Getting It All Out

Hemi and I with messy morning hair, watching the girls go off in the carpool for a morning at church camp.
I should take advantage of this time and write a blog post…

As I grow as an author, I struggle with the difference between bad habits and personal idiosyncrasies. I’ve read the chastising advice that a professional writer should be able to work in spite of distractions, interruptions, and other impediments. Yet most mothers who write search for time without kids to get their words out. I prefer to work in a place and time when I know that I won’t be interrupted. But can I make use of those tiny pockets of unpredictable time?

I’ve teetered between plotter and pantser. I usually end up with a good story if I can pants the whole thing from beginning to end in a short amount of time. For a novel-length-work, however, this isn’t easy to do. By the time I’m a few chapters in, my mind is racing ahead and I switch from pantsing to plotting and at least making a few notes if not a complete outline.

Since my first NaNoWriMo in 2010, I have loved the productivity of getting a large number of words out in a short time span. However this requires a good support system and a lot of preparation. For NaNo, I usually make several dinners ahead of time that I can put in the freezer and just pop in the oven when I need one. My hubby has stepped up and distracted the kids so I could write without interruption.

Last year and this year we live in a tiny apartment with a freezer that can barely hold the week’s frozen food. I might be able to fit one or two casseroles, but it would be tight. Hubby has been working graveyards, which makes it hard for him to find time to take the kids off my hands. We definitely don’t have enough money to splurge on dinner out. I failed miserably at NaNo last year. I’m not sure what’s going to happen this year.

Labor Day weekend is the 3 Day Novel Contest.  This event is a bit loose in its definition of “novel” unlike NaNo’s 50k goal. A few years ago, hubby and I were both working at a place that closed for holidays, but many employees had keys so we could go in and work at odd hours. I prepped ahead of time by outlining my story and choosing inspirational pics. Hubby took charge of the girls, and I holed up in a small workroom near the employee kitchen. I had no distractions or interruptions, and I could stop any time I felt like it to nuke a meal. I successfully completed a 20k+ novella that weekend.

Umm… I’ve never polished it up or queried it… that’s something else on the list of author chores…

I’m planning to do both NaNo and 3Day this year. (I won’t register for 3Day… I don’t want to pay the fee and if my novel is good enough to win, it’s good enough to shop to a larger publisher.) I have a lot of unfinished projects I could finish, or I could do something all new. I don’t know what I’ll choose this time. We are still in the tiny apartment with no freezer space, but hubby is starting a better job with decent pay and no more graveyards. I will do all the prep I can, including outlining the novel ahead of time.

Someday, maybe this will be my norm. Prepping a project, arranging for all the household stuff like childcare and meals to be taken care of, then getting the story out in as short a time as possible. I think that would work really well for me, if I can make it happen.

Meanwhile, we’re off and running on another Round of Words in 80 Days. It’s time to set goals…but I’m not ready. I’m going to put that off until hubby starts getting paychecks from the new job.

This is the only week this summer when the girls have a structured activity. I plan to use those few precious hours each day to catch up on writing projects. I have a couple of shorts for markets with upcoming deadlines, not to mention the novel WIP.

Wish me luck.

 

 

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The Future

It frustrates me to look back on my posts for the last year and a half and see the repeated theme of “…this is a transition time…I’m not where I want to be…it will get better soon…” When we moved from Vermont to Colorado, I knew there would be a chunk of time when my writing had to take a back seat to the logistics of relocation. In my mind, though, I thought it would be no longer than a year.

Hubby has been working a low-paying job since we moved, and I’ve put my energy into taking care of our girls. Our youngest is now nine, and our oldest is eighteen. She has special needs, and is about to do her Senior year of high school before going into a transition program.

In August, the hubs will start a new job that brings us up into a living wage, with opportunity for advancement. Hopefully this means I will be able to breathe again, and put more energy into writing.

My ROW80 Goals:

I’m doing some writing every week, but not as much as I’d like. Today, hubby took the girls to the park so I could have some time, but an hour later they came home because Bunny got a boo-boo. I’m still working, just not doing as much as I’d hoped.

Good news! The Futurescapes Anthology is finally out! Futurescapes challenged writers to imagine how a city of the future would be inclusive of citizens with disabilities. As a mom to a disabled teenager preparing to navigate the world as a young adult, this theme spoke to me.

My story With Her Blessing appears in this anthology alongside stories from Fran Wilde, David Bruns, Amy Mrotek, Kevin Jesse, David Brin, Malka Older, Anjali Sachdeva, and Mary Robinette Kowal. It’s available in both e and print formats on Amazon. 

Fyodor grew up as the child of a martyr. His father, one of the early space pioneers, died while working to make space accessible to all of humanity. Now that his own children are grown, Fyodor’s career is leading him in his father’s footsteps. Although he knows this is the right step for him and the company he has helped run all his adult life, his family have their own feelings on the matter. He may never have his mother’s blessing; she can not forgive Fyodor’s father for leaving them.

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Too Much Waste

A family friend took photos for us at Garden of the Gods.

It’s the summer!

The girls and I are catching up on sleep, which is a very good thing. I think we all suffered through the school year never getting enough and it negatively impacted our health. We have a mostly-unscheduled summer, and there are a lot of things to do in Colorado Springs. I’m trying to strike a balance between quiet rest days and active time about town.

Some activities, like going to the library, allow me to get in some writing time while they amuse themselves. Most activities, like going to the zoo, mean I’m getting some great mother-daughter time, fresh air, and exercise, but no writing.

Balance is hard.

My 9yo is perfectly happy spending long hours on her computer. Although she sometimes wants to show me every interesting thing she looks at, she is also capable of leaving me alone and letting me work.

My 18yo has special needs. She requires supervision, and tends to go stir crazy because she can’t go out and socialize like other kids her age. She is making a great effort this summer to enjoy the quiet days as much as the active days.

We’re still figuring out how this new summer schedule works. I’m letting too many little things (and big things) get in the way of my productivity. Too much wasted time.

I am still plugging away on the novel, and I have a couple of short stories in the works for specific calls. I’ll let you know if any of them are accepted!

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Writing by Hand

Three notebooks should be enough to contain 21st Century Airship Princess

I can type much faster than I can write. But I’ve been enjoying writing my latest WIP by hand. I’ve done that before with short stories, but this is the first time I’ve attempted a novel.

The notebooks I used before perfectly held a story between five and ten thousand words, my target zone for The Cities of Luna. I only write on one side of the page, and I add notes and such to the back sides. I love how I can add random gibberish as well as considerate notes to myself. I also make a note about where and when I’m writing, whether at home, poolside at our apartment, at the library, or wherever. I look forward to looking back over this rough draft someday.

I’ve almost finished notebook two, and I noticed something odd. I thought I’d have to use five notebooks to make a fifty thousand word novel, but apparently these notebooks are longer than the ones I used before. They can fit around thirty thousand words, which means I’m probably already close to the fifty thousand mark if not well beyond it.

That’s good and bad. I feel my pacing is way off, something that can be fixed in edits. Plot wise, I’m only about halfway there. I have a list off stuff that needs to happen, but I think I’m including way too much filler in between. I’m going to use notebook three to get all those scenes out, even if it’s a hot mess. The next step is to set it aside for a bit, preferably at least a month or two, then I will do revision two as I transcribe.

So that’s been my writing update for the week…I know I’m not being specific about my goals, but I’m just happy (for now) that I am getting some writing in and making some progress.

Question for the rest of you: Is there something about your writing method that changed as you grew?

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Options…So Many Options

When I put a pause on the monthly releases in The Cities of Luna in January, I took a deep breath and took a good look at all my options. I have a couple of different series on the shelf, waiting for me to finish them. In both Pangalactic Sojourners and Victoria Pontifex I want an overall arc for the series. Both are five books, but I already have more ideas for a second set of five in the Steampunk. My brain really wants to go back to Steampunk, and I’ve promised myself I can go back to it after I finish the rough draft of Twenty-First Century Airship Princess.

At the Pikes Peak Writers Conference last weekend, Kevin Ikenberry mentioned that he’d had some fun with Kindle Worlds. It’s not a path to fame and fortune, and Amazon owns the rights so you can’t take your story and run elsewhere with it, but there are advantages to writing in a world that has already been created and promoted. I looked around today and saw a couple that looked interesting.

And then there’s the Paradisi Chronicles… another shared world I’d like to dive into…

I promised my brain I could go back to Steampunk next. I don’t know whether I’ll just work out the overall arc, or whether I’ll go on and do the rough drafts (rewriting some, fleshing out the outline for others) before I go back to Airship Princess. I want to enter it in a contest, and I think the deadline is in the fall.

I already have the sparkle of an idea for a sequel to Airship Princess as well as for a sequel to my short story With Her Blessing which comes out in the Futurescapes anthology soon. Both stories use the theme of how family relationships are affected when one member takes the leap to work and live in space. I also have a short story called Space Squid that I need to submit somewhere…

Career Goal: Make enough money that I can concentrate mostly on the actual writing/revising process, getting all these ideas out, without having to worry about the real life difficulties of juggling one car with a family of four or stretching leftovers into something that my kids will actually eat.

Anyone else out there trying to decide which projects to give their attention to?

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The In-Between Time

Exercising great self control, not turning into a puddle of fangirl goo when taking a selfie with Kevin J. Anderson.

I just got back from Starfest in Denver, and this coming weekend is the Pikes Peak Writers Conference here in Colorado Springs.

My brain just might explode.

Starfest was primarily family time, though we did do some things separately. I attended a few sessions for writers, and enjoyed them immensely. Kevin J. Anderson, a big name in the SFF community is a local and so we are lucky enough to get to see him at several events throughout the year. He’s a great guy, and he and his wife Rebecca Moesta are very supportive of up-and-coming writers like me.

I am extremely fortunate to be a recipient of a scholarship to attend this year’s conference! I will be moderating for Shannon Lawrence’s session on submitting short stories, and for all of Michael Underwood’s sessions.

Writing goals this week?
Not so hot, even though I did more writing-related stuff. At Starfest I got a couple of really good story ideas, so I’m outlining them and putting them on the shelf. I need to finish my WIP. I have promised my brain that I will let it return to the Steampunk world as soon as this rough draft is done.

One of my goals this round is to go to conference and seek guidance regarding The Cities of Luna and my long-term career plans. Meanwhile…

Just keep writing..

Just keep writing…

Just keep writing…

 

 

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Characters

Spader in Stargate as the adorably geeky and brilliant Daniel Jackson.

I am postponing making decisions regarding specific writing goals until after PPWC later this month. There are a number of very specific things, some big, some small, that I know I need to do in order to further my career. Other things are a little fuzzy, and I hope to hash it all out with my wonderful network of authors and others in the publishing industry during conference.

One thing…that I just thought of this moment… would be to list the stories I have sitting on the shelf that are able to be queried. I do have a few shorts, although I’m holding onto the novels for now, plotting new plans for them.

I need to redo my published works page, preferably before conference. That really should only take a couple evenings’ work, so it’s neat and professional and lists the most recent at the top.

I had a revelation this weekend regarding my WIP. I had been attempting to do the entire thing in a single POV, which is unusual for me. It works well in a short story, but in this novel I decided I really needed a second perspective. We’ll get a better, more well-rounded picture of the main character if you see not just through her own eyes, but also her husband’s.

I want this character to be fully rounded and real. I tend to write people too nice, with few flaws. My goal as an author is to someday write a character readers both loathe and love. DeAnna and I were discussing James Spader tonight… as Alan Shore in Boston Legal, Red in The Blacklist, Ultron in The Avengers. All characters whose “dark side” is fully fleshed out yet we still love the character. (Some more than others.) I tend to write Daniel Jackson in Stargate… brilliant and adorable with few flaws.

I started this story (Twenty-First Century Airship Princess) in early December last year. I had in mind both Princess Leia and Carrie Fisher as inspiration for the main character. It was a good thing I picked them, because in only a few pages I realized I was rewriting a heroine who is very typical to many of my stories. She wasn’t anything like either Carrie or Leia! I switched gears and consciously changed how I thought of her. This Princess isn’t truly either Carrie or Leia, she is herself, but she is no longer generic.

And then Carrie died and it just…

I persisted.

Anywho, I think this character will benefit greatly from being viewed through her husband’s eyes. A great deal of the conflict in the story is with him, and he both loves her and knows all her flaws.

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The Murders of Luna

Looking so very professional to speak to my daughter’s 3rd grade class about writing! The next day these blossoms were coated with wet sticky snow.

Recently there has been a fun meme going around about inserting “And then the murders began,” as the second line in your favorite book. For example:

One sunny Sunday, the caterpillar was hatched out of a tiny egg. He was very hungry. And then the murders began. (The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle)

Not all the examples have it being exactly the second sentence; for some it fits better being elsewhere in the opening.

And then I realized April Fools Day was only a few days away.

A few months ago I not only stopped releasing a short story in The Cities of Luna every month, I stopped doing any promo. No huge surprise… my sales numbers didn’t change. Just a few sales each month.

I saw an opportunity for a publicity stunt that would cost me several hours of work, but no actual money. (I did end up spending $8 to boost a post on facebook.) I had been meaning to go back through all 20 stories in the series to make sure their formatting is identical, and to add a list of the stories to the back of each. After doing this, I went through and inserted “And then the murders began” somewhere in the opening of each story, then I uploaded THAT version to Smashwords. (I left Amazon alone.)

I did this on March 31, then throughout the day on April first I shared my own memes, one for each story. Something did work… I got a lot of interaction, mostly with friends asking “WTF?”

Not obvious from the excerpt, but Pico is only four years old. And no, this isn’t some horror story about a possessed child on a bloody rampage! It’s about COOKIES damnit! It’s a CUTE story about a little girl and her grandmother! #AndThenTheMurdersBegan 

.

I wasn’t pinning my hopes and dreams on this going viral and making my sales skyrocket, but I know that you can never tell exactly what folks will latch onto, so it was worth a try.

No, my sales did not skyrocket. But a lot of people who only know me casually got a much better idea of the fact that I am a writer lol! I’m re-uploading the up-to-date and murderless versions now.

And who knows? Maybe years from now someone will say “Aren’t you AmyBeth Inverness? I remember when you did that murder-thing with all your books…”

This is the beginning of the second round of words in eighty days. I’m postponing defining my goals because in a few weeks I’ll be at the 25th annual Pikes Peak Writers conference and I want to talk to my mentors and peers about what direction to take with my career and with this series in particular.

When I examine my career as it is, I’m not at a loss. I have some very clear things I need to do, such as revamping my website so it is more professional. In particular, I need to redo my published works page so the more recent items are at the top. I need to finish something besides COL and do something with it. I’m not floundering…I just need to make things happen while still juggling all the challenges of family life.

So… share!

What would YOUR story be like if you added “And then the murders began…” to the beginning?

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Managing My OCD

Managing my OCD means wanting to make/revise all the family appointments with doctors, therapists, dentists, church, professional stuff and everything then entering them into a database that references the family members involved, which doctor, which location, the associated phone numbers, as well as notes about what is involved with each and making the information flow into a calendar that syncs to all devices as well as magically prints to my desk and wall calendars…

…but realizing that the level of organization that requires is highly unreasonable, not to mention slightly beyond the capabilities of the technology available to me.

Managing my OCD means wanting to go back through about 15k of my handwritten WIP and figure out what the timeline should be, seasons in particular, as well as noting all the minor characters and other details I forgot to jot down as I wrote…

…but realizing that the important thing is having a general awareness of the seasons as the story progresses (MC is a meteorologist so it is relevant) and most of the little details like the name of the cat can be fixed when I go back to transcribe the whole thing.

Managing my OCD means I desperately want to be stuck in a rut where my schedule is very predictable and regular. I love the “extras” that come up such as conferences and family outings, but they need to be placed in an open framework of daily life that flows fluidly and seamlessly.

…but realizing that life is, by nature, chaotic, and as much as I want to harness that chaos, I will never be able to do so no matter how much I scale back.

This Round of Words in 80 Days is coming to a close. The next round starts in April. I have some very specific ideas of what steps I need to take next in my writing career. I will build these into my weekly goals. However I have the Pikes Peak Writers Conference coming up in April, and I expect I will gain a lot of perspective, advice, and hopefully clarity at that time. I will probably have a loose-ish set of goals and ideas about where I need to go next, then refine that into a strategic plan after conference.

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What Do You Do When They Move Your Cheese?

Flämischer Meister des 17. Jahrhunderts / unknown Flemish Master of the 17th Century. Public Domain.

Most writers readily come to terms with the fact that we do a lot of work that may or may not ever pay off with wealth or acclaim. We enter the maze willingly, knowing that the Big Cheese is a pipe dream only a few of us will ever see. We run, content with the crumbs we pick up along the way and the occasional bit of fromage that we find.

Other jobs aren’t like that. It is possible to work towards a degree, certification, or promotion and logically expect that it will lead to an improved job situation. Yet so many people are yelling at their computers, frustrated beyond comprehension that although they are the ideal candidate for a job and their resume reflects all the supposed key words and phrases, they can’t even get an interview.

My hubby is in this position now. He’s an IT guy with an excellent resume, but in spite of his degree, excellent work history and stellar references, he never gets a simple call. We have no idea why, and no way of knowing.

He’s not the only one. I see it on my social network feed all the time; people who can’t seem to get past the magical algorithm that chooses which applicants get a call and which get ignored. Of course it’s frustrating. They can see the cheese. They deserve the cheese. They’re more than willing to settle for a small piece of the cheese instead of the whole wheel.

Then they look up, and see some Rat picking up the cheese and moving it somewhere else.

So what’s the smart thing to do? A year or so ago, I’d say “I’m plucky! Perseverance pays off in the end! I see which way that Rat went…I can get there! I can get that cheese!” Now, I’m not so sure. I think that Rat is smirking at me. I think it gets a kick out of seeing me and my hubby chase it down just to move it away at the last minute.

This Round of Words in 80 Days is just about over. In April well start a new round.

I wonder where the cheese will be by then?

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