edith Wharton, feminism, and the #MeToo movement

Media MondayThe books: The Age of Innocence and The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

The music: “Ísjaki” by Sigur Rós and “Intro” by The XX

The books

The Age of Innocence has been one of my favorite books since I first read it 15+ years ago. I’ve been slowly working my way through Wharton’s stories and novels, and last spring I went on a Wharton binge (I stayed at a little cabin I had to hike half a mile to, right on Lake Superior, and spent several days lying on a bunk next to a wood-burning stove just reading. It was heaven) that included Ethan Frome and The House of Mirth. Unrelated to this post, why does everyone hate Ethan Frome? It has such a wonderfully tragic ending.

Anyways. Lily Bart became one of my favorite characters, because her story is so tragic as well.

If you don’t know the plot of either of them, The Age of Innocence is about Newland Archer, who’s engaged to deceptively naive May Welland. He meets her cousin Ellen Olenska, who is *gasp* separated from her husband! This is late 19th century New York high society and that kind of thing isn’t done. Ellen doesn’t care and does what she wants, much to the horror of her family and social circle. Newland realizes that high society is stupid and vapid and that he doesn’t particularly care for them either. He falls for Ellen in part because her DGAF attitude is such a contrast to May’s sincere desire to fulfill the role society tells her she should have. He’s prepared to dump May for Ellen, but May suspects this and tells Ellen she’s pregnant. Ellen runs away to Europe, and Newland lets her go in order to be the husband society wants him to be, even though he’s emotionally dead inside.

The book/film opens with them watching Faust, which is my third favorite opera, after Carmen and Evgeny Onegin.

The House of Mirth is similar. It’s about Lily Bart, a destitute late 19th century socialite who relies on the charity of her aunt. Lily is in her twenties and therefore practically ancient, so she’s getting a lot of pressure to marry the first guy she can snag. But all the guys are boring and stupid, except for her friend Lawrence Selden. Selden kinda strings her along as she muddles her way through friendships and semi-courtships. Her love for luxury leads her to a platonic financial relationship with a married guy, whose wife gets pissed and ruins Lily’s reputation. All Lily’s high society friends abandon her, and as she sinks through the ranks she eventually finds happiness as a lowly seamstress. Selden rushes to her apartment when he realizes just how bad off she is and what a jerk friend he’s been, except she accidentally OD’ed on sleep medication.

Lily is a combination of both May and Ellen. May knows how to play the game to get what she wants, and what she wants is exactly what society tells her she should have – a wealthy husband to pop out babies with, never concerning herself with anything more than managing her household and family. Ellen, in contrast, wants to do whatever she wants, and society is holding her back with her expectations. Lily tries to be like May, pretending to want a house to manage and a family to raise, when really she’s more like Ellen in that she wants to do what she wants regardless of what society dictates. The constrast, however, is that Ellen’s rich grandmother also thinks society is stupid and gives her enough money that she can live however she wants, without a husband to depend on. Lily, unfortunately, doesn’t have this, and so she has to make her own way in the world. Lily realizes that she can either be rich or have freedom, and as the story progresses, she goes from holding on to riches at all costs, to finding pleasure in simplicity and poverty. And then she dies.

Feminism

The role of feminism is obvious. Ellen would be okay in our modern era, because she’d be able to divorce her worthless husband and become a senator or lawyer or travel writer or something. Lily, born into a gilded life, would nonetheless have been able to get an education that would allow her to support herself without relying on her worthless husband. But because of society’s restrictions, being on their own isn’t a realistic option, unless they’re willing to face the stigma that comes with it. Ellen is, and so she’s rewarded – her grandma sees how happy she is when she DGAF and gives her money to live off of. Lily, however, refuses to take the plunge by telling everyone to F off, and she ends up poor. Perhaps if she had told them to F off sooner, she would’ve gotten a happy ending like Ellen’s. Instead, it’s only when she accepts that society is stupid and she’s better off without it that she finds peace. But then it’s too late, and she dies.

#MeToo

While Lily Bart has grown to become probably my favorite Wharton character after Newland (I really despised her when I first started reading the book, and it’s only in hindsight that I realized how awesomely done her complexity was), I’m not a fan of Lawrence Selden at all. I have to wonder, how complicit was he in her death? She wasn’t sexually assaulted, but her name was dragged through the mud when she was accused of having an affair with a married guy. None of her friends stood up for her, Selden included. He was removed a bit from society, in that he went to the parties but wasn’t really part of a high society family. As such, he had a lot more freedom to DGAF than most of the other characters, yet he still had clout with them. Kinda like the cool loner kid. Yet he didn’t speak up for Lily, even though they had feelings for each other. As I’m writing this I’m trying my hardest to avoid news about Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing and sexual assault testimonies, and I can’t help but draw a parallel between Lily’s situation and his. Lily was accused of having an affair. No one spoke up to defend her innocence, even her closer friend, and she suffered because of this. Dr. Ford has spoken up about Kavanaugh’s sexual assault of her and however many other women have accused him, and no Republicans are defending her, and she and the whole damn country are suffering because of this. Maybe then Sen. Flake is the equivalent of Selden; he claims to be a champion of women’s rights, but he goes along with the status quo.

Which again comes back to the question: how complicit is Selden in Lily’s death? When we see injustices – whether it’s misogyny or bullying or maybe a coworker behaving in a harmful way – what obligation do we have to speak up? I know what my response is, but what happens when society is telling you to sit down and shut up, or you’re going to lose your status? Do you still expend your social capital, maybe risk friendships and relationships and your job, to speak out? I know what my answer is, and sadly I know what most people’s answers are. I know what Selden’s answer was, and it cost Lily her life.

The music

As you may have deduced from my rant above, the #MeToo movement, and especially every misogynist thing the current administration is doing, is a bit triggering for me. Yeah, I said triggering. The truth of the matter is, women are still at the mercy of a patriarchal society, and when we go against or speak against their norms there can be emotional consequences for it. So, the two songs for today are two that I use to calm down.

The first is by Sigur Ros, and the lyrics don’t even matter so much as the music. The chimes are great for deep breathing exercises; I’ve used them with clients as well as with myself.

The second is by The XX, a band YouTube suggested I listen to. This song is just very calming, and since it’s only 6-ish minutes long someone nicely made it into a 4 hour loop so you can listen to it forever to destress. You’re welcome.

New releases!!

Futility CoverAfter – well, let’s just say a while – I have a couple new releases!

Kind of.

The first is an audiobook of The Futility of Loving a Soldier, narrated by Maria Kelly. She has a beautiful Irish lilt that makes the eleven short stories a joy to listen to.

Get your copy at Amazon/Audible or iTunes.

The second release is a paperback of “A Place to Die.” I wanted to have print copies on hand for an upcoming book fair event thing but didn’t get them ordered in time. However, you can still get your copy at Amazon. And don’t forget, you can read the story for free if you sign up to my mailing list.

If you’re wanting actual new stories, I’ve been posting pretty regularly over on Medium. I’m also nearly done with the first draft of the first book in a new series, which is retellings of fairy tales but with Vikings and no magic. My writing group is loving the first book – the MC was described as “wonderfully prickly” – and they’ve been pushing me to finish. I’m hoping to have the first one out by Christmas, with more to follow over the next year.

I also started a Patreon account. One of the tiers includes access to a new story every month. Please consider supporting me – just $1 will give me that extra push to actually write each month!

Thanks for your support!

Media Monday: Love Across Time

The book: Yesterday by Samyann

The music: “No Roots” by Alice Merton

Yesterday is a love story, with a twist.

It opens with Amanda, a young woman in Chicago, saving Mark, a cop, from a runaway L train. Despite never having met before, they feel a deep connection to each other. Amanda’s loved ones have a bad habit of dying and leaving her alone, so her impulse is to pull away from Mark. But he’s persistent, and gradually Amanda finds herself falling for him.

Sounds pretty routine, right? Well, this connection extends to a grandfather clock in the antique store next to where Amanda saved Mark. She’s as drawn to the clock as she is to him, and after she buys it, he runs forensic tests on it to try to figure out its mystery. Meanwhile, Amanda’s godmother suggests she try past life regression therapy as a way to work through her attachment issues. Through these sessions, she learns about her past life as a girl escaping the Civil War, traveling from South Carolina to Chicago, and losing some loved ones along the way.

I don’t want to give away any spoilers – but this story is both a contemporary romance and a well-researched historical romance, spanning 150 years of skillfully interwoven characters. The author does a great job of tying all the threads together at the end, making this worth the read.

The accompanying song, Alice Merton’s “No Roots,” fits Amanda. She’s trying not to put down roots or make connections, but in spite of herself she does and ends up getting hurt – which spurs her on to the next place. Only by recognizing the pattern is she able to find happiness. Also, this is just a fun song to blast on your car stereo and sing along with.

Friday Five: S.A. Edwards

Today’s Friday Five focus is S.A. Edwards, author of YA fantasy novels.

Sophie Edwards has worked in many fields and gained qualifications in Hairdressing, Childcare, Photography, and is now undertaking a BA(Hons) in Creative Writing. She lives in the UK with her husband and three homeschooled children, with the beginnings of a grassfed farmstead in the back garden. She also designs book covers on the side.

Her debut novel Mage: The Guardian’s Oath is available now.

Eighteen years trapped in a village is enough to drive anyone crazy, so when a way out appears in the wall, Clara leaps at the chance to leave. But her joy quickly diminishes, for outside the wall’s protection, the hunters seeking her life can sense her, and an ancient, sinister plot emerges – a plot that’s killed her six times, and now, only one chance remains. To save those she loves and gain her freedom, Clara must face the darkest magic and find the courage to do what she fears most.

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S. A. Edwards1. Why do you write in YA?

The possibilities are endless. In the real world there are rules. In mine, they’re completely different. I find fantasy intriguing and the perfect opportunity to share the hidden magic out there with people in this world.

2. What literary character are you most like and why?

Belle, probably. Quiet, misunderstood in my young, a lover of books.

3. How much of your published writing is based on personal experiences?

Most of it, actually, only tweaked. A lot.

4. What are three things on your bucket list?

See more of the world.
Share my stories with as many people as possible.
Learn a language.

5. What do you want your readers to take away from your works?

If every reader who finishes my work feels satisfied and that it was worth it, if they want to read more, my job is done.

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Mage: The Guardian’s Oath is currently available on Amazon.

Become a Friday Five author or read previous author interviews.

Weekend Writing Warrior 7/22/18 #8Sunday

After All coverThis week’s excerpt is from one of my end-of-the-world stories, “Special,” that’ll be included in an upcoming collection. It leaves off from last week’s excerpt, where a young boy told his friends he had grass growing under his bed.

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I’d forgotten about it by morning, like I forgot about most of what he said, until at breakfast Yaya asked, “Where’s Niko?”

“He’s by the lake,” I answered, without hesitation.

“What lake?” Yaya’s eyes narrowed, probably suspecting this was another of Niko’s tricks he’d convinced me to go along with.

“The one at our old plantation.”

She grabbed my arm, her eyes wide in disbelief. “Tevi, has Niko gone Outside?”

“Yes.” I closed my eyes, honing in on where my brother was. “He wanted to find some grass to show Szymon.”

* * * * * * *

Read the rest of “Special” over at Medium, then post a link to your eight-ten sentence blog entry, or join the fun at the Weekend Writing Warriors website.

About After All:

Nuclear war. Plague. Asteroids. Financial collapse.
Dystopian governments determined to exterminate anyone different.

Through it all, humanity struggles on.

And if you’re a writer, sign up to be a Friday Five author, which gets you and your latest work featured on my blog.

Friday Five: David Taylor II

Today’s Friday Five focus is David Taylor II, author of children’s, sci-fi, and fantasy short stories, novels, and poetry.

David Taylor II is an author, playwright, songwriter and producer. He is the author of the new children’s favorite Diary of a Smart Black Kid and is also adding to his Dear God children’s series. His latest novel, Lucifer: Soldiers, Serpents and Sin, is an internationally best-selling book. He has created an entire story world called The Realm from that first book and continues to expand it. He is a co-composer for the smash hit theater production, Eye of the Storm:The Bayard Rustin Musical, nominated for 3 Black Theater Alliance awards. In 2015 his book Wayward Pines: Survival, from the hit Fox TV show of the same name, broke top 10 in the Amazon best seller list and is currently still in the Top 100 of Kindle Worlds sci-fi. He is the proud father of two, as well as a lover of football, pizza, and a good glass of lemonade.

11-year-old Baron Winters, protagonist of Diary of a Smart Black Kid: Sixth Grade, has a funny name. He’s smart, black, and a geek. That means parents, bullies, and bullets. And girls. He chronicles his foray into middle school, trying to understand it all. And survive.

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David Taylor 21. What author has influenced your writing style/subject the most and why?

It wasn’t an author, it was a film director, James Cameron. The man is a master storyteller and his movies hold up even years later. So I wanted my books to be good stories that hold up over time.

2. What genre do you currently read most and why?

Mainly fantasy and comic books, because it keeps my mind expanding.

3. If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?

Ooooh I’ve thought about this one six ways to Sunday. If I have to pick only one, it would be super speed. Everything changes if you can move at super speed.

4. What’s the worst job you’ve ever had and why? What was the best thing about that job and why?

I worked at a certain retail outlet and the boss was horrific. Just mean on purpose. But at least I got discounts on purchases.

5. Why should people read YOUR stuff? Who’s your target audience and why?

People should read my stuff because I don’t care what I’m talking about, I’ve got a fresh twist on it you’ve never heard before. My target audience is people that love to Geek out as much as I do!

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Diary of a Smart Black Kid is currently available on Amazon.

Become a Friday Five author or read previous author interviews.

Travel Tuesday: The Land of Smiles

I love to travel, and I love to seek out experiences that maybe don’t involve the best judgment but always result in the best stories.

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Bangkok

Boats transporting tourists on the Chao Phraya River

 

Thailand is known as “The Land of Smiles,” and aside from the apathetic customs agent at the Bangkok airport who expressionlessly stamped our passports, the country seems to be living up to its name.

According to the internet as well as several locals we’ve talked to, saving face is very important in Thailand. This means that Thais will smile not only when they’re happy but also when they’re seething inside at some affront from that damn tourist. And they’ll also smile when they’re ripping you off.

My son and I are spending a month in northern Thailand, and we opted to take the overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, partly as a chance to see more of the countryside but also mainly because I like trains. This left us with about twelve hours to kill in the capital. We checked our luggage at the station, then ventured out to find some food and explore the neighborhood.

Part of being a Westerner in a non-Western country means that you’re an easy mark. I’ve spent enough time in India to realize just how much pale-skinned people stick out, and also how lazy tourists are and how easily they make dumb decisions. Tuk-tuk drivers and travel guides have also realized this, and that results in Westerners being accosted by offers to take them places rather than letting them walk.

As soon as my son and I stepped onto the sidewalk, a tuk-tuk driver approached us. Would we like a boat tour of Bangkok? Only two hours, and he would take us there, just 50 baht (about $1.50USD). I didn’t want to spend a whole day sitting at the train station, so off we went.

Our driver was very friendly and chatty. He knew enough English to tell us about his young daughter, and that America meant freedom, smiling all the while. He delivered us to a boat company’s dock, where we paid a ridiculous amount to take a boat along the Chao Phraya River to the floating market, then to the Royal Palace, and then back to our starting point. Our driver emphasized, several times, that we would end up where we started.

We climbed in our boat and headed out, our boat pilot (captain? driver?) delighting in hitting the wake so water sprayed in our faces. Several smaller boats approached us selling cheap crap — I mean handicrafts — and I bought a bottle of water from one just because the seller was so damn smilingly persistent. We stopped for lunch at a small market, then hopped back in the boat to go to the palace. We landed and paid a small dock fee, and then our pilot waved and sailed off.

I tried to find out when and where he was coming back to pick us up, but all the smiling people conveniently didn’t understand my English. We eventually stumbled across a man with a similar racket to our tuk-tuk driver, who took us back to his tour organizer — who then tried to sell us a pricy one-way ticket back to our original location.

I declined.

My son and I were fuming. We’d either been blatantly lied to and ripped off, or we’d misunderstood our own tour organizer and this new person was trying to rip us off now too. Then add insult to injury that the palace charged admission of 500 baht per person, it was 90 degrees and sunny with 90% humidity, and we were jetlagged from traveling halfway around the world in the last 36 hours. Suffice to say, we were not happy campers.

But then we stopped for a bit of perspective. The boat ride had been exhilarating, the market food was delicious, and we’d had the chance to see more of Bangkok than we would have had we stayed in the train station (especially when you add in the tuk-tuk ride we took back to the station). So we chalked it up to a stupid tourist learning experience and ended up enjoying the rest of our day.

After all, we were in the land of smiles.

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This story originally appeared on Medium.

 

Weekend Writing Warrior 7/15/18 #8Sunday

After All coverIt’s been almost a year since I’ve participated in WWW!

This week’s excerpt is from one of my end-of-the-world stories, “Special,” that’ll be included in an upcoming collection.

* * * * * * *

Growing up, Niko didn’t do anything special. He played with the other children in the caverns into which we’d moved to shield us from the airstrikes. He matched their outlandish stories about their dead fathers’ exploits with ones about our own father, trumping them by including the adventures of his namesake, even though no one had heard of him.

One day, when we were about eight and Niko was running screaming with the others playing king of the hill, he pulled out the boldest story of all: “I have grass growing under my bed.”

Szymon paused from shoving him off our dirt pile hill. “No one has grass growing anywhere.”

We’d read about grass and about other plants, and once we’d even toured the hydroponics labs the soldiers maintained. But no one actually had plants of their own. How would they grow in the caverns, without sunlight?

* * * * * * *

Read the rest of “Special” over at Medium, then post a link to your eight-ten sentence blog entry, or join the fun at the Weekend Writing Warriors website.

About After All:

Nuclear war. Plague. Asteroids. Financial collapse.
Dystopian governments determined to exterminate anyone different.

Through it all, humanity struggles on.

And if you’re a writer, sign up to be a Friday Five author, which gets you and your latest work featured on my blog.

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