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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Same ‘ol Song and Dance

I’m finding it hard to break out of the “Life is do difficult and overwhelming right now I can’t possibly slow down to write!” schtick. Nevertheless, I persist. I’m finding that quote more and more inspiring these days. Like the symbolism of a comma or semicolon in the context of “It could have ended there, but it didn’t.” I want a semicolon tattoo someday.

As soon as I hit the publish button on this blog post, I’m going to add a chapter to my memoir about my first year dealing with diabetes. This one’s about cauliflower. (And no, it isn’t a success story.)

I’m still working on the handwritten novel. I’m enjoying that… it lets me add comments and doodles which really helps my creativity. The negatives are that 1) I have no backup if I misplace a notebook, and 2) it is almost impossible to go back through what I already wrote just to remind myself what I named the cat, since I forgot to put it in my notes.

My writing goals have been more miss than hit this week, but I’m still here.

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Diabetic

diabetic-2For more than ten years, I’ve been considered a high risk for diabetes. A few weeks ago, I finally connected with a new doctor (we moved to Colorado almost a year ago and had put it off for “reasons”.) She immediately reinstated the medicines I’d been on before, previously prescribed by my OBGYN as a woman with PCOS and at high risk for diabetes. A few years ago I dropped fifty pounds thanks to those drugs, but I gained it back since moving last year.

The doctor also tested my blood sugar.

I’ve crossed the line. Although my numbers were right on (tested about a week apart I was 6.6 and 6.5 and doc says they diagnose at 6.5) technically that means I have transitioned from “high risk” to “I am diabetic.”

I’ve been dreading this, but I find comfort in the dread of knowing I have an incurable disease. Now I know what is wrong with me. The tiredness, feeling sick, and multiple other symptoms all now have a name. Before, they were a jumble of side effects that were all my fault. I’m fat. Apparently I don’t get enough exercise. I must have horrible dietary habits.

The truth is far more complicated, and I may never truly understand everything that contributed to where I am now, healthwise.

Does this diagnosis affect my writing? Sure. Good and bad. I’ve started chronicling my first year as a diabetic. Hopefully I can do so with wit and honesty. (“Honesty” means there may be a chapter titled Lying to the Dietitian.) I may publish it eventually. I’m still writing a SciFi novel by hand in a series of notebooks. I’m still planning to put out The Cities of Luna in print form this Spring.

The bad is obvious. This disease requires a high level of self-care. I have to ask for certain accommodations at times, but at least it’s easier to say “Because I’m diabetic” than it was to say “I just really need this for my own personal reasons.” But to be honest, the fact that I have a bad cold is causing me more trouble than the diabetes at the moment. At least the cold will eventually go away.

The diabetes will be with me for the rest of my life.

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The Runner-Up

sign-01-seuratI am thrilled to share that I am a runner up in the Futurescapes Writing Contest!

A year ago I saw a call for submissions for the contest with the theme Cities of Empowerment. Reading the blurb about what they’re seeking, I thought “This is what I do!”

For this year’s theme, we ask you to envision how a city, thirty years from now, can create a civic experience which virtually eliminates what today we consider “disabilities.” Further, how might a future City of Empowerment amplify the natural abilities of citizens to enhance the experience of living, working, and governing a city? How might a city create the super-citizen of tomorrow?

I don’t do dystopias, even though they are very popular in today’s market. Although I wouldn’t describe my work as utopian, it is definitely a positive future, along the lines of Gene Roddenberry’s vision in Star Trek. My story, With Her Blessing, focuses on one man’s journey to join the pioneers on the moon and how his leaving affects his family on Earth.

Futurescapes is sponsoring a writing workshop April 24-26, 2017 at Sundance Resort in Utah. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend this year, but it looks like a great time!

An anthology including the six stories from the contest winners will come out in April.

The winners will be published alongside professional authors including, Malka Older, Anjali Sachdeva, and Andre Norton & Compton Crook Award winner and Nebula Award-nominee, Fran Wilde, in the anthology, Futurescapes: Cities of Empowerment.

The anthology, created and sponsored by the Office of New Urban Mechanics at Utah Valley University – a civic innovation office in partnership with the cities of Boston, Philadelphia and cities throughout Utah – is meant to turn the future-facing vision of science fiction writers toward solving major civic problems like civic engagement and accessibility. As such, copies of the anthology will be provided to mayors, city managers, members of Congress, and other major civic leaders throughout the United States. The anthology will be published in late April.

I will share information about how you can read the anthology this Spring.

 

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Quickie

sign-01-floatingJust a quick ROW80 update this week!

Most days were good… I finished a short story, added to the hand-written novel, then edited and submitted the short story in time for the contest deadline. I have to wait until the end of March to find out if I won.

The theme is similar to With Her Blessing, which is a runner-up in the Futurescapes Writing Contest this year. More about that tomorrow…

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The Amorphous To-Do List

Headshot red 2017In the beginning, my to-do list as a writer was clear. Write an entire novel. Edit, revise, polish. Meanwhile, I began to establish an online presence. I started this blog and other social media outlets, and began to network.

Later came more writing and polishing, as well as querying. Networking came very naturally to me, and although it grew by leaps and bounds, it took a lot of energy to maintain.

I’m in the process of breaking the “aspiring author” mold and embracing the “professional author” identity. I’m updating the website, and changing up my usual to-do list.

An author’s to-do list is an amorphous thing. If it was nothing but actual-writing, or even writing and revising, it would be simple. But there are a thousand little tasks that should be done, things that contribute to the whole even though, taken individually, they don’t seem like much.

While updating the website, I realized that my cover image is underwhelming. It’s a moon image, which is appropriate to what has been my current project for a couple of years now. But it doesn’t exactly say either SciFi or Romance. I decided that a new cover photo would be a good idea, as well as a few new headshots that are more fun.

But there was one problem…looking in the mirror, my cute tagline of “A redhead by choice” wasn’t exactly true! The color had faded. Taking headshots while I don’t appear as I represent myself isn’t a good idea.

So today, I colored my hair.

Not writing. Not exactly writing-related either. Maybe writing-related thrice removed.

I haven’t been as good with my ROW80 goals this week. I can honestly say that I’ve worked every day toward my greater long-term goals, but the actual writing is only fitting in about half the time. I need to be better about that. Even if it only happens five days a week, that’s progress. And actual-writing needs to remain a primary concern, not an afterthought.

Wonderful News!

I’m a runner-up in the Futurescapes Writing Contest! More about that later…

 

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