Here it is, March, and so far 2014 has been distinctly lacking on the blogging front. This is because, in the hierarchy of Things I Need to Do, blogging comes somewhere below “Watching silly television shows about robots in order to relax” and a good ways below “Writing new stories” “Editing stories” “making pictures” and “Taking care of animals.” In short, I promised myself blogging would not impede upon my livelihood as a Creative Person and as such the blogging has not been happening.

I’m breaking this drought, however, because I want to tell you that Kristen over at We Be Reading is holding her annual Diana Wynne Jones blog fest for the month of March, and today she was kind enough to feature some of my DWJ fanart. I am utterly charmed and delighted, and only blushing a little at seeing some of my older pieces again. However, it is worth noting that the the pieces she chose are all special, in that they were all done while Jones was alive, and that the author got to see them herself.

How do I know this? Because I sent them to her.

And she wrote back.

Homeward Bounders

This piece, titled The Homeward Bounders after Jones’s 1981 novel of the same name, features the three principal characters of the story: the narrator, Jamie, his problematic friend Helen (the one with the hair down the front of her face and the elephant trunk for an arm) and the demon hunter apprentice/slave, Joris. Jamie is in the all red clothes he got in the cannibal world, while Helen and Joris are wearing their signature black and white respectively. In the background are a couple of allusions to things from the book: the anchor and chain, and the pinkish granite forming triangles. The original, finished in 2005, is a mix of watercolor and colored pencils on mat board. I mailed it, along with a letter, to Jones via her publisher.

According to the letter Jones sent me, she managed to crowd it into her (already overcrowded) study, placing it next to another picture of Jamie, Helen and Joris that someone else had done years ago. I have no idea where the two pictures could be now, but the thought that mine sat in her study still deeply moves me.

Chrestomanci and Klartch

This watercolor of Chrestomanci bottle-feeding the baby griffin, Klartch, was painted in 2006, moments after I’d finished reading the book in which the scene takes place, The Pinhoe Egg. One of the things I am most thankful for in my life is that I discovered Jones’s work when I was still a child, and that I was able to read a few of her later books as they came out. So this is probably one of the first pieces of Pinhoe Egg fanart in existence.

Jones’s reply, when it came, is still one of my favorites. According to her, her husband took one look at it and said “That is a seriously good picture!” The letter went on to inform me that “This is something he hardly ever says. Be flattered. Feel praised.”

I did, and still do.

Howl's Moving Castle

Finally, this mixed media piece of Howl and striding off with his infernal guitar was done around the time the Studio Ghibli movie was announced. I knew I had to draw Howl and the castle before I saw the movie, otherwise the image of the character in my head might get drawn over by the film. It was by far the largest picture I ever sent Jones, and I included a very apologetic note and, apparently, a doodle of Mini the elephant from The Merlin Conspiracy. I don’t remember the doodle, but I must have done it because her reply mentions it specifically.

I sent Jones one more piece of art before her death, and that was a print of a painting I did illustrating the climax of The Merlin Conspiracy. It was the only time I never got a reply, but as she was well into her battle with the illness that eventually killed her by this point, I didn’t begrudge her at all. From my past experiences, I am fairly confident that she liked it.

White Dragon dev

Fanart is important. Especially for writers, who usually don’t get to see their stories illustrated unless they pay for it. At the time I was doing this pictures, as a teenager, I worried that they couldn’t possibly compare to the professional illustrations I saw decorating the covers of her books. Now that I am older, and have received fanart of my own, I understand that the voluntary translating of characters from words to pictures is one of the greatest gifts you can give a writer. It’s better than praise, in a way, because it says all the things you could hope to say in praise: that you loved the story. The characters. The world. You loved them enough to read it over carefully and take the time to pour out some of their creative energies to create something for you. It’s like praise one can hold. Or crowd into one’s already overcrowded study.

And so even if these pictures aren’t the best representation of my current illustrative abilities, I think they are in a way some of my most powerful pieces. They certainly achieved everything they were meant to do, which was make an author happy. And if they can make my fellow fans happy too, I am sheer delight and joy.

DWJ March runs through the end of this month over at We Be Reading, and you can also follow the hashtag #dwjmarch on twitter. For more about Diana Wynne Jones, you can visit her official fan site, here.

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Goldeen Ogawa is a writer, illustrator and cartoonist. An avid Diana Wynne Jones fan, she’s always wanted to do a series of illustrations for Hexwood, but has always felt too intimidated. Perhaps by the time she’s ready, we’ll need a new edition of the book. An illustrated edition. Yes. You can keep tabs on what she is doing by following her on twitter @GrimbyTweets. You can also send her an email directly at goldeenogawa@gmail.com.

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A project I’ve been dreaming of for several months now, the Astral Chimera are a series of oil paintings re-imagining stars as mythic beasts (chimeras). The first batch, containing Sirius, Regulus, Fomalhaut, Procyon, Polaris and Betelgeuse recently made their debut at the Further Confusion art show. All six originals are currently for sale, and any unsold by this summer will be going to the AnthroCon art show in July. If you’re interested in owning an original, please drop me a line at goldeenogawa[at]gmail[dot]com.

And remember, you can click the image for a larger version. Enjoy!

Sirius -- oil and silver leaf on gessobord. December 2013.

Sirius — oil and silver leaf on 6″x6″ gessobord. December 2013.

To start off my Astral Chimera series (stars as represented by chimeras) we have Alpha Canis Majoris, the Dog Star, brightest star in the night sky of Earth, better known to the western world as Sirius. He is here represented by a wolf-like chimera, as a nod to the star’s common association with dogs and hunting. Sirius B, a white dwarf star, is represented by a secondary head in the form of a white raven—ravens being frequent companions and collaborators of wolves.

Sirius A is a large, white-blue main sequence star with a spectral type of A1V, while Sirius B is a DA2 white dwarf.

Print available here.

Regulus -- oil and metal leaf (silver, gold and copper) on gessobord. December 2013.

Regulus — oil and metal leaf (silver, gold and copper) on 6″x6″ gessobord. December 2013.

Alpha Leonis, whom the Persians knew as Venant, the Watcher of the North and King of Summer: four heads represent the double-binary system of Regulus. Comprised of a blue lynx-lion and white vulture pair (representing the blue-white Regulus A and its white dwarf companion) and a twin gold and red lynx pair (representing the fainter Regulus B and C), Regulus is also the first of the Royal Stars—the others being Fomalhaut, Aldebaran and Antares.

The Regulus system is made up of Regulus A, a blue-white main sequence star with a spectral type of B7V, which is orbited by what astronomers presume is a faint white dwarf. This pair in turn is orbited by another pair of stars, Regulus B (K1-2V) and Regulus C (M5V) which in turn orbit each other.

Print available here.

Fomalhaut -- oil and silver leaf on gessobord. December 2013.

Fomalhaut — oil and silver leaf on 6″x6″ gessobord. December 2013.

Alpha Piscis Austrini, whom the Persians knew as Hastorang, the Watcher of the South and the Monarch of Winter, better known to the western world as Fomalhaut. A single-star system, Fomalhaut is represented by a snowy leopard-like chimera with impressive branching antlers. The silver scaling in the background is an allusion to the star’s notable debris disc. It is the second of the Royal Stars, the others being Regulus (second in this batch), Aldebaran and Antares (still to come).

Fomalhaut is a cool white main sequence star with a spectral type of A3V.

Print available here.

Procyon -- oil and metal leaf (gold and silver) on 6"x6" gessobord. December 2013 - January 2014.

Procyon — oil and metal leaf (gold and silver) on 6″x6″ gessobord. December 2013 – January 2014.

Alpha Canis Minoris, chief star of Canis Minor and the sister-star of Sirius, she best known to us by her Greek name: Procyon (literally: before the dog). Despite being part of a lesser-known constellation, Procyon is actually rather larger than Sirius, being almost sub-giant in size. Like her brother, however, she is also a binary system with a white dwarf companion—here represented by a white owl. Along with Sirius, she is also one of the vertices of the Winter Triangle (the third being Betelgeuse).

Procyon is a warm white star with a spectral type of F5IV-V, with a DQZ white dwarf companion.

Print available here.

Polaris -- oil and gold leaf on 11"x14" gessobord. January 2014.

Polaris — oil and gold leaf on 11″x14″ gessobord. January 2014.

Alpha Ursae Minoris, the North Star, Pole Star, Lodestar, the first supergiant in the Astral Chimera series, this is Polaris. I chose to paint her on 11″x14″ board to give a sense of scale when compared to the others. Though essentially lupine, her horns were based of those of longhorn cattle—some of the most truly impressive horns you’ll ever see.

Polaris is a warm white star with a spectral type of F7Ib, with two main sequence companions of F6V and F3V. She also has two distant companions (not pictured).

Print available here.

Betelgeuse -- oil and copper leaf on 12"x16" gessobord. January 2014.

Betelgeuse — oil and copper leaf on 12″x16″ gessobord. January 2014.

Alpha Orionis, the ninth-brightest star in the sky, better known to us as Betelgeuse (commonly pronounced like “beetle juice”). An enormous runaway red supergiant, and the leading star of the constellation Orion (though Beta Orionis, Rigel, is actually brighter), I chose to depict him as a leonine chimera with multiple curving ram horns. By far the largest of batch one (bigger even than fellow-supergiant Polaris), he is the third vertex of the Winter triangle, along with Sirius and Procyon.

Betelgeuse is an orange-red supergiant with a spectral type of M2Iab, and is expected to explode into a type II supernova within the next million years.

Print available here.

Eventually the Astral Chimera series will span 6 batches of 6 stars each. In batch 2, I’m tackling Algol, Aldebaran, Bellatrix, Canopus, Antares, and our very own Sun. Expect to see those sometime this Spring.

 

 

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These four paintings were done in October and November of 2013 for an art show at Midwest FurFest (where they all sold, happily). I had wanted to try doing horses as representations of the planets, and began with Jupiter as an experiment. That turned out so well I went on and did the other three Gas Giants. Whether I continue and do the inner four planets, the Galilean Moons, Titan, and how I will handle Pluto, is still up in the air. Considering what a positive response I got for the four giants, however, it is something I’m keeping very much in mind.

All these pictures were made on 9″x12″ bristol board using black ink, some watercolor, colored pencils, gold or silver paint pen, and metallic colored pencils. For the art show they were matted with custom painted mats to match the background, with metallic detailing on the bevel. They are all available as prints of all sizes from my print shop. Click the image to see a larger version.

Jupiter

The Shire draft horse represents Jupiter, first and largest of the gas giants, and the largest planet in our solar system. It is named for the king of the Roman gods, the god of sky and thunder: the Roman personification of the Greek Olympian god Zeus. The astronomical symbol for the planet Jupiter rests in the upper-left corner, while the wave pattern border echoes the swirling colored bands of storm systems that encircle the planet

Not pictured: the Shetland Pony moons, Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.

Available as a print here.

Jupiter was the first Planet Horse I started, and when I did I was uncertain as to whether it would even turn out all right. Once I’d finished his head, however, I realized I would have to do at least the four gas giants. I chose the Shire horse to represent Jupiter, since it as arguably the largest breed of horse in the world today.

SaturnDev

The Andalusian, or Pure Spanish Horse, represents Saturn, the second-largest planet in our solar system renowned for its impressive rings. It is named for the Roman god of generation, liberty and renewal, the Roman personification of the Greek god Cronos, father of Zeus, who ruled over the Golden Age of Rome. The astronomical symbol for Saturn can be found in the lower left-hand corner, while the border contains a repeating circle motif, reminiscent of the planet’s famous ring system.

Available as a print here.

For Saturn I had a lot of fun figuring our how I would represent that planet’s famous ring system. It was fun working the colors of the tail into something similar to the bands of light and dark in Saturn’s rings. The blue streaks in the forelock and down the forehead were inspired by pictures of Saturn’s polar auroras. An additional honor: this piece won a Staff Pick and the Director’s Choice Award at MFF. They gave me a plaque and everything. I was utterly surprised and delighted.

Ouranos

The Lippizaner represents Ouranos, third of the gas giants and first of the ice giants. Named for the the primordial Greek god of the sky and heavens, its name is sometimes Latinized as Uranus. Ouranos was the father of Cronus (Saturn) and the grandfather of Zeus (Jupiter). The symbol for Ouranos can be found in the upper-left corner, while the angular chevron and triangular patterns represent the water, ammonia and methane crystals prevalent in its upper atmosphere.

Available as a print here.

First I suppose I should explain: Ouranos is the Greek spelling of Uranus, which in turn is the name for the primordial Greek god of the heavens. I chose to use the Greek spelling because it does not, when said out loud (“Ow-ra-nos”), prompt people to make bad jokes about its similarity to a certain part of a person’s anatomy. I have gotten quick sick of it, so I went with the original spelling. I chose the Lippizaner to represent Ouranos, and placed it in a portrait rotation (unlike the other three) as a reference to the planet’s heavily tilted axis. As with Saturn, I had fun using the mane to represent the rings.

Neptune

The Friesian horse represents Neptune, the fourth and final gas giant, and the only other ice giant apart from Ouranos. It is named for the Roman god of the seas (who was also, it should be noted, the god of horses and horse racing), the brother of Jupiter and the Roman personification of the Greek god Poseidon. The astronomical symbol for Neptune rests in the upper-left corner, while the filigree and droplet patterns evoke both the content of the oceans, as well as the breakers and seashells.

Available as a print here.

Finally, there is Neptune. I finished this one on Monday, November 18th, just a day before I had to leave for Chicago. I’m glad I did though: I feel they looked far better as a complete set. Neptune is also my personal favorite from the bunch, and I had considered keeping the original if it did not sell. It did, of course, but I cannot bring myself to be upset by that.

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Goldeen Ogawa is a writer, illustrator and cartoonist. To keep tabs on what she is doing you can follow her on twitter @GrimbyTweets. You can also send her an email at goldeenogawa@gmail.com.

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As explained in a previous post, for the month of November 2013 I undertook a modified version of the NaNoWriMo challenge. Instead of writing a 50,000 word novel in a month, I am aimed to write 50,000 words of fiction (excluding blog posts like this one and other non-story writing, such as introductions and blurbs). I  allotted myself 22 days to write these 50,000 words (allowing for travel and conventions), meaning a daily average of 2,273 words per day. Words went towards a couple of novellas, two short stories, and part of a novel—all of which will be finished and published one day. I recorded, every day, the number of words I wrote for each story, the total number of words that day, and how many words I was over or under my daily minimum average. I also kept a running total of how many words I’d written and how many days it took, how many words I’d left to write, and how many days to write them in, as well as a tally of how many words I was over or under the minimum average for the total day.

This post marks the conclusion of that challenge, one which I actually completed last week on the 19th. However, as November wasn’t over yet I saw no reason to stop writing. You can find the results of the last week (November 22-30) below, entries for Week 1 can be found here, Week 2 here, and Week 3 here.

Final results for the month can be found below the daily entries, followed by some notes on my experience and my thoughts about it.

FRIDAY November 22*
0
TOTAL: 0 of 0
0 remaining to minimum average

SATURDAY November 23*
0
TOTAL: 0 of 0
0 remaining to minimum average

SUNDAY November 24*
0
TOTAL: 0 of 0
0 remaining to minimum average

MONDAY November 25*
0
TOTAL: 0 of 0
0 remaining to minimum average

*November 22 through 25 were scheduled inactive days because I was in Chicago attending Midwest FurFest.

TUESDAY November 26
1,082 for Professor Odd 8
TOTAL: 1,082 of 0*

*Since I achieved my goal of 50,000 words the week before, I reset my minimum daily goal to zero for the last week.

Current total: 51,267 in (18) days
11,534 over minimum average (total)
1,267 over month goal
Remaining total: 0 in (4) days

WEDNESDAY November 27
1,668 for Professor Odd 8
TOTAL: 1,668 of 0

Current total: 52,935 in (19) days
11,534 over minimum average (total)
2,935 over month goal
Remaining total: 0 in (3) days

THURSDAY November 28
263 for Professor Odd 8
TOTAL: 263 of 0

Current total: 53,198 in (20) days
11,534 over minimum average (total)
3,198 over month goal
Remaining total: 0 in (2) days

FRIDAY November 29
1,165 for Professor Odd 8
TOTAL: 1,165 of 0

Current total: 54,363 in (21) days
11,534 over minimum average (total)
4,363 over month goal
Remaining total: 0 in (1) days

SATURDAY November 30
2,479 for Professor Odd 8
TOTAL: 2,479 of 0

Current total: 56,842 in (22) days
11,534 over minimum average (total)
6,842 over month goal
Remaining total: 0 in (0) days

TOTAL WORDS FOR WEEK 4: 6,657

(5 Active Days, 0 Bonus Days)

And now…

The Grand Totals:

FINAL WORD COUNT: 56,842

Month goal: 50,000
Daily Minimum goal: 2,273

Final total: 56,842
in 23 days (22 Active Days, 1 Bonus Day)
6,842 over Month goal

Planed daily average: 2,273
Actual daily average: 2,471(.3913)
Planned active days: 22
Actual active days: 23
Planned inactive days: 8
Actual inactive days: 7
Monthly low: 219 on November 9
Monthly high: 4,868 on November 13

NOTES

Daunting at first, but after a few 2,000+ word days I began to have the mental fortitude for it. Got a burst of inspiration from seeing the stories progress so quickly. Extremely helpful to have more than one project going at the same time. Except for a few occasions, wrote in two sessions: one in the morning and one in the evening. Some difficulty getting back into the swing of things after every non-writing day.

Days varied depending on inspiration. Some days I needed to do more thinking than writing. In the normal course of events, I think it’s better to let the word count lag on days like these. I always make up for it once I’ve figured out what happens in the story.

Due to the lead I got in Week 1 (and which I extended in Week 2) I made my 50,000 goal by Day 17—just in time for MFF. After returning it was difficult to get back into writing that much, especially because other projects were demanding my attention. I did not finish Professor Odd 8, but I am roughly halfway through and in good shape. I ended up being comfortably over my goal for the month.

If I ever have a November where I can utilize more days for writing, I think I might up the word goal to 70,000 or even 80,000.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The challenge of writing 50,000 words in 22 days was actually easier than I anticipated—partly because I anticipated it would be very difficult. A few things, I think, helped make it (relatively) easy for me.

1. I am a professional writer. Writing is my job. So is making art and publishing, but I can legitimately spend four hours a day writing and call it “work.” I don’t have to take time off from a day job to make room for writing—I just rearrange my allotment of hours so I do more writing than painting and publishing. For reference: I still did some painting in November (the Planet Horses for the MFF art show) but I hardly did any publishing work at all until this last week—and that is one of the reasons my word count dropped so dramatically: I only had time for one writing session a day because I had so much publishing work to do. Basically what I’m saying is: I am at a huge advantage over amateur writers since this is my job, and it is really in my better interests to do more of it each day. If you are not a professional writer, don’t beat yourself up if you fail to meet NaNoWriMo’s challenge—it’s probably because you had better things to do. And that’s okay. In fact, if you have a day job, but you want to write, I’d recommend not going for the all-out burst of NaNoWriMo, but rather the slow steady trickle. Put aside half an hour every day and just write a little. Every day. It may not be as exciting, but after a year you’ll probably have a real novel. And that’s way more exciting than watching November fly past and not getting anything written.

2. Being in training. I mentioned this in my first journal, but I’ll repeat it here because it totally paid off: I was in training to write. I’ve been writing more or less every day for the past year. If I go a day without writing I feel bad. I want to work on these stories. I’ve trained myself to be able to stick my butt in a chair and write for an hour, no matter what my mood is or how I’m feeling. This particularly shows through on days like the 28th, when I received some seriously distressing news (not important for the sake of the article) that put me in a tailspin. I only wrote a token amount that day—but I did write. I would not have written that if I had not been in training. Inspiration is great, but it won’t take you all the way: there will be days when it’s very difficult to write. Those are the days you train for. Because if you’re in training, you’ll just write anyway.

3. Having a backlog of ideas. I didn’t come into November with a blank mind. I had a laundry list of stories to write, and I started writing those. Along the way I also wrote down any odd story that took my fancy. I got two short stories out of this (Amar and Desta’s Big Day Out and How Riding Got Her Red Hood) that I’d never have written if I stuck purely to my predetermined schedule. So it’s helpful to have lots of ideas in store, but it’s also good to take the ideas that just pop up and run with them—especially if they are short. Which leads me to my last point:

4. Play by your own rules. I did a modified version of NaNoWriMo this month. I didn’t write a novel: I wrote about one and one quarter of two novellas, two short stories, and the first couple of chapters of a novel. These are not throwaway projects: they are all things I will finish and publish. And in total, they make up over 50,000 words (the minimum word count for a NaNoWriMo novel). So I didn’t do NaNoWriMo properly. Honestly I don’t care. Maybe next year I’ll write a novel. Point is, this year this was what worked for me, this is what I wanted to do, and this is what I did. If you want to write, but you don’t want to write a short novel, consider altering the rules of NaNoWriMo to suit your own needs.

Now it is December, and time I got to work getting Apsis Fiction 1.2 out the door! I also have another art show to prepare for—for which I’m dragging my oil paints back out, and delving into the wild world of metal leaf for the first time. Should be exciting!

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Goldeen Ogawa is a writer, illustrator and cartoonist. She has a history of setting herself daunting tasks—sometimes she even overcomes them. To keep tabs on what she is up to now you can follow her on twitter @GrimbyTweets. If you’d like to chat, send her an email at goldeenogawa@gmail.com.

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As explained in a previous post, for the month of November 2013 I am undertaking a modified version of the NaNoWriMo challenge. Instead of writing a 50,000 word novel in a month, I am simply aiming to write 50,000 words of fiction (excluding blog posts like this one and other non-story writing, such as introductions and blurbs). I have allotted myself 22 days to write these 50,000 words (allowing for travel and conventions), meaning a daily average of 2,273 words per day. Words can go towards any number of stories I have in the works, in any proportion, but they must all be stories I intend to finish and publish one day. I am therefore recording, every day, the number of words I’ve written for each story, the total number of words that day, and how many words I am over or under my daily minimum average. I am also keeping a running total of how many words I’ve written and how many days it took, how many words I’ve left to write, and how many days to write them in, as well as a tally of how many words I am over or under the minimum average for the total day.

This entry is almost a full week late because I was in Chicago last Thursday and was not able to post—let alone get any writing done.

My entries for the past week (November 8th-14th) can be found below. Entries for Week 1 can be found here, and Week 2 here.

FRIDAY November 15
1,619 for Silence and the Astrobats
TOTAL: 1,619 of 2,273
654 under minimum average

Current total: 40,590 in (13) days
11,031 over minimum average (total)
Remaining total: 9,410 in (9) days

SATURDAY November 16
2,635 for Professor Odd 2.2/8
634 for Silence and the Astrobats
TOTAL: 3,269 of 2,273
996 over minimum average

Current total: 43,859 in (14) days
12,027 over minimum average (total)
Remaining total: 6,141 in (8) days

SUNDAY November 17
1,256 for Silence and the Astrobats
1,454 for How Riding Got her Red Hood
TOTAL: 2,710 of 2,273
437 over minimum average

Current total: 46,569 in (15) days
12,464 over minimum average (total)
Remaining total: 3,431 in (7) days

MONDAY November 18
1,294 for Chronostrophe
TOTAL: 1,294 of 2,273
979 under minimum average

Current total: 47,863 in (16) days
11,485 over minimum average (total)
Remaining total: 2,137 in (6) days

TUESDAY November 19

1,402 for Star Walker
920 for Chronostrophe
TOTAL: 2,322 of 2,273
49 over minimum average

Current total: 50,185 in (17) days
11,534 over minimum average (total)
Remaining total: 0 in (5) days

50,000 WORD GOAL ACHIEVED! DING DING!
185 over month goal.

WEDNESDAY November 20*
0
TOTAL: 0 of 0
0 remaining to minimum average

THURSDAY November 21*
0
TOTAL: 0 of 0
0 remaining to minimum average

*The 20th and 21st were scheduled Non Active Days and thus do not have a minimum average nor do are they counted among the 22 Active Days.

TOTAL WORDS FOR WEEK 3: 11,214

Current total: 50,185 in (17) days
11,534 over minimum average (total)
Remaining total: 0 in (5) days

185 over month goal.

(5 Active Days, 0 Bonus Days)

Down again from Week 2, but I DO NOT CARE. I got fifty thousand words out before I had to leave for Midwest Furfest. I am happy. More than, I am delighted. It means I can devote this last week of November to trying for my stretch goals. These are: Write more than 50k word in November. My reward? I will have written over 50k words in November.

Week 4 Update will be posted Saturday night, as it makes no sense to have a Week 5 update that is just the last two days.

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Goldeen Ogawa is a writer, illustrator and cartoonist. You can follow her daily progress on the 50k word challenge on her twitter, @GrimbyTweets, and you can also email her at goldeenogawa@gmail.com—but understand why if she doesn’t respond right away.

 

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As explained in a previous post, for the month of November 2013 I am undertaking a modified version of the NaNoWriMo challenge. Instead of writing a 50,000 word novel in a month, I am simply aiming to write 50,000 words of fiction (excluding blog posts like this one and other non-story writing, such as introductions and blurbs). I have allotted myself 22 days to write these 50,000 words (allowing for travel and conventions), meaning a daily average of 2,273 words per day. Words can go towards any number of stories I have in the works, in any proportion, but they must all be stories I intend to finish and publish one day. I am therefore recording, every day, the number of words I’ve written for each story, the total number of words that day, and how many words I am over or under my daily minimum average. I am also keeping a running total of how many words I’ve written and how many days it took, how many words I’ve left to write, and how many days to write them in, as well as a tally of how many words I am over or under the minimum average for the total day.

My entries for the past week (November 8th-14th) can be found below. Entries for Week 1 can be found here.

FRIDAY November 8
2,644 for Driving Arcana 1.5
TOTAL: 2,644 of 2,273
371 over minimum average

Current total: 24,631 in (8) days
6,447 over minimum average (total)
Remaining total: 25,369 in (14) days

SATURDAY November 9*
218 for God or Aliens song
Completed Driving Arcana 1.5
TOTAL: 218 of 0
218 over minimum average

Current total: 24,849 in (8) days
6,655 over minimum average (total)
Remaining total: 25,151 in (14) days

SUNDAY November 10*
0
TOTAL: 0 of 0
0 remaining to minimum average

*The 9th and 10th were scheduled Non Active Days and thus do not have a minimum average nor do are they counted among the 22 Active Days.

MONDAY November 11
1,307 for Felpz 2.8: Moofoot Problem
176 for Star Walker
TOTAL: 1,483 of 2,273
790 below minimum average

Current total: 26,332 in (9) days
5,865 over minimum average (total)
Remaining total: 23,668 in (13) days

TUESDAY November 12
1,930 for Star Walker
1,014 for Felpz 2.8
TOTAL: 2,944 of 2,273
671 over minimum average

Current total: 29,276 in (10) days
6,536 over minimum average (total)
Remaining total: 20,724 in (12) days

WEDNESDAY November 13
4,868 for Felpz 2.8
TOTAL: 4,868 of 2,273
2,595 over minimum average

Current total: 34,144 in (11) days
9,131 over minimum average (total)
Remaining total: 15,856 in (11) days

THURSDAY November 14
4,827 + THE END for Felpz 2.8
TOTAL: 4,827 of 2,273
2,554 over minimum average

Total words for Week 2: 16,984

Current total: 38,971 in (12) days
11,685 over minimum average (total)
Remaining total: 11,029 in (10) days

A bit down from Week 1, mostly due to the fact that I wrote practically nothing on Saturday and nothing at all on Sunday. But that’s okay: I planned for those days to be non productive. Also, what is encouraging is that, although I was under my minimum average on Monday, I was able to bounce back over the remaining week, and actually extended my word-lead. At this rate I really only need to write a little over one thousand words a day to come in on schedule, but of course I’m going to reach for the stretch goals (TBA).

I expect the weekly total will go down again next week, and the week after, as I will be traveling for Midwest FurFest for part of both of them. But that’s why the Day Counter is set at 22 instead of 30, after all.

But hey, 11,000+ words ahead of schedule. Not bad, I say! The challenge now is seeing if I can finish Professor Odd 8 by the end of the month. (Hint: I’m going to try REALLY HARD.)

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Goldeen Ogawa is a writer, illustrator and cartoonist. You can follow her daily progress on the 50k word challenge on her twitter, @GrimbyTweets, and you can also email her at goldeenogawa@gmail.com—but understand why if she doesn’t respond right away.

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As explained in a previous post, for the month of November 2013 I am undertaking a modified version of the NaNoWriMo challenge. Instead of writing a 50,000 word novel in a month, I am simply aiming to write 50,000 words of fiction (excluding blog posts like this one and other non-story writing, such as introductions and blurbs). I have allotted myself 22 days to write these 50,000 words (allowing for travel and conventions), meaning a daily average of 2,273 words per day. Words can go towards any number of stories I have in the works, in any proportion, but they must all be stories I intend to finish and publish one day. I am therefore recording, every day, the number of words I’ve written for each story, the total number of words that day, and how many words I am over or under my daily minimum average. I am also keeping a running total of how many words I’ve written and how many days it took, how many words I’ve left to write, and how many days to write them in, as well as a tally of how many words I am over or under the minimum average for the total day.

My entries for the past week (November 1st-7th) can be found below.

FRIDAY November 1
1,349 for Arcana 1.5
1,189 for Random Oddity: Amar & Desta
TOTAL: 2,538 of 2,273
265 over minimum average

Current total: 2,538 in (1) day(s)
265 over minimum average (total)
Remaining total: 47,462 in (21) days

SATURDAY November 2
1,225 for Arcana 1.5
1,547 for Amar & Desta
TOTAL: 2,772 of 2,273
499 over minimum average

Current total: 5,310 in (2) days
764 over minimum average (total)
Remaining total: 44,690 in (20) days

SUNDAY November 3
1,187 for Star Walker
1,401 for Driving Arcana 1.5
TOTAL: 2,488 of 2,273
215 over minimum average

Current total: 7,798 in (3) days
979 over minimum average (total)
Remaining total: 42,202 in (19) days

MONDAY November 4
1,066 for Driving Arcana 1.5
1,106 for Desta and Amar
926 for Star Walker
TOTAL: 3,098 of 2,273
825 over minimum average

Current total: 10,896 in (4) days
1,804 over minimum average (total)
Remaining total: 39,104 in (18) days

TUESDAY November 5
1,945 for Driving Arcana 1.5
610 for Amar and Desta
2,030 for Star Walker
TOTAL: 4,585 of 2,273
2,312 over minimum average

Current total: 15,481 in (5) days
4,116 over minimum average (total)
Remaining total: 34,519 in (17) days

WEDNESDAY November 6
2,495 for Driving Arcana 1.5
1,082 for Amar and Desta
TOTAL: 3,577 of 2,273
1,304 over minimum average

Current total: 19,058 in (6) days
5,420 over minimum average (total)
Remaining total: 30,942 in (16) days

THURSDAY November 7
163 + THE END for Amar and Desta
1,589 for Driving Arcana  1.5
1,177 for Star Walker
TOTAL: 2,929 of 2,273
656 over minimum average

Current total: 21,987 in (7) days
6,076 over minimum average (total)
Remaining total: 28,013 in (15) days

A very good week overall. It was a bit daunting at first, but I find the more I write, the more excited I get about the stories I am writing.

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Goldeen Ogawa is a writer, illustrator and cartoonist. You can follow her daily progress on the 50k word challenge on her twitter, @GrimbyTweets, and you can also email her at goldeenogawa@gmail.com—but understand why if she doesn’t respond right away.

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Marathon Writer

or, Training for NaNoWriMo… my way

November is coming up, and already in writerly circles you can hear the whispers… “NaNoWriMo is coming…” “Are you going to do it?” “Did you do it last year?” “Did you finish it?”

NaNoWriMo, short for National Novel Writing Month (ironically, it is now an international sensation), is a writing event that pulls in people from all walks of life—some people who don’t write a word any other month of the year will knuckle down come November and try to write a 50,000 word story in thirty days. And if the contents of my inbox around this time of year is anything to go by, a lot of them don’t succeed.

This has bothered me, in a frustratingly vague sort of way, for years. A part of it comes from the very nature of the challenge itself: namely, to write write WRITE without any regard for quality or worth. This can be an excellent practice if one is suffering from nervous writer’s block—but it is not something that will work well for every writer. Indeed for some it can be downright damaging.

There are some writers who are painstakingly slow at writing their books. This does not make them bad writers. They are slow writers. That is fine (though fans of George RR Martin might object). A professional writer does not need to practice the OPEN THE FLOODGATES method of writing in order to get themselves to progress on their novel. They do it, bit by bit, and eventually the thing is finished, and it is better for them having taken the time to do it their way and get it right.

Then there are writers who write a ton. They write industrial shipping frigate-loads of words day in and day out—and that is the way they work. And these writers (hi, Dean Wesley Smith!) usually write more per month than NaNoWriMo’s arbitrary 50,000 benchmark. So they don’t need NaNoWriMo either.

Who does this leave to benefit from NaNoWriMo? Ah yes, the beginners. But I would not wish any beginning writer who is a friend of mine to feel any obligation to participate in NaNoWriMo. Sure, it’s exciting, and there’s that team spirit that comes from knowing you’re in it together with a bunch of other people, but in the end the load of averaging 1,667 words per day (which is the minimum you’ll have to average in order to reach 50,000 by November 30) is often too much for a beginning writer—similar to the way running a marathon is too much if you’re not already a fairly good runner—and when they fall short at the end of the month they feel like they’ve failed. Which can make them depressed. Which can make them never want to write again.

Which is not what I want to happen to any beginning writer anywhere. Ever.

Being a beginner at anything is hard. Writing gets easier the more you do it—the better you get at it—but in the beginning it’s hard. So if you’ve never written a story before I wouldn’t recommend trying NaNoWriMo as an icebreaker. Start with something less intense—something that you can adjust to fit your own personal needs and strengths. A 5,000 word short story in November, perhaps. Or, if you want to write a novel, give yourself at least a year. With 365 days you’d only need to average 137 words per day to write your 50,000 word novel. 137 words is nothing. Unless you’re writing with a quill pen by candlelight in a drafty stone tower on crusty parchment, a completely newbie writer should be able to manage 250 words a day without much trouble. 500, if they have good powers of concentration and quick fingers. 500 words a day for 365 days is a whopping 182,500 words. That’s over three NaNoWriMo novels, or two full-sized 91,000 word novels. Think about that. With only 500 words a day, you could write your epic trilogy in less than two years and have time for a day job.

And then, once you’ve got the hang of writing stories, maybe come back to NaNoWriMo and see if it’s for you. But my guess is it won’t be. Either you’ll have settled into your slow and steady pace, or, a la Dean Wesley Smith, you’ll be cruising along at a merry 80,000 words a month and be like “What? NaNoWriMo? I can’t afford to have a 50k word month! I’ve got eight novels and fifteen short stories to finish by the end of the year!” (Many of your writer friends will be jealous of you, but you’ll live.)

Or… not. Maybe you’ll be like me and have this nagging feeling of insufficiency. Maybe the reason NaNoWriMo really bothers me is because I’m afraid to try it. Maybe I’m afraid that, despite having written three novels and dozens of short stories/novellas and having every intention of being a professional writer, I couldn’t knuckle down and put out the words.

So I have decided, this year, to accept the challenge of NaNoWriMo. Sort of. On my own terms.

You see, I have a very carefully constructed schedule by which I write. I have a list of stories that need writing, which currently contains enough material to keep me busy for the next decade. And that list does not contain any convenient 50,000 word novelettes (in my head a novel has to be at least in the 80,000 word neighborhood but that’s only a matter of personal preference). So I have decided not to write a single story, but merely to aim for the meat of the challenge: That 50,000 word limit.

In November 2013 my goal is to write 50,000 words of usable fiction. That is, fiction I will be able to sell and publish. Fiction that will contribute to my livelihood. The 50k doesn’t have to all go to one story or even one series of stories. It’ll likely be spread out across the three main series I have ongoing at this time (Bouragner Felpz, Driving Arcana and Professor Odd, for those curious) and perhaps overflow into little one-off short stories. I don’t necessarily have to finish any of them (I prefer to let all my stories dictate their word-length individually; better to let a story be as long or as short as it likes, rather than trying to artificially lengthen or shorten it), I just have to write fifty-thousand words of fiction in 30 days.

Actually, 22 days, because this November I’m going to allow myself eight non-writing days. First, the weekend of the 9th and 10th when I will be at a Renaissance Faire playing squire to a friend who does medieval sword fighting demonstrations; second, the week of the 20th through the 25th, when I will be traveling to and from Chicago for Midwest FurFest. While I may surprise myself and manage to get in a little writing in the corners, those are not days where I will be able to count on writing 1,000+ words. So instead of 1,667 words per day, I’m going to be pulling 2,273 words per day minimum. Even though 2,273 is what I’ll have to average, if I set it as my minimum I’ll likely go over it by at least a small amount each writing day, thus banking a store for days near the end, or against unforeseen catastrophes.

What makes me think this is at all doable? Well, because I’ve actually been writing more this past year than I ever have before. I am, you could say, in training. I may never have run this marathon before, but I’ve done a lot of running, as it were. I know roughly how much time I’m going to have to budget for that many words per day, and I have a huge backlog of stories waiting to be written, so I’ll have no problem thinking of things to write.

I’ve been grinding away at this writing exercise for a long time. Now I’m just going to sprint for a while.

And after November? I’ll go back to my usual 500 word day minimum. I’ll still have more stories to write, after all.

During November I doubt I’ll be blogging much (want to save typing energy for FICTION!) but I’ll try to post weekly updates with word counts for the previous days and track how much goes into which stories—as much for my personal records as anything else.

If I have any advice for someone considering NaNoWriMo this year, I’d have to say (other than don’t feel you have to play by their rules, or that you have to do it at all) is: start writing now. Get in practice. Get in training. Marathon runners don’t just bounce off the couch and run 26 miles in three hours. They have to train. They have to work. So will you, if you want to write over a thousand words of fiction every day for a month. Don’t worry about running out of ideas: the more you write, the more ideas you will get. And if you find yourself happily jogging along at 250, 300, or 500 words a day, don’t feel obligated to sprint along with everybody else. You’re doing just fine as it is.

Because the practice of writing, unlike a marathon, has no finish line. There will always be another novel, another story, waiting to be told. Writing is a long game with no polarized winners or losers and lots of possible endings: don’t burn yourself out before you find the one you want.

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Goldeen Ogawa is a writer, illustrator and cartoonist. She has never run a marathon but she has ridden her bike up and over a 7,000 ft tall mountain. You can email her at goldeenogawa@gmail.com or peck at her on Twitter @GrimbyTweets

 

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The GreenThis is a portrait of Green (click image to full-view), a character from my short story “Abandon All —-” which appears in The Urban Green Man Anthology, currently out from Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy. I had a lot of fun with Green, both in the design and the characterization. I had in mind a character who was a bit more alien and inhuman that most versions of the Green Man. Someone who was a lot more wild and magical—a bit dangerous, but not necessarily malevolent.

Watercolor and acrylic ink on 9″x9″ cold press watercolor paper, prints available here. To read more about how I got involved in the Urban Green Man project, go here. You can also read my Q&A from the Bitten By Books online launch over here.

Art © 2013 by Goldeen Ogawa.

Goldeen Ogawa is a writer, illustrator and cartoonist. You can find more of her artwork online on her deviantART page. You can email her at goldeenogawa@gmail.com or peck at her on Twitter @GrimbyTweets

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I want to take a moment and talk about La Sirena by John Picacio.

La Sirena is an illustration for Picacio’s upcoming Loteria project, it won the 2013 Chesley award for product illustration, and it’s one of the images from his 2014 calendar. You can see it if you go to his kickstarter page and scroll down.

Go on. I’ll wait. Open it in a new window so you can have it up next to this blog as you read.

To understand the context of how I relate to art, particularly art containing topless women, one must understand that I have been increasingly sensitized to the portrayal of women’s bodies in art—especially naked ones. Having an actual woman’s body by with which to compare these illustrated ones, I am acutely aware that they are often romanticized ideals rather than accurate representations, and a lot of the time those ideals are not the ones I personally hold. Furthermore, the depiction of women in the context of fantasy illustration is rife with campy poses and overt sexualization which is at best comical and at worst blood-rage inducing. My favorite (read: least favorite) is the classic “tits+ass spinebreaker” which is most commonly found in comic books but has appeared elsewhere. In it, the woman is put into a impossible contortion so that she is displaying both her bosom and her derrière to the viewer. (Try doing that in the mirror, guys. Just try it.) The point is clearly to display as much of the woman’s assets as possible, with no regard to her internal anatomy or the believability of the pose, and a certain amount of confusion about whether she’s a character or a blow-up toy.

Given this, one can begin to understand why La Sirena is such a welcome change. In it, we see a topless woman, but she is posed conservatively and—and this is the kicker—realistically. It is as though she just happened to be doing this and the artist caught her at a moment when, from his point of view, her right upper arm just happened to drift between his line of sight and her boobs. So it doesn’t look like one of those contrived “Oops! We can’t show nipples here, move a finger!” pictures—which is itself a major accomplishment. The pose is also notable in that she appears to be doing something; her arms aren’t just floating there artistically. The artist has given them purpose and tension and strength—in such a way that they just happen to look dramatic and artistic. I cannot stress enough how much this encapsulates the very heart of what illustration is, and how very difficult it is to pull off.

Then let us consider her attractiveness. She is beautiful, yes, but in a haunting, slightly scary way. She’s clearly not human, and the diving helmet suggests that, should you become enchanted by her song, you would not meet a happy fate. This is not just a piece of eye candy (although she is very enjoyable to look at), this is a force that, while pleasant enough to behold when safely trapped on a piece of paper, is not something you’d want to meet in real life. In this way she transcends any objectification the viewer might bring to the picture, and becomes a character in her own right.

Now I would like to take a closer look at her features. I like that she is well rounded—not too thin. Moreover, I like that she has been given features that are not overtly Caucasian. Considering that she is an illustration for a thematically Mexican card game it would be easy to assume that she is of Central American ethnicity, but because—due to the surrealistic style of the colors—we cannot really know what color her skin is, she could be any number of races. She has that soft, round nose and full lower lip that evokes African, Asian, and Native American ancestry—all depending on what preconceived notions the viewer brings to the piece. That is a very large cross-section of the population, especially when you take into account that a lot of self-identified “white” people are actually a mix of different races and often exhibit characteristics we usually associate with brown-skinned people. Take into consideration also the fact that the white-washing of characters in science fiction and fantasy illustration has been (and continues at times to be) a major problem, and it is particularly gratifying to find an instance of an artist coming as close as possible to depicting a “neutral” race person. That is, a person whose race is dependent entirely upon the viewer. I am part Japanese, and so I see the Japanese characteristics about her. But I imagine, if I was Indian, I’d see her as Indian. And so on. And considering that she is a fantastical being this attribute is especially fitting, because it allows people of many different ethnicities (or, as in my case, a mix of ethnicities) to see themselves in her. I feel this is important when one is dealing with made-up characters, because allowing the viewer to see a bit of themselves in your creation will help to ground them, and creates a connection between the creation and the viewer that will make it seem more real. And when your creation is a rainbow-skinned octopus lady you need all the realness you can get.

Finally, as a minor note, I’d just like to add: the scales on those fishes are amazing. Mad details there, bro.

Basically John Picacio is the best and you should go back his Kickstarter. And if you can, back it enough to get one of the calendars—I have his 2013 calendar, and I am here to say these things are awesome.

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Goldeen Ogawa is a writer, illustrator and cartoonist. Aside from John Picacio, her other favorite artists include James Gurney and Ursula Vernon. You can email her at goldeenogawa@gmail.com or peck at her on Twitter @GrimbyTweets

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