May 7, 2016

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Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?

Yes, it’s another blog post inspired by Hamilton. It’s probably not going to be the kind of post you expect.

City Metro Rail,motion blur

I’ve been resistant about getting into Hamilton because frankly I couldn’t see the attraction. I get that the Founding Fathers are revered, almost mythologized, figures in American history but for an outsider they’re just another set of historical characters. I’m generally a fan of the Rock Opera genre and I’ve been growing more and more curious about just why exactly it’s such a huge success among all my American friends. But it took Melanie Meadors’s post What the Geek Is Up With Hamilton: An American Musical? to actually move me to listen to it. Two hours and twenty two minutes later I was a weeping mess. The hours and twenty three minutes later I started over. That minute in between was getting another bag of tissues (we don’t use boxes for tissues in Finland) and a hug from my partner. I’ve been obsessed about it ever since.

But I’m not going to write another analysis of Hamilton, there have already been enough of those and I’m not nearly smart enough to top the people who’ve written them. Instead, what I want to talk about is the end. This is where it gets spoilery for the people people who might be concerned about the thing. But since it’s based in history, I don’t have a problem saying that Hamilton dies at 49, shot in a duel. The following number (and don’t worry, I’m not going into details) asks the things that so utterly destroyed me:

But when you’re gone, who remembers your name?
Who keeps your flame?
Who tells your story?

Let’s face it, we’re none of us getting out of here alive and I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone who doesn’t at least want to be thought of kindly after they pass. I don’t know about you (I can guess, though) but I want to leave a legacy of some sort before I die. And holy fuck does that sound pompous as all get out but there’s really no other way to put it. I will never have children so my legacy will have to be in the things I create during my all-too brief time on this Earth.


I wake up at five on weekdays because that’s the only way for me to write with my day job. A lot of people tell me that I’m mad for doing that. And I don’t begrudge them that. I would have told myself that I’m mad for doing that only a year or two ago. I am not, nor have I ever been, a morning person. I don’t think that’s likely to ever change. Whenever I get the chance, I stay up till 2 or 3 AM then sleep at least until noon. If I have breakfast by 3 PM, I consider the day a win.

But the thing is, my clock is ticking. I turned 35 this year. The current life expectation for women in Finland is 83 years. Given the fact that there’s been a lot of cancer in my general family tree, I’m unlikely to live even that long. But let’s say I live till 83. That leaves me 48 years to create something worth remembering. And that sounds like such a long time. But lately it’s not just the days that keep flying by, it’s weeks and even months. It takes me about a year at this point to write a novel. So, optimistically speaking, that’d be 46 books in my lifetime, publishing is a slow machinery after all. And maybe that’s enough. I don’t know. I hope so.

I’m running out of time. I’m running, and my time’s up
Wise up. Eyes up

I don’t know who’ll tell my story. But at the end of the day, I’d like to have a story worth telling.

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Apr 3, 2016

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Just do it

Runner

Runner by Garry Knight

Earlier this week I did something that is either a humongous mistake or one of the best decisions I’ve made my in my entire life. The sad thing is there’s really not much wiggle room between them. I signed up for my first 10 km run. September. The thing that might make it a humongous mistake is the fact that I am massively overweight and very possibly in the worst shape of my entire life. This is not an exaggeration, this is knowing the fact that I can’t even walk for more than 30 minutes straight. Let alone finish an entire 10 km by foot or even by crawling.

But I have also started training. I’ve done a whole two sets of walking for 25 minutes. Right now my pace is such that it will take me just over two hours and ten minutes to finish the entire 10k. If I could keep the pace up for the entire time. Which I can’t. The goal is to be able to run, or more likely walk, the entire 10k in 80 minutes by September.

I’m going to at least try to be smart about this. I’ve looked up various workout plan. Most of the couch to 10k type training starts with the assumption that you are able to walk briskly for 30 to 40 minutes at a time. This is not my idea of “couch”, by the way. So I swallowed my pride and started looking for training programs for obese people. And I actually found one that seems like it would work.

I have this bad habit of deciding every spring that this is the year that I’m going to get in shape, this is the year that I start running again. I always start with one of these training programs that claim to help you get from flab to fab in a sensible way. And every year I inevitably injure myself. I pull a muscle or get a stress fracture or just plain overwork myself, trying to keep up with the program. As embarrassing as it is to even think about, I’m going to have to accept the fact that I need to train myself before I can even think about starting one of these training programs. I’m actually planning to finish this race. And I don’t want to injure myself doing it.

This is me, leaving for my first training session. The very epitome of your typical runner, eh?

This is me, leaving for my first training session. The very epitome of your typical runner, eh?

I started working for a new company in October. My current employer is very invested in workers feeling good in general. There’s lots of social activity for everyone and that includes exercise. On Tuesday, after lunch, we all got an email informing us, that the company is once more sponsoring people wanting to sign up for Helsinki Midnight Run. It arrived at a weak moment when I was already considering doing something along those lines. And I somehow found myself signing up for it.

I look nothing like a runner, and maybe I never will. That doesn’t stop me from doing it, though. I’m using RunKeeper to track my progress, mostly because I like their interface, but also a little bit because my friend Steve works at RunKeeper and I’m biased toward anything my friends are working on. I even got a month of their subscription service to see if there’s some benefit to that. Right now the app doesn’t have enough data for me to say one way or the other. At some point, I’ll most likely getting back to Zombies, Run! just to keep myself entertained. I’ve recently also gotten into using Dragon Naturally Speaking and they have a pretty good app for dictating while out and about, so no doubt quite a few blog posts and possibly some stories will get dictated while I’m doing the thing. In fact, most of this post was dictated while walking.

I’m doing this thing. Is there something you’ve been thinking about doing? What’s stopping you?

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Jan 16, 2016

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My weird addiction

Man Hand writing "A goal without a plan is just a wish" black marker on visual screen. Business, technology, internet concept.I must warn you; this post is highly embarrassing. You may feel the need to look away. Please, do take care of your own mental well-being.

I am completely addicted to self-help books. And to be honest, it doesn’t really make all that much sense. I’ve always been someone who laughs at claims of miracles, the first to distrust things that feel too easy. So what on Earth keeps on possessing me into buying and reading book after book telling me that I too can unlock my hidden potential?

To be clear, I’m not really one of the people who believe in The Secret. I think everything worth achieving will by necessity take a lot of work. If it wasn’t hard to do, everyone would be doing it.

On the other hand, I’m getting up at around 05:00 on most weekdays because of Hal Elrod’s Miracle Morning. I’m writing my 750 words in morning pages every day because of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. During my morning pages I do my daily WOOP because of Gabrielle Oettingen’s Rethinking Positive Thinking. These are not the only self-help books I’ve read, nor are they the only practices I’ve tried. Just the ones I’ve found to work for me.

And that’s the thing, isn’t it? Finding things that work for you. Wherever they come from. And maybe that’s not so embarrassing after all.

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Jan 9, 2016

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Victorian Farm

This week, thanks to the super-talented K.M.Szpara I discovered and promptly got addicted to a BBC show called Victorian Farm. Basically, it’s three people who have made their life’s work in the minutiae of Victorian life, recreating a year in the life of a Victorian rented farm. It’s fascinating, fun and personally, I think everyone should see it.

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Jan 2, 2016

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2015 & 2016 Goals: Last check-in and new directions

Universal Mind series. Visually pleasing composition of human head and fractal clouds to serve as background in works on mind dreams thinking consciousness and imagination2015 was fairly spectacular for me. I went to Viable Paradise, which was not exactly what I set my heart for but was just as amazing as I hoped my workshop experience would be. I did not win Writers of the Future but I did get my first Silver Honorable Mention, which is apparently one step down from becoming a finalist. I don’t have agent representation yet, nor have I sold stories enough to be considered a pro by them which means that I’ll keep on trying this year.

My second novel is unfortunately nowhere near being ready for the submission stage. I’m more or less finished with the outline for the entirely redone second draft. Writing starts tomorrow, assuming I’ve finished with the translation of a short story I was asked to write for a Finnish SFF anthology.

As I mentioned, I’m not represented by an agent yet. I sent out 11 queries, received one outright rejection, one request for a partial followed by a rejection and one request for a full which is still out there. At this point I’m considering simply waiting while I get the next one to the query stage. I love the book but the rumor is that Urban Fantasy is a hard sell right now, I suspect it might need some editing and I’ve been moving on with other projects. If someone from the previously queried list does show interest, I’d love to do that work but the rejections I’ve gotten so far were for things that I can’t do anything about. Plus, look at this shiny new book, isn’t it pretty?

Man Hand writing "A goal without a plan is just a wish" black marker on visual screen. Business, technology, internet concept.So what of 2016? I’m not a huge fan of making resolutions, mostly because resolutions are things you forget by February because the heady sense of New Year, New You and all the possibility that entails tends to evaporate when the cold light of everyday life. Personally, these days at least, I prefer making plans instead of resolutions because I have a better chance of making plans come true than I do resolutions.

With that in mind, here’s what I’m planning to do in 2016:

  • Write at least the first drafts of two books.
    As I said, I finally have the outline done for my space opera book. It’s working title in this second draft is The Cold Burn Goodbye and even though the first draft was meant to be a thriller, and more or less was, the second draft will be more like a heist novel. The second novel is about a single mother working for a fairy godmother temp agency which I know pretty much nothing more about at this point. On the other hand, I’m planning to start writing it around the beginning of July so that should leave me plenty of time to get that down.
  • Survive The Fairytale workshop. Around the end of January, I’m starting on the Science Fiction Fairy Tales course from The Brainery. Basically every week you write stuff based on the thing being discussed in class. I need to have the first draft of The Cold Burn Goodbye done by the end of March which would make February and March pretty busy in terms of writing. I’m hoping to at least get some ideas for short stories from the course so that I’ll have stories to send out to Writers of the Future and of course any magazines that are suitable. At some point in my career I want to be published by Uncanny Magazine and I think the kind of stuff I might come up with on that course might be things that would go well into Uncanny. But we shall see.
  • Podcast! Two of my Viable Paradise classmates, Jay Wolf and Tim Boerger, and I are starting a podcast. It is called Mad Writers Union and we are getting the first episode out on the 10th. The plan is put out an episode twice a month and talk about things that are interesting and useful to us as writers who are not yet entirely professional but are none the less somewhat advanced in the career. First up in January is goals, the theory and practice of them. We’ll all be checking in on our writing practice throughout the year on the Mad Writers’ site. Which is also why there won’t be any of these accountability posts here at least for this year.
  • Get healthier. I’ve started to get up early before work to get some exercise in and write my morning pages plus a little fiction. My darling partner also got me a punching bag which I’ve been putting through its paces for ten minutes every morning. My plan is to continue with this this until it becomes an automatic habit. I also need to eat healthier and I know it.

That’s me for 2016. To quote Kameron Hurley “I want to be a better human before the time winds down, so it’s now or never.” What about you?

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Dec 6, 2015

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Happy Birthday Finland!

Finnish flag flying by Janne Karaste

Finnish flag flying by Janne Karaste

98 years ago today, Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov aka Lenin, signed the Finnish Declaration of Independence, granting the former autonomous colony statehood, marking an ending to Russia and Sweden periodically occupying our tiny country while warring with each other. (Edit: I’ve been notified that this actually happened on December 31st but it’s all a ball of timey wimey stuff, since the Finnish parliament signed the same on December 6th, just go with me here. 😉 ) Other stuff happened later but we won’t get into that.

I’ll be celebrating the day by writing a short story for my first ever anthology invitation and recording the pilot for a podcast my friends and I are planning to launch after New Year’s. And maybe raising a glass in honor of Finland.

In the meanwhile, I’ll leave you once more with Monty Python:

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Nov 29, 2015

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2015 Goals: November Check-in

Well, 2015 is nearly over. I got some of my goals done and others are a far cry from being accomplished. It’s nearly time to start thinking about next year’s goals but before that, two more check-ins remain.

Attend a writer’s workshop

Done. Finished. Kaput. I am considering applying to the Clarion Workshop although at the very earliest in 2017. I don’t think I could get as much out of it next year as I would if I had some time to take in the lessons learned from Viable Paradise.

Win Writers of the Future

Looks like I all I have to show for this year as far as Writers of the Future is concerned is several more Honorable Mentions. There’s one more story to submit, I just need to revise it first.

Actions

  • Write.
  • Revise. (In Progress)
  • Submit.

Get my second novel to the submission stage

My plan for NaNoWriMo fell apart on the fourth day when I realized what the problem was with my manuscript. Unfortunately, the same problem more or less mandated that I start over from the concept level. Which is what I’ve been doing for most of November. Which is what I’m still doing.

Actions

  • Make a new outline. (In progress)
  • Rewrite.
  • Edit.
  • Make people read it.
  • Edit some more.
  • Submit.

Get an agent

I’ve been neglecting my search for an agent while pretending to be busy creating new fiction. Well, to be fair, I’ve done some of that as well. I should probably do some more on this front as well before the end of the year.

Actions

  • Make a new list
  • Write query letters
  • Send query letters
  • Wait.

Queries sent: 11
Replies: 4

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Nov 21, 2015

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Writers, Donna Noble and Imposter Syndrome

Donna-Noble-Character-CapIt seems like out of all the companions Doctor Who has had, many of the writers I know, especially writers of fiction, identify with Donna Noble the most. Plenty like some other companion the most but many of do seem to come back to Donna Noble. And while many of us don’t really care for what they did to her, there’s a sort of logic behind it all.

And really, how many companions actually have a good ending? (Spoilers, by the way, for Donna’s run on the TARDIS)

Donna Noble comes to the Doctor by accident on her wedding day. All she’s ever wanted was a good, normal life and then disaster comes to ruin all of it. But after a while, Donna finds that she can’t stay away either. She goes off, sticking her nose in any and all strange behavior around London she can find, hoping to find the Doctor again. She does and immediately it turns out to not be like anything she knew to expect. They go to Pompeii on volcano day and she has to shoulder part of the blame for killing all those people or upsetting the course of time. She manages to find a way to deal with the grief and stay with the Doctor right when he needs a friend, an actual partner. And then there’s the business with the Ood and she decides she can’t handle it and she needs to go home. She keeps going anyway, just for this one thing. Then the one adventure turns into another and another and suddenly she can’t imagine herself living any other kind of life. And in the end, she doesn’t have to. For the first time in her life, she’s Brilliant and she wants to keep going on forever.

maxresdefaultI think, in many ways, the story of Donna Noble is like being a writer. You stumble into your first story and it seems impossible. You compare it with the wonderful works that you love and that made you want to tell stories and you realize just how big and scary it all is. Maybe you go away for a while. But the experience keeps niggling at the back of your head until you realize that you need to tell the stories and go off in search of the next adventure. You probably have more than a few false starts but eventually you find what you’ve been looking for and it’s fun again. Then you get rejections and you once more start doing the comparisons. You wander into a story and you suddenly find yourself metaphorically running down the street naked. It’s too personal, too scary and you can’t imagine how you could possibly keep going. But you’re in the story until the end and there’s no escape from its clutches.

When it’s over you can’t imagine a way you could go back to your mundane, humdrum life. You’re in it for the long haul now. Eventually, you get recognition and suddenly you’re Brilliant. You don’t want it to ever end.

Let’s pretend the End never happened.

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