Cthulhu smiles upon me

Our lord and savior Cthulhu can be a temperamental being. But maybe he’s feeling lenient now that his presidential campaign is going so well. Just when things were starting to get crazy, and I was worrying how I’d have enough time in the day, the stars were right again.

Two of my video projects got delayed – one a week, and the other a month. But it works out. Instead of having an extremely front loaded August, I now have an evenly spaced August and an evenly spaced September. I’ve picked up one, maybe two contracts to fill in the gaps in early August, and I’m definitely on track to meet my goals for the year. Contracts are getting signed, invoices are coming in, work will (eventually) make it to my portfolio for show-offsies.

I am impatient, as you all know, but I’ve already got half of my year end profit goal on the books, and the other half will probably come with my highly likely but still unsigned leads. Honestly, if I did not book another lead for the rest of the year, I would probably meet my goal. And it may have to reach that point. I have a couple of really big projects coming up. I have two clients who, assuming one actually hires me and the other continues hiring me, could theoretically supply 2/3 of next year’s goal alone. Dunno if I want all my eggs in that basket, but we’ll see how much time I will need for it all.

Paradisa is now with a professional copyeditor, the amazing Leona Wisoker. Leona and I met through AtomaCon and she loves diverse SFF and supporting female writers. I read her first book, Secret of the Sands, and thought she had the most wonderful writing style I’ve ever read and a perfect grasp on psychic distance. Plotwise, we couldn’t be more different – her book was an epic length, slow burn quest adventure while mine is very commercial, short, and very urgent. But I didn’t find that to be an important distinction in choosing her as my editor, because I’m fairly comfortable with my choices in how Paradisa is plotted. To say that much maligned phrase – it is what it is, and the audience will subjectively gravitate towards it or not. What I objectively needed help on is voice and narration and POV, and Leona has that stuff for days, ya’ll.

I’m also participating in #PitchWars! Which could really throw me for a loop if I actually get in, because all of a sudden we’ll have two very fast months of lots of Paradisa revisions (hopefully the copyedits will be here by the end of October, so I’d be able to add them into my #PitchWars revisions too). There are two mentors in particular who I think I’ll see eye to eye with, and two others that are a bit of a gamble. The likelihood of getting picked is low, but I’m hoping to at least get some feedback. I will probably upload my PitchWars bio sometime this week (maybe even today).

Everything else happens during the in between moments. I’ll cram Unreal training in there. I would like to get Devil’s Advocate uploaded to Film Freeway and start submitting it to some film festivals (one’s deadline is today, so I might still have some time…) I submitted to a pub today after an exclusive got rejected. On and on it goes.

Carving order out of chaos

Hey friends. These past six weeks have flown for me. I really don’t know what they all went to or where they flew, but whoops, it’s almost August and I feel lost in a cyclone of Things To Do.

So for the last week of July, I’m meditating on what I want the rest of the year to look like and how I can actually achieve that. My video business is by far my largest source of chaos. One day, my week looks free. The next, I’ve booked $2000 worth of clientele, another client has brought me revision requests on their project, and another wants a two hour coffee consult. Working for yourself really is feast or famine, and it’s especially stressful when 40 hours of your week is taken for a “real” job. And while I love that things are taking off, it is frustrating for my other pursuits, in that I set aside a block of time for something only to have it eaten by a business task.

Ya’ll know I’m all about schedules. So how do you schedule around unpredictability? How do you get things done when you’re basically on call for new work?

Well. I look at it like this – eventually, unpredictability becomes predictable. And over time, patterns emerge that I can exploit.

I have to stop thinking in routines. My last scheduling efforts utilized routines to do the same tasks every week, which eventually grew into habits. With the vast swathe of projects I’m being tasked with, I have to adopt a more “roll with the punches” schedule that tackles tasks as needed instead of on a set schedule. And looking into the future, it’s not terribly hard to do this.

I have one big video project coming up that will require at least one day of filming and a lot of editing. I’ve given myself a 4-5 week turnaround on the editing for it to be done. Looking ahead, I can already carve out time for this client and I will likely do it in blocks. Instead of devoting three hours every Tuesday to her project, and then getting more and more overwhelmed as the deadline approaches and other projects demand my time, I will likely devote every night for an entire week to her project, and hopefully keep the rest of the month open for my other tasks. It’s like playing Diner Dash!  You want to keep the counter clear and ready for the next order.

But how do I squeeze in stuff like novel writing and working on my Fallout series when I’m devoting huge blocks of time to clients? For some tasks, it means stretching them out over a longer period of time. I’m allowing myself until November to finish The Shadow of Saturn, which puts me at only 500-700 words per day to write. This is very manageable, even with a full client schedule. For the Fallout series, it means working in Unreal in long blocks of time when I don’t have client work filling it up, and delaying my initial proof-of-concept deadline from November to January.

It also means resigning myself to abandon some tasks. I have put my self publishing short fiction efforts on pause for now. I am not submitting 20 stories a month, but I do get out 5 or 6, depending on how fast the rejections come. I’m not doing any side hustles.

But the “binge working” method does seem to shape the rest of my year, as I am definitely planning on participating in NaNoWriMo this year, as well as the 3 Day Novel contest.  So maybe a few days of focus can create something great. We’ll just have to see, eh?

Better Luck Next Year

Well, the awards (or, most of them) are out for My Rode Reel, and sadly my film did not win or final in any of them. It was a tough contest, and the winners were definitely well deserved. Many of them had far more impressive gear kits, larger crews, and more experience, so it was hard to compete with that.

Still, for a film produced in 16 days from concept to final edit, with a budget of $0, I think we did a pretty good job :) The actors were awesome, Ahren Ciotti is a lighting god, Kristin and Austin were super helpful as my other crew members, and my friends were kind enough to come over and be extras. It’s nice to officially have a film under my belt – something that I can show people and say LOOK. I MADE THAT. I AM OFFICIALLY A FILMMAKER NOW! That’s a pretty big deal for me, as I’ve felt for a long time that I was just a filmmaker in spirit only. But it’s tangible now. I have a film. My career has officially begun! \o/

Thanks to all your support these past few weeks. The People’s Choice awards are still open, so you can still go vote if you’d like. We are ranked pretty far behind the leaders, and it’s a long shot that we would get up there, but hey – miracles happen :P

This isn’t the end for Devil’s Advocate, as I will submit it to a few horror film festivals in my region and see what happens! I also have some really ambitious plans for the contest next year too. But you’ll have to wait until March to see those ;D

Game of Thrones – Was My Prediction Score Right?

The Winds of Winter came, and holy cow, what a season! I definitely think Season 6 surpassed Season 5 in many ways, particularly with those epic final episodes. Beware of massive spoilers for last night’s episode below, along with spoilers for all of season 6, as I discuss my prediction scorecard from the first episode.

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An Epic Amount of Support for “Devil’s Advocate”

Last Friday, I asked something of you guys. I saw that my short film, Devil’s Advocate, was ranked in the top 20% of both the Horror and Overall categories, and I said, “Hey, that’s not bad. I wonder if we could do better.”

Guys, you did better than better. You did outstanding.

On Friday afternoon, we were at #42 in horror, #23 in Female Filmmakers, #245 overall, and I think #33 in science fiction. I tweeted, I Facebooked, I instagrammed. I pushed and pushed and kept everyone updated on the progress as our little film continued to rise in the rankings. It was astounding. My network is not huge. I have 200 WP followers. I have about 120 FB friends and 450 Twitter followers (99.9% of whom never talk to me). There was no way I was going to have a significant response.

But just when I thought we couldn’t go any farther, someone would RT me or reach out to their personal network. Another handful of people jumped on board. I have my real life friends to thank, along with the cast and crew of the film, but I have you guys to thank as well. Many of you liked my WP post, retweeted my calls to action, shared my links.

I kept saying that I wanted to be in the Top 16 for at least one category, because that would put us on the “Most Voted” front pages. Securing a spot there would hopefully give us enough exposure to boost us outside of our own personal networks.

As of now, we are #100 overall, and on the front pages for each Horror, Female Filmmakers, and Sci-Fi. Our current rankings for those categories are, respectively, #13, #10, and #10. We are on three front pages and in the top 100 for the overall competition. JEEPERS, GUYS. We also passed 300 views on Youtube, which Austin tells me is a bit of a “magic number” when it comes to getting found in the search results or related videos. I do notice us picking up a few dozen views every few hours without any promotion at all now.

The voting doesn’t end until July 4th, so we have a couple of weeks to maintain that lead.  Before, I thought becoming #1 in anything was impossible. Now, heck, it seems like it’s within reach! So next week, tell ya kids, tell ya wife, because we’re pushing it all over again until we hit #1. And in the meantime, if you can still continue to vote and tell your friends to vote. Kudos!




Short Film Update – We Need More Votes!

Your support has given Devil’s Advocate some awesome stats so far for #MyRodeReel. Here’s how we currently rank by votes:

  • OVERALL: #240 out of 1222 films (top 20%!)
  • SCIENCE FICTION: #33 out of 133 films (top 25%!)
  • FEMALE FILMMAKER: #23 out of 145 films (top 16%)
  • HORROR: #41 out of 208 films (top 20%!)

If we are in the Top 16 of any category, we will end up on the front page for that category. That would give us a lot more exposure and possibly more votes from strangers outside our personal networks :D So please visit this link to Devil’s Advocate at My Rode Reel 2016. You can vote with every Gmail address you’ve got, with your Facebook, and by making a RODE account. And then share it with everyone you know who likes horror, film, or women being filmmakers!

We probably aren’t going to make it to #1, but I know we can make it to the front page in at least one category. \o/ Additionally, the winner announcements start on June 29. We can vote all the way up to July 4th, I believe. Help make it happen for us, WP world!

Donate to Equality Orlando and get a query critique

I’m sure you’ve heard about the abysmal news from Orlando this weekend, in which the largest mass shooting in American history occurred at a gay night club. Over 100 people were killed or injured in the attack, and thousands are lining up to donate blood for those injured. In addition to donating blood, you can also donate to Equality Orlando, which will offset costs for the victims and families of the deceased.

You should donate anyway, but YA writer Phil Stamper is offering an extra donation incentive for writers. If you prove you’ve donated at least $5, Phil will provide a query critique within a week. The very popular #PitchWars contest is coming up, and Phil will help you get your query polished for the competition.

Since I’m in the query building stage, and I wanted to do my part in contributing to the Orlando relief efforts, I participated. If you have a query, even a rough one, I recommend you participate as well! Also of interest, Phil also offers really competitive editorial rates on his site in general. You can get a full developmental edit of your manuscript for only $400! He is an agented writer and the mod of a YA writers subreddit, so I think he will be a reliable source of information.

Let’s unite to fight hate, guys. Even if you don’t have a query, I hope you donate and spread the word.

This blog, it is a’changin’

Grab a towel and don’t panic – I’m not planning any massive divergence from the stuff my 200+ readers, followers, and friends have already come to expect. This blog has been and always will be a place where I can be myself, talk about my own journey, and express my opinions.

I’ve never claimed to be a blog for “writing advice”, as I strongly believe that we all have our own writing philosophies that work for us. It would be wise of me not to imprint my methods on other people, although I do like sharing what works for me in the hope that people can try it for themselves and see if it helps. Additionally, haven’t we ALL heard about showing and not telling? Haven’t we ALL heard about adverbs and dialogue tags by now?

However, I do update kind of sporadically, my blog is the opposite of SEO optimized, the theme needs a bit of a makeover, and I want to return to the targeted and opinionated content that got me a lot more interaction when I started this blog two (!) years ago. Like “Stop Whining About Book To Movie Adaptations” and “Can You Use Real People As Vectors For Characters?” None of this is advice – they’re conversation pieces meant to get the audience thinking topics that don’t get much attention, particularly from an unusual perspective. I have an inherently contrarian personality, and a background in film. Unlike most of the reading community, I don’t smell books, scorn movie adaptations, or feel that I’m better than people because I read.

So that’s all. I’m hoping to update a bit more frequently, and to target my posts with a question or topic in mind instead of just posting updates about my productivity/progress. I’d like to invite a bit more conversation here, and write stuff that people could perhaps reblog or share or link to with a firm “what she said!” or even an outraged, “who does this person think she is?!” Haha. As always, I’m inspired by whatever creative stage I’m going through, and at the moment it’s 1) finishing the final edits on Paradisa, 2) querying for the first time, 3) a bit more about filmmaking, and 4) trying to publish short fiction/write more short fiction.

TLDR – Same Aether House you love, only MORE! :D

A promising year for Paradisa?

Last year at ConCarolinas, I was given feedback on Paradisa’s opening that sent me into a year long spiral of self doubt. In this past year, I had to decide whether my style and POV choices needed to be modified. I had to decide if I was going to stick with present tense. I also had to figure out how to open my book in a realistic way, and how to reorient my plot to be fueled by character agency instead of relying on the characters to go along with my plans.

I am now on the other side of those choices. I have a manuscript that was well received by my second beta round and, in general, only requires a few more cosmetic upgrades before completion. I have decided to switch the book to past tense, in order to increase my marketability (and I really don’t miss it that much tbh). I also came to the conclusion that while the live slush readers were entitled to their opinions about voice and POV, I cannot force myself to write in a way that is unnatural to me. I asked my second round beta readers about whether the book is “deep enough” in the characters, and one actually said it was too deep. A couple of them said it was too shallow. Most said it was fine. So obviously psychic distance is a matter of taste and I’m not going to chase something unnatural to me just because it appears to be a trend. Deep POV annoys me. I’m sure it annoys other people. Those people are my audience.

I have not changed the opening to Paradisa much since October (although Millie Ho guided me to which line is my perfect opener, and it was a line that originally existed three paragraphs down the page.) I think editing it anymore at this point would be unwise, but I was still scared to have it reviewed by Legitimate Official Gatekeepers. It was my best effort, but that rarely is enough these days.

On Saturday morning at ConCarolinas, I saw that the slush reader for Baen Books was doing a very interactive and intimate face-to-face feedback session for submission packets later that day. He needed a synopsis and a cover letter, along with the first five pages. I had no synopsis or cover letter. Cue me writing like a mad person trying to summarize my book in two pages and give it a back cover blurb. If nothing else, this exercise forced me to create two very valuable pieces of a submission package that I can use later though.

At 4 PM, me and five others entered the room to face the slushmaster general. I didn’t really think of this as a pitch to Baen as much as a gauge of “will submitting my book to a place that takes 9-12 months to respond and doesn’t allow simultaneous submissions be worth it?” And also “are there glaring errors that I need to fix, because seriously, I wrote this blurb letter in 20 minutes of sweaty frenzy and no one has seen it before?” Baen, for those who don’t know, has published John Ringo, David Weber, Mercedes Lackey, Larry Correia, Catherine Asaro, Larry Niven, David Drake, and Tim Zahn. They are one of the smaller SFF presses, but their works have gone on to be nominated for Hugos and other awards. On the downside, their catalog contains the leader of the Sad Puppies, but there are Sad Puppy authors in pretty much every SFF publishing house. And Niven, Flint, and many of Baen’s other authors are far more progressive than I am, so they represent all stripes.

One by one, we brought up our packets. He read our letters aloud, and commented on their execution. He read the first five pages of everyone’s books until he reached a point of doubt/disinterest. When he hit that point, he would go to the synopsis and see if the story was going anywhere. A few times, based on these summaries, he commented that the participants did appear to have a story, but their opening started too early or had too much noise. He said that if he had the full, he might find a point in the synopsis where things kick off and start reading the manuscript again from there.

Honestly, he was one of the most generous slush readers I’ve ever heard of. Most agents offer a rejection if they aren’t captivated in the first line of a query. This guy gives the summary, the writing, and the synopsis a fair chance, and literally hunts for the story. He gives everyone a huge benefit of the doubt and treats manuscripts with great care. I respect that greatly, although I recognize that most agents or publishers will not be so thorough.

Still, out of the six of us, Paradisa was the only submission where he did not stop reading the manuscript pages until they said my time was up. He was engaged enough by the story that he didn’t feel the need to check out the synopsis. I was pretty stunned. Even though he was a nice man and a generous slush reader, he was still very honest with all of the participants. He pointed out areas of weak writing, of confusion, and even of things that annoyed him. He wasn’t sugarcoating things for the sake of it, which makes me feel like his very few words of critique against Paradisa may in fact mean something. Although I may have eventually lost his attention with the rest of the book, I haven’t done anything wrong yet.

I mustered up some courage and spoke to him one on one after the panel. We chatted a bit about what makes a book “a Baen book” and whether mine could fit that mold. It’s still a long shot, as I believe only three books from his slush have been published by Baen in the last eight years. I’m still not sure I will submit to them first, as their waiting period is so incredibly long. But it’s nice to know that I’m on the right track and have gotten the thumbs up from at least one pro. It’s given me the confidence to knock out Paradisa’s final edits this month and maybe start querying it in July.

As a footnote, I also participated in the same live slush panel as last year with the first page of The Shadow of Saturn. They had more positive things to say about it than they did about Paradisa. They just advised me to cut out a paragraph of some poorly paced exposition that didn’t serve the character. But they liked the opening paragraph, and that’s what I wanted to know the most. I wondered if I should open with a paragraph from my childhood, and they seemed to enjoy it, so we’re going with it!

2016 has been a great year so far. I’m stoked to have this renewed confidence in Paradisa, and to take the leap into publishing it. Maybe there’s an agent or publisher for me out there, after all.

My first publication is live!

In all the hubbub of my first film release this weekend (and you should VOTE! FLY MY PRETTIES, FLY :D), I forgot to mention that my first publication went live yesterday too!

The cool thing about Liquid Imagination is that they provide an illustration with every work. It was interesting to have someone conceptualize art based on the poem I wrote. I think Sue nailed it.

Check out my work, and everyone elses’s, here at Liquid Imagination.

(and if you listen to the narration, don’t tell me – I do not like my voice and I don’t know how to read poems lol).