The Obsession Grows

When I first started this blog as a place to post my daily writing work, to hold myself accountable, a few months in, I wrote a post about my notebooks. Around that time I had come to realize that I had what could officially be called a collection of notebooks. I had never before been a collector of anything besides dust, junk, and words.

I hadn’t intended to start collecting notebooks, and I understand now that people don’t wake up one day and decide to start collecting something (well, some people may do that; I’m not here to generalize). I decided then to share my notebook collection on my fledgling blog with maybe 3 readers (I’m not just being self-deprecating—I didn’t exactly promote the blog that was only meant to keep myself working on my writing).

Here is that first post, written a little over 3 years ago. In the time since then, my collection has grown. That first post has notebooks going all the way back to my childhood, and in 3 years, I’ve doubled the amount.

I think it has something to do with admitting to myself and to my family that this is a collection. And since then, I’ve upgraded that admission to “obsession.” Now, my head isn’t turned by every brightly colored, spiral-bound notebook sitting on a shelf at the store. But I can’t help but love notebooks that are unique, interesting, related to something I like, or have a story behind them.

So now that I’ve returned to my blog after a year and a half hiatus, it seems like a good time to post about the additions to my collection. At the end, I even mention a few items that aren’t notebooks, but are worth noting. Warning: I plan to tell the story of each of these, and while these are not every single notebook I’ve gained since July of 2014, it’s still going to be a long post. Continue at your own discretion.

NaNo notebookMy parents gave me this NaNoWriMo notebook for Christmas in 2014. It was a new product in their store at the time, and I’d wanted a blank notebook from them for years. I was one (among many, I’m sure) who suggested they create a blank notebook instead of the confusing (to me, at least) notebooks they already had that seemed to have filled pages and maybe blank ones, but who knows without buying them. I’ve started using it for exactly what it says there–NaNoNovel prep notes.

notebook 2In April, 2015, my family went to Canada mainly to attend the farewell concert of a Toronto-based geek band. We went through Niagara Falls on our way home, and there I got this souvenir of the trip. It’s made of recycled paper, the cover is cardboard, and even the pen that it came with is mostly made of cardboard! This notebook is still unused.

notebook-3.jpgMy parents-in-law gave me this journal on my birthday in (I think) 2015. It has a very nice, squishy cover, and has various Bible verses on the bottoms of some of the pages. I started using it near the end of 2015 as a daily gratitude journal which I’ve continued with varying consistency since then.

notebook 4This notebook is one of my favorites. My husband gave it to me for Christmas in 2015. It’s one of my larger notebooks (so many are half the size of a normal, school-use notebook) and has a squishy cover as well. The clasp (shown in insert) is engraved with, “Dream, Plan, Write Every Day…” which is a motto I made up and used as a title to a series of blog posts with writing tips. I’ve used this notebook for some writing practice, and will continue to do so once I get back into the habit.

notebook-5.jpgThe story behind this one isn’t nearly as good as the others, because my husband insisted on getting it for me when we walked by a sale of monogrammed notebooks at JoAnn’s. But it’s interesting to me, because I never used to be the kind of person who cared about my initial on things, but I find I enjoy it now. This one is a half-sized notebook, but it’s lined, and has a cloth cover. It’s unused for now.

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It might be hard to tell from the picture, but this is a magnetic notebook. You can take pages out and put them back in, refill the notebook, move a page up so you can write on the bottom better, and even print on the pages and put them back into the notebook. I haven’t started using it yet because I feel like it should be saved for something really special. That’s a problem I’m starting to have with a lot of my notebooks though.

 

This notebook came from a preview trip to the Ark Encounter in Kentucky in July of 2016. It is handmade with a hand-carved wood cover and cotton paper. (The left is the front cover, the right is an informational insert that is still attached to the back cover.) It is beautiful and oddly square-shaped, which makes it stand out even more amongst my other notebooks. This one may be the hardest one for me to ever bring myself to start writing in.

notebook-7.jpgLast Christmas, my daughter came up with the perfect idea for a gift for me while we were at Barnes & Noble. Based on various clues, I knew she was planning to get me a notebook, and I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I have too many as it is and really shouldn’t keep getting more. She’s only 7 (was 6 at the time) and loves coming up with gift ideas on her own, so I didn’t want to ruin that for her, and let my husband help her buy this beautiful, soft-covered, hand-embroidered notebook. It is unused so far, and I’m torn between wanting to save it for something special and wanting her to see me using it.

notebook 9Just a few months ago, ThinkGeek opened a store in a mall near us. We went to the grand opening, and my husband insisted we both get something. I was able to resist until I saw this notebook. I didn’t even have to say anything; he grabbed it and didn’t give me a chance to argue (not that I would have much). I watched this movie quite a bit when I was younger, and it even has a golden ticket inside, because…well, how could it not? It’s unused so far, and low on the list of books to start using, which doesn’t bother me.

 

This is my newest addition, just picked it up last weekend. I went to a living history reenactment, the biggest one in our area. I saw this beauty in Daniel Boone’s tent, and ogled it a bit. It has a leather cover and (I suspect) bark pages, with a metal clasp to hold it shut. I held myself back for reasons I already mentioned (I have too many…), but my husband snuck back later and bought it for me. I’m beginning to see a pattern here…my husband is an enabler. He’s definitely one who shows his love through gift-giving.

Now I’m out of notebooks for this post, but in case anyone has gotten down this far (even just by skimming), I have a couple of other things of note in this vein:

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After desiring a Freewrite for a few years, but knowing that I couldn’t remotely justify spending that much money on something that was just for a hobby, I stumbled across the information that other such items existed. I don’t remember if I went looking for a substitute, or just got lucky, but I read some reviews and found out that the Alphasmart Neo was everything I wanted out of a highly portable, distraction-free writing device. They’re not in production anymore, but you can find cheap used ones online. So I linked it to my husband last fall and hinted about a Christmas gift, and sure enough, he came through! It can save up to 8 different files, transfers to your computer when you’re ready for that (though if you have a long file, that part can take a while), and the battery life has been incredible so far. I am highly anticipating using this in my first NaNoWriMo next month. I may have to sew up a padded sleeve for it so that I can transport it in my massive Handbag of Holding without worrying about hurting it.

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Lastly, this is my fidget pen. The little balls that are attaching that curved piece to the pen are magnetic, as is the very top of the pen, where the larger ball is attached. This thing keeps my hands busy for hours. I had noticed a tendency to take apart pens or mechanical pencils that I used while writing or in meetings, and I knew this pen would be perfect for me. It also came with the desk toy. (Video of pen in action) I don’t know about anyone else, but fidget spinners didn’t enter my field of vision until earlier this year. By the time I’d heard about them, I had already invested in this crowdfunded pen. Now I feel a little dirty, being part of a fad, but this is so much better and more practical than a spinner because it’s a pen.

I won’t make this post any longer by drawing out the conclusion, and instead just say that since I’ve noticed that I’m not the only writer who has a plethora of notebooks, feel free to show me yours!

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A New Day

I’ve been ready to write this post for about a week now. It’s the first one in almost a year and a half, so I knew it had to be epic, witty, or at least insightful. But I don’t want to write that post. I do want to address it, but in simple words. Though knowing myself as I do, it still may not be short.

At the beginning of last year, I submitted my first novel to publishers, after spending several years creating it. Without knowing if that first novel would be worth publishing, I tried to move on to revising my second novel. Then, I got a job. It was a part-time weekend job at first, working as a game master at an escape room company, but quickly became more than that, with sporadic hours. These two things together pulled me away from my regular writing work, which I’d been fairly consistent with for a few years (minus short hiatuses now and then).

In August last year, I changed to full-time with my job and became a manager. That only solidified my lack of time and mental energy to do any writing. I remember hoping that November, which would bring NaNoWriMo, would help me jump-start back into my writing.

Some time during all of this, I got a couple of rejection letters for my novel, but I was so caught up in how life was going at the time, I barely registered them.

Then in September, my dad had a heart attack and subsequent 6-bypass surgery. He’s doing well now, but was very close to death for about a week (not to be too dramatic). As NaNo approached, I decided to rebel a bit and write about the time he was in the hospital, both because he had a strong desire to know what had happened, and because I thought it might be cathartic for me.

I had a difficult time with the writing, and didn’t even get all of the events written, but I did finish NaNoWriMo. Unfortunately, because of my full-time job and the nature of my writing, NaNo did not help me return to my writing.

Fast forward almost a year, and I am now working 20 hours a week (approximately) at the same job, now as Director of Operations. The anniversary of my dad’s heart attack was last month, and he and my mom brought up the writing I said I was doing for NaNoWriMo last year. My dad has been trying to remember everything that happened during his 3-week hospital stay, and hopes that what I had written down would help.

It was still in “NaNo-form,” though, which means typos, things marked for deletion, and generally just hard to read. So I started going back through it, trying to put it in some semblance of a readable form, reading it along the way myself. While doing that, I started going back to other things I’ve written.

Over the course of the 3 weeks, I’ve read through just about everything I’ve written in the last 10 years, from the 2 complete novels, to partially drafted novels, to writing practice, drabbles, ideas, and even some of the fanfiction I wrote early on. I’m starting to have the itch to get back into it, and in some ways, I feel like I’ve just popped my head out of the cave I’ve been hunkered in for the last 17 months.

Going forward, I am going to work on writing as often as I can. I’m not going to pretend that I will be able to do writing work every day like I used to strive for. But even for the last week or so, I’ve already been writing out an outline for a story I’m not sure I want to write, but can’t avoid thinking about, so needed to at least get it down. That passion for just getting the words out is something I really miss, and I want to embrace it.

I think one of the things that disappoints me most about my time in the cave is that I barely remember participating in NaNoWriMo last year. I didn’t blog about it at all; I barely even finished. I enjoy going back later and reading through certain blog posts, remembering my writing journey, but 2016 NaNoWriMo is just a blank spot in my mind. I will be more deliberate this year.

My job, even at 20 hours a week, is still sporadic in the time those hours are put in. As Director of Operations, I am “on” from 9am until 11pm, 6 days a week, meaning that any time someone needs something from me, I’m generally expected to be available and respond. If I want to spend uninterrupted time with my family, I often have to schedule it.

I do enjoy my job. I design, implement, and modify escape rooms and get to be part of many other creative endeavors that our company is always working on. But I know that one of the reasons I do so well at that job is because, in my heart, I am a writer! 

i am a writer

This is from NaNoToons 2015. I don’t even remember last year’s NaNoToons…

For the approaching NaNoWriMo, I want to get back to traditional roots and write a new work of fiction. To do that, I have to sort through ideas I already have, see if any of them are ready to be expanded to a full outline, or decide to start something from scratch. Today begins NaNo prep season (I’m not sure how official that is, but October 1st always feels like the beginning of NaNo prep time to me). I am all in.

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Wow, this place is dusty. I mean, really dusty. Layers of dirt and cobwebs everywhere. It’s not the first time I’ve taken an unintended break from my writing, letting it fall to the side for more than a month, but I think this is the longest gap I’ve had in posts since starting this blog. Previous breaks from writing were at least peppered with good intentions of trying to return, a day here or there where I’d post, and then still fall back into the break.

But it has been almost 2 full months since I posted even an attempt at keeping up with my writing. Which is because I haven’t attempted to keep up with my writing since February 17th. Looking back through my blog, it was even before that that I really started into this slump. It’s interesting to me, at least, to see the progression. It went something like this:

I finished revising my first novel, “Pithea,” to the point of even being able to send it off to a few publishing companies.

I dove right into revising my second novel, the first draft of which had already been written.

I got a new job on the weekends, which largely affected the rest of the week enough to make finding time and energy to write more difficult.

I hit an early roadblock in revising my second novel, and more time and thinking was required to push past it.

My new job started to ask more of me than I expected, including working during the week for a few weeks, thus exhausting me more and making things more strained at home.

I made a conscious decision to put off revising for a few weeks, dropped my daily writing habit, and let myself be lazy in the evenings (my normal writing time) instead of pushing myself to sit at my desk and get some writing work done.

It’s important to note that I am one who in the past has insisted that even people who lead busy lives should be able to find time to write. And I’m not saying now that it’s not true, but I definitely have more perspective on that now. It only took one change to my life and normal routine to throw me off enough to just give up on writing for a while. It took me two months to get to where I am right now, which is starting to feel a strong enough desire to get back to my writing that I’m willing to put aside the lazy evenings for more structured ones again.

It may take a few weeks to be back to where I was for 9 months before this break, writing almost every day. I don’t know when I’ll have time or ideas for another Write Every Day post. It may even take me a few wasted evenings of going back over what I was last doing in my work before I’m able to make any real progress. But the important thing is that I’m finally feeling up to it again.

Something else that bothers me about this break I took is that I fell away from all things writing and blogging. I haven’t read posts by others that I normally keep up with, and I know there’s no way I can find time to go back through 2 months worth of posts (not that I follow all that many blogs regularly).  I’m going to scan through my WP reader and try to hit the highlights, but I don’t want to take so much time reading that it hurts my attempt to start writing again.

I do want to say that I appreciate those of you who contacted me during the last few months to check in or ask if everything was okay. I’m sorry I didn’t respond at the time. I didn’t mean to be rude or anti-social, I just couldn’t get my head into the right space to think about any of this. Hopefully that makes at least some sense.

Thanks for reading my rambling. I hope things get back to normal around here soon. I miss my story world, and even the blogging world I’d created.

A Little Q&A

These questions come from a post on aliasfaithrivens’ blog. I like reading Q&As like this from people I know, and it’s kind of fun answering them too.

When did you first start writing? Was being a writer something you always aspired to?
I started writing stories in elementary school. I recently dug up one of my first stories, written when I was 10 years old. I don’t know if the hard copy exists somewhere (I suspect it doesn’t), but I’d typed it into my parents’ old Tandy 1000. This was around 1992.

When I was older—somewhere between twelve and fourteen—I wrote a good start on what I had planned to be the first in a series of books for teenagers. That story I still have in several notebooks tucked away.

But apparently in middle and high school, I left fiction writing behind and turned to poetry. I wrote some good, some bad, some uplifting, some angsty poems. And during a creative writing class in high school, I even went as far as to say (in a reflection paper at the end of the class) that though I’d enjoyed writing the short story required for the class, I didn’t think I’d have a reason to write fiction again in the future.

What genre do you write?
Lately, mostly speculative fiction. My main book series seems to have landed squarely on post-apocalyptic science fiction. I wouldn’t normally consider myself a sci-fi writer, though…just sort of happened that way. Outside of this one series, I write more contemporary fiction, sometimes with a Christian bent.

Can you tell us a little about your current work in progress? When did you start working on this project?
It’s actually a weird feeling to not say that my current WIP is “Pithea.” But since that one’s done, it’ll be time to move on soon. I’ll be turning my attention soon to “Pursuit of Power.” This novel is about a young man who becomes suspicious about his dad’s accidental death, starts to dig, and ends up drawing a lot of unwanted attention.

Technically I started working on this in 2009. I wrote most of the first draft during NaNoWriMo that year. Then I re-imagined the story world I’d tried to create and rewrote the story in 2014. The very basics of the original were the same—main characters, their main goals, and a general ending—but it’s a completely different story now.

What was your first piece that you can remember writing? What was it about?

The NickersonsAs I mentioned above, the first piece I remember writing was when I was 10. It was a story about a couple adopting a 10-year-old girl, along with that girl’s best friend, because the girl they were adopting insisted. It was 186 words long. I started writing a sequel that was supposed to be a bit of a mystery, and though I didn’t finish it, it was already longer than the first story. I still remember what was supposed to happen in that story. Maybe I should finish it.

What’s the best part about writing?
There are so many things about writing that I love. If I had to choose one thing, it would be the discovery. The sudden light bulb when a brand new idea strikes, when a blockage is broken through, or when things suddenly become fun again.

What’s the worst part about writing?
In contrast to the previous answer, I think the worst part of writing is when things just aren’t working out. New ideas aren’t flowing, you can’t break through the block, and you feel downright un-creative.

What’s the name of your favorite character and why?
Though Missy would be the logical choice, as the MC of my first novel and a character who will feature or at least appear in more of the rest of the series than any one character (I’m pretty sure, at least), she is still a second to my favorite. His name is Remiel Azrael, and he is one of the main characters in “Outcast.”  Of everything I have written, “Outcast” remains my favorite piece, which I’m sure is part of the reason he became my favorite. I wrote it as fanfiction 7 years ago, and for the moment, it still only exists as fanfiction. It will eventually take place in the same world as “Pithea,” and in fact Missy is a big character in it too. But I just really love Remiel.

How much time a day/week do you get to write? When is the best time for you to write (morning or night)?
Ideally, I have 2-3 hours per night after my youngest goes to bed. Sometimes bedtime is later, or I have other things I have to get to first. Weekends are sometimes a chance for extra time, and sometimes we’re so busy I can barely get any time in.

Did you go to college for writing?
No, I didn’t get re-interested in writing fiction until I started writing fanfiction after my oldest son was born.

What bothers you more: speeling errors; punctuation, errors, or errors for grammar?
I’m not sure one is more bothersome to me than another.

What is the best writing advice that anyone has given you?
Don’t worry about perfection. I’ve read so many articles and blog posts by writers who make it seem like a manuscript will never be ready. It will always need another draft. While it’s true it will never be perfect, just maybe it doesn’t have to be. If I hadn’t read this advice from two different sources, I’m not sure if I would be ready to submit my first novel, or if I’d still be reading through it, looking for things to fix. Or maybe I’d be proceeding like I am, but paranoid that it’s too soon.

What advice would you give to another writer?
Take any writing tips, rules, and advice with a grain of salt. Writing is an art, and what works for one person doesn’t always work for others. Reading blogs about writing is a good thing. It’s good to find out what works for others, especially when you’re new to writing, because most likely something will resound within you. But if it doesn’t feel right, and you’d have to force yourself to adhere to someone’s suggestions…just don’t do it. (Not referring to grammar rules and such.)

What are your favorite writing sites or blogs that you turn to for help, tips or encouragement?
I don’t have any sites in particular. I tend to do online searches when I have questions.

Besides writing, what else do you enjoy doing? What are your hobbies?
I don’t actually have a lot of time for hobbies these days. I enjoy reading, but haven’t finished a book in a while. I like to scrapbook, but that’s been on the backburner for a few years. I don’t even play computer games much anymore. I do like game nights with my family once a month and on holidays, playing board games for hours.

What’s the best book you’ve read this year?
As I mentioned, I haven’t finished a book in a while. I’ve started several, and hope to get back to some of them soon. (I’ve set up a challenge on Goodreads to finish 25 books this year…I should probably get started on that soon.)

What’s the best movie you’ve seen this year?
I actually don’t watch all that many movies. And of those I do watch, including ones I watched at home, I’m not sure I can think back and remember them all (using 2015 for the question, rather than the few days of 2016 so far). I’ll go with Jurassic World.

What is your favorite book or series of all time?
The Oath by Frank Peretti is my favorite book of all time, with Thr3e by Ted Dekker coming in a close second.

The Mandie Books series by Lois Gladys Leppard still holds a special place in my heart, as a series I loved as a kid.

Who is your favorite author?
Frank Peretti

What are your plans for the rest of the year in terms of your writing?
I’m currently working on submitting my first novel to publishers, and have spent the last week or so getting a novelette self-published. When these two things have settled down some, I play to turn my full attention to the beginning revision stages of “Pursuit of Power.”

Where else can we find you online?
Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads (though I created that account only a few days ago)
Amazon Author Page, Story Blog

I never do these tag posts like normal people though, so I’m not tagging anyone. But feel free to share your own answers to any of these questions.

A Look Back at 2015

I would have preferred to post this before the end of the year, but the last few weeks have been rough for me. Still, it’s not too late to take a quick look at the writing-related highlights of 2015.

PitheaWith the help of 2 of my sisters, I finished draft 4 of “Pithea,” which was the most intensive revision the book should ever need. We met once a week on Skype to work through any issues, and the book definitely came out stronger on the other end. We even worked on general world questions, especially those related to the fantastical elements in the story world. It was also during these meetings that the book went from a working title (“Adventures in Pithea”) to its official one.

cover1I finished the first draft of a third novel this year, titled “Too Many Irons in the Fire.” It’s not one I expect to go forward with, but it was still a complete novel draft, so it’s an accomplishment to be proud of.

I participated in my 6th year of NaNoWriMo, and won with 100,383 words, passing the 50k word mark on the 12th. I wrote 25k on the first day, but I don’t think I’ll try that again. I went to my first write-ins this year and was even in an article in the local newspaper while attending one of them. It was during NaNo that I finished the aforementioned novel draft, and I also wrote most of a second novel.

I also want to share a few gifts I received for Christmas that are writing-related.

My husband went a little overboard, but it’s hard to complain about the amazing gifts he gave me. The first was a blank journal with the motto I made up last year engraved into the clasp.
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The second gift was a desk clock with pen, and he had my name engraved into the front of it. I teared up when I saw the engraving.
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My mom gave me a t-shirt that my sister had designed. The front has a bunch of characters, towns, and other important words from “Pithea.” It also includes things related to the previously mentioned editing group my sisters and I formed for a year to whip the book into shape. The back of the shirt contains various quotes from that editing group–things one of us said while on Skype, or even during an in-person meeting, that we found particularly funny and decided to make a note of. I cried a little when I opened this present too, especially when I looked at the back.058 062

This final gift is much less emotional than the previous ones, but one that I was really excited to get. My parents-in-law found this deck of cards, which contains all sorts of different writing prompts, in varying detail. It’s called Writer Emergency Pack, and it’s billed as a way to help get unstuck if you’re having trouble with your writing. I’d say it would work for any time you wanted a quick start to a short story or writing practice too though. There are some really thought-provoking cards in there, and while I haven’t sat down and written anything with it yet, when the final work on “Pithea” is done, I’m looking forward to cleansing my palate, if you will, with some writing practice before I move on to my next big project.
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Going forward from here, I have a lot of plans. With the final draft of “Pithea” finished, I’m working on a short synopsis to use for submission. The first draft of the synopsis is done, but I’m asking for opinions from others who’ve read the book, and going to go back over it again myself after a day or two, when I have fresh eyes. Though I have a publishing company in mind to start with, of course I’ll start looking elsewhere to submit the novel too. I don’t plan to look for an agent, and in the end, if I haven’t sold the manuscript by the end of the year, I’ll probably self-publish it.

I also want to finish a quick revision of “The Triangle,” a novelette-length story I wrote several years ago. It’s completely unrelated to the world of “Pithea,” is set in the real world, and is the tale of a man struggling to keep his family together when he feels life is moving too fast and he’s losing control. I have a start on a cover design, so after I finish this revision, I plan to self-publish it. Hopefully that will happen in the next few months.

Then I’ll turn my attention to “Pursuit of Power,” a novel that runs mostly parallel to “Pithea.” I wrote it during NaNo in 2014, but have barely touched it since. It will probably be another long project, which I anticipate taking at least a year to revise. There are a lot of notes for big changes I need to make, along with normal editing that it likely needs.

I have tentative plans to write every day, meaning actual writing. For the last few years, I’ve settled for doing any kind of writing work every day, which 95% of the time means revision. I miss the actual writing, though. I usually feel like I don’t have time to write unrelated, pointless pieces when I need to spend all of my free time revising. However, the truth is, because I dislike revising so much, I don’t spend all my free time revising. Most days that I have time to do any revising, I could easily spend 10-15 minutes writing 250-500 words of writing practice before I start revising.

So my plan is to do just that. I’ll set the goal at 250 words per day and see what that looks like. Most of the time, writing from a prompt or such, it ends where my idea ends anyway, whether that’s 200 words or 750 words. My daily revision goal will still be 20 minutes on top of that. I honestly don’t know how well I’ll keep up with this, and I won’t feel like I’ve failed if it drops off. But it’s a plan for now.

To all of my fellow writers out there–whatever, whenever, and however often you write–what were your highlights for this year? What are your proud or disappointed moments from this year? And what are your plans for the coming year?

Writing Highs

I did something late Friday night that I want to share. The first novel draft I ever finished, “Pithea,” which I mostly wrote during NaNo 2013 has been undergoing revision for almost 2 years now. After I’d had some time alone with it, I started into a process with 2 of my sisters, wherein we’d meet every Tuesday evening on Skype and work through their notes on my revised draft. It’s more than just the writing we’ve been working on; the story is set in a fantasy-type world, and they’ve helped me work out the elements of it. As time has gone on, the story has gotten better, characters have gotten stronger, and the mechanics of the world I’ve built are clearer.

It’s been just over a year since we started these weekly editing sessions, and most of my writing time has been spent reading ahead of them and making more of my own revisions. We’re basically working from a 3rd draft, which I’ve been creating as we go. Hopefully this makes some sort of sense.

Anyway, Friday night, after I’d done my NaNo writing for the day, I sat down to get more revision done, more of “draft 3” ready so that we can work on it this coming Tuesday. And I got through the last 8 pages of the draft, which means that on Tuesday, we’ll probably finish the last pages of the draft too. Which means this revision, the most intensive one it should need, will be done!

Now there are still some things that need worked on. During our revision sessions, we passed over bigger issues that we knew would just slow us down. There were big, world-related questions that came up that we decided weren’t important to solve just yet. We will hopefully have an in-person, all-day meeting in the next month or so to hammer all of these things out. But after that, I’ll be one huge step closer to be ready to publish this thing. It’s actually scary to be so close and still have no idea what I’m doing. But it’s still better than doing nothing.

And in the time since then, other exciting things have happened. I finished the first draft of this year’s NaNoNovel, only halfway through the month. I was in the local newspaper (front page) with other area Wrimos, and the article even included a link to my blog! (See more about that here.) My region’s ML today shared the crocheted octopus she made for me, as a reward for being one of the first in our region to donate and contact her about it. And my NaNo winner’s shirt is on its way!

This weekend was definitely a high for writer-me.

Why I Write

You know how writers sometimes try to come up with an answer to the question, “Why do you write?” I’m not sure if that’s a question that’s actually posed very often by an external source, or if writers simply decide to answer it themselves. Most writers can answer that question, and the answers may sound similar. Because there’s a story inside us that wants to come out, because it’s fun, because we want to experience a world that we otherwise couldn’t.

I haven’t really thought much about this question myself. No one posed the question to me, but during the last month, a particularly stressful time, I’ve had a realization about what my writing means to me.

First and foremost, I would say I write because I want to share my ideas with others. In my head, they’re no good to anyone but me. I get really excited about some things–a character with a great story, a plot twist that I just have to build a plot around, a sweet moment in time that just maybe I can contain and show to people. The best way to share these things with others is to write them down.

When I first started writing more seriously, the reason was to make up stories about characters my friends and I played in an online game. I used some of what happened to us in the game, made up my own stuff, and just had fun with it.

Now I can add a different answer, one that I never would’ve expected to apply to me. I write because it’s a stress relief. I’ll try to be brief in my explanation.

My dad is a blacksmith who demonstrates his craft at historical reenactments like this one:

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That is my dad in the picture.

At those shows, he also sells items he makes year-round. Camping equipment, fireplace tools, things like that. I work for my dad, mostly doing the books for his small business. I also go with him to some of these reenactments to sell the product.

Going to reenactments, for us, means being gone from Thursday or Friday (depending on if the show has a kids’ day on Friday or not) until Sunday night, sleeping in a truck camper, waking at 7, and being at the mercy of the weather.

In the fall, we have our heaviest concentration of events. This year, we had shows on 5 weekends in a row. This culminated in our two biggest shows of the year, back-to-back. For these two shows, it’s all hands on deck, because the crowds are huge and one person cannot accommodate the rush of people wanting to buy from us.

The show season is really busy for us, both on the weekends of said shows, and during the week when we’re recovering from one and gearing for the next. I work a lot more (normally I work 1 day every week or two), both on the weekends and during the week, and it’s just a generally stressful time.

During all of this, I’m still homeschooling my kids, and I have to bring them when I work during the week and take care of them while trying to focus on my work. I’m not home as much, so the state of the house suffers (I’m not much of a house cleaner anyway, so it gets really bad during this time), my ability to make supper every night is diminished, and school often suffers too. I don’t get a lot of breaks or “me time” while all of this is going on.

This year, I’ve developed a stronger daily habit for writing work than I ever used to have. However, it’s difficult to stick to it when in a busy time like this, and I definitely slacked on the weekends. Even when I had an hour alone before bed, I was usually too tired to focus on writing. Besides, most of my writing work needs a laptop, or at least space to spread stuff out around me. Neither of those are easy to get in the truck camper (we’re not plugged in, just parked out in a field).

However, during the week, I still usually made sure to do some work in the evening. And during the shows’ open hours, when there was a moment of quiet, I would usually be thinking through questions I had about the story I’m revising, or about the one I’m plotting for this year’s NaNo. It gave me something to focus on that was important to me, amidst the craziness. It was nice.

During some of this busy season, a misunderstanding between my husband and me led me to believe that he didn’t want me to spend nearly as much time working on my writing any more. I took something he said the wrong way and nearly fell to pieces thinking that spending my evenings (usually after kids were in bed) shut away and writing/revising/plotting was a problem for him. Before he could explain what he’d actually meant, I was in tears and blurted out something to the effect of, “What will I do to relieve the stress from all of these shows?”

Those words were as much of a revelation to me as they were to him. Neither of us had ever really realized how much my writing meant to me, beyond just trying to share my stories. I can’t say this has changed my thoughts about my writing, or even my approach. However, I am now even more inclined to make sure I get to some sort of writing work every day that I can.

I also think that perhaps, even without having realized it yet, the therapeutic aspect to writing may have been why I’ve been so much more excited about NaNo this year than usual. Or maybe it’s just because I’m obsessed.

What about you? Why do you write?

Story Cubes Result

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(For a little more explanation on story cubes, read this post. The following is what I wrote based on the cubes above.)

Stephen ran through the streets of the empty town, looking behind him constantly. There could be no natural explanation for the monster he had seen. Not one to believe in the supernatural or extraterrestrial explanation, that left only one explanation—science. He found himself in an alley with no way out but the way he came in. He tried every door he could find, but they were all locked.

Could he risk backtracking? Was the monster even following him? He didn’t know for sure. He hadn’t seen any sign of it since first encountering it.

He decided he didn’t really have a choice and darted back out of the alley. Then he stopped to think. At least he wouldn’t be trapped if the monster came, and he had to figure out where he was going. He had seen an old map of this place once. Obviously he didn’t remember it very well, though, or he wouldn’t have run into a dead end.

“Hello,” he heard behind him and spun around.

I’m dreaming. I’m sure of it now. This is a dream.

In front of him stood a little girl—she looked no older than seven or eight. She had dark hair and a red dress, but what Stephen really noticed were her eyes. They were bright and entirely too innocent. She didn’t fit here in this deserted town where a monster was on the loose.

“Are you lost?” the girl asked in a melodic voice.

Hey, isn’t that my line? Stephen wondered. He said nothing, only continuing to stare at the girl.

“Come with me,” the girl said. “We’ll figure out where you’re going.”

She walked past Stephen and turned down the alley he’d already been trapped in. He hesitated a few seconds, but decided to follow her. Nothing about this made any sense anyway.

The girl walked over to the first door in the building to her right and knocked lightly. It was then that Stephen noticed the girl’s shadow. A streetlight that he hadn’t even seen before cast a shadow on the wall, and he stared at it, paralyzed with fear. His mind told him that he was hallucinating—it was physically impossible for that little girl to make that shape in the light.

He took a few steps backwards and watched in further disbelief as the shadow morphed before his eyes. Then there became two identical shadows—his and a second one just like his that seemed to be cast by the girl. As she rapped harder on the door, Stephen removed his glasses, cleaned them on his shirt, and put them back on. Now the girls’ shadow correctly resembled her own size and shape.

Yes, because it’s perfectly natural that dirty glasses can morph shadows.

“Nothing around here is perfectly natural,” came a deep voice from nearby.

Stephen whirled in all directions looking for the voice, certain that the monster had found him. Down on the ground near the wall, a rat stared at him. Stephen stared back, as if daring the rat to speak again.

“You’re looking in the wrong direction,” the voice said again. Stephen slowly looked up. A bumble bee slowly buzzed by him. He watched it fly out of the alley and around the corner. Forgetting all about the little girl, he followed the bee. When he turned the corner, he had to stifle a scream. There on the street stood a small plane. A door on the plane was open as if it were waiting for him.

Why not? Stephen thought with a shrug. At least this is less freaky than that alley and everything in it.

He climbed through the door and into the plane. Next to one of the seats inside was a cart. On the cart sat a goblet filled with what looked like water.

Stephen picked up the goblet to examine its contents more closely.

“Noooooooooo!” the voice of the little girl cried mournfully from outside. He saw her running toward the airplane door. “Don’t drink it!” she yelled. The door pulled up before she reached it and latched itself.

Stephen didn’t know if he should trust the little girl. There was certainly something disturbing about her. However, he hadn’t had any intention of the drinking the mysterious liquid. He only wanted to smell it.

As soon as he brought it close to his face, though, he found that he was compelled to drink it after all. It was drawing him in…

“Stop!” The little girl was inexplicably next to him. She put her hand on his arm and guided him to put the goblet back on the cart. “This isn’t the way out for you.”

She took him by the hand and led him off the plane. Soon they again stood outside the door she had been knocking on.

“I got it open,” she said, pushing it in to show him. Inside was only darkness. “You have to go through alone. If you want to get out of here, you have to go through. Promise me you will.” She look at him with her bright green eyes, and an image flashed in Stephen’s head. Someone else with green eyes—happy at first, then turning scared and concerned.

“Promise!” the girl screamed, stomping one foot on the ground.

Stephen nodded and the girl looked cheerful again.

“Here, take this.” She handed him a machete. “There might be…stuff in there that’s hard to walk through. You know—bushes, cobwebs, stuff like that. Don’t let them stop you.”

When she was satisfied that he would be okay, she stepped away from the door. He took a step inside and the door started closing behind him. He turned around and watched the girl wave at him as long as he could.

The last thing he heard before the door clicked was, “See you on the other side, Daddy!”

Liebster Award

Liebster

I was nominated for a Liebster award by lovesstorms, who writes stories for Sims 3 and Sims 4 on her blog. She is also my sister (and one of the other two members of the TCSTB). There is a lot of camaraderie in that community, though I am not a part of it myself. My sister, though, decided to include my blog in her list of Sims 3 & 4 stories that she nominated. Normally, accepting this award includes nominating other blogs. However, to quote Cecily Q. Cauliflower, “I’m not going to [nominate] anybody because I’m ornery that way.” (Also because I’m not very jacked into the blogosphere and only read a few myself.) I am, however, going to answer the questions lovesstorms posed to her nominees. They are somewhat oriented toward Sims story writers, so I will only answer those I can.

1. When you write, do you choose the computer or paper/pen?  I use both in different situations. I enjoy the experience of writing with a pencil and paper so much, so I do so now and then. However, it is just so much faster to write on the computer, so the bulk of my writing is done there.

3. What made you want to start writing? A book? Life? A person? Other?  I’ve enjoyed writing since I was a kid. I still have a few stories that I started when I was ten or twelve and never finished (I fully intended to write a series of books both times, but never even finished one). I wrote (and finished) a few short stories in high school. My more recent push came from playing a video game and getting all sorts of ideas for characters and stories from it (not Sims). That was actually over 10 years ago. It took a lot of time and even more work to get to where I am now–writing original fiction in a world I created with characters that I have lived with for 10 years.

4. What’s a country you’ve always wanted to visit?  It might sound cliche, but I’ve always wanted to go to England or Ireland. Or Germany.

5. Outside of the Sims, what’s another favorite game you play? I’ll answer this one, because I do play Sims, as well as other games. I actually prefer Sims 2 most of the time though, but I won’t go into reasons why. I tend to go through waves of what game I’m playing at the time. I haven’t played Sims in a while, but will go back to it someday and probably stick with it for a while then. For now, I’ve been playing Diablo 3 lately, and Civilizations games before that.

6. When you become disinterested in your story/characters, what do you do? This question is difficult for me to answer. I have a lot of ideas for stories in the same world, and a lot of characters to go with those stories. As of right now, including the one I’m revising currently, I have seven novel-length story ideas in mind. And outside of that, a lot more nuggets of ideas that could be grown into full stories. I have dozens of characters who overlap and some who are more solitary. I do sometimes get tired of revising “Pithea.” When that happens, I usually turn to working on “Pursuit of Power,” which is also in revision stage, but I haven’t delved as heavily into it. I’m still in the broad-changes stage of revision, since writing the novel during NaNoWriMo in 2014. And then sometimes, I just want to write and not edit, so I work on a storyline that isn’t even included in the count of 7 novel-length ideas, because it’s too narrow to be its own story, that takes place after “Pithea.”

I have it in my mind that when I get burned out on this world of stories and want to do something else, I will pull out a random prompt or such from one of many sources and just write something unrelated. But I never quite get to that.

7. When you write, do you prefer quiet or noise in the background? I used to prefer all quiet. Then I realized the joy of having something in the background. For a while I played writing-related music (yes, such a thing exists), but then I was introduced to coffitivity.com, and now I always have that up on my laptop or computer when I’m working.

10. Do you keep a notepad & pen/phone/tablet by your bed for those late night ideas? If so, do you actually get up and write them down? I do have a notepad in a drawer next to my bed. It looks like this:  9It’s always there, just in case, but it has turned into more of a dream journal (which is also currently neglected). Lately I’ve taken to bringing another notebook to bed with me, because I’ve been more actively trying to think of some specific things, and want to write them in that other notebook. Basically, I have tons of notebooks, big and small, so ideas tend to get stuck wherever. It’s a messy system.

11. When you write, do you just do a quick glance and post? Or do you take a day or two or more and proofread, move things around, delete, re-write, etc, etc? This last question is probably one I should skip, due to the fact that I’m not currently posting my writing online. However, I did used to write fanfiction and post it online, so I figured I’d answer based on that. I used to like to get a few chapters written into a story before posting the first chapter. Then I’d keep a buffer of 3 chapters, in case I had to make any changes to the actual story based on what I was still writing. I usually read over each chapter after I wrote it, sent it to a friend who was my biggest fan at the time (his words…well, actually he always said he was my “#1 fan.”), made any fixes that either of us found, then read over it one more time before I actually posted it. I usually did very little big changes or rewriting. I have since realized a lot of areas that could have been better, but I’ve had 10 years to get better.


Thanks again to my sister for nominating my blog for this reward. I know I’m keeping myself isolated by not nominating others, but I’ve always been the kind to keep to myself, so it’s in my nature. If anyone’s interested, check out lovesstorms’ blog for her Sims stories.

Toronto Trip Days 3 & 4, Escaping the Room and the Country

This is day 3 of my family’s trip to Canada to attend the farewell concert of Debs and Errol, a geek band from Toronto. For day 1, click here.

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Errol had informed us weeks in advance that while we were in town, we were welcome to attend their church. So Sunday morning, we planned to do exactly that. We woke up with enough time to get ready and go out for breakfast. We made sure to know what time to be back, so we could follow the others to the church. We got back from breakfast with what we thought was enough time, but there was a note on the door saying they had left and containing a simple map to the church. We headed there and found a place to park.

I was expecting a huge, fancy church. I can’t explain exactly why, but it might just be my automatic impression of any church I don’t know. It was a much smaller and more modest church than I’d expected. There were even fewer people in the congregation than our church has, and it’s a small church. When we got there, though, we didn’t see Errol’s family or the Laymans, who we knew were also going to the Elumirs’ house to follow Keren to church. Errol was there, having arrived early, because he was supposed to sing with the worship team that morning. There was some question about how that would work, though, as he had lost his voice by the end of the concert the night before.

Our family found an empty pew and sat down. Not too long later, Keren appeared next to us, saying she was glad we’d found the place. Apparently, when we stopped by the house and found the note, they had still been inside, but were about to leave. Which made us feel a little better, knowing we hadn’t been as late coming back from breakfast as we’d thought.

The service was a nice one. Logan and I both enjoyed the full band they had, and that one of the priests (we assumed it was a priest, but we’re not very knowledgeable about the Anglican church), in his full robes, was playing guitar in that band. When the kids in the congregation left for their own places, both of our kids were awkward and unsure about going. Keren took them both to their respective areas, so they could be with kids their own age.

After church was over, we gathered the kids and made plans to go for pho. I had mentioned that I’d like to do that while we were in town, because it’s something of a D&E universe running theme. Errol rode with us to direct us to the restaurant, while the Laymans drove behind us. Both ‘Manda and Debs joined us at the restaurant. Lena insisted on sitting by both of them, though that’s not how it worked out at first. Partway through the meal, though, as people finished eating, there was some moving of seats. Debs came to sit with Lena for a bit then. Similar to how Lena had been attached to ‘Manda already, she just loved Debs too. And Debs thought Lena was super cute too (more than once there was talk of eating Lena up).

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Hat courtesy of Brian Layman.

After lunch, those of us who had no prior commitments or need for a nap decided to stay in the area and walk around some–see more of the city. The Laymans, Debs, and our family started out toward a park Debs said had a nice view.

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There was a really nice sledding hill at the park, prompting Brian to lay down and have his kids push him down the hill. I don’t think it worked as well as he’d hoped.

After getting back to our vehicles, my family went back to Errol’s house. We relaxed there for a short time before it was time to head out again. We had plans to do an escape room. If you do not know what that is, it’s understandable. It’s basically a real-life adventure game with clues and puzzles to solve, in order to escape a room, within a time limit. I’m not sure how long ago he started doing them, but from the first time Errol talked about doing escape rooms, my husband Logan and I have been really intrigued by the idea. There aren’t many around here; the closest is maybe 3 hours away. So as soon as we started talking about visiting Toronto, where there are apparently dozens of escape rooms, we hoped we’d have a chance to go to one. Our biggest concern was that we have a 4-year-old who couldn’t come, and visiting another country wasn’t the best scenario for finding a babysitter. Fortunately, Keren was willing to watch her, and our 12-year-old who we could have brought, but thought it would be easier on our daughter if her brother was staying with her. In the end, it wouldn’t have mattered, as she was comfortable enough there to stay without any convincing.

Errol and ‘Manda (who has also done her fair share of escape rooms) planned for us to all go to LockQuest. So Keren drove us to the nearest subway station, and we made our way to our destination. LockQuest was above another business (I think a butcher shop), so we went up some narrow stairs and through a door. Inside was another group of room-escapers. We were at least fifteen minutes early. Fortunately, they were done and left as we came in. We were offered seats after hanging our coats on hooks throughout the entry room. We were to be joined by 4 of the 6 Laymans (they planned to drop their younger kids at the Elumirs’ house too) and by Debs, so we were waiting on them. While we waited, the two guys who run LockQuest gave us each small puzzles to solve, the type where you have to move metal pieces around to get a certain piece off, or others like it. We played with those for a while, some of us doing better with them than others. Also, Errol and ‘Manda introduced themselves and told them how many escape rooms they’ve each done. The guys in charge were very impressed.

Debs arrived first, and she was joined by a friend of hers named Dana. Then the Laymans came–all 6 of them. They’d run out of time to drop off the younger kids, so they brought them along. The kids were, I believe, in the 10-13-year-old range, so they weren’t so young that they couldn’t join in. Once everyone was there, it was time to get ready. The guys in charge went through the rules and a general idea of what we were to do and what we could expect. I’ll share the info about the room from the site itself, so I don’t give too much away:

You have one hour. He has all night.

From the moment you entered that apartment, something seemed off.  Now, you and the other book club members are locked inside, left with a sinister promise from your unhinged host that he’ll “be back in an hour.”

Can you sift through the pulp fiction novels, cryptic clues, and articles left behind by last week’s murdered members, to find the front door key and escape?

In Escape the Book Club Killer, you will be locked in a real apartment with up to eleven other players. You and your team must work together to communicate, exchange clues, and discover the secret to opening the front door.

Your challenge is to escape in one hour or less, before the Book Club Killer strikes again.  Pulsing with pulp and packed with puzzling props, Escape the Book Club Killer is a group experience you won’t soon forget!

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Yay, escape room comic!

 

They asked us to go around the room and share a skill we had that would be helpful if we were ever trapped in the apartment of a real serial killer. There were some normal answers and at least one absurd (“I can eat copious amounts of rice!” -Errol). My answer was that I’m so bad in high-stress situations, I’d probably just pass out, and he’d think I was already dead and leave me alone. After several reminders to go to the bathroom before we went in, it was time to start!

I’ll have to avoid details for the escape room, of course, but I will just say that it was insane, intense, a little chaotic, and tons of fun! There were definitely times that I felt I wasn’t really contributing much, and a few areas where I feel like I was a part of solving something. Given the opportunity, I would definitely do another one. As I understand it, not all of the escape rooms are done as well as LockQuest’s, but that makes it all the more awesome that our first experience was with them.

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And yes, we did escape, with maybe 5-6 minutes to spare!

Once we had escaped, we sat down in the entry room again, and talked for a while with the owners. They shared some past stories with us, and some of the characters they use to give hints. They talked about their “Overkeyer” system, which allows someone who has already done the room to bring people who haven’t back. Then the one who’s done the room can sit in the entry room and watch their friends try to solve the room via cameras, for free. If I lived in the area, I would be all over that. We talked for quite a while, which I assume was only possible because we were the last booking of the day. Then we left and got ready to head back to Errol’s house. Aware that it would probably be the last time we’d see the Laymans and Deb, I started to say goodbye to Debs. She said she (along with her friend Dana) was going back to Errol’s with us. So I instead said goodbye to the Laymans. I was then informed that they were all going back to Errol’s house for a birthday party for the Laymans’ eldest. Apparently it had been discussed, possibly even around me, and I had been oblivious.

Back at the house, the smell of chili greeted us the moment we walked into the door. Keren had made supper and kept it warm for us, as she knew we wouldn’t have supper before then. So we all crowded into the kitchen and ate. Then the brownies and ice cream came out, and more than a dozen people were around the table, whether standing or sitting, talking and laughing and just having a great time.

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Yes, it was a lot like this.

Brian had picked up on calling Lena “Leeloo.” They even went back and forth for a while (and more than once) where Lena would say she was a girl, and Brian would ask what he was, and she’d say he was a dad, maybe, or something like that. I suppose I shouldn’t include it, since I can’t remember it very well, but it was so much fun hearing her try to explain why she was Lena and he wasn’t. Lena and Debs sat on the floor in a corner of the kitchen for a while talking. I didn’t hear much of what they talked about, but I know I heard some singing (including Debs singing Errol’s part in the “Happy Emo Fun Sad Song”).

Debs was the first to leave, and Lena didn’t take it very well. They talked a bit more in the foyer before Debs actually left. Logan and I went down to the basement to check out ‘Manda’s apartment. Then we went back to the living room and talked with the Laymans for a bit longer before it was time for them to leave.

We went to bed sad that we had to leave, and yet looking forward to being home (but really, way more of the former, especially since the Laymans were staying another day). We woke up early enough the next morning to catch Errol and ‘Manda before they had to leave for work, and then we packed up our things and headed out. We took a detour over to Niagra Falls on our way home, and pulled in around 11 pm.

It was an exhausting weekend (especially for me, as I spent so much of it being anxious and awkward), but so very much fun. Logan is already planning our next trip to Toronto.