The Writing of Blake Crittenden

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It’s almost Spring

March 11, 2018

Sadly, we got one last bout of snow before Spring sent it. I can’t really complain because it’s been an incredibly short winter. Generally, I have to shovel a hundred feet or so along the fence in my backyard so the dog can’t get over, but this year, the snow never got more than 2 feet high. So, while I have no complaints, I’m still itching for sunshine and heat.

I mentioned it previously, but work has gotten really busy. Last year at this time, we had one tech architect and two senior architects and now all three of them are gone, with me left in their places. I can’t say I’m keeping up, but nothing’s exploded yet. Hopefully, we do some hiring soon.

I have been making it a point of logging off at 5 though and getting on with the rest of my life.

Last month I finally passed the 50 thousand word mark on my NaNoWriMo ms. I’m still unsure how anyone could write 50K words in 30 days (albeit really impressed) no matter how much time they have. I don’t think I can plot that fast. I need breaks to let the story stew in my brain and figure out what’s going to happen next. Regardless, I’m getting closer and closer to the end of the first draft. Next, I’ll be going through to add some additional conflict and address all the little notes I left myself in Scrivener. Mostly, I think I need to do more research into 1911 China for one specific section of the book.

I’m currently reading The Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin. I was trying to get through something else, but it was just not good, so I figured book 2 of the Broken Earth trilogy would be a better way to spend my time. The worst thing about it so far is that I want to know what happens, but I don’t want the book to end. That’s a good problem to have.

The other night I read a short in the comic Bitch Planet: Triple Feature by Matt Fraction called Everyone’s Grandma is a little bit Feminist which was just fantastic. I don’t know if he and Kelly Sue Decconick have any kids or are planning to, but if they did, that kid would probably be the best comic writer in history.

Time to pop open Scrivener before I find some other way to procrastinate.

I Got An Acceptance Letter!

February 25, 2018

I’m running around like a crazy person lately, but I wanted to make a quick update. I’ve had my first short story accepted for publication at a paying magazine. My story Pavlov Dawning will appear in the Spring edition of Contrary Magazine. I’ll post a link to the story once it’s up, but definitely check out the magazine now. They have some really good stuff.

Aside from that, the senior software architect on my team quit so work’s about to get a lot more demanding.

Impostor Syndroming

January 28, 2018

I’ve had one of those weeks where getting the story out has been hard. I know where it’s going, but everything is coming out choppy and disjointed. Yesterday I was rereading to try and get into a good writing headspace and the last chapter I got down was not great.

I was doing to beta reading for a friend and her flow was so natural. Usually, those things inspire me, but I’m just not getting my head in the right place to get moving. This might be the first time I’ve had this happen since I started my first novel. I’m about 40K words into my second, so I think that’s not half bad.

I actually wondered if I’d have one of these streaks and apparently, yes, yes I will. Just for fun, I’ll blame coffee, or more to the point, lack of coffee. I’ve had some low blood sugar issues lately and coffee seems to really accentuate it. So I’ve pretty well stopped drinking it and I’m not living in a fog. Oh coffee <3<3<3 how I miss you :'( Okay, enough self-indulgent whining. I saw the trailer for I Kill Giants this week and it looks amazing. I had not read the graphic novel (by Joe Kelly & JM Ken Nimura) yet, so I bought it right away. The trailer looks like a fantastic action movie featuring a young girl named Barbara who, ya know, kills giants. I’ll have you know, it is not that. It is a beautify story about life and death and a young girl named Barabara who kills giants. It’s an amazing read.

I’m currently reading The Fifth Season: The Broken Earth by N. K. Jemisin which is fantastic. There are three different narrators covering (what currently seem to be) three different stories. One of them is a second person narrator and it’s done really well.

I wish I had more time to read and write. But then, what writer doesn’t?

I think I’ve gotten my brain more or less warmed up this morning. There is some sun coming in my window. I have a good playlist going. Let’s see if I can get things done!

Back to Normal Life

January 14, 2018

I was on holidays from work for the last two weeks of December and that’s the longest period of time I’ve not had to work since my youngest was born (so almost 15 years). More than anything, I’ve found it really hard to get back into the swing of things at work after having been gone so long. While I was off, I felt like I was still really busy, but once I actually got back to work, I realized how much busier I am when I am working.

I got a lot of writing done while I was home all that time. It might not be a lot for other people, but it was a lot for me. During NaNoWriMo, I wrote 28k words, which is the most I’ve ever written in one month. In December, with my two holiday weeks, I wrote another 10k, so I’m just about up to 40. The narrative I outlined at the end of October is coming to an end, which is good. I managed to stay on track and progress through the plot points I wanted to hit and I’m proud of that. Once it’s done though, my second draft is going to be a big job. I’ve gotten some preliminary feedback from Angela (of Twisted Sister Lit Mag fame). That woman is so insightful about writing.

Last weekend, I didn’t post an update here because I was busy and I think I need to accept that as a reality some weeks. I did have a very full Sunday though.

I managed to write a thousand words or so, I cleaned my kitchen, did the grocery shopping, fixed both headlights on Sunny’s Car (both headlights burnt out in Sunny’s car just before New Year’s so everything was closed), did some cleaning, and cooked dinner. I realize aside from changing headlights and writing, that’s a pretty normal day, but I try to relax on the weekends and last weekend I failed a bit at that.

Quick housekeeping:
Currently reading: The Fifth Season: The Broken Earth, Book 1 by N. K. Jemisin – I’m really enjoying it. It uses 2nd person POV at times, which I’m always a sucker for.
Currently listening: Silversun Pickups – I became obsessed with the song Nightlights this week for no reason I’m aware of.
Currently watching: Runaways – They’ve really expanded on the parents as characters and opened up the whole world quite a bit.
Current comic: Honestly I’m trying to do a bit of a purge because my office is a tad overrun.

2017 In Review

December 31, 2017

Somehow New Year’s Eve always sneaks up on me. It didn’t hit until this morning that today is the last day of the year and that I should take a look back and see how the year treated me.
I think it goes without saying that 2017 was a political mess. I don’t want to start down that rabbit hole or I’ll probably spend this whole post venting. I’ll simply say that after the Doug Jones election, I’m feeling some hope for the 2017 mid-term elections. On the Canadian side of things, I’d like to see a little more action from Trudeau (especially on Native issues). Okay, enough about politics.
On a personal level, I’ve had a fairly noteworthy year. I finished my first Novel and have started sending it out to Agents. I’m still figuring out the best way to do that, but as with all things, it’s a learning process. I’ve moved my blog to this site and built the (admittedly not that attractive) site itself. I’m writing more short fiction and sending it out to various journals. I had two stories accepted for publication. I know there are a lot of authors out there who have done a lot more than this, but for me, it was a big year.
Most unexpectedly, I started a second novel for NaNoWriMo. I failed horribly at getting 50k words down in a month, but I’m still trucking along and have added another 10k words in December. I’ll continue working and hopefully finish the first draft in the next few months.
Since I’m writing a whole new genre as well as a topic I have very little first-hand knowledge of, I’m very thankful for my friends who’ve helped me out on this journey. Sunny has gone over specific story points and gone on writing dates with me. Jon and Meagan took the time to sit down with me over coffee so I could grill them for two hours. Deanna let me hijack her time while we were out doing other things and Angela from Twisted Sister has been a vital resource not just for this project but for all aspects of my writing life (as well as a good friend outside of my writing life).
While these people (and others) have certainly helped me in my writing life, more than that, I’m just appreciative to have such great people in my personal life. This year I’ve spent a lot more time with friends than previous years. In March I finally met Robin in person. After working together for 6 years we never had the opportunity to meet. We had a lovely vacation in Jasper, Alberta and spun some fire.
This past week, I met Tim and Alicia, who I’ve been internet friends with for over 15 years as well as some of their friends (Marc and Kristi). They do a podcast together (Dance Robot Dance), which I listen to and they invited me to guest host an episode with them while everyone was in town for the holidays.
I also went out with a bunch of different co-workers this year, which makes going to work a lot more fun.

Speaking of work, I went on my first work trip this year. And even though I was working quite a bit, I got to spend a week in Vancouver and meet a bunch of my teammates who live in different Provinces. This was my first time going anywhere in Canada outside of Ontario (my trip to Jasper was my second). I also got a fairly significant promotion at work.
Lastly, Sunny and I had our 15 year wedding anniversary. So yeah, all things considered, it’s been a positive year for me.

2017 Stats:
Novels read: 15
Favourite novel: Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
Favourite song: How Would You Like to Play God by Amanda Palmer
Most listened to song: East Side Glory by Marnie Stern
Favourite comic series: The Wildstorm by Warren Ellis

Breathing Room

December 17, 2017

I’ve just started my two week holidays from work. I’ve got virtually nothing on my plate during those two weeks, so I really hope to get a lot of writing done. I’m having a heck of a time getting my head in the game today though. I wonder if knowing I have all this free time makes me feel like I have time to wait and write later? Whatever the reason, I thought I’d make a blog post and see if that gets the juices flowing.
The main reason I took two weeks off right for the holidays this year is that last year I ended up working during my whole vacation and it made me cranky. This year, I just booked these two weeks off right at the start of the year. I think next year I’ll take a couple weeks off in November instead and use them for NaNoWriMo instead. Trying to get 50k words written and work at the same time was just too much for me. That’ll also give other people some freedom with their own end of year time off.
So, I booked all this time off, but don’t have anything that I really need to do during these two weeks. Sunny is having some co-workers over on Tuesday for a work party type thing so I know that I’ll definitely be doing some cleaning today and tomorrow. I think I’m going to make Wes down to Toronto for the Solstice Parade through Kensington Market on Thursday night.

I received my Secret Satan gift yesterday. I got the Grendel Tales Omnibus vol 1. This is a comic I’d seen so many times in shops when I was younger but never picked up. I’m going to get through that in the next few days. I’m about to start The Fifth Season: The Broken Earth by N. K. Jemisin. I don’t know anything about this author, but one of my oldest and smartest friends recommended it to me, so I figured I should probably check it out. I’ve been spending too much time lately reading things as research more than just for fun, so this will be a nice change.
Oh, lastly, I saw The Last Jedi on Friday. I enjoyed it. I won’t say it was my favourite Star Wars movie, but it wasn’t my least favourite either. I definitely see a lot of MRAs getting all in a huff again about this one. Which will probably make me like it more. I feel like I need to watch it again. I’ll probably do that in the next couple days.

Okay Now, What Was I Doing?

December 3, 2017

NaNoWriMo is over and it was a crazy experience. As I said in my last post, this was my first year participating. I hadn’t been really sure what to expect because I generally only work on writing one a week. Trying to write every day was a bit more than I could manage. I ended the month writing just over 27,000 words and I’m proud of that. At the very least, it’s at least 4 times more than I’ve ever written in one month.
When writing every Sunday, I have a week to tumble the story around in my head before writing what happens next. Having to process that in less than 24 hours made pacing difficult. I had done a couple weeks of outlining before November started, so I think that was the only reason I was able to progress the story on the days when I was able to write. I’m probably about halfway through my story, which means that it’s not going to be as long as it should. Regardless I’ll need to do a lot of editing to get it into shape for sending out any queries or anything.
The novel I decided to write for NaNoWriMo is a romance novel. I had a flash where I had an idea that I thought would make a good romance novel, so I figured I could take a month to work on it and not be worried about that time. I find this funny because, in the novel I’m sending around right now, most of the characters are children, which I did specifically to not have any romance in the book. I was just sick of seeing romance everywhere and having to include romance as such an important relationship in people’s lives. I wanted to focus on non-romantic relationships. And now I’m writing a romance novel. . .

I picked up a Richelle Mead novel to help me figure out how Romance works as a genre because it’s not something I’ve really read. So I’m learning. I like my characters though and I’m having fun writing them.
In other news, I got a promotion at work.
That’s not all that exciting. We also had to put one of our dogs to sleep. He was getting pretty old and went downhill very quickly. I suppose that’s better than a long drawn out decline. It was hard though.
The last sort of interesting update from the month is that I finally got an MRI for my ankle that I injured in August of 2016. I tore my spring ligament and partially tore my deltoid ligament. No wonder it’s been a bit tender. I think it’s pretty funny that I walked in 3 parades in the past 12 months with torn ligaments. Oops.
I got an Aircast for my leg, which may or may not be helping. One thing is for sure though, it doesn’t work particularly well with the clutch in my car. That means Sunny and I have been sharing a car for a couple weeks now, which is unfortunate.

We interrupt to bring you this important information

November 5, 2017

Last night, kid number two and 3 of his friends participated in the Extra Life fundraiser. It was a 25-hour gaming marathon. They streamed the whole thing on Twitch. Apparently, it was a 27Gb file when all was said and done. The kids left this morning just after 8 and my kid passed the heck out. I slept from midnight until 4 AM, but I am up for the day. I’m tired though, so this is going to be a short update.
In other news, Nation Novel Writer’s Month (aka NaNoWriMo) started (50,000 words in 30 days). This is my first year participating. I was able to stay on track for the first two days but had nothing left Friday night after getting the house ready for all the gamer kids coming over.
I did whip out 3875 words in the last 24 hour though, which brings me up to date for Friday and yesterday plus a good 400 words into today. I’m starting to think this is actually doable. Without a doubt, 7000 words is the most I’ve ever written in a 4-day time frame. My average for my first book was just over 1000 words per week. Granted, I only wrote one day per week.
I’ve been pretty solidly writing. My biggest challenge is research. On my first novel, that’s what I’d do the rest of the week when I wasn’t writing (ya know, along with work and life stuff). The second section of this novel takes place in early 1900s China. I’ll give you one guess how much I know about China during this time period. If worse comes to worst, I’ll just be horribly inaccurate and fix it next month.
If I don’t check in next weekend, I apologize in advance. I promise it’s because I’m writing though.

Quick to Fall

October 29, 2017

I mentioned last week that I was going to give Scrivener a trial run. Well, I fell horribly in love with it instantly. I imported TIMES OF ABEL into it and organized it by part and chapter. I went through some of the notes I took at the Kelley Armstrong workshop and made a couple small changes. I was hooked.
One night last week while I was watching TV with my dear and lovely wife, I had an idea about a new novel. It’s new direction for me (no, I won’t be less vague right now) and the idea was a bit overwhelming. I decided to play around with it in Scrivener. I outlined the plot, created character sketches, wrote some notes on the various settings, and added some notes around other thoughts and ideas I might want to incorporate. It’s all in one place and easily referencable. I am swooning.
The next logical step for me was to sign up for NaNoWriMo because that starts on Wednesday and I don’t have a tonne of free time coming up anytime soon. I figure, TOA only took me two years to finish the first draft, one month seems reasonable for my second novel. Last night when I signed up, I felt like puking. I’m fairly humoured by the whole thing at the same time though.

It should give me a good opportunity to take a mental breather from trying to sell TOA as well as give me a little space from the short story I finished last week, which I’ll need before putting it through the edit machine.
I’ve gotten a few chapters into Kelley Armstrong’s The Masked Truth. I don’t do much reading from physical books these days, so finding the time when I actually have the book with me is hard. I had an MRI on Friday (for my stupid ankle) and I took it with me to read in the waiting room. That worked well. I’ll get there slowly but surely.
I have taken to reading poetry some days before I start writing. If I’m just not in the right headspace, it helps me get out of my own head and concentrate. I mostly read the collection How to Break My Neck by Jessica L. Walsh. I’ve known Walsh since college and it’s inspiring to see a published book by someone I actually know. Also, it’s damn good.
On an extremely important note, I hope everyone has a happy Halloween!

Software Developer Envy

October 22, 2017

Yesterday I met up with Twisted Sister for a Brian Henry workshop in Oakville featuring Kelley Armstrong. Armstrong is a former Programmer from Ontario who has 32 published books and a couple graphic novels. As well, one of her series was adapted into a TV show. As a current software developer who is working on getting published, she’s pretty inspirational to me.
I’ve read 4 of her books, all from different series because I wanted to get a broad familiarity with her writing. From what I read, I prefer her newer writing and I prefer her YA stuff. Granted, I’m currently reading Omens which is Adult and I’m really enjoying it. I also picked up a copy of The Masked Truth at the workshop (which I got signed) and I hear that one is amazing. Now I just need time to read it.

The focused of her talk was Act 2, which I found really interesting. I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone cover that as a topic. She did a very long Q&A which was fascinating. The biggest problem with workshops is that I now feel compelled to go back through my completed manuscript and check all the recommendations she made to see what I can improve.
One of the questions she answered was around software that she recommends for writing and she brought up Scrivener . I feel a bit out of it, but I had never actually checked it out before. It’s basically a text editor for writers that is built around structure and notation. I took a brief tour of it this morning and I’m in awe of how well designed it is. I’ve rarely seen a piece of software designed around a specific purpose that was built so accurately. Every time I was like, Oh, I hope it can do X, it did.
The only thing it didn’t do was back up to the cloud automatically. If this thing was a web app, it would be perfect. I get that storage is a concern from the dev side and a 1-time payment for the app is just plain easy and affordable, but in a perfect world. . . Obviously, you can put your save folder in a google drive or Dropbox or whatever, so no harm no foul. The license is also a family license so you can install on multiple machines.
Overall A+. I’m going to use the trial version and if all goes well, I’ll put the $40 into my budget for next month.

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