Saturday, April 30, 2016

Z is for ZE END!

Holy crap, is this it? Yes, this is it! April 30th! Congratulations to everyone who succeeded at posting every day in the month of April and completed an alphabet worth of posts. This has been a long, wild ride, but I'm satisfied that I did it. Will I do it again next year? I don't know. Probably not. If the month is less hectic than this one has been, I'll most likely be head-down in Camp NaNo again. But I'm glad I finally did this at least once.

Will I keep up this pace of posting next month?


Yeah, no. But I'll try to at least show up once a week.

Thanks for coming along for the ride, and I hope to see many of you around!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Y is for Y'all

A short post today, but one that needs to be said.

It's 'y'all', not 'Ya'll'. The word is a contraction of 'you all'. There is no a in you. That's not how contractions work. Unless the contraction is won't, which I still don't understand.

Just a random debate I see come up now and there. Also I couldn't think of a better "Y" word for the day. Sorry y'all.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

X is for X Names

I have a problem with character names. Aside from wanting to name, like, every male character Dave (I don't even know why), I tend to lean towards certain letters of the alphabet. When you've got one book, it's not hard to keep track of your characters' names. Once you have a few books and stories under your belt, though, the characters can get confusing.

So, with 20+ stories to keep track of, I finally made a spreadsheet to organize it. And, 'cause I like making spreadsheets, I went detailed. A page for first names, a page for last names (to see what names have been used at a glance and if I've been favoring a letter above others), a page for minor characters who may only be mentioned once or twice by name or who get a scene and then are never heard of again, a page for locations, and a page to keep track of all the stories, color-coding them so I can tell at a glance which characters go together.

What does this have to do with the letter X? Well, if there's one thing I've noticed while working on this spreadsheet, there are some letters of the alphabet that just plain get ignored. A's, M's, J's, I use them plenty. N's, P's, even V's get some good name love. But X? Z? Q? U? Blanks, or almost blank, both for first and last names. They're uncommon and not exactly the first letters to spring to mind when you're trying to name someone (or drag a name out of them, as the case may be). So I'm looking for suggestions to make a sort of waiting list for names. If you have any suggestions for X, Q, U, and Z, I'm all ears.

And for anyone who's interested, I made a sample copy of the spreadsheet to share. Please take a copy for yourself!

Click here for the spreadsheet

I put in a few samples for each page so you can see how it all works. Feel free to delete them (but leave the color coding text. Believe me, it helps!)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

W is for The Wicked & The Divine

So I was gearing up for something about writing, cause, you know, W. But then, last night, I read The Wicked & The Divine Volume 2: Fandemonium.


*ahem* Anyway, if you've never read this amazing comic from Image Comics, you need to. Basic premise: Every 90 years, 12 gods are reincarnated in the bodies of young people. They will only live for two more years, but in those years, they will be stars. In 2014, the gods are musical stars, singing their miracles on stage for audiences of thousands. One young fan finds herself caught in a tangled web of godly intrigue when a private audience with several of the gods ends in an assassination attempt, two dead assassins, and a god under arrest. Go get a copy, and then get back with me BECAUSE I CAN'T COPE GUYS I NEED TO TALK ABOUT THIS!!!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

V is for Vote

I was planning on writing about villains or something, but I realized this morning that it is, in fact, Tuesday, and a five-state voting day for the US primaries. So instead of a long rambling post with information you've already heard, I'm just going to encourage anyone whose state primary is today or upcoming to vote. You may not like your choices. You may not think your voice counts. After all, you're just one person. But you still deserve your say, and your coin on the plate will still tip the balance, even a little, even if your person doesn't win.

Just imagine, if everyone who thought their one vote didn't matter came out, how much could be done.

Monday, April 25, 2016

U is for Undecided

First off, thank you everyone who wished me a happy birthday yesterday. It was a lovely time. Thirty doesn't feel much different from twenty.

I've hit that part of downtime where I am ready to dive back into writing, get something ready to go. The only problem is, I have absolutely no idea what to write!

Well, no, that's not true. I have too MANY ideas to write. There are no less than three picking at me right now, demanding that they be the one I work on. Usually I let these ideas duke it out until one comes out on top. One will give me an idea I just have to run with, or it'll overshadow the others. This time, though, it's been days and they're at a stalemate. So, since I can't decide, I thought I'd pitch them out and see what other people think.

Story 1) The Atlantis story detailed so many years ago here. A young boy is stolen away to the mobile underwater supercity of Atlantis by an even younger girl. With them both in trouble if he's discovered as an outsider (like, imprisoned for life trouble) and the city already on the move again, the girl and her family have to keep him secret and safe until they cycle around to his home beach... the next year. Harry Potter under the sea.

Story 2) Thirteen years ago, thirteen-year-old Chloe was kidnapped, and as a coping mechanism to deal with the trauma, she invented a fantasy world where she was a hero, with a cute farmboy boyfriend, a young soldier supporter, and the man who kidnapped her as a wise advisor. At least, that's what all the doctors told her and her parents. Having built her adult life around the story of her kidnapping and the certainty that her adventure wasn't real, her world is shaken when the soldier appears in her office and begs her to come back and save the fantasy world again, this time from the mad ex-boyfriend she left behind. But first they have to save the innocent old advisor from Earth's Death Row.

Story 3) A fairy tale retelling of a collection of stories, a loyal handmaiden is attacked and replaced by an evil witch who runs away, disguised as the handmaiden, with her princess. Lost and with only an injured fox for companionship, the handmaiden must follow her princess's trail, solving the troubles of normal people along the way using her wits and cunning, earning her a reputation as a fairy godmother.

Right now, those are the strongest three. The Atlantis story has the most worldbuilding complete, but is proving to be the hardest to plot. The latter two are just interesting stories that I want to dig my fingers into the dirt and explore. Ideally they would all be novels. What do you guys think? Do any of these tickle your fancy?

Saturday, April 23, 2016

T is for Thirty

It's funny. The 100th blog post came one post after H, and now, my 30th birthday comes the day after T. Interesting coincidence.

I'm going to be out today partying like it's... well, 2016. Doing whatever my mother and mother-in-law have planned until our concert tonight, then coming home and passing out. I'll see you all on Monday when I'm moping about not being in my 20s anymore.

Friday, April 22, 2016

S is for Seriously, 2016?

By now, I'm sure you heard that Prince died yesterday. Seems unbelievable that we'd lose two of the most unique voices, him and Bowie, in one year. Unbelievable and heartbreaking. I've never been a rabid Prince fan, but I enjoyed his music. Kiss was the #1 song on the charts the day I was born. And now he's gone.

It has been an incredibly bad year for deaths. We used to joke that deaths came in threes. Now, it's an onslaught. Seems like every other week, someone else is gone, just another face in the news. If this pace continues, we're going to be immune by the end of the year, to numb to care. I'm not being dramatic here (okay, maybe a LITTLE dramatic.) I counted.

According to Wikipedia, by this date in 2015, there had been 96 worldwide notable deaths. These are actors, writers, musicians, politicians, astronauts, sports stars, spiritual leaders, anyone who might have been in the news or had their own Wikipedia page. This year, there have been 94 notable deaths. Surprisingly even, isn't it?

Until you count the familiar names. Last year, I knew two of the notable deaths by this date: Leonard Nimoy and Terry Pratchett. Over the whole year, there were 16 deaths of people whose names or work I knew.

This year, there have been twenty. TWENTY. TWO-ZERO. Before the year is even 1/3rd past. And that's insane. Seriously, 2016, what the hell?

Thursday, April 21, 2016

R is for Recap: Jury Duty

I said I'd find a way to get this in here, didn't I? Hooray for the letter R!

If you've never had the opportunity, it's an experience unlike anything else. Well, okay, maybe not 100% unlike. It's kinda like a job interview for a very temporary position. In North Carolina, we are what is known as a "One Day/One Trial" state. You're called for a certain day, you show up, and whatever happens that day, that's what you get. If you end up on a trial, that will be the only trial you're on, and if you're not on a trial or sitting for trial selection by 5PM, you're free for the next two years.

I was outside the waiting room at 8:30 on Monday morning with around 70-80 other people. A few minutes later, the clerk opened the door to start taking our names and checking us in. I managed to scoot in near the front of the line. Before the clerk had managed to check in two people, I noticed a fuss around an old man standing by the door, wedged into a corner. Two women wanted to get him to the front of the line so he could sit down. The moment he took a shuffle forward, he crumpled, collapsing to the ground, and I thought, "Oh my god, am I watching someone die?"

Thank goodness, I was not. Within moments, two people were on him, one a retired EMT, and a third was on the phone with 911. The old man was roused within seconds, and a number of officers and security entered just as quickly. He had apparently had a stroke recently and thought himself well enough to come in. Evidently, he wasn't. He was, however, well enough to tell the 911 dispatcher he was okay just before a few officers wheeled him out in a wheelchair the clerk had produced from a back room. Apparently, our courthouse is well prepared for medical emergencies. As the man was wheeled out, one of the officers joked, "Well, that's one way to get out of jury duty."

Pretty hard to have a day much more eventful than that. The clerk recovered order quickly and got back to work checking us in. We made ourselves comfortable in the many seats around the room. I dug into Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children on my kindle (an excellent read). When everyone was finally checked in and settled, the clerk started into a long, detailed explanation of what we could expect for the day, how jury duty worked in the state, and the basics of what would be expected of us. After a Q&A session and a short video, we were ready to get started. We would still have some downtime before the first set of potential jurors was needed.

At around 11:30, she began the call for the first jury selection. I was the sixth person on her list. I and 24 others were directed up to our courtroom, where we were introduced to all the standard faces of a court: the judge, the bailiff, the court reporter, the prosecutor and defendant's lawyer... everyone except us. The case was a criminal one, armed robbery a few years past. Once the judge had explained the procedures, twelve of us were picked. I was not among them. For the next hour and a half, 22 of the 25 of us were interrogated on who we were, what we did, if we'd ever been the victim of or accused of a violent crime, our thoughts on guns, and more. The stories were fascinating. One man's daughter had been kidnapped in Iraq. An old man was getting married in a week. A young woman had participated in last year's state protests. So many people I wished I could have gotten to know more about.

Of the first twelve, four were dismissed after questioning by the defendant's lawyer, mostly for strong opinions on guns or previous violent events. Four replaced them. Two of them were dismissed by the defendant. Two filled their spots. They were both released by the prosecution. The next two satisfied everyone, and it came time to pick a backup juror. Just as the backup juror was confirmed by both sides, and the deputy clerk had sworn them in as jurors, one of the jurors confessed she didn't think she could be unbiased based on her work history. So the backup juror became a full juror, and one last person was confirmed. During the questioning, I saw the judge ask the deputy clerk a question, and she looked at us and held up three fingers.

They were actually worried they might have to call for more potential jurors.

Lucky for them, the new backup juror was acceptable, and they had their full jury. The three of us were dismissed back to the waiting room. At this point, it was 1PM and we were just in time to start our lunch break. I enjoyed a meal with the other woman not called. Her wife just had triplets in February, and she was almost grateful for the breath of fresh air jury duty gave her, though worried about how everyone was holding up without her both with her job and at home.

After lunch, we waited. And waited. I spoke with a woman in a hijab who had been sequestered on jury duty for two weeks in New York and a mother who had just gotten a full time promotion at work. And, of course, I read more. Finally, a little after 4PM, the clerk told us she was going to split us up based on if she called our names. Having been in one courtroom already, I quickly realized the names she was calling were the people who had been dismissed earlier. The three of us who hadn't been needed were not called. Then she asked, "Anyone who has been in a courtroom who I did not call, come here." The three of us and two others joined her. She confirmed our names and sent us over with the dismissed. Then she took the remaining 21 people, including the two women I had been talking to, and directed them to their courtroom. It was late, but they were finally being called. The rest of us? We were free to go once we checked out. We had done our duty and would not be called for the next two years. Our checks would be in the mail.

And that was it. By the luck of randomness, I had not been needed or dismissed. I will not have a story to put forth when someone tells me, "I got a summons to jury duty." At least, not for a few years at minimum. And I'm not upset by it. If I had been called and not dismissed, I would have done my service, but knowing the truth and someone's future was in my hands? Knowing some of the stories I have heard about people who discovered they'd made the wrong choice because the evidence that would have convicted them couldn't be included? I don't think I could have stomached it. All the same, though, it was an interesting experience you don't often see in shows like Law & Order, and I'm glad I was there to see. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Q is for Query

I said back on day J that I might share what I had so far for my query for Q. Well, it's Q, and totally forgetting I said that back then, I decided to share my query.

I may be forgetful, but at least I usually stay on the right track.

So queries. Queries are freaking HARD, man. You take tens of thousands of words and cut it down to 250. And not just condensing your story into 250 words, but making the 250 INTERESTING words, words arranged in a way that make the agent or publisher go, "I need to read this." Words that say, "This story is awesome, I know how to write clearly and concisely, and you should take a chance on me." And when these people get a few dozen queries a day, for which reading them is usually near the bottom of their To Do list, yours has got to jump out, grab them by the throat and scream, "I DESERVE YOUR ATTENTION!"

It's haaaaaard.

After months of studying Query Shark and AW's Query Letter Hell, I wrote a query. I thought it was awesome.

QLH disagreed.

Well, not with me. With each other. There was a mixed bag, but the general opinion was, "This story sounds awesome, you could probably get interest with this, but you can clean it up."

I have cleaned it up four times now, trying to narrow down what to include, what's not as important to know right now. Some people still prefer the first one I wrote, while others think the fourth one is getting close. The fifth one has gone to the squirrels now, so before it gets torn to shreds, I'm also going to share it here.


Seventeen-year-old Hannah MacIntyre is dead. It’s okay, though, she’s not dead-dead. At least, that’s what the boogeyman at the foot of her bed tells her before asking if he can have her socks. He’s hungry.

If the boogeyman is to be believed, Hannah’s won the afterlife lottery. She’s now a reaper - an immortal assistant to Death himself, tasked with filling the needs of both dead and undead. Guiding dead souls to the afterlife and supplying vampires with blood bags isn’t the work she imagined after graduation, but it’s got its perks. She’s seeing the world, meeting new people (albeit briefly), and making new friends, primarily with a walking glitterbomb preteen reaper who’s decided they’re putting the “forever” in BFF.

But Death favors protecting humans over indulging those undead who want to eat them, and the boogeymen and vampires are done being held back. Led by an undying sorcerer intent on becoming the new Death, they rip away the reaper’s immortality, execute Death, and begin feasting on the living, starting with Hannah’s coworkers. Without her boss to re-reaper-ize her, dying a second time isn’t an option, so Hannah flees, taking the reapers’ prized possession - the Earth’s hourglass - with her.

The world can’t survive long without someone doing Death’s job, but if the sorcerer’s coup succeeds, the surviving humans will be nothing more than cattle. Hunted by the vampires and struggling to relearn how to be mortal, Hannah must find someone to fill Death’s shoes herself or die again trying.

THE BUSINESS OF BEING DEAD is a YA paranormal fantasy complete at 67,000 words.


So there you have it. Attempt #5 to sum up my story in 250 words. We'll have to see how many further attempts get made until there's some sort of squirrely consensus.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

P is for Pirate Ninjas with a Spaceship

Nilanjana Bose left an apt comment on my N is for Names post.

She said, "Not just that characters name themselves, they mostly tell me their stories as well."

And, well, yes. Absolutely. Many, many writers have talked about getting stuck on a scene they had planned. Lord knows I've been there. You try and try to make it work the way you want, the way you planned since you started plotting, but it just isn't happening. The only way to fix it is to go back to the last point it was working and start over, because even though you're the writer, you're not writing the right story.

Non-writers will say, "But you're the writer, just make it the way you want," and the majority of us will say, "It doesn't work that way." Because in a way, our characters ARE telling us their story, and trying to tell them what to do is as if you jumped into a friend's recounted tale and gone, "And then you were kidnapped by pirate ninjas with a spaceship?" They're going to look at you and go, "No." It's just like that when writing and the characters have taken over the tale. We the writer are not in charge anymore. It's just us, our pens and keyboards, and whatever story the characters have to tell now, outlines be damned. It's a fascinating phenomenon in writing, and it happens to the best. Even Tolkien admitted as much, recounting how, when Strider appeared in Bree, he had as much idea who he was as Frodo.
So yeah, even the best, the greatest, the classics, told the story to their author as much as the author told it. And I have absolutely no idea why.

Monday, April 18, 2016

O is for Over Already?

Apologies for the late and short update today. This morning I had to show up for jury duty. Aaaaand it's done. I ended up one of the lucky few who was not called to sit a jury, although getting to watch one be selected was an experience. I'll post a full update later, if I can figure out a letter to post it on!

Hope you all had lovely days. Regular on-time updates resume tomorrow. And hello to everyone who has stopped in and commented lately!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

N is for Names

Do you name your characters, or do they name themselves?

I've lost count of the number of times I've seen authors struggling to come up with names for their characters. You'd think, "Well, we're the writers. We can just give them whatever name." And you'd be wrong. I can spend a hundred years telling a character he's named Dave, and he'll spend just as long denying it. It's like a mother trying to feed her stubborn baby, and not even the airplane or choo-choo game is gonna work. Because when it comes to making characters, they may not know what their names are, but they sure as heck will know what isn't right for them.

I could have tried to name my boogeyman something dark like Malthus, but no, he very much insisted he was Dave. I had a character quite clearly tell me her name was Heather when it had been years since I'd even known a Heather. I threatened another character with naming him Ashley if he didn't cooperate, and surprise, he actually liked that one. And I am not the only author that encounters this sort of situation. Sure, there are likely some people who decide for their characters, but more often than not, the person I'm writing tells me who they are.

Is this something you experience when writing, or do your characters accept the names you give them without a fight 100% of the time?

Friday, April 15, 2016

M is for Motivation

I feel like I owe something a little more after yesterday's post. So, to counteract Lazy, let's look at motivation.

Some days, it feels like the hardest thing in the world is to find the motivation to do anything. Get out of bed, get dressed, exercise, write... No matter how much I love it, like a overdramatic actress, I need my motivation. The first two, the risk of losing my job is enough. The third, the loss of my health and the number on the scale. But writing? There's no immediate loss if I decide I'd rather dedicate a few hours to a video game instead. But then days pass without writing and the game gets finished and maybe a few books, and I remember I can't quit my job and become a full-time writer unless I get some stuff written first. Ultimately, though, writing at a particular moment is, for the current time, optional, and it has to fight with all the other optional things in my life for attention.

Through trial and error, I've managed to find a few motivators that work to get me doing something optional.

1) NaNoWriMo is magic for me, but then, I'm pretty sure I've talked about this a thousand times before. Which is a hip trick since I only have 100 posts.

2) Momentary willpower. If I try to do anything long term, like "write every day," I eventually slack off or give myself a by-day or miss a day and sulk until I miss more days. But one day at a time, a few hours at a time, and I can accomplish anything. If I tell myself, "I will not play that game/eat that chocolate/buy that book until I've edited five pages/written 500 words/finished that novel," by golly, those pages will be edited, words written, and novel finished because I want that game/chocolate/book. Anything that lasts more than a few days, though, and I don't have the endurance to complete it.

And, uh, that's it, so far. Other motivators I've tried haven't panned out as well. So tell me, dear readers, what do you do to motivate yourself?

Thursday, April 14, 2016

L is for Lazy

I'm really not feeling it today, y'all. It's my last day of the work week before my little sister comes into town for the weekend, and I've got a lot on my plate in the office to try and finish up what everyone needs before I go on my who-knows-how-long leave for jury duty. So I'm gonna call this a cheat day and I'm sorry.

Yeah, I know it's not really laziness when I'm scrambling for other stuff, but, well, I probably could write more. I just don't feel like it.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

K is for Kindle

There's still a pretty massive debate over preferences for ebooks or real books. Some people are certain ebooks are killing bookstores, and that in a few short years, paperbacks will be a thing of the past. Bookstores will be a relic, a corpse with a Kindle standing over it, a murder mystery cover on its screen. Maybe one with a knife on it. Of course, they've been certain about that for several short years now.

Except there's something I've noticed often about people who stay this: they're usually in a bookstore. Often a bookstore with many other people in it. Whether it's a small independent place or a big box store, there is still so much value in a brick and mortar store. And Kindles and other ebook readers can't replace that. They aren't meant to. Ereaders fill a completely different niche.

There's a comic I see around with a broom and a book at a bar. The broom's telling the book, "Relax, buddy. They invented the vacuum cleaner and I'm still here." Likewise, the creation of escalators and elevators hasn't removed stairs. The hot water heater hasn't excised the cold water tap. People have different desires and needs at different times, even when it comes to books.

I love my Kindle. I like that I can try out books I'm not 100% certain on with the ereader, usually saving a little money and a ton of space. With around 150 ebooks ranging from Neil Gaiman's short stories to Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell, I'd need a completely new bookcase or two to fit them. Instead, they're all on one little device I can easily slip into my purse. I don't have to worry about bending the pages or leaving them behind on trips. And hey, no papercuts.

I also adore my already overstocked bookshelves. I love the look and feel and smell of real books. I love libraries and bookstores and the feeling of being surrounded by books and book lovers. There is nothing like scanning the shelves of a bookstore for something new and surprising. People who work in publishing and stores will tell you physical stores are still the best place to market books, and that most people discover new books on real shelves. How often have you discovered a new read by scanning a friend's bookcase? Probably not infrequently.

This weekend, I watched as a mother had her 6-year-old daughter read the first page of The Hobbit in a bookstore, up to "and his name was Baggins." It was a momentous occasion for the mother, and it wouldn't have been remotely the same with an e-reader. Nor could I have shoved a copy of Good Omens into the mother's hands, telling her it was one of my favorites and she would love it while she flipped through the first few pages. Amazon can never replace that. So don't worry about ebooks making your favorite bookstores vanish. There has been and will always be a special place in everyone's hearts for the smell of a new book.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

J is for Janet Reid

So there's probably a 99% chance you guys already know about Janet Reid and her blogs. But just in case, I've chosen them to represent the letter J, because I value that 1% enough to direct you the right way.

Janet's daily blog - A behind-the-scenes look into the head of an agent, where Janet answers your questions and questions you didn't know you had about getting an agent, querying, and getting published. She also does incredibly fun 100 word story challenges some weekends, and her talented readers step up to the plate with gusto.

Query Shark - The best site for someone getting ready to start their query, Janet accepts queries for review and tears into them with sharkish enthusiasm, giving her thoughts and advice to batter the query to perfection. Up-and-coming query writers can learn a lot just by reading the ones she's workshopped. With 275 queries posted, it's an incredible reference for anyone about to dive into the shark pit themselves.

If you write with the desire to be published, you probably already know about the hell that is queries. I'm in it right now, trying to condense the entirety of The Business of Being Dead down to 250 words that'll entice someone to read more. It's actually not going too insanely bad, and that's mostly thanks to Janet and Query Shark (and the many incredible posters in AW's Query Letter Hell). Perhaps I'll share what I have so far when Q comes up next week.

Monday, April 11, 2016

I is for The Story of I

I very nearly almost did ice cream after all. It's Monday, and I'm tired. "Could I get away with sleeping under my desk" tired.

So what the heck do I mean by "The Story of I"? I'm not going to spend the whole post just talking about me, am I? Worry not, dear readers. You'll not be bored to tears by vanity. Nah, this is to talk about an idea.

First person POV: "I went to the store."
Third person POV: "John went to the store."

But what if. What if your main character is named I? Look at that first sentence again. Knowing that the narrator is named I, can you tell what POV the sentence is?

It's a challenge I've wanted to do for the longest time: write a short story (because I can't fathom trying an extended piece) that, at the end, leaves the reader uncertain whether the POV is first or third. It'll take a lot of work. I can't use "my", "his", present tense, or various other common phrases that might give the perspective away. But I want to do it. Honestly, the hardest part of the challenge right now is coming up with a story for it!

If this idea tickles your fancy, I invite you to try it, and please, when you're done, share it or a link in the comments. I'd love to see what other people can do with this while I try to figure out what I'm going to do with it.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

H is for (One) Hundred Posts!

Well... almost! This is post number 99! You have no idea how tempted I was to backdate a post I started to write a while ago. But I will have integrity, which would be a good word for tomorrow. But then, so would "ice cream".

What? It deserves to be a topic worthy of being post #100. See you all on Monday for whatever I decide to do for "I".

Friday, April 8, 2016

G is for Gaming

Because why not, right? I love games. I grew up with a giant collection of board games and spent days with my grandparents playing card games. When I got a computer, I treasured my computer games and when my parents finally consented to let me get a Super Nintendo, I fell head over heels for video games.

It's what I'm doing when I'm not reading or writing. It's a chance to let my mind rest when I've overworked it. You can usually find me tapping away on my Xbox controller, running something on Steam, or prodding at my 3DS. I have far, far more games than I should based on how many I've actually played and beaten. I'm trying to get better about that. *Looks at still-growing list of Steam games, plus hard copy games* It, uh, it's not working out so well.

Anyway, my current game of choice is Stardew Valley. I've been curious about the Harvest Moon series and the Animal Crossings for a while, so when this cute-looking game that somewhat combined the two came out, I decided, "Why not?"

Two weeks and 65+ hours of gametime later, it's been days since I've written. My query goes un-updated after the last round of Hell crits. I took out a rejection on a mine full of slimes, then made my character eat, like, five ice cream cones.

I swear I'll get back to my writing soon. Just, you know, as soon as this crop season finishes. And maybe once I've found all the artifacts.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

F is for... I Forget

I am so incredibly forgetful. Like, if I don't do something immediately for my dayjob, I'll hear about it a few days or weeks later when they say, "Hey, did you ever do [blank] for me?" And then I remember that I'd gotten distracted by another, smaller problem and never did a thing with it and have to scramble to throw whatever it is together. It's an aspect of myself that I am ashamed of, but I've come up with a few things to combat it.

1) I use Habitica to track daily tasks and things I intend to do long-term. It's a site that lets you turn your chores into a game. You gain experience, fight monsters, accept quests, earn weapons, armor, pets, and mounts, and, of course, get your shit done. It doesn't cost anything to sign up or play, but there are special things you can only earn by donating. None of it is required, though, and they give you plenty to do without opening your wallet. It's kept me honest and on time for a year or so now. I can highly recommend it if games and competition are your sort of motivator.

2) For writing, I keep an "ideas file" on Google Drive. I am most definitely the kind of person who'll get a fantastic idea while out and about and forget it by the time I get home. With the ideas file, as long as I can get to a computer, phone, or tablet, I can add whatever new thoughts slipped into my head and have it waiting for me to expand upon when I get home. Plus, I have a list of every idea (backed up, too) and all the notes so that I don't forget anything. Without it, I'd probably only have half a dozen story ideas I can remember instead of... well, an absurdly high number that'll keep me busy for a few...


I need to implement something like this for work, as well. And then, and this is the troublesome part, I need to remember I have it.

What do you do to help you remember things?

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

E is for English

English is a violent language.

I have a friend on social media who is an Italian going to school in Germany. Her English is excellent considering it's at least her third language. But it makes for some interesting conversations.

Her: I have my Italian exam still to take.
Me: I'm sure you'll destroy it.
Her: Destroy? I was always good in Italian. That's not very encouraging.

It's a strong word, destroy, and one we use so casually. "I'm going to destroy you at Mario Kart." "I got destroyed at the audition." So I had to explain to her no, in this case, "destroy" is good. It meant she was going to do so well, her exam would not be a semblance of a threat to her. And then I tried to think of other phrases she might not have been familiar with. It quickly became a downhill slide of violence.

- Wreck - "I wrecked that test."
- Annihilate - "Bob annihilated his speech."
- Murder - "I was so hungry, I murdered my cheeseburger."
- Hit - "Let's hit a Starbucks."

Ramen Empire (July 3rd, 2014, used with permission)
We express a lot with violence. Like, way too much. I, to my shame, do not know any other languages well enough to hold a conversation, much less know their slang, but I wonder if there are any others that embrace violence as casually as we do. And we wonder why there's so much violence in our country. People say it's our video games, our movies, our television. How rarely do we stop and realize it's in our language.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

D is for Dammy!

I feel obligated to make this one, because Damoclian, a friend from Absolute Write, started up a blog recently, and it's kinda sorta mostly my fault.

You see, Dammy likes to share what he's finished reading in our regular chatty space. And he is... enthusiastic. Obscenely so, with posts filled with exclamation points and emoticons everywhere when he likes it. And it works. His excitement sells us books, makes you curious to read short stories. Imagine if you asked a fangirl to review her favorite book. The result is an average positive review from Dammy. He knows what he likes and he likes what he reads. So I kinda sorta prodded him to start a blog.

And he did.

He's still getting going, mostly reviewing short stories we wrote for the Secret Solstice Sci-Fi Fantasy Story Swap, but he's got books lined up, in that he's already done a few, and many of us are planning on giving him our own once available. So give his blog a look and follow for upcoming reviews.

This has been your shameless plug for the week.

Monday, April 4, 2016

C is for Critique

Just so you know, I had the HARDEST time coming up with a post topic that wasn't "Cookie". That fuzzy blue monster has ruined me for the letter C.

After making an absurdly long list that mostly didn't appeal to me because I didn't feel like I had anything to talk about (or were just silly. Like Cake, because screw you, cookies.*)

I can, however, talk about critiques, because I've been wading into the pool for the past, what, two years now? Yeah, it was two years ago that I joined my critique group, and you know, I'm still learning how to do it. Not right, there isn't really a right way to critique, but best, in ways that gives useful feedback to the person receiving critiques. I've gotten decent at query critiquing, but not quite good enough to come out with a perfect draft of my own. Plus side, the critiques I've received have been positive, but I'm not quite there yet. 

For larger crit, though, one thing I've noticed is everyone seems to notice different things while critiquing. Some people are more naturally editors while others are proofreaders. Many of my companions are excellent at finding the big picture problems. They can see the whole garden and tell you where you screwed up the feng shui. I am not one of these people. I'll notice the one sentence that's confusing, the red tulip in the bed of yellows. When someone else points out the bigger issues, I can see them, but finding them myself? Not happening. It's why, right now, I'm depending on beta readers for Business of Being Dead. Because no matter how much I study other people's feng shui analysis, I feel like I'm still just standing here looking at the red tulip.

*I didn't mean it, cookies. I love you.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

B is for Best Friends

Every story could stand to have a good Best Friend character. They're the spice to the main character's main course. Sure, spaghetti in tomato sauce can taste good with just pasta and tomato sauce, but add in some garlic and salt and BAM. That's what your character's best friend is; they're the BAM.

(Don't sue me, Emeril.)

Just imagine Luke Skywalker without Han Solo. Harry without Ron. Steve without Bucky. They're the balance to the MC. Where Luke is a whiny but obedient nephew who doesn't really take risks, Han's the world-weary traveler who lives by his own rules. Where Harry's the famous kid who has no idea what's going on, Ron's the "just another Weasley" who knows everything about the magic world. They contradict each other and help each other survive through those contradictions. And usually, in my own opinion, the best friends are more fun. The hero has to save the world, the day, or whatever it is that needs saving. The best friend, though, they're not required to be the one with the weight on their shoulders, and as a result, they tend to be more vibrant, quirky characters. They're the comedy relief, the voice of reason, and the hero's motivation in one package.

In The Business of Being Dead, I've got Shelley. Where the MC, Hannah, doesn't have any idea what's going on and tends towards being a mature almost-adult, Shelley's an experienced, knowledgeable, permanent kid-at-heart. Hannah doesn't have time for frivolities. I don't really even know what her hobbies were when she was alive. She didn't have time for them, and she doesn't discuss them. Shelley, though, was a thrill-seeker, habitual storyteller, and is obsessed with glitter. She was the adventurer where Hannah's the homebody. She's the squealing giggles in the quiet, the shine in the darkness, the weirder in the already-weird, and I get the feeling she's going to be a lot of people's favorite character.

So what about you, dear readers? Do you have a best friend for your MC, and if so, who are they and what do they bring to the table?

Friday, April 1, 2016

A is for April

Folks, I've gone mad. And this is not an April Fools anything. Bear with me here.

I decided not to do Camp NaNo this April simply because the month is so insanely busy.

But I decided I'm going to try the annual A to Z blogging challenge. Because I've gone mad. If I can keep up with it, there'll be a new post here every day of the month except for Sundays. So check back in, and if I'm not updating, shame me.

So what does April hold that's got me so busy? Well for one thing, I turn 30. And on a Sunday too, so I'll get my birthday off! But I've also got jury duty. Blegh. That'll be a new experience. I just hope if I have to go and am selected, I don't get held up for longer than a few days. While my day job does pay me for the days I'll be out, I have concert tickets for that next Saturday and if I get sequestered, I shall be severely put upon.

Along with that, there's also my "little sister" coming all the way from Florida to see me for my birthday and a geek-themed craft fair, and maybe even a comic book convention. We've also got one more week of home renovations at least, then a deep clean to take care of the copious amounts of dust our house holds, spring cleaning to do...

It's gonna be a busy month. And I'm going to do twenty-six blog posts.

I must be mad.