Friday, December 19, 2014

#FlashFridayFootage: "A New Planet"

Happy Friday, folks! Hopefully many of you will get a chance to take a little break in the upcoming weeks. (I am using all of my PTO to take two days off so I can go back to Iowa! I think I must be crazy.) In any case, #FFF will be on a little break, but will be back in 2015 for more flashes of SFF for your weekend enjoyment.

Happy holidays!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

I Wanna Be A Novelist! (Throwback Thursday)

Okay, I'm not saying that this is going to be a regular thing, but I kinda had fun doing Throwback Thursday last week. So I decided to dig back into my archives for a prose sample. I like to see how far I've come over the past 14 years! Because, yes, this excerpt is from my very first novel that I ever wrote, when I was 13 years old. I don't think I knew the term "infodump" yet...
Richare and his wife, Gracia, lived together not far from where Rialana and Fred lived. Renla, Rialana’s sister, lived by Richare and Gracia. All of them were telepaths, and very nice people besides. Neither Fred nor Gracia were telekinetics, but that wasn’t unusual. Very few telkins (The common word for telekinetics. All of the Touched abilities had shortened names like that, which confused me for a while at first.) lived at Land’s Point. Of the two hundred Touched that lived at Land’s Points, there were 50 telkins, 42 telehealers, 26 telelemens (fire, earth, or ice), 18 telemeteors, 16 teleblocks, 4 telempaths, and 4 teleseers, and the other 40 were telpats only. It was rumored that once teleherins had existed, a twisted Touched ability that gave the power to completely control the bodies of others. Although it was just a rumor, it sent shivers down everyone’s spine to think of what a terrible power that would be.
This is from the second chapter of Novel 1, and I think this is actually a product of an edit/partial re-write I did in high school. So I somehow read this at least twice and thought it was okay!

After a brutal writing sample like that, I think I'll play it safe with the photo. Throwing it all the way back to Baby!Nora, who was totes adorbs. This is, appropriately, a December picture. The kitten's name was Russia, and she grew up alongside me for many happy years.

I don't think she was stealing my soul, here...

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Virtue of Vice

Sitting down to write a blog post today, I had to blink at my screen and figure out what I wanted to write. Not because I didn’t have anything to say—on the contrary, I feel like I have too much! First, there’s a list of “Blog Post Ideas” on my Todoist for those times that I can’t come up with anything. Second, there’s the fact that I just finished editing Novel 7. Third, there’s finding out, 5 months into my boyfriend’s deployment, that it’s getting extended. Fourth, there’s the holidays coming up. Fifth—well, okay, you get the idea. I have a few things on my mind!

So I’m going to say screw all that and write a totally different post. Just something that I’ve been musing on lately.

We are subjected to a constant bombardment of advice and exhortations regarding our health. Exercise 30 minutes a day! Eat your weight in vegetables every week! Don’t drink! Okay, drink a glass of red wine, but other than that, don’t drink! Don’t slouch! Don’t sit! Don’t sleep too much or too little! And each of us, according to our ways, either ignores this or strives for it or, most likely, a little of both.

But what are we really chasing? A few extra years of life in some distant future? Looking better naked? Perhaps even, somewhat sheepishly, happiness? I don’t know. Somehow it’s all just considered self-evident. You should do this, because it’s good for you. The definition of “good” is left as an exercise for the reader.

Which brings us to me. I’d imagine that I am somewhat of a health professional’s dream. I do not smoke. I do not drink (usually—every couple of months, maybe). I do not consume caffeine. I exercise regularly. I count calories and watch what I eat. I floss and mouthwash every night and use an electric toothbrush twice a day. I take walking breaks during the day at work. I get 7-8 hours of sleep a night. I rarely wear makeup or use heat on my hair and wash my face twice a day and use anti-wrinkle cream at night.

But at some point, I began to wonder, why? This was brought to a point yesterday when I had a dental checkup and they found two cavities. Not me! I am diligent about my oral hygiene! They smiled and said it could be worse, and I made an appointment to give up my MLK day to fillings. And as I lay in bed last night, trying to fall asleep when I wasn’t particularly tired so that I could ensure I got my 8 hours, I wondered why I bother.

I am not, it must be said, a particularly happy person. Many of the things I listed above I do to help self-treat my depression, but it doesn’t really seem to be working. I don’t particularly want to live a long life, as the idea of 60 vs 63 more years seems small and, in either case, exhausting. Sure I want to be physically fit, but the world doesn’t end if I don’t maintain my 18.5 BMI. Maybe, just maybe, I would be a little happier if I let loose a little. If I stocked my fridge with wine or stayed up until 1 AM or drank my coffee caffeinated.

Maybe. But…I don’t really want to. So for now I’ll keep being my boring self. But because that’s me, not because I’m following someone else’s dictates. I like the way my mouth feels after a good flossing, whether or not I still end up with cavities.

And as much as we all receive life and health advice, so do writers receive writing advice. Constantly. Conflictingly. Write every day! Outline! Don’t outline! Butt in chair! Character worksheets! Discovery writing! You could go crazy trying to follow it all. So don’t! Find the pieces that work for you, but don’t be afraid to mix a little vice into your virtue. Maybe you write only one day a week, but it’s better writing than you’d produce every day. Maybe you make half an outline but pants the rest. At the end of the day, following all of the writing advice isn’t going to make you happy/a perfect writer/published/whatever. So you do you, writers. You do you.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

I'm No Poet (Throwback Thursday)

In honor of Throwback Thursday (or #TBT, for you young hip folks out there), I decided to dig into the wasteland that is my “Archived Projects” folder. I unearthed this gem, dating back to a period in my life when I believed that all serious writers should write poetry. Erm, yeah. I don’t even like reading poetry! And “serious writer”—ha, that’s a label I don’t even want anymore (I’ve heard it comes with mandatory elbow patches and a penchant for cigarillos).

In any case, at least it’s good for a chuckle. I present to you the poetry stylings of HighSchool!Nora (not entirely sure, but I think I was 16):


Monotonous tick,
Somniferous tock.
I lay awake listening
To the click of the clock.

Hum of the crickets,
Chirp of the birds.
I lay awake listening
To a song without words.

Creak of the mattress,
Squeak of the sheets.
I lay awake listening
To the night’s restless beats.

And just to ensure the humiliation is total, an accompanying picture of the poet:

Okay, this is probably the least embarrassing photo of me at 16 in existence. I’m easing myself in to this…

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Mugs, Mugs, Mugs!

Okay, it felt so good to get my last confession off my chest that I have to go again. Yes, my friends, it is time for me to stand up and say: I LOVE MUGS!

They are beautiful containers designed for hot beverages, what isn't there to love? If you're really feeling fancy, they can even be used to make cakes! They look great on shelves, make great souvenirs, but yet are still so practical. Plus I feel extra writerly when I have a mug on my desk. No, I don't think I'm ashamed of my mug collection one bit.

So I will shout it from the rooftops--or at least YouTube!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Getting Real

It was a pretty normal Thursday morning. I texted my boyfriend, “I don’t even believe in souls but I think mine is dying”. It did even occur to me how melodramatic that sounded until after I sent it. I wasn’t trying to be a sad rag or a drama queen. I was just trying to express how I felt in that moment to the person that cares the most about those feelings.

It bothered me, that message. I began to think more seriously about the number that my doctor had given me, for self-referral to a therapist. We’d made light of it in her office, my insistence that my bunnies and my running were more than enough to stave off the mild bouts of depression I was sometimes bothered with. But maybe I wasn’t holding up as well as I thought.

I decided to do a self test on Psychology Today, just to see. As I was taking the test, I found myself thinking “Well, yeah, I feel sad a lot and everything sucks and I get anxious, that’s all normal. I don’t have any of these real symptoms like hearing voices, uncontrollable urges, panic attacks, etc.” It wasn’t until I was almost done that it occurred to me—maybe these things that I think are so fucking normal, that they are pointless to try to fix because I’m not really unwell, maybe other people out there would look at those items and think they are just as outlandish as the others. Maybe not everyone feels the way I do. So maybe I would call that number, later, in some future version of me that could actually pick up the phone and make that step.

When my boyfriend managed to call me that afternoon (a rare and wonderful occurrence as he is on deployment), I ended up lying on the floor of my living room, sobbing. About nothing, really, just an overwhelming agony at the fact of living my life. I was so ashamed. I felt like—feel like—I am falling to pieces. The black hole that sometimes resides in my chest has taken up a residence there so permanent that I’m not sure—that I would really be me without it there.

But enough is enough. I picked up the phone. It was terrifying, honestly. I almost hung up on the receptionist multiple times, just backed out and wanted to say “No, this is all a mistake, I just need to try harder to smile and focus on the positives in my life and I’m wasting your time because I’m just lazy,” but I didn’t. I stayed on the line. I have an appointment next week. I’m terrified to go, but I’m even more terrified to keep going on like this.

(Note: I wrote this post--or a version of it--originally for myself as a journal entry. I decided to post it here in case my experience can help anyone else. I know that many creative types struggle with issues like this, and I do believe there is hope for us all!)

Monday, November 10, 2014

One Third NaNo Check-in

Since today is a nice even number, thanks to our decimal system, as well as a nice even fraction of the month, I thought it a great time to check in on that frantic writing beast that is NaNoWriMo.

This is a pretty critical time in the life of a NaNoer. There are three main possibilities of where you are at, and I’ll look at each of those and the way forward.

1. You’re behind (<16,667 words). This may range from lagging a bit (say, 15kish) to “oh gods what am I doing” (say, 0) or anywhere in between. You’re probably frustrated about being behind. You thought you were going to slay the great NaNo beast, and instead it’s kind of kicking your ass. You may be thinking about giving up—you may have given up already! But in any case, things are not hopeless! Even if you are in our “oh gods” category, you could hit 50k by writing 2,500 words a day from here on out. That is completely doable. Besides, chances are you’ve written more than zero words, so 2,500 per day is the absolute, worst case scenario. Now let’s say that you’re in the lagging category, sitting right around 15k words. This could be a potentially more dangerous zone, believe it or not. You’re only 1 day of words behind. There is absolutely plenty of time to catch up—and you know it. So stop telling yourself that you’ll catch up later. Remember, the end of November tends to be busier than the beginning for a lot of people. Catch up now. No more excuses, you are within striking range!

2. You’re right on track (16,000-17,000 words). Good job! You likely have a schedule and a plan and are sticking to it. Maybe you hit exactly 1,667 every day and are chugging along. Maybe you’re a bit more erratic, but every few days you make sure you hit that goal line. Maybe you just had one really good day on November 1! In any case, you’re on track. Keep doing what you’re doing, but beware of burnout. You haven’t left yourself any margin, so you need to be good about sticking to your plan/schedule. But don’t worry too much, pat yourself on the back, and keeping NaNoing strong.

3. You’re ahead (>16,667 words). Congratulations! You’ve been a whirlwind of writing for the past 10 days. Maybe you want to finish early enough to enjoy Thankgsiving pie in peace. Maybe your personal goal is >50k. Maybe you’re just so in love with your new novel that it demands to be written and you must comply. You probably don’t need much advice, but I’ll just caution you against resting on your laurels. Building up a buffer so that you can enjoy a weekend off is great, but when that weekend stretches to 2 weeks…just remember, you haven’t won until 50k! (I mean, officially. I think anyone who participates has won!)

So there we have it. No matter if you’ve written 0 words or 49,999 words, your November writing adventure can end in that elusive win—or not. It’s up to you, and I have full faith!

 As a bonus, here is a pep talk I made a couple years ago, in case that sort of thing helps you. Happy NaNoing!