Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Shackled to an Egg Timer

Excuse me for reviving an old meme, but....
*Sigh*
I'm a bit of a Sad Panda this week.

Due to the job chaos, I had to work my normal Tuesday off, but to make up for it I was given Thursday and Friday off. Sunday was the start of a new work week, so that was my "second" day off - since Tuesdays are my regular "first" day off. Anyway, this means that between last Tuesday and today I had THREE days off. THREE!

Yet how much writing have I done? If you guessed "pretty much none" you win!

I had days off! I should have had all the time in the world to write and read and elaborate on my Valentine's Day blog before today. Instead, I lounged pretty much all of Thursday since Hubby and I had the day off together. We considered it a belated Valentine's Day for the two of us. It was sweet having so much time to just snuggle with him on the couch, but A WHOLE DAY!? I needed the stress relief, but geez! Friday I did what I always do: get suckered into ONE task and spent all day on it.

Aside from tasks such as writing this blog, which have deadlines anyway, I have now taken to sitting with a kitchen timer next to me. It's set to hour intervals. Once the timer goes off, that's it. I move on to another task for an hour. Then another one. I might circle back to a previous task, but never in back-to-back hours. It's the only way to break me of my..... um..... anti-ADHD? I'm sure it's some sort of disorder in and of itself with it's own name. Over fixation? Regardless, I lose far too much time in my life due to my laser focus.

Spend seven straight hours on a forum catching up on old posts? How about four hours on DeviantArt looking at fanart? Five hours on Google Image trying to find reference pictures for a new character? Two full evenings - each a three-hour sitting or so - on doll-maker games trying to design a new character because I can't draw? Yeah, maybe I wasn't addicted to Facebook. Maybe I just don't know how to turn away from a task until it's complete.... or away from a distraction until a need - such as food or a bathroom break - arises.

So, now the timer is attached to my hip to keep me on track until I can learn to Adult better.....

Doesn't really help that I figured out the whole timer-thing AFTER last week's fail, though. I got barely anything accomplished when I only had to work four days.

I haven't even written on my writing calendar. I'll have to try to backtrack and remember when I wrote what. I know I only wrote two days last week; worst record this year. I also know that the last time I wrote anything was Wednesday. Such a long zero-day streak.

Either way, it's the good-old Chicken-or-Egg situation again: Am I not writing because I'm tired and cranky, or am I tired and cranky because I haven't written anything?

My performance at work has gotten kind of crappy as well. I'm not sure if it's just because I'm overwhelmed with trying a brand new tactic our Director of Sales wants us to follow, if it's because so many "losses" shook my confidence, or if it's because I'm not allowed to write at work any longer. It really allowed me to drift from a bad day for a few moments at a time, maybe as much as an hour, and then come back to reality completely refocused; centered. If my confidence was shook, I sat and wrote or read to escape for a little bit. By the time I was back I was ready to crush it.

Instead, my down-time is flooded with trainings, workbooks, studying, role-playing to practice the new technique, and stern talking to's.

So, the biggest selling point of this job for me - the downtime to read and write while still being a productive member of the sales team - is pretty much null. We'll see how I can re-adjust. I'll give it until my year point to see if things turn around.

In the meantime, how about I give you more details of what I did the previous week, since I didn't have time to really do so on Valentine's Day?

Well, to start, even though I changed up my Writers’ Huddle challenge goal, I STILL haven't managed to hit a week-goal yet. It's obvious that I didn't write a prompt a day this past week, let alone two, but even the previous week - when I was on a hot-streak - I wasn't able to fit two in. So much for catching up on the daily prompts by March 9th. I haven't even hit the January 13th prompt that I started the book with. My only real consolation is that there must be some sort of anti-writing-whatever in the atmosphere, because just about everyone over at WH stated that they didn't come close to completing their task this past week. In fact, I think, out of the years that I've been at the Huddle for winter challenges, this one has been the least productive over-all among the participants.

As for the prompts I already have written, I only had a chance to type up two of them, which caught me up to January 4th. Jynna's flash-story was from January 8th's prompt, so it will be a little bit before it's ready to share. I also haven't had much time to really delve back into her backstory in the meantime.

Well... OK, as I shared above, I DID have the time to either work more on Jynna or type up more prompts; I just didn't utilize it.... Point is, I don't have much new to share about her, but she does at least have a name. Yay. Also, Hubby's just waiting for the others interested in the game to build their characters, and then we'll be good to start playing Numenera, so... yay again!

I'm about half-way through "Heat Wave" and I'm trying to speed through the second half so I can still have at least one book done a month. So much for my new goal of two a month this year, huh? Darn Director of Sales messing with a system that didn't seem broken from our end. We were doing better than last year's sales, but I guess not better "enough" for his liking.

That doesn't really matter, though. Boss-Man wants us to focus more on sales and how to improve them while at work. It's understandable. How many office environments allow for an hour or so of employee downtime for things like reading or writing?

While I'm trying to get my act back together, I do have those two prompts for your reading pleasure.

January 3rd's was the first time I wrote for Amara in years. I'm still trying to lock down her party-mates' names, but for right now I just ran with what I had. Also, sorry for the poor title; I got nothing for it....

"The Courtyard"

January 4th's prompt had me completely stymied, so it turned out to be a mildly-rambling, stream-of-consciousness, personal essay about writing prompts in general. It's only about 800 words long if you want to still give it a whirl.

"Trust the Pen"

Now, let's try this "writing daily" thing again. Starting with creating a "sacred" writing time to keep me from constantly playing hookie from this part of my day. Time to go set my timer....

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Super Quick Week Recap

Normally this is when I'd have my usual, long, weekly recap of my writing. Sometimes I'd even have links to new projects I've completed. Sadly, this week will not be one of those weeks.

There was some pseudo-major upheaval at work that threw everyone off their game for a few days. We should be back to normal, sorta, next week, but unfortunately, the upheaval includes me having to work today. To make up for it, I meant to write this post yesterday, but with the work-chaos I totally zoned out on what I needed to do; mostly because I forgot what day of the week it was. I ended up working on some Adulting that I've been neglecting for a while.

Still productive, just not on the priority...

So, super quick between Hubby going to work and my need to get ready for my day:
  • I had a nice writing streak going, but broke it Wednesday, started it up again, and broke it again on Sunday. I WILL get a full week in at some point!
  • I haven't managed to do my new Writers’ Huddle challenge goal of writing at least two new daily writing practice prompts. I have written SOME more, but I can't even say I wrote ONE per day. I'm hoping I can remedy that next week once everything has settled down.
  • One of my writing prompts got me to write a bit about my Numenera RP character Jynna; pronounced Gin-nah. It's nothing groundbreaking due to it being a quick daily writing workout, but it was fun to write about her anyway. We'll see how much will be canon once Hubby learns more about the world of Numenera.
  • I do have more of a physical description and rough background idea for Jynna, so I'll have to see what I can gather up for more of a bio next post.
  • I have been fairly consistent with my writing prompts, being handwritten, hitting less than 1000 words. I just keep neglecting typing them up so I can send them to Ronoxym. I really need to figure out a schedule and stick with it. As much as I hate the concept of every minute of my day every day of the week being assigned to something - it completely takes out the ability to be spontaneous - I think that my life right now dictates that I really need to do precisely that.
  • I finally found my next book for my reading challenge: "Heat Wave" by "Richard Castle" - it's a ghostwriter pretending to be the author main character of ABC's show "Castle." It has red on the cover, so I could switch out "Ready. Set. Novel!" with a narrative if I so choose. It has a silhouette of the main character Nikki Heat on the cover, so it could go for "Woman on the cover" category instead if I'd like. Since I don't have a book that I "gave 5-stars to" in 2015, I could just change that category to "Re-read a book" for this first novel. It is also the first book of a 4-book series, so I could possibly put it under the "Start a new series" category. Technically each title in the series has a play on the main character's last name: Heat, so.... "Name in the title"? So many options. We'll see where it ends up going.
I think that's all the broad recap that I have for this past week. I can't make any promises that I'll have time to go into further detail about anything before next Tuesday. Today is pretty packed, and the rest of the week might remain tight. However, I'll give it the "old college try." Otherwise, I'll elaborate next week, along with all the writing advancements I make between now and then.

In the meantime, won't you be my Valentine, my dear readers?

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Hopping Eons into the Future; Yet Another Character Forms

Strike two for the Writers’ Huddle winter challenge. I got a little further this week; I opened a word document and saved it as the next chapter. I then began outlining the story arc of the chapter. Then I had to go to bed and didn't find time to touch it again since.

Even after two months, the feelings are still a bit raw for Jolene. I think, in order to finish off her backstory, I have to first figure out what her new present-day story will be. The more I focus on that and her in Gyateara, the less I should be thinking about her on Laerrnesse. I might be able to get back to my story then. Sorry, Shadow, you're probably going to have to wait until the end of the year to read her story now.

This leaves me in a bit of a pickle for the challenge, though. I already flopped the first two weeks, decided that maybe I'm just not in the right mindset to continue the story I set out as my challenge, and have four weeks left. Do I just pull the rip-cord?

Instead I went back to "A Writer's Book of Days" by Judy Reeves. It is now a week into February, and I'm still a month behind on the daily writing practice prompts. I've managed to crank a couple of those out over the week, but still not nearly enough for my liking.

While, including this blog post today, I'm on a nice five-day writing streak - longest I've had since the start of the year - I did miss three days last week. Also, while it didn't keep me four days of little stolen-away moments like the Amara story last week, I did have a prompt that kept me two days to finish due to time restrictions.

This whole working instead of writing thing while I'm at my job is really a hindrance.

I also didn't have time to go back and digitize my stories, let alone edit them. So I don't have anything new to share today.

Which reminds me, I had my journal with me when I went to Cyhyr and Ronoxym's for their Superbowl party on Sunday, and I completely forgot to have Ron read some of it as proof that I again wrote something under 1000 words. I also forgot to poke him about his challenge for this year: show me some sort of completed story/prose once a month; be it a full story, just a chapter, a flash fiction, an outline for a story, or a character bio.

I might really suck at this whole "Checking in on challenges for accountability" thing.... I need someone accountable for my accountability....

Anyway, my point was that I need a challenge that I can actually achieve, and writing more about Jolene doesn't seem to be achievable right now. I'm not excited about her any longer, and I need to find a way to jumpstart that excitement again. I also want to EVENTUALLY have my journal entries actually written on the day indicated, instead of a month later. So, while I'm trying to re-find my love for Jolene, I'll use the last four weeks of the challenge to try to play catch-up with the daily prompts.

I will now write two per day until I am caught up, or the challenge is over, whichever comes first. If I do manage to write at least two prompts per day, I will be caught up by the second entry on March 9th. Knowing me? I'll slack off some time and it will be about April that I catch up. Still, A GOAL IS SET!

We'll see how well this works, considering I struggle with just ONE prompt a day. Still, if I aim for two, I'm more likely to schedule the time to at least get ONE written. Right?

In the meantime, I've got yet ANOTHER character in the works.

For Christmas my family got Hubby the player's guide for a new roleplay game: Numenera. I don't have a name yet, but I think I have the broad outline for a character made up. The way you create your character for this game is that you are given the generic sentence "I am an adjective noun that verbs" and you fill in the blanks with the provided word types.

The adjectives are appropriately your "Character Descriptors." Within the core rule book, there are a dozen to choose from, and one of those can actually split depending on if you picture yourself using the stats for more technological or mystical purposes. The point of the Descriptor is to create your character's link to the starting adventure of the overall campaign. Depending on the Descriptor, you are given four options to choose from, as well as a bunch of bonuses for your character.

An example would be Intelligent:
You're quite smart. Your memory is sharp, and you easily grasp concepts that others might struggle with. This aptitude doesn't necessarily mean that you've had years of formal education, but you have learned a great deal in your life, primarily because you pick things up quickly and retain so much.

You gain the following benefits:
Smart: +2 to your Intellect Pool.
Skill: You're trained in an area of knowledge of your choice.
Skill: You're trained in all actions that involve remembering or memorizing things you experience directly. For example, instead of being good at recalling details of geography that you read about in a book, you can remember a path through a set of tunnels that you've explored before.

Initial Link to the Starting Adventure: From the following list of options, choose how you became involved in the first adventure.

  1. One of the other PCs asked your opinion of the mission, knowing that if you thought it was a good idea, it probably was.
  2. You saw value in what the other PCs were doing.
  3. You believed that the task might lead to important and interesting discoveries.
  4. A colleague requested that you take part in the mission as a favor.
~ Pg 35 of Numenera Player's Guide by Monte Cook
The nouns are the "Character Type," which is usually called the "Class" in other RPGs. There are only three to choose from, but they each become vastly diverse depending on the adjective and verb you choose. The three types are Glaive - your typical fighter classes, Nano - the mages, and Jack - short for "Jack of all trades"; your rogue-like classes.

On top of the adjective and verb attached to the Type, there is also diversity in the Type itself. Since each Type encompasses so many other generic RP classes, you can figure out if your Glaive is a brutish swordsman that used to be a town guard, or a primitive mountain man who has lived off the land his whole life, or a noble fighter of the people who believed he was blessed by some divine being. Player interpretation is key. Beyond that even, there are three different backstory options for you to choose from in order to pick how you became that skilled Type in the first place.

We'll use samples of Jack as an example:
You might hear people say that a jack is just the typical everyman (or everyperson), but don't believe it. You aren't like anyone else. You can do things that no one else can do because you do so many things. You're a warrior, you're a thief, you're a diplomat, you're a sage, and you're a spy.

When you choose jack as a character type, come up with an explanation for how you learned your wide variety of talents. Choose one of the three options described below. It will provide the foundation of your background and give you an idea of how you can improve....

Born Lucky
You seem to be better than most people because you are. Your ancestors were part of a genetic experiment, and your genes are superior to those of the average human.... Some of your genetic advantage might even grant you low-level psychic abilities that greatly resemble the "miracles" performed by nanos.

School of Hard Knocks
You learned things the hard way - on your own. Adaptive and canny, you express the true strengths of humanity in your ability to adjust quickly to circumstances, pick up new tricks to succeed, and ultimately survive when you probably should be dead....

A Cobbled Jumble
You're the product of generations of eugenics, bolstered by minor cybernetic enhancements, a few small psychic abilities, and the lessons of secret masters. In other words, you don't have one source of power or one explanation for your abilities - you have many, and as far as you're concerned, that's the best formula for success....

~ Pg 28 and 29 of Numenera Player's Guide by Monte Cook
Finally, and this is the part that makes things REALLY diverse, you have nearly 30 different verbs, or "Character Focus," to pick from. While the Descriptor gives your character bonuses and a reason for them to join the quest, the Focus gives you the battle options and your connection to at least one other Player Character.

Each Focus is about a page long, so I can't really give an example of the full concept. However, for the basic flavor, I'll sample the first focus: Bears a Halo of Fire.
You can create a sheath of flames around your body. You leave scorch marks wherever you go, and you can't handle combustible objects without first dousing your inherent flames. If you perform esoteries (or similar effects beyond the abilities of normal humans), all your effects are tainted with flame. Fiery visuals accompany your powers, and in some cases, your predilection for flame actually reshapes your abilities to take on a fiery nature where none existed before.... For example, force blasts from Onslaught are blasts of flame, and Flash is a burst of fire....

You probably wear red and yellow, or perhaps black.

Although most of those who take up this mantle are nanos, flame-wielding glaives and jacks are fearsome indeed.

Connection: Pick one other PC. Through a quirk of fate, your fire cannot harm that character.
Additional Equipment: You have an artifact - a device that sprays inanimate objects to make them fire-resistant. All your starting gear has already been treated unless you don't want it to be.

~ Pg 38 of Numenera Player's Guide by Monte Cook
So, even if every player picks "Glaive," there can be some vast diversity among the party. Between the 12 Descriptors, 3 backstories, and 29 Foci, just one Type can have over 1000 different character builds! And who's to say that one Intelligent Psionic Nano who Bears a Halo of Fire is going to be played the same as another? Player interpretation kicks in there to add even more diversity! If that's not enough, there's already expansions to the core books that add even more Descriptors and Foci....

SO. MANY. POSSIBILITIES!

I'm still struggling with my character a bit, though, mostly due to option overload. The personality that popped into my head is definitely more of the street-wise School of Hard Knocks Jack than the book-smart Nano, however, I loved the idea of the Port and Plug Nano. So, with over 1000 possibilities for me to build my Nano, I decide to start my very first character sort of "off-book."

She WOULD have mastered skills that would define her as a Jack, but this orphan was actually kidnapped off the streets by a cult who experimented on her. Cybernetic surgeries were done to "enhance" her, against her will. She eventually became strong enough with the numenera to break free of the cult, but a bit of her brainwashing might still remain.

She is now a Nano not because she wanted to learn about the numenera, but because it became her way of life. It is how she survived and how she will continue to survive. She has learned to live with the scarring and mutilation of her body. In fact, she now greatly sees the benefits of being able to master the mystical force around her, simply by plugging in a new piece of tech. She studies the ancients as well as nanites and how they make up the numenera force. She realizes that the more she understands the numenera and how it came to be, the easier it is for her to better wield it. She may not be able to undo what the cult did to her, but she will use it to its every advantage now.

This is still open to change, but based on the above build, my sentence is:
I am a Mechanical reluctant Plugs and Port Nano who Fuses Flesh and Steel.

However, I am also quite partial to the Descriptors: Graceful, Intelligent, and Stealthy.
I'm also quite partial to the Foci: Controls Gravity, Crafts Illusions, Focuses Mind Over Matter, Masters Defense, Rides the Lightning, Controls Beasts, Talks to Machines, and Bears a Halo of Fire.

In fact, prior to reading the other foci in their entirety, Bears a Halo of Fire was the one I was all but convinced I was going to take. Plus, Controls Beasts or Talks to Machines would have been fun with Shadow's Mountain Man character. I could mess with him with either focus option since the connections are for the selected PC to somehow disturb the beasts I control, which would annoy Shadow who would be One with Nature, or that the selected PC is terrible with technology and would make the machines I communicate with worse. It would end up biting me in the behind, but again, how flavorfully appropriate for a Mountain Man to mess with machines like that?

I also have a bunch of reference pictures for my lady - what I was working on for hours last night instead of writing or typing up my already written prompts - but I couldn't find one picture yet that depicts my character in her entirety.

Yet again a time when I lament not being able to draw....

I guess I should start with a name for her, though. I'm picturing something mildly Latino for some reason. Considering the world of Numenera is Earth eons into the future, who knows what name-structure is like? It will be fun to try to explore those options. I'll have to keep you informed with how I'm doing as I go.

By next week I should have at least one story typed up to share, as well as at least a name for this new girl joining the ranks.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

15 at a Time

This week was sorta fail again. On the one hand, I managed to finish my book for the month and I did manage at least 15min of writing for four days this past week. That's about all the positive I have, though.
I hit my 3 zero-day cap, but managed to get something in the rest of the week.
It's been a bit of a mentally trying week. I'm giving "learning how to adult" another try, and so I'm using most of my outside-of-work time still cleaning and rearranging my home. I'm dealing with the chaos that the United States has been thrown into since Donald Trump has officially become our president. Thursday was a complete mental break-down day after an argument with a friend; resulting in me spending three straight hours curled up in bed with my book because I didn't have the energy for anything else. Also throughout the week, I did a sorta-major "oopsie" at work that kind of made me shrink in the corner, mentally wishing I wasn't there. Hiding away inside a book helps with the vanishing act, but wanting to become invisible doesn't help with wanting to write. Saturday is a blur that I can't really recall why I didn't write. Sunday I had off, so Hubby and I just used it as a "downtime day" to try to recoup from the rest of the week.

I still have those four smiley faces though!

Sadly, aside from that Tuesday smile representing this blog, the other three are all at work, and all only about 15min stints where I attempted to finish the same writing prompt. I didn't actually complete said prompt until yesterday, a week after I started it.

The new Sales Manager at work apparently has been with us long enough to decide to make some major changes and overhauls. When we're not with customers we have a bunch of new operational tasks to complete, and we also have a whole new set of sales modules we need to do. Once we're done with the modules, we are to do them again, and again, and again, until it is basically ingrained in us.

Which means the main draw of this job - making money while also having the downtime to write and read - has now practically vanished. Bummer. Especially when I've spent the past year rearranging my life so that I write and read at work and do things like clean, socialize, and catch up on movies/video games outside of work. Trying to work writing and reading into my already limited outside-of-work hours will take some readjusting again.

So, yes, I did manage to sneak in 15min here and there - mostly while eating lunch - but even then, I was getting interrupted by customers or these new duties/trainings before I finished the scene. It kept me four attempts, and a solid week, to finally finish the January 3rd prompt. I have a feeling I'm not going to get all 365 done in this year....

And yes, the prompt that kept a week to finish is the same Amara story I referenced last week. I haven't had time to type up or edit it, though, so I'm not capable of sharing it this week. I was able to type up the two I wrote the previous week. Both are vignettes that should be super quick to read. One benefit of listening to Judy Reeves, and writing long-hand in a journal: I get about four handwritten pages in, feel that's long enough, and conclude the scene. Since it's long-hand, by the time I type it up the four pages turns out to be barely 900 words.

How to keep me under 1000-word stories: Force me to hand write them.

Anyway, here are the two stories. I also sent them to Ronoxym as my accountability for his flash/vignette challenge roll-over from last year.

"Mental Noise"

"New Home of Ash and Soot"

So, I'm now up to January 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 13th written for the year of writing prompts. It's January 31st. Yup, this is going to work out well.

At least I'm writing something most days. That's the main point. I also have something non-tech to bring with me to Writing Group, if I so choose. I may indeed choose to do so tonight since we're planning on taking a "field trip" to a local gastropub instead of meeting at the library, and I don't know how good the outlet situation would be.

The downside is that with the limited writing time, I wasn't able to even open the document for "Lost Loves and Paramours," not to mention attempting to continue it. First week of the winter challenge over at Writers’ Huddle, and I not only neglected to work on my project, but I also didn't log onto WH at all this week; let alone attempted to check in.

On top of all that, I completely forgot that I have yet to finish my Year in Review post, or start my Book Review post for last year. Talk about poor timing!

Fail. Fail. Fail.

I also haven't cracked open "Ready. Set. Novel!" in a while. It was an exciting part of my day, and now I just haven't found time for it. I do plan of making my way back to it at some point, though. For the duration of the WH challenge, however, I feel the book will be put on the back burner. I'm going to focus on finding writing time, catching up on writing prompts, and getting back to Jolene's story. Once the challenge is done I'll refocus on RSN! and Jolene's NEW story; ignoring anything that happened in the actual role-play. It will be interesting to see this brand new take on her post-wanted-posters life.

Anyway, as I mentioned at the start of the blog, I did manage to at least complete reading my book for this month. I'm not doing nearly as awesome as Spink, who was rereading "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" as her "book with red on the cover," and then just kept going with the series. As of Friday, she was finishing up the fifth book out of the seven-book series. Granted, the final book is about the size of the first three combined, or something like that.... Still, way better than my one novel and two workbooks.

Either way, I'm proud of myself. I completed a series; one I was kind of "meh" about the whole time. I also completed the book in just ten days! Granted, curled up and reading for three-hours straight to conquer mild depression doesn't hurt, but still, TEN DAYS! Not bad considering it kept me pretty much all of 2015 to get through the second book in the series, and I feel it kept me at least a month, if not longer, to finish the first book.

I don't know if the quick read was because the book was more action-packed and enticing to read than the other two. I don't know if I read so quickly because my brain was kind of shut down this past week, and it was a way to keep me occupied when my mind didn't want to do much else. In other words: I had nothing better to do, so I read a LOT. I don't know if I plowed through the book because I'm now in a "reader's mindset" that I didn't have for the previous decade. I don't know if I raced through the book so I could make sure to have a check on the reading challenge this month. Perhaps it was some combination of those elements.

I do know that I did enjoy the novel, but still hold that something about the characters just aren't as endearing as the ones Riordan created for all of his other series: Percy Jackson, Heroes of Olympus, Trials of Apollo, or Magnus Chase. I can't put my finger quite on it, but Carter and Sadie Kane just don't seem as lovable or "real" as everyone else that Riordan had created.

Maybe it's the idea of bouncing between the two of them narrating, while also commenting about asides the non-narrating sibling is saying in the background. Maybe it's the format of the novels being transcriptions of audio recordings the Kanes sent to the "author."

Maybe it's how both siblings almost instantly counter positive comments about each other with an insult or "I know, shocking, right?" I mean, I get the series takes place over the course of nine months or so, and that for the better part of six years the siblings barely saw each other, which created a large rift of resentment and envy between the two. I realize that these two were not close at all, but the trials they went through created a bond tighter than possibly even twins could have. I also get that it's hard for a 15 and 13 year old to admit that their feelings for their sibling changed so drastically after acting like they hated each other for half their lives. I get it. I do. I just think that the way Riordan presented the transition and the mock hesitation to admit they love, respect, and even admire each other just.... it didn't work for me.

Also, Egyptian mythology used to be my favorite subject as a kid, and yet I felt the least drawn into that culture with the Kane Chronicles, compared to how heavy Roman and Norse culture is portrayed in "Heroes of Olympus" and "Magnus Chase." While Greek culture itself isn't as heavy an influence within "Percy Jackson" or "Trials of Apollo," the Grecian mythological monsters are so well known that the main characters being attacked or otherwise encountering these creatures is enough of a draw.

"The Kane Chronicles"? I didn't feel as involved with the Egyptian mythos.

The story is good, though. While Sadie kind of annoyed me, and Carter wasn't the best lead for my tastes, the background characters - especially Walt - are wonderful. The conflicts are intense, and the danger feels real. The stories are a bit predictable, but they're aimed at middle-schoolers, and they were still towards the start of Riordan's career.

I have the Kane/Percy cross-over digital short stories downloaded somewhere. I need to track them down and see how some age/experience and mix-in with Percy Jackson does for my interest in the Kane Chronicles.

Enough about that, though. How about we look at my score-card:
Challenge by Reading Books Like a Boss
I went ahead and picked "Ready. Set. Novel!" for my red-cover book over "A Writer's Book of Days." Mostly because I intend on taking the full year to read the latter, and I'd like to be able to check off that category sooner than December 31st. Also, out of the two, RSN! definitely has red all over the cover, whereas WBoD has red font, but little else. Either way, I have RSN! listed as my red-cover book. I'll just have to wait until I'm done with the workbook for me to officially check it off.

Now to figure out what to do for February. Still looking for suggestions for "outside... reading comfort zone" or "recommended... that [I] wouldn't have picked for [myself]." Feel free to drop some novels you think I should read in the comments below.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

WRITE ALL THE THINGS!

Finally getting into my groove, or at least the start of my groove. Haven't managed daily writing quite yet, but I did FINALLY get a week where I didn't have more than three zero-days.
And they're all smiles this time! If I wasn't writing this blog
I was working on narratives all week. Yay!
Unfortunately, where I did slack this week was in the realm of editing. Everything is still a raw first draft, so I don't have my writing to share with you. I'll have to focus on that next. At least I know I have three things to share when I'm done with the editing.

I started writing in my "Do what you love" journal, going back to the January 1st writing prompt in "A Writer's Book of Days," and working my way forward. At the rate I'm going, though, I'm never going to catch up. I'm still only working on one prompt per day, and I did miss Saturday and Sunday. Still, I'm writing semi-daily, so it's a start.

I also started reading my fiction narrative: "The Serpent's Shadow" by Rick Riordan. It's my book to complete a series: The Kane Chronicles.

I've had a lot of downtime at work, but I was also feeling a bit under the weather. This prevented me from thinking clear enough to use that downtime to write more frequently so I could make up some ground with the daily prompts. However, I was well enough to use that time to focus on something I didn't need to create: e.g. - reading.

I'm about half way through the book thus far, and I might actually finish it before the end of the month, dependent on customer frequency.

I've read the "January" portion of WBoD, and I'm working through the first chapter of "Ready. Set. Novel!" although, I have been slacking on THAT daily work. I'm also within reasonable reach of finishing "The Serpent's Shadow" by the end of the month. Not too shabby in the reading department this month.

I've also had some interesting developments with regards to the writing practice.

The first came with RSN! I was doing a "What if..." workshop. You pick one of the three basic story concepts you created in the previous exercise, and you fill the pages with "What if..." questions about that concept. Some examples that the book gave were "What if a woman finally met Mr. Right... on her honeymoon?" or "What if every inhabitant in a small town woke up one morning and discovered they'd all had the same dream about dancing the tango?"

Well, the journal I'm using for this run through of RSN! is purple. I picked purple at first because it's one of the few colors I don't have in a journal cover yet, so it would stand out. Now, it occurred to me that each of my characters more-or-less have a color "assigned" to them. I believe I addressed this last week. So, I unintentionally chose purple in order to use RSN! to help me come up with Jolene's story beyond "Lost Loves and Paramours." I tried to not have that influence me as I did the exercises, but the broad story concept I came up with was High-fantasy, Magic, and Broken Characters.

A lot of the What Ifs were definitely based on questions I already had for Jolene. However, I did surprise myself with this one: "What if a character used magic to create artificial companionship, because they are too afraid of genuine connections?" I then followed up with "What if a man was using magic to establish artificial companionship in an increasingly disturbing manner: originally just using magic to become a famous mage for the false companionship of adoring fans, and then using magic to create animated puppets as companions, and then using summoning spells to create slave companions, then perhaps escalating into necromancy for human-like companionship, and peaking at using his magic to brainwash citizens to be his human puppet companions?" I was liking where I was going, and surprised myself with this next question: "What if the man who was making artificial companionship was originally the romantic interest of the protagonist, and goes to the Forced Will extreme instead of being 'saved' by the protagonist; forcing a terrible conflict between the two, and revealing the mage as the 'true' antagonist of the story, instead of the red herring villain they were going after up to that point?"

It would be a very tricky story concept to work masterfully so the audience wouldn't see it happening too far ahead. I'd have to definitely become very skilled in doing this plot. However, I may never have even thought of it if I didn't let my mind wander into the world of "What if..." for this exercise. Precisely why it was presented, I'd wager. I'm loving the twist. I'm excited what I could do with it.

In the meantime, I still have "Lost Loves and Paramours" to finish. Which is why I'm using it for my winter challenge over at Writers’ Huddle. I'll get back to that in a moment. First, I want to talk about the other interesting development I had this week, before I get side-tracked.

I wrote something about Amara yesterday. It was the first time I've written something formally for her in years. I'm talking close to a decade. It's been so long, I've forgotten the names I came up with for her traveling companions. I remember the races they were, the classes they were, and roughly the dynamic they had among themselves. Their names were completely gone from my head, though. So I grabbed at the first ones I could while working on my writing prompt yesterday.

It was for January 3rd: "You are in a courtyard." Instantly, I was flashed back to a scene that used to play in my head all the time for Amara, and I knew I had to run with it. The scene takes place about half-way through her story, and shortly after the leader of their little band confesses he loves Amara. She basically blows him off, calling him a moron who has no clue what he feels, and tells him that no one has ever loved her. It's the first real sign of vulnerability that Amara shows, the first time she lets her guard down enough to confess a truth of hers; even if it's not the ACTUAL truth.

She and Jolene have that in common: what they perceive as true to their very core, isn't necessarily factually true. In both cases, this bastardization of the truth is about the concept of love, and the legitimacy of it. For Jolene, it's due to far more broken hearts than anyone her age should have gone through. For Amara, it's due to never witnessing kindness throughout her equally young life; only violence and manipulation.

Anyway, the courtyard scene is Amara reflecting on how drastically different she is compared to those around her. She studies the high stone walls surrounding the courtyard of a noble's estate they are currently recovering at. Instead of focusing on the friends around her, the man who loves her, the kind noble woman who is keeping them safe, or the beautiful surroundings they have to help them relax while they heal, she's focused on the wall, and how it's trapping her in.

I'm so glad I was able to finally articulate this scene. Now I just need to edit it and post it online.

I also need to see if any of the journal entries I wrote this week actually have 1000 words or less for Ronoxym's challenge. He's been slacking in harassing me about sending him the shorts each week. I've been slacking in actively attempting to write them. I've also followed Judy Reeves' advice via WBoD: Write long-hand; pen to paper instead of typing on a computer. So, unless I want to take the time to sit and physically count my words, I don't know how much I write until I transfer it onto the computer: the step I hate doing, which is one of many reasons I try to avoid writing on paper.

I think I did manage to hit his challenge this past week, even if I didn't send it to him. I'll have to check how short my one entry was.

Well, along with doing the daily writing practices from WBoD, and slowly moving through RSN!, and making sure I have at least one 1000-words-or-less story for Ron, I've also signed up for the WH winter challenge yet again. As per usual, you complete weekly tasks you set up for yourself in order to reach the six-week goal you created when you joined the challenge.

For me? I've spent enough time trying to avoid the sorrow of Jolene's next chapter. So, I'm forcing myself to work through it, and beyond it. During NaNo I managed close to a chapter each day. I'm now asking myself to write one per week. This should finish up Jolene's time at the brothel, go through her time of being a sort of free-agent prostitute, and at least get her into the thieves' guild.

A LOT of little writing projects going on. For a year whose theme was suppose to be "Focus," I seem to be doing the exact opposite. We'll see how it treats me. I may have to put the daily writing practice and RSN! away until after the challenge is done, but I'm going to at least start off trying for all of them. They each only take about an hour or so. I could start off my writing sessions with the daily prompt, and then get myself back into focus for Jolene once I've already gotten over the hurtle of sitting down to write. Start off with something fun to get me in the mood. Or finish my Jolene sessions with RSN! to do a fun exercise as a reward.

I'll figure something out.

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.