coming out of hiding

I’m not brash, I never blow my own horn and I’m deathly afraid to bother anyone with promoting my own stuff. We all know those Tweeps who do nothing else than clogging up your timeline with links to their blog posts etc, but hardly post anything else, don’t we? I don’t want to be that someone.

An uncomfortable truth for the pathological modest like me is though, that if you want to be noticed, you absolutely have to blow your own horn as loud as you can. There’s a lot of competition out there, and if you want to get the appreciation you seek, you have to, well, get your act together and come out of the woodwork.

After yesterday’s attempt of promoting my upcoming Christmas story, I then realised that I should use my marketing job’s knowledge for my own stuff. I needed an umbrella to fit all those different stories and timelines – a brand. An identity. Oh, and a target group.

Screen Shot 2014-12-13 at 22.33.31First thing: The Umbrella. Finding a moniker for this universe my stories take place in was the hardest part. At the beginning of this writing adventure I started with “Under Purple Wings”, then it transformed into “The Apples of Eden” but that wouldn’t work in the long run either. I needed something versatile. At the end, I settled with “Klaiber & Havisham”. Adelie and Nate are in everything, they’re the centre this world revolves around. And they’re an awesome team.

Screen Shot 2014-12-13 at 22.30.39 Now I can come up with a lot of different flavours, depending where in the timeline we are. The books show them as a seasoned special ops team, and the stories are bit gritty. Hence the bloody typeface. People will getting killed in there.

Screen Shot 2014-12-14 at 15.30.47 Of course, itchy designy fingers that I have, I absolutely had to design a proper cover for the Christmas story next. Professional that I am, I first changed the title. After countless iterations and shuffling stuff from left to right and back again, trying to find the right visual tone of the story, this is what I came up with. It’s a romantic, fluffy story, and only has a minor sci-fi element. Notice the little “off duty” under the header, another “flavour”. Designing with photos is very different from the stuff I usually do – posters consist more of charts in numerous variations, and our brochures are all photography free. So this was fun and challenging. Now I want to do more!

Will I now blow my horn more vigorously? I don’t know. Now that my stuff will actually look presentable, I might put it more out there. I’m playing around with Legend Maker to put the stories into e-book reader formats, so that my small readership isn’t stuck with unwieldy PDFs. But first and foremost I should write more and put more stuff out there. ;-)

dead batteries

I consider myself very lucky, because I actually really like what I’m doing to earn money. Most of the time, I feel like I’m getting payed for having fun with cool software. But there are moments when this job becomes really, really stressful. Meetings and symposiums are sadly non-negotiable deadlines, and posters have to be ready THEN. And there’s other stuff, albeit with less pressing deadlines, but still – deadlines. I feel like I’m rushing from one stepping stone to another lately, and being creative under circumstances like that is draining.

So it’s no wonder that I stare in dismay at my precious WIP when I come home, and the only thing I can see is all the gaping holes I need to stuff, or how much things I still have to do research on… And writing is pretty much out of the question, because my brain is toast. Which only adds to my frustration. I WANT to write. I NEED to write. But for all things holy, I CAN’T. If you really want to know how bad it is: Not even fluff is working at the moment. Yes, it’s THAT bad.

The light at the end of the tunnel: a Christmas tree. I decided to actually take all my left-over vacation days this year, which means I’m off next week Thursday. FIVE more days of insanity, including the company Christmas shindig (1), and then I’m free! Free like a bird, with a well-rested brain, ready to let all the words out that bubble up inside me. With that decision comes the plan to not touch the WIP or the Christmas story until then, hopefully eliminating all the frustration attached to being not able to write. Permission to procrastinate is granted. ;-)

(1) To make matters worse, organising that shindig is ALSO our department’s job. It’s not like we have nothing else to do.

writing and… making up people

snowglobe

I recently went shopping with a friend and found this snow globe. I tweeted it with saying that Adelie would love this… stopping dead in my tracks after I hit “Send”, wondering if I’d gotten insane. Adelie is a fictional person. Yes, she used to collect snow globes as a kid, much prettier ones as this. But that I even thought about her like a friend as soon as I saw a snow globe?

Making up human beings is not an easy feat, if you don’t want cardboard cut-outs. Humans are incredible complex things, but what that means I only understood as I tried to pen some on paper. We all have things we like and things we hate, we have weaknesses and strengths, a bunch of problems, etc. None of us is purely good, or completely evil. We all acquired our personality through living. Imagining a human being means coming up with a lot of these things out of thin air. The more you know, the easier it is to write them, even if a lot of the stuff doesn’t even matter for the story. Adelie’s snow globe collection is a give-away, mentioned in passing. But it tells us that before she became a die-hard soldier, she once loved kitschy things. She might even love them now. In an homage to Calvin & Hobbes, Nate owns a pair of lucky rocket ship boxer shorts, a fact that won’t be mentioned at all (1), but I know it. It tells me that under all his prim and proper, perfect outer shell, there’s a man who doesn’t take himself all too serious.

Coming up with all these little quirks is great fun. Trying to sneak them in even more. I once read a glorious quote (2) that said, that if you cut back a 800 pages manuscript down to 200 pages, the information will still be felt in the remaining pages, but not if you only had written 200 pages in the first place. That’s what prompted me to go down every little rabbit hole my muse throws at me, coming up with snippets like this:

Adelie lounged in her chair, turning the soda can between her fingers, smiling about something privately.
“What’s so funny?” Nate asked, grabbing himself another chair. Those research station kitchens had the most comfortable chairs.
“Ah, nothing. I still have a bit of trouble believing that the 13 bottles of Rum are really for this experiment. And not for a party. Even though Dr. Renner doesn’t look like he’d a party in ages.”
“Ha, talk about it. He looks as dried up as a raisin.”
“Nate!” She shot him a half-amused, half-warning look.
“What?!” He did his best innocent face and she shook her head, crumpling up the soda can.
“Okay, time’s up. I’ll go and ready the shuttle for our flight home, you find Ophelia? Bet she’d cornered a poor lab rat to talk shop with them.”
She took aim and threw the soda can ball against the switch of the trash chute, hitting it fair and square. The chute opened just in time to swallow the dropping can ball.
“Nice shot!” he grinned.
“You trained me well.” she laughed, got up and left the kitchen.

I don’t know if this is going to end up in the final story, but I liked the idea of Nate and Adelie sitting in front of trash chutes, being bored, and trying to hit the switch with crumpled up soda cans. It just sounds like something two competitive people would start doing. Maybe they even have a leader board, running since their Cadet times. It is sort of important to me to give them a history that doesn’t only consist of longing looks and unrequited love. Those two are first and foremost best buddies, even though my personal weakness is to write fluffy stuff with them. Nobody’s perfect. ;-)

(1) Because the Alpha Reader found it silly.
(2) Which of course I now can’t find because that was pre-Ember times.

Writerly Tools: Ember

ember

Being creative means being interested in a multitude of things – you got to feed your muse, don’t cha? And as most creative persons can probably relate, keeping all the things that inspire you neatly and accessible can be a bit of a headache. For a while I used Evernote, and then Pinterest – but I always feel a bit uneasy when using internet based services. Mostly because I’ve seen more than one service biting the dust, and then what do you do? Saving pictures and websites and quotes into folders and documents on your hard drive is kinda unwieldy though. And you have to back it up regularly too, otherwise you might lose everything in a crash.

While wandering aimlessly around the App Store recently, I stumbled across a little app named “Ember”, and it looked like being the answer to my specific set of requirements.

I wanted:
– to save and tag pictures
– sort pictures into a kind of collection
– write down and tag notes from online research

Ember lets me do all this and a bit more:
– I can put a reference link to every item so I can go back to where I found it
– It can create “smart” collections based on titles, tags, colour…
– I can also create and fill collections manually
– It lets me share every item via Twitter, Facebook, Mail, iMessage and a gazillion other possibilities
– I can back-up the whole thing to iCloud Drive where it is ‘safe’ (1)
– It has a Safari plugin and a nice screen shot function.
– It can do GIFs!!! *___*
– If I absolutely have to, I can draw and scribble on the captured items too.
– and much, much more…

As a marvellous thing like this is not freeware, and the price tag more in the middle of things (2), I tested the heck out of the promo version, and Ember delivered with flying colours. I finally have a place where I can put in everything that tickles my muse while browsing Tumblr, or Pinterest, or where ever else I happen to be, and put it there, tag it and find it again when I need it. It is glorious! \o/

(1) Yes, ‘safe’ might be relative here, but I mean safe from a crashing hard drive.
(2) Meaning, too expensive to buy it blindly, but still affordable.

Summer Dreams of Beaches and Motorcycles

promo_beach

Not yet ready for winter or *gasp* Christmas? How about a day at the beach instead, complete with a picnic, a bonfire and the obligatory splash in the freezing waves? How about riding a motorcycle in the sunshine?



As I very much needed a break from the Apples, I began writing the Christmas short story that had lodged itself into my head a few weeks ago, and which I couldn’t write because of a certain word goal for the Apples. Today it dawned on me that I never actually published another short story I wrote in August, as I was longing for, well, a proper summer. And a beach and a motorcycle. As the Christmas story will take a while to finish, have a sweet summer story instead. It’s been a while since I published anything anyway. Here’s an excerpt:

They reached the end of the little town and traffic became non-existent. The road stretched out before them, and Nate opened the throttle up a notch. With a burbling sound the machine pulled effortlessly along the tarmac, trees and meadows rolling by. Hay was drying and Adelie inhaled the sweet scent deeply. The smell of summer. The sun shone warm on their backs and the wind made a mess out of their hair. She leaned her cheek against his broad back and closed her eyes.

breaking through the 50.000 words wall

So – I did it! Not even a stupid fever could stop me on reaching my goal (1). Three days before the deadline. Right now I’m so proud I could explode – yes, I’m happily ignoring the fact that there are still 6000+ words in there that do not count. But I can’t delete them just now, I want to bask in the glory of the 5 in front of four Zeros.

Some number crunching:
– I wrote 781 words on average per day.
– I didn’t reach the daily word count five times.
– I wrote significantly more in the first week (6486 words) than this week (2080 words for now) and still made it.

Despite reaching my goal and making serious progress with the story, I will not do something like this again. It’s stressful. I’m even wondering if this fever is not the result of me stressing over work and writing and eventually putting my body over the edge, so that it had to resort to pulling the emergency break.

Anyway, the Apples are (for now) 50.000 words and 196 pages strong, and now I will rest. Working on background stuff like palace and fortress floor plans, because it’s quite difficult to write chase scenes if you have no idea where they’re going. I need chapter and scene synopses. I have to take stock on loose threads and figure out how to tie them up. Chances are, I won’t be writing a lot the next few weeks. And I’m looking forward to that! :D

(1) Although it is possible that the quality of my writing in a fever induced haze is debatable.

of having a squirrel brain and long term projects

I could have titled this post in a lot of ways: “How to get organised in three easy steps” or “Getting organised for the easily distracted” or “Life Planning for the Instant Gratification People” or “How to deal with Zoomy Cats Syndrome”. Anyway, I liked the squirrel brain idea.

I’m an easily overwhelmed person – with a brain going a million miles a minute, bombarding me with constant ideas every waking (and often every sleeping) hour, a job, a household and a boyfriend, my inner perfectionist is more often than not close to a heart attack. You have to do this, and this, and don’t forget that superduper urgent thing!!! Clean your kitchen! Watch that movie! Kiss your boyfriend! Ad nauseam. It’s easy to then feel like what I call “Imposter adult” – you feel like you’re not really a grown up, because you can’t even get the most basic things done.

The problem with writing and working full time is, that you perpetually feel you’re neglecting something. A day only has so many hours, and you need to sleep, eat, work, write, do some chores and socialise if you don’t want to become a crazy cat lady. How should a mortal person accomplish all that?! Especially if you’re like me: a perfectionist craving instant gratification?

Perfectionism is a highly dangerous enemy. Because it tricks you into believing that only when a task is completely done, you’re allowed to feel good. It tricks you into believing that you have to do it all at once. But that’s not true! You can’t write a book in one sitting! Neither do you have to do any other project in one. So I applied what writing a book taught me to other aspects of my life: Plan an outline, break it down into chunks, be persistent. Like books, lives are highly complex things, so you need the right tools to do that. My weapons of choice: an notebook, textmarkers and a pen.

In another attempt to get a grip on my life and the most important parts of it, I sat down last weekend and created a custom planner. Of course, the inner perfectionist wailed and screamed because I wasn’t creating pretty charts and graphics with the computer, but I needed something quickly. I created pages for monthly and weekly goals I’d like to accomplish in the three major parts of my life: BOOK, LIFE and HOUSE.

BOOK = Obviously everything that has to do with writing
LIFE = Meaning everything to keep myself healthy and happy
HOUSE = Everything from cleaning to decorating this living space

I mostly did this because with all the gazillion planners you can buy or install on your device of choice, neither ever fitted my demands of being flexible and adaptable enough. I don’t have many appointments during the week, I’m not a freelancer or a mom with packed days, but I need an overview. I also need space to dump the zoomy cats into, meaning scribbling down lots and lots and lots of ideas.

planner

This is how it looks like. Not pictured: All the blank pages at the back that will contain said notes. As you can see, there are little circles behind every task, indicating my progress on it. I find it highly frustrating when I can’t cross off something, because it isn’t done yet, but a normal to do list doesn’t show you if you’ve already started. Hence: Little progress circles.

Next step: Building a Kanban board for the book to dos. I use that nifty thing at work, and it works great.

Other ressources for (DIY) planners:
Bullet Journal
Hipster PDA
Passion Planner

NaNoWriMo-ing… sort of

Because I’m a stubborn person I decided to actually do it… to get my word count to 50.000, no matter that my day job is quite exhausting at the moment. And it’s going astonishingly well – I’m around 2000 words ahead of schedule, and depending on how diligent I’m going to be next week I’ll break through the magic wall of 50.000 next weekend. This is very motivating, to say the least.

Not that I’m anywhere near the end then, and there are 6000+ words of discarded scenes that I’m not allowing myself to delete just yet, too. But just writing and not over-obsessing over sections until I lose the will to live and feel like the greatest failure in literary history has helped to push the actual story forward. I filled in a lot of empty space in the last two weeks. I still love to write romantic fluff more than anything else, and I think I just have to accept that, but there are also lots of skeletons of action scenes now that need more flesh on their bones, come December.

What I learned so far in this mad dash to half-way finish line:
– I write best in the morning (no surprise here)
– It’s easier to write at 6am if I know what I want to write next the evening before
– In general an outline prevents a lot of “writer’s block” (also no surprise here)
– My home goes haywire when I do nothing else but write (so these sessions of barfing up words and doing nothing else will not occur often)
– I really need a better plan of balancing life, work and writing

I think today I’ll take a break from writing – I don’t NEED to get to 50.000 this week anyway, there are two weeks left to get there, ffs – and instead focus on organising thoughts and ideas and plan the coming week. And tidy my desk.

Do you have any large projects going on, that you have to juggle beside your day job? How do you handle that? Any breakthroughs we can celebrate together? Leave a comment. :-)

creating a world

I’m a visual person and I love imaginary worlds. Writing is wonderful to create imaginary worlds, but it sometimes lacks the visual richness that comics or movies provide in passing. If I want to show something, I have to write it. It’s not background information that just happens, like props or decoration in a movie. I can’t just place a book on a bedside table and you know that character A likes to read saucy romance before bed, if you happen to catch that. No, I literally have to tell you, preferably through the eyes of character B who happens to end up in said bedroom and notices the book. Even better: That there’s a book with saucy romance is plot relevant.

I actually would enjoy to write page after page after page with just descriptions of surroundings and stuff and little knick-knacks. But most people read books because of the story, not the descriptions. The glory of today is though, that I CAN show you, with a little effort on my part, at least some things of this world I’m writing. As a side note: I noticed how little some of my favourite authors describe of their fantastical settings, and yet I end up with an interesting world in my head all the time. Funny how the brain fills up the blanks, isn’t it?

Nate and Adelie end up using medical products of a certain brand all the time. I assume the company has a contract with the United Space Force? Anyway, brands have logos, I create logos in my day job, so why not create even more in my free time? And as I just bought a glorious programme which seems to be a serious competitor to my beloved Illustrator, what more excuses do I need?

drbronner_logo

This is just a quick and simple thing, testing out how the programme works. I probably end up creating more variations of this and other brands I make up, just because it’s fun. Maybe even space ships, if I’m really mastering the software. But becoming a digital artist is even more work than becoming a writer, so the chances are slim that I suddenly create amazing matte paintings of fictional worlds.

The fonts I used are Belgrad for the name and Isadora for the tagline, if you like them.

Why it is important to write every day

One thing you read quite often in any sort of writing related medium is to write every day. It took me a long time to actually get what was meant. Of course, at first I took it as “Write your story every day.” – but this can actually be quite exhaustive. And writer burn out is a thing that should be avoided at at all cost.

I recently adapted my writing to first scribble into my notebook and then (or never) type it up later. I don’t censor myself when I write into that notebook. I try to pen down every snippet, every scene, every picture that pops into my mind – no matter if it has anything to do with the plot or not. This can lead to quite lengthy explorations of backstory, or totally irrelevant cuddle scenes. Because I like writing cuddles, and I like writing happy characters. Sometimes I’m more on a world building trip and think of pedigrees and parties and intrigues. All of this goes into the notebook.

You might ask yourself what this has to do with writing every day. Scribbling into this notebook daily is easy. I don’t have any expectations towards my writing, no certain goal that I want to reach and especially no nagging word count. I can start and stop whereever I want to, I don’t have to finish anything (there’s a lot of abandoned stuff in there, oh my) and nobody is ever going to read it. The trouble with writing is, that it takes an insane amount of doing it to get it right. You write, and rewrite, and rewrite some more. With scribbling every day, the chance that I have a sentence there that is beautiful and hits every note, increases significantly. Sometimes a scene leads to thinking about other stuff, and that leads to a breakthrough somewhere else. So, over time this notebook became a treasure trove of words I can use or get inspired by.

Another benefit of writing daily is, of course, the practice. The ability to string words together in a pleasant way is like a muscle that needs to be trained. Technique suffers from not writing. Sentences are unwieldy and clunky after I haven’t written for a while, and I forget the littlest things.

And that’s why it is important to write every day.