Tuesday, February 21, 2017

An apology.

Hi there everyone!

I'm sorry I have not been as on top of posting of late as I truly would like to have been. Illness has made this difficult and so has some problems getting everything organized enough. I kinda feel like I bit off more than I could chew on this business of getting life into order. I am making progress but no where near as fast as I thought I was going to. (Being sick with a head cold and having kids home from school sick one week and then on winter break for another also throws a wrench into the works as well.)

This said, I am trying very hard to get back to posting in here more frequently. I feel poorly that I have not posted anything creative recently. I apologize for this lapse.

In other news, I am beginning to think I should buy stock in cold medicine or something. This makes round 2 of head colds for me in the last month. Schools are germ factories, I am sure of it. I may start dousing things in Lysol if this keeps up.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Flora et Fauna: Climate & Weather systems influence.

If one sits down and looks at the world, it becomes immediately apparent that the weather changes what can live in a given region. A location that has a lot of water can not support lifeforms that require a more arid environment. It would be easy to just ignore this thing and say 'oh, they just have what they need where they are.'  It can create a jarring disconnect from the reality you've built when you have a Saharan camel living on the Arctic tundra with out any modifications to the situation.

Now, it is fantasy or some other variant of fiction that you are writing and this gives you a significant amount of leeway as to how much you can bend the rules of what is 'real' and how far you can depart from what is commonly understood to be normal. I, however, find that realistic fiction elements will need to take in to consideration the very environment of the setting in the sense of what sort of weather and such there is.

Weather systems are a big driving factor in real world events. Storms of historic size and ferocity are more than proverbial plot devices. They can effect permanent changes to the landscape, the sociopolitical situation, and the most basic elements of the necessities for life. Just look at the difference of Louisiana before and after Hurricane Katrina. The differences are staggering (and, honestly, rather horrifying). It may be nice to say that the lovers take a romantic walk in the rain, but if you are at a place where rain is a frequent happening, this will change how the rain is viewed by even the characters themselves. Rain everyday for a two weeks means that you may have problems with flooding. And there is a good chance that the characters don't see that drizzly weather as something romantic but rather as another damned inconvenience.

Climates are interesting because when they shift they can make massive changes to an entire region. As a result, stresses between different groups become larger in some cases and smaller in others. Looking at Medieval Europe during the period of the Little Ice Age, we find that the great famine happened during this era. We find that there was a stark increase in problems that resulted in things like the loss of the Norse settlements in Greenland during the 15th century because they were unable to sustain enough crops of livestock to remain present.

It is no small coincidence that this period was one that saw a great deal more of conflict in communities and on the international scale. This, after all, was the period of the Hundred Year's War, the Black Death, and the Inquisition. When sufficient stresses pile up on a community, they become fractured and tend to ... well, eat themselves. Climate change can cause an enormous amount of stress to drive the conflicts within your works. The questions as to why a place is suffering bad droughts may be because of something shifting the weather patterns. The problems with droughts would lead to famine, problems in the economy, and loads of social problems. Conversely, a place suddenly blessed with good growing conditions and abundant resources would develop an entirely different set of challenges. Perhaps a case of the people who live in the areas of more depleted resources coming to acquire the resources of the others by way of sword and axe?

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Craft of Writing: Organize it ALL (Part 3)

First off, I want to apologize for the fact that I haven't been posting as much as I thought I would be right now. I am elbows deep into this organize everything and schedule everything business right now. I am beginning to think I may have bitten off more than I can chew. Still, I have reached a point where I can share some of what I am doing here with you. There are going to be several pictures here. Some pertain to this blog and some pertain to others that I am working on. This is not a big deal because I am using the same methods for virtually everything.

So, in part one of this mess, I mentioned that I stumbled onto the BulletJournal concept. I have been working on adapting it to my needs and adjusting everything so that it can work across multiple platforms. I do a lot of work on paper and in digital format. It has been somewhat challenging to reconcile the differences between the two methods. Throw in my starting to return to doing artwork and there is a need to basically make everything make sense.

In part two of this mess, I shared how I was dividing things up in general terms. I am literally still in the process of putting together my notebooks by topics. It is something that is both challenging and oddly relaxing. I really don't claim to understand it. But, the process of making everything more orderly and collating material so that it easier to access has been helping lower my stress and anxiety as much as the medication adjustments that have happened recently.

What I have to share with you this week is what I am doing just in the blog format right now. I apologize for the poor quality of the pictures. I am not very good at using the camera on the laptop for photos. I'll get there eventually. In the meantime, I am going to do my best to walk you through what I am working on to organize and get the most out of my blogs. I am debating if I should make something like a few spreadsheets. Let me know in the comments on this post if you want me to. If I make them, they will be Google documents that are for public consumption. As per always, please credit me for my work.

This really was the seed at the beginning of the whole organization process. It was initially a little text document sitting on my desk top. Then I copied it over to this slip of recycled paper. If you look you may recognize the topic headings that I try to stick with for weekly posts.

The daily posts schedule started out working pretty well for me. Then I started to realize that I was producing so much content that I needed to organize that. Cue my beginning to search for something that was more effective and did a better job of helping me not make critical errors in my posts.

After reviewing several bullet journals that I saw others sharing on Pinterest and various blogs, I thought about what I needed. This lead to my developing something of a rough outline of what I figured my version of a bullet journal for writing would look like.

Monthly Stat Tracker: Readership Nos. & Posting
My outline is nothing pretty. Like all the bullet journals I had seen, there were sections divided up by monthly and weekly details. So, I took that idea and ran with it. I decided that I needed something to track statistics or some sort of tangible metric I could use to gauge my progress. So, I decided I was going to monitor my blog traffic on the basis of nation of origin (because I'm a wee bit nosy and curious where you come from - Privet to my readers from Russia. Please forgive me if I misspelled that. I hope that all two of you forgive my use of Google Translate to figure out how to say hello. ♥) and I decided to monitor my blog traffic on the basis of keyword searches. While I know that there are a lot of blogs out there by authors talking about their genre, the craft of writing, and the ups and downs of being published in any format, I wanted to know what about my blog was catching people's attention.

I also decided that I really needed to keep track of the days I was posting and the number of subscribers I have. This is to help me stay accountable to you, gentle Reader. I don't want to just be frittering my time away blathering about something that you don't find interesting most of the time. I know that I have some die hard readers who have been with me from the beginning that may even be happy to read my grocery list. (Spoiler: nothing interesting has been on it in a little while because I have been trying to use up stuff sitting in the pantry right now. Most exotic ingredient on my list last week was fresh tomatoes from somewhere sunny right now - I think it said Mexico or Argentina.) The rest of you, however, are probably looking for something better than a running report about how annoying it is to listen to my kids make train noises at the top of their lungs standing right beside me. (If you are interested in that more personal side of my life, I have yet another blog that I update with blatherings about that. Link > HERE <. I will apologize right now for the fact that I will be far less professional there. But you may find some stupid humor to make up for it.)

Weekly Planning Sheet
So, back to my outline for this monstrosity that is loosely based upon a bullet journal like how
Frankenstein's monster was loosely based upon Prometheus. I then set up weekly pages. For each day, I track my post count goals, my word count goals, and (ideally) viewership goals. Right now, I don't really have any data to go with this but that is because I have been excavating my desk from a mountain of papers. And, as with any project, a blood sacrifice has been made unto the gods for success. In this case by way of paper cuts under my nails. I honestly have no idea how I accomplished that. It has made doing housework interesting. Does this count as suffering for my art?

My weekly pages have daily outlines with some research notes and sources. I also am noting the tags I am using for my posts. I was somewhat haphazard with my tagging posts in the past. Now, I want to make this into a tool that helps me stay organized and helps you to navigate this blog. I also have set myself a goal of a minimum of two photo posts per week. You may notice that on the posting chart, I have a key for tags and then color coding to note the post's word count. I think this will be something that will prove super useful. Between the notation on the posting chart and the running numbers of viewership (which I will be taking in the evening before I log off the computer for the night), it is my hope that I can build a reasonable picture of what is working well for my posting schedule and what you are most interested in. This way I can tailor my work to what my audience (that's you dear Reader!) prefers.

Outline Parts 3 & 4: Content Focus & Budgeting
My outline for blog organization does not stop at weekly planning pages. You may have noticed, actually, that I have been slowly implementing changes that I have noted here. I am developing topic pages and making master lists of the posts under each topic. I have also taken my serial stories and added another (hopefully, better) layer of organization. This additional layer of structure is something that I am aiming to use to help me keep these large projects in order. I've realized that I am beginning to hit the point where I can't just write stuff off the cuff and expect it to work out well.

My passion for organization has also reached into actually sitting down and putting on paper the outlines for where I want these serial stories to go. I am separating them by region. And, in the case of a few shorts that I am going to be putting up here soon, by their point in the history of the world. I am also going to make a point of finding ways to tie these serial stories back to the novels. Because, honestly, this blog really is a platform to discuss these novels I am writing. Everything circles back to that, as it should.

In addition to organizing material for serial stories, I am in the process of developing some posts that are going to have multiple parts to them. Some are going to be discussing techniques and skills that I have found useful as an author. Others will be discussing details about the world I am writing in and there is going to be material that just goes off in tangents that may seem a bit strange until taken as a whole. (I confess, my brain works a little bit differently than your average person's. Strange tangents that seem to have no logical connection happens pretty regularly here.)

I am planning on becoming more vocal about social and community issues. This may cost me some readers. I'm sorry if this is something that is going to upset you. I feel, however, I can not simply sit here and deny that there are some very large and very pervasive issues that need to be addressed in the world. Thus, I am going to use this platform to attempt to address what I can in the hope that I can help effect a positive change in the world.

Finally, I have a section that is for what I'm doing regarding books and merchandise. This may sound a little silly, but I didn't realize that I needed to plan out how I was going to promote my material until after I finished The Dragon's Daughter and I had the final proof copy sitting on my shelf. After a little bit of panic, I sat down and started doing what I could to learn about just how this whole marketing concept works. (I still have no idea what I am doing. I have a feeling things are going to get weird before I figure it out.)

And, like anyone who is attempting to run their own business, there is the ubiquitous part for budgeting. I rather dislike budgeting because it is boring and stressful. That said, it really would be irresponsible for me to just leave that very important detail out flapping in the breeze like laundry on the line. So, I have things roughly out on paper for how to organize it. Now, it is a matter of filling in the details and making the posts.

Except I am drawing up all of my organizational stuff by hand. This is not a case of artistic expression. It is actually a measure of my feeling that I must have absolute control over all the things and (really the ONLY reason, to be honest) the fact that my printer is no compatible with this laptop. It was a very upsetting day when I realized that my printer was still perfectly functional but no drivers were available to make the stupid thing work with Windows 8. So, I am getting writer's cramp drawing up spreadsheets with a pen, a ruler, and a lot of vulgarity. (In other news, did you realize that the word 'fuck' is probably one of the most versatile in the English language? I had forgotten this fact until my pencil sharpener broke, my cup of coffee spilled over a stack of about eight written up sheets and into my lap. Fortunately, the coffee was cold. The pages were a loss and I had to replace the table cloth, though.)

But all of this mess is why I have been so quiet of late. I look forward to getting back to actually writing stuff here. I am almost starting to have nightmares of drawing diagrams. This didn't happen when I was taking Calculus in college, but it did when I was taking Geometry in high school.

(Dudebro's always have a problem with getting loans. They're tan and don't have a sign. So they can't get a cosign.)