Spring has sprung (somewhat) here in the Pacific Northwest and everyone is talking about the new things the weather is bringing. Some are cleaning, some are getting their bikes ready to ride, and some are getting ready to pick up a second job because one job and college obviously isn’t enough of a work load while prodding their brains for plot bunnies.

Oh. Just me on that last one? Well, I was always told I was . . . masochistic special.

Even with my classes and jobs, I want to try some new things. First up: A new blogging schedule! My unexpected hiatus demonstrated that even one post a week is too much so I’m going to try posting every other Tuesday.

Secondly, I want to change something in my writing process. Namely, I want to be writing something. Skjulested is still gathering dust but I have other characters and plot fragments floating around in my brain, refusing to connect. This needs to change. While I would normally use Camp NaNo to bludgeon something loose, I would probably be a gibbering heap of stress, caffeine, and sleep deprivation by April 3rd if I tried Camp this year. (Dang it.)

I’m a very social writer and miss the company of my Twitter writing friends, so I’m looking into a writing group or a daily prompt that I can play around with. Skjulested started off as a series of drabbles and character exercises that refused to stop growing so I have high hopes.

What new things are you hoping to do in the spring?

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Well. I did not quite mean to take a six-month hiatus but school, NaNo, and more school combined kicked my blog off the back of the stove entirely. But, thanks to Nancy tagging me, I am BACK. What did I get tagged with? Talking about my writing process. Follow the link back to see what Nancy has on her brain at the moment. ‘Tis awesome, I promise.

What am I working on?

Ha. Haha. Currently, the light and love of my authorial life, the Skjulested trilogy, is on hiatus. When I came back to edit the first draft in January, I could not find the enthusiasm that sparked the trilogy back in 2010. Instead of trying to force myself to write/produce inferior work, I’m taking the chance to let some new plot bunnies grow and develop as I procrastinate on Latin take the time to read new material.

At the top of my brain are currently 4 character/plot bits who can’t decide how to slot together. There is a hapless library worker who finds himself stuck with a very annoying ghost-child; the tattoo artist who imbues her work with luck spells; a girl shoving her car off a cliff as she runs away (possibly onto an annoyed merman); and a granny mermaid.

How does my work differ from others in my genre?

Above all else, I write character. I prefer a protagonist who doesn’t fit the traditional “hero” mold for one reason or another and enjoy putting them in situations where they have to be a hero/leader/not themselves.

Why do I write what I do?

I cannot not write. I have ideas in my head and I’m very much of the “write the stories you want to read” persuasion. In my case, I want lots of magic smashed into the real world with plenty of mythology on the side and seeing how characters react and grow when shoved into a new role. Neil Gaiman, Melissa Marr, Naomi Novik, and Jessica Grey are all authors whose work I enjoy and look to for how to improve.

How does my writing process work?

1. Get a particularly persistent plot bunny.

2. Shove schoolwork to one side, write out scenes and tidbits to familiarize myself with the characters. A plot usually shows up at some point.

2a. Nag friends via text message and Twitter about character/plot elements/worldbuilding.

3. Write a NaNo draft during NaNoWriMo or Camp NaNo

4. Rewrite the NaNo draft into a first draft

5. Send off the draft to be lovingly shredded by beta-readers

6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 until I can think of nothing else to do

7. Publish!

(To be fair, I have yet to publish anything. My writing process is, itself, a work in progress.)

Tag, you’re it…:

Jill Marcotte

Tia Kalla

L.M. Murphy

Today is a very good day: After almost four and a half hours of Biology lab and lecture, I will make my way across town to my tattoo parlor and get my second tattoo. Appropriately enough, both my tattoos (so far) have been writing focused.

Last year, someone on Twitter joked that I should get the NaNoWriMo logo tattooed on my wrist in light of my unofficial ML status and the fact that I was flying down to San Francisco for the Night of Writing Dangerously, a deeply fantastic fundraiser for NaNoWriMo. Well. Between my decidedly unhelpful friends (both on Twitter and in real life) encouraging me, I found myself at Five Star Tattoo on November 14th with my friend Lindsey, explaining how I’d like to get the Office of Letters and Light (NaNoWriMo’s parent nonprofit) logo on my left wrist.

“Oh, sure, not a problem!” said Levon, the artist who had some free time between appointments. From signing the appropriate paperwork to wrapping my stinging skin in gauze, the entire process took less than half an hour. I was very pleased with the result and took great delight in showing my new tattoo to fellow Wrimos and the OLL office staff in San Francisco.

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(Nancy had much fun introducing me to the OLL staff and saying, “Look, I already got her branded!”)

The tattoo I’m getting today will follow the front arch of my left ribs and is a paraphrased quote from Doctor Who:

“We’re all stories in the end. Just make it a good one.”

While the source of the quote is meaningful in and of itself, I focus on the words themselves: We’re all stories in the end. As a writer I certainly hope my stories will be considered good ones. But more importantly, a person’s life is made up of stories told by friends and family that will outlast our bodies if they do as the Doctor suggests and “Make it a good one.”

EDIT: Here’s a photo of the new tattoo! The ink is a dark, TARDIS-esque blue and I am in love with it.

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In the course of my work, I get to hear a lot of “Back in my day…” speeches. It’s not a bad thing, far from it. Most of the time it’s an idle comment attached to how the patron is a) not comfortable with all the fancy new technology that surrounds us, b) or amazed at what technology can do now, or c) convinced that technology is rotting our brains. I nod and agree with a smile but inwardly, I’m itching to sit down and discuss the subject further because I find it fascinating to look back into the  past and current day to see how different generations react to different things. (Technology, education, and the job market/economy are my favorites to compare.)

This applies to writing, in its own, odd way: Despite the advent of social media, the stereotype of a writer being a solitary person who crafts his or her work by his or her lonesome lingers. It’s been dispersed some with authors readily blogging about their writing process and sharing how the publishing industry works but it still lingers. However, I have a suspicion that within a generation or two, the stereotype will be well and truly finished.

I’m part of Generation Y AKA the Millennials. I grew up with a computer and Internet (Who else remembers using Netscape?) and adapt to new technology with ease. For me, technology is one of the biggest writing tools at my disposal.

Looking for research on this Viking weapon or that bike messenger fatality statistic? Let me dust off my Google-fu.

Do I need to sit and write? I get Twitter friends to yell at me and I write more when participating in word sprints where I write for a set amount of time and then share my word count and last sentence written.

Banging my head against the keyboard to try and make my characters cooperate? I shoot off texts or instant messages to three or four friends to see what they think and weigh their responses in the back of my mind.

I feel that last one is especially telling— Whenever I have a problem, my first reaction is to crowdsource or seek out others to help devise a solution. Between the increasing interconnectedness of the world and that tendency to reach out to others for help I think the image of the solitary writer, pounding away at his keyboard, will morph into something a little less isolated.

For the past several days, I’ve been trying to turn my focus from writing all the Doctor Who fanfic bunnies hopping around in my brain to working on my own stories. To that end, I’ve been looking over my (very) basic outline of the second draft for Matters of Magic and have been busy remembering all the major structural changes I decided to make. (There were quite a few.)

Re-familiarizing myself with my characters after two months away has me paying particular attention to the dynamic between my two main characters, Cyrus and Sarkan. Sarkan is a Trickster god and quite the smooth, manipulative bastard leader. Cyrus…is quite the opposite. Shy, stuttering, and he loathes the spotlight. Despite that fact, Cyrus is my primary protagonist and Matters of Magic is going to explore how he copes with being thrust into positions where he is not only in the spotlight, but in charge. Cyrus is very much against the traditional hero-type.

Playing with that dynamic and figuring out how to make sure my readers are going to a) connect to Cyrus and b) root for him is one of my largest concerns. Especially when there is Sarkan who is so very charismatic and persuasive (even in my own mind) and has his own fascinating backstory itching to be revealed and intertwined with Cyrus’s. I’ve compromised, somewhat, in that the second draft of Matters of Magic will have both Sarkan and Cyrus as POV characters but at the same time I have the niggling fear that my beta readers are going to come back saying “Sarkan’s a much more interesting protagonist. Why not focus on him in stead?”

Well, the only way to find out is to shelve my fanfiction for the time being and get to work cranking out a second draft. It’ll be an interesting few months to say the least.

I’ve been back in school for two weeks now and it’s been…interesting. I’m taking Organismal Biology, Algebra Methods and Functions, Accessing Information Research (online), and, because my masochism knows no bounds, Latin (also online). I’ve also been running around trying to get my Financial Aid settled, adding a whole other layer of joy but that should be resolved by the end of this week.

Outside of classwork, I still have my part-time job at the library and my powers a co-Municipal Liasion (ML) for the Vancouver, Washington region for NaNoWriMo have finally kicked in. Nancy and I have all the NaNo events planned out, we’ll do the research for our pep talks in October, and in the meantime, I’ve been reading all the advice I can get my hands on in the ML Forums. Thankfully, the other newbie MLs are just as terrified as I am and we have mentor MLs who answer our every question about setting up events, encouraging Wrimos to come to said events, and writing pep talks.

All the new time commitments haven’t left me a whole lot of free time for writing but I’m sacrificing sleep making do and it’s been a wake-up call to tighten up my time management skills. I grew up with my mother earning two associate degrees and a national certification for her job, while working forty hours a week, and raising my older sister and me. I remember thinking, “I can’t do that! It’s hard enough going to regular school!”

It’s strange how perceptions change as you get older and when not doing something has Consequences. Fail a class? Have to retake it, pay more in tuition, and it takes longer to earn my degree. Not go to work? Out of a job, can’t support myself. Fail at being an ML? Nancy moves to England next year and the region descends into fire and chaos slowly declines into inactivity.

I find myself doing my homework for classes as soon as I get the assignments whenever I get the chance, whether I’m at home or on break at work. I’ve stopped checking DeviantArt, webcomics, Tumblr, and Twitter every hour. My consumption of fanfiction has gone down dramatically and miracles of miracles, I’m actually starting to be in bed, asleep, before midnight. Earlier, if I can manage it. My goal is to have set good habits so that by the time November and my next 50,000 words rolls around, I have enough time to write without killing myself from lack of sleep or overdosing on caffeine. Let’s see how this goes, eh?

Surprise! No mention of the TBR A Thon beyond this quick update: Finished The Iron Daughter and didn’t care for the lack of development on the main character’s part and the horribly played love triangle. Jumped into Ruined by Paula Morris with a sigh of relief and am liking it so far.

This past week, some of my writing friends* on Twitter were chatting and, as often happens on Twitter, spontaneously decided to organize a small/friendly competition. This one was based on writing pitches that might help catch an agent or publisher’s eye and was promptly dubbed a Pitch Party. Despite the fact that I plan to self-publish and don’t have as strong a need of pitches, I gave into the gentle, positive peer pressure and joined in. The rules were simple: We would write a 140 character short pitch to post on Twitter and a longer, 100 word, pitch, that we put up on Jill Marcotte’s blog. We would then critique each other’s pitches and vote on the best short and long pitches, as well as the most helpful commenter. Winners get an amazing postcard from Jill, like this one:

I was thrilled when it arrived in the mail.

I was thrilled when it arrived in the mail.

Short Pitch Winner: Madison AKA @_vajk

Long Pitch Winner: Myself! I didn’t expect to win at all so this made for a very pleasant, unexpected surprise.

Most Helpful Commentator: Tia Kalla AKA @tiakall

The feedback I received was thoughtful and fantastic and using it, here are my pitches for Matters of Magic, the first in the trilogy of fantasy novels I am currently working on:

“Cyrus, do you trust me?” Dangerous words at the best of times. Doubly so when it’s a 1600 year old Trickster god asking.

“Cyrus, do you trust me?” Sarkan Lokisson asks thirteen-year-old Cyrus Traherne, mere minutes after shoving him into oncoming traffic to awaken his fledgling magic and dashing Cyrus’s hopes of having a normal life. Trusting a trickster god is a dubious choice at best, but given that the alternative is to be kidnapped and/or killed by a psychopathic Reaper called Athanasius, Cyrus enters the pocket dimension of Skjulested. There he learns that Tricksters are to be trusted (sometimes), enemies can be allies (with the right leverage), and that “normal” is (vastly) overrated.

*The aforementioned writing friends: Jill Marcotte, NaNoPals, Celuth,  Mary Elizabeth Tait, and Melanie Francisco.

I’m heading into the second week of the August TBR Read A Thon and am wondering if I’m encountering some form of karmic payback from the universe. Specifically, the NaNoWriMo part of the universe.

Some background: It is common knowledge among WriMos that while the first week of NaNoWriMo is a breeze with the giddy joy of starting your story with the new characters and all the possibilities lying before you. Your fingers dance across the keyboard and you rocket past the daily word count goals. The second week is a dark, dark place. You’ve written too much to scrap the plot that is suddenly petering out with characters who are refusing to do anything beyond lie on the couch and moan and how did you ever think this was a good story idea? You find yourself sweating twenty minutes  for each sentence, full of loathing for every word you type.

Confession time: Week Two despair…has yet to happen to me. I don’t know why, I just keep my head down as I type,  and knock on wood that I will continue to be so blessed. [knocks on wood]

Well, here I am in the second week of the Readathon and after double checking with Nancy that no, she/the reading gods are not going to smite me, I’m chopping two books off of my list. I say farewell to The Dragon Champion by E.E. Knight and A Letter of Mary by Laurie R. King.

The premises are still enticing and I want to read these books at some point in my life but that point is…not now. Reading is a still priority but unfortunately these books haven’t made the cut in my brain for what I want to read. When a book has been sitting on my bookshelf for over two months and I haven’t picked it up yet, I tend to take it as a sign. Sound off: Does this happen to anyone else?

Nancy is running her August TBR Readathon this month and I am pleased to say that by tonight, I will have knocked my first book off the (rapidly growing) list: The Stone Rose by Jaqueline Rayner. I received the book as an interlibrary loan while at work (celebrated with an impromptu victory dance much to the bemusement of my coworkers) this past Saturday and tore through most of it on my breaks and lunch hour at work yesterday.

I want the audiobook because it's narrated by David Tennant

I look forward to reading through all of the books on my list this month but I have two road blocks that threaten to stop my reading in its tracks. The first is something I can’t control: My classes starting on the 19th. My free time will be greatly reduced as I try to (re)establish good study habits. Take notes, plot out when major projects and papers are due, figure out how my duties as a NaNoWriMo ML will fit in…(Eating and sleeping should probably be somewhere on that list too, huh?)

I am all too in control of my other road block:  I have a bad habit of checking up on Twitter or reading fanfiction on my breaks and lunch time at work. I’m one of those Virgos people who has to read through every tweet in her timeline and it’s much easier to catch up on four hours of tweets on a fifteen minute break than eight to twelve hours after getting home. I find fanfiction to be very soothing after dealing with the never-ending row of carts stuffed with books waiting for be shelved or student-patrons scrambling for the classic literature needed for their summer assignments (Spoiler alert: It’s already all been checked out.) Even if I bring a book with me to work, I’ll ignore it in favor of my iPad or phone.

To beat this second, bad habit, I’ve resolved to leave my iPad at home (classes permitting) once a week  and focus on the books on my TBR list when at work.

Technology, you are not the boss of me!

Technology, you are not the boss of me!

As the month comes to a close, I find myself looking ahead to the future and trying to keep my knees from shaking too much.

As of August 1st, Nancy will no longer be a library employee and will accept the treasured mantle of “full time author”— Huzzah! This will leave me in charge of all things writing display and writing group related at Three Creeks. I also start college again after taking a year off.

I already placed ten books on hold last week (after a mild panic attack), emailed my coworkers to let them know where to leave said books, and felt very responsible. Today my holds came in and I realized that half of them belonged to another library and thus couldn’t be displayed. It’s one of those things that makes sense when you think about it and I’m chalking it up to a learning experience, complete with sheepish grin.

Unfortunately, with my school and work schedules now set, I had to tell the writing group that we’re heading into a hiatus, unless someone wanted to step up and lead the group. I’m super bummed about this, enjoying the group’s company and feedback but it’s not possible unless someone wants to find me a Time Turner.

I start my first semester of classes at Washington State University Vancouver in less than a month. I’m still not sure whether I will be taking Spanish or Latin for my language (Please be Latin, please be Latin, please be Latin…) and have been doing textbook comparison shopping. Part of me is terrified. I earned my associates degree at the local community college but the campus tour and obligatory orientation sessions have reminded me that WSUV is an accredited, four year university doing all sorts of crazy impressive and amazing research in several different fields like robotics and zoology. This is not helped by the fact that I have been granted junior standing due to my associates degree— Never mind that it will take me the full four years to earn my bachelors degree. Ah, I can feel the student debt accumulate now…

Thankfully the future is not all doom and gloom: I turn 21 in September and I plan to spend Labor Day weekend indulging my other passion — being a member of the Society of Creative Anachronism. I grew up in the Society and dearly love dressing up in garb and going out to watch the fighters fight for their ladies, see beautiful artwork on display, and run around, helping out where I can. The Society has instilled in me a strong desire to serve others and I often spend time with the Chirurgeons (the first aid responders on site) and the Heralds (people in charge of announcing events). I’ll be attending An Tir’s September Crown Tournament and spending time with those I love and who are far older and wiser than myself. Who knows, I might even pack up my archery gear and murder a few hay bales.

I know, intellectually, that I will be fine. I can text any questions or concerns about library-writing-things to Nancy and get them answered. My teachers and fellow students are not out to get me and I will settle back into the rhythm of school in a week or two. But to quote Lizzie Bennet, I’m a worrier, it’s what I do. All I can do is step forward to meet the future with my head held high and keep moving.

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