Nano Update

Posting a bit late, but this is an important post. I’ll get the story behind this switch up here next week. This week, I don’t have the time for writing even a short blog post on it. All I have time for is a link. Short version—I’m working on a fantasy project for Nano words now and updated my Nano project page so the address has changed.

New Stats Page

Nano 2016

As has become my annual habit, I’m participating in National Novel Writing Month again this year. It starts tomorrow, and I’ve been looking forward to it for the past few months. My aim is to hit substantially over 50,000 words. By at least ten thousand. Hopefully, I’ll my wordage will come out somewhere between seventy and eighty thousand.

Normally, I spend all of October preparing a project or more. Since 2012, I’ve leapt into the month before November with excitement and enthusiasm for some project or another, and I manage to prep something to an acceptable level for myself. And I run like this the entire month of October—until the last 3-1 days of it, when my creative mind suddenly switches gears and throws me into a totally different project.

This year, I resisted that urge. This does not mean I had a project I wanted to work on for November in mind. I did. My new Science Fiction idea, Boost. I’ve gotten character bios, worldbuilding notes, plot points, and various notes for the story and universe thus far. But I resisted setting it up as my Nano project because I fully expected my creative mind to decide on something else. I intended to stick with that decision until the end of the month.

Well, a few days ago, I finally set up Boost as my Nano project. I couldn’t resist it any more. But I refused to get excited about it. I figured, the less enthusiasm I expressed, the less likely it would be for my creative mind (read: Bipolar) would be to jerk me into something else. It’s now Nano Eve Day (the wee hours anyway, as I write this), and I’m still quite firmly on Boost as my main wip. I’m hoping—again, without much enthusiasm—this will remain the case the rest of the day and all through November. Yes, I’m afraid of jinxing this. I think I’ve never been as superstitious as I’ve been all this past month, and I don’t expect it to end until November starts and I’m either on Boost still, or on something else.

But, in the spirit of the event, I’ll give you links to my Nano pages with the pertinent info (all subject to change):

First: The Stats Page for Boost

Second: The Synopsis

Independent Investigations I: Boost

Independent Investigator for the Haefen Planetary Police Mat Kelly goes with xyr gut in choosing to investigate the death of the prime suspect in a criminal case. Virgil Coleman died of a toxic potion, and Mat feels absolutely certain someone close to him did the deed.

At first look, Virgil seems to be a deplorable person. The detectives who investigated him as a criminal believed he cheated on his wife and participated in a crime ring involving a new series of drugs, called Boost, that bestow a variety of temporary powers upon their users. Having pegged Virgil as a Recruiter, the detectives did their best to prove his guilt, but failed to. And, in the process of their investigation, angered and upset nearly everyone they questioned.

Mat steps into a difficult case and discovers few wish to cooperate with xem, despite professions of their desires to know who committed Virgil’s murder and see that person brought to trial. Even after the suspects begin to respond to xyr patient and careful questioning, the clues fail to help Mat determine who murdered Virgil.

So, in desperation, Mat does the one thing xe thought inconceivable . . .

Third: The Excerpt:

Because, no matter what else, Mat could not believe anyone would imbibe that particular toxic mix in an effort to commit suicide.

In addition to that consideration, Virgil had gone to get groceries. In Mat’s experience, people who were committing suicide wouldn’t take a toxic potion then blithely go grocery shopping. No, they’d sit at home and wait for their guts to dissolve. They did not behave as though life were normal. Suicidal people didn’t plan for the future, and there were few activities that more strongly indicated someone doing so than shopping for food. Why go buy food you weren’t going to eat? Sure, he had a family, according to the detectives’ investigation into Virgil’s apparently nonexistent criminal life, but even so—if Virgil had been suicidal, he’d far more likely have taken himself either off to some secluded location if he didn’t want to be discovered, or if he wanted his body found by someone in his family—perhaps in some misguided hope of punishing them—he’d have stayed at home to die.

So, he’d been murdered. By someone angry about the infidelity? Perhaps, though Mat wasn’t willing to decide yet. According to the detectives’ file, Virgil had a wife, a boss, a brother, a lover, and there was at least one displeased parent bent on seeing Virgil’s conviction, if not utter ruination, for his presumed role in the death of her daughter. Any one of them could have done this.

Mat called up the map of the area around the scene of Virgil’s death. His home was within twenty minutes of the store, even if he were in a ground hover and had to stop at every single intersection. Virgil’s boss was out of the way by a good fifteen minutes, but that didn’t mean his boss hadn’t visited him and somehow doctored his beverage, though why Virgil’s boss would want to kill him was a bit of a mystery in itself at present—maybe Virgil’s boss had a role in this possible Recruiting scheme and wanted to get rid of Virgil because he knew something? Perhaps. The bereaved parent who’d been after Virgil lived right down the block—no more than a five minute walk away. The lover and brother were out of the way by about thirty minutes for the former and twenty-five for the latter, but, again, either could have visited and somehow fixed Virgil’s tea to their desires. And then there was Virgil’s very own wife. Right there in the house with him, she had an excellent motive in his infidelity, and more than ample opportunity. But possibly too simple, too easy, too straightforward. Though not out of the realm of possibility, not enough reason to focus on her exclusively just yet.

So, five suspects. A tougher job than xe had anticipated, but not impossible to solve.

Science Fiction

There’s a reason why I don’t actively try to pursue very many Science Fiction ideas. I’m not a very science-oriented person, and I feel inadequate to the job of creating a believable SF universe without it. Back in the early 1990’s, I wrote more SF stuff. This was before I had regular access to the internet. I soaked up just as many SF stories of all kinds as I did Fantasy novels and stories. I was much more confident in my SF skills, focusing on characters and plot instead of the science—definitely a “soft” SF writer at the time.

Since, I’ve not developed very much interest in science. I follow a notable scientist or few on Twitter, several astronauts, NASA, and I read various articles about science. But nothing really in-depth or detailed. Nothing like research—not the focused kind anyway. I don’t do it for my Fantasy stuff, so why would I do it for SF? As a result, the closest thing to SF I’ve had is Chraest, which is descendants of humans who landed on a planet already occupied by a native intelligence, with magic. Chraest is and always has been as much Fantasy as it is SF.

So it’s rather startling to me to be developing a more SF-focused idea. It started with a prompt on FM’s prompt board. Basically, imagine a drug that gives you the ability to see the future accurately—but it is highly addictive and has debilitating side effects. Would you take this drug? Explore in the point of view of a character of your own.

Original conception of the idea this prompt sparked could have been almost any speculative genre. Almost any kind of Fantasy, or Science Fiction. I may use a variation of it for Fantasy, but this idea became specifically SF. I saw, in my head, planet-hopper ships, companies and organizations recruiting users of this drug, and contemplated the possibility of this drug being based upon some as-yet-undiscovered Element, so I looked up the Periodic Table of Elements and started worldbuilding.

I now have vague notions for a Recruiter character, and a solid concept for a sleuth. I’ve named this SF universe and created a Scrivener file for it. My confidence in pulling off SF isn’t any greater, and it’s complicated by some plans I have for both characters, but I’m determined to see this through. For one, I know little of drug addiction and recovery, and that’s going to be absolutely necessary for me to research.

But I do know I look forward to writing these books. My first SF idea in over 20 years. It’s going to be an adventure.

Inktober 2016: Things Around the House

I’m teaching myself how to draw. My primary lesson course is a text-and-workbook set called Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards. It’s a course developed to help those who feel not-so-artistically-inclined develop real working artistic skills, focusing on drawing. I’ve completed a number of exercises, but hit a stall due to lack of a certain item I haven’t yet purchased.

In the meantime, I’ve been doing a lot of sketching of things related to my writing. Mostly garment concepts. Some I’ve colored. I’ve drawn one portrait of a character, and a few other items. Odds and ends around the house. But, even with all this, my drawing habit is far from a daily practice.

So, when I started seeing stuff about Inktober on Twitter, I at first brushed it off, but about 3 days before October began, I started to seriously consider participating. In case you’re unaware, Inktober is an art challenge event that takes place over the course of October. Each day of the month, the artist is supposed to create an artwork using ink of some sort. Now this can be anything from painted inks to your standard pens, even markers.

My primary purpose in participating is to try and develop a daily habit with my artwork. Secondary purpose is to challenge myself to find something to draw every day, even if I’m not feeling creative or inspired, or if I happen to be in some sort of creative downswing. After all, I didn’t develop my writing habit and skill by slacking off as much as I have been with the artwork. To be honest, I’ve been half-consciously using the fact I don’t have what I need for the DotRSotB course to slough off developing any sort of habit with my art. And I know better than to do that. Hence, joining in Inktober.

I won’t be posting my artwork on my website; I’d rather use the limited amount of media space available for my website on other images. However, I do have a DeviantArt account, and that’s where I’ll be posting my efforts. The first three drawings (from 1st-3rd) are already up. There’s a link to my DA homepage on the sidebar to the right, beneath the calendar; the link is red, and all by its lonesome ahead of my list of other links. If you scroll down to the “Newest Deviations” box (it’s second box down on the left) and click “Browse Gallery,” which is at the left bottom corner, you’ll be able to find folders of my various works, including an “Inktober” folder. The list is on the left, and you’ll have to scroll down to find my “Inktober” file, but it’s where I’m putting all my Inktober artwork.

Please stop by and leave a comment or two on my art!

Rebirth of a Defunct Project

I think most writers who write for any length of time ends up with a collection of story ideas and starts that go nowhere. The Rose’s Thorn, a single scene I wrote some years ago was one of those for me. The premise was good, I thought. Girl with no relation to nobility ends up in the royal/imperial court and is the instigator of change. It goes on from there, with a vague idea of a sequel somewhere in the distance, but I had a solid concept for the first book, which opens with the MC having a roadside chat with the incoming imperial bride.

And that’s all I had. I forget when I wrote the initial scene. I’d have to hunt out its original logsheet or the 5″x8″ index card I started the log on, whichever it was. I can’t remember any more, and I have no idea where to find it even if I did. The project had no “place”—was just a random bit of fluff that I wrote off the top of my head without any sort of anchoring world to put it on. I had a hint of culture (bound feet), and a vague notion of the surrounding territory (forestland). Written in first person, it started and stopped with that “First Scene.”

Every so often over the past few years, since coming out of the gay romance fugue, I’ve revisited The Rose’s Thorn. Every time, I considered the first person pov as unalterable and tried to think of the next scene from that point. The thing with my writing, and I think I’ve mentioned this before, is that my scenes build upon each other to some extent. One flows, in my mind, into the next, and then the one after, and so on, until I have a complete story. This wasn’t happening with this story. I had the “First Scene” and notions of what I wanted to do with the rest of the story, and that was it. No next scene.

For years.

A few nights ago, I thought I figured out where this story belongs—the world it belongs to. Doesn’t actually fit there, because I’m getting inklings of a magical system I don’t have the impression “fits” on the world I put it, but I’m leaving it there for the present because it’s in Scrivener, and it needs to have a place to go or I can’t write on it—and I’m not going to write it in Open Office because I need a place where I can put the story’s accompanying notes I develop on it with the story file for easy transfer to another Scrivener file (plus having more than one Open Office file open at a time bugs the crap out of me unless I’m constantly clicking between them for some reason).

Anyway, I’d thought I figured out where this story belonged and happily transfered a copy of it to Scrivener. Then, because I’d had some better notions about the society and the MC and the imperial bride, I rewrote it. In first person. And there the story stopped again. This was frustrating, to say the least, but I decided to go with the flow, certain I wouldn’t have been driven to work on it at all if my creative mind wasn’t working on a way for me to get past the block.

And, that night, an idea hit. Scene Two. The next scene. But! It was in third person pov. I didn’t like the idea that I should switch povs like that. I didn’t think it would work very well for the story, and, furthermore, the notion felt, uncomfortable to me. No, switching between first person and third person wasn’t the right way to go with this story. So, that left me switching the first scene to third person. This didn’t feel precisely comfortable to me, but I had no other choice.

So, the next day, I got up and wrote the first scene for a third time, this time in third point of view. I had to do some other things, then later, I wrote the second scene. Then the third scene. Started off pantsing this thing, apparently. But it’s flowing well, even though I have no idea what the point of the story is.

My Year In Writing, Thus Far

Since 2012, I’ve been highly conscious of how my writing goes over the course of the year. I keep an eye on when I write, and how much I write, and how long I take to write it. Recently, I even went so far as to create a logsheet for my blog posts, which I should have been logging long before now. I use my logsheets to monitor just how my writing’s going.

Normally, my writing fluctuates wildly. I’ve discussed this fluctuation here before, I think. I’ll go through periods where I’m writing daily, or nearly so, and I’m racking up tons of words. Then I’ll have times where I don’t write at all, do very little creatively, and generally wail about my lack of creative urges with regards to my writing.

So far, this year has been different. Things haven’t been quite as dramatically different as before, and I’m not quite sure just what to make of it.

My creative urges have been more consistent. I say creative urges because it’s more than just adding new words to projects that I’ve had going. Generally speaking this year, on days when I haven’t written, I’ve done other things with regards to my writing. I’ve worked on character sketches, or brainstormed for different stories. Or I’ve drawn sketches of different aspects of the story, usually clothing concepts, as I’ve taken up drawing. No matter what I’ve done, I’ve done something creative on the days when I don’t add new words to some writing project.

And it’s been nice. I’ve enjoyed this steady flow of creativity. I don’t get as frustrated about not writing when I’m doing other things related to the writing. Sure, I’d like to add new words to some project or another, but it doesn’t dig into me and drive me batty no to do so. It seems that as long as I’m doing something to express myself creatively, no matter what that thing is, I feel content with my creativity.

I hesitate to predict what this means. What I’d like it to mean is that my mind has stabilized to the point where more steady and regular creative expression will happen. That I won’t have any more of those maddening dramatic swings from creativity to non-creativity. I want this to mean I’m returning to the state of mind required for me to write daily. But I hesitate to make that declaration, mainly because I don’t want to get comfortable with this mental state only to, in the next few months or so, fall back into those dramatic swings. This is a plateau. I’m doing my best not to get my hopes up that it means things are “normalizing” for me now.

Though, to be honest, I’d be very happy if this were the new status quo. It’s been wonderful so far.

Dear VHA, An Open Letter

Dear Veterans’ Health Administration,

You know me as one of your patients. I won’t provide my real name, but I will say that I am a Transgender patient, and I have a bone to pick with you.

The VHA's boast

The VHA’s boast.

The picture above is something I’ve seen posted at my local VA Hospital’s outpatient mental health building. They move the sign about; sometimes it’s in the entryway, other times it’s positioned somewhere inside, where we can see it as we enter. I didn’t take a picture of the entire poster, because the only part that concerns me is the portion which I included. Allow me to write it here, just to be clear. Clarity is important here, at least for me.

“Excellent care has no boundaries. VHA is committed to serving Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Veterans.”

Now, I know this sign was approved somewhere in the hierarchy of the Veterans’ Administration, so that’s not at issue. What is a problem is the fact that, as of the date of this post, Transgender Veterans, whom you claim to serve without boundaries, do, in fact, have a major boundary in their health care through the VA system.

This boundary?

We have no access to surgical options for our health care. Specifically, Male-to-Female Transgender Veterans cannot have sex reassignment surgery to correct their condition, and Female-to-Male Veterans cannot receive mastectomies and whatever other surgery is available for correcting our condition.

As I said, a big boundary.

Now, I know, I know, this was posted in the outpatient mental health building. That, to me, means nothing, for two reasons. First, because of the claim of “no boundaries.” What about denying surgical options to Transgender Veterans translates to “no boundaries”? That’s like saying, “We care about you, but don’t really accept these specific needs you have.” Why can’t Transgender Veterans have sex reassignment surgery and mastectomies? You gave that option to Active Transgender members of the military a few months ago. When will we Transgender Veterans have this option? Why couldn’t you approve this option for us at the same time you gave the actively-serving members of the military this option?

This is hypocritical of you.

Second, the claim, in the statement, comes from the “VHA.” The Veterans’ Health Administration, not “Veteran’s Mental Health Administration”. That means it comes from the overall service, not just whatever branch there may be which oversees our mental health care, if things are so divided. So that means the VHA is actively denying what can be life-saving health care to Transgender Veterans. I’m pretty easy-going, but not all Transgender individuals can make themselves be as “comfortable” in their birth-bodies as I can make myself be. Add gender dysphoria on top of some other mental dysfunctions, and that’s a recipe for suicide for a Transgender Veteran.

This is hardly “Excellent” care. Truly excellent care would offer us the surgical option many of us require.

In short, I find your commitment to serving we Transgender Veterans to be deeply lacking. I also find it extremely hypocritical for the VHA to brag about the “Excellent care” and its “commitment to serving” us when we do not in fact receive that excellent care or have that commitment.

Signed,

An Unhappy Transgender Veteran