Goals Summary 2018 – Wk 37

Bloggos,

It’s late. I should be sleeping. But tomorrow’s the big travel day and there’s just too much to think about, too many variables, and I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. So, here I am, doing the one thing that tends to turn off all the superfluous thoughts.

Last Week

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Finish reading Borne and The Strange Birdthe strange bird
  • Finish chapter 7 of Sanctuary

How’d I Do?

  • Publish two blog posts
    • Yep.
  • Finish reading Borne and The Strange Bird
    • Yep. Reviews for both are up now.
  • Finish chapter 7 of Sanctuary
    • Nope. Not even a little bit. Not even at all.

Weekly Word Count: 0

I think that’s a first. Zero words this week. I’m sure it’s happened before, but I didn’t write the goals summary to prove it. But, I’m not mad. This is my month to unwind and get a blank slate prepared for NaNoWriMo.

That was the official list, the work I wanted to focus on as the vacation drew ever nearer. But the unofficial list was much bigger. I won’t get into the details again, however I do honestly believe we’re as ready as we can be for such a big trip. I’m wound tight right now, but as soon as we’re on the plane it’s out of my hands and I can finally relax.

I just have to get through tonight.

What’s Next?

  • VACATION!
    • Eat a pretzel every day
      • Pics or it didn’t happen
  • VACATION!
    • Visit at least one castle
      • Pics or it didn’t happen
  • VACATION!
    • Oktoberfest!!!!
      • Pics or it didn’t happen

mechanical

You get the idea. I am still reading The Mechanical. It’s slow so far, the language is very dense and my attention wanders frequently. I’m hoping hours on an airplane will help me get through it.

I make no promises about posting next week. We’re away until the 29th, and while I’ll have the laptop in tow, I don’t want to promise any posts until we’re back. I might squeak out time to do a mid-trip update, but if I do it’s a bonus.

Regardless, it’s back to work on October 1st, so you’ll find me here, gushing all about our trip.

Until then, Blogland,

 

BZ

 

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Book Review – Borne by Jeff VanderMeer

Blogland,

I went into reading this book with very mixed expectations. I’d heard multiple firsthand accounts of how brilliant it is, but actually knew absolutely nothing about it. I’ve never read anything by VanderMeer before, and all I knew about Borne was what I could glean from inside the jacket flap.

Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars

borne

Rachel is a scavenger, eking out a living in the City for herself and her partner Wick. Tensions are high, with resources in the ruined city scarce and the giant, hyper-intelligent bear, Mord, wreaking havoc wherever he pleases. Wick and Rachel are distrustful lovers and partners, helping one another and keeping more than their fair share of secrets to boot.

One of those secrets is Borne, a sentient blob of biotech that grows and grows and grows. Rachel tries to raise him in secret, just another topic to avoid with Wick, but Borne quickly proves too curious and clever to be satisfied with Rachel’s small apartment.

With the secret out, Borne explores their domain of the Balcony Cliffs while Rachel and Wick let their secrets drive a wedge between them. When all the lizards have disappeared from their ruined halls, when all the small critters that scampered in the walls have vanished, and when raiders attack their home only to mysteriously abandon the Cliffs, Rachel refuses to entertain Wick’s accusation.

“Borne eats and eats,” says Wick. “But nothing comes out.”

And so begins the battle between Rachel and Wick about Borne. The decisions in which will shape the rest of their lives.

I have some pretty conflicted thoughts about this book. On the one hand, I very much enjoyed the story and the characters. Rachel, Wick, and Borne are delightfully complex and I often found myself disappointed in them as often as I was pleased. The world is developed extremely well, and I’d be happy to spend more time to learn about the City and the Company that deteriorated it so.

But…

VanderMeer’s writing was a struggle for me. Don’t misunderstand, it is beautiful. But it’s also strange. Just like the book itself. I had a hard time, not because the prose is overly Image result for borne vandermeercomplex or wordy, but because the sentence structures were often bizarre. There were entire paragraphs, large chunks of the page that were only a sentence or two. Those were immediately followed with sentence fragments and sentences that played with word order. You have to scavenge the story from the page. And while I can appreciate the mastery of craft behind such a novel, it frequently pulled me from the story, jarred me from the world, and allowed my mind to wander when all I really wanted was to know what happened to Rachel and her makeshift family.

 

See? I’m conflicted. It is a beautiful book. It’s a book that makes the reader work. And I’m not opposed to doing the work, but I felt that Borne could have balanced storytelling and readability a little bit better.

I can’t say if this is true for all of VanderMeer’s stories. I’ve only read Borne, and I’m only a third of the way through the Borne novella, The Strange Bird. So far, I don’t feel like it suffers as much from the jarring language as the novel did. Or maybe I’m just acclimated and notice it less. Either way, I’m struggling less so far. Which is a good thing.

I should be back this weekend to write up my review for The Strange Bird and probably to vent about how stressed I am about this trip. I’ll be fine once we’re on the plane, but each passing day my anxiety grows and grows. Just like Borne.

I need a beer.

 

BZ

The Recap – August 2018

Blogland,

Holy Crow! It’s September! How? When did this happen? Last night, you say? Huh. I must have missed it seeing as I was distracted by all the screaming at androids these last few days. That’s a Detroit: Become Human reference, by the way. I’ll try to keep them to a minimum going forward.

August Goals

  • Submit The Steel Armada to Tim the Agent™
  • Finish The Fall of Ezra Clarke
  • Santa Sarita recordings
  • Keep reading!
  • Tumblr prompts
  • Write chapters 7+8 of Sanctuary

How’d I do?

  • Submit The Steel Armada to Tim the Agent™
    • Yes! Although it is now titled, Exodus: Descent. I sent it out on the sixteenth of August, just one day after my self-imposed deadline. Not too shabby.
  • Finish The Fall of Ezra Clarke
    • Yes! This story was a trip to write, let me tell you. After four false starts, I finally found the right voice and perspective to write the story through. It has also since been renamed, That Which Illuminates Heaven.
  • Santa Sarita recordings
    • Nope. Thought about it last night, but I replayed Detroit: Become Human instead.
  • Keep reading!
    • Sure did! I read eight titles this month!
  • Tumblr prompts
    • Yep! I only have one left, and I need to do a little research to make sure I get the characters right.
  • Write chapters 7+8 of Sanctuary
    • Nope. I did get halfway done with chapter 7 though!

Total Word Count: 17,862

 

This month was very heavy in the first half. Lots of reading, editing, and then a week of really dedicated writing. This last week was a nice chance for me to relax and not feel guilty for indulging myself in hours and hours of Detroit: Become Human. Like, hours. I’m maybe learning some of the piano music from the soundtrack, which I’ve been told is the true litmus test for my obsession with something.

I have no regrets.

September Goals

  • Tumblr prompts
  • Finish chapter 7 of Sanctuary
  • Keep reading!
  • Continue short story submissions

This month’s goals are very very short, because we’ll be in Germany for twelve days at the end of the month. Also, I’m not feeling super motivated to do much of anything right now. I don’t want to cease all productivity, but I want to pump the brakes a little and reserve energy for October and November. Expect blog activity to be pretty thin this month.

Also, sorry for the delay in publishing this. I wrote half of it on the first, and then the holiday weekend got the best of me. So, here it is, better late than never. I’ll be back tomorrow to get the weekly goals summary out. Expect a similar theme of relaxed goals for the next few weeks.

Until then, Bloggos.

 

BZ

 

Goals Summary 2018 – Wk 33

Blogland!

It’s been a rollercoaster week, mostly with some work drama that I am so over. But, writing is chugging along, slowly but surely. It’s hot and smoky here, so it’s a good excuse to stay indoors and get work done.

Last Week

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Send Exodus: Descent to Tim the Agent™
  • Sort out The Fall of Ezra Clarke
  • Read Foxglove Summerfoxglove summer
  • Review Madhu’s pages

How’d I do?

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Send Exodus: Descent to Tim the Agent™
    • Yes! I almost backed out, and then I slammed that send button.
  • Sort out The Fall of Ezra Clarke
    • Yes? I started it over, but I think there are more changes to come.
  • Read Foxglove Summer
    • Nope. I’m really close though.
  • Review Madhu’s pages
    • Of course! I always do.

Weekly Word Count: 2,616

This week had a few bursts of energy and productivity, and yet I felt like I just didn’t really accomplish all that much. There was a definite vibe of “taking a break”. I’d worked my butt off the week before getting Exodus into shape, and I think I needed a low key week to let my brain recuperate.

I have no idea what Tim’s turnaround time will be. Or if he’ll even respond. I imagine he will, because ignoring someone you requested materials from would be rude. Right? But, I’ve never really corresponded with an agent before, so what do I know? I’ve got Exodus out to him and a few reader/editor friends. I’ll wait for their feedback before I dive back in to really hone the novella into publication shape. Then I’ve got a list of markets that will accept novellas.

As if submitting short stories isn’t stressful enough.

I’ve reworked Ezra, moving it forward in time. I’ve got a couple thousand words down for it, but I think it needs to jump ahead again. It’s languishing, which is fine while I’m writing and learning these characters, but I need to tighten things up and get to the plot. I’ve got the characters, I have their struggles and dynamic with each other sorted. Now I need to throw them into the mess of this story and figure out what happens.

I think I’ll finish Foxglove Summer tonight, which is good because I need to read these graphic novels and novella as fast as I can. I am out of time.

I gave Madhu my feedback on her manuscript, which means there won’t be any pages to read this week. What a weird concept. No peer review? No line edits for The Audient Void? No novella to write or edit?

What the hell am I doing this week?

So, What’s Next?

  •  Publish 2 blog posts
  • Finish The Fall of Ezra Clarke rough draft
  • Finish reading Foxglove Summer
  • Write/share one tumblr prompt
  • Record an episode of Santa Sarita

That’s it. I really want to focus on finding the direction for this short story and hammering it out. If I could get it ready for submission before we leave for Germany I would be ecstatic.

I think I’ll finish Foxglove Summer as well as the Peter Grant graphic novels tonight. I’ve spent a really long time in this world and I am just about ready to move on. Just some graphic novels, a novella and one more novel to go. furthest station

I still have a handful of tumblr prompts (3 to be exact), so I’ll get some work on those done this week as well. And then record an episode of Santa Sarita. So, really, there’s not much going on this week, just a lot of time to sink into my writing.

Hopefully the weather will break soon. I’ve got a hankering for a chai latte and oversized sweaters. So if it could dip below 70 degrees sometime soon, that’d be nice.

I have the review for Foxglove Summer on deck, since it’s almost done, and then a Submission Update planned for later this week as well. I’ll be around, so keep an eye out.

Until then, Bloggos.

 

BZ

Goals Summary 2018 – Wk 32

Blogland!

We’re buckling up for another hot week here in the Pacific Northwest. The fans are blasting, with ample water in supply. Although, my yard is definitely worse for the wear. But, the writing den is cool and comfortable today, which means it’s time to get to work.

Last Week

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Write/share one tumblr prompt
  • Write 1k of The Fall of Ezra Clarke
  • Record an episode of Santa Sarita
  • Read Broken Homes
  • Read through The Steel Armada/send to Madhu
  • Review Madhu’s pages

How’d I do?

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Write/share one tumblr prompt
    • Yep! Early in the week I finished and posted a Dragon Age tumblr prompt to a few notes and comments.
  • Write 1k of The Fall of Ezra Clarke
    broken homes
    • Nope. Only wrote 88 words on this project this week.
  • Record an episode of Santa Sarita
    • Nope. Not even a little bit.
  • Read Broken HomesYes! I didn’t think I’d make this one, but I finished it in the wee hours last night.
  • Read through Exodus:Descent/send to Madhu
    • Yep! This was a bigger task than I anticipated, which warranted labeling the file “Draft 2.5”. So now it’s sitting somewhere between drafts two and three.
  • Review Madhu’s pages
    • Yarp. Madhu’s been struggling a little bit as she’s slogging through the last pages of her rewrite. But, I’m diligent in getting her pages back to her in a timely manner.

Weekly Word Count: 2,927

So, not a crazy good week, but not a bad one either. Revising Exodus is really my top priority, so I don’t feel so bad about neglecting Ezra this week. The reading and blogging continue to be consistent. I’ve got tumblr prompts to keep my mind engaged and working on new content. Work on Ezra has slowed, mainly because I’m not really sure where the story is going, and I have a feeling a rewrite is on the way. But, we’ll see.

Saturday evening I received word that, yet again, The Cost of Rain made it to the final round but did not get selected for publication. However, the magazine offered feedback which, though brief, was actually quite good. I made the subsequent changes and sent it off to the next place.

I also finally got my hands on The Audient Void short stories for issue #6. Doing the line edits took up one of my evenings, and I can’t wait for you all to see it! These stories are really good!

the audient void no 5
Or buy a copy here!

If you’re at WorldCon this weekend you can pick up a copy of The Audient Void Issue #5 at The Book Bin’s booth as well as get your books signed by a slew of wonderful authors!

So, What’s Next?

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Send Exodus: Descent to Tim the Agent™
  • Sort out The Fall of Ezra Clarke
  • Read Foxglove Summer
  • Review Madhu’s pages

That’s it. I need to keep it simple this week. Submitting Exodus is my biggest priority. And the most complicated. In order to send it this week I need to finish the revision (currently adding some extras and honing the ending) and write and perfect the query letter. So, yeah. That’s a big job on its own.

Once that’s done I need to sit down and decide if I try to slog through Ezra as it is, or start fresh with that new take on it that’s bouncing around my brain. I’m increasingly thinking that it’s time to start over. But, that can wait until Exodus is done.

I am running out of time with these Peter Grant books. I have until the 21st to read them all, and I only have two left! That means, if I’m not writing, I’m reading.

And of course there will be time to review Madhu’s pages. I’ll probably even send her some snippets of the changes I’ve made to Exodus, just to be sure they’re working before I send it off.

So, yeah. There’s a lot of work ahead of me this week. I’ll be back, probably on Thursday, to share my review of Broken Homes, and then you probably won’t see much of me. I gotta get this biz done!

So until then, Bloggos,

 

BZ

Editing Check-In #4

Hey Blogland. It’s been awhile since I’ve talked about my progress on The Steel Armada, almost a month actually. There’s been a lot of development, and I’m really excited to tell you all about it!

First and foremost: I finished the rough draft!

celebration

That’s a huge relief right there. I sent the final chapter to Madhu on August 1st, and could have sent the entire manuscript, but we both agreed that since she wasn’t ready send me hers, I should take the time to revise and edit the rough draft first.

Which was a good idea, because the ending was terrible. No, seriously. It was bad. It focused too much on a side character and didn’t wrap up the main character’s arc really at all. I knew it when I wrote it, but I was so relieved to be able to call it done that I just sent it off to her without fixing it first.

But, I’ve since spent a huge amount of time going through the manuscript and making the changes the story really needed. Namely, the ending, but there were some small lines that needed added or cut to make sure character motivations made sense to the reader.

Exodus Descent progress

So, that was $8.10 worth of printing at the library and 16+ hours of editing. I spent about 2 hours on each chapter, doing a minimum of three read throughs of each one. I’ll get into what that entailed in a minute.

I also came up with a new title for the project! Now, I haven’t really referred to it as The Steel Armada for months now, at least, not in my head. That title never fit the story I was telling, and it especially did not fit the story I have on paper now. So, I give to you, Exodus: Descent, my new novella.

Exodus Descent RD

After my laborious editing efforts last Thursday and Friday I promptly “shelved” the manuscript and did my best to put it out of my mind. I closed the Scrivener document, I didn’t look at the pages, I read for fun and played video games. Anything to keep my mind off of the project. I needed to manufacture distance without having much time to do so organically.

Normally, after completing a draft, I’ll put it aside for weeks or even months. But, I don’t have that luxury this time; I have a self-imposed deadline. I want to send the novella to Tim the Agent™ by August fifteenth. So, I had to distract myself.

I have to admit, it’s been very interesting to work with a deadline in mind. Having a firm date in mind has really increased my focus and drive for the completion of this project.

Then, today, I sat down and slowly worked my way through the manuscript again (this time on the computer) and made tedious changes to word choice, sentence structure, with an eye out for repetition or any vague lines. It was slow work that took up my entire evening, but I got the entire manuscript done. I’m calling it Draft 2.5. And that’s what I sent to Madhu tonight.

That’s the general update, but I also want to share a little about what this process has looked like over the last week. I’ve talked about my time rewriting the novella so far, including my internal struggle with the idea that the story is a novella in the first place. But what the heck did I do for 16 hours?

Well, I started by printing out the manuscript, including the cover page. Then, on the cover I wrote a legend for the meanings of the various ink colors I would use and a spot where I could count up the total tally of -ly, as, and was instances in the manuscript.

This is something I learned to do in college. Adverbs detract from your writing. Remember that Stephen King quote: The road to hell is paved with adverbs. As and was are both indicators of potentially weak or passive writing. Find them and you can hone in on where your writing is lacking and address the issue.

So, I read through the manuscript the first time just to read through it. If something is really jarring I’ll underline it so that I know to do something with it on a later read, but I don’t change anything otherwise.

On the second read through I go through and circle each and every instance of -ly, as, and was that I can. Obviously, out of 23k words, I miss some of them. And, I don’t fix all of them. That’s how you get boring, repetitive writing. But, it draws my attention to spots that I might want to change and helps me decide which sentences are a priority and which aren’t.

IMG_20180808_233725

That’s the second read through. On the third is when I finally whip out the red pen and put it to good use. And the green pen, for when I see something I really like or am proud of. Positive reenforcement is important, people! This is the stage that takes the longest time. I’m going through the entire manuscript, line by line, and making it the best I can this round. I’m cutting, rewriting, adding new material, anything it takes to iron out the wrinkles and get to the next stage of the manuscript.

And after that, I go back through and make those changes in the computer. Usually even more, smaller, tweaks happen in this stage simply because I’m seeing the words in a different setting. That’s why I do the bulk of my editing on printed pages in the first place, because getting a physical version of the manuscript changes how my brain perceives it and lets me see it in a more objective way.

work work work

And then I put it aside and do anything but think about the project. In this case, I read for fun and played Dragon Age: Inquisition for the bazillionth time. I let my mind wander away from the novella and relax.

Then, I came back to it today to make more small changes, this time on only in the computer. This is the honing phase, where I really implement elements of craft (what is this, college?) and make much more conscious decisions in my writing than I do in the initial writing process.

Once I got to the end I made sure both my Scrivener document and my .docx version were identical, and then sent it to Madhu for her feedback. Once I get it back, depending on how extensive the revisions need to be, I’ll probably print out another hard copy and start the whole process over again.

But, I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. I’m hoping that there won’t be much new critique and that I can spend the last week just sharpening the writing before I query Tim the Agent™.

So, that’s the state of things right now. Once I consider it “done” I’ll post a Project Wrap Up and talk about the entire project from start (back in 2013) to finish. And then it’ll be goodbye to Val, at least for the time being, while I work on something new.

How exciting!

Talk at you all soon,

 

BZ

 

Goals Summary 2018 – Wk 31

Blogland!

This week was extremely productive. Like, the most productive week I’ve had in a long time. It was also exhausting, and then suddenly very relaxing. Apparently I was all over the place this week!

Last Week

  • Publish 2 blog posts
  • Edit The Steel Armada
  • Write 1k words for The Fall of Ezra Clarke
  • Read Whispers Under GroundWhispers_Under_Ground
  • Review Madhu’s pages

How’d I Do?

  • Publish 2 blog posts
    • Yep. The first of the month saw the upload of The Recap and the review for Bloodlist is up now!
  • Edit The Steel Armada
    • Good Lordy bajornies, YES! It took about 16+ hours of work, but yes. It’s done!
  • Write 1k words for The Fall of Ezra Clarke
    • Yep! Still have no idea where this story is going but I’m happy to spend time with these characters.
  • Read Whispers Under Ground
    • Yarp. I think I finished it on Tuesday?
  • Review Madhu’s pages
    • You know it!

Weekly Word Count: 4,163

Y’all. Holy Crow what a week! There was lots of reading (Whispers Under Ground, The Productive Writer, and Here There be Gerblins), a ton of editing that rendered my brain into gray pudding and brought about a level of crankiness I hadn’t experienced in years. Also, there was a stupid amount of iced coffee just to keep me functional and even that still felt like running on fumes come Friday afternoon.

Exodus Descent RD
Notice the title? More details on that later this week!

Thursday and Friday were days off for me. I printed out the rough draft on Wednesday (all 81 pages), and then woke up on Thursday with one goal in mind: I would sit down and edit as much as my brain could possibly handle. I knew the ending needed rewriting, and I wanted to get that done on Friday if I could. Which meant I needed to get more than half way through the manuscript on Thursday.

That was… taxing. I’ll share an Editing Check-In this week where I’ll talk about the entire process (how I start, how I know when to call a draft done and move on to the next stage, what problem areas I focus on when, etc), but let’s just say that it was a freaking gauntlet.

work work work

After that, I was pretty much useless. A migraine and a completely wrecked sleep schedule later, I sank some hours into one of my Dragon Age: Inquisition playthroughs, read a little fanfic, and played Gloomhaven over the weekend. Which only worked out because I had finished all of my other goals by Friday night.

I’m beginning to think that the writing I’m doing for The Fall of Ezra Clarke is actually just background/foundation work. Right now its too passive, too high school drama. But if I can understand their pasts I can write their futures into something much more compelling. So, I’m just going to keep on until I hit on the actual story. I’ll hone it in from there.

There’s a sudden sense of freedom having The Steel Armada deep in its editing stages. I can work on… anything! I still have short stories out for submission, I’m working on a new sci-fi story (Ezra), I have ideas for a new novel series and a new short story. I have Cards to revise, and the rough draft of From the Quorum to finish. For the first time since 2014, I finally fee like I have options.

I'm free

So, What’s Next?

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Write/share one tumblr prompt
  • Write 1k of The Fall of Ezra Clarke
  • Record an episode of Santa Sarita
  • Read Broken Homes
  • Read through The Steel Armada/send to Madhu
  • Review Madhu’s pages

That’s a busy week. Lots of bullet points. But it’s mostly reading, some editing, and a little bit of writing. Lucky for me, I (mostly) enjoy all of those things! I’m still a little tired, my mind not quite as sharp as I’m used to, but that could just be because I haven’t had my coffee yet.

So, I’m off to remedy that, and probably snag some breakfast while I’m at it. I’ll be back this week with the review for Whispers Under Ground and an Editing Check-In. So, until then, I hope you all had a good weekend, and that the week ahead treats you right.

Talk soon, Bloggos.

 

BZ