Writing Excuses – the video feed

Out of Excuses from Bennett North on Vimeo.

I put together a lot of the footage I took on last year’s Writing Excuses Cruise and Retreat into a short (perhaps too short) film just so I would feel like I’d done something with the two hours of video I’d taken. During the process I discovered that a) I REALLY like time-lapse videos and b) I hadn’t recorded myself in any of it. So enjoy a lightning fast visit to the western Caribbean, only nine months late.

Oh, and as for that clip after the credits—I stuck it in there because I found it amusing, but in retrospect, I don’t think it’s clear what it really is. When we landed in the Bahamas, it was an idyllic setting with clear blue skies and turquoise waters and seagulls crying and palm trees swaying. Then I realized that all those seagull noises were actually being piped in over the speaker, either to add atmosphere or to scare away real birds or both.

I also was unable to include a couple clips of the Creepy Baby Room across the hall from my cabin. It was a door marked Employees Only, behind which came the constant, distant sound of babies screaming. On the last night, when I brought my camera to record the sound, there were no babies, but only the faintest noise of a music box lullaby. I like to imagine that those noises were also artificially piped in, perhaps to scare away real babies.

April showers bring face-melting pollen allergies

I tweeted about this a while ago but didn’t blog about it, so here: My short story, “Smooth Stones and Empty Bones,” is available in the Event Horizon 2017 anthology of authors eligible for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. You can download it for free up until mid-July. Check that whole thing out, because it’s 800 pages worth of awesome stuff. For FREE.

And more exciting news: I just sold a story about cannibal bandits in the weird west to Beneath Ceaseless Skies. You’ll be the first to know when I hear the actual publication date. Beneath Ceaseless Skies is SUCH a cool magazine, you guys.

So what else has been going on in my life? Mostly marshmallows. Marshmallows and head colds.

Marshmallow project

My Easter project: who knew that marshmallows were so messy?

I’m home sick for the second day in a row, and I guess at this point I have to admit that I’m actually sick and it’s not just pollen allergies, although to be honest it’s probably some combination of the two. I hate being out of work two days in a row but I’m at the nose-faucet stage of the cold and it’s just miserable to be in public with that, especially on a cold, rainy day like this.

I disassembled my standing desk setup and once again have a sitting desk. This feels a bit like a failure, since I really liked my standing desk and felt it was much better for my back. On the other hand, when you have as short an attention span as I do, the ability to walk away from your computer without a second thought really isn’t a bonus. Getting up from a desk throws a physical obstacle into the path between the twin thoughts of “Ugh writing is hard” and “Hey, what’s in the fridge?”

Daffodils

It’s stuff like this that’s making me a snot otter right now

Speaking of, it’s time to dose myself with hot chocolate and pseudoephedrine. And marshmallows, obviously. So, so many marshmallows.

Spring has sprung

JCSF logo

A friend of mine is organizing a steampunk festival in southeastern Massachusetts for Halloween weekend of this year. If you like steampunk, are free October 28th, and can make it to Attleboro, Massachusetts, I highly recommend you show up! It’s a free event and it’s shaping up to be a pretty awesome day. I’m on the board, but even if I weren’t, I would be all over this festival.

 

Groundswell album art small

I name my songs/albums based on whatever random word springs into my head when I’m saving the file.

Second bit of news: I’ve been playing around with making music and posting it to my Soundcloud page. I can’t remember if I’ve ever mentioned it on this blog before, but it’s a thing I do. I post new stuff up there every so often, and my most recent work, The Hunger, is my first piano composition. I’m quite proud of it. That one’s inspired by my current obsession, The Adventure Zone podcast, but all the others are just the result of noodling around in GarageBand.

 

 

 

Finally: I’ll be attending the Writing Excuses Workshop and Retreat again this year, since I couldn’t resist the lure of the Baltic Sea. I’m getting very excited about it. If you’ll be attending, let me know!

 

 

Resolutions and eligibility

Wait, am I eligible for anything this year? I am! Here is the incredibly short list of my award-eligible work:

“Smooth Stones and Empty Bones,” F&SF Jan/Feb 2016. This story was just listed in the Tangent Online Recommended Reading List for 2016.

Also, as this is my first year of being published, I am now eligible to be nominated for the John W. Campbell Award. If you were wondering.

Meanwhile: resolutions!

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Learning Paralysis

marydazzles
At the end of the Writing Excuses cruise, while we all mingled in Dazzles, drinking bellinis and rum punch and quietly envying the top ten attendees who had each written over ten thousand—and in some cases twenty thousand—words during the week, Mary Robinette Kowal got up on stage to talk to us about what was going to happen after the cruise. Don’t be surprised if you don’t write for quite some time after you leave, she said. The majority of people who leave this retreat don’t put hands to keyboard for weeks or months afterward. Writing is suddenly very hard.

The idea behind that was that now that you’ve been introduced to a whole bunch of new techniques and methods of writing and outlining, you’re paralyzed by trying to keep everything in your head at once. It’s like trying to drive for the first time after driver’s ed: your brain is so flooded with trying to remember to adjust the rear-view mirror and the driver’s seat and release the parking brake and put the car in drive and check both side mirrors and on and on that you sit there for a bit, unsure if you’ve remembered everything you need to remember before you can start to drive.

I didn’t think that was going to apply to me because I’m not exactly new to writing. Although the retreat was really helpful and I highly recommend it, I don’t think I heard anything *new* during any of the panels. Yet it’s been a couple weeks since I got back and I haven’t written a single word since the flight home.

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My rockin’ bridesmaid dress from Rent the Runway.

Okay, part of that is because what with my brother’s wedding immediately after the cruise, and then the flood upending my life and forcing me to live out of a suitcase while everything else I own is packed away in trash bags in the garage, I haven’t had a lot of opportunities. But since things have started to settle down, I haven’t been able to write a word. Even the story I started to write on the cruise has come to an abrupt standstill. Nothing feels right to me; every idea seems unoriginal. Every time I try to make myself sit down, my brain rebels against it. In related news, I’ve clocked over 140 hours in Fallout 4, 60 of those in the last couple weeks.

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The rehearsal dinner contained a surprise skeleton.

Am I using this convenient explanation as an excuse for my own laziness? Well, probably. I want to write. I just am having a lot of difficulty putting butt in chair (or whatever the equivalent expression is for a standing desk).

Nanowrimo starts in 12 days. This is going to be my fourteenth year doing it, so I can’t not do it. I need to get my act together in the next two weeks. The first step is probably going to be to take the batteries out of my Xbox controller and hide them, but after that, we’ll see.

WorldCon recap!

iron throne

Long may she reign.

Last Wednesday, I flew to Madison, WI, to meet up with Aimee Ogden so the two of us could undertake the 7 hour drive to Kansas City, MO. That meant I had to get up at 2:45 am for a 5:00 flight out of Boston, so I could get to Madison by 9:30 am, and subsequently get to Kansas City by 5:30 pm, when we had dinner plans.

Despite the tight schedule, Aimee agreed to a quick side trip to the World’s Largest Wooden Nickel, which is in Iowa City, IA, and was worth every minute.

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Cold Turkey Writer

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Scene from a recent trip to Newport, RI.

Here’s a thing you must do right now if you are easily distracted like me and can’t focus on writing:

Go to Cold Turkey Writer and download the app. It’s free, unless you like it enough that you want the pro version. What it does is, when you open the app, it opens to full screen, and you cannot quit or minimize it until you reach your wordcount/time limit. And that’s literally it. Either you write, or you don’t access your computer.

In the past I used apps like Self Control, which turned off my internet for a certain length of time (my default was 6 hours). Which was fine, and reduced distractions, except I tended to turn it on and then go do something else for 6 hours until the time expired. Great for doing things like laundry; not so much for getting words done. What’s great about Cold Turkey Writer is that I can’t use the internet, or anything else, until I write the words. And cut and paste doesn’t work, so I can’t just write a bit and then copy and paste it a bunch of times to quickly get to the goal. I have to write.

My routine right now has been to set it before I go to bed. That way I don’t get up in the morning and lounge around reading Twitter and Feedly until it’s time for work, and then get home from work and do the same until it’s time for bed. Instead, I don’t get access to any of those things until I reach my goal, and if I don’t reach my goal, welp—no internet for me.

So if you have problems with productivity, check it out. It might help.

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My only regret in taking this photo is that I didn’t see the unicycle owner ride up.

In other news, I’ve been rewatching the entirety of the Star Trek series. So far I’ve seen all 79 episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series, as well as the first 6 movies. In the past, I’d only ever seen Star Trek: Voyager, since it was airing on TV when I was growing up. (And fuck you with your “Oh my condolences.” I LIKED Voyager, okay?) I already knew the major plot points, but I wanted to see all of it. The television series is entertaining, if fluffy. The movies have been pretty good except for The Final Frontier, which was terrible. (Holy shit, who thought Kirk, Spock and McCoy singing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” around a campfire was a good idea?) I look forward to seeing the rest.