August Blog Challenge – The Takeaway

Earlier this month, for purely selfish reasons*, I challenged my friend, Lillian Archer to commit to posting a new entry on her blog, once a week, for the remainder of August.

For myself, I committed to posting an extra entry once a week.

Lillian rose to the challenge admirably and I am happy to report that, loopholery aside, I too managed to keep up.

But what does it all mean? Why did I create this challenge? What did I get out of it?

What I got out of it – and here I’m going to remind myself to ask Lillian about her take on it – was insight into what I was capable of.

Now it might not seem like a real big thing to add one extra blog post a week. I mean I’m posting weekly as it is, how hard could it be to add one more post?

As it turned out, for me, it was more difficult in the execution than it appeared to be on the surface. For this last post, I had a few false starts, before I found something that I was happy with. I don’t ever want to post just for the sake of posting. I want to say something. Some weeks I am more successful than others.

It also brought into focus just how regimented my life is during the week. It is, perhaps, too regimented – something that was too close for me to recognize until I introduced this challenge.

Completing the challenge showed me that this was something that I could do. One of the outcomes I was hoping for was that this was going to become the start of a habit.

I think it might be. For myself, I’m going to try and keep up the pace and see how long I can keep going.

The last thing I got out of this challenge was the challenge itself. That’s one of the things I want you to take away from this.

Challenge yourself every so often. You’ll never know what you’re capable of if you don’t push yourself occasionally.

Who knows, after stretching yourself, you might not return to your original shape, but find that you’ve expanded into something bigger.

Time: 11:05am – ish

Music: Hammerfall – Riders of the Storm

 

 

 

 

 

*Yes, selfish. I follow her blog.  You should too.

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All Roads Lead to Writing

Welcome to the end of the August Blog post Challenge. Yes, I know it’s not August anymore, but this is the week that August ended, so I figure that gets me a little bit of wiggle room.

This is one of those, peculiar things that I think all newer writers need to hear, before they figure it out for themselves.

All roads lead to writing.

What do I mean by that?  I mean that, if you’re a writer – at any point in your career – and you’re stuck on what you “Should” be doing next…here is a thought. We’ll see how well it hold up.

If you want to be a writer, but you don’t know where to begin?
Write.

You’ve finished a short story (Congrats! Good on you!), and you’re waiting for beta readers to get back to you?

Write.

You’ve finished a Novel (Again, huge Congrats!)?

Put it away for 4-6 weeks and Write something else.

You got your first rejection (Congrats! I know this is an odd thing to say, but you’d be amazed at the number of folk that finish a story and never submit it. You, you’re moving forward)?

(Note: I try not to let 24 hours pass before sending it out somewhere else.)

Write.

You got your 59th rejection?

Keep submitting (see the note above about letting more than 24 hours pass. Note – if you’re receiving multiple, personalized rejections all pointing to a specific thing…address that thing before resubmitting).

Write.

I think you get the picture.

This is not one of those “You must write 2000 words every day, or you’re not a “Real” writer” posts. That kind of thinking is crap. Do what you can do, for as long as you can do it, and nobody can do more than that.

Here is what I want you to take away from this:

There is no finish line. It’s never “The End.”*

Careers are started with individual works. They are made up of multiple books, or trilogies, or series.

This is a good thing, because there will always be that next story.

Why wait.

Write.

 

Good Luck!

 

Time: 7:37 Pm-ish

Music: Fit for Rivals – Novocain

* This is, of course, assuming that you’re not planning on writing only one thing and then stopping. Some folk have done that. They have a book in them and, once it’s gone, they are content to let that be that.

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Blog Stop – Jean Rabe’s The Dead of Night Blog Tour!!!

Hi there Everyone!

This week, I’m happy to be hosting a stop on Jean Rabe’s “The Dead of Night” Blog tour.

Jean has been kind enough to stop by with an excerpt from The Dead of Night and she was patient enough to field some questions from me.

And, if that wasn’t cool enough, make sure you scroll all the way down to the bottom for a chance at an awesome giveaway!

On to the Q&A:

Me: What did you enjoy the most about writing The Dead of Night?

JR: I think the research. Because I put Piper Blackwell on a cold case, I talked to coroners, an archaeologist, read up on bones and decay, and dug through statistics on missing persons. Fascinating stuff. I couldn’t put all of that in the book; I would inundate my readers. So I sprinkled it in with characters such as Doc Natty. Too, I looked through old newspapers to see what was going on in the world at the time my victim died. Writing a book is a great excuse to research all manner of things.

Me: Every writer comes out of a book different than from when they went in. What did you learn, or how did you grow as a writer as you wrote The Dead of Night?

JR: I gained a great appreciation for the company of old men. I based the Mark the Shark character on three Navy veterans who live at a senior apartment complex in Quincy, Illinois; the youngest of them 89. The men are fascinating and complex, and I was engrossed in their stories about military life. One of those veterans is an avid mystery reader, and we had long chats about favorite authors and characters…we agreed on Harry Bosch and Elvis Cole. I learned that in writing older characters, you should give them depth, add some complexities, and not make them window dressing for your younger protagonists. You should write them so that even a young reader can somehow identify with them. I think Mark the Shark is awesome, and I hope the readers like him.

 

Me: Background music or silence?

JR: Both. When I write on my laptop on the back porch, I often leave the radio off. There are lots of birds and dogs in the neighborhood, and they serenade me. Too, a railroad track cuts through a cornfield behind my house. It’s a busy track, and so it adds to the “music” of my outdoors office. When I write in my office inside the house, I listen to classical music. One of my best friends gifted me with an Echo…Alexa…and she finds AWESOME classical stations. All I have to do is ask her. For fight scenes, I request Rimsky-Korsakov or Mussorgsky, or even Balakirev. Yes, I favor Russian composers.

Me: What would be your suggestion for a beverage to accompany reading The Dead of Night?

JR: Coffee because Piper and Oren drink a lot of it. They favor Dark Italian Roast, a blend they discovered because one of my newsletter readers suggested it. Nang carries it in his quick stop so they have a ready supply. Me? I’m not a coffee drinker. I like tea…cinnamon spice, Irish breakfast, or PG Tips. Sometimes I give Starbucks gift cards away to random readers of my newsletter.

Me: If you could give one piece of advice to a beginning writer, what would it be?

JR: There are three magic words: Today is Someday.

Many aspiring writers say they’ll get around to working on their novel someday.

I learned early on that novel writing is a long game. It can take years…from outlining the book to writing it, to submitting it to agents (where it could sit for months), to an agent accepting the manuscript and submitting it to publishers (where it could sit for months), to when it gets purchased and scheduled for the New York publisher’s calendar (which could take a year or two). Small press is a different matter…you can get a book published much quicker. Anyway, it all is predicated on the assumption your manuscript gets accepted at each stage. It could also get tossed back at you as simply rejected, or if you were lucky they merely asked for rewrites…which adds more months to the endeavor.

Mike Resnick, Joe Haldeman, George R.R. Martin, Timothy Zahn, Mike Stackpole, and more taught me that writing was a long game…a matter of years.

And so quite a long while ago I made today my someday. I figured that since writing was indeed a long game, and that it could take a long while to go from page one of my book to seeing it on a bookstore shelf, I had better get at it.

The Dead of Night is my thirty-eighth published novel, and it releases September 15th. My thirty-ninth is finished, and I’ll start submitting it soon.

So my advice to a beginning writer: Do Not Wait. Write Now. MAKE TODAY YOUR SOMEDAY.

Me: You mention that you can put together a fine pot of chili. Can you share the recipe, or would you have to kill me afterwards?

JR: Ahhhhhhhhhhhh….I won the TSR chili cook-off one fall. Quite the accomplishment, as I was a bad cook. Now I’m a passable cook. I can’t share that winning recipe, ‘cause I don’t know where it is. Well…it’s in one of my cookbooks, but I couldn’t tell you which one. When I decided I wanted to enter, to smash my reputation as a bad cook, I took out a book, selected a couple of recipes, and combined them. I couldn’t decide which one to make, and so I made all of them in one pot. And I did not taste it. Really, never had a spoonful. I was afraid it would be awful and then I couldn’t take it to work. All my efforts would go in the garbage. BUT…if I didn’t know it was awful, I could take it, professing ignorance. Gee, I was surprised when I won. HAPPY HAPPY JEAN.Now I buy French’s Chili-O packets and follow the directions on the back. It makes good chili.


Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Jean. Now, on to the excerpt!!

 

Virginia Huffman was stunning.

Old, sure, older than Oren by more than ten years according to her grandson. But she was  stunning. Nothing wrong with applying that word to someone elderly, he thought, especially when the word fit so well. Stunning shouldn’t be a word relegated to the young.

Her hair was a pale gray that shimmered like spun silver, short and swept around her head in  lazy curls. She wore makeup, but not a lot, and likely had tinted contacts because her eyes were a vivid shade of blue that matched her sapphire drop earrings. Certainly she had wrinkles, but they were tiny, at the edges of her eyes and her lips, insignificant lines on her forehead. She wore navy pants with a slight crease down the front, a black blazer, and an off-white blouse with pearl  buttons. She stood with shoulders square, no rounding to her back like a lot of old women  exhibited. He picked up a hint of lilacs, probably her perfume.

“I’m not here about a shoplifter, though I hope the local department catches the thief. I’m  Oren Rosenberg, chief deputy with the Spencer County Sheriff’s Department.

“Rockport,” she said. “I lived there back in the day. Miss it. But I like Evansville better. There’s a lot more to do. And I can gamble on the riverboat.”

He followed her to the counter; she stepped behind it and sat, rested her elbows on it and  looked up at him.

Yep, stunning.

Oren recalled that on one Saturday library jaunt, his wife pointed to the cover of a fashion magazine—she always liked to ogle them, but never subscribed to any. Carmen Dell’Orefice’s  face stared back, an eighty-four-year-old glamorous runway model.

He thought Virginia Huffman could give her that proverbial run for the money.

“So what brings the handsome chief deputy sheriff of Spencer County to my antique store?”

 

ABOUT THE DEAD OF NIGHT

 

In Spencer County’s history, mysteries are numerous—and lethal…

As Sheriff Piper Blackwell rushes to a clandestine meeting with an aging, paranoid veteran who believes spies are trailing his every move, she is caught in a fierce thunderstorm. Pounding rain drums against the bluff, washing away the earth and revealing a grisly secret someone tried to bury a long time ago.

Putting a name to the skeleton on the bluff, and searching for the thief who robbed the old veteran of his life’s earnings, sends Piper delving into the sleepy towns that dot her rural county. Now she’s digging into pasts perhaps best left alone.

Accompanied by Chief Deputy Oren Rosenberg, Piper seeks to expose a truth someone wants to remain forever hidden. The investigation may have started with a thunderstorm, but Piper aims to finish it and find justice. Uncovering fragments of Spencer County’s history could prove more dangerous—and deadlier—than she ever expected.

You can pick your copy of The Dead of Night here

Accolades for The Dead of Night

Jean Rabe always manages to surprise and never fails to deliver the goods! The Dead of Night…Highly recommended!

—Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author of Dogs of War and Mars One

Jean Rabe writes the perfect mystery! I was kept guessing about everything to the very last word. The girl can write!

New York Times bestselling author Faith Hunter, writing as Gwen Hunter

In The Dead of Night …a thoroughly satisfying and complex novel with deeply realized characters and beautifully vivid writing.

—Jaden Terrell, Shamus Award nominee and internationally published author of the Jared McKean Mysteries

 

About Jean Rabe

USA Today bestselling author Jean Rabe has written thirty-seven mystery, fantasy, and adventure novels and one hundred short stories. The Dead of Night is the second in her Piper Blackwell mystery series. She calls them uncozy-cozies, or cozy police procedurals…of which she’s been told there is “no-such genre.” When she’s not writing, which isn’t often, she edits . . . more than two dozen anthologies and more than one hundred magazine issues so far. She’s a former news reporter and news bureau chief who penned a true crime book with noted attorney F. Lee Bailey. Her genre writing includes military, science-fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy, mystery, horror, and modern-day adventure. She shares her home with three dogs and a parrot.

Rabe teaches genre writing courses—at conventions, libraries, museums, and other interesting venues. Her hobbies include reading, role-playing games, visiting museums, tossing tennis balls to her cadre of dogs, and buying books to add to her growing stacks. She lives in central Illinois near three train tracks that provide “music” to type by.

Visit her website: www.jeanrabe.com

Follow her on Twitter: @jeanerabe

You can find her blog at: http://jeanerlenerabe.blogspot.com/

Her Amazon author page is at: https://www.amazon.com/Jean-Rabe/e/B00J1QR5U2/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_1

And she has a newsletter filled with tidbits about weird news items, pics of her dogs, discussions of upcoming books, reviews of things she’s reading, and writing advice. You can subscribe here: http://jeanrabe.us14.list-manage1.com/subscribe?u=89364515308e8b5e7ffdf6892&id=9404531a4b

 

GIVEAWAY

There’s a tour-wide giveaway for Cracker Barrel and Starbuck’s gift cards or a little password book. In addition, two lucky bloggers will be chosen at random to win a Starbucks or Cracker Barrel Giftcard. Open to US residents only.

Enter the Giveaway Here

 

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The Only Way Out is Through

It’s been a long week.

And it’s only Thursday.

I’ve been having a hard time sleeping, lately. A big part of it is allergies. Summer is knocking heads with fall and I’m seeing temperature fluctuations as large as 30 degrees between morning and nightfall. That sort of stuff plays hell with my sinuses.

Add to that, the usual stresses of life, and a few unusual stresses, and a few restless nights, and…well…there have been a few days this week where 5:30 Am came and sleep took a higher priority.

Yes, sleep is a priority. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t Writer’s Guilt and a bit of anxiety about missing out on writing time. It whispers to me when the lights are out and I’m trying to fall asleep: “You’re behind on your writing. You missed your – self-imposed – deadline of getting the August Challenge blog post up on Wednesday. You’re still behind on your writing. You’ve got two blog posts due this weekend. Have a good night, now.”

Which leads to a restless night, which makes it harder to wake up in the morning when I need to, which sparks more anxiety.

You get the picture.

Unfortunately, there is no “Magic Bullet” to fire that’ll take care of this mess. No shortcuts to getting back on track.

The only way out is through.

What am I doing to pull myself out of the spiral?

I’m doing a couple of things.

First, I am stubbornly maintaining that sleep is a priority. Everything hinges on that. I can’t write if I’m not physically or mentally there ~To~ write. You take care of your writing tools. Your health is the most important tool in your toolbox. Everything else is secondary.

Second, I am reminding myself that a spotty writing week is still only one week. Yes, I am reminding myself of that pretty often, but the writer’s guilt seems to not like that and it retreats.  Take that, writer’s guilt!!

Third, I am continuing to do what I can, when I can. So, even though this hasn’t been the most productive of weeks, it has still been productive. Writer’s guilt hates it when I’m productive. Take that, again, writer’s guilt!!!

Fourth, the weekend is coming. That will be my window of opportunity to reset and get back on track. I’ll get some work done, then spend some time doing some things I enjoy. Little bit of gaming, a bit of Rugby (The 2017 Women’s Rugby World Cup Final is happening this Saturday. Go Black Ferns!). If it doesn’t rain, I’ll mow the lawn (Yes, I enjoy mowing the lawn…don’t judge), reading. Stuff I enjoy and recharges me.

And sleep. No alarms, no nothing.

When 5:30 Monday morning comes, it had better be ready for me.

Because I’ll be ready for it.

 

Time: 7:45 Pm – ish

Music: None

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Something Old. Something New

As some of you may know, I’m working on polishing up a novel with my agent. Before I had gotten to this point, there had always been the, seemingly eternal, question:

What do I work on, when I’m not working on THE BOOK?

Do I start writing book 2?

Do I start working on something different?

There are a lot of arguments for both. Does it make sense to work on book 2 when book 1 hasn’t sold yet? But what if book 1 sells and they’re interested in book 2 and I’ve got nothing to show them? But what if they’re not interested in book 1, but they like my writing and ask what else I’ve got and I’ve got nothing to show them?

You could go round and round on this for days and not get anywhere.

The answer for me*, as is the case for so many things, was to work on a little of both.

I knew that the story was going to go beyond one book, so here’s what I ended up doing:

I wrote an outline** for book #2 and then I wrote a skeletal outline for book # 3. None of which is set in stone but, despite the likelihood that I’m going to stray from the outline, having one in hand is important.

Once I had those done, I set them aside and started working on something completely new.

When the next round of notes came back, I put the new shiny away and got to work on the revision notes. Once I was done, I jumped back to the new story.

There may be some of you out there that are flinching as you read this. Jumping from one project to the next? What kind of crazy-talk is that?

You might be thinking that it can’t be done. Or, rather, that it’s not something that you could ever see yourself doing.

Let me put some perspective out there for you.

I am a *Very* linear writer. When I get going, I start at the beginning, work my way through the middle, and finish up with the end. Every scene in order.

I am so linear, I can’t even bring myself to leave a note to “Leave something cool here” or “Research this later.” Even a simple “Need a name for this character” is beyond me. If I need a name, I am stopped until I have a name, then I can pick up again.

Switching back and forth between projects was something that I’d never done before. I’d never had to do it before.

So, not knowing what was impossible, I jumped in and did it anyway.

And it worked.

Believe me, nobody is more shocked than I am, that I’m not finding it difficult to project hop.

And I’m not doing any mysterious, arcane rituals to prep myself beforehand.

I wake up knowing what I’ve got to work on that morning, and I get to it.

Which, I suppose, is the whole point.

Get up, know what you’ve got to do, and go do it.

Good Luck!

Time: 10:10 am-ish

Music: AC\DC – Highway to Hell

 

 

 

*I talked this very question over with my agent, and this is what we worked out between us. Your mileage, may vary. Remember: there’s no “Right” way to do this, outside of getting it done.

**Yes, I said “Outline.” Like it or not, this is something that you’re going to have to learn how to do. Editors and publishers will want to see one, especially if you’re trying to sell a multi-book story…even if you’ve already written the books.

 

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It Shines More

Let me take you back in time.

The year is somewhere around 1986. I’m in High School and having a rough time of it.

Aside from my loose bundle of friends, I often found solace and escape in books and comics.

About this time, I saw “My Favorite Year” for the first time. To this day, it’s one of my favorite movies. For being labelled as a comedy, it had a surprising impact on me, although, at the time, I couldn’t have articulated why.

Here is an exchange from my favorite scene:

Alan Swann: Those are movies, damn you! Look at me! I’m flesh and blood, life-size, no larger! I’m not that silly God-damned hero! I never was!

Benjy Stone: To *me* you were! Whoever you were in those movies, those silly goddamn heroes meant a lot to *me*! What does it matter if it was an illusion? It worked! So don’t tell me this is you life-size. I can’t use you life-size. I need Alan Swanns as big as I can get them!

That struck home.

Now, I’m not going to get into the weeds about what, if anything, an author (or any artist, really) “Owes” their readers. That’s not the point here.

The point, which I couldn’t articulate then, is that I identified with Benjy Stone, probably much more than the filmmakers intended.

I, too, needed Alan Swanns as big as I could get them. I needed them often, and I found them in books, comics, television, movies, and music.

In art.

Let me take you ahead in time a bit, to a show called “Firefly.”

Now there are a ton of great lines throughout the entire run of the show, but the ones I want to focus on now are from an exchange between Kaylee and Simon:

Kaylee: See! You’re doing it right now! What’s so damn important about being proper? It don’t mean nothing out here in the black.

Simon: It means more out here. It’s all I have.

 

Right now, we’re living in some very dark times. There is uncertainty, fear, rage, and hatered damned near everywhere you look.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed in the middle of it all. I’ve been feeling it and I have seen more than one artist question whether what they do is even important anymore. Whether, in the face of what is going on, in the face of so much suffering, if anything, any one person can do, matters.

I say that it matters more, now, than it ever has before.

All art will shine just that much brighter out in the black.

It matters.

It matters so much.

My words are all I have. I write stories to entertain, to maybe give someone a place to escape, to shed a bit of light into the black and, with it, hope?

So, please keep making what you make. Do what you can do. We all need your stories, your art.

I promise I’ll do the same.

And it will be ok.

 

Time: 2:28 pm-ish

Music: Blind Guardian – The Bard’s Song (In the Forest)

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Keep Doing It

It’s been an interesting month.

I’m using that word in the context of four weeks having gone by, and I’m going to call what’s been going on “New Author Jitters” though I expect that the “New” part is going to be a misnomer on my part.

Let me set the stage for you:

Earlier this year, I signed with the, awesome, Dorian Maffei at the Kimberley Cameron Literary Agency and, since then, we’ve been polishing my novel to start shopping it around to publishing houses.

This is a pretty big step and we’re getting close. And working hard.

To put it in perspective, the last book that I absolutely devoured was Grave Ransom by Kalayna Price . The story went for 384 pages and it took me about a week and a half to two weeks to read it (I wasn’t paying attention).

And that’s just reading.

Over the course of two weekends, I read my book, which comes in at 430 pages, twice.

And that’s deep reading: looking for errors, places to add world building, character backstory, etc.

At the end of that weekend was when I had my first anxiety-fueled dream.

Suddenly the book wasn’t good enough, and nothing I did fixed it. In fact, I made things worse. So much worse that I was going to be dropped as a client.

All of which was utter nonsense, but that didn’t make any difference Monday morning when I got up to write.

And I did get up to write. And the book wasn’t garbage.

But the memory remained.

It stuck around after I sent off the story, and the day passed with no response – which hadn’t happened before.

“What could possibly be wrong?” The memory said. Over and over.

The reality was that Dorian had been on vacation for the good part of a month and had returned the day I sent the MS off. She probably had a boatload of stuff waiting for her – like I do, when I get back from even a week-long vacation. The reality also is that I don’t expect her to be at my beck and call. Yes, she works for me. No, I’m not her only client. Yes, I trust her to champion my book, and have my best interests in mind. I wouldn’t have signed with her if I didn’t.

My head was just messed up.

I suspect that I could have emailed and everything would have been fine. But I didn’t want to be *That* needy. And, the next day, she emailed and all was well with the world.

She’s reading through the story, and I’m starting something new.

And I haven’t had any more disturbing dreams.

There have been two separate times over the past two weeks, though, where, out of nowhere, I’ve been struck by the feeling that “I’m not doing enough as a writer and I have to do *something* RIGHT NOW!!!”

The feeling doesn’t last very long, usually not past the point where I remind myself that I woke up at 5:30 that morning – for the fifth morning in a row – and wrote. That I am doing what I can for as long as I can do it, and a frantic burst of random *Something* at ten minutes to midnight on a Friday night, isn’t going to do much.

I don’t know. It might be that this is unique to me and my dumb brain, though I don’t suspect that it is. I’ve seen similar blog posts and tweets describing uncertainty and worry, all of them from established writers. And it’s made me change my way of thinking a little.

At the beginning of this post, I called what had been going on “New Author Jitters” but I think that it’s more akin to growing pains.

You see, something also hit me out of the blue one night as I was finishing up reading before bed. I closed the book (Pirate’s Promise, by Chris A. Jackson) and it hit me that Doiran and I were going to start shopping the book around soon. That, while there are no guarantees, there is a chance that there will, one day, be a book out there with my name on it.

Don’t get me wrong. There are books out there with my name on them. I both love and am fiercely proud of the anthologies that my stories appear in (Shameless plug: You can find more about them here).

A novel with my name on it is uncharted waters for me. It’s starting to become “Real” in a way that I hadn’t thought of before and, as my headspace widens to accommodate that, there are mental creaks and groans that are happening.

How do you get through it? How did I get through it?

Trust.

Trust in the folks you’re working with. More importantly, trust in yourself. In what you’re doing. That’s not to say that what you’re doing now will be the same thing you’re going to be doing five years from now, but whatever that is, however it’s changed, trust that you’re doing what you can as well as you can do it.

I suspect that there will always be worry in this business. That there will always be the notion that you *Should* be doing more, and, along those lines, I would encourage you to push yourself occasionally.

But don’t let it drive you.

Keep doing what you’re doing, as well as you can do it, and you’ll get through.

Good Luck!

 

Time: 12:24 Pm-ish

Music: Turisas – Take the Day

 

 

 

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August Blog Challenge!!

Surprise!!!  There are two Blog posts this week!

 

 

 

 

What?

This was sparked by Tee Morris taking part in the Dog Days of Summer Podcast challenge.

The gist of the challenge was to put up a podcast a day for the entire month of August.

Now I’m not into podcasting (yet…), but I am self-aware enough to know that my writing time is too limited right now to try for a blog post a day.

And I found out about this challenge after August had started, so I’m late to the party.

But I liked the idea and, for purely selfish reasons, I also emailed my friend Lillian Archer (I follow her blog and it had run dry as of late) and challenged her to take part in the August Blog Challenge.

The rules were pretty simple

  • Post to your blog once a week for the remainder of August. A week is defined as Sunday to Saturday
  • Any upcoming posts to the Million Words blog don’t count.
  • Guest posts on your blog do count.

Now, I’m already doing the weekly blog thing, so my part of the challenge was to up my game to two posts a week.

Lillian took up the challenge and, she’s already gotten a new post up. You can find it here. If you haven’t been following her blog, you really should.

So that’s what this is.

For the remainder of August, I am committing to putting up two blog posts a week.

Partly because I don’t want to give Lillian any, undue, bragging rights.

Partly because it was my own idea.

Mostly because, I’m kind of hoping that it becomes a habit.

That’s the challenge. If you’ve got a blog, then I challenge you, for the remainder of August, to increase your activity there.

If you like, you can send me an email here and I’ll post a link to your blog on the next update.

I’m also available for guest posts, so you don’t even have to do the work.

What say Ye?

Are you up to the challenge???

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The More Things Change

So…

I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that the world changed for me recently.

In a way, it also stayed the same, although I wish it hadn’t.

A couple of weeks ago, I saw Wonder Woman for the first time. Yes, I know, I’m horribly behind on keeping up with movies and television.

Up until then, I had studiously avoided reviews, conversations about the movie, potential spoilers, the works. I went into the theater, basically, knowing that the movie was “Good”, but you know how that can sometimes turn out.

 

The movie blew me away. It was so much more than an origin story. DC had gotten it right. The writing was tight, the movie was entertaining, and there were moments that had a significant emotional impact.

Without giving anything away, there was a scene out in “No Man’s land”. If you’ve seen the movie, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

In this scene, Diana makes a choice. She chooses to help the people caught up in the conflict now, rather than continuing to move toward their longer term goal of stopping the war.

Diana does this against the advice of her companions and, it is in this moment that she truly comes into her power as Wonder Woman.

As action scenes go, it was pretty bad-ass.

If I’m being honest with myself, I don’t think that there wasn’t anything “New” in that scene. You’ve seen it a hundred times: The protagonist displays their competence by wading through a horde of foot soldiers. These scenes are usually pretty entertaining. There’s a lot of flash and you really get to see the protagonist strutting their stuff, before you reach the part of the movie where stuff starts to go to hell.

But it had never been a woman before.

It had never been a confident, competent woman with agency taking it upon herself to walk straight into danger and do what’s right.

The scene moved me so profoundly, that I had to wipe away tears so that I could watch it clearly. I’m feeling that same sense of awe, those same emotions, blunted perhaps, but there, even as I type this.

At the time, I couldn’t articulate why that scene had the impact that it did. It took a couple of weeks of processing for me to put my finger on why it had such an impact on me.

 

In the end, it came down to that it made me happy.

It made me happy that it was a woman.

That, finally, it was a woman.

It made me glad that my daughter could see herself represented on the screen and it made me glad to know that I can look forward to seeing other stories driven by competent, confident women, because, you know…

It’s about, damned time.

Speaking of time…

In a one-two punch of awesome, that weekend the BBC announced the casting of Jodie Whittaker as the 13th Doctor.

I remember watching the reveal video and having a similar reaction.

I couldn’t believe it.

Often, my daughter is quicker to get caught up on things like this than I am. So, when I asked her if she’d seen who the next Doctor was, she said she didn’t know.

I stopped her in her tracks and showed her the video.

It blew her mind (her words, not mine).

 

I’ve been a fan of the show for nearly 30 years and I’d been ready for a woman to be cast in the role since Tom Baker suggested it back at the end of his run as the Doctor.

I keep watching the video and, every time, I have an emotional reaction, blunted, perhaps because I’ve watched it so many times, but there.

It makes me happy. Happy for the show. Happy for the potential opened up by this casting.

Happy for everyone that identifies with this character who, maybe more than any other, makes being smart and clever, something cool.

Happy that it’s a woman.

That, finally, it’s a woman.

So, that weekend, the world changed. It opened up. It got bigger, and the potential for great stories expanded with it to, potentially, include all people.

Think about that for a moment.

Consider all of the stories that hadn’t been told, that weren’t told, because protagonists in television and film had been limited to a narrow demographic – straight white guys.

Think of all the stories out there that could be driven by women, people of color, and the entire spectrum of the LGBTQI+ community. There are so many stories, so much potential.

This should be a wonderful and exciting time for genre fans.

And it is…mostly.

This brings us to the part of the world that hasn’t changed…and I wish it would.

The reaction to the release of Wonder Woman, and the casting of Jodie Whittaker as the 13th Doctor was, on the whole, a positive one.

But there were some deep pockets of vitriol that spilled onto my social media feeds like an overturned garbage truck – the majority of them posted by men (big surprise there, right?).

Men claiming that the show had been ruined, despite that the 13th Doctor isn’t scheduled to appear until after the Christmas special. That, aside from the reveal video, they haven’t seen one, damned frame of Jodie in the role.

Men claiming that the Doctor is a “Man’s” role, despite there being nothing in the show (ever) that claimed that the Doctor HAD to be male.

Men claiming that if this is true, then they won’t watch the show ever again.

Good.

Good, fucking riddance.

You didn’t understand the show anyway.

That way of thinking, that kind of exclusivity, needs to go away and sooner would be much better than later.

So, to those men out there that are whining, or outraged, or somehow personally offended by the rise of female protagonists in genre film/television in general, and by the casting of Jodie Whittaker as the 13th Doctor, in particular, I say this:

Grow the fuck up.

It might come as a surprise to you, but this show – the show you’re claiming somehow, as your own, personal, property and how dare the show runners cast a female in a “Man’s” role – is ALL ABOUT INCLUSIVITY.

You’ve been blinded by your own, stupid, sexist, or racist, or homophobic attitudes and what you fail to realize is that any of the previous Doctors (all of them played by men) would kick you out of the TARDIS for those same attitudes, and warn against letting the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

On the other side of the coin, oddly, there were women that were bothered by this casting choice as well.

Maybe not so oddly, there was, again, protest that the role of the Doctor was a “Man’s” role, which we know is crap.

More prevalent was the “What about the Boys?” argument which states that boys NEED the Doctor to be male so they can have a proper role-model.

To this question, I only have a few things to say:

Peter Parker

Obi-Wan Kenobi

Ben Cisko

Reed Richards

Steve Rogers

Barry Allen

Hal Jordan

Hank McCoy

Jean Luc Picard

Luke Skywalker

To quote Captain America from The Avengers – you remember that movie: Superhero team, 5 guys, 1 woman – “I could do this all day.”

Suffice it to say that boys aren’t even in the same zip code where a dearth of role models would live. I don’t think they are in the same city…or the same state.

Let’s talk about girls for a second.

You’ve got:

Rey

Jyn Erso

Leia Organa

Wonder Woman

Supergirl

All very recent. You’ve got to live through a whole bunch of nothing to get here from:

Korra – no, wait, there was a “problem” with her, wasn’t there?  Back farther…

How about The Powerpuff Girls?

Kim Possible

There’s your dearth of role models.

You know the last widely distributed genre action figure targeted at girls before Wonder Woman?

Harley Quinn.

Harley, Freaking, Quinn!!

A psychotic supervillan with a penchant for beating people to death with a baseball bat.

That’s who we want our daughters to look up to?

No thank you.

 

So your argument that boys will be losing a role model doesn’t wash. They’ve got plenty.

And, by the way, who the hell says that a woman can’t be a positive role model for boys anyway? Why can’t Wonder Woman or a female Doctor be someone that a boy can look up to?

There is no, intelligent reason why a woman can’t be a role model for boys. A positive role model is a positive role model.

So what is your real reason for not liking a woman being cast in this role?

If you don’t like the BBC’s casting choices because you don’t like the actress. That’s fine.

If you think the role has been mis-cast, that’s fine too. Although I would encourage you to give her a shot. Heath Ledger wouldn’t have been my first choice to cast as the Joker, but damned, if he didn’t knock it out of the freaking park.

If you don’t like Jodie Whittaker in the part because she’s a woman…If you don’t like Wonder Woman, or any movie, really, because of the sex of the protagonist, or because of the color of their skin, or their sexual orientation, or gender identity…

You’re missing something crucial.

And if you haven’t figured out what that something is by now…

There’s the door. Don’t let it hit you on the way out.

 

Time: 11:00 Am -ish

Music: Lacuna Coil – You Create

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Time Management

This was going to be a post about Time Management…

So, naturally, it’s the post that’s a day late.

Clearly, I am not a Jedi yet.

But that doesn’t mean I’ve got nothing to say on the topic. I got a heck of a lot of stuff done this past weekend, so I’ve got to be doing something right.

What I am going to do is share what I do and, maybe that’ll help you.

Now, from here, we could go waaay out into the weeds talking about day planners, digital planning tools, which is best for what lifestyle, and all that.

 

 

 

 

I’m not going to go there.

I could also talk about quadrants, matrices, urgency, and impact until you’re ready to…well…

 

 

 

(How’s this for an urgent impact??)

And I’m not going there either.

What I do want to do is to lay out the big problem:

There are only 24 hours in a day and there’s only one of me.

And there’s a lot of stuff on my plate.

During the work week, from the time I get up, I’m pretty much moving non stop until it’s time to go to bed. And there’s another part of the problem. Regimented does not always equal Organized.

I’ve usually got no plan for when things take longer than they should. That causes what I’m working on to bump into what’s coming next.

Ultimately, what ends up getting stepped on are one of three things:

  1. Sleep. Not a good thing to play fast and loose with, and you don’t want to be going without it.
  2. Reading. This gets crunched most often and it’s a problem for me because reading is part of my night-time-getting-ready-for-sleep ritual. This is a signal to my brain that I’m getting ready to “Call it” for the day.
  3. Writing the next day. I get up at 5:30 each morning to write. And 5:30 is going to come around whether I’ve gotten to bed at the right time or if I’m late. Despite point 1, I will often choose to go with less sleep to get up and write.

So how do I keep track of everything?

I make lists.

I love making lists. I’ll write them out long hand with a really nice pen. I can add stuff to lists all day…

The problem is that you’ve got to actually do stuff that’s on the list.

And, no, you can’t add “Make a list” to your list of stuff to do….why? Um…because you’ll open a hole in reality or something.

Trust me on this, nested lists are not the answer.

How do I organize my lists?

When I’m first creating one, the initial list is a brain dump. I drop things into the list as they come to me. Often, but not always, the stuff that’s the most time sensitive is what’s floating on top of my brain-stew.

But I also know myself (and I think you all know yourselves) well enough to know what needs to be tackled first. Once you knock something off the list, take it off the list. Carve a line through it, drop a big, old, check mark on top of that entry. If you’re into stickers, put a sticker on the completed task. Whatever it is you do to indicate to yourself that, yes, you HAMMERED that thing DOWN!!!

Do that.

Going back to tasks taking longer than they should (or that you thought they would). I set a pretty sizable task for myself this weekend:

Read your manuscript completely through, making notes on minor revision points and dropping in back story, character background, world building, etc.

I had two days and the house to myself. I could do this.

And I did do it.

Saturday was a little easier than Sunday in that, I wasn’t trying to hold to a specific schedule.

Sunday was a little crunchier. I had multiple things to get done, things I wanted to get done, and I wanted a little down time to recharge.

This is a really important thing to work into your schedule somehow. Time for you to recharge.

You can’t be running around all the time, and that is another thing that I’ve got to work on. I can tell myself that the reading time is recharging time and, on one level, it is, but there are other activities (gaming and television) that fall by the wayside.

So, come Sunday and I’m looking at my goals and my lists and, as the day progresses, I need to make some decisions:

Do I push ahead to get the writing goal done?

I’ve got a blog post to get done. Do I tackle that?

And there are a bunch of other things that I could do. The Dishwasher needed emptying, stuff like that.

I knuckled down and hit my writing goal. That was pretty important. So was dinner, so I tackled that next. It’s 9:45 by the time I get done and my brain is a little on the fried side and I’m wound up pretty tight.

I could have tried to get the blog post up, but it would have been lousy. Nobody wants that. So I decided to push it back a day.

And that’s what I wanted to point out. It wasn’t that the day, somehow, got away from me. I did what I could in the time that I had, prioritizing tasks as I went and seeing them through. Items that I didn’t get to yesterday, will be compared to priority tasks for today and worked in, if there’s a spot.

It requires a constant review of what’s going on, what’s coming up, and how important the tasks are to establish the order that I’m going to do them in.

And getting them done, even if it takes longer than you thought.

That’s why I’m two minutes into my reading time, finishing up this post.

Good Luck!!

 

Time: 9:03 Pm-ish

Music: None.

 

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