Stuck in the Middle with Who?

Montage_Coupon_Adbig-rabbitThe Middlings Bundle launches today, from the newest entry into the bundle market, BundleRabbit. If you’re a fan of sites like HumbleBundle and StoryBundle, I’m pretty sure you’re going to love this one, too. And I’m excited to have a novella included in their very first bundle. I also love, love, love the BundleRabbit logo! BundleRabbit is the brainchild of Chuck Heintzelman, with whom I’ve shared many happy writer therapy writing group experiences in the online group The Quillians.

My novella, “Waiting to Fly,” is set in the Nearspace universe of One’s Aspect to the Sun and Dark Beneath the Moon. Like some of the Nearspace short stories I’ve released, it’s set in the earlier days of Nearspace, when wormhole travel is just opening up and the boundaries of Nearspace are expanding. And in keeping with the theme of the bundle, “middles,” it’s something that happens while the teenage protagonist is waiting for something else.RamseyWaitingToFlyCover

Middles make an interesting theme for a collection, because we’re all in the middle of something, all the time. (Usually many things!) But much of life happens in between those things we tend to think of as milestones or markers, so middles are rich with potential for storytellers. It’s also nice that these stories are of middling length–longer than short stories, but shorter than novels. I’ve been musing on current trends in short story publishing lately, and why shorter and shorter stories seem to be the trend. But that’s fodder for another post, which I’ll likely write this week.

The Middlings Bundle is curated by author Leah Cutter, and as you can see from the cover montage, she’s gathered together some quite heady company from the perspective of little ol’ me. The bundle also features stories by Anthea Sharp, Michael Warren Lucas, Michael A. Stackpole, Dean Wesley Smith, Blaze Ward, Mindy Klasky, Leah Cutter, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and Daniel Keys Moran. You can find out more about each of the stories over on the BundleRabbit blog, where Chuck’s been introducing the novellas and their authors over the past week or so. In keeping with the spirit of many bundles, this one is pay-what-you-want: $5+ will net you five of the stories, and $12 or more will get you all ten stories and a bonus–a coupon for an additional free ebook from Kobo two additional books from Kobo: “Collateral Damage” by Mark Leslie
“A Bird in the Hand” by Douglas Smith (there was an initial mixup about the Kobo bonus, so I’ve fixed the information here). This is really a deal that’s too good to pass up. You’ll also have the option to designate a portion of the bundle price as a charitable donation to The Washington State Talking Book and Braille Library. This service provides access to books for people unable to read standard print material, and also loans out magazines, music scores, and foreign language titles. I had very dear aunt who depended on library services like these when her eyesight failed, and I know the importance of support like this, so I encourage you to consider them if you’re purchasing the bundle.

The Middlings Bundle runs only until April 26th, so don’t miss out!

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that, should you like “Waiting to Fly” and want to read more in the Nearspace universe, you can currently pick up the first book, One’s Aspect to the Sun, in a bundle as well! The Rogues set is available here, and is another awesome deal.

Friday Desk Report – April 1, 2016

Would I write more, or sleep more, if this were my desk?

Would I write more, or sleep more, if this were my desk?

It was a busy week at the desk, although not all of it translated to actual word count. I did, however, finish out the month with my monthly word count goal for this year (15.5k) attained, which is a first for 2016. January was abysmal, February marginally better, but March gets full marks. And about time, too. I dislike being so unproductive and am very glad to have turned things around.

I also wrote journal pages at 750words.com every day of March, for a total of over 25k words. There’s a little bit of overlap between these words and my fiction word count, as sometimes I’ll write fiction there instead of the usual “morning pages,” but not much. Also, they’re not always in the morning, but they serve the same purpose–musing, parsing, reporting, and general brain-cleansing.

This past week I finally, finally sorted out the last of the novel draft fixes necessary to be able to start writing new scenes again. I’m not generally an advocate of stopping in the middle and going back to rewrite, but in this case, it was necessary for two reasons. I’d decided on such extensive changes that I needed to make them in order to see my way clear again, and I also needed to make them to get my head immersed back into the story so I could pick up all the threads and carry on. I’m still not expecting it to be a cake walk to get to “The End,” but I can see as far as my headlights again.

I did a school visit this week and had a lovely time–a presentation about storytellers in the gym for all the grade P-3 students (who were great participants and asked surprisingly astute questions), and then classroom sessions with grades 4 & 5. We all had a good time, I think, which is the very best outcome for school visits. I was struck by the instant hush that descended over the gym when I began to read aloud to the students. It really says something about the power of reading to kids when that many of them just go quiet and listen.

Apart from writing, I sewed a giant fabric d20 this week. It’s not stuffed yet, but I promise to post a picture when it is! I used these patterns and instructions, which were fabulous. You know, in case you find yourself needing to make giant stuffed polyhedral dice. As one sometimes does.

Friday Desk Report (March 11/16) & Bundle News

Okay, the Friday Desk Report is a wee bit late. But it was a good writing week! I finished the first draft of a new short story, did some solid work on the novel draft, and worked on an old, unfinished short story that is finally sorting itself out. I also imported a mostly-finished novel draft into Scrivener for some much-needed attention when I need a break from other projects. I almost doubled my word count from the previous week, which is making me very happy indeed.Rogues 3D_01

Another thing that’s making me very happy this week is this: the Rogues bundle is out! (If you’re in Canada, use this link.) This bundle of seven novels is selling for just 99 cents while the promotion lasts, so you don’t want to miss out. I’ve downloaded it to my Kindle already and am anxious to start reading. Some of these books start series, so it’s a great chance to discover a new sci-fi love affair. My contribution is the first Nearspace novel, One’s Aspect to the Sun, which starts the series but can also stand alone. Be sure to click over and check out this great deal!

I didn’t miss a day at my treadmill desk last week; I usually start my walking-and-writing routine by doing my words at 750words.com. Think “morning pages” stored online, and you’ve got the idea. I wrote there every day during February and so far every day in March. Sometimes it’s journaling, sometimes brainstorming or working out story problems, sometimes blog posts, and sometimes I actually do a portion of the day’s writing there. I like the regularity of writing there, combined with the freedom to write whatever I feel like writing. The longest streak I’ve ever had writing there was 46 days, and if I can keep it up this week without missing a day, I’ll break that. Guess I’ll have to report on that possibility next Friday.

The other new thinApprenticeFiles e-cover2g to report this week is this little goodie, available now on Kobo and Kindle. The Apprentice Files collects four stories with a shared main character: Albettra, the young wizard’s apprentice. These stories can be found in my collection, To Unimagined Shores, so if you already have that, you have these. But for those who don’t, this is a nice little sampler at a good price. Suitable for readers from middle grade and up, these light-hearted stories follow Albettra as she deals with her absent-minded and sometimes crotchety mentor; solves a murder; is pulled into a magebattle, and contends with a halfhigh stalker. This ebook was originally a Kickstarter perk, but now it’s flying on its own.

 

 

 

 

Things I researched this week:

  • family tree of Greek gods
  • wings and laurel leaves
  • mythological half-wolves
  • Cape Breton history
  • short story markets

Friday Desk Report – February 5, 2016

perlerbeadtypewriterIt’s been a while since the last Friday Desk Report–mainly because I haven’t been able to be at my desk, so there’s been little to report. However, between medication, time, and the stellar efforts of my wonderful physiotherapist, I’ve been inching my way back. I’m picking up the threads of the novel draft again, and making some progress on a new short story. The novel is certainly the more challenging of the two, since one might visualize it as something like this:

Tangled_leads

instead of something more like this:

loom

but that is what editing is for, right?

Actually, those two pictures make a pretty good summation of the state of life in general and what I’m trying to get back to. All with time, I guess.

I’ve also just joined up for Kobo Writing Life and put The Murder Prophet there. It was available on Kobo before, through Smashwords distribution, but I wanted to explore the opportunities that Writing Life might provide. I’ve heard other authors talk about good experiences with it. I’m not sure of all the ins and outs of it just yet, but I’m sure I’ll learn as I go. I have a few short stories published since To Unimagined Shores came out, so I’m thinking about maybe putting together a small short story pack. Just a notion I’m noodling, so we’ll have to see where it goes.

On the Third Person Press side of things, we’re looking at two manuscripts right now, so although it’s seemed quiet on that front, things are happening behind the scenes. More on that as things develop.

So it’s been a slow and rather painful December and January, but as the daylight hours begin to grow a bit longer, a few minutes at a time, so do things begin to get back to “normal” at the desk. What will it look like by the time spring is actually here? Time will tell.

Away from the desk, I’m doing a sketch-a-day challenge this year to work on my drawing skills. I always say I’m better at colouring than drawing–my forays into coloured pencil art  attest to that–but this year I’d like to get a little better with the sketching. I am calling it sketch-a-day, but am allowing myself some leeway on that. Some days I might just do some colouring or other art, and if I miss a day, I’m allowed to make it up later. Right now I think I’m two drawings behind, but I’ll catch up on those on the weekend. Sometimes the hardest part of the undertaking is deciding what I feel like drawing.

Things I drew (or attempted to draw) this week:

  • flowers from photos on Instagram
  • a lamp in my living room
  • sketch plans for a clockwork rocket
  • a tree in a winter field

Loom image by Ladyheart at morguefile.com

Friday Desk Report – Nov. 13, 2015

Samsung_840_EVO_SSD-8_-_front_blackIt is Friday the 13th, and yet I am cloning and installing a new SSD in my laptop. Nope, no triskaidekaphobia, paraskevidekatriaphobia, or friggatriskaidekaphobia here.

It’s been a good week for writing, and my NaNoWriMo WIP has topped 30k words. I spent the first 29k of that figuring out what the novel was about, and then yesterday finding out how it would all fit together, but it’s not the process, it’s the product, right? For a usual November I would be ecstatic to be at 30k words on this date (and it is, in my 13-year tenure, unheard-of), because I’d be more than halfway to goal–but of course, this year’s actual goal is much higher, and so I am merely satisfied. Satisfied is also a good place to be, however.

I had a story rejection this week but…well, as my good friend Nancy says, at some point they get to be more like a kick on the shin than a devastating injury. They sting for a bit and then you shrug them off and that’s it. I haven’t found a new place to send the story yet because, darn, it’s long, and the majority of markets these days are looking for 5k or less, it seems. I just don’t write that many stories in that length. I’ll try to find some time to focus on that in the next week.

I’m doing a lot of on-call story advising this month since there are so many stories happening in this household right now. But that’s fun, and it’s so interesting to be able to watch other writers develop under the microscope, so to speak. And it’s nice to be able to answer many of the questions that I had to research long ago.

I set up a new blog over at WordPress.com this week, called Stalking the Story. Why do I want another website to look after? Well, I plan to make it the repository for just my writing-related posts, so if that’s all you’re here for, they’ll be cross-posted over there as well. I’m also hoping to have some guest bloggers over there in the coming months. It may, over time, turn into a cooperative blog, which is something I’ve thought I’d like to do for some time now, in partnership with other writers. We’ll have to see how it evolves.

Habitica avatarMy desk is actually getting a bit messy, as it is wont to do during NaNoWriMo, so I plan to take a break this weekend and tidy it up. No, I will not be procrastinating on my WIP. The other thing I did this week was set up an account at Habitica, which is essentially a way to manage your productivity and habits by gamifying your life and translating it into a video RPG. So far, I love it. It’s amazing how much more satisfying it is to make my bed when I know I’m getting XP and virtual gold for it. :) I mean, I’ve only been using it for a few days and I’m already level 5!

Some things I did to earn gold and XP this week:

  • made my bed
  • walked on the treadmill
  • wrote. a lot.
  • did laundry
  • drank more water
  • finished the fall yard work

I’ll bet you did some of those things this week too. BUT did you get XP for them?

SSD Photo Credit: By Samsung Belgium (Flickr: SSD840EVO_008_Dynamic_Black) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Oh, my love, don’t forsake me / Take what the water gave me*

NaNoMusingsSometime in the novel-writing process (because I’m a discovery writer / pantser / gardener sort of writer) I usually hit this wall. It’s not a solid stone or brick wall. It’s a wall–possibly more of a pile–of random bits and pieces of story, character quirks, events that may or may not happen but certainly could happen, ideas, themes, places, conversations, people, objects, and settings, all jumbled together in an unholy, writhing mess. And when I fetch up against this wall–a wall that I admit I have scrabbled together and created myself–it’s a scary place to be. It looms overhead and threatens to topple down and bury me in a tumble of story detritus I’ll never untangle.

Fortunately, I have learned, over time and the process of many, many NaNoWriMo Novembers, that this is when I have to walk away. Get up from my desk. Get out of my office. And ideally, take a shower.

I’m not saying I haven’t showered previously at this point. If I don’t need a shower, hand-washing a sink full of dishes might do the trick, as well. But the shower is the best.

Today I hit the wall. Today I took the shower. And the eureka moment was there, in the water, as it usually is.

Now the wall is more like one of those slide-the-squares puzzles. I can see what the solution is supposed to be, and it’s now a matter of sliding everything to its proper place. I may still have to add or take away bits and pieces, but I can begin to envision the finished picture.

Your eureka moment might not be in the shower–it might be in a long walk, or a run, or a marathon housecleaning session, or a painting, or a drive in the country. But if you’re staring at the wall, you likely need to get away from your desk for a little while. Get some perspective. Talk through the problems you’re having with the story, even if (especially if?) no-one can hear you. The solution is there. It really is. If you look, you’ll find it.

*”What the Water Gave Me” – Florence & The Machine

But whether wake or dreaming, this I know / How dreamwise human glories come and go*

NaNoMusingsEspecially in the second week of NaNoWriMo, writing and the dream of writing can be a switch flipping between elation and despair. While the first week is usually a glorious outpouring of fresh new ideas taking form for the first time on the page, the second week becomes hard work. Those ideas don’t seem so fresh any more, and suddenly things are supposed to start making sense. You haven’t thought this through, and you’re not sure how you’re going to get these characters from that beautiful beginning to a satisfying ending, through a middle of vitality and meaning.

That’s okay. The only way to get there is to keep going. The only way to make it better is to write it badly first. That’s how the dream becomes reality.

Keep going. Week Two shall pass.

*The Dream Called Life – Edward Fitzgerald

Friday Desk Report – Nov. 6/15

NaNo-2015-ML-Badge-Large-SquareThis week’s desk report could be summed up thusly: NaNoWriMo.

But I won’t be quite that brief. Yes, we’re off and running in another November word marathon. This year I have some extra goals on the board–write an extra thousand or so words a day, and get to “The End” by the end of the month. So far…not bad. I did wake up this morning (Day 6) realizing how the novel should have started, which was, fortunately, not horribly different from the way it did. Some tweaking needed, and handling a certain situation with a changed twist.

Now, the first rule of NaNoWriMo (or at least one of the prime directives) is keep going, and don’t look back. I generally adhere to this guideline pretty closely, but since these changes will impact scenes I’m about to write, I decided to go back and make them. And I think this is the correct decision in this case. I might be a little further behind than I would have been otherwise, but going on from here should be smoother.

Apart from that, I’ve done little else writing-related this week, and that trend is likely to continue. I did have to take some time yesterday to add details to my world’s timeline, and to find some deck plans for starships (one very nice resource at this link). And we have four writers in the house this month (that’s everyone except the dogs), so we’ll all likely be thin, malnourished, and dressed in unwashed rags by month’s end. Glamorous writing life, indeed. Best thing that happened in the novel so far: a character unexpectedly (for me) punched out another character. The guy deserved it, but I didn’t realize my character would react that way.

If you’d like to connect over at the NaNoWriMo site, find me as wordsmith. One very cool thing that happened this week was that I rolled the counter on my lifetime NNWM word count over 700,000 words. The lifetime counter is a new feature on the site this year, and if you’ve been diligent with your tracking you can get a pretty accurate number.

IMG_4577.JPGWriting soundtracks so far this month (some of my favs):

Halo 3

Halo Reach

Firefly

Battlestar Galactica (reboot)

Assassin’s Creed II

 

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.

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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!

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!