Box. Of. Awesome.

Rob and I celebrated our first anniversary on Monday.  I didn’t get him anything–the thought never crossed my mind. I don’t know why. I owe him.  He did fantastic.

Skittles and the Box of Awesome

He got me what I’ve been calling the Box of Awesome.  That’s the box.———>

It looks like it’s full of envelopes, and it is.  The awesome is where those envelopes came from, and what’s inside.

See, Rob looked up what the gift for a first anniversary is–paper.  And he decided that he’d get in touch with authors-several we’ve met, others that we haven’t but that I admire-and he asked them to write a note for our anniversary, and he asked if they’d write about writing.

He got responses from some pretty awesome people. I was pretty speechless reading all the cards and notes.  I’m finding it difficult to describe it all right now.  I think the card he’s proudest of getting is the one from Jim and Shannon Butcher, which also included a handmade

From Jim and Shannon Butcher, with the bookmarks.

glass bookmark from Shannon, as well as bookmarks for her other books.  And yeah, that is pretty awesome.

All the cards and notes are frikkin awesome.  There are cards from NYTimes bestsellers, YA authors, award winners, an artist, and others.  Several loved Rob’s idea and thought it was the best anniversary gift.

I agree with them.  Course, now Rob’s a little worried that he might’ve set the bar a bit high.  Nah.

From Kevin Hearne

Yes, I did take pictures of all the cards and notes, they’re up here.

So, who all sent stuff?

Patricia Briggs, who writes the Mercy Thompson and Alpha and Omega series. She’s one of the first urban fantasy authors I read.

Annette Curtis Klause-she writes YA. Rob and I met Annette at ConBust, in Mass.

Thomas Sniegoski-writes YA, urban fantasy, comics.

Seanan McGuire–writes the Toby Daye series, Incryptids, and under the pseudonym Mira Grant the Newsflesh trilogy.  Feed is one of my favorite audiobooks.

Theresa Bane–Terry’s a beta reader for Jim Butcher, and Rob and I met her at NY ComicCon at the Buzzy Multimedia booth.

Peter V. Brett–He writes the Demonwar Saga

Myke Cole–Debut author (Control Point) Rob and I met at NYCC this past year, and he’s introduced us to quite a few authors.  Several of his blog posts struck a chord with me, and they helped give me the push I needed to finish my draft.

Laura Anne Gilman–Her series are the Vineart War trilogy and the Cosa Nostradamus books.

C.E. Murphy–writes the Walker Paper series, and a lot more.

Kevin Hearne–writes the Iron Druid series.  He wrote “Eddie” as the sender on his card.  It took me a moment to get, and then I chuckled.  Eddie is the mascot for Iron Maiden, and Kevin and Rob had a few conversations about the best Maiden songs.

Kat Richardson–She writes the Greywalker series.

Chris McGrath–cover artist for Jim Butcher, Seanan, Kat, and a lot more.  I don’t think I’ve picked up a bad book with his artwork.  And he’s a really nice guy, too.

Julie Butcher–Jim’s sister.  She’s not published yet, but she’s got an agent.

Jim and Shannon Butcher–Jim writes the Dresden Files, and Shannon writes the Sentinel Wars and the Edge series. They both have a finished series and keep putting out more.  Rob and I have met them both, and had dinner with them a couple times.  They are both pretty awesome, and they’re one of the cutest couples.

I really hope I didn’t forget anyone.  Thank you to everyone that sent cards and notes.  They are treasured.

**Had to edit this to add another author.  Got a letter today from Benedict Jacka, who writes the Alex Verus novels.  I get a kick out of his cover blurbs–on the first one, he has a blurb on front and one on back.  Both are from Jim Butcher.

Rob’s tweeted and messaged several authors to thank them and let them know about this post, and I know the perfect way to continue thanking them.  Buying their books.

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Finding my process

I started the year with the intention of finishing a draft of my novel.  I wrote a post on finding time to write, well, making excuses.

It took me a few months to get out of my own way.

I made excuses about not having enough time, but I had plenty.

What I lacked, above everything, was organization.

I fixed this in small steps.

    • I moved my weekly whiteboard into the bedroom, where I would see it every morning and evening.
    • I set a daily goal.  500 a day, Monday through Friday.  Or 2500 a week.
    • I write for 30 minutes during my lunch break.
    • The words get typed up every evening.
    • Word count gets marked on the whiteboard.  If I fall short, I subtract the word count from 500 and put up that number.  If I go over, I write by how much.

With this routine, I wrote around 50,000 in about three months.

Now I’m going to try the same approach with exercise, and see how it works.

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I don’t post often.  There’s a pretty big reason for this.  Couple of them, actually.

For 8 hours of the day, 9 during the summer-except Fridays, I’m at work.  The little free time I do have at work, my lunch hour, is spent doing 3 things-eating my lunch, reading while I eat, and when I’m done eating, I write.

After I get home, the next hour is spent exercising.  Or writing.  Then there’s dinnertime, and after dinner and washing dishes, shower.  Once the shower’s done, I set up my laptop in the bedroom, set my iPod to charge for the next workday, and I sort of watch TV.  I say sort of because at the same time, I’m typing up the words that I wrote that day.  I’ve gotten pretty good at keeping current with that, aside from Friday and Saturday-those get typed up Sunday-so that I can keep track of my daily word count.  And so far, I’ve been either hitting or surpassing that.

When I finish with the typing of words, I check the blog posts I didn’t read during the day.  Depending on the post, that can take a little bit of time.  Some are quickly closed because I’ve either read it, or the info, before, or it’s not really useful.

But I’ve mostly gotten pretty good at figuring out what is and isn’t worth reading.

Then, at 11:00pm, time to sleep.

So, that really doesn’t leave me much time to write blog posts.  Yeah, I could do it, eke out a bit of time here and there, if it weren’t for one teensy, tiny little problem.

That’s my writing time.

I’ve made sacrifices so that I’d have the time to write, and it’s paying off quite well, so I refuse to jeopardize that because I’ve gotten an idea for something I’d like to comment on.  Because, trust me, there are some ideas I’ve been wanting to blog about for quite some time.  But the time I spend thinking about and writing these things are time I’m not thinking about or writing on my story.

Yeah, there are other authors and writers who make the time to do both.  But ya know what, I’m not them.

I’m not bothered by this because, for the most part, there tends to be a pretty big difference between them and me.  Most of them don’t have a day job, or the day job they have is the writing.  I’m not at that point, yet.  And I have way too much debt to be able to consider quitting my job.  Which I wouldn’t likely do, anyway, because I get most of my reading(listening) done while working on puzzles. (It’s about the only way I can get the books in, now.)

No, I’m not generalizing and saying this is true of all other writers or authors.  Because it’s not.  In the same way that there’s no one way to break into publishing, though some authors have similar stories.

I might change my mind and start posting more regularly, if I can squirrel away some free time somewhere, maybe on Sundays between chores, but I’m not going to hit my head repeatedly against a brick wall if it doesn’t happen.

Really, one of my favorite authors has posted a blog entry once in the past three years.  Oh, wait.  Twice in the last four years. If I’m doing the math right. Which I may(read, probably) not be doing.

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Updating this thing

I’ve left my characters in a kitchen, surrounded by werewolves.  So while I let that situation stew and try to figure out how to get them out of it, I figured I’d post on here.

Since the last time I’ve posted? My WiP(work in progress, for those that don’t know) has passed 62,000 words and is well on the way to being somewhat decent.  I’ll have to go back and revise quite a bit early on because of changes I’ve made while writing, but I’m hopeful that the story is quite a bit more solid and entertaining than the first original POS.  Cause really, that thing was completely and utterly horrible.

Well, maybe not completely. I did keep the first chapter or two, with heavy revisions.

A month ago, just before Mother’s Day in fact, Rob’s mom took a bad step off a stair on a friend’s deck and shattered her ankle.  A surgery, two plates, seven pins, and a month later, she’s got a hard cast, a walker, and a wheelchair, and she’s home.

In that month she was in a recovery home, Rob and I bought a new Xbox 360-the Star Wars themed R2D2 Xbox with the 3PO controller and Kinect. It’s quite decent for exercise, though some games can be a bit picky on where exactly you need to stand for movement to register right.  Our living room is the slightest bit too little, the way it’s set up.  And with our entertainment center, it’s not getting changed.

Rob and I had intended to go to World Fantasy Con in Toronto this year, but because of a number of things, that plan has been scrapped.  This makes me very sad.  And it’s highly unlikely we’ll be able to consider 2013 because it’s in England.  We are going to try to go to Romantic Times 2013, though, because it’s in Kansas City.  And WorldCon 2014 in London and EuroCon 2014 in Ireland.  <–Those two would be our delayed honeymoon type trip-they’re a week apart.  But! We are planning on going to New York Comic Con.  Already bought our tickets.  Now I’m just waiting to see if the Return of the King concert at Radio City is still gonna happen, or if it’ll be pushed back.  Again.

Everything else…well, that’s all pretty much the same as usual.  Except the roads in our neighborhood.  They’ve been scraped up, or whatever it’s called, so that they can be repaved (FINALLY!), except we don’t know when they’ll actually get repaved.  So I’m parking in the drive until that happens.

For now, though, I need to figure out how to move those characters.

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No, Rob, I’m not procrastinating. Just wanted to get this written before I forgot. Again. (Because I should be writing-I’ve got around 850 words to get down to meet the weekly goal Rob set for me.)

But what with work and exercise, as well as just all the daily stuff everyone does, I don’t always get the total words written during the week. And the same with reading, which brings me to audiobooks.

As with above, I don’t really have much time to devote to reading now.  I get about a half hour at lunch, and then any more time takes away from everything else.  But the good thing about my job is that, depending on the type of puzzles I’m working on, I can listen to audiobooks and therefore read even more.

Ok, so how this works–my day job is at Penny Press, where I’m a copyeditor. I mostly fact check, check grammar/spelling, and depending on the type of puzzle, solve them. Or fill them in from the solution and check answers and clues. If I’m working on a word seek book, I can’t listen to audiobooks–those require too much reading, and I can’t read and listen at the same time.

But if I’m working on Variety or crossword books, oh yeah. I can get through one, maybe two, books in a week. Mostly depends on the length of the book.  This is how I manage to get through a lot of the doorstop tomes like Name of the Wind, The Warded Man, and The Desert Spear, and other stuff that I find somewhat difficult to actually read like Casino Royale and Foundation.

Sometimes, though, it can be a chore to finish an audiobook.  Most times, that’s because of a not-so-great narrator. (The absolute, without-a-doubt, most fantastic audiobook I’ve listened to is Feed by Mira Grant. Must read/must listen.) Some narrators just don’t do a very good job of hitting the emotional points right. Or they just don’t sound like they fit the character.  Quite often, they sound like they’re reading. Not telling a story.

What I’ve noticed even more that can make me not like a book so much–I can hear the craft-storywise and technically. I can’t say if this is from being so steeped in it from my own writing, or the half listening thing I do while working puzzles, or what, but it’s not necessarily because of bad writing.  Yeah, it becomes more apparent with less than stellar writing, but I’ve noticed stuff in books that are very well written.

The two instances I remember most clearly are (story-wise) Mira Grant’s Deadline and (technically) Peter V Brett’s Warded Man and Desert Spear. They’re all fantastic books.

But with Deadline (and no, I’m not giving any spoilers), I was able to guess, not too far into the book, what the twist at the end would be.  Well, the twist at the very end.  This tells me one of a couple things–I’m better at picking up the clues while listening over reading, and I’ve gotten better at putting them together and figuring things out. This might also be from reading books on how to write mysteries and paying attention to how those stories are put together.

The other issue-the technical issue-is that I pick up on the writing itself. Quite a bit sticks out mostly because of the way people read. In this particular instance, what I notice a lot are dialogue tags. (Sorry about that, Rob. I mentioned it to him, and now he notices it, too.) Because a narrator will go from a character voice, or emotion, into straight narration for a dialogue tag (he said, she said, etc), they tend to really stick out. I notice this in every audiobook, and hear more the different permutations that people use, and the frequency.

Reading a book, I tend to skip over the dialogue tags, especially when it’s a back and forth between two people. So when I can’t skip them, holy crap do they stick out. And with Peter’s books, they really, really stuck out, because almost every single line of dialogue-looking through it’s not everyone but pretty close-has a tag.  Whether there are only two people or more.

One of the plus sides of audiobooks, I don’t have to try to figure out how to pronounce names and words with odd spellings, or that may not be completely phonetic.  Makes the book that much better.  That’s one reason I’m glad I was able to listen to Peter’s books and Saladin Ahmed’s Throne of the Crescent Moon.

Oh, noticing the little bits and all-I definitely do hear them better than read them.  I’ve read Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files several times, and I definitely pick up some of the more subtle hints and clues when I listen to them.

Hmm…maybe it’s something to do with my brain being in puzzle solving mode when I listen. Maybe that’s why I’m getting better at figuring things out.

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