Making in All Its Variety

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So I recently attended a virtual event called CoCoVid, which was a quite amazing way to be introduced to the world of CosTube, which is apparently what they call the subsection of YouTube dedicated to costume creation.  If you are at all interested in cosplay or historical costuming, I would recommend a quick Google for either of those two things, and wish you a fun adventure falling down that rabbit hole.

A comment someone made on a Discord server I joined as a consequence of that experience got me thinking about “making” and what it means.  Someone mentioned being a writer but that not being a “craft.”  My argument was that they don’t say “practicing your craft” about writing for no reason.  (I’m not going to get into how craft/crafting and make/making are connected, as it’s intuitive to me.)

I ascribe to the definition of making that I’ve heard Adam Savage use (probably on a pod cast or a Tested video on YouTube, possibly both).  I’m paraphrasing, but the basic gist of it is that if you start with nothing but an idea and you then create a thing (a dress, an object, a book, a computer program) then you are a maker, because you made a thing that didn’t exist before.

I really love this way of thinking about making.

I am a maker.

I write stories and create characters, worlds, and books from nothing at all.

I use cardboard, scissors, tape, and whatever other supplies I can get a hold of to fashion custom storage solutions or whatever else strikes my fancy.

I take ingredients and the memory of a dish and I play around until I’ve made that delicious stir-fry I used to get back in college.

I fiddle around on a computer to get a design settled and then use the laser cutter at the university I work for to make the fanciest of fancy popsicle sticks with writing on them.

I follow recipes and adapt them and make the most amazing cheesecakes in cake, pie, and cupcake forms.

I take fabric and thread (and often follow instructions and patterns) and I create a dress, or a shirt, or a reusable mask.

There’s so much joy in creation, and I get that joy no matter what kind of creating I’m doing.  Whether you think of yourself as a maker or not, if you create things, go forth and create.  If that creation gives you joy, I hope you’ll share it as much as possible.  Being able to take joy in the things you do and share that joy is one of the best things in the world.

Camp NaNo July 2020: We’re Calling This a Win

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This is going to be short and sweet because life is crazy for a variety of reasons and I’m running low on creative resources to devote to the blog.

I wrote 25 out of 31 days so far this month.  I wrote beyond my 20,000 word goal.  There’s at least a couple scenes I’m proud of so far.

We’re calling that a win.

Camp NaNoWriMo July 2020 Week Three

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It’s been an interesting several months for a variety of reasons.  I kept my Camp NaNoWriMo July 2020 goal fairly low to allow for that.  I’ve been able to maintain a word count a little above my part for most of the month.  I’ve had a couple 3k days, which spiked me up but I’ve ended up plateauing a bit right after each of those, with some days with less or even no writing happening.  I’m back to fairly close to par again.

I’ve been playing with a brand new idea for July and completely pantsing it to get back to my comfort zone for a while.  I haven’t given up on the plotting experiment, I’m just taking a break.  The idea I’ve been working on grew out of a series of image prompt responses that will be posting in September, October, and November.  So you everyone can look forward to a little sneak peek of how my pantser projects usually start.

It’s this strange combination of modern fantasy and semi-apocalypse science fiction.  There are Fae and magic crystal fueled magitech but there are also cell phones and laptops and normal people.  It’s set in the UK, with the original image prompt posts taking place in Wales and Scotland respectively.  Eventually the whole thing lands in London and in theory the motley cast of characters will pull together to solve the problem and pull the British Isles back out of the stasis the Fae put them in to stop the actual apocalypse from happening.

We’ll see how this goes.  For perspective, that’s the level of planning I usually do before I start writing in earnest.  It may start with a scene idea or a character idea and a little writing (like I did on those image prompts) and then it will grow into a little paragraph of plot summary while more writing happens and things sort of spiral out or (or into) control from there.

So that’s what my July project has been, and I’ve written most days so far, and I’m feeling reasonably good about the project as a whole.  We’ll see if I still feel good about it a week from now when camp is over.  If so, I’ll probably keep working on it.  If not, it will join the large list of files (and notebooks and printouts and loose pages…) containing abandoned ideas that I mayor my not every return to.  That’s something I’ve found most writers have.  But that’s how you get better at all this, but practicing your craft over and over and over, even if you don’t finish every single piece you start.

If you’re doing the Camp NaNo thing with me, I hope your project is going at least as well as mine and continues to come along as we near the end of the month.

Image Prompt 066 – The Pixie Horse

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I chose the image of the Image of the horse statue for my twenty-minute sprint this time.

 

The Pixie Horse:

Kylie ran from the front of the store all the way to the back every time they came to the book store.  Valerie still didn’t know what was so important about the metal statue of the horse with wings and a little stick figure on its back with a book, but Kylie insisted on greeting it every single time they arrived.

“Hey, Valerie,” Mercedes said from behind the counter.

“Hey,” Valerie replied, smiling for her favorite store employee.  She was in a lot, with and without Kylie, and Mercedes was by far the best bookstore employee she’d ever seen.  Mercedes could ask anyone three questions and then recommend a book they’d love.

“She off talking to the pixie horse again?” Mercedes asked.

“Pixie horse?” Valerie asked, stepping over to the counter.  She could see Kylie by the statue from here so she wasn’t worried.

“Yeah, that’s what the owner calls it,” Mercedes said.  “Seems to think it has some kind of magic for attracting children and authors.”

Valerie laughed.  “Well, I can see some evidence of that.”

“Your Kylie is certainly taken with it,” Mercedes agreed.

“How’re things?” Valerie asked, watching Kylie finish her animated greeting with a soft pat to the statue horse’s nose and then move off into the children’s section to pick out her next book.

“Sales are doing well,” Mercedes said.  “And we’ve got three signings this month, so that’s nice.  We always get a little extra business on those days.”

“Let me know if you need any temps to help with those,” Valerie said.  She was currently living off her severance package, but didn’t want to rely on it forever.  She had applications out with a few local companies, but hadn’t heard back yet.

“I’ll leave a note for George,” Mercedes said, referencing the old and eccentric store owner.

Valerie nodded.  She knew for helping last month that George liked to be in complete control of the signing events.  He picked who worked them, how many tickets there would be, whether there would be signing of books before or after, and whether you needed an extra ticket to get your book signed.

“It would be nice to work with you again,” Mercedes said.  “Come to that, Ashley is leaving in another month.  If nothing else works out, we could use your help here.”

“I’ll keep it in mind,” Valerie said.  “I do like it here.”  She’d come here after the severance with her old company because her brother was here and she adored her niece, Kylie.  He and his wife had been amazing, letting her take over the guest room, and refusing to accept rent because Valerie was always watching Kylie for them.

Speaking of, Kylie came bounding up with two books in her hand.

“I thought your dad said you could only get one at a time with the way the account was set up,” Valerie said.  “Do you need help deciding?”

“I’d really like to get both,” Kylie said softly.  “I could definitely read them both in a week.”

Valerie didn’t doubt that.  The girl read faster than most people she knew, and the kid was only eleven.

“What do you have then,” Valerie asked, crouching down so she could look at the books with Kylie.

“This one is the next in the series,” Kylie said, holding up a fiction book in the fantasy mystery series she was currently obsessed with.  “And this one is non-fiction,” she said, holding up the other.  “It’s real stuff about all the historical things in the fantasy books.  I thought it would be neat to learn what’s real and what they’re making up.”

Valerie took the non-fiction book and glanced at the table of contents and the back cover.  It actually looked pretty good.  She flipped through it and found a diagram explaining how a water wheel worked.  It wasn’t dumbing things down just because it was children’s non-fiction.

“That one’s really good,” Mercedes said.  “They get their facts right and they do it in a way that’s accessible.”

“How about this,” Valerie suggested.  “We can get both today, if this one, is part of your birthday gift from me for this year.”

“But my birthday isn’t for another month,” Kylie said, frowning.

“That’s why it’s a deal,” Valerie said.  “You get part of it early and get two books today, but that means you also get slightly less on your birthday.”

“Okay,” Kylie said.  “I bet the fairy horse will be okay with that idea.”

Valerie felt her eyebrows furrowing at that statement.

“I think she would,” Mercedes said, smiling down at Kylie.  “She’s a very understanding horse,” she added, winking at Valerie.

“Alright then,” Valerie said, taking the other book from Kylie as well and setting them up on the counter.  “This one on the account, and I’ll pay for this one,” she said to Mercedes.

“It’s nice to see someone who appreciates good books for kids,” Mercedes said as Kylie wandered back over to the statue.

“I love books, always have,” Valerie said, watching her niece lean in and whisper in the horse’s ear.  For a second she could swear she saw the ears move.

“You’d be amazed how many people who love books don’t share them with the kids in their lives,” Mercedes replied.

“That’s just sad,” Valerie said.

“Yeah,” Mercedes replied.  “Oh, and apparently the pixie horse does approve, the register gave you a discount.”

“What?” Valerie asked.

“It’s something George is always saying,” Mercedes said.  “I think it’s just the register being old and occasionally running errors, but when it happens, he always tells us to give the customer the discount, because the pixie horse must approve of their choices.”

Image Prompt 066 – Outerbanks Winged Horse Statue and Tyndyrn Abbey

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It’s the Second Friday of the Month, so today is an Image Prompt day.

I’ve included two images to work from.  Pick one (or both if you’re feeling ambitious) and write something inspired by the image.  You can use something in the image, the feeling it invokes, or whatever the image makes you think of.

If you write a piece and end up posting it somewhere online, please link back to it here on a comment so we can all enjoy it too.

I’ll be posting my own piece next week.

Image Prompt 066-001 - Welsh Dragon05-05-06 001 Tyndyrn Abbey

Image Prompt 066-002 - Winged Horses05-07-29_30 001

Camp NaNoWriMo July 2020 Edition

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It’s that time again!  Time for Camp NaNoWriMo!

I’ve talked about NaNoWriMo a lot over the years because their events and their commitment to stories and creativity really speak to me.  I participated for the first time in November 2009, in their original challenge, which is to write a 50,000 word novel from scratch in 30 days.  It’s kind of insane, but also a lot of fun.  I didn’t discover that there were regions, forums, or community around the challenge until my second year.  I didn’t discover that Camp events were a thing until 2013.  But that means I’ve participated in one of the three (November, April, July) NaNoWriMo events twenty-five times over the last twelve years.  I haven’t always drafted a brand new novel, or even been drafting at all, but that’s a lot of words, time, and energy I’ve spent during these months working on my writing.

NaNoWriMo has also been an amazing place to meet new friends.  I’ve made lasting connections with other writers and found a group of local friends that are supportive and amazing.  I owe a lot to NaNoWriMo, which is one of the reasons I’m always talking about them and their events.  I want others to share in my excitement and hope that they will make lasting connections while working on their writing as well.

I get that the full challenge isn’t for everyone.  November might be a busy month, or deadlines might be paralyzing rather than motivating.  Or you might just think you’ll never write fast enough.  Not that any of those should keep you from trying it out.  The point is to try to develop a daily writing habit and find community, winning is entirely optional.

Camp NaNoWriMo might be a better place to engage if you don’t feel ready for the full challenge.  You get to pick your own goal, so it can be something that feels more realistic for you personally.  You can also choose to track something other than words (they’re working on the site functionality for that, but you can do a conversion on your own).  I’ve tracker hours (not my best decision as 30 hours in a month is a lot), minutes (which has always gone well), and words during my past Camp NaNo attempts.  The only one I didn’t meet my goal for was the 30 hours of editing in a month.  One, 30 hours is a lot, and two, I really don’t like editing, so that was a struggle.  I did minutes the next time I tracked editing and was able to meet a more realistic goal for me.

That’s all a very rambling way to say that even though it’s the third already, It’s not too late to join the fun and try Camp NaNoWriMo out for yourself.  All you need to do is sign up (or sign in if you’ve tried any NaNo events before) at www.nanowrimo.org and then go to the camp page to get all the details on camp.  (Signing in should be optional for viewing the camp information, but if you’re thinking of trying it out you might as well make your account.)

If you do decide to join me for a Camp NaNoWriMo challenge this July, I wish you the best of luck!

The Plotting Experiment: Progress So Far

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If you’ve been reading along for a while, you may have seen me talk about this before, but for anyone new, I’ll start with a little bit about what my writing process has usually looked like.

For most of my life, drafting has been a wild ramble that started with a character or a scene and expanded from there.  Plot and structure have always been fixed and molded after the fact.  Some call this discovery writing, some call it pantsing (because I’m flying by the seat of my pants) and I’ve just always thought of it as writing or drafting.

This method of writing has led to a very labor intensive and often excruciatingly hard editing and revision process.  During work on my second book, this led to breaking down the entire thing by scene, looking at what that scene was supposed to be doing and then culling any scenes that weren’t essential.  That led to a scene list and a plot outline and a complete rewrite of everything.  I kept a bit of dialog here and there, and most of one scene, but other than that, I was writing everything from scratch to fit the new scene outline.

This lead to an attempt to write the outline first, and then do the drafting.  It was the first time I’d ever tried it.  Even back in school when outlines were required, I would work ahead and draft the whole paper, so I could then reverse engineer the outline.  I’ve never liked them and always found them confining and creativity-reducing.

But I needed to redraft book three, which wasn’t finished, and the outline had worked for book two, so surely I could make this process work again.

It’s sort of worked.  I have most of a draft of book three.  I have a bunch of versions of the outline (including one that does a seven-point plot breakdown of the overarching plot and each subplot).  I have most of the plot relevant scenes for the major overarching plotline.  My subplots are a mess.  Part of the problem might be that I’m trying to insert subplots that relate to certain characters who are not very important to the main plot, and thus it’s hard to add those scenes in a way that feels relevant.  Part of it is that for seventy-five percent of the book half my characters are not interacting with the other half.  I’m still working on how to make that structure work without confusing or boring readers.

It’s not a failed experiment, it’s just not as successful as I wanted it to be.  I’m still struggling with the outline itself.  I still struggle to write the scenes the outline calls for.  The closer I get to the end, the harder it has been to write.  This may have nothing to do with the outline process (the world is more insane than usual right now) but it’s hard to separate it out and remind myself that there are confounding variables.

This latest experiment wasn’t a fully from scratch project.  It’s the third book in a series, which has its own difficulties, and it was about 50% written before I started working on the outline for the redrafting.  I’ve been making progress.  Pretty stable and consistent progress even, but it doesn’t feel the same.  I’m not excited about the story or the characters or the ideas in the same way I was when I was originally drafting the first version, or the way I usually am as I draft a new project for the first time.

Maybe I’m just getting to the point where I’m realizing that writing is work.  For the first fifteen years or so that I was actively writing, it was all just for fun, and just for me.  I didn’t share my work much.  I was praised for the work I did share, and that gave me confidence to keep writing.  I took creative writing classes in high school, I took creative writing seminars in college, and even audited one in grad school because I missed it.  (I’ve never loved writing short stories, but I do love being in a critique group or a workshop environment.)  Now that I have one book out, and two more in revisions with the goal to publish them, it’s more than just fun and experimentation.  Writing is work.  And sometimes work is hard.

I’m going to keep pushing forward with the experiment and keep working on this draft so I can finalize book two and then book three and work on getting them in shape for publishing.  I welcome any and all tips from those who learned to outline or those who always have.

Image Prompt 065 – Children in Snow

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I chose the image of the snow-covered patio furniture for my twenty-minute sprint this week.  This incorporates characters (all my originals) from my fanfic, so if anyone found me by way of that, you may recognize some of them.  Also, the inspiration to write with them again was all Manda’s fault 8-P.  (But I love her for it, so it’s fine.)

Children in Snow:

Síneag pushed the curtains back from the sliding glass door and was greeted by the brightness that came after a snow storm.  The world had turned white, and their patio furniture was covered in fluffy snow.  It looked like they’d only gotten four or five inches in the end.

The children would have fun playing in the snow later, she was sure.  Jenn had said they were all going to come by late morning to see Síneag and let everyone visit.  She’d been looking forward to it for weeks.

Leaving the curtains open to allow the light in, Síneag went about cleaning everything up and making sure anything that wasn’t child safe was carefully put away or out of reach.  She double checked that the basement door was locked as well.  As much as Ira loved the children, she knew he wouldn’t want them to see him during the day.  They might be very familiar with vampires, but that didn’t mean they needed to see one that appeared dead.

By the time she had everything cleaned up and child-safe, it was already after ten.  They would be there soon.

Síneag could hear them before they even made it to the door, which just made her laugh as she headed in that direction, opening the front door and watching Jenn, Jess, and Kim struggle to keep the children headed toward the door rather than out into the snow in Síneag’s yard.

“Don’t you want breakfast first?” Síneag called.  “I’m making French toast,” she added, knowing the children loved it.

There was a chorus of cheers as the three barreled toward the front porch.

“Snow stays outside!” Jess called after them.

The three tumbled to a stop on the porch, the twins stomping their feet to get the snow off them and encouraging their tiny sister to do the same.

“Close enough,” Síneag said to the three when they’d knocked most of the snow from their boots.  “You can leave your books here by the door,” she added as she stepped back to let them in.  It was such a delight to see the twins quickly deal with their own boots, and then help their sister before their mother and aunts even made it up the steps.  They shed their coats as well and headed for the kitchen.

“Thank you for inviting us,” Jess said as they walked in.  “They’re going to have such fun sledding in the back yard.”

“It’s always wonderful to see you and the children,” Síneag said.  “The twins are growing up so fast I feel that if I blink I’ll miss it.”

“You and me both,” Jess replied.  “It’s been surreal.”

Síneag nodded.  The three had rather unique heritage, and that led to some very interesting talents and growth even as young as they were.

Síneag made everyone breakfast and it was a bright, lively time.  Her kitchen was full of laughter and she loved it.  Things could be so quiet during the day while Ira wasn’t with her.  She was getting spoiled since they moved here.  She had far more friends and more chances to interact with others than she had while they were still living in hiding.

Once everyone had eaten their fill, the kids ran back to the entryway to pull their snow gear back on.

“Mom, do you think we could shift after sledding?” Jess’s little boy asked.

“If Auntie Síneag thinks it’s safe, you could shift in the house and then go out to play in the snow,” Jess replied.

“They’re still small aren’t they?” Síneag asked.  “As long as they’d be easily mistaken for dogs, no one in the neighborhood will think anything of it.”

“They’re still small enough,” Jenn said.  “But probably not for much longer.”

The twins cheered at that pronouncement.

“But only after you’ve had your fill of sledding and your sister is done too,” Jess said.

“We know,” the twins chorused.  They loved their little sister, so Síneag had no doubt they’d make sure she was completely exhausted from too much fun.

Síneag bundled up as well and lead them all out through the garage so they could gather the sleds and go out the side door that was inside the fence that surrounded the back.  They had a good bit of property, but they’d fenced in enough of the yard to make it safe for the children to play and for the occasional shifter to take their animal form where they would be safe.

Kim ended up on the hill with the children, helping them get settled on their sleds and pushing them off down the kill.  Jenn and Jess stayed on the deck with Síneag, brushing the snow off a few of the chairs so they could sit.

“You’re sure the neighbors won’t think anything is amiss?” Jess asked softly.

“They look like black German shepherds,” Síneag replied.  “Besides, with us here with them, no one is going to think of anything before they think dog.”

“Relax,” Jenn said, reaching over to rub her sister’s back.  “The kids are safe here.  And if anything major were going to happen, Kim would be sure to tell us.”

Jess nodded.  She had such faith in her sister.  So did Síneag when it came down to it.  That’s part of why they’d bought the house.  Kim had seen them happy here.

Image Prompt 065 – Ducks & Geese and a Snowy Back Deck

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It’s the Second Friday of the Month, so today is an Image Prompt day.

I’ve included two images to work from.  Pick one (or both if you’re feeling ambitious) and write something inspired by the image.  You can use something in the image, the feeling it invokes, or whatever the image makes you think of.

If you write a piece and end up posting it somewhere online, please link back to it here on a comment so we can all enjoy it too.

I’ll be posting my own piece next week.

Image Prompt 065-001 - Snow10-12-26 003

Image Prompt 065-002 - Day Three05-05-11 022 Sheppy's Cider Farm

The Value of Kindness

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It’s been a bit of a rough week for me, so I wanted to take a little time to focus on something positive in the midst of the insanity the world has become.  In the midst of a global pandemic, the kind of situation that should bring us all together for the common good, there are still so many instances of injustice, systemic and individual, in my country that it makes me heart sick.

I don’t want to spend my time ranting or focusing on individual injustices or acts of hatred and violence.  But I do want to talk a little bit about kindness.

I think of kindness as the universal religious principal.  Whether you’re talking about the pagan three-fold law, the golden rule that appears in major religions, or any number of other religious organizations or dogmas, you can boil most religions I’m aware of down to a single shared principal.  Be kind.  Be kind to others, be kind to yourself, and be kind to the world.

Yes, this is a huge oversimplification of religion.  I know that.  And I don’t mean to be insulting to any one religion (or any of them at all) by making it.  I’m just drawing a comparison.  Whatever the specifics may be, in the end, religion teaches us to be kind to ourselves and others.

This week, it’s felt a little bit like my country has forgotten that.  It’s not the only country with hate problems, but it certainly feels like a very big problem.  This isn’t new.  The problem has been around a lot longer than I have, but it’s really hit home this week.  I know that there are many people working against the hate and injustice and I admire and appreciate them so much.

I don’t have a grand solution, but I know that if each individual human took the time to think about their action in the context of kindness, things might get just a little better.

Kindness can mean a lot of things.  It can mean assuming good intentions.  It can mean forgiving mistakes.  It can mean not complaining about a small inconvenience to yourself that will help save the life of another.  It can mean offering a smile and a thank you to every worker you come into contact with.  It can mean sharing your wealth (in the broader, beyond just money sense) with the world and with others.  It can mean reaching out a helping hand.

Kindness is such a simple thing.  I just wish there was a whole lot more of it in the world right now.