Stories I Loved – October 2015

I love story in whatever medium it’s told in. I love books, movies, webcomics, video games, tv shows, board games, etc. I thought I would round up and share some of my favorite stories that I loved this month!

Book – The Spymaster’s Lady by Joanna Bourne – Historical M/F Romance (Goodreads | Amazon)

The final book in one of my favorite series, The Pink Carnation books, came out recently, and I went into a spymasters ladysad mopefest about how there would never be another one. I began asking everyone I knew for a book to fill the void in my heart, and this was recommended to me. It is nothing like the Pink Carnation books, except for its time period and that it’s a romantic spy novel. The tone, the writing, the characters – it’s much different.

The writing is rich and beautiful, with a sort of odd lilt to it that makes it sound like the entire book was written in a French accent. The characters have depth and nuance to them, and the humor in it is subtle and clever. It’s also got a great plot – spies lying to each other and playing games within games as they try to outsmart each other. What a perfect setting for falling in love! 😉

I know I’m late to the party, since this book came out a few years ago, but I really, really loved it. It might not replace the Pink Carnation books in my heart, but it’s definitely a series I am going to read the rest of. (I already found the next three books at my local bookstore, and the author is, of course, still writing more!)

Book – Second Hand by Marie Sexton and Heidi Cullinan – Contemporary M/M Romance (Goodreads | Amazon)

I attended the Romantic Times convention in 2013, when it was hosted here in Kansas City, and this book was given out in one of the many swag bags I picked up. I very quickly tossed it to the back of my shelf, Second Handmostly because the redhead on the right side of the cover creeps me out (Sorry!). But this is definitely a case of “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”

Second Hand is a very character-driven contemporary romance. The creepy redhead is actually very, very sweet in the book, and is bisexual (!!) which is handled… not terribly. It could be better (it can always be better, unfortunately) but it didn’t make me toss the book. The other guy is neck-deep in family drama, with a mother who is a hoarder and a handful of other family members shoving at him with their demands and needs. Sometimes in romance, the subplots are annoying – stop talking about your family and get back to smooching, please! – but the way this is written, it’s an integral part of the characters’ stories.

I liked it a lot, and will definitely be checking out the rest of the series, which (eek!) have equally distressing covers. (I personally just… hate romance novel covers in general. The Amazon-linked version of The Spymaster’s Lady has a terrible, terrible cover. It hurts me. :P)

Video Game – J.U.L.I.A. Among the Stars – Science Fiction (SteJULIA2am)

This is a point-and-click sci-fi mystery game that reminds me of being a kid playing King’s Quest and other
classic adventure games. There are several planets to visit, each with their own mystery to solve, and each a part of the larger plot of the game. There are puzzles, but none that felt contrived or cheesy like in many contemporary point-and-click style games.

The story is that you are on a ship, awakened from cryo-sleep by the ship’s AI because she needs you to keep it from blowing up. You and the AI – Julia – and an adorable little bot named MOBOT explore these planets and figure out what went wrong, as all of the crew at these various stations are dead.

I loaded this up to pJULIA1lay for just a little while, and ended up staying up half the night to finish it (and giving myself tendonitis – ha! – but that’s another story). It’s an interesting, engaging story, and the art is gorgeous.

Those are the ones that stand out this month. What have you been enjoying recently? Any great stories I should check out? 😉 

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Dragons & Destruction!

The day (week?) has finally come! I am, officially, a published author.

"I read somewhere that nothing beautiful is perfect until it is destroyed." - J. Lee Ellorris

A quote from my poem “Destruction.”

My short story, “The Last Guardians” was released in the solarpunk dragon anthology Wings of Renewal yesterday, and my poem “Destruction” is coming out in Volume 2 of Polychrome Ink tomorrow! 

This is ridiculously exciting, especially since I am getting print copies of both of these to sit on my shelf and look pretty. And I may or may not take them down and lovingly stroke my name in print. 😛

If you feel like checking either of them out, let me know what you think! Outside of fanfiction and private beta reading, I’ve never really had my work out there like this, standing on its own. I’d like words of glowing praise to be lavishly rained upon me, please. 😉

So what’s next?

Nanowrimo, of course! I have been working on a novella. Or rather, several novellas. I keep starting one, then quickly finding the story isn’t working, or I need to wait and think on it some more, then trying on another one. I’m trying to embrace this as part of the illustrious writing process. (Trying).

Wings of Renewal Cover

Check out my story “The Last Guardians” about elderly lesbian dragons who are the last of their kind.

Though my track record with Nano is failure, stress, failure, and more stress, I’m going to attempt it again this year, and will be working on whichever novella idea actually sticks this month. Will it be the story about the bisexual wolf shifter on the run from werewolf hunters? The one where four twenty-somethings with superpowers cobble a life together as private investigators? The retelling of Beauty and the Beast where Beauty is a cunning prostitute hired to teach the Beast how to behave for his future bride? Or maybe the one with the high priestess and the man who is a vessel for a goddess, serving as her arm of justice?

Hmmm. We will have to see!

Projects Coming in 2016

I’m in the planning phases of two major projects for 2016. Fellow writer friend Lyssa Chiavari and I are putting together an anthology of fairytale retellings. The official announcement and call for submissions is going to go up in January.

Also, I’m leading a team of six writers in an awesome collaborative story called Murder-You-Vote, where six strangers are trapped in a haunted ski lodge and readers get to vote off the next person to die. (Dun dun dunnn!)

More coming soon about both of these! ❤ I’m excited to share all of this with you!

Goal Planning and Time Management

I did some serious soul-searching this week regarding my writing and what direction I wanted it to take. For months it’s seemed like I’m barely keeping up with my projects, let alone able to write regularly. I’ve known for years that I have terrible time management skills, but recently I’ve been taking on a lot and the lack of those skills was starting to seriously stress me out. So I did some research into how I could fix this.

Some of the suggestions were obvious things that I’m just not doing, and a lot of them were just “buckle down and actually do the work.” Something I definitely have trouble with. 😉 But basically, the articles I was reading (more or less everything on the first 2 pages of a google search for “time management skills”) said to think hard about what you want out of life, especially life in the next couple of years. Make a list of measurable goals  then break those down into smaller and smaller (measurable) pieces. So for example, if you want to get out of debt, your long-term measurable goal might be “pay off both credit cards.” Your smaller pieces might be “Pay off $500, $1k, $2k.” Each month, create a list of goals that you want to accomplish that will further your greater goals, and every week, craft a to-do list that directly affects those goals. Anything that doesn’t 100% support and further those goals… they are 2ndclass priorities. You have to get your goal-oriented work done before you can work on the 2nd class priorities (if you have time!).

So for my debt example, your monthly goal might be “find a budget that works” and “do 6 hours of overtime at work.” Your weekly goals, then, might be “Do 2 hours of overtime this week,” or “Research how to refinancing works.”

You then make daily to-do lists that are based on your goals. For me, I’m breaking them into “lunch at work” and “at home” and planning one task for each. Work tasks are simple busy work (such as researching refinancing, for example!) and at home tasks are more intensive.

I’m also making sure to schedule lots of relaxation time, since I know my own capabilities and being overwhelmed by stressed or feeling trapped by a to-do list can cause me to cycle into depression and get set back by weeks. With this in mind, I make sure my “at home” tasks are manageable (saving larger tasks for weekends) and that there are least 2 nights a week dedicated solely to laying around and doing nothing.

As part of this goal process, I’ve decided to stop the Bradbury challenge. My intention is to write and publish novels. Short stories are great fun and awesome practice, but writing one a week involves a lot of writing time that I could spend working on my main long-term projects.

Hopefully some of this goal-planning advice is helpful to someone! J

Bradbury Challenge – Week 2

This week was a bit hard, as work stress and health sickiness combined to make me fairly miserable all week. I mostly came home, flopped on the couch, and read until I fell asleep.

But I did manage to edit and submit a story! I just didn’t write one.

This is just a brief note to update. 🙂 Hopefully later this week I’ll post some book reviews!! Not to mention write like the wind!

Bradbury Challenge: Week 1

This was my first week doing the Ray Bradbury challenge and I succeeded! …. Kind of through cheating? 😛

I found a few ideas and pieces in my big binder of writing that just needed some touching up. One was a practice scene that functioned as flash fiction with some slight editing, and another was just an idea for a retelling of the Little Mermaid.

I wrote the Little Mermaid piece (and edited it), plus polished up the flash fiction piece and submitted it. So I wrote one piece, edited both pieces, and submitted a second piece. That’s technically right according to the challenge, right? 😉

The titles ended up according to a theme… Haha. The Little Mermaid piece is called “Blood in the Water,” and the flash fiction piece is called “Blood in the Library.”

 

How the Democratic Primaries Work

TL;DR – Voting in November next year is only one small part of the voting process. Also – your state might not actually have a primary election! It might have a thing called a caucus! Scroll down to find out more 😉

The primaries are how the two major parties determine who their nominee (the person you get to vote for in the REAL elections) for president will be. The campaigning you see happening right now is to get you to vote for a nominee.

Stages

There’s several steps to this. It’s a bit complicated, but to quickly sum up:

FIRST each district within a state (and US territory! but from now on I’m going to just say states) chooses who they want to nominate (either through primaries or caucuses – more on that later.) This happens between January-June of 2016 depending on your state. They pick delegates to represent their choices. This involves some complicated math, but the idea is that if 75% of your area likes Bernie and 25% likes Hillary, you will pick, say, 3 people to vote for Bernie, and 1 person to vote for Hillary.

SECOND those delegates travel to your state capitol, where the state’s Democratic Convention is held. All those people from all the areas come together and cast their votes, representing what each of you chose. They tally up the votes and pick delegates again – this time to represent your state. Just like in the electoral college, each state gets a specific number of delegates based on how big it is.

THIRD those delegates then go to the National Democratic Convention on July 25th-28th and they cast their votes again. Only this part is where it gets weird (and unfair, in my opinion). There are people called Super Delegates. These are party leaders and politicians (such as democratic state senators and governors) who don’t have to vote for someone just because an area or state told them to, but their vote counts the same as a state delegate’s vote. So that means that while your vote counts for just a percentage of your area, which counts for a percentage of your state, one of these Super Delegates’ vote is worth the exact same as, say, like, 15% of your entire state, depending on how many delegates you have.

One article I read said that the Super Delegates’ votes count for 20% of all the voting power all on their own. In some past elections, this has been a really big deal, with the states’ votes coming in REALLY close between two people and the Super Delegates pushing it one way or another.

The Democratic National Convention (DNC) tallies up the votes of all the state delegates and super delegates and announces who the democratic nominee will be for that election.

Primaries and Caucuses

Aka the audience participation part of tonight’s entertainment. 

Depending on your state, you either have a primary or a caucus

If you live in Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, North Dakota, Wyoming and Iowa, or the territories of American Samoa, Guam and the Virgin Islands – you have a caucus! Otherwise, you have a primary.

These can be open or closed, again depending on state. Open primaries and caucuses means that any voter can participate, whether they have registered to vote as democrat, republican, or anything else. Closed primaries/caucuses are only open to members of THAT party – for example… people who, whenregistering to vote, chose “democrat” as their party affiliation are the only ones who can vote in a closed democratic primary election. I cannot find a good comprehensive list of which states are open/closed (Wikipedia got my state wrong so I don’t trust it) but if you google your state or look at your state government’s website, you can find which your state is.

You can’t participate in any of this unless you register to vote. Click here to get the forms and instructions based on your state. Print it out, sign it, mail it in!

A note – if you live in a very republican state and feel like no matter what you do, your state’s going to vote republican – VOTE IN THE PRIMARIES! Even if your state won’t vote democrat, your voice in the primaries can help choosewhich democrat the rest of the country is voting for.

Most of the people who vote in primaries are old. So if you support a candidate who is relying on the support of young people (Bernie Sanders, for instance) – actually showing up for the primaries is absolutely vital. 

Primaries

A primary is an election, and it functions much like the big one in November. You cast a secret ballot, you pick who you want, and they tally the votes to determine delegates.

Google when your state primary vote is, or look it up on this confusing list. The candidate you want will never make it unless you turn out and vote – not just in the main election – but in the primaries as well.

Caucuses

A caucus is like the world’s worst class discussion. On a specific day day, you gather in a place with other voters from your district and discuss/debate the candidates. I’ve read this can sometimes last all day, sometimes going on into the night, and you can imagine how fun and exciting it is to listen to people argue about politics all day. At the end of the discussion, you vote on the candidates. It’s generally informal – a show of hands, or dividing into groups based on which candidate you want. They choose the delegates based on this vote.

Again – Google when your caucus is happening, or check out the confusing list. If you think people don’t turn out to vote, imagine how many are willing to spend all day arguing about who to vote for. If you are capable and care about what candidate makes it – show up. Bring a book. Bring friends. Do some research (or bring some tumblr/blog posts that captured your thoughts) and have something to say, if you’re up for public speaking. I 100% get if a physical, mental, monetary, or other issue prevents you from going. But if none of those issues are stopping you? Please participate. Especially if you live in Iowa.

What’s up with Iowa? And why are news channels reporting poll numbers NOW if all this stuff happens next year?

Iowa is a big fancy deal because their caucuses happen earliest in the year, before everyone else. They are the first real, official vote that happens. The earlier the state holds their primaries, the bigger deal it is, because… think about it. If you lose the first 5 or 6 states, you know you’re sinking fast. Lose enough states in the beginning and there’s no way you can pull ahead. A lot of candidates drop out of the race when it’s obvious they won’t make it. Why keep wasting money campaigning if you don’t even have a shot?

A lot of news places report on “the polls” long before anything official. This is a popularity poll – it’s not at all accurate. A lot of people say they’ll vote for a president (especially if “the poll” is on a website or twitter), but don’t actually show up to vote.

Being supportive of a candidate is not at all the same thing as actually voting for your candidate.

Republican primaries are a bit different

They have this “all or nothing” thing? and no math. And I didn’t really research them at all because I kind of don’t care.

I hope this helps some of you to understand wtf is going on right now. I had no idea about any of this this morning, and I’m sure a lot of you didn’t either! 


 

NOTE: I wanted to know how they work, so I read up on them for about five hours and asked questions of my state – Kansas’ – democratic party, but I am not at all an expert. I was just frustrated by the lack of any single organized article that described the process and details in a way I could understand. If you majored in this or know more than me, feel free to correct any of this! I will 100% not be offended, as I too want to know! I tried to use the simplest language possible just in case someone doesn’t know some of the terms. Let me know if anything is confusing!

Ray Bradbury Challenge

A few years ago I heard about the Ray Bradbury Challenge, also known as the 52 stories challenge – to write, edit, and submit a short story every week. It sounded like a cool idea, but I was in no way ready to do something like that. Well! I’ve decided to take the challenge now.

I did some research on the challenge to find out more, and found many communities participating in the challenge and encouraging each other. This blog of someone’s attempt at the challenge in 2013 explains more about it:

The Ray Bradbury Challenge is based on advice Ray gave to writers. Part one is to read one short story, one poem, and one essay every night for 1000 nights. Part two is to write at least one short story every week for a year or more. He said it’s impossible to write 52 bad stories in a row. It must therefore also be impossible to write over 140 bad stories in a row!

I hadn’t heard about the first part of the challenge… but I think I’m going to try that, too! I have no idea where I’m going to find 1,000 essays, but I have a lot of books of short stories and lit mag subscriptions lying around that I need to read. This would be a great way to motivate myself to do that. 🙂 That blogger didn’t do all 1,000 readings in a row – they just endeavored to read 1,000 of each over time. I think that’s how I’m going to do it, since I tend to be terrible at “every single day” type challenges.

But about the writing portion, which is the portion I am most interested in…

I’m definitely going to cheat to start out with, since I have a lot of partially-finished stories. 😉 If I spend like, 3 days writing, 3 days editing, then submit on the last day, I think I can pull this off.

I’m (hopefully) going to post a weekly update with how things are going! But I’m TERRIBLE at routine and updating things, so please don’t come after me with torches and pitchforks if I slack off! (Assume the best – that I’m too busy writing? Hahaha….)