To boldly go where no pantser has gone before…

Well, here goes nothing. I’m about to venture into uncharted territories. About to head beyond the horizon, beyond the now, beyond the future even.

Where am I going, you ask?

I’m going to do the unthinkable. The unimaginable. Potentially the most frightening thing I’ve ever done.

I’m going to try to mind-map/thought-bubble a rough outline for the fourth book in the Abnormal series–before I’ve written out all of Book 3!

I know, I know. I’m scared, too.

My mind is ticking away, and it needs an outlet. And my brand-spanking-new journal needs filling. Plus, it’s not even 0400 and I’m bored af. So I’m going to try to outline beyond where I’ve written, and I’m going to maybe–maybe–tiptoe into Book 5’s story a bit, too.

You see, I have a long-term plan now, more than just “I’m gonna write a bunch of books with the same characters in the same world.” Now that I’ve decided to go ahead with the YA spin-off series, I need to actually plan stuff. I mean, I have to decide how fast to age the characters in the NA series, where to leave off at the end of the NA series, and where to start the YA series. That means the dreaded planning.

In addition to quasi-plotting out Book 4/possibly Book 5, I also might plan out the titles of the YA books, or at least the first few. I already know what I want to call the series, but I haven’t decided on book titles yet.

Yeah. I’m going to do this.

But I’ve gotta stop talking about it…if I just keep rambling here, I’ll never get it done! Lol



Normally, I hate outlining. Hate it. With a passion. So why do I have a rough “outline” of Book 3 all ready to go?

It seems the thought-bubble/mind mapping/whatever-you-call-it method of outlining works well for me. I can see where things might need to be beefed up, and I can better see the flow of the story. Does it mean this is a hard outline, not to be deviated from? Not necessarily. I mean, I have had characters take over and rewrite the story their damn selves plenty of times. But it’s a start, and it’s a better start than I had previously. I mean, I’m having to go back and rewrite the train wreck that was the start of my first draft. Oh, it was terrible. So, so terrible.

This go around will have a much better flow. I have a good feeling about it.

It’s weird, this metamorphosis of straight pantser to planner/pantser hybrid (plantser, if you will) to sort-of-planner. I still don’t feel quite like a “real” planner, but I definitely am putting more thought into the future of Book 3 and the future of the series in general.

Ooh! I just had a brainstorm! Now I know how Book 3 will transition into Book 4!

See, even the planning has changes sometimes. I am even more excited to get started now lol

YA on the way?

I must be crazy. I mean, I’m already smack in the middle of a New Adult sci-fi dystopian series… Why would I start up another series?

Because the adults in my series have families… and those families will grow up eventually… which means they’ll be teenagers… So–I guess it’s natural progression?

It’ll be a while before I can start. I still have two and a half more books on the docket for the Abnormal series, not counting the one that’s in its second round of edits. But in my head I can see those little babies and kids as full-blown characters in their own right. It’s just the way the stories seem to be headed.

Of course, now I have to step it up on the writing of Book 3’s draft. If I plan on having these characters grow up, I need to let them be kids a bit first.

I’m kind of excited for this potential new series. I have gone from thinking I’d never have more than a single standalone book in me to not just one but two series. It’s blowing my mind.

Well, off to bed. Early to bed, early to rise, or something. Gotta get shit done.

Aesthetically pleasing characters

I have entirely too much free time on my hands this morning.

So here’s what happened: Last night, I decided I wanted to redo my character sheets for all my main/secondary characters. Why? Because things had changed, and because they were largely handwritten and sloppy, and because I was starting to lose track of the connections between characters and their age differences.

That’s how it started, anyway. I got a couple done last night and a few more this morning, but as I was putting my sheets into neatly-organized page protectors in my writing binder, I thought, “Hmm…It would really help to have a visual reference for some of the more major players.” Yeah. So the aesthetic boards/sheets became a thing.

I gotta admit, it looks real spiffy. I can flip through the pages, see which sheets go with which characters at a glance, and if I forget a birth date or something I can simply flip back and double check, and there’s plenty of room on each sheet to write in changes/additions/etc if I don’t want to reprint the thing.

I won’t do the aesthetic boards/sheets for every character–that’s just too time-consuming. But I’m going to try to at least make up a detailed character sheet to flesh out the more prominent characters. I feel like a nutjob with all the connections I have to keep track of. It’s a little like this:

I might end up having to buy a big ol’ corkboard and some string and some thumb tacks and do just that. Lol The further along I get with the series, the more I have to remember.

Hopefully, these character sheets and their info will bleed into my story and provide more depth. They’ve certainly already given me new ideas. Like, three or four books later ideas. Possibly a spinoff series? Hmm…

Time has caught up with me though, so I must go get ready for the day job. Then, when I get home, more character sheets. Or something.

Book 3, Take 2

So Take 3 of Book 2 is done (translation: I finished the first official round of revisions on Escape the Light, which is technically the third draft because I had to redraft the first draft after I finished Abnormal), which means I should probably get cracking on the train wreck of a draft that is Book 3.

I know that “The first draft of anything is shit.” (Credited to Hemingway, according to the interwebs.) I know that. But so far, Book 3’s first draft is a special kind of shit. The kind that makes me want to burn it and bury the ashes (and it’s mostly a digital file–there are a few handwritten pages, but can’t exactly burn a digital file).

It starts off…okay. Then, through a series of poorly-written events, it derails and ends up circling back around on itself in an endless loop of crap. I’ve got a lot of work to do.

There are debates in the writing community about whether one should write a draft straight through and edit later or whether it’s okay to edit-as-you-go. I’m of the latter group, especially having rewritten most of Escape the Light to get it to match up with the revised ending of Abnormal. Rewriting an entire draft sucks. It’s a pain in the ass, and it’s obnoxious. So I’d rather go back on Book 3 while it’s still a baby draft and rewrite the first five chapters, as opposed to rewriting twenty-something after I finish this steaming pile.

Don’t get me wrong; when I’m done, Book 3 will be amazing. I know where I want to go with it, I just can’t seem to get the train on the right track. Once I get back in the groove of things, it’ll fly along like usual. My hope is to finish the first draft before Escape the Light is published. With all the embroidery projects I have ahead of me I’m not sure if I’ll make that goal, but I’m keeping hopeful.

I think the hardest thing will be writing the things that I don’t know. How fast do babies grow? What are their milestones? What’s war like? How would a battle in a decimated wasteland play out? What’s postpartum depression like? Postpartum psychosis? What’s the difference? So many questions to ask, so much research to do. I have a feeling I’ll be bugging friends and family members with some of this. Sure, I can go to the Google and search a bunch of crap, but as far as first-hand accounts of combat versus academic articles–Well, c’mon, it’s a no-brainer. I have to be careful, though, because asking questions like that can trigger bad PTSD moments. So I also have to tiptoe. Don’t want to alienate everyone just for the sake of authenticity.

This post is obviously a stalling tactic. If I’m writing the post about writing, then I don’t have to write, right?


It used to be so easy. A quick web search, some clicking and verifying, and BAM!–tweets auto-posted to my Facebook profile or page, and these blog posts auto-posted to my Facebook page.

I guess it’s not so easy anymore. For one thing, Facebook’s gotten a tad full of itself and won’t allow cross-posting with Twitter now. A year ago I could, and I turned off the function a while back because I wasn’t getting much traction with it. I’d like to try it again, but……no go. Looks like I’ll just have to deal with manually copy/pasting the links for the blog posts, and I’ll just have to figure out how I want to post excerpts from my works-in-progress and finished works to my Facebook page.

Competition is great for some things, but sometimes it sucks.

Revisions have been stalled as I’ve kinda been foggy lately, but I have the whole afternoon off today–plus tomorrow morning–so I think I should be able to knock them out soon. I’m over halfway done, so it’s just a matter of sitting down at the laptop and focusing. I’ve actually got roughly thirty pages left to revise, so I’m closer than I thought I was. Cool.

Then, of course, it’s back to the publisher for the next round of edits. I’m a little disappointed in how long the first round of edits took to come back, but my publisher is growing, and with that growth comes an influx of manuscripts that need work. I can’t expect them to be as speedy as they were when they only had a handful of books to edit. As soon as I’m done with these revisions (and with the multitude of embroidery projects I have) I’ll have to reread Book 3’s draft and remind myself of where I was at and what changes I wanted to make. I know, I know, most people say to knock out the first draft in its entirety first before revising, but I’ve had an epiphany of where the story needs to go, and it’s not where it was going before.

I’ll also have to do a bit of research for Book 3’s new direction. There’s a plot thread I want to use that I have no experience with. I want to make it as authentic as I can–for a sci-fi novel, that is.

Every day I’m shuffling…

So, let’s do a rundown of the projects I currently am in the “in progress” stage of:
1- Super Secret Project #1: A project that I can’t go into just yet, but one that I hope will make the person very happy when they see it. Due before September 7. About 1/4 of the way finished….roughly.
2- Also Secret Project #2: An embroidery project. Also due before September 7. Roughly half finished with the three-part project.
3- Not a Secret Because It’s a Paid Commission: You guessed it! Embroidery. Due in September. Started but need to work more on it.
4- REVISIONS!!!! Due soonest. Can’t focus this morning to save my life.
5- Yet Another Secret Project #3: Not yet begun, but there’s only a self-imposed deadline of October. Maybe. Maybe December.
6- Not as Secret Commission for an Elevation: Due roughly mid September. No clue on size/design yet.
7- Thing that I’m Sure I’m Forgetting: I dunno. I just feel like the above list isn’t complete.

Now, that sounds like a lot of stuff–especially given that most of them are due in a little over a month (less for the revisions). But I think I can do it. Maybe. Possibly.

How am I doing all this? Well, it’s time to compartmentalize. Mornings (pre-husband-waking-up) are for revisions and maybe #1. Evenings are for #s 2 & 3. As soon as one of 1, 2, & 3 are done, evenings will be for #6. #5 will get smushed in once 1, 2, 3, & 4 are done, most likely during the morning hours…or at work on my lunch break, as #1 has been.

I’m pretty sure I have it all handled–so far. We’ll see what else I can possibly get involved in for the coming months.

Oh wait! #7: Revising/reworking my A&S paper for the hood I embroidered for the Kingdom-level competition, as well as (maybe?) making and researching another item. Maybe. Due end of September.

So yeah. Full plate on my table. Multiple plates. I’ve got a seven-course dinner ahead of me, and though I’m not sure my stomach has room for it all, I think I can do it. Because I’m stubborn like that. (And because I want to build a reputation for my art in our Kingdom, and the best way is to keep doing the art.)

Book 2 will be done soon. I’m more than halfway through revisions, and I might add that to the evening schedule so I can finish on time, then put #2 on the docket for after work.

Busy busy busy…but I’ve got two half days this week, which will help immensely with #s 2 & 4, and a whole week off for my birthday, which will help with all the things.

Shit. My birthday week….when we start taping for Muses and Murderers. There’s a whole slew of things to add to my to-dos. Crap.

Guess I’d better get to it!

All eyes on me?

It’s Marketing Time again in my publisher’s writing group, so I spent this morning tweaking and posting some graphics on various social media sites to try to generate sales/interest for Abnormal. I need to screenshot my current insights, I suppose, to have a comparison to make.

Marketing has been by far the biggest challenge to my writing career. I just don’t understand it. Some posts I make have a huge impact with a lot of interactions, and some (that I personally think are more interesting or entertaining) get zip. It’s just something I can’t wrap my head around.

It scares me a bit. I mean, I’m the one most responsible for getting my book out there and seen/read by more people. So why can’t I seem to get the hang of it?

Who knows. I tried contacting bookstores in the state–almost no response. I tried contacting libraries–zip. I tried several blogs/podcasts/book review sites–crickets. I just don’t know what I’m doing/not doing that’s so wrong.

In person I can sell the book just fine. I can talk it up and get people interested and even get them to buy it. Granted, it’s mostly friends/family/coworkers that are buying when I do this, but I have managed to convince several strangers to give it a shot, too. So it’s not that I’m not capable of selling my book. I just can’t seem to translate the in-person pitch to a post or tweet. Which is weird, given that I have severe social anxiety and tend to stammer when I get nervous–which is just about any time someone asks me about my book. You’d think that I’d do better from behind a phone or computer screen.

So I posted a few graphics today, and I’ll keep an eye on the analytics/insights to see what-all worked and what didn’t. Here are the things I posted today, minus any hashtags and the like:

This was my Facebook page post
This one went on Twitter
My Instagram feed post
And finally, my Instagram story

Apparently there’s a way to put up a story on Instagram and allow comments, but I couldn’t figure it out. Oh, well. They’re out on the Web now, so time and analytics will tell if these graphics help me out or not.

I’m trying. I really am. I just get so overwhelmed with all there is to do to market a book. It’s not just throwing it out into the ether and waiting for the income. It doesn’t work that way. But hopefully, with the help of my publisher, I’ll get some traction.

Of Arts and Sciences, Part 2

Well, the local Arts and Sciences competition is over, and I didn’t win anything. I’m not overly surprised, but it’s still a little disappointing.

It’s not so much the fact that I didn’t win anything. Sometimes you don’t win, and that’s okay. What bothers me more is how unprepared I was for some of the questions I got from my judges. They asked about specifics about the history of the type of art I chose to enter, if there were any extant examples I knew of, and a little more stuff that, honestly, I couldn’t answer. It got me thinking…

…I know I’m not going to become a Laurel overnight. It usually takes years and years and years of hard work, research, and determination. Decades, sometimes. And I’m okay with that. I’m okay with the possibility of being the 50-something vigilant who has to be helped to kneel before the Crown because of her arthritis. That’s fine.

What bugs me, though, is the research part. I can do research. I know how. But what I never learned is how to retain it. I had people rattling off grave site names and examples of digs where certain things could have been found and dates and time periods and…I can’t get that stuff to stick. In school, I would retain facts long enough to pass the test and then they’d flutter away on the breeze the second the test was over. My brain doesn’t hold on to stuff the way it does for most others I see who are heavily active in the SCA. I can remember that the serial killer Albert Fish liked to shove rose stems, thorns and all, in his urethra, but I can’t remember what time period my favorite style of Norse art is from. I could read it a thousand times, but it won’t stick. Why? Who knows. All I know is that this little idiosyncracy might have a negative impact on my potential future as a Laurel.

You see, Laurels are supposed to not only be experts in doing the art and/or science they’re known for, they’re supposed to be experts in the history of the art and/or science as well. How can I become that level of expert if my brain won’t hold on to the data?

I worry. I hesitate. And I wonder if it’s imposter syndrome rearing its ugly head or if this is a serious concern. Am I just doubting for no reason, or should I reconsider my path? I mean, maybe I’m not meant to be knowledgeable about the pretty things I make. Maybe I’m just meant to make them and that’s it.

Or maybe I’m just tired. It’s been a long day, so long that I’ve had entirely too much time to think. That’s always a dangerous thing for me.

Of Art and Science

Last weekend’s Arts and Sciences competition in a neighboring Barony went well, and tomorrow is the A&S competition for my own Barony. I have mixed feelings about it.

Last year was a disaster. A fiasco. A veritable shit show. I entered two pieces and was supposed to be judged by three people for each piece. This did not happen, largely because not enough judges were acquired for the event. For one item they press-ganged a judge at the last minute, because I complained to our Seneschal about the lack of judging (and because one of the judges who was supposed to judge it, who specifically told me she would be back to judge it, wandered off to judge something else and never came back). It was a miserable day spent at a table waiting to discuss my pieces with the judges, and I was so upset at having a terrible experience with A&S competition–my first experience entering in A&S–that I got stupid drunk that night and ended up vomiting Cheetos all over the side of the car and my Italian Renaissance dress. (Many, many thanks to my wonderful husband who cleaned all that mess up while I took a cold shower to sober up a bit.) I even sent a politely-worded but still quite blunt email to our Baron and Baroness about how awful the whole experience was, and how as a novice entering for the first time I hoped this experience wouldn’t sour me to A&S as a whole.

I had a much better time of it at the neighboring Barony’s A&S the following weekend (last year the events were on back to back weekends as well, but in reverse order compared to this year). Enough that I was willing to consider entering in an A&S again, but not so much that I was willing to enter into the Kingdom-level competition. No way.

This year? This year I’m entering just one piece for the local A&S, but I’m confident enough to try to enter it in Kingdom later in the year–possibly even multiple entries, depending on how quickly I can make it through my current backlog of projects.

I’m still apprehensive about tomorrow though. I mean, I know different people are running the competition, and knowing who’s running it makes me feel a tad bit more at ease about my likelihood of being judged appropriately, but last year’s competition still has left a vile taste in my mouth. (And no, it’s not the memories of the regurgitated Cheetos.)

I need to get cracking on the paper for it tonight or tomorrow morning (in true AJ style, I’ll be cramming at the last minute lol I hate writing papers), though I think this year they’re not being sticklers for full documentation. I think they’re taking a page from our neighboring Barony and letting entrants that aren’t going for Champion do minimal documentation. If that’s the case, I should be good to go for the most part, just some minor tweaks.

Here’s hoping I don’t get gypped again this year. I don’t think I will, but that doubt still lingers….