March Recap

January was productive (like 65k in 31 days productive), February tried to kill me, and March, well, March was a roller coaster.

Right at the end of February my husband’s grandmother passed away. We had the funeral on March 1st and the first week of March was eaten up with visiting. Love my out of town family so I’m not complaining, but it did slow down the writing. The kids have been good, we started the month out strong health wise. Only one snow day mid-month.

The roller-coaster part is my emotional state. I’m just all over the place this month. Happy, sad, tired, driven, holed up in bed for a day, on the ball, drop the ball – I can’t find any consistency or routine!

But, all that aside, here’s how the month went:

  • The Rose Garden Series is complete. All of the books are available in paperback online. I will have all the paperbacks available here by next week. The final ebook will launch on May 7.
  • Underground #6 is done and edited. Just need the cover.
  • Underground #7 is done and being edited. Still need a cover.
  • Cheyanne (the Underground bonus novel) is started and completely plotted. This bonus book will include the novella “Cheyanne” and the short story “Fifty-Fifty”.
  • I’ve been working on my memoir some more and I’m decently happy with how it’s looking. It’s going to need some serious editing for tone and voice but it’s coming along.
  • I wrote 44,914 words in March
  • I’m ready to start a MASSIVE 4-book epic fantasy project that has been sitting on my back burner for too long now. But, don’t expect to see much of it. I plan to pitch this one to the traditional publishing market.
  • What about keeping up new releases for my readers? The plan is to publish the memoir to fill the gap. Actually, 2 memoirs and a stand-alone novel that I will be working on in the background for the next 6-9 months.

Ended off the month with Spring Break. A whole week of kids and fun. April 13th I go for my black belt test so April’s update will be interesting.

If you’re in Southeast Manitoba, I’ll be at the St. Norbert Pop Up Market on April 14th (come by and see how I did on my black belt test!). The Rose Garden official launch is May 7th at the Jake Epp library.

Love, Death + Robots – A Review

Anyone here remember Animatrix? It was a collection of animated shorts but different artists/artistic teams that all took place in the universe of The Matrix. It was good, as good or better than the series itself.

Love Death + Robots is similar in that it is a series of animated shorts, in differing styles. Unlike Animatrix, there is NO common thread between them, no shared universe, no linking character or setting. It’s just random.

So, I guess it’s more like the old Heavy Metal Magazine, with the random comics.

The shorts range from 5-20 minutes in length. Some are done in 3D CG that is so good you have trouble telling they aren’t real people. Some are done in rotoscope. Some are done in edgy comic book/graffiti styles. Some are straight up 2D Sunday morning cartoons (but not family friendly).

The stories are gritty, but fun, for the most part. They all have something dark to them, something about survival, sacrifice, greed, stupidity … There’s a lot of violence, and a lot of nudity. And yet, it all stays classy somehow.

They’re stuck in my head. I mean, 97% of the shorts I watch end up stuck in my head for DAYS. I mull them over, admiring the concise storytelling, the expertly executed twists, the bland apathy of the robots touring a post-apocalyptic city, the deeper meaning behind the desert hallucinations, the subtle criticisms of colonialism or war, the strength of spirit, the depth of loyalty … And I admire the art, the clever writing, the uniqueness and audacity of the whole thing.

It just steps out and goes “fuck it, we’re doing this” and it’s so refreshing.

I’ve probably got 4 or maybe 6 episodes left, that I can’t watch until Friday night because I have to wait for my husband (we’re watching together and I’m not a ‘watch ahead cheater’). But I’ve been so blown away by the first dozen or so episodes that I can’t wait to review it.

No, I can’t wait to say “Go watch it!”

If I had to review every episode individually there’s one or two that might get 4 stars and so far only one that I would give 3 stars to. The rest get 5 out of 5. 11 out of 10. They’re good. They’re great. They’re “watch 17 episodes in one night and then watch them again tomorrow” good.

Seriously. It’s on Netflix. Go watch it. You won’t be disappointed.

Dear Authors, Write Crap

No, really, I mean it. This is one of the BIGGEST, HUGEST, MOST IMPORTANT pieces of advice I ever got, and I got it at twelve or thirteen years old and it changed my whole outlook.

You see these posts for artists about how your taste and your skill aren’t on the same level yet, that you draw your best and feel it’s not good enough because you’re comparing your “drawing #257” to a professional’s “drawing #20,985”. It takes time and practice to get the stuff coming out of the pencil to look as good as you want it to.

Same goes for writing.

In this lovely writing group I now belong to, I see a lot of posts from obvious beginners asking “how do I start”, “how do I get good”, “how do I get this book to publishable quality”? The answers? You write, you write lots of crap, and you don’t because it’s crap and you need to hide it in a drawer and write more crap until one day it won’t be crap anymore.

Give yourself permission to fuck up.

Give yourself permission to suck.

Yeah, classes and workshops and books on writing can help. Yeah, reading widely helps a lot. In the end, the only thing you can really do is put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and write. And accept the fact that it will suck. Your first novel will suck and should not be published. Your sixth novel may still suck and might not be salvageable. Your tenth novel … well, that might suck too, but you’ll get there at some point.

I have binders full of printed off stories, novellas, and starts of novels, not to mention discs my computer can’t even read any more FULL of stories, that I wrote from the time I was 13 until I was 28 and published my first novel. I WROTE FOR 15 YEARS WITH NO HOPE OF BEING PUBLISHED.

Let that sink in.

I’ll say it again.

I practiced writing for 15 years. So, don’t ask me how to get that first attempt published. Because you don’t. You write years worth of practice garbage first.

That’s the biggest problem with the indie market. Don’t get me wrong, I love being an indie author and I firmly believe the traditional publishing gatekeepers were keeping the gates too firmly shut. Indie publishing allows non-traditional voices that wouldn’t be able to get books to the public via the Big Five a space in the publishing world. And that is beautiful. But now everything thinks that you just slap words on a page and call yourself an author. You don’t.

Being an author, a professional author, a GOOD author, means practice. It means being humble enough to learn something through critique and lecture and practice. It means admitting that this scene or that character or an entire freaking book is not working and needs to be edited, cut, or tossed in a bin and burned.

Being a good author takes time. And that is something that our fast-paced, production-driven, star-struck social media world has forgotten. You don’t publish everything you write. You don’t publish the first thing you write.

This goes hand in hand with my previous post. Slow down. Get to know yourself as a writer. Give yourself time and space to evolve and develop a style and a voice.

As the dearly beloved Ms. Frizzle says “Take chances, make mistakes, and get messy”.

Writer garbage. It’s good for you. Just don’t publish the garbage in your haste to “be published”. The rest of us will thank you for waiting.

Hey Writers, Slow Down

I joined a very active writing group on Facebook where authors of all stripes (published and yet to be published, self and trad, seasoned and fresh) can ask questions about anything writing related, from plot twists to book blurbs to sentence structure. I like that most posts get 10+ replies and many go into the triple digits as the conversation builds. I like that, for the most part, people are polite but pull no punches. We could be a little more tolerant of the spelling and grammar errors since we have a lot of EAL members, but hey, no group is perfect.

One thing I am noticing is the number of people looking to the Facebook hivemind to do their brainstorming for them. Not just help them with a sticking point (is this detail or that twist believable/plausible) but entire chunks of plot.

For example:

64 years old married man, in a search of new husband for his 55 years old wife. What could be the reasons?

how do i start a feud between brothers

how do I start a feud between a male and female friends

I want to end a relationship in the book I’m writing but can’t come up with a good enough reason, any suggestions? I want something that will completely traumatise the guy.

(Description of character set up and scene)  I stuck there. I am not able to come up with conflict. Could you guys please suggest for further?

My advice to these authors? SLOW DOWN.

If you’re an outliner like me and you’re hitting these roadblocks during the outlining stage, take a break. Take a walk, do the dishes, talk to a friend about what you’re planning and why you’re stuck – not online, but in person, out loud. Let it sit in your head for a bit. Work on something else for a while. Skip that part of the outline and jot down what you know. I’ve been stuck like this, I have interesting projects on the back burner because they’re stuck exactly like this. I have a character and no plot yet so I let it sit.

If you’re a pantster (someone who just writes with no outline) and you find yourself frequently stuck to the point of abandoning projects, maybe you need to try outlining. If you have tried outlining and it’s not for you, try the same tips as above: take a walk, talk to a friend, do a mindless chore, have a shower, let it sit, let your mind mull it over. I’ve been here before too. I get up and stretch, run through my taekwondo patterns, make a snack, write a different scene and come back to it.

We’re obsessed with productivity (I’m one to talk, right? Setting word count goals and project deadlines like a mad woman) but we’re allowed to have slow days. When I’m stuck on my novel I work on my memoir. Or I work on world building and catch the words up on a later day. Slow down. You don’t have to complete an entire novel every month. You don’t have to be the fastest. Slow down and think for yourself. This is YOUR story, YOUR novel, write it the way you want to.

And don’t worry about your productivity speed. I’ve been waiting 7 years for the next George RR Martin novel to come out. Write at your own pace, and take time to recharge your creativity. Do your own brainstorming because the book is ultimately yours.

And yes, when all else fails, that is what a writing group is ultimately for. But I get the feeling that the second these writers hit a snag they jump on Facebook yelling “bail me out! This is hard! Give me the answer!” Writing is hard. It takes a lot of braining. Creating is exhausting and draining work, no matter what or how you create. Recharge, slow down, take breaks, let your mind wander at its own pace instead of the pace the world has set out for it.