Camp NaNoWriMo, July 2021, Feels Like Fate

I know that’s a little dramatic . . .

. . . but I just finished editing my outline. Not rushing or stressing. Just at my normal pace, I just so happened to finish editing my outline an hour before July 1st–giving me exactly enough time to write this post.

And that outline didn’t need massive changes–the finale was just good.

And the tweak I made to an earlier scene yielded a significantly better scene.

And there was a thunderstorm as I edited the last bit (and, seriously, if you don’t know, rain and thunderstorms are my ideal setting for writing because of Jurassic Park [a major inspiration for me as a baby writer]).

And a heat wave just ended–on the eve of Camp NaNo.

I don’t know if that’s the requisite amount of things to qualify for auspicious, but it sure feels like it to me.

I would have nerves . . .

. . . if I wasn’t so goddamn pumped to write this novel.

My Camp NaNo 2021 Info

My name on nanowrimo.org is “LouisSantiago.” Feel free to add me if you’ll also be toiling away on a project this July.

My project for this Camp is Memory, a rewrite of a novel I originally completed in 2014. I spent the interim seven years working on other projects, learning more about my novel-writing-process, and outlining the rewrite.

My word goal is 50,000, the lowest total you can select because, at this phase of my writing career, I am extremely concise. There is a chance I won’t write a full 50,000, but we’ll see.

My daily goal is going to be 1,666 words, which would be a bad omen but, ha ha! Fuck you, world! I was a Goth in high school! Your supposedly evil numbers mean fuck all to me! Ha ha!

My weekly total is going to be roughly 5 chapters (the outline tops off at 19), which is probably less lenient than it feels. But, hey, I will at least accept the shoulder-tension-release I’m getting from that potential wiggle room.

~~~

That said, I’m ending this post here, because my ritual lately has been waking up super early and getting to work right away, and I refuse to break that–especially tomorrow.

This will be my post for this week because I want to give Camp NaNo and Memory all of my attention. I figure for this month, I’ll switch to Thursdays, and then go back to business as usual in August.

Until next time, stay safe, stay hydrated, and, please, no matter what happens, don’t let other people slow you down. I don’t mean that in a weird, lone wolf way. I just mean that if there’s anyone in your life who’s constantly telling you not to do the things you want to do, or manipulating you into second guessing yourself, fuck them. Your dreams don’t have to conform to what they want–ever. Be yourself. Live your truth.

And let’s fucking do this.

I Finished the Outline for Memory

Finally.

I can’t explain how good it feels to finally get over that hurdle. To finally be one step closer to writing anything else.

I love Memory, and I’m excited that I have ideas for its sequels, but man am I ready for the next steps in my process: making a few tweaks to the outline, and then using it to write Memory next month for Camp NaNoWriMo.

And, after that, moving on to a new project for the first time in six years.

There’s some additional tweaking and retallying I need to do between now and July—in particular, I need to bolster the one plotline and add additional stakes to the finale—but I am still in what I’m now calling “forced celebration mode.”

Which means I’m continually loading up my outline, staring at it, and realizing that I can’t work on it because I’m knee deep in what I call Recovery Mode, which is when I’ve just written a bunch and I know from years of experience that, if I push myself to do more, I’ll just be writing nonsense that I’ll have to delete later (no shame if you can push yourself, and I’m not advising anyone else to do this, but I have a finite amount of Write Juice [or whatever you want to call it] and I know to respect when it runs out session). Usually, that dearth of Write Juice (I like it) just means I stop writing for the day, but when I hit a milestone, I usually like some breathing room for a few days.

Which mean I keep telling myself that it’s okay—that I don’t have to work this weekend—and then I just kind of . . . wallow? No—wrong word. It’s not a sad thing.

“Not-work!”

Not-working is what I’ll call it.

Never in my life have I experienced it, but yes, I am in a perpetual state of not-working, where I just kind of roll around my apartment, lying and sitting in different places, thinking about the outline, excited to get back to it, but also accepting that I need a break.

Things I have done in my determined quest to just fucking relax for a minute:

Watched Escape from L.A. for the first time.

Played through Superliminal for the first time—in one sitting.

Read a ton of Ultimate Spider-Man, which I’m trying to catch up on after finishing Spider-Man: Miles Morales. There’s something addicting about experiencing all of the different iterations of Miles in succession (I just finished Spider-Man: Miles Morales recently and I watch Spider-Verse all the time). Every version of Miles’ story does some things better than others. For example, the video game version of his mother, Rio, is the only version with an actual personality. Video game Uncle Aaron is also the best. The comics have the best version of Ganke (the video game version of him is such an over-the-top, app saavy genius, that the moment he suggested monetizing the app he made–so people could contact Miles and ask him for help–I couldn’t get over the idea that he’s a silicon valley monster waiting to happen). When it comes to Miles himself though, there is no beating Shameik Moore’s smooth, reluctant-nerd Miles from Spider-Verse; I love comic book Miles’ reluctance to be Spider-Man, and I appreciate video game Miles consistently speaking Spanish (the only one who actually feels Afro-Latino), but cool, confident (eventually) Spider-Verse Miles is such a departure from Peter Parker’s routinely-beaten-down-little-guy, that he’s definitely my favorite of the now many, many Spider-People out there.

Anyway, I also suffered through Tenet (which I might rewatch to do A Writer Watching—I have so much to say).

I tried Goat Simulator, which I played for longer than I thought I would, but got tired of pre-e-e-e-etty quickly. The weird thing about being me and taking forever to play / watch / read anything is experiencing trends out of sequence. So, to me, Goat Simulator is just bad Untitled Goose Game. I know Goat Simulator came first—I know it birthed both the trend of wacky animal games and the trend of intentionally bad sims, but it is impossible to divorce myself from Untitled Goose Game.

I started Rime, which is absolutely beautiful so far. Having just finished Superliminal and intending to move on to Okami (which, yes, I’m playing for the first time), Rime turned out to be the perfect transition.

But the thing that I’ve done most recently to celebrate is ending this post here. Just keeping it light, possibly going back to sleep for a bit while it’s still cool. I have this last day to relax before rolling into edits and Camp NaNoWriMo, so I’m just gonna kick back.

And, yes, I will be posting here about my Camp NaNoWriMo run. I’m not going to write a series like I have in previous years, but, at the very least, I’ll share my profile name here so anyone else who’s doing Camp can friend me. We can cheer each other on!

Anyway, if you enjoyed this post and want to know when I’ll be posting an absolutely fierce, needlessly brutal takedown of Tenet, you can give this blog a follow on the left side bar (on PC) or the top right drop down menu (on mobile).

Until next time, stay safe, and I’ve been saying it for a while, but seriously, stay hydrated for the Summer. You can absolutely do that however you choose to, but I’ve found that, since going full Summer Mode (no coffee, just ice water and caffeine-free iced tea) I’m so much better at dealing with high temperatures that it’s insane. Seriously, I feel like an idiot: for two years, I lived in AC that facilitated me chugging iced coffee, not realizing that doing that made me a Grass type Pokémon; anything over 80 degrees was super effective against me. Kicking caffeine takes some work, but I’m so much more functional in hot weather now that I’m like, “Ah. ‘Summer Mode’ is going to be a rest-of-my-life type thing, huh? Got it. Cool.”

Anyway, bye!

Process in Progress #4 – The “Promises Tally” Run

Hello!

It’s been a crazy week for me writing-wise.

The last time I talked about my outlining process specifically, I explained that I had a hyper detailed system for laying out my stories before writing them.

This post is about how I tweaked that outlining system this week. And how it was super satisfying.

If you’re new here, yes, I am a writer. But also, I am the most bureaucratic writer that exists. Seriously, from what I’ve seen (and I’m just realizing it as I write this—holy shit), I weirdly break my stories down into data–on clean, literal spreadsheets–more than any other writer I know. I seriously use Excel.

But whatever–the point is, today, we’re talking about how I decided to do a “Promises Tally” editing run on my outline. And how that is going super well.

Because My Original Outlining Approach Was Too Much

If you remember “Process in Progress #1,” I detailed the actual outline I use, with pictures, explaining how it works and focuses heavily on a part of the novel writing process I didn’t take into account before–promises.

In that post, I also made a quick point about how the Promises Outline was pared down, because when I first devised it, I also color-coded each and underlined parts of every beat that met the promise (which I rightly stopped doing because that was too much, even for me.)

Whelp, here I am admitting that assigning promises to every beat while I was writing those beats, was also too much. That approach just destroyed my flow.

So I stopped noting promises for each beat as I wrote, just like I’d stopped color-coding and underlining significant parts of each beat.

But the key phrase there is, “as I wrote.” The idea was always to go back and fill in the promises above each part of my outline, but I would only do that after writing the majority of it first (so more of a review process that I could use to fix an easily tweakable story skeleton).

Well, this week, after having 97% of the outline finished (basically everything but the finale), I went back for that run, intending to add all of the story’s promises to each beat, hoping it would be easy.

And I discovered that not only was it easy–it was massively gratifying.

And it turned into an amazing, data-generating QA pass.

The Promises Tally Run

I’m a big sarcasm guy, but I am not being sarcastic about this.

Maybe it’s because assigning promises while writing was such a slog, but doing it as part of my final edit before writing prose was fast and weirdly satisfying.

Such that I thought, “Wait. I can get more data from this.”

And thus was born the Promises Tally Run.

Essentially (and it feels like I’m being the most opaque rollercoaster admitting this but) . . . . I decided to color-code my promises. And tally them.

I don’t know why WordPress crushes these images so hard, even at their preferred resolution, but if you’d like to read a slightly more legible version of this screenshot, click on the image and it will open in a new tab. Also, my apologies.

I know. Just hear me out.

This color-coding is really just a way to make this outline a heat map. At a glance, I can tell that a beat, scene, or chapter heavily focuses on a particular character or certain aspects of the plot.

And the tally makes that effort practical for me as a writer. The goal of this run was, as mentioned, to manage my arcs, which I’ve tied to promises—at least for this novel. A tally of ‘promises advanced’ by the end of each chapter makes it unavoidably clear how much I’ve advanced each promise and arc per chapter. And an additional “MS Total” tally makes it clear what progress I’ve made with them in the outline overall.

Again, click the image if you’d like to see a larger, slightly less garbage version.

I know that this looks like a bit much–and trust me, this is not one of those times where I’m suggesting you try this out yourself. What I will say, however, is that it’s yielded interesting data that’s already made me consider how to write future projects.

For example, Memory has a solid spread between the progression of its main characters’ arcs, which is awesome. I’ve done some smoothing on those numbers, of course, but regardless, I’m very excited, because it confirmed that, yes, the pace-crushing dream sequences I was going to put in were as unnecessary as they felt.

Also, the final arcs for the protagonist intertwine in ways I didn’t realize until I had to choose which arcs were advanced by certain scenes.

Also, Memory has a lot of action, which is fine—it is an Action Adventure Fantasy novel. But I definitely want to bring that tally down in my next projects. And probably make separate tallies for things like “Action,” “Drama,” and “Intrigue,” so I can tell which specific avenue is lacking in the subgenre I’m trying to write.

At this point, I’m up to Chapter 10 of this run because I’m taking my time with it (not rushing for this one aspect of my process at the very least), but I’m definitely going to be outlining the end of the novel by next weekend, and moving onto prose shortly after.

If I can combine the speedy approach to prose from my NaNoWriMo runs with this process, streamlining as I go . . .

. . . then I think I can actually become a novelist.

But I’m not going to jinx that.

I’m just going to post this.

And get back to my outline.

Wish me luck.

~~~

My name is Louis Santiago and I’m in a hurry, so no crazy closing remarks this time.

If you liked this post, you can give me a follow on the Sidebar on the left side of the screen (if you’re on PC) or the drop down menu on the top right (if you’re on mobile). I don’t write for algorithms, but Likes and Follows are the only way I can tell what people like and what they don’t, so consider dropping one of those if you liked this post.

That said, take are, stay safe, and stay cool—it’s pretty hot in New York already and Summer hasn’t even started. Hooray.

Drink water!

Full Disclosure: I’m Trying to Get Into Font Design, but It’s Making Freelance Graphic Design Look Easy, So I’m Doing That Too

A few weeks back, I dropped a hint that I was working on making digital products as a way to earn money while looking for a new job during the pandemic.

But also, in classic-me fashion, when I talked about all of this, I added that I’d be releasing that product “this weekend.”

I’ve since discovered that font design is incredibly rough, and every attempt I’ve made at finishing a font has somehow led to more problems.

Because, look, here’s the thing: I’m a perfectionist. It is incredibly hard for me to release something before I feel like it’s perfect (a reflex that I’m 100% aware has slowed down my writing progress, and thus a reflex I’m trying to tamp down). Even when it comes to writing posts on this site, I usually write them the day before I release them, so I can go over them multiple times to “line edit.” But that always turns into me making content edits for clarity and flow until I hit a deadline and have to click “Publish” (usually with more errors that I then have to fix in post).

What I’m getting at: I’m definitely a perfectionist to a massive fault.

And font design wound up being a pit for me to drown in.

The actual design work of font making? Absolutely no problem. That’s the annoying part of this; I wound up working out a system by which I could turn out a new font, with sketching and glyph design on my computer, in 2-3 days. I have graphic design experience, so, even learning Inkscape so I could put together glyph sets for free = no problem. Not even the idea part was difficult for me:

My first font, Astronav, was designed to be the staple font of a fictional space colony; the stencil over the doors on their starships, leading to “FTL Control,” “Specimen Containment,” “Astronav,” etc.

The programing side of font making, however? Total nightmare. I tried the three programs I could afford (free, free, and $10). The two free ones would not accept the glyphs I made in Inkscape for some reason, and although the third, Birdfont, did accept the glyphs (to the extent that I have Astronav and Astronav Light just sitting there, finished and ready to go), it did not export them correctly. Additional issues, like the way the font displays em dashes and bullets, just make the whole experience an absolute nightmare (because I can’t just try solutions, find one that seems to work, and ship it–I’m the kind of person who needs to understand the problem and know that a solution will work for everyone, always). However, font design is still growing in popularity, so the resources available to spell out the problem with my version of Birdfont on my version of Windows just isn’t there. I’m sure there are solutions; I’m going to keep looking for them, and this definitely isn’t to say Birdfont is a bad program–I love it.

This is just to say, if you’ve been here for a while and you remember me saying I was working on a thing that never happened, this is why.

But look, okay, I’m not here to just vent (although it’s nice).

I’m actually here to do something a bit weird.

Wordmark Practice

Like I said, the designing part was fine. But it was also . . . good practice.

Learning Inkscape and designing fonts made designing wordmark titles for my friends’ works in progress an absolute breeze.

So, that’s what I’m shifting my efforts to for the immediate future: wordmark logos. I timed myself on one this weekend, and it’s taken a cumulative 5 hours to get it close to complete.

But I need more practice.

So, I am asking for your help.

Not monetary help; I still feel weird asking for donations, so I’m not doing that.

However, if you have a WIP that you’d like a wordmark logo for, email me. No charge, one logo per person, with the following understandings:

  1. If you’re not familiar, a wordmark logo is a logo made of text, so basically any title. I do custom glyphs (letters), meaning you won’t have to worry about having font licenses for the title, because I won’t be using a pre-existing font. However, while I can do very light additional graphics, something like the title for Grounded, with the silhouette of a character in the “N,” is just honestly outside of my current skill set.
  2. I would provide you with both a PNG and SVG of the finished logo that you can do absolutely whatever you want with. I’m not expecting payment or for you to use it and shout me out (although if you get published and convince the publisher to use that wordmark, please shout me out, because that would be awesome). But if you’re asking yourself, “Well, what does he want in return?” the answer is . . .
  3. Practice and an item for my portfolio. To be clear, I would use a watermarked version of the logo for my portfolio, which I would post on this site, art display sites like Behance, and freelancing sites like Upwork, so I can start getting freelance graphic design work.
  4. I have no idea how many replies I’ll get, because I have never, ever done a giveaway before (which this technically is I guess?), but I will probably cut off the replies at five, because I don’t think I’ll be able to manage more than five in the next week. But also, once again, only one logo per person for the same reason.

If you’re down, send me an email at l.santiago.author@gmail.com. In your email, please include:

  1. The title of your WIP.
  2. The tone you’re going for with that WIP, overall.
  3. And–only if you feel comfortable sharing it–a brief summary of an important moment in the story (I often take inspiration from story elements when I design their titles).

This is kind of crazy for me because this site has been around for 12 years and I’ve never done something like this, but hey, it’s also exciting. And after 9 months of being stuck in the same room, I’ll take “exciting” any way I can get it.

~~~

Thanks for passing by for what is admittedly a very weird post on this site. If you enjoyed and/or want to find out how this facet of my unemployment goes, please feel free to give me a follow.

But, either way, take care, and have a happy Put On Your Own Shoes Day!

It’s Time to Keep Fighting

I . . .

I don’t even know where to start.

Yesterday, by 10PM, I had a massive headache from crying happy tears.

I didn’t think I’d cry at all at first.

But then . . .

And I just want to clarify that I wasn’t being dramatic there. The sensation that hit when the election was called for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris wasn’t relief that they won.

It was relief that there really would be a cure for Coronavirus that we’d have access to for free. 2020 has been bad for everyone, but the heart of my personal canvas of nightmares was, “The cure will be found in another country and Trump will refuse to import it because Regeneron (or whatever big pharma company he was shilling for) had a cure ‘coming soon,’ and we needed to wait for it because ‘it will be so much better!’ (so Regeneron could profiteer off the pandemic).”

And just typing that makes me want to jump to the alternate reality where Trump won so I could join their rebellion.

That was an absolute nightmare scenario for me. The idea that the cure would be available, but a rich person would demand I pay $300 per dose after losing my job because of a pandemic they didn’t bother to control.

But now, I don’t have to worry about that.

I get to just live.

Sure, there are still the other problems on that nightmare canvas.

But what matters is that I feel like I can honestly start working toward fixing those problems. I won’t get close to finishing a novel just to find out that, on his third term, Trump has started rounding up all Hispanic people in ICE camps.

Okay. I don’t want to just dip into the negative again: the point is, the world really sucked two days ago, and I’m glad it’s not as huge a feast for vultures anymore.

But if there’s one thing I want to say here to everyone who reads this, it’s the scope of that title.

It’s Time to Keep Fighting

It would be so easy to check out. A part of me just wants to let the relief wash me away so I never have to think about numbers, maps, or the colors red and blue ever again.

But that is not the world we live in. It never has been. If we’ve learned anything from the past four years, let it be that.

This is a time to be diligent. To remember not only that Republicans adopted a fascist as their leader, but those same Republicans, who gleefully embraced hatred for money, are still out there.

I see people talking about how we need to be kind to Trump supporters.

No.

No, we don’t.

It’s time for them to stop expecting the world to coddle them. Being nice and pampering them is the entire reason they feel comfortable screaming about not wearing masks. They get whatever they want–are born with so much privilege–that they think wearing a fucking mask is oppression. They need to lean to accept change and listen before screaming about what they want.

I’m not saying we need to go out and fight them. I know that many of us will have to try talking them down from the insane beliefs they’ve adopted (and my heart goes out to everyone who has Trumpers in their life–that weird inverse of “the talk” with your parents isn’t going to be fun).

But beyond that, they do not deserve our support or even our attention.

Our attention, from here on out, always has to be on fighting for our rights. We have to stay engaged with politics, encourage others to vote, help out however we can.

Right now, that means that we have to pay attention to the run-offs in Georgia. It sucks–I just want to never pay attention to another election ever again, but we cannot ignore this.

Click here to donate directly to Democrat Reverend Warnock’s campaign.

Click here to donate directly to Democrat Jon Ossoff’s campaign.

Click here for a Fast Company article listing other ways you can help with the run-offs.

And if you live in Georgia, please consider going full grassroots with friends and family members who aren’t registered, and get them to vote.

~~~

I understand that this post is super weird for this site–I never get political on here.

However, I really needed to say all of this.

Because people have been bitching for years that, “Your vote don’t matter!” and, “They gonna elect who they gonna elect!” but, America, we just proved them wrong.

Take care, stay safe, and, remember that it’s okay to believe.

The Last Weekend of America

I told a friend that I’m going to a liquor store tomorrow.

My exact words were, “it’s the season finale of 2020 on Tuesday, and we’re going to find out if this year was written by George R. R. Martin.” And, yeah, that sums up what I’m feeling right now.

I don’t think I can be 100% present that day. And, mind you, I am the most social drinker on the planet; before my birthday earlier in the month, for which I got a tiny bottle of plum wine, the last time I drank was in March, back when the theme was, “Quarantine! This is real! Ha ha! Why is any of this happening!? Haha HA HA!” Back when the vibe was one of my managers coming into the office and telling me to stop using the word “pandemic” in our customer service emails about the pandemic, and me thinking, Are you fucking kidding me? Really???

I don’t want to go into what I think is going to happen this week, because I don’t want the entertainment I seek out later to reiterate the terrible thoughts I’m having.

But I do want to say how weird it is that we’re living this.

As Fantasy writers, we often set stories around wars. There’s usually some Great War or Old War that shaped the worlds of our protagonists. In fact, one of my works in progress is set in a city directly before a war starts.

And now, I feel like I’m living in that setting, and it’s strange. I feel like something terrible is going to happen in a few days, and it’s not fiction. The most peaceful end result on the 3rd is the one that will ruin my life and countless others.

The end result where America dies.

And, weirdly, even though I’ve been calling this the “post-American” age since November 2016, I still had hope the world would turn around at some point.

And maybe it still will.

But I’ve read a lot of George R. R. Martin, and I’ve lived through all of 2020, so I’m just conditioned to expect the worst.

In terms of writing, all I can suggest is that, if you’re in America today, look around. Sit by a window for a bit and feel the quiet. Experience the setting. Remember it, because you will write it sometime in the future.

And if you’re not a writer, maybe sit by the window anyway and breathe in. Take in the crisp air that might be full of hope just this one last time.

~~~

Apologies for not having more, but I just needed to relax in this home stretch.

This isn’t what I intended to write about this week. And, actually, I was right about to say that I would write about that intended topic next week.

But I have no idea what the world is going to look like next week. So, ya know, no promises.

Thank you for stopping by. And if you haven’t yet, please vote.

Taking a Week Off

I just spent a few hours writing a post that was supposed to be fun . . . that turned into something really negative.

And, full disclosure, that’s because of the news, which I cannot fucking deal with anymore this week. Seriously, I already voted, but the pressure of November 3rd was not influenced a single fucking bit.

So I’m taking this Sunday off to just breathe and relax.

And to regroup; I’ve written a few total duds on here lately, so I want to take some time to center my attention for this site as well. I had a new direction I intended to take it, but then I didn’t. I want to correct that.

So, until next Sunday, I hope all of you stay well.

And I hope that at some point, we all forget to check the news for five minutes and just have a good, normal 10 minutes to ourselves.

By July, Everything Changed

I attended a vigil on June 5th.

It was for Breonna Taylor, on her birthday. In the constantly evolving insanity that is this year, I can’t post those pictures because the vigil turned into a march and all of my pictures show protesters’ faces. For all the time I was there, it was peaceful, but the last time I checked, totally peaceful protesters were still getting apprehended by unidentified “law enforcement,” because that’s what America is now.

America is police beating the innocent, shooting out eyes with rubber bullets.

America is Breonna Taylor’s killers still walking free.

And, real talk: if the fact that I attended protests offends you, you can fuck off now.

It was a strange feeling, being in those crowds, sending up those chants. It felt like the most meaningful thing I had ever done. At the time, it felt like maybe the world would change.

But then it didn’t. The optimist in me has to believe it will, but 2020 really trains you not to believe in anything.

In July, my job reopened. I want to say, “I believed they would provide us with appropriate Coronavirus protection,” but that isn’t true; I knew they would give us the bare minimum protection, which is exactly what they did. Imagine working a customer service job at an institution that panders directly to the worst Karens imaginable, only to have that institution place social distancing markers those Karens will stand on directly in front of your booth, not even 4 feet from you. Picture this while your job tells you, “If someone shows up without a mask, they can buy one.” “From who?” “From you.”

I went on strike. Tried to leverage it into getting better COVID-19 protocols. My resignation was accepted instead.

The weird thing is . . . it’s not nearly as upsetting as it should be.

Because the far more upsetting thing is the thought of still being there. I get emails from coworkers saying the mandatory masks rule isn’t being enforced anymore, and I feel like the lucky one.

I probably shouldn’t, but by July, everything changed.

Before then, I’d been so concerned with being fun. Being likable at work. Being ready with a joke at all times. I had genuinely cared about the opinions of people who never mattered, and I put my goals on hold for institutions that paid me pennies compared to their earnings. I spent hours and hours selling tickets, shelving books, standing behind cash registers, saying shit like, “Did you find everything you need?”

“Have you considered a membership?”

“I’m sorry to hear that, m’am. Would you like me to call a manager for you?”

Always coming home too tired to do anything . . .

. . . and then having one of those organizations just smile at me and say, “Well, we gotta reopen! You gotta get back out there! Cause we need to balance the budget for next year!”

No.

Just fucking no.

No and also why? Why did I waste so much time at those jobs?

I’ve had insanely marketable skills for over a decade, but I just stalled at “maintain entry level day job while struggling to write.”

That changed in July, when I refused to walk into a shit job and potentially kill myself for the rich assholes who run it.

When I realized that none of the things I was worried about before actually mattered. My coworkers’ attitudes, where I would be posted, how I could improve my membership numbers, how I could potentially land a promotion. None of that shit mattered more than my health, my happiness, and my dreams.

It is strange to say, but since leaving that job, I’ve been busier than I’ve ever been in my entire goddamn life, but, at the same time, every single day has gone by like lightning (it’s already 5:40pm and how do I stop this fucking clock–please tell me).

Here are the projects that I’m now working on, full time, on a given day:

1. Outlining a rewrite for Memory. This is not the usual thing where I say, “Ha! I’m planning it,” meaning I’m thinking about it at work, then coming home too tired and stressed out to actually start it. No, I’m two chapters from being done with the outline. It has been a struggle, but I pulled a got of motivation from a series of lectures by Brandon Sanderson that were third-eye opening (and if you’ve ever struggled with the process, here’s a link to the first video in the series on his YouTube channel).

2. Putting together digital products that I was inspired to make last year, when I designed a logo for a friend. I don’t want to say what the products are, but they combine my love of books, my graphic design chops from my Infinite Ammo days, and the weird, pattern-based art I used to do when I was younger. I will be talking about this more later in the month, but not until it’s ready.

3. Volunteering at a library, paginating the books they scanned and sent to the Biodiversity Heritage Lab. It feeds my bureaucratic side and I love it.

4. Working on my board game, the healing system for which I’ve just hammered down, meaning stats are finally set. Had to overhaul item drops, but I’m glad I didn’t overhaul them first, because it would have been totally pointless to overhaul that system without having stats totally figured out (because of course stats are going to drastically influence drops [which is to say, the game is 65% complete]).

5. Writing short stories, which is now nestled safely on the back burner. Why? Because I’m a novelist and always have been. Short stories are great and I learned a lot putting them together, but I wish I could take back some of the time I devoted to them. This is an extremely new outlook (even just last week, I was still considering spending a ton of time rewriting an older short story); real talk: I spent a few hours looking through a database of places to submit and realized . . . the pay is just so low. Probably not for other genres, but for Sci-Fi / Fantasy, we’re talking $20 for months or years of work. I just can’t do that anymore.

6. Writing posts on here, which I’m going to do weekly now, if only because planning a new direction for this blog and writing posts according to that plan will be a fun departure from the crazier deadlines / projects I’m working on (more on that soon).

7. Looking for other jobs and learning Spanish (it’s just way past time).

Obviously, the most pressing of those is creating my digital products. The goal is to make sustainable profit with them, and I know that’s a few months away, so I’m prioritizing it pretty hard, learning as much as I can about my process and creating the best storefront I can manage.

If I didn’t have to worry about money, however, writing would be first place for sure. The rewrite of Memory feels like the first real book I’ve ever written. I always knew about plot threads, but I never had a good process to keep track of them until I watched those Brandon Sanderson videos. He, thankfully, has a very similar approach to me in the types of stories he tells, so, after hearing him explain his process, I was able to fix my own. Real talk: I don’t think Memory is good enough to get published, but I’m using it as practice anyway, honing my process before moving on to The Hand and the Tempest, which is definitely my favorite project at this point. I spent two months worldbuilding for it earlier in the year and I’m just . . . in love with that world.

All of this is to say my life today is significantly different than it was in May, and it feels strange. I don’t know how things will turn out.

But I do know . . . that I can finally imagine a future for myself.

For the first time, I can imagine having my own place, what job I’ll be working while I’m there. I can picture actually getting published, like the tone of my life was tweaked ju-u-u-ust enough and now that conclusion fits.

I might still die. There’s still no vaccine for COVID-19, and the last time I got tested for it, I wasn’t infected but also didn’t have antibodies.

This “business” I’m putting together might also fall through. 

But it’s nice to have this moment.

It’s nice to believe when the whole world is telling me I shouldn’t.

Ladies and Gentlemen . . . We Have Fan Art

This is going to be a short one.

But an extremely essential one.

A month or so ago, a friend of a friend asked to read “Aixa the Hexcaster.” It’s a request I get pretty rarely, and I understand why: nothing is worse for a non-writer than reading a writer’s work, finding out that it’s terrible, and having no idea how to tell them that.

So, when this friend of a friend texted me–pulling my number from the group chain we’d both been a part of during trips to PAX–I was surprised. The last time we’d hung out (during the previously-mentioned XenoPAX), we’d chatted over the massive set he’d made for Frostgrave, and laughed at a genuinely chaotic game of Gaslands, but that had all been in March.

Still, cool. Always nice to be asked, so I sent over a link.

About a month later, he wrote back and said that he really enjoyed it–that the mythics reminded him of monsters from Kingdom Death, which is an incredible compliment if you’ve ever seen the miniatures from that game (they’re often weird, sometimes beautiful, but always amazing).

He also asked if I had plans for more, expressed excitement for what he’d want to see . . .

. . . and dropped this on me:

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This . . . is . . . the unnamed asphalt mythic from “Aixa the Hexcaster,” rendered by Jesse Smolover, whose work can be found at his site, JesseDraws. And, although Jesse is a friend, this is still technically the first piece of fan art I’ve ever gotten.

I cannot express how badly I freaked out when I saw this. This was not a commission; I didn’t even joke about him doing art for the story, because he’s a professional artist and I never even considered being coy about the value of his time. Still, this man, who probably has a ton of other projects he’s working on, made this piece because, in his words, my story inspired it.

I can’t put into words how grateful I was to hear that. Every little bit of encouragement counts, and this is a whole other, totally new level of it for me.

To paint a picture of how badly I freaked out:

  1. This is the wallpaper for my phone.
  2. This is the lock screen for my phone.
  3. Now that it’s on my computer, it’s probably going to be the wallpaper for my computer.
  4. When I first downloaded it, my phone asked me if I wanted to replace it with an image of the same name . . . meaning I had already downloaded it, out of sheer, lightning-fast reflex, and didn’t remember. I still saved it again, just to be sure.
  5. I have told almost everyone about it–even people who didn’t know I’m a writer and clearly didn’t understand how big of a deal it was for me.
  6. And, of course, I have been writing like an absolute mad man lately.

Finished a new short story and submitted it. Also building a plot for another short story, while doing essential research to finish up a third.

And, of course, I’m working out a plot for more “Aixa.” I always intended to, but it was always on the back burner, behind other, huge novels that I keep struggling with. The plan now: write a novella for “Aixa.” It’s going to take a while because that world is really important to me (part of the fear has always been fucking it up), but the challenge of doing something that’s consistently resonant–a story that can’t survive without really strong, complicated emotions–wound up feeling essential to my writing. Why would I shy away from a really intense, emotional story . . . when that’s what I should always be writing?

Anyway, thank you for stopping by and joining me for this insanely uplifting landmark in my writing career. I’ll try to be a little more consistent with updates, maybe working them into the new schedule.

But, regardless, until next time, take care and write well.

Remembering

I don’t do well without distractions.

At this point in my life, being in a quiet room, without anything to do, ends horribly for me. Like characters in some of my older stories (vehicles for me to express the phenomenon), I start thinking of the many, many things that are going wrong in my life. Projects that aren’t finished, relationships that ended poorly, mistakes I’ve made. Anything that pulls me down into the silent, tight hole of depression.

It was happening at work the other day, because last week was especially bad for me; the news that an emotionally abusive and physically violent person from my past was–surprise!–living in my apartment again did wonders for my sense of dread, even before the difficulty of finding a legitimate apartment or room settled in. So, sitting at work, unable to focus on anything creative, the progression went something like this:

It’s going to take forever to find a decent room.

I’d be able to find one faster if I had a better job, but just getting an interview seems impossible.

I could get back to working on fonts, but that probably wouldn’t yield big gains.

And, besides, I can’t even focus on creative projects.

What if I’ll never be able to again?

What if I just die without being able to finish anything again?

What if “Aixa the Hexcaster” is the only story that I ever get published, because [and I can’t stress how honest and legitimate this fear is] I get murdered in my sleep?

At that point, I realized I needed any distraction whatsoever, because, for me, depression is always at its most debilitating when I fall into the pit of “I’m going to die.” I can keep myself from falling into it–settle back into a place where I’m just trying to be productive–but if I get stuck, I’ll be stuck for hours. And, of course I would, because, contrary to the word “sadness” being used interchangeably with “depression,” depression is a very different beast. Getting stuck and losing time is part of what that beast actually is.

For whatever reason–maybe because I just couldn’t think beyond the fears–I decided to pull up Google on the work computer. I fully expected it to be blocked, but I blindly typed in “Aixa the Hexcaster” anyway. I think I was trying to get to a review I’d seen on a message board: just one line talking about how, out of all the stories released in that Autumn’s issue of Mirror Dance, “Aixa” was their favorite.

But I was on image search, somehow–maybe an idle click while I was trying to stop thinking about depressing things.

I wound up pausing though–blinking. “Aixa the Hexcaster” is a pretty unique name, I’ve discovered, so if you google it, the top results are always the story itself, me talking about it, or images relating to it.

So, it was surprising when this popped up:

anime-paradise-anime-world-of-books

The very first thing I noted, for my own benefit, was that this was not fan art. I glanced at it, and in that first heartbeat, I made sure the first thing I admitted to myself was, “No, seriously, it’s impossible that this is fan art. Like, calm down. That’s not real–you ain’t there yet.” The woman in this picture? Clearly not Aixa Silva.

But what was it then? I followed through, clicking on “View Page,” hoping the resulting site wouldn’t be blocked by IT (‘Seriously, I never browse–just this once, IT, be cool’).

I found a post on the blog of Michael Matheson, a writer, editor, and reviewer. The post was a reading list they’d put together for 2016.

The list was a monster–Michael had put in a ton of time, even listing comics they’d enjoyed.

But, still, the same self-checking reflex that made me realize the feature image wasn’t fan art told me that this page must’ve been linked in error. To make sure, I hit Ctrl + F, typed in “Aixa,” hit Enter.

The page jumped down to “2016 Recommendations (Short Form)”:

  • Louis Santiago – Aixa the Hexcaster (Mirror Dance, Fall 2016) – Writer’s first publication. Still somewhat raw, as one would expect from a first sale, but Santiago’s a writer to watch.

The screen blurred. I only barely managed not to cry, but the effort meant I just sat there for a moment, looking at those words.

The gratitude I feel for those two sentences–seen at such a terrible, terrible time in my life–cannot be expressed. I cannot overstate how much it mattered for me–how much it still matters. It suddenly clicked again that, “Hey, man, you finished another story that you feel good about, and you’ve already started submitting it.”

“Yo, you almost finished the rule set for your own game; it’s almost ready to be tested.”

“Dude, you come up with new fonts really quickly. And, like, yeah, there’s still no way to tell if that will be profitable at all, in any way, but, hey, it’s still something you’re awesome at.”

I was getting somewhere. It was taking forever, and it always would, but progress was still being made. Ground was still being gained.

At the best of times, you barely even notice that kind of progress.

At the worst of times, remembering it can save your life.

~~~

I need to sincerely thank Michael Matheson for single-handedly pulling me out of a really bad place a few days ago–for helping me keep going. Michael, even if you never see this, or maybe if you see it three years from now, thank you so much.

To everyone here, thank you too. I have always appreciated everyone who stops in to read this blog. Creators say this kind of thing all the time, but, genuinely, without the support, I would not be able to justify doing any of the things I love doing, and I don’t even want to know where I would be if that was the case.

As a quick update, I have been delving into two other modes of creativity:

  • Game design, which is something I’ve always kicked around, but only recently got serious about. After a weekend of board gaming, which my friends and I called XenoPAX, I suddenly understood how to make sense of an old, problematic rule set I cooked up. Since then, I’ve been working out its kinks to make a functional game, and I’m surprisingly close to getting it into game-testing shape.
  • Font design. Long story short: a friend started a video production firm, which resulted in me dusting off graphic design skills I haven’t used since my Infinite Ammo days. I made a few logos for him, which required a custom font, and that led to the strange realization that font design just inherently makes sense to me. It’s slow going, but the goal is to use some extra time here and there to put together fonts I can sell on fontspring.

Writing-wise, I keep working on new ideas for shorts, looking for new places to publish them. I’m also getting started on rewriting an older novel. It means putting a newer one on hiatus, but I honestly haven’t done enough worldbuilding for the new one anyway, so that hiatus was happening regardless.

All of that said, I have to get back to packing and looking for apartments. Thank you again for passing by.

And, as always, write well.