They’re Live!

My two new non-fiction ebooks are live as of yesterday! The Two-Week Short Story is a guide to brainstorming and writing a fast first draft, and the Short Story Workshop for One is a workbook for improving fiction when it’s difficult to get outside feedback or comments. For now they’re exclusive to Amazon, and priced at $2.99 and $1.99 respectively. More details about them, and buying links, are here.

A Reincarnation

For a number of years, I ran a couple of successful email courses through The Scriptorium; one was called “The Two-Week Short Story” and the second was “Short Story Workshop for One.” People seemed to enjoy them and I received a lot of very positive feedback from students. The first was (rather obviously) a guide to coming up with a story idea and writing a quick, complete first draft, all in a two-week period. The Workshop was a method for writers who found it difficult to get feedback or critiques to work on developing the kind of critical eye needed to help them improve their stories on their own. The Short Story Workshop itself grew out of an article I had published in Speculations back in 2001, so it had already lived through one reincarnation. It occurred to me that they’d both probably translate well into short ebooks now, and that I might reach a new group of aspiring writers in that format.

Never one to let a good idea fail to distract me from what I’m really *supposed* to be doing, I set to work and did some revising, tweaking, and re-formatting. Also, cover design, since every good ebook deserves a good e-cover. I’m not quite ready to release the ebooks yet, since they need one more good going-over, but I’m thinking within a week or so they’ll be ready to go. But I can share those covers with you now (they might get a little more tweaking, but I think they’re pretty much done):

I expect to price the ebooks around $1.99, which will be a bargain considering the courses used to sell for $8.00 each! However, I did have the hassle of setting up the email schedule, so compared to that, selling ebooks is easy. I believe I’ll test these in Kindle Select at first, and then move to a broader platform after that, as my marketing experimentation continues.

If you or someone you know is looking for some story inspiration and motivation, or have a story that needs some intensive self-workshopping, I’ll be posting here when they’re released. Maybe you’ll find them useful!

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.”

November 11th Musings

Poppies by Benoit Aubry of Ottawa

This morning I walked “into town” to observe the Remembrance Day ceremony. I do actually live in the town, by the way, but on the outer edge, and going “into town” has always been the family nomenclature. I had planned to walk with some others of my family, but due to this and that I ended up going alone with a new plan to meet them there. It was a sunny morning, and the wind held a jagged edge–but, hey, it’s November in Cape Breton–and altogether lovely for walking.

Since I was alone and hadn’t taken my headphones to listen to music, I set my mind, as I walked, to the problem facing me in my current novel project. Which, coincidentally, had to do with war. The question I have been trying to answer is basically, how can a small group of people stop an interstellar war?

The obvious answer, I suppose, is: they can’t. But this is fiction, and that wasn’t the answer I wanted. I wanted an answer that involved cooperation, and determination, and compassion, and alien races working together. I just couldn’t seem to find the right way to make all those pieces fit together into what also has to be a good story.

So I mulled it over as I walked, and I thought a bit about war, and a bit about my Great Uncle John, who fought in the Second World War and did come home, if a changed man. I thought about the characters in my book, and what’s just happened and is happening in the United States, and about other wars and other places and other stories. And I came back to my characters and all the bits of the novel that have already been set in motion.

And. I think it worked. By the time I met up with my family members, some very important story pieces had fallen into place, and others had revealed how they could work together, and new pieces had appeared, too. I didn’t quite dance in the street since it would have seemed quite disrespectful under the circumstances. But I felt much better than I had about the story in a while.

There isn’t really a moral to this story, but I suppose if there is one for writers, it’s that sometimes you have to give your brain a quiet place to churn, and let it go. Maybe it means a change of scenery or activity, maybe it means a nap or just a break from staring disconsolately at the screen. Maybe it’s not forcing ideas, but nudging your thoughts in a certain direction and letting them run, instead of staring at an outline that isn’t working any more. Maybe it’s a walk on a sunny, windy day, alone with your thoughts and a question to be answered. If you’re stuck, try all of these things, and more, if that’s what it takes. The pieces will fall into place.

NaNoRetro: 2003

My NaNoWriMo Retrospective continues with a look back at 2003. I came, I wrote, I bought the t-shirt. And I wrote “THE END.”

nanoretro2003This was my second year of NaNoWriMo, and the year I wrote the first draft of One’s Aspect to the Sun. I learned a lot about novel-writing that year, including the fact that sometimes characters you intend to kill off in the second chapter just keep hanging around until you realize they’re not ready to die after all. I also found out how fulfilling it is to reach some semblance of an ending and type those two wonderful words.

I wasn’t certain if this was the year I became a Municipal Liaison, but I’ve just gone and checked my email (yes, I’m an email hoarder, I confess), and this was the year I started. So I’m glad to have that figured out, because I’m never sure when filling out the ML form each year. It didn’t occur to me before this to just go and check those old emails, for which I really have no excuse. As I recall, we were a pretty small group that year, and far-flung across the Island, as we still are, although there are definitely more of us participating now. I remember mailing out pins and possibly stickers to a few participants.

Anyway, this is a big year in the retrospective, because the draft I wrote this year became my first published novel (from Tyche Books) in…wait for it…2013. In November, even! Yes, ten whole years after I wrote that first draft. Now, I wasn’t working on it constantly during those ten years (I wrote a lot of other stuff in there, too), but I did write several drafts. I submitted it to the Atlantic Writing Competition (now Nova Writes) and took second place (which one of the organizers assured me meant that the novel was “publishable”), and rewrote it using the feedback I received from the judges. After a couple more rewrites and submissions, it found its home at Tyche. The beautiful cover art is by the talented Ashley Walters. The book was named “Speculative Fiction Book of the Year” by the Book Publishers of Alberta.

Here’s the blurb, which remained pretty much the same from the time I first wrote it in 2003 until the book came out:

When Luta Paixon, captain of the merchant trader Tane Ikai, looked in the mirror, she saw a woman in her thirties–even though she was actually eighty-two. Luta’s only explanation might lie with the mother who had disappeared over sixty years ago. But even if her mother were still alive, it would be no small task to track her down in the vast, wormhole-ridden expanse of Nearspace. With the ruthless PrimeCorp bent on obtaining Luta’s DNA at any cost, her ninety-year-old husband asking for one last favor, and her estranged daughter locking horns with her at every turn, Luta’s search for answers will take her to the farthest reaches of space–and deep inside her own heart.

Looking back at my spreadsheet from this year, I see that I finished November with a word count of 50,715. On the second day, my note says, “A little worried that I don’t know where I’m going,” but by the end of the first week I seem to have settled into a groove and flown straight on till morning. I actually finished on the 27th, averaging 1878 words per day.

Which year will we visit next? Stay tuned!

It’s My 15-Year NaNoVersary!

nanowrimo_2016_webbadge_municipalliaison-2-250x250Yes, 2016 marks the 15th year I’m participating in the wonderful creative blast of National Novel Writing Month. I thought it would be fun, as the month progresses, to look back at the things I’ve written, the data I’ve kept, and, even more important, the t-shirts and other nano-merch I’ve acquired over the years. So sit back, pour up a celebratory glass of your favourite liquid for toasting, and enjoy this little trip through time and word counts.

I’m doing this in no particular order, so today I randomly picked 2008 (because that’s the t-shirt I’m wearing today).nanoretro2008This was the 10-year anniversary of NaNoWriMo itself, and the brown baseball-style tee boasts “NaNoWriMo” and a large number “10” on the back. This is one of my all-time fav NaNo t-shirts. That was the year I wrote At the Sign of the Starcase, and yes, that’s STAR CASE, not a typo. This was a middle-grade to young adult story, and I know I wrote it specifically trying to incorporate many of the elements my daughter enjoyed in the books she was reading at the time. Here’s the blurb:

In the five years since Maddie’s father disappeared, she and her family have struggled to go on with some semblance of a normal life. That life is shattered by the arrival of Neb, a vaguely rabbit-like creature who turns up in Maddie’s room one night, pleading for her help in finding a powerful book called the Cyclopedia and telling her that her father is still alive—but trapped in an alternate world. There’s no question that Maddie will try to help Neb and hope that by doing so she’ll be able to rescue her father. But keeping the rest of her family safe grows increasingly difficult once she finds out that there are others from that world who want the Cyclopedia too…and they don’t care what they have to do to get it.

Looking up my tracking spreadsheet from that year, I see that I finished up at 50,699 words. Some selected comments from the daily “notes” section of the spreadsheet: “Still no idea what I’m doing with this story, but at least it’s started,” “I hate that message that says, at this rate, you won’t finish on time,” “bleh,” and on a more positive note, “Woohoo, I’m getting so many great ideas in the last 24 hours!”

Unfortunately, all those great ideas did not lead to a finished first draft of Starcase, and I didn’t get to type “The End,” which is always my ultimate goal during NaNoWriMo. I always get the 50k, but that goal is more elusive. My daughter is no longer a middle grade reader, but I’m sure if I ever finish Starcase she will read it anyway just to be nice.

We launched our first Third Person Press title, Undercurrents, during that November, so I think that contributed to my struggle with this manuscript. However, I still like it and think it has potential, so it remains on my TBF (to-be-finished) list.

Connections

bridgesThe other day I wrote here about not being really keen on marketing and promotion, and for the most part, that’s true. However, I was thinking afterward about a side benefit that sometimes goes along with promotion, and that’s connecting. Connecting with readers, connecting with other authors, connecting with others in the industry. And that part, I do like.

Over the past number of weeks, I’ve been very fortunate to forge some new connections, particularly with other authors, through these promotional efforts. In the Rogues bundle from Tyche Books, I’ve been in the company of Rebecca Senese, Michael Wallace, Daniel Arenson, Jamie Grey, and Edward W. Robinson. In the Middlings Bundle, I’m sharing space with Anthea Sharp, Michael Warren Lucas, Michael A. Stackpole, Dean Wesley Smith, Blaze Ward, Mindy Klasky, Leah Cutter, Kristene Kathryn Rusch, and Daniel Keys Moran. And tomorrow evening I have a Facebook chat for Dreaming Robot with Dianna Sanchez and Susan Jane Bigelow. Some of these authors I already knew from various places like the SF Canada listserv, Twitter, or Second Life, but others are new connections, and for all of them, I’m grateful. One never knows where new connections will lead or what might grow out of them.

I don’t mean that I look on all these connections only from the point of view of how I might profit from them–not at all. I might be able to help someone else. Maybe they might benefit from something I share. I might learn something I didn’t know before, something that could be large or small and is valuable either way. I might just expand my network of friendly, fun, interesting, and helpful people–someone new to trade jokes and banter with on social media or get book recommendations from. And I might only bask in the reflected glory of having my name linked, even in a minor way, with writers who are far more luminescent than I.

Okay, yes, that last one sounds maybe just a little self-serving. I can live with that. ;)

When I look back at the trail of connections and interactions, especially in my writing life, that led eventually to something unexpected and wonderful, I feel quite amazed. We do so many things without any idea of where they may lead us. This is one reason I always encourage newer writers to become “immersed” in the writing world, whatever that immersion looks like to them. Writing groups (face to face or virtual), workshops, courses, critique groups, convention panels, speaking opportunities, professional organizations, library or school events, or whatever else may come up, say yes whenever you can. The connections you make can be one of the best parts of the writing life.

And I’ve found more great things to read in the course of the recent process. A not inconsiderable benefit all by itself.

Photo Credit: nicksumm at morguefile.com

A Mystery Unearthed

  
This little gem came to light yesterday and generated a thrill of memory for me. This book was one of my favorites when I was young, and I would consider it a foundational influence on my reading and writing tastes.

It was probably one of my first introductions to “mystery” as a genre, and features a lot of story in its slim 80 pages. Kidnapping in the name of love! Trial by jury! Prison and escape! Vengeance and redemption! I read it countless times and I’m not sure what ever happened to the copy that lived at our house, but I’m sure glad to have one again now. 

I think I’ll curl up and read it today. :)

I was thinking / Over thinking / Cause there’s just too many scenarios…*

NaNoMusingsSometimes it doesn’t matter how much time you spend thinking about a story or a story problem, the answers only come when you sit in your writing space, put your fingers on the keyboard and start to write. So “I need to think this through” can become an excuse instead of a productive exercise.

Of course it helps to mainline coffee and chocolate, too.

*Relient K, “Over Thinking”

Some Pre-NaNoWriMo Thoughts

Over the years, I’ve blogged a fair bit here (and at my old blog) about the crazy, wonderful, month-long word-wrestle that is NaNoWriMo. I thought some of you might enjoy a little round-up of links to some of those thoughts, while there’s still time to read them before November hits. :)

Survive and Thrive During NaNoWriMo (Five Parts, start with Part One here)

5 Quick and Dirty Tips for Increasing Your NaNoWriMo Word Count

5 Questions and 6 Sentences

Help For The NaNo-Panicked (Part 1)

The Sort-of Outline

Are you participating this year? Find me on the NaNoWriMo site (I’m wordsmith) and say hello!