Writer’s Workshop #2 – The Quintessential Cat

Hi there, and welcome back to the Writer’s Workshop.

For today’s edition, I thought I’d depart from tasting things (my memory of roman nougat’s Pink 12 flavor from last week is still too fresh in my mind).

Instead, I’m going visual this week, focusing on reading emotions.

Now, full disclosure, I’d been intending to go to the MoMA and workshop a particular piece that heavily influenced my early fantasy work, but I didn’t get my days off last week and didn’t want to sacrifice a few writing hours to go downtown. Especially when today’s also¬†laundry day.

So, instead, I decided to take the challenge of fully describing something that has a complex personality . . .

. . . but also doesn’t talk.

Why? Because I have a completely non-expressive familiar in my current WIP, so trying to describe my cat, Kendra, in a way that does her justice, feels like a relevant challenge.

Here we go.

~~~

She was a black and white ball of fur and contradictions. In that way, the exact kind of cat that made people dislike cats.

She loved to be pet, but only on her terms. She never bit, clawed, or snapped at anyone, too sweet for that. But if you tried to pet her more than she wanted at a given moment, she’d give up on you. It was the only way to put it; unwilling to give you a second chance, her green eyes would roll away, looking at nothing, following it out of the room, even if she’d run to you seconds before, eager for a petting.

She’d give you an¬†oddly gentle death stare if you pressed¬†your face against her, trying to emulate cat affection–potentially offensive, in her case.

And if you glomped her, she would jump to outraged confusion.

All of those emotions played out on a face of strong features that never moved, her feelings expressed only by a lifting and lowering of her eyelids. If they were wide open, it meant she was surprised, confused, or curious. At 75% open, she was comfortable, tired, or sleepily wondering why I just glomped her. 50% or lower, she was enjoying being pet, or already deep in a dream about ignoring someone who wanted to pet her.

But, naturally for such a cat, she loved having those dreams while cuddling with her human as they slept. As if she wanted to love, but only when no one was awake to see it.

~~~

I wound up posting this a later in the day than usual because I kept trying to get a picture of Kendra for a feature image. She wasn’t having it. Surprise, surprise.

Gotta be honest here . . . That wasn’t hard at all. I feel like I basically just ranted about my cat for a moment, although some of the descriptions were fun.

Regardless, it was okay practice for describing the personality of something that barely emotes–a reminder that you have to rely on such a thing’s actions to illustrate its personality. And that, regardless of how¬†inaccurate they may be, guesses at such a thing’s intentions help illustrate how the viewer relates to said thing.

I’ll take it. Next week, however, it’s challenging workshop or bust. I¬†will get to the MoMA.

But, for now, thanks for reading. And, as always, write well.

Monday, AM #1 – My Everyday Jam

Hey there, and welcome back to my site for this first in a new series,¬†Monday, AM, or¬†Monday, About Me.¬†The name says it all, really;¬†every Monday, I’ll¬†post¬†updates about my writing progress, along with any news from my weekend, including (of course) too-detailed retellings of weird experiences I had.

The idea: to have a post each week that’s more personal, because, for whatever reason, that feels right. Not sure why.¬†“Progress Updates” used to be a regular feature on the site, so maybe I wanted to bring them back (only without little graphics)?

Whatever. Let’s get to it.

My Everyday Jam

So, if you’ve been subscribed to me for a while, you may have noticed that I’ve started posting everyday except for Saturday and Sunday. This may seem odd to you because, before last Tuesday, my posting schedule was once every . . . two months? Twice every six months?

My point is, I was on working from an¬†“if I have things to say, I’ll say them” angle. And, immediately, let me clarify¬†that I don’t think¬†that’s a bad way to run a blog. In fact, I would still be running this blog that way if I didn’t have a few realizations.

And, I know it sounds like I’m about to be all, “I realized I¬†could write more every day, cause I got motivated! The world is beautiful if you just believe in beauty!”

No.

I definitely did have the revelation that I could write more, but that’s not why I started posting more.

I started writing more every day and posting five days a week because, personally, I need it.

For a long while now, my life has been an absolute nightmare. I don’t want to get into details, because that’s not what this site is for, I’ve decided, but, unlike the average up-and-down roller coaster ride of life, mine just went down.

Just, non-stop, straight down, for about ten years. You can track it through my last decade of posts–from the ones where I openly talked about my depression to the ones where I was super slapstick, pretending shit was just swell.

But, when I recently had cause to consider my life, I realized a few things:

  • My life is finally getting better because I care about myself more than anyone else.
  • I still have a lot to say about writing and I can figure out how to say it consistently, in a way that’s fun.
  • My life is infinitely better with as many distractions as possible.
  • Video games are a very, very stale distraction.
  • I¬†want to write more. I always have. And writing has always been the thing I’m best at, so why wouldn’t I do it more every day? Especially when writing is–and always has been–a great and extremely constructive distraction.
  • I¬†love a challenge.

Take all of these things, mash them together, duct tape them, and you’ve got the the motivation for my new 2017 jam: posting every weekday. It’s interesting, it’s creative, it’s challenging.

And I love it.

The Hand and the Tempest Update

Yesterday and today were going to be days off, during which I was really going to dive¬†into¬†H&T. But yesterday, I got called in to work. And, today, as you read this, I’m probably at work, asked to come in again because it’s been so busy.

Of course, that’s not going to stop me. I’m just going to get tired sooner, inching my way through chapter 4, when I was hoping to be done with it by today.

Still, I’m glad with the way the novel is coming along. I find myself having to stop to do bits of worldbuilding as I write, but I love the ¬†world that’s being produced.

The most recent worldbuilding hurdle: deciding on money–what it’s called, how it looks, how it works, its potential alternate uses. Really tempted to just lift a system from an older project, but that kind of shoehorning always seems wrong. Besides, I’m enjoying the hurdle.

An enduring feeling¬†though: I’m eager to get to the part of the novel where my protagonists don’t dislike and distrust each other. I’m in the mood for good vibes these days (a stark contrast from NaNoWriMo 2016, when I was super allergic to the idea of writing something fun and playful).

Still, I’ll get there. Just have to keep chipping away if that’s all the schedule lets me do.

~~~

I think I’ll call it here for this first¬†Monday, AM. The idea was to go to a writing workshop yesterday and report on how awkward I was, but duty called. It’s not like my awkwardness is going anywhere though.

At any rate, thanks for popping in. Tomorrow, it’s back to writing about the craft with the first in another new series that I’m pretty excited for,¬†Muse Tuesday.¬†That name’s probably taken.

But eh. Fuck it.

Thanks for reading, everyone. And, as always, write well.

A Day in the Life

Disclaimer: I’m writing this at 4:29 AM. I’m exhausted but,¬†with the wild, new stress of editing¬†War of Exiles and dealing with assorted other problems lately, I’ve found I have a hard time sleeping. The edit is going well, but editing a manuscript without taking long breaks between chapters is a completely different beast;¬†you see all the flaws that need tweaking and you change them immediately, efficiently, and exhaustively. It becomes a nonstop struggle that you fret about daily, but I’m sure it would be fine–I’m sure I could sleep–if not for other worries. My solution: Get up again for phase 3 of responsibilities. Sometimes, it means I’m working on a short story at 5 AM (Lokisday, a short I don’t think I’ve spoken about at all here). Sometimes, apparently, it can also mean I want to write a¬†really¬†weird post at 5 AM. So… enjoy?

Step 1 – Wake Up

It sounds so easy.

Step 2 – Fooood?

This relies entirely on whether there is food to be had. Really, this step should be titled, “Coffee,” because coffee is often all I have for breakfast.

Step 3 РEditing War of Exiles

For me, the editing process has been like… being given a sponge and being told to clean a brick wall. Only, the wall is covered with layer after layer of old paint and the person giving the orders wants you to get down to the brick. With the sponge.

That is how it started for me.

I’d take my sponge, rub it on the wall, pull it away, see that there was a small smear of paint on it… and then inspect the wall. There might be one slightly brighter spot where I’d rubbed. So I kept at it, taking long breathers, never feeling quite right about my wall-sponging abilities. Often, I’d jump from spot to spot.

But, as time wore on, I figured out new tools. Turpentine. A… wall… scraper?… Why did this have to be a wall cleaning analogy? I don’t know anything about wall cleaning.

Whatever. The point is, I’m using stronger tools now;¬†I can see the brick and I’m working nonstop now to get it clear.

But I’m still working the paint off of a brick wall.

I love writing. Really, I do. I could maybe use a break though; a break I will turn down every time.

Step 4 – Working out?

Probably not.

Step 5 – Actual Work

The thing about working from home is that my actual work space… is my writing space. So, unless I work out, I haven’t actually moved. In fact, I am writing this–right now–in my writing / work space. One room. One leather armchair. One TV directly in front of me, flanked by windows to the outside.

Step 6 – Video Games?

There’s a chance I can game as I work–but only if it’s incredibly simple work.

But that doesn’t mean much as video games are not exciting anymore.

And, of course. Why would they be? Working on my stories, despite the analogy, is exciting. Being outside is exciting. Seeing friends–smiling and laughing about Peeta and his cakes–is exciting.

Video games are just another thing I do in my writing / work space. My living space, I should call it. My “I’m breathing” space.

Step 7 – Probably Not Sleep

Whenever it happens, there is always the first attempt at sleep. I lie down, stretch out, turn so that my back is to my room, a wall in front of me.

And I stay like that for a while. Always, I contemplate my life. There are so many things I’m not saying on here because this isn’t the place to share them. But, regardless, I think about them–about my mortality. The constant, writerly worries come up–the thought that maybe I just suck. Maybe I’m not doing it right. “I’ve only just,” I’ll ration, “learned how to edit and proofread optimally.” It continues until I imagine being turned down by every publishing firm ever.

And, of course, at that point, I’m awake and back in my writing / work / gaming space, hammering out a post or what have you, eyes glazed over, possibly not even watching what I’m writing.

Step 8 – Why am I still up?

“Why are you still up?” my mother might ask.

“Couldn’t sleep.”

“Oh. You alright?”

“Yes. Just tired.”

There’s a range of funny, comforting things my mother might say to this. Even if it turns into a conversation about how tired¬†she is, I’ll still smile.

The rest of this step is me doing things I half-forget–in part because they’re busy work. This morning, for example, I changed the cat litter before hopping on here. Yesterday, I started a short story and then did… something I don’t remember. Played¬†Terraria? Maybe I played¬†Terraria.

Step 9 – Actual Sleep

The sun is always up when it happens. Often, I’m talking to myself by then; we’re going full disclosure on the weirdness here.

Either way, I actually fall asleep this time, the ritual complete, Escribyr sated.

~~~

I have a boring, work-driven life with a passion for a field notorious¬†for¬†slow or non-existent returns; I currently have nothing to show for it because I’m still trying to get one of my two completed manuscripts ready for submission. I am…¬†so¬†close. Closer than I’ve ever been.

All I have to do is keep working–keep editing. Keep riding the oddly confined, leatherarmchairpocalypse that my life has become.

Just an absolutely unclear unit of time longer.

I can do it.

Starting a War

A Different Experience

From the beginning, my approach to story telling has been grounded in a desire to give readers something fresh. But I realized early on that different experiences go further for making stories fantastic than different worlds do; a novel set in a world full of dwarves, elves, and orcs gains strength from it’s familiarity and accessibility, no doubt, but it fails to be intriguing if the three races are engaging in another war for another magical relic, or fighting the same evil from the North.

How does this relate to¬†War of Exiles?¬†Simple – this first novel was a side project. Before, behind, and after it, I’ll be working on my masterpiece. However, I needed something to kick start my career – a debut that’s both familiar in appearance but truly fantastic in narrative. I believe¬†Exiles¬†achieves this. With deep characters, the unique, exiled setting of Ashiaden, and an interesting twist on the traditional quest narrative,¬†War of Exiles¬†gives readers something unexpected – a different experience.

A Different World

“And somewhere, in a direction he couldn’t discern and a distance he couldn’t fathom, there was a wasted continent where someone from his long-forgotten lineage had laughed, cried, fought, and at some point sacrificed themselves to ensure that his grandparents or their parents escaped, lived, and carried on the bloodline that eventually ended with him.”

I can’t boast that Ashiaden will be visually new and breath-taking. There will be barbarians – the Baerlungs. There will be short men somewhere far away who make weapons and tools that run on steam – the Steiners. There will be druids who can shape nature – the¬†Ceudin.¬†But these will not be orcs, dwarves, and elves. They are Ashiads, all human – their differences cultural, not racial – with a lineage that falls back to the unifying event of their exile.

About 300 years before the novel starts, the exiles touched down at Ash Landing. Having escaped the fall of an empire, the refugees settled there or escaped South, East, and North, only certain that this new land would be called Ashiaden, “ash home” in the Old Tongue, as the elders claimed. Centuries later, villages have expanded and fortified, but unified systems of law and rule have yet to be established. Baerlungs raid towns and rob weary travelers, bandits and the native creatures called Lessermen do the same, and the strongest bit of the Old Continent’s Magic exists only in Necromancy. Travel is dangerous, travelers rare – save for bards, who gain fortune from selling information whether through story or song and in truth or fabrication, and merchants foolish enough to gamble abroad.

Among the cities on this island is New Dawn, where the novel’s protagonist, Lethe Dega, is born. An austere rock just off the coast of the mainland, the veritable island fortress is as closed as any other city of Ashiaden, and kept that way by the sects of Sentinel and Rider.

Different Characters

Traditional character types are offset by unique personal situations. Lethe Dega, a Sentinel of New Dawn, is driven to rid Ashaiden of necromancers, despite how deeply it affects his relationship with his family – an already tenuous bond. Etalen, a druid of Clan Terra, finally decides to put her life on the line if it means she can escape her family’s intent to let her dwindle into obscurity. Semacien, one of the island’s bards, seeks a story he can live off of for years to come. And all of them and others grow and change ¬†in ways that the strapping hero, plucky rogue, and wise old mage would not.

A Different Quest

Without saying too much, the adventure of¬†War of Exiles¬†takes a different approach that I’m sure will intrigue readers easily. When I decided to start off with a more traditional, familiar story, I knew that I couldn’t give my readers an adventure that spent hours on the road. Although authors like Robert Jordan and Garth Nix do well with such quests, I’d already heard enough of them that I couldn’t be satisfied giving another to my audience.

So instead, I looked at all the ways you could do a quest narrative without doing a quest narrative. In the end, I found an answer that could suit my needs, serve the plot, and give readers something unexpected, unfamiliar – different.