Hello friends! Not much to report this time around. It’s November 9 and I am, predictably, knee-deep (or possibly neck-deep) in NaNoWriMo. It’s going well so far! Well. As well as NaNo ever does, which is to say the words that are gushing into my document are disjointed and confused but occasionally good enough that I can convince myself that I might, actually, know what I’m doing. I am regretting the fact that I didn’t have time to plan this one out like I did last year’s project, as I suspect it would be making a number of things significantly easier, but the little bit I had structured out in my head is holding pretty steady, and I’m liking a lot of the possibilities with this project. So yay!
So, apparently, November begins in less than a week. Goodness.
Naturally (read: Faith is addicted and can’t really help herself), this means that I have less than a week to get herself in a passable headspace for NaNoWriMo. The good news is that I do know what project I will be working on, and I have at least a modicum of planning done to help me through. The bad(?) news is that between… everything, but especially starting a new job in a new state and all that, I haven’t done nearly the amount of planning I did for last year’s NaNo.
Which maybe isn’t entirely bad?
I still love what planning out a novel in advance can bring to the table. And it’s not like I’m going into this completely blind– in fact, I’ve got a decent idea what I want the main beats for the story to look like. But aside from that? It’s all a blank page. And that’s an excitement all its own.
Anyone in the business of storytelling will tell you that conflict is what makes a story a story. It drives the action. It moves the characters and makes them fight for what they want. It makes them grow as (fictional) people. It’s what gives us the compelling stories that capture our imaginations.
And while it’s not a perfect correlation, a lot of us could also tell you that when those bumps appear in our own lives, they’re opportunities for us just like they are for our characters. Trouble is, knowing that doesn’t always make it any easier emotionally to handle those disappointments. Not when something takes you in a different direction than you expected to be going. Not when it feels like your slow, steady climb towards your goal has taken a sudden turn to the left. Not when you start questioning whether you made some mistake along the way that will delay you terribly if not prevent you entirely from reaching where you thought you were going.
Is this melodramatic? At least a little. (I write fiction for fun; what were you expecting?) Do I have a marginally unhealthy expectation that my life will follow a roughly sensible character arc, with obvious steps forwards and backwards, all moving towards a single concrete goal? Possibly. Oops. But can I still take advice from my favorite characters? Absolutely. Especially when all of them keep pushing through when there’s no easy way to get where they want to be.
A couple of months ago, I listened to Delia Owens’ beautiful novel Where the Crawdads Sing. Aside from thoroughly enjoying it in its own right, it also reminded me of another novel: A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter. This is not particularly surprising. Both stories follow a young girl with a strong attachment to the surrounding swamp/marsh, a knack for collecting remarkable specimens, and a less-than-ideal home life. So, once reminded of Limberlost and how much I’d enjoyed reading it as a kid, it seemed like a good idea to revisit it.
Now, I don’t actually remember how old I was when I read Limberlost. I was young. Possibly very young, but I really couldn’t say. The book was gifted to me by a dear friend who had also enjoyed reading it when she was a kid, and rightly figured that I would as well. I bring this up because upon picking it up again, I was a little surprised to find that it was not quite what I remembered. Blame it on my tastes maturing and me growing up. That’s not to say it’s bad, per se, but it certainly doesn’t carry the same nuance that the books I most appreciate now do.
Another point worth bringing up: I have absolutely nothing against rereading books. In fact, I’m of the opinion that the best books are the ones that you get more out of every time you read them. I’ve read The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit at least three times each, and probably more. I recently returned to the Touchstone trilogy by Andrea K. Höst and have every intention of doing it again. And there’s so many others. Like Frankenstein, which I didn’t particularly enjoy the first time but want to see if I get something more and different out of it now that I’m older. Or Fahrenheit 451 which I did enjoy both times I read it. Or a dozen others that come to mind without my having to think about it all that hard.
But not every book needs to be reread. And not every book needs to be reread by everyone who read it once. Especially not when we’ve all got more books we want to read for the first time than we can reasonably expect to get through in one lifetime. With more written every day.
With this in mind, it’s reasonable to ask why I’m bothering to finish this read-through. With so many things I want to read that I haven’t touched yet, why spend the time to reread something when I’m already not finding the same wonderment between its pages that I did the first time? There’s several reasons, of course. And fortunately, this isn’t one of those questions with a right or wrong answer.
In this case, the easiest answer is that it’s a mix of curiosity and nostalgia. Curiosity because I want to see if reading through to the end again lets me find now what I found then. Nostalgia because while I don’t remember many of the finer details of the story, I very much remember how it made me feel. And, I suppose, I want to spend a little while with the person I was when I was a kid, and maybe to . The slightly more cynical answer is that I want to poke at the story to figure out why I feel differently about it now. Both answers have at least a grain or two of truth.
As of the writing of this post, I’m about halfway through my read of Limberlost. It’s going relatively quickly, and the fact that it isn’t a terrible slog certainly helps. Whatever else it is, it’s not a difficult read. It’s also proving more enjoyable than I was afraid it would, though whether that’s because of my own revised expectations or the story itself gaining its feet I couldn’t say. Possibly, too, finding out when it was written helped shift my view as well; the book is more than a hundred years old, and reading it almost more as a piece of history than with the critical eye I might turn on a piece of contemporary fiction has its merits.
At this point I really have no idea how I’ll feel about it by the time I finish. Certainly right now I don’t regret picking it up again. Just as certainly, though, the experience is entirely different than the one I was expecting. But then, I’m tempted to say that’s one of the best reasons to reread something at all.
For those of you who have been following this blog/reading the stories that show up here every now and again, you’ve probably noticed that, despite the fact that I’m more than happy to use the shorthand of “science fiction” for the genre of number of them, even though it would usually be far more accurate to go with “space opera” instead.
And that’s okay! A perfectly valid choice. I love space opera, and despite the distinction I made above, I have no problem throwing it under the broad umbrella of sci-fi, if only because the popular understanding of the term often boils down to “adventure in space”. Overly simplistic? Definitely. Helpful enough? Yes.
All this to say that I’m lately finding a ton of enjoyment in actually reading up on various topics pertinent to the worlds I enjoy creation. Like, for example, The Case For Mars by Robert Zubrin, a book that presents the argument that we could actually put human beings on Mars within ten years using technology that already exists or could be developed in that time period. Aside from being a fascinating read all on its own, the number of ideas the book is giving me for the Tanner and Miranda stories is nothing to sniff at. From a general history of how humans made it out to colonize other planets to the infrastructure that they would have set up on all their colonies, including Verdant, it’s giving me the tools to help fill out the universe of the stories.
AND IT’S SO MUCH FUN.
Does this mean I want to turn the Tanner and Miranda stories into hard science fiction? Heck no. I’d be the first person to tell you my favorite part of writing about their shenanigans is exactly that: the shenanigans. But if drawing from the real world science (ish) that relates to the setting I’ve created helps me create a more immersive fictional world, gives me more ideas and, forces me to come up with interesting and different answers to the questions raised by the plot, then I am all for it.
Slowly but surely, I’m settling in. This last week in particular has seen me neck deep in boxes, with the end result being a (mostly) unpacked room. After all the chaos of moving, it’s so nice to have a space that’s starting to feel more like my own.
I’ve also been managing more writing! It’s a slow slog back to where I want to be, but it’s definitely progress. So far, most of the words have been more a random scattering of ideas than anything connected to a specific project, but it’s proving to be a decent way to get myself back into the practice of regular writing, so I’m more than happy to go with it.
Also! Since deadlines and I seem to get along so well, and since September is starting tomorrow, it seems like the perfect time to give myself a wordcount goal for Tanner and Miranda. If all goes to plan, expect to see snippets from my work on their next adventure in the coming weeks. Until then, all the best!
As I adjust to a different set of surroundings, I find myself once again thinking about the way a story’s setting affects everything else about it. And wondering how much the habitat of any given writer affects the stories they create. I don’t think it’s an absolute thing– certain projects I’ve worked on in recent years (while living in Southern California) have clearly taken inspiration from the Idahoan hills I grew up in– but I suspect that the high desert I’ve been so near for the past few years has worked its way into my imagination. At least, I think I recognize the tiniest shreds of the Mojave in the barren plains that keep supplying Tanner and Miranda with their adventures. And I imagine there are some wildly colorful stretches of Utah that will make an appearance as well, now that I’ve driven through it.
So maybe it’s not so much about where the writer is at any given time. Maybe it’s more about where they have been, what different places have seeded themselves in their minds. And if you spend more time in a place it has more time to make itself at home in the corners of your imagination. It’s why I suspect the various space stations that exist half-imagined in my note-heap bear a striking resemblance to both Los Angeles and Yerevan.
And yet. Sometimes it doesn’t take that long at all. Sometimes, all you need is a flash. Wilderness illuminated by the untamed, untameable summer storm that finally caught you. Or the red-sand expanse that spreads beneath a great, blue sky and takes your breath away. Or the water, impossibly still, that reflects the desert mountains in stranger perfection because the sand has forgotten what to do with the rain.
In truth, I should have known better. Than to think I would manage even my reduced blog schedule while in the process of moving. Or, in other words, I did not intentionally skip posting for the entire month of July, yet here we are. In August.
Unsurprisingly, this also means I haven’t really managed much in the way of fiction writing, either, though I’m gearing back up with that (and even pumped out several hundred words for Tanner and Miranda just last week!) and am eagerly looking forward to settling into a stable writing schedule once again.
In the meantime, some highlights from the past month:
- My first visit to Yosemite, complete with a hike up El Capitan
- Spending over a week with my family back in my hometown
- A grand roadtrip comprising of more than 4500 miles, epic scenery, and all the summer storms I’d forgotten about because they don’t happen in California
- Opportunities to catch up with various friends I hadn’t seen in Way Too Long
At some point I’ll definitely upload some of the pictures I took in Yosemite before the smoke descended; with absolutely no exaggeration, that park is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. But that will have to come a different day. Today, I’m just going to have to be satisfied with a quick post to infuse a little life back into this blog– and the fact that I’ve actually got the energy to do some writing tonight.
In my last post I mentioned that I’m getting ready for a big move. By its nature, that of course means that I’m gearing up for some massive changes. (Insert quote here about the only constant in life being change yadda yadda yadda.) What I don’t think I said in that post, though, was the fact that while it’s hardly the first time I’ve dealt with big changes, it is the first time I can recall that I’ve left someplace while it would still be significantly more comfortable to stay…
… and I think that’s a good thing.
Let me try to explain that statement a little. For one thing, it’s important to say here that I don’t mean to say that it hasn’t been hard to leave a job before; I’ve been very blessed in my employment opportunities and between amazing coworkers and great workplace environments, moving on has always been a bittersweet experience, though often one tinged by the awareness that I may have stayed “too long”. To put it another way, I tend to prefer a cautious route through life, and that preference has most definitely been reflected in the way I’ve gone from job to job.
Which has its benefits! And frankly, of the two proverbial ditches on either side of this particular road, I’m inclined to think it’s better to crash into this one than the other. But that being said, it’s still a ditch. And if I can manage to avoid it, too, that would be even better.
And that, in part, is why I do think this move is a good thing. Terrifying. But good. Because it will force me to grow. And it opens up new doors. And has the potential to put me closer to where I want to be careerwise. If only because it’s going to cut out enough to allow for new things to grow. I can only hope it works as well for me as it does for the roses I used to take care of at another old job.
So, it seems like I’ve slipped down unofficially from weekly posts to biweekly, mostly because life is busy being Busy and my braincells are spinning around in all the different places (wheeeeee!). That being said, I’m going to go ahead and make that unofficial schedule official for the next couple of months: at least until my move is finished and I’m a little more settled in in a new state.
I am still here, and still writing (always!) just at a slower pace than I had been. And as proof, let me share one of my recent warmups/writing prompts that I enjoyed! Ten minutes, based off of an AI generated image (how’s that for futuristic?), and lots of fun. If you’re interested, I’ve included the picture the computer came up with down below, too!
So, without further ado and absolutely no editing, enjoy a peek at what happens when I get a time limit and a fun prompt.
The noose was closing. Inch by inch. Moment by moment. It wouldn’t happen today, might not happen tomorrow, but the end was coming. The game was coming to a close, and when it did, Saava would have lost.
Someone else might have used the inevitable end as an excuse to indulge in angst and terror. Or maybe they wouldn’t have had a choice. Others might have turned and used what very little agency remained to them to face their looming death with what the stories called pride and honor.
Not Saava. It would have been easier if she could. But as long as she still drew breath her mind refused to admit defeat. Not even when every logical part of her knew that the end was coming and the horrors it would bring. Not even when she knew she was nothing more than a dead woman walking. Not even when she knew her continued flight would mean greater pain and vicious punishment when they finally caught her.
And it wouldn’t be long now. There were only so many hiding places aboard Citrion Station, and she’d already used most of them. And she had already lasted longer than anyone thought she would. Had thought anyone could. And against some other Hunters, maybe it would have been enough.
Not for her.
Not against Foliak’s Bloodhounds.
Outside, she heard footsteps. And she froze. Even when every cell in her body shrieked that she had to run, she held still. Held steady. Held onto the mantra that had been the only thing to keep her alive these past five months.
Don’t run. Always hide. Let them pass you by.
But the day would come when they wouldn’t pass. Because there would be nowhere further for them to go. Or for her. And then the bloody end would come.
The footsteps receded. She opened her eyes again. And looked up. And she could have laughed. Because the game wasn’t over after all. There was another player. And he was on her side. Or else she read that familiar, fresh white symbol on the bulkhead all wrong.