Journal

Mental Burns, Heatwaves, & the Chaos of a New School Year

What did I work on this week?

Not as much as I’d like…but also more than I was expecting? I chunked away on the novel work-in-progress and actually pounded the keys on a new short story, when the beginning suggested itself to me after a particularly challenging bedtime routine with Thing 2. But after writing over 2k on Wednesday in that flurry of inspiration, I was BURNT Thursday/Friday, so didn’t get anything really done. I’m not far behind on my overall word-count, though, but I need to stay focused this week. I’m definitely hitting a slowdown on the book, when I need to start connecting things and generating inspiration just takes more effort. But it’s coming along.

What’s inspiring me this week?

I just started reading Old in Art School by Nell Painter, which is both fascinating, invigorating, and oddly traumatizing as someone who adores the idea of becoming “an artist” but also recognizes her own tendency to just do whatever the hell she wants, painting-wise. I’ll probably never be a “true artist,” but I sure as hell will have fun.

I’ve also been doing a lot of thinking out-loud, trying to figure out a working pattern that will function for my life, while also not just continuously pushing things off “until I have more time” because HAHAHA, I never will. Right now, I’m looking very seriously into utilizing the NANO energy to generate a whole smorgasbord of short fiction during November, which will then give things time to rest before April, when I might be able to edit them. Juggling a novel WIP and generating new stories is HARD.

Also started watching Fatal Forecast on CuriosityStream, which has been interesting. I found the Heatwaves episode particularly interesting, because it really broke down why heatwaves are so dangerous to humans. Fascinating and horrifying stuff!

I also updated my writing planner, which has been sorely neglected after a week of not going into the office (a combo of traveling adults and Andy being on-call), and I went a little nuts and got a bunch of new stickers. (Why? Because I love stickers!) If you’re a notebook freak like me, keep an eye on my Insta this week, because I’m planning on posting some shots of the writing planner.

What am I working on this coming week?

Getting back up to word count! I’ve been tracking progress not based on daily word generation but on a months-long running total spread sheet. That way, I know where I ought to be in order to hit my deadline, but also it takes the pressure off the production of an individual day. For example: I’ve calculated my running total based on 500 words added every day until my expected word count (right now, ending about mid-October), but I often write more than that in a sitting, so I’m usually a little ahead of schedule. This helps me buffer for when I don’t write on the weekends/miss a day here and there, but still helps me see when I might need to push a bit more to get back on target.

Also, it’s the first day of school this week, so schedules will be a-changing, and things are going to get a little unsettled and nuts for the next couple weeks. I often mistakenly think I’ll get a lot more done once Thing 1 is in school, but I usually don’t. XD Thing 2 keeps me on my toes.

Journal

Interview with Apex Magazine’s Jason Sizemore!!!

Apex Magazine is running a Kickstarter to fund the 2023 season of the magazine. If you love dark speculative fiction, Apex is one of the best markets out there (and not just because they’ve published a few of my twisted stories!). Co-Editor Jason Sizemore took a few minutes out of his hectic day to answer a few questions about the magazine and the Kickstarter here for you guys!

Jason, you announced recently that Lesley will now be co-editing Apex Magazine, which is fantastic, since she’s awesome! What motivated the change to co-editorship, and what are you looking forward to her bringing to the table?

Lesley has been by my side for a long time. She’s not only earned the title of co-editor, but the promotion is a better reflection of her actual role with Apex Magazine. She has an educational background in the literary arts (as opposed to my tech background) that I have found to be valuable. She helps me catch technical nuances that I miss sometimes. Besides, what’s better than one editor? Two editors!!!

You’ve been running Apex Magazine (and Apex Book Company) for over a decade! What are the three biggest lessons you’ve learned about keeping a small press thriving?

You have to be adaptable, to be able to roll with a constant influx of challenges. Because financial resources can be scarce, there will be times you’ll have to think outside the box in order to accomplish what you need. You’ll have to learn how to code in PHP or create a comprehensive P&L statement. I don’t think these things are necessarily small press specific, but you need the skills all the same.

One small press specific recommendation I can make is to stay current with the rising stars of the genre. Being a small press, you’ll likely not be able to afford bankable names once they’ve had a taste of New York money. Certainly, there are established pros who do work with the small press, but you can make a big impact on the genre by helping find the next big star. 

I’m always blown away by Apex’s stories. Is there anything specific you look for that specifically screams “Apex”? 

We love stories that have a strong point of view and a statement to make while using the genre form as the story’s skeleton. I can point to a story of yours we published recently (“Candyland“) as a great example. You make brilliant use of magical realism as a means of showing the harm artificial social acceptance can do to young women. You embedded this theme inside a fascinating world and plot of your protagonist meeting an old, successful high school friend (which is a scenario we can all relate to). You also appeased the twisted Apex Magazine editors by constructing a fairly dark ending.

Apex’s Kickstarters are always fun! What kind of perks and stretch goals do you have planned this time around?

We funded early in the project, so it’s been a push to make some of our stretch goals. So far we’ve unlocked several Kickstarter exclusive goodies: a new Maurice Broaddus story, an Apex cocktail book, and a one-page Apex Magazine RPG! On the near horizon are stories by Daniela Tomova and E. Catherine Tobler, pay increases for our writers, original artwork for the zine by Marcela Bolivar and Godwin Akpan, and a Reading Time with Jason and Lesley where we read some of our favorite Apex stories via livestream!

Okay—fun, random question for either/both of you: If you could meet and spend the day with any one fictional character, who would it be, and what would you do?

Tom Bombadil from The Hobbit. We would drink tea, do shrooms, and smoke various forms of potent vegetation.

Thanks so much, Jason! I always love chatting with you. And everybody: go support Apex Magazine and help them reach a few of their stretch goals so it can be the best version of itself (which is already fantastic).

Journal

Flea-writing, Cloudpunk, & Bad Thoughts

What did I work on last week?

I got a lot of DIRTY BONE drafted last week. It’s been such a different experience writing this book. More often than not, I have a gut instinct for what scene I want to work on for a given day, and I jump around the manuscript like a flea. The only real guidance is tension development–is this scene going to be more or less intense than scenes that come after it? Then I nestle it in where it should go. It’s a weird one, I’ll give it that, but I’m having a lot of fun, and so far I’m on target to hit my 50k word count by mid-October, so I’m pretty jazzed about that!

I also wrote a silly little flash story that I’m not sure I’ll do anything with, really, but it made me giggle after a day of watching a few episodes of Indian Matchmaking and fighting with Verizon’s website and automated voice assistant (thank goodness for real people in customer support!) to get my mom’s phone updated.

What’s inspiring me?

I’ve been getting back into video games after getting burned by THE LONG DARK again a few weeks ago. (Burned = I died again. Of course I did! DEATH IS ALWAYS THE END.) In its absence, I’ve been picking up CLOUDPUNK again, which is cute and fun. It reminds me a bit of SimCopter (ah, the 90s!), but with a really great cyberpunk feel and interesting characters. I’m enjoying the choice options, and I’m getting a little better at not ramming my flying car into buildings.

I also just finished SECRETS OF PRODUCTIVE PEOPLE, and while I have a few reservations about it, I came away from it with some really cool insights that I’m hoping to try. The biggest one, I think, is utilizing questions to probe your creativity. I’ve heard of authors using this before, but it’s interesting to apply it to a whole-life view and see where it leads. I also ADORED the idea of low-level systems, getting all those little life choices into a routine/systematic method so that you don’t have to spend much time on them (i.e., for me, cleaning house, which I hate but which needs to get done at least semi-regularly). I spent a lot of time the last year working on systemizing my wardrobe, which I’ve finally gotten to a place I’m really happy with. If that kind of systemization interests you, I’d also recommend ATOMIC HABITS, which has some great suggestions for how to build new habits and break old ones. WORK CLEAN also has some wonderful insights into how to reduce decision overload by planning ahead (i.e. making a system) to streamline your day.

I started reading BAD THOUGHTS by Nada Alic this past week when trying to keep up with reading a short story a day, and so far, I’ve really loved it. Every story has made me burst out laughing at some point, and I find her writing engaging.

Oh! And Andy and I started FRESH last night, and WOW, did not realize it was going to be that brutal. I mean, it’s GOOD, and I find myself running bits of dialogue over and over in my head, but there were more than a few times both of us squeamed out, and that takes a bit.

What am I working on this week?

With my folks gone this week, I’ll probably only get into the office once or twice (I desperately need to update my notebook!), but I’m aiming for 20m a day on DIRTY BONE to keep me on-pace for a mid-October finish. My goal right now is to finish the rough draft by mid-October, rest it for Nov/Dec, and cold-read it again in January to plan my initial type-through. After that, I’m hoping I’ll get it to beta readers who can tell me if I’m batshit insane or if this thing actually has legs. Once I get those notes back, I’m hoping I’ll be able to whip the edits together in a few months (depending on how bad the notes are) and maybe (MAYBE?! PLEASE?!) get it revised and ready to submit by next fall. Wouldn’t that be magical?!

Also, I’ve got an interview with Apex Magazine’s Editor Jason Sizemore coming up tomorrow to promote their current 2023 Kickstarter, so keep your eyes open for that!

Journal

Settling In, NEON, and 12 Week Goals

What have I been working on this past week?

It has been SO. NICE. writing again. Oh my word, six weeks feels like a lifetime to not be pounding the keyboard, let me tell you. It’s like I’m breathing again for the first time, even though I really, really enjoyed my break and the time with my fam and traveling and (well, not COVID) all the other summery things we did from mid-June to end of July.

BUT I AM READY TO WRITE AGAIN. Four days this week I’ve hit 500 words or more, just making myself sit down for five minutes to get back into the groove. It feels wonderful. I’ve added some lovely progress to the novel-in-progress, wrote a chunk of a story I’ve been banging around in my head for a while, and even wrote a prose-poem (wha-?!). It’s been a great week. I haven’t gotten into the office yet (main reason: I have no furniture there yet), but I’m hoping to get my desk and office chair in there by tomorrow, and then it’s ALL GO. I CAN’T WAIT.

I’ve also settled into my notebook set-up, despite initial uncertainty–having one weekly planner for writing where I notate writing-only related things and my day planner (bujo) for the everyday things, and my hashbook for all the scribbly bits–it’s coming together. I’ve also gotten my sweet mini-stickers for tracking certain habits on a day-to-day basis, so hopefully that’ll keep me excited about staying up-to-date on habits. We shall see!

What’s inspiring me this week?

44 days. 44 DAYS. My latest run-through of THE LONG DARK ended on Friday afternoon at 2:03pm, EST, when a wolf attacked me and ate my face. I was doing so good, too! *sobs* For the time being, I’m not starting up a new game, as I need to take a step back. It’s been rather an obsession lately.

In my effort to read a short story a day, I’ve been picking up my copy of NEON Magazine lately, and gosh, is it lovely. I really love how it straddles the odd/fantastic and literature. If you haven’t picked up a copy (it ships out of the UK), it’s well worth it, and every story I’ve read has had something to recommend it. I’ve also picked up THE DARK, the ghost story collection by Ellen Datlow, and it’s wonderfully spooky.

I’ve also lately been thinking about screenwriting/playwriting, because dialogue seems to be one of my consistent strengths (at least in critique groups, that’s the skill that keeps getting complimented), so writing in a form that emphasizes that skillset might be an interesting adventure. We’ll see if this goes anywhere, but I’ve picked up a couple books on script- and play-writing to look into it.

Also, did I mention I had an office now? SO COOL!

What am I working on next week?

This coming week is continuing the trend of re-establishing good creative habits. I’ve set up my 12 Week Plan goals, which essentially boil down to:

  1. Finish the rough draft of DIRTY BONE.
  2. Re-establish healthy creative habits.
  3. Establish home maintenance (low-level system) habits.

Other than chipping away at those three, I’m just hoping to get some good reading in, and surviving Thing 1’s swim lessons.

Journal

Chasing Chickens, A Room of My Own, & Jumping Back In

What have I been up to this week?

Traveling! We went up to Upstate NY on Wednesday and spent an idyllic weekend hanging out with great friends who have a farm up there. It was lovely. Thing 1 and Thing 2 chased chickens and played with their dog and swam for hours in their pool. Andy and I enjoyed knocking back a few beers and enjoying some lovely catching up and relaxing. I also successfully hypnotized one chicken, so the old Taylor skill remains!

Really, it couldn’t have gone better.

But with the end of July, the writing-itches are back HARD, so I’m hoping to get back into the writing flow in August. I cannot tell you how excited I am to dive in to word-smithing again.

OH! But in other news! Andromeda Spaceways #87 came out today, which includes my short sci-fi story, “Dynamo.” What if a ruthless space bounty-hunter started poking around your ordinary life, convinced you were hiding his prey?

Check it out here!

What’s been inspiring me lately?

Whoo, boy. Okay. So a week ago, I was talking to my mom about some office space in town I’d seen advertised, and in the course of three days, we have a shared office rented! I AM SO EXCITED.

Quiet. Tidy. No kiddos. Walls of books. Wholly devoted to writing? YES PLEASE. It’s officially a room of my own! (Or, okay, a room of “our” own, but still! We alternate needed times, so it’s ESSENTIALLY a room of my own!!!) I’m so thrilled, you guys. And it’s really reasonable, price-wise, so while it lights a little fire under my butt to get producing and maybe make some of it back, it’s not so stressful that I seize up creatively. I still can’t believe it! SO EXCITED. More on that next weekend, after we’ve broken the space in. I need to move my desk in, among other things, and I’m still trying to figure out a groaning-couch (obviously, a couch you lay on and groan on, which is my usual manifestation of “thinking”).

Otherwise, I’ve been getting my assorted notebooks up and ready to go! I’m a little worried that having three notebooks I use regularly may make my brain explode, but I may end up leaving my writing related one at the office for documenting progress there, which might make it feel less overwhelming. I’ve also gotten my new Baronfig Confidant set up and ready to go for August, so I’m looking forward to kicking that off. Keep an eye on my Instagram account, where I post notebook shots.

My third notebook is what I’m calling my “hashbook”–a place to do writing exercises, Writing-Down-the-Bones practice, hash out ideas (hence “hashbook”), and generally write down the nitty-gritty thinking involved in writing. We’ll see how that goes!

What am I working on this coming week?

Jumping back into writing! Six weeks appears to be my max “down-time” from writing. It’s been great in that I haven’t felt horribly guilty about not writing, as I’d planned not to, and I’ve spent oodles of time just reading for fun and kicking back, playing outside, and enjoying some video games and chilling. It’s been incredibly refreshing.

But I am AMPED to get back to it. I’ve got a handful of healthy writing-related habits I’m going to start trying to ease into this next week (most notably: reading a short story a day), and I’m going to write at least 5 minutes every day for the coming week (maybe more if I can get into the office sometime during the week), just to reestablish the habit.

I’m planning out a new 12 Week Year set of goals, which are focusing primarily on habit building and producing a rough draft of my weird novel-in-progress, Dirty Bone. The premise? What if a man discovered a skeleton living in a dirt house attached to his basement, and ended up having an affair with her? BECAUSE OF COURSE HE DOES.

Yeah, it’s a weird one. But I’m having a lot of fun with it and just playing like crazy, so I’m going to be leaning into that hard. My other goal for the next twelve weeks is to get into the house-tending habits outlined in Simply Clean, because the less I need to think about keeping the house clean, the more space I’ll have in my head for writing.

Journal

Productivity Thoughts, Office Space, & Lag Time

What did I work on last week?

I’m still on writing hiatus for the month of July, but I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my systems for creating fiction and where I might be able to improve. The biggest hangup I hit is the fact that I often need a really long post-draft lag to get distance from something I’ve written in order to see it clearly. While occasionally I’ll write a story that just pours out and gets edited and submitted within a couple of weeks, most of my work requires a stupidly long cooling period (about 9-12 months, from my records) before I can think clearly about them. (This is certainly a luxury allowed by the fact that I don’t make a living writing.)

Whether or not I can shorten that period seems to weigh on how happy I am with a rough draft (rather than just wanting to set it on fire), and whether I’m compelled to come back to it sooner. If I can’t shorten that time, then I need to develop a system for creating work which I’m excited to get back to after 9 months, so that I always have a steady stream of work coming up for refinement and submission. There are still lots of thoughts happening about this process. 

I’m also setting up my weekly planner and my new bullet journal (see instagram for photos) and getting ready to kick off writing again come August (it appears 6 weeks is about as long as I can handle not writing before I get too itchy). 

What is inspiring me?

This week I’m knee deep in Secrets of Productive People by Mark Foster, which has some very interesting thoughts about systems. I like that he mentions how low-level systems (keeping your house tolerably together/getting enough sleep/exercise/etc.) is vital to having the mental space to think about creative work (I’ve been essentially doing this regarding my wardrobe, and finally feel like I’m where I need to be there). I’ve also been using the five-item list he recommends, and it is helpful in keeping my to-do’s for the day reasonable and trackable. Interesting stuff.

I got a bunch of reading in that book done while we were camping this past weekend. It was hot but I got some nice hammock lounging and reading in, so that was delightful. I think in the future, we’ll try camping post-bug season, though. Still, we had a lot of fun swimming off lake islands and making s’mores and all that traditional camping stuff, but it’s nice to be home in our own bed!

What am I going to work on this week?

We have another trip at the end of the week to see some old friends, which will be delightful, but otherwise same-old-same-old. My mother and I have been taking a look at office space to see if maybe we can split an office and have some private space for work. We’ll see if that ends up happening, but we’ve seen some nice spaces. I’d love to have a workspace that is all mine without LEGO on the floor! 

Otherwise, I’m focusing on setting up my new bullet journal and getting things organized to jump back into drafting the novel project starting in August! SO EXCITED! It’s been great taking the time off and just kicking back and reading, but I’m definitely excited to write again. 

Journal

Trains, Journals, and COVID

Once again, we are home here at Chez Slater. The last few weeks have been a rollercoaster, let me tell you!

What I’ve been doing:

Traveling! Back at the end of June, Andy and I packed up Thing 1 and Thing 2 and boarded The Lakeshore Limited train from Boston to Chicago, and from there, took the Texas Eagle down to Taylor, TX. We spent two nights on the train in roomettes, and it was AWESOME. (Yes, we are aware of the awful derailment that happened the day after we were on the train, but that was a different line and a different train, and still luckily a fairly rare event compared to car crashes.) The boys slept incredibly well, and I slept well on the Lakeshore and not quite so well on the Eagle, primarily because the Eagle is a smaller train and therefore the sleeper car is closer to the engine horn. There are apparently a LOT of train-road crossings in Arkansas. Nothing a pair of earplugs wouldn’t fix. Otherwise, it was surprisingly comfortable.

The food also was pretty good! I don’t want to oversell it, but it was solid. Think old-school airliner food in heatable tin containers. I had a lot of the Baked Ziti with Meatballs, because that’s what the boys would eat, but the Salmon and the Roast were good, too. Andy was not as impressed with the Thai Curry, which he said was spicy but not flavorful otherwise. The snack car on the LSL was actually astoundingly good for a snack cart/quick reheat meals. I actually really enjoyed the grilled cheese and Andy got the Chicken Street Tacos which were delightful. The breakfast omelet was also solid, as was the apparently well-lauded French Toast.

We arrived in Taylor, TX, and went with my MiL to a local McDonald’s Play Place, and three days later, we (me and the boys) all had COVID.

Yay. So needless to say, we spent the majority of the vacation isolating and feeling like crap. The boys both had high fevers (103-104–Thing 1 is vaccinated, Thing 2 was too young until just recently and hasn’t gotten his yet). Thing 2 also had stomach symptoms, though no congestion and no cough, and threw up regularly. Thing 1 had the fever, some congestion, and a cough. I had what I’m calling the “buffet of symptoms” in that I had a different symptom every day, and never the same one twice. I started off with a low grade fever, then the next day had mild body aches (kind of like pregnancy ligament pain–annoying, but tolerable with Tylenol), then congestion and sneezing and a gnarly, gunky cough that reminded me of when I used to have asthma as a kid, then sinus pain (manageable with Tylenol), and then extreme exhaustion (an all-day long sensation of having just climbed out of a pool). No symptom lasted longer than a day, and by a week out, I was feeling 95% myself. Even at my worst, I was still able to get up and move around and sit upright, so the congestion wasn’t horrific like the two colds I had in March. All in all, I felt crummy for a few days, and then it resolved, right about the time I tested negative.

Of course, because of this, we had to cancel the second leg of our train trip, since we wouldn’t be out of the travel 10-day restricted period by the time the train left Austin. So we flew back on Saturday, instead. Not as relaxing, but we were just glad to get home!

What’s inspiring me lately:

In other news and back home once again (thank goodness), I’m still on my summer writing hiatus, which is only driving me a *little* nuts. But I’ve been channeling that itch into journaling, which has been a nice change of pace. I’ve also been reading quite a bit, having just finished The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones, and having picked up Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata. I really enjoyed TOGI and so far am crazy about CSW, so we’ll see how it goes.

I just finished playing through I am Dead on the Nintendo Switch, which was charming and relaxing, with cute art and startlingly delightful world-building. We are also digging into Brooklyn 99 which we’ve been meaning to check out (as we’re always on the hunt for humorous 30 minute shows to watch after long days), and Only Murders in the Building is back for Season 2, as is What We Do in the Shadows for Season 4! We went from having absolutely nothing left to watch after finishing Stranger Things 4 and The Great, to having ALL THE THINGS. So we’re having a fine time in the evenings.

We just tried out the card game/dodgeball game THROW THROW BURRITO, which is a sweaty bundle of fun for the whole family. We were quite entertained, so now it remains to be seen if it’s a game we want to play regularly or only on occasion. Other games we discovered during the train trip: COUCH SKELETONS (good fun, very fast) and TRASH PANDAS (a little trickier, but quite funny). Someday Thing 2 will be old enough not to just grab cards off the table and run, which will make card games infinitely more enjoyable.

What I’m Working on Next Week:

Still on hiatus until mid-August, but I’m currently trying to build some housekeeping habits during my downtime that will hopefully help me keep the place a bit more reasonable, especially with both boys home. We’re also prepping for an upcoming camping trip, which will hopefully make up for our semi-dismal Texas trip and give us some much needed time in nature.

I also haven’t been posting much on Instagram lately, so I’m going to be picking that back up again. Otherwise, I’ll be reading, supervising the Things, refereeing the Things, and enjoying craft beer and journaling.

Hope your summer is going well and you’re being kind to yourself!

Journal

Summer is Coming…

What did I do this past week?

Well, I did an update not all that long ago, so not much new to report! Just chugging away at the novel project and trying to identify the best time of day to work (right now, looks like just after the boys go to bed for a few minutes before my brain shuts off–can’t do it right before bed, or my brain won’t shut off at ALL.) I’d love to get to 10k on this thing before June 15th, which I may bump to June 17th as the official START OF SUMMER.

Not sure I’ve mentioned this here before, but my plan is to take the summer off from writing. I may do some writing exercises for fun, but mainly I’m hoping that taking all pressure off “producing” during the summer months will help my mental health and also help refill my creative well. It’s not that I won’t write if I get a super cool idea I just *have* to get down, but I don’t want to have any expectations of productivity.

Partly, this is because summer is already typically a bad season writing-wise for me. There’s kiddos around all day. We have guests. We travel a lot. I want to get out of the house and do fun things with them, like camping, and not feel bad that I’m not sticking to a writing schedule. I want to get away from screens. I want to journal. I want to read like I used to as a kid during those long summer evenings. I want to play. And honestly, I really, really need to after these past few years.

So 2022 is the summer of play. Will writing happen? Maybe? Who knows! But I’m trying to get to a good stopping spot for any living projects by June 17th, so I can really relax and cut loose. If absolutely nothing else, I hope to read a bunch of fun stuff.

Oh! As a sidenote, I’ve also added a Support page to this blog, in case anyone feel the overwhelming desire to buy me a notebook (i.e. support the arts and all that fluffy stuff). So if you feel like contributing to my stationary habit (I don’t have a problem, you have a problem!), feel free to pop over and leave me a tip. I’ll absolutely, 100%, definitely write in the notebook you buy me. I won’t let it just pile up with all the other cheap blank notebooks I keep telling myself I’ll fill one day. Really. I’ll use it. Promise.

What is currently inspiring me?

I’ve been alive in The Long Dark for 42 days. Today could be the day I die. I’ve done so well, but I’m running out of limited resources in the area I’ve called home, and each time I venture out of my safe places, the risk of doom grows higher. I can feel it sniffing at my heels, trailing me through the dimming woods, its delicate paws leaving no mark upon the virgin snow to warn me of how very close it is to catching me. I’ve got deer skin boots and rabbit skin mitts, but all it’s going to take is an ill-fated blizzard at the wrong time, too far from home to take shelter, too windy to keep a fire going.

I’ve been a live in The Long Dark for 42 days. How much longer can I possibly keep this up?

So yeah, I’ve been playing The Long Dark in survival mode. 42 days is a record for me. I’ve also checked out Bad Writer by Riddlefox Games, which is HILARIOUS. It’s short, but it’s only $5.99 on Switch, and it makes me laugh as much as it makes my heart hurt. Also, I wish I could write a short story in a day. Just saying.

Also, Squid Game! Yes, yes, we finally got around to it. We needed something short but intense to keep us awake in the evenings, and this is just the ticket. It’s viciously fun and horrifying. We’ve been enjoying it immensely, especially since finishing Stranger Things 4 last week. It’s a solid follow.

What am I working on this week?

This week, I’m trying to focus once more on time rather than word count. I find when I focus on trying to write 500 words, I can get rather fluff-centric, simply trying to hit the count for the day, which I think makes more work for myself later. Today and for the rest of the week, I’m aiming for a measly 10 minutes. I may get more. I often get more once I get started, but at least then it’s time-oriented, not word-oriented, so I’m hoping that generates more thought and deliberate work rather than just word-scratching.

Got a rejection last week and so shot a thing back out into the universe. I must say, I really enjoy submitting, even if I really dislike the not-knowing aspect. I only wish I could crank out work like the author in Bad Writer.

Journal

Submissions, Charlton Heston, & Sticky Brain

Oh my goodness, so weekly updates now once a month? XD I’m working on it. 

In my defense, it’s been a busy few weeks. 

WHAT I DID LAST WEEK:

Travel dominated my past few weeks, as I flew out of state for my cousin’s wedding in Texas. It’s the first time I’ve flown since Covid, and it went surprisingly smoothly. I edited a ton on my latest short story (thanks in part to traveling alone without kiddos), and watched some movies I’d been hoping to see. 

When I got home, it was an all-out push to finish the short story and get it submitted, which I did! I’m thrilled that this weird specfic story gets to go hunt down a home. Who knows where it will land, but I feel like it’s one of the best things I’ve ever written, and that feels fantastic, even if it never sells. (*hopes desperately that it will sell*) 

It was a huge relief to get that story submitted, as I’ve been working on it, bit by bit, for months now. I wish I was faster at this, that I could turn a story around in a month, but I’ve come to realize that such speed is just not me. Slow and steady, especially with so many distractions around these days.

After getting that one out, I dove head-first into the novel project I’ve been nursing along for the past few months with a scene here and a sketch there. It’s a weird little monster, but I’m really enjoying just playing. Hopefully it’ll morph into something solid, but I’m keeping my hands open on it. 

Oh! And I learned I sold my short sci-fi story, “Dynamo”! No contract yet, so I can’t announce it fully, but keep an eye out here for details to come. I’m so excited that my ode to Charlton Heston (complicated as that man was, and with whom in actual life I would have probably strongly disagreed on most things) has found a home. And such a fun one, too! 

WHAT’S INSPIRING ME:

Inspiring me this week is the book The Elements of Eloquence, by Mark Forsyth, which has had me cackling and also going “Ooooo! I need to try that!” I’ve really enjoyed learning about all sorts of rhetorical tricks, and even used a few of them in the last story I submitted because it was just so fun. I’m no poet, but having a little more insight into what sounds good and why has been very intriguing. 

Otherwise, vaccines. Covid has finally landed in our home after two years, but thanks to the fact that everyone (minus Thing 2) is vaccinated and boosted, so far those who have it haven’t felt all that terrible. Fingers crossed it continues to be so. It’s a stressful thing, though, having Covid in the home (“Is it?” says Captain Obvious). Even without being infected, it’s like you have this sudden awareness of AIR, any bit of which could be carrying something that will make you and your loved ones feel like shit. It’s annoying. 

And of course, this week Stranger Things 4 came out, so Andy and I have been plowing through that and diving deep into the Upside Down. Is there anything quite so pleasant as a Stranger Things episode with an Old Fashioned in hand? (Well, aside from the whole kids/murder-school thing… That hit pretty hard.)

WHAT I’M WORKING ON THIS WEEK:

This week, it’s all novel, when I can squeeze it in. With Covid in the house, Thing 1 is home for the week to watch for exposure, so my timetables will be a touch screwy for the next few days. I’m aiming for 500 words a day, which is fairly reasonable/reachable for me. It feels great to open up the mental throttle and just write without obsessing over every word choice. Later. That comes later.

I think it’s finally occurred to me, with the genesis of this last story, what the difference is between writers and other people. Anybody can draft something. Anybody can get words down (not that it’s always easy). The difference between the writer and the general writing public is the writer’s ability to UN-write. To take out everything that isn’t necessary, to say as much as possible in the least amount of words, trusting the reader to fill in the gaps but giving them lots of subtle clues to guide them. Writing isn’t rewriting. It’s unwriting. It’s distilling. It’s cooking your words down to the absolute purest syrup of your thought. 

Now my brain feels sticky. 

Journal

Rabby, Giant Sharks, and an Animated Moose Being Super Mean…

I didn’t get quite as much focused work in this past week as I was hoping, though my trial run of evening work met with good success when I tried it. I’m ankle deep in the word-cutting pass for my latest short story, and I’m finding I really prefer having quiet, extended time to pick over it, rather than coping with interruptions during the daytime hours. I’d love to get this thing wrapped up before I travel later this month, so I’m hoping I can make some significant progress this week. The first few word-specific searches always take a long time (I’m a sucker for “of”), but they do get faster as I go. And I know once I get the cull done, I’ll be amped to get it polished and submitted. So that’s the goal this week: get the word-cull done. Maybe I can do the read-through over the weekend next Saturday/Sunday. 

But I did manage to build the storage bench (with a power drill!) for the dining room, and got the round eating table (aka: my desk) tidied up and my books all organized neatly on a shelf, so feeling quite good about that! We also finally got the rest of the soil dumped into our last two raised beds where we’re going to try for peas (though with the heatwave coming next week, WHO KNOWS HOW THEY’LL DO). 

Also, we have a baby bunny who lives in our garden. I’ve named her Iris, because she nibbles the irises, and she’s adorable. Thing 2 runs through the house to grab whomever he can when he sees her, calling “RABBY RABBY RABBY!” *dies of toxic cuteness syndrome*

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This past week has been so busy! Aside from Mother’s Day today (which was lovely, and involved hanging out with my own mother, shoe shopping and book shopping and having lattes in peace and quiet, as well as homemade cards from my boys and a gift from both Andy and extended family-!), we’ve started Mommy and Me swim classes with Thing 2, in addition to our Nature Friends class mid-week. It’s always hard to incorporate a new routine, and this week was no exception, and probably contributed to some of the challenging attempts to get work done. 

Mostly, in my free moments, I’ve been burying myself in The Long Dark, though I’ve now frozen to death in a snow storm, been mauled to death by a wolf, and the day before yesterday I was trampled to death by a moose, so, you know, not doing such a great survival job. XD It is fun, though! Tricky, but fun. 

We also watched The Meg on Wednesday night as a treat, which was delightfully ridiculous in the way only giant sharks can be, but we had a fun trashy time. I believe Sharknado is on our radar next, because we missed it when it first made its big “splash” as we’d just had Thing 1 and were too exhausted to watch movies. 

I started Noom a couple of weeks ago, just to see if it could help me take off a few extra pounds that have been making my beloved jeans a liiiiiiittle too snug of late, and so far, it’s been really helpful. I don’t have a lot to lose (I like my shape, generally), but I was interested in getting ahead of my own bad eating habits (hello giant bowl of goldfish crackers… man, I love them…) before it was a “I need new pants” problem. (Especially after working so hard on getting a wardrobe I actually LIKE that actually feels like ME!) 

It’s been really interesting to see what my eating habits actually are. It’s so easy to not pay much attention (and honestly, I prefer not paying attention) and let not so healthy choices build without even realizing it. I’m already about halfway to my goal, and it hasn’t been especially bad (yes, some choices between having a whole beer vs. an ice cream mochi later… but overall, reasonable and not too difficult) so feeling pretty good about it. I doubt I’ll do it for more than the initial three months, but it’s nice to have it in the back pocket. 

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This coming week is going to be busy again, with classes and a family birthday, though I’ll admit I’m kind of looking forward to the heat wave (a little—it’ll also probably get old FAST) if only because it means I can get the sprinkler out and let the boys run around and get muddy, which will entertain them for ages while I read in the shade. XD 

End goal: get the word-cull draft DONE. That’s it, that’s all.