Vectors

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I am a creature of momentum, and frankly, it makes life really difficult.  I suppose, to a degree, everyone has this problem, and I know I’m not alone in this difficulty.  It’s the reason that kids throw a tantrum when they have to change activities.  It’s why binge-watching has become how people consume television programs.  It’s why gamers will sit down and intend to play for one level or just this one quest, and then get up hours later only thanks to the demands of biology. It’s why knitters lie and say ‘just one more row’ or bookworms claim they’re only reading till the end of the chapter.  Once you’re doing something, it’s so much easier and more satisfying to just keep doing that thing pretty much forever.

Still, most people are capable of getting their butts up at the end of lunch or a break or when they finish the one task they need to complete, in order to move on to the next thing they need to attend do.  Turning off the TV and going to start dinner doesn’t feel like an impossibly difficult thing for most normal folks, and ordinarily, I’m able to manage to force myself to get into the kitchen and feed myself and my family.

It’s just my circumstances right now that are really messing with me.  My sleeping habits are not the greatest, as you’re aware by now.  Added to that, the dark peacefulness of the small hours of the night are the only quiet I really get to myself.  But this translates into not waking up before The Boy does, not that it’d be easy to do that anyway.  Kid’s up at almost 5 am daily and has been since birth.

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Photo credit: Fairy Heart ♥ on Visual hunt / CC BY-SA

So, he gets up and plays in his room, often with a Nintendo DS or the Switch, but there’s Legos and robots and other things to amuse him as well.  Then my husband gets up and gets through his morning routine to get ready for work, and then… well, lately I sleep through all of that.  I’ll wake up when my alarm goes off at quarter till nine.  Now, it’s not an alarm I set to get me out of bed.  It’s an alarm I set to remind me to keep a record of something at nearly the same time every day.  It’s a business thing. And for the past month, I’ve managed to almost sleep right through it.

So the day is already off to a poor start.  Instead of getting up and being ready to leave the house with my husband like I’m supposed to, to walk with The Boy to the market and get the day’s groceries (which was working really well for a while!) we’re lucky to leave the house at all.  I’m in pajamas most weekdays, much to the amusement of a couple of delivery guys who’ve been by.

It’s a struggle that I’m trying to break free of, and my body hasn’t been helping with the back-to-back colds I’ve had in the last few weeks.  The bright side of this is, though, that if I can start writing in the morning like I have the past few days, I can bang out a pretty respectable word count by bedtime.  Which means that I’m making headway on short stories, and on a few other projects.  So there is a small glimmer of light at the end of this tunnel.  I just hope I can shift my habits around a bit and get some more positive momentum going.

After all, the holidays are coming, and nothing wreaks more havoc on a routine than December.

Akihabara

I honestly don’t know what to write for this post today.  I spent my weekend mostly just hanging out with family and friends.  We bought The Boy a desk lamp.  He asked to do some school on Saturday morning, so we did that.  We made Science Cookies— simple shortbread cookies that we weighed before and after baking to document any possible changes in mass since his science unit is discussing measuring right now.  Science, for the record, can be super delicious.

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Photo credit: Japón Entre Amigos on Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-SA

We did run over to Akihabara to meet up with some friends who are in the business of geekery and were over there for work.  If you don’t know what it is, Akihabara is sort of a destination for all things geeky in a Japanese sort of way: anime, manga, video games, and all the related toys and foods and posters and art books and, well, merchandise that is associated with it is for sale and on display.  There are more girls in costumes selling things then I’ve seen about anywhere outside of an *ahem* more adult sort of district.

I could get into the history and all that of the place— and it is pretty interesting— but if you’re unfamiliar with the place all you need to know is that it is now somewhere across between Times Square and a traveling carnival, with an unrelenting theme of crowds and anime style.  It’s also probably the most tourist-dense place I’ve been so far in Tokyo.

The thing of it is, though, is that it’s only a few blocks long.  It’s not even more than maybe two blocks deep, either.  The crowds thin dramatically once you pass an invisible line in the pavement, and suddenly you’re just in Tokyo, albeit with a bit more emphasis on the entertainment industry.  The temple I mentioned a few weeks back was a fairly easy walk from the main strip, but the people there were a distinctly different sort of crowd: more calm, more polite, less inclined to stopping suddenly and pushing across the stream of traffic to get a better view of something.

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So it’s not much of a shock that on our way from the mobbed JR station to our friend’s hotel a few blocks away, we not only left the mass of humanity but also passed a tiny postage-stamp park with a historical marker in it.  It seems that the river (which I hadn’t even known about before, though I’m not surprised by) that runs past Akihabara also once ran past one of the major roads through Japan, from Kyoto to what was then known as Edo.  My husband told me that in the evenings when it’s not oppressively hot and soupy (and probably even when it is, if I’ve learned anything at all about the longtime locals,) young guys gather there for Tokyo-style rap battles.

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We didn’t see anyone there when we passed on Saturday, but I did get to check out the sign and took some photos of the backs of some found-space shops and cafes that are squirreled away in the arches of the train bridge.  I learned a little more about my newly adopted hometown, and, after a few stops for business, I got to have my first okonomiyaki. The restaurant was on a floor full of restaurants in what seemed to be an otherwise normal office building smack dab in the center of the Otaku Mecca.  A small, hidden-n-plain-sight oasis of quiet.

So I guess what I’m saying, really, is that when you’re traveling, it makes sense to dig a little deeper, even at the tourist sites.  Because you never know what you’ll find just off the beaten path.

Jet lag is not for sissies

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I’m writing this at almost 8 am, and I’ve been up for 4 hours already.  Still, that’s way better than yesterday when I woke up at 2!  If I can sleep in till 6 tomorrow, I’m going to call it a massive win.

So yes, we made it to Tokyo.  It’s hot and muggy and so far we’ve barely ventured out for more than groceries, but I don’t care.  I’m feeling pretty damn good about life! My husband has taken some time off today to take us to the ward office and get our resident cards all done up official-like, and then we’re going to do something about my cell phone situation.

I’ve got a ton of stuff to work out (I started by re-organizing half the kitchen and doing a serious scrub down of it this morning…) but I think I’m starting to get into a minor groove.  It’s going to be a few weeks before I have a really solid handle on our day-to-day rhythms, but I think it’s going to be okay.

Now if I could just convince myself not to try living off nothing but combini pudding…

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Depending on when you read this, a second sample chapter of Brewing Trouble may be up on my Patreon– it’s scheduled to go up mid-morning- and the short story is still available!

Space Patrol

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Photo credit: darastar via Visual Hunt / CC BY

The packing continues.  The Boy’s sheets and most of our winter clothes are in a box and in a couple of hours I’ll trek down to the post office to ship it all to Tokyo.  We’re not really taking much, but that still ends up being a ton of stuff.  So much that I’m surprised, actually.   Clothes take up a remarkable amount of space, it turns out.  I’ve been going through all the stuff I don’t wear, or don’t love, and the pile for the charity shop is getting to be fairly substantial.  That doesn’t even count the kid clothes I’m pulling because The Boy is growing like kids do.

It’s a good thing he’s got a fancy whole-apartment-in-one bed from Ikea, or we’d never have anywhere to put The Boy’s things.  In addition to the clothes and the bedding, he’s got an army of stuffed animals that he will die without.  And books (in English and Japanese) that he requires for his continued good health.  And Legos.  I have tried to explain that we won’t have all the space there that we have here in his grandparents’ house, but it’s like shouting at a rock.

And, of course, all his school things are there already as well.  We’re sort-of homeschooling until his Japanese reading and writing catches up a bit to his peers, and the online school we’re going through has sent two boxes of supplies, from books to an inflatable globe to art supplies.  His desk and shelves and dresser will be full to overflowing with his things and it’s going to be an adventure keeping everything tidy.

Meanwhile, I get two shelves in closet and no room for all my books.  I’m heartbroken, my bed doesn’t even have fancy drawers under it!  Kids get the best stuff.    What would you take if you had to live essentailly out of a suitcase?

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But where do I put all my books?!!!      Photo credit: OFTO via Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Character building

One of the things I’ve been working on with the short stories I’m writing is trying to improve my character work.  Without characters, after all, a story doesn’t go very well.  Actually, I suppose it can, but that sort of writing is way beyond my skill.  I’m willing to go a pretty long way for a good character, and let’s be honest.  More often than not the character is what catch us for a good adventure.

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Photo credit: Marvin (PA) via Visual hunt / CC BY-NC

I’ve been coming across some fantastic characters recently, both in books and in real life.  While I’m considering how the books I’ve plowed through showed these characters— the craft part of writing— I’ve also been trying to capture the characters I’ve been seeing in real life.  There’s the young man who is always reaching out to touch his friends.  It’s not anything aggressive or needy, but a hand on a shoulder or a laughing hip-check seems to be a constant thing for him, and his friends not only don’t mind, they seem to support this tactile young man by reciprocating.

There’s the grizzled older man in fatigue pants who turned to reveal that his black t-shirt is, in fact, covered in sequins.  The woman with the amazing lilac leather jacket and vinyl rainbow purse.  I see these people and want to know their stories.  I want to hear about the amazing adventures or heartbreaking tragedies they’ve got hidden behind the surface of what I can see while sitting at the cafe table. There are amazing characters everywhere if you’re paying attention, and my goal recently is to be able to do them justice when I put them down on the page.

words words words

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svenstorm on Visualhunt / CC BY-ND

Okay, I’m not a fan of Hamlet (really, don’t start me on it,) but it’s got some good quotes to steal and use as post titles.

I’ve been having a lovely email conversation with a fellow writer, and we got onto the topic of motivation and actually getting that first freaking draft written.  It’s tough, I’m not going to lie, slogging through something that is mostly pretty ephemeral in my head and getting it onto the page in a way that makes sense.  I’ll get stuck, then I’ll mess around on Facebook, or play a video game, or hide in my room and read… but none of that gets a book written.  So, in order to actually make forward progress, I’ll to set myself daily goals because I am a firm believer in momentum. (I can still hear my high school physics teacher chanting momentum is a vector in my head.  It’s a weird memory to have, but was clearly an effective teaching technique.)

I try to hit my word count every day, and I’m not terribly ambitious so it’s not a huge number of words.  NaNoWriMo has a goal of writing 50,000 words in November to finish your novel, and I use that as a basic goal for my books.  That translates into 1667 words a day and I’m not in so much of a hurry, so my personal goal is 1000.  On a good day when I have an idea of where I’m going, I can get that done easily enough, and often sprint past the NaNo goal as well, but on days where I have to be on, or have too much Adulting to do, or even just am not happy with the scene and how I’m getting from A to B within it, I have difficulty dragging even a handful of words out of my brain.

The other end of it, of course, is that I seem to have trouble stretching my books out toStockSnap_XAZG2TR9PW actual novel length.  Granted, the definition of ‘novel length’ itself is pretty unsettled.  NaNoWriMo defines it as a story of 50,000 words or more.  Writer’s Digest seems to advocate for 80,000 words.  Many books in Kindle Unlimited list their word counts and I see 90,000, 100,000, even use to 140,000 on a pretty regular basis.  Makes me feel a bit self-conscious about my short books.

But, I always remind myself that it’s not the word count that’s important.  It’s the story, and if I can serve the story best by using fewer words, then so be it.  I’m not writing epic fantasy.  For one thing, it’s not my strong suit and for another, I’d never make it to the 100,000+ words that those stories tend to take.  NaNoWriMo has set a bar at 50K and that’s been pretty generally accepted, so I aim just slightly higher at 55K.  I might hit that and I might not, and then editing changes everything.

For now, I’ve got about 10K down, 45K left to go on this one.

Tea, anyone?

The next book in the Los Gatos series is in progress, and I seem to be spending more time in the Apothecary than I have in the past.  It’s fun, actually, since I really enjoy herbal teas myself.  Yes, I have dabbled in herbalism, and though I have made salves and syrups for various ailments, I would never claim to be any sort of expert.  But the teas have always stuck with me.

So I’m having a bit of fun with this, looking up various tea blends, and the magical properties of plants, and what have you. There are a number of amazing resources out there for those who want to get deep into the health benefits of plants (and yes, a lot of it is Science and is borne out by Studies in Laboratories, but I’m not here to argue about it,) and if you want, I’ll list a few of the resources I myself have used.  But for today, I’ve been poking around online, finding recipes that sound delicious or adaptable.  Rosehip and mint tea.  Mint and ginger tea.  Citrus or apple peels and cinnamon chips.

Today, I’ve made my kitchen smell bright with lemon peel and mint fresh from our garden.  A spoon full of rosehips have added a lovely blush to my drink, and I’m thinking it’s going to be a good day to take my tea outside and read a good book in the shade of our patio.  It’s a pleasure I should afford myself more often, I think.

You may have noticed a new tab up there on the navigation bar.  I have a Patreon page now!  Want your name on my website or even *gasp!* in my books?  Or maybe you just want the sweet loot, and by ‘loot’ I mean ‘even more stories.’  Head on over to the page and check out the rewards.

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Showcase

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Photo credit: piermario via VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC-ND

One of the last shows I worked was a student showcase.  A bunch of college students— maybe 25 of them or so?— had a few weeks of master classes and what have you, and I got to run a spotlight for their culminating performance.  There were a number of excellent voices and some very, erm, interesting choices of songs, and frankly a few terrible monologues, but then the kids didn’t write the things themselves so that’s not on them at all.  One of the songs came from a show I helped to premiere, and the young lady did a fine job on it, so that was fun!

The thing is that shows like this always leave me feeling unsatisfied.  It could be a string of history’s greatest divas, and I’d still feel weird about the whole show, and I finally figured it out halfway through the tech rehearsal.  It’s that every single number in the whole show was written specifically to support a story, and it’s been ripped away from its foundations to attempt to stand on its own.  There’s nothing to hold it up, and it doesn’t much matter how amazing the voice of the singer, or the acting abilities of the performer, the song is just going to hang out like a flag on a windless day, limp and kind of sad.

It’s a shame, really.  Since these kids deserve to get the experience under their belt and a chance to prove themselves as performers.  But I’m willing to bet that the audience isn’t going to care at all about my concerns.  They probably go home humming their favorite tune from the concert, and perhaps when that show tours through town or is put on by a local theatre, they’ll get tickets. And really, in the long run, it’s all just for fun, isn’t it?

Just a reminder that Finding Insight is still at the $0.99 launch price.  If you’ve picked it up, please consider doing me a gigantic favor and leaving a review! 

Motivation

It’s summer.  I’m not sure if you’ve noticed where you are, and I guess it depends on IMG_8038where on Earth you are, but here on the East Coast of the U.S. that means it’s hot.  And sticky.  And kinda gross.  and man, nobody wants to do anything.

But I have a show I’m still helping to run every night, and I have stories to work on and a kid on summer break now and oh man.  All I want to do is hide in my room with a book or 50 and a cold drink.  So…  balance, I guess?

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The worst part about the heat and humidity, I think, is that it really saps my motivation.  Just completely.  I mean I’m getting things done, slowly, but its tough to convince myself to do things.  I will (I hope) have some news for y’all by the end of the month, or maybe early next month that you’ll find interesting.  And I’m working on sorting out the outline for the next Los Gatos book.  Basically, stuff’s happening, just slowly.  Because summer.

In current news, A Spirit’s Kindred is on sale right now, if you wanted to pick that up, and Finding Insight is still up for pre-order, ready to release next week.  For now, I guess I should get back to the story mines.  What’re you reading this summer?

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Book Report: The Wood Wife

So this week of previews at the theatre is almost over.  I have two shows to go till my day off— a matinee and an evening performance— and we’re all pretty ready for a break.  The horrifying awfulness of so much of the show is starting to wear off a bit as I get the shape of the show and my cues through it all into my bones.  That’s usually the hardest part of a show, and for this one, it’s been extra difficult.

But what all this means is that my mind is starting to come back online, which means I’m starting to think about writing and other work again.  Two of my co-workers united to spark an idea for a series of short stories, and I’m finally going to sit down and plan out the next novel or two.  But for now, I’m still just reading to balance my emotional strain a bit.  Have I told you guys about The Wood Wife yet?  I haven’t?  It’s one of my favorite books ever, let me tell you about it.

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The Wood Wife is the story of a poet remembering that she is a poet.  It’s also about a poet who lived on a mountain and drowned in the desert, all for his lover who was a surrealist painter.  It’s also about the mountain they live on.  And the past, and the present, and the forces that run through a place and the people affected by both the place and the spirits that weave through everything.

It’s a hard book to describe, really.  The language Terri Windling uses had me wrapped up from page one where she describes the night of the elder poet’s death and the creatures that mark his passing even as he is left, drowned in a dry wash that hasn’t seen water in decades in the middle of the Sonoran Desert.   Even though she’s properly at home in Britain, she manages to evoke the American Southwest in a way that I’m sure I couldn’t.

I love Maggie Black, the main character.  She moves into the house of Cooper Davis on a wild mountain near Tuscon after he leaves it to her in his will.  She takes it as a sign that he’s finally granting permission for her to write a book on him, though he’s refused to even meet her in person for years.  Naturally, once she gets there, she gets caught up in the slower life, the more remote mountain and the interesting characters that live there, and along with them she gets swept into a battle for the supernatural balance of the area.  At least Maggie is let in on the supernatural aspect of it— not all of them are.  And on the way we get to watch her journey from tired, slightly defeated writer trying to break out of her magnetic ex-husband’s orbit back to energized, driven poet who can honestly be fond friends with her ex, but no longer elastically tied to him.

It’s not a fast-paced, snarky, city adventure by any stretch.  It’s a slow, almost hushed build to the climactic gathering of all the characters, but once you get there the pay off is well worth the reader’s patience, and the journey there is entirely enjoyable.  I can’t recommend this book enough. Seriously.  Go read this one.

Ten out of 5 rutabagas.  Seriously.  I love this book.

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Photo credit: akseabird via Visual hunt / CC BY-NC