Upcoming Events

I’ve got a few new events on my schedule! Check them out:

First up, I’ll be vending at the Leonard Oakes Steampunk Festival in Medina, New York. From the event description:

This year you will be welcomed into the Festival by Hala and Lalo, our duo of SteamPunk Stilt Walkers. Once you are in the event you now enter the world of inventors, creators, live artists, authors, chefs, musicians, side show performers, fermentation artists and those who pour the fermentation art!

General Admission tickets are $12 and VIP tickets are $25.

Next will be the second annual Indie Author Day! I’ll be presenting again at the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library. My topic this year will be “Tips and Tools to Keep Your Story Organized”.

Looking farther ahead, in April 2018 I’ll be vending at the Wings Falls Steamposium in Glens Falls, New York. From the event description:

A gathering of Cogs and Lace to celebrate the Alternative History of Glens Falls. Friday Night Meet and Greet Party at the Queensbury Hotel followed by 10:00 pubcrawl. Saturday 10 – 5 all day Free event with Marketplace, Entertainment, Panels, Walking Tours, Shirt Factory and Gallery Tour. Inventors Challenge (Making something from Repurposed Junk to benefit the Homeless Shelter), Kids activities, Steampunk Your Pet, Saturday Night Time Travelers Ball with Food and Entertainment and Fashion Show. Sunday Mid-Morning Mad Hatter Tea. Come as your favorite Alice in Wonderland Character. We are having a Tin Type Photographer!

Stay up to date on all my upcoming events on my website and Facebook page!

Tools for Organizing Your Story

Are you a plotter or a pantser when you write?

If you’re unfamiliar with those terms, allow me to explain. A “plotter” is a writer who plans and outlines their story ahead of time. Conversely, a pantser writes “by the seat of their pants”, with no strict plan to begin with. They simply go where the story takes them.

It seems to me that most authors are somewhere in the middle, which is certainly true for me. When I was writing Grigory’s Gadget, I would say I was pretty much 50% plotter and 50% pantser. I’d set out a plan, run with it until I hit a road block, then step back and plan some more. It seemed to work pretty well for me…for book 1. Book 2 has become another story (well, both literally and figuratively!).

Due to the fact that I made the (frustrating) decision to set Book 2 at the same time as Book 1 (just following different characters), I have much less freedom. There are certain events, and even some characters, which cross over and therefore need to line up correctly with Book 1. That limits just how much pantsing I can get away with. It’s also forced me to become a lot more gung-ho about organizing my story.

Whether you’re a plotter or a pantser, organization is necessary! It just might come in later for a pantser, when you go in to revise and edit.

Organizational Tools for Plotters

Plotters love organization, so some of these tips and tools might be no-brainers. As plotters, we typically begin a story by outlining it. This can be hand-written in a notebook or on note cards, or created in word processing software. I personally tend to begin with a bulleted list of the plot points, beginning with the most important and vivid and then connecting those dots.

There are two other pieces of software that I’m a huge fan of as well: Scrivener and Aeon Timeline. Scrivener is like a word processor but with many more capabilities. For the purposes of outlining and planning, Scrivener has an Outline view and a Cork Board view where you can set up your story beats and scenes. These beats can then be made into scenes or chapters (or however else you want to organize your story; for Grigory’s Gadget and Serafima’s Stone, I created a folder for each day to help me keep track of the passage of time) which are organized as individual documents or folders. Documents can be placed inside folders, and everything can be moved around as you will it. (Did you write scenes X, Y, and Z, then decided that scene Z needs to come first? No problem, just drag and drop it!) You can also create documents and folders that are not a part of your manuscript, where you can save research, character summaries, etc. Scrivener’s software typically costs $40; however, if you participate or win National Novel Writing Month, Scrivener is often a sponsor offering discounts on their software.

Aeon Timeline is a visual timeline software. It allows you to essentially create Gantt charts of your story (or your writing time frame!). You can create dots and lines indicating plot points, which can be color-coded and given meta data such as the characters involved, the setting, and more. You can also connect events visually to indicate the one event is directly linked to the next. This software is especially handy if you have multiple characters who are not all in the same place at the same time, or who are traveling for an extended period. Aeon Timeline typically costs $50, but like Scrivener is often a sponsor of National Novel Writing Month, offering discounts to participants and winners. It also can sync with Scrivener!

Organizational Tools for Pantsers

A lot of the tips and tools mentioned above for plotters also apply to pantsers. The main difference is that pantsers normally use these tools after the first draft is complete. Organizing your first draft will help you find inconsistencies, plot holes, and plot seeds you totally forgot your planted (this happens to me all the time!).

This is the stage when I start using more of Scrivener’s capabilities. The first tool that comes in handy is Annotations. Annotations allow you to write notes in your text, the way you’d mark up a physical draft with a red pen. The other tool I use a lot is the ability to add meta data to a document. Specifically, I add keywords to my scenes to indicate which characters are involved, and any other handy keywords that may be useful to me. This is a big help to check the consistency and completeness of different characters’ storylines. I can simply do a keyword search and pull up every seen a specific character is in.

Those are my biggest tips for organizing your story. What tips and tools have worked for you in your writing?

And Now For Something Completely Different…My First Wantable Box!

“And now for something completely different…” – John Cleese, Monty Python

This series of blog posts is for posts that don’t really match the rest of my blog (i.e. they aren’t related to writing, reading, steampunk, etc) but that I wanted to post anyway. In this edition, I’ll be reviewing my first Wantable Style Edit box.

Wantable Style Edit is a fashion subscription box, very similar to Stitch Fix. You can read my review of Stitch Fix here! In each box, which comes once a month, you get 7 articles of clothing or accessories (compared to Stitch Fix’s 5 items) that have been picked out just for you by a stylist. When you sign up, you fill out a style quiz that asks for things like your measurements, general style preferences, occasions you’ll be dressing for (casual, work, special event, etc), what types of items you want, etc. Your quiz can be updated any time your preferences might change. Unlike Stitch Fix, Wantable does not provide an option where you can link a Pinterest board or other social media.

For each shipment, you’re charged a $20 Styling Fee.  This fee will be applied toward the item(s) you decide to keep in that box (e.g. if you decide to keep a $40 shirt, you’ve effectively already paid for half of it, and only owe an additional $20). When you receive your box, you have 5 days (compared to Stitch Fix’s 3 days) to decide what you want to keep, and what you want to return. A pre-paid USPS bag is included with your shipment, which makes returns very easy. You only pay for what you decide to keep!

As I noted above, Wantable gives you 2 additional items per box compared to Stitch Fix, and 2 additional days to decide what you want to keep. Another big advantage of Wantable is your “Closet” and “Stream”. Your Closet shows you every item you’ve ever received from Wantable, which is very handy to have for your records. You can also request to receive items again, as long as they’re still in stock! Your Stream shows you items that other subscribers have received that match your style profile. You can get a good idea of how those items look and fit, and if you like an item, you can request it for your next box.

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Item number one is the V Neck Pleat Detail Cami in a mint green. This top was very light and flowy – perfect for summer! At $59 it was a little pricey, but I decided to keep it because I loved how it looked on.

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Next up was this sweater and necklace. I loved the sweater – it was a nice fabric and very cozy. The cost was a very reasonable $48. However, I can’t bring myself to buy a sweater in June! At $39, I wound up not keeping the necklace either.

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I fell in love with this blazer immediately. After regretting not keeping the blue blazer from my Stitch Fix box, I thought Yes, I’ll keep this one! Then I looked at the price: $118. It’s a nice blazer and I like, but I don’t like it THAT much!

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Next was this floral top. I like the pattern, and the fabric was comfortable and breathable – another perfect summer top! It cost $39, and I kept it.

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I also kept this pair of shorts, which cost $69. I thought they were a little pricey, but I literally owned 0 pairs of shorts before I received these. They fit well, and I like the length.

The last item I received was a really pretty black lace scalloped skirt, which was $58. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to zip up the skirt over my hips.

Overall, I really loved my Wantable Style Edit box. I think the fashion styles were better suited for me compared to Stitch Fix (a surprise to me, since Wantable doesn’t look at Pinterest boards). One disadvantage I have found with Wantable is that they don’t seem to have an option to swap an item for a different size, which Stitch Fix does allow you to do. The prices also ranged more widely. That means that while some things were too expensive (like the blazer), other items were cheaper than anything I got in Stitch Fix (like the floral top). So, for me, Wantable Style Edit wins out!

If you’d like to sign up for Wantable, I would really appreciate if you’d use my referral link: https://www.wantable.com/?invite_token=jwID1c3vuy4