Happy New Year 2018

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What’s that, you say? It’s not even October yet? No, you must be mistaken. 2017 was a terrible year and, on my friend Aimee‘s advice, I’ve decided it’s over. Let 2018 be marginally better.

2017 was a bad year for many, many, many, MANY reasons, both local and global. In my personal sphere, my cat, who had lived with me for 19 years, was given two months to live in March. She died in May. In July, my childhood best friend, who was three months younger than me and whose triumph over leukemia was short-lived, died suddenly just a day before starting her next round of chemo. In early August, my uncle who I love very much and who I’ve been closest to of all my aunts and uncles, was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He is in hospice and has perhaps a few days left. I said goodbye to him today.

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I concur.

So yeah, I’m done with 2017, and given everything, I’m sure you’re done with it too.

Let’s see. What are my new year’s resolutions? I had a shorter time this year to achieve my goals than in previous years, but that’s okay. Let’s be real, I wasn’t going to reach my goals anyway. Here were last year’s goals:

  • Write an average of 500 words a day (for real this time)—Haha no, I didn’t achieve this. This is hard to judge, since I’ve stopped keeping track of my daily word count, but looking at what short stories I’ve finished, I’ve written a total of roughly… 34,200 words? I’m pretty sure I’ve written more than that, but not a lot more, so let’s round it up to 35,000. Divided by the 260 days of 2017, that makes about 135 words per day. That’s miserable, but a lot of my annual word count comes during Nanowrimo and oddly 2017 didn’t seem to have one of those, so I’ll cut myself some slack.
  • Finish and polish all 37 short stories that I started this year—Noooope.  I finished two of the 37 short stories. However, one of those turned into a novella, and I’ve picked away at a number of them, and I started a couple fresh new short stories. AND I sold two short stories, so that’s pretty decent.
  • If I don’t blog more often than 2016, at least don’t blog less—I wrote 19 blog posts in 2016. This posts makes an even 10 in 2017. So, goal failed.
  • Average of 7,500 steps per day—I stopped wearing my fitbit at some point because the band is uncomfortable, but I can tell you I did not walk nearly enough to reach this. I am a sedentary person.
  • ONE PULL UP. JUST ONE.—No.
  • Draw more often. At least once a month?—I did not draw once a month, but I did a little bit of drawing, and I also started a new hobby of composing music, so I’ll count that as a win.
  • Finish that cross stitch project from last year—Ok, technically I did achieve this one. I just need to fix one thing on it though, so that’ll probably take me another year. And I started a new cross stitch project that I have not yet finished.
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The MBMBAM show was one of the highlights of the short-lived 2017.

GOALS FOR 2018:

  • Write a novel during at least one of the two Nanowrimos that 2018 is projected to have, assuming 2018 doesn’t go poorly and there’s another schedule change.
  • Finish 5 short stories. Ideally more, but at least 5.
  • Compose more music. Say 5 more songs, just to quantify it.
  • Get a Y membership and start taking classes again. There’s no joiner’s fee this month, and I’ve been holding off because I’m morally opposed to the joiner’s fee and also I’m very lazy, but now I have no excuse.
  • Start rock climbing again, once I start getting active.
  • Start jogging again.
  • A SINGLE PULL UP.
  • Ideally I would say “sell at least one short story” but that’s not within my power, so instead I’ll say my goal is to make sure to have at least one story out on submission at all times. Don’t let that ball drop.

There. My goals are in place. Happy New Year, everyone!

 

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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.

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.

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.

 

Decreasing distractions

I just registered for World Con/MidAmeriCon II! The hotel blocks were released Monday, so I registered and got my flight. I’ll be flying out to my friend Aimee Ogden‘s place, then road tripping it the seven hours to Kansas City, MO. We’re going to be driving through a LOT of farm land. I hope we can stop and see the World’s Largest Wooden Nickel or the Gas Station Jesus or something along the way. Aimee is really going to regret letting me road trip with her when she sees my list of kitschy roadside attractions that I want to visit.

 

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Seven straight hours of this

 

This week’s Writing Excuses was about getting in the frame of mind to write. That’s something I’ve been thinking of a lot recently because I have the attention span of a squirrel, and the siren song of my Xbox is strong. Mary said she’s started meditating, which actually sounds like it might work for me. Howard pointed out that it’s easy to keep writing regularly if you write regularly, and very easy to skip writing if you’ve already skipped writing once. Dan suggested ending each day’s writing session in the middle of a chapter so that you can pick it up easily again the next day. I’ve tried that, and it works, but my problem right now is focusing my brain for more than a sentence at a time. Every time I open up a document, I start thinking of all the other things I could be doing. Or I notice that my chair is uncomfortable and I decide to move to a better location. Or I realize that I really want some music right now, so I have to find some headphones. Or maybe I could use a coffee. Is it lunch time yet? What about snack time? Hey, has anyone said anything interesting on Twitter in the last five minutes?

 

Typically what I do when I need to get some writing done is use the app Self Control (It’s Mac only but there are others that do similar things). It turns off my access to the internet, or it blocks specific sites, depending on whether I set a whitelist or a blacklist. There’s absolutely nothing you can do to stop it until the timer runs out. This is fabulous for me, except that every time I turn it on, I start to think about all the laundry I need to do, or that closet organizing project I abandoned a month or two ago. Plus there’s that Xbox again, over which Self Control has no power.

 

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Then there’s the return trip

I’m getting a new computer soon, since my buggy old laptop has started crashing just about daily now. I’m considering setting up two accounts on the new computer, one for writing and being productive, the other for gaming and slacking off. Perhaps switching between two accounts will help me keep my brain organized. At the very least, it’ll put another road block in the way of me jumping on Tumblr the first time my mind starts to wander.

Anyone have any suggestions?

Halfway through Nanowrimo

My novel in its natural state

My novel in its natural state

I thought I’d be past the tough part of Nanowrimo by this point. I really did. I think the only time I’ve had such a difficult time was in 2006, when I was writing the second half of a novel I’d started the year before and slowly discovered that there wasn’t enough novel left to fill another Nanowrimo. This time, I still have more plot to get to, but I’m being derailed by plot hole after plot hole. I’m still chugging along, but it’s going to get really hard once my outlined plot ends.

One thing that is helping me get through Nanowrimo is my complete lack of a console that would play Fallout 4. For now I’ll have to content myself with Fallout Shelter. Is anyone still playing that anymore?

#PitchWars mentee bio

Hi there, Pitch Wars mentor! Welcome to my blog. I know that everyone involved in this really likes gifs, so let me say that again in gif form:

And I love you

I’m Bennett. I live in or near Providence, Rhode Island, depending on when you ask me. I work from home, which right now involves a lot of home maintenance projects, but I do some writing in there as well. I just sold a short story to Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine, which should be coming out within the next few months.

A lot of what I write is on the darker side of fantasy and science fiction, with a bit of humor mixed in. It’s mostly novel length stuff, though occasionally I’ll write a short story or two. The novel I’ve submitted for Pitch Wars is science fiction, and I’m really excited about it. I hope you are too.

Science!

I’m in the middle of reading Seveneves by Neal Stephenson right now. I’m also in the middle of reading The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, because I just can’t read one book at a time. Some of my favorite authors include China Mieville, Chuck Wendig and Mira Grant. Next on my reading list is…well, I got a whole stack of books at Necon when I went last month so I have a lot to choose from.

I just really wanted to use this gif.

I just really wanted to use this gif.

When I’m not writing, I’m rock climbing, taking photos, drawing or playing video games. I occasionally review video games on my blog. Rarely, I’ll post art. I don’t watch very much tv anymore, preferring to binge watch entire seasons on Netflix when they come out. The one show I still watch religiously is The Walking Dead. It has its problems, but it’s a guilty pleasure of mine.

I don’t have a lot of appropriate gifs for this

I don’t have a lot of appropriate gifs for this post

So that’s about it! I hope you enjoy reading my first chapter. I feel that this novel is just on the edge, and with your help, we can make it great. I know there’s a lot of applicants, though, and your choice is going to be really tough, so good luck!

5th element bye bye