Archive for September, 2014

Counting my blessings

A schoolbus did a hit and run on my car this past Sunday and now my poor baby has a huge dent in the front where the headlights are and there are bits of broken reflective headlight stuff rattling around inside the headlight space thingy.

I was parked right beside the road, next to the curb, with my hazard lights on, waiting for Iddt to pick up some stuff at the farmer’s market. My mom was texting me, so I was texting her back when suddenly the car rocked, hard, and there was this grinding noise.

I looked up in horror and there’s this big ass schoolbus just…kinda embedded in my car. It was pulling over to let its passengers off and clearly just wasn’t paying enough attention.

Frozen in shock, I just kinda sat there, uncertain whether or not to jump into traffic and run over to shout at the driver, sorta expecting the bus driver or someone to come over and see about damages, but the next thing I knew the bus had pulled away with a horrific screech. The noise, of course, was from the pulling away pushing its tail end deeper into my car. If it had backed up, pulled straight and then drove straight ahead it probably would not have caused as much damage as it did, but I miscalculated in assuming the bus driver knowing that he hit something.

Some of the kids who had come off the schoolbus had that what-the-fuck look on their face at the really loud horrific grinding noise.

Further in shock that this was happening, that the bus driver clearly had no clue that this whole thing happened, I blinked for a moment before hopping out of the car and waylaying the people who had come off the car.

Me: “Um, where are you guys from? Your schoolbus just hit my car.”

Some of the kids nodded, hard, with this “you poor bastard” expression.

I got the contact info of the school and one of the chaperons and retreated back to my car, completely in shock.

We get home and my friends were like — um, you need to file a police report.

Me: “Huh? Really? I didn’t know that. I thought you just exchanged contact info and then you exchanged insurance company info.”

Them: “No, you really, really do.”

So I called up the Boston police dept at the non-emergency number. They told me I need to come in person to file a police report.

Despite still being super shaky, I drove back into Boston with my brother and … and they told me to put down my name, address, phone number and sent me away again. Literally, I was like — a schoolbus did a hit and run on my car. It was at 12:13pm. It was at 478 Harrison Ave. Him: Okay. Let me photocopy your registration. Here’s your police report number.

Me, when I got back home: 0____o They didn’t even ask me what happened! They didn’t ask for like, details or shit! What the hell? And if, like, all they wanted was my contact info, why the hell did I need to get back into the Hell that is driving?

An officer called. He’s all like “So, when did this happen?” Me: “12:13pm.” Officer: “When did you get back to your car and found the damage?” Me: “Um. 12:13pm. I was IN the car when it happened.” Here I was thinking …how the hell do you think I knew it was a schoolbus and the precise time?! Officer: “…….ho–kay…you were IN the car?” Me: “Uh. Yeah.” I poured out every detail I can remember. He went okay and then the phone call ends. I’m kinda like — WTF, mate?

So I guess I have the inestimable joy of calling the school tomorrow and being like — hey, the schoolbus you hired hit my car. Please to pay for damages. Then I get to call the company and be like – yo. I am truly, truly not looking forward to this.

I…just… I can’t even.

2014 has not been a kind year to my baby. Early on, I had to replace the water pump and the battery, to the tune of about $1100 I didn’t have. Then my boyfriend had an incident with the car in February. Then this.

I have a really uneasy relationship with cars and being in cars. By which I mean being in cars terrifies me.

I was hit by a taxi when I was in 7th grade.

I got hit by a blue SUV while I was riding my electric bike to class when I was in college. This was a hit and run where the driver paused only long enough to see that I was moving before roaring off.

About five (?) years ago, another driver T-boned the car on my side when my mother was driving us to the doctor’s. The other driver drove away and my mom followed them, finally trailing them to a parking lot. Failed hit and run.

Shortly after that, my dad was driving the car in Central Square when someone rammed into us from the back and then roared off. Hit and run, again.

About three years ago, someone rammed into me from behind again.

And then, yesterday.

This doesn’t include the endless near-death misses which constitutes the average driving experience.

So I don’t cope well with cars. I hate driving. I hate riding in cars. My parents finally forced me to learn how to drive when I was 25 because they said it was just not good for me not to learn how. Every time I ended my driving lessons, I’d have the urge to kiss the ground and then just flop there until my heart stopped trying to pound its way out of my chest.

But, Katje, your post is entitled Counting my blessings — wtf?

Well, I’m blogging about what led me to count my blessings because apparently writing about stressful or traumatic events can decrease the likelihood of associated illnesses and be less likely to carry the trauma around for as long or as heavily. It can also help wounds heal faster and help with specific illnesses like asthma, cancer or AIDs.

Also, because despite having encountered 6 car accidents in my 28 years, which I have to say is significantly higher than the car insurance industry’s estimate of a person filing a claim for a collision once every 17.9 years, I have only been in an ambulance for one out of those six times. Even then, despite going air-borne and passing out briefly, I was released home later that night with only a massive bruise and a doctor’s note excusing me from gym for the next month. All the other times, I walked away, albeit with an increasingly tarnished view of both humanity and my assumptions of how much attention other drivers on the road are actually paying to their surroundings.

My car still runs. Hopefully it will still run and there isn’t some hidden damage that will come back and bite me even if my insurance company is a dick and refuses to pay and also hikes my premium.

I believe that ultimately I am a safer driver because of having survived all of those accidents. I practice defensive driving and I’m always hyper-vigilant of what other cars around me are doing. I probably also stress out to an extent that is unhealthy, but it might keep me from ever being the cause of an accident and might help me avoid accidents in the future.

So yeah. I’m not thrilled this happened. I’m probably in fact going to have more nightmares and trauma about it for a while, but at the end of the day my car still runs and I walked away.

The Chinese have a superstition that sometimes your personal belongings will take a hit for you, that their damage or breaking has shielded you from being damaged or broken.

I can run with that idea. But even if I don’t, even if I question just what kind of luck I have that seems to have cars kissing up to me in uncomfortable fashions in alarming frequencies, I also have to give thanks that despite it all, I am safe and whole.

 

 

 

Tiny bites…

I’ve been reading up on all the “how to make it as a self-publishing author” posts I can get my hands on and to be honest, it’s more than a wee bit intimidating.

By that, I mean I got so overwhelmed by the idea of doing everything on the must-do-or-else-fail-terrifically lists that I curled up in a fetal ball and whimpered for a day or so. Not my best moments, no, and very poor use of time at that.

Finally, I gave myself a stern talking to and decided to throw most of the to-do lists straight out the window. I may very well fish them back out in a month or so when I stop hyperventilating, but for now, baby steps.

In addition to writing/editing/behaving like a mostly-adult person, I’ve decided that I will try to keep a log of my self-publishing adventures as part of my blog-regularly effort. 

In the meantime, I feel that my spoons might be put to better use writing the next book and the next book after that before touching the whole promo end of things.

Because ultimately, why did I self-publish?

Yes, the lure of higher profits was part of it.

Yes, I am terrible at the whole hurry-up-and-wait game and I have no patience to speak of.

Ultimately, however, I think what tipped me over the edge where I didn’t even consider looking for an agent was because I really wanted to have full artistic control over the end result.

I wanted a specific style of cover by a specific artist: Phoenixlu. I wanted to make damn sure that my cover was not white-washed because “covers with POC don’t sell well”. I wanted to write a novel set in imperial China that was mostly fantasy with romantic elements despite being told “no one cares about China or Chinese mythology/legend”.

Estyria’s story is one that I’ve wanted to tell for years. It’s the story that I’ve had to grow into as a writer to tell, one that I wasn’t sure I could pull off. I’ve been struggling with it since 2004 — so 10 years of my life has gone into the plotting, planning, writing, re-writing and editing of this book. I can’t say how often I’ve been told that maybe I needed to set it aside and do something else, that maybe I needed to start with something easier, but I never could stay away. It and I grew together over the last decade and I can’t regret any of it. Perhaps I still haven’t managed to fully accomplish everything I wanted to do with it, but Phoenix Chosen is a story that I’m happy to put my name behind and call mine.

I also believe in Dean Wesley Smith’s take on rewriting. You learn more by doing than anything else and constantly trying to fix a story rather than moving on is the worst waste of time possible. It’s also why I believe that if fanfiction is your thing, that is the best way to start out — but that’s another post.

I only have so many spoons and I’d rather spend them on writing more stories rather than chasing the query-go-round.

Yeah, yeah, I know, I know. Stop being part of the Amazon=slush pile problem, right?

I agree, don’t contribute to what Chuck Wendig calls the spewing volcano of shit. But I don’t believe that if you write out a story, edit it, copyedit it and then send it out, that you’re doing anyone a disfavor. Yes, make a professional cover for it, find a good editor who will make it grammatically correct and hunt down all your typos. But as for plot, characterization, logic? It doesn’t matter. SOMEONE will like it. Whether or not enough someones will like it that you become the next E.L James or Stephanie Meyer remains to be seen, but if you’ve been professional about it, you aren’t adding to the problem. I can’t even list how many times I’m reading a book review where the reviewer says with great chagrin: “This book was like crack. I couldn’t put it down. The inconsistencies were legion, the characterization was shit, there was no logic whatsoever to anything going on — but I couldn’t put it down regardless.”

No one can tell what’s bad and what’s good until the populace gets their hands and brains around it. Too many literary works considered works of art have sunk like a stone and too many books that would make an English teacher sob have become runaway bestsellers for me to buy into the idea that there’s this standard of good.

So here’s to writing more stories, improving my craft through the doing and entertaining some people along the way.

As for promo… Perhaps tomorrow I’ll start finding people to follow on Twitter and try to strike up conversations with people. Maybe.

 

 

More in the urban fantasy wuxia (rock??) story

Dante looks up at the Dragon and his mouth compresses for a moment before he shakes his head and smiles. “So one of the positions is filled already. No matter.”

Unfurling a reed mat on the ground, he settles on it cross-legged, smoothing the skirts of his robe out around him, hands trembling. The fabric is soft from years of washing, so threadbare it’s more gauze than cloth, but without patches or tears. He balances his qin across his thighs and exhales slowly. In a perfect world he would have incense to burn, but since it wasn’t, the light fragrance of the sweet-grass used in his mat will have to do.

Dante flexes his left hand, then his right, stretching out the kinks in preparation. Closing his eyes, he takes a deep breath, places his hands on the zither, and plucks his first note. The sound, pure and high, pierces through the clouds and soars.

Melody flows like water from beneath his fingers, the light tinkling notes of a stream giving way to the lower, sonorous tones of a river. Magic and qi rises, strong and unrelenting as the Long River, graceful as a dragon soaring through the clouds.

The face of a girl flits at the edge of his mind and he pushes her away, just as he pushed her away that morning so he could leave the shabby apartment. This is for her. For Liliana.

His body sways, long black hair fluttering with the gathering of power, his expression one of longing pain. The music curls around him, a warm wind that caresses him before rising toward the sky.

Gradually his magic coalesces into the sinuous body of a dragon, five clawed, with scales of iridescent pearl and a mane of ocean green fire. Long body curving around the dome, the dragon nuzzles up against the golden shimmer of the shield, its tail lightly wagging to the beat.

His fingers dance across the strings, his qi and magic rippling forth in ever increasing waves. The zither’s song pulsates out the passion of the headlong rush of the Long River to the sea and the melancholy embrace of autumn rain, hinting at wars fought and loves lost. He exhales into the music, weaving in his yearning and his spirit. When he becomes Guardian, Liliana would never have to worry again. They would have food, shelter, protection… all the things that his Liliana should have had but he wasn’t able to provide. Until now.

The notes come faster and faster, building upon each other, the corresponding magic hanging in the air and turning from mere humidity to mist to fog. The air shimmers with power, heavy with promise, but he doesn’t gather it, content for it to surround him like a lover’s embrace.

“Aspirant!” The deep voice rings out like a bell, slicing a path through the fog.

His shoulders loosen as he relaxes, a small smile flitting around his mouth. The arrival of the Gatekeeper can only mean one thing. He’s close to his goal, so close he can almost taste the meat buns he will buy for Liliana on his way home after he took the Seat.

“Why forth do you hesitate, Aspirant? Are you uncertain of your power?”

Hardly. He holds back a snort of derision. If there is one thing he is certain of in this world, it is his power and his determination to wield it to protect the one he loves.

The man comes at him, swords slicing the fog into ribbons.

Dante bends his head over his qin and lends his voice to the zither’s song. His deep baritone winds around the sweeping tones, twisting and twining into glimmering cords that weave into a net and binds the Gatekeeper’s swords. The Gatekeeper curses, his words muffled by the ever-deepening haze.

The haze becomes impenetrable, the shimmer now blinding.

Dante raises his voice, driving his power into the shield, infusing its magic with his own. Close, so close. A few more notes and he would have it. Safety and power and the ability to…

A gleaming sword slashes through, shaving off a lock of his hair. He leans forward, ducking the next blow, and sings out one last imperative note.

The dome shatters with a sound like broken crystal and the Gatekeeper’s sword stops a hairsbreadth away from the skin of Dante’s neck.

“Lords above and below,” he mutters. “The test is for you to break the shield, not annihilate it.”

Dante rises, hands trembling, light-headed from giddy relief and the after effects of having gone two days without food. He stumbles forward, catches himself and gives the Gatekeeper a fierce grin.

“Not so fast, boy. You’re not quite done yet.”

He nods. “I know. I need to harmonize with the first guardian.”

The Gatekeeper smiles in response and bows, indicating the doorway of the Dragon.

 

~~!~~~!~~

Hrm. I feel like this entry has gone more into the fantasy side of things that I truly like. I might need to pull it back a bit, see how to tweak it. Smoke fights with her bachi, but I think Dante needs a secondary weapon to his zither. Of course, he could probably music people into unconsciousness, but I think I’d like to see him with some more martial moves as well. The thing is, traditionally written wuxia strikes me as heavily fantastical anyway — you have people shooting needles out that can kill you by sealing your meridian points; you have people killing one another through sheer force of their reserve of qi; there’s the people who are so skilled at what I’m choosing to translate as feather-craft that they can run on snow without leaving a single footprint and dance over water. So I guess it depends on personal interpretation and likes/dislikes.

So, let me know — what do you think?

The gods laugh at me

So. Remember that business plan?

The good news is I did …approximately manage 1500 every day for 8 days and I finished the zero draft of the second book. Of course, it’s sitting at about 35k at the moment, so if I aim for 75k, I’m technically not even half-way there. But. Good news!

Bad news?

I kinda stalled out after finishing book 2, which is why I had shitty word counts for the the last three days. By shitty, I mean nothing got written.

I finally pulled out my sketchbook to do some communing with my muse.

For the record, I don’t write longhand. I just don’t. The look of my own handwriting gives me hives. So I’m pretty desperate at this point. Just as a reference for how long it’s been since I touched pen to paper, a caterpillar crawled out of the sketchbook. This is where I screamed like a child.

Anyway. Guess what my muse wants me to work on? The Hades and Persephone re-telling. The one that I abandoned a while ago because it kind of crashed and went nowhere. The ONE story I didn’t even mention wanting to finish and publish in my business plan. Yes. That one. Of course.

I know I invited the gods to laugh at me, but I really wasn’t expected to be backstabbed by myself. *sigh*

C’est la vie, eh? And now, for the Hades story… My muse promised she’d carry through if I started, so I’m gonna have to hold her to that. Here’s seeing how well that goes. :)

 

On the business end of things…

I realized I needed a business plan yesterday, so I’m blogging about it today because, well, I needed to blog and keeping it here is a good faith effort toward my ideals of transparency and accountability.

The major reason I realized I needed a plan was because I realized I was burning out faster than a stray meteor and when I crashed, there would likely be nothing left.

I’d written 10k words in the last 5 days. Not too shabby, no, and in fact arguably pretty great for my track record. It took me years to work up to being able to put out 1000 words a day reliably without feeling like my brain was mush at the end of the day. And I do mean 1000 a day — this would be after writhing and gasping in front of the computer for a full eight hours.

Yes, yes, I might have gotten more done without the writhing and gasping, but it’s part of the process, okay? Don’t judge!

However, I realized I was going crazy wondering if an average of 2k a day was enough, if 2k wasn’t laughable when I spent at least 12 hours in front of the computer every day and if 2k a day was going to be enough to put out books fast enough. I couldn’t even unwind after I left the laptop because I was going insane thinking about all the numbers.

So. Plans. The gods should feel free to laugh at them, as they often do, but at least I have something down that is more or less concrete.

My demented day job ends in May 2015. I’m really hoping, praying, working toward being able to be a full-time non-starving writer at that point. Note, the important part is non-starving. Preferably not homeless either, since I’m spoiled.

To that goal, I want to have Phoenix Chosen, Phoenix Awoken and Phoenix Arisen (tentative title) out by that point. Those would be the first three books in my series. I also want to have Ashes to Stars out by then, as that is Estyria’s triplet sister’s story and there’s about 15k written already.

I would like to have Goddess in Waiting edited and out by then as well. It’s done, so that’s about maybe 1 month to work it over while I’m working on other things.

That would be five novels, which I think is a decent start.

I also have some short stories that I am thinking about editing and expanding/finishing: the cyborg & sex pollen & cyborg revolution story; the little mermaid re-telling; and the queen and cavalier story. I also have some notion of writing more in the urban wuxia fantasy world because I have a plot outline for that as well.

Assuming the following:

Phoenix Awoken – about 75k (Phoenix Chosen is around that length) with 17k already written

Phoenix Arisen – about 75k

Ashes to Stars – about 75 k with 15k already written

Goddess in Waiting — 31k right now, but expected to be around 50k when it’s edited

I have until May 2015, with about a month in Taiwan for family in between, so about seven months, so assuming that’s about 210 days, base, with 56 days taken off for weekends, so let’s round up to 60 because I’m going to get sick in there somewhere, I’m not even counting jet lag and packing for trip and general ill health back pain bull shit life drama, so that’s about 150 work days.

I expect about 212k in new words, not counting edits. So that boils down to about 1413 words a day, average, for the next seven months.

Unfortunately, I should probably take off about 10 days each for edits in which I will do nothing but freak out over edits. Gonna give Goddess in Waiting 5 days because that has a simpler world with no continuity to worry about. So that’s 35 days gone. Poof.

So that’s about 1844 words per day.

Okay. Not terrible. Not much room for error, but …not terrible either.

I will also have to budget and work things out at some point.

The person who does my cover design and formatting is a gem and wonderful, but I’m going to have to take a good hard look at numbers if I’m going to be putting out that many books in that time frame.

Onwards and upwards!

Now that I know what my wordcount should be, I think I might be able to relax. :)