30 April 2018

Long Delays

[Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash]
I haven't written here for a bit, for once not because I forgot, I just haven't thought of anything to say for a while.

In case you couldn't tell from my last post.

Over a month ago.

Which is just quotes.

I haven't been following my own advice. I haven't been reading much. I have written a bit! But always at the cost of other things - my Instagram story bits are further behind than this blog, I haven't updated my shop, haven't ventured out much preferring instead the quiet of an empty house.

Balance and sacrifice, although most days it seems I must sacrifice all else to balance one quiet little thing, if that. And that is hard in this extrovert-focused, achievement-measuring, perfection-needing world.

But not impossible.

Out of the blue a friend sent me some much needed encouragement, and this video, which is my new theme song. (If you know someone creative, even just a little, even if you haven't spoken to them for months or years, send them some encouragement because it is truly wonderful to receive.)



And I read Brian W. Foster's book, Blackened White, which isn't some much-lauded, best-selling, award-winning tome like my last few reads, isn't meant to be. But he wrote it anyway and I am not the only one who's glad he did. (Hey more quotes!)
My friend, what I offer you in this book is not perfection. [...] I'm not interested in becoming rich through these writings, nor to live in the shadows of writers and poets who have inspired me over the years. This book is nothing if not an "Open House" flier. These are my observations of truth, as seen through the most pure and most convoluted filters I've worn through the last 30 years. If my experience can help another person see truth, or to heal in some way, then I am content.
We cannot truly become free until we embrace the reality that we don't have to convince God we are good. We don't have to convince the world we are important. We don't have to compare ourselves to another, or succumb to a life of chronic vertigo from the revolving door that is shame, once we've come face to face with our own human condition. I am no expert in the matter, and I am becoming increasingly aware that there are no experts, merely observers.
It's so good to be reminded to write your words, for yourself. And if that isn't enough, when I look back, those pieces were my better pieces, better than the ones I tried really hard on, tried to impress or win approval or gain attention.

You know that. I know that. I still forget it.


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20 March 2018

Some Encouragement

[Photo by Clark Young on Unsplash]

Just some encouraging bits I've come across and wanted to share.

They're mostly about writing, of course, but you can apply them to any creativity.

The novelty and freshness you'll bring to the field won't come from the new ideas you think up. Truly new ideas are rare, and usually turn out to be variations on old themes anyway. No, your freshness will come from the way you think, from the person you are; it will invariably show up in your writing, provided you don't mask it with heavy-handed formulas or clichés. Orson Scott Card

Never put yourself down about things that you create. That mean voice inside you that says, 'You're not good enough' is not your friend, okay? I used to hear that voice all the time. If I hadn't started ignoring it, I wouldn't be here right now. There are enough negative forces in this world - don't let the pessimistic voice that lives inside you get away with that stuff, too. Felicia Day

The 'next book' in your imagination always looks easier and more fun to write than your work in progress. Robin Hobb

I cannot express enough the importance of failure. To fear it is natural, but you will learn/grow as a person faster & stronger through it. Matt Mercer

If you strive for something, make sure it's for the right reasons. And if you fail, that will be a better lesson for you than any success you'll ever have. Because you learn a lot from screwing up. Felicia Day



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14 March 2018

Building Worlds

[Photo by Michael on Unsplash]

So I went to Ireland (well, Dublin) to stay with a friend for a week, that turned into ten days due to 'the Beast from the East' meeting 'Storm Emma' over the UK. Everything has a label these days.

The break was great! We chatted, watched Eureka, explored libraries and bookshops, and I re-read How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy by Orson Scott Card because it never hurts to be reminded of some things. This time it was world building.

First, story worlds.

I'm writing a story about a place, a house, set where an edge of fantasy and an edge of sci-fi meet. I'd put a lot of thought into the house and where it fitted in this world, and I'd mapped out the sci-fi world, planets, races, species, its technology level, the speed of travel, etc., but fantasyland was always just 'Fantasyland.'

How magic, how space travel works, affects the characters and their decisions and behaviour, even if the details never appear in the story. My story was stuck because a third of the world was missing.

What the Rules Can Do for You

All this attention to space travel, and your stroy doesn't have a single scene aboard the ship? Do you really have to go through all this?
    Yes - in your head, or perhaps in your outline. Just enough time to make your decisions about the rules and then make sure your whole story doesn't violate them. But your reader doesn't have to go through all that with you. Once you've decided you're using a difficult, dangerous hyperspace where the emergence points can shift by parsecs without warning, then all you have to do is drop some reference in the story - perhaps a single sentence, like this:
    "It was a perfect flight, which is to say that they didn't emerge from the jump through hyperspace in the middle of a star or heading straight for an asteroid, and even though everyone puked for days after the jump, nobody died of it."
    That's it. That's all. No more discussion about the mechanics of star-flight. But your readers will understand why none of the travelers is eager to leave the planet, and why it'll be quite a while before another ship comes.
    [...]
    The rules you establish don't limit you; they open up possibilities.
    Know the rules, and the rules will make you free.

There is so much more but I hope you get the gist of it.


[Photo by Dmitrij Paskevic on Unsplash]

Second, my worlds.

I noticed how much I was doing, thinking, away from the distractions of home - and even with the distractions of talking, checking my phone, watching TV, and a blizzard. As well as reading and world building I also made a bunch of notes for my Etsy shop that I had, up until now, been avoiding.

I'm trying to re-structure the shop in a more manageable way, so I can add more variety and things I love, and where I don't put off adding listings because taking photographs and writing takes me an entire day, each. Since we've moved/downsized I don't have a lot of room to work or to keep stock.

And I realised what exactly I want to do with the rest of my life.

And the importance of creating spaces to think and dream and imagine, my world. I have one friend who has finished a novel. She has a laptop with no Internet and regularly goes on solo writing retreats in off season caravans and cottages. Sometimes I work well with a distraction, because it gives me something to ignore, if that makes sense, rather than navigating a hundred stray thoughts a minute. Most of the time, however, there are too many. I love my animals but I am forever leaping up to attend to them... In the midst of this very sentence sentence a visitor arrived next door (I'm watching their animals today too) and I was instantly ready to fetch the dogs here if they were causing too much trouble.

I need to go away from time to time. Maybe just once a year, maybe not even alone - being with another person brought me insights and thoughts (and encouragement!) my own brain doesn't come up with.

Build a detailed world for you story, it will make it easier to write, and more believable and consistent too.

Build a world for you to write in, a different comfort zone, a new place safely observed from a cosy tea room, book shop, library.*


(*I had one bad anxiety day while I was out there. At home I would never go out in case I saw someone I knew. In Dublin, I was with a friend in a city of strangers and it was no problem going out, and into the crowded and delightfully stunning Trinity Library. Which, incidentally, I did not realise I had already 'seen' when using it as the image for an earlier blog post.)


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19 February 2018

Overthinking, Overthinking

[Photo by Orlova Maria on Unsplash]

I put this post off for a week (more, now) because I couldn't settle on anything to write about. I'd start, run out of words or thoughts, then time, then come back the next day with a 'better' idea.

I've been overthinking my story, too.

In short: there's a woman, a magic house, a spaceship, and a portal to fantasyland. At first I thought she should go into space. I really, really love space. But it just wouldn't fit. Then I tried to push her into fantasyland. Strangely enough, it felt forced.

I couldn't have her stuck in a house for a whole book.

Then (after much angst and despair at my writing ability) I remembered that was exactly what I wanted.

Well, I wanted the hosue to be an adventure.

Folks, I spend a lot of time at home. I work from home. Going out costs money and takes social energy; my home is my Fortress of Solitude. I've put time into making it comfortable and practical, and quirky and interesting. My home, my family (of pets) is my life. And I am not alone in any of this.

We can't all go marching off into the woods or mountains at the drop of a hat. Or conveniently stopping time in one world while we visit another. Ever since I was . . . a lot younger I've been making up stories where adventuring is the characters' job. I think I wanted it to be available to anyone (i.e. me), not just a 'chosen one' (i.e. not me).

Not that any of that stops me reading any and all speculative fiction I can lay my hands on. Just to be clear.

Anyway. Lesson number I've lost count: Don't write the story you *think* it should be (especially if it's based on what's currently trendy because that will all change in one to a few years anyway).

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08 February 2018

Read These III

[Positive pineapples! Photo by Pineapple Supply Co. on Unsplash]

The vague theme this week is hope. Or something. Positivity, maybe.

It started with an intro to 'Solarpunk.' (I actually began writing this post a couple of days ago but got sidetracked into reading all I could find about Solarounk for a whole afternoon.) Anyway, my first thought was "Yes! This!"

Sci-Fi Doean't Have to be Depressing: Welcome to Solarpunk by Tom Cassauwers on ozy.com

It's just an introduction. If you like it, there'll be a link [here] at some point to a post with a bunch more links I've found.

A bit later, Maria Popova posted Hope, Cynicism, and the Stories We Tell Ourselves on her endlessly fascinating website Brain Pinckings. It's not a quick read, there's too much detail for that, but here's a little extract:

Critical thinking without hope is cynicism. Hope without critical thinking is naïveté.

Finding fault and feeling hopeless about improving the situation produces resignation — cynicism is both resignation’s symptom and a futile self-protection mechanism against it. Blindly believing that everything will work out just fine also produces resignation, for we have no motive to apply ourselves toward making things better. But in order to survive — both as individuals and as a civilization — and especially in order to thrive, we need the right balance of critical thinking and hope.

A plant needs water in order to survive, and needs the right amount of water in order to thrive. Overwater it and it rots with excess. Underwater it and it dries up inside.

Finally, this twitter thread made me stop and think about how and where I spend my time. Especially the ones about books and beaches and laughter.




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