All posts by August

I’m fickle and I know it

In college, I got accused of being “fickle” a lot. Yes, I’m going to go there: the dictionary defines fickle as, “changing frequently, especially as regards one’s loyalties, interests, or affection.”

Hmm.

Is that so bad?

I guess if you’re someone who wants to prey on people who stubbornly refuse to change their minds once they’ve made a decision, then someone who’s fickle is probably a wrench in your plans. But if so, you’re not someone I plan to keep around in my life anyway, so. There’s that.

What my not-so-friends in college were saying was that I wouldn’t be pinned down to one set of beliefs, one way of doing things, one nice neat box of interests, character traits, and core values. I’d encounter a situation, have some feelings, draw some conclusions, then learn some new information the next day – and change my mind about how I felt.

I try to learn from my mistakes. I try to rationalize new information when I get it. If something in my life isn’t working, I change it.

If that’s fickle, then hell yeah I’m fickle.

I’m a creative entrepreneur, always have been. I take on new and varied projects all the time, and I don’t see a lot of them through, because they don’t work for me and my brands. (Nikki would probably say this is due to my medium level of grit, and that’s not wrong.) I’m going to drop creative ventures like hot potatoes if and when going through with them sucks more than the reward on the other side.

When I encounter new tactics for the things I do every day, I try them. I love trying on new styles and trying out new tools. I’ll give new things a go for as long as I possibly can.

I obsess over things I’m excited to learn about, and what I’m learning (and therefore obsessing over) changes all the time. I don’t think I have any form of ADD, but my attention is not long for any one thing. Even when I am excited about something, I’m easily distracted by other shiny things.

And that’s OK.

Being fickle is sort of my thing.

Live podcasts

I mentioned in the last studiolog I wrote that we’ve been streaming our studio. Since then, we’ve refined that practice a little bit: Jake and Josh stream their shop time, which is mostly guitar work, and Amy and I stream our creative collaboration time.

It feels like a live podcast. And it’s awesome. (For us, at least.)

I’m not a big podcast fan. I’m not an audio learner, and I find it difficult to focus on anything else when I’m trying to glean real information from an audio source (whether that’s people talking to me or a podcast in my headphones), so until recently I’d never considered using this medium as a way of sharing my style and content with interested parties.

The other thing I don’t like about most podcasts I’ve heard is that they sound like lectures, not conversations. I want to have conversations with my superfans, not stand on a pedestal and word at them.

Thus: live podcasts, a.k.a. livestreaming. We get on the mic, and we’re silly and honest about what we’re working on. We might plan out a few points we want to touch on ahead of time, but mostly it’s spontaneous and organic, moving from one weird topic to another as we find good segues.

I definitely wouldn’t recommend this approach for anyone, but we’re finding that it’s really interesting for the Damn Shames for a few reasons:

  1. It makes us do the work. We aren’t the laziest squad out there, but given the chance to lounge on the couch and watch Below Deck, we’ll take it. The stream gives us a level of accountability to just doing it that we didn’t have before.
  2. We really enjoy it. Turns out, if you’re streaming something you actually enjoy doing, it’s pretty fun. The instant feedback is gratifying, and being able to go back and watch it again later means we don’t lose quite as many off-the-cuff ideas as we may have without the cameras and microphones rolling.
  3. It creates a log of what we did and how. We produce a fair amount of content, but until now, we didn’t do much behind-the-scenes. Having a video and audio record of our working sessions gives us something to look back on when we’re feeling unproductive and like we’ll never figure out how to get past a blocker again. (Spoiler alert: We will.)
  4. Did I mention we get instant feedback? We strive to be commercially palatable artists, and the fastest way to know if we’ve reached that bar is to show what we’re working on to our audience and ask them, “Is this, in fact, palatable?” If not, we haven’t gone too far down a path to change things up; if so, then hey, we’ll keep on keepin’ on.

If you’re interested in our current backlog, check out my Mixer account or Amy’s (you can watch the video-on-demand from either account, you just need to pick whose screen you want to see).

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.”