When the short story becomes a novella, and art photo book plans

Model: Naja Marie Photographed by: Denise Ruttan in 2018

This week is a good week for writing, but a lousy week for exercise. Sometimes it goes like that.

Aside from yesterday, I have managed to wake up before 7 a.m. every day this week, and today I even stumbled awake to my gurgling coffee pot at 5:45 a.m. I am enjoying getting my creative juices flowing in the early morning. It is that time of year when it is still dark out, and the cold is invigorating. It’s quiet, and I can focus on my stream of consciousness thoughts through the cobwebs of my emergence from sleep. Soon enough, the autumn chill will creep in, and it will be hot tea weather once again. Certainly getting tired of soda. I for one can’t wait for autumn leaves and fog. Fall is my favorite time of year.

I have decided I will be focusing the most on ASH PLANET and my art photo book. I always found it difficult to multi-task on a lot of creative projects at once and still complete any of them. ASH PLANET was originally going to be a 3,000 word submission for another anthology, but I believe it has novella potential. I wrote a bit of it already, but I think I will shelve the 700 words I have written so far as backstory for my outline and begin an outline in earnest. It is really only a shell of an idea right now, and it needs some fleshing out, if I’m going to get serious about it.

Also, I think the anthology I was submitting to wants more fantasy than sci-fi in its speculative fiction, and I want to make this hard science fiction, complete with research about deep space exploration and surviving on alien worlds.

In that vein, I started reading PLANETFALL by Emma Newman as a comp title (for comparison, if you’re not familiar with the publishing term). It’s a beautifully intimate work so far, featuring a bisexual MC with an anxiety disorder and a dark past who works as a 3D printer engineer on a colony far from Earth. I am only 30 percent in and I am all in for that plot. Plus it has the literary quality I want to achieve in my own writing.

In other reading news, I stayed up late on Wednesday night finishing ROSEMARY AND RUE by Seanan McGuire and that is another urban fantasy novel that is aspirational for my own writing. A fae kingdom is hiding in plain sight in San Francisco, and the protagonist is a changeling private eye. It was so good. Unfortunately, the Libby app does not carry the rest of the series. I hate it when publishers do that.

Anyway, back to the novella plans. This year I have been doing Ray Bradbury’s challenge to write a short story every week for a year, and I have mostly kept up with the challenge. It has inspired me to stay creative in the pandemic. Short stories are difficult to write well, but they are about all my attention span can handle these days. I just don’t know if I have the stamina for a novel. So I think a novella would be a good transition. I have bandied about a few ideas, but I don’t want to get too intense with research requirements; if I need to do six months of research to even begin, I’m in the kind of mindset where I don’t think I’d ever finish it. However, since I want my story to be hard science fiction, not space opera, I would like it to at least be scientifically accurate.

I’ll probably still write some flash fiction, after I get underway with ASH PLANET. It’s my main writing goal to get qualified for membership into the Science Fiction Writers of America, so I need to submit to more qualifying pro markets. My previous anthology acceptance counts toward membership, at least. It would be great to land a couple more pro sales.

So… maybe I can multi-task after all, if I give myself some external deadline pressure.

This morning, when I realized I was going to turn ASH PLANET into a novella, I put off my outline and worked on my photo book instead. I am going to call it SHIMMER and I have decided to expand it from fine art nude/boudoir photography into simply a “best of” compilation of my archive of model photography from a span of seven years. I am still deciding on a theme; perhaps diversity.

I plan to self-publish it on Lulu. I will have to design a PDF myself in Adobe Photoshop, as I do not have Adobe InDesign. I read the PDF creation instructions and at first it was confusing. Usually I procrastinate on confusing projects like this because I get overwhelmed. But it sounds easy enough. You just have to design for sufficient gutter space for the size of book you want, I am thinking A5, so that the images do not bleed into the binding, and provide for enough space for the spine. And the images need to be at least 150 DPI in resolution.

This morning I was also reaching out to some of my past models to get their permission for inclusion in the photo book. I will be charging money for this print on demand project, but I don’t expect to make any money at it. I’ll probably be lucky if I get 5 buyers. But I don’t want those images sitting in my harddrive any more; they deserve to be seen. In Lulu, you can set it so that either you buy a small run of copies for yourself and sell and distribute them, or Lulu handles the printing and distribution for you, and assigns you an ISBN. I will do it the latter way. I have looked into producing a small run of copies, like 50-100, but I can’t see how I can make that cost-effective to still keep the retail price low enough.

So print on demand it will be. It will be akin to my Redbubble shop, where I just upload a PDF or a JPG, and the company handles everything else. You can’t control the quality of the product as well, but I would rather leave it in somebody else’s hands and lower my upfront cost; plus it’s far more convenient to let them handle the shipping and processing. There are pros and cons to doing it this way, certainly.

In personal news, I’ve been pretty good with meditation in the evening, although I skipped a couple nights when I was feeling too mopey. Nights are the worst for my anxiety, and it can be hard to make myself do the self care routines that I know are good for me. I decided to purchase the Calm app. So maybe that will help force me to stop with the excuses. I’m always too tired, too anxious, too bored, too something, to exercise or meditate or write or fill in the blank. You can habituate the excuses, or you can habituate the self care.

Today is 13 days sober. A couple more weekends to go and I’ll have met my first month goal. Still aiming for a year.

Haven’t done any weight lifting or yoga this week; all I have wanted to do over my lunch hour is nap or read a book in bed. I would say it’s okay to not be productive, if I could enjoy doing nothing without feeling guilty about it. One of those weeks. I hope to do some lifting today and this weekend. I also hope to work on my ASH PLANET outline tomorrow and brush off my sewing machine again. Looking at Instagram sewing pages and hashtags has inspired me to conquer my fear of my sewing machine. This weekend I also hope to hike and clean around the house.

Additionally, my garden has become overgrown with mile-high weeds, so I need to put some time into weeding during the coolness of the morning. Haven’t done any weeding in weeks. We are continuing to get red cherry and sauce tomatoes and lemon cucumber. The zucchini is starting to peter out but we still get fruit. The lettuce, chard and radish have gone to seed, but we got a good run out of them. The beans and peas are probably done too. But we got a decent crop this year. Just did not keep up with weeding. Always the trick. Got the harvesting down and the watering down, at least. Blossom end rot seems to be a problem for some of our vegetables, but just need to work on adding calcium to the soil.

That is all for now. I am trying to post twice a week so I do not write such long, rambling posts. It turns out my life is not as boring as I thought it was. Happy Friday, and may your weekend be filled with fun and productivity, whichever path you prefer.


Support my creative work? Donate $1 to my tip jars! http://www.venmo.com/denise-ruttan or http://www.ko-fi.com/fieldofstars

3 thoughts on “When the short story becomes a novella, and art photo book plans

  1. Congratulations on your sobriety so far! I know all too well that’s not an easy thing to accomplish, so I’m rooting for you. It sounds like you have some cool things planned, and I’d definitely be interested in seeing what your photo book is if you decide to go forward with that. Either way, best of luck in all of your pursuits!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Sobriety is helping me wake up earlier which is helping me be more productive, so with any luck, I’ll get some of these dreams done! I’ll definitely keep you in the loop on the photo book!


  2. Congrats for staying strong. PLANETFALL sounds like Mass Effect because of the bisexual characters, haunted pasts and space exploration. I was thinking about you on Friday due to a short documentary. I watched ManeCat Shoots with Matt Schmidt and Amelia Simone. Your portfolio is superior, Denise. I hope you will make your own documentary.

    Liked by 1 person

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