nano 2018

NaNo-2018-Winner-Badge

This happened today! I’ll still be writing tomorrow to finish out the month, and I’ve still got a good amount of story left to go. But still. (There are no emoji, but imagine three confetti ones here.)

tea for trouble

After Thanksgiving, we were traveling home with an excess of gifts, as we are after every trip to Houston. It’s become routine enough that I’ve started taking a slightly larger bag than necessary, purely because I’m sure it’ll be stuffed with various things for me to bring home. This time, we were carting back multiple kinds of tea, bottles of wine, and some snacks. We distributed the things into our bags and also ended up checking a box because of the wine.

One of the teas that my mom sent us home with was pu’er, which is a special fermented black tea. This tea is sold in compressed cakes of tea leaves, shaped like flat discs, wrapped in cotton paper. It comes with text on the top and a little insert within the wrapper that attests to the authenticity — pu’er can be expensive, and counterfeiting is sometimes an issue. The pu’er we had was also nestled in a little box and the box went into a bag.

But we didn’t have room in our luggage for extraneous packaging, so Adam took the wrapped disc out and put that in his backpack, neatly cushioned by some sweaters. (At least traveling in winter means you have copious packing material to cushion breakables with.)

It looks like this:

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writing (and life) recap 2018: w47

Survived round one of marathon family events season. Which, as a moniker, makes it sound rather dire (even for all that it is certainly true).

Thanksgiving shenanigans were good, better than expected even. This year, we went to go visit my family in Houston. Had waaaaaay too many huge meals, which surprised no one. The usual number of (or maybe slightly fewer, if I’m being optimistic) problematic things were said and called out. For Thanksgiving proper, we had an elaborate hot pot, which is our go to holiday meal. My mom and stepdad tend to go all out with it; they event built their own giant hot pot specific table. It’s fun and interactive and social. (Should’ve snapped a pic, but I’m bad at remembering things like that especially when confronted with tasty food.)

Got to see the brother and the stepsister and a lot of dog nieces (and one dog nephew). They were all happily spoiled by my mother who insists on feeding all dogs table scraps. Her own Maltese, named Proton, now eats mostly people food, and has terrible tableside begging habits because of it, to no one’s surprise at all. This has been a running conversation for duration of Proton’s entire life, and this year, I chose to be very ambivalent and vaguely amused about it, which was less stressful. I think partially it’s because the parties involved were more honest about their intentions — whereas previously, my mom made overtures about not wanting Proton to beg or was (seemingly) annoyed at her behavior, now she just fully embraces the fact that this is how she wants to raise her dog. Which makes the whole thing simpler because then I can let it go instead of watch advice that I was asked for go completely unheeded and then hear the same lamentations at each meal.

Everyone should be more honest about their intentions.

Writing was a little more difficult this week, but I got the words in. I wanted to make sure that I wrote while traveling because I didn’t want to feel too tied to location or supplies when trying to get work done. It would be totally like my jerkbrain to try to entice me away from being productive by telling me that I needed to be at my desk or I needed to have x, y, and z. So proving to myself that I can/should work away from home was important. It seems like such a minor thing when you say it (or write it) out loud (or on paper), but I think it’s helpful. It’s sort of like how last year’s NaNo, though I wasn’t totally happy with my end result, proved to me that I could do it.

And it’s not even that I’m proving to myself that I can do these discrete things, not really. It’s more proving to myself that I can hold myself accountable. That I can keep the promises I make to myself, which is essentially the only category of promise I have historically had no compunctions in breaking.

I am worried about a couple of plot points where I think things get a little weak. In those bits, my characters lack some agency and are reacting mostly to external stimulus instead of pushing the plot forward themselves, so I need to think about that. I’m solidly in the muddy, mushy middle, and it’s feeling messy, which makes my enthusiasm flag. (That was a lot of M’s. I should have said motivation, I suppose, to continue the trend.) What it tells me is that I need to outline to where I am and figure out where it breaks down, go back to where I was enthusiastic, and figure out a new way forward. That feels very daunting right now though…

Word count total: 42,460

haven’t a clue

Anyway. Just to wrap up–I don’t know what I’m doing. Haven’t a clue, really. There’s no trick. There’s nothing I do that’s special. I just write. Stuff happens. Stuff fails to happen and I stare out the window and go “What happens next?” until stuff happens again or I write in a ninja attack.

However you get the thing written is fine. There is no trick that Real Writers know and are withholding. There is no amazing plotting system that will make the boring bits easy (and this is the other great truth, that writing, like everything else, is unbelievably boring work a lot of the time, and if you are bored and restless and would rather do anything else on earth than write, it is not because you are Doing It Wrong.)

There is no solution, no quick fix, no moment of grace whereupon you can be a Real Writer forever and ever, world without end.

There’s just sitting down and writing.

– Ursula Vernon, blog on March 1, 2010

writing recap 2018: w46

Had a dip in the middle of the week where my jerkbrain did the whole “what’s even the point, you’re terrible and this is terrible and everything is terrible.” And then I remembered there was a bonus Writing Excuses for NaNo that was published this week, so I took some time to listen to that. It was about writer’s block or things akin to writer’s block i.e. things that stop you from writing. Brandon Sanderson mentioned that sometimes when he had students come to him with problems making the words, it turned out the main problem was a confidence one — the words they were making were not as good as the words they wanted to make and it was discouraging.

That’s most definitely my problem.

I could be even more mad at my past self for making the decisions that I made and not making the decisions I knew I should have made, but then I’d still be here, but I would just be more mad. And that doesn’t really help anyone, does it?

So instead, I try to take a deep breath and just write through that feeling. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t.

I found myself highly dissatisfied with a bit of plot that happened when I wasn’t looking — it wasn’t part of the outline and I wasn’t sure what the point was, but the characters insisted that this needed to happen. I’m still skeptical, but we’re going to see where it goes. I have started to use my analog morning pages to brainstorm these things, and that has helped quite a bit.

Plus, I’m finally using my fountain pens and some of the very pretty inks I’ve collected but haven’t tried. (This year has very much been about “you don’t need anymore fountain pens or inks or notebooks until you use the ones you have!” Although I’m very much eyeing a stub nib fountain pen… NO. I DON’T NEED MORE PENS. But…) Right now I’m alternating J. Herbin’s Poussiere de Lune (Moon Dust purple, I mean, come on) and Diamine’s Dark Forest inks. They are gorgeous, and scrawling with them in my notebooks is one of my great pleasures in the morning.

Did a few extra words here and there to make a bit of a cushion for next week what with all the Thanksgiving travel and faaaaaaamily stuff. I think even if I only manage a thousand words a day or something like that while I’m in Houston, it’ll be okay. I should be able to find the time though. Should.

Now I’m off to prep for the early Thanksgiving meal we’re hosting here. Instead of turkey and whatnot, I’m making carnitas and we’re going to build tacos. Because I can. And because carnitas are delicious.

Word count total: 35,345

cat cave

Now that the weather has gotten cold, Nukat’s favorite spot is in between Adam’s back and his sweatshirt, in the dip of his office chair. She kept trying to close the sweatshirt door as I was attempting to take this picture.

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snow day

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Woke up this morning to this, with more fluffy flakes still falling from the sky. Good thing I stocked up on hot chocolate and library books…

read it: dread nation

It’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed a book quite as much as I enjoyed this one.

Dread Nation is an alternate history novel set in the Civil War era, but the War Between the States has been interrupted by the rise of zombies. It has a combat school, an ass-kicking heroine who isn’t afraid of kicking ass (and isn’t apologetic about it), and a running joke about corsets. And on top of all that, it delves into power systems, racism, and exploitation.

Things I totally love:

  • The characters are so well done. Jane, our heroine, is compelling and flawed. Her voice is strong and unique. She is unapologetic about what she thinks needs to be done, and she has strong loyalties to those she cares about (even if she doesn’t always want to admit she cares about them).
  • Throughout the story, Jane’s relationships to the (really excellent) side characters changes and strengthens. There’s no artificial conflict or breaking apart of allies for the sake of drama.
  • The chapter titles are a hilarious bit of subtext, and each chapter begins with excerpts from letters written by Jane or her mother.

The plot is very much tied to and driven by the characters, and it propels you forward. I read around a third of it before bed a couple nights ago and then finished it yesterday morning. Just couldn’t stop reading.

Right now, it seems like everything being published is some kind of trilogy or series, so this is the first of one of those. Some really interesting questions were raised (Gideon? Jane’s mother? Ida? Miss Duncan?), so I’m going to be on the look out for book two.

 

tor ebook club: black tides of heaven

If you don’t already know about it, Tor’s eBook club is well worth checking out and joining. Each month, you get a SFF book download (for the price of your email address, which we all know you just throw around willy-nilly all over the internet anyway) courtesy of Tor.com. This month, it’s The Black Tides of Heaven by Jy Yang, a book that has been burning a hole on my to-read list — I’ve heard basically nothing but good things.

Here’s the description from Tor:

Mokoya and Akeha, the twin children of the Protector, were sold to the Grand Monastery as infants. While Mokoya developed her strange prophetic gift, Akeha was always the one who could see the strings that moved adults to action. While Mokoya received visions of what would be, Akeha realized what could be. What’s more, they saw the sickness at the heart of their mother’s Protectorate.

A rebellion is growing. The Machinists discover new levers to move the world every day, while the Tensors fight to put them down and preserve the power of the state. Unwilling to continue as a pawn in their mother’s twisted schemes, Akeha leaves the Tensorate behind and falls in with the rebels. But every step Akeha takes towards the Machinists is a step away from Mokoya. Can Akeha find peace without shattering the bond they share with their twin?

The book is available now through Nov 16th, if you’re interested. And you should be. Because basically-free excellent SFF books.