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Kate Saunders
13 January 2016 @ 05:34 pm
Some days, like today, I have a hard time telling the difference between "I'm feeling unmotivated and just need to do stuff anyway" and "I'm beginning to come down with a cold and should take it easy." I'm pretty sure it's the second, though. This is sad because today I was going to work on my birthday cake, and instead I sort of puttered around the Internet.

(Also posted at Dreamwidth. Comment there.)
Kate Saunders
19 November 2015 @ 05:01 pm
I thought about doing NaNo this year, or at least an abbreviated version in which I tried to write every day. But then I got really sick at the beginning of November, and then had a whole bunch of job searching things come up.

But in honor of NaNo, I'm writing a quick little fluff piece involving a secret government organization,* a government conspiracy, and the End of the World. It's supposed to be an action / thriller, but it is currently mostly dialogue. I'm also zipping along quite well. I've been averaging 300-600 words on the days that I can carve out to write, which for me is phenomenally good. Generally a good day for me is 150+ words. 

So far this month I've written about 3,600 words, which is really only about two days for those of you seriously doing NaNo, but I'm still proud of it.

*currently called the NCS, unless I can think of something better. I hope I can, because the letters currently don't stand for anything. 

(Also posted at Dreamwidth. Comment there.)
Kate Saunders
06 October 2015 @ 12:53 pm
 I've been reading a few of the books in the Elements of Fiction Writing series, and they aren't very good. They seem to tend towards the formulaic. I have found, though, that they are helpful with clarifying what I think about various aspects of writing, as I mentally argue with the author.

I'm currently in the middle of reading Scene and Structure (by Jack M. Bickham). So far, he seems to be saying that there is One Right Way to plot, and it is by starting with a character, who has a goal, and then throwing obstacles in their way. While this is certainly one way to plot, I've never used it, and I know it won't work with a lot of writing styles. It also doesn't allow for changing goals (in which a character sets off with one goal but ends up with a different one along the way) or expanding goals (in which a character starts off with one goal but ends up with a much larger goal that encompasses the first). 

Bickham basically says that you have to keep that original goal, and discard any ideas that don't throw obstacles in the way of that goal at precisely the right level. If Fred's goal is to climb a particular mountain, that should be his goal through the entire story. And, while this may often be true of short stories, I think it often isn't true of longer stories or books. In fact, I think that changing goals can be tricky, but are often much more interesting. When writing, Bickham says (in essence) that if Fred's goal is to climb that mountain, perhaps the first obstacle is to get funding, for which he might go into a bank and be denied funding. But if you have a brilliant idea that changes the story, say the bank is invaded by aliens, you must discard it, because it isn't in line with the original goal and is the wrong sort of conflict. I think, though, that there are really three possibilities. Bickham sees the first. If you are writing a story that is really about Fred trying to climb the mountain and things that get in his way, the alien story probably doesn't belong there. But there are two further possibilities. It might be that the alien invasion story is a fabulous idea, but it just doesn't belong in the same story as Fred. Then you should set it aside and perhaps write that story later. But it might be that the alien invasion opens up all sorts of interesting possibilities, where Fred is still wanting to climb his mountain, but now everyone is telling him it isn't that important because there were aliens (real aliens!) in the bank. It might be that Fred becomes obsessed with aliens after a government cover up and is now trying to find the truth. It might become the story of Fred valiantly fighting the aliens in the bank. If the story changes drastically from the original plot, you might have to go back and rewrite some earlier bits (or even cut out a lot) to make the story fit with what it is now, but that doesn't have to be a bad thing.

Of course, the tricky part is determining whether or not the alien invasion belongs in the story. I suspect that one thing to do is to look at why you want the alien invasion in the story. Were you bored with the story and wanted to spice it up? That suggests that perhaps this isn't the story that you want to write. Did you have a brilliant idea about an alien invasion and just wanted to write that? Perhaps you should write the alien invasion story, or even just jot down the ideas and work on the story of Fred. 

I think that for a lot of writers (or possibly even most writers), writing is a much more convoluted, organic process. If you aren't careful, Bickham's way of plotting out scenes can easily become formulaic and dull, like those essays I wrote when I was first learning how to write essays that began with an introductory sentence, then a thesis statement, then one sentence of support for the thesis followed by two sentences of explanation, and so on. 

(Also posted at Dreamwidth. Comment there.)
Kate Saunders
17 September 2015 @ 04:06 pm
Let me start by saying that my RPG group is awesome. They are the sort of people that you want to play RPGs with (unless you want a serious game, because our group doesn't really do serious). They are nice people who have fun and are pretty much the opposite of every horror story that you hear. (I feel so bad for women who say that they were forced to play a certain sort of character, or that their (female) character was a target for romance or violence that other (male) characters weren't, or that the group was just generally misogynistic.) This is particularly significant because there are currently five other players plus the GM (Game Master aka the person running the RPG), and all are men. I'm the only woman in the room, and I'm the only one playing a female character.*

Overall, I would say that my experience playing as a woman has been quite good. Other players take my opinion into account and generally assume that I'm a competent player with a competent character. Reading other women gamers' experiences make this sound like the fluffy unicorn of player groups, because I'm also the GM's wife** and I bring baked goods most weeks. Basically, my group has been pretty awesome at accepting me as a player and being alright with the fact that Joel is the current GM. 

I can't help but wish, though, that someone else would play a female character so that I wouldn't have the weight of playing the only female character in the group. It makes it a little more difficult to play an interesting character and not try to represent all women with one character. It's like how Black Widow is the only female Avenger in the first Avengers movie, and even though she is a really awesome character, she still is only one character and can't show a range of options (whereas for male characters we see Thor, Iron Man, Captain America and Hawkeye).

And there is the odd moment when someone says something and I do a double take. Or there are the occasional assumptions that all NPCs (non-player characters) are male. (Joel does a pretty good job balancing NPCs about fifty-fifty, so that helps.) For instance, at one point on our first run when we were sneaking into a warehouse, one of the players said (partly joking) that my character, Jefferson, should flirt with the guards. The player seemed to be assuming that the guards were male (not all of them were), that they were interested in flirting with a woman (unknown), and that Jefferson would be the appropriate one to flirt with them. Actually, if the player had thought about it, the opposite is true. Jefferson is not a flirty character and she has very few dice for social interactions, while other characters roll handfuls of dice for just about any social situation. Thankfully, that sort of thing seems to have died down.

I've definitely had a good experience playing RPGs so far, and I think my group is pretty great. There are just some things that I notice that are generally blind spots for the group (like assuming PCs are female).


*I have played a male character, once. It was interesting. I did feel that I got a few weird looks, but overall our group seemed fine with it.

**There was also the session where it directly involved my character, Jefferson, and involved a lot of set up beforehand. Granted, it mostly involved Jefferson getting shot at (a lot) and then we started the session by her frantically calling the others for help because she was penned in by snipers, and Joel said that he's perfectly willing to work out something similar for anyone else who wants to have their character shot at . . . but this is still the sort of thing that would not be ok in a lot of groups because my husband is the GM.

(Also posted at Dreamwidth. Comment there.)
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Kate Saunders
11 September 2015 @ 10:42 pm
I have been thinking, lately, about how to explain my experience gaming as a woman. Ideally, I would be able to say that gender only factors into gaming inasmuch as it is part of who I am, but in reality, gaming, board games, and RPGs have a bias towards men. Board games seem to fall into four camps: games that are gender neutral, games that handle female characters rather well, games that are rather decent but slightly problematic in how they handle female characters, and games that are very problematic in how they handle female characters. Interestingly enough, I can't think of a game that is problematic in how it handles male characters (and I've played a decent number of board games).

Some games are gender neutral, and I appreciate it. It doesn't matter what your character's gender is in Settlers of Catan, because everyone has the same little houses and cities and fences. In both Forbidden Desert and Forbidden Island, the characters are little genderless pawns and the descriptions of the various roles are given in terms that don't use pronouns. These games feel particularly friendly, as I can choose any role that I want and play it as a female character if I want. The pilot and the archaeologist might very well be me.

The second type of games, games that handle female characters really well, is depressingly slim. In fact, the only game that I can think of is Pandemic (together with both expansions, On the Brink, and In the Lab). In Pandemic, there is a wide variety of character roles, split approximately equally between male and female characters. The female characters are at least as powerful as the male characters, the language on the descriptions is neutral, and, most refreshingly, the characters seem to be dressed like people who would actually work in a lab. The lack of objectification or sexualization of the women in the artwork means that I can recommend the game to my friends or suggest that we play it without having to qualify it or feel uncomfortable about some of the characters.
cut because this is long and has several imagesCollapse ) (Also posted at Dreamwidth. Comment there.)
Kate Saunders
08 September 2015 @ 05:51 pm
I am currently not writing. That is, I'm not writing stories. I'm trying to catch up on the journaling that I meant to do in England,  but didn't quite have the time / energy / ability (due to hand pain) to write. I'm writing by hand, because since I started that way I feel that I should finish it. Nothing spectacular, but it is nice to nail down my thoughts. 

(Also posted at Dreamwidth. Comment there.)
Kate Saunders
08 August 2015 @ 10:59 pm
Apparently Joel has no experiential knowledge of wanderlust or spring fever, and I have no idea how to really explain those things. I tried to explain the urge to travel, to go on a road trip because, the feeling that if you spend one more day indoors in the lovely weather that you'll go crazy . . . and sort of failed.

I thought everyone got wanderlust. 

(Also posted at Dreamwidth. Comment there.)
Kate Saunders
30 July 2015 @ 09:16 am
 I finished the first, rough draft of the latest story. It is a hefty (for me) 10,000 words, a steampunk fairy tale of sorts. I think it's rather good, but now I'm at a bit of loose ends as to what to do next.

I really should be editing things, but I'm having a hard time learning how to do that. I'm fumbling around trying to learn how much to trust myself and how much to listen to my various beta readers. I thought I could do this without too much trouble because I've edited papers, but the shape of a paper is very different from the shape of a story (which can seem even more individual). 

But I am writing, and I'm managing to get in a good, solid amount of writing. Three or four hours a week isn't much, but it's a whole lot more than nothing, and I have a 10,000 word story to show for it.

(Also posted at Dreamwidth. Comment there.)
Kate Saunders
02 June 2015 @ 05:16 pm
 Since the beginning of the year, I have:
-sent out a story to five different markets
-critiqued one short story and one full length novel
-written a 1,700 word story
-found two reliable (and very awesome) beta readers and gotten feedback on five stories
-written 7,000 words of another story (still working on it)
-plotted most of a novella

Of course, the story in progress (a steampunk fairy tale involving mechanical ravens) is probably going to be an uncomfortable length to submit anywhere, and the novella idea is fabulous but there are so few markets for novellas.

Still, I'm very happy that I've gotten so much done (not as much as I would like, but it never is).

(Also posted at Dreamwidth. Comment there.)
Kate Saunders
27 April 2015 @ 05:37 pm
I've been writing more lately. Since the start of the year, I've been managing to find time to write about two or three days most weeks. This isn't nearly as much as I would like, but I keep reminding myself that it's much better than nothing, which is what I was averaging before. Two or three hours a week has put me at a quite respectable point of having a novella outlined and being about 4,000 words into a story (it is steampunk, which I haven't done much, and a re-telling of a fairy tale because nearly everything I write is a re-telling of a fairy tale).

I think that this week I probably won't get any writing done, though, because Life has got in the way. Last week I found out that I have a job test scheduled with a local government agency. I find this stressful and icky, and it's made worse because it is 100% of how they are ranking job applicants (this is super lousy and stupid and I don't know why, and makes it more stressful). Today I found out that another government agency has a likely job opening, but I have to apply before Friday, which requires a typing certificate. It is annoyingly difficult to find a place that will issue a typing certificate, but I managed and so I'm taking care of that tomorrow. And then a staffing agency called and wants to interview me this week, so there goes my Wednesday.

Not to mention that my hand pain is flaring up.

Right now I'm feeling frustrated and stressed, and I didn't manage to get any writing done today. But I'm trying to be kind to myself, and remember that while I didn't get any writing done, I did send out a story to brave the world, I worked on a job application, and I found a place to get a typing certificate.

Some weeks the writing just doesn't happen, and I'm working on being kind to myself and realizing that it's ok, especially if it's due to stress and job interviews.  

(Also posted at Dreamwidth. Comment there.)
Kate Saunders
03 April 2015 @ 12:27 pm
Some years I feel in tune with Holy Week. Not this year. I haven't been good at keeping up with my Lenten discipline (this year I was trying to remember my friends in prayer every day, and somehow it is so much harder to remember to do something than it is to remember to avoid something). Joel and I are trying to sort some things out, and I haven't really been as kind as I should be in our discussions. I somehow missed doing any of the reading that I wanted to for Lent (it is Good Friday, and yet I still haven't read T.S. Eliot's Ash Wednesday).

Thank goodness Easter season comes whether I am ready for it or not.

I am now off to read John Donne's Good Friday poem, as is my tradition every Good Friday. 

(Also posted at Dreamwidth. Comment there.)
Kate Saunders
14 March 2015 @ 11:39 am
I have a hard time naming characters when I write stories. The other day, I had a brilliant idea just as I was drifting off to sleep, so I quickly scrawled it on a scrap of paper. But the next day something niggled at me. The name seemed vaguely familiar. I Googled it, and found that, in fact, "James Tiptree" was a pen name for a reasonably well known author. Back to the drawing board.

(Also posted at Dreamwidth. Comment there.)
Kate Saunders
03 March 2015 @ 05:34 pm
I think that the thing that I should be doing, my vocation, is writing.  It has only taken me three years of being unemployed to finally realize this. 

(Also posted at Dreamwidth. Comment there.)
Kate Saunders
04 February 2015 @ 05:47 pm
 Today I found out that Joel didn't make it to the interview stage for a job that we were really hoping he'd have a chance at (it was a long shot, but it's still lame) and I didn't get a job that I interviewed for last week and thought I had a really good chance at. It's really depressing. 

(Also posted at Dreamwidth. Comment there.)
Kate Saunders
02 February 2015 @ 08:04 am
 Joel got better, and then I got sick, just in time for my birthday. I had to cancel my birthday plans. I'm still getting over being sick. This means that my New Year's Not-Resolution is sort of broken. I was planning on writing every weekday of January, but what with being sick and not being able to think straight, it didn't happen. 

However, I've made some excellent progress on outlining the next novella (or possibly novel), which is a modern retelling of Dracula with the genders of many of the main characters switched. 

(Also posted at Dreamwidth. Comment there.)
Kate Saunders
13 January 2015 @ 10:20 pm
 Joel is sick with something nasty. I would guess that it's food poisoning, except that the only thing he has eaten in the last 24 hours that was either unusual or something I didn't eat was a banana, and a banana doesn't seem like the sort of thing once can get food poisoning from, and he has a fever.

I'm generally pretty good with sick people. It brings out my mothering, so I fuss and heat up soup and offer to buy ginger ale and such. I have learned, though, that I'm bad with vomit, as Joel was throwing up earlier and it made me feel close to throwing up (yet another reason I don't really want to have kids - I also gagged a whole lot when dealing with a litterbox, so I can guess that I'm not the best with cleaning up those sort of things).

Hopefully Joel feels better soon. He's miserable and there's nothing I can do to help. *sigh*

(Also posted at Dreamwidth. Comment there.)
Kate Saunders
03 January 2015 @ 01:02 pm
 In 2014, I read 132* books, per Goodreads. Notable books include The Goblin Emperor and Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy. (I also read War and Peace, although I wouldn't really recommend the book. Anna Karenina is better.)
*Actually, I read slightly more than my Goodreads number, as Goodreads doesn't count re-reads.
(Also posted at Dreamwidth. Comment there.)
Kate Saunders
24 December 2014 @ 10:53 am
 One of my favorite poems;

The Cultivation of Christmas Trees
T.S. Eliot
There are several attitudes towards Christmas, 
Some of which we may disregard: 
The social, the torpid, the patently commercial, 
The rowdy (the pubs being open till midnight), 
And the childish - which is not that of the child 
For whom the candle is a star, and the gilded angel 
Spreading its wings at the summit of the tree 
Is not only a decoration, but an angel.
The child wonders at the Christmas Tree: 
Let him continue in the spirit of wonder 
At the Feast as an event not accepted as a pretext; 
So that the glittering rapture, the amazement 
Of the first-remembered Christmas Tree, 
So that the surprises, delight in new possessions 
(Each one with its peculiar and exciting smell), 
The expectation of the goose or turkey 
And the expected awe on its appearance,
So that the reverence and the gaiety 
May not be forgotten in later experience, 
In the bored habituation, the fatigue, the tedium, 
The awareness of death, the consciousness of failure, 
Or in the piety of the convert 
Which may be tainted with a self-conceit 
Displeasing to God and disrespectful to children 
(And here I remember also with gratitude 
St.Lucy, her carol, and her crown of fire):
So that before the end, the eightieth Christmas 
(By "eightieth" meaning whichever is last) 
The accumulated memories of annual emotion 
May be concentrated into a great joy 
Which shall be also a great fear, as on the occasion 
When fear came upon every soul: 
Because the beginning shall remind us of the end 
And the first coming of the second coming.
(Also posted at Dreamwidth. Comment there.)
Kate Saunders
04 December 2014 @ 06:16 am
Well, the blood test results don't show anything out of the ordinary. This is good, but doesn't help explain why I've been feeling exhausted lately.  

(Also posted at Dreamwidth. Comment there.)
Kate Saunders
02 December 2014 @ 06:15 am
The first is that I've been feeling a lot of fatigue lately. I'm tired all the time. I'm sleeping a lot. I went to the doctor and am having a lot of tests done. We'll see if it's that. It might also be mild depression (too many things to be depressed about).

The second is a frustration with my in-laws. We spend Thanksgiving at their house. Thanksgiving was alright, but I wish, that Joel's family would remember that I'm allergic to walnuts. I really wish they wouldn't bake with walnuts when I'm around, but I'd settle for being told which food dishes I can't eat. But Joel's mom still doesn't remember that I'm allergic. We've been married for three years, we dated for three years before that, and the entire time I've been allergic to walnuts and she still doesn't remember. We see them several times a year. Joel almost didn't believe me when I told him that his mom didn't remember (I asked her which nuts were in the bread, and she said 'oh, I forgot you're allergic to walnuts,' and I wanted to say something snarky because yes, I still am, nothing has changed). I'm afraid that someone is going to put walnuts in something and not tell me and I'll forget to ask (I always ask if there are visible nuts, but sometimes they aren't visible). I keep trying to remind myself to ask if there are walnuts in the food every single damn time we are there. 

In case you were wondering, this feels the opposite of welcoming. Thank goodness my allergy isn't too severe.

(Also posted at Dreamwidth. Comment there.)