One Small Step…

I have an announcement.  My job is letting me drop from full time employment to a part time position, allowing me to pursue my true passions: art and literature!  Today, I am taking my first timid steps toward a new career as a writer and illustrator.

To find out more, please check out my other blog, Planet Pailly (click here).

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Indie Life: Inspiration

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Today’s post is part of Indie Life, a blog hop hosted by the Indelibles.  Click here to see a full list of participating blogs.

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Being an indie writer is hard work.  Not only do we commit ourselves to the life of a writer, but we also have to commit to being a businessperson.  Fortunately, we don’t have to do this alone.  The Internet is here to help.  We have the support of other writers thanks to bloghops like this one, and the Internet provides other little pieces of inspiration from people all over the world.  Here are some examples I recently discovered.

From Jellyvampire, “Born Like an Artist.”

From Zen Pencils, “The Brick Wall.”

From Vimeo, “The Reward.”

I hope you find a little inspiration in these, and please share anything you find inspiring in the comments below!

New Story: Children of the Swarm

2.3 Children of the SwarmIn the 30th Century, history changed.  An army of microscopic robots survived extinction; now they’re sweeping through the galaxy unchecked.  They’ve destroyed thousands of worlds, they’ve taken countless lives, and they’re evolving.  They’ve sampled the human brain, studied it, and modified their neural network, making them smarter and more imaginative.  Their military strategies have become more innovative… and more effective.  Earth’s space fleet is barely holding on as colony after colony falls to the Swarm.

But now history is changing again.  The Swarm says they’ve realized the evil of their ways, and they wish to repent for their sins.  They’re asking for humanity’s forgiveness.  Should the humans forgive the Swarm for all they’ve done, or is this another of the Swarm’s innovative tricks?

Click here to start reading “Children of the Swarm.”

Insecure Writer’s Support Group: Thank You

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

Today’s post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a blog hop hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh.  Click here to see a full list of participating blogs.

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A have a lot of writing to catch up on today, so I have to keep this brief.  2013 has been rough on me.  Since mid-January, I have been living in my own personal hell.  As a result, I have fallen way behind schedule with the Tomorrow News Network project.

But all that is about to change.  I recently got some good news.  I’m not quite ready to share it with you yet, but trust me… it’s good news.

I want to thank all my fellow writers and also all my loyal readers for helping me to keep going.  You are awesome.

Coming June 3rd

Prepare to read this in your best movie trailer voice:

In the 30th Century, history changed.  An army of microscopic robots survived extinction; now they’re sweeping through the galaxy unchecked.  They’ve destroyed thousands of worlds, they’ve taken countless lives, and they’re evolving.  They’ve sampled the human brain, studied it, and modified their neural network, making them smarter and more imaginative.  Their military strategies have become more innovative… and more effective.  Earth’s space fleet is barely holding on as colony after colony falls to the Swarm.

But now history is changing again.  The Swarm says they’ve realized the evil of their ways, and they wish to repent for their sins.  They’re asking for humanity’s forgiveness.  Should the humans forgive the Swarm for all they’ve done, or is this another of the Swarm’s innovative tricks?  Find out in the next Tomorrow News Network adventure: “Children of the Swarm.”

P.S.: Be sure to check out the Swarm’s previous invasions in “A Stranger Comes to Town” and “The Wrong Future.”

Update: I had originally planned for this story to come out on Friday, May 31st.  Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond my control, I have to postpone it to Monday, June 3rd.

Update as of June 3rd: Okay, I thought I was back on schedule, but apparently I was wrong.  I don’t want to make excuses for this delay except to say that 2013 has not been very kind to me.  The story will be ready by the end of the week (probably Wednesday).  If you’ve subscribed to this blog, you’ll get an update when it’s posted.

Indie Life: Disciplined Bravado

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Today’s post is part of Indie Life, a blog hop hosted by the Indelibles.  Click here to see a list of participating blogs.

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Once before, I compared the life of the writer to running the space program.  Now I want to do it again.

A friend recently emailed me an article from the New Yorker about the team that designed NASA’s latest Mars rover.  The rover, named Curiosity, was too big and heavy to survive the tried-and-true methods of landing on Mars.  Instead, it used one of the strangest and most complicated landing systems in the history of space exploration: a sky crane that hovered over the surface of Mars and gently lowered the rover to the ground.  One of the engineers who worked on this sky crane is quoted as saying, “It is the result of reasoned engineering thought […] But it still looks crazy.”

A lot of people criticized the sky crane.  To the NASA outsider, it looked impractical and dangerous.  Apparently the design team itself didn’t know if it would work.  They couldn’t even test it.  Since conditions here on Earth are so different than those on Mars, the results of any test here would be meaningless there.  If the sky crane failed, politicians would no doubt call it a colossal waste of taxpayer money and slash NASA’s budget more than they already have.

But the sky crane worked.  In August of 2012, Curiosity landed on Mars and began its search for Martian life.  The article from the New Yorker went on to describe the unconventional thinking it took to make the sky crane a reality.  I particularly latched onto the term “disciplined bravado.”  The sky crane didn’t work because of the discipline of those NASA engineers with all their knowledge and experience designing spacecraft, nor did it work because of their bravado, their reckless courage to try a new thing.  It only worked because they combined their discipline with their bravado.

This is a lesson for writers.  We need a lot of discipline to get ourselves to write every day, to keep working on our stories even when writer’s block gets in the way.  We also need the bravado to invent a new world and tell a story that’s never been told.  In short, we need the same disciplined bravado it took to send Curiosity to Mars.

P.S.: Click here to read the article from the New Yorker, “The Martian Chroniclers: A New Era in Planetary Exploration” by Burkhard Bilger.  It’s a fascinating story and an example of great writing.

P.P.S.: Click here to read my previous post on how being a writer is like running the space program.

IWSG: Know Your Limits

Today’s post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a bloghop hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh.  It’s an opportunity for writer’s to celebrate their successes, commiserate over their troubles, and share tips and ideas.  Click here to visit other participating blogs.

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

I like to keep track of how many words I write per day.  It’s a good way to keep myself writing, and I have records of my daily writing totals that go back for almost a decade.  The most words I ever wrote in a single day was approximately 7,200, but a few days ago I went way beyond that.  I wrote 9,600 words.  Before you congratulate me, I want to tell you a little about how this happened and why I don’t want to ever do this again.

Here’s a rundown of the events of that magical and traumatic day of writing.

The day before: I managed to write roughly 2,000 words before I got writer’s block.  I spent the rest of the day struggling to write just one more sentence, but I couldn’t get it done.  I had a deadline fast approaching, so this was extra frustrating.  I went to bed around midnight.

6AM: I wake up after a fitful night of sleep.  I had some bad dreams, which, of course, I can’t tell you about because within five minutes I completely forgot them, but they were really bad dreams, whatever they were.  The good news is my writer’s block is gone, and I quickly set to work on the next two scenes of my story.

10AM: I’ve accomplished a lot already, and I decide to take a ninety minute nap.  The lack of sleep is starting to get to me.  Incidentally, ninety minutes is the amount of time scientists say it takes to complete a normal, REM sleep cycle.  I’ve found that sleeping in ninety minute increments (ninety minutes, three hours, four and a half hours, etc) leaves me more refreshed.  Click here for a YouTube video on the science behind this sleep cycle.

Noon: I’m awake again and ready for more writing, but I’m also starting to realize that I’m further behind schedule than I thought.  To make matters worse, I’m going to have to go back and completely rewrite an earlier scene for the sake of continuity.

5PM: I’ve written roughly 6,000 words, and I feel slightly ill.  My head feels warm, but it is a hot day out and I don’t have my air conditioning set up yet, so I don’t worry about it.

6PM: I reach approximately 6,800 words.  I feel exhilarated, but also very, very hungry.  I can’t remember if I ate lunch or not (I would later determine that yes, I did).  A friend and I go out to the nearest diner for a quick meal, after which I take another nap.

11PM: My nap took longer than I planned, and I don’t feel 100% refreshed, but I’m still exhilarated by the amount of writing I’ve already done, and I’m determined to beat my old writing record.  In fact, I give serious thought to trying to write a total of 10,000 words.  It seems like an achievable goal.

Midnight: I’ve written another 800 words, and my head feels unnaturally warm.  Who knew your brain could literally overheat from too much writing?  I quickly drink several glasses of cold water.  I then take my shirt off and position a fan to blow cool air on my back (blowing air directly on my head or neck would give me a headache).  This seems to work.  The water and the cool air lower my body temperature, and my head no longer feels so warm.  I continue writing.  The story is coming together really well, and I don’t want to stop.  I still feel like I can make it to 10,000 words.

3AM: I am once again really hungry, and my head feels unnaturally warm.  Although I haven’t been doing any strenuous physical activity, I feel like I have.  In fact, I feel weak and a little sick.  I doggedly keep going and manage to write another paragraph or two, but I soon realize that all this writing might put my health at risk.  I stop at 9,600 words.

Conclusions: Within a 24 hour period (21 hours, to be precise) I wrote 9,600 words (9,615, again to be precise).  I’m not sure what emotion best describes how I feel.  I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, but I also feel physically and emotionally drained.

I believe that napping is what made this possible.  It helped break the day into smaller chunks.  It tricked my brain into thinking I wasn’t doing so much in just one day.  It also gave my brain an opportunity to relax and recuperate before the next onslaught of writing.

As for the unnatural warmth in my head that I experienced, I have a theory.  The brain is a kind of machine, and the more a machine works, the more heat it produces.  This could also explain the intense hunger and weariness I felt.  Even though I spent the whole day sitting in my office doing nothing more strenuous than type, my brain was consuming enormous amounts of energy.

I do not recommend pushing yourself this hard, and I do not intend to ever do this to myself again.  The brain may be like a machine, but it’s also living tissue, and causing living tissue–especially brain tissue–to overheat sounds like a bad idea.  As writers, we have to know our limits.  After this experience, I certainly know mine.  I now believe that anything beyond 6,000 to 7,000 words per day is hazardous to my health.

So, my fellow insecure writers, what are your writing goals and do you know your writing limits?