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. :)

Friday Desk Report – Oct. 30/15

IMG_4522.JPG This week’s report comes to you from the convention trail. We’re on the road to Hal-Con 2015 with coffee on board, tunes on the radio, a van full of cosplay and stunning fall foliage all around.

What moments I could snatch at my desk this week were mainly spent on planning for NaNoWriMo. We spent a good evening also brainstorming at the kitchen table for the three novel projects happening in the household next month. Much of my novel continues to float, indistinct as a distant nebula against the velvet black of space. But it will come.

A few times over the weekend, I’ll be hanging out at the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia table at Hal-Con. I’ll have books and I’ll be happy to sign them, but drop by even just to say hello!

Yesterday I found out my lineup of WITS visits for this school year. I’m looking forward to interacting with some great teachers and students again this year.

****************************

Monday, Nov. 2/15

So Friday’s post started off well (although I was composing it on my phone, which was somewhat cumbersome) and then we started running into Generalized Road Difficulties. I won’t go into all the boring details, but simply say that the blog post fell by the wayside as GRDs escalated, and then we were at Hal-Con and that was the weekend.

Hal-Con was great overall, although the weather was cold and rainy off and on, and this year they didn’t have the underground pedways open. So that meant a trip outside for decent food, access to parking, etc. The expanded space this year was great, but the traffic changes, not so much.

imageHowever, I had a spectacular time hanging out at the WFNS table with the Federation folks (Writers’ Federation, not United Federation of Planets, of course), and chatting with/meeting other writers like C.S. MacCath, Clare C. Marshall, Kat Kruger, and B.R. Myers. Sold some books, too, and ran into several old and new friends. Attended some great panels like Whales in Space and Star Trek Empires in the Night Sky, and a very entertaining Q&A with Kelley Armstrong. She answered the question “What’s the hardest thing about being a writer?” with the too-true answer “The hardest thing about being a writer is *staying* a writer.”

And despite yesterday being a travel day, I managed 1136 words to start NaNoWriMo, which was more than I’d counted on. My true daily goal this year is considerably more than the standard 1667, but I was pleased to make a start and discover a character attribute I hadn’t previously known about one of my viewpoint characters. Love it when they surprise me with something. :)

And so, as the Asura say, Excelsior!

Friday Desk Report – Oct. 23/15

Did you think I was going to forget? Nope, here I am.

Terriermon completeIt’s been a not-so-productive week at the desk, since I’ve been laid low by a rather miserable cold and spent a good portion of my not-as-miserable time sewing. The sewing was definitely rewarding, however, since I finished this plush Terriermon for my daughter’s upcoming Digimon cosplay. He turned out to be quite a size and required a ridiculous amount of stuffing, but we are super pleased with him! The fabric is fleece so he’s very soft and cuddly.

I did manage to put the finishing touches on that little book trailer video for The Seventh Crow, and made it live today. You can find it here if you’d like to take a look. I also sent out my October writing news newsletter. If you’re not subscribed, you can find it here, but there’s a contest running only for subscribers, so consider signing up!

One nice aspect of the writing life is that one doesn’t necessarily have to be at the desk to be working, so I did a fair amount of cogitating on the plotlines of my upcoming NaNoWriMo novel while at the sewing machine. There are QUITE a number of things going on in this novel, and I’m not sure yet how they will all fit together, so a goodly amount of thinkage is required. Next I think I’m going to organize some index cards, either physical or in Scrivener, to sort out what’s been percolating this week.

Although it has nothing to do with writing, I’m so pleased that we have a new Canadian government as of this week, I can hardly stand it. Also not writing-related, I planted (with hubby’s help) all of my new bulbs and perennials–tulips, crocus, daylilies, oriental lilies, hyacinth, coneflowers, and astrantia. In a departure from the norm, I even marked where they are planted. I’m rarely that organized in the garden. Now to hunker down and wait until the long winter passes before they bloom in the spring. Sigh.cleandesk

Notably, I’ve kept my desk clean and tidy for over two weeks now. I expect that to change when November hits, since I’ll be writing like mad and also starting to run an online workshop.

Books I’ve been reading/listening to this week:

Read only one book at a time? Not me! :)

Next Friday I’ll be on the road to Hal-Con 2015, but if I’m really on the ball I’ll have my blog post ready to go before I leave.

 

Friday Desk Report – Oct. 16/15

old deskWhat? How can it be Friday again already?

Well, let’s see what I have for the desk report this week. I cooked and ate a lot of food over the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, and hung out with my family.

I did quite a bit more work on my Nearspace bible in preparation to begin the new novel, and I wrote almost two thousand words of new story notes. While doing some research reading I had a HUGE epiphany about how a lot of things fall into place in this novel, and honestly, when that happens, that’s enough of an accomplishment to make you feel good about the whole week! My brain is now telling me I’m ready to start writing, but I know that’s not true yet. It’s just that my brain gets overexcited about these things sometimes. Calm down. Not long now.

I got a short story rejection and sent out a new submission for that story the same day. Which reminded me of one of my favorite essays from back in the day when Speculations was still a print publication. It was “How Many Times Do You Have To Be Told No?” by James Van Pelt and it made a big impression on me as a new-ish writer (I still have a copy of that issue, so I went and re-read it for fun. It’s just as relevant today as it ever was). The tagline for the article was The sun sets on no rejected manuscript in my house and I have tried hard over the years to make that my creed for submitting stories.

I tweaked my NaNoWriMo guest blog post for Liana Brooks and saw it go live here on Thursday. And I read the page proofs for my story in the upcoming 2016 Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide from Dreaming Robot Press. I’m really excited to read all of the stories in this anthology.

And I discovered two new very nice reviews for One’s Aspect to the Sun over on amazon.

Today I’m talking to some elementary school kids about “being a writer” for a career day project, so I did some prep work for that as well. I’m hoping they’ll have some questions to ask me, too!

Some things I looked up on the Internet this week (not necessarily to do with writing):

I’d call that a good week.

Picking Up Dropped Threads

No, this is not a post about knitting or weaving…at least, only figuratively.

This week I’ve been struggling to pick up an unfinished manuscript and get it moving forward again. I wrote over 50k words of a second Magica Incognita novel last November, and expected to finish the first draft early this year with an eye to rewriting and editing in the spring, and maybe a publication date this past summer.

Well, due mainly to consuming family issues, nothing beyond projects I had outside commitments for happened from early spring to fall this year. I’m very pleased that I was able to keep all of those commitments…but other projects fell by the wayside.

I’ve said before that the key to a really successful NaNoWriMo draft is getting to “the end.” It doesn’t matter how much work that manuscript will take in revisions and rewrites and adding new subplots and taking it apart and putting it back together again–it’s all easier if you have a finished first draft that has a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Well, I didn’t get anywhere near “the end” of The Chaos Assassin. And the intervening ten months or so have effectively blurred the progression of plots and clues and conversations in my mind so that I sat down at my desk this week not really knowing where to start. Reading through the existing manuscript was a good place to start, of course, as well as reviewing all my notes and mind maps. I also made a timeline of the existing events in Aeon Timeline, a program I recently purchased. Seemed like a good way to try it out, and so far, I like it.

But even all of that didn’t get the story back in my head the way it was when I was writing that first draft. I still feel like I’m floundering around with a fistful of plot threads and no clear idea what to do with them.

So I am going to try making an outline.

Yup, me. Making an outline. Weird, right? Not just of what’s already written–I usually do that anyway, after the fact or as I go along, because it’s invaluable for rewrites later. No, I’m going to go further. I’m going to catch up to where I have written and keep going. Plan out the rest of the novel and then write it.

My head’s almost exploding at this point.

Since I’m not an outliner by nature, I decided to get a little help by looking at various outlining methods online. I wasted  spent a fair bit of time perusing articles, charts, worksheets, etc., but in the end came back to one I’d looked at before and that sort of spoke to me: Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheet. Actually, an enhanced version of it by Tom Gowan. And a little bit of Dan Wells’ 7-Point Story Structure and a Scrivener version thrown in for good measure. No, I’m not dedicated to following it rigidly–just to using it as a guide to help put the manuscript back into perspective for me and assist me in finding my way forward.

So here we go. If nothing else, it’s colourful and pretty!

BeatSheet

 

Mapping for Writers

I love maps. As a writer and a gamer, I’ve created maps of worlds, dungeons, cities, space stations, villages, wormholes in space…anywhere a story might happen. I’ve also used real-world maps for stories set in–you guessed it–the “real world.” I find that maps help ground the story and help me visualize what’s happening.

Here’s my map of the fantasy world in The Seventh Crow (which is coming out soon! Like, this month soon!):

Ysterad map 2015 print

Okay, yes, I’m pretty happy with this one. It’s done in Photoshop, and I took a lot of time to get it just the way I wanted it. But it didn’t start out this way. It began as a pencil outline on graph paper, and it was pretty rough. It’s been through several incarnations on the way to this, including a hand-colored one I used in a D&D campaign for a while. But the act of creating the world–no matter how rudimentary it is, is the important part. By creating the environment, you are also thinking about everything and everyone in that environment.

This video by Peter Deligdisch explains this much better than I can:

As the artist explains, one thought about the world can lead to the next, to the next, to the next, when creating your map (and you do not need to be as talented as he is–it can work for anyone). Graph paper or hex paper is your friend (and you can download and print of either of these here).

If you really think you can’t tackle creating a map on your own, you can use a map generator (yes, just Google “map generator”) to do some of the work for you. You don’t have completely free creative rein with this method, but if you feel drawing-impaired it can be the next best thing.

If you’re just looking for inspiration, and not material to completely call your own, there are so many maps and plans already in existence online for role-playing games, that you need never lack for a visual representation of your story environs. This sort of resource is invaluable if you really need something visual to work out story logistics in your head, but you don’t need any sort of publishable plan or blueprint. I mean, look what searching for spaceship blueprints generator gets you.

Or again, you can make your own, as I did for the main character’s ship in One’s Aspect to the Sun (these, too, started out as sketches on graph paper. I transferred them to tracing paper at one point so I could line up the inter-deck hatchways):

DeckPlans-T-I

Maps can also make a lovely background for a book or ebook cover. Here’s one I created for a friend’s story:

20130914102723-Eyes-JulieThe map we started with was a barely-there representation, but with a little work it blossomed into a lovely backdrop for this cover.

Do you draw maps, plans, or blueprints for your stories? Do you spend a lot of time on them, or are you happy with a quick sketch? Share your thoughts in the comments!

July Newsletter

Paper_StackThe July issue (okay, the first issue!) of my Writing News newsletter is out. I hope to make this a regular feature; this issue includes some news items, reading recommendations, and writing thoughts. I’ve kept it short and sweet and (I hope) interesting.

If you’re not subscribed yet, you can do so from the bottom of any page on this site, or from the top of the right-hand sidebar on most pages. In the future I’ll be running contests, offering writing tips and book reviews, and adding anything else I think might be of interest. I’m also happy to hear from subscribers (or potential subscribers) about what you’d like to see.

The July issue is available to view online at http://t.co/mLaYkI7fST.

Cover Reveal: Dark Beneath the Moon

I’m thrilled today to reveal the cover for Dark Beneath the Moon, coming in September from Tyche Books. This book is a sequel to One’s Aspect to the Sun, and you’ll find many of the same characters returning to the story. The art is once again by Ashley Walters, who did an amazing job again this time around.

Oh,  you actually want to SEE it? Here you go:

DarkBeneat_front

Ohmigosh, isn’t it amazing? If you’ve read One’s Aspect to the Sun or the free Nearspace story on this site, you’ve heard mention of a wolf-like alien race called “Lobors.” Yes, that’s one of them on the cover with Luta, and she’s pretty important in this story.

What’s the book about? Here’s a glimpse:

Luta Paixon has plenty of trouble on the Tane Ikai, with relationships in flux and the sticky problem of two captains on one ship. But when an alien artifact, the remnant of a long-ago war, shows up on the other side of a newly-discovered wormhole, the crew also find themselves pressed into the service of the Nearspace Protectorate. The Tane Ikai‘s task: covertly deliver an alien historian to the site to decipher its meaning–and possible threat.

 

Jahelia Sord is a woman with a grudge against the world, and against Luta Paixon and her family in particular. She has her own secrets to guard, and an alliance with the notorious PrimeCorp–one she’ll keep only as long as it suits her own hunt for vengeance.

 

When a mysterious attack leaves them stranded in an uncharted new system, Luta, her crew, and Jahelia must try to put their differences aside and decide who to trust, while they uncover a shocking truth about the Chron war and what their old enemies are so afraid of…

 

Dark Beneath the Moon is set to launch this September at CaperCon. I know I’m excited! :)

The Seventh Crow Kickstarter is Live!

My publisher for The Seventh Crow, Dreaming Robot Press, has launched its Kickstarter campaign to take pre-orders for the book. I’m pretty excited about this as some of the perks are pretty cool: mini-prints of illustrations from the book! I’ll give you a sneak peek of one here:

Rosinda&Traveller

…but you’ll have to click over to the Kickstarter page to see the rest! It’s right here. There’s also a very cool video you can watch to find out more about the book. Watch for my very own map of the fantasy world of Ysterad in the video!

You also have the option of ordering the book with color or greyscale illustrations, ebooks, multi-packs for classrooms–even a visit from me! (via Skype if I don’t live near you, unless of course you want to pay my way…haha)

The Kickstarter will collect pre-orders and funds will help cover the cost of the illustrations and additional printing costs. There are a limited number of Early Bird copies with special pricing, so don’t miss out!

The book is set to release this August in print and ebook formats.