Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Some Personal News, 6-30-2015

To all of you who were expecting a blog post last week, my deepest apologies. I've been going through a bit of a crisis. I've been under a lot of stress, which led to me in the ER with a panic attack a couple of Saturdays ago. as a result, I've been placed on some new medication which has calmed me down but seems to have fried my creative circuits.

This sucks in so many ways it isn't even funny. I've only just become acclimated to the meds after two weeks, during the course of which they left me nauseous, sleepy, jumpy, or irritable. I've been told that I won't have to be on them for the rest of my life, so that's something, but writing has long been my escape, and now I can't even rely on it.

Here's a brief rundown of stressors that I've been dealing with:
  •  After resisting for the longest time because of crippling dental anxiety, this year I started the ball rolling on getting my teeth fixed up. This hasn't reduced my dental anxiety any, but I've found a guy who will put me completely under to get my mouth renovated. This will take a couple office visits, but at least it's better than the couple dozen the previous dentist quoted. Downside: It will be expensive. I will have help in paying for it, though, so all that's left is the appointments themselves.
  • I will be moving in August. The two places that my roommate and I are looking at won't even accept rental applications until the beginning of July (!) for a move-in date at the beginning of August, so I'm still stressing about that for another couple of days. Moving isn't going to be much fun anyway, but due to various overlapping reasons, it needs to be done.
  • I recently was involved in a car accident on the highway. The car still works, but I'll need some bodywork and a new paintjob all up the left side after getting sideswiped. Fortunately, my insurance will be paying for most of it, leaving me responsible for the $500 deductible.
  • I recently had surgery to remove a cyst, and discovered that I am allergic to something involved in even latex-free steri-strips. The surgeon suggested I might be allergic to the stuff that he used to make the steri-strip stick better, which I think is stupid, but I can't help that right now. I had a hell of a rash at the site, but I have a prescription for an ointment that seems to be clearing things up. Yay!
  • There's a possibility that I have an anxiety disorder, which completely fails to shock me. I'm on the waiting list to get a psych eval, but I might not even get in to see the psychologist until September. In the meantime I just have to chill and be patient.
In good news, Hungry as a Wolf is still on track for its October 31 release date, and I've been churning out a bunch of outlines so that I will be ready when my writer's block finally clears. This might not happen until the dust starts to settle around September, but I'm looking forward to getting a chance to freaking relax already. I've been dealing with my various crises one at a time via assembling the components of a pirate costume to potentially wear to the St. Louis Ren Faire next year, so that's something to look forward to.

I'm still looking forward to being able to write again.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Twenty Questions Character Interview: Alistair Mechanus

Hello, faithful readers! This week's post will be a character interview with Alistair Mechanus, the male lead of my SFR novel Heart of Steel.
  1. If you had a free day with no responsibilities and your only mission was to enjoy yourself, what would you do? In my line of work, I'm almost constantly moving or working on something, so that's a difficult question to answer. I suppose if I had a completely free day--no projects, no crises, no processes to monitor, I might spend it in one of my greenhouses with Julia. I'd show her around, tell her about the different flowers I have... [he smirks] occasionally dodge the servitor robots watering the plants. My second choice might be playing a game of chess.
  2. What impression do you make on people when they first meet you? How about after they've known you for a while? [He frowns.] I know that my appearance may be shocking and strange, and my mannerisms aren't exactly in line with those of mainstream society. I remember when I first met Julia, she thought I was a madman. [he shrugs] She was right, of course, but under my cybernetic implants I do have a soul, and I'm willing to do whatever it takes to protect those I care about.
  3. What's your idea of a good marriage? Do you think that'll happen in your life? [He sits back.] Uhhhhhh.... well. That's rather a complicated question. I suppose my most distilled answer would involve two people with similar interests and who care about each other. I, uh, I hope this will happen in my life. I mean, I'm planning for it to happen, but the devil's in the details, I suppose. I can only hope she says yes.
  4. What are you most proud of about your life?  Mainly I'm proud that I was able to recover my humanity. for ten years I didn't know who I used to be. All I was, was a clinical machine hell-bent on world conquest, and I didn't know why. I threw myself into my work, and I suppose on some level I was afraid to remember what happened. My past was too frightening to contemplate. But... with Julia's help, I... I was able to recover who I used to be. It hurt, a lot, and I nearly broke. now, though, I can heal. I'm still a broken wreck by most people's standards, but at least I'm in a position where I can put my mind back together.
  5. What are you most ashamed of in your life?  [He is silent for a long time.] I... I lost someone very close to me. There was a car accident, and it may have been partly my fault, but... I was too busy recovering and rebuilding myself to really attend to her. She was in a coma in the hospital and... i didn't even visit her. I was too busy making sure I looked my best. she died, and... I didn't get a chance to say goodbye before they took her off life support.
  6. If you could spend the day with someone you admire (living or dead or imaginary), who would you pick? [A slow smile spreads across his mismatched features.] Tony Stark, I think. Sure, he's fictional, but in his world he's a technological genius and a celebrity. Everyone loves him. From what I've been able to find out, he seems like a good man, and a brilliant one as well.
  7. Do you think you've turned out the way your parents expected? [Breaks out laughing.] I don't think I've even turned out like I expected.
  8. What do you believe about God?  I'm not sure what I believe about God. If there is a supreme force out there that's in charge of everything, then they're doing rather a shoddy job taking care of things. On the other hand... if the supreme force is simply intellect, then everyone has the potential in them to be the force that moves the world. As for what an external supreme force might think about me... [He shrugs.] I haven't thought about it. The fact that I've made my way through some fairly horrific events should count for something, I would think.
  9. Is there anything you've always wanted to do but haven't done? What would happen if you did it? Cure cancer, I think. I mean, I have a lot of plans for the betterment of humanity, but curing cancer is one of the major ones. If I could do that, a lot of people would go on to have full, healthy lives who otherwise might not have. [He shrugs] Is it cliche? Maybe. But as long as I'm improving things, I might as well think big.
  10. What's the worst thing that's happened in your life? What did you learn from it? [He goes a bit green.] Losing Lauren. Absolutely. It broke me, on so many levels, and it taught--rather brutally--that maybe I can't save everyone... or maybe that I need to pay attention to the really important things before I lose them.
  11. Tell me about your best friend. [He smiles] Arthur is an artificial intelligence that I programmed myself. He largely serves as an intermediary between myself and the operating system that runs Shark Reef Isle, but, more importantly, he's been a valuable conversational partner and a sanity anchor--as far as sanity can be measured in someone like me--for the past decade. He's kept me from getting lonely, and he's also been there to hit me over the head with a dose of perspective when I need it. i think he cares for me as well, on some assembly-deep level. After all, I created him, though I don't exactly lord this over him. We've just been... partners for the past decade, nearly inseparable because we're connected on the mental level.
  12. What's the worst thing you've ever done to someone? Why? [He looks grave] I sent my combat drones to dismember a man while he was alive--conscious but paralyzed. He was a creation of mine--Julia's boyfriend at the time I met both of them. I'd turned him into a cyborg because he was gravely injured and I thought he would make a nice gift. it turned out that he was even crazier than me. He was willing to kill to keep Julia from leaving him. I won't apologize for it. He had to be stopped.
  13. What would you like it to say on your tombstone? "DEUS IN MACHINA".
  14. Describe your ideal mate. [He smiles] Smart, gentle, funny, a little quirky... beauty is a plus, but honestly, look at me. [He gestures to the cybernetic implants in his face] If she has the personality, everything else is a bonus.
  15. What are you most afraid of? I'm most afraid of losing my humanity again. I don't want to break, and I don't want any more people close to me to get hurt.
  16. What's the most important thing in your life? What do you value most? Right now the most important thing in my life is Julia. She helped me find myself again, even though she had every reason not to bother. I value her friendship, and the gentle affection she shows me.
  17. What do you like best about yourself? Least? I like my intellect the most about myself. It allows me to solve problems that most men--or women--of science couldn't even begin to unravel, or might think were impossible to start with and just give up. I can think outside of the box to see that there is a solution, and then work towards it. As for what I like the least... [sighs] Well, sometimes I'd like my face back, and the limbs and organs I lost. It would be nice to be fully human again, so that I don't have to worry about accidentally hurting anyone... [he looks at his metal hand] But then I worked hard to get where I am today. The scars aren't all that pretty, but at least they show that I survived.
  18. What do you like best about Julia? Least? I like that she was able to look past the mess and see the man that I am underneath. I'm sure when she worked in the emergency room she saw people who looked worse than me, but she still showed me compassion when she was afraid. [He smiles.] Then again, the Healing Angel is seldom afraid. As for what I like least... [sighs] She doesn't seem to understand that all my servants--the chimeras and the robots alike-- would never, ever hurt her. Uh.... we're working on that. I mean, it's not her fault if she's afraid, but she's not going to become less afraid by avoiding them.
  19. How do you feel about your life right now? What, if anything, would you like to change? I'm feeling pretty good about my life right now. I'm on the cusp of something great that's been ten years in the making, and I can dedicate the culmination of my efforts to the love of myself. I have a lot of hard work ahead of me, though. I just wish it were done so that I could admire the fruits of my labor.
  20. Are you lying to yourself about something? What is it? [The thinks about this for a while] With the way my mind is, I wonder if conquering the world will be enough. I mean, I tell myself that once planet Earth is mine, everything will be great. [shakes his head] But what if it isn't? What if I'm left wanting something more? I like to think I'm sure about all this, but I have doubts. A hundred thousand things could go wrong, and then where would I be? I can only fix so many things before I have to accept the project as a failure... and then there's ten years down the toilet.

I hope you enjoyed this insight into the mind of a mad scientist who's a romantic at heart! Let me know if you want to see an interview with any of my other characters!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Double-Edged Sword of Outlining

Recently, during the course of an apparent drought in inspiration with my existing works in progress, I turned to outlining to help me sort out the eleventy billion other ideas that were jockeying for my attention. I figured that it would be a good way to sort out my thoughts and free myself of the logjam that was keeping me from getting on with things, so that I could concentrate on current projects.

Outlining, I discovered, was a wonderfully efficient way to get down an idea in a state more fully formed than an elevator pitch or a logline, so that I could be sure of what plot points I wanted to hit when I eventually got around to writing it properly. I've used this technique in the middle of some of my WIPs, reminding myself of the path from Point A to Point B and all the stops along the way. As a result, I now have three complete story outlines waiting in my new outline folder, and another one on the way.

Good, right?


I discovered I have a new problem.

Once I finished the outlines, suddenly the idea was no longer in my head. It was like putting someone's phone number in your smartphone's directory and thereafter being completely unable to remember it.

It's frustrating.

It's illogical.

It's maddening.

It's... actually pretty dang useful. Once I had time to think about it, having the idea no longer in my head made room for the ideas I actually wanted to work on. Yes, I panicked at first, but I soon came to realize that this was a form of sorting out my thoughts. as long as I had something written down, I could come back to the outline to draft it properly. In the meantime, it wasn't in my way.

In other words, what seemed to be a brain fart turned out to be a handy effect.

I fully intend to go back and revisit these outlines, of course, incorporating them into my writing process. Whereas previously I started with an outline/rough draft hybrid, I think there is room for complete outline first, then rough draft based on this. This is hard for a historical pantser like myself to really grasp, but as long as it works, who am I to complain?

How many of you outline before the rough draft? How many prefer to just start typing and see where the story takes you?

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

June 2015 Progress Report

Well, readers, half a year has passed since I made my writing to-do list way the heck back in January. I've made a fair bit of progress in my writing goals since then, so let's see how well I've done:

  1. Stay on top of my blog a bit better. I'm acing this so far, with one blog post a week no matter where my brain happens to be at the moment.
  2. Keep my website updated. Um. Working on it? I've redone the Works page on my website and I've been keeping that updated, but the blog portion needs constant vigilance.
  3. Send out regular newsletters. This I've been acing as well, even though at times it feels like I'm scrambling for material.
  4. Edit and polish Necromancy Will Kill Your Dating Life. This is very much a work in progress. I've done my first edit pass, and I'm waiting to get it back from my last beta reader before I start revving the chainsaw again.
  5. Finish rewrites on One Spooky Case. Okay, I've barely even touched this one. I have no excuse for this, other than my mind being elsewhere working on other projects. It's in the queue.
  6. Finish the rough draft of The Cinderella Gambit. Also in the queue. My muse hasn't even glanced in that direction.
  7. Finish all my WIPs. HA HA HA no. The ideas keep coming faster than I can write them down. I'm trying to find a system. Currently trying outlining.
  8. Hold more author events. Nothing major so far, but I have a Dealer Table booked in Bookseller's Row at Archon for this year, so that's something.
  9. Market the heck out of myself. This I've been keeping up on a bit better--mainly the word of mouth thing, but I've been posting regularly on my author page and pimping my various books in their different formats on Facebook. I'm going to start pre-release promotion of Hungry as a Wolf this week, in anticipation of its Halloween release date.
As you can see, my to-do list has been a little hit or miss, but I have made progress. Doing this by myself is hard, but I'm learning more and more every day, so that helps. I do plan on outlining the rest of my WIPs once I get the time, but those are the key words--once I get the time. I have accomplished a lot this year, though, and I hope to accomplish lots more in the future!