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Six (nearly seven) months in and my Bullet Journal is still going strong.

I've made a couple of changes to the format. Instead of writing a daily log every day I do a weekly spread. It allows me to park weekend tasks on those days, from the beginning of the week, instead of having to either remember them or carry them through every day until I get to the point I can actually do them. It also means less disruption of my routine on the days when I can't check the journal over breakfast (early starts where I have to eat at my desk, for example), since I don't have to prep the log every day.

I've started putting in a deadline calendar each month, but only for the current month. Future deadlines are still going in my diary, along with appointments. It's a little clunky having two books, but the way I look at it is the diary is for the future (and I can leave it at home) and the journal is for now. I don't think I'm quite ready to abandon the traditional diary yet.

I'm still scrapbooking in the back (and a note for future journals is that pritt stick might be better for this than staples!). My Beadhaul comes with a leaflet showing all the beads included, so I've added that as well. So far I've only made a pair of earrings. I've got ideas for a couple of other things but I'm not sure I can translate the ideas out of my head at this point.

It hasn't helped much with my writing, but I think there's a larger issue of balance there, rather than being disorganised. Overall I'm getting more of the day to day things done that used to slip under the radar, so it's definitely working. The only problem is I'm bored with the notebook now and ready for a new one!
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Back in April I signed up for a two-monthly bead subscription box called #Beadhaul. I'd just missed the April box, so I've been waiting a while. My first box arrived on Friday, and I was so tired after work I didn't even open it straight away. But when I did I was glad I'd signed up.




 
There's some stuff in there I wouldn't buy myself (like the acrylic fishes) which is kind of the point, to break out of my comfort zone and keep me interested. The only question is what to do with it all! I'll keep you posted.

 


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I've seen, two or three times this month, writers saying that non-paying markets are the norm. There seems to be this myth that paying markets are few and far between, and that's really not the case. I suspect this is a form of The Tiffany Problem: people "know" that markets don't pay because that's what common knowledge says. But the reality is that there are plenty of paying markets out there if you know where to look.

This varies across genres, and non- paying markets seem to be far more prevalent in literary and poetry circles than speculative fiction. Here's the thing: a number of literary and poetry journals don't pay because they're a labour of love. For example journals run by universities, staffed by students, without the budget to pay writers. Some of these are more prestigious than others, and sometimes it's worth not getting paid for appearing in a highly regarded journal or magazine. However sometimes these markets are simply a guy with a blog, posting stories for fun.

There are several ways to look for paying markets. Many writing magazines (certainly here in the UK) include a section of listings. The drawback to this is that you have to wade through all of them, whether or not they're relevant. This is also the case with books like The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook and Poet's Market, with the addition that these quickly go out of date.

Fortunately there are a number of ways to search online:

General market databases
Duotrope - Duotrope contains a searchable database that lets you look for markets by genre and pay rate, among other variables. It leans more towards poetry and literary markets, and has a subscription fee of $5 a month.
The Submissions Grinder - Although technically still in beta, this is a a perfectly functional site with another searchable database. It tends to skew more towards speculative fiction since that's where it originated and where most of the user base lies, but has recently started populating poetry markets and does have a fairly big catalogue of non-genre markets. It's also free.

Both sites also allow for tracking of submissions.

Paying Publications allows for very basic search filtering, and allows for searching of paying poetry markets based on whether a poem is new/already published, already under submission somewhere else, and whether or not the poet is established.
Poets and Writers has a basic searchable database - which doesn't allow for searching by pay rate (see above regarding literary markets!)

Blogs and list sites:
There are also a number of blogs and listing sites that are a useful resource even if not searchable. These are often genre specific.
Dark Markets is for horror markets and offers a very basic filter by publication type (anthology, podcast, etc).
My Little Corner is a blog by author Sandra Seamans that focuses on crime and mystery markets.
Womagwriter is aimed at women's magazine fiction.
Ralan is for speculative fiction markets.

Poet Alison runs the Creative Writing Opportunities List, although please note you need to be logged in to Yahoo to access this.

Facebook groups
There are also several groups you can join on Facebook where opportunities are posted, both paying and non-paying.
Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Pulp Markets.
Horror.
Crime, Thriller, Mystery Markets.
Poetry, Fiction, Art.

And this one specifically for paying markets.

So, there are plenty of opportunities out there!

If you want to submit to a non-paying market, that's up to you. Sometimes the prestige or opportunity to support a charity is worth the loss of payment. You might not be interested in publishing for money. But please, whatever you do, don't give your work away for free because you don't think anyone will pay, because that's simply not true.

With thanks to Helena Bell and Dan Stout for additional links. Further suggestions welcome in the comments.

May Update

Jun. 8th, 2017 01:29 pm
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Even less done in May than April, it feels. I did work on the novella until mid month, but stalled when I hit the contest deadline and there wasn't a sense of urgency any more. I've worked on a couple of poems since, but not much else. I've worked on a couple of beading projects and read some books, but no writing. Work is busy and eating a lot of my bandwidth at the moment. Not much of an update, but that's it.
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It's amazing how much a bad night's sleep can throw off my day. There was a massive thunderstorm on Friday night, that woke me up twice in the early hours. It meant I was sleep deprived when I got up on Saturday (having been woken twice more by my partner getting ready for work, and a hungry cat). I left my ability to sleep in somewhere in my twenties, the best I can manage is coffee and internet before I get up these days, so I spent most of yesterday stumbling around in a grumpy haze. In the end I spent the whole day reading, punctuated by occasionally getting up to poke the washing machine or the dishes. Probably a good thing in the end. It forced me to take a day to relax, which I don't do often.

Today was more productive. Lots of cleaning, lots of research, lots of admin. I'm applying for a promotion at work so spent some time on the application. I'm also pondering opening an online hobby business, selling handmade jewellery. Still not convinced it will be worth the work and costs though, and it's not like I'm spending enough time writing already.

There are two things left on my To Do list for the weekend: book train tickets, and play computer games. This might be an either/or thing given it's now the evening. It's a bank holiday tomorrow, though, so I can bump things if I have to.
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Last weekend I went round to a friend's to watch the Eurovision Song Contest. A lot of people who know me can't believe I actually like Eurovision, either because they think I'm too serious to enjoy it, or because they think it's crap. The first set of people are ones who don't know me that well, work colleagues and the like. I like plenty of silly stuff, I just draw the line at stupid. The second set are missing the point of why I like Eurovision. It's mostly cheese pop, yes, and some of it's not that great. But it's one of the few things around that exists purely for the joy of it (this year's Belgian entrant who looked like she wanted to cry notwithstanding).

I mean, think about it. The contest is so expensive to run that countries have been known to sabotage their own chances of winning it (I'm looking at you, Ireland). Quite a lot of the acts--winners included--disappear without a trace (certainly in the UK). It can be intensely political, with neighbouring countries voting for each other, and the Russian entry being booed in 2014.

However, despite all this the "big five" (countries who put up a lot of the money and so are guaranteed a place in the final) often don't do that well but pay up anyway. Countries undergoing economic and political crises still take part--for example the ongoing political situation in Ukraine meant it missed but still broadcast the 2015 contest and was back in 2016. Australia likes Eurovision so much it was invited to take part in the 60th anniversary contest in 2015, and got so into things it's been made an official participant. Portugal's win this year was the first in their 53 years of entry.

The whole point of Eurovision is the spectacle. Some of the songs are terrible, yes, but that's guaranteed if you listen to a couple of hours of pop music anywhere. Some of them are great. In recent years some entries have really upped their game on the visual side of things and it's great to watch, like Russia's stunning entry last year. It's amusing to watch for who's taking it seriously and who's not - last year the whole interval act was based on making fun of the contest. If you're in the UK you have the added bonus of Graham Norton upholding previous host Terry Wogan's tradition of snark.

And it's fun to play Eurovision bingo. Multi-lingual song! Fireworks! Mid-song costume change! Wind machine! Traditional dress! Yodeling! Also to baffle at what other countries thought were surefire winners. This year saw a song with both yodelling and rapping, a gorilla on stage, and a man duetting with himself (seriously, watch this one if no others, it's the work of a mad genius).

Everyone seems to be having a good time, which is what matters. We need more of that.



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I don't feel like I've done much over April. My novella is nowhere near as far along as it should be and I may be too far behind to catch up ( it needs to be finished in two weeks). But when I looked at my calendar I realised I'd written 50% of the days last month so I'm counting it as a win.

It's tough to get back in the habit of writing regularly, especially when working hours aren't regular. It's impossible to set up a routine if I can't guarantee I'll have writing time before work, after work, or at lunch time, or if I'll have to cook  and/or do housework in the evenings. Since my hours vary week to week, I'm just starting to get into a routine when it all changes. Younger me didn't mind so much; today me is fed up with one more thing to keep track of. I feel like I'm wasting mental energy having to remember what time I need to leave the house this week, if I need to take breakfast, do I need to put laundry on before I leave or will there be time to do it when I get home, will I have time to cook and if not do we have soup in, what time should I get to bed.

I'm honestly thinking of writing timings down in my Bullet Journal to save me the bother of remembering. It certainly works for to do lists.

Since it's a bank holiday I'm using today to catch up on writing and blogging, and trying out an experiment in making writing at home like writing at a coffee shop. Although it will be a cat cafe, obviously. More on that later.
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To say I'm tired of politics right now is an understatement.

We've got Trump over in the USA, mooning North Korea and apparently trying to start World War Three. He also seems to be trying to find out if it's possible to bankrupt a country through playing golf. From an outsider's perspective, it appears that no one over there actually knows how to deal with a president with no real interest in doing the job, and so they (and by extension the rest of us) are stuck with him for four years.

Here in the UK we have Brexit and the Tories. It probably hasn't escaped anyone's notice that Theresa May's called for a snap General Election, that will coincidentally make the Tory election fraud investigation go away, and probably reduce the opposition to them in Parliament, allowing them to push through a hard Brexit, further dismantling of the NHS, and whatever the hell else they like. The fact that this is on top of the PM saying that Scotland can't have a second referendum on independence because of the "destabilising effect" it will have so close to Brexit is just the cherry on top of the hypocrisy cake as far as I'm concerned. They don't think the possibility of replacing the whole government will be destabilising at all?

Honestly, I don't think they do. None of the other parties will have time to prepare anything like a reasonable campaign, but you can guarantee the Tories have been planning this for some time. The Labour party are tearing themselves apart over Jeremy Corbyn, and I doubt very much will unite behind him for the sake of the country. The Liberal Democrats still haven't been forgiven for the mess they made over the Coalition. There isn't a viable opposition, so what this will do is cement the Tories in power for another five years, with a larger majority, during which they can do whatever the fuck they like.

So I'm angry, and I'm tired. And tired of being angry. I live in a Tory stronghold, prior to that I lived in a Labour/Plaid Cymru stronghold. I've always voted (except that one time I fucked up my postal vote) but my vote has never, ever, made a difference. I keep doing it because otherwise I have no right to complain about the outcome - except it apparently doesn't even give me that these days. I don't think I've seen a single discussion of Brexit that doesn't degenerate into (if it doesn't start with) "You lost, stop complaining and suck it up" from a Brexiteer troll who apparently doesn't understand how democracy works.

Democracy means that even a minority opinion still gets a voice. That's why we have opposition parties. That's why opposition parties get seats in Parliament. There are checks and balances that stop the majority party running roughshod over everything (and yes, that includes the House of Lords). If you're too stupid to understand that you really have no business voting on the X-Factor, let alone the serious business of government. But I guess that's what we get when we treat a referendum like a reality TV show.

And yet, this is how we're doing Brexit. "Brexit means Brexit" and anyone who doesn't agree with Theresa May's vision is told to shut up. All this General Election will do is cement that, because there won't be anyone left in Westminster with a strong enough voice to question. It will further validate the trolls on social media, and all those racists who have come squirming out of the woodwork. Like the woman on the bus a couple of months ago who screeched "EU Out!" at a man who was only guilty of queuing while Spanish. I live in area dependent on tourism and English language schools, but hey let's just send all those kids from the EU home and fuck the economy, shall we.

I think what's made me most angry is the sense that the whole thing is being run by Basil Fawlty. We don't have a plan, or if we do it was written down on the side of a bus somewhere. We want all the benefits of a relationship with the EU, but none of the compromise - tapas bars but not the people who actually run them. I keep hearing that things will be better after Brexit, but so far I haven't seen any proof. And I'm getting tired of asking for it.
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So this is my first post on my new Dreamwidth journal, and I don't have a lot to post about. I'm plodding my way through a novella, so behind my intended wordcount that I'm not even going to post a status update. I could probably be doing more in the evenings, but it's hard to get up the motivation after a day at work.

For those who aren't aware, there's a mass exodus from LiveJournal due to their new terms of service. More info here, and here. LJ had been getting quieter anyway as people drifted, but this has prompted a lot of the last holdouts to leave. I do miss the days of community and chatter, so I'm hoping things will perk up over here. I just have to find everyone...

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My February #12for12 piece "Essence" was published over at Riddled with Arrows. It's a market that specialises in meta-fiction - writing about writing - so the story is little more than an extended literary joke, but I like it. Not least because I was experimenting with different formats earlier in the year, something flash makes easy to play with, so it's told through the medium of an internet chat log.

Very little writing done in March, other than getting the other oubliette piece out, as mentioned before. Towards the end of the month I wrote a poem, then finished it off and submitted it over the weekend so it counts for April's #12for12. I'm supposed to be spending the next six weeks writing a novella at the rate of 400 words a day, but I had an otherwise rough weekend so I'm already two days behind. It doesn't help that I don't have a name for my main character yet (or even an idea why they're the main character, I'm not sure they are), or an opening scene. I've a good idea where I'm going, just not where to start.

At this point it's still possible to catch up, but I'd better get started soon.
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So, this show is a hot mess. This post is going to be chock full of spoilers, because I have a lot of thoughts on why that is from a writing standpoint.

First off - what was that first episode doing? Danny Rand turns up at the Rand building and expects to be welcomed back with open arms. Never mind the fact that he's been gone 15 years and the last time anyone saw him, he was a child. Never mind that fact that he saw his parents die in the plane crash that made him disappear, so should perhaps be aware that everyone thinks he's dead. He just turns up and expects everyone to accept him at face value - he doesn't offer any evidence or personal anecdotes to prove he is who he says he is. He could have convinced both Joy and Ward with the information he uses in later scenes and episodes right up front, but he doesn't because otherwise we wouldn't get to watch him in the psychiatric hospital in the next episode.

Which leads to - Danny Rand is an idiot. The whole show is one long stream of him being Too Stupid To Live, and yet living anyway. In the psychiatric hospital he keeps insisting he survived the crash to be raised by monks as a living weapon with a superpowered fist, in a mystical kingdom you can only get to or from every 15 years - and then wonders why they decide he's delusional. He approaches pretty much every conflict like this, wading in without thought. It gets wearing very quickly. It occurred to me while writing that possibly we're not supposed to be watching him as a 27 year old man, but as the 12 year old boy he was when he was lost. It would certainly make him more understandable. Unfortunately this doesn't come across in either the script or the performance.

To be honest, Danny's not even all that interesting. And he could be, handled differently. Show us more of that lost kid. Show us the culture shock of growing up in K'un-Lun, and of returning home and the struggle to regain an identity. Show us the struggle between his two cultures, birth and adoptive. What we get is trademark rich white vigilante. It's not that interesting and it's been done, and better.

The problem is, there's no conflict in Iron Fist's main character. In Daredevil we see the struggle between Matt's desire to enact justice and his faith. In Jessica Jones we see Jessica's need to stop Kilgrave warring with her need to hide from him and what he made her do. In Luke Cage, we see Luke's desire to get his head down and live a quiet life, and how that conflicts with his desire to protect his community, and others' attempts to do it and him harm. Danny Rand knows he's right and righteous, and acts accordingly. There's no doubt in him ("Doubt is death") and it's really, really dull. All of the supporting characters are more interesting, because they all have conflict, from Colleen struggling with the fact she actually enjoys kicking the shit out of people, to Ward trapped in a corporate hell he can't escape.

Not only are there no inner demons, there aren't any outer ones either. The first seasons of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage all have memorable antagonists (Fisk, Kilgrave, Cottonmouth and Diamondback) and are all fantastic. Season two of Daredevil  wasn't nearly as good, because all we had was an army of faceless ninjas. Iron Fist suffers from the same problem. Who or what is the Hand? What do they want? Who knows? Who cares any more? The Hand is not exactly a hands-on villain.

There's been a lot said on the internet about the fact that the Iron Fist is white. White saviour complex aside I don't have a problem with that because the character was already white in the comics. He is, however, too white. He's supposed to have spent more than half his life growing up in a mystical version of Tibet, but he comes across as a guy who knows how to act but not what it means and is only going through the motions. I read somewhere (and can't find the link now) that all of the main people involved are white, and I suspect that's part of the problem. If you're going to film a show about a fake-Tibetan kung fu master, at least hire someone who can point out things like how to bow correctly, to take your shoes off before you enter the dojo, and how to act like you've spent 15 years living in fake-Tibet instead of New York.

Also, where did Danny learn to drive? That's been bugging me since the start.
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I've decided to mix things up with my writing magazine subscriptions. I did subscribe to Writing Magazine and Mslexia, but I've got to the point where I no longer look forward to the new issue of Writing Magazine. In fact, when the current issue arrived I thought "oh god, another one" since I still had the previous two on the go. The content has become decreasingly useful - it seems like it's all article writing, and apparenty no venues for short fiction exist except competitions. The only reason I was still getting it was for the market info in the back, but that's become less and less useful since usually I know about a deadline two months before it actually appears in the magazine.

So I've cancelled my subscription. I'm keeping Mslexia, since I do still look forward to that. And since I want to read things that will help with writing short fiction, I paid for a year's subscription to F&SF and ordered the bumper-pack of 8 back issues of Asimov's/Analog. At the very least I'll get something worth reading out of it.

I've also managed to edit and submit the other oubliette piece for #12for12. I really need to start writing some non-flash this year now.
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One of the stories that was supposed to be going in the oubliette ended up being my February #12For12, and should be published online later this month. Which was a good start to February, but unfortunately I got very little else done. My day job goes in peaks and troughs in terms of how busy we are, and unfortunately my department is staffed with the bare minimum of people at the moment. As a result we're all run off our feet because we're currently in a peak. It should tell you all you need to know that our productivity is expected to run consistently at around 114%, since the software that works all this out apparently hasn't figured out that we're people and not robots.

Cue coming home exhausted and collapsing on the sofa most evenings.

So I haven't written anything else since the end of January, and since I plan to take March off just to read I might not write anything this month either. Although I might be writing a novella in April, so I'll try not to be too hard on myself.
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It's been a month since I started using a bullet journal, so I thought it was time for an update.

I'm still using and loving it. It's helped to keep me organised, and remember to do things that would otherwise slip off the radar. The only thing that's missing is submission deadlines, since they're in the diary I bought last year. As I suspected it's becoming a pain having two separate planners, so I'm going to start putting the deadlines into the bullet journal too. Maybe not all of them to start with, just the ones I've actually decided to write for, but that could change. We'll see how it goes.

I've started using the back as a scrapbook for ticket stubs and the like. There's only a ticket for Rogue One at the moment, but I'm sure it'll fill up over the year. Again, I don't want more than one notebook on the go.

I managed to write three pieces of flash in January but two of them are probably going straight in the oubliette. It's not a great start to #12for12, but I think the other's salvageable so there's that.

#12For12

Jan. 15th, 2017 10:00 am
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As part of my plan to get my writing more organised I've signed up for #12For12 - twelve stories in twelve months. The rules are flexible, so I'm choosing to interpret them as a finished story a month. Since I'm trying to build up an inventory of longer stories only three of them can be flash fiction. I'm currently trying to clear out my inventory of older unfinished stories, so I expect a few of those to creep in, but I also want to produce new work. (I've got something in the works at the moment, but don't expect that to be finished until February.)

I'm trying not to think too much about publication at this point. What's important is to get it written.
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I haven't made new year's resolutions, as such - since we're a low fat, low alcohol household for reasons of health, giving up things seems both redundant and likely to be miserable. But I try to start the year by having a clear out, and making plans for the months ahead.

Last year I posted about my motivational stickers, which worked up to a point, but this year I need something else to help keep me organised. Since I tend to carry a notebook around anyway, I've decided to give bullet journal a try. It's a sort of combination of all-purpose notebook and diary, so will hopefully allow me to keep track of things.

I particularly like the idea of indexing, to keep track of several projects at once. I've written up the suggested format, including the diary logs, although I already have a diary so may use that instead rather than scheduling things into the journal. I bought Mslexia's writers' diary, and want to get the use out of it. Plus every week has a handy blank page, in which I write all the interesting submission deadlines for that week (whether or not I've decided to write for them). I think that might clog up a bullet journal, since so many of the deadlines whoosh by Douglas Adams style - even with the best of intentions I can't write for all of them!

So I'll probably keep the diary for deadlines and appointments, and use the journal to keep track of writing projects, noodling, and those things I plan to do but haven't scheduled yet. I'm halfway to using that format anyway.

Amanda Hackwith has this interesting blog post about how she customised the format to fit with her writing life. I'll probably do something similar, although the colour coding seems like a bit much effort. I can always put my stickers in, instead.
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While I was writing the other posts, I had some ideas that didn't fit anywhere else so here they are in the final post in the series.

Talk to Other Students
On a taught MA there would be other students to talk to, and online courses often have associated forums. You could join a local writing group or, if looking for something more specific to your interests, there are plenty of free online writing groups and forums based round specific genres. There are also organisations you could join and use to meet and network with like-minded writers, such as SCWBI for children's writers, although many of these aren't free and some have requirements like qualifying sales.

Set Yourself Homework
Although you'll probably have a main project, you might decide to start it after some initial reading or want some shorter exercises for a change of pace. There are many books out there that offer creative writing exercises, without having to get bogged down. Some I've seen recommended are Steering the Craft by Ursula LeGuin, Now Write! edited by Sherry Ellis, and The Creative Writing Coursebook edited by Julia Bell and Paul Magrs (full disclosure - I haven't tried these, although I do own all three).

Be Flexible
Life happens. You might find yourself faced with illness or moving house, and that can throw the best made plans into chaos. The beauty of setting your own timescales is you can park the study if needs be - without losing thousands of pounds in tuition fees! There's nothing to stop you shifting the emphasis onto reading for a month, or making notes for your project, or extending your timeline by an extra six weeks. There's nothing to stop you deciding you've made a wrong turn, and you don't want to write a short story collection retelling Bible stories from the point of view of rabbits after all. The important thing is to keep moving forward with your goals, however you can.
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It's that time of year again, when everybody posts up what they've been up to for the last twelve months.

I haven't been keeping track of words, but here's the basics:
Submissions: 20 (4 still pending)
Sales: 1

So it's not been a great year, since last year I had 68 submissions and 7 sales. However, at least part of this is because of the way Real Life has shaken out. At the beginning of the year I was going through the final stages of training in my new job, so I took March off writing to just read. Then in April we decided to start looking for a house. The looking, and the buying, and the moving, pretty much swallowed the next four months. Then I moved internally at work (same job, different department), which meant a whole readjustment to being back on the phones and shifts. Things didn't really settle down again until September.

I don't really have an excuse for why I've been so rubbish from September onwards, other than that by this point I was just tired. I didn't even particularly enjoy Swanwick Writers' Summer School this time around, between the terrible food and lack of mental energy to deal two hundred other people. Not having much in the way of real holiday all year didn't help (most of it was spent packing, or moving house).

Things I have written this year:
Stories: 3.5 new (one needs typing up and the end finalising), 2 completely rewritten
Poems: 7 (5 new, 2 complete rewrites)
Miscellaneous: a few bits of random non-fiction (not all of it finished) and blog posts. I've also purged my files and deleted a lot of old work, or dragged it back into the light to be reworked.

It's better than nothing, and I wouldn't say the year's been a complete waste as I've made up for a lack of writing by doing a lot more reading and rediscovering video games - so far I've restarted Dungeon Keeper 2, Final Fantasy 7, and Dragon Age: Inquisition.

We're getting on for evening here. I probably won't get much more done in the way of writing this year, although there are a couple of submissions I'd like to get out the door. I'm making plans for next year's writing, including looking at ways of keeping better organised. Next year (tomorrow!) I have some writing samples to finish up, and I want to get that .5 of a story finished off. I'm also working my way through the rewrites mentioned above, and also thinking of giving either Reunion or Stigma a poke to see if there's anything salvageable. It's been a long time since I worked on either of those.

Onwards.
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Since it's Christmas Eve, and I doubt anyone's feeling too serious, I've dragged the Pulp-O-Mizer out from the archives. Merry Christmas!

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For today, something to play with - free online "magnetic" poetry!

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