A single word, and one of the most loaded words in the English language, I think.

So I’m doing NaNoWriMo again this year. Ten for ten is the goal; I hit 50,000 words written nine years in a row, and have seven completed manuscripts and one hugely incomplete one to show for it. I wouldn’t be surprised if it will take me one more NaNo of working on Book 8 before I can call it completed. It’s more or less a saga in and of itself. And if you don’t know what I write, it’s fantasy/science fiction. A lot of magic, a whole lot of action, and a few things about human nature, as described in action by people who are anything but human.

It’s one of those things that so many of my fellow Wrimos find themselves doing: write the story you wish you had available to read when you were a certain age. My saga is part-YA and part not really. Well, a lot of ‘not really’, considering some of the more questionable things that I’m now putting my characters through.

And I find that one of the emerging themes in my storyline is trust.

As I said before, one of the most loaded words in the English language.

So much of the human condition relies on trust, and both as an author and a lifelong student of practical psychology, I’m finding that more often than not, we already know who is trustworthy and who isn’t. As was the case with one of my best friends, I knew I could trust her right away. Yes, she and I disagree sometimes, and yes, we can be at loggerheads, but the fact remains that, no matter how we butt heads, I trust her. I knew that from the first chat we had. Her writing style, her choice of words, her choice of expressions, and yes, okay, the fact that her coffee habit can put mine to shame – all of that gave away little cues to her personality, and I knew immediately: we mesh. The other part of that was little more than instinct. Very frankly, I just knew. I can’t put it into any more detailed terms than that. I knew, and I knew I should. And it’s been a great time since.

I play on the themes of instinct and knowing what’s ahead  a lot in my writing, sometimes fairly directly. In part, it’s part and parcel of writing fantasy. In another, it goes right back to human nature and basic behavioral psychology. You can call it the subconscious brain processing information faster than our conscious brain can get to it. You can call it the ‘sixth sense’ – not a term I’m fond of using, but whatever. But the fact of the matter is, you. always. know. Especially when it comes to trust. You just have to listen to that feeling, and that’s a lesson that most people learn the hard way.

Ever heard the saying that when something is too good to be true, it very likely is? There’s a reason for that. And that reason is that people generally go to great lengths for their own gain, with too many people being none the wiser. When someone puts on too much of an act of being a “good person” – pillar of the community, church every Sunday, the sort of a person whom everyone would say, “No nicer guy/girl than that exists!” – it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that the opposite is true, in my book. You may think it cynical, but Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote of it in “The Adventure of the Copper Beeches” very succinctly, when he has Sherlock Holmes explaining on why the countryside makes him uneasy:

There is no lane so vile that the scream of a tortured child, or the thud of a drunkard’s blow, does not beget sympathy and indignation among the neighbours, and then the whole machinery of justice is ever so close that a word of complaint can set it going, and there is but a step between the crime and the dock. But look at these lonely houses, each in its own fields, filled for the most part with poor ignorant folk who know little of the law. Think of the deeds of hellish cruelty, the hidden wickedness which may go on, year in, year out, in such places, and none the wiser.

But that, of course, was Victorian England. Hate to say it, but 21st Century USA isn’t that different. I find that the nicer the neighborhood, the more polished the person, the worse the vices underneath the gilded shell.

Again, this circles back to trust. You want to trust outside appearances. It’s our instinct to think that a bright, clean neighborhood and a bright, clean person are exactly as they appear. In truth, that’s precisely what the people who want to hide their vices are counting on. Appearances make for a very easy hiding of reality. You would truly be surprised at how well people hide who they are, and what they do, in order to get something.

Nonetheless, the human condition is to trust. We humans are pack animals, mostly; for all our quests for solitude and peace, we rely on people around us. Friends, for one. Family, whether or not that’s blood family, adopted family, or the family of choice. Even if we don’t rely on them for anything financial or material, we rely on them out of our own social nature. And we want to believe that we can trust the people around us. We want to believe that they have our best interests at heart.

And yes, oftentimes, that is the case. But there are also quite a lot of people who are able to fake an entire relationship if it means that they get something out of it.

Michael Baisden writes about this on a pretty regular basis. Here’s the thing: of all the people who make money off giving others advice, I find myself agreeing with a lot of what he says. He’s not consistent in his messages, which only makes him human, but the absolute best and most consistent point that he always makes is make the person you’re with earn your trust. Don’t just give it to them immediately. Make them work to earn it, and take your sweet time with it. Forget emotions, forget being in love – use your brain and make the best decisions based on what you see for yourself.

I find myself in enthusiastic agreement with that. Trust is the number-one thing that we rely on. We place it in people every day, whether or not it’s new friends, old friends, coworkers, family members, you name it. We trust. Doesn’t it make sense to first see whether or not the person is worthy of trust? It does. But that’s the shit that takes time, and sometimes, though rarely, the person we aren’t sure whether or not we trust will go all-in in building it, and not giving you any reason to doubt.

It never ceases to amaze me how many people would get into any sort of a situation – workplace, relationship, you name it – where the other person in it just is not and never will act in their best interests. Oh, they do an excellent job of faking it; one may never even know. But it’s either the lack of follow-through, the continued infringement on your goodwill, the continued use of your money, the ongoing flaking out on plans, or the attempt to cover up wrongdoing or breaches of trust with gifts – this isn’t a pattern of behavior exclusive to romantic relationships. Yeah, you see it all the time when someone is a habitual cheater, but it applies to the workplaces too. To friendships. Family members. It’s very small things, if you take each individually, but altogether, it adds up to that famous Rhett Butler quote: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

My first job out of college comes to mind when I think of trusting the wrong people. Looking back now, I can bravely say that I put too much trust where it didn’t need to go. When I got hired, I was plunged into the work (administrative) with no basis. No support. No training. No consistency. No procedure, from the top down. Of course, this bred disorganization everywhere. Nearly every outburst from either ex-boss or the ex-managers about the general incompetence of the office – which, honestly, didn’t exist; all of us were wicked efficient at our jobs – was followed up with small rewards to tide it all over. “Take an early day, it’s fine”. Or “Let’s all go out for lunch, we need a break”. I repeatedly complained about having next to no help while swamped in peak season – instead of people hired, the first year I voiced a complaint, I got extra time off and $100 in cold cash. That’s nice, but it helped very little; I was still working insane hours, and the phone kept ringing in my sleep. When they did hire interns the following year, no one else had the time to train them because of when they were hired (peak season, again), which left yours truly training them. So yeah, this left me working four people’s jobs at once. I got a huge post-season bonus check that year. I also have a blank spot in my memory for the middle part of April of that year from the stress alone, though I clearly remember running away to Philly on April 6th to all but collapse on my friend’s shoulder in absolute exhaustion. Rewards-wise? I cleaned up like a bandit. I got extra time off, all paid for, in addition to the massive bonus. But… none of this fixed the underlying issues in the workplace. None whatsoever. That was why I quit: because I realized that none of this will change, and that it would eat me alive before I would see any improvement, and that, above all, I was never going to get paid what I’m truly worth.

And every time I complained, my then-boss would always promise something, and always say, “You can trust me.”

I did, and that was my mistake.

I thought that my then-boss would eventually give me a salary worth the work I was doing. It took me an inordinately long time to realize that it was never going to happen. More than one person in my life told me to walk out, that it wasn’t worth the toxic environment, and I’d vociferously defend staying there, because I’d keep getting the little rewards and mistook it to mean that the bigger rewards were coming. I realized it was never going to happen when I was offered shorter workweek rather than my annual raise. And in retrospect? All the signs were there, in front of my face. I just didn’t read them.

So why didn’t I quit before? Easy answer: fear, and mistakenly believing I couldn’t do better. I didn’t think I could get another job where I’d be paid as well. I worked my way to a certain amount of flex; I could travel, and was slowly entrenching myself in the music world. Boss also didn’t care that I had Photoshop on the work computer; hell, he had me do some graphics and marketing while I was at it. What got me to quit was the realization that nothing I did was ever going to be enough, and that no amount of ‘more effort’ was going to give me what I’m worth. It took me a long time to see that, and once I saw it, nothing could stop me from making a fast exit.


In truth, it’s the same structure as abusive relationships. The cycle is disturbingly similar. Why? Because you have hopes that the person you’re with will change for the better. That the intermittent rewards will become consistent. Very likely, before the abuse pattern begins, you have a certain halcyon period where they win your trust, and even sustain it for a while. And you begin to trust that they will work out whatever is wrong, and that it’ll be as good as it was before.

That’s actually 100% exactly what the other person is counting on. They know you trust them. And they exploit that without a second thought. Why? Because they benefit from your efforts.

In the example of my first job, I was a target, and it’s only now that I recognize that as such. I didn’t know that I could negotiate my job contract, and was afraid to be unemployed, because student loans. One of my ex-managers delighted in telling me that no one else would hire me because the job market was crap (and I did go on interviews multiple times) – I outlasted him by about two years. When I was hired, I was fresh out of college, with a degree I wasn’t using, and no work experience past my college front-desk job. At that time, I’d have gladly taken whatever I could get, and it showed. My former boss picked up on that immediately, and built my trust early on. It’s a huge, massive part of what kept me working there even when it was clear to everyone else that it wasn’t ever going to be what I wanted.

In a typical abusive relationship cycle, all the Well-Meaning Wilmas, as I call them, always ask, “But why did they stay in the relationship?” The truth is, the answers are very similar to the reasoning I had to staying at my first workplace. “I thought I couldn’t do any better”. “I would have no money otherwise”. “I wanted to keep the kids safe”. Because the other person won their trust and bamboozled them into believing that yes, eventually it will be all good all the time. That it does get better. That if there’s just a little more X, a little less Y – whatever X and Y happen to be – then everything will be okay.

It goes back to Issendai of Livejournal and the brilliant post on sick systems. Seriously, read that. It has to be one of the most brilliant pieces of writing you can ever have on this subject.

And you know something? Building a sick system, and keeping a sick system going relies on – primarily – trust.

One part of that blog post that I can echo and confirm is that intermittent rewards are the most addictive kind there is. That, which relies on and results in winning someone’s trust, is usually all some people need.

And you can ask, “If this is what people do to us, why do we trust in the first place?” We need to. It’s human. It’s part and parcel of who we are.

But let’s come back to instinct for a moment. You know, the gut feeling that everyone tells you to listen to. The one that we all ignore in favor of thinking that maybe, just maybe, it’ll change when…

One of the things that Michael Baisden said once that I really resonated with was, “If you’re asking whether or not you trust someone, you already know you don’t.” I find that to be a very true statement. And there are quite a lot of people out there who would go to great lengths to make sure you never have to question their trust. They will tell you whatever it is they think you want to hear – often on target, especially if they had some time in getting to know you – to make sure you never question their motivations. If there’s enough trust exchanged between you and that person, you probably will never question whether or not you trust them – until something happens that will make you question it. And that’s when it’s gone for good.

I’m not an advocate of snooping. I understand why people do that, but it’s the fastest way to wreck trust. This applies to any situation. The minute that you start going through someone’s things or communications, whatever trust that there was evaporates, on both sides. Even if you find nothing incriminating, you already know you don’t trust the person. And should they ever find out you’re snooping, will they ever trust you again? Of course not. Never.

Trust is something we can’t live without. Bottom line and bar none. We need people around us whom we can rely on, we need people around us who can and will and should tell us when we’re fucking up, and to help us un-fuck up if need be. But it one of the most absolutely fragile valuable things in the human spectrum. We don’t know what will break it; something done by that person, or information that comes to light elsewhere. We don’t know to which extent it will break: will it be a hairline crack, or a hit that’s strong enough to shatter it? Trust is such that once it breaks, getting it back is impossible. Sure, you can repair it. But think of it as the most valuable of Ming vases: it falls, it breaks. You can glue it back, you can even paint it over so that the design seems seamless on the outside once again. But will it ever be the same? No. And you will find that its value is hugely diminished once broken.


To circle back to my books for a moment, this is actually the biggest theme that I’m working with for the storyline that I picked for this year’s installment of the Origins arc of my series. Without so realizing, I’ve been taking one major theme in human nature per book and working the storyline around that theme.

So far, I’ve covered a lot of themes in my series: Book 1 was the more or less typical good vs. evil, where you actually question how ‘evil’ someone is and how much of their actions was really their own doing. Book 2 spoke about what happens under someone’s nose, and how long one can keep secrets for before they catch up to you. Book 3 analyzed just when something is not right, and when to walk away from it or to dig further at it. And Book 4 talked about finding answers and being very careful what you wish for, because you just might get it – and it’ll be a lot more than you can handle. The fifth book is about revenge and damage control alike, and the sixth is going to have a slant on how to manipulate public opinion to serve your own needs, and what happens when you go too far in your own agenda. Book 7 discusses protecting what’s truly yours, especially if it’s something you love. And Book 8 is an extrapolation on tenacity and perseverance.

So as such, Book 9 needs to discuss trust, and it needs to hit each and every single one of the points and events that I’ve described above, but not lose any of the action that I generally like my books to have. And the perfect character is Akarra, mother to Shourron I. I made the decision from the start of the story to put her through as much crap as one can possibly go through, and watch her outlook on life and the universe around her change. I put the character through a variety of twists and turns, few of them pleasant – I was bound to write an installment that’s a little “darker” than the others, looks like this is it – and my endeavor is to make people ask questions about whom to trust. Why. To which extent is a gut feeling correct? And so on. These are the questions we need to be asking ourselves in life; my job as an author is to make my characters – and readers – ask them.


The Obligatory NaNo post…

Well, it’s that and if I have to look at the memoriam to Bruce N. at the top of my page, I’m not too sure how long my strength will hold out.

But yeah, I’m doing the challenge again. 50,000 words, 30 days,

Think it’s easy? Oh, hon, you are just so funny!

Try it. It’s anything but easy, and I have no idea how I managed to participate – and win! – for the past 9 years. My books actually have a three- to four-year cycle from concept to publication: I write most of it for NaNoWriMo, then let it sit for two years, and only then, two years after the first draft is completed, do I revise it, and send it off to my editor, and start haranguing my cover artist, and get the template together.

The first novel in my series, that I published in 2009? I wrote that in 2006. And it was before I learned about what it was to self-publish. My, how things have changed. How things changed indeed from 2009 to now, 2015, when I have five books and a script-book under my belt.

I will say, without hesitation, that there is a lot of freedom when it comes to writing sci-fi/fantasy. You create everything from scratch, you set your own rules, you set your own canon – and it’s also one of the most difficult things to maintain. You create a world, a story, a set of rules, and it’s on you to not screw it up. As I will be writing Book 9 of the series – how I got to 9, I marvel to this day – I am also going to be revising Book 6 and prepping that for publication. Target date for publishing… July 15th. And the biggest challenge will be to keep the story within canon. I have set the rules into place with the first arc; now the challenge is to stay with it.

And yes, Ragan Whiteside, this is why you wait a year between installments. :) Because really, the revision process? That’s how long it takes! I have to cut out all the excess verbiage I am prone to when I’m narrating, I have to add scenes, add characters, kill characters, and then adjust the grammar. And all of that before my editor rips it apart.

Why Book 9, if this will be my tenth year? Easy answer: last year, I stretched my Origins story from the year before last. It turned out to be such a massive to-do that I just could not manage to get it completed within just one year. It was massive enough for me to stretch over two NaNo wins, and… I did it. Again. Even though, if truth were told, my motivation has been at nil. By that point, I was just too busy with photography and travel to think about writing.

found via Google Images
found via Google Images

Considering what these last few months have been, I will also confess that I very seriously thought about throwing in the towel altogether for this year. Very seriously. I love writing, and I love my story, without which I wouldn’t even be anywhere near any of this, but there is only so much that I’m capable of doing before everything in me up and says, “ENOUGH!” I am exhausted, mentally if nothing else. Losing two very important people in my life nearly back-to-back was an exercise in perseverance that I never, ever want to repeat. I still haven’t the foggiest how I managed to get up, go to both my jobs, do the photos for Sinbad’s show at the Cutting Room, and stay on top of everything.

Indeed, strength is a funny thing. It may not always seem like it’s there, but when it’s all you have left, the caliber of it will surprise the hell out of you.

If I can survive the past few months – hell, past few weeks alone – I think that by now, it’s safe to say that I can go through anything and come out on the other side of it.

And that’s why I’m taking on NaNo this year again. 50,000 words, 30 days. Ninth manuscript in my hands. Will edit Book 6 and work on the script version of Book 2 simultaneously. Why? Because I can.


The Obligatory NaNo Post

In retrospect, maybe I should’ve taken a break from writing this year.

I really don’t want to have to admit this, but there’s simply not enough time in the world to make everything happen the way you want to. I’m swamped with my photography work; I have not yet unburied myself from the cruise photos – still have to go through the 70s Night and comedy show shots, and that’s the second half of the cruise…so maybe, progress? – and I have two more post-cruise shows’ photos to get through as well. Next week I have two shoots. The week after I have another shoot. It’s also concert-planning season, so if I’m going to have gigs, now is the time for me to think about where they will be and send off portfolios and samplers to make it happen.

Where does writing fit?

Oh, and I’m still toying on that translation I’ve started last year. Yes, it takes a year to translate three books by hand from one language in another, and it’s something I love doing.

It’s not something I like admitting, when I can’t do something, but this year’s NaNo may well prove to be a bad idea in the regard of my overall creative workload. I won’t say that I don’t like it – I love every minute of it – but I simply do not have as much time to contribute to it as I have before, and that’s something I’m loath to admit. I love my series. I love my storyline. I don’t love not being able to give it the time and devotion that I want to allocate to developing it and making it grow.

The reason I love NaNo so much is because it motivates me to be industrious when it comes to the series. I do the bulk of my storyline exclusively during NaNo, and the wordcount requirement makes it imperative to get as much of the storyline down as possible. It’s absolutely fantastic for when I’m trying to get a big story out, such as what was with Books 3 and 4 of the series. Most of the plot was put down during NaNo, and it made for an easy edit job and an easier publishing down the line. I chose the two most complex characters to do a background on – Rhyssius and Morrhia – and this is going to take me a lot of time. I have set up the bulk of the story, but I need to put two and two together, and bridge them from two individuals to what they had ended up. The problem is, there is a lot of back story there, and there’s also a side-story to weave in about how the quaint semi-medieval world had ended up becoming connected with the rest of the universe. A lot of continuity that I had hinted at before needs to be brought to fruition.

It’s just…time! All of this takes time! And time is something I have precious little of. Taking on an incredibly complex storyline – hell, continuing it, all considered – is not an easy endeavor when you have a job, a business, and a backlog affiliated with the business.

How I’ve ended up with a word count that’s a full day ahead of schedule, I don’t know, but it’s good insurance because I would need to be ahead. One of my shoot gigs is actually an all-day endeavor, as opposed to me just being a weekend warrior for it and writing on the go with my laptop. So if I’m not writing for an entire day, I’d at least have a good cushion that will keep me on track.

After all, in the eight years I’ve done NaNo so far, I won all eight times. I want to continue the win streak, else I’d think myself extremely remiss. My entire life as I know it had changed ever since I wrote the first book – how much will it change if I keep at it?


Bending Rules on NaNo This Year

I know this will catch me flak from quite a few people in the writing circles, but for the good of my books, this has to be done.

My NaNo novel for this year will be a continuation of the one I started last year.

Please hold your fire with the rule that you have to start a new novel every year. A lot of authors just will never tell you if their draft took them two years. So what I’m doing isn’t radical, but it’s just a step-away from my own adherence to that rule.


Simple reason: I could not, for the life of me, find the time to finish the draft clean before today, and if by October 1st I’m not done with the first draft of the prior year’s NaNo novel, then I can call it a hopeless cause. Usually, by Oct. 1st, I have a completed first draft of the book I’ve started the prior November; that is always the case with every other part of The Index Series. But unfortunately, this year just got straight-up crazy-busy, and I couldn’t manage to set aside the time for writing. Usually, I’d even write at work, during the slow days, but this job, unlike my other job, is very demanding. Not a bad thing, but if you’re trying to finish a book, it’s a detriment.

I will see what I can input between now and Nov. 1st, but I am aiming for a total wordcount of 130,000 words. I have 63,138 words written now. Whatever I write to hit 130K will put me over the finish line for NaNo.

The most important thing for me is to finish the draft. I think that unless I release the screenplay version of Book 1 that I’ve been planning to do, or Book 5 (which I too have to finish editing!!!), I will be breaking my annual-release streak that I had going since 2009. Granted, this year was more of a re-release (considering new cover and edit job on Book 1), but still. It feels almost like I’m stepping away from where I started with it.

Really. I’ve been doing NaNoWriMo for 8 years so far, and won it each time. And that’s great; it got the story that I want written out of my system. But I want to keep writing and write it smart, as well as write it. What’s the saying? Work smart, not hard. I want to work smart on this, and since I do the best of my writing in November, then I figure that the best way to do this is to do this when I write best. So two NaNos it is.

For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, I refer to the National Novel Writing Month. Eight years I wrote my ass off for a month, of these came seven and a half books, of which four are out and available for sale. And if I didn’t follow my friend Candice Watson’s advice in actually going for NaNo in 2006 and writing my first book, none of that – hell, none of a lot of things – would’ve happened.


Thoughts on NaNoWriMo

At 50,349 I claimed my eighth win in a row.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, this is your reference:

And those of you who do: before you give me a shout of huzzah, consider that this has been honestly one of those years where I had no idea which way was up in terms of my writing. As I learned the very hard way when I had first started out on my journey as an author, if I do not market my books on a constant basis, I cannot hope for sales. And that caliber of marketing requires either 1. money to have someone do it, or 2. time to do so on my own.

That’s exactly my problem.

As a self-published author, I don’t have a marketing team behind me. I am extremely lucky to have a great production team in my graphic artists and editors. But as far as marketing goes, I am on my own. And that’s a problem because – as you may have gathered if you are on my Facebook page – I am extremely busy. The photography business has been evolving and growing, and has been the primary object of my attention. I have two jobs, three if you count the business. In other words, I’m lucky if I remember to breathe.

But every year, no matter how busy I get, I always carve out time for NaNoWriMo, even though by now, anyone else would have trimmed that out of the annual schedule of things to get done.

But not me.

Though this year I only knew what I wanted to write, not how I wanted to write it, was entirely too scrambled with business-related and job-related commitments to actually put thought into my story. Last night, as I wrote a critical scene to the book that I knew I’d have to rearrange and stick somewhere else much later, I had to wonder how I was going to connect the dots, since until then, I wrote the bulk of the story in order, but for that one scene. And I realized that I both missed this particular outlet of creativity – having carved the setting of my books in nothing more than my own imagination from the get-go -and really, really wished I worked on my time management better, so that I wouldn’t be so scrambled in the first place.

It also reminded me that I really need to restart and rework my marketing of my stories. Right now, my photography has excellent, fantastic exposure and a measure of respect. Could I potentially parlay jazz lovers into sci-fi lovers? Maybe. They already know I write, do they not? And I’m just as sure that $3.99 for an e-book is feasible for cost.

The truth is, though, I know very well that without NaNo, the entire concept of me as an author would just be nothing more than an errant thought, something straight of Langston Hughes’s poem A Dream Deferred. In all actuality, this challenge is primarily responsible for all my creative business in the first place. I’d have never decided to go to my first jazz show if I weren’t thoroughly sick of editing Book 1 back in March 2007; that show had resulted in the one connection that had opened every single door since. I’d have never accomplished this lifelong dream of mine of writing a series if I hadn’t decided to do NaNo time and again. I’d have never formed the friendships and connections that I formed if I wasn’t able to say, “I’m an author” and speak nothing but the truth. And I would have never gotten to half of where I got if I didn’t write in this blog too.

The habit of regular writing is something that is directly responsible for everything else. A decision to participate in NaNoWriMo had ended up evolving to things far and above greater than just writing books. And it’ll get better still, of that I’m sure.

What I’m planning on doing is this: at the end of NaNoWriMo, which is November 30th, my reformatted Book 1, with editing courtesy of Cassidy Frazee, will be available for free for five days. Link forthcoming. But on top of that, I’m doing something a lot more special: I’m also working on the release of the screenplay version of the same first book. Having experimented with script writing, I feel confident that I can release the first draft to the public. It will be released similarly to the novel version: print and e-book. If you have a non-Kindle reader, either download the Kindle app, which is free for every platform of operating system and phone/tablet, or contact me directly; I’ll be glad to send you a PDF.

Happy writing to the rest of my fellow participants!


Writing prompt again/Character Growth

From the NaNoWriMo facebook group: One of your characters has just achieved the victory they’ve been working towards. Flashbulbs go off, reporters flood in, all clamoring to know, “You just did what no one thought you could. What are you going to do now?”

The sisters exchange cool looks. Kataria takes a deep breath, and says, speaking for both of them, “I think I’ll get a good night’s sleep. There’s still more to do tomorrow.”

I like the question, but I think I like this hypothetical answer even more. “There’s still more to do tomorrow.” Considering that at the time of her introduction to the series, Kataria would have never said this, never mind actually gone into public service that did not include that much of a warring capacity with a direct leading benefit to herself, this makes me go back and have another glance or two at the progression of character growth through my own books.

I often say that my story has written itself, and right now, I’m seeing just to which extent that’s true. It has not so much as written itself in regards to plot, but the characters had seemingly taken control over their own growth process. For being from outer space, they’re very human-like; some more self-serving than most, but all of them dealing with very, very human problems. And the thing is? They’re dealing.

Even to go back to Book 1, which I have been working to re-release, the growth is evident. Arriella was not dealing with anything at the time. She stepped out of her boundaries in more than one regard, why? – because she didn’t want to confront and deal with the truth that turned her established, steadfast life upside down. She didn’t want to go forward, because staying where she was was a comfortable idea. By the end of the first arc, she was still not dealing. By the second arc, she had no choice, and found out the hard way that there are certain things that you just have to do. Dealing with your problems is at the top of the list.

And the number-one thing that both Arriella and Kataria had to deal with was the simple fact that because they are who they are, because they’re in a position of power, because they’re in a position of leadership, their work does not stop. They achieved one thing. They achieved what they needed to – at the time. But just like our own, very human lives go on and bring us fresh challenges and goals, theirs do too.

They just involve a lot more than ours.


The Obligatory Pre-NaNoWriMo post

Holy hell, where did the time go?

Seriously. I thought it was still August somewhere, but before I know it, Capital Jazz SuperCruise sneaks up on me, and here I am on Hallow’s Eve, and bracing myself for a month of frantic novel-writing, wherein I eke out 3K words a day until it absolutely kills me. Because I cannot write The Index Series in any. other. way.

In some ways, you may wonder, why wait until November? You can write a book whenever!

That is true. However, I am one of those odd types that need a challenge to work towards, and a group system to further support that challenge. NaNo provides both.

For those of y’all who may not know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, which is a self-challenge contest to crank out 50K words of manuscript in 30 days only.

I won it for six years in a row. There are millions of winners worldwide, but NaNo is a lot harder than most people would think. Yeah, you got 30 days – but consider how many words an average person can crack out in a day. It varies. And you have to gag your inner editor with a spoon while you do this, which for people with a massive perfectionism complex, such as myself, is next to impossible. Nonetheless, for six years in a row, I’ve won. And I’m about to make it seven for seven.

This, ladies and gentlemen, can be trouble of the highest kind. Why? I have a full-time job. I’m getting ready to move house. I have about…2,000 photos left to look through and revise from the cruise. I have an editing commission to take care of. And somehow, I’m squeezing in novel-writing in here?

No, I’m not insane. Yet. :) I think it’s time to revisit my favorite Starbucks and park myself there daily.

Plus, consider please that NYC has been devastated by a hurricane. The sole benefit to not going to work the past few days is that I have been able to put a dent into the photography. The cabin fever and, uh, lack of income, has been slowly killing me, though. My workplace is very understanding of the situation, considering that there is no subway service into Manhattan apart from maybe in Queens – and this means that I’d have to find a back route to Queens, considering that many of the roads are flooded and buses will take a small eternity due to traffic – but this is seriously, completely surreal. Not even in the horrendous blizzard of 2010 had things gotten that bad. It’s one thing if you can dig yourself out, but when the tunnels that carry the subway lines are flooded, as they are in this case, it puts the entire city to a massive grinding halt. For NYC, a city known for the hustle, bustle, and not having an off-switch to speak of, to suddenly be still because people are locked in their boroughs, this is a wholly surreal experience.

I now know how Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, and New Orleans feel every year. Sandy is no Katrina, but it had the same effect.

Ladies and gentlemen, let us do away, once and forever, with the illusion that man has any power over nature. It has to be the most egotistical, naive, and frankly dumb mindset possible. We just saw, in stereo, that nature is forever the lady, queen, and mistress over us. We should work with it, respect it, and work around it, but never, ever, ever attempt to believe that we the humans are somehow superior. We are not. We will never be. This is only one in a series of examples of where we stand in the grand scheme of things. Let us never forget that nature rules over us, and forever will, not the other way around.


It’s coming… It will be here soon…

And it refers to both NaNoWriMo and my vacation. In no particular order.

What have I gotten myself into?

Well, let’s start with a simple statement: my vacation is not a 100% R&R venture. No sirree. This is the first major cruise that I’m bringing my camera to, and I am a wee bit nervous. Will it go well? Will my photos come out the way I want them? A bit of excitement, a dash of nerves, and a whole lot of impatience; something I’d call artist’s jitters.

Also: I did figure out the RAW converter, and will be experimenting with that aspect of the process in due time. I went out to New Brunswick this weekend, and all the photos are in RAW format. I am anxious to work through them, really.

NaNoWriMo…if you’re not a writer, or if you’ve never done it, I’ll sum it up in short: 50,000 words, 30 days. Your reward if you win it: your manuscript, or the rough draft of it. And believe me, there is nothing like friendly competition to get you writing. In fact, NaNo is the primary reason I’ve managed to push out six manuscripts so far (four published, one in edit, one on standby).

No, there’s no monetary prize involved. If you think that it’s not worth it because there is no prize, then please review the definitions of challenge, motivation, accomplishment, and inspiration. None of those words have any prizes affiliated with them either.

The plot for what I plan on working on is loosely formed, not yet definite, but I’ve started thinking of at least summary outlines. This is the beautiful thing about using Scrivener, a writing software from Literature and Latte: it lets you template by scene and title these scenes as you go. I’m using the titling aspect to get the outline of what should happen in each scene down on paper. Since I rarely go over 14 chapters per story (I think Books 3 and 4 are the exceptions there), and I set up about 4-5 scenes per chapter, the rest is putting the scenes down on paper. Best part about it is that there’s no pressure to write linear, that is to sat starting at the beginning and laying out the story straight through, which has been my go-to method for years. Scrivener is a perfect way to not do that, and moreover, it eliminates the boon of getting lost in your own story…which, when writing straight-through, is bound to happen at least once.

And then, there’s the experimentation in photo…

I discovered a great RAW converter, and promptly took it as a cue that now is a perfect time for me to teach myself whatever I need to know about shooting in RAW format and work through images that way. RAW format is awesome, and it is much easier to toy with the color balance on an image if you’re in RAW. However…there was one major realization that I had been fighting off tooth and nail: my computer gear is sorely, sorely outdated. I’m running an 1.87Ghz Intel with 1.5GB RAM on my machine; it is almost 7 years old, and of the many things that it could muscle, this is not one of them. It does quite a lot for what it is, but RAW conversion is its Achilles’s heel.

I did not want to computer-shop after getting the Netbook last year but I’m afraid I have little choice. I’m also afraid that my next computer will break with tradition and be an HP. I wanted a Mac, but the more I look at the cost factor, the HP seems like the most cost-effective solution. Everything my old Mac, aka the Gremlin does, my PC could do too, so I see little reason to spend well over 2K on a computer that, for all intents and purposes, can be purchased for $800 – and that’s if I go to town on it and max out the RAM and processor on it. And trust me, Macs don’t get 3.4GHz for the price that an HP does.

Fun stuff.

So yes…I’m likely going to go shopping. I don’t know when, but I’ll keep going until Baby holds out. When that fries, then I’ll worry.


And the Story Goes On…

After my life had finished taking its most recent twists and turns, I found myself feeling something very familiar.

You know how writers sometimes say that their characters come to them and poke at the imagination, and keep doing so until the story is written? I wouldn’t say that I experience that, but once in a while, I find myself thinking of one of my characters, and realizing…I left the story unfinished.

Have you ever had those instances where you parted ways with someone, only to realize that it’s not over yet? The truth is, it’s really not that different when it comes to writers and their characters. It’s the same sort of feeling. It’s the same sort of want to turn back and say those last few words hanging on your lips; the only difference is that you’re not exactly talking to a person, and it’s not just a few words. You’re continuing your story, and you’re talking to the world.

That’s how I’ve been feeling lately. I realized that I had stranded one of my prior main character, shunting him into a side role almost inadvertently, but he is actually a ticket to one of the things that are the most important in this arc. In fact, I’ve forgotten one massive part of the storyline arc, and it can’t go untouched. In fact, it will likely go and carry through the 3rd arc, after Origins are done.

A lot to do…a lot to do, but this is the sort of creative surge that I’ve gone too long without, and missed dearly.


Small news

Long story short: It’s the holidays. I’ve seen more sales in Kindle than any other format of my books, including print for all the traditionalists. :)

So!! If you have a Kindle, read Kindle books, or just plain want to help a girl out, all three of my books are now at 99c each! I will keep this sale going through the holidays, and maybe a bit longer.

Link here:

Happy shopping!