Writing

A Hero’s Journey

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Between the new motherhood gig and Brian’s school schedule (it’s finals week), my life has been a little nutty.  Most of my time has been spent with a sleeping baby on my chest while I watch crap TV or read on my kindle so that Brian can do as much homework as possible.

Now that I have a few minutes, I thought about writing a big “this is birth” post, but I honestly don’t think that birth is as scary a deal as I thought it would be.  Yeah, it wasn’t much fun.  But I don’t feel like I’m a different person after coming out the other side.  Even though I had a c-section, my body feels better than it did the whole pregnancy, and never felt much worse unless the pain meds wore off those first three days.

So instead of a tell-all, I’ve decided that I’m co-opting Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey for the birth experience.  (This may be an indication of too much time on the couch).

But seriously, it fits pretty well.  And it makes me feel like an intrepid warrior for bringing back the “Elixir of Life” to the world at large.  I do get to be Aerin of Damar, or Ged, or Aragorn.  I get to be a hero.  It helps when I’ve been peed on for the fourth time today, or when I accidentally sleep in spit-up because I remembered to change the baby but remembering to change myself at 3 am is evidently beyond me.

  1. The Ordinary World: Fairly self-explanatory, I think.  This is everyone before they go on the pregnancy journey.
  2. Call to Adventure: The positive test.  You’re pregnant now, so you have to deal with that as your new reality, planned or unplanned as it might be.
  3. Refusal of the Call: After the third time you vomit all over yourself in the car, you’re definitely wondering if this pregnancy thing is worth it, and if you really want to continue.
  4. Meeting of the Mentor: Anyone who ever gave you advice – all the women who told you their birth story, all the people who gave you newborn soothing tips or shared info about breastfeeding.  There are many mentors on the way through the process.  Some of the advice is bunk, yes, but some of it is so helpful.  And I honestly found most of it to be good stuff.
  5. Crossing the Threshold: The first time you feel those little fluttering kicks.  There’s a human that’s obviously alive in there now, and it changes everything. It makes the whole thing real.
  6. Tests, Allies, and Enemies: I consider this to be all the crap symptoms you have.  The peeing every 5 minutes, the hip pain, the bad sleep patterns, and all the other awfulness your body throws at you.  Your Allies are your doctor and your partner, hopefully.
  7. Approach: There is a moment in the third trimester where you know it’s getting real, and you start to panic a little bit that maybe you don’t know enough about birth, or you’re not ready to be a mother, or whatever else.  You read everything you can get your hands on, or scrub the tile grout to make sure it’s clean for baby.  It’s nesting, and preparing yourself for what’s ahead, even though  you don’t know what’s ahead.
  8. Ordeal, Death & Rebirth: This, of course, is labor itself.  It’s less tied to death than it was in the past, but it’s still a transformative experience that does involve some danger to both yourself and the life you’re bringing into the world.  This is creation, and it’s no joke.
  9. Reward: The reward is the baby.  Those sleepy little eyes, tiny red bow of a mouth, and addictive milky smell, and all the small noises they make.
  10. The Road Back: Your recovery.  And in some versions of the Hero’s Journey, this is also considered a “reconciliation with the father” moment.  Because we’re women, the Gospel of Casey says we get to reconcile with the mother as we become mothers ourselves.
  11. Return with the Elixir:  Go home with your baby in tow, and introduce the world to the new life you have discovered, the miracle you found in the facsimile of the underworld that is birth in this scenario.  You are bringing great change and miracles to the old way of life.

See, don’t you feel extra-awesome now?  I totally do. It makes me more than ready for the next adventure in the new life that is three of us intertwined instead of two. Even if inordinate amounts of time are currently spent pondering things on the couch while listening to a small boy snore.

 

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Nanowrimo 2017 Update

Nanowrimo is in full swing, and it’s been a nice distraction from being pregnant.  Which, PS – the symptoms just got REAL, guys.  Like, the crap that was happening before feels like it was just an inconvenience.  If I’m up and around now, you can pretty much assume I’m not pain free.  Not even Tylenol cuts it anymore. And then there’s the witching hour when, at 7:00 pm on the dot, my right leg decides to get restless to the point where I sometimes can’t sleep.  Couple that with a kid shoving his fists into my hips and I’m basically a wreck.

The good news is that we’re at 18 days and counting until this kid is due.  I don’t have to suffer for much longer.

Nano has given me something else to think about for a while, which has been nice.  Instead of beating myself up about all the stuff on the baby list I have to still do and worrying about my hips, I can instead agonize over the fact that I haven’t been able to get a good word count together for Nano.

I have 450 new words so far.  That’s it.

I’ve never failed this badly at Nano, and I’m not 100% sure what to claim as the cause.  I’m relatively certain it isn’t the pregnancy, because writing isn’t physically onerous.  My brain is working fine.  I think it might be that I’m just SO rusty.  I probably haven’t written anything new in over a year.  I’ve been editing things instead.  It feels like I don’t know how to go back to creating things from scratch.

Of course I DO know.  The reality is that you sit yourself in the chair and you force yourself to put words down (however bad) until you have a story with a beginning, middle, and end.  Then you go back through and make it something that won’t embarrass you to show to others.  I’m just feeling such an aversion to it right now.

Maybe I tried to thrust myself too far into the deep end.  I don’t know.  But I do know I’ll need a new plan if I’m going to make this work.  I still have time to turn it around.  I’ve done it before six days into Nano, and sometimes longer.

Alright, I’m off to regroup and get some writing done.

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Nanowrimo Advice

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This is just a quickie blog post.  Since Nanowrimo is just a little more than a week away (yikes!) I thought I would post some links to some advice/writing I had crafted from earlier years.  I have six wins under my belt at this point, so I feel like my street cred is valid.

Also, all of this advice still applies.

Why Nano is worth it: https://caseykins.com/2015/10/22/on-my-love-for-nanowrimo/

General Nano Tips: https://caseykins.com/2015/10/26/nanowrimo-advice/

A breakdown of my planning process, in detail: https://caseykins.com/2016/10/13/nano-nuts-and-bolts/

That’s it for today.  I’m writing short stories this time, which are both easier and harder.  And, of course, I’ll be interrupted by the end of the month by a small, hungry, and active boy.  The madness just got madder.

If you’re joining the party, good luck!

 

 

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On Writing in 2017, and Nanowrimo

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We’re getting to the end of the year, and I’m starting to think about my resolutions from last year.  Spoiler: I completed almost none of them.  I just found the blog entry that John Scalzi wrote the other day that I thought was incredibly poignant.  And it instantly made me feel less guilty, too. Frankly, he explains it better than I ever could: https://whatever.scalzi.com/2017/10/02/2017-word-counts-and-writing-process/ 

I thought my lack of production was a little bit of depression, or perhaps I was just in a non-prolific season right now.  After all, you can’t be on-point all the time, right?  Reading Scalzi made me realize that it’s probably not me… and a lot of other people are having this problem too.

I’ve been doing exactly what he says he had been doing.  I’ve been trying to figure out why my system isn’t working and how I can go back to it.  I’ve wasted almost a year on it.  I don’t know what the answer is yet, but I know now that I have to regroup and find a new normal for myself.  The old way isn’t going to work in this climate.  Or, most likely, with baby in tow.

At least I’ve been feeling more like a writer lately. I have to thank the L. M. Montgomery institute for that.  There’s nothing like a deadline and a required bio to get the juices flowing.  I’ve been feeling that soul-itch, too, to put words on paper and make a new thing out of them.  I haven’t felt that way in a long time.  Now all I have to do is come to terms with my less-than-stellar production.

Nanowrimo is gearing up and I want to participate.  I have a 7 year winning streak to uphold, and the knowledge that the biggest writing party on the web is happening and I’m not a part of it is agony.  But this year I’ve decided I’m not writing a new novel from scratch.  I’m writing instead a few short stories for a collection I’d like to put out sometime this year (with the excuse being that I’m learning how to format and upload a Kindle book, in prep for Blue Gentian).  So, 5 short stories in just a few weeks?  I probably won’t make it, but it will be fun to try (and to be able to call myself a rebel for once).

If you’re interested, The book will be called “A Blatantly False History of the World” and will feature the following stories.  Everything with an asterisk is something I still need to write or edit heavily.  The ones with titles have plots.

  1. The Sea – Rome, 73 BC
  2. Ordeals – England, 1490
  3. The Wages of Sin – Plymouth Colony, 1622
  4. *A Stitch In Time – Virginia, 1779
  5. There Must Have Been Some Magic – London, 1814
  6. *Coyote’s Earth – California, 1831
  7. The Call – Arlington, 1862
  8. *Dr. Pragnum’s Restorative Tonic – England, 1896
  9. The Immortals – Italy, 1917
  10. Plenty of Fish – India, 1924
  11. Easterbay – Costal Maine, 1945
  12. *Thunderbird’s Desert – California, 2017
  13. *???

Looking for a Nanowrimo buddy?  I’m Caseykins, and I’ll buddy up right back.  Happy writing if you’re trying it.  And cheers to finding a new normal in this relentlessly stressful world.

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Anne of Green Gables Read Along

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When the L. M. Montgomery institute called for blog entries for their Anne Read-Along this year, I knew I had to be involved.  Anne has been a major part of life from adolescence onward, and I surely would not have found Emily, Rilla, or Valancy without her.   All four girls have shaped my life in innumerable ways.  Anne is the gateway drug to all of it; the crux; where most of us start.

They gave me a hard chapter.  It’s short and not a lot happens.  It took me a while to think about it, but when it was all done I was really proud of what I had come up with: https://www.lmmontgomery.ca/anne-green-gables-read-long-chapter-iii-marilla-cuthbert-surprised  

I can’t wait to see what everyone else does for their chapter.  Reading the other blog entries has already made me see things in the books that I hadn’t before.  Happy reading along.

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A Change, and a Vignette

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I’m all off this week because of the holiday.  Mondays off always throw me for a loop – not that I’m complaining.  But the Thursday blog entry is now a Friday blog entry since everything is a day removed.

Speaking of which… I’ve had some time to review this year in blogging and have decided to make a change and post book reviews here MUCH less in the new year.  Caseykins.com was always meant to be an author site, and I feel like it’s getting away from its purpose if all I do is post about books that often aren’t even in the genre I’m writing in.  So… I started another blog for the reviews.  I’ll likely still post the quarterly reading list here, and blog anything I totally fall head over heels for.  But in general I’m trying to keep all things novel to Book Dragon.  And that way if you like the book reviews, you can get that almost exclusively.  And if you like these little writing process and slice of life things, you can get that almost exclusively too.  This year was the first year I didn’t see a dramatic growth in people visiting the site, and I feel like the confused image might be some of the problem…

One of my tasks for the New Year was to incorporate more practice into my writing.  I’ll most likely be trying to substitute the book posts with these little vignettes.  I wrote this after visiting the Santa Monica Pier with Brian on the 1st.  It was crazy-busy down there, but still a good trip:

 

Brian and I sat on a concrete bench on the busy, bright pier for quite a while, just watching the waves crash on the thick barnacled supports beneath us.

A family came soon after we sat and took the other end of the bench.  They weren’t speaking English. I don’t know if it was French or what (I don’t think it was French really), but they were all older people, the men with close-cropped hair and the women wearing bright floral scarves tied under their throats. One of the men was pushing an empty stroller, and in the arms of the other man was a small girl with the curliest and reddest of hair. She was wearing a pink fuzzy coat with yellow butterflies clipped all over it. Their crepe wings fluttered in the ocean breeze. The family sat down next to us, and she threw herself backward in the arms of her father? Grandfather? And squealed every time the orange roller coaster swooped past with a rattle.

Eventually she started to fuss a bit, and the man started to sing to her. I didn’t recognize all of it, but one of the verses seemed to be a question about kilometers. And then he sang her Frere Jaques. That was her favorite, because she sang it back, her little voice not making all the syllables. She squirmed to get down, and continued singing while yanking herself backward on the steel pier railings, her little feet, in white tights, still on the wood deck.

It was sweet, and it made me smile.

The family took a selfie with the waves in the background, the shoreline stretching like a crescent behind them into oblivion.  And then they bundled their things and strolled away again towards the food booths.  The little girl was probably too young to remember her trip to California. Not through anything other than pictures of herself.  But I’ll remember her now.

 

Photo credit to Brian.  Thanks, dear!

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The Resolution Post: 2017

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This is the end of the year re-cap on new year’s resolutions.  I don’t know if anyone is terribly interested in my introspection about the nitty-gritty of my chosen career, but it helps me to publish this stuff in a place I know is public.  It keeps me accountable.  Thanks for humoring me.

To recap, my resolutions this year were as follows:

  1. Read another 100 books
  2. Have a novel ready to shop around
  3. Beat or match my previous record for published short stories (2) and/or be paid for 1 short story
  4. Write at least 20 days of each month

How did I do?  Pretty well, actually.

I read a shit-ton of books this year.  Like, I’ll probably clear 150.  Which is CRAZY when you think about it.  I’m blaming it on the mass-quantity of awesome romance novels I’ve been reading.

The novel is not yet ready to shop around, although it ALMOST is.  3 page synopsis?  Done.  Query letter?  Done.  Just waiting for the beta reads to finish and to do one more draft (okay, maybe 2) before I start sending it out.  I can’t control the speed of the beta readers.  It’s out of my hands when I can start on those last two drafts.  Maddening, I know. I’m trying to be Zen about it…  But I’m SO CLOSE.

I have been paid for one story this year, which means I completed this resolution no problem.  I’ve had a couple of stories, too, where I’ve been notified that they’re keeping them longer for further consideration.  So I might meet both requirements, depending on several factors (whether they do, in fact, say yes, whether they notify me by the end of December…)

Whether or not I completed the resolution to write 20 days each month really depends on how you’re measuring it.  I missed March and September.  But I went over 20 days so many months that if you average it all out, I actually exceeded the target.  I’m calling it met, for morale reasons.

That’s it for last year.  Now moving to 2017:

I’m tweaking my resolutions this year so that they’re more in line with my goals of learning and getting myself out there.  I have realized the past two years of doing this semi-professionally that I can control my own output, but I can’t control others’ reactions to the output.  I’m refocusing the goals on production, not publication.

I’ve read a lot about the SF/F industry since last year, and it seems to me that people who make a living at this often win Writers of the Future and go to Clarion.  Which means I’ll at least throw my name into the ring for both. And then there’s all the book dissection I’ve added to my workload among all the writing stuff I’ve been doing.  So, I’m broadening even as I’m loosening.  Here’s what I was thinking of for 2017.

New Year’s Resolutions:

  1. I will have either 2 stories paid for or 20 rejection letters, whichever target I hit first
  2. I will dissect the structure of 1 book per month
  3. I will do writing of some form (either for publication or practice) 20 days of each month.
  4. I’ll Enter 4 stories into the Writers of the Future Contest (one per period), and apply to the Clarion Writer’s Workshop.
  5. I’ll have Ruby of Ra (book 2) ready for alpha reads

That’s all.

I’ll likely to do something with Blue Gentian even without having it on the official list.  At this point things depend on the speed of my beta readers, not on me, and so I’m not making it a target.

That being said, I’m pretty proud of all of that and think the goals will be obtainable, but still stretch me. Looking forward to completing some of this stuff!

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In Preparation for Christmas

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I have several things today, mostly in preparation for Black Friday.  Christmas is coming fast, and I’m trying to remind myself of that so I don’t leave it all to the last minute like I usually do…

The first thing that’s coming up is that the anthology I’m in is ready WAY sooner than they thought it would be, and is going live on Amazon this weekend.  Yay! You can get it here if you’re interested.  And if you have Kindle Unlimited, it’s even free! Anthologies make good Christmas presents.  Or can get you in the mood for buying a ton of Christmas presents. Just saying… Also, my hard copies have not come in the mail yet.  So you can have the (semi)exclusive version even before the author gets hers.  What’s not to love about that?

Second is that I have waded into the murky and often cheesy-in-a-bad-way genre of Christmas Romance again.  Ever the optimist that there’s actually good stuff in that sub-genre, I suppose.  But I hope to have a post of things I thought were worth it soon for you to peruse if you want.  From last year, I recommend the Christmas Ladies collection by Grace Burrowes, and An Affaire Before Christmas by Eloisa James.

Christmas shopping is about to be in full swing.  If you’re like me, you’ll probably buy all the presents in the 2 weeks before the event and then spend that last week wrapping furiously.  If you’re shopping for someone bookish, here’s a few other things I can recommend.

Know your special someone’s favorite book?  Check out Out of Print.  They have everything bookish clothing printed with classic cover art, from James Bond to Harry Potter, and their shirts are SO SOFT.  I have the Little Prince one and the American Gods one, and I practically live in them on the weekends.  I’m currently drooling over Bunnicula and may need to splurge.

Go for a bookish candle.  You can get several that smell like your favorite characters and places here, or you can light a candle to your favorite writing saint here. The writing saint one comes with a hilarious poem on the back, too.  Well worth it.

It’s a well-known fact that you can never have too many bookmarks.  And they’re an easy thing to buy because duplicates don’t matter!  Pick your favorite and run with it.  Make your own.  Get creative.  My favorite right now?  These awesome magnetic ones from Happy Hello Co on Etsy.  They have all kinds fun and adorable bookmarks, everything from Eleanor and Park to a smiling pancake.

Is your reader also a writer?  Fancy pens and blank notebooks are always a good buy.  Moleskine just came out with a BEAUTIFUL limited edition Harry Potter notebook that I’m dying for.  But they also have Game of Thrones, Avengers, Toy Story, The Beatles, The Hobbit, Hello Kitty and a bazillion others.  Even their plain ones are perfection.  Moleskines take ink beautifully, are the perfect size for toting around, and are generally an obsession of mine.  I almost always have at least two stashed in my purse.  You can bet your writer will be happy to get one.

It’s well known that caffeine and books mix beautifully.  Consider getting a bookish mug for your booklover.  An Etsy search for “Book mug” brings up some awesome ones.  And it turns out that there is no really one stop shop I could find for this item.  Still, the favorite one I found was this Penguin Classic homage.

And, of course, gift cards to Barnes and Noble and Amazon are always appreciated.  My opinion of Kindle Unlimited?  Okay if you’re into romance, and getting better all the time for other genres.  But is it worth that hefty price tag yet?  Maybe not.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving, and the start of Christmas.  I’m counting down the days to the end of Nano with both terror and relief.  And planning to put the Christmas stuff up this weekend, if I get a few spare seconds to rub together.

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Oh Horrid Night

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It seems a little bit anti-climactic in the face of the world burning right now in America, but I got some good news yesterday.  The Christmas anthology I’m in is officially an official thing, titled Oh Horrid Night, and featuring 210 awesome pages of frightening short stories.  It will wend its way to you on December 3rd.  And what better time is there for escapism than this particular holiday season?

You can pre-order on amazon here, and if you have Kindle Unlimited it’s even free!

We also have a Goodreads page.  If you’re on Goodreads, shelving it as “to read” can help us out.  And, on another note… I officially have a Goodreads author page. (!!!) I look so fancy and professional, you can hardly believe it (did I just ruin the aura of professionalism?). If you’re interested in that, too, it’s here.

That’s all for now.  I may seem chipper, but I’m definitely still processing the results of the election this week.  I can’t be nice or reasoned about it right now, but I would expect a blog post about it at some point when my thoughts are more together.

Keep your chin up.  With some serious love for you all,

~Casey

 

 

 

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November Start

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I told you it wouldn’t be a whole month until I came back again.  Nano is going very well.  So well, in fact, that I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.  It usually drops in week 2, so we’ll see how much I hate this story and everything it stands for in another 8 days or so.  I’m no longer surprised that this happens, but every year I’m surprised by how genuine the feelings of loathing are.  You would think I would have learned by now that this is a phase.

Brian participated in the annual Baked Potato Decorating Day contest at his work, held every year on November 1st.  He won for his impressive rendition of Bag End, complete with round carrot door and broccoli Party Tree.  I am still upset by his refusal to let me make hobbits from tater tots, but I shall live through my disappointment.  His prize was $45 to Barnes and Noble, and we spent a blissful evening among the stacks of books.

“Do you want anything?” Brian asked me toward the end of our perusal.

I started laughing.  Because I want everything, of course.  They’ve come out with those amazing gilded Barnes and Noble Classic editions of American Gods and Anansi Boys, A Wrinkle In Time, Shell Silverstein poems, Cthulhu mythos, Robin Hood, Moby Dick, The Eye of the World, 10 Wizard of Oz books…  Moleskine has Harry Potter special editions sitting on the shelf.  I have not yet read Rene Ahdieh’s latest.  America’s Test Kitchen has a gigantic cooking bible.  I’m dying to purchase a slew of romance novels, and Uprooted. They have a vast collection of color-your-own postcards and a Pusheen luggage set.  I still need the Puffin In Bloom copy of the Little Princess.  They had fancy hard-backed editions of The Silmarillion.  When I said I wanted everything, I wasn’t kidding.

“Don’t worry about me,” I said.  I’m used to drooling and not buying.  Also, I didn’t help with the potato and I can’t remember the last time Brian bought books.  He picked up three and has been spending his nights reading, like I usually do, which is reward enough.

Writing and reading your heart out are what November is for.  We have a good start on that over here.

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