Wordsmith Studio Homecoming 2015: What are you reading?

For the best effect, please read the headline of this post with an incredulous tone 😉

WSS Homecoming 2015

1) What are you reading?

Just like I work on multiple project in my writing, I read multiple books, both ebooks and print, cause I kind of have this problem. I can’t stop buying books of any variety (!)

So here’s my current reading list:

  • 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. Although I’m sure it suffers in translation, I’m enjoying this novel immensely.
  • InFusion by Scott Overton. I’m beta reading this SF novel for an author friend. I’ll save my specific feedback for him, but, just so you know, I think it’s great 🙂
  • The Art of Work by Jeff Goins. On finding your calling. It’s kind of serendipitous that I found out about this book back in January.
  • Moon Called by Patricia Briggs. I picked this up last year after seeing Patricia at Ad Astra. I figured I should get off my butt and read it . . .
  • Pain, Porn, and Complicity by Kathleen McConnell. An academic work on SF&F movies and television series. It’s been a while since I dipped my toes in that particular non-fiction pool.
  • Lock In by John Scalzi. I’m listening to this on Audible. Narrated by the inimitable Wil Wheaton.

2) What was your favorite read in the last year (or month, or…)?

My favourite reading of recent recall is A Turn of Light by Julie Czerneda. I rated it five stars, though I haven’t written a proper review. Yet. This is the kind of fantasy novel I love to read. It’s also the kind I write and there were a lot of similarities between Czerneda’s Jenn Nalynn and Ferrathainn Devlin, the protagonist from my WIP. I was enthralled to the end 🙂

3) Do you have a favorite genre?

Yes and no. I favour fantasy novels of any age range, but I also read science fiction, historical fiction, the classics, mysteries, and romance novels (though I must say I haven’t read many of those recently). I try to alternate fiction and non-fiction reading, as well. Again, most on my non-fiction reads tend to be writing craft books, but I also read as a form of research for my various works in progress, and sometimes, stuff that I’m just interested in. I learn something from everything I read, even if I don’t particularly enjoy the book. In other words, I read as a writer.

4) Bend one step further: are there alternative forms of writing or art that you have found inspiring or even dabbled in?

In my “searching” phase of university (the undeclared years) I majored in music and art at different times. Performance anxiety put the brakes on my music career, though I still love to sing. I was summarily drummed out of art class when my professor called me nothing more than an “illustrator.” From time to time, I still sketch, but I’ve honestly never been very good. I’ve sunk all my creativity into my writing for a number of years now. In 2000, I did the crazy, being in between jobs, and auditioned for a Theatre Cambrian production of Hair (Y2K). I sang and danced in that, for what it’s worth 😉

6) Back to your main inspiration: Do you have “mentor” titles for the writing you are working on?

I’ll reframe this in terms of “comps,” or comparative works. As I mentioned above, I learn something from every book I read, so I don’t have any “mentor” titles, per se, though I would identify several novels/authors whose work I aspire to.

  • The above-mentioned Julie Czerneda and her A Turn of Light. I’ve committed to read more by Julie.
  • Juliet Marillier’s Celtic legend inspired Seven Waters series.
  • Guy Gavriel Kay’s novels. Though he writes in a created world, it is based on painstaking historical research. I’m not that dedicated, but I love the stories he writes. He’s actually made me cry in the reading.
  • Sherri S. Tepper. Just anything she writes. I love her ideas. Or should I say lurve?

6) If you didn’t already do this for #4, what music inspires your writing?

Okay, now you’re going crazy. Or you will if I offer up all 963 songs on my iPod (!) Suffice it to say that any music I like is generally something I’ll add to my playlist. I have music from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, and the new millennium. I like some pop, a lot of alternative, celtic, and world music. I also have more eclectic selections on CD: The Rites of Spring, Satie’s gymnopedies, The Symphonie Fantastique, Carmina Burana, Gregorian chant, a number of Sequentia recordings (including the Eddas), gamelan music, Tibetan singing bells, shakuhachi flute music . . .

My favourite artists (I’ll pick up just about anything they release):

  • Imogen Heap
  • Tori Amos
  • Sarah Slean
  • Florence + the Machine

7) Have you ever thought of this: what book is your main character reading?

Interesting question. I’ll even answer it.

  • Ferathainn Devlin: Sadly, all of Fer’s reading would be studying for her forthcoming initiation, so all of it would be history, scholarly works on magic, or non-fiction works on herbs and simples, astronomy, and the like.
  • Charlene Kalveras: School textbooks, and, because of what’s happened to her father, true crime.
  • Gerod: Owing to his impoverished upbringing in an environment of medieval feudalism, Gerod doesn’t know how to read. He learns, though.
  • Marushka: She hasn’t had any formal schooling, hopping around the world in a magical hut, so she’s had to teach herself everything. She steals books from libraries and reads omnivorously.

8) Do you have a favorite book, article or magazine for writing advice?

Again, I have several 🙂

  • Writing the 21st Century Novel, Donald Maass. Currently on loan to a member of my critique group. Actually all of Maass’s books have helped me immensely.
  • Any of K.M. Weiland’s writing craft books.
  • Any of Roz Morris’s Nail Your Novel series.
  • And the books that have helped me find my way to the writing life: Natalie Goldberg’s Wild Mind and Writing Down the Bones; Julia Cameron’s The Right to Write; Heather Sellers’ Page After Page and Chapter After Chapter; Stephen King’s On Writing; Terry Brooks’s Sometimes the Magic Works; Jane Yolen’s Take Joy; and Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Wave in the Mind.

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Alrightie, then!

I’ll have a wee Sundog snippet tomorrow about miscellaneous stuff, ‘cause sometimes you need miscellaneous stuff, you know?

Muse-inks

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Wordsmith Studio homecoming blog hop number three

WSS Homecoming 2015It’s been three years since I joined a bunch of fellow platform builders in what became Wordsmith Studio.

Today: blog hop, part the third.

1) What are you currently working on?

The final (for now) revisions of Initiate of Stone, drafting Marushka, my 2014 NaNoWriMo novel, and revising one long short story that may actually be a novel in disguise 🙂 Plus, I blog.

2) For past work, what was your greatest joy or greatest challenge?

Finishing my first draft of IoS and getting my two short stories, “The Broken Places” and “Downtime” published would all have to tie for greatest joys.

My greatest challenge to date has been the first chapter of IoS. Oh, and trying to keep things balanced. Actually, the balance thing wins out in the toughest challenge category. I suck at balance.

3) For current work, what challenge are you working through now?

As mentioned above, my first chapter. For some reason, this particular opening is kicking my buttocks. I’ve tried starting the story earlier, later, a prologue (very bad), and rewriting the first chapter from scratch about four times. I’ve tried Surry Idol at the Surrey International Writer’s Conference, Ray Rhamey’s Flogging the Quill, beta readers, and advice from writing mentors.

4) For work you are just planning or starting, what challenges or growth are you expecting or hoping to encounter?

Every novel I draft, revise, or edit improves my craft. The next work I’ll be starting from scratch will be this year’s NaNoWriMo. It’s a new adult science fiction thriller. Oh yeah. That won’t be hard to sell at all 😛

5) What have successes or challenges in your work (recently) taught you?

I write a lot more than I thought I did. Others see value in my work. Tracking your writing progress is a great motivation. I generally rise to any challenge I set myself.

6) What obstacles or challenges have you not been able to overcome, or still frustrate you?

The aforementioned beginnings, though I think a breakthrough is due. Overdue, frankly.

7) How would you describe a great writing day (or week)?

A great writing day is any day that I write. Period. If I achieve my goals, that’s a lovely cherry on top of the sundae. In a way, every word is a victory 🙂

8) What specific tools or strategies help you succeed? 

Jamie Raintree’s writing spreadsheet is a fabulous tool and motivation. K.M. Weiland’s Helping Writers Become Authors blog and her books are some of the best craft advice out there. Awesome. Similarly, Roz Morris’s Nail Your Novel series and blog are teh best. And she’s so generous with her time and advice. Finally, attending conferences and conventions have been a big help. I learn metric tonnes at each one 🙂 The networking isn’t half bad either.

And there you have it.

See you on Tuesday for my Tipsday writing curation.

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Wordsmith Studio third anniversary blog hop

Alrightie, then!

Three years ago, Wordsmith Studio got its start.

WSS Homecoming 2015

Here’s my interview:

1. Are you a WSSer (a member of Wordsmith)? If so, sound off about how long you’ve been a member, your favourite way to participate, or anything you’ve missed if you’ve been away. We’re not your mother/father… there will be no guilt about how long since your last call.

I was with WSS from the start. I’m a founding member. I’ve only contributed one post to the collective, however. Life is busy. No excuses. Just facts. I have enough trying to keep up with the day job, my blog, and, what’s most important, my writing. Oh, and there’s that pesky family thing, too 😀

2. What medium do you work in? For our writing folks, are you currently working on fiction, poetry or non-fiction, or a combination? Anyone YA or mystery or thriller or…?

I started off getting published as a poet, and won a few short story contests. Now, I’m writing fantasy novels—yes, that was plural—and science fiction short stories. I continue to blog about aspects of the writing life that are important to me.

3. What’s the name of your current project (ok multitaskers, give us your main one)?

Initiate of Stone is my epic fantasy. I’m currently in my last revision (for now—I know there will be much more coming) prior to diving into the query process later this spring. I know, I’ve been saying that forever, haven’t I?

4. What is your favourite detail, sentence or other bit you’ve written lately?

Gah! I have to pick just one? OK. Here’s the opening of a recent short story:

“I wander endless halls, time compressed by shimmering walls, thought slowed by the dance of acrylic and oil over canvas, memory smothered by ephemera. There are only three floors and a block of conjoined buildings, but the halls twist and turn back upon themselves. I can walk for hours staring at the art and collectibles, which change regularly, and then stare at the plastic card in my hand, wondering which of the rooms I’ve passed is mine.”

5. Any obstacles or I-hate-this-chapter moments?

ALL. THE. TIME. I constantly doubt myself. I just keep writing anyway. It’s what we do.

6. What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned lately from your writing?

Last year I experimented with working on multiple projects. I tried different approaches, but have realized that realistically, I can only work on two projects at a time (aside from blogging and writing short stories) and that they have to be at different stages of development. I can draft one novel and revise another, but I can’t draft two novels at the same time. It requires too much of the same kind of creative energy.

7. In what ways do you hope to grow in the next 6 months/year?

I want to become the bionic writer. I want to be faster, stronger . . . 😀 You get the idea.

8. In what ways do writing friends and communities help you do that?

I learn from everything I do and from everyone I meet. You might say I’m addicted.

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Since I didn’t blog this past weekend, I thought I’d get this posted for you.

And Tipsday will be coming up tomorrow. This will be interesting. I haven’t prepared my weekly posts in advance. This might hurt a bit . . .

Six questions with Jane Ann McLachlan

I “met” Jane Ann through a wonderful online collective, Wordsmith Studio, following Robert Lee Brewer’s April Platform Challenge of 2012.

Though I knew that many of us were writers, I had no idea Jane Ann was working on a science fiction novel. Last fall, she was even up in Sudbury, giving a reading at the Sudbury Public Library, which, because I was out of town, I had to miss.

I also had to miss her Twitterview with mutual friend Lori Sailiata for Hawaii Content Management (#HiCM), though I read the Storify afterward 🙂

Now that her novel is coming out in instalments, I decided I simply had to find out more about this virtual friend and fellow Canadian author.

Without further ado, here she is: Jane Ann McLachlan!

________________________________________________________________________

Jane Ann McLachlan

Jane Ann McLachlan

Hi Melanie. We’ll have to meet when I’m in Sudbury in September for Cinefest. My parents were both originally northern Ontarians, although I was born in Toronto and grew up in Newmarket, a small town near Toronto, Canada. I taught at Conestoga College until a few years ago, when I decided to write full-time, although I still teach a couple of evening courses a year. I have written two college textbooks, published by Pearson/Prentice Hall, a science fiction e-book on Amazon called Walls of Wind http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HNXOG98 , and my collection of short stories, Connections, which came out last fall, published by Pandora Press.  My website is http://www.janeannmclachlan.com

________________________________________________________________________

WG: Welcome to Writerly Goodness, Jane Ann!

You are a writer of diverse talents. You’ve written two textbooks on professional ethics, a collection of inspirational short stories, and now a science fiction novel. I also understand you write historical fiction as well. How do all of your writerly personae intermingle, or do they?

JAM: I read extensively and enjoy a lot of different genres, so writing in different genres feels natural to me. But it didn’t always. I had to learn to accept the genre a story idea came to me in. I started writing science fiction, which I have always read, when I heard of a medieval superstition that really grabbed my imagination. An editor at Tor loved the idea, and liked my writing, and seriously considered it. He didn’t buy the book, but he gave me some excellent advice—he told me to re-write it as a medieval novel. I had to do a lot of research and reading in that genre (at that time I’d only read a few historical fiction authors) before I felt qualified to write historical fiction, but I’m pleased with the result. The Sorrow Stone is currently on offer with my agent. I guess I’m not a quick learner, because about the same time, I went through a traumatic event, and I tried to write it up as fiction. But it just kept dying on the page, until I gave in and wrote it as memoir. Impact: A Memoir of PTSD is now also with my agent. Now, I listen to the story and let it tell me which genre it needs to be written in.

WG: What is the origin story of J.A. McLachlan, author?

JAM: When people ask me, what made you start writing? I say, “I learned to read.” The first story I remember writing was a picture book, way back when that’s what I was still reading. It was about a pony, and I remember practicing for months to learn how to draw a horse. After that, I switched to poetry. I have a number of poems about dogs and horses my mom saved. They rhyme and they scan, but I wasn’t into very deep themes at age 8. 🙂

WG: Focusing on your fiction, what attracts you to each of the genres you write in (inspirational, historical, and speculative)?

JAM: I like a good story, with intriguing characters that are changed by their experiences in the novel, and an interesting “high concept” theme. Moral and philosophical quandaries really interest me, as well as a plot that keeps me guessing. These elements can be found in many genres.

WG: I’m a total process geek. I love to find out how people work their art and craft. Would you care to share anything about your writing process?

JAM: I need complete silence when I write, and NO interruptions. I write best when I’m all alone at home for hours, and I write on a laptop that is not connected to the internet (I have a separate computer in another room for that.) I start with a rough outline and let the characters alter it as I go. I would like to be a total plotter—that’s how I wrote my textbooks, with a very detailed outline for every chapter—but fiction, like life, just doesn’t work that way.  Stuff happens, and you have to adapt. Fiction (and life) can be a pain that way. 🙂

WG: With respect to Walls of Wind, why have you opted for publication in instalments?

JAM: It’s all about knowing your market. E-books do better in novella form, at low prices, for a number of reasons. It seems most people who read e-books like something they can read fairly quickly. If they want more, they’ll buy the next one. And since I’m an unknown author, readers are more willing to try me out if it’s not going to cost them much in time or money— Walls of Wind Part I is 4 chapters long and sells for .99c. I want people to be able to try it, because Walls of Wind is the best thing I’ve written, and I’m pretty confident anyone who likes science fiction and reads Part I will want to read the rest. Oh, and the link is:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HNXOG98

But here’s an offer for your readers. Right now, book reviews of Walls of Wind are worth more to me than royalties, so anyone who will write a review on Amazon or GoodReads (or best of all, on both) for me—whatever they think of the book—I’d be happy to send them Part I for free. Just email me at:  jamclachlan@golden.net

WG: What’s next for you?

JAM: Right now, I’m editing Part III of Walls of Wind —Part II goes live on Feb. 1; Part III on March 1; and the complete trilogy, for those who want a longer read, in e-book form and in print, will be available on April 2. I’m also currently setting up a number of talks and readings in the US and Canada for Connections and will be doing the same for Walls of Wind when I have the print book. And while all that is going on, I have my next historical fiction novel—which takes place during the Third Crusade—AND a YA science fiction novel, both hollering around in my head trying to get out, so I’ll be writing them this year.

Thanks for a great interview and break a pencil in your future writing endeavours!

____________________________________________________________________

About Walls of Wind:

Walls of Wind, Part II

Walls of Wind, Part II

What if males and females were completely different species from each other?

Walls of Wind explores this question and its ramifications on a world in which males and females are two different, equally intelligent species: Ghen and Bria. They are interdependent and reproductively symbiotic, although physically, emotionally and mentally they have little in common. Or so they believe, until their city-state is threatened by increasing internal conflict and a terrifying external predator that has invaded the forests beyond their walls. A handful of Ghen and Bria struggle desperately to find a solution before their civilization is destroyed.

Walls of Wind combines anthropological speculation with the tragedy, suspense and triumph of individual characters who struggle to overcome external threats as well as their own internal fears and prejudices.

Read Part I of Walls of Wind: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HNXOG98  Look for Part II on February 1st, 2014.

A year (and a bit) in the life of Writerly Goodness

This post is one in a series of Anniversary posts for Wordsmith Studio (WSS).

What is WSS, you ask?

It’s a group of people who originally bonded through Robert Lee Brewer’s April Platform Challenge last year and who have gone on to create a community online, not only through our blogs, but also through social media (Facebook, Twitter (#WSchat), LinkedIn, G+, Goodreads, Pinterest (sorry, not a pinner, so no link for the group there), and probably a few other places that I don’t know about yet).

Originally the MNINB Challengers, or Not-Bobbers, we slowly evolved into our own collective.

Part way through the year, a group of fabulous people got together to create the Wordsmith Studio site on WordPress.org.  Since December of last year, a number of members have been blogging regularly on the site as well as on their own blogs.

Others have been attracted to WSS who had nothing to do with the original challenge, and others who participated in the challenge have moved on to other projects.

So now you know, and knowing is half the battle Go Joes! 🙂

Prelude to a kiss challenge

One thing that amazed me was the diversity of people who participated in the challenge.  Some of them had been blogging for years already, or had several blogs.  Others, like myself, were new bloggers.  Others still didn’t start blogging and platform building until Robert’s challenge prompted them to.

I actually started my platform building in September of 2011.  I tried Joomla! first, but found it to be less intuitive than I wanted.  Plus, I was posting a blog more than anything else, and couldn’t figure out the proper way to set a blog up on a Joomla! site.  I wasn’t interested in bothering my techie husband, or in paying someone to sort this out for me, so I looked at other options.

In short order, I found WordPress, and gleefully uploaded the software to my self-hosted domain, labbydog.ca, converting all of my content into proper posts for my blog.

I learned as I went, relying heavily on experts such as Robert, Jane Friedman, and Michael Hyatt and the resources to which they referred me.

Then in February of 2012, disaster struck.  My blog was hacked, and our hosting company insisted in a complete wipe.  RIP labbydog.ca.

After playing around further, I decided, gun-shy and tender creative person that I was, to move to WordPress.com.  On Robert’s advice, I’d purchased my domain name, mapped it to WordPress.com and www.melaniemarttila.ca, A.K.A. Writerly Goodness was born.

At first I was merely attempting to recreate my content and was posting 5-6 days a week.

Enter the dragon challenge

I was already following Robert at the time, and when he announced his April Platform Challenge, I jumped onboard.

For a month, I eagerly awaited my daily dose of platform.  I’d been on Facebook since 2007, and had, as part of my amateur platform building program, already joined Twitter, LinkedIn, and G+, so the days in which the challenge task was to set up accounts on these services I had things a little easier.

It’s a good thing too; otherwise, I’d have fallen waaaay behind.

I learned about having a mission statement for my blog, about using a blogging schedule (doesn’t blogging in this sense sound like a colourful euphemism?  What the blog?  Blogging work!), about calls to action, guest blogs (hosting them and proposing them), interviews, tools like Tweetdeck and Hootsuite, hashtags and Twitter chats, mailing list, business cards, newsletters, Goodreads and other kinds of social media.

By the end of the month, I verged on the overwhelmed.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

I cut down on the frequency of my posts.  A new position at work meant that I had even less time and energy to spare for my blog if I wanted to keep up with my novel and other creative writing.

Something I’ve learned is that, as a writer, the writing comes first.  Blogging is a part of that, but if I don’t get my stories, poems, and novels written, submitted, and published, the blog is tantamount to an online journal and practically useless for the purpose of promotion or true platform building.

Now I blog on weekends only, and it’s been working for me, which is the most important thing.  I’ve been getting the writing done and have achieved a greater balance between my professional, creative, and personal lives.

I have several new pages, with links to those of my books that are still available for purchase from the publisher, my blogging schedule (such as it is), an invitation for guest bloggers, awards, and so forth.

I’ve started doing interviews with a number of friends, online and in real life, and was surprised but ultimately pleased when a fantasy writer right here in town contacted me out of the blue on my blog to be interviewed.  It speaks to the unexpected impact that blogging has had on my creative life and the community that I am, however back-asswardly, building 🙂

This post will be my 190th, I have 118 followers through WordPress, and publish my posts to 243 friends on Facebook, 412 followers on Twitter, 112 connections on LinkedIn, and 90 people have included me in their G+ circles.

I’ve participated in a few challenges (October submit-o-rama, I ❤ my blog, and the Just write 2013 short story challenge) and a couple of the Goodreads group craft book discussions.

I’ve posted a grand total of once on the WSS site and am currently waiting to hear from Robert regarding a guest blog on My Name is Not Bob.  **Hint: Look in your spam folder, Robert 🙂

It’s a humble beginning, but I remind myself that platforms take years to build and that until I have something more than a couple of old poetry anthologies to shill, that I’m not likely to have a massive following.  Even then, unless I turn out to be the next big thing for real, I’ll probably only see modest growth.

Next

I’ve been threatening to move to WordPress.org for a while now.  I still haven’t found the time to parse my archives and clean up some of my old posts.  I have to rework some of my images too, since in the early days of my blog, I just did a Google search for my images.  I have to find creative commons equivalents, use my own, or remove them entirely.

Nor have I settled on a new hosting company.  The fear of hack still lives in me and I’m admittedly dragging my feet on this one.

I’m also considering a greater involvement in WSS.  The site is still in evolution and I’m not sure what I can commit to.  Want and need are two entirely different things.  Keeping that distinction in mind will help me stay sane.

What I will do is encourage all of you to visit the Wordsmith Studio site, peruse the wonderful diversity of our members’ sites and blogs (photo bloggers, pet bloggers, health bloggers, poets, fiction writers of all genres, non-fiction writers, publishers, and so much more).  A weekly round up of our anniversary blogs will be posted on the Veranda, so please read on.

Also visit My Name is Not Bob to see some of the lessons learned posts from several of the original challengers.

Many of my online friends have had amazing years, some good, some bad, some demoralizing, and some downright inspiring.  Most of them are far more eloquent than I am.

Consider liking, commenting, sharing or subscribing.  They are teh awesome, with a little awesomesauce on the side 🙂

Happy anniversary WSSers!  Love you all, even if I don’t show it often enough.

A life sentence with mortal punctuation: part 8

How did what was supposed to be a mere two-part guest post get to be this huge?  I think it’s what project managers call “scope creep.” 🙂  Essentially, the story demanded something more, and as with many of the things I write, it told me the shape it wanted to be in.

Thanks to everyone who’s stuck with me through this very personal tale.  If it touches you in any way, I encourage you to like, share, comment, or subscribe as your conscience dictates.

I’ll take the opportunity here to remind everyone that while this story is based on my life, that it is filtered through my frame, and is, no more and no less than anything else I write, a story.

Last week: I discussed some of the things that I do to keep the wolf of my depression from the door, or perhaps invite it in, let it curl up by the hearth, and make itself at home.

This week I’m going to pick up the original thread of the tale where I left it.

Those sixteen years

The years during which I was “growing up,” getting a job, and learning how to deal with my depression were largely fallow ones for me creatively.  I got off to a good start in my undergrad years, both at Guelph and at Laurentian, but faltered during my struggle to achieve my master’s degree.

Though my primary poetic publications, NeoVerse and Battle Chant, emerged around the time that I finally received my graduate degree, I found it difficult to continue writing.  A handful of scattered publications in poetry and a short-lived foray into publishing weren’t enough to validate my still-fragile writer’s ego.

I’ve never had a thick skin.

As I slowly worked through my issues, however, I started to realize that writing wasn’t something I did or didn’t do.  It’s something I am.  My inability to commit to the writing life on a regular basis made me question my calling.  If I couldn’t write, how could I call myself a writer?  Maybe it was time to throw in the towel and commit to a life without magic.

The sheer impossibility of that thought told me that writing was what I was meant to do.  I just had to find my way to it without a map or any orienteering skill whatsoever.

Upon my triumphant return from Windsor and contract jobs interspersed with unemployment, Phil and I decided to get a puppy.  We already had two cats, one a three-legged refugee from my days at the Veterinary Emergency Clinic in Mississauga, the other a sweet-natured black cat that Phil got me for my birthday one year.

Our dependent quadrupeds helped me immensely.  I believe that pets have a lot to teach us about unconditional love and being good people.  My pets are some of the best people I’ve known 😉

I got my full time job with my current employer.  Phil and I got a house and a car.  I made use of my new benefits to get some serious work done on both my body and my mind.  I figured out that medication was not the way to address my feral disease.

My mother was still working, part-time at the local hospital, at home, taking care of my father, who had graduated to a disability pension and therapy, and at the seniors’ residence where my grandfather now lived.

I went out with her to see my grandfather about once a week, and helped her to transport him to his various appointments.  My father began to have issues with his heart, eventually diagnosed as arrhythmia and congestive heart failure.  He got a pace-maker, and a new suite of medications.

Shortly after retiring from the hospital, my mom developed diabetes.  Dad started to fall.  If it happened at home, either Phil or I, or both of us would have to help Mom, because Dad couldn’t get up under his own power and she couldn’t lift him.  If it happened outside home, it generally involved a hospital stay.  Dad was on Cumadin by this time and as a result, even the smallest injury could become serious due to the complications of the medication.

Then my dog died

ZoeIt wasn’t something sudden.  Zoe developed hemangiosarcoma and though we caught it early, the vet wasn’t able to catch it all with surgery and internal lavage.

The issue with this particular type of canine cancer is that it likes vascular areas, that is, places in the body where blood vessels tend to gather, like the spleen and the liver.  Once it takes hold, it disseminates quickly and almost always results in death.

The biopsy taken in the surgery came back malignant.  It would only be a matter of time.  As it turned out, we only bought Zoe a couple of weeks.

At first, it seemed like she was recovering.  Phil and I had taken to sleeping on the futon in the living room so we could be close to her if problems arose.

The morning she woke me at 5 am looking for comfort was her last.

I won’t describe that morning other than to say that I called in sick.  I was devastated.  For the first time, I cried legitimately over the loss of a loved one.

Papa

My maternal grandfather was the only one of my grandparents left alive.  He’d been a hard-core smoker, and alcoholic for most of his life.  When my grandmother passed away, he reacted poorly and within a few months, a fall resulting from TIA, landed him in the hospital.

From there, arrangements were made to move him into a seniors’ residence and for many more years, he lived happily, adjusting to the fact that he couldn’t drive anymore, that he had to go outside the residence to smoke, and that he had to depend on my mother to ration him a few beer on special occasions.

Some irregularities regarding his heart landed him in the hospital and when I got the call at work that I should come to the hospital, I had a bad feeling.  In the time it would take me to get the car, drive to the hospital, find parking, and get to his room, I could walk, so I sped along as quickly as I could, hoping that he would hold on long enough for me to get there.

Turns out he’d already passed away when I got the call.

Papa’s passing wasn’t all that traumatic for me.  He’d lived 94 years despite his addictions and was, so far as I know, happy.  I also felt confident that I had been there for him as much as I could.

I helped Mom settle his estate.  Being able to help her out in that way made another big difference for me.

I received a small inheritance, just enough to invest in my first laptop computer.  That year, I started to get back to my writing and the novel I’d conceived of all those years ago in university.

In another year, Phil and I felt that we could bear the love of another pup.  That was when we got the Nuala-beast.

The butt-in-chair breakthrough

Though I was writing more, I wasn’t writing daily yet.  It wasn’t until Nino Ricci came to town to do a workshop with the Sudbury Writers’ Guild that my head got turned around the right way on that.

It was his sharing of his own guardian tale that helped so much.  Every writer has at least one, that big name, well-established Author who tells you that your work is crap.

The breakthrough was that I could choose not to let the well-meant, but unfortunate words of my guardian keep me from entering the inner sanctum and gaining my prize.

Productive or not, I’ve been writing every day since, and that, as the poet said, has made all the difference.

The diabetic cat

Our little black cat, Thufir (named after the Mentat Thufir Hawat due to his fondness for Thufir Hawat the Mentat Catflashing lights) developed feline diabetes.  Phil and I were surprised because he wasn’t obese or showing any of the other signs, but his blood glucose level didn’t lie.

He was on Metformin for a year and graduated to insulin after that.  I became very adept at taking his blood sugar levels and injecting him daily.  He came to tolerate, if not anticipate his injections, like he knew that they made him feel better.

Once again, however, it was a matter of time.  Eventually, organ failure took out little guy.

I wasn’t sad this loss either.  I’d been the best kitteh-mama I could have been and I knew that I’d done well by him.  I’d kind of made my peace with death by this time.

I’m going to leave things here for now.  The next big event for me was the death of my father, and that’s going to need a post unto itself.

After that, I’m going to delve into my insights into happiness as a result of all I’ve learned and that will be the culmination of the series.

Tomorrow I’m going to be writing the Wordsmith Studio Anniversary post 🙂  What’s that, you ask?  Read and find out, my friends.

Coming soon: I have a few wonderful authors who have agreed to do interviews for little ole me.  Look out in the next few weeks for six questions with fantasy author J. L. Madore, poet Barbara Morrison, and D. J. McIntosh, author of The Witch of Babylon, and the soon-to-be-released The Book of Stolen Tales.

I’m finding all sorts of writerly goodness to share 🙂

Writer-tech: Dropbox on Wordsmith Studio

Please go see my post on Wordsmith Studio: Writer-tech: Dropbox.

Image representing Dropbox as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

Wordsmith Studio is a wonderful collective of writers that began through Robert Lee Brewer‘s April Platform Challenge last year.

Thanks to Lara Britt for inviting me into the designers group and encouraging my more active participation it the collective.

Hope you enjoy!

Writerly Goodness, signing off from Timmins, Ontario 🙂

What a lovely way to start the New Year!

sunshineawardHey y’all!  Jay Morris of The Wayward Journey nominated Writerly Goodness for the Sunshine Award 🙂  As Jay says in his post, it was the result one of his resolutions: to encourage other bloggers and foster community online.  I think that’s a worthy goal.

First, thanks!  It’s nice to be recognized by your fellow bloggers.

Second, here are the rules:

  1. Link back to the person who nominated you.
  2. Post the award image to your page.
  3. Tell seven facts about yourself.
  4. Nominate 10 other blogs.
  5. Let them know they are nominated.

Numbers 1 and 2 are already taken care of, so without further ado, here are seven facts about me:

  1. I’m a writing geek (really?).  That is, I love words, grammar (yes, grammar), and the whole shebang.  I get excited when I write; I don’t even have to be writing particularly well.  Writing is my friend, therapist, and spiritual practice rolled into one.
  2. I’ve been married for eighteen and a half years to a wonderful man.  Phil’s my BFF, inspirator (conspirator in inspiration), and makes me laugh my hoop off at least once a day.  Yup.  I’m hoopless 😀
  3. I haven’t taken down the Christmas decorations yet, in violation of the standing practice to pack them away January 1st.  Maybe I’ll get to it by Ukrainian Christmas?  Sadly doubtful.  Before the end of January though, for sure.
  4. I need to know the rules, but often, once I’ve figured them out, I find my own way forward.
  5. I think my Mom is a “cool mom.”
  6. I’m terrible at traditional correspondence.  I have a friend who, without fail, sends birthday, anniversary, occasional, and sometimes just-for-the-heck-of-it cards.  I always get a postcard from her on every vacation.  I admire, and secretly envy, this friend 🙂
  7. After work, I transform into “comfort woman.” She’s a strange creature, who wears flannel and sits at her computer all night … writing, yeah, that’s it … writing.

Now, here are my ma-nominations (doo-doo-da-doo-doo!).  Yes, I’m a Muppet maniac 🙂

  1. Laura Conant Howard – Finding Bliss  Fantastic site with all kinds of interviews and book features.  Her new book, The Forgotten Ones, is coming out soon!  Also follow Laura on FB and Twitter.  She will often share when good books are on special – bonus!
  2. Khara House – Our Lost Jungle  Khara is fabulous, and so is her site.  She has led several great challenges over the past year that have kept me motivated.  Her current: I ❤ my blog.  Yup.  I’m in it.
  3. Karen Woodward  Karen is a prolific blogger and has a variety of good advice to offer.
  4. Kim Fahner – The Republic of Poetry  Kim is a poet and a teacher, and waxes lyrical on many topics.  Just love her 🙂
  5. Vikki Thompson – The View Outside  Vikki invites us to follow along on her writing journey.  There’s always something interesting going on at The View Outside 🙂
  6. Sarah Rios – Riosfan  Sarah is hilarious!  Become her minion on G+ too and get all the fangrrl goods 🙂
  7. Lara Britt – Writing Space  Lara is a working writer in Hawaii.  What a wonderful place to be 🙂
  8. Claudia Karabaic Sargent – CKSWarriorQueen  Another one of my Wordsmith Studio connections (as are Lara B, Lara S, and Khara).
  9. Lara Schiffbauer – Motivation for Creation  Her Funny Friday Photos are always a hoot and I love feeding her fish 🙂  Also, check out her book Finding Meara.
  10. Brian Braden  Brian’s WIP, Black Sea Gods is moving toward publication.  He’s been supportive of my project and I just want to return the favour 🙂

There were a lot of blogs that I wanted to feature.  If yours isn’t in here, I mean no disrespect.

TTFN blogging buds 🙂

I’ll be back tomorrow with I ❤ my blog, and the Pupdate 🙂

The Right to Write

As part of the Wordsmith Studio Goodreads group, I have been reading Julia Cameron’s The Right to Write.  I think I’ve fallen in love 🙂

Cover of "The Right to Write: An Invitati...

Cover via Amazon

Julia’s philosophy of writing is something that I’ve aspired to for years and I think that I’ll be referring to her book for some time.  The book has an organic quality to it that I admire.

What follows are the gems I mined from Cameron’s book, and all the credit for them must, of course, go to the author.

Gems:

Introduction
“Writing has for thirty plus years been my constant companion, my lover, my friend, my job, my passion, and what I do with myself and the world I live in.  Writing is how, and it sometimes seems why, I do my life.”
“Our ‘writing life’ … cannot be separated from our life as a whole.”
“… writing is a powerful form of prayer and meditation, connecting us both to our own insights and to a higher and deeper level of inner guidance …”

Begin

“It’s a luxury to be in the mood to write.”
“… writing is like a good pair of pyjamas …”

Let yourself write

“We have an incredible amount of mystery, mystique, and pure bunk around exactly what [becoming a writer] means.”
“When we just let ourselves write, we get it ‘right.’”

Let yourself listen

“Writing is about getting something down, not about thinking something up.”

The time lie

“The myth that we must have ‘time’—more time—in order to create is a myth that keeps us from using the time we do have.”

Laying track

“For the first time, I gave myself emotional permission to do rough drafts and for those drafts to be, well, rough.”
“Writing—and this is the big secret—wants to be written.”

Bad writing

“Bad writing—when it’s good—is like New York street pizza.  Sometimes it’s a little too crusty.  Sometimes it’s a little soggy, but the tang is undeniable.  It has flavor.  Spice.  Juice.”

This writing life

“I have crawled out of lovers’ beds to sneak off and write.”

“There is a great happiness in letting myself write.  I don’t always do it well, or need to, but I do need to do it.”
“Writing is alchemy.”

Mood

“All of us have a sex drive.  All of us have a drive to write.”
“Writing may be an art, but it is certainly a craft.  It is a simple and workable thing that can be as steady and reliable as a chore—does that ruin the romance?”

Drama

“Keep the drama on the page.”
“Keeping the drama on the page is ruthless, enlightened self-interest.”

The wall of infamy

“… I advocate writing for revenge.  I advocate writing ‘to show them.’  You turn the dross of your disappointments into the gold of accomplishment.”

Valuing our experience

“Seeking to value ourselves, we look to others for assurance.  If what we are doing threatens them, they cannot give it.  If what we envision is larger than they can see, they cannot give support for what it is we are doing.”
“Valuing our experience is not narcissism.  It is not endless self-involvement.  It is, rather, the act of paying active witness to ourselves and to our world.”

Specificity

“One thing at a time, one thought, one word at a time.  That is how a writing life is built.”
“Detail allows us to communicate precisely what we mean.”

Body of experience

“Because we think of writing as something disembodied and cerebral, because we ‘think’ of writing rather than notice that what we do with it is meet or encounter it, we seldom realize that writing, like all art, is embodied experience.”
“True knowledge, authentic knowledge, is something deeper than the mind entertains.”

The well

“Writing is what we make from the broth of our experience.  If we lead a rich and varied life, we will have a rich and varied stock of ingredients from which to draw …”
“Sanity in writing means acknowledging that we are an creative ecosystem and that without fresh inflow and steady outflow the pond of our inner resources can grow stagnant and stale.”

Sketching

“If I see or hear the impulse to put in a tree, I put it in the landscape of what I am writing … the writing itself knows when and how and where it will use it.”
“‘It’s a sort of lucid dreaming where I carry the idea of the story and the Universe delivers to me bits and pieces as I need them.’”

Loneliness

“Not writing is the lonely thing.  Not writing creates self-obsession.  Self-obsession blocks connection with others … with the self.  Writing is like an inner compass.  We check in and we get our bearings.”

Witness

“What writing brings to life is clarity and tenderness.  Writing, we witness ourselves.”

“Why don’t we do it in the road?”

“People who write from discipline … take the risk of trying to write from the least open and imaginative part of themselves, the part of them that punches a time clock instead of taking flights of fancy.”

Connection

“Writing is a way not only to metabolize life but to alchemize it as well.  It is a way to transform what happens to us into our own life experience.  It is a way to move from passive to active.  We may still be the victims of circumstance, but by our understanding of those circumstances we place events within the ongoing context of our own life, that is, the life we ‘own.’”

Being an open channel

“When writing dominates a life, relationships suffer—and not coincidentally, so does the writing.”
“Although we seldom talk about it in these terms, writing is a means of prayer.  It connects us to the invisible world.”

Integrating

“The root of the word ‘integration’ is the smaller word ‘integer,’ which means ‘whole.’  Too often, racing through life, we become the ‘hole,’ not ‘whole.’”

Credibility

“Based on the idea that writing is product, not process, the credibility attack wants to know just what credits you’ve amassed lately.  The mere act of writing, the fact of which makes you a writer, counts for nothing with this monster.”

Place

“The accumulation of details, the willingness to be specific and precise, the willingness to ‘place’ a piece of writing accurately in context—all of these things make for writing that a reader can connect to.”

Happiness

“It is my belief that writing is a way to bless and to multiply out blessings.”
“Writing is a form of cherishing.”

Making it

“The universe is not, to my eye, a cruel and capricious place.  I believe that our desire to write is a deep-seated human need to communicate and that it is answered by an equally powerful human drive to be communicated to.  In other words, for every writer there is a reader—or many readers.”

Honesty

“Writing is about honesty.  It is amost impossible to be hinest and boring at the same time.”

Vulnerability

“Vulnerability in writing is the enemy of grandiosity … of pomposity.  It is the enemy of posturing; the enemy of denial … Vulnerability is writing health, and health—as I can assure you—can be a scary-feeling experience for some of us.”
“Vulnerability, which is honesty’s shy younger sister, is the part of ourselves that renders un capable of great art, art that enters and explores the heart.”

Dailiness

“Writing is the act of motion.  Writing is the commitment to move forward, not to stew in our own juices, to become whatever it is that we are becoming.”
“Reality happens in daily doses.  Life lived a day at a time is life made much of.”

Voice

“Writing from the body—dropping down into the well of your experience and sounding out how you feel—ultimately yields a body of work.  We say that a voice is full-bodied without realizing that this is a literal phrase: when we write from our gut rather than from our head we acquire the same resonance that a singer does when the breath comes from the diaphragm rather than high up in the chest.”

Form versus formula

“… joie de vivre, … kick-in-the-pants power comes when we allow form to triumph over formula.  In other words, when we trust that writing ‘live’ has a real and valid life to it.”

Footwork

“It is a spiritual maxim that God never closes one door without opening another.  It is a spiritual joke that while this may be true, the hallway in between is murder.  When we are ‘stuck’ in our writing lives, it is usually because we are clinging to a situation that has outlived its usefulness to us or we are unwilling to explore a new risk that we sense we really must take.”

Practice

“Practice means what it says: writing is something to be done over and over, something that improves through the repetitive doing but that needs not be done perfectly. … Consistency is the key to mastering the instrument that is you.”

Containment

“Showing our writing to hostile or undiscerning readers is like lending money to people with terrible fiscal pasts.  We will not be repaid as we wish.”
“We must write from love and we must choose those to read us who read from love: the love of words.”

Sound

“We talk about the writing voice but seldom about the importance of literal sounds in the sound it makes.”
We talk about music in writing but we seldom focus on the music all around us.”

I would live to write, but …

“We want official validation that we are ‘really’ writers.  The truth is, we need to give that permission, that validation, ourselves.”

Driving

“I have a drive to write and I do drive to write. … the art of writing devours images and … if I am going to write deeply, frequently, and well, I must keep my inner pond of images very well stocked.  When I want to restock my images, I get behind the wheel of my car.”

Roots

“… writing benefits from other commitments.  Writing responds well to some gentle scheduling.  A day job not only promotes solvency, it promotes creativity as well.”

ESP

“It is my belief that all of us are naturally intuitive and that writing opens an inner spiritual doorway that gives us access to information both personally and professionally that serves us well.  I call this information ‘guidance’ …”

Cheap tricks

“… the part of me that writes in young, vulnerable, and easily swayed. … I use a lot of cheap tricks to bribe my writer into production.”

Stakes

“In writing, stakes are a question of clarity and empathy.  As writers, we must make it very clear what our characters stand to lose or gain so that our readers, encountering these stakes, can feel empathy and care about the outcome.”

Procrastination

“Writers procrastinate so that when they finally get to writing, they can get past the censor.”

Into the water

Julia’s prescription of morning pages, a narrative time line, and cups.  You’ll have to read the book to find out what these are.

The right to write

“To be truly human, we all have the right to make art.  We all have the right to write.”

These are only a few of the gems I could have plucked out for you, and all of them are of a similar nature.  If you are inspired or intrigued in any way by these, go grab the book.  Go on now!  Give yourself a lovely gift for Christmas.  Or suggest it to a loved one.

Cameron includes exercises at the end of each chapter and it forms a kind of writer’s rehab.  The Right to Write is, if nothing else, Cameron’s attempt to heal the injured and encourage the aspiring writer.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes! Rethinking my online strategy

I’ve been through a fair amount on this platform-building journey, from my first hesitant steps, through my experience of being hacked, and my triumphant return to the blogosphere.  I think it’s time that I took a little more control of my online life rather than letting it control me.

To this end, I’ve retooled my blogging schedule.  I’ll only be posting twice weekly now, Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Tuesdays (starting next week) for my learning and development category, and Thursdays for all things Writerly Goodness (it’s a grab bag folks!).  Fridays will be set aside for any guest blogs and other special events.

The truth is that I really have to get back to my novel.  If I don’t have a product, what’s the point of all this platform development?

Back in April I partook of Robert Lee Brewer’s Platform Challenge.  I’ve learned a lot from the experience and made a lot of online friends through the continually evolving Wordsmith Studio community.

Recently, I also volunteered to help develop Author Salon’s social media campaign.  With working, critiquing, curating, blogging, and hopefully writing, my schedule’s full enough.  I’m learning and growing though, as a writer and in social media.  As Christina Katz wrote, if it’s not painful, you’re not growing.

Actually, what she wrote was:

If you are frustrated to the point of tears or total exasperation, then wow, you must really be taking risks and stretching yourself. Good for you!

Think I’m getting there 😛

For the next six weeks, I’m participating in We Grow Media’s How to Build Your Author Platform course delivered by Dan Blank.  I’m hoping to learn how to make more efficient use of online tools to recapture some of my precious writing time.

Today, however, I want to share some pearls of online wisdom I’ve learned over the course of the past few months:

From Nathan Bransford:

  • When you post something to Facebook or G+, the link that you copy into your status will be embedded.  Once the post shows up, you can delete the pesky link and use the space to say something more apropos of your witty authorial persona.
  • Render unto Twitter that which is Twitter’s.  In short, if you tweet a lot, don’t link your Twitter feed to Facebook.  I experienced the negative side of this earlier this year, when a friend joined Twitter and I saw his half of every Twitter conversation he had.  It was excruciating clutter, but because he was a friend, I didn’t say anything.  He isn’t the “hey, you’ve got a booger in your nose” or a “that dress makes you look like a hoochie mama” kind of friend.  Sorry Dan.

From Kristin Lamb:

  • Don’t spam your friends.  Though tools like Hootsuite make it very convenient to post to multiple social media at multiple times, don’t do it unless you’re there to engage anyone who might respond.  Twitter is about having a conversation, forming a community.  If you’re automating you posts and someone replies to you or retweets saying that they liked it, you have no way to engage them if you’re not actually on line to respond.  Prove you’re not a robot?  Only post/tweet/share when you’re on line.  Got a day-job?  Tough.

Other points of etiquette:

  • Got published?  Yippee!  But I don’t need to see the same post every five minutes.  If I’m interested, I’ll check it out, but I find that half my Twitter feed consists of people trying to promote their books.  It becomes a visual kind of white noise and I tend to ignore those tweets after a while.  Pace your promo posts, and again, try to do it when you’re online to respond to any enquiries.
  • In the same vein: be professional.  In the early stages of any platform building effort, it can seem like you’re not getting anywhere.  It takes time.  Sometimes years.  Be patient.  If every time you post to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, G+, or any of the other social media sites, you’re practically begging people to “share, please share” it smacks of desperation.  It’s off-putting.  If you write honestly and put out quality material, people will share of their own accord.  Again, it takes time to build a solid following.
  • If you’re interested in proposing a guest blog for someone and they’ve posted guidelines, treat them as seriously and professionally as you would submission guidelines to a magazine or journal.  Read the guidelines and follow them.  Respect the blogger you want to guest post for.
  • The other side of that coin is that if you’ve entered into an agreement, informal as it may be, to host a guest blog, or to interview someone, treat it with as much respect as a written contract.  If you can’t, for whatever reason, hold up your end of the deal, be up front and address the issues with your guest or interviewee.  If you have to decline after receiving the interview transcript or post, then do so in a timely manner.  Pretend you’re a publisher, because that’s what you’re doing when you host guests or conduct interviews, and treat your guest or interviewee as you would like to be treated if your positions were reversed.

It’s the golden rule.  Be polite.  Be professional.  Show respect.  You’ll be amazed how those three simple phrases will transform your online life and how much more quickly your platform will grow as a result.

Ok.  Kicking the soap box off to the side now 🙂

There might be some additional changes coming in the future as the result of Dan Blank’s course.  I’ve been considering a thematic revamp of the blog, but I want to hold off until I have some feedback.

On that note, if you have any of that for me (feedback) please feel free to comment.

How are your platform development efforts going?  Have there been bumps, or ruts in the road?  What have to done to work through these issues?  Do you have a plan moving forward?  Do tell 🙂

Writerly Goodness, signing off.