A Thank You and a Voluntary Critique for Apex

There's a trojan on your computer

What a long, strange crazy week this has been–and it’s not even over yet! I am pumped, and feeling more like myself than I have in ages. Thank you! Yes, there has been unfortunate news shared about lags in my career which has shifted my priorities and goals for the umpteenth time in the past few years. However, looking for and finding gigs is part of being a writer and right now I have to hustle to make up that slack. Hustle, hustle.

Anyway, I wanted to pop in here on ye olde blog to say “Thank you.” I had forgotten just how supportive my friends are because we don’t see each other very often, and my attention has been closer to focusing on hearth and home. Reconnecting with old friends, and finding new readers, players, and fans has been supercharging me. It’s easy to focus on the peripheral or ancillary nonsense that has nothing to do with The WorkTM–especially in an era where we are seeing the tail end of mob rule on the internet.

Since I’m feeling all the love, I volunteered to do a short story critique for Apex Magazine as a means of giving back during their annual fund drive. I promise you it will be amazing and you’ll find a lot of value from my comments! There’s only ONE spot so grab it while you can.

UPDATE: This critique went very quickly, so it’s sold out. Maybe next time! If you’re interested in the fund drive, be sure to check out the Apex Magazine 2016 fund drive.



Celebrate Halloween with Vampires!

v20-endless-ages-anthology

Have you picked up your copy of Endless Ages yet? If not, today’s post gives you a little bit of insight into my inspiration behind “Redder Than Red”. Happy Halloween!

What Motivated Me to Write Redder Than Red

When I was working on Dread Names: Red List, Matt (McElroy) and I would speculate which Anathema would be the first to get caught in the modern era and why. Often, Ayisha Jocastian’s name would pop up because she represents a direct threat to the Masquerade. As an Anathema, Ayisha is unique in the sense that she believes that the consciousness of the vampires she has consumed are directing her actions, but she is also a political threat because her zeal to reproduce and distribute the Book of Nod. Though Ayisha was already condemned to the Red List and could never be removed, she is an active threat who will not stop committing diablerie, nor will she stop sharing vampiric secrets with mortals.

My story, which is titled “Redder Than Red”, is written from the perspective of a Malkavian named Rebecca Fleischer whose childe was diablerized by Ayisha. Rebecca suffers from a form of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder called Arithmomania, which means she has a fundamental need to count. I felt this would be a good mental illness to help illustrate what Rebecca is feeling and seeing, and gets away from the stereotypes that plague members of Clan Malkavian and undermine their potential in a story.

Together with Ventrue Alastor Stephan Ashworth, the two Kindred drive to a warehouse to confront Ayisha Jocastian once and for all. Stephan adds some setting heft to the story, as both Alastors and Anathema are part of the rich lore associated with the Red List, but he also offers a dynamic to show this fight isn’t between two vampires. For Rebecca, however, her desire to take down Ayisha is personal; losing her childe is a powerful motivator for vengeance.

I hope your thirst for vampire fiction will draw you to “Redder Than Red”. This story was a lot of fun to write, and I enjoyed taking on this aspect of Vampire: The Masquerade for the modern era.

Habit Tracking through Bullet Journaling

Maleficent Queen Avatar

If you’ve heard me speak at conventions, you might have picked up on how important I feel basic discipline is to forming good habits for writing. To expand on this a little further, I tend to think of being a writer holistically, because even when I’m not writing (which makes me miserable), I’m still thinking about writing (which can cause more harm than good). But, I’m not “just” a writer. I’m a human being, planet Earth. And as a human, I have to remember to maintain the biological container a bit, as transhumanism is barely a twinkle in the eyes of scientists right now.

Translation: I may wander off with wild hair and no makeup and mismatched clothes and mac-and-cheese and whatever else is in the cupboard while in the thick of it, but that’s not necessarily healthy on an ongoing basis. That bit is the fun part. The “I’m not worrying about a f-bomb’ing thing, other than this project right now.” is absolutely fantastic, but reality often sets in. Where did that extra pound come from? Why has a tornado hit my pad? That sort of thing.

Ergo? Habit tracking. Hilariously, when I heard about bullet journaling (or bujo as the cooler-than-I kids call it), I didn’t see the point at first. It sounded like an overly complicated way of setting up a planner that wasn’t pre-printed. But, it was also an excuse to buy a new notebook (Yay!) and use my set of colored Stabilo pens (which are a-w-e-s-o-m-e, by the way). So, I thought I’d give it a whirl. Here’s a picture of the habit tracker I modified for myself, and a link to the full list of habit trackers with accredited sources:

Bohoberry.com Image to Build Good Habits

Source: Bohoberry

Here’s where it gets interesting. So, the habit tracking method that works for me is to color in each column as its own day, which means I don’t have to do an extra layer of analysis or spend additional time putting together a graph. I get a picture, after a week or two, of what’s actually going on. For me, I caught the fact that my SAD kicked in right away–which is great!

More than this, it’s helpful to look at trends for short periods of time to figure out certain habits. Individual data points… Man, so easy to beat yourself up if you don’t reach a goal on a particular day, or for a specific reason. But, part of my discipline is to track simple habits that build the foundation to my overall lifestyle. My lifestyle by itself requires a desk and a chair, which means that if I procrastinate (which does happen) I sit longer (which is not good) and that takes a toll on my body.

My categories are:

  • Out of bed at 6 a.m.
  • Clean 15 min. a day
  • Cat boxes
  • Make bed
  • Vitamins
  • Laundry
  • Workout
  • No Take-Out
  • No spending
  • Hydrate (64 oz.)
  • Floss
  • Read before bed

I also added a temporary mood tracker and a, um… bad habits tracker. Combined, I quickly figured out my limit for caffeine and how withdrawal was impacting my mood. Next month, I want to fine tune a few habit trackers (e.g. fitness and finances) to ensure I’ve got consistency there. I’m not tracking my mood as well as I’d like, but it’s there in case I need it. After that foundation is laid, then I want to use it for goal setting and see what else I could devise for writing that is a) simple to set up and b) takes less than five minutes to maintain.

The to-do lists for me in bullet journaling don’t work as well as my planner, as well as the reinforcing I do every week via other to-do lists. I rely on those anchors so I can lose myself in the work, and right now they’re a great tool since I’m still waiting on balls to drop that may never come down. My method doesn’t work for everyone, but I try to simplify everything as much as possible knowing how intense I can get. The other thing this bit does, is it keeps the shorter projects top of mind–which is what happens when a longer-term project falls apart or gets delayed.

Latest Artistic Project: Now dreaming about an Etsy store.
Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Gods, Memes, and Monsters, Tales of the Dark Eras, and Firefly: The Gorramn Shiniest Language Guide and Dictionary in the ‘Verse.
Latest Game Release: Ghouls & Revenants for Vampire: The Masquerade and Court of Shadows for Shadowrun.
Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update.



It’s Inktober (Photos)

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It’s Inktober! Opted to post some of the pieces I’ve been drawing for fun. I’m having a blast playing around with different types of inks and markers when I can. I’d really like to get into Copics, but the Prismacolors work great, too. Crayola markers are warping the paper a little too much. Love the pigment, don’t like the effects on paper they have. Feels great to get back in the habit of drawing again, and I’m having fun with it. <3 vampire-skull

stormy-house

jack-skellington

broken



On Sabbaticals and Making My Own Art

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My planned September sabbatical is almost at an end, sadly. I say “sadly”, because I very much enjoyed not being online this time around or, rather, online in closed circles. The first thing I did, after wrangling my list of paying gigs, was to do some adult coloring courtesy of Sarah Bigwood. And then? Decompression. This campaign has been absolutely ridiculously awful in the sense that there are so many arguments happening online. It’s challenging to get a squee every now and again for something that isn’t so spectacular it takes everyone’s breath away, regardless of whether or not I’m said creator of said piece for squeeing, and that gets to me. When I hear nothing but a single note at a singular volume, fortissimo, with a heavy pedal, it becomes noise and it loses its value.

It did take about two weeks to let the emotional angst flow right out of me, and then another two to right my head and get back in the What I Need To Be DoingTM headspace. Not to be confused, of course, with the What I Think I Should Be DoingTM headspace. Two, very different things–especially for writers. A few thoughts coming out of the past few weeks has reinforced that a) we’re all just making this shit up as we go along b) many (if not 95%) of us are doing the best we can and c) what you know or how you’re regarded means f-all with respect to what you do. As an addendum to that, plus an obligatory footnote(1), worrying about everything else is far too complicated and gets in the way of making art.

I’m sure some of my angst is coming from a charged election, but as I live in a charged state a decompression this time around was sorely needed. Of course, being offline doesn’t necessarily help me get down words faster on the page, but mitigating the words and headlines I consume has had an overall positive impact on my psyche. And, it has allowed me to get back to center and focus on what really matters. The in between spaces, the five and ten minutes here and there when I’m waiting on an e-mail, I definitely want to make better use of those.

What’s ahead? I’m planning on participating in Inktober, but I won’t be following the prompts. I have something specific planned, to add to my growing list of beadtastic-ness, but I’m pretty excited about it. I’m all about interstitial art that connects to the worlds I’m creating, to feel that visceral experience of my imagination brought to life–even in a small way! And yes, I feel like a “fake” artist, because none of the creative stuff I do (outside of words or art direction) is attached to my core business. I don’t know if it will be, either. Art has always been my religion, because it’s a testament to what’s inside. I just know I am totally and wholly miserable without it, and have to fall down this particular rabbit hole with or without the $ attached or the fear that I’m wasting my time.

That’s really been the crux of making my own stuff, and has for a while. We talk about making money as artists all the time, and how hard it is. I would write and make art with or without the money, but thinking about ways to earn it based off of what I already do isn’t evil. It’s counter-intuitive to what a lot of other people thinking about making your own stuff. Suffer on in obscurity, selling 20 copies, or have a book made into a movie. Only, there’s 1,000 different business models in between here and there and everywhere, and it’s maddening to try to control the outcome because it cannot be controlled. It can’t. You can have a background in business, which I do, but that doesn’t translate to how readers or players respond to the work or how many copies are sold. The only thing that can be controlled is how I spend my days, and right now? That means adding my own stuff. Just adding it back in, without the fear or anxiety or worry it won’t matter.

So what’s changed for me? I think the illustration at the bottom of today’s post perfectly sums up my thoughts but, for those of you who cannot see the honey badger, what has changed is that I stopped caring to remove another obstacle that gets in the way of being creative. Anything that gets in the way has gotta go. Stagnation for me, not writing or not designing or what have you, that’s the true death. That’s the beginning and end of the darkness that surrounds me, and I fight back by making art.

I don’t know if I’ll post links to my works or not, but if I do it won’t be every day. There is something very soothing about putting pen to paper, something that can’t be replaced with a mouse and a keyboard. I encourage you to participate if you think it’s a cool idea, even if you’re just lettering or watching what other artists are doing. More art = better for all in my book!

(1) Yes, games are in the category of art. Why wouldn’t they be?

honey-badgers



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