22 September 2021

My Brain is Bankrupt!

Photo by Levi Meir Clancy on Unsplash
I finished Son of the Siren in August. Since then I made it through developmental edits and completed a third draft of the book with revisions, and sent that draft off to beta readers who will report back to me by October 6th. I know I did this very quickly, but I feel confident in my book, especially after the feedback I got from my developmental editor, so I thought it safe to move on to the beta reading stage. I’m really proud of where the book is at and don’t anticipate it needing any more major overhauls—just little bits here and there. And probably a great deal of copyediting because I seem to go overboard with my commas.

In the meantime, I thought to myself, what do I do during all of this waiting? I’ve continued to read YA (I’m on The Taking of Jake Livingston right now) and even squeezed in my friend’s book mid-project. But also, I wanted to see if I could try my hand at coming up with ideas for new books.

At one point, I did have ideas. I had a book idea for a Hades-Persephone story, a Beauty and the Beast adaptation, a book about demons and grimoires, a book inspired by the French Revolution, and of course, the prequel to The Name and the Key (this was before I decided The Name and the Key needed its massive overhaul). Then, when writing Son of the Siren, elements from those project ideas kind of leaked into it, so I can’t reuse those little bits and pieces. I’m at a loss with how to proceed. They are little kernels with no real plots attached to them.

During the last quarter of writing Son of the Siren, I did write a full chapter to The Step and the Walk, which is The Name and the Key’s prequel. It came out of nowhere. It combined elements of the demon/grimoire book idea with the world and characters of The Name and the Key. And then my brain switched gears back to finishing Son of the Siren.

I realized that maybe I should follow the path I laid with The Step and the Walk and try to come up with some kind of plot. I filled my idea notebook with scribbles, and then hit a brick wall. Then I switched gears and decided to try my hand at plotting another book idea, the Beauty and the Beast adaptation. My graduate thesis, The Name and the Key, was supposed to be that adaptation, but it morphed into another monster altogether and didn’t resemble the fairy tale anymore. All the while I kept thinking I’ve got a Beauty and the Beast story within me somewhere…so I whipped out my idea notebook again and jotted out some plot points and characters. I got as far as the Beast’s part of the story, then blanked on Beauty’s part of it.

My friends advised me to take a break from all of this planning, and since my brain keeps blanking out on my ideas, everyone is probably right.

It’s tough getting mixed advice. I read books about self-publishing that advised writers not to sit on their hands and work on the next book right away; then I’ve read counter-advice that says “don’t start projects” during the period after you finish your book.

Then I got advice just to write anything, letting the words flow out freestyle, and maybe a spark could come from that. At the moment, it seems blogging is how I’m choosing to write. I knocked out the #52 writing cards post in one sitting, and today I’m trying for catharsis, to share how nervous I am to not be working on a project—whether it’s Son of the Siren or something else.

I am an antsy, anxious person by nature, and this is all one great big test for me, to see if I can be comfortable with just being and not doing. So far, I’m failing at it. Please wish me luck as I try to relax and let things run their own course. Thank you!

20 September 2021

#52 writing cards: Prompts from Shaun Levin's Writing Maps - no. 18


I. 

I am not a patient person I have trouble waiting for things to happen especially when it has to do with my writing Oh my gosh I have three beta reading reports coming in but not until October 6th and I feel like I'm going to explode because I want to know what each of them think -- one is a librarian, one is a YA book reviewer, and one writes literary fantasy -- and I think they are a good assortment of appropriate people to review my YA fantasy I'm especially nervous about what the librarian has to say and I am concerned that my book may not necessarily be age-appropriate because of the little bits of jokes and musical innuendos and a fade-to-black sex scene and some cursing but on the other hand I read a book by an author who wrote something traditional publishers classified as YA and it contained fingering and assault and violence and a prince fucking a sword stab wound in a dragon and a whole chapter about his penis so maybe I'm worried for no reason

A tree fell on my car the other day because of a typhoon and thank goodness the car is ok but I can't tell if the marks on the roof of the car are dirt marks from the branches or if they are actual scratches and the only way to know for sure is to take the car to a car wash but every time I've gone it's been a disaster because I keep forgetting the Japanese and how to do it so I usually have to call for help after hitting the wrong buttons maybe I should just clean the car myself and speaking of that I have a problem using my car as a garbage can I have so many empty bottles of drinks and empty cartons from the chicken tenders I would get at the conbini and I believe I may be a disgusting person and while I'm on the subject of the car again or more like the tree they haven't bothered removing the tree yet and I'm really annoyed because I don't know where to park my car so I've been using the parking lot to the onsen next to us and I'm so nervous that I'm breaking some kind of rule in doing so We got a letter from the school in charge of our teacher apartments announcing the falling of the tree and that they notified kencho of the problem and there was a last part about parking and not disturbing neighbors that my phone translation couldn't quite interpret in a way that makes sense but I hope it's not saying that I can't park my car in the onsen lot In the meantime there's no official word on when the tree is going to be moved and the fence repaired so it all goes back to my inability to wait for things

I write really fast and I've only written for about eight minutes but I don't want to explode this blog with 20 minutes' worth of words so I'm going to stop now

II. 

Larry slipped into his bowling shoes Why do the shoes always smell like that, like mold and feet and old car fresheners? and followed his teammates down to the lane. 

The team always went in alphabetical order Alex Jim Larry Rich and Alex considered himself the leader of the team, so he always insisted on sitting at the machine and entering everyone's names onto the screen. You could give someone else a try for once, but then again I guess it's no big deal, I'll just shine the bowling ball to calm my nerves 

Why am I so nervous? I've played this game hundreds of times. Except it was the state championship, and the winner would qualify to represent the Midwest region, and the team hadn't been able to crack the top five in about ten years. Their glory days were over. 

Glory days
Yeah they'll pass you by
Glory days
In the wink of a young girl's eye
Glory days
Glory days

A vision of his wife as a young girl of sixteen flashed in his mind, winking at him, when she wore a sundress to the county fair and picked off pieces of her cotton candy to put in her mouth, making her hands sticky with spun sugar. She kindly gave him the blue part of the sweet cloud since blue was his favorite color -- "There, it'll match your shirt" she said, smiling. 

She couldn't make it to the game tonight. She was his good luck charm, but she hadn't been feeling well and she said to do his best without her. He wanted to stay home and take care of her with some chicken soup for the soul but he couldn't let his teammates down. Tonight was their night. 

He finished shining his navy blue bowling ball, looking like molten liquid with a marble luster, and put the cloth aside. His hands were clammy. He took out a separate cloth to wipe them off. 

Jim adjusted the collar to his polo shirt as he sat next to Larry. Powder blue is such a weird shade, why did we choose it for our uniform? We look like...and for some reason the word "poodle" popped in Larry's head, although it made no sense. Huh. Poodles. What am I thinking? 

"Ready?" Alex interrupted his thoughts. "Let's get this show on the road." 

Alex bowled a spare, Jim a strike, and when it was Larry's turn he couldn't get Bruce out of his head, the phrase glory days repeating over and over in his brain while he pictured his wife eating cotton candy. He bowled an 8 the first try and got a gutter the second. Could've been worse. 

For the rest of the evening his mind was a jukebox of 80s music with the songs switching from one to another mid-lyric. He even heard the scratch of the record in between the song changes. His bowling reflected his scattered thoughts. He only got one strike for the evening, while the screen lit up with turkeys from his other teammates. Despite his teammates' good performance, they didn't crack the top ten. 

Larry apologized to his teammates and without waiting for them, he put his bowling ball in his case and headed back to the shoe rental section of the alley and slipped out of his shoes. Maybe they spray these shoes with Pine-sol. 

He got in his car to drive home to his wife, who was asleep in bed. He peeled off his clothes and in his boxers, crawled in with her. He turned over on his side, facing away from her, visions of cotton candy in his head. 

~*~

Can I say that part two of this was really hard? I'm not good with short stories. I just poured it out of my head and all I can hope is that it makes sense and fit the exercise appropriately, and it entertained you a little bit. 

Thanks for reading!