Studiolog: Week of December 31

Howdy folks! It is 2019 and the Shames are feeling good about the year here at the studio. So what have we been up to this week?

Ohhhh, we’ve been planning. It’s felt a little like voluntary homework, but in the best possible way! (Yeah, yeah, don’t forget, I was homeschooled. All schoolwork was homework.) I created a sheet to help us focus our vision for our studio overall as well as for each project, and it’s turned out to be very focusing and inspiring, as well as allowing me to drop a few things here and there without feeling guilty about it.

I’m also going to make a fancy version of the worksheet and make it available to anyone who signs up for my mailing list! (Old link, old graphic, sorry! I’ll update it as soon as the worksheet is ready to go.)

Jill and I have done our plotting and planning and are excited to announce we will be doing a second round of The Accidental Magic Project in 2019! Our theme remains “accidental magic,” but this year with a twist – we’re incorporating weird, random holidays, and we’ll be posting the stories on the dates of the holidays. Should be entertaining! Patrick is going to refresh the website, so we’ll have a new look soon.

A few weeks ago, Amy and I recorded what I think is our best episode of The Writers in the Room so far – A Writer is Only as Good as Her Network. Though the first ten minutes aren’t our strongest, once we got going, it was a good conversation about the kind of people you need around you to have a successful creative lifestyle.

Speaking of creative lifestyles, I was recently reminded of how long I’ve been living the #creativelife when I found a few artists doing Warrior Cats fanart, which I used to absolutely adore back in 2003-2004. I had a lot of cat characters back then too, when I was a hardcore Warrior Cats fangirl, and I dug them up and am getting commissions of six of them so I can use them in a future project. Reduce, reuse, recycle, right?

More photographic material: Josh and Jake have made some ballsy design moves on Josh’s Explorer kit, and it’s looking pretty amazing. (Pardon the language, we’re excited.)

Oh, and… THE PINKIE PIE GUITAR SOLD! We are so proud. ;’)

Finally, a few extra notes:

  • How to Write a Damn Good Novel, II was awesome and I gained so much from it, specifically the concept of laying out a premise for your story before you begin. While Frey (HA!) was specifically talking about novels, the practice is perfect for short stories as well.
  • Josh continues making progress on the show graphics we’re doing for our Big Deal Internet Friend. Soon™!
  • During the Smashwords end-of-the-year sale, six people picked up free copies of Daugment. YES.

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 December 24

It probably looks to those watching like the Shames spent a quiet holiday at home. Well, that’s more or less true… it was a very busy time in the studio as the Shamesian elves slaved over their projects with oodles of joy.

So what were the elves up to?

Me? I’ve been writing. A lot. It was a slow first half of December as far as getting back into the swing of making progress on my NaNo book, but I’m now 72k words in and still chugging, not too far from the end now. When I finish, that’ll leave me with… welp. Four novels in first-draft phase. What the heck am I thinking? Oh, right, I’m thinking it’s high time to write notes for the next one(s). Sheesh.

Amy and I split the cost of the Smarter Artist package deal, which we got because we’re members of their mailing list, and I am super duper excited to go through their Indie Author Bootcamp material (as well as explore their Fiction Unboxed stuff, which Amy is more excited about than I am because, well, I read the book). If nothing else, I hope to be inspired to put together a plan for Halftree Press for 2019.

Jake and I revived our “teach yourself how to cook” project and intend to make progress in early 2019, with the hope of publishing by summer or fall of the same year. Optimistic? Probably! Who cares, we have a nice camera and want to take food pics now!

In that lovely land between music and writing, where songwriting lives, Amy and I have been contemplating challenging ourselves to something like Inktober, but for songs. We’d alternate days between writing original songs and churning out the parodies we’re both (in)famous for. If we make enough of a plan in advance, I may share some challenge prompts out during whatever month we decide to do it… stay tuned, I guess?

Now to the shop. We gave my dad his guitar and he went absolutely batshit. It was awesome. I have photographic evidence but it’s on the camera so for now you’ll just have to imagine a person who looks like an older male version of me pulling a Dreamworks face.

Aaaand, there are two new guitars up for sale! I’m particularly fond of the pink Pacifica, even though I’m an avid not-lover of pink in general. I just love its rich color and the sexy laser-engraved Darkmoon humbucker.

The bass is pretty slick too – oh, and I now have a custom-stained cajon as a “you did the NaNo thing!” present from Jake. 😍 Since I got an acoustic guitar for my birthday from Jake and Amy, I’ve also been trying to get my chord-changing dexterity back. I would say I’m… Not Bad.

Couple more things:

  • I’m reading two books right now: The Lives of Tao, about an alien visitor in an unlikely human host, and How to Write a Damn Good Novel, II, which is exactly what it sounds like (and yes, it’s a sequel). The latter has had some really great pointers on going above and beyond the basic practices of writing a novel. I’m finding it really useful right now because I’m in shape and have practiced novel-writing lately, so its ideas directly apply.
  • Habitica has been working quite well for me! It has only been about a week, but it’s satisfying to turn behaviors I want to be doing anyway into an excuse to level up a character.

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 December 17

It’s officially the December holidays – no one is around, stores are either closed or packed, and I can feel my end-of-the-year itches coming on strong. Yet there seems to be no time for anything…

So what have the Shames been up to?

I broke out our new camera to refresh some of my blog post illustrations. You can see the results on this post, or on some future ones I imagine I will create! Bonus: here’s my favorite visual story that’s not spoken for yet by a specific post.

“Everything’s fine! It’s fine. All good. Nothing to see here.”

Amy cranked out a recording + video for her Star Citizen parody of “Santa Baby” last night, and it’s doing very well for the modest amount of promotion we’ve given it (see: none). I’m sure I’ve mentioned this previously, but I am way proud of Ames for deciding to learn how to edit videos and then just effin’ doin’ it.

We’ve uploaded yet another episode of The Writers in the Room, and this one’s all about personal branding for writers. Give it a listen and let me know if you’d like more info on anything we touch on during the podcast!

Tiny Habits didn’t work as well for me as I’d hoped, though it has stimulated my appetite for habit-making, so Amy and I are now giving Habitica a try. I’ve attempted to use it before, but never with the mindset of tiny goals, which Tiny Habits did give me. Again, I’ll report back on how it works for me! I’m currently trying to get into the habit of at least one 10-minute word sprint and some aerobic movement every day.

I have seen some sketched comic pages with my own two eyes! I continue to be unable to share, because this thing has gotta stay on the DL until Alex is further along, BUT. Patrick has made us a fabulous landing page website as a placeholder until we have more content, and once I’ve seen a lot more storyboard pages, I will have him take that live and share it here.

Jake finished my dad’s guitar, and at the risk of him somehow seeing this blog post, I’m going to post a picture of it anyway. Because it is gorgeous and full of magic.

It’s a blue-green Strat.

If you’d like a hand-crafted guitar for your very own, please reach out and I will put you in contact with Jake. He is ready and eager to take on commission projects. Or check out all of his instruments currently up for sale.

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 December 10

This was my “birthday week,” which is not to say that I celebrate my birthday all week but rather shorthand to inform my coworkers that I won’t be around for their end-of-the-year “hurry up and wait” BS and will be enjoying some quiet, restful time at home.

So that’s what I’ve been doing.

And meanwhile, the Shames have been up to a few things…

The new guitars are finally up and ready for their new homes. These are two of my favorites Jake has made so far – both purple, both transformed from their original forms, each boasting its own sound. There’s the Washburn, which has a great underdog/comeback story, and the LTD, pictured here.

It is smooth as butter.

If you’re interested, please feel free to purchase them through Reverb, or contact me directly.

I wrote the first draft of the children’s book based on my cousin Lisa’s really adorable new baby, about a little girl and her elephant best friend and their adventures together. I almost made myself cry? Shhh. I’ve shared it with Nicole and I’ll preview any progress as it comes!

There are two new episodes of The Writers in the Room up on Soundcloud – one mostly about NaNoWriMo, and the other about padding your word count productively (and a lot about food, for some reason).

Jake took me to Half Price Books yesterday and I got a serious fiction haul that includes “Who Fears Death” by Nnedi Okorafor (a read I’ve been anticipating for some time now), “Viscera” by Gabriel Squailia, and “The Lives of Tao” by Wesley Chu. I’m looking forward to some winter evening reading!

I’ll leave you with this lovely holiday-themed original ukulele song by Amy.

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.

The street

Inspired by a strange road near my house. Content warning: suicidal actions.

The man waited, fidgeting with the frayed edge of his Northface jacket. Whenever a car hissed wetly by, he looked up, gauging its speed and trajectory. None of them had satisfied his sense of perfection. He had waited too long to do this wrong.

Then he saw it: a Lincoln, one of the big ones, with grill enough to do the job. The man huffed out the breath he’d been holding towards the lone streetlight, so he could see it – a great cloud of the moisture of his life.

He jumped.

The driver of the Lincoln tried to swerve, but the man had calculated his leap well, and the vehicle hit him with a sickening series of wet crunches. Someone screamed, maybe on the sidewalk or maybe from the apartments across the street, but the man couldn’t tell. He was dying. He was dying. He was dead.

He was alive. He was on the other side of the street.

There was someone at the bus stop, hunched against the schedule pole. They lifted their head when the man rolled over and touched the sidewalk with a wondering smile.

The person’s hood fell back, revealing an elderly woman with half a set of teeth and a shocked stare.

“You came in through the front door!” she cried. “We don’t let anyone through the front door.”

The man’s smile faded, and he pushed to his feet, brushing tiny rocks off his Northface.

“I earned it,” he snarled. “I made the sacrifice.”

“We don’t let anyone,” the old woman quavered, trailing off, then again: “We don’t.”

A throaty honk announced the arrival of the bus going west. Throwing the man a hateful look, the woman waddled to the vehicle’s door and said something inaudible to the driver. The bus groaned with great dignity and lowered itself like a trained horse so the woman could climb the stairs.

The man grunted, lingering on the sidewalk to catch one last glimpse of the woman’s dirty coat as she vanished into the bus. He had expected some sort of guardian to challenge his passage, but this old woman’s vague mutterings hardly qualified.

The bus groaned again and the man looked up, expecting to see the staircase rising and the vehicle lumbering away.

Instead, the bus’s body was elongating to three times its original size, its tires stretching to become rubber-tipped limbs. It opened a giant maw where the grill had been, revealing six rows of gear-like fangs.

There it is,” the man growled and ducked into a roll as the bus-beast took a swipe at him.

Studiolog: Week of December 3

It’s dipped below freezing a couple of times, but here are the Shames, shivering along… What have we been up to?

I, for one, have been procrastinating! I’m late on my final Accidental Magic Project story, partly because I’ve found it hard to sit down and stay focused again lately, and partly because I really want to do this story justice. Excuses, I know.

I’ve also stalled on my NaNoWriMo project because my carpal tunnel flared up. I’m going to use this an excuse to tell you to TAKE BREAKS. Don’t let your hands get hurt. It totally sucks for a variety of reasons. Since I didn’t take suitable breaks during November, now I have to work hard in December to heal my hand and get the habit back.

On the other hand, the boys have been productive on guitar projects – my dad is going to get an amazing guitar for Christmas (fingers crossed), and many guitars in the oiling phase, which means more inventory up for sale soon!

I’ve been editing more episodes of The Writers in the Room and posting them to our Soundcloud account, so feel free to give those a listen. They’re a little wince-worthy, but I’m proud of them, still, somehow. Chalk it up to the same ego that compels me to re-listen to them…

Finally, a few more things:

  • I’m doing Tiny Habits next week! I’m starting by working on some habits around my activity level, but I’m hoping to use the method (once I’ve learned it) to get better at sitting down and staying focused. I’ll report back on its effectiveness.
  • I finished reading Iterate and Optimize by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant, the third in their series of books about being a Smarter Artist. It was good! Not quite as chock full of specific steps as I’d wanted, but I’m OK with that for the most part; it was a great pep talk and had a lot of quality reminders of what to do and not to do while building a creative business of any size.
  • Since I finished their book, I’m also checking out Sterling & Stone’s StoryShop.io. So far it seems cool. I may make an additional post on that in the 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 November 26

It took some doing, but we got out of vacation mode. And then what did the Shames get up to?

Perhaps most importantly, this is being written on December 1st, meaning that NaNoWriMo is over. I crossed the 50,000-word threshold with about 30 minutes to spare! Still have about half the story left to go, but I feel solidly into it, enough to keep the momentum going. Amy wrote (nearly) every single day in November, and plans to continue the habit.

I’m teaming up with Nicole again, this time for Mischief and Mouse itself. This weekend I’m writing her some tiny fiction to use as social media bait to sell her felt woodland creature ornaments. This is like going straight back to my childhood for so many reasons, and I’m loving the challenge (and all of the resulting domesticity!).

Since it’s the howl-idays (sorry not sorry), Daugment is on sale everywhere for just $1.99, down $3 from its usual price. If you have a science fiction or talking animal fan who loves to read on your cheap gift list this year, please consider buying a copy.

If the reader you know has a Kindle, this is a quick and easy way to give them my book.

Jill and I had a productive chat the other day about what next year’s Accidental Magic Project challenge will be. We’ll be revealing that come next month, most likely, so stay tuned to the Twitter account for more.

A few more things of note:

  • I’ve started making simple earrings, for no better reason than I’m bored and I don’t like to spend money on jewelry that turns my ears green anyway.
  • We got a beautiful Warmoth guitar body and neck to create a custom guitar for my dad, so Jake is starting on that this week. He is also selling two (un-custom) additional guitars on Reverb if you’re in the market for one.
  • Josh will be working on some graphics for a Cool Internet Person for a secret project to be revealed. More on that when we can talk about it!

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 November 19

Hello world! The Shames took some vacation time this week (or were forced to do so by federally mandated holidays) and were up to some ish…

During my time off, I’ve been working on projects, like I do. Because I obviously don’t have enough stuff to steal my time, I came up with a children’s book idea based on my cousin’s new baby and her stuffed elephant toy/friend. Nicole is going to illustrate, and I am so excited about it.

I am pleased to announce that I’m back on track with NaNoWriMo! After a few days of nose to the grindstone, I’m sitting where I should be with just an average 1667-word day standing between me and today’s par. By no means am I impressing myself this year on word count productivity…other than the part where I hadn’t really written longform all year until now, so it’s nice to get back into the practice. Meanwhile, Amy continues to plug away and make more progress than she ever has on a single project before. I’m so damn proud.

You know what else I’m proud of? The fact that Amy and I have now, for eight consecutive weeks, spent an hour or two on Saturdays streaming to talk about our writerlives. The Writers in the Room ran live again successfully today, and we posted part 2 of the “100 Ideas on One Stream” episode to Soundcloud.

(By the way, Soundcloud’s free version is annoyingly limiting. I guess 3 hours of upload time is enough if you create songs that are no more than five minutes apiece – that’s basically three full albums – but for a talk show, not so great. We may need to start looking at getting our podcast up on a podcast-friendly network, or else we’re in for a $144 cost for the year. Worth it? Not sure yet.)

If you can’t get enough Amy content, you can now follow her on Twitter at her amazing handle, @threedaloo. She intends to write quippy internet gold, which I assume you can’t pass up, so go give her a follow.

Josh was busy grabbing some photographs of the guitars that are going up for sale, but I don’t have his quality versions yet, so I imagine I’ll have those for-sale links next studiolog. Instead, please enjoy this image of the studio dog being entirely unhelpful.

Gizmo had other ideas about what ought to be photographed.

More purchase options: I’ll be starting a Daugment holiday discount campaign this evening or early tomorrow morning. If you have any sci-fi fans on your list, it’ll be just $1.99 for the next couple of weeks, and makes a great virtual stocking stuffer or a present for someone you’re not ready to drop a fiver on.

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.

The Writers in the Room

About a month ago, I wrote about how Amy and I have been doing a “live podcast.” The trend continues! We have managed to stream each weekend, despite sickness, busyness, and distraction, and now we’re moving from something super casual and unofficial…to being The Writers in the Room.

Jake is mostly responsible for the title. We were working with “Worldbuilding with PrincessFray and half_pint,” which is a mouthful and a half and doesn’t actually give a random passer-by on Mixer (where we do the streaming) any idea of what we might be talking about. (“Are they video game designers? D&D dungeon masters? Writers? Who knows!”) One day Jake walked into the living room while I was watching a rerun on the Xbox and said, “Why don’t you call it ‘The Writers’ Room’?”

I liked it, but it wasn’t quite final, because it felt too generic. There are a lot of writers’ rooms out there; I’ve been a part of one, and it’s a grand old time, but when you’re in the middle of it you’re always conscious that others have done it before you. We needed to stand out a little more.

So. We’re the writers in the room.

The ones and onlys.

(Onlys isn’t a word.)

We’re just starting to get our branding off the ground – Josh has done up a nice screen that we put up while we talk, when we don’t have anything we want to show on our PCs. (It’s the illustration for this post.) As I mention in this week’s studiolog, we just started uploading our past episodes, with bumpers, to a Soundcloud account. Please follow us if you enjoy our silliness!

And stay tuned for more on how this venture develops. As we mentioned on the episode we recorded today, the Shames are always trying new things that interest us to see what sticks, and The Writers in the Room is one of those things.

Studiolog: Week of November 12

Lots of excitement in the studio this week! Here’s what the Shames have been up to…

Amy and I are uploading our “live podcast,” which we’re now calling The Writers in the Room, to a Soundcloud account. You can now listen to our first edited episode, part 1 of our challenge to come up with 100 ideas on a single stream. In the coming weeks, we plan to brand, write copy, and fill out our backlog, with each future episode still airing live on Mixer before it shows up on Soundcloud. Enjoy!

Jake and Josh continue to lay down the gorgeous colorful finishes on both pawn shop rescues and brand new kits. Last night, during a three-hour stream, they applied color to three guitars and finishing oil to two more. Look at this beauty!

Last night’s handiwork – a bright purple Schecter.

Still waiting to get them all up for sale, but you best believe you’ll hear about it from me when it happens.

Meanwhile, earlier in the week, Jake and Josh went to Mike Lull’s shop to do a photoshoot to generate material for the shop’s website. As soon as that’s online, I’ll share a link to their handiwork.

Oh, massive studio update this week: We bought a camera! It’s quite a nice Canon that should help us expand our abilities and serve as a clever bargaining chip when we want expensive services. It’s sitting on the charger right now, and I absolutely can’t wait to try it out.

Amy and I continue to slave away on our NaNoWriMo word counts, with a yawning abyss widening between where we are and where the math says we ought to be. But that’s OK – we both have some time off coming soon, and we’re going to encourage the heck out of each other to put in the extra effort.

One last note of author delight: a dear internet friend, Geo, recently tweeted out of the blue that he’d just finished reading Daugment. Seeing this show up randomly on my feed made all of the painful moments of editing and publishing well worth it:

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.

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