Daily Thoughts 104: Fiona, Warcraft, and Writing

Author's selfieThis morning I prioritized walking. It was a terrific morning for it. The moon was out and bright enough that I almost didn’t need my headlight (this was just before 5 AM). I did end up running out of time to do much else this morning.

That’s fine, it just means taking care of things this evening instead. I started with my daily sketch challenge.

Daily Sketch Challenge

Sketch of baby hippo FionaI enjoy drawing animals. They’re interesting and fun to draw. I enjoy drawing people too, but when I watched the latest video with Fiona, the baby hippo at the Cincinnati Zoo, I had to make her the subject of today’s sketch! I’d liked to have had more time to work on it but there wasn’t time if I was going to have time to write too.

Warcraft

After spending time on my sketch, I spent a little time playing World of WarCraft with my son watching. He wants me to get to the Darkmoon Fair next month with a new character, so I’m working on that when I take breaks.

Daily Writing Challenge

I continued working on my story The Order today. No clear idea what I’m doing with this, exactly. It’s not a science fiction story. It’s a mainstream story with a non-gendered character. In the video you’ll see that I’m cycling through the story at points, going back up to earlier parts tweaking and working on the story before continuing.

The Secret Scripture

This looks good, sad, and interesting. I think I’d like to read the book first.

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 20

Author's selfieQuiet day today at work. I’m writing policy and procedural documents today. We’ve made a number of changes aimed at making it easier for people to use the library. The policy gives us a new heading, but entering the new course, sticking to it, and getting the whole big ship to turn, that takes some work! It’s fun, though, and has an impact that you can see when your plans work out. It might not look as exciting as SpaceX (below), but libraries have a key role to play in our communities.

SpaceX

Love this! It’s great seeing the excitement in the crowd. And that Musk ran outside to see the launch and landing of the first stage with his own eyes.

Writing/Art Progress

I worked on the new story a bit more today.

Daily words: 479 words
Monthly words: 1,113 words
Writing streak: 3 days
Drawing time: 45 minutes
Drawing Streak: 3 days

 

Daily Thoughts

Author's self-portrait Today’s plans ended up in flux. I started off the day with a pretty clear idea of what I planned to do. I was going to work in the Montesano Timberland Regional Library, but then staffing issues meant that I ended up going to the Oakville Timberland Regional Library so we could open the library. Flexibility in this job is important—things do change! Even if it doesn’t feel that way sometimes.

Blade Runner 2049

Excited! Although I have a suspicion that Decker will get impaled and fall into a pit.

Writing/Art Progress

I did spend a little time today and wrote about a page. I don’t know if I’ll use what I wrote in anything. I sketched and messed around with different brushes too, getting in some time drawing.

Daily words: 307 words
Monthly words: 307 words
Writing streak: 1 day
Drawing time: 30 minutes
Drawing Streak: 1 day

Daily Thoughts

Author's self-portrait Busy day! Off work today. We ran errands, then went to a baby shower for my brother and sister-in-law. That was fun! Family, good vegan food, and a celebration of the new addition to our family. Plus Xander and my nieces played well together with a less of the insanity that sometimes occurs when they get together!

More Power!

The new computer works so well! Applications, pages, and the computer loads so quickly. I’d gotten so used to how slow the old computer was that I didn’t realize how much it struggled. I coped for a long time with it barely running the programs. I mentioned it yesterday, but each day I’m reminded again how different it is.

In particular, it was great to see how smoothly the drawing and illustration software runs. Programs that used to take forever to open, now load in an instant. Painting on with the tablet is smooth and natural. This will be such a help in practicing to create new illustrations. Digital painting works better when the hardware actually supports the software!

Coding

It isn’t only the painting software that works better. The coding applications also function more quickly. It’ll be interesting focusing more over the next several months on developing greater proficiency with coding. I’m going to work on a number of languages from HTML5/CSS3, XML, Python, JavaScript, PHP, and Java. I plan to work both on web development, but also mobile application development. I have a lot of plans for things that I want to do. Once the semester picks up I won’t be able to do as much until class gets out in May (other than things I need to do for class). Right now I’m mostly focusing on Python, HTML5/CSS3, and JavaScript. Plus some Scratch thrown in for fun.

Writing

Cover art for Writing Great FictionWith everything else going on, I haven’t forgotten about writing! I started listening to a Great Courses recording, Writing Great Fiction: Storytelling Tips and Techniques. I’m enjoying it! I also enjoyed the course on Science Fiction recently. Listening to the course isn’t the same thing as writing, of course, but it is encouraging me to get back into writing.

Because of that, I plan to start writing each day. I’m going to set the goal low, and I don’t know how much I’ll actually use of what I write, but I have over a month until I start back to school. It’d be good to run some streaks. I’ve already been writing these posts each day, and I plan to continue posting a daily blog. I’ll also start drawing.

I’m going to set small, easily achievable goals for my writing and drawing goals. I’ll report back in my daily posts on my progress.

Daily Thoughts

Self-portrait of the author Good afternoon! I’m writing this at the Elma Timberland Library, where I’ve had the opportunity to spend the morning. After lunch, I’ll head down the road to the McCleary Timberland Library for the afternoon. How great is that? I get to spend the day working in libraries. I’m pretty lucky.

Writing

Cover art for the Successful Author MindsetI’m reading Joanna Penn’s The Successful Author Mindset (one of several books I’m reading). It dawned on me today that I have an opportunity to write while I’m on winter break from school. There’s a whole lot of other things I want to do too—but I will find some time to write. I haven’t written very much fiction since going back to school. It’d be good to get more written. I might work on more stories for Drive-By Stories, and/or maybe develop some ideas for another novel. I’m not going to attempt a novel right now, but I could get some things together.

Illustrations

I’d also like to spend time working on illustrations (and websites, coding, etc.). Obviously, my time isn’t unlimited. I have to pick what I’m going to spend time on. I want to spend time with family, too, and there are some movies I want to see during this break.

Drawing and painting, though, that’s a big one. I’d like to work on some fundamentals and practice. It’d be nice to work on developing a regular practice. With the massive reboot planned, I intend to reissue all of my existing books. That includes those currently available and those that aren’t up, originally released under pen names, and several as-yet-unreleased novels. For each of those, I want to do new illustrations, covers, and for some at least, interior art as well.

I’m not Frank Frazetta, Matt Dixon, or Michael Whelan. I have a long way to go still, but I don’t plan to let that hold me back. I want to take my publishing efforts to the next level with this reboot and part of that is creating original cover art. Why? Because I enjoy it. Because I want to improve in that area (along with design and other elements).

Publishing

I mentioned rebooting publishing. When I buy books by my favorite authors, I try to get hardcover books. I enjoy having those books on my shelf. I’m fond of print. I read a lot of e-books, I listen to a lot of audiobooks. I sometimes buy the same book in multiple formats. Still, I enjoy collecting nice hardcover editions by my favorite authors. Some authors, I have books in mass market paperback, hardcover, and e-book.

With my reboot effort, I plan to release hardcover books. I plan to do the best job I can with them. And as I move forward, I intend to keep doing hardcovers. The trade paperbacks are fine, but I want hardcover books. I’ve experimented with a few books in hardcover (Full Moon Nights came out in a limited hardcover). I’ve learned more since then, and plan to continue learning. So, as best as I’m able, I want to release the sort of books that I want.

Of course, I’ll also do new e-book releases.

Trying New Things

I love learning new things. For me, that’s the strength of self-publishing. I’d describe indie publishing a bit differently. An indie publisher hires people to do the work for them. A writer/indie publisher might hire someone to do the layout and design, the cover art, and various editing jobs. Some of it, they may do themselves. Nothing wrong with any of that. Many things work that way.

A self-publisher may or may not hire people to help them. There’s no clear dividing line, more of a gradient. I see self-publishing as an opportunity to learn and try new things. On the gradient from self-publisher to indie-publisher are many different variations. The more an individual does themselves, the closer it pushes them into the self-publishing spectrum.

Quality?

I give my best with whatever I do, as much as I’m able. Does that mean I’m going to be ‘as good as’ [fill in the blank] at whatever you care about? I don’t know. I hope to be the best I can.

That said, I don’t think there is an absolute metric of quality when it comes to art (any art). I love books other people might hate. I look at Bob Eggleton’s skulls on Brian Lumley’s Necroscope books and damn if they don’t stick with me! I remember eyeing those books several times before I gave in and picked them up. As much as I love those covers, I doubt it’s going to be to everyone’s taste.

People judge everything. That doesn’t mean that their taste is universal. When it comes to artistic expression there is only one thing I think is important: expression.

I think there is tremendous value in individual artistic expression. All ambitions aside, I think it is fantastic that some people express themselves. I think supporting that is important. I think it makes a difference when people have opportunities to express themselves.

Friends, web reviews, librarians, publishers, reviewers, and critics—these are all filters to help us identify expressions that we might enjoy. With so much individual expression out there, it can be helpful to have tools to find what we’ll enjoy.

I enjoy creating my own individual expressions. I appreciate the support and interest when someone picks up one of my books. I hope they enjoy them. And I’m looking forward to creating more!

 

Daily Thoughts

Author showing book Pulp CultureDark chocolate covered blueberries taste fantastic. So do dark chocolate covered banana chips. Or apricots. I have to be careful or I’ll just sit and eat the entire bag! Still, it’s a nice treat to have sometimes and I’m lucky enough to get to enjoy such things.

Pulps!

Cover art for Pulp CultureI checked out a book from my library Pulp Culture: the art of fiction magazines by Frank M. Robinson and Lawrence Davidson. It’s a great overview of the different sorts of pulp magazines and reproduces many examples of the fantastic cover art. 

The cover art on the hardcover 1998 edition I checked out doesn’t match the cover shown here (or in the library catalog).

This book is definitely going on my wishlist. I plan to study pulp art as time allows while working on my MLIS, and definitely after I finish. I want Drive-By Stories to have artwork inspired by the pulps and I can imagine some influences coming into some of my other work.

Finals!

Last few days of finals. I have an exam due on Friday, a research proposal due on Sunday, and another final report and project demo due on Monday (includes some of the data visualizations I’ve shared).

 

My Massive Upcoming Writing, Illustration, Publishing, and Programming Reboot

It’s nearly time for my massive writing, illustration, publishing, and programming reboot!I went back to school in 2015 to pursue a Master of Library and Information Science degree at San José State University. I knew it’d mean putting aside many of my plans for writing, illustration, publishing, and programming. That means new editions, new previously unpublished books, new websites, and other new projects!

I went back to school in 2015 to pursue a Master of Library and Information Science degree at San José State University. I knew it’d mean putting aside many of my plans for writing, illustration, publishing, and programming.

I went back to school in 2015 to pursue a Master of Library and Information Science degree at San José State University. I knew it’d mean putting aside many of my plans for writing, illustration, and publishing. When you’re working full-time, going to school full time, and have a family, something has to give! Like a mogwai fed after midnight, I was a bit of a monster for a while after making the decision. It got better, then it got much better. I’ve done well and have recently registered for my last semester of classes. If all goes as planned, I’ll finish my e-portfolio during the Fall 2017 semester and receive my degree after over twenty-five years working in libraries!

Although I’ll be busy this next semester, I’m looking forward to the summer following as the chief time to begin this reboot of my writing, illustration, and publishing efforts. In the meantime, I’ve started laying some ground work.

Writing

I haven’t written much the past two years. I don’t anticipate that changing until I finish the MLIS degree. I’d love to have more time to write—and stay sane! And healthy. It’s a question of priorities. One of the things I learned was that I really did need to pay attention to my mental and physical health. Now I walk daily, meditate daily, and take time to relax and have fun.

I’ve managed to complete a few short stories, but that’s it. Not only do I want to write more stories, I have a very long list of novels I want to write. That includes novels in my existing series as well as new series of novels. It’ll take me years to write the novels I have planned!

Illustration

Several years ago now, I decided I wanted to illustrate my books. Cover art, and in some cases, interior art. This is a major part of my reboot plans.

Although I’ve enjoyed drawing and painting I haven’t pursued it professionally. I jumped in and released books with less-than-professional covers. I’m not too concerned about that, but I do want to do better. I want to get my skills to the point where people see the covers and want to pick up the book. I look at the work of artists like Matt Dixon, James Gurney, Terryl Whitlatch, Bobby Chiu, Brom, Nick Harris, and so many others, and want to do the same sort of thing. I’ve collected a whole bunch of books, issues of ImagineFX, and a Schoolism subscription to help teach myself how to do professional illustration.

I intend to practice and study until I’m able to do the sort of illustrations I’d like to see on my books.

Publishing

I started publishing back in 2009, released much more in 2010-2011, and then didn’t do as much. In 2013-2014 I did a mini-reboot and reissued new versions of my three primary series and I retired my multiple pen names in favor of just using my name. I released my last novel just before starting the MLIS program.

Over the past five years, I’ve learned more about publishing. I recognize mistakes I made. I see ways that I want to change things with this reboot.

Hardcover Novels

Does it make good business sense to put out hardcover novels? Maybe not. Yet I collect my favorite authors in hardcover books. With this reboot, I want to have hardcovers I can hold in my hand (with covers I’m proud to show off).

That means redoing everything about my previously released titles, and my unreleased titles. I intend to spend more time on designing the book I want and doing everything I can to make a high-quality book.

The question comes up: why are you doing all of this yourself? Wouldn’t it be better to hire someone else? Probably! Except I want to do it. I want to learn new skills, to stretch myself, and I enjoy the act of crafting not only the words but the actual book.

Smarter Business Practices

I also plan on improving business practices. In part, that means completing a book and then setting a release date far enough out that I can do promotion, set up preorders, and take other steps. It means having a publishing schedule.

I’m a librarian first, which means I do have leeway on how I approach my business, e.g., I have freedom to focus more on developing readership than profits. I can experiment more and focus on having fun.

Along the way, I plan to reboot all of my websites as well.

Programming

Many years ago, at the dawn of the web, I experimented with programming and distributing shareware applications for Windows 3.1. As I’ve pursued my MLIS degree, I have taken classes on HTML/CSS, XML, and big data. These classes reignited my interest in programming. I have several projects in mind to work on once I finish the degree.

The website reboots are a small step—I plan to reboot from scratch some writing plugin tools (along with some new tools). It isn’t going to be my leading focus, but I do plan on doing much more with programming and web development. It’ll be fun!

 

Plenty of Variety

Hard at work on creative projects (dictating to the computer).

Kristine Kathryn Rusch calls it popcorn kittens. Others might say that I have difficulty paying attention. I often find myself thinking, “Ooh, shiny!”

There are just so many things that I want to do. Stories to write, pictures to draw and paint, and so much more! What follows is a short list of some of the projects on my plate right now, that doesn’t include things I’m doing for work or school that might be creative.

Drive-By Stories

Drive-By Stories is up. It’ll never be complete. I expect the site will continue to develop and evolve as time allows. Still, the basic functionality is in place. When you visit the site it displays a random piece of flash fiction that I’ve written during my commute.

Things still to do:

  • Create a theme for the site.
  • Add cover illustrations (which will be randomly selected like the stories).
  • Write more stories.
  • When I hit 50 stories, publish first collection.

Illustrations

I want to work on illustrations. Not only for Drive-By Stories, but for all of my books and other projects. I’m continuing to work on my studies and practice, though with library school and work I don’t have as much time as I would like to continue working on it.

New Stories and Novels

I’d really like to get more longer stories and novels written. I want to return to series like Moreau Society and Goblin Alley, write the next book in the Land Lubbers series and release the first trilogy, and work on other series that I have notes and ideas for but haven’t had time to pursue.

Other Projects

I have some other projects too, that I’d like to do, as soon as time allows. That includes projects that are simply an idea phase as well as projects like new websites and new additions of my novels. In the weeks ahead I’ll share more details about each of these projects, my progress and challenges faced.

What About You?

What are you working on? Do you find yourself pulled in multiple directions?

Weekly Activity: Welcome to Summer

Stories

I caught up today posting stories. Both Sooner Murder and Your Eyes posted today. I’m planning to get more stories scheduled and hopefully won’t miss any more weeks.

Library

Friday ended the spring 2016 semester @SJSU iSchool. I enjoyed the semester, did well, and have a stack of additional books to work through to continue learning. Summer semester starts in two weeks. I’m taking one class this summer—however that means compressing a 15-week course into 10 weeks. It’s still less than the three classes I’ve been doing since I started back to school. I’m a full-time student in the regular semesters but doing the math it didn’t make sense to try and fit in more classes this summer, especially with the compressed time-frame.

Other Projects

Since I’m not going to be quite as busy with library studies until late August, that gives me time to work on other projects. That includes work on websites, studies outside of my library work (particularly art), time to work on projects around the house and yard, and spend time with the family.

Looking forward to summer!