Friday, January 30, 2015

Things Which Have Inspired Me Lately

Before we begin, I just wanted to mention that today I have the privilege of being interviewed over at Chrys Fey's blog. Stop by to discover a few (potentially) fun facts about both me and Effigy! Or, just stop by to say hello. Chrys has a wonderful blog—you should definitely check it out!

Now on to other things...

The other day, Deanie Humphrys-Dunne was kind enough to bestow upon me the Very Inspiring Blogger award.

Part of this award asks recipients to list three things that have inspired them the most over the last few weeks. So here are mine:

1. The A to Z Challenge— Sign ups started this week, and there are about 400 participants already. I love to do this in April. I didn't participate last year, and I hadn't really planned on doing it this year. Life is in flux, and I didn't want to commit to something I might not be able to see all the way through. But even though I told myself this, I have spent a couple of afternoons this week making plans to take the leap. I have two themes all planned right now. Don't know which one I'll go with, but it certainly seems as though I'll be taking the plunge after all. I may even write posts ahead of time. And that's just unheard of.

2.  These songs:

They're both the latest additions to the Second Nature playlist. In case you required more proof that I'm not writing a happy story.

3. Hearing from readers. I know Effigy's readership is small (I am a disaster at marketing), like, super small, but I have received messages from some of them. Recently, one reader told me she stayed up all night reading because she just could not put the book down. This was one of the best things ever because, as I said in a post almost one year ago, I want to write books that make people want to stay up all night to read. Hearing that I actually made someone do that is very inspirational, to say the least. Thank you, readers—I am so incredibly thankful for you all. I am not worthy.

Now comes the part where I am supposed to nominate others for this award. And this is the part I never do the way you're supposed to. And here's the the risk of being overly sappy or something, all of you inspire me. Really, you do. I know I haven't been the world's most consistent blogger, but I love visiting and/or hearing from all of you. So please, if you're reading this, please consider yourselves awarded.

And on that note, I'm headed out. Thank you (you know, because I haven't use those words enough today) for stopping by today. Hope to see you next time.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Storyboard Solution

In the interest of full disclosure, today's (exceptionally long, but it's mostly pictures!) post concerning my storyboard obsession WILL CONTAIN SOME SPOILERS about Second Nature. I don't know if anyone reading this post will care at all about said spoilers, but I thought it should be said, just in case. If you are, perhaps, concerned about spoilers, maybe don't scrutinize any of the pictures in any great detail.

One evening, many, many moons ago, The Man came home after a long day at the office to find that I had turned our dining room into a massive storyboard. All three walls were covered with the plot of Part Two of Second Nature, all scribbled onto color-coded index cards and post-it notes with clever headings such as "James Does Something" or "Cate On A Boat."

It looked like this:

"Terrific," The Man said first. Then later, he added, "That reminds me of Trello."

"I don't know what Trello is, but it sounds like orc mischief to me," I replied, never being one to waste an opportunity to make an obscure Lord of the Rings reference.

The Man took this as an invitation to explain to me what Trello was. Granted, I wasn't paying the closest attention in the world because the explanation started off as Trello being some online way to organize and manage projects. He was using it at his office (The Man is a software developer) for some purpose, and all I heard was, "it's a new-fangled thing designed to eliminate paper and pens."

I love paper and pens. I love index cards and post-it notes. While I tolerate it to some small extent, I do not love technology. I do not love change. I do not even like change, and getting me to change how I do something is akin to pulling teeth, or lifting Mjölnir if one is not Thor.

On an unrelated note, how excited is everyone for this movie?

It's pretty damn near impossible.

"Are you telling me I have to take the storyboard down?" I asked afterward because, again, I hadn't really been listening.

"No, of course not," The Man answered wisely.

But I went to Trello and played around with it, mostly to appease The Man who thought (perhaps rightfully) that I never listened to anything he said, but I never had any actual intention of using it because I had a big, beautiful board on the dining room walls.

Fast forward a few months to the day the realtor insisted that I take down the big, beautiful storyboard because it was too personal an item and would turn off perspective buyers (Note: I hate perspective buyers. They are whiny and annoying, and if I didn't need one of them to buy my house, there would be no reason not to run them through with my broad sword).

That was the day I turned completely to Trello. Well, after I'd finished throwing my very understandable tantrum.

On Trello, you create boards that can serve any purpose. I have boards for Effigy and Second Nature on which I keep track of whatever needs to be done for that particular project (i.e, complete editing for a specific chapter, or touch base with betas, or email the cover artist, or find a cover artist...whatever). In addition, I have storyboards for Parts Two and Three (Lineage and Reckoning, respectively) of Second Nature. My main Trello screen now looks like this:

A WIP board looks something like this:

With this detail inside of it:

And if you looked at the Lineage board—the true storyboard in all of this—here's what you'd see:

Which, I have to admit, does share a strong resemblance to the board with which I started. Each list contains the scenes that should be in that chapter. Find out that you need to move a scene to a new chapter? It's just click and drag. Need to reorder the scenes in a chapter? Just click and drag. Realize you need to add a new scene to the chapter? Just click on "Add a card." Need to add a whole new chapter? Just click on "Add a list." (You can't see that in the above picture, but it's there. Trust me. Look again at the Second Nature board two pictures up and you'll see it.)

It's easy. Really easy. (Unlike me obtaining these screen shots. I've had to ask The Man for an embarrassing amount of help with that.)

And the functionality doesn't end there, folks. Within each card, you can do multiple things. For example:

While I have used the Due Date option, I personally love to use the label function. On my dining room storyboard, a pink post-it meant the scene was incomplete. Other color post-its meant things like, "This might need to move" or "Maybe just delete entirely." Trello allows you to do something similar, and customize the labels to whatever you want them to be:

So you can see that that particular scene in Chapter 29 hasn't been finished yet, and I think I might need to move it to a different point in the chapter or the book.

You can also leave yourself notes or comments:

You can create as many boards as you want. You can make as many notes about all of the cards on those boards as you'd like. You can upload pictures of characters or locations or maps or cover art or dogs playing poker. You can also share boards with other people (great for collabs!) and keep other boards private. You can use Trello on your desktop computer, or your laptop, or your tablet. They have apps available for iPhone and iPad, Android, Kindle Fire, and Windows 8. (probably other things, too) I recently installed Trello on my iPad, and I have actually used it on that device.

You can do all of these things without an excess of wall space, or scotch tape, or killing trees, or getting high on marker fumes (Not that I have ever done that..).

And it's free. Let me say that again: It's FREE. (Which leaves you more money for more markers. You know, the good kind that smells like cherries and grapes...Not that I have ever done that, either...)

Yes, there is a pay edition ("Trello Gold") that, for $45 per year, will give the user more functionality and fun, according to the website, but I don't know anything about that edition. All I know is that the free edition has more than suited my purposes—so much so that I've almost gotten to the point where I could almost consider forgiving the realtor for making me take down the paper version. (Sorry, realtor lady. I like grudges just about as much as I like paper.)

It's a nifty tool, and I have to give The Man props. He was right about this. It has helped me out immensely (and maybe it could help you out, too.).

Just...don't tell him I said so.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Checking In

Hello all.

I know I promised you a post on my Storyboard Substitution, and I do intend to follow through on that promise, but I haven't quite finished that post yet. (Translation: I have yet to start it.) Perhaps this coming Wednesday, I'll have it done.

In the meantime, I thought I would announce my goals for 2015, as it is now January 12th, and I haven't done it yet.

Last year, I did pretty well on my goals. I missed the mark on more than half of them (but let's be honest—I was never going to make that healthy eating goal), but I did accomplish the Big Goal: the Publishing Of Effigy.

It's been a while since I've posted this cover art here.
Unless you look over at the sidebar, but who does that, really?
And as I have often said, if I make the Big Goal, I am far less upset about missing any of the other ones. Which turned out to actually be true.

But this year I have no publishing goal. I guess that means I have to do everything on the following list:

1. Finish Second Nature.

Second Nature is Effigy's sequel, the second book in the Coileáin Chronicles. I talked a little about this last week, but to recap: I need to finish up Parts Two and Three. The characters are being rebellious, and so this draft has been hanging on long past my point of appreciation or amusement. But I'm gaining, though (unemployment is agreeing with me. At least until I run out of money.), and have truly been writing a lot in the first twelve days of this new year.

Last week, I stated that I had ten scenes left to finish in Part Two. I wrote a lot (the word count is now sitting at 227,000 words.) this past week. So naturally, I now have eleven scenes left to finish before I can move on to Part Three. Because my characters decided to add a few other scenes. Because they hate me. Because I've tortured them far too much. Because I'm a writer, and that's what we do.

But anyway, the goal is to finish this book this year.

2. Read 60 books.

I had the same goal last year and only read 56 books. I was doing all right there for a while, but fell apart at the end of the year. Maybe I'll be able to hold it together this year.

3. Walk, run, or bike 800 miles.

Last year the goal was to log 700 miles. I ended up with 768, so 800 isn't much of a stretch. Of course, the fact that I have only recorded one lonely mile thus far in 2015 might make things interesting. Only 799 to go!

4. The requisite healthy eating goal.

I need to eat healthier. I really do. I'm incredibly appalled by my poor eating habits, and I need to eat healthier. You know, have some fruits or vegetables once in a while. And no more soda. I don't normally drink a lot of the stuff, but I fell into bad habits at the end of the year. Lots of soda. So no more...Unless I'm having a Jack & Coke. Which I only do these days after an author event, and I haven't scheduled any new ones because I'm incredibly terrified of the whole thing, but I'm rambling, and now I shall stop.

So that's going to do it for me today. I know this questions is late, but...Did you set any goals for yourself this year? Anyone else out there giving up soda? Are you having caffeine headaches as well?

See y'all next time. Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Back In The Saddle Again

Hello, all. I know it's a bit late, but Happy New Year!

As you may have noticed, I have been absent from the blogosphere for a while now. Like, over a month now. Life was a tad hectic—more so than usual—and the blog fell by the wayside. But I am back now, at least for a little while, which I'm sure thrills you more than can be expressed with mere words.

Here's what's been happening since my last post:

The Day Job Front

Technically, my last day at The Store was over a month ago, but because I am an OCD-ridden control freak and we had a complete Management overhaul, I've stuck around a bit longer because of conversations like this:

New Manager: Who does the signs?
Sales Associate: Oh, M.J. does the signs.
New Manager: Well, who does them when M.J. isn't here?
Sales Associate: Uh...M.J.'s always here.

And then there was this soundbite from our delivery guy, as said to me after I told him I was on my way out:

Him: You're leaving? You're really leaving? I thought Brian was just joking about that to scare me! You can't leave. What are they going to do without you here? What am I going to do without you here? You can't leave!

But now that the holiday season is over, and the new managers are getting their footing, we shall likely find out what they'll do without me, for I shall likely be starting the possibly painful detox process. I'm slightly concerned over my ability to do this, and I'm not alone, either. Fortunately, I have plenty of things to help distract me from my newfound unemployed status.

The Home Front

In a previous post, I talked about my upcoming move to the Sunshine State (hence the quitting of the day job. 2000 miles is a tad long for a commute, as I explained to my wailing boss the day I handed in my resignation letter.). We had a buyer for the house and expected to be moving...well, now, as a matter of fact. So I began to pack up my books. I have 40 boxes packed thus far, and still have more books to go. And you should have seen the vast number of books I gave away to the library. It was kind of embarrassing to drop them off because I had to make so many trips.

But then our buyer backed out, and we had to do the going on the market thing. I am not enjoying the going on the market thing, but because I am an OCD-ridden control freak reasonable and very, very mature, I am dealing with it very, very poorly very well. Especially when the realtor and I had the following conversation:

Her: What's this all over your dining room walls?
Me: My storyboard. I write novels, and this helps me keep the plot and characters worked out and figured out.
Her: That is so cool! But yeah, you have to take it down, okay?

So, because the storyboard is too personal an item to have on display to potential buyers (Me: Can't you just assure people that the storyboard comes with me? Her: No.), it is, sadly, no more. (And I wasn't a bitch at all the day I took it down. Nope. No siree.)

I do, however, have a replacement storyboard now, which I'm planning to talk about in a future post (Probably Wednesday) because it's an idea that will work for people who want a storyboard but don't have the wall space to devote to it. It might be interesting. Or, it just might be me rambling on some more about whatever pops into my head. Because that never happens.

To wrap up the home front section, we've had lots of showings but no offers. I'm terrified that the house I'd like to acquire down south will sell before we can buy it, and I get super cranky (shock of the century, I know) every time the realtor says, "Well, we'll wait to see what happens."

The Writing Front

I am working on Second Nature. It feels weird to have this as my main focus, as Effigy is actually freakin' published. It wasn't just a very vivid dream. It's actually out there in the world, and some people not related to me have read it, and some of them have even liked it. Which is amazing given how poor a job I've done marketing it. It's one of my resolutions this year to get better at that. First step is to go to a local indie book store and talk to someone (gulp!) about stocking my novel and maybe even scheduling a book signing event.

But I really want to get Second Nature finished. This draft has been dragging on, mostly because Every. Single. Plan. I have concocted thus far has been blown to smithereens by my characters. They just keep doing whatever they want to doDon't tell them, but I have a new plan now, and I'm wishin', prayin', and hopin' I can execute it successfully before they realize what's happened. The current word count is sitting just over 222,000, and I have approximately 10 scenes to finish...before I get to Part Three. This is a monster novel. I realize that.

And on that note, I'm heading back to work. On the WIP, not my day job. Well, unless they call me and beg me to come in. Then I'll probably end up doing that. Because I have a terrible sickness.

I need to move. Far, far away. 2000 miles may not be enough.

Take care, all. Thank you for stopping by.