In looking back

I’ve been writing for 3/5ths of my life.

This blog has already been around for three years, a confusing rush of time blended into the everything else happening. On that note, many thanks for continuing to read, my friends. This is, as always, an interesting experience for me.

We’re approaching the third anniversary of my first publishing acceptance, and in turn, the second anniversary of holding an actual printed book in my hands, containing a story I had composed. I’ve made some amazing friends in being a part of that anthology.

Almost six months ago, my first novel successfully launched, along with a little companion tale. The start of many to come in the Anecdota.

And now, another short story will be given to the world. Something small and special, still close to my heart, still young and cherished until the moment the anthology is made and I cannot hold the words as they pour between my fingers and make their way into the reader’s minds, when the story is no longer mine alone.

As stated on the Acknowledgements page of The Damning Moths, I merely write these things; they come to life when you read them. You take them in and experience the story, and they become more, something outside of my control.

Gazing over what I have already accomplished gives a sense of warmth and comfort, a happy glow proving, “I Am.” To know how many people I am reaching, from corners of the globe both obvious and unexpected, is poignant. I’m glad for what I have already done, and equally grateful for the small, screaming voice which always tells me it’s still not enough. Because I have a drive to do it all again. Write a story. Find it the right home. Release it to change and grow and transform into what it must.

Looking back over these things, just one possible sum of my existence, I know I have done well. Here I am, listening to songs hopeful and quietly melancholic and composing new tales, always, endlessly. I can wrap the past around me as a comforting blanket. None of it was a fluke, I’m leaving a mark.

I am here, doing what I was made for.

~A

Advertisements

Cross a name off the list

Publisher Written Backwards has been responsible for some of my all-time favourite anthologies. Which makes me all the more amazed to be included in the next one…!

A short story happened one day, a strange little piece indeed. Inspired by reading about cutting edge medical breakthroughs in cancer treatment, at the same time as ancient Greek medical theories, and finding myself in a strange overlapping territory – “dyscrasia” being both the old Greek term of health imbalance, and now used in naming plasma cell cancer.

The music I happened to be listening to topped off the whole event. Somehow, I had a complete story on my hands, without being sure what to do with it.

I determined after sitting, reading, editing the whole thing that it was probably cyberpunk, a sub-genre of science fiction. And then I waited, and read, and re-read, still uncertain. What was this piece? What would I do with it? There was something very appealing in the story for me, but I don’t normally write sci-fi, and I spent a lot of time glaring at my computer screen. I edited a touch more here and there before throwing Dyscrasia at my beta readers. They got back to me, expressing opposite opinions. Add in another beta reader. Another day. Another reaction.

A new thought tickling at the back of my mind.

Editor Michael Bailey had mentioned his next anthology, Qualia Nous, was not entirely invite-only. The door might still be unlocked for those willing to knock. A great coming together of sci-fi and horror, guaranteed to be as epic as the previous Written Backwards anthologies, and here I figured, why not submit? I don’t know what else to do with Dyscrasia. Almost as if… I was passing the time. So submission goes off, I sleep, then head out for work, life goes on.

I get home again, see an email in my inbox.

It hasn’t even been 24 hours.

I’ve been formally accepted into Qualia Nous.

Dyscrasia is exactly what the editor was waiting for.

That weird cyberpunk story which bubbled up on its own accord, truthfully when I was procrastinating away from writing other novels, had landed me a place beside some amazing authors in one of the most exciting new markets out there. I can’t wait to hold a copy of Qualia Nous in my hands and see how this anthology has come together, with me, somehow, a part of it.

~A

Bright lights and faerietales

I’m assured the sun is shining furiously outside though I am happier to be cloistered away in the writing cave than charring and/or melting out there. Do you know the weather people describe our forecasts with things like, “Plenty of sunshine,” and even, “Abundant sunshine,” if a quick glance out the window won’t answer the question in amazing, blinding glory? As an aside, thank you, Summer, but you’re now working overtime. Please kindly vacate the desk and allow Autumn to take over the next shift. Trust me, we’ve all earned this particular break.

Well-protected from such brightness and heat, I’m tucked away thinking about faerietales within the dark fantasy world of The Damning Moths. The legends which would inevitably shape the cultures found throughout Gantiri, not to mention the function of our own real-world grim tales. Our traditional “fairytale” form is often a veiled warning about the danger of wandering off alone in the woods; of strangers; of the dark; of waterways; of eating unknown foods. They are methods to impart knowledge, too. Stories of changelings which seem to mimic modern behavioural disorders, or tales to impress upon the listener the value of morals and proprietary.

Do fae also fear for their children exploring in nature, even when the forests are their homes? Would it be the risk of injury where no one can come to the child’s aid, or the hunting of predators, the necessity of keeping magical things secret? Do their faerietales teach the babes not to stray near a griffin’s lair, or keep far from the rival Goblin tribe? To hold back the little ones from being swept away by the playful, but ultimately immortal Elementals who will have no concept of the child dying if it falls, or drowns, or is burnt (especially when the Elementals think in terms of energy transference, rebirth, and the persistence of existence)?

What tales and superstitions and strange remedies would be passed down through generations of magical folk? Would they have even more outlandish stories to tell their children, as we speak of witches, and trolls, and werewolves? Or would the humans be the bogey? The loss of their powers? Naughty little fae can’t do magic, so be good, eat your vegetables, don’t taunt the Urisk just because he’s hairy…

~A

Reinterpreting my own advice

My efforts to keep writing as a significant entity are coming along swimmingly. Even with time off for the “weekend”, I’m ahead of schedule and finding it easier each day to separate from whatever else fills my time and use it to get the words done at my writing desk.

I’m doing my best to celebrate that progress, though the voice of contention has to chime in. I can pick up on the novel and produce the next pages of text without too much effort, but the summer job is keeping me from percolating on the short stories I need to write. Not enough quiet thinking time. Sometimes, writing a novel feels like throwing thousands of words into a giant hole. I can’t help the ever-so-slight sense of not doing enough, all centred around how I haven’t added anything to the short story list, even when I’m successfully exceeding my daily word quota.

Part of my drive to push a few extra hundred words in here and there stems from the inevitability that my next holiday will be writing-free. Date of departure is approaching rapidly, and I’m helpless in the face of three weeks of writing lost to being away.

Not only am I making up for those days off in advance with my extra effort now, but I’m looking ahead to what my writing plans will be when I return. One of the biggest things I tell many creative friends is to forgive themselves when life gets in the way. We’re a damn critical bunch, and harshest upon ourselves for any perceived lapse.

I’d love to believe I could keep up my excellent daily word count for the duration of my holiday, but every single other vacation has proven otherwise. There’s just not enough time or mental energy to spare when I’m out of the house. I could try and fight it, but I think this is one of the instances where forgiving myself is more important than struggling against the path of least resistance. I mean, it’s supposed to be a holiday, right?

Afterwards, though, I have to be honest, and persistent, and stubborn when vacation time is over. It’s too easy to pretend like the excuses have validity and weight when it’s “just writing”. At no point would I call my manager and tell her I can’t come back to the day job because I’m recovering from holidays. I wouldn’t give up partway through my shift because I’m tired and it’s hard to rebuild the routine. Writing is no longer a just-for-me activity. I have external expectations to meet.

So that will be the thing I fight against, and not simply forgive: the tendency to let myself cruise along as if writing is just too hard when I’ve taken a break. Yes, it is difficult to get back into the groove with a three-week-hiccup in the way, but not enough to actually matter! Step one is my mental approach. I have two jobs to come back to, end of story.

It’s one thing to be forgiving, and another to let myself wallow in lingering post-vacation laziness.

~A

It’s that New Year kind of feeling

People all around the world are making goals for 2014. I’m not talking those “New Years Resolutions” deals, the ones destined to fall through once January slinks away and people return to their normal life habits, but more about how everyone takes stock, reassesses where they’re going, and reorients back toward where they thought they should be instead of the detour 2013 took them on (also known as the many varieties of, “ahaha, and you thought you were in control of your life, I’ll show you!”).

I don’t often get very new year-y, preferring to make constant little adjustments with each new moon. But lucky for me, the new moon falls on January 1st this/next year. So my thoughts are getting just a teensy bit caught up in everyone else’s planning. Not only for what I want in the following month, but what 2014 should do for me.

After the first flush of “success” with The Damning Moths – by which I mean a bundle of books have sold, and I’ve gotten real, live fan letters from people I don’t directly know (!!!) – the obvious goal is to power forward with the other books I need to finish creating. I don’t think that even counts as a new goal, except that November and December are super busy months and almost always represent a slump in my writing, so I’m feeling the internal pressure to write more, progress faster, and perceive myself as more productive and professional.

Starting on January 1st, I’ll be doing more to treat writing time like other work time. My real challenge there is in mindset. With the day jobs, I leave the house, do what needs to be done, and come home again. Writing is too personal for me to successfully take out into a public area like a coffee shop or library (what with the whole writing in a robe, not wearing pants thing – okay, more that I get distracted and start people-watching, plus don’t much like having an audience for my scribblings). I think I will start by carving out a small workspace in another room away from my main computer which is all tied up with being social and used for entertainment, to give myself the illusion that I am “going to work” when I sit down to write. I’ll schedule it in, just like my other job.

So there you have it. The goal at the top of my list is make a physical space to represent being a real writer. You’d think having a book published would cover those kind of feelings, but no. Maybe having a little separate desk won’t change my perspective much either, but it’s a good direction to start.

~A

Epitomising Storytelling

When I grow up, I want to be the written equivalent of Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds.

“Hold up,” you say. “That’s based on, uh, The War of the Worlds. It’s already something that’s… you know, been written.”

Yes it is, I’m aware, and thank the gods for granting us H.G. Wells. It’s not the tale in and of itself, though. Other stories have meant so much more to me as pure stories. The tension Jeff Wayne added with the aural experience is something moving. Nostalgic and magical.

The truth is, if it weren’t for Richard Burton’s narration, I would not understand exactly how I want my words to move together. His part as The Journalist gave me the clearest vision of what lilt and flow a story should have. His voice lives on as the ultimate measure of sentence structure and word choice for me. Credit in the hands of the author for penning the the script, but the performance of Mr. Burton gives it another life.

Add in the artful pauses, the rising pressure, sudden starts and stops in the music. All the emotion. The leitmotifs and sound design. That is merely flavour to the distinct narration which encompasses what I feel storytelling should be. If I can leave my readers with a sense of sincerity amidst all that otherworldliness the way this production has always left me, I will have succeeded.

When I grow up, I want my stories to be a late 1970’s concept album. It’s not the worst goal a lady can have.

~A

Of Baked Goods and Deadlines

Short stories, editing, formatting, website content. Obtaining reviews, merchandise set up, the postal service increased the cost of shipping by HOW MUCH?!

Touching base with customer service representatives to discuss options.

Pre-release interviews. Checking and double-checking files before uploading.

And still, I chip away at the next novel because I really like the story and it’s very satisfying to work on.

How will I fit everything in? My productive week away from the other job came to an end. The responsibilities of life don’t tend to wait politely while I’m running about trying to finish everything in the same moment. Despite prioritising and re-prioritising, I get into a cycle of doing a little here, some other thing there, and never really moving forward enough to justify the time I’ve spent on any given task.

Counter-intuitive as it may seem on those days, the best thing to do is drop everything and bake tasty treats. Just shove all those worries into the back of my mind and accept that an hour off will help calm me, then there will be good smells filling the house and delicious results for my effort. Strawberry cupcakes to go with sweet iced coffee. Fresh waffles where the fluffy batter soaks up maple syrup and stays crisp on the edges. Mars Bar slice, Rice Bubble/Krispy treats, Honey Joys.

The deadlines won’t go away. The work won’t even complete itself while I’m not looking. But I’ll have spent time doing something immediately rewarding. Just as long as I don’t burn anything – that would be apocalyptic right now.

~A