All posts by August

Studiolog: Week of October 1

I would say this has been an uneventful few weeks in the Shames’ studio, but I would be lying.

So what exciting stuff have the Shames been up to?

Let’s get the big one out of the way: we’re streaming our studio! Instead of trying to set up our PCs for game streaming, which sort of gets lost in the crowd anyway, we had the idea of making our streams the “behind the scenes” experience of what it is we do under this roof.

Jake and Josh have been streaming the shop, specifically guitar projects (which have continued strong; there should be a few more for sale on our Reverb page very soon). You can watch their previous streams on Josh’s Mixer account, with Gizmo hanging out as shop doggo in the corner. (Jake’s account may be used in the future as well.)

Amy and I will be streaming worldbuilding sessions and maybe even some writing sessions, which you’ll be able to find on her account or on mine. Some of the other behind-the-scenes ideas we’ve had are showing how we pack lunches for four adults, composing some of our Not Bad music, and shooting footage for our Star Citizen videos.

I’m gearing up for another round of NaNoWriMo! I’m still in disbelief that it’s already time to consider such things, but you know me, I’m always excited to be making stacks of notecards. I’m planning to write a sequel this year — book two of a planned eight-book series — which is the first time I’ve truly attempted that for NaNo. Should be an interesting adventure, as always.

The Accidental Magic Project is doing a Halloween extravaganza this year! Each of us contributors (and a few new guests) will be writing up a story featuring classic Halloween elements, and sharing these tales throughout the month of October. I found myself writing a cutesy love story — for Halloween, really?! — and I can’t wait to share it.

We have a new mixer on the way to make collaborative song-making even easier and higher-quality, so watch for some more Not Bad tunes 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.

Studiolog: Week of September 17

Jill and I were just talking the other day about how the late summer/early fall months are hard for us, creatively. I wrote about it in December of last year; I said the autumn months were “for forgetting how to write, except when it’s very structured,” and “a time of extreme writer angst.”

See? I did kinda figure myself out.

So in this transitional time of difficulty, what have the Shames been up to?

As I may have mentioned once or twice, we have a dog. That dog now has an Instagram account. Sorry not even a little bit sorry.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bn_tiz4lgY0/?taken-by=gizmodiouswoof
Pictured: our big dumb dinosaur.

Frivolities aside, we’ve managed to make some studio progress. For one thing, Jake and his partners-in-creative-crime won second place in the Star Citizen Prospector commercial with a fantastic entry that he narrated. (Josh, Amy and I had one too, but it didn’t place.)

Perhaps more importantly, we’ve made strides in our attempts to stream! Instead of trying to get a specific type of programming on the virtual air, we’ve decided to see what happens if we try streaming a variety show of our studio production efforts! So far, the three streams have been Josh and Jake refinishing guitars, which you can watch on Josh’s Mixer channel. (And just a reminder, guitars from The Sharper Axe shop are still up for sale!)

Jill, Amy, and I are all contributing stories to the Halloween extravaganza we’re running for The Accidental Magic this month. I can’t wait to share mine – it’s ooey-gooey sweet happy goodness, so much lighter than my normal fare. I have no idea why that’s what Halloween brought to the surface, but I’ll take it!

Just so it doesn’t seem like I only report the successes: I wasn’t able to keep up with the 30×30 fashion challenge. Other priorities pushed it out of the way, so I let it go. There’s always another month!

Speaking of months, November is coming up reeeeeal soon…

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 August 27th

Dogs. Are. Exhausting.

Even (especially?) when you love ’em.

So what have the Shames been up to?

Man holding a guitar painted like the Star Trek ship Enterprise
A proper sendoff!

Jake shipped off the first Sharper Axe adoption: the Star Trek guitar. I’m so proud! Check out the other guitars still for sale if you’re interested in rescuing a custom instrument.

I had a false start on my Accidental Magic Project story for September, but luckily inspiration swooped in today. Fingers crossed it sticks around long enough for me to get something onto the page! Meanwhile, Nicole of Mischief & Mouse contributed “Prometheus” to the mix, hearkening back to some of the stuff we used to write together as kids.

I made some solid progress on my short story boot camp book, and convinced Joe of Minty Pineapple Entertainments to provide an example story! I have yet to find enough willing writers, though, so please reach out if you’d like to contribute (and get some publicity for your efforts!).

Josh made a video for the Star Citizen Prospector commercial challenge, and Amy and I are making some music for it. So far, I’ve “sketched” a couple of options, and am trying to sound just enough like the Fast and Furious soundtrack.

Finally, I’m starting a 30×30 outfit challenge with Amy, lasting all of September. The idea is to pre-select 30 items from your existing wardrobe and wear nothing but those 30 things for the next 30 days. Things can get pretty ridiculous if you want to avoid wearing the exact same outfit twice, but it’s a fun way to keep my mind sharp during the seasonally transitional months, when I get antsy and easily bored.

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 August 20th

I had all of these grand plans to write and be productive this weekend, and then we went and got a dog.

I’ll tell the story another time, but this (still unnamed) boy is my dream dog. He looks exactly how I imagined, he came to me in exactly the kind of way I’d always imagined, and he doesn’t stink (??!?) and he doesn’t drool and he sleeps 16 hours a day and wants to play first thing in the morning when he’s talking to me.

He’s the best.

So: the Shames have been up very little besides walking and feeding and leash-training and cuddling and watching in disbelief as a handsome doggo trots around our house.

I made some music last night, and Jake and Josh are working on a new Star Citizen video, mostly just for funsies. But really: doggo.

THAT FACE.

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 August 13th

What have the Shames been up to?

Well, turns out fixing and/or customizing a car is more work than expected (just like production, how about that!), so that continues to steal the majority of our combined time and attention. Thankfully, Six is in fewer pieces than before and seems to be coming out of surgery A-OK.

Since Six is going to chill for today before she can go see a mechanic tomorrow, that leaves today open for a big studio backlog task day: rearranging the devices and furniture in our studio room, installing hard drives and graphics cards, and getting finnicky computers to update. Not so much on the creation side, but an attempt to get things back to creation mode so it’s easy to walk up, make something, and walk away.

I released a couple of songlets on the Not Bad Instagram account this week, using some beats from Electronic Dance Music Grooves by Josh Bess. I appreciate that with just a few clicks to copy Bess’s patterns, I have a functioning beat to inspire new kinds of melodies, when staring at a blank project isn’t getting the creative juices flowing.

Jake finished his custom SG Custom this week – it needed one last blob of perfectly-placed super glue to stop a stubborn key from rattling. It looks amazing if I do say so myself.

If you’re interested in picking up a custom guitar, all of the ones currently for sale have dropped in price in the last week on Reverb. Buy ’em while they’re still available! They’re one-of-a-kind!

Meanwhile, I’ve been filling my head with quality entertainment. Jake and I have watched through Amazon’s “Bosch,” which is not “just another cop show” and brings serious quality writing and character development to Amazon’s lineup. While I was sick on Monday, I also plowed through half of the series “Mad Dogs,” which is like “The Hangover” but for real and also very dark. Again, quality writing, quality character development (though I daresay the characters are not quality humans; but therein lies the charm), and a serious amount of South American magical realism that I just love.

Back in 2015, I took my friend Sara’s advice and read The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, the first in Laurie King’s incredible “Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes” series. I’ve never been a rabid Holmes fan, but King makes him a magical character alongside Ms. Russell, who is about as kickass a heroine as you could want. So this week, I finished A Letter of Mary – an absolutely fantastic entry to the series. Highly recommend!

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.

Secret emoji

Fine, this isn’t strictly a OneNote tip, but it can be kind of useful in OneNote as a form of tagging (if you don’t just want to use the normal tags).

If you use Windows 10, and you’re current on all your updates, you might find this to be a fun way to add color (and searchable conceptual tags) to your OneNote pages – or just to your conversations, emails, and Photoshop documents.

It’s a very simple shortcut: place your cursor in whatever text field you’d like to insert the emoji, then hold the Start button and press period (.) at the same time.

You should see this:

In-line emoji keyboard with spaghetti emoji highlighted.

Now you can either scroll through and find the one you were looking for, or you can search. Yes, search. Just start typing, and the emoji will be filtered down to anything that matches what you typed. Use the arrow keys to move to the one you want and press enter.

Voila! Emoji.

Learning from other writers

The first thing you learned from another writer, most likely passively, was by partaking in their unique way of telling stories. If you’re a writer today, you’ve spent your whole life until now learning from other writers.

Writing is about shared meaning — through the spoken and unspoken agreements humans have about how the components of language work, as well as through the cultural movements that impact many aspects of a writer’s voice and life. Although it’s vital to being a good writer that you go out and live a life full of details worth writing about, it’s also vital that you sit quietly and listen, one way or the other.

Here are some ways you can set out to intentionally learn from your fellow writers.

Actively

Ask someone to review your work. You may not want to reach out to your favorite bestselling author to request their time in this way; save your burning questions about writing in general for those interactions. This is for your fellow hard-working laborers in obscurity! Reach out to someone you know who writes and see if they’d be willing to do a feedback trade. You can gain so much by listening to someone else who understands how to craft stories talk about your current work.

If you want a real burst of motivation, collaborate on a shared story with a fellow writer. It’s weird. I’ll tell you, trying to write on the same thing with a brain you have zero actual access to is weird. But it’s fun! And it can give you a real kick in the pants to get moving and produce something. Plus, trust me, you’ll learn a ton from the other writer(s) you work with — about style, characterization, and process (both what you’d like to steal and do yourself, and what you’d like to avoid ever doing).

If you’re lucky enough to get the chance, take a class from another writer. Workshops are also weird, but they can be really amazing if they go well. If you don’t have the opportunity to take a class, there are some online resources for watching video series from writers with credentials, such as Masterclass. Videos are nowhere near as good as the real thing, but I understand not everyone will have that chance.

Passively

Re-type their work so you know how it feels to write well (and in their voice). One of Jake’s favorite stories about his favorite writer, Hunter S. Thompson, is how he learned what it felt like to write like the big guns. He would take a novel like F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” and furiously re-type it until he had a sense of the “music” they were writing. You can do the same when you’re stuck on a certain passage or scene — find a writer you admire who has created similar scenes, and re-type away until you know what it feels like to write that kind of scene well.

Read their work critically. Instead of simply being entertained by a written work, a critical reader pays attention to what the writer left unsaid, and what is implied by adding up what they did say. The next time you want to learn from a writer, pick up something of theirs you’ve read before and go over it with a metaphorical fine-tooth comb.

Read what they’ve written about writing. Whether it’s King’s “On Writing” or Bradbury’s “Zen in the Art of Writing,” writing about writing has a storied (ha!) tradition. These days, a lot of authors write about writing on their blogs. I like to look at this kind of reading exercise as “curious consumption”: I’m open-minded, but I don’t let myself feel guilty if I don’t immediately click with another writer’s process. The point is to absorb a lot of different processes, and filter aggressively until I have my own system that works for me.

The twin moons

I flicker the weak beam against the corn
to find the moons, floating together.
I call, and the twin moons come.

The moons sail in to the ring of light
from the porch, a dock on a rustling sea.
When I see rolling tongue and happy smile
I call, “Good boy.”

Studiolog: Week of August 6th

Can I just brag about my lunches this week for a second? Oh geez. They were delicious. Little half-cups of this and that for a light, well-balanced meal. So much better than heavy Bellevue lunch food.

Uhhhh, OK, that was a weird aside. Anyway, what have the Shames been up to?

In some ways, it feels like hardly anything. It’s been really hot again, so we’ve all been trying to stay cool.

On top of that, my most favoritest car has taken a turn for the, well, needing to sit in the garage for a while. She’s fine, more or less, but she does need to stay there for bit, so we’ve not only been housebound but also unable to use our garage for guitar projects.

But, we have been making progress on other projects! While I was on vacation, I got the idea for a book about how to get better at writing short stories in 52 weeks (so I can have some sort of catchy “in a year” title). The heart of the idea is that if you follow along with this book, using my prompts, then no matter what you’ll get better because you’ll practice. It’s a lot like the philosophy behind why Jill and I challenge one another. In the book, I’ll take the reader through the building blocks and stylistic elements of building a good short story as the weeks go on and they write a bunch of stories.

Speaking of short stories, last night I did a five-minute bubble graph and ended up with a pretty cool outline for my next Accidental Magic short story. Hint: it’s about whales. That’s all I’m saying at this point.

Speaking of short stories, I decided recently to go back and revisit the 47 (!!!) short stories I’ve written in the past five or so years. I categorized them (because of course I did) into groups that had something interesting in common, like ancient prophecies or breaking curses. I’m planning on revising them (slightly at least) and then putting them up for sale in five-story anthologies. “Wishes” will be first!

I’ve bee playing around with cover ideas – here, I’m going for something that hopefully feels a little “Penguin Classic”:

On the collaboration side, I’ve been working with Nicole again, which I always love. I’ve set her on a couple of projects: one is our comic book with Alex, and the other is an incremental game called Feed the Wolves. (Nikki and I once planned to make it, but haven’t gotten around to it, and I suspect some art might motivate us again.)

Amy has been busy working on her song “Price Range.” She’s close to a melody and the final lyrics for what will probably be Not Bad‘s first single.

And, she and I have both been working on stories for a romance line we intend to develop through our publishing collective. We won’t be revealing those on this blog, as we’ll each be publishing under a pen name, but feel free to reach out for more information about those projects.

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

Sprout

Gary wasn’t forthcoming with an explanation. I could hear him shrugging over the phone. “I mean…I guess we just wore out our welcome with each other. Y’know?”

I didn’t know. But I said I did. Gary waited a few seconds, said he hoped I got some sun this summer, and hung up.

I went outside and laid in the pile of potting soil on the front lawn, a seed waiting to sprout into something beautiful. I stared at the sky and I wished I was colorblind or that I heard flavors or anything more interesting than the boring, predictable human bean I was.

Caged tigers had more diverting routines than I did. I knew why Gary had called me instead of breaking up with me in person. He was sick of Rhodes’ Café, tired of the orange chicken at Egg Foo Yum, and probably never wanted to see a Saturn Coffee Company cup ever again.

I turned my head each way to look at my hands. I wasn’t sprouting yet.

Sighing, I rolled my head just in time to see Rufus and Yanna saunter up. As usual, a perfect leash-length separated them. Yanna yipped and scurried over to sniff the bottom of my shoes.

“Hi,” I said, barely raising my head.

Rufus stayed on the sidewalk. “What’s the matter? Your mom die or something?”

“Two years ago. And no. My boyfriend just broke up with me.”

I snuck a peek at Rufus’s long face. It actually fell a little. “Aww. Sorry to hear that. Yanna, get away from there.” Yanna’s snuffly pug nose was coming dangerously close to my mouth.

“It’s OK,” I said. “Gary was only alright. Dating him was like…sucking on an ice popsicle.”

Rufus chuckled. “Kinda thrilling, kinda boring.”

“Exactly.” I sat up on my elbows. “See, you get it! He wouldn’t have laughed at that. He probably would have looked down his tiny nose at me and said something like, ‘Nice one, wise guy.’ ”

“He was the, ah, muscley one, yeah?” Rufus gestured towards the driveway and Gary’s imaginary Mustang.

“Muscley. Yes. Apt description, if generous. Gary was the Crossfit bro who occasionally showed up in my driveway in a bus-yellow metal turd. Let’s not talk about him anymore.”

“OK,” Rufus said. “What do you wanna talk about instead?”

I rolled onto my knees and rubbed Yanna between her stubby ears before getting to my feet and facing Rufus with my hands on my hips.

“Cannibals,” I said. “Specifically, the presence of cannibals in our neighborhood.”