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February check-in February 9, 2020

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A little late, but at least not as late as my last post. If I keep this up, I might eventually write a blog post on time!

So, here we are a month into the new year. (Wait, already? No wait, only? What year is it?!) I thought I would check in with my progress on my goals for 2020.

I fell a bit short of my goal for writing book 3 of the Sisters of Chaos trilogy last month, only ending up with 2,500 words of my intended 10,000. However, the important part is I’ve beaten blank page syndrome and have indeed started writing the novel, and I’m starting to develop the habit of writing again. Not much of what I’ve written so far I feel is very good, but at this point I’m just pounding words out on the page. I’m certainly more of a plantser (plotter + pantser) than either/or, and I need to just write to find out what works and what doesn’t.

I was also very glad to start a new scene today from a different character’s POV and find that the interaction between this character and another continues to be incredibly fun. Simply letting the two play off each other ended up with some unexpectedly entertaining dialogue.

Taking my goal of 10,000 words/month very literally, I need only write about 660 words per day to get back on track with 20,000 by the end of February. Considering that I’ve been writing around that much or more most days that I’ve actually sat down to write in the past few weeks, I’m feeling pretty positive about my progress so far, even if that daily goal is about twice what I would normally need to hit 10k in a month.

Reading has also been going well, as I managed to knock off four books on my TBR in January, and have completed two others since then, which brings me down to less than twenty remaining. I also read my first 5-star book in almost two years, Artemis by Andy Weir. Incredibly entertaining and highly recommended.

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Ready to game.

 

Of course, last week a PlayStation 4 happened.

So, now I need to be a little more stringent in handling my free time. I’m working on it. Today was a success story; work days might be a little trickier.

In unrelated artistic news, I’ve tried out some new baking techniques recently. A mirror glaze (didn’t quite work out as intended) and, just today, I attempted decorating cookies with royal icing by piping wet-on-wet. While I made some mistakes and learned some things, and could certainly use a smaller piping tip, they came out pretty well.

Nothing else of note in the last month, but then, I am trying to limit my attention to just a few endeavors right now, much as I might derive inspiration for other media. Must… focus…

At the moment, I’m feeling good about how I’m doing. Keeping the big picture in mind while focusing on achieving the small daily goals.

Let’s see if I can keep it up.

Happy new… well, not yet stale year January 20, 2020

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sparkler-839831_1920So, here we are again (a little delayed, on my part). My year started off a little less spectacularly than a hotel-room view of the fireworks over Quebec City, but I drank peach sparkling wine with friends in my pajamas, so I have no complaints.

A year ago, I made a post talking about resolutions and goals, though while the spirit of the new year inspired productivity from me, I didn’t really set many concrete goals. The one exception was my reading goal. After a rather pitiful year of reading in 2018, I wanted to do better. So I set a Goodreads reading goal of 27 books, one more than my previous best year of books since I’ve been recording my progress on Goodreads.

I ended up reaching 38 by the end of the year. Granted, 21 of them were graphic novels, but I wasn’t that specific when I set my goal.

a-jewel-on-sapphire-coverAs for writing last year, alas, I didn’t get book two of the Sisters of Chaos trilogy published. But, er, I did release a new book last year! A Jewel on Sapphire is a chapter book about a girl who lives on a space station and finds an alien she wants to keep as a pet, so if you or the 6-9-year-old in your life is into that sort of thing, go check it out.

In other goals, I must admit that playing guitar fell by the wayside. However, I managed to keep up an unbroken streak learning Japanese on Duolingo, and hit a pretty good milestone recently.

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Granted, I had a few cheat days, but overall, it was less than a week, so it’s pretty safe to say I have indeed put in a full year’s worth of work by now.

So what do I have in store for 2020? Let’s start with a reading goal.

20191120_090414This year, I just want to get through my TBRs. In fact, I took them out of their carefully filed places on our primary bookshelf and stacked them – in chronological order of date acquired – in the living room, so that they stare me down and entice/guilt me into reading them, rather than remaining easily forgotten behind the elliptical in the bedroom, and behind another row of books in some cases.

I actually felt fairly good about that stack when I saw it. It’s fewer books than I read last year, and only about 20% of those books are older than last June. At least I am making my way through my TBR books. So, at present, my reading goal for the year is rather shorter than last, but I’m focused more on specific books, and I’m counting on reading others after (and probably a few during; I haven’t fully caught up on W.I.T.C.H. yet).

And while I may not have released the next Sisters of Chaos book last year, I can now say that it is coming in June! So please stick around, I promise I’ll try to be better about hyping it up prior to its release.

I do feel bad about spending seven years to get the second book of the trilogy out. However, that’s only half as long as it took to get the first book out, so it’s an improvement. And it offers up another convenient goal: try to halve that time again for book three. Hence, my writing goal for this year: get a first draft of the final installment of the Sisters of Chaos trilogy written. Sounds a little daunting for someone who just took seven years to write a sequel to a novel with the rest of the trilogy already roughly sketched out, but when I break it down, that’s only about 10,000 words to write per month. The fact that I’ve yet to write a word for it is moot; I have time enough left in January without resorting to NaNoWriMo pace. Besides, I still had some planning to do. It’s a motivating goal, at least, like my reading goal that I smashed last year. I can do this. I will do this.

As far as other goals, I just want to continue the good habits I’ve formed over the last year or two. Exercising regularly, listening to my body, eating healthier, avoiding time-wasting mobile games or spending evenings rewatching the same movies and TV shows over again. I also apparently need to do a better job of mitigating my general stress level. That lengthy Duolingo streak is also inspiring me to continue it, though I’ll admit that after a year, I’m spending more days doing my minimum goal than I used to.

I’m ready for this year. Er, never mind that we’re already a few weeks into it. Let’s do this.

P.S.: I also finally finished making my way through this beastly backlist (which was actually closer to 45 hours by the time I committed to it):

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Now I can finally move on to the dozen other albums and several dozen other free songs I’ve been waiting to check out until I finished vetting these. … oh.

Mid-year pulse check June 12, 2019

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Obviously, my attempts to blog more early in the year didn’t last very long. As usual, the greatest hindrance to it is myself. I’m sure I will always have something to write about, after all. I’m still sitting on photos from the winter to share, not to mention those from a trip to Banff a few weeks ago.

So what have I been up to while not blogging? The big news is that I have two new books that pretty much only need cover art to release, including Sisters of Chaos book 2. There may still be some final tweaking to that one, so I can’t give a release date yet. I’m also currently working on a short story which is a bit different from my usual fare, though that one’s not going to see print until next year (if it goes well).green light audiobook cover-small

Also, because I clearly can’t stand the thought of having a manageable workload, I’ve begun narrating audiobooks for Brain Lag. I’ve recorded two so far; the first, J. R. Dwornik’s Green Light to Paradise, came out last fall, and the newest, Innocent Earth by Dale E. McClenning, has been submitted for distribution and is making its way into catalogues.

It’s a lot of work; Innocent Earth took 100 hours total. That doesn’t sound like a whole lot in the context of 40-hour work weeks, but with my rather reduced work days and other projects going on at the same time, it took me about six months to finish it. However, voice acting has turned out to be a lot of fun. (I particularly enjoyed voicing a flamboyant preacher from Kentucky in Innocent Earth.) I also get a chuckle while editing now and then, say, when my cat decided to chip in. While I’ve decided to take a little break from it for the moment, I look forward to recording my next audiobook.

As for my 2019 goals, according to Goodreads, I’m three books ahead of schedule for beating my best year of reading. So a few of them are graphic novels; I didn’t specify that for my goal! Regrettably, I haven’t been doing as well with playing guitar in the past couple months. I think I was doing better than the last time I ‘seriously’ tried to learn before my practice time dried up, so I would like to find time for it again. I enjoyed playing.

However, I am happy to report that I have continued an over 150-day streak on Duolingo learning Japanese. I’m far from holding a real conversation, of course, but I’ve learned a few hundred words so far, am beginning to understand the idiosyncrasies of the language, and continue practicing reading hiragana and katakana whenever I see it. It’s been fun and maintaining an unbroken streak for so long (okay, so I’ve had two cheat days) certainly motivates me to keep learning every day.

I also just finished refreshing the design of the Brain Lag website, which involved learning how to make a responsive web design, or one that will change depending on the size of the device viewing it. Aside from that, I’ve managed to uphold some other personal goals, so it has been a productive year for me so far.

Now let’s see if I’ll actually fit blogging in to the rest of that.

New art: Garrick July 17, 2018

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Awfully late with this one, but I wanted to share this fantastic drawing of Garrick from Enduring Chaos by Stephen Peterson of TriCity Studios!

Sisters of Chaos book 2 update June 5, 2018

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I haven’t said anything about the progress of the sequel to Enduring Chaos in a long time. It’s intentional, though I’m not exactly sure why. Some nonsensical, subconscious mix of not wanting to get anyone’s hopes up, feeling like people would just be frustrated with me posting about what I’m doing while still not having the book ready, feeling like I’m making too big a deal of it, still taking blog posts too seriously to just sit down and write one, or perhaps some straight-up pride (or guilt). But, it’s coming up on five years since the first book was released, which makes me groan, and I owe you, the readers, if nothing else, an explanation.

If you’ve been waiting for book two, all I can say is I’m sorry.

I have been working on it. After making a push last year and in late 2016, I finally finished the final first draft last summer. I then spent the next few months doing my preliminary edits before sending it off to beta readers in late fall. My beta readers gave me fantastic feedback, which came back in winter. Unfortunately, they made it clear that the story still needed some significant editing.

The editing has been a slog for the last few months. Just trying to figure out how to portray what I was trying to show instead of the less favourable impression the readers got, on one scene alone, held me up for a month or more. This has proven to be a very challenging book to write, and subsequently edit. There are particularly complex conflicts and character interactions, a whole wealth of new characters with their own cultures and histories to introduce, struggles not to bog down readers with too many characters or too much info in a notably bigger story than the first book*, dealing with all the backstory that a sequel entails (which I have never written before), remnants of earlier drafts that more often than not end up mucking up the works and have to be reworked, even hints of character development that the characters themselves aren’t aware of. Getting everything to align properly has also been tricky, because unlike every other book I’ve written, I wrote consecutively occurring storylines one POV at a time, and balancing timelines and spreading out scenes from different characters when I put it all together has required a lot of tweaking. It’s a lot of work and a lot of aspects that are difficult to handle.

* Spoiler alert: I completely failed at that one. Still working on some scenes there.

However, the beta readers are in agreement that it is a much better book than the first. Even though it’s not where I want it to be yet, I am quite pleased with it so far and have high hopes for it when it’s finished. The manuscript has already been through a lot of changes over the years and it has become a much stronger book for all the work I’ve put into it. I briefly considered trying to push it out for Gen Con this year, but I don’t want to rush it just to get it done. I want this book to be as good as it can be before I release it, particularly because it’s already better than the first book.

I have vowed not to write any other novel until I’ve finished this trilogy. I will, though, have a new short story related to the series in this year’s Missing Pieces volume at Gen Con. (It features a minor character introduced in book 2.) I do have at least a soft goal of having the book ready by next year’s Gen Con, if for no other reason than that the short story I have planned for next year’s Missing Pieces will contain a major spoiler for the book. I will admit that a couple years ago, I wrote a mostly unrelated novella that was intended to be for an earlier volume of Missing Pieces, but after finding that it needed much more editing than I could reasonably accomplish within the time frame for the anthology, it has been entirely back-burnered. Aside from that, and despite my muse occasionally (*cough* since last weekend) giving me a massive burst of inspiration for some other story, I have not written anything else.

I have a working title for the book which might end up being the final title, but I don’t want to share it yet because I’m not 100% satisfied with it.

For those who have been waiting for the book, thank you for your patience and I apologize again for the lengthy wait. If there’s anything you want to know about the book or any hints you’d like to see to hold you over until it’s ready, please don’t hesitate to comment here or send me a message through my contact form.

Meanwhile, I hope to see you at any of the Brain Lag events coming up this summer:

June 17: Brampton ComiCon – Brampton, ON
July 13-15: Ad Astra – Richmond Hill, ON
August 2-5: Gen Con – Indianapolis, IN
September 22: Forest City Comicon – London, ON

Words left behind October 16, 2017

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It takes a lot of work to write a novel.

All authors say that, but how can a reader understand what that means? Some authors throw out numbers like it took X hours of work, or X months or years. And yet, as a reader, one might look at one author who releases one book every five years, and another who releases a dozen in the same time, and wonder why the first can’t match the second. Especially with series. The world and characters are already established, right? Shouldn’t it be easier?

I think the true measure of what’s involved in writing a novel is in all the work you don’t see. Agonizing for hours over a single word. Dialogue rewritten ten times or more. Entire backstories, enough to write short stories or even other novels, for characters who appear only in one chapter. Characters, scenes, entire plot points that an author loved that had to be scrapped. The way it’s constantly on your mind – on a bus, at a grocery store, at a party, at your day job.

For Enduring Chaos, I wrote over 300,000 words that ended up in the trash before it came to the point it is now. At this point, the tally for the series overall is at least 400,000 deleted words. The first book went through three complete, start-to-finish drafts of which nothing remained in the published book. At least two scenes in the final draft were completely rewritten four or five times.

Hours upon hours of research, probably enough to fill a full-time job for a week at least. Conversations with half a dozen different people just for information on horses – some for no other reason than to determine a particular horse’s size, merely for the sake of a single comparison in the book. Research on weaving and weather patterns and etymology and much more. An hour-long conversation with my resident expert, along with taking over a page of notes, about the behaviour of a character who has exactly one spoken line.

I have pages of notes keeping track of the timeline and the distances characters have crossed. I have my own private wiki for notes on the series – characters, locations, artifacts, and more. I have notes everywhere – on my computer, my tablet, my phone, a notebook by my bedside, the cloud. I have pages of notes written for a single scene – and I’ve done that multiple times. I have pages of notes about the backstories that inform each character’s decisions. I even have pages of notes I never kept – writing down dialogue or actions as I was working it out, only to delete it when that conversation passed, or never even happened on page.

And then there’s the unwritten work. Character sketches and maps. Planning out movement during battle scenes. Those thoughts always on my mind. Hours of conversation with my husband about aspects of the book. Hours spent in so many sessions of staring at the screen, working out in my mind how a scene will go. Determining the impact of a certain event upon a character. Thinking. So much time spent inside my own head.

How do you quantify that?

Well… you don’t. A reader only gets the finished book, and a writer has to accept that that’s all most people will see. Sure, you can discuss the writing process at conventions or meet-and-greets, bemoan the struggles of editing with other writers, friends, family, or other witting or unwitting audiences, or write how-to articles or blog posts about it, but the truth is, no one is really going to appreciate the scope of how much work went into your novel except you.

As an author, it’s just part of the job. Writing means rewriting, and it means a lot of writing that will never be seen, not necessarily because it’s not good enough, but because it’s not necessary. We do this and we suffer through deleting words we adored time and again because it’s part of the process.

Because we love writing.

But don’t mistake that for meaning it isn’t hard work.

Sisters of Chaos vignette 2 February 29, 2016

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While trying to get back into the spirit of writing my next book, the second in my Sisters of Chaos trilogy, I wrote a short scene featuring Damian, the star of the trilogy, as a little glimpse into her history. Seeing as I don’t intend on writing any more of this piece, I present it to you now. This takes place 2-3 years before the start of Enduring Chaos:


 

For the first time that day, Damian could see clearly. Her veil hung close at hand in case of any surprise visitors, but standing in the kitchen, the aroma of herbs and roast duck on the air, she relished the free air on her hair and face.

Claude let out a breath as he sat down at the dining table. “Well, this is looking to be our most profitable trade season yet, though these regulations are awful this year. I wonder if I can hire someone who can sift through all these taxes and guild fees.”

Damian smiled as she carried a platter toward the table. “You said that last year, too, Papa. You’ll figure it out.”

Her father stood to help bring dishes to the table. “Well, I’m glad to have you here to help me out. I certainly couldn’t handle it all on my own.”

She gave him a wry smile. “You could always take on an apprentice. Mrs. Dunhill will need to before the year ends.”

Claude groaned as he sat at the table, Damian sitting across from him. “I can’t imagine teaching an apprentice enough of all this to actually take over for me one day.”

“You’ve taught me.”

“Yes, and you’re better than any apprentice I could get. I wish I could just keep you around.”

“What do you mean? I’m not going anywhere.”

His mustache quirked in a sad smile. “Damian, you’re as good a merchant as I am, but you deserve more than this. You should have your own family, your own home.”

The thought terrified Damian as much as she longed for it. It left an ache in her stomach so deep she felt nothing else could possibly fill it, but the idea of actually having a suitor made a chill run up her spine. She reflected on that afternoon, when they met with Mrs. Dunhill, one of Claude’s best weavers, and the woman’s daughter, whose belly now visibly swelled. She was younger than Damian.

Damian swallowed. “Papa, how could I get married?” She stared into his eyes, his brown meeting her vibrant yellow. “I couldn’t keep this a secret.”

“You’ll find someone who will accept you the way you are.”

She bitterly turned away.

Her father reached across the table and laid his hand on hers. “Have faith, Damian. You wouldn’t want to marry anyone who couldn’t see your true worth, anyway.”

She sighed but didn’t argue. Silently, they both returned to their meals.

“Papa,” she finally ventured after a protracted silence, “I’m the reason you never remarried, aren’t I?” As she saw the denial about to be issued from his lips, she added, “Honestly.”

His expression softened. “Honestly, I wouldn’t make that choice. I don’t need anyone else in my life.”

A smile spread on Damian’s face. “And I don’t need anyone else in mine.”

A trace of sadness remained on Claude’s face, but he smiled back and said nothing else on the topic.

 

2015 art update September 3, 2015

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In short, I still haven’t done much of it. However, in my typical way, I have done a bit of dabbling, and at times perhaps I have been doing more drawing than much of the time over the past few years, even if it is just sketches. The beginning of the year, in particular, saw me picking up the sketchbook a little more frequently:

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 I have also done some character designs on my tablet:

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More recently, after having the materials for upwards of a couple years, I finally tried my hand at some proper wire wrapping:

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And finally, earlier this year I upgraded to a proper DSLR camera, with which I am very pleased:

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Changes January 23, 2015

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I finished a new drawing last night, my first in over six months:

Sketch22420045It is a simple picture, in many respects, but this drawing is very important to me. Not because of the content, but because of the way it made me feel.

Because I enjoyed working on it. I enjoyed every step of the process – building up the sketch, designing the outfit, finding reference images for things like the hairstyle and anatomy, even learning to work around the limitations of the app I used, as I drew this from start to finish on my tablet. Intimidation reared its head and made it hard to get started at times, but I never had to force myself to work on it or felt discouraged that something wasn’t working and wanted to give up.

I don’t know why or how this changed, but this is a big deal for me, and it led to an even bigger revelation:

I feel good about my art.

I don’t care that it isn’t as good as the artists I follow. I don’t care that there are a lot of things I can’t or at least don’t know how to draw. I don’t care that after so many years I am still learning how to draw faces. I looked through my online gallery last night, both the drawings that kind of make me want to delete almost my entire gallery and the ones I still like, and it just made me want to draw more. For the first time in at least ten years, flaws aren’t the only thing I see, and I’m revelling in the act of creating, itself.

Now if only I had more time to draw.

Enduring Chaos: Trailer June 9, 2014

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The much anticipated trailer for my latest novel, Enduring Chaos, is live:

If you like it, please favourite, share, subscribe to the channel, and please spread the word! Huge thanks to the amazing cast of people who helped make this film a reality.