My progress on the Just Write Challenge (and some other writing stuff)

I signed up for Kasie Whitener’s Just Write Challenge in December of last year (I think).  The goal was to write 13 original short stories in the year.

Later, Kasie amended the rules a bit to include revised stories.

The goal was to have everything ready to submit in the fall.  Well, I’ve been submitting my stories all along.  I don’t think that disqualifies me, but I just wanted to come clean.

Here is my progress review:

New/original fiction

  1. Nothing’s Perfect – flash fiction – posted to my blog for one of Chuck Wendig’s challenges – January 2013.  No acceptance or rejection carried with the challenge.
  2. Beneath the Foundations – short story – completed and submitted to Innsmouth Free Press Sword and Mythos anthology, February 2013. Subsequently rejected.
  3. Molly Finder – short story – completed and submitted to In Places Between, April 2013.  Subsequently rejected.
  4. The Broken Places – short story – completed and submitted to Fearful Symmetries anthology, May 2013.  Subsequently rejected.  I can now say that I’ve been rejected by the likes of Ellen Datlow.  Not sure whether that’s a good or a bad thing 😉

Revised fiction

I’m so glad that Kasie changed her expectations, because, whew, I kind of petered out after June 😦

  1. Downtime – short story, revised and submitted to On Spec, January 2013.  Accepted! (2014 schedule)
  2. A Terrible Thing – short story, revised and submitted to Tesseracts 17, February 2013.  Subsequently rejected.
  3. The Gabriel – short story (approaching novella), revised and submitted to Writers of the Future, March 2013.  Subsequently rejected.
  4. Cicadas – short story, revised and submitted to the Rannu Fund Prize, June 2013.  Outcome unknown at this time.
  5. Night Traffic – flash fiction, revised and submitted to Mouse Tales Press, July 2013.  Accepted! (October 2013)
  6. Killing with Kindness – flash fiction, revised and submitted to Gigantic Worlds anthology, July 2013.  Subsequently rejected.

So, with 4 new and 6 revised, I’m up to 10 stories written or revised and submitted, yielding 3 acceptances, 5 rejections, 1 neutral, and 1 outstanding response. That’s not bad.

Previous year’s submissions

Submissions last year resulted in acceptances of my poetry to The Atomy (July 2013) and Enhance (March 2013), the inclusion of a creative non-fiction piece in Spooky Sudbury (October 2013), and the acceptance of one of my photos, also to Enhance (January 2014).

Poetry

My poetry has also been accepted by Sulphur (date of publication as yet unknown).  This was the only poetry submission I have made this year.

WIP

I have finished what I thought was going to be my last revision of Initiate of Stone before querying, but I’m still quite a bit over the maximum word length generally considered by agents and editors in my genre.

As my goal is to obtain representation and a traditional deal (if I can), I’m parsing again, but am 3/4 the way through that process as well.  I may need one more go-though to trim those last few thousand words, though.  I’m getting to the point that it seems naked!

Once that’s done, it’s beta time*, preparation of my synopsis and query, sending to interested parties from a pitch conference last fall, and the slow agony of the querying process.

Other writing goals

I’m going to be attending the Surrey International Writers’ Conference this year and entering their fiction contest.  It will likely be a revised story.

There is another contest in early September for which I will likely revise something.

If I’m able to get a self-funded leave (this is a work thing—lots of stuff happening, or not, on that front, but I’m saving it up until I have a better idea of my fate), I will be revamping my blog and moving to self-hosted WordPress (eek!).

Once my current WIP is into the querying stage, and until I hear from my betas, I will return to Gerod and the Lions, my MG fantasy, just for something different.  I’m going to be on the lookout for more anthologies and interesting calls to see if I can get some more original fiction written.  Again, this may depend on whether I get my self-funded leave or not.

Once GatL is drafted, I’ll return to my Ascension series, either revising IoS based on beta/other recommendations, or moving on to Apprentice of Wind.

That’s all I have on the go or in the plan for now.

What have you been up to recently?  Have you joined any challenges?  How is it going?  Working on a novel?  Short stories?  Poetry? Creative or other non-fiction?  I’d love to hear about your creative adventures!

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*I have several people in mind, but if you are interested in epic fantasy with a female protagonist, drop me a line at melanie (dot) marttila (at) gmail (dot) com.

May submit-o-rama was a bust :(

I got side-tracked, in a marvellous way, but still side-tracked, by courses.

May Submit-o-rama ChoiceI know myself and my limits.  Further, I’m focusing on fiction at this time versus verse, so I opted for the Choose your own Challenge category, and set my goal, as I had back in October, at one submission per week.

At the time, I was working on two short stories for submission May 31, 2013, and so I thought maybe a couple of flash fiction pieces, or something equally non-angst-inducing and I’d be able to make it.  If necessary, I could polish up some of my older, unpublished poems and see what I could do, but then the learning opportunities came knocking, and I knew I wouldn’t have time to do more than the two stories.

Last week, the deadline on one of the submissions I had planned was extended, and frankly, I was glad. Being out of town for training derailed my writing plans.  So in the end, I submitted one short story in the entire month of May.

It was an original, though, so at least it counted toward Kasie Whitener’s Just Write short story challenge (13 original stories in 2013).  Unfortunately, it was April’s original 😛

I participated, but I don’t think that it could be considered a success.

I’m remarkably okay with that though.  I’ve got my fingers into so much right now, that something had to give.

Other perceived failures

I’d submitted a guest post that was to have gone live sometime in April but my colleague’s even more hectic schedule intervened.  There was some hope that the post might have been rescheduled in May, but the month has passed and it looks like it won’t see the light of day any time soon.  It’s only the second guest post I’ve submitted.  It’s also the second that didn’t pan out.

An interview that I arranged recently also seems to have fallen through.

Why it’s all good

There’s a saying that if you aren’t failing, that you aren’t doing enough to stretch yourself.

I agree with that, so long as the individual who perceives their actions as failure can put the attempt in a positive frame.  Otherwise, it can weigh on the soul.

My perspective: so long as you’ve tried your level best, you’ve upheld your part of the bargain.

I put my best effort into everything that I do, or try.  I can feel satisfied with that and I learn something important every time.  At the end of the day, it is enough.  I am enough.

Are you failing upward?  Have you had some perceived failures recently that have left you questioning yourself?  How have you overcome the negative and turned it into a positive?

Do share.  I’d love to hear what y’all have been up to 🙂

Spinning the wheel for Chuck Wendig

So … this is my response to a flash fiction challenge posted by Chuck Wendig last Friday.  Through random selection, I got sub-genre: Zombie Apocalypse; conflict: family torn apart; and must include: a forbidden book.

Here’s the result (at exactly 1000 words):

Nothing’s perfect

The first time I’d done more than throw a punch at anyone, I levelled a rusted axe … at my mother’s neck.  Then again, she had just tried to eat me.

What a mind-fuck.  Despite the dire nature of my circumstances, I just couldn’t do it.  I swung the axe a couple of times, half-hearted, backing down the hall.

Then, I turned and ran like all the the demons of hell were on my ass.  Believe me, a zombie-mom qualifies.  I took the stairs at a leap, one hand on the rail.

Mom tumbled down after me.

There was no point staying in the house, fighting a losing battle with a mother, who, though diseased, I refused to kill.  So I’d have to take my chances outside.  Until I found some better place to hole up.

I locked the door behind me, hoping to slow Mom down further.  If she never got out of the house, I wouldn’t complain.  Not only would I not have to kill her then, but nobody else would be able to either.  Zombie or not, she was still my mom and I just couldn’t imagine Justin or Laur—or any of my other friends—taking a baseball bat to her head.  That assumed that none of my friends had been infected.

Stop thinking about this shit.  Just go!

The street appeared empty enough, the odd mail or news carrier shambling along would be easy to evade, but a quick look through the windows, cheerily lit for the evening meal, of the surrounding homes told me that no house on the street could be considered safe.  Even if it was only a smear of blood on the wall, I wasn’t about to take the chance.  Not after I saw Darcy’s dad sink his teeth into his daughter’s arm.  I stopped looking in windows after that.

Skimming along the back fences of the yards, between the property lines, seemed a safe-enough plan and the school a possible destination.  Old Larry, the crazy janitor, should be gone by now and I hoped the security guard had gotten “distracted” on his way in.  Either that, or one of them saw what happened and raised some form of defence.

“Jesus Christ!”  Someone barrelled into me from behind, her scream mingling with my profanity.  Her light blue hoodie stood out in the darkness.  She didn’t try to bite me.  “It’s okay,” I said repeating the words several times, holding onto her shoulders, praying she hadn’t been bit, or lost her shit.

“Andy?” she said.  Not bitten.  Not shitless, but shaking like a Chihuahua.  “It’s really not.  Okay, I mean.”

“Sands?”  Thank God I’m not alone.  “Where’s Justin?”

“I don’t know.”

“Your parents?”

“Dead.  Or undead.  Justin told me to run.  I couldn’t not—God!  They got him, didn’t they?”

“Did you see him get bit?”

“No.”

“Then he’s not bit.  Where you headed?”

“I don’t know,” she said again.  Calmer, but hopeless now.

“Come with me.”

 

Sands and I made our way around Barton Hill Secondary, checking doors as we went.  All locked.

“Andy,” she said, voice made strange by the night, “if we see Justin and he’s one of them, you’d kill him, right?”

“I don’t think so.  I could kill my mom even after she … I don’t think so.”

“It’s the right thing to do though, isn’t it?  They wouldn’t want to be … that way.”

I had no clue what she wanted me to say, figured anything I’d say would go wrong.

“I’m not your friend.  You barely know me,” she said.

“No.”  I can’t.  Don’t ask me.

“If something happens, you kill me.”

“No.”  I don’t want to be alone.

Sands opened her mouth to speak again and screamed instead.  I turned and saw Larry running at us with a real axe, one of the shiny, red ones in the cases with the fire extinguishers.   The rusty axe made a hollow ‘thunk’ as it hit the ground.  I followed, landed on my ass and elbows.  Sands screamed again.

Larry lumbered to a stop, grunting, and then smiled like Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight.  “Perfect,” he said.  “Inside. You’re just what I need.”

Sands knelt beside me, dragging the axe back so she could get a good grip on it.

“Inside.”  Larry pointed to the door.  In the next moment, it opened and Laur poked his head out.

“Get your asses in here.”  He looked again, his eyebrows rose, and he looked back over his shoulder.  “Dieser, it’s your sister and Carsin.”

“Justin?” said Sands.

We scrambled up and ran to the door, Larry watching our backs with the shiny, red axe.

Inside the cafe-torium, Laur led us to a table where Justin, a security guard, and a wide-eyed and shaking woman sat.  Laur and Justin were spattered with blood.

Larry locked the door behind us and joined us.  “Seven’s the number we need to do this thing.”

“What thing?” I said.

“This thing,” said Larry.  He threw something onto the table between us.  A big, musty-smelling book.  He reached between me and Laur, tipped the cover open with his finger, and leafed through the pages.  “There.”

All I saw were a bunch of scrawling letters with a drawing that looked like a zombie.

“What’s it say?” Sands asked.

“Don’t they teach you kids Latin anymore?”  Not even the guard and the woman nodded.  “Jesus … Stole this from my uncle.  Archaeologist, dug up a bunch of old monasteries in France.  Said the church didn’t want to lay claim to this.  I figured it was something special.”

“So?” said Justin.

“It’s magic.  Spells.  This one’s to stop the end of days.”

“What?”

“The Rapture.  Revelations?  You think the Bible’s all metaphor?  The dead walk.  I’m sure it’s not what the Pope thought it’d be.”  Larry laughed.  “If seven of us say the words, we reset the clock.  The dead go back to being dead and we get back to living.”

“What about our parents?”

“Nothing’s perfect.”

 

The next chapter

Have desk, will write

Have desk, will write (Photo credit: Bright Meadow)

Today, I’m going to share some of what’s happening next with my work in progress (WIP).

Early in the life of Writerly Goodness, I blogged regularly about my WIP, from its origins, through various drafts, to the lessons the whole process taught me.  I also blogged my character sketches and world-building fairly extensively.  I’ve been a little quiet on the subject in recent months however.

The reason for this is that I have been focusing on the revision of my latest draft, and in keeping with my reasonable and malleable goals for the new year, I have now finished that work (to the degree I am currently able) and have sent my manuscript for a content edit.

This is scary.

Why?  Because it means that I’m taking this whole process seriously.  I’m getting closer to perfecting Initiate of Stone for submission and/or publication.

Given the responses I’ve gotten from various writerly authority figures in my early life, my internal editor is very well-versed in the whole “what the hell do you think you’re doing/you can’t write/your ideas are crap/your writing is puerile/you’ll never make it” brand of advice.  I’ve had to tame that beast and try to get over it.

But … there’s still this voice in my head that says: “but what if this investment (the content edit) backfires?”  What if the result is the confirmation of all my worst fears and neuroses?

I can’t think about that.  So, while I wait to hear back from the editor, I’m moving on.

What’s up, buttercup?

First, I’m going to make a few submissions of short stories.

I’m revising one for submission to an SF magazine, which I will have to do this weekend.

I’m going to participate in a few flash fiction challenges.

I’m also going to aim for a couple of anthology submissions:

  • Sword and Mythos – January 15-February 15, 2013
  • Tesseracts 17 – February 28, 2013
  • Plus, I’m going to keep my eye out for the open reading period for Fearful Symmetries.  I don’t know if I’ll have anything appropriate for the publication, but I’ll certainly give it a try.

Second, I’m going to move on to a new novel.  As of my last writing on the subject, I hadn’t decided what.  The logical next step would be the second novel in the Ascension series, Apprentice of Wind.  I’m thinking that something completely different might be in order though.

So just to give me a complete break from Ferathainn for a while, I’m going to tackle Gerod and the Lions.  I’m just going to leave you with the title for now and I’ll let you know how it goes 🙂

Finally, I’m getting back to work on my critiquing.  I’ve been inactive on this front for a while, again because I’ve been focusing on my novel, but I’m waaaaaay overdue in this department and I have to get back into it.

This will have to wait one more week, in the event, because I’m traveling for the day-job again.  My apologies to my peers.  Zombie Mel will return from the land of the critiquing dead, just not quite yet.

Set yourself up for success

The deal here is that if you are progressing on one project, but not actively working on it,

St. Augustine writing, revising, and re-writin...

St. Augustine writing, revising, and re-writing: Sandro Botticelli’s St. Augustine in His Cell (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

you may need to pick something else up.  Take on a new challenge.  Keep honing your craft.  Get over your bad self.

Now this is not something you might just choose to do while waiting to hear back from your beta-readers or an editor.  You could be querying, or trying to get your self-publishing ducks in a row.  Keep in touch with your creativity.  A writer writes above all else.

Some people may think that juggling projects is a bad idea.  They want to see one project through from beginning to end and believe that they can’t divide their attention with another novel.

There are going to be those fallow times though, and I’m not just talking about those times when you have to “get distance” from your novel between drafts, when you might want to do something non-writing related (I’ve done home reno projects, or some other form of artistic expression for this, drawing, pottery, or taking part in a play).

I’m not talking about keeping your creative reserves replenished with reading and movies and creative dates either.

I’m talking about those times when you’re waiting.  Fill up those fallow times with new creative projects so you don’t stall out entirely.  Don’t let your muse get lazy.  Keep him, her, or it, active and healthy.

This is just my opinion.  In no way am I suggesting that this approach is the only one.  It’s just the strategy that I’m using, and that I’ve seen other successful authors use.

How do you fill up your fallow times?  How do you manage your writing projects?  Do you work multiple ones at the same time, or focus on a single project until it’s completed?  Do share 🙂