Looking Sharp

Hey Bloggos,

Maybe it’s premature. Maybe I’m counting chickens before they’re hatched, or whatever other idiom you’d like to apply to this situation. But today I took professional Author Headshots. 

My thinking was this: I am a writer seeking professional publication. I’ve worked on my craft for almost ten years, and I’ve grown in leaps and bounds over the last five years in particular. I ought to have photographs on my site and my social media that reflect who I am now, not who I was almost a decade ago. Plus, let’s be real. Writing isn’t just the art side of sitting down and birthing words into stories. It’s also a business, and this is one aspect of it that I was hesitant to do.

I’m not a fan of having my picture taken. I don’t photograph particularly well, and I’m really good at nitpicking my appearance in pictures. But, this was something I felt needed to be done. I wanted to have professional photographs on hand for when I might need them.

So, I contacted a friend who had recently launched her own photography business. I’ve followed her progress online, had seen her work and been wildly impressed by the skill she’d shown so early in her career.

And today we spent about an hour traipsing around downtown Salem, visiting my favorite businesses and drinking inordinate amounts of coffee. We caught up on life, talked about tattoos, my writing, her photography, and our mutual experiences working for Starbucks.

It was fun, casual, and totally worth it. But I’ll let you decide that for yourselves.

Photo credit to M.L. Photography

There are more photos, but these three are my favorite. They make me feel very pretty, and incredibly author-like. So, I’m gonna bask in this self-love for the rest of the day, and let it help me get past the fact that I’ve barely written this week.

I’ll see you all tomorrow to talk about this week, as usual.

Until then Blogland,

 

BZ

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Creativity and Being a Goober

This has been a great weekend so far!

Last night was the Brandon Sanderson signing. I am still so grateful to my co-worker for trading me shifts so I could sit at Powell’s for about four hours. I’m also grateful for Trevor, because he sat with me the whole time, he drove, and he even had a good time!

When Sanderson does a signing, he always talks for a bit, then answers questions, and then reads something he’s working on. Last night he spoke about creativity. And I really loved what he had to say. He spoke about how our society tends to demean creative endeavors. How, when we tell someone we’re writers, they laugh and ask “how’s that working for you?” Or they say, “you mean you’re unemployed.”

First of all, to those people, you’re pretty rude. Secondly, we just met, you have no knowledge of my success and failures. But it’s always assumed we’re the latter.

But, Brandon asked why someone playing on a community sports team on the weekends is socially acceptable, even encouraged, when creative endeavors as a hobby are often laughed at.

He then mentioned his mother, who’s an accountant, and an old roommate of his who is now an engineer (and who happened to be in the audience). He said that they are creative in their own ways. The things they do and enjoy exercise the same “muscle” that writing fiction does for us.

And I’ve always believed this. I believe that every person is creative, they just don’t use the “muscle”. Trevor has claimed, for the last seven years we’ve been together, that he’s not creative. I tell him he’s wrong. Thanksgiving dinner is a bona fide masterpiece every year. And he strives to outdo himself every time. Compound butters, herb rubs, carefully mixed gravies. It’s a science as much as it’s art.

And it’s delicious.

And recently he’s been drawing. And as he draws he gets better. His sketches fill out and become much more complex. He’s strengthening his creative “muscle”.

I think it’s time we stop doubting our creative abilities. We should be fostering them, and encouraging others to do the same. Children and adults alike should feel comfortable talking about their artistic expressions.

But, aside from the inspiring speech, Brandon was his usual self. Equal parts confidence, humility, and goober. I say this with the utmost affection. Seriously, even Urban Dictionary agrees with me:

Goober:
basically a goober is just a kindhearted, rather oblivious goofball. it’s term of endearment really.

This mixture put me at ease, and reminded me that it’s OK for me to be a bit of a goober sometimes. When I get really excited about something (read: books) I tend to run at the mouth and make really bad jokes/puns.
Sanderson signing

This is why my last encounter with Sanderson was so dreadful. I was too much of a goober to recognize it at the time, but it was bad. This time I put on my “Starbucks Barista” smile, and treated him like a customer, and we actually talked like normal people! I asked him a question, he answered it, we smiled, and I told him that Writing Excuses was awesome so far this season. Then he handed me my books and we walked away…

As soon as we cleared the wall of his books my facade crumbled and I was in full on goober mode. I celebrated my successful two minute conversation, and basically was a bubbly, bouncing, squeeing fangirl for about an hour.
Sanderson Signing 2

So that was last night. I was blissful the whole evening, and that feeling followed me into this morning. Laying in bed, listening to rain, I scrolled through my morning’s dose of social media. I follow Tor Books on twitter, and they tweeted asking followers what they were reading on this rainy day. I replied with The Star Scroll, and that I hoped to finish it to read Sanderson’s Firefight. I tagged him in it.

I thought nothing of it, a simple tweet to start my morning, and continued with my day. Until a couple hours later, this happened:
Sanderson tweet

Now, this isn’t that big of a deal. At least I tried to tell myself that. But… I still had a healthy “fangirl” moment. And I may have flagged the notification email for all of time. I regret nothing.

And, to wrap up today, I finally got some feedback on A Stranger Comes Knocking. And it was mostly good! A couple tweaks and cleaning up my stumbles into the common pitfalls of the first person narrative, and, as my grandma always said, “we’ll be cooking with gas!”

Anyway, Trevor and I are about to embark on our own cooking adventure, tonight’s feature being homemade chicken tenders. They usually turn out beyond delicious, and I expect tonight’s edition to be no different.

Monday should find me a bit of time to get my first Book Review of the year posted, and I look forward to it. I’m also volunteering at the Salem/Keizer school district, sorting books for the school’s libraries. Hopefully that’s as fun as I think it will be. Either way, I’m sure I’ll have something to say.

See you then, Blogland!

BZ

On Getting Stuck

I spent a large portion of my morning lazing in bed. I’d had a really weird dream about a tornado, and how Starbucks wouldn’t let us go home. So, I took my sweet time to think about the dream, and what it meant and why I’d had it.

I decided that the pouring rain and wind lent to the weather theme. As for Starbucks not letting me leave… Well, that’s a rabbit hole to tumble down on another day.

After pondering my subconscious I perused my morning paper, i.e. the interwebs. First Facebook, then Twitter, and lastly WordPress. I save WordPress for last because it’s usually the best. New articles from people I follow, and of course, the Freshly Pressed for the controversial and thought provoking.

While reading, I came across an article that said, “How Not Taking a Break is Bad for Your Writing”. Or something like that.

I clicked into it, excited, because I thought maybe I’d find an excuse not to write today. I’ve been working really hard the past few weeks, and my brain felt like pudding last night. I was looking for an easy way out today.

But, the article was a bit disappointing. It wasn’t the gift I was hoping, not an “it’s ok to give yourself a break every now and then”. It was an explanation of how, when you’re writing is stuck, sitting there staring at a blank screen isn’t always the answer. The article implored me to get up, to move, and to go outside.

Which, ok. Sure.

But, I’m not stuck. I haven’t been. Not really ever. Occasionally a chapter or scene fights me, and the writing is hard. But I’ve never been honestly stuck.

And here’s why.

In my experience being ‘Stuck’, or having a bad case of Writer’s Block, comes from one thing:

What you’re writing sucks. I’m not saying the whole book, or that your actual technique is bad, but the scene, the moment. You know, even as you’re writing it, that it will get cut. It is bad. And so you balk. You let yourself think, and that’s writing death.

So, here’s what I do to get over being stuck. I write the shitty scenes. I know they’re bad. I know I’m going to cut them out. But I write them, because they’ll get me where I want to go. I recently wrote a scene that, while a ton of fun to write, and good for character building, I know probably won’t make the final revision. But, I kept writing because it was a stepping stone to the next scene that needed to happen.

You can always go back and pick a different stone, but it will still get you where you need to go.

All that being said, getting outside and moving is a great way to refresh your mind and come up with new ideas. Maybe even just sitting next to the window can be helpful.

And so, that’s my two cents on being stuck. On to this week’s achievements and goals.

In the past 7 days I’ve written 10,000 words. As previously discussed my brain felt like pudding most of yesterday, and I didn’t even write anything new. But, I did edit Chapter 2 of ‘Vessels’, which took about two solid hours. Adding a large scene, cutting poor sentences and paragraphs. It was a lot.

So, I’ve met my goal of writing a chapter a week for ‘Cards’ as well as editing a chapter a week for ‘Vessels’. And, I’ve actually written about 3 chapters this week, so I’m killing it!

Suddenly I understand how Brandon Sanderson can write 30k words a week. I don’t think I could, I’m not that fast. But, if I didn’t work a day job, I could probably do 20k.

So goals for this coming week. I really just want to keep the momentum going. I’m going to start chapter 9 today, though I anticipate slow going. Tomorrow and Sunday I probably won’t get much done, but Monday-Thurs will be good writing days.

Our six year anniversary is on Thursday. I have the day off, but I won’t be writing. I’m not closing next Friday, and I have the following Saturday off, so next week’s writing days are limited. I still think I can make these goals, however.

Wish me luck!

 

BZ

Writing and the Community

A table finally opened up! I’m  not sure why Tuesdays are so hopping at the Bux, but for a solid 20 minutes it was standing room only. Not a very good way to write fiction.

Yesterday was productive. Slow, when I think about the time spent at the computer and the number of words produced, but it still felt good.

I ended my day at just over 2500 words, and chapter 7 is almost done. It’s gonna be a long one, and there was a lot of worldbuilding to be done, so I’m running a bit behind my ‘outline’.

Which I consider a good thing. It means the book is growing, leaving the constraints of outlining behind and becoming something real. Something alive. Plus, it means my word count will be more than anticipated, which is a good thing. For me.

So, first on the docket for today is finishing chapter 7. If the juice is flowing I’ll move on to chapter 8 and see where that takes me.

If chapter 7 fights me, as it did most of yesterday, then I’ll give my brain a break and turn to editing chapter 2 of ‘Vessels’. I have it sitting out, teasing me, and I’ve got to say, I’m eager to tear into it.

I wanted to take a moment to thank you all. I came to WordPress almost three years ago with no expectations. A retired Literary Agent spoke in one of my creative writing classes and suggested blogging as a way to keep yourself accountable and a way to get your name out in the ether.

Those who have been with me longest know that I struggled with the accountability aspect for a long time, and when I lapse between projects the blog suffers too. Sad, but true. Though I’d say I’ve made strides in this department since I started ‘Vessels’.

My writing has not only been more consistent, but it’s getting better. Practice doesn’t make perfect, but it sure as hell helps.

Now, as for getting my name out there… I really didn’t care three years ago. I had no fiction published, and no attachment to a last name I’d always resented. But, a lot has happened in these years. Four short stories have been published under that last name, and as I find myself hurling toward the date when it will no longer belong to me, I’m panicking.

I may have talked about this before, but I’m going to continue to publish under my maiden name. It’s a standout name, and I’m the ONLY Brittany Zelkovich in the United States… Possibly the world. Though I’ve never checked that one. It’s become precious to me, a representation of the brand I am trying to build.

But, the blog wasn’t an instant fame generator. Obviously. We all know that. I’d get a view here or there, and I would titter and bounce with excitement. I still do when I see the views reach toward higher double digits.

It’s exciting! To know that people I would never otherwise meet or know can read my daily thoughts, and comment on them. I now have conversations with writers all over the world. People who write totally different things than me, whose fiction I might not read if I didn’t follow their blog.

And thanks to Twitter, this community is really burgeoning. The writing community on Twitter is large, and while a lot of people are pushing their self-published books, and pushing them HARD, a lot of other people are having great conversations about the Writing Life. We can commiserate when we know the last hour spent will actually end up cut out of the finished work, and share the joy when one of us lands an Agent, or even better, an actual publishing deal.

The internet, and the social media I participate in, has made the world so much smaller. It has brought me into contact with so many people that I can’t help but be grateful. It’s truly amazing.

And so I want to thank you all. For reading. For responding. For sharing my blog or Retweeting something of mine. For all the Favorites and the Likes. And for all the support these past three years.

I came to WordPress with no expectations, and have found a virtual home. A community I am proud to be a part of. Where I can share thoughts, ideas, and my woes at being a writer, and have people there to remind me that it’s all worth doing.

Also, just a small, very small, celebration. The blog surpassed 1500 all-time views a few days back! And while this is horribly pathetic to most other bloggers, I think it’s amazing! I smile every time I see the numbers on my stats page.

So, with that smile, and the warm, fuzzy feelings from the internet, I’m off to finish chapter 7.

Have a great day Blogland!

 

BZ

Cryptograms: the Do’s and… Just Don’t

So, yesterday I said that I wanted to finish chapter 5 of ‘Cards’ and start editing chapter 1 of ‘Vessels’. I had plenty of time to get these tasks going, until chapter 5 required that I write my own cryptograms.

Cryptogram- a message that is written in code.

Now, Whit and the gang have just found out that one of the murder victims was an activist of sorts, and they suspect that he was part of a crew that helped surreptitiously free a group of slaves the night before they were to be auctioned off.

The only evidence they have of this are three encrypted messages and a pamphlet for the auction. So, I knew what the messages needed to say, but they needed encrypting.

Ok. Sure.

So I did some research, learning about different ciphers and keys and dear lord this is complicated. So I chose a fairly simple key and started reverse-engineering my own cryptograms.

The first one is complete rubbish. But I kept it in because I can always change it come editing season. The second one is marginally better, and the third one is shaping up to be the best, but they took ages!

I still need to finish the third one, which is the first goal of today. Once that’s done, wrapping up chapter 5 will be fairly easy. They can’t solve the cryptograms in one sitting, that’d be too easy, so Whit is going to give them to Cora, who is intrigued and wants to solve them. They give Whit migraines, so he’s more than happy to be rid of them.

Then Whit will tell Mal that they’re going to the capitol the next day to have a chat with the coroner. That’ll be buckets of fun, since the two men were teetering on the edge of argument over the city’s slavery policy. Add in a couple more points of interest in the next chapter, and we’re finally cooking with gas, as my grandma’d say.

So, once chapter 5 is done, I am going to begin editing ‘Vessels’ chapter 1. Though, I might end up starting on chapter 6 today.

So, long story short, don’t write your own cryptograms. Let the internet do that for you. Which I just discovered was a possibility when I googled the word for the definition. Figures.

But, there’s some level of satisfaction knowing that I wrote them myself. If I absolutely hate them further down the road, I’ll give the internet a chance.

In other news, I’m learning twitter things. Still slow going, since I’m apparently social media stupid, but I’ll get there. Also, I may need another iced coffee before these cryptograms really begin to come together.

Another topic, which I’ve been meaning to touch on for awhile now, is views. I read a post from someone I follow a few days ago that said they receive an average of 150 views per DAY.

My jaw dropped. 15o views a day? And I’m guessing that’s not even that many in the blog world. And here I am doing happy dances when my views break into the double digits.

Now, I’m not too worried about it. I write this blog mostly to have a place to start my day. I write a little bit here before I get to work on the real projects, not unlike Vonnegut’s scribbles that he did, and subsequently threw away, before he sat down to work. And this blog serves that purpose well.

I also write this blog for the sense of community. I’ve met and had some interesting conversations because of this blog and those others have written. It’s not about how many people view the page, but what people take away, or the conversation my posts can instigate.

But, it’s mostly a safe place for me to talk about things that I don’t really talk about in my non-virtual life. I’ve been working at the same Starbucks for nearly two years now, and I still have regulars who have no idea I write fiction.

It’s not because I have an anxiety about it, or anything, but I’ve noticed that not everyone cares. People who read Sci-Fi/Fantasy seem few and far between in my area. In fact, people who are well-read seem few and far between. So, I open my trap to talk about my writing and I can see it in their faces. That vacant smile, the head nods. They don’t really care, or find it interesting, they’re placating me.

And so, I don’t open my mouth about it, unless it comes up organically.

I do need to say here, that a couple of my regulars are awesome people who genuinely have an interest in what I’m up to, and I really appreciate that. Some days, an inquisitive customer can help me out of an insecurity downward spiral. So, thanks.

So, this blog is where I go to talk and read about writing fiction. It’s awesome to see other writers who are in the same stage as me, or who are just getting published. Or really, in any stage. It all helps. To be able to commiserate, and to see that there really will be a light at the end of the tunnel, someday.

Anyway, I just wanted to get that off my chest the last few days. Now, it’s time to put an end to this blather and finish chapter 5!

 

BZ