Mapping, stories, Random City Generator

Short post this week, but a fun one!

I encountered the Random City Generator a few months back, and I’ve really been enjoying playing with it. While I haven’t been doing a great deal of mapping for my stories recently, I do use maps a lot to visualize different communities. Previous to this, I have mostly hand-drawn maps for my secondary worlds and spent a lot of time clicking through Google and Google street view for my contemporary stuff. In my earliest days of writing, I didn’t map at all, and I think it shows in the weakness of some of my earlier work in terms of setting and worldbuilding. It’s a really great skill for a writer to have. 

I’m not sure that Random City Generator will entirely replace my hand-drawn creations, but I thought I would share this version of Herkun’s City below. You can see the castle complex, the river and the temple to Herkun with the square in the center, plus Goldtown (the scattered impoverished communities that have grown up against the walls, which will probably show up in book three). 

It’s a great resource for writers trying to wrap their heads around their worlds.

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Falling down the hill

It’s nearly the end of NaNoWriMo and the Thanksgiving season has begun. So far I have attended three Thanksgivings of one stripe or another, and I’m crazy behind on wordcount. I’m convinced that whoever placed NaNo in November did it specifically because they thought only children and college-aged folks would be interested. Adults spend far too much time in November cooking for other people to be able to summon the creative juices to write 50k.

Luckily, I am not writing that much. My NaNo goal was only 20k. I could conceivably do that in four (terrible) days if I had to, and I have already gotten pretty far along so I won’t have to do that to myself. And, despite being behind, there’s good news!

You may have seen this post, so let me explain what this means.

My writing process is sort of strange. As with most people, the process changes from book to book. However, with most stories I hit a moment when things start to cohere. Last weekend, as I was sitting in a restaurant waiting for a friend, I realized that I had finally discovery-written enough that things were starting to come together.

You see, I’m not a pantser, but I’m not a planner either. I’m more of a baker of stories, when it comes down to it. I plan out the ingredients according to the recipe I come up with, and then I start mixing things together. The end-goal remains consistent but sometimes the steps can be malleable. As any good baker knows, there’s usually a point part of the way through where you’re not sure if you’re doing it right. Maybe you didn’t add enough water or milk, and it needs a little more. Maybe you didn’t add enough flour. Whatever it was, you need intuition to take you in that direction, to get you to the perfect consistency of dough or batter.

And once you have that consistency right, the rest of it is just patting and rolling the story into shape.

Anyway, it’s an imperfect metaphor, but I’m living proof that you don’t need to outline 100% or to free-write 100%. I’m pretty sure if I did either the story that would come out would be dead, lacking the spark that makes it worth reading. For this story, I had a clear idea of the two main characters, parts of the setting, and the end I was working towards. I knew the bones. As I have written, I’ve been adding flesh and color in ways that, honestly, often surprise me. The story is beginning to take on a life of its own, and that means I’m doing something right.

Just in time, too, since NaNo is nearly over.


 
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Loss and telling you story

October is, in the traditions I was handed down, a month of joyful harvest. It is also a month of reaping. This is the month that fields die. It is the month where the veil grows thin, and the dead come to visit.

The first book I ever finished I finished in the wake of loss. In 2008, my grandmother passed away. For over a year I had been noodling on yet another project that no doubt would have ended up shelved, but watching her die catalyzed something in me. It made me want to finish the work.

Since that time, I have written many stories that my grandmother appeared in. I don’t know if this is healthy or not – I only know that she is alive in me and my stories. That when I feel the press of infinity, I write. When I feel alone, I write, and I write too when I hear her whisper. I write so as not to be dead, as the great author Bradbury said. But I also write to know death. To understand this world we live in and the ways we must move through it.

Earlier this month, we lost a relative in our extended family. The death was gentle as deaths go, expected and yet quick as a butterfly’s fluttering. I didn’t get to say goodbye, not really. When I got the call, I sat down and wrote for hours. When I finally forced myself to stop, I still felt the need for pen and paper. No doubt she will end up in a story, too.

I don’t have any point to this post, per se. I could talk about how writing is a kind of self-cannibalization, chewing all of your emotions and experiences up and spitting them out on paper. I could talk about how writing has helped me process griefs I did not think I would ever process, to digest them at last and make them part of me, no longer a foreign object lodged behind my breastbone.

But I think I want to sit in silence for a moment, and just be grateful for this life. It is so short, and there are so many beautiful people in it.


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Doubt, desires, futures

This week, I’ve been reminding myself that you can look back, but you can’t go back.

I’m a self-published author, and when I started this gig I had no idea what I was doing. It is possible that I still don’t. Periodically, I will remember this. Writing could, easily, be a full-time gig. There are always more words to put to paper, and once something is drafted, more editing, more submissions, more research. This is very hard without a team to support you, and self-publishing means that the team you have is one you pay. No one should have to work for free. It’s a direct contrast to the traditional publishing mantra of “money always flows to the writer.” I have heard self-publishing described best as a business, with a large initial investment and a hope of payback.

Of course, when I started this gig, I didn’t understand any of that really. I was certainly not where I needed to be as a writer and marketer and business person to make things work. I’m still learning. All of life is a learning process, but the learning curve in this business is steep. Even with the insulation of traditional publishing, the pitfalls outnumber those in most careers. I can guarantee this, as I’ve bounced through several. For the most part, if you show up with halfway decent skills and a desire to work and learn, you can at least scrape by. It may not be pretty but it’s enough to get you to the next week.

Writing often doesn’t feel like that for me. Perhaps it’s because I have never paid into it as deeply as some; perhaps it is because I don’t have a great head for business, or at least didn’t six years ago. Perhaps it’s simply a matter of hours in the day – I’ve given a lot more hours, most likely, to developing my career at the dayjob just by dent of having a degree in it, no matter that I’ve been writing since I could hold a pen. But despite my natural propensity, writing as a job feels like climbing uphill in a snowstorm. I have to give 100% or there is no momentum. I’ll stand there and freeze.

I’ve thought a lot about what my goals are for the future and how best to get there. There’s no one path in this business, at least that’s what everyone says, but there are more well-trodden ones. At this point, I’m in a place of introspection. I don’t need my writing to live. I would like to be in a place, someday, where I didn’t have to juggle it with a whole other career, but I don’t hate my dayjob – the opposite, most days. In my dreams, I write full-time. All the stories that are inside me make it to paper before I inevitably return to the soil. Writing full-time isn’t about making money, necessarily, but birthing those stories. It’s about having the leeway to do that, to get the words down on paper, without sacrificing all of the other good things in my life – the time with family, the mental and physical health, things that can give a little now if you’re willing to pay for it later. And you will pay for it later.

Anyway, I keep thinking about where things go next. I keep thinking about the best use of my time. I keep thinking about all these worlds jostling about in my head, how they slosh over sometimes without me telling them to. I haven’t figured anything out yet for sure, except that, while I can change what I’ve already given the world, I’m not sure it’s the best use of my time right now. I can’t go back.

I need to move forward, to become.


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And now we return to your regularly scheduled programming

Friends, I am so glad to be home! Metaphorically, I mean. I missed my blog a lot.

Housekeeping! If you missed my blog tour, here are all the stops along the way. Take a moment to get caught up, if you care to. My favorite stop was the last one, which involved a playlist! Plus a really long, in depth interview that answers all of your Creation Saga questions.

And of course, you can now buy the first two volumes of the Creation Saga. I’ll be diving into the third and last volume soon, but I’m taking a break to explore other projects. It’s outlined, so the roadmap is there. But I realized once I finished Daughter of Madness and got it out in the world that I was burnt like crispy toast. I needed a break to regroup. So minus the blog tour and edits to APM, I haven’t been writing much for the months of June and July except when I get inspiration. Got to let the well fill back up, as it were.

Speaking of APM, that goes on submission in the next couple of weeks. Traditionally published processes are a little less transparent for various reasons, so I probably won’t mention it on here again for a while, but it is something taking up some of my brain space.

So yeah, break is a relative word that just means I slowed down for the summer, as we all like to do. What have I been doing instead? Well, I managed some river time recently, I have accrued my fair share of mosquito bites (15 at last count), I actually cooked dinner once, and I’ve been gardening a lot. Also continuing aerial silks and gym classes. So I’m staying busy with hobbies that help me relax and replenish for the first time in….oh, I guess a year. It has been a really rough year for me in a lot of ways which I won’t go into on this blog, and this is the first time I have felt like I could breathe for a long time. There are still things I would like to fix and change, and still projects to be working on, but I’m taking some time to be still.

That also means I get time to read! Just the past few weeks I’ve finished TRAIL OF LIGHTNING, IRON AND MAGIC, A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC, and some other fun reads. I also slammed through VIOLET EVERGARDEN on Netflix, to my tear ducts’ dismay. I have not sobbed so hard and so consistently for a while. It was like YOUR LIE IN APRIL with guns, and the animation was excellent.

With that, I hope you enjoy a lovely river picture. Until next week!


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We took a break from the blog tour this week for the holiday, but I wanted to take a minute to remind everyone that the final blog stop is coming up and that means our giveaway for two signed books is coming to a close. You have ten days to get on that, and you can enter at any tour stop.

In other giveaway news, my Instafreebie excerpt is part of a Group Giveaway featuring women kicking ass, so you should take a minute to check that out.

Last note: the blog resumes its regular posting schedule on Friday, July 20th. So look forward to some fun articles at that time.

Catch you on the flip side!


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Daughter of Madness: logistics edition

Hey everyone! It’s been a while since I’ve posted directly here. For those keeping track, we’re a little over halfway through the blog tour. I’ll be officially back here with your weekly Friday post in July. July 27th to be exact. But since I had some thoughts to share, I thought I’d check in to do a quick rundown of the publishing process for Daughter of Madness.

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Continue reading “Daughter of Madness: logistics edition”

Futurescapes Catch-up

Friends, my brain is still oozing from the majesty and magic that was Futurescapes 2018. Accordingly, I’m taking a minute to check in here before running off to do all of the things that I need to do to get caught back up. Thanks for your patience while I was out of town.

First of all, the Sundance Resort was lovely. I’ve got tons of pictures. I’ve also got an official Instagram now, where you can see some of those pictures and keep up with my writing if that’s your poison. I’ve put a couple of favorites at the end of this post.

I met so many cool people who were all really supportive. I also got a huge amount of feedback on the novella. I’m hoping to get that groomed up by July in time for some important submissions windows to open. Obviously getting Daughter of Madness out takes priority, there, but the worst of that should be over by the end of June so the timeline works out perfectly.

I also took a lot of notes for some of the lectures and panels I got to attend, which were all incredibly useful, and some of those I tweeted. All of it is tagged with the #futurescapes18 hashtag, so you should be able to find them.

And here, at last, your promised photos! I probably won’t make another post this week, since I’m behind on edits and have some other deadlines to meet, but I will be back next week!


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