jakebe: (Writing)
This summer I've been trying to focus more on my writing -- after all, I'm a writer, and that's what I do. The trouble is I lead a pretty full life as it is. I have a day job that's fairly intensive, so I need to spend my work hours actually, you know, working. My commute is pretty long, and while I can definitely fill the time with podcasts (and I do) that takes a bit more time away from my passion. I'm married, and I love my husband, which means I want to spend as much time with him as I can. And I have friends that I love to spend time with too! There's exercise, and cooking, and making sure the burrow isn't an absolute mess, and spending time with our rabbit Puckles, and reading, and general adult responsibilities, and...you get the point.

I've said all of this before, and if you're a writer who isn't making a living at it chances are you have the same devil on your back too. It's not easy, but the struggle makes success that much sweeter. Or so I've been lead to understand.

Despite the difficulty, I feel like I've been doing better with writing these days. That means sacrificing time spent doing other things while also learning to become more efficient with the time I do have, but even that's a good thing. The fact that there's such limited time to do everything that I want to do means that I really have to sit down and determine my priorities. Once that's done, I really have to make sure I know how I'm going to focus on them. And then, I painstakingly develop the skills necessary to actually execute on them. Little by little, day by day, I'm growing up.

The blog and the Patreon are top priorities, of course -- I've committed myself to a certain amount of output for each one, and I must set aside time to make sure I hit those goals. That's still a work in progress. I had to let the blog drop last week to concentrate on work, the Patreon and a few other things, and I'm still behind. It'll take some dedicated time and focus to catch up, but I think I can do it.

This weekend, I'll be running my Pathfinder game for the first time in a long while. If you've ever run a tabletop role-playing game, you know how daunting the prep work can be. I went into the whole affair relatively unprepared for the kind of story I wanted to tell, and paid the price for it. When Ryan went to Japan earlier in the year, I thought it was a perfect opportunity to step back, get some knowledge about how to properly run Pathfinder, and actually tinker with the game so that balance and story issues are hammered out.

I'm still not 100% there, but I'm pretty close. I've used the race creation rules in the Advanced Race Guide to retool my homebrew races so they're not quite so overpowered and I've made sure that my PCs were mostly up-to-date with their sheets. It was a good chance to revisit their power sets and really understand what they're good at. I've also taken notes on the players and my understanding of what they want out of their games, tinkering with how I tell the story to include more of that. Mostly, I wanted to re-dedicate myself to making the game fun for people. My anxiety about running got in the way of that in this really big way, so even though I'm trying to be more careful and focused I also want to be more relaxed. Not every experiment will work, but being adaptable is one of the most important traits you can have as a game master.

Beyond the blog, the Patreon and Pathfinder, there are a number of projects I'll need to tackle before September rolls around. There are two story commissions that I need to complete and publish -- one needs an editing pass while the other still needs the first draft. A third short story will need to be written for a zine that I'm lucky enough to be a part of, so I'll need to jump on that. And a short story for a Changeling: the Dreaming anthology needs to be pitched; I've finally locked on to an idea for it, so I'll be putting together the submission for that very soon.

At the end of August, I'll be headed back to college. I've enrolled part-time in a local community college with an aim to get an Associate's Degree that transfers to a four-year university. I haven't decided if I'll try to get a Bachelor's in English or Psychology, but either way I'm tremendously excited. School's no joke, of course, so I'll need to get even better at squeezing every drop out of productivity time that I can.

I'm juggling a lot right now. It's important that I'm smart about how I spend my time but also self-aware enough to know when I'm being overwhelmed. Stress management is just as important as being productive, and for someone like me -- prone to avoidance behaviors when my anxiety kicks into high gear -- it's imperative that I take the time and space necessary to remain grounded and focused.

That will mean having to say no to a lot more things, just for the sake of preserving my sanity. A cup that's completely full will not retain anything, of course; and the whole point of most of this stuff is to learn and grow as a writer and human being. Having the space to hold what I'm already working with is a necessary part of that process.

I might be a little harder to reach online and sparse in my usual hangouts for a while. I want to get better about setting expectations about my available time and energy, so this is part of that.

Things are busy right now, and they'll be getting busier. I might be able to dip my toe into the waters of the Internet when I've gotten my time figured out, but for now, the limited time and attention has to be devoted to other things.

I'll still be here, of course, and I welcome comments. I'll make it a priority to engage here!
jakebe: (Writing)

The biggest takeaway from my week of Infomagical is the seriously wonderful idea of narrowing my focus to one or two things and working on them until they're done. I have a bad habit of saying yes to everything, of getting excited about so many projects and/or collaborations that it becomes really difficult to keep track of everything -- let alone actually make time for things.

As part of the process of setting my priority, I thought I'd make a quick note of the projects I'm currently actively working on and where they sit on my to-do list. Of course, I'd appreciate any feedback you have to offer on this list. Do one of these projects excite you more than the others? Think I should be working on x instead of y? Let me know.

This is geared towards making sure I actually finish and submit most of these things somewhere -- either to professional print/online publications; here at The Writing Desk; or for free public viewing at Furry Network or SoFurry.

The Cult of Maximus
This is the big one: the first project for the Jackalope Serial Company has been a bumpy one so far, and I've only managed to post thirteen parts in the first 24 weeks of the year. Making sure I make good on my promise to post weekly installments of this story until it's done is my top priority. That means putting more work into plotting out the story, making sure I have a good handle on the settings and really solidifying how the supernatural elements of the world work. More than that, I really want to double back and edit previous chapters to "smarten" them up for posting elsewhere.

By the way, this doubles as a reminder that I have a Patreon for erotic serial stories. They feature M/M content, muscle growth, giants and some violent content. If you're interested, go here to sign up!

The Writing Desk
I definitely want to make sure that this blog is updated at least three times a week, and I've been managing a good pace with that so far. Really, it's just a matter of making sure I have ideas for articles ready to go when there isn't anything more pressing to talk about, and doing my best to keep up with Friday Fiction. That's the feature I'm most excited about here, even if it ends up being my least-read post most weeks. Hopefully, as I get better at flash fiction, that will change.

Short Stories
I would really love to write and submit short stories to all kinds of publications -- there is a booming market for POC voices in science-fiction and fantasy, and I think that I have a unique perspective and voice to contribute to that conversation. Right now, I think writing stories to their completion, workshopping and editing them, then putting up polished work online is my best play -- but there are still places I would love to submit to. For the time being, working through commissions and requests is the priority here. "A Stable Love" is draft-complete, but needs an edit; and the poor fellow who won my short story prize during last year's Write-A-Thon is *still* waiting for even a draft. It's time to get my shit together here.

New Fables
Admittedly, I feel a little guilty about this being so low on the list. If you haven't heard of New Fables, it's a wonderful annual publication that features anthropomorphic characters helping us understand the human condition a little bit better. The last issue was published in 2012, and the process of putting up the next one has been filled with stops and starts. It is *well* past time I get on the stick about doing the necessaries to get this next issue published. After that, the plan for the future of the title needs to be solidified.

Pathfinder
I ran a Pathfinder game for several friends some time ago; due to the fact that I had much less idea what I was doing with the system than I thought I did and the fact that I needed to actually plot ahead a lot more than I did, it's been on hiatus for a little while. However, we're getting the band back together on July 30th; that means I have a ticking clock to revamp characters and plot out the next phase of the story. There's certainly work to do, and it can't be underestimated.

There are, of course, a lot of other projects, but these are the five that I will be working on now. I consider my plate full, and just about everything else will have to wait until I'm done with these.

Keep your fingers crossed for me, folks -- here's to hoping that the focus remains tight until I've got a handle on these projects...

jakebe: (Writing)

Working on THE CULT OF MAXIMUS has exposed a few problem areas for me as a writer -- I really need to get better at writing scenes where characters are in direct conflict, and I could stand to shore up my dialogue so that characters expose their personalities a bit better through how they speak. I wanted to do a little bit of fiction that put two characters in direct opposition AND demands that the resolution be attempted by dialogue. So here goes.


Liam looked up as soon as Victor entered. The bear paused warily as the lion's eyes slid from his face to his outfit -- a red flannel shirt and a pair of heavy work jeans that looked like they were made of particle board judging by their drape. Liam tried to look neutral, but Victor knew his disapproval in the bristle of his whiskers and the single, agitated thump of his tail.

"A flannel shirt?" Liam said as he stood up. "Here? Are you sure you wanted to meet here?"

"Fuck you. This is my best shirt." Victor stuck out his hand, staring Liam down. The pair made an imposing sight; Victor was pushing seven feet and well over 300 pounds of fat-marbled muscle, while Liam was even taller, his mane covering the shoulders of his navy blazer and forcing the light blue gingham shirt to be unbuttoned twice from the collar. If their size weren't enough to draw the attention of the others in the bar, the tension that leapt into the air certainly was.

"Mmm. I suppose so. My apologies." Liam seemed unconvinced. He sat down again and immediately drained what was left in his tumbler. "May I get you something to drink?"

Victor slid into the opposite seat, a small ear flicking at the way the sturdy wood creaked beneath him. "Yeah. They got any beer?"

Liam smiled. "They have an excellent list of Belgian and German beers that I think you will love."

He raised one big paw to the waiter. The weasel slinked over. "A triple of your 15 year Laghavulin, neat, with a splash of spring water. And is your Fastbier still on tap? A glass for--"

Victor rested a mitt on the weasel, who looked like he might leap out of his shirt. "You got Bud?" The waiter nodded. "Gimme one of those."

"Still avoiding new experiences, I see." Liam sniffed after the waiter left.

"No. I'm avoiding some jackhole ordering for me when I already know what I want." Victor frowned and crossed his arms. "Besides, we ain't got time to savor beer. Let's get this over with."
"Very well." Liam looked away for just a moment, and Victor knew that he had gotten to him. The lion recovered quickly, shifting in his seat and crossing his hands on the table. "What would you like?"

The bear sniffed. "Don't need much. Just some of the furniture, a couple of the pots and pans. And the TV."

"All right. Nothing more?" Liam looked at Victor closely, and the bear felt that familiar line racing up his back when he stared back into golden, slitted pupils.

"Nah. I'll make my own way well enough. Unless you got shit you want to get rid of. I can take that off your hands. You wanna keep the wet bar?"

The lion reached across the table and grabbed Victor's hand. "I want to keep us. I don't know why we have to do this."

"Because you think of us as something to keep." Victor pulled his hand away. "You're not really in love with me. You want somebody you can dress up and buy fancy beers for."

The big cat let his hand linger on the table for a moment, fingers stroking empty space before he pulled it back. "I don't think that's fair. I've always supported your interests."

"When you got bored giving me shit about 'em. You know how much a pain in the ass it is to have to justify every little thing to you because you don't understand it? I'm sick of it. We ain't compatible. Simple as that. So now you can find somebody you can go to the opera with or some shit, and I can finally take my boyfriend fishing. It's better for both of us."

"You never talked to me about any of that!" Liam's whiskers bristled, then flattened as soon as the weasel returned with drinks. He gave the waiter a toothless smile, then slumped in his seat when he left. "I didn't know how much it bothered you."

"You didn't care. I'm not that hard to read. As long as I didn't make too big a fuss about it, you did what you could get away with." Victor swallowed the bottle in one paw and took a long draught of it. "I'm tired of doing things I hate just because it's easier."

Liam stared at his tumbler for a moment before knocking the whole thing back. "Why did you stay so long if it was really that terrible? You make it sound like being with me was torture for you."

"I did love you." Victor responded without hesitation. "Maybe I changed, or maybe you took me for granted, or maybe you stopped trying to make me like you and became who you really were. I don't know. The point is, it's over now."

"It doesn't have to be, my love. I can change."

Victor shook his head. "No you can't. If you could, you would have done it by now."

"By magically reading your mind?"

"By paying attention to something other than yourself for five god-damned minutes." Victor grunted as he stood up, drinking the rest of his beer. "What is this? I thought we were here to talk about how to divide up our stuff. But you can't help trying to get your way, can you?"

Liam blinked. "I thought you wanted to meet here because there was still a chance."

Victor sighed. "I asked to meet here because I knew you liked this place and it's down the street from my site." The bear rubbed at his eyes with thick, clawed fingers. "Christ, Lee. Do you even remember where I work?"

"And what do you remember about me?" The lion's voice rose to a near-roar. His hand slapped the table, and the constant murmur of voices around them abruptly died. "What's my favorite piece of classical music? My favorite film? Why did I pick this blazer? How much do you really know about the things I care about?

"You spend so much time being resentful about how I won't go watch grown men beat each other up in their underwear that you never even stopped to consider why I tried to expand your horizons! You're so much better than that. You're smart. You're honest. But you're so much more close-minded than I am. You discount anything I like before you've even given it a chance! What the fuck are you doing with yourself? I was only trying to share the things that I care about. The opera is important to me! This..." --he tugged on his blazer-- "...is important to me! But you couldn't care less. I don't think you're capable of enjoying anything. I think the only thing you want to be is numb. Well if that's it, fine. Drink your cheap beer and watch your wrestling. I'm not going to watch you shut out the world any more. Maybe you are doing me a favor."

They could both feel sets of eyes on them as the entire bar had turned to watch. Victor swallowed once. His face hardened. And he turned to leave. "We're done here."

Liam watched him go. He sat in his chair and stared at his glass. He kept staring, even as the weasel quickly and silently removed it, cleaning the small ring of water it left behind.

jakebe: (Writing)

I LOVE the rhythms of episodic storytelling. There's the anticipation of setting the scene, the cold open that makes the play for your attention and emotional investment right away, and the momentum that builds through a number of scenes, action set-pieces or conversations that build to a climax that ties the entire episode together through theme, action or consequence. And, of course, the final scene or image that teases the fallout from what's just occurred so you just have to know what's going to happen in the next installment.

Like most of the rabbits in my generation, I grew up learning the ebb and flow of these kinds of stories. Each episode broken up into three or more acts; each act fulfilling a purpose that is necessitated by the act that follows; each scene establishing or deepening character motivations, developments and setting in order to provide the biggest payoff for what's coming at the end of the episode, the run of the season, or an entire series. I've always been fascinated by the trick of keeping forward momentum, of knowing where to place the scenes that slow things down to keep things from moving too fast, of mastering the speed you move through plot so that turns are sharp but not derailing.

The best TV shows and comic books know how to work within the limitations of their allotted space and format, even turning these restraints into features that enhance the storytelling. Say what you want about LOST and Battlestar Galactica, but at the height of their stories there was almost nothing better. Each week -- each commercial break -- was an interminable gulf through which you had to wade in order to learn how the story ends.

Great episodic storytelling is as much about building anticipation as it is rewarding it with satisfying the wait. I love shows and comics that can pull me into the story so deeply that I'm completely immersed in it while I'm there and I totally forget that it's set to end until, suddenly, it does -- and then I have to think about how everything that's happened will lead to even more intense consequences for the characters and the world they live in. It's such a sweet agony. I love feeling that anticipatory, excited impatience.

This is something that I'd love to learn how to cultivate with the Jackalope Serial Company. The first serial, THE CULT OF MAXIMUS, features a pair of police officers caught up in an investigation that uncovers -- what else? -- something that's been lurking in the shadows of their city for some time. The more they uncover, of course, the weirder things get...and the more the protagonists are irrevocably changed by their experience.

The premise is to submit an "episode" of 1,500 - 2,500 words each week, with four or five episodes bundled together to make up a distinct 'chapter' of the story. Committing myself to that kind of deadline has been all kinds of educational for me; it's helped me to learn exactly what kind of space there is in that word count, how each scene needs to pull its weight within the limits of that format, and how to build momentum in a story arc while maintaining interest in what's happening right there and then. The demands of episodic storytelling are surprisingly varied and strict, and I don't think I really understood just how good you have to be at managing the pacing of the story until I started doing it.

It's interesting to find myself developing a whole new appreciation for the craft by attempting a version of it myself, and I'm glad to talk about it -- even if that means it might not be the best commercial for the Jackalope Serial Company itself. Even still, I'm glad that I'm realizing what I am and that the lessons I'm learning through the experience are being applied to the story in real time. As I write each part and move through the outline, I'm finding that my grasp of character, dialogue, plot and momentum grows steadily more sure. I'm a fair bit away from being a really GOOD storyteller, but the enthusiasm I have for the story and the craft involved in telling it is pulling me through this first little bit. I'd like to think that that translates into an enjoyable tale that has its flaws but is worth the time regardless, but we'll have to see. I do think it's getting better all the time, which is the most important thing.

In the meantime, looking at the television shows that I've been really impressed by and trying to reverse-engineer them to see how they work has become a favorite pastime. How *does* Daredevil manage to explore its main themes without feeling like it wallows in them? How does Breaking Bad put its protagonist through such a clear arc from season to season? How does Battlestar Galactica tell such a sprawling, epic story while still keeping itself grounded in these flawed and fascinating characters? And how can I use those lessons to inform my own writing? This is all wonderful stuff to think about -- but it's even better to talk about.

What are your favorite episodic stories, and what lessons of writing have you taken from them?

jakebe: (Entertainment)

One of the benefits of holding myself to a regular writing schedule is being able to quickly identify the things I should be working on. The first couple of chapters of THE CULT OF MAXIMUS feel a little boring to me, and that's mostly because my main character -- Officer Thomas Beck -- is so inert as a protagonist. I had initially envisioned him as someone who was "Indiana nice," to steal a phrase from a friend -- polite to a fault, treating the "if you don't have anything nice to say…" adage as a life-or-death value, but being fairly judgemental inside his own head. The events of the story would identify that as a problem and force him to speak up about the things he felt; he'd then have to actually engage with the world, become a part of it in a way he mistakenly believes he shouldn't in order to be a good police officer. In some ways, it's a lesson that's top of mind for me right now.

But in the first couple of chapters, Thomas is a little...quiet and reactive. He's observant, but writing the act of observation doesn't really offer us any insight into his character -- how he thinks and feels. It's something that I've been focusing on in chapter three, and when I rewrite the first two for general consumption that is definitely the thing that I'll be focusing on; that and seeding themes and events happening later in the story here.

It's clear to me now that the "discovery" style of writing didn't quite work for this story -- that isn't to say I won't try it for another, but with a long-form project like this you have to at least have *something* pinned down. If not your character, then the plot, and if not your plot, then a solid world, or a theme, or something you really want to say.

Since characterization has emerged as a big deal for me, I've been paying closer attention to it in the stories I'm reading or watching, too. It's struck me that Marvel comics and their cinematic universe excel at this -- being able to create, communicate and maintain distinct and engaging characters across the board.

The husband and I recently finished the first season of Daredevil, the first entry into their "Hell's Kitchen" corner of the shared universe with Netflix. It's an astonishing series that draws a dangerous and shadowy world over thirteen episodes, fully populated with wonderful, mesmerizing characters. My favorite TV shows are often a series of conversations between two people with distinct points of view and a sharp wit; Daredevil's characters may not be the lightest in the world, but oh man are they earnest. Every single one of them enter a scene with clearly-drawn desires, and the stakes for them are increasingly high through each episode. They're earnest, good at communicating, and incredibly strong-willed. Looking at them, you understand who they are and why they want the things they do.

This treatment doesn't stop at the heroes -- Matt Murdock, his partner Foggy Nelson and their assistant Karen Page. Wilson Fisk has emerged as one of the best villains I've seen on television in a long time, thanks to the incredible attention paid to his inner world by the writers' room. Vincent D'Onofrio gives a hell of a performance, too. His character journey is utterly fascinating as we learn who he is, how he made himself from who he was, and who he thinks himself to be. He's a truly tragic figure who is also incredibly dangerous.

Daredevil has taught me a lot about how characters are shaped by what they say, what they do, and how they say and do it. I love it for that, and I can't wait to take that lesson to my writing.

Meanwhile, Marvel's Agents of SHIELD is about to wrap up their third season later this month and I've been enjoying the hell out of that as well. I know a lot of folks sampled it through a comparatively slow first twelve or thirteen episodes, but the events of Captain America: Winter Soldier kick-started it into a higher gear that it hasn't slowed from for the remainder of its run. The series is now focused on the Inhuman corner of the Marvel cinematic universe, all while constantly reshuffling the deck when it comes to SHIELD and its nemesis organization, HYDRA.

What Agents does particularly well is balancing a pretty brisk plot with deep characterization, making really effective use of limited screen time for its massive cast. Each scene between its characters does multiple things -- often expanding, progressing or revealing a character's motivation while also establishing another link in the plot's chain. When someone makes a choice, you understand what it means for them to do that AND know how it's been forced by circumstances AND wonder how it changes the direction of consequences for everyone involved. The sense of forward momentum creates this complex, unpredictable world that's forever evolving; you see how Coulson and his crew are forced to change in order to keep up, and the toll that takes on everyone. Even more impressive, the protagonists aren't solely reactive; their experiences give them this drive to enact these missions or change their views enough that they make pro-active (or rash) choices that are understandable, even relatable, but clearly mistakes.

Agents of SHIELD is a great marriage of character work and tight plotting in an ensemble cast. There's almost no weak link in the show, and that's really impressive for a story of its scope. I can take that lesson to THE CULT OF MAXIMUS, too -- now that we're nearly finished with the establishment of the characters and the world, I can use the show as something of a template for how the action moves forward, and how it's formed by the inextricable threads of character and plot.

I'm genuinely grateful to be living in this Golden Age of Television -- learning how to tell engaging, complicated stories in an episodic format has developed into a really great art, and watching the work of people who are really good at it helps me with my personal storytelling development.

How about you lovely writers? Are there shows that have storytelling aspects that have influenced you bunches? Which stories have you used for inspiration or lessons in how to deepen your own craft?

jakebe: (Buddhism)

So far this year has been an obstacle course, as I've mentioned a few times here. Work has flared up significantly as I shift positions and my company makes fairly major changes on an organizational and product level; priorities have been shuffled accordingly, and even though I'm getting better at juggling many things at once my ability to remain organized and focused still leaves a lot to be desired; and I still have a problem with saying "yes" to too much, underestimating the amount of resources and time each new thing will take. I can't pretend that I'm on the verge of figuring things out, but I do think I'm making steady (if slow) progress addressing everything.


The latest hurdle has been entirely tech-related. My laptop went out of commission when the screen was broken, and the backup laptop I brought out of storage worked for a little while before simply turning off one day and never coming back on. My desktop has been having crazy performance issues where the hard drive is pegging at 100% usage for no discernable reason, and I've eaten up so much time troubleshooting it. Depending on where you go, it could be the "Show me Windows tips" feature in Windows 10, the Superfetch or Windows Search services, Google Chrome's pre-loading capabilities or Skype doing whatever it is Skype does. It could be the AHCI driver for the Intel chip I have getting stuck in a loop, or it could actually be malware. I've tried nearly a dozen things for the past two weeks without success; Ryan and I eventually determined it has to be corrupted files on the HDD causing the OS to freak out.


Long story short, I've purchased a new laptop (at a great deal) and a new solid-state drive for the desktop that should improve things drastically. Hopefully, I'm out of the woods for now with my tech issues. But that still leaves me with a ton of sunk time where it was difficult to get anything done.


Life has been stressful for a few months now, and it doesn't look like things will abate any time soon. Stepping back to take stock of the first four months of my year, I've noticed that despite a minor crash last month I've been holding up pretty well. I'd like to think that improved diet and exercise, better sleep and a recommitment to my meditation practice has helped with that a lot -- and it has. But also, my perspective has shifted on being kept off my feet and I think this more than anything has helped me become more resilient.


The world is not a perfect place. I consider myself an idealist; there are ideals and goals that I strive to achieve and I genuinely believe the world would be a better place if everyone did the same. Not necessarily MY ideals, but some set of values that they would like to embody. I won't even pretend that the things I care about are the things that others should, too.


But those ideals can often get in the way of my ability to deal with situations where I need to adapt on the fly or respond quickly. If something goes wrong and my instinctive response is to sink into anger or depression because my vision of an ideal world has been challenged, that's a problem. Of course it would be great if all of my stuff worked, or if other people respected my time and boundaries, but that's not quite the world we live in. The only world we have is the world of what is, and we are best served accepting what is in front of us and determining the best thing to do with it.


That's not to say that I don't get angry or frustrated; I certainly have these past few weeks. But it's important for me not to get attached to those emotions, or the idea of a perfect, fair world where things are the way I prefer. I allow myself to express my frustration, vent a little, and then try to deal with whatever I need to. Giving myself space to be frustrated is important, but so is letting go of that frustration so I can see the situation as clearly as possible.


There's always a solution to a problem. Sometimes, that solution is "Walk away from this!" or "Learn to accept this will not work the way you want it to.", but there's still a solution. Really bringing this in to my understanding of the world has helped me stick with a problem longer without feeling helpless, exasperated or depressed.


This is actually something I learned at my day job in tech support. Learning how to troubleshoot is an incredibly useful skill, and while I'm not great at it I'm leaps and bounds over where I was just last year. It's a set of techniques that can be adapted for just about anything -- figuring out tech problems, or home repairs, or car problems, or even why audiences aren't flocking to your blog or story or comic. Being able to step back and look critically at something helps us to pinpoint problems and address them as best as we are able.


For example, my current serial for the Jackalope Serial Company isn't  one I've been terribly happy with. After some time taking the story apart, I've realized that my protagonist is as bland as Wonder bread, and that the supporting characters who've been introduced aren't quite engaging enough to pick up the slack. This is mostly because I set out to be a discovery writer, which really hurts me when trying to write a story on a regular basis. In order to be excited about the story, I have to know where the plot is moving. In order to know that, I have to understand how the characters relate to one another and the world around them.


The Jackalope Serial Company hasn't been a rousing success exactly, but instead of giving up on it (like I probably would have a couple years ago) I've been able to troubleshoot some problems and come back more excited and with more direction. This latest run might not live up to my ambition, but that's totally fine. I'll take stock, learn what's wrong and try a few more things to fix it.


Detaching from ideals about the way the world should be or our own meager abilities has really helped me have a healthier relationship with my mistakes and flaws. And even though 2016 is going to stay super-challenging, I feel that the challenges are shaping me up instead of wearing me down.
jakebe: (Self-Improvement)

I thought that 2016 was going to be different. With the launch of the Jackalope Serial Company and a host of opportunities for this little black geek to write stories for anthologies specifically for him, I had prepared for a big focus on storytelling. Now we're entering the middle third of the year, and the JSC is sputtering along, I've still only finished two short stories and I've had to take frequent breaks to manage other things that are going on.

All of the reasons have been well documented here, of course. I've changed positions at my day job, and that required a lot of training and focus; at the same time, the company I work for is undergoing a massive upheaval that means it's next to impossible to get settled, so there isn't a solid foundation for me to dig into. I've worked pretty hard to succeed in those conditions, and I'm getting to a point where I'm doing all right. But lofty goals for extracurricular activities had to be pulled back or scrapped entirely.

I've also had to learn a lot about how I'm interacting with the world and the various communities I inhabit; the climate of our society has become so aggressive and uncompromising and it's easy to be swept along in that current if you let yourself. I didn't like the conclusions or consequences that I was being lead to, and I had to pull back to reorient myself towards the truths I've gleaned from my own experience. That means pulling back, reflecting on my experience, and observing how others act on theirs for insight, connection and understanding. It's been a fruitful process, and I feel much more solid on my beliefs, why I hold them and understanding why people believe and act the way they do.

That's not to say that I have all of the answers -- of course I don't. I don't know any more than you do. But I'm a lot more comfortable with where I stand on my path and I feel more confident about the direction I'm going. I've made choices to stop, reorient and refocus, and what's left is acting on that knowledge to see where it leads me.

The Jackalope Serial Company will fire up again this week with chapter 3 of THE CULT OF MAXIMUS. I've set down an outline for the rest of the story, and it's allowed me to know what's really important character-wise as well as work out the kinks of plotting and purpose. The first two chapters felt...exploratory by comparison, and while that can be fun for exercises it's really not that great in serialized fiction. It's important to establish a sense of momentum, the idea that the story is leading somewhere, that there is acceleration, waystations, the whole bit. The serial has that baked in a bit more now, and I've learned from the bad start.

I'm working on editing "Stable Love" so I can finally clear that off my plate; then there's the People of Color Destroy Horror! story that I'd like to submit by the middle of the month. There is the Clarion Write-A-Thon prize that I still owe to a good friend, and right after that I'll set to work on my People of Color Destroy Fantasy! short story. I'm also working on a collaborative project that I'm quite excited about; I was nearly done with the outline there, but a few revelations about antagonists and character-building have encouraged me to take another look at it. There is a black superheroes anthology that I would love to submit a story for, a contest for transformation and mind-control stories that I think I'd like to submit something for, and online-only stories that I want to publish at least once a quarter.

My ambition to publish short stories hasn't diminished at all this year, even with the bumps along the way. I just have to make sure that my ability to deliver and be organized is up to where it needs to be.

Oh! Ryan and I have also gotten into cooking through this service called Blue Apron. Basically, ingredients for three two-person meals are shipped to us every week and we learn a lot about cooking through making them. They've been surprising and delicious, every week, and I've liked most of them (the only one I didn't really care for was the catfish po' boy). If you find yourself eating out a lot and want to have healthier meals, I'd recommend it. $60/week seems steep but if you compare that to the money you spend on restaurants you might find yourself in a wash.

I've also begun running again, which has done wonders for my energy and mood. This is nominally training for The Overnight Walk, to build strength and endurance in my legs, but the truth is I've just missed being out on the sidewalk. It feels so good to be out there again.

That's where I stand right now. The day job continues to be demanding, and I've taken some time to assess how to deal with that and work on the things that are important to me. Diet and exercise continues to improve, but the weight isn't coming off just yet. All in good time.

If you would like to support my serial erotic fiction project, please head over to my Patreon site and sign up! For as little as $1/month, you can have (almost) weekly episodes delivered to you!

And if you would like to help me support the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, please make a donation to The Overnight, a 16-mile dusk-til-dawn walk through San Francisco to raise awareness for suicide prevention and mental health issues. My participant page is here; anything you can give would be very much appreciated.

jakebe: (Writing)
Now that the month is almost over, I think it's safe to say that February wasn't nearly as quiet as I hoped it would be.
The day job has continued to be incredibly demanding; five of the most senior members of my team were shipped off to Europe for training and integration with the company we've merged with. It's a big blow to lose five members of your team to begin with, but to have your most senior colleagues out of pocket for two whole weeks is a tremendous drain of knowledge and resources. Those of us who were left in the trenches have been scrambling almost non-stop to deal with the workload.
That isn't to say the work hasn't been engaging, even exciting -- I'm learning a lot of new things and it's forcing me to push myself further outside of my comfort zone faster than I would have preferred it. Given the naturally timid nature of rabbits and their cousins, that's not a bad thing. I'm pleased to have been able to step up into a more active role, honing my communication skills with our customers, practicing my troubleshooting skills and learning the skeleton and muscle of our system. But it has been exhausting, and it's left little room for anything else.
I managed to finish the first draft of "A Stable Love" at the beginning of the month, but since then writing has all but stalled. I've managed to be reasonably current with my Patreon serial, but that's still a struggle -- I always feel behind, and I'd like very much to have enough space to start organizing the story a bit better but that might be a ways off. And I wasn't able to get it together at all for my People of Color Destroy Science Fiction story, so "The Tourist" remains an unwritten dream. That's the thing that sucks the most, and I feel is my biggest failure this month. Not only did I miss the boat on an anthology I really believed in, I also dropped the ball with helping another writer workshop her story for it. She submitted a couple of pieces without me, and I'm proud of her! But it's still a bummer.
The Writing Desk has been bare this month while I struggle to deal with the demands of the day job, a Project Management class I've been taking for a couple of months, and other things that need to be done. I'll be trying to check in with small updates and shorter posts for a while, just to get back into the habit; but I'm not sure how long it will be before I can get ahead with the blog as well.
It's not ALL doom and gloom; reading has been wonderful. Steppenwolf has been a lovely surprise, mostly due to the wonderfully flowery language of its translation and the fact that I forgot just how "furry" this novel really is. It'll be interesting to talk about with a few other folks later. I'm slowly but surely catching up to my comics reading list, and I'm thoroughly enjoying the Project Management textbook for class. I can practically feel myself becoming more banal with that statement, trust me.
I'm working on a few guests posts for Claw & Quill and [adjective][species], both excellent blogs in their own right. I'm trying to organize my to-do list for the publication of New Fables this year, and restarting my Pathfinder game sometime in the next three months. And of course, there's that pipe dream of eventually starting up a mental health for geeks podcast that seems so far off right now.
For now, though, the big focus is the day job, the night class and the Patreon. It looks like making sure that's taken care of will take me through the rest of February.
jakebe: (Writing)
So the last two weeks haven't been very good for me, focus wise.
For the third week in a row, I haven't posted a new part to the Jackalope Serial Company -- something that I set out wanting to avoid at all costs. My story for People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction is practically dead on arrival, and with ten days left until the submission deadline there isn't a whole lot of time for me to work on it. Work on New Fables has ground to a halt while I'm dealing with just about everything else, and the day job has been plenty demanding in its own right. With social obligations, exercise and other things, it feels like I just haven't been able to get a handle on anything so far this month.
And you know what? That's OK. There are some periods that will be like that -- where things feel out of control, where another fire pops up as soon as you stamp one down, where you feel like you're working as hard as you can just to break even. But those periods will eventually end; you will be able to take a breath, renew your focus and do the best you can to achieve what you can in the time you can.
I'm knocking on wood here, but I'm hoping that the worst of the busy season is over for a month or two. Last week was preparing for my first on-call weekend, which proved to be more challenging than expected for a number of reasons. The interesting thing about my day job is that there are so many new things to learn; the flipside is that almost every thing that comes up is new to me. It takes time to learn enough to feel comfortable with things, and during my on-call weekend time was something in short supply. It was difficult balancing the needs of my customers with the desire to understand just what the hell I was doing. The plans that I had made for an orderly workflow over the week were thrown out of the window by Friday evening; Saturday was mostly spent trying to figure out one or two issues; Sunday morning was the only day it felt like I could get ahead of things, so I took advantage.
I had hoped to at least spend a little time writing over the weekend, but that did not happen. It was all day job, all the time.
And that leaves me in something of a difficult position with my projects. I'll need to make things right over at the Patreon any way I know how; I'll need to shut myself away for a few days this week to power through a working draft of "The Tourist"; and I'll need to use my newfound powers of Project Management to break down everything I'll need to do in order to bring New Fables to publication.
So far, the ambitious goals I've set for 2016 have had to be rolled back a bit. I've taken a bit of time to panic about that, and to mourn the fact that I wasn't able to do what I set out to do; now it's time to regroup and re-dedicate myself.
Writing to meet tight deadlines; reading to learn how to be better organized; focusing on what's in front of me to achieve what I want. That's this week. See to it! Go do it!
jakebe: (Reading Rabbit)
Now that January has been put to bed, it's time to look ahead into the next month. What does a successful February look like for me?
For one thing, I'm glad that this month should be a lot quieter than the last one. It gives me time to take a breath, regroup and figure out a few things for the spring and summer. Looking further ahead, there's a lot to prepare for: the dearest husband will be going out of town in April, and I'd like to have a revamped Oak's Home campaign ready and waiting for him when he comes back; I'll be taking a number of trips later this year, though I really need to decide where -- Wisconsin for an annual gathering of friends, or WorldCon in Kansas City, or Rainfurrest in Spokane, or my sister-in-law's wedding (assuming I'm invited) in Arkansas? Dates, expense, time off and all kinds of other things need to be sorted out and hammered down. Making sure I've taken the time to prepare for this makes it easier to plan for everything else down the stretch.
But that's later; this is now. So here are my biggest priorities for the month.
The Jackalope Serial Company
My Patreon for serialized erotic fiction got off to a shaky start last month, and I'd like to work hard on it to make sure that doesn't happen again. With any sort of regularly-updating story, communication and engagement with your audience is key, so I've bundled that in to my weekly task list for the JSC now -- every Monday, there'll be a brief note about what my patrons can expect in the week or two ahead.
There's also the matter of making sure The Cult of Maximus is written. Last month (and most of this one), I've been flying by the seat of my pants. I'd like to take the time to really plot out the next couple of chapters and write as much as I can so I can build a small buffer. This cuts down on interruptions, and being ahead of the curve means that I can double back and edit the weekly parts into a chapter a bit more easily. Having lead time to get things done is never a bad thing, right?
Beyond that, I need to sign up for a streaming service and buy a webcam in order to make writing streams or Internet hangouts a reality. And it would be nice to come up with polls for patrons contributing at the "input" level while The Cult of Maximus is going. Since this particular serial was designed to take us through 2016, it'll be a little while before anyone gets to vote on the next one.
So: write as much of The Cult of Maximus as I can to get ahead of the release schedule, and work on making the patron rewards more consistent and clear. That's what I hope to have accomplished by March 1st.
Other Writing
The People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction deadline is THIS MONTH, and so I need to write "The Tourist" and have it critiqued for a revision edit quick and in a hurry. Frith willing, the short story will be finished this weekend, sent to the writing group for notes and revised by right after Valentine's Day. This is the fastest turnaround for a story I've ever attempted, but I would kick myself if I didn't submit something -- not just a story, but something I felt had a chance of getting in.
Once that's done and my stomach is in knots waiting for a response, I can move on to the commission for a generous donor to last year's Clarion Write-A-Thon. That's been a long time coming -- not as long as the commissioner for "A Stable Love" thank goodness -- but still long enough. I'd like to have that work take me through the back half of the month, with an eye towards finishing a rough draft by early March.
So: biggest priority is making sure "The Tourist" is submission-ready by the Feb. 19th deadline, and I've at made progress on short story #4.
Reading
JM Horse convinced me to double-back and re-read Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse, and I'm excited to jump into that. I'd like to have that (book 3 of 20 to read this year) knocked out by the end of the month. I'd also like to write reviews for the Apocalypse Triptych and Kindred by Octavia Butler, to go up here, Amazon and GoodReads.
My friends loaned me Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition a few months ago, and I'd really like to start in on that so I can decide whether or not to buy my own copy of the hard-covers. I've been considering changing my Oak's Home Pathfinder game to a system that feels like it's fighting me less (like D&D5e or FATE), but any shift in system feels like a dealbreaker to at least one of my players.
Of course, there's also my growing stack of comics to run through -- I'll start taking a few with me to work so I can read a few pages while waiting for queries or processes to finish. Most importantly, I want to cultivate a habit of reading; it's not something that I've prioritized for a long time, and I want to change that as much as possible.
So: read Steppenwolf, catch up on my comics, and dive in to D&D 5th edition.
Other Things
Writing and reading take precedence right now, but I'd also like to re-dedicate myself to taking better care of my body. I've had a...distant relationship with it and that needs to change. I'd like to be more mindful of it -- I'm not just a brain floating through space, and the body isn't just there to support my thoughts and make sure I continue to think. Eating better, exercising, grooming and looking after my health are all things I'll be trying to do a better job with, though it's not quite with the same focus I'll be trying to tackle everything else.
That's it, really -- at least, I hope it to be. More reading, more focused writing, taking better care of myself. See to it! Go do it!
What are all of you lovely people hoping to accomplish in February? What will you be satisfied with when you're looking back on this time in March?
jakebe: (Self-Improvement)

January 2016 was an extraordinarily busy month; everything just took off like a rocket, and it was all that I could do to hold on. Most of the work was anticipated, but I think I under-estimated the effect of a lot of it, and of course my still-developing organizational skills weren't quite up to the task of keeping everything in order so I could get stuff done. I spent the last day of the month traveling from New York back to Silicon Valley, so exhausted I didn't even realize how tired I was until I got a good night's sleep.

Even still, I can't say it was a bad time. I did a lot of stuff that was fun and enriching, and now that I made it through the worst of it I can take a breath, look at what went right, what went wrong, and how I can use the momentum of the month to propel me through my projects for this one. Here's a brief rundown of the major events last month:

The Jackalope Serial Company
On New Year's Day or thereabouts, I launched the Jackalope Serial Company. It's an idea that had been brewing through the last six months of 2015, and I felt I was finally in a good position to make it happen. The JSC is basically the label through which I tell serialized erotic stories, one chunk every week, until it's finished. The idea is to put up parts of 1500 - 2500 words a week on the Patreon, then edit those parts into monthly chapters that get released to SoFurry, Fur Affinity and Weasyl at a later date. The first serial is The Cult of Maximus, which I'm expecting to be a 100K-word story when all is said and done. That should take us through the first year of the JSC's existence.

Launch was reasonably successful; to date I've got 17 patrons donating just over $100/month for the cause. I appreciate every single one of them! John Cooner did a bang up job on the launch poster/wallpaper, business cards and other assets that will be rolled out in the next month or so. And I've put up the first three parts of the story in January, with parts 4 and 5 coming (hopefully) this week to close out chapter 1.

I wasn't as regular as I would have liked to be starting out, for reasons that I'll talk about below. I'll be spending much of this month and next trying to build up a small buffer so I can make sure the schedule is regular even if something unexpected happens. For now, though, I'm flying by the seat of my fluffy white tail. Thanks to my patrons for the patience they've displayed and the feedback they've given so far; really looking forward to having things settle into a routine this month!

Further Confusion 2016
This is kind of the biggest furry event of the year for me, and this year was no exception. I took part in five panels this year: "Power and Privilege in an Anthropomorphic World", "Furries and the Other", "Write Now!", "Brainstorming in Real Time" and "Mindfulness and Transformation Workshop".

The first two were the biggest surprises and fulfilling experiences I've had at a convention in a long time; there's a real receptiveness to the idea of exploring our differences and power dynamics through furry fiction, and the audience was lively, insightful and wonderful. This is definitely a keeper; I'd love to be involved with it next year. The second two were awesome mainly because I just got to hang out with members of my writing group and talk with other writers about ways we can push ourselves past our blocks or think about constructing stories in a different way. I don't think I've ever laughed as much as I did in those two panels.

For Mindfulness/Transformation, my friend Kannik and I tried a structure to make sure we went over the most important ideas we wanted to transmit and I think that went over pretty well. The exercise portion of the panel could still use some work, but we talked about how to adapt that depending on the read we get from the audience; next year, I think we'll have a pretty good handle on things.

Away from the panels, having conversations and meals with a few people I don't get to talk to that often were the highlight. This fandom is full of such a varied mix of interesting, passionate and unique people, and cons are one of the ways we can plug into that directly. I love talking to people and seeing their perspectives on all kinds of things; it makes me fall in love with the community all over again.

The Day Job Summit
This was a bit of a wrench. My company had merged with a similar one in Europe after being bought by a holding company last year. Initially, the plan was to bring everything together slowly and carefully, making sure the customers for each side didn't feel spooked by what was going on. Apparently, the executives discovered that was no longer a concern and ordered a giant event for the merger kick-off this last weekend in January.

So, this was the first work trip I had ever taken, which is another milestone in my professional development. Thankfully, my husband came with me to hang out and be a tourist, so I was able to enjoy the vacation side of things through his eyes. We also know quite a number of people in the area, and we were able to visit with a few of them.

The overall effect of the summit was building a sense of community between two very different sides of the company; I'm not sure how well that came off, but I know that my particular department (Technical Support) grew a lot closer through the experience. I got to meet a lot of really neat people in European tech support, and we traded war stories. But for maybe the first time, I feel like a fully-accepted member of the team I work in, and that's just incredible. I can legit say I love the company I work for, and the people I work with.

We also saw our first Broadway show while we were out there -- the runaway-smash musical Hamilton. If you haven't listened to the soundtrack yet, do yourself a favor and pull it up on Spotify or your music-streaming service of choice. You will NOT be disappointed. It's a hip-hop/rap musical about a founding father whose story almost never gets told, Alexander Hamilton. The inversion of race (Hamilton, Aaron Burr, Thomas Jefferson and other major characters are black) really punches up the drive of the Founding Fathers, brings their tragedies home in a way I had never considered, and makes me empathize with them in a way I never had before. It makes this old, distant history alive and personal. It's so good.

New York City is a hell of a town. We visited Wall Street, saw people fondling the bull outside of the NYSE, visited Trinity Church and Fraunces Tavern; we went to Brooklyn and had brunch at Flatbush Farm with a major sci-fi/fantasy author (!!); and partied pretty hard at Celsius in Bryant Park, The Eagle on the lower west side (?) and Grand Central Terminal. We saw subway dancers who were amazing, listened to cellists and jazz ensembles, saw the knock-off mascots threatening people in Times Square. All in all, a hell of a trip.

Writing/Reading
I started out strong in January, finishing my first short story of the year for MegaMorphics ("New Year, New You") and wanted to have "A Stable Love" done but the JSC work sucked up all the oxygen in that room. I started The Cult of Maximus, but didn't get as far with that as I'd like, so this month will be a bit of righting the ship as far as that's concerned.

I did read an awful lot, though. I'm catching up on my backlog of comics -- I'm finding "The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl" to be a singular delight, and I'm really digging "Sam Wilson: Captain America". I finished Kindred by Octavia Butler, and that has been a life-changing book for me. It fundamentally changes my idea of black women for the better, and I'll need to let that cook for a moment or two. I started The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by NK Jemisin, and I'm looking forward to finishing that, and I finished the third collection of the Apocalypse Triptych, called The End Has Come. It features (mostly) post-apocalyptic stories, many of them continued from stories in the other two collections. It was a neat idea that had a satisfying and surprising set of conclusions, and I'm looking forward to talking about that later.

Meanwhile, my reading stack grows all the time. :) Since it's Black History Month, I feel like I should be reading something theme-appropriate, and there is no shortage of books that fit that bill. I'll talk a little bit about that tomorrow.

So that was my January in a nutshell; incredibly busy, full of wonderful and enriching experiences, as well as a lot of opportunities for growth and learning with various personal projects. Tomorrow, I'll talk about my plans for this month and what I hope to have achieved when looking back on it sometime in March.

How was YOUR month? What were your highlights? What stories did you complete or make progress on? What things did you notice that you could do better?

jakebe: (Fandom)

Folks, it's that time again -- the time when downtown San Jose is suddenly flooded with bizarre people descending onto the Convention Center to engage their weird hobby. The volleyball girls are back! Oh, and also Further Confusion is coming up this weekend.

Of course I'll be there -- just look for the portly black dude probably wearing a sweater vest and a backpack and some sort of jackalope badge. I'm really looking forward to meeting lots of you coming from all around the country, or hooking up again with friends I haven't gotten to see for a while, or chatting with fans about the things that we love and care about. It should be a blast!

One of the best things about Further Confusion is the robust slate of panels, seminars and events that encompass almost every aspect of the furry fandom -- art, writing, music, performance, science, spirituality and crafts are all well-represented there. As a writer, I'll be on a few panels this time and I wanted to tell you about them, just in case you were interested!

THURSDAY, JANUARY 14TH
OUT OF POSITION Release Party (Marriott: Almaden) - 7 PM
My good friend Kyell Gold will be releasing the latest novel in his Out of Position series -- Over Time -- at the convention! His release party will be pretty awesome, and one of the best ways to kick off a weekend-long party is by celebrating a friend's success. The book won't be available for sale there, alas, but he'll be there to chat and sign things, so it really is the next best thing.

FRIDAY, JANUARY 15TH
Power and Privilege in an Anthropomorphic World (Hilton: Santa Clara) - 1 PM
I'll be talking about how to illustrate the societal effects of different species co-existing within the same world with Chipotle and my husband, NotTube. I'm really excited about this topic; it's not necessarily all about how power dynamics from the real world translate into our fictionalized furry ones, but what a whole different set of dynamics borne from the traits of vastly different species might look like. Would carnivores really dominate the power structure? How would physical characteristics shape the world? And what advantages would humans have once we lose opposable thumbs and sapience?

Write Now! (Hilton: Santa Clara) - 3 PM
Kyell Gold and I will be talking about ways to think about the shape of your short story with an eye towards finally sitting down and banging it out! We'll break down the basic elements of your story -- what you'll need to get started, most of the time -- and then providing 30 minutes to work on it using the tools you have at your disposal. How generous!

SATURDAY, JANUARY 16TH
Mindfulness and Transformation in Action (Marriott: Almaden) - 11 AM
Kannik and I will be discussing the transformative power of bringing mindfulness into your life. We'll talk a bit about our perspective and background working with it, discuss examples illustrating exactly how clear and present thinking can redirect negative experiences, and engage in a brief meditation session and a few exercises to give folks a feel for using it. This is always one of my favorite times at the convention; I look forward to it every year.

Furries and the "Other" (Hilton: Santa Clara) - 4:30 PM
Here we'll be discussing how the concept of "otherness" applies to furry -- or if it even does! Mapping real-life social and political differences to furry fiction is an interesting thing; there's often not a direct parallel, but what can we learn from the way divisions are drawn? What does that say about us as creators and readers? I'll be talking about this with Mary Lowd and Chandra al-Alkani.

SUNDAY, JANUARY 17TH
Brainstorming in Real Time (Hilton: Santa Clara) - 11 AM
One of the biggest things I've learned in writing last year is to always try out multiple answers to the question "And then what?" Your first answer is going to be the most common one, and the further out you go with ideas the more creative opportunities open up! Even ideas you instinctively discount can be the best ideas you have for really pushing your story into new territory. My writing group -- Chipotle, Kyell Gold, NotTube and myself -- will be hosting this panel detailing the brainstorming process and how you can use it to your benefit.

Unsheathed Live (Hilton: Santa Clara) - 10 PM
To close out the convention, the adult writing podcast is all set to go for another year! Kyell, KM Hirosaki and NotTube will talk about furry writing for adults, take audience questions and probably have a lot of wine. This is always a blast, and I'm really looking forward to going out on a high note with FC 2016!

So that's my schedule! Feel free to join me at any of these panels or say hello if you see me bumming around the convention. I'll even have business cards for the Jackalope Serial Company! Whoo!!

See you at the San Jose Convention Center this weekend, folks. It's going to be legendary!

jakebe: (Mythology)
This month for Fiction Friday, I'll be giving the Br'er scenario another try. I'm not sure what people thought of the couple fragments I posted last month, but I wasn't really happy with them -- I think they came across far too "woe is me, poor special snowflake" and less "these are some things that folks like me have to deal with". Not my best look, fam; sorry about that.

I'm writing a little about what I'd like to do with the idea here, not to prime you to read the upcoming bits of fiction in a certain way, but to hopefully solidify my intentions and use this as a guidepost to look back on at the end of the month when I want to know how I did with them. I know it's important to let the work speak for itself, right? But this is the first tentative step to more involved and more ambitious stories, and this writing desk here is going to be my workshop for now.


I'm writing Br'ers as a way to dig into my experience as a black man on the fringes of black society. In a lot of ways, my folks can tell there's something different about me just by looking -- either it's the clothes I wear, or the way I carry myself, or how I speak. There's this impression that I give off almost immediately that codes me as "other", and that feeling only deepens once I start talking.


At the same time, I am undeniably black and the rest of the world sees me that way. I'm lumped in with a community that has distanced me from itself by the dominant culture, and there's not much I can do about that. I occupy this border between the world of black America and the wider one, maybe not by choice, but by simply being who I am. And here, my options are somewhat limited; no one thing is going to be wholly satisfying.


I could forsake the black community entirely and step out into the wider world in search of an adopted people. That's what I've done for most of my life; in my senior year of high school I found Dungeons & Dragons, Changeling: the Dreaming and the furry fandom. I didn't look back for 15 years. These are the people who understood me, who've accepted me as one of their own, whose excitement I've shared. I've been a geek for about 20 years now; it's an enormous part of my identity.


But over the past couple of years I've felt a calling back "home". Maybe it's being in touch with my family again, learning about the first deaths that will signal many more for my older relatives, getting to talk to my nephews on the phone. Maybe it's knowing that I had an aunt who was a lesbian and never reaching out to her; now she's gone and it's too late. Maybe it's seeing this awful parade of abuse and death to our young black men and women and thinking that it could have been my sister's children on the news, or even my sister. Either way, something within me told me it was time to reassume this part of my identity, and I've been working out how ever since.


Learning about the black geek community has been a wonderful thing for that. These are people who've grown up in ways that I recognize, who have experiences that I share, who love the same things I do. What they haven't done is given up their racial and cultural identity the way I did; they've stayed on that border and made a settlement there. They're influenced by both worlds -- the black American culture that I've found so difficult to deal with and the bigger, whiter space of science-fiction and fantasy. Their space looks like nothing else, this fusion of a long, painful history combined with wild and unbridled imagination.


The concept of Br'er came to me as I was thinking about how to marry my furry identity with the larger world of black geekdom. I like the idea that someone waking up one day as markedly different forces them to the fringes anywhere they go; no matter where they are, chances are they're the only one of their kind in the room. A new species borne out of the antagonistic relationship we have with our planet is an idea I couldn't let go of. Br'ers, just by being who they are, remind us of the awful things we've done and force us to deal with that on some level.


I imagine that Br'ers were a sudden and immediate phenomenon. One day, one in twenty people -- mostly in the most blighted urban areas -- woke up to find themselves some weird combination of human and animal. Because the change seemed to be based on a type of environment, it disproportionately affected minorities and the poor. You know, the kind of people who tend to live in areas of urban blight. What these animal-human hybrids are called varies depending on the culture naming them; in black circles, they're named Br'ers.


Those who've undergone the change feel like strangers in their own skin, even after the six months to a year has passed where our story picks up. They have to rediscover their own bodies, wrestle with strange and different appetites, move through a world that simply has no idea what to make of them. Because of the vastly different shape of their faces, they have no idea how to speak up. They're voiceless, and any method of communication they can use as an alternative probably won't really capture what is they're feeling, what it is they want to say. It's a frustrating and lonely existence, even if they know that they're not alone, that there are other people out there like them.


Their families and neighbors are weirded out by them; this is something beyond their experience and they have no idea how to relate to them. The world at large might be more accepting, but there are trade-offs. Chances are they come from minority or low-income backgrounds, without a lot of social or political power; they're kind of exotic, but kind of dangerous, objects of fascination more than living breathing people. Folks will stop them on the street and ask to touch their fur, or wonder how they manage to do things with their claws, or -- only when they're drunk or feeling REALLY comfortable -- ask them if what they've heard about their sexual characteristics are true.


The world of the Br'er is one where there is almost no safe space; your neighborhood holds you at arm's length, anything beyond that might be well-meaning but ignorant at best and downright abusive at worst, and there's no guarantee even among your own kind that you'll find kinship for a whole host of reasons. On top of that, it's a long and arduous process to find peace about yourself and who you are. You may never truly fit in anywhere, and you have to be OK with that.


That's the experience I want to capture here. It'll take me a little while to get it right; I'm still a novice at writing fiction and working with subtext is something I'm going to have to learn. But it's an idea I believe in, and I'll keep trying to express it until I get it right.


So thanks in advance for being patient with me on this. Any feedback is welcome -- even if it's critical, even if you don't believe in the idea in the first place. I want to hear from you. I know the first passes are going to be rough, but I sacrifice my ego to the altar of story. I will crash and burn publicly, because I want to forge myself.
jakebe: (Writing)
It feels like I swing back and forth with resolutions from year to year. One year, I'm all business with concrete resolutions that have a pass/fail success condition. Write 6 short stories. Read 10 novels. That sort of thing. The next year, having been beaten down by life and the unexpected, I ease back to more vague resolutions that have more subjective measurements of success. Be kinder to myself. Run more. Things like that.
This looks like it's going to be a year where I have soft and fuzzy resolutions. It's not necessarily that I don't trust myself to make big goals and keep to them; it's more that I just don't know what'll happen this year to take my eye off the ball. The more I settle in to the shape of my life and who I am, the more I realize that planning for November in January is just something that leads to disaster.
So I'd like to make resolutions that help me to refine my focus and habits towards a single goal this year. Instead of promising myself to hit a certain concrete measure of success, I'd like to make promises that help me fulfill my purpose. What is that purpose? To become a better writer, reader and person this year of course.
Finish what you start. This is a big one for me. I'll often jump into projects easily with grand plans about what the end result will look like, with a vast underestimation of the time and effort it will take to achieve them. Sometimes, I just don't have the space in my life to do what I would like to do; so it's better to pick my projects carefully and devote time to making sure they're finished before moving on to something else. If something that initially grabbed my fancy is really something I should do, then it will wait its turn in line until I get to it. It's more important that I do what I set out to do. You don't learn anything from a project until you have a finished one to look back on.
Be more organized. The ADHD diagnosis last year helped me realize that my brain just works in a certain way and I'll likely never get it to be as clean and straight-forward as other people's. Thankfully, I can rely on external tools to pick up the slack -- notepads to write down bits of information that I need to remember; to-do apps that help me keep track of projects and deadlines to provide structure for my day; rituals that prime me to do certain things in certain spaces. Writing stories isn't a science, or a project that lends itself to concrete and significant planning. But finally providing structure that allows me to focus on the important work will really help me to be more productive.
Read a LOT more. There are so many great stories out there you guys. SO MANY. As a writer, it's really important to read. Period. You have to discover the stories you enjoy and the way you love for them to be told to learn more about your craft. A writer who doesn't like to read is someone who has no idea how to create stories with an audience in mind. Besides, in order to come correct to the broader science-fiction/fantasy community, I'm going to need to know a lot more about what's out there. In order to be a part of the conversation, I need to know a lot more about what it is. I've got a reading list of short stories and novels prepared, and I'll be working on it throughout the year. I'm really excited to dig into books, comic books and other stories again.
See the spiritual in the mundane. The draw of Buddhism for me is the fact that its entire purpose is to push the mindset of the temple out into the world. For Buddhists, there's no distinction between the you that's on the meditation bench and the you that's answering customer calls at work. Every aspect of your life deserves your complete attention; every interaction you have with someone else is a chance to worship the Divine. As I'm running through my day trying to meet deadlines or do the things I need to, it's vitally important to remember this. Sometimes, that means slowing down, centering yourself, and doing the best you can to live up to your principles. It's something I forget in the thick of things, and I'll try to find ways to remember them this year.
Don't forget to take stock. This year I'd like to save concrete goals for weekly and monthly check-ins. This week, I've set goals to make sure that something goes through the Writing Desk three times; that the first two parts of my serial will be written; and that a review for a furry anthology is finally edited and sent off to another blog for posting. I'd also like to make sure I get in a couple of runs and I keep a tighter leash on what I spend. We'll see how that goes when I take my pulse for the week next Sunday.
So that's it: this year, I'm focusing on seeing things through, putting myself in the best position to do that, reading and connecting with people more earnestly, and making sure I'm mindful of who I am and what I'm doing. Concrete goals will be set every week; project updates will happen every month. That's the plan.
How about you fine folks? Have you set any resolutions for yourself this year? What does a successful 2016 look like for you, creatively?
jakebe: (Self-Improvement)
October was a pretty intense month. I went in for full training on changing my position at work, which means there are a LOT of holes in my technical knowledge that need to be filled. The shift also means that I'm down in the trenches with coworkers a bit more, and that means an opportunity to change the culture that I'd feel awful not taking. It's important to me that any community I'm a part of feels more like a community because I'm a part of it -- that may sound egotistical, but I like being a glue. I want to make people feel more connected, like someone has their back.
But that means paying attention to work in ways that I hadn't before, which also means that it has to get a lot more of my time and energy. Because things happened so suddenly, I had to drop any other plans I had made in order to make sure I had the emotional space for it. Now that there are a few weeks of this under my belt, I think I'm able to take a beat or two to see where my head's at and what I feel I can do.
I'll still need to set aside a chunk of time to learn more about the technical aspects of my job, like getting to know Linux from the command line and how to work with PostGreSQL and maybe even learning more about SOAP API. But I'd also really like to use whatever remaining time I have for writing and reading -- immersing myself in stories that matter to me and learning how to tell them better.
I won't be able to join NaNoWriMo this year; there's simply too much going on, and I'm too far behind on a few other things. Still, in the spirit of the month I'd like to set a few goals. They'll be a bit more modest than what I may have originally planned, but I think they're a good challenge for what I can handle right now.
WRITING
Ugh, I'm so far behind. On everything. But no worries! This month I'd like to focus on making writing a regular practice, so projects are geared towards that. In addition to making sure The Writing Desk is updated three times a week, I'd like to work on articles for other blogs like [adjective][species] and perhaps Claw & Quill. I'm not sure I'll have anything ready to show this month -- besides, at least with [a][s] they have a pretty solid line-up of posts to take us through the holiday season. Seriously you guys, I really think you'll like what they have planned.
But there are things about the culture of the fandom I'd really like to write about -- what we want out of an art/writing/music community portal, how the broader politics of other SFF fandoms influence our own, how the fandom treats mental illnesses, social maladjustments, and the expression of fetishes that aren't seen as acceptable or respectable by the society at large. It's interesting stuff to me and there are no easy answers for this, but it's all top of mind and I think we should be talking about it, at least in a high-level way.
Here at The Writing Desk, I'll try to tighten the focus to storytelling and the lessons I'm learning from it -- which means more reviews of the stuff I've been reading, more thoughts on the lessons we can take from our stories to the broader world, and how our experiences in the broader world are baked into our stories. I'll talk about the bricks of my Afro-Futurist philosophy as I discover places for them, and the ideas that are taking shape in my mind as I'm writing stories.
As for the stories themselves -- well, I've got three short stories that I'd really like to finish before I really dive into anything new. "A Stable Love" is a commission that a friend of mine has been waiting on for years, and while I've been marching towards completion it's well past time it was done. Another friend generously donated to my Clarion Write-A-Thon fundraiser, earning a commissioned story that I'll begin as soon as "A Stable Love" is draft-complete. And then there's a short story that I would love to submit for the People of Color Destroy Science Fiction anthology coming up next year. I have the idea and the outline for it in my head, and I'm really excited to get started on that.
I'll also be working on a collaborative project with a few friends called "A Changing Perspective". It's a choose-your-own-adventure story spun off from an interactive over on writing.com; since that website has issues with advertising for their interactive space, I can't ask friends to go read those chapters in good conscience. A group of four writers has made an informal pact to revisit the interactive through Twile, and cone we've got significant chunks of the story underway we'll find a way to host it.
So for November, I'd like to finish "A Stable Love" and write 12 chapters for "A Changing Perspective"; update The Writing Desk three times a week; and have at least one complete article for both [adjective][species] and Claw and Quill. It's an ambitious schedule, but I think I can do it if I keep my focus.
READING
I haven't been reading nearly as much as I should. I'll be honest -- I'm a slow reader, and I often spend time I could spend reading doing something else, like playing mobile games. Making an effort to read more means spending more of my downtime devoted to it, and that's something I'm very much in favor of.
This month, I'd like to finish two (I believe) short novels that I've been wanting to read for a very long time -- Kindred by Octavia Butler and Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin. The former is a great introduction to one of the biggest black voices in science-fiction, and has been served to me as an Outlander-type story of the slavery South. It sounds like it'll be incredibly rough, but an illuminating read. The second is a good introduction to one of the best black intellectual voices from the Harlem Renaissance, and that alone has got me tremendously excited. Reading up on black literature -- not just sci-fi/fantasy, but novels, essays, and poetry -- is something that I want to feel better rooted to the tradition I'm coming out of. I'm hoping that it will help me better understand why my community is the way it is these days, and better imagine what my community will be like in the future, or how it would deal with magic, or how my personal experience fits in to an Afro-Futurist context.
I'll also be reading through the slush pile for New Fables, though we generally only have poetry to deal with at this point; short stories and novels from friends, of course; and the comics that are coming through the pike as part of All-New, All-Different Marvel. Exciting times, and as usual there is no shortage of reading material.
ELSEWHERE
There is no shortage of demands for attention these days -- it's tough to distill your life down to the essential things that you want to be doing. One of the things I've been trying to remind myself is that everything I do is a choice; if I spend a lot of time doing something that doesn't get me closer to being a writer or someone with good technical skills, that's a choice I've made. If I goof off instead of do something equally enjoyable but possibly more enriching, that's a choice I've made. At this point, it's important to make good choices about how I spend my time. There are only so many hours in the day, and it's in my best interests to make them count.
This is a bit of a tangent, but it's a bit like shaping your diet so that you eat better. If you're trying to make sure you only eat a certain number of Calories per day, then it becomes a lot more important to make sure those Calories are doing something for you -- either helping you with your exercise routine, or making sure you're full for longer, or helping out with your digestion. When your Calories become precious or finite, the impact of empty Calories -- those in say, candy or a milkshake -- becomes startlingly apparent. If I'm holding myself down to 2000 Calories in a day, I really can't afford to spend 650 of them on an Oreo milkshake, no matter how much I want to. It's either that, or dinner.
Bringing that awareness to my time is a lesson steadily, painfully being learned. There's only so much free time that I have on a weekday; an hour before work, if I wake up on time, and maybe two or three afterwards. What am I doing with those four precious hours? Am I playing Marvel Puzzle Quest on my phone? Am I looking at Facebook without actually absorbing any of the information I see there? What else could I have done that would help me get closer to the life I'd like to be living?
This month I'll try to make more responsible decisions about how I spend my time. Don't get me wrong -- I know that I'll need to blow off some steam, or do something inconsequential sometimes to relieve some stress. I'd like those activities to be a mindful choice, though, not the easiest option available, or some sort of default.
To those of you participating in NaNoWriMo, good luck! This will be a crazy and exciting month for you. I hope it's fulfilling as well. Let's get to work.
jakebe: (Reading Rabbit)

Another Rainfurrest has come and gone, and I really loved the convention this year. The panels were fun and interesting, but more importantly I got to hang and chat with a bunch of people I had only known online -- JM Horse, Phil Geusz, Makyo and others in the [adjective][species] crew. There were a lot of folks from the Furry Writers' Guild there as well, and they're almost always delightful! Mary and Daniel Lowd I like more and more every time I get to meet them, and seeing Munchkin, MrMandolino, Dwale and others (too numerous to name!) was really excellent. I'm so happy to see a community of writers forming and networking, talking about their craft and helping each other take their writing to the next level. These are really exciting times to be a furry writer, I feel, and I'm lucky to be a part of that.

Ryan's books debuted over the course of the convention, and he had his book launch party on Saturday. He read the first scene from Koa of the Drowned Kingdom, an action-packed encounter with a huge, hungry crocodile that also happens to be a wonderful introduction to the characters and the unique world. He also read a scene from Forest Gods, with Doto and Clay traveling through the savannah and reflecting on the situation they've found themselves in. Koa's scene was great, but this scene from Forest Gods is brilliant, and it just reminded me all over again how amazing this book is. I know that I'm his husband and I might be just a little biased, but please trust me when I say that the Fire-Bearers series is simply excellent work and I wholeheartedly, unreservedly recommend that you pick up both God of Clay and Forest Gods as soon as possible. I'm tremendously proud of my husband for what he's accomplished, and I'm so excited that people get to read what he's been pouring himself into for the past few years.

I also picked up the Coyotl Award-winning Huntress by Renee Carter Hall so I could introduce myself to her writing properly, as well as the new anthology Inhuman Acts. It's a set of furry noir stories that I'm rather excited about; I got to hear a snippet of one story from the FurPlanet book launch that made me buy it as soon as I could. Watts Martin, a member of my writing group, workshopped one of the stories with us, and I'm really glad to see it found a home in the anthology. It is so good, and I'm really glad to see Watts popping up in anthologies again, as well as working on novellas and his first novel. Which is going to be a doozy, you guys. I can't wait for you to read it!

The reason I love conventions these days is to immerse myself in the community of folks who love furry fandom as much as I do, to have conversations about their experiences and passions, to compare notes about our work and divide the burdens we feel amongst ourselves. I also get to settle in with old friends, renewing and deepening friendships that can be stretched thin over long distances; I get to put faces to names, and imagine tweets and blog posts spoken in the manner of their writers. I can geek out to folks I've admired from afar for a long time. I can buy drinks for folks in exchange for a few minutes of their time.

Typically, I get depressed BEFORE the convention. Usually I've offered to be on a panel or made plans to hook up with someone, and I always worry about the panel or the meeting going terribly. What if I'm awkward? What if what I have to say comes out as a jumbled and confusing mess? What if I don't hit it off with the people I really like? I almost never sleep well the night before a convention; making sure that I've remembered my clothes and my medication, worrying about how I will deal with my scatter-brain and anxiety, takes the place of a good night's rest.

Then I arrive, and almost always hit the ground running. I meet people. We talk. I laugh a lot. I connect and understand them a lot better. I feel myself becoming more entrenched in this community that I love. I feel a part of things. Happiness sinks into the core of my being, enriches into joy, grows roots that become contentment. I'm floating by the time the convention is over, excited and rejuvenated to go back into my daily life. There is so much I want to do. There's a certainty I feel, that I'm on the right track, I'm doing the right things, and I'm resolved to keep on keeping on.

I'm so excited about my writing, guys. I'm really looking forward to polishing my work and putting it out there. I can't wait to see my name in anthologies, to sit in on more panels, to connect with more people. By the time Rainfurrest 2016 rolls around, I sincerely hope that people will be able to talk about the stories I have for sale at the convention -- even if they have problems with them, or are curious about certain choices that I've made.

I've left this convention with the determination to write and submit short stories to various zines and anthologies; to really push on a few of the projects that have been progressing slowly -- to make sure my Patreon launches well and I'm well-positioned to make it a fun experience for everyone involved, to make sure New Fables is out as soon as possible and we have an idea for how to take the idea into the future, to become a more active contributor to [adjective][species]; to make sure that my writing is pointing me towards the person that I would like to be. Conventions are a launching pad for each of us, and it's up to each of us to make sure we use the momentum well.

I've got a good head of steam behind me to propel me through the end of the year. I'm going to fly straight and true.

jakebe: (Default)

I've been a little more quiet on the writing front than I feel comfortable with, but there's a reason for that. When I get deep into various projects, I tend to talk about them less because I guess I don't want to reveal how the sausage is made before it's presented. When I push a story out into the world, I want the story to stand on its own -- I don't think the audience should have any thoughts on the author and the trouble or decisions he made to have the story turn out the way it did.


Right now, I'm working on "A Stable Love" and having a lot of fun with it. The characters are surprising me, and that presents new challenges for me to think about, and the writing has been relatively smooth as I march towards its conclusion. I was having a lot of trouble with the first part, which I thought I needed for set-up, to establish the characters and the central issue, but when I got rid of it and moved the beginning of the story ahead, the world just opened up and things became a lot easier. I've shown the customer what I have so far and received an enthusiastic response, so that's incredibly encouraging.


I'm working on another story for MegaMorphics, an old-style APA, and its fall issue. I want my work appearing there to be a bit more polished and considered, which means working on it before the deadline! I have an idea for a Halloween story that I'm pretty excited about; I hammered down the idea with another contributor in hopes of a collaboration contribution -- I work the story, he works the art. I've never written a story like this before (it's horror), and I'm trying to do a few things that I'm not sure about. It's exciting but difficult work, and I'm looking forward to how it will turn out.


After that, working on a story for People of Color Destroy Science Fiction that I'm really excited to tuck into, and the prize story for a very generous fellow who donated the most towards my Clarion Write-A-Thon during week 6. I've given both of those some thought, and I think when I actually sit down to write them, the work will come relatively easy.


This is a completely new experience for me. As much as I love writing, it's always been extraordinarily difficult. I have perfectionist tendencies that have caused storms of anxiety, and that makes it hard to see anything but the mistakes. I've never been able to write shitty first drafts; I know writers who create such polished work right off the top of their head, and it's impossible not to compare yourself against that. My character work is never where I want it to be, and when the characters actually begin to live and breathe and deviate from the plot it legitimately freaks me out. I have no idea how to handle that.


But that's the state that I've always given lip service to wanting to go. Writing, for me, feels like being a conduit for something. When the ego drops away and I'm connected directly to the story, it feels like I'm possessed by something, transcribing an event as being dictated by someone "not me". When a story is really flowing, it's an out of body experience. And I know how crazy that sounds, but it's true.


For the longest time, I've never trusted myself to tap into that. Knowing the history of mental illness within my family, and dealing with my personal experience there, I've been very afraid of indulging any tendencies that could exacerbate those issues. Does writing make me crazier? Is it likely that one day, when working on a particularly intense story, I could have some kind of schizophrenic break? My life unfolded the way it did because my mother did not have any semblance of reality, was paranoid, unable to take care of me. I couldn't live with myself if I forced my husband and my friends to go through that.


I didn't even realize I was having that thought before doing the work I've been doing in my Anxiety group class. And realizing that writing, mental illness and anxiety had coalesced into this huge mental knot is ultimately freeing. I'm more willing to take risks with it, just because the feeling I have when writing is worth it. And that means I'm more willing to make mistakes and learn from them. I no longer catastrophize the consequences; if I fail, I can come back from that. With my mental illness, I trust my medication, I trust my self-care process, I trust my behavioral therapy, and I trust my support network.


For the first time, being a writer isn't some distant dream for me. It's who I am, and it's what I do. And I'm so very excited that I have an opportunity to do the things I've always wanted to do, that I get to be the person I've always wanted to be.


I have an idea for a serial story originally released on-line. It'll be furry stories, sci-fi and modern fantasy, adult. Right now, I would love to write about 1500 words a week, release that part in certain places, then collect three or four parts into a chapter that's released in a more polished form elsewhere. Once the story is finished (I'm thinking anywhere from 8 - 13 chapters per serial), hopefully I can polish it further, and release it as an ebook or self-published novel.


In order to work on this project, I'm launching a Patreon. Folks familiar with my furry work should know what to expect from the Jackalope Serial Company: stories about growth, personal and otherwise. When I'm ready to go live and work on the serials directly, I'll post a link with more information. But for now, I just wanted it out there. I'm expecting to be ready to go with it by the beginning of November.


I've also reached out to a few friends about the Furry Mental Health podcast; the person I know with the best equipment and knowledge for it suggested that I present a proof of concept to him for six shows, with subject matter, segments outlined, all of that. It's a solid recommendation, and I'm working on that. I would like to start recording THAT at the beginning of the new year, with episodes coming out in February or March.


So that's my plan for the rest of the year. Full steam ahead on short stories, getting the Jackalope Serial Company off the ground, putting together a first season of the Furry Mental Health podcast. I'm incredibly excited about all of this, and I can't wait to actually share finished stuff with you very soon.

jakebe: (Default)
To be honest, I'm still recovering from Sasquan. Monday was a bit of a lazy day for me and Ryan, and Tuesday was all about diving into the day job. I'm mostly caught up there, just in time for my annual review later today -- at this point, I'm expected to prepare to hand off my current workload as an administrator so I can begin training as an actual support engineer. That means documenting a LOT of processes as clearly as I can.
After that, it's all about technical training -- which as I've mentioned before is pretty daunting. I'm excited, though, and optimistic. I think if I put my head down and push through with a clear plan on how to learn the things I need to, I'll do fine. I just need the time.

In the meantime, there are a number of projects that have been stacking up here on the Writing Desk. I have a number of essays planned about all kinds of subjects -- the meaning of bigotry, dipping my toes into the waters of afro-futurism, stepping up my game when it comes to tabletop RPGs, crafting a "season" of podcasts for mental health issues. I want to talk a bit about what sort of things we would want in a "perfect" furry hangout spot; if we had the opportunity to say, rebuild FurAffinity from the ground up, what kind of features would we want? What would the perfect user experience be?

I'm still working on "A Stable Love," with the hope that it'll be finished by the end of the month. From there, I'm moving on to three more short stories that I'm hoping will be polished and ready to show by October. I'd like to really get my act together for my Pathfinder game, and start doing periphery writing for my characters in other games. Kraugh the Togorian, Veniamin the werebear, Kerrebuck the Wookiee, and Takoda the troll all have stories that need telling. (Also, holy crap, I really do just play earnest giants, don't I?)

I'm reading an anthology of furry stories for review elsewhere, and I'm noticing an interesting theme that runs through the stories there. I'm really looking forward to writing my review of it, mostly because I get to talk about the intersection of furry fiction and minority issues. You might have noticed that's been something on my mind a whole lot this year.

So for now, head down, quiet time, hard work time. It's time to transmute the excitement of the convention into fuel that propels me through the effort of creative production.
jakebe: (Default)
After five weeks of the Clarion Write-A-Thon, I've written 30,523 words and raised $321.57. Both are fairly far from the goal of 50,000 words and $500, and I'm not sure I'll be able to write 19,500 words by August 1st. I mean, I COULD, but it'd pretty much mean doing nothing but writing for the rest of the week in an attempt to bring it home. And while that does sound appealing in its own right, I don't think it would be feasible this week.
However, I CAN make the $500 donation goal -- but only with your help! Please go to my author's page and donate what you can, if you can. As an added incentive, the person who donates the highest amount this week will get a commission for a short story of 4,000 - 5,000 words! What a deal! Sort of. Maybe. No, it definitely is. You will LOVE it!
This week I'll be working on another commission, "A Stable Love". It's been in the works for far too long, but I do think that I finally have enough momentum to crack it -- one of the things I've learned through the Write-A-Thon are where my blind spots are as a writer and what I need to really focus on in order to create better short stories. "A Stable Love" will be my first big attempt to take what I've learned and apply it.
Once I'm done with the short story and the Write-A-Thon, the plan is to start doing the prep-work for a couple of serial short story projects I've wanted to work on: "The Big Game" and "Beast: Wild Genius". I've already talked about the Beast fan-fiction in vague terms, but I'll save the details for later as the first few arcs begin to take shape. It's strange -- normally I would be pretty shy about this whole fan-fiction thing, but the more I talk about it and the more feedback I get, the more excited I am for it. I really can't wait to dig in on it.
"The Big Game" is a different version of a short story project I started (and abandoned, of course) a little while ago. The basic story is six friends getting together at an annual retreat in a remote cabin, where they catch up with one another, think about their lives and sort through all kinds of interpersonal issues. Of course, this is while they're playing a poker game that allows them to gamble with their size instead of money. Because of course they do. :)
The original story featured an audience-participation element that allowed people to vote on the big winner and loser for each part of the story. What I found is that it put a lot of the focus on the mechanics of the card game and less on the characters and how they played around with each other. While I love the idea of the audience voting on how the story progresses, I'm not entirely sure it's right for this. Maybe doing a "season 1" that establishes the characters and dynamic, allows me to refine a behind-the-scenes system to simulate how the card game works, and lets me simply work on the story without the added complication of audience votes might be the thing to do. A sequel could reincorporate the audience elements once I feel more confident in completing the project to begin with.
But we'll see! For this week, the plan is to write as much as possible, as often as possible. It's very unlikely that I'll make my word-count goal, but it'll sure be fun to try.
Again, any amount you can give towards the Write-A-Thon and the Clarion Workshop will help immensely. You'll be helping to keep the Workshop running next year AND help really great writers receive intense instruction, critique and connection with some of the best writers and editors within our industry! Thanks SO MUCH to the people who have donated already, provided feedback on story snippets and supported me with writing advice and encouragement. You guys rock!
jakebe: (Self-Improvement)
So good old [livejournal.com profile] ransomdracalis sent a link to an article from The Art of Manliness in response to my last post, and I have to say I enjoyed it quite a bit. The idea of framing the habits you want to create as a "20 Mile March" is quite a good one; it reinforces the emphasis on consistency, long-term thinking, and breaking up this enormous, impossible task into smaller chunks that you can actually measure your progress on every day. What's more, by making it just enough of an effort that you have to push yourself, there's that small rush of satisfaction you get when you manage to pull it off far more frequently.

Right now I have several marches in mind, but I'm trying to simplify even further. Really, they revolve around two things that I've been trying to give more and more priority to for the longest time: fitness, and writing. At the moment I weigh 196 pounds, more than I've ever weighed before. And unlike a lot of my friends I really don't have a good frame for it. Narrow shoulders, small back, thin limbs. Most of my weight is slung onto my belly, which collects fat to the exclusion of almost everywhere else. I'm not SO concerned about my weight as I am about having this huge tank that distorts all of my clothing and pushes all my belts down quite a bit. It's...not the way I want to look.

So, as far as fitness goes, my 20 Mile March is basically shrinking my stomach enough that I feel good about it (or not quite as bad). The best way to measure that is by taking a tape say, twice a month, and aiming to lose...I don't know, a 1/4-inch from my waist a month. I can achieve that goal by maintaining a healthier diet that's lower in fat and calories, and by exercising on a regular basis.

To that end I've signed up for one of Fitocracy's Group Fitness programs. I've chosen "Level Up Your Running," because running is my exercise of choice. There's always weirdness with it, though, where I'm hurting my knee or ankle, my legs feel tight, etc. etc. I'd like to have some sort of structure where I can check in and make sure I'm stretching, eating, drinking enough to actually exercise on a regular basis. The program starts on the 21st, and I'm really looking forward to it. In the meantime, I'll try to continue cutting out candy/sweets, curb my snacking, and at the very least exercise four times this week.

Writing has the same dual-pronged approach. In addition to making sure I write consistently on a project, seeing it through to completion, I need to make sure I'm reading on a regular basis as well. I want to immerse myself in the world of writing -- creativity, I've found, flourishes best in a nurturing environment. Reading the work of other people who've sacrificed and worked to produce something can be really stimulating that way, and I like picking through a story to find out what works, what doesn't, and how it either succeeds or fails. My goal is to write 1000 - 1500 words every day, and read at least 30 minutes every day. I think that between reading and writing, that's about 90 minutes of time a day to devote to it. I have that, somewhere.

That's the plan, starting today. We'll see how I stick to it.

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