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I keep referencing this list, but hadn't posted it anywhere, though I have posted pieces of it as I add them. Because of [profile] abenn's encouragement, I am posting it now and will keep it at the top of my LJ for future reference.

Suggestions always welcome, by the way.

Life To Do List )
seeksadventure: (Sons of Anarchy space not just air)
{Originally posted at}

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and while I didn't write this specifically for MHAM, I thought it would be a good time to share. (I wrote it because I was struggling a lot with my own mental health and decided to write about it just to get it out, but the timing is apropos.)

Sarah and I are working on the first draft of the fifth, and final, book of our current series project. One of our protagonists has bipolar disorder, because I've always wanted to read about characters who have bipolar disorder having adventures that are not just about their mental illness, but I rarely have the chance. I have bipolar disorder; I was diagnosed in 2007, right before I started law school. I have been in treatment with numerous psychiatrists and on multiple medications (when I can afford it, and I am thankful I have been able to do so consistently for the past few years, in large part because I have great insurance from my job), but no treatment is perfect. In book four, there's a period of time in which our protagonist is off her medication, and it was harder than I expected to write the fallout of that. I very clearly remember what it is like when I have had a similar experience, I remember the way the mania can hit so hard, without real warning, even though I've been dealing with this long enough normally I can see the signs coming, but as clear as I remember that (because it still happens sometimes, even on the medications, because they do not cure me, they only give me some balance), it was difficult finding the right words.

One of the things I struggle most with is losing my words. Manic phase, depressive phase, mixed phase, it doesn't matter; one of the consistent symptoms of my bipolar is loss of words. I talk too fast, I don't talk at all, whatever, but my thoughts are always there. The words aren't. Hard words, complicated word, beautiful descriptions; sometimes they come easy, sometimes there are empty holes in them. Easy words go, too. Words I've said a hundred times before, words I used literally a sentence ago, they're gone. I stumble over them. I get frustrated. I get angry.

While it does happen both when speaking and writing, it is worse when I'm speaking. When I'm writing, I can take time, pace, tug on my hair, grasp at nothing until the word comes back to me. When I'm speaking, I can try to find an alternate way to say it, but I keep coming back to what I see as a failure for myself. (Not for anyone else, but when I do it, it feels like failure.) I get stuck, I struggle, even though it doesn't really matter, I can get my point across, but I want that word, that single word suddenly means everything, and without it I will never be understood.

I try to be very open when I am losing my words, because I try to be open about my experiences with bipolar, but it can be hard. It does feel like failure when I lose words, like I can't communicate, and will never be able to clearly communicate, and I am losing my thoughts because I am losing my words. It is frustrating, and infuriating, and terrifying.

This is no small part of the reason I chose to go into transactional law instead of litigation. (I am a tech lawyer, which I love, but I could have been a tech lawyer who did litigation.) While there is a lot of spoken communication in transactional law (conferences, negotiations, meetings, brainstorming, and on and on), it never felt like the same kind of terrible pressure that being in a courtroom would bring. I rely on the written word in my practice far more than the spoken, and my writing is something I cherish.

(This is not why I don't talk much to people I don't know well. Even before this particular manifestation of my mental illness, I much preferred to listen to other people talk. I love hearing about people's lives and adventures and thoughts. I love listening to people talk, their word choices, their pacing. I love conversations that meander and twist and swing back around, conversations with hairpin turns. People give me such a nice gift when they tell me their stories.)

Writing our protagonist's experience off her meds in book four was difficult, but not because it felt personal, though it did. It is intended to feel personal. I want to normalize my experience with bipolar, give other people who have it a chance to see themselves in awesome characters having amazing adventures, but I also want to push back against the idea that there is only one way to experience bipolar (or any mental illness, but my experiences mostly focus on bipolar, and that is what I want to address). Tam, our character, experiences a lot of assumptions made by people, even people who love her, who are trying to be nice, about what it means for her to be "crazy," and that is an intentional choice Sarah and I made, but that is not why writing it was uncomfortable.

Writing it was uncomfortable because it felt so much like losing my words where I normally feel safe. I do lose words when I write fiction, one here, another there, but not usually huge swaths of text. Even when I do, the words come back, and Sarah is a fantastic person to bounce things off of when I'm struggling. But this time, this time, it felt like I had no words at all, all of these ideas, all of these things to say, and no way to say them. One of the worst parts about bipolar for me is how little I trust my brain, my perception, sometimes, and losing whole scenes that I wanted to write, whole stories I wanted to tell, that was a horrible manifestation of that fear.

It was also uncomfortable because in many ways, Tam fits some of the stereotypes about people who have bipolar disorder. So do I. That doesn't make the stereotypes true for everyone, or right, or not absolutely damaging to people, and I worry that I'm doing harm when I'm trying to do good. I want to tell Tam's story, and I want to tell Tam's story in this way. She is not violent because she has bipolar disorder. She is not dangerous because she has bipolar disorder. She is not a liar because she has bipolar disorder. But she is violent and dangerous and mean, and as I'm losing words, trying to describe an experience that is horrible and terrible and exhilarating all at the same time, I worry I am going to fail, to hurt people, to make things worse.

Writing bipolar disorder is hard. Writing with bipolar disorder is hard. Of course it is. Living bipolar disorder, living with bipolar disorder, that's hard too. I could go on and on about my experience with it, the things people say, the assumptions they make, but this isn't about that. This is writing about and writing with, and the struggle to find words when they disappear, and the struggle to use the words in a way that does more good than harm.
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In the second part of catching up, I do try to blog at least twice a month on my website. I'm trying to find a good way to cross-post it here, but until I do, I'll try to do a catch-up post every so often with a link and summary.

The two monthly posts are the Project List posts about our current writing projects and the Monthly Review posts about, well, the previous month. Here are links to the last few I've done.

Project Lists

March 2014
April 2014

Monthly Review

March 2014 (writing, books read, and wrestling)
April 2014 (writing, books read, wrestling, and social [Wrestlemania 30 and Captain America: Winter Soldier])

Finally, I do sometimes post non-scheduled posts. I've done one recently, My Thoughts on Wrestling, which is what it says on the tin.
seeksadventure: (Sons of Anarchy great wide open)
It feels like I am always trying to catch up, but I suppose that's life. So much to do, never enough time to do it all, must prioritize. So far today, I have prioritized a trip to the dog park that turned out to be amazingly successful (more on that in a bit), legal work, house cleaning, podcast listening while house cleaning (more on that later too), and trying to familiarize myself with my new laptop, so that legal work and the writing that will occur later include much less time trying to figure out how to use it. (Windows 8. Touch screen. Still setting up all the things I use daily, though I was incredibly pleased to be able to access both Skype and Google Drive the moment I turned it on, because those are the two things I use most. Sarah and I write via Skype and Google Drive.)

Dog Park

I've had Izzy for ten months now, and every day I am thankful beyond words that we found each other. That being said, trying to socialize her with other dogs continues to be a struggle. (Izzy was approximately three when I got her from the shelter last year, and no one knows anything about her history. She loves people, she flinches when things are thrown, though she's getting better, and most of the time, she hates other dogs ... and horses and buses, which she thinks are giant dogs. I don't even know. You are part cattle dog, Izzy, shouldn't you like horses?)

Anyway, we stick to the neighborhood for morning and evening walks during the week, but when we're in Kansas City on weekends, we go to the dog park. A few months ago, I found one just down the street from me, which probably shouldn't surprise me, but did. (Back in 2012, I moved from the suburbs into the city itself, just outside of downtown.) There's even an off-leash section. We generally only go there if both sides are empty, because of Izzy's issue with other dogs, but this morning, the big dog side (which is where she belongs, technically) had only a couple dogs and the small dog side was empty, so I decided to try her on the small dog side. (I've been working on introducing her to other dogs via fences; when I go down to visit family, I'll let her loose in Dad's backyard. His neighbors have a couple friendly labs, and Izzy and the labs will run up and down the fence together now, playing, so that is a plus. Also, Izzy and Dad's teacup poodle, Cocoa, have finally learned to be in the same room together without being kept apart, so that was good too.)

Izzy really, really wanted to go play with the big dogs. She was on good enough behavior alone on the small dog side, that I decided to try her on the big dog side. It was empty enough I knew I could get to her easily if she started causing trouble, and she was obeying all commands even with other dogs around, so I felt pretty good about it.

Right decision. She had an amazing time making friends with the other dogs and other people, she ran and ran and ran, she didn't fight over toys or water dishes or other dogs coming up to me for pets. It was lovely and fun, a beautiful morning with storm clouds blowing in (though it didn't storm here, last night or so far today -- other parts of Missouri got hit instead), and she ran herself to exhaustion.

Of course, when we left, another dog and owner left at the same time. The moment Izzy and I got in the car, she started her barking freak out at the other dog, even though she had literally been playing with him 60 seconds earlier. Whatever, progress, I'm taking it.


Over the past five or six months, I've been listening to podcasts. This would have been far more useful back when I lived in the suburbs and had a commute that could range anywhere from two to three hours a day and up, but instead I waited until I lived ten minutes from work on a bad day. Yeah, go me. As Sarah likes to tease me, I'm one of those stupid smart people. (I wore a shirt backward a few weeks ago, and didn't notice until afternoon. It was a cowl neck shirt. Of course, I not only texted her about it, but I then sent her a picture as proof, because I apparently encourage her trolling of me.)

I try a variety of podcasts (and if you have any recommendations, I'd love to hear them), but the ones I keep going back to are (in the order they appear on my podcast app):

Talk is Jericho: Pro-wrestler, lead singer of Fozzy, and author, Chris Jericho is a freaking delight. I started listening because of this WWE kick Sarah and Craig started me on about a year ago, but I keep listening because he has a fantastic wide variety of guests who say really great things. (At one point, a guest talked about mental health stigma in a way that impressed the hell out of me.) I think I probably like his music guests the most, but he is really good at keeping the conversations rolling.

the Steve Austin Show (Unleashed!): Pro-wrestler, actor, reality tv host, Steve Austin leaves me laughing every single time I listen to him. I didn't expect to enjoy this podcast so much. Stone Cold predates my wrestling interest (by a lot, obviously), so there wasn't that appeal, and I keep seeing him presented as this conservative good ole boy. And in some ways, he probably is, but not at all in the way I was worried about. Plus he reminds me a lot of the bikers and trikers I love, so that's a plus. And he's just -- well, he, too, is a freaking delight.

Books on the Nighstand: I have a hard time listening to this one unless I am easily able to take notes, because they do often recommend a book I want to grab. I'm not as big a fan of this as I want to be, but every time I think about ending my subscription, they'll talk about something fantastic, and I decide to keep listening. My favorite part is the audiobook recommendation at the end of (nearly) every episode. I'm trying to listen to more audiobooks, because I'm having such a great time with the podcasts, and having recommendations helps a lot.

Howl Out Cast: I want to like this podcast, which is dedicated to werewolves, far more than I do. There's something about the format, the disorganization maybe? The wandering conversations?, that keeps me from getting into the episodes, but I keep trying. I love werewolves, and this would be a great resource, if only I enjoyed listening to it more. (Another problem is that each episode is long.)

Welcome to Night Vale: I don't keep up to date on this, but I'll listen to a bunch of episodes at a time when I'm on a road trip. I like the story it's telling a lot, most of the time, but I've not been sucked into it the way pretty much everyone I know who listens to it has, and I'm not sure why. Description from the website: WELCOME TO NIGHT VALE is a twice-monthly podcast in the style of community updates for the small desert town of Night Vale, featuring local weather, news, announcements from the Sheriff's Secret Police, mysterious lights in the night sky, dark hooded figures with unknowable powers, and cultural events. Turn on your radio and hide.

BBC Radio 4 General Knowledge Quizzes: I love trivia games, and this cycles through various ones. It's been on Brain of Britain, which I find interesting, but horribly difficult without having the same knowledge base (though, in Vegas, I listened to an episode with Sarah and Craig, and they said the questions were pretty difficult); my favorite so far has been less straight trivia and more trivia + logic puzzle esque questions + puns. I hope it cycles back through soon.

The Art of Wrestling with Colt Cabana: I listened to an episode of this because Colt interviewed a WWE wrestler I really like, Dean Ambrose. I keep listening to it even though most of the pro wrestlers he talks to are indie wrestlers, and therefore I don't know much if anything about them, because it is still incredibly interesting to hear their stories.

NPR's Ask Me Another: Trivia and puns.

Stuff You Missed in History Class: Does what it says on the tin, and is by far my favorite podcast. I've even gone all the way back to the beginning to listen (though I keep up with recent episodes first), and while I did this for Jericho and Austin as well, their podcasts started fairly recently. This one went back years. The current hosts are my favorite voices and personalities, but it's been a lot of fun.


Sarah and I decided to try a new way of writing, in that we outlined an entire five book series, and then set about writing first drafts of all five books. We started this late last year, and finished the first draft of the first book earlier this year. We have since finished first drafts of books two, three, and four (as of yesterday), and are making our way through book five now. Apparently, this writing organization works incredibly well for us. We have one mostly set writing day a week (Saturdays), though we also try to write at least a little bit on Sundays, and sometimes Wednesday and Friday evenings, depending on work and whether either of us can sleep. (We're both insomniacs, unfortunately.) We have a video call via Skype, and write in the same document in Google Drive. It's a very intertwined process at this point; Sarah's strengths are dialog, humor, and character interactions, while mine are descriptions, fisticuffs and gore, and atmosphere. We both have certain characters we understand better than others, or scenes from the outline we are eager to write.

Often we go back and forth; one of us will start a chapter, and write until we have nothing else, then the other will pick it up, and so on. Sometimes, a chapter is dialog heavy or description heavy, so we know which of us will take the lead. Sometimes, one of us will have an entire scene in her head, and the other will read along, making small changes (for example, I add a lot of dialog tags and descriptions around her dialog; Sarah often has a conversation ready to go by the time we reach a specific scene). Sometimes, we'll sit and stare at a blank document, bemoaning the fact this series has far too many fisticuffs and murders and snogging. (Ok, no lie, usually that's me, because I am terrified I will end up writing these fight scenes and snogging scenes as cookie cutter scenes, and I don't want to do that.)

It's a lot of fun, and the stories are fantastic. We sent book one out to first readers, but then we decided to write the entire series before we started editing each book, so we're waiting to send the other books to our first readers until the first draft of each book is done. Which will apparently be soon, the way we're going.
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Originally posted at

Pursuant to my goal to blog (somewhat) more regularly, I have decided to start doing a monthly review post, in which I plan to (briefly) discuss the highs and lows of that month.


High: Sarah and I sent The Talking Dead to first readers, and we're looking forward to feedback. We figured out what was wrong with Monsters & Music and redid the outline.

Also, Sarah left on her trip, and Intern immediately promoted himself from Intern to Manager. This is hilarious.

Low: Because of her wedding trip, we haven't managed to do a ton of writing on Monsters & Music, despite being eager to do so.


High: Sarah gave me UK versions of three books by Jaclyn Moriarty: Feeling Sorry for Celia, Finding Cassie Crazy (aka The Year of Secret Assignments), and Becoming Bindy Mackenzie (aka The Betrayal of Bindy Mackenzie and aka The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie). Awhile ago, we were talking about whether it was possible to write engaging, detailed, and entertaining books all in correspondence, and these were Sarah's examples. I read all three during the wedding trip.

I've actually read the second one before, as The Year of Secret Assignments, and liked it well enough, but it was a lot more enjoyable reading it in order. (I didn't even know it was part of a series.) Feeling Sorry for Celia is definitely the strongest of the books, and Becoming Bindy Mackenzie is at times unbelievably ridiculous, but I really enjoyed getting to know the characters in different ways.

I then picked up the fourth book, Dreaming of Amelia (aka The Ghosts of Ashbury High), as an ebook to read while traveling home.

Low: Though I really enjoyed the series (I've not quite finished book four), I am frustrated and exhausted by the use of "crazy" as a pejorative, especially in book four, which contains dangerous crazy people with their being crazy and therefore dangerous and hacking people to bits because they are crazy. Fuck that noise.


High: The Elimination Chamber PPV was AWESOME. So much love for the Usos (who are my favorites and who deserve to be tag team champions) and the Shield. Plus, this was my first time watching wrestling in person with anyone else (Sarah, Craig, and I caught up on the regular episodes prior to the PPV, and of course watched the PPV together). We went to a public viewing of it, and it was amazing to be in a crowd of wrestling fans all cheering on the show.

Low: Punk still has not returned. Woe. The Usos didn't win the tag team belts. Woe. But really, not really any low points this month.


High: Best part, of course, was getting to spend time in person with Sarah and Craig. We haven't been in the same place at the same time since 2005, and this trip was even better. This time, Jake went with me, and so they all met for the first time, and got along really well. That was a delight.

There were many amazing parts to the trip and hanging out with them, but one of the best was that they took me to see Meat Loaf. I love Meat Loaf, and have never seen him life, and this was a pretty intimate venue with music and storytelling, and it was lovely.

Low: Saying good-bye to Sarah and Craig. We have to do another holiday together sooner rather than later.
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(Originally posted at

Oh yeah, 2014 is definitely a busy year. Of course, February brings some excitement, because Sarah's getting married next week here in the U.S. It will be the first time we've been in the same place since 2005, which is far too long between visits. Good thing we got a lot of work done before she headed out, because we likely won't get a lot done until March.

Writing Projects February 2014 )
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Originally posted at

Apparently, I've been forgetting to crosspost. The other one I post-dated was Project List, January 2014.

Pursuant to my goal to blog (somewhat) more regularly, I have decided to start doing a monthly review post, in which I plan to (briefly) discuss the highs and lows of that month.

Awesome and useful high: It’s awards season, and some authors I love are posting information about which books of theirs are eligible for which awards. I find this incredibly useful, because I want to nominate, but don’t always know what is and is not eligible off the top of my head.

Here are some links:

Karen Healey’s When We Wake is eligible for The Sir Julius Vogel Awards, The Andre Norton Award for Outstanding Young Adult Science Fiction or Fantasy Book, and The Hugo Awards – Best Novel.

Seanan McGuire has a lot of eligible works for 2013. I love her Incryptid series more than I can say.

Monthly Review, January 2014 )
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Last project list of 2013. This year has simultaneously gone by terribly quickly and amazingly slow. It's been a strange, difficult year, and one of the best parts of it has been all the writing Sarah and I have been able to do. I'm so grateful for the writing, and for her friendship, and for the technology that allows us to so easily work together from separate countries.

My current active projects include:

Project List, December 2013 )
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Because of my kind prompting, Sarah has blogged about her top three favorite "old school" young adult series from her youth: Young Adult: Old School by Sarah Canfield. In response, I am doing my top three five (I couldn't stop at three) beloved young adult authors who are currently publishing books.

Tamora Pierce

Tamora Pierce is an author of young adult swords and sorcery fantasy absolutely full of amazing, smart, funny, creative, angry, determined, strong, gentle, fabulous female characters. (I could go on with the list of descriptors, but you get what I'm saying.) I've been reading her since I was young, starting with her Song of the Lioness quartet, but my absolute favorite of all her series is the Protector of the Small quartet.

The quartet follows the first known girl trying for her shield in more than a century, Kel, who has no magic (unlike the heroes of most of the other series), but is determined to win her shield and become a knight. Kel is amazing. She is protective and smart and determined, she works hard physically and mentally, she wants things to be fair, she pushes for change in a society that is often unjust -- she is my hero. I love Kel so, so much, and of all the stories Tammy Pierce has told that I have enjoyed (and there have been a lot), Kel's story is my absolute favorite.

Karen Healey

Karen Healey is an author of young adult novels and short stories in different genres. Her latest, When We Wake is a sci-fi Sleeping Beauty story, and it is fantastic, as is the forthcoming sequel, While We Run, but my absolute favorite of her books is The Shattering.

If you want to find out who murdered your brother, come with me.

Summerton is perfect. A town in the isolated and stunning West Coast region of New Zealand, it is blessed with gorgeous weather and hordes of tourists.

But Keri is immune to her hometown’s charms. Her older brother has just killed himself, without warning or explanation, and left Keri shattered with grief and too many unanswered questions. So when her childhood friend Janna and tourist Sione offer answers, Keri is keen to listen.

Janna and Sione’s own older brothers died in suspicious circumstances. Sunny Summerton has dark secrets. And as they investigate, the answers to their questions become more bizarre. Shattering the secrecy of Summerton may open the trio to dangers they never knew were possible.

Can they save Summerton’s next victim? Or will they become victims themselves?

Keri, one of the main characters of The Shattering, is the character of my heart. I love Keri and all that she is, obsessive and anxious and athletic and driven and just all over fantastic. It's a great story, filled with memorable and amazing characters, and I really, really love it. All of Karen's work is terrific, but this one is my favorite. I love the diversity of Karen's characters, and I strongly relate to Keri.

(Karen and I are friends, we're part of the same writing group, and The Shattering is dedicated to me, but I swear, I wouldn't list her in my top three young adult authors if I didn't absolutely love her work.)

Julie Anne Peters

Julie Anne Peters is the author of young adult contemporary novels mostly with QUILTBAG characters and stories. My favorite is Keeping You a Secret, but her characters always capture my heart. I love reading about character with whom I can relate, characters who are like my friends and me in different ways.

First time I saw her was in the mirror on my locker door. I'd kicked my swim gear onto the bottom shelf and was reaching to the top for my calc book when she opened her locker across the hall. She had a streaked blond ponytail dangling out the back of her baseball cap.... We slammed our lockers in unison and turned. Her eyes met mine. "Hi," she said, smiling. My stomach fluttered. "Hi," I answered automatically. She was new. Had to be. I would've noticed her. She sauntered away, but not before I caught a glimpse of her T-shirt. It said: IMRU? Am I what?

Love the characters and the romance in Keeping You a Secret so much.

Mayra Lazara Dole

Mayra Lazara Dole is the author of Latino/Hispanic/Mexican young adult and children's novels. My favorite is Down to the Bone.

What if you don't follow the rules and it radically alters the course of your life?

What if you get kicked out of the house and lose all your friends and everyone you love?

Will you turn the corner into a world filled with unusual friends and create a new kind of family or self-destruct?

Down to the Bone has so many things I love: queer characters, characters of color, created family, snarky girls, and romance I can relate to. It does have some biphobia and transphobia that I wish wasn't there, but I still love the story and reread it often and give it as gifts to my friends.

Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Jennifer Lynn Barnes is the author of young adult novels in a number of genres, but my favorites are her Raised by Wolves series about a human girl raised by werewolves. Raised by Wolves, Trial by Fire, and Taken by Storm are some of my favorite werewolf stories, ever, and I wish there was more to this series. Pack politics, awesome characters, werewolves who are fantastic and heartbreaking and wonderful -- such a great set of books.

Adopted by the Alpha of a werewolf pack after a rogue wolf brutally killed her parents right before her eyes, fifteen-year-old Bryn knows only pack life, and the rigid social hierarchy that controls it. That doesn't mean that she's averse to breaking a rule or two.

I also really enjoy her The Squad series (Perfect Cover and Killer Spirit), a set of books about cheerleader spies that is full of awesome, fun adventures. (I like to call it D.E.B.S. plus cheerleading, but sadly minus the awesome queer characters.)

Bayport High operates like any other high school - jocks at the top, outsiders at the bottom, and everyone else in between. Bayport's varsity cheer squad is made up of the hottest of the hot. But this A-list is dangerous in more ways than one. The Squad is actually a cover for the most highly trained group of underage government operatives the United States has ever assembled.

So there you have it, five young adult authors whose stories I love.
seeksadventure: (Sons of Anarchy space not just air)
(Cross-posted to and

What was your first exposure to horror?

Carla: Dirty.

Sarah: Dirty Dancing?  Truly horrific?

Carla: I hate you. My first horror movie was The Howling. I don’t remember how old I was, but I was under 10, I think. I spent part of every summer on the road with my dad, who was a long-haul trucker, and one night at a truck stop, I saw The Howling in the trucker’s lounge. It was amazing, and I have loved werewolves and horror ever since.

(We were never allowed to watch horror growing up, mostly because just the sound of horror movies scared my mom. I used to read a lot of horror, though. Dracula was the first horror book I remember reading.)

Sarah: The first horror movie I saw was Gremlins.  I was probably about six at the time, and we lived in an old farmhouse and none of the carpets fitted right.  Mine bulged in weird places, and I spent at least a year convinced that gremlins were hatching under there (slow hatching, admittedly, but damnit, they were coming for me!) … it just occurs to me that we can probably trace my insomnia back to that time.

Carla: Ouch, that sucks.

Sarah: Fuck that, insomnia is a life saver when it comes to Freddy Krueger.

Carla: I’ve never been so glad that sleep and I broke up.
seeksadventure: (Sons of Anarchy great wide open)
(Cross posted from and

Admin note: Sarah posted this to her blog, and I thought it would make an excellent guest post. Plus she's far more clever and hilarious than me.

Writing Process: Outline, Guest Post by Sarah Canfield

So, a bit of backstory on who I am, who Carla is, and things like that.

Carla and I met online back in the days when everyone had a GeoCities site, and those sites were divided into districts, depending on the topic of your site – for example, hers was in Hollywood because it was about a movie.  Her nephew/our intern/bossy guy who keeps us from slacking off is actually the same age as our friendship (referred to as Intern).

I sent her a gushing email telling her she was awesome and I was going to stalk her until we were best friends, and I can’t remember exactly what she said in return, but it was very friendly and encouraging.  Then we bumped into each other on a mailing list.  She seemed pleased to see me, despite the threat of stalkage.  Since then we’ve followed each other to various places online (due to my stalking her to LiveJournal, I met my soon-to-be-hubby, but that’s another story).  We started co-writing back in 2001, and despite our very obvious differences (she’s American, she’s all about threatening atmosphere, delicious description and a ruthless addiction to plotting and outlines; I’m English, and into dialogue, strange characters, and a slap-dash approach to writing, which is basically: type something, see where it takes you), we seemed to click writing-wise.  Even back then, if you ignore the English/US spellings, it’s actually hard to see who wrote which chapter.

Carla has worked her tail off trying to get me to be a more functional writer.  After thirteen years, we’re at the point where she has got me as addicted to outlines as she is.

Our writing process for the outline is this:

  • Open a new doc in GoogleDrive.

  • Argue over what to call it.

  • Wait patiently while I format the document to my liking.

  • Waste ten minutes while I whine that “keep with next” is not an option in GoogleDrive.

  • Briefly outline that A plot, B plot and, if necessary, C plot.  Waste 60 minute coming up with wrestling metaphors for our plots/discuss the merits of Paul Heyman.  Get side-tracked for a further 30 minutes by either complaining about how Cena is booked, or speculating on what will happen next with The Shield (the wrestling stable, not the TV show).

  • Decide on POV characters.

  • Type the words “Chapter One”.  Then bold them.

  • Discuss wrestling until one of us reminds the other that we’re supposed to be writing.  This goes a lot faster if Intern is in the background, he will then set his timer for 30 minutes and want to know how many words/chapters we’ve done during this time.

  • Get chapter one done in a flurry of activity.  Until one of us mentions the wrestling.

  • Speculate on which wrestlers might not be opposed to being in the movie of our book.  Which we are currently not outlining.

  • Get stuck on chapter two or three.  Bitch about it.  A lot.

  • Revise chapter one, until two and three behave.

  • Suddenly get excited over the book, and outline 15 chapters.

  • Realise Character X has a different motivation.  Amend previous chapters accordingly.  Put notes in previous book outlines that this will require tweaking.

  • Sit back, all satisfied and check Ringside Confessions.  Discuss the contents from every conceivable angle.  Once more fangirl over the sheer presence and charisma of Paul Heyman.

  • Repeat as necessary.

I love the outlining process.  I get the same amount of satisfaction on a completed outline as I do on a completed book.

Carla and I are trying something new at the moment.  We are trying to outline an entire series (the UK horror series) before working on the books.  Books 1 and 2 are already written, but need revising drastically, given that we wrote them as stand-alones separately (Book 1 is mine, Book 2 is hers), before deciding they could work in the same universe.  With that in mind, we started outlining the whole series, so we couldn’t be blind-sided by later plots that develop that we didn’t see coming and should have seen – and more importantly, should have foreshadowed.  It’s an awesome process watching our world come together.

As an update on my last post, we have now finished the outline for Book 3, and have started 4.
seeksadventure: (Sons of Anarchy great wide open)
Life has been good, but busy. New dog, my beloved Izzy; new furniture, my beloved red leather sectional; new kitchen supplies, including a gorgeous dishware set; and lots of work and writing. Clearly, I'm not going to be able to always post this on the same day of the month, but I'll aim for the 15th and get as close as I can.

Project List August 2013 )

Sarah has finally convinced me to start watching WWE. Her reasons: (1) one of our projects is inspired by pro wrestling and I probably need to have a better understanding of it (True); and (2) the Usos are hot (VERY VERY TRUE). (To be fair, Craig was the one who actually decided the Usos would be able to tempt me into watching, and he was correct.) They watch all the pay-per-views, and the past couple, we've watched the free pre-show together over Skype. It's a lot of fun. I still find a lot of it super cheesy, but in an entertaining way. And I love analyzing the storylines and trying to break down why they're doing what they're doing. (The writing project side of watching.) But as Sarah has been pointing out for years, it's actually pretty shocking that I didn't watch it sooner, because I love big guys hitting each other. Unf.

Despite being seriously sick today, life is pretty good.
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I've updated my Life To Do list: Dreamwidth | Livejournal. It has some new goals as well as a few things I've finished since the last time I updated it. Biggest thing completed recently is getting a dog, of course.

Suggestions always welcome.

Adopting Izzy was the best decision in the world. When I come home from work, we cuddle, because she's missed me so much, and then we play fetch until she's worn out. Then she sleeps against me while I work (either more legal work or writing). We're still working on the housebreaking issue, but she's still the most delightful dog ever.

Unexpectedly, Kitty and the Underworld, Carrie Vaughn's latest Kitty Norville book, showed up today. I wasn't expecting it to arrive so soon, I'd gone to the office thinking a package of cleaning supplies had shown up, but instead, a book I really want to read. Alas, I need to get through this week before I do so. (Yes, yes, I know, book buying ban, but I made an exception for one of my favorite werewolf series.)

Finally bought living room furniture. Pictures of that later.
seeksadventure: (Sons of Anarchy space not just air)
Friday, I picked up my first grocery order. It's a little bit of a pain to drive to the store, but being able to order online and just pick it up when I get there was more than worth it. (If I can work out a way to be at home during the delivery hours, I may switch to delivery, but until they have weekend delivery hours, that's probably not going to happen.) I hate grocery shopping SO MUCH that a little extra money and drive time is more than worth not having to do it myself.

Niece H, my youngest niece (at the moment) had her fourth birthday party Saturday afternoon in Columbia, so I happily rearranged my normal Saturday schedule. Izzy and I went out for our walk at 4 a.m., and then Sarah and I had a few hours of writing time (we're working on our second novel, because the first one is with our first readers right now) before I had to take Iz to the vet. (Nothing was wrong, I just had to establish treatment with a vet per the adoption agreement.) She did really well with all the people, and absolutely charmed the staff. Vet started talking about how smart she is approximately thirty seconds after meeting her, and agreed that obedience training and then therapy training would be a good idea. I'm going to have to set aside some money for private obedience classes, because Iz still cannot stand other dogs.

I cleaned up the kitchen a little in preparation for cooking this week (originally, I planned to do it Sunday, but plans changed), and then Iz and I hit the road for Columbia, which is about two hours away. I love road trips, Iz loves road trips, it's a good combination. We found the park pretty easily, and Iz had her first experience at a park. She loved it -- until other people showed up walking their dogs. Oh, Iz.

Still, I was more worried about how she would do with Niece H, who is the first kid she's spent time with. (Nephew C, my oldest nephew, is a teen, and is the closest person to a kid she's met so far.) She did great with Niece H, who absolutely adored petting her and booping her on the nose. Iz also loved all the adults, and she was pretty good about not begging for food. (She doesn't get people food because it made her sick the one time we tried.) (Well, no, she does get peanut butter and Vet said I need to feed her some eggs, because she's underweight, but most people food is off limits.) I hadn't seen my youngest brother, Thomas, his girlfriend, Sarah, or Niece H since Christmas, so it was great to see them, meet some of their friends, and see their new place. Niece H was SO EXCITED that we showed up (Kris and Neal also drove up from Springfield), and we had a blast. Thomas grilled delicious burgers and hot dogs, and Youngest Niece picked out an adorable sugary ice cream cake. (I skipped that part, but it looked awesome. I'm not a huge fan of white cake or ice cream cake.) There was a unicorn piñata, and Niece H had a great time trying to break it. In the end, Thomas had to hit it, and he decapitated it, but still didn't break it open, so they ended up tearing it apart to get to the candy. I died laughing, and am so glad I recorded it, because it is adorable.

Kris and Neal came back to Kansas City with me, we dropped Iz off at home, and then went to iHop for a late dinner and a lot of talking. I haven't gotten to see them as much as we'd planned this summer, because Neal ended up getting this awesome job doing exactly what he wants to do, which is fantastic, but definitely cut into their trips up here. We had a great time hanging out, came home and talked more, and finally crashed in the wee hours of the morning.

Kris joined me on Iz's morning walk, I had a super short call with Sarah, and then we headed out to Bob Evans for brunch. The food was good, but the service was horrible; at one point, we were left for nearly a half an hour without being checked on, no drink refills, nothing. It ended up being really disappointing.

We showed Neal Lilo & Stitch for the first time (how MY brother-in-law managed to go this long without me forcing him to watch it, I have no idea), and he seemed to like it. He certainly laughed a lot. We grabbed bbq for dinner out at my favorite cheap and cheerful bbq joint, Rosedale BBQ (which I just learned has online ordering, SCORE), and then grabbed dessert from Culvers.

Back home, Kris and I did some SECRET PROJECT planning (more on this soon), and then we apparently taught Iz to play, finally, specifically to play fetch with one of her squeaky toys. She played again tonight when I got home from work, and I'm so thrilled. We have fun together.

After they left, I did some work, took Iz out for her nightly walk, and then we cuddled and read for awhile.

Tonight, I'm cooking and moving stuff around for my furniture delivery this week. Finally I'll have my gorgeous red leather sectional. I'm super excited, and will post pictures once it's here. I think Izzy will like it, too; she loves cuddling up against me while I work, and she can't do that right now unless we're at Jake's. I think we might have played too hard earlier, because Iz is sort of drooping around. I'll take her for a short walk right before bed, and let her relax quite a bit while I cook and clean.

(Right now I have apples baking and they smell delicious.)
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So, last Thursday, an unplanned, but completely adored roommate moved in with me.

Pictures )

This is Izzy, dizzy Izzy because she runs in circles a lot. She's a three year old beagle and Australian cattle dog mix, and she is the sweetest, most cuddly, delightful dog ever. Which is good, because she's a rescue, and has separation anxiety and hasn't quite been house broken yet and isn't really sure what to think about other dogs. Mostly, I'm pretty sure she thinks they're going to attack me and she needs to protect me, which isn't true. She likes almost all people she meets, though there have been one or two where she reacts like she does to dogs, loudly and straining to get at them.

(Her belief that dogs are out to get us probably wasn't helped when a bulldog attacked us Sunday night as we were coming home. His owner didn't have him on a leash, just loosely held his collar while he was talking to some friends outside the apartment building. I took Izzy in a door on the other side, because I was carrying some bags from the weekend and didn't want to deal with it. That freaking bulldog not only broke away from his owner and came all the way over to that door, but he pushed it back open as it closed and attacked on the stairs. I really love bulldogs, but if I could have gotten to him without falling, I probably would have drop kicked him down the stairs. His owner was apologetic, all "oh, he's so fast," which yeah, but dude, PUT HIM ON A FUCKING LEASH. No damage to Iz, thankfully.)

Despite the house breaking issues, Izzy is really, really smart, though she doesn't know how to play. We're working on that too. Her separation anxiety is getting better, too; when I got up in the middle of the night last night to go to the bathroom, she actually stayed in bed instead of following me.

Getting her was seriously the best decision I've made in years. Already I feel steadier and more balanced and healthier mentally (and physically, from all the walking, I guess). She's a dear, and I love her. Everyone else who's met her does too, particularly Oldest Nephew. (In fact, he gave me such a guilt trip when I left on Sunday, obviously bringing Izzy with me. First he gave me all these reasons I should leave her with him for the week, including that with her ears he could teach her to fly, then he was heartbroken that I won't be down next weekend, and finally he gave me this sad look and said, "Fine, take away my best friend." OUCH, Oldest Nephew. OUCH. He's thirteen and ridiculously fun and such a cool dude.)

I won't be getting back my pet deposit, but she's totally worth it. We'll get this whole training thing worked out.
seeksadventure: (Sons of Anarchy great wide open)
I am absolutely delighted to find Queer Eye for the Straight Guy on Netflix. I used to love this show, particularly when I lived somewhere I didn't have much of a local queer community. Some of the episodes still really touch my heart; there's this one with a guy who wants to propose, and they really set up a fantastic night for him and his girlfriend, and he was precious, and he tried so hard, and I was just delighted. I love the combo of this and Clean House. (I also love that I really don't need cable television. Yay streaming shows.)

This weekend was really super productive. Saturday, like I said, Sarah and I finished our current edit of Woods. We're now working on the final few scenes we decided it needed, and I'm doing one more polish edit this week, and then the goal is to send it to first readers Sunday or Monday. I am surprisingly nervous about this; it's been such a long time since I finished anything and sent it off to be workshopped. (I mean, besides legal writing. I'm fab at taking criticism of legal writing, mostly because of all the time I spent having my creative writing critiqued.)

Then Sunday, we finished the outline of our second project, Horror on Holiday, and split up the scenes so we can start writing it. We've given ourselves a fairly tight goal to get it finished (not as fast as we wrote Woods, which was in less than four weeks, but still pretty fast), with the caveat that if either of us feel too pressured, we will push back our goal date. (My sister, Kris, pulled Sarah in to help keep me from working myself into another breakdown, and Sarah is taking this responsibility very seriously. You should be super proud of her and Craig, Kris.) We also started the outline of our third project, which requires some serious, complicated, complex worldbuilding. I never expected to be writing something like this, despite the fact that the initial spark of an idea came from my idea file, but I am very excited.

I also did a lot of home organizing this weekend, craft and art supplies, dvds, and books. I have definitely put a restriction on buying new books until I read some of the ones I have sitting around on my To Read Bookcases. I now also have a pile of dvds that need to be watched.

Finally, I cooked an amazing roast in the crockpot last night, and a chicken casserole that has tortillas and peppers and cheese and salsa verde and corn and all sorts of deliciousness. I took some for lunch today, and it was fantastic. Didn't get to try the roast until dinner, but it was also amazing. (A little too salty for my taste, but most things are, and I think that may be the soup base used in it. Next time I'll try to find a low sodium version and see if that helps. I hate the taste of salt.) Kris put together a meal plan for me awhile back, as part of her work as my personal assistant this summer, and I appreciate all the time and effort she put into so much. I love not having to think about it, just grab the shopping list for the week, shop one day, cook the next. It makes life so much easier.

I updated my 2013 reading list yesterday, and I really need to make a book post soon. I have read some awesome books and short stories lately, and I want to share them with you all.