Tuesday, January 17, 2017

There We Are!

I have some smiley faces on my pocket calendar. They're pretty much every other day, so I still don't have a week with no more than 3 zero days. However, I'm off to a good start this week. I wrote SOMETHING the past three days. I think I'm finally getting my footing; getting my rhythm.

I even have something to share with you folks, but I'll get to that at the end of the post.

I started to really hold myself accountable this week. Not only did I finally start marking my calendar with the days I did and didn't write, but in the individual dates sections I even noted what I wrote, when, for how long, where I was, and in some cases how many words. I started to do the same with reading as well.
The :-/ faces are days where I did research or outlining.
Technically still counts, but I didn't write a narrative.
Ah, my glorious handwriting.... >_>
When I know that I have to record it, I'm less likely to let my mind wander, and I'm less likely to let a day go by without SOMETHING being done. I mean, look at Thursday, that silly blank day. No writing. No reading. Pathetic. 

It also occurred to me last night that I have two instructional books that I'm working through, but if I haven't completed the exercises in the chapter I'm hard pressed to want to keep reading. So, I'll need a fictional book to read this month too!

ALL THE READING!!!!
"X all the Y" meme
Originally created by Allie Brosh
Yeah, I actually have THREE books going at once! Geez! At least only one of them is a narrative. One of the other two I'm going to slowly read throughout the entire year. I think it's manageable....

Anyway, the narrative is going to knock out another one of the book challenge components: Finish a series I started. Granted, this could be a cheeky way of getting multiple books read, depending how far into the series one is compared to how many are left in the series. I could go with the Enderverse and have something like one story left in the "Speaker Trilogy," or two more stories to finish Ender's storyline, or seven if I were to finish up Ender and then go into the Shadow Saga, or eleven if I'm also including the four books about the Formic Wars. That's not even including the six books Orson Scott Card has planned. You can see how this challenge point can give me a year's worth of reading just by itself....

Me? I went the easy route. I've been very slowly chugging away at the Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan. It's basically "read one book, read other things, read the next book about two years later" for the three-book series. Not the best way to do it, since I have a hard time remembering what happened in the previous book. Riordan does have his narrators give a broad overview of the key points from previous books that the readers need to know. Still, I feel a bit lost the first couple of chapters until I get my footing again. Especially when there's a returning character that is supposed to be impactful and I go "Wait.... who is this again?"

I still say that, for some reason that Hubby and I can't put our fingers on, the Kane Chronicle books just aren't as engaging to us as just about every other book Riordan has written. Still, I started this series, and by gum, this challenge is going to have me finish it!

So, I now have my "A Writer's Book of Days" writing book filled with prompts for the year, and I have "Ready. Set. Novel!" as my "book with red on the cover" as well as a workbook for me to figure out an actual manuscript to write and complete. Finally, I have "The Serpent's Shadow" as my narrative to read. I got this....

I have to say, "Ready. Set. Novel!" was such a great gift! Well, all of my writing books were, but right now I'm focusing on this one. It is written so humorously, and the exercises are fun and exciting. I actually look forward to opening the book and going over the next exercise. I never had that before. Not with all the other "improvement" books nor with the MasterClasses. Those exercises felt like actual homework. These, though, are definitely an enjoyable part of my day to work towards.

I mean, check out this opening passage:
YOU ARE HERE!
   Hi and welcome! We're so glad you made it. We were just hanging out and chatting with your new novel. Have you met your book yet? Really interesting! Great storyteller! And good-looking too!
   You've clearly got a winner on your hands, and we're excited to spend the next month helping you two get to know each other a little better. As part of that process, we'll take field trips, block out opening scenes, stalk some characters, brainstorm intriguing twists, draw maps, and forge a majestic plot cannon that will launch you headlong into novel-land. By the time you've filled this journal, you and your novel will have a complete blueprint for your new life together.
   You'll also have a very nicely colored picture of Fyodor Dostoyevsky.
And yes, there is indeed an actual coloring page of Dostoyevsky in the back of the book.
Author of "Crime and Punishment"
Yes, they do also have coloring pages of "Frankenstein" author Mary Shelley, the renowned Jane Austen, and Gustave Flaubert, who is probably best known for penning "Madame Bovary."

Also in the back of the workbook is a page to give yourself high fives when you need encouragement:
"Come back and high five this page to
celebrate all your noveling triumphs!"
Be wary, though, because on the very next page is a boot to kick yourself in the pants if you start slacking.
"Turn to this page anytime you're in need
of a good old-fashioned pants kicking."
How can I NOT have fun with this book!? Heck, part of me wants to call it quits on this post right now so I can get back to working though it.

I do have more to say, though, so I won't jump ship on this post. However, if you haven't figured it out yet, I'm giving "Ready. Set. Novel!" rave reviews already. If you need writing help, I highly suggest you pick this book up. Even if you find it at your local library and do what I do: write in a separate journal instead of in the workbook itself.
This way I can reuse "Ready. Set. Novel!" however much I want
without having to buy a new copy every time I want to write a new novel.
Not that I would mind giving NaNoWriMo more money....
I've also decided to follow the advice from "A Writer's Book of Days" and try writing long-hand again, instead of doing all of my daily writing practices on the computer. I'm still not much of a fan since I then have to take the time to transfer all of my long-hand writing onto the computer if I want to post it anywhere. Plus my carpal tunnel acts up when I write by hand too long; my fingers lock, my wrist throbs, and the tips of my fingers get stupid cold from the reduced circulation. In other words, it's probably not the healthiest option for me, considering how tightly I grip pens, no matter how hard I concentrate on loosening my grip.

Still, Judy Reeves claims there's something textual about writing in a journal that people just don't get when tapping at a keyboard. There's a slowing of the mind since most can't write as fast as they type. However, I attempt to keep that hurried pace, hence the terrible handwriting, and probably the tight grip of my pen to make sure it doesn't go flinging across the table.

Another reason why I'm caving in and trying to write long-hand for this workbook: I kind of like the idea of these 365 prompts as journal entries that I can go back and look upon. I mean, I can do the same with the computer, but there's something organic about flipping through actual pages; seeing the horrendous handwriting; not relying on technology; having something even more portable than my laptops.
I already have about 30 untouched journals, so, naturally,
I had to make a Walmart run to pick these up. The purple
one on the bottom is my "Ready. Set. Novel!" journal.
Granted, I've only done the January 13th prompt thus far, so I haven't really written anything in the actual journals yet. I'm going to backtrack and start at January 1st, and then work my way through the journals one date at a time, like a true diary. However, since I am so far behind, if I write from a prompt I didn't reach yet in the diaries, I'm going to go back to my computer.

It's what I did already with the one prompt I did do thus far. I actually even cleaned it up a bit, and that's the new story I have to share today, both with you and with my writing group tonight.

"Survive the Night"

OK, I REALLY have an itch to get back to writing, so I'll hope to have something, or a few somethings, new for next week. My focus really needs to be a flash-fiction to fit Ronoxym's challenge, since I still haven't written a narrative less than 1000 words....

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Not The Best Start

One week in, and I've already failed at half of my resolutions. I've also only sold to my own mother - and one other "ready to buy" customer - since 2017 started. Not the best start, but I'm still in high spirits. The year is extremely young, and the first week of the year is always a bit of a chaos-ball for me as I transition from the old to the new, as well as getting back on track after falling off the horse in November and December.

In helping with that transition, I HAVE taken steps in the right direction for the new year; prep work I should have done the last few weeks of December, but the last two months of the year always get away from me. I need to figure out a better way of avoiding that from here on out....

Anyway, let's take another quick look at my resolutions.

Resolution #1: No More Than Three (3) Zero Days In Any Given Week
Well, this was one that I already failed at. I didn't really write anything leading into my post last Tuesday. I then didn't write anything really since my last blog post; hence me not having either of my review posts up yet. While I've been a complete failure at work, I HAVE been busy there; making writing hard to fit in. As for post-work, well, I've been doing the "Mom's coming" mad rush cleaning this past week. All-in-all, though, I HAVE attempted to continue outlining my review blogs while at work; small 10minutes at a time.


So, there is at least the outlining as "sorta" writing. I've also completed the main task to help keep myself accountable: I bought a pocket calendar for the sole purpose of marking when and what I write. That way I can see the chain of "I wrote today" marks, as well as a quick reference back as to what I wrote to help me figure out my writing patterns.
My pretty pocket calendar specifically for
tracking my writing.
The month-view I can use to see my "chain" of writing days.
I can also see if certain days suck for writing.
The Daily-View gives me more space to write what I was focusing on
for that day's writing, when in the day I was working on it, and how long I
was working on it. Helps me analyze better.


Resolution #2: Complete the "Reading Books Like a Boss" Reading Challenge
If I didn't have time to write between work, cleaning, and family visiting, I certainly didn't have time to read - aside from my own blog to help with my Year-in-Review post. I do have a book picked out though. Spink has decided to read one of the Harry Potter books, since she found one with a red cover. Since the challenge is just "red on the cover" and not full on "a red cover," I decided to take on the same challenge for this month.

Mom went a bit overboard with the NaNo stuff for Christmas. See, at the beginning of December I posted on Facebook that I had six pieces of NaNo merchandise that I'd like to buy, but I shared the items instead in case anyone was still looking for Christmas present ideas for me. Seems my mother - who already had tons bought for me, apparently - called "MINE" and bought it all up for me to show her support and excitement about my writing and winning NaNo this year.

Well, one of those items was the book "Ready. Set. Novel!" which happens to have big, red font for the title.
You can buy your own copy here.
True, it's not a novel, which is probably the main aim for these reading challenges, but I do have to read through the workbook. Plus, I think it's a good start for the year. It will help me with what I seem to be really lacking: focus. I'm hoping this workbook will help me better zero in on what is that key story that is calling for me to write it: Jolene's tale, Connor's and Natalie's, Amara's, X-Future, Glitches, something new I haven't thought of yet, who knows?

I'm aiming for 20 books total by the end of the year, so maybe I'll find a novel with red on the cover as well before 2018.

Resolution #3: Constructively participate on the Writers’ Huddle Forum At Least Once A Week
Okay, so I haven't done that bad on this one yet, per se. I did post my resolutions over on Writers' Huddle when I was done posting here. I haven't been back on yet, but at least I did re-establish myself for that first week. I have all this week to go back to the forum, and I did add it to my Habitica. I'll have to keep you posted as the year goes on. As for Atlanta, though? I still have been slacking on emailing her back. I really need to get on top of that!


Resolution #4: Beta Read And Return Notes Within A Fortnight
To be fair, I haven't had anything to beta-read, so I really couldn't screw this one up. However, DFL has been sounding more and more defeated and deflated at group lately. She states that multiple people have offered to read her story, and yet the only person who actually did called it boring; more-or-less. I'm guilty of being one of the many who never got back to her, and yet I can't seem to find the copy she sent me either. Once I'm more settled back into my groove for the new year I'll have to ask her to resend it to me.


Resolution #5: Have 52 Blog Posts Published Before The End Of 2017
As I already mentioned, I didn't have much time to do more than just continue outlining my review blogs, but I do have this one up on time. Two for two for 2017. Not a bad start. Especially since I'm currently at work right now due to a sick co-worker, which meant writing this last night so it was ready for my noon update. Glad my co-worker asked for her sick day last night so I had the time to know I needed to pre-prep. Regardless, I'm still on the ball with this thus far.


Resolution #6: Ronoxym's Writing Challenge
I attempted to work on this last week. I tried brainstorming ideas of quick stories I could maybe write up in those "stolen" 10minutes that I was using for my review-blog outlining. I even mentally had a monologue from Jolene towards Mahtab before Jolene's not-so-quiet exit from the party. I just didn't have the time to actually write it down. Also, Bear still wants me to actually roleplay it out, and I don't want to have my headcanon come to life via a flash, only for it to be AU to the actual canon of the interaction.


With any hope, working through "Ready. Set. Novel!" will help me with the challenge; giving me more of a focus on what to write a novel about, but also giving me sparks of inspiration to write flash fiction about. We'll see how it goes. It's only Tuesday, and the week already feels like it's raced away from me. I need to change my perspective to try to work in writing/reading time again.

I might have something to help out with that. My godfather and his wife mailed me my Christmas gift: a book about writing. It's about DAILY writing, actually. One of the first quotes is basically the ancient equivalent of the "No Zero Days" concept: "Nulla dies sine linea. Never a day without a line." - Roman poet Horace.

I haven't broken into the book quite yet, but it seems to have some lead-in advice as well as daily prompts for the week. Then more advice, and another week's worth of daily prompts. So on and so forth, for a whole year.
You can get your own copy here.
So, I haven't really done anything for three out of my six resolutions, and a fourth one I haven't really had a way to either succeed or fail at it. Meaning I've only stuck with two resolutions only one week in. Still, 33% isn't too bad if I can bounce back, right?

Especially since I now have two books in my arsenal to help me out: "A Writer's Book of Days" with daily prompts that I could potentially turn into those flash stories for Ron's challenge, as well as "Ready. Set. Novel!" for the focus I need to actually get started on ONE manuscript. To a lesser extent, also my new calendar to help me visualize how I'm doing better. I've also started up a bulleted list of what I talk about in each of my blog posts; so that it's already a rough outline for my review post at the end of this year.

All good starts to make up for tripping out of the gate, I think.

How have you been doing with your resolutions? Writing related, or otherwise.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Resolving To Make 2017 Positive

Which direction will 2017 take us?
Artwork by NaBHaN
Well, I didn't get my last two posts in. Both are about half-way done, but I just didn't have the free-time to write. I do still plan on getting them done and posted, but I wasn't able to hit my goal of 52 posts last year. Shame, I was doing so well.

Anyway, Happy New Year, everyone. I think it is a growing consensus that 2016 generally sucked on a lot of fronts: Political, Public Safety, Celebrity Deaths, somehow equal parts of Social Insensitivity and Over-sensitivity, and Relationship - both platonic and romantic - Upheaval for a lot of people. The one thing all of my friends and I can agree upon? It seemed 2016 tried to make up for it by dishing out a lot of job/career advancements....

This mock horror movie trailer pretty much sums it up.
That's behind us now, though. While there's still wrongs that we have to figure out how to live with now, the best we can do is be kind and loving to each other and push forward. Forget 2016, and focus on how great we can make 2017.

Sure, I didn't do as well as I would have liked with my writing in 2016, but I did a heck of a lot better than previous years. All the more reason I wish I had the time to do my review, so I could demonstrate. I did decide to do things a bit differently on the back-end this year, though, so it should be a lot easier for me to write my Year in Review at the end of December this time.

Since I spent my free time trying to write those two blogs - and didn't succeed - I obviously don't have much else writing-wise to report, so I'm just going to hop into my usual for my first post of the new year: My Resolutions.

I again looked over my resolutions from last year, as well as the growth I made coupled with the growth I still need to make. With some shifting around I came up with these six Resolutions:

Resolution #1: No More Than Three (3) Zero Days In Any Given Week

    I'm trying this again. I still need to stop by the dollar store to get myself a calendar, though. I want to actually mark my writing progress. I want to mark when I write for my blog vs other writing on Tuesdays. I want to know when I've researched vs actual writing. I want to know when I've worked on an outline or world building vs writing prose or another line of script. This way I can not only see whether or not I can succeed at No Zero Days, but I can also see where my focus is throughout the year. Find a way to hone that focus next year.

Resolution #2: Complete the "Reading Books Like a Boss" Reading Challenge

    I completed the Modern Mrs. Darcy reading challenge for last year; by the skin of my teeth. It was a fun challenge, and I loved that it actually DID get me reading again. Such a great pastime that I gave up on years ago. My thought process is that if I'm reading I have the time to do "higher priority" tasks like cleaning or writing. I always felt guilty about taking the time to READ a book instead of WRITE one. 
    I'm happy to say that I conquered that thought last year, and I plan on beating it up again this year. First, let's take a look at my "score chart" from last year's reading challenge:
This doesn't even include the four or so extra books I read!
    For this year, Spink found the new challenge for us. This time brought to you by Reading Books Like a Boss. I love that she loved last year's challenge enough to want to push for a second one! My mom and Cyhyr are also joining in again. Another one of our friends decided to come aboard as well, so we'll see how well everyone will do.
    If you also want to join in, here's the challenge check list:
    I have to do a slight adjustment with that first challenge point. Considering I didn't finish A SINGLE BOOK in 2015, I can't very well reread one I gave 5-stars to. So, that will simply be "Reread a book" again. Spink already has her first book picked out, but I'm still trying to finish tying up loose ends from 2016. I'll try to have a book picked out by next week's update.
    It will prove difficult with my rough transition from 2016 to 2017 already delaying me, but an added challenge for me this year - since I managed a handfull of extra books last year - is to get up to 20 books read. We'll see how well I do.

Resolution #3: Constructively participate on the Writers’ Huddle Forum At Least Once A Week

    I completely failed at this last year. I think it was the year I spent the LEAST amount of time over at WH. I focused on my own challenges, and my local writing group, and my "penpal" Atlanta. I didn't really think about WH all that frequently. 
    Well, this year I have Habitica for the assist. True, it can't really do anything against me if I DON'T participate, and it is the honor system - as with all things on Habitica - but I'm putting this resolution at the top of my "Habits" list so I see it every day. I get experience and rewards if I add to the community, and I get damage if I go a week without participating.
    I just need to go through and again deal with the daunting task of catching up on the forums after disappearing for half a year.

Resolution #4: Beta Read And Return Notes Within A Fortnight

    Along with the reading challenge, I actually did really well with this. Granted, I was only given about four or five things to beta read over the course of the year - and most were super quick to read - but I managed it. So, I'm keeping this rarely-relevant resolution as a means of continuing my commitment to be a better help to my fellow writers.

Resolution #5: Have 52 Blog Posts Published Before The End Of 2017

    I've been fairly good at keeping up with my posting date and time ever since I switched over to Tuesdays with my new job. I still didn't manage to hit all 52 posts, but I'm already taking measures to simplify things this year so I can better hit this goal. With some determination, I really feel that I can make it this time! Once I hit the "52 posts in a year" goal I might be able to finally have the "post every week" goal officially.
    Still, 50 posts last year, with the last two in the works, isn't too shabby, right?

Resolution #6: Ronoxym's Writing Challenge

    As I mentioned last week, I am planning on rolling over Ron's writing challenge for me from last year. I also talked about the tweaks I wanted to do to the challenge to make it more "doable" than last year's. Here's the new breakdown:
    I have to write a flash fiction or vignette of 1000 words or less every week. I must then post them weekly here in my blog, as well as bring them with me to writing group. While I am now allowing myself the ability to write "fanfiction" based on the role-play games I participate in or reworks of stories my friends write, I'm still restricted from writing typical fanfiction based on professionally owned intellectual property; so, no books, shows, movies, songs, etc. Finally, while I'm still not allowing myself to have these stories be direct continuations of any others I write this year, I am allowing myself to write multiple stories within the same universe, and possibly with the same character. I think it will really help me develop my characters and my world more if I can write unrelated vignettes about each.
So, there you have it, my "new" set of resolutions for this year. Most of them are just rehashes from last year, but I think that's the point. I had writing issues I wanted to fix, and I feel the resolutions last year helped. I reworked the resolutions a bit to reflect the improvements I've made, and now I'm trying to use them again to refine myself. We'll see if I continue to grow, or if six resolutions truly is just too much to focus on. Personally, I don't think so. I feel it's just putting on paper, so to speak, the changes I've already committed to, and so it holds me accountable to keep working on them.

I'm hoping these resolutions and challenges really push me forward down the good trek I've started last year. Next year I want to have just one resolution: "Write a novel by the close of 2018." So, let's see if this year can prep me for that!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Thus Ends 2016

I'm not entirely sure how I'm going to manage it, since this is my last day off before the conclusion of the year, but along with this post I do have two others now started for me to publish this week. It should help me get back up to 52 posts by the end of 2016. Not exactly one per week due to two missed ones, but same amount of effort, I think.

I'd call it good.

I'm also going to have to go back to my NaNo strict mindset this week. I need to be able to say "I'm going to go write" and hide away so I can get these posts done. I'm going to go from my Post-NaNo writing recovery hiatus right back to ALL THE WRITING!

So, what am I planning, anyway?

Well, for starters, for a while now I've wanted to recap the books I've read, since I dropped the ball on that back over the summer. My first post will be a fairly lengthy one as I reflect on the sixteen books I've read this year.

When I commented in writing group that I've read sixteen books this year, Keaton seemed shocked. She's the type of person who either reads or listens to an audiobook about once a week; maybe even twice so she gets about 100 books in a year. So, I can understand that to her 16 books annually doesn't sound like much. She may even be as appalled as a lot of professional writers who swear that reading is just as important for an author as writing itself. Still, considering I haven't really read more than two or three books a year - and last year barely managed ONE - since college; a leap to sixteen books is a VAST improvement.

Anyway, I'll talk more about that in that post. My next supplemental post will be my new annual tradition of recapping the year. It's a nice way for me to look back on past years and see my growth. Same for other writers who might feel like they'll never get anywhere with their writing, or my fans who just like to see me improve. Having these yearly recaps turns my progress into a single post proving that I'm evolving as a writer, and that others can as well.

Writing used to be a passionate hobby of mine. That's it. A HOBBY. Something to do when I'm bored, excited, or need to work something out. Something to do when I felt like it, and only when inspiration struck.

Writing may be a calling of mine, but I never treated it as such. Now? Now there's some weight to it. Writing is a priority, sometimes over even cleaning my home, which I'm sure my mother appreciates....

I'm still nowhere near where I need to be to consider myself "serious" about writing. I'm still a year or so away from actually earning money with my writing. But it is definitely more than a "hobby" now. It is a commitment. It is a driving force. It is a life choice. It is as important as exercising, eating healthy, or socializing. It is how I keep well.

I just need to work on focus a bit more. I feel like if I can just laser-focus on a project, and follow it through for once, then I might finally be on the right path.

Between my passion for Jolene, and the fact that my backstory for the never-introduced Kizar doesn't fit Bear's world, I have been thinking a lot about Gyateara again. There hasn't really been much actual advancement in the world build, but I've been picking up a few ideas here and there that I might incorporate. I want to be able to finish building the playground that Jolene and her past can play on. I'd have to come up with a new love interest to replace Rensin, though, so I can keep it original once I transition Jolene from Laerrnesse to Gyateara. But once Gyateara's built, I can have so much fun!

I can redo my original NaNo story, hopefully whittling down the Legend of Zelda, Fable, and InuYasha heavy-handed fanfiction elements until they are either original, or unrecognizable as influences. I could finally run around with Natalie and Connor again. I could then "hop the pond" to the mainland continent for Jolene, and finally put Amara's story to paper. I might even play some more with Elymoxa, in a world where gnome-hate is uncalled for. Sliding down the southern coast, I can get to the desert lands for Kizar.

Each character could have their own mini-series of books, and then combined they could make up the Gyateara Chronicles - or something like that.

Then I could switch gears from high-fantasy to cyberpunk with "Glitches."

But for me to do either, I HAVE to finish world-building. I've been failing at so many of my writing-themed New Years Resolutions the past few years, but I think my main three for this upcoming year will be:
  1. Write a new blog post every week; ACTUALLY hitting 52 weekly posts instead of this catch-up at the end of the year.
  2. Continue reading; the exact challenge I'll talk about in that post.
  3. Finish world building either Gyateara or the Glitches future.
Perhaps I should actually add a fourth resolution. One I tease Ronoxym about frequently:
  • FINISH A FRIGGEN STORY FOR ONCE!!!!!
Obviously, "Lost Loves and Paramours" is my front-runner. I'm going to go back to Jolene's story in January, after I had time to really rest up from NaNo and the holidays. I'm going to aim to finish her story by March at the latest, and then edit over April and May. Come June, I should have a polished second draft that I can post for everyone to FINALLY read. In the meantime, maybe I'll post teaser chapters.

I think that's the trick. I did a lot better as a "plantser" than as a planner or "pantser" for NaNo. I needed a rough outline that I could then work with. I still listened as Jolene told me her tale, and it got a little side-tracked for a chapter or two, but I knew where I needed the story to go, so I could bring it back to center. Having that roadmap helped keep me focused; helped me keep writing; helped me win NaNo finally.

So, maybe 2017 needs to be thought of the same way: a story that I need an outline for, so that when I get sidetracked I know how to get back to center.

I won't plan out my day-to-day or weekly per se, but a monthly breakdown of what I want to accomplish - a visualization of my goals - should help. All the self-help time-management books and articles I read say to do that. Perhaps this will be the year that I listen. Knowing that I had a goal of 50,000 words in 30 days, and how many words I had to write daily - with weekends "free" - and knowing that it only takes up about an hour or two each day to hit that goal; it all helped me focus.

Focus is the main name of the game this upcoming year. I now have the discipline and drive. I'm reading more. I'm writing more. I'm established in my writing group. I have people who will hold me accountable. I now need to learn how to be FOCUSED. True, that means Ron's challenge to write a completely new story every week won't really help with that, but at the same time, maybe it will....

On the one hand, it ruins my focus, because I'm spending each week trying to think of something original. On the other hand, it refreshes my mind because I can take a break from whatever block I'm most likely fixated on. It also helps me learn to finish something, and in a short amount of words to boot.

So, I think I'm going to roll over Ron's challenge, but with some leniencies:
  • Write a flash fiction or vignette of 1000 words or less every week. Bring these to writing group to read as well as post weekly here on the blog.
  • Professionally owned intellectual property is not to be used for fanfiction. In other words, no fanfiction about books, shows, movies, songs, etc. However, if the X-Future boards or Bear's D&D campaigns inspire me to write side-stories, while technically fanfiction, they are fair game. This allows me to expand on my characters and help me better play those games.
  • The stories can be in the same universe, but cannot be straight continuations of each other. No cheating by making the flash or vignette "complete" by writing another one or two in chapter form. Each 1000 words must be a self-contained story. However, if I want to write another vignette or flash about the same character, unrelated to any previous ones, or if I want to write another story within the same world/universe, I'm going to allow it. This way I can use this challenge for the main reason I'm rolling it over into 2017: World Building
See, I figured I can keep myself on track by forcing myself to write a 1000 word mini-story about either Gyateara or Glitches every week; building the world up with these stories. They can be more myths, or social studies of the different cultures, or explanations of the deities, or Slice of Life to get an in-depth look at the world from the perspective of different characters, etc.

I feel like the spirit of Ron's challenge - frequent writing not necessarily related to each other, and with a more succinct writing goal - is still there, but with enough wiggle room that it is still testing and growing my writing without flat out stressing and deterring me when I get a complete writers block. I'm sure Ron will say something if he thinks I need to tighten my belt with this challenge of his....

I'll talk more about my resolutions next week when I post my first blog of the new year, and I have two more blog posts I need to write this week. So I'm just going to say that 2016 as a whole majorly sucked for the entire world, and here's hoping 2017 makes up for it.....

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

1984 and Drow; Perfect for the Holidays

I noticed that this year in particular, there seems to be an influx of the pro-Happy-Holidays memes such as this one:
 As well as this one:
And I have to admit, I'm inclined to agree. In fact, my Roman Catholic mother believed so adamantly that we should respect and know other people's religions, that she taught them to us. Granted, the majority of the holidays outside of Christmas that we observed and learned about were still Christian based, such as Santa Lucia and Saint Nicolas Day - where I learned about Krampus as well, mind you. Still, we also learned about and observed Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, and Kwanzaa, as well as a broad overview of the Muslim observances. I'm sure she would have actually fit more religions in if she could, but she was a single mother, and adding ANYTHING outside your own religion during an already crazy holiday month is impressive in my book.

My point being, if you have had or will have a religious holiday this month, I wish it to be a happy, spiritual, safe, and loving one. If you are an atheist, I wish you a safe, loving, and happy month with family and friends, especially for holidays like Christmas that has become just as much a secular holiday about family and giving as it is the religious observance of Jesus' birth.

OK, well, now that I got that out of the way, on to the reason for my blog: writing.

Of which I still haven't really done any.

Me and Bear didn't really manage to connect last week in order for me to do the solo session with Jolene that I've needed to do for about two weeks now. So, once again, the girl is in limbo. Which meant I didn't really have anything to do for this Saturday's game. Not that it mattered, because a) I forgot it was Saturday until about 10:30; stupid last-minute Christmas shopping and the like, and b) I apparently wasn't the only one who couldn't/didn't make it to game, so Bear had everyone make their new characters instead. Or so it seemed when I looked at the chat log.

As Jolene's group of Northerners slowly implodes, Bear decided to create a secondary campaign that we'd bounce back and forth between: one week Northerners, one week Southerners. Otherwise known as the dark elves: Drow.

To help me catch up after my oopsie of missing the building session, Bear and I have been building me a drow character in an almost painfully slow pace. Just like Jolene, I started off with just a class in mind, and then the faintest idea of physical looks, but not much else personality, drive, or backstory wise.

So, that was the main thing I worked on yesterday.

I started off with the idea that I wanted to play a male this time; see how I do with the opposite sex. I then decided that most of my characters are social, and they don't really fair well, so why not a more physical character this time? Thus, I landed on Fighter as the character class. I know that the Dice Gods hate me or something, because I routinely roll too low to actually manage anything. Thus, I knew I needed a character who could take a hit; otherwise known as a tank. The character that willingly takes the brunt of the attacks because he can handle getting hit. While the enemy is fixated on him, the other party members go in for the kill. The main way to be a fighter tank is to go "sword and board" - one-handed weapon coupled with a shield.

Alright, so all of those basics were figured out. I was then going to go very anti-Jolene. Someone who was a good fighter, but not very charismatic. Someone who isn't a moron, but not very crafty or witty. Someone who may be shy instead of flirty. Someone who maybe didn't talk much at all - strong silent type - but when he did talk, it was something of note.

Then I realized that what I was doing was merging Rensin and Corlmitz together to make myself a character, so I scrapped that idea. This new guy is back to being a bit more Jolene-like. He's more lithe than bulk for a fighter. He's the kind of guy who would spin on his knees while still participating in swordplay before gracefully getting back onto his feet, so, a more dexterous fighter than strength-based one. He's got a casual coolness to him. He doesn't openly flirt, but he knows he's attractive and will purposely lean a specific way, angle his head in a certain direction, toss his hair, or casually strike a pose in order for girls to swoon. He's not very silver-tongued, but he's still a bit on the suave side of things. He also LOVES swordplay, and is usually grinning ear to ear whenever he can participate in it; especially against someone else who knows what they're doing. He'll joke and banter while fighting, but can get intensely serious if the need arises.

I told Bear to think of my new character as someone along the lines of Westley and Inigo atop the Cliffs of Insanity in "The Princess Bride", or Legolas and Gimli in "The Lord of the Rings", or, well, most renditions of Robin Hood. Upon further thought in the matter, and the addition of my realization that he knows he's handsome and would accept a lady's company whenever it's offered, I also added in Bronn the Sellsword from "Game of Thrones"; specifically the TV series, since I have yet to crack open the book series.

I also sifted through a few dozen pictures on drow in Google Images, and landed upon this one to be my character, a dark elf from the game Lineage II:
My favorite feature is the short hair. Most drow are depicted with long, flowing locks. It made this guy stand out for me.

I sent all I knew to Bear, but I still didn't have much by way of backstory or real drive. Sure, I'll make him a sellsword - if Bear decides that knights-for-hire exist in that society - but WHY is he a swordsman for hire? Is there a fight he won't participate in, regardless of coin earned? Why doesn't he take on some other profession? Is there a reason money seems to be his key drive? Is it the money that put him in the profession, or was there another bit of the job that he finds enjoyment out of? What would his convictions be once grouped with the party? Would he have convictions, or would he just follow whatever the rest of the party says? Is there a line he won't cross? Does he have his own code of ethics? There's a lot that needs to be fleshed out based on these small details.

Plus, I've never played a race outside the D&D core rulebook: Human, Elf, Dwarf, Gnome, Halfling, Half-Elf, or Half-Orc. So I wasn't sure how to play a drow. I don't really know their racial culture and attitude. On top of that, Bear's drow are slightly altered from the "traditional" ones in D&D, so there's that. All-in-all, I felt a bit lost. Especially when I told Bear my concept for Kizar, my desert nomad who was basically exiled into the mainland of Vahamdras:
See, the problem is, I only had the most basic, loose cultural information for the desert people of Bear's world. I used that to come up with a really neat character concept, but according to Bear, there are a lot of factors in his world - that I didn't know about - that would have prevented a majority of Kizar's backstory to have taken place. Essentially killing the character. I'll just have to rework the rival clans of his backstory so that they aren't Bear's any longer, and find a way of building him into Gyateara.

Point being, I was afraid of the same thing happening to my drow. I created Jolene, only for her to not really mesh with either the world or the party she was grouped with. It's been a fun read to see the drama that now swirls around her because of that, but it's exhausting as her player, and it's probably equally exhausting for those playing alongside her, let alone Bear trying to run a campaign when she unintentially derails it all the time with personal drama. I then created Elymoxa the gnome, only for her to also be shot down due to not really fitting with the world/party. Next up was Kizar, whose backstory was so amazingly unorthodox for Bear's world and the culture he came up with for his desert tribes that Kizar wouldn't have worked either.

I was nervous of it happening again, as, it seemed, was Bear. So, we are in an agreement: he's building a few different drow fighters for me to pick from and build from there. That way I know the skeleton works with his world. It's fairly easy for me to flesh out a character from that point.

I mean, Willow was a skeleton NPC that became one of my favorite characters. Crystal technically still is an NPC, but I feel I've fleshed her out more than simply "She's an Irishman who is in the US for protection and training, here is her power set, she doesn't really have a filter, and she's obsessed with Tyler." Colette was celestialTyrant's character, but he didn't have much time to flesh her out before work overwhelmed him. For her, I basically had "She's the Canadian daughter of Wolverine, here is what she looks like, here is her power - which makes her nervous around people - and she's a complete Otaku."

The bits of my drow that I know - fun-loving, sword-wielding tank who can be a bit of a lady's man even though he doesn't outwardly flirt - I sent to Bear as a base, along with the picture I chose. So, now I'm waiting for him to finish setting up the character options, and then pick from there. We'll see what comes out of that, as well as if we can manage to get Jolene's solo session finally out of the way before the end of the year.

In the meantime, I'm back to minor world-building of Gyateara. Mostly to see if I can find a way of shifting Jolene over to my world instead of Bear's. For the most part, I only really need to change the name of the country she's in, a few of the towns she frequented, and the deities she evokes when angered: instead of "Oh god" or "Christ!" she'd say - in Bear's setting - "Oh gods" or "Vestulaan save me..."

I haven't actually gotten anywhere with my continuing build of Gyateara. I've mostly been playing around on FantasyNameGenerators.com, and rereading what I already have established. It may amount to SOMETHING someday. I'm just no good at solidifying anything. I'm much more reactionary than take-charge.

If you were to give me a playground and told me to have fun, I could do wonders. Give me an open field and tell me to build the playground of my dreams, and I'm overwhelmed with the logistics of everything.

I'll figure it out at some point, though. I know I will. Until that point, I'll just slowly chip away at it.

The week wasn't a complete wash, though, I did manage to pick up a copy of "Nineteen Eighty-four" by George Orwell from the public library. A few days behind where I wanted to be. I wanted to finish "Hammer of Thor" by the 10th, so that I could read my next book between the 11th and 20th - today - and then finish the year reading one last book. Well, I did finish "Hammer of Thor" after publishing my blog last week - I mean, RIGHT after publishing it - but I still couldn't get my hands on "1984" until late Thursday.

Still, I am already over 170 pages into the book, and a couple pages ahead of schedule to be done by my Christmas deadline. I'll just have to figure out a book I can blast through in about 6 days for my "Book I should have read in school." However, apparently "1984" is one of the books a lot of kids have on their required reading in school. There is a trio of dystopian novels that most kids have to read: "1984", "Brave New World", and "Fahrenheit 451". I read "Fahrenheit 451" in middle school. I read "Brave New World" in high school. By natural progression, one would assume I'd read "1984" in college, but it was never even on a recommended read list.

A lot of the "previously banned" books have become "required school reading" books over the years, so it's only natural that the two would overlap. Still gives me wiggle room for my last book: another banned book I could claim should have been on my school's required reading list?

Either way, I'm happy that I'm making such good progress with "1984", and I'm really enjoying the book. I was kind of hit-or-miss with Orwell's other dystopian story "Animal Farm." It was an intriguing plot, and an interesting way of showcasing the cultural commentary. There were parts, though, that I was kind of "whatever" about. Or, perhaps I only recall being "whatever" about them because we weren't able to actually ENJOY the story. We had to analyze every bit of it for English class.

Either way, with regards to "1984," even though there's parts of the main character Winston, and his love interest Julia, that I find a bit extreme and vaguely sociopathic, all-in-all, I'm rooting for them. If no other reason than the fact that Orwell did an excellent job at showing that Big Brother and the Oceanic government are a totalitarian society that needs to be overthrown.

All-in-all, thus far I must say that the book is indeed a reread must. If nothing else, because Orwell doesn't spell anything out for the reader. Winston knows his environment, and he's not going to directly explain any of it to the reader. Instead, small bits of information - such as the meaning of certain Newspeak words - comes to light slowly throughout the book. Which then makes earlier, semi-confusing passages make a world of sense. Already, once I've received a definition or explanation that was a mystery before, I have flipped back to reread about five different passages; now better knowing their full meaning. It's amazing how something as simple as knowing the throw-away word "Proles" is Newspeak shorthand for Proletariat can make a confusing passage within the first ten pages a key explanation of the two different classes within the Oceanic society.

Anyway, it's nearly time for me to publish, and this blog - which is discussing yet another week I didn't write anything - is already quite lengthy.

So, even though I started off this blog with a merry "Happy Holidays" to all, I AM Christian, so I'll finish off with this thought for Sunday:

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Get All The Reading Done!

I'm just going to confess right now: I didn't write. Not a lick. I didn't even role play this week, since I had to work through the D&D session on Saturday. Instead, I spent the week still catching up on chores I had neglected in November in favor of NaNo. I've also worked on prepping for Christmas, as well as organizing the living room a bit. Mainly due to the fact that I bought brand new living room furniture! Aside from the kitchen island my mother bought us for my birthday a few years back, this is literally the only bit of new furniture that we own. Exciting!
Hubby picked the matching loveseats out. Awesome, right?
Anyway, the last thing that I've been focusing on this past week is READING. I still have two more categories in the 2016 Reading Challenge, and I haven't touched either yet. But I'll get back to that.

First, I wanted to state that at writing group last week I ended up reading my still-yet-to-be-edited first chapter of "Lost Loves and Paramours" - my NaNoWriMo story about Jolene. It was glaringly obvious that I "head hopped" - switched from one character's POV to another's - and I'm not entirely sure how to fix that. Especially since I do the exact same thing in a later chapter, and that switch to Teo's POV from Jolene's is one of my favorite scenes. However, I only jump from Jolene's POV about three or four times, and for maybe 1000 words out of the over-all 50,885... So I have to find a way to keep the story entirely in her head, or I have to include a lot more scenes where we're in the man's head. It will be a challenge to edit this thing....

Plus side? That was the only critique: I head hopped, and it was mildly jarring. The room seemed otherwise stunned at how well my first draft was. Well, all but one woman who has kind of been rubbing me the wrong way; she simply said "I don't comment about people's first drafts." Um... isn't that the point though? I didn't realize our writing group was simply a place for us to stroke each other's egos. I thought it was a safe spot to come together, read our works, get critiques in order to improve, and work out the kinks so that we can all become successful.

Keaton also irritated me about the same thing a few months back when I wanted to talk more about one of my stories, but I only had the outline; not the actual narrative. I wanted to go over the outline to see if people could help me figure out the structure of my story before I actually started writing, yet she didn't want to hear it; claimed she didn't want it to spoil the story itself by having her know what was coming. Instead, she wanted me to read whatever narrative I had.

I mean, I get it, but at the same time, if the outline is done well enough, it should still be engaging. People should still be like "I want to know more" or "I can't wait to actually read this!" It's a synopsis, and if it's good enough, it should make you want to read/watch the actual thing. Right?

On top of that, DFL doesn't like to read her stuff or talk about her writing progress at all because she doesn't want to "waste anyone's time" with seeking help. She doesn't have anything new to read to the group, so we should just pass on by her instead of allowing her to ask questions or talk about her latest research in the matter.

After a year with this group, I truly feel they are missing the greatest point of having the group in the first place: a place for us to grow.

So, I want DFL to talk to us about her progress, even if no new narrative is written. I want Keaton - and all the other members - to listen to the pre-production of novels: the story concepts, the general plot/theme concepts, the outlines, the character descriptions/builds, the world-building, etc. I want this new woman - who, technically, is an old member who has finally returned to group - to comment on first drafts so we can know what to look for when we edit. If she points something out - like the head hopping - that the author already knows is a problem, a simple "Yup, I know. I need to fix that" is all that's needed. That's exactly what I said to Carson when he pointed out the head-hop in my chapter. I blushed slightly and said "Yeah. I do that. I know I need to fix that." But who knows if this woman had insight to my draft that I never thought of?

Still, having every one else - aside from that woman - say they couldn't think of anything else to change, aside from fixing the head-hop, was very encouraging. In the past - as repeat readers probably already know - I was paranoid that their lack of commenting on my writing was due to them brushing me off; my writing, or I, wasn't worth their time. They'd focus more on some of the older authors; giving longer critiques of lines they loved, words that seemed out of place, and character building.

I still don't really get any of that. None of my lines seem to stand out - either because they're excellent or terrible - and no one seems to go on and on about my character builds. However, in-between group sessions, I get a lot of comments from the group members about Jolene. They all seem really interested in hearing her story. Then there's the fact that they all actually verbalized last week that they couldn't think of anything to change, because the story was good. It's giving me confidence that they truly didn't comment in the past simply because they couldn't think of a critique, not because there was so much wrong with it, they didn't know where to start.

So, there's that.

Now, back to the Reading Challenge.

Upon review of this blog, it seems the last time I really talked in-depth about a book was my thoughts on "Xenocide" back in June. Aside from that, I did talk about "Ready Player One" while I was reading it, but didn't give it an overall review once done. I kept meaning to do that as my "make up" posts to still get me to 52 by the end of the year. Yet I keep falling off the horse about that too.

Therefore, I will not guarantee it will actually happen, but I do really want to reflect on all the books I read this year in one blog post. I might do that as my "year in review" post that I write each December. I haven't quite figured it out yet.

For now, though, I'm racing through "The Hammer of Thor," the second book in the Magnus Chase series written by Rick Riordan. In fact, as of this writing, I only have 30pgs left to read. I almost polished it off last night, but my eyes began to glaze over at about midnight.

I'm a bit behind; I wanted to be done by the 10th. That way I could break down the last three categories I needed to cross off into three 10-day blocks; allowing me to finish by the end of the month. Aside from reading "Coraline" in a day - one of the challenge categories - this would be the fastest I've read a novel: 10 days.

Well, in recent, post-college years, at least. When I was in high school and middle school I would be able to take a whole Saturday or Sunday; curl up in bed, and just read all day long. Can't really do that anymore. Stupid adulting.

Anyway, once I'm done with "The Hammer of Thor" I really TRULY need to figure out the last two categories that I've been avoiding all year long. As of right now I STILL don't have a clue what I should read for "Should have read in school." Because the only books I didn't actually read in school - that I can recall - are "The Old Man and The Sea" by Ernest Hemingway, and "The Red Badge of Courage" by Stephen Crane. In both cases, I did read about half-way through the books before giving up on them. Both cases, I gave up mostly because I kept falling asleep while reading. These books are just painfully boring to me. The plot and/or characterization just isn't there. I can't connect.

Both books are fairly short, however. Perhaps I could plow through in less than 10 days, call the challenge complete, and move on to the banned book. The other alternative to the "boring novels" for the "should have read in school" category is also super short: "Of Mice and Men" by John Steinbeck. Hubby was actually so shocked when I told him that this book was never on my required reading list in school, that he handed me his copy about a decade ago, and told me to read it. That and "Lord of the Flies" by William Golding; another book I couldn't stand.

Anyway, I could always reread "Of Mice and Men" and call that challenge category complete, even if I had read it before. Or I could tackle the two books in my entire schooling career that literally put me to sleep. Or I could go for another classic that most were forced to read, but it never ended up on my school's required reading: "A Stitch in Time," or "The Giver," or Shakespeare's "King Lear." See? Still have no clue what I'm reading.

Same goes for a once-banned book. There's so many to choose from! Also, the list of banned books is not very consistent. I can't find one comprehensive list, when I assumed there was one that libraries used for their annual Banned Books Week. For those who don't know, this is a week at the end of September where libraries purposely display books that were banned or challenged; encouraging others to read these books. It is an expression of Reading Freedom. For more detailed info, please check out the link.

Anyway, books I "should have read in school" could also cross over into these "banned books" category. Some most notable are "Of Mice and Men" and "The Giver." There's also "A Stitch in Time" or "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" or "Brave New World" - a book I greatly enjoyed in school - or "Nineteen Eighty-Four."

I think I'm largely leaning towards 1984. For three reasons: One, it's the year I was born, so why not?

Two, so many TV shows, movies, and books reference it. Heck, even I use "Big Brother" frequently. It is such a well-known concept of a book, and the main parts of the story have bled into modern culture without a lot of people truly knowing its source. I want to know the source.

Three: Spink is reading it, and it inspired me to want to. It's considered such a great classic by most, and it seems a shame that I haven't cracked it open yet.

So, heading into this final stretch for this challenge, let's take a look at how I'm doing so far:
Challenge created by Modern Mrs. Darcy
The coolest part is that I've also read four books that don't fit on the above challenge list: two self-help/how-to books and two fiction novels. Not too shabby for someone who only read one book last year! I might try for two books a month next year.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

NaNo Winner!

That's right! I did it! I finally did it! Six years after I attempted my first NaNo, after five attempts, after a year hiatus from the challenge: I did it!

Pardon me for puffing my chest up a bit, but this is such an accomplishment! It'd be an even bigger one had I actually finished the book. Nope. Jolene has a much more epic back story than I thought; at least, in the first draft form. Over 50,000 words into the story, and I'm only about 60% of the way, if that. It's a lot more of an undertaking than I thought.

Back to the important part, though. I completed NaNo finally! Conquered that beast. It was a bit of a struggle. I had to write my fingers off to accomplish it. The last two days I wrote 13,745 words! I think that's the most I've written in such a short time. If it isn't, it's in the top three. I was actually nervous about finishing on time.

I mean, technically, I didn't. Five minutes til midnight, and I still had 1100-some words to write. I ended up cheating: I took last week's blog post, and added it to my word count in order to surpass 50,000 words. A lot of people do that: literally count all the narratives they write; even if they're non-fiction. To make up for it, and to make sure the NOVEL had over 50,000 words, I stayed up until nearly 2am sleepily typing away. I ended up with 50,883 words! That surpassed what I had when I cheated with my blog post, which was only about 50,100-something.

That's when I majorly screwed up.

See, I wanted an accurate count on my novel for posterity sake. So, here it was, 2am on December 1st, and I couldn't re-validate my novel. I already had all the "winner" bragging rights posted everywhere on my NaNo profile. I had the purple "winner" banner. The 2016 medallion on my author info page was also a pretty purple and said "winner" instead of "participant." I could download a winner certificate, could save the pretty "Winner" banners for both this blog and my Facebook profile. I could get access to the NaNoWriMo 2016 Winner profile picture too. Not to mention access to all the discounts winners receive as "goodies"; discounts to a bunch of cool writing-related programs and instructors that sponsor NaNoWriMo.

Fun side note: the only fully free goodie - the rest are large discounts - was the James Patterson MasterClass lesson on editing. I had a nice chuckle about that since I already have that class, thanks to my Mommy buying me the full class series for my birthday two years ago.

Anyway, I already had all the fun stuff and bragging rights. I knew that while I extended the deadline by two hours, I figured it countered the original cheat of adding 1700 words not involved in my novel. I had actually won it! I could have left things alone, but noooooo, I had to have that accurate word count of my novel. So I manually overrode the November 30th word count; except my touchpad jumped, and I accidentally saved the new word count without all the digits. I had unintentionally dropped my word count below 50,000 words, which had the site recant all the "winner" benefits; putting me back to "participant" status. Even when I fixed the word count to my 50,885 close count, since I couldn't verify the count any longer, the site wouldn't give me back my hard-earned winnings.

The whole thing really deflated me, and killed all the excitement I had for surpassing 50,000 words in a month. A bit depressed, I tried writing to the Office of Letters and Light; the non-profit that runs NaNo.

I'm happy to report that yesterday I received an email stating that they had reverified my word count on their end, and reinstated my winner status for this year! YAY!
Hacker Girl Facebook Sticker
by Birdman Inc
So, let's talk a bit about this challenge. First off, I want to show everyone more-or-less my day-by-day progress.

First up, what my stats screen actually looks like over at NaNoWriMo.org
Look at those pretty purple "Winner" icons!
Isn't it cool to see those spikes in my writing?
My completed NaNoWriMo 2016 calendar. Even with seven sad faces of nothingness, I made it!
14,025 words in three days! Nuts!
Calendar created by Dave Seah
So cool, right? After that craziness on the 30th, I just had to take a rest. So, I've been spending the past week FINALLY reading "The Hammer of Thor" by Rick Riordan.

I have to say, I'm somehow shocked at how topical and kind of progressive this man is. In the Heroes of Olympus he's had openly gay characters. In "The Hidden Oracle" he not only has the gay characters as an adorable couple, but has a blatantly pan-sexual character; constantly talking about his two greatest lost loves: one male; one female. In "Hammer of Thor" we're introduced to a transgender/gender-fluid character. He even tried to have his main character Magnus try to empathize with the concept of trangender by remembering a time that he was forced to write with his right hand for a school year, even though he's naturally left-handed. Magnus admitted it's a poor analogy, but I give Riordan props for trying to find a way to explain this experience to his middle-grade target demographic.

When I haven't been working or reading, I've been spending the rest of my now opened up free time to celebrate two birthdays!

Old man is 33 now. :D
We finished last week celebrating my Hubby's birthday with Cards Against Humanity and booze. It was a fun time that included finally officially meeting Ronoxym and Cyhyr's baby girl. I mean, they popped in with her when she was only a month old or so, but she was asleep, and I was busy running a D&D session, so I didn't really get to MEET her. She was so smiley. Apparently she takes after Daddy, and loves meeting new people.

The other birthday celebration included more booze, but a movie this time as I crashed over at Spink's place.
Happy 24th, Spink!
It was fun to cram in so much socializing after semi-neglecting it....

And now, because I'm still a proud little peacock, I'm going to finish up with a few stats that at least I found interesting about my book. You can just stop here if you don't care.

I wrote 26 chapters ranging from as little as 1051 words to as many as 3105 words. My average word count per chapter was 1957 words, even though not a single chapter actually had 1900-some words. Oh, the glory of math.... In contrast, my MEDIAN chapter length was 1804 words per chapter. The official breakdown is as follows:
  • One chapter finishing with 1000 and change
  • One chapter at 1100+ words
  • One chapter each as well for 1200 and 1300 ranges
  • Two chapters ended in the 1470s
  • Three chapters had 1500-some words
  • Three chapters were also within the 1600s
  • One chapter - on the lower end of the median - had 1740 words.
  • Two chapters had 1800+ words
  • Eight different chapters had over 2000 words in them: one each in the 2000, 2100, 2200, and 2300 ranges; two chapters were 2400+ words long; two had over 2500 words.
  • Two chapters - one dealing with Jolene's cheating boyfriend, and the other when she met the brothel madam - had over 3000 words.
  • One chapter had Jolene tackle a dungeon, and that was my longest one at 3105 words.
I even think I slightly improved on my chapter titles! I started off kind of blah and straight forward, but I feel like I got more intriguing as I went:
  1. Finding a Place to Belong
  2. Growing Attached
  3. Falling in Love
  4. First Heartbreak
  5. Rediscovered
  6. Moving on
  7. LIAR!
  8. Meeting the Fox
  9. Winter Smiles
  10. Fox in the Chicken Coup
  11. Life as an Adventurer
  12. Stargazer
  13. Tale of Myrica
  14. Love, Despite Yourself
  15. Here to Stay
  16. Running Away
  17. Remind Me of Someone
  18. Always Forward
  19. A Night to Remember
  20. Harrowing Caverns
  21. Who Are You?
  22. Wine Ruins Everything
  23. Let Me be Your Friend
  24. Breaking Her In
  25. Breaking the Illusion
  26. Parasite
Another stat that amused me was the inconsistent "screen time" of each of Jolene's loves. I originally thought that Jacob - the first and strongest love of Jolene's life; the ruler all others are measured against - would have the most chapters. She loved him the most. She was with him the longest. He was the most important to her. Yet, Searl, a man she's all but forgotten, has the most chapters dedicated to him. Here's the breakdown:
  • Jacob: four chapters;  8543 words covering a NINE YEAR relationship. Jolene was five, and Jacob was seven when they first became friends; Jolene was ten and Jacob was twelve when they realized they had romantic feelings for each other; when Jacob turned thirteen he unofficially proposed to Jolene; right after her fourteenth birthday he announced his engagement to another woman.
  • Teo: three chapters; 5427 words; roughly six-month relationship
  • Parvil: three chapters again, but 5714 words covering the feverously short six-week relationship. There was also about two months of friendship building first, though....
  • Jesan: five chapters; 9006 words. In truth, 1389 of those words were an impromptu chapter telling the mythilogical story behind a constellation, but the remaining 7617 words covered their four-month relationship.
  • Searl: whopping six chapters and 11,815 words. Not too shabby for someone Jolene dated for five months, and really couldn't give two-shits about anymore. I guess he gets extra time because he was her first lover.
While I tried to limit my writing to weekdays only, giving myself weekends off for socializing, I seemed to write fairly close to writing daily anyway. The 50,883 words was actually written within 23 words once you take out the days I failed to write anything for the story. Not to say I didn't write anything at all; just not for the story. Pretty impressive; only missing seven days, and managing an average daily word count of 2212. Of course, with days only having 200-some words; that meant I had to pick up the slack a LOT on other days. End result is still the same, though: