The Next Chapter: Progress by inches (and bounds)

It’s been a while since I’ve posted about my progress, or lack thereof, on my writing.

Initiate of Stone

I’ve been struggling to rewrite my first chapter.  I’ve now made progress, after writing, and rewriting it several times.  I really had to go back and decide what it was necessary to accomplish in my opening chapter.

A short list:

  • Introduce my protagonist – Ferathainn, or Fer, is fifteen, and her coming of age is in two moons, at the next goddess festival, Sestaya.  She wants to become an Agrothe mage, and will be the first girl to do so in a very long time, but she chafes under the tutelage of her master, Aeldred.  Fer has been studying from the moment she wakes to the moment she sleeps (except festival days) with Master Aeldred for 12 turnings of the sun through the seasons, but it’s all been mundane. He’s forbidden her from using her innate talent, to speak with the spirits, or souls, of animals, plants, elements, and perhaps even people, like he controls who the spirits speak to …  Fer desperately wants to be initiated so she can start using her talent and learning “real” magick.  She knows she’s capable of more than what Master Aeldred permits her to do.  The process is long and demanding, though, and she will have to make sacrifices.  She loves Leaf, the eleph finiris, or song master, and will marry him on Sestaya as well.  She sees her astara, or soul-lights, in his eyes, something that only the eleph are supposed to see.  She’s not so sure about children, though they seem to be the natural consequence of marriage.  She’s just been so long separated from other girls her age by her studies that she wants something that everyone else takes for granted.  Fer worries that love, marriage, and family will be the sacrifices that she will have to make to become a mage.  She’s determined to have at least love in addition to the solitary life of a mage.
  • The “normal” world – Hartsgrove, Fer’s village, is a “free town” and the eleph and people of Tellurin live side-by-side in relative peace.  It’s an agrarian village that sends tributes to the surrounding, larger, towns and cities to show fealty and secure support in times of need.  The predominant religion is worship of the Goddess Auraya, creatrix of Tellurin.  Every year the season of Vedranya brings deadly storms to besiege the land.  This has been the way of things since the Cataclysm, two centuries before, changed the face of Tellurin and reduced much of Tellurin civilization to rubble.  Fer lives in a small, but sturdy cottage, with her mother and father, Selene and Devlin, a seer and a bard respectively, and her younger half-sister, Aislinn.  She has never left Hartsgrove.
  • Hook the reader – What’s the root cause of Fer’s resentment of her master, the man who could grant her wish to become a mage?  Why does he want to keep her from using her talent?
  • Ask a question (that needs to be answered by the end of the novel) – What is the secret Master Aeldred feared so much he magickally bound Fer’s friends and family to silence?
  • Foreshadow the inciting event – An earth elemental, or nomi, tells Fer the secret is a potentially deadly one though it cannot more than hint at the nature of the secret; she must be strong to face the trials to come.

So I’m slowly working my way through the list without dumping too much backstory or world building on the reader.  Beginnings, why are you so hard?

Some links about beginnings:

On a whim, I’ve signed up for Margie Lawson’s course, A Deep Editing Guide to Making Your Openings Pop, starting May 6, 2013.  She focuses on psycho-linguistic and rhetorical techniques to improve your writing.  My undergrad was focused on rhetoric and I love psychology, linguistics, and brain science, so this looks like it’s right up my alley.  Will let you know how it goes.

I might do the crazy and send my beginning (when I’m more or less happy with it) to Ray Rhamey’s Flogging the Quill to see if it passes his test.  Stay tuned.

Short Stories and poetry

Well, so far, I’ve kept up with Kasie Whitener’s Just Write short story challenge.  I’ve written a completely new short story for each of January, February, and March.  I’m a little behind in April, and may opt for flash fiction to make up the short fall.

The short story that I revised and sent to On Spec in January has been accepted (!)  I am very (like !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) excited about this, even though I know that it won’t be in print until sometime next year.  I’m looking forward to working with their editorial team to whip “Downtime” into shape.

“Beneath the Foundations (original story #2),” my attempt at medieval Cthulian for Sword and Mythos was rejected.

“A Terrible Thing” was rejected by the editors of Tesseracts 17.

It’s too early to have heard back from either Writers of the Future, to whom I sent “The Gabriel,” or In Places Between, to which I submitted “Molly Finder (original short story #3).”

There wasn’t room for my poem “peregrine” on the League of Canadian Poets National Poetry Month blog, but I have subsequently submitted that poem plus two more, “contain you” and “infant crawls,” to Sulphur.

From last year’s submissions, I learned that my submission to Mark Leslie’s Spooky Sudbury will be included in the publication, and my poem, “north of thule” was included in the fabulous Sopphey Vance’s Enhance no. 11.  It’s been a good month (and a bit) for happy dancing!

I’m going to work on something flashy this week to round out April’s short story quota, and set to work on another original for May in hopes of garnering some attention in the Rannu Fund competition.May Submit-o-rama Choice

I’ve joined Khara House’s May submit-o-rama and have committed to 1 submission per week in the Choose Your Own Challenge category.  Rannu will make up only one of those, so I’ll have to get my arse moving on identifying other submission opportunities (!)

Critiquing

Actually finished the BIG critique for my online group and am working on a review of the first 100 pages of another online critique buddy.

Have only three people left to critique for the Sudbury Writers’ Guild before I’m caught up with them.  We’re trying to get our stories and poetry together for an anthology.  I put forward “A Terrible Thing” and “Old Crow,” another short story of mine that was rejected by Tyche Books last year (Masked Mosaic anthology).  It looks like “Old Crow” might be salvageable as a short story, but that “A Terrible Thing,” as editors have said—and I’ve thought—in the past, is really a novel in the making.

Conferences

A local effort, Wordstock, will be happening June 7 and 8 at the Sudbury Theatre Centre.  This is the first year for the event, and the organizers are hoping to build on what they hope to be this year’s success.  The SWG has a block of time for readings.

I’ve registered for the Canadian Authors Association CanWrite! conference in Orillia, June 12-16, and booked my room in the Orillia campus of Lakehead University.

I’m still waffling about When Worlds Collide August 9-11.  The registration fee is reasonable in the extreme, but I still have to bear the cost of the flight and accommodation.

One reason I’m waffling is because I want to go to the Surrey International Writers’ Conference this year (Oct 25-27).  Domestic flights are sooooo expensive.  Right now, a return to either Calgary or Vancouver for the conference dates is showing as over $1000.  It may be an either/or kind of thing for me.  Or I might just cash in my Avion or Aeroplan points for one or the other flight.  That’s an idea!  Thanks for letting me suss that one out online 😛

I think that’s all the conferencing I can take for this year.  Next year, I hope to add some fancons like Ad Astra.  We’ll see how the financial situation sits.  And my various air rewards plan balances 🙂

Other stuff

Taxes done and refund received 🙂

Am still putting off the decision to move to WordPress.org.  I think I just need some dedicated time to devote to research and reflection.

Hope all is well with you and your writing lives.

I’d love to hear from you about your latest literary adventures!

Tonight’s viewing line-up: Doctor Who and Orphan Black!

Tomorrow, I’ll share my thoughts on happiness and how my experiences have influenced my writing in the final instalment of a life sentence with mortal punctuation.

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I <3 my blog: the beginning

I’ve enjoyed Khara House’s challenges before.  Her October submit-o-rama was a hit 🙂

Khara HouseKhara’s really good at sussing out what her community might need and delivering it while playing to her strengths.

January is I ❤ my blog month and it’s not going to be a challenge in which everyone is dashing helter skelter to get a bunch of stuff done.  It’s going to be a gentle, thoughtful reintroduction to your blog and the reasons you started it in the first place.  It’s meant to reignite your passion for your blog and get you back on track.

I first met Khara in Robert Lee Brewer’s April Platform challenge and that was a task-a-day, whip your butt into shape kind of challenge.  A lot of us struggled to keep up, but Khara was way out in the leader-pack, showing the way.

So I’m back.

The “assignment” for week one was about developing a blogging schedule.  Now I had one.  When I started off, I was posting 6 days a week, then I dropped to five, then four … you get the idea.  In September, I hit the burnout phase.  I was trying to do too many different things and I just couldn’t keep up with the posting on a regular basis anymore.  It felt like a chore.

So I deleted my blogging schedule page and defaulted to posting when I wanted to/had the time/had something to say.  Sometimes that was several times in the course of a week.  Sometimes it wasn’t at all.

So now, in addition to being back with a Khara House challenge, my blogging schedule will be back.

It’s going to be basic.  Something I can manage given working and writing and critiquing (which I’m getting back to shortly).  What I’ve hit on, is a weekend blog-for-all 🙂

Lemme ‘splain: I figure that blogging once a week will fit into my schedule and if nothing else, I’ll post on Saturdays.  But … if it’s been a particularly inspirational week, I’m going to blog on Sundays too, and if a whole lot is happening, I might blog more than once a day.

So it’s a bloggin’ free-for-all, or a weekend blog-for-all.

Hope you like it, ‘cause it’s what you’re gonna get!

What a lovely way to start the New Year!

sunshineawardHey y’all!  Jay Morris of The Wayward Journey nominated Writerly Goodness for the Sunshine Award 🙂  As Jay says in his post, it was the result one of his resolutions: to encourage other bloggers and foster community online.  I think that’s a worthy goal.

First, thanks!  It’s nice to be recognized by your fellow bloggers.

Second, here are the rules:

  1. Link back to the person who nominated you.
  2. Post the award image to your page.
  3. Tell seven facts about yourself.
  4. Nominate 10 other blogs.
  5. Let them know they are nominated.

Numbers 1 and 2 are already taken care of, so without further ado, here are seven facts about me:

  1. I’m a writing geek (really?).  That is, I love words, grammar (yes, grammar), and the whole shebang.  I get excited when I write; I don’t even have to be writing particularly well.  Writing is my friend, therapist, and spiritual practice rolled into one.
  2. I’ve been married for eighteen and a half years to a wonderful man.  Phil’s my BFF, inspirator (conspirator in inspiration), and makes me laugh my hoop off at least once a day.  Yup.  I’m hoopless 😀
  3. I haven’t taken down the Christmas decorations yet, in violation of the standing practice to pack them away January 1st.  Maybe I’ll get to it by Ukrainian Christmas?  Sadly doubtful.  Before the end of January though, for sure.
  4. I need to know the rules, but often, once I’ve figured them out, I find my own way forward.
  5. I think my Mom is a “cool mom.”
  6. I’m terrible at traditional correspondence.  I have a friend who, without fail, sends birthday, anniversary, occasional, and sometimes just-for-the-heck-of-it cards.  I always get a postcard from her on every vacation.  I admire, and secretly envy, this friend 🙂
  7. After work, I transform into “comfort woman.” She’s a strange creature, who wears flannel and sits at her computer all night … writing, yeah, that’s it … writing.

Now, here are my ma-nominations (doo-doo-da-doo-doo!).  Yes, I’m a Muppet maniac 🙂

  1. Laura Conant Howard – Finding Bliss  Fantastic site with all kinds of interviews and book features.  Her new book, The Forgotten Ones, is coming out soon!  Also follow Laura on FB and Twitter.  She will often share when good books are on special – bonus!
  2. Khara House – Our Lost Jungle  Khara is fabulous, and so is her site.  She has led several great challenges over the past year that have kept me motivated.  Her current: I ❤ my blog.  Yup.  I’m in it.
  3. Karen Woodward  Karen is a prolific blogger and has a variety of good advice to offer.
  4. Kim Fahner – The Republic of Poetry  Kim is a poet and a teacher, and waxes lyrical on many topics.  Just love her 🙂
  5. Vikki Thompson – The View Outside  Vikki invites us to follow along on her writing journey.  There’s always something interesting going on at The View Outside 🙂
  6. Sarah Rios – Riosfan  Sarah is hilarious!  Become her minion on G+ too and get all the fangrrl goods 🙂
  7. Lara Britt – Writing Space  Lara is a working writer in Hawaii.  What a wonderful place to be 🙂
  8. Claudia Karabaic Sargent – CKSWarriorQueen  Another one of my Wordsmith Studio connections (as are Lara B, Lara S, and Khara).
  9. Lara Schiffbauer – Motivation for Creation  Her Funny Friday Photos are always a hoot and I love feeding her fish 🙂  Also, check out her book Finding Meara.
  10. Brian Braden  Brian’s WIP, Black Sea Gods is moving toward publication.  He’s been supportive of my project and I just want to return the favour 🙂

There were a lot of blogs that I wanted to feature.  If yours isn’t in here, I mean no disrespect.

TTFN blogging buds 🙂

I’ll be back tomorrow with I ❤ my blog, and the Pupdate 🙂

Three bits of Writerly Goodness in October 2012

I’ve been on the road quite a bit this month.  Specifically, from Oct. 16-18, 24-28, and 29-31.  So I hope you’ll forgive the lack of posting.  I did warn you 🙂 Normally, blogging while I’m away isn’t a huge problem, but recently, I’ve been travelling so much that I’m plain exhausted.

I think the cold I caught Thanksgiving Day (here in Canada) is finally going away, but the fact that I got sick at all (first virus in two years) tells me that I’m overdoing it.

So here is the first of two catch-up posts for the month of October.  Tomorrow, I’ll blog on various things that have been happening on the learning mutt side of my life.

We Grow Media’s “Build Your Author Platform” course

I signed up for this in September, having missed the course earlier in the year.  Knowing what a busy few months I’d have ahead of me, I probably should have waited until the next one, but it doesn’t look like things will get much better at work, so ultimately, there was no time like the present … then.

Dan Blank’s course was enlightening with respect to narrowing focus, targeting our ideal audience, and making use of tools like Google Analytics.  The weekly insider calls were productive and encouraged community building within the course.  Unfortunately, these and the specialist calls took place during the day and I couldn’t take part in most of them.

They were recorded, however, and so even though I couldn’t participate in them, I could still reap the benefits of the calls with Joanna Penn, Joel Friedlander, Jeff Goins, and Jane Friedman.  Those calls were worth the cost of the course alone.

I can’t really give much more away without starting to discus the materials in depth and those belong to Dan.  Suffice it to say that while I wasn’t able to participate in October as much as I wanted to, I have the course materials on hand and will make use of them often in the months to come.

Having said that, I think the course is best suited to those with some technical savvy but just getting going, and who also have a product to promote (novel, non-fiction, poetry collection, etc.).  The participants who had no background in social media or blogging whatsoever tended to have greater difficulty, and those like myself, who do not have a recently published work to promote couldn’t necessarily narrow down our focus sufficiently to make the most of Dan’s lessons.

For the former group, I might recommend Dan’s Social Media 101 and Blogging 101 courses offered through Writer’s Digest University.  Links to these can also be found on the We Grow Media site (linked above).

Khara House’s October Submit-O-Rama

I intended to get some submissions done over the course of October anyway, so I thought I’d join in the fun of Khara House’s October submit-o-rama.

The challenges varied from three submissions per week, through to a submission every day of the month, to the alpha-challenge in which you’d do the same but submit to magazines, contests, and journals in alphabetical order.  There was also a name game challenge to submit to publishers according to the letters of your name, and a create your own challenge.

I chose the last and settled on one submission a week.  I cheaped out, I know, but I honestly couldn’t manage more.  Anticipating the travelling I’d have to do in the latter half of the month, I submitted twice in the first two weeks and then decided I’d try, but not kill myself, for the remainder of the month.  That way, I met my challenge and didn’t overwhelm myself further.

I’ve received one rejection so far and the remaining ones are still up in the air.  Fortunately, my rejection included a request for other material, so I’m looking at it as a positive.

Khara had forums up on her site: Our Lost Jungle (linked above) as well as an event page on Facebook.  There were a handful of dedicated but insane writers (my opinion only) who managed 31 submissions in the month through various challenges.  Kudos to them!  They worked so hard and I’m sure they’ll be reaping the rewards for some time to come.

Now most of them are onto the November challenges of NaNoWriMo (national novel writers month) and PAD (poem a day).  I wish them the best and am sure that they will do smashingly!  And of course, our dear Khara deserves praise for putting everything together and giving everyone the kick in the pants they needed to get their work out there!

New York Comes to Niagara

I wanted to attend this conference last year, but ended up not being able to due to work commitments.  So when the conference Web site announced that applications were being accepted, I jumped on board.

NYCtN is an Algonkian pitch conference and writers first have to apply, submitting a short synopsis and writing sample before they are accepted and able to register.  When I made it through that stage, I immediately registered and booked my hotel room. 

Then came the 88-page guide and half a dozen emails with accompanying assignments.  My work was set out for me.

Now I have to make something clear.  My goal in going the conference was just to find out what the heck a pitch conference was, how it worked.  I’m an experiential learner and sometimes reading about something just doesn’t cut it.  So again, to be clear: I had no expectations.  I fully expected to have every agent and editor in the place reject me out of hand.

And I went prepared for that outcome.  This is not to say that I wrote anything but the best pitch I was capable of or that I blew off any of the assignments.  I’m a keener.  That would be impossible.  I just wasn’t pinning my hopes or self worth on the result of the conference.

Until it started.

Once the first pitch panel took place, which I, keener that I am, volunteered for, I was caught up in the hype.  I forgot about my humble goal and suddenly, I felt the pressure to sell.  It didn’t help that I was told in no uncertain terms that my novel was dead in the water and that traditional fantasy of any variety wouldn’t sell to anyone.

Nor was it particularly useful that I was advised to either throw out my created world and place the story in a historical setting (not my novel), or failing that, that I should set aside Initiate of Stone and focus on a more commercial project until my money-making capacity could be well-established and that I could then bring out the snoozer and rely on my reputation to coast me through what would surely be a slump in my writing career.

Please note: this was my interpretation of the advice, not the actual advice given.  You’ll understand if I wasn’t particularly clear-headed about it.

I lived in that illusory and completely self-induced angst for two days until, thanks to a friend, I remembered why I came to the pitch conference in the first place.

I revised my pitch but did not alter my project and I was true to my original intention and to IoS.  I pitched it and received some positive response.  Then I had to disappoint (seriously, the worst thing I can do to anyone in my book and pure torture for me) the person who had done everything in his power to guide me in the direction of success.

Here’s what I learned:

  • A pitch conference is all about the commercial viability of the pitch and its ability to obtain the interest of an agent or editor.  You have to back your pitch up of course, but the only thing that anyone will hear at the conference is your pitch.  For all intents and purposes, your novel might as well not exist.
  • It’s best not to bring only one idea/pitch, and if for one reason or another you only have one, you can’t be invested in it.  If you are, then a pitch conference may not be your best bet.  There are often opportunities to have your pitch critiqued before the pitch session opens.  If one idea doesn’t pass muster, keep pulling them out and throwing them against the wall until something sticks.
  • It’s common to pitch an idea for a novel that you haven’t written yet.  So long as you have the time and dedication to bang it out, this is acceptable, even expected.  I might go so far as to suggest that it’s a good idea to have your novel ideas plotted out and maybe even a few key scenes written, but that you may need to be flexible enough to accept suggestions that will drastically alter your novel.  This is harder to do with a project that you’ve invested months or years in writing.
  • If you’re like me, and reading these pieces of advice isn’t really enough, if you have to experience a pitch conference for yourself and you only have one project, one you’ve invested time in and are attached to, then stay true to your intent and be prepared to hear some things that you won’t want to accept.  Keep in mind that these things are going to be said to you with the best of intentions: to make you a viable career author.  If you’re not ready for that, so long as you understand that and keep all the excellent advice you receive in mind, you’ll be fine.

One way or the other, you and your work will emerge stronger on the other side.

Algonkian conferences have helped many writers achieve success.  Just visit their site and read the testimonials.  It’s a great opportunity that if you’re ready for, you shouldn’t pass up.

Besides, you usually get excellent advice outside the pitch panels and sessions as well.  In this case, Barbara Kyle delivered several sessions on plot and structure and Amy and Duncan McKenzie delivered an informative and entertaining session on improvisational techniques.

I even got some sight-seeing in 🙂

I highly recommend attending an Algonkian conference, or any pitch conference, and found it had the potential to be profoundly life-changing.

Writerly Goodness, signing off 🙂

October submit-o-rama and other randomness

Hey there!

I’ve joined Khara House‘s October Submit-o-rama!

In the lovely Khara’s own words:

There are five unique challenges for you to choose from to participate in the Submit-O-Rama! Click on the links below to pick your flavor of the month!

The “Basic” Challenge
The “Uber” Challenge
The “Alpha” Challenge
The “Name Game” Challenge
The “Choose Your Rules” Challenge

Of course, you know I went for the “choose your own rules” challenge.  I’m going for one submission per week and I’ve just made my first one: a short story to Tesseracts 17.  The deadline’s not until February 2013, but I wanted to get this submission done early.  this will be my fourth try at a Tesseracts anthology, and last year I received a very encouraging (not being sarcastic) rejection letter from Mark Leslie, who I got to meet in person this past week (more on that to come).

It’s not too late if you want to join in the fun.  Just go to Khara’s blog, Our Lost Jungle, click on the Submit-o-rama page, and follow the destructions from there.  She has forums set up too.  You can also join Khara’s Facebook event page for ongoing updates from the participants.

Some of them are going for the gusto.  Join in on the fun!

The blog schedule changes again

In fact, if you look at my blog now, you might notice that there’s no blogging schedule in evidence.  I’m going to be posting as I can and as I have things to blog about.  This may mean a blog or more in a day and it might mean days or weeks when I don’t blog at all.  I’ve decided that I’m good with that.  I’m hoping that you will be too.

Right now, I have to work on my novel, and I’m trying to restructure and simplify my life so that I can do that.

What’s coming

Having said that, I’m going to be blogging on a fairly regular basis for the next couple of weeks.

  • Tomorrow, I’ll post about the first LUminaries reading series at Laurentian University on the power of popular fiction;
  • On Tuesday, I’ll be posting  my first guest blog by fellow Sudbury Writers’ Guild author John Rice;
  • Before Thursday, I hope to be posting my first author interview with Scott Overton;
  • After Thursday, I’ll be blogging the launch of Scott’s novel Dead Air; and
  • In the future, I’ll be blogging about the progression/completion of Dan Blank’s Platform-building course, more submit-o-rama madness ( I hope), my experience at the Algonkian Writers’ Conference, interviewing my friend Kim Fahner about her upcoming book of poetry, and her book launch.

From the learning mutt side of my brain will be:

  • In-person meetings (for virtual teams) as a vehicle for professional development;
  • The Business Expertise Forum experience from a presenter’s perspective;
  • Striving for certification;
  • Business Writing Made easy in action; and
  • Managing transitions – will the course meet expectations?

As you can see, there will be lots of Writerly Goodness to come.

Something apropos of nothing

As the sun rises later each morning and until the snow falls, I’m faced with a dog-walking conundrum.  If Nuala (das pooch) chooses to unburden herself on a lawn that is not flooded by streetlight, how does a proper pup-mom find, let alone extract the odious package?

I was thinking of that semi-annual problem on Friday morning and reminded of a friend, Stacey, who has moved to the States.  When she lived in Sudbury, we walked our dogs together, and discussed this very issue.

Though she was devoted to cancer research, and still is, we both thought that it would be great if some enterprising researcher were to invent some kind of additive (innert and harmless to the animal) that when added to a dog’s food would make their feces phosphoresce to aid in the timely and efficient removal of such materials incumbent upon all responsible dog owners.

Any keen researchers interested in taking up the challenge?  I’m just sayin’ …

The randomness of Writerly Goodness is heading off to watch Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.

Good words at ya, my friends.