Farewell 2013!

It’s been an eventful year for T. K. Trian. Sure, we still haven’t finished Solus even though we thought we would, but it turned out that despite us working on it almost daily, there’s so much more to do than we ever expected. We have come up with new ideas, found flaws in our plot and writing technique, and wrestled with industry standards vs. creative freedom. It’s a learning curve, writing, but damn is it fun, too!

Nevertheless, there are a few things we can be happy about as we look back Twenty-Thirteen.

1) Joining writingforums.org aka Creative Writing Forums
– T. K. Trian have a lousy history when it comes to writing forums. We tried three places before settling at CW. Got kicked out of one (good riddance), got sick of the amazingly non-creative atmosphere of another, and the third one seemed a little dry. Then came CW, a scintillating community of all kinds of folk but mostly open-minded literary rebels. We’ve made new friends and had the privilege to read amazing, inspiring stories. Who knows what kind of future stars some of them will turn out to be?

2) Adventures
– Despite numerous health problems, we did get to adventure this year, St. Petersburg, Russia being perhaps the highlight. A beautiful city, delicious food, affordable shopping, and fascinating museums. The pitch-black night on the deck of a cruise ship, surrounded by the raging Gulf of Finland was also something to remember.

3) Academic Achievements
– While not anything to brag about, we’ve enjoyed the brainy atmosphere of the University of Helsinki this year as well. It will be a bittersweet day when we both finally graduate…

4) Creative Achievements
– Solus has been our number one focus this year, but on the side, T.Trian has worked hard with his band, Niavka. Some line-up changes have occurred, but the recording of new material has been underway ever since October, and the vocals should be recorded in January-February 2014. Very exciting! We also wrote separate entries to the Annual Science Fiction Contest of CW. Looking forward to finding out how we did!

What were your highlights, personal or professional, of 2013?

Happiness Through Action

By T.Trian

I haven’t spent hours, weeks, days, or months on our couch. I have spent years lying there, wasting away into nothing until I was but a shadow of my former self. Sure, one could argue that I have a reason because of my (at times) debilitating back pain, but I feel that would be lying to myself, like settling when I know I could get so much more, be so much more, at least what I used to be, hopefully more. It goes without saying that a physical ailment such as this, an ailment that limits one’s life to this degree has its effect not only on the physique, but the psyche as well.

This experience of some five years has taught me a few things, but I feel the most important is this: inactivity is like a psychological cancer that eventually starts to erode your body as well. It grabs hold of you and if you don’t shake it off immediately, it latches on and starts growing, breeding inside you at an unprecedented pace, and it’s fucking scary.

If you’re a neat freak, this metaphor will probably fly over your head (or, rather, crawl between your legs), but it’s the best one I have in mind: the messier of us often make decisions to keep our homes clean. We’ve spent hours tidying up and decide ”never again, from now on I will be a neat freak, I will put everything where it belongs after I’ve used it.” But then one day you realize that your apartment is a mess. Again. How did this happen? Messiness creeps up on you like a ghost.

Inactivity works in much the same way: once it has a solid hold on you, before you know it, you’ve been diagnosed with depression or adjustment disorder or whatever, and you’re stuck in your bed, couch, or wherever it is that you glue your ass when you’ve had it for the day. The problem with inactivity is that the longer you’ve let it hold sway in your mind and body, the harder it is to shake it off, get off your cute, little ass and do something, anything.

Well, here’s a little secret tip: that feeling of an insurmountable challenge you experience after a long spell on inactivity is an illusion. Imagine spearheading an army against your enemy’s fortress. You’re rumbling down the field and towards the castle walls, screaming at the top of your lungs, about to smash the battering ram at the sturdy gates. And then you burst through to the other side. The gates were made of paper. That’s how solid the mighty wall of inactivity is.

I know it’s fucking hard sometimes, trust me, especially at first, but it is doable. All it takes is that first step. That’s it. After that first action, it’s as if the shackles pinning you down shatter, and you’re free again. All you need is that one battering ram to punch through the debilitating mirage.

What’s my battering ram, my secret? Push-ups. I’ve tried the guitar, studying, even dry-fire drills with my pistol (though sitting down, more comfy that way for a lazy bastard like myself), but they don’t work as well as something purely physical, something that forces your body to crash through those paper battlements. If I had a pull-up bar, I’d do those too.

Try it out. I dare you. I double-hare dare you (had to use hares, they’re just so damn awesome in all their fluffy cuteness). Get up and squeeze out as many push-ups as you can. Find out how many you managed and let me know in the comment section below.

The first time I did this after years of inactivity, I managed only 20 (I used to be able to do 4-5 sets of 45). My body was in shock, my heart was bursting through my rib cage, and I was breathless… but I felt good! It was as if my muse had emerged from her own dimension into my reality and blown a breath of energy and inspiration, a breath of life into not only my body, but my mind as well. It was almost like a dense fog was lifted; I saw the world clearly again.

Nowadays I do push-ups, bicep curls, the ab wheel, the horse stance, and the plank several times a day, every day. Sometimes I forget a set here and there, but I try to do one set every time I get up, be it to go to the fridge or to take a leak or whatever. Nothing fancy, just a set of push-ups. The next time you get up, a set on the ab wheel and so on and so forth. Now I can do 4-5 sets of 20 push-ups a day, 1-2 sets of 15-20 reps on the ab wheel, 1-2 sets of 75 seconds in the plank (single position, longer if I do my sides too), 3-4 sets of 6-9 curls per hand with 12,5-15 kg per hand,  and a set of one minute in the horse stance. I know, it’s not much, a far cry from what I could do before, but it’s a start. Since I don’t do the sets one after another, I don’t even get sweaty: I do a set, then return to what I was doing before, so I don’t need to take ten showers a day.

I know this comes off as a fairly brutish routine since it has nothing to do with spirituality or positive thinking or anything fancy like that, but who cares as long as it works? Since I started doing this, I’ve been more inspired to write, practice the guitar, study for exams, in essence, get my shit together.

I just participated in a sci-fi short story competition with my wife at www.writingforums.org (we both submitted our own shorts, which was a fun experiment, but that was it for us as far as solo writing goes: to us, it’s just double the fun to write together), I signed up to take part in an IPSC competition, I’ve recorded with my band and guitar trio, and I’m studying for the year’s last exams. And it feels amazing. My life is finally moving forward, I am moving forward, out of that perpetual limbo, no longer trapped in that couch-shaped cage that was my prison for so long.

And all of this started with one set of push-ups. That simple exercise we all know, love, and hate. It’s so simple one might even think it couldn’t possibly work, but it does. Try it out. Then again, what works for me, might not work for you, but try different things: go for a walk or a run, go swimming, do yoga, dance. Hell, fuck or masturbate, do whatever it takes to drag your body and mind out of that fog that envelops us when we succumb to inactivity.

So, get your heart pumping and your testicles or tits quaking, tear down the castle of inactivity, and find that spark again, bring yourself back to life. Like Geoff Thompson says; find happiness through action. I did.

Endings and Why I Don’t Like Them

by K. Trian

Yesterday I “finished” my entry to a science fiction short story contest both T and I are going to partake. Basically the story is done, the plot taoers to the end, the main conflicts are resolved, yet I still have no idea how to end the story. I want it to be satisfactory, I wanted it to offer a sense of a circle being closed, maybe leave the reader with something to think about so that they don’t feel like reading my story was a complete waste of time.

But damn it’s hard.

I like beginnings. Beginnings are easy. I never worry about the first words, nowadays I just start the story as late as I can and move on from there.

Endings – not so much fun. I’ve always struggled with them. I even hate reaching the end of a novel (which might explain why I tend to leave books anywhere between, say, 1-10 % unread) because a part of me just doesn’t want it to end. It feels like death and I’m the murderer, it feels like preparing for a funeral whenever I’m approaching it, THE END. FIN. I realize I have only 10 pages left and the author still hasn’t answered some of the questions that keep burning in my brain. I’m terrified; what if s/he won’t? Most likely s/he won’t! So sometimes I just don’t go to the last page. I leave the book alive, return to my killing floor when I’m ready.

With my own writing, I know I want to finish what I’ve started. T and I have finished the first drafts for most of our works. I don’t mind killing my own book, but finding the way to do it often feels like an insurmountable task – as is the case with my latest short story.

How do you guys approach endings? How important are they to you? Do you try to close the circle, say something profound before you leave the reader? Do you know your ending when you start writing?

October Horses

By K. Trian

October isn’t quite over yet, but I thought I’d share some horse memories from this month.

Even though our main writing project is sci-fi, T and I have always loved a good ole medieval fantasy, and the fans of the genre probably know how important horses are as a mean of transportation or as loyal friends to many a sword-wielding hero and heroine.

And we just love writing horses into our stories, crafting personalities for them, developing relationships between the horse and rider (not the creepy kind. Also, we don’t do centaurs). Suffice to say, they sometimes even steal the floor from the human heroes.

I’ve been nuts about horses ever since I was 6 or so, and my husband was a goner too after he met the golden-hearted gelding I used to groom, but who, unfortunately, passed away a few years ago. T’s accompanied me to the stables for years now, even though I’m currently grooming a less friendly animal than the gelding, a rather capricious filly (just yesterday she was running circles around me, literally).

Taking T riding was always something I really wanted to do, and this year we’ve fulfilled the dream a couple of times. Sure, he’s a bit of an oddball at the stables that are usually crowded by girls and women, but horses often seem to prefer a softly-spoken, calm, and firm-handed man as their master over a fussy, chirpy teenage girl. I think he did really well, trotting about on his white “steed,” or when we went riding icelandic horses and he got to tölt (a special gait for the breed). Some people are afraid of being up there, so I must say, I was pretty darn proud of him 😀

What are your favorite memories of horses?

As stated in the title, this post is supposed to be about October horses, so here’re a few of them! 🙂

Veera and his tired but happy rider, T. Trian.

Veera and his tired but happy rider, T. Trian.

Some feats from the Helsinki International Horse Show (sorry about the quality. The camera phone isn’t ideal for this).

Incredible riding and jumping.

Incredible riding and jumping.

The kür was something amazing to look at. Some horses and riders were so attuned to the music and it was like looking at a dance performance. Some other riders were less successful, though...

The kür was something amazing to look at. Some horses and riders were incredibly attuned to the music, and it was like looking at a dance performance. Some other riders were less successful, though…

A Tornado in Your Writing File – or Is It Neater than Neato McNeat’s Sock Drawer?

How the hell do you keep yourself organized?

Since we write together, there is probably even a vaster abundance of ideas to sort through than when one is writing and brainstorming alone. Consequently, one of the biggest challenges we have is keeping things organized, be it character sheets, story planning files, different drafts etc. We use a cloud service to keep our writing from disappearing if the computer commits suicide, and we have folders upon folders containing new and old plans, new and old drafts, and all kinds of weird notes and ideas scattered about, but it would be nice to find some fairly effortless yet neat system to keep the pieces of the story and its world organized.

So, should we switch to Scrivener? Would it really be worth it? (At this point it seems like a waste of money, especially because we aren’t published authors). Does it actually help at organizing stuff? Or is it something hipsters use when they write poems on their laptops in some trendy café?

To us it’s easier to type on-the-go-ideas (that pop up just when you’ve squeezed yourself into a full commuter train) into our phones instead of writing on a notebook. The voice recorder application is a handy little thing when you want to remember your ideas after you’ve come home from your evening jog (that’s when typing on a touchpad feels like an insurmountable task). Ideas saved in the phone’s memory (card) are easier to keep organized. The phone is less likely to get lost, so it’s definitely a great substitute for a notebook – especially because we have no sensible way to organize the ideas scribbled on those coffee-stained notebook pages. They don’t automatically copy themselves to any cloud service —  how very passé! They just get lost, like socks and bobby pins.

How about you, dear writers out there? Feel free to share your tips – or straight-out admit that there’s a daily tornado in your writing file as well, shuffling all those nuggets of information and teeny-weeny story ideas that you haphazardly typed down on Notepad, saved just seconds before you had to make that desperate dash for the bus, and then forgot for two months before you found that file (titled “some crap.txt”) again from between a “battle-plan.bmp” and “random outtakes 5.doc.”

Peace out,

T&K

When Do You Dare Let Go?

Lately, Team Trian has been working madly on Solus , (hence the blog silence, sorry about that, in case someone reads this stuff, hah), and for a few sweet hours, we thought that thing was ready for submission.

But no.

It’s not. It’s really not. And this must be the 11th draft! We are starting to wonder whether it’s us, whether we just suck so badly that we can’t get it done or whether it is actually normal for a novel to take years and a gazillion drafts to be finished.

Our main problem is the length. We have to cut it down to, say, at least 180k. Space operas can be quite long, even those by new writers, and it seems we won’t be able to cut it any shorter than that.

Second problem is the amount of telling. Truth is, the prose is stronger and more effective when we show instead of right-out tell (we aren’t slaves to this “rule,” but it’s got a point!), and it’s a slow process to find the best way to convey Thing X in the most effective possible way.

Third problem is, how to put it delicately, some major new-writer rule-breakage. Italics for thoughts? Check (though way, way, way less than there used to be). Names for chapters? Check. Oh and the length, that’s a problem too, probably the biggest one, but it seems we’re going to have to live with all these “faults,” and hope that someone somewhere some day saw something potential in this manuscript… or else it’s self-pubbing for us.

Then there’s the technical side: formatting and grammar. Are the commas in the right place? Have we remembered every hashtag? Do we capitalize foreign words that would be capitalized in English but not in the other language?

How have you, dear published writers, jumped over these hurdles? Or perhaps you ram right through? When do you let go of your baby? How many drafts does it take? How high have you set up the bar and how much do you forgive yourselves?

We’ll be pondering this tonight while kicking some ass (read: have our asses kicked) in Medieval fencing and wrestling class and modern boxing class (yay for shitty time management and over-ambitious scheduling!).

Peace out and shoulder-punches all ’round!

T&K