Saturday, March 12, 2016

Hello, Friends #2

Man, I have not been able to keep on top of my monthly goals. Drawing everyday? Nope. Read 25 pages each night? Not happening. But I want to, I really want to! The only thing I'm keeping up with is writing every day. And that's a lot. I'm really pleased about that.

My drawing efforts from February are not really worth sharing. I did try sketching Hannah John-Kamen's face two different ways (eyeing it vs tracing it) and am actually pleased with how the former came out, though I don't ever want to do tracing again. Eugh. Looking at it a month later though, I'm happy enough to not give up hope entirely. Thought flipping through old sketchbooks is like torture.

The amounts I've been able to write have been staggering, granted its a Killjoys fanfiction, but 36k in as many days is kinda epic. I even went old-school and wrote a drabble for iZombie. It's a little early for me to cry 'victory' but at the very least, crunching with index cards and an outline is worth it for me. I feel like I can fix the problems I had with August's story when I sit down with it again. Working out kinks before I've drafted an entire book is definitely preferable. I spoke a little about where I foresee my new plot going (i.e. back to the original in a basic way) in my amateur-hour outline how-to and imagine having to make cards of what exists and what I want to exist and weed out what scenes I can keep and what I need to scrap.

As soon as I got ahead with Wreckside I've been trying to publish a chapter a week. In fact, having outlined the story as at least fourteen chapters, and being five chapters ahead of publishing, I want to move that up to two updates a week. (Chapter 6 is coming out tomorrow!) I don't have a wide readership with this story, but it's not really a huge fandom to begin with. I can owe a lot of my fast turn-around to the tireless efforts of fellow fans who agreed to read my story and help out as they could.

I haven't written the final chapters of Wreckside yet, but I feel like I can confide in you a secret: using the outlining process and publishing regularly have been a test of my ability to try this on some original fiction. I'm feeling serious about doing a webserial. I tried it back in 2013 and had no outline, too many characters and very little outside interest, so I dropped it. But I have these annoying spirits and the living they interact with stuck in my head now, who don't belong to the greater world that August Waldauer belongs to, so maybe this is a good way to get that story out there. I don't think I could keep myself on the schedule of two chapters a week. I think my goal would be to publish a chapter every two weeks.It would take about a year to publish a 100,000 word story that way, and I may want to get a buffer on it, so I wouldn't be starting for a couple of months.

That brings me to the next bit. I'm lucky that the words are flowing right now, because soon I'll be knee deep in preparations for a stage musical I've been cast in. We go up at the end of May which is a lot sooner than it sounds. I'm not freaking out but I am.

For the time being, my focus is to finish Wreckside. I'm going to worry about the side-stories I've thought up once that's done, but I may put them aside for a while. I mean, I have concerns about the interest a story like mine will hold once Season 2 comes and all my theories are blown out of the water, but I have to be realistic.

After the show, in June, I'll pick up a full schedule of working on August's story as well as beginning work on the webserial, whatever that's going to be. I'm scoping out wattpad as the most likely candidate to distribute my story, and it's part of the reason I'm going with an older demographic story and not my middle-grade fantasy, because I had considered that as well.

If you've read something you like and feel like just buying me a cup of coffee, you can do that now. I've also got two people pledging towards stories on Patreon. Wow! Hey, you, if you're reading this, thank you for your support!

So much for making the release of The Raven King, the final book in Maggie Stiefvater's The Raven Cycle my reward for finishing the current round with my novel. Revising what I have and drafting all the missing bits to match... Little did I know I would find such a knot as this in my plans!

Well, I'll keep you posted.


Sunday, February 21, 2016

How I Learned to Outline

Also known as: The Lazy Guide to Outlining.

Basically: it was an uphill battle that I happened to win with my eyes closed.

Here's how it went: I wrote a story. I've written many stories the same way, just by 'going' with an idea and maybe a few notes in a book. But I never outlined, barely did so in school and certainly wasn't going to get bogged down by it now.

But afterward, I had a half-baked idea that I quite liked, and began to imagine ways to improve it. I wrote the first draft, what I'm calling 'the rough', while living in Germany for a couple months. Upon returning I worked on expanding what I had for a couple months and then took a break. I created an outline from what I had and what I wanted to include. Worked on the book for a few months, finishing with a fun looking outline.

Then I took another break where I wrote a romance novella, and then came back this last fall with more than a little disappointment. My outline is a mess.

(Is. Still is.)

But I decided to not focus on that, not to work on the beginning because a huge amount of the ending was missing. Up until the end of January 2016 I was working under the assumption that I could write myself out of the mess I'd created. But then I took the equivalent of a 'writing bender' and just wrote down the arc and the parts I wanted as I saw them, breaking it down for the newest draft, and inserting things I had decided I needed. Then I finally was able to go beyond.

When I finished the rough in 2013, I felt like I hadn't hit 'the end' so much as a pause between parts. I worked on that second part while refining the original part. A lot changed. I began my 'complete' outline in January, because I realized the vague ideas about a sequel might actually be better suited for this book after all, and maybe I needed to rearrange some things.

I've been looking at my three part outline with some dismay, and decided I should go back to that Killjoys fanfiction I had been so excited about last November. I logged onto an app I'd discovered, a lite word processor that lives on the internet called Novelize. While playing around with its features I was prompted to tell a summary of my novel in a few sentences. Simple. I thought I'd just ignore what lay beneath: empty text boxes for a beginning, middle and ending summary. I wanted to wing it, sketch some idea of direction and suddenly the summaries were pouring out of me. And they were exciting.

Moving onto the next page I was prompted to break these summarized sections into chapters and scenes. Carrying on the momentum of my summarizing, I described each chapter as I saw it.

VoilĂ . The entire 'unknown' of this off-the-cuff story was laid out, and damn, it felt like I could do anything.

Now, I've kept working on the outline since then, as fanfiction is basically a serial story worked on and published a chapter at a time, but having it has made things so much easier. I've since moved out of Novelize because I need more than a lite app.

Chiefly, I want to be able to edit and view my chapter and scene summaries while being less than a click away from rearranging them. In Scrivener I can jump between an editable outline view and the manuscript without changing screens.

I'd like to apply what I've learned to my novel. I'm sick of being overwhelmed by all the work I have to do, and just do it. I'm a little mad I didn't just embrace the outline years ago, but a wiser woman might say I wasn't ready. I had to do my own journey my way.

Well, I might done other things with the time. Might have, might have.

Here, in summary, is what I did:
  1. I laid out the entire story's plot in a sentence, but yours probably should be no more than two or three.
  2. I wrote in slightly more detail the arcs of character and major plot points I wanted for the beginning, the middle and the end. (As I did this I saw things I wanted to happen sooner and more things I wanted to pack a punch in the end, moving things around. Finding what parts to balance in the middle is more about gut for me. I just went for it.)
  3. Then I guessed what kind of chunks could make a chapter and how quickly things should happen. Things that were earlier I could already break down into scenes, and as I wrote and thought I could do that for more and more, including moving scenes and events around.
But actually here's how I should have done step three:

Forget chapters, forget anything bigger than a scene after you've gotten your three part summary. Maybe you don't even need three parts, maybe just summarize what you start with, and what you end with. If you know what happens in the middle there, great, go for it.

Just break the story into scenes. Mark them with POV if you have them, and don't commit to chapters or parts* until very late.

I would also encourage you to experiment with your outline. I just did a rewatch of Killjoys and found many things in canon conflicted with my story and needed to rearrange as well as omit scenes. So, for the first time, I wrote all the scenes on flashcards and laid them out on my bed. I combined, separated, saw what was happening too late and excised everything that was no longer relevant. It was great!

Going from this though, I'd also encourage you to write a list of scenes you'd like to write (from a list, or from the top of your head) and write them on flashcards, too. You can insert these where they seem to fit. Flashbacks are obviously the most versatile because they do not need to happen chronologically, they just need to bookend scenes they are thematically relevant to.

Forcing yourself into an outline does not necessarily mean you need to start writing immediately, however. It may turn out that way, but you may need to labor over the outline itself for a couple days or weeks until it 'settles'. When I knew I was ready to resume writing Wreckside, it was a gut feeling. This is important to note because if you're giving the outline method a shot, see how this can save you time in the long run, or get you toward writing a serial story sooner: by focusing on reworking and fixing bumps on the outline you don't have to worry about rewriting, revising or entirely dumping hours worth of writing that you may have edited into near perfection, only to realize it is no longer applicable. You can sometimes adapt scenes, but sometimes it's better to just start fresh.

I hope sharing my learning process was helpful to you.


*Unfortunately Scrivener isn't forgiving if you begin with a simple novel and want to turn it into a novel with parts. You can organize it in the Binder, but when you compile, you'll have Part I be called Chapter 1 and then the first chapter will also be Chapter 1 and its just sloppy. If you know a work-around, please contact me so I can include it here!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

January Success and February Goals

I've been planning my life a little better for a year soon, and tracking my finances for a full 'adult' affect, and in January, with the help of Kate Matsudaira's Spark Planner, I wrote almost every day.

I sat down at my desk the first time in 2016 fully intending to write every day this damn year, but it turned into 'god I am too tired' once and 'there is too much in my head, I cannot write' only last night. But I only promised myself January, signed a little contract in the Spark, and did stunningly.

For 30/31 days I worked. There were one or two days where a minute, little more, was all I managed. But on the 31st? I worked for three hours. Days where I managed more than 4 minutes, often were between 40 minutes and just over an hour. I'm happy with that.

February will carry on the good habits, but I won't say 'failure' if I log a little less time. I'm constantly mulling anyway. Have we come to an agreement what parts of working on a story count and don't count? I just don't track some of them.

This month will be all about reintroducing my hand to the movements of a sketch. I'd like to try myself on drawing the way I just forced myself to write. Going through old papers I found some nice sketches that give me the impression as recently as five years ago, I knew what I was doing.

For some comparison, here's some of the better old stuff. I'll post some of the new things I draw on twitter if they're good.

With some hard work, library books, online tutorials and half used sketchbooks, I think I'll be able to do justice and share the illustrations I want to.


Sunday, January 24, 2016

Currently Listening: The Danish Girl

Sometimes you hear a piece of music and you know that things are falling into place. As soon as I listened to the soundtrack of The Danish Girl, a movie based on a fictionalized account of Lili Elbe’s life, I realized it suited the story I’m writing perfectly— in more ways than one.

Lili Elbe was born Einar Wegener, a danish painter who did well enough, but whose life changed completely when she realized she was actually a transgender woman. The willing participant in a controversial surgery to reassign gender, the first known of its kind, she is a sort of hallmark, and really, an important idol in history.

The twinkling piano, jaunty harp, emotional strings, haunting and sometimes spooky wind section of Alexandre Desplat’s soundtrack also accompanies my story well— with the help of some talking cats, a thirteen-year-old boy follows his parents’ path to the end of a fairytale. He’s gone through some hard times since then, he’s trying to unravel an old story, be friends with some troublesome kids, and isn’t sure what the cats want in return from him.

photo by Annie Spratt
But when I started writing over two years ago all I asked myself was “What would it have been like for a transgender child in Hitler’s Germany?” August immediately appeared in his mother’s garden, replanting tulip bulbs, with a cat lying in the sun nearby. He had a different name then, his cat did not talk yet, and his mother soon took over her own garden again. He became a boy of action instead of the passive victim the Third Reich had made him, and his story linked to that of some very old mysteries his father and mother had fallen in love with.

I’ve learned a lot since then. About the war, about Hitler, about cats and transgender children and adults, about the artists and progressive community whom Lili Elbe and her wife belonged to. Without people like them, August’s parents wouldn’t have known what to do with a transgender child. Without the the Institute for Sexual Understanding, the site of the first book burning in Nazi Germany, they would not have known to call him Transsexual, the only word used at that time. Without the war and horrible deaths before, during and after, they might have been able to go on August’s quest with him. But all these good and bad things created an adventure that I think is worth telling. Lili’s story didn’t end well, but I hope August’s will.

August has become a part of me, and I’ve long passed the point of walking away from this story. I spend every day thinking about what will happen in his life, if not working on the book directly. If you’d like to follow along, I do blog occasionally about how things are going in my writing life, and post some other things on my patreon page— the equivalent of an online tip jar— but you don’t have to pay to see what I’m putting up to read online. I’ve shared a few pieces from the perspective of other characters in the book. With this post however, an official announcement of sorts, I’ll also start sharing things more personal to August. What his life was like before it was reinvented, during the war while his father was serving in the army, and maybe something from his future life? But I’m getting ahead of myself. I’d just really like to let you know that August exists and I hope his story will be widely available sooner rather than later. I’d love to have your support while I start work on readying the book for submission.


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Hello, Friends #1

I suspect I'll be doing more of these in the future, so here's to trying to establish a precedent!

I scribbled on the last page of my manuscript yesterday, after several months of laboring and many new pages drafted, splicing and asking research questions I have yet to answer. That's 150 pages gone through. And while I knew that Part II of this novel was sketchy, not as settled as Part I (which I finished the rough for a little more than 2 years ago) I didn't realize how much is missing.

So I'm going to do an intense edit of Part II which will include a lot of new scenes, a lot revision of what exists, and will start with creating an outline to plot down the beats and arc I want there to be.

I got a little money for Christmas and bought myself that tablet I mentioned on my patreon, so as I sketch out places and people I'll be sure to share them with you.

My shoulder has been hurting on and off for several months, and is mostly due to the bad desk set up at my job, but I am also partly to blame: curling up on my desk with my pen clutched tightly, my nose inches away from the paper. Perhaps it isn't surprising, but my typing posture is way better than my longhand posture. I'll go back to the chiropractor and see what else I can do for it.

I read a great article (and now can't find it, gosh darn) about only using the social media I like, so I've been ambivalent about using tumblr. I like twitter, instagram and blogspot best. But I still think about it. Because the type of posts I am most tempted to share on patreon would probably be best on tumblr.

I have a fairly personal blog post in the pipes which I look forward to sharing with you soon.  It's going to allow me to post about other topics related to the novel. Also look forward to an update on my patreon, despite the slow build of it, I have learned from the months after my novella went out, and I hope the changes will be for the better.


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Catalina Blues is Published!

Bet you didn't even know I was working on something. ;) Sorry it's been so quiet here.

I've been going back and forth for a while about whether or not to say anything because I thought I'd be working on the next book already when my first romance came out. But here were are. I am proud and excited to say that a book I've been laboring on far too long is finally (freely!) available to the general reading public! Today!

Before I link to the download page I must be clear: this book contains strong language, drinking, smoking, and graphic sex between men.


Catalina Blues by Marlo York

The story was inspired by a member of the M/M Romance Group on Goodreads who requested a story about a Catalina gunner who saves a drowning pilot. In the past few months I've learned so much about the flying boats, such as the PBY-Catalina. It was a really popular sea rescue boat. It's become my favorite, probably. I'll discover something better in a couple months... maybe.

Catalina Blues is a historical romance, set near the end of WWII, featuring a fictional bombing mission and subsequent dogfight above the pacific ocean. Leonard Dobson is an American pilot doing his time on the a sea rescue tour when he pulls Nikifor Jelen out of the ocean and saves his life.

I listened to and enjoyed Prof. Childer's lectures on WWII, he also taught a great series on Hitler's empire as well (click for a review of that on aurora lector) and once I've reviewed that I'll link it here. I've been reading a lot about the war and pilots anyway because my young adult fantasy is about those things as well. Getting an action view of the war, the dog-fights of the seas and of the strange way that the airforce existed before the Airforce existed has been so tantalizing. I'm going to miss it.

A quick note, while I will be more active on this blog now, posting about this story and about the things I've learned and am learning about writing (as well as continuing to post in my book review blog) I'm not going to say a lot about my current projects. If you're looking to find out more about what I'm currently working on, I'd like to take this opportunity (and make it an infrequent one) to let you know that I have a Patreon page

 Patreon is a way for creators to ask their supporters to help them make their dreams a reality. I've been working on my stories for a while now, but with your interest and tips, I hope that I can keep the excitement alive as I head into editing and shopping the story around. I'd like to commission some pieces of the characters and of some of my favorite scenes, as well as experiment with an online serial story in the future. I'll be sharing unique stories, more info behind the stories, earlier views of free stories and answering a lot of questions on the blog there than I will here. So, take a moment to check out the page and please consider tossing a tip my way.

Thank you for checking out my story, I hope you enjoyed it!


Monday, September 29, 2014

Inside Allied Housing

Written around May 11th, 2013.

I've never flown with United Airlines before. Up until checking in, I wasn't even sure I would be on a United plane, since I booked through Lufthansa.

Check in was where my stress began. It escalated when I sat with my family, who were able to consume food more easily than I at this point, and took an impromptu photo with my brother and a celebrity while his wife juggled both our camera and their baby. If this wasn't the first sign that I was already living in the between-world that airports are, I don't know how it could have been more obvious.

Security was redundant, checking in at the boarding gate and eavesdropping on German conversations was exhilarating in the same way sky-diving alone is.

I was leaving a lot behind in America. Taxes, friends, security despite flaws, knowing what days would be like and what people would be like, while many Germans would argue that the way we live in America is fraught with the unknown, and is like sky-diving without the parachute. I've caved, of course, as I hate being looked at with such horror, and I'll be getting insurance. Depending on what kind of distractions I can find, life seems to be much the same on this continent as on the other. But my goal for leaving was to find the joie de vivre I'd once had, to know myself and to cause less stress to myself and others--but leaving has, as I've discovered, it's own stresses.

Sleeping on the plane was nigh impossible. I've never been afraid of flying, but with the uneasiness I brought with me, the muted movie Mama playing on another passenger's screen and the turbulence with the thin upholstery on the seats only made me more restless.

Despite all, I arrived in one piece and relatively well rested. I survived jet lag by following Daisann Mclane's advice: drink only water on the plane, and once you arrive, drink coffee until you hit the mattress at nine at night. I set about making myself casually at home immediately, not stepping on anyone's toes--in my great aunt's case, literally--and tried to please while not seeming uptight about it. This failed almost immediately.

In the week that I've been here, I've become familiar with many things about German life, and specifically the way my family here lives, which I would never had stood for in America. I don't begrudge a loss of freedom, life in post-war Germany had many concessions, still does, but I do miss little things once in a while.

The housing development I am living in for instance - which probably never housed soldiers - all the blocks and blocks of two story apartments look the same. Ten in a unit, with some variations to the front, seldom an over-grown garden (thoroughly bad and un-german), and all with hedges, gates and bicycles. Apartment living is the same everywhere, but there is nothing carefree about anything here. I miss that Italian style, and the English cottage gardens. I miss being a country bumpkin, wearing Birkenstocks and natural curls. I remember a remark from a class mate in 6th grade where she envied my attitude, how things just rolled off me. And while I won't maliciously break a law, I've never liked rules. Is there a loose hem in your pants, or a stray thread in your sweater, well that just means you aren't uptight or haven't had time to fix it. In contrast, not being uptight about many things here makes you the weirdest one of all. But if I apologize too often, I'm seen as a pushover; if I thank someone too often for a basic kindness, I'm... well that's actually the same anywhere. Perhaps this is just the city, and once I'm allowed out of the house - I think getting a cat used to a home is a month, or is it six weeks? - and can be as unfamiliar and foreign as I am, I'll feel more at home.

But for every concession I make, there are things here I'm really glad for. My family, first and foremost, even if they wished I was different, that I had been raised differently and that I was easier to make heads or tails of; if I complied, and thought the same way and disliked the same things they did. My freedom, my youth, my health, even if it could be better, and for the understanding which every person I encounter extends to me in some small way or another. It never seems like enough, though.

Leaving wasn't the way to get rid of my stress, but it is was the way to examine, better see and understand the reality I had taken for granted, by substituting it for another. And I really do like Germany, it's order and security, it's necessitated humility, strength and control, but all that can seem stifling. Perhaps in all my years as a foreigner, I've become too American. Despite obscuring my history, sometimes impossible when you've been introduced ahead of time, I'm fiercely defensive of those characteristics which might be deemed 'American.' Those good parts of the United States which do still exist. Although I probably as easily have deep within me those same racist and warmongering traits which I disdain. The goal is to make the conscious decision to be these better parts of your whole, your control, your strength, your passion, your adaptability. To be in a constant state of revolution within while always seeing the world with the eyes of a child.

Sometimes the between-world of the airport isn't shaken off until you consciously remember to do so. You could carry that divided, that international part with you for years. Identity is self-prescribed, putting it off can be forever, but do you continue to live at the airport until you settle for one or many labels? I'm going to get off the plane now, and do that which is most important: living in the moment.