Destined Mates

"Um, so, this is awkward."

Maria's destined mate had brought his girlfriend to the meeting. His girlfriend, who was curled up around his arm and looked like she had no intention of letting go. And who was watching her.

She sat down. Tried not to turn it into a staring contest, for all instinct told her she was losing by not meeting the girl's eyes.

"Maria, right?" the girl asked. "Ginny, nice to meet you."

"Do you know what this is about?" Maria asked her. Did she even know Paul was a werewolf?

Apparently so. "You need to form a new pack. Destined mates. He's told me."

Just the phrase made Maria feel the pull towards him. She avoided looking at him, just so she wouldn't get caught up in the press of magic, the need for him. Just the scent of him, like evergreens and earth, made her want...

Her order of mint tea came, thank Fenrir. She held it up to her nose, let the mint sear out the smell of him for a minute. She risked a glance his way. He had his own tactic - burying his nose in Ginny's hair. Great.

Ginny looked between them. "Guess it's pretty obvious. I'd never seen him around you before."

She was being way too calm about this. "So, if you know..." Maria said. "...then you know we can't stop this. I've seen people try to resist mating magic before, it's... not pretty."

"And if you don't, there might not be a new pack at all?"

"Our numbers are dwindling. It's this or we start Turning people again." And that meant more failures. More death.

"Okay. So... full moons? Weekends?"

What? "This is a lifelong commitment. Once we mate, it's forever."

"Paul?" the girlfriend asked.

He nodded into her hair. She pet him, right behind where the ears would be on the full moons. Won from him a nuzzle.

"Well, we don't have room in the apartment right now, but it sounds like we'll need a bigger place soon, anyway, if you're going to be making a pack. When are you free to look at real estate? We can probably get a good place on three incomes."

"...I'm sorry, what?"

Beyond "Just Write"

The main advice I hear when anyone has writing questions/woes/block/despair is "just write". This advice is not wrong, but for a lot of what it's employed to answer, "just write" is the result, not the process. There's nothing there for overcoming skill gaps or for deliberate learning, much less for working one's way against all the anxieties and behavioral grooves that can turn "just write" into the "just be happy" of the writing world.

I have, over the past few months, come out the other end of a years-long writing drought. My strategies for emerging from that drought are tentatively successful, so I figure I should share them. YMMV.

Background: I used to write constantly, streams and streams of hundreds of thousands of words, mostly in one particular story universe. I NaNoed and JuNoed, poured out 7 novels in a still-unpublished series, rewrote the first book twice, and wrote hundreds of extra scenes and sidestories and etc. to the point there are 529 files in that segment of my writing folder alone. I wrote other stories, too, and other starts on other novel ideas, and even had a couple of stories published. But then one day it just... dried up. I didn't feel like writing anymore. At first it was casual. Then it started to eat at me. "I'm a writer at heart," but I wasn't writing. "Just write," but I wasn't writing. Not writing riddled me with anxiety. Sitting down and making myself write riddled me with anxiety. The floodgates would yet break open at NaNo, but no longer at JuNo. And then I didn't have time for NaNo, either. An occasional story would trickle out, once or twice a year. It felt like losing part of what made me me.

The first thing I did to restore my writing was to set aside a writing desk. I got out our folding table and put it by the piano. Got a never-used length of fabric with flowers and bunnies from the sewing shelf to cover. Something special, just for creative work.

I then decided to approach writing via a route that didn't induce anxiety - by treating it like a home study project. So I needed set-aside alone time and a textbook. I set my alarm for an hour before husband wakeup time and opened up the SFWA writer's information center. For the first several days, all I did was read. Tips on how to avoid editing scams, tips on how to write this or that well. Then I saw an article with a writing exercise at the end, and thought "hmm, what about assignments?" I went back to the first article in Writing Tips, Writerisms and Other Sins, and dug out an old short story to apply it to. Then another. Then I felt the urge to write again, and ended up with two women trying to survive a magical forest. I finished a story I'd left abandoned for years. I stumbled onto and sketched out weird ideas about sentient ants. It was starting to flow again. I found the book Self-Editing for Fiction Writers in our town's massive used book store and began more writing and editing exercises.

I got a lovely weekend, too, where we went to a cabin and I had both the spare time and lack of cell service to treat it like a writing retreat, prose scribbled in chill mornings as I watched the river flow. I still need to remember to turn everything off sometimes, to quiet the noise the internet can bring to my head.

Our schedules have changed, and I no longer have my quiet morning time. I'm still looking for another time of the day to assign to writing. But the effects of this change are holding nonetheless, and I find myself stopping everything to desperately scribble out tales, and even doing other creative non-writing activities, letting it all flow.

One thing I've learned is that, while self-discipline can be employed to get me to write, it can also be a bane. I have to rework my thought processes and sand down the grooves they've formed. I've realized my first thought when I want to write is "is there something else I should be doing?" and then making myself go do that more responsible thing. My adulting has taken over and started taking chomps at my creativity. So I'm starting to get myself to say "yes" to writing urges more, even if it means sometimes the chores don't get done on time. It works that way with laziness, too. "I want to write" oft ends up with "but that'll take a while and I don't have time/energy/I want to do this brainfree thing instead." The more I say "no", the more my muse decides not to bother me with inspiration at all.

I'm also learning to ask for alone time when I need it, and slowly learning how to work alongside husband while he's doing another thing instead of feeling like I have to talk. It helps that he's taking a class and needs quiet/alone time to study.

So that's what's worked for me. What works for you? Comments are open~

Bread and Milk

My brain today has been ALL AFLURRY thinking about Soul Food and, though I'm meant to be working on the edit for this draft of Book 1, my brain of course has rushed ahead to ponder book 2 stuff, including the character Thairn, who's sure to make an appearance. My tastes for what dynamics I prefer have changed dramatically since the era of draft 1, and that version of Rain's arranged betrothed Thairn seems... discordant with the current style. Also, if he remained the way he used to be, I would not ship the ships I'd like him to be on. So I'm experimenting around both with how to write Thairn and how to write his and Rain's relationship. And so here, have an experiment, set back in the day when they used to work together. Thairn-POV.

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SFWA Exercises: Writerisms and Other Sins

I've been trying a new thing to both get back into writing and to improve my writing: the SFWA Information Center, especially its Tips for Writers. Now, there's no use in a textbook without doing the exercises, so my first self-assignment has been to edit a short story with the help of the post Writerisms and Other Sins.

The story I picked for this was Ghost Pets, a ditty I wrote around Halloween a couple years ago. Here's a before-after sample:

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Recipe Masterpost

Here for you all is my personal "recipe book" of delicious online recipes. If you have favorite recipes, add them in the comments below!

Main Courses

Old-Fashioned Homemade Pancakes http://mywoodenspoon.com/old-fashioned-homemade-pancakes-recipe-basics/
Yakitori http://www.japanesecooking101.com/yakitori-recipe/
Red Lentil and Tofu Curry http://appetiteforchina.com/recipes/red-lentil-and-tofu-curry
CoCo Ichibanya Curry https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hlDyO2M3TX0
Japanese Beef Curry from Scratch http://www.japanesefoodreport.com/2011/03/japanese-beef-curry-from-scrat.html
Taco Bell Chicken Fajitas http://mexican.food.com/recipe/taco-bell-chicken-fajitas-215459
Drunken Crockpot Roast http://mywoodenspoon.com/drunken-crockpot-roast/
Pork Nikujaga http://www.japanesecooking101.com/nikujaga-with-pork-recipe/
Vegan Nikujaga http://www.justhungry.com/vegan-nikujaga-making-japanese-recipes-vegan
Yudofu http://www.japanesecooking101.com/yudofu-recipe/
Spring Pasta http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/spring-pasta-recipe.html
Kabocha Squash Stir Fry http://hot-thai-kitchen.com/kabocha-squash-stir-fry/
Salmon Teriyaki http://justhungry.com/handbook/cooking-courses/japanese-cooking-101-lesson-5-fish-part-1-salmon-teriyaki
Zucchini Noodles with Pan-Fried Tofu http://appetiteforchina.com/recipes/zucchini-noodles-with-pan-fried-tofu
Mapo Tofu http://appetiteforchina.com/recipes/mapo-doufu-mapo-tofu

Side Dishes

Lazy Easy Tea Eggs http://justbento.com/handbook/johbisai/lazy-easy-tea-eggs
Miso-Marinated Eggs http://justbento.com/handbook/johbisai/miso-tamago-miso-marinated-eggs
Corn on the Cob with Butter and Soy Sauce http://justhungry.com/corn-cob-with-butter-and-soy-sauce
Nasu no Miso Dengaku (Eggplant with Dengaku Sauce) http://justhungry.com/nasu-no-miso-dengaku-japanese-slow-roasted-eggplant-dengaku-sauce
Broccoli with Sesame Sauce http://www.japanesecooking101.com/broccoli-with-sesame-sauce-recipe/
Edamame (in Japanese) http://www.sirogohan.com/edamame.html
Sweet Potato Marshmallow Biscuits http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2011/11/sweet-potato-and-marshmallow-biscuits/
Golden Potstickers http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/golden-potstickers-recipe.html

Soups
Chard and White Bean Stew http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2011/01/chard-and-white-bean-stew/
Chicken Noodle Soup (pressure cooker) https://www.cuisinart.com/recipes/soups/763.html
Pasta e Fagioli (pressure cooker) https://www.cuisinart.com/recipes/soups/760.html
Lentil Chestnut Soup http://justhungry.com/2003/11/lentilchestnut_.html
Green Lentil Soup with Curried Brown Butter http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/green-lentil-soup-with-curried-brown-butter-recipe.html
Vidalia Onion Soup with Wild Rice http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2012/05/vidalia-onion-soup-with-wild-rice/

Sauces

Mole Poblano Sauce http://dontsalt.blogspot.com/2009/04/mole-poblano-sauce.html
Naked Tomato Sauce http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2011/08/naked-tomato-sauce/

Etc.

Green Tea Latte http://www.justonecookbook.com/recipes/green-tea-latte/
Green Tea Cookies http://www.japanesecooking101.com/green-tea-cookies-recipe/
How to Dry-Fry Tofu http://hubpages.com/hub/How_to_Cook_Tofu_Like_the_Pros
Strawberry Jam http://s190.photobucket.com/user/Dea_ex_Machina/media/ScansDaily/wdyey_67.jpg.html