Writer. Editor. Leximaven. Game Designer. Vorpal Blonde. Bisexual Brainlicker. Midas's Touch. Schrödinger's Brat.

And What of Your Heart?

posted on: January 17, 2019
in: Blog


Last year, in all of 2018, I finished one short story. One.

(Granted, I wrote a lot of words on other things. Game design, mostly, because that’s my day job, and because deadlines (especially Kickstarter-promised deadlines) don’t wait for nobody.).

But fiction is my everything. The beat of it lives inside me like a second heart. And I’ve never had a year in which I wrote so little of what keeps me alive. Looking back, it was for all the reasons that many of us are struggling with: personal trauma, world trauma, the press of time and social media and deadlines, health issues, family issues, so much more. It was like 2018 (with 2017 rolling up in a close second) was the year in which all of the monsters came alive, toyed with us for six or eight or twelve months, and then ate us.

So there’s a part of me that is so grateful that I finished even one story.

And a part of me that is so damn sad and angry that I let so many things take my heart away. It’s why I gave a talk on creative resilience last year, and why I’m putting together a book on it. Because for creative people, making things is a form of self care and it often goes right out the window when things get bad. When we figure out how to hold onto it, to create despite everything, we should share it with others, lift them to the light and say, “look, it’s still there.”

I’m going to talk more about setting (and reaching for) goals later, but for now, I’ll just say that after last year’s awfulness, this year I have plans for making lots of things. This Patreon was one (and your support is another—because self-care is easier when others help you along the way). The stories and novels I’m working on are others. I’m trying my hand at singing and drawing (I am bad at both, but the goal is to practice for practice’s sake, for immersion’s sake, not because there’s a skill level that I hope to reach). I am taking more photos. And baking is my new (renewed) passion for the moment (this is largely the fault of Tasty, which shows the best baking videos).

But back to the one story that I wrote last year. It’s a story that came out of my sadness and pain at everything happening in the world, but particularly out all of the school shootings and street shootings, all of the young people we were losing much too early. I lent the story my voice, my siren-song of anguish, and “Salted Bone and Silent Sea,” was born.

I’m so proud to say that it was just accepted for the fantastic anthology, “Do Not Go Quietly: An Anthology of Victory in Defiance.” And I’m really delighted to share a table of contents with some of my favorite authors, including Brooke Bolander, Cassandra Khaw, Seanan McGuire, Catherynne M. Valente, and Fran Wilde.

It feels good to write a thing that feels powerful to your own process, that makes your heart come alive as you make it, that begins to heal you even in the tiniest of ways. It also feels good to know that others feel some of what you put into the story, and that it touches their heart too, and maybe helps them heal a tiny bit too…

***

Hello, lovelies! Have you missed me? You have, haven’t you? If so, you can read the rest of this post (including an excerpt from “Salted Bone and Silent Sea”) right now over on my brand-new Patreon for free. I likely won’t be blogging here much at all this year, so that’s the place to be if you want to hear good things from me! 

Why a Patreon? I talk about that a little bit here too—connection, inspiration, and a way to say yes to more of what I love. If you want to help  support my writing and journey, you can do so for as little as $1/month. Or jump in for higher to get writing prompts, inspirations, market ideas, thank yous in the acknowledgements, and more. I’ve moved Callooh! Callay! there too—I know a lot of you mentioned you were sorry to see it go, so I’ve brought it back in this new place.

I hope your 2019 is everything you dream of, and so much more.

Kiss kiss bang bang, 
Shanna 

Mark My Words: (Belated) January Edition

posted on: February 8, 2018
in: Blog, Writing

For at least five years now, I’ve tried to keep track of my yearly word count, and I’ve always failed. Partly because I work on so many different projects that it’s a monster of a job just to try and keep track. And partly because I know that word count isn’t really indicative of anything. As much as I rewrite and rework, or write whole chapters that never see the light of day, or erase and rewrite, the numbers turn out to be liars. But, this year Scrivener added a new feature that keeps track of it for you. It tells me how many words I’ve written each day and each month. And I have to admit I’m curious–I had no idea how many words I might write in a day, or a year, or five years. Do I write every day? (I already know the answer is no). Do I write in streaks? (Probably).

I meant to do this check at the end of January, but it got away from me, so here’s January plus a week in February. You can see that I wrote on 18 days this year, with an average of about 1400 words on each of those days (I’ve chosen to keep track of deleted words, so these aren’t how many I wrote exactly–I wrote more, but then deleted them, so they don’t count). But some days are bigger and better than others (yesterday, for example, was a high-word day for me, where all I did was put words on the page. I rarely have those kinds of writing days.). So far this year, I’ve written about 25,000 words (note that this is just game and fiction writing; it doesn’t include blog posts, web articles, and the like).

So what am I writing? What will all of these words become? Scriver helps me keep track of that too.


Green stuff is game writing–I’m working on the next book for Invisible Sun, as well as a Numenera adventure for Gen Con. Orange is short fiction. Red is for novels. Yes, I’m working on all of them at the same time. That seems to be my best process, even though it takes forever for me to finish anything that way.

Is all of this interesting? It is to me, because I always want to learn more about my processes. It might be to you too, if you’re a writer with questions. This shows that you can accomplish a lot without writing every day. That all of those single words add up quickly. That you can go from nothing to something in just a month (plus) of time.

Here’s an excerpt of the story that’s currently titled SSSA (Six Syllables Sung Aloud):

After Ben died, I locked my voice in a box. The kind of box doesn’t matter, nor does the lock. What matters is box and locked. Said together, like that. Throw the key away into the surf. Think better of it just before the shore claims it as its own, and grab it from the white foam, hide it somewhere warmer, quieter, more dangerous.     

My husband, Erik, wanted to know what I wanted for dinner.

“Do you want—?” he asked from where his top half was submerged inside the fridge. I could hear him moving things around inside, and I knew what was in there: greens gone wet and brown, jars of liquid skimmed in algae, crumbs of bread nibbled from all sides. “Pasta or potatoes?”

I sat at the kitchen table and watched my husband’s scissored legs be cut off at the waist by a steel box and thought how none of those words made sense anymore. All those p sounds, like something small and round you’d squish with your fingers and their insides would pop out and you’d be grossed out and try to wipe them on your shirt when no one could see. But you’d still feel it and feel it, even in the shower. Even in the moments you’d forgotten about the something small and round, you’d still feel what was left upon your skin.      

My husband is a good man. Everyone says that about their husbands, I guess, but sometimes someone says it and it’s true. He’s not perfect, but he holds me up the way water holds up oil. 

Do you keep track of your word count? Work on multiple projects at once? Use Scrivener in a cool way? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts on process!

Kiss kiss bang bang,
s.

P.S. If you like these posts, you can now subscribe and get them in your inbox (just fill in the Subscribe to Me section on the right-hand side of this blog). I’m not on Facebook or Twitter these days, but you can find me (and Ampersand the Wonder Dog) on Instagram.

 

 

16. Callooh! Callay! Saving What We Love

posted on: February 5, 2018
in: Blog, Callooh! Callay!


Yesterday I noticed that the bulbs I planted in the fall are starting to push their tiny green heads up through the mud, and if there is a better analogy for the future me’s reward for past me doing the hard, dirty work, I don’t know what it is. I’m writing short fiction again, which is something I had to put aside for a while due to other projects, and god, I love the short form so much. I’ll try to post an excerpt later this week so you can see what I’m working on. (Along with an update on how many words I’ve written so far this year and what they were for, because I think that’s a cool and interesting thing to look at).

watch.

The best drama you might not have seen yet (or even heard of): Halt and Catch Fire. I think that it’s undervalued and underwatched in part due to the topic: the advent of computers (and then the internet) doesn’t seem like something that’s super interesting right off the bat. But the show’s not really about that. It’s about the characters and their relationships (and the actors who depict said characters are amazing). It’s about life.

The show starts out strong and just gets better and better as it goes. Season 4 is in my list of top seasons of television. It’s that good. It depicts life and loss and love and creativity with such realness. I’ve never watched anything that impacted my heart with such beautiful honesty.

read.

Ten Things I Learned from Ursula K. Le Guin is a beautiful reminder from a talented woman, not just of how to be a creative person, but also how to live fully and truly.

learn.

This article about sexual bereavement introduced me to a topic I hadn’t thought about much before–what it means when the death of your partner means the death of your sex life, and why there are so few good resources for handling that unique grieving process.

“But I was blindsided by the realization that gone for good was the sexual intimacy that Bart and I shared. Gone was the appreciation and understanding of bodies that had aged together, the decades of shared humor and pillow talk that were intertwined with sexual enjoyment. I was unprepared for the depth of this loss, and I immediately understood that this was not a grief that was going to be easy to share with family and friends.”

splurge.

 

I just saw these amazing waterproof bags over the weekend, and I instantly fell in love. Made by a company called Rains, these adorable mini backbacks feel amazing to the touch, are super waterproof, and have a really small profile (so you don’t bonk into people when turn around in a crowded space) thanks to their slim but roomy shape.

do.

“That’s how we’re gonna win. Not fighting what we hate, saving what we love.” ~Rose, The Last Jedi

Plant something today that will become beautiful tomorrow. Take time today to appreciate what you planted yesterday. Hold joy in your hand and marvel at its giant wonder.

~~

P.S. If you like these posts, you can now subscribe and get them in your inbox (just fill in the Subscribe to Me section on the right-hand side of this blog). I’m not on Facebook or Twitter these days, but you can find me (and Ampersand the Wonder Dog) on Instagram.

15. Callooh! Callay! I am the wilderness

posted on: January 22, 2018
in: Blog, Callooh! Callay!

As I was writing this week’s Callooh! Callay! someone in my writer’s group said, “It’s a very Monday Monday,” and I thought, “Yes, yes it is.” So on this very Monday Monday, here are some of my favorite things from the past few weeks.

read.

After hearing that I’d left social media (and why), a friend recently recommended Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brené Brown. I’m really enjoying the take that Brown has on the polarization of our culture, the hatred and depersonalization we’re seeing on social media and beyond, and much more. It’s a great reminder that we’re not alone in what we’re going through, even when we feel like we are.

play.

I have to admit that I haven’t played What Remains of Edith FinchI’ve only watched someone else play it — and that’s a rare thing for me (Generally, I’d much rather play a thing than watch a thing being played). But this game is such a beautiful story of family and discovery, and it’s so inventive and original that watching someone else explore the world was just as delightful as playing the game. I don’t want to say too much and spoil it, but if you’re looking for an injection of imagination, this is it.

laugh.

If you haven’t jumped in on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, go now. Please. You will laugh and cringe and cry and cheer. It’s glorious and messy and inspiring and the acting is top-notch. And it’s funny. Did I mention funny?

do.

“There will be times when standing alone feels too hard, too scary, and we’ll doubt our ability to make our way through the uncertainty. Someone, somewhere, will say, ‘Don’t do it. You don’t have what it takes to survive the wilderness.’ This is when you reach deep into your wild heart and remind yourself, ‘I am the wilderness.’” ~ Brené Brown

March for what you love. Cross the bridge holding hands. Trust that someone has your back. Remember that your smallest act can be the huge thing that changes someone’s life. Be grateful for your joy.

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