babarnett: (puppet angel)

Lately life seems to be happening faster than I can blog about it, which is in many ways a good thing. It’s also probably what Twitter was created for, but unfortunately, Twitter and I don’t quite get each other. We’re like co-workers who can get along perfectly well in the workplace, but in social situations we just sort of stare awkwardly at each other and make lame comments about the weather.

Anyway, the things! I must blog them!

Thing #1) If you haven’t read “The Girl Who Welcomed Death to Svalgearyen” in Beneath Ceaseless Skies because you prefer to have someone else read your fiction for you, you’re in luck! The story is now available as a shiny podcast, where it receives a wonderful narration by Tina Connolly. So if you’re in the mood for a lighthearted tale about death, go forth and listen!

Thing #2) Daily Science Fiction has launched a Kickstarter campaign.  Among the rewards being offered are short story critiques by DSF authors like myself and many other awesome people. So if you’re a writer, you have a chance to both support an awesome publication and get feedback from one of the authors they’ve published. If you’re not a writer, there are other rewards available, so check it out! Because DSF? Totally worth it, if you ask me.

Thing #3) If you’re reading this post on my website and notLivejournal (and really, are there more than like five of us even left on LJ at this point?), you may have noticed that things look a bit different. I didn’t plan to spend my entire weekend redesigning my website, but I did. Was I procrastinating? Yes. Should I have been writing instead? Yes. Do I regret it? No, because the whole process inadvertently led to me to The Copenhagen Chansonnier, a medieval music manuscript with awesomely whimsical drawings of things like the lady conversing with a snail dude in my website header. You’re welcome.

Thing #4) Somewhere in all of the craziness that is my schedule, fiction has been accomplished! I’ve finally gotten around to revising some flash pieces that I wrote back in January, right before my spring semester from hell devoured all of my writing time. One of those flash pieces has already sold, one is making the submission rounds, one needs just a bit more tweaking before I send it out, and the fourth one is no longer a flash story—it got expanded into a 3,400-word horror story and has just started wandering around Submission Land looking for work. And it has creepy puppets. With nasty defecation habits. Once again, you’re welcome.

babarnett: (farscape aeryn genius)
*taps the blog mic*

Is this thing on?

So, yeah, I’ve been rubbish about posting lately. Life has been consumed by a big busy combo of workshopping craziness, vacationing, trying to finish things up at Ye Olde Day Job before my last day (two more weeks!), and preparing for that whole wacky grad school thing I’ll be starting in September. There has been precious little time for writing, which makes me cranky.

As for the aforementioned workshopping craziness, that would be TNEO (aka The Never-Ending Odyssey), which I attended last month, and it was all manner of awesome. Awesome people, awesome feedback, and awesome moments of writing-related light bulbs going off. Like three-act structure. For some reason, I always had the hardest time getting a firm grasp on three-act structure, but this time it finally clicked and I could finally see where I had (unknowingly) used it in some of my stuff.

I had two short stories and a novel chapter critiqued at TNEO this year, and I’m totally stoked to get the revision work underway on them. It’s easy to walk out of critique sessions overwhelmed by feedback overload, especially when you get conflicting opinions. But this year, there was so much consensus as to what was and wasn’t working in my submissions and so much helpful brainstorming that I feel like I know exactly what I need to do and won’t be bogged down trying to sort through conflicting reactions.

One really helpful session we did at TNEO was a plot breakout technique. Each person presented a plot they wanted help with, after which we would do about a half an hour’s worth of brainstorming that involved lots of adding and rearranging and deleting of various plot elements, done with index cards on a board. I was looking for ways to strengthen Act 2 (now that I know where Act 2 is!) of one of the major plot threads in My Big Fat Epic Fantasy Novel and got lots of great ideas, including more characters to kill (always a plus in my book). My collection of index cards ended up looking like this:



That big mess o' cards down the middle would be Act 2, with Act 1 to the left and Act 3 to the right.

Now if only life would settle the hell down and let me get in some more writing time, I could make better use of all that crazy awesome brainstorming!
babarnett: (ash boomstick)
A month and a half after I started the damn thing, and the de-crapified second draft of my novel-prequel-ish short story (now titled Demon Dreams) is finally done. The wee beastie beefed up to 6,700 words in the second draft. That's what a hearty diet of more detail and description will do for one's fictional figure. Now I just need to give the beastie a final go over, and then it's into the critiquing pile while I start something else. 

I'll be doing The Never-Ending Odyssey (aka TNEO) again this summer, so it's that weird time of year where I have to wait several months after finishing a story to get critiques on it.  (Well, I'll probably throw the story at my lovely local group, the Awesome Ladies of Awesomeness, for our next meeting, but I'll wait until I have the TNEO crits as well before making any major revisions.)  Being forced to wait is probably a good thing for me.  Even though I take forever to write stories sometimes (or maybe because I take forever to write them), I tend toward impatience, wanting to get them out the door in speedy fashion as soon as they're done. So it's probably healthy for me to have to sit on a few of them for a spell and see how they age. 

And speaking of TNEO, I get to take on the roll of moderator this year, which I'm sure will keep me super busy on top of all the critiquing and writing to be done for it.  But I'm looking forward to it.
babarnett: (edna the incredibles)
1. Thursday morning, I get up butt early to hop on a plane to Colorado with [livejournal.com profile] shvetufae  for Sirens.  Any chance I'll be seeing any other flisters there? (aside from the lovely ladies I'm rooming with, of course)

2. Thankfully I don't get these very often, but it always makes my brain blow up a little when you get a story comment along the lines of "I don't understand how Joe got to the store. Did he walk?  That seems like a long way to go, so I'm not sure if he would of made it there in time to run into Mary if he walked" and you're like, "Um, the first sentence of the previous paragraph says, 'Joe got in his car and drove to the store.'"

3. Not much to report on the writerly front.  This week has been spent puzzling over how to restructure chapter 2 so that it's a little more "people do stuff" and a little less "people think about stuff."  I think I'm going to move some chapter 5 bits into this earlier chapter. Then comes smoothing the seams so that the bits flow and don't seem like no more than a cut-and-paste job.

4. I generally don't post about politics and other potentially divisive topics.  I'm not saying that I don't think anyone should post about those things (many of my friends do), just that I have my reasons for not doing so.  But man, do I ever find myself muttering "What the !@#$ is wrong with people?" lately.  That is all.

5. Back to the trivial: shoes.  When a pair of shoes I love because they're both cute and comfortable finally die on me, 99% of the time I will never be able to find that particular style again.  Thankfully, today was that 1% of time when I not only found the same style again, but in my size and color of preference.  Oh happy shoe day!
babarnett: (dr. horrible ahhhh)
1. Gaaaaaah!  That sums up recent weeks for me and explains my scattered internet presence as of late.

2. As a dreadfully slow reader, I cower when faced with a book large enough to bludgeon someone to death with.  So when I recently saw a book review on Amazon that began by expressing disappointment at the sheer size of the novel, I thought I had found a kindred spirit--until it turned out that their disappointment stemmed from 400 pages being far too short for their tastes.

3. I forget what got me thinking about this the other day, but it's fascinating how sometimes, because of cliches and expectations, the change of one minor detail in what is otherwise the same exact story can garner totally different reactions.  One story of mine originally included a drug-induced dream sequence with a talking cat.  After two rejections bemoaned it as being yet another talking cat story, I changed the cat to a pug.  I believe I quite literally did a find-and-replace of "cat" for "pug" in the document.  Next rejection? "The talking pug was great."

4. Story passed up the editorial food chain at Realms of Fantasy.  *squees while crossing fingers*

5.  *Looks at pile of critiques that need to be done* Gaaaaah!
babarnett: (puppet angel)
I'm back.  Sort of.  I'm liable to disappear again for blips of time, but I've actually had a chance to read and *gasp* comment on some LJ posts since yesterday.  The week or so before that, though...well, please do fill me in if I missed anything terribly exciting, like you just sold a novel or cured cancer or something.

TNEO Progress-O-Meter
I got the bulk of the Big Mass O' Research I needed to do for my TNEO lecture done, so that's a relief.  Now I just need to organize it all into a lecture, which is still work, but it's the easier part for me and less likely to make my eyes cross the way plowing through agent listings and websites and deal news did.

I'm not as far along on my TNEO critiquing as I was hoping to be by this point--one crit complete, *cough mumble cough cough* more to go.  But I've at least done a first read through of all of the first round novel chapters, and I have nowhere to be this weekend, so I intend to be a critiquing mad woman.  And, if the weather cooperates, bicycling will hopefully be on the menu as well.

The Writerly Update
Novel progress has been sloooooow.  Surprisingly so.  I was sure this chapter would go faster, but I forgot how much rewriting I needed to do in the opening scene.  Giving a character a complete personality transplant will do that.  But it all came together, just in time for me to kill the character off.  Official Big Fat Epic Fantasy Body Count: 5ish.  I say "ish" because a) I'm not counting some random guards and mercenary types who've bought it, and b) three of the five-ish were extremely minor characters, but I've decided that they count because walking into a room full of three bloodied dead folks was kind of a big deal for the not-dead folks.

And on that note, I seem to have caught another dang cold, so I need to get myself to bed.

Post-pourri

Sep. 2nd, 2009 12:21 am
babarnett: (angel wesley crazy fu)
The Crazy
I may become a bit more sparse on LJ as I've now officially gone full-time at work, which is a good thing, but a bit of an adjustment after the many months of lazy part-time days I'd been doing.

The Pimping
It's not available to order just yet, but it appears that the publication of From the Asylum's Year 4 Anthology is imminent (though I'm still sad to see FTA folding up shop *sniff*).  I have a flash story called "Tastes Like Dolphin" in there, which I was very pleased to have a friend describe as "a pleasantly effed up little story."  And it'll be in good company as I spied some of my lovely writerly LJ flisters in the TOC:  [livejournal.com profile] ckastens , [livejournal.com profile] hierath  (whose post called my attention to the antho's impending arrival), [livejournal.com profile] lonfiction , and [livejournal.com profile] musingaloud .

The Critique Solicitation
I finally finished "Mortis Persona" tonight.  I would normally toss it to my in-person crit group, but because of all the crazy flux going on with my life, I haven't been to a meeting in a while, and I don't know when I'm going to be able to make another one.  I'm tempted to just send this story off as is (heck, the one time I did that before, the story sold on the first shot), but if anyone out there has the time and inclination to crit a 5,600-word fantasy story, you'll have my gratitude and a promise to return the favor--unless, of course, you already owe me the favor, in which case we'll call it even.

On a related note, I'm a little late to the party on this one, but since "Mortis Persona" has a gay protagonist, this seems worth calling attention to: Outer Alliance Pride Day.
babarnett: (get fuzzy enlightened bucky)
Reading Update
Slowly making my way through Writers of the Future XXIV. Because of work, I can't carve out as much daily reading time as I used to, and I didn't read much at all this past week due to other distractions, so I've only gotten through the first five stories.  My favorites so far have been Patrick Lundrigan's ([livejournal.com profile] dandyfunk ) "Hangar Queen" and J. Kathleen Cheney's ([personal profile] j_cheney ) "Taking a Mile." I also enjoyed Sonia Helbig's ([livejournal.com profile] soniahelbig ) "Crown of Thorns."

When searching for suggestions on combating feelings of writerly slugdom, [profile] kannibal_kat  suggested The Writer's Portable Therapist.  I put picking up a copy on my list of "things I will get to soonish," but then I came home the other day to find a copy sitting on my desk, courtesy of The Best Significant Other Ever.  Seeing how little the book is (it definitely lives up to the "portable" part of the title), I decided to dive right in.  I can't say that the book's first "session" (aka chapter) led to any slog-curing insights as of yet, but it did get me writing for about 40 minutes straight last night.  It was random writing and not something that anyone but me is ever going to see, but it felt nice to just spew out words without stopping or fixing typos. 

Writerly Musings: Critiquing
Some recent conversations have gotten me thinking about critiques a lot lately--the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Thoughts under the cut... )
babarnett: (ash boomstick)
Slowly but surely, the productivity groove is being re-established. I feel like I have a much better grip on the new job now, and today I got my first grant proposal for them out the door, so yay. Another week or two, and life may start feeling normal again.

I had a fun weekend that went by way too quickly: wine tastings Saturday afternoon, a fun dinner with [livejournal.com profile] shvetufae and our significant other-types Saturday evening, and an afternoon of wackiness with my writing group in Philly on Sunday. And on either side of all that, there was productivity.  So on that note, here's the productivity report since Friday:

Reading: I've read and enjoyed the first three stories in Prime Codex: "To the East, a Bright Star" by James Maxey, "Ticktock Girl" by Cat Rambo, and "The Man With Great Despair Behind His Eyes" by Ken Scholes.

Exercise: Got in 20 minutes on the elliptical strider on Friday, but had to take yesterday and today off due to injury. Coming home from my writing group meeting on Sunday, I slipped in the train station and banged my left knee on the floor. There's a big honking bruise there now, but otherwise it's ok--luckily, I hit just below the kneecap.  I think I can safely resume exercising tomorrow.

Music: Lots of piano playing and singing. We were short altos for the second week in a row in my church choir, so I got to be a switch hitter, which has led to everyone dubbing me a sopralto.

Writing-Related Stuff: I had to crit two stories for Sunday's writing group meeting, and I was quite relieved to be free of critique dread for the first time in a long time.  Woo hoo! In the submissions department, two stories have come home.  One went right back out the door, but the other one is torn about whose slush pile it wants to visit next.  I'll give it a few days, but any longer than that and it's gonna have to start paying rent if it wants to stay on my hard drive.

Writing: A little over 500 words (maybe more) on the zombie story.  Not phenomenal progress, but I think I'm finally getting a better sense of what this story wants to be, which might help me get through the rest of the first draft faster now that I won't be groping my way around in the dark anymore.
babarnett: (doctor who chair)
The slug almost triumphed today. Almost. I was still feeling sick and crappy, yet managed to achieve a small level of productivity.

Reading: About a chapter and a half of Musicophilia.

Exercising: I took a sick day on the exercise front. Point to the slug.

Music Stuff: Piano lesson in the afternoon, though I had to skip out on choir rehearsal in the evening. Stupid sore throat.

Writing-Related Stuff: No writing today.  Instead I decided to get critiques done for this weekend's writing group meeting.  I was going to space them out over the next few days, but possibly because of the lovely world of medication, I wasn't feeling my usual critique dread today and thought it best to take advantage of that.  Tomorrow, though, it's back to the writing.  I've got a zombie story I started a while ago that needs to be finished.
babarnett: (doctor who happy face)
Ah, today was so much better than yesterday.  No gremlins, and I had a much easier time than usual getting out of bed.

Reading: More of Musicophilia.  Gotta love a book that combines my music geekery with my fairly newfound fascination with neuroscience.

Exercise: 30 minute yoga session.  I'm always amazed by the way yoga manages to kick my ass on a physical level while relaxing me on a mental level.

Music Stuff: Did some practicing.

Writing: Only a little bit of work done on the chapter 2 rewrite, but I had less time than usual at my disposal today since I had a hairdresser appointment and a re-sized bracelet to go pick up.  I'm actually amazed I got any writing done at all.  In the past, I've been terrible about going, "Well, there's no sense getting into this story if I'm just going to have to leave in an hour or two, so I'll play a game or surf the internet instead."

Other Stuff: Critiqued a story for this weekend's writing group meeting. Speaking of critiquing . . .

The only downside to my day is that I still seem to be suffering from critique burnout.  Ever since I finally got through the gazillion stories we had to crit for TNEO last summer, I've come to dread critiquing.  It's gotten better, but every time I sit down to critique something, I still have this feeling of dread--not of the "this is gonna suck" variety, but rather of the "I want to do anything but critique" variety.  So unless I have a deadline to get it done by, simply starting a critique is a major challenge for me. 

If the story ends up being really interesting and/or just has really strong writing, the dread usually goes away and I can critique in a healthy state of mind, even if I have a fair amount of criticism to offer.  But as soon as I start finding lots of issues and/or there's nothing in the story that really hooks me, the dread gets worse--especially if there are problems on the basic grammar level.  I'll feel like I've been reading forever only to glance down and see that I'm only on page 2 out of 24.  And that's not good, because that dread doesn't help me or the poor soul who's going to get my dread-shrouded critique.

So on that note, anyone know of any cures for critique-a-phobia?
babarnett: (doctor who chair)
Reason #1
First draft of story: Many people in Crit Group 1 think the protagonist is too slow figuring out what's going on.

Second draft of story, in which the protagonist figures things out at the point suggested in previous crits: Many people in Crit Group 2 think the protagonist figures things out far too quickly.

Reason #2
Significant number of crits: strong setting, lots of great detail throughout

Equally significant number of crits: generic or no sense of setting, needs more detail

Reason #3
Don't even get me started on the lack of consensus on whether the title is good or makes absolutely no sense.



babarnett: (ash boomstick)
In other words, I just finished the last of my TNEO crits today.  As of mid-June, I only had two left to go, but between the time spent on the previous TNEO stories and the critting I have to do for my in-person writing group every other week, I kept putting those two off because I was so darn sick of critiquing.  Every time I picked up a story, I was overcome with an insanely strong compulsion to check my email and tidy up my office files and add music to iTunes and work on my own stories and make to-do lists.

Amazingly, I didn't delve into LJ very much for diversion.  In fact, I've been a little neglectful.  I've been reading my friends list posts, but only occasionally chiming in.  So in case you've been losing sleep over it, I am still alive.  Doesn't feel like it sometimes, though.  I think I require more caffeine.

Oh, and back to the subject of critiques and writing groups and the like, a big old thank you to [profile] squirrel_monkey for her visit to our humble little Philly group last weekend.  It made for an awesomely writerly afternoon.

In other news, I am officially a Mac convert now.  My shiny new Macbook arrived last week, and I love it.  I still have a PC as my desktop (I wasn't planning to get a new laptop until my old one started crapping out on me), but when that puppy starts to die, it's getting replaced with a Mac.

I've also got my TNEO lecture all ready to go.  I think it'll be fun.  There are entirely too many awesome scenes I could use for the exercises I'll have folks doing, though, which made it hard to choose a few that would fit into the allotted time.  But choose I did.

Anyway, now that I've gotten all that down, it's back to critiquing non-TNEO stuff.  And then *gasp* doing a little of my own writing.
babarnett: (yoda)
Procrastinatory me got all of my Odyssey notes typed up as of today.  Yay for vague sense of accomplishment!

On the not-so-accomplished side of the spectrum, my other goal for this weekend was to get my leprechaun story (which is undergoing a title change from "Family Luck" to "Unlucky Clover") revised and in the mail before I head down the shore tomorrow.  Yeah, didn't happen.  I made some progress on the revisions, but it's going a lot slower than I thought it would.  My internal editor--an annoying, temperamental little pain in the butt on a good day--seems to have been joined by the phantom voices of the Odyssey critique circle.  You guys are a picky bunch, even when you're only in my head.

Anyway, after a way-too-early-in-the-morning dentist appointment tomorrow, I'm off to the shore for a week and a half.  I may actually get something accomplished in the writing department while I'm there--the house my in-laws rent has a great deck to escape to for that.  But it's also possible that the call of copious reading material that I don't have to critique may be too strong to resist and cut into my writing time...which may not be such a bad thing.

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