Thursday, September 26, 2013

Happy Autumn, All

Yay, it's officially autumn! That means the day is (usually) comfortable for me, temperature-wise, the pollen count usually isn't high at all…and my mother's miserable from her tree allergies and cold intolerance. (And when I say my mother's cold intolerant, she's cold intolerant. In pain and shivering in seventy-degree weather, even with socks, pants, sweater, and a blanket.)

One of these days, I'm going to get the pertinent allergy treatment from BioAllers for her, if I only thought she would take it… (But I've gotten her taking HistaBlock now, which helps. Success with the herbal remedies!)

So, now that most people who are doing school are in school, what am I up to, this autumn? I mean, other than work and whatever medical stuff that gets tossed my way?

  • Finishing A Fistful of Water.
  • The end is nigh, I can tell, but I'm still waiting to hit that little rush of words that tends to hit me at the very end. Not exactly looking forward to the revision stage—it's missing pieces, and some aren't quite right, but which pieces? Where? Ergh. Well, I'll cross that bridge when I get to it.

  • Finishing Twice Bold.
  • This is the sequel to Thrice Uncharmed. I've been intending to finish it for months, but it's like pulling taffy. Drafting the climax now, though, so Lord willing I'll have the entire first draft done by the end of the week.

  • Finishing the sequel to The Nymph and the Goblin.
  • It's proving to be a slaughtering of "Cinderella". It's actually kinda disturbing, and I don't know yet if it'll end well or badly.

  • Finishing a fanfic based on Hugh Howey's world of Wool.
  • I have to read the rest of the series, first, but Hugh Howey's Wool is part of the Kindle Worlds program, which is pretty much a system that lets derivative works be authorized for specific intellectual properties. Plan is to release that under the same name as Thrice Uncharmed.

  • Finishing Realities of Self-Editing, the book.
  • I've been sitting on that project, mostly done, for long enough that I'd forgotten about it. I remembered recently and have been dusting it off and resuming its cleanup.

  • Keep the About That Herb blog going, one post every other Monday.
  • Write the "How to Focus" guide promised to my one e-mail list.
  • Set up e-mail lists for my fiction, ideally giving folks the option to subscribe to all of it, to specific pennames, or specific story worlds.
  • Finish writing a planned project that students I know have been asking me for, for some years, now.

That sounds like a lot, but I expect it to be something like 100k words—which isn't really all that bad, over 3 months. It's very doable.

Now, to just break it down into pieces and do it, because I ideally also want to get well into drafting the sequel to Know Thy Frienemy by winter, maybe finish some of the half-done short stories sitting around.

Speaking of which, yesterday I found a nice new cross-platform timer (hush! I only have four…not including the physical ones). It has its flaws, like all do, but it's built on the Promodoro technique and lets you make a to-do list, estimate how many 25-minute increments it'll take to complete, then tracks how many it takes. I've not yet figured out how to handle when things get done mid-time increment, though—so far, I've only managed to reset things. So I'll be playing with it further today and seeing if I'm just tackling it wrong or if it doesn't have that functionality.

What are y'all up to, this autumn? Any writing goals?


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Information and How We Learn

I've mentioned, mostly in passing, that along with my freelance writing and editing and fantasy work, I tutor and write memorization guides.

The tutoring was kind of an accident. I was the kid who did well enough in school that friends asked me for help…and when others spotted that I was helping a friend, they'd open their own books and join in. A few schools I went to required students to tutor each other, and a few times, I even ended up teaching classes. Several students I helped regularly had various learning disabilities.

I also was one of those Bible verse memorizers in the Awana program. I was fast enough that the church I did it through refused to let me advance to the next level and kept finding me extra things to memorize, instead, and I ended up helping others in the group.

Add in that many of my family and friends have ADD, ADHD, and/or other learning disabilities…and I kinda started off helping the disadvantaged rather than the "normal" people.

So I have no formal education degree or any such thing. What I know, I learned from experience and practice.

But something I've noticed is that most people can learn better or more than they think they can. Either they don't know how they learn, or they fail to take advantage of their learning style. Sometimes they might even think their learning style can't apply to a particular situation.

Now, I realize that there's some debate about if learning styles even exist, but in my experience, they do. However, it is possible to train yourself to use a different learning style than your natural primary (unless you have some disability that keeps you from using a method). Due to that ability to retrain yourself, I believe learning styles are often more indicative of how we're used to processing information rather than how we must process information.

For example, I'm a visual learner from monochromatic typed words. I don't think that it's a coincidence that I also read a good 100 books per year, when I've kept track. I've therefore read a few thousand books—and I watch very few movies or TV shows, so my primary method of picking up information is from typed words. I rarely listen to things or look at pictures, so of course I'm not going to be the greatest with them…but I can memorize things I see in pictures, in color, or hear. It just takes a bit more effort—and the more I practice it, the easier it gets.

So, though you probably have a primary learning style, as well as a method that does you little good, your style can change over time.

This brings me to my tutoring. I was a good student, and I was efficient with my schoolwork. (Kinda had to be—but that's another story altogether. Short version: High school turned out to have more homework than college did.) When friends or people I chat with lament about having to do some type of homework, I often find myself giving tips…and then those people who I see again report that their grades improved. And tell me I need to write the darn tips down to share.

So the current memorization guides are my start to that. They just break down Jude and Psalms 1–6 into chunks that include review so a person can memorize them in a timely manner, including two articles that help the reader apply them properly. I want to do more, and to add further articles on things like "Memorization for the Visual Learner".

But it also occurs to me that, well, you might be interested or might have specific articles or memorization guides you'd like to see. So…

Do you have specific articles on learning or certain memorization guides you'd like? What do you think of learning styles? What do you think your primary learning style is?


P.S. Pollen count's lower, so I'm feeling a ton better. ^_^

E-mail lists require an address on the e-mails, so I've avoided running them. However, I just got a P.O. Box—which can legally be used instead—and am therefore getting started with e-mail lists!

The below list is for memorization guides.

I do plan to set up other ones, but I'm getting started one at a time, here, so I don't overbook myself. If the memorization guides interest you, feel free to sign up—but if they don't, don't. You can make suggestions without signing up. ^_^

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

When Your Body Betrays You

I had four migraines last week. I'm still having dizzy spells.

This is despite the feverfew and sunglasses and excessive use of antihistamine. I even have a very good idea what's been causing the migraines, since I also have had severe sinus pressure and the pollen count's on the high end. (Though not actually high, which has me realizing that 10-months-of-grass-pollen South Carolina likely isn't the best place for me to live. But that's another issue.)

On the bright side, a few other (unexpected but problematic) health things are now under control or stopped altogether by a single (fortunately inexpensive) medication. So that's nice.

The health stuff is a pain, literally and figuratively. It interferes with my life, giving me less time to get anything done, and I actually dropped and broke something on Saturday. I was probably slept a good % of my work hours, last week.

Time management. This is why I like timers, to catch me when I'm distracted.

But even then, I feel as if my to-do list is growing faster than I can get it done. It's temporary, I know, and everything will get done (just maybe not as quickly as I like), and it's doable, but I'm praying to God that I can be unusually efficient, today. Because it'll make my life a lot easier if I can tune out the raw throat and ears and occasional wobble of the room.

Again, doable, but I'm getting so frustrated about it that I'm having trouble doing it.

But the problems aren't even serious, really. Just a bunch of little things that affect my life and that I have to cope with.

And they can be coped with or treated. It's just a matter of figuring out that treatment. Pau d'arco, for example, is helping with the remaining allergies. (Just realized that I forgot to put some lemon juice in the last batch. I'll have to fix that.)

That puts me at an advantage over many people, and many writers have health problems that make it difficult to have other work. Poor Holly Lisle has essentially untreatable virtigo and migraines. Kristine Kathryn Rusch and her husband, Dean Wesley Smith, have health issues of their own.

In a sense, the nature of writing and other creative industries can suit those of us with unsteady health. It gives us the ability to flex with the bad days, while also giving us material and incentive to take advantage of on the good days.

But the thing about bad days…they really make you appreciate the good ones more. I suspect that Scripture writer Paul's "thorn in the flesh" (II Cor 12:7–9) is much of why he accomplished so much.

And to look at me, you often wouldn't even think me sick at all. Likely a mite strange, if you caught me at a time when I was wearing sunglasses indoors, but I look healthy. Enviably so, with how little I am (in bone, height, and weight). A good friend of mine has neurofibromitosis (NF), a condition that means a bunch of benign tumors are growing throughout her body. Another good friend knows her, knows she has NF, knows what NF is…and actually didn't realize that meant she had those tumors before I pointed it out. (Which cleared some things up.)

There are so many people with essentially "invisible" thorns in their flesh, where people ridicule them, call them lazy, harass them because they look fine. If you don't know what you're seeing. Or if you are looking at the wrong things.

(I have a fast metabolism, and one of my friends fights anorexia. Our "enviable" thinness is actually a bad sign. Fortunately, we know other people who are aware of that and comment when we've lost weight, so we can promptly seek to put it back on. There is a reason my MCs are often on the too-thin side…)

If you're such a person—or if you want to better understand such deceptively healthy-looking people, check out ButYouDon'tLookSick, a website and community developed by such people, for such people. Because we need support, sometimes.

(I'm so allergic to strawberries that I react just from trace amounts in the air. Sadly, many people can know but not actually realize that until they bring a strawberry salad somewhere I am and, without even seeing the strawberries, I'm promptly running out the door into the grass-filled outside (which I'm also highly allergic to, but better to risk a migraine than to be unable to breathe).

One benefit to attending a small church with a lot of folks with allergies: Enough people understand, know, and remember enough about my allergies to give me heads-up. ("Don't go downstairs to the potluck! I'll make you a plate. You can have taco, right, as long as I make sure there's no tomato?" [And don't ask me how these people remember. There are so many allergies in my small church, that if you make anything, at least one person in the church can't eat it. That includes the Communion bread.])

In any event, I try to look at it as evidence of how we're all different. God made me (and everyone else) the way He did for a reason. At least it gives me good fodder to mine when writing my stories, to try to make sure my characters have a variety of issues and strengths.

Are there health issues, visible or invisible, that you suffer from, fear, respect? Are you familiar with ButYouDon'tLookSick?


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Now Out: Know Thy Frienemy (and what that has to do with a new blog I've started)

"Know Thy Frienemy" by Misti Wolanski on Ganxy

I am so glad to finally have this book out there. Now to get to working on book 3, which is about 10% written, mostly because it opens with a scene I'd originally written while working on Destiny's Kiss, thinking it would open book 2, but no, not time for that yet.

Interested in the prequel, Destiny's Kiss? It's just started going up on Wattpad. Plan is for one chapter every Tuesday. If my math's right, the last post will go up the last week of January.

If you want to go ahead and get a copy of Destiny's Kiss, good for this week only, use the coupon code PU99L on Smashwords to get for $2.99 instead of $4.99 for this week only. (Sorry if that's not your preferred vendor, but the other major vendors don't make it easy to set up a coupon.)

The paperbacks for both books will soon be available, hopefully this month.

And then I'll be all done with Kickstarter fulfillments (assuming I get the last person's address), except for the item that can't be done until I write book 3.

Oh, that's going to be fun. Research-heavy, like these books tend to be, but fun.

Anybody know of any good resources on yurei mythology? I have a general overview of what they are, but I'll need more for book 3. Which is all the spoilers I'll give for that. ^_^

So… What does the release of Know Thy Frienemy have to do with the new blog I've started?

The blog is Visit it now for the full story of how I accidentally cured my own lung infection, a few years back.

Destiny of the Destiny Walker series works at an herb store, and she does things like chew on a willow twig for the painkiller. (Willow bark reputably has the same chemical in it as aspirin, albeit not nearly as distilled.)

In person, I frequently get told to start a blog to share what I know about kitchen remedies, so here we are. Shiny new blog, an as-yet undecided update schedule—every two weeks, maybe—which includes a "Recommendations" page for where you can get bulk ingredients, based on suppliers I've either used or chatted with those who use it.

Eventually, I'll get to putting together a blogroll for the site that includes such sites as Crunchy Betty. And the site appearance will get a makeover at some point, but it's functional for now.

And I think my readers will enjoy where I'm headed*.

*Speaking of where I'm headed, I've not forgotten about my question regarding free will. It's just taking me a while to mold my thoughts on the matter into something coherent, because there seem to be some differing definitions of terms involved.

Are you interested in the Destiny Walker series or in the herb blog? Both? Why or why not? Have any pertinent links/stories/anecdotes to share?


Thursday, September 5, 2013

This Is Why Some Authors Don't Read Their Reviews

Know Thy Frienemy, the sequel to Destiny's Kiss, will release on Tuesday (9/10)!

First, please excuse me while I swallow hard, then smack myself upside the head because I have little left to do for both the e-book and the print book, so my urge to run around screaming like a chicken with her head cut off is a distinct overreaction.

But this is intimidating. It's a sequel. In a series that is fairly disturbing—the narrator, Destiny, is a Christian teenaged modern-day slave—and she's not right, emotionally, to the point that even she notices, and she's been through some terrible things.

From the early review on Goodreads, that's come through clearly, but I'm kind of chewing my nails now because that review demonstrates that a particular pertinent detail that unreliable narrator Destiny doesn't realize will be missed by at least some readers. I knew that would happen, but seeing it in a review? The very first review?

I'm not now suddenly thinking the story is terrible. It isn't. I'm more concerned that I'm still not targeting my ideal audience properly and that readers won't want to put up with further books in the series until certain details will make more sense.

But we'll see what happens. The former (a failure to properly ID audience) is far more likely than the latter. The reviewer did call Destiny "passive", when she's "reactionary"—which is, well, her, right now.

The novels' standard price is $4.99 US. I'm considering temporarily dropping the price on book 1 when book 2 releases, and I'm also considering posting book 1 on Wattpad, but I've not decided yet. In any event, if you're curious to look into them further, I've embedded the Ganxy showcases below, which should automatically update as further links and such are added.

"Destiny's Kiss" by Misti Wolanski on Ganxy
"Know Thy Frienemy" by Misti Wolanski on Ganxy

In any event that "Oh, no!" feeling is why some writers don't read their reviews. They freak out and think things are absolutely, positively terrible

I admit, I'm not immune to that particular soul-sucking feeling, but I do endeavor to tackle it and squash it with logic until it goes slinking off to bother someone else. A benefit to having a hormone disorder, I presume—I'm used to handling mood swings that happen for no reason other than my body decided to make a little extra something at an inopportune time. (Yes, it's as annoying as it sounds. I don't even like bawling with cause, but bawling for no reason whatsoever?)

And when logic isn't helping? I go read reviews of some books I enjoyed that use some unpopular techniques, like Sunshine by Robin McKinley (or anything by her, really—her stories always seem to meander through the plot in a way some readers loathe) and Hart's Hope by Orson Scott Card (which is dark fantasy in an intentionally archaic style, which has gotten lambasted for violating the "rule" "Show; Don't tell").

*rolls eyes* They're rules of thumb, not rules. ^_^ I feel better already, just remembering those.

Even when a story is precisely what it's supposed to be, folks will dislike it, complain, and make assumptions about the author's writing ability and what they were aiming for. One of my better-selling short stories at the moment received two 1-star reviews from folks bewildered by it before it got a 5-star from someone directly in the target audience.

And then there's the review on Thrice Uncharmed, which politely pointed out that it could've been expanded more on the themes and climax. That reviewer's right—it could've been—but I chose not to on purpose. Maybe that reviewer would've enjoyed it more had I expanded it, but maybe he just thinks he would've. *shrug* It is what it is.

And really, all writing "is what it is".

And Seanan McGuire just had a new book come out this week in her October Daye series! Yay! Like unreliable narrator urban fantasy? Go check it out! It's probably even at the library. ^_^

Do you have any fun reviews, comments, or new releases to share?


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