Archive | Uncategorized RSS feed for this section

Stupid Sexy Smeagol

15 Jun

I pitched this topic for Keycon and got zero interest in talking about it, so I’ll talk about it here.

There’s a lot going on about Amazon’s Middle Earth series in development, and I wanted to talk about adaptation of media and author intent, mostly by weighing in on the smut factor, or why some of us are upset that there’s an intimacy coordinator. I’ll eventually weigh in on fandom and promoting diversity, but this got long enough with just the sexy.

My relationship with smut is complicated.

On the one hand, I believe in freedom of speech and expression.  I think in order to criticize something, you need to be able to be free to talk about it.

On the other, I see a culture that talks a lot about sexual freedom and not about exploitation and sex addiction.

We don’t talk about sex addiction because I think it strikes different people in different ways; and I’ve studied anatomy for both art and healthcare related purposes, sometimes I forget how normies react to not only nudity, but trauma and things that are generally upsetting. I could go on about how desensitized I’ve become, but I noticed it even back in High School that some people reacted strongly to essentially body building magazines and classical art. One of my favourite animated films, Fire and Ice, is basically a study in anatomy in motion – rotoscoping, I highly recommend the film for artistic purposes.

My attitude is to be honest about what you’re trying to make. If you want to make adult material, make adult material. It’s not like there isn’t a need or a demand for it. No one complained about the sex scenes in Game of Thrones when they were warranted (and mercilessly ridiculed when they were not). In fact, there’s plenty in the history of fantasy that is thinly veiled fetishism. Sticking to material that is older than my father:

Conan, not going to call him The Original, but certainly a well known marauder and ravisher.

The characters in Edgar Rice Burroughs Martian series are naked except for jewellery.
Conan C

And there is so much bondage in the average Wonder Woman comic, I’m certain other people can step in and do a better job than me.

Thing is, I grew up reading about John Carter and Conan and think Frank Frazetta is an amazing artist to which I should aspire. I’m not saying any of this shouldn’t exist.

I’m saying making the sexy adventures of beautiful elves and humans and maybe the odd sexy dwarf smashing isn’t the purpose of Tolkien’s work. Tolkien was a staunch Catholic and while we could argue that story lines concerning Beren and Luthien and Turin and Neinor were suggestions of Classical Romancism (and in the latter’s case, tragedy), the point wasn’t voyeurism and the epitome of love was seldom eros. There’s plenty of works that aren’t as… let’s just say in depth as Tolkien. Let us nerds who like more complicated ideas have our variation of fun.

Most people generally adore the Peter Jackson trilogy, and I’m not a purist, so there’s talk about whether or not Tolkien or his estate would have liked the films. I had a prof in University bash the films, stating that they were altered for a modern audience and not true to the work. If I’m okay with that adaptation, what’s a little more alteration?

I get that there’s never going to be 100% faithful adaptation, because usually if the author intended for a specific actor, odd are even if everything goes super quickly to publication and then adaptation, the actor the writer envisioned will likely age out of that role. To be fair, some adaptation makes sense for the medium. I’m currently watching The Expanse. I’m less than half into the second book, and the first season introduced and regularly featured the character of Chrisjen Avasarala who I don’t think I’ve met in the books yet. There’s quite a few let’s just say… interesting choices that aren’t 100% faithful to the books, but make sense given that it’s a series of 40ish minute episodes, the story lines will be changed so that you have proper arcs within the show, so that we don’t have ‘the boring episode everyone skips’ or what have you – also I love it when actors take a character and make them their own. We saw that in TLotR films, where in the second movie we cycled through the story line to story line as opposed to keeping it like the book where we followed Aragorn and co. In the first half, then the second half was The Taming of Smeagol. I can only speak for my own experience, but I’ve found certain story telling techniques work better in visual form as opposed to written word and vice versa – and it’s learning to use them to their strengths (as well as artist strength) that is important. I think a director or whatever can be faithful to the spirit of the story and still make it their own interpretation of said story. At a certain point, the adaptation becomes its own thing, and isn’t a proper reflection of the work. And I’m saying this as someone who grew up with countless retellings of A Christmas Carol and not caring one iota.

I’m starting to think all that classic music I learned listening to these old cartoons was because it was in the public domain…

Do I expect future installments to stay stagnant? Yes and no – when a series becomes something it never was supposed to be, I notice, but stories are funny because they do change over time; even if we have them written down and have the original, you see authors taking ideas from Tolkien and running with them – I’m reading The Witcher series, the cast of elves, dwarves, gnomes is likely a reflection of Tolkien’s established universe. Warcraft has similar features. I could list the stories and games that are either subtle nods or more than borrow from him for pages and still miss something. Until we get to specific tales such as Gawain and the Green Knight, stories like Robin Hood and King Arthur have no definitive canon although there’s elements that most would agree upon, even though there’s reason to believe that characters such as Lancelot and Maid Marion were added centuries after the stories are already popular. It’s not a game of telephone; oratures and oral history have a tradition and can be taken very seriously, but occasionally people add into the story and it’s added to the canon. This happened to Harley Quinn to the DC universe, but we have Tolkien’s notes and letters. We know his intent. Basically what I’m saying, is can we not pick one of the many, many other inspired stories to interpret if we want smut? Because calling something Middle Earth and pretending it was always like that isn’t really fooling anyone.

Review Tour Wind Up

14 Jun

Thank you to every one who hosted and has been following along for the tour. If you haven’t, check out the following bloggers, enter to win the draw for a $50 GC to the online book seller of your choice. You’ll be contacted and asked by Marianne of Goddess Fish Book Promotions, I really don’t mind what book format the winner picks.

As always, a special thank you to anyone who takes the time to review my work. I know there’s a lot out there and I never, ever want to pressure anyone into giving a favorable review or anything to that effect. I love to argue for the sake of discussion, but your opinions and reviews are your own.

The Stops:

Bibliomaniac Aza (Promo)

Gina Rae Mitchell

Harlie’s Books

The Faerie Review

Jazzy Books Reviews

Kit N’Kitbookle

Travel the Ages

Read Book. Repeat

The Avid Reader

Thoughts on Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” so far

10 Jun

So I meant to do this at the end of Book 4 The Rising Shadow– and life’s busy. Life’s always busy. Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing. I’ll probably do an entire series recap once I’ve finished The Witcher. A quick recap:

Someone recommended Wheel of Time to me when I was in first year University, and the course load was pretty intense, and I just couldn’t get into it. I got into Malazan and Game of Thrones about a year or two later, but I was initially turned off with the infamous slog that apparently starts around book 6 or so (almost there. Almost). I thought, compared to the aforementioned other titles, that Wheel of Time was more childish and I would get around to it, but people kept recommending me different series and I never circled back to WoT. I can also be a little hipster and prefer titles that aren’t mainstream. Thing is, last year I haven’t been able to go to book shows and see what the locals are doing, so I figured I would take a stab at my Goodreads ‘to-read’ list and see what I could get library-wise via ebooks.

My workload was heavy last year, but i still have downtime at work and really enjoy audio books for driving. I like setting reading goals and analyzing what I’ve read and what I ought to do in the following year, and at the time, I thought there were 12 books in The Wheel of Time, so why not do a book a month? I technically started last year, and I’m a little behind, but I suspect that I’ll be getting the later audio books quicker as there’s more of a demand for the earlier books at any given time. I could be wrong, so we’ll see how this prediction holds out.

The premise is about a hero predestined to rise up and save the world from the enemies of not only humanity but light itself, and the terrible cost associated with that role, including madness and his own personal destruction. The story incorporates some eastern philosophies concerning reincarnation and duality in a traditionally western fantasy setting (at least at first), and takes its time examining how the rules of the universe would play out. Some readers might be put-off by ideas such as male and female having different ways to access the True Source (channeling) and the first book does come across as very familiar to other classical material, notably The Lord of the Rings. However, because the author is in no real rush to get to the plot points, ideas are very fleshed out and the world is fantastically developed.  If you’re going to be put off by chosen ones or characters having plot armor (Ta’veran, ones whom around the pattern weaves) or you want a most post-modern look at fantasy, or don’t want to commit to a 14-book series, this probably isn’t for you. I think those who want to write fantasy should at least give it a shot when they can handle the time commitment. Sometimes you start out thinking something is going nowhere, and it’s actually set up for something that comes later. I’m roughly 1/3 into the series, and about to start the famous slog, so I’m going to commit to more commentary when I get through that part.

One of the most common phrases stated in the story is, “The wheel weaves as the wheel weaves” and to me, this is exemplified in how ideas are introduced and shown for a while, and then a viewpoint or idea is seemingly dropped only to reappear or be shown in a different way. The pattern isn’t always apparent to the reader, although I don’t think the ideas are super complicated that you have to be very familiar with tropes that have come before. If anything, this shows how fantasy does extremely well at showing how different peoples and cultures examine ideas.

When the main story begins, only women have the ability to become channelers safely. The male half of the source has become corrupted, and every man who can channel but be cut off from it, lest he go mad and hurt folk. This corruption has led to not only the female channelers themselves being weaker, but for different societies to view the ability with magic in different ways. You have the Crusaders/Inquisitors of the Children of the Light who think all ties to magic as evil (regularly calling women who can channel Tar Valen witches and highly suspicious of anyone outside the regular world as Dark Friends) and the Seanchan who have devised ways to control women who can channel by collaring them and treating them like chattel, to cultures who go out of their way to keep their daughters from being taken by the White Tower to be trained. The White Tower is slowly revealed to not be a safe haven, where personal politics and ambitions plague the simplicity of what should be defeating the great evil. People all may want to defeat the dark one (unless they’re on the other side, obviously) but they have different ideas on how to go about it. For instance, among the female mages (Aes Sedai) once you’re raised you chose an Ajah, or dedication of field, be it education, or logic or healing. One of the more hated and feared among the public is the Red Ajah, a field dedicated to finding men who can channel and ‘gentling’ them, something that’s ultimately a death sentence but it saves the man from hurting someone. They’re portrayed as a group that hates men, but logically a red sister has a terrible duty, because to allow a man to channel (and he almost invariably will) isn’t just a death sentence for him. He’s not evil, he’s insane, and depending on his potential, can level villages. Thing is, they’re not established as evil – there’s an entire Ajah, the secret Black Ajah, who are sworn to the Dark One. The reds vary in methodology and philosophy, but it’s suggested that proportionately, there’s no more reds in the Dark Sisterhood than any other Ajah.

The big beef is the portrayal of women. I’m used to the more dated ideas, insofar as writers trying to portray their women as, “not being like others”. I’m not talking about characters that embrace their femininity or anything to that extent. I’d think that, even if magic is highly regarded as something to be wary of, women only really being able to access it safely would result in a more divisive role between the genders, as there’s plenty of women who aren’t using the Big Guns but still able to use their almost innate abilities channelling as village wise women, healing and helping with the weather, showing in one culture as a job designation that allows sailors to get favorable winds. It’s more of the, “she had a stare that could melt you” clichés over and over again. I don’t mind women who are rough around the edges (I kind of liked the Head Cook of Tar Valen, her name escapes me and it might be three volumes before we see her again) it’s just so… there’s a lot of posturing, let’s put it that way.

I get it; Jordan is establishing that these women can be atypical or different from other women, even among their culture. But when 80% of them are more steel than silk, it becomes the norm. Another aspect of it is that the female aspect of magic is that they have to submit to it, so the idea shows up again and again in the woman’s roles in society. Women are told they must give up and do as they are told, obedience is expected, meanwhile we’re hit over the head with the woman in question wrestling with being headstrong in her own mind. Ultimately this leads to women who become full fledged channelers (almost always Aes Sedai, but it’s more complicated) governed by laws designed to keep them from opposing their will on others, but ultimately they find ways to circumvent their oaths and they come across as manipulative.

Men, meanwhile, must embrace their masculinity and seize, and they call women out for essentially being sneaky instead of forthright, even though I suspect if Moraine laid everything on the line when she first met the boys, she would have been run out of town on a rail. I kind of understood why Rand is wary of those who would try to manipulate him, but given he’s known Egwene since they were kids and Moraine is dedicated to a cause not a person, you’d think a guy worried about his own mental state would use them at the very least as guiding posts. So far my favourite female character is Nyneave, who I probably would have hated if I started reading the books in junior high, but now I have a writer brain not a reader brain.

Anyway, this is getting long enough so I’ll wrap it up. There’s tons of characters, but it’s really not that bad to remember who is who. Jordan takes his time to name characters who have roles, and because it might have been half a book if not books since we met them, they’re quickly reintroduced. Really, I never mind having a sprawling cast and they’re memorable enough that you quickly remember even if it’s been a while. Could it be more precise? Sure. Do I care? No.

I’ll probably finish The Witcher (minus the anthologies, they seem to be more in demand than the main series, haha) in about a month or so and I’ll do something similar. I’m not enjoying it as much as I thought I would, but the same went for the Netflix show. Until next time.

6 Jun

Coming 21.06.21

Dreams of Mariposa Review Tour, Keycon, WSS News

16 May

Starting May 31, Dreams of Mariposa will be featured on a blog tour. You can check out the dates here and enter to win the gift card. As always, I do not care what online book seller you want (Kindle, Kobo, B&N). I like the option for Kobo because you can use them at Indigo/Chapters stores, but I also acknowledge the behemoth that is Amazon.

Keycon, Winnipeg’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention, is taking place virtually this coming weekend. I am on three panels. You can see the full list of programming here. You need to click on the dates; the first one is suggestions and no one took much interest in my panel on Stupid Sexy Smeagol, so I’ll probably just blog about why Tolkien doesn’t need sex scenes later.

I am lined up for:

Saturday 3 PM: Genre vs. Setting

Sunday 1 PM: Working with an Editor

Sunday 330: How to Write a Zinger

All times are CST. Events are free, you just need to register. When Words Collide did something similar last year, but the problem with it being a free-for-all is you do not need people with… let’s just say malicious intent wrecking it for everyone. If this goes well, I think I’ll volunteer for panels at WWC, but timing has to work out.

Speaking of Timing: When it rains, it pours. I finally got the final working PDF back for Witchslayer’s Scion, so I have gally edits to do. My sister is looking over the final edits on The Mermaid and the Unicorns and I think I’m going to redraw that map. I’d love to say that I have had plenty of time, what with the lockdowns and what not, but if anything I have been busier than usual. I’m in healthcare, I am also going to be ordering some stock of Dreams of Mariposa now that it is in print, so if you want me to sign a copy contact and we’ll go, or skip the middle man and order right from Champagne’s website. I don’t want to commit to a time of publishing for Witchslayer’s Scion just because it has taken so long, but hopefully end of June. The formatting didn’t have it as long as I worried, so once I get the finals back I will book another book tour (and probably a review tour) that’ll probably take place sometime in the summer. I would also love to commit to saying if we’re going to be doing any in-person events, but Manitoba is doing a hard shut down until at least June. Stay safe, love each other in the meantime.

Tropes I hate: The Gauntlet School

11 Apr

I just want to make it clear that I actually am quite enjoying the books I’m going to discuss. It’s just a trope I despise.


Offenders?

The Poppy War (The Poppy War)

Rage of Dragons (The Burning)

The Dragon Reborn (Wheel of Time)

Basically, in the newer books, main characters Rin and Tau respectively have to out train and out work everybody else in order to keep their places, fueled by spite and revenge respectively. Technically a more moderate motivation is their lives in their social caste system depends on it, but given that means there’s plenty of other people in their respective worlds who also don’t want to eat dirt for a living.

Wheel of time is a little different – characters Egwene, Nynaeve, and Elayne have arrived at Tar Valen to do their training as Aes Sedai, and while Nynaeve has been elevated to Accepted from the get go, the other two are generally having a hard time adapting because of their relative privileged positions and the workload on them, with once again Nyneve being a lot like Rin being driven by spite. All three are saddled with punishment upon their return to the school after leaving without permission. Among their punishments, is being forced on kitchen duty. A lot of characters were musing prior to them arriving at Tar Valen how much the other Sedai were going to make their lives miserable, and it’s implied that at least one character is worried about giving them all the soul-crushing work. To me, this read more as a misunderstanding between social classes, because I was all like, “That was it?”

These characters break the rules constantly to get around the obstacles set up for them. They barely sleep. One of them enters the spirit world to get throttled by monsters because time runs akimbo and he can train more.  These young protagonists (teenagers all) are physically wrecked, but find out once they pass one barrier, the next one’s even steeper.

I’m not kvetching about grit. If you have the time to read the book Grit by Angela Duckworth, I highly recommend it.

And I’m not saying you can’t function sleep deprived, or even get used to it. I’m a shift worker, and prior to this worked multiple jobs and school, and and and. Some obligations took more time than others, and you can do anything for a short amount of time, but here’s what I really noticed.

When you have no spare time – absolutely zero – you hate life and everything about it. Granted, multitasking is possible but I’m talking about listening to an audiobook for pleasure while you’re on a treadmill, not studying a textbook while doing the same thing. If you know it’s only for a week or a month or whatever, you can manage. When I get new partners, we talk about the stress of exams and getting that first job. Until third year Uni, I managed to squeeze in a daily hour of physical fitness (and I was probably in beast mode because it was the only way to let off steam), but eventually that had to be dropped as well. It’s a little different now that I can write or do other work on the job, work feels like a vacation compared to being chewed out and force to do rote memorization for a test that’s irrelevant to the job and getting shit on by employers because they figured out you went back to school part time.

 Maybe it’s just me, but does anyone do better when they haven’t slept? Is the person who never has a chance to recover going to outperform their peer groups? Particularly the ones who only have the obligation of school or whatever. There’s plenty of lazy people in the world, but there’s plenty of people who are genuine workhorses. I get it’s supposed to be about the character overcoming great obstacles, but if the problem is the unjust world, what makes that main character so special that they’re the only one that hungry?

Granted, for me it’s not a fun place to be or revisit. I’m all for learning and perseverance, and I’m all for trying to show your character has to overcome an obstacle in their way. Having a very stringent caste system or social hierarchy is a good way.

But you need sleep and to tell us mortals that your can-do attitude has limits. We all may have 24 hours in a day, but you can’t keep borrowing from the sleep bank without paying interest.

I’m going to talk about these books more but they’re not going to be straight up reviews. Meanderings. Honestly, all three are really good series, and worth checking out.

Cover Reveal: The Mermaid and The Unicorns

6 Apr

If you follow me at all on FB you might have noticed me post something about this, but here it is with proper title and everything. I’m hiring the artist to do the back blurb and spine, I’m a bit nervous because it’s almost half the size compared to ToO or WSS, but I think it’s cool to see how someone who knows what they’re doing do it.

I was looking at premade covers honestly looking for inspiration for Novellas. Lots of premade covers are beautiful, but they often don’t work for a given project. I saw this one and immediately got YA vibes. I consider the title to be older MG, but, there’s something about being 12 and how you can’t wait until you’re an adult and mature at 16.

I originally wanted to goof around and do some of the art myself, and there’s still that. Know how I used to kvetch I suck at inking? I don’t suck so much anymore. I have been practicing my map making for a few years, so I’ll post about ‘Doing it yourself’ vs. Hiring out another time.

When will it be out? I dunno; the editor I hired is putting some finishing touches on formatting and I have to code. And grow a backbone.

Eep.

Tropes, Archetypes, and Stereotypes

27 Mar

So in addition to banging off a bunch of stuff from my To Read List, I started listening to the Wheel of Time Audio books as well as The Witcher series from the Library – ebooks or audio, I’ve barely been inside a bookstore in a year. Both titles were published in the early 90’s, and the topics that will come up in the following weeks is isn’t so much reviews but just talking about themes. The Eye of the World was first published in 1990, with The Blood of the Elves in 1994. A Game of Thrones was 1996, and it struck me how these series all started out with established convention, and became their own thing. WoT has an upcoming series, with the other two titles being in production or concluded, with a potential Spin-Off for GoT. It got me thinking not only about adaptation, but tropes that rise in and out of popularity.

That is to say nothing of how long these authors spent writing their books. I assume if your book was published in 1990, it was probably accepted no later than 1988, so Jordan was probably started working on it no later than 1986. I’m amused, because I keep imaging these characters with 80’s hair. Yes, I was around in the 80’s, but I don’t remember much about it other than the campy stuff.

I also started watching Legend of the Seeker, more tv watching lately due to a back spasm, but I haven’t read the series yet and will talk about it once I can do memes again. Mostly, because I want to talk about the costumes.

When I was in High School, when I said I like to write, “Science fiction and fantasy.” And another guy in my class scoffed, asking if it was all elves and goblins and such. I said no, but it wasn’t because I didn’t like Tolkien, but my exposure was more old Edgar Rice Burroughs novels and Conan the Barbarian that my grandparents got for my dad when he was a kid. I devoured his old sword and sorcery comic books, although I’ll admit that I’m starting to give them away to my nephew who’s about the right age. We won’t talk too much about academia and how they treat my chosen genre, but a few years later, while I was still in University, in one of my creative writing classes I asked how contemporary fiction tries to retain a timeless feel, and I was advised by another student that science fiction and fantasy also can feel dated.

I agree with him to a point. People often ask me if I like the way Burroughs portrayed women (or at least the love interest) and I’ve had more than one writing teacher look at me and apologize for not having read The Lord of the Rings once, to which, I really didn’t care.

But once the technology and special effects caught up with what could only be done in comics, and the success of franchises multi-filmed movies like Harry Potter and Star Wars, our expectations as audiences grew. To me, there’s nothing about films like Gladiator that make it especially late 90’s in film format. My niece and cousin have finally gotten around to seeing the first few films of The Pirates of the Carribbean, although they grew up with movies like The Princess Bride, a film that it seems will be met with constant criticism at the mere mention of a reboot.

A trope, for our purposes, is basically a literary device we recognize. There are tropes common to certain genres, and they seem to  go beyond their genres. How it related to an archetype, is an archetype tends to be the more pure form of an idea that we might even recognize in our subconscious. I could write multiple posts on Archetypes, I would recommend reading books by either Joseph Campbell or Jung to start. A stereotype, tends to be something we’ve seen ad nauseum and it feels lazy. I don’t feel qualified to write about archetype, so let’s just go with a simpler term ‘trope’ and ‘stereotype’.

How it tends to work is something like this:

Legolas from The Lord of the Rings is the Archer Archetype. He’s not the lead, he’s more of a lancer. The stereotype that follows? Take your pick, but one of them is that all elves are fantastic archers and haughty.

Gimli son of Gloin is a classic bearded, axe-wielding dwarf. Once again, he’s not the lead, a lancer. The stereotype? Countless dwarf-like characters who are gruff and more than a bit snarky. They like mining and are more down-to-earth than the elves.

And from these two, we see an absolute ton of media that follows withdwarves and elves having animosity towards each other, which was common in Tolkien’s world, although the books themselves was about them becoming friends, to the point where Legolas brought Gimli with him to the undying lands.

To me, there’s nothing about The Lord of the Rings that suggests that it had to be written by a World War I veteran or was published in 1954. It’s obvious that Tolkien was a scholar and his attention to detail was amazing, and the more I read supplementation to his work, the more impressed I am. However, because of the success of Middle-Earth, it opened up the publishing world to more detailed and developed fantasy worlds, and not only for extreme fans. I took my niece to the bookstore two days ago for book 7 in a saga, which weighed in around 750 pages. It’s not the last book, nor is it the only series she’s read at that length. The series is designed for readers 12-14, and I’ve noticed that more contemporary books are getting thicker, especially for fantasy.

The problem I see is that the financial backing for some of these projects gets so heavy, that’s why we keep seeing reboots as opposed to original works. It works because the big names will bring in casuals, and then the folk who will spend the money, whereas the fans will want more, and go to other media as well. We want more but the producers take a financial risk with each product.

I think the universal feel though, is that despite the fashion choices of the time, or the actors chosen, is because they say something real and raw. Perhaps we’ve seen it, or something like it before, but we’re left unsatisfied, or at least want to relive the memories.

That isn’t to say that there aren’t choices taken. Compare these book covers:

That is to say nothing of when the WoT books were split in two for a YA audiences. Over time, the more detailed art lost favor for a more stylized, simple cover. Odds are, with the tv series, we’ll see brand new covers with the actors on them.

How about the casting of these actresses? The top is Liv Tyler as Arwen, the first LotR movie came out in 2001. The other actress is Brigette Regan, she played Kahlan in The Legend of the Seeker series which debuted in 2008.

               I think this blog post has gone on long enough for an in general talk about tropes. II’ll talk about some of my thoughts about these series and in general in the coming days, so long as my back spasm continues to improve and I can sit up for more than half an hour without getting whiny.

Keeping Stuff Organized 101

17 Mar

This isn’t about how to keep notes for your future self when you’re planning an epic, multi-length saga or an ever-expanding universe, so much acknowledging there’s multiple ways to organize your projects, and I like to make life for future me as easy as possible. I tend to know the status of everything in terms of, “Drafted, Revision, Published” but I can’t remember if I asked this blogger for a review or what day exactly I sent something for submission. This is about what works for me, but there’s always more than one way to organize. I used to be a zipline instructor, and I made up a spreadsheet for our daily equipment check logs, and the others preferred a different format, so I revised until we were more or less satisfied. You may even start out one way and decide another format will work better based on what you do. My preferred format is novels, but if you’re submitting a lot more, say poetry and shorts, you might want to use a very different format because you’ll have a lot more information. I’m going to talk about submission logs specifically using MS Excel, and how they’re useful for both long term and short term projects.

Why do you ask do you need to keep notes, if the important stuff, like the product, I can generally keep track of? If you only have one series or project it’s relatively easy, but you still don’t want to be emailing the same people over and over again for a review, or maybe if you write a sequel, you want to send a copy to the reviewers who liked the earlier book in the series.

First off, divide your work into different categories. Let’s pretend I am promoting a book that’s already out, writing a short story for a contest, and getting ready to promote something coming out in two months.

So these categories may include:

Book Promotion

Submission

Future Promotion

For the promotion, I might have already signed up for a book tour, and the tour might require different articles on your part. I made this basic template to tell me the status of each article and when it’s due. Normally, instead of the blog name I would put a link to the blog or site, but I made these up.

Depending on what you’re doing at that time, you might be only focusing on submitting one product at a time. I write shorts as well as novels, so I go based on the year. Going by the name of the novel works too, but I can look at a glance how I worked in 2020 vs 2019. The best part, is if some houses only have a limited submission window, say, February 1-28 every year for that genre, I can make a note at the beginning of the log to remind future me to have the product ready as per the submission guidelines.

For me, finding a publishing house can take some time, so I like to know who publishes what and, if it’s for an anthology or a contest, what the submission time frame is.

As with the above example, these are all made up. Tower of Obsidian was published February 2013, and Chimera is still waiting for me to fix it.

As you can see, the above is only meant for me, so I’m not worried too much about consistency in the dates.

Future Promotion is a little different, especially if your product is in the hands in the publisher. I have watched expected publication dates fly by with no control on my part, but let’s assume that I have complete control of the work. I might decide to ask the Book Promotion Company to do a cover launch, or a preview of a chapter, or something. Basically, this would be drafting a game plan.

You can make up an excel spreadsheet if you’re needing to take your time to come back to a project, but it’s essentially leaving yourself a note. If, however, I were to stumble across someone else’s unfinished project, I might divide their work into categories.

Oh Yeah? What about keeping your work organized in Portfolios?

I’ll be the first one to admit that I have several projects in hard copy, beta-read, that really should be revised and submitted. I’m incredibly guilty of philandering with a new idea and saying, “Oh, I’ll edit it after I’m done this draft”. So how do you keep track of projects?

The nice thing about MS Word is that it doesn’t care, and you can abandon a project for years and come back to it. MS Word also dates the last time you revised it, but it can be problematic if you open something and save an earlier copy, and you don’t know which is the most current file. I don’t think a screenshot is super important here, so basically how I organize my writing is as follows:

Main Drive: WRITING

First Set of Sub Categories:

Mine

Ron’s

Niece’s

Others

R.J. Hore is my beta reader, and my niece has joined me in making stories. If someone sends me a lot, they have a chance of getting their own subfolder. Ron’s stuff is mostly me asking questions back for his revision, but if he needs me to look over something quick (or vice versa) we’ll send each other emails. In general, we print out and swap manuscripts in person. Yes, COVID has made it tricky but we manage.

In Mine, I then have:

Short Stories

Novels

Non-Fiction

Blog Posts

Within Novels, there’s further subcategories because I put entire series together and just have subfolders within. I tend to keep series together, and each novel, novella or short would have its own folder within that. If it was something that stood on its own, like Dreams of Mariposa, inside I would have the main novel files, but then I would have further subcategories:

Unused

Legal

Extra

Unused would be scenes I cut entirely or rewrote, when I select all and cut.  I tend to just leave them, but I like having the ideas handy if I want to use them in a different project. They’re messy and raw, but let’s just say that a scene that took too long in another book got shortened, and I used a scene in Titan’s Ascent that I really wanted to use in a different novel, but acknowledge that the beast was long enough without it.

Legal is my query, synopsis, even copies of the contract would be here.

Extra would be notes for myself. This would be like, what color Aaron’s horse is and if the name has any significance. In particular with Tower of Obsidian, I wrote down pronunciation and notes Ron would send me. For instance, Kale and Aaron were knights in the first draft, but Ron pointed out that knights didn’t technically exist in Ireland until centuries after the end of the Viking age. They had men-at-arms and warriors, but let’s pretend the publishing process didn’t go nearly as quickly as I assumed. If I found a publisher later and an editor asked, “Why aren’t these guys knights?” I could easily turn around and reference my notes, then find supplementation to explain to them.

When I start editing with someone else, I learned the hard way that editors are human and make mistakes. Make a subcategory with the date. “Feb 2018 Edits” or “March 2018 edits” might be fine in the title of the file, but I want to be certain I’m not redoing work.

And to clarify, here’s what a series like Rogue healer would look like:

Writing – Mine – Novels – Rogue Healer :Witchslayer’s’ Scion

                                                                           :Magus’ Gambit

                                                                           :Titan’s Ascent

                                                                           :Underman

Clear as mud? Obviously this isn’t the only way to do things, and you can make spreadsheets for your stock, keeping track of expenses and however you find them to be a useful tool. Just keep your receipts if you’re going to write off anything; last thing you need is to be audited over parking.

Vacation always goes by too quickly!

4 Feb

I know, I know, who takes vacation in January?

People who don’t get their first choice off in the summer, that’s who.

We were majorly short staffed prior to and during the first block of my vacation, so I ended up working part of it anyway. Then I said no to a bunch of OT, so hopefully the worst is behind us. We have a pretty strict sick policy, which is necessary, but it sucks when a bunch of people are off at the same time.

It’s always so bizarre going back because I get to put in next year’s vacation requests pretty much next week until the end of the month. I always hate putting the following year in, but now I’m on the home stretch until they refresh. The other bad part, is my birthday is literally two days after they reset, so if I want it off I need to use vacation to get it. There’s no using stats or banked time, everything resets. I’m on nights, but it’s also Easter weekend, so I’ll put in for it. The weather has been super nice for the most part, but with the lockdown restrictions, probably be the second year of no birthday party, but lah-dee-da.

I feel like I got plenty done, although in hindsight I probably should have focused on the art: Inking, painting, etc. Lots of working out and ice skating, not so much on new writing so much as editing. I finally found a copy editor for a middle grade novel I would like to self-publish, and we seem to jive well, so that’s good. Very little in the art and painting department, but I got myself an awesome new sit/stand desk. I’ve been wanting a writing desk since before I got my house, and I figured I am the sort of person who gets up and walks around when I’m writing an action sequence.

Could have used those days I worked to finish projects, but I did house repairs, I swapped with Ron the last part of Titan’s Ascent (and it’s in huge revisions, the 160k+ beast is being split into two books but I am letting it sit until next month at the earliest) and the two reasons I’m so ahead on my reading list is 1) Youtube is terrible for advertising. Audiobooks and podcasts aren’t making me get my messy hands on the screen every 7 minutes. If I’m listening to anything other than a long music session – and even then, I get super long ads as opposed to the short little ones – I should be able to paint a picture and not have to give the ‘are you still there’? after 20 minutes. Oil paint is messy, or maybe I’m dicing veggies or whatever, it’s a pain. and 2) Once again, I worked on my ‘vacation’ so my idea of taking it easy during down time at work is reading. I think I read 3 books in one day, which sounds like a lot but “One Book” can be a Wheel of Time Title (approx 30 hours audio books so far, each) or something that would more likely qualify as a novella/novelette and, I think in 24 hours we ‘worked’ (were in station/in a truck geoposting) for just over 20 hours. I was on call and had a day to recover, but I needed that day to recover, and then I was back at work again.

Ah well. I gave myself some more modest goals to work on revising some projects that have been sitting for way too long. It’s nice because it feels like things are starting to come together. I’ll be honest, the work I have set out for myself is ambitious, and I’m not afraid of work, but one step at a time.