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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Writing Life

There is this cool wind of euphoria that comes when you are in the zone and the words are coming fast and furious. There’s clarity and joy, and you write faster than you can even think, it becomes an instinct.

It’s like a drug, but better: it’s legal, has no side effects, and it costs absolutely nothing. 


I think that is part of the allure for NaNoWriMo.

I’m almost in love with the process right now. Almost halfway through the novel and I have yet to stall (or resort to throwing a unicorn in the story to save a failed plot or faulty research).

I say “almost” because along with NaNoWriMo I am spending time writing dozens of cover letters to send with tweaked resumes, as well as dozens of proposals for freelance projects. Making more progress on the novel than the day job search is a little discouraging and balances things out in the joy department.


So life becomes an exercise in patience where I can be fertile in creativity but fruitless in efforts to move ahead professionally, at least for the moment.

Of course, I realize that the moment I start working full time, it will take time off the writing because it will be the bulk of my day. At this point, it looks like it may not be until after the holidays that I find a desk of my own.

What's a little multitasking amongst us girls, right?

That means I need to put more effort into freelancing and I’ve seen many projects cancelled in the last few weeks. It’s brutal! I am getting invited to submit proposals by clients, so it’s not like I am competing with the whole field out there, just the experts. This is excellent and promising, as long as I remain patient.


This is still not a work blog, but the freelancing does involve writing and publishing services.

So, let's review: I have no news, yet, except that I am still in the running because I will not give up. Also, I write, and I love the process.

NaNoWriMo progress: The story has become a side-by-side/alternating tale of the two sisters as they move through life and become stars on their own right – which may not all survive in editing, but is helping me flesh out both characters.

A plot twist suggested itself in dream form last night (yes, I dreamed I was writing). It isn't what I outlined, but I will allow the story to go in that direction because if feels organic to the story as it develops. (Don't you wish life were that easy and malleable some days?)


As long as I remain disciplined and patient, rewards will find me: the words will continue to grace the page, projects will be offered, interviews may start to materialize.

I remain hopeful in all fronts.


Now, what shall I call that unicorn, in case I need one later?



Friday, October 31, 2014

NaNoWriMo 2014: the Amapola Press Way

NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow and I have character studies on my protagonist and antagonist for the first half of the book. I have an outline.

There are pictures that guide some of my choices.
 

There’s even a map!

For those of you participating, you may buddy up at NaNoWriMo and look me up as KaliAmanda.

I’ll have updates of my progress in this space as well as the Amapola Press Google+ page.

Love and the Android
Author: KaliAmanda
Genre: Women's Fiction

Synopsis
Maya Narayan has lived neglected by her parents and under the shadow of her sister Rani since the moment she was born.

Step-by-step she asserts her unique identity, and comes into her own by leaving Earth and taking over the International Space Station (now a private concern as NASA has moved on to interstellar and intergalactic pursuits).

On Earth, she finds a voice, and a new confidence as she prepares to leave the planet by committing her adult life to her work. In space, she finds love -- manifested and experienced entirely through electronic means and, finally, through the aid of artificial intelligence.

Love and the Android is a study in loneliness, empowerment, and sexuality, a compendium on the civil rights of artificial intelligence, the ethics and consequences of using artificial intelligence as surrogates, and life in space...


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Indecision 2014: NaNoWriMo Edition

In two days thousands of crazy creative people will go on overdrive and try to race against the clock and the calendar and themselves, and try to complete a 50,000 novel in 30 days.


I’m still in relative limbo, unsure whether I have it in me or if I even want to do this to myself again.

A couple of days ago, as the Antares rocket launch was scrubbed, a scene played in my head that has been forming for weeks. It may or not serve as the introductory scene to Love and the Android – it has a Halloween and a space theme. It also hints at the overall plot. But it does not call out to me…

I want to say that I have spent the last three weeks outlining and plotting and doing character studies. I’ve done nothing!

Yesterday, the relaunch for the rocket went horribly wrong. Thankfully, it was an unmanned vehicle, but it reminded me of Challenger. I thought of the kids that had gone to see their teacher go up then, and of the kids who were there this week to watch their experiment go up to the ISS.


Worst, I’d contacted an old schoolmate and suggested her boy watch (he likes space science). Would this spur his curiosity so that it cements his passion for it or turn him from it?

There is some drama there, themes that can be explored. Any space-related news is research and usually enticing, evocative, inspiring. And yet, I don’t feel seduced by the idea of jumping head first into this year’s adventure. But it is precisely this that makes me want to do it, because I don’t back down from a challenge.

I’m missing a couple of my cheerleaders this time around and that makes me sad. I didn’t finish the challenge last year and that left a bad taste in my memory. So I’d come into it as an underdog.

There have been several other real life challenges met and fought and survived this past year that had the potential to leave serious scars. Perhaps that has made me a little gun shy, but it is also the reason I ought not sit out NaNoWriMo.

The decision shouldn’t be so hard, but at its core is a woman who wants to be creative but only if she can commit to it in the way others commit to marriage. Not that NaNoWriMo requires all that, so essentially it is pilot error from the get-go, with me getting in the way of me. The writer’s nightmare… 

(This neurosis shouldn’t happen before NaNoWriMo, it’s usually scheduled for late in the second week!)


When the clock strikes 12:01 am on the Day of the Dead, I will start typing my story. The excitement will mount and I simply will not be able to help myself, because no matter what else I may be, deep within my soul resides a writer.

Now, can anyone tell me where I put Grandma’s English/Hindi dictionary? 


Friday, October 10, 2014

NaNoWriMo Upon Us

It is almost mid-October. The temps have begun to subtly decrease—the evenings are cooler. Leaves started turning golden and all sorts of beautifully earthy relatively early this year. It is autumn and a woman’s thoughts turn to NaNoWriMo.

For those of you not aware (where have you been?!), November is National Novel Writing Month and the lunatic fringe gets together (online and in real life) to write 50,000 words.

It is insane and exciting. It is a marathon for the intellect. It’s a challenge of wit and (yes) sanity. Why? Because we love to write; because the creativity is a heavenly high; because it stretches our stamina, our imagination, our personal threshold of je ne sais quoi

It goes beyond a love of language and writing. Participating in NaNoWriMo is about camaraderie (though you certainly can work alone). It tests your endurance even when creativity deserts you. It helps you redefine commitment against overwhelming odds. It allows you to delve deep into yourself and find alternatives to failure (yes, failure: you go in as an underdog!).

Creativity, a sense of honor and a sense of humor all come into play to get through an intense month!

You will not always win the challenge, but you should try.


NaNoWriMo is how I wrote my first novel, Justified, parts of the series for The Chronicles of Ash, and May You Grow Old and Fat

I intend to participate this year. I want to! I start at a distinct disadvantage because I am not only looking for a day job but also trying to procure freelance assignments.

Still the focus required to compete against your own self can be freeing, humbling, and a jolt of energy and self-confidence that is virtually rejuvenating! It’s like falling in love: a whirlwind, a joy, a mystery.

Don’t get me wrong, it can be maddening too. It can be a disaster from the moment you decide to jump in. It can be terrifying—especially when you run out of steam or story and you stare at a blank page or screen and the words won’t come.

So why do this to yourself? It builds character. Character is good.

I now have a couple of weeks to decide, to outline, to plot, to allow myself a tiny bit of whimsy. The question is whether to write a novella based on a new idea:
It's bad enough being charmed by a snake, but realizing it's just a lizard using smoke and mirrors... I mean, that's one talented lizard, but it's still just a scaly thing that eats small insects. 
The alternative is to pick up one of the ongoing projects and expand or renew the concept.


Last year, I started Magic Stilettos. I did not complete the challenge. Poetic Justice is missing the gut of the story in the new world (I have the beginning and the end). May Your Grow Old and Fat began as result of a conversation about child brides and the need to educate girls—perhaps Malala Yousafzai winning the Nobel Peace Prize today is a sign from the Universe to finish that story. 

As some of the writing is already done, this is cheating – unless I rewrite what I have and start anew. (Not unheard of as this is what happened with Justified. I started with one story and wrote another.)
And then there’s Love and the Android, the proposed study of loneliness and sexuality, and the civil rights of artificial intelligence. I have notes and research but nothing written yet.
Decisions, decisions…
The question is will you join us? What will you write about? What worlds will you build? Which characters will be born during your NaNoWriMo? The clock is ticking!





Thursday, September 25, 2014

Writing Professional Resignation Letters

Actively searching for work means that your daily reading materials include a lot of writing advice. There are hundreds of thousands of articles that explain step-by-step how to write cover letters, resumes, query letters, status updates on LinkedIn…

The latest article that jumped at me from one of the writing boards explained, in a very simplistic way, how one must compose a professional resignation letter. I also fear this was repurposed from advice written in the mid-20th century and never updated.

I will not link to it here, but Step One was “clearly print the date . . . at the top right hand of the page.” Step Two was that the subject line should be “Resignation Letter.”

Source: http://www.buzzfeed.com/awesomer/occasions-that-definitely-call-for-cake#1v6mmav

After working for two decades, I’ve written a letter of resignation or two.

I’m fairly sure we covered the topic in high school, and also as part of the communications curriculum towards my Associate’s degree.
The letter should generally be brief and to the point, and addressed to your immediate supervisor. The gist is that as of a specific date you will be leaving the company, that you are grateful for the opportunity to have learned whatever you learned at that job, and an offer to help in whatever way possible for a smooth transition.
This gets truly epic at 1:35

Of course, this assumes that you are leaving amicably, and that HR and lawyers are not involved (or federal prosecutors).

There is always a pressing need to remind people it must all be done “professionally” or very bad things will happen!


I always take this advice with a grain of salt because there were two jobs that I resigned from for which I did hand in unconventional resignation letters – of course I had a very cordial relationship with my supervisors (and I also provided a back-up, more sedate note for human resources purposes).

The first included a half page with a fashion design that my editor found hilarious because the note looked like a cover to one of our books (I was working at Fairchild when it was “the” fashion publisher of note in New York).

The second made the marketing director and my publisher chuckle. There were a couple of private jokes involved – our magazine was about to collapse and life had turned into melodrama. We took any opportunity to amuse ourselves. Gallows humor saves the day!

To be fair, I had told my boss I was looking for work and had even shown him the campaign I had sent out (I was trying to branch out of publishing). Well, we were all looking. Nobody wants to go down with the ship, unless it’s the Enterprise! But that may be the geek in my speaking.


After I handed this to my boss and he showed it to his boss, I earned myself a very expensive lunch at the Algonquin. When the opportunity that I left for fell apart before 9 o’clock the first Monday I started the new job, my old boss told me, “Screw it, come back! We’ll just rip off your resignation letter.”

Stupidly, I did not take him up on that offer, but when I started freelancing soon thereafter, I found myself taking contract jobs with him. We worked together on at least three startup projects after that.

Yes, my work ethic, and the results of my efforts while in his employ were contributing factors. But you cannot convince me that the “I WANT A DIVORCE!!!” resignation letter hurt.

Creativity isn’t always the right answer, I know that. And it isn’t 1990 anymore--when we were all younger and care free! Professionalism always wins, but you need to be able to know when a little pizzazz or levity can give you an edge and take it! Writing advice is well and good, but don’t ever allow step-by-step tutorials replace your personality if the position and company you are in allow for individuality.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

It Hit The Fan

Isn’t it the case that the moment you are hit with tons of time, the desire to write goes out the proverbial window!

Of course, the situation is a little more complicated than that last sentence. In the absence of a day job, writing is relegated to a tidy corner of your mind as you are left to ponder your next move in life.

There is an excitement that propels you, but then there is also a bit of panic when the worst-case scenario plays out in your head and then you realize, “Ah the curse of being a writer!” 

That's right: a writer will imagine the worst possible outcome and all its alternatives in exponential horror!

The moment you recognize that your mind is still writing even when you are not, you smile and realize there’ll be another day to fight the good fight. (Just gotta remember to take notes because these details will be used in a story some day.)

The real value of being creative is that you see an end game when others get bogged down in minutiae.

This does not mean that writers are possessed of magic and can come out of vicissitude unscathed. It just means that we view the process in a rather unorthodox way and if we skin our knees in the process, more writing fodder for us!

Until things settle down, I’ll have to rearrange my attitude, my routine, my priorities… For now, I have uploaded the second editions of Because She Was A Woman and Justified at Smashwords.


Getting a day job is the top priority (although writing another short story, even a dark one is a close second). In the meantime, I must remember to take notes.

Far more challenging will be to stay alert and motivated, and use all the time before me productively.

Forward! 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Getting My Groove Back

The day job included some grunt work last week as well as working with invoices that translated to thousands of dollars and require monastic focus to make sure no details are missed when finalizing each step of the process.


Some people find the fact of a day job to the very description above a creativity killer. In my case, it’s a means to an end (it pays the rent, for the most part). Last week, it created an indirect funnel for creativity.

Work itself was not the inspiration, mind you. Being at work and having to adjust to both projects to complete them led me to the path of inspiration.

The grunt work required no intellectual capacity, it was automaton work. I can do that and do it like a robot! If you break it down something, a production line style, you can rely on muscle memory to move from step to step and create a rhythm – so that when you deviate from the rhythm, you can stop, back it up, and fix whatever went wrong.


How does this help creativity? It frees your brain to wander any fantastic realm it wants to inhabit.

Some would use this freedom (from reality and responsibilities) to push the envelope on repressed sexiness. Some would use the opportunity to imagine comebacks to situations they’d lost control of earlier in life. Some can fantasize about things they may not yet have found the courage to do in real life.


But to build these mindscapes in which to operate and manage these reveries, one must be in the right state of mind: It’s a studied meditation of sorts.

For me music sets the mood. It can relax you, it can evoke color, texture, flavor, and it can suggest so much more. To me music is tied to specific memories and emotions and these affect the stories and landscapes in which these stories exist.

Music may also suggest dance, and in turn also affect how the characters interact.


It was music that took me out of the mud and propelled me to write two stories last week.

They are unrelated short stories, and the first is awfully dark. Content is not the object, but that I was able to sit and knock out a couple of short stories.

The second is well-rounded; the first is a rough draft. Ultimately it’s the simple act of writing that, the facility of having words follow other words, sentences turn into paragraphs; characters speaking to others and dialogue flowing; things happening…

It was the creative kick, after weeks focused simply on getting well and getting back to normal.

There are only a couple of stories and there is no particular project plans for it. I wrote. The Muse hasn’t left me. (I need to get back into my RPG but that has been a little more challenging.)

Now, to create a routine until writing feels instinctual again. 

It was a song that got me started on Because She Was A WomanSo, let the music play!