Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Back in the Saddle Again

Well, it’s officially been one week since I crossed the NaNo finish line and I haven’t gotten a damn thing done in this time, unless celebrating at Hard Rock and watching a few neglected DVDs counts as something. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t, though, as far as productivity goes. I’ve come up with a few short story ideas and have spent a little time brainstorming over the last third of my novel, but I haven’t produced much.

This has to stop. Now.

I’m not even sure what the hell is wrong with me right now. Stress, work, decompression, who knows? However, I’m making a list of goals for the month of December that need to be met, preferably before Christmas. They’re in no particular order, really.

Write the “Lori’s Chain” story.
Finish the “inky eye” story.
Work on the novel, if not outright finish it (+30k).
Write every day, even if it’s nothing but story ideas and blog posts.
Finish reading The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide set.
Don’t buy any new books.

The last goal I can meet simply by being inactive, but it’s probably going to be the hardest one to accomplish. I’ve got boxes upon boxes of books, shelves of books, books on my floor and books under my bed. I’ve got enough books to start my own Library of Congress.

Alright, maybe not that many, but I’ve got a ton of them. I can’t stop buying them, either, even though I don’t have the time to read them all. I think I have a hoarding problem. There’s something about a collection of printed words that’s completely spellbinding to me, and it’s almost like buying an extension for my brain every time I get a new book. I mean, it is new information, right?

I need to absorb all the information I have boxed and shelved and stacked up along my walls.

On to the fiction writing. I’ve come up with several short story ideas, including a rewrite of a story called “Lori’s Chain” that I originally wrote back in high school. It was never published and as far as I know the floppy I had it on is gone. It was a good story, a bit over sentimental, but as an adult I could probably make it a much deeper story. I may work on that a bit. Aside from that, I have a story to write about an eye full of ink, aliens hiding inside jack-o-lanterns, vampires preying on pedophiles and some other things. I have no trouble coming up with decent ideas, it’s the hows and whys of my stories that I tend to have issues with. What makes the characters do what they do, and how do I stop/kill them or get them to their goals? I think this is why my novel is slowing down. I just don’t know how to tie the two antagonists to the protagonists without making their reasoning flimsy. Would a supernatural creature do something solely out of jealousy? I think this one would, and could possibly have the lesser antagonist in her employ, but how do I go about making it sound convincing?

I think I might worry too much. This is, after all, a rough draft. It’s not like I’m chiseling this into some sort of public monument. I’m not sure whether my hesitation comes from perfectionism or what, but it’s starting to become annoying. From here on out I’m going to be working on my stories the way I worked on them during November, getting them onto the page while they’re still fresh and fretting over the details later. That worked very well for me.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

And on the Twenty-Eighth Day... She Rested

Well, I managed to finish NaNo with three days to spare and all it cost me was a migraine, an upset stomach and a sense of complete and utter exhaustion. But I won, and I’m getting a GPSr (not that I wouldn’t have eventually, anyway), and that’s all that really matters, right?

Unfortunately, I’m nowhere near completing the rough draft. I’ve got about 1/3 of the story left to go, if my gut instinct is correct. I’m taking a break mid-chapter (right before a huge sex scene, to boot) to read some short stories, watch movies, play video games and re-establish a reasonable exercise routine before I get back into the swing of things. I’ve neglected a lot for this project, but it was all worth it.

Before I decided to participate in NaNo I was strictly a writer of short fiction, almost always under five thousand words and usually under two thousand or so. I like short fiction, what can I say? Also, the thought of writing a novel gave me the heebie-jeebies. I had ideas for longer works but they seemed so complicated, like I’d have to dedicate months of my life to writing character bios, charting interpersonal relationships, drawing maps and outlining overly complicated plots.

So, so untrue. I was way off the mark.

I can write novel-length fiction. It was rough at the beginning, but I’ve split and rewritten those awkwardly brief chapters into something more like real novel chapters. They’ll improve again (as will all the chapters) when I do my revision in the spring. It’s nowhere near as difficult as I’d made it out to be, and it wasn’t painful at all. I’ve really become quite fond of this. I think I’ll keep going, but maybe not at a breakneck pace. At the very least I’ll find the time for short fiction in with the noveling.

I think the best thing about this is that I’ve come away from November not only with the better part of a rough draft, but I’ve got a better sense of pacing now. I can write dialogue much better than before, as well. Throwing caution to the wind will sometimes net you some pretty impressive results, it seems.

Last, but certainly not least, is my improved writing on sex. I’ve managed to stop choking when writing sex scenes. I may still gloss over things and not spend a whole lot of time on exact detail, but I’m fairly satisfied with my ability to write intimate passages. I can only improve, right?

Practice makes perfect. Give me a day or two to recuperate and I’ll be practicing again.

Monday, November 26, 2007

I'm Not Dead Yet

No, I've just been too busy and/or tired to post. A short update for today will suffice, and longer posts will commence once this is over.

I can see the NaNo finish line where I am right now, just 4300 words away. I'm beginning to freak out a bit, because I'm nowhere near done and in the book No Plot, No Problem! author and NaNo founder Chris Baty strongly suggests participants actually finish their novels in 50k words. It's perfectly fine, he says, to gloss over some scenes to get to the end if you're intending on coming back and fleshing them out during your revision process. This is obviously not going to work for me.

I'm in the middle of stretching out and rewriting Chapter One, and I'll be doing this with Chapter Four as well. I've found that finding your noveling pace isn't as hard as it seems, and rewriting chapters that start off as short stories isn't that difficult, either. What's hard, apparently, is coming to a conclusion. I still have multiple ideas floating around that I might explore during the month of December, but there's no way in Hell I'm going to be able to settle on one and write it by Friday. Not only that but I don't want this ending rushed. I honestly will have an excess of ten to twenty-five thousand words before I get to the end. Plus, to be honest, I'm really looking forward to taking a short break. No doubt my per day word count might go down, but nothing short of an act of God is going to make me drop this and forget about it.

So, will I slow down without the deadline looming over me? Will our author have a finished rough draft? Will she edit it (repeatedly), shop it around to publishers, and possibly write the sequel she's been mulling over?

Tune in next time, I guess.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Back to Business

It’s been a nice three days off. I can’t say I planned on taking three days away from the project (I hadn’t even intended to take one, to be honest), but it feels nice to be able to collect my thoughts and return to work. I wonder if the revision process will feel this way as well. We’ll see, I suppose.

My next goal is somewhat lofty, but it wouldn’t have been had I kept my writing schedule. I’m not going to give myself any slack. Forty thousand by Wednesday. Wednesday is the day before Thanksgiving, and I won’t be working that night, so if I get behind I can catch up by neglecting my sleep. Then again, there will be people in the house who don’t like to see me being anything less than productive with chores and whatnot so I may have to set up camp at the library or the coffee shop until my word count is caught up.

I’m not sure what to bribe myself with. I’m not sure I should even bribe myself with anything, considering the fact that getting my work done is something I should be doing regardless. Plus, the final deadline is looming and I’ve already promised myself the eTrex as a final gift. Who knows when I’ll end up picking it up, though? Maybe after Christmas, since there’s going to be no geocaching done during the dead of winter.

This Write Fill
converter set seems nice and inexpensive, so I think I’ll use that as my motivation. I’m planning on picking it up anyway, so we’ll just make it sooner rather than later if I can meet my goal.

I love reading in the bathtub. I draw hot water, sprinkle enough bath salts to dye the water a nice shade and climb in, reading until I feel sleepy or I finish a story. Today I started reading 100 Vicious Little Vampire Stories again after setting it down for a month or two. Some of these stories are really interesting, especially the ones with unconventional vampires or bizarre twists. This is part of a series of anthologies Barnes and Noble released several years ago, and includes 100 Ghastly Little Ghost Stories and 100 Wicked Little Witch Stories, plus a few others. I have the ghost anthology as well.

I’m going to go ahead and keep any updates before the 40k goal is met short. I don’t want to spend too much time writing lengthy updates when I could be applying those extra words to my novel.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

I Can Meet a Deadline, After All

I barely wrote anything Wednesday, sleeping instead after my meeting. I was just so damn exhausted. I think I managed to do just under a thousand words, which for me is somewhat pitiful. However, when you don’t have the drive, everything that comes out is pure crap, so I’d rather avoid writing when I don’t feel like it than force it out of me. I set my alarm, thinking I’d take a nap and write when I woke up, but when the alarm went off I curled right back up in bed.

Going into Thursday, I’d planned on heading to work early to get a jump on the word count. That didn’t work either, since a bunch of IMs I got while sleeping kept my alarm from going off (taxing system resources, apparently, though I don’t recall having many apps aside from iTunes running at the time). I woke up an hour and a half late and barely made it to work on time.

However, despite all the setbacks and the lack of inspiration and all that other bull, I made it. I typed to my heart’s content all night, all morning after my Thursday meeting and on the couch all afternoon. It turns out my boss had forgotten to let me in on my schedule change for Friday, so I got several more hours of writing time than I’d anticipated.

I think I found my word-count enhancing secret. I devote a lot more, word wise, to dialogue than I do narrative. I’m assuming this is fairly common. A conversation between two or perhaps three characters can eat up several hundred words easily. I’ve noticed my characters are talking a lot more in the later chapters, and I like it quite a bit. I think during the revision process I’ll try to make the other characters a bit more talkative as well.

I made the thirty thousand mark at around 8 last night, and today I celebrated by buying the US release of The Taste of Tea. I have the two-disc Korean LE set, but having the official US release is even better since I can now enjoy all the special features. This is one of the greatest movies where almost nothing happens. The whole film can be boiled down into one sentence: “Hey, check out my weird family members.” It’s two hours of pure amazement that cannot be boiled down into mere words, I really believe this.

I also got to watch another odd but interesting movie, Udon. I watched it while taking a break from writing, and it’s another movie I’d really like to share with people I know. Maybe at the next big get-together, who knows?

Tonight I’ll be going to the same awesome taqueria I went to last Friday, but this time I fully intend on making the write-in. It’s right next to a bookstore, in a place called Caribou Coffee. I believe the coffee shop is part of a chain, but I’ve never been to any before. We’ll see how that turns out. To be honest, I haven’t set my forty thousand word deadline yet (I’m thinking Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving) and I’m aching for a short break, or at least an excuse to slow down a bit. [Note: I did not make it to the write-in, being almost an hour behind schedule due to work and traffic and was also incredibly exhausted after dinner.]

I’m still considering a visit to the porn store to check out the more sordid books and magazines they have, but thinking back on previous visits most of that stuff tends to lean towards the “incest fantasy” type of story, and I’m absolutely not interested in that kind of thing. I’m thinking a quick glance over this other bookstore’s erotica section will be in order tonight. I’m still interested to see how other people tackle “intimate” scenes in their fiction.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Confessions of an Admitted Pervert

Today is the day I will cross the fifty percent line. My story isn’t even close to being finished, I don’t think, but I suppose it’s better to meet my goal and keep on going than it is to end a story prematurely and have an unmarketable piece of crap novella sitting around gathering dust.

I went ahead and bought the pink Pelican pen I’d been eyeballing from Pear Tree Pens, and a four pack of ink samples in some colors I’d been ogling for a while, including the Caran d’Ache Mediterranean I was gushing about yesterday. I’ve been selling some of my stuff on Amazon, mostly video games and DVDs that I haven’t touched in years, so I figured I might as well go ahead and buy it. It’s a cute, practical pen, too, unlike the antique dip pen craze that gripped me earlier this year. Once a pen catches my eye, it’s like a curse that doesn’t get lifted until I hand over my Visa.

When I sell my first novel, the Pilot Namiki Vanishing Point in raden finish will be mine.

When I first started writing again, I made a lot of notes in Scrivener (the Mac app I use for fiction projects) while working on an unnamed story that has yet to be completed. Some of them are pretty humorous. I remember one entry being about growing up, having my mom find my fiction, being criticized by her and still not being able to write sex scenes as an adult. I wrote it in July, and it’s titled “I Can’t Get Them Laid or Killed, or My Mother the Critic.”

An excerpt:

To be brutally honest, the reason my novel extension of “The Woman Without” never took off is because I had too many difficulties writing the teen/college portion of the story. I couldn’t find a way to keep the sexuality and awkwardness of that age from becoming trashy and/or ridiculous. I’ve said this before and I’ll probably say it at least a dozen more times, I’ve got issues killing my characters and/or getting them laid. I will beat around the bush for paragraphs, sometimes pages, letting the story completely fall apart rather than detail all their dirty goings-on. The few “erotic” horror stories I’ve written and/or sold were a blast to put together but now, years later, I shy away from rereading them. I shy away from rereading the sex in my own fiction. Thank my Catholic upbringing for that, I guess.

Sometimes I think I know where this hesitancy comes from. I’m afraid of letting down, embarrassing or disgusting my family. I remember when I first showed signs of interest in writing “erotic” horror. It was mid to late high school, imagine that. Around the same time I actually started actively working towards getting some action in real life (I got it too, just to clarify that). I’d written a bunch of short vampire fiction, a thousand words or less, and some of it was a little risqué. It wasn’t anything gratuitous but it was a bit bold for a teenage writer, and I enjoyed it. Well, enter Mom at stage left. I think a lot of my hang-ups come from worrying about her finding things out that I’m hiding or her reacting poorly to my decisions. She found my stories, some of which had already come back to me from various publishers with rejection slips attached. She read passages of them out loud to me while I was standing, helpless, in my bedroom. I hate it when people read anything I’ve written, even an email, back out loud to me. So now, over ten years later, I think there’s a part of me that’s nervous she’s going to find my writing somewhere, published or not, and get pissed at me for talking about some fictional guy’s dick. I hope she never sees these notes and yells at me for typing out the word “dick.” Twice.

I am still having this issue. Of course, I would pick a story that’s based on a sexual concept and then whine about having difficulty writing it. I don’t have any difficulty making off-color jokes in real life, or visiting the “adult bookstore” or viewing pornography, but as soon as I need to commit this kind of thing to paper I balk. It’s something I’ve had a problem articulating for quite a long time, obviously.

It is, however, something I need to get over.

I have a scene coming up where my main character is just flat-out assaulted. I’m actually at the beginning of it now. Now, our character (and the reader) knows that, because she’s a succubus, she’s going to come out of this the victor. The perpetrator has no idea what kind of person he’s decided to victimize and as such is going to be in for a very rude and fatal treat when he’s done. Despite this, I still feel a bit squeamish, and I’m not sure why. It could be because it’s a sex scene, period, but I doubt it. It’s probably because it’s a rather violent scene that’s not really in the plot to be arousing in and of itself. I put it there to show once more that our hero isn’t exactly pristine or always kind, because I’ve been writing her as a very casual participant most of the time and I’m worried she’s becoming a bit “soft.” I don’t know how to feel about writing these kinds of scenes. I’d certainly feel embarrassed to show my mother, but at this point in my life I’ve become quite sick of worrying about her or any other family member’s opinion. I think my worry actually far outweighs any reaction they might have, to be honest.

At what point should I stop writing sex scenes? Most of these scenes are lackluster at best and bad at worst, not in terms of writing quality but of plot. She doesn’t victimize the nicest or most exciting of people. To be honest, most of these will be rewritten during the editing phase. I might go ahead and redo the first one today or tomorrow as I’m itching to overhaul chapters One and Three and I don’t think I did the scene any justice at all. I think my previous question should be reworded to “At what point should I stop writing unsavory sex scenes?”

I think maybe I feel a bit cheated so far, since the only sex in the book so far has been for “feeding” purposes only and hasn’t even been remotely hot. I’m almost tempted to go buy some smut novels at the porn store this weekend or some erotica collections off Amazon just to see how other people do it. I think my entire writing style could be considered a bit too clinical, to be honest. This is something I really want to work on both with this and future works.

Can I consider watching porn “research” for this novel? I’ve got a couple hours to burn after lunchtime…

I’m really enjoying how this whole month-long exercise has brought up new issues for me to tackle. I should start making a list of my weak points, including dialogue, pacing, sex scenes, etc. I think most of it can be boiled down to dialogue and pacing. I’ve tried to keep nervous chatter and uninteresting detail to a minimum, but I know I’m still including some of this without realizing it. I’m really looking forward to setting this aside for a short while and coming back to it with a fresher perspective. Another NaNo participant sent me an Instant Message earlier while I was at work to ask me if I’d be interested in participating in a critique group made up of Horror & Thriller forums posters. That might be a big help to the story, once I have it ready for other peoples’ eyes.

Whenever that may be.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Almost, But Not Quite

I met my goal Sunday morning at around 6 AM. I’m going to consider this a failure because it was several hours late. I went to bed at 7 with my alarm set for 10, but when the alarm went off I shut it off completely and went back to sleep. I was just too exhausted. I got up around 2 and started immediately on the task of reaching 20k. I did make it, but not under my original terms, so I’m now 0 for 2 in the “Challenge Yourself” contest I’ve been playing.

As of this update I am at 22,060. The new challenge is to hit 30k by the end of the night on Thursday the 15th. That gives me almost four days to get just under 8k done. It shouldn’t be a problem, but I said the same thing about the goals I made the last two times. I’m upping the stakes here, so instead of a paperback I’ll be buying something else I’ve been wanting for a year or more: a bottle of Caran d’Ache Caribbean Sea Ink. I haven’t picked it up yet because it seemed too close a color match for one of the inks I’ve been using, J. Herbin’s Diablo Menthe, but I’m still dying to own a bottle.

Speaking of inks and pens, I haven’t picked up either of my Moleskines in a long time. I really ought to get back into personal journaling, especially considering this blog only covers one facet of my life. It’s an important part of what I do and how I spend my days, but there’s a lot more I could be writing down. I’ve invested a lot in writing instruments and here I am using a keyboard for everything. It’s somewhat depressing, to be honest.

Today, when I get home, I will write at least two pages in my Moleskine. I will fill this book and buy a new one soon, maybe one of the nice 2008 red editions. That’s my goal for today.

I sent my short story Wings in for consideration at The Abacot Journal once it was rejected from Tabard Inn. The Abacot Journal is apparently a brand new online literary magazine run by another NaNo participant. I know a lot of writers (especially those with more credits to their names than I) frown upon giving their work to both new magazines and online magazines, but nothing makes me happier than doing something that could quite possibly be mutually beneficial. If a quality piece I write (and I’m quite fond of Wings) finds a home somewhere new that ends up lasting, we both win. And if it doesn’t work out, I’m not at the stage in my writing “career” where submitting to somewhere small could hinder me.

I’m learning quite a bit about my own writing abilities through this extended exercise. I’m starting to come to terms with the fact that I am not very strong in the dialogue department. I have a tendency to let one character talk while another gives one-word answers, or let everyone argue about nothing. It seems stunted, weak and one-dimensional in places, but I’ve been known to be unusually hard on myself. I’ll have to go over my book on dialogue when I go home. I could probably use a bit of help when I rewrite chapters One and Three, and I’d like to get that out of the way as soon as possible. I’m having too much fun advancing the story right now, though. Maybe once I have met my next goal I can take a day or two to rewrite the places I feel are weakest.

You know what I haven’t gotten much of since October? Exercise. Between being busy typing and the dismal turn the weather has taken, I haven’t gotten any exercise in. It hasn’t had any adverse effects yet, but we’re going to nip this new habit in the bud starting today. If the weather is too cold for a walk, I’ll be in front of the elliptical watching one of the many DVD sets I’ve paid for but have yet to finish (or even start, in some cases). Considering how far ahead of plan I am at the moment it shouldn’t be that difficult to manage.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Thirty-Three Point Three Three Three Three Three

One-third of the way in and I’m a few days ahead of schedule. I plan on being 20k by the end of the night tonight, which will put me at a solid 40% completion. Not too shabby.

The story is starting to change a bit. What started out as a violent tale of supernatural sexuality and horror with one main character, one love interest and one villain has become a mishmash of sex, horror, urban decay, romance, and western and eastern mythos. Oh, with a setting reminiscent of cyberpunk, but with less gadgetry, and the cast has expanded somewhat.

I like it.

I’ll come out and admit it right here months before anyone unfamiliar with my hobbies gets to read even the first chapter of this story. I like Asian movies. I like horror movies. Hell, despite some very jarring differences in culture I like Asia in general. I can overlook at lot of the general “What the FUCK, Japan” weirdness so that I can enjoy the tales of vengeful ghosts and animal trickery and mythical figures that populate Japanese folklore. The food and entertainment are pretty badass as well, as long as it doesn’t involve drawings of underage girls getting violated by comic book characters or foreign objects.

It seems there’s a lot of the latter kind of stuff floating around the Internet, and I just want to get something out of the way ahead of time to clear up any confusion. I put a couple Japanese characters in the novel, based off old folklore monsters, because they truly scare the shit out of me. It has little to do with them being Japanese, and nothing to do with putting Japanese characters in solely for their nationality or for some sort of anime reference.

All right, moving on. I’m trying to keep this update short as I have about 2500 word words to go today to meet my personal goal. I still haven’t bought those Forbidden Game books because I keep falling short. I’m planning on getting some writing done this afternoon as well and then setting up camp downstairs like I did the night of the NaNo kickoff. An iPod, my laptop, a bowl of stale movie popcorn and a dog by my side seems to do a world of good for my word count.

Speaking of the dog, I should probably take a moment to thank all the individuals who are making this way less of a labor of love and more of a seat-of-the-pants speed run of epic proportions.

First of all, Ranger is the coolest dog I think I could ever have. I’m going to miss him when I move in a few months. He’s been really great, sharing his couch with me, snacking with me and playing ball in the driveway with me when I need to divert my attention elsewhere for a while. He could come back when I tell him to get in the house instead of ignoring me and wandering around but other than that I just love him to death.

Eric I’ve already mentioned before, but there’s never a shortage of reasons to thank him, NaNo project or not. He’s way more patient than I think I could ever be. Case in point, tonight I was a massive asshole driving around Pittsburgh trying to find the restaurant we were meeting our friend Brian at. We got there late, ate, went shopping for a while and came home. While he and Brian played 360 I laid down for a nap. That was around 10 or so. I woke up at 4. Unless he tried to wake me up and I cussed him out he’s more than likely going to be completely cool with it, even though I’m not. I really don’t like my topsy-turvy sleep schedule, but he tolerates it. This is just one of the hundreds of small but very significant reasons I love him as much as I do. He’s a great help with story ideas and editing, as well. He helps with my fiction, I help with his papers. We make a pretty badass team.

I also need to thank my writing partner, or writing rival, Huitz. He goes by TristanPEJ on the NaNo boards and he’s been comparing word counts with me pretty much daily. Because we write at opposite times of the day it’s been neck and neck within a thousand words or so the whole time, with the one in second place catching up while the other sleeps. I’m about to blow past him, actually. I wonder which one of us will meet 20k first.

I just wrote seven hundred and forty-five words I could have applied to Chapter Five. This post is done.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


Well, this has been, and will continue to be, quite the learning experience. I’m having a great time, but there are a few certain doubts that are beginning to creep into my head. I’m going to plow through this and make the 50k, simply because I refuse to post pictures of myself online, but I’m starting to wonder about the quality of the story.

I’m almost 12k into the story and characters and ideas are popping up out of nowhere. What was supposed to be a horror novel is turning into some sort of multicultural, pansexual, somewhat murderous tale of erotic nighttime adventures. It’s been a blast to write, and to sit around brainstorming for, but it’s turning out to be so weird. It feels nice to cut loose and not worry about what anyone I know will think when they read it. I’m certain I’d never show this to my mother short of letting her buy a copy off a Borders shelf (I’m a bit premature on this but please, let me have my dreams, all right?), but other than that I haven’t really felt odd about it. That’s odd in and of itself, considering how self-conscious I used to be with my writing.

I sent Eric the first chapter to let him read and critique. He’s not much for fiction writing himself, but he’s as objective and helpful as any significant other could possibly be. I owe him a lot, not just for his patience but his help as well. He’s given me some good advice over the years, and he doesn’t do any of that “Oh, this is so wonderful, you’re the greatest author ever!” ass-kissing nonsense.

I took my usual bath today, extra hot and discolored from scented salts. This week I’ve been using a sakura-scented salt from the Tokyo Store. Actually, all my salts come from there, but I hadn’t ever tried this one until Sunday. It’s nice, and it tints the water a very lovely rose color. It smells wonderful, as well. I get a lot done in the bath, from reading novels to short stories to fiction manuals. I usually manage to bathe, as well.

Today during my soak I started reading Haruki Murakami’s After Dark. It opens in a Denny’s and goes on for several pages before actually introducing the main characters. I read on for a bit, and eventually I came to realize something. I’m writing my novel as if it were a short story, or a series of short stories chained together by plot. My sense of rhythm and pacing are completely off. It’s understandable, as this is my first attempt at longer fiction, but it’s still a bit confusing and more than slightly disappointing. I like my story, I’m starting to really like my cast of characters, and I don’t want to do wrong by them. I’m grateful for all the learning experience this has given me in such a short amount of time, though. For all the people who hate NaNoWriMo (and there are several, starting with this guy) and say it does no good but delude shitty writers into producing shitty crap, I have to disagree. Even if I didn’t take anything away from this, I’d still disagree with them just for being massive assholes about it, because honestly, unreasonable people aren’t even worth listening to.

I’m not a shitty writer. I just want to make this clear, despite the fact that most of these people (if not all of them) are meaningless shadows somewhere on the Internet that I will never have to personally face. I may not be at the top of the NYT bestsellers’ list, but I’m not a shitty writer. I never have been and I never will be. I learn something new every day and I’m enjoying this process. I don’t know why, but every time I see this argument I get incensed. I’m not sure if it’s some hidden self-doubt or the fact that they’re making very vitriolic blanket statements that seemingly include me but manage to elevate themselves above them. Aside from Cliff Burns, who creates beautiful prose when he’s not ranting about “posers and wannabes,” I’m not impressed by any of them.

One more thing before I return to the original subject. These “legitimate authors” all seem to find NaNo offensive because participants are thumbing their noses at them and laughing because they’ve written a novel without time spent studying the craft. Yes, this is what NaNo says, but are these “artistes” all unable to detect when a tongue is planted firmly in cheek?

After I got out of the bath, fixed some fish tank problems that had been bothering me, worked on Chapter Four of my NaNo project and finished cleaning up, I read my return email from Eric. As it turns out, we’re on the same wavelength despite not even being in the same counties. He thinks it’s moving way too fast, and that Chapter One could actually be divided up and expanded into three chapters. He also thinks I introduced the antagonist way too early. But he likes it, and that means a lot to me. It’s odd hearing my own opinions echoed back to me several hours later, especially since I hadn’t voiced these opinions yet. I suppose this is why we are as strong a couple as we are.

So, now I’m left wondering where to go with this. Should I break the novel apart and write a new intro chapter (or chapters, as Eric suggested) now? Should I keep on truckin’ and wait to add during the revision process this spring? I don’t have all of Chapter Four with me right now, mostly due to being inept at updating my flash drive, though I watched as I transferred the entire folder from my desktop. I’ll have to double-check when I get home. If I lost 1000+ words, I’m going to be irritated. I was going to continue with Chapter Four, and I might still be able to since I know where I left off. Celia just met with Kitty in the back of a club called Night in a flashback sequence.

I have five hours before I go home, and I’d like to make 8k+ in progress by Saturday night. I think I might look over what I have and make some decisions as to what I want to do with this and how I need to go about it. I’ve stayed ahead this whole time and I’ll be damned if I fall back now.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Annnnnd We’re Off!

Wednesday night ended up being wildly different than I’d anticipated. I slept more, wrote more and had fewer distractions than what I figured I’d have. Despite the wonky schedule and the need for frequent naps, by daybreak I’d written the better part of Chapter 1 and was at about 2,500 words. Not too shabby.

The most amazing thing happened a few hours in. I was absolutely not expecting the male lead to show up as quickly or as confidently as he did. I’m typing along at a merry pace, our heroine (actually more of an antiheroine, but I still love her) searching for the quarry that’s just eluded her and bam, there he is. Not the quarry, mind you, but the guy who ends up causing her to become something greater than she is.

Thank you, Alex, for being so amicable.

I managed to get Chapter One finished by lunchtime, and I even wrote the first few paragraphs of Chapter Two. It’s going well, better than I’d expected, but I know I’m going to run into a block after this chapter is done. I’m hoping to make Two longer than 3k, because it’s all back-story. It’s not the only back-story but it’s a very important chunk.

And now for the first word count-related bribe.

I’ve been getting back into books I read 10+ years ago. I’d really like to revisit the YA books of LJ Smith and Christopher Pike, as they’re what fueled my imagination for years upon years and convinced me to put pen to paper in the first place. Smith’s Vampire Diaries series has been reissued and I picked up the first volume (books One and Two). The second volume will be out shortly, as well. That might work well as a future bribe.

As much as I like the Vampire Diaries, Smith’s other series The Forbidden Game was a favorite of mine back in high school. Think Labyrinth’s Goblin King in a huge house of nightmares, mixed with a bit of teen angst, demented carnival funhouses and a storyline reminiscent of Hades and Persephone. It was probably the first multiple-volume saga I fell in love with.

Well, there’s an “omnibus edition” collecting all three volumes here. It’s a bit pricey, so I may hold off on it, but if I can manage to pull off 10k by Saturday night I’ll think about it. I’ll at least repurchase the original paperbacks in the best conditions I can find. I loved their covers and the omnibus cover sucks, so I may have to do it that way.

I’m starting to get a little anxious. Aside from bits and piece of the plot, and a vague idea of the ending, I have little to go on once I reach the end of Chapter Two. I’m not sure why the antagonist is fucking with my protagonist, and I’m not sure how to tackle the climax of the story. I’m not even sure how to GET to the climax of the story. But the rules are the rules, and I’m just going to throw caution to the wind here and get this word count taken care of. The revision later on this year or next spring will be where I get to clean up the story, despite the fact that it really pains me to have to do it this way.

So, for today, I hope to be 6-7k in by the time I get up, drive to Pittsburgh and take my laptop to Finnegan’s Wake for the kickoff party. Hopefully I’ll have some interesting updates to make later on tonight or tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Okay, I Think I'm Ready

Playlists? Check.
Tools? Check.
A rough idea of the first two chapters? Check.
Food? Enough until the weekend, at least.

I've slept four hours since I got home this morning, and I'm taking the night off work to get a jump on my word count. Hopefully I'll be able to stay up and get this off on the right foot.

If anyone's made it to my blog via the NaNo boards, I'll be online most of the night as long as I can get WiFi down in the basement where I'm going to be hiding. I'm trying to keep my nocturnal activities from keeping anyone else awake.

My AIM name is JackFrostSA, if anyone wants to bitch, moan, gloat, brainstorm or take a break with me. I'll probably be desperate for human contact after a few hours. I'll see some of you at Finnegan's Wake for the kickoff party Friday night at 7, as well.

Good luck!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

NaNoWriMo Preparedness Plan

Before NaNo starts:

Bounce (techno, soundtracks, etc)
Chill (Vintage Chill, Elemental Chill, etc)
Ambient (From Here to Tranquility, etc)
Dark (October Language, Ghosts on Magnetic Tape)

PENS EVERYWHERE (fountain, rollerball, calligraphy)
Ink Cartridges
Scrap Paper
Fiction manuals (I could build a fort with these)
Mechanical pencils
Extra chair cushion

During NaNo:

Low-cal Soup
Bottled Water
1% Milk
Lunchmeat and vegetables (turkey, cucumber and hummus sandwiches)

Approved Break Activities:
Updating Blog
NaNo boards
Playing with Ranger
Reading short fiction
Reading fiction manuals
Meeting NaNo participants

Monday, October 29, 2007

Of Zombies and Acceptance Letters

I had an interesting time this past weekend. What I had built up in my mind as being a pretty mediocre afternoon actually turned out to be a lot of fun, and I met some very nice authors as well.

We were supposed to leave for Zombie Fest 2007 early on Saturday afternoon, shortly after we finished our walk and got ready. Unfortunately, we ended up spending an hour or so rearranging our plans, waiting for people who ultimately went AWOL and generally bitching and moping around the house. By the time we were ready to pick up our friends who weren’t vanishing on us, it was already 2:30 and, by that point, the $15 price of admission was too high for me to justify. Or at least it was starting to become that way. I have a tendency to get anxious if I stray from an itinerary too much, and we had already missed the first two authors’ groups that were doing readings and Q&A sessions at the convention. I was thoroughly disgusted. Still, I couldn’t just back out and let everyone else down so I resigned myself to spending way too much money for both my and Eric’s admission.

It was almost 4:00 by the time we got a quick dinner and made it to the convention, and I saw a lot of vendors set up, showcasing everything from new horror-themed board games to DVD-Rs of old sleaze films. Score. I managed to pick up Ringu: Kanzen-Ban (the original Ringu made-for-TV movie) sans subtitles, a bunch of older horror fiction and pop culture magazines and some other odds and ends without breaking the bank. Kim and Daniel, the couple Eric and I brought with us (who are wonderfully nuts) got their faces painted and wandered around talking to all the zombie movie actors.

Eric and I spent a lot of time just browsing the booths, talking to the “zombie killer” survivalists and giggling over the bootlegs of Turkish Star Wars. There were a few publishers present, including Raw Dog Screaming Press, but aside from asking them if I could take some of their brochures and whatnot I was too shy to talk to them. That’s my theme for cons, actually; go somewhere you have a great deal of interest in and then refuse to talk because you’re too self-conscious. I really need to shake off that habit, it’s fairly annoying and isn’t helpful to me at all.

I ended up talking with Edward Holsclaw II, one of the three authors left for the 6:00 reading and Q&A. I felt a bit shy still, but I tried to carry the conversation as best I could. It’s nice to get to talk to people a bit more successful than I, to get a picture of where I could be in a few years if I keep my momentum up. I think it would be pretty awesome to have a table at a convention, but it looks like it’s hard work as well.

Eventually Eric and I sat down and watched a bit of Night of the Living Dead and waited for the reading to start. I sucked on lollipops our friends over at the Kawaii Gifts table gave us as Halloween treats and read old issues of Giant Robot and Black October while Eric sat in front of me, watching the movie and trying to ignore me kicking the back of his seat every twenty to thirty seconds.

After a brief announcement the readings started. First off was Kim Paffenrath with a passage from his new novel, a sequel to his zombie tale Dying to Live. In it, a young girl living in a survivors’ encampment assists her mother in a birth that goes bad. I was touched by how raw and emotional it was and how well a male author captured three women interacting during a crisis. Once NaNo is over I’d like to pick up Dying to Live.

Second was Gary Braunbeck with his Stoker-winning short story We Now Pause for Station Identification. In brief, this is a story about a man working as a disc jockey hiding in his booth while the dead rise and return to their old lives, only to sprout vines and root themselves to the spot. This one blew me away, not only for its content but its presentation. It was like listening to an audio book live, and a quick sideways glance confirmed Eric’s attention was snagged as well. Hearing impairment be damned, he was rapt. He even wanted the audio CD at the end of the night, but neither of us had cash on hand and the ATM at the ExpoMart charges extra for withdrawals. I’d already spent enough, as well.

Coming in last was the author I’d already spoken with briefly, Edward Holsclaw II. He first read a short passage from his novel Origins: Unknown where his main character, a man searching for his family after a biological catastrophe sweeps the planet, tries to cross the country while escorting a little orphaned girl. He stops for supplies at a convenience store and finds a dead pregnant woman has given birth to a zombie child, and he now has to sadly dispatch with it. After this he read a short Native American-themed monster story from his short fiction collection Twist of Fate.

Afterwards came the Q&A, and I could feel Eric glancing over at me, nudging my leg and squeezing my hand. The only problem was that I didn’t come to the convention with any burning questions to ask, but sitting there I felt there were a few things I could learn from them with the brief time I had left before the night was over. So, due to his urging, I asked about the state of small press horror publishers compared to what it was ten years ago, and they basically told me that the publishers that vanished were short-lived to begin with. The older magazines are still around, but unfortunately (in my eyes anyway) they’re much harder to get into because of the fierce competition. Some of these magazines receive 400 unsolicited manuscripts a month, which is somewhat intimidating to me.

After my question I noticed Eric going for the microphone and I cringed a bit. He’s said some somewhat embarrassing things in public before, and while he hasn’t done anything like that recently I still have trouble getting it out of my mind. I should really give him a lot more credit than I do, because he routinely catches me off guard with questions, comments and intelligent discussions I should probably expect from him but don’t. Tonight was one of those times, and he asked them if they thought that digital or otherwise non-written mediums of horror could be considered art, and cited a recent email discussion between Roger Ebert and Clive Barker. I was pleasantly surprised by him, and a little proud. The general consensus was ‘no,’ by the way, and I’m surprised Eric wasn’t offended by that. As we left he went off to talk to Mr. Braunbeck about horror games and his story and other things, and I wandered off to find Dan and Kim. I was thoroughly beat, from the long exercise walk and the convention itself, and after a quick trip to Best Buy I went to bed. Eric went with Dan to a Halo party and apparently got thrashed. He was still delighted to go, and was practically beaming as he woke me up on his return.

The best thing about the day, however, was that I got an email from Terry D. Sheerer, the editor of Horrotica, an online horror fiction digest. I’d submitted The Woman Without to them a few weeks ago, and once they’ve done a small amount of formatting and editing they’d like to publish it. It won’t be until the issue after next, in the January-February 2008 edition. Despite being non-paying and online, this is still a big victory for me. I have one more publication under my belt, which will plump up my credentials a bit. And this story has deserved a home for years.

I don’t think I could have asked for a better weekend, really. Now I’ve got to put my nose to the grindstone, cleaning the house and outlining my NaNo plot. I’d like everything to be clean and organized before I begin, and there’s only three days left.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Oh, Those Countdown Jitters

So, NaNo’s almost upon us and I need to set some terms to keep me focused. I have a tendency to abandon projects when they take too long or become too difficult and, to be honest, that’s one of the things I really want to change about myself that I haven’t gotten to yet. I give up too easily, way too easily, and if I’m ever going to make something of myself in the literary world I’m going to have to develop not only discipline but also perseverance.

With that idea in mind, I’ve decided to give myself a set of conditions that I MUST adhere to. If I make it, I’m picking up the Garmin eTrex Legend Bonus Pack from Best Buy that I’ve been eyeballing for a couple months. I’m dying to get into geocaching but until now I’ve satisfied my curiosity through websites like and the Podcacher podcast. I’d like to actually go out and do it before it gets too cold, but the clock is ticking and there isn’t much time left in the year. I love my exercise hour, and I love walking, but I think spending that time hiking around searching for things would make it a lot more fun. Also, it’s something cheap Eric and I can do together that doesn’t involve sitting around in front of a TV/monitor or eating. Zoning out and stuffing my face are what got me to the breaking point to begin with, now I just want to get out and be active.

Now, for the hard part. What if I lose? I don’t plan on losing, even if I have to furiously pound at the keys until I’m down to three hours of sleep a night. It’s a possibility, but I’m going to fight until I can no longer fight to get it done. If I don’t, though, how do I punish myself? I thought I could send money to Focus on the Family, but Eric told me he would kick my ass if I threw out our savings like that. So, should it be something despicable but non-monetary? I had originally thought that I could motivate myself by threatening to vote for the worst possible Presidential candidate, but they haven’t even been narrowed down yet. I’d be delaying the negative effects for almost a year. So, there’s only one last threat to make.

If I, Jessica Brown, do not meet the requirements necessary to win NaNoWriMo, I’ll have pictures taken of myself and they will be posted online. Terrible pictures. Underwear pictures. Possibly… homegrown. First, I want to let anyone who’s reading this (all two of you) know that I don’t take pictures of myself. I haven’t since I was young. Even when I was in peak physical shape I hated photographs of myself. There are no pictures in existence of me in my high school cap and gown. None. My drivers’ license expired at the end of September and it’s now the 25th of October and I haven’t renewed it because I am terrified of having my photo taken. I think this will make a perfect motivator for my short attention span ass.

I’m renewing my license tomorrow, by the way. Even if I have to have someone physically shove me into the DMV office.

I went to the library yesterday. It was the first time I’ve been there in nearly ten years, and it’s been completely rearranged. There have been additions to the building, the departments have moved and the entrance is in a completely new spot. The floors, the carpets, the furniture, everything’s been replaced. The last time I was at the library there were two computers available to use, and they were on dialup with text-only displays. I used to go there to look up information for small press publishers. Oh, how the times have changed. It didn’t hit me until I showed up last week to get a new library card that I’ve missed that place so much.

I’d probably live there if I weren’t paying twenty-five cents every half hour for parking. I was only there for a short while yesterday, just to pick up Clive Barker’s novel The Great and Secret Show. I sat down to read it a bit before checking it out but not two minutes after my butt hit the chair than a lady brought an older woman over and sat her down across from me. Everything was fine until an older man started wandering around behind me and the woman kept going “Where are you going? What are you doing?” It wasn’t really annoying me, but my attention span is so poor that I kept finding myself reading the same paragraph over and over and unable to comprehend it beyond recognizing the words as being in English. Next time I’m going to have to bring my earphones.

It’s been suggested to me that I consider medication again. I was diagnosed with ADHD, and then later on simply ADD, at the age of five and didn’t stop using medication until my late teens or early twenties. I won’t deny that some medications, like Ritalin, did me a world of good at times. It didn’t always work, but some years it was a great help. However, I remember a time in the eighth grade that I wanted to kill myself and it turns out that the medication I’d been on that year (Dexedrine) has that effect on a lot of people. I’ve since become reluctant to medicate myself or even consult a psychiatrist, since most visits with a professional were just me sitting down, telling them how my month went, and getting a prescription. I didn’t feel like I was improving, and now I don’t think there’s anything to improve, really, aside from my attention span. I think the only way I’m going to be able to beat it is by forcing myself to adhere to a rigid structure, keeping a strict writing/reading schedule and continuing to write regardless of the quality of my output. It can all be edited later, but I need to write first to get to that point. I think getting out of the house and taking my laptop with me to the library might be the best thing for me. I might need to scout out other places to park, though, and I’ll have to start a strict walking schedule as well so I can get everything done in a day.

So, when I get home, I’ll be going to lunch and heading out to the library with my writing gear in tow. If this works out I’ll probably end up spending the entire month of November there.

A short list of things I need to have done by Wednesday, at the latest:

Find a suitable notebook (done, I think, but you can never have too many).
Outline your plot (I don’t want to talk about that right now).
Come up with a suitable playlist or two of inspiring music.
Write out a schedule to follow that allows for exercise, writing and chore times.
Read some stuff to get the creative juices flowing (NOT your “fiction manuals,” for chrissakes).

I think this has been enough fussing for one day.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Rejection Slips and the Lamenting of Passing Markets

I’ve mentioned before that I have only four manuscripts out. Yes, that’s right. Four. I know it doesn’t seem like many, but I’m coming up with new things daily and I’m building upon those at the same time I’m trying to find a home for my finished work. I get to experience a little bit of each stage of the small press publishing process all at the same time and it feels kind of nice. This isn’t some sort of special routine, though, as I’m fairly sure that most (if not all) competent and disciplined writers operate this way.

I got my first few rejection slips this week. I feel kind of odd about them.

The first was from McSweeney’s. My short detective fiction story, In My Office, was apparently not a good fit. I should probably have researched a bit more before I submitted, as they are more of a publisher of conceptual humor than anything else. I’ve resubmitted it to a neat British website of classic and new short fiction called East of the Web.

Tabard Inn liked my short suicide jumper story Commute. Unfortunately, it was too “ordinary” and wasn’t of questionable taste. I really like this rejection slip, simply because Mr. Bruni commented on the story itself and the ending in particular. I really appreciate it when I get more than a “no” or a form letter. I can handle a simple rejection, but this slip implies to me that my competence isn’t the issue, and also that if I write something a bit bawdier I might be able to find a home for it here. I think I’m going to buy Issue Two of this magazine, just because I like it so much. And the editor/owner signs the inside covers of the copies to make it a bit more personal. A nice touch, I think.

The Woman Without, my lesbian succubus “erotic horror” story (and the predecessor to my NaNo idea) is still out for consideration at Horrotica, as is The Orchard at Talebones. I’m looking forward to hearing back from these publishers.

It seems to me that a lot of horror small press magazines have gone missing in the interim years that I neglected to write. Shadow Feast, home to my story Shika: The High Price of Life, is gone as is Wicked Mystic, the magazine that went from Xerox-grade digest to glossy-covered behemoth. The Nocturnal Lyric has gone to annual and all those small startups that were in past editions of the Novel and Short Story Writers’ Market have vanished. I feel bad. All this I could have had played a part in, even if it was just to receive a rejection slip, and it’s gone. I’m happy to see that The Nocturnal Lyric is still kicking, though. I believe my first story ever was published there.

And now, onto something a bit more personal and a whole lot more frustrating.

I can’t outline a plot for shit. It doesn’t matter if it’s a novel or a short story. I can come up with characters and an idea of what happens, at least the beginning and the end, but all that happens in the interim is blank. When I go to put the story down on paper, once I get past where I’ve developed the plot, I either freeze or I keep going and turn it into absolute dreck. I hate it. This is going on right now with two stories I’m working on, three if you count Pages, the story I put down a couple weeks ago to focus shorter writing exercises. Unfortunately, the so-called shorter stories took on lives of their own and are now stalling out on me. I’m about to introduce aliens hiding inside pumpkins in the form of mold in one story, but I can’t decide on why they’re even there, how they communicate or how to get rid of them. In the other, I’ve managed to take my two underage-looking vampire girls to Hong Kong in pursuit of pedophiles to snack on, eventually hoping to get them to rural Thailand, but they’re stuck in a nighttime ghetto after getting off a human trafficker’s ship. Yesterday’s wonderful suicide website idea is still in the planning stages because I’ll be damned if I let this one get waylaid by poor planning. That and Eric, my boyfriend and strongest supporter, thinks it would make a great novel. I’m still sold on the short story idea but we’ll see how it works itself out.

T-minus one week until the start of NaNo and my novel idea isn’t completely fleshed out, either. I’m not especially worried about that because part of the draw of something like NaNo is that I will be focused on quantity over quality, with an opportunity to edit later on. I suppose I could do this with everything I write, but I prefer a bit more discipline and a whole lot less free-form rambling. Without discipline I’d never get anything done. I’ve learned that the hard way.

I’ve also noticed how little time I actually have. How am I supposed to work all night, exercise, brainstorm, write, read fiction manuals AND fiction for pleasure and get enough time to sleep a decent amount before lathering, rinsing and repeating? Am I going to have to cut out all extra activities, like reading the news or sending Instant Messages? Am I going to have to cut back on my sleep and run the risk of passing out at my desk at 4 AM like I used to? Should I start up a meth habit just to get this all done?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Let's Pretend They're Not Really Killing Themselves

I find myself becoming more and more attracted to the idea of suicide as a plot device. Two weeks ago I turned a writing exercise into a short piece on suicide jumpers, and today I’m outlining a longer story based off the Japanese phenomenon of suicide websites.

There’s something inherently creepy the taking of one’s own life, and it’s perfect to throw a bunch of “what if” questions at. What if these people weren’t actually doing it to themselves? What if it was something on the website? What if it was a ghost? Is it possible to influence people to commit suicide by manipulating their emotions? Actually, now that I think about it, both the short story/audio book and the film 1408 did it rather well. So yes, if a room can force people to terminate themselves with no lengthy back-story, so can a website. Now, to keep it from being hokey, that’s going to be the hard part.

Suspicions Confirmed on Suicide Site's Involvement in Group Deaths

I found this story while perusing the Mainichi Shimbun’s new website. It’s a dual-language Japanese newspaper that tends to translate more sensationalist news items. It’s stuffed to the gills with potential story ideas, and I often print small stacks of articles to take home and browse. They’ve recently split from MSN, so their archives from previous years aren’t available at the moment. I’ve been reading the site off and on for several years, and between the news and Japanese novels and film I’ve noticed a trend going on. People in Japan kill themselves openly a lot more often than we do here, and it’s being done more and more in groups. With a large portion of them, even if the final act is done in private, a lot of the planning stage is done online with a group of like-minded people. I’ve read a number of articles where people who don’t even know each other meet in person and then go off to die together. It’s quite an unnerving idea for me.

So here’s the big “Let’s Pretend” for today. Let’s pretend this isn’t suicide. Let’s pretend something is making this happen. What is it? A monster, a ghost, a psychic? Do we even need to know, specifically, what it is? For now, at least as I outline this story, I’m content with a rather ambiguous antagonist. I want this to have a very personal, frightening feel. I want to have convincing, three-dimensional people falling into this bizarre online “trap.”

I’m finding it hard to be content with myself anymore unless I’m busy. If I’m not writing, I’m reading fiction manuals. If I’m not reading fiction manuals, I’m out walking, and if I’m not out walking I’m doing laundry or cleaning the fish tanks or trying to read fiction for pleasure. This busy feeling is an odd thing, considering how long I spent wasting time indiscriminately. Being busy feels kind of nice. It makes me appreciate the time I do get to spend doing the little things that make me happy.

Apparently writing about suicides makes me happy. I’m not sure what that says about me.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Pulling Yourself Out is Hard to Do

This year, after nearly a decade of nothing, I managed to reverse a bit of the damage I've done to myself. I can't buy back the years I wasted with gluttony and non-productivity, but I can kick myself into overdrive in an attempt to catch up. That is what I am doing, and that is the purpose of this blog.

I grew up loving stories. I would beg my parents to make things up to entertain me, whether as a bedtime treat or to keep boredom at bay during car rides. At twelve I started writing my own ghost stories, and by middle school I kept a notebook on me at all times. I was first published by a small press my senior year in high school. I remember, late in the school year, getting my first acceptance slip the same day I received my college acceptance letter.

I wrote for a couple more years and then, in my early twenties, I stopped. I stopped writing, I stopped reading, I stopped exercising. I stopped planning for my future. I can't pinpoint the exact cause of all this. I wish I could. I wish I could blame it on deadbeat boyfriends or the crappy teachers I had at school, but ultimately it's entirely my fault. This bothers me because I still can't figure out why I would give up so many things that were important to me, and for seemingly no reason at all.

Earlier this year, I found I had doubled my body weight. I was no longer reading or writing fiction, I was in debt, I was depressed and I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Again, all of this for reasons unknown to me. It was then that I decided I was going to stop marching towards the cliff I'd inevitably end up throwing myself off of. I'd get my act together and shape up or die.

I'm fifty pounds lighter today and as of this afternoon I have four manuscripts out right now. I know that doesn't sound like much, and it's not, but it's a momentum building within me that I don't think I could slow or stop if I wanted to. And I don't.

On to the present. The real purpose of this blog is, in addition to the daily writing exercises I put myself through, to sharpen my writing skills. I'm pleased at what I am writing but I also fear I may have atrophied. Seven years is a long time to be away from something you love.

I'm also using this blog as a means to keep track of my goals. National Novel Writing Month is almost upon us. I used to think it was the stupidest idea ever, back when I was someone who USED to write short fiction. I realize now that I was quite jealous of people for no good reason. They were doing it, while I was laying in bed staring at the ceiling fantasizing about I could be doing but wasn't. I could have participated any year I wanted to, but I was afraid. I was afraid of failure so I just didn't do it. Illogical, I know. This year I'm going to treat it as an extended, month-long writing exercise and see what I come up with. I'm planning on writing a novel based on a short story I wrote ages ago (and have sent out again) called The Woman Without. I've already met some participants in Pittsburgh who seem pretty cool. When all is finished, I hope to have a big lump of first draft garble to polish and a handful of new friends. It's no fun being lonely, I've discovered.

Until then, I hope to have at least two more short stories finished by Halloween. I'm about 1200 - 1500 words into both of them but they've stalled out a bit. Between brainstorming and reading the stack of fiction guides I have I might be able to meet this goal. Here's hoping.