The Writing of Blake Crittenden

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Why Does Writing Take So Long?

October 1, 2017

The story that I mentioned working on last week is consuming my brain. Work this week was so frustrating because all I wanted to do was work on the story. As I’ve said before, I generally do all my writing on Sunday. Yesterday (Saturday), I spent about 5 hours working on the new story. There are so many other things I should be working on around the house, but I feel like if I step away from the story, I’ll forget something. This could easily become a novel if I let it. I don’t think I want to though.
Thematically, I feel like this story is a bit dangerous for me since it focuses on mental illness. The main reason I never started writing this is that it’s so easy to do wrong. Hopefully, I can get some readers to check me for problematic bull crap before I send it anywhere. All that being said, the original idea I had for this story was mostly just an adventure story with an odd twist, but as a short story, it’s become something more cerebral than that.
The coolest thing I’ve seen this week is Harriet Tubman: Demon Slayer. I admit I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet, but I still haven’t read the latest Descender or Saga comics which have been sitting on my desk since this past Wednesday.

I did read Rat Queens Special: Orc Dave #1 though. I read that last night because I was mentally exhausted after spending 3 hours researching different types of mental illness and I wanted some light escapism. The story was good, but a little heavier than most Rat Queens stories.
I finished Parable of the Sower. Octavia Butler writes some stark stuff. I loved it. I wish I had more time to read. I’ll definitely be reading more of her writing sooner rather than later. I was really impressed with how well she kept the characters realistic in such a dark world.
I’m reading another Kelley Armstrong book right now. I wanted to get one more under my belt before the workshop later this month where she will be speaking, so I picked up The Awakening. I figure the more familiar I am with her, the more I can get out of the workshop. I also decided to check out the first few episodes of the Bitten tv series. I can see the appeal, but it’s not really my thing. I felt the same way about the book Bitten though. Chronologically, I’ve enjoyed her books more, the newer they are. It’s probably also relevant that I like the teen based stories more than the adult ones. Adulting is dumb.
Since it’s October finally, I’ll leave you with the Halloween costume I wore the first year my mom ever let me decide what I would be. That being said, I think we really messed up on the ballerina hair style.

Art Weekend

September 24, 2017

Most of this weekend was about my dear and lovely wife, Sunny‘s, first Art show opening. We spent all day Friday putting it up. I think we obsessively planned because everything came together pretty quickly. The event itself was such a good time. Jim, a chef that works with the venue, made an 8-foot tall tower filled with deconstructed cheesecakes inside chocolate covered strawberries. A few of the people there had some really beautiful emotional reactions to the work. We met someone that we had mostly just known online and she showed up with a tattoo of a piece of Sunny’s work on her arm. It was wild.
Last night I started working on a story that was originally going to be my first novel. When I was initially getting the story all mapped out, a movie came out that had a couple similarities and I decided to switch to a different project (thus Times of Abel was born). But, while I’m currently working on getting a literary agent, I’m finding a bit of space to work on a number of projects that I left by the side of the road for one reason or another.

The only other interesting thing for me this week is that an artist I started following on Twitter created a new twitter bot called @tenderdnd,

which is so damn wonderful. Basically, you tweet at the account and if you use the word NPC or character, it replies with a tender D&D character. If you use the word party, it gives you a party of three tender D&D characters and if you use the word queer, it gives you a queer tender D&D character. This is my most recent party that I asked for, “Wells, the half-orc cleric and tailor, Melissa, the elf rogue from a family of librarians, and Abe, the elf paladin.”
The artist’s name is Shing Yin Khor. I also signed up to support her Patreon, because this is pretty much my favourite thing this whole year.
I’d post about the new issue of America by Gabby Rivera, but I haven’t found the time to read it yet. I’m so bad at being a comic book fan. Really bad in fact because I was thinking about going to the Barrie Comic Con this weekend and I ate pancakes instead.

Sleepy

September 17, 2017

I had a sleep study last night. They called me at 8:00 PM and asked if I could come in. My appointment had been scheduled for the 20th, but apparently, someone didn’t show up last night so they called me. I figured it was better to get it done on a Saturday night than during the week and have to deal with work the following morning. I got there at 9:30. They had me all wired up and ready for bed by 11:00-ish, then woke me up at 6:00. That is not enough sleep. C’est la vie.

Earlier this week at work, I walked by one of the small meeting rooms. They are generally used for meetings with 2 or 3 people. There’s a desk with one chair on the far side and 2 chairs on the near side. I could see through the window that the 2 chairs on the near side were occupied and the other chair was empty. I assumed they were waiting for a manager or something like that. I had this strong urge to open the door, walk in, and go into an angry police captain speech (a la Ice Cube or something). I’m not sure how that would have gone over, but I probably would have done it if I had any material memorized. I’ve been googling for the next time this opportunity presents itself, but it’s actually hard to find good stuff. All I can find is the 21 jump street speech, but that’s very specific about going to high school. I feel like I should continue to research because this would just be so funny to do. Or at least it would be funny to me. Ooh, maybe the Captain from So I Married an Axe Murderer?

I submitted my flash fiction piece to Sick Lit, but I haven’t heard back from them. They publish some good stuff. Hopefully, they like my piece. I’m waiting to get some things actually published before I resume submitting my novel manuscript. I wish I would have exercised more patience when I initially finished it. I ended up submitting poorly written query letters to the agents I was most interested in and now that I know how to better put together a query, I have to seek out other agents who might be a good fit. I think the first query letter I sent, I likely sounded panicked and confused. This is a direct quote from that query letter, “This is also the first Query Letter I’ve written, sorry if I ramble.”

Parable of the Sower has been really enjoyable. I’m about 1/3 the way through. I had no doubt, but Octavia E. Butler is so good. Her writing style is so different than someone like Catherynne M. Valente (I had to compare with someone else who uses a middle initial), whose descriptions are so vivid. Butler creates such a sparse world, which really fits the story. I don’t think many authors achieve that level of prose where the writing really reflects the theme so well. I’m looking forward to reading more of her writing to see if it’s all like this or specific to this book/series.

Updates

September 10, 2017

As I mentioned last week, I’ve been dipping my toes into Flash Fiction a little. I had written my first piece last month and thought I’d send it out. I got a pretty quick rejection on it, which was really helpful. Looking back now, it was pretty obvious that I tried to write it like a short story, which just didn’t work with something that short. I was trying to do too much. I’ve spent a few evening reworking it in the last week and I have a might tighter version of it to send out now. I’ll be looking around for some online journals that will fit the themes today. I think I’ll probably try to write it into a short story at some point still though. I think the idea of using the same narrative in multiple forms is a really interesting idea, if for nothing other than exploring the strengths and weaknesses of each for my own learning.
A lot of the next few weeks is going to be about my wife’s upcoming art show. She’s hanging quite a few line drawings as well as some mixed media pieces in a local cafe and the opening is on the 22nd. It’s her first show and it’s coming along wonderfully. We’ve been spending the evenings there, both getting a solid feel for the space and preparing. I’ve been doing what I can to help with writing piece descriptions and the such. All things considered, I think it’s going to go fantastically. If you’re interested in supporting her, subscribe to her patreon. If you want to buy some things from her, check out her Etsy shop.
I’m listening to an older playlist today and there are so many great Amanda Palmer songs that I don’t listen to as often as I’d like to. I’m not sure why it never seems to pop up when I have my songs on random, but I don’t think I’ve heard Bigger On the Inside in months. I had to search out a good video for it and now I’m in danger of falling down an Amanda Palmer video rabbit hole on twitter. Sadly, I need to get some things done so it’ll have to wait.
I picked up the first issue of the new Mage comic. I’ve never read the previous volumes, but I figured I’d give it a shot. I’m not really spending much time in the comic world lately. Aside from America, I think everything I’m reading is from Image and that means that not everything will come out regularly. I have a lot of weeks when nothing I read comes out. So I like to grab something new every now and again.
I finished reading Bitten by Kelley Armstrong. It was her first novel, written in 2001, and my only experience with her writing was a series she started in 2012. It’s amazing to see the difference a decade of writing can do. It gives me an idea of what dedicate work can do for my writing. I know that there is a distinct difference between how I was writing when I started TIME OF ABEL in 2013 and when I finished in 2016. I’m excited to keep learning more about writing.

I’ve started reading Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler. I had this strange moment where I realized that I’d never actually read anything by Butler. I have no idea how that happened. Back in 1996, one of my good friends, Mandy, wrote a huge paper on the role of women in religion within the context of fantasy/sci-fi and, as you might imagine, Butler was featured prominently. Mandy and I often recommended books to one another and I read a lot of new authors because of her. I’m just baffled how I completely missed Butler. I guess all I can do is make up for lost time.
In my spare time, I’ve been tweaking the wordpress theme I created for this website. I’m not really making any changes, but I’m making everything configurable via the Configuration menus. It’s mostly just to distract me from thinking about politics before bed so I don’t get frustrated and have trouble sleeping. Ahh, politics.

Will You Be My Friend?

September 3, 2017

The biggest problem I’m having with this new website is that it’s SO easy to touch it up a little here and there and not get any writing done. What’s funny is that I’m not even making it look different, I’m just finding ways to make it look the same, but in a better way (i.e. make main images editable within WordPress using dynamic CSS). I’m not even planning on making it available for anyone else, but I still feel like I should code it in a way where it COULD be made available. Oh well, I suppose it’s fun, so I won’t complain.

I got some feedback from my friend (maybe just longtime acquaintance who I unearnedly felt confident enough to ask her to read my manuscript and give feedback, but I’d like to call her a friend, but I’d like to call everyone a friend. Hi everyone, I love you. Will you be my friend?) Andrea this week. I wanted to get her opinion because a lot of the books she reads are the same as a lot of books I read. As well. I’ve seen her post about them and she is insightful as all get out.

The feed back was positive, except saying I should run it through an editor for spell checking and grammar. That is definitely the hardest part of writing for me. I’m not sure if you know this, but I’m dyslexic. I was diagnosed while I was in College because I was having a hell of a time learning foreign languages. That being said, I’m kind of a glutton for punishment and got my degree in English. In high school, I studied Spanish, Latin, and Russian, which were hard, but I think the pacing of High School was more forgiving. German in College just took me out.

So all that is to say that editing is hard for me because I don’t always see what’s on the page. For my own writing, I mostly see what I think it says unless I go REALLY slowly, so catching mistakes is hard.

Today I’m going to work on a flash fiction piece I wrote a month or so ago. It’s my first attempt at flash fiction. I mostly just wanted to see if I could do it.

It initially came out okay, but there’s a bit of head hopping and not enough dialogue. Hopefully, I can tighten it up.

I’ve been obsessively listening to Dramamine by Modest Mouse, with a side of Insult To Injury by The Btchies this week. I’ve got the latest issues of America by Gabby Rivera and Saga by Brian K. Vanghan sitting unread, in the big pile of comics on my desk, but I hope I get to them soon. I’ve been listening to Bitten by Kelly Armstrong on Audible and I have to say I’m not enjoying it as much as I have enjoyed her later work. It is a first novel though, so who am I to judge. I don’t understand the thought process of the main character regarding most of her decisions. I’m going to read Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower after this.

I’m also reading a book called Raptor: Urban Fantasy Noir which is written by B.A. Bostick. Now, what attracted my interest to Bostick is that she was my mom’s best friend in high school. They’ve kept in touch over the years. When my mother was visiting this summer, she had mentioned the book and I decided to give it a read. I’m only 13 chapters in, but it’s a fun read if anyone wants to drop $5 and check it out.

It All Comes Together

August 27, 2017

A month or so ago, I realized that while submitting query letters for my manuscript, it might be helpful to show my web presence. In 2015 when I was still in the initial stages of writing my manuscript, I finally found my “process”. Up until then, I was trying to take time to write when I found it. I had been out of writing practice since having kids and was finding it really difficult to get anything done. Finally, I decided that Sunday morning was going to be my time.

I decided that when I woke up Sunday mornings, I would head out to a local cafe to write until noon. Every week, I’d claim the table in the back, get a tasty caffeinated beverage (and maybe a snack), throw on my headphones and turn on my laptop. I’d start by checking my email and maybe twitter, then I’d write a blog post about where I was in the writing process and what was currently inspiring me. Then finally, I’d get down to writing.

It worked very well for me. I can’t tell you how positive this time of my own was for me. I quickly found my writing groove again and I’ve been consistently productive ever since. At one point, my oldest kid moved out and I coopted her room as my new office. It was cheaper than going to a cafe every week and saved me 45 minutes of driving, and somehow, closing my door seemed to also allow my brain to disconnect from home and work responsibilities.

Eventually, I finished my manuscript. I gave it a few passes through the editing machine (and continue to touch up here and there when I find something I want to change). Now I’ve moved on to submitting queries to Literary Agent (the process by which one finds an Agent to get one’s manuscript published).

This was a whole new side of things for me. I’ve been working at this since March of this year and it’s frickin’ hard. I’ve taken a workshop on this from Quick Brown Fox (there’s a lot of other good stuff on that site too) and spending a fair amount of time honing the craft of the query letter.

As I said above, I realized as part of this process that I should probably better establish my web presence as an author. My twitter has been around forever, so that was fine, but I wanted to throw together a website, and hey, this is it. I’d moved off of the old blogging platform that I had been updating on this past December, so I decided to port all those posts to WordPress and restart the blog. You’d think that would be easy, but the old platform didn’t have a good way to export, so I basically copied every post over manually, one at a time. I think it worked out okay.

I also build a quick little WordPress theme that looks very old school in terms of blog layouts. I’m building it from the ground up though, so it may change as we go. Currently, I’m adding some functionality to make it more configurable via the UI rather than hard coding everything. I haven’t built a theme in probably 7 or 8 years and there is a lot more than WordPress can do now, so I’m just making updates as I think of better ways to do things.

This is my first new post in a while. I’m still listening to Marnie Stern constantly, although I’m obsessed with different songs. I’m loving the new Wildstorm comic. Moongirl and Devil Dinosaur is the best comic that Marvel is putting out these days. I’ve been reading Kelley Armstrong books lately since she’s going to be speaking at a workshop I’m attending in October. She’s an ex-software developer who became a famous author. I could use some tips. I really like her Darkest Powers and Darkness Rising series. I’m currently reading Bitten, which I’m not as in to. It’s her first book though (I think), so I’m interested to read further into the Otherworld series.

As for writing, I have a few Short Stories slated to be published by Twisted Sister Lit Mag and I have a few more set out to other publications. I’m working on my first piece of Flash Fiction and working on getting that published somewhere as well. I’ve also finished a couple chapters in book 2 of my Times series, Times of Cain.

I had the opportunity to spin fire in a Parade in Toronto earlier this month, which was pretty cool. I was nervous as hell and it looked that way, but still a very positive experience.

So happy Sunday to all. I’ll post again soon.

Done

December 11, 2016

I have finished my second draft. I’ve added some chapters and rearranged a bunch of things. I’ve tightened up the prose and played with the tense and pov.

I’m officially declaring the book done. Well, as done as I know how to get at this point. Thank for all the support to everyone who’s been along for the ride.

Next step: I have to figure out how to submit to publishers and all that. At this point I’m clueless. At some point, I’ll likely start working on the second book in the series. I have a lot of notes on it already, although I’m not sure where it will end yet. I suppose getting there is half the fun.

Almost there

November 27, 2016

8 pages left to edit and the second draft will be done.

Getting a bit Zen

August 1, 2016

Hi, friends. Now that I’m done being sick, I’m just going to mellow into the rest of the summer. Last week, my editing got past the halfway point in the book. I was hoping to be further along at this point in the year since I was hoping to get my editing done by the end of the September. Alas, I think it might take a little more time. That being said, I did miss a couple weeks in there with other projects that took up my Sundays.

I think that’s the wonderful and horrible thing about summer. There’s so much going on, but there’s so much going on (if you know what I mean). I think the only thing I have left on my agenda for the summer is a get together with a bunch of people I went to elementary school with.

My best friend might come into town for that, but he lives in Spain currently, so he’s still deciding. If he doesn’t, I don’t think I’ve seen any of these people since 1988. There might possibly be a couple who I saw at parties since, but I’m not particularly sure.

I think I’m more interested in how people have changed. It was a very clique oriented school. I’d like to see if the people who I viewed negatively are like that still. Or even more interestingly, if my view of them was coloured just as much by those cliques as their view of me?

The other nice thing about this “reunion” is that it’s in Michigan, so I’ll be spending a nice long weekend back in the States, which should be a nice time.

So, I’m going to do what I can to enjoy the rest of my summer as best I can. You do the same. Enjoy the sun.

Back on Track

July 24, 2016

It’s been a while. I’ve been out of the loop for a few weeks and haven’t been productive at all. The primary reason is that I got shingles. On my face. Which kind of sucked. After 7 days of anti-virals and my best impression of 2 weeks of down time, it has mostly cleared up. As well, my mother and step dad were in town for the last week. I had this awesome plan that one morning while they were here, I’d write while waiting for them to get done with breakfast. I slept instead. So I’m ready to get back on track.

In reference to both my family and my sickness, I stole this picture of my nieces from a poster at the hospital where my sister works. I suspect they may be clones of my sister.

I found a book that I feel is probably the best example of how I write (although I have some work to do still to get it to that level). The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey is wonderful and I highly recommend it if you enjoy the horror genre at all.

There’s also a movie version that’s coming out in September. They switch the race of the 2 main characters in it and I’m curious to see if there’s any thematic reason for it.

The reason I think it’s clicking with me so much is that it was written by a comic book writer and when I wrote the first draft of my book, I mostly imagined the scenes as comic book panels and wrote that. It caused a number of point of view issues since comics don’t really do point of view.

I found the same sort of challenges in Carey’s writing and it gave me some really good examples of how to handle those challenges. That being said, I also saw some random pov shifts in the book, which was helpful to see how distracting/confusing that is in other people’s work. All things considered, I highly recommend it even though I haven’t quite finished it.

I hope you’re all having a lovely summer.

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