The First NaNo 2018 Progress Report (Hint: It’s a Chaotic Mess)

I knew this year’s NaNo would be a rough one. Since 2004, I have participated and won every year. 2018 might be the first time that changes because of things out of my control. It isn’t stopping me from trying, though, because I like a challenge and figure I’ll come out of it with more progress than I would have without trying NaNo.

Knowing the above, though, I decided to hedge my bets. I have a series I started before I participated in NaNo the first time that needs to be brought up to my current skill. The first two books are complete, and at one time, at submission quality. However, enough has grown in my style that bringing them forward would require changing every other word. Easier to rewrite, with a focus on the word “easy.”

There were a lot of things that had to happen before I could jump into Destiny’s Path, though. The biggest was getting Apprentice off to my beta readers. I managed to send it much later than planned, but still before November 1st, so one hurdle overcome.

Then, as usual, I am tweaking the rules for NaNo just a bit. While it’s geared to getting a single novel completed in rough draft, this challenge was intended as a push for people who hadn’t completed a novel. Going by that intent rather than the letter of the law, so to speak, I do not let NaNo interrupt my progress on other projects. Instead, I append the ending of the previous work to the primary NaNo project to enable me to finish one before starting something new.

In this case, the outstanding project was book 6 of The Steamship Chronicles, which had one last scene waiting to be written for far too long. I used the first and second days of NaNo to finish that scene and write an initial synopsis for a short story follow-up to the book. I’d been so focused on Apprentice that this hung about for a while, and it took some time to get back into the steampunk universe.

Imagine my surprise, when I started writing the first scene of Destiny’s Path based on reading the old version, and it all came together despite making serious changes. The changes? Well, they were lopping off the first half of the scene, making large changes to the last half, and adding a new ending. Easy, right? I’m sure I said that somewhere. Still, the writing went smoothly, and I was jazzed…

…Right until day four and the second scene. I saw all the ways the first scene had become an echo of the second scene, making the second redundant except for the key information I had to keep. I tried to push through, but it was like pulling teeth.

Then, on day five, I realized either my approach or my understanding had gone wrong. Instead of moving forward, I edited the first scene (yes, I know editing is against the philosophy, but…). I also listened to the original second scene in audio format. No surprise, my word count did not significantly increase, meaning I was falling further and further behind on NaNo, but I knew I couldn’t move forward until I could feel the story.

Well, the edit made the first scene much truer to my vision of the book. Despite the apparent lack of progress, when I did an audio listen to the second scene again this morning (the 6th day), I started to see how it needed to be laid out. I made some scene blurb notes as I listened, then started to rewrite the second scene. It’s still slow going, but the emphasis is on the word “going.” At this point, “easy” is out the window.

This may be the most chaotic start to NaNo so far, though I didn’t check previous accounts, and I’ve had some years when I didn’t plan to participate at all. Then I jumped in at the last minute with a brand new idea and the barest of outlines.

I expected this year to be rough, but I’m seeing some progress and hope for more. Here’s the chart. As you can see, I haven’t made the minimum yet, but there’s time.

Day New Words Running Total
1 356 356
2 1379 1735
3 1538 3273
4 435 3708
5 204 3912
6 974 4886

If you’re participating, how is it going? I’m looking for a better answer than mine, but it is nice to be focused on writing again.

Posted in Challenges, NaNoWriMo, News, Writing Process | Tagged , | 2 Comments

5 Interesting Links for 11-02-2018

Note: Videos may auto start with sound so be prepared.

Foreign Markets (Submissions)

Many foreign language markets will accept stories for translation that have already sold in English. This is found money, but authors often don’t take advantage of the possibility. This article goes into the process, and though written in 2009, includes a link to a guide maintained by the article author (updated Oct 2018) to potential markets.

Techniques (Sleep)

Logical, research-based reasons why wearing socks to bed is likely to mean better, and faster, sleep.

Tools (Art)

Check out this collection of free brushes to enhance your GIMP 2.10 installation. It includes instructions to add them as well.

Con Artists (Interesting People)

The story of this con artist is hard to believe. It has all the elements of a creative fiction, but was conducted in real life. A fascinating read.

Ideas (Sewing)

If you are someone who sews, you probably have a decent stash of fabric scraps. Here is a list of various projects you can do to use up those scraps and transform them into something useful. I find the idea of pocket warmers quite intriguing.

Vizions of the Future (Science Fiction Anthology)

Posted in Art, Music, Crafts, etc., Health, Interesting Links, Interesting People, Submitting, Technology | Leave a comment

Call of the Druids by Fiona Tarr

Call of the Druids by Fiona TarrHistory is full of moments when those in power stomped out all mention of magic, but what if the people with such talents teamed up to prevent their elimination? That’s the foundation of Call of the Druids, and I presume The Priestess Chronicles as a whole.

The story begins with a young priestess whose bloodline connection to King David of Israel means she’s assigned a diplomatic marriage rather than allowed to follow her calling. She’s trained her whole life to use her gifts from God to fight evil. Ariela begs God for another path and the angel Raziel sweeps her away to parts unknown. She arrives in Roman-occupied territory where Celtic clans struggle to protect their few remaining druids and their disappearing culture.

While the beginning would be appropriate in any young adult novel, make no mistake. This story delves into the heart of Roman atrocities with their treatment of conquered people, especially women. It also looks at how greed and envy can corrupt a soul. Even without knowing something of the history involved, I had no doubt as to the villains of this piece almost from the moment she lands in a mud-filled alley.

Morrigan, a druid, finds and protects Ariela as she overcomes the disorientation of learning she has jumped not just in space but also some 500-700 years in time to offer the druids hope when they’re all but lost. The druid suspects Ariela is more than the young, vulnerable woman she appears, and she’s right.

Though trained in battle and magic, Ariela is not alone in the battle against the Roman conquerors either. Beyond Morrigan’s help, she’s joined by two friends in the clan, Culaan and Genie, who stand up for Ariela even while they doubt the truth of her accounting.

Druidic power had so faded from the clan memories, even Culaan believes Morrigan nothing more than a mixer of herbs, though her potions are far from simple tinctures. Genie is slower to dismiss the idea, or at least she recognizes the accuracy of Ariela’s accounting of that time. This interest in history is an odd quirk in a woman known as a huntress and tracker extraordinaire.

Culaan has his own specific histories, a mystery shrouding his dead mother and the disdain of his father, who is also clan chieftain. Where another could grow bitter, Culaan is good-hearted and looks out for those around him, the image of his father’s relationships with the clan.

I’m mostly recounting things from the story rather than talking about the themes of the story for two reasons:

First, the theme is pretty straightforward, which does not diminish its strength in any way. The destruction of culture and loss of knowledge in the wake of conquer is something I mourn. It is an atrocity repeated all too often in our histories, and one that has echoes down the timeline to modern day, affecting us still.

The second, though, is because I was swept into the story and the characters until little else mattered. Do not fear I’ve given away all the interesting parts. The above barely scratches the surface of a complex dance between tradition and belief, honor and greed, and fear versus action.

The story has a rotating point of view (POV) that can fall on almost any character in any scene. While this might bother some of you, I suggest you give it a try because I never lost the sense of whose POV I was in no matter how often it moved. This is a well-telegraphed close omniscient voice such that it took me a bit to realize how often it switched. Any other technical issues were minor in comparison to the strength of the narrative and characters as they worked to keep the druidic traditions alive.

At one point, the angel charges Ariela to “Save the magic,” but this is no simple task. She has to find and bring supporters around her, learn to navigate new cultures, and help bring faith back to those who have lost their way if she’s to have any chance of living up to this command. Nor is Ariela left unmolested in her efforts. Her first act upon arriving has consequences stretching further than she could have imagined.

Fiona Tarr made the story come alive through complex characters with their own concerns and histories to drive them. If you’ve been following my reviews, you’ll know story wins out over anything, but a strong story is more than theme and plot. It’s the people contained within the lines and how they become real to the reader. Call of the Druids succeeds in this admirably.

P.S. I received this novel from the author in return for an honest review.

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Inktober 2018: A Drawing Exercise, Part 2

No sooner had I claimed the four drawings a week goal but I fell off that cliff. Tomorrow is the end of Inktober 2018, and while I may find more drawings appear at my fingertips, here are the three I’ve managed so far. None of these was inspired by a prompt. More they each came from a flash of inspiration. (Click the image to see a larger version.)

I keep toying with creating a steampunk costume for events, but I’m not much of a costumer and haven’t been since I used to make Halloween costumes as a kid. I can be pretty creative when working on something for someone else, but my own costumes just don’t inspire the same creativity. I had a thought to get around that by using this drawing challenge to sketch out a plan, starting from a pair of goggles. Umm, unless I plan to paste a false beard and mustache on, what came from my pen has little value as a costume…but I like it anyway.

When I was a kid, my grandmother challenged my sister and me to memorize a poem. Hers was longer as I was pretty little at the time. Honestly, I can’t remember if this is from my sister’s poem or mine, but one line stuck in my head: /Under a toadstool sat a wee elf/Out of the rain to shelter himself/. I looked it up, and the 1863 poem is slightly different and has a meaning I have no recollection of, so I’m guessing it’s from my sister’s poem, but here’s the illustration it inspired.

Finally, I wondered what to draw next, closed my eyes, and saw a straw thatched roof almost white with the reflected sun. I know that isn’t quite clear here, but that was the starting image. If I were better at drawing, perhaps I could translate the pictures in my head more clearly, but then the more detail required the quicker the image fades before I can put it to paper.

If you read the first Inktober 2018 post, you might remember part of this exercise was about learning to use my Bamboo Slate. I’ve certainly become more comfortable drawing with it. I’ve learned how to separate two consecutive drawings without needing to split them afterwards, how to split out an unintentional line, and how to keep the pad from slipping so half the drawing is codge to the rest. (Edited to clarify: though you draw the new elements in the same place on the paper, they are added to the digital version shifted with the paper.) I’ve also discovered that the mechanism to track the movements and record them is a bit unsophisticated, so shading with a light press ends up very dark, as you find with the leaf held over the elf’s head above.

Ultimately, it’s a good tool and useful for quick jots, but anyone attempting to create something spectacular would likely be frustrated at the differences between the drawing and the digital copy. Since the notebook paper I have has dots presumably to help guide you, even taking a picture of the original wouldn’t get what you’d intended. Still, for my uses, it’s perfectly reasonable and a lot easier than photographing or scanning the image afterwards. I’m considering continuing this practice at a much slower pace, to see what I come up with.

Posted in Art, Music, Crafts, etc., Creativity Exercises, Tools | Tagged , | 2 Comments

5 Interesting Links for 10-26-2018

Note: Videos may auto start with sound so be prepared.

Income (Publishing)

This article raises methods of getting your published works out there you might not have thought of. While not every one made sense to me, they gave me some to think about.

Techniques (Exercise)

I am doing squats as part of my physical therapy, but it wasn’t until I read this article that I realized some of my difficulties were because I wasn’t widening my stance enough. I shared this in case it helps others, too.

Prosthetics (Innovation)

This is an amazing story told in a series of videos on the page (with some explanatory text as well). It goes through the whole process from inspiration to conclusion of a functional 3D-printed prosthetic arm. My only quibble is I don’t understand why they didn’t match skin tone in a custom prosthetic with nails she can paint, but she doesn’t seem to care.

Fun (Reading)

A look at the different types of readers you might find among your friends.

Costumes (Halloween)

A lovely collection of literary costumes, some I recognized and others new to me.

Threats (The Steamship Chronicles, Book 2)

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