The Recap – January 2018

Blogland! Hello again!

Today marks the start of a new month, and the start of a new blog post series! I’ve always been a firm believer in the efficacy of setting small, achievable goals. I talked about it a lot while I was in school, breaking down my semesters into digestible, weekly bites. I was very successful during my hectic life balancing school and two jobs, and have spent the last year and a half sort of drifting in all this free time.

So, how do I get back to that level (or similar) of productivity?

Spend less time looking at the big picture! I know that sounds counter-productive, but honestly, I think I have to. When I think about editing The Steel Armada, I feel overwhelmed, unsure how to begin let alone how to get all the way to the end. And yet, I was able to tackle the first chapter last night, and am really proud of the outcome. It was like ripping off the band-aid, or getting a shot; much scarier in my mind than on paper. I’ve been approaching and thinking about this project all wrong for years, and I’ve allowed it to keep me from reaching my goals.

I see the big picture, I know the end goal: Call The Steel Armada “Done”. But, the road to “Done” doesn’t have to be an eight lane highway. It could just as easily be a collection of many narrow country roads. Honing in my focus helps prevent distraction and my propensity for over-thinking, which then allows for increased focus and productivity.

But, the other big part is acknowledging that I’m a little out of my depth here. I’m comfortable editing short fiction, and actually really enjoy that process. But a novel? There’s so many moving parts, so many characters with their own motivations and goals, and so much more world-building to flesh out. There’s just so much! Now, whenever I feel unprepared or uncertain, what do I do?

Research! I work at a library. I live in a time with mobile access to the internet. I am privileged with incredible access to knowledge, why in all hells should I wade through this daunting task blindfolded? Why do I feel as if educating myself on the process of editing and revising a novel is somehow cheating?

It’s stupid, and I’m done with it.

I can hear you now, “That’s all fine and good, Brittany, but what does this have to do with the blog and setting goals?”

This epiphany (can you call it that if you’re realizing something you already knew?) has led me to redo my whiteboard, which means I need to reevaluate how I set, meet, and discuss my goals. I’ve been doing the Weekly Goals Summaries, and have found that checking in weekly helps keep me focused and accountable.

Whiteboard update
Writing on whiteboard as a Lefty is sketchy at best. Sorry for the crap handwriting.

But, trying to tackle several goals for the year by breaking them into weekly goals is… daunting. It leaves me feeling as if I’m wrestling with an octopus or something, all flailing, slippery limbs.

Enter Monthly Goals!

God, it seems like such a no-brainer when I write it down. Why haven’t I been doing this all along? Adding monthly goals adds even more structure, giving me more footholds on this giant rock wall I’m calling 2018.

Yearly goals get dissected into monthly goals, which get further broken down into weekly goals. It allows me to tackle small, attainable goals that will stack back up into the bigger, over-arcing goals for the year, without giving me a panic attack.

I don’t know about you, but avoiding panic attacks sounds like a good idea to me.

Unfortunately, I didn’t set detailed goals for January, but I still want to look at my overall accomplishments for the month.

January “Goals”

  • post a book review each week
  • write one chapter of Sanctified
  • write two give away fics (about 5k words total)
  • edit Lifelike and The Season into Draft 2
  • keep reading
  • plan The Steel Armada edits

How’d I do?

  • Post a book review each week
    • I only wrote two book reviews this month, but I’m building a pipeline for reviews right now, so there should be plenty of reviews in the future. I’ll take it.
  • Write one chapter of Sanctified
    • I did write chapter 31 of Sanctified, and started chapter 32. I also posted chapter 30.
  • Write two give away fics
    • I finished my two give away fics to some praise on Tumblr, so that’s nice. The intended audiences were very happy with their gifts, which always feels good!
  • Edit Lifelike and The Season into Draft 2
    • Done. Sent them out to a couple of friends for feedback.

      short story edits
      Gotta love that red pen!
  • Keep reading
    • Slowly but surely. I’m spread pretty thin between several books and audiobooks, so the progress feels slow. But, it’ll avalanche nicely.
  • Plan The Steel Armada edits
    • Barely. I did edit chapter 1 last night, but that was just a tippy-toe in the lake of this project. But, I’m thinking about it and moving forward with it into February.

Total January Word Count: 11,825

Considering that I went into January without any real plan other than my weekly goals, I feel pretty darn good about my output. Now that I have a more structured approach, what will I accomplish in February?

February Goals

  • Edit four chapters of The Steel Armada
  • Finish Sanctified
  • Get Lifelike submission ready
  • Keep Reading

This list feels short, but February is already a short month, and I’ll be on vacation for five days of it. We’re going back to Arizona for my cousin’s wedding at the end of the month, and there will be absolutely no time for writing or editing while I’m there. Reading on the flights is likely the only thing I’ll accomplish. Setting realistic, achievable goals is key, and acknowledging when I won’t have time is crucial to that.

With only two chapters left in Sanctified, February will be an editing-centric month. Expect book reviews and lots of discussion about my experiences revising my first novel.

dual wielding laptops
Dual-wielding laptops like a boss.

And probably a lot of complaining about my computer situation, because I hate it. You’ve been warned.
I’ll see you soon with a book review, Blogland. Until then, thanks as usual for reading this far!

 

BZ

 

Advertisements

Goals Summary 2018 – Wk 2

Hello Blogland and welcome to the weekly summary!

What were the goals?

  • publish 1 book review
  • finish Singull fic (tumblr give away)
  • hit 1,500 words on Sanctified chapter 31
  • finish listening to Shockaholic
  • edit The Seasons and Lifelike, send to Madhu for work-shopping

 

How’d I do?

Where are my trumpets? I absolutely killed it this week, and I am feeling damn good about it! I published the book review for The Children of Men, and finished and posted the giveaway fic for my tumblr. I just barely eeked out the 1500 words on Sanctified, and I edited The Seasons and Lifelike and sent them to my writer friend for her feedback. I also got in some bonus words on a Sci-Fi short story I shouldn’t technically be working on right now. I wrote it by hand on a whim, and then typed it up to get a feel for it. I’ve shelved it for now to focus on the tasks at hand.

The only thing I didn’t do was finish listening to Shockaholic, but I’m still calling it a win because I finished listening to Turn Coat instead, which is a longer book. Migraine silver lining; when you can’t sleep because of the pain, at least James Marsters’ voice is soothing.

Weekly Word Count: 5,074

Dresden Turn Coat

So, now what?

  • Publish Dark Sky book review
  • Finish Nyxara fic (tumblr giveaway)
  • Finish Sanctified chapter 31, post chapter 30
  • Finish Shockaholic
  • Incorporate feedback on Lifelike and The Seasons, send to Matt for further insight

 

I’m feeling pretty good going into this week, gotta say. It feels nice to get everything done that I planned to. So, while my smile’s still wide, I’m calling it a night.

See you all soon with a book review!

 

BZ

 

 

Call for Submissions

Heya Blogland!

 

Audient Void issue 4
Issue #4, cover art by Allen Koszowski

Below is the official statement from Obadiah Baird, Editor of The Audient Void, regarding our open submissions:

 

Since the fourth issue of The Audient Void: A Journal of Weird Fiction and Dark Fantasy is now out we are opening submissions for issue #5. We are looking for quality works of poetry and short fiction.

Poetry should be Weird or darkly fantastical with strong imagery. We pay $.35 a line with a $5 minimum payable upon publication.

For short fiction our tastes are broad and we will consider anything with Weird, horrific or fantastical elements. We will consider any length work but will be much less likely to publish stories over 5,000 words. Our rate is $5 per thousand words payable upon publication.

Please note that Weird Fiction is a distinct genre. If you are unsure if your work fits please familiarize yourself with its characteristics at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki.Weird_fiction. We are not likely to be interested in stories that are simply strange or bizarre without belonging to the genres we publish.

To submit, please send your work as a .doc, .docx, or .rtf file to:

theaudientvoidmag@gmail.com

Be sure to include a header with your name and email address. We do not accept simultaneous submissions and ask that you wait for our response before submitting elsewhere. The submission deadline is November 10, please do not inquire about your submission before that deadline and understand that it may take some time to follow up on all submissions after the deadline has passed. 

I look forward to reading everyone’s work!

In addition to my usual line editing duties, I have taken on the additional role of reading submissions! So, I also look forward to reading everyone’s work!

IMG_20171012_114950
The first four issues of The Audient Void, all cover art by Allen Koszowski

To learn more about The Audient Void, or to purchase previous issues, please visit our Facebook page.

Happy Submitting!

 

BZ

Goals Summary Wk 39

Hi Blogland!

For the first time in over 6 months, I am here to share my goals with you all! It feels so good!

So, what did I set out to do last week? As follows, according to my whiteboard:

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Madhu’s chapter revisions
  • Implement TSA chapter 1 revisions
  • Finish Sanctified chapter 27
  • Apply for position at a nearby library

And… moment of truth. How did I do?

I published two blog posts, including the book review for Proven Guilty. I not only got Madhu her revisions, but also helped her prep her query letter and a fellowship application. I implemented her suggestions and revisions for The Steel Armada chapter 1, and it’s much stronger for it.  I also finished chapter 27 of my fanfic, which allowed me to post chapter 25! And I applied for that job!

So, first week back in the game and I got everything done!!! I am doing happy dances over here, just so you know.

Now, what’s the goal this week?

IMG_20171001_213448
Exhibit A of “I Cannot Draw”
  • Publish two blog posts
  • Madhu’s chapter revisions
  • Implement TSA chapters 2+3 revisions
  • Finish reading The Stone Sky
  • Start Sanctified Chapter 28

In addition to the above I have some Audient Void business this week (issue #4 is out now!), as well a month-long doodle challenge on Tumblr. I cannot draw to save my life, but it’s proving fun so far.  I also need to think about NaNo WriMo and what I’m going to do for that. If I can get Sanctified finished by then, it would really help me refocus on From the Quorum, which is the project I’d like to work on for NaNo. But, we’ll see. I’ve got this month to write about 5 chapters and get this fanfic wrapped up.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve got going on for now. Should that change, be sure you’ll hear all about it. I’ll see you soon with a book review for William Ritter’s The Dire King, the final book in his Jackaby series.

Until then, Blogland,

 

BZ

If I’m Being Honest

Okay. I’m here. I’m back in my office and I’ve updated my whiteboard for the first time in over a month. And I have to say, it feels really good. I’ve been out of sorts for months now, really since March. I have learned that I am a creature of habit, more so than I already acknowledged, and this summer has put forth a concerted effort to keep me from doing anything in any semblance of routine.

Week-long video game binges, my husband lost his job, two of my biggest music icons took their own lives, my best friend almost died, and then we had extended house guests for the first time in my life. Coupled with applying, interviewing, and being denied two full time positions at my work and really I’m just a ball of rubber-bands stretched too tight: one has got to snap eventually.

I think the only thing that kept me from snapping was all the fanfic I wrote, and the friends I made on tumblr because of it. Since mid-April, I’ve written 168,799 words of fanfiction. Just… let that number sink in. 168 THOUSAND 799 words.

Of fanfiction.

I’m still trying to convince myself that’s okay. Anyone I talk to in my personal life or online seems to find it incredible and awesome. Thanks guys! But, my writer brain is still royally pissed that all that effort and output went to fanfiction.

But, if I’m 100% honest, I really LOVED writing it, and I fully intend to finish it before the end of the year. Also, I’m going to continue to write small prompts and drabbles, because they are fun, and I need writing to be fun still. Also, this year has shown me that I am absolutely capable of writing a novel in a month (if it’s a short one).

I’m not good at being honest with others when it comes to my mental health. I internalize everything, and I am usually the “solid” person in my circle of friends. I give advice and keep my shit together. So, when I start to break under pressure, or when my mind is trying to sabotage me, I don’t feel like I have anyone to tell, other than my husband. And even then, he had just as tough a summer as I did so it was easy to convince myself not to make things harder on him by being completely honest. So, I drop hints that I’m not feeling myself, to which he’s receptive, and we commiserate about our mild depression.

Meanwhile, I’m feeling isolated, raw, and like a useless piece of shit. And it’s all my own fault. I know it is. I could just talk to someone, and feel one hundred times better. I KNOW this. And now I understand why so many people never suspect the depths of their loved ones’ depression, why so many suicides are so shocking. Because, you can KNOW what you need to do to fix things, to make yourself feel better, and it doesn’t matter. You can know it, but you’re powerless to either find the right words, or time, or simply the energy to bring it up.

I want to note that, the fact that I’m here, talking about this means I’m feeling much better and am confident that I am on the path to getting back to my old self. I also want to state that at no point this summer did I contemplate any sort of self-harm. I was/am depressed, for the first time in a way that was recognizable to me, and that has shone a light on what it must be like to battle these feelings constantly. I understand now, in my own small way, how exhausting it must be and how incredibly lonely, even if you’re good at putting on a brave face and doing things to convince others you’re okay.

I understand, and I’m so sorry anyone has to put up with these constant feelings of worthlessness, self-loathing, and loneliness. And I know that, for many people, it doesn’t end. There doesn’t seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel, where someday you’ll feel good again and actually want to do something productive with your time.

And I’m so sorry, I wish I knew better how to help.

But, I’m seeing that light now, and I’m gifted days of incredible output and energy. I fully intend to make good on them.

So, later this week I will be back to talk about Proven Guilty. I’ve made some goals for the rest of the week, and if they go well, I’ll be back on Monday to do a goals summary for the first time in over six months!

Until then, Blogland,

 

BZ

Book Review – Dead Beat (Dresden Files #7) by Jim Butcher

Well. Here I am. Writing a book review for the first time in months. Huh.

Gotta say, this is weird. But it feels damn good. If you’re keeping up on my Goodreads page, then you know that I’ve been reading up a storm the last few days. I don’t plan on slowing down, either.

Also, I had a bit of a breakthrough on the fanfic while I was in the shower today (of course), so I should make some serious progress on it over the next week or so.

My aunts have been staying with us this whole week, camped out in my writing room, so things have been a bit out of sorts for me. Even now  I’m typing this from the kitchen table, listening to Incubus in my headphones while Trevor plays his video games in his office. I didn’t realize how used to my routine I’d become, but man, this week has put it into perspective.

I started a new short story, and it’s really rough right now. I’m not sure if it’ll ever turn into more than some weird little tale, but I had a really great time writing it, so that seems good enough for now. I’ve also been doing a bit of research on the requirements for membership with the SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Association) which then spiraled out into all kinds of interesting searches about publishers, agents, and magazines with open submissions.

So, long story short, my brain is kicking back into writing mode, and I couldn’t be happier.

Now that you’ve got the short version of my thoughts these last few days, have a book review! This is the part where I tell you that there are spoilers below…

Dead_Beat
This book took me entirely too long to read. I started it as a digital audiobook on loan from the library back at the beginning of April. I was in the height of my Mass Effect playing then, so the poor recording was left neglected except for when I had a migraine. The digital loans aren’t renewable, and of course there were a bunch of holds on it, so I couldn’t get the audiobook again. I told myself that, since I owned the paperback, I’d just commit to finishing it the old-fashioned way.

Four months later I finally cracked it open and finished it in a couple of days. Because it was good! I know there’s no point in being upset with myself or trying to feel guilty about my sabbatical, but damn. I could have been so much farther in the series by now!

In this installment, Dresden is tasked with fighting off the Disciples of Kemmler, a notoriously evil necromancer whose acolytes are all vying for Godhood on a particularly stormy  Halloween. To make matters worse, Mavra, of the Black Court Vampires, also wants the “Word of Kemmler”, the necromancer’s book that all the Disciples are after. Within the book lies a ritual for calling forth the Erlking, lord of the Wild Hunt, and unlocks power that would bequeath enough power to make one a God.

So, a typical Thursday night for Harry.

big_dead_beat
Cover art for Wizard at Large, an omnibus of Blood Rites and Dead Beat, by Dan dos Santos.

 

But, shit gets pretty intense, pretty freaking fast. There’s necromancy galore, with zombies and spirits and ghouls running rampant. Butters, the coroner, tags along with Harry the whole time, and Thomas and Mouse are large players as well; a full cast of my favorite people.

Murphy is conveniently elsewhere for the duration of the novel, and I’m excited to see how her Hawaiian vacation with Kincaid went. It was obvious in the beginning of the novel that she wanted Harry to be jealous or to try and stop her, but he’s Dresden. He didn’t do any of that even though he really wanted to. He respects Murph way too much to audibly question her romantic entanglements.

Which… come on! Just kiss already!

Anyway, nothing is ever easy for Harry, and this book in particular put the wizard through the wringer. The Red Court did some dirty fighting to deliver a crippling blow to the White Council, almost completely decimating the Wardens. It was really cool to see the Wardens in action, and one in particular, Ramirez, was a new favorite character. Of course, that means his life is in immediate danger, because I like him way more than I should. Sorry, Ramirez.

Also, Butters gets ragged on by Thomas the whole book for being a coward, and then does some insanely badass shit in order to save Harry, including riding on the back of a resurrected Tyrannosaurus Rex whilst using his one-man polka suit to keep a drum beat.

 

Because Polka will never die.

And behind all of this is the longer arc of the war between the White Council and the Red Court, and the even longer arc of Dresden and Lasciel, the fallen angel he thought he’d locked away beneath two feet of cement in his basement. Yeah, she makes an appearance or three, and it’s some weird shit.

Anyway, I feel really rusty at this whole book review thing, but I needed to do this before  I got too deep into the next  Dresden book and couldn’t keep the details separate. Despite how long it took for me to finish this book, I really loved it. If you’ve made it this far through Dresden, are you really gonna give up on it now?

A sincere thanks to all of you that continued to visit the blog, even though I was gone for so long. I knew it’d be a while,but I didn’t think it’d be almost five months… But, I’m back now, and looking forward to balancing projects and getting back into my more productive routines.

books
Me, twirling through my TBR list.

I’m reading about five things right now, so I have no idea what the next book review will be. Probably The Atlantis Complex (Artemis Fowl #7) by Eoin Colfer, because I just finished it. I’m also listening to Alan Cumming’s autobiography, Not My Father’s Son, which is phenomenal so far. I’m also listening to Zombie Spaceship Wasteland, Patton Oswalt’s first book, and enjoying myself. And I’m reading Preludes & Nocturnes (The Sandman #1) by Neil Gaiman.

Good gravy. I really am trying to make up for lost time. I’m exhausted just thinking about it. So, stick around for more blog posts as my reading and writing reestablishes a working rhythm.

Until then, Blogland!

 

BZ

I’m Back?

I think. It feels like it. I’m reading again, which is reflected on Goodreads and on my “What I’m  Reading” page.  I wrote the majority of an original short story the other day, and I’m still plugging away at my fanfiction. I’m ready to bring the plot points together and wrap it up.

I think.

There’s still a lot do for that story, but I feel good about it. Plus, my brain actually wants to start working on other projects again, so I need to finish this one.

Several books I’ve been waiting for come out in the coming months, and I can’t wait to read them all!  I’ll post book reviews when relevant.

So, don’t expect me to post with quite the frequency I did before, but suspect that I will be around. Hopefully I’ll finish Dead Beat this week, and can have a book review up for it some time next week!

Thank you to everyone that still reads this blog, even though I went AWOL for four months. I appreciate you.

Talk at you all soon!

 

BZ