Progress Report #7: The Workhorse Edition

If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I am building my career strategically, by focusing on the work. That’s my choice to do that, and I feel that putting out quality effort is what will enable me to keep writing full-time. There’s a lot of planning and pitching I do as well, because this is my life and I want to be writing professionally for a long time. Sometimes, though, this puts me in the position of not being seen or taken seriously by certain folk, because doing the work isn’t the same as talking about the work or issues related to it. This is partly why I go to conventions, to connect with other people, but even then my budget and time is limited. I simply can’t get to them all.

Why am I telling you this? Well, I wanted to bring this up because I wanted to reinforce that this type of business plan is pretty normal. A writer who writes “a” best-selling novel, who makes a career writing professionally, doesn’t drop what they’re doing and simply spend all their time marketing themselves or the one book. Media/tie-in writers who get paid on a work-for-hire basis have to be more vigilant, I feel, because the rights are owned by the publisher. Regardless, my point here is that the most important thing you can do for yourself is to figure out your own plan–and own it. I certainly am! (And, it goes without saying here’s a note of encouragement: I believe in you!!)

No, there aren’t guarantees to success and luck doesn’t just favor the prepared. However, I feel you can never go wrong by focusing on quality work, because that makes all the difference in the world. I’ve had considerable more opportunities open up by showing what I can do, versus than trying to convince someone I’m amazing. The work, when you’re a writer, is proof that you know what the F-bomb you’re talking about–and that work is NOT just about hitting word count. It’s also about revising, polishing, reading, researching, and being able to disseminate feedback and criticism from those who either love everything you do or hate it.

In addition to my list of projects, I’ve also got more shows I’ll be going to than I have in the past few years; this means my focus has to be tighter. I recently spoke at the GAMA Trade Show and went to the Rainforest Writer’s Retreat, but I’m heading to OddCon, MO*Con, Origins, Geek*Kon*, CONvergence, GenCon, and UK Games Expo with a few more slotted in as potential trips. With a full traveling calendar, my work schedule will depend on hitting deadlines and staying on task–especially since I haven’t gotten around to spring cleaning yet. Ahem. I’m also sitting on a few announcements, too, some of which have been in the works much longer than others. Phooey.

Overall, though, I’m strongly focused on shoring up my portfolio by expanding into new areas. When you look at this list, please don’t make assumptions since these projects primarily reflect what I’ve done recently. If you want to hire me to write, please contact me and we’ll figure something out if possible.

On with the current state of the state!

Games

Q1 was highlighted by the World of Darkness: Dark Eras Kickstarter and some fun announcements–like how the Firefly RPG took 2nd Runner Up for Game of the Year 2014 in the Golden Geek Awards and The Escapist nominated the Firefly RPG for Game of the Year 2014. Shiny!

  • Things Don’t Go Smooth – This GM-facing Firefly RPG supplement is now available in digital and print.
  • Smuggler’s Guide to the Rim – This is a book filled with lots of great material for players and GMs. It released in digital early this year, and the print edition will be heading to a game store nearest you very shortly.
  • Ghosts in the Black – This is a Firefly RPG campaign supplement that we’ll be announcing on margaretweis.com shortly.
  • World of Darkness: Gothic Icons – What’s gothier and angstier than Gothic literature? Gothic Icons! It’s a free download that’s offered for Onyx Path Publishing’s April Fool joke.
  • World of Darkness: Dark Eras – Wrote the Hunter: the Vigil supplement for this book for 1690s Colonial America. We will be adding an additional 5,000 words to flesh it out with First Nations-related material, and I am also writing Geist: Roanaoke. Thanks for making this Kickstarter so successful!
  • Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn RPG – I contributed to the Skaa supplement for this game and Logan Bonner is my developer. It’s still on the schedule!
  • Vampire the Masquerade Dread Names: Red List – Sending it off to editorial within the next couple of days.
  • Vampire the Masquerade: Ghouls – Once Dread Names: Red List is done, I’m tying up this project.
  • Conan RPG – That’s right CROM! fans, I’m writing for the Conan RPG and two of its supplements.
  • Unannounced – Working on an unannounced Savage Worlds supplement through a small press publisher. It’s hellacious!


Comics

Feeling crushed and defeated, so these are on hold. I come across opportunities for a single issue every now and again, but my options are bleak. I could write more scripts since I have an artist, but since I have a better chance selling my fiction? My efforts are going into that direction at the moment. It feels terrible that I can’t pay an artist to do the work, even with an artist who’s volunteering to do some work up front, and comics are very time-intensive. Also decided to skip the comic-related shows, since I’ve gotten nowhere.

Fiction

I went to a writer’s retreat and it was very, very good for me. Set aside a lot of bullshit, and have been diving back into storytelling.

  • Novelette – I submitted a 10,000 word novelette called The Women who Called Down the Worm for review.

  • Short Stories – I have a few reprints in circulation, and I’m also getting critiques on a few original short stories before I sub those out.
  • Anthology – I’m co-editing an anthology with Jaym Gates called Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling for Apex Publications. Here’s the announcement!
  • Novella – I have a dark, science fiction novella I need to finish revising so I can sub that out. Codeword: Red Byte
  • Novels – Another round of revisions on Novel A (Codeword: Silver Dagger) in May, Novel B (Codeword: White Fang) probably not until July. I want to rework the plot for B.


Non-Fiction

New for this project update! WOO!

  • Pitch A – Finishing up a pitch for Codeword: Palm Tree that’ll go out in a week or two.
  • Project A Plus – Working on revisions in April.
  • For Exposure: The Life and Times of a Small Press Publisher – A book of essays written by Jason Sizemore, the publisher for Apex Book Company as part of the company’s 10 year celebration. I have written a satirical essay which is titled “The Case of the Mysterious Splatter.” It has footnotes. Many, many footnotes.

That’s all for now! More to come in the 2015 edition of: Work One’s Ass Off.

New Way to View my To-Do List

There's a trojan on your computer

Figured out a new, simple way to organize my to-do list, and I thought I’d share it with you this afternoon. Instead of writing down a bunch of tasks or setting up categories based on area of my life and whatnot, I focus on my motivation for the things I have to do by basing it on what it means to me.

Mind: Work

Skull Emblem The category of the mind is related to The Day JobTM and bills. These are the tasks that I need to do in order to earn a living and maintain my current (and future) lifestyle. It doesn’t matter what the nature of that work is, whether it’s computer-related or not, because here I’m assigning a value to it.

Why didn’t I turn this into a dollar sign? For a few reasons. First, not everything I do for work has a financial value. There are some tasks, like reading or learning a new tool, etc. that help me expand my skillset, but they don’t earn a profit. The second reason why I’m not attaching a dollar sign to these tasks, is because I’m trying to train myself to focus on other forms of value as opposed to relying on dollars and cents. There’s a saying I hear repeated often, and that is: “Americans live to work, and the rest of the world works to live.” I’d much rather integrate what I do into my lifestyle to find the joy in it now, than burn myself out because I’m “supposed to” do the job for a life I may not even want.

Heart: Desire

lovemeheart
What’s in my heart? This is where I put all the things I want to do for myself, that aren’t necessarily attached to a financial value. The heart is all about desire. What I want to write, as opposed to what I have to write. What I want to do, even if it’s a small thing, instead of focusing on my obligations.

The reason why the type of tasks (or kind of work) doesn’t matter, is because the things I want to do may overlap with The Day JobTM. For example, I write, revise, and develop books and games for a living, seeing many games and supplements through to publication. This is what I get paid to do. Even though I enjoy my job, writing for myself is sometimes hard to justify because it’s on spec. That means, even if I finish the work and devote that time to it, I don’t see the value because I haven’t trained myself to see it. When I do have time, I may continue poking at a manuscript but, like a lot of writers I know, it becomes a challenge to figure out what to work on next that’ll benefit me the most. By attaching something as simple as a heart to my daily to-do list, I’m telling myself: “No, you really want this. Let’s break this up into smaller goals, so you’re still working towards The End without losing sight of the bigger picture.”

Last but not least…

Body: Health

handprintThis should be a no-brainer, but for someone like me who’s required to use her brain a lot… Well, it’s surprising how easy it is to forget about health-related matters. Like the things I want to do, they have to be done. But, unlike a necklace I design or a song I play, the benefits aren’t always immediate. By putting it on my to-do list, I’m reminding myself to do it today, not tomorrow.

Mind, Heart, Body. Sounds simple enough, right? What I need to do for work (Mind), what I want to do for myself (Heart), and what I have to do to be healthy (Body). Breaking up my task list into these three spheres helps me avoid spending too much time in one category or the other. I’ve found, too, it allows me to simplify what I need to accomplish. Love it or hate it, emotions are part and parcel of being human, and attaching value beyond the almighty dollar, calorie, or word count is my way of being realistic and… Well? More human.

    Mood: Mah brainpan is sizzling!
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Oh well. That’s a fight I gave up.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Wrote a lot, but managed to go for a short walk. Should repeat that today!
    In My Ears: Echoes by Digitalism
    Game Last Played: Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
    Book Last Read: Currently reading Undertow by Elizabeth Bear.
    Movie Last Viewed: The Avengers
    Latest Artistic Project: Beading!
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Last Man Zombie Standing.
    Latest Game Release: Things Don’t Go Smooth
    What I’m Working On: Primarily tie-in games work, original comics, and novels.


First Squees for 2015

Fire She-Ra Avatar

Sitting here with Enya blasting through Pandora nursing a “Oh ye stars… Why does my diet go to hell on deadline again?” stomach. As it is now 2015, a new set of squees is now needed. Woo!

1.) I organized my beads and chainmaille links. This is VERY IMPORTANT, as I have designs I bought beads for but couldn’t remember where all the pieces went.

2.) Medieval pet names. How cool.

3.) The holidays are over and my house is back to normal. Yay!

4.) Trying to set up recurring evenings of beadness and have a few months scheduled already. Forced social human interaction you say? Yikes! Er… Good!

5.) Have planned my convention appearances for 2015. I’ll be doing more of them.

6.) 13 Essential Summer Reads in 1852 gives a historical look during the time period. I believe that reading history is important, even if it makes me uncomfortable.

7.) Fire Mountain Gems, a bead supplier, posted an article about the eras of jewelry. From a designer’s perspective, this is really awesome.

8.) Pen PR0N!!! The seven-year pen from Seltzer. Yes, it writes very smooth.

9.) Four words: homemade chocolate chip cookies.

10.) Learning that yes, using a spatula to stir cookie dough is way better than a wooden spoon. Rock. Star.

11.) Re-obfuscating my hair. This makes me happy.

12.) Prepping for a writer’s retreat. Very excited!

13.) LEGO Doctor Who. Need I say more?

14.) I never get sick of watching The Avengers. So impressed with the connected plots that weave in and out of the movies and the S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show.

15.) Put in an order from JetPens.com for this calligraphy pen. Here’s the awesome part about this pen: the colors BLEND.

16.) Managed to clean our place before we left for California, so came back to a fresh pad. After one load of laundry, I’m totally caught up on maintenance-type crap. Woo!

17.) Starting to get some reviews for my latest project. Geist: Ready Made Characters. Glad fans are digging them!

18.) Two unannounced projects are moving forward, I’m getting caught up on other projects, and I’m making progress on my own stuff, too.

19.) Combat boots have been acquired. I’ve been looking for over a year, ever since my old ones got irreparably damaged on a trip. Opted to go with a convertible pair of Doc Marten’s and I’m really anxious to break them in.

20.) I mentioned earlier that I was starting to Couch to 5K program. Due to the pressure on my joints, I wasn’t ready for the speeds I was aiming for. I’ve since modified the program, but I’m keeping up with it despite my achilles tendon acting up. Really anxious to build some endurance and continue on the health train. It feels great to get my heart pumping again!

21.) A squee for Phil Reed and Sam Mitschke from Steve Jackson Games. They’ve been promoted!!! YAY!!! Well-deserved.

22.) Another squee for discovering Joseph Bruchac, a Native American author. Really powerful stuff.

23.) Happy that Constantine is getting some rave reviews. It’s a GREAT show and I’m thrilled for the cast and the team that put this together.

24.) Threw a holiday party to see some friends I haven’t seen for a while. Pretty excited about that! And, we’re keeping the good times going. Huzzah!

25.) Made my New Year’s Resolutions and am diving into the pile. So grateful for my co-writers and editors to be able to do what I do. Thanks for seeing 2014 through and cheers for a BIG 2015!

26.) We funded the Dark Eras Kickstarter in one day! I have a chapter in this supplement called “Doubting Souls” for Hunter: the Vigil.

27.) Fans are great. Fan feedback is what keeps me going! There’s been loads of it lately, and that’s keep me going.

28.) I don’t know if you’ve seen that Creative Process illustration that’s been floating around, but I managed to track down the artist who’s selling a print of it. Neat!

29.) I love it when art and history come together. This prize-winning animation lets you fly through 17th London. SO COOL!

30.) I’m ALMOST through Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. Yay!

31.) Yes, I do have a room for GenCon. In fact, I’m coming back to the Writer’s Symposium! Huzzah!

112/365

    Mood: Go, Go Gadget
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: It’s winter. I lost track.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Butt in chair. LOTS of writing.
    In My Ears: Coffee pot.
    Game Last Played: Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
    Book Last Read: All the work-related things.
    Movie Last Viewed: Pacific Rim
    Latest Artistic Project: Beading!
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Last Man Zombie Standing.
    Latest Game Release: Things Don’t Go Smooth
    What I’m Working On: Primarily tie-in games work, original comics, and novels.


Angel’s Fred and Post-Traumatic Stress

Spike and Giles... Together at Last

I’m in the middle of a re-watch for Whedon’s Angel, and I’m now on the last season where our plucky crew has taken the bait and are manning Wolfram and Hart. There’s a lot of great nuggets to draw inspiration from both as a writer and a fan of Whedon’s work, in particular the fact that this series, despite being on the air from 1999 to 2004, is still relevant and innovative for 2015. (And the show’s been off the air for more than a decade, so in my mind it’s safe to discuss it without fear of spoilers.)

While Fred (Winifred Burkle’s) character arc ends terribly and tragically, there is something remarkable about her introduction. Her evolution as a character deals with overcoming her traumatic and terrible situation after being sucked into a hell dimension. Py’lea introduced a tough topic, human slavery, which was something that the writers could address because their owners were demons. Breaking down Fred’s story is interesting, because she’s an escaped slave who finds coping mechanisms to deal with what she’s experienced, to survive.

What I was very interested in, is what happened to her when she returned to L.A. She didn’t magically “get better” and rush into her parent’s arms, the writers enhanced her character by allowing her to show a range of emotions, some of which were caused by post-traumatic stress. To me, this is brilliant writing because her character arc doesn’t keep progressing linearly until she’s totally moved on and one hundred percent better. She has bouts where she tries something new to get past the hurt, but then regresses before dealing with that specific issues. Each problem is different from the last, and she doesn’t necessarily move forward for each action. For example, she tries to go to Caritas, and the place is attacked. But, instead of cowering in a corner, she eventually stands up and grabs a crossbow. She has a sense of survival and that echoes through the way she deals with her trauma.

Her need to survive is something that is part of her nature, and that’s what pulls her through all of her bad experiences. Not because she’s physically stronger, but because she’s strong-willed and this is who she is. Her desire for self-preservation is what distinguishes her and sets her apart from the way other victims are often portrayed in television and other forms of media. When bad things happen to real people? We don’t give up and stand aside for someone else to save us, and Fred’s character reflects that truth.

Despite being enslaved, Fred escapes and finds a way to survive though she’s stuck in a demon world. Despite finding out the truth that she’d been betrayed by a mentor, she doesn’t freeze up with fear and let her professor victimize her again. She wants to do something about it, and that desire to channel her anger by turning the tables on him, a natural reaction, is the source of an argument between her and then-boyfriend Gunn, who wound up removing her free will to protect her from the consequences of her terrible choice. There are other, subtle clues written into her character as well in the way that Fred’s represented by Amy Acker, too, that brings deeper aspects forth. Like how jumpy she is, the way she walks and hunches her shoulders, her outbursts and clenched fists. It’s brilliant all around, and there’s even a slight shift in her character after Angel’s spell to remove all memories of Connor, too.

I’m hoping that by sharing these types of examples with you, you’ll be inspired to take a closer look at some of your favorite characters for inspiration either to appreciate them or learn from them. Lastly, if you’re not familiar with it, here’s how the NIMH defines post-traumatic disorder.

    Mood: I’d like winter to be over now. Thanks!
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: I’m so over-caffeinated I need to cut it out today completely.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: A walk. Remarkably. In the cold.
    In My Ears: Coffee is percolating, but I’m resisting it!
    Game Last Played: Ni-No Kuni Wrath of the White Witch
    Book Last Read: The History of Magic by Eliphas Levi
    Movie Last Viewed: Sabotage
    Latest Artistic Project: Ch-ch-ch-ch-chainmaille!
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Last Man Zombie Standing.
    Latest Game Release: Things Don’t Go Smooth
    What I’m Working On: Primarily tie-in games work, original comics, and novels.


Talking about Personas

Mad Hatter Avatar

I was going to talk about Mary Stewart and The Crystal Cave today, but instead I’m going to talk about personas. I’ve been meaning to do this for a while as a follow-up to some posts I’ve offered in the past like this one and this one, but esteemed writer Wesley Chu reminded me of what I’ve been meaning to say. I say all of this with love and my repeated mantra: do what works for you.

I don’t care about personas any more. You know, I used to. Being in marketing and business as long as I have, I thought they were important and expected, a much-needed tool to fabricate an image to be memorable. Me? I’d rather be true to myself and worry less about how that’s perceived and received “officially” via a persona. I am a seeker of change and growth, personally and professionally, and I hope that’s reflected in not only what I do, but how, when, and what tools I use to pursue my goals–regardless of the fact that all too often the internet, in particular, never seems to forget a faux pas!

I asked myself, when thinking about personas a few years back, what I care about when I interact with fans, peers, and professionals. Being someone I’m not online takes work, because I have to remember who that persona is in real life interactions, meetings, and correspondence. That’s a helluva lot of work to play that role, and that is so anti-everything “Monica” it’s not even funny. Plus, and I ran into this quite a bit, my audiences overlap so much I couldn’t separate out Monica the Persona for TheDayAndNightJobTM versus Monica the Human Being who has friends and loved ones.

Instead, what I worry about is being a good person. Yes, sometimes, I worry about this too much. I feel terrible about it, but I had challenges remaining positive going to conventions not knowing anybody because I was intimidated and didn’t understand the differences between PERSONATM I met online and HUMAN BEINGTM in real life. That’s nothing anybody else did; that’s my issue. Anyway, to me being a good person means that I need to be someone other people want to be around, and too often personas, when not done well, can be a disillusionment, a turnoff, an extreme aspect of a personality, a permanently attached soapbox that controls the person inside, etc. I also see through them fairly easily, because of my background. Big name celebrities? Need personas. Not only is it part of their job, it’s a coping mechanism to deal with that many people. However, right now I am not a “big name” celebrity. When and if I ever get to that point, then maybe I’ll reconsider. But for now, I’m a WYSIWIG person. What you see, is what you get. Energy levels, as always, are dependent upon caffeine.

Over and out.

    Mood: In a state of zen. Wait… Are the cats up to something?
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: More than I care to admit and less than I’d like to believe.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Well? If my achilles tendon ever heals…
    In My Ears: Lady Crescent Moondragon’s tank, yet another pot of coffee…
    Game Last Played: Ni-No Kuni Wrath of the White Witch
    Book Last Read: The Greywalker series
    Movie Last Viewed: Sabotage
    Latest Artistic Project: Ch-ch-ch-ch-chainmaille!
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Last Man Zombie Standing.
    Latest Game Release: Things Don’t Go Smooth
    What I’m Working On: Primarily tie-in games work, original comics, and novels.


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