Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Good Intentions...

I had it all planned -- a really spectacular post on Halloween and the history -- or maybe some really cool photos of food and costumes.  But, that didn't happen. I finally got R moving to get their senior pictures done and had planned on a shooting those, which didn't happen because of reasons neither of us could control.  So, I spent most of the evening checking off boxes on my to-do list.  Research wise.  I also painted my nails this really cool sparkly orange color, while R watched one show or movie I didn't understand at all and part of a horror movie she's seen three times.

I have a new approach to de-cluttering my house.  Which, should prove to be very interesting.  Assuming I won the jackpot tonight, after buying the house I want, what goes with us? Exceptions are furniture, dishes, pots/pans, silverware, and glasses. Which I'm not tossing because I'm not ready to replace them.  Well, I am, my pocketbook - yeah, not so much.  So, if I'm not willing to move it -- then it needs to go. Tomorrow, I plan on starting on those boxes in my office I need to get rid of.

I also need to start working on the map I need for Forbidden.  NaNo is just around the corner.

Need to make a Halloween Graveyard Cake. Parts of these will do nicely.

Also on my to-do list for October is to revise my Writing Plan and get my goals for 2017 down -- the big ones - that are really more like projects because there are multiple parts to them, and the smaller ones.

I found R's birthday cake for next year:

Have a spooktacular day.


Monday, October 24, 2016

From The Writing Desk -- Rambling

Just about two weeks ago, maybe a bit longer, I renewed my commitment to myself and to my dream of writing full time.  I've been sidelined by a respiratory infection that took more out of me than I thought, but also by bad habits I have to change.  It didn't take any sort of self-analysis to figure out where most of time was being spent -- computer this city or empire, find the candy matches, catch the killer by looking for random items in a picture filled with weird crap that doesn't belong. So, I deleted them. Left the candy one, because some times easy games are good.

To recap - my goals last week were:

Research/Story Development/Character Development: 4 hours
Writing - 3 Times at 500 words each
WIP: Behind the Masque

Non-Writing Goals:
Create Organization and De-clutter Plan
Read at least 30 minutes a day (I really got away from reading)
Walk around block/neighborhood 3 times this week

I wrote twice this week, I didn't clear 500 words either time, but I did reread and change a few things here and there before adding more words. I worked on Behind the Masque this week, and will until NaNo ends.  My NaNo project is titled Forbidden, and is a fantasy novel.  I did do a little bit of research and some brainstorming on Forbidden, I didn't keep track of my research hours, but that's less important to me than getting my butt in front of my computer and writing is anyway.

I don't know if setting a goal to have my office and bedroom de-cluttered and organized by the full moon in December counts as an organization plan, but I have written out my re-design plans for a good portion of my house.  De-cluttering is key though, I definitely feel better after getting rid of crap. 

I did read this week, I'm about half-way through Mansfield Park by Jane Austen.  I found a layout for tracking books to read and that have been read in a Bullet Journal on Pinterest and decided that sounded like a fantastic idea. Except I need a whole journal just for reading.  Starting with the list of Classics on the back of the Barnes and Noble edition of Mansfield Park, I want to read all of them.  I also found a list of books read by Rory Gilmore on the Gilmore Girls, which I haven't watched, but the list looked fascinating.

I've set an overall goal to read one non-fiction and fiction book each month.  More would be nice, but baby steps.

There was no walking around the neighborhood.  I did, however, walk as a band chaperone Friday and Saturday.  Senior Night at the football game, and a band competition.  Two more competitions and the season is done.  Weird when I think about it, but not sad or disorienting.

This week's Goals:

Writing Goals:
Research/Story Development/Character Development: 4 hours
Writing: 3 Times at 500 Words Each
WIP: Behind the Masque

Non-Writing Goals:
Read at least 30 minutes a day
Walk around the neighborhood 3 times
Go through 3 boxes in my office - sort (keep, toss, sell) and find a home


Monday, October 17, 2016

From the Writing Desk -- NaNoWriMo

It's that time of year again.  The leaves are changing colors, at least in the northern half of the US, I can safely assume Canada and Alaska too, the days are shorter, and there is some sort of weird battle going on between Pumpkins and Apples.  It's harvest season, indulge in both. It's almost Halloween, so there are costumes, candy, and spooky decorations everywhere.  That also means that NaNoWriMo is around the corner.   

What is NaNo, aka NaNoWriMo?

It's National Novel Writing Month.  Started in San Fransisco, CA in 1999 by Chris Baty and a group of friends, it's a month long writing challenge meant to temporarily silence inner editors and focus on the story.  For a lot of people it's the kick in the pants they need to either start writing, something they've always wanted to do, or to start writing again, something they stopped doing for any number of reasons.  For others, the energy of taking on the challenge, of racing time, and being around writers - and the sheer amount of writing energy is intoxicating and a reminder of why they do what they do.  Take the time to read the History of NaNo  on the NaNoWriMo website.

There are checklists available, blogs and videos on prepping for NaNo or what the correct way to write is.  There is an official prep page on the NaNo site.  There is no correct way, no right way to write a story.  How each person writes, is the best way THEY write.  I have friends who must complete a 50-page outline with 13 page character biographies before they start writing, and others that start writing with a fully formed idea running around their head, but change title names and character names a dozen times before the end of the first draft. Me, I have an idea about the story, or at least the opening scene and who my main characters are.  Before I start writing, I need to know what they look like and a title, which means I kind of know what the story is going to be about.  Sometimes. 

I spotted a post from a writer friend, BG Thomas, that listed 20 Rules of Writing as stated by Stephen King, in his book On Writing.  Fabulous book, every writer should read.

Of the 20 rules listed, not a single one of them states  you have to write this way or do that, you have to plot, you have to...fill in the blank.  None.  Does your book need a plot -- yes, it's helpful to those reading the story.  Do you need to know it before you start? No. As long as you know it at the end of your first draft.  Should you keep track of the details  -- yes.  That way you have one place to look and remind yourself that your lead character has blue eyes or the scar/tattoo/distinguishing mark is on the left side. 

While I'm a firm believer in 'there are no minor details' - ask fans of books or long running TV shows - they know all of those details -- the first draft is just that a first draft.  This is where you figure out what those details will be.  Three different eye colors for the same character -- make the decision and when you go back to re-write it, make the changes then. 

That brings us to editing and writing, first drafts, editing as you go, and vomit drafts.  Some people edit as they go.  Their inner editor stops and fixes everything before moving on.  Spending days, weeks, or months on the first chapter or opening scene.  What NaNo does is give people permission to send their inner editor on vacation -- I assume mine join all of the other inner editors, who have also been given a 30 day all expense paid vacation to Tahiti. Instead of agonizing over every word or scene, you get it out.  If it's on paper, it can be fixed.  If it stays in your head it can't be.

Confession, there are times, many of them in fact, where I was having problems with a scene because something wasn't lining up, so I'd write as far as I could then type in huge bold letters "insert fight/sex/whatever scene here." I like to have names for everybody, but sometimes there is a placeholder reading 'sidekick a' or 'minion x'.  I can fix those later. When I re-read it before I start revising it, or the right information hits me before that.  I like King's advice to put your manuscript away for 6 weeks before opening it again.  Work on something else or if it's your NaNo novel, there are winter holidays to be enjoyed (or endured, depending on your point of view) before opening it back up at the beginning of the year.

One of the things that NaNo has, and I haven't taken advantage of until recently, is local meet-ups and write-ins.  Another new thing I'm doing this year, and not just for my NaNo project, but for all of my projects is keeping individual journals for each project.  I have my writer's journal that goes pretty much everywhere with me, if I have ideas it goes in there, so do random thoughts, inspiration, and anything else I can think of.  Once home, I can transfer any project notes into the appropriate journal, it also gives me a chance to see if what I'm adding makes sense with what's already there. 

NaNo is meant to be a challenge.  The goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days, which works out to be 1,667 words a day.  If you can write 45 words in a minute, you can 2,700 words in an hour. 

Me, I write in 15 minute spurts and shoot for 250 words a pop, which is 1,000 words.  The word count for my NaNo project is closer 100,000 words.  It's a fantasy, those require more world building.  In which case, my word count goal should be 3,337 words a day. If I make the 1,667 I'll be thrilled. 

You can find ideas for word trackers on Pinterest, Instagram, and the NaNo site.  Using Google, Pinterest, or Instagram you can find ideas for different worksheets for character development, plot development, and settings.

Pull up a notebook or laptop and join the fun.


Sadly, I didn't make any of my goals, I was side-lined by an upper respiratory infection.

My goals this week...

Research/Story Development/Character Development: 4 hours
Writing - 3 Times at 500 words each
WIP: Behind the Masque

Non-Writing Goals:
Create Organization and De-clutter Plan
Read at least 30 minutes a day (I really got away from reading)
Walk around block/neighborhood 3 times this week

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Book Report -- Power Of Focus
When I was at the library looking for The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, I found The Power of Focus by Jack Canfield, Mark Hansen, and Les Hewitt, as well as The Eighth Habit by Covey.  I recognized Jack Canfield's name from The Secret - the book and the documentary.

In short it's a self-help book that is supposed to lead you down the path to financial success and freedom.  That is what it says.  I didn't find magic spells or quick, get-rich schemes in there. I wasn't expecting to. 

I assumed it was a self-book on the order of the Covey books - tools to help you achieve success.

I was not disappointed.

Like many self-help for entrepreneurs, this is geared towards people who have a more traditional business or at least less artsy.  There are plenty of businesses that probably aren't defined as traditional - think of all the businesses on Etsy or that make the rounds of craft shows and bazaars.  But, when compared to writing, they are more likely to fit a traditional business plan.  I'm not an artist, actor, or singer, so I have no idea how or if any of the principles I read about could be applied.

The book covers topics such as strategy, habits, focus, the big picture, goals, creating balance, building relationships, developing confidence, asking for what you want, consistent persistence, decisive action, and living on purpose. 

Each chapter covers a topic and there is at least one action step to be completed in every chapter.  Sometimes the action steps are things like - identify your good and bad habits then create a three-step plan to change a bad habit.  The questions ask you to look hard at yourself, to be completely honest with where you are and where you want to be.  They challenge you to develop specific, measurable, manageable goals, but also remind you to balance work and play, and that developing good personal relationships or fixing the relationship with your spouse/family is as important as developing good business relationships.

I did the exercises as I read the book, which helped identify habits I need to change and who my 'core clients' are, but also helped with goal-setting.  For me, specifically, it was how I set goals.  Some of my goals weren't specific or measurable, so there was no real way to check it off as complete. Others are better long-term than short-term.  And some are slightly loftier than my pocketbook can pay for.  I'm okay with that.  Some of my favorite quotes include:

"Everything you want is on the other side of fear."

"Quality is not an act, it's a habit."

"Consistent persistance and a proactive game plan build unstoppable momentum."

"You will never achieve big results in your life without consistent and persistent action."

This wasn't a writing book.  It wasn't about either the craft of writing or the career of a writer.  Still, there were aspects that I can apply to my career.  Writing is half art and half business. The exercises and activities in this book, along with the stories and advice work for pretty much any one.  As I get ready to sit down and make plans for the rest of this year and next year, I look forward to incorporating the ideas into my own existing Strategic Plan and the goals/business plan I need to create for 2017.


Monday, October 10, 2016

From the Writing Desk - Family

I had things all planned out this week.  What I needed to do, what I wanted to do. I set my goals for the week. That didn't happen.  Looking back, I don't think they were overly optimistic.  I hadn't counted on getting sick at the end of the week or starting the week with a 3-day headache with light/smell sensitivity. It sounds like an excuse - I'm sure there are people out there that write with Pneumonia or a Migraine.  I have.  I'm not. For a couple of reasons. I hate being sick, I don't want this crap sticking around any longer than it is.  Also, I'm out of sick leave at the day job, which means I would have to go into work sick.  No body wants that.  That crap will fly through our department in a heartbeat and come back around and strike again. Because that is what happens when you work in an office full of people who routinely 'push through the pain and the ick'. Monday is a Federal Holiday, I don't have to work.  I took Tuesday off as a vacation day because I can't go to GRL this year and wanted some time off anyway.  So, my four-day vacation I am spending in bed, flipping between either HGTV and Food Network and Netflix or sleep.

Sunday was my kid's 18th Birthday.  Hard to believe.  It has been a most interesting ride.  I remember when they were born, a bouncing baby girl! (I thought). So tiny that the sleeper I brought her home in was 3 inches too big all the way around and she wouldn't keep a hat on her head.  Ever.  Her grandmother pegged her as alert and observant at 2 months old.  My pride and joy.  Growing up she was surrounded by Rennies, an Honor Fraternity when I back to school, Veterans, family, and both in front of and behind the camera.  She went to Pride with me one weekend and a motorcycle rally the next.  She dealt with a parent dealing with PTSD. She discovered Supernatural. And cutting.  And fear that even though I was bi and write MM Romance, I would hate her for being bi.  And hate her again when they realized they weren't female, but genderfluid.  I am proud of them.  For learning to be true to themself. I mourned the loss of the name I had given her, but celebrate the one they chose.  R is unique.  An artist and musician, who would rather spend 3+ hours a day in wood-shop than any other class. Except maybe music. 

It's been a stressful couple of months in our house, R's father is still in the hospital on an island in the pacific ocean, but my mom has been given a clean bill of health after the cancer scare. My brother, who is not only a staunch Republican and Conservative Evangelical, has moved from family is annoying and LGBT people are wrong/evil/it's a choice to family is important, and accepting LGBT people and that it's not a choice.  He texts just to say hi.  It's kind of weird.  Family is weird.

My goals this week...

Research/Story Development/Character Development: 4 hours
Writing - 3 Times at 500 words each
WIP: Forbidden.

Non-Writing Goals:
Create Organization and De-clutter Plan
Read at least 30 minutes a day (I really got away from reading)
Walk around block/neighborhood 3 times this week

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Random Research -- Naming Traditions

Humans name everything.  Sometimes in multiple languages, like the tree in my front yard.  It's not simply a Red Maple Tree, it also has a scientific designation Acer rubrum.  A good friend of mine named her gun, while another named her car.  And depending on which guy you ask, and probably how much alcohol has been consumed, they name their genitalia. Who am I to judge, my naviguesser is named Bessy.

A gun is either a gun or weapon depending on the gun-owner's experiences.  But then it can be broken down into more names - 9-milimeter, .357 magnum, etc.  Then there is the manufacturer's name.  So a gun or weapon is called a Glock G43, 9mm pistol or Brad.  The same goes for cars. A car named Jessie could be a truck, sedan, Jeep, or sportscar like a 1966 Mustang GT.

Humans and their names.  To be fair though, I don't know any talking non-humans, non-earth bound beings to ask their naming habits and traditions. Every muscle, bone, tendon, ligament, cell, and nerve in the body has a name.  Generally two of them.  A common name and a Latin name.  Ask any med student.

Names are important.  They help identify things, places, and most importantly people. New parents probably spend several months choosing just the right name or names for their new bundle of joy.  Pet parents also agonize over this decision, but generally take hours or days instead of months to decide.  All of a parents hopes and dreams along with identity and heritage is wrapped up in that name.

Naming traditions differ by culture and time period.  Today's parents may choose a family name, a more traditional name, or something ranging from slightly different to downright unique.  In the last several centuries of the last millennium, European countries used a similar naming pattern for their children:
From a genealogical standpoint this is both handy and a nightmare. Because if Nijs and JoAnna have seven children, 5 boys and 2 girls, the first born son of all seven boys will have the same first and last name.  Only middle names would be different.  Another thing to note, is that many times if a child died, that name would be reused the next time around.  In several of my Dutch family ancestors, the parents had two or three of the same name, especially if it was the grandfather's name.  In today's age, parents would draw heavy criticism for re-using a name belonging to a child they lost.

Early American settlers frequently chose names that were either Biblical (Mary, Joseph, Luke, etc) or were virtues they wanted to their child to possess (Patience, Charity, Prudence).  Scandinavians used a patronymic system.  Meaning, the son of Eric Olafson is not Lief Olafson, but Lief Ericson (sen is also used instead of son), this is also true for his daughters.  This system is still in place in Iceland today, and many Icelanders can trace their ancestors back thirteen generations.  From the genealogical point of view -- that one is the easiest to figure out lineage.

Some cultures have a public and a private name, others replace a childhood name with one earned as a step into adulthood, some want unique names, and others want more common names.

Names matter.  Naming systems and traditions matter.  If you create a culture where all of the male names start with a T or T' (T apostrophe then the rest of the name), you not only should know why -- maybe to honor a leader who passed into legend or a God or Goddess, you should also know why a female is given a name with the T or T' or why a male child does not.

Some things to consider when looking at naming traditions:

How many names does a person have? What is the significance, if any?

If the society is patriarchal in origin, what happens  - as in how a child is named -- when a child is born to a single mother?  Is there any difference if the child is male or female? What about orphans? And the children of orphans.

What if children carry the name of parent who matches their gender? What happens with transgender kids? or Transgender parents?

Is there a limited bank of names to choose from? If so, why?

Or like was mentioned in Star Trek at one point, are all the names a play off from a God/Goddess/leader's name?

What happens with names at death? Can the name be re-used? Can it be mentioned again? Is it considered a dishonor or a disgrace to not have a child named after an elder, such as a grand parent or elder uncle or aunt?

What about last names? Are they gendered like in Russian names (Alexandrov (male) and Alexandrova (female))?

What happens to names when parties marry? Divorce? Widow/Widower?

What assumptions regarding names are made?

Where I live in the US, the assumption is that when a man and a woman marry, the woman will take her husband's name and all of their offspring will have the man's name.  These are practices that are changing, slowly, not only because of same-sex marriage, but because women are choosing to keep their names, husbands are choosing to take their wife's name, or a couple is choosing or creating a brand new name. In my own family - my SIL took my brother's name, my step-sister hyphenated her and her husband's last names, and my step-brother and his wife combined parts of both of their last names to create something completely different.

When building a culture or a world, how someone is named has an effect on their identity.  What happens if you have a culture that has a private name reserved for only their closest friends or lovers and their Gods/Goddesses and a public name for everyone else and they fall for someone who has one name for everything? Or a character who in the course of helping a group/tribe/clan out is given a new name by the Shaman. Or chooses one. How those two different cultures and identities play out is another line of detail for a story.


The Importance of Names and Naming Patterns
Naming Traditions
Surnames in Russia
The Peculiarities of Icelandic Naming

A simple search of 'Naming Traditions' using Google brings up about 85 million hits. Every culture and country has it's own naming traditions and practices.  Traditions that have changed over time

Monday, October 3, 2016

From the Writing Desk - On Fear

In Frank Herbert's "Dune" Paul Atreides recites a prayer against fear:

     "I must not fear.  Fear is the mind-killer.  Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.  I will face my fear.  I will permit it to pass over me and through me.  And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.  Only I will remain."  

 In the William Hurt version of the movie, the Reverend Mother mocks him for this prayer.  The prayer gives him strength, brings him peace, it releases him from the grip of fear.  The sentence "Fear is the mind-killer" speaks the truth, but not all of it.

While not necessarily literally killing your mind, it does kill your creativity, your desire to live, your happiness, your dreams, and possibly even your love life.  Fear is powerful. It is the reason why it is so often used as a means to control populations.

Fear is big things like war, disease, plane crashes, and death, but it is also a small, persistent, and sometimes loud voice that is responsible for things like:

     You're not good enough.
     You'll never succeed.
     You'll never get published.
     You'll never get that role or sign that album deal.
     You'll never graduate.
     You didn't EARN your spot.
     You'll never measure up to X, Y, or Z. 
     You'll never get ahead. 
     You'll never change.
     You'll never make money with that dream.
     You'll never achieve your dreams.
     You'll succeed, but everyone will figure out you're a fraud.


Every single thing fear says is a lie.  It's not say everything will be sunshine and rainbows, but fear lies. It keeps you sedentary, stagnant, and under it's -- or someone else's -- control.  It keeps dreams and miracles from happening.

Fear is what is causing my brother's 22-year marriage to fracture.  Because he's afraid to follow his dreams, fear is manifesting itself in pursuit of a relationship with another woman.

Fear of success, of failure, of looking like a fool or fraud.  Fear of the unknown.

Fear is paralyzing.

Fear is also only as powerful as you allow it to be.

One of those inspirational posters that I've seen around the VA and assorted Military-related places has a saying that makes sense to me.

"Courage isn't the absence of fear, but facing it and doing it anyway."

The book I'm reading, The Power of Focus, relates a story about a firefighter and fear.  Firefighters face fear every time they run into a burning building, but they acknowledge it then go in anyway. One of the section ends with this quote:

"Everything you want is on the other side of fear."

I wrote it on a sticky note and taped it to the wall in my office.  It sparked a discussion with one of my co-workers.  For most people change is scary.  If you have kids or other people depending on you, change can be down right terrifying -- paralyzing.

The hardest part when facing fear is not to figure out what you're scared of, it's to take the first step.  It's been suggested to answer the question - what is the worst that can happen? Seriously, I'm a writer with a vivid imagination, depending on what that question is in relation too, that could be pretty grisly.  But, in relation to being a writer....the worst that can happen is that the publisher, agent, or editor says no.  Okay, yes, the rejection letter you receive is very professional and says, thanks but no thanks, or fix these things and resubmit, even though it reads like you're the worst human imaginable and everyone in the office laughed at your feeble attempt at a story.  And if you succeed? You'll be exposed as a fraud?  Unless you're actually plagiarizing someone else's work or lying about credentials, or stating a story is absolutely true and not just based on true events, this isn't that will actually be of concern. Publishing is a business, and regardless of what people like my ex tried to tell me, they aren't going to buy something to laugh at you.  Publishers buy books or sign contracts with authors to make money.  They want the best storytellers because that's how they make money.

Once you answer the question, what is the worse that can happen, the hard part is taking a step into fear.  It is far easier to clean my house, play computer/video games, watch television, or read a book than it is for me to write.  My biggest challenge appears to be a focus issue, not in the form of ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder, which is a real condition that needs to be diagnosed by a doctor), but in the form of procrastination.  What is procrastination, but a form of fear (it's also laziness or lacking in urgency, but for me in writing, it's a form of fear).  When it comes right down to it, I'm afraid that I'm not good enough or that I'm a fraud - in that I didn't earn the book sale.  It plays with low self-confidence.  The reasons could take some digging, but I have to ask myself is tracking down the reasons, which could be multiple, a good use of my time, or can I successfully knock the reasons aside, make a plan, throw in some accountability, and do it any way?

The therapist I see told me once that the why doesn't matter.  I looked at her like she'd grown three heads. Of course the why mattered.  How else was I going to get through it? Get better?  It took a lot of soul searching before I realized what she meant.  The why, the reason or reasons behind this or that can be varied and numerous.  Understanding the why, isn't going to give me the push forward.  What it does, is keeps me tethered to the same place. It's impossible to move forward, if you're always looking back.  The reason why doesn't matter.  The action does.  And it's easier for fear to find you if you stand still, are stagnant.

A while back I created a Strategic Plan for my writing career and life.  It didn't factor in fear or stress, which while different absolutely opens the door for fear to invite itself in.  In early September I discovered a new planning system, Bullet Journal, and while planners aren't new to me, so far this seems to be working.  Creating an action plan, along with manageable goals that take into account that not only do I have a full time day job and family commitments, I am dealing with mental health issues that can make getting things done difficult.  I also gave myself permission to take time off when I need it, like when my mom called me in tears because she'd been diagnosed with cancer.

I bought a cheap graphing notebook and started sketching a new story in it.  It's dark, the music that is shaping the soundtrack, the images that caught my attention on Pinterest, and images of the story arch that I've seen are all dark. I have books I need to write, stories I've started and are still waiting to be finished, but I'm afraid that if I work on one of those I'll either ruin the story or I'll stop part way through.  It's happened in the past.  Would it happen again? Maybe.  Maybe not. But a dark story idea arrived and it's a good place to channel the energy that is flowing.

My goals this week (Monday thru Sunday) are:

Research/Story Development/Character Development: 4 hours
Writing: 3 times, 500 words each session
WIP: Forbidden

Next Monday, I'll review what I accomplished.  I'll post them on Facebook page too, because accountability is important.

I write slow, for now.  At some point I'll write faster, but as long as I world build to the extent that I enjoy, it only makes sense to include it in my goals.