Long-term goals

Warning: Long, rambly post ahead…

Recently I’ve been thinking a great deal about the future. In a few months I’ll be quitting my current job, which I like a great deal, and starting a new one, which pays a lot better. In time it means the end of my financial troubles, and I am 100% it was the right decision, but I was surprised at how little enthusiasm I felt. Some of it was pure shock, of course, since the job was not even one I applied for (I asked my former boss for a reference and she gave me a job instead), but nonetheless I found it strange.


Having thought a great deal about it, I think it is for the same reason that I decided not to go into the field of linguistics, even if I do have a master’s degree and did apply for a PhD once (though certain things I’ve heard about the work environment at the university wasn’t without importance, to put it that way). It’s not because I don’t like linguistics. It’s not because I don’t like what the new job entails, because I really love some parts of it, and I really like my former/new boss too.

But with regards to my dream, of what I want to be? It feels like a step back. I’ll work longer hours and have a full work week – but of course that’s not even close to true. For the past year I’ve worked two jobs, and after Christmas I’ve worked on translations every spare hour I had, in addition to dancing. Let’s just say there hasn’t been any time for writing, and whenever I had an hour to spare I was too stressed or too tired to get anything useful done. So really, considering I can finally settle in just one job and still pay all my bills, and won’t have to work in the evenings – it’s a huge step forward.

Still, it made me think about what I really want. With my writing, linguistics, painting and those things. Do I want to keep it as just a hobby, something in which I dabble every now and then? I guess it’s obvious that since I’m actually asking the question, the answer is no.

My dream wasn’t just writing books. My dream has always been to be able to have my interests as a job. Writing and illustrating my own books, if not full time then at least almost full time. Make a name for myself. Painting pictures from my books that people actually will buy. I also dream about having a video blog about language (mostly), and (this is very, very, very much at the “what if” stage) perhaps even go to linguistics conferences as myself/my own company/whatever you call it, instead of representing a university, and do the research I want to do, not what attracts the money. I even have the name.

I am 32 years old now. If there was ever a time to start making dreams into reality, it is now. And I’ve realised that I cannot treat my dreams as just dreams, or as if I need to wait for luck to come my way before going after them. I need to start acting and start making them a reality. Really, other people can make far wilder dreams come true, why should I (or you) be different? I’ve also realised that I cannot treat writing and painting and conlanging as if they exist only in their little bubble. I won’t be able to write if I’m worried sick about having enough money to put food on my table, or if I work myself into the ground to get that money. So I have made a list of things I need to do in order to make the dream a reality. Not necessarily right now, but sometime in the future; the end goals of my smaller, more specific goals. (As you probably can tell, I like goals)

  1. Become financially independent. I saw this mentioned on a “how to save money” blog I came across a few days ago, and the idea really clicked. I am horrible at saving, but the idea of saving enough money so that I won’t actually have to work… that’s tempting. And hard work. But it would allow me to not work full work weeks, and thus have more time to write. Step one is to repay all my debt. I’m not counting my student loan here, because it’s so big, but all the rest. Step two would be to save enough money to have a buffer, so that I won’t have to take on more debt if there’s any unexpected expenses, as well as for dance expenses. Step three would be to save enough money for a full year off work. That’s more than a few years into the future, and it will be hard, but there you have it. Of course the real step one is to become more frugal even if I’ll have more income.
  2. Finish the damn book. No explanation needed, I guess.
  3. Look into other, little ways of gaining extra money for writing that still allows me to write my own stories. One example is Patreon, although you need at least some fans already to make it work, or short e-books or something like that.
  4. Do point 3, only for painting. This also involves becoming good enough at painting to be able to create something people would want to pay money for. My current benchmark is getting a picture accepted to Epilogue.net, but hopefully I’ll become good enough to raise that bar.
  5. Look into the video blog thing. A friend of mine really liked the idea, but I have to figure out how to make it work. I always envisioned it as a two-people blog, however, so I need to find someone to help me out. Hmm…
  6. Improve the website and the galleries and, well, all that. Start using Twitter more. Use my art instagram account more. Blog more. Comment more on the stuff of others. Get more active on deviantART and other art sites, as well as on Wattpad and other writing sites. You know, that magical web presence thing that everyone talks about.
  7. Never forget why I am working towards those particular dreams.

So there you have it. It might seem overly ambitious, but how would you ever fulfill a dream if you didn’t work towards it? I don’t believe in that kind of luck (though I hope…). And the fact remains that a writing career isn’t very lucrative unless you’re really good. Besides, a career won’t do you any good anyway if you don’t have the skills to back it up, unless you are a couple of really well known authors whose names I won’t mention.

Well, this became too long as usual, so I’ll stop. Tomorrow I have most of the evening free, so I’m planning to re-write an old story of mine. I rather liked it, but it didn’t work then, and I wrote a new ending on the bus today. I’ll upload it to Wattpad as soon as I finish it!

Revised editing plan

Apparently I am more fond of making plans than I am of following them. On the other hand, planning can be done everywhere, and writing… cannot. Plus I haven’t had the necessary brain power, energy, focus or anything, really, to write for the past few weeks. Busy doesn’t even cover it. (Somehow we started talking about the number of jobs that I have, followed by a discussion of whether homework is good or bad, in my German class today, which led to this gem from one of my students: “If Catrine can survive everything, we can handle a bit of homework.” It was amusing.)

Aaaanyway. It’s clearly not just that class that was filled with digressions today…

I have made a new editing plan! This time I have even done some research! (Wow.) Also, I have edited. A little bit. Most of my research comes from the eminent blog of Rachel Aaron/Bach at Pretentious Title, who both writes books that I love, AND has perhaps the most useful writing blog I have ever encountered. There is something to be said about taking advice from people who write the kind of books you like to read, I think… Also I got some advice from Holly Lisle, whose advice I have read for years now and who has a blog post about one-pass editing. Perhaps the most useful advice from these two was that there is no editing process that works for everyone, and because of that, I have picked a little bit from both.

The magnificent plan, v. 4 (or something)

  1. Take the timeline and write down all the new stuff (that you know of), both big and small. DONE
  2. Find the old scene overview. DONE.
  3. Make a new scene map over the current story after the changes. DONE.
  4. Note down theme and a short summary of the story. DONE… sort of. Will probably have to do again.
  5. Write down everything you can think of that you need to fix, round 1. DONE. (But will need to be updated as I think of more things)
  6. Split up the Scrivener file by scene (currently the entire chapters are together) in chapter folders, to make it easier to move scenes around.
  7. Write the new scenes that are missing from the current draft. I have actually written one of these!
  8. Triple check that the ending works – something bugs me about it.
  9. Go through what the generals are doing this whole time, when they’re not shown in the story. Make sure they seem like they normally know what they’re doing…
  10. Write down the questions that need answering, and answer them. Does everything make sense?
  11. Plot routes and cities on map to check that they’re not using two days to a place to which it takes two weeks or months to travel to, or vice versa.
  12. Write the next draft.
  13. Read through and write down everything you see that needs to be fixed.
  14. Rewrite again
  15. Repeat the last two as needed.

As usual the “just a few” steps turned into quite a few, but I am more optimistic about this plan than the previous ones. It took me a few rounds to find something I think will work and which fits the way I work (without necessarily doing everything chronologically).

We will see! Considering I have already done a few steps on it, I think it is promising.

Nano Prep part II

This is where the “oh my God NaNoWriMo is only three days away” panic is about to take me. I’ve done what I can to prepare for it this year, but there are only so many hours in a day, and with a busy life… well. Learning my lessons from last year I’ve tried to make sure that I don’t burn myself out before NaNoWriMo has even begun, which is why I did absolutely nothing useful yesterday. (Well, that’s not quite true. I made a healthy dinner, and I worked out for an hour. I also looked at my mandatory assignment (in the most literal sense of the word) and decided I still don’t understand a thing, so there’s that).

Below is, quite simply, the far-too-long list of things that remain to do before NaNoWriMo begins. And if that wasn’t enough… I’ve evidently decided to attempt a 50kDayOne, since it’s the first time in years I don’t work all day on the 1st of November.

  1. Make lesson plans for the two next chapters in my German class (I’m going away for a conference just as we’re starting the next chapter, so I’d like my students to know exactly what they need to do even if they have a substitute teacher)
  2. Make grammar help guides and glossary lists for my German class. Not strictly speaking necessary, but they’re a bit shaky on the grammar.
  3. Make lesson plans for my English class (far easier, thankfully)
  4. Send in the student card application (as soon as I find my passport photo)
  5. Finish plotting The Revenge (working title) – the basics are fleshed out, but I need the hows and whys
  6. Finish the mandatory assignment
  7. Clean the apartment somewhat
  8. Revise some chapters

…Yeah, I don’t think I’ll manage to finish it all… BUT I can try. Number 1, 2, 3 and 6 are the most important, the rest aren’t that critical.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten “Older” books you don’t want people to forget

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week they post a new Top Ten list related to books and reading. This time the topic is Top Ten “Older” books you don’t want people to forget about – everything from real oldies to books that aren’t really old, just… not new anymore.

1. Elizabeth Moon: The Deed of Paksenarrion. This series is kind of cheating, since she, after a very, very long break, now has started to write another series that kind of continues where Deed of Paksenarrion left off. It’s one of the first fantasy series that I read, and it’s still one of my favourites.

2. Katharine Kerr: Deverry. This is an either-you-like-it-or-you-really-don’t type of series. The plot takes place in several different temporal levels, but for me it definitely worked. Back when I discovered fantasy, a Norwegian publishing house had a few years where they translated the big series into Norwegian. Over time it wasn’t as profitable as they wished, so they quit, but this was one of the series that made the cut.

3. David Eddings: The Belgariad. OK, it’s full of cliches. But the characters are compelling, and cliches weren’t really cliches when the books were written. It was perhaps one of the series that started the “innocent farm boy is really king/sorcerer/the saviour of the world” trope, but it’s also a wonderful comfort read and highly entertaining.

4. Peter V. Brett: The Painted Man. It’s a while since book 2 came out, and there’s no release date as of yet for book 3, but this book can’t really be mentioned too many times. It’s awesome. It’s original, well-written and proves that a medieval fantasy setting can be done in a fresh and completely new way.

5. Sergei Lukyanenko: Night Watch. Some years ago, when the Russian movie came out, this series was quite popular, I think – but now the attention seems to have died down. These books should not be forgotten. They are dark and gloomy but very, very good.

6. Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett: Good Omens. I think I’ve said it for every book on this list, but it’s awesome, hilarious and, well, very, very entertaining.

I couldn’t come up with more than 6. There are probably more, but those that I most of all don’t want people to forget aren’t really in any danger of being forgotten at all, so there’s no point in mentioning them.

What’s your list?

“Waiting on” Wednesday #1

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event created by Breaking the Spine. It is about upcoming releases that we are waiting for and look forward to, and this week I’ve decided to write about two books.

1. Jim Butcher: Cold Days. 

As fans of the series know, when the previous and eagerly anticipated Dresden Files book, Ghost Story, was due to be published, it was delayed by several months. Of course this caused quite a bit of dismay. Most people agreed with the author that it was better to have a really good book in July than a moderately good one in April, and he did post the first five chapters online for free.

Still it was very clear that neither he nor the publisher wanted this to happen again, so the publication date of Cold Days, the 14th Harry Dresden novel, has been a well-kept secret until recently. The news was posted on Jim Butcher’s website in August, but I learnt of it from a good friend only yesterday. Normally there’s quite a while between the publication of the release date and the release date itself, but… It’s in November. Only two months and a day! I can hardly believe it, but I’m SO happy. Best thing is of course that it’s towards the end of November, so I might have finished NaNoWriMo already. Uninterrupted reading time!

I won’t say much of the plot, except that Harry is back from being presumed dead (read Ghost Story for details), he’s indebted to the sidhe Queen Mab, and that he might be in over his head again. It sounds good, now I only hope it will live up to my far-too-great expectations.

2.Gail Carriger: Etiquette & Espionage

Gail Carriger is the author of the steampunk/mannerpunk series Parasol Protectorate (Soulless, Changeless, Blameless, Heartless and Timeless) which I have loved immensely since I read the first page of the first book. The series has all the fun things that I love – airships, vampires, werewolves, humour, the Victorian era, Britain, dapper gentlemen and women in silly hats, inventors, a protagonist with common sense and who deals with things instead of sitting around feeling sorry for herself, a really engaging writing style and absolutely no lack of laugh-out-loud moments. Both fortunately and unfortunately the series is now finished, although it will be kind-of-continued in a spin-off series, The Parasol Protectorate Abroad, which (if I’m correct) will be about Alexia’s daughter.

Anyway. Carriger has now started another series, which sounds really fun. It’s YA and called Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School is the name of the series) and will be released on February 5th, 2013. It’s not too long a wait – and as we say here, those that wait for something good, do not wait in vain (is there a similar expression in English?

Here is a description of the book, taken from its Goodreads page:

“It’s one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It’s quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to finishing school.

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is the bane of her mother’s existence. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper etiquette at tea–and god forbid anyone see her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. She enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But little do Sophronia or her mother know that this is a school where ingenious young girls learn to finish, all right–but it’s a different kind of finishing. Mademoiselle Geraldine’s certainly trains young ladies in the finer arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but also in the other kinds of finishing: the fine arts of death, diversion, deceit, espionage, and the modern weaponries. Sophronia and her friends are going to have a rousing first year at school.

First in a four book YA series set 25 years before the Parasol Protectorate but in the same universe.”

What books are you waiting for?

This book is like Other Famous Book, only…

I’m fairly sure most readers have been annoyed by them at times. In blurbs, in reviews, in presentations of books, pretty much everywhere a book is described or recommended there is that typical sentence: “This book is like <other, very popular book>, only with X instead of Y.” I can see the point of comparing them with other books, of course, as it makes it easier to relate for the prospective reader. But wouldn’t it have to be a point to make them somewhat accurate?

One infamous example for me was the Night Watch books by Sergei Lukyanenko. Its front cover boasts a quote from a review in Daily Telegraph, which says “JK Rowling, Russian style… [A] cracking read.” While I wholeheartedly agree with the last part of the quote – Rowling? Really? The style is different, the setting is very different, the mood is different and darker, there’s a completely different audience, I could go on. The only similarities are 1. That there is a male main character, 2. That the setting is modern, our world, with the premise that there is a magic community that most people don’t – and shouldn’t – know about, and 3. That there is some kind of battle between good and evil. But of a completely different kind and outlook. This is by far not the only example.

Since I have had a stay-in-bed kind of day today I did some thinking about these types of comparisons, and came up with some general rules. Of course this is not meant as any kind of exhaustive list, only a few not-so-serious tendencies. Note that I haven’t included any SF, as I read so little of it, and that the rules only goes for comparisons in mainstream media.

The rules

1. If it involves someone learning magic, particularly if s/he is young, it is Harry Potter.
2. If it involves sorcery in a modern setting, it is Harry Potter (Harry Dresden or Rivers of London, anyone?)
3. If it does not involve sorcery but otherwise has a modern setting, it’s Twilight.
4. In fact, any and all urban fantasy and paranormal romance is either Harry Potter or Twilight, depending on whether or not there’s sorcery and/or vampires.
5. If there’s vampires, werewolves, ghosts, angels, faeries, changelings, demons and such, it’s Twilight.
6. If it involves romance, particularly love triangles (which means 99% of all romantic plots), it’s Twilight.
7. If it involves magic schools it’s always Harry Potter, no matter the rest, except if said school is a vampire school… sometimes.
8. If it is written either for or about children it will always be Harry Potter or Narnia.
9. If it is epic fantasy published before the HBO show Game of Thrones it will be compared to Lord of the Rings.
10. If it is epic fantasy published after Game of Thrones it is A Song of Ice and Fire.
11. If it contains elves, dwarves
and so on, it is Lord of the Rings.
If it’s a dystopy, it’s Hunger Games.
13. …unless it’s got vampires, werewolves, ghosts or angels – then it’s Twilight
14. …or magic, then it’s Harry Potter.
15. Any and all speculative fiction in a modern setting is, by rule, either Harry Potter, Twilight or both.
16. Any speculative fiction in the past is A Song of Ice and Fire if it’s gritty or without many fantastic elements, Lord of the Rings if it has the aforementioned elves or dwarves, if it’s deus ex machina, if there is a lot of travelling, and if there is a very specific and without a doubt evil villain. Except if any of the above involves learning magic, then it is Harry Potter, or there are werewolves and vampires, then it’s Twilight.
17. Anything in the future that is not very visibly science fiction is Hunger Games.
18. If there are dragons, it’s Eragon.
19. If it’s even remotely funny it’s either Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams.

20. If it is a parody or does not fully make sense it’s either Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams.
21. If it is published before Harry Potter, it is always Lord of the Rings, even if it’s nothing alike, as long as it is either fantasy or in a fantasy world.

Got any additions?

Top Ten Tuesday (on a Thursday): Top Ten Books I wish I could read again for the first time

It’s Thursday (for half an hour more at least), but I was unable to write on Tuesday, so here comes the Top Ten Tuesday list for… well, I thought it was this week, but apparently it’s a topic from nearly a year ago. (But it’s a good topic, so I decided to make the list this week anyway. Since I’m not writing it on a Tuesday either.) Top Ten Tuesday is created by the people over at The Broke and The Bookish, where they present a new topic for a top ten list every week. This time the topic is Top Ten Books I wish I could read again for the first time.

I’m normally not very concerned whether or not I read books for the first or the umpteenth time. Actually, I love reading them for the second time – that’s when I notice all the little, nifty things, like how the super-surprising plot twist at the end was foreshadowed at that particular place, or the first time a character notices his or her love interest… But for some books, the first time is magical, and these are the ones I’ve included in the list.

1. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. This book was the very first fantasy book I ever read, if you discount some children’s books. It was the first book where I became aware that there was a whole genre of books like that, and it really felt like opening a portal to another world for me. Now that I’ve read a great deal more of the genre I’m not SO into it anymore (though I own it in three languages), but if I could revisit that first time I read it, I would totally do it.

2. American Gods by Neil Gaiman. This was one of the books where I discovered that fantasy did not have to be all knights and elves and dragons and mighty wars, courtly intrigue and a black-and-white world, and I also discovered fantasy set in something other than a medieval setting. Besides, the first time I read it I lost several hours – I literally looked down, thought I looked up at the watch again a moment later, and it was more than two hours later.

3. The Painted Man by Peter V. Brett. A truly original fantasy novel set in a medieval setting – that’s an achievement in and of itself. And he writes really well, too.

4. Empire in Black and Gold of Adrian Tchaikovsky. Another truly original setting that absolutely astounded me.

5. Anything by David Eddings – love at first sight with that series.

6. The Help by Kathryn Stockett. A little break from all the fantasy in this list, The Help captivated me from start to finish. It wasn’t only that it was well written, but it took me so much by surprise, because I believed I’d only like it at best, not completely love it.

7. Soulless by Gail Carriger. Steampunk/mannerpunk, and one of the most hysterically funny books I’ve read in a long time, mostly because it doesn’t look like the author tries very hard to be funny. It just is. It also has one thing that has become rarer these days: A heroine who has a semi-tragic past but who DEALS WITH IT.

8. Night train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier. I don’t think I’ll re-read it, but the language was so captivating, and it surprised me so much that I would like such a book – it’s not exactly plot-heavy. My brother gave it to me for Christmas, and while he and I don’t share the same taste in books, sometimes he strikes gold.

9. The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. They are some of my best comfort books, and I’ve read them over and over and over again. But still, the first time was the most special, just because with all my expectations they ended up exceeding them.

10. The City & The City by China Miéville. Much of the magic in this book comes from wondering how the hell things fit together, and that feeling when you finally piece it together is priceless. It’s not really a difficult book, it’s just… You can’t expect to “get it” at once, and it takes you by surprise.

What’s your list?