Goals and Losing Battles

A couple of things.

One. I’m fighting a migraine. That familiar twinge-y thump above and directly behind my left eye. It makes me want to squint just my left eye, which is, of course, the dominant one.

Two. I am simultaneously fighting a cold. And of course, the left side of my nose and face are the victims of ruthless sinus pressure. I am in a special kind of hell. The kind that’s just bad enough to be irritating, and make my brain stupid all day.

Three. I am losing both of these battles. I’m desperate for a home cooked meal, some Puffs Plus with Vicks, and a Community marathon.

But, my work on Hunting Storm is done. And I have a bit of free time before A Stranger Comes Knocking demands my attention. I’m finally making progress on Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café, and it’s growing on me. Although I cheated last night and read the first chapter of Lucas just for the hell of it. Opening that book requires no commitment or time. I can pick it up anywhere, at any page, and know what’s up. I’ve read it that many times. The binding is failing. It makes me a bit sad, but then I know I’ll just tape it up, and it will be that much cooler for it.

My real reason for posting today is that I just discovered the new stats page. I didn’t realize I could look at my blog’s views by year until about five minutes ago. It blew my mind. While the number of views on this blog are by no means “stellar”, the growth from 2011 to 2014 is intense. I more than doubled views from 2013-2014. I posted more too. It’s just really cool, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for 2015.

Since my personal life is quieting down, I’m hoping to set some heavy goals for 2015. But, before I get into that, that’s recap 2014.

Now, this is a new thing. I’ve never looked at a year as a whole before when it comes to writing. I’m not sure why, but I think it has something to do with my insatiable need for freedom and spontaneity. Things I rarely take advantage of, but must have the option for.

Your basic fear of commitment shit.

Anyway, when 2014 started I wanted to finish the edits for Vessels and write Cards. I also had plans to get a short fiction piece ready for publication and submission in the fall. Also, I wanted to get married and go on a honeymoon. These were all plans of mine circa January 2014.

This year I:

  • Completed the rough draft of Cards
  • Enrolled at ASU and completed one term with a 3.48 GPA
  • Wrote and submitted one short story, due for publication in January (Hunting Storm)
  • Joined a cool writing collaboration (Caladria)
  • Started a book club, completed one book
  • Started a new novel rough draft (Jordinn’s Story)
  • Got married
  • Had an awesome Honeymoon
  • Read 15 novels and 37 short stories

Next year I’m going to:

  • Finish drafting Vessels, that’s completing all edits
  • Start edits on Cards
  • Finish rough draft of Jordinn’s Story
  • Maintain my 3.5-ish GPA
  • Continue/expand the book club
  • Continue writing for Caladria, try and get a franchise
  • Read 25 novels, 10 short stories
  • Post here a minimum of twice a week, that’s 104 posts by 12/31/15

So, what do you guys think? Too ambitious? Or not enough? Let me know, especially if you have any tips or advice on how to accomplish these goals!

The hubby will be home soon, which means I’ve got to get the kitchen ready for cooking. I can’t wait for dinner, as usual. Have a good one blogland, I’ll see you tomorrow!

BZ

This girl can GSD!

Just a short update today, because instead of writing here first, I’m posting last.

I had a few chores today, namely changing my last name with the DMV and my bank. Done and done, all before lunch. So, my identity officially skewed I sat at Starbucks spiraling through thoughts of betrayal and a sense of losing myself.

Then my best friend snapped me out of it and I went back to work.

I finished the rough draft of A Stranger Comes Knocking, writing 3,068 words today. Story sits at 4,538 words, and I’m gonna let it marinate for a week or so and then clean it up. I also finished the final edits on Hunting Storm today. It just awaits Leah’s final approval and it will be “complete”.

So now I can relax and watch every episode of Community on Hulu! Hooray reward systems!

Have a good day blogland!

Back to Work and Joining the Rebellion

Hi Blogland!

It’s good to be back at it. Also, it’s really nice not having a list of homework three miles long. Already today I’ve read through the first round of edits for Hunting Storm and given my feedback to the editor. I wrote that story in such a frenzy that I didn’t remember much of the details. I was reading through and I’d think, “wow, this bit is great! Leah must have made some changes.” Then I’d check the original only to find it untouched.

I wrote that awesome line. In fact, I wrote that awesome story! I am beyond excited to see the final product!

So, after this blog post I’ll be cracking open A Stranger Comes Knocking, my new short story for Caladria. I’ve got a good concept for it so far, but nothing too concrete. I don’t want to say too much, but it involves elves, which is just cool in an of itself.

In other news, I’ve started reading Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café. It’s weird. Which is funny coming from someone who usually reads Speculative Fiction. But, I don’t dislike it. I do worry for the rest of the Book Club though. It’s such a different direction than the last book, and not at all like the next few books. Kayla, our resident non-reader, is having a hard time with it, and even I find myself eying The Star Scroll instead. But, I will power through.

I’ve been in a huge Cage The Elephant funk. These guys are just too great for me to turn off. If you haven’t checked out their newest album, I recommend it. It’s a lot more mellow than their past efforts. They’re a weird band. You can’t listen to them once and know how you feel about it. Their albums demand multiple listens and reflection. And after two or three listens, the songs that seemed too harsh, or just plain weird, suddenly make sense and become some of your favorites. It’s music that grows on you until it becomes a part of you. Suddenly you’re walking around work humming and bobbing your head because the need for Cage The Elephant is too persistent to ignore. I’m obsessed, but, that’s my MO.

Last night I finally started watching Community. This requires some back story.

I have seen clips of this show, and discussed it in classes, but never actually watched it. I have this thing about watching shows from the pilot forward. I can’t start somewhere in the middle. So, when Community started, I missed the beginning, and then it became a Hulu exclusive. We had cable, a DVR, and Netflix. We weren’t going to pay for Hulu too.

And so, it seemed I would never watch Community.

And then we rebelled against Comcast. They were charging us $145/mo. for cable, internet, and a DVR. Our due date shifted randomly, and our monthly bill would fluctuate. I was over it. So we cancelled our service, thinking to join the rebellion with Century Link and dishNetwork. Only to discover that our apartment suffers from a case of arboritis.

Our unit is completely surrounded by giant trees, because Oregon is gorgeous. But, that means no satellite signal, no matter where we put the damn dish. Which means, no cable.

So, suddenly we were left with just Netflix and the internet. And I talked my husband into a GameFly subscription and a HuluPlus account. For about $80/mo. we have high speed internet and every game, movie, and TV show we could want. Why people still succumb to cable companies is a mystery to me.

And so I finally started Community. It’s brilliant. Beyond brilliant. It is my favorite thing on the planet right now, my husband a close second, and only then because he loves Community too. The characters are written and performed to perfection. I laugh out loud multiple times every episode, and the Bromance between Ahbed and Troy puts JD and Turk to shame.

Anyway, I must defer my raptures, otherwise I’ll watch the show instead of start writing A Stranger Comes Knocking. Can’t have that now.

In other other news, I applied for a seasonal position at my local library. It’s a lead position and the pay grade is just crazy good. I’m qualified for it, though my lack of library experience could be my downfall. I need to take a crash course in Library Science, and a refresher on the Dewey Decimal System. But, it turns out that I know someone who works in the same department, and he offered to put in a good word for me.

I’m really excited about it, but I’m trying to keep my hopes in check. It’s hard to land City jobs, and I don’t want to start dreaming about what that pay grade could do for us.

But, I’ve always thought working in a Library would be awesome. Quiet, with solitude, but enough human interaction to keep you from going all “Here’s Johnny!” I’ve got the customer service and leadership skills they’re looking for, and I’ve got the passion about books and literacy to make a difference in my community. I just hope I get a call back for the interview. The experience would be invaluable.

Plus, the added cash flow could really make a dent in all this stupid credit card debt.

Anyway, I’ve got a short story to start!

I’ll see you around Blogland!

Catching Up and Moving On

Well hi there! How have you been? It’s been such a long time it seems, but I’m glad to be back.

So, when Dragon Age: Inquisition was announced, I was still feeling pretty underwhelmed by Dragon Age 2, and was hanging my hopes on Destiny. I mean, an awesome looking sci-fi game with huge worlds and the tagline, “Become Legend”. I was stoked.

And then I played it to find that it had no story to speak of. I’m not sure how one becomes a legend when there is no narrative, and no one is, not even the development team at Bungie. I mean, your character doesn’t really matter in the slightest. And calling them a character is a stretch. They’re an avatar. They make no decisions, can have only the most base interactions with NPCs and ultimately don’t matter. You can be the same species as an antagonist character, and she talks down to you the same as she does to a human character, the dialogue is identical.

And it made me crazy. I didn’t complete the “story” missions. In fact, I haven’t touched the game since my husband admitted that the story never fully develops, and that there’s no real resolution at the end. I mean, really, what’s the point?

I know I’m walking a dangerous line here. People love this game. And the gameplay itself is fantastic. The movement the leveling, the armor, all the actual gameplay elements are great. But, without the story to carry them, I just don’t give a f***.

So, by the time November 18th came around, I was desperate for Dragon Age: Inquisition. I knew BioWare would create and tell a story that would completely enthrall me. They would create and reintroduce characters that became more than a collection of pixels. And I was right.

My Inquisitor

My Inquisitor

I finally “finished” my first playthrough, after about 90 hours of game time. I put finish in quotation marks because there’s still more for my character to do, I just finished the main story line. And, it’s left me reeling. There’s a major cliffhanger at the end, and I know there’s going to be DLC, which I am desperate to get to. Even though it hasn’t been announced, let alone released yet.

I know I’ve talked a bit about BioWare and video game writing here, and I’m not looking to rehash any sentiments I’ve made plain before. I just wanted to mention that, as the credits rolled by, I read the names on the writing team. Out of seven or eight writers, three were women.

Now, three isn’t a big number, but three out of seven? That’s practically half! That’s awesome and I am so proud to be a gamer/writer chick!

Anyway, now that I’m back from my sabbatical in Thedas (the world the Dragon Age games take place in), it’s time to update you all and talk a bit about my plans and goals,

School is over until January 15th… or the 17th. I can’t remember right this second, but over a month! A blessed month of free time! I did well in my English class, which was to be expected. I’m still waiting on the final grade for French, but I’m feeling pretty good.

The Nameless Book Club finally had its first reading meeting. We had a ton of fun! Of course, the wine had a lot to do with that, but we all enjoyed Stupid & Contagious, and I think it was the perfect book to break the ice. We selected Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café as our next book, and we’re meeting mid-January. I’ve already started it, and though it’s not my typical genre, I’m intrigued by it so far.
Book Club

So, that’s all happening. And it’s all good. I emailed my Editor at Caladria, and expressed an interest in writing consistently for them. She was thrilled, and handed my three story options to pursue. After some talking, I’ve got my next short story assigned and have started a vague outline! Also, my first story for them, Hunting Storm, is going to appear in the inaugural issue! Trust me, as soon as I have release and price details, I will be blowing it up here!

I do need to do a deep read through of Hunting Storm to check over some edits my Editor made, but so far it’s looking good. She cut 137 words, which was to be expected. I, like a noob, turned in my rough draft, so I knew there’d be some fixes. Luckily it was a very clean draft!

So, I’ve got my new story assignment, but I haven’t written anything in a while. And since I have Dragon Age on the brain, I’m going to write a one-shot series FanFiction, to sort of limber the writing back up.

I did a few edits on Vessels over the last month or so, which was nice. I’ve been wanting to take a look at Cards, but I can tell it’s still too fresh. I’m shooting for a spring read through. Hopefully the rough draft of Vessels will be completely edited by then, I can’t rightly start edits on a new story when I’m in the middle of another.

In non-writing news, my legal name change is processing with the Social Security Office. In my personal life, I am no longer a Zelkovich, but I’ll be damned if I’m giving up such a unique name in my writing life! Just have to let the banks know I’m still “doing business as” Zelkovich, just in case I actually make money at this writing thing someday.

Anyway, that’s just about everything going on. We bought and decorated our Christmas tree last night, which is one of my favorite traditions we have. I help him string the lights, and he helps me hang the baubles. We sing and dance to classic Christmas songs, and generally drink beer. We didn’t do that bit last night, but the weekend is fast approaching.

christmas tree 2014

Have a great weekend blogland! I am back!

BZ

I’m Still Here

Oh hi there.

I promise I’m alive. School has hit a fever pitch, with my finals at the end of this week. Throw in the release of Dragon Age Inquisition mid-November, and I’ve been staring at some sort of screen non-stop for almost a month.

Tomorrow I have a 6 page paper due for my short story class. It’s an “Explication” about the development of Theme in Julio Cortazar’s Axolotl. I’m dreading the work, but excited for the end result. This was my favorite story of the semester, the one that resonated most with me, and the one my brain keeps coming back to. I’ve read it three times now, and will probably read it two more times today. Here’s what my textbook looks like:
20141202_110706 20141202_110717

Add that I have a French Oral exam tomorrow, and then have to run to the Book Club meeting. Our original meeting was cancelled, so we’re finally meeting up tomorrow. And I have totally, of course, finished the book.

Or at least, I will have by tomorrow night at 7.

Anyway, there has been no personal writing, although I’ve been reading a lot. Mostly fanfiction, because I am utterly obsessed with Dragon Age Inquisition. If you haven’t played it, please do!

Anyway, I have a ton of work to do, just wanted to let you all know that I’m still here. Just incredibly busy.

BZ

Book-buying Habits and the Cold Snap

Salem is frozen. A cold snap from Canada has swept through the Willamette Valley, dropping temperatures below freezing, and gracing the trees with a heavy weight of ice. In fact, the tree outside my apartment sacrificed a few of its limbs to the ice, blocking off my parking space last night.
Frozen tree frozen leaves

Add to it power outages all over town, including my place, and I’m sitting at Starbucks a little earlier than usual.

In my morning perusal of WordPress, I read something having to do with the whole Amazon/Hachette thing. The blogger said some things about cheaper books are good for everyone, and said or implied (I can’t remember now) that everyone uses Amazon to buy books.

Well, after careful reflection, I realized that I have never bought a book through Amazon. I’ve never bought an Ebook, or a normal book through Amazon. I’ve bought movies and music, but not books. In fact, excluding textbooks, I’ve never bought a book online.

This isn’t something I’ve consciously done. I don’t have some personal decree that I shall never purchase fiction on the internet. But, when I lived in Arizona there was a beautiful place called Bookman’s Media Exchange, and I would buy every book I could there. If what I was looking for didn’t live on their shelves, I could visit three Barnes and Nobles along my commute.

In Salem it’s not quite as convenient, but it’s a lot more fun. For instance, I recently tried to hunt down a copy of Stupid & Contagious. There isn’t a single big chain bookstore in town. In fact, the nearest Barnes and Noble is in Eugene, 45 minutes to the south. So I hunted through my favorite store, Escape Fiction, but they didn’t have a copy. I went to Book Bin East, but they didn’t have it either. So, I called their downtown location, and found that they didn’t have a copy either. But, their Corvallis location did, and they could have it shipped to the downtown location at no extra cost. So, three days and $6.50 later, I’ve finally got the book.

But, even through all the searching, I never once considered just buying it offline. It’s not a marketplace I consider when thinking about books. Maybe I’m just old-fashioned, but the bookstore atmosphere, and the thrill of the hunt are way more important to me than scoring a book for under a buck.

Hell, Escape Fiction sells all their used paperbacks for $2, and hardbacks at half the cover price. So, I get to hunt through an entire warehouse stacked to the ceiling with books, and then have a conversation with the cashier about my purchase, upcoming releases and get recommendations.

And I’m sorry, but a recommendation from the bookshop owner will always mean more to me than some randomly generated list on Amazon or GoodReads.

Plus, at least in Salem, there’s a healthy bookshop community. When I went to see Brent Weeks I saw the owners of Escape Fiction, and they recognized me. We didn’t get chatty or anything, but a small wave and a head nod was all that we really needed.

So, I guess what I’m trying to say is that your local bookshop, though technically more expensive than the pocket change you can spend on books online, offers books at low prices as well as a sense of community. They help bring author and book events to your town, and if you can’t be bothered to spend a buck or two more in order to keep that alive, then I’m sorry.

Anyway, that rant is concluded, for now. I’ve talked up Salem’s Indie Bookshops (it’s only bookshops) before, and I’m sure I’ll do it again before long.

I’ve been kicking ass at school, and only have a couple things to do today. Write a discussion post, reply to a couple from Wednesday, and take a reading quiz. That should all be done before noon. That leaves me with three hours of free time!

Since Hunting Storm is finished and turned in, I have a couple options for this afternoon. I can continue reading Stupid & Contagious, work on chapter five of Jordinn’s Story, or pick up the edits on Vessels.

Now, I picked up Stupid & Contagious on Wednesday, and I’m already on page 178/317. I have until Wednesday to finish it, and I’m comfortable with the progress I’ve made. Plus, I have about 50 minutes of reading time on my breaks at work.

I’ve stewed on chapter 5 for a while now, and I have some great ideas about how to move it forward. Plus, doing some of my own writing would be nice.

I’ve fallen WAY behind in my editing. I think I’m intimidated by the sheer amount of work the first draft presents. And, though I enjoy editing in general, editing anything longer than 20 pages is just rough. But, I don’t want to give up on it, and I won’t. Also, it’s fairly easy to drop and pick back up, which my current time constraints sort of requires.

So, we’ll see how I feel after homework is finished. But, I’m thinking I’ll be editing later today.

Catch ya later, Blogland!

BZ

Writing in a Vacuum

I want to use today’s post to talk about something important, that I think a lot of writers forget.

So, I’ve been talking about Caladria a ton, I know. And if you’re sick of hearing about it, I’m sorry. But, it’s not going to stop anytime soon, so buckle up. I’ve only been a member of this project for about a month now, but I’ve learned so much. And it’s just a hint of the lessons and experiences available to me.

When we envision writers, we usually have a very detailed image. The lone person, sitting at a paper-strewn desk, staring off into space as they imagine worlds and characters, dust from the stuffed bookshelves floating in the ray of sunlight from the single window. The lone person. We have come to expect that writing is a solitary act. That creation demands solitude.
stephen-king-writingAnne Rice writing

And sometimes it does.

I’ve spent the better part of three years writing in a vacuum. I’ve written two manuscripts, and the only person to see even a word of them is my mother. And for first drafts, I think that’s all right. But, edits on Vessels have ground to a halt, even though the time I spend on them is really productive. And for the life of me, I can’t seem to devote time to finishing them.

Last year, I seriously considered attempting NaNoWriMo. I signed up, and joined my local chapter here in Salem. And then, in my post-Vessels haze, wrote a whopping 2,000 words of Cards. I then shelved it until the following February. But, during those 2,000 words I joined my fellow WriMos on Facebook, and they keep the writing conversation alive year round.

Now, in the heat of this NaNo, the page is constantly posting. Word Wars, prompts, and talks of starting a non-NaNo writing group.

Then this morning I received an email from the Caladria staff, a newsletter for the authors, that singled me out as the “All-Star Performer” of the month. I didn’t know such a thing existed, but they put my name out there, and linked to my blog. They did this because I’ve been talking about Caladria non-stop, and because I turned in Hunting Storm, and they loved it!

Which brings me back to my point about solitude. It’s not wrong to need time alone to get work done. But, you can’t write in a vacuum forever. You need the support and encouragement of others to keep you going. And, as much as people (co-workers, family, friends) ask after my writing, they don’t want to know the details. Even if they’re readers, they don’t really want to know the minutia of the creative process.

You need other writers. Even if it’s just once in a while.

Someone else who has some insight into this world of Collaborative Fiction is Andrew Knighton. If you click his name, it’ll take you to his post on the subject. Also, you really should add him to your reading list, seeing as he’s wonderful.

And since I’m linking to things, Caladria has just launched its Blog! Click on that bad boy if writing fantasy in an ever growing world appeals to you. Or if you just want to keep abreast of all the happenings as this project moves forward. You should also follow us on Twitter @Caladria1.

Anyway, Hunting Storm is done. I turned it in late Monday night, and received really enthusiastic feedback Tuesday morning. I haven’t gone back to read it myself, simply because I don’t have time, but I remember being really pleased with myself. It’s nice to know that my instincts about my work are good. I liked the piece, and had impressed myself, as well as my “Editor”.

So, now that there’s no pressing deadline, I can focus on school even more. Yay. Sarcasm. But, I’m doing well on that front. I went from an 85 in my French class to a 92, and I’m still killing my Short Story class. Speaking of which, I’ll update my reading page today.

Anyway, I’m falling behind on homework, so I’ve got to get going.

Blogland, have a great day! See you soon!

BZ