We writers can be a superstitious lot. I know writers who have a special location they prefer to work at, or a particular item of clothing they think makes the muse be more attentive. A lot of us seem to have something we believe we need to make us more successful or more creative in our endeavours.
I’m an intensely superstitious person – but not in the standard way. Walk under a ladder, yeah, done it way too often. Black cats? Cute and cool, but don’t care which way I cross their path. Mirrors, broken a few, mostly for art projects back in high school or by accident when moving. However I have certain habits, like when I used to drive to work every day I would look out at a lake I drove past and knew I would have a good day if I saw a bird with its wings fanned to dry in the sun. If there were no birds, I knew that a particular someone I didn’t like would probably visit my store that day. Weirdly enough, it was relatively accurate. A bizarre little superstition, but even now – though work is in the other direction – if I drive past, I look to the lake for my bird friend and gauge whether that day will be good or not.
Lucky charms play a big part in superstitions. Some writers have a special notepad, or pen they like to use. I’m quite partial to my Shinto pencils I bought from the Meiji shrine when I was in Tokyo. The pencils are traditionally bought by students. The students use these pencils to write their notes as they study. The pencils are supposed to invoke a Shinto god to give them luck in academics, make them pass that entrance exam or just generally be smarter. The power of the pencil is released more and more as it grows shorter and shorter with each sharpening. I use mine to write notes about my stories as I plan them.
I also have a lucky editing charm, a pen I bought from Ueno zoo (also in Tokyo – I TOLD you people I’m a Japanophile). It’s one of those multi-colour pens where you click between red, blue, green and black. I use the red and green to do my proofing and editing.
Do you have any weird superstitions or lucky charms, even if they aren’t related to writing?
Short stories are a great exercise for a writer. They allow the mind a chance to flex its muscles (so to speak) and the writer to push the boundaries of their craft and try their hand at other genres than just their favoured one.
I write short stories most frequently outside of my favoured genre of fantasy. Of the short stories I have written in the last two years I have written two horror (one with vampire bad guys (no kissing these vamps) and zombies, the other with a serial killer and very cool twist), two mystery, one ‘nostalgia’ romance (I think I kind of came up with that genre name, it means the person is remembering being in love – if you know what the genre is really called let me know!) one urban fantasy, three slice of lifes and one fantasy.
Writing outside of my preferred genre seems to be the only way to keep at bay my ultimate short story writing flaw: actually keeping it short.
Short Stories are a struggle for me, not because I can’t write them, but because I will fall in love with a character (or several) or the premise and want to expand on it and next thing you know a less than 3,000 word short story becomes a fantasy quartet. I’m joking, that only happened once, the rest of the time it’s usually just a stand-alone novel.
I must confess that I prefer to write novels over short stories. Everything just seems to flow better and I don’t have to stifle ideas or squash down narrative as I sometimes have to with short stories. True it is much harder to complete a novel than a short story, but there is something more fulfilling in the work – to me at least.
So after that last post I quickly learned that what was a lovely, pale blue background for my floating content pane on my netbook PC was lavender (whaaaaaat?) on my husband’s iPad, his desktop PC and both of our android phones. Aaaargh! It’s a hexadecimal colour system, why would it make different colours on different machines? *Insert rage here which left me dizzy for hours*
I had to assume that since most devices in our house read that colour as lavender so too would most devices around the world, so I needed to hunt down a colour that would look good on every device in my house even if it wasn’t the same (because that clearly wasn’t going to happen).I have ended up with what looks like a nice pale blue on the other devices, but looks more like turquiose on my netbook. Both blend in a satisfactory fashion with my beloved chiyogami goldfish background which i love too passionately to part with anytime soon. I swear, if I ever have money, I’m going to hire a web design monkey to do this for me. I probably should because the layout is clearly done by an amateur, but I don’t really mind, since it doesn’t look horrendous (or at least no one has sent me an email/comment/message saying so).
I also added some social media icons, yay! People are probably going to ask about the absence of some very popular buttons. I only have a Goodreads and a Pinterest account. I don’t have a Facebook author page yet, primarily because I lack the time to maintain an interesting one. I see no point in creating a page and not making it interesting. Also I feel a little weird making a page for myself when I have no product currently out. Maybe when I have something almost out I will set it up. Also I have no Twitter account. Yep, no Twitter account. Not personal, not professional, none. Why? For the same reason I don’t play World of Warcraft (and other MMORPGs): because I would never again afterward have an offline life.
I know my weaknesses. I have an addictive personality. You only need to peek into the guest bedroom/library in our house and behold the six floor-to-roof bookcases packed with manga, books and graphic novels (and add another bookcase for my figurines) to see that in action. Or look at our living room where our DVD/blu-ray collection spans five more bookcases. Ikea got rich off our family’s collection of bookcases (not that they weren’t already rich). I make careful efforts to avoid getting into things which will likewise eat my soul/wallet (please note, I mean both of these things, not my wallet is my soul).
To wrap up: still sick, have finally finished tinkering with my site’s appearance, am a terrifying obsessive compulsive collector and will not bore you all with talk about web design/code ect. for a long time (hopefully not ever).
Promise to post something interesting and cool about my writing or writing in general tomorrow. Hope you all have a happy chocolate bunny day!
I have my layout set up (huzzah!), all my link colours and borders suit my background. I’m sick as a dog but I worked for hours yesterday afternoon and evening with code I’m a total amatuer at to get this far and even did my poor attempt at graphic designing with my header image. I considered manpulating the header to blend in with my background more (Ie/ have some of the fish who disappear under the header have those missing heads and fins appear on the border of the header giving it a slightly more seamless appearance) but I’m pretty sure different resolutions would render that effort useless on any computer that doesn’t have the same screen resolution as mine. I vaguely remember back in my Sailor Moon Fan Page making days of 14-15 years old that websites always used to claim ‘best viewed in *this browser* at *this resolution*’ or do these new fangled CSS thingys render all that moot? (I told you I’m a n00b at this new type of code)
I don’t want to spend further hours tinkering with images only to discover it doesn’t look good to anyone else, particularly since I’m sick with the flu. Does anyone know? Also, how does it look? Any suggestions if you don’t like something? I’d love to hear your feedback.
I recently learned that my new layout doesn’t allow people on mobile devices to comment, so now I have to go and change again. It was a pain just to get this theme. It may look simple but I had very specific desire and even this layout falls a smidge short of my mental image, but I was willing to settle so I didn’t have to waste another day on it. Well I have no choice now.
I’m going back to the original theme and then going to tweak it bit by bit. Don’t be surprised if over the next few hours you see some very bizarre colour combinations as I toil away in code. Hopefully by tomorrow everything will look shmick and work right and I can delete this post ;p
EDIT: Now working on a new header image… getting there.
Yup, you read correctly: apostrophes are my nemesis. When I sit down and think, when I speak aloud the rules I have a complete grasp of when and where to use an apostrophe, but for some reason – some crazy, demented, fat finger typing reason – I can never type them in the correct spot, thus requiring I have to go back over everything I wrote and look closely at my placement of each and every little nemesis.
I try so hard to break the habit, but my problem is if I pause to think each time I type a word containing (or requiring) an apostrophe I lose the flow. Anyone who writes knows what I mean when I say ‘the flow’. It’s that fabulous stream of words that just gushes out of your fingers like water from a fireman’s hose, so fast and furious your fingers can barely keep up. It’s that moment when the creative muse curls up inside you like a cat on your lap and blesses you with idea after idea so you can just keep going all day (or at least until the baby wakes and demands attention).
When you attain the flow you do not want to halt it for something so trivial as the placement of an apostrophe, be it a key that you just didn’t press hard enough or because your brain was paying more attention to the sentence or the paragraph than the individual word.
I mean, that’s what editing is for. You look over your work for all the finger fumbles that put ‘e’ before ‘i’ because you were typing so fast one finger didn’t keep up with the others; all the places where you forgot to add punctuation; where you wrote a sentence that just kept going and going like an unending river that seriously needs a few stops somewhere in it and of course, for those tricksey little apostrophes (or whatever your individual weakness is).
Anyone who claims they never have to check over their writing is lying. I bet even Stephen King does and Neil Gaiman, or whoever your particular favourite (and prolific) author is. I refuse to believe I’m the only writer who gets so carried away with ideas that she makes a few mistakes in the first draft. That’s why they’re called first drafts, right?
Today is my birthday, but more importantly than bragging about my milestone birthday, today is Autism Acceptance Day. Please head over to Light It Up Blue the Autism Acceptance Day website to find out what landmarks are being lit up blue to support autism acceptance and make a donation to support them.
Here in Brissy they’re lighting up the Wheel of Brisbane (not to be mistaken with the Wheel of Time, it’s only our Ferris Wheel), City Hall, King George Square and the William Jolly Bridge. They are even planning to project artworks by a Tim Sharp, an autistic artist, on the William Jolly Bridge.
I follow a few blogs that relate to autism. My favourites are Autistic Hoya – which teaches me something new with nearly every post(including that many prefer ‘acceptance’ to ‘awareness’), Stuff With Thing by the mother of autistic children and Gabrielle Bryden’s blog is where I learned about Autism Acceptance Day.
If you are a fan of comics or manga there is no way I can possibly recommend ‘With The Light’ enough. It is a touching manga released by Yen press about a young Japanese woman who achieves her dream of marrying the office hottie and plans to become his adoring housewife as per Japanese tradition. She comes across a small snag when she notices there is something wrong with their baby Hikaru (his name means Light). She discovers Hikaru is autistic and the many volumes follow Hikaru as he grows up, goes to school all while he and his family learn how to deal with family and strangers who do not understand. It’s heart breaking and touching all at once and is easily one of my favourite manga of all time. Sadly Keiko Tobe, the manga-ka (author/artist) passed away before completing the series but don’t let that stop you from reading it!
I hope everyone will support Autism Acceptance Day but heading over to Light It Up Blue (note my website is blue ;p) and donate or buy some merchandise.
Now I’ve filled your browser with about thirty new tabs, Happy Autism Acceptance Day everyone (and happy 30th birthday me).
Two years ago on this day I stood in a traditional Japanese room in Kyoto while a woman wrapped me in a blue kimono.
It was an experience I had longed for. Just visiting Japan was a dream I have had since sixteen. I have countless old notepads filled with handwritten budgets for a trip to Japan, but year after year my hopes were dashed by financial ineptitude (ie/ I kept spending my money on books, comics, manga, video games and DVDs). Even later when I began to enjoy the financial freedom of a dual income with my lovely husband my plans kept being dashed by an animal becoming sick ($3,000 worth of sick) or a car breaking down and eventually the plans just faded into the back of my mind as both T-J and I sweated it out in 40+ hour work weeks.
Then T-J stepped up the pressure for wanting kids. I know, a bit of a role reversal, but T-J always wanted kids and while I was not anti-kids I knew I had nowhere near the maturity level I needed just yet. I always knew I was warming up to the idea, but it wasn’t until I became drastically ill with a (still undiagnosed) vertigo disorder. One of the first things they tested the crazy, dizzy girl for was pregnancy. And when the test came back negative I was disappointed. Ok, you got me T-J, it’s kids time, but first take me to Japan. My sickness was in October/November. I was in Japan the following March. Told you he wanted kids.
So there I stood, Kyoto out the window as she pulled the obi tight around my waist. The room was lightly heated against the chill of spring, but outside it was so cold I tottered straight for a vending machine that sold hot coffee cans so I could warm my hands.
We walked together around the temples of Kyoto. The Shinto gods chose to be generous by not making it too chilly and keeping the rain to only a light drizzle in the afternoon. I had prayed at every temple for the five days previous for the weather to be kind just this one day, and the day before we had taken a walking tour of Kyoto that took us to no less than 10 temples.
The kimono was snug against my hips and thighs and my method of walking had to alter to accommodate this. I found myself moving my knees very little, taking small tottering steps. Considering the many slopes in the area of Kyoto we were travelling this led to burning calves after a few hours. The obi and its elaborate bow forced me to stand with better posture than I was accustomed to also, creating a dull ache in my lower back. These things meant almost nothing too me however as nearly every woman who walked past would compliment me with the word ‘suteki’ (pronounced steki due to the silent u), to which I would bow graciously and reply with ‘arigatou’. Suteki translates to stunning and who could bother with mild pain when they were being told such a thing?
Being early spring, the time of cherry blossoms, the temple paths were alive with stalls selling trinkets and food. We ate cherry blossom flavoured ice cream, so delicate and sweet in taste and savoured the smell of roasting squid (though sadly weren’t game enough to try it because we weren’t certain it was squid). Bags full of Studio Ghibli goods started to pile up on my arm and as the light drizzle started its misty fall we sheltered together under my SquareEnix umbrella as we continued on to Kiyomizudera.
At the temple we found a particularly beautiful sakura tree for me to take my dream picture under. I stood there, in a suteki kimono, in front of a blooming sakura tree with a pokewalker on my obi. That photo remains my portrait to this day.
Eventually even being told I was suteki was not enough to abolish the growing pain in my calves and back. We made our way back to the rental store, stopping briefly for a quick meal to be undressed by the same skillful hands as had dressed us that morning.
I just found out that my new layout doesn’t allow people on mobile devices to comment. Argh! It took me so long to find and tinker with this one… now I have to seek out another one! Maybe I can light it up blue for Autism Awareness day which falls on my birthday.
On a cheerier note I have recently started re-reading Tamora Pierce’s first quartet: The Song of the Lioness. It brings back memories of my early teen years and even as an adult the stories do not disappoint (if you want to read my reviews, click over to my Goodreads account, there’s a widget in my sidebar).
I came across her books by chance. I don’t know if schools still do this, but in my primary school (elementary school for the non-Australians who might be confused) used to hand out four page catalogues of books once a month and you could order from them. I think they were called the Scholastic Book Club (after the publisher) but my memory isn’t as strong on that. I saw ‘In the Hand of the Goddess’ and even though the only fantasy I had read at that age was The Neverending Story by Michael Ende (yes, I tackled that monster of a book at the tender age of ten), I saw the black cat with purple eyes on the cover and wanted it. Of course when I got it I found out it was book two in a series so it was dumped on my shelf until a time when I could track down book one.
I did eventually find book one, but it was almost a year later. Not that that stopped me from reading both of them as fast as I could and pestering my parents for weeks for the next books.
With this re-reading what fascinates me is that even though I know what is going to happen I am still moved – sometimes even to tears – and for something to be that strong I feel it deserves a special place in my heart indeed.
I am fairly certain Pierce is to blame for the fact that the vast majority of my protagonists are strong females. In fact even books where my protagonist is a male, he is usually infatuated with or somehow guided by a strong female character. Pierce writes women who are strong and smart, who speak their minds but have believable fears and character flaws. If there is any writer out there I want to be like it would be her (though of course I would still prefer to be me 😀 ).
It is hard to pick a favourite of her works, they are all marvellous, but I think it is Daine from the Immortals quartet with whom I connect with best – even if it is mostly over sharing the nightmare of unruly hair.
Who’s your favourite author? What do you love about their works?
It stuns me to realise this but since February 14th I have taken my current work in progress (working title is Fanta’s Story, but I can assure you that won’t be the final title) from a story outline I transferred into Scrivener to 55,000 words. I have six scene cards – yes you read right only six scenes – until I have completed my first rough draft.
It doesn’t feel real.
I’m dead serious here. It doesn’t. I started writing Storybook Perfect (back when it was called Yui’s Tale, are you sensing a similarity with my WIP titles?) when I was sixteen. I finished it in 2009, when I was 27 and off work for two months with a (still undiagnosed) vertigo disorder. It was only a rough draft finish of course and it has gone through easily eight full edits since, but to go from the first book taking 11 years to the next taking not even two whole months… it blows my mind!
Admittedly I always have had the habit of getting distracted by something shiny and new. I would start Yui’s Tale and after a chapter or a scene or two I’d get excited about ‘the Children of Tejemanya’ or ‘Evannah’ and do some writing in them and the cycle would continue with new books starting, ideas being plotted and then distraction! I’m even the same with games. I start a game, get approximately two thirds through and then something new comes out and I just can’t help but play with it. I can count the number of games I have actually watched the ending credits roll in on one hand. Ok, I lie, I need both hands, but I’ve played easily more than triple that count, keeping my success rate at under 30%. As a quick aside, oddly enough those I’ve finished I often go back and complete AGAIN. My re-completion rate is 60%. What’s wrong with me? I don’t know.
Getting back to my point now, I am easily distracted – as I just proved in multiple ways. What I think has helped me with my current work in progress is having a child.
Yep, having a child. I have so little time that I no longer waste it watching TV or just lying around. I have to use every precious minute. It keeps me focused, makes me determined. Even though I have other projects (this blog and my other secret WIP I will reveal soon) I have been able to maintain focus and tear through this. I never had that until now.
So I want to thank my precious baby, Xander, not just for being the light of my life but for helping me write like a real author. I love you.