Ode to meditation

I’m learning how to meditate using a game called PLAYNE – a really amazing resource for me, because it uses metaphors my brain can wrap itself around. Plus, there’s a fox named Wolf. It’s wonderful.

This was my post-meditation quote last night, and I found myself dribbling words onto the page the way I used to, a decade of summers ago.

here is my stillness
it never came with the
prayer,
praise,
private practice.

here, brought in by the fox,
kept willing captive by the voice,
I hear the music,
and in the music,
the quiet.

the fire, a reason to return;
the story, reaching me through
metaphor,
quote,
previous life.

here, I feel understood:
you and me,
the distance,
the closeness,
the past,
the future,
the present, most of all.

Studiolog: Week of June 24

This week marked something that the Shames, Jake in particular, have been working towards for six years now: the successful wiring up of the studio. It all functions! There’s a recording studio in our living room! IT JUST WORKS!

We got a big buddy mixing desk that makes it so we can plug in mics and instruments and get right down to jamming. Plug and play, seriously! It’s a dream!

I couldn’t be more proud of Jake and his endurance and perseverance through this seemingly impossible multi-year quest. It’s the coolest thing we’ve ever built together and it’s all off his blood, sweat, and tears.

I’M NOT CRYING YOU’RE CRYING.

Now. Ahem. What else have the Shames been up to?

That new show I mentioned last time? It’s called The Music Show, and we’ve broadcast two episodes of it already! You can check out the archived episodes on Mixer for now; we’re working on getting the social media ready – the cabling had to come first.

Amy and I have continued The Writers in the Room, putting out three more episodes since last studiolog:

  • Naming – we ramble about how we choose names for characters, projects, and stories.
  • Our favorite childhood stories – an incredibly short episode where we read some beloved picture books aloud.
  • Know your audience – this is a topic all of the Shames could go on and on about, but instead it’s just August and Amy going on and on about it. This one features a wide array of pop culture references.

JUNO continues to teach us in her incredible way! Just this Saturday, I learned the number system for the key of G, which unlocks basically every pop song possible with a capo and the first five frets of dear ol’ Miley (that’s my white and gold acoustic).

We put up a couple more videos for Not Bad. They’re still just musical sketches, but it’s been cool to chart our progress.

https://www.instagram.com/p/By3qLD4HGGu/

It was finally time to pick up my manuscript from last year’s NaNoWriMo and start editing in earnest. I’ve taken the number of curly braces in the Word document down from the 600 range to somewhere in the 350 range. Progress!

All of my earring inventory for Corvid Charms is posted and available on Etsy. If you see something you kind of like, and want to see it in other colors or a different shape, hit me up! I love commissions.

If you’re someone who writes collaboratively and regularly, and you’re interested in being part of an author collective, please contact me! I’d love to talk.

Studiolog: Week of April 29

W O W has it been a long time since the last one of these! Sorry about that, life ran us in circles and it was much more important to spend the time building relationships, our skills, and the studio than it was stopping to write it down.

That said… what have the Shames been up to?!

Jake hard at work on a seeeecret project.

In a word: MUSIC. Ahhhh! Something happened, and every one of us is suddenly excited about music: MIDI, analog synths (that’s mine!), guitars, basses, ukuleles… Each of us has our own interests and angles, but we’re going to bring it all together for an EP in the near future (🤞). Stay tuned, and so will we. 🤖

How did we get there, though?! First and foremost: JUNO. She’s amazing. Jake and I take Skype lessons from her – he takes guitar, and I take songwriting. Talking with her has totally changed how we each approach music and has inspired us beyond belief. We are so pumped to keep working with JUNO!

We’ve been focused on getting the studio up and running for music, which means new gear. My personal new favorite is my KORG synth “Korgi,” while Jake is really loving his Les Paul “Grimace” and Amy enjoys a Breedlove ukulele. We’re able to practically plug in and play any time now (thanks for all the constant wiring, Jake!!)… Jamming has started to sound pretty darn good.

Speaking of gear: There’s a new show on the horizon! Taking their guitar shop show to the next level (and, let’s be real, translating our podcast format to streaming), Josh and Jake will be streaming about all things music gear. They’re going to start with a show about pedals thanks to our good friend Jalop!

And, the old show goes on. Though life has tried its darndest to get in the way, Amy and I have managed to publish six more episodes of The Writers in the Room:

Thanks to our newest studio participant Julie, the gang is all participating in a writing project together! She has organized a turn-based narrative RPG called “Bloodcraft” based on World of Warcraft, and it’s gotten not only myself and Amy to write, but Jake and Josh too. Soon enough I imagine you’ll be able to follow along, but the website we’re using is currently private.

And of course, a few more items of note:

  • I dropped another short story for The Accidental Magic Project called “The Instinct.” I haven’t dabbled in fanfiction outside of my personal experience in a while, but it was very fun getting to know this particular world for a while.
  • I’ve continued modest growth of my jewelry business, Corvid Charms: I sold my first pair of earrings to a dear friend at work, and Amy commissioned me to create a pair for one of her colleagues. I’ve also expanded to designing necklaces.
  • We’ve been watching a lot of Masterclass – Neil Gaiman, Timbaland, Deadmau5, Penn and Teller… Highly recommended viewing instead of another trash TV show.
  • We’ve got a tentative name for the studio/business, but we’re going to wait to debut it until branding is a bit more baked in.
  • Julie set up a very cool photoshoot in which I got to be a forest witch.
Photo credit to Josh, concept credit to Julie.

If you’re someone who writes collaboratively and regularly, and you’re interested in being part of an author collective, please contact me! I’d love to talk.

Studiolog: Week of February 11

The Shames officially survived the snow. What else have they been up to?

First off, huge congrats to Jake, who has two guitars up for sale at Thunder Road Guitars. It’s a huge step for someone who only started refinishing guitars a year ago! 👏

I published “Read-Write,” my February story for The Accidental Magic Project. Alex drew a stunning illustration for my tale of one fairy’s organic computer and its astonishing powers.

Today I revamped the description on our Patreon page, which really needed a facelift since we’ve lessened our focus on Star Citizen content for a bit. Next I need to edit the goals and the branding, but that’s for another weekend…

Unfortunately, the last few episodes of The Writers in the Room had… surprise surprise… terrible sound. So bad, I refused to subject an audience to it. That means no episode this week! We think we have a solution, though, so stay tuned for more on Soundcloud.

Jake had a great week – he and his team Arts & Crafts won another Star Citizen spaceship commercial contest!

I have officially opened up Corvid Charms on Etsy. Please reach out if you have a special request!

If you’re someone who writes collaboratively and regularly, and you’re interested in being part of an author collective, please contact me! I’d love to talk.

Everyone’s a songwriter

Going from a musical collective to a group of musicians who can put out a finished song takes some hard work and practice, as we here at Not Bad are learning every day. Turns out that songwriting – good songwriting, anyway – is challenging too. Just because it rhymes doesn’t mean it sounds good.

Plus, just because it sounds good as a song, does not mean it will look good on paper.

Personally, I find it tough to shut up my inner editor when I’m staring at my attempts to pen pop songs. But Amy and I recently discovered a wonderful exercise to generate starting-place material. It makes you laugh and gets you past the hump of “where do I even start, hasn’t every single topic been done to death?” (Well, yeah.)

Here’s the exercise (it works best with partners, who can choose for you!):

  • Choose a common song topic. Yes, it’s supposed to be cliché! Pop songs are cliché as hell! Here are a few to get your ideas flowing: first love, a broken heart, loss, dancing, the club, true love, revenge, rivalry…
  • Choose an artist you’re familiar with. Again, popular is good here – you want their style and “tells” to be obvious and easy to emulate.
  • Choose something entirely random. If you’re totally stuck, look around the room and pick something you see. We’ve done “the Pyramids,” “bacon,” “walnuts,” and “Big Ben” before.
  • Set yourself a timer. Don’t give yourself more than 10 minutes… You’re supposed to have to move quickly enough to run right past your inner critic.
  • In the duration of your timer, try to write as much as you can of a song about the topic you chose, mentioning or featuring the random thing you chose, as if the artist you chose would perform it.

Ta-da! When you’re done, you’ll have something resembling a song. If it’s anything like mine, most of it will be crap, but you’ll have a line or two that sparks an idea for a full original song of your own.

Or, at least, the mental capacity to tell yourself, “OK, maybe I can do this.” Some days, that’s all you need.

If you’re someone who writes collaboratively and regularly, and you’re interested in being part of an author collective, please contact me! I’d love to talk.

Studiolog: Week of February 4

The Shames are snowed in!

https://www.instagram.com/p/Btp1aH9FBIH/
Gizmo is the happiest of all of us…

What else have the Shames been up to?

I’m SUPER pleased to announce that I finished my NaNoWriMo 2018 manuscript! Draft 1 is finally complete! This means it’s time to put it in a drawer for at least a few months, and pick up something else, so I’m back to working on Portent.

We’re getting back on the streaming game – the boys are on their second shop stream of the week as I write this, and Amy and I will be streaming live tonight for the first time in several weeks.

Jill posted her second story of the year for The Accidental Magic Project, “When It Rains.” I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but I will, and I encourage you to do the same because Jill’s short stories are always a nice twenty minutes of your day.

As you’ve probably started to expect, a new episode of The Writers in the Room is up. In this one, Amy and I chat about long-distance writer relationships (something we’re thankfully on the other side of now).

We also… made a promo video. Sort of. Anyone who knows me knows I’m willing to make a fool out of myself, even on the internet. Here is further proof:

One last note: I’ve created a Corvid Charms Instagram page. That’s what I’m calling my earring “line” for now. How long will this last? WHO KNOWS. Nonetheless, if anything you see on there interests you and you’d like to possess it for your very own, get in touch.

If you’re someone who writes collaboratively and regularly, and you’re interested in being part of an author collective, please contact me! I’d love to talk.

Trusting your voice

One of my earliest fandom characters was Rufus Hemmingway the golden retriever, who I wrote to be an original creation set in John R. Erickson’s Hank the Cowdog universe.

Here’s a little excerpt from “The Case of the Missing Beef Bone,” circa 2002:

…my story begins on a breezy fall evening in November, right on the day humans call Thanksgiving. Leaves were fluttering down from the trees, signaling the change between summer and winter. My humans were all excited about the holiday and about their family supper…so excited, in fact, that little Joseph snuck me a whole luscious beef bone at dinner.

If you go hunt down one of Erickson’s books, you can compare and see my clumsy attempt to steal his style. That’s because I had no idea what I was doing when I was 14. And I didn’t trust my voice.

For good reason! Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I should have been cockier at the time about my writing quality. But you can clearly see me fumbling with the conventions of someone else’s voice. I was sort of picking up on what Erickson was doing; I just wasn’t laying it back down in a coherent fashion.

These days, my close friends and family can spot something I’ve written in a lineup. (I won’t talk about which of my stories have been arrested.) That’s because I found my voice, and I trust it enough to let it do its thing, at least a good portion of the time.

How did I find my voice? I read a lot of books about how writers I admire found theirs, and gained a lot of small exercises that helped, but the real key was practice writing what I wanted to write. Sitting down and doing it. Over and over.

That meant that when writing lost its joy, I went back to exercises like Cool Things to Write About ™ again and again, and revisited old characters that I still love. I wrote meaningless fluff about my current obsessions; I wrote fan-fiction; I wrote stories for other people.

Did I mention that Cool Things exercise? Because it’s really important, and here’s why: besides practice, the other way to build trust in your voice is to believe you know what you’re doing.

And that’s tricky for a lot of writer-types. If you’re a writer, you’re an egomaniac or you’re a self-flagellating masochist or you’re both. If you’re the masochist type, then you’ll probably never really believe in yourself. Which is why you have to devote yourself to practicing with subjects you adore. It’s the only way you’ll have a modicum of faith that you, of all writers, can do those subjects justice.

Make lists of stuff you enjoy writing about, and then

I’m sorry I don’t have a “get good quick” road map for you. All the good books on writing are true: to write well, you have to put in the time, both in reading and writing. But focus on practicing writing what you want to write (and reading what you want to read, for that matter, so long as you keep your genres and sources diverse enough to let you develop a non-derivative voice), and on believing you know what you’re doing, and… well… you’ll get there.

I believe in you.

If you’re someone who writes collaboratively and regularly, and you’re interested in being part of an author collective, please contact me! I’d love to talk.

Studiolog: Week of January 28

February 1st is Jake’s birthday! Happy birthday, Jake!

Hub is the cutest. End of story.

What else have the Shames been up to in the final week of January?

As usual, there’s a new posted episode of The Writers in the Room, about setting ambitious goals but having realistic expectations. This was the first week where we actually skipped recording a new episode, due to Amy’s absence. Don’t worry, we’re back on it this weekend, jet-lag be damned!

As I’m about a chapter and a half away from writing “THE END” on my NaNoWriMo manuscript, I plan to finish it up this weekend (before jumping right into my next short story for The Accidental Magic Project). This will be a momentous occasion and mean that I need to buckle the heck down and edit something, given that’ll leave me with four manuscripts waiting for a rewrite…

There’s a brand new Not Bad sketch up. I feel like we’re swirling closer and closer to something resembling a song…

https://www.instagram.com/p/BtUE2wSD-yw/

I believe I made about 15 pairs of earrings this week?! I’m reaching the point that my brand new earring tree, which boasted of holding 50 pairs, is already looking full. Guess it’s time to start selling off inventory! I’m toying with “Corvid Charms” as a brand name, and I mocked up some branding and packaging for them. It’s very relaxing and satisfying to make these little one-off items. Watch for an Etsy shop in the near future!

If you’re someone who writes collaboratively and regularly, and you’re interested in being part of an author collective, please contact me! I’d love to talk.

She Is

A conversation that came to me as I sat on the couch the other night…

“What do you know, teacher?”

“Too much.”

“A given.”

“Too much sadness.”

“Whose?”

“Everyone’s. I move through a crowd and it sloughs onto me.”

“What do you know about the woman?”

“She is.”

Curious silence.

“A woman.”

“She is.”

“She is, and she will be.”

“While we are still watching, teacher?”

“Yes. I believe so. She is coming quickly to the turning point. Not long now.”

“When she is… will the sadness change?”

“The sadness can never leave. You know that. Without it, there is no humanity.”

“I know.”

“But yes. The sadness will change.”

“She will change the sadness.”

“She will.”

Studiolog: Week of January 21

Welcome to yet another studio update. What have the Shames (minus Amy) been up to?

First and foremost: we have bacon again. Jake worked his magic and it is a delicious batch.

Fueled by bacon, Jake and Josh and I have been playing a lot of collaborative music. More and more, we’re incorporating our stringed instruments into the improv sessions, and it’s sounding, well, Not Bad so far.

Today Zach and Josh and I took Gizmo to the woods and fetched some rather spectacular pictures of the puppo. The light was so magical!

It’s official: The Accidental Magic Project is off to the races for 2019! Jill posted her first story this week, called “Honey & Vinegar.” It’s a wonderfully unique angle on a pretty funny pseudo-holiday.

I’m making a ridiculous amount of jewelry these days – mostly earrings, but a few necklaces as well. I find it to be a Zen activity in between all of the chaos that has been work lately (mostly in a good way, to be honest), so I’m going to keep going… then give them away as gifts and maybe even start an Etsy shop casually on the side.

I posted another episode of The Writers in the Room, because I’m missing Amy and you can tell by the fact that I’m still posting our backlog of episodes even though we haven’t been able to make a new one this week… Anyway, this one is about the stories that shaped us from our childhoods, both in book and film form.

Speaking of childhood stories, Robo finished my early 2000s cat characters! Oh man. OH MAN. You have no idea how much joy this brings me. (Or maybe you do, but you can never know.) Here are all six of ’em…

If you’re someone who writes collaboratively and regularly, and you’re interested in being part of an author collective, please contact me! I’d love to talk.

Books and bytes