darkemeralds: Jared Padalecki in Regency attire (Restraint Tristan)

I now have most of the props for my book cover photo shoot. Spray paint, pins, hot glue, RIT Dye, masking tape, old curtains, bits of hardware, an actual riding crop off eBay--I really haven't had this much crafty fun in ages.

The lighting is pretty good. I'm pleased with the complementary orange/blue color scheme--which was a happy accident. It was time to put a body in the chair and start testing poses.

So I asked my sister to don the shirt and drape the (very skinny) "buckskin breeches" (linen drawstring pants, still awaiting modification) over her legs, and strike the attitude.

I liked the effect, so I pasted on the head of the actual model I hope to hire for the photo shoot.

test book cover art for Restraint, showing a long haired and barefoot young man in Regency garb lounging in an ornate wingback chair

(The professional graphic designer will be charged with a real layout and real fonts. It's still up to me to tweak the costume. The draped column might have to go.)

What do you think?

darkemeralds: Naked woman on a bike, caption "I don't care, I'm still free" (Bike Freedom)
Have you ever had that dream where you're not quite flying, but where every step you take carries you a mile across the landscape? Or where you can descend flights of stairs in a single graceful bound?

Riding an ebike is like that.

Meet Gudrun*. )
darkemeralds: Vape pen with a blue mouthpiece, cannabis cartridge attached, emitting curls of vapor (Cannabis)
I find that vaping is harder on my lungs than I'm comfortable with, so, having toked up a whole half gram of cannabis concentrate, I'm looking for alternatives.

I suspect that my uptake wasn't good (I coughed it all out instantly!) and that I might not have gotten adequate doses, because after that first miraculous end of toothache misery, I couldn't replicate the pain-relief results. Once the offending tooth was extracted and the local wore off, I was in misery and no number of hits on the vape pen had the slightest impact.

But I can't keep relying on ibuprofen, and I am not resorting to opioids. I have arthritis, it's a problem, and joint-replacement surgery isn't really on the table.

So, next stop: sublingual CBD tincture.

Also, actually doing the exercises I went to physical therapy to learn. And maybe not sitting so much.
darkemeralds: Jared Padalecki in Regency attire (Restraint Tristan)
There's been some progress on the book cover photo shoot. Here's the first mockup, just to test color contrast between the costume and the chair.

Yellow trousers, white formal shirt, and a red and gold brocade vest draped over a red wingback chair to resemble a Regency gentleman lounging, for the Restraint cover shoot

Those are Goodwill garments in roughly the right colors and shapes. We decided that with the pale costume we'll want a dark chair, so here we're testing red rummage-sale curtain fabric. We've got a bronze-gold-brown-red pair of drapes coming from eBay.

The backdrop will be a nearly-black wall, aka my living room, so pretty soon I'll have to drag that chair indoors.

Meanwhile, I've acquired some fake gold leaf for illuminating the decorative elements, and a white linen tablecloth that will make a pretty nice poet shirt. Sewing will ensue. Really quick-and-dirty, fusible-and-glue sewing.

Then we just need to find the guy. Think "finding the guy" thoughts, please!

a poster advertising for a male model for a book cover photoshoot
darkemeralds: Vape pen with a blue mouthpiece, cannabis cartridge attached, emitting curls of vapor (Cannabis)
Lately I've been hurting more than mere ibuprofen can handle--osteoarthritis, mostly, but a motherfucker of a toothache right at the moment.

So, though I've never been much for getting high, today I tried medical marijuana for the first time.

It took a lot of homework for me to get here. I read books, attended a workshop, and spent several hours on Leafly. I asked my doctor (who, as a naturopath, is all for it). I researched cannabinoids, terpenes, strains of sativa and indica. I read about the different dispensaries. Learned something about the labyrinth of laws surrounding legalization in Oregon. Became engrossed in delivery methods. Decided on vaping. Vaping is fast-acting and doesn't stink the joint up.

Harlequin is a sativa strain bred for high CBD and low THC, which translates to "pain relief without getting high", and my neighborhood dispensary sells it.

So off I walked to Kings of Canna on 15th and Prescott, and came home half an hour later with some paraphernalia and drugs.

A white zip bag, a vape pen with USB charger, a cannabis cartridge, some retail packaging

But look! It comes in retail packaging. There are USB chargers and LED indicators. The only baggie in sight was the fancy opaque white zip-lock bag mandated by the State of Oregon for carting the goods off-premises.

It's a couple of hours and several hits of Harlequin later, and behold! The tooth isn't really hurting anymore.

Heh. Maybe I need a new icon.
A vaporizer pen with a bright blue mouthpiece. A cannabis oil capsule is attached. The device is emitting curls of vapor

ETA: And I really don't feel high. Maybe a teeny bit hazy. I might have eaten a box of cookies...

Cover Art

Mar. 2nd, 2017 10:04 am
darkemeralds: detail of beaded purse, caption One Bead At a Time (Details)
I need a book cover!

There are quickie template-based designs online, and there's $5000 for original artwork, and there's not much in between.

"Well, what do you want to wind up with?" asked my sister Helen.

"Basically this," said I:
Working cover of Restraint, a photograph manipulated to look something like an oil painting, featuring Jared Padalecki's face on Johnny Depp's tuxedo-wearing body slouched in an enormous baroque brocade armchair, all in tones of red and gold

"...but a) without Jared Padalecki's face; b) not stolen from a copyright fashion shoot with Johnny Depp; and c) featuring a poet shirt and buckskin breeches rather than that 20th century tuxedo."

"So let's do our own photoshoot."

Wait. What? Do it ourselves? )
darkemeralds: Photo of fingers on a computer keyboard. (Writing)
Beta-reader notes on the final draft of Restraint have started coming in. This is the most nerve-wracking process!

The feedback so far is excellent: constructive, knowledgeable, and detailed. Nobody so far hates the novel. But the silences! Do the non-responders dislike it too much to comment? Were they too bored to finish? Are they too nice to say so?

It's impossible to get my ego out of the way. These people are doing me a huge favor and I don't want to press them, but only the fact that I have acrylic nails is keeping me from biting those nails off.
darkemeralds: Jared Padalecki in Regency attire (Restraint Tristan)
Beta readers are coming back with very few notes on Restraint. The rewritten story works for them. I think it really is finished. Seth Godin (whom I had the pleasure of meeting at a workshop in NYC a couple weeks ago) basically said, "Ship it."

Now comes marketing. )
darkemeralds: Healing hands with white, blue and violet rays of light (Healing)
It's gonna be a long road. At 61, I accept that I won't see the end of it, or a return to "the way things were".

Which is all the more reason to remember that every day is precious, I am not unlimited, I must give my best work to the Resistance as best I can, and that means taking a breath, and a walk, and a moment to recognize that there is still beauty and hope in the world.
Gray cat foot standing among early green daffodil spears in the leaf-litter of winter
Graydie and the daffodils. January 30 2017
darkemeralds: Jared Padalecki in Regency attire (Restraint Tristan)
I finished my final draft of Restraint on Thursday and sent it out yesterday to four champion fellow writers willing to read it for structure, pacing, flow, and logic. That's a big, big job.

I expect to get suggestions back for further small changes, and of course I spotted typos the instant I hit the send button. I could undoubtedly still shave a few words for style, or add a sentence here or there to fill out a minor plot point, but the novel--this novel--is finished. Any big changes at this point would be making it into a different novel.

It's a little weird, cleaning up all the files, closing all the research tabs, shutting down the gigantic spreadsheet called "Engineering Restraint" after more than two years of rewrites. The prospect of starting a new project is daunting.

But I'm starting. I'm thinking about the new political situation, and how it's my responsibility to write for the Resistance in some way. Not a dystopian Hunger-Games-ish thing--that's not who I am as a writer--but somehow a weaving of resistance into the fabric of the historical novel I'm already researching.
darkemeralds: Photo of fingers on a computer keyboard. (Writing)
Happy New Year to the few, the strong, the loyal who are still here at Dreamwidth.

2016, like 2015, has been about my homemade MFA program in creative writing. My "thesis"--which was due on December 31st and should be done this week--is a publishable final draft of Restraint. I expect 2017 to be about writing, too.

My program of study has revolved primarily around story structure and editing. As I approach the finish line, here's a roundup of the changes my studies have wrought:
  • Word count: Fanfic 230,000, Profic 145,000.
  • Character names changed: 15
  • Characters cut: 2
  • Subplots cut: also 2
  • Subplots added: 1
  • Scenes cut: I've lost track. A lot.
  • Scenes added: about 10
  • Average sentence length: Fanfic 16 words, Profic 14 words
  • Reading ease score: Fanfic 69, Profic 72 (higher is easier)
  • Number of drafts to get here: 8
Here's a rough and improvised heat map of the restructured novel, scene by scene. Green bars are scenes that end positive; red, negative. Height of bar approximates scene intensity:

a bar graph with green bars rising above the centerline and red bars descending below it, representing scene-by-scene valence shifts in the novel Restraint


Three fellow writers have volunteered to read and comment on the final draft. Assuming they find no major failings, I'll polish it up and start sending it out in March.

In other writing news, I'm taking Shawn Coyne's Story Grid Workshop in New York City in February. It'll be three days with the story structure master and 25 other writers who are ready to go pro. Since Restraint will be finished by then, I'll be applying what I learn there--and everything I've learned in my Homemade MFA Program--to my next novel, which is currently in the proto-outline stage.
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
Even though I don't come here very often anymore, and I don't know why that is*, I just renewed my paid account. I also don't know why that is.

I think it's the hope that someday, the warm community spirit of more-than-140-characters will come back to me, and to this place. It seems worth the thirty-five bucks to hang on to that hope for another year.

And I just saw this, which reminded me about my account expiry notice:



*it's at least in part, I suppose, because embedding other media here seems anachronistically iffy.
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
When you turn 60, joke-getting-old cards actually become funny. Who knew?

This one was from my little sister, who's only 58.

birthday card front showing two old ladies in a red car with shiny sunglasses and laughing. One asks Where we headed? and the other says I don't know!

birthday card inside showing same two old ladies. The second one is saying 'I thought you were driving!
darkemeralds: Photo of fingers on a computer keyboard. (Writing)
The biggest difference, I'm finding, between a novel-length fanfic and a publishable novel isn't that you have to change the characters' names and give them different haircolors (though there is that).

The biggest difference is that you're writing for strangers.

Telling the story to strangers )
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
Robert McKee: Story: Style, Structure, Substance...
Christopher Vogler: The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers
Shawn Coyne: The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know
John Yorke: Into the Woods: A Five-Act Journey Into Story
Larry Brooks: Story Physics and Story Engineering and Story Fix Larry Brooks

Lately I've been wooed into the left-brained world of editors and screenwriters writing about story structure. Studying these books (blogs, podcasts, presentations...) has helped me see my work's real flaws.

But because I'm more analytical than creative myself, I'm in danger of over-engineering my novel to fit a Grid, a set of Tent Poles, or a Hero's Journey. It's getting hard to tell whether I'm improving my story or ruining it.

A metaphor keeps springing to mind from a craft I'm more proficient in: sewing.

Crimson velvet and chiffon ruffles )
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
The second meeting of the Super Hardcore Editing Group left me a bit wrung out. The work is intense and so are the people doing it. A lot of brainpower goes into those two hours--so much brainpower, in fact, that I was worthless for anything except Twitter and grocery shopping until six hours had gone by.

We spend little to no time on our prose. Two of our four members don't even have much prose yet. Just outlines. Tent Poles (PDF). We've spent 90% of our meeting time so far digging deep into each other's story summaries, trying to place those poles accurately so that the fabric of the story can be stretched taut over them.

I'm struggling with the middle of my novel. Apparently this is a common problem. The beginning of a story tends to be clear in a first draft and not that hard to spiff up in further drafts. The final act is typically pretty clear too--it's often obvious from the very moment Inspiration plants the story seed in your mind.

But my middle 50%--that is, everything between my First Plot Point (the event that introduces my conflict and drives my protagonists on their path) and the Second Plot Point (the last bit of new information, which drives the story to resolution) is a complete rat's nest tangle of loose ends, extra characters, scenes with no arc or direction...a mess.

A roadmap out of the mess is beginning to emerge thanks to the Sheggers. But boy does my brain hurt.
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
Now playing in my Audible library: Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.

Liz (I call her Liz) says a whole bunch of the things Steven Pressfield said in his wonderful The War of Art, but I vastly prefer the way she says them. Pressfield uses a lot of sports and war metaphors that don't resonate much with me. Liz, as you might expect from the author of a book called Eat, Pray, Love, has a more spiritual and nurturing approach.

But they both talk about creativity and fear, and they both have a primarily writerly bias, so they're both inspiring to me in their ways.

Liz, more than Pressfield, focuses on creative self-expression no matter what. She specifically does not talk about "winning". Her anecdotes don't end in, "and then she won a Pulitzer," but rather in, "and then she was happy".

Both of them embrace a concept of inspiration as a real, living thing, existing independently outside of us, and interacting with us. I like that. For Pressfield it's the Muse; for Liz, "ideas". Pressfield sidles up to the metaphysical in a slightly embarrassed way, whereas Liz has it right in her book title: Magic.

Big Magic is read (wonderfully) by the author. It runs about five hours. It's fantastic for me as a writer. I'd think it would be inspiring to anyone who makes anything for any purpose.
darkemeralds: Photo of fingers on a computer keyboard. (Writing)
In my quest to level up in my writing, I set out blindly last summer to revise my novel.

My friend Sue lobbed inspiration at me in the form of The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, and I began to see myself as a Warrior for Art. It was a thrilling time, overcoming Resistance, writing every day for four hours, and going outdoors in the early evenings after a hard session, with the deliciously overtaxed brain of the Real Writer.

Though I was fixing small things in my novel, I sensed I wasn't really making progress. But I was inspired and hopeful enough to give a large sum of money to a professional editor, who, I believed, would guide me to the next level. Alas, the professional editor couldn't, or wouldn't, My hopes--not to mention my pride--went down the drain with my money.

It was a sad time. One of my nieces, always kind and inquiring, asked me one day, "How's the writing coming?" and I said, "Oh, I've given up. I'm not calling myself a writer at all anymore."

It was a low point in my writing life. )

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