Furry Book Month 2017!

Furry Book Month Huntress promo 2

October is Furry Book Month (courtesy of the Furry Writers’ Guild), and as part of the festivities, many writers and publishers are offering special sales.

In my case, if you don’t have a copy of Huntress yet, you can get the book on sale at Smashwords for just $1.99 (regularly $4.99):

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/560694

or the paperback at FurPlanet for $7.95 (regularly $9.95).

http://furplanet.com/shop/item.aspx?itemid=815

For a list of all the sales going on, be sure to check out the Furry Book Month page at the FWG and keep an eye on the #FurryBookMonth hashtag on Twitter.

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Poem: “Trying To Remember The French Word For Cloud”

Trying To Remember The French Word For Cloud

 
It drifts at the edges of memory,
in the delicate blue ciel,

changing shape each time
thought makes a grasp.
There’s neige, but I think that’s snow,

étoile, star; soleil, sun; pluie, rain; oiseau, bird.
I’ve populated the whole sky by now,
but it’s still hopelessly clear.
I remember rêve is dream, to sleep dormir.

Fluffy like sheep, but I can’t
remember sheep either,
though I could count them as long
as there weren’t more than ten.

So many words have blown
through the expanse of my memory,
dissolved into fog in the mind,
and now it comes to me
that I’ve even forgotten the word for remember,

though I still remember
the word for forget.

Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale

July marks the annual sale at ebook retailer Smashwords, and my ebooks there are 50% off through the end of this month. (Yeah, I’m a little later than I wanted to be with this post, but at least you’ve still got 11 days left.)

Real Dragons Don’t Wear Sweaters on Smashwords

Wishing Season on Smashwords

Huntress on Smashwords

Smashwords carries all ebook formats, including epub, mobi (for Kindle), and PDF. And if you like what you read, please leave a review!

Smashwords 2017 sale

 

Making plans

I’d originally meant to post about this topic back at the end of last year or the start of this one, but day job + state of the world have pretty much crushed my motivation for a while. At any rate, the subject is timely again, so better now than never…

One of my favorite parts of the end of a year is buying a new planner. (Yes, a paper planner. If your apps work for you, that’s great, but this post isn’t for you.) I’ve never been quite satisfied, though, with any of the ones I’ve tried. In my case, I don’t have that many things that have to be done on a certain day (so I don’t need a huge space for each day), but I do have things that need to get done sometime that week. Inevitably, I’d wind up writing a bunch of to-do stuff in the Monday and Tuesday slots, only get a couple things done, and then wind up highlighting the rest so I’d still pay attention to it by Friday. Or I’d find myself keeping a to-do list elsewhere, of stuff that needed to get done that week or that month, just not on a specific date. I also hated that my planner didn’t have a monthly calendar page integrated with the weekly layout.

The other issue for me was trying to figure out how to organize both my regular day-job/household-type planning needs with my writing/creative planning needs. For 2015 and 2016, I’d tried having a separate writing planner, but even though I loved the idea of that, in both cases it never quite worked as well as I hoped. It was too much separation. I needed both aspects of my life in one place, but my writing planning really didn’t lend itself to a regular day-by-day layout.

So as the second half of 2016 came around and the 2017 planners started hitting stores, I looked at all different brands and styles — Japanese imports, the Leuchtturm planners since I’d liked their notebooks, the usual B&N offerings — but there was always something missing.

Finally, staring at Google one day, I told myself, “That’s it. It’s 2016. We’ve had print-on-demand technology for years. There’s GOT to be somebody online offering customizable planners.”

Enter Agendio.

(Can I just say, I love their name? It’s like a Harry Potter spell to create a to-do list.)

I found other companies selling “customizable” planners, but the options tended to be more along the lines of, choose what picture you want on the cover, put your name on it, choose which type of layout you want (always the same types of layouts you can get in regular planners).

With Agendio, you can customize pretty much everything — the full layout module by module, the font, the colors, whether you want lined pages added in, or a pocket, or an elastic band, or tabs. You can have all your family’s birthdays printed in there (one of my favorite things). You can choose which holidays to include based on what country you live in or faith you observe. If some event happens the same day and time every week, you can have that printed in there automatically too. I spent hours — wonderful, happy, nitpicking hours — tweaking every last thing.

(For the record, you wouldn’t have to spend hours building your planner. It’s not that the process is difficult or massively time-consuming; it’s just that I was a kid in a candy store with all the options.)

So now I have a planner with the left page showing the days of the week and the right page made into two to-do lists: Household and Creative. The household one has a bulleted list format; the creative one is just a blank shaded block. There are monthly calendar pages (to keep track of bills and pay dates) interspersed where they should be. It has lined and blank pages in the back for notes, a pocket for business cards and clippings, and a lovely charcoal gray cover.

In short, it’s pretty much perfect. (And yeah, it’s more expensive than your average B&N planner, but I expected that. Still, even with all the bells and whistles I added on, mine breaks down to be a cost of about $5.83 a month, which to me is pretty good for something I was able to build to my own specs.)

I mention all this now not just because I’ve had a couple months to try it out and still love it, but also because Agendio has a sale going on right now. Until March 12, using the code INeedAnAgendio will get you 15% off any planner or refill (they print refills for Day-Timer, Filofax, etc, too).

And just to cover the fine print:  They’re not paying me to post this and I don’t get a percentage of clicks or anything; I just like signal-boosting good stuff, and they’re a relatively new company that I’d love to see thrive. That said, if you want to see my layout, I do have this referral link that will show it to you, and if you buy a planner from that particular referral link, I do get a credit toward my next purchase. So there’s that.

*opens planner, checks off “Write blog post about Agendio”*

Nostalgia Critic interview

Three From Waynesboro

No, this blog has not been abandoned; it’s just been a temporary casualty of real life/the day job. To start the resurrection, here’s an interview I did recently with the Nostalgia Critic webseries.

By the way, since there’s apparently been some confusion on this point (even from my husband, no less): In that graphic below showing the three of us as cartoon characters, I’m the one on the far right. Just to set the record straight. XD (You’ll also notice that toon-me is wearing a watch on her left wrist. I don’t remember all the details now, but somehow someone or other took notice that I was wearing my Bugs Bunny wristwatch when we were meeting with the writers/staff of the show, and it wound up getting a nod in my character design.)

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Finding a Path

It’s hard being a writer who isn’t writing. That’s probably the most obvious statement in the world beyond water being wet, but it’s where I’ve been for months now, and when most of your social circle online is made up of writers, the guilt and fear and shame and anger and resentment and everything else pile up quickly.

About 95% of this is due to the day job, which has required extra hours/mandatory overtime for months on end, a situation that’s likely to continue at least through the end of the year. I’ve never had much success trying to write on the weekends, so the hour on weekday mornings that I spent writing was the majority of my writing time, and for week after week that’s been absorbed into work time. As easy as it sounds (especially to myself) to say, well, write in the evening instead, or some other time, it hasn’t been that simple. I can’t get up any earlier or go to bed any later (I’ve learned I can’t sacrifice sleep and still be a functional human being), so for a long time I’ve felt… stuck. Trapped.

It hasn’t all been process issues, though. There’s also the feeling of having a dozen different directions I could go in, project-wise, and yet not being sure what I really want to work on. And since I haven’t had time to go into anything deeply, when I have had twenty or thirty minutes to work on something, the time has mostly gone into trying to figure out what I should work on, or trying to brainstorm ideas for whatever anthology had the closest deadline, and then not feeling like I made any progress when I couldn’t come up with anything viable. (And there’s always that feeling hanging over me of “you’ve only completed one short story THIS WHOLE ENTIRE YEAR,” which then brings on that anxiety of, I need to get going, I need to finish something else NOW, I need to catch up on this blog and Three From Waynesboro isn’t getting updated nearly often enough, and probably everyone’s forgotten about it, and see, that’s yet another thing I’m behind on…” Et cetera. And then the brain stays in anxiety mode, which is lousy for making anything, especially when you only have fifteen or twenty minutes at a time.)

I know that, at least for right now, the way I think about my work needs to be different from how writers are usually told (directly or implicitly) to think about it. For one thing, I find myself wanting to think more like an artist, to approach creative work as an experiment, as play. As much as I might well need (or even want) one someday, right now my entire soul recoils at the words “business plan.” And yet I know what I want, as soon as possible, is another book, whether that’s a novel or novella or a short story collection. I want that feeling of completeness, of the finished thing with a cover, of hey, look, people (self), I have been doing something after all.

It’s just a long road to get there, especially when you feel like you’re not making any progress beyond pages of random notes or odd phrases that pop into your head.

I try to tell myself, though, that at least I’m remaining open. Those notes and phrases are still me being receptive, listening, gathering. It’s a difficult mindset, because it goes against that grain of “ONLY word count matters, ONLY the writing counts as real — research, listening, brainstorming, listening to podcasts, reading blogs about writing — none of that really counts” that writers hear so much of. I understand the advice — sure, you have to actually write sometime — but I’m reminding myself that I haven’t totally shut down. My writing isn’t all in some room gathering dust with the door closed and locked. I haven’t shut myself away from all aspects of it. In some ways, I’m thinking about it more than I ever have before, and that’s not a terrible thing.

(And I’ve signed on for the Notebook Project again, which was fun last year, and is a great alternative to NaNoWriMo, and which I hope will loosen things up even more, being as low-pressure and potentially playful a challenge as it is.)

All that said, it’s surprised me to realize that what bothers me about not writing isn’t so much the not-writing part; it’s the not-publishing (or at least sending things out) part. I’ve always felt that submitting and publishing work is that last part of the creative process — things don’t feel finished until they have a home somewhere, even if it’s just being shared here or on my website — and it’s bothered me more than I expected, to not have new things to put out there. But I print out guidelines of magazines that I’d like to submit to, sometime, when I have something again, and I put them in a folder, and they’re safe, and right now that has to be enough.

So. I’m still trying, and I’m trying to go easy on myself in the meantime. I’m reading blogs like The Fluent Self and Bane of Your Resistance and Tiny Buddha and Chris Oatley’s blog, and Austin Kleon’s newsletter, and Keri Smith’s blog. I’m reading Natalie Goldberg and Elizabeth Gilbert (and listening to Gilbert’s podcast Magic Lessons). And I’m seeking out new sources of input for art and poems and essays (like The Sun). I’ve kept having this feeling, for months, that if I can just explore enough creative work that’s different, unusual, thought-provoking — enough randomness, enough novelty — I can somehow find more depth and variety in what I create myself.

I’m trying to reframe this, instead of a dry spell, as something of a hibernation, if not the tiny hope of a metamorphosis. If conditions become favorable again to write the way I used to, I want to be ready; if they don’t, I want to adapt enough to be able to keep going.

And now… well, now it’s time to work. As usual. But at least I won’t have “update my blog” hanging over me for a while. 🙂

Knowing What Doesn’t Work

Camp NaNoWriMo has come and gone for another year, and I made a halfhearted attempt at the July session, joining up with a cabin of middle grade writers in the hopes of completing my MG manuscript-that-is-mostly-just-many-pages-of-notes, Tinker’s Gap. I say “halfhearted” because Camp was very nonproductive for me this time — I never felt fully committed to it or really excited about it, so I never got an outline together, and what I quickly learned once writing time started was that this particular book doesn’t want to be written in an on-the-fly rush. What words I did wind up writing during July were mostly unrelated blog posts for Three From Waynesboro, a couple freewrites, and an opening scene for Tinker’s Gap that may or may not stay.

They say to view your writing as an experiment, in the sense that every experiment is valuable because it either ends in success or you learn something to help for next time. In this case, I learned that 1) above all else right now, I hate having to count how many words I’ve written in a day, and 2) the NaNo setup overall just isn’t my thing anymore. This time around, what struck me was that not only was I not anywhere close to meeting my word count goal, I didn’t even care that I wasn’t meeting it. (My only concern was that maybe I was making a lousy first impression on my cabinmates, although thankfully I wasn’t the only one to not make my goal for the month.)

I still have fond memories of my first NaNoWriMo and of my first Camp NaNoWriMo, but ever since then, any further attempts at either one have never been able to recapture that first sense of excitement and play and fun, and I wind up just forcing myself to try to get through it and regretting that I signed up.

So. Duly noted, universe, even if it did take a few tries to finally sink in.

I’ve also been trying to find some kind of emotional balance with social media — which, for me, mostly means Twitter these days. On the one hand, since I work from home, Twitter is kind of my water cooler, my hangout, and makes up a big portion of my online social interaction (and my social interaction in general, to be honest).

On the other hand, it can also be incredibly toxic for me. In this case I’m not talking about harassment or issues like that; instead, it’s the experience of having a feed made up of lots of writers (and a fair amount of them pro-level writers or pro-level indie writers), so there are days when I feel like I’m reading a constant feed made up of, hey I’m going to this con, or I’m GoH at this other con, or here I am at this workshop, or I’m nominated for this award, or here’s my latest blog tour or my tweets from this awesome book festival or the cover reveal for my next series book, yay!… and my comparison monster wakes up and stretches and gets to work, and the next thing I know I’m sitting there feeling sorry for myself because I don’t have tons of best writing pals talking up my stuff, or a bunch of fans to banter with, or a cutesy group-nickname for my newsletter subscribers*, and why doesn’t anybody ever ask me questions on Goodreads, and why don’t I have more reviews, and I’ve barely written anything this year and nobody reads my stuff anyway so why bother, and I hate my day job and I hate myself and oh also I hate the entire freaking world and everyone in it.

You can see where this might become something of an issue.

I know it seems simple to say, okay, just stay off Twitter then — but despite what I’ve said above, I really like a lot of things about Twitter. I like keeping up with and meeting and interacting with people there. I follow a lot of cool feeds of really interesting stuff that I’d miss out on otherwise. I do enjoy being there… except when I don’t.

So part of figuring out other stuff that doesn’t work for me lately has been trying to take more control of what I’m consuming. Right now that means muting various people on Twitter when I need to (and not feeling bad about it), and I switched to Tweetdeck so I can also have the ability to mute keywords and hashtags. I know full well that I’m never going to be able to avoid everything that can trigger envy, frustration, burnout, depression, or just general despair about the state of humanity (read: the 2016 presidential election), but I’m going to try to walk away and/or mute more often, to make those times shorter and easier for me to deal with, rather than getting stuck in that downward spiral of “I should be able to deal with this and I’m a terrible person because I can’t.”

By the same token, I’ve also been cleaning house in terms of unsubscribing from blogs and mailing lists that just get deleted from my inbox anyway, or give me one more thing I feel like I have to keep up with. I’m running everything past the test of is this really worth my time?, in the sense of (to use the words of Marie Kondo), does this spark joy? Does it feed my curiosity or give me information I really need at the place I’m at right now? I don’t need to read more articles with publishing or marketing advice when right now my biggest challenge is to bring joy back into the process of creating. (And yes, I’m taking breaks from Twitter and the Internet in general when the political scene or the cynicism or the general vitriol and idiocy just gets to be too much.)

Recent days, then, have been about admitting, and clearing out, what doesn’t work. Now I’m left trying to figure out what still does — but I’ll save that rambling for another post.

 

*suggestions welcome