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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My progress on the Just Write Challenge (and some other writing stuff)

I signed up for Kasie Whitener’s Just Write Challenge in December of last year (I think).  The goal was to write 13 original short stories in the year.

Later, Kasie amended the rules a bit to include revised stories.

The goal was to have everything ready to submit in the fall.  Well, I’ve been submitting my stories all along.  I don’t think that disqualifies me, but I just wanted to come clean.

Here is my progress review:

New/original fiction

  1. Nothing’s Perfect – flash fiction – posted to my blog for one of Chuck Wendig’s challenges – January 2013.  No acceptance or rejection carried with the challenge.
  2. Beneath the Foundations – short story – completed and submitted to Innsmouth Free Press Sword and Mythos anthology, February 2013. Subsequently rejected.
  3. Molly Finder – short story – completed and submitted to In Places Between, April 2013.  Subsequently rejected.
  4. The Broken Places – short story – completed and submitted to Fearful Symmetries anthology, May 2013.  Subsequently rejected.  I can now say that I’ve been rejected by the likes of Ellen Datlow.  Not sure whether that’s a good or a bad thing 😉

Revised fiction

I’m so glad that Kasie changed her expectations, because, whew, I kind of petered out after June 😦

  1. Downtime – short story, revised and submitted to On Spec, January 2013.  Accepted! (2014 schedule)
  2. A Terrible Thing – short story, revised and submitted to Tesseracts 17, February 2013.  Subsequently rejected.
  3. The Gabriel – short story (approaching novella), revised and submitted to Writers of the Future, March 2013.  Subsequently rejected.
  4. Cicadas – short story, revised and submitted to the Rannu Fund Prize, June 2013.  Outcome unknown at this time.
  5. Night Traffic – flash fiction, revised and submitted to Mouse Tales Press, July 2013.  Accepted! (October 2013)
  6. Killing with Kindness – flash fiction, revised and submitted to Gigantic Worlds anthology, July 2013.  Subsequently rejected.

So, with 4 new and 6 revised, I’m up to 10 stories written or revised and submitted, yielding 3 acceptances, 5 rejections, 1 neutral, and 1 outstanding response. That’s not bad.

Previous year’s submissions

Submissions last year resulted in acceptances of my poetry to The Atomy (July 2013) and Enhance (March 2013), the inclusion of a creative non-fiction piece in Spooky Sudbury (October 2013), and the acceptance of one of my photos, also to Enhance (January 2014).

Poetry

My poetry has also been accepted by Sulphur (date of publication as yet unknown).  This was the only poetry submission I have made this year.

WIP

I have finished what I thought was going to be my last revision of Initiate of Stone before querying, but I’m still quite a bit over the maximum word length generally considered by agents and editors in my genre.

As my goal is to obtain representation and a traditional deal (if I can), I’m parsing again, but am 3/4 the way through that process as well.  I may need one more go-though to trim those last few thousand words, though.  I’m getting to the point that it seems naked!

Once that’s done, it’s beta time*, preparation of my synopsis and query, sending to interested parties from a pitch conference last fall, and the slow agony of the querying process.

Other writing goals

I’m going to be attending the Surrey International Writers’ Conference this year and entering their fiction contest.  It will likely be a revised story.

There is another contest in early September for which I will likely revise something.

If I’m able to get a self-funded leave (this is a work thing—lots of stuff happening, or not, on that front, but I’m saving it up until I have a better idea of my fate), I will be revamping my blog and moving to self-hosted WordPress (eek!).

Once my current WIP is into the querying stage, and until I hear from my betas, I will return to Gerod and the Lions, my MG fantasy, just for something different.  I’m going to be on the lookout for more anthologies and interesting calls to see if I can get some more original fiction written.  Again, this may depend on whether I get my self-funded leave or not.

Once GatL is drafted, I’ll return to my Ascension series, either revising IoS based on beta/other recommendations, or moving on to Apprentice of Wind.

That’s all I have on the go or in the plan for now.

What have you been up to recently?  Have you joined any challenges?  How is it going?  Working on a novel?  Short stories?  Poetry? Creative or other non-fiction?  I’d love to hear about your creative adventures!

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*I have several people in mind, but if you are interested in epic fantasy with a female protagonist, drop me a line at melanie (dot) marttila (at) gmail (dot) com.

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!

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.

Caturday Quickies: Other Writerly Goodness to share

In other writerly news

A couple of weeks ago, Mark Leslie contacted me about my submission to his Spooky Sudbury project which will be published through Dundurn Press later this year.  He’s going to include the piece I submitted 🙂

Last week, Sopphey Vance, editor of Enhance Magazine, advised that she was interested in one of my poems.

These were both submissions I had made last fall, while participating in Khara House’s October Submit-O-Rama challenge.  It’s wonderful to know that my efforts are bearing fruit.

On a slight downer, my submission to the League of Canadian Poets’ National Poetry Month Blog has not been accepted.  This is my fault.  I delayed in sending my poem in and they had too many submissions to post everything.  It’s a ‘live and learn’ moment.

Certified and certifiable

I found out the Monday following my return from Chatham, that I passed my certification (yippee!).  I am now a certified trainer through my employer.  This could open up several opportunities for me in coming months.

Also on the work front, my acting position as training coordinator has been extended through to August 31, 2013.  Given the chaos that is my portfolio right now, I’m not so certain that this was a wise move on the part of the powers that be (PTB), but I was happy to accept.

Monday, I’m heading down to Toronto again for a course in writing briefing notes.  This one I’m not facilitating.  Professional development rocks 😉

Platform impasse

WordPress

WordPress (Photo credit: Adriano Gasparri)

I’ve reached the anniversary date of my blog this month and with that have come some challenges that I hope very soon to turn into opportunities.

I have now passed my WordPress follower goal of 100.  I’m currently at 111 and am faced with the challenge of setting up a quarterly newsletter.  I’ve been dragging my heels on this, though, because …

I’m seriously considering migrating to WordPress.org from WordPress.com.  I can’t very well set up a newsletter on my current site and then leave it.

I’ve been reading up on the process of migration/blog set up through WPBeginner and Michael Hyatt.  I’m pretty certain I can make the leap, but I want to parse my posts first.  I need to ensure that my pictures are either my own, or provided courtesy of a commons license.  I want to edit some of my posts too, so that I can make sure that my best foot is put forward.  I know that few if any people will peruse the archives, but I want to be ready of they do.  This is going to take some time.

With the move, I’m also considering a change in theme/appearance.  This also deserves some careful consideration.

Do you have any suggestions for a new theme?  Any and all welcome in the comments below.

Alas, Google Reader, I knew him well

Only days after the announcement that Google Reader would be decommissioned in July, the option disappeared from my more + tab.  Not interested in spending the time trying to find a buried link, I decided to try Feedly.

Feedly Logo and iPhone App Design

Feedly Logo and iPhone App Design (Photo credit: imjustcreative)

So far, so good.  I’d definitely recommend giving it a try.

What I’m working on now

So … I’ve been mentioning for ever that I’m going to submit some more poetry.  I’m now thinking Sulphur will be one of those.  Maybe they’ll like the poem that the League passed on 😉

I’ve been trying to get back into the swing of Initiate of Stone, but since the beginning requires significant rewriting, this has not been easy.  The progress is painfully slow.

I’m having better luck with the short stories and hope to have them completed/revised in advance of their respective dues dates.

Just as a reminder: Writers of the Future closes April 1 and In Places Between April 4.

Recently, I became aware of the Rannu Fund prize.  Bonus: Cory Doctorow is one of the tie-breaking judges.

Conferences

Was looking at the CanWrite! conference this year and it looks quite good.  So good, I’ve just registered 🙂

My other goal is to attend the Surrey International Writers Conference.  Registration isn’t open yet, but I’ll keep watching.  Also, their annual writing contest opens April 1.

So there’s lots of Writerly Goodness going on.

What’s happening in your writerly life?

Caturday Quickies

Caturday Quickies: The Sulphur III launch reading

Last night, I attended the launch reading for Sulphur, Laurentian University’s Literary Journal, issue III.

Natalie and Kevin

Natalie and Kevin

I’d been invited by 100 thousand poets for change alums Natalie and Kevin.  Natalie had a couple of poems accepted to the journal.

Also in attendance were Kim Fahner (in support of a published colleague) and Louise and Paulette, two of my former collaborators on the Battle Chant project.  Paulette also had a poem in the issue.

The event took place at The Little Montreal in downtown Sudbury and featured many lovely

Paulette and Louise

Paulette and Louise

poets and a selection from a play, another publishing first for Sulphur.

It was a lovely evening and I enjoyed reconnecting with my fellow writers.  Though Tom Leduc was there as a representative of the Sudbury Writers’ Guild, several others who had been published in Sulphur III were absent, which was regrettable.

Me and Kim with Paulette and Louise

Me and Kim with Paulette and Louise

Thinkin’ thoughts

There was a little discussion about the relative merits of the arts community in Sudbury, and frankly, I think it’s doing just fine.  It could be better promoted, certainly, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it, per se.

It’s long been held that Sudbury, essentially a blue collar town, doesn’t appreciate its artists.  Can I call shenanigans on that one?

There are artistic enclaves all over town: several centered on out institutions of higher learning, the Theatre Centre, several other community theatres, our small presses, the Art Gallery of Sudbury, the Sudbury Arts Council, the Sudbury Public Library, institutions like the Townehouse Tavern, and organizations like the Sudbury Writers’ Guild and the Sudbury Hypergraphic Society.  Several area high schools also produce excellent writers, musicians, and artists every year.

The concern is that many of these organizations, institutions, businesses, and services become insular over time.  When I sat down with Hally Willmott last weekend, she hadn’t been aware of the SWG or that there were any writers groups in town.

It’s not that we don’t talk to one another, attend each others’ various events, or try to cross-promote.  It’s certainly not that none of us have established web presences or hold community events like readings, workshops, concerts, art shows, or plays.  I know that each party does its best to advertise its presence and services and to promote any special events through various media, both traditional and online.

What the heck is it then?  Why doesn’t Sudbury claim its artists and arts community proudly?  I have no idea.

For the average Sudburian, it comes down to participation.  You get what you give.  You have the arts community you help to create.

You must, of course, take this with a grain (or handful) of salt as it comes from someone who hardly makes it out to SWG meetings and is very far behind in her critiquing duties for her guildies.

I say none of this to disparage current efforts, which I know are significant, or any of the organizations or businesses, which I know are doing the best they can.  Ultimately, I have no solution, but I wanted to highlight what some consider a problem in the hope of provoking thoughtful consideration of the matter.

Got thoughts?  By all means, share ‘em!