Announcements.

Dear Cyber-Friends,

Obviously, I’m not updating on anything like a regular schedule here. I’m not going to apologize for it this time either; I realize I’ve been making the conscious choice to focus my energies elsewhere, and I stand by it. I only have so much time and energy. I need to be picky about what I invest it in.

So, the time has come (the walrus said) to move on yet again! The secret collaborative project I mentioned in my previous post has been unveiled for over a month now, and I’m going to be spending a lot more time and effort over there instead of over here. It’s called The Octopus Society of Evil Authors. There’s a lot of ways to find us, which I’ll also list at the bottom of this post. Please come join in the fun! We focus on various aspects of writing, of course, but we’re very entertaining about it and quite a few things we discuss can be applied to non-writers as well (including an informative and helpful introduction to creating a secure and private internet, which is a very timely subject…).

As for this blog, I’ll be leaving it up and may even post something new now and again, but for the most part I’m considering it on indefinite hiatus. It’s so far on the back burner it’s not even on the stove anymore.

Because honestly, there’s a lot of moving parts to keep track of in my life right now. Quite a few of them are voluntary undertakings, but they feel important and even essential in other ways beyond the strictly literal. This blog just isn’t one of them anymore, at least not without completely overwhelming myself with commitments and having something else — something less deliberate — falling by the wayside instead. I’m on the constant edge of being stressed out, and doing everything I can not to tip over. The only way I can keep all the other things going is if I can give myself a little breathing room every once in awhile; caring about my personal blog is one of the things I’m sacrificing to do that. It might be the wrong choice, but at least it’s my choice. I can change it later if I so decide, and meanwhile it means I’m not losing my grip on something else.

Besides the O.S.E.A. project, I’m still writing fiction, still trying not to spend too much of my money on cool new habits like fountain pens, and still working my seasonal job. There’s a bunch of other things going on too — like trying to maintain friendships; needing to travel more; taking care of myself physically, mentally, and emotionally; needing to find a less stressful living environment and trying to decide if that means a new line of work and what that line of work might be; trying to figure out how to live my life and find a job more in line with my values of greener and more sustainable living, with a gentler and more healing touch on the earth; and on, and on, and on… And, of course, trying to decide what turning 30 in about two months means to me (if anything).

While I could use this blog to try and figure out these things “out loud” so to speak, I’d rather just focus on the time and energy I’d spend writing posts on actually doing something about all this instead. Don’t get me wrong: writing it out in the blog has been beneficial in the past. It’s just not the approach I’m using this time. Time to give something else a try, you know? See if I get different results, and all that.

So thank you, my lovely cyber-friends, for sticking with me this far. Please do join us over at The Octopus Society of Evil Authors, and if something huge happens in my life I’ll serenely try to post about it here. In the meantime, be well, take care of yourselves, and make deliberate choices.

Love,

GeGi.

PS: here’s a list of the O.S.E.A. links –

WordPress: octopussocietyofevilauthorsblog.wordpress.com

Twitter: @OctopusSEA

Tumblr: octopussocietyofevilauthors.tumblr

Email: OctopusSocietyofEvilAuthors @ gmail

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Still Alive.

Dear Cyber-Friends,

Yes, I am still alive — despite not having updated this blog in how long?

In my last post, I was trying to decide what to do and where to go with my life. Well, I guess I did because by the end of summer I’d told my boss I’d come back for winter! I spend the autumn off-season driving back to Seattle, telling The Mansion folks I’d be moving out, finding a new storage unit, packing up all my stuff again, moving it into the storage unit, and basically being stressed out and worried that I wouldn’t get everything done in time. I also managed to fit in a quick trip to Portland to stay with my writer friend, AND FINISHED MY NOVEL. So, all in all, it was a pretty epic off-season.

Then it was back to Montana. It’s been quite the season, best illustrated by two phrases I’ve been saying a lot this winter: “Never a dull moment.” and “This place runs on Alice In Wonderland/Through The Looking Glass logic.” Despite that, I’ve actually had a pretty good season (helped by the fact my boss made a point to get me a private room for housing). I got some truly magical cross-country skiing in, too, which involves not only gorgeous scenery and great full-body exercise, but is also fantastic for getting perspective and losing stress. I’ve also made a point of attempting a healthier diet, which isn’t always easy in this line of work, but I think it’s been helping with everything else to keep me slightly more level in my moods.

So it’s actually been one of the best seasons I’ve done so far. I think I’m starting to get a handle on my chosen lifestyle or something. Maybe I’m just getting better at life in general. But I’ve told my boss I’ll be sticking around indefinitely — or until something better comes along — and she’s pretty happy about it. I am too; it’s nice to know that after the off-season, I know what to expect from my next job, and I don’t have to even apply for it! The pay and the perks are both pretty good here, it’s hard to imagine someone better than my boss to work for, and personality-wise I’m well suited to my job. I’m basically set until I decide it’s time to shake things up again.

Various other good news:

  • This coming spring off-season, I’ve already bought tickets to visit my family in Hawaii, after far too long apart, and I couldn’t be more excited about it!
  • I’m participating in a NaNo event for the first time (finally), using the April NaNo Camp to work on and hopefully finish the research and editing to my first novel that I’ve been putting off.
  • My writer friend and I are collaborating on a new project together that we’ll be metaphorically unveiling soon, and I’ll post more here about it when we’re ready to share it with the world.
  • I’ve become a full-blow fountain pen convert (not good news for my savings, but fantastic and fun and so pretty and all the other things anyway).

And that’s pretty much it! The past half a year or whatever summarized. I’ll try to post more often than that; at least regularly during off-season travel and anything especially cool or interesting I do during my work seasons. Maybe I’ll aim for once a month updates, with “specials” extra posts for anything else…? We’ll see.

I have a lot of projects going on right now, and unfortunately I’ve let this blog get pretty low on the priorities list. Hopefully that’ll change, because once I actually sit down to write a post I always remember how much I love blog writing! My “voice” here is really different from my novel writing voice — much closer to how my constant inner monologue narrates my thoughts and life — and it’s so much fun to do this kind of writing once in a while as a break from the fiction writer struggle of consistent characters’ voices.

In the meantime, stay safe and stay alive.

–GeGi.

Catching Up and Moving Forward.

Dear Cyber-Friends,

Wow, I’m really bad at this regular blogging thing… So, as I probably mentioned at the beginning of summer, I’m back in Montana until October. My current goals include finishing this draft of the novel by winter, and figuring out what the hell my plans are with my life. The Mansion community life is not for me, despite my earlier enthusiasm (I think I was excited in that post — I honestly can’t remember and haven’t bothered to look.), and one of the things I need to figure out is if, when I get back there this autumn, I’m going to stick it out until the lease expires, or if I’m going to try and find a graceful way to say “I can’t stand living with some of you” and pack up all my stuff again and find a new storage unit. I also need to figure out what I’m going to do for work in the winter. I could probably come back to the ranch, but I’m not sure if that’s a good idea; it feels like asking for burnout again. But if I’m not doing that, the question becomes am I going to stay in Seattle or find somewhere new to go?

I’d planned on using this summer to figure out the answer to those questions, but I haven’t exactly made anything resembling progress on that front. Now I’m running out of time, and the default/easy path is sticking out the lease and staying in Seattle for the winter. There are worse things in the world — this would at least mean I’d be close to my friends again for a while — but I’m not sure that’s the best thing to base my decisions on. On the other hand, trying to be too deliberate with my choices kind of got me into this mess in the first place, soooooo…..

In less indecisive news, I now have an outline for the rest of my novel, meaning the end is (finally) in sight! I need to hammer out some details with the plot and get a timeline of events for each character, and then all that’s left to do is finish writing the draft…and then let beta readers read and comment, and work on the next draft, and start plotting the sequel… a writer’s work is never really done, but there are certain milestones that feel pretty damn major when you get near them, and this is definitely the case now. So that’s pretty cool*.

[*read: sofreakingexcitingomgyay!!!]

I also have a new tattoo, which includes a Hamilton quote, and plans for the next two or three. The next one might be as soon as October, when I’m planning on visiting a certain writer friend in Portland. The friend, and the writing, are significant to the tattoo. It’s going to be amazing. Other than that, and a couple gorgeous hikes, Montana Shakespeare In the Parks, and Music in the Meadows, it’s been a pretty quiet summer. All the drama that always happens around and among seasonal workers (seriously, it is the stuff reality shows are made of.) has managed to not directly involve me this time, for which I’m extremely thankful. The job is relatively easy and repetitive, nothing too demanding, so even after a harder night I can usually be fully recovered for the next shift (mentally, if not physically. The tendonitis resurfaced for a while, but I got it calmed down again without having to involve medical people this time).

I haven’t done any painting yet, despite having brought canvas and brushes and paints. I haven’t worked with either of the tarot decks I brought, or with the OBOD workbooks, or any of the other creative productive projects I’d optimistically packed into my car and dragged along with me. Sometimes I feel like I’m about ready to crawl out of my skin, or find a hole to creep into and hide forever, or cry and not know why, or just run away without a destination, but even if it’s by the skin of my teeth and my ripped off fingernails, I somehow keep holding on. I’m not sure if it means I’ve gotten better at my coping skills for dealing with my depression and anxiety, or if I just haven’t gotten as bad this summer. I’ve still got a long way to go, of course, but it’s nice to think I’m at least starting to get more dependably functional.

So, yeah, that’s pretty much where things are at. Not too much to report, I guess. Mostly just thinking out loud. On the internet. In front of strangers. And friends. And family. And it’s nice that I can do that sometimes, when I need to. It’s nice to have the option, even if I don’t use it as much as I probably should. It’s nice to know that I have friends and family out there who care about me enough to read this. It’s nice to feel like I’m talking to them without having actually talk (thanks for that, Anxiety. And you, Low Self-estimate, don’t think I don’t see you lurking back there, too…). Whatever happens, whatever I decide or put off deciding until it’s decided for me, I know I’ll still have this, and I know having this has gotten me through significantly worse times of my life.

Thank you. I love you. I’m sending you all awkward internet hugs.

Love,

GeGi.

 

 

Writing! All the writing…

Dear Cyber-Friends,

So, you might have noticed an absence of new posts recently. This is just a quick update to let you know that 1) sorry about that, 2) I will eventually have proper new posts again, even if it’s just the Goodreads Crossovers, and 3) tell you why I haven’t been blogging.

The past two-and-a-bit weeks, I’ve been visiting a friend of mine in Portland. We’re both basically unpublished writers, and we’re both working on our first novels, and have been encouraging each other towards this endeavor for, I think, about the past two years. We keep in touch on Twitter a lot, but getting to hang out in person to bounce ideas of each other and cheer each other on is so much better. While I’ve been here, my friend has finished their first draft, and I went from zero words to around 30k words for my second draft/kind of major rewrite.

It’s been amazing and unreal and so very very productive (for novel writing), but it also means I’ve done very little besides write a ridiculous amount of words every day and then tried to recover from the feeling of my brain starting to ooze out my ears a little. On a really good writing day, I have to recover enough to even form proper sentences and find the correct words when I’m talking out loud, because I’ve used up all the words I have for the day in my writing. Those are the days we pretty much end up sitting around laughing at the cat for an hour or so because the cat is hilarious and we don’t have the energy to do anything requiring more concentration. In fact if I seem a bit silly or rambling right now, it’s because I’ve already written over 2k words for the novel, as well as note for the plot. For comparison, NaNoWrMo says to average just over 1.6k to finish a novel-length in a month. I’ve been averaging well over that for less than two weeks.

The thing is, I don’t know how much longer I’ll have this much free time, and I know I only have a few more days here in Portland with my friend, so I really want to get as much done as possible while I have those advantages. Ideally, I think my goal is that by the end of the year I’d like to have this novel done and have started working on getting it proof-read and edited and looking into publishing. It’s been a long time coming, and I’d really like to see this story out there–at least on a small scale, but who knows?

Anyway, I’m not proof-reading this post or anything, and it’s already about twice as long as I expected, so I’m just going to sign off now and go to bed.

Keep chasing those dreams, friends, and stay safe out there.

Love,

GeGi.

Goodreads Review: Carry On.

Carry OnCarry On by Rainbow Rowell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I read Fangirl, one of the things I really connected to in that book was the fanfiction aspect (since I read AT LEAST as much fanfic as I do published fic). I really liked the made-up-yet-Harry-Potter-like “Original Fic” that Cath was writing fic for, because it got to play with all the familiar things I love about HP fanfic while not getting bogged down by actual HP canon. So when I found out that Carry On was actually a thing out there that I could read, I was obviously pretty excited. I was also pretty curious, because I wasn’t sure exactly how a Simon Snow novel would play out independently.

Like the author says, though, this isn’t the canon Snow of Fangirl, or Cath’s fanfic Snow. This is Rainbow Rowell’s Snow. And it’s pretty fantastic. First off, as noted multiple times in my status updates, I really loved the magical system in this book. It’s consistent and logical, brilliant and fresh, and utterly ridiculous and fun. It certainly makes the battles entertaining as hell to read. I didn’t mention in my updates, but I equally loved the replacement swears and exclamations that were mixed in with the more recognizable and everyday types. I definitely have a thing for that in media, because it makes language more believable to have swearing and slang (especially when it’s teenagers/adults), and it makes it more unique and world-building to have at least some of it be original. Or maybe my Buffy influence is showing a little there…

Either way, I think when it’s done well it adds to the dialogue and makes a more natural flow to conversation. And here it really felt like it worked; I could hear the characters’ voices in my head when I was reading, because their words and thoughts felt like real speech and real people. That doesn’t always happen — in fact it doesn’t happen for me very often at all — so it made it extra special for me.

Speaking of the characters, there are quite a few amazingly awesome characters in this book. Baz is sassy and snarky as hell, and I utterly love him to bits and want more. Penelope kicks ass, obviously, and I even really liked Agatha after a while. Simon was not actually as annoying as I thought he’d be, given that Harry Potter tends to drive me up the wall. Even a lot of the adults were pretty cool and interesting. I really appreciated all the diversity, of course, but I can’t help but be a little annoyed at the UTTER LACK of, at any point in Simon wondering if he’s gay now, that there was ZERO mention of the word “bisexual” in his or anyone else’s mind. In fact, I’m pretty sure that for all the times gay and queer get talked about (not just for Simon, and not just him and Baz, either), bisexual NEVER gets mentioned once, for any of them. Which is a real shame, because otherwise I have no complaints or criticisms.

As a side note, the final confrontation between Simon and the Humdrum actually played out thematically a lot like the climax of a novella I wrote as a teen. I should go look at it again, brush up the writing a little, etc. It’s a good theme for a final showdown, and it’s nice to see it get used. But first, I need to go read Fangirl again…and then maybe Carry On again…which might make me need to read Fangirl again…

If you don’t hear from me again, I’m stuck in an endless reread loop. Send help. (Or chocolate and scones and tea.) (Either way is good.)

View all my reviews

Sneak Peek: Meet Kikah.

Dear Cyber-Friends,

Two posts in one day! You’d think I was trying to make up for those long periods of silence or something…

I’m currently at the library thanks to some passing hale showers, and decided I wanted to work on my sci-fi novel. Unfortunately, I’m at a point in the writing where I desperately need my notes to continue, and of course I don’t actually have those notes with me right now. So instead, I ended up writing a brief introduction to one of the two main characters, set before the story of the novel actually starts. I thought it was pretty cool, and I decided to share it with you! Let me know what you think, either on Twitter or here in the comments (or you can email me, if you’re one of the people who has my email).

Without further ado, here it is:

She’s called Kikah, but she knows she doesn’t really have a name. She could just as easily have been called Meta, for instance, but at some point someone decided she should be given a name separate from the Project which created her. It gives the illusion she’s an autonomous person. She’s never been fooled by it, though. Being raised in a bio-lab can have that effect; she’s never forgotten she’s property, not a person. She doesn’t resent it. She wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the Project.

Zan is the closest thing she has to a friend, and to a parent. She isn’t sure what a real parent would be like to have; she’s never experienced it, and no one has talked to her about their lives outside Triad. For that matter, she isn’t sure what having a friend would be like, either. She can look up the definitions of the words, but it doesn’t convey the experience, the feelings and emotions. All she has is literate translations and scientific explainations; those things aren’t particularly helpful in understanding nuance.

When the Project is terminated, Zan convinces Triad to keep her. She’s grateful for that; she enjoys being aware and alive. Without Zan’s intervention, company policy dictates she would have been terminated along with the Project, or perhaps put into long-term storage for future use. Instead, she’s put to work. For the first time in her life, she’s allowed out of the bio-labs and into the rest of the Triad building. She’s allowed to observe — and later participate — in several different types of Projects. Her contributions and reactions are evaluated, and Zan informs her Triad has declared her stable enough to consider an employee.

Of course, she knows that calling her an employee is just like giving her a name; it’s an illusion to make everyone else feel better about the truth. She’s still property, not a person. Her world has expanded, but she’s still never been beyond the walls of the company, isn’t allowed to interact with someone who doesn’t have clearance, doesn’t exist outside of Triad. It still doesn’t bother her; working on Projects means constant new stimulus, new challenges and problems, new ideas. She’s assigned a partner, a woman named Sirian, and they work well together. Sirian treats her like a person, and listens to her input. The experiment called Kikah thinks perhaps this is how the emotion “contentment” feels.

Hope you enjoyed that little sneak peek into the world I’m creating! Remember, let me know what you thought, and if it leaves you wanting to know more…

Love,

GeGi.

Fan Fiction.

Dear Cyber-Friends,

This is a subject I’ve been thinking about writing a post on for a while now, and a moment ago a twitter-friend told me to do it, so here it goes…

Fan fiction, for those who don’t know, is not-for-profit original stories using various elements from established works. Basically it’s a way to play in someone else’s sandbox, use their toys, and giving them back afterwards. There’s fanfic of books, movies, tv shows, video games, songs, real people…basically anything. There’s cross-over fanfic that combines elements from separate works, alternate universe fic that takes elements (for example: characters) and places them in a completely new setting, slash fic that explores potential relationships between various characters, and on and on. Again, it’s whatever the author can think of. There are really no limits when it comes to fanfic (except maybe legal ones).

There’s a huge stigma about fanfic; basically that it’s a shameful and shallow no-talent thing, often full of porn and/or “Mary-Sues” [the author inserts themselves as a “perfect” original character in order to be loved by their favorite characters]. While some fanfic can indeed have these things, there’s so much more to it than that. Even if there weren’t, I’d argue that fanfic can still be an important expression of creativity.

First, the big picture: as a storyteller/bard and druid-in-study, here’s my take on fanfic in general.

Stories are meant to be alive. They are meant to grow and evolve and change with each new telling, with each teller of the tale. We are suppose to be able to make each telling of a story relevant to ourselves and our audience, adding or changing or taking away as we are moved to. We are suppose to explore and connect with our stories. Taking familiar characters and putting them in new situations is a story-telling tradition as old as stories themselves. Some of our most famous and beloved tales are basically fan fiction: retelling someone else’s story with new elements. From King Arther and his Knights of the Round Table seeking the Grail and having love triangles and bastard kids, to the fairy tales we all grew up listening to and watching, our culture is seeped in retold tales that have evolved beyond recognition of the original versions.

I’ve said before on this blog, it’s only because we humans started writing down stories that we started believing there was “one true version”. Even if having a true version is important to you, fanfic still doesn’t take away from the original; on the contrary, it can often add to it and even draw in a new audience to the original work. There are several examples I could use from my own personal life in which I gained an interest in a new show or found new value in something I was already familiar with, all thanks to concepts from well-written fanfic. It can give someone insight into a character they can’t otherwise relate to, or fill in missing scenes, or point out a subtext you may have overlooked. At the same time, the original work is still there, intact and unharmed by these new ideas surrounding it.

Second: let’s look at fanfic from a writing angle.

Writing something completely original can be huge and overwhelming. You might get lost in the little fiddly details of world-building, or struggle with creating multifaceted complex realistic characters. Original writing is a great skill to have, and it needs a lot of practice to hone it. It’s also a hard sell; there’s a lot of competition out there for getting your original stories into the market. Internet and social networking is opening up new ways to do that, but using those tools is practically a full-time job on its own.

Writing with someone else’s creations is a whole other beast. It takes a lot of attention to detail and tone to create accuracy and authenticity with an established character and/or world. It takes a lot of imagination to create new scenarios and figure out how these well-known and beloved characters would react to them. Playing in someone else’s world means playing by their established rules, or at least knowing them well enough to figure out how to break them. There’s a lot of dedication and passion involved, especially since it’s done out of love rather than hope of profit.

There’s several points I’d like to make about this. One is that writing fanfic is an amazingly powerful exercise as a writer; it trains not only better writing skills, but also an ability to write with someone else’s voice. This is exactly what a lot of markets call for (tv shows and franchises being only two examples). The other point is that both writing and reading fanfic can be hugely therapeutic.

Let me give a personal example here for what I mean. When I was a teenager, I self-injured. I couldn’t deal with the feelings I was experiencing, and I scared myself by not understanding why I felt the need to hurt myself. So I wrote fan fiction, and I placed those feelings and urges into an already-familiar character, giving myself an outlet for exploring and putting into words what I felt and why I did what I did. It was a safe place for me to figure out something that scared and confused me, and I was able to understand myself better after I did. I published the story anonymously, where I was given positive feedback from other fanfic writers. I felt accepted into part of a community, and it gave me more confidence in my own talent. I still self-injured, but I didn’t feel as alone or afraid, and I understood why I did what I did a little better. I was able to start helping myself. I started to heal, and as I did, so did the character in my fanfic.

As an adult, I’ve had a lot of traumatic emotional experiences. I tend to bottle those feelings up rather than process them (a bad habit I’ve had since childhood, that I’m actively working on breaking), and then they burst out in unhealthy ways. If I read fanfic about characters I already feel connected to, and go through similar experiences with them while I read, it helps me draw out those emotions, dwell in them, and express them. Then the overwhelming feelings become something manageable, and I can process and move on. The fact that it’s characters I’m already familiar with makes the whole thing easier and more accessible, especially when I’m feeling run down or mentally fatigued. I don’t have to work as hard to connect to them, and the journey they go through can therefore have more impact quicker. I don’t have to commit to a novel, but I can often get the same effect.

Same goes for fluff, the lighter feel-good pieces of fan fiction. If I need something distracting or that will give me warm-fuzzy feelings, and I don’t have the time or energy to invest in something completely new, and I don’t feel like re-reading something I’ve already read, I can turn to fanfic. You know that feeling when you finish a favorite book and you wish you could just keep reading about those characters who have become your best friends, and you don’t care if they’re having adventures or just hanging out? Fanfic can make that dream a reality.

Alright, for my third point, let’s look at those stereotypes I talked about at the beginning of this post. What value lies in badly-written Mary Sues and porn? Well, for one thing, every aspiring writer has to start somewhere, and a Mary-Sue is often a jumping-off point for someone’s first attempt. There is no reason in the world not to encourage someone’s passion for writing, and eventually they might evolve beyond those Mary-Sue stories. Also, see my above point about therapy; maybe the writer is at a point in their life where they need that kind of escapism to survive whatever it is that’s going on. There’s no call or need to shame them for it. (This doesn’t mean I don’t support clever parodies of the Mary-Sue troupe. Writing those is a valuable practice for hopeful comedians and satirists. Being funny is amazingly difficult to pull off. Being dismissive and/or hurtful, however, is a talentless and useless non-skill.)

As for the porn, well, that’s easily avoided if it’s not your cup of tea, and if it is, a lot of the fanfic is better than the stuff making money. Fanfic means it can be exactly to your tastes, and involving the characters you might really want to see in those positions (as it were). It’s not hurting anyone, and it might even be helping some people figure out what really turns them on — something that can be difficult to safely explore given some of the issues and stigmas our society still has ingrained.

So that’s my take on fan fiction. Let me know if I missed anything, or what your own thoughts are on the subject!

Love,

GeGi.

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