The next chapter: April 2014 update

The Next ChapterIf March was a little weird, April was a whole lot weird.

Lemme ‘splain.

I abandoned the thought of keeping to any kind of “schedule” with regard to my writing. At the end of last month, I had drafts for Apprentice of Wind and Figments completed, or so I thought.

So you’ll understand my surprise when I went to print off Figments, that I hadn’t, in fact, finished it. A few hundred words fixed that up, but boy was I embarrassed.

Then, once I had AoW and Figments printed, I heard Initiate of Stone calling my name. Even though I haven’t heard back from all my betas yet, I needed to do a little work on IoS.

I just finished reading Roz Morris’s first Nail Your Novel, and before that, I read Victoria Mixon’s Art and Craft of Story. I wanted to do a combination approach with each draft, using Roz’s form of beat sheet and Victoria’s holographic structure.

With IoS, I had previously eliminated a POV character. Now I’ve decided to remove her entirely and give the specifics of her plotline to other POV characters. It was something others had recommended and I resisted. I guess I just needed time and space away from the ms to realize the truth.

And it wasn’t half so difficult (read fraught) as I thought it would be.

So I knew that I would not be doing a lot with regard to “new words” in April because I’d mostly be focusing on working with my printed drafts and most of the new work would be on my blog.

Then I edited a couple of stories for submission, but the net new words for that was just over three hundred.

Once again, I find myself surprised.

April's word count

I am still eternally grateful to Jamie Raintree for this fabulous tool

Total word count for the month: 11, 612 (!), 10,930 of that from blogging alone.

Amaze-face.

Mind you, I have been blogging all those juicy sessions from Ad Astra. It’s transcription, but it counts.

Here’s the round up for the year so far:

Month Total Blog Initiate of Stone Apprentice of Wind Figments Gerod and the Lions Short Stories
January 11,532 7,114 0 2,781 207 821 609
February 9,789 6,303 0 47 308 1,296 1,835
March 10,781 8,193 0 333 1,488 312 455
April 11,612 10,930 0 0 381 0 301

So this has been an interesting month, and the next few promise to be as well.

I won’t be actively querying until I have revisions done on IoS, so that’s on hold, again, too.

I did receive my contributors’ copy of Sulphur IV, the literary journal of Laurentian University. I have three poems in there. The CV has been updated.

The Sudbury Writers’ Guild, with its slick new web site, is moving forward with its anthology, so I’ve set aside some work for that.

I made a decision at the end of March. I’d been an associate member of the League of Canadian Poets since 1999, but I’d never gone to its annual conference or AGM. So I decided this year not to renew my membership and instead invest in SF Canada and the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association (home of the Auroras).

It’s been interesting so far.

As far as what’s coming up, Baen Books has a short fiction contest, and I’ve just become aware that Lightspeed has an open reading period for Women Destroy Fantasy.

So there you are.

Progress continues to be made.

How is your writing life going?

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The next chapter: 2013 in review

I think it’s important to recognize all the good things one accomplishes.  With regard to my writing, 2013 has been a banner year.  I haven’t seen its like in … well a very long time.

You may remember way back at the beginning of the year what I wrote about resolutions, how I’m not fond of them, and how I prefer to make reasonable goals so I can have a chance to reach them.

It worked a charm for me.

I wrote four (soon to be five) new short stories this year and revised six others for submission. This has resulted in three fiction publications (one paid), and another three poetry publications.

While the goal of Kasie Whitener’s Just Write Challenge was to write thirteen stories in 2013, I think that eleven was pretty darn good, considering the other things that I’ve accomplished.

I sent Initiate of Stone for a content edit in January and revised the whole thing twice. I’ve now sent the manuscript to select beta-readers and have sent it off to one agent and will ship it to one editor shortly.

In the mean time, I started on a middle grade fantasy, Gerod and the Lions, and drafted Figments, a YA fantasy, during NaNoWriMo.

Since the end of November, I’ve given myself a bit of a break. I’ve written a crap-load this year (because in addition to the 11 short stories, poetry, revisions, and the 50k+ draft, I’ve also tried to keep things rolling with my blog) and felt the distinct need for a rest before diving back into things in 2014.

Though I was not able to meet my goal of revising my blog (reader response seemed to indicate it wasn’t a priority) or moving to self-hosted WordPress, those goals remain on the list.  This time last year, I managed to accrue 100 followers on my blog. Now I’m over 222. While I’m still considering a newsletter, I continue to hold off. Until I have a novel out, I’m not certain a newsletter will have much value.

This year I also attended the Canadian Authors Association’s (CAA’s) CanWrite! Conference (June) and the Surrey International Writers’ Conference (October). Both were amazing experiences, and I learned a huge amount from the sessions at both conferences.

Currently, though my services haven’t been much requested of recent months, I’m sitting on the CAA’s Program Committee, and so putting some of my efforts into not only the CanWrite! Conference, but also, the Literary Awards, the Roving Writers Program, and other events.

As a reward for all my hard work, I’m going to be investing in Scrivener, thanks to the NaNo

Scrivener (software)

Scrivener (software) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

reward discount, and purchasing the 2014 Guide to Literary Agents.

As far as what I’m aiming for in the New Year, stay tuned. I’ll have a post on more reasonable goals coming up next week.

books for sale!

books for sale! (Photo credit: bookgrl)

In the meantime, please share your accomplishments. It really helps to put them down in writing. I think when you see everything you’ve managed over the last year in print, you’ll be amazed. I was.

Then celebrate! You were fantastic! And you know what? So was I 😉

Sorry, couldn’t help the Doctor Who reference. Geek girls rule!

LEGO Doctor Who (Collection)

LEGO Doctor Who (Collection) (Photo credit: ChocolateFrogs)

Saturday morning keynote: Susin Nielsen

YA novelist and Governor General’s Award-winning writer Susin Nielsen shared her journey to authorhood.

It’s an equation: 1/3 talent, 1/3 hard work, and 1/3 luck.

She showed use her first diary, and even read to us some of her early entries: “If I become famous, I may want to keep a diary.”

She aspired to be Harriet the Spy and her first diary lasted for all of 8 days.  Susin was in 7th drade.

There were always books in the house.  She was an off-beat kid.  It was a while before she realized that elaborate imaginary games were not where her classmates were at.

She didn’t have a lot of friends.

Her first book was The Smallest Snippet in Snippeton.  She showed it to us 🙂

She submitted poems to Seventeen magazine and received the response: “Nicely written, but much too depressing for us.”  Susin read us one of the poems: “Suicide.”  It was a little maudlin.

Malcolm Gladwell writes about the 10,000 hour rule.  About that time, she was about the 200 hour range.

She went to Ryerson, got a job in food services for Degrassi, wrote a spec script, which eventually became 16 episodes of the long-running Canadian series.

When Word Nerd was published in 2006, her agent was incredibly helpful.

Susin Nielsen in Lorette, Manitoba

Susin Nielsen in Lorette, Manitoba (Photo credit: Tundra Books)

The bottom line: if you’re a writer, write.  Hone your craft.

The next chapter: July 2013 update

Just a few words here about my writing life of late.

I am continuing to revise Initiate of Stone, but at least once a week, I can’t seem to get to it after all my other responsibilities.  Then sometimes I make a choice.  This past Tuesday, for example, I chose to go to North Bay rather than taming my daily dose of the intewebz or write.  Though it was well worth it, I still felt odd not writing.

It’s an addiction now.  Healthy, but an addiction nonetheless 😉

Acceptances

Since my last update, I’ve received some good news.  The Atomy picked up two of my poems, Enhance will be accepting one of my photographs (wow!), and most recently, Sulphur will be accepting three of my poems for its next issue.

I received my contract from On Spec and am waiting to hear from their content editor on next steps (still so excited about this!).

I’ve submitted a couple of flash fiction pieces, but they’re both fairly recent stories and may need to mature (read, to be edited) before they find a home.

Writers of the Future wasn’t fond of “The Gabriel” but I have yet to recieve my personalized response.

Still waiting to hear about a few short story submissions from April, May, and June.

Oh, and I almost forgot.  I submitted the first bit of a story to Erin Brady too, and I’m curious to find out what will come of that 🙂

Just as I was linking those publications, above, I noticed that Enhance has a call out for that flashy fiction stuff!  Go see!

Conferences

This year’s CanWrite! was a success.  I certainly hope everyone got a lot of good information out of my CanWrite! blog posts.

Since I’m now a member of the program committee, which includes responsibility for the conference and the CAA literary awards, I’ll probably have some news forthcoming about next year’s conference in the future.  Watch this space 🙂

I’ve had to make a decision about When Worlds Collide in Calgary.  Though I would love to go and the line up looks great (Patricia Briggs, Robert J. Sawyer, and Angela Ackerman will be among the guests), I just can’t afford it.

The conference fee is reasonable in the extreme, but it’s the air fare and accommodation that make the event costly.  Domestic flights are quite expensive. I had my eye set on Surrey this year, so I think I’m going to stick with that conference and go to WWC next year.  I only have enough Avion points to take 2 trips anyway and one is already spoken for (a friend’s pre-wedding party) so there you have it 🙂

There’s a writing contest associated with Surrey too, so I’ll probably aim to submit something for that as well.

It’s good to keep the creative opportunities lined up and ready to rock.

Writerly Goodness

What’s everyone working on these days?  I’d love to hear from you about your creative projects!

Caturday quickies: The Conspiracy of Three reading series in North Bay

I went on a bit of a road trip on Tuesday evening with Kim Fahner and her friend Brenda—a poetic road trip!  Kim and our mutual friend Roger Nash had been invited to the Conspiracy of Three reading series in North Bay.

A word about the Conspiracy

Kim and I have both read at the Conspiracy before…like nearly twenty years ago (!) and on Tuesday, I learned that the series is close to twenty-five years old.  The reading series that preceded it (and out of which it emerged) ran for an even longer time.  So the Conspiracy has a long tradition in North Bay.

To the reading

The reading was hosted in the new location of the White Water Gallery and by Doyali Islam, who I met last year at the 100,000 poets for change event.

Also in attendance were Tim Robertson and his wife, Karin, Kevin Smith, and Natalie Wilson.

There was a brief discussion about upcoming events and the group’s concerns about Gulliver’s, a local book store that they’re trying to form a co-op for.  Otherwise, this independent book store might just disappear.

Kim and Roger were the featured readers.

KimSmilesTooKim was great, as usual, and managed to dig out a North Bay poem for the crowd.

Roger read from his recently published book of shYesRogerSmilesort stories, The Cobra and the Camera, and a few of his poems.

Afterward, the final set was for open mic participants.

I’m terrible with names, but aside from the curator of the gallery, there was a man who worked as a plumber whose poetic observations were witty and hilarious.  A young poet, Mary, I believe, was also quite good, but in the way of someone new to the reading experience, she needed to project her voice just a bit more.

It was a lovely night and the worst of the shadflies were over.  It started raining just as we arrived and stopped by the time we left.  While this mostly served to bring out the fishy smell of the shadflies, it was lovely and cool for the ride back to Sudbury.

Six questions with Anthony Armstrong

Tony Armstrong

Photo by Jana Armstrong (used with permission)

Find out more about Tony by visiting his web site: www.anthonyarmstrong.ca

___________________________________________________________________________________

I first met Tony through our mutual friend, Kim Fahner.  He’d been one of her teachers, and she credited Tony for setting her on the writer’s path.

Tony is an award-winning author of short stories, a published poet, spoken word performer, and photographer.  I may have missed a few things in there.  This man does a lot of creative work, all of it excellent.

Now he’s published his first horror novel Penage.

Welcome, Tony!

WG: When did you first start writing, and when did you know that you were a writer?

AA: I realized the power of words when I was a boy and my father would tell us marvellous fantasy adventure stories at bedtime. In elementary school, I could amuse people with silly verse. My grade seven teacher read a poem I wrote and called me a communist. In high school I began writing for personal solace and satisfaction. But it was not until I was about twenty that I wrote anything that contained a poetic perception.

WG: You work in different genres and forms. How is each different, and what do you like best about each?

AA: Poems and short stories exist as completed entities before I record them. They seem to be whole when I bump into them, but I will do some mental editing before writing them down. The novel Penage was different in the sense that it was in progress for a long time, but it did seem to have its own existence. It flowed out of itself. Things I wrote down one night had a significance that became clear to me nights later as the story revealed itself.

WG: You were a teacher for many years.  How has that part of your career played into your writing, or was it the other way around?

AA: Sometimes my enthusiasm for literature was evident when I was in the classroom, but schools are the antithesis of a creative environment. Teachers and students are carried along by institutional inertia.

WG: When and how did the idea for Penage first strike you and how long did it take to bring your project to fruition?

AA: Judy and I have a small piece of land on the shore of Lake Penage. It was given to us by Judy’s parents. My father-in-law told me about a plane crash near our camp. He also told me about retrieving a frustrated fisherman’s lost gear. I was disappointed when electricity came to our area of the lake. All these events and a what if perspective blended together in my mind without much effort from me, and a horror novel was born. I wrote the story at camp over twenty years ago. During June and half of July, I would write for two or three hours beneath a propane light after everyone else went to bed. In the morning I would read the results to Judy. In July, my brother-in-law, who also had a camp on Lake Penage, died suddenly. I was staggered by his passing and can’t remember exactly when I got back to writing the story. Some time later, I did get back to my routine and finished Penage. It was not until this year that the original work got a serious editing by Ignatius Fay and me. The ebook is the final product.

WG: I’m a big process geek.  Would you mind sharing something about your process as a writer?

AA: I am not a process geek. I am even reluctant to emphasize the role of the writer. I feel more like a recording secretary. I bump into ideas and record them. I think this is especially true of my poetry. I perceive something and write it down. I am not responsible for what I perceive any more than I am responsible for what I hear or smell.

WG: What’s coming up next for you?

AA: A print version of Penage is in the works. I am toying with the idea of a short story collection. When I bump into poetic perceptions of godless spirituality (I hate the word spirituality), I record them. I may look for an opportunity to present them publicly in the future.

Thanks for this opportunity.

Thanks for a great interview, Tony.  Best wishes for your future creative endeavours.

______________________________________________________________________________

Penage is the story of Madison Green, a man with a violent, possessive personality. His distrust of others leads to his having too many x-rays. He pilots a plane that is struck by lightning—twice. The lightning and the overdose of radiation transform him into a physical and psychological beast. The plane crashes into Lake Penage, and the beast lives secretly in its waters for many years. The remains of the plane are his prized possessions, and when they are disturbed and displaced, unwanted contact with human beings becomes inevitable.

As the beast searches for its possessions, its anger increases. It secretes an ooze that

Penage Cover

Photo by Anthony Armstrong (used with permission) Graphics by Ignatius Fay

protects what is his but destroys almost anything else it makes contact with. As the beast reacquires his possessions he comes to see himself as master of the lake; he comes to think of himself as Penage.

Even some of those who encounter the beast doubt its existence, and any public suggestion of its presence brings ridicule. A drunk, a school teacher, a widow, a marina owner, and a truck driver are forced to deal with the beast. Facing the beast means facing danger, terror, and death.

Penage is available at Kobo, the itunes bookstore, Smashwords, the Sony ebook store, and most major ebook sellers. Smashwords will have the lowest price:  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/318759

Wordstock Sudbury

Today, I was pleased and privileged to be a part of Wordstock Sudbury, the first of what is hoped to be a biannual literary event.  At the Sudbury Theatre Centre (STC), Wordstock took over the main stage, lounge, and lobby areas for readings, workshops, and the essential selling of books.

If you would like to have a look at the full schedule, it is available on the site linked above.

I attended primarily to support my friend, poet Kim Fahner, and my fellow members of the Sudbury Writers’ Guild (SWG).  I also read the recently revamped opening of my novel.

Kim read with former Sudbury Poet Laureate Roger Nash, and Charlie Smith from Massey, all of them published by Your Scrivener Press (YSP).  The theme of their reading was Home and Away.  Though all three have very distinctive voices, the reading went well and had a seamless feel.  It’s always a pleasure to see such consummate professionals perform their works.

KimFahnerOf course, Kim was fabulous 🙂  She has a way of addressing the audience, slightly self-deprecating yet hilarious, that establishes a relationship.  We feel instantly at home with her, and completely comfortable as she shares pieces of her life in verse.

After a brief break, Sudbury Arts Council (SAC) president, Vicky Gilhula took the stage and presented the youth writing contest winners with their prizes.  One young man (forgive me, but I forget his name) came prepared to read and his story, based on his grandfather’s life in Sudbury and his career in the mining industry, was spectacular.  Amazing: a thirteen year old young man had the confidence and presence to bring us to tears.

He was that good.

Next, the SWG took over the auditorium, beginning with Rosanna Batigelli, who read a RosannaBatigellicouple of chapters from her historical novel, La Brigantessa.  The novel’s protagonist takes to a life of a brigand when she is assaulted and forced to leave her home by a tyrannical general.  Rosanna is in the process of revising her novel for publication.

EmilyDeangelisEmily Deangelis read from her middle grade/young adult novel about a young girl who loses her father in a car accident and subsequently experiences supernatural visitations when she is left with her great-aunt in Manitoulin Island’s Meldrum Bay.

Irene Golas read a selection of her poetry and flash fiction.IreneGolas

Tom Leduc read a number of his poems centering on his experience of Sudbury and its mining industry.

MargoLittleMargo Little from Manitoulin Island read some of her works published through projects of the Manitoulin Writers’ Circle including one on the War of 1812 and how the soldiers of the time became enamoured of their muskets, called Brown Betties.

Janice Leuschen, a member of both the SWG and of the JaniceLeuschenProfessional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC) read one of her stories, and Heather Campbell, also a member of PWAC, finished off the session with a discussion of creative non-fiction.

I read just after Margo and just before Janice.  I don’t have any pictures and I’ll reach out to my fellow guildies to share any pictures they may have of me at the event.  It would be a lovely remembrance of the day.  Sincere thanks in advance 🙂

As I mentioned, I read the revised opening of Initiate of Stone; it was my first public presentation and I received some excellent feedback from Kim and Emily.  The technical director of the STC also found me in the lobby and complimented me on my reading.

I have often been told that I have a great voice.  It’s one of the things that helps me both as a corporate trainer and as a writer, a learned skill from my days as a poet, honed by years of practise.  I tend to a literary style, even though I write genre, and the voice creates an appropriately dreamy backdrop for my words.

After the SWG session was over, playwright Matthew Heiti took the stage to host a series of readings from plays in which one friend, Paulette Dahl, was reading from a play by another, mutual friend, Louise Visneskie.

The English Arts Society of Laurentian University also hosted a reading, Heather Campbell hosted a workshop on the creative process, and Roger Nash and Daniel Aubin, Sudbury’s current Poet Laureate read their poetry.

And all of that wasn’t counting the Friday night cabaret, the children’s and young adult programming on the patio, or any of the other workshops and events that I couldn’t attend.

Though attendance was modest, I think that it was a good start.  The hope of the organizers is to grow Wordstock into a full literary festival at a larger venue, or at several venues throughout the city.  I wish them the best and applaud them for this year’s event.

I had a blast 🙂

How my life sentence with mortal punctuation has informed my writing

A.K.A. The period at the end of this series 🙂

I’ll preface this bit by saying that I don’t think I’m unique among writers in this respect.  In fact, I think every writer works, at core, with and through the same issues.  This past week, I read (and shared) a great interview with Chuck Wendig in which he talks about (among much other awesome) the themes that crop up in his work.  Surprise, surprise, death and family rank prominently.

In this morning’s The Sunday Edition with Michael Enright, one of the Canadian greats (with whom I was privileged to work, even though he didn’t like my genre/subject matter) Alistair MacLeod, mentioned the same influences and themes.

Think of just about any author you’re reading or have enjoyed, and I think you’ll find death and family cropping up: Rowling’s Potter books were all about death and the search for family despite its omnipresence; Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice is about a number of families and he keeps on killing off prominent members 😉 (note here: in this context, what is politics, but family drama writ large on the world stage?); Collins’s Hunger Games = Death/Family; Gabaldon’s novels are a series of time travelling family sagas and death plays a prominent role.

I could go on, but I won’t.  Search your own shelves/ereaders to find your own examples.

What’s unique about me is my story, my life, and I hope that translates to my characters so that even though the theme may be familar, the way that it is expressed through my characters and stories is something just a little different.

Death

Death finds its way into a lot of my stories in different ways:

In my first published short story, “Chlorophyll and Corruption” (which is probably the prologue to a YA sci-fi), my protagonist first saves his brother from being pushed out of their atmospheric containment bubble, then must flee an impending supernova. “For a Change” (which I have subsequently rewritten as “The Gabriel” and may yet become a sci-fi novel) my protagonist’s reaction to a world of sterile Transmat immortals is to attempt suicide, repeatedly.

In “Fox Fur,” my protagonist is trying to deal with the death of her parents by means of various encounters with foxes.  “Dead Issue,” is about a young woman who makes a personal discovery at a family funeral.

“Tonsillitis Blues” from my 1999 MA Thesis, Whispers in the Dark, is an interpretation of my adult exploration of the near-death experience prompted by my tonsillectomy trauma.  The protagonist of “Fool’s Journey” (subsequently rewritten as “A Terrible Thing” and likely a YA paranormal novel), another story from the same collection, attempts suicide because she can’t deal with the visions of danger and death she’s been gifted with.

Even my poetry is liberally sprinkled with death.

Ferathainn, the protagonist of Initiate of Stone, experiences the deaths of her best friend,

English: Colored version of the ancient Mesopo...

English: Colored version of the ancient Mesopotamian eight-pointed star symbol of the goddess Ishtar (Inana/Inanna), representing the planet Venus as morning or evening star. (Version not enclosed within a surrounding circle) Polski: Kolorowa wersja symbolu ze starożytnej Mezopotamii, ośmioramiennej gwiazdy Bogini Isztar (Inany/Inanny), reprezentujacej planetę Wenus jako poranną lub zachodnią gwiazdę. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

fiancé, and father, and subsequently dies herself attempting to exact revenge.  She undergoes an Inanna-inspired journey into the underworld to reclaim herself and her will to live.  Eoghan witnesses the execution of his brother for heresy and when the goddess Auraya calls him to become her champion, or Kas’Hadden (hammer of light), he experiences an assassination of personality at her hands.  Dairragh, deeply affected by the death of his mother years earlier, inadvertently triggers the destruction of his home and the death of his father.  He succumbs to his wounds and is resurrected and set on a shamanic path by the mysterious anogeni.

I won’t get into the protagonists of my other unpublished works, but death and its impact are recurring themes.

Death is the period of every life sentence and so it is a universal.  Few readers will fail to be engaged by various explorations of death and its impact on those left behind.  Thrillers and mysteries are built around it and are two of the most popular genres in publishing today.

Family

Likewise, everyone has a family.  Even the only child who has chosen not to have children of her own (like me) has parents and understands the pull of the complicated legacy handed down to them.

In my, admittedly small, family, women proved to be the peace-makers, sacrificial lambs, care-takers, bread-winners, and all around protagonists of the story.

My maternal grandfather was an alcoholic and a womanizer.  He and my grandmother were unable to have children and adopted my mother and aunt.  My grandmother worked in a textile mill during the depression and worked for most of her life until her first major heart-attack forced her into early retirement.

On my father’s side, my grandfather died at a relatively young age because of heart failure and my grandmother was an entrepreneur.  I still meet people in Sudbury who hear my name and ask if it was my grandmother who owned Marttila Sewing Centre.  Yup.  That was her.  She remained fiercely independent until stroke and cancer eventually took her life.

My father was always an ill man and though he was the bread winner for most of his life, it was my mother who held the family together, getting her high school diploma and driver’s licence in her forty’s and starting a new career as a ward clerk in the hospital when my father had his breakdown.  My mother was the one who cared for her parents and my father until their respective deaths.  Though she doesn’t have to, she still takes care of me.

It’s no wonder then, that my work focuses primarily on strong female characters.

Incidentally, here are a couple of posts I came across this week from Marcy Kennedy on strong and likeable female characters.

I had trouble for many years writing strong and likeable men because that was an archetype largely absent from my experience.  I found my way to that eventually, though, because of Phil, and because I learned to recognize the good qualities in the men in my life and expand those into heroic proportions.

Everyone is a mix.  My paternal grandmother may have been a business woman, but she was a poor fiscal manager, and tried too hard to curry favour with the well-to-do women of Sudbury (read sycophantic).  She first promised my mom inheritance of her business, then rescinded the offer and sold the business to a third party.  I think this was because she was too embarrassed to let my mom see what a shambles she’d made of things.

Though family dynamics run through all of my stories and novels, I’ll just present one example, from IoS, because it’s going to take a while to break down for you 😉

Ferathainn’s family in IoS is complex.  Her parents, Selene and Devlin, can’t have children and adopted Fer when she was abandoned by a bedraggled, but clearly noble, woman who refused to speak and ran away before she could be made to explain anything.

Devlin, feeling the need of a child of his blood, fathered Fer’s half-sister Aislinn, with Willow, a family friend and eleph (read elf).  Willow is misanthropic and makes her living as a brew-master and owner of the local public house.  She readily gave Aislinn into Selene and Devlin’s care.

Aislinn is obviously a half-breed, and largely reviled by the Tellurin (human) villagers of Hartsgrove as a freak. She is destined to become a bridge between the eleph and Tellurin peoples, however, by virtue of her heritage.

When Selene and Devlin adopted Fer, the resident eleph, Willow and her brothers Oak and Leaf, invited the new family and Aeldred, the local mage, to a Shir’Authe.  The Shir’Authe foretells the destiny of the child in eleph culture.  At the ceremony, none of the eleph can see anything about Fer’s future, but Leaf sees his spirit-lights, or astara, in the baby’s eyes (if you’re an Elf Quester, this is recognition, if you’re a Meyers fan, it’s imprinting).  This is bizarre enough, because only eleph are supposed to bond with one another in this way.

Selene, understandably, freaks out, but Leaf promises never to act on this deep spiritual attraction unless Fer somehow miraculously sees her astara in his eyes, or otherwise returns his feelings once she is gown.

Aeldred senses a wild and powerful magickal talent in the infant.  He fears that he will not be able to control the child and that she will become a rogue mage.  She has the potential to wreak havoc on their world and her talents will be much sought after, by moral and immoral authorities, both magickal and political.

In an attempt to minimize Fer’s potentially negative impact, he merely tells the others that she has talent and that he will remain in Hartgrove to become her teacher.  He further tells them that Fer’s parents are powerful, but immoral, people and that they must protect the child in the event that either one, or both blood parents, come seeking her.

He gets everyone to agree to a magickal binding.  None of them will be able to speak of the circumstances of Fer’s birth or of her coming to Hartsgrove until the girl comes of age.  By then, Aeldred hopes that he will have thoroughly indoctrinated Fer in the disciplines of the Agrothe magicks and that he will therefore be able to control her chaotic potential and prevent her from doing harm.

In truth, Fer’s parents are Aline of Gryphonskeep and Halthyon, an eleph mage, or kaidin. Aline is descended from the de Corvus family and magick flows through the bloodline.  The original Kas’Hadden was a de Corvus, so the power of the gods has been passed down to Fer.  Aline is married to Killian of Gryphonskeep and mother to Dairragh (dun, dun, dun!).

Halthyon is one of those rogue magi that Aeldred worries about.  He has extended his lifespan far beyond the already lengthy eleph standard.  His goal is to accumulate magickal power (by draining it from others as he kills them) and to ascend to godhood (in the process of which he intends to kill the existing gods of Tellurin).

Halthyon is unable to extract the child’s location from Aline and subsequently kills her in the attempt.  He wants to find his child because he considers her the only person worthy of ascending with him.  In order to do that, Fer must become a god-killer as well.

Okaaaaaay.  So there, in a convoluted nutshell is the familial basis of the plot of not only

English: St. Etheldreda's Churchyard - Family ...

English: St. Etheldreda’s Churchyard – Family Plot with Snowdrops (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

IoS, but the ensuing novels in the series, which I have called Ascension.  You can see why I identify the book in the epic fantasy genre 😀

Family is an endlessly intriguing Gordian knot to unravel and I think you can see where I have mined my tapestry to create Fer’s.

It’s all variations on two essential themes.

How have your life experiences contributed to your creative work?  Do death and family inform your stories?  Do you have a family-plot?

I’d love to hear from you!

Here ends the series that was A life sentence with mortal punctuation.  I hope you have enjoyed it, and found it to be useful in your creative pursuits.

Coming soon: I’ll have a book review for Laura Howard’s The Forgotten Ones, and hopefully a couple of author interviews to throw your way.  I’ll definitely share my experience in Margie Lawson’s  A deep editing guide to making your openings pop course, and in Marcy Kennedy’s Crafting your logline and pitch workshop next weekend.  There might even be some Pupdates and Next Chapters in there.

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.

Six questions with Barbara Morrison

Barbara MorrisonBarbara Morrison, who writes under the name B. Morrison, is a poet and writer, a publisher, teacher, and dancer. A few years after graduating with a BA in English, her marriage collapsed and she found herself forced to go on welfare. It is this experience of a world very different from the one in which she grew up that she describes in her memoir, Innocent: Confessions of a Welfare Mother.

She attributes part of her success in escaping poverty to her involvement in the world of traditional dance and music. She performed as a morris dancer for thirty years and continues to be active in the Country Dance and Song Society and several of its affiliates.

Barbara is also the author of a poetry collection, Here at Least, with a second volume, Terrarium, scheduled for 2012. She is currently working on a novel. Barbara has won multiple awards, been invited to speak as a featured author, and been published in magazines such as The Sun, Sin Fronteras, Scribble, and Tiny Lights. She conducts writing workshops and speaks on women’s and poverty-related issues. She is also the owner of a small press and speaks about publishing and marketing. Come by her website for more information.

Barbara’s Monday Morning Books blog is where every week since 2006 she has been sharing insights about writing gleaned from her reading. You can also find her on Twitter where she tweets regularly about poetry and on Facebook. Be sure to visit her GoodReads Author Page and her Amazon Author Page.

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I met Barbara through Robert Lee Brewer’s April Platform Challenge last year and am pleased to welcome her to Writerly Goodness.

Terrarium will be Barbara’s second collection of poetry and will be published in May 2013.

WG: When did you begin to write poetry and how do your poems come to you?

BM: I began writing poetry in high school and continued through good times and bad, even when I was a single parent working three jobs. Although I’ve also kept a journal, it is in poetry that I seem to have chronicled my life. At first I thought I had to wait for poems to come to me, but after I spent a couple of years making myself write a poem a day, I realized that there would always be something troubling or tickling me, something I wanted to praise or puzzle over.

WG: What is your creative process like?  Do your poems incubate for a while?  Do you edit extensively?  What role does your publisher play in the process?

BM: They often start with a single phrase. Some poems come quickly while others take their time. I then put them away for a while before starting another round of editing. I often repeat this process several times. I self-publish my poetry, but once I put on my publisher’s hat, I might demand further revisions.

WG: Terrarium’s theme revolves around various interpretations of home.  How did this theme evolve for you and how does it reflect the “place” you find yourself in at this point in your life?

BM: I actually started with the theme and deliberately wrote poems around it. I often dream about a particular city. It doesn’t exist in our world, as far as I know, but I could draw you a map of it; the streets and shops and houses are the same whenever I revisit them in dreams. Trying to work out why my unconscious needed to construct and continue to inhabit this place made me wonder how our places, both those we choose and those where we find ourselves, influence who we become. I never meant to stay in the city where I now live, so on some level I continue to feel even after many years that my life here is temporary, which in turn reminds me that our stay on earth is temporary, and I must make the best use of it that I can.

WG: How was assembling Terrarium different from working on your first collection, Here at Least, and what has the experience taught you about yourself as a poet?

BM: With the first collection I agonized over selecting and arranging the poems. I must have changed my mind a thousand times! With Terrarium I was more focused. Also, each of the three sections has a kind of chronology which helped.

WG: Is a launch or reading planned?  Will there be an online component to your promotion?

BM: Yes, I have a book launch party scheduled for 10 May 2013 at The Ivy Bookshop in Terrarium CoverBaltimore, MD. I also have several readings set up; see my website for details. One thing I’ve learned about online promotion is that there is no end to what you can do, so I will pace myself.

WG: What’s coming up next for you?

BM: I’ll be teaching a five-day memoir workshop called Sharing Our Stories at Common Ground on the Hill in July; for more information, see my website http://www.bmorrison.com. I am also working on a novel.

Thank you for sharing your creative journey with us!