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2021-07-27 Writing Journal

Writing Journal

I have three stories all muscling their way forward right now. It’s fun to bounce from one to the next like kid at the playground. Swinging across the monkey bars tears up your hands and makes your shoulders sore. Three spins on the merry-go-round leave me feeling dizzy for an hour. And the slide is pure wheee all the way down.

I’m spending time in the dark emerald city, in a smoky nightclub in 1960s Vegas, and on a tropical island for which I’ve created maps.

Working this way is inefficient, but since when is efficiency king? I’m growing into my craft. While I can whip myself into achieving a daily wordcount if I must, I’m trying to be more sensitive to what my creative brain wants. Mostly, she doesn’t like being locked in any one place for too long.

You want to play on all the toys? Fine, my business brain says. Have at it. Just be back by dinner with some fresh words in your bucket, okay?

To which my creative brain replies, That’s what I was going to do anyways, before flipping the bird and skipping off, her pigtails flying.

Meanwhile, my business brain is considering how to spend the rest of the year. After I finish writing Hostile Takeover I’ll have time and space to start new series for the first time in years. And boy, do I have a lot of characters clamoring for attention! It’s hard to choose because I want to choose them all.

It’s a balancing act. I’m making room for the new, keeping myself open to adding books to ongoing series, and trying to be realistic about how much I can do at any one time. On top of that, I’ve been wanting to create a time buffer between when I finish books and when I release them. I guess I’m thinking like a publisher now? I can’t just drop a book on people’s head with no warning. I mean… I can, but there are better ways.

So what do do with the second half of the year? Business brain is full of opinions.

  • She says I should release just one more novel this year: Hostile Takeover.
  • She suggests I write write a fun “bonus story” for my Ellie fans and release it over the holidays, probably for free, to keep them warm and happy.
  • Otherwise, business brain says, I should haul ass on starting two awesome new series for 2022, but hold off on publishing anything until I’ve built in the lead time I want.

I’ll consider her proposals. In the meantime, pigtail girl is busy yelling wheee! She’s writing stories that business brain approves of, but it’s best to act as if everything is pigtail girl’s idea. It makes the work go more smoothly if we treat her like the diva she is.

It’s rare for all my brains to be in agreement. What a splendid development!

I’ll take it. 😋

I ♥️ this city.

Seattle at twilight in a thousand shades of blue. A cityscape.

Currently Reading: The Mafia At War - Allied Collusion with the Mob by Tim Newark 📚

Prevented from participating in the rule of their own land, Sicilians depended on their own extended families for justice and assistance.

Hmm. Our new neighbors seem a teensy bit full of themselves.

I’m tempted to add an extra moon to their unobstructed panoramic views.

😏

New Post: Refurbishing an E31 Thinkstation

The Blue Hour

The Seattle Cityscape in Dusky Blue and Gold

2021-07-21 Writing Journal

Writing Journal

Writers are often whacked with the reminder that “plumbers don’t get plumbing block.” Our feelings don’t matter. Our readiness doesn’t matter! Sit down at that keyboard and dance, monkey, dance. We’re told that we’re like machines. If your fingers move, stories should come out.

Except that’s not how it works. If you’ve ever been zapped with an idea or a solution to a problem in the shower, you’ve experienced the sensation of getting a gift from your subconscious mind. And stories tend to come from that same place. You can’t beat your subconscious into submission or demand that she perform on your schedule.

At best, you can woo her.

I suspect a lot of people believe they have no creativity, no talent, no gift, when in fact they’re just running around with their brains fully occupied with other matters. Creativity is an activity, and activities take time and energy. Not just keyboard time.

My subconscious mind wants these things from me:

  • Sufficient sleep. (REM sleep seems important)
  • Walks (get the blood flowing, enjoy nature or other beautiful things, let the mind wander)
  • Inspiration/Stimuli (looking things up related to a story, viewing pictures, getting inspired, not strictly research but appreciation)
  • Questions (“How will CHARACTER handle THING?” no forcing an answer! just hold the question open)

It’s tough. Being fully occupied with other aspects of life makes it difficult to give the subconscious what she needs for storytelling. I spent most of my twenties and thirties fully occupied with work. I wanted to write, I felt shitty that I wasn’t, but looking back, the problem wasn’t motivation. I was bursting with motivation. My problem wasn’t time. I could set aside an hour or so per day.

My problem was I was trying to nag myself into typing instead filling my heart and mind with story.

Typing isn’t writing. Typing is what you do to translate the story from your brain into a format others can decode.

Instead of beating writers over the head with maxims about how plumbers don’t get plumbing block, perhaps we should teach people how to to daydream. We should celebrate naps, trips to the art museum, long nature walks, and the strange-yet-practical technique of asking your brain a question and waiting patiently for the answer to arrive. Writing takes time, and typing is an important step. Plenty of people daydream at the desk! But it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Your heart-brain-body is like an instrument that needs tuning. There’s a knack to it. It takes time.

I wish someone had told me these things earlier. I would have spent less time kicking myself, asking “Gah! Why am I blocked! I guess I’m just too lazy or uncreative to tell a story.”

2021-07-20 Writing Journal

Ah, city sounds. Waking up to a screaming car alarm isn’t ideal, but after a year of creepy pandemic silence I don’t mind the noise. Car alarms. Sirens from the firehouse down the road. Cars and buses. Happy shouters heading to the bar at eleven at night. Those sounds are the neighborhood equivalent of resting your ear on the chest of the person you love most, waiting for the comforting thump-thump. The city lives! Noisily sometimes. But she lives, and that’s good enough for me.

Besides, there’s solidarity in an early morning car alarm. You can imagine all the neighbors grimacing and rolling over in unison. Everyone… TWIRL! Well done, neighbors. Now we’re all awake, so there may as well be coffee.

Some days I can write in the midst of chaos and other days every bit of dust is a distraction. This morning, I needed to clean. I’ve gotten good at writing cozy mysteries on schedule, but these spy novels kick my ass left and right. It’s a strange feeling, to hold a story like a knotted up ball of emotion, and to try to translate all the feelings into a smooth flow. Writing in this way is like clambering up loose gravel. Is is strange that I enjoy this? Cozy mysteries are tidy, and my desk can be a mess. Jessica’s stories are emotionally messy, and I can’t stand a speck of dust.

It’s a relief to let my vocabulary pour forth. To let complexity loose. I write cozy mysteries at an eighth grade reading level, but here, now, in this story, I can let myself write in natural voice. All my paints are at my elbow. By the end of the day I’ll be splattered, feeling no closer to the end than I did yesterday or the day before. My favorite kind of writing is so often a struggle. The struggle is the joy. The struggle is the point.

Speak, Jessica. I’m listening.

Show me what you want me to see.

Into the book I go.

Listening to: Don’t Look Back 🎵

It’s been a thrilling evening of compressed air blasts, diagnostic USBs, thermal paste, white-knuckle BIOS flashing, and disk partitioning.

We really know how to party. 😆

PC components in a case including a spinning fan.An open desktop PC and a can of compressed air.An artistic close up of a motherboard

2021-07-09 - Writing Journal

Writing Journal

I woke up early today. For the last few months I’ve been without a schedule, waking and sleeping at will, getting work done in intense bursts without any sense of daily structure. After years of trying to find the perfect schedule I’ve come to grips with the ebb and flow of things. A few months of random chaos, a few months of tidy organization. I’ll never settle on one or the other. There’s a pleasure in novelty, in mixing things up, and I’m grateful to have the freedom to follow my whims. If the work gets done, who cares what the clock says? I’ve done my time in the 9-5. Well, it was more like 7-7. For years and years my first sight of the day was my husband’s back as he zoomed out the door to catch his bus. He’s sleeping now. Let him sleep. Let him enjoy his dreams while I enjoy the solitude of the morning.

Up at 5:30. At the gym by 6. My Watchy exploded and sent my black plastic buttons flying while I was on the exercise bike. I got a nice stretch picking up all the pieces. LOL. Nothing is wasted today.

Shower. Zip across the street to Starbucks. I wish they’d open up the seating so I could sit there with my laptop and write.

I copied out (typed) 2 pages of a Michael Connelly book this morning, and I was surprised to find myself bored with his sentences. Connelly’s stories are strong, but his sentences don’t thrill me. They’re utilitarian and rigid, like the sound of someone hammering. Whack-Whack-Whack. Terry Pratchett has gorgeous sentences but I grow weary of the spectacle after a chapter or two. It’s like cycling with a bicycle set on too high of a gear. Lots of spin for a small movement forward. Grisham surprised me the most. His deft hand has a way of pulling you through the story like you’re riding an oiled zipline. King may be the best. He lures you in, makes you comfortable. But before you know it he’s got you by the throat. I’ve never learned as much from a writing class as I have from typing out other people’s work.

Coffee’s half gone. Jessica’s waiting. Music’s on.

Into the book I go.

No Social Media Club

The first rule of no-social-media-club is that you shut your yap about no-social media club.

For years I’ve wondered why 99% of articles about quitting social media are written by people who haven’t quit social media. Sure, they “quit” for a week, a month, or in rare cases, a year. The Pew Research Center says that 30% of Americans don’t use social media at all. Where are their thought pieces?

Now, I kind of get it. After you opt-out the whole notion of explaining yourself to “the internet” feels kinda nutty. The invisible audience we’ve all been narrating our lives to since 2008 is gone, and you realize you’ve mostly been talking to yourself.

Hence the lip zippage.

Also, if you’ve quit social media there’s a good chance you’re enjoying the experience of feeling like a private citizen again. In a way, I feel like I’m living in 2005, except that maps talk while I drive and notes from my mom and my friends are beamed into my pocket from SPACE.

When you quit social media, you might feel like you’ve escaped a mass delusion. I’d developed a casual habit of narrating my days, selecting the choicest nuggets to share out as offerings to the Gods of Attention. Old choices may baffle you. I told Twitter when I went to a donut shop? With a picture of a donut? Why? Why would I do that?

HOW MANY HOURS HAVE I WASTED IN STATUS UPDATES, DOOM SCROLLING, AND MEMES? HOLY SHIT. I’M FORTY-TWO!

I can hear the voice of my younger self, giving me a lecture:

“You all do WHAT for hours and hours? You people are NUTS. No wonder the world is ending in flames. Go outside and plant a fucking tree or something. Do something that matters. Do something real!”

She’s harsh, but she’s right.

Fuck, I think. I’d like to do something real.

The Impact of Sharing Thoughts & Feelings

Right here, I stumble upon another reason not to talk about no-social-media-club. My feelings are true to me, but I don’t want others to feel judged for what they choose to do. There was a time when our messier feelings were shared in certain contexts. At home. With family. With friends. With a therapist. Not online. Not like this. Not where someone who recently shared a donut photo might feel momentarily stung by my essay. You see my dilemma, no? What is currently truth for me might be a hurtful barb to someone else.

My brain speaks:

Words are not inert. They can hurt. The casual sharing of what flits dimly through our brains has caused a lot of harm to the world these past 12 years. It’s destroyed families. It’s torn communities apart. And it’s ended friendships.

Sharing feels good, but it can cause harm too. I see this more clearly now, but I’m not sure what to do with it.

Where Does Blogging Fit In?

Lately, I’ve struggled with why I’m blogging. Am I merely an attention-seeker in a different venue? Might it be emotionally healthier to disappear entirely, to take up full residence in the flesh-and-blood world, to keep my damn thoughts to myself?

Perhaps. Yet here I am breaking the one and only rule of no-social-media-club by writing about it.

Writing is how I think. These essays turn a vague swirl of emotions and opinions into something I can work with. And why share? I tell myself it’s because I want to be useful. Heaven knows I’ve scoured the internet for helpful information before only to find a bunch of dead-eyed listsicles about ten things I learned by quitting social media over my lunch break that one time. But is my motivation pure? No.

Every writer wants to be read. Every writer feels a little thrill when something they wrote plucks someone else’s heart or mind like a guitar string. But where do I draw the line between the various types of sharing? Is it all the same? Am I a narcissist?

I don’t think sharing makes someone a narcissist. We’re just people being people. And I like people! Absent toxic manipulations, the blogosphere can be an extension of the real world. I so enjoy posts by my fellow micro bloggers. Yes, even donut photos.

Still, I remain leery of my own motives. I am harder on myself than on others.

Being Dead // Being Alive

In South Park season twenty there’s an episode where Heidi, having seen how social media is tearing her community apart, quits Twitter. Her teacher and classmates react as if she’s dead. They process their feelings together and tweet eulogies while she’s sitting right next to them with a WTF look on her face.

I laughed! You can always count on South Park for biting social commentary.

Is that a joke, though? During the pandemic I read an essay by a guy who’d had something similar happen to him. He dropped off Facebook and his friends literally thought he was dead. They didn’t email him. They didn’t call or visit. They just exchanged panicked messages with each other on Facebook.

When you drop off social media, you might experience a kind of death.

Two years ago, I tried to quit Twitter. While that attempt didn’t take, I spent the summer with my cell phone turned off unless I was using it. I rode the bus, and I remember sitting there, looking around, while dozens of people around me stared down at their phones, swiping, swiping, swiping, their faces slack, the light from tiny screens illuminating their cheekbones or flabby chins. It was an eerie experience. I felt like a ghost, neither fully dead nor fully alive. The bus was still there, and the world was still there, but the people weren’t. Only their bodies.

It seems to me that there are two worlds now. One online, one off. Post-social media, I’m returning to the flesh-and-blood world to find it somewhat abandoned.

I want to repopulate the real, but I don’t know how.

Do you?

Sniffle Panic

We’ve been out and about pretty much continuously since we became “maxxinated” back in early May. We’ve kept up the handwashing and the Vitamin D with our morning coffee. On the whole, I haven’t been too worried. Statistically, a few breakthrough Covid cases are going to happen, but I’m not immortal, life is short, and I was unwilling to put my life on hold any longer for a tiny increase in safety beyond what was already reasonably safe. We’ve been to red states and blue states, to the Hoover Dam, and to Las Vegas even. We’ve been in crowds and in restaurants and in elevators with strangers. It’s been fine.

Well, a few days ago we had lunch at a local sandwich shop and there was a guy coughing in the corner, working on his laptop. Now P has a cold, and he’s conked out in bed while I work. I’m not too worried, as his fever was mild and it lasted less than a day. He’s “under the weather” and sniffly. Still, if this had happened pre-vaccine I’d have been flipping da fuq out. In fact, I’d be fantasizing about tracking down public-coughing man so I could bodyslam him into the pavement.

No one… (slam) gives… (slam) my husband… (slam) COVID! (slam)

I do amuse myself.

Granted, pre-vaccine we wouldn’t have been eating sandwiches indoors with strangers. We ate outside, or we ate at home. That was it. We even kept our HVAC system off most of the year lest our neighbors’ sneezes infect us. We were careful.

But the thing is: people are germy. We don’t know where P picked up his cold or even what it is. Re-entering the world comes with some risks, and we’ll have to deal. The plan for today: Orange Juice, Pop Tarts in bed, and some television reruns. I’ll pop on a mask while I run to the store in case I’m germy too.

It’s been a while since one of us has had a cold! I look forward to the day when sniffles no longer feel so ominous.

How it started vs. How it’s going. ⌚️

An e-ink screen that looks like a garbled messA completed i-ink watch in a case. Shows the time and a field of stars.

Woo!⌚️

The box for the Watchy. An e-paper open source watchThe opened box with the ESP32 board and e-paper display. An illustration of a goose man saying WOO on the inner flap

Currently Reading: Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School 1) by Gail Carriger 📚

a lady never shoots first. She asks questions, then she shoots.

Watching: Godzilla: Singular Point 🎥

Legendary animator Eiji Yamamori - best known for his work on Studio Ghibli films like Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke - personally created the new look as an homage to the classic Showa era of Godzilla’s early days.

It was a chill day at Myrtle Edwards Park. Lots of seabirds fishing.

The blue water of Elliott Bay beneath drooping leafy tree branches.

Hmm… I got an email saying my Watchy has shipped, but the contents of the email said:

  • Your watchy has shipped.
  • Your watchy has partially shipped.
  • The following items have not shipped: your watchy & case

Thanks, CrowdSupply. That’s all as clear as mud! 😂

Bought this dusty thing for $30 at a “fire sale”. Found 16 Gigs of RAM and a 2T hard drive inside. 😱

Maybe I’ll cobble together a gaming PC.

Black Widow 🕷

I enjoyed Black Widow! Typical Marvelesque plot-flaws aside, we finally got Natasha’s story, and it rang true. ❤️ That’s all I wanted.

Minus one star for unnecessary ass shots. Johansson is gorgeous, but I don’t need the camera shoved up in there during dramatic scenes. Save it for the fight scenes and the hallway walks!

Black Widow: (emotional moment)

Director: This scene could use more ass.

Assistant: But…

Director: YES! More butt! Jam the lens in there!

There are worse things to look at, but still. Show some damn restraint. 😂

Finished reading: The Windsor Knot: A Novel (Queen Elizabeth II) by SJ Bennett 📚

Funny, character-driven, and surprisingly believable. Slow paced, with a satisfying conclusion.

Liked: Japan’s giant 3D ‘Shinjuku cat’ has taken over one of Tokyo’s biggest billboards

Today’s award for best construction signage goes to Monorail Espresso. ☕️

I enjoy perusing Zillow (we’d love to have more space), but every time I try to wrap my head around buying a car and having property to manage I resolve to stay in my low-maintenance city studio for a while longer. 😜

I haven’t mowed a lawn or changed an air filter in 12 years.

Finished Reading: Undermined by Ripley Hayes (Daniel Owen Welsh Mysteries Book 1) 📚

Well written and I liked the detective, but for me, too much banging and not enough sleuthing. Should be categorized as romantic suspense.