The next chapter: May 2014 update

This is going to be a short update.

May's Word Count

All of the new words I produced this month were from blogging (7503), even though I didn’t blog for a whole week because of chaos. It was good chaos, but nonetheless.

I worked on revisions for the short story I submitted to Bastion Science Fiction Magazine, “The Broken Places,” at the beginning of the month, but that was actually trimming and, just for sanity’s sake, I’m not counting negative words.

By the way, the story is now in the June issue, available online here: Bastion Science Fiction Magazine. You can also get a single issue through Amazon, a subscription through Weightless Books, or just donate to a cool publication.

*Hint, hint. Nudge, nudge. Wink, wink.* Bastion is also a great place to submit if you’re into that speculative fiction stuff 🙂

Needless to say, there is much happy dancing on Marttila Drive.

The biggest part of the non-blogging writing work I did was on Initiate of Stone. I executed my plan of going through and eliminating the one character, giving all her important bits and pieces to other characters, and making notes for the revisions. I also went through my novel in reverse order, using Victoria Mixon’s holographic structure.

This is a technique she recommends in her Art and Craft of Story, and after Roz Morris posted that she’s had to draft her scenes out of order for her latest WIP, Ever Rest, even working backwards, I had to give it a try.

It’s a very interesting technique, and allows you to make sure that plot events and foreshadowing are in their proper places. It’s great for consistency too. I caught a few things that I hadn’t taken into account writing forward.

In other news, my adjustable desk is working out great. If you haven’t been following, the arrival of the desk and the necessity of reorganizing my office to suit it was one of the reasons for my blogging vacation. I can stand for an hour and a bit before I have to sit down for a rest. I’m training myself up.

I’ve also purchase a summer membership for the yoga studio I’ve joined, and I’m hoping that the desk and the yoga will help me stave off future back issues.

Totally unrelated to writing, Phil and I had to purchase a new clothes washer this past week. Our’s was pooched. While at the store, Phil decided he also wanted an upright freezer. He was getting tired of losing stuff at the bottom of the chest freezer we had.

So that’s a chunk of change down the drain.

I tried to write a couple of non-speculative pieces this month, and my interest just wasn’t there. I had ideas, certainly, but the one contest required me to write from a prompt, which I’m not overly keen on. I couldn’t find one that really helped me get anywhere. The other would have been a non-fiction piece, or perhaps creative non-fiction, but again, the idea just couldn’t sustain me.

Sad but true. I guess I’m way beyond the SF/F pale. There are worse places to be. Trust me 🙂

Two opportunities came my way this month that I have to share.

The first kind of blew me away. K.M. Weiland emailed me and asked me to read and review her new book, The Writers Digest Annotated Jane Eyre. Of course I said yes! I love Jane Eyre and have read the book a couple of times. Plus, I’m really attracted to the way Katie analyzes a piece of fiction. It didn’t hurt that she said she respected my opinion (head inflating, unattractively).

So far, it’s great, and I’m learning a lot about how to read as a writer.

It’ll be out July 19th. Watch for it.

The second opportunity came in another email, this one from someone I’d recently started following on Twitter. A Rewording Life, is Sheryl Gordon’s project in honour of her mother, and all those afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease.

She’s recruiting logophiles and creative, wordy people of all stripes to contribute a sentence to her book. I did, and my word was psychopomp 🙂 A portion of the proceeds will be donated to Alzheimer’s research. Check out her site. Follow her on Twitter @ARewordingLife.

And here I thought this was going to be a short post 😛 I am a wordy girl!

This month, I’m moving on to work on my other two completed (more or less) drafts as I did with IoS this month. The Canadian Authors Association’s CanWrite! Conference will be June 18-22, 2014. I hope to bring back lots of Writerly Goodness from that event.

I’m going to try to get back into the fiction writing swing of things. Most of my ideas these days are trending novel length, though. Maybe I’ll just finish the draft of Gerod and the Lions before starting another new project. That sounds like a plan.

How are your projects going, my writerly friends?

The Next Chapter

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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: Diving back in

The last of my caturday quickies is a bit of an update on the work in progress (WIP) and other writing projects I’m tackling these days.

I revised my short story “A Terrible Thing” for Tesseracts 17 and submitted that on February 27, just one day before the deadline (!)  I submitted a short story back in October for the competition, but was not successful at that time, though the rejection letter was of the very encouraging variety (please send us something else).  I followed the editors’ advice, and ATT is sufficiently different from the story I submitted last fall that I hope it will tickle some fancies 🙂

I also submitted a poem for the League of Canadian Poets’ National Poetry Month blog: “peregrine.”  I’ll link through when it’s posted.

In related news, I forwarded an opportunity to my friend, Kim Fahner, a couple of months ago, and she, in turn, asked her publisher to submit her poetry collection, The Narcoleptic Madonna, to the powers that be.  The result?  Kim will be participating in the Battle of the Bards at Harbourfront Centre April 3rd!

It’s inspired me to think more seriously about submitting some of my poetry to various publications.  We’ll see where that leads.

As of today, I’ll be diving back in to Initiate of Stone and the next set of revisions.  I’ll also be revising “The Michael” for the Writers of the Future competition and working on a new story, “Way Station,”  (which the Retro Suites inspired) for In places between.

Finally, after my bout of training fury and certification regret, I’ll be catching up with my critiquing crew.

I never did work further on Gerod and the Lions.  I am hoping that I got far enough into it that I’ll be able to pick up the threads when the time comes.

A not so pleasant writing-related task that I’ll be picking up shortly, is collecting all my various financial bits and pieces and submitting my taxes.  I claim writing as self-employment on my income tax.  My lack of recent publishing success is a bit of a concern, but it’s certainly not for lack of effort 🙂  Do you think auditors would accept this blog as evidence of my industry? 😉

Writerly Goodness

Writerly Goodness

What’s been happening in your writerly lives lately, my friends?  Are you writing “hard”?

What’s coming: I’ll continue my series, A life sentence with mortal punctuation, tomorrow, and in the future, I hope to have an interview with Amazon Breakthrough Novelist Award 2012 quarter-finalist Alon Shalev regarding his writing life and the second book in the Wycaan Master Series, The First Decree.

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 🙂

The Next Big Thing – Initiate of Stone

My friend, Kim Fahner tagged me in this project in which the writer answers questions about their work and then tags other authors to blog their “next big thing” in turn.

So I’m going to victimize tag Scott Overton, who though he’s just published Dead Air, I know has more irons in the fire, Brian Braden, who has a fabulous WIP to share, Tim Reynolds, who’s always working on something fabulous, and Sandra Stewart, who likewise keeps her irons hot (in more ways than one!) 🙂

Onto the Questions:

  • What is the working title of your book?

Initiate of Stone  Bonus: Series title:Ascension, book 1

  • Where did the idea come from for the book?

This is one of the few ideas I’ve had that did not come from a dream.  I just started with an idea of a young woman, forged by elemental forces, who survives war to become the hero the world needs. Everything grew out of that seed of a character and story.

  • What genre does your book fall under?

Epic fantasy.

  • Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Actually, I’ve blogged this before, so I’ll take the lazy-a$$ route and simply link the previous character sketches, all of which include my casting suggestions:

Ferathainn

Eoghan

Dairragh

Supporting characters

Villains (muwahahahahaha)

  • What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

An uninitiated mage must uncover the secrets her family have kept from her in order to defeat the man who ripped her family, her hope for initiation, and her innocence from her.

  • How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

About a year, writing in the evenings and weekends, working full time in the day.

  • Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I’ve always wanted to write novels.  I have lots of ideas.  This just happens to be the first one I chose to work on.

  • What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

IoS features a strong female character that doesn’t necessarily find fulfilment with a guy.  There are romantic elements, but Fer’s issues can’t be resolved in the course of this novel.  Thematically, I address the painful legacy of secrets, even those kept in care or kindness; the sometimes twisted relationship between parents and children; the difference between institutionalized religion and spiritual practice (how the one can damage and the other promise healing); and the struggle to realize one’s true potential, whatever it is.

So I hope your interest has been piqued 🙂

Thanks for the opportunity Kim, and if anyone is interested, I’ve blogged about my WIP Writerly Goodnesspretty extensively.  If you’d like, just pick my “Work in progress” category and read away.  I haven’t blogged the novel itself, just the character sketches and world-building behind it.

It’s back to the day job for me tomorrow, so I probably won’t post again until the weekend.  Have a good end-of-the week all!

Writerly Goodness, signing off.