Friday Desk Report – April 21, 2017

The desk report for this past week is, well, sort of boring. I’ve been mainly focused on marketing and promotion this week; spiffing up my website, trying to wrangle all my social media, figuring out how best to spend the time I allot to this sort of thing. It’s an unfortunate reality of being an author these days–unfortunate, I say, because it takes time away from what we’d really rather be doing: writing. There’s a balance out there, but the trick is to find it. I’m working on that.

I did have a lovely epiphany about something important in The Chaos Assassin, and immediately made copious notes about it. I’ve finished a major read-through and next week I hope to add some serious word count to the manuscript.

I’m also considering a new short story collection for stories that have come out since my last collection. Just kicking the idea around right now, but I did a little preliminary planning for that this week. Which reminds me, I have several short stories underway that I really should look at again next week…

Today though, I’m honoured to be participating in the fourth Rita Joe Memorial Literacy Day, so some of the week has been spent preparing for that, as well. I’m expecting to have a great day with the students talking about reading, writing, and speculative fiction.

If you’re a fellow writer looking to overhaul your own marketing strategies, check Duolit. Although the website is currently on hiatus, there’s still a lot of good information to be found!

Illustration Friday – Fable

A number of years ago, (*looks back, sees it was 2007, faints*) we did the Illustration Friday challenge for a while. The challenge is a topic (usually just a word) which you then illustrate in whatever medium you’d like. At that time I was doing a lot of colored pencil, so most of my projects were small, AECO size (2.5″ x 3.5″) attempts. Most of them are still online over here. It was a lot of fun, although the results…varied. *Side note: the IF challenges also make good writing prompts!

I’ve been thinking I’d like to get back into the art groove, so I looked up this week’s IF prompt and it was “Fable.” Which, of course, appealed to my writerly side, and I started thinking about how stories come in so many shapes and sizes and often have deep roots from which they grow.  This time I went digital and also indulged in my love of typographical art to come up with the image. I got some help and inspiration from the tutorial here, and then went my own way with it. I really like the result! It took a couple of hours (with various interruptions) but I think it’s good to engage the art brain and let the writing brain rest sometimes. I hope I’ll get back into the habit of Illustration Friday for a while again. I’m also enjoying the art videos posted by Mary Doodles on her YouTube channel, but my watercolor skills are currently non-existent. Maybe someday…

In the meantime, here’s my take on “Fable.”

Writing Prompt – 5 Pictures

At our writer’s group meeting last night, we did a freewrite, which we haven’t done in a while, but we’ve been meaning to get back to. “Freewriting” means taking a prompt and writing immediately for a set amount of time–no planning, no stopping, no editing, just see what happens. If you haven’t tried it, do so! It’s fun.

The 5 Pictures idea is one where I pull out five (or so) images from a huge stack I’ve cut from magazines over a number of years. Writers can choose whichever one they want to write about, and the way we do it, no-one is under any obligation to share what they’ve written when the time is up. Usually people want to share, which is great and makes the exercise even more fun as we read our pieces aloud afterwards, but there’s no pressure. I think the knowledge that there’s no expectation of sharing makes it easier for people to let go and write.

Anyway, I rather liked mine from last night, although when I randomly pulled this picture from the pile my first thought was, “boring!” In the end, though, this was the one that spoke to me. We wrote for ten minutes, which is not long to tell a whole story, but I think I pulled it off…

“What They Don’t Know”

House-hunting with Marta is a bitch.

“Nothing too big,” she admonished, “because how many bathrooms can one person be expected to keep clean?”

I closed the browser tabs for all the places over 5000 square feet.

“And lots of windows,” she added, smoothing her dark locks.

“With wide windowsills,” I said, “for you to sit on.”

“Goes without saying, but yes.” She stuck her pink tongue out at me impudently.

“Neighbors?” I asked.

She gave me a green-eyed stare at that.

“Right,” I said. “No neighbors too close.” I closed more browser tabs.

“And you know how I feel about dogs,” she said, stretching over to look at the laptop screen.

“Well, the density of canine population isn’t usually part of the property listing,” I reminded her. “We might have to take our chances.”

Marta sighed languidly. “Of course, you’re right, darling. We’ll just have to ask the agent when we go for a viewing.”

I stroked the silky fur on the back of my wife’s neck. “I assume you’ll be in human form for that?”

She butted her head against mine with a rumbling purr bubbling up like laughter. “Darling,” she said. “Who in their right mind would sell a house to a shape shifter? But what they don’t know…”

Friday Desk Report 2-17-2017

The return of the Friday Desk Report! And look at that fabulously almost-symmetrical date.

So, there hasn’t been a Friday Desk Report for a while, mainly because for the past couple of months they all would have read something like, “Tried to work on the novel edits this week in between bouts of feeling utterly depressed with the world. Drowned my sorrows in Guild Wars 2. Also, winter.” I mean, how many times would you want to read that?

But here’s the good news: there’s actually news. I turned in the novel manuscript! I turned in the short story! I edited and submitted another story! So things have really picked up again around the old desk. With luck, it will continue. I have a few new projects pestering me for some attention, and some older ones lined up in the “go back to” queue. Time to open up my year-out project planning spreadsheet and fill in some things for the next few months.

I’ve also been asked to give a WFNS workshop this spring, which is exciting. We’re calling it “Exploring Speculative Fiction,” and I’m looking forward to spending a day talking genre with folks writing and hoping to write specfic stories. So over the next few weeks some of my desk time will be spent putting the workshop together.

I’ve also been busy Saving The World Through Knitting. Well, okay, not *quite* saving the world. But making a small difference. So far I’ve knit ten hats from my yarn stash, which will be sent to an organization that distributes such items to refugees in need. I’m finding it a very useful strategy in coping with stress, distress, and the darkness demons of the winter months. (In the course of this project I’ve also become addicted attached to Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. I expect I’ll be writing some new mysteries this year…)

Review: Night Owls

Night Owls
Night Owls by Lauren M. Roy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked this book up initially because a writer friend mentioned it, and it sounded interesting. I enjoyed the author’s handling of the vampire ethos and her introduction of other unique elements into the world of the story. The characters are well-drawn and interesting, and the story surprised me several times. Would definitely read another in this series. Great paranormal/urban fantasy reading!

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Two Weeks of Winter

Well, yes, on the East Coast of Canada, we certainly get more than two weeks of winter. Winter meanders in sometime mid-November, hunkers down, and usually has to be forcibly evicted sometime in May. Occasionally it will pack its bags in April, if we’re really lucky.

But the past two weeks have been…worse than usual. Last week my high-school-aged son had three snow days…this week he’s had four. He’s not complaining, and I’ll admit it–I’ve enjoyed being able to sleep later than usual. But–wow. I’m not sure what the two-week accumulation has been, but in one day we had 70+ cm (that’s around 28 inches for my non-metric friends), so you can imagine that the two-week total is considerable. My office window sits at ground level, and it’s a good thing I have an OTT Light on my desk, because sunshine’s been in short supply.

My office window on Valentine’s Day. Not much light creeping through that snow drift!

We had more last night, although a mere few centimetres. And the forecast for the next few days…only flurries!

I’ll believe it when I see it.

Review: The Occasional Diamond Thief

The Occasional Diamond Thief
The Occasional Diamond Thief by J.A. McLachlan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was one of those books that, once I started it, I found it difficult to put down. The main character is intriguing as she finds her path between right and wrong, driven by the events of her past, her relationship with her family, and the secret behind it all. Along with that, though, it’s a great science fiction adventure tale told across fully believable worlds and civilizations. A great read for YA or adult lovers of character-driven science fiction.

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Review: The Star Thief

The Star Thief
The Star Thief by Jamie Grey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this fast-paced novel–a blend of thriller and military scifi, with dashes of romance and humour thrown in for good measure. The characters are interesting and varied, and the strong plotline carries the story and keeps the reader turning pages. Lots of twists and turns, with much at stake for both the main character and the larger world. If you like science fiction adventure with a well-drawn female lead you should enjoy this one!

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Review: A Witch’s Kitchen

A Witch's Kitchen
A Witch’s Kitchen by Dianna Sanchez
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was enchanted by this sweet and funny book, about a young witch who thinks she has no ability at witchcraft. Her apparent failings only hide her true talents, however! Along with being entertained (it was a hard-to-stop-for-the-night read), I was also appreciative of a more serious core that underpinned the story without intruding itself–it really spoke to me about finding and appreciating who we really are. But the overall feel of the book is light and fun, the characters are well-drawn, and the reading pace is quick. I’ll be delighted to introduce some of the young readers at the school library to it! Highly recommended for both young and adult fantasy lovers.

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