2019 Writing in Review

It’s the new year, and it’s time to look back at what happened in 2019, and see where things will go in the future.

2019 was a year of change. First, I quite my job and we moved from Seattle to Houston. That was a huge change for Bjorn and I, but so far it was definitely been worth it. It was also the first year I have been writing full time. That’s taken some getting used to, and I am finally starting to get into the swing of making writing/editing/etc a priority, but I have a ways to go.

In 2019 I wrote 209k words. (Red line on graph is story writing, blue line includes newsletters, blog posts, and other projects.) This was double what I wrote in 2017 and 18, and a lot closer to what I was writing before that dip happened.

 

With all that writing I published three books. Steel Heart, and Steel Line which are the second and third books in my  litRPG series, and an anthology of scifi short stories, Stars End. I also started working on Vertigo, which I have uploaded six chapters of for free. It’s available on RoyalRoadWattpad, and WebNovel.

I am disappointed that I didn’t keep up with the chapter a week on Vertigo. To be fair, the reason I stopped was because of NaNoWriMo, and getting the 50k done on my Half Blood Sorceress, and book four in the litRPG took up a large part of my time. Then December I spent most of my time hand making all of my Christmas gifts. I forgot how time consuming crocheting hats could be. And a final trip back home to Seattle rounded out the end of the year, so I didn’t get much writing done in December, but I did spend some quality time with family and friends.

Going forward for 2020 I told my family I would be looking to complete, and publish, four novels. That will include book two in my Half Blood Sorceress series, book four in my litRPG series, finishing up Vertigo and publishing that on amazon, and …. I’m not sure what the final book will be yet, but I have a few ideas.

I have been scheduling time to write, read, and edit for this year. Three things I need to do more of in order to get my goals. I’ve also been making some plans to do something more with my art because it makes me happy, and is a nice break from writing when I need it. It also gives me something to do while listening to podcasts.

We’ve also committed to taking better care of ourselves, Bjorn and I. We’ve been eating more salads, going on walks, and getting to the gym more. It’s making him feel better, I’m still struggling with the exercise part, but I can be pretty stubborn, so I haven’t given up yet. I would just like to get to the point where it doesn’t feel awful every time I go… Don’t treat your body badly for years on end, folks, fixing it sucks.

Overall I have high hoped for 2020 going forward. More writing, more art, and more creativity in general. Lets see how far I can go with this.

NaNoWriMo: I Cheated

Okay, cheating at a self imposed deadline is basically cheating yourself. In most cases I would say cheating yourself is a bad idea, in this case it was an accomplishment I had to complete.

Five minutes till midnight on the 30th I was 1100 words short on my NaNo project. I managed to write TEN THOUSAND words that day. That is a feat that usually takes me two weeks, and I did it in one day. When midnight came I decided to give myself an hour to finish, and declare myself a winner.

I put in my numbers, and continued writing. At 1:03 am I hit 50,011 words.

Each year when I do NaNoWriMo I set out with one goal, learn something new about my writing, or myself. Win or loose the actual challenge I have always learned something. This year was no different. This year I had no excuses to “lose” the challenge, so figuring out the secret to winning made all the difference. And it was such a simple thing, and yet so difficult, to figure out.

Time management.

I’ve had a love hate relationship with time management. For most of my life my time was dictated by a job, or school for my children or myself. Things like doctors appointments, shopping trips, and even sleep revolve around the schedule dictated by someone else. When I was free of all that I thought “now I have time to write,” but it wasn’t as easy as I thought.

There are so many things to distract us. Sometimes we get bogged down in those things, turn on the tv and sink into episode after episode of whatever we’re interested in, or loose hours in a game. It’s easy. It’s fun. It makes us happy. And when you don’t have that daily thing like a day job to set your schedule to it’s so much easier just to say “I’ll get to that later.”

So this year during NaNoWriMo I learned that I have to find some balance to my schedule. It doesn’t have to be strict, and it can change when necessary, but I had to find something that worked for me so I could prioritize the important things.

The first thing I did, which worked fantastic to get me through the end of NaNoWriMo, was download Toggl. With this app I was able to track what I was doing, for how long, and actually get a good look at how much time I was wasting. Once I logged things into the app I could click a button to easily toggle tracking for specific things. Items can be lumped in to projects so you can easily see where time is spent. For me house care includes cooking, cleaning, and taking care of things for the home. Admin includes marketing, blog posts, and research. Writing is….writing. And me time is all the gaming, reading, and everything else I do just for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over the last three days I only tracked 24 hours. It’s going to take some time to get used to using it, but the app is going to help me increase my productivity by allowing me to see where all my time is going. It takes away all the excuses and shows you exactly what you’re using your time for.

I want to track everything for a few weeks to get a base line of where my time goes, but once I have that base line I expect I will only track work and household related time.

Of course this has a second consequence… I had been using the excuse that I was “working up” to 2k words a day. I learned that when I am writing well I write 33 words a minute, that’s about 1k every half hour. Of course editing, and certain tough chapters, will be slower, but the more I think about it the more I realize I should be writing a whole lot more every week. I will have to see how far I can get if I work harder to put in the time.

Expect more updates as I get this time management thing under control, and hopefully that means new books as well. After all, I just wrote 50k words in one of them.

Stars and Cards

I’ve published TWO things this weekend!

First, Stars End. A collection of science fiction short stories that you can read in bite size pieces.

The four short stories contained inside explore what life might mean in a distant future when space travel and longevity are things humanity take for granted.

Second, I’ve been working on Vertigo, a card based litRPG, for a while. I decided I wanted to publish it on Royal Road and Wattpad as a free title. So you can find the first to chapters there right now.

New chapters will be uploaded every weekend.

This is an experiment to see if it encourages me to write more. I’m hoping that writing in such a public way will force me to stay accountable to myself.

It also makes me happy that my daughter drew the figure on the cover. I gave her a basic idea of what to draw and she went with it.

I already have several chapters of Vertigo ready to go, I’m just editing and cleaning them up before posting every week. That doesn’t mean the other writing stops, it just means fora day or two a week I am devoted to one chapter from Vertigo. But it’s been fun, and I can’t wait to hear what you think about it.

Short or Long?

Sometimes when you’re working on novels you can get to a point where progress seems so far away, and sometimes you can get disheartened. Even want to quite, or procrastinate.

There was a talk Adam Savage gave once where he said at some point in every project he feels like he has no business making. A man who creates amazing replicas, props, and cosplays that the world loves. A man who does one day builds that many would struggle to do in a month. Someone who has working on major motion pictures, and The Mythbusters. And he feels like he has no business making.

And that’s how I feel writing a novel. I am sure that many creatives feel like that, like they are an importer and shouldn’t even bother trying to create whatever it is you are creating. I get so far into a novel, hit that wall, and it feels insurmountable. But I keep going, a little at a time, pushing to get to the end because I know once I reach it I will have something awesome.

I’ve picked up little tricks here and there to help me get through it. One of them is writing short stories when I’m really stuck. At the moment I have been editing a few of the finished short stories I have, and trying to finish four other short stories. Since they are shorter I can usually finish one much faster than a novel, and that little boost keeps me going for the larger projects. Plus the stories I am working on currently are science fiction, while the novel I am working on is fantasy. This allows me a change of scenery, so to speak, and take a breather before going back to the novel.

Speaking of the short stories, I think I’m about ready to publish some of them. Another pass of the editors wand, and they should work well as an anthology. Oh, and a cover. The other four short stories I am still completing I already have a cover for, I just have to finish three of the shorts.

But the novel is still my priority. I’ve been working at a (mostly) steady pace trying to get through the second half of the book. I’ve hit a few snags with the plot, but I think I’ll be able to untangle them. Plot holes, they are my nemesis! Funny, it used to be fight scenes. Now I have a system for the fight scenes and I have more trouble with the time line. I think that’s because the story is taking place over the course of a year and I want it to reflect that.

My daily word count goal dipped a little in august, so I’m working hard to get them back up to what I consider a good pace. I still want to hit 1000 words a day by the end of the year, which means pushing harder and making fewer excuses. But I’m working on it.

By the way, here is a really good video about why many of us procrastinate, and some great ways to fight against it.

Now… off to write about dragons.

Kindle Unlimited for FREE for 3 months!

Amazon Prime day was just last weekend, but they didn’t stop everything. I just found out today that they are giving away three months of Kindle Unlimited for absolutely free for three months. You have to cancel after the three months or get charged $10, but there is no obligation to keep your subscription after the three months.

If you have a phone, tablet, computer, or any other Android or Apple device, you can read kindle books wherever you are. And the authors still get paid, so it’s great for everyone involved.

Also, my books are in KU so if there is one you’ve been thinking about reading the next three months have you covered. From litRPG to fantasy, and all the short stories in between.

It doesn’t matter how much or how little you read, this is your chance to check out what is available in KU, and get your summer reading. Here are some suggestions:
The Hollow Series by Kim Harrison (A little like a female Dresden, but with her own twists.)
Ascend Online by Luke Chmilenko is one of the best litRPG adventures I’ve ever read.
Life Reset by Shemer Kuznits where a player gets trapped playing a monster and the only way out is to get stronger.
The Fallen Empire series by Lindsay Buroker. Think Firefly, cowboys in space, with a new flare.
The Baine Chronicals by Jasmine Walt. A young shifter in a world of mages. Fantasy with a touch of steam punk and political intrigue.

Happy Reading!

Crissy

The Strong Female Character

I will admit I do love a good novel with a female lead that kicks some serious ass. I read the entire Hallow Series by Kim Harrison, Mercy Thomson series by Patricia Briggs, The Baine Chronicles by Jasmine Walt, The Little Flame by Melissa Lummis, and almost every single book by Anne McCaffery, who really preferred strong women as her leads. I even wrote my own series with strong female lead characters, Witch’s Trilogy because I love it so much.

The characters in all of these books have something in common. Things happen, sometimes horrible things, sometimes world destroying things, and sometimes more personal. The main characters don’t sit and wallow because they can’t do anything about it, they get up and they find a way to deal with it. But they have one other thing that is vital to their journey. They fail. They fail a lot. Then they get up and try again.

Failure is a big part of a good story. Within the hero’s journey it is actually a phase that english teachers teach you. Luke Skywalker looses all his friends. Frodo Baggins has to leave the Fellowship of the ring. Neo is ambushed in the matrix. They all fail, they have to get back on the horse and try again. This shows dedication, resolve, persistence…things every person could use. It also shows that even a hero, like a fire fighter, police officer, or teacher, can make a mistake sometimes. We can all fail, and we can all try and get back up and do it again.

In the Hallow Series the main character gets near death in many of her books. Mercy Thomson is kidnapped, abused, hurt, and lost. In the Baine Chronicles the main character is lost in time as well as space. Each of them have their own flaws to overcome. Each of them have weaknesses that can be exploited by others that they have to learn to overcome. And each of them aren’t afraid to ask for help from friends and loved ones.

This is just good storytelling. When you put a “strong female character” into a story that has no flaws, no weaknesses, no room to grow, then your story ends up feeling flat. The only time it does work is when there is no overall story, say like in John Wick where the whole point is mayhem, or Commando from early Schwarzenegger, or any other high action movie with little plot and all action. If you put a woman in the same sort of no plot high action movie I am sure people would enjoy that too. The trouble comes when you put a wooden character into a plot, give them nothing to add to the plot, and no personality to really endear you to them.

This wooden character with no flaws that always wins no matter what….It’s called the Mary Sue who masquerades as an infallible character. Highly prevalent in fan fiction, the Mary Sue has made it’s way to main stream writing, and even tv and movies. They are stoic, unchanging, they don’t need anyone, and they never really fail. Granted, some people really enjoy this type of strong female character since it keeps cropping up in main stream media. Many don’t. It’s all down to taste.

I would say it’s not conducive to good story telling. There isn’t a lot of difference between John Wick and Alice from Resident Evil. Both movies were well received, both movies centered on the main character fighting their way through a bunch of bodies. Not a lot of plot, mostly action. That’s all the needed.

But when it is bad for the story is where there is clearly a plot and the plot suffers because the main character does not change, has no flaw, and never fails. In fact John and Alice both have a moment where they fail. They loose their weapons, seem outnumbered, and have to fight back. They just don’t have an emotional story line to go with it for the most part, which is fine, it isn’t that kind of movie. On the other hand…. and here is where I don’t want to say the name because I don’t want people to get pissed at me, but I need an example….Rey, from Star Wars, is inside a rich universe, with lots of emotional things going on around her, but she remains very much the same from start to finish. She’s good at everything, she never really fails, and she has no flaws.

The difference between Resident Evil and Star Wars is everything going on outside the action. Resident Evil is mostly action from start to finish. Star Wars has political posturing, heart felt moments, love stories, and a whole lot of history behind it. Resident Evil has zombies.

Because Rey is set against this backdrop of a rich world with all this characterization, successes and failures, she ends up coming off as more wooden. She doesn’t really need anyone, not even Luke in the long run. In the original series Luke was a bad ass, but he needed his friends, and was stronger for them. Rey ditches everyone, goes and does her own thing, and is fine. When Luke went off on his own he regretted it and realized he needed his friends.

This Mary Sue story telling, especially in a world that already has a huge fan base, leads to a divide in the fan base. Some like it, some don’t, and the fans decide….I’m going to go watch something else.

For a better story telling experience add a flaw. Add a moment when the character looses everything, and has to fight their way back up from the brink of destruction. Have them evolve and change over time. Have them overcome an inner conflict of some kind. Give me, the reader, something to root for them about. I want to love your character! I want to go along with them on this journey, and care about them. I want to laugh at funny things they do, or cry when they are hurt, or cheer when they finally overcome their trouble. I want to FEEL. Do that and I’ll keep coming back for more.

Life is strange

It is Tuesday, day four of our captivity. Please send help!

Okay, I’m being a little dramatic there. We have been snowed in, and we do not dare take our car out in the snow because we won’t be getting it back in the drive way, so we are effectively stuck. But we have TV, electricity, food, and each other. Life isn’t too bad.

It is weird, however. Because today is Tuesday I should be at work, but I’m not. That’s because I don’t have a day job anymore. (Not that the snow would let me get to it anyway.)

Now my job is to write. Create. Publish. And do it all again.

Right now we are still spending a lot of time sorting stuff, packing, and getting down to essentials, so I haven’t been writing a lot, but I am writing.

I can already see the temptation to sit around watching youtube videos, or playing a game. But that won’t get me where I want to be. Instead I am focusing on seeking out inspiration, and help. Marketing ideas, how to advertise, and different ways to get my name out there. All of that. Hopefully that will put me back on track because I want this to work more than anything.

New books?

It sometimes feels like forever since I’ve had a new book out… even if it’s only been a few months. But….I have a new book out now!

 Costume Shop is available for pre-order, and released on the 12th of October.  This is a fun little story that is written a little like an RL Stein book, and would be considered young adult. Just in time for Halloween, too. You’ll also notice I’m releasing it as C.L. Moss instead of Crissy Moss. It’s a slightly different tone than my other books so I wanted to make sure it was a little separated.

Also, Dragon’s Flame is free his weekend. Now is your chance to grab it. If you enjoy it I would really appreciate a review.
This fantasy novel is the first in a series. Book two should be out sometime the beginning of 2019 (which isn’t far away. Boy does time fly.)

I will also be putting out a new coloring book called “Little Beasties” before the end of the month, just in time for the holidays.

The next book I’m sending to the editor is the litRPG series. Keep looking for them later this year.

FINISHED! Book 2 done!

I just finished the first draft of Steel Heart, book two in my litRPG series.

I finished the first book, Steel Soul, in June, and the second book today. That’s two months of writing. I’m getting a little faster.

Both books would be in the novella category at the moment, about 100 pages I think. Each is a full story on its own, but part of a bigger story. I’m going to go over them one more time, add in some details, some foreshadowing, and other plot things that I can add now (since I haven’t published them yet) which will add a few thousand more words to them both. I expect they will both still fall in the novella range, but I’m okay with that. A story should be as long as a story wants to be, and each of theses has a definite end point.

I’ve already started book three, which I might be calling “Steel Trap”, I haven’t decided yet. I also know this isn’t the final episode in the story. They are finally going to meet someone pulling all the strings, but it won’t be the end of the matter by any means. In fact…the game might start falling out into the real world. We’ll have to see. I’m still discovering the plot as I go as well.

Also, I wanted to let you know that The Ring is free this weekend. I won’t be putting short stories, or any litRPG into KU anymore, I’ll be taking them wide, so this will be he last time this particular story is available for free for a while. I will probably make a few of my short stories perma-free just because it might a few more eyes on my books, but for now I’m just writing more, and saving releasing them all at the end of the year. Look for that!

Currently ready to be edited:
Steel Soul
Steel Heart
Costume Shop

Working on:
Half Blood Sorceress book 2
Steel Trap

If I can get everything done….I’m working on it! I know that Costume Shop needs to come out on October 1st since it’s a Halloween story. I would like to release a book a month every month after that. I’ve got three so far!

But that’s HARD!

I recently got an email from a young writer (young in her writing, I have no idea her actual age) and she described her writing to me in the same way I would describe mine. I write until I come to a hard part, jot down a little note, then skip to the next easy part to write. Anyone who is just trying to get their words down for the day has probably done this, or skipped that spot of dialog that didn’t quite work, or put down “battle scene with hero as the winner” or some such. I do this a lot for battle scenes because it takes me a while to puzzle through the moves to make it right.

The problem becomes, and this is me talking more about myself than anyone else because this is where I am in my writing… eventually you have to finish something or you have to admit this is just a project novel. Like that project car your dad had in the garage when you grew up. He kept it to tinker on, and play with, but never really got around to finishing it.

So here I am, 40, with hundreds, if not thousands of ideas in my idea journal, half written novels and partially written short stories, and only a small fraction of them finished. I keep putting aside the hard parts because… it’s HARD!

And damn right it’s hard. It’s hard because you’re writing something that is actually worth reading. Something with detail, and heart, meant to move people and get them to read. If it was easy then everyone would do it. If it was easy then there would be no value in it, but a book on a shelf has a value. People buy it and read it, then take their time to review it. If you expect people to spend time and money on your words then it should be good.

But there is good, and there is perfectionist. Finding that balancing point where you can actually finish stories, and get them out there in good order vrs tinkering on the story for years…that’s the edge that you walk.

Sometimes I do have to walk away from a story. Maybe it doesn’t work, or something isn’t quite fitting together right, so I put the story away and I work on something else. I’ve been working like this for years, and I have over a million words banked in my folders, waiting to be finished. (Here’s a picture, but this is not ALL of the stories I have started. The blue are published short stories and novels. Pink are finished, but not published. The rest plots, or started stories, but never finished.)

I have a whole shelf filled with tinker stories. I add a few words here and there, I might even binge through a few chapters on a novel, but finishing one isn’t easy. There’s always that point where it’s just hard, and I skip it.

I need to stop skipping it. I need to write down why it’s so hard and get my head back into the game. Last year was my worst word count in almost five years. That’s not acceptable, and neither is never finishing another novel.

So here’s to the hard parts! *Cheers!*