Carrying on

I broke my posting streak yesterday, so no day 7. I have decided that does not mean starting over or giving up, so here it is day 8 of my attempt to blog every day for 90 days. I won’t be at 100%, but I will keep going and keep counting. The point of the exercise to get myself writing again.

This week will be a bit wobbly and likely short-winded, as I’m trying to finish up a class ASAP that involves building three websites and about 12 hours of remaining lecture. I’d really like to be done with it this week, but we’ll see.

I’ve set up a routine, now that the house is a bit more arranged for it, to watch my class lectures down stairs on the main tv and take notes while lounging on the couch, then head upstairs to build whatever it is on the desktop. Once we have the futon set up for the upstairs landing/living area, I’ll probably do my classes in there, closer to the office.

This is all part of an effort to note where I like to be at certain parts of the day and arrange to the greatest extant possible for the thing I need to do be directly in front of me. I probably should have been medicated for ADHD years ago, but I’m still getting by with my coping mechanisms.

I grabbed a couple of books over the last few days; The Collected Works of Mary Wollstonecraft, and Steve Hassan’s Combating Cult Mind Control. The former I picked up because I’ve been meaning to do a read through of her works, and the latter was the result of rabbit holing down Google for an idea for a story.

I’m about half way through Sanderson’s Shadows of Self, and it’s picked up the pace. I forget how slow his books tend to start out; they’re usually better to take in as quickly as possible. There is something about Sanderson’s style that feels like his stories are much lighter than they are. There was just a gruesome scene that involved a person murdered by being nailed to a wall through their eye sockets, yet listening to this story still feels like I’m being told a fairy tale. It would be an interesting exercise to dig in and really analyze his style some time. I suspect it’s something in his language choice, a sensation I sometimes get from reading John Scalzi or Chuck Wendig. I also note that all three of these writers are men. Every woman I’ve read lately feels heavy, dark, and visceral. Gods, that would be a weird exercise; why are these gendered authors different?

On the other hand, I think that more classic women speculative fic writers do that have “fairy tale” feel. Anne McCaffrey’s stuff, Vonda McIntyre, any of the weird shit by Andre Norton.

It has just occurred to me that Anne Leckie’s stuff reads like a fairy tale, and she has some truly nighmarish stuff in there.

If I’d made different life choices, this is the sort of thing I’d be publishing papers on right now. I’m not sure what the proper thesis would be, as right now it’s sort a question about what it is about different spec fic authors’ stylistic choices that tickle different parts of my brain in what is likely a wholly subjective and un-measurable way. “Reads like a fairy tale” is terribly vague, and if anyone is bothering to read my stream on consciousness here, I do apologize.

Ah, but I have an example of an author doing both. Kameron Hurley’s The Stars are Legion is really fucking weird, but it also had that old school scifi-fairy tale thing going on. Most of her other stuff I’ve read has been stimulating in other, often horrifying (delightfully so), ways. Maybe it’s the type of story, or the angle of it. I would have to re-read so much stuff to figure out what it is I’m even talking about, and I’d probably just end up using it for a class on book marketing. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, we all have bills to pay, and there probably is something genuinely useful in this vague question I’m trying to ask.

I may shelve this idea until the fall, when I hope to have a little bit of slack for an utterly ridiculous project like a research paper on why different books give me different feels.

2018 statement of intent

cat emerging from blanket by mikhail vasilyev

This year is starting off with a bang for me. I found the perfect part-time office job just in the nick of time, and on the last Friday of 2017 I I had dental surgery to remove my wisdom teeth, one of which was horribly rotted and had been driving me slowly crazy with pain for the last few months. It might be the pain pills I’m still on, but I feel like this year I’m going out into the work to kick ass as I work my way through a list of lifelong dreams.

I’m going to track a bunch of writing goals on this blog, and push myself to review more things, read more things, and really develop skills as a storyteller.

I’m going to be more open about mental health stuff, as I do the work of finding a therapist for the first time in my life and maybe take some drugs that will even out my depression. I don’t want my personal dose of crazy to hold me back anymore, and that requires work and getting help.

I have freelancing goals, and I’m starting up another blog where I’ll mostly nerd out about technology while I work to establish myself as a tech journalist.

I’m also going to be open on this blog about spiritual stuff. That means discussing the Pagan Revival, magick, thelema, neuroscience, and more.

I guess that, overall, my goal for 2018 is to crawl out from under the rock where I’ve been hiding for about a decade and stop being afraid to be myself. The last two or three years on the internet have been hell, as trolls have evolved into full-on fascists who can’t handle anything that is different, and their goal is to silence anyone who doesn’t fit into their nightmarish vision of the world. The only way to fight that is be unapologetic about who we are, to have no need of their approval, to openly and adamantly continue to exist.

So here I stand. It’s 2018, the world is changing, and I’m adding my voice to the fray.

Photo by Mikhail Vasilyev on Unsplash

On learning genre beats in story telling

Reading books to learn their beats is a surreal exercise. I’m currently 3/4 of the way through the second paranormal noir thriller I’ve read in two weeks, and my brain has been lining up the scenes of each to see where they match. By the time I’ve hit my goal of reading ten of these, I’ll have a strong sense of the genre and hopefully be able to write my own.

It’s a rather abstract thing, to notice that the main character briefly making out with a werewolf she thinks she hates is the same beat as the PI’s cop friend taking care of him after his ass was beaten to a pulp. But I can see it, and I’m debating watching a bunch of old noir mystery films to take the same kind of notes.

I think the key to doing it well is that people who don’t understand story structure don’t notice the similarities, and anyone trying to study it has to ask if a scene definitely is a certain beat. I’m sure there’s more to it that I haven’t figured out yet, the stuff that’s particular to paranormal fiction, to protagonists of a certain gender (I’d love to find a book that plays around with that).

Beats are important to a genre; if they aren’t done well, you get one of two responses, with readers complaining of it being “formulaic,” or even worse, beats were missed and the story didn’t feel right and failed to entertain.

One thing I’ve noticed and will be paying attention to is that the main characters are some variation of irrational and just plain stupid about some things. In the first book of The Dresden Files, Harry Dresden made a couple of incredibly stupid decisions about what he did and did not tell the police, which contrasts so much with all the other ways that he’s smart that I just could not believe his reasoning for it. In Night Shift by Lillith Saint Crow, Jill Kismet is both batshit insane and an idiot, but she’s been so consistently crazy and stupid that I’ve come to believe the ridiculous decisions she makes. I’m curious to see if this pattern holds in the next book I read.

It’s a fun game to break down these stories and figure out how they work, but I may never again be able to just casually read this genre without thinking about their structure. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but when I was younger this genre was definitely a fun form of non-challenging escapism. I may have to find a new form of brain junk food.


Feature image: Photo by Elti Meshau on Unsplash

Books and writing and time

autumn leaves

I apologize for the rambling, but I’m currently in a “blog every day, especially if I feel I have nothing to say” phase, which makes me sloppy and unfocused. It’s also National Novel Writing Month, which leaves me a little mentally fried.

I started reading the first book of The Dresden Files last night, after resolving that next year I really am going to write my supernatural thriller series. I need to read a bunch of supernatural thrillers first, so I’m starting here. It’s funny, I ate up supernatural thrillers once upon a time, but with my reading habits following no discernible pattern for the last decade, I haven’t read much of the genre since I first consumed the early Anita Blake novels.

Time is going to be a more precious commodity in my life soon, as I’ve resolved to start looking for temp gigs to supplement my piss poor attempt to be a free lance writer. The weird thing is that this is going to help me build my business, because I need a fire under my ass fueled by the despair of office work and commuting and interacting with normal people on a daily basis. I might even have things to blog about again, that would be nice.

I haven’t done my NaNoWriMo word count for the day yet, but I did finish up some client work that really needed to be done. I’ve come to realize that it’s just part of my process to spit out a zero draft and expect to throw the entire thing out and rewrite it from scratch with greater clarity gained from making the first draft. I need to remember that in my efforts to write fiction, and just spit words out for the sake of having something to rework.

I suppose I could give the “Daily Post” community another go, but that messes with my head more often than not. A dear friend of mine died right at the beginning of the year, and for months afterwards, every time I checked into The Daily Post, the one word prompt seemed to always be a synonym for grief. Maybe I should have smeared all that half-clotted emotion out on the internet for every voyeur reader to smell and feed on, but the idea of it smelled foul and opportunistic.

I have five boxes of wine leftover from our Halloween party to work through. They have a six week life after opening, so I have some time, but I have definitely had more afternoon in the last few days than I’ve had in a few years. It’s nice for writing (and why this blog is happening), but I always have to be careful with my tendency towards excess, bless these Irish genetics.

I should pick up a book on cooking with wine. I made a delicious batch of ratatouille this week, using a Pinot Grigio (black box). I think Pinots actually cook better than Chardonnays, maybe it’s a stronger flavor.

I’m trying out an interesting experiment for NaNoWriMo. The company behind Sterling & Stone, StoryShop, and The Self Publishing Podcast, handed out an outline of a Young Adult novel for anyone to use for their own novel this month. I thought it would educational to write from an outline created by some experience writers, and thus far that’s true. I’ve reworked the world and the characters to make it my own, but I’m keeping the beats. I have no intention of selling this one, but after a few rounds with Critters it might be fun to post it as a freebie here on the blog.

No Pathfinder game tonight, so I’m off to happy hour at the cafe down the street for some craft beer and heavy word mining.

 

 


Feature Image: Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

What Ray Bradbury Told Us To Do

That silly, minimalist story I published yesterday was a proof of concept and writing exercise to show myself that I can, in fact, writer a linear story with a beginning, middle, and end. I am a bit embarrassed by the largess of this revelation, but the most basic mechanics of storytelling clicked into place in my head during that exercise, and I find myself eyeing the plastic tub of old notebooks and abandoned projects through new eyes and an understanding of how to make all those ideas work

I feel like I just bit into an apple from the Tree of Knowledge, and I want more. I want the skill that this understanding leads to.

Next I intend to throw myself into Ray Bradbury’s most important advice to writers:

“Write a short story every week. It’s not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.”

I do believe that in art, repetition is key to developing skill. Skill is what one needs to transmute the conceptual lumps floating about in our minds into real pieces of art, into stories we can give to other people so they can take those concepts into themselves.

I’m going to post the weekly story here, good or bad. I’ll only give myself three rounds of edits. One year of free stories from someone learning to be a writer.


Header image original photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Testing Google Docs WordPress Add-on

I’m testing out a Google Docs Add-on that can turn documents into WordPress drafts. I enjoy writing in Google Docs, so this could have interesting implications for my writing process. Still need to find the thing I was looking for though, will report on that later.

Supposedly it saves the formatting.

And the pictures:

coffee.gif

Let’s see how this goes!

Weekend Reading: Tubes by Andrew Blum

We made a trip to Book People today. I was excited to come across Tubes, by Andrew Blum, which is about the physical places that the internet depends upon to exist. I’m working on a new fiction project and have been trying to wrap my head around this exact subject for several days. I intend to inhale this book pretty quickly.

New Plan: Whatever the hell I want

cab in a field surrounded by trees, courtesy unsplash.com

It’s hard to start blogging again when I’ve been out of the habit. I have no idea what to talk about, much less how to say it. I recently did a bunch of planning and brainstorming my two marketing-oriented blogs, but I’m still at a loss as to what to say here on Cheese and Glory.

I did have a funny revelation the other day. I can never make myself stick to the various niches I’ve come up with because this is really a lifestyle blog, a very geeky, quirky lifestyle blog. The phrase tends to raise up visions of new moms trying to capitalize on stories of their baby’s poop, or the very carefully crafted narratives of Instagram cool kids, but it’s much broader than that.

Some of my favorite blogs fall under the “lifestyle” category, like Hacker, Ninja, Hooker, Spy, or Jenny Lawson’s The Bloggess. When I think back on all my best performing stuff from many years ago, people seemed to love most the weird stories about my weird days. My recent post, The Vampires Never Showed Up, is in that style.

So, if I give myself permission to blog in that style, rather trying to be just a review and article blog on monster movies or whatever subgenre I’m lately obsessed with, I might just get my writing groove back. That would cool.

So, daily writing exercises on here, Cheese and Glory, where I’m not trying to sell anything in particular and I can do whatever the hell I want. Of course, I’m planning to attach my Ebay and Etsy stores once those are up and running, but that just means that I’ll do whatever I want and have reviews and articles on obscure B-movies.

Stories and Weddings and Other Projects

haunted house - cheeseandglory

I got up early to put in some hours on a new side project, which I’m referring to as Infinite Haunted House. It’s an exercise to develop my short story skills. The idea is to think of an enormous haunted house (with infinite rooms), and every room in the house gets a one word theme. I’m taking those themes from the WordPress Daily Prompt, which I’ve been trying to utilize lately with varying results. It’s basically a twist on the storytelling games I like to play with my RPG group when we’re doing a campaign.

Writing dialogue is hard. And this first story has turned into something very dialogue-heavy right away. My brain feels like my legs do when I suddenly start going for runs again after sitting on my ass for months. I’m taking it as a sign that I’m heading in the right direction.

The freelancing thing is starting to pick up, which is simultaneously heartening and terrifying. My first project with a design team recently went live, which was pretty cool. Now I need to leverage that to get more work, a rhythm I haven’t quite gotten the hang of yet. Developing enough confidence to sell my skill set is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

In wedding news, I’m debating pitching some wedding blogs on articles for how to get this bullshit done on the cheap. It would likely be a list with statements like, “Screw having a catered dinner, pizza and cheese plates are fine.” I took steps last night to thwart my mother, who has threatened to take me wedding dress shopping while we are visiting for Christmas. I spent way too much time looking through Pinterest and ModCloth to get an idea of what I do want (which, granted, I hadn’t done yet), and then confirming that the stores she wants to go to don’t carry anything remotely close to that.

I built out the infrastructure for our RSVP website, and that should get sent out to friends and family soon. I also made our invitations, which need to get printed and mailed ASAP.

Lots of balls to juggle right now.

Time is Weird in 2016: Obligatory New Year’s Post

The last few months have been rather exciting.

frankensteinIn October, Reed and I built the equivalent of a B-level Frankenstein’s lab for our Halloween party, “Disco Frankenstein: It’s Alive, Alive, It’s Stayin’ Alive.” We also built a 7ft tall Monster. We may scale back a bit this year.

In November I wrote a book! I finished NaNoWriMo for the first time ever, and ended up with something that has a beginning, middle, and end. This has never happened before, not even something I could call a Zero Draft, and I’m still reeling a bit with disbelief that I finally did it. I will be rewriting and revising this spring. And then we’ll see.

In December I started putting together the business plan for my freelance writing business. It’s scary and exciting. I’m hoping that by the end of 2016 I will be able to support myself off of my writing and finally quit the day job scene. I am building out a more professional website for that purpose. Which brings me to what’s going on with Cheese and Glory.

Cheese and Glory has gone through several phases; weird personal whatever blog, general geek zine, place to keep my articles on monster movies, a portfolio. I have decided, after months of debate, that Cheese and Glory will be my main blog, my personal blog, and continue being a disorganized mess of anything and everything that strikes my fancy. I am making a conscious decision to not ‘niche’ Cheese and Glory.

Cheese and Glory is basically my playground where I will talk about whatever the hell I want.  Anything I write here that might be a good portfolio post will get cross posted to my professional writer blog. I’m not going to put much effort into marketing C&G, although if I write something that I think other people might appreciate, I’ll toss it into the Twitter machine and let some of my marketing tools put it in front of those people.

I am taking the advice of author Austin Kleon and will be stealing like an artist. Some of my ideas about what will happen to Cheese and Glory and based on terribleminds.com, the website of Chuck Wendig, who I think is a really cool guy and hope to one day call a peer and maybe even have a beer with. I am also taking structural ideas from morning.computer, the blog of Warren Ellis, who I’m not sure would be flattered or horrified or both by such a thing. I also rather like Cherie Priest’s blog, and not only because of the kittengrams.

I am not going to state my goals here, only that I have them. I go into 2016 with a vague intention to reinvent myself, wake a few things up, and murder some bad habits. If I pick up some new friends through this medium, or the gods forbid, some fans, that will be wonderful.

Here we go.