Write a little, write a lot

First, I careened through a 2,500 word goal in a day. Mostly because that number took my overall word counts to tidy, delightful milestones on the last day of September. The novel now sits at just over 50,000 words, and also marked 85k for the entirety of 2014. This hasn’t been the easiest year to write through with the various ups and downs, but I’m still trucking along and can make my final aims if I push hard through the coming months. I don’t enjoy deadlines, but I do like a challenge.

Then on the tail of stubbornly plodding to that target, I blazed through writing a complete 2,600 word short story in two days. I declared it both a happy story, and spur-of-the-moment, but neither description is entirely accurate. The themes are, in my mind, much happier than a lot of what I otherwise write, but it’s a nostalgic and somewhat heart wrenching tale. I know this, because everyone to read the story thus far has informed me they were tearful by the end, and in one case, cried in public. (Haha. Teach you for beta reading my work at a café, M.)

The story has also been bubbling away at the back of my mind for a very long time, all because I promised a friend I would write a happy story one day. It’s taken somewhere in the vicinity of a year for me to reach this mournful answer to writing a piece not based on horror or darkness, nothing evil, just something very, very human. While I had let the idea germinate long before, I didn’t expect it to fall out, nicely whole, when a single additional incentive to write it immediately was added to the mix.

I found a place to submit the story, which I’m grateful for twofold: it gave me the final push which brought the short to completion, and also provides a prospective home for my bundle of words. My novels are my main work, but the amazing connections I’ve found through having shorter work published is an invaluable element of the experience. Those friends don’t know how much their presence and positivity serves to hold my hand when I silently worry I’m not big and vivacious enough to find a larger readership or propel my career where I want it to be. They are quiet support against a doubtful mind, not just when they share appreciation for my work, but by their companionship throughout. So I deeply value every opportunity I have to try and get more of my shorter work picked up.

I know I have a long way to go. Every extra word written is inching me closer to that purpose.

~A

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The mysteries of this author’s mind

I had a great question the other day from a guy at work. He knows I’m a writer, with my first novel coming out soon, and wanted to know if I’ve got any new writing in the works at the moment. My answer was, Yes, I’m in the middle of drafting three stories.

He gave me a surprised look and confirmed, Three?

That’s right, three separate books concurrently written. A prequel, a sequel, and something completely different to keep things exciting. To that, he wanted to know how I don’t get them all tangled up and confused with one another. Therein is the interesting quality of being me, and writing the things I do.

My explanation was something to the effect of, I spend most of my time thinking about these characters and their situations. They’re like friends. Just as a normal person probably wouldn’t mistake one friend’s life with another, I can keep track of the people in three different books at the same time.

I didn’t mention that I’m actively reading two novels and a bunch of short stories by other people as well.

From the perspective of someone who doesn’t write, this concept seemed especially amazing. I know a whole lot of authors would also agree. Myself, I just don’t struggle to identify each character, and even if I need a refresher, I have a lot of notes. I’m kind of obsessive with note taking these days. Even though I can follow the lives of half a dozen main characters and twice as many minor characters doesn’t mean my memory is any good. I’m in their worlds so often that there isn’t anything terribly confusing about it, not at the drafting stage.

I might disagree when it comes time to edit.

~A

Year One

Thursday was my first year blogging anniversary! I should have made a big deal out of it (more than just this update, I mean), but with only updating once a week and not commenting on other blogs lately, I almost feel like I’m not even part of the same thing I started with!

It’s been a full and enlightening year, though. Even if I’ve fallen off the face of the internet in recent times! I’ve made some of the best friends I’ve ever had through blogs, met too many brilliant folks, and learn so, so much.

In June of last year, I got properly started on working on The Damning Moths Anecdota. Not long after, in July, I got my first publication acceptance for the Surviving the End anthology and began meeting great editors, authors, and other fans of my co-authors. August was a month of difficulty with illness and the death of my cat Chichiri late in the month, which I still feel with a great sense of loss.

September and October I got right back into crochet and made an assortment of baby beanies, blankets, and started plenty of other pieces. To be honest, some of those still aren’t finished, primarily because I dislike stitching together squares into a whole blanket (and on that note, I only recently discovered a technique I actually enjoy, so expect a lot of finished crochet blanket photos soon!).

November saw my fifth wedding anniversary, preoders open for Surviving the End, my birthday, and yet another book signing with my favourite author, Matthew Reilly. Lots of editing. Lots of family interaction. With December, it’s always busy, and the absurd summer weather makes me sluggish and I kind of feel like I didn’t do anything significant through to February.

When March rolled around, I got right back into writing work and making big plans for my authorly future. I had my first ever photoshoot, which was so much fun and had brilliant results. Through April, and now into May, I’ve been working, learning, and trying to apply a whole lot of ideas to a whole lot of things all at once. Hence, becoming very quiet online.

My first year of blogging has been great, and I’m hoping there’s even more ahead for me in the coming year! Publishing, creating, sharing, and keeping in touch with wonderful people. Thanks for joining me! It wouldn’t be the same without you all.

~A

Exploration

Easter was not meant to be spent holed up in a writing cave. After two excellent days hanging out with our best buddies, I was dragged out of the house once again by the father and the husband to go trekking around the bush. We went to one of the many National Parks in Western Australia, surrounded by gorgeous forest, and scrambling up to the top of a granite mountain. Mountain, in this instance, is a relative term.

The part I love most about climbing up the granite in WA is how the alien lichens, mosses, and odd little rock plants sprout up and fill the depressions in the stone with a miniature forest of its own.

All throughout the bush and forest were giant orb weaver spiders. Their webs spanned several feet in some instances! We were graced by the company of an echidna, though he must’ve been pretty weirded out by us walking through his land, because he stuffed his snout under a rock and wouldn’t move.

Here’s an artistic rendition of the video the husband took, largely featuring me walking as we came down from the top of the mount.

~A

Chirpa-chirpa, cheep-cheep

Half of you already know I took the Twitter plunge. You’ll be aware because I found you and Followed you. Doesn’t that sound outrageously stalkerish? Yes, yes it does. Stalk me back! I mean, Follow me! Whatever! I don’t understand Twitter!

@Ashlee_Sch

My experience so far has been to feverishly track down as many people as I could think to, which probably means I missed more than half the people I should have discovered. I realised I should also change the accessibility of my contact information here on my blog, because I went through my Favourite Reads list and started clicking madly away at everyone’s Twitter buttons – right on the front page of their blog. So, there I have one valuable lesson from joining Twitter. Be more accessible.

I have Followed a couple of other people who I admire, and Followed back lovely folks who have, somehow, inexplicably, found me. I suspect some of my lovely friends may have directed some of these folks in my direction, which is definitely exciting! I have had numerous inappropriate spambot type Twitter accounts Follow me, and I have rather perversely enjoyed reporting their spam as I block them. It’s the web administrator in me (over a decade of experience) taking a gleeful approach to cleaning up the website.

I think I’ve figured out some other minor things. The page is minimal, so I didn’t really bring assumptions about what I could and couldn’t do on the site, so it’s all kind of a matter of exploration for me. I know how to reply to Tweets, and re-Tweet important messages. Re-Tweeting exciting news makes me pretty happy. I also discovered I can search for myself, to see who else is talking about/to me, and search hashtags if I want to see other people’s opinions on the searched topics.

On the subject of hashtags, if you’re my Facebook Friend, you may have seen an update I made on Sunday:

I used my first real hashtags on Twitter today. That’s not supposed to feel like an accomplishment.

Yes, that’s a pretty good summary of my time on Twitter. Somehow, this simplistic little network site manages to provide me with a false sense of accomplishment when I do something new. The novelty will pass, I promise. Until then, let’s Tweet together! I still don’t understand it, but that’s okay!

~A

How to have an excellent day

Step one: Make snacks.

In this instance, I cooked up one of my staple foods, the ever-delicious tuna, avocado and cucumber sushi! Surprisingly, sushi is one of those foods which seems like a chore, but turns out to be ridiculously easy to make, tastes extra fresh and you can tweak it to your own subtle flavours so easily. To illustrate this point, here’s my “recipe” for sushi. Keep in mind, you will need some kind of bamboo rolling mat, or similar, to shape the sushi into the nice rolls.

1 cup of sushi rice
2 sheets of nori/seaweed
1 cup of water (I actually use a LITTLE over a cup)
1 tablespoon of sushi vinegar
1 small can of tuna, around 90grams (in olive oil, from preference)
1 tablespoon of mayonnaise (whole egg, again preference)
1 Lebanese cucumber (or part of a continental cucumber)
Half an avocado

Rinse the rice in a strainer/colander until the water runs clear. Put the rice into a medium pot with the cup of water, turn your stove on high until boiling; cover and reduce heat to the lowest setting/simmer for 10 minutes. After the 10 minutes is up, remove from heat and leave resting for a further 15 minutes. IMPORTANT: Do not lift the lid from your pot until after the full 25 minutes has elapsed! The steam that’s going on inside the pot is cooking your rice to perfection!

While the rice is cooking, drain the tuna and mix well with the mayonnaise. It will form a slightly sticky mixture and be very delicious. Slice your avocado, and cucumber into long strips; remove the seeds from the cucumber. Some people will scoop/scrap the seeds out with a spoon, but I simply cut the cucumber length-ways into quarters, then run the knife at an angle to cut away the seeds, then cut the cucumber to my desired thickness.

When the rice is all done, empty it out of the saucepan into a heavy bowl. I use a ceramic mixing bowl, but it would be traditional to use a specially shaped bamboo bowl; anything will do, really. Sprinkle the sushi vinegar over the rice, and using a bamboo or wooden spoon, turn the vinegar through using a folding and cutting motion. This keeps the rice grains from breaking up. You’ll want the rice to cool down; I usually just toss it into the fridge for a couple of minutes and fold it again, or use a hand-fan to cool while mixing.

The instructions for actually “building” the sushi roll are far better explained through image or instructional video. I won’t go into length about the hows of it, but simply put, nori, rice, fillings, roll! I set the whole sushi roll aside in the fridge (while I make the others, usually), because the nori softens and seals the roll when resting, and as the rice gets colder, it sticks together firmer and that makes it easier to cut.

I’m no expect on sushi, but my “technique” is quick, easy, and then I get to nom a whole pile of sushi. Which brings me to step two of having an excellent day!

Step two: Take snacks, visit friend, enjoy!

~A

Six month blog-o-versary!

Yessir. Way back on May 17th, I got the mad idea to start blogging in earnest. Look where that’s brought me!

I guess this, coupled with my previous post about half ways, is a great time to take a look back over the last six months and what they mean to me…

I’ve met some AMAZING people through blogging and writing in general, and I cannot thank you all enough for being so bright, supportive, funny and intelligent. I love reading your blogs, your comments, and knowing that you’re following along with my funny little journey through life. Hooray for all of you!

To that end, I guest blogged a couple of times, but I’ve been especially lazy about doing more of that since June. I have ideas! I just haven’t put forward any of my proposals to the blogs I’m eyeing off.

I received my first fiction publication contract in July. It’s a modest piece, but it’s a huge step for me. Having something creative accepted and coming out in an awesome physical book is so very different than the non-fiction I’ve previously had published. They cannot compare. Any time I think about my story coming out in April, I still get so excited! It’s only a few short months to go, really. What’s that compared to my to-date lifetime of writing?

Toward the end of July, I completed the full first draft of a novella. I had never intentionally written a novella before, and it was a very different experience to writing a short story or a full novel. August and September swirl together in some kind of terrible hole; one of my lovely cats died, and I caught what was probably swine flu. Bleh. October brought about a rush of creativity in both writing and crocheting, then I got right into editing my novella.

And now? Well, I’m meant to be finishing up that edit, but I got carried away with another little piece today. It’s pretty awesome. I just need to find it a home! I think I know where I’ll submit it, at least to begin with. I’ve even had two of my betas read it already, and they gave thumbs up all around! Awesome!

So. Six months of serious blogging, and I think I can say it’s been successful for me – after all, I’m still doing it! I’ve gotten to say a lot of things, meet great people, and generally share lots of interesting things in my life. That’s an experience I’ve enjoyed, and will continue with. Thanks for being here with me!

~A