Friday, October 19, 2012

National Day On Writing

Today is the observation of the National Day On Writing on Twitter! This is a day created by US Senate Resolution 565. While it seems a bit of an odd thing for the Senate to be interested in, it is kind of nice to have a day set aside to show off our work!

This year's theme is "What I Write". So, what do I write? Just about anything. I'm not picky. I do like some genres more than others, though. For example, I'm not really into chick flicks or chick lit. I'll watch or read it if someone has something that they highly recommend or if I'm on a Girls' Night Out, but I don't pursue it. I like my romance punctuated by Killer Robots. I mean, The Terminator is one of the most romantic movies ever made. Dude came back through time just to be with her! It's just like Somewhere in Time but with more explosions. Don't get me wrong, I loved Somewhere in Time. Christopher Reeve going back to the '20s to be with Jane Seymour did make me swoon a bit. And there was time travel involved. You can't beat that with a boomstick.

But I digress, don't I? My writing career is in the nest, still, trying to figure out how to fly. My first novel involves my first love, military (or in my case semi-military) science fiction. From Starship Troopers to Old Man's War to Midshipman's Hope, I can't get enough Space Marines. I don't know why. I also like military movies that take place on terra firma, especially submarine movies (Hunt for Red October, Crimson Tide, Gray Lady Down, you name it). These movies and the many comic books that I have read (and still read) over the years have fueled my imagination. My parents bought us many books over the years and always encouraged us to use our brains and to be creative, and I am thankful every day for that. All of that reading and watching has been a heavy influence on me -- with a lot of Monty Python and BritComs mixed in for good measure.

I have written Teen Titans fanfiction on since 2005. That was my first real exposure to showing my work to the world. The fanfiction community is a lot of fun, and I have made a lot of friends in that particular corner of the internet. I have one last story in the major arc that needs to be finished, and hopefully I will be able to finish it before my nieces are grandmothers! I love superheroes and writing about them, and who knows, perhaps there will be some spandex-wrapped characters in my professional future as well. Ya never know what's around the corner.

However, I don't want to be limited to JUST science fiction or superheroes. I think I have other stories bursting to jump out of my head and run around the room screaming. Some are more fantasy and some are more slice-of-life. I jot down the ideas as they seep into my skull from ether. They incubate for a while. Maybe a long, long, while, and perhaps some day, they will see the light of day. The genre itself is less important than the fact that I'm getting to use my noggin and that I'm letting other people into my own mental playground for a while. Now, letting others into your head is a tricky thing. It's a variety of intimacy that leave you vulnerable to the wilds of criticism. But it's something you must withstand if you are going to tell your story to the Universe.

I went round and round trying to think of something to post for today as part of the celebration. I have settled upon releasing a portion of the first chapter of my novel-in-progress, Twenty Million Leagues Over the Sea. It is a sequel to the The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells. I call it my "steampunk space romance". It attempts to answer the question of "What did they do with all that alien technology lying about after the Martians died?" And yes, there is a connection to Verne as well, so the naming of the novel is not as off-base as it seems at first. Just be patient.

I have finished the first draft of the first two chapters. Currently, I am hard at work on the third chapter, and I have many notes on the rest of it. My hope is to publish it as an e-book for the Kindle, the Nook, and anyone else that will take it in Spring 2013.

Here is the snippet. Enjoy the sneak peek!

Twenty Million Leagues Over the Sea

Chapter 1 Excerpt

"Have no fear, Miss Llewellyn," the captain said. "I've done this before."

He touched a crooked finger to the corner of his sharp green eyes, as if to tip an imaginary hat. He lowered it quickly to allow the white-coated technician to continue strapping him into the seat next to her. Gemma Llewellyn had schooled her posture as much as she could to conceal her nervousness, but there was so much of it that she supposed it was still leaking out and making her face as pale as the technician's suit. That was fine. After all, a total lack of fear would draw too much attention. She hoped she seemed just nervous enough without tipping over into real hysteria.

"In fact," he continued, "most of the crew members have experienced at least a half a dozen launches via the rail-gun system by this point." She thought he sounded somewhat British, like her, but not quite. There was something broader and flatter about the way he pronounced certain words. Was he Australian, perhaps? "We've launched continuously for several years without a major incident--"

"Bloody hell, I suppose the crash into Mauna Kea last summer was only a minor incident, then," said a voice in the row behind them. Most definitely a Brit, that one. "I suppose one must be at least a midshipman before having one's grey matter smeared across a mountainside is considered a major incident, eh?"

"There is a lady present, Doctor Pugh!" The captain tried to turn in his padded seat, but he was too well strapped in to do much more than wriggle. His tall, lean frame was well ensconced in the padded chair. Gemma thought he looked quite young to be a captain; he appeared to be not much older than her own four-and-twenty years. With his angular cheekbones, short chestnut hair, and thin mustache, he could have blended right in with any group of young university men.

"Lady, my arse, Christophe," the voice replied with a snort. "You haven't seen any of them since you left Wellington. A 'New Woman', perhaps. A lady would be home tending to her knitting, not strutting about in a bifurcated pressure suit. Sophie the Steamfitter, indeed!" He snorted and fell silent.

Gemma looked down as her own attendant snugged up her straps and pretended to focus on that young lady's tightly snooded hair. Gemma supposed that she was a sister "New Woman". Mrs. Brightman had instructed her that it was usually best to allow men their quibbling and not bother to argue against such statements, as it was a waste of one's breath. The suit was a bit odd, yes, but she supposed it would be just as awkward on anyone that had not already spent a great deal of time in orbit. She wondered what the Rational Dress Society would make of it.

"They ort to save that rot for the bloody tentacle-heads," her attendant whispered as she pulled back and gave Gemma a sympathetic look. "The rails should be close to full power now, Miss. They just loaded your trunk in the boot, too, so that ort to make this easier. Been up to the station twice meself. It's not so bad. Don't worry, love. You'll be on your way shortly." She gestured for Gemma to lean forward while another worker maneuvered the copper-clad helmet over her head. Gemma nodded at the young lady. It wasn't the rail-gun that worried her.

"Kindly restrict your remarks to the weather, Pugh," the man next to her said. His voice took on a muffled quality as his own helmet was locked into place. "And that's Captain Moreau to you."

The attendant disappeared into the haze behind the helmet's faceplate. The girl's exasperated expression was on the last face she would see on Earth until their over two years. Gemma had thought that they would be surrounded by reporters shouting questions, especially since this was the last rail-gun launch to the ship before their departure; but it was just the three of them and a few technicians. She had thought that they would have taken a daguerreotype of them at least before they climbed into the capsule. Strange to have so little attention paid to an event that the entire world had anticipated for over two decades. It wasn't the mission's visibility that worried her, either.

As preparations continued around her, Gemma thought about Dr. Pugh. Since she had been a (quite literally) last-minute addition to this venture, she had only met Captain Moreau and a handful of other members of the crew so far. She had spent the last few days just getting to the launch site in the middle of the Pacific Ocean; it had been a very long journey by airship and steamer from Britain. Then it had been two days of very intense orientation on the Launch Loop and the ship itself. This would not have been possible before the Invasion, Mrs. Brightman had told her, as they had based the ship's design on information found in the Martian cylinders. They had adapted the design to accommodate humans, of course. Since she had been but an infant when the Martians landed in 1901, she had known no other world except the one in which travel beyond the boundaries of Earth was a human possibility. Soon space travel would be a human reality. It would be a reality that included Gemma Llewellyn. For her, right now, that was the most important thing. In all that bustle, there had been no time to introduce her to a team that was already in orbit. There would be plenty of time for that once they were en route.

Except for the three of them, the crew and the scientific cohort were already on board the ship. Since the Military Industrial Alliance had built it in orbit – it would not fly within an atmosphere – very few people had seen more of the ship than drawings and schematics. The newspapers were rife with headlines that proclaimed the imminent and permanent defeat of the Invaders from Mars by the M.I.A.

Dr. Pugh, whose voice she had not heard until now, was the lead scientist for the expedition. She had only seen one daguerreotype of him, standing next to his mentor, the celebrated naturalist Professor Arronax, when he was much younger. She had no idea what he looked like now, and it would be several hours before she could look him in the face.

So, here was her superior, and he was insulting her even before their formal introduction. Mrs. Brightman would not approve. Behind the veil of the helmet, Gemma allowed her face to melt from the ladylike mask that it normally wore into a scowl. In about five hours, she would have to speak to him, ready or not.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

My "I Can't" Is Invalid

Did you watch The Jump on Sunday? I was on the edge of my seat from the time Felix's balloon left the ground until his feet were back on terra firma. I am so happy that he was able to complete his dream and walk back to his friends and family when it was all done. I am certain that someone will take a photo of his perch at 128,100 feet and caption it with "Your Argument is Invalid".

Speaking of arguments, I had one with my tablet last night. Rather, I had it with the Kindle app for said tablet. I was trying very hard to load the Kindle app so I could download some ebooks (and hopefully provide reviews for them later). I went round and round with it, having never used my tablet this way. I got so frustrated that it wasn't funny. If you try to load the Android Kindle app to a non-Kindle device (like a tablet), and you have issues, make sure you have done this things (assuming you have already registered the app with Amazon):

- turned on the 1-click option. Open the "Your Account" drop down menu and Select the "Your Account" option. Look for the "Settings" list (third grouping) and from there select "1-Click Settings". On the new page, look on the right side of the screen at the small box that indicates the 1-click status. Make sure it says ON for you. If not, click the button below it to turn it on. Kindle purchases can only be done via 1-click, so it needs to be turned on for that kind of download. Mine was not turned on by default when I created the account.
- set up a street address for the 1-click option. This is also done on the "1-Click Settings" page mentioned above. Use the "Enter a new address button" and follow the directions.
- set up a payment method Under "Your Account" / "Payment Methods". My first download was a "free" ebook, but it still seemed to want a payment method in the setup before it would let me proceed
- Be patient. If everything seems to be set up correctly & it still won't work, just walk away for a couple of hours. It may take a while for the registration information to show up on the web site. My main issue was that the Kindle store kept telling me that I didn't have a registered device, even though I had used that registered device & app to get to the store! They were not showing up in the 1-click download list on the purchase page for the book I wanted. After I did the above and waited an hour, my devices showed up. You may just have to log off and go get a cup of coffee and watch some Babylon 5 for a while, then check again.

This is not an exhaustive troubleshooting list by any means, but I thought I would share these solutions in case someone has similar issues.

In other news: The National Day On Writing is on October 20th; but since that is a Saturday, Twitter will be celebrating it on Friday the 19th. For my friends who are authors and/or teachers, this might be a fun event.

I hope to post a writing sample here on Friday. I'm not sure what I'll do yet. Maybe a writing exercise, or maybe a snippet from my novel-in-progress. We'll see what turns up.

We had a lovely bit of fog here at Twin Cedars this morning. I used it for a quick writing exercise to get my gears rolling, as I got up far earlier than I usually do. "Fog" is a great topic for writing exercises, as you can summon almost anything out of the mists. It is a rather target-rich environment; it seems so empty and yet teeming with the unknown at the same time. Brrrrrrrrrr. Maybe I should add "paranormal romance" to my genre list!

See this website for additional details:

Remember, NaNoWriMo is just around the corner!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Felines on My Mind

The weekend again. We are perched at a table in Panera for our normal Saturday morning writing session. I finally have a music player that I like. My beloved Zen was stolen back in the summer (bastards!), and we just now replaced it with an Archos tablet. It has great sound, and now I can write at Panera in peace. I love the atmosphere here, but it is quite noisy. The beeping and whirring of the kitchen equipment is outpaced in annoyance only by the muzak. The morning muzak is fine -- soothing classical and borderline Renaissance fare -- but once they hit lunch, they change stations to Muzak jazz filled with saxophones -- and not the cool E Street Band kind of sax, either but the really whiny stuff that winds on ad nauseum -- and they jack the volume all the way up. I'd rather curl up with my Train and Def Leppard and type my fingers off.

Yesterday, the Feline Overlords decided that Catterday would be a day early. I was at the bathroom sink, bent over to look into a mirror, minding my own business, when Cassie jumped up on the counter and sauntered over to me. She jumped onto my back and sat there. I was bent over at close to a 90 degree angle, so I was a fairly stable surface at the time. Knowing how she locks on to unstable surfaces, I remained as I was until I finished examining my eyebrows. In the meantime, she proceeded up my back and perched on my head. I now had a cat hat. Remembering the Clawing Propensity, I had to proceed carefully. Remaining bent over, I shuffled back into the bedroom, cat on head. I slid onto the bed onto my belly and finally straightened out, never raising my head in the process. The hat decided that this was a pleasant turn of events and walked to the small of my back and curled up for a nap. Score One for the kitties. I know when I'm defeated.


Monday, October 08, 2012

Grey, grey day. It's rainy and cold. It's not my ideal Tennessee October sky, but it's what we have today. I am wearing 2 sweaters, and I'm still cold.

Over the weekend, I added two new bits of software to my writing aresenal:

- New calendar software! I have used a paper planner for some time, but in the past couple of months, I just wasn't keeping up with it. My husband discovered the Pimlical planner for both Windows and Android a little while ago, and he really liked it. I decided to follow suit. I installed it this weekend, and it seems to be working well so far. It's really nice to be able to put in the dates for the next DragonCon without working through a pile of pages in a box! We'll see over time if it works well with my mad methods!

As a fun aside, the proceeds from this calendar are donated to wildlife preservation. The developer named it "The Planner of the Apes". Love it!


- Natural Reader Software - This is a screen-reading program that my husband is using to edit his own novel. This program will read text on a screen out loud. It comes with some basic voices, but you can purchase additional ones. It is amazing to hear the text out loud. So far, I have caught several errors that I missed during several rounds of silent reading. It was also fun to hear the story out loud and pick out what is really good about my story and not just the errors. It is a good text-to-speech system for a limited budget. It took a little while to install, and it can be a little tricky to use at times, but so far it has been a great tool.

A free demo version is available if you want to try it out. It works with almost any text document, from Word to Excel to pdfs.


Chapter one of "Twenty Million Leagues Over the Sea" is in good shape. I am really hammering away at chapter two now. I made some good progress yesterday. One interesting thing about writing (among many) -- you write when the iron is hot, which is often outside normal working hours. Sometimes, way outside.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Keeping Sane

I have been on this full-time writing adventure for two months now, and I'm starting to realize a few things. Mostly I was aware of these things already on a textual level, but now I'm getting to really know them on an in-my-bones basis. Writing can be a very lonely affair.

I'm a bit of a lone wolf anyway, so time alone is necessary. I do spend a lot of time with my characters during the day, but I do find that some interaction with flesh and blood is helpful in keeping one's sanity in check. At least, the brand of sanity I have at any rate. I try to preserve one day a week as "Errand Day" to get out of the house, go the post office, forage for food, and visit the yarn at Joann's. Last weekend I went even further. I attended the Jewelry Television "Jewel School" at their headquarters in Knoxville, TN.

I think it was the best twenty-five bucks I've ever spent. That was the registration fee, and I got it back in the form of a gift certificate for their retail store. I got to hang out with some of my local craftsy friends and met new ones. They fed me lunch for three days and threw chocolate at me every time I turned around. I took classes in all sorts of jewelry making skills: wire wrapping, chain maille, and beading, among others. I really enjoyed the mixed metal collage class. It was very difficult for my little dyspraxic self, as they wanted us to work with torches and acidic-type substances. Anyone who knows me well will tell you that KT and Fire (or acid or anything sharp or anything requiring knots) are always an explosive combination. However, I managed to anneal that sucker without burning the building down (with lots of help and supervision), and I teased some gorgeous colors out of the copper to boot. Most of the students were creating pendants, but I decided it would be more fun to make a brooch. I love how it turned out. I brought it home and attached some chains and skeleton key "findings" to it and turned it into a chatelaine. I thought, well, I'm writing steampunk, let's have a steampunk chatelaine. It's copper and brass, and I love it. Hmmmm. It may be time to buy some nippers and a blowtorch. And more fire insurance.

Here are some photos of my projects:

Chatelaine. I hope to find some charms that represent other normal tools on a Victorian chatelaine, such as a pair of scissors, and add them over time. The class was taught by the lady that invented the Wubbers line of tools. She was a lot of fun and very down to earth. I'd love to take another class from her sometime.

Wire wrapped ring, pinwheel style. This was a lot of fun to make. This might be cool for a faerie or elven costume in the future

Chain Maille Bracelet (Work in Progress), Persian Weave. I have done chain maille before, but this is an advanced weave that I had not tried yet. This was one project in which we were not expected to finish during the allotted two hours for class time. We were expected to complete about an inch of it so we could learn the pattern and then complete it at home. Love love love this weave.

Crochet beading. This was probably the easiest class for me. I already knew how to crochet. I just never done it with beads or stones before. This made a really cute necklace. It seemed a little chaotic for me at first, but its mix of colors makes it coordinate with almost any outfit I have. I think I wear it more than anything else that I made.

Five-strand knotted bracelet. I like this one, too, and it was easy to make with the Knotty Board. I may have to get one of those. This will make great Bellydance Bling.

I think I'll be going back next year! If you enjoy the same sort of activity, I highly recommend it.

I like to keep my hands busy. When I'm not writing, I like to pretend that I'm a fiber artist. If I'm not knitting or crocheting, I'm working on my costumes for DragonCon. (I often sound like a character from American Pie: "And one time, at DragonCon...") I also like to make jewelry, although it usually takes the back seat to the fibery crafts. Who knows? That may change.

I did get more work done on chapter one this weekend, and it's almost ready for my intrepid beta-reader to view. Chapters two and three are shaping up into something very story-like. I really rocked yesterday during our weekly Panera Day. Corvus Corax and Clanadonia really get one a-typing! The rest of the story is sketched out in one giant document, and over time I'll be extruding more chapters from the brew with twists and turns galore. It's raining frogs and camels today, so there will be no sunny outdoor distractions for now. To the keyboard!

Terra Vigila!