Sunday, December 29, 2013

Resolutions vs Goals

Have you made New Year's resolutions yet? If you read my blog last week, you know I've got lots of writing to work on in 2014. I didn't frame them as 'resolutions', because - let's face it - my resolutions last about one week.
Nearly all the blogs I've been reading talked about 'plans for the new year'. Those blogs are not calling them 'resolutions'. I think one called them 'hopes', but that seems nebulous and a source of pressure, so I prefer the term I saw more often: goals.
Resolutions tend to be vague; I'm going to diet, exercise, lose weight and get in shape this year! How do you succeed at that? If next Christmas, you have a piece of pecan pie, have you failed to diet? If you really can't find time to consistently work out, have you failed to exercise? If you only lose 40 of the 100 pounds you wanted to lose, have you failed? If on Jan 1, you can hardly walk from the bedroom to the kitchen, but by Dec 31, you can get all the way to the end of the block and back - even though you're still overweight and you still can't run a marathon - have you failed?
Goals need to be specific AND something that you can control. I'm going to get my first book published! is a resolution. I will continue to send my first manuscript to agents and editors this year sounds more like a goal.
With that in mind, I have started to look at my 'plans' for 2014, and turning them into goals:
·      >  I will lose an average of 1 pound a week through diet and exercise.
·       > Each time a manuscript is rejected, I will immediately send it to another market. (If suggestions were made on how it could be improved, I will take a week to go through and consider those suggestions before sending it out.)
·     >   I will compose 1,000 words per day and edit 1,000 words per day an average of 5 days a week.
·       > I will find opportunities to make personal appearances as an author an average of once a month.
Those are all things I have some control over. They are specific, but flexible. (If I have to arrange 12 appearances next December because I've been lazy and haven't done any all year, that averages to one a month, and I've succeeded.)
Believe it or not, I can do the 3rd one. I am currently writing 3 different projects and editing another. This past couple of weeks (yes, even in the confused haziness of impending Christmas), have been aiming at 1,000 words a day on the project with a short deadline, and about 500 words a day for the other two, then editing 1,000 words in the evening. And I try to work 7 days a week, so if I don't have a great day, I can make up for it.

Are you going to make resolutions? Or set goals? Let me know, and - if you don't mind - tell me just one of yours.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Hearing Voices

I hear voices in my head.
No, they aren't telling me to kill the neighbors or set the cat on fire. They aren't even telling me I'm stupid, won't amount to anything or other negative things. These voices don't belong to demons, or angels, or even deceased family members.
The voices are characters, who tell me the stories that I write. If I don't pay attention to what they say and I take the story in a different direction, they stop talking to me, and I find myself in writer's block... for that story.
For me, characters start as little more than a shadowy form. Maybe I know right away what their hair color or eye color is, maybe that comes later. Sometimes I know where their story occurs, maybe even that isn't clear. So I could start with as little as a shadow standing in a fog. How can I possibly write anything about that? (Hmm, that could be an interesting opening. I'll have to think about that.)
So, each character lurks in the dark recesses of my mind at first, and they begin to whisper things about themselves to me. I don't consciously hear the whispers, but they lodge in my subconscious, and slowly, the picture begins to clear.
"Hi! I'm Colleen MacDowell, call me Mac. Yeah, you've given me red hair, but mine's more fire engine red than carroty or auburn, so fix that, would you? I'm short, but extremely strong, because I'm from a heavy world. If a guy gets fresh, I'm likely to deck him. And that's landed me in the brig a few times. Bugalu was my brother's roommate at the Academy, and he adopted me as a little sister in order to help my real brother keep me out of trouble. Believe me, getting myself assigned to the same ship as Bugalu was NOT easy!"
"People call me Kandi, although my name is Kandaranna. I was raised by a family of Sioux in South Dakota. I had black hair, but my white skin and blue eyes said I didn't belong. Pa sent me to Chihuahua, to an Amerind school to learn the old ways, which didn't make sense to me. Eventually, I joined the Space Fleet. On my first assignment, our crew was investigating an abandoned derelict of alien design. That ship kidnapped me, claimed I was the child of its original crew. We've been looking for my parents ever since. Oh, yeah. My hair stayed black while I was trying to pass as human, but I've learned it can also go white... or any shade of purple in between."
So, once I know that much about a character, they stop whispering and we start their story. Occasionally, they surprise me with a tidbit they hadn't revealed before. For instance, Mac took ballet lessons!
The way I see it, if I didn't hear voices in my head, I wouldn't be able to write stories. And sometimes, my characters are the only company I need.

Do you hear voices?

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Looking Ahead

Okay, last week I looked back at 2013, so this week I'll try to figure out what I'm going to do in 2014 to get me closer to my goal.
The first thing that comes to mind is I've got to overhaul / reinvent the website. ( I can't afford to hire anybody, so it's up to me. I've been gathering notes on what makes a good website, and I have people I can consult for their opinion, so maybe it won't be too bad. Still, it's not my favorite activity, so it will be slow-going.
Hubby and I will be attending the World Science Fiction convention in London, and the European Science Fiction convention in Dublin the following weekend. That has been occupying a lot of my time, trying to figure out the travel arrangements and all that. That long a trip will suck up a lot of our resources, so as far as personal appearances, the 'usual' local conventions may be the only ones I can plan to get to. Still, that doesn't mean I can't schedule some appearances at book stores, libraries or corn fields in the region that I can drive to in a day, so I will be trying to organize some of those.
MoonPhaze Publishing has wanted to print its first hard-copy book. We'll be looking at means of doing it that will not require thousands of dollars up front, like going with POD. Of course, if we happen to find a few thousand dollars to go to a regular printer, we'll switch gears again. In any case, having a paper-back book on hand could make those appearances mentioned in the previous paragraph more enjoyable, both for me and for anybody who attends them.
I've signed up for some classes in leatherwork! In at least two of my universes, I have a segment of the population who work with leather, and this will help me 'identify' with them. Besides, I like to learn new things.
As far as writing, I've got 4 contests/anthologies to submit to during the first 2 months of 2014. It's time for my second novel (romance) to start looking for a home. My third novel needs some rewriting & polishing, the roughs of 2 other novels need to be finished, and I've started a sf novel rough. If I keep finding more contests and anthologies, I should be plenty busy!

Maybe I should get an early start on some of that, don't you think?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

2013 Wrap-Up

2013 is not over yet, but this seems a good time to look back at what I have or have not accomplished, before I start making wild plans for next year. Of course, looking back might not keep me from making wild plans...
In 2013, I gave readings at Conquest and OSFest. This was kind of 'dipping my toe in' to see how the water was, and it was this kind of activity that prompted me to join Toastmasters for a couple years, to learn not to freeze up when 'in the spotlight'. Okay, I got some practice at readings.
At Conquest, I also participated in panels. They weren't on my best topics, and I struggled to participate fully. I am not great at 'thinking on my feet' when the thinking involves talking. Now I know to prepare better for panels and work harder to get my 2₵ into the conversation.
OSFest had author tables, and I took a couple stints sitting there. I was not mobbed by fans, but I did have pleasant face-to-face networking time with other authors in those time slots. I learned quite a lot.
In October, we went on a Dr Who cruise, and participated in a writer's workshop. There were 6 people in our group, and we were to write a scene for 2 characters who had never met on screen in Dr Who. Of course, every member of the group had their own idea how the scene should go. Unfortunately, the guidelines kept changing; first we were supposed to do it as a screenplay, up to 5 pages. This was confusing, as the actors were only going to do a reading; no movements, no foley personnel. Then it became prose, no more than 3 pages, which made more sense, but we needed to cut. On top of that, every day that we had to work on this project, there were shore excursions to enjoy! I learned that I don't like writing by committee, and other than this frustration, the cruise was enjoyable.
I accepted the position of editor/copy editor for Class Act Books. I have since edited 1 book for them, copy edited another. I don't mind editing and polishing my own work, but I've discovered it's even easier/more fun to edit somebody else's work ... as long as the material is enjoyable.
Tommee and I, as MoonPhaze Publishing, put out our first western e-story ("Wrangler Required for the Deadfall Saloon", by Michael McGlade,, 99₵).
I took a non-credit class from the local community college on how to market your book. It was a 3-hour class, and I felt it needed 3 sessions, not just one. Lots of information, but I'm not sure I caught it all.
As for my own stuff...
Alban Lake is considering my first fantasy novel, which is set in my Atlan universe. At least, I haven't heard that they don't want it, so I'm still hopeful.

I submitted a short for a vampire anthology edited by Carol Hightshoe. She has informed me that she is hanging onto it for further consideration. (Happy Dance!) I've heard that she was holding on to about 53 of the stories that came in as soon as the anthology was announced, and the call for submissions doesn't close until March 2014. Her editor has approved her making it a 2-volumn anthology. So... let's all cross our fingers, okay?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Holidays - Turkey Day

I'm writing this on Thanksgiving. It's a holiday we enjoy in the States every November, to commemorate the Pilgrim's survival of their first year in the new world. And, as usual, I wonder if any of my various universes would have a similar holiday.
Let's concentrate on Thanksgiving; it is an autumn holiday with lots of food and reflection on all the things we are thankful we have. Before the Pilgrims, a lot of cultures had a harvest feast. The hard work of raising crops was done, and (some) people could now 'coast' through the winter until spring, when it was time to plant and hope for a good crop. But keeping a bountiful crop stored all winter was hard; mice and mold and who knew what else could claim a good portion of it, so feasting might continue well into the winter, until most of the food had become a layer of fat on the people, which would help them survive those last few weeks until they could get their hands on fresh food again.
Mac ( definitely does have a Thanksgiving, because the Fleet follows the majority of the Earth traditions, but whether it is called Thanksgiving, Harvest Day or something else, I haven't decided.
In my Atlan universe, a 'god' (alien) brought 3 infants to live on a remote island, and stayed with them until they could take care of themselves. This island did not have seasons, so there would have not been any harvest time to celebrate. Later, after the home island was destroyed, and a few Atlans were scattered about the planet to establish tribes, each tribe might have a day of celebration. Some might celebrate the day they made landfall, or others - who now experience seasons - might celebrate a successful harvest.
In my Tunad universe, I think they might have 2 holidays that resemble Thanksgiving. Their colony is established in early spring, and they celebrate the anniversary of that day. They would also celebrate the first fall harvest, which proved they could raise food on a planet that was much colder than their home world. But the Tunads were very careful choosing holidays as they set up their calendar. They did not hang on to any holidays from their home planet, as they have set out to escape from that culture. Still, they recognize that holidays are important, a way to say, 'Our hard work has paid off,' and 'See how far we've gotten.'

Hope you had a great Turkey Day.