Wednesday, December 30, 2020

2020 in Review: Reading

Welcome to the last post of 2021, a year that most of us probably can't wait to end. Here's hoping we'll all be doing better by this time next year. 

At the end of every year, I like to look back at the books I've read. Here's my list on Goodreads. I track only books I finish, not those I start. (This is why I don't always record the date I start a book, but I am better at recording when I finish.) Goodreads counts everything from short stories to multi-volume sets as a single book, so I do my best to track my reading accordingly. My initial goal for 2020 was 150 books, but I adjusted my goal a couple of times for a final goal of 140 books. Goodreads says I read 144 books this year, but I can only account for 143. (I think one of them may have been counted twice.) With a little push, I might add one more book before midnight tomorrow. Considering two of my books were actually three-book collections but still counted as a single item, I came pretty close to reaching my original goal. Reading Swann's Way didn't help.

My breakdown by genre is listed below:

Fantasy: 40

Science Fiction: 10

Mystery (cozy or otherwise): 52

Other Fiction: 9

Non-Fiction: 32

This might be the first time that mystery, not fantasy, has been my top category. (Many of the cozy mysteries I like have paranormal elements, but I still count them under mystery instead of fantasy.) Since I'm working on a cozy mystery series, naturally I need to learn more about this genre, though I was reading it before I decided to write it. Some of my other reading goals this year were to read ten books on writing, five physical books from my To Be Read pile, and 40 non-fiction books. I came close with the non-fiction, but I only read four books on writing and nothing from the TBR pile. I have a feeling many of those books will never be read, alas. EBooks outnumber paper books 91 to 52. Although my library was closed for a couple of months due to COVID-19, I still managed to check out quite a few paper books along with eBooks.


Here are a few recommendations from the year:

The Bird Way


21 Lessons for the 21st Century

The Heroine's Journey

Midnight Bargain

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents

The Precipice

Dread Nation

Oona Out of Order



The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe

The Ten Thousand Doors of January


I'm not sure yet what reading goals I want to set for 2021, but I'll try to make them more realistic.

What was your favorite book this year? Feel free to share it in the comments.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

2020 in Review: Writing

Welcome to my penultimate post of 2020, where I discuss how my writing plans, like everything else this year, didn't go the way I thought they would. Nevertheless, I did manage to accomplish some useful things.

At the beginning of 2020, my main goal was to finish my urban fantasy series about a dryad living on the UW-Madison campus. I not only need to finish the final book of the trilogy, but I need to revise the first two books. I still continue to struggle with this series. One of my main issues is that the focus of the series has shifted from my heroine to her love interest. I need to do a better job of balancing their stories so I can complete both of them. The other issue is that I keep abandoning this series to focus on shiny new projects. Even when I set goals for myself to write a certain number of words on this series, it doesn't happen. I guess I need to ask myself some hard questions about this series to see if I still want to finish it when I have so many other stories competing for my attention.

Even though I didn't accomplish much on the dryads trilogy, I still finished or started several other projects. They include the first draft of the first book of a cozy mystery series, about half of the second cozy mystery book in that series, a fantasy short story (a pandemic version of the Seven Swans fairy tale) that I'm currently trying to sell, the first draft of a novelette in the Seasons Avatars universe, and another fantasy short story targeted for an anthology that closes next week. The final story isn't quite done as I write this blog post on Sunday, so hopefully I'll have the first draft done before this post goes live.

I didn't indie-publish anything this year, but my short story "A Shawl for Janice" was published in a solarpunk anthology in January. One of my publishing goals for this year was to sell (not just give away) 100 books. It's a modest goal, certainly not more than coffee-level money, but at least I managed to meet it. I sold about 112 books across almost all platforms (I haven't checked Google Play lately.) One publishing thing I did this year was stop relying on distributors like Draft2Digital and publish directly to Kobo, Google, Barnes and Noble, and Apple. This is supposed to give me better control of marketing and promotions, but I still have a lot to learn about working with these platforms.

Given how easily my plans go awry, is it worth setting goals for 2021? I still think so, though I probably need to focus more on my goals and try not to let new projects distract me. Before I can set goals for specific projects, I need to decide how much time I want to give to cozy mysteries and how much time I want to give to my science fiction/fantasy. I think the cozy mysteries offer more market potential, but I still want to write in the Season Avatars universe and revisit other worlds I've created. How to juggle all that along with my job, family, and other personal projects continues to be a challenge.

Happy Holidays to everyone! Next week, I'll discuss reading in 2020. For now, feel free to share how your writing went this year.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Mid-Month Mysteries: Knitting and Crochet

Since I'm spending so much time reading and writing cozy mysteries, I figured it's time I added a monthly feature about them to my blog. After umpteen years of blogging, I need to find more topics to blog about.

Cozy mysteries often feature protagonists who either knit or crochet as a hobby (such as Pamela Paterson in the Knit and Nibble series by Peggy Ehrhart) or run a yarn shop, such as Lucy Swift in the Vampire Knitting Club series by Nancy Warren. However, the majority of stories seem to feature knitters, not crocheters or "hookers." The only series I know of featuring crochet is Betty Hechtman's A Crochet Mystery series. (I started reading this series so long ago I was buying it in paperback, but it's been a while since I've bought any books in this series.) I'm not quite sure why knitting is more popular than crochet in this genre. I thought perhaps more people knit than crochet, but according to this website, that doesn't seem to be the case. (I'm not sure how this breaks down on Ravelry.) Knitting is older than crochet; according to Wikipedia, crochet as we know it developed in the nineteenth century. 

One reason knitting is featured in cozy mysteries could be the tools used. Knitting needles, which are pointed, are deadlier than blunt crochet hooks. In my opinion, yarn makes a better murder weapon. Yarn can be used to strangle someone, but it could also be used to create a tripping hazard at the top of a staircase. Yarn could also be dyed with toxic chemicals, like the Victorian-era green dye that contained arsenic. (As a side note, my fantasy Season Avatars series features characters who wear colors associated with the deity they're linked to. This includes colors like yellow and green. Fortunately, my characters have magic which helps them realize the health risk of certain dyes and create safer ones.) Both knitters and hookers might carry scissors with them, along with stitch counters, small balls of unused yarn, and other potential items that could choke a victim.

No matter whether the heroine knits or crochets, she may meet with other people who share her interest. These people can be victims, assistant investigators, or even murderers. The projects they work on can be sweaters (very appropriate for a cozy!), but they can be other types of clothing or even stuffed animals. Items can be gifted or donated to charity. I think it would be interesting to see these crafts used in other ways. For example, yarn bombing might be used to leave messages or clues. Although I know at least one person who spins and dyes yarn, I don't think I've seen a heroine do that in a series. It would be interesting to learn more about those textile arts.

Although Abigail Ritter, the heroine of my Magic Lake Mysteries series, isn't a knitter or hooker at first, she will discover as the series progresses that knitting needles, crochet hooks, and other tools for women's work have played an important role in her town's history. In particular, amigurumi will be featured in this series. I'm still editing the first book in the series, which will be called Murder in Magic Lake. Hopefully I can publish it next year.

Finally, I should discuss my own experience with crochet. My mother used to crochet when I was a teenager, but since I'm left-handed, she didn't know how to teach me. When I was in my twenties, I taught myself how to do it from books. (This was long before YouTube, and I crochet right-handed because everything was shown that way.) Among other projects, I made a ringbearer pillow for my wedding and a layette set for my son. (Here's a photo.) Of course, once my son was born, I didn't have much time for hobbies. However, I rediscovered crochet when I made a couple of pussy hats for the Women's March of 2017. When my husband gave me a kit for making Star Wars characters, I made a lot of them, sold them to friends, and donated part of the proceeds to charity. I tried some bigger projects in 2020, but they didn't work out very well. (No surprise there, I guess.) Although cozy mysteries have inspired me to try knitting, I haven't gotten the hang of it. Heck, I'm still not sure if I should do it right-handed or left-handed!

What are your favorite mystery books featuring knitting or crochet? Feel free to share in the comments.

Wednesday, December 09, 2020

Winning Whamageddon

 Last Christmas, I thought I might win, but on the way home, a tune did me in.... I'm talking about Whamageddon, the online game where people try to go from December 1st to midnight on December 24th without hearing George Michael's version of "Last Christmas." I like the song, but I also enjoy playing along with Whamageddon. Most years, I'm able to win, but last year I heard the song on the radio as I was driving home. Here are a few strategies I use to avoid hearing the song:

1. At home, I listen to my normal Pandora stations instead of holiday ones until a couple of days before Christmas. When I do listen to Christmas music, I select traditional carols instead of popular songs.

2. On December 8th, in memory of John Lennon, I listen to Beatles songs and his solo work. I also start my annual Beatles marathon, where I listen to all of their albums in chronological order.  This usually takes several days if I only listen to a couple of albums in the evenings.

3. I avoid going to stores as much as possible (a little easier this year since my husband does most of our shopping).

4. Instead of listening to the radio when I drive, I'll probably listen to one of my lecture series on Audible. 

5. To celebrate the winter solstice, I'll listen to Sting's If On a Winter's Night album on the 21st.

6. Assuming I do make it to Christmas without hearing "Last Christmas," I'll listen to it on YouTube.


How do you feel about holiday music? Do you have any favorite carols or popular songs? Here's hoping you're not sent to Whamhalla early!

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

IWSG: Writing Seasons

 Welcome to December, a.k.a. the Boss Level of 2020. I hope you're staying safe this season. Here's to the last Insecure Writer's Support Group post of 2020! You can learn more about the IWSG on their website, Facebook group, or Twitter feed.

Our hosts this month are Pat Garcia, Sylvia Ney, Liesbet at Roaming About, Cathrina Constantine, and Natalie Aguirre.

Here's our question for December: Are there months or times of the year that you are more productive with your writing than other months, and why?

 I'm not consistent with keeping a writing journal, but there are definitely times of the year when there are a lot of other activities that cut into my writing time. The period between Thanksgiving and Christmas is a good example. There's buying and wrapping presents, baking (my husband and I will have six types of cookies, a fudge, and truffles done by the end of Sunday, when I'm writing this post, and I may have more done before this post goes live), decorating, card designing, social obligations, and cooking for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Once I'm past Christmas, though, I usually have some time off before New Year's Day. I tend to use that time to update my website and eBook back matter in addition to writing. In general, fall and winter feel more like prime writing time to me. When the weather is nice, it's tempting to be outside. 

What's your best writing season? Feel free to share in the comments.


Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Virtual Members' Nights (and Day)

One of the many family traditions we weren't able to perform this year was visiting the Field Museum for Member's Night. This event is normally held in May over two nights (usually Thursday and Friday) and allows members to see some of the research being done at the museum and learn how new exhibits are designed. Fortunately, the Field Museum came up with a new way to participate this year: virtually over Zoom. They set up three sessions last week, each with several short presentations on different topics. I attended all of them, though I didn't watch every presentation. (My husband had to work during the presentations. I did share the Zoom link with my son, though I don't know if he watched any of the sessions on his own.) Here are a few of the presentation topics:

Totem poles (cleaning and imaging)

Hats and headgear (ancient hats mostly from Asia)

Green River fossils (see below)

Gems (Victorian household items made from gems; we got to guess what they were used for)

Artifacts from Kish, one of the oldest urban areas


Fossil prep (we got to see two of staff members actually doing this at their homes)

Fish specimens (we saw some of those at Dozing with the Dinos in March)

Dinosaurs (of course!)--the oversize collection

Some of the presentations I didn't get to see involved birds, moccasins, and mummies. There were a couple of presentations from Thursday night that aren't coming to mind at the moment.

The presentation I enjoyed the most was the Green River fossil presentation, which focused on ancient bird fossils. They showed a very nice fossil of a 155-million-year-old bird with impressions of feathers visible. Dr. O'Connor, Associate Curator of Reptile Fossils, explained that contrary to what you might expect, they found evidence of soft tissue preservation in these fossils. By demineralizing and staining a sample from another ancient bird fossil, they were able to find evidence of ovarian tissue in the fossil. Most birds have only one ovary (probably an adaption for flight), so this work showed that the ovary reduction happened very early in bird evolution. I thought that was fascinating work that could change how other fossils are studied, which would allow us to learn more about prehistoric life.

We did visit the Field Museum when they reopened in July, but unfortunately, the Chicago museums had to close down again last week. It was good to reconnect with The Field again, even if it was just virtually. Hopefully next year the whole family can attend a Members' Night in person. In the meantime, please support your local museum(s)!

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Pushcart Prize Nomination


I'm thrilled to announce that World Weaver Press has nominated my short story, "A Shawl for Janice," for the Pushcart Prize. "A Shawl for Janice" was published in Glass and Gardens: Solarpunk Winters in January. (Anyone still remember January 2020? It seems so long ago....) The Pushcart Prize honors writers of poetry, short stories, and essays. Each small press can nominate up to six entries per year. I'm honored that World Weaver Press not only chose to publish my short story in their anthology but decided it was among the best stories they published this year. You can see the announcement on their blog here.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Drafts and Layers

 I thought it would be an interesting to discuss how authors might work on different parts of their story in different drafts. When I start a first draft, I generally have a sense of where I want to start and end and maybe a few bits in the middle. I still tend to discover most of my scenes and plot points as I write. (I guess no matter how much I try, I'll never be a full-on plotter.) In my first drafts, I tend to focus on story and dialogue. Description may be scant in the first draft. Since I'm a pantser, my second drafts often require a lot of work. I may change the scenes I initially wrote if I come up with something better. Often, details about the characters may change as well. I'm trying to be more mindful about the emotional aspect of my stories, both in developing character emotions and reader responses. Sometimes my work needs additional drafts before I feel it's solid. Then at that point I can focus on improving my sentences and word choices. The final pass is dedicated to removing typos and fiddling with the story until I get tired of it.

I think I write the way I do because it's easier for me to work on certain aspects of the story than others. I tend to be sparse in my descriptions because I feel more uncertain about them (in that I may make a mistake). I feel more confident about my dialogue, however, and it flows more easily for me. Hopefully as I keep writing and improving I can juggle more story elements in the first draft. I'm certainly more aware of them than I was as a beginning writer.

Do you feel that your first drafts focus more on certain story elements and others require more development? What are your story element strengths and weaknesses? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.


Wednesday, November 04, 2020

IWSG: Why I Write

We made it to November 2020, everyone. By the time this post goes live, the election will be over, though we may not know yet who the next president will be or what Congress and the Senate will look like. I expect the coming winter to be tough, but hopefully next year we'll have a vaccine for Covid-19 and will be able to start rebuilding. In the meantime, best of luck to everyone participating in National Novel Writing Month! I have one novel to edit and three other projects to write, so I'm not starting anything new this month (I hope). Speaking of writing, let's talk about the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Here are links to their website, Facebook page, and Twitter feed. Our hosts this month are Jemi Fraser, Kim Lajevardi, L.G. Keltner, Tyrean Martinson, and Rachna Chhabria

Here's our question for this month: Albert Camus once said, “The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.” Flannery O’Conner said, “I write to discover what I know.” Authors across time and distance have had many reasons to write. Why do you write what you write? 

I write for lots of reasons. I write to create the types of stories I want to read. I write to explore ideas and work out their implications. I write to make a mark on the world and hopefully nudge it in a better direction. I write to connect to other people. Yes, I would also like to supplement my income with my writing and gain recognition, but I think I would write even if no one else ever read another word I wrote. I write to give myself a sense of purpose and to escape the problems and monotony of everyday life. Writing has helped me cope with the crises of 2020, and I hope my stories have helped other people take their minds off their problems and find some enjoyment.

If you write solely for fame and fortune, you'll most likely be disappointed. You have to commit to writing for personal reasons. No matter how frustrating writing can be at times, I find it sustaining. 

Anyway, enough blogging about writing and back to actual writing/revising. If you'd like to share your reasons for writing, feel free to do so in the comments.


Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Writing By Hand

 I'm not sure if October is giving me tricks or treats when it comes to electronics. Last week, my laptop's sound suddenly stopped working. When I tried troubleshooting the computer, it died. It was nine years old (I got it the week I published Lyon's Legacy), and I'd already replaced the hard drive on it a few years ago, so it wasn't worth trying to repair it. Fortunately, I'd started saving up for a new computer last year and had enough for a mid-range computer (still a step or two up from my old one). I ended up purchasing my new computer from Costco and even got it on sale. Of course, I had to wait a couple of days for shipping, plus a couple of extra days before I received the notice I could pick up my laptop. 

What does a writer do when her main writing tool breaks? I have a netbook as a backup, but it runs on archaic software and is very unresponsive. Even if I wiped its memory and tried to restore it to factory settings, I don't think it would work with Windows 10, and I might not be able to use whatever version of Windows it originally came with. So I went old-school and satisfied my writing urges with pen and paper. Although I have a printout of the first draft of Murder at Magic Lake, I decided I didn't want to revise it manually, especially when I need to add new scenes. I ended up starting a new story in the Season Avatars world, one set after Summon the Seasons.

 Writing by hand is much slower than typing. My cursive is hard to read, and my printing isn't much better. (I'm left-handed, so that's my excuse.) I used a legal pad, and my goal was to write at least one page every night. The words came fairly easy, considering sometimes I struggle to find words when I'm typing. Each hand-written page was about 200-250 words. When I finally received my computer on Saturday and transcribed my story with a few minor edits, it was about 1,100 words. It doesn't seem like much for several day's work, especially when some writers can manage a thousand words an hour, but it's still better than not writing at all. The experience makes me wonder if I would have been a writer if I lived in a time when computer's weren't available. Of course, many other aspects of my life would be different as well.

How do you feel about writing stories by hand? Does it make a difference in your story flow? Do you find handwriting or typing easier physically on your hands? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Fall/Winter Projects

 As COVID-19 cases start climbing again in my region, I'm anticipating a fall and winter where we stay close to home. Our family hasn't trooped live since March (though I've done a couple of video and Zoom troops), we've cut way back on our normal seasonal activities (some of which were cancelled), and it's unlikely we'll spend the holidays with family. At least I have plenty to keep me busy.

Writing--Currently, I'm focusing on editing my first cozy mystery book, which I'm calling Murder at Magic Lake. The first draft was only 50,000 words, so I'm adding a new subplot to flesh it out. When I'm done, I'll see if I can get feedback from a few beta readers before getting ready to publish--probably either in January or February. I'm about halfway through Book 2 in that series (working title is Restaurants and Revenge), but I need to go back and change something before I continue. I also have one short story making the rounds of pro markets and am considering writing another for an anthology. Meanwhile, my urban fantasy trilogy and my Season Avatars series continue to simmer on the back burner. I usually end up taking a lot of vacation at the end of the year, so I will use some of that time to update my website, update my back matter in my books as necessary, and formatting my manuscripts.

Crochet--I'm planning to crochet blankets for my son, my husband, and myself. Currently, I'm working on my son's blanket, which will have red and black stripes. It's narrower than I expected it would be, but it can be as long as he wants. I'll probably make it between five and six feet. I still have to figure out patterns and colors for the other two blankets. Plus, I still have to finish making a fuzzy coat for a big Baby Yoda. I haven't made any crocheted characters for a while, so I should work on those again. I'd also like to make myself some slippers and maybe a sweater. 

Reading--I finally finished my hundredth book for the year. I changed my original goal of 150 books to 120, but I'll probably end up somewhere in the middle. I'm not sure how many books I currently have on my "For Later" shelf at the library, but it's more than enough to get me through 2021!

Other--These aren't really creative projects, but I'll probably continue to help my husband play through his extensive board game collection. It would be nice if my son was interested in joining us, but he has his own ways of staying busy. I plan to have him help cook our family dinners so he gets more experience in the kitchen. I'll also continue to experiment with nail art, bake scones and other treats, and hopefully learn more about birds over the winter. And if I really get bored, there's plenty of things in the basement to be sorted and gotten rid of.

I'm pretty good at finding things to do at home, even without the TV. In fact, about the only time I watch something is when I'm crocheting. What about you? Feel free to share your hobbies in the comments.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Book Apps

 This weekend, after over three and a half years, I finally upgraded my phone. It had very little storage, and even adding a SD card didn't help much. The screen was so badly cracked I could feel it through the screen protector. I'd also been having issues with the GPS for a while, and the phone was finally starting to have some connectivity issues as well. The main reason I held on to it for so long was the cost of upgrading, but some mid-grade phones just came out that made it more manageable. The customer service representative at the store tole me I could get six or seven years out of the new phone, but if I can manage at least four, I'll be content.

Now that my phone has more storage, I can download more apps. Of course there are a lot of entertainment apps for movies and games. However, I can also download more books for my Kindle app and can now use multiple library apps, such as Hoopla and Cloud Library. I also have an Audible account, but I personally use it for lectures more than audiobooks. Books are available in other apps too. Google Play offers them (I finally managed to list most of my books on their store this summer), as well as Apple Books and Kobo. I'm not sure if Barnes and Noble has an app, but I wouldn't be surprised if they did. There are also apps that offer free books, but I'm not sure if all of those are available legally, so I'll avoid those.

Do you read books on a device other than a dedicated ereader? If so, what apps do you use, and would you recommend them? Feel free to share in the comments.

Wednesday, October 07, 2020

IWSG: I Wanna Be a Working Writer

Welcome to October, everyone! The world's become a much scarier place than usual this month, but if we support each other, we'll get through it. One way to support each other is to be part of The Insecure Writer's Support Group. Learn more about the IWSG on their website, Facebook page, and Twitter feed

Our hosts this month are Jemima Pett, Beth Camp, Beverly Stowe McClure, and Gwen Gardner.

Here's our question for October: When you think of the term "working writer," what does that look like for you? What do you think it is supposed to look like? Do you see yourself as a working writer or aspiring or hobbyist, and if latter two, what does that look like?

I'm going to address the second part of the question first. Until recently, working writers were traditionally published writers. They would write one or two books a year, attend book signings and conventions, and spend a lot of time talking with editors and agents. These days, I picture a working writer as an indie writer. She (the ones I'm most familiar with are all female) publishes multiple books a year in popular genres and knows the tropes that readers like. She doesn't do bookstore signings or conventions but may be active on social media and promotes her work herself. She may hire editors or cover designers, but she's the boss, not them, and she doesn't need an agent. 

At this point in my writing career, I'd have to consider myself an aspiring working writer, though the IRS would probably consider me a hobbyist. I'm a parent with a full-time job, which doesn't leave me with much writing time. (Between making masks for my family and participating in Vote Forward, I've given up a lot of time this year that I could have used for writing.) I only have six full novels out, but advice I hear from other writers indicates you need at least ten books before you start seeing significant income. I'm also a slow writer, both with writing a first draft and editing, and I'm contrarian enough to push back against popular tropes in my work. I may never get to the point where writing is my main source of income, but if I can gain a few fans who appreciate my work, I'll be satisifed.

I can't resist ending this post with the Beatles' song about a Paperback Writer:

What's your definition of a working writer? Are you one? Do you want to be one? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.



Wednesday, September 30, 2020

The Allure of Shiny New Projects

 Last week, I discussed how I was engaged in several different projects as a way of coping with the pandemic. To be honest, I was juggling a lot of projects even before then. Part of the problem is I get interested in new projects before I finish the old ones. For example, this winter, I want to crochet my son, my husband, and me each a blanket in our favorite colors. However, I also want to make myself new slippers, a sweater, and make a variation on a Star Wars character that I have a pattern for. This is on top of my writing projects. Indeed, part of the reason I haven't finished the Dryads and Dragons trilogy I started a couple of years ago is because I keep starting other short stories and novels instead. (Not to mention how the plot keeps sprawling and how the romantic lead has taken over from the heroine.)

Are new projects really more exciting than old ones? I don't think so. I think we just become accustomed to current projects or get frustrated when they don't go smoothly. Our brains are wired to notice novel things. Old projects were exciting too when we first started them.

In order to keep from being overwhelmed by my desire to Do All The Things, I try to prioritize them. For example, time-sensitive projects like Vote Forward (which ends on October 17) or anthologies with limited submission windows get first priority. I also try to work on a couple of different projects every day. For example, after work, I may crochet for a half hour or so before writing a batch of letters for Vote Forward, write for an hour or so, and finish the evening with a little reading. As old projects get finished, then I can adopt new projects. Some projects do get abandoned if they're not working out, and perhaps that's necessary for one's sanity. Sometimes I stick with a project out of sheer stubbornness.

Are you able to focus on your projects outside work, or do you pick up new ones frequently?  How do you make sure your projects get done? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Mental Well-Being and the Middle

 The middle of a story can be the most difficult part to write. Beginnings and endings have their own energy, but middles can get muddled, especially if you're a panster. After six months, we're past the beginning of the pandemic. Many people are dealing with health issues, unemployment, or loss of a loved one. There are plenty of local crises as well. Even if you're not directly dealing with these problems, the changes in routine and the constant stream of bad news add up to overwhelming stress. I'm no well-being expert, but here are a few things I do to help me cope with our new normal:

Enjoy nature--During the summer, I like to go for a walk first thing in the morning. It's good exercise and clears my mind. I don't tolerate cold very well, so I won't be doing that once the weather turns. However, we do have a bird feeder in the back yard, and feeding and watching the birds helps me stay connected with nature.

Try new things--Over the past few months, I've tried new recipes, picked up new sewing projects, tried writing in a new genre, and even experimented with different types of nail art. I'm going to crochet blankets for my son, my husband, and myself this winter--if I can find time

Look for ways to help--I've been writing letters for Vote Forward to encourage people to vote. You can also donate to charities or volunteer your time.

Find a new routine--My husband's board game collection is so extensive it may rival my book collection in the amount of space it takes up. Although there are many that require more than two players, we've found some that work well with two players. It wouldn't be Saturday night without a couple of hours devoted to Mice and Mystics!

 We're all protagonists trying to make it to the end of this story. What's your strategy? Feel free to share in the comments. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Life in Venus's Atmosphere?

 2020 has been full of strange news so far, but perhaps some of the strangest could be the possibility of life in Venus's atmosphere. On the surface of the planet, it's hot enough to melt lead. However, scientists have detected phosphine in the atmosphere at concentrations high enough to suggest the gas is being made by anaerobic bacteria in the atmosphere. (Venus's atmosphere is mostly carbon dioxide.) It's not definite proof, and the phosphine could be produced by some unknown method, but it is a tantalizing notion. Here's one of the articles about this discovery. 

If there is life on Venus, does it use DNA and the same genetic code as life on Earth does? Does it use the same basic biochemistry? Is there the possibility of multicellular life? How would it influence science fiction to know there is life on other planets? These are just a few of the questions that I'd want answered. What are yours? Feel free to share them in the comments.

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

September: Self-Published Fantasy Month


Did you know there's such a thing as Self-Published Fantasy Month? Neither did I before reading about it in Virginia McClain's newsletter. Apparently September is devoted to self-published fantasy, at least, according to this website. I wish I'd learned about this sooner so I could come up with more ways to celebrate. Of course, the best way to do so is to buy, read, and review self-published fantasy. I've decided to drop the prices of my Season Avatars books and Ordinary Wonders collection to $0.99 for September to make those works more accessible. The website I linked to also suggests posting about your favorite self-published fantasy authors.

Here's a list of authors I've read and enjoyed, along with general descriptions of their works:

Christine Pope (fairy tale retellings and a series about witches; I've read more of the former than the latter)

Lindsay Buroker (action-packed stories with humorous characters in a secondary world)

H.L. Burke (she has a couple of different series, including a steampunk one and one involving magicians)

Charlotte E. English (Modern Magick series, about an English society trying to save magic)

Aviva Rothschild (The Beatles as characters in a D&D type world)

I'm sure there are more that I can't remember at the moment, and this doesn't even include cozy mystery authors who include fantastic elements in their stories.

Do you have any favorite self-published fantasy authors? Feel free to tell me about them in the comments.

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

IWSG: A Beta Partner of Your Dreams

We made it to September and another post for the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Learn more about them on their website, Facebook page, and Twitter feed.

Our hosts this month are PJ Colando, J Lenni Dorner, Deniz Bevan, Kim Lajevardi, Natalie Aguirre, and Lousie-Fundy Blue.

 Here's our question for today: If you could choose one author, living or dead, to be your beta partner, who would it be and why?

I would have to pick my favorite author, Patricia A. McKillip. McKillip is a master of evoking a sense of wonder and magic. She excels at description (something I always feel I need to improve in my work), and she's so creative she has multiple stand-alone works. I would learn a lot more from her than she would from me.

I had the honor of meeting Patricia McKillip at WisCon several years ago (It must have been 2004, when she was a Guest of Honor), so I'll share my autograph from that event, even though it's not personalized.

Which author would you pick as a beta partner? Feel free to share your answer in the comments.



Wednesday, August 26, 2020

End of August Project Update

The last couple of days have been very much "A Hard Day's Night" work-wise, so I'll just quickly summarize where I am with my multitude of writing projects:

1. Cozy Mystery #2--I'm not sure yet if I want to call it Restaurants and Revenge or Food Safety Can Be Fatal. (I think the second one is more fun, but since I work in food safety, I'm not sure how that would look professionally.) My plan is to write about 500 words a day and aim for about 15,000 words/month. I'm around 13,000 at the moment, so I should make my goal. I just need to figure out a few more details about the murder.

2. Untitled Fantasy Short Story--I have a complete first draft around 4,300 words. I rewrote the opening scene, which naturally will affect the other scenes even though they feel more complete to me. Hopefully by September I can start submitting it to markets.

3. Dryads and Dragons--My original plan for August was to write about 200 words on this project per day. I made my goal for several days, but between squeezing in other projects and trying to figure out how I get from the middle to the end, I haven't worked on it for a while. 

4. Cozy Mystery #1--It's been about a month since I finished it, so it's time for the first read-through. How many inconsistencies will I find? Did I portray my heroine's Filipino heritage accurately? What will the beta readers think? Tune in sometime next month (hopefully) for the answers! In the meantime, enjoy the Beatles:

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

ReCONvene 2020


 I originally hadn't planned to attend any more virtual conventions this year, but when one of my blogging buddies, Terri Bruce, posted about ReCONvene 2020 (the virtual version of Boskone), I was intrigued by a couple of the panels. (Terri published a short story collection called Souls last month. The cover is pictures, and You can check it out on Amazon at the link.) Since it was only ten bucks to attend the convention, I decided to register. Below is a list of the panels I watched. 

Glimpsing Climate Recovery

The Distant Future in Science Fiction

The AI Amongst Us

Modernizing Fairy Tales and Myths

Exploring the Literary Sandbox of Speculative Fiction

Worldblending in Speculative Fiction

Unfortunately, the con chose not to record the panels, and I didn't take notes. (One good thing about virtual panels is that it's easier to do things like clean, cook, and crochet while you're listening.) I was particularly interested in the Modernizing Fairy Tales and Myths panel, but it didn't go into the details of adapting old tales to new settings as much as I hoped it would. It occurred to me after the panel was over that I could have asked for writing tips in the Q&A, but by then it was too late. 

The panelists (at least, the ones I'd heard of) were mostly traditionally published authors, and all of the panels were well moderated. A couple of the panelists missed panels for technical or other reasons, but on the whole the panels were well run. Obviously a virtual convention lacks many of the charms of an in-person convention, but since this I've never been able to go to Boskone, a virtual convention is better than no convention at all.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Businesses in Cozy Mystery

 Although I've been reading cozy mystery for a few years, this year is the first time I've tried writing in the genre. I finished the first draft of the first book of a series at the end of July. Now I'm working on the sequel. It's a lot of fun, and I seem to be making better progress on it than I have been with the urban fantasy trilogy I started a couple of years ago. (My goal is to write at least 500 words/day on the cozy mystery and 200 words/day on the urban fantasy. I started tracking at the beginning of August, and I've met my goal more often than not.)

One thing I've noticed about cozy mysteries is that when they involve business owners, they omit certain types certain types of business activities from the story. For example, I'm currently reading a series about a witch who runs a bakery in a small town. I already read the first three books and just started the fourth. There's lots of talk about baking, cleaning the store, making deliveries, and selling to customers, but no mention of preparing payroll for the employees or pest control. (I originally had more items in this list, but to my surprise, the third book included disasters like running out of supplies or surprise health inspection.) Maybe authors don't feel comfortable including those tasks or think they don't contribute to the story or cozy atmosphere. 

As a reader, I'd like to see some of these activities too, as they would make the story feel more realistic. As an author, I hope other readers are open to learning about them. For example, in my current WIP, my main character is going to attend a multi-day class about food safety in restaurants. I've also had to attend food safety training for my job, but there's never been a murder involved. Hopefully homicide is more entertaining than hairnets. Later on in the series, my main character will go to a nearby berry farm for ingredients and end up having to solve another murder. Just another day on the job, I guess.

Are there tropes in the cozy mystery genre (or any other genre) that you think ought to be subverted? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

August IWSG: Pieces and Forms

We made it to August, everyone! Welcome to another Insecure Writers Support Group post. You can learn more about them on their website, Facebook page, or Twitter feed.

Our hosts this month are Susan Baury Rouchard, Nancy Gideon, Jennifer Lane, Jennifer Hawes (no link available), Chemist Ken, and Chrys Fey.

Our question for this month starts with an unattributed quote: "Although I have written a short story collection, the form found me and not the other way around. Don't write short stories, novels, or poems. Just write your truth and your stories will mold into the shapes they need to be." Have you ever written a piece that became a form, or even a genre, you hadn't planned on writing in? Or do you choose a form/genre in advance?

Although I am still more of a pantser than a plotter, I generally do know length of story and genre when I start writing. However, I've written stories that were meant to be standalones but became part of a series. Lyon's Legacy is probably the best example of a story that sparked more stories.

I'm afraid I don't have much to say on this topic, and I should be working on my multiple writing projects. So if you'd like to comment on this post or link to your blog on the same topic, please do so.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Budgeting Writing Time

Remember that cozy mystery I mentioned last week? The rough draft is done. It's a very short novel, right around 50,000 words, but that gives me space to add more scenes later. The other short story I mentioned is coming along too. Currently it's around 2,600 words. I expect it to be between 3,000 and 4,000 words when it's complete. I'm already plotting out more stories in my cozy mystery series; in addition to a sequel, I also want to write a prequel short story about one of the characters for a newsletter giveaway. All of this isn't taking into account my other series or all the revisions, editing, and formatting I have to do before I can publish these works.

It seems like I'm giving myself more and more projects to manage in less time. In order to make it all work, I'm going to have to figure out how to budget my time better. Either I could block it out by project or by process (e.g., block out hours or days just for writing or editing.)

Do you prefer to work by project or process? Which one works better for you? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

General Update 7/22/20

1. Remember how I was talking a couple weeks ago about the difficulties of uploading my stories to the Apple Store? I figured out how to convert them to the right format. Although I don't have Apple devices, I do have an Apple ID. I was able to use that to log onto iCloud and access the Pages app. That allowed me to convert my files to EPUBs the Apple Store could accept. I was able to upload my books to the Apple Store.

2. Another part of getting my publishing ducks in a row was updating my universal book links. I took care of that last Friday, which was a vacation day for me. Some of it was automatic, but I had to copy/paste links too. At least I don't have to update the links in my books just yet.

3. My cozy mystery novel is close to 48,000 words. I hope to finish the first draft by the end of the month, though I expect it to be less than 60,000 words. Some sites say cozy mysteries should be around this range, while others say between 70,000-80,000.)

4. I also started an unrelated short story. I don't want to go into detail, but it's a new twist on an old fairy tale. Hopefully I haven't jinxed this project for myself by discussing it.

5. Hopefully once the cozy mystery and the short story are done, I can return to the last book of my urban fantasy trilogy. I left my hero under perilous circumstances.

6. Other projects I've been working on include sewing masks, baking, and making ice cream. Maybe I can host an afternoon tea when there's a vaccine.

7. While we haven't gone out much this summer, we were able to return to the Field Museum on Sunday. It was strange seeing the main hall (pictured above) so empty on a Sunday afternoon.

So, what's new with you? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Sale at Barnes and Noble

I mentioned last week that one advantage of going direct to ebook stores is the ability to do special promotions. In fact, a promotion that I set up at Barnes and Noble just went live. If you buy one book in my Season Avatars series, you can get the second one half off. Since the first book is free, you can get the five-book series for about fifteen bucks. Here are the direct links:

Seasons' Beginnings
Scattered Seasons
Chaos Season
Fifth Season 
Summon the Seasons 

This sale goes through the end of September, so pick up some seasonal reading today.

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

On Going Direct

Although I've tried using Kindle Unlimited a couple of times for my books, I prefer to go wide with them to serve as many readers as possible. In the past, I've used distributors such as Smashwords and Draft2Digital (I highly recommend the latter over the former). Distributors make it easy to reach multiple sites with one process. However, publishing directly to sites such as Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Google Play, and Apple also has advantages. You can have greater control over pricing, gain access to special site-only promotions, and receive higher royalties. So last month, I stopped using Draft2Digitial for the distributors listed above and started going direct.

So far, it's been a tedious process republishing my work at different vendors. Kobo and Barnes and Noble were the easiest, since they accepted the files I'd used elsewhere. Google and Apple are more complicated. I have to submit my manuscripts to Google as PDFs and to Apple as epubs. While Word does a straightforward job of creating PDFs from Word documents, I have to use a conversion program like Calibre to create EPUB files. This worked for some of my books, but others got rejected for embedded font errors, and I haven't figured out why. So Apple currently has only one book out of my five-book fantasy series and Lyon's Legacy but not the sequel, Twinned Universes. I'll have to do some more research to figure out what the problem is.

Once I get everything republished properly, then I have to convince Amazon to set the first books of my series back to permafree. Then I can promote them to encourage readers to get the rest of the series.

If you plan to publish your books on multiple sites, I recommend gathering all the information and files you need before you start. It's not just manuscripts and covers; it's blurbs, ISBNs, and other information such as original publication dates. I wound up collecting some of this information in a single document I can use as reference later.

If you're an indie author, do you publish just on Amazon or other sites too? What's your favorite store for ebooks? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

IWSG: Industry Changes

We're halfway through this crazy year, and I'm sure things are nowhere near settled yet. At least we have the Insecure Writer's Support Group to share our concerns. If you're not already familiar with the IWSG, you can learn more about them on their website, Facebook page, or Twitter feed.

Our hosts this month are Jenni Enzor, Beth Camp, Liesbet, Tyrean Martinson, and Sandra Cox.

Our question this month is There have been many industry changes in the last decade, so what are some changes you would like to see happen in the next decade?

As a hybrid author, I'm not closely involved with the publishing industry. I have a few short stories in anthologies, but I self-publish my novels and related stories to keep control of my rights. Publishing contacts demand authors sign away all their rights for a fraction of their worth. I'd like to see contracts become more fair. I'd also like to see more opportunities for indie authors to prepare paper copies of their work (I found CreateSpace was much easier to work with than some of the other sites) and to get those works into libraries and bookstores. I hope to see more acceptance of indie authors at the conventions I attend.

What would you like to change about the publishing industry? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Mid-Year Reading Update

Since next Wednesday is July 1st, I'm assuming we'll have another Insecure Writer's Support Group post. I figure I'd do my semiannual reading review a little early. My Goodreads Reading Challenge is to read 150 books this year. Unfortunately, the lockdown didn't give me more time to read; if anything, I feel like I've been busier than ever. I've still managed to read fifty-nine books, but I'm currently twelve books behind schedule. Hopefully I'll be able to use a few more vacation days this summer and spend some time catching up.

Here's how my reading breaks down by genre:

Fantasy: 21
Mystery: 18
Non-Fiction: 11
Science Fiction: 5
Other Fiction: 4

By Format:

Ebook: 44
Paper: 15

Since many of the mysteries I read have a paranormal or fantasy element, I normally count them as fantasy. I was tempted to put those books in both categories, but that would have been confusing.

Here are a few of my favorite books from the past six months:

Oona Out of Order
Half Soul
The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe
The Ten Thousand Doors of January
How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse

What's your favorite book you've read this year? Feel free to share the title in the comments.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

All We All Problematic?

I've been thinking a lot about John Scalzi's recent post about generations and discrimination. One of the points of his post is that each generation has to come to terms with their biases, and their targets may differ with each generation. Just as we deplore the sexism and racism of earlier generations, in time, other generations may find their own reasons to think we're unenlightened about subjects they value. Is it ever going to be possible to free ourselves from all biases?

Unfortunately, probably not, unless human nature changes dramatically. Here are a few factors discussed in Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society. The more bonded we are to our in-group, the more we distrust outsiders. Humans require some leadership, but too much hierarchy or too much inequality leads to instability. According to Scientific American, wealth tends to become concentrated in the hands of a few over time. The more wealth you have, the easier it is to rig the scales in your favor--and perhaps even convince others that this situation is natural. We're also prone to implicit bias, though there are ways to overcome it.So if we all have biases, does this mean we're always going to have to deal with systemic discrimination?

I think this is really going to depend on how much empathy and open-mindedness we have. Open-mindedness is part of an individual's personality, but empathy can be developed, especially by reading fiction. We need to view ourselves as belonging to different groups and work to establish connections between them. We also have to learn about the ways we distort critical thinking to support our biases instead of viewing them objectively. This work may never be finished, but each of us is obliged to contribute. We become problematic when we fail to show empathy to others or change our minds when we're shown new evidence.

What do you think is the best way to tackle discrimination? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

What the World Needs Now Is Hopepunk!

The year isn't halfway over, but I'm sure most of us are ready to see it go. Between the COVID-19 pandemic, massive job loss, police brutality, and rioters disrupting peaceful protests, it's obvious that our economic and political systems are failing a lot of people, especially marginalized ones. When the situation improves, we need to make systemic changes. Speculative fiction authors are leading the way in imaging what a better future would look like, particularly in genres such as solarpunk and hopepunk.

Hopepunk is a very new subgenre that was named in 2017. Like rebellions in the Star Wars universe, it is built on hope and surviving past the end times. The genre emphasizes community, kindness, and resistance. You can find examples of hopepunk stories at the link above and here. Much of Star Trek is hopepunk, as is parts of The Lord of the Rings. These stories obviously pre-date the naming of hopepunk as a separate subgenre, so the ideas have been around for a long time. However, I do think the psychological need for stories like this is greater than ever.

I have written a solarpunk story, "A Shawl for Janice," which is part of the Glass and Gardens: Solarpunk Winters anthology. The main characters in my still-in-progress urban fantasy trilogy are kinder than many others in their community, which allows them to gather allies.

Are there elements of hopepunk in your stories? Do you have any favorite examples of hopepunk? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

June IWSG: No Secrets, Just Plans

It's hard to believe it's June, isn't it? I hope you have some perfect days this month. But first, it's time for another Insecure Writer's Support Group post. Learn more about the IWSG on their website, Facebook, and Twitter. Our hosts this month are Pat Garcia, J.Q. Rose, and Natalie Aguirre. We've been posed the following question: Writers have secrets! What are one or two of yours, something readers would never know from your work?
Well, when it comes to revealing secrets, especially online, there's only one thing for me to say, and that's...
no GIF

So, let me tell you how my writing is going instead.

My main focus at the moment is a cozy mystery with paranormal elements. It's called Murder at Magic Lake, and I currently have about 22,000 words drafted. (Yes, this is a quarantine novel.) I aim to write about 500 new words each day, or at least enough to get me to the next 500 or 1,000 mark. If I have enough time afterwards, I also try to work on Dryads and Dragons, the third book in my urban fantasy trilogy. After losing most of my first draft back in February, I'm over 24,000 words with that. A short story I submitted to an anthology back in February was rejected, though the editor was very encouraging and urged me to submit to next year's anthology. I should look it over again and send it to another market. However, I've drawn up a new marketing plan based on advice from indie author Susan Kaye Quinn, and that's going to take priority. I'll be publishing my work directly to Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Apple, but first I may update some blurbs and keywords for my novels. It might also be time to update the covers for Lyon's Legacy and Twinned Universes, since they're from 2011 and 2012. There's a lot to do, so I need to break it down into manageable tasks.We may not be able to travel anywhere this summer, but I'll still have plenty of uses for my vacation time!

Are you revealing a secret for IWSG, or did you choose another topic? Feel free to share in the comments. In the meantime, it's back to writing for me.


Wednesday, May 27, 2020

An Online WisCon

The con must go on. This weekend, instead of heading up to Madison, Wisconsin, I sat in front of my computer to watch panels and presentations on YouTube and chat with others via Discord.

The virtual format allowed me to attend events that I don't normally have a chance to watch, such as the Thursday night reading by the guest of honor and the speeches on Sunday night. On the other hand, there were only a few hours of programming instead of the normal all-day affair, and the choices were much more limited. I wound up watching more readings and academic presentations than I normally do at WisCon. For the first time, I even watched the "Not Another *#?! Race Panel," which is a staple at WisCon. This is a panel where people of color discuss anything other than race. Normally I would pick a more focused panel dealing with something I wanted to learn about, but I enjoyed this panel more than I expected. I learned about an awesome Filipino bakery in Chicago, and the discussions about bad Star Wars parents and how the Harry Potter characters would handle quarantine were funny. Would I attend the panel next time I'm at WisCon? It would depend on what else is scheduled at the same time.

I have to admit an online Dealers Room and Art Show don't have the same draw, and even though there were a lot of subject-specific channels on the Discord, I didn't feel like I had anything to add to the conversations. I missed attending Farmers Market Saturday morning, listening to readings at Michelangelo's Coffee House, and shopping at the Soap Opera. When you've been going to a particular event for so long you expect to run into a past self in the elevator, any change feels strange. Hopefully next year the con will go on in person. But if for some reason I can't attend, being able to watch at least part of WisCon online would keep the connection alive.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Indies Together and WisCon Schedule

Best-selling indie author Susan Kaye Quinn has started a Facebook group to help other indie authors. It's called Indies Together. It's a private group, but she's encouraging other people to join. Susan is sharing her marketing knowledge with indies and offers a couple of different "recipes" depending if you're exclusive to Amazon or have your work available in multiple markets. I've read through her advice, and it makes sense, though it does take multiple books in series, time, and some seed money to make it work. If you're looking for a group with supportive members, I recommend it.

It's hard to believe WisCon will be this weekend. Today is the last day to register here. Standard price is only $10, but there are other tiers available. I won't be able to participate much on Friday since I have to work, but I should be able to do more Saturday through Monday. I'll report back next week how it went.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Amazon's Upload: Is the Near Future Futuristic Enough?

Although I don't spend a lot of time watching TV, occasionally I'm able to squeeze in some time around dinner when I'm crocheting or cutting fabric for masks. I was intrigued by the ads for Amazon's new show Upload, about Nathan, a young man who's killed in an accident and uploaded to a digital afterlife represented by a fancy hotel. Helping him adjust is his customer service representative "angel" named Nora. The show is set in 2033, which is only thirteen years away. Technology has advanced to the point where people print food, use self-driving cars, and, as the premise implies, have the ability to upload a human's consciousness to digital format.

I'm in the middle of Episode Three, so it'll take me a while to finish this series. However, I have noticed a few things that don't seem realistic to me. For example, in the first episode, we see a woman with a black-and-white avatar, which was based on an old photo. This was probably put in to be funny and appeal to the audience. In practice, we can already add color to photos, so why wouldn't that be done for her? For that matter, why not allow people to customize their avatars or even choose non-human forms? There's also a pretty big plot hole in the first episode where a dangerous section of the afterlife has less security than a chapel in that same setting. The dangerous area is key to the climax of the first episode; however, I think it could have been set up to make the character work harder to gain access, which would have proven he was truly desperate instead of hangry and annoyed about a bad hairstyle. Perhaps I'm more critical of these things because I'm a storyteller and used to nitpicking my own work.

One of the biggest dangers of writing about the near future is that it can be so hard to predict. You can reference current popular culture, but will the songs and movies you use be a flash in the pan or still be popular a decade or two later? Your audience may appreciate the throwback, but would a movie from 2004 be meaningful for a character who could have been born that year? What new disruptions will occur in the next thirteen years that we couldn't have foreseen?

Anyway, as I keep watching, perhaps some of these "glitches" will make more sense. (I'm trying to avoid spoilers, so please don't add any in the comments.) It will be interesting to look back at this show in thirteen years and see how well it compares to reality.

Wednesday, May 06, 2020

IWSG: Writing Rituals

Welcome to the month of May, otherwise known as Level 5 of Jumanji if you've been following the memes on social media. It's not only the first Wednesday of May, but it's also the 30th anniversary of the day my husband asked me out, and I gave him a "Maybe." I guess by now I can give him a more definite answer. I guess I should also remind readers that this is the designated day for the Insecure Writer's Support Group post, in which writers can share their insecurities without fear and encourage other writers. Learn more about the IWSG on their website, Facebook page, or Twitter feed. Our hosts this month are Feather Stone, Beverly Stowe McClure, Mary Aalgaard, Kim Lajevardi, and Chemist Ken.

Here's our question for the month: Do you have any rituals that you use when you need help getting into the ZONE? Care to share?

No, I don't have any special writing rituals. As a working mother, I have to take my writing time wherever and whenever I can get it. These days, since I'm working from home, I can no longer write on my lunch hour at work (I'm too busy making lunch for my son and myself, doing the dishes afterwards, and catching up on laundry.) What I can share is that it often takes me a while to get into the zone, especially if I'm not sure what to include in the scene I'm working on. I can be very distracted by games and social media under these conditions. To help me get started, I may end a writing session by adding a few ideas about what I want to add next and try to think about my story when I'm doing housework or walking around the neighborhood. The more I write, the easier it is to get the ideas that keep my fingers typing.

Now that I've warmed up by writing this blog post, it's time to turn to my work in progress. If you have any ideas for getting into and staying in the writing zone, please feel free to share them in the comments.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

I Didn't Start the Fire (Song Parody)

Yesterday was my 50th birthday. To mark the occasion, I decided to rewrite the lyrics to Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire" to cover events of the last fifty years. There are five verses, so each one is dedicated to a different decade. (I used Wikipedia to look up key events, people, and things from each decade.) Although I like to rewrite lyrics to songs, this was one of my more challenging projects. Billy Joel manages to make his lyrics work by incorporating internal rhymes into every line. Not all of my lines rhyme that well. The syllable counts for each line don't sound consistent to me, though I could be mishearing them. Perhaps I'll come back to this at some point to tweak a few lines. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this musical trip down Memory Lane.

Earth Day, Watergate, Richard Nixon ain’t so great,
Oil crisis, Gerald Ford, Hawking finds black holes,
Voyager, Pinochet, Bell-Bottoms and World Trade,
Elvis Presley, Happy Days, Alda and Travolta
Saigon falls, Jonestown, Biko, and stagflation
Star Wars, Space Invaders, Dark Side of the Moon
Disco, edit genes, Test tube babies hit the scene
Margaret Thatcher, Mao Zedong, hostages, and Brady Bunch!

(Chorus) We didn't start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world's been turning
We didn't start the fire
No we didn't light it
But we tried to fight it

Lennon shot, Regan lives, Cold War and Gorbachev
Marcos had to go, Pinochet and Truedeau
Rubik’s cube, Madonna, Mario and Pacman
New pope in Rome, ET’s gotta phone home,
Dallas was a dream, Valley Girls reigned supreme,
Michael Jackson, Challenger, Halley’s Comet, Chernobyl,
Apple, MTV, Sarajevo, Tom Hanks
INXS, greed is good, Germans tore a wall down


World Wide Web, NAFTA, Bill Clinton, Mandela,
Hubble, GPS, Windows is a big success,
Rodney King, Eurostar, Kuwait and the Gulf War
Dolly Sheep, Warsaw Pack, Rabin and Arafat
Climate change, slacker, Hale-Bopp, Pathfinder
Amazon, Hong Kong, Spice Girls sang their songs
Toy Story, Pokemon, Gen X has flannel on
OJ got away, end it all with Y2K!


9-11 don’t forget, Facebook on the Internet
Climate change, anthrax, we all wear cargo pants
Harry Potter, civil wars, Pluto now is a dwarf
Bush, Obama, Merkel too, Come on back, Doctor Who
Housing bubble had to burst, earthquakes did their worst
Sequence genomes mice to men, Avatar and Eminem!


2010, Arab Spring, African uprising
Castro, smartphones, hybrid cars and flying drones
Human rights, Endgame, California needs some rain
Chicago Cubs break a curse, White House goes from great to worse
Women march in pussy hats, teenagers on SnapChat
3D printing, iPads, Brexit, The Walking Dead
Fire sweeps a continent, fake news from the government
COVID-19 at my door, I’ll be here for fifty more!
(This last line is meant to be an expression of an indomitable spirit, not hubris.)


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