Join me over on DIY MFA for my latest Speculations

This time around, I’m tackling National Novel Writing Month, specifically, five ways to rock NaNoWriMo (on your own terms) 🙂

NaNoWriMoPost

While you’re there, take a look around. There’s lots of writerly goodness to be found.

Until next time!

Work madness

The Ren & Stimpy Show

The Ren & Stimpy Show (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To really get the effect of the title of this post, allow me to coax you back to the classic Ren & Stimpy episode, Space Madness. If you’ve never seen it before, take a few minutes and watch.  I’ll wait.

Ok, now that you’ve had a taste, you have to say “work madness” the way Commander Hoek says “space madness” in the ep. Seriously. You have to say it the same way or this won’t work half as well.

I think the last time I blogged about work was at the beginning of October, when my self-funded leave started. Though a fifteen-month stint as a regional training coordinator (consultant) was, strictly speaking, the reason I needed that leave, I am grateful to my employer that such options are available.

When I feel the spectre of burnout or depression, I know I have the means to fend them off.

My leave was five weeks of heaven spent focusing on the art and craft of my writing. I attended the Surrey International Writers’ Conference, and participated in my first National Novel Writing Month, which I won 🙂

I returned to work November 19, which was a Tuesday, and before I’d even settled in, learned that I was to start delivering training the following Monday, training that I hadn’t delivered in about two and a half years (!) It was in Sudbury at least, so I wouldn’t have to travel.

I did spend the rest of the week prepping and revising the training material, though, and somewhere in there found the time to complete my travel request for something else coming up (more on that in a few paragraphs).

Say it with me now: work madness.

This was something that had come up in the five weeks I’d been off. Though I’d only heard the rumours before I left on my leave, I knew the powers that be were interested in “stabilizing” one of the processing positions. This meant hiring, and a lot of it.

The November 25th to December 3rd training was the result of hiring from an established internal pool of candidates.

After the training, the last two days of which I completed solo, I had to work some overtime to get the marking done and summary reports prepared. Four and a half hours added onto my seven and a half hour day. It was a loooong day. The rest of that week was devoted to further revisions—a lot of errors emerged during the delivery—and facilitating a conference call as a follow up to a self-study module.

While I was off, I was recruited to participate in a “training for trainers” session in team dynamics. The idea was to develop some regional expertise so that operational teams could assume delivery of the course. As only of a few certified trainers in the province, I was invited.

It’s nice to be needed.

This would be from December 9th to 13th in Toronto (yes, I know a couple of people who may be displeased to learn that I was in Toronto and didn’t tell them, but really, I was so busy, I wouldn’t have had time—still, my apologies).

Then the next sessions of stabilization training in Mississauga and London were to begin December 16th through to Christmas Eve. I was tentatively scheduled for London. These would all be new hires.

This training would require me cancelling some leave that had already been approved, and missing out on my family’s Christmas celebration, which we hold on Christmas Eve. Further, it would require the approval of some hefty overtime so that I could travel home on Christmas Day.

Work madness!

Still, I was prepared to do it. Fortunately, I didn’t have to.

While I delivered training and stood on tenterhooks waiting for plans to solidify—they weren’t even finished with the hiring process yet!—another person was given the acting assignment so she could do the training.

Plus, there were so many people being given acting assignments to cover the training and monitoring for the fifty or so new hires coming into the organization, that I might have to resume my consulting duties as regional training coordinator.

This may require some ‘splaining.

My substantive, or permanent position, is with the operational training team for Ontario. We’d been told for years that our positions were “overstaffed.” This meant that as team members retired or moved into other positions, that there would be no back-filling of staff. We’d have to make do with less.

Prior to my joining the team in 2009, there had been fifteen or sixteen trainers. By the time I joined, we were twelve. Then ten. When I accepted the regional training coordinator position, there were eight trainers left. Then two more received assignments and another was affected by business transformation, leaving five.

Shortly after I returned to the team in September, another of our number received an acting assignment elsewhere. Now that I’m departing again, the number of permanent staff on the team is down to four. That’s to serve all of the training needs of staff in our business line in the whole province. Really?

Though being regional training coordinator wore me out, I was nonetheless disappointed when my assignment ended and I returned to the training team, especially when I learned that the reason I’d likely never get a consultant-level position again was geographic rather than merit-based.

Though the consultant pool I’m in has been extended through to December 31, 2013, this may be my only chance at a consultancy again, ever.

On the team that houses the regional training coordinators, there have been changes as well. The manager has received an acting position as a director and the person taking his place is also acting.

Two other team members have received assignments off the team, and now, due to the number of acting trainers and monitors in this stabilization exercise, another of them will become a second acting manager for the training team.

Though they too had been told that no positions would be back-filled, there won’t be anyone left on the team who’s done the regional training coordinator gig who doesn’t already have a full plate.

And so I’m heading back.

Altogether now: WORK MADNESS!

I’m going to adjust my expectations of the position.  I know now the kind of chaos I’m going to be parachuted into the middle of. And the planning process I worked at so dilligently last year? It hasn’t even started yet.

I think I’m going to start every day with the Serenity Prayer.

Are there other projects I’m going to be involved in, work-wise? Yes. I’m going to be observing and potentially delivering the Business Expertise Curriculum (though I never received the training myself—this may be my only opportunity to take it in) in January and (possibly) February.

I may be training the team dynamics workshop too, though there are currently no plans on the table for it. Things shouldn’t be as insane as they were last year, however. I’ve already been certified. I won’t be going back there again.

In other news, the training certification program has departed our internal college for another training provider. So, no next steps for Mellie.  No assessment, no mentoring, and no training. Unless I get some kind of in with that other training provider. I become eligible to apply to them in March. We’ll see how that works out…

So that’s my work madness.

What’s yours?

My first NaNoWriMo

Winner, winner, chicken dinner

Off the top, I have to say this: I won!  My first time out and I won 🙂

Backtracking to my trip to Surrey

Before I even left, I was considering NaNo. The municipal liaison came out to the Sudbury Writers’ Guild meeting in September to promote. My leave would be until November 18, 2013, so I thought I’d probably have a chance.

While at SiWC, I heard several people talking about NaNo and how it had really helped them get their ideas down, break through writers’ block, built their confidence, and so forth.

By the time I got back, I was determined to give it a try.

I chose a project that I had outlined years ago. I’d had a little bit written, but I hadn’t touched it in years.

I was going to start over in any case.

The power of planning

I knew I was going away for a few days to visit some friends, and that I’d be going back to work before the month was out. I started out by front loading the work, trying to move ahead quickly at the beginning so I could coast a bit at the end if I needed to.

Still, when I went back to work, there were a few low count nights. I was worried.

To make time for my writing in the evenings when I went back to work, I tried using my smart(er than me) phone to keep track of my email and social media.

I got up a half-hour earlier than usual to check Facebook, WordPress follows, and my Feedly follows and share the interesting stuff on Twitter and Google+.

The pilgrim’s progress

Here’s a convenient table for you:

Day Count Total + or –
1 2161 2161 +494
2 2284 4445 +1111
3 2325 6770 +1769
4 travel 0 6770 +102
5 2122 8892 +557
6 travel 0 8892 -1110
7 1877 10769 -900
8 2168 12937 -399
9 2190 15127 +124
10 1675 16802 +132
11 1721 18528 +191
12 2284 20812 +808
13 2008 22820 +1149
14 1699 24519 +1181
15 1684 26203 +1198
16 1894 28097 +1425
17 1668 29801 +1462
18 1727 31528 +1522
19 return to work 1181 32709 +1036
20 549 33258 +82
21 507 33765 -1242
22 1822 35587 -1087
23 1814 37301 -1040
24 1707 39008 -1000
25 1731 40739 -936
26 1677 42416 -926
27 1692 44108 -901
28 757 44865 -1811
29 2232 47097 -1246
30 3802 50899 +899

What I learned

I don’t think I could do this working full time.

Having said that, it was fantastic to know that I could pull a 50000+ word draft together in 30 days. It was interesting to me because my first novel took me a year to write, working in the evenings and on weekends.

It gives me hope that if I do end up getting a deal for my work at some point and am asked to pump out sequels in swift succession, I should be able to do so. Also, if I end up going the self-publishing route, it’s always good to have moar material out there. If people like what I write, I can potentially supply the demand.

While my Samsung Galaxy Note II is quite lovely, I don’t think that I could manage my social media long term using it alone. Some of the information so easily accessible on my desktop is not so convenient to find in an Android app version of the program. Also, some things don’t translate well. Though the Feedly app appears to allow FB mentions in a post, it does not actually include them when posting to FB.

I have a few strange-looking posts over the last couple of weeks, and was not able to keep track of anyone’s birthdays on my phone, so apologies to anyone I may have offended or missed as a result.

Again, it’s good to know that I can do a minimally good job of maintaining my social media from my phone if need be.

Today, except for these blog posts, I have not written. I’ll get back on that horse shortly. I’ve also had to let a few submission deadlines slide because I just couldn’t manage to do it all. Everyone has their limits.

Coming up

I’ll be blogging in the future about my writing plans moving forward as well as a little about work. Interesting times I live in 😉

Writerly Goodness, signing off.

The leave begins

I’m going to be a bit scarce, or scarcer that I have been recently.

I have my time off and I’m going to use it to catch up on a few projects/straighten out my head.

What’s up:

It’s taken much longer than I intended, but I am coming down to the final, final, FINAL revision of Initiate of Stone before I send her off to the editor who expressed interest last year and to a few select beta readers.  I’m going to be revising my pitch/query and start targeting Agents and small publishers.

I’ll be attending the Surrey International Writers’ Conference from October 25-7, and I have a pitch session booked with the wonderful Kristin Nelson (squee!)  I’m very excited, but after putting IoS to bed (for now) I will likely spend the next week prepping for SiWC.  I’m going to be reviewing my idea files for what I want to work on next.

While I wait to hear back from editors/agents/publishers about IoS, I’m going to be starting on/returning to other novel-length projects like Gerod and the Lions.

Come November, though, I’m going to be tackling another project for NaNoWriMo (!)  I only have until the 19th off, but I’m thinking it’s time to get something else up and out there.  This may be the idea file project I choose to prep for SiWC.

So that’s pretty much my writing ambitions.

I have said that I would participate in Khara House’s October Submit-o-Rama, and even participated in Kasie Whitener’s Just Write 2013 challenge for the purpose, but I’m not going to go out of my way to get a pile of short stories submitted.

If it happens, it happens.  I have some markets targeted, but I want to focus on my novels.  That’s where I need to be.

On a more personal note, I’m going to be trying to work in a little more physical activity.  I’ve gained weight just in the six weeks since I quit smoking.  It’s not good.  The clothes are tight.  And I haven’t been as faithful with implementing new habits as I was with changing the old.  I need something that will work with my life when I go back to the day-job.  This bears some thought.

I have no doubt that when I do go back, things will be as hectic as ever, so the new fitness routine has to be something that will let me get the sleep I need, get all the housework and daily chores done, and still accommodate work and writing.  And then there’s all that TV I like to watch 😛

I need to finish off my household clean-up (which stalled in September) and try to get the gardens into some kind of order before the snow falls.  I have a few projects I’d like to get to as well: 2 ceiling fans to install, my office door to strip and refinish, and one of our external doors to repaint.  I’m also looking at some storage fixes, cabinets for the bedroom and bathroom, and a new bookshelf for my office.

These last I’m not going to rush, since I think I’ll have enough with my trip to Surrey, another shortish trip to visit a friend in southern Ontario, and all the writing I want to do.

And then there’s Writerly Goodness.  I’m thinking it’s time for a face-lift, and maybe a new

English: Epic Win title card.

English: Epic Win title card. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

name.  My domain will remain the same, but I’m thinking that a more appropriate name might be Totally Epic, or Epic Win (for my interest in epic fantasy).

I could go with something more general because I’m not just about the epic fantasy, I have urban fantasy, YA and MG, science fiction, and even some cross-over type novels in my idea file.  Plus I still write poetry and short stories, some of which are not speculative at all.

How about Improbable Possibilities (one definition of SF), or Speculations on Fiction?  There are some old suggestions: Phigment’s (Phigment is an imaginary dragon—the site would belong to her), or MelanieM/Millennium.  This last was from a friend who realized saying MelanieM sounds an awful lot like millennium.  Does something else present itself to you as clever?  I think I might just put a poll in my post this week 😉

A number of recent writer interviews have been delayed, perhaps indefinitely, so I probably won’t be posting much more than once a week (outside of SiWC, which I hope to blog and maybe even Twitter).  If I have nothing to offer by way of updates, I may not post at all in any given week.

Just to let you know.  I’m still here, but I’m going to be trying to shift my focus away from the interwebz for a bit and get back to the reason I started this whole platform-building gig in the first place—my writing.

I’ve been seeking balance for some time.  Maybe I’ll find it in the next five weeks?  Who knows?

Thanks for your patronage, and for your patience.

Terra Luna guest post by Vikki and John Woodward

Vikki and John Woodward are a married couple in Tallahassee, Florida. They are the authors of TERRA LUNA, an epic VikkiandJohnurban contemporary romance, which they have published on Amazon Kindle. Two sequels are under way, and they recently completed IN THE CAT’S EYES, a paranormal romance and thriller which they hope to publish soon.

You can buy TERRA LUNA here: http://amzn.to/1bPsfY7

You can learn more about their universe of Faeries, bagpipers and the world’s greatest scones at their blog, http://mactamicksfinestscotchltd.com/

In this guest blog post, they talk about writing together as a married couple.

_______________________________________________________________________

Vikki:

Every day I would sit in my car under a giant oak tree, and wait for my sister to finish work so I could give her a ride home. I’ve amused myself by making up and telling stories all my life, and during those weeks of sitting under that oak I made up a story about the tree: a Faerie and many other critters lived in and around it.

I started writing my story down in a notebook. Whenever my sister would finally leave work, I read her the next installment of the story. She was impressed and encouraged me to continue. I mentioned to my husband John I was writing a story about a Faerie that that had to live in two worlds: our Human one where she pretended to own the Faerie Lands (a private “wildlife preserve”) and her Faerie community, where she never fully fit in or was trusted.

Although I had never seen or heard of Little Five Points in Atlanta, Terra Luna’s Human community, when I described to John what I saw in my mind’s eye he said that L5P was exactly it. Weeks later he took me there. It was strange, because it was just as I had imagined.

I have a lot of stories and characters in my head, but it is hard for to put solid words into a story the way I’d like. John is great, really super at research and the technical stuff, whereas I provide the ideas. Honestly, my grammar and syntax need help, which John gives me. I am the creative and emotionally wise half of the team. My characters need me to write their life story and I need John to help, because honesty I could not do it without him. I can tell to my stories to anyone that would listen, but I really and truly need John to write in a comprehensive way so people can appreciate them.

John:

I used to write nonfiction, mostly articles for magazines that dealt with disability issues. I learned the mechanics of getting to the point, cutting excess, keeping the grammar good and simple and so on. I offered to help Vikki write TERRA LUNA because she needed help with the Prologue, in which a jumbo jet crashes at take off and only the baby Terra Luna survives. The scene had to be tragic and was just too sad for her. I wrote it so she could begin the main story. A few pages later, I decided that the minor character Barry Davie should be a doctor who would eventually become the hero’s best friend and deliver the heroine’s baby. That was my start as a creative contributor.

Vikki created all the major characters in our book, and half the minor ones. Nothing gets in without her approval. The final decisions about plot, descriptions and continuity are always hers. My job is to get it into the computer file. We began writing together at night, with her describing what should happen and me writing it. We switched to a system where she described to me every night what should happen next, and I would write it the next day while she was at work. Then I would read it to her in the evening, she would correct any mistakes and we would repeat the cycle. Later on I invented a few scenes of my own, to give the characters extra room to grow.

My own “growth” as a writer has mainly been a steady improvement in my skills as an editor and re-writer. We spent hundreds of hours writing TERRA LUNA — it’s an epic — but I spent almost twice as long on editing and re-writing.

TerraLunacoverWe have now finished our second book, IN THE CAT’S EYES. Whereas TERRA LUNA is urban fantasy, CAT’S EYES is a paranormal romance set in New Orleans. It started as our National Novel Writing Month book for 2012. We are currently writing the second book the TERRA LUNA series, RAVEN. We don’t know when CAT’S EYES will be published, or when RAVEN will be finished, but we are looking ahead to Labor Day Weekend, when we will join the Novel-in-Three-Days challenge and November, when we will do National Novel Writing Month again.

It’s strange that I always envisioned myself as a “writer,” but never had any plots that excited me enough to sit down and write. Vikki gave me the gift of her imagination, and that made all the difference.