April Recap

*whimpers*

So April was… rough.  Last month was the kind of perfect storm that I’ve not seen since Sept 2015, when I ran out of blog buffer at the start of NaNo right after pooping out a new human.  Thank goodness that, in my infinite mercy, I scheduled myself a recap for this week, because boy howdy, that buffer is long gone.

In addition to some personal issues, I had Camp NaNo, with its super low word count goal that I still just barely squeaked out-

NaNo Graph

-as well as the near doubling of my hours at the library I work at (soooo much shelving)-

Books to Shelve

-and the seven hundred mile round trip with all babies in tow-

Screaming Mom

-and all the normal requirements of a household trying to appease the relentless gods of entropy.

Messy House

It was rough.  And so I’m happy to give myself a pass on a thoughtful blog post this week.  Instead, go learn about crazy math!

*passes out*

Camp and Class Updates

Chore BearWhew! This month is seriously kicking my butt!  I’m slogging through Camp NaNo- waaaay behind schedule- and barely keeping up with this class I’m teaching at the school and I’ve upped my (admittedly small amount of) hours at work by 50%. Yikes!

Still, it’s been a good month. I feel like I’m doing reasonably well, and I hope to play a little more catch up later in the month.  I’ve put my submissions stuff on the back burner until May, and I haven’t been able to do as much reading as I’d like, but I’m actually keeping up in all my other regular chores.  (For example, not every pan in the house is dirty.) For now, that’s gonna have to do.

Next week, we’ll have a reblog from the ever amazing Madison Dusome, but for now, enjoy a super unedited bit of weirdness that I thought was kind of fun regarding the plight of a low-tier camp counselor. Enjoy!

 

Bear Attacks: How Not to Die

Alright kids, you have so far done an excellent job of not dying. And in the interest of not getting sued by your parents, we’re gonna talk about how to keep that winning streak going.

Atticus! Put that down and get over here. Pay attention.

Now. Who here’s seen a bear? Wow, all of you? Wait, no, Zoo Boise doesn’t count. I mean, like, you and some big ball of teeth and fur, and nothing between you but like a few thorn bushes and an outhouse. Okay, that’s what I thought.

Me? No, I’ve never seen one either. But we’re gonna learn about it today anyway because this is a summer camp and Smokey doesn’t care if you’re a moose or a third grader.

So who can tell me the two kinds of bears they have here in the Alaskan Interior?

That’s right! Brown bears. What else?

Gummy bears will not kill you in your tent for a granola bar, so no, Sophie, not gummy bears. Try to take this seriously.

Come on, Alex, do you really think they have panda bears here?

Seriously, guys? It’s the same two we have back in Idaho.  Didn’t your parents ever take you camping?

Thank you! Black bears!

Okay, yes, Alaska does have polar bears, but they don’t come this far south and if one of those starts hunting you, you’re pretty screwed anyway.

Okay, so black bears and brown bears. If you-

No, grizzlies are just another name for brown bears.

I don’t know; they just call them that.

No, those are just-

No.

N-

Sun bears? Where do you think we are?

Atticus, sit down.

Okay, guys, we’ve got black bears and brown bears, also known as grizzly bears. Who knows how to tell them apart?

Well, because you have to do different things when you encounter different bears.

Just don’t get them mixed up, okay? Now pay attention.

Sophie, put your gummy bears away.

Okay, how do you tell brown bears and black bears apart?

Okay, good! Color. What else can you look for?

No, Alex, don’t be silly.

Come on, guys.

Okay, which one’s smaller?

And one more guess.

Yes! Black bears are smaller. So brown bears are…

Yes. Thank you.

Black bears are only like five feet tall standing up, but brown bears are like eight feet tall.

Well, yeah, they’re both taller than you kids. But brown bears are a lot taller. Black bears also have a kind of straighter face and curvier claws.

Alex, come one. Would you seriously walk up and check its claws?

Well don’t, okay?

Yes, I’m checking the paper, I don’t want to mix this up.

Of course I know what I’m talking about. I’m just making sure.

Atticus- Sit. Down.

Okay. So say you want to go down to the waterfront, but you want to be bear safe. What do you do?

Okay, sure, but you’re not riding in a car, you’re walking.

Sophie. Leave her alone.

Sophie, you! You’re going to the waterfront. How should you get down there?

Um. Alright. But would you go alone?

Okay, but don’t, okay? If you walk in groups, it’s a lot safer. And if you make a lot of…

Make a lot of…

Come on, guys, you’re doing it right now.

Noise! Yes! Make a lot of noise. Bears don’t like to be surprised.

So you’re heading down to the waterfront and you’re in a group and you’re making noise, but there’s a bear on the trail ahead of you.

Well, okay, for this part it doesn’t matter. Black or brown, there’s a bear. What should you do?

That’s a good idea. Just heading back the way you came can’t hurt. Slowly back up, and don’t put your back to it. Always give bears a lot of space, and never-

Atticus! Do you want to spend the afternoon cleaning outhouses?

Thank you.

Alright, guys, let’s just get through this so we can go make bead necklaces or something. Give bears space. Never run. If you run, it’ll chase you and it’ll be a heck of a lot faster. What else?

No, please don’t try to climb a tree. Bears can climb, and they’re way better at it than you.

Yes, you too, Lily.

Lily, seriously, you cannot outclimb a bear.

I don’t care if your cousin is Tom Brady; beating some punk cousin in a tree climbing race doesn’t qualify you to escape a bear up a tree. And even if you did beat it to the top, it can just keep climbing up after you.

No climbing.

Okay, so say you haven’t been listening to anything I’ve said and you snuck up on a bear and now you’re in for it. So it decides to attack and it’s a black bear. What should you do?

Eh, screaming won’t help.

Okay, someone might come help you, but mostly you’re just telling the bear, ‘Sure, I’m prey! Easy pickin’s!’ Screaming isn’t gonna help.

No, it’s a black bear. You play dead for a brown bear. For black bears, you…

Yes. You fight back. Beat it around the nose as much as possible, they have sensitive noses.

And what if it’s a brown bear?

Come on, guys, I just said it.

Play dead. Thank you. Lay on your belly like this…

And then cover your neck with yours hands like this…

And spread your feet like this.

So you’re harder to flip over.

Well, I guess your back’s got more bones to protect you if it starts clawing you open.

No, I mean, it won’t. Probably.

No, no, seriously, the odds of a bear actually attacking are like really really small.

No, honestly. Look, it says right here.

Oh, Alex, don’t cry, honey. This’ll seriously never happen.

Well, because there’s a really really small chance that it might happen so you should know what to do just in-

I don’t know. It just says ‘rare’.

I really don’t know.

Because whoever wrote this pamphlet didn’t think percentages were important. It’s just rare, okay?

Oh, Alex. Nobody’s gonna eat you.

Atticus, sit down!

You know what? Let’s just… review this later. Who wants to run up to the obstacle course?

Yeah. Me too.

Sprint Leader Interview

NaNoWordSprintsHi, folks!  Jill here again, operating under the happy assumption that the internet hasn’t exploded yet in my absence.  I’m still on the road (or rather, the ocean) and still desperately clawing out my tiny word contributions toward my Camp Nano goal.  One of the things that always seems to help me (you know, when I can actually get on the internet) is to participate in writing sprints and word wars on Twitter.  And, what do you know, I found a real, live sprint leader willing to chat with me!

Here’s my interview with @NaNoWordSprints sprint leader Chris K.  Come enjoy his wisdom!

Jill: Hello!  Who are you?

Chris: Okay… my name is Chris K, I live in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, and have a day job as a database programmer across the bay in Burlington. I have a brother, a sister, a brother-in-law, two nieces and a nephew. My father and my grandparents have passed away, but my mom is still with us and I hope will be for a long time. I collect digital gadgets and toy animals like teddy bears, and I’ve started to learn to draw. (Link to http://drawingteddybears.wordpress.com/ , my art blog!)

Jill: What first got you interested in writing?  What sorts of stories do you typically write?

Chris: I think I’ve been a storyteller for as long as I can remember; I had this weird story about pre-European-contact people living in Nova Scota and having blacksmithing that I tried to tell my parents when I was still in the early grades. I wrote crazy stories about wizards with little pet dragons and teenagers serving as junior officers on starships when I was in high school–basically thinly disguised fanfic before I realized fanfic was a thing.

I still write mostly science fiction and fantasy… I love to write about true love, mysterious treasure, alien invasions and starships.

Jill: I met you through @NaNoWordSprints on Twitter, where you are one of the sprint runners.  What got you interested in large scale sprints?  How did you get involved in @NaNoWordSprints?

Chris: I’m not quite sure when I first got involved with @NaNoWordSprints as a follower. Since the first years I did Nano, (which is going to be year 12 this November,) I was a regular in the “Word wars forum”, where you can set up word wars with strangers for a certain amount of time or take up challenges like writing to a 3 digit number that somebody else posted, or to the nearest round thousand in your word count.

I probably found out about @NaNoWordSprints there. I remember that I looked up how to become part of the @NaNoWordSprints team after I’d signed up to be the Hamilton co-ML for the first year, and then they had an open signup for anybody who’d already been an ML for one year. But the next year, they’d changed the policy, and said that they weren’t looking for any new sprint leaders! However, the April after that, I spotted a notice asking for MLs interested in running sprints for Camp NaNoWrimo, and I’ve been part of the team ever since.

Jill: What are the benefits of writing sprints?  What can you get out of sprints/group writing that is hard to attain elsewhere?

Chris: I think that sprints, in their own way, distill the main benefits of NaNoWriMo: meeting other writers, getting an infusion of creative energy from the simple fact that others are writing at the same time as you are, and a push to focus for a short time on writing something new and not worrying about making it perfect on your first try before you continue.

Jill: Say you had an author who was pathetically unproductive without fellow sprinters (*raises hand guiltily*)- what could such a writer do during non-NaNo months to keep moving forward on their projects?

Chris: There are lots of ways to challenge yourself or find other writers to challenge you. You can always search on twitter with tags like #amwriting or #wordsprint , or visit the Nano word wars forum at http://nanowrimo.org/forums/word-wars-prompts-sprints — though that forum doesn’t get so much activity in certain months of the year.

There’s also a site a Nano made which runs three automated word wars every hour at http://mswishlist.com/war – and other places over the net where you can join writers to share more long-term goals. Journeymen writers have gathered here on the storywonk forums – http://forum.storywonk.com/index.php?/topic/2007-tjw-goal-sharing-support-thread/ – and I’m admin of a small writer’s forum with a lot of focus on goal sharing and support, at http://stringingwords.freeforums.net/

Jill: If you could give only one piece of advice to a new writer, what would it be?

Chris: Write for the fun and joy of it, and keep writing. There are a lot of different ways to pursue success on the publishing side, but if you can’t keep writing fun you won’t get too far with it.

Jill: Closing thought: give us a one-book reading recommendation.

Chris: Terra, by Mitch Benn. This was given me by a good friend–literally, she handed me the trade paperback and said “I think you should read this.” It’s the hilarious but touching story of an Earth girl who accidentally gets abducted by an alien, (he scared her parents and then takes the baby girl because he thought she’d been permanently abandoned,) and how she saves both her adoptive home planet, and planet Earth. There’s a sequel out now, and the third part of the trilogy is upcoming I believe.

 

Big thanks to Chris K for the interview!  If you find yourself lagging in your word counts, you should give word sprints a shot.  It just might be the jolt your story needs to get crackin’.  Happy writing!

Reblog: Writer on the Road

I’m still traveling (and this is the first time I’ve had internet in over a week! augh!) and it’s been super de duper hard to find writing time since we left home in May.  This has become extra irksome now that it’s a NaNo month (double augh!).  But at least now that it’s a NaNo month, I can inundate you with reblogs and silly garbage instead of actually working on a somewhat thoughtful post.

Here’s a neat article by Peter Korchnak I read recently at his and his wife’s blog Where Is Your Toothbrush? about writing while traveling- hopefully useful for someone more than just me!

Writer on the Road: How to Write while Traveling

One of my main personal goals for the round-the-world trip was to work on my writing career. By getting away from the daily grind of a commute, a job, and a mortgage I meant to spend more time doing what I love and hone my craft. Before departure I had started building a foundation for an eventual book with the blog American Robotnik and self-published Guerrilla Yardwork: The First-Time Home Owner’s Handbook. On the trip I intended to keep the momentum by

  • writing this blog to develop material for a book about how to feel at home anywhere in the world;
  • writing a memoir of becoming a man in Czechoslovakia during the transition to democracy; and
  • freelancing.

Aside from a growing blog, it didn’t quite work out that way: the memoir is out and a mystery novel in; I’ve concocted a couple of other long-term writing projects; I only managed to land a handful of freelance articles and only had two literary non-fiction pieces published, albeit one as a winning piece of a prestigious contest. The biggest lesson: Writing while traveling is much, much harder than I thought…

Ready for more?  Go read the rest of the article, and tons more, at Where is your Toothbrush?

Out of Context

I had hoped to have another goofy comic ready to post this week, but it didn’t happen.  (Blame falls in equal parts among YouTube, the foodiest of parties, my super fantastic husband’s birthday, and caring for sickly children, but I’m not even gonna pretend to regret any of those things.)

As some of you know, my Camp NaNoWriMo project for the month doesn’t lend itself well to sample chapters.  Instead of working on one single project, I’m wrapping up three (maybe four?) unfinished novels.  (And I have two down and one-to-two to go! Whoo!)  Therefore, all my writing for the month is pretty late into the books and spoilers are mega uncool.  But I still like to share LSWs after writing sprints, and some of them have been hilarious or creepy or just plain weird when taken out of context.

For example:

I’m not the one that took them off. I think you tossed them behind the coal scuttle after your fifth brandy.”

And again:

Enthiln took her face in his hands and smiled down at her. “Were you escaping?”

One more:

“Now get out of that dress, you’ve a job to do.”

I don’t even want to know what kind of books my sprint buddies think I’m writing from these babies.   But I do know I’m not the only one displaying this problem gift.  Some nice ones I’ve seen lately from others online:

Kabak stared at the door, wishing she would walk through.

(See, my mind immediately leaps to a bored assassin just wanting to do the job and get out of there.  Turns out, this is a guy waiting at the altar for his bride.  Right.  I was close.)

Another one:

“I don’t trust people who don’t lie when they should.”

(Haha, I love this line.  Cat, you’re brilliant.)

Last one:

“Sorry to wake you Mr. Givens but your tires have been slashed.”

(Ouch.  That’s a lame way to wake up.  Employee is wonderfully deadpan about it, though.  Give that person a raise.)

So the next time you see me write, “Gods, as if your shins still held any mystery.”, judge me gently.  Out of context is sometimes the best context.

Only one week of Camp left, and then we’ll get back to quasi-intelligent updates. (At least until the end of May, ugh, vacation, nooo.)  To tide you over until then, check out this cool infographic I found by ComputerSherpa:

Periodic Table

Visit ebookfriendly.com for full size.  I stared at this for a long time!

Reblog: 10 Lessons Learned Behind the Scenes

Hey! I totally forgot to warn everyone last week, but it’s another month of Camp NaNoWriMo! *cheers* And that means that I get to basically ignore the blog for the month!*cheers*

But fear not, O darling readers.  While I’m busy turning Irene Adler into a shape-shifting single mom, we’ll still be having a fun month here of reblogs, silly comics, and who knows what else. To kick things off, have some Writer’s Digest wisdom from Jessica Stawser!

A few short months ago, I wrote about my path to getting an agent and a publisher, and promised to share my experiences leading up to the publication of my debut novel, ALMOST MISSED YOU, due out in 2017 from St. Martin’s Press.

You might think that as the editor of Writer’s Digest magazine—and given my earlier years spent editing nonfiction books—I would know more or less what to expect from the process. But I discovered that there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes on the author’s side—emotions to navigate, new steps to take—that I haven’t seen discussed much elsewhere (perhaps even more so with a “Big 5” publisher).

So let’s take a look at what I’ve learned in my early months as a debut novelist-in-progress—and how it might help you know what to expect and how to position yourself for success. I’ve outlined 10 lessons overall, and will be delivering them in two installments—5 today, and 5 more on Monday. Let’s start at the beginning.

1. Once you’re offered a book contract, it takes awhile to get the, well, contract.

It was right around eight weeks for me, which my agent indicated was typical. I wasn’t really bothered by this, but my husband, who works in finance and insurance where nobody touches anything until signatures are in place, was a bit white-knuckled. He could not believe that my editor, agent and I were all already working on various things for and with each other with nothing signed.

What if it falls through in the negotiating stages? Think of having an offer accepted on a house. You do inspections, loan approvals, packing, storing and more in good faith that the closing will go through. All the while, your real estate agent (there’s that word again!) is doing even more work behind the scenes on your behalf, and you have to trust him or her. Are there a few horror stories out there about things falling apart? Sure. But most of the time you walk away with the keys.

So, if you’re cut from the same cloth as my husband (and what a handsome cloth it is), know that this is more or less the norm. As long as you have a reputable agent and publisher, try to trust that things will work out.

Ready to read the rest?  Head on over to Writer’s Digest to read the full article: 10 Lessons Learned Behind the Scenes of a Book Deal.

Worldbuilding Shenanigans!

P1060338Hello!  As I’m hip-deep in Camp NaNoWriMo right now, I’m having a ton o’ fun with my worldbuilding.  One of my most favoritest things about writing a series is seeding details into books that seem fairly unimportant in the current arch, but will become much more important on the next one.  So on that cryptic note, enjoy an info-dump and a few doodles that I can bear to be seen in public!

The Blighted