January 2018 Updates, Goals

I can’t believe it’s been a year since Harbingers came out! Amid outlining and drafting and second-guessing and redrafting Book 3 of Sword and Starship, it’s nice to remember that I am actually capable of turning out a decent finished product—and I will, when it’s ready! Not a moment sooner.

My creative process is like carving a statue from marble: I have to chisel through tons of rough language and bad ideas before I get anywhere close to the good stuff. Maybe I’ll get faster at book production as time goes on, maybe I won’t. All I know is, I’m not gonna rush and throw crap out there just for the sake of being “prolific.” Whatever I eventually publish will be my best effort.

Writing Updates:

I drafted a couple more chapters this month, then realized I went the wrong way with them, so I have some rewriting ahead of me. This is totally normal, and in the end I’ll have something better than before. I’ll also be closer to what I consider the “midpoint” of the book. Whether it stays that way or morphs into something else entirely, we’ll see!

Current Goals:

Challenging myself to a day without gadgets. This partially comes from my ongoing study of Stoicism, which encourages you to do without to show yourself how little you actually need; and partially from reading Amusing Ourselves To Death by Neil Postman, which I absolutely recommend to everyone. I’d love to see what happens when I’m forced to go 24 hours without my phone (meh), TV (whatever I don’t watch it), and laptop (AHHH MY WEAKNESS). It seems like a weekend would be best so my work schedule isn’t affected, but then my husband would be forced to experiment along with me (or I’d have to avoid him all day, pretty much). So I could wait for when my husband is traveling—but how could I possibly go a full day without IMing or calling him while he’s out of town? I hope to figure this out soon.

Learning Latin. I’m almost halfway through my introductory book, and I’ve got a couple of “reward” books waiting for me when I finish. I’ve also been using Anki to make flaschcards and review vocab daily. A few more daily habits: conjugating one verb, declining one phrase, and composing one sentence.

Refreshing German. Still reviewing the “Top-Thema” over at Deutsche Welle. Sometimes I feel like I’m cheating because a lot of the vocab is based on words borrowed from English (ex. normal, produzieren), but hey, luck of the draw! I can’t help it if my mother tongue is Germanic.

Preparing for Rome 2018. April’s seriously close now! I’ll be buying some Euros soon, and writing up notes for my cat-sitters. My biggest challenge will be trying to avoid anxiety around (a) leaving Kitty to fend for himself and (b) travel. It’s not flying that gets me, it’s all the stuff surrounding it. Thousands of people have to do their jobs correctly, the weather has to cooperate … oh, and security! The one panic attack of my life happened in the security line at Denver International Airport, when they decided we tested positive for explosives (!!). Apparently this is a possibility if you spend any time in the mountains?! I don’t know, it just sucked.

Later Goals:
Ramp up selling/promotion (after Book 3 is done, possibly later)
Updating my blog’s appearance (eventually, no rush)

That’s all for now! See you next month!

December 2017 Updates, Goals

I hope everyone had another wonderful holiday! Among my very generous haul this year was a silly yet cool present to myself: a plasma lighter that just happens to resemble the one my heroine Dame Jessamine uses in the Sword and Starship series for both cigarillos and snooping. Unlike her, I don’t regularly have need of portable fire, but this will make candle-lighting easier. I tend to burn through a good number of those during winter, hoping to make my house a little cozier.

Writing Updates:

Even though I feel like I’m treading through molasses sometimes, I really am making progress: up to about 45K words in 10 chapters. That’s 1/2 of Blood’s Force or 1/3 of Harbingers! If I keep progressing at this rate, I should have around 90K/20ish chapters by the end of April. I’d like for Book 3 to be around the same size as the first two books, certainly no longer.

Will I be done by that point? No idea. I’ve learned that when outlining, I tend to overestimate how much I can do. What I think I can cram into 1 book really needs more like 2-3 to be told properly. Oh well, is anyone complaining about more books?

Current Goals:

Learning Latin. Still at it, and still pleasantly surprised at how helpful it’s been. I’m on Chapter 17 of my 40-chapter intro book, and I feel perfectly motivated to push through to completion.

Refreshing German. I started listening to “Top-Thema” lessons over at Deutsche Welle, and attempting the quizzes afterward. My listening comprehension has always been weak, but I feel like it’s already improved in the short amount of time I’ve been doing this.

Learning Italian. Keeping this on the back-burner, picking up words and phrases that interest me, but otherwise not making a big push to acquire. I can cheat and guess a lot from Latin. ;)

Updating my blog’s appearance. WordPress finally allows you to draft theme and layout changes—thus you don’t have to make them live, hate them, try to revert back, fail, cry, etc. So this is potentially something to look into, although I don’t know how seriously at this point.

Revamping my routine and acquiring new habits. Can we talk about how impossible it is to send yourself outside in single-digit weather? With the recent cold snap, I’ve had trouble fulfilling my “walk outside every day” goal. It helps when I have an errand to run. When I don’t? Um, I think I’d rather just curl up on the couch with my blanket and my cat, thank you!

Plan/Schedule trip to Rome in 2018. Time to get serious about figuring out what to do when! I’d like to start buying tickets for tours and whatnot. (Holy crap.)

Later Goals:
Ramp up selling/promotion (after Book 3 is done, possibly later)

That’s all, folks! Hope your new year is amazing, and I’ll see you here next month!

November 2017 Updates, Goals

Happy (late) Thanksgiving to whomever that applies! :)

Not the best start to the month here: I caught a cold that hit me on Halloween and lasted for a few weeks. Fortunately, it was minor as such things go. Symptoms came and went, but my brain and energy levels weren’t as badly affected as when I had pneumonia or the flu. A few days in, I was back to writing during my scheduled time, although under the blankets in bed. Someone (pictured above) was kind enough to guard my laptop whenever I had to make more tea!

Writing Updates:

As I get back into the swing of drafting, my weekly word count on Book 3 has been improving, climbing more into the 4,000-5,000 range. Not bad for a sick lady! But I did have to retread some old ground and rewrite a few earlier chapters; they lacked the impact I was hoping they’d have. You like your characters, but you can’t ever let them get out of things too unscathed. You know what I mean?

At this point, I’ve got about 7 chapters either written out in actual prose or at least heavily outlined. Some sections, I’m leaving a bit hazy because I won’t know what I really need there until the end.

Current Goals:

Learning Latin. Yep! Still fun. My husband and I started playing the Syberia series of video games this month, and I get to be super helpful because German and Latin both make appearances in a few places. Unfortunately, more often than not, the Latin is improperly declined. For example, Abscondo mei sapientia (I hide my knowledge) should really be Abscondo meam sapientiam. </nerd>

Refreshing German. I’ve been thinking about how to keep my German up to snuff. I used to follow news broadcasts; now those are too depressing even in English! My current thought is to look for movies and shows I’m familiar with, and watch them in German with subtitles on. We’ll see how much progress I make here next month (probably not much, as holiday-based obligations tend to be bad for productivity).

Learning Italian. Still keeping this on the back-burner, picking up words and phrases that interest me, but otherwise not making a big push to acquire. I can cheat and guess a lot from Latin. ;)

Updating my blog’s appearance. WordPress finally allows you to draft theme and layout changes—thus you don’t have to make them live, hate them, try to revert back, fail, cry, etc. So this is potentially something to look into, although I don’t know how seriously at this point.

Revamping my routine and acquiring new habits. I’ve begun evaluating everything I do, why I do it that way, and whether it’s worth continuing or changing the process. I’m also trying to adopt new habits to combat the Seasonal Affective Disorder that tends to settle over me in the winter. For instance: staying away from the couch and doing as much work/chores possible during the day, knowing I’ll be a lump once the sun sets; and making myself go for a walk every afternoon, barring illness or severe weather. My biggest obstacle to this plan is my cat, who literally cries until I curl up on the couch with him and a blanket.

Plan/Schedule trip to Rome in 2018. I’ve been researching food and etiquette, and am still gathering ideas on what to see, when, and how best to do it. There’s a dizzying amount of options! It’s gonna be fun, though :)

Later Goals:
Ramp up selling/promotion (after Book 3 is done, possibly later)

That’s all for now! Happy Holidays, and I’ll see you next time!

October 2017 Updates, Goals

Happy belated Halloween! We got an extra big treat this year: a paved street! It. Is. Glorious.

And hey, I give as good as I get. A giveaway for my mailing list recipients just wrapped up, and I’ve mailed the winner a signed Blood’s Force paperback. If you’d like to be in on the next giveaway, whenever that might be, click here to sign up. You’ll also get some free short stories to tide you over while I work on the next Sword and Starship novel. :)

Writing Updates:

The drafting of Book 3 continues. I’m averaging about 2,000 words a week, which isn’t amazing, but real-life business has encroached on writing time lately. So it goes. Almost 6 chapters are “in the can” currently, but keep in mind that they’re rough and need tons of work. That’s true of drafting in general. I won’t know 100% what I need at the beginning until I reach the end, and I may stray quite far from my outline by the time I get there.

Current Goals:

Learning Italian. I continue to feel not-as-motivated toward Italian, for whatever reason. I find that I’m more interested in just looking up what I’m curious about than in trying to systematically acquire words and grammar. So I continue to do that: things like numbers, days of the week, phrases I might need in my various adventures (see more below).

Learning Latin. I’m actually keeping up with Latin on a daily basis, though. This pays off in unexpected ways, like when I encounter Latin quotes or phrases that were left untranslated (which happens a lot in older books). And hey, here’s a timely one: ghosts say “BOO” because boō means “I shout/cry aloud!” My eventual aim is to read classical works in the original Latin rather than having to rely on someone else’s translation. Julius Caesar and Marcus Aurelius are of immediate interest, but I’ve also got a cookbook by Apicius coming my way. :)

Updating website. I get to cross this one off my list, finally! My revamped personal website is now live. There was nothing wrong with my old website per se (ooh, this means “by itself!” :) ) but I’d built it at a time when I didn’t have as much by way of literary work done. I’ve since finished 2 books, and needed a site that was more vocal about that fact.

Plan/Schedule trip to Rome in 2018. We booked the trip for late April into early May! ::faints:: I alternate between thrill and heart-stopping anxiety, because that’s me, but I’m doing my best to lean toward “thrill.” It’s gonna be quite the task to narrow down what we’ll see and do. There’s so much going on! And for a week or so, we’re gonna be right in the middle of it :)

Later Goals:
Ramp up selling/promotion
[[Not sure what else yet! Should start thinking about it.]]

That’s all for now! Hope you’ve had a great month, and I’ll see you next time!

September 2017 Updates, Goals

Hello again. This was quite an eventful month! I’ve been frantically trying to do everything possible to protect my credit in the wake of the Equifax hack, while also begging my senators not to jack up my health insurance and kill millions of Americans … again. And, as you see above, our construction adventures continue. When dealing with 70 year-old streets and 100 year-old plumbing, there are always surprises. For instance, did you know it was possible to shake a water main to death? Our water was shut off a few times as a result, but no big deal. The work is almost done, and it’s gonna be great when it’s finished.

Writing Updates:
Remy had some helpful notes regarding my outline for Book 3. There’s still parts that we’re both iffy on, but we agree pretty well on what should happen at the beginning.

So guess what? I’ve started drafting! :) It’s been slow to start—my inner editor pops up way too frequently—but I think it’ll be less of a problem once I settle into more of a word-churning groove.

Also, when drafting, I invariably put down my first ideas (usually not my best ideas), and then think of better ideas a few days later. It’s a bit of a dilemma: do I go back and rewrite, or keep plowing forward? While you always want to be making forward progress, I think there are times when you can or even should go back. If you have a good idea and the energy/will to implement it, why not?

Thus, slow going. But progress is being made.

Current Goals:
– Learning Italian. I’m a fan of the Fluent Forever approach, and am trying to follow that for the most part, which involves learning pronunciation and tons of vocabulary before looking at grammar. But I’m just not super-motivated to learn random words in this case. I find myself much more motivated to learn things I might need while traveling. Per favore? Grazie. Accettate carte di credito? and so on. Thankfully, there’s plenty that looks familiar from Latin and Spanish!

Learning Latin. I prefer my Latin study way more, to be honest. The dead language, of course! What can I say? I keep coming across  little surprises that keep it interesting. Plus, I can’t help but love that my book’s practice sentences aren’t so much The store is around the corner but rather more like He will pay the price for his lack of honor! It’s metal.

Updating website. I made good progress this month, but still have some testing to do. One big thing I’ve realized is that the home page should have pretty much everything on it that I want people to see. Based on Google Analytics reports of my current site, people do not like clicking hyperlinks or drilling down deep webpage hierarchies anymore.

Plan/schedule trip to Rome in 2018. My hope is to book travel and accommodations next month. Gotta research where we’d like to stay!

Later Goals:
– Ramp up selling/promotion
[[Not sure what else yet! Should start thinking about it.]]

August 2017 Updates, Goals

The eclipse wasn’t terribly dramatic in Pittsburgh. Even with 81% coverage, it just looked like heavy cloud cover (the Sun is kinda bright, who’da thunk it?). Still, the weather was great, and it was really nice how many people came outside to see it, passing around glasses and using telescopes and whatnot.

However, 2024 ought to be even more exciting for us! I might be persuaded to drive to a location with full totality. I just have to get over my utter loathing of traffic and crowds!

I’ve been incorporating ideas from a failed short story idea to use at the end of Book 3. Some time ago, I found out the hard way that a short story in the Sword and Starship universe just isn’t feasible; there’s too much that has to be explained. Even with cutting things to the bone, my attempts have been more novella-length. At that point, it’s time to throw in the towel and write a whole book. (Oh hey, I did! Two of them, even! ::shamelessly plugs Blood’s Force and Harbingers::)

While my outline isn’t 100% rock-solid, I’ve pulled together enough ideas by this point to “pitch” them to Remy. He’s really good at taking ideas and adding twists, suggesting edits, and elevating premises to something really interesting. He’ll have 2 weeks off in September, during which he’ll work with me on those things. It’s very much appreciated!

Current Goals:
– Learning Italian. I’m just starting on Italian pronunciation and simple words! I have a feeling it will color my Latin, but that seems appropriate. Speaking of …

Learning Latin. This is still a lot of fun, especially with all the Latin still in common use that I now completely get (post hoc ergō propter hoc, in vitrō, etc.). There’s just a few frustrating aspects (aside from all the declension lol): first, there are no classical Latin words for modern things. Laptop? Microwave? Coffee? It makes coming up with simple sentences, or writing about your day, harder. Second, you can’t exactly chat with native speakers and study their pronunciation, inflection, and so on. We have some idea of how things were pronounced, but it’s by no means perfect, and there’s plenty of room for disagreement. You’re left to do your own thing, basically. But I wanna do it right! Argh. :)

Updating website. Still slow going, but mostly because I lack the motivation to do it. For one thing, web development can be incredibly frustrating; when Sisyphus finally got his boulder up that hill, the gods put him to work fixing broken CSS. Besides, I get what, maybe 100 visitors a year? LOL I will really try to buckle down and get this off my to-do list.

Plan/schedule trip to Rome in 2018. I checked into recommended immunizations for travel to Italy. I’m mostly in good shape, except I never got vaccinated for Hepatitis A. There’s not much need for it in the US, but abroad can be different. So I got one shot this month, and I’ll need a booster in February. Turns out it’s fully covered by my insurance. Thanks, Obama! :)

Later Goals:
– Ramp up selling/promotion
[[Not sure what else yet! Should start thinking about it.]]

That’s all for now. Let me know how you’re doing, if so inclined! :)

July 2017 Updates, Goals

Hello again! Another month has flown past—and as you might’ve guessed, that 1-month construction project outside my house has stretched into Month 3. They’ve had to cut into stuff that was finished years ago to lay pipe or whatever; that’s what you see depicted above. Unfortunately, they’ve also ripped out all the greenery that the fireflies used to hang out in. They’re supposed to put it back in and then some, so I’m hopeful for that.

Still outlining book 3, working on new characters, character arcs, and what have you. When outlining, there’s so much work to do; it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and sit there going, “What now?” I find it’s helpful to give myself at least 1 “assignment” every day. Look that up, figure this out, etc. Then I can at least feel like I’m moving in a positive direction.

Sometime soon, I’d also like to reread Blood’s Force and Harbingers to ensure I don’t leave out important details. I hope to minimize inconsistencies and loose ends between books as much as possible. It can be painful and occasionally mystifying to read my own stuff, though. “Ugh, did I really …?” I guess it’s a good reaction to have. It means I’m improving (or so I hope)!

Current Goals:
Updating website/blog. Slow going, but in progress. I found a Bootstrap template I like for the website, and now it’s a matter of tweaking it. I also found a prospective new blog template, but that changeover will be more difficult because WordPress doesn’t give you any way to fiddle with a template, fix all the bugs, then make it live. Nope, you gotta make the change live before you even know what fires will erupt! I may have to schedule some downtime for the blog when I get serious about updating it.

Learning how to roll Rs. I’m gonna call this one “done,” although I’m still practicing a little every day. My trilling remains inconsistent, but it’s way better than before I began trying! In case it may be useful to anyone, here are some things that helped me:

  • Hold your tongue in the position for saying S, then move it to the back of the alveolar ridge, close to the roof of your mouth. That’ll cut down on slushy, spitty noises when you start blowing air to flap the tongue.
  • Stay well hydrated, which also cuts down on spitty noises.
  • Relax the tongue. Now relax it some more. Lying on your back helps you figure it out.
  • Use the flap in the middle of the words “butter” and “ladder” to get an idea of what your tongue should be doing.
  • If you have a hard time with sustained trilling (like I do), practice with words instead. In Spanish for instance, there’s perro, erre, etc.

All this said, try not to think too hard about what you’re doing. Once you get the trill working, relax and let it happen.

Learning Latin. Still making interesting new discoveries all the time. For instance, in Sword and Starship, there’s a trade guild called Linum Dominorum: Flax (or Linen) of Lords. I came up with that name years before embarking on this Latin adventure, and did my best to get the translation right at the time using whatever resources I could google up. At this point, I’ve learned enough Latin to confirm that I did actually decline the phrase properly back when I had no idea what I was doing! LOL To be really pedantic, there are a couple of long vowels in there—Līnum Dominōrum—but many people don’t bother marking those. They really should, as there’s a difference between liber (book) and līber (free), for instance. However, I’m not going to worry about it going forward in Sword and Starship. In that case, consistency is more important than precision.

Later Goals:
– Learn Italian (at least enough to get around town with)
– Plan/schedule trip to Rome in 2018
– Ramp up selling/promotion

Feel free to let me know how you’re doing. Otherwise, see you next month! :)

June 2017 Updates, Goals

It’s been over 3 years since I left the rat-race behind and became a full-time writer! The time keeps flying past. I’m a much happier person overall, and I’ve never once entertained the idea of going back to the grind.

Income breakdown (just for fun, $$$ is never the goal):
– I’m still making about $300-$400/month writing and editing at The Daily WTF. (Feedspot recently ranked us #29 of their top 100 humor blogs, which is pretty neat!)
– My royalty income has been a bit higher with 2 books out. Books in a series help sell each other. Still, we’re talking maybe a few hundred a year across all venues, with the vast majority of that coming from Amazon. When I’m done with Book 3, I intend to get more aggressive about selling and promotion (although I think Sword and Starship has at least 4 books in it).

– Still outlining Book 3, also getting into some high-level drafting of how I want scenes to play out. What has been abstract up to this point is getting a bit more concrete.
– The Sword and Starship books are now available through Playster! Here’s Blood’s Force, there’s Harbingers. It seems like an interesting platform, so check it out when you have a chance.
– Construction continues along my street. So far it’s taken double as long as we were told it would take. LOL So it goes! I’ve mostly gotten used to the noise since there’s been construction in my vicinity for years now. My next-door neighbor has a toddler who has grown up with this as his normal. She tells us that one of his first words was “dirt.”

Current Goals:
– Keeping up with these monthly blog updates, and maybe some advising/ranting if the mood strikes.
– Possibly updating the look of ellismorning.com and this blog, if I conclude it’s worth the trouble. Now that I have some exposure to Bootstrap, I’m tempted to go that route.
– Learning how to roll Rs. With a month of daily practice, I’m closer than I ever have been, but inconsistent. I have an easier time with Rs in the middle of a word (ex. cigarro) than at the front (ex. rápido). Another month of filling my house with annoying noises can only help!
– Learning Latin. I’ve kinda surprised myself with how motivated I am to do this. Unlike drawing, I don’t have to schedule a time and then force myself to actually abide by that commitment. I was expecting to work on Latin once a week, and it became a daily thing all by itself. There’s something to be said for pursuing what you really want, eh? My brain wants this, and it’s actually a lot of fun to translate dirty poems and old graffiti from Pompeii and realize that humanity has not changed for thousands of years.

Later Goals:
– Learn Italian (at least enough to get around town with)
– Plan/schedule trip to Rome in 2018
– Ramp up selling/promotion

Hope to check back in with you again next month! :)

Introducing swordandstarship.com

New month, new website! :D

I’ve spent the past few weeks learning and tinkering with Bootstrap in order to bring swordandstarship.com online. It’s dedicated exclusively to the Sword and Starship series. I plan to eventually include “fun stuff” there (like artwork and device backgrounds), and possibly a store where people can order bundles and/or signed copies of books.

If you have any ideas of what you’d like to see there, leave a comment or send me an email!

In the relatively near future, I hope to update the look of ellismorning.com as well as this blog. Keep your eyes peeled!

Book 3 Update + Other News

Say hello to Book 3 so far! :)

I’m experimenting with storyboarding for the first time. It’s a little tough because my computer notes change a lot faster than I can keep up with on paper, but I like this exercise because it helps me realize when my ideas don’t have enough “oomph”—too little emotional content, too little conflict. I’ve saved myself several rewrites already. (As a general note, folks: the more you kick your characters in their metaphorical nuts, the better the story will be!)

I’m not sure how much longer outlining will take. I have 5 “sequences” I want to include in Book 3 (only 3 of which are in storyboard form; the rest are in Scrivener for now). Some are no more detailed than “They go to X and do Y.” Those have to get fleshed out in more detail before I proceed with drafting. I also want to develop at least some idea of what Book 4 will contain, so if there’s any groundwork or foreshadowing that must be set up in Book 3, I can do that.

My concentration has not been what it could be of late, because of this going on right outside my front door …

They’re digging up our street to lay new sewer lines for the town homes that will eventually be built next door. This has been going on for about 1.5 months now. The excavators are doing everything they can to minimize the inconvenience to us—we were even given a parking pass for a private lot close to our house—but still, I’ll be glad when they finish and the City repaves the street!

Otherwise, on the personal front, I might have gone just a tad insane: deciding I want to learn classical Latin, then maybe take a trip to Rome next year—which means learning some Italian, too! Guess what both of these languages have? Trilled Rs. And guess who can’t trill Rs with her tongue? Yup. It’s plagued me ever since introductory Spanish in middle school. I can trill Rs in my throat, but that’s not the proper sound needed here. Instead of trying to rely on Youtube how-to videos (normally so useful, but completely maddening and misleading when it comes to trilling Rs), I’ve purchased a video course prepared by a Russian speech pathologist. Tongue exercises are now part of my daily routine. I hope to conquer this stumbling block once and for all!