AuthorEli Jones

Spending Time

My section of the Columbia Gorge has been in Winter Lockdown for 5 days. Today would mark my first full day of work this week, except for the large amount of co-workers who couldn’t make it in from their residences up the mountain.

You’d think this would make the perfect change to sit down and write, and you’d be very, very wrong. So far I’ve spent the time reading, playing in the snow with the twins, playing inside with the twins when the snow in the yard was over their toddler heads, and watching movies with my wife after the two of us have broken our collective backs shoveling snow and digging out the car.

So I’ve been busy.

Writing’s been once of the furthest things from my mind these last days. Being able to play “stay-at-home-dad”, even for a handful of days, has been an amazing and humbling experience. For six months I was staying at home with the twins one day a week and working four ten-hour shifts. But both my wife and I worked full time, and the twins were babies then, less mobile, more nap-focused.

Now my wife is staying home full time, and I miss my time alone with the children. That said, they are super-active 18 month olds, so it’s exhausting trying to keep up with them all day. So I’ve been adjusting my schedule to do what I can to help more around the house.

Which has led to a re-evaluation of when I write. It’s going to have to go back to nighttime writing for a while, which means I need to get healthy so I’m not exhausted by the time the kids go to bed, which means streamlining my mornings to get some exercise in. The slower mornings of snow-days have given me a chance to do just that.

After all, it can’t snow forever. Right?

Back In The Game

Wrote around 400 words of fiction today, a short bit of dialogue between two down on their luck spacers hacking a data feed. It’s almost entirely dialogue, so when I cycle back and add set dressing to help churn forward on the project, it should expand nicely.

It feels good to be back writing every day, even though this is only day two of that particular streak. But every little bit helps, and every bit writing something new makes be better and better as a writer.

I’ve also gotten around to reading more fiction. Last year was a huge year for non-fiction for my reading list, with 90 of the 104 books read/listened to being non-fiction. It’s good, I think, to consume as much storytelling as I can if I’m trying to tell a story.

Twitter Bankruptcy

Have you ever been to a party where you enjoy everything going on except the people who came with you? Nearly impossible to get out of that situation. Especially if they drove.

That’s the vibe I was getting on Twitter. For the last 9 months, I’ve tried my best to understand social media, and Twitter in particular. I engaged with people all over the world in similar hobbies and careers, and it was adequate. I learned very quickly that no one cares about any questions you pose. But mention a problem you’re having and the help comes pouring out (even if you just want commiseration about a terrible workload, and not a ton of GTD tips). “How nice!” I thought. “I should really get involved in some other communities!”

And since I was starting NaNoWriMo, I jumped into the #writerscommunity and #writingcommunity on Twitter. I posted about WIPs and MCs and saw others writing #YA and #MG and however many else hashtags get bandied about those two groups on a daily basis. And the followers starting flowing in! I was addicted, for a time, to the numbers, 100, 200, 500, 1000, 1500. “Magical!” I thought, following back in a fit of writer solidarity, even though I never even bothered to look at their profile, or recent tweets, or even if we had anything in common besides shouting into the same void.

Then came the realization that my timeline had been rendered useless by near-random following of 1500 strangers talking past each other on how best to write fourth drafts, set up a writer’s room, find an agent…all things that I wasn’t interested in. I blame reading some Dean Wesley Smith before starting NaNoWriMo, with the idea implanted to Write Into the Dark (as befits my Myers-Briggs type–another thing WriterTwitter is obsessed over, nearly as much as their Hogwarts House) and Write Clean First Drafts.

I just did 50,000 words in a month, while working full time, having a social life, and raising twin toddlers with my wife. It wasn’t a great book, but I tried my best to write at the top of my game. Now, it turns out my game is weak, but that improves with practice. Writing sloppy didn’t interest me, and hearing that I’d need to spend a year or more rewriting, and pitching to agents, and and and…

I realized then that I caught a ride to the party with the wrong crowd. This was not my tribe. We were not having a shared experience. I wanted to network with a small, curated crowd. They told me to cast the net far, a net with large holes in it, and slog through like the rest. It’s on me that I believed them for any amount of time, even when I knew better. “Maybe there’s a middle path,” I thought. There’s no middle path. These are two competing schools of thought.

You might think I’m anti-writer’s community from the previous paragraphs. I’m not, really; but it’s also very much not my community. We have a desire in common (to write and be read) but the paths we want to take are divergent.

And because we were so divergent, because we wanted different things, I tried to end my relationship with a massive Twitter community. It did not go well. I bungled it. Instead of simply creating lists, pruning my followers and timeline back a little a time–the steps recommended to me by members of #writerscommunity!–I clicked a big red button and unfollowed everyone.

It was not pretty.

Plus, my Twitter name was still on lists and follow Fridays and followers kept coming. I wasn’t following back right away, as I wanted to get to know people a little before cluttering up my feed again, and they dropped off quickly. And then refollowed as they picked up my name on another list.

Burning the tower to the ground and starting over seemed like a good idea at the time. And I salted the earth soon after, deactivating that account and starting afresh with a new attitude and new tactics. My goals for Twitter is simple. Keep a low profile for a while. Follow people I want to follow. Don’t beg for followers. Don’t get on hype-trains. And don’t indiscriminately follow every last person who shows up in a notification. I wouldn’t get into a car with strangers to go party now, would I?

I haven’t updated in the past few days as I’ve been replacing a dead in the water PC, restoring from backups, confirming everything works etc etc. On top of my current email woes, 2019 hasn’t been the kindest for getting started. I’ll be transcribing my notebook to the PC soon enough, though.

Unsteady As She Goes

A bit of a lurching day, but it was a day spent playing outside and walking around town with the twins, so it was an important day. As my kids get older, toddling around, talking, exploring, discovering, it’s the days like today that are the most fun to look back on. But watching two toddlers for 8 hours on your own leaves no time for writing during the day. My hat is off to all full time stay at home parents, twins or not. You do good, hard work!

The long nightmare of being locked out of my email (and calendar, the more pressing part) is coming to a close. FastMail finally started responding at a reasonable rate after Tweeting at them. It’s not a tactic I enjoy but I was getting desperate.

But once the password was reset, I was informed that due to security the new password, the one I just created, wouldn’t be allowed to log in until 24 hours had elapsed. I’m sure there’s a reasonable line between security and providing a good customer experience in exchange for payment, and I’m sure I know what side of the line this falls on. So, I’ll be researching new email services which allow private domains and have functioning support. I’d say ProtonMail except for the lack of calendars. I’d go with G Suite but my privacy isn’t Google’s main concern, even if I am paying them.

Just a few words done today on the short story, and that mainly through handwritten pieces I retyped. Onward and upward, though.

Short Story Word Count: 1502
Blog Post Word Count: 258
Novel Word Count: 0

Gathering Steam

2019 is shaping up to be an odd year, if I can take what’s happened in the first three days as any indication:

  • I came back to work on the 2nd, only to leave early on the 3rd due to illness. I’m also missing work tomorrow because the kids are sick and there’s no daycare solution until next week.
  • Still locked out of my email account with FastMail. Having the support desk be half a world away and responding to my tickets at 3am local is not helping me keep my cool. And yes, I know it’s my own fault I was locked out of my account. Still. Frustrated.
  • Thus far for writing I’ve managed to write a project implementation plan at work (the only thing I’ve gotten done thus far), some fiction and non-fiction regarding RPGs (doesn’t count for my Half A Million goal), and a weekly meal plan (probably not real writing). What I haven’t been doing is putting my ass in a chair and writing fiction–or blog posts!–like I’m supposed to.

Therefore, 2019 is starting a lot like 2018, only with slightly older children to take care of. However, I’m still going to try. I sit down every day, whether I get a flood or a trickle of words on the page, and that’s OK with me. I’m not content with it, I’m not happy with the slow progress, but I’m happy with progress.

Short Story Word Count: 1502
Blog Post Word Count: 258
Novel Word Count: 0

Frustration

This was not my day to accomplish damn near anything.

It was my first full day back at work, after 14 days of relaxing, wonderful winter vacation with my family. I had wrapped up all my projects before leaving, but there’s always issues that seemed to require my input impatiently awaiting me at the office. Handling those emails, voicemails and office drop-ins took up the majority of my work day, even eating into lunch.

The evening was spent scrambling to find daycare for tomorrow and Friday after an illness removed our current provider as an option. I managed to somehow completely mangle my password manager (I use KeePass) and lock my personal email account out, wasting time with support just to find out “we cannot verify your identity”. Lovely. That’ll get sorted tomorrow.

And I sat down to write at my usual evening time, after having personal (upset toddlers) and professional (upset adults) needs convinced me to skip my other times, I made the slowest progress I’ve experienced recently in writing. The words would come, but not fast, and not smooth. Like a car with bad gasoline, I lurched from one sentence to the next.

But that’s OK. So I had a rough day and a bad night of writing. I still wrote. I’m still making forward progress.

And the day wasn’t a complete loss. I cleaned up some old posts on my gaming website and got those published, so there’s that. Not that I’m counting those; 99% of them were written way back in August of 2018. Fear and a lack of motivation kept them from getting out the door. Well, fear of writing is stupid, and I was motivated to do something that didn’t involve waiting on the phone with support personnel.

The takeaway is this: I still wrote today, and it felt good to do so. In the only metric worth meeting, I had fun writing, stuttering it might have been.

Short Story Word Count: 1502
Blog Post Word Count: 258
Novel Word Count: 0

The Journey Begins

I’m starting today on my writing journey, hoping to capture half a million words, usable words, in 2019. It’s not off to a terrible start so far. I’ve laid out my goals in the post Half A Million, so I’m not going to repeat myself here. But like most plans this one has been adjusted right from the start.

I didn’t get any progress done towards a novel, or at least no new words on one. I spent my two Writing Pomodoros today on a short story, since it just seemed to be want my mind wanted to get down “on paper”. I’m looking at 1031 words so far, averaging just over 500 words in 20 minutes (I do 20 minute sets for writing, and 25 minutes when at work. Just seems to turn out better that way). But I’m afraid that maybe 1500 words spread over three projects–novel, short stories, and blog posts–will be stretching myself then rather than stretching towards improvement.

But the daily goals might not be super important. Half a million words is the end goal, but I’m breaking that up into quarters, easier to manage chunks I can handle 90 days at a time. For this first quarter, the plan still is novel/stories/blog posts, with an eye to submit any story I write (following Heinlein’s Rules). Those word counts per day/per project are goals, but ones I can work up to over the course of the quarter. It’ll still end up with a story every week and a novel at the end, and it chops the elephant up into more manageable pieces.

Short Story Word Count: 1031
Blog Post Word Count: 261
Novel Word Count: 0
Total Words as of 1/1/2019: 1292


Seriously, if you always put limits on what you can do, physical or anything else, it’ll spread over into the rest of your life. It’ll spread into your work, into your morality, into your entire being. There are no limits. There are plateaus, but you must not stay there, you must go beyond them. If it kills you, it kills you. A man must constantly exceed his level.

Bruce Lee

The Cave

Note: This is a piece of fiction I wrote during NaNoWriMo in addition to my actually NaNo project. Essentially, it was just a series of sentences to help break writer’s block on my main book. I don’t know if I’ll ever get around to doing anything with this; it’s not my normal style, and I didn’t outline like I usually do. Aside from a quick copy editing pass and formatting for WordPress, it’s been untouched since November. 

Ivona tried to control her breathing, control the pounding in her chest, the tremble in her hands. It was cold in the cavern. She had backed herself into a small crack in the stone, barely wide enough for her to slip through sideways. She couldn’t do it with the pack on, or with the sword on her belt. She unshouldered the pack, squeezing it through the crack one handed. The other hand rested on the hilt of the sword. Her eyes, now accustomed to the flickering lights in the cavern, scanned for any movement coming through the tunnel, her ears straining to hear a foot scrape against stone. Once the pack was through she took off her belt and slid it, the scabbard and the sword behind her, then slipped through herself.

She dropped to the ground, and inched backwards, eyes focused on the small opening. Ivona knew what hunted her through the caves, what had killed Jofen and Pel. She knew it wasn’t far behind her. Wasted too much time already. She could have stood her ground. She could have killed the thing in single combat. But there was never just one. A pack was here, they had the bad luck of running into a scout, foolish children playing at guards. They might find this crack, but it went deeper, further into the hillside. She needed to run, now. She needed to get as far away as possible, hoping these caves doubled back or came out the hill near the creek. She should been moving. She stayed very still, watching.

Her heart pounded in her ears. I’m afraid I’m afraid I’m afraid It wasn’t fear keeping her, watching for any signs in the cavern beyond. Pel Jofen Pel Jofen Pel Jofen The town needed to know how big a group was in the caves, whether to expect a small raid on the fields, a larger raid on the town. A sacking. A bloodbath. If they needed to run, if they could hide behind the walls safely. If they could stand and fight.

She was about to rise to a crouch, to turn and head further into the cave when she heard the sounds in the cavern. The sounds. Little mistaking the scraping, the labored, ragged breathing. She crept as close to the opening as she dared, watching the entrance to the cavern, counting numbers.

The first was already in the cavern, no torch, using the ambient light reflected down the cave walls to see. It could see in twilight as well as daylight, perhaps better. That’s what Ivona had heard, in the stories. Large splayed-toed feet, a leathery quality like a boot. Backwards canted legs, like the rear legs of her cat. Long body, pitched forwards, flesh like chalk, like death. Long head, snout, fangs protruding upwards. Segmented, dull eyes, wide spaced. It wore Pel’s bloodied mail shirt – scavengers – and held a long knife in one of its hands. The other was stretched out before it, straining, feeling the stone floor. Feeling for heat, where she had been, stood, ran.

Goblin.

Another entered the cave. He carried a wicked looking sword, something wet on the blade reflecting the soft light. Then another. Three, five; she stopped counting at thirteen. A good sized raiding party, and more besides. It won’t do any good to be killed here, or trapped, and not get back to Dunned. The first goblin, the one with Pel’s mail, was stalking around the cavern, stumbling in a circle. Fire! That’s how I stumbled in here! Turn around, look up, run to the fall side; the goblin was matching every move she had taken, its hand still stretched before it, low to the ground. She had to move out of her hiding spot, crawl further down into the caves, try to double back somehow.

It was dark behind her, the reflected light didn’t carry any further down. She stretched a hand, groping blindly behind her, turning her head and slowing scooting backwards.

The stench caught her throat. She whipped her head back to the small opening in time to see the goblin’s head, screeching, a hand clawing through the hole. The smell of it make her retch. On instinct, she drew her sword, a short draw, just halfway out of the scabbard due to the low ceiling and her crouching position. She turned fully toward the goblin, and as hard as she could slammed the pommel of the sword at the eye of the creature. The hand pawed at her glove, scratching the leather. She fell the eye give way, the howl of the beast as she blinded it. Then she was scrambling backwards, kicking out with her legs, trying to get as much distance between herself and the goblin. She knew the cavern floor was sloping down, she could feel it, then she felt nothing under her hand. Twisting, but before she could catch herself, Ivona was sliding, falling, and then into the cold water.

She hit the water hard, back first, the air driven out of her lungs.The water rushed over her, pulled her down, drug at her coat. Ivona couldn’t breath, had no breath, the cold drawing the strength from her arms. She lost grip on her sword, Father’s sword, Gran’s sword. She clawed at the water. Her lungs burned. She couldn’t see, just trusting she was moving towards the surface, against the pull.

Then her head broke the surface, and she sucked in air, cold air. She felt a current. This must flow out into the creek. How long, I don’t know. She struggled to remember anywhere along the creek there was a stream, some tributary of mountain water.

There was a splash, a thrashing noise,  churning in the water. Gods, it followed me. Half-blind it followed me down here!

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