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!

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…)

NaNoRetro: 2002

nano2002Yup, today we’re going all the way back to the beginning. This was my first year of NaNoWriMo! And yes, in this picture you can see what I expect is a pretty rare artifact–the 2002 t-shirt.

My first NaNo novel was The Y Plague, a story about a future Earth where the male population has been reduced by a very large percentage. No, I did not write this because I hate men. I wrote it because it was an idea that interested me and I wanted to explore it. Here’s the blurb (from before I really understood how to write a good blurb, but someday I’ll write a better one):

In a future where genetic degradation has reduced the male population to only five percent of the total, fertile males are prized as research subjects and breeding partners. There’s unrest, however, as men begin to resent the bonds of society and start to form their own Freemen colonies. The radical X/Alt group wants to see the end of all research aimed at restoring the male genome, and in Rome, the last male Pope uncovers a secret that will either drive him mad or rock the Catholic Church to its foundations.

I had a one-year-old and a six-year-old when I wrote this novel, so it required getting up early in the morning and staying up late at night. I remember pouring up a glass of juice every night so that in the morning, I just had to stumble out to the fridge and retrieve it, sipping as I made my way to my office. Then I pried open my eyelids and tried to get a few hundred words down before the day started. This strategy worked out very well for me, as I found that by the time I got to write again once the kids were in bed, my brain had been working on the next part all day. I wrote over 2k words nineteen days of the month that year, which I think was pretty consistent.

Looking at my spreadsheet from that year, I see that I passed 50k words on the 25th of November! Wow. I was on fire that year. I finished out the month with 58,337 words, and an outline for the final fourteen chapters of the novel. I kept writing until the 3rd of December and reached 59,029 words, but wrote the outline when I realized that although I hadn’t gotten to THE END, I had to turn my attention to the upcoming holidays. I didn’t want to forget where the novel was heading when I picked it up again in January.

I have never written those last chapters. *headdesk*

However, I pulled this novel out last year and began looking at it. I think it’s good. Better than I remember, actually, and perhaps even more relevant in many ways than it was when I started it. It’s very near the top of my list of things to finish. I think it probably needs a new title, since the “plague” is not really a plague and has happened long before the book begins, but I can deal with that.

One thing I’m doing during this retrospective is considering these unfinished novels, what state they are in, and what they need. From this I’m making a to-do list for 2017, so expect to see some of these titles (or replacement ones) popping up over the next while.

NaNoRetro: 2012

Nano2012

Today we jump ahead to 2012 in the NaNoWriMo Retrospective. This was the year I wrote most of the first draft of The Family Business, which is, sadly, another of the still-unfinished manuscripts waiting for my attention.

I had a lot of fun with this one; it’s a ghost story and a mystery, and it’s definitely one I want to finish. Here’s the blurb:

Stella McKarron is sorry when her Uncle Ambrose dies suddenly, but she doesn’t think it will actually change her life much. They’ve never gotten along terribly well, anyway. So it comes as a surprise to learn that he’s left her his cat (she’s allergic), his car (she doesn’t drive), his private detective agency (she’s a librarian) and his collection of ten thousand books (she’s actually okay with that one). The bigger surprise is yet to come, however, when his ghost appears and tells her that he was murdered, and the first case he wants her to take on is his own…

familybusinessHere’s my hastily throw-together cover mockup; I still like the concept although it could be MUCH better executed.

The November draft came in at just barely 50k, since I was also working on the rewrite of One’s Aspect to the Sun that month. I see from the notes in my spreadsheet that I actually did not have an idea for what to write this year until I actually sat down to do it. I’m trying to remember where the idea eventually came from, but it appears to be lost in the mists of time.

Notably, this was the year I set up my treadmill desk, and this was the first project I wrote at it. I don’t seem to have stats from that month, although I suspect they are around somewhere…I do like obsessive record-keeping from time to time.  We do seem to have had a lot of word wars in the Ramsey household, according to my notes, and some successful write-ins with other Cape Breton Wrimos.

I believe that this one remains unfinished because I made that classic error of trying to write a mystery without enough advance planning. Other genres can work out okay with the “gardening” approach, but mysteries require more of the “architect” thinking. Or as I once said in a radio interview, “When it comes time to lay down a clue, you’d better have a clue.”

Someday soon I’ll pull this one out and see what it needs. It’s  fun tale with some quirky characters and deserves to play out to “The End.”

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.

The Power of Books–and Writers

IMG_5005-cropIf you’re like me, you’ve been saddened and horrified at the crisis in Attawapiskat, Ontario. The thought of these young people with so little hope for the future, that children as young as ten years old would contemplate suicide, is a terrible one.

And if you’re like me, you feel helpless to do anything about it. Most of the problems in the country–in the world–are too big, too overwhelming for individuals to contemplate. No-one can help everyone. We can donate our time and money to organizations who might provide assistance, but beyond that, it’s hard to imagine being able to do anything on a personal level.

However, the youth in this isolated community have identified some things that they feel would help their situation. And one of those things is a library.

As a writer, I know the power of a library to change lives; when I was young, our local library was one of my favorite places, and I know that I have become who I am today partly because of those books. They took me places and showed me things that helped to shape my life. I think that all children should have the opportunities that libraries offer: to read, discover, learn, escape, and imagine. I’ve been a library volunteer at a local elementary school for over ten years, and stayed on long after my own children were gone from the school, partly because of that belief.

And now, instead of simply reading stories, I tell them, too. So today I acted on an idea that popped into my head a couple of days ago. I packed up a few of my titles and mailed them to the Attawapiskat First Nation. I told them, in my letter, that I hoped the books might form part of the library they want to build.

It’s a small thing. But even though, as I said above, no-one can help everyone, we can each help someone. And so I’m challenging other Canadian writers to do the same as I’ve done. I’m sure that many of us (probably most) have extra copies of our own books, ARCs, or promotional copies filling shelves, filing cabinets, or boxes. Imagine if we all picked out something appropriate and sent it off with a word of encouragement.

The power of books. The power of libraries. The power of writers.

Imagine.

The address is: Youth in Attawapiskat, P.O. Box 248, Attawapiskat, Ontario, P0L 1A0

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

Friday Desk Report ~ April 8, 2016

oldcashregister

Marketing is not my strong suit. I find it difficult to push my self or my work too hard, I don’t like repetitive blast marketing, and I never seem to be able to come up with creative and interesting ways to work in a plug for something while not really making it seem like marketing. However, it seems I’ve been doing a lot of marketing and promotional stuff lately. This week was no different. I spent a fair portion of my desk time working on social media and promotional things. Which is, of course, a good thing. It means I have stuff happening, I’m involved in things–some really cool things, actually, and I’m excited about them. But it’s also not my favorite thing about the writing business.

In between all of that, I did manage to get some writing in–in fact, I had one glorious day on the novel draft where I really made some good progress. It’s still a slow climb, though, and I wish I could recapture some of the momentum that took me through November. At least now I’m writing every day, so the end of the draft draws ever closer. I also finished a draft of one new story and am getting close with another one. Too many projects at once? I don’t think so. Any more would probably be non-productive, but juggling a few is often a good thing for me.

I had a wonderful school visit and met some lovely kids. We had fun coming up with characters and story ideas, and they asked some really great questions. A good day all around.

Oh my, I listened to an audiobook* this week and, although I listened all the way through, the characters really started to annoy me as the book progressed. They were all so perfectly perfect! Everyone good-looking, with fascinating jobs, wonderful relationships, and personalities all sweetness and light. The only cranky person in the story–got murdered. It was fun and light at first, but after a while it was just too much to swallow. I hope my characters are never this perfect. I do tend to write nice people–because that’s who I’d rather spend time with, when all is said and done–but I try not to make them candidates for sainthood.

A habiticalevel33while back, I began using Habitica to try and stay organized and on track. It’s basically a gamification of your to-do list and habits, and I have to say it’s working pretty well for me. Yes, that’s my avatar, now level 33 and riding a freaking red dragon mount!  Apparently I can be organized, I just have to have the right motivation.

If you’re following this blog, you know the things I’ve been promoting of late: the Rogues bundle from Tyche Books, the Middlings bundle from BundleRabbit, and now an upcoming Facebook chat next week with a couple of other Dreaming Robot authors. One good thing about all of these is that they’ve given me more opportunities to experiment with SocialResponseApp, which I’ve been beta-testing. Developed right here in Cape Breton, it’s a very useful and intuitive app for helping schedule your Twitter promos. I like real-time and real interactions on Twitter, but there are some things that I also like to set once and let run for a little while. I find this app perfect for that. If you think this sounds like something you could use, you can sign up for early access here.

In between other things I seem to have a lot of sewing projects in the queue right now. Over the next few weeks I’ll try to share some pics of the finished projects. At least, I hope they’ll be finished. Because right now they’re taking over my sewing room.

*No, I’m not going to tell you what it was.

Photo credit: RebeccaMatthews at morguefile.com