AROW80 Round 2 Goals — April 7, 2014

Hallo! Welcome back to everybody who has returned to AROW80 for this second round and to everybody who is starting out this time around, Welcome! So glad to see you! You can do it! Yes, even you!

I talked about my round 2 goals in an earlier post but I’m going to restate them here.  I’m approaching things a bit differently than I have the last couple rounds, where I was working on finishing a draft of Defcon: Fade Out, a post-apocalyptic story.  This time around, I’m approaching my goals on a month by month basis.

April:  is Defcon Series World Building Month.  I started, technically, on April 1st with the overall goal being of looking deeper into my story world and figuring out the plots of the books that precede Fade Out as well as trying to make my world feel realer and more concrete to myself — in the hopes of having it translate better to the page and to my readers.

So far, I’m not making as much progress as I’d wanted to — in part because I’ve managed to get myself saddled with a case of bronchitis so I’ve spent a lot of time this month dozing and generally recuperating (it’s not a severe case, but is hitting me just hard enough to give me a hitch in my git-along.  But I have gotten some work done and figured out some areas where I need to work harder — namely in figuring out plots for the books and then worldbuilding based off those plots and the questions about the setting that they raise.

I’m using a notebook — well, a couple notebooks — and a cool little program called A Novel Idea which allows you to record ideas for plots, characters and scenes as well as to link them to each other and to novel ideas.  You can also email your collected ideas to yourself or someone else.  I’ve got it on my iPod and I find it very handy for recording those late night ideas that come when you’re trying to fall asleep.  Best yet, it’s a free ap, though sadly, it appears only to be available for iPods/iPads.

May: is to be the Month of Typing. I’m going to start typing up the manuscript of Defcon: Fade Out and trying to whip it into a fully cohesive shape. I’m taking a month off to try and come at the typing in a fresher state of mind. Since there’s probably going to be some rewriting, I’m giving myself a month at the least for the typing.

June: is to be the Month of Letting People Read My Manuscript, aka “AUGHWHATHAVEIDONE?!” Month. To distract myself, I’m planning on taking a look at some of my other projects — i.e. non-Defcon stuff, because I’ve got something of a dream in mind. A dream I’m hoping to make a reality by this time next year.

My Dream: To make a sale of something I’ve written by the time I’m 45. Preferably a novel, but I’ll take selling a short piece of original fiction. It’s something I’ve wanted for a while now and I think I’m getting to a place in my life where I can make a decent sized stab at that goal. So, I’m putting it out there to the universe in hopes that this will keep me honest and on track.

Also, while we’re talking about dreams, I’d love a stuffed trilobite. Because trilobites are awesome and a soft, squishy flat stuffed trilobite to curl up with would be a treat.

 

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AROW80 Check-In for March 2, 2014

Hello! It’s snowing today! I am so not happy about that fact!  I have honestly gotten to the point where I growl when I hear the word ‘snow.’ Literally growling.

Allegedly, spring will come this month. I am dubious.

Personal Goals: 

  • Work on following diet plan that the dietitian worked out and generally making better food choices. — Still doing this!
  • Keep dentist appointment next week — 
    Good news: I kept the appointment and I found out that I don’t have any problems with bone loss and that my gums are in pretty good shape.   Better News Than Expected: the chipped tooth needs to have a root canal and a crown put on it. And I have a few cavities plus a cleaning.  Bad Phobic News: I’m gonna have soooo many needles in my mouth.  I hate needles enough when they go in my arm; in my mouth? *WHINE*
  • Work on getting exercise, which should be easier now that the snow has begun to melt off  — IF IT WOULD QUIT FRICKING SNOWING AND/OR ICING THIS WOULD BE A HECK OF A LOT EASIER! As it would if I’d actually, y’know, make a better effort…eh-heh

Writing Goals:

  • Defcon: Fade Out Chapter Seventeen is done! Actually, it’s been done for a couple days and I’m on to Eighteen now.  Eighteen took a bit of work to get started because it began with a fight scene and I’ve never been in a fight so, I hit up the Internet for some articles about fight scenes and did some reading.
  •  Word Count: just hit 69,000 words tonight and should be at 70K or more by this time tomorrow. 100+K seems more and more doable all the time!
  • Ending: As my girlfriend says when we’re driving and unsure of where we’re going: “I don’t know where I’m going but I’m on my way!” — I’ve at least got an idea but it is nebulous.
  • Rest of the Defcon Series: I was having a minor freak out the other night at work about the fact that once I get Fade Out done, I’ve still got the first four books in the series to write.  But, on the plus side, since I’ve done so much of the heavy lifting of worldbuilding and plotting and character development for this book, hopefully the writing will be a heck of a lot easier for books 1-4.

Goals for this week:

  • Keep my appointment for getting my teeth cleaned and make an appointment for my root canal.
  • Not think about the fact that they’re going to put a needle in my mouth. Maybe more than one.
  • Keep working on Defcon: Fade Out — I’m hoping I can be at Chapter Twenty by the end of the week.
  • Write up my Insecure Writers’ Support Group post for Wednesday.

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AROW80 Check-In for February 26, 2014

Hello again! I am currently sitting on my couch, watching the last episode of Midsomer Murders that Netflix has and feeling very sleepy and cozy and generally in pretty good spirits.

Personal Goals: 

  • Work on following diet plan that the dietitian worked out and generally making better food choices. — Still working on this ; I realized today that I’ve gone a week and only had French fries once. Which says something, since a week ago it would have been the reverse (i.e. gone a week and only NOT had fries once).
  • Keep dentist appointment next week — That’s tomorrow.  And I am ever so nervous about what they’re going to find. But, again, Tooth Pain Roulette is getting on past old.
  • Work on getting exercise  — Still needing to work on this.  The cold weather isn’t helping but my biggest problem is being a lazy butt. 

Writing Goals:

  • Defcon: Fade Out — Still working on Chapter Seventeen but there’s not much left to write of it before I’m on to Chapter Eighteen. I’m thinking that I’m going to end up raising my estimated number of chapters from 20 to 30, just to give a bit more wiggle room.  And I have a feeling that a couple of those extra chapters may end up going at the beginning of the novel.
  • I’m checking out the Manuscript Wish List Day tag on Twitter. Not that I’ve got a manuscript even close to completion but it’s interesting to see what agents and editors are looking for. #MSWL is the tag.
  • Also, as I’ve been on a podcast kick: Writing Excuses is a really cool podcast, aimed at covering different aspects of writing. They’ve got about nine seasons worth of episodes and a lot of them are SF-centric, but there’s also a lot of general writing advice as well.

Powered by Linky ToolsA Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. You can learn more here and if you want to join, you can Click Here to view this Linky Tools list and to enter your own link as well!

AROW80 Check-In for February 23, 2014

Happy Sunday! Hope all is well and that all your breakfasts have been nummy ones the last few days.

I’m cheating a bit and writing this entry on Saturday night before I go to work so as to be able to get to bed earlier than I usually do.  This will probably not succeed but at least I am making a stab at it.

Personal Goals: 

  • Work on following diet plan that the dietitian worked out and generally making better food choices. — This has been going fairly well; I’ve bought some things to take to work for lunches and I’m sticking to eating at regular times and eating sensible things when I do.  And I downloaded a Calorie King app on to my iPod so that I can make decisions about what to eat when I go out.
  • Keep dentist appointment next week — 
    That’s coming up this Thursday afternoon. Not looking forward to it, but not particularly enjoying Tooth Pain Roulette every time I drink something cold either.
  • Work on getting exercise, which should be easier now that the snow has begun to melt off (MELT SNOW! MELT! MELT! MELT! AHAHAHAHAHAHAA!). — I walked around Target today! Yeahhh, consider this one still needing to be worked on.

Writing Goals:

  • I finished Defcon: Fade Out Chapter Fifteen and Chapter Sixteen — following the formal procedure of ‘This feels like a stopping point’. And I’m now on Chapter Seventeen. This book is definitely going to be more than 20 chapters long
  •  I’ve also hit 65,000 words and am onto a second notebook. I’m hoping that if I fill both notebooks with roughly the same amount of words (I ended the first one at 56,665  words), I should have a good start on a draft. Then I just need to write the other four books in the series and we’re golden!
  • Still working on plotting out an ending for Defcon: Fade Out.  Which I have a feeling is going to mean getting a better handle on the beginning of the book.  And figuring out if I’m really close to the end with Chapter 15 or if I’m more at the middle of the story.
  • I have also been making some decisions about the first book of the Defcon series. I’m thinking that it might be a divided story, featuring at least two different groups reacting to the aftermath of World War III and setting up the series proper.
  • And toward that end, I have started keeping a separate, smaller notebook with which to write down ideas for the current book in particular and the series as a whole in general. I’m also keeping track of places where I’m going to need to address problems/fix plot holes/improve things when I begin typing things up for the current draft.  As is traditional, it is a graph paper steno notebook.

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AROW80 Check-In for February 19, 2014

Happy Wednesday, did you have a nummy breakfast? I had teriyaki chicken and a loaded baked potato and it was pretty darned nummy.

The last couple days have been busy-busy-busy and hurry-scurry around here. The girlfriend is potentially starting a new job soon (she’s kind of Schroedinger’s Temp right now in that we’re pretty sure she’s getting the job but we don’t know when she’ll be starting).  This has required a lot of filling out of forms and then the faxing of said forms as well as drug tests and fingerprinting, plus she’s getting her teeth worked on and had her first appointment for fillings today. Which went very well, to the point that you can only just barely tell where the fillings were put in. It looks like the tooth never even broke.

And I was finally a good girl and signed up for a dental appointment for next week. So, go me!

Had the appointment with the dietitian yesterday and got some good advice about planning a diet to help manage my diabetes. Really, it all comes down to things I already know and should be doing, but that I don’t do because the bad habits are easier.  But, I’m going to be making a change because easy habits are going to make things harder on me in the long run.

I’ve also got an appointment with a doctor over at the diabetes education center as the dietitian I saw — not sure exactly what I’m seeing them for, but likely it’s something to do with helping me to get my A1C back down toward 7.0 and to help keep me from having to take insulin.  I’ve got kind of a phobia about having to go on insulin — partly because I hate needles and partly because I know that when I do manage my diet and make an effort to take care of myself, that my health can and does improve. And I want to work harder on that because insulin + bad habits isn’t going to be a fix either.

That and I am oh my God so afraid of needles it is not even funny. I am not kidding.

On a cheerier note, I’ve discovered a podcast called The Thrilling Adventure Hour,

The Thrilling Adventure Hour is a staged production in the style of old time radio that is held monthly at the Coronet Theatre. The show has been running since March 2005. It is live audio theater. Each episode features three non-serialized segments as well as songs and commercials from fictional sponsors. The show is written by Ben Acker and Ben Blacker and directed by Aaron Ginsburg. The show’s original songs are written by Acker & Blacker with composer and band leader Andy Paley.

The podcast breaks the show into the different segments (descriptions of which are at the above link), so you can follow one show or listen to all the different podcasts. My current favorite is Beyond Belief which is kind of like an urban fantasy version of the The Thin Man and spoofs all sorts of different fantasy/horror stories which can be seen in titles like “Rosemary’s Baby Shower” or “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang You’re Dead” (Christine).

Among the other series on the Thrilling Adventure Hour are science fiction shows like Sparks Nevada, Marshall on Mars, The Cross-Time Adventures of Colonel Tick-Tock and Cactoid Jim, King of the Martian Frontier, a superhero story, Captain Laserbeam and over-the-top spy/adventure stories about Amelia Erhart, Fearless Flyer and Jefferson Reid, Ace American (which features Nathan Fillion as Jefferson Reid).    You can find episodes for download on iTunes and at Nerdist.com.

The Thrilling Adventure Hour was recommended by the folks who do the Welcome to Night Vale podcast (also awesome and weird and incredibly endearing — particularly considering it is a show that features a little girl who is a disembodied man’s hand, a man with a suitcase full of flies and mysterious dog park.)

WELCOME TO NIGHT VALE is a twice-monthly podcast in the style of community updates for the small desert town of Night Vale, featuring local weather, news, announcements from the Sheriff’s Secret Police, mysterious lights in the night sky, dark hooded figures with unknowable powers, and cultural events.

Turn on your radio and hide.

The show is also available at iTunes or Stitcher or Libsyn or Feedburner or Soundcloud.

My only complaint about Welcome to Night Vale is that episodes come out on the 1st and the 15th, and since I’ve listened to the entire archive, now I have to wait for new episodes to come out. WHINE!

Right so, on to goals and such:

Personal Goals: These are easy-peasy this week

  • Work on following diet plan that the dietitian worked out and generally making better food choices.
  • Keep dentist appointment next week — which’ll be a new patient visit with X-rays and the finding out of how bad my teeth are. I have a feeling my dental insurance is going to get one hell of a work out.
  • Work on getting exercise, which should be easier now that the snow has begun to melt off (MELT SNOW! MELT! MELT! MELT! AHAHAHAHAHAHAA!).

Writing Goals:

  • I finished Defcon: Fade Out Chapter Fourteen on Sunday night/Monday morning and have moved on to Chapter Fifteen.
  • I’m getting close to the end of Defcon: Fade Out which is at once terrifying and awesome.  Awesome because I’ll have finished a book for the first time ever and terrifying because I have no idea how I’m going to get from where I am to an ending. Any and all advice, sincerely appreciated!
  • I’m listening to an audiobook called The Family That Couldn’t Sleep : A Medical Mystery by D.T. Max about prion diseases — things like scrapie, mad cow disease, kuru, etc.  It’s fascinating, but I kind of wish I hadn’t listened to the part about how prions are nearly impossible to kill by any of the usual disinfecting methods and can be passed on by contaminated dental instruments….

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AROW80 Check-In for February 12, 2014

CHAPTER TWELVE IS DONE! REPEAT: I HAVE FINISHED CHAPTER TWELVE AND AM NOW ON CHAPTER THIRTEEN! Let there be cake and celebrations throughout the lands! And feel free to substitute ‘cake’ for whatever nummy food you prefer. I am magnanimous in my victory!

Went out to eat on Monday and heard, for I think the first time in my life, people actually chanting ‘USA! USA!” (we were eating at a sports bar and the Olympics, among other sporting events, was on).  What was amusing to me was the fact they were cheering on the American team in curling — which is not the sort of sport I would have pegged people who would chant ‘USA, USA!” as backing but good on ’em for supporting a non-mainstream sport.

To me, curling looks like a lot of fun, but I have a thing about ice.  Or, more correctly, I have a thing about falling on the ice.  And about falling in general, to be honest.

Previous Goals:

  • Personal Goals: I did not make a dentist appointment. I will do this soon.
  • Writing Goals:
    • Chapter Twelve of Defcon: Fade Out is done, as I have mentioned. And the first scene of Chapter Thirteen is also done, so booyeah!

Goals for This Week:

  • Finish Chapter Thirteen before the end of the week.
  • Pick up books at library — which may interfere with the above ‘finish Chapter Thirteen’ goal.
  • Noodle more on worldbuilding and some ideas I have for what may be the first book in the Defcon series.
  • Curse the snow unto the seventh generation. — I have a feeling that I will be doing this until about June, at this point. Though honestly, the snow is taking the blame for the cold weather in general. 
  • Work on being better about following my Twitter — still working on this.

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AROW80 Check-In for February 9, 2014

What I have learned from Midsomer Murders: 

  1. Pillows should be regulated like handguns.
  2. NEVER EVER SAY “Oh, it’s you!” as this will get you murdered.  Apparently it is some kind of a signal that sparks murderous rage in people.
  3. People in Midsomer county really should be used to finding bodies by now. I mean, hasn’t everybody who lives there been murdered at some point?

Seriously though, I do like the show a lot, particularly for the fact that the folks in the show seem to be somewhat aware of just how crazy murderpants their county is.  Also, I like that the show can be dark without being gory.

Previous Goals:

  • Personal Goals: Still taking my meds; appointment with the dietitian is coming up and I’m going to make a dental appointment for myself this week.
  • Writing Goals: I hashed out the radio scene in Chapter Twelve! I basically used a mock conversation from a ham site as a template for the call signs and official bits of chatter and inserted my own dialogue. And also made things a bit more readable, since the mock conversation looked like this:

Hello CQ CQ CQ, this is G3YWX, Golf three Yankee Whisky Xray, Golf three Yankee Whisky Xray, CQ CQ CQ, this is G3YWX, Golf three Yankee Whisky Xray, Golf three Yankee Whisky Xray, CQ CQ CQ, this is G3YWX, Golf three Yankee Whisky Xray, Golf three Yankee Whisky Xray, and G3YWX, Golf three Yankee Whisky Xray is standing by for a call.

G3YWX, Golf three Yankee Whisky Xray, this is G3QAB, Golf three Quebec Alpha Bravo, Golf three Quebec Alpha Bravo

Yeah, not the most enjoyable read, is it? I got around it by using phrasing like “She repeated the greeting three times” and “she spelled out Grandma’s name phonetically, pronouncing each letter carefully.” It’s not perfect, but it’s good enough for now and that’s what I was after!

  • I chomped through my interlibrary loan books and found some good crunchy information that will be helpful. And also found some other sources that I want to look up because I am to books what Cookie Monster is to cookies.

Sea Is for Cookie

“Sea is for Cookie” by Put_It_All_On_Red based on The Great Wave off Kanagawa, by Hokusai and, of course, Cookie Monster.

Goals for This Week:

  • Work on Chapter 12
  • Make some photocopies of some of my research materials before I return them.
  • Noodle more on worldbuilding and some ideas I have for what may be the first book in the Defcon series.
  • Curse the snow unto the seventh generation.
  • Work on being better about following my Twitter

Powered by Linky ToolsA Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. You can learn more here and if you want to join, you can Click Here to view this Linky Tools list and to enter your own link as well!

Relogging: The cost of reading every book: We know their names

The cost of reading every book: We know their names.  — this article by slacktivist is about the founding of the Library of Congress and the origins of the books that helped begin that library and the all too real cost in human lives paid for those books.

From the article itself:

Elsewhere, I’ve seen it said that the last people who might have read everything were probably Thomas Jefferson (d. 1826) and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (d. 1832). Whether that’s true of either I don’t know, but Jefferson certainly tried. Jefferson’s problem was that Virginia did not have a library that held every English book, so to read them all, he had to buy them all. That was expensive. It took more money than Jefferson had, so the acquisition of his vast personal library put him deep into debt.

That debt was part of the reason, or the excuse, Jefferson gave for never being able to afford the emancipation of his slaves — something he always said he wanted to do, yet somehow never quite got around to doing.

Insecure Writers’ Support Group Post for February 5, 2014

InsecureWritersSupportGroup2

From this month’s main post:

 Every writer is at a different stage of the journey and no two paths are identical. We do have a few things in common though – we all fight insecurity and we all need support. We’re looking for guidance, encouragement, and answers to our questions. We can find all of that here online, through the IWSG postings, the Facebook group, and the resources on this website. […]What do you need help with today? 

Ham radios. Specifically, how to use a ham or shortwave or even a Citizen’s Band (CB) radio to contact someone else in another city.  In my current WIP, I have a character using a radio to contact someone else and I’m not sure how to go about it.   I know it probably doesn’t work like a telephone and I have done a bit of Googling so that I can at least write the scene I have in mind and move on to other things (with the caveat that I’ll clean the scene itself up during editing), but I still have a little voice nagging at the back of my head that I’m writing about something that I know nothing about and I shouldn’t be doing that and I need to go research and figure this out exactly so that the scene will be right, dangit!

Of course, if I listen to that little voice I would have to go out and get a shortwave radio operator’s license before I could come back and write a scene that is one small part of one chapter of a potentially twenty chapter book. The characters involved are minor characters and while the scene is important, it’s not because of the radio message. It’s because of something that gets said while the characters are talking before/during/after the sending of the message. So, yeah, while a shortwave radio operator’s license would be pretty freakin’ awesome to have, it’s a bit overkill-y for me to go get one. Particularly when I have access to Google, not to mention my local library and their interlibrary loan program (which is seriously so on beyond awesome, I am not kidding! I basically have access to libraries across my state!).

And this doesn’t take into consideration all the other research questions I have both big and small. For which I would, per the nagging little voice, have to go back to school and get multiple degrees, take dozens of courses to learn various skills and travel extensively and quite possibly be reincarnated half a dozen times in order to be really sure I got the details right.

I hate that little voice…

The upshot of all this is that research is important to me. I like having the facts straight when I’m writing because I feel that having the facts straight helps improve the fiction.  Yes, I say this as someone whose WIPs include worlds featuring third shift vampire hunters, a reverse-Batman private eye, atompunk space pirates vs. Cthulhu and a post-WWIII world with human/chimpanzee hybrids running around.  But, to me, bringing realism to ideas like this actually does help make them stronger because the realism provides sturdy hooks from which to stretch the string of disbelief, which is where the implausible/improbable/unlikely ideas are hung. If the hooks aren’t strong enough, the weight of the ideas will yank them off the walls of…uh…okay so the metaphor starts to break down a bit when you get to the walls but you get the idea.  If the hooks don’t hold, the weight of the ideas will pull them out of the wall and your reader out of the story.

So, I worry a lot about getting details right in my books/stories. I wrote a fanfic once and I literally spent more time trying to figure out the details of the setting than I did writing the story itself (hour and a half on research; about an hour on the story) – because if the setting wasn’t right, the story wouldn’t have been right, or at least not right to me. I read anecdotes like Heinlein taking three days to do the calculations for an orbit in one of his juveniles – something that ended up being two sentences of text or something like that – and think that is something to aspire to because even if the reader never sees the work that goes into the story, the story itself will show the care that was taken in crafting it.

On the other side, I worry about researching too much. Or, rather, to the point where I’m really just avoiding working on the story and indulging myself in gathering interesting facts and research materials like some sort of hybrid between a librarian and a dragon. Because oh my gosh is research fun or what? Especially now that I’ve discovered interlibrary loan. But there does come a point where the research has to stop and the story telling has to begin, otherwise what’s the point of doing the research? The problem is finding that point.

And on the third side, I worry about not doing the right sort of research. More correctly, about missing the unknown-unknown, the thing that not only don’t I know but the thing that I don’t know that I don’t know.  Like…well, I don’t know, do I? But the examples that come to mind are the kinds of stupid and/or offensive mistakes like details about guns or crime scenes  or anachronisms — not to mention logical errors and plot holes and other goofs that can derail a story.

Of course, Worry #3 can turn into Worry #2 and grows out of Worry #1 so really, these aren’t so much separate worries as they are all a part of the same big Worry Mobius Strip that never ends and cycles around and around and around while the annoying little voice yammers at me until I force myself to shut it out and pick up my pen and do my best to write down the ideas that are in my head while also keeping track of the things that I need to know in order to polish the ideas in my head into the story that’s hiding in the back of my head.

And it also helps to know that there are people I can go to for information and advice, both on-line and off.  I have a coworker who used to be a pathologist and I was able to ask her if a decapitated head would be put in its own body bag or simply put in the same bag as the rest of the body (she said separate bag). I can come on-line and find communities like IWSG as well as little_details or the Nanowrimo forums that are dedicated to answering questions.

And for that, I am eternally grateful.

AROW80 Check-In for February 5, 2014

I want to go on record as saying that if I ever get my hands on that damn groundhog….I won’t do anything to him because I am a soft touch for all animals, even ones who have consigned me to fresh frozen hell AGAIN! And there’s more coming this weekend?! AUUUGH!!

Thankfully, there are thirteen seasons of Midsommer Murders on Netflix.

Previous Goals:

  • Personal Goals: I’ve been taking my meds as scheduled; haven’t been able to do much in the way of exercise because it freaking snowed again. I have been trying to watch my diet and eat less/eat better. This is made tricker by being stuck in the house thanks to the FREAKING SNOW THAT WILL NEVER STOP inclement weather that seems to be visiting us again, oh dear.
    • I did make a dental appointment, but it was for my girlfriend who had a tooth crack. Luckily, it didn’t split near the nerve and the dentist says that it can be fixed with a filling instead of a crown (which is a cost difference of about 800 bucks so, yay dentist!).
  • Writing Goals: I am briefly stalled on Chapter Twelve of Defcon: Fade Out, due to a research question. But, I did enough research tonight that I can fake my way through the scene and fix it in editing.
  • Speaking of research: I got another load of books through Interlibrary Loan, including Civil Defense Begins At Home by Laura McEnaney, which talks about American nuclear civil defense efforts in the 1950s and has a whole chapter about African Americans and civil defense which speaks to my interests! Wooot!

Goals for This Week:

  • Write up a post for Insecure Writer’s Support Group
  • Work on Chapter 12
  • Appease the snow gods, possibly by sacrificing a chocolate chip cookie to them. Well, the essence of chocolate chip cookie; the physical cookie I will eat so as to not muss the sacrificial area.
  • Shovel my sidewalk, for all the good it’s going to do.

Hope everybody who is in cold places is keeping warm and everyone in hot places is finding a way to keep cool.

Also: I’ve hit 50 posts! WHOOT!

Powered by Linky ToolsA Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. You can learn more here and if you want to join, you can Click Here to view this Linky Tools list and to enter your own link as well!

The Devil’s In The Details II–Keep Research from Taking Over

Some good thoughts on research and writing from Kristen Lamb. You can read the first part here: The Devil’s in the Details — Taking Your Fiction to Higher Level

Kristen Lamb's Blog

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All right, we’ll do Research Part Duh, um Deux. Last time we talked about how research can take a book to the next level and I also vented about my personal bugaboos when it comes to guns. But here’s the thing, our target audience is likely to have bugaboos as well.

If we write military books, we want military people to like them. But, if we fail to research even basic stuff, we can turn them off. Same with thrillers, historical and even SCI-FI, etc.

Part of the reason for Star Trek’s success was that Roddenberry refused for ST technology to be made up willy-nilly. All technology and “science” had to be based around and grounded in some salient scientific theory….so you can thank Star Trek for automatic doors, cell phones, iPads, and science is still working on hot green women. Apparently there are only so many writers engineers…

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AROW80 Check-In for January 29, 2014

Howdy, howdy, howdy!  Hope everybody’s having a good week. I’m feeling lazy as a bump, which I’m blaming on the weather — though at least it was warmer today. That’s right, we hit double digits!  And tomorrow we’re supposed to be in the 30s so that’s going to be like having a heat wave.

Had a doctor’s appointment today, which went well enough. Had some blood drawn for lab work (I’m a Type II diabetic), so now I’m worrying a bit about the results. No real reason to, other than that I’m always worried when it comes time for my results.  My blood pressure was 122/88 which was good and while I’ve gained weight since my last visit, it was only three pounds so, here’s hoping that my A1C levels are still nice and low.

My doctor did suggest that I take another diabetic education class which I readily agreed to. My last diabetic education class was when I was first diagnosed back in 2000 or 2001 so I’m thinking that it’s highly likely that nearly everything I learned then is out of date.  I foresee changes in my diet approaching, which’ll be for the best.

I also got a flu shot which hurt but better safe than sorry, I suppose.  I whined and moaned about the needles, as I usually do, because I am terrified of them — though I don’t really understand why since it honestly doesn’t hurt *that* bad. The flu shot hurt but I think that’s because it’s an injection but the blood draw was barely even a pinch. Pulling the bandage off hurt more. Stupid, irrational fears and their irrationalness!

Previous Goals: 

  • I finished reading Race, Ethnicity and Nuclear War and it turned out to be as full of good crunchy information as I’d hoped it would be. Particularly one chapter about the reactions of African-American writers, scholars and activists to nuclear war. I took about ten pages of notes on that chapter alone.
  • Haven’t done much of anything else yet, but the night is young! I got a new copy of Lee Killough’s Checking on Culture: An Aid to Building Story Backgrounds and I’m planning on using the checklist she has to do some worldbuilding in the Defcon ‘verse.

Goals for the Week

  • In terms of writing, same as last week: to get up off my butt and DO something to get myself back into the swim and stop goofing around.
  • Adding some personal goals: check into diabetes education, pick up my perscriptions and get motivated to start losing weight and exercising more. My health isn’t the worst but it could be a lot better.
  • Hell, just work on getting motivated at all, since I’m in an all-around slump — which I’m at least partly blaming on the weather.  (I live in fear that one of these days, the weather is going to knock on my door and give me a cease and desist order for using it as a scapegoat for things…)

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AROW80 Check-In for January 22, 2014

Sooo, about those goals for this week….uhm…yeahhhhh…

I gotta admit, I’m in a slump.  I think part of it has to do with the weather and its insistence on going from cold to hot to OH DEAR GOD WHY IS IT SO COLD?!   It’s just sapping the energy out of me and making it hard to want to do much of anything else.  Am so sleepy! *whines*

Another part of it is that I’ve hit a wall in Defcon: Fade Out and I’m finding it easier to do other things than to try and scale the wall.  On the plus side, I’m pretty sure I know what I need to do to help me get moving — I just need to make myself apply butt to chair, pen to hand, and writing to paper and work on outlining Chapter 12. Even though I know that I will likely either scrap what I’ll write or change it drastically when I start typing it up.

Why I’m scared of writing an outline, I do not know. It’s almost like this writing thing is getting too close to real (in the sense of having an actual draft) and it’s making me want to shy away and hide.

Though, on a good note, I’ve figured out that a couple of my characters — niece and aunt — are originally from Detroit and managed to get out of the city after World War III.  It doesn’t directly impact the book I’m working on right now, but it will be a key part of earlier books and will probably ripple forward.

At the risk of sounding like one of those #overlyhonestmethods scientists, Detroit was chosen because it is a large city in the general region of the US where the rest of the books will be taking place and was used as a test case for nuclear bombing by the Office of Technology Assessment in a 1979 report to Congress on the effects of nuclear war.  Which gives me a primary source from close to the time when World War III pops off, thereby making extrapolating things easier.

As another way of avoiding actually working on the book, I’ve also been creating a bibliography of my research materials for the entire Defcon Series. Partly because I’ve discovered that one of my local libraries will do interlibrary loan and I don’t want to request books I’ve either already read or already own.  Of course, due to a sense of intense laziness, I’m currently not wanting to go and dig the books off my shelves/out of the piles they’ve been stacked in.

Goals for this week:

  • Haven’t watched much Supernatural this week; been catching up on some of the regular TV I’ve recorded (new season of Archer started this week! WHOO! DANGER ZONE!) and some of the episodes of other shows I’ve missed like Bones and Raising Hope.
  • I am still working my way through Story Engineering which I think has also contributed to my slump because reading the book makes me see just where my story is currently falling short — and is giving me ideas on how to fix it, so yay me!
  • Have written not one word for Chapter Twelve but the day is not over yet and once I wake up, I might make myself at least outline/freewrite.
  • did take the books back to the library and made some photocopies from a book called The Psychology of Nuclear War, which is a copy of a report done by the British Psychological Society in 1984 about, well, what it says on the tin.  The other book, which I didn’t make copies from because I went ahead and bought it for myself — is a collection of satiric political cartoons called “We Survive World War Three and You Give Us Light Beer?: Life After Megadeath” by Pat Bagley.  
  • Visiting AROW80 folks — I fell down on this one again, but I will try to do better this round!
  • Also did not get any more oranges but the week is not over yet!

Goals for this Round:

  • Get some oranges, they sound good now.
  • Keep reading Story Engineering and move on to Writing the Fiction Series. Plus, I’ve got a couple non-writing research books coming in through interlibrary loan.
  • Noodle something about Chapter Twelve.
  • Take the girlfriend to see I, Frankenstein this week for some cheesy Frankenstein’s Monster vs. Gargoyles action — and maybe some stir fry, aww yeah!

# # # # #

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AROW80 Check-In for January 19, 2014

Another short I-should-be-in-bed-why-am-I-not-in-bed?! post!:

Previous Goals: 

  • Still watching Supernatural; up to Season Five!
  • Haven’t worked on Defcon: Fade Out Chapter 12 at all, except in the ‘thinking about what I need to write’ and doing a bit of research in regards to tracking people.
  • Still reading Story Engineering; I’ve just started on the section on story structure and I’m learning a lot and it’s making me rethink some of the structure of my book.
    • Also finished reading Writing The Other, which helped to reinforce things I’ve already been thinking about and gave me some ideas for things to do with some of my characters.

Goals For This Week:

  • Keep watching Supernatural since in addition to being research for Butcher’s Bill, it’s also good reference for Story Engineering.  Also, the Winchester boys are still pretty. And screwed up. Those poor, poor, damaged boys…
  • Keep reading Story Engineering and, once I’m done with it, switch over to reading Writing the Fiction Series. Then it’s on to Story Physics.
  • Write something for Chapter Twelve, even if it’s just an outline, so I don’t lose momentum. Or too much momentum.
  • Take books back to the libraries and make some photocopies for research purposes.
  • Visit folks in AROW80 and IWSG
  • Get some more oranges at the grocery store — had one tonight at work and it was not only delicious, but my hands smelled good for most of the rest of the night.

And now, off to bed. I hope everybody has a great and productive week!

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AROW80 Check-In for January 15, 2014

First off, I want to apologize for not checking in with as many folks as I usually do this time around.  Real life circumstances — mostly involving a lack of sleep — got in the way but I will endeavor to do better this time around!

Previous Goals: 

  • Up to Season Four in Supernatural! The fit has hit the shan, for Sam and Dean! These are some episodes I’ve never seen so I’m enjoying not getting so many minutes into an episode and going “Oh! Yeah! This is the one where the refrigerator is haunted by the ghosts of leftovers past!”
    • For research purposes, the show is raising some interesting questions about what it means to hunt monsters/live with knowledge that the majority of people don’t have.
  • I finished Defcon: Fade Out Chapter Eleven and I’m working on Chapter 12 now. This one will probably take a bit of doing since it’s a chapter I’m going to have to write from whole cloth but forward motion is continuing and I am happy.
  • I started reading Story Engineering  I finished the chapters on Concept last night at work — and even took notes!
    • On the one hand, I like the book a lot and I think Brooks’ approach is very valuable — it’s certainly a lot more practical than some story writing books I’ve read and I like that.
    • On the other hand, I’m beginning to suspect that Defcon as a whole and this book in particular needs a lot more work than I thought it did. Which is actually something I’ve been worried about for a while now, but Brooks’ book is helping me to put words to my doubts.  This is probably a good thing.  No, it is definitely a good thing, but it is also making me want to whine and stomp my feet because it feels like the work will never end and I’m never going to have a finished book and *flail*.
    • On the third hand, I know that there will be an end and I will finish the work and there is no need to flail like an angry Muppet.

kermit-yay-flail-o

Like this, only with more swearing and maybe tears…

Goals for the Week:

  • Keep working on Defcon: Fade Out, because if nothing else, I’m at least getting A narrative written down.
  • Keep reading Story Engineering and taking notes. Also to try following the Concept exercise to help flesh out my ideas.
  • I’m also reading Writing the Fiction Series by Karen S. Wiesner. I’m thinking that this book and Story Engineering are going to dove-tail together nicely.
  • Keep reminding myself that, as Jake the Dog says:

Dude sucking at something

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Supernatural: Bloodlust

Since we finished Rosemary and Thyme, we’re back to rewatching Supernatural episodes in order to catch up with the seasons we’ve missed (like, everything after 3, I think…) and we just got to one of my favorite lines in the whole series:

Dean and Sam have been asking a local sheriff about some cattle mutilations and their possible connection to weird satanic ritual stuff.  The sheriff’s response makes me dance in my seat, in part because it’s just so delightfully sarcastic:

Sheriff: Because there’s no such thing as cattle mutilation. Cow drops, leave it in the sun, within forty eight hours the bloat will split it open so clean it’s just about surgical. The bodily fluids fall down into the ground and get soaked up because that’s what gravity does. But, hey, it could be Satan. What newspaper did you say you work for?

Character creation questionnaires and Worldbuilding checklists

A bunch of checklists I found here, there and everywhere posted for my and others future reference:

AROW80 Check-in for December 18, 2013

First things first, I wanted to share this post I found over at Tumblr for a couple reasons.  For the linkphobic, it’s a scan of a couple comic book pages that depict a group of normal human beings confronting a superpowered baddie.  The group is led by a little old lady, who throws a brick at the baddie and yells “No pasaran!” This is awesome enough in and of itself, because all too often in superhero stories we don’t see the bystanders doing anything but acting as victims and scenery in the stories and in this scene, we see the everyday people standing up to a baddie.  It’s a nice reminder that while a story may focus on the Avengers or Batman or Superman, there are other people who exist in that story universe who are still significant in their own right.

The other awesome thing is that someone, not (to the best of my knowledge) anyone connected to the writing of the comic said “This lady needs a name” and proceeded to not only create a name for the character but also an entire backstory created around the name.  An awesome backstory that takes this background character who little more an extra with a few speaking lines, into a fully developed and realized character.

It’s also an excellent example of how to create a character based off of a few, basic pieces of demographic information and a willingness to stretch one’s imagination and add a bit of flavor to a story.

Writing Goals:

  • Defcon: Fade Out: As I mentioned in another post, Chapter Seven is DONE!  Haven’t started writing/editing Chapter Eight yet, but that is still in the pipeline
  • Gem City: Spent more time doing background worldbuilding type stuff, including figuring out how power levels work — mainly to try and keep things within the realm of the realistic.  Using a list of fictional powers from Wikipedia, I divided them into three very rough categories (physical, mental and metaphysical) and then sorted powers into the different groups.  Metaphysical is the holding area for any and all powers that are practically magic/completely unrealistic.  These are very, very rare in the Gem City ‘verse. In fact, the ratio goes 75% of all powers are physical (enhanced strength, being able to rapidly heal ala Wolverine, etc), 20% mental (telepathy, telekinesis, etc) and 5% metaphysical (able to stretch like rubber, control ice or fire with your mind, teleport, etc).
    • ALSO! I figured out how Will (the Reverse Batman) lost his parents and how their death motivated him. It clicked while I was reading The Law of Superheroes. 
  • I’m still listening to Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential.  If you’re interested in reading and/or listening to it, do NOT do so while you are hungry.  You will die of starvation.  The only book that’s worse to read when you’re hungry, is Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy, wherein we learn that 19th century farmers ate an entire Vegas casino buffet for every meal.
  • Started reading Of Mice and Men and while the kid is done reading it for school I think I should be a good girl and read it all myself since it’s a classic and I’ve never read it. (BTW, the kid is taking her exams this week so if y’all could send a few good vibes her way, that would be appreciated!)

Current Goals:

  • Defcon: Fade Out:  Finish Chapter Eight; print out drafts of other chapters so that the work can progress.
  • Gem City: Fine tune work on powers, type up draft of short story, create character backgrounds for the main characters I have so far. Continue researching — mainly The Law of Superheroes and some other books that I have handy, some mine, some library books.
  • Kinstealer: Listening to Dan Carlin’s podcast, Hardcore History as background research. Not sure where it’ll eventually end up, but there’s a vibe going on.
  • Wrap Christmas Presents and bake brownies for the girlfriend to take to work. Also help the kid study for her midterms.

And, for fun of it, here’s a poll!

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Links! So Many Links!

Links from io9.com:

10 Genres that Superheroes Have Swallowed Up

10 Essential Elements of a Great Escapist Hero

What superpower would you want to abuse for personal enjoyment?

The 10 Totally Awesome Rules of Evolution in Science Fiction

7 Bad Storytelling Habits That We All Learned from Superhero Comics

We who spoke LOLcat now speak Doge — not superhero related, but much relevant

Why Americans Became Obsessed with Ninjas

Other Links:

Welcome to the Real World By Iain Jackson — Part One: Location, Location, Location, and the High Cost of Heroes (and Villains) and Part Two: Crime and Punishment, Law and Disorder

Superhero Law

AROW80 Check-In for December 15, 2013

Hooboy,I am beat like a rented mule! Mainly because it’s 548 am my time and I just got home from work and I am tiiiired. *whines and flops* But, here’s a quick check-in since tomorrow is going to be a bit hectic.

  • Writing Goals:
    • Defcon: Fade Out: I added a bit more to Chapter Seven; it’s not done yet but should be if I put some effort into it.  The good news is that Chapter Eight is more or less written and just needs to be edited into the current worldview thingy of the book (I mentioned I’m writing this at nearly 6am after work, right? My brain, she is owwie).
      • I came up with a slight alteration of the plot, regarding the motivations/reasons for why some things are going on based off of a chapter in Freakonomics (was listening to the audiobook in the car this week). So, color me happy!
  • Gem City:  No progress on the typing up or editing of any stories, but I did a bit more meta work on power levels, looked up the entymology of the word ‘mook’ and learned some interesting things, wrote a scene snippet that I’m pretty proud of.
    • Speaking of audio books, I’m currently listening to the unabridged version of Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential as read by the man himself. For some reason, his stories of learning the restaurant business is resonating with me as the voice of a lifelong henchman. It seems to be a combination of Bourdain’s voice and the bad boy, shadowy insular vibe that comes from his stories.  Or maybe it has something to do with this quote about the book from Wikipedia:
    • The commercial kitchen is described as an intense, unpleasant and sometimes hazardous place of work staffed by what he describes as misfits. Bourdain believes it’s no place for hobbyists and all those entering this industry will run away screaming if they lack a masochistic, irrational dedication to cooking.

        • Yeah, that sounds a lot like a henchman’s work environment to me, all right.
  • Other Stuff: 
    • Finally started reading Of Mice and Men — I was surprised to find out it was such a teeny book.
    • Still reading comics but I think I might have to switch to another library because I’ve kind of pumped the one I’m going to dry.  I’m thinking the other branch of this library will have some titles that this one doesn’t have.  Also, there’s the other library system in the city that I need to plumb.
    • Kitchen got cleaned! Because I made a deal with the girlfriend that if she cleaned it, I would go out and get groceries (we have a very, very small kitchen so this was entirely equitable).
  • Current Goals: Pretty much the same as they were on the 11th, except minus the kitchen cleaning and add in wrap presents.

Hope everybody is having a good week; y’all take care.

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