Daily Thoughts 53: Life and Loss

Author's selfie Not feeling 100% today. I hadn’t thought I’d make it in to work after a headache yesterday that continued on most of the night. It had mostly ebbed by this morning, though, so I got up in a rush and headed off to work. Out at the Hoquiam Timberland Library today. Didn’t feel all that great, but went anyway.

Loss

Today, although I had anticipated the news, I learned that my Grandpa died this morning. My Grandma was with him, my uncle, and other family. We’ll all miss him.

Life

Despite everything posted yesterday—sometimes life gets in the way. I started out late, not feeling well, and it didn’t get better. Rather than worry about all the things I didn’t do today, I helped my son with one of his projects and I’m going to bed early.

Daily Thoughts 52: Excuses and the 400 Word Challenge

Author's selfie Hanging out in the new hammock chair this morning (behind me in the pic). I used a Marathon swing hanger and a hammock chair spring to hang it from the ceiling joist. It’s a nice and colorful addition to the room. It’s also easy to take down. I can reach up and simply lift and unhook the spring, making it easy to move it out of the way.

Excuses Writers Make

Dean Wesley Smith posted Excuses and the Fine Art of Self-Sabotage today.

Last week I came to the sudden realization that most of us modern writers are lazy. While at the same time convincing ourselves we are not.

I encountered this the first time I went to graduate school. I discovered that we would be writing one novel over the next two years of the program. One. I was appalled. It seemed inconceivable. For one thing, how could we apply what we learned? It seemed obvious to me that we should write a complete novel, and then use what we learned to improve the next novel. And the one after that. And the one after that. Even if we only wrote one per semester, it would still give us four complete novels during the course of the program.

My view on this was met not only with skepticism and derision but with anger. Maybe I could do that, I was told, with the clear implication that I was somehow the exception. Or delusional. Or both.

I found that response baffling. Even at the time (17 years ago), I knew that the only way a novel could take a year to write was by spending most of the year not writing! And two years? Why would you do that?

Back then, I was doing things to write whenever I had the chance. I used Palm OS devices back then with portable keyboards, and an Alphasmart Dana for a time. I’d written my first novel back in high school many years earlier, and had written numerous novels since. I learned early on that simply writing each day added up quickly.

“Simple math,” Dean said.

How NOT to Write a Novel in a Year

via GIPHY

Jan 1: Announce on Twitter that you’re writing a novel. Consider it a good day’s work.

Feb 1: When asked how the book is coming, point out that you’re still doing research, testing different ideas.

Mar 1: Spend more time looking at the market, trying to decide which genre looks most likely to pay big. Thrillers are popular, right?

Apr 1: With everything else going on, now isn’t the best time to start writing, so you give yourself permission to give it time to develop in your subconscious.

May 1: Where did April go? May isn’t a good month. Besides, you still need to pin down which idea to go with. There isn’t time to write everything because you have so many ideas!

Jun 1: With or without an outline? It’s hard to say. An outline makes sense, right? It’s always better to have a plan.

Jul 1: If you’re really going to do this, it’d be better to get feedback as you go along. Maybe you can find a writer’s group at the library, or on Meetup?

Aug 1: The writer’s group has been so supportive! They understand how writers struggle. They all definitely agreed that an outline is the way to go. Except Chuck. Screw Chuck.

Sep 1: Turns out that you had the wrong software. And the wrong type of computer. It’ll be so much easier to write with that solved—as soon as you figure out the new operating system. But it totally made sense to switch.

Oct 1: With National Novel Writing Month coming up, it seemed like that might be a good time to start the novel. Of course, no one really expects to get a good novel done in a month, that’s ridiculous. Look at all the work you’ve already done this year!

Nov 1: National Novel Writing Month is fine if you’re only interested in trashy romances or something like that, but you want to write a serious novel. One with literary merit. That can’t be rushed.

Dec 1: It’s been a great year! Okay, you didn’t actually finish the novel this year, but that was never really the goal. You made so much progress, and since you want to be a professional writer, it makes sense to look at the Universities offering MFA programs.

Simple Math

At this point, this post is about 750 words long, or about three manuscript pages. Let’s say I wrote 750 words per week for an entire year. That would give me 39,000 words, or basically a short novel around 40,000 words.

Bump that up to 1,000 words per week (4 pages) and take a couple weeks off, and you’ve got a 50,000-word novel in one year.

via GIPHY

Crazy, right? So my program was suggesting that we only write 500 words per week (2 pages), since we had two years to write the novel.

What? A 50,000-word novel is too short? You need at least a 100,000-word novel? Okay, sorry, that’ll push you up back up to 4 pages per week to finish the novel in two years.

How about getting that back down to one year?

via GIPHY

To write the 100,000-word novel in one year, you’d need to write 8 pages per week, with two weeks off. That’s 2,000 words per week. Let’s say you take two days off, writing five days per week (you know, like a job).

Consider this the assignment you’re given by your boss each day:

2017 Novel Pledge to write 400 words

Granted, this might seem like an unreasonable expectation from your boss. Let’s break it down a bit.

Actually Writing 400 Words

Okay, so we know the boss wants 400 words written today. And if you didn’t have so many other commitments that might be one thing. But you’re not a professional writer who can spend a week in Las Vegas and still write a novel. You’ve got responsibilities and other things going on. It just isn’t that easy to find the time for writing that much.

How much time do you need?

It isn’t that easy. There are distractions. It might go fast one day, but every day isn’t perfect.

Understood. I’m not looking for perfect. I’m only looking at what would be a reasonable expectation for the amount of time to write 400 words (this post is over 1,000 words now).

Let’s say that you don’t type fast. According to Chron.com, the average person types 38-40 words per minute. Obviously, that’s just typing. It’s not creating new fiction. Anyone can type faster if you’re just typing something on a screen.

So what’s a reasonable expectation? Half that? A quarter? Let’s go with that and set our expectations on the lower side with 10 words per minute.

In other words, it’ll take us 40 minutes (or less) to meet the expectation of 400 words per day.

I don’t happen to have a spare 40 minutes, thank you. I’m busy all the time.

That’s not going to make the boss happy. How important is this job to you? After all, we already compromised on the typing speed. If you only did 20 words per minute, you could cut the time you needed down to 20 minutes, or 10 minutes if you reached the average typing speed of 40 words per minute.

It’ll only take 10-40 minutes to write 400 words, depending on your typing speed. You don’t even have to do it all at once, in a single sitting. You could break it up. Taking a break for 10-15 minutes? Use that time to write. Do you have a lunch break? That could be another time.

It’s less time than a typical episode of a TV show. Maybe there isn’t any time. Or it may be more accurate to say that there are other things that would have a higher priority than writing.

Assuming we get a good night’s sleep, we have 16 hours per day. Over a 5 day period, that gives us 80 hours. It does get filled up fast! If you work fulltime, have kids, family, and/or friends, it’s going to end up feeling like there is no possible time to write. Look carefully. When can you find some time?

Alternative Writing Tools

via GIPHY

What are some options for writing?

  • Chromebooks. An expensive, light-weight option, with the ability to use Google Docs, Office online, Novlr, and other services online or offline.
  • Thumb Drive. Carry your documents with you on a USB drive in a standard format to use of different machines (including PCs at the library).
  • Pen and Paper. Use a notebook and pen (or pencil) to simply write your story by hand. You’ll have to retype it at some point, but in the meantime, it can be an easy, quick, and convenient method to snatch time as allowed.
  • Laptop. Laptops, of course, offer a lot of options for writing, much like Chromebooks, and likewise many have become much less expensive.
  • Tablets/Phones. Tablets and phones, iOS or Android, also offer a host of apps, keyboards, etc., to use for writing.
  • Dictation. Carry a digital recorder and dictate your book while walking, running, or driving (hands-free). With Dragon’s auto transcription feature, you can easily turn the recording into text while you’re doing other things. This is how I’m using my commutes to write stories for DriveByStories.com.
  • Desktop. Of course, the good old desktop PC or Mac works well for writing.
  • Typewriters. Yes, they still exist and have their fans. Check out myTypewriter.com for classic typewriters. (I find it interesting that there aren’t really options for low-cost manual typewriters. I could actually see using one if I could get a Dvorak layout manual typewriter without paying a fortune. It’d be really interesting to see something new done with manual typewriters.)

Whatever method you pick, if it works for you, great! The expectation of 400 words per day doesn’t specify how those words get written. Only that they do.

Are you up to the challenge? Does it seem too hard? Too easy? As Dean points out that he isn’t fast—he just spends more time in the chair writing. Speed can make a difference, of course. If you can match the average 40 WPM speed it’ll only take you 10 minutes to finish 400 words. IF you still squeeze 40 minutes out of your schedule, that gives you 1,600 words per day, 8,000 words per week, or 400,000 words per year.

That’s four 100,000 word novels (or eight 50,000 word novels), only matching the average typing speed for 40 minutes each day. Feel free to type a bit slower and call it an even hour each day, and you can still turn in 4-8 novels per year with an hour a day, five days per week, at an average typing speed. Or 1-2 novels per year if you can only manage 10 WPM.

Doesn’t sound like an unreasonable expectation, does it?

My time is limited with working full time, attending graduate school full time, and having a family. Plus the usual chores and daily demands on my time. If anything, graduate school has made it abundantly clear how much time I have when I make something a priority.

And I still exercise each day. Meditate. And I spend time with my son.

If you want to write, take the challenge. Aim to write 400 words per day, 5 days per week, 50 weeks out of the year. Even with everything else going on, I’m tempted to take that challenge myself.

Daily Thoughts 51: Home and Writing Improvement

Author's selfie Today I hung a new hammock chair, something that took more time than I anticipated. That was only one of things tackled today. We also spent some time (and money) in the hardware store. Tools to work on cleaning the floor to resurface it, electrical supplies to replace outlets, and a new LED ceiling light. In addition to hanging the chair, I replaced one of the outlets. There’s more work to do around the place than I have time (or money) to do right now. I just keep chipping away at it.

Writing Improvement

You can think of your writing as a house built over time. In the beginning, it might be a house crudely built of sticks, the barest sketch of a house with moss for the roof. Bit by bit you figure out ways to improve and expand upon the house as you learn better construction techniques and gain access to better materials.

Writing is also like building a house when you consider that you’re creating property. Dean Wesley Smith makes this point in his recent post about a question.

And people will pay me a lot of money over the rest of my life and beyond for those forty hours of playing.

At a thousand words or so per hour, in around 40 hours of writing (while on vacation in Las Vegas) Dean wrote a complete novel. He created a new property and now it will continue paying, as he says, in the years ahead, even after Dean is gone.

In a typical work week, you only get paid once for the work done. I’m fortunate in working in a career that I enjoy. Library work is satisfying and makes a difference in the community. It is created by the community for the benefit of the community.

I’m often surprised by writers talking about the tortures of writing, the struggles, and the difficulty. Dean addresses this myth of modern writers. I find myself in agreement with him. Spending time telling stories is fun. I watch my son playing all the time making up stories. I remember doing the same thing as a kid (and continue to do so now). The main difference? Now I write the stories down.

Story Studies

I’m planning to increase my focus on studying short stories. The best way? Reading. I’m planning to spend more time reading short stories. I’ve always enjoyed reading stories. I just plan to spend more time reading short stories each day. I don’t know how much time I’ll have to work on stories given my class schedule (the new semester starts this week), but I plan to sneak in as much time as I can.

I also want to spend some time (as I’m able) analyzing stories. Typing them in and looking closely at how other writers have approached short stories. I want to study a range of short fiction. I’ve done similar things in the past but it is time for a new renewed focus on stories along with my other reboot plans.

 

Daily Thoughts 50: Online Privacy and Surveillance

In the office today. I read a report from the Aspen Institute, The Role of Libraries in Advancing Community GoalsIt reports on a survey done of local government about the library’s role in the community. It’s an interesting report and one that I want to go back to and look at in more depth. One line caught my attention, though, on the different views held by the public and local government.

And there is significant divergence on whether libraries should definitely provide training on how people can protect their online privacy and security. Three-quarters of Americans say this, but less than half of government officials do.

I find that interesting.

Library Freedom Project

The Library Freedom Project is one attempt to address the concerns people have raised.

By teaching librarians about surveillance threats, privacy rights and responsibilities, and digital tools to stop surveillance, we hope to create a privacy-centric paradigm shift in libraries and the communities they serve.

They completed a project to add a Tor Exit relay at the Lebanon Public Library. They also provide a long list of resources, a privacy toolkit, and other materials.That’s important because librarians and other library workers don’t necessarily have any expertise in this area.

That’s important because librarians and other library workers don’t necessarily have any expertise in this area. Libraries have work to do in order to preserve freedoms for their users.

Daily Thoughts 49: Inauguration Blues and Happy Days Ahead

Author's selfieToday’s the big day! I received an email this morning in which the sender expressed depression over “tomorrow.” It took me a moment to realize that “tomorrow” was actually “today.” And that the sentiment had to do with the inauguration of the new President. I wrote back with this:

It took me a couple seconds before I realized that ‘tomorrow’ was today, with the inauguration of He Who Shall Not Be Named. It feels a bit like that, as if the whole wizarding world lost their collective minds. Not just those who voted for Him, but those who couldn’t be bothered to vote, and the those that wanted Umbridge instead of Him and couldn’t understand why we wanted Dumbledore instead.

Grief and elections go hand-in-hand. No matter who gets elected there are those unhappy about the outcome. This election bothered me more than any previous election—on both sides of the political battle. Both parties acted badly in many ways, but nothing compares to the sort of negative, hateful, racist, and anti-intellectual views that we’ve seen in this election. There are real issues to tackle.

Happy Days Ahead

I’ve been depressed and I didn’t much care for it. I didn’t realize it for a long time, not until it got worse, and not until I finally sought out help. I’m happy now. Happier than I’ve been in many years.

Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth

This year I’m looking forward…

  • …to have fun and spending time with my family.
  • …to watching my son grow and develop.
  • …to write exciting, challenging, and interesting stories.
  • …to practicing drawing and painting.
  • …to learning, studying, and exploring.
  • …to completing my MLIS degree.
  • …to helping people and finding ways to make a difference.
  • …to dark chocolate covered apricots.
  • …to lower cholesterol.
  • …to writing code and developing new websites and apps.
  • …to reading books and stories.
  • …to watching movies and TV shows.
  • …to playing board games and video games.
  • …to beginning my massive reboot project.
  • …to napping in the hammock.
  • …and to finding ways to combat (and to help others combat) the darkness and depression in the world.

Is happiness transitory? Perhaps. I believe we need kindness, that happiness arises from being kind to others and in being kind to ourselves. In mindfulness. In peace. In the challenges that we face and overcome.

What do you look forward to in 2017?

Daily Thoughts 48: Short Stories, Lots of Words

Author's Selfie I spent the beginning of my day in the office, then went out to the Hoodsport Timberland Library before returning back to the office. Hoodsport sits along the Hood Canal. The library has a location on the hillside overlooking the canal. Even on a cloudy and rainy day, it’s a great view out the large windows of the library.

Short Stories, Lots of Words

I’ve been working on getting ahead on scheduling stories each Monday. I have enough stories written to post another story each week through this next semester and into June, twenty-two more weeks. I’d like to continue posting weekly—meaning I need to get more stories written!

A wise writer told me that you shouldn’t try to write stories unless you enjoy reading stories. I do. I always have. I still have my complete collection of Aboriginal SF and Science Fiction Age magazines. Plus many issues of Analog SF, Asimov’s Science Fiction, and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Plus a great many anthologies and collections of short fiction.

Since I have so much work to do in other areas with my massive reboot, I plan to focus initially on short fiction. I want to write new stories. I want to read excellent short stories and learn from those stories. I plan to study the craft. I will submit stories for publication in select markets, and share stories here on the blog.

I also plan to publish collections (as I mentioned the other day) collecting the stories from each year, or years in the case when there aren’t enough stories to make a collection.

In addition to all of that, I plan to do much more with my Drive-By Stories, very short stories dictated during my commutes. I have a few stories published there now (all under 2,000 words). When the site refreshes, it shows a new story. I want to improve the site, include illustrations inspired by pulp art, and add many more stories!

 

Daily Thoughts 47: 5 Reasons I Write Fiction

Author's selfie Office day today, running reports, working on documentation, and meeting about projects in progress. As with any organization, there is a great deal of activity that takes place behind the scenes in a library. It runs the gamut from the high-level concepts and values behind library service down to the precise details of how information is entered in a record field.

5 Reasons I Write Fiction

Exploration

Writing fiction offers the opportunity to explore worlds that never existed before—not until I create them. Good or bad, fantastic or not, I enjoy the process of exploring the worlds my of my subconscious.

Creation

Few things compare to the act of artistic creation. Human beings are wired to enjoy creating. Even destruction is in itself an act of creating something new, transforming reality in some way. Artistic creation breathes life into an expression in a way that speaks to another human being. That is a powerful motivator.

Learning

I love learning. I didn’t always love school. If I didn’t think something was worth my time I didn’t do it. I tended to thrive when teachers let me work independently and pursue my interests. After the realization that I wanted to write, everything applied to my writing. It took time to break bad habits, but my grades and focus improved. No matter the subject, it could apply to my writing.

Communication

Writing communicates our thoughts into the mind of another human being. These marks on a page or screen are interpreted by our eyes (or ears, if listening to someone else read it) and directly creates thoughts in the reader. It allows us to communicate with other human beings in an asynchronous fashion across space and time. Even after we are gone, our writings can communicate with people. Our encoded thoughts persist into the future.

Entertainment

I also write for my own entertainment! It’s fun. And it’s fun to share that with others. There’s a lot to be said for art and the rest, but some things are also fun. It isn’t all about being serious and meaningful. Some of the most profound things that we experience in life come in those moments of joy and happiness. I treasure the moments lost in a book, experiencing other worlds and times.

Reading

Cover art for Chanur's LegacyI started reading at a young age and have continued to read daily. I never go without something to read. I snatch whatever time I can to read. Reading forms the core of my professional and creative life, as a librarian and as a writer. In both cases, I work to share that love with others.

Daily Thoughts 46: Ursula K. Le Guin, Selma, and the Art of Resistance

Author's selfie Today I spent time in the Oakville Timberland Library. It’s a small community library in part of the city hall building (a portion doubles as the council chamber). The community spent time and money recently on renovations that made a big difference in the condition of the library. It’s great to see that people value the library. Although not as busy as an urban library, it provides a key place for members of a rural community with computer and Wi-Fi access, as well as books and all of the other resources it offers as part of the library system. In many of these small Washington towns, you see empty store fronts. At least here there is a library bringing value into the community.

Ursula K. Le Guin

Today, as I prepared an email about a science fiction training, I included this quote from Ursula K. Le Guin’s 2014 National Book Award speech.

I think hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom. Poets, visionaries, the realists of a larger reality.

(Transcript available at the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction)

The speech includes other memorable lines, such as “Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art – the art of words.”

For all that, it is a short speech and well worth listening to and then thinking more about.

Art of Resistance

Cover art for Masterpieces of Short FictionOther ways of living depicted in art. That idea strikes a cord. This morning I started listening to one of the Great Courses lectures by Professor Michael Krasny Masterpieces of Short Fiction. I enjoy learning more. Krasny touches on the idea that fiction includes everything. Aspects of the author, the time period, as well as previous stories.

Fiction—art—has the power to show people an intimate glimpse inside the mind of another person in a way that we can’t manage in reality. It provides a mirror to either side of our nature. If the character represents the darker side of our lives, the art makes us reflect on how those tendencies exist inside of us. If the character reveals inner strength and other admirable traits, it encourages us to find those traits in ourselves.

Science fiction and fantasy use other tools to explore what are essentially alternate realities and ways of being. Of thinking.

PEN America (dedicated to defending free expression) recently held Writers Resist on the steps of the New York Public Library.

Tonight I watched Selma for the first time. It has been on my list to watch since I first saw the trailer (as have many other films) and today I had the good fortune to find the movie in the library. I was pleased that my son chose on his own to watch much of the movie with us and was justifiably outraged at the injustices depicted in this excellent drama. It isn’t a historical documentary, but it does a terrific job of telling a story.

We need storytellers and visionaries who won’t be silent. Although I write to entertain, today has been a reminder of the deeper values of fiction.

Daily Thoughts 45: Dr. King, Librarians, Library Bill of Rights

Author's SelfieI spent some time this morning reading various Martin Luther King Jr. quotes and articles. In particular, the article in The Intercept “What the ‘Santa Clausification’ of Martin Luther King Jr. Leaves Out” by Zaid Jilani (2017).

Jilani points out that “King was not just a fighter for racial justice, he also fought for economic justice and against war.”

I wasn’t born until years after the assassination of Dr. King. One of the things that struck me when I started to learn about this period of our history was how recent it was—in that horrified realization that those who spoke and acted against equality and peace were still around. Today that realization is more powerful than ever as we approach the inauguration of a divisive President-Elect.

Librarians and the Library Bill of Rights

Librarians stand for equality and equal access for everyone. The Library Bill of Rights defines these values.

I. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.

Many people (including librarians at times) struggle with the notion of including materials for all people of the community. Sometimes a subtle filtering takes place that excludes materials because someone believes that they don’t have those people in their community, e.g., not including books that show other cultures because of mistaken belief that the community lacks members of those cultures, or that members of the community won’t be interested in those materials. The library is the place where the confirmation bias bubble pops. If the librarians do their jobs well, that is.

II. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.

If there’s one issue I have with this, it’s the use of “Libraries” instead of “Librarians.” The language is used throughout the Library Bill of Rights. On its own, the institution doesn’t do anything. It takes librarians to provide materials and information—even when those materials represent views the librarian may personally disagree with.

III. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.

Once again we see the use of “Libraries” in this section. If I was rewriting the Library Bill of Rights I would also make the language active rather than passive, e.g., Librarians challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment. Likewise, the previous section would read Librarians provide materials and information… The extensive use of “should” throughout the Library Bill of Rights makes it sound weak.

IV. Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.

What does cooperate mean in this case? ALA also provides a number of interpretations of the Library Bill of Rights. It also provides the Freedom to Read Statement which addresses these issues. I particularly like the end of that statement, “We believe rather that what people read is deeply important; that ideas can be dangerous; but that the suppression of ideas is fatal to a democratic society. Freedom itself is a dangerous way of life, but it is ours.”

V. A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.

People struggle with this one. Age becomes a frequent barrier for people under the age of 18, with obstacles placed on obtaining a library card. For all that librarians strive to do, they often struggle with this particular barrier. Another issue, tied to background, are perceptions of people due to their economic status, health, or other factors such as mental health. Policies are passed that exclude people based on traits that make some people uncomfortable. People may be profiled even at the library.

VI. Libraries which make exhibit space and meeting rooms available to the public they serve should make such facilities available on an equitable basis, regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of individuals or groups requesting their use.

People have the right to peaceful assembly, yet often lack spaces in which to associate. Time, place, and manner restrictions, along with requirements for permits, makes it difficult for people to assemble. The lack of free meeting space also creates challenges. Many city-owned community centers requirement payment to use the space. The library is often one of the few places which may have a freely available meeting space in the community.

I believe there is room for improvement in the Library Bill of Rights, yet it remains an important document, along with other statements produced by the American Library Association. It’s also worth looking at the work done by the Progressive Librarians Guild to see additional views on the librarian’s role in the community and the ongoing conflict between librarians advocating for neutrality and those arguing for social justice. Librarians haven’t always challenged inequality and discrimination, though it remains a key part of a librarian’s role. The fact that librarians advocate for unrestricted access is not a neutral view.

Librarians need to reevaluate some of the assumptions around the profession. As information scientists, as advocates for justice and equality, they stand poised to take on a significant role in the information age—or risk being supplanted by commerical interests with different motivations and values.

Daily Thoughts 44: Executing Plans

Author's Selfie I’ve been enjoying my day off. I made a point of not getting up early this morning. I had decided to sleep in today. I almost made it to 6 a.m.! Late, for me. I’ve started incorporating some running into my morning trek. I turned on the chases in Zombies, Run! and break into a run when chased. Right now I have it set on easy! Eventually, I plan to increase the frequency and the difficulty of the chases. I just don’t want to push too fast so I’m easing into it.

Executing Plans

Screenshot of the Just Writing Plugin in action

I’m working with the Just Writing Plugin. It adds some functionality that the distraction-free environment in WordPress lacks by default. One of the chief things missing in the default environment is a way to center the editor and set the width. Just Writing does center the editor and sets a decent width by default. The main thing lacking, that I’ve noticed so far, is that the writing ends up at the bottom of the screen as the post gets longer. I’d really rather have some sort of typewriter scrolling. There are a few other things that I’d do differently with the editor if I were creating the plugin, but I’ll leave that to another day. I have ideas about what I’d like to do.

Screenshot of the Trello Coding Board

As usual, I have Trello boards set up for various projects. This one is my coding board, currently with a focus on JavaScript and Python. These are two languages that I haven’t mastered yet. I need to develop my skills with these languages in order to execute all of my plans. I have a stack of books that I’m working through, along with courses at Lynda.com.

I scheduled the rest of the short stories I plan to post on Mondays. I’ve missed some weeks, but for this next semester, I plan to post a story each week until I have them all posted in June. I’ll be done with the semester by then. I’m also planning to start writing more stories, so if I can get some written and start producing a new story each week, I won’t stop. I’ll keep posting stories.

Of course, I also want to start submitting new stories to a few of the magazine markets. I’d like to break into Analog and Asimov’s, possibly a few others. After a story has a chance to make the rounds to those markets, I’ll post it on the site. I’ve already released one collection Collected Stories of 2009 (which I plan to include in my reboot plans). I want to release annual collections for the years that have followed. I didn’t write many stories in the last three years, so I plan to combine those into a single volume, 2014-2016. I’ll have a lot more stories to write in 2017, and going forward, though I may not get many new stories written until after the semester ends.

Once I’m finished with classes, I’ll still have my e-portfolio to write in the fall, but I plan to continue working on other projects as I execute my reboot plans.

Executing Learning

Between 2009-2014, I spent a great deal of time writing, studying, and being coached by professional writers. I’m picking that back up this year on my own, and with the plan to attend a couple workshops in 2018. There will be reading and writing to do this fall in preparation for those workshops. One offers a chance to write for several professional anthologies (should be lots of fun), and the other is a craft-focused workshop taught by the incredible Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Learning from Kris is always a workout for my brain.

Executing the Reboot

I’m also taking steps to execute the reboot. Practicing drawing and painting, with the goal of creating quality illustrations for my books. I want to do cover art, certainly, but also some interior artwork as well. I plan to publish new editions of the novels, as I’ve mentioned, in hardcover editions with dust jackets. I’m aiming for high-quality print editions that someone might like to collect. Besides working on improving my illustration skills, I’m also working on typography, graphic design, and layout skills.

When I look at the numerous art books I’ve collected, I see so many terrific artists! I want to create artwork like that of Michael Whelan, John Harris, or so many others. I also want to write as well as (or better) than my favorite writers. I’m not suggesting that I’m as good as they are now (I may never get there), but I plan to continue learning, practicing, and trying to improve my skills in every aspect.

Executing Code

I mentioned my coding board earlier and plans to learn new programming languages. I have other plans in mind for learning the code. From websites to apps, there are many creative things I want to do with coding as well. Like everything else, I’m always working to improve.