Monday, June 29, 2015

In Which I Bring Back Goal Posts

I haven't done a monthly goal post for a while now. I just checked—the last post that concerned a goal that wasn't "pack up my belongings and move to the other end of the East Coast" was October 2014. There were two goals set that month:

1) Finish Part Two of my then-current (and hell, still-current) WIP, Second Nature.

and

2) Walk, run, or bike at least 88 miles.



I never blogged about whether I had accomplished these goals. I know for a fact that I didn't make the first one, as I didn't finish Part Two until March of this year. I checked my mileage log (Yes, I have a mileage log. Yes, I know it's weird.) and saw that I only logged 50 miles last October, with a note written in the margin that that was the month I was dealing with my horrendous back injury. So given that, I think 50 miles was pretty damn good.

But anyway, as part of my goal to get back into the swing of things, I am bringing back my monthly goal setting, and I am posting them on this blog to help hold me accountable.

And now, without any further ado, here are my goals for the month of July:


1. Win Camp NaNoWriMo and, by doing so, complete this never-ending draft of Second Nature.

I'm so excited for Camp to start this Wednesday. And scared. But excited. And scared. But, you know, excited. Really. It's going to be great. Or, potentially a disaster, but it's going to be great. Have I mentioned that I'm excited? (And scared?) I really want to finish this book this July.



2. Attempt to make some progress on my Goodreads Reading Challenge.

Back in January, I set a goal to read 60 books this year. In general, it's not too difficult for me to achieve this...She says as she admits that last year, she only finished 56 books. And so far this year, I've only managed 19 books. According to Goodreads, I am ten books behind schedule. Could be worse, I suppose, but I'd like to make up some ground on that this month. This could be a crazy goal to set, given that I'm also attempting to write 50,000 words this month, but it's not like I have a day job. (And it's not like I'm still bitter about that, either.)



3. Log some serious mileage.

I'm also way behind on my 2015 mileage goal. In January, I set out to log 800 miles (via walking, running, biking, etc.). I have 730 miles to go. So way, way behind. Last July I managed 125 miles, so I'll shoot to meet that number this July. Again, it's possible I'm setting myself up for much failure come August, but go big or go home, right?

Right.

Just think of it this way: If I keep crazy busy, I won't have time to dwell on how much I don't enjoy living on the surface of the sun. (Yes, I know the surface of the sun is much hotter than Florida, and that if I truly did live on the surface of the sun, I would have been incinerated or whatever long before now, but C'MON! Just give me this one, okay?)

And on that note, I'm outta here. Gotta rest up while I still can...July's going to be rather busy. (I hope.)

Have you set any goals this month? This week? Maybe just today?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Crafting An Urban Legend

Today on My Pet Blog, we are turning the spotlight on author Cherie Reich and her brand new release, the Once Upon A Nightmare collection.



Take it away, Cherie!

A Legend Awakens... Crafting an Urban Legend
by Cherie Reich

When I wrote the first draft of Once upon a December Nightmare, I didn’t have the background of the monster in my head, but through edits, the mythology formed, giving the monster a frightening tale told down throughout the years. An urban legend, of sorts… or perhaps a more rural one, considering the stories take place in and around the made-up small town of New Haven, Virginia.

But how does one create an urban legend?

The past will tell you a lot about the future. I thought back to the events surrounding the area, or made-up place, and asked myself questions. Did a grisly unexplained murder happen fifty years ago? A Native American burial ground rumored to be around? Or a series of unexplained abductions? Do ghostly soldiers haunt the area?

My ponderings led me to the Civil War. Southwest Virginia is ripe with battlegrounds and events that occurred during that time. The West Virginia-Virginia borders are only an hour or so away from where I set Once upon a Nightmare: A Collection. What if Confederate soldiers planned to travel through West Virginia to assassinate Lincoln? What could stop their secret nightly roundabout travel toward Washington, D.C.?

My monster was the answer. But no story is complete without at least one survivor. You know, the friend of a friend that heard that so-and-so’s brother’s relative met the monster and lived. Someone must live to tell the tale. Thus, my lone soldier was born, a sole survivor against a bloodthirsty monster. People love a survivor story. It adds to the mystery, the horror, and the hope that the monster can be defeated.

A legend can add a touch of credence to the story and let the reader know the monster has killed before, but to also add hope that people can get away and survive.

Do you have a favorite urban legend?

A monster hunts us. After hibernating for a decade, it’s ravenous. We long to stop this nightmare, but the end of the road is far. There is no waking up once a legend sets its sights on you.

Disappearances every ten or so years make little impact on the small town of New Haven, Virginia. Hikers get lost. Hunters lose the trail. Even when a body is discovered, the inhabitants’ memories last about as long as the newspaper articles.

No one connects the cases. No one notices the disappearances go back beyond Civil War times. No one believes a legendary monster roams the forests in Southwestern Virginia.

I don’t either until the truck breaks down on an old mountain trail. Cell phones won’t work in this neck of the woods. It’s amazing how much a person can see by starlight alone. So what if we can’t feel our fingers or toes as we hike toward the main road. How many more miles left to go?

Crrraaack!

Hear that noise?

Purchase Once upon a Nightmare: A Collection by Cherie Reich at Amazon. From June 22-28, the collection is only $0.99!





Cherie Reich is a speculative fiction author and library assistant living in Virginia. Visit her website and blog for more information.

Monday, June 22, 2015

The First Day Of The Rest Of My Life

I may have mentioned this before—and it is perhaps expected, given my utter lack of enthusiasm for the state in which I now live—but I've been a bit...down. Blue. Sad, even.



But not anymore.

Well, maybe not anymore. There is a plan, and I'm going to put it into place, but all too often do my plans fizzle out in favor of sitting on the couch and watching my favorite moments from Joss Whedon shows (not even entire episodes, just moments) while binge eating some chocolate-y, chocolate-covered, chocolate baked goods.

This is especially true when the plans involve any form of healthy eating and/or exercise. I did well for a while there—doing yoga every day and cutting sugar out completely, even—but I fell off the wagon big time and never really went back.

Until now. But I'm not doing that whole cutting-sugar-out-completely thing. That's crazy talk. Past M.J. didn't know what she was doing. Past M.J. wasn't starting a Camp NaNoWriMo session in eight days.

One cannot hope to take on the challenge that is Camp NaNoWriMo without sugar.

It's possible that that previous statement isn't entirely accurate. I'm sure some writers out there somewhere can and do complete the challenge sans sugar. I'm just not going to be one of them.

So the next eight days are all about preparation and getting pumped—enthusiasm-wise, I mean. Not, like, Hans and Franz.



And if I should happen to work out what the hell it is that I'm going to write, then that's even better.

(I've never done NaNoWriMo with a plan before. Wonder what that would be like.)

Lately, I've just been writing whatever random snippets of whatever random scenes pop into my head. This usually means dialogue between two characters—and nothing but the dialogue. I build upon it a little at a time until I have a full-fledged scene. Most of them aren't particularly good, and most will never make it into the novel itself, but I'll throw them all against the wall (not literally, though) and see what sticks. (Why am I suddenly craving spaghetti?)

In the past, I have gotten some interesting scenes out of the exercise, and—should it work this time—perhaps one of those scenes will be the key that gets this story from where it is to that mythical, elusive, magical place known as...



It's not a very well thought-out plan, I know. It essentially boils down to this:


But like the scenes I'll be throwing against the wall (again, not literally), one never knows what will stick until one tries.

Or something.

So that's me on this fine Monday. What's going on in your corner of the globe?

Also...I apologize for my rampant GIF addiction. I can't seem to help myself. I shall look into a 12-step GIF addiction program right away. Well, maybe in August.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Full-time Writer

It comes as a bit of a surprise, but I'm having more trouble finding a new day job than I had thought I would. The feedback I've received thus far suggests that I have TOO MUCH experience. They're afraid that if they hire me, I'll be bored.

Well, here's what I have to say about that:

OF COURSE I'LL BE BORED. IT'S A BORING JOB!

And the job hunt continues.

So, not being able to find a day job means that writing is now my full-time job, which is terrifying for a couple of reasons:

1. My Amazon ranking is so low, I'm pretty sure they had to add on space in their basement in order to accommodate it. It's my fault, I know, because I'm truly terrible at marketing. I still can't bring myself to tell people I even wrote a book, forget trying to convince someone to buy it. (Don't like to read? Effigy makes a great doorstop!)

2. I've been stuck on Second Nature for so long. I think I may have made a mess of it, and I'm no longer convinced I'm smart enough to write the book I set out to write.

So that's the situation. I need to figure out how to better market my book (and really, I should have just left 'better' out of that last sentence), and finish writing the second one. I need to do better; I need to be better. I don't know how, exactly, to accomplish these things, but I have plenty of time to work it out because I can't get a job. (Not that I'm bitter about this at all.)

To help me with the writing side of things, I made the decision to sign up for the July session of Camp NaNoWriMo. I haven't done the summer session before—but the November NaNoWriMo generally gets me motivated to make it past the 50k mark, any way, shape, or form—so I thought this might be worth a try. I need to find a way out of these damn doldrums I've been stuck in ever since I moved here. (Not that I'm being overly dramatic about this at all.)



I did some math the other day (see how screwed up things are right now? I did math. On purpose.) to help me figure out what my Camp NaNo word count goal should be. (In the Camp NaNoWriMo sessions, the word count is flexible.) I worked out that my average chapter word count is nearly 7000 words. I estimated that I have approximately 12 chapters left to write. So when one does this math:

7000 x 12

It comes out to a whoooooooole lot of words. 84,000 of them, to be exact. (Or it might be. I'm the one who did the math, after all.)

Which means that— in addition to never doing math again—I decided to keep the NaNo goal at 50k. Just seemed the thing to do.

Second Nature is just a monster of a novel. (It'll make a better door stop than Effigy when it's done.) And I'm all right with that. Just so long as I can figure out how to write it.

Maybe it's a good thing I can't find a job.


So that's what's going on with me. How are things with you? Anyone else out there headed to Camp NaNoWriMo next month?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Dog Day Afternoon

If you've read this blog for any length of time, you're likely familiar with my youngest dog, Gator Girl. She's a Belgian Malinois, and if you're not familiar with the Malinois breed, just imagine a dingo on crystal meth. They're an intense breed, high energy and high intelligence, and popular as police and military dogs for this reason. Gator Girl doesn't often stop moving unless forced. Attempting to tire her out often feels like a fool's errand, and more often than not outright fails.

Once, during an agility class, Gator Girl was so wound up that I had to take her out to another field and throw a ball for her to fetch in between runs. This is the conversation I had with the instructor following that class:

Him: Gator Girl needs to run three miles before she comes here.
Me: We ran five.
Him: Damn.

So, yeah. She's the alternative energy source for which we've all been searching.

Of course, as I write this, this is what she's doing:


Anyway, today is the Gator Girl's birthday. She is ten years old today. Given her energy level, it doesn't feel as though she's ten years old, but she is. Seems like only yesterday she was this tiny, little baby:


She grew up to be a criminal mastermind, stealing cookies and then hiding the evidence of her crimes. I'd like to say that we learned to outsmart her, but...yeah, that's never really happened. I did learn, however, to keep the cookies in a locked cupboard above the refrigerator.

Anyway, here are a few of my favorite Gator Girl pictures:

In the midst of a 9 foot broad jump

Hanging out after a swim in the river

At the summit of Mt. Chocorua in New Hampshire

In the snow

She's adjusting well to Florida, I think. (Everyone who isn't me is.) There'a dog beach on the ocean not too far away from us, and I've taken her there a few times. She'd never seen the ocean before, as became obvious to everyone when she RAN AWAY from the waves on our first visit (much to the amusement of everyone else on the beach). Fortunately, we soon found an abandoned tennis ball in the sand. Gator Girl will go just about anywhere in pursuit of a tennis ball. Including the Atlantic.


Not that the tennis balls ever survive.

Thanks for stopping by. Hope you're having a good one.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Job Hunt: Pop Quiz, Hot Shot

 As part of the Big Move, I had to leave my day job because I thought 1,500 miles was probably a bit long for a commute. I left in March and have been unemployed ever since. I decided to give myself until May to start hunting for a new day job, and now that it's June, I thought I'd actually get going on the application process.

The last time I applied for jobs was back in 2004, so it's been a while. Things are different now. Lots of online applications which include lots online surveys or questionnaires concerning various retail scenarios and other things I don't think actually apply to my ability to precision fold jeans and tee shirts.

But as I need one of them to give me a job, I had to take these things seriously-ish. Here, though, on My Pet Blog, I have to do no such thing. So here now, for your reading pleasure, is a collection (some slightly paraphrased) of my favorite questions from these questionnaires and the responses I would have liked to have given. And maybe actually did give (sometimes I just can't help myself). 


1. Why do you want to work for this company?

You have job openings and air conditioning.


2. Do you read fashion magazines?

I may glance at the cover of Cosmo once in a while when both it and I are in line at the grocery store. Does that count?


3. Why are you interested in working for the fashion industry?

Again, you have job openings and air conditioning.

4. Have you ever been in trouble at school for your behavior?

Yes. Once in Kindergarten my teacher told me I couldn't use the slide for the rest of the day because my daredevil approach to going down the slide made her nervous.

5. How often do you get high after work?

Never. I do that before work. Otherwise, I wouldn't show up.

6. Do you suffer from road rage?

I wouldn't say I suffered from it...I mean...no.

7. Do you often use profanity?

What the f#@k are you taking about? I mean...no. 

8. Do you have any special skills?

Making Management cry, composing sarcastic, work-related haiku, and eating my weight in chocolate cake in a single sitting.

9. Say you're folding a stack of tee shirts and a customer walks in. WHAT DO YOU DO?

I greet the customer in order to judge whether he'll make a good subject for a haiku, of course.


10. Say a customer is rude. WHAT DO YOU DO?

Tweet the conversation on my lunch break.


11. What are your career objectives?

To write and sell enough books that I can afford to quit this job.


12. What didn't you like about your last job?

Shall I refer you to my Twitter feed? Actually, I probably shouldn't. Never mind.



I'm sure this comes as a surprise, but I'm having a difficult time taking all of this seriously, which bodes well for the upcoming face-to-face interviews. I suspect that I may be unemployed for a good long while. I knew I should have been one of those bestselling authors.

So tell me...What's the weirdest question you've ever been asked when applying for a job?

Thank you all for stopping by—Have a great weekend!