The next chapter: September 2016 update

Another month has passed and I don’t know where it went. Yes, September was a short month, but I spent most of it focusing on Initiate of Stone and Apprentice of Wind, working long hand, in my journal and on scrap paper, so none of it was spreadsheet-worthy.

So all I have to show for it is my month of blogging, 9,151 words, 158% of my goal.

septemberprogress

Surprisingly, even with two months of no revision, I’m still at 96% of my revision goal for the year. Yeah, I was kind of a beast January through July 🙂

This is to say that I’m making great progress, fine tuning my epic fantasy series. This month, if I finish a second round of revisions on AoW (which means I will be able to show some actual revision progress on my Writing and Revision Tracker*), I have some solid planning in place for the third novel in the series, which has a new working title—Wavedancer.

I should be well-placed to rock NaNoWriMo 2016. I must temper expectations by letting you know that I’ll once more be out of town, training, for the first few days of November (1st through 4th), and, I’ll be participating in Wordstock Sudbury 2016 ** the weekend following, November 5th.

I can’t guarantee a “win” this year, but, as I’ve said in the past, any words I write in the month of November are words that didn’t exist before. It’ll be a win, for me, regardless. I already expected to be drafting into December, in any case, because, epic 🙂

Querying has been temporarily suspended while I rework the first chapter, query letter, and synopsis for IoS.

Something that’s been very helpful is K.M. Weiland’s Character Arcs Course on the Digital Freedom Academy. I’m working through at my own pace. LURVE!

I’m also reading Kate’s Structuring Your Novel, and an ARC of her forthcoming Structuring Your Character Arcs. All of it is serving to, with my memories of the original blog/vlog/pocast posts that became the basis of these books and her course, ingrain Kate’s techniques in my long-term memory.

So helpful.

I can’t even.

Finally, I’m trying to find an editor/mentor with whom I can work, long-term, to develop my drafts into finished products. I will, of course, let you know how that goes.

kimnorthbay

In September, I also attended a couple of writerly events. The first was 100,000 Poets for Change in North Bay, Sept 22. I went on a poetic road trip with my friend and Sudbury Poet Laureate, Kim Fahner 🙂

Then, last night, I took a friend to the launch of Danielle Daniel’s memoir, The Dependent. Latitude 46, the publisher, put on a lovely event in the catering space at Verdiccio’s. There was music, food, and a reading by Danielle. And, of course, I bought her book 🙂thedependentlaunch2

It’s so nice to be able to support local arts and artists.

Today, despite it being Culture Days weekend here in Sudbury, and chock full of events, I had to retreat.

September also marked the first meeting of the 2016-17 Sudbury Writers’ Guild season, and it was anthology-palooza. We’re hoping to have Sudbury Ink, which features two of my speculative stories, printed in time for Wordstock.

The anthology is a promotional tool for the Guild and just shows the variety of the talent within the SWG. Having said that, it does have an ISBN and will be a formal, self-published, writing credit.

We hope to have a launch event, aside from Wordstock, later in the year. I’ll keep you posted 🙂

Although I attempted to gather my C.V. together for a Canada Council Works in Progress Grant, I realized the significant gaps in it. I haven’t kept track of the workshops I’ve attended, organized, or delivered. I haven’t kept track of the readings I’ve done. I have some forensic investigation of my writerly exploits to complete before December, when the Ontario Arts Council Northern Writers grant application is due.

I just couldn’t get my shit together for the CC app. It’s due today. Next year, the CC will be moving to a new funding model, so I might have a better chance then, in any case.

I’m also looking forward to how my writing life will take shape in coming years.

In past years, I was focused on writing in preference to everything else. I have six novels to show for it, but only one was even close to complete. This year, I focused on revision, but was only able to do a basic run-through of each novel, get the lay of the land, so to speak, and make notes for more in-depth revisions in the future.

I want to plan out a reasonable pattern which will balance writing and revising and hopefully allow me to get something to market.

The basic idea, for now, is to focus on in-depth revision on one project from January through to March, draft a new novel, April and May, revise another novel June through August, focus on NaNo prep and other projects (short fiction?) in September and October, participate in NaNo in November, and finally finish whatever might be outstanding from the NaNo project in December and prep for my next in-depth revision.

It may be ambitious, but my plans are always subject to change, given life 😉

And that was the month of September in this writer’s life.

Next week, I’ll get on with session reportage from WorldCon.

*Jamie Raintree, the creator of the Writing and Revision Tracker I use (and have used for years), is busy preparing the 2017 version. Watch this space for news on when the 2017 tracker is ready for order! Seriously, it’s worth it.

**Wordstock Sudbury 2016 will take place from November 3-5, 2017. Though I’ll be out of town training for the Thursday and Friday events, I will be manning the Indie Bookstore for a while on Saturday, and then participating in the commercial genre fiction panel in the afternoon! There will also be an opportunity to read at the open mic Saturday night. I’ll let you know more as the schedule is firmed up.

The Next Chapter

Something apropos of nothing

I’ve gotten back into pendants lately.

I used to wear necklaces a lot . . . aeons ago, but found them inconvenient in more recent years.

When I started swimming regularly, it was a pain to have to remove them (and often forget them). When I got into yoga, it was a similar issue, with pendants/charms slapping into my face in various poses.

In the last couple of years, though, I’ve grown fond again. I don’t have the time to swim, and no longer have a membership at the Y to facilitate it. I do some simple yoga in the mornings, on my own, and I don’t have to worry about leaving my necklaces anywhere that might result in my losing them.

So here’s the new line up.

pendants

It started with the lovely knotwork angel my friend, Margaret, picked up for me in Wales (far left). This was followed by the raven (October’s charm in one Celtic system), the Brigit’s cross, and the green man.

Last Christmas, my sister-in-law, Stephanie, gave me the Origami Owl pendant. At the time, it included a typewriter, a birthstone (my dad’s), my initial, and the purple dangle. I added a paw, for Nuala, Zoe, Thufir, and Tripod, a dragonfly (transformation), a bee (I’m a business expertise advisor, or BEA, at work), and the infinity and tree of life dangles. It’s a little cluttered, but that’s me 🙂

In August, my mom-in-law brought me back the sea glass pendant from an artisan in PEI, when she and Stephanie vacationed on the east coast. I love sea glass and it turns out to be very symbolic of my writerly life.

I have others. A set of earnings and necklace that are dolphins curled around fluorite balls, a pegasus with a quartz crystal dangling from it, a meditating goddess, a dragonfly, a unicorn, and some much older, gold jewellery that I keep for sentimental reasons. I might pull these out and share at some point, but for now, I’m too lazy to do it 😛

This is all just to say that I like necklaces again.

Something truly apropos of nothing 😉

Next weekend, I hope to do another double post on Saturday, finishing off the midseason follies and reviewing a few of the more interesting movies I watched in the last year. Then it will be time for my next chapter update the weekend after that, and I’ll finally move on to some of the interesting panels and presentations I attended at WorldCon.

Be prepared for another weekend blogging hiatus in November, for NaNoWriMo. I’m just putting this out here now, because I won’t be on leave, as I’d hoped.

Be well until next I blog 😀

Renovation MADNESS

Before I dive in, I have to let you know that Phil has been very good about not involving me in the actual destruction, or the reconstruction. I know nothing of ‘lectrics (as Phil calls them). I’ve just tried to keep the house clean and keep up with the weekly business of laundry, dishes, grocery shopping, and that kind of thing.

Because of Phil’s various health issues, this is going to be a slow reno. We’re going at Phil’s pace, which is largely on the weekends. But . . . because he’s been feeling so good lately, as a result of the medications he’s on and the changes we’ve made in diet/lifestyle, he felt good enough to tackle the project in the first place.

He chose the living room/dining room area of our small house because it would be a relatively easy reno. Strip it all down, clean up the ‘lectrics, insulate, vapour barrier, drywall, mudding and sanding, floor sanding and refinishing, and painting/finishing details.

The bedroom took about two weeks of solid work, and he had the closet to deal with.

He expected to be done before the end of October, thus making my leave with income averaging and a new puppy a possibility.

But things never go as planned, especially with a house as old as ours.

In a way, it’s good that the pay issues at work caused me to reconsider my leave. It may work out better, even though I was really looking forward to a new little squirmer. It will be that much sweeter when we can.

The ‘lectrics turned into a massive undertaking. When we had previously tackled my office and the bedroom, the ‘lectrics were fairly simple. Phil just removed all the old stuff and ran new wiring.

The living room . . . not so simple.

livingroomrenobegins

It begins.

The room is directly above the panel, and Phil saw right away that he couldn’t leave things the way they were.

There were hidden junction boxes, as many as five wires snaking through a single hole, and three generations of wiring dating back to the original build sometime in the 1940’s. All of this is not up to current building code.

So, Phil patiently turned off the power, traced the wiring through the ceiling, basement, and sometimes the walls, removed the old crap, and replaced/rerouted the wiring efficiently and cleanly. Not all of it, though. There were several places where it looks like additions to the house were built over/around the existing wiring. Phil would not have been able to get at it without removing the siding and original wood from the outside of the house.

He wasn’t about to do that.

As it was, he had to cut holes in the kitchen and side entry to track down and replace some of the old wiring. These will be patched up temporarily pending renovation of those areas.

The pictures:

demofinishedish5

Demo done (kind of).

sept17-1

View from the kitchen (today).

sept17-2

A fresh start.

I’m not going to show you the devastation in the other areas of the house, the problematic wiring, or the piles of old wiring (currently waiting at the end of the driveway for the second delivery of a bin and removal).

Things should be more straightforward from here on out.

I’ll offer further updates later in the year.

Have another short post coming up. Stay tuned.

The next chapter: August 2016 update

Let me tell you a story 🙂

Dark season

Over the last couple of years, August has been a bad month for me, emotionally speaking.

I’ve been down. Living with depression, if you do it consciously, means that you can see the signs and take action, or not, whatever is most appropriate for your mental health at the time. Trying to barge through rarely works. For me, anyway.

Last year, I was away from home, delivering training, for two and a half weeks in August. I thought London was a lovely city, and I did enjoy myself to the extent I could—I even went shopping (!) and if you know me, you know I hate shopping of any kind with a passion—but it was too far away for me to go home on the weekends, and I had discovered earlier in the year how much more difficult it was for me to write or blog while travelling. So except for curation, I gave over.

Writing on the road isn’t undoable, and I have put on my big girl panties and done it since (I started NaNoWriMo while travelling last year), but, at the time, I was at a low ebb, and sometimes you have to be kind to yourself.

This year, I went to Kansas City for WorldCon and stayed an extra day or so to visit with a friend who’d moved down there several years ago. More on WorldCon in a bit. The bottom line is that health issues and my introvert nature (exacerbated by my emotional low) conspired to rob the trip of some of its joy.

Remembering what had happened last year, I had even planned for the dog-day doldrums. I figured I’d have the first run-through of all my drafted novels done by August (and I did) and that I would need a little break (and I did).

My plan to turn to other projects, though, didn’t work out as well as I’d thought. I worked on some short fiction, made a few submissions (a rejection from one of which was returned within a week), but I never touched the poetry collection or the non-speculative short fiction collection. I just didn’t have the heart.

I journalled, trying to work out what my plan for the rest of the year would look like and trying to find my way back to what is, for me, normal. I also participated in a Nelson Literary Agency workshop on first pages with Angie Hodapp.

Though the initial review of my first five pages wasn’t horrible, I wanted to try something completely different for the revision, see if the advice of the readers would work. It was a spectacular failure, but I learned a lot from the experience.

You really do have to fail to learn, even if it’s painful 🙂

I’m now delving back into Initiate of Stone, working long hand in a notebook. Sometimes you just have to write it out. I find that writing long hand helps give me the time to examine the words and sentences, and get a fresh perspective.

I can now also disclose that I did not succeed with my application to #PitchWars. Reality Bomb was the project I chose for that experience. I didn’t expect to get in this first year of applying, but one pair of mentors, Michael Mammay and Dan Koboldt, was very supportive. They asked for additional materials, a synopsis and first 50 pages.

Our email exchanges in that first week or so were productive and illuminating for me. I now have some great ideas to return to that manuscript with. So, ultimately, #PitchWars was a win.

This brings me to another realization of why this year has been a difficult one for me.

Last year was the year of almost. I got on several long and short lists in contests, had my work set aside for second readings for anthologies, and while it didn’t result in any publications, the nature of the responses was reassuring. I also had a couple of stories accepted into the Sudbury Writers’ Guild anthology, which should be coming out this fall.

This year, with the exception of #PitchWars, has been the year of no. Form rejections all around, whether from querying or from short fiction submissions. Though I have, to some extent, found a way to turn rejection into a positive, when so many pile up, it becomes disheartening.

You begin to question your worth and skill as a writer, to doubt the kind things that have been said about your work (because there are so few of them, relatively speaking, that they must be the flukes, you reason). You begin to look for those opportunities to confirm your negative bias, blow small faux pas into huge incidents. Reasonable lapses in communication become the occasion for self-blame and recrimination.

Fortunately, since my return from Kansas City, I’ve been coming across the most wonderful articles and posts that have given me the encouragement I’ve needed, some of which you’ll see in this week’s curation. Between that, and the long hand work I’ve been doing on IoS, I’m making my way back to the page.

WorldCon

I’d left with the best of intentions and wanted to practice Gabriela Pereira’s method of networking with a number of authors I’d only ever seen online. In the moment, though, I was so nervous, I basically blathered.

I did get to meet and have a couple of nice, brief chats with Mary Robinette Kowal, met Cat Cambo and Foz Meadows at their Literary Beer sessions (informal chats), but otherwise, I just did my usual and took notes in panel discussions.

I was within three feet of George R.R. Martin, but as he was just coming out of the second of two autographing sessions in which fans lined up for the better part of an hour to see him, I just couldn’t bring myself to be that fan. Instead, I smiled, nodded, and moved on without harassing the poor man.

I had gone to the Tor Party with the intention of meeting John Scalzi, but several people seemed to be running interference and by the time I was able to politely make my excuses, Mr. Scalzi was monopolized by other Tor authors and friends. After that, he turned his attention to his beautiful wife and, again, I could not bring myself to interrupt just to say “hi, and thank you for writing wonderful books.”

Maybe it’s because I’m Canadian, or an introvert, or both, but I just couldn’t.

I’m also a total newb and have no clue with regard to what’s appropriate and what’s not in which context.

The Hugo Awards Ceremonies were wonderful, though, and the sad puppies were soundly trounced.

N.K. Jemesin won best novel for The Fifth Season, Nnedi Okorafor won best novella for Binti, Hao Jingfang and Ken Liu (translator) won best novelette for Folding Beijing, and Neil Gaiman (who wasn’t there in person) had a special message for the sad puppies when he won best graphic story for The Sandman: Overture.

Really, you can just go to the Hugo Awards site and check out all the winners. Diversity was the word of the evening.

It was a great event, but at the end, I felt like I needed a vacation to get over my vacation 🙂

I returned home with a whopping case of imposter’s syndrome, though. I’d met and seen and learned from all of these authors, many of whom I read and respect. Who am I, with my two publications in what the Science Fiction Writers Association (SFWA) considers “token” markets, to think that I can get a traditional deal in a market that’s more competitive than ever?

When I confided my doubts to Phil, his response was that print publishing was on its way to extinction and why would I want that, anyway? So not what I needed to hear, but I forgave him instantly. Though he is very supportive of me and my creative calling, he, like most non-writers, will never understand what it’s like to be in my neurotic wee skull.

But, as I said, I’m surfacing now. I have no further conventions I’ve committed to (having used up my budget for such things) and the only challenge I’ve set for myself is to get through another revision of IoS and Apprentice of Wind before I tackle the third novel in the series for NaNoWriMo.

I still want to get back to the poetry collection and the non-speculative short fiction collection, but neither is a big priority for me at the moment.

I’m taking my time with the short fiction. Some of my stories are actually the seeds of novels. I have to set those aside in their own project folders for the future, and then get on with revising and submitting what I have. Who knows? I may even surprise myself and write some more new stories. It has been known to happen.

In the meantime, I’ve applied for my winter leave at work and am crossing my fingers.

Persistent payroll issues may affect my application for another leave with income averaging. Until things are sorted out, the powers that be may recommend against such special considerations. I may have to defer again until next year.

It won’t be the worst thing that’s ever happened, but Phil and I are ready to look for another furry dependent. I need the five weeks for acclimatization and training. We’d rather it be sooner than later, but we’ll be patient if we must.

Having a new puppy in the spring would probably be more convenient (she says, mentally willing leave approval).

And then there are the renovations to consider, but that’s another post. Probably several 😉

The month in writing

August was sparse as far as writing goes. Aside from the blog, from which I took a vacation for WorldCon, the only writing I did was to finish off the one short story I was working on.

AugustProgress

6,451 words on the blog and 901 words on the short story. 7,362 altogether. That’s literally all she wrote.

I didn’t revise a thing. Fortunately, because I met or exceeded my revision goals in every other month so far this year, I’m not that far behind.

I didn’t count the minor revisions I did to the stories I submitted, or any of the journalling or long hand writing I did.

Besides, I wasn’t anticipating (until part way through the year) that I’d return to IoS, so I don’t have a column for that on my spreadsheet. I could make one. I have the skill, but I don’t want to take the time to do it now. Yes. I know. Lazy Mellie.

I’m getting my mojo back. The writing’s the thing.

Science fiction is the literature of ideas. It is the great “what if?” that leads us into the future. Fantasy is the literature of (im)possibility. It longingly wonders “If only . . .” and whispers in our dreams. I write both and I think I’m pretty damned lucky.

And that’s it until next month.

I hope you’re all experiencing great creative breakthroughs and are satisfied with what you’ve done. In the end, that’s all that matters.

Be well!

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: July 2016 update

So, here we are again at a monthly update. August. Where has the year gone?

One of the great things about tracking your production (and this applies to all things, not just writing) is that you can look back and see the evidence of your work. It’s very comforting.

In addition to wrapping up my work in July this time, I’m going to review the year to date.

July

JulyProgress

This month, I finished my first review of Gerod and the Lions. As with the last couple of novels, I wasn’t twitching as I reread, reacquainted myself with the story, and worked on some of the flow issues I saw. One reason for the flow issues was that GatL was written in chunks, separated by work done on other projects.

Sometimes the gaps were months long, and it shows. I had to get my head back into Gerod’s world and each time I returned to it, it took a few days to recapture the feeling.

The draft comes in at 44,996 words, which is decent for a middle grade book and 124% of my revision goal for the month.

I also continued work on the short story, which I’ll be submitting for consideration soon. 2,615 words written on that.

And, of course, there was the blog, and since I continued to participate in the weekly challenges presented by Gabriela Pereira to her DIYMFA Street Team, I far outblogged my goal.

Between the short story and the blog, I wrote 173% of my goal for July.

I also had the pleasure of guest blogging a couple of times in July, once on Mel’s Madness, and later, on DIYMFA (holy cow!). I have another guest blog due out this month on Kristene Perron’s Warp World blog.

I continued querying.

Year-to-date

Please keep in mind that revision is a very different animal than writing. I’m not writing all these words from scratch. I’m rearranging words, rewriting sentences or paragraphs for flow, inserting or removing punctuation, and making notes for future revisions.

Writing equates to original words.

Month Revision Writing Projects
January 69,774 words 186% of goal 9,274 words 141% of goal Apprentice of Wind, blog
February 40,708 words 108% of goal 5,027 words 90% of goal Apprentice of Wind, blog
March 66,637 words 177% of goal 8,436 words 141% of goal AoW, Figments, Marushka, blog
April 37,478 words 100% of goal 10,498 words 187% of goal Marushka, blog
May 50,882 words 136% of goal 10,474 words 181% of goal Marushka, Reality Bomb, blog
June 48,009 words 128% of goal 12,013 words 207% of goal Reality Bomb, blog
July 46,656 words 124% of goal 11,387 words 173% of goal RB, Gerod and the Lions, short fiction, blog

 Now and the rest of the year

With GatL, I’ve finished reviewing all of my drafted novels. Many of them are still grossly underwritten, but at least I have a better idea now of where I’m going with each.

For August, I just finished up my short story, which I will now revise, and otherwise, the only writing I’m doing is on the blog.

I’ve taken some time off to consider the remainder of the year and what I want to do.

Under consideration are:

  • Assembling a poetry collection (going to submit to a local small press) – August
  • Organizing a collection of my non-SFF short fiction (again, targeted at the small publisher) – August
  • Outlining the third book in my epic fantasy series. I’ve already taken a shot at it, but I know I have to rework it. I’ll do this anyway, because it’s this year’s NaNoWriMo project, but it’s on the list. – concurrent with other projects through to the end of October
  • Returning to Initiate of Stone and AoW, to recapture the voice of the series and bring everything into line in light of the outlining and NaNo for the third book. I want to get to November steeped in the world and its characters. – September and October

Because the third in series is of the epic nature, I expect to be continuing the drafting well into December.

I’m also taking a bit of time to think out how I want to structure my writing year from here on out. Previous to 2016, my focus was on getting the words down. Great, but then I had six novels drafted, only one of which was ready for querying.

This year, I’m focusing on the revision of all those drafts. They won’t be completely ready to go, but I’ll be in a place where I can alternate writing and revision in the coming years.

I want to draft new work twice a year, and then work on revision in between. I don’t know exactly what form that’s going to take (except for NaNo), but I think it’s something I can do.

Other stuff

I’m heading out to WorldCon/MidAmeriCon II on the 17th. It will be my first big con, so I’m super excited. This will be my last convention or conference for the year, though. I’ve blown my budget.

As a result, though, I’m going on a blogging vacay. I’ll schedule my Thoughty Thursday curation for the 18th before I leave, but you won’t hear from me again until I’m back and recovered and ready to resume bloggage on the 27th. Sacrifices have to be made.

I’ve done the crazy and applied for Brenda Drake’s #PitchWars. I’ll find out how that goes on the 25th. Not saying more about it for now.

I’m investigating partnerships with an editor. I want something long term, a professional editor who can help me get my drafts into publishable states.

I signed up for a first five pages workshop with NLA. Again, I’ll leave the deets for later.

And that’s this writer’s life.

Next weekend, I’ll be continuing with my CWS 2016 reportage with my notes from the Writing Hard Truths panel.

The Next Chapter

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, July 24-30, 2016

Yummy, soul-feeding stuff this week.

The first post of the week for K.M. Weiland was intensely personal. It was also inspirational. It was exactly what I needed to read as the world around me seems to be falling to pieces (though that’s more apparent in my Thoughty Thursday curation posts, of late). Read it, my writerly friends, and take heart. This is why we write: five reasons why writing is important to the world. Later in the week she cautions us: don’t make this mistake with story structure.

Bonnie Randall guest posts on Janice Hardy’s Fiction University. Once more with feeling: writing emotionally strong characters.

Chris Winkle offers five ways to restore tension in your novel. Mythcreants.

Two of my favourite writerly women: Joanna Penn interviews Roz Morris for the Creative Penn podcast. Finding your author voice.

Katharine Britton guest posts on Writer Unboxed. On the road to a first draft: when you don’t know where you’re going, any road will do.

Marcy Kennedy is back with part four of her reading as a writer series.

Kelly Harms: writing a book takes how long, now? Writers in the Storm.

Jami Gold shares more lessons learned from her recent RWA conference. Do you belong, or are you a fraud?

Shawn Coyne wonders if good enough is good enough . . . This post was a bit controversial for a friend. Yes, we need mentors; we need editors. I personally don’t think there’s anything wrong with learning through experimentation, practice, and study, however. The idea that writers aren’t good enough, that they can’t be good enough without the intervention of others can result in sensitive creatives believing that they are inherently worthless. Or, it can result in the following problems, which can be just as bad . . . Just sayin’.

Karen Woodward encourages us to let go of perfectionism.

Kristen Lamb explores stress and burnout . . . and how to get your writerly mojo back.

Heather Webb has some advice on what to do when you feel like you’re treading water. Writer Unboxed.

Kameron Hurley: the wisdom of the grind.

Jane Friedman offers a definition of author platform.

Constance Renfrow writes about the do’s and don’ts of query letters. DIYMFA. AND . . . I had the opportunity to guest post on DIYMFA thanks to my participation in Gabriela’s Street Team! Five things I’ve learned from being on the DIYMFA Street Team.

Camille DeAngelis says that having her book go out of print was a pretty great thing, after all. Publishers Weekly.

Lynn Neary: can serialized fiction turn binge watchers into binge readers? NPR.

Sudburian Matthew Heiti wins the Carter v. Cooper competition! The Northern Life.

Working girls: the Bröntes. Elizabeth Hardwick for The New York Review of Books.

Alex Kulaev for BookBaby: The Jungle Book is a beautiful film with flawed storytelling.

Orange is the New Black’s Samira Wiley joins the cast of Hulu’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Amy McNeill for The National Post.

Katherine Trendacosta thinks Christophe Gans’ La Belle et La Bête (Beauty and the Beast) is the most beautiful thing she’s seen in ages. i09

We are not things: shining examples of women’s autonomy in science fiction. Delia Harrington for The MarySue.

Babylon 5’s Jerry Doyle dies at the age of 60. Sadness 😦 James Whitbrook for i09.

And that was your informal writerly learnings for the week.

See you Thursday!

Tipsday

Trying new things with DIYMFA

Here is the QotW:

QOTW 14: Try a New Technique

Throughout the book, there are visual techniques, diagrams, and exercises to help your writing. These include story-mapping, the revision pyramid, the character compass, and so forth. This week, I want you to choose a technique that is new to you and try it out. Then report back and tell us how it went.

The technique I’ve chosen is TADA.

This is an acronym Gabriela created to assess character. The letters stand for Thoughts, Action, Dialogue, and Appearance.

The idea is that the writer wants to achieve a balance between all four aspects of character, and between characters, in each story. This could even be applied on a scene by scene basis.

So you can look at your characters individually, in scenes, in conjunction with one another, and overall in the story to ensure you’re keeping all of these character elements in the ratios you want.

To visualize this, Gabriela provided a graph, which she calls the character compass. It’s a circle with the letters T, A, D, and A distributed over the cardinal directions. Lines divide the circle into four with Thought and Dialogue, and Action and Appearance, in opposition to each other.

CharacterCompass

I’ve done my best to create a facsimile with Word’s drawing tools, print screen, and The Gimp 🙂

In this particular compass, I’m looking at one character, Ferathainn, in general.

She’s my protagonist and her POV is first person, past tense. There’s a lot of thought and internal monologue with Fer.

She’s studying to become a mage, but at the beginning of the novel, it’s all been theoretical. Her studies have prevented her from maintaining friendships, and so she lives in her head a lot. Part of her studies include rhetoric. Intonation and presentation can affect certain types of magick.

Fer’s been allowed (yes, allowed, it’s a plot thing) to study with her father, who is a bard, and her betrothed, who is an eleph finiris, or songmaster, because magick can be sung. She’s extended this part of her training to include dance, because she’s realized she needs a physical outlet after all this theory and rote memorization.

One of her small rebellions is that she also trains with her best friend, the forester, who teaches her how to fight. Primarily unarmed combat and survival skills.

So Fer is a heavily thinky character, with a good side order of dialogue and action. She doesn’t often consider her appearance, however. There aren’t a lot of mirrors in her little village. It’s not something she’s ever placed a lot of value on.

So I have to be careful when I write a scene about Fer alone, because she’s lopsided.

When she interacts with other characters, it’s primarily through dialogue and action, but I have to pay attention to their reactions to her physically. It’s actually very good for the show versus tell thing.

For example, Fer’s mother has to reach up to hug her, because Fer is tall. She’s of a height with her father, though. Through little interactions like this, readers form a picture of Fer in their minds over time.

When I switch POV to the other characters, they get to describe Fer, but I try not to have them do the ‘classical’ romantic inventory.

In early romances, which were often more adventure tales than what we think of as romances, when the hero meets the love interest for the first time, he waxes poetic and describes her from head to toe. Bad thing to do in a modern novel, though.

When Eoghan first ‘meets’ Fer, she’s all but dead. Having tried and failed to save victims of the war in the wake of the army’s passing, Eoghan decides he’s going to make his stand. He’s going to save this raggedy girl if it’s the last thing he does. Her appearance, other than the severity of her wounds, is secondary to his efforts.

When Dairragh first sees Fer, it’s from a distance, and it’s what she’s doing—performing magick—that makes its biggest impression on him. Dairragh hates all magi with a passion for the sake of the mage who murdered his parents and destroyed his home, including the people and gryphons that were his charge to protect.

So, of course, he hates Fer on sight and his prejudice colours his every interaction with her. At least initially.

The way I see it, readers are going to form an image of Fer in their heads that’s probably nothing like the way I see her. And that’s okay. They get ownership of my characters and my story on a reader by reader basis.

That’s what I want.

Gabriela’s TADA acronym and character compass are going to be one tool I take from the DIYMFA book and incorporate into my writing process.

Since I’m a plantser (part plotter, part pantser) I tend to pants my way through the first draft, but in revision, I can see the character compass being a very useful tool to evaluate how balanced my characters are in any given scene.

I hope I’ve given you enough of a run down that you might be able to make use of this technique yourself. Of course, you could always go buy Gabriela’s DIYMFA book and get a more detailed explanation of TADA and the character compass. The official release date was yesterday.

Jus’ sayin’.

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The next chapter: June 2016 update

Welcome to July! Half of 2016 is already past 😦

Let’s get right down to business.

June was a good month. As far as revision goes, I focused on Reality Bomb. It was another pleasant surprise. I didn’t hate what I wrote. This was just the first pass, and I’ve identified a number of things I need to work on, but I wasn’t writhing as I read 🙂 I don’t know if this means I’m a better writer now, or if I’ve just become inured to my failings (!)

I approached RB as I did Marushka before it, reading, mapping, editing, and making notes as I went. RB was my 2015 NaNoWriMo project and my second “win.”

I finished the first pass on July 1st (yes, Canada Day—the fireworks were for me, too) and the draft comes in at 282 pages and 67,808 words. Not bad for what I still consider a rough draft.

I’ve moved on to Gerod and the Lions, since. Early days, but not hating this one, either 😀 I should be finished this first run through of GatL in early August, just in time for another break—for WorldCon!

Since I’ve been a part of Gabriella Pereira’s Launch Team for DIYMFA, I’ve had extra blogging to do each weekend. As a result, I more than doubled my blogging goals for the month. I’ve also had some guest posting opportunities come my way, which has been another, validating surprise.

I went to the Canadian Writers’ Summit from June 17th to 19th and took a wee vacay from revising, blogging, and, in fact, most social media. It was a nice break.

My query, synopsis, and opening for Initiate of Stone have been revised and querying continues.

I’m starting work on some short fiction. It kind of just happened. It’s a good thing, though.

This is how the month settled out:

I achieved 128% on my revision goal with 48,009 words.

I achieved 207% of my blogging goal (yes, even with the vacay) with 12,013 words.

JuneProgress

The summer office is in operation, and I’ve been enjoying our lovely, lovely weather (so far). The garden is growing, though I haven’t been able to keep up with the weeding 😦 Still, we’ve been enjoying the fruits (literally) of what labour has been done and have had strawberries every day for the last three weeks. The raspberries are ripening. Phil’s been harvesting lettuces and herbs for the occasional meal.

It just makes you feel good to eat food out of your own garden.

In other news, I’m walking a little more, and getting some minor health issues sorted. I’ll be getting a new pair of glasses, not because my prescription has changed, but because my current pair is in disrepair. It’s time for a new perspective 🙂

Phil’s in good shape, now. He and his doctor have sorted his meds and he’s feeling well. All of his labs are showing results in the acceptable range, as well. I’m glad. Through the first few months of the year, it was not a good situation. Very stressful.

And that’s what June brought into this writer’s life.

Next weekend: I’ll be back to Ad Astra 2016 reportage.

Happy Independence Day to all of my American friends!

I’ll be back to work tomorrow.

The Next Chapter

Reviewing the four C’s of my to-be-read pile with DIYMFA

Here we are with question of the week thirteen!

QOTW 13: What’s On Your Reading List?

If you’re anything like me, you’ll never get around to reading every book on your to-read list. That’s why at DIY MFA I believe in reading with purpose and encourage you to focus on books in four main categories: comps, contextual, contemporary, and classics.

QOTW-13

As I mentioned previously, I have far too many books. It’s really to the point at which, if I were to be in my office when a serious earthquake hits, I’d probably die, buried under my to-be-read pile.

So it’s good that Gabriela limited this exercise and gave it some critical DIYMFA context 🙂

Comparative/competitive books

Because I’m working on multiple books in fantasy (and various sub-genres/categories, thereof) and science fiction, I’ve tried to line up a varied comp reading list.

  • One’s Aspect to the Sun – Sherry D. Ramsey (Canadian author, science fiction)
  • The Towers Trilogy – Karina Sumner-Smith (Canadian author, fantasy)
  • The Worldbreakers Saga – Kameron Hurley (American author, fantasy)
  • Binti – Nnedi Okorafor (American author, science fiction)
  • Signal to Noise – Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Canadian author, science fiction)

Some of these books are award-nominated and/or the authors are award-winning 🙂

Contextual books

These are books I’m reading to teach me something specific about craft/genre.

  • The Second Cadfael Omnibus – Ellis Peters
    My epic fantasy series is based in a world that is (I know, I know) derivative of medieval Europe, one of my characters is a postulant monk, and herbalism plays a role in the novels.
  • The Night Angel Trilogy – Brent Weeks
    I’m loving Weeks’s approach to worldbuilding. His world is a mash-up of European and Asian elements (and probably some others I’m not aware of, yet).
  • Under My Skin – Charles de Lint
    He’s a Canadian author of urban fantasy. A couple of my novels are YA urban fantasy. It’s good to learn from a master 😉
  • Children of Earth and Sky – Guy Gavriel Kay
    I would just love to be able to craft a story like Kay. His was one of the only books that moved me to tears.
  • Fish Tales – Sherri S. Tepper
    Just love where her books go in terms of plot and character. Science fiction with a hefty helping of social justice.

Contemporary books

  • The Madd Addam trilogy – Magaret Atwood
  • The Book of Negroes – Lawrence Hill
  • All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr
  • The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins
  • Quantum Night – Robert J. Sawyer

Classics

  • The Kalevala, the Finnish National Epic Poem (in translation)
    ‘Cause part of my heritage is Finn 🙂 And there’s magic and all sorts of cool stuff.
  • The Pickwick Papers – Charles Dickens
    Because I discovered I quite like Dickens 🙂
  • The Secret Garden – Frances Hodges Burnett
  • Boxen – C.S. Lewis and W.H. Lewis
  • The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
    ‘Cause I never finished it in school—yeah, I know.

So there you go. You’ve had a peek at my TBR list.

I’ll be back tomorrow with my next chapter update.

Home and garden update

So this one’s not going to be much in the way of words, but there will be a lot of pics 🙂

As of last fall, the work the city had promised to do for us when they repaved Marttila Drive was still not done.

In October, one crew came by to build our new front steps. Even though I asked for an estimate on rebuilding the side steps, too, the contractor never got back to me.

But the work was done. Ok.

NoOneWillTripOnThat

No one’s going to trip on that

In December (remember we didn’t have snow until Boxing Day) another crew arrived to do the interlocking brick. They didn’t go under the front steps, though and now the side steps, our old, but very solid steps we made ourselves, overhangs the brick.

Oh well. We’ll build ourselves a new set  . . . someday.

brickwork

Notice the former garden that’s now growing out from under the front steps

In February, in the middle of a snow storm, yet another crew arrived to install the railing on the retaining wall. It had already snowed quite a bit and they had to excavate the cement pylons they had to bolt the railing to.

RailingYay

Unfortunately, one of them was not placed properly.

railingfail

Stable as hell

With regard to the garden, I planted the raised bed Phil built for me last year.

gardenplanted

The transplanted hops vice and clematis seem to be happy.

hps

clematis

Now if I could only get around to weeding . . . 😦

Phil has now added solar power to our gazebo.

WorkinOnTheLectrics

So we can work outside, even after sunset. Summer office: accomplishment unlocked!

GazeboAtNight

And that is this writer’s life.

I’ll be back in a bit with the latest Ad Astra reportage.