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!

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.

Studiolog: Week of January 14

Howdy, faithful readers. What have the Shames been up to this week?

It’s been another quiet week, mostly because Amy is off travelling the world! (For work.) The rest of the Shames will miss her dearly, and I expect things will remain a little slow under the studio roof until her return.

Thankfully, you don’t have to wait for two weeks to hear our voices. We’re still dropping new episodes of The Writers in the Room, like the one released this week about writing what we want to in 2019 (instead of torturing ourselves to write what we “should”). Amy and I did a quick ‘cast today with her at the airport and me at home, and we plan to do the same twice in the coming weeks, should the internet speeds overseas allow it!

The Shames are also working with a really cool artist called Juno. She’s been Jake’s guitar teacher these last few weeks (which, by the way, is an amazing situation; she’s taught him so much!) and now we’re all hoping to capitalize on the fact that our brands are so compatible – bright colors, fun, emphasis on positivity, doing things our own way. More to come on this partnership!

There’s been a lot of music practice lately – both analog and digital – but it’s been offline. We’ll capture some for Instagram very soon.

At work, there’s a rotating party-planning committee, and I was tasked with throwing the January party. Since there weren’t any convenient holidays, I decided to make it a “murder mystery” party, only it’s going to be a heist. Gotta write that material myself, so that’s my Saturday task, along with making progress on my February short story for The Accidental Magic Project.

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 7

Howdy, world! Has it truly been just one week since I last wrote one of these? Dang. Long week. I spent three of the weekdays at an offsite for work, and am now completely peopled out.

So the Shames haven’t been up to too much in the meantime.

I kicked off the year for The Accidental Magic Project with a short story called “Son of Rock.” Surprise, surprise, it’s guitar-themed. Bear with me, though, I tried to make it accessible for non-experts! There’s a famous tree… if that entices you…

I also finally passed the 75k word mark on my NaNo novel! Probably around 15k left to go… which really isn’t long now. I’m hoping this weekend I’ll make some good progress.

There’s another The Writers in the Room episode, and this time Amy‘s laying down some wisdom about children’s books based on what worked and didn’t work while she was a nanny. Good stuff!

Also, I got a bass. A little blue piece of crap that was begging to be rescued from the Guitar Center shelf. It came home and Jake fixed it up and I immediately sticker-bombed it. Very satisfying.

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.

Wake-up call

Preston’s eyes remained closed, though he could feel the lightening of morning outside his window. These moments were precious: self-reflection, brilliant ideas, anything that required a still mind and a complete focus on nothing else, these were the commodities he crafted in the wee hours.

Then the first electric shock hit his toe and travelled all the way up through his veins.

Preston used to scream when the alarm clock went off, but after five years he was enough used to the sensation to emit a muffled wheeze of pain instead. The electricity was like fire in his blood, enlivening him in a way that no mere siren sound could manage.

He rolled over onto his stomach, dropping his chin onto his pillow and clenching his eyes shut. It was Saturday; he should have been allowed to linger in his bed, at least until the sun was fully over the horizon and he was expected to come to the farm and supervise the weekend laborers. He wondered if the clock had ever been reset from the day before, when he’d needed to get up early to go in and see William.

Another shock travelled up his leg, this time originating in his calf. He couldn’t help it this time: he arched his back and moaned his agony. There was a very satisfied chick-chock sound from the alarm clock–the sound of the shocking arm retreating into the clock body. It knew he was awake now; the pulse sensors in his sheets would tell it that much.

“I’m up, I’m up,” Preston muttered unnecessarily, kicking the sheets off so they would fall over the alarm clock’s beady, greedy eye. He hated that it was allowed to live in his apartment; when he’d been a kid, robots were banished to the outdoors, like big dogs in their shoddy little houses.

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