15 June 2019

It's time to share the ☆big dreams☆

Photo by Peter Fogden on Unsplash
Howdy, all! I mentioned recently that I rejoined Twitter after an absence of quite a few years. I left because I was grossed out by all of the bullying and nastiness, and questioned whether or not I wanted to be associated with this kind of platform.

Then...it turns out I needed it again when I moved to Japan. Twitter is very popular here, and when I was working on my Anime Japan article for Speculative Chic I needed to find a way to contact the cosplayers I photo'd at the event, and the only way I could was through Twitter. So I rejoined, and after following them, I loaded up on following authors and my friends from graduate school. 

This go-around, I'm having a lot more fun with Twitter and connecting with people, especially with all the things authors post. Like this one:

I didn't respond to Victoria's tweet because my list is too long and I thought, what the heck, let's make it a blog post. Here are my unabashed, impossible writing dreams, in no particular order. And wow, I have too many:

Photo by Howard Lawrence B on Unsplash
So, to be honest, when it comes to author control over the work, self-publishing appeals to me more than traditional and deep down I'd rather go indie, despite how risky it is and how competitive it is. I think I have a good eye for covers and formatting, and I want very much to control how my books look in their print and electronic forms. Therefore the first big dream is to have enough money to commission artists for extremely high quality artwork for cover design and illustrations, and pay them at appropriate rates for their work. Too many artists are overworked and underpaid, so I want to make sure they get fairly compensated! I also want to have enough money to buy the commercial licenses for high-quality fonts to use in the print and ebook versions. Designers deserve money for their work, too, and besides, I'm a font fanatic!

I would also like to have control over the audio book process. I want to have my audio books include different actors for the characters (not the narrator doing every character themselves), so that the recording comes off more like a cast reading through a script. It's not quite a radio play, because I don't want sound effects or music, but I think hearing different voices for different characters is sometimes more engaging than listening to a single performer do everything. 

Photo by Dan LeFebvre on Unsplash
Not only do I want to dictate how the audio book is read, but I also want to be able to choose the actors. I like voice actors. I'm sick of celebrities being used to voice everything! VAs are extremely talented and I want them to have more work and fair pay. Now, I don't know if audio books are their cup of tea, but if I was able to wave enough dollar bills at them to entice them to read, I'd go after some of my favorite VAs from Funimation, Sentai Filmworks, Dreamworks Animation, etc. I mentioned in an old post who I'd cast for The Name and the Key and while I don't have enough written of Son of the Siren for me to get the shape of the characters or their voices yet, I'm sure I'll have fun imagining VAs for them in the future. 

I want to be able to make enough money to travel for research. Have to admit, I get kind of jealous hearing how my fellow authors are going to Romania or Scotland or wherever because they need to see how the parapets of a structure are supported by a specific kind of flying buttress only used in the 13th century blah blah blah, and they need that info firsthand to write proper description so that readers won't contest the realism of the text. It sounds crazy and unnecessary but research trips like this sound amazing and fun. I'd love to travel for research!

I want to be able to make enough money to attend writing conventions, conferences, and workshops. I want to be able to go to World Fantasy, WorldCon, AWP, or BookExpo. And I really want to be able to go to my alma mater Seton Hill University and attend the summer workshop In Your Write Mind. Many of my classmates who graduated with me have been able to go back every summer, and I get kind of misty-eyed looking at pics of them reuniting every year. I've never had the money to be able to go, so I haven't been to SHU or seen my classmates since 2013. Every year passes, and I feel more and more disconnected from them all. In terms of other workshops, I want to be able to do online and in-person events, like Writing the Other, Clarion, and Odyssey. These programs cost more than what I can pay, and on top of that, if you want scholarships (or simply want to attend), it's highly competitive. I would just like to be in a safe place financially to even be able to apply to these places and pay on acceptance. 

I want to be able to make enough money to write full time -- no side hustles, no second jobs, nada. Honestly, I don't want to be a freelancer writing all manner of articles for all manner of websites scrambling for an income. I want to be able to use my time to write fiction, full stop. I would like to stop teaching. I always thought teaching was one of my callings, and I've been told I'm pretty good at it, but the pay sucks, the work never stops, and you're disrespected and there's no autonomy. Plus, there's no time for a home life or creative life when you're grading 60 or more 10-page papers from students on a regular basis. If I do teach, I'd like to be the cool guest author who runs a workshop or small critique workshop at an event. That's it. 

Photo by Luke Stackpoole on Unsplash
I'd like to make enough money to own a house. Nothing big or grand. I just want a place of my own. Until I came to Japan (where home life seems to be quiet for the most part), I never lived in an apartment that didn't have noisy neighbors thumping around, yelling, f***ing loudly, fighting, or blasting music at a trillion decibels. Because of my mental health issues, if my sleep or solitude was disrupted at home, I'd get irritable or depressed. I've pretty much determined I can't live near or with other humans because of my own quirks and health stuff, so a little place in a decent enough neighborhood (or better yet, in nature!) would be my ideal. 

I'd like to make enough money to pay off my student loans. I'm kind of in denial about them. I know when I graduated with my MFA, my grand total from 7 years of school topped $100,000. I made too little over the years so according to my income-based repayment plan, my official payment is and almost always has been $0. But my interest is phenomenally high. I'm sure at this rate it'll be closer to $150,000-$200,000 of debt within the next couple years.

Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash
 If I can't write for a living, I would like to go back to a school for a PhD to get a better shot at being hired full-time at a college or university. I never want to adjunct again. My MFA was supposed to be a terminal degree, but that's changing. And due to competition (and basic hiring requirements changing), a lot of schools now demand a PhD as the minimum degree qualification. There are creative writing PhDs out there too, which means those are preferred, and that makes my MFA's value diminish. And confession: all of this still a risk. As long as colleges continue to treat their professors abusively through adjunctification, I could still have a PhD and be stuck in adjunct hell. Bleh. But...I really love school, so in my dream world, I'd get a PhD anyway just for the joys of expanding my knowledge. 

I have more money things I could write about (like wanting to pay for decent health care and a reliable car, having an emergency fund, and hire a personal trainer and cook to get my body back in shape) but it's getting depressing, so let me go back to the writing la-la land!

 I would like to have either an online limited series of one of my works or an anime/animated adaptation.  I think I would like an online animated series more (à la Avatar or The Dragon Prince) because I love animation, but also because my work leans towards YA. Anything televised would be amazing, though. I'd also like a heavy say in casting. This is partially because I want PoC in big roles and to make sure Hollywood doesn't whitewash my characters; as far as VAs go, same thing, but I also have my personal favorites I'd love to cast!
Image Source

 Remember my admission above about self-publishing? I would like to be able to hire translators to make my book available in other countries. In addition to the more popular languages, I'd love it to be translated and distributed in Japan. I think, given the types of things I write, there's a chance for an audience there (probably not big, but young people might dig it) and honestly, I would love it if my students saw that バッキ 先生 had books at their local Tsutaya. 

 I'd like to be nominated or win some kind of award. At this point in my life, I don't think I have the skills or right kind of story to be nominated for anything, so I can't see myself winning a Locus or World Fantasy Award even in the next ten years. In this way, I'd be happy just to be nominated for something! I'd also like an excuse to wear a fancy, genre-themed dress to a fancy genre event, so there you go. 

 I'd like to be an official guest or guest of honor at a convention and have an autograph booth. I think it'd be fun to be on panels with multiple authors discussing the genre and publishing; being a guest of honor would be a huge honor (heh); and I remember as an attendee the rush and joy of being able to meet the guests, so I'd love to interact with readers in this way. 

Photo by doil oh on Unsplash
As a convention-goer, I want to make enough money from writing to ramp up my cosplay and be commission more complicated pieces. Sewing things myself is more personally rewarding, but it stresses me out (see my first cosplay post on Speculative Chic here)! And professionals really make things so polished, and are good about customizing things for me if I request it. Cosplay, even on an amateur level, really adds up. I want to continue this hobby well into the future, but bring out the fancy, too! 

 I want readers to personally connect to the books, especially the characters. I want fan art, fan fiction (even naughty fanfiction!), shipping, Tumblr discourse, Twitter treaties, cosplay, you name it. I would rather have this level of connection to the work than be nominated for an award, honestly. My books don't have to go down in the annals of history -- if they're forgotten after I die, so be it. But I would like to know that for a time on this earth, they made people happy, gave people feelings, and served as a respite from the everyday grind of life. 

~*~ 

This was the tallest of tallest orders. I don't expect 99% of them to happen, even though I'd love them to (especially #14). But dreaming big motivates me to keep trying, and I hope your dreams do the same for you. 

Readers, what are your big writing dreams? Please share in the comments below!

03 June 2019

Head *exploooooooodes!*

お久しぶりです!It's been a while. Months ago I devised some sort of themed posting schedule to prompt writing on this site regularly, and that went up in flames. It's my usual excuses, and then some.

SO BUSY!!!
The bad things keeping me away: poor time management skills, feeling lazy or tired from work, and sometimes feeling like keeping up a personal website is a chore and therefore I'm less motivated to work on it. I also keep getting sick. Getting sick = staying at home, turning brain off, + Netflix.

The good things keeping me away: planning out a new book, s l o o w l y drafting it, doing big projects and events like Anime Japan, and writing and editing for Speculative Chic! I also rejoined Twitter to connect with people for writing articles (that part's good; getting on Twitter daily to goof off, not so much). I've also upped the ante on studying my Japanese because August 1 will be my third-year anniversary living here and my language skills are still sh*t. Topping that off, I just got tapped to do a significant new project-- one of my high schools has developed a global program and I have been tasked with designing a EFL drama curriculum from the ground up. If I leave any legacy behind me in Japan, this will be it.  

I'm going to try harder to add newer content here, but much of it will also be linking to articles I've written for Speculative Chic, because that's my new(ish) baby (I recently had my one-year anniversary with them as an editor, yay!). Most of my new writing and (therefore brainpower) goes to them. And I don't mind, because I'm so happy they're letting me work with them. I have a blast!

In the meantime, here's some stuff if you want to keep up with me:

Meanwhile, fingers crossed as I continue to figure out structuring my time to keep this baby here exciting. Thanks for staying with me all this time!

05 March 2019

tumble on tuesdays - no.1

Original photo by Nick Morrison via Unsplash

This blog series comes from a special Ask Game for writers on Tumblr from author R. Meisel. Every Tuesday I’ll answer a question from the list – likewise, please share your answers in the comments! 


~*~

No. 1 - Favorite Place to Write - My Writing Desk  

I was never the type of person who could write in public or open spaces. People, animals, and scenery distract me easily! I've always had a writing desk (read: sanctuary) in my home that contains my PC, printer, and Wacom tablet; then AAAALLLLLL the office supplies, and the notebooks, binders, loose papers and folders of my notes and research printouts; and lastly, motivational goodies to remind me that I am a writer who can write. Yay!

In America, this writing nook came into being when I was eight or nine years old (circa 1991? 1992?) when Mom got me a nice wooden study desk for my bedroom. I think it was for my birthday, because, being a twin, my brother got one too. Grandpa built them for us, and I have used the same desk ever since. Over the years I would write my signature somewhere inside the pull-out drawer or under the tabletop with a "Kristina was here" or something similar just to chronicle how long I kept the thing. Oh, how my handwriting has evolved!

The desk is pretty small. It's enough to fit a monitor and a tower, and a skinny desk lamp, and that's it. I should probably get rid of it for something with more room, but I feel committed to the thing. It's become my writing heirloom, you know? I don't know if fame or success is in the stars for me, but I like to imagine sometimes that my little wooden desk from the early 90s will be on display somewhere with a plaque commemorating its importance to my writing.

My current writing sanctuary
in my apartment in Kumamoto prefecture.
In Japan, where I've lived since 2016, I had to start from scratch. Bringing things over from the US was going to be めんどくさい (!) so I got a laptop right before leaving, then bought everything else brand new here - printer, artist tablet, office goodies, folders, notebooks, laminator, etc. 

My setup here is so much cooler than back home in America! My desk is a fantastic size, and it has this industrial, modern look to it with its white metal and light blue plate glass. My desk lamp, mouse pad, and mouse all look like they're from the future, too. Plus, Daiso is the most amazing store ever, and that's where I got the majority of my office supplies and decorative knick knacks. I also have extra-special handmade works I got through Etsy (wooden "Writer at Work" sign; paper roses made from the pages of books I love), various Writing Maps, artwork of my character Andresh from The Name and the Key, and photographs of some of my favorite author friends from graduate school. I also have little touches of Japanese culture from shrines for good luck and prosperity (a giant gold daruma doll for wealth, and the boar from Sumiyoshi Shrine for good fortune). 

The problem is, I made my Japanese writing nook - officially my favorite place - much, much better than my American one. I expect I have 2 years and 4 months left of work as an assistant language teacher here, and then I have to return to the US (unless something crazy happens to make me stay, like finding a handsome おじさん to marry), and I won't be able to bring most of this home with me. *Sighs* I will definitely have to ship some of it back because of the uniqueness of the items (and hey, they spark joy!) but I'll be sad kissing the furniture goodbye, that's for certain. 

~*~

Readers, what's your favorite place to write?


26 January 2019

Which Book is Brewing?

Writing is definitely part toil and trouble.

After I made the decision to redo The Name and the Key from scratch, I hit some snags, and fixing some of the problems of the book was starting to feel like solving complex mathematical equations - my brain was burnt out and I had no idea how to go about redoing the book. As painful as it was, I decided to just put my series aside altogether for the time being until I could figure out a game plan for the rewrite. Poor Andresh and Lily, (Andresh especially), I'm going to miss you while we're in time out!

Over the years, I've had multiple projects in the works. In terms of books, The Name and the Key, The Step and the Walk, The Eye and the Storm (a trilogy), The Clockwork Prince, Kill it With Fire, and Stolen Fruit (all standalones). I also have an untitled short story set in post-revolutionary France and a graphic novel called Son of the Siren, which combines several fairytales into a single narrative about an illegitimate, half-human prince who unwittingly uses the power of his siren voice to cause great catastrophe to his kingdom. Each of these works has been started, with varying chunks written (and trust me, they will all get written!), but they each take turns getting pushed aside because it's difficult for me to multi-task. I never finish projects unless I fully, single-mindedly commit to them.

This took five billion hours because I suck.
Don't get me started on coloring!
Let's talk about Son of the Siren, because this is what I'm working on now! Except it can't be a graphic novel anymore - at least not by me, anyway, and not anytime soon. It's too difficult! I made a cover, and I made the first page, and it took weeks. And I just don't have the artistic skill (or technical skill, since it's all digital art) to make this happen. So... 

Son of the Siren is now a book! 

And I've been busy with the worldbuilding stages. One of the things I've been doing is designing characters via the Live Portrait Maker by Angela He  (I have the Android apps for male and female character creation). This is just too fun! Then I have been creating the world itself through an online site called Notebook.ai, which is designed for writers, tabletop RPG games, and more. A large chunk of the site is free (enough to make one world), but if you want to add multiple worlds or more details such as weapons, animals, etc., you have to upgrade to a subscription. I'm playing around with it for preliminary stuff, but it's been helpful with creating the family trees for my main characters, getting the base locations in, and more. 

This is Angela He's art that you can customize in-app (and
then I fancied her portrait up in BeFunky).
Behold, the siren of Son of the Siren!
Besides diving into world creation, I have actually written part of the manuscript. But I've hit a snag - I'm writing it in third person limited but I'm not feeling this vibe at all. It also has generic "Epic Fantasy Voice" (which I'm also kind of hating) that seems to pop up whenever I try third-person in fantasy.  I think I've gotten too used to writing in first-person. It's really comfortable for me! As much as I keep trying to third-person this bad boy, I don't think it's working out. First-person allows me to get inside the character's head a lot easier, and it's also less of a challenge for me to give them a distinct voice. Given the subject matter - I'm retelling multiple fairy tales within a fairy tale - combined with first-person POV, whether I intend it or not, this will probably be considered YA

My first book, The Name and the Key, started out very much like a fairy tale and was even supposed to be a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Then about halfway through the book I took a narrative 180 and the novel splintered (it very much feels like two different books). The fairy tale plots and influences in the novel disappeared as it became more and more about magic, alchemy, gods, and all sorts of esoteric goodness. 

But my brain doesn't let me forget ideas, even if years pass, and somehow I always come back to them and rework them in another way. I have always loved fairytales - they were my introduction to fantasy and have always been among my favorite things, so I always knew I wanted to write my own fairy tale. Concepts that bubbled up in The Name and the Key are reappearing in The Son of the Siren. Images that I've had in my brain for years, from dreams and daydreams, are finally having their moment to shine. 

Fairy Tale of Kings by Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis,
1909 (Source).
So far, Son of the Siren is pulling elements from these fairytales (or their classifications), and working them in a single narrative:
  • The Six Swans
  • Rapunzel
  • Sleeping Beauty
  • Cinderella
  • The Snow Queen
  • The Armless Maiden
  • The Little Mermaid
  • Donkeyskin
The book follows some of the traditional fairy tale tropes, but also takes some time to spin some of them on their heads. I've been absolutely giddy blueprinting this novel. 

I've heard somewhere that for many writers, their first book isn't the first book they publish. For the longest time I felt really bad about that, because I love my first book so much, and I truly wanted it to be my first book out in the world. However, it's looking like Son of the Siren may be the contender for potential success. I can't predict the future (and I'm really bad about not living in the present), so I can't say anything for certain, but I have a good feeling about this. 

~*~

Readers, what book are you brewing?

20 January 2019

Trying to be Writerly While Burned Out


It's been months since I wrote on this blog, and the one post (of a total of three) I wrote for all of 2018 was a bombshell admission that the thing I had spent years chronicling on this blog - my book (aka my graduate thesis at Seton Hill University) - could no longer be pitched or published in its current iteration because the baby I wrote and loved and bled for was too problematic despite my efforts, and that if it was ever going to see the light of day, I just needed to do a complete do-over of the entire thing.

Then... radio silence from me. For ages.

I've felt incredible guilt over letting my website die. I started it in 2010 as a required component of my graduate degree program, but it was never meant to disappear after I graduated in 2013. This website was to be the home of my author identity - the major component of my writer platform besides the books I'd publish. For a couple years after graduation I kept this baby alive, talking a lot about my fandom obsessions (like anime and cons!), occasional updates on my projects, random writing advice posts, a few author interviews, and -  for a time, when I knew I needed to keep the website running but had no time to regularly write - signal-boosting posts for author blog tours.

But yeah...after working very hard to build what I thought was a successful blog for a "nobody" writer, I let this blog go kaput. Every year subsequently, my posts just drop...and drop...and drop. What happened?

I became a teacher! 

I did two years of community college teaching right out of graduate school that just...kicked my butt...and now I'm in my third year in Japan teaching EFL to high school students in Kumamoto prefecture. While teaching in Japan has been a far better gig than teaching in the US, I've not been able to shake a pervasive exhaustion that has crept into my bones and settled there.

This "blehhhh" I'm feeling is burnout. And reading the now-viral article from Buzzfeed "How Millenials Became the Burnout Generation" and its follow-up "Here is What Millenial Burnout is Like for 16 Different People" helped me find the words to go with the feelings, even if those words aren't mine.

It started with people lambasting the younger generations for their decisions not to vote in the 2016 midterm election (don't look at me, I voted even though I live in Japan), and then Anne Helen Petersen of Buzzfeed sought to know more...why is dropping an envelope in the mail so exhausting? Of course, there's more than meets the eye than just simple "laziness" here, and these articles were so comforting to me because they accurately depict my experience - having to always be "on," for one thing, and never really feeling like I'm living in the moment - that every decision has to be some sort of conscious stepping stone to an ever-elusive future lifestyle for which I must continually market myself.

How can I write, edit, promote, submit, and sell my work (and my "self") when I only have enough energy to get through the classes I teach each day? How can I rewrite my first book, and then more books after that, if it takes all my willpower to just feed myself dinner after work and do laundry on the weekend? Not to mention dishes needing done, the house needing cleaned...

I think of what modern writers are "expected" to do - self-published or not - and the list looks exhaustive:

  • Write every day
  • Read every day (especially work in your genre)
  • Self-promote and publicize
  • Maintain a social media presence and author platform - website, Twitter, FB, Goodreads, etc.
  • Regularly engage with your audience
  • Build professional relationships within your industry
And there's even more to this list depending on the type of writer you want to be and how you want to be published!

Anyway, I've been feeling burned out for years, and there are genuine consequences when you're too exhausted to keep on. Besides the fact I haven't written a new book since 2013 or published anything since 2017, I've let this website deteriorate dramatically after investing so much time and money into putting it together. 

My *only* shining spot in this field has been the editing work I've done (I'm proud to be a contributor at Speculative Chic, among other things), but editing is not the same as me writing my own stuff.

I'm not going to call this a New Year's Resolution, but let's just say this year I'm trying to slowly reemerge with a stronger writer identity, and that includes more of my own writing on this blog and then trying to work on some of my fiction, whether it's the redo of The Name and the Key or the new-ish project capturing my attention now. 

I've felt disengaged from the writing world for quite some time, so my goal is to just produce more of something - ANYTHING - and try my best to get regular with it again. 

~*~

How do you keep on writing when you're burned out?