May check-in: Falling off the wagon

The story of my writing in April can be pretty well summarized by the graphs of my progress:april-prog-1april-prog-2

Truth be told, I struggled a bit emotionally in April. As a result, I focused on self-care, which meant allowing myself to not write if I wasn’t feeling it or couldn’t get into the scene. I just didn’t have the mental spoons to beat myself up over my own goals.

So, I ended up with a large lull mid-month. And while I started off well enough increasing my daily goal to try to recover from it, I lost motivation at the end of the month and only ended up with 15,385 words of my goal of 20,000.

But I’m not worrying about it. I’ve adjusted my daily goals for May to try to make up for those last few thousand words I didn’t hit in April. It’s not a huge difference, so hopefully I’ll be able to manage it.

I didn’t do much else creative last month, either, particularly in the second half of it. Mainly, I’ll admit, because I’ve been playing video games. I received my preorders of Final Fantasy VII Remake and Trials of Mana, and the latter has been a great stress reliever in the past week.

I have also been continuing to play guitar. Not as consistently as I’d like, but I’ve played enough to now surpass where I got before I gave up last time, in both rhythm and lead guitar. In fact, I’m into it enough that I’m lamenting the brief instruction time on Yousician free and starting to consider a subscription to the app. (Of course, part of that may be that my tablet’s battery is too weak anymore to use for playing tabs I download.)

I’ve also maintained another good habit.

Screenshot_20200501-115656_Fit

(Six weeks ago I missed one day due to bringing home the kitten.)

I’ve been doing very little activity aside from 20-25 minutes on the elliptical every weekday, and unfortunately my body seems to be growing used to that. However, I’m glad to be keeping up this routine, and to anyone else struggling right now, I can’t stress this enough: get some exercise if physically able.

For May, I’m playing it by ear. The month is starting with gorgeous weather in southern Ontario and I’m actually trying to grow some vegetables. (This is a big deal; I finally gave up on trying to fight my lifelong brown thumb a few years ago.) But I may need to resort to more Trials of Mana and not just because I like the game. I’ve adjusted my writing goals, but I’m going in with no expectations. Lockdown is hitting me hard, despite that my life has received less disruption than many and I’m enjoying staying at home and having my family around me. Above all, I intend to continue being kind to myself. I hope those of you having a hard time out there feel the same way.

April check-in

people-1492052_1920There, it’s happened: March 2020 is finally over.

Not that April shows much more promise yet, but it’s a welcome reminder that all things are temporary. Hang in there, everyone. We will get through this.

So, was March better or worse for my writing? Neither, really. As the owner of a home-based business, the biggest changes to my day-to-day life have been having the family at home all the time and the cancellation of extracurricular activities. The latter has had a bigger impact than I was prepared for (though shouldn’t have been), as spending an hour or two alone waiting for lessons to complete four nights a week provided an excellent opportunity to get writing done, and indeed became my routine for half the week. I’ve had to fit in more time for writing at home, obviously, which comes with its own challenges.

Fortunately, I haven’t had to combat heightened stress or anxiety, so struggles with writing usually pertained to the normal issues: blank page syndrome, figuring out where a scene is going, just not feeling it some nights. Overall, I’ve kept up progress pretty much in line with my goals, and ended up just falling short on the last day of the month, due largely to a general devil-may-care attitude this week, and yesterday in particular.

I’m not disappointed with my progress though.

march-prog-1

march-prog-2

Note that these figures only begin from the day I started the spreadsheet to track my writing progress, on the 8th.

The story itself is progressing well. I don’t feel like it’s moving too quickly or too slowly, though how the remaining 2/3 of the story unfolds remains to be seen. I should note at this point that 120,000 words is an easy goal for the length of the manuscript, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it falls short of that.

Aside from writing this book, I’ve dipped into some other creative pursuits in the past few weeks, which I’ll share in coming posts. I continue to work on playing Tales of Vesperia, the first game for PS4 that I started playing in earnest, which I’ve almost finished now, some fifty hours in.

I even picked up the guitar again after at least a year of letting it collect dust. I need to build up the calluses on my fingers before I can start properly playing chords again, but I’ve done enough work on lead guitar over the past week or so to be back to the point I was at when I stopped playing before. I’m not going to make any promises about continuing–it’s easy to say I’ll keep doing it when I don’t have to make those four trips out per work week, making sure dinner is ready precisely on time every night–but I’d certainly like to keep it up. And, given that the app I’m using to learn it only allows me about ten minutes per day of instruction, I could do that in the afternoons instead of, say, that stupid mobile game I keep playing, if at a limited rate.

Also, I got a kitten.

20200401_140502

So, here we go, April.

On pride

Pride. One of the Seven Deadly Sins.

It is not so much taught as it is ingrained into our society that pride is the worst form of narcissism.

But is it really so evil? Is it so wrong to feel proud of our accomplishments? Who does it harm for someone to take joy in being smart, or pretty, or strong, or creative? Why is it such a grave insult for one to respond to a compliment by agreeing with it?

No, I think the true evil is egotism. Putting oneself before everyone else. This, in my opinion, is far more rampant and far more insidious than pride.

After all, when one takes it as an affront if someone agrees with a compliment, whose ego is so paramount that it becomes challenged? A compliment should be given selflessly; to turn it around and say that the compliment is somehow lessened because the receiver did not bestow the proper praise upon the giver changes the intention entirely.

It’s why people are so quick to argue about the things they enjoy, or don’t. It always baffles me, even frustrates me, that so many people can’t seem to let others like what they like. Their opinions become so important that it becomes a personal threat when others don’t feel the same way. The perceived challenge to their worldview overrides any understanding that another’s enjoyment (or non-enjoyment) of something has no bearing on one’s own opinions.

This egotism seems the source of so many problems in today’s society. Racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, other forms of bigotry—it all derives from this need to be better than others. Denial of white privilege—belief that a systemic issue is instead a personal condemnation. Judging others over everything from how they look to how they live—reinforcing the idea that one’s own being is better than others’.

All of these problems hide the fact that none of these perceived issues have any bearing or judgment upon the viewer’s life. Does that person who looks funny diminish one’s own self-worth? Does accepting that being born white means one has an easier time in life affect one’s value? Does the fact that gay people exist really have any impact over one’s life at all?

No. It’s all a result of inflating one’s ego above others.

I don’t mean to say that all of this is done maliciously. In fact, I think a lot of such problems are related to the fact that we are taught not to feel pride. Because we’re not allowed to take joy in our accomplishments or positive traits, we seek that validation of self-worth in destructive ways. And for those who are more attuned to those destructive habits, it results in rampant imposter syndrome, feelings of worthlessness, and depression.

I think it’s time to admit that pride isn’t the enemy. Of course, one can take it too far, but then it goes back to the problem of egotism. So be proud of your accomplishments. Take joy in whatever part of yourself makes you happy. And more importantly, allow others to feel pride when they’ve earned it. There’s nothing wrong with that. And if you find yourself feeling insulted by someone else’s views or appearance or being, maybe stop and ask yourself if it really has any impact on your own life before saying something.

Book tour and giveaway: THE BLACK TRILLIUM

The Black Trillium
by Simon McNeil
Genre: Post-Apocalyptic Fantasy
 
Confederation rules in Trana—so says the king.
But Fredericton is a long way from the shores of Lake Ontario, and
schemes for power will bring together three extraordinary young
warriors.
Savannah
A desert girl who came to Trana looking for refuge but has never found
a home
Kieran
A privileged city boy dreaming of rebellion and hardened by cruelty
Kyle
The disgraced heir to the throne desperate to win back his place in his
father’s heart
Sworn enemies or reluctant allies, they all have one thing in common: an
incomplete half of the legendary fighting skill known as the
Triumvirate sword art. They fight for glory, for power, for the
monsters lurking beneath the streets, and for the mysterious society
moving in the shadows of Trana—the Black Trillium.
Read on for my review, a guest post, and giveaway!

Continue reading “Book tour and giveaway: THE BLACK TRILLIUM”

The Internet is a great distraction

I don’t recall now why precisely I was searching for recommendations of steampunk novels online. I am looking for some good examples to read as I hope to delve into the genre with a novel in the works, but I don’t know why it came to mind this afternoon. I ended up spending the rest of the afternoon at work reading The Aldersgate Cycle, a blog I found about a steampunk novel in the works.

It ended up being a surprisingly compelling read, not least because it was a working copy of steampunk and the thought processes involved with it. But what really drew me in was the author’s attitude. It was so wonderful to read that blog because she’s passionate about writing; it’s not a job, it’s not for fame or glory, it’s just to tell a story. It really inspired me, those simple, often not directly related posts, simply because I could feel her love of writing in what she said.

It also reminded me of the great part of sharing writing on the Internet. I loved getting the direct feedback I got by posting The Fire Within on my website and Fictionpress. It felt good just knowing that people were reading my work. I miss that. At the same time, I know that if I do get published, a lot more people will read my work, and I am always hungry for recognition. It’s a conundrum.

Of course, I don’t have to stick with publication for everything I write even if – when – I get published, but it’s hard to look at a story and say, this one is fine just for self-publication or what have you. If anything, Aurius is the least of any story I’ve ever seriously contemplated writing to consider for mainstream publication, and yet it became what I want to be my debut novel. What are the qualifiers to say another story is not worth that? Should I stick with a smaller, less formal audience for a story because it’s not as deep or emotional as some I have in the works? I don’t see why that should make a difference.

The long and short of it is that I love to share my work. It’s so easy to do that online, but of course, the audience becomes limited that way. I had thought about sharing an excerpt from Eyes of a Dragon here, but now I’m even a little leery of that since I was told that some publishers don’t want any part of a manuscript published before they receive it.

Oh well. There’s no reason for me to be concerned about it yet. I still have a good long ways to go with Eyes, and I know I want the bigger audience of traditional publication with that. The nearest point I have to be concerned with this issue is with the novel I shall write for NaNoWriMo this year, and of course, I have to make it to 50,000 words first.

I received an e-mail today from one Simon Owens with a link to an article he wrote about the marketing effectiveness of Tor books offering free ebooks through the mailing list on their new website, so I thought since he was nice enough to e-mail me personally, I thought I’d pass along the link. I signed up for the mailing list some few months ago since I am all about free books – and incidentally, I highly recommend you do the same if you have not already.

The shocking coincidence of this is that I happened to stumble across that very article earlier today before I had any idea that he had sent me the link.

And speaking of free books from Tor, I just finished another yesterday.

In the Garden of Iden, Kage Baker – This is a bizarre tale that begins in the future and ends in the past, a story about technology discovering the keys to time travel and immortality and how the company that created the technology set up secret bases in hidden places throughout history to protect historical relics and endangered plants and animals from extinction. The novel follows the first assignment of a young girl recruited to the company from the dungeons of the Spanish Inquisition in the mid-sixteenth century, and the sordid tale of love and rare plant preservation that results when she’s sent to England during the tumultuous reign of Queen Mary I.

The first chapter of the novel provided a powerful hook; as soon as I opened it there was a strange and fantastic world full of potential written by the lead character Mendoza as a retrospect. The writing was fresh and slightly cynical, painting a sharp portrait of a believable character who’s lived about a thousand years. The mixture of science fiction and historical drama was well balanced throughout Mendoza’s assignment in England, doing a very effective job of bringing the reader into a very real past while keeping the highly advanced technology the main characters possess at the forefront of their experiences.

There are times when Mendoza made me want to roll my eyes a little, but she herself admits as she writes it that she was young and naive. The story was interesting, and being a fan of Medieval society – though this was more pre-Renaissance, I liked it just as much – I enjoyed the attention to detail in regards to the daily life in Kent. While it wasn’t the best thing I’ve ever read, it was an absorbing read and well written. It’s not an instant favourite, but it was certainly engaging, and I am curious to know what becomes of Mendoza later on in her long life. If you see it, it’s worth a read.

As a final note, I finally customized the sidebar a little bit. Criminy, but I can waste so much time on this thing.