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.

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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.

The next chapter: update February 17, 2013

Just a brief catch-up here on what’s been happening.  Brief, because what’s been happening = not much 😛

This week, I put my second original short story of the year, “Beneath the Foundations” in the can and submitted to the Sword and Mythos anthology.  I’m not optimistic because the story that bubbled up was not along the lines that the editor said she was looking for.

The editor was looking for aboriginal (not just NA, but Australian, etc.) northern Africa, Arab, Indian, or Asian settings, female protagonists, and in general, a new spin on the old Cthulian genre.

BtF is medieval European, specifically England during the time that King Alfred was ousted

English: Statue of King Alfred in Wantage, England

English: Statue of King Alfred in Wantage, England (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by the Danes and was gathering his forces to retake Wessex and Mersea.  Adric, the protagonist, is male, though he is a little person, and by that I don’t mean that he was a pixie, but short of stature.

He’s bought by a Danish lord, Ofded, as a sapper along with several other boys from St. Jerome’s. Proper miners supervise the expendable boys in the endeavour.  Alfred’s supposedly harbouring in Castle Sark,  and Ofded wants to get the credit for his capture.

The story is about what Adric finds beneath the foundations and the horror that ensues.

So I’ll have to wait and see.  Typically, I don’t think much about my stories after I send them off.  I list them in my submissions table and mark off the result when it eventually comes in, or not, as the case may be.

Next up, I’ll be revising a couple of stories for submission to Tesseracts 17.  I haven’t quite decided which one I want to send in yet.  The deadline for that is February 28, for those of you who would like to submit.  Check out the guidelines.

I haven’t had a lot of time to work on Gerod and the Lions, and haven’t gotten back to Initiate of Stone yet.  I have a busy time coming up for the day job, and I have to pick and choose.

This week coming, I’m out of town for a training gig, and then again, after one week at home, I’ll be travelling again for more training delivery and my attempt at certification.  I don’t think it will be reasonable for me to return to IoS until after the next few weeks.

In March, when I dive back into my project, revising for beta-reader feedback (and yes, I will be asking a broad cross section of friends RL and online for their assistance) I will also be working on revising another, fairly long, short story for the next Writers of the Future (April 1) and a new short story (idea hasn’t cropped up yet) for In Places Between (April 4).

I’ve submitted to WotF before, and was pleased to receive an honourable mention certificate, but it’s hard to know how one would do in such a popular arena.  Again, I’ll encourage those of you who are working on your own stories to submit.

Also this week, I submitted some work to my critique group and am largely caught up.

Next weekend, when I return from training, I’m going to be attending a poetry workshop and I actually have some poetry to take with me.  My poet friend, Kim Fahner, graciously offered to have a look and I hope to have the few revisions she suggested ready.

I hope to submit some of my poetry to various journals, but I’m not so much into the poetry these days, so if anything this may be something that has to go by the wayside for now.  I definitely want to submit a poem to the League of Canadian Poets National Poetry Month Blog, and have a few options for online submissions that might suit.

Upcoming for the blog, I’m going to try my hand at submitting a post to Wordsmith Studio, another pupdate (Nu had her check up this past week, but I won’t have the time to commit it to the blog this weekend), I’m going to continue my new series, A life sentence, with mortal punctuation, I hope to have an interview with my friend, Brian Braden, about his new book, Black Sea Gods, and will likely blog about the training, the poetry workshop, and anything else my life offers up for sacrifice 🙂  Writerly Goodness

That’s it for now.

Good words at y’all!  Writerly Goodness, signing off.

The next chapter

Have desk, will write

Have desk, will write (Photo credit: Bright Meadow)

Today, I’m going to share some of what’s happening next with my work in progress (WIP).

Early in the life of Writerly Goodness, I blogged regularly about my WIP, from its origins, through various drafts, to the lessons the whole process taught me.  I also blogged my character sketches and world-building fairly extensively.  I’ve been a little quiet on the subject in recent months however.

The reason for this is that I have been focusing on the revision of my latest draft, and in keeping with my reasonable and malleable goals for the new year, I have now finished that work (to the degree I am currently able) and have sent my manuscript for a content edit.

This is scary.

Why?  Because it means that I’m taking this whole process seriously.  I’m getting closer to perfecting Initiate of Stone for submission and/or publication.

Given the responses I’ve gotten from various writerly authority figures in my early life, my internal editor is very well-versed in the whole “what the hell do you think you’re doing/you can’t write/your ideas are crap/your writing is puerile/you’ll never make it” brand of advice.  I’ve had to tame that beast and try to get over it.

But … there’s still this voice in my head that says: “but what if this investment (the content edit) backfires?”  What if the result is the confirmation of all my worst fears and neuroses?

I can’t think about that.  So, while I wait to hear back from the editor, I’m moving on.

What’s up, buttercup?

First, I’m going to make a few submissions of short stories.

I’m revising one for submission to an SF magazine, which I will have to do this weekend.

I’m going to participate in a few flash fiction challenges.

I’m also going to aim for a couple of anthology submissions:

  • Sword and Mythos – January 15-February 15, 2013
  • Tesseracts 17 – February 28, 2013
  • Plus, I’m going to keep my eye out for the open reading period for Fearful Symmetries.  I don’t know if I’ll have anything appropriate for the publication, but I’ll certainly give it a try.

Second, I’m going to move on to a new novel.  As of my last writing on the subject, I hadn’t decided what.  The logical next step would be the second novel in the Ascension series, Apprentice of Wind.  I’m thinking that something completely different might be in order though.

So just to give me a complete break from Ferathainn for a while, I’m going to tackle Gerod and the Lions.  I’m just going to leave you with the title for now and I’ll let you know how it goes 🙂

Finally, I’m getting back to work on my critiquing.  I’ve been inactive on this front for a while, again because I’ve been focusing on my novel, but I’m waaaaaay overdue in this department and I have to get back into it.

This will have to wait one more week, in the event, because I’m traveling for the day-job again.  My apologies to my peers.  Zombie Mel will return from the land of the critiquing dead, just not quite yet.

Set yourself up for success

The deal here is that if you are progressing on one project, but not actively working on it,

St. Augustine writing, revising, and re-writin...

St. Augustine writing, revising, and re-writing: Sandro Botticelli’s St. Augustine in His Cell (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

you may need to pick something else up.  Take on a new challenge.  Keep honing your craft.  Get over your bad self.

Now this is not something you might just choose to do while waiting to hear back from your beta-readers or an editor.  You could be querying, or trying to get your self-publishing ducks in a row.  Keep in touch with your creativity.  A writer writes above all else.

Some people may think that juggling projects is a bad idea.  They want to see one project through from beginning to end and believe that they can’t divide their attention with another novel.

There are going to be those fallow times though, and I’m not just talking about those times when you have to “get distance” from your novel between drafts, when you might want to do something non-writing related (I’ve done home reno projects, or some other form of artistic expression for this, drawing, pottery, or taking part in a play).

I’m not talking about keeping your creative reserves replenished with reading and movies and creative dates either.

I’m talking about those times when you’re waiting.  Fill up those fallow times with new creative projects so you don’t stall out entirely.  Don’t let your muse get lazy.  Keep him, her, or it, active and healthy.

This is just my opinion.  In no way am I suggesting that this approach is the only one.  It’s just the strategy that I’m using, and that I’ve seen other successful authors use.

How do you fill up your fallow times?  How do you manage your writing projects?  Do you work multiple ones at the same time, or focus on a single project until it’s completed?  Do share 🙂