Ups and downs: A week in the writerly life

Greetings, my writerly peeps!

It’s been a weird and wonderful week for me.

First, I headed down to Mississauga (second of three trips for the day-job this month) on Monday. Since I had full travel days (Monday and Thursday) this week, I was able to travel in a more leisurely fashion.

My mission: to co-facilitate the Business Writing Made Easy course (my seventh time with that particular curriculum) with one of my colleagues.

Monday afternoon was spent preparing the room and testing our technology. There were a few tense moments. There was a TV in the room, and we attempted to hook it up as the monitor for the lap top so we could use it to show the slides for the course. It didn’t work.

So we brought the good old SMART Board into the room, and while not able to achieve full connectivity (some of the cables were missing) we were able to use it as a basic projection screen. Good enough.

My colleague was preparing for her own trainer certification. At this time, our employer’s internal college is getting out of the certification biz, however, and so she had to record a full day’s training, edit it down to four hours, and demonstrate the eighteen trainer competencies.

This would mean that I couldn’t be in the classroom, though, because to have a co-facilitator in the room would have invalidated her certification.

So what would I do? Due to another colleague’s absence, I was able to set up at her workstation, but there wouldn’t be a lot of work I could do.

The day ended, and I had to leave ends a little loose for the time being.

That evening, I tried to connect to the interwebz through my hotel’s wi-fi. It wouldn’t even let me have multiple windows open (that’s how I manage my SoMe). So that meant dependence on my smart(er than me) phone for SoMe for the week and actual productive writing time.

This was a boon in disguise. I quickly accepted it for the gift it was.

That night, I realized that my colleague and I would be co-facilitating Business Writing Made Easy again at the end of this month (my third trip of three) and that she could record her session again there. In the morning, I proposed that I observe her and give her some tips for the end of the month, then jump in on day two.

This was an agreeable plan and so we proceeded.

There was a little panic (actually ongoing) because we were uncertain whether the course at month’s end would be approved.

The video tapes (yes, it was an old camcorder) ran out before half the day’s training was finished. We weren’t sure if my colleague would have enough footage to even make up the four hours she would need to submit.

Regardless, that night we went out to celebrate and enjoyed Korean BBQ, a first for both of us. You cook your own food, right at the table, and it’s a la carte, so you just keep ordering as long as you’re hungry. It was very tasty.

The next day, a snow storm blew in. The course finished well—the grammar module is my favourite—and my colleague had figured out how to transfer her video to digital so she could edit. So she had a possibility of moving forward with her certification video even if it turned out we couldn’t co-facilitate again.

I had a quiet night, writing away, and finished editing my NaNoWriMo novel. I just have to fill the ending out a little more now. We have denoue- but need a little more -ment.

The drive home on Thursday was terrible, largely because of the previous day’s snow storm.

It took me an hour and a half to travel a distance I normally would in about fifteen minutes, even with traffic. Then I got off the highway and travelled a little more indirectly to bypass the closed lane I assumed was the reason we couldn’t travel more than 10 km/h.

Once past that bit, I was fine, but I didn’t get back into Sudbury until about 3:30 pm.

When I got home, I noticed I had received a lovely email from R. Leigh Hennig of Bastion Science Fiction Magazine. They would like one of my stories for an issue later this year. W00t!

I have to back track just a bit. I submitted my story on March 1st. There was originally a deadline of February 28, but when I went to check on the web site, I noticed the date had been removed and that Bastion was now accepting submissions on a rotating basis, with issues filling up fast.

I decided to take the extra day to polish, and I’m glad I did.

When I was in Mississauga the week before last (first trip of three), I received an email that my submission would be brought forward for discussion with the editorial team. I was cautiously optimistic. Hell, I was all alone in my hotel room doing the happy dance.

And yes, I was dancing again on Thursday night, to Phil’s delight, when I received the second email confirming Bastion’s interest.

In fact, while I’m not one to too my own horn (it makes me distinctly uncomfortable), I have to share the following: “After some careful deliberation on this piece with the rest of the staff, we’ve decided that it would be a crime not to publish this.”

Oh. My. God.

Mellie was a wiggle-puppy.

Please donate (find the link on their About page) to support this wonderful new magazine.

 

It was back to work on Friday, and I forgot my phone, which meant no keeping up with email or SoMe or my reading during the day.

Then it was over to my friend Kim’s for home-made chilli and much writerly talk with Kim and a new (to me) friend, Violet. There was wine. I had to drink tea to sober up before the drive home and I ended up getting home after 11 pm when I finally caught up on email and SoMe.

Connecting to like-minded, creative souls is an important part of a writer’s life. It was wonderful, even if I didn’t get to write.

Saturday morning was cranberry bread French toast with Mom, a quick clean up of the house, and then an afternoon of shopping while Nuala went for her spa day (grooming) at Petsmart. After ordering out pizza for supper, I hosted a couple of friends from out of town.

It was another night of great conversation, though accompanied by coffee and oatmeal cookies instead of wine.

Unfortunately, that meant I was unable to meet a writing deadline. I was hoping to submit to the Northwestern Ontario Writers’ Workshop (NOWW) because the judge for the speculative fiction category is none other than Robert J. Sawyer. I would have loved to get something in front of his wise eyes.

I wouldn’t have given up my time with my friends for anything though. So, I’ll have to look for other opportunities.

So it’s been a week of ups and downs, but more ups than downs. It’s been a good week. And now I’m looking forward to a week off so I can recuperate and prepare for my next business trip.

How about you? How has your week played out? Let me know in the comments below.

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The next chapter: February 2014 update

The Next ChapterGreetings writerly peeps!

As I mentioned yesterday, this winter has gotten me a bit down, and as a result I have not written as much as I would have liked to this month. There were some nights that I didn’t manage to write anything at all.

With the increasing light, however, I’ve started to feel better and I’ve gotten back on that horse.

So here’s what February looked like for me as a writer.

February 2014 tracking

As with last month, I continued working on a project each week, plus blogging on the weekends. I don’t think I’ve stayed with the strategy long enough for significant results, either negative or positive, yet, so I will stick with it for the foreseeable.

Once more, I wrote the most words for my blog, 6303 to be exact. I’m still good with this. Most of my projects are revision at the moment and new words are sometimes hard to come by, particularly when you end up cutting scads of words rather than writing more.

Also, I attended WANAcon last weekend and, as Kristen Lamb said in her Blogging for Writers session, blogging teaches you to ship. That means you learn to pump out quality material on a schedule. It teaches discipline. I’ll have a bit more on the blog later in this post.

The next highest total was for my short stories at 1835 words. I have finished working with On Spec editor Barb Galler-Smith of the final revisions for my story “Downtime” and they have been submitted to the magazine. At this stage, we’re looking at the fall 2014 issue, most likely, but I should be getting confirmation on that in the future.

I also finished revising another short story for submission to Bastion Magazine, which I sent off yesterday. There’s nothing that feels quite as good as that combination of finishing and submitting.

In other short story news, I was once again rejected by Writers of the Future. I’m still waiting on tenterhooks to hear about my submissions to Tesseracts 18. I’ve been trying to get into that anthology for years.

Next up is the Northwestern Ontario Writers’ Workshop contest in which I will be submitting another speculative fiction piece. The judge for the category is Robert J. Sawyer (!) I’m bloody excited about that one too.

After short stories was my MG fantasy, Gerod and the Lions, with 1296 words. Last month, I pushed past what I had previously written and it’s all new words from here on out. Though I have a rough outline, the writing is proving a little daunting at this stage.

I’m blaming it on my winter funk.

Figments, my YA urban, came in next at 308 words, and Apprentice of Wind rounded things out with a scant 47. Both of these projects are of the revision category and most of the work I’m doing on AoW is structural and cut-work. With Figments, I’m filling in some of the gaps.

My Figments week was the week I had missed the most evenings of writing (3). It was also the week I started writing a course for work and it took me a while to learn how to conserve some of my writerly energies for my personal creative endeavours.

My total word-count for the month was 7954. I’m still pleased with that, even though it’s a lower total than January’s. If all of this year’s writing was focused on a single project, I’d be a third of the way to a finished draft. I don’t think that’s too shabby for a writer with a day job.

I still haven’t heard back from all of my beta readers, so I haven’t dug into the next round of revisions on Initiate of Stone at this point.

In other writerly news, I’ve reserved my accommodations for all of the conferences I’m attending this year. I’ll wait a bit before booking my flight for When Words Collide in August. I’m still struggling to pay down my Visa from Surrey and this year’s conference registration fees.

I have done some research and have identified 50 agents that I can start querying. I’m also watching Chuck Sambuchino’s Guide to Literary Agents site and Brian’s Henry’s Quick Brown Fox for agent news. I have a free year on Writer’s Market online to cash in and will also be using that tool to amend my list.

I’m going to wait until I get IoS revised one more time before I start into that process in earnest. By then, I should have a much more solid draft of AoW to work with, be mostly finished Figments, and well into GatL.

I have assessed my life and skill set and have decided to aim for a traditional deal first. If that does not materialize, I’m going to move on to self-publishing, but I will do so reluctantly. Perhaps if I wasn’t working full time it would be a better possibility, but right now I’m doing all I can just to write.

I have become involved in the M2the5th Google Plus community, however. I blogged about my first outing as Twitterview host last weekend. My next event will be with Roz Morris on Saturday March 29 at 2 pm EDST.

As a lead up to the Twitterview, March has been declared Roz Morris month on M2the5th. Please join us to read and share our thoughts on Roz’s blog, books, and general brilliance (more details available in the community).

As I mentioned in my post on the conference, WANAcon was great. It got me thinking in all kinds of ways. A lot of it centered on my web site/blog.

I’ve been thinking about a site revamp for more than a year now and I just can’t get around to taking action on it. I’ve been slowly reviewing my past blog posts, but because I’m on WordPress.com, I just can find a free template that’s any better than the one I have now.

I’ve decided that I’m not going to make the move to self-hosted WordPress until I have made more progress toward publication. Though I received my first comment on my CV this past week, and it was complimentary, I don’t think my accomplishments to date are sufficient to impress an agent or publisher in this day and state of the publishing industry.

When I do make the transition, however, I’m going to invest in a designer and an author-focused hosting service.

Finally, I’m considering expanding my blogging schedule again. I’m thinking of including a couple of curation posts. Tuesday Tipsday will focus on writer’s resources and blog posts that I’ve discovered through the week. Thoughty Thursday will feature articles that don’t directly relate to writing, but that might provide some interesting research or blog-fodder for others.

My thinking is that curation posts based on my activities elsewhere in social media will be fairly simple to pull together and may provide some added benefits for those of you who do not follow me elsewhere.

Please see the poll at the end of this post if you think these additional curation posts would be worthwhile for you.

Coming up on Writerly Goodness: I’m going to be piloting the course I wrote this coming week. You know I’ll be blogging that 🙂 March will also see Brian Henry return to Sudbury for another workshop. I always get something worthwhile out of Brian’s sessions.

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!

Challenges become opportunities: The Author Salon Experience

Back in December, I joined Author Salon on the advice of one of the people I consider to be my writing mentors, Barbara Kyle.

Initially, I had no clue what I was getting myself into.

My first mistake was not reading anything before I signed up, so when I was presented with a profile to fill out, I dove right in.  Little did I know that there was an art to this …  I did read the AS step-by-step guide, belatedly, but I still had no clue what I was doing.

I set up my profile to the best of my ability, sounded off in the Shout Out Forum, and then posted a call for peers in the In Production I Forum group that seemed to suit me best: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Horror, and Speculative Fiction.

The initial group that formed was small, but dedicated.  We started off by critiquing each other’s profiles.

Now, this may not seem particularly important work, but part of the AS process is that professional editors and agents peruse the site from time to time.  Ultimately, the author’s profile will be a marketing tool to those same agents and editors, so it is a critical piece of the AS puzzle.

It’s as important as perfecting your “pitch” or logline, as important as writing a knock-their-socks-off query letter, in short, the AS profile is as important as it gets.

I’ve been at a bit of a disadvantage because I’ve not yet attended a conference where I’ve had the opportunity to “pitch” my concept to agents.  I haven’t started shopping my novel yet, and so I really don’t have any experience crafting a query or synopsis.  I really don’t have an idea about what a hook line should be and how it differs from a conflict statement.  But I’m learning …  and I have to learn fast.

I thought I knew at least one thing going in: even if you have a series planned, the novel must function as a stand-alone, but it seems that everyone else in my critique group is using the fact that they have a series planned as a selling point.  So now I’m fairly convinced that I know nothing, and am approaching the whole process tabula rasa.

One question posed to me was, “why mention your day-job?”  The point was that the information should only be included in the event that it lends to the topic you write about, like a retired police officer writing mysteries/police procedurals.  I’d like to address that here.

As a learning and development professional, I write courses.  Certainly, it’s a completely different beast than a novel, but writing is writing and any practice reinforces skill.  It develops my rhetorical skills to direct my writing to a particular audience with a particular purpose in mind.

Also, as a corporate trainer, I have presentation skills.  It’s a good marketing point and while it may not be on the top of every agent’s list of skills an author must have, it may be an asset that tips the scales in my favour.

I’m more likely to be comfortable in an interview situation, doing public readings, and participating in workshops or conferences on a panel.  I’m tech-friendly, if not tech-savvy, as the result of my work.  I could easily put out YouTube videos or podcasts regarding craft, or reading of my work (in fact, it’s something on my list of things to do for my platform).  I could even parlay my skills into delivering Webinars or tutorials.

Finally, it was my learning and development day-job that got me back into learning-as-lifestyle.  Mutant learning, social learning, independent research, call it what you want, it’s what I need to ramp up my profile and my writing as presented on AS and attract the attention of agents and editors.  I started developing my online platform as a writer thanks to my work in L&D.

What I learned about Initiate of Stone in the first go-round:

  • It was too long;
  • It was too complex:
  • I’m too wordy; and
  • I’m not very good at seeing the redundancies in my own work.

Then, in January, all of my critique partners left In Production I and were promoted to Editor Suite.  Most of them had attended an Algonkian Conference which acted as their respective invitations to AS.  They all received personal notification to move along.  I thought I was left behind.

So I started over with a new call for peers and waited.  Eventually the administrators realized that there was some kind of miscommunication and offered a clarification.  I was promoted to Editor Suite after all!  My relief was immense.

My new critique group in Editor Suite included all of my old friends, plus a couple new ones.

The first order of business was to start over with the profile critiques, and when that was done, we moved onto critique our first acts.  AS calls them the first 50 pages, but I prefer to call it the first act because it’s actually the first 50 -100 pp, depending on where your first major plot point falls.

What I’ve learned from the critique of the first act:

  • My first major plot point takes too long to arrive;
  • The story line for my protagonist needs to be seriously amped up;
  • I still suck at the profile stuff (that’s part of what I’m working on next);
  • I may be wordy, but given my chosen genre, epic fantasy, it works, overall.

Along the way, there was this thing called the Showcase.  AS reps would be showing a foreshortened version of our profile to industry experts and seeing if they could get any interest.  The call went out about the time that the former version of this blog was hacked and there was a little confusion while I reordered my electronic life.  The server on which my blog was hosted at the time was also my email server …

Got that mess sorted, but even though the Showcase went on until May, IoS did not get a single nod.  Almost everyone else in my critique group, however, got at least one, and many received multiple expressions of interest.  I’m very happy for my peers, but really disappointed in/for myself.  This just speaks, once again, to the importance of the AS profile in the overall process.

What I’ve done or am doing as a result of all this:

  1. Cut my novel in half.  The former mid-way point is now the climax and I still have to cut about 40k words.  I don’t know how this will turn out, but I’m willing to work at it until it’s fabulous 🙂 ;
  2. Rewriting Ferathainn’s story/plot line;
  3. Revamping my profile;
  4. I’ve applied for, was accepted to, and have registered for Algonkian’s New York Comes to Niagara conference in October.  If nothing else, I’ll learn how to get my profile together there.

So we’ll see where this all takes me.  The AS journey has been fraught and fun and incredibly hard work so far.

That’s it for this week bubbies!  Gotta get working on my WIP!

For my science fiction writer friends, I want to post links to Robert Sawyer’s two-part January interview with William Gibson:

Also check out Robert’s TedXManitoba lecture:

Are you part of an online critique group?  What have you learned from the process?  How is it changing your creative life?

I failed the test

Back in December, Robert J. Sawyer shared this: http://www.rinkworks.com/fnovel/

Rinkworks warns the following:

Ever since J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis created the worlds of Middle Earth and Narnia, it seems like every windbag off the street thinks he can write great, original fantasy, too. The problem is that most of this “great, original fantasy” is actually poor, derivative fantasy. Frankly, we’re sick of it, so we’ve compiled a list of rip-off tip-offs in the form of an exam. We think anybody considering writing a fantasy novel should be required to take this exam first. Answering “yes” to any one question results in failure and means that the prospective novel should be abandoned at once.

The problem is … I answered yes more than once.

Specifically:

4. Is your story about a young character who comes of age, gains great power, and defeats the supreme bad guy?

Well, it’s about three young characters, two who “come of age” and one who just figures out what his damage is, spanks his inner moppet and gets on with it, all three of whom have roles to play in the defeat of the dark god Yllel, and his sourcerous servant Kane.

12. Does “a forgetful wizard” describe any of the characters in your novel?

Yes, Aeldred is dithering and occasionally confused, but he is the exception and considerably younger than most of the magickal movers and shakers in my novel.  Plus, he’s not even close to being a main character.

21. How about “a half-elf torn between his human and elven heritage”?

That would be Aislinn, actually and she’s not torn so much between the two peoples as derided and feared by both because she is the first child born of a Tellurin (my version of humans) and an eleph (my version of elves).  She’s actually going to be pivotal in uniting the two peoples.

39. Does your novel contain orcs, elves, dwarves, or halflings?

Actually, all of the above.  I’ve changed the names slightly and given them different origins.  My orcs are called okante and are peaceful tribes-people who generally live in harmony with the Tellurin tribes of the north.  They’re only drawn in as villains because Yllel tricks them into soul-slavery.  My elves, as mentioned above, are called eleph and they come from a different world.  One of my gods tries to do something good, but ends up tearing a hole in the world and sucking half the population of Elphindar into Tellurin before the gap can be closed.  The eleph are not pleased.  Dwarves are called dwergen, and are the children of the elemental Gods of earth and fire.  Rather than halflings, I have gnomes I call dwergini and they are the children of earth and air.  Neither race is terribly differentiated from their fantastic forefathers, but they’re certainly not dour and I try not to make them overtly stereotypical.

Enough of the justification, but I can tell you that I was not a little disconcerted by saying yes even those four times.

Fantasy Forest

Fantasy Forest (Photo credit: ozjimbob)

Then, in January, Author Salon posted this for the benefit of the Fantasy and YA Fantasy peer groups, two of the more active in the AS fold: http://www.authorsalon.com/page/general/fantasytropes/

Again, I shook in my metaphorical boots because my story is fairly littered with orcs, trolls (which I call krean), ogres (the gunden), etc.  Will renaming be sufficient?  It’s not like any of them play a significant role, but they are there in their standard and stereotypical glory.

I started questioning the value of my novel in a serious and neurotic way.  Then I sat back and tried to put things into perspective.  My story is not “about” any of these tropes, save perhaps for my protagonists coming of age, finding power, and defeating the big bad.  Renaming will likely be sufficient in most cases.  I don’t have to throw the baby out with the bath water.

I almost failed another one

AS says it wants thick-skinned writers.  Though I do tend to take some criticism more to heart, or react poorly to some of their advice (largely because I think that it’s being posted because someone has looked at my work and though poorly of it, even though I “know” I’m not that important to anyone), I’m learning to understand being thick-skinned in the same way I understand being courageous.  Being brave doesn’t mean that you’re not afraid; being brave means that you act despite your fear and try not to let it limit you.  I’m taking the same, long view of being thick-skinned.  It doesn’t mean that my confidence isn’t shaken; it means that even when it is, I get my shit together and soldier on.

Then Rachelle Gardner posted this in March:

http://www.rachellegardner.com/2012/03/do-you-have-a-thick-skin/

It’s good to know that agents feel the same way us writers do sometimes 🙂

Writing well is the best revenge 🙂

Then I came across a very helpful blog post:

http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/writing-rules-10-experts-take-on-the-writers-rulebook?et_mid=538945&rid=3085641

I’ve always aspired to be transgressive; sometimes in a good way, and sometimes not so much.  I think ultimately, I have to focus on writing the best novel I can, so that when I do break the rules, I’ll be forgiven.  It is easier to ask forgiveness than permission, right?  It’s such a relief to know that I can write my way out of the corner I seem to be getting scrunched into.

Coming up on Writerly Goodness

In future posts, I want to get a bit into the background of the novel, stuff that won’t necessarily be in it, but all of the window dressing I developed so that my world would work fairly consistently.  Stuff like cosmology, the historical timeline leading up to the novel, religion, the way magic works, my various peoples and their origins (in more detail than above), naming conventions, and some of the unique things about Tellurin.  In other words, I’m going to write about world-building.  Have any interest in that?

What are your feelings about tropes and their use/overuse?  Would you fail Rinkworks’ test?  What about the Author Salon article?  Does it give you pause?

If you liked this post, feel free to use the “like” or sharing buttons below.  Or, you may consider subscribing via email, or RSS feed (there are links below each post, or on right side menu on my home page).

Until next week!

Laurentian University Convocation 2007

June 2, 2007.

A friend of mine and fellow writer, Kim Fahner, much involved with the Laurentian University Alumni Association was scheduled to give the Alumni welcome address at the June 2 ceremony.  She was unable to fulfill the commitment and suggested me as a replacement.

Though the occasion required me to read a bilingual speech, I believe that I did so competently, thanks to the gracious assistance of another friend, Sue Brunet 🙂

The true opportunity arising from this event was the chance to meet Robert J. Sawyer who was the key speaker and honourary doctorate recipient that day.

While I must admit I was incredibly shy and probably came off as a bit of a doofus, I was very pleased to meet Mr. Sawyer and his address regarding the future and his vision of it was excellent.