Journal

A December 2021 Update

Phew! I cannot believe that November is already gone, and that we’re knee-deep in December already. This is going to be an absolutely nuts month, with WorldCon from 12/15-12/19, and family visiting for the holidays, among other things, equally as important. I’m also wrapping up the novel rewrite for the Write Your Novel class at AWC that I’ve been taking this year, and hoping to get it submitted this weekend so I can kick back and try to find a way to relax in all the chaos!

If you’re going to be heading to WorldCon this year, come find me! I’ll probably be kicking around the Apex table periodically, and on Friday (12/17) at 7pm, I’ll be participating in a Rapid-Fire Reading hosted by BroadUniverse.

^^^

Boy, what a year it’s been. It seems strange to be looking back on it now, when there’s still so much to go, but as far as my writing year goes, December is always a shot month. So when I did my monthly goal review for November, it struck me that really, this is about it. This is what I’m getting done this year.

Truth is, though, that I’m pretty proud of what I accomplished in 2021, despite the pandemic and all the other complicating factors that presented. And while there’s always room for improvement, it was a solid year. In stats:

2021 Goals Review

New Submissions: 4 / 4
New Rough Drafts: 11 / 5
New Summary Drafts: 0 / 1

Total Word Count: 173,811 / 100,000
Books Read: 35 / 52

Submission Attempts: 28
Personal Rejections: 1
Stories Sold: 2

Summary & Thoughts:

It was a solid year for new drafts. I started splitting my weeks between novel writing (M/T) and short story writing (W/Th/F), and that worked like a *charm*. It gave me space from the novel, which meant I hit the ground energized to get back to work on Mondays, and then by Wednesday (or Thursday, depending on how long it took to hit 3k on the novel) I could totally switch tack and think about something completely different. My brain liked that structure, so I’ll be doing that again come 2022.

Another thing I learned: submitting during the second half of the year is HARD for me. I’m not entirely sure why, though I suspect some seasonal depressive dips that just make evaluating and fighting with logic problems in stories extremely difficult. So in 2022, I’m going to try to hit my submission goals by June. I seem to have a lot more energy to tackle that kind of work early in the year, and then it’s like the gift that keeps giving: even during slumps, I can always resubmit something that bounces back to me, and that gives me a little boost of “I’m doing the work”-ness that helps pull me up out of the slump. Win-win!

I was doing pretty well on reading this year until June hit and school let out in conjunction with Thing 2 deciding that he *could* in fact go to sleep and stay asleep at night without my hand right next to him. This was both a blessing and a curse: it opened up my evenings for adult conversation and TV with Andy and the occasional pool game, but it also removed that enforced two hour reading block I used to have. So reading dropped off dramatically after that. I may end the year with a few more books under my belt, as I’ve got a couple that are close to done, but I’m not necessarily counting on it. Quiet reading time is at a premium right now. Next year, I’m just setting a smaller goal.

The most notable thing I’m going to try in 2022 is a big break from writing starting in mid-June and ending in mid-August (so basically, all of July + 2 weeks on either side). A few reasons for this:

1) This coincides with the end of the school year, when my schedule normally changes a lot, and I often struggle to find a “new normal” during that period;

2) I want to be able to enjoy my summer–as noted above, summers also tend to be when we travel, have visitors, and generally have no regularity, which makes keeping my writing schedule incredibly difficult and usually a source of major frustration. What’s more, I want to do different things during that time. I want to play. I want to participate in the local library’s reading challenge. I want to take non-writing classes and go to the beach and more than anything, I want to NOT feel guilty about not producing as many words as I usually do during the school year.

3) The real reason: it’s becoming clearer as I get older and start seeing mood patterns, that summer often brings a major emotional dip for me. Sometimes it’s better, sometimes it’s worse, but either way, the creative energy drops heavily during that period. Guilt about “not getting writing done” plays into that, but even when I *am* getting the work done, I struggle. I can’t see my work clearly and get very easily discouraged. I’m hoping that by allowing myself to just spend time recharging, reading, trying new things, spending time with family, gathering new experiences, and generally filling the well, I’ll be able to better weather that time more effectively, and allow myself to relax after the spring push when I have more creative energy. That’s not to say I won’t write if something REALLY strikes me and I need to get it down. That’s fine. But I’m going to try to remove all expectation of productivity during that time and let myself have a playful summer break, too.

Then, right about mid-August, when school shopping starts, my creative energy comes rushing back. So I’m going to try that this coming year, and see how it goes.

Bonuses:

+ I sold two stories!
+ I had a positive review in Locus for one of my sci-fi pieces*
+ I wrote ELEVEN new short stories drafts!
+ I actually managed to tackle the FROSTHAVEN rewrite draft
+ I kept up with my work for the WYN course
+ I wrote over 170,000 words!

As for goals, they’re not changing too much, because the whole point is to create reasonable, small-improvement goals. But that also makes it easier to set them!

2022 Goals

New Submissions: 0 / 5
New Rough Drafts: 0 / 8
New Novel Draft: 0 / 1

Total Word Count: 0 / 120,000
Books To Read: 0 / 32

Submission Attempts: 0 / 40

Nothing too crazy there. The biggest push is aiming to submit fiction 40 times. With the three stories I currently have out, and the hopeful five new submissions in early 2022, I’m hoping that’ll be a pleasant push, and not a ripped-muscle stretch.

But that’s all for me through the end of the year! I’ll update if anything REALLY exciting happens, but have a lovely holiday season and I’ll see you all in 2022!

*And another one in which editor Paula Guran calls my story (“Candyland”): “Cute, but cutting”! Woohoo!

Journal

November is Here

Well, so much for monthly updates, ammiright? Ah well! You didn’t miss much in October, because I was mostly obsessed with creating Halloween costumes for Thing 1 and Thing 2:

They turned out pretty cool, right? So that was most of my October, as Halloween loomed and costumes took over my little free time (aka my writing time). However! I did manage to finish two new stories early on: one weird/ghost story, and one flash ghost story. I’m not sure the flash one will be all that great, but I do like the weird one. We’ll just have to see when I come back around to them next year.

In other news…

Today, I hit a milestone and I wasn’t even expecting it! I discovered that my sci-fi story (“Deadhead”) in last spring/summer’s Abyss & Apex was reviewed in Locus Magazine, and the reviewer chose it for their recommended reading list! *head explodes in star beams and glitter*

To writers who are regularly reviewed in Locus, I’m sure it’s a minor threshold to have crossed, but for me it’s a big thing! And they liked it! So that was a lovely surprise.

Otherwise, things have been pretty quiet around here. I’m feverishly working to finish polishing a short story for submission by the end of the month, and I’ve created an editing worksheet tailored to make me look at my craft weak spots. After this, I’ve got a few scenes to rewrite for the Write Your Novel course I’m finishing up through the Australian Writer’s Centre, and then it’s WorldCon in D.C.!

Oh, which reminds me! I’ll be participating in the in-person Rapid Fire Reading hosted by BroadUniverse on 12/17 at 7pm in the Cabinet Room (649) at the Omni Shoreham Hotel. So if you’d like to hear me read something and are attending WorldCon, come say hi! :D

Journal

“Candyland” at Apex Magazine Available for Free and Sale Update!

My sickly sweet short story about the torments of social media and comparing oneself to others is now up at Apex Magazine for free! Check out “Candyland” here.

In other news, I just signed the contract with The Cellar Door to have my spooky woodlands tale about ghosts and the ways community can hold us down appear in their Woodland Terrors issue coming sometime 2022! Woohoo! “Circles” is a story I’ve always really liked, but proved hard to place. I’m thrilled it’s found a good home with the folks at Dark Peninsula Press.

Journal

September Returns

Here is it, September at last, and I must say, the two-ish month hiatus has really helped. I think this quote from my last post (found here) really sums it up:

“I honestly hate trying to create “content” that will get hits and likes. It’s just not why I blog, and I think trying to do that has really drained my creative reserves.”

This is absolutely what was bothering me before, and it’s going to guide my posting here moving forward. Starting this month, I’m only going to post once a month with a general overview of what’s been going on, and any specific news. I’ll put my current reading pile into these monthly posts, as well as my goal reviews. I want a living site, not just a splash page with my bio and bibliography, but I’d rather spend most of my time writing fiction.

I keep a fairly regular presence on Instagram, with little glimpses of my notebooks, capsule closet, and random other things (like miniatures!), so if you want to see what I’m doing on a day-to-day basis, that’s the place to go.

After two months away, I feel like I’m back in a good spot. I finished the rewrite of FROSTHAVEN, and wrapped up a class, and am now ready to dive into editing, submitting, and planning for NANO this year. I haven’t done NANO since 2013, and I don’t know if it’ll work–kiddo-wise–but I’ve got a project I want to spend some focused time on, so I might as well try!

But thanks for your patience and understanding. I may pick up blogging more often someday, but for now, monthly is about all I can manage.


News

I do have a bit of news! My story “Candyland” is coming out in the September/October issue of Apex Magazine, which is quite exciting. This is my second story with them, and as always, it’s been a delight to work with the team. And the cover art-!

I’ve also just heard that I’ve sold my woodsy zombie-ghost story, but no contract in hand yet, so I can’t share much more detail than that.


Monthly Goals Review

New Submissions: 3 / 4
New Rough Drafts: 9 / 5
New Summary Drafts: 0 / 1

Total Word Count: 146,247 / 100,000
Books Read: 31 / 52

Submission Attempts: 20
Personal Rejections: 0
Stories Sold: 2


Currently Reading

Journal

Belated Friday Update: The Update

Well, this week was a conflagration of bad luck which only mostly threw me off my game. Naps went out the window for several days for no obvious reason (Toothing? It always feels like it’s toothing…), which meant no writing time those days. Then Wednesday, Thing 2 came down with a stomach bug. I did manage to write that day, but only the bare minimum of 500 words. Thursday, Thing 1 napped, and Thing 2 was back to his old self, but I was feeling weird, so I hammered out about 750 and crashed for a nap of my own.

Friday was actually the first good day in a while: Thing 1 napped, Thing 2 was happy, I had a game-plan, and I managed to jump right in and make some serious progress on this week’s short story. I hammered out 2k Friday, which felt GREAT after a week of struggling to get any time at all.

So in the end, it wasn’t as much of a wash of a week as I’d expect, but it wasn’t nearly as comfortable as I would have liked. It also highlighted a problem I’ve been sensing lately, but which really came to the fore these past couple weeks.

The problem? I don’t have the mental space to both write and regularly post content here.

Maybe it’s pseudo-post-pandemic slump. Maybe it’s the sudden uptick in socialization that’s draining my general energy. Maybe it’s just the combo of ages my boys are. Maybe it’s just the June-time slump I ordinarily hit around this time of year. It could be all of them, or none of them.

In truth, I’m not much of a modern blogger. I enjoy blogging as a public journal, a glimpse at my process, a place to keep up with friends and fellow writers, and a place to track my own progress. I like having a landing page for people looking for more info about me and about my writing. I love that this blog goes back to the very beginning of my career almost (if not more than) ten years ago.

But I honestly hate trying to create “content” that will get hits and likes. It’s just not why I blog, and I think trying to do that has really drained my creative reserves. I’m absolutely itching to write and submit some new short work. I’ve got a book rewrite to finish which is proving as challenging as expected. I need to start a new book.

It’s all taking chunks of that limited creative mental space, and given that even finishing a single thought without being interrupted most days is incredibly unusual, I’d like to spend that mental space creating fiction.

So, for the next couple months, I’m going to take a hiatus from posting. If anything really exciting happens–sales or new fiction coming out, I’ll do quick updates, but otherwise, I’m going to save my mental energy for writing. If you’d like to keep up with what I’m doing, feel free to swing by my Instagram account, which I update every weekday with little posts and thoughts on writing, bullet journaling, cutting back my closet, and occasionally other odds and ends.

Come September, I’ll pop back in and hopefully by then I’ll have a little better grip on what *I* need this blog to be. I really enjoyed using it as a daily writing progress check-point and documenting goal progress, so we’ll see.

In the meantime, be kind to yourself, set reasonable goals, and keep on keeping on! It’s been a weird, weird time, and however you need to handle it is okay. Find things that bring you joy. Hug your loved ones if it’s safe to do so. Enjoy the summer (or winter, if you’re in the SoHem). Read something. And if you write, write! :)

See you all in September!

Journal

New Story at Abyss & Apex!

Having quite a month here at Chez Slater, which I’m sure I’ll address here sooner or later, but in the meantime-!

My short story, “Deadhead,” is out in this quarter’s issue of Abyss & Apex!

What if a new life support tech could animate the comatose
and keep them healthy, while also training AI?

I also want to give a shout out to Lucy Snyder, writer extraordinaire, who critiqued this story early in its drafting process and whose comments absolutely helped me sell this story. Not only that, she has a sharp eye for general weaknesses that I’ve since applied to other stories with great success. Check out her website and her impressive list of publications sometime!

Journal

Friday Update: Word Counts, Summer Days, and The Sims

Not a bad week, though it was full of stressors in its own right! Thing 1 had his first in-person field day on Wednesday, which meant coordinating drop-off, packing lunches, and making sure he had everything he needed (Crap, where IS his mask?!) for the day. But it went really well, and I didn’t forget anything, and he had a wonderful time hanging out with his remote-only classmates for the first time.

Then it was also me and Andy’s 13th anniversary, which we both nearly forgot, but we’d decided early on to count the new bed as our anniversary gift to each other, so that was easy enough. We ordered take-out Thai which was…okay? Let’s just say we’re still on the look out for a fantastic Thai place.

And today is my bestie FIRST HUG SINCE THE PANDEMIC day! Can’t wait. I’m rocking some comfy hugging clothes, so I should be good to go. XD

Accomplished this week…

Finally managed to have what feels like a productive week. I hit my required word count for the novel thanks to a psychotic 3k day (WHA-?!), and wrapped up the edit on the first 5k I’ll need to submit for my novel writing course in a couple weeks. I also managed a first pass at a short story that I may try to get back out again, so we’ll see how that goes.

Inspiring me this week…

Oh, Sims, how you drag me back in. Okay, partly this is my fault because I happened to look on the Origin’s site and saw that a few of the expansion packs I’ve craved in the past were having a 50% off sale, so how could I not? Also, I haven’t played in weeks, so don’t judge me. XD It always strikes me as interesting how important connecting to a Sim ends up being in wanting to play. Like, you can create a houseful of people who are all moderately interesting, but it really takes that one specific Sim to connect to your heart and make you want to check in on them over and over and over again.

In unrelated media, I just want to give a shout-out to Zootopia, which Thing 2 just discovered this week, and which has become his go-to pre-nap viewing, as it usually holds his attention just enough to knock him out after about 20 minutes. THANK YOU Zootopia! Also,having rewatched it several times this week, I gotta say, it’s just a fantastic movie. That, and Wall-E, holy crap: masterclasses in plot and character development. And SO rewatchable, even after having seen them dozens (literally DOZENS) of times. XD

For next week…

I need to finish up a proofreading project this weekened/early next week, and keep chipping away at the novel (now, thankfully, back to 3k/week). Beyond that, probably just prepping this short story for submission in July, and hopefully not a lot else. School just got out, so I anticipate next week being a bit of a cluster as we all reorient to the new summer schedule. I need a vacation! XD

Journal

Friday Update: Bluuuuugh!

Phew, well, started to form a new routine for the summer over here at Chez Slater. Thing 2 has decided AM naps are totally lame and for babies, which he is SO NOT, now that he’s around eighteen months, which means a total schedule shake up. We still haven’t quite settled into the new iteration, but it’s looking like morning walks, as usual, but no nap, and mid-afternoon 2/3-ish naps for a couple hours. But at least he’ll take them on the couch next to me instead of on top of me, so I’ve actually still managed to get some writing done. Woohoo!

Now, I’m just waiting for some out of town friends to arrive, and can I just say how flipping stressed out about this I am? Like, just as of this morning, like WOOSH. Anxiety. I mean, I am 100% looking forward to seeing them, but I did not anticipate the pseudo-post-not-really pandemic stress of meeting up with folks again. *breathes in, breathes out* But it’ll be ok!

Accomplished this week:

Chipped away at the novel and rewrote the opening to better capture what I think I want it to do. Now just doing a clean sweep pass to get it in grammatical shape and cut some unneeded words.

Inspiring me this week:

Been watching entirely too much Married at First Sight on Hulu. Otherwise, just chipping away at the books on my nightstand and playing Minecraft with Thing 1 when the opportunity arises.

For next week:

Looking to keep adding words to the novel and finish polishing the first 5k submission for the class, which is due at the beginning of July.

Journal

Poly-Reader Notes: JUNE 2021

It’s been a busy start to June, and I’m just now catching up on my Poly-Reader notes! I started a number of new books last month/beginning of this month, but there are still some trusty standbys still kicking around.

Notes:

The Power Broker – While I do have the audiobook for this bad boy, I really haven’t been listening to audiobooks before bed these days. I suspect this may just be one I have to chip away at for a while, in various formats, though reading it in print would be easier.

The White Spider – Haven’t chipped much out of this one yet (still in opening chapters). I like the style, but I just haven’t been all that motivated to read it just now. That may change, though, as the weather gets hot and reading about ice on mountains starts sounding fabulous.

How to Write Funnier – Haven’t picked this one up in a while, either, in part because I really wanted to establish the habits recommended in How to Write Funny, but that’s been out of my reach lately. May pick this one up again in a few weeks, when I have time, but I’m not in a rush.

Harriet the Spy – Swapped The City of Lead and Gold for this one after the former just draaaaaaged. The pacing was just too slow for an almost seven year old, so we dumped it for this one. This seems to be much more in his range, and he seems very curious about the story and the sneaking around.

The Dark – Love, love, love this collection so far. I mean, I’m always a sucker for ghost stories, but these are just awesome. Haven’t picked it up recently, because I’ve been plowing through some other things, but looking forward to jumping back into it!

The Luminous Dead – Charging through this one, and am almost halfway done. I suspect this will be one of the ones I finish this month. I’m enjoying it so far, though it’s taken a little while to get itself off the ground. At times it *almost* feels like a short story/novelette that outgrew itself, but I do like the caving. I think the challenge is that the main character is wearing an all-encompassing suit, which dramatically limits descriptive detail of the caves, and therefore can make generating a sense of place difficult. I might have liked it if the author had included more interspersed scenes of the before-times, so we could get to know Gyre a little more in-depth. But it is picking up, and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes. The spookier the better!

Before and After the Book Deal – Making progress through this one, and its snarky tone is a wonderful balm. It definitely answers a lot of questions about the publishing process that I’m learning I’m quite ignorant about, despite perhaps knowing a bit more about small press and its processes. Hoping this will be a finisher this month, too.

Writing in the Dark – Haven’t picked this up since finishing the last short story, but I need to, because it’s fantastic, and I really want to ingest–I mean, finish–this one. And major congrats to author Tim Waggoner for his Stoker win for this one! I knew it’d win. I’m so smart. XD

Notes from a Small Island – Haven’t picked this up for a few weeks, just haven’t totally clicked with Bryson’s style. It’s fine, and soothing compared to some of what I’ve been reading, but it’s not yet a book that I’m dying to read. So we’ll see how it goes.

UPDATE:

Freezing People is (Not) Easy – I forgot to add this one to my current reading list on Goodreads, and forgot to post it yesterday. This is the first of a huge pile of books related to cryonics and lunar colonies I’m reading to gird my loins (ew) for a novella rewrite that may become a novel. So look forward to looking for more cryonics books in the future!

(And I’ve already learned it’s “cryonics” when referring to freezing people, not “cryogenics” which has some slightly different meaning. Curious!)