Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Project Update 11/14/18

It feels like it's been a while since I posted an update. Here's a quick rundown of what I've been up to (besides the usual work and family stuff):

Writing: I'm closing in on 50,000 words for Dryads to Discover, but since I started it last year, it definitely doesn't count for NaNoWriMo. I've temporarily set it aside to work on a short story for an anthology. By the time this post goes live, I should be over 2,500 words on that. The submission period for this anthology opens 1/1/19, which is hopefully enough time for even this slow writer to finish the story. However, there's a second anthology that opens around that time that I also want to write for. I have an idea for that story, but I need to do more research before I can crystallize my idea into words. After that, there's just more projects all the way down.

Sewing: I finally managed to finish the holiday Jawa costume for a special parade Thanksgiving Day weekend. Sorry, no pictures until after the parade. I may try making a dress out of the leftover material, but it would have to be a simple one. I also need to make a second set of normal Jawa robe and hood to replace the one I've used for over three years. At least after that's done I should be able to start the Jedi costume. It would be nice to have that for Celebration.

Crochet: I still have a few projects that I need to finish, including a custom Wookie, Spiderman, and a poodle. I did make a green Porg to help celebrate the holidays:

I guess by now you shouldn't be surprised that I have yet another long list of things to crochet once I finish with my current ones. At least I manage to keep myself occupied!

I have a three-day weekend coming up since my son has Friday off, so hopefully I can make progress on a couple of things. I'll let you know more next week.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

IWSG: Writing, Creativity, and Life

Welcome to another blog post for the Insecure Writer's Support Group. You can learn more about the IWSG on their website, Facebook group, or Twitter feed.

Our hosts this month are Ellen at The Cynical Sailor, Ann V. Friend, JQ Rose, and Elizabeth Seckman.

This month, we've been asked to answer the following question: How has your creativity in life evolved since you began writing?

My life has definitely changed a lot since I began writing over twenty years ago, but I'd say other factors besides writing have definitely influenced my creativity. One major life event that increased my creativity was becoming a mother. Although motherhood takes up a lot of free time, it also exposes me to different interests and activities that I wouldn't have discovered on my own. For instance, after taking my son to bouncy houses when he was younger, I used one at the setting in my short story "The Mommy Clone." When he became interested in Star Wars, our whole family got into Star Wars costuming, which has led to me learning to sew.

Other creative hobbies have come and gone over the years. I taught myself how to crochet in my twenties; among other things, I made a ring bearer's pillow and a baby outfit. Then I forgot about crochet for a while until the end of 2016. I found a pattern to crochet a "pussy hat" for the Women's March and ended up making two. From there I just kept on going. I currently found a niche  in making geeky amigurmi with Star Wars characters, though I'm expanding into other fandoms and other crochet projects. Most of my crochet is done using patterns someone else designs, though sometimes I modify the pattern. Eventually, I want to create my own designs, possibly to sell.

How has your creativity changed with your writing? Feel free to share in the comments.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Favorite Halloween Books

Happy Halloween! To celebrate, I thought I'd share with you one of my favorite books about the season--or, at least, about witches. It's The Witch Family by Eleanor Estes. It's about two little girls (almost seven) and their adventures with the Witch Family. There's Old Witch, who is head of all the witches yet still subject to banishment by human children; Little Witch Girl; Weeny Witch (a baby witch); Malachi the Spelling Bee, and several other characters who live on the barren glass hill with Old Witch. It's a charming story that I remember from my childhood and rediscovered in Kindle format many years later. Obviously, I'm too old to identify with the girls, and it's not the kind of story my son would have found interesting at seven. It was still fun to reread it.

Do you have any favorite books about Halloween, either from your childhood or more current ones? Feel free to share them in the comments. And if you're starting NaNoWriMo tomorrow, good luck! I'm over 44,000 words into Dryads to Discover, and at the rate I'm writing, I'll be lucky to finish the first draft by the end of the year. Whether you finish your story in November or not, the writing is still worth it.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Project Update 10/24/18

I figure if I'm going to reduce my blogging to once a week, I should use the time to let people know how my myriad projects are doing.

Writing: I have four (yes, four!) projects in rough draft. Dryads to Discover, my urban fantasy novel, is the farthest along at about 41,000 words. I started this one last year, but I took breaks from it to work on some short stories. I also have another novel in the works, this one tentatively called Medium's Quest. I'm about 11,000 words into it. I have a few hundred words on each of two short stories, one targeted for a solarpunk anthology that opens next year and one I might submit to pro markets--assuming I ever get them done.

These projects are all new worlds for me. I've decided I'm going to trunk "The Unnumbered World," a short story in the Catalyst Chronicles universe. This story was going to be set after Twinned Universes and follow one of the minor characters from that book. The plot isn't working out, at least for now; maybe someday I'll go back to it and figure out what to do. In the meantime, that clears the way for Catalyst in the Crucible, the next novel in that series. But before I can go back to that one, I'd better finish some of the other stories I currently have drafting.

Publishing: I wrote a short story about Robbie, one of the minor characters in the Season Avatars series, but I'm still not satisfied with the title or the blurb. It can be harder to blurb short stories than novels, at least for me. Once I manage to work that out, I'll have Maria create a cover for it. I'd like to publish it this year if possible. I also have a completed short story prequel to Dryads to Discover, but I'm going to hold that one until DtD is ready to publish and put them out close together.

Crochet: I'm currently finishing up a poodle, and then I want to make an infinity gauntlet. (Click the link for the Etsy store with the pattern.). The first gauntlet will probably be for my son, and then I may make a couple to sell. I still have to finish up a couple of other amigurumi that I started a while back.

Costuming: I really need to replace my Jawa robe, which has gotten a lot of wear in three years of trooping. I have one mostly sewn; I just need to finish some seams and weather it. I may need to make another hood to match the dye lot. Once I finish that, then I'd better make my Santa Jawa robe. The holiday parade I plan to wear it in is only a few weeks away!

So, are you working on any interesting projects? Feel free to share them in the comments.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Blogging Schedule Update

After thinking about this for a while, I've decided I need to cut back on blogging for several reasons:

1. It seems like my posts aren't getting as many views as they used to. (I'm basing this on what Blogger reports.) Something may have changed in an online algorithm somewhere. There might be a decline in blogging in general (I see this mentioned in other places, though usually without sources). It might be more effective for me to put more marketing effort into other social media outlets or my newsletter. Reason #3 may be a factor too.

2. With all the other daily responsibilities and projects I constantly juggle, I feel really time-pressed for writing. Cutting back on my posts, at least temporarily, should help.

3. I'll be honest--lately, I've been having difficulty coming up with topics. I started this blog over a decade ago (I think it was shortly after I got married), so that's a lot of posts! I've written over 2,200 of them, and sometimes I wonder if I'm repeating topics. Maybe slowing things down for a while will give me a fresh perspective.

I'm not planning to give up blogging completely. For now, I think I might cut back to once a week on Wednesdays, so I can continue to participate in the monthly Insecure Writer's Support Group posts. This means that unfortunately I'll be giving up on the Science of the Week posts on Fridays. I enjoy researching those posts, but they do take up most of my blogging time. I have to read the science news articles daily (or read a lot at once) and decide which ones to link. If I have news, I might create an extra post for it.

Since it's late October, I'll try this schedule for the rest of the year and see how it works, both for me and for you, my readers. After that, I'll decide if I want to change my frequency. I hope no one's too disappointed by this announcement, but maybe I'll be able to engage more with comments. Feel free to leave one below.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Science of the Week, 10/19/18

Here are some of the most interesting science news articles I read this week:

A cure for Alzheimer's? Yes, a cure for Alzheimer's!
(It's actually more like customized treatments for each patient, and while it sounds promising, results can also vary.)

Survey shows widespread skepticism of flu shot

Giant planets around young star raise questions about how planets form

A step toward personalized, automated smart homes

Have a good weekend, and I'll see you Monday!

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

More Crochet Photos

Although I keep coming up with more writing projects than I have time for, I keep on crocheting as well--and coming up with more projects that I want to do. As long as I do a little both of both every day, I make some progress. I don't like sharing my writing projects when they're still in the rough draft stage, but the smaller crochet projects work up quickly. Here are some of my recently completed ones:

I started this pterodactyl right before the comic con at the end of September. I think it took about a week or so to finish. He's actually a darker purple in person.

 These are Halloween-inspired porg. From left to right, they are a jack-o-lantern porg (though my family thinks he looks like Deadpool, so maybe the next one won't have black eye patches), a vampire porg, a black cat porg, and a ghost porg. If I can figure out how to make a turkey tail, I might make some turkey porg next month. And yes, I have some ideas for Christmas....

I hope you enjoyed the pictures. Now to decide which writing project to tackle next.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Library Troop

We were out of town this weekend, so I didn't have time to prepare my usual blog posts for the week. Instead, I'll share photos from one of our weekend activities: a troop at a library in Madison, Wisconsin. My husband is in the top two photos, my son is in the second, and I'm in the rest.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Season Avatar Quiz

As part of preparing for the recent comic con, I developed a short quiz to match passersby with Season Avatars. It was meant as a way to engage with people about my work and interest them in it. I didn't hand out any copies, so I'll have to save them for my next appearance. In the meantime, I thought I'd share them here.

Which Season Avatar are You?

Pick the best answer from each question below. 

1.       What’s your favorite season?
a.       Spring
b.       Summer
c.       Fall
d.       Winter

2.       What’s your favorite color?
a.       Yellow
b.       Green
c.       Red
d.       Blue

3.       Which activity do you enjoy the most?
a.       Drawing
b.       Dancing
c.       Playing music
d.       Sewing/crafts

4.        What’s your greatest strength?
a.       Good leader
b.       Fearless
c.       Kind
d.       Faith

5.       What’s your worst trait?
a.       Perfectionist
b.       Pleasure-seeking
c.       People-pleaser
d.       Low self-confidence

If you answered mostly As, you’re Gwen from Scattered Seasons. Gwen is the Spring Avatar, with the magical gift of healing.

If you answered mostly Bs, you’re Jenna, the Summer Avatar with the gift of plant magic. Jenna is the heroine of Chaos Season.

If you chose mostly Cs, you’re Ysabel, the heroine of Fifth Season. Ysabel is the Fall Avatar and is blessed with animal magic.

If you chose mostly Ds, you’re Kay from Summon the Seasons. As the Winter Avatar, Kay controls the most powerful magic, that of weather.

If you have a mix of answers, then you’re like the full quartet of Season Avatars, who defend their country from Chaos Season, a magical storm that mixes up the seasons. Learn how it began in Seasons’ Beginnings.

Monday, October 08, 2018

Writers and Genre Popluarity

Last week, I read an interesting article on The Passive Voice. It was about a study conducted by The Writing Cooperative, which develops software for writers. They surveyed 740 writers who use their products. I don't know how representative this sample is of all writers, so these answers may not be strictly accurate. Nevertheless, I was struck by one result: according to this survey, the most popular genre was science fiction and fantasy, with 34% of writers saying that was the genre they tended to write in. This is especially surprising when you realize, as one Passive Voice commenter did, that romance is the most widely read genre, so you'd expect more writers to write that. Only 8.5% of authors in this survey reported writing romance, which was the second most popular genre. Perhaps this genre breakdown is an artifact of the small survey group, or it could have something to do with some genre writers preferring other methods of producing their work.

As a science fiction/fantasy writer myself, I have mixed feelings about this result. If there is such a large group of writers in my field out there, then that means I have a lot of other writers to exchange ideas with and potentially become friends with. On the other hand, it may be harder to come up with unique ideas, and there's more competition for markets. Most of the conventions and other writing groups I participate in are genre-focused, so I have less contact with writers outside my genre.

What do you think about these survey results? Do you think they hold up when you consider larger groups of writers? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

IWSG: Writing and Life

A new month means another post for the Insecure Writer's Support Group. You can learn more about them on their website, Facebook page, and Twitter. Our hosts for this month are Dolorah, Christopher D. Votey, Tanya Miranda, and Chemist Ken. Our question for this month is How do major life events affect your writing? Has writing ever helped you through something?

Probably the major life event that has most affected my writing is becoming a mother. Unsurprisingly, becoming a mother ate up a lot of my time, so now I have much less time for writing than I used to. However, becoming a mother has introduced me to a lot of new activities, hobbies, and experiences that I didn't have before. Motherhood has directly inspired some of my stories, such as "The Mommy Clone" (which is set in a bouncy house). It's even inspired me to try writing for children and middle grade kids, though I haven't finished Welcome to Costume City yet. Although major life events may slow down your writing for a while, ultimately they may enrich your writing. Writing can also help you process the emotions around life events, though I'd rather not go into detail here.

If you're comfortable talking about writing and life events, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Monday, October 01, 2018

Gail Borden Comic Con

I blogged a few months ago about being one of the vendors at my local library's comic con. It finally took place on Saturday. Here's what my table looked like. My son helped me set up and run the table. The most popular items were my amigurumi, particularly the porgs. I only brought five with me, but sold all of them. In fact, the first one I sold was a "Dark Side" porg in black, gray, and red to a girl dressed as Kylo Ren. I also sold the BB-8, a couple of lanyards, a book, and several raffle tickets. Tyrone the T-Rex found a new home. While I probably could have done more to promote my books instead of the amigurumi, it was one of my most successful appearances. I was able to give my son some money for helping out and put the rest of my earnings into our Star Wars Celebration fund. Here are a few things I learned that may help other authors/crafters at similar events:

1. I made sure to adjust my prices ahead of time to account for local taxes. However, I didn't think to include fees for paying with credit cards. That'll have to come out of my profits.
2. The library staff was kind enough to supply us with water and snacks, but it doesn't hurt to have your own food with you, especially if you have special dietary needs or preferences.
3. While it's good to have something to do as you wait for people to stop by, you're not going to get as much done as you think you will. It's also not the best time to try to teach someone how to crochet.
4. Most of your sales will be impulse purchases. It may be hard to strike a balance between setting a price low enough to be attractive while still making a profit.

I wouldn't mind doing this again at other comic cons or craft fairs. The key will be learning about them ahead of time to get a table and finding events that don't charge vendors.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

New Ideas and Old Characters

I saw a cartoon on Facebook recently that perfectly captures some of the frustrations of the writing process. It starts with a shiny new idea (or ideas), which connects to starting a new project but not actually finishing it. (I don't remember what the last part of the comic was, but it probably led to another new idea.) I have so many projects that I want to work on, not just writing-related, but also crocheting and sewing projects. Hopefully after the comic-con on Saturday the sewing/crocheting projects will feel like less of a priority. (I still need to make the Santa Jawa costume in time for the holiday parade in late November.) I think I need to list all the various projects I want to work on so I can prioritize them.

One of my priorities for this is is finishing the first draft of Dryads to Discover. While I'm made slow but steady progress on it, the characters don't grab my imagination the way old, familiar characters do. I'm itching to tell more stories about the Season Avatars (particularly Gwen and Jenna), and Paul and his friends from Twinned Universes. It's hard to pants new stories when old characters are still occupying your head. I do want to continue with both series, and I do have a sense of where they would finally end, even if I don't know the entire path that leads there.

Do you ever feel that writing past or writing future interferes with your writing present? If so, how do you manage to focus on your current work? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Rereading One's Work

My Facebook friends and Instagram followers might have seen my author's copy of MSCI: Magical Crime Scene Investigation, which I received last week. (Naturally, I had to post it here as well.) Yesterday, I reread "Henry's Harness," my short story in this anthology. As always, I'm my own worst critic. I'm not going to list specific examples so as not to spoil anything, but there are stretches where I think my writing craft could be improved and sentences I'd like to rephrase. On the other hand, I do think the setting details work. Most importantly, the emotional heart of the story is there. It should be interesting to read the rest of the stories in the anthology and see how they fit together as a whole. It'll also be interesting to revisit this story in a few years, though I'll probably be even more critical of it by then.

How do you feel about rereading your stories? Are you self-critical, amazed that it turned out so where, or something else? Feel free to share in the comments.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Put In or Take Out?

I mentioned in my last post that I'm listening to a lecture series on writing great fiction. The speaker (James Hynes) is also an author, though I don't think I've read any of his work. One of the points he made is about including enough detail to draw the reader into the story. He says he tends to overwrite the details in the first draft, because it's easier to remove the unimportant details than to add them in. I have to admit I'm the opposite. In my first draft, I'm still feeling out scene goals, plot points, and dialogue, so the setting tends to take a back seat. I try to work in more details when I'm more familiar with the story and the setting. The exception is when I'm working in story worlds that I've previously used, so I already know what the world is like.

Every author has a different approach to writing, and sometimes an author will change their writing process for different stories. (I'm doing this myself with my current works in progress. Both of them follow several different characters as POV/protagonists. I plan to have short chapters in these books and have the POV switch to a new character with each chapter. I normally write each chapter in order, but in this situation, I'm finding it easier to stick with one character for several scenes, even if I plan to break them up later.) Obviously, Hynes' approach works for him. Do you prefer to include a lot of details in your first draft, or do you work them in later? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Writing Book Recommendations

One of my resolutions this year was to read at least ten books on writing craft or marketing books. Although I started off pretty well, I just looked at my list on Goodreads and realized I've only read three books out of the ten. I just started listening to a Great Courses lecture series on writing great fiction, so even though I don't list my audiobooks on Goodreads, I might still count the series toward this goal--assuming I finish it before the end of the year. I probably have some books already in my collection, but I thought it might be helpful to see what other people recommend. Feel free to list your favorite writing books in the comments.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Science of the Week, 9/14/18

This week didn't offer much in the way of interesting science news articles, but here are some of the most interesting ones I read this week:

New research suggests Pluto should be reclassified as a planet

Throwing darts at approaching asteroids

Robot can pick up any object after inspecting it

Have a good weekend, and I'll see you Monday!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Video: A Hard Day's Night

Since it's been a hard day's night at work the last couple of days, I'm having trouble coming up with something to blog about for today. So here's the opening to the Beatles' movie A Hard Day's Night. Enjoy!

Monday, September 10, 2018

Happy Anniversary!

Happy Anniversary to Eugene, the man who always knows how to make me smile! This picture was taken on our honeymoon. It can be hard to find time to celebrate a special day during the week. We discussed going out for dinner yesterday, but it didn't work out. Maybe this coming weekend we can do something. What do you do if your birthday or anniversary falls on a workday? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

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