Tuesday, August 23, 2016

I Think I'll Set Up Shop Here In The Gutter

I read my "smut" at writer's group last week....

To be fair, I did spend the last two hours of work leading into the group frantically writing an opening to the story in an attempt to drop the story down to a bit more of a PG-13 rating. I was able to get to about three or four pages into the story before it starts getting "naughty," so I was able to read that much at least.

Nearly had a heart attack in doing so, though. I just sat in the meeting mentally riffling through all of my writing to think of SOMETHING else that I could read. No dice. At least, not unless I decided to bring up something that I wrote YEARS ago just for S&Gs. Then it hit about 7:30. We had a half-hour to still fill. Everyone else already read. We were just kind of staring at each other trying to figure out what else to talk about. That's when I sort of bashfully went "Well, TECHNICALLY, I wrote about 10,000+ words since last session. I just don't know if anyone would want to hear what I wrote.... it's.... kind of.... MATURE." I then proceeded to explain the rabbit hole I dove head first into.

They all chuckled that we were all adults, and that it would be fine. Granted, there was a gentleman - fairly new, this was his third or fourth meeting - that seemed to be around my age; probably older, though. Then there were two women that may have only been about ten years older. The rest of the group, though, were definitely closer to my mom's age, and older. Being the clear youngest in the group, it still felt awkward to read THIS kind of story for them to critique. What happens if the sex scenes need tweaking? What if they don't? I don't know which would be more awkward, them being like "Well, I think that it would seem more realistic if he...." or if I got a resounding "WOW! Well done." Because that would mean that I now know where there minds were....

It's bad enough that I know family members that enjoyed "Fifty Shades of Grey," I don't know if I could handle actually knowing people who enjoyed my smuttiness.

Anyway, I was later informed that just about as soon as I spoke up with "Well, TECHNICALLY, I wrote..." that my face just FLOODED with a blush. I was like a human strawberry for the last half-hour of the meeting. And that blush stayed for at least an hour! I'm not cut out for this!!!!

I read the intro to the story, and stopped before anything "naughty" actually happened. Both parties were still clothed - although Jolene was quickly remedying that - and it was just a bunch of flirting leading up to that point. Nothing terribly too bad. I probably would have read it proudly if I didn't know what was going to start happening in the next sentence.

When I stopped the room kind of filled with a whining "awwwww," so... I guess that means I caught their attention? I don't know if that's because I was doing good, or if they wanted to hear the sex portions I wrote. The only other comment was from one of the newer regular members commenting about my sort of voice change. Normally, I'm about 80% dialogue and only 20% action/scene setting. To try to let the reader know the situation leading into the sex scene, I did a quick recap of the roleplay that inspired me. It was a LOT of background info. She noted that: "You normally do mostly dialogue, and this time we barely had any."

Well, she would have had a lot of dialogue if I had continued, but I wanted to just quickly set up the scene, and including all the dialogue leading up to it didn't seem practical. Still, the way that she said it, I wasn't sure if it was a good thing, a critique, or just an observation.

Then I got an email from one of the group members asking if I cared enough to improve the story to want a beta-reader for it. We could do a story exchange: my smut for his super dark murder scene that he fears will make him look like a twisted psycho. I've written fairly dark and grisly murder scenes - I asked a bunch of people my senior year of high school if they knew what happens to human eyeballs when you burn to death - so I could easily read his bit. STILL not sure about sending him mine, though. Again, I don't know if it would be more awkward if he gave me advice on how to improve the sex scenes, or if he told me it was amazing.

Still, on the off chance that I decide to send it his way, I wanted to polish it first. Slowly but surely, I went back over the story about a dozen times the past week trying to get it to a point where I'm confident that I can't improve it on my own. I still have a couple of lines that don't seem quite right, but it's the best I have for right now. Rensin's a bit harder to get the voice right than I gave him credit for. I just can't give him that spark of bashful innocence like his player managed. So, super added props to his player for being such a great writer. I even asked Mouse to pass along my praise.

She offered to get the two of us in touch - me and Rensin's player - but I just feel that would be super weird considering the circumstances. I'd rather just know the character and not the player at this point....

Despite my better judgement, I DID share the Jolene/Rensin story - titled "Rensin's Conquest" - as well as the Devon/Trish work-in-progress story "Some Like It Flame Broiled." I don't know why, but I just NEEDED to share it with someone, and Shadow happened to be online while I was still trying to calm my blush from writing group. I freaked out to him; basically a "WHAT DID I JUST DO!?"

He chuckled, and told me that he was fairly certain it was good since I'm such a good writer. This of course lead me to tease that he's like my mom: barely actually reads my stuff, but still has unwavering faith that I'm an amazing author. More talking back and forth along those lines, and eventually I just sort of caved and sent him "Some Like It Flame Broiled" with the understanding that I hadn't finished the story yet, let alone went back to polish it.

I dunno. I guess the fact that he's a close friend makes it somehow less awkward for him to read the dirty bits? No real critique one way or the other from him, aside from "<3 Trish" and "You should finish it." Positive reviews, I guess.

Well, last night I finally finished my polishing of "Rensin's Conquest" and sent that over to him too. He's part of the online D&D group with Rensin and Jolene, and so he'd probably be one of the best suited to have an outside perspective on whether or not I have everyone in-character. We'll see if he reads it and/or what his thoughts on the matter will be. I'm predicting it will be raging hatred for Jolene for playing with innocent Rensin's heart, but at least evoking emotion means I did something right, correct?

I also tried to switch gears by talking to Shadow about the MASSIVE love triangles - knots; web? - that I'm trying to set up in "Glitches" between multiple different characters; mainly Chayse, Lia, Willow, Devon, Nyssa, Ripley, and Lincoln. It sort of wobbles between Chayse being the center of a triangle, to Willow being the center, to Devon being the center, to Lia being the center.... I feel like there needs to be more romances in my story that isn't interwoven with those seven characters, but right now the only other option I have is Colette and Joseph.

Anyway, while talking to Shadow about all of this - just to have SOMETHING to talk about that isn't sex-related - I started to get a real passion for "Glitches" again. I think I'm going to finish off "Some Like It Flame Broiled" just so that I don't have ANOTHER work-in-progress hanging around, and then try attacking "Glitches" some more. I need to get an outline figured out. A road map so I know where I'm going with everything.

I think the easiest way is to come up with the individual story arcs for each character and then find a way to weave them together. That was SUPPOSED to be what I wanted to tackle this month while also doing my MasterClass on screenwriting, but somehow I ended up down the dirty-birdy rabbit hole instead. People keep reassuring me that it's perfectly fine; "romance novels" are a big seller. Still.... what a debut into the writing world.

Speaking of my MasterClass, my mother's birthday present to me this year was to sign me up for the Aaron Sorkin class on screenwriting. Isn't she just awesome!?

While Sorkin is entertaining, he also is super awkward to listen to. He's kind of like this:
He even more-or-less said this in a
disclaimer in the intro lesson.
He meanders when he talks, and tends to share examples of what he's trying to teach as a means to prove his point. However, the examples are so specific it's hard to still grasp what he's trying to say. I'm still going through the "pre-writing" portion of the class, and so perhaps it seems only vaguely helpful because I'm not actually trying to do things such as research quite yet. I'll keep you posted on how the class goes once he gets into the actual "this is how you write a script" portion.

To finish up, a quick touch-base on my reading progress:

OH. EM. GEE! "Ready Player One" is quickly jumping up the ranks to one of my favorite books! I'm so in love. All the geekiness. All the 80s pop culture. The actual suspense keeping me on edge. The main character's voice, how he tells the story, is witty and I can't stop promoting this book to everyone I see. Almost literally. I had a customer in the store the other day that basically had the 80s Saturday Morning Cartoon line-up tattooed around his left leg, and so naturally I talked him up about "Ready Player One."

I have no clue if I can finagle things around on the reading challenge check-list so this book still fits, but at this point I don't care. I may not fit all 12 challenge points in before 2017, but I'll definitely have at least 12 books read!

Alright, now off to try to finish "Some Like It Flame Broiled" so I can FINALLY get out of this gutter and start working on something I can read without looking like I replaced my head with a giant tomato.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

This Rabbit Hole is Filthy....

I think I'm officially down the Rabbit Hole, guys!

Working on the smutty Devon/Trish story was NOT my only trek down this road! I added about 1000 more words to that story - I'm not sure it has the same intensity though - but most of my time was kinda focused on a new story. Remember Jolene? My new D&D character for Bear's online campaign? Yeeeeeaaaaaah. Remember how she's a prostitute? ......yeah......

Let me rewind. So, Bear started up this game in like June or late May, but I never got to join the original campaign. Bear decided to do a reset with new characters in the same world setting, and re-invited me. Spink's wedding was the night of the first game of the new campaign, and then two Saturdays ago was the second session; where I froze up in character-creation so I couldn't play.

The game keeps a perpetual game-log of everything shared via the IM component. Which means, not only could I go back and read the session I missed, but I could also read the original campaign; for generic entertainment purposes. I ended up copying both into two different Google Docs for later consumption.

Well, I read through the session I missed, and then re-read the session I was present for, but didn't play; to make sure I had a basic understanding of how the game played and the world Jolene was in. Hubby suggested against doing this to avoid me accidentally including info my character shouldn't know - Metagaming - but I've always been fairly good at keeping Out-of-Character-Knowledge separate. To the point where Lia and Willow have both done super stupid things even though I'm on the outside going "NO! Don't do the thing!" but they didn't know better... so they just went with what was in-character.

Sorry, I'm rambling. Point is, I went back and read through - which took up some of my free time at work - but I'm SOOOOO glad I did. It's so entertaining! Plus, this one character Rensin is just too adorable. I really like how he was built; nice and complex. And, if you know anything about me, you should know that if he's my favorite character it means he's fairly broken.

Rensin is part of a race of Northern barbarians who are claimed to be decedents of giants. There are no adults less than six-foot tall, and most are closer to seven-feet. Even Mouse's character Mahtab, a young woman still possibly capable of growing, is about 6-foot-2-inches. Then you have Rensin. Poor guy is 6-foot-3 and is therefore the smallest full-grown male in the village. He's routinely called "runt" which is only made worse by three things:
  1. Rensin is the orphaned son of a great warrior of his village; one of the renowned "living legends" - or, at least FORMERLY living - of his region. Being a "runt" makes him seem even more of a disappointment to his father's name.
  2. The person who seems to call Rensin a runt the most is his master - he's an apprentice; not a slave - the local swordsmith Alric.
  3. Alric's daughter Mahtab also picks on him on occasion about being a runt since he's only an inch taller than her - there abouts - and she seems to be Rensin's closest friend; also, she's the king's granddaughter. The King of the North is a mountain of a man at about eight-feet tall; so it makes Rensin feel even MORE inferior.
Still rambling, I know, I'm almost to my point.

So, there's adorable Rensin who tries to bolster his pride, only to be quickly deflated by the playful Mahtab who doesn't seem to realize the anguish she actually causes him. He's already fairly down on himself because he doesn't think he could measure up to his father, both figuratively and literally. He keeps trying to say that he'll surpass his father's greatness someday, but in the same breath seems to mutter how useless he currently is. The man is also a bit of a blockhead who doesn't seem to understand subtlety or sarcasm. Completely clueless when it comes to matters of the heart.

Plus, the avatar for Rensin is friggen ADORABLE!
JUST LOOK AT THIS SAD FACE!
FFXIV: Gharen by YanareKu
Doesn't he just look so wounded? And I don't mean all the battle scars. He needs huggles! Lots and lots of them!

And THAT'S where Jolene comes in. He's a bit of a handsome fella, and, being a barbarian, he's only wearing a loincloth and a very large, shiny sword made from a dragon's fang. Honestly, I'm not sure if it's the body or the loot that caught her eye first. Still, he seemed a good mark, so she went for it. There was LOTS of flirting involved; he didn't catch any of it. So the half-elf Prisys chimed in to try to lead him towards the "lightbulb moment"; it worked, but he still didn't quite get that Jolene was willing to sleep with him. That needed more nudging from the other two women in the group: Mahtab and the dwarf Dunina.

FINALLY getting that he was being given the green flag, Jolene leads him and his female party-mates to the house Jolene is currently staying in as their lodging for the night. For all intents and purposes, the screen fades to black, everyone knows what went on behind closed doors with Rensin and Jolene, fade back up to him gleefully exiting the bedroom the following morning. Play continues as usual.

Then I was left alone with no customers, for five hours, completely undistracted, and bored... and tired. My mind wandered into the dark recesses of "What exactly DID happen behind those closed doors?" because a) Rensin was clearly a virgin trying to hide this fact from the women around him, and b) Rensin had nothing worth stealing aside from his sword, so what was Jolene's angle?

Eight pages later - which I'm still polishing up a bit - I got my answer, and a blush of embarrassment that THIS is what my writing has come to!

Part of me is shamefully proud of it, as evidenced by my telling everyone that I've written it. The larger part of me, though, is mentally locking this thing away with the Devon/Trish AU story; never to be seen by the light of day.

Which begs the question: What am I going to read at writing group tonight?

Maybe I could read either of the smut stories and just skip over the sex parts? I mean, it's "smut" and not "porn" because the ratio between actual plot and sex is at least fifty-fifty.... I hope I come up with something a bit more PG-13 at least for tonight.

Still, I find it ironic that, aside from "naming things" being the bane of my writing existence, one of the things I say I'm terrible at writing are "repetitive action" scenes such as long conversations/monologues, chase scenes, fight scenes, and.... you guessed it.... sex scenes. Yet, here I am writing two different "aggressive romance novels," as Bear put it.... Part of me again wants to actually read the "dirty bits" to someone so that I know if I'm at least improving on this skill.

Sheesh. What a skill to have....

You proud of me, Mom?

Well, like I said last week, "Fifty Shades of Grey" is a thing.... Eh, at least I'm writing. I could be... um... not.... writing..... right?

Aside from all of that, and reading through the backlog of old campaign sessions, I not only finished "Reformation" but I also started up a new book.

"Reformation" still wasn't my cup of tea. There was a good story there, but I feel like the book didn't follow it. I walked away still disliking Langston's tactics, but not only did I not HATE her, but I was curious about her. I felt the story should have been focused more on her. I'm an odd duck, I know. Either way, the ending seems to rush to a conclusion, and I just wish there was MORE there. So much so that when I started up my MasterClass: Screenwriting with Aaron Sorkin this past week, one of the assignments is to take an already existing story, and adapting it into a screenplay, at least for 10 pages. I decided that "Reformation" would be my "existing story." Sadly, I had to return the book to the library before I could finish the assignment, but I have the basis, so I can go back and work on it more the next time I have the downtime to re-borrow it from the library.

I'll talk more about the MasterClass next week; this post is already super long.

The book I'm currently reading is called "Ready Player One" by Ernest Cline. One of my co-workers found it at a garage sale and figured it was perfect for me. Boy was she ever right! Seven pages in and I'm already in love. Geeky gamer references, 1980's pop culture, a relatable main character, and glorious humor; awesome. I'm not terribly far into the story, but I'll keep you posted.

For now, though, I think I've spoken my fill for this week. Lord knows what I'm going to talk about next week.....

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Two More Peeps Join the Party; and a Dirty One at That....

So August Script Frenzy month isn't really going well at all. I haven't worked on "Glitches" since before Spink's wedding. That's not to say I haven't written anything. I've just gone off the reservation on what I'm writing.

Temp's player from X-Future - Lyonish - has that Dread game I told you about last week. Well, it kept me THREE DAYS to fill out the 13-question profile questionnaire. There were some really interesting questions on that thing. Dread's full character questionnaire actually has 40 questions, but the GM picks 13 based on the archetype you choose, and possibly depending on what you have in your basic profile. For instance, Hubby said his character had a tattoo in his profile, and ended up getting a question about the tattoo.

Anyway, the questionnaire has a lot of hard-hitting questions I never would have thought to ask my characters. Mostly because it's designed to best set up tormented characters for a horror-setting game. Still, these are some AWESOME questions.

Here are some of my favorites that I didn't have to answer:
What did your last few breakups have in common?
Why do you have a picture of a person you’ve never met in your wallet?
How can you stand there and act so proud of yourself after what you did to your mother?
Why do you refuse to touch scissors anymore?
Whose face keeps you up at night?
When did you first hear the voices?
How might your life be different if you hadn’t driven off in a rage that night?
If the headaches are so bad, why won’t you go see a doctor?
How did you pass the exam if you didn’t sit for it?

And finally, the tattoo question Hubby got:
After how many tattoos did you realize nothing will hide those marks?
And here are the ones I DID have to answer:
What mental illness runs in your family?
What do you do for a living?
Where did you grow up?
What is your favorite game?
How old were you when you learned you could predict horse races consistently?
Why were you named after your cousin instead of your grandparent?
What made you think you could get away with it, and how in the world did you?
What is the recurring dream and why does it frighten you?
What addiction do you hide from your friends?
What can you do that most other people you know can’t?
When all else is quiet, how do you silence the screaming in your head?
Why is next month big for you?
What unusual hobby do you have?
Want to know the worst part? The hardest question for me to answer as Artie was the favorite game question! Something that should be simple, but in its simplicity I couldn't focus on a game. Is it a sport? Some sort of "recess game" like hopscotch? A video game? Board game? Card game? Puzzle? There are so many possibilities!

I think my favorite question to answer was "Why were you named after your cousin instead of your grandparent?" I almost instantly came up with an answer and I LOVED it. Artie has the "family name" that was supposed to be given to the first child. Well, the first child died as a preemie a couple weeks before Artie was born, and so the family name got "reused" as it were. It's more involved than that, but broad strokes.

Now, I only gave 23 out of 40 questions on this Dread character questionnaire, but I'm sure you can see by now where it goes, more or less. So much fun. Definitely something to go back to for any other tragic characters I want to build.

Part of me kind of wants Ronoxym to fill some of the questions out as Devon now that in-canon Devon has amnesia after being resurrected. I wouldn't give Ron a set of questions like Lyonish did for the Dread characters, but I'd have him go through all 40 and have Devon answer as many as he could. It might be fun to see the character development from that.

Speaking of Ron and Devon, that's where some of my writing went again this past week. Trish is SUPER dirty, and I'm in straight up smut territory now...

It IS fun though, to go so out of my comfort zone, and write something so fun! However, I'm hoping this will be my only trek into the world of NSFW, and once I'm done with this story it will be out of my system. I can't deny the drive I have to write it, though. Granted, I only allowed myself a couple hours this past week - more focus on actual work and character building - but I went from about 2100 words last week to over 5300 total. Yup, I more than doubled what I wrote over the course of this past week. Again, I only allowed myself A FEW HOURS TO WRITE because I was more focused on character building. Not just for Dread, too. I had yet ANOTHER character that I built this past week.

I know I haven't mentioned them in a while, so I'll re-introduce. Early last year Hubby and I got introduced to a couple I lovingly call Mouse and Bear. We were like peas in a pod. Our weddings were even hauntingly similar! Fun though; it was like I was attending my own wedding.

Anyway, Hubby and I didn't have much of a chance to hang out with Mouse and Bear due to my poor-quality car and them living almost an hour away. Unfortunately, it became infinitely harder for us to hang out because Bear got a job down south and they ended up sort of abruptly moving away. This super saddened me not only because I didn't get a chance to really hang out with an amazing couple we majorly clicked with, but also because Bear had started up a D&D game, and we all should know by now how desperately I want to play this game. I mean, I run my own monthly game, but it's not the same as PLAYING it.

Now, how does this relate to character building? Seems Bear started up an online D&D game via Roll20. He's wanted me and Hubby to join in for a couple of months now, but our schedules never seemed to match up. That's changed, and Bear was restarting his campaign anyway. Perfect time for me to jump in!

Well.... it WOULD have been. Problem is, I didn't have a character ready before the game session started this past Saturday, and so I tried to build one while everyone else played. Bear figured he'd throw me in once I was done.

I was never done.

I just froze up. I couldn't even think of her name! I couldn't think of what I wanted to do with the character. I just knew I wanted to be a rogue because every time I tried to set one up I only got about 3 sessions in before the game was dropped for whatever reason. I was determined to play through at least ONE campaign with a rogue. The follow-up issue was how diverse rogues are. Did I want her to be mostly focused on stealth? Sneak attacks? Trap mastery? Social manipulation? Master of Disguise? The list goes on, and I was a complete blank!

Well, it seems the old adage of "sleeping on it" really worked, because this past Sunday I brought up the Dread questionnaire as well as another one I had tucked away in my archives, and I just started answering whatever questions I could. I jumped all over the questionnaires. Whatever I was inspired to answer I did and moved on, regardless of order. While I only touched about half the questions, it was enough for me to figure out my character finally. I then managed to write up a 2pg backstory; about 1300 words. Hope Bear's up for some reading!

So, I'd like for you to meet my two newest characters to hop into my head. Thanks to character questionnaires, I was able to discover these two a LOT faster than I normally would coming from thin-air!

First up is Artie; someone I introduced last week. Artie is a Waif; a street urchin orphan. While technically a female named Artemis, Artie's small 14-yr-old frame and deep voice allows her to pass for a 12-yr-old boy. She's one of the few times that I'd justify using the term "Gender fluid" because she doesn't really perceive of gender as much more than a tool to get what she needs. Yes, when she addresses herself in her head she self-identifies as a woman, but to the world she is whatever people perceive her as. She's a boy if she's mistaken as one, and will act accordingly, especially as a defense mechanism to seem tougher or more capable. If she's discovered as a girl she will again act according to social norms as a means to get people to protect her. This and other means of manipulation are her main ways of surviving on the streets over the last couple of years since becoming an orphan.
Artemis "Artie" Makris 

Jolene was slighted by love one too many times in her youth. She blamed her cobbler father for not having a decent enough dowry for her to be enticing to suitors, and so decided to earn her own dowry. In the process she befriended a brothel's Madam and, upon seeing how popular and well off she was, Jolene decided to become a prostitute as well. She was good at the trade, but didn't like that the Madam decided on her clients. Jolene went off on her own as a "touring whore" but quickly discovered the protection that brothels provided to their workers. As a freelancer she had to learn to protect herself from dangerous clients. This lead her to train with a Thieves Guild in order to perfect her knife skills, as well as expand her repertoire to include thievery to help build up her savings faster. This means a long list of angry clients who discover that she took a bit more payment than agreed upon. So she's constantly on the move. We'll see what running into a party of adventurers does for her.
Jolene Crisslebalm
Wish I could have gotten a dagger for her
and managed to give her a high ponytail....
The hair and dagger are the way I want, but over-all,
I don't think she's as pretty as the previous option...
Rough edit job on the hair, but this will be
the picture I use as my avatar for the campaign.

Now, in regards to reading, I'm 56 pages away from finishing "Reformation" by local writing group member Sandra Brewster. While Keaton and DFL both sing the book's praises, it just isn't for me. I'm going to finish it because that's part of the challenge, but I feel like I missed the point. The villain shouldn't be my favorite character, right?

I dunno. The book utilizes the same narration technique that a lot of books I've read uses: multiple first-person narrators. You have the supposed main character David, and his siblings Paul and Sara, both of his parents Tom and Laura, David's Aunt Tamara - who FEELS like she should be the main character - David's grandmother Katelyn, and then the villain Mary Langston. Juggling all of these narrators alone is a bit of a task, but I personally don't see the point. I could maybe see keeping most of it with Tamara as she discovers the mystery behind David's random bursts of violence, and the occasional hop over to David as he battles his own brain to try to remain the peaceful, loving boy he's always been. I even like the chapters almost all concluding with Langston's POV. The rest of the family, though? Eh. I feel they bog the story down, personally. I feel there'd be a lot more emotion shown if their inner thoughts had to be projected via dialogue instead of them just taking control of the story, especially since these POV changes happen about a dozen times each chapter. It's a bit jarring for me to constantly jump narrators.

The characters also don't seem so distinct, either. Thank god each narration jump starts with the narrator's name, because I'd be hard-pressed to know the difference otherwise. Which is why I think I like Langston so much. Sandy clearly put a lot of thought into the woman, because she's the only one with a distinct voice.

Sprinkle in the fact that in the first 30 pages or so we're introduced to like 38 characters. Some are obvious supporting characters, some don't return until about 20pgs later, and others I have yet to meet again. I had to legit go back and write up a cheat sheet to remember who was who.

To be fair, Sandy's been reading her first draft of her sequel to "Reformation" in our group, and it seems a LOT more polished. She has also been going back through and doing a LOT of editing of "Reformation" for a second edition copy. So I don't want to completely discredit her. At least two women in my group enjoyed the book, and so I'll just say that the format it is written in just isn't "for me" but feel free to try to find a copy to check out yourself.

Now to get my butt in gear to actually have my own completed work some day. Can't very well do that if I'm spending my days creating new characters and writing dirty one-shots.

Then again.... maybe I can.... "Fifty Shades of Grey" IS a thing.....

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Crazy, Jam-packed, Chaotic Week: Complete

Well, this has been a hectic week. A quick recap, shall we?

Tuesday - I actually worked since I was getting the weekend off, then literally as soon as I was done with work Hubby and I drove about an hour to go see a free, public, park stage theater performance of "Chicago" with Ronoxym and Cyhyr, whose due date was literally the next day. The performance and seats were both "meh" but it was still a great time hanging out with the two of them for one of their last nights sans child.

Wednesday - Work, some down-time with the Hubby, then off to Spink's to do some last-minute wedding planning. Stayed until about midnight, causing me to go to bed at 1am - and wake at about 6:30 the next morning - two days in a row...

Thursday - Work, left early, prepped for the Jack & Jill party - the bachelor and bachelorette parties combined so the couple can party together, threw said party, stumbled home around midnight. So, three days of about 5hrs of sleep.

Friday - Last-minute prepping for Spink's wedding, laundry, the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner, and writing my Matron-of-Honor speech.... at midnight.... I tried pausing to write about three different times that day, but my time got interrupted by more pressing matters. Now we're on day three of 1am-6:30 sleep schedule.

Saturday - THE WEDDING! Super-last-minute stuff the morning of, nearly didn't have time to get ready before the processional started, had the wedding, stayed for the clean-up, took Spink's wedding gifts to her home, took care of her cats, and then finally crashed at home at the semi-decent time of 11pm. That's when I found out that Cyhyr had her and Ron's daughter that morning! YAY! Congrats, you two!

So, I'm going to pause for two celebrations:
Spink, you and your new hubby look adorable together. Enjoy FINALLY
being Husband and Wife! <3
Cyhyr, you did so good. The pics are adorable, and you look
awesome. I'm sure she's going to have soooo much love from
you and Ron! Enjoy your new family. <3
 Alright, enough of the mushy stuff.....

Sunday was a "down" day. I didn't have anywhere to go, aside from taking care of Spink's cats, and so I relaxed, I read, and I tried to write a little. I was still too tired to create a coherent sentence, but I did manage to come up with a new character.

Temp's player decided she wants to do a one-night-only - presumably - game of Dread. So, I had to come up with a character for her game based on a list of archetypes I could choose from. I chose Waif.

About a decade ago, Hubby's one friend came up with an RPG where all the characters are on a foreign planet. For some reason that no one can explain, the average life span of humans dropped to 20, and so the world was populated by orphans running society. They broke themselves into factions based on intelligence, skill, and the jobs they were best suited for; kind of like Divergent. Sadly, this RPG didn't go for long before Hubby's friend abruptly stopped it. Still, I enjoyed the character I created, and so I decided that this would be my Waif character now. I wrote up the basic profile, and after my writing group tonight I'm going to work on the character's personality profile. See, Dread uses a questionnaire that the players are supposed to answer in first person as their character. This becomes the character's profile for use in the game. I'm excited to see what Artie - the character - comes up with!

But back to last week's writing. The final crazy day of my week was obviously yesterday. Finally back at work, followed by laundry and one last visit over to Spink's place in the morning to take care of the cats, and in the evening to give back her keys and spend some time with the newlyweds. I did manage SOME writing at work and at the laundromat this time, though.

I also managed to squeeze some writing in at work last week too, just not for the "Glitches" script, per se. I do have two "Glitches" free-writes, one of which I think I'll read tonight at Group. I needed to get the creative juices flowing, and so I went with just character interaction to try to get a feel of the dynamics among everyone. The one free-write was of a brand new character: Geoffrey "Fidget" Wilkins. I believe I mentioned him last summer or the summer previous. A quick recap is that he and Lucas were saved by Dom - or Mateo, I still haven't decided on "Neo-Wolverine's" name - from a government sanctioned research facility. Fidget is a Techno-Mind. Basically, he's a telepath, but he thinks in binary, and so his mental communication is with electronics. I was trying to really figure out how his powers work, and so that was my free-write: Fidget explaining his powers to me.

My other free-write is the one I'm going to read tonight. Dom - who is Mateo in this version; trying it out - is arguing with Emily about her use of the Glitch Reference and Identification Diagram in order to categorize her students. She feels it's a natural part of society, and he strongly feels like it's Humanity's way of turning Glitches into second-class citizens. It ended up being a 2pg, single spaced story. It will be interesting to get feedback about it.

But wait! Because we're not done yet!

I read Ron's AU about Devon and Trish - or Arson and Lighter in his version; only using their codenames and petnames for each other. It was enjoyable, but it had some flaws that I pointed out. He was polishing it this week, but for obvious reasons he hasn't touched it in a few days. I don't know if he'll post it anywhere online once he's done due to the mature content - sex and murder - but we're both still excited about it.

And of course, as with Please, Let Me Explain, Ron's story jump-started my own Muse. This time, instead of Willow whining that a line or two aren't right - causing me to completely shanghai the whole story - it's Trish in my head saying "Come on, we can do better. Show him how it's done."

So, a bit reluctantly since I didn't want to yet again steal Ron's story concept, I started up my version of the AU tale last Wednesday. I wasn't able to get much writing in this week, but I am up to about 2100 words.

I really can't control Trish....

Between the language, the violence, and the sexual content.... yeah, I might finish this story because it's fun, but it may never see the light of day. It just bypassed "mature" and headed straight for "NSFW." But, uh, thanks for getting me to write again, Ron!


Let's switch gears, shall we?

It's now a new month, which means it's also time to catch up on ModernMrsDarcy's 2016 Reading Challenge!

Honestly, I think I'm the only one in my group still actively participating, but the other women are all at least still reading; even if it isn't any of the reading challenge categories. That's still a win!

What about me, though, where do I stack up? Let's see:
Challenge created by ModernMrsDarcy
It may be hard to see, but I checked off "A book you've been meaning to read" by completing "Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer" this Sunday. At first, Hubby and I thought that maybe the Kane Chronicles were a bit lack-luster because they weren't Percy Jackson and Friends, but after reading Magnus Chase, I'm not sure where Riordan went wrong with the Kanes. Especially since I LOVED Egyptian mythology as a kid, and have always been kind of "whatever" about Norse mythology.

Yet, Magnus was hilarious. Riordan went back to a method that worked: oddball chapter titles, a snarky but still lovable main character, and LOTS of tongue-in-cheek sarcasm. I really enjoyed this book, as I predicted I would, which is why I was trying to hold off until September so that I could go straight into the next book in the series: "The Hammer of Thor."

Under normal circumstances, this is where I'd give my in-depth review, but I really don't want to give much away, and this blog post is hitting epic proportions already. So, I'll just state that for Auguest I was able to fall back on the book I was aiming for last month: "Reformations" by Sandra Brewster, a woman who happens to be in my writing group. It finally made its way back to my local library, and so I picked it up over the weekend. Again, while technically NOT recommended by a librarian or book seller, enough of the women in the writing group have promoted Sandy's book for her that I'm going to count it for that category. It's fairly short, so if I breeze through it I might be able to play catch-up with another story.

I wouldn't know where it would fit on the challenge check list, but Ron already finished Riordan's latest: "The Hidden Oracle"; book one of "The Trials of Apollo." Anyway, he's offered it up for us to borrow, and since we're planning on swinging by to meet his little one today, I feel we'll be heading home with a souvenir. Something for Hubby to read while I go through "Reformations" and then possibly jump right into "Hidden Oracle" myself to finish off the month.

This plus my plans of turning August into Neo-Script-Frenzy Month; it's going to be a wonderfully hectic close to the summer!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

August Will Be New Script Frenzy Month!

First off, a quick call out to my nephew whose birthday was last week:
Love ya, sweety!
Alright, back to business. Sorta.

I slacked off this week. I didn't even remember to check-in over at Writers’ Huddle for the summer writing challenge. I've been stalled because I can't seem to figure out where to go next with my story, and so I've been avoiding it all together.

On the plus side, I'm about 2 days ahead of my schedule to finish reading "Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer" on time. I keep teasing Ronoxym that Magnus is just a blonde-haired Boston version of Devon. The more I read the story the more I feel it's true. I find it so amusing that Rick Riordan and Ron essentially came up with the same character. On top of that, it's not like Ron was influenced by Riordan, since Devon's been around for over 3 years before Magnus Chase was printed. At least 2 years before Magnus was introduced to the public.

Speaking of Ron and Devon, Ron's still chugging away at his super Alternate Universe one-shot. Since in this reality Devon is an actual, psychotic Brotherhood member, Ron just writes that he's "Arson"; his Brotherhood code name as well as Street name when he was homeless. It's hard for Ron to even refer to this evil version as Devon, which is interesting. Anyway, he's been writing at least a little bit each night this past week; checking in with me on his progress pretty much daily. Hey, at least ONE of us is writing, right?

I'm excited to read it. He just finished up the first draft last night, but he says he still needs to go back and rework it since he doesn't think he got Trish right in the first half. Still.... EXCITED! You don't know how hard it is for me to continue writing this instead of hopping over to Google Docs to give the story a read through!

Now me? I think yesterday I finally broke my mental block. I gave up trying to figure out the opening scenes. I know more-or-less what I want to happen, but I just can't get the details. So, I allowed myself to just jump to the next scene I DO know the details. It's such a simple thing: allow yourself to NOT work linearly. Yet, it was exactly the sledgehammer I needed to get past my mental block.

I couldn't get very far before doing actual work at - gasp! - work! However, I at least decided to just write up an outline. There won't be a natural stop like in a novel or movie, but if I more-or-less know where I want to go in this "season" - as it were - of the comic then it might be easier for me to fill in the blanks. I know I want to follow the Devon storyline, so I'll write that up first. I'll then go back and put in the character arcs for Chayse, Willow, and Lia. Then probably go back through again to sprinkle in the redone Marvel-Canon characters, as well as Lucas and the concept of the Challengers of Heaven.

I feel like I'll be going back through my James Patterson MasterClass notes for this one. That, and any I make during my next class! For a birthday gift - BTW, Happy Belated to me!!! - my mother bought me another MasterClass for the second year in a row! This time it's screenwriting by Aaron Sorkin; best known as the writer for "The West Wing", "Sports Night", and "A Few Good Men". Such great timing! I start seriously working on a comic script and MasterClass sets up a screenwriting course that started THIS WEEK. Like, I'm one of the first people to ever take this class! So exciting!

A friend of mine is also beta-reading "Glitches" for me and is planning on giving me his notes later today, so that's just as exciting. We already discussed the pitfalls I managed to pick out in my obsessive read-throughs. So, I'm waiting to see what else he could advise me on. I mean, he already gave me one or two really good notes on things I never would have thought of myself due to the subtlety of it.

So, no, I didn't really do anything this past week aside from avoidance and obsessing. However, now I have all the tools I need to get me pumped again. I'm sensing a writing comeback. Okay, so I don't know HOW good of a comeback this SPECIFIC week will be, since Spink's wedding is this weekend, and so my free time is pretty booked. Still, August is looking GOOD.
I'm apparently also very modest....

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Devon, Devon Everywhere...

I have been mildly more productive this past week! Still not up to my 21 pages per week I keep aiming for, but there have been some days that I've gotten my daily 3pg quota in, so there's that. I think I finished the week with like 10 or 11 new pages in my script. I'm not sure if the pacing is nearly as good as how I started, but that's why I hate writing fight scenes. I'm just so bad at it. Also trying to balance four different personalities equally is tricky. Still, I chug on.

In truth, I probably could have hit my daily goal this week, but I've been unofficially distracted by something. See, my husband and I have been going out on walks for anywhere from an hour to three nearly every night after work. It's great exercise, but it keeps me from doing things at home, like cleaning and writing.

Oh, let me get more specific. When I say "my husband and I have been going out on walks" what I mean is that I race after to follow him while he goes on Poke-hunts. Yup. He's a full-fledged trainer with Pokemon Go! As is about 80% of the world, it seems! Works for me, it gets us out of the house and exercising. Something that pretty much hasn't happened since we got married. Plus, we get to socialize - which this butterfly also hasn't really been doing as of late - and I've probably seen more of the town in the past week than I have since I moved here five years ago!

Also, it's fun to have complete strangers call across the road "What team are you on?" and either cheer if Hubby's on the same, or playfully boo if not. We get to meet our neighbors as everyone gathers to discuss which pokemon were found where, and give each other tips. No one is anxious or awkward. You just lean in close and show off your phone as you chat; complete strangers jumping into the conversation to either ask a question or answer one. Such a phenomenon. I love it!

So, even though I myself am not much of a pokemon fan, I'm still loving Pokemon Go and what it's done for both the community and my husband's health. And, in extension, my own health. I just wish Hubby didn't want to "hunt" for three hours at a time! By the time we come home from work, eat, and then hunt, I'm not home to do my own thing until about 10pm. Not much writing done then. So, I'm still on the "write at work" train.

It's good, except for my days off where I try to play catch-up on chores since they've been neglected for these Poke-hunts. It also cuts into my writing time when I actually have customers to wait on so that I can get money at the end of the week! Yay, money! So, it's kind of a given that writing is second or third priority in the time I have to work on it. I need time where it's first priority. I need to restart my writing hour.

So, I'm thinking, go out with Hubby right after dinner and "hunt" with him for an hour, then give him a kiss, send him on his way, make my way back home, and then write in silence until he comes home. Or, at least for an hour, because who the heck knows when Hubby will actually come home! I get my exercise and time with the husband, and then my alone time, while he continues hanging out with friends, exercising, and training to be the very best.

We'll see next week if I manage to pull that off.

As for this week? Well, as I mentioned, I did get nearly a dozen pages written, so that's something. Granted, it's mostly dialogue, and so the pages fly by pretty quickly in scripts, but it's still something to read to my group tonight.

I feel like I really need help with this story, so I'm going to try to be brave enough to actually take the spotlight. Normally I go "eh, I'll read today, but others might need more help, so let them go first." Tonight, though, I might be like "HELP!" to make sure I can actually have time for feedback.

My issues? Well, for one, the info-dump exposition section. I don't know if I should cut it all, cut most of it, leave most of it in, or just go ahead and leave it all in. So, there's that. Then there's the fear that the action scene isn't as intense in the second half as it was in the first. I dunno, I'm better at emotional turmoil than I am real-world issues. Maybe because I find those fairly easy to either deal with or overcome, while emotional issues can last forever if not conquered. At least, that's my personal belief.

Anyway, my third issue is that I'm hedging on "Neo-Wolverine's" name again. I started with Mateo once upon a time, but when I did my character reworks last summer I landed on Dominic. As I'm writing, though, I keep getting this nagging thought to go back to Mateo, so I'm going to workshop that a bit tonight, I think.

I'm also stalled on the actual plot now. I was so focused on building the world that "Glitches" takes place in that I never really figured out how to drive the characters to the main plot points I'm grabbing from X-Future. As of right now my first main catalyst is Devon meeting Pyro - or Iggy in my version - and wondering about his heritage. I feel like I need to build up Devon first. Let the reader see him with the other "Glitch" kids for a bit; get a feel for who he is. Then throw the curve ball at the kid. That way he's a sympathetic character when he's going through his inner conflicts. That way his relationships with Chayse, Lia, and Willow are well established. So, how do I do that? How do I go from point A to point B? What elements of those first few months of X-Future can I grab? Or, what scenes can I create to bridge the gap?

Until I figure that out, adding more non-padded pages to my script is going to be hard. As it is, I'm done with my opening action scene, and need to figure out what comes next. Deciding to go with Dominic or Mateo might help because at least then I know who the heck is talking to the kids in the next scene. I dunno. I'm hoping for some guidance from the group tonight.

Worse comes to worst, I now have a new writing buddy via email correspondence. Ali Luke now plays match-maker for anyone over at Writers’ Huddle who wishes for a writing buddy. It's mostly to hold each other accountable so we don't slack off with writing, but it's also for encouragement and direction. Atlanta and I already seem to be a fairly well-matched pair both in where we are in our writing as well as what sort of genres we enjoy reading/writing. We decided last night that we'll email back and forth three times a week, and so if I still feel like I'm floundering after tonight's meeting I'll have to hit her up next.

She's not my only writing buddy, lately, though. Seems Ronoxym had the writing bug bite him again. Something about a bit of role play I did as Trish on the forums. He's working on an AU X-Future using both of our original concepts of the two characters. Ya know, before Devon and Trish went "Pfft. Yeah. Okay. How about no?"

In other words: Evil Devon with the Brotherhood and his romantic companion Trish. COMPLETE alternates of our current incarnations of those two, but hey, if it's getting him writing again I will wait with bated breath for him to finish and share. I may have also been nagging him about it daily for the past three days or so....

I've been thinking a lot about his writing lately, and he'll most likely not have any time in the near future as Cyhyr gets closer and closer to her due date. So, I'm going to nag and poke because I'm excited to see what he comes up with! I promise I'll avoid steamrolling it like I did with Please, Let Me Explain. Another reason why I'm nudging him back into writing, especially writing Devon. Perhaps it will get him pumped up enough for us to get back on track with PLME, but we'll focus on one thing at a time.

I dunno. I've been in a big "Devon Kick" lately. I've been meeting more and more "Devons" in real life. I've been working with him as a main character in Glitches. Ron has been excited about his Devon/Trish story. And I'm FINALLY starting up Magnus Chase: The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan. I know, it's hard to figure out the connection there, but exchange Devon's Brooklyn accent and brunette hair for a Boston accent and blonde hair, and you essentially have Magnus Chase. I asked Ron if he also saw the similarities when he read the book, and it seemed to be a bit of a bashful "yup." I find that amusing since Devon was created presumably years before Magnus, since the forum has been around since 2012.

First "Girl Meets World" and now "Magnus Chase".... great minds think alike?

Anyway, yes, I STILL haven't heard back about Sandy's first book returning to the library for me to borrow, so I needed a plan B. Hubby finished "The Sword of Summer" so now I'm good to go with it. I was originally planning on waiting until September so I can flow straight from that to the sequel that comes out in October, but you work with what you get. Since the book is intended for kids in their early teens, it's a fast read. Each chapter is only about seven pages or so, which also makes it easy to stop whenever. I can charge through about 30pgs per day easily. So I should be able to race through the story before the end of the month.

Whoo! Two books in one month! Roughly 15 days reading each! Go me!

Alright, well, it's a LOT later than my noon update time now - stupid chaotic morning - so I'm off to get some other things done today before my meeting. I'm excited and hope to have some positive updates for next week!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

What is Too Much Exposition?

Going kind of short and sweet this go....

As I already mentioned over on Writers’ Huddle, this week has been a sort of two steps forward, one step back sort of situation. We actually had some customer flow this past week; the store brought in a record breaking amount! Whoo! The down side is that I was left with virtually no time to write while at work. The other sad part is that I've re-adapted my writing so that I pretty much write exclusively at work, and then spend out-of-work hours socializing, gaming, and cleaning the apartment.

No down time at work meant no time to write. But here comes the real rub about this whole thing. I DID find time to write. I added close to eleven pages to my "Glitches" comic hybrid-script project. Not the 3-a-day; 21-per-week goal I set for myself, which is apparently super lofty, but still a decent amount of writing.

Then I looked over it.

It was a complete info-dump. I was saying to the reader, "Here. I figured all this out about my world-build, and I must share it with you right now! No, it's not entertaining to read it like this. No, you don't need all this information right now; it can be slowly introduced later via dialogue. No, some of this is actually just info that I need to know, not you. Still, I came up with it, so you get to read it right now before I forget!"

Not. Good.

I've been researching world-build expositions lately, and I'm giving WAAAAAY too much info. I know I should wait until the Writers' Huddle summer writing challenge is over at least before I take the razor to my work. On the other hand, I'm trying to read this WIP at Writers' Group, and I don't want them to focus on things I know I did wrong - the info dump - instead of helping me figure out things I DIDN'T notice I did wrong. So, I caved. I went back and chopped. I'm nowhere near the eleven pages I had at the end of the week. I'm now at a net-gain of about five. Still progress, but not nearly as much as I would have liked.

As for the reading challenge, I still don't have an email from the library telling me Sandy's book is back for me to check out. Which means I'm still struggling to figure out what other category I can squeeze into just a week or so of reading. Between my birthday, my family possibly trying to visit for said birthday, visiting my nephew for his first birthday, Spink's bachelorette party, and Spink's wedding, a week is virtually all the time I have left in July.

As for the book I did borrow from the library two weeks ago, well, it's due back today, and so I tore through the second half of it yesterday!

I was doing good. One chapter a day. Then I hit the CRAZY WEEK OF PEOPLE ACTUALLY SHOWING UP AND BUYING THINGS!!!! I'd be a bit more excited if I was one of the sales associates that got a $10,000 sale or whatever; that's a nice paycheck. I did well this past week, don't get me wrong, but not well enough to stop me from being bummed about my lack of writing and reading time.... Weird that I can say that about my job.....

Anyway, I could barely even break the book open last week, and I thought it silly to renew such a tiny book. So, since the customers were back to lacking yesterday, I ignored writing for a day and just tore through the rest of the book. There's definitely some great insight in it. Part of me wants to write a blog post about it, but another part of me knows that I'd want to share as much info as I can with you guys, and so I'd essentially make reading/buying "The Write Type" by Karen E. Peterson, Ph.D. unnecessary.

I will state that, while you can tell she's a psychologist by trade, her insights are helpful. I found a lot of passages I wanted to pass along to my fellow writer friends. While I don't personally think I'll go out and buy this book for a few re-reads, since apparently I'm more focused and ready to be a writer than I thought, I do recommend it to anyone even THINKING about writing, even if it's for your own enjoyment with no intention of publication. ESPECIALLY those who don't intend on ever publishing their work. Because those writers fancy themselves "hobbyists" and therefore push their writing so far on the back burner that it's actually on the countertop on the other side of the kitchen. This book will help you re-focus how important your writing truly is to you, and how to balance it within your crazy life without disrupting the other Jenga pieces you have piled up.

Me? Well, I like to think I have this whole "writing in the foreground" thing more-or-less figured out; still some kinks, like "what happens when I'm actually busy at work?", to iron out, but otherwise, I'm good. So, I'll be grateful for the few new insights I found in this book, I'll pass on the knowledge I learned to some friends I think really need to hear it, and I'll figure out what novel I'm reading for this month.

I'll also study more world-build exposition in comics, movie openings, and video games to try to narrow down what parts the readers need to know in general, unknown narrator, over-sweeping exposition, and which parts can be slowly brought in throughout the course of the story.

Here's hoping I have something I'm a bit more happy with when I go to group next week....